Twilight Sparkle and her new found allies, Cloudchaser, Berry Punch, Lyra Heartstrings, Lotus Blossom and Derpy hooves must confront an ancient threat in the Everfree Forest. And, you know also do that thing the princess said about making friends.
(This story will no longer be updated. I may return to these characters in the future, but it will be in individual stories, not in the same format as this.)
Twilight Sparkle sat alone, reading from a rather captivating book she found while doing research in the Canterlot royal library. The book in question an ancient unassuming looking brown tome with no title or author, only a seal embossed on the cover depicting a unicorn's side profile.
From what she had read so far it appeared to be a history of the ruling class from millennia past. Each account had elegant portraits, images of dark magic wielding kings and what Twilight could only have assumed came from the mind of some greatly disturbed pony. A grotesque creature with features of animals of all sorts.
She had already bookmarked these pages for later but now she had her undivided attention on what had drawn her to this book in the first place. A chapter simply titled “The Elements of Harmony” this chapter was unlike the rest. It was detailed and told in a storybook fashion, retelling the old pony’s tale of how the mare on the moon came to be.
Nothing different from the stories she heard when she was just a foal but the fact that this is in a historically accurate tome was surprising. Celestia has long avoided questions about whether Nightmare Moon was real or not, letting pony scholars speculate if she ever was real or just some story so we could have a holiday where we get free candy.
The story concluded as most versions do with the sun princess defeating the nightmare and banishing her to the moon forever. Only this book makes note of her method of defeat, the titular Elements of Harmony. “Hmm the Elements of Harmony. I know I've heard of those before, but where?” She said aloud to nopony in particular.
The purple unicorn looked at her surroundings and realized the princess had begun to raise the sun. She'd stayed up through the night studying … again. Not that twilight minded, in fact she rather liked sitting down with a good read for hours on end. In her opinion a much more enjoyable way to spend an evening than chatting for what seemed like an eternity with self important unicorn nobles during social functions. That was the one duty from the princess Twilight did not have her boundless enthusiasm for.
Well enough self indulgent study, now she had important business to attend to. Now time to study for the research paper on magical artifacts she was putting together for Celestia. She rose quickly and just as quickly she came to regret that decision. Siting for four hours on your hooves tends to cut off the blood flow. Wobbling for a few seconds twilight could begin to feel the numbness in her extremities. “Owowowowowow OK walk it off Twilight, walk it off.” She said while hopping between her left and right sets of hooves.
Having regained enough feeling she decided now was the time to start running home, along the way a group of unicorns tried to engage her in conversation. “Oh hello Twilight, we’ve been looking all over for you, Moon Dancer is having a pre-summer sun celebration celebration. She wants to know if you can come?”
Twilight was sick of this 'Just because I’m the apprentice of princess Celestia everypony wants me at there pointless time wasting parties' she thought. “Uh sorry girls I’d love to but... I’ve got a lot of studying to catch up on” Twilight flashed an insincere smile and averted her eyes. Sensing the group's not being satisfied with the rather lame excuse the blurted out “Welp gotta go!”
Glad to be away from the intrusion Twilight galloped along and even made it to the bridge near Canterlot castle before she was being flagged down by another unicorn. She had an aquamarine coat with a greyblue mane and streaks of white. “Excuse me miss, can you lend a hand I'm a bit lost can y-.” Is all she managed to get out before Twilight rushed passed her. She was not going to let anypony distract her. She had some idea where to find more reference to these Elements of Harmony, but she had to go to her personal library to find it.
Excitedly Twilight threw the doors open scanning the room for her assistant. He should still be here this early, he usually doesn’t start his bubble bath for another couple of hours. “Spike where are you? We've got work to do! Spike Spi-ke” she added with a bit of flair.
“*Oof* Down here Twilight.”
Looking behind the door she saw Spike knocked down. “Oh, sorry about that Spike, I guess I shouldn't have been In such a hurry.”
“No prob Twilight,” the purple dragon said as he made the motion to dust off his pants... if he wore pants. “You said we have work to do, what needs done?”
“Yes Spike, I need the reference guide labeled Prediction and Prophecy. I think that it is up on the top shelf in the mystic section.” She waived her hoof in the general vicinity of the shelf. Spike hated having to get books from up there, it meant using the ladder, theirs was rather impractical having wheels for easy moment but no track on the shelf to hold it in place. Still he was eager to please and quickly scaled the ladder and located the book in question.
“Here it is Twilight!” Spike said with glee holding the book outward for his guardian to see.
“Ah good work Spike,” Twilight said with a praising tone. Her horn glowing, she telekinetikly grabbed the book and brought it near her. Unfortunately the baby dragon's hand was still attached and he still attached to the precarious ladder. With a satisfying thud all three objects landed on the floor. “Um … sorry” Twilight sheepishly added.
Cracking open the book she began searching for what she desired. “Lets see elements … periodic table... no... elementals ... nope.” Her eyes quickly scanning pages focused on the big bold friendly letters Elements of harmony. “Here we go... no entry just a reference, see Mare on the Moon.” she read in a matter of fact tone.
“The Mare on the Moon? You mean the scary story Shining Armor old us to freak us out when we wouldn't stop bugging him?” Said Spike.
“It's not just a story Spike.” She said while rapidly flipping pages settling on the correct one and began reading aloud. “A powerful being responsible for the death of princess Luna and attempting to engulf the planet in an eternal night. Defeated by use of the Elements of Harmony she was imprisoned forever on the surface of the moon.” Taking this in Twilight looked further down and saw a footnote. “It looks there is a prophecy associated with this legend!”
“The devotees of the moon predicted on the thousandth year of the Nightmare's imprisonment the stars will aid and abet her escape! This is the thousandth year!” Twilight was visually upset by this information. “Spike take a letter to Princess Celestia.”
“My dearest teacher, in my ongoing studies I’ve come across some unsettling information regarding Nightmare Moon. It is important we take immediate action. Lest all be lost to the darkness, I await your quick response.”
“Lest all be lost to darkness? Don’t you think your over reacting a little?” He said as he rolled the scroll up placed it before his snout and burned it up with his green flame, sending the ashes flying through the air toward the princess’s thrown.
“Spike the princess is a pony of reason, I know she'll see the gravity of this situation. Now we only have to wait for her reply.”
One reply from the princess later, Twilight found herself and Spike on an unwanted carriage ride to the town hosting this years Summer Sun Celebration. “OK Spike we'll get this checklist finished fast then were back to studying this book.” She said while levitating the open list near her face.
“Sure thing Twilight.” The diminutive dragon said “...But I’m gonna side with the princess here, you've been cooped up in the library too long, I really don’t think that prophecy is anything to worry about. I mean It was in a picture book for ponies sake!”
She was perturbed by her drakonic companions lack of concern. “Spike this is serious! An immortal mare of darkness is going to escape her imprisonment tonight, Tartarus bent on bringing about an eternal night AND THIS IS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!” Twilight yelled as her eyes started to bug out as they did when she became stressed.
Spike could see this was not an argument he wanted to start. Knowing his lifelong friend as he did when Twilight got like this she needed to focus on her duties, working always seemed to calm her down. “Look Twilight were about to land so let's start this list and once were done I’ll do all I can to help you research Nightmare Moon. By the way can I take a look at the list I want to see who's up first.”
“Here you are Spike, sorry I yelled at you i'm just getting upset at nopony believing me.” She handed Spike the list and walked out of the carriage, thanked the royal guardsmen and stepped aside as they took off. Even if this trip was unnecessary she still found herself enjoying any time she got an opportunity to ride the carriage. Something about flying through the blue sky was thrilling.
Twilight forced herself back on subject “Alright who is first Spike?” Giving a cursory glance at the parchment spike saw the subjects Food Preparation, weather, decorations and music.
“Looks like first up is the food with” “EVERPONY LOOK OUT BELLOW!!!” the intruding voice coming from the skies above seemed to be associated with the Grey blur rushing at an unsafe speed bound strait for Spike.
When the dust cleared Twilight was not happy with what she saw, on the left stood a concerned looking Pegasus mare on her right Spike was lying on his flank in his hands were a pile of ashes from what was but ten seconds prior the list of all the pony’s Twilight needed to check on before the Summer Sun Celebration tonight. The Pegasus was saying something as she helped Spike up but Twilight could here nothing, only her thoughts of how little time she had, how much she already had to do, and now this. Her eye gave an almost unnoticeable twitch.
As the blond mare turned to Twilight the concerned look grew even more. “Oh no, I didn’t hit you too did I? I’m so so sorry! I was flying along when I got hit by a huge gust of wind and I lost my sense of direction, I couldn't stop and I had to make an emergency landing. Oh I just don’t know what went wrong!”
Twilight's eyes silently drifted from the pony in front of her to the pile of ashes, she gave the burnt scroll a good long look before she opened her mouth to give her well thought out and appropriate response “ahhhUHWOARGH!!!!!” The purple unicorn thought this expressed her feelings nicely.
"Is your friend alright? I'm starting to get worried she hasn't moved or said anything and it's been a long time." The anonymous Pegasus inquired.
"You mean Twilight? She's fine, just a bit stunned. Hey while she's out of commission can we talk for a bit?" asked Spike.
"Sure why not." the mare's tone quickly became chipper and upbeat.
"Well first off i guess we should introduce ourselves. I'm Spike and my vegetable friend over there is Twilight Sparkle."
"Glad to meetcha Spike, my names Derpy Hooves." said Derpy Hooves.
"Huh, nice ... name," Spike said while stifling a snicker.
"So what are you two doing here in Ponyville? I saw you flying in to town on a chariot. OHmygosh are you from Canterlot!?" said Derpy.
"Yep Twilight's here on an assignment from the princess, were making sure the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration are all in order before she arrives tonight." said Spike.
"Ooh ooh can i help? I know just about everypony in Ponyville, I'm sure i can help you find who you need." Derpy was excitedly waiving her hoof in the air like she was wanting to get called on in class.
"Wow that would be great!" Spike looked down at the same pile of ashes Twilight was transfixed on. "Only problem is that scroll i destroyed when you crashed into me was the list of ponies we had to meet." Spike gave an awkward smile as he looked up at Derpy. "It's alright i still remember the groups we have to visit. First up was food prep."
"Oh that's simple, the Apple family is handling the deserts, they run the orchard outside of town. Then there's Berry Punch she's making the beverages," said Derpy.
"Well i am a tad bit thirsty, how bout we see the pony in charge of drinks first. lead on Derpy!" Spike said while starting to walk away.
"Um what about your friend?" Derpy said while face to face with the catatonic Unicorn. Her eyes staring out into the middle distance, Derpy's wall eyes staring back.
"Oh right Twilight, where would she be without me?" Spike trotted over to his unresponsive friend and whispered something in her ear. Immediately she jolted upright and stammered out a jumble of syllables. "OHIMLATEFLOWCHARTSANDTARRRDIEEEE"
Twilight continued heavily breathing and blurting out odd intelligible sounds for a while. Becoming concerned Derpy asked spike . "What did you say?! She's all wigged out now."
"What that? Aw that's nothing, you should see her when she's actually late on an assignment." Spike said nonchalantly.
"Wait all this cause she thinks she's late?" Derpy asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yep and we will be late if we don't start soon." Spike said loudly, this snapping his friend out of her mania.
"Alright three questions, One what just happened? Two who's that?" She said pointing a hoof at Derpy. "Three am a really late on my TPS reports?" said Twilight.
"To answer your questions, you've been zonked out and freaking out for around twenty minuets now. She is Derpy Hooves and she's generously offered to be our guide through Ponyville. And no you already turned in the TPS reports but Celestia went and put extras in your inbox anyway." said Spike
"Oh... alright, thank you Derpy-" Twilight gave a respectful bow, "-The help is much appreciated, we have allot to get done before the end of the world tonight." Twilight said with a confident look on her face.
"Am i missing something? I thought we we preparing for the Summer Sun Celebration." Derpy's normally crossed eyes went even more crossed.
"Oh right i forgot to tell you, Twilight found a picture book that had a vague prophecy that's convinced her that the Mare on the Moon is coming to plunge us into Eternal Darkness." said Spike.
"Sanity's Requiem?" asked Derpy
"Urgh it's not a picture book Spike! It's a reference guide with visual aides." Twilight said while blushing. She felt like her brother when he was insisting his "Oubliettes and Ogres" figurines weren't dolls. "Anyway let's get started, who's on first?" Twilight Inquired.
"Well we were going to start with Berry Punch and then move on to the Apple family." said Derpy.
"Then lead on miss Hooves!" Twilight said excitedly.
Berry Punch really liked Ponyville, a lively town with plenty to do, but none of the hustle and bustle of the big cites like Canterlot or Manehatten. It has a decent school for her daughter to attend, plenty of other foals her age to play with. There is also the excitement of living next to an unnatural forest. Just the thought of what goes on in there gave her the shivers.
But most of all she loved Ponyville for the ridiculous amount of festivals they hold each year, the town has a way of turning a mundane chore like bringing down the leaves of fall into a huge race. And at each event like this there's wonderful drinks. Weather it's the new cider on the opening of cider season the eggnog on Winter Wrap-up, or the "grape juice" that the Apple's sell from time to time. Although this was a bit confusing seeing as they have an apple orchard and there don't seem to be any vineyards anywhere near Ponyville.
Well Berry wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The abundance of the distilled fruitage of the earth was more than enough to satisfy her desires. If she had to pick one bad thing about Ponyville it would probably be the towns ponies themselves. If half the rumors floating around about her were to be believed her stomach was a black hole from which no alcohol can escape. One rumor she couldn't help but chuckle at was, that she was single hoofedly keeping the liqueur store in business.
None of this really bothered her really, she new deep down what kind of pony she was. Not a common drunk but a connoisseur. This feeling being validated when Mayor Mare asked if she could handle making the beverages for the town's Summer Sun Celebration. An honor for sure, seeing as this year Princess Celestia was raising the sun in Ponyville.
And she had the perfect drink in mind, sunned tea. Easy to make in large quantities, refreshing, and it just screams summer. Now all she was missing was the lemons for additional flavor. She'd sent her daughter out over an hour ago. "Oh no what if she's lost or hurt or been kidnapped." she internalized "TO ACTION!" the magenta mare shouted, grabbing her emergency saddlebags, filled to the brim with med kits, a flare gun, an absurd ammount of rope and numerous implements of destruction for fending off the beasts of the Everfree Forest.
She was almost to the door when it opened to a small light pink unicorn filly holding a grocery bag with her teeth. "Hi momph!" The muffled voice pronounced, setting the bag down she continued. "Sorry i'm late i ran into Dinky at the market and she needed help getting all the things on her list, so i decided to help her out. Were you about to leave?" Motioning to her mother's saddlebags.
"Oh this this is ..my uh ... weighted gear for exercise! Yeah that's it." she hastily came up with a lie not wanting her daughter to know how quickly she was about to take on the world to find her.
"Hey that's a good idea seeing how you've been packing on the pounds lately." said Berry Pinch with a snarky tone.
"You cheeky little so and so. Just put the lemons in the kitchen and go up to your room and color or something."
"OK mom" she she said while moving into the kitchen. "And, thanks for caring so much about me!"
A bit taken back by this, all Berry Punch could do was smile with pride. This didn't last long as soon there was a knock on the door. Opening the door she was greeted by two faces unknown to her and one she was glad to call a friend. "Hi Derpy what brings you here today? Who are you're friends?" She said while looking over the unicorn with a color scheme having an abundance of purple, and beside her was a stubby iguana thing.
"I'm Twilight Sparkle magic scholar and apprentice to Princess Celestia, and this is Spike my assistant."
"I'm a dragon." Said the dragon, his face beaming.
"They had just landed in Ponyville when i kind of got antiquated with Spike at sixty miles an hour." Derpy said while blushing. "So to make up for that i'm helping them out in their task of inspecting the town before the celebration begins tonight."
"And avert the apocalypse! That ones kind of important too." Twilight added.
Berry's mom alarms started ringing. "Apa-pppocolypse!" she stuttered out.
"Yes, the end of all, within twenty four hours Nightmare Moon will escape from the moon and return to Equestria to bask us in in endless night, and i'm here stuck doing busywork." Twilight said, more frustrated than anything else.
Berry was speechless.
"Ooh is that what your serving? It looks delicious." Said Twilight, Berry Punch only nodded, her mouth slightly agape.
"Mind if i try a glass? I'm parched." Spike asked
Again Berry nodded.
"Thanks!" Spike said as he took a juice glass and poured a generous amount and gulped it down in one chug. "*BURP* Ah, that was some good stuff, could use a little lemon though. but i'm sure everypony will love it."
"Well we've got allot of ground to cover before sundown so we'd better be going. It's been nice meeting you Berry, on to Sweet Apple Acres." said Twilight.
The group of three walked out shutting the door behind them, leaving Berry alone in the entryway. She needed to sit down. All this was overwhelming, surely this mare was just crazy. I mean Nightmare Moon, she's just a pony tale we tell to our foals. But the manner of fact way she said that and her being the princess's personal student. Sweet Celestia what to think.
She turned her head to face the liqueur cabinet in the living room and a smile crept upon her face. "Last orders please."
*Author's note. I know it's off putting how i portrayed Lyra in these chapters but trust me it does get better latter on.*
Cloudchaser was sitting at a table at the cafe, sipping on a cup of coco. Her feathered mane shifting as the gentle breeze blew on. Her violet eyes caught a glimpse of sunlight through the clouds, clouds she was aware of that she would have to deal with very soon.
She always treasured the brief amount of time she had to herself before her afternoon shift as weather manager started. Unlike her co-worker Rainbow Dash, she couldn't clear Ponyville's skies in 'ten seconds flat.' By no definition was she unskilled, but everypony kind of pales in comparison to 'Little Miss awesome' herself.
'Well where i'm beat in speed, i'll win in work ethic.' She thought to herself.
A statement not unfounded, Rainbow Dash always confident in her abilities can be found napping the day away only getting up to do her job when somepony starts complaining that the dense layer of fog was supposed to be out of town before sunrise.
"OK maybe i'm being a bit mean. She is pretty good at what she does... it's just a little disconcerting when your putting all your effort into doing a good job and somepony else can do the same job 20% easier and get all the attention." Cloudchaser mused to herself.
As she nursed her coco a small group walked up to her table. "Excuse me, are you the pony in charge of the weather here in Ponyville?" Said the groups leader, a unicorn with a distended stomach.
"Well i am in a few minuets, my shift starts at one. The pony in charge now is Rainbow Dash, she should be over in that direction you came from." said Cloudchaser, pointing the opposite direction.
"I know." The unicorn said with a we are not amused tone.
"What did Rainbow do?" Cloudchaser said, starting to get concerned.
"Well when i went up to talk to her she took one look at me and started cracking fat jokes." said Twilight.
This wasn't surprising, but still upsetting. "I can't believe her, I mean i know she's immature but making fun of a pregnant mare. This is low even for her." She was going to have some pretty scathing words for Rainbow Dash after this.
The innocent statement produced quite the reaction in her companions.
"BWAHAHAHAHA!" Derpy and Spike exclaimed falling to the ground, the laughing going on for a good minute.
Twilight's face went red.
"I cant believe you ponies, she's this far along in her pregnancy and your laughing at her. Try and Imagine how she's feeling right now! Body image is very important to any mare and you two are not helping." Cloudchaser said while glaring at the dragon and walleyed flier. This silencing the uncontrolled laughter.
She then put a hoof on the now fuming Twilight's shoulder and said with a reassuring tone. "Look don't pay them any attention, your still beautiful."
What followed was unexpected, instead of calming down, the unicorn let out a loud angry groan.
"What's wrong Twilight? Going into labor?" said the dragon snickering to himself.
"That's it, your going down!" she said her horn began glowing, the dragon which was still chortling soon found himself being pulled through the air and dropped in the river.
She then faced Derpy Hooves, sending accusing looks in her direction. "I'm with her you look beautiful!" the cross eyed mare said looking like a scared filly.
"Fine you live... for now." She said through gritted teeth. Now she turned to Cloudchaser. "And for your information, I'm not pregnant i just visited Sweet Apple Acres."
Now this is starting to make sense, the Apple family is generous to a fault, that fault being not taking no for an answer. 'I remember the first time i set foot on their orchard they gave me a tour of the place and force fed me an entire apple pie. From the looks of it, this poor girl must come during a family reunion.' she thought
"All i said is 'My name is Twilight Sparkle and i'm here to supervise the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration.' And then orange one started introducing her dozens of cousins and second cousins, and then there was the food, i mean it's not like i hate apples or anything like that but come on that's all they had!" She gasped in some air. "And it never stopped, the extended family and pastries kept coming and coming! Eventually they started some competition on who could come up with the best farm simile, then Derpy and Spike managed to sneak me away." The long tirade over she found herself short on breath.
"So i'm guessing you now need the skies cleared?"
"Yes, Yes i do." said the exhausted Twilight.
"Alright you sit down and rest for a bit and i'll get this done as fast as i can." said Cloudchaser.
"Thank you! Finally somepony who's reasonable around here." She said while taking the seat opposite of Cloudchaser.
"Derpy would you mind helping me out? There's a lot of sky to cover." Her fellow Pegasus nodding yes, not particularly wanting to be around the still mad Twilight.
The two flew off and began eliminating the rouge clouds that littered the Ponyville skies. Cloudchaser opting for a controlled method, working an area till it was clear then moving on to the next. Derpy on the other hoof had a much more fun method where she got on top of a thunder cloud and hopped on it sending bolts of lighting shooting out and evaporating the other clouds.
The two continued working on their task as Twilight watched on bellow, drinking an oat smoothie the waiter had brought. This being the first bit of calm she's had in a few hours, Twilight finally had time to further examine the book. Cracking it open again, she turned to the bookmark she placed before leaving Canterlot. Scanning the pages for something that might of evaded her gaze last time proved fruitless. It was just as vague as it was last time, as much as she hated to admit it to herself, Spike and Princess Celestia may be right.
"Oh I've made such an ass of myself again, no offence." She said to the donkey sitting at the table across from her. "Hmm none taken" said the well worn donkey in a slow melancholy tone.
Out of sight from Twilight was a lonely cloud a few feet above the ground. On it slept a blue mare with a technicolor mane. Flying solo Cloudchaser came across this sight and a wicked smile came across her muzzle. "Well Twilight did say she needed the skies clear." She got up close to Rainbow's ear and sung. "Non, rien de rien. Non, je ne regrette rien." with the last syllable she punched the cloud beneath the sleeping mare and she began falling. Cloudchaser quickly making her exit laughing the whole way, leaving a startled Rainbow Dash in her wake.
"Well i'd better apologize to Spike, he's been supportive of me all day and i repay him by tossing him in the river. He may be inconsiderate sometimes but he didn't deserve that." She got out of her seat and trotted over to the riverbank. Spike was sitting with his feet dangling in the water, a pouty look occupied his face. Twilight sat beside him, without saying anything she pulled out a blanket from her saddlebag and wrapped it around her friend.
"Spike i'm really sorry, you've been nothing but good today and I've been a huge pain with my crazy Nightmare Moon ideas. I got so wrapped up in what i thought was important i think i lost track of what i really care about." She said while moving an arm around the baby dragon, pulling him into a warm hug.
"*Sniff* Its alright Twi*sniff*light i know you didn't mean anything anything by it." Twilight thought for a bit before responding.
"It's OK Spike, you can cry i don't mind." Twilight said in a motherly voice tightening the hug.
"I'm not *sniff* crying i think i got a *sniff* cold."
"Well in that case your off your feet mister." Said Twilight Levitating her friend, this time to her back.
Twilight trotted back to the cafe just as the two pegasi finished with the clouds. "Thank you ... you know i didn't get your name yet." Twilight said in a surprised voice.
"Wow, that was rude of me, my name is Cloudchaser good to meet you Twilight Sparkle, and sorry for making you uncomfortable calling you pregnant." she bashfully reached her hoof behind her head.
Twilight smiled and then turned to Derpy. "And sorry for getting mad at you, you didn't do anything wrong. I've just been taking my frustration out on other ponys. Do you think we can .. start over?"
Derpy looked like she was giving the matter some thought before answering. "No need." she replied cheerfully. "Everypony get's stressed out sometimes, and i probably wasn't helping the situation any by laughing at your fatness." she said while flashing a coy smile.
Twilight thought about getting angry but instead decided to find it funny and let out a giggle which was soon returned by the three others with her, even the sad donkey at the cafe was heard giving a solitary chuckle.
"Well if all the weather problems have been dealt with i suppose we'd better be getting along to the other ponys on the list. We still have musicians and the decorators to visit before tonight."
"I think i can help you out some, last i checked the music was being done by Fluttershy. Your really gonna like her, she's a bit standoffish but she's nice and friendly to everypony." Said Cloudchaser with a smile on her face.
"That sounds great! Hey we gotta run but can we talk some more at the Celebration?"
"Sorry i wont be there." This brought a frown to Twilight's heart. "I'll be home observing some strange celestial movements that have been happening recently." Twilight's heart frown went upside down.
"Your into astronomy!?!" she said closing the gap between them.
"Yessiree, I've been watching the night sky since i was a filly. That's what this bad girl is all about." She said while pointing at her flank. The cutie mark occupying that space was of comet rushing by, leaving a trail of stardust in it's wake.
'OMYGOSHOMYGOSHOMYGOSH! not only is she really nice but she likes astronomy too*SQUEE*. Alright Twilight keep calm, you don't want to scare her off, just try making small talk.' she thought to herself.
"So you said there's been unusual movement recently, what kind of movement?" asked Twilight.
"Well over the past two months I've been noticing a team of four stars converging on our moon. This convergence is happening tonight so i'm looking forward to observing this aliment for as long as i can." said Cloudchaser.
This new information changed things, and not in a good way. Stars don't move on their own, this Twilight was sure of. While weighing less than the sun and moon that Celestia moves each day their mass is still massive. It would take a unicorn of immense magical power to even affect the station of a celestial body let alone move four. But this does confirm one thing, the books weren't wrong. Nightmare Moon is coming tonight.
"Cloudchaser can you do me a favor tonight?" all the joy from their previous conversation leaving her face
"Sure thing Twilight."
"If anything strange happens in the sky tonight, come find me." Twilight looked up into the sky as if trying to perceive the stars beyond the blue veil of daytime.
"Come on Derpy, Spike, we have allot to do before tonight."
The group trudged along through Ponyville, the clear skies a testament to their success so far. Leading the pack was Derpy Hooves, her wild blond mane rustling in the breeze. As they walked, she was narrating a tour of town, pointing out the landmarks of town and going into their significance.
To her right and slightly behind her walked Twilight Sparkle carrying the ill dragon child on her back. She was very aware of her surroundings, taking in all that Derpy was saying but unable to give it her full attention.
They soon found themselves hearing the sounds of melodious birds. Their song seemed to be comprised of many different species, yet they harmonized into one beautiful symphony. Three stood in place not wishing to even disrupt the music with a hoofstep, whomever led this chorus was a musical genius of some sort. Taking a few steps they could see though a clearing, in midair there she was. A light yellow Pegasus with a long silky pink mane, she appeared to be leading this flock of birds resting on a willowy branch.
The whole image was like a piece of bliss, unfortunately all good things must come to an end. "*Cough*HACK*WHEEZE*" Were the sounds escaping from Spike. "Aww, you poor little guy, here let me take him for a while and you go talk to her."
"Thanks Derpy." Said Twilight as she levitated him off her back and onto her friends'. "I'll try and keep this brief little guy." She said while patting Spike on the head.
This taken care of Twilight walked up behind the mare. "Hello!" The response was immediate, the angelic Pegasus bolted ten feet in the air letting out a quite started "Yelp" her choir equally started flew off in every direction.
"Oh i'm so sorry, i didn't mean to frighten your birds. I was just admiring them, you see i'm here on behalf of the princess to check on the preparations." Twilight beamed a warm smile and the Pegasus landed, her warm glow that was there only a bit ago when she was conducting gone. Replaced by an aura of nervousness. "My name's Twilight Sparkle, what's your name?" Twilight continued to try and exude a sense of warmth and friendliness, something not easy for the student who spent ninety percent of her time in the library with only the dust bunnies to keep her company.
The response she received was a barely audible i'm fluttershy, further pressing on the matter only proved to make her shrink back farther until air was no longer exiting her lungs to produce sound.
"...Well it looks like your birds are back, and all i really needed was to check on how you sound and that's great so i'll be going now." Twilight turned to walk away only to find a vaguely familiar aquamarine unicorn standing behind her.
Her gold eyes glinted in the afternoon sun hinting at some intention. She walked past Twilight only giving her a quick once over then nodding to herself continued to the bashful mare. "How's it going Fluttershy? I heard your practicing as i went by and just had to say, it sounds great!"
"Aw thank you Lyra that means allot coming from you. I, hope your not mad about not getting chosen to provide the music for the celebration."
Twilight's jaw hit the ground, the tiny Pegasus that was hiding behind her hair a minuet ago due to a simple, what's your name inquiry, was now taking part in a normal conversation. "Was it me? Am i that scary?" Twilight asked herself.
"What me mad? That's silly you silly filly. I don't get mad." Lyra said with a smile on her face her eyelids narrowing. "Besides your a much braver pony than me."
"Really?" Fluttershy asked in disbelief.
"Yes really, i can't imagine me getting in front of the entire town to show off my talents." Fluttershy's eyes began to widen, some of the nervousness returning to her face.
"Well i mean, i'm friends with every pony in town so it's like i'm just putting on a show for friends." She said trying to convince herself.
"True true, but your also performing in front of the most important pony in all of Equestria our very own princess." The panic growing she started looking around frantically, trying to find a way out. "And I've heard she even destroyed her sister because she was late to bring the moon down. I shudder to think what she would do if she heard an off note or dare i say, a voice behind tempo."
Fluttershy turned her attention to the blue jay perched on the willow. 'He was late, what if he choked under the pressure, what if I cant handle the pressure!'
From Twilight's perspective all she could see was a hyperventilating Pegasus and the very familiar unicorn. "I've got to go!" Shouted Fluttershy with tears in her eyes.
"But what about your practice, you need to be ready for celebration tonight." her face content in the knowledge her goal was complete.
"I can't do the celebration, i just can't. You'll have to tell Mayor Mare that I won't be performing tonight."
"But if you don't perform tonight that means it will fall to... me." Lyra's face had genuine worry on it.
"Oh no! Your even more nervous than i am." said fluttershy with selfless worry.
"Well if it means i can take the stress off one of my dear friends, i guess i'll have to learn to cope." Said Lyra with a reassuring smile.
"Thank you, you're so kind." The tears in her eyes now reflecting a different emotion. No longer or sadness and fear the tears now belonged to happiness and relief.
"I am aren't i, you scamper on home and i'll stop in later and tell you how things went." Fluttershy began flying away slightly above ground level, stopping only to wave goodbye at Lyra.
Lyra now turned to Twilight Sparkle and spoke. "I'm guessing it's me your wanting to speak to, my name is Lyra Heartstrings i'm providing the music for the Summer Sun Celebration this year."
*Please read further than this chapter, i know it is off putting but trust me things do get better further along.*
The afternoon sun hung above the horizon, still beating it's warmth on the ground bellow. Basking all in a glow of orange, the only shadow cast belonged to the young willow, it's branches casting the illusion of arms grasping at the mares present. Alone in the clearing stood the slightly overweight Twilight Sparkle, across her was the pony known as Lyra Heartstrings.
Twilight was still processing what had just taken place, in a matter of minuets Fluttershy had gone from a whimpering little filly to a sociable socialite to an emotional wreck to a happy emotional wreck all because of Lyra's conversation. Either Fluttershy has some serious social disorders, or this Lyra is some kind of master manipulator.
Twilight decided that proceeding with caution would be advisable. "Um yes, i'm the supervisor for the preparations, if i may ask why did Fluttershy just quit? She was sounding fantastic."
"Oh indeed she did sound good, only thing is, she had forgotten her crippling stage fright, i simply reminded her of that." The smile left Lyra's face.
"You .. you did what?"
"I played to her inner fears of performing in front of crowds, making the idea of doing the music at the celebration an unbearable possibility."
Twilight could only blink, the starkness in her voice was a bit unsettling. "That's horrible! You're horrible!"
A bit taken back by what Twilight said Lyra responded. "Horrible am i? Everything i did i had her best interests at heart."
"What! How is making her run away in tears in her best interest?"
"I'll admit my methods were a bit extreme but her reaction now would be minuscule compared to what would have happened if something went wrong during the celebration. I'm not sure if she even realized it, but the music act at the celebration is much more than a five second fanfare introducing the princess. You should know being the princess' student after all."
Twilight had to admit that to herself, as much as she and the others had enjoyed listening to the birds orchestra, much of that enjoyment had arisen from the environment they heard it in. If said arrangement was at a crowded gathering full of loud exited ponies the addition of madly chirping birds would not be as appreciated.
'Wait how the hay did she know i'm Celestia's student, i never introduced myself to her.' Twilight's thoughts began to race in her head. "I've never met you before and i never said who i was, only that i was supervising the preparations. How do you know i'm the Princess' student?"
