Friendship Harder: Collected Microfiction

by KwirkyJ

First published

Collection of stories too short to publish individually. There is ostensibly no consistent underlying theme.

Anything goes, so long as it is brief.
Very short stories, mostly stand-alone, many adapted from submissions to the Thirty Minute Ponies tumblr blog.
May there be something here that makes you laugh, makes you think, or makes you afraid.

Tags are on a per-story, per-chapter basis.

Speedster Camp, Day One [Slice of Life; Dark(bullying)]

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"Hey, you! You, Chicken!"

I looked up from my lunch to see four ponies flying towards me.

"Yeah, you! Sittin’ out here by your lonesome for lunch?" one of the brown ones yelled as they approached.

"Yeah, all alone ‘cuz you don’t got any friends," chimed in the grey one.

I turned away and tried to focus on my lunch, hoping they’d just fly on. Being the only griffon around makes it pretty hard to make friends. I would know, I tried.

Then the yellow one ‘bumped’ into me as they landed, encircling me. My head rang.

"Come on, guys," said the other brown one, "like anypony would want to be friends with a freak like that. I mean, half-cat, half-chicken?"

"I’m not chicken," I bit back. “Just leave me alone.”

"Oh, you hear that," said the second brown one. "She says she’s not a chicken!"

"Heh, you’ve got the feet, the beak, you’re totally a chicken."

"No," said the yellow one. "She’s Buck-beak. A beak with TEETH? Seriously?"

"Leave me alone," I said, the words coming out as a growl. The first day of Speedster Camp was off to a great start.

"What’s-a matter, Buck-beak?"

"I have a name, you featherbrains.”

"Right," said the yellow one again. "It’s Crowface. All those feathers around your head, you’re like a crow."

"Heh, yeah, some albino crow," observed the first brown one.

"Some albino, buck-beaked crow who likes…" The grey one grabbed my lunch.

"Hey!" I shouted, "Give that back!"

"Fish? Who eats fish?"

I flew up and grabbed my bag, trying to wrest it from his grip.

"I do. Not like I’m trying to make you eat it! Now give! It! BACK!"

I head-butted him at the last word, breaking his grip. I pulled free with my lunch and darted to a nearby cloud.

There was an eerie silence behind me. Despite the warning in my heart, I looked back. I should have flown, gotten away, found the counselors – anything but stop to look back. The other three were staring at me. The one I had hit was picking himself up, eyes unscrewing and settling into a particularly nasty scowl.

"She’s gonna pay for that, the chicken bitch," he said to his buddies, just loud enough for me to hear.

Before I knew what was happening, all four were upon me, pinning my wings and legs, yelling.

"Hey, let me go!"

That was when the blows descended.

I struggled as best I could, but there were too many of them. Every time I managed to block even one, there were more limbs, more hits, and more pain.

"Hey, knock it off!"

There was a flash of blue, and one of them was off of me. Two of the others loosened their grip in their surprise and I threw them off as well. Another flash of blue and the last was gone.

A pair of blue hooves pulled me up. Blue hooves, blue fur, and a rainbow mane framing a severe filly’s face.

"Get outta here, you bullies!" She yelled at them. After a moment of hesitation and glancing at each other – mostly towards the yellow one – they took off.

"Looks like you got a loser pony friend after all," called the grey one.

"Heh, yeah, Buck-beak and Rainbow Crash!"

"Kiss her boo-boos and make it all better, Rainbow Crash!"

I felt the filly tense up in preparation to fly them down, then she hesitated. She must have felt me trembling as I leaned on her for support.

We watched them leave, disappearing behind a cloud bank.

"Thanks," I managed to rasp out.

"Hey, as if I’d let them get away with beating up anypony. Or… any, uh… What are you, exactly?"

Despite myself, I chuckled.

"Griffon. Name’s Gilda."

"Well, I’d never leave any Gilda hanging. Name’s Rainbow Dash, and you’re totally my friend now, got it?"

"Almost, Rainbow. But today? Today, you’re my angel."

I wrapped her in a hug, wings and all. I may have sobbed a little. She pushed me back, gently.

"Hey, don’t get all sappy on me, it was nothing. And, uh… What’s an ‘angel?’"

Oh, those cultural differences.

Despite myself, still shaking, I laughed.

Skating [Sad; possible shipping]

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Applejack scarcely registered the frigid winter air. How could she, when Twilight had finished tying up her skates, smiling brightly, asking, ‘where do we start?’ Those amazing, brilliant eyes.

She was careful to take things slowly, make sure that Twilight had her balance before guiding her through how to press one’s weight to the side, and use that pressure to glide forward. She stayed very near, should Twilight slip. Though Twilight nearly fell a couple times, she always managed to catch herself. Twilight would still offer a word of gratitude for the rush to help.

Applejack couldn’t have been happier.

All autumn, when not absorbed in the harvest and all the hullabaloo that came with it, Applejack had been secretly wishing for winter to hurry up and arrive; to freeze the lakes and hush the hills. Applejack would then trot up to Twilight’s library and whisk her off to ice-skate, just the two of them.

Twilight was now taking her first real strides on the skates, starting and stopping, untangling her legs, hesitant and awkward, but not failing. A pair of hooves would reach out and reassure her, urge her on with praise.

Applejack would have been sure to not enjoy the telltale warmth beneath her fur too much.

Applejack watched as Twilight completed her first tenuous lap around the small lake, beaming, laughing in delight at her small success.

Applejack watched, powerless, as Pinkie Pie bounced over to Twilight and took her for another lap.

Applejack watched, some distance away, hidden by the trunks of a clutch of trees. It wasn’t far from the path from the Acres into Ponyville; where Applejack had been on her way to the library when she heard the two crunching through the snow.

Applejack lay there, simply watching. Applejack could do nothing but watch.

Twilight slipped a few times, bringing a startled ‘whoop,’ and Pinkie Pie’s encouraging chuckle.

Applejack thought she should join them; be infected by Pinkie’s smile and Twilight’s dazzling eyes.

Applejack didn’t join them.

Applejack didn’t say long.

Nearby, buried in craters of powdery snow where they had been tossed aside, two sets of skates lay, forgotten.

No, We're Outta Bear Claws! [Comedy]

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Donut Joe smiled as he set the parcel on the counter.

"Here you go, Miss Rarity. Two dozen. Some glazed, some frosted and sprinkled — extra sprinkles for the little guy — some jelly-filled, some Bavarian Cream-filled, some apple fritters, and a bear claw. If you don’t mind me asking, who’s getting the bear claw?"

Rarity laughed.

"Oh, that will go to Pinkie Pie. Fluttershy always orders one, but she never can bring herself to eat them."

"Heh, those are some great friends you have, Miss Rarity. Crazy, sure, but great friends."

"You don’t have to tell me, Mister Joe. How how much will that be?"

"Nothing," he said, waving his hoof. "They’re on the house."

Rarity started.

"That’s very generous of you Joe, but I insist I pay for these. You have a business to manage!"

"And I insist that you don’t owe a bit. Thanks to your suggestion about wearing a tux, I’ve gotten a higher-class clientele!" He gestured to the tuxedo bib and bow-tie around his neck. He leaned a bit closer and winked. "It’s not real, of course, it’s still too messy back here for that."

Rarity chuckled again, looking away slightly.

"Well, that’s very generous of you to say so, Mister Joe, but I must pay a fair price for these."

"Please, Miss Rarity, take them. My way of saying thanks."

"I can’t, really—"

"As a gift, Miss Rarity. Please."

"No, I couldn’t possibly…"

Rarity stopped, suddenly. Her eyes flicked to Donut Joe, to the box of donuts, and back to Donut Joe again. He simply stood there, smiling gently.

Joe was suddenly very aware of the look Rarity was giving him. The counter-top between them suddenly felt very small.

"Miss Rarity? Is something the matter?"

"I…" Rarity looked directly into his eyes with what seemed some difficulty. "Mister Joe, I… That is…"

"Did I say something wrong?"

Joe thought, is she blushing under that white fur?

Rarity shook her head slightly, seeming to start over.

"Mister Joe, when you say, ‘gift’…"

"They’re on the house, yours. My pleasure." Joe didn’t understand why she was making such a great deal out of this.

Rarity collected herself, taking a breath.

"Joe, there’s… Well, there’s a tradition surrounding gift-giving, do you know?"

He chuckled.

"Birthdays, Hearth-Warming, and Heart-and-Hooves and anniversaries for the lucky ones."

"Yes," Rarity said, gently, "and there’s another one. About gifts related directly to your Cutie Mark?"

"Can’t say that I know that one, Miss Rarity."

Rarity seemed to be unsure weather to be relieved or disappointed.

"Is… Is there a problem, Miss Rarity?"

"Donut Joe, I suppose it is a tradition that has fallen out of favour, but there was at one time a very romantic tradition surrounding such gifts. Gifts in the form of one’s Cutie Mark, that is. In a case such as this—" she gestured to the box of donuts "—it might be taken that you would have been interested in… well…"

Rarity trailed off, leaving the rest of the sentence to echo unsaid in the otherwise empty shop. It was quite deafening.

Donut Joe felt an intense plume of heat erupt in his cheeks.

"Would you… like to sit down?" Rarity offered.

Joe’s hindquarters abruptly encountered the tiles. He was very suddenly looking everywhere but at Rarity.

"You didn’t know…" Rarity said, trying to be helpful. "Well, it IS an old tradition. Very old. I’d be surprised if more than a handful of all but the most sophisticated ponies are aware of it."

Joe gulped. He looked down at his Cutie Mark: a frosted and sprinkled donut.

Joe lived in Canterlot, the pinnacle of government and culture in all of Equestria. He worked in Canterlot, making and selling donuts. His tux appearance had brought in a lot of new, ‘sophisticated’ customers.

And Joe was a very generous pony.

"That…" Joe said, in between opening and closing his jaw a few times. "That might explain my mountain of mail last Hearts-and-Hooves day."

Rarity stared at him.

"Oh, my."

Inheritance [Slice of Life; heartwarming]

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The stallion looked up from the papers on his desk to find a small filly poking her head around the doorway into the study, glittering tiara perched on her head – as always.

"Daddy, you love me, don’t you?"

He knew that voice. It was the voice that could almost get away with anything. It wasn’t begging, it wasn’t pleading, it wasn’t dry statement or vainglory. It was that floating, expectant question, buoyed by her overflowing self-confidence that all the world was hers.

Filthy Rich lowered his pen and pushed himself away from the desk, smiling warmly.

"Of course I do, Tiá."

"And you’d do anything to make sure that your little princess has everything she needs to succeed in this world?”

Ah, his own words used against him.

"Of course, my little princess."

The filly was now beside his desk, curled around the corner, arcing forward towards his chair, her eyes large and soft in an immaculate 'puppy face.'

"Daddy, what is five times three?"

Filthy Rich held back a sigh.

"Surely my little princess knows such a trivial answer as that," he said, instead.

"Oh, of course, Daddy! But I’m just quizzing you!"

"Is that so?"

She was against the chair now, nuzzling into his forelegs.

"Pleeeeeeease, Daddy?"

"Diamond Tiara," he said, "It’s important that you do your own homework. It’s so you can learn.”

"But it’s boooooring, Daddy!"

"I had to learn when I was in school, you know."

"Nuh-uh," she asserted. "You’re too old to have gone to school."

Filthy Rich chuckled.

"Come up here, Tiá."

He shifted to make space on the wide chair and helped her jump up beside him. She very quickly nestled herself against her Daddy, letting him hold her. After a moment, he bent his head down and blew a raspberry into her mane.

"Hey, Daddy, stop!"

He smiled as her pretend-indignant pout gave way to a muted giggle.

"Do you think Silver Spoon or Featherweight have their daddies do their homework?”

Diamond Tiara didn’t say anything, a shadow crossing her features.

"What about Twist?"

She fidgeted some.

"Noooo," she said at last, drawn out and almost dejected. Almost.

"What about… Applebloom?"

"That good-for-nothing blank– I mean, what? No!" She paused, and he did not interrupt her. Softer, more subdued, she repeated, “No. Not her, either.”

Filthy Rich nuzzled her again and she gave into it after a moment.

"Look at these papers, Diamond Tiara. Do you know what these are?"

"Your… uh… no, don’t tell me, I can remember…. Receipts?"

"Very good," he said, encouraging. "Do you know what that means?"

After a moment of great consideration, she shook her head, ‘no’.

"These papers are where our money comes from and where it goes."

Filthy Rich watched his daughter carefully. She gave very little away, he thought, but knew that sparks were flying in her head.

"I use math to keep track of these numbers and what they mean, Tiá. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. All things that you’re learning in school now.”

"I know how to add and subtract!"

"I know you do. Cheerilee keeps me well informed of your progress. That, and you’ve stopped asking me to do them for you.”

He squeezed her slightly in praise. He felt her smile.