Lyra's smile returned, she even chuckled a bit. "You know Twilight Sparkle now that i think on this a bit you're just as much to blame for this situation as i am. I was in Canterlot yesterday trying to find my way to the castle entrance when you ignored me asking for help." The Pieces now connected in Twilight's mind the strange feeling of familiarity now explained, this unicorn was the same one she passed yesterday when she was running back home.
"Well then mind explaining why you were in Canterlot and how i could possibly be to blame for you upsetting Fluttershy."
"Certainly, i was there to plead my case with Princess Celestia herself, I only got so far as the entry hall when i was stopped by the guard. They said the princess was far too busy to interrupt and if changes needed to be made to handle it with her apprentice."
"And... how is any of this my fault?" The musical interloper was floored by this, as if Twilight's non comprehension was inconceivable.
"If you had only stopped and listened you would have seen i was right and let me in to see the princess and she wold have taken immediate action, thus saving Fluttershy from embarrassment and sparing her feelings." She said these things with an air of confidence her face showing her pride in her own cleverness.
Twilight was confused, Lyra seems to be genuine in her caring for Fluttershy but oblivious of the pain she's caused. "Miss Heartstrings i want you to know something about my teacher. The very first time we met i had just accidentally destroyed a good portion of the school for gifted unicorns. I felt so bad i was about to give up entirely on studying magic, then she came in and comforted me, she looked beyond my mistakes and saw the potential i held inside me."
She paused then continued. "I honestly believe with all my heart Princess Celestia would do the same for anypony even Fluttershy. If something went wrong. And she couldn't handle it, my mentor would be the first to comfort her and let her know everything is alright." Twilight wiped the tear from her eye that was trying to form. "Do you understand what i'm trying to say Lyra? We can't be afraid of failure, if we do we'll never be able to grow from them."
It appeared Twilight's words were having a profound effect on Lyra, the confident look gone, replaced by worry her eyebrows knitted together. "Sweet Celesta what have i done? I just wanted to protect her from herself, i didn't mean to hurt her!"
It was Twilight's turn to smile now that her goal was accomplished, Lyra now seemed to understand the gravity of what she's done. "You know Lyra were still going to need a musical act tonight, and i still need to hear your performance before i can move onto the next group."
"Oh right I've haven't even shown off what i play yet." Her mood lifting some with the prospect of showing off what she does best. Her horn glowed and there was a bright flash of light. The space where only air occupied was replaced by a small wooden harp, fashioned it seems to resemble the one on her cutie mark.
"Where did you get that?!" Asked Twilight.
"My lyre? Well this I've been working on myself since i discovered it was my special talent." said Lyra.
"No, i mean where did that come from?" asked Twilight, desperately searching for the point of origin.
"Oh, where it came from. Well my pocket of course," Lyra said with a smile.
She stood on her rear legs and was arching her spine backwards just so she could stand aright, the whole sight was something to behold. "Does that hurt? Because it should, putting your whole body weight onto two hooves not to mention the Escher pose your putting your back into. By my estimate you should be doubled over in pain by now."
Lyra's face was turning red, she was trying to strain back the tears. "Look do you want to hear me play or not? Normally i'd be sitting for this but there aren't any benches here."
"Oops sorry, please start i'm ready," said Twilight. Lyra closed her eyes and began to concentrate, using her magic to hold the hold the lyre she began strumming the instrument with one hoof with the other she was moving it up and down the strings like the frets of a guitar. The sound echoed throughout the clearing, while not unpleasant it still was a bit messy.
She finished her sample and turned to Twilight and looked with sad eyes and a weak smile. "I wasn't lying to Fluttershy when i said i'd be nervous when playing." Twilight was quick to respond. "You sounded great Lyra! I'm sure with a bit of practice you'll be even better."
Lyra let out a weak sigh. "Twilight I've been practicing this since i was a filly, this is the best I've ever been. That's probably why they chose Fluttershy and her birds over me at the tryouts." her head hung low a frown crept across her muzzle. "It's not even my fault, i know how to play! In my mind i can picture my fingers and where there supposed to be but when i open my eyes all i have are these stupid clumsy hooves."
"Lyra what the hay are you even talking about?" Twilight was really getting confused by this mare.
"You don't know what fingers are? there multi-jointed structures composed of bones, muscles, ligaments and comes together as part of an appendage known as a haaaaaaannnnnn" she trailed off, her mouth was agape and eyes wide. "HANDS!" She screamed as she ran past Twilight, to a very confused Derpy Hooves, on her back was resting Spike, awake enough to realize that a crazy eyed mare was coming for him.
"Twilight i know you said you'd only be a few minuets, but Spike seems to be getting worse. Now when he sneezes he's breathing fire, I don't like fire near my mane Twilight! Oh who's this?" Lyra let another enthusiastic shout and bowled into Derpy sending her flying, Spike was a bid more lucky... or not. The excitable unicorn was holding him in the air with magic, and intently examining his hands.
"What kind of creature are you? You have hands, i need to know all about you!" Spike looked for a way out, Derpy was still out for the count, Lyra came on like a train. Twilight was running to both her friends aid but the unhealthy amount of baked goods she had consumed earlier in the morning really slowed her down. 'Dang it all, i wish this fat would have just gone away while i was walking to the next pony on the list.' She thought to herself.
"Well.. w-well I." Spike nervously stammered out. "Ooo you can talk! You have hands and you can talk, this will make the process easier. Please, tell me EVERYTHING." She said emphasizing each syllable.
"What do want from me my life story?" Spike sarcastically said, immediately regretting the words that left his mouth.
"Oh yes please!"
"TWILIGHT HELP!!!" By now Twilight had helped Derpy up and was ready to confront Lyra a second time today.
"Lyra put my baby down! You're scaring him." Twilight commanded.
"What? Baby yours? HUH? WHAT!?" Were the collective sounds coming from from Derpy and Lyra. Spike now on his own two feet again ran behind Twilight hiding from the scary Unicorn. Twilight was still not used to calling Spike that, much preferring to call him her friend or companion. But as much as it may seem awkward it was about as true as could be, she'd been raising the little dragon since the day she hatched him almost three years ago.
"Spike is my number one assistant, best friend and my adopted son. And i'd appreciate it if you would not manhandle him like that." Spike turned to face his caretaker, it had been a while since she'd called him her son, and never in public only around her parents or brother.
"*Sniff* Thanks Twily that means allot to me." he said through the sniffles.
It was Lyra to first break the silence, "Um Spike.. I'm sorry if i scared you. I'm just really interested in hands."
"Yeah i guessed. " Spike interjected with an annoyed tone. "
"Twilight has shown me i have allot of stuff to work on in how i interact with other ponies and... whatever you are," said Lyra.
"I'm a dragon!" His demeanor picking right back up, nothing is quite as good an ego boost like being able to tell ponies your a fire breathing dragon.
"Hey that's pretty awesome, but now that i think about it your not looking to hot." Lyra said looking concerned.
Spike let out a mighty sneeze shooting a trail of fire across the air in front of him. "It's this stinking cold i got, my sinuses are so swollen i can barely feel myself think."
Lyra put a hoof to her chin, "You know what helps me when i'm congested? A visit to the spa, they have a sauna that'll clear those sinuses up real fast."
Although they still had the decorations to check on in town hall Twilight was sure a quick steam bath wouldn't upset their schedule too much. After all, everypony else before hand had been doing their jobs with diligence i'm sure whomever they chose would be doing a fine job. "Thanks for the suggestion Lyra, let's get over there asap so Spike can get feeling better."
"I think i'll stay behind, i'd rather practice where there's no-ponies around. But i'll see you all at the celebration right, Feel better soon OK Mr. Hands." She waived the group off and then turned her attention back to her harp that she dropped when she started running for Spike.
The sun was now down, all the shops in Ponyville that weren't already closed for the holiday were closing down now. The day spa was one of the few business in town that decided to stay open today. The reasoning behind the decision being that everypony likes to look there best and what day is more important to look fabulous than the day Princess Celestia comes to town.
This decision paid off in spades, more ponies came in today for hooficures, mane styling's, and preening than they would likely see in an entire month. They even had a visit from their best customer Rarity, she came in for her "usual". This package was arranged by herself it included a steam bath, cleansing mask, horn filing, massage, seaweed wrap, mud bath and foot soak. This whole treatment was not cheap, but Rarity has always payed in full and even tips generously.
"*Sigh* I wish i could be that loose with my money." A heavily accented voice said. That voice belonging to the small earth pony standing behind the counter. For the two friends running the spa money was always a concern, Lotus Blossom and Aloe were not native to Ponyville but came from a small village north of Equestria called Ilia. About the only thing of interest there is that it houses the northern end of the line for the equestrian railway system. The weather conditions there are so bad that the trains cannot be puled by a team of stallions but must rely on a coal engine.
Being that far from the rest of civilization and the frigged tundra they live in, almost all of their food has to be imported from elsewhere. This dependence on imported goods led to a shortage of money, the solution the village elders came up with was to send off the able bodied youth out into the world to earn money and send it home. The Ilia are famous now for their Pegasus mercenaries, who are often hired on by towns and smaller hamlets to dispatch violent monsters when the royal guard are too far off to help.
Others from the village take on jobs as manual labor, working sunup til sundown so they can bring home the bread as it were. Lotus Blossom and Aloe were very fortunate though. When they arrived in Ponyville the day spa was just a dilapidated old building, with it's only permanent residents being the star spiders and their webs. Mayor Mare was delighted to find anypony interested in doing something with the eyesore of a building she let the two have it for barely anything at all.
Nowadays you could hardly tell it was the same structure, they'd done so many renovations like new roofs that resemble the kind in Ilia, tiled mosaic floors, and all the furnishing for the spa treatments. They had a place they could be proud of, a business that they built from the ground up. They stood as one of the most successful business in Ponyville sitting below "Quills and Sofa's" at number one.
But with that success came it's own set of troubles, not having any days off for one. Lotus had been working nearly every day only taking a few off each year to return home to visit her elderly relatives. "Aloe? Do you think we can close up now? I don't think were going to get any more customers tonight." Lotus said looking at the barren streets in front of her.
"Hmm i suppose your right, i bet everypony is already lining up outside town hall waiting to get in huh." An equally Accented voice replied from inside the spa. Aloe was folding up the lavender scented towels they have for the guests.
"OK, i'm hanging up the closed sign up now ya." Taking one last look out onto the streets she spied a group of three excitedly running in the spa's direction. Lotus let out a exasperated sigh, no rest for the righteous her mother used to say. "Never mind Aloe it seems we have more guests." She opened the doors before the three arrived, the scented air in the spa escaping into the night atmosphere. "Welcome friends, you came at just the right time. I was just about to close down for the night."
The packs leader, a purple unicorn was quick to respond. "Oh sorry if you need to close we can comeback tomorrow morning."
"Perish the thought, we have a policy here if there's somepony needing our services we'll be here to supply them." She put on a smile to mask the disappointment that she would be working through the sunrise and not out there enjoying it with the other towns ponies.
"All we need is a quick steam bath for my dragon friend Spike, he has a nasty cold and it's becoming somewhat dangerous now." To illustrate her point she motioned to her tail now a bit short and it's tip singed black.
"Ah i understand, Aloe will take him to the sauna and hopefully we'll have what ails him cured in no time." Without a word the pink earthpony with hairband and necklace to match Lotus emerged from further inside, whisked Spike up and and returned from whence she came.
Aloe was the more skilled masseuse, but she lacked some of the social niceties ponies expect. That's why Lotus Blossom was often stuck behind the counter. "Well while their busy why don't we talk for a bit ya?"
"That sounds good, my name is Twilight Sparkle and my friend here is Derpy Hooves."
"I know I've seen Derpy out and about Ponyville but I've not seen you or your dragon before. Have you come here to see the princess raise the sun?" There were such ponies that travel to each location where the princess goes each year, regardless of how far they have to travel.
"You could say that, I'm here on her behalf to observe the progress of the preparations."
"Ah i think I've heard about you, one of my clients Rarity was looking forward to your visit. How did you hit things off?"
"I think we decided to check on the decor after our stop here, right Twilight?" Said Derpy looking up from the Highlights magazine she was reading. Twilight nodded a yes in reply.
"Oh dear Rarity was expecting you hours ago, i hope things are going alright in town hall."
"I'm not sure if i have enough ribbons yet, this place relay needs to make an impression." The white unicorn was levitating several pink ribbons thinking about where she could place them.
"I think there's already quite enough." Said the earth pony with the deceptive age. A quick scan of the inside of town hall would reveal that nearly every surface was covered in bedazzled ribbons of nearly every color.
"Do you think the inspector will be wowed by these, cause i still think there's more that can be done."
"No no, i'm very sure you've done enough." The room was all ready a hot mess the thought of more additions was sickening.
"Ooh IDEA! We need to wrap everything in Hearths Warming Eve lights it just screams festive! She then dove into a supply closet and emerged with a messy tangle of stringed lights.
"Miss Rarity I've never taken executive action as mayor before but you're forcing my hoof and making me take it now. I'm relieving you of your duties as chief decorator as of now." She said with all the authority a pony elected to local office could muster.
"Oh i'm sure everything is fine besides we wont be here too long," said Twilight.
"Hmm now that i'm thinking on it if she see's you with your tail like that she'd probably flip her lid and force you into a makeover or something like that."
"It's true Twilight, one time she saw me flying around with a long knit scarf i borrowed and she pulled me down to the ground just to call it a crime against fashion." Derpy said with a sad look resting on her face.
"Oh dear i don't want to get pulled into any more unnecessary activities today, the pies were quite enough." Said Twilight while looking down at her stomach.
"Tell you what, i'll work on your tail and you can tell me some about yourself, you must live a fascinating life." Lotus said while rummaging in a drawer looking for her hairdressers kit.
"That sounds fair." She lay down where she could look outside. "I've lived in the capitol my entire life but for the past three years I've been staying in the castle itself. I guess you could say i live out of the library there." Twilight blushed, "You know since i began my magic studies under Princess Celestia, I've barely made any time for interacting with other ponies. Today i think I've actually enjoyed so far and even met some nice new acquaintances."
"Am i one of those acquaintances Twilight?" Derpy said looking up again from her magazine.
Twilight thought about this for a bit and replied. "No Derpy your not." Derpy's mouth formed a frown fast. "No i'd say you're more of a friend than an acquaintance." The purple mare flashed a toothy smile.
"Really?!" She excitedly asked.
"Yes really, you've been with us the whole day and i know we'd be completely lost if we didn't have somepony to guide us along. Plus you've been funny and helpful and you even were willing to take care of Spike when i was busy."
"Aw go on, now i'm blushing."
Lotus blossom could only smile at this exchange, she like Aloe worked silently. Brushing the damaged tail and trimming the singed hairs off. "Well Twilight Sparkle i think that just about covers it, i do hope you don't find it too short." Her tail still retained the same stripes of dark purple, magenta and pink but was cut to a length no more than a foot.
"Hmm it's simple, it's length will mean less chance of getting caught in machinery. I love it Lotus! This is so me."
"*Giggle* That's just how he keeps his tail!" Derpy said giddily.
"How who keeps his tail Derpy?" Asked Twilight to her newly declared friend. She was about to answer when the double doors opened to a Healthy looking dragon and a smiling Aloe.
"I'm back, Twilight you gotta try that sauna thing they got back there, your pores will love you for it." He looked down at Twilight's flank and saw the new state of her tail. "*snicker* Nice new look, it really suits you."
"I know right, i was just saying the same thing." Not catching Spike's sarcasm.
"Miss Sparkle i don't mean to interrupt but could that be the princess' carriage landing over there?" said Lotus.
Coming in from the direction of Canterlot was a gilded chariot being pulled by four Pegasus royal guardsmen. Atop the chariot sat Princess Celestia, her mane of many colors billowing and moving on it's own as if it were fluid.
"Oh good my teacher is finally here, now i can report on the preparations and go into detail on my findings about Nightmare Moon."
"Um Twilight not to burst your bubble or anything but we haven't finished the list yet." Said Spike.
The realization set upon her like a brick, only one sound escaped her mouth. "Tardy."
Without a word she bolted from the spa leaving a trail of dust as she ran. Spike turned to Derpy, "You know how i said you should see her when she's actually late?"
"Uh-huh." She replied looking a bit worried.
"This is one of those times, we'd better hurry." Spike then left the spa, running as fast as his stubby legs could carry him.
Derpy was left behind with Lotus as Aloe, she reached into her satchel and pulled out a sum of bits, payed them, thanked them then ran after her friends. She had a feeling this night was only just beginning.
Twilight Sparkle now sporting a short tail and still slightly overweight rushed to the Ponyville city hall. Princess Celestia's chariot was coming in for a smooth landing, her guard galloping as they beat their wings in synchronized rhythm. As the golden transport came to a stop Celestia took a step outside and looked at her surroundings. "It's amazing how fast this has grown in only a hundred years," she remarked to herself.
Ponyville was having a bright night, all was basked in the bright white light of the full moon. "Even now dear sister you still make the nights beautiful for all," she thought to herself. The reflective moment was interrupted by an outburst from her escort. "Halt who goes there?"
The reply came from a pony Celestia had been looking forward to seeing. "Princess Celestia it's me Twilight!" The out of breath unicorn said. "Ah Twilight my beloved student, I'm terribly sorry i could not see you in person this morning but things get so busy in Canterlot before the celebration. If you would please report on your progress, i wish to know how things have been going."
"Yes princess, that's why i ran over here as fast as i could, I-I regretfully inform you that i did not Finnish the list you gave me." She looked down at the ground ashamed of her negligence of duties. Celestia was a bit taken back by this, "This isn't like you Twilight, your usually so diligent with you assignments."
"I'm so very sorry princess, things were going fine when spike became ill, the only place left open was the spa so we sent him in for a steam bath. We were going to finish the list here but we ran out of time," Twilight's eyes were full of tears her mind racing with ideas of her dismissal as Celestia's apprentice.
"Oh your talking about the preparations, i wanted to hear about the important stuff. Did you make any new Friends?" At this point Spike and Derpy Hooves came rushing up. "*Huff*Wheeze* Jeez Twilight do you have to run so fast? We've been trying to catch you for ten minuets!" Said Derpy as she set Spike down on the ground.
"Princess i'd like you to meet my new friend Derpy Hooves, shes been helping Spike and I since we landed in Ponyville," Twilight said with a smile.
The Princess stood a good head above Derpy who was surprised to be introduced to royalty. "A pleasure to meet you my little pony. Tell me are you from Ponyville?"
"Ya-Yes Pa-Princess I've lived in Ponyville my whole l-life." She was trying to focus her eyes both strait ahead not wishing to make a bad impression.
"There's nothing to be afraid of dear, i simply wish to know a little about the pony my student would call her friend," the princess said with a reassuring voice.
This seemed to calm Derpy some, as she relaxed her eyes returned to the way they were before one looking up and one down. "Sorry princess it's just I've never met a pony as important as you before, i'm pretty nervous right now."
"Perfectly understandable child," she paused for a moment. "How about we chat some more after the celebration, right now i have to start preparing backstage."
The princess of the sun bid them a good night and began walking towards the hall when the doors burst open. Behind them stood a fuming white unicorn with what looked like a well maintained purple mane now in disarray. Wrapped around her were a string of Hearths Warming Eve lights. She was screaming something back into the hall at her pursuers, "-Until there insist an inch of Equestria that hasn't been utterly transformed by MY creative genius!"
The response from the royal guard was swift toward the perceived threat to their leader. "Unhand me you brutes! I'm a very important pony, a VIP you here? Let me go! I still need to talk with the inspector about the decorations." Despite being under a pile of four soldiers Rarity was managing to put up quite the struggle. Celestia turned to look at her student raising an eyebrow.
"He he yeah this ones kinda my fault," Twilight was visibly shrinking back somewhat akin to the way Fluttershy was acting before.
"Stand down men." Said Celestia in an authoritative voice, the pegasi obeyed her command, got up off Rarity and moved beside their princess. "Young one i can understand wishing to share your talent and creations with the world, but forcing them on others is not the right way to do so. Such actions have led to the ruin of ponies before, i do not wish to see it repeated." Her whole determiner was sorrowful and pain was in her voice.
The change in Rarity was immediate, she seemed to regain control over her self. "Oh my what have i been doing?" She looked at the lights entwining her body and felt a bit ashamed. "Thank you Princess! I must go apologize to the Mayor and fix the decorations, Hearth Warming lights what was i thinking.. so tacky." She then ran from whence she came, her voice echoing back outside. "Mayor Mare? Sorry for locking you in that closet but we need to fix this mess."
Celestia was smiling but her smile was tinged by a deep sadness, Twilight looked at her teacher and realized what was getting her down. "Princess this is about Nightmare Moon isn't it?" Celestia turned to face Twilight, "Sharp as always my pupil."
"I think you should know, I've made more discoveries regarding the prophecy. There are in fact stars converging at a point in between the moon and us. We need to take action! We need-" Celestia interrupted her and began stoking a hoof through her students hair. "Don't have fear Twilight, I know you will succeed." Celestia said, her eyes were filled with pride. With that she and her guard entered the building to begin their preparations.
"What does any of this mean? I will succeed, succeed at what?" Twilight thought to herself. It was now Derpy's turn to enter the building, "They probably still need help setting up in there, I'm gonna see what i can do." With that she flew in the open doors, leaving Twilight by her lonesome.
Twilight was about to head inside when she found herself minus one dragon, Spike had been oddly silent this whole ordeal, where could he have gotten to. She found him sitting beside the city hall resting his head in his hands. "Golly what a doll."
"Spike there you are, come on get your head in gear we still have allot to do before the night is over," said Twilight
"How could i possibly get anything done Twilight? I just met the woman of my dreams," said the starry eyed dragon.
"Aw, who's the lucky filly big guy?" She actually was pretty curious, there had only been ponies he already known there, had he met somepony when he wandered off?
"I don't know her name yet but i can remember every gorgeous detail about her, her pearl white skin-" "Is he talking about the princess?" Twilight thought. "- her deep blue eyes, that luxuriant purple mane, I don't think i'll ever be the same Twilight."
"Wait are you talking about Rarity, the pony that was about to engulf the world in stringed lights a bit ago?" Twilight asked still a bit unbelieving.
"Hmm yeah, isn't she wonderful," he let out a happy sigh.
"Alright Casanova were having a little talk after tonight." She levitated the small dragon child off the ground and onto her back where he continued to act like a fool in love.
When the two rounded the corner again they were greeted by a host of familiar faces from today. In the group was Applejack and her cart full of pies and pastries, Rainbow Dash pushing Fluttershy by her flank, a very exited pink pony who could not stop bouncing. Some faces Twilight was happier to see included Lyra who was tuning her instrument, Lotus and Aloe who finally got to close the spa down for the night, there were large glass containers filled with an reddish amber liquid, probably the tea but no Berry Punch to carry them.
It looked as if the population of Ponyville was encircling the town hall in eager anticipation of what was to come. For their sake Twilight hoped it would be the sunrise that awaited them.
Inside the building dozens of the towns ponies gathered, flocking around the tables full of apple based food. All the excess ribbons and lights were now decorating the supply closet once more. The hall now had a subdued look with blue sashes hanging between the box seats, there were also tall banners each representing something. The apple tree meaning Ponyville's roots as a farming community, a gold banner with stars showing the transition from night to day and the plain magenta banner meaning, i don't know the decorator likes magenta.
The air was filled with the familiar clumsy twangs of the harp, Lyra was sitting up in the balcony to the side of the stage doing her level best. Among the pegasi were Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, the two engaged in conversation away from the crowd.
"You see Fluttershy it isn't so bad here, i bet your even having a good time," said Rainbow Dash to her timid friend.
"I guess i'm having fun, plus I've gotten to talk with some ponies i haven't seen in a while. I'm just thankful i'm not the center of attention," she flashed a look up at Lyra who had just finished a song.
"I still can't believe that dirty cheat tricked you into quitting. She better pray i don't finder her alone in any alleys," Rainbow muttered and was angrily shaking a hoof in her direction.
"Don't say things like that Rainbow Dash, Lyra Heartstrings is a good pony! She'd never do anything back handed like that, in fact she was just as nervous about performing as i was," Said Fluttershy without a hint of doubt.
"I'm not so sure, she was pretty bitter when they announced you would be the one performing," said Rainbow.
"Well she was nice and took over for me so i'm going to thank her properly." With that Fluttershy flew off to the balcony and landed beside the instrumentalist.
Putting down her lyre Lyra addressed Fluttershy. "Hello Fluttershy, i'm glad you came tonight," Lyra said avoiding eye contact.
"I'm glad as well, in fact i'm really enjoying your music it sounds so-" she was searching for a descriptor, "-lovely."
Lyra cringed a bit, "Fluttershy i have something important to tell you. I need to apologize for what i did today, I thought i was trying to help you but i just ended up hurting you in more ways than one."
"No you didn't Lyra, you saved me from having to perform on stage," said Fluttershy
Lyra shook her head, "I didn't save you from anything! All i did was steal your chance to shine, to have the spotlight and everypony to see how great you are."
"You think i'm great?" Fluttershy was a bit surprised.
"You are great, your'e just too afraid to find out." Lyra cast her gaze back to her discarded instrument, tears started to well in her eyes.
Fluttershy saw this and was touched, she wrapped her hoof around the mopey unicorn. "Why are you hugging me? I was a total jerk to you, I made you cry," said Lyra.
"Sometimes we all need to be shown a little kindness." Fluttershy said with a smile.
An idea popped into Lyra's head. "Um Fluttershy would you be willing maybe to accompany me tonight? You deserve to be onstage allot more than i do right now,"said Lyra.
"I'd love too." With that Fluttershy opened a window and called to her feathered band. "Ah a ah a ah." She sang out into the night. Throughout the night the two ponies played many songs, the harmony between the strings and avian voices brought many smiles to attendees.
Earlier that night, in a small hovel in town two sisters call home. One intently stares out of her telescope, the other impatiently taps her hoof.
"Come on sis I wanna go to the celebration, not be stuck in this stuffy place," said Cloudchaser's twin Flitter. She had the same fur color, eyes, and height as her sister. One easy way to differentiate her from Cloudchaser aside from their cutie marks is the way she keeps her mane, simple with a pink ribbon.
Of course all the complements go to Cloudchaser with her feathering and white dyed tips. What most ponies don't realize is that not being able to style your own mane you have to rely on somepony else do it for you, in the sisters case it's each other. So when Flitter hears enthusiastic praise for her sister's hair she's filled with pride.
Not wanting to look away from the magnified stars above Cloudchaser replied, "You know we don't need to go everywhere together."
"Yeah i know but it's no fun without you around plus i don't want to explain to everypony why my sister decided it was more important to be charting stars than to hang out with our friends," said Flitter.
"Oh good i wont have to explain to you why it's important, your the best sis!" She kept her eye glued to the scope but held out a hoof for a bump.
Not wishing to be rude Flitter reciprocated the gesture, "Ugh, fine i'l go by myself, just make sure you eat something tonight." She waived goodnight to her sister and shut the door, bound for the celebration.
"Heh i'm not missing this for anything," she said while reaching down for a bag of candied oat snacks. "*Munch munch* only a few more hours until complete alignment. *Munch*" She happily stuffed her mouth with the junk food.
The hours past uneventfully, all was quiet with no-pony to keep her company, only the Mare On The Moon staring back down at her. "I know it's just a pattern created from meteorite collisions but that doesn't change how creepy it looks." Cloudchaser gave a little shiver.
Only a minute left, at this point the movement was visible with the naked eye, the four stars continued their march across the heavens until they came to a stop. The stars formed a line in between the the earth below and the moon above, "Finally! Man this sure is beautiful, i wish Flitter or that Twilight girl were here. I know they'd appreciate this view," said Cloudchaser.
"That's odd, i could swear the Mare on the Moon is shrinking," said Cloudchaser in a ponderous tone.
Far away on the cold surface of the moon, the dark mists that covered roughly a quarter of the rock began to retreat and gather back into a singular form. The mists swirled creating a tempest the friction let wild bolts of lightning fly. From this darkness emerged an intimidating figure, clad in blue armor the creature let out a wicked laugh. It gazed down at the jewel in the void suspended on nothing, a primal thought raced through it's mind, "Home."
Back in her small house in Ponyville the view was disturbing, the thousand year old image resting on the lunar surface vanished. Through the telescope Cloudchaser could discern a minute black speck at the center of where the Mare on the Moon once lay. Said spec was rapidly moving through space rushing to the closest of the aligned stars, the black object rounded the star and jumped to it's next target. "Whatever this thing is it must be incredibly strong to jump that far, it's miles between the stars," said Cloudchaser.
Now at the third object linking moon and terra firma she could observe the creature seemed to be a pony like no other, gigantic in size with a wingspan to match. Cloudchaser tracked the anomaly through the sky to the nearest star, it waited there for some time intently observing the ground bellow. When it found what it was looking for it leaped off it's perch, soaring strait for Ponyville.
"There's no way that thing can make through the atmosphere! It'll burn up for sure," said Cloudchaser.
Contrary to her expectations the creature did not burst into flames instead it was wrapped in an ethereal mist emanating from it's tail. As it entered the lower atmosphere it slowed it's decent and landed atop the town hall. Not that Cloudchaser saw that of course, she was well on her way to the town hall already, "Yeah i think this counts as something strange happening in the sky alright. I wonder if i'll get my name in any astronomy books for documenting this!" She excitedly flew to the first step in her destiny.
From the back room of the hall the happy noises that drifted in indicated things were going good. As she stood in front of a small mirror she mussed with her long flowing mane. While it does help make an impression on dignitaries from Equestria's neighbors and her subjects alike, having hair with a mind of it's own can be a real pain. A pertinent example of this involved an experiment with electricity conducted by her young student. The result of said experiment left Celestia's mane shooting out in all directions, "Ah! Scary octopus!" The purple filly cried out hiding behind a small dragon.
Outside the door the two of her Pegasus guards stood watch, the others were posted inside the party looking out for any mare-do-wells. Stealthily hiding on the roof the being once known as the Mare on the Moon dissolved into it's mist form once more, quietly slid around the two pegasi and rendered them unconscious.
The Princess called out to her escort, "I'm ready, boys we'd best not keep everypony waiting." When she received no reply she cautiously put her ear to the door, only to be surprised to find a black substance pouring from the keyhole and the door-jam. As the white Alicorn backed to the corner of the room the oozing mass formed back into a solid shape. Standing as tall as Celestia it stared at her with eyes full of rage, baring her mouth full of sharp teeth at her opponent.
"Hello again sister, i'm glad to see you still draw breath," said Celestia calmly.
"How could i possibly die before you, you gave me the gift of one thousand years of isolation. I've had so long to imagine how i should repay you," said the imposing figure as she stepped closer to the princess.
"Luna please stop! You don't need to do this. Come back to me, let us rule together as we were meant to." Celestia pleaded with her as she continued her approach.
At hearing this the altered alicorn spread her wings and lashed out with a vile tongue, "There is no Luna only Nightmare Moon!" The violent being shot out a bolt of magic, striking Celestia on her horn.
"Sister i do not wish to fight you but i will defend myself," said Celestia. She now stood at her full height, the two giants among ponies almost filled the small changing room.
The fight was short but bitter, Celestia tried to incapacitate her opponent by shooting her with rays of light magic, said magic was shrugged off as if it were nothing at all. The Nightmare responded with vicious jabs with her horn, Celestia swiftly dodging these deadly strikes was then caught off guard by a tendril coming from Nightmare Moon, pinning her to the ground.
"Your not so tough now without your elements of harmony, tell me what has become of them? Don't tell me you lost them." The victorious mare gloated over her fallen opponent.
"I have not laid hoof on them since the day i used them on you," said Celestia.
"It matters not anyway, what matters now is how i shall punish you." The Nightmare looked skyward and an evil thought entered her mind. "An eye for an eye they say. Enjoy your stay on the sun Celestia! Watch on helplessly as these ponies you care for so much wither away in the night!" The eyes of Nightmare Moon began to glow as she summoned eminence magic power from within.
As the banishing spell wrapped around Celestia she could feel her ties to Equestria begin to fade, "I think i'll go and greet my subjects now, it's been some time and i'm sure their just dying to see their princess," said Nightmare Moon. In a blink of an eye Princess Celestia was no longer in the Ponyville city hall dressing room but drifting through the plasma of the sun she moved across the sky each day. Though the heat could do nothing to hurt her, the light was so intense she could see nothing at all.
With no way to return of her own accord she could only imagine the state of her kingdom and pray that her subjects would be fine. 'Twilight my beloved student, the burden is now on your shoulders.' In the swirling haze of burning gasses time had little meaning, the exhausted princess let her self drift off into sleep knowing from here on out, events were out of her hooves.
The front doors of city hall burst open, behind them was Cloudchaser excitedly looking for somepony to share her discovery with. After brief look through the crowd she found Twilight off in a corner on her lonesome nervously pacing.
"Hey Twilight! Over here!" Cloudchaser shouted, but her call was drowned out by the noise of the chatty crowd.
With the way to her fellow astronomy buff blocked she decided to fly instead. Instead of flying at a respectable pace for indoors she flew as fast as her wings could carry her, catching the attention of the guards posted. The two white pegasi acted fast tackling Cloudchaser and keeping her down. The guard pointing a spear at her throat exclaimed, "Stop right there criminal scum! Nopony breaks the law on my watch! I'm confiscating your stolen goods. Now pay the fine or it's off to jail."
"Get off me! I haven't done anything wrong and i don't have any 'stolen goods' I just have my astronomy notes," said Cloudchaser.
Thankfully this debacle took place within Twilight's view, she rushed over to the aid of her acquaintance. "Excuse me, why are you assaulting the guests?" Asked Twilight.
"Please you gotta help me, this whakjob thinks i'm a thief or something. All i did was speed a little."
"Wait your that girl from this morning-" she struggled to find her name, "- it was Cloudchaser right." Twilight motioned for the excitable guards to leave.
Cloudchaser picked herself up off the floor. "Sure am glad you recognized me, not sure what would have happened if you hadn't intervened there."
"Yeah you're lucky, that was Line of Sight. He's so over protective of Celestia that anpony remotely suspicious he sees he immediately takes into custody. Nopony ever get's harmed but it just ends up making a hassle for Celestia to deal with, apologizing to the victims, and threat evaluation training for the whole royal guard." Said Twilight.
"Well if he's such a pain why isn't he fired or sent back to training?" Asked Cloudchaser.
"Ehh apparently he's related to royalty somehow, easier to deal with his messes than the bureaucratic nightmare of trying to get him kicked out." Twilight looked a little dejected, then a thought crossed her mind. "Say why are you here anyway? I thought you said you would be watching the stars tonight."
"Well that's why i came here, You said to come find you if anything strange happened and boy i say the mother of all strangeness tonight. The Mare on the Moon is GONE!" said Cloudchaser.
Twilight's eyes went wide, "Gone as in covered by the shadow of other objects or gone as in 'Where did that Mare on the Moon i have a minuet ago run off to' gone."
"Just look up and see for yourself," said Cloudchaser.
The heads of the two ponies drifted upward and stared at the blank moon, a sight that had not been seen in one thousand years. "No were already too late, she's escaped."
"Who's escaped? Do you mean that crazy strong black pony that jumped from the moon to here in four leaps?" Asked Cloudchaser.
"She's in Ponyville!? Then we really have no time, i must warn Princess Celestia now!" Said Twilight.
Before she could make her way to the stage door a tan pony with spectacles took to the stage to make an announcement. "Fillies and gentlecolts as mayor of Ponyville it is my honor to announce the beginning of the splendid and worthwhile Summer Sun Celebration." The crowd erupted into cheers.
"In just a few moments our town will witness the Majesty and beauty of the sunrise, and celebrate what is the longest day of the year! And without further hesitation i introduce our wonderful and majestic ruler. The pony whose legislative skills i am not worthy of comparing to my own, yet it is my duty to introduce her to you all. The good the wise, bringer of harmony to all Equestria-" The earth pony continued to ramble on like this for a while. As time went on the crowd's cheering faded, replace with impatient glaring.
Finally a pink pony standing near the desert table shouted, "Enough already, Get on with it!"
"Get on with it!" shouted Lyra and Fluttershy up on the balcony
"Get on with it!" Shouted a voice behind the curtain.
"GET ON WITH IT!!!" Shouted the entire assembly of Ponyville, Twilight voice being one of the loudest there.
With her lengthy intro cut short the mayor gave in to the crowd. "Fine here she is,-" with the Que finally given Lyra performed a short musical sting. "-Princess Celestia!"
The red curtains drew back revealing a distinct lack of solar princess. The crowds began to panic, running into each other, the decorator Rarity was seen fainting on a well placed couch, Spike followed suit raising a claw to his forehead before dramatically loosing conciseness.
"Please remain calm everypony I'm sure there is a very reasonable and satisfying explanation for this," Said the panicked mayor.
"I believe i can shed some light on the situation," said a voice not belonging to any of the ponies in the crowd.
'this can't be good.' Thought Twilight.
In a flash the bearer of the voice made herself known, she stood at the place reserved for the princess and yet she seemed to belong there. "Hello my subjects, it's been so long since I've seen your precious sun-loving faces," said the intruder.
"Nightmare Moon," Twilight whispered to herself, she had a feeling she would not be talking with the princess anytime soon.
"Break the law on my watch, will ya? I'll be confiscating your stolen goods. Oh, and no gold to pay your fine? It's off to the lockup then!" Said the inept royal guard, threatening the creature of nightmares with a spear.
"Your not serious are you?" Line of Sight tried jabbing with his weapon, the attack was easily dodged by a back step. "Oh you are serious, i would laugh but this is too pathetic to dignify with laughter." said Nightmare Moon burring her face in her hooves.
"You should have paid the fine!" The overconfident Pegasus put all his weight into a downward strike aimed at the villains forehead. Before the attack could connect the mare moved like lightning, a flying tackle sent Line of Sight crashing into the wall embedding him in the plaster. The other guard decided it would be wiser not to attack her directly, instead he placed himself between the crowd and Nightmare Moon, after all he did have a duty to protect Celestia's subjects.
With the minor distraction taken care of, Nightmare Moon turned her attention to the crowd. "Now where was I? Ah yes i was looking for a bit of devotion from my new servants," said Nightmare Moon.
A defiant Rainbow Dash shouted, "Oh yeah! What gives you the right? We're all loyal to our princess."
"Am i not royal enough for you peasants, does this crown mean nothing?" Nightmare Moon rhetorically asked.
"Um, your not wearing a crown, you have a weird metal bald cap on," said Derpy Hooves pointing out the obvious.
The remark upset the godlike being. "I rather think i shall make an example of you insolent foal!" The Nightmare's eyes flashed with rage, her horn lit up as she was charging a destructive spell.
The ponies around her moved away, the very frightened Derpy Hooves was quickly running out of space to back up. She ran out when her posterior bumped into a decorative pillar with a shaky foundation. As the pillar wobbled further back and forth Nightmare moon finished charging whatever dark magic she had in mind. Derpy was desperately looking for a way out, but her wings were clamped shut from fear, her legs turned to jelly beneath her.
"Die!" Screamed the monstrous being, a sickening ray of dark magic shot forth from her horn aimed strait for the defenseless mare.
Before the deadly energy could connect with Derpy, Twilight leaped across the room pushing herself and her friend to safety. With nopony for the magic to kill it instead collided with the pillar, that magic was the last budge it needed to fall over completely. Fall over right onto Nightmare Moon crushing her, only her splayed out legs stuck out from beneath.
The crowd of ponies gathered around the gruesome sight, "Wow she is like super dead." "I got dibs on her shoes!" "What a way to go." Were some of the sounds coming from the crowd.
Away from the gawking crowd the two friends caught their breath, their hearts pounding wildly from the adrenaline rush of almost dying and almost loosing your first friend. "*Huff* Twilight, I-I don't know what to say. You saved my life, thank you!" Derpy came in close and gave Twilight a spine cracking hug, she was surprisingly strong for a Pegasus her size.
"It was nothing, *CRACK* really," said Twilight.
By this time a group of three familiar faces were converging on the site of this act of affection. Lyra Heartstrings, Lotus Blossom and Cloudchaser all gathered around the two.
"Wow Derpy that was amazing!" said Lyra.
"Yeah you saved us all!" said Cloudchaser.
"Ya, you are a hero to us all!" said Lotus.
Derpy was getting flustered by this attention. "I really didn't do anything special, i just bumped into a pillar."
"From all the books i read about her i was expecting Nightmare Moon to be at least a bit more of a threat, i mean there was a whole prophecy about her bringing about an eternal night. I wasn't expecting all we had to stop her was drop a pillar on her." Twilight mused.
"Do you really think she's ... dead? I-i didn't mean to hurt anypony." Said Derpy who was looking at the unmoving set of legs under the heavy stone decoration.
"Oh yeah she's dead for sure! No way any pony could survive that. Hey you think they'll make a statue of you in town?" Said Lyra not quite grasping that Derpy was upset at the thought that she had hurt somepony.
Twilight shot an icy glare at Lyra, she put a supportive hoof on Derpy's shoulder. "I know it might not help much but, i don't think Nightmare Moon would have stopped on her own. What you did saved a lot of lives tonight."
Before Derpy could reply terrified screams ripped the group's attention away from each other. In the center of the room, what everypony had assumed was a corpse dissolved into a mist and reformed into the hateful creature once more.
The Nightmare face the group of five, "You thought something so trivial could stop me? I am a god compared to you insects! And you will fear me."
The doors burst open again, this time stood a teetering magenta earth pony being propped up by a tiny unicorn filly. In one hoof she had a brown bottle of unidentifiable liquid, in her other she held what looked like a some kind of weapon. It had a carved wooden stock, revolving metal chambers and a folding sight. The little filly spoke up, "Please somepony you have to help! My moms been drinking and she's got a weapon!"
"So another wishes to challenge me tonight? I shall show you the folly of such actions," said Nightmare Moon as she prepared to pounce on the inebriated mare.
Through the bottom of the now empty bottle Berry Punch could see the oncoming attack. "HAVE AT EM LASS!" She shouted, squeezing the trigger on her gun. A small rounded object left the barrel of her weapon, quickly followed by a second. The two pill shapes traveled across the room at an ark colliding with her adversary mid-flight. "*BOOM* *BOOM*" The volatile explosives detonated on Nightmare Moon sending chunks of her ethereal armor flying across the room.
"Hehe I bet they didn't see that one comin' *BRAAP*" slurred out Berry Punch, her daughter hid her face, somewhat ashamed of her mothers behavior.
Nightmare Moon lay collapsed on the tile floor, having a pillar dropped on her could do nothing to harm her in the least, only knock her out for a short time. But these modern implements of destruction posed a real threat to the nightmare, not the fire or shrapnel, those passed through her harmlessly. No what was a genuine threat way the wave of concussive force generated by the explosion. The wave rippled through her body, tearing at the bonds between the host body and parasite.
As the symbiote worked to repair those bonds and maintain it's hold on it's prisoner, the mare had something long lost returned, her thoughts being her's and her's alone. "Where am i? What is this place? I'm not at the castle, so how did i get here?" Asked Luna, but no reply came. She still had no control over her body so speech was impossible. "Why can't i remember? Sister and i were getting ready for the Celebration, and i was mad about something ... i yelled at her. Why would i yell at sister?" Luna struggled for some semblance of what had happened so long ago.
But just as soon as Luna's sense of self had been given back to her it was swiftly taken away. "There, the repairs have been made. So how are we doing Luna? Are you ready to go back to sleep now? whispered the parasite in her mind.
"No not again! I don't want to go into the darkness! I just want to go home, i want to go home i want to go home, i -ant to g- h-m-." The nightmare's mind again took dominance, suppressing the atrophied mind of the lunar princess. Yet her wish to return to a safe place echoed in the nightmare's subconscious.
The massive pony brought herself up and out the open doors, flying away her black fur blended in with the night sky. Twilight and the others looked on, "Girls we're going to have to face her again," said Twilight.
"Um how the hay do you expect us to do that, she can't be crushed and even Berry's bombs did little to hurt her," said Cloudchaser.
"I'm agreeing with that, we're just regular ponies, what chance do we stand against a monster like that?" asked Lotus.
"I know it may sound like a long shot, but the texts i found about Nightmare Moon also mention that she was defeated using an artifact called the Elements Of Harmony. I still don't know all that much about them but if we can find them we might stand a fighting chance." Twilight Said to the group.
"Well maybe the'll be something about it in the library in town, it's pretty extensive," said Derpy.
"Yeah, i even found a medical journal describing the anatomy of a hand, how cool is that!" Exclaimed Lyra.
"That sounds like a promising place to start, plus i really want to see what this place is like, libraries are kind of my natural habitat." Said Twilight.
"Well i'm taking my mommy home, she's had a bad day and now she needs some sleep." Said Berry's daughter. She slung her sloshed parent over her back and began the trek back to their two story home in town.
"Let's get a move on crew, Spike you'd better tag along as well, I'm gonna need my number one assistant if were looking through books. Spike where are you?" Asked Twilight, her question answered when she found the baby dragon curled up in a ball still out for the count.
"Aw poor little guy, but i'm sure he wouldn't object to me observing his hands firsthand now would he." Lyra said, positively giddy at the prospect of getting an up close look at his feelers.
"Ugh fine but you're carrying him, just try not to wake him. He barely get's enough sleep as it is," said Twilight.
The five ponies and sleeping dragon left the now abandoned town hall bound for the tall oak library near the edge of town.
The Golden Oaks Library was a cozy looking structure. It was built out of a hollowed out tree yet the tree still remained alive, with green foliage topping it. Rounded windows were placed where large burls once were, and a small mossy roof hung over the doorway. Inside no lights were on, and no signs of anypony stirring about were evident.
"Well i suppose we should knock, i just hope the librarian won't be to upset at us for waking them at this hour," said Twilight.
"Actually Ponyville doesn't have a librarian anymore. Our last one had to leave because of the bee problem," said Derpy.
"Uh huh, he had an allergic reaction so bad he had to go to the hospital," said Lyra.
Hanging off one of the upper branches was a insect nest, a few solitary bees were flying back in now that the night was begging to cool off. "Well why did he leave? I'm sure a bee's nest would be a cinch for a pest control pony to take care of," said Twilight.
"Don't know, all i heard was he quit in a letter, left by train without saying goodbye to anypony. Kind of weird if you ask me," said Cloudchaser.
"At any rate the library is left locked, we'll need to find the key if we are going inside," said Lotus.
"No we don't, no one ever locks the skylight up top. I'll squeeze in through there and then unlock it from the inside." With that Derpy shot into the sky, she quickly disappeared through the tiny window. From outside the others could tell she was struggling to find her way through in the dark, with loud sounds of book cases spilling their contents.
After a few minuets the front door opened, the group was greeted by a smiling Derpy Hooves. "Sorry i took so long everypony. There's no light switch in here."
Indeed there were no lights, only a dusty old lamp. A small amount of moonlight seeped through the windows but only illuminated part of the building.
Twilight instinctively began casting an illumination spell, a purple glow from her horn shed more light inside. In front of one bookcase strewn about was a messy pile of detective pulp novels, bound volumes of the local newsprint and farmer's almanacs from years past.
"Hmm were going to need more light than this if were going to get anything done," said Twilight. She levitated the antique lantern, removing the cobwebs from it's chimney. "Anypony have matches?" The heads of the group bobbed back and fourth indicating no.
"Well we do have a fire breathing dragon, does that count?" Asked Derpy.
All turned to the sleeping drake, snoring away, he was muttering something about nightmares. "Alright i'll wake him," said Twilight.
Twilight gently got close to his ear, "Spike! Wake up no time for sleeping!"
"Whah!" Let out the startled dragon, flailing his arms as he fell of his perch on Lyra's back. "Oh no, Princess Celestia we have to find her!"
"Yes spike we will, but first we need you to do something for us," said Twilight.
"Would you be so kind as to provide us with some of your fire?" Lotus asked kindly.
"M'kay," Spike spit out a luminescent green flame, catching the oil soaked wick on fire. The dim light from the lantern radiated throughout the room, shadows of the ponies danced across the dusty walls. Now able to see the collection in it's entirety Twilight let out a gasp. "This is wonderful, there's so many books!"
"There's TOO many books, how are supposed to find what were looking for with all these?" asked Cloudchaser.
"It looks like there not organised correctly, all the sections are haphazardly put together. If we had any time to spare i'd definitely spend it re shelving this whole place." Twilight's mind was aflutter with an image of a bright shinny Golden Oaks with everything it it's proper place. "Let's just start out looking for anything with elements in the title and go on from there," Twilight suggested.
The six began searching shelves top to bottom, Lotus Blossom carefully taking books off the shelf peering at their covers, Lyra Heartstrings impatiently grabbing books and tossing unwanted ones behind her, Cloudchaser taking on the high shelves and Derpy using her unique eyes was scanning the whole room.
"Hey Twilight i think i found something," said spike as he excitedly climbed up a bookcase, reaching for a large book bigger than his head with gold bands on it's spine. "This is it, 'The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide'" The little dragon leapt off the shelf with book in hand, landing with a heavy thud.
"Good job Spike, alright gather round we think we found it." Twilight set the book on the floor and began looking for any pertinent information. "Hmm apparently the Elements of Harmony consists of six individual artifacts that combine their power as one. It says the bearers must display virtue to use them, not sure what it means by that. It also says the last know location of the elements was in the castle of the pony sisters. I haven't heard of that before, do any of you know about any castles in the area?" Twilight asked.
"Well there is one castle, and it's relatively close to Ponyville," said Lyra.
"Yeah close but inaccessible, to get to there we'd have to go through the Everfree Forest. Nopony ever goes in there, there's all manner of monsters and dangerous hazards in there," said Cloudchaser.
"We don't have allot of time, I don't know what Nightmare Moon will do if she's not stopped." Twilight pondered the predicament they were in, indeed none of this group were in any shape to take on the likes of an Ursa or whatever dwells in that forest. A thought occurred to Twilight. 'That pony from the celebration, she stood up to Nightmare Moon without batting an eye. She might be our ticket through.'
"If we have to go through such a dangerous area we'll need a guide, I say we get the help of the pony with the explosives." Twilight proposed to the group.
"Berry Punch!? Look Twilight i can see your a bit stressed out right now and might not be thinking strait, but everypony knows you don't hang around Berry Punch when she's been drinking," said Lyra.
"She's like a juggernaut!" Said Lotus.
"Exactly what we need, we'll cut a blazing path through the everfree strait to the castle." Twilight said with determination in her eyes.
The others shared concerned glances. "I hope you're right Twilight, we'll be taking an awful risk involving her," said a worried Derpy.
"I'm sure once we explain what we need she'll be more than happy to help us, she was very nice this morning." Twilight said.
With that the six left Golden Oaks Library and it's written knowledge behind. From outside the lantern light lit up the grimy windows, the tree grew smaller and smaller as the pack moved to the tall house where Berry Punch resided. The lower floor had the lights on so at least somepony was awake.
Twilight rapped noisily on the door with her hoof, "Hello, Ms. Punch! This is Twilight Sparkle, from earlier today. My friends and i need your help." The door slowly opened but instead of Berry Punch it was answered by the filly who was by her side tonight. "Hi there could you get your mommy t-" Twilight was cut off when the door was slammed in her face.
Rubbing her sore snout, she said, "whasht wahs phat about." She again knocked on the door, "Excuse me, we really need to see your mother, this is an emergency." Reluctantly the door opened, again greeted by little Berry the younger.
She was scowling at Twilight, "Why are you here? Haven't you caused enough trouble tonight?" Said the little filly talking down to her as if she was her elder.
I'll admit i did cause a bit of a ruckus with my being late to meet the decorator but i hardly think that's something to get this upset over." Twilight thought to herself.
The filly continued, "You made mommy so upset by what you said this morning she started drinking again!" She shouted, her voice carried across the neighborhood.
"You were pretty loose when talking about Nightmare Moon, even I was a bit scared by how you were describing it," said Derpy.
Tired groaning came from inside, labored hoofsteps indicated somepony else was coming to the door. Berry Punch came into view massaging her temples, "Pinch, baby what did mommy say about loud noises when she has a headache?" It appeared she was now suffering the after affects of today's binge.
"You said to let you sleep and to play quietly," Berry Pinch said shrinking back a bit.
"There's a good girl," she said giving her daughter a noogie. "Why don't you run upstairs and i'll tuck you in, mommy has some grown up stuff to talk about with Ms. Sparkle,"
Berry Pinch obediently ran up the stairs up to her room, when she was gone Berry Punch looked Twilight square i the eyes. "I think i can guess why your here, but i'll let you explain before i make any decisions."
Twilight drew a breath, "We need to face Nightmare Moon again if were going to find out what happened to Princess Celestia, but in order to do that we have to find the artifacts the Princess used to defeat her before. The only problem is those artifacts are in the castle in the Everfree Forest. We were hoping that since you were able to fend off Nightmare Moon's attack before you'd be skilled enough to guide us through the forest?" Twilight looked at her with pleading eyes.
Berry only nodded yes in reply, cheers erupted from the group. "Thank you thank you thank you," Twilight said in quick succession.
"I wan't you to know Twilight Sparkle, the only reason i'm going with you is to keep her safe. I've been thinking allot about that today, about what i'm willing to do-" She looked back at the weapon leaning against the wall. " Anyway i have a little filly waiting to be tucked in for the night," She turned away and began walking up the stairs.
Spike pitched in with his chipper attitude "Sweet, this is gonna be awesome, between Berry's explosives and my fire nothings gonna stop us!"
Before Berry Punch reached the top step Twilight spoke up, "Berry i know this might be asking a bit much, but can Spike stay here while were in the forest?"
"I don't see why not," Berry said with a shrug, then continued on her way.
Spike sat with mouth agape. "Come on Twilight let me go with you guys, i promise i won't get in the way!" Pleaded Spike.
"I know that Spike, but where were going is too dangerous. If something were to happen to you i don't know what i'd do without you," said Twilight.
The little dragon hugged Twilight burring his face in her side. "I love you mom, please come back safe."
"I will Spike don't worry," said Twilight. "You can cry if you want, i don't mind." Twilight said in a soft voice mimicking their heart to heart earlier. This time she felt the cool tears run down her fur, she didn't mind, only kept patting her son on the back reassuring him, "there there."
After a few minuets Berry Punch returned, "Alright i'm ready," She said while strapping her saddle bag on her back. "There's food in the fridge if you get hungry while were gone, and the couch is a hide-a-bed you can sleep on."
Spike waved goodbye from the doorway as the group walked off toward the forest. Finally they came to a stop at it's boundary, the green grassy pasture came to an abrupt stop at the wall of decaying trees and thick foliage.
"It sure is dark in there, i don't even think the moonlight is getting through," said Lyra.
"Be careful everypony, the creatures that call this place home wont hesitate to make a snack out of ponies like us, be on your guard at all times." Said Berry, the others shivered in their at the thought of what might be in there. All but Derpy who happily smiled as she trotted across the forest's boundary.
"Come on you slow pokes, we're not gonna get anything done standing here shaking in our boots, Allons-y!" Derpy shouted trying to inspire the group.
"Allan what, quit speaking fancy," said Lyra.
"It's not fancy it's Prench, you know that major language spoken by the ponies in Prance," said Cloudchaser.
"Oh is that what it is, i didn't have any clue what it was. It's just something my coltfriend says allot, and i thought it sounded cool." said Derpy.
All eyes were now on the grey Pegasus, all mouths expressed the same sentiment. "YOU HAVE A COLTFRIEND?!?"
Six ponies stood at the edge of the forest. five ponies circled one pony. Four ponies were in disbelief, one pony was mad for not being told her best friend has a new significant other.
"I think this bears repeating, YOU HAVE A COLT FRIEND!?" Exclaimed Lyra Heartstrings.
Derpy Hooves was a bit confused by the inquisition, "Yeah, and what about it?"
"Well for starters why is this the first time i'm hearing about this?" said Berry Punch, feeling wounded.
"Well we've only been on a few dates so far and it was only on our latest outing he asked if i'd be his marefriend, i was gonna say something when i came by with Twilight but you seemed busy," Derpy said.
"Oh." Was all Berry felt like saying, at least Derpy wasn't trying to keep secrets between friends.
"Come on i'll tell you guys all about him as we walk," said Derpy. The six ponies moved at a decent trot, shooting off questions just as soon as the Pegasus could answer them.
"So who is this lucky stallion? Is he anyone we know?" asked Lotus Blossom.
"Well odds are you haven't met him yet, he's only been in Ponyville for a few weeks," said Derpy.
"Wheres he from? Ooh is he from Prance?" asked Cloudchaser.
"Nope, he's from Trottingham, he's even got a bit of an accent." Derpy replied with a giggle.
"What does he do for a living?" asked Twilight.
"He's works with clocks and watches, you know timey wimey stuff," said Derpy.
"Kind of a superficial question, but whats he look like?" asked Lyra.
"Oh, he's has a light brown coat, bright blue eyes and a wonderful messy mane and short tail. Just like yours Twilight," said the twitterpated Derpy.
Unbenounced to the chatting friends, the black starry ether that comprised Nightmare Moon had been stalking them since they entered this forest. Seeing it's first opportunity to strike, the mist seeped into the base of the cliff Twilight and the others stood on. Cleaving the rock from the rest of the cliff, a good portion collapsed down towards the canyon below.
The sudden loss of footing sent all but the pegasi sliding down the rough ground, gaining cuts and friction burns as they tried to slow their decent to certain death. Derpy and Cloudchaser were swift like hawks, diving in and grabbing two of their flight challenged comrades. Left sliding was Twilight Sparkle and Berry Punch, just down the slope was an errant root sticking out of the freshly exposed cliff face.
The two ponies tried to grab for it but only Berry succeeded, Twilight went into a roll for her attempt. Twenty feet down from the root was a small grassy ledge, had she been in control of her decent she might have been able to come to a stop there. Instead she nearly barreled off the edge, saving herself just barely by grabbing on at the last second.
From her vantage point Twilight could only see strait in the air, and no pony was in sight. She attempted to recover herself but almost lost her hoofhold entirely.
"C-Cloudchaser! Derpy! Is anypony there?" Twilight desperately called out.
"Hold on Twilight i'm coming," Berry's voice echoed through the canyon.
Reaching into her bag she quickly produced a rope, secured it to the root and repelled down to the edge.
"Alright i got you *OOPH* what have you been eating? Your massive," Grunted out Berry who now held her firmly by her hooves.
"Why does everypony bring up my weight? I'm sorry OK i cant help it," said Twilight.
"It's alright I've still got you, it just means your too heavy to lift up," said Berry.
"What do you mean you can't lift me?! Dear Celestia i'm going to fall, I'm gonna fall and i'm going to die!" Twilight was quickly becoming hysterical, writhing under Berry's grasp.
"Twilight stop! Focus on my voice, neither of us are going to fall, do you know why?" Said Berry trying to calm Twilight.
In between shallow breaths Twilight gasped out, "Why?"
"Because you have Spike back home who's waiting for you to come home and i have my baby. We promised we'd come home safe, so that's what were gonna do. I'm gonna hold on with everything I've got and your not gonna fall, you here me girl?" Berry was nearly shouting at this point.
"*Sniff* I hear you. But i can't stay here like this forever, what are we gonna do?" asked Twilight.
From her position Berry could see the two pegasi had finished dropping Lyra and Lotus off on solid ground and were now coming back for the others.
"It'll only be a few more minuets, Derpy and Cloudchaser are coming for us, just hang tight," said Berry.
The time passed silently. Twilight kept here eyes shut tightly, beads of sweat formed on Berry's brow. She would not admit it to Twilight but her weight was starting to strain her muscles. Thankfully before there was any chance of loosing her grasp winged salvation came.
"Alright Twilight I've got you," said Cloudchaser.
Derpy was going to pick up Berry when she stopped her. "You'd better help carry Twilight, she's allot more than one pony can handle alone."
"Are you sure?" asked Derpy.
"Yes, now get a move on," replied Berry.
Twilight began her slow assisted decent to safety below, leaving Berry alone on the ledge. With the crises averted the flight response cooled down, allowing her rapid heart rate to slow back to normal. After five or so minuets of deep breathing and calming thoughts Berry was back in her normal state of mind. From the high vantage point a decrepit castle could be seen, wrapped in a blanked of fog it lay roughly an hours walk away.
Soon came Berry's turn to be rescued, even sooner all six were reacquainted with solid ground.
"Thank you, Berry. " said Twilight, a bit at a loss for words. 'What do you say to a pony who saved your hide like that?' she thought.
"Think nothing of it, I was making sure you kept your promise," said Berry.
With it's first attempt a failure the Nightmare looked for another way to cause harm to these opponents. In the bushes further up the trail could be heard the deep breathing of a sleeping predator. 'Yes this will do,' the formless nightmare thought. Drifting over to the creature's nest it was quickly discovered to be a manticore.
With a swirl the mist took on the form of a thorn from a plunder vine, sharp and nasty. It pierced the rough pad on the creature's paw, jutting into the sensitive nerves below.
"*WROOOOAAAAAARRRR!!!!" Came the cry of the beast, alerting the six to the upcoming danger in their path. Out from the darkness a hulking frame emerged, the manticore full of blood-lust charged at the ponies.
The manticore reared on it's hind legs, viciously swiping at the air. Even on all fours the beast would be taller than Princess Celestia. With it's leathery wings outstretched, scorpion tail whipping wildly around and open maw of fangs the manticore was an intimidating creature. With it's posturing over the monstrous creature closed the gap between it and the ponies.
"Everypony clear out of the way, i need a clean shot!" Said Berry as she pulled out her grenade launcher, leveling the sights at the charging animal she emptied the chamber. The first grenade flew strait for it's intended target but was intercepted by a swipe of it's tail, sending the explosive crashing into the rock wall to it's side. The other flew harmlessly over it's head, the roller exploded behind the manticore distracting it for a few seconds.
"What gives Berry you were a crack-shot earlier tonight," said Cloudchaser.
"Sorry girls normally i'm a bit more intoxicated before i think picking this thing up is a good idea," Berry said apologetically.
"What, how does that even work? Your more skilled when drunk?" said the puzzled Twilight.
"I don't know, either way that was the last of my ammo. We'll have to take this thing on the old fashioned way, Lotus you and i will hit and run when the others have it distracted. Just make sure not to get stung by that tail, manticore venom is deadly." said Berry.
With the game plan set the ponies played their respective roles, Twilight and Lyra firing small rocks at it's face meanwhile Derpy and Cloudchaser were coming in for aerial strikes. Circling the beast were the physically strong earth ponies, anytime it left itself open one would rush in and deliver a strong kick to it's ribs, then dodge as it swung with it's claws.
The cycle continued for several minuets, and it was becoming clear the manticore was winning this war of attrition. All the running, dodging, diving, levitating and kicking was taking it's toll on the group. A new strategy was in order.
"Anypony have any ideas? I cant do this for much longer," said Lotus.
"I have an idea, there's obviously something wrong with this manticore, look how it's fighting. It hasn't taken flight once and it hasn't tried using it's stinger offensively," observed Lyra.
'Huh she's right, it's not using any of it's natural advantages against us' Twilight thought.
"My guess is something is causing it pain and enraging it. Twilight do you know any magic that could restrain it?" Lyra inquired as she dodged a swipe.
"Well i have done some research on a spell to hold an object in stasis, actually it's more like an altered form of levitation but utilizing-" Twilight was beginning to ramble.
Lyra cut her off, "Sounds great! When i say so hold him in place." While the manticore was busy clawing at the pegasi buzzing around it's head, Lyra got right front and center. "You call your self a top predator? You haven't even landed a single hit on us, are you sure you're not just a little pussycat who found it's way into the big bad forest?" Lyra finished her taunt with a provocative spank and stinking her tongue out before dashing away.
The words meant nothing to the giant cat but the body language had the desired affect, the beast now singled out the aquamarine horse ignoring completely the attacks by her comrades. Bending it's legs back the manticore leaped into the sky, teeth barred and claws out, ready to rip into the offender. "NOW!" shouted Lyra at the top of her lungs.
What happened next was something the manticore had never experienced before, it was still airborne but it was not using it's wings. It could look around but not move any of it's muscles. If the manticore were capable of speech it would describe the sensation, "Covered in butterflies, tingly all over." With it's freedom of movement gone the manticore new that the ponies were coming in for the kill, it was simply the order of things.
"Boy you sure put up quite a fight, let's see whats been making you act so wild," Lyra said as she began her examination.
"Are you sure that's safe? What if that thing get's loose, It'll tear us to sheds," said a worried Cloudchaser.
"As long as i maintain this spell it won't be able to move," said Twilight.
Lyra was crawling under the cat searching every surface looking for anything out of the ordinary, finally she came to the paw. "Here we go, probably got it chasing a rabbit into a thorn bush," said Lyra, using her own magic she gripped the black thorn, without a second thought she yanked it from the paw. The manticore tried letting out a cry of anguish but all it could manage was a weak sounding moan.
"Alright Twilight if we put it back near it's nest it should leave us be, i'd say this took most of it's fight away," said Lyra tossing the bloody thorn aside.
The group pushed the frozen beast along, roughly to the place where they first saw it. Turning it around they then hid behind a large boulder. "OK i'm releasing it.. now," Twilight said as the glow on her horn faded.
The manticore felt the tingling leave and found itself able to move again, if it could express the confusion it felt right now it would go something like this. "Pointy thing gone, pain gone. horsies not kill?"
Peering out from their hiding spot the group watched the manticore, it was no longer roaring and acting wildly. "Gotta say kid that was some smart thinking," complimented Berry.
"Yeah it was, how'd you know what was wrong?" asked Derpy.
"Simple observation, if it was hunting us it would have been taking us on from the sky trying to sting us. It was clear to me it was being driven mad by something. We take care of that and it goes back to it's peaceful slumber," said Lyra happy with how successful her idea had turned out.
The six waited till the composite creature returned to it's nest before leaving their hiding place, after all it still was a wild animal.