"But Daddy," she said, pointing accusingly at the desk, "It’s just so boring! Why do I have to know these stupid things?”

"Because, Diamond… Look at me, please."

She did.

"Diamond Tiara, one day, all of this will be yours. Yours to manage, yours to build up on or to destroy. All of this will be your responsibility.”

"You mean… Everything will be mine?"

"Yours to have, and yours to lose. I won’t be around forever, right?"

The glint in Diamond Tiara’s eyes dimmed some.

"All of this, all that I’ve done and am doing now is for you, Tiá, my darling little princess. I want to give you everything you need to succeed, I love you so much. In fact…” He blew another raspberry into her mane, eliciting another half-hearted protest. “In fact, I love you so much, that I’m making you do your multiplication tables.”


"Tell you what, I’ll go over them with you when you’re done."

"Really?" Forgetting herself, Diamond Tiara leapt to her hooves, forelegs braced against her Daddy's barrel. "Really, Daddy?"

"Everything for my little princess. Not give you the answers, but yes. Now go along. We both have a lot of work to do tonight.”

He winked.

Diamond Tiara fell forward and wrapped her legs around him in an emphatic hug. She planted a peck on his cheek as she withdrew before turning to trot back to her room.

Filthy Rich watched his daughter go, a wistful smile on his face.

Day in the Mind of Raindrops [Slice of Life; possible shipping; stream of consciousness]

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I haul myself out of bed in the glow before dawn, make breakfast of a few pieces of jammed toast — how that thing works I wish I knew, ‘electricity’ — and wake up my younger brother. He takes forever, but I get him up and eating before I need to leave. He has school. I give him a hug, he hugs me back, and I’m off to the weather station.

When I get to the board, there’s no one else there. Great. Eight tickets for cloud-pushing, and I’m covering for the other four ponies today. Great. None of them are for rain. Just great.

So I’m pushing clouds and that Carrot Top mare is giving me the look. That look, the one that says ‘Why did you have to put that cloud over MY field, or over MY shop. Oh, because it’s you, Raindrops.’ I hate that look. Then she looks away too quickly. They always do that, look away too quickly„ ashamed and afraid that I’d seen it. As if I’d swoop down like a griffon or something and beat them into a pulp for their insolence.

I’d never hurt anypony.

Well, never want to.

Never intend to.

Right, the overwork bits need to go towards paying off that wagon I’d mangled. It was either that wagon, or that stubborn farmpony’s face, what would you choose? Still, wish I’d remembered that sooner, I was thinking about what Snails could use…

Now that fashionista’s giving the the look. What, Rarity, did I ruin your idyllic lunch with the Insane Pink One and the Timid One? Hey, Pink One, gonna notice and wave to me, huh? No, that’s not nice thinking. Still, why is Rainbow Dash not there? They usually…

She looks away too quickly.

Dumb cloud.

There’s no time for a lunch break, so I eat as I push clouds. I hate doing that. Makes my gut feel all tight, and I lose a hoof to control what I’m doing. It’s important to have control. Like when that vendor tried overcharging me for my half of a sandwich, I controlled the impulse to cave in his skull. I wish I didn’t want to, or, feel like doing it, but I do, but I didn’t. See? Control. He must be new here. Probably isn’t all bad, I’m sorry I scared him. I wish ponies didn’t hate me.

My wings feel like they’re about to fall off, I’m dehydrated, my hooves are quivering and they’re WATCHING ME. STOP STARING AT ME I’M WORKING okay, breathe, Raindrops… breathe… Just two more tickets, and you’ve saved the smaller ones for last. But I should get some water first.

At least I won’t need to disappear into the clearing tonight to work off… stuff. I don’t have the energy. Snails will be grateful, even if I need his help cooking.


There she is. There she is!

"Oh, uh, hey there, Raindrops."


"Sorry about today, you got there early, I guess. We were looking all over for you once we found out ponies left us some tickets, but, eh-heh, well…”

Get to the point, Rainbow Dash.

"Hey, looks like you’ve got only one more ticket there? Um... So, c’mon, I’ll help you out with it. Least I can do. Unless you wanna take off, I won’t blame yo—”

NO! I mean no. I mean, yes.

“Riiiight… Well, let’s get started then. With me giving you a hoof, job’ll be done in no time!”

She may not have said anything, and she’s keeping plenty of distance as usual, but at least she’s not giving me the look. She never has. Gah, I just got my legs to stop quivering, why are you shaking again??

She looked like she thought about giving me a hoof-bump…! She’s gone.

I get home. I hug brother. He hugs me back. We make dinner, then I make sure he does his homework.

Good night, Snails.

I can’t get comfortable. Never could stand this mattress. Someday I’ll get a different one, maybe.

I pushed clouds with Rainbow Dash. Today was a good day.

Fermentation [Slice of Life; Comedy]

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"Applejack? Really?" Amethyst Star stared incredulously at Berry. “Applejack of all ponies got you started?”


“Look me in my eyes and tell me again.”

Berry Punch turned her gaze away from the bottle she was holding over her gaping mouth, waiting for the last drops to fall away to ‘properly finish the glass.’

“Yup. Applejack.”

“Since when have you two even been on speaking terms?” asked Sea Swirl.

“Eh. Long time ago.”

Amethyst Star scoffed.

“Yeah, right. I call bull.”

“It’s the truth.” Berry Punch lowered the bottle, eying it with some sense of loss. “But it’s so hard to remember…” She looked to Sea Swirl expectantly.

“Honestly, Berry,” chided Sea Swirl, “you started back before I invited you two here, how many does that make this evening alone?”

“Who’s keeping count?”

“I am,” chimed Amethyst. “That’s seven glasses and two bottles you’re holding now.”

“Not anymore.”

“Putting the bottle on the table changes nothing. You know what I meant.”

Berry Punch shrugged. Sea Swirl giggled.

“Applejack - of all ponies - got you into booze? What happen, she break your heart?”

“It’s so foggy… I can’t…”

“Ugh, fine. Si-Si, do you mind?”

“No, not at all. You know where I keep them.”

Amethyst levitated over another bottle from the cabinet in the adjoining room.

“Next one you’re getting yourself. Now, spill.”

“You sure that’s a good idea? Si-Si’s carpet is so cle-“

“Berry…” Amethyst growled in a playful threat.

Berry shrugged and, with a sleight of hoof, popped the cork from the bottle. Sea Swirl just grinned bemusedly.

“I still have no idea how you do that, Berry.”

“Magic, Si-Si,” said Berry between swigs. “Earth Pony magic.”

“Don’t you distract her. Berry, talk.”

“Ah, right. It’s coming back to me now…”

“And so help me if this is another ‘no, I’m turned around, actually’ stories, you’re paying for our next five get-togethers, and Si-Si and I get to choose where.”

“Right, so, waaaaay back, before I’d gotten my cutie mark, I was still living with my folks, out on the north edges, and the Acres asked around for some seasonal help. I had some experience, with my family and their berry business and all.”

“Berries? Not grapes?”

Berry Punch gave Amethyst a flat look.

“Okay, okay, go on.”

“So there I was, getting a tour of the Acres, their orchard, their garden, their fields, and there, along a lonely fence row, there was this vine, right? All the other plants I knew pretty well, or at least something about, but that was something new. So I asked Applejack, she was the one walking me around, even with her granny and brother there, what it was, and she said it was grape. I’d not heard of a grape, so I asked what a grape was, what it was for, and so on.”

“Hard to imagine her without knowing about the existence of grapes, isn’t it, Ammie?”

“ANYway, Applejack goes on about jellies, juice, and all that I knew about from the berries I knew - I’d like to see her to know half as much about currants alone as I do, I’ll have you know - but then she said ‘wine.’”

“Oh, my…”

“And then she gets all distracted about fermentation and how they make their Apple Cider - yes, I said that capitalized - and I asked what’s cider?”

“You’re joking.”

“No, my family was completely dry, I’d never had or even heard of the stuff!”

“Oh, you should meet them, Ammie. Calling them dry is like calling the ocean wet.”

“So at the end of the day, they showed me their stocks, and got out some mugs and let me have a taste.”

“Oh, no…”

“Best. Thing. Ever. Naturally I went back home and immediately set aside some of the early stock aside and began… well. One thing lead to another, and now here I am, all but disowned from my family, and are you sure this bottle was full when I started?”

“No, no no no no,” said Amethyst. “No jumping over the in-between. So you became an alcoholic, what else is new. But what about Applejack?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, I couldn’t exactly wait for my own stuff to ferment, so I may have taken a barrel or eight from the Apple’s cellar one afternoon. In hindsight, showing up to work drunk probably tipped them off pretty quickly.”

Sea Swirl had her hooves pressed tightly over her mouth in a futile attempt to cease her sudden fit of sniggering. Amethyst Star just gaped, unsure whether to believe her friend.

“Hm, what time is it… Seven? Yeah, I’ll have another. Hey, you two want anything since I’m up?”

Besmear'd [Dark; experimental]

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But there is another moon, Twilight Sparkle. One only here, in my head, and there it will remain. That moon still bears the stains that Nightmare Moon poured upon its surface. If ponies knew what they were, they would not wish for them to adorn my moon once again.

They were bodies, Twilight. Stone corpses in effigy of those ponies who refused the glory of my night. Shaded from the sun, its surface was carpeted by an army. Fathomless battalions dreamt into being by hate and hewn from stone, eternally bowing before me, with my own self standing victorious over what anypony would recognize as my sister.

No, Twilight. I’ll never mark the moon again. Never.

The Stillness and Quiet [Slice of Life; possible shipping]

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Apple Bloom was still groggy and stiff as she shut the door of Carousel Boutique behind her. Despite staying up well into the night with her friends in a sleep-over, her body had stirred itself to activity in the pre-dawn glow, and was far more insistent than her mind’s feeble cries to return to slumber. Having extricated herself from the tangled mass of the sheets and her friends’ limbs, she’d slipped downstairs and out into the unlit morning air.

It took some moments for the absolute stillness to register with her sleep-addled mind. At this hour, a few miles away, her siblings would already be up and about, tending to the animals’ needs, just as she would have been any other day. But here, today, she was in Ponyville. The eastern sky was tinged orange and yellow, hints of the cyan sky to come just playing along the horizon. It was still and perfectly silent.

Walking with no destination in mind, there was nothing to interrupt the consistent passage of buildings plants, and cool, damp air in her passing. Even the birds had yet to stir to activity, contenting themselves to chitter quietly amongst themselves. The earth crunched oh so softly beneath her hooves.

It was, Apple Bloom came to decide, a very pleasant stillness.

She paused in the town square, simply taking in its vast emptiness. There were no vendors, no parades, no crowds. There was simply space. Stands were empty, waiting for their owners who would join in the light. The fountain dribbled and bubbled, splashing happily to itself. It was a very lonesome sound.

Circling the fountain, she encountered a mint unicorn curled up at its base, snoring softly with a contented smile on her face. Apple Bloom couldn’t remember her name. Quietly, she picked up the small harp-like instrument, turned it in her hooves with care, admiring it, before replacing it near the unicorn. She couldn’t help but smile a little more, herself.

By now, the east sky was a brilliant, welcoming yellow. It wouldn’t be long now before Celestia raised the sun to shine upon the land. It was always a thrilling time, even if Apple Bloom spent most of those moments inside a chicken coop or amongst the pigs.

Apple Bloom was walking when the sun crested and its light struck her coat. Her eyes were closed, and simply basked in the sudden rush of warmth, never breaking her stride. In an odd impulse, she began to hum a song she and her friends had imagined when preparing for the Games flag-carrying contest. It simply felt… right.

The birds were chittering now, adding some background to her own music. Muffled sounds of movement began to issue from the buildings around her, as if the buildings themselves had found a life of their own when the sun began to shine upon them.

Then there was the sound of another set of hoofsteps, carefully drawing nearer. Apple Bloom opened her eyes and saw - of all ponies - Scootaloo gently walking towards her.


"Hey, Apple Bloom." Scootaloo’s was oddly subdued, almost reverent. "Didn’t wanna startle you. You looked so… Calm."

Apple Bloom chuckled softly. "Yeah, I s’pose I did, didn’t I?"

They walked in silence for a minute or two. Apple Bloom wanted ask why her friend was so quiet. It was frequently the case that she was difficult to stop from going on about this that or the other, often involving the word ‘awesome’ and the name ‘Rainbow Dash.’

"Why’re you up so early, Scoots?"

"Dunno," Scootaloo said, shrugging with her wings. "You?"

"Habit, I guess. I’m always up this early when I’m home. Seems like it takes more’n one sleep-over to put a stop to it.”

"Because you’ve not gotten up this early at all our other sleep-overs, huh?"


"Well, I…" Apple Bloom struggled to evade the jibe. "How would you know if I’ve been up or not? You always sleep in ‘til noon.”

"Maybe I just act like I sleep in," Scootaloo proclaimed.