"Come on girls we've got allot of ground to cover still," said Twilight.
Tiphofing past the bushes the adventures continued on their way. "Hey Twilight where did you-!" Lyra was interrupted when the giant cat pounced out of the bushes pinning her to the ground. Horrified looks were shared as they saw it coming in for a bite.
"AHHHHH! *Blahph*pthph* Get this thing off me!" said Lyra trying hard in vain to ward off the unwanted licking from the grateful animal.
"Hehe looks like you weren't too far off when you called him a little pussycat Lyra," said Derpy.
Back at the scene of the fight the discarded thorn dropped it's disguise, "Perhaps they are more dangerous than i had thought at first. I shall require more power before i engage them again," thought the nightmare. Sending out a call the cloud silently hovered behind the ponies.
In the shadowy remains of the castle Nightmare Moon sat on the tall throne that once belonged to Celestia. Long since abandoned the building was in horrendous condition, large sections of wall had crumbled away into nothing and the once bright tapestries that hung now were moldy and full of holes. Nightmare Moon was unsure why she had come here, it was if she was moved here outside of her own free will.
Still a Gothic old building would be a suitable base to work from once all of Equestria began to sucome to the night. She could imagine it now, starving peasants who's crops wont grow, whiny artists longing to paint the sunrise, petty resistance fighters all coming to her to restore the sunlight. And how she would laugh at how pathetic they all are, "Ooh this is going to be delightful." Said Nightmare Moon, her voice echoing through the empty throne room.
Then something unexpected happened, the portion of herself she detached to kill the ponies here in the forest contacted her. Through the telepathic link the mirrored minds talked. "The ponies still live, we have tried dropping them off a cliff and goring them with a wild animal but they have escaped both." said the severed portion of Nightmare Moon.
"Then we shall send more of our self to fight them, enough to make the trees our weapons," said Nightmare Moon proper.
"Yes even the wood of this forest will be our army," said the cloud, looking on as the ponies were about to enter a dense patch of trees.
Willing it to do so another portion of Nightmare Moon separated from the host body, flying off to join in the upcoming assault. Now the mare's mane and tail, while still flowing and ethereal were much shorter than before. From her seat Nightmare Moon watched what was happening from afar, but she was no longer alone in the castle.
A second being was looking with intense interest the proceedings from afar, careful not to let a stray thought alert the Nightmare to her presence. Princess Luna was awake once more.
From her castle base Nightmare moon was orchestrating the ambush that the ponies would soon walk into. A stand of dead trees had been drafted into her service. Twisted into vile shapes by her influence, branches formed clawed hands, knot holes filled with teeth. These flora warriors would make quick work of their targets, and any destroyed could easily be replaced. After all there were only six of them and millions of trees in this forest.
The plan was that once they were far enough inside the grove she would begin encircling them, fight them just as they fought the manticore. She listened intently in on their chatter, "Are you sure were going the right way?" asked Lyra.
"Yes i'm sure," said Berry.
"Well how do know for sure? It's so dark in here i can't see my hoof in front of my face," complained Cloudchaser.
"Look do you want to try navigating with a map and compass in pitch black? Cause i'd sure like to see you try!" said Berry.
"Girls there's no need to argue, this was the only way through so it must lead to where were go-" Twilight was cut off when they came to a stop. In front of them stood five dead trees, spaced closely together, blocking their way through. "Huh i guess this isn't the way through, maybe there was another path we didn't see. Let's head back out and start searching," said Twilight.
When they turned around the path they had just taken was now blocked, more dead trees were silently standing shoulder to shoulder making an impasse. "I know this place has a reputation for being unnatural, and i think this proves that!" said Lotus.
Creaking noises filled the dark grove as the dead wood moved in ways it was not meant to. Reaching out the trees began searching for their first victim. "Yes this is going good, I wonder if i should end their pitiful lives immediately or make it slow and deliberate," Nightmare Moon said mulling over her thoughts.
From deep inside her mind Princess Luna also watched, with so much of the nightmare off fighting the ponies nothing was left to suppress her personality from emerging. Hijacking the nightmare's telepathic sight she could see through each of the trees, the strange composite of sights created a panorama showing a group of ponies wildly running around frightened beyond belief.
"I will not let you harm my subjects!" Princess Luna said with conviction. And to her surprise the trees stopped their advance, halted in place. Though the screaming voices of the ponies still came through in stereo even though they were no longer in danger.
"There's no way out! Were doomed i tell you! DOOMED!" Screamed Lyra.
"Why are we not moving? We should be eviscerating these foals not posing for them," said Nightmare Moon who was genuinely confused at why her assault had been stalled.
In the grove the panic continued on, in her heightened state of fear Derpy's eyes began playing tricks on her. With her wall eyes she saw one of the trees coming to get her. "No no no, i don't wanna be killed by a tree-hee-ee" said Derpy as she began breaking down into sobbing. The intimidating hallucination scared her into a backpedal strait into one of the towering members of the blockade.
From the hefty bump into it's trunk the uprooted tree soon found itself kissing the canvas, Derpy looking behind her was delighted to find the pathway open. "Come on girls! We can get through here," said Derpy like a prophet guiding her people to the promised land.
One by one the six left the grove and the paralyzed tree warriors behind, the only casualty of the encounter being the one tree lying face down in the mud. And that is where it would stay, the globs that consisted of the nightmare left their temporary hosts turning them back into perfectly normal dead flora.
"Wow Derpy that was so amazing what you did back there!" Said Lyra unironically.
"Yes you a hero to us all," said Lotus
"Are you ponies going to react this way every time i bump into something with my butt? Cause this is starting to weird me out," said Derpy.
Rearing on her hind legs Nightmare Moon angrily stomped around, that sorry excuse for an ambush did nothing but infuriate her. "The cliff and the manticore i can understand, they seem somewhat competent. But this-" She gestured vaguely in the direction of the grove, "-They didn't even do anything!" Nightmare Moon shouted to the nothing in the room.
Only, Princess Luna was there to appreciate this, seeing her captors plans foiled would have brought a smile to her face, that is if she had a face to control. But this brought up something interesting, if she had the ability to influence the nightmare in it's weakened state, could she possibly retake control of her own body?
After a quick test she found she still could not move on her own volition, after a thousand years of essentially being comatose her motor skills had atrophied. "OK start small-" Luna though of how she should start her quest to retake what was her's. "-Wiggle your front hoof. Wiggle your front hoof. Wiggle your front hoof. Wiggle your front hoof. Wiggle your front hoof. Wiggle your front hoof." Luna repeated this mantra staring intently at her hoof for any sign that she was succeeding. "Wiggle your front hoof. Wiggle your front hoof. Wiggle your front hoof."
It had been about a solid hour since Luna began trying to retake control of her stolen body. The whole time repeating the phrase "Wiggle your front hoof." over and over. Focusing all her mind on the sensation of movement, trying to visualize all the muscles involved in said movement. At some point she had lost count of how long she had been trying when it finally happened, Nightmare Moon while busy pacing angrily across the room, stopped for less than a second to move her right hoof back and forth.
To the nightmare it was just a subconscious action, like scratching your nose or blinking to get the dust out of your eye, so she paid it no mind. But to Luna this was a major victory, she had just taken control, even if for the smallest thing. While she had been diligently working on this she had slacked off on watching over the ponies in the forest. Not that there had been anything interesting happening, after their escape from the grove things calmed down quickly.
"I wonder who these ponies are? They don't seem to be part of the guard, and they aren't very well prepared for fighting." Luna remarked to herself. A bit stranger than that was, why would the nightmare be trying to eliminate them with such ferocity? Still regardless of the circumstances Luna, like her sister was sworn to protect all the ponies of Equestria. Weather it be from tyrannical kings or gods of chaos Luna would do all she could. Which in her current position meant subverting the plans of the parasite occupying her body.
Speaking of plans it appeared the next plan was starting to take shape. The nightmare was moving ahead of the group and was now stalking a creature in the waters. From what she could see, he appeared to be a dragon of some sort, thou he didn't have wings like the variety that so often caused problems for Equestria. The tall slender drake was admiring his reflection in the still water's surface, running his clawed hands through his luxuriant orange hair.
Nightmare Moon was planning out her actions with her detached self, "If we control this dragon they would fall to it's fire in an instant," said the stalker. "Agreed, begin conditioning him for possession." said Nightmare Moon proper.
With that the cloud hovered over to the narcissistic serpent, "Hello handsome," it said in a sultry voice. Breaking his staring contest with himself the river dragon searched for the source of the compliment, it's not often you come across anyone capable of recognizing true beauty in a place like this. But in vain he searched, no discerning eye for beauty was to be found, a bit sullen he returned to his reflection.
"*Ahem* I said hello handsome," the cloud said, clearing it's nonexistent throat.
This time when he looked up he found a swirly purple cloud hovering inches from his face. "Would you be the one talking to Moi'." he said pointing a well manicured finger at his chin.
"Why yes, i just couldn't help but notice your stunning radiance, your perfectly coiffed hair, those luminescent scales and that gorgeous mustache," said the nightmare buttering up her mark.
"Oh do go on," said the river dragon.
"Yes in all my years I've seen thousands of beings and you my good sir are one of the best, i'd go so far as to say even number two." said the nightmare.
He was taken back, appalled even. "And who's good looks could even stand up to mine?" said the river dragon.
The cloud was smug, it knew it had him exactly where it wanted him. "Well it's funny you should ask, because the number one drop dead beauty I've ever seen just happens to be walking this way right now" said the nightmare. The dragon was looking anxious. "You know, just between you and me-" The nightmare formed an arm like limb and wrapped it around his shoulder, "-i think you should be number one."
"Is that so," He said with surprise.
"Yes indeed, and i know just how i could make it happen. With my help you could "Ruin" her good looks and then you would be the best," said the nightmare, wrapping itself further around the dragon.
"Ruin her looks why would i want something like that?" said the puzzled dragon.
The result was immediate, the nightmare which had been coiling around him preparing to bond with him and take over was stopped dead. In order to posses a thinking creature, they first need to be in a mental state where their defenses are weakened. Someone given over to rage or harboring deep jealousy make easy targets. Luna was easy, years of feeling unappreciated let the resentment grow, all it took was a well timed push in the wrong direction at the Summer Sun Celebration and she was too blinded to resist.
"What do you mean? You deserve to be the best, and if it means a bit of rearranging her face then why not?" said the nightmare trying to salvage this con.
"Oh i have no wan't to be the best, it's true i'm in love with my own image but i take much more delight in sharing my beauty with other beautiful people." said the dragon happily, the sadistic nature of the cloud's suggestions not registering.
The nightmare was dumbfounded, if it had a mouth it would be agape. "Despicable fool! If you will not serve my needs then i'll make you suffer," said the nightmare, and with a flick she tore off the right side of his mustache. He roared with pain, which soon turned to dramatic sobbing. The nightmare fed up with it's plans failing retreated further to the castle.
For several minuets the six travelers could hear depressed sobbing echoing along the path they were on. The forest had already proven dangerous, so they were going to play it safe this time. Berry Punch was busy sharpening a short sword she kept in her saddle bag, Cloudchaser and Derpy Hooves were patrolling the skies looking for any sign of trouble, Lyra Heartstrings stealthed her way from tree to tree, pulling off amateurish rolls in the open areas.
With the others preoccupied that left Lotus Blossom and Twilight Sparkle walking together in the middle. Twilight was starting to get curious, she'd hardly spent any time with Lotus at the spa but she was one of the few ponies who volunteered to join her in the quest for the elements. "Um Lotus, i'm not meaning to sound rude, but why are you here?" asked Twilight.
"You mean in the forest? Because we are going to find Elements of Harmony," replied Lotus.
"That's not quite what i meant. I'm wondering why you're coming along with us in the first place. I mean i appreciate all the help i can get, i'm just curious about why," said Twilight.
Lotus gave a heavy sigh, "Why do i wan't to go in scary forest? For adventure! So many of my friends back home get to go on huge adventures, fighting monsters, exploring new frontiers. But i am stuck in spa every day, every pony i greet will go on to do so many great things, but me... i will be there sitting behind the counter," sadly said Lotus, her whole demeanor becoming melancholy.
"well if you don't like working there why don't you quit? You could go off and see the world," said Twilight.
"If only it were that simple, everypony back home depends on us. If we stopped sending home money then they wouldn't be able to eat, the spa is probably the best possible job me and Aloe could ask for. Like it or not were both stuck here in Ponyville, the problem for me is i don't like it," said Lotus.
Twilight tried thinking about what to say, the only "job" she'd ever had was being Princess Celestia's personal student, and she wouldn't trade that for the world. "Well i can't say i can relate to your situation that much but i do think what you and Aloe are doing is very noble. And i bet even the most well traveled adventurer wishes they could have a normal life every once in a while," said Twilight encouraging her friend.
"Thank you Twilight, i'll try and think about that when my mind starts to wander," said Lotus.
Soon enough the ponies came to the source of the sobbing that had been steadily growing louder. Directly in their pathway was a raging torrent of water, caused by the thrashing of a gigantic serpent. "Oh what a world, what a world, BWAAA!" exclaimed the dragon.
The six looked at each other and silently decided it should be Twilight to deal with this, the others pushed her into the forefront. "Sir? Is there something wrong?" Twilight inquired.
"Of course there's something wrong, here i was enjoying my bath when some noisy purple cloud comes by and rips my mustache off. Not only did it hurt like the dickens but now i'm hideous," he gave an exaggerated wave extenuating the lopsided facial hair.
"Oh dear that's just awful. You think you could let us pass we really need to get the castle up ahead," said Lyra blowing off his predicament.
"Well not if your going to be rude, and right now i'd much rather be back there throwing a fit. Don't look at me like that, it's a perfectly normal response when your once perfect face is scared beyond repair," said the dragon.
Lotus sighed heavily, she had to deal with ponies like him all the time, a chipped hoof or a mussed up mane and suddenly they can't function as a fully grown horse anymore. Speaking up Lotus said, "I could help you "Look Beautiful" again."
"How could you? My poor mustache is a goner," said the dragon.
"Well it is my job, i work in a spa so i work on things like this often. My only condition is you let us cross once i am finished, do we have a deal?" Lotus asked raising a hoof for a shake.
"Deal!" said the dragon, giving a thorough hand shake.
"Good, please lay your head down near the bank so i can start my work," said Lotus. He obeyed and with careful movement he laid himself down close to where Lotus was standing.
Lotus turned to face the others, "First of i'm needing something to cut with-" Berry volunteered her sharpened knife, "-good, and i'm also needing wax for the mustache, Cloudchaser and Derpy could you find bee's nest. Honey comb would make a good wax," The two pegasi nodded and flew off in search of a bees nest.
Turning her attention back to the dragon she decided she should get started, the sharp implement she held in her hoof glinted in the moon light. "W-w-what are y-you going to d-do with th-that?" He stammered.
"Not to worry, this is only for cutting of hair, not cutting dragon." Lotus said trying to reassure her new client.
"Do you have to cut 'it'? Can't you ponies, i don't know magic my mustache back?" asked the dragon.
Lotus turned to Twilight and raised an inquiring eyebrow. "Well spike has been wanting me to research a mustache spell for a while now but i haven't yet," Twilight said apologetically.
"Then yes i do have to cut 'it', don't worry i promise by the time i'm done you'll love your new look. If your'e not convinced just take a look at Twilight's tail, i cut it just this evening." said Lotus proud of her work.
He moved in for a close look, "Hmm nice length, textured cuts and it draws attention away from her weight problem. I like it," he said enthusiastically. Twilight on the other hand was not pleased by his comments, "Are you b*%$ing serious, why is everyone obsessed with my weight?!"
The dragon nervously said, "I was just complimenting your tail, and your weight is fine for a mare as far along in pregn-" He was cut off when he saw one of the returning pegasi wildly waving her arms signaling to stop. "I mean, you look fabulous, simply smashing."
As Lotus began her work she started chatting up the dragon as she normally does for her clients, a simple conversation often helps pass the time and put them at ease. "So, i don't think I've gotten your name yet," said Lotus.
"You can call me Steven, Steven Magnet," said Steven Magnet.
"What an odd name, no offence of course. I'm not sure I've ever heard a name like that before," remarked Lotus.
"Well to be honest it's not my real name, it's just what someone introduced me as when they misheard my real name. I thought it sounded much better than what i was born with so i kept it," explained Steven.
"Oh that's interesting, well my name is Lotus Blossom. I've not met many dragons before, tell me are you alone here in the forest?" inquired Lotus.
His face went dour. "I wonder how old he would be now," Steven said in an undertone.
"I didn't catch that," said Lotus.
"Oh nothing just my musings, no i'm all alone here in this forest. No one to keep me company anymore," said the saddened dragon.
Lotus gave the matter some thought, "I'm thinking this river flows all the way into Ponyville, if you wanted to you could take a swim upstream and visit us sometime. I'm certain everypony would love to meet you," said Lotus. As she talked she lopped off large strands of hair, some as long as her own tail.
"Hmm maybe i will someday, a change of scenery could be good for the soul," said Steven.
With the trimming work complete his face was more symmetrical now. "Did you get the bees wax?" asked Lotus of her companions.
"Yeah we found an abandoned nest over there, will this be enough?" said Derpy, holding in her arms was a massive amount of honey comb.
"Yes that should do," said Lotus. She began making a cradle of river rocks, "Steven, would you possibly be able to heat up these stones for me?"
"Ooh i get it, your going to melt the wax in that, very clever." He spouted out a small green flame, focusing it on the cradle. The stones began to glow slightly and the heat radiating off them could be felt several feet away. Once they were hot enough Lotus began tossing chucks of wax into the fabricated melting pot, soon she had a pool of hot wax ready for use.
"Alright come in close and we can finish," commanded Lotus. Steven complied, bringing his face in close. Lotus, taking a hoof full of wax began working her magic, manipulating the remainder of his mustache into a thin wavy curly-q. "Well take a look, tell me what you think," said Lotus, peeling off the hardened wax from her hooves.
Peering into the reflective water he saw his new look and was pleasantly surprised, "Ooh oooooh!!! This is simply divine! I don't know what i can do to thank you. You Lotus have a beautiful heart," he said with glee.
Lotus tapped her hoof on the ground and pointed at the river. "Oh right, crossing the river. Here hop on my back and i'll carry you all across," The six all climbed aboard, and he snaked his way across the shallow water. After dismounting they stopped to say goodbye. "Thank you Steven, i'm sure we'll meet again someday," said Twilight.
"You can count on it sister, no way am i letting this gorgeous face be unappreciated in this forest anymore," He happily waived the ponies off as they continued further down the pathway towards the castle. Only a short distance was left before they would meet their destiny, and change the course of history forever.
Time was running short for the nightmare, each attempt at killing off these ponies had failed miserably. Now all that stood between them and the castle was a rickety rope bridge, desperately the nightmare cut away the ties holding it up, even though it knew that with two flyers in their group the narrow chasm would hardly be any inconvenience.
Opening up the telepathic channel again the nightmare planed what to do. "We are at our wits end! Why can we not kill these thorns in our side?" said the cloud.
"It occurs to us that if they do not act as a group they are weakened. If we can draw one of them away we can start piking them off," said Nightmare Moon. "I will send the remainder of our power off to join you, use it to crush their bones," True to her word more of the ethereal mist flowed off of Nightmare Moon's body and exited the building
Joining the rest of it, the globs of nightmare formed into fearsome Pegasus warriors, sporting the same pointed teeth as Nightmare Moon and wielding deadly medieval weaponry. To give their attack even more chance of success the nightmare summoned forth a think bank of fog to obscure the ambush. It seemed that for once tonight things might turn up in Nightmare Moon's favor.
If Luna had anything to say about that it would not. Now she was in a position to take control entirely, the only parts of the nightmare that remained was the small amount permanently fused to her flesh. For all intents and purposes Luna was free as a bird. Yet she could still see out of the eyes of the newly formed warriors outside the castle, and fully aware of their plan.
She doubted she could fully stop them in place as before with the trees, but perhaps something else could be done. If the ponies had to confront the nightmare, then it should be something non threatening. Luna began searching her memories, searching for a childhood memory. "Something safe, something... AHA!" she was triumphant, a long since forgotten dream she once held. A flying team all with matching costumes, her own group of Shadow Bolts. Luna used to make believe she was their captain and go on exiting adventures all over Equestria with them.
Utilizing the telepathic link Luna began whispering in the Nightmares mind, as it once whispered in her's. "Why destroy when you can undermine? Why make enemies when we can make "allies"?" Her influence was starting to have an affect on the nightmare warriors, they were shifting back and forth as if unsure of what they were doing. Luna then projected an image of the Shadow Bolts in their matching black and purple flight suits with yellow lightning accents, along with another message. "Lure one away, ask her to join us,"
The nightmares were in an almost hypnotized state, they were no longer acting out their own desires but those of Luna. All three obeyed the suggestion, dropping their weapons which dissolved back into mist and rejoined their bodies. Shifting their forms yet again they became the spitting image of Luna's imaginary friends. Two bulky Pegasus stallions and a lithe Pegasus mare all with the same slicked back blue manes. The three forms retreated into the shadows, waiting to make their dramatic entrance.
After their short ride across the river the six adventurers had continued on the path, the steep uphill climb was made tolerable by the ever present and always growing closer castle ahead of them. As they came to the top of the hill they were greeted by a seemingly bottomless ravine, seemingly because the view was obscured by the dense layer of fog. What wasn't obscured was the state of repair the bridge was in, two mossy ropes were tied off on carved stone pillars. From the old ropes were held slats of ancient wood long since rotten through.
"Well girls were almost home free, now we just need to figure out how were gonna cross here, any suggestions?" Twilight turned to the group looking for their input.
"How about Derpy and Cloudchaser carry us across? That would go pretty quick," suggested Lyra.
"I don't think that's such a good idea, all the flying I've done today has really put a strain on my wings. I'd hate to drop one of you cause i got tired mid flight," Derpy said apologetically.
"We could try reattaching the bridge ropes and cross that," said Lotus.
Berry gave the idea some thought, "Hmm that sound a bit too risky. From the looks of it the ropes are fraying and the planks are rotting, if a pony Twilight's size were to cross they'd fall right through." It was clear that Twilight was a bit over sensitive about the whole issue, and Berry was having fun with this good natured ribbing. It seems the rest enjoyed it too since they all started snorting and cackling with laughter, their jovial spirits stood in stark contrast to the surroundings they found themselves in.
"You know what, i'm done. I'm not even going to get mad any more, whats the point?" said the frustrated Twilight.
Wiping a happy tear from her eye Berry said, "*phew* Aw come on Twilight you know i didn't mean anything by that, plus i was serious. I wouldn't trust this bridge even if we went across one at a time. But-" She looked around, "- it seems these pillars are still sturdy, if i tie one of my ropes here and one on the other side we should be able to use cross it like a zip line," Berry reached into her saddle bag and produced a length of rope and a pulley with a strap harness.
"Hey that sounds fun! Almost makes me wish i didn't have wings so i could try it out," said Cloudchaser.
"Well go tie it off on the other side and you can have first go," said Berry.
"Really? Schweet!" Cloudchaser said with a hoof pump. Grabbing the brown coil of rope in her mouth she crossed over to the other side, and was fumbling with the knot when a voice began speaking to her.
"Cloud," said the wispy voice echoing all around.
"Who's there?" Cloudchaser looked all at her surroundings but saw no one.
"Cloud," the wispy voice repeated.
"I'll have you know i'm an amateur astronomer, we've been known to be deadly," Cloudchaser said in a vaguely threatening way.
From the fog emerged three pegasi, the one at the lead began speaking. "We have been eagerly waiting for the-" She was cut off when Cloudchaser put a hoof to her mouth.
"Before you go on, my name is Cloudchaser. It's not Cloud, if your gonna be a creepy stalker the least you could do is get my name right. Besides you'd have to be some emo kid with an identity crises to think just cloud was a cool name." said Cloudchaser.
"Are you going to let me finish?" asked the leader.
"Huh, oh sure whatever," said Cloudchaser.
"As i was saying, we've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the best flier in Equestria," said the leader.
Cloudchaser saw what they were getting at and decided to have a bit of fun. "Oh, you mean Rainbow Dash! Yeah she's back in Ponyville, not to far back that way," she said with a smirk.
"N-no we meant you! You Cloudchaser are clearly the best flier in all of Equestria, and we wan't you to join us. The Shadow Bolts!" The three pegasi puffed out their chests with pride.
"Shadow Bolts? Really that's the best you could come up with? How long did it take you to come up with that? Five minuets?" Cloudchaser said further antagonizing them.
From within the castle Luna heard this presumptuous mare's insults and took great offence. She had spent weeks coming up with all the details of her Shadow Bolts. "Yeah and who do you think you are feather head?" Luna said, the words coming out of the shadow bolt leader's mouth. Seeing this startled the other two, This wasn't what they had decided to say in their group consciousness.
"Who do i think i am? I'm the Pegasus who's getting first ride on the zip line!" With that Cloudchaser tied off the end of the rope on the standing pillar and flew off to rejoin her friends. Out of sight of the ponies the Shadow Bolts dropped their disguises and entered the wreaked castle, it would appear after all of Luna's interference tonight the nightmare was finally catching on. Lucky for Luna the nightmare neglected to terminate the link between them, from their eyes she could see them all, soaring throughout the corridors of what was once her home one thousand years before.
As the first piece of the nightmare rounded the corner it quickly got to know a powerful blast of magic, magic so powerful it was vaporized completely. From behind a second glob of the nightmare lunged at Luna, who in like manner sent forth an equally devastating beam of magic, burning away the attacker. Using the link further proved fruitless, it appeared this final portion of the nightmare had caught on quickly. From it's eyes all Luna could see was the nondescript ceiling, "Come on show me where you are. I promise i'll make it quick," her eyes darting back and forth scanning the roof for where it was approaching.
The Nightmare slowly crept along the ceiling, sticking to the shadows until it was directly above where Luna was standing. Without a sound it dropped and fell towards it's unsuspecting target, only seconds before striking it turned to face Luna. Those precious few seconds was all she needed, whipping her head round she cast the same stasis spell that Twilight had used on the Manticore before.
Taking a seat on the throne once more Luna smiled, looking at the glob of hatred that had ruined her life, unsuccessfully trying to writhe out of her grasp she was filled with happiness. "You know what? I think i lied, this isn't going to be quick at all."
From the castle doorway the six ponies could hear unequine tortured screams echo, making them all the more apprehensive about entering this place. "Come on girls, we've made it this far. There's no point in turning back now," said Twilight. One by one the six passed the threshold into the castle, each hoping and praying that soon this would all be over.
The nightmare's final moments were lingering and painful. Luna made quite sure of that, using her magic she slowly burned away particle after minute particle until nothing of the parasite remained. Still her victory was incomplete, she would always have to live with the part of it bonded with her body. Like it or not for the rest of her artificial lengthened lifespan she would remain looking like Nightmare Moon.
She was left wondering what she would do now that the nightmare was gone, should she try and repair her relationship with her sister? Go off and live out her days in solitude? No that didn't seem like a good idea, she had been asleep for so long, a life alone was not appealing in the slightest. "Maybe, maybe i could try talking to the ponies here? Perhaps they can help us?" she said almost unsure of her own reasoning.
From further in the castle she could hear their steps as their hoofs struck the stone floors. They were now entering the foyer, "Well now's a good a time as any," said Luna, with that she whisked herself away. Still somewhat nervous, Luna thought it best to listen in from afar for a time and work up her courage first before confronting them, so she hid behind an oversised bust of one of her ancestors.
The six ponies were gathered around the stone console in the center of the room, the object was shaped like a model solar system. A large marble sphere was at the center and orbiting it was five smaller spheres with simple geometric shape reliefs on them. "Well this looks important, think this is what were looking for?" asked Lyra.
Pulling the hefty book out of her saddle bag, Twilight compared the two. "Let's see there are only five known Elements of Harmony but when they are combined the sixth will be revealed. Well if these are the elements then we should be seeing a sixth one somewhere."
"What did the book say earlier, about virtues?" asked Berry.
"Here it is! That the bearers must display virtue to use them, Kindness, Loyalty, Laughter, Generosity and Honesty," said Twilight.
The six ponies looked around at each other, judging where if any of those qualities were in them. "Well Lyra's definitely not the kind one," said Derpy.
"Hey! Come on i'm plenty kind! I just, you know, kinda suck at it." She said plodding the ground with her hoof.
"If anything i'd say your virtue is observation," said Twilight, she was about to laugh about it when one of the orbs on the holder began glowing a similar shade to Lyra's. The stone sphere ripped itself off the structure and began hovering above Lyra's head.
"Wow, if i had any clue what this meant i'd be really impressed right now," said Lyra with awe.
Twilight gave it some thought. "I think it means your the bearer of this element, maybe the virtues listed in the book were only what the writer knew about." Twilight said, geeking out at the prospects this brought up.
"Call me ignorant or whatever but i don't think Observation is a virtue," remarked Berry in a dry tone. As she finished saying that the stone sphere lost it's glow and regained it's affiliation with gravity, falling squarely on Lyra's noggin.
"OW! What did i ever do to you rock? Why do you hurt me so?" said Lyra
"Berry it was working! Look maybe it's just when you call out a quality in you that you excel at. Like for you i'd say Berry Punch who's determination to return home safe and sound and protect those she loves. She represents The Element of Motherly Love!" As Twilight finished her dramatic speaking another orb began glowing, this time the same shade of magenta as Berry and took the same position above her head like Lyra's.
"Hey Twilight i don't think that Motherly Love is a-" Lyra was cut off by Twilight's glare.
"Let's stay focused here, Um how about, Louts Blossom who's hard work for family and friends goes hoof in hoof with her realistic view of what needs done, She represents The Element of Balance!" New verse same as the first, another orb began glowing, this time blue and took it's place above Lotus' head.
"Let's keep this going, Lyra Heartstrings who's keen eye saved us all from certain doom by the manticore. She represents the Element of Observation!" Once again the orb took it's place above her head, though this time she was not looking on in awe but eyeing it with distrust and covering her head with her hooves.
"Derpy Hooves, who's incredible posterior saved the day on multiple occasions, represents the Element of-" Twilight was cut off.
"The Element of Derp!" said Derpy while purposefully making a silly face.
"I was going to say Dumb Luck! But i guess Derp is OK too," said Twilight, a fourth orb detached and began glowing metallic grey.
Twilight turned to the last in line. "Cloudchaser who... who. Huh, you didn't really do that much tonight," said Twilight scratching her head.
"What do you mean? I did plenty of stuff to help tonight!" Cloudchaser protested.
"Yeah but i can't really recall any virtuous behavior," said Twilight.
"Maybe she could be the element of being a smarmy jack ass. No offence," Somewhere a donkey said none taken and he didn't know why.
The six looked at each other, the voice didn't belong to any of them. "Who's there? Show yourself!" commanded Twilight.
Out from behind the statue walked Luna, though she still looked very intimidating. "Have no fear citizens it is only i your princess."
"Oh so now you are wanting to be our princess too huh?" said Lotus.
"One can see how you might be confused by our appearance, it is true that we once were the being known as Nightmare Moon but we have vanquished the darkness and, i Princess Luna have emerged victorious." Luna said with pride, striking the breast plate she wore with her hoof.
"I would say 'A likely story' but that was too far fetched even for that." said Lyra.
"Please believe me, I mean you no harm." said Luna.
"Don't believe her lies girls, she know that were this close to being able to use the one weapon that can stop her for good," said Twilight.
Twilight's words cut deep, the prospect of being locked away again or even worse had not crossed her mind. "I said i don't mean you any HARM!" Luna shouted stomping her hooves on the ground, the shock wave shot out towards the six. In a flash Cloudchaser jumped in front of Twilight taking the brunt of the wave, the rest of it's power shot through the elements and shattered them into small fragments.
"Oh dear i think i don't know my own strength," Luna said blushing.
Helping up her fallen friend Twilight responded, "Try as you might Nightmare Moon, you can never destroy the Elements of Harmony! Because the elements aren't these stones. They are the unbeatable spirit of right hearted ponies like my friends. Cloudchaser who willingly put herself in harms way to defend her friends from danger, she represents The Element of Selflessness!" Shards from the last unclaimed orb began glowing lavender and circled above Cloudchaser's head.
"And when these elements combine they create the most powerful element of them all, the Element of Magic!" From thin air materialized the sixth element, unlike the rest this element was not a stone but an intricate golden crown, set in it was a gem in the shape of Twilight's star cutie mark. As soon as the crown set upon her head a wave of energy shot out. The five others began floating and the element shards reformed into gilded necklaces all with an inlay gem resembling their cutie mark.
"No! NO! Say it isn't so!" Luna cried out with tears in her eyes.
A spectrum of light emitted from the elements and their bearers all joining together into Twilight's crown. As Twilight prepared to use this power she looked on at her foe, she was trembling like a scared filly, her tears ran freely down her cheeks. Though Twilight could not hear what she said, she could see her mouthing 'I'm sorry sister, i'm so sorry'. The full power of the elements reached Twilight and it was overwhelming, white light shown through her eyes making her look like nothing from this world.