"Yeah, because that time when we banged pots right over your head and
you just kept snoring was ‘actin’.”

Silence descended again for a moment. They reached the Boutique and by unspoken agreement sat on its steps, watching the slowly stirring Ponyville.

"Truth is, Bloom, I just felt you weren’t there. I woke up because… there was an emptiness.”

"But I’m always up, Scootaloo. I come back, but that’s nothing new."

Scootaloo shifted uneasily, then slid closer to Apple Bloom.

"Maybe not, Apple Bloom. But something’s different."

A moment passed, less quiet than before, but brighter and more alive. They were both acutely aware of the other’s heat drifting over their coats. Neither of them moved away.

"Yeah, I s’pose you’re right, Scootaloo. Somethin’s different, today."

Six Little Words [Slice of Life; Sad]

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Twilight Velvet was giving Princess Celestia a pained expression.

"You mean to say, my daughter will be... will be like you."

Celestia nodded.

"Yes. She will ascend to an alicorn, a status that will immediately elevate her to minor princesshood."

"But why her?"

"Why not her?"

Twilight Velvet looked away, her gaze finding its way to the tea set on the table between them.

"I suppose," Twilight said, "I always knew this day might come. Something like it, anyway. She did so much with you. . . Excuse me."

She turned her head away to daub at her eyes.

Celestia murmured supportively, looking none too proud nor sad - always regal.

"It's just," Twilight resumed, "It's all so sudden, too much to take in all at once. First Shining, now this. . . Couldn't you have given us more warning? Given me more warning?"

"I am sorry, my little pony, even I could not have been certain. It might have been a year ago, perhaps five years from now. You have suspected such a day might come, is it such a shock?"

"But a warning, Your Highness! Something, anything! Not showing up on my doorstep and announcing that seeing her at the wedding was the last time she would be like the foal I gave birth to!"

Twilight Velvet took a breath or two before she recovered herself. Celestia gave her the time.

"You. . . You're certain, Your Highness? It will happen?"

"In a matter of days, possibly sooner. I have arranged for Star Swirl's tome to come into her possession by now, it is only a matter of when."

Twilight Velvet shakily took another ship of her tea.

It was then that Celestia saw it. Every pony has those moments in life where a sequence of events - events that one cannot know the full detail of - comes into perfect clarity. Something that happened, or something that is about to happen, or, sometimes, something that is happening somewhere else. As a magical being some four thousand years old, Celestia was familiar with the experience, but treasured each one.

Celestia was twelve years ago, watching the mare before her with her daughter, on the morning before her magic exam. She saw the years leading to that moment, the foal Twilight Sparkle becoming obsessed with magic, to the exclusion of all else. She saw the mare watching it happen, spending her days networking, connecting with ponies of affluence, to prepare a place for her daughter; saw the mare expressing her love for the foal everywhere but to the individual it mattered most.

Celestia saw the explosion of magic that had made Sparkle her student. Followed her determination to excel, to pursue magic, to, she had to admit, the unfortunate exclusion of friendship. But here, in this vision, there was a difference. In this picture, Celestia saw more family. There were weekend evenings spent at dinner conversations in place of all-night study session; after each test, the young Twilight Sparkle would rush home to her parents and her brother, expressing her doubts about her performance, or gushing on about her excitement; even skipping a lecture here or there to go on vacation adventures in Trottingham or Appleloosa.

There was darkness, too. Nightmare Moon returned for days, not hours. Discord had a reign, and Equestria was blessed with one fewer princess-to-be. But there was always light, always harmony at the end.

The vision came all at once, every moment fully realized and interconnected, the point of divergence shining brightly, to which all the rest was connected. It was a sentence. A single phrase that summarized the mare's love for her daughter, that the daughter never heard. Such a small thing.

As they are about to step into the lecture hall, there are six words that Twilight Velvet says this time: 'No matter what, I love you.'

Then the vision was gone, leaving only its memory, and Celestial was back in the room she had not left, with an aggrieved mother.

"She will still love you, Twilight Velvet. And you will still love her. Nothing can change that. This I promise."

Twilight Velvet trusted her.

Bad Balloons [Sad]

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Fluttershy slid into bed surrounded by the likeness of her cutie mark: balloons. On the bedside table, draped over the lamp, were colourful streamers and confetti; at its base a pair bouncy-balls kept company with a moustached set of lensless spectacles. Friendly, welcoming banners - each custom hoof-painted - clamoured high at the ceiling, weaving this way and that; mementos of a life of smiles.

It was what Fluttershy did, what she had always done. Fluttershy made ponies smile; Fluttershy made them laugh.

But not today.

Fluttershy was a pony of delight and frivolity. She lusted for a laugh; she swooned for a snigger; nothing was beneath her when it came to bringing life and laughter to Ponyville. Singing songs, cracking jokes, planning (and performing!) parties, even vaudeville were fully within her repertoire.

If other ponies were happy, Fluttershy was happy.

But not today.

Fluttershy clutched a balloon-rabbit to her chest and blew out the lamp. The moonlight became the brightest feature in the room. She rolled onto her side, curled tightly around the form, and sniffled.

Maybe it was the songs, she thought, that they didn't like, and should have done a waltz rather than a polka. Or maybe, even, the silli-string was was it - some ponies just won't take a substitute for true paper streamers, and she had misread ponies' preferences before.

No, she thought, it must have been the balloons themselves - Diamond Tiara must have wanted translucent balloons, not shiny opaque!

Her bunnyloon made a sickly squeaking noise as her damp cheek rubbed against it.

Tomorrow, she thought, tomorrow she would make ponies laugh again.

After all, it was what her Cutie Mark was telling her.

Some hours into the dark, each balloon creation that inhabited the room either in her limbs or pressed tightly against her body, Fluttershy finally slipped into a dreamless sleep.

Carol [Slice of Life, Bittersweet]

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As the final chords dissipated into the snow, Twilight stomped her hooves.

"Gosh, that was wonderful!"

"Thank you."

"I'm sorry, I don't have any bits on me, I... uh." Twilight shifted, gesturing to her saddlebags, laden with trinkets for her friends.

"Not to worry, Twilight Sparkle. I wanted to play that for you."

"Oh? Well, that's very nice of you. I actually know that piece, from when I was living in Canterlot."

"I know."

"Hmm? You do?"

"I... Well, it was very frequently played by m... Musicians at the school there."

"Oh, that makes sense. Gosh, is it dark already?"

"Don't worry, Twilight Sparkle, it just set fully. Just the one song."

"Oh..." She ears folded back, then drooped forward.

"I asked you to pause, to hear it. You... you don't remember, do you?"

"I... No, I'm sorry."

"Oh. Um, well, don't worry about it. What matters is... Is that you stayed. For the song, I mean."

"Of course! It was beautiful."

"Thank you."

"Reminds me of... Of home, I guess. Maybe it's just me, but I think you played it better than I ever remember."

"Thank you for saying so."

"Um... Well, thank you again for the music. I really should get going though..." She gestured with a hoof.

"Of course. Hearth's Warming events call."

"Right. Have a good Hearth's Warming, yourself, miss... I'm sorry, I don't remember your name."

"Don't worry about it. My name is Lyra. Lyra Heartstrings. Have a great Hearth's Warming, Twilight Sparkle."

Absent [Sad, possible Romance]

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I shut the door behind me, closing off the warmth from the kitchen. I stood there for a breath, just listening, adjusting to the harsh drop in temperature. A few snowflakes drifted down and landed on my muzzle. I smiled, imagining myself cross-eyed trying to focus on them. Then I shook my head, dislodging them, and began plodding around the porch, towards the barn.

Sis was sitting there, almost indistinguishable from the bales tucked against the doors, both blanketed with pristine white snowfall. Easier to mistake in the fading light of filtered sunset. She'd been there for two hours, at least. How quickly had she gotten done her excuse for leaving, and settled there, to wait?

Her ears swiveled as she heard my approach, my large hooves crunching through the dusting, but she didn't otherwise acknowledge me. I wasn't surprised. I slowed, but continued until I lowered myself down to lay beside her.

Still no acknowledgement of me. Stubborn AJ. After a minute, I decided to speak.

"She's not comin', y'know."

She didn't say anything for a moment, just sitting there gazing vacantly into the thickening snowfall.

"Where's Apple Bloom?" She asked.

"Kitchen," I said.

"Y'left Apple Bloom in the kitchen alone?" Her words were sharp, accusing.

"She's taking care of things just fine. She wanted to keep an eye on the pecan pie."

She was quiet, probably bristling.

"I don't want any pecan pie, y'know," she said. She was set on evading the issue, then.

"Then you don't need any. But I like it, and Apple Bloom likes it." I almost said, 'as much as you used to,' but thought better of it. "Made a sweet potato casserole for you, instead. Almonds"

She sighed. Maybe she tried to hide it, I wasn't sure.

"Applejack, she's not coming."

"You don't know that."

"She's not coming, AJ, same as last year."

"Y'don't know that!" She didn't look at me, but the snow around her withers cracked, and a tiny avalanche flowed.

"AJ... What's today?"

"Today... is a day for family."

"That's right." I watched Sis for a moment, then looked back at the house with its warm lights behind thinning curtains and aged frames. I thought of the one inside, and remembered. "A day for family."

"She said she'd come."

"She did, before."

"She oughta be here."

"Ponies change."

"Not her. She's loyalty. She... she said..."

"Before, AJ, was she ever late?"

Sis answered with a sharp exhale. A chuckle, a sob, or something else, I wasn't sure.

"You know she was. She was always late. I loved her for it."

"Was she... as late as this?"

"How could she forget? She wouldn't ever forget this. Not for anything."

"AJ, you know she hasn't --"

"I don't know nothin', an' neither do you!"

Her head sank, and more snow tumbled. Cautiously, I moved my head over, setting it against her withers in what I hoped was a reassuring gesture. Just for a moment. She was shaking.

"She..." Sis began, paused. "Rainbow was family. You know that, right?"

"I know." What else could I say?

"She... I miss her, why won't she come back?"

"Did you ever ask?"

No answer.

"AJ... We love you, you know that. C'mon in. There's a hot meal, a warm hearth, and two ponies who'd love to share it with you. Family. Apples forever."

A shake of the head.

"I miss my li'l sister. C'mon. Let's make some better memories. Please?"

She sighed, then leaned into me just slightly.

I heard her murmur, "Friends but so much more..."

"C'mon, AJ. Bloom's pulled out all the stops, just for you."

She turned, looking past me, towards the household; towards home.


A Visit From Death [Slice of Life]

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One of the things about Death is that he often arrived at terribly inopportune moments. Perhaps in the middle of court, in the dead of night, or when in the water closet (though he would politely wait outside). His coming would always be abrupt, but unmistakable. It was of a small relief to Celestia that he came at a time where she need not make any excuses. The sharpness in the air, the hint of coldness with a suggestion at a scent of nutmeg, told her of his presence before he spoke.

I trust that now is not a bad time?

Celestia folded her wings, set her lifted limbs upon the floor, and returned her consciousness to her body.

"You've done far worse. I was simply meditating."

A curious pose.

"It is one I have taken a liking to of late. I find it surprisingly relaxing."

I must take you at your word.

Celestia finally looked at him. Hooded, black, with features obscured and more imagined than visible. The cloak that surrounded him draped over curious shapes, never the same twice. She wondered at the magic that must surround him, sometimes.

"Tea?" she offered, already moving towards the fireplace.

She filled the kettle and set it over the flames in silence, listening to Death settle near the table.

"Who is it, this time," she asked, taking a cushion across him.

Skeleton Key. Time for him to open his final doorway. Unlocking the final truth.

"Practicing?" She lifted an eyebrow.

There are many idioms. I try to keep them fresh. You don't mind.

"No, I don't at that. I will miss him. He has been a good guardspony."

I will pass along your praise.

"I... Thank you. Even after all these times, the nature of your work unsettles me."

Try not to think on it too much, then.

They lapsed into silence, simply basking in each others' company. The fire crackled in the background, the water churning ever more agitatedly.

"How is War?"

As bigoted as ever, keeping himself far away from you, said Death. You might have at least apologized when you sent him away.

"Family though he may be, you know I will never do any such thing."

Death made a gesture that suggested a shrug.

"Besides, this too shall pass."

An excuse?

"An inevitability. I have created a paradise here. I know it won't last forever, and when it crumbles, he will assuredly lead the charge, rubbing it in my face for all it is worth."

I recall a filly telling me of the forever she would bring into being.

"That filly was... Idealistic," she finished. "Forgive me."

Nothing to forgive.

The teapot began whistling. Celestia rose, and Death mirrored her.

"You aren't staying for tea, are you?"

No time. Sorry.

"I understand."

Celestia lifted the kettle away from the fire. She felt him leaving, but not yet gone.

"Death?" she called, not turning to find him.



Until again, Princess.

"Until again."

Grounded [Slice of Life, Bittersweet]

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"– saying is that that's how it feels to me!" Twilight's magic seized upon the cup before her, and she proceeded to fervently gulp a mouthful. That chore completed, she wiped her mouth with her cannon, returned the cup far more gently to the table, and deflated, much more relaxed. "What do you think?"

Applejack started, blinking. "Huh? Whuzzat?"

Twilight watched her carefully. "Applejack, I've spent the last ten minutes talking about the craziness I'm putting up with for the new library in the castle. Weren't you listening?"

Applejack folded her ears back and her shoulders slumped. "Gosh, I'm sorry Twilight. My mind was just wandering, I guess." Her eyes slid from her friend to the scenery.

"I suppose it is quite a nice day," Twilight said, pensively. "I know, I know, I'm just getting too tangled up in things. I need to relax more, take my mind off the stress and pay attention to the pleasant things. Like you, Applejack!"

"Oh? How's that?"

"You always put your mind in the right place. Like now: you're here for me, and you listened to the parts that were important. Once I started going off on the troublesome tangents, you stayed where you should have. You brought me back!"

"Well, shucks, when you put it like that –"

"So what are you thinking about?"

Twilight was leaning forward quite sharply, eyes bright.


"What are you thinking about, Applejack? I want to know how you think. If I'm going to keep myself grounded through this whole thing, I can't think of a better pony to model from than you! So what's on your mind?"

Applejack's eyes were directed towards her friend, but she had stopped seeing her. Her mind had shifted completely. She could say that she was worried sick about Granny, that she's getting on in years and, though Granny would never admit it, she was getting more 'off' every day. The spring doctor's-visit was coming up in a few weeks, and Applejack was most concerned what the news might be.

There was also the planting to concern her. The crop rotation had been thrown the past season when the plow broke and couldn't get it mended before the onset of winter. She was scrambling to adjust to the land that they could work between the orchards, weighing what the cows and pigs needed and what they could allocate for pasture.

"Gee, Twi, I..."

There was also the pruning to be done, already getting late as the trees leaved and set to blossom. So many trees and only so many hours in a day. Unless everything went flawlessly, she's have a triage situation come summer when the apples began to develop fully, and she'd have to hope she guessed correctly which limbs were set to snap. Snapped branches means less fruit next year, and the very understated threat of canker and other diseases the trees might catch if it didn't heal in time.

Macintosh was also spending quality time with Ms. Cheerilee -- a grand thing in her book, make no mistake -- which took a significant amount of labor off of the farm with the hour here and there being devoted elsewhere. Apple Bloom was off doing her own thing, and, though the chores were important and being tended to, couldn't pick up the same slack. That meant more and more things were falling to Applejack to get done right and on time.

And what of herself? Somewhere among those pristine white clouds was a certain pegasus she wished she could spend more time with, herself. Someday, maybe. Maybe, once there was more time. Time to treat her right. Time to give herself – Applejack – some happiness of her own.

"Yes?" Twilight prodded.

Applejack's eyes slid back down from the sky over the acres to fall again on Twilight. A pang of guilt welled inside her. With learning to fly, Rainbow and Twilight has been spending more time than usual together. Applejack didn't know if she would miss her chance. Or how she might feel if she did or didn't. That was the sorry truth, she simply didn't know. And that terrified her.

"I guess I'm not thinking much about anything, Twilight." Applejack put on her best smile. "Just enjoyin' the fine weather and the company of a friend."

Twilight smiled as well, nodding. "Now that's the kind of advice I can use."

Captain Prism Flash [Random, Romance, Sad]

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The universe spun as Captain Prism Flash turned the wheel, a wide grin on her face.

“See, Lieutenant Butter? Now we can go anywhere!”

Lieutenant Butter was holding on tight to Captain Prism, but Prism didn’t mind.

“Tank and I got everything all patched up, and we’re good to go!”

“I’m so glad,” said Lieutenant Butter. “After all that happened with those space-rocks, I wasn’t sure we’d be going again. I should never have doubted you, Prism Flash. You’re so… awesome.”

“I totally am,” boasted Prism Flash. “Now how about we make space wakes and get on!”

With a great roar (but not too loud, Prism Flash was considerate about that), the space-dirigible hurtled itself onward, destination: Anywhere Prism Flash Went But That’s Nice Because Butter Could Come Too.

Captain Prism wasn’t much for standing at the controls, though, so she left them and took to flying around for a while and sometimes taking naps. Lieutenant Butter was happy to take over the piloting, and enjoyed watching Prism.

Then the alarms blared, scaring Butter.

“Oh no, what’s happening?” she cried. “Prism, help!”

Prism Flash was there in an instant.

“Oh no, looks like those Space House Sparrow mercenaries from before weren’t finished after all!” Prism quickly took the wheel and the space-balloon heaved sideways. “Fuel Tank, we gotta go faster!’

Through the intercom came the chief engineer's reply, “Full power now, Captain Prism, it may not be enough!”

“Luna’s Beard,’ Prism Flash cursed, “looks like we can’t outrun them.”

“Oh, no!” said Lieutenant Butter. “Captain Prism, what are we going to do?”

“Don’t you worry, Fluttershy, we can still out-maneuver them.” The space-balloon twisted again, and the ship arced around a giant space-rock. It was so close Butter could almost reach out and touch it, but she didn’t. She wasn’t scared, either, because she trusted Captain Prism Fash.

“I trust you,” Butter said.

But ahead wasn’t safety, it was another ship! On the rigging up high, their lookout Angel shouted a warning.

“Look out!” Butter cried.

“Drat, it’s Orange Mare!” said Prism. She spun the wheel and the space-balloon heaved again, but the space-wagon of Orange Mare turned. The ships scraped against each other with a very loud scraping noise. Lieutenant Butter pressed her hooves over her ears it was so loud. Rainbow Flash didn’t, because she wasn’t bothered by mere sounds.

The space-balloon bucked throwing them into the air. “Don’t worry, Fluttershy, I got ya!” Yelled Flash, and she flew over in an instant and grabbed her from floating out into space.

“Well, what do we have here,” came another voice.

“Orange Mare!” said Captain Flash, defensive. “What are you doing here again?”

“What do you think I’m doing here, partner,” said Orange Mare. She tipped her massive hat. “I’m after you, Miss Prism Dash, I told you once and I’ll tell you until you understand.”

“I’ll never work in your space-apple mines! Never!” yelled Prism Dash, flying defiantly between Butter and Orange Mare.”

“You say that now, but I think my Space House Sparrow mercenaries will leave you little

There was a knock on the door. Fluttershy gave a quiet yelp and the quill smudged on the parchment.

“Oh dear, I wonder who that could be? Angel, can you open the door, please?” Daintily, she placed her writing utensil on the desk and quickly went to the door herself

“Hey, little guy, is Fluttershy – Oh, hi, Fluttershy!”

She couldn’t stop a smile flooding her face when she saw Rainbow Dash at her door.

“Oh, hello, Rainbow Dash.”

“Hey, the Wonderbolts are gonna be racing in Cloudsdale this afternoon. Do you want to come?”

“I… Oh, I don’t know, Rainbow Dash..." She did, actually, want to spend time with Rainbow Dash. She wanted nothing more than to join in the things that Rainbow liked. Her ears drooped. "There, um, won’t be a lot of ponies there, will there?”

“Of course there will, Fluttershy. It’s the Wonderbolts, it’s not like they put on private races or anything.”

Of course.

“Oh. Um, I’m really, really sorry, Rainbow Dash, but I, um, I don’t think so. There’s so much I need to do for my animal friends, I don’t think I can take the time…”

“Oh, really?” Rainbow's ears sagged.

“Um, maybe, if you have the time, you’d like some tea before you fly off? With me, I mean?”

“Sorry, Fluttershy, but I gotta jet if I want a good ticket. Hey, tell you what, I’ll get you a poster, maybe they’ll sign one for you?”

“That would be, um…” her face flushed. Rainbow, asking to get something for her?

“Hey, you okay?”


“Your face is all red.”

“Oh, I –! I, um, I-I…” Fluttershy stammered, trying to think of an excuse.

“You’re not getting a cold or anything, are you? Pony Pox?”

“Oh, yes! I am!” she cried. “Cough, cough. A cold, very sudden. Ah-choo. Yes. I can’t get other ponies sick.”

“Man, I hope you feel better quick, Fluttershy…”

“I’m sure I will, Rainbow. Um, you’d better go. Don’t want a bad seat or anything.”

“Right. Take care, Fluttershy.”

“Thank you, Rainbow Dash.”

Fluttershy watched Rainbow Dash as she flew off. She shut the door with a heavy sigh and returned to her desk. She looked at the notebook for a moment before turning the page over and dipping the quill once again into the pot of ink...

Lieutenant Butter lay in the bed, Fuel Tank nearby, working the dozens of valves in his steady pace.

“You worry too much,” he said, slow and sagely. “If Captain Prism says you need your rest, she’s probably right. She’s an athlete, and a captain. She knows the importance of staying healthy.”

“You’re right, Tank,” said Lieutenant Butter.

Heartbreaks and Hoofaches [Sad, Romance]

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Sotto Voce stood on quaking limbs, gasping, as the knock-knock echoed through the door. There was a light inside, but maybe she had simply left it on when she went out. He hoped she was there. Through the ringing in his years, he listened, waiting for any movement inside. He thought about knocking again, but hesitated. He could wait…

Work had stretched later than expected. This should not have been a problem, but he overheard his mixer mention plans for the evening, and he remembered. Sotto Voce remembered a promise. For the final hours, he danced on his hooves, cast frequent furtive glances at the clock, and pictured the two leagues across town to a mare he knew.

He had missed the taxi, missed the trolley. He would have to run. So he ran. Down through the business district he raced. A card; he needed a card. A vendor there at the edge of the square was packing up after hours and was nearly collided with in Sotto’s dash. Quick words, a few bits, a piece of decorated parchment, and a few encouraging words were exchanged, then they separated. Twilight, the lamps would be list soon.

His breath caught, Sotto reached up again and gave another knock-knock on the door, hoping. He looked into his saddlebags, verifying their contents. It wasn’t much, but it was all he could have managed. He muttered at himself for not doing more, for remembering sooner. She would understand, she had to. She would, she would…

Through district after district he ran, the streets thankfully sparse. Some shouts followed in his wake, each answered with a heartfelt, if brief, apology over his withers. A few of these resulted in additional apologies and no small number of stuttered hooves not-always-near-misses.

Had it been a league yet?

Chocolate! Flowers would be shredded, of course, but chocolate he could carry! There, five blocks later, he caught a stallion at his door, keys in his mouth. A few words and bits, then he was on his way, a small parcel thudding rhythmically against his side. Surely it had been a league by now, it was fully dark. On and on, he ran.

Sotto sat on the stoop, humming to himself. How long had he been sitting, ten minutes? Sixty? He should have paid attention to Luna’s moon, before, but, somehow, hadn’t the spirit to look up at its lonesome glow. Beside him was a small wrapped box and a pale envelope, nearly glowing from the soft light of the street lamps. He rubbed his hooves occasionally, the throbbing there matching the ache in his chest. It was almost easy to imagine it was because of the running…

Had he gotten turned around? He asked for directions several times, each pointing this way, to the East, or that way, South. A curt ‘thank you,’ and then he would be off. Twos, always twos. It felt odd, being only one in a forest of couples, but Sotto didn’t let that bother him. He could focus on the thud, thud, thud of his hooves on the earth, always running on. His breath was shuddering in, out; in, out. He wouldn’t stop. He couldn’t. She would be there.

Another couple passed by along the road, their warm giggles and muted, indistinguishable voices piercing the night. Sotto watched them, never given cause to wave…

Sotto knew this street. He knew this street well. Three blocks, weave left, there on the right with the flower box under the window; tall grasses in front of brick, a frosted detail on the door’s glass oval. There, two steps up, right before him. He paused, collecting himself as best as able. His legs shook like jelly beneath him, his breath quick and coarse. A moment, he could wait for a moment for this. Out of his saddlebags he took an envelope and a foil-wrapped box, smiled, and made his way up to the door. A light glowed inside. He dared to hope, lifted a hoof, and knock-knocked on the perfect door.

Sotto Voce stood on quaking limbs…

He knew the laugh walking along the lane. He knew, that was, one of the laughs. That rich, sparkling laugh he wished he could have heard every day. The other voice he did not know. It was a stallion’s, none too low. The exhaustion caught up to him, for Sotto’s chest tightened terribly.

It was a simple matter to scrape the items from the earth and slip away from the lights. Maybe there would be a night bus for Sotto Voce.

Ponyville: Subsidiary of Spikecorp, Inc. [Slice of Life; Comedy]

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Twilight Sparkle gasped as she stepped out of Spikecorp Magnifique.