The feeling was like no other, time seemed to stop completely, a sense that anything could be done filled Twilight.
"There has been too much pain tonight."
As time resumed it's flow the six were scattered around the room, the power that had just been used was unlike anything any of them had ever experienced. "Is everypony alright?" asked Lotus.
Checking themselves they found they were all in one piece and some in better shape than before. "Hey my tail grew back!" excitedly said Twilight.
"And look you're not fat anymore!" said Lyra.
"Oh thank Celestia!" said Twilight, who then became dour. "We-we never found out what Nightmare Moon did with the princess." The whole group became silent in respect for the grieving student and their lost ruler.
But all of that was interrupted by the return of the sun, as it rose high into the sky it shown it's bright daylight all over Equestria. It took a while for the group to adjust to the long absent source of light, so long they almost missed a miraculous event. From a shaft of light spoke a familiar gentle voice, "Well done my little ponies." Out of the light stepped the towering figure of Princess Celestia, her mane whipping slowly back and forth in the breeze.
It was Twilight's turn now to break down in tears, she ran up to her mentor embracing her. "Princess i- i thought you were gone forever, i didn't know what to do,"
"Hush child, you did well. I had faith all along that you would be the one to stop the nightmare." said the sun princess.
"Me?" asked a confused Twilight.
"Indeed, you displayed one of the most important qualities in a leader, justice when necessary but mercy whenever possible," Celestia motioned to the unconscious form of Luna, now freed from the nightmare completely. All that remained of it was crystallized chunks of what once made up Nightmare Moon's armor.
"Now if you will excuse me i need to go talk with my sister. It has been one thousand years since I've gotten to speak with her," said Celestia.
"Whoa, she actually was a princess!?" said Lyra, shrinking back.
"It has been too long dear sister, even longer since i have seen you like this." said Celestia.
Luna who had just awoken looked at her self, she was not the same as she remembered that day one thousand years ago, but instead resembled herself as a filly.
"It is time to put our differences behind us. Will you rule with me, at my side as it was meant to be?"
Luna looked down at her hoofs, the pain in the past seemed small in comparison even to her tiny hooves. "Of course, i wan't nothing more than to be with you again. I'm so sorry for the pain i caused you," Luna cried out, embracing her sister who towered over her even more than her student.
"Well, this is not how i expected my day to go when i woke up last morning." said Berry.
"Not to put a damper on things but were still stuck in this forest, it took us hours to get through so we'd better start back. We don't wan't to leave everypony waiting," said Twilight.
Luna and Celesta looked at each other, "Hours? Back when we were little, Celly and i could get though here in thirty minuets flat." Boasted Luna.
"Yeah i'd like to see you try," said Cloudchaser.
"Your on feather head! Come on sister time is wasting!" Luna said grabbing Celestia and running out the door.
It clicked with Cloudchaser, "Wait it was you! You're that shadow punk!" But the two were already too far away to hear and in too a good a mood to care.
"Come on girls we can't let a couple of thousand year old fogies beat us in a race! Let's GO!" Shouted Cloudchaser. Pumped up by the challenge the six happily stampeded out the doors leaving the ruined castle and it's dark history behind them. Next stop home.
True to her word, Luna and Celestia we clear of the Everfree in thirty minuets, effortlessly swimming through the river, speedily galloping past the monsters and their vertical ascent of the cliff face would put even the fastest of the Wonderbolts to shame. As the two alicorns stood at the boundary catching their breath and waiting for the others, a conversation started.
"Just like old times, huh sister?" said Luna.
"Yes just like the old times," Celestia harbored a nostalgic smile. "Back then, things weren't so complicated. It was just us two, if we wanted to go off and fight monsters there was nothing to stop us, if we wanted to go exploring we'd go and find whole new civilizations."
"Celly?" Luna said addressing her sister with her pet name.
"I'm trying to figure out why i look like this, i know a second chance at youth is something all ponies strive for, but-" She was looking down at her hooves again.
"I could not say for certain, but i would guess that the parasite was feeding off of your life energy when i imprisoned you, I mean Nightmare Moon." Celestia double backed, trying not to pour salt in the still fresh wound.
Luna sighed, "It's alright sister, if i had been stronger then none of this would have ever happened."
Celestia vigorously shook her head, "No the fault is mine, i let our relationship get so rough that i didn't pay any attention to you until it was too late. From now on if anything is bothering either of us, let us talk to each other, I wish for our friendship to last as long as we walk this earth."
"Speaking of friends, the ponies who freed me. They wielded the Elements of Harmony in a new way, i could feel the magic healing my body. I think maybe it was coming from their leader, who is she?" asked Luna.
Celestia beamed with pride, "That my dear sister was Twilight Sparkle, my personal apprentice."
"Really? It was some stroke of luck that she was the one to free us then," said Luna.
"Actually i knew it she would be the one to save us all along," Luna looked up at her sister with a puzzled expression. "One night, arround a month before now i had a strange vision. In it i saw Twilight and five others wielding the elements,"
"The ponies she had with her you mean?" asked Luna.
Celestia thought, "That's just it, i have no idea who most of these are. I spent hours looking through census data trying to find the ponies in my vision. When i learned they all were residents of Ponyville i arranged to have the celebration take place here. I do not know what this means, but it matters not when i have you back."
Luna smiled, she knew it won't all be as easy as with Celestia but she had plenty of other relationships to rekindle. "I was thinking, perhaps some form of magic can remedy my age problem. I bet Starswirll would know something about how to fix me, i'd bet he'd be glad just to see me." Luna said remembering her elderly friend.
Celestia's face went pale, "Luna, how long do you think you've been gone?"
Luna thought the question a bit odd, "How long? Well based on the state of the castle it must have been at least a couple of years, right? I can't believe you let our home get in such a state."
Celesta took a deep breath, not sure how her sister would take this information. "Luna, it hasn't been a few years. You have been on the moon for the past thousand years."
Silence fell over the clearing, Luna swallowed hard. "How long?"
"I know this is hard to believe, but it is true." said Celestia.
Luna's thoughts were all scrambled, how could this have happened? What had she missed? A sickening thought entered her mind, everypony she knew, everyone she cared about, all long gone. Starswirll, the castle staff, even her subjects, 'Did they all die believing i was a traitor?'
"What- what did you tell them? About me, i mean," Luna hesitantly asked.
Celestia sighed with shame, "I didn't say anything. I knew it wasn't you but that monster, but i just couldn't bring myself to admit you had been lost."
"Did they.. did they hate me?"
"Some did, but those who knew you defended your name to the end," sad Celestia.
Luna was about to respond when the friends rounded the corner and joined their princesses. "*HUFF* How can you move that fast?" gasped out Berry.
"It's not fair i tell you!" Raged Cloudchaser.
Twilight shook her head, "Unfair huh, i thought we were racing against some old "fogies."
Noticing the sullen expression on Luna's face Lyra decided to speak up. "We didn't mean anything by that, just having a bit of fun. And you really did smoke us out there."
"*Hrm* Oh yes, We did 'smoke you'." Turning to her sister Luna whispered, "We were not burning foliage, of what smoke does she speak?"
Celestia smiled, "It's a modern expression, you have quite allot of catching up to do once we get back home."
"Oh Luna, you slay me," said Twilight with a laugh.
"I apologize honored disciple of my sister, shall i fetch a healer?"
Celestia put a hoof on her shoulder, "No no, it's just another expression, a very outdated expression."
"Sowing Machine!" Said Derpy bobbing her head up and down.
"And that?" Asked Luna.
"That, that i have no clue." said Celestia, just as puzzled by the absurd future slang.
At first the return was unnoticed, most everypony was busy basking in the sunlight. But as soon as the mayor and her aides caught sight of the triumphant heroes and their leader the floodgates burst. A massive celebration was quickly put together by the town's semi official party planner. Some how in a matter of minuets she had ribbons and streamers in all the trees in town, a parade with the princess riding their chariot and confetti constantly drifting through the skies.
Happy reunions were taking place all over, Cloudchaser was excitedly recounting the nights events to Flitter. Lotus Blossom was showing off her element to Aloe. Derpy could be seen walking off cheek to cheek with a stallion with messy brown hair. Spike came running out of the crowd and leaped at Twilight. The two hugged it out, almost as if it were a contest who could hold on longer. Berry, who was sipping on a champagne she had been handed thought is was adorable. 'I wish i had that kind of relationship with Pinch,' she thought to herself.
Her eyes went wide, "Wheres Berry Pinch?" She ripped Spike away from Twilight and shook him vigorously, "WHERE IS BERRY PINCH?"
The little dragon stammered out, "Pa-Pinkie P-p-pie got her to help present the wreath to Princess Luna!"
Berry dropped Spike on the ground and searched for the chariot. It had just finished it's tour of town and it's occupants were disembarking onto the raised platform used by the mayor to address the town. True to his word there Pinch was carrying a wreath of red and white roses and bestowing it on Luna. Only the way in which this was done was quite disturbing to Berry.Little Pinch and the other filly were flying, instead of her horn Pinch had small wings on her back. Looking back between the odd sight in front of her and the suspicious drink in her hoof Berry decided to dump the rest.
"Are you alright Spike?" Twilight asked as she hoisted her adoptive son onto her back.
"Yeah i'm fine, getting knocked around seems to come with the territory," Spike assured her. "Right now i'm just glad your home safe. So how dangerous was it? Did you see any monsters?"
Twilight put a hoof to her chin, "So you want to know about monsters huh? Well deep in the forest, at the bottom of the deepest ravine was the most ferocious creature of them all."
"What was it? Tell me!" said Spike.
"The manticore!" Spikes eyes went wide as he listened intently to the story. "He was gigantic, twice as big as Princess Celestia! And the teeth, his upper fangs were bigger than your head,"
Lyra who was walking by, heard Twilight's embellishment of their encounter and decided to put her spin on it. "Did you tell Mr. Hands about how we beat it yet?"
"No i was still giving descriptive details, you gotta properly set up what your up against before your audience can get invested." Spike nodded in agreement.
"Oh of course, like how he turned out to be a complete softy," Lyra said with a slightly askew smile.
"Hey You ruined the surprise!" said the perturbed Twilight.
"He was a softy?" said Spike.
"Yep all it took to tame the heart of the wild beast was removing the thorn in his paw." said Lyra.
Spike thought on it, "Well i guess that's cool too, i just prefer monster stories with fights in them." He was sounding a little bit disappointed.
"Oh well if it's fights you want we did plenty of that too, it wasn't until i utilized the brilliant virtue of my observation that we could get past. Isn't that right element buddy?"said Lyra.
Twilight heaved a sigh, "Yes Lyra, you did save our butts. And so did Berry, Derpy, Lotus and Cloudchaser as well so you should probably thank them as well."
"Oh yeah, i should go do that," Lyra said, bowing off in search of the others.
Twilight became downhearted inwardly and outwardly. Seeing her student glum on such an auspicious occasion Princess Celestia decided to inquire. "What is wrong, my student? You have accomplished something with the Elements of Harmony that even i could not do. You returned my sister to me and saved all of Equestria. So tell me, what could bring a frown to your face today?"
"You promise you won't be upset?" Twilight pleaded with her eyes.
"I promise, i will listen with open ears." said Celestia.
Twilight took a deep breath, attempting to ease her nerves, "To be honest, i- i don't want to return to Canterlot."
Celestia's face was unchanging, which was almost more unnerving, At least if she were angry Twilight would know where she stood. "Go on," said Celestia.
"Well, I've always been a loner, only really opening up to the ponies I've known forever. Like my parents and you and Spike, i never wanted friends or ever thought i needed any. But now, now I've met five ponies who stood by my side and braved the harshest perils any of us had ever faced, together. I'm not the best at expressing how i feel all the time but, when i'm with them, i feel like we could take on the world and nothing could ever bring us down."
Celestia still remained silent, only nodding in understanding.
"And i feel like if i had to go away, back to Canterlot, i'd be losing something I've been missing my whole life. Something so wonderful, and i just now discovered. So if you don't want me as your student anymore, i- understand." Twilight hung her head, with a lump in her throat she forced out the words that she knew had to be said.
Celestia looked on her student, "Are you certain this is what you want?" Twilight nodded yes.
Without a word Princess Celestia walked off back towards the town, leaving Twilight and Spike alone.
"Are you crazy Twilight? Being the personal student of Princess Celestia has been your dream since- well forever, you even told me that yourself. Why would you go and throw that all away?" Spike chastised her.
"Did you ever read about the merchant and the pearl of high value?" Twilight asked of her companion.
"What does that have to do with anything?" said Spike.
"One day a traveling merchant discovered a priceless pearl, since he knew it's value he went off and sold all his possessions so that he could acquire the pearl. I think I've found my pearl Spike. My friends here are something i wouldn't trade for the world and i'd give anything to keep." Spike patted Twilight on the shoulder and pointed behind her, "What is it?"
Standing behind her, was all her Ponyville friends. Derpy was wiping tears from her eyes, Lotus admiring her courage, Cloudchaser smiling ear to ear, Berry thinking her decision foolish and finally Lyra, visually upset.
"You would do that for us?" said Derpy.
"Such a huge change, do you think you can live with the consequences?" said Lotus.
"I'm just glad i won't be the only pony who likes astronomy in this town anymore! And don't worry i can help you find a new job if you like," said Cloudchaser.
"While it is commendable wanting to stick with your friends, being taught by the wisest pony in all of Equestria is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Berry.
"I can't believe you're just going to throw away your whole future! Go out there and maybe you can get the princess to take you back if you plead temporary insanity," said Lyra.
Taking in all their responses Twilight was a bit overwhelmed, "I know none of this will be easy but i'm sure i can make it through with all of your help, but first i'm going to need some help moving here. You know any good moving companies?"
Derpy was quick to speak up, "You lucked out my friend, i just so happen to work for the best movers this side of Fillydelphia! I can even use my employee discount,"
All the others were quick to volunteer their help in packing and unpacking, "I don't know why i'm so upset, it is your decision after all. And i'm sure having a pony like you around will brighten things up allot," said Lyra.
"Sorry to ask but do you think i could stay with one of you? At least until i can find a place of my own." said Twilight.
Before any of them could respond the voice of the mayor spoke up, "I don't think that will be necessary." By her side was Princess Celestia.
"I've just been speaking with the mayor here, and it seems Ponyville is in desperate need of a new librarian. I'll admit i'd much prefer my student living in better accommodations than a tree, but-" the princess was stopped short when Twilight gave her a massive hug.
"I thought you wouldn't want me as your student anymore," said Twilight.
"Heavens no, i'll admit i will miss our one on one studies together but i know at some point you need spread your wings and fly. But your still not graduated in my books, so well call this independent studies. I'm expecting a report on how your studies are progressing say, every week. Does that sound reasonable?" said Princess Celestia.
"Yes it does, thank you Thank you! I promise i'll study harder than I've ever before, i won't let you down." Twilight assured her.
"Well don't forget to have fun now and again." Celestia counseled her student. She then condescended to the small dragon, "Spike please take a letter and send it to the retainer in Canterlot, we must make this official."
Producing a quill and scroll he stood at the ready, awaiting the decree. "Let it be known that from this day forth, the unicorn Twilight Sparkle shall continue her studies into the properties of magic and also expand her studies into the magic of friendship. She will be supplied a monthly stipend and residence at the Golden Oaks Library on the condition that she reports her findings to the princess in a timely manner. This is the decree of Princess Celestia." With that she marked the letter with a hoof print and sealed it, giving it back to Spike he used his unique ability once more and the ashes flitted through the skies off to Canterlot.
"Make me proud Twilight, i am expecting great things from you," said Celestia.
Soon after Celestia, Luna, the guards and most of the visitors exited Ponyville. The streets littered with dusty confetti were being swept up by the grounds keepers, others took down the banners welcoming 'Princess Celest'. Twilight was standing in front of the library, the lights all off, apparently the lantern ran out of oil somewhere through the night. In her hoof she held the key she received from Mayor Mare, she hesitantly inserted the key into the hole and turned.
As Spike and Twilight stumbled into the darkness they heard something rustling around. Suddenly the room was filled bright electric light and a loud unanimous shout, "SURPRISE!" Spike and Twilight stood with mouth agape, as a bouncy pink pony came up to them.
"Hi i'm Pinkie Pie and i thew this party just for you! So tell me were you surprised, cause i bet you were!" Pinkie Pie excitedly said at a million miles an hour.
Shaking herself loose from the shackles of unadulterated shock Twilight said, "Well yes i am surprised, however did you put together a second party this soon after the impromptu town wide celebration?"
"Look Twilight i may only be one pony, but i'm the super duper party pony. Aint' nopony got nothin' on my skillz," Pinkie said posing like she was in a decade old music video.
"Alright-" Twilight said with apprehension. "- But how are their lights here? We looked forever but could't find any."
"Duh your friends over their came in and did a whole lot of renovations. It's totally rude of you to not notice that-" She continued talking unaware that Twilight had left the conversation. Walking over to the table holding the drinks she found all her Ponyville friends assembled sporting party hats and enjoying each others company.
"Did you guys do all this?" Twilight asked.
"Yepers, we wired lights, dusted the whole place. Lotus got you new linens for your bed and i filled your fridge." Said Derpy.
Twilight smiled widely, "I don't know what to say, this is all amazing. Thank you, everyone." She pulled them all in for a big hug. The party raged on into the night, dancing, karaoke, pin the tail on the pony. All reflections of the bright future ahead, so a new chapter opened up in the life of Twilight Sparkle and the many adventures still ahead they would all share.
Twilight Sparkle was learning that life in Ponyville was different than Life in Canterlot. The morning after she had finished moving in she was surprised to find she had overslept. Normally Shining Armor would send one of the guards by on the pretense of needing some book, in reality it was his way of getting his little sister out of bed. Apart from needing to change sleeping habits, Twilight was having trouble adjusting to the fact that she had to do her own shopping now. Back in the castle food was never an issue, one simply asked a servant or wandered down to the kitchen when you got hungry and there would always be something cooking.
Thankfully Spike seemed to take kindly to the idea of cooking for the two of them, one of the first items he bought for himself was an apron. Although, the only aprons in his size were more deigned with fillies in mind, hence the pink fabric and white lace trim. Still you make due with what you have, and for a new cook Spike was doing pretty well.
With the tedium of chores taken care of Twilight could now dedicate her time to something enjoyable, re-shelving the entire library. Such a task is a great way not only to take inventory and see what you have, but also to have everything right where you want it. Which in Twilight's case meant organizing by subject matter, she was deep in the involved process when a knock on the door stopped her train of thought.
"Hmm who could that be knocking at my door?" The wooden door swung wide to reveal Lotus Blossom standing at the door.
"Good morning to you Twilight, how does the day treat you?" Lotus said in her own speech pattern.
"Things are going pretty good today. I've just started re shelving the library, would you like to join me? I've found it to be quite therapeutic," said Twilight.
"Unfortunately i will have to decline-" putting a hoof behind her head in a bashful way Lotus continued. "-Actually i came here to ask if you could lend me Spike for a couple of hours today?"
Twilight thought on it, "Well i don't think i need him for anything specific, you'll need to ask him yourself of course. What did you have in mind?"
"Unfortunate thing happened, and the water heater died on us, to make matters worse we have a fully booked day ahead of us and they wont be able to repair the contraption till tomorrow." Explained Lotus.
Twilight nodded in acknowledgement, "I see, you need him to be you're water heater for today, well as long as he gets plenty of breaks and is properly supervised i don't see why not. Spike! Get down here, we have company!" Twilight shouted upstairs.
Bounding down the steps carved into the tree's interior Spike rushed to the call. "I'm here already geez, oh hello Lotus."
"Oh hai Spike, I've just been going over it with Twilight and she said it was alright," said Lotus.
"Eh, what?" Spike said not comprehending what was said.
"She means she has a job for you, if your interested," Twilight clarified.
"Oh OK, what kind of job is it?" asked Spike.
"I am in great need of your special talent, and i would not ask you to do work for nothing. I could repay you with one of these if you please-" She held aloft a sparkling red ruby, "-i have heard you are quite partial to gemstones."
Peering at the lustrous stone Spike was lost in it, smacking his lips he lusted after the tasty morsel. "Ohh, where have you been all my life? Can- can i have it?"
"But of course," she said as she hoofed over the gemstone. "Now if you'll come with me we can- *Crunch*Munch*Omm*Nom*Nom*" Lotus' dialogue was drowned out by the sounds of Spike devouring the jewel. "Oh, oh dear is that healthy?"
"You could say Spike has a cast iron stomach, if he felt like it he could digest bedrock. That was one of the first things we observed after he hatched, instinctively eating materials that are inedible to us ponies, though he seems to prefer gems for some reason." said Twilight.
"Itsh becash there so tasty!" Spike said with his mouth full. "You really ought to try one sometime, maybe an amethyst? Or even better sun stones! You'd love them, so sweet and they have that earthy volcanic taste to them, wanna try?"
"He, no, i'm afraid my diet would not allow for rocks. It is very strict," Lotus said trying to spurn the little dragons offer politely.
"Eh suit yourself, it just means more for m- *Mmph*" He was interrupted by a familiar rising sensation from his stomach.
Twilight immediately had him over her shoulder, patting him on the back to burp him. "Come on, let it out." A bright flash of green flame later and the object in transit reformed into a scroll of parchment bearing the royal seal. "Well what's it say? Go on read it,"
Reading aloud in the voice he reserved for royal letters Spike began. "Here ye, here ye. Bla bla bla, something something, Grand Galloping-"
"Spike read the whole letter, if you please," Twilight cautioned.
"Fine," he said with a roll of the eyes. "Her grand royal highness, Princess Celestia of Equestria, is pleased to announce the Grand Galloping Gala to be held in the magnificent capitol city of Canterlot. And to cordially extends an invitation to Twilight Sparkle plus one guest." He finished his voice over and looked up, both Twilight and Lotus were excitedly hopping about, cheering the same phrase.
"Oh yeah, Grand Galloping Gala!"
"Twilight please tell me you will let me come with you! I've wanted to go to for so long," said Lotus.
"Really? I would think big events like that wouldn't be your type of thing," said Twilight.
"I've never been to a fancy party before, but from the way my clients from the upper crust describe it, i can just imagine it. All the exotic foods, the high society conversations. For once i'd love to see how the other half live," said Lotus.
"I haven't gotten to go to the Gala before either," said Twilight.
"Is that so? I would have expected you've been to all the big parties, being Princess Celestia's student and all," said Lotus.
"For some reason she always had some assignment for me to do at the time," Twilight thought about the previous years galas. The first year she was sent off to retrieve findings from an archaeological dig, her second year she had been assigned the task of navigating the hedge maze by her wit alone. "At least they were fun assignments."
A knock on the tree door paused the conversation, behind door number one this time was Cloudchaser, several books on star charts were sticking out of her saddlebag. "Hey Twilight, hello Lotus. I just came by to return the books i borrowed, they were about to go overdue," said Cloudchaser.
"Thank you, but if you're not done reading them yet i can check them out to you again. Besides it seems not many other ponies are in a big rush to get their hoofs on 'Everything you ever wanted to know about constellations but were afraid to ask'" said Twilight.
"Cool! Say you all seem in a good mood, whats going on?" asked Cloudchaser.
"*BRAP* Twilight just got tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala," Spike said as he caught the two loose golden foil tickets, floating down.
"THE Grand Galloping Gala?! Oh my gosh Twilight you have to take me with you!" Cloudchaser said with enthusiasm.
"You want to go too?" asked Twilight.
"Heck yeah! When i heard it's being held in Canterlot this year i knew i had to go. It's been a personal goal of mine to one day see the observatory built by Star Swirl the Bearded, to think after a thousand years the telescope he built is still one of the most powerful known to pony kind, it gives me shivers thinking about it," said Cloudchaser. "Unfortunately all the tickets were sold out by the time i found out."
"Oh, i was hoping we could go together Twilight. But if you'd rather go with Cloudchaser i understand," said Lotus.
"Had you guys already been working on plans? Sorry that was presumptuous of me, i don't want to impose so whatever you pick is fine with me," said Cloudchaser.
"Uh girls i uh, need to use the bathroom! Yeah," Twilight said nervously.
Her friends look at her puzzled, "This is your house Twilight, you are not in need of our permission to leave," said Lotus.
"Thanks," said Twilight as she galloped to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. She sat down on the floor and buried her face in her hoofs. "Urgh! What do i do? I don't want to upset either of my friends, and they both have good reasons to want to go to the Gala." Inspiration struck Twilight, "I know, i'll ask Berry. She's been around for a long time, i bet she's had to deal with a situation like this before."
Twilight turned the handle and was about to exit when she saw her two friends at the entrance caring on in conversation. "Oh dear, i don't think i can properly face them until i have an answer for them." Ducking back inside the bathroom she felt trapped, no windows for her to crawl out of, it appeared she would have to use unconventional means to escape. First she tuned on the sink to mask the sound of the spell she was going to use, a teleportation spell was something she still hadn't mastered the use of.
With absolute concentration she visualized the outside of Berry's home and began channeling her power into her horn, just before departure however a knock on the door was followed by Spike's voice, "Twilight? You okay in there?"
The short lapse in focus was enough to send Twilight off course several blocks, she found herself re-materializing inside Sugar Cube Corner, much to the shock of the patrons who's food she was standing in. "Do you mind were trying to have breakfast here!" said one of the angry diners.
"Sorry, spell mishap. Let me buy you something to replace that," Twilight apologized.
"Hey Twilight! Over here!" said a familiar voice from across the bakery. The voice belonged to Derpy who was sitting at a corner table happily munching on a poppy seed muffin. Seeing her cross eyed friend Twilight hopped off the table and made her way to sit across from her.
"Good morning Derpy, enjoying your breakfast?" asked Twilight.
"You betcha, nothing starts your day off better than a fresh muffin." Derpy said with a smile. "Say, how did you get in here? All i saw was suddenly you were landing in those folks food, you aren't learning to fly, are you?"
Twilight put a hoof to her chin, "Hmm, i don't know if flight could be achieved through magic, i'll have to look into that at some point. But to answer your question, i was trying to teleport to Berry's house but i missed the mark,"
"Wow you mean you can de-materialize and then re-materialize in a different spot! Your just like the TAR-" Derpy caught herself, "Oop, sorry he said not to talk about that." Lifting up her muffin she took another bite, underneath was a rectangular golden foil ticket identical to the two tickets Spike had produced this morning.
"You have a ticket to the Gala?" Twilight said in disbelief.
Derpy let out a disgruntled sigh, "Yeah, if that's what you want to call it. I call it a one way ticket to an evening of boredom with my mom."
"You don't like your mom?" asked Twilight.
"It's not that, but every time she brings me or Dinky along with her to a big party like this she never spends any time doing stuff we want to do, she just ends up schmoozing with the other unicorn nobles. Most of the time me and Dinky end up so bored we have our dad take us home early," said Derpy.
"Well i know how that feels," Twilight said remembering the long dull social functions with visiting dignitaries, how she wished she had known how to teleport back then. "I actually have a problem with tickets to the Gala myself. Both Cloudchaser and Lotus both want to go with me but i only have a plus one."
"Eh, i would just give you mine, but it's already signed. She should have just left them blank, it makes things so much smoother in case something comes up." complained Derpy.
"It's fine i'll figure something out, besides i was going to ask Berry what to do as well, i figure she would know what to do," said Twilight. "Speaking of, i'd better be on my way." She rose from her seat and searched for something on her person. "Oh no, i think i left my coin purse back at the library."
"Don't worry I've got this covered," Turning to the counter she barked out an order. "One chocolate chip muffin Mrs. Cake! It's hard to stay angry when you have muffin lovin' in your tummy." said Derpy, forking over the bits to pay for the replacement meal.
"Thanks Derpy! I'll see you later OK." Twilight said as she exited the bakery, walking off to Berry's home.
Twilight thought the walk to Berry's house would be simple, 'Just turn left out of Sugar Cube Corner, then right past the statue in town. No wait it was keep going strait but if you're seeing Fluttershy's cottage you've gone to far. Why is navigating this town so hard? I did it fine my first day here," Twilight thought to herself.
Twilight stopped to ask directions from one of the passers by, "Excuse me, i hate to admit it but i'm having trouble finding my friends home. Could you point me in the direction of Berry Punch's house?"
"Sorry not sure who your talking about, i know a Berry Shine but no Berry Punch," said the pony, who then walked away.
"Ugh, if only i had a map," said Twilight.
"Who needs a map, when you've got me," said another familiar voice behind her, turning around Twilight found Lyra. "How are things going Twilight? Have you got your tickets to the Gala yet?"
Twilight was not in the mood to deal with this, "Before you ask no you can not have my second ticket, i'm already having a real time trying to choose who to bring. I don't need any other choices to make this more complicated,"
Lyra tilted her head at Twilight, "What? Why would i need your tickets? I pre-purchased mine months ago, no way am i missing out on a chance to see the greatest quartet in Equestria playing live!" Twilight tried to recall the members, all but one name was escaping her, "There's Beauty Brass who plays the sousaphone so gently you could put a foal to sleep with it. On grand piano is the savant of the ivory keys, Frederick Horseshoepin."
Twilight was amazed, 'I guess when you're so in love with something like music or books you learn every detail, even the most obscure.'
"Then on cello is, um i don't really know that much about her, but she's good too." Twilight's jaw was on the floor, even outside of music circles Octavia Melody was making huge waves, how could Lyra Not know who she was. "And most important of all, the stallion who's notes i wish i could come close to. The greatest harpist to ever tread the soil of Equestria, Parish Nandermane! Ahhhhh," Lyra was pretending to be the cheering crowds for her idol, occasionally throwing out a 'We love you Parish!' or 'Play us another one!'
"Are you done?" asked Twilight, interrupting Lyra's mock fanfare.
"*Hrmph* Well i am now. Anyways i'm finally getting a chance to see them live again, it's been years since the last time so i'm really looking forward to this." said Lyra. "So you were saying your having problems with your tickets huh? How can i help?"
'I suppose i could ask her what she would do, more opinions couldn't hurt,' Twilight thought to herself. "Well the thing is, i can't decide who i should take with me to the Gala, Lotus Blossom and Cloudchaser both have really good reasons to want to go. And i'm afraid whoever i don't pick won't want to be my friend anymore," Twilight sank her head, unsure of how to proceed.
"Alright here's what you do, take a bit and flip it," said Lyra.
"What?" Twilight said in disbelief.
"If you flip a bit then it was random chance that picked whoever gets picked, that way the pony who gets left behind can't get mad." said Lyra.
"Look i don't want something this important left up to random chance, i wan't the pony who gets the ticket to be the one with the best reason to go. I just can't figure out who that is yet," said Twilight.
"Suit yourself, just try not to agonize about it, it's not good for your health." Lyra waived goodbye and was about to walk off when Twilight stopped her.
"Wait i still need help finding Berry's house!" said Twilight.
"Seriously, Twilight your standing right in front of it," Lyra pointed out. And when she looked up she was correct, there it was the two story house with no foundation.
"Heh, i guess i just forgot what it looked like." Twilight said weakly.
"Whatever, catch you latter Twilight."
"Well i hope this will be worth it after all I've had to go through to get here," Twilight said to herself, "Now that i think about it, actually hasn't been that much." Her knock on the door was quickly answered by Berry jr. in the middle of a game of tag, the little filly reached out and booped Twilight on the nose.
"TAG! your it!" said Berry Pinch, who then ran past her outside.
She was soon followed by Berry Sr. slightly out of breath after chasing down her progeny. "Hello Twilight, what brings you round today?"
"I'm having a bit of a problem and i'd love to talk with somepony with some life experience,"
"Can i offer you a drink? We've got OJ, Purple Stuff, Soda, Sunny D?" said Berry listing off the contents of her fridge.
"No thank you, i'm fine." Twilight replied. 'What the hay is "Purple Stuff"?'
"Alright then, how about we head inside and we can chat out of the heat," suggested Berry. "Berry stay inside the yard honey! Mommy will be out there in just a minuet."
"Okay mom," said Berry Pinch. Soon Twilight disappeared inside the abode with Berry.
Down the road a ways Lyra was walking along her merry way, humming a particularly stirring segment of music, when she was stopped by a group of ponies on the street. "Is it true? What that other unicorn you were talking to said, she has extra tickets to the Gala?"
"Yeah she has a spare ticket, thou she did say she was still having trouble deciding who to give it to." Lyra looked back up to find the ponies she was talking to were no longer there, in fact all the ponies around her were suddenly gone, the streets were barren. She shrugged it off, "Some ponies are just too busy these days." Lyra picked up where she left off, humming away as she strolled down the street, unaware of the growing mass of ravenous ponies flocking around Berry Punch's house and Twilight Sparkle.
Back at the library things had been going swimmingly, after talking it over calmly and collectedly, Lotus Blossom and Cloudchaser had reached an agreement. That no mater what Twilight chose they would not let it get in between their friendship, and that whomever got left behind would go in the other's place next year. A fair compromise, agreeable to the both of them. Now they only had to go over it with Twilight, if only she would get out of the bathroom.
"Spike does this happen often? I don't mean to pry but does Twilight have-" Lotus searched for how to phrase this politely, "-issues down there?"