“Princess Celestia!” She ran forward and embraced her mentor, which was eagerly reciprocated. “I’m glad you made it! It feels like forever since I saw you last, things have been so busy!”

“Not all, my most faithful student. It is alway a pleasure to—”

“Walk with me? I’m on my way out to Spike Apple Acres, Applejack might be overworking herself again. Gotta get there!”

“I—Of course, Twilight.”


She set off at a quick trot, Celestia shortly behind.

“Gosh, it’s been a while since you were here last, things have changed so much! Everything’s so much bigger and grander and more productive since—” The ponies within earshot chorused ‘Spikecorp!’ “—since we got that extra rail service! Rarity’s boutique is now a fully-fledged workshop, Spikecube Corner—you stopped there once when it used to be Sugar Cube Corner—is now a name known across the entire province… it’s amazing!”

“I certainly am surprised to find it so urbane,” offered Celestia. “And so… full of pennants.”

“What? Oh, you mean the directive banners!”

“‘Rawr’?” said Celestia.

“RAWR!” cheered everypony in the street.

“Oh, it’s Spikecorp slogan, really. They all mean something different. Like that one,” Twilight pointed a wing, “means, ‘Be more productive: Spikecorp!’ And that one over there, ‘Do everything you can today: Spikecorp!’” She smiled at the ponies sharing their voices. “Over there is probably my favorite, ‘You are the sum of your labor potential: Spikecorp!’ And to think it used to just mean ‘I love you!’ Now it means that and more besides!”

“Hi Twilight and Celestia!” yelled Rainbow Dash, zooming overhead with a massive cloud before her. “Bye Twilight and Celestia!”

“Hi Rainbow Dash!”

“I… see,” said Celestia, frowning slightly.

“Is something wrong? This is all so amazing, it’s glorious to be part of something so constructive. Excuse me—hi, Fluttershy! Hope your chickens are meeting their laying quotas!” Twilight waved to a blushing Fluttershy. “Sorry, I know keeping ponies’ spirits up is Pinkies job, but I chip in when I can.”


“I know, I’m the only one here without an official job, so I just make sure everything keeps running smoothly. I love it! Just ticked off Rarity, got Fluttershy on the way, and now we’re about to meet Applejack and the rest of the Apples. I love seeing my friends working so hard: Spiiii…” she trailed off before coughing. “Sorry, bit of a verbal tick we’ve seemed to pick up around the town. Don’t know where it came from.”

“Hey Twilight, do you ever feel like some days—!” Rainbow yelled again, then she was gone.

“Don’t worry, she’ll pass by a few more times to finish whatever she was about to say. She’s moving a lot of water to the Spicarrot Expanse today, I checked her schedule. See? Here she comes.”

“—That everything you do just goes—”

Twilight and Celestia continued walking quickly between the trees, the occasional lavender and emerald pennant dangling from the branches.

“—To benefit a dragon at the top—”

Really, it felt rather awkward. Why was it feeling so awkward to walk with her mentor in companionate silence.

“I don’t even miss my crown, Prin—er, Celestia!”


“—Of some giant corporate mountain?” Rainbow Dash finished, zooming by, above the branches.

“Right. Spike took it first. Definitely for the best.” She looked up just as Rainbow made another pass. “Some days, Rainbow! Some days!”

Pines [Sad, Slice of Life]

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The letter found me, and there was nothing to avoid it. In the span of one hour I had informed my research partners, gathered my few belongings and Boulder, sent my reply by Pegasus courier, and boarded a train for the heartland. That I did all these at a walking pace would astound most... I always thought it went to show how little ponies thought of walking.

The three days of travel were not pleasant, lifted from the Base Earth and a prisoner to my thoughts, but Boulder was there to keep in my company. Other ponies of all tribes came and went, most content to send a furtive glance in my direction, uncertain. I delighted a young filly by name of Quick Step with a geode from my bags. The rock could be replaced; her joy could never be.

I petted Boulder often, his stead presence merely at my side often feeling insufficient. I am sure that I slept, but I do not remember it.

It was with mixed feelings that I greeted the Earth again upon arrival at the station, doubly so with my siblings gathered there. I was very happy to be rejoined with them, true, but it was also terribly sad.

I did not need to look at Inkie or Blinkie, but I did anyway. The moment was enough for greeting. There was nothing for the matter that words could articulate that Feeling could not express more deeply. For Pinkie, however, words were required, and she was instantly upon me.

"OhmygoodnessMaud, you came, you're here, I mean you said you would but we didn't know for four days and we thought maybe you wouldn't come back because of everything but then we got your letter and I wasn't sure if you really meant it but they reminded me that you wouldn't lie about that kind of thing and I felt even worse because I... I..."

I let her hold on to me, and she began sobbing. She looked how I felt.

"Pinkie," I said, "it's okay. We'll take care of things now, together."

She composed herself after a moment, and we were joined by her Ponyville friends who had been courteously standing to the side. I remember my startlement from not recognizing the colt behind the ticket booth.

To the outside observer, the homestead appeared as it always had. The shed and the adjoining silo stood, as did the homestead flanked by the unflinching pair of pines. That would change soon enough, but it was a deeper lack that evinced any change—a hollowness I had never felt in the land before.

All the same, I announced myself well before entering the door.

What greeted me immediately was the stark lack of change. I had become so inured to the rushing pace of the greater world—what one could consider a normal life—that it was startling, for all that it was familiar. I paced thought the hall, reviewing the bookshelf, our old rooms, the painting and the fireplace and mantle that had never found use. Behind me stood Blinkie like a statue. Inkie wound herself about, in her perpetual dance to the unheard music of magma far below. Her movements recalled my infantile jest that she wanted to be a Pegasus and leave the Earth behind—a jest to which Mother's punishment ensued such blasphemy never passed my mind again.

Pinkie waited outside.

I delayed entering Mother's bedroom for as long as possible. The crunch of the soil beneath my hooves and the occasional words with Pinkie's friends would serve only so long.

We busied ourselves for a time outside around the pines. Applejack was enlisted, a long-lost cousin, to fell them. Her aid simplified the task immensely, as she could ask the trees to yield their great selves—no need to move the whole of the Earth that embraced their penetrating roots.

Lady Rarity Belle expressed confusion that we did not sever them at the ground and leave the roots to waste.

The princess Twilight offered to fashion the boards, and I agreed even without Pinkie's encouragement—the idea of a Unicorn manufacturing Mother's casket gave me perverse delight. Father would not have minded, on his own.

At last, there was nothing to do but move them. Being the eldest, the duty fell to me, and I would not shirk it. I asked the others to wait separately, and they did.

In the bedroom they lay, side by side. I was startled by how withered they had become. Growing up, even to my departure, they appeared to age as a landscape—it had been easy to forget them as living things. Before me then, I was confronted with the fact of the matter, more difficult even than the reality. My parents had grown old.

There was no reason in my doing it beyond that it felt right: before I moved them, I touched each in turn, and I said, "Father, I'm still doing my best. Mother... You're not made of stone, after all."

I do not care to think of the burial, but it was very much a simple business.

When I finally left, I looked back, the vacancy inside now visible by two pine saplings freshly planted aside the house.

To-Dos [Experimental, Romance, Slice of Life]

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Make sure Rainbow Dash comes by once every few weeks, no matter what.
Even if the Wonderbolts take her away.


Take care of all my animal friends.

Visit family at least once a year. sometime. occasionally.

Invite family here to visit.

Go to market once a week, getting only what is needed.


Have foals. someday.

Build a chicken coop.

Don't spend all day under the bed when the pink pony says hi.

Pinkie Pie

Take up Miss Rarity's invitation to the spa.

Have home recognized by the Marquis as a refuge for animals.

Work up courage to talk to that big stallion. McIntosh Apple.

Expand the graveyard.

Help Twilight save the world, no matter how scary.

Meet Rarity at the spa regularly. Every week.

Be the godmother for Pinkie Pie's adorable little ones (when she has them).

Stop feeling sad about never having foals.

Never be a model again.

ever ever ever

Re-thatch the roof.

Expand the graveyard again.

Raise wingpower up to five.

Get Angel to be more polite in company.

Make the perfect oolong tea.

Learn to cha-cha and waltz.

Make peace with never having foals.

Make space for Discord.

Meet Rarity for lunch alternate days.

Expand personal library of animal care books. and fiction.

See how long it takes Fluttershy to notice I wrote in her list! :)

Make space for Discord.

Stop trying to sleep from the rafters.

Get a bigger bed.

Get animals to use my bed as little as possible.

Have foals.

Leave everything behind and follow Rarity to Fillydelphia.

Just Out [Slice-of-Life, Sad]

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Pipsqueak beamed at me as much as he could with the plate in his mouth and said he'd meet me at the table. I somehow managed to take that in, distracted as I was by the strawberry muffie settled upon the plate, tempting me with its delicious Pinkie-baked goodness. That divine pink-tinged dough and that ruby jewel of fruit nestled in its center, speckled with the perfect dusting of pristine powdered sugar snow.

Just watching it shift around gave my heart pangs of fear, that it might fall to the floor and be lost! It couldn't fall, it was precious! ...Even if it wasn't mine.

I forced myself to look away, up and over the glass curve that stretched up to the face of Missus Cake.

She asked what I wanted, I think, and I stood up to look, leaning my hooves against the shield of glass. To be fair, there were many choices: brownies, pies, cupcakes, angelfood cakes, bundt slices, bear claws... But there was but one I sought, the tempting memory of its crumbly texture, the spongy squish as bitten into, the surge of moistened sugar of purest fruit that sung to my heart, and I was to find it...

To find it, somewhere...

Missus Caked asked me again, and the dread began to clutch my heart. Where was it? Don't look at empty trays, Rumble, don't look and it won't be there. Kołaczki, no... Bagels, no... Apple-caramel muffins, rainbow muffins, chocolate marble cake squares, rum balls, no no no no no! Where is it?

They couldn't possibly be out -- it was impossible to imagine. There was one thing I that the world revolved around, the singular, special something, the particular pastry that none other could replace, and I had seen four already pass before me, one carried by my friend, so where...

There, to the left, rested an empty tray with the loathsome label of 'Strawberry Muffie.'

I blinked, looked away and back, hoping maybe my desperate, starved imagination was playing tricks on me... to build up the suspense and appreciation, but still the platter remained empty.

The laughs from somewhere in the room mocked me; the casual glances from the line behind me burned. Missus Cake with her wretched, spiteful face smiling down at me clawed at my chest, goring my heart into a pitch void with its wet entrails welling up beneath my eyes, pressing with foalish warmth.

I wouldn't cry. Apple Bloom could see me, I wouldn't cry.

But I could run.

Past Miss Fluttershy's legs I darted, past Miss Twilight, through the doors, around the corner, into the alley, up and over the trash box, around that corner, to the fountain, past the fountain, behind the tree. Only there, ensconced by the bush, did I let my clear blood flow, just a little.

How could they be out? Of all the things, why did it have to be my strawberry muffie? I beat at the ground, the shudder running up my legs into their sockets.

A rustle from nearby pierced my heart, freezing my insides and making my ears burn.

Pipsqueak edged around the tree trunk, a sack in his mouth.

A poppyseed kołaczkek, he explained. My second-favorite.

It didn't taste very good.

Warrior Princess [Slice-of-Life, Adorable]

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“—An’ the clouds can only move dy-gonly,” Twilight concluded.

Shining Armor chuckled, rubbing behind his head, staring at the chess board. “Diagonally, you mean?”

“Maybe? I’unno,” Twilight said, shrugging. Her horn sparked, and, when that failed, she frowned, reached out with a hoof for a small slip of paper, and passed it to him. “Here.”

Shining took it and looked at the rules for Chess, Canterlot. “Yeah,” he said with a chuckle, “diagonally. Any other words I should know about you only encountered reading?”


“So the clouds can move diagonally… they take forward?”

“Yup! An’ my princess is Warrior Princess Celestia!”

“‘Warrior Princess,’ you say?”

Twilight nodded emphatically, before striking as regal a bearing as a foal could. Warping her voice, she declared, “I, Princess Celestia, the Eternal Dawn, Sol Invictus, declare this battle to begin!”

Shining chuckled again, smiling at his sister. “Hold on, there. If you get ‘Warrior Princess Celestia,’ who do I have?”


“It’s hardly fair if you get a special princess on your side.”

“Oh, right. Um…” Twilight stuck out her tongue in thought, then beamed. “I know! You get Cadance!”


“An’ you get to stand right next to her, Prince Shining Armor! Just like when you two are on the couch together when I’m supposed to be asleep! ...But standing up, on a battlefield.”

“Uhhh…” Shining’s face suddenly felt very hot.

“Oh, I know,” Twilight continued. “You’ve been taken prisoner by the Swarm of Evil, and I’m going to rescue you!”

“Okay, if you say so… Hey, so you’re the Prince there next to Celestia?”

“Second Princess,” Twilight quickly declared.

“And if Cady… uh, Princess Cadance and I are supposed to be prisoners, how come I can move the pieces?”

Twilight thought on that for a second until, without warning, she pushed her Princess piece towards the far corner the board, smiting all the other pieces in the way.


“The Warrior Princess Celestia will stop at nothing to save her niece!” Twilight’s hoof then pushed the Prince—’Second Princess’— piece to the other corner, pushing most of the lingering Clouds, Castles, and Griffons away. “An’ not even the Swarm of Evil will keep Second Princess Twilight from my Big Brother!”

“Gee, Twiley,” Shining said, stifling a fit of laughter, “that was hardly fair.”

In her ‘Warrior Princess’ voice again, Twilight said, “I declare this battle won, and the realm is saved. My dear niece Princess Cadance and the brother of my Second Princess, Prince Shining Armor, do you take each other to be husband and wife?”

“W-WHAT? Twiley—”

“Shush, you’re getting married,” she said, interrupting. “By the power of the Sun, I pronounce you stallion and mare! Now kiss!” Waiting for nothing, Twilight picked up the Prince and Princess pieces across the board and pushed them against one another.

“Uhhh…” Shining’s mouth worked a few times before he found the words. “Um, the Swarm of Evil must have been under control by some queen, right? Shouldn’t we do something about her? Soon?”

“Oh! You’re quite right, Prince Shining Armor, we had better. Ponies of Equestria,” she cried to the board, already putting the pieces back into place, “The battle is over, but the war as just begun. We must make Equestria safe for the newlyweds!”

Shining Armor managed an earnest smile and helped put the last few pieces back onto the board. “Are Cady and I still prisoners this time?”


“What about Prin—er, ‘Warrior Princess Celestia?’”

“Um… no, she’s fighting another battle.”

“At the same time?”

“I’unno.” Twilight shrugged, then put on a filly’s sinister voice. “Prepare to defend yourself, Prince Shining Armor, for you now face… um…. You face the Bug Queen of Lies!”

And the battle was joined in earnest.

Blameless [Slice-of-Life, Sad]

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Little AJ stood on the linoleum, staring through the glass.

She wasn't alone, not really—a few families came and went, muttering amongst themselves, some stopping to look as well before moving on.

Granny and Pop had quickly left. There were things to be taken care of, things blank-flanked AJ didn't really understand. The thought, like the ponies, came and went, that they should have just cried rather than try to hide it. She reckoned it was because they were adults that they couldn't show it. At least she had stopped crying a while ago.

Mac hadn't lingered for long, either, having left leaning against that fancy fiddle-player filly friend of his. He was always the physical type, AJ wondered what they would be doing. It wasn't a fiddle that she played, it had some fancy city name…. The word AJ came up with was 'vile.'

The air reeked of cleanliness. Her ears sometimes swiveled to hear the sounds of the other ponies, more often they did not. Through the glass, she couldn't hear anything, even if all the bundles looked asleep. AJ's stare intensified.

It wasn't fair how peaceful they all looked, lying there. It wasn't fair, the judging looks the other ponies gave her. It wasn't fair, that she was alone. It wasn't fair that her Momma… AJ lifted a hoof, shifted it forward as if to touch the glass, but stopped and lowered it again.

From the side, "Miss Apple?"

Her ears turned.

"Miss AJ?" It was one of the nurses.

"I heard ya."

"Could, um, could you please go sit down? We're getting complaints that you're… well, you're scaring the new mothers and their families."

AJ turned her glass-melting glower to the nurse, the sanitized air tightening between them. "Yeah, fine."

"Miss Apple, I'm—"

"I'm goin, aright! Ain't nothin y'can say that hasn't been said a'ready, an I'm goin!"

The nurse gave a tight-lipped nod and took a step back, but didn't withdraw.

AJ turned back to the glass, to her baby sister, scowling.

"Yeah," she said, subdued. "I'm goin…" Her hoof finally touched the glass. "Ain't yer fault, Bloom. Ain't yer fault."

"Miss Apple, if you'd come with me…"

"No." AJ looked down at the tile and stamped a hoof. "No, thanks, I… I think I'm gonna go visit my aunts."

"But your family, your baby sister—"

"I'll see 'em when I get back."

Little AJ turned, mind set on her piggy bank, a note to be written, and a train to Manehattan.

Unspoken was the thought, 'if I get back.'

Infiltrator [Adventure, Experimental]

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Life as an Infiltrator is good.

There is a single, all-consuming task: The Mission. The Mission is all that matters, the sole focus. Without The Mission, there would be no purpose to living.

This One is good at The Mission, and she knows it. She does not sleep in pursuit of The Mission. Hunger does not stop This One from her aim, neither darkness nor light. Pain is but a temporary hindrance as she strives after her goal.

To express it in words is futile: such wholesomeness, such purity of The Mission transcends language… and to whom would she speak? It is a song, with no words and an unfathomable melody. She is alone in her endeavor, unique and indispensable.

This One wears many masks, learning the way. She appears like the unlike, passing like them, making noises that they make, her mind ever focused on The Mission. Her pace has grown measured from experience, but she has learned quickly.

This One draws closer nearly each attempt.

The unlike are frequently different, and This One must adapt. She has learned well. The unlike are too slow, often, and This One evades what she learned or will learn to be a trap.

She does not think in concrete terms of her objective, for she will know it when it appears. It, too, is inexpressible. Perhaps she knew it, once, but that knowledge has been subsumed by her experiences in its pursuit. There is a thought of a mother, long lost or forgotten… or perhaps sometime to emerge.

This One has seen many things. The unlike, too, have proven to be very creative.

This One sits still, moving. The unlike's contraption ferries her once again along the way. Many unlike sit around her, sharing her skin and her space, seemingly unaware and unalarmed. It is objectively loud to her ears, but This One acts as the unlike do and ignores it. Her mind cleanses itself by drawing upon the pure water of The Mission.

Click-clack, goes the way this time. Chug-chug-chug it also goes.

Raised voices, heavy hooves in the box-conveyance-vessel attached behind. The unlike are not so clever in their trap this time. This One has a chance; she knows this process.

Go out, ahead; wait; return behind, is the counter. The unlike's ward-reveal-penetration will reveal her form if it strikes, and she must not permit this, as a delay will follow.

This One rises, effecting an unlike with wings-feathered-broad-heterogeneous desiring temporary occupation of augmented volume, and moves towards the back of the box-conveyance-vessel. The portal-swing-knoblatchedturnit opens at her will.

So focused was she what This One collides with an unlike: hazard-plated-hindrance-evade-priority-comely. A new trap.

The unlike raises its lance-evade-priority-hazard-hazard, and the protrusion from its head glows. This One runs for the portal-sliding-transparent-elevated, to escape, lest the ward-reveal-penetration expose her fully.

This One does not reach the portal-sliding-transparent-elevated; coldness pierces her body, and she thuds soundly against the wall.

Pain fades to numbness. This One's eyes shutter closed as The Mission sings her to sleep.

This One stirs, scent of herself surrounding her. There is little light. She is home, again. The Others are still asleep, and she muffles the crunching sound as she steps over the many, many shattered pods as she heads once again for the aperture… from which the song of The Mission rings so richly.

Life as an Infiltrator is good.

Fine Dining [Slice-of-Life, Drama]

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Here's a comparison: patience is surprisingly like teeth enamel—when it's ground down, there is something like pain. Here's a tip: if Princess Celestia invites you to a dinner party, ask what kind of dinner party before saying yes. Here Lies Sunset Shimmer: She Died From Boredom.

Actually, that's a terrible epitaph, and not at all accurate.

"Which is all to say, your majesty, that the eastern buttress didn't get poured until a week behind schedule! Can you believe it? Not that was in any way a hindrance..."

And he's still talking. Guh. Sitting there, filling the time with his inane, useless blather, making me just sit here, mute, unable to do anything remotely interesting, and I can't even trust myself to pick up my fork anymore. Shame, that, as I'm really bucking hungry. Ha, or not. Who could eat when their ears are so full? And fish.

Celestia isn't even aware of me, anymore. She's just being the Princess, perfect, sitting there to the glory of the 'honored guests.' She barely has to say anything; just a word or two, and off Prince So-And-So or Baroness Blah-Dee-Blah goes, into whatever little world they have in their head and talk for ten minutes without pause.

It would be nice if there weren't also a half-dozen other conversations going on at the same time, down the length of the table. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine a swarm of bees, buzzing their wings. The two are just about as interesting.

"Are you enjoying the meal, my pupil?"

So, not totally forgotten. As if it matters. I turn carefully to the Princess. "Of course."

"You have scarcely touched the third course. Was it not to your liking?"

No, it wasn't at all. Seriously, who serves fish? Answer: griffons. Guh. "Maybe I had too much soup, before."

She looks at me with that judging glance before returning her attention to Big Beaky and Little Mint Mare.

"Yes, quite," I hear beside me. Goldblood, or Bluemane, or whatever... 'Nephew', if his insistence on calling Celestia 'Auntie' is any indication. "The pea soup was positively divine, if paedestrian. The ganache—"

I tune him out effortlessly. Something about fish being a wholly wretched thing that shall never pass his esteemed lips, which is somehow ironic given the stink coming out the other way. Besides, I don't like the looks he gives me. Strike 'Nephew,' he is now 'Creep.'

And I'm just stuck here. I reach out to my fork, but Little Mint Mare looks at me: I'm a unicorn, unicorns don't lift eating utensils with magic. I redirect my hoof to shift the plate instead. I totally don't squirm.

I could be doing literally anything else, instead of being stuck here with all these little ponies and their little thoughts. I should be studying... practicing. But no, I'm here.

I definitely don't jump when a hoof touches my withers. "Yes, Princess?"

"Are you well, my pupil? You look distressed."

I try to keep a scowl off my face. It isn't fair to be angry at her. "Oh, do I?"

"It is only fish." To demonstrate the point, she extracts some of the flesh with a fork and places it in her mouth; chews; swallows; smiles.

I hate that smile.

"You're right, it's only fish." Maybe I'm smiling now, I'm not sure, but I am certain what's about to happen. Ah, the blessing and curse of being a filly with more magical talent than a dozen unicorn nobles combined.

I reach out with my magic to lift my fork. By the time it touches the flesh on my plate, it is glowing white and I can feel the heat on my face. The fillet sputters and chars as it is cut and cauterized with remarkably little smoke. I raise the empty fork towards me, then feign surprise.


I drop the slag that was once cutlery and it begins to burn through the table. I seize the goblet before me which instantly melts, the water inside flashing to a boil and splattering across the table.

I can feel my self smiling by now, a wide and crooked thing. It feels great to just do something, something that isn't sitting there like a porcelain doll, ignored and useless.

I turn to Celestia. She's got that really pissed look on her face. Regal Pissed... Nice.

I'm already trotting when I say, "Request permission to leave the table, Your Majesty." I say it with all the bitterness I can conjure.

"Sunset Shimmer—"

"I'll be in the study. Someplace useful." The door is opened for me. "Come chill when you get fed up with these chumps."

Stalemate [Adventure, Drama, Thriller(?)]

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The cot heaved, taking Rainbow Dash’s stomach with it. She twisted about, coughing hoarsely as she fought back bile. She pulled at the ropes again, the pain bringing the blurred smudge of reality back into sharp relief. There across the room, a book propped up before her, the thing that looked like Twilight sat; the thing that brought this upon her.

“I hate you.” The words failed, muted and croaking in her parched throat.

Twilight’s ear twitched absently.

Another cough. “I said,” this time her voice worked, “I hate you.”

Twilight startled, instantly on her hooves. “Rainbow Dash!” The appearance of genuine concern was immaculate. “You’re up. Here, you need to drink some water.”

“Don’t want it.”

“Rainbow, please! You’ve lost so much… you wouldn’t take it even while….” The fake Twilight looked away to examine the mattress.

“Maybe if I wasn’t tied up.”

“I know. I’m sorry, Rainbow. But… but you have to stay—”

“You’re not Twilight. She would let me go.”

“I know it hurts, but if you just stopped struggling—”

“You’ll never take me, changeling.” Rainbow hacked another dry cough. “Never.”

Twilight sagged. “You’ve gotten even worse. You were tugging even while you were asleep.” She cautiously drew closer, making a face at the vibrant red welts. “Can I see your legs, please?”

Rainbow tried to bite her.

“I’m sorry, Rainbow, I really am. You tried… you could have drowned.”

“Drowned? Me?”

“We’re in the middle of the sea, Rainbow.” The false Twilight gestured to the room, obviously a ship’s cabin swaying with the motion of waves. “You agreed that you shouldn’t fly when you….” She gulped. “Please, Rainbow. You have to drink something. You’ve lost so much fluid.”

Rainbow pretended to consider it for a moment. “No. Poisoned.”

Twilight twitched in apparent shock. “Rainbow!”