"Not that i'm aware of, oh no what if i under cooked cooked something and i gave her food poisoning!" Spike worried.
"Don't trouble yourself Spike i'm sure if she were sick we'd be hearing all the gory details. But, she has been their an awfully long time," said Cloudchaser. "I don't suppose you have a key to the bathroom do you?"
"Sorry, we haven't been to the locksmith's yet to make duplicates. I think will have to break the door down," said Spike.
"That sounds excessive, i do not think Twilight would appreciate removing the doors from their proper places," said Lotus.
Cloudchaser moved over to the door and put an ear to it, she could not hear any sounds indicating her presence inside, only the sound of water flowing from the faucet. "I'm sure she'll understand, give me a hoof with this Lotus!" The two ponies lined up in front of the door, and prepared to kick in unison. "One, Two, Three!" The shouted, on three the two struck the door with their hind legs, making a large crack running up the center of the door, water began leaking out from the top.
From beyond their sight a magenta flash of light filled the submerged bathroom and it once again had an occupant, an occupant who was most definitely not capable of breathing under water. "Oh my gosh! We have to get this door off NOW!" said Cloudchaser, Lotus nodding in agreement began balancing on her forelegs and repeatedly struck the door. Cloudchaser was taking flying dives at the door, slamming into it with her full weight. The oak frame splintered and cracked until it caved in completely, letting all the pressurized contents burst out.
Inside the bathroom they found Twilight limp on the floor, coughing up water with each shallow breath. "Twilight!" Shouted the little dragon, his voice cracking in fear.
Rising on her own Twilight looked up, "I'm fine Spike *Cough* really i am." She crawled out of the knee deep pool of water and through the hole in the bathroom door. "I certainly wasn't expecting this when i came back. Spike remind me that we need to hire contractors to install a drain in here, this is simply unsafe."
"Is that all you have to say for yourself?!" Cloudchaser berated Twilight, getting genuinely mad.
"You could have killed yourself! Were you thinking at all!?" said Lotus sharing Cloudchaser's sentiment.
"I'm, sorry. I guess i wasn't thinking, i felt like i couldn't handle this on my own so i had to go talk with Berry. I'm really sorry i put you through so much girls. But on the upside Berry did give me some really good advise, wanna here what she told me?" Said Twilight.
Spike, Cloudchaser and Lotus all had the same reaction, "WHAT!?"
The Ticket Master: Twenty years of special effects experience
In the library Lotus, Cloudchaser and Spike gathered around the soaking wet Twilight. "What about what?" Twilight asked her companions, responding to their nonspecific inquiry.
"Well for starters, How did you talk with Berry?!" asked Cloudchaser.
The gears began turning in Twilight's head, "Oh right i never told you, I can teleport," she said mater of factually.
"You can move in the space between spaces?" asked Lotus, whose eyes were going wide.
"I, suppose you could put it that way," said Twilight. "Anyways, i left shortly after i went into the bathroom, i had no idea that it would be flooded like that by the time i returned."
"But why did you need to leave in the first place?" Spike said, still calming himself from the incident.
"Maybe it would be better if i just explained what happened after i left," Twilight began recounting her steps after leaving her domicile, the bakery and crossing Lyra's path on the street, and arriving at Berry's home. "We took our seats inside and started talking,"
"What's the matter Twilight? You seem down, care to lay your worries on me" said Berry, sipping from a snifter of muddy brown liquid.
Twilight squirmed in her chair, she seemed to be sinking into the plush. "Well, i just got my tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala-"
"Oh you got tickets as well, that's good." Berry said from inside her glass.
"Yes it is good, or not good. Sorry i'm not making sense am i?" asked Twilight, Berry responded with a wave, beckoning 'go on' "Well the problem is i only have one extra ticket and two friends who want to go to the Gala.
"I take it, they both have good reason to go? They have plans already worked out?" Berry inquired.
"Yes, Lotus Blossom wants to live the high life for once, from the way she was talking that first day we met it sounds like she doesn't get much time for relaxation at all. And Cloudchaser wants to see the telescope that Star Swirl the bearded created that's housed in the Canterlot observatory. I've gotten to see it quite allot during my stay at the castle, it truly is a sight to behold." Twilight was starting to work herself up. "That's why i'm having such a hard time choosing."
The air in the room became stagnant, the only sounds were those of the grandfather clock ticking away as Berry contemplated her response. "I've heard about what they want to do, what i haven't heard is what you are planning on doing."
"How do you mean?" asked Twilight.
"What i mean is, what are you going to the Gala for? Are you going to meet the furry animals? Find your prince charming? Sell merchandise? Show off to the sports teams? Have a party! What is Twilight Sparkle going to the Gala for?" Berry said, leveling her gaze at Twilight.
"Well why are you going to the Gala?" said Twilight.
"I am going to sample the vintages kept in the castle, only open to the public during the Gala. You are evading the question," Berry responded snappily.
Twilight cursed to herself, "I- i don't know alright. I've been so wrapped up in what everyone else is doing i haven't thought about it at all."
"No need to get upset, i'm simply pointing out something important. The Gala is a big event, for some it's the kind of day ponies have been dreaming about their whole lives. It almost seems like a waste to go in without a plan." As Berry said this something clicked inside Twilight's head. "But the Gala isn't for several months so you have plenty of time to-"
The conversation was interrupted by a loud commotion from outside, a peek outside the windows showed the source. A multitude of ponies were circling the Berry house, it seemed almost every resident of Ponyville was here. A low murmur was echoing through the crowd, when one of them caught sight of Twilight through the window the murmur became an outcry. "There she is! The mare with tickets!" Almost immediately the crowd that had been holding a respectful distance to the house was scraping at the door, some even trying unsuccessfully to scale the walls and enter from above.
From her swing set in the yard Berry Pinch looked at the frenzy on her doorstep, "Huh, i feel bad for the ponies who'll get through." She went back to swinging, trying to get higher and higher to get a real good view of the show about to start.
"Get back Twilight! These ponies have gone mad," Berry said pushing her friend back to the wall. "First we need a distraction, then you must get out of here. These doors aren't solid enough to hold them back for long." Rushing into her kitchen she rummaged around for the needed substance, she returned with an industrial size container of coffee creamer.
"What are you going to do with that?" asked Twilight.
"This my dear, is going to make a mostly harmless but very impressive fireball. While their distracted by the fire you'll sneak out the back," She began prepping the incendiary, strapping a simple firecracker and a road flare to the outside of the container. With a match she lit the flare and the fuse, quickly she opened the door and chucked the makeshift distraction as far as she could.
Somewhere in the air about ten or so feet behind the crowd the firecracker went off, rupturing the container and suspending it's contents in midair. The flare did it's job and soon the cloud of beige powder caught aflame, true to her word the fire was very impressive, especially to the small town folk unaccustomed to the wonderful world of pyrotechnics.
"Sweet Celestia! What is that?!" Shouted one of the members of the mob.
"NOW Twilight! Run home and don't stop!" Berry commanded, bracing herself against the door.
Twilight complied, slipping away unnoticed out the back door, she could hear the crowd had accepted the fact that a ball of fire had spontaneously appeared and now were content to return to their assault on Berry's home. "I hope she'll be alright," Twilight said, her worry soon answered by sounds of a scuffle inside the home.
"If you want to get to her you're going through me first!" Twilight could hear berry say, soon followed by sounds of brawling.
"This is such a weird town," Twilight commented to herself.
After a short gaunt she found herself once again outside her home. She was about to turn the knob and re enter when she saw Cloudchaser and Lotus were still standing in the doorway. "Oh, i don't wan't them to think i was leaving to get away from them. I know i'll just teleport back into the bathroom,"
Focusing her mind once more on the bathroom, she used her power again. 'At least nothing can distract me this time.' she thought to herself. in a flash of light Twilight was no longer outside the library, but she wasn't sure of where she was either. It was dark, icy cold and most of all underwater. Panic set in petty quickly, to a novice teleportation draws heavily on your magic reserves, making frequent usage all but impossible. Worse yet Twilight had no idea where she was, she could have landed in some underground grotto for all she knew.
She could hear some sounds reverberating though the water but they were very distorted. Soon came a thud, and another thud, she could feel the water around her begin to move, a few seconds past and an even larger thud was followed by light pouring through a crack that had formed. Soon the crack caved inwards sending splinters of what she could now recognized as parts of her door. Most of the water in the room poured out and down the steps, pooling in the basement.
"And that's when you guys rescued me, thanks for that by the way." Twilight said, ending her recount of the days proceedings.
"Wow, that must have been terrible, being mobbed and then getting locked in the bathroom," said Cloudchaser.
"You should have just let us know you needed time to think it over, neither of us mind," said Lotus.
"I know that now, but i have made a decision. Berry's advise was really helpful, since i don't have any plans it would be a waste for me to go and one of you to be left behind. Because of that i have decided that i'm going to give my ticket to one of you, that way the two of you can go and fulfill your dreams." Twilight said, beaming with pride at her selfless choice.
Her friends looked at her, confused by her decision, " Why would you want to give up a chance like that?"
"Oh i'm sure there will be other opportunities to go, plus i'd much rather make my friends happy than be selfish." said Twilight.
Lotus was still doubtful, "I still would like to be going with you, but if this is your decision then it is not my choice."
"Spike take a letter to the princess please," her assistant obliged, rummaging around for a quill and ink, he then stood at the ready. "Dear Princess Celestia, while i am most grateful for your invitation i am afraid that i will be unable to attend. In my stead i will be sending two of my friends who were not lucky enough to obtain tickets of their own. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle."
The letter was sent, no turning back now. "You have guts, not much common sense but you have guts." said Cloudchaser about her friend.
Only a few minuets after the letter was sent a reply came, this letter was different than the form letter that arrived this morning. This one was embossed with Celestia's personal seal, and written in her own cursive style. "Spike may i have that please?" asked Twilight.
Twilight read aloud, "Twilight if you needed more tickets you should have just said so. That invite was just a generic letter that goes out to everyone. I'd hate to miss out on a chance to spend an evening with my favorite student. I'm enclosing more tickets to the Gala, don't hesitate to tell me if you need more." She opened the envelope further and found two more gilded tickets and a note, 'for you and Spike'.
"That was certainly generous," said Lotus. "Even an open invitation for more tickets."
"I'll say, i wasn't even thinking about going at all," Spike said, an idea popped into his head. "Hey you know what this means don't you? Everypony is going to the Gala,"
"You're right, maybe we could all travel together, aw this is gonna be great!" said Cloudchaser who did a little loop in the air to express her excitement.
"I agree, perhaps we should gather everyone here tomorrow and make the arrangements?" Lotus suggested.
"Sounds good, i'll see you all tomorrow then." said Twilight. They all broke from formation, Cloudchaser heading off to her day job, Lotus and Spike off to the spa and the huge rush ahead of them. Twilight was left alone, she decided to finish the re shelving she had started this morning. A way to spend the new found nervous energy.
Late in the afternoon the next day all seven friends were gathered in the library, "So i'm guessing you got your ticket issues taken care of Twilight," asked Lyra.
"Yes i did, things turned out so much better than i could have hoped for, now everyone has a ticket." said Twilight.
"That is good news. It would be a shame to miss out on the fun, isn't that right Derpy?" Berry said, she was sporting a fresh black eye from the altercation at her home yesterday.
"I guess so, but it doesn't change the fact that i'm gonna get stuck bored out of my mind," said Derpy.
"You know, if you wanted to, were all at the party together. You could always come and hang out with one of us," said Lyra.
Derpy's eyes lit up, "Hey that's not a bad idea, i can't get bored if i'm spending time with my best friends. Now i can't wait to go,"
"Come on everypony let's go have dinner to celebrate!" said Twilight, soon all of them filed out of the library giddily discussing with each other their plans.
"That is going to be the best night ever!" the six ponies said to themselves.
Yesterday the small burb of Ponyville came mere inches from devastation. Towns folk milling about in downtown yesterday already know about the stampede of the cattle herd. What many may not know about, is the unsung hero who averted the disaster. Local farmer Applejack, current owner of Sweet Apple Acres was quick to intercede on the situation.
With the assistance of her pet dog she managed to change the course of the herd, saving Ponyville and it's residents. Here's what some eyewitness had to say about the whole ordeal.
"It was so terrifying, i even took my doormat inside!" Golden Harvest.
"This was the best rodeo show I've ever seen!" Pinkie Pie.
"These filthy cows should not be allowed to run around like that." Name withheld.
As of yet the cause of the stampede is unknown, unconfirmed reports are circulating that the rush began when a serpent was spotted in the grazing fields. Local police are looking to bring in said snake for questioning and possible charges of inciting a riot.
On a positive note Mayor Mare has announced a celebration in behalf of Applejack's bravery and constant helpful acts for the benefit of Ponyville and it's residents. The celebration is planned to take place one week from today, an award will be presented by Princess Celestia's student, Twilight Sparkle. All are encouraged to attend and to share experiences of how Applejack has helped you.
The weather factory in Cloudsdale has issued the following schedule for weather patterns for the next week-
Twilight finished skimming over the forecast and folded up the newsprint, setting the paper down she looked across the dining table at her assistant Spike. He was gnawing away at his breakfast, "So does the paper say anything interesting?" asked Spike.
"No, nothing you couldn't learn from just being there. Pretty bare bones reporting if you ask me," said Twilight.
"So what are you planning on saying at the awards ceremony?" asked Spike.
She fished out the index cards she had been jotting down speech notes on. The stack was hefty, around two dozen cards full of praise and inspirational filler. "I'm still working on it, i wan't to make sure i get all the essentials in there."
"Are you sure you got enough Twilight?" Spike said in a sardonic manner.
"Thanks for the reminder, i need to stop by the stationary store and get more cards." Twilight began stacking the cards in a pyramid. "You know the first day we got here i thought Applejack was just some yokel with a penchant for farming similes. But I've been talking with ponies around town to do research, it sounds like she's actually pretty well liked. From what I've been told her family has been the backbone of Ponyville since before it even existed."
"That's impressive," said Spike, who then returned to gnawing at the dull gemstone.
The week passed by without event, all was quite in town. Strangely enough the toast of the town and the reason for the celebration, Applejack was nowhere to be found. Twilight had heard second hoof from her friends that Applejack was hard at work, bucking apple trees but evidently was still willing to offer her help.
"She's going to help me practice for my routine for the 'Best young flyers' competition." said Derpy.
"Applejack was kind enough to lend her knowledge about PH and chemicals for the hot tub." said Lotus
"She's lending me equipment for homebrewing cider." said Berry.
The day came around, once again Ponyville's residents gathered in the square. The town hall was neatly decorated with amber sashes and over sized blue prize ribbons, above the podium was a huge banner with hoof painted apples. Twilight took her place on stage, "Welcome everypony! Today we are glad to honor one of Ponyvilles' finest. A pony whose contributions to-" As Twilight prattled on, one of the ponies from the audience was trying to sneak onstage, she was promptly stopped by security.
"Aw come on i was just going to talk about how Applejack is helping me perfect my new routine to get into the Wonder Bolts," said the cyan Pegasus.
"Sorry kid, the only ponies allowed onstage are Twilight Sparkle, Mayor Mare and Applejack," said the stern security official. The fangirl sulked off back into the crowds.
"- we can all strive to be a bit more like Applejack, each willing to be honest with each other-" Twilight's speech was getting a response from the crowd, some were nodding their heads in agreement, taking to heart the council.
Backstage again the guard stopped a hyperactive pink pony from trying to steal the mike, "Whoa whoa, hold your horses sister. I'm afraid you can't be up there," said the guard.
"Are you sure? Cause i'm already onstage," the guard looked around confused, the pony who had been in front of him was no longer there. A fast one-eighty spin and he found the pony was indeed on stage, just out of sight.
"How did you?" the guard asked confusedly.
"It's alright i just wanted to announce that i'm running Sugar Cube Corner with Applejack's help and were giving away free samples!" said the pink pony.
'Hmm free baked goods?' He thought to himself. "Look how about i give them a note to announce that for you? Would that be alright?" asked the guard.
"Not just alright, that'll be Super Duper!" the pink pony bounced happily off stage and back into the crowd.
"-for it was not on brick and mortar that Ponyville was built, but the hard work and determination of the Apple family-" Some of the crowd were starting to loose interest, not helped by the unnecessary detail the speech was going into.
Backstage once more, a meek yellow Pegasus was inching her way to the ramp. The guard eyeing her all the way, "um hello, i was wondering if it would be alright if i got on stage to let everyone know that Applejack is helping me with the bunny census? you know if that's ok," The guard said nothing, only staring her down behind his tinted sunglasses. "um i guess it's not that important," the yellow Pegasus shrunk back, and hid herself away in the back of the crowd.
"Crime and punishment, Punishment and crime, In the Hall!" At this point the whole audience was either falling asleep or impatiently crossing their hind legs desperately praying that this tirade would end and the bathrooms would be open. Thankfully Mayor Mare stepped in to spare the assembly.
"Thankyou, Miss Sparkle, truly a, speech we will carry with us. And now without further procrastination here she is the pony of the hour-" A voice from the crowd jeered, "More like four hours!" the disparaging remark got a rise out of the crowd, some laughed, some glared angrily at him for prolonging the event even farther.
"-Applejack!" the crowd roared with applause, but nopony took the stage.
"Has anypony seen Applejack?" Twilight asked the crowd.
"Ahm commin'," said a voice from the mass. An orange earth pony saddled up with baskets full of apples emerged, all the way to the stage she could barely hold herself up, knocking into the other attendees. Rather than take the steps up Applejack tried climbing up the stage, she fumbled as she tried lifting her legs up. At one point the security guard tried helping her, she swatted his hoof away, "Ah can do this myself, thankya kindly!"
Finally she made her way to the podium to accept her trophy, a large gold cup with a placard reading 'For outstanding achievement in achievement'. "I wanted to thank yall for giving me this here dohicky. It sure is awful shiny, hehe, real shinny. Say howd' yall get a tiny me in there anyhow?" Applejack said eyeing her reflection in the surface of the trophy. "Hehe, woo woo woo" she was moving the trophy closer and father away watching in bemusement as her reflection danced.
"Anyways i got apples to get back to," Applejack said. Dragging the trophy behind her she made her way to the stages end, and promptly fell off and planted firmly on her face. "Ahm okay."
As Applejack left the crowd fell into an awkward silence, the whole reason for the celebration had just departed. Mayor Mare spoke up once more, "Let's see, we still have plenty of refreshments." This seemed to break the ice, some went off and began gorging themselves, the rest made a mad dash for the porta-johns.
Twilight decided to talk about the ordeal that just occurred with her friends, she managed to find Berry and Lyra near the food table. "Can you believe what just happened?"
"What you mean Applejack acting all loopy?" responded Lyra.
"Yes that, she was about to fall over on stage, and then she did. And i wasn't going to say anything up there but i'm sure i smelt cider on her breath," Twilight said with indignation.
"So what? Applejack's a hard working girl. Besides I've been known to knock back a cold one every once in a while." said Berry
"Do you usually 'knock back a cold one' before going on stage in front of the whole town? The entire town and the pony who spent an entire week writing a speech to honor you?" asked Twilight.
Berry thought on it, "Can't really say, haven't had that honor yet." She chuckled.
"Well i think it's disgraceful," said Twilight, tilting up her nose in a 'Canterlot' fashion.
"Oh, lighten up Twilight. Don't be such a prude, anyway nopony got hurt, except maybe her pride once she sobers up," Berry said in jest.
Lyra who was remaining silent during the conversation was thinking hard, the thought showed on her brow and her face, all scrunched up. Twilight took notice and decided to ask what's the matter.
"Hmm, oh nothing. Hey girls it's been fun but I've got some stuff i need to take care of, i'll catch you latter." Lyra left the table and began trotting off, searching for where Applejack had went. 'Something definitely is not right, and i'm going to get to the bottom of this.'
Apple Bucking Season: Sleepwalking through your part
Applejack wasn't hard to follow, all Lyra had to do was look for the bumped into gates and knocked over fences. She would be making some remark about Applejack being a silly pony if not for her concern. From the way she was acting on stage it was clear something was not right. Lyra followed the trail of minor property damage all the way back to Sweet Apple Acres, there she found Applejack hard at work, emptying the trees of their fruit. The trophy she had accepted lay strewn about on the field, almost like she forgot about it entirely.
Lyra decided to speak up, "Hello Applejack," she said in a chipper voice. "It was good to see you out today, haven't seen you around town lately."
Applejack continued bucking the trees, "Yeah, I've been *Thud* pretty busy." With a swift kick the tree yielded it's fruit, all of it falling neatly into the large baskets placed bellow.
"Wow you make that look easy! Still it must take allot of time to work the whole orchard, where's your brother at?" Lyra pried.
"I aint' needing no ponies help, ah can get this all done myself." Applejack said in a huff.
"I never say you couldn't, i was just curios about Big Macintosh. It seems like i see even less of him around town than you." said Lyra.
This seemed to put Applejack at ease, "Big Mac's fine, just restin' up after his back surgery. Poor guy might be strong as an ox, but he doesn't know his own limits sometimes," Applejack wiped the sweat from her brow.
"Do you know your limits?" asked Lyra.
The calm was gone again, "Of course i know my own gall darn limits, i set them myself!" She bucked the tree next to her so hard every apple on it fell at once. "See ahm perfectly fine."
Not wanting to push the matter any farther Lyra decided to change the subject, "So is it alright if i go see Big Macintosh, or is he too unwell?"
"You can go talk to him if you like, b'sides some company would do him good, he should be resting in the farmhouse. I've got to go, ahm helping Ditzy Doo with her flying practice or somthin'." Applejack said as she wiped the dirt from her hooves.
'Ditzy Doo? Not sure if i know any ponies by that name.' Lyra bid her a good day and started walking to the Apple Family homestead. It was a nice red wood home with bright wight trim boards. In all the windows were flower boxes with colorful tulips and other assorted flowers. Not too far from the door were the hen houses and the apiary, there was also an old stone well from years past, long before indoor plumbing came to Ponyville.
She knocked on the half door and called out, "Hello? Big Macintosh you in there?"
A strained "Yep" replied from inside the house.
"Mind if i come inside? It's Lyra Heartstrings,"
An equally strained "Nope" left the threshold.
Lyra opened the door and found Big Macintosh sprawled out on their old floral print couch. His entire midsection was wrapped in plain white bandages. The yoke he often wore even when not working the fields was laying beside him on the floor. "Hi-ya Big Macintosh, i just heard from Applejack you hurt your back, thought i should come in and see how your doing."
The stallion made motions to the dining table where a large pitcher of water rested. "Your thirsty?" asked Lyra.
He nodded yes, "Yep"
Lyra complied and pored him a tall glass of the cool liquid, she levitated the glass over to him and he greedily drank it down. "You feel any better?"
"Ahh, Yep" Big Macintosh said with satisfaction.
"So how did you hurt your back, i hope it wasn't too serious," Lyra said beginning the conversation.
"I lifted a cart wrong and gave myself a hernia, doctors said i'll be out of commission for a few weeks." Big Macintosh said in his deep tone of voice, straying from his trademark ye or neigh answers.
"Ouch that musta hurt, especially right before harvest," Lyra said while rubbing her own back in sympathy.
"Yep," Big Macintosh said twirling the wheat stock in his mouth.
"So, you're stuck in here and Applejack is left with the whole orchard to harvest?" Lyra asked.
"Yep," said Big Macintosh.
"And she's been working herself to exhaustion everyday for a whole week now?" Lyra asked.
"Yep," said Big Macintosh.
"Do you think she'd let me help if i offered?" Lyra asked.
"Nope," Big Macintosh said flatly.
Lyra thought about what to do, "Pride does come before a fall, right?"
"Yep," said Big Macintosh.
"I think i'm going to keep an eye on her for a while, at least until she breaks down and lets other ponies help out." Lyra concluded.
"Yep." Big Macintosh said signaling the end of his half of the conversation.
It took around a half hour of searching but Lyra finally tracked Applejack down. She was standing in a clearing not far from town, in it were large pillars constructed from dense clouds. Derpy sat on top of one of the pillars and was giving instruction to Applejack. "Okay so since i'm not the most graceful flyer i was thinking of some other way to impress the judges. And then i hit me, anything looks a hundred percent more impressive blindfolded!" Derpy said, producing a blindfold for her use.
"What i need you to do is spot for me, let me know when i'm getting too close to the pillars and that sort of stuff. You got that AJ?" Applejack was somewhat unresponsive, staring off into the middle distance. "Applejack? Applejack? HEY APPLEJACK!"
She snapped to attention, "I heard ya'll,"
"Good, i'm putting on the blindfold so i'm counting on you," Derpy began her routine of blindly weaving between the cloud structures. For a split second it seemed like she was going to make it, but she plowed face first into the last column. Removing the blindfold she looked down to find Applejack head darting arround wildly as if she were still watching the practice.
"Applejack-" Derpy said with disappointment. "-You were supposed to tell me when i got too close."
"Sorry! It's hard to keep track when there's three of ya flying about." Applejack's eyes were just as crossed as Derpy's normally were from trying to track the movement of two nonexistent pegasi.
"Oh wow, our eyes match! We must be sisters or something," Derpy said coyly.
Applejack shook her head getting her eyeballs back looking strait ahead. "Yeah sisters, anyway it's been fun Bright Eyes but ahve got to go help them spa folk with their pea hays or somthin." She walked away leaving Derpy stuck in the clouds.
"Applejack? I still need help, Applejack?" But she was already out of earshot. Lyra emerged from her hiding place in the bushes to help her friend. "Hi Lyra! Were you in there the whole time? Cause if so that's kinda creepy."
Using her magic she tugged on Derpy's legs, "Applejack hasn't slept in days, i'm trying make sure she doesn't get hurt. Or worse yet hurt other ponies." With a poomf the pillar fell apart and Derpy was freed.
She landed with a thud, "Is that why she's been acting loopy and not able remember my name?" Derpy asked.
"Eh, maybe she thinks your name's offensive or something," said Lyra.
Derpy replied by sticking her tongue out at Lyra. "Meh, that's just stupid. Mom and dad named me Derpy cause they loved me, and you don't see ponies calling Dinky's name offensive."
"I'd better go catch her before she over chlorinates the hot tub or worse. Good luck with your routine, I look forward to seeing the finished product." said Lyra.
"You'd probably have a hard time doing that, seeing as the contest is in Cloudsdale," said Derpy.
"I'll figure something out," Lyra waived goodbye and galloped off to the day spa in pursuit of Applejack.
At the spa the harm was already being done, Applejack was busy handling the noxious pool chemicals, dumping in the container of chlorine. Lotus was standing beside her, "I am most gracious for your assistance, money is a bit short now." She eyed the bottle with suspicion, " I don't mean to nag but, we were already getting complaints about our tub giving patrons rashes and irritations. Do we not need to reduce the PH?"
Applejack scoffed, "Whose the expert here?"
Lotus was going to say "Not you" but bit her lip instead.
With a final glug the bottle was empty, "Hmm i don't think that's enough, where are the tablets?" asked Applejack.
Lotus resigned herself and pointed to the room holding the water heaters and chemicals. Applejack went inside and a loud crash could be heard, "Found em'!"
She returned with packages of chlorine and bromine tablets, as well as a bottle of high strength detergent and some other unidentifiable foul smelling substance. "This should about cover it."
"I-i-i i do not think this is right, perhaps we should test the scale before adjusting it further, yes?" Lotus panicky asked.
"Pushaw, you wan't to make it nice and clean before people take a swim dontcha?" Applejack said in a slurred voice. In one motion she dumped the mess of chemicals into the small hot tub, the water became cloudy and white. "Well mah work here is done."
The air in the pool room was acrid and burned the lungs, Lyra couldn't handle it any longer and emerged from the basket of towels she had been hiding in. "GAH! Open a window i can't breath!"
Lotus jumped back in surprise, almost falling into the nasty sludge water. "Were you watching us the whole time?"
"First open a window!" Lyra said wrapping a towel over her mouth and nose. Lotus complied and opened one of the small windows, getting the air moving. "Thank you! I could barely breath in here, and it was starting to sting my eyes."
"May i ask why you were living in my laundry hamper?" said Lotus.
"I'm here to watch over Applejack, you wouldn't think so but it's quickly becoming apparent she needs somepony to watch over her." Lyra stuck her head out the window and gulped in several deep breaths of clean Ponyville air. "What i wan't to know is why you brought her here to do this in the first place? This crud is dangerous."
Lotus tried thinking up an excuse, "Well it costs money to bring out the experts and money is tight lately." She bent down and picked up one of the PH tester strips, "Besides i'm sure it's fine as it is, see?" She dunked the strip in the murky water, when she brought it back up it had begun dissolving. "Oh, that isn't supposed to happen," Lotus flicked the strip away before the corrosive materials touched her.
"Lotus stop being cheap and call in the professionals, and while your at it call hazardous waste disposal and get them to drain this pool. I've got to follow Applejack before she causes anything worse." Lyra left Lotus in the foul smelling room in search of Applejack once more.
In Berry Punch's house an assortment of pipes, barrels and other odds and ends filled the spare room. Applejack was assembling a still for brewing cider. "It was nice of you to offer your help Applejack, i was kind of surprised you did considering the apple family is the sole provider of cider to Ponyville."
"Aw shucks it twernt nothin'" said Applejack, Berry was unsure if it was her natural drawl or Applejack tasting the cider making her speech like that. "We've had these pipes sittin' round the farm for ages. I'm sure Granny Smith well be pleased as punch to have em gone."
"Hmm never heard that one before." Berry said in reference to the lame pun.
"Let's see, hook up this one to clean water and this un's yur spout." After several minuets of jigery pokery, the still was assembled. Berry thanked Applejack and she went on her way, shortly after a knock on the door. She answered and found Lyra out of breath, apparently she had ran all the way here.
"Apple*huff*Jack, show me*huff* what she did," Lyra wheezed out. Berry led her to the side room with the completed cider still. "Huh, it looks fine, i would have thought it would be catching on fire or something like that."
"Oh yes it looks fine-" Berry said while grabbing a neatly stashed sledge hammer, "-Too bad those are lead pipes!" She swung the mallet and ripped the soft pipes from the still. "I bet that girl thought she pulled the wool over my eyes, a bit of lead poisoning to take out the competition. To bad for her, this isn't the first time somepony's tried something stupid like that, probably wont be the last time either. But i guarantee it will be her last," Berry swung the hammer menacingly.
Lyra looked a bit shocked, was Berry threatening harm to another pony in front of her? "N-not to contradict you but i think it might have just been an honest mistake. Applejack has been overworking herself and not getting any sleep for a week. Don't you think a pony in her condition could mistake lead pipes for the right kind?" In her head Lyra was screaming 'OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OF PLEASE OH PLEASE!'
"Hmm i suppose i could believe that," Berry said with a shrug. "Wait you said she hasn't slept in a week? How is she even standing? I pulled more than my fair share of all nighters back in my hay day but i could never stay awake that long."
"Exactly, she should be at home sleeping. Instead whenever she's not trying to harvest the entirety of Sweet Apple Acres by herself she off doing inane tasks for everypony. I've been trying to keep an eye on her all day," said Lyra.
"Well that's noble of you but, you know she isn't your responsibility. Applejack is a grown adult, it's her problem if she doesn't know when to ask for help." said Berry.
"*Hrm* You may be right, but i'm not going to turn my back on a pony who i know is in trouble. I'll see you latter alright Berry, and sorry about your brewing idea not working out." Lyra said her goodbye and tried following Applejack's trail of mishaps once more.
The cycle continued for several days, Applejack would spend the day and night harvesting the orchard with a short diversion to "Assist" somepony with an insignificant problem. She was too proud and giving of herself to refuse. At each turn Lyra would be their to help clean up and apologize on her behalf.
Eventually though, even Lyra had to take several breaks if she didn't want to end up as bad off as Applejack was. During one such break quite allot happened, Lyra read all about when she woke up the next morning.
The Ponyville Gazette
Hero to zero, just like that
It brings great sadness to the heart of this reporter to bring this news to you the public. But lo it is my duty, to say the truth, our fair town's one time hero Applejack has descended down the course of villainy. Recent incidents of her skulduggery include mass food poisoning of half the population, turning law abiding citizens into projectiles aimed at our local library (No doubt due to her hatred of the printed word.) and worst yet she even created a stampede more dangerous than the one we experienced last week.
This reporter is left wondering if perhaps this dastardly apple horse didn't manufacture the cattle stampede as well. Currently Applejack's whereabouts are unknown but a warrant for her arrest has been issued. If you see Applejack or have any clues to where this villain is hiding please report it to the police immediately.
Snake files suit against police force for discriminating policies
The snake arrested in Lew of last week's incident, a mister "In the Grass" is filing a lawsuit against Ponyville's local PD with the assistance of the Reptilian anti defamation league. The organization's founder and only member Fluttershy had this to say on the matter, "This behavior is unacceptable! My client is innocent of any crime, this is just another example of speciesism from the police. If Mr. In the Grass were a rabbit or mouse we wouldn't be having this discussion right now would we?"
The hearing for this counter suit is scheduled for-.