“Daring Do and The Astral Sceptre, the Vi’e camel horde. The real Twilight would understand.”

“We read that book together, Rainbow, you and I! But… but….” She trailed off.

“Gotcha.” Rainbow grinned in feeble triumph.

“No, Rainbow. You… you were poisoned. Are poisoned. Very badly. Don’t you remember anymore?”

Rainbow squinted. “What’s to remember? You‘re just trying to pump me for information! I figured out your game, changeling. You won’t get anything outta me.”

“The map sent us, Rainbow. To Zecora’s homeland. Remember? The zebras? We helped the zebras. But you ate something… Something cursed. It’s been eating your sanity for two days now.”

The purple imposter unrolled a map that had been sitting on the bench. She pointed to the right of Equestria, down near the twin marks of the Royal Sisters. “The pilot says we’re still only about here. Just west of the moon. Celestia and Luna will know what to do. I hope.”

Rainbow just glowered at her in sullen defiance.

“Please, Rainbow, let me help you. Give me something, please, I want to just help you remember. Like with Discord, remember? I can use my magic—”

“Don’t you dare.” Rainbow snapped her teeth again. “I remember Shining Armor; what that changeling’s magic did to Twilight’s brother’s head. You’re not gonna do that to me.”

Twilight sat, folded in dejection. “Of course I won’t.”

“Twilight would help me. Twilight would know what to do. Twilight would let me go.” Each mention of ‘Twilight’ was lye. “Celestia’s student would do what’s right and take care of a changeling like you. The Element of Magic would blast you into oblivion. Again, remember? The Princess of Friendship would be there for me. My friend. My friend. Not you. Stop crying, you monster, you aren’t her!”

Twilight dragged herself away, wiping at tears. “I-I’m going… I’m going to double check with the pilot.”

Throat rasping Rainbow shouted at her. “Don’t you dare, go, thing! I’m not done with you! You’re not going to get to me that easily! Get back here! I said get back in here! Don’t leave me alone!

One Fine Day [Comedy, Drama]

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One fine day in the magical land of Equestria, Princess Twilight was giving up.

“Spike? Spike!” Twilight dashed into the library, the door bursting wide. “Spiiiike!”

“Mmphr,” came a voice behind the door.

Twilight was already halfway to the bookshelves. “Spike, stop hiding. I need you to help me look for something. I’ll start in biographies, you’ll get mare’s tales and other anecdotal entries, and we’ll meet in the historical reference if we don’t find anything.”

Spike peeled himself from the wall and re-inflated himself with a few gasping breaths, waddling over with unsteady legs. “And… and what are we… looking for?”

“Hm? Oh! That. Nightmare Moon. Or Sombra.”

Spike livened up. “Right away! Is something wrong? Where are the others?”

Twilight mumbled something, glowering at a string of books floating past her.

“Didn’t quite get that. What’s up?”

“They don’t matter. Just keep looking.”

Spike paused, a few small tomes in his claws, lifted an eyebrow. “Oooookay.” When she didn’t respond he slowly resumed his assigned task, listening to her murmur.

“Of all the… dumb… stupid… I’ll show them. Show them all. …not fair.”

Suddenly louder, Twilight ordered, “Spike, take a letter. I need the Canterlot Archives to look for me, too. It can’t wait.”

“Uh, sure?”

“To whom it may concern. Write that down, Spike. To whom it may concern, I require all available materials on the Nightmare Moon incident, former, and all reports on King Sombra in the Crystal Kingdom and the practice and nature of dark magic. Additionally, any references pertaining to star or blood pacts. By order of Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

“…star or blood.…” Spike paused, blinked.

“Just write it, Spike.”

The look brooked no argument, so he did, and promptly belched it away.

Twilight quickly turned back to her books.

“So….” Spike ventured, “Sombra?”

“If you’re worried about dark magic, you needn’t. He was evil to begin with. Completely different!”

“R-right. Look, do you wanna talk about—”

“If you’re going to say star or blood pacts, yes. Anything else, not so much. Now. Anecdotes. Nightmare Moon. Go.”

“Twilight, you’re freaking me out.”

Her gaze abated. “I know. But I have to do this. I can appreciate why Luna did what she did. She was unnecessary. Is unnecessary, just like me. A millennium without any other rule, and Equestria did just fine. There is no reason for me to be a princess, and it’s not fair that I became one, and it’s not fair what ponies ask me to do as that princess.” She took a steadying breath. “No. No more.”

“You remember the mess with the Tantabus, right?”

“That was Luna’s magic. Again, completely different.”

“Wanna… find Discord? He might be able to help.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

There was a knock on the door. Both turned towards it, one in eager relief, the other approaching shock.

After a glance towards the elder sister of his heart, Spike went to answer.



Spike took a beat to straighten his spines.

“Sure, Princess Luna. I, uh, guess you got the scroll?”


“Uh, sure. And, princess? It’s a library.”

“WHAT DOST—Ah. Verily.”

Twilight had yet to move.

“Twilight,” said Luna, steadily closing the distance, “be not so alarmed. We wish thee only well…” Her horn lit, and seemed to struggle for a moment. “How dost thy friend… Ah!”

From within her mane, Luna extracted a small cake and a box, a gentle, cautious smile forming on her lips.

“We—I—thought thou mightst desire a confection and company, with embellishment of delightful weather, clear air, and a new game to play.”

Twilight’s mouth worked, but any words were held captive.

“Celestia informs me you have never played. Neighponese, ‘Shogi,’ they call it. Almost but not quite precisely unlike chess.”

“I… I…”

“The cake is chocolate-raspberry marble.”

Octavia Behind the Door [Slice of Life; Drama]

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"Vinyl? Vinyl, dearest? Here, in the shower. Don't touch anything, do you hear? Don't you dare. Knock twice please, dearest, if you can hear me. Good.

"Don't touch anything. I moved it all earlier to make space for company. Minuette and Sea Swirl will be here for the evening. If you moved anything, put it back, do you hear me? I had it all out of the way.

"I know, I should have discussed it with you sooner. It snuck up on me, I'm sorry. I know I said no more of these last-minute socials, but... this is the last time, truly, honest, I promise. No more after tonight.

"Cut up the cucumber in the kitchen, won't you? Cucumber and onion, for that salad you make so nice. Red onion, not white. Cut it up, please. Don't mix the vinaigrette, I'm not sure which would go with it. Just get the salad ready.

"And you must brush your hair. Maybe take a shower if there is time. Not with me, I'm just rinsing off now. Oh, and I have to iron my bow! Vinyl? Vinyl, dearest, set the iron, get it heating. I need to iron my bow, it's gotten horribly rumpled in the humidity.

"Can you take down a wine for us? No, don't, I need to see what we have. Let me handle the wine. Just make up the salad, dearest.

"Was there something else we had for tonight? I'm sorry if it slipped my mind, but things are in motion now. I'll make it up to you, I promise. Thursday? Just another Thursday, isn't it? Whatever it was, it completely slipped my mind. Remind me tomorrow, won't you?

"Music! Dearest, look for the turntable! Oh, what should we play? Tropin? Braylioz seems too risky. Beethooven is so common as to seem cliche... Find that turntable, set it out. I'll look through the records when I'm out. And get the iron ready!

"And you mustn't wear your 'shades,' do you hear me? Don't you dare. Sea Swirl is terribly anxious about them. Don't you dare. And you must comb your mane down like a decent pony, do you hear me?

"Do we have any crackers? I'm sure we do -- dearest, can you help get a cheese ball ready? There should be some bread crumbs we can roll over it, that will do nicely. Very presentable. Wine and cheese. I purchased grapes -- check that I put them in the fridge, please. And get out an onion for that salad, won't you?

"I'm not sure how late they'll be staying, we didn't discuss plans in great detail. Not past midnight, I'm sure. I'm sure of it. This is the last time, dearest. The last time. Get the iron ready, please!"

Happy Birthday, Thought Raindrops [Sad(?), Thriller(?)]

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For the past two nights at the foot of my bed there has sat a colorful box. The paper is glossy, reflective in the sunrise glow, bright blue with gold filigree. The ribbon is wide and yellow, like my coat, and tied in a simple bow.

Brother said the mailmare left it, with the card, after I left for work and before he went to school. The card sits with the box, tucked safely under the ribbon. I wish he would have asked who sent it.

The box mocks me. It watches me as I sleep, and greets me in the morning. I have to carefully tuck my bed covers around it when I get up, and try not to read the card as I slide it back into place before I go about my day. I touch either as little as possible.

The box waits for me. When I get home and make supper for Brother and make sure he does his homework and when I come back from the clearing, it doesn't seem to mind at all. I can lay in bed as late as I want to and I'm sure it wouldn't care, perfectly content to just sit there. That doesn't mean I like it.

For the past two nights, I stare at it before I set my head against the pillow.

The box, at least, has not found me in my dreams.

The card is not so kind.

Sometimes it is the Pink One, sometimes it is the mailmare. Once, it was Mom and Dad. I woke up crying when it was Rainbow, and I don't know if Brother knows. It's not enough that they read the card—they sing it. She sings it to me.

'Hey. It's your birthday. Get happy. Happy when you're young, happy when you're grown, happy when you're old and gray. It's your birthday! Love you lots. Happy birthday to Raindrops.'

For the past two nights, the colorful box has sat at the foot of my bed.

I don't dare open it.

Nochnoy Dozor [Adventure, Drama]

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"Here, Pipsqueak!" Luna cried. "Another bandit!"

"Don' worry, Princess!" The small colt charged over, sword in his mouth, and slashed at the bad pony. The schooner listed, sea spray crashing over the side.

"Be careful, Pip!"

The bad pony slipped and Pip shoved against him. The bad pony shouted in surprise and tumbled over the side.

Pipsqueak turned, a proud grin spread across his face. "How was that, Princess Luna?"

She walked up to the gunwale, beaming, and wrapped him in a matronly hug. "Thank you, my brave little pirate. I certainly hope he can swim…." She ushered him to the rail and froze.

The ocean was bone white. Instead of swells there were crests of rock and dust. The schooner they rode crashed over a crater rim, spraying fine powder high into the sails.

"Princess Luna?" Pip asked. He looked up and paled.

"Yes, Luna," came a voice cold and silky-smooth, whispering into her ear. Luna could almost feel the breath. "Are you having fun?"

Luna pitched forward with a jolt; she fell.

Instinctively, Luna pulled her mind through the Between, to the nether-realm of the dreamscape lined with doors. There before her stood herself, tall and dark. "Nightmare," she hissed.

Her other self clicked her tongue and sashayed forward. "Tut tut, such disapproval. Is that any way to treat yourself?"

"I was never you."

The other's smile grew and curled. "I thought you might say that. How noble. Noble and misinformed. Come…” The other stamped her hoof, and every door burst open. A purple mist poured from them all, swirling around them both. “Dream a little dream of me."

Ahead was suddenly down. Luna cried out in surprise as she plummeted through an open door.

She stood on the dais, high in Ponyville's town hall. The feeble pegasi guards flew about her, brandishing their spears. Their points shrieked as they bit at her metal armor; where they found purchase, the pain was only exhilarating.

"Foals," she jeered. "All of you, weak, incompetent, narrow-minded foals. If you will not bow before me, you will be punished that others will obey."

She summoned her magic, seizing them. She squeezed, the pressure mounting as her smile broadened, relishing in the power at her command.

One of the guard growled despite the pain, defiant. "Monster," he managed.

"Monster?" She said it with a lilt, as if considering. "Perhaps."

Without preamble, she hurled them through the walls, accompanied by cracks of lightning.

There at the door, unhinged, stood a small palomino colt and a mauve mare, their eyes wide.

"Princess Luna?"

She stared, frowning in concentration. They did not belong in this memory. Unless…

She lurched forward with a splash.

Celestia looked up at her, her body broken.

She straddled the once-princess, dipping her head low to lick the blood from Celestia's brow. Celestia winced as her tongue drew slowly along her horn.

"What ever is the matter, sister-mine? Too proud to whimper?"

Celestia never looked away. "Monster," she whispered.

"Yes," she said. "That seems to be the consensus these days. You simply do not understand power."

She nibbled delicately on Celestia's ear before biting down.


The ear and the body attached to it was gone. Celestia was suddenly above, stooping through the hole in the castle's ceiling. She was no longer bleeding; her face was unblemished.

Sunlight pierced through rain above the Everfree, dancing on her armor. Wherever it touched, her obsidian coat turned blue. Blue… It hurt.

The world spun, and she collapsed into the floor.

In a bed surrounded by books, a unicorn mare lay. She appeared to have been reading, despite the lack of candle. She looked up, expectant. “I was right,” she said. “You’ve come.”

She scowled. "This isn't right."

The unicorn stood and began walking forward cautiously. "Luna, you know me. I'm your friend."

"A god doesn't need friends, Twilight Sparkle!"