Lyra reread the front page again and again, since the words were static and didn't change she frustratedly threw the paper across the tiny apartment. "Dam it all, Dam it all Applejack! You couldn't have just broken down already, look where your stupid pride has gotten you now." Lyra was unsure what was going to happen, even more unsure if she could help Applejack anymore. Still she had promised herself that she wouldn't give up.
At a high gallop she sped away to Sweet Apple Acres, careful to avoid the black and white patty wagons outside the orchard, waiting to take Applejack away. As she searched the orchard she found tree after tree bare. It seemed the whole 'gall darn' orchard was finished, at least until Lyra rounded the hill and saw the west orchard. That's where she found her, Applejack was too weak even to stand but was still trying to hit the trees with what might she had left.
Rushing over Lyra stooped down to Applejack helping her up, her green eyes rolled around in her head like she lost all control of them. Her mane and tail were full of sticks and mud, even the hat she was so fond of was getting crumpled from getting smooshed several times. Lyra wasn't afraid to say it, "Applejack you look like a total wreck."
Applejack's words in response were garbled and unintelligible, something to the like of, "Ah don't need help."
"Yes you do, just look at yourself girl. You look like your going to pass out, why won't you just stop already?" Lyra pleaded.
"Ah can't stop, not till this is done, not till it's done." Applejack said, slurring the syllables.
"Applejack you've gotten in allot of trouble you know? Half of Ponyville got sick from something you did. Your being selfish you know?" Lyra said in a way like you would talk to a naughty foal.
"I did what?" Applejack was loosing control of her muscles now, her neck rolled around freely.
"If you had just asked for help then nopony would have gotten sick and you would be done already. But you wanted to say you did it all by yourself." said Lyra, the land underneath her feet started giving way and the sky turned a vile shade of red.
"I didn't mean to hurt nopony!" said the weakened Applejack, she started weeping.
"And look at what you've accomplished, over a week and you haven't even finished one lousy orchard! Have you even thought about what's going to happen to your family now? How will you pay for Big Mac's surgery? You can't that's how! your going to lose the farm, Apple Bloom will get taken away! Granny Smith will have to go to the dirty old pony's home! And it's all your fault!" Lyra's kind voice was no longer there, instead it was hateful and wretched. Even her visage was reflecting the spiteful words.
By now Applejack was bawling her eyes out. "No i didn't mean it!"
Lyra started shaking her and the foreboding red sky went away. "Applejack! Snap out of it!"
"Huhbwahuh?" said Applejack.
"What the hay Applejack i just said you weren't looking good then you got all quite on me, then you started crying. Look i know you don't wan't any help, but i'm not going to let you stop me. You're putting you're health at great risk, going on like you are." Lyra said with determination.
"Please help," Applejack said in a whisper.
"I don't care if you don't want it i'm getting my friends and were picking all these fruits for you," said Lyra, who missed Applejack's surrender.
"Ah said! ... please help."
"Oh, good i'm glad you've seen reason. Now all that's left is for you to take it easy. Well that and deal with the angry mob of ponies that's coming for your hide, oh look here they are now!" Lyra pointed to the horde of ponies some with sickly green faces. "Applejack i need you to fake pass out, maybe with a bit of theatrics on my mark, can you handle that?"
"That won't be too hard," Applejack replied.
Lyra was shocked to find Twilight emerge from the group and take her place as the leader. "Hi Twilight, mind if i ask what your doing here? Didn't think lynch mobs were your style."
"This is no lynching, this is justice being served. Applejack has proved to be a danger to all of Ponyville, it is the duty of all it's citizens to see that justice is served." Twilight said in an authoritarian tone.
"Your still sore about the speech you gave, aren't you?" Lyra suggested.
"Yes but that is besides the point," Twilight looked at Applejack who looked back with her bloodshot eyes. "Officer would you please read her rights?" A stout police pony wielding two pairs of cuffs began reading Applejack her rights.
Lyra decided now was the time to step in, "So this is how you repay the most giving pony in Ponyville? Have her locked up in her time of need. When she needed somepony to lean on, all of you lent your problems on her!" She sent accusing glares at each one in the crowd. "She's been working herself to the bone, trying to harvest an orchard that normally takes several ponies weeks. And any spare moment, any shred of time she could have been sleeping she was out helping all of you!"
Her words were like daggers, especially to Twilight who up until this point had no idea of what was truly going on. "Oh goodness, how is she even still standing?!"
"So go on, show her that good old Ponyville hospitality. Cart her off to jail, i hope your happy." Lyra said, putting a layer of disgust in her voice.
As the crowd of ponies still getting over their food poisoning looked on, Lyra gave her signal, a very obvious wink at Applejack. The delirious work horse spoke up. "Excuse me everypony, i have something to say. It's better to burn out than to fade away!" Her voice lilted and she collapsed where she stood, the whole scene played out beautifully. Any remnants of the mob mentality vanished and was replaced with concern and shame over their selfishness.
'Hmm a bit overly dramatic but it seemed to have the desired affect, good going Applejack,' Lyra thought to herself. To help solidify the rouse she ran to Applejack's side. "Applejack Speak to me!" Lyra said in an equally dramatic tone.
But she didn't speak, actually she was hardly breathing. "Applejack! Wake the b*#@ up!" She shouted while shaking her.
"Lyra stop moving her spine! Somepony call the hospital we need an ambulance now!" Twilight said taking control once more.
In a matter of minuets a tall boxy ambulance managed to squeeze it's way through the fields, the paramedic ponies took Applejack away, hooking her up to vitality meters. From the brief glimpse she saw before the doors closed, it didn't look good.
"I hope she makes it," said Twilight.
Twilight and Lyra collected Applejack's brother, little sister and grandmother and headed off to Ponyville's hospital. After a talk with the urgent care doctors the Apple family emerged.
"So is she alright? Please tell me she's going to be fine," said Lyra.
Big Macintosh spoke up, "Ye- er nope."
"Oh no she's dying!" Lyra cried out.
Granny Smith calmed her down, "No she's not dying, but she's suffrin' from dehydration and sleep deprivation. She'll be A-OK after some shut eye."
The little filly Apple Bloom ran up and hugged Lyra's leg, "Thankya for what ya'll did for my sister. We never even knew somthin' was wrong." she said with a shudder.
Big Macintosh rolled his eyes, "Ah knew, but you wouldn't list-" he was interrupted by granny covering his mouth.
"There there young un, we all wish we had seen what was wrong. Whats important now is Applejack is safe."
Twilight had an idea and decided to throw it on them, "Excuse me, if you don't mind could i write a report to the princess on your situation? I think it would make for a wonderful topic," Twilight asked.
Granny shook her head, "I don't see why not."
Twilight thanked them and took a seat in one of the chairs in the lobby. She scribbled out the letter on the back of one of the magazines to be transcribed latter by Spike. It went a little something like this.
Dear Princess Celestia,
Today i learned an important lesson, in life there are ponies we depend on. And it may seem like they never get affected by the struggles that we face. But were all in the same boat, and sometimes it's the ponies who everyone leans on that have the hardest time. When that happens we need to be able to recognize the plight their in and help in any way we can.
Your dedicated student
After a few days in hospital Applejack made her full recovery, with her mental faculties back in full swing she was prepared to accept any punishment that was laid out for her. Only to be surprised to find that all the charges against her were dropped, it seems a certain aquamarine unicorn was campaigning Applejack's innocence during her recovery.
Furthermore said unicorn organised a work party to finish harvesting the remainder of Sweet Apple Acres and any other chores left undone. With the only portion left to do being the west orchard, the volunteers began. Only to discover with the first tree bucked, an infestation of fruit bats. The multi-colored flying mammals swarmed the volunteers until they had to retreat. In Applejack's absence Granny Smith and Big Macintosh made an executive decision to abandon the west orchard entirely. So, in a way, Applejack could say that she did harvest Sweet Apple Acres all by herself.
It was a pleasant afternoon in Ponyville, the sky was clear and the birds were out and about, chirping madly between each other as they searched for food. It didn't really bother Cloudchaser that much though, a calm day she could spend in the park with somepony was just what she was hoping for.
The day was special, being a national holiday most everypony had the day off. What made it even more special was this was one of the few holidays that Ponyville didn't turn into a huge event. Cloudchaser appreciated those the most, no mad rush to get the skies clear before a party. No hassle over if she even wanted to go or not, today it was just her and Twilight.
"Thanks for hanging out with me today," said Cloudchaser who was laying on her back.
Twilight replied through the book she had her face buried in, "Your welcome."
"Yeah it seems everypony already had plans when i asked them," said Cloudchaser.
"All i was planning on doing today was catching up on my personal reading." She motioned to the tall stack of novels behind her on the park bench.
"Looks like you certainly came prepared," Cloudchaser said as she marveled at the amount.
"Mmhm, you'd think living in a library you would be reading all the time. But between my studies and the actual work involved in running the place, i haven't gotten to read anything for fun in ages," said Twilight.
"Mind if i hoof through one of yours for a bit?" asked Cloudchaser.
Twilight lit up, "Ooh this is good, I've been picking out books that would match my friends tastes perfectly. Okay for you, since your into space and all that your probably a syfy pony."
"Don't you mean Scify, syfy just sounds stupid. Besides isn't that the wrestling Chanel?" Cloudchaser derided.
"Oh hush, anyway i brought one of my favorite science fiction books ever just for this eventuality. It's 'The Travelers Guide to the Horse Head Nebula.' This ones the first book in the four part trilogy," Twilight said as she produced the hard cover book, on it's cover was a hoof stuck out in the signal for hitching a lift, there was also a small green planet sticking it's tongue out at the reader.
"Wasn't this a movie or something? I remember seeing ads for it, it looked fu-" Cloudchaser stopped herself when she saw Twilight, she had a look of fury in her eyes.
"Gah! Don't even bring that travesty up! They turned one of the most funny and original stories into a stupid romantic comedy! And they made so many unnecessary changes, like why was Ford Preenfect a zebra? Why was Deeper Thinking a female computer? Why did it look so stupid?" Twilight continued listing off her gripes with the studio adaptation for quite some time. At one point Cloudchaser tried counting how long it was going on but had to give up.
"Soooooo i take it the book is better?" said Cloudchaser.
This broke Twilight from her tirade, "Oh, yes, yes the books are very good." She levitated the book over to her her friend. "Gosh i could probably recite the first chapter for how many times I've read it. You wanna test me see how close i am?"
"This sounds fun," Cloudchaser cracked open the book past the title page to the start. "Alright go."
Drawing from her fond memories Twilight began reciting the book by heart, "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy-" Cloudchaser cut her off.
"Not even close," Cloudchaser said with a grin.
"WHAT!? Whatya mean I know this by heart. Give me that!" Twilight yanked the book back and read the start.
'when traveling abroad it is always important to pack the essentials, travelers checks, sun screen, extra socks, your towel. After all a pony must always know where his towel is-'
"What the hay is this? It's not my book, although it is strangely similar." Twilight pulled the dust jacket off to reveal it was an actual travel guide.
"Looks like you got pranked Twilight," Cloudchaser said, her suspicion confirmed by the chortling and chufawing coming from the bushes nearby. A curly pink tail revealed who the culprit was.
"PINKIE PIE!" Twilight shouted, she began chucking her books at the prankster.
"Take it easy Twilight, it was just a joke. Besides the movie was actually pretty good," said the hyperactive pink puff ball.
This upset Twilight even more, her projectiles landing closer and closer to Pinkie until she fled. "Big Meany!" Pinkie turned around before she was out of view and stuck out her tongue mimicking the book cover.
"Twilight chill, that's just how Pinkie Pie is. Besides she only pranks ponies she likes, but in your case she just added you to the meany list." Cloudchaser said shaking her head.
"And what does that mean?" asked Twilight.
"Probably an attitude adjustment party," replied Cloudchaser. "Look if it makes you feel any better, it's sort of a rite of passage here in Ponyville to get pranked by Pinkie. Shows your one of us now."
"I guess it was kind of funny, i still want to know where my book is though," Twilight said puffing out her cheeks.
"You know she got me pretty good the other day too. I was working the south side of town when this one cloud drifts in, i go to poof it and it moves away. Any time i get close to it it goes farther and farther, after a while i finally figure out it's got a rope tied around it and Pinkie's flying it like a kite." Cloudchaser started giggling, "Aw but the real fun is when you get to go along with Pinkie on her prank runs. Definitely go if she offers, you hear?"
"Not sure how much fun that would be but i'll take her up on it if she offers." Twilight began picking up her discarded books and returning them to the pile.
"Hey, um Twilight?" Cloudchaser asked rather shyly, "I don't suppose we could just talk for a while, could we?"
"I don't see why not," Twilight said as she dropped her books on the bench. "What do you want to talk about? The weather, well i guess that would be more talking about work for you. How about the Gala or-"
Cloudchaser interrupted her. "Actually i'd like to talk about us, or i guess i mean all of us."
"Alright shoot," said Twilight.
"I don't know, it's like ever since we came back from that castle things have been different, you know? Sometimes i wake up and i feel like i'm in someone else's shoes, like i don't belong where i am."
"Go on," said Twilight, encouraging her to open up further.
"Well sometimes when i'm alone i get to thinking, why was it me there by your side? N-not that i didn't want to be there. It's just i get the feeling it was supposed to be some other pony. Does that make any sense?" Cloudchaser asked as she wracked her mind over the existential crisis.
"No, i get where your coming from. I've been thinking about what the future has in store for us. Princess Celestia took the Elements of Harmony back with her to Canterlot, but not before telling me that we may be called upon again to use them. I'll admit i'm kind of scared of what we could possibly need them for. But if it means taking it on with you and the others i'll do it gladly," Twilight gave Cloudchaser a reassuring hug.
"Thanks, i feel better now that I've talked about it. I just get introspective and weird sometimes," said Cloudchaser.
"It's just a perfectly normal case of paranoia, everyone in the universe has it." said Twilight.
"It's a line from the book. Let's go to the library, i'll lend you my personal copy." said Twilight.
"Sounds good." Cloudchaser brought a hoof to her chin, "So have you ever read 'Sleeper Car to Ursa Major'? It's this really cool scify detective story set in an interstellar railway line!" As they walked and flew off they conversed about great science fiction.
In Ponyville the weather team took their job seriously, the members clocked in early and stayed until the skies were clear. To the landlocked ponies below it may just be a public beautification service like any other, but to pegasi it could be a matter of life and death. The same weather patterns created by the Cloudsdale weather factory that brought the much needed rain, if left unchecked could become a danger. Any stray lightning bolt could spell the end to an unaware flier caught without an insulated flight suit.
That was one reason why Cloudchaser took her job so seriously, and also why she was getting increasingly upset that Rainbow Dash was late for her shift. Her absence was unexplained, nothing said in advance to the supervisor or any of her co-workers. Now if it turns out it was a case of the feather flu that's going round, then that's understandable. But if she was playing hooky then-
"Oh hey Cloudchaser, howzit hangin?" Rainbow Dash said in the most laid back voice she could manage.
Cloudchaser was not amused, "Your twenty minuets late Rainbow Dash, I shouldn't have to tell you why it's important to be on time. Or do i?"
"Myah myha myha myha." Rainbow was mocking Cloudchaser's insistence on professionalism. "Keep your cool girl, Rainbow's here. I've just been busy with one of my Jr. flight camp friends who's in town visiting."
"Oh yeah? Maybe we could get her to do your job for you," Cloudchaser snarked. "So who is it?"
"You probably wouldn't remember her, i think you were only there at the same time as us one year. Anyways it's Gilda," Rainbow Dash
The name Gilda sent shivers down Cloudchaser's spine, her lip curled involuntarily. "Oh yes, i remember Gilda." She said with all the pent up angst of an entire summer's worth of bullying.
Apparently it flew strait over Rainbow's head, "I know right, Gilda sure is a hard girl to forget. It's just like we never left, she's been challenging me to races across town all day, it's just like old times." Rainbow said in a nostalgic tone.
Cloudchaser was having none of it, "So have you been putting gum in little fillies manes? Stealing their lunch money? Teasing them relentlessly? Just like the old times!?" she snarled.
Rainbow backed off a bit, "N-no, were just hanging out, you know i don't do stuff like that anymore. Besides those were just schoolyard pranks, nopony got hurt right?"
"Whatever helps you sleep at night Rainbow Dash," Cloudchaser said ending the topic. "My shift ended twenty minuets ago, i'm going home." She rudely flicked her tail at Rainbow's face and flew off to her home, on her way out she saw her, Gilda. The hybrid lion/eagle was positively gigantic, much larger than the fledgling she was in flight camp. Cloudchaser could see her screaming at the timid animal caretaker Fluttershy, and Fluttershy running away in tears. "Yeah just like old times."
In the cramped apartment Cloudchaser and Flitter called home the pony with the most fabulous mane was hiding away up on her top bunk. Still upset over her interaction with her co-worker she was just trying to be alone with her thoughts. Thankfully her sister came by to break her out of her funk.
Climbing into the lower bunk Flitter tried chatting up Cloudchaser, "Hey sis, you feeling okay?"
"*Mumble Grumble Mumble*" was her reply.
"Sorry i couldn't catch that," said Flitter.
"I'm fine i, i just had a bad day at work," said Cloudchaser.
"Was Rainbow Dash getting on your nerves again? If she is, let the supervisor know, that's what she's there for." Flitter advised.
"It wasn't Rainbow Dash's fault, well not her's entirely. I found out Gilda is in town." Cloudchaser's words sent an identical shiver down Flitter's spine. "I know right, Rainbow Dash was talking about how their just 'hangin' out and racing around town' but i saw Gilda she hasn't changed any." She paused for a bit, "Well she has changed a bit, now she's big enough she could probably eat you if she felt like it."
"She's that big!? I think i'll hide in here with you." Flitter pulled her dragonfly print sheets over her head. "She was bad enough when she was tiny, always sneaking up behind us and scaring the hoo-ha out of us." Flitter said with a shudder.
"Don't forget how she put gum in your mane, you were so upset you wouldn't let me try to do your mane all fancy anymore," said Cloudchaser.
'Actually it's cause you couldn't style to save your life, but that's my secret.' Flitter internalized.
Silence took hold of the room, both pegasi were lost in thought about their childhood foe who now had popped back into their young adult lives. Cloudchaser could hear her sister rummaging around for something, Flitter pulled an old horseshoe box from beneath the bed and opened it.
"What do you got there?" Cloudchaser asked as she leant over the railing.
"It's the letters Bon Papa would send us back when we were fillies. He always knew just what to wright when we were feeling down." Flitter said as she flipped through the yellowed pages. The elegant cursive of their grandfather brought back fond memories of the months they spent in southern Prance.
"I know i was about to go home crying, then i read the letter that came that day and saw the picture he sent. You don't have that one, do you?" Cloudchaser asked of her sister.
Searching through the hefty stack of letters, knickknacks and other childhood treasures Flitter found it. An old Polaroid whose color had faded considerably, Cloudchaser reached down and picked it up, "Thanks."
It was just like she remembered it, her grandfather wearing his uniform, standing in his rose garden outside the modest wooden house. He was resting his weight on his cane, a content smile on his face, his eyes obscured by his overly bushy eyebrows. Written on the photo itself was 'To the bravest fillies in Equestria, my little heroes.' Cloudchaser was filled with warmth and sadness at the same time, she missed her Bon Papa.
"Well i guess that settles that," she said with resolve.
"Settles what?" asked Flitter.
"We can't just live in fear because some bully shows up, no matter how big she is." said Cloudchaser.
"Yeah! And what can Gilda do now anyway? Were all adults, if she tried any of the crap she pulled in flight camp she'd get arrested not a slap on the claw by the councilors." Flitter said perking up considerably.
"Ooh or even better, what if she got deported, all the way back to the Griffon Kingdom!" Cloudchaser said with glee, tossing off her starry sky print sheets.
The two sisters ditched the bunk bed and made their way down to the kitchen, both feeling in the mood for some celebratory ice cream. Cloudchaser opened the icebox and produced the gallon carton of caramel oat swirl, (Their favorite flavor) and got two big spoons. Before they could start in there was a knock at the door.
"Don't worry sis i got it," Flitter said as ran to their front door. Cloudchaser thought about waiting but decided against it, and started wolfing down spoonfuls of frozen dairy goodness. She could here Flitter talking with whoever was at the door, though just barely over the messy eating sounds she was making.
Flitter returned with a pink invitation card in her hoof, only to find half the carton was now gone, proof of where it now was lay on Cloudchaser's lips. "Oh come on, i was only gone for half a minute!"
"Eh you snooze you lose sis, he he ha*OWOWOWWW!*" Cloudchaser was clutching her head in pain, it looks like her debauchery had caught up with her.
"Serves you right! Besides you get brain freeze every time you eat ice cream, don't you ever learn not to eat it so fast?" Flitter said shaking her head.
Cloudchaser didn't hear her sisters rebuke, instead she was wishing hard for the hurt to go away. "Sweet Celestia!" Flitter only rolled her eyes and began eating out of the carton herself. After a few minuets of groaning Cloudchaser got over her headache and started back in on the ice cream just as fast as before.
"Ugh" Flitter emoted.
"So, whats the card?" Cloudchaser said with her mouth full of ice cream.
"Shall i read it?" Flitter asked, her sister nodded yes. In her best imitation she could manage Flitter began singing Pinkie's invitation. "This is your singing invite, i hope it finds you well, your invited to a party cause we think your really swell!"
Cloudchaser could barely hold back the laughter, "Wh-why are you singing?"
"Pinkie Pie said it was a singing telegram but she didn't have time to sing for every pony. I thought you liked my singing," Flitter said with a frown.
"N-no you sound great sis!" 'Actually i think that manticore could probably sing better than you, but that's my secret.' Cloudchaser thought to herself. "How about you just tell me what it says."
"Fine, it's an invite to a party tomorrow-"
"I could have guessed that much,"
"Zip it! Pinkie's throwing a party for Rainbow Dash's 'Dear old friend' from out of town. Pinkie would like it if everypony could come and show her a good time." Flitter smiled a cunning smile, Cloudchaser smiled the same smile.
"Well dear sister, i think our plans have been decided, now all we need, is a dish to bring." Cloudchaser said, both sisters minds filled with ideas of what tomorrow would bring.
Griffon the brush off: Things fall apart, it's scientific
As they planned Cloudchaser and Flitter arrived extra early, in tow behind them was a large burlap sack. Pinkie Pie greeted them at the door, "Welcome Welcome Welcome! So glad you could come, i really want to make this party special for Gilda," she said with all sincerity, "Not that i wan't to color your opinion of her but she is a bit of a grump." The twins shared an 'oh really' look on their faces. Peering over their shoulders Pinkie spied the brown bag, "Is that the dish you said you were bringing?"
Flitter spoke up first, "We completely agree that we need to make this day special for Gilda. So we thought what's more special than food you love," Cloudchaser stepped in, "And since she's part eagle she must love bird food." Pinkie was taken in by their logic nodding in full agreement.
Cloudchaser continued, "But the pet store was closed, soooo-" Flitter brought the routine to an end, "We thought rice is like bird food, i know the pigeons love it!" The two heaved the sack and tossed it into Pinkie's open arms.
With an *Oof* she stumbled back, "Well as much as i'd like to do everything to make her feel welcome, we do also have a bunch of pony folk guests as well. I'm not sure they'd appreciate eating fifty pounds of uncooked rice. But i'm sure i can make something good with all this, don't worry." Pinkie Pie disappeared with the bag slung over her shoulder and into the kitchen.
The twins turned to each other again, "Eh, worth a shot." The two entered Sugar Cube Corner and took a look around, by Pinkie Pie standards, Gilda's welcome party was ... adequate. There were gifts, cake, punch and music, but none of the unique touches Pinkie is known for. At least none that were immediately apparent, by all means this was more than Gilda deserved.
One of the other ponies helping set up was Rainbow Dash, she was placing a long present on the table, very carefully setting it down where it would catch the eye. "Hi Rainbow Dash," Cloudchaser greeted her with forced cheerfulness.
Rainbow nervously dropped the gift on the table, it burst open revealing it's contents, compressed springs set to go off at the slightest touch. "Dang it! Now i have to pack this stupid thing, Again!" Rainbow gathered up the coils and started jamming them down the box.
"Um isn't that one of Gilda's presents? Why are you booby trapping it?" asked Flitter.
Setting down the present once more, very careful not to set it off again Rainbow replied. "It's just a harmless prank, you know just like the old t-" Rainbow Dash caught herself before she set off another altercation like yesterday's. "-Er, i didn't realize the stuff we did back then was that big a deal. I've been feeling awful about it, so I figured a bit of self pranking might even us out?"
"Oh, so you think some jump scare is gonna make us even? Why i outta-" Cloudchaser was stopped by her sister who pulled her aside.
"Come on sis, she's trying to make it up to us. You could at least try to accept her apology," Flitter said in a hushed tone.
Cloudchaser looked over at Rainbow who was wearing a pathetic face, her eyes were big, her lip pouted out. "Gah, fine! I forgive you Rainbow Dash, just wipe that stupid look off your face."
"Awesome." Was Rainbow Dash's subdued reaction. "I'm going to talk with Gilda about this after the party, but i'm sure she feels the same way, we were just being punk kids. And, i really am sorry, if i could go back i wouldn't be that pony again." She wen't back to preparing her pranks, replacing some of the cups with dribble glasses and the lemon drop candies with something that looked identical but surely had a more sinister intention than tooth decay.
"Well what do we do now?" Flitter asked.
"I guess we could see if anypony else we know is here yet," suggested Cloudchaser.
The bell chimed signaling the entrance of new party guests, though it seemed everypony in Ponyville decided that right then was the perfect time to show up. It was a solid stream of familiar and not so familiar faces for several minuets, one after another cramming through the wooden door frame carrying deserts, gifts and party games.
Pinkie returned from the kitchen to find Sugar Cube Corner filled to the brim with happy ponies. "Whoa, i probably should have kept the guest list smaller."
It didn't take long for Cloudchaser to spot Twilight among the party ponies. "Hey, Cloudchaser! It's been a couple days, how are you doing?" Twilight asked as she reached for a cup.
"Doing fine," she was expectantly watching to see if Twilight had grabbed one of the dribble cups, she didn't. "So, you doing anything fun later?"
"Hmm, probably not. I'm still working on my weekly report to the princess, Pinkie Pie came by my library the other day complaining about Rainbow Dash's old friend. I figured i could turn the whole situation into a good report, i'm mostly here to scientifically observe how things unfold." Twilight said as she pulled out the note book hidden in her mane. "Spike on the other hoof is here to party."
The dragon child was excitedly searching for anypony who would join him in a game of Twist-Up. Oddly enough there weren't too many other children his age, probably for the best, considering what Cloudchaser suspected was going to happen.
Flitter walked up behind her sister looking disturbed, "Oh Twilight, i don't think you've met my sister yet. This is Flitter, Flitter this is Twilight Sparkle."
"Hello glad to meet you," Twilight said extending her hoof for a shake.
Flitter was nervously looking over her shoulder, "Uh yeah, good to meet you Sparkler." She came close and whispered into her sister's ear, "Look who just walked in."
Striding through the door there she was, Gilda. Rainbow Dash's description as being 'punk kids' did seem to fit, The feathers around her eyes and the tips were dyed a shade not dissimilar to that of the twins own fur. But more than that Gilda seemed to radiate an aura of superiority and brutality. Cloudchaser could feel the cold sweat of dread form on her brow.
"Uh y-you go t-talk to her." Cloudchaser said while hiding behind her sister.
"What no way! You go talk to her, besides weren't you the one who said we can't be afraid?" Flitter said while leapfrogging behind Cloudchaser.
Sure it was easy to be brave when your pissed off and the giant predatory bully with a bad attitude is on the ground and your in the sky, It's a bit different when she's only thirty feet away. "I guess i did, didn't i?"
"Kick her flank, er tail feathers." Flitter said rooting for her sis.
The steps across Sugar Cube Corner seemed to stretch farther and farther with each one taken, Gilda was craning her neck around, her pupils dilated as she scanned the crowd, all around looking intimidating. Cloudchaser was almost there when Pinkie showed up to greet her. 'Whew crisis averted' she thought to herself.
She didn't catch what was being said over the other guests, what she did catch was a stunning electrocution by Pinkie Pie, via a concealed hoof buzzer. "I think i saw her skeleton!" "What kind of voltage does that thing have?"
"Pranking is serious business, and in any businesses you gotta get the industrial strength products." Pinkie said with glee.
'Ouch, i actually feel kind of bad about that one.' Cloudchaser thought as she backed her way to the corner her sister was now inhabiting.
"Well what did she say? Are we gonna meet out back for a no holds bar street fight?" Flitter asked while mock boxing.
"I kinda chickened out," said Cloudchaser.
"Well now what are we supposed to do? Things are just going to continue on like this until something changes."
"I know, just right now i don't feel like fighting. Besides were at a party, i don't think Pinkie would appreciate it if we turned it into a shouting match."
Just then Spike ran up to the two, the Twist-Up box in hand. "I've asked pretty much everypony here, and i can't get anyone to play with me." He tilted his head and used the sad puppy dog eyes on the sisters.
Flitter was smitten, "DAW, of course we'll play with you little fella." She picked spike up and started snuggling him like a stuffed animal, "He's so darn cute!"
"Can't your mom play with you? I would think she'd be willing." Cloudchaser commented.
From the warm embrace of Flitter the little dragon replied, "Twilight says she's busy taking notes on the 'dynamics of interpersonal relationships' AKA being a stalker." He motioned over to Twilight who was hiding under the table observing Gilda and Pinkie's heated exchanges and taking notes.
"Fair enough, alright kiddo, you set up the mat and we'll go a few rounds with you. Just keep in mind, you are going to lose, allot." Cloudchaser said while limbering up her muscles. Spike hopped down and set up the polka dot mat and spinner, the game was on.
With each spin the sisters were able to match it perfectly, Front left-blue, child's play. At one point even though it was totally unnecessary Cloudchaser took the opportunity to flip over and hold the spaces while crab walking. "Ha! Try and beat that one Spike!"
He tried, and failed.
The jumbled mess of ponies and dragon drew the attention of the other party goers away from the real show starting. In the background Gilda's mouth was shooting flames after eating those sinister candies provided by Rainbow Dash. Gilda was desperately running about like a chicken with it's head cut off looking for the punch bowl, only to discover that no cool relief was there for her. Only the mocking brutality of the dribble glass.
In quick succession things fell apart, Gilda would go to some activity only to find it rigged to blow up in her face or humiliate her in some way. Then she would lash out at Pinkie Pie for some reason, and Rainbow Dash would laugh. Pretty quickly it became uncomfortable to be around. At one point Gilda got Pinkie in a strangle hold and lifted her off the ground, finally Rainbow Dash stepped in and brought it to an end.
Though they were too far away to hear and unable to move, the sisters could see all they needed to understand what was going on. The anger and pain on Rainbow's face as she told off her old friend. The indignation on Gilda's as she stormed out the door, masking the sorrow and betrayal she felt. Rather than hate or hurt, Flitter and Cloudchaser just felt... sad, and not entirely sure why.
After talking with Pinkie and Rainbow, Twilight came by and helped the three untangle themselves. "Well that certainly was a doozy, but on the plus side I've got my friendship report done, i'm thinking about titling it 'how to recognize a true friend'. I think the princess will be happy with that."
"Um, yeah that sounds, good. Could you excuse us Twilight? Flitter and i wan't to talk with Rainbow Dash, right?" Flitter nodded in agreement.
Rainbow was putting on a brave face, joking around with the hoof buzzers, smiling and laughing. But to the sisters it was clear, Rainbow was still very upset, just holding back the tears from coming out. Flitter drew her aside and put a comforting hoof around, "You okay Rainbow Dash?"
"*Pphfh* Me? I'm awesome, why wouldn't i be?" Rainbow said brushing off Flitter.
"Well, i'm sorry i made you feel like you had to pull off all those pranks on Gilda. I may hate her guts but, you're a nice girl, even if you're a show off sometimes." Flitter smacked her sister upside the head for her insensitive remark. "Sorry, you're awesome is what i mean to say."
Rainbow hid her face, "Gilda's nothing, just- just a bad memory now. I've got allot more pranking to do with Pinkie Pie, so if you'll excuse me." True to her name she dashed off, leaving the twins behind and tear stains on the floor.
Back at their home Cloudchaser was up on her top bunk, not hiding this time but brooding. Since the party she couldn't stop thinking about how things went down. True she had what she wanted, Gilda was gone and wouldn't be around anymore, but she still felt awful. Just like before Flitter came in and joined her on the lower bunk.
"You can't get over it as well?" asked Cloudchaser.
"Yeah, i know we didn't do any thing wrong. How others react is their own responsibility, but that doesn't help shake the feeling." Flitter replied and buried her face in her pillow.
"So where do we go from here?" Cloudchaser asked.
"I don't know," Flitter sadly said from within her pillow.
"I guess we could try and be Rainbow's friends. Maybe make it up to her?" said Cloudchaser.
Flitter tossed the pillow away, "You think so, forgiving somepony for what they did in flight camp is one thing. Becoming 'besties' goes allot farther than that."