"So," the unicorn said, a smile forming, "You remember my name. What else?"

She shook her head. "No!" A hoof stamped and the books flapped from the shelves. "You are in my realm, foal! Impudent! Ingrate!"

The unicorn came closer, never slowing despite the onslaught of animated tomes.

"Stay away!"

Twilight wrapped her arms around her. Armor peeled away, taking midnight flesh with it.

She fell up.

Luna was in the dream hall again. The doors were shut; all but one, where Twilight sat. Overhead, filling what passed for the sky, was the moon. Across its craters a pirate schooner cut a fast tack.

"Luna?" Twilight said.

Luna simply stared up at the moon.

"Are you okay? I came as soon as Cheerilee…."

Luna felt a wing drape over her back, and a barrel press against her side.

A soft kiss touched her dampened cheek.

"That was never you," Twilight said. "Never was, and never will be."

It was a long time before Luna answered.


But Sometimes You Find… [Slice of Life; Bittersweet]

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"Enjoy the ice cream, Diva. The doctor and I will be… talking just outside."

Mommy shut the door behind her.

Diva looked down at the bowl. Maybe it had been ice cream before. But of course it wasn't now. Diva couldn't have anything cold. Her throat had to heal.

The doctor had said she was luck to be able to swallow at all. She didn't feel lucky.

Her ears pricked, and the sound of voices drifted in over the music. Not distinct, but perceptibly unhappy to a filly's ears.

Diva glowered at the bowl, as if somehow it was at fault. It wasn't ice cream, it was just cream. She dipped her hoof into it, pulled it out, and laughed that the color was exactly the same as her coat.

Or she would have laughed, if it were possible.

An accident. A little stumble. A trip and a sharp corner was all it took.

"And you call yourself a doctor? What did your magic to do help my daughter? Nothing, that's what! Useless!"

Diva shrunk under the covers. She didn't like it when mommy sounded mad.

"A life of singing ahead of her, and you can't do a thing to help her!"

The doctor had said he'd done what he could, but her larrinks or whatever refused to heal. Said it was as though her own magic was pushing back. That didn't make sense to Diva—she could barely manage sparks, and if there was one thing she wanted it was to talk.

She'd learned last night that she couldn't even sob anymore.

She wanted to tell mommy she didn't want to sing; that she hated the endless lessons and the scowling teachers; that she just wanted mommy to come in and hold her until it was okay again.

The voices hadn't gone away; mommy and the doctor were still talking on the other side.

Diva didn't like being alone.

She rolled over on the bed and shoved the bowl of cream away from her. It slid effortlessly across the table, striking the phonograph stood against it. The record skipped.


Diva's ears perked.

She wasn't a fond of whatever was playing. "Moh's Art" or something. But the sound was something new.

She crawled to the edge of the table and shook it. This time the table bumped the phonograph, and it squeaked again.

Such a strange sound…

Diva cast a furtive glance to the door, checking it was still closed, and crawled over the table.

Bump, followed by a sheek as the record continued.

She touched the record, and the music stopped.

A spin, and more sounds came. A kind of low hiss. Pause. Faster, and a shrill squeak, sheeeeek.

She tap-tapped the table, and spun the record again. She liked it.

Tap-bump tap-ta-eeeek.

The door opened and mommy entered, scowling.

"Diva! What are you doing with that phonograph?"

Diva looked down, then back up at her mother.


"Stop that at once."

Diva twisted her ears. She had to get the pitch just right. Shik-sheeek.

Mommy stomped over. "Diva, I won't ask you again—"

Diva looked at her, desperate, and tried a third time, trying to match her pitch exactly, SHIK-SHEEEk.


Mommy froze.

Diva didn't breathe for a moment. Again she looked at the phonograph, back at mommy.


Mommy's ear twitch was the only thing that moved.

Diva tapped her heart, held out to mommy, and again, shuh-shuh-shish-eee.

"I… Diva?"

One final time, shuh-shuh-shish-eee.

Mommy swept forward, curling Diva up in her forelegs. They nuzzled each other desperately, the message clear.

"Oh, Diva, of course your mommy loves you!"

Royal Oven [Slice of Life]

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Deep in the heart of Canterlot Castle, there is a magnificent oven. When it was first turned on, chefs across Equestria were said to have wept. The confections baked in its vast maw have calmed implacable enemies, have awed nobility, and have been presented to museums as works of art. Those honoured few to have used the Royal Oven are said to absorb some of its magic and even their bones in the earth remain warm.

Celestia swatted Luna's hoof which was reaching for the handle.

"But sister!"

"They have a few minutes yet, Luna."

"Yea, however the crusts are the proscribed umber and flaking!"

Celestia stepped over and peered in and frowned slightly. "Curious." She glanced at the temperature gauge, then back through the screen. "Curious..."

"Now dost thou believe me? They must be extracted at once!"

Celestia huffed. "If they are to be in error, then it shall be my error." She patted an indignant Luna with a wing before returning to the Royal Sinks to finish cleaning her mixing utensils.

"Be as thou say'st, sister..."

Celestia gave her a beatific smile. "Fret not, Luna. I will be certain to help you with your—" she stifled a giggle "—licorice-lightning marzipan soufflé cookies."

Luna's wings splayed defensively. "Neigh, thou wilt not! 'Twill be grand!"

Celestia stuck out her tongue. "Love you too, Lu-lu."

Go [Slice of Life]

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Princess Celestia crunched the ice with a pestle. If any of the chunks were too large, it would only be herself to blame, and she was okay with that. She upturned the bowl, dumping the granules into the glass, and then added in the liquid. A smile was permitted as the slush rose just slightly over the brim, spilling down the frosted sides.

She took a sip, and it was good.

Thankfully, she had managed to allocate a time for quiet on this particular evening, where she would be undisturbed for several precious hours. Only a crisis threatening the very foundations of Equestria would trouble her.

There were some muffled pops from beyond her chambers. The fireworks from the revelers. Such qualified as the opposite of trouble.

Her beverage refilled, she lay herself down once again upon the cushion and took in the Go board upon the table. It had been a gift, three hundred years ago, from a Quilinese ambassador, thanking her for a deed she could not now even remember. The black and white beads were each intricately carved with entire mosaics fit on a surface smaller than a single Equestrian Bit.

Her opponent was crafty, seeming to have thought of everything. Celestia considered her strategy carefully, taking all the time she needed. She listened, sipped, and thought. There were the occasional soft pops and cheers from outside which perked her ears.

Her ponies loved and trusted her, she knew. As much as she did love and trust them, she thought. Some years, it was easier to express it properly to one another. Other years, it was most difficult indeed.

Foregoing magic, Celestia reached out and placed a white dot on the board.

She looked at it, nodded, and took another long sip from her drink.

She rose and stretched her spine and wings. She trod to the balcony, looking out at the many lights in Canterlot night below.

Then she turned back and settled down on the opposite cushion. She examined the board, sipped from her drink, and thought.

The Mare Who Made Glass [Slice of Life]

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The mare ducked into the shade of the palm tree to inspect her sand. She lifted a small cloud of grains before her eyes and she squinted at them. The lake and forest on the other side blurred. For fully a minute she stood fixed, squinting at her material. Most of the collection had to be dropped.

Finally satisfied, she tucked the precious few remaining into a smooth pouch on her back. She nodded without a thought and struck out again onto the beach. Soon she had another cloud floating alongside, and again she returned to the shade to sort.

The sun just began to descend from its zenith when she at last deigned to sit. From her bag she unrolled a thick, smooth fabric and set her sand grains upon it, glistening like stars. A small contraption with crystal lenses was unfolded and stood in the light. The mare fiddled with its arms before nodding in agreement.

On a small plate, she set a small number of grains, pushed them into a cone, and turned a lens.

A needle of light struck the sand, flashing white-hot and fusing to glass. Working quickly, she funneled more of her chosen grains into the growing puddle. The mass spread, the edges away from the impossibly-bright pinprick transitioning to yellow and red.

Her magic nudged the umber edges gently back inward, rolling the glass into a small sphere. In short order, the entire mass was nearly an even yellow. The air withered from the intense heat.

Then, without warning, she flipped the lens away and stood. Her magic ripped at the marble, pulling it into unruly shapes. Her eyes fixed on the figure, small nudges adjusting things here and there, finalizing the shape as it dulled to red to umber to clear.

Her coat damp with sweat, she sat again. The tiny glass figure was set with care on the dark fabric. The mare took a long draught from her canteen, scrutinized her creation, and nodded again.

She looked up, nodded to the sun, and gathered her things. The lensed armature was folded and replaced in her bags; the cloth was rolled and tied; the figurine, a lanky prancing unicorn, was nestled in a box and secured. Another nod was made as the flap was shut, and the mare trotted off.

Raindrops' steps caught. She stood transfixed by the shimmering figurine on the table. Snails, she thought.

Raindrops hadn't wanted to go to Mareami. Hadn't wanted to leave her brother behind. Hadn't wanted a lot of things, but choice hadn't been an option. So here she was. She hadn't many bits with her, but…

"Miss?" Raindrops said.

The unicorn mare turned her attention. "Yes?"

Raindrops chewed her lip. "How, um. How much?" She pointed. "That one."

The unicorn smiled, unreadable. Her magic gripped the prancing figurine and tucked it into a small box.

Raindrops' wings flared as her eyes narrowed. "Hey! I wanted—"

The box was held out towards her. "Shhh."

Raindrops stared at it for a moment, shaking. At length she restrained herself—the pounding in her ears lessened.

"Take it, if you please."

Raindrops gave a furtive glance around. "But… How much?"

The unicorn canted her head as if not understanding.

Raindrops' ears flattened again. "I said, how much for it?"

The unicorn nodded, the box shifting closer. "Take it. If you please."

Raindrops stared. "You can't be serious. It has to be worth everything in my bags and then some."

"I wouldn't know." The mare smiled enigmatically again. "It's all sand and light to me."

Companionate [Slice of Life; Romance(?)]

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I don’t mind it when she can’t meet my eyes. The world’s a big and scary place. Sometimes you gotta hide behind your pink mane and shrink away some. I just sit down and give her the time she needs. It’s a nice day, really. My yoke itches a little, but I leave it. Don’t wanna worry her none. Sure, I got places to be, but there’s no rush. It’ll get done when it gets done, and AJ can just cool her little head about it. Finally, she gives me the slightest of smiles and shares her name. Fluttershy. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

I don’t mind it when she runs out of firewood. Not like we’d use our pile anyway, and I can take an hour here or there to get some extra set out for her. Winter’s cold, and that little hut of hers ain’t too insulated. I feel bad for her little critters. I got cows and pigs, myself. I can find the time through the winter—I can get her firewood.

I don’t mind it when she needs a stretcher pulled. That bear’s a big guy, and she can’t carry him back to her cabin by herself. AJ’s pretty upset about my disappearing for the afternoon, but she’s young yet and got it all up in her head about the east orchard. Nothing that couldn’t wait on account of a bear with a broken leg. I stay around some time after she sets the splint… just in case. We keep an eye on him, just watching together.

I don’t mind it when she can’t pay at the market. Sometimes ponies just won’t pay up for her animal care. She gotta learn to stand up for herself, just a little, but I can help her with this. Granny ain’t too pleased about it all, but I reason it out with her. A bushel of apples here or there ain’t gonna break the Acres. She never takes more than she needs, and she pays back what and when she can. Most times, it’s enough to see her smile.

I don’t mind it when she needs me to drive fence posts for her. I know I’m being a fool, taking two days out of applebucking, but it’s early in the season and AJ can cover what needs done. I think she asked me because she knows me—she won’t have to stay inside the entire time as some strange pony works around her home. She doesn’t have to worry about some strange pony trying to talk to her if she doesn’t want it. She tells me about a family of squirrels, a family of otters, and she sings a little.

I don’t mind it when she needs help with that timberwolf. It’s just too big for her, and who knows what would happen if that glowing shard was left in its neck. At least Granny understands, even if she ain’t happy about it. It’s nothing I wouldn’t do for any of our cattle, even if they have blood and hooves instead of wood and claws. Besides, none of the cuts are too deep, and the scars’ll heal.

I don’t mind it when she talks about Caramel. Good on her that there’s somepony she likes. I don’t think the date will go well, as he’s a talking pony. She’s gonna dress up a little, even if I think she doesn’t need to. I meet her smile and wish her well, but she goes on her way I don’t wait up.

I don’t mind it when she won’t talk to nopony. Having your heart broken like that can hurt. I can understand. But I miss sitting with her and having her smile.

I don’t mind it when she saves the world. Sis helped, and that new pony. Good on her. I don’t see her near as much anymore, what with her going every which way nowadays. She’s got better things to do now. She’s got friends, and she sits and talks and smiles with them. The things she’s doing are away from me now, but they’re bigger and better than anything I could offer. I think it’s enough just to see her smile.

I don’t mind it.