"You don't have to if you don't wan't to. I'm at least going to try!" Cloudchaser said, reversing the dynamic from earlier.
Flitter sighed heavily, retrieved the pillow and buried her face in it once more, "*Mumble Mumble*"
"What'd you say sis? Didn't quite catch that?" Cloudchaser said with a smirk, she could guess what her twin was going to say.
"I said FINE! We'll go be best buddies with Rainbow Dash okay!?" Flitter was working her self into a huff. Cloudchaser knew just what to do. Reaching down over the railing she held out her hoof for a bump.
"Eh? Eh? Come on don't leave me hanging." Flitter rolled her eyes and reciprocated the gesture. "I'll start talking with her at work more often,"
"I guess i could see if she want's to go to the movies with us? Gah, this is weird." said Flitter. The two kept working on their plans, unsure if they would succeed or not, but still putting all their effort into it. Rainbow Dash had two new friends, she just didn't know it yet.
Boast Busters: Who dares and challenge Trixie's greatness?
It was a sunny afternoon as usual in Ponyville, a few clouds still dotted the sky. The air was a bit nippy, perhaps in expectation of autumn which was only a few weeks away. Regardless Ponies everywhere were out and about, Derpy and her little sister were no exception. With the seemingly boundless energy one has when your young Dinky raced in circles around Derpy as they made there way to the ever present town square.
The two were pretty similar in appearance, same bright blonde manes, same golden amber eyes. Though Derpy did have her sister beat when it came to the eyes, nothing quite stands out as much as her wonderful peepers. Often times they would get mistaken for mother and daughter, not too surprising considering how similar they look. Most siblings tended to have wildly different coloration, just look at the Apple Family for an example.
Not that Derpy minded, she kind of like the idea of being called 'Mom.' Derpy was lost in thought about what kind of foal she would have if she and her colt friend ever decided to have one. It showed on her face as she trotted along, not paying attention to where she was going. "Come on sister! The magic show is this way!" Dinky practically shouted, tugging Derpy along in the right direction.
By the time they arrived there was already quite a few ponies gathered. It seems the fliers sent through the mail attracted more than just the little fillies and colts, there were allot of adults in the audience as well. The advertisement promised 'A show like no other' and to come see the greatest magical feats in all of Equestria. This enthralled the little unicorn so much she could barely pay attention at class, instead she spent the day doodling in her notebook pictures of what she supposed this 'Great and Powerful Trixie' might look like.
Dinky quickly spied out some of her classmates in the crowd, "Can i go watch the show with Snips and Snails? Can i Can i? Can i?" she said while getting up on her tippy-hooves.
Derpy had to try and remember who Snips and Snails were, it seemed like every time she came to pick her sister up from school there was a different roster of students. "Could you point them out to me? I don't think i see them."
Using her head like some kind of divining rod Dinky pointed to the two young colts. Snips was the rather big boned child with the uncombed red mane. Beside him was Snails, tall and lanky and his face covered in freckles. Derpy defiantly recognized them, "Oh, those two. Are you sure you want to sit by them?" Derpy asked with hesitation. Those boys had a reputation already for being trouble makers.
"Yeah i want to! Snips and Snails are so goofy and funny all the time," Dinky replied with an innocent smile.
Derpy sighed, "I suppose it's okay, just stay where i can see you. And no breaking any of mom and dad's rules, comprende?" She didn't get an answer, just gleeful cheering from her little sister as she ran off. Derpy could watch them fairly well from the spot she chose at the back of the audience as well as look if any of her friends were here.
Sneaking up behind her came Twilight, "Good morning Derpy," she had the look of somepony who didn't get much sleep the night before.
"Hello Twilight, i didn't think i'd see you here. I would think your magic would be a hundred times better than any side show performer." Derpy said while recalling the events of the Summer Sun Celebration, and the unrivaled power the wielded that night.
"I've just been in a magic mood, Spike and i have been working on perfecting the use of twenty five distinct spells. If the flier is to be believed i might just see some magic that even i'm not familiar with, plus it's good to get out of the library every once in a while." Twilight said while squinting, her mentor's sunlight was a little to bright for the shut-in. "So your interested in magic shows to?"
"Me? Naw i'm just here foal sitting my sister Dinky, she's been begging to go ever since posters started showing up around Ponyville." said Derpy.
"She's the one you were talking about before right? It must be nice having a sister, i wouldn't know though." said Twilight.
Derpy thought about saying 'Technically i have two sisters' but decided against it. Instead she decided to ask about Twilight's Family.
"My family? Well there's my mom Twilight Velvet, my dad Night Light and my BBBFF Shining Armor. There all back in Canterlot though," said Twilight, her face lighting up as she talked about her own family.
"Uh, bodacious bouncing beautiful fabled fiance?" Derpy said, putting together the first words that popped into her head, trying to sus out the acronym.
Twilight was flabbergasted, "No, just no. It's Big brother best friend forever, i don't see how you didn't get that it's pretty obvious."
'Maybe it's obvious to you miss science and magic major.' Derpy said in her mind. Thankfully the object of the event came by to interrupt, Trixie's stage show was now beginning. The simply painted wagon folded out into a stage just large enough for two to perform on, there was a dark blue curtain, and several launchers for fireworks.
With musical fanfare and a cloud of smoke the performer took the stage. She was clad in a purple cape covered in stars, she had a matching wizards hat not unlike the kind made famous by Starswirl the bearded. Pinning the cape together was a gaudy piece of costume jewelry, overall she had the look of a great magician down pat.
Addressing her audience she began her act, "Come one come all and witness the most spectacular feats of magic ever witnessed by pony eyes!" A magenta hue signaled the first of the fireworks, a wheel mounted to the wagon began firing it's rockets of red, green, purple and blue. The foals cheered, the older ponies cheered inwardly, giving into their inner child.
"To begin! Trixie shall pull a bouquet of roses from thin air!" Twilight leaned in, magical fabrication was a high level skill. To her disappointment though this wasn't actual fabrication, simply smoke and mirrors. From her vantage point she could even see the ripple of the curtain where the bouquet came from. Still this sent the kids over the roof, to their untrained eyes it truly looked like the flowers had materialized from thin air.
"Thank you, Trixie knows you love her. But hold your applause we have only just begun. For Trixie's next act of prestidigitation i shall bring life to the lifeless!" Trixie said with flair, the audience oohed and awwed.
"This aught to be good, huh Twilight?" Derpy nudged her companion.
Twilight was going through her mental catalog of spells that animate inanimate objects. She was looking forward to what kind of spell it was, seeing how much autonomy the subject would have.
Removing her hat Trixie focused her magic on a nearby urn, from within a coiled rope emerged like a cobra to the snake charmer. The serpent analogy wasn't too far off, as the rope began to slither around the stage and posture menacingly like it was going to strike. "Oh no dear audience! I fear in my haste to amaze you i have imbued this common rope with the spirit of a deadly snake! Oh what should i do?" Trixie said with dramatic flair, putting a hoof to her forehead in distress.
Front and center was Dinky hiding under her chair, "Slay it with your magic Great and Powerful Trixie!"
Her two companions chimed in as well. "Yeah save us from the rope snake Trixie!" said Snails in his lovable dopey voice.
"I don't wanna get eaten!" said Snips with his equally lovable shrill vocals.
Trixie was acting her heart out, "Very well, because you believe in Trixie's greatness, Trixie shall do her best to vanquish the monster!" As she finished her rally cry the snake pounced on her. The two tussled and wrestled, the rope constricted her like a python and she responded by shocking it with lightning. The rope convulsed on the stage, "Now foul beast, apologize to Trixie's adoring public for attacking them," Trixie said as she pinned the rope to the ground.
The rope, being a rope had no mouth with which to speak, so Trixie provided the retort as well. "Yes yes, i'm very sorry!"
"Well what have you to say for your self?" Trixie asked the rope.
"Um- Happy new year!" said the Rope Snake.
"Away with you silly beast, back from whence you came!" Trixie now done with the coil of rope sent it packing back into the urn on stage. Everyone in the audience cheered, kids and grown-ups alike. Even Derpy who admitted to not being interested was having a good time.
"Yah, Trixie! Wahoo!" shouted Derpy as she fell over backwards.
Twilight on the other hoof was not impressed, "I can't believe your falling for that of all things. It was just simple levitation nothing more,"
Derpy felt a little sorry for her oh so serious friend, "Well duh, but it was fun, ever heard of it?"
"Fun would be seeing actual impressive magic, this is the kind of stuff you learn about in magic kindergarten!" Twilight said in a non-justified rage about a show intended for a youth audience. She had been loud enough for everypony to hear, all eyes were on her. "Oh, um sorry."
Trixie not wanting to lose any face decided now was the time to begin the next part of the show, "So it looks like we have a neigh sayer in the audience! Perhaps she is jealous of Trixie's many accomplishments, like defeating the dreaded Ursa Major." all eyes were back on Trixie once more.
"Yes it's true, when the poor people of Hoofington were without hope, Trixie came to their aid and mashed the mighty monster sending it packing back to it's cave in the Everfree Forest!" Trixie even had a visual aid ready, a magical light show depicting with stick figures her triumph.
At this point Twilight was fed up, "That's a load of bull! Nopony has ever fought an Ursa Major and lived, i seriously doubt some fraud stage magician would be the first."
Derpy was getting seriously embarrassed, wishing that she could disappear or at the very least wasn't sitting right next to Twilight at the moment.
Trixie was smug, "So i'm a fraud? Then you should have no problem taking me on in a magic duel," Trixie challenged. Thinking she had something to prove Twilight hastily accepted. "Seeing as Trixie has the home field advantage being my stage and all, Trixie shall allow you to set the rules."
"This will be a test of endurance, the stage will be the ring. Whoever leaves the stage first is the loser," Twilight smiled, she knew so many ways she could end this duel in ten seconds or less. "Are these terms acceptable?"
"Trixie should be thanking you- i don't know your name."
"It's Twilight Sparkle, remember it."
Trixie tossed her hair back, "Whatever Sparkle, with those rules Trixie shall wipe the floor with your sorry excuse for a mane."
"Talk is cheap, but i guess that's all you can afford Trixie!" said Twilight. With their posturing done the duel commenced, both parties watched the other intently, looking for the opportune moment to launch their first attack. While she still had the chance Derpy moved up to the front row by her sister, to try and be moral support for her friend.
It was Twilight who struck first, hastily shooting off a beam of magic, nothing that could cause any damage just something to test the field. It looked as if it had found it's mark, but a glint of light inside of Trixie's cape said otherwise. The beam sailed right back over Twilight's head. "Your pitiful magic cannot penetrate Trixie's magic barrier!"
"It's not magic! It's a mir-" Twilight was cut short by Trixie's attack, a virtual tornado of playing cards encircled Twilight. The swirling pattern almost made Twilight dizzy enough to tumble off stage on her own.
Derpy was there to cheer her on, "Come on Twilight! Pull yourself together!" Beside her the foals were cheering Trixie on to finish her off.
Regaining her sense of balance Twilight launched her response, the same trick she pulled against the manticore. Unable to move Trixie was stuck midair, "Looks like it's curtains for you Trixie. Cause, you know, were on a stage and there's curtains." Twilight said as she prepared to drop Trixie off and win the match.
Trixie was intently watching Twilight's hoof steps, waiting for just the right moment. "Twilight, will you promise me something?"
"What's this? A last request, give it to me!" Twilight said, getting into her role.
"Please send Trixie a post card from wherever you land!" Trixie would have been smiling if she had any muscle control. What she did have control over was her own magic, and with it she used the loose board Twilight was standing on to catapult her off into the distance. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause. Derpy took off in flight immediately to try and catch Twilight.
"Thank you everypony, now you've all seen that Trixie truly is the greatest unicorn in Ponyville- no in all of Equestria!" It seemed the foals in the audience agreed with that statement as they started chanting Trixie's name.
Derpy found Twilight buried in a conveniently placed pile of hay, sulking. "You okay Twilight? Anything i can do to help?"
"I'm fine, just my pride that's wounded. How could i lose to her? She's just a show pony, i'm the personal student of Princess Celestia!" Twilight flipped her hoofs in the air in a sign of despair.
Derpy took her hoofs and pulled her friend out, "Well you certainly put on a good show for us in the audience Twilight. Cheer up, at least the princess wasn't here to see that."
Realization set in on Twilight, "Aw man, what if she had been here? How would she have reacted? She wouldn't be proud of how i was acting in the slightest." she let her head sink low, as she did one of the playing cards from the duel fell out from her mane and onto the ground.
"That was a pretty impressive trick, don't-ya think Twilight?" said Derpy.
"Yeah i guess it was good," Twilight picked up the card and looked at it closely, it was a custom made deck by the looks of it. A queen of hearts bearing Trixie's image wearing a crown and scepter. "Huh what's this?"
On the back of the card was scrawled, 'Thanks for all your help. Please come by the wagon after the show, Trixie'
"What's it say?" asked Derpy.
"It's an invitation, but what would Trixie want with me?" Twilight mused.
"Maybe to gloat, you did go flying before she could." Suggested Derpy. "Either way it would be rude to ignore it."
"I think your right, i think i'll go apologize as well, i got so worked up i made an ass of myself. No offence," Twilight said to the donkey who wasn't there just a moment before.
"None taken," said the Donkey.
Boast Busters: I'm not Trixie, but i play her on stage
Now that the show was over the stage had been folded up, it was just the simply painted wagon once more. Twilight still rough from her landing stood hesitantly outside, "Okay Twilight, you were acting like a schoolyard foal, and you probably hurt her feelings. That doesn't mean you can't try and make things right."
She silently began going over what she was going to say, 'Hello Trixie, i know i don't deserve it but i beg you please accept my apology.' No that sounds too needy.
'Look we both made mistakes and i'm sure if we can look past them we can get along.' No that's just dismissive, i'll just explain how i feel and wish her good luck, that's about all i can do.
Working up her courage Twilight pulled her self onto the tongue of the wagon in front of the door and knocked, "Excuse me, Great and Powerful Trixie? This is Twilight Sparkle, you know, from today. I'm here because of the card." She felt rather awkward as she waited.
Inside the lights were all off, though she could see Trixie's cape and hat hanging on a peg rack. The familiar voice echoed out, "Come in."
Swinging open the door shed a bit more light into the room, all along the room were props from her show as well as other magic paraphernalia, Trixie though was still shrouded in shadow.
"First off i would like to apologize for my behavior today, normally i don't go around dueling ponies or heckling their shows. I was rude and for that you have my sincerest apologies," said Twilight.
The response from Trixie was not what she had expected, pulling on the chain above her the room was filled with bright artificial light. Twilight could see more of the decor, tattered Changeling Brothers Circus posters, a cheap looking wand with a star at the end. And Trixie herself, "Your apologizing? It should be me apologizing, i sent you flying!"
"Wha-wha-wha?" stammered Twilight.
"Usually i only save the floorboard trick for trained ponies I've recruited into the act. You didn't hurt yourself landing did you? If so i'll pay any doctor bills, anything to make it up to you!"
Again Twilight was dumbfounded, "Are you Trixie's sister? Cause your not the same pony from earlier."
This caught the blue unicorn off guard, "Well i suppose i should introduce myself then. My name is Trixianna Lulamoon, and i'm very glad you came here today."
"Wait, so Trixie is just a stage name?" asked Twilight in confusion.
"Trixie is more of a stage persona than anything else. When i'm performing i'm boastful, haughty, and the crowds love me. When i hang up the cape and go home i'm just regular old Trixianna."
"Huh, this is not at all what i was expecting," said Twilight.
"Well i wasn't expecting to come across such a talented magic user like you! I mean that last spell you used, what was that? I couldn't move or anything!" Raved Trixie.
Twilight was blushing, "It's nothing special, all it really is, is a modified usage of the basic levitation spell. I'm sure any unicorn could do it if they tried."
Trixie shook her head vehemently, "No that was really powerful, i tried countering it but i couldn't. Tell me, how long have you been studying magic to get that strong?"
"Just about three years," said Twilight.
It was Trixie's turn to be dumbfounded. "Three Years?! I've been practicing for twice that long and i can't even get past the basics." Her voice fell flat in disappointment at years wasted, striving after the wind.
"Well, the stuff you were doing in your show was impressive," said Twilight.
"It's just parlor tricks, i can't use any of the high level spells unicorns of your caliber use," Trixie sighed heavily.
Twilight could already sense an inferiority complex, she wished Lyra were around she'd probably know how to talk to her. "So uh, why do you go on stage then?"
"I suppose it makes me happy, seeing all of the fans. And it's a chance to pretend to be someone else, you know?" The forlorn tone was gone, Trixie was at least perking up a bit. "Most of all, i wan't to help somepony discover a love for magic. I think if i could do that with my shows then i'd be happy."
"Well those foals up front were really into it," said Twilight about Derpy's sister and her two companions.
"Hmm, i think they were more into 'The Great and Powerful Trixie' than the magic on display," she said with a chuckle. "Say do you know a good place to get a bite to eat? I haven't had any time to look around town yet."
"There's a Hayburgerstm chain that just opened up, that can't be too bad right?" suggested Twilight.
"Alright let's go, it'll be my treat." The two left the cramped living quarters and hopped down to ground level, as she was locking up Trixie remembered one last thing to do. Using her horn she pulled a sheet of paper and a pen, wrote a note and left it on her door.
"What's that about?" asked Twilight.
"It's just a notice saying The Great and Powerful Trixie is out slaying monsters and being amazing.
"Oh, i guess the monster in our case is the 'Haystack Burger' right?" jested Twilight.
This got a rise out of Trixie, "Yes we must save the fair denizens of Hayburgers from the cholesterol monster!"
The Hayburgers establishment was rather bland looking, a brand new thatched roof, walls painted a pleasant dull pink and a lit up sign showing off their name sake the Hay Burger. The interior was just as generically nice, plain wood tables and barrel chairs you would be sure to find in any member of the chain. "There's not much you can say about it's uniqueness but at least the foods gonna be the same quality wherever you go." Offered Twilight.
Behind the counter stood a balding stallion wearing a plain brown V-neck and uniform hat. "Welcome to Hayburger's may i take your order?" said the cashier in a dry, monotonous voice.
Looking over their menu the two quickly decided what they wanted, "Yes i'll have the Haystack combo and a Mountain Mist to drink. How about you Twilight?"
"I'll have the mighty foal's meal, and can i get the Power Ponies toy?" Trixie payed, got their food and they took their seat near the window.
"Aren't you a little old to be getting the kids meal?" asked Trixie.
"I don't want to load up too much before dinner, plus the toy is for my boy Spike." said Twilight as she munched on the bag of tiny horseshoe fries.
"Really? You have a son? How old is he then?" asked Trixie.
"He'll be turning three in a few months." said Twilight.
"Oh i bet he's all rambunctious, that's what my folks said i was like when i was three. So is he a unicorn like his mother?" Trixie asked as she sipped from her caffeinated drink.
"Unicorn no, Spike is a dragon." said Twilight.
Trixie raised an eyebrow, "A ... dragon?"
Twilight couldn't help but laugh, it seemed like ever since she started publicly referring to Spike as her son, she kept having the same conversation with new ponies. "I've been raising Spike since i hatched him, and i legally adopted him last year."
"Well, that's .. interesting. I don't think I've ever heard of dragons living with ponies before." mused Trixie, who then took a bite of her heavily processed food.
"As far as i can tell our situation is unique, at least as far as Eqestria is concerned." Twilight said, she then followed Trixie's suit and took a bite of her own miniature burger. As she did her eyes lit up, like a wonderful piece of her life that had been missing had just been filled. And the best part was she didn't even know it was missing in the first place. "Mhm, Mmmmmmmhhh! Thish ish shoo good!" Twilight messily ate the tiny burger and turned her attention to the one being held by Trixie.
The juicy patty dripped with fatty salty goodness, the crisp lettuce and ripe tomato called out to Twilight. Even the over abundant ketchup was seductive to the unicorn just losing her fast food innocence.
"Twilight? Are you alright? Cause your drooling all over the table," Trixie said out of concern.
"I wan't more," said Twilight.
"MORE!" With a mad look in her eye Twilight took to the register and demanded one of everything on the menu. As the cashier called out the order, the manager a bright red pony dressed in blue pants and a light blue shirt ran out of his office. After confirming that she could in fact pay for all this, proceeded to tattoo 'I heart Twilight Sparkle' on his chest.
Twilight's food came out, on four heavy duty plastic trays were dozens of burgers, sandwiches, sides and shakes. The aroma wafted off what could conceivably feed a small village for a week.
With a hefty *PLOP* the trays were dropped on the table, Trixie had to sit upright just to be able to see over food mountain and continue their conversation. "Are you quite sure you have enough?" she asked.
"Ha ha, yeah i have enough. Actually this is nothing compared to the mountain of apple products i ingested less than an hour after i arrived in town." Twilight took a massive bite out of the largest burger they had, ketchup stained the area around her mouth.
"Eh you got a little something on your face there," Trixie mimed the location of the mess and gave Twilight some napkins. Instead of using them she unwrapped another burger wiped her face with it and proceeded to devour it as well.
"I think i have a new favorite restaurant," said Twilight as she satiated her stomach. The phrase 'My belly, my god' could be aptly applied to her.
Not wanting the lunchtime to devolve into just a chow down, Trixie thought up another subject she wanted to know about Twilight.
"So i'm curious, what got you into magic Twilight? For me it was when i saw a show put on by Magnifi Gramarye, all the amazing tricks he pulled off, the way the crowd roared with applause at the end. That's what i wanted to be when i grew up, and someday i will. I'm going to have my own world famous show, i'll travel all across Equestria and beyond and thousands will flock to see the Great and Powerful Trixie perform."
Twilight thoughtfully chewed her food and replied, "That's neat, i got into magic when i saw the Princess raise the sun for the first time. After i passed my entry into the school for gifted unicorns i was taken under the wing of Celestia herself, in a matter of speaking." She took another sandwich out of the pile, a pressed daffodil on rye and took a bite.
"You mean your Princess Celestia's student! You must be something really special to have that honor!" Trixie said enthusiastically.
Twilight was blushing again, her cheeks were beet red. "Aw stop it, i'm no better than anypony else."
"Well it kind of stands to reason that you are. Don't hide it, embrace it, i know i would if i were as powerful as you." Trixie finished her portion but was still a bit peckish, reaching over she tried taking one of Twilight's cheese curds, only to find them protected by a magic force field.
"What? I'm just doing what you said." This caught Trixie by surprise, seems like she's pretty humorous. After sharing a laugh Twilight relinquished her fried cheese byproduct and decided to ask another question.
"So uh, how long are you in town for? If you don'd mind me asking," She nervously scratched her head.
"I'll probably stay in Ponyville tonight, then i have to hit the road. I booked a gig over in Baltimare, so it'll take a few days travel," said Trixie.
"Oh," Twilight said with notable disappointment.
"What? You're acting like we'll never see each other again, Equestria is a big place but it's a small world. Plus i can send you a letter when i get there if you like," said Trixie.
Twilight paused from eating the fillet-o-flower sandwhich in her hooves. "You mean it?" She was getting choked up, things had turned out so surprisingly well. Instead of a new enemy Twilight had gained a friend, "Can i hug you?"
Not wanting to make things awkward by refusing Trixie leant over the table and hugged the messy bookworm. When she retracted she found ketchup was all over her belly fur.
"Aw crud, now i'm all saucy!" Trixie said in a huff, pointing out all the sauce coating her, she was indeed a saucy pony.
Twilight had to stop herself from staring, all that delicious ketchup, all over Trixie. "You can go to the spa and get cleaned up just tell Lotus your a friend of mine, i'm sure she'll cut you a deal." She bit her lip and averted her gaze, the seductive call of sauce was almost too much.
"Thanks, i'll be sure to say goodbye before i head off tomorrow." With that she left, leaving Twilight alone with her half eaten mountain. "Stupid sexy ketchup."
Ever since the show ended the little tyke Dinky couldn't stop replaying it in her head. She'd never seen such amazing feats in her life, lasers flying every which way, ponies getting flung high into the air. She just had to talk with the great and powerful Trixie and learn how she got to become so great.
She called out, "Great and Powerful Trixie, i'm a big fan and i wanna learn all about magic and being powerful and stuff!" Dinky expectantly rocked back and forth on her hooves, waiting for a reply, but none came. No lights on inside either, "Darn i guess she's not here."
From Dinky's vantage point on the ground she could see a note on the door but not read it, and with her little legs she couldn't climb up to see it. 'What to do, what to do?' Dinky thought to herself. After some effort she remembered some of her mom's basic magic lessons from when her abilities first started appearing.
"What was it mamma said? Focus on the object you want and imagine it coming to you." Dinky bit he tongue and closed her eyes, in her minds eye she pictured the paper on the door, she pictured it falling off the pin and flying strait to her. On the paper was a congratulation from Trixie herself for being able to accomplish this task, and an invitation to go monster fighting with her.
When Dinky opened her eyes all she saw was white, the note had stuck to her horn and was covering her face. "I did it!" she said with glee. Taking the paper in hoof she read aloud, "The Great and Powerful Trixie is off battling monsters in the Everfree Forrest, leave your message and Trixie will get back to you shortly." On the bottom of the page was a crudely drawn illustration of Trixie bravely fighting an Ursa.
"I knew it! Trixie is so awesome, even when she's not busy she's being great and powerful." She held the paper close to her chest, as if wanting some of Trixie's greatness to rub off on her. "I'm gonna be great and powerful too!" Dinky said with resolve. She looked over her shoulder, back in the courtyard Derpy was still waiting for her to get back from the little fillies room.
"I suppose i should leave a note saying where i'm going, after all the Great and Powerful Trixie did so too." On the back of Trixie's note Dinky wrote her own, after some intense concentration she pinned it back up on the door and snuck away twords the end of town.
'How dangerous could it be? After all my sister made it out fine.' Dinky thought to herself as she stood at the outer boundary of the Everfree Forest, the little grey filly walked in and vanished from view, as if she were swallowed whole.
With the trip to the spa out of the way Trixie was making her way back to the traveling wagon she called home. She felt nice and clean, those spa ponies sure know how to pamper a mare. All through the shampoo and rinse she couldn't help but think about the meal she had shared with Twilight. The subjects raised and the odd way she was looking at her, 'That Twilight sure is an odd one, but i like her.' Trixie thought to herself as she walked down the street.
On her left she saw a familiar Pegasus, one from the show today. The grey mare was impatiently tapping her hooves, waiting outside the public restroom. 'I suppose even in a town this size bathroom waits are a problem. Rather unfair how there always seems to be more stallion rooms than mares.' Trixie mused to herself.
Well the long day was almost at an end, and things had turned out pretty well in her favor. A large crowd attended so plenty of new Great and Powerful Trixie fans. The check from the mayor cleared so at the very least she wouldn't have to worry about eating for a week or so. And then there was Twilight, back to her again. She had to admit, being friends with somepony in her end of the social strata could prove useful. Who knows, perhaps one day Trixie will perform for royalty, 'Yeah keep dreaming Trixie.' continuing her internal monologue.
'Well at any rate it's been a long day, and there's plenty of road up ahead tomorrow, so for now it's off to Luna's domain.' Trixie longed for the lumpy futon mattress she called a bed. It was hard, old and likely full of dust mites, but it lent a certain amount of comfort. That and the fact it's all she could afford on her horseshoe-string budget.
She crawled up the familiar ledge onto her wagon, Trixie paused at the door to pick up the note she had left behind. 'I wonder, what would it be like if my life was the Great and Powerful Trixie's?' She shrugged, such things were idle fantasy, nothing more or less. Trixie was about to crumple up the note and toss it in the bin when she noticed something odd. The little sketch she had drawn wasn't there, and as she looked closer it wasn't her hoof writing either.
All the letters were big and bold like they belonged to somepony just learning to write. The note consisted of the following,
Hi this is Dinky imma be at the Everfree forest learning to fight monsters with THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE!!!
P.S. Dont tell mom and dad
Trixie let the note fall to ground, a deathly sinking feeling set upon her. She didn't even know who this was but she could guess, she could guess it was one of the foals from the front row, the ones cheering her on endlessly. Had one of them come by and actually taken the note she left seriously?
Her knee's knocked and wobbled, she'd heard awful things about the Everfree. True the reports about vicious animals made of the very tree's themselves were scary as crap, but they made for a great set piece for the Great and Powerful Trixie's stories. But that's all they were, just stories. In all her years the only thing Trixianna had slew with magic was an annoying horse fly.
"Oh i just know i'm going to regret this. Imma coming little filly!" Trixie shouted at the top of her lungs, she galloped away as fast as her legs could carry her. Though she quickly discovered that she didn't quite know where she was going, just aimlessly running about town. Finally she broke down and decided to ask directions from the mare standing outside the restroom.
"Please miss you must tell me how to get to the Everfree Forest! It's an emergency!" Trixie said with all sincerity.
Shifting her gaze from the stall door Derpy looked over the pony addressing her, "You can get there if you head out of town in that direction." She pointed the way to Fluttershy's cottage, "I hope your not thinking about going in there, once was more than enough for me." Rather than reply Trixie dashed away. "I wonder what's got her in a tizzy? I also wonder what's taking Dinky so long?" Derpy said aloud so as to subtly get Dinky's attention.
When that didn't work Derpy started rapping on the door and using her stern older sister voice, "Come on already Dinky you've been in there long enough. Other ponies need to go as well, Namely ME!" The door gave into Derpy's assault to reveal no occupant. A mixed feeling of paranoia and anger filled the sisters heart, "Just wait till i find you Dinky then your really gonna get it! Eh, just as soon as i'm done here." She rushed inside and slammed the door behind her, the bran muffin she had for breakfast had done it's job.
The Everfree was dark, the dense layer of fog didn't help much either. But that didn't bother Dinky too much, no it was the monstrous cries that echoed all around her that was scaring the hoo-ha out of her. But she was determined to be brave, plus how would the Great and Powerful Trixie react if she saw her acting like a little scardey foal? So first step find Trixie and impress her with your skills.
Dinky found herself lost in a little fantasy, the Great and Powerful Trixie performing on stage wowing the crowds, giving them what they want. Then for the next trick she invites Dinky on stage, the audience roars with applause for the newcomer. She unleashes spells the likes even the gods have never seen. In her vision she even has a nifty outfit matching Trixie's. "Oooh this is gonna be great!" Dinky bounced a little as she indulged in her glee.
Off in the distance she caught sight of what she assumed was Trixie's silhouette. With glee she ran to her new idol, "Great and Powerful Trixie i'm coming!" She rushed over to her side and expectantly waited for a response but something was off. Something about the way her mane was made of leaves and her coat made of wood just didn't seem quite right. That and the awful pine scent coming off the supposed Trixie was raising some questions.
Before any of said questions could be asked the creature pounced, it's wooden joints rattled with each movement. Ducking under a clawed swipe Dinky took off running deeper into the woods, the timberwolf hot on her hooves."I'm *huff* starting to think your not Trixie after all!" shouted Dinky at her pursuer.
At the first break in the line of sight Dinky tried hiding inside a unkempt bush hoping that the beast would just keep running. But the wolf was intelligent, it listened and smelled for it's prey. Dinky's little heart was pounding wildly in her chest, as the timberwolf got closer she could feel it's breath on her, hot and damp. She desperately searched for any escape but there was none, as far as she could see she was trapped, Dinky closed her eyes and began crying.
As the Timberwolf opened it's jaws to deliver a killing blow, something interrupted it. A loud crash, sounds of limbs being shattered and a startled yelp like that of a dog. When the painful end never came Dinky opened her eyes, backing out of the thicket she had gotten into she looked around. There was no sight nor sound of the timberwolf, only it's paw prints remained as well as a deep depression in the soft mud where it once stood.
The forest around her was unnaturally silent, not even the ambient growls of far off predators were there anymore. "H-helloo? Is anypony there?" Dinky cautiously peeked her head around searching for any sign of anypony else, or the timberwolf. All of a sudden the silence fell, all around her echoed frantic noises. Fearing it was the wolf returning with it's brethren Dinky hid herself once more, this time among the thorns.
From her self made cage she watched and listened, waiting for whatever was making the noise to reveal itself. From the top of the ridge came running a silhouetted figure, the fog wafted and wrapped itself around it. Dinky had learned her lesson the first time, she would not be caught off guard again.
The shape seemed to be out of breath, heaving heavy sighs. As it drew closer Dinky could make out more and more of the shape's features, a long silvery mane, deep blue fur. If she had the hat and cape she'd almost be a dead ringer for Trixie. Well at the very least she was a pony and not some horrific monster so she decided to call out to her. "Hello! Can you help me, i'm hiding from the monsters."
The new pony's horn lit up, "Where are you kid? I can't see anything though the fog."
"I'm over here! In the thorns!" Dinky rustled around to try and gain her attention, unfortunately cutting herself in the process.
Rushing to her aid the figure checked to see if she was all right. "What in Tartarus was going through your head kid? This forest is not for the likes of us."
"I know that now, it's just i wanted to meet the Great and Powerful Trixie! She's so cool!" said Dinky. "Say you look allot like Trixie, are you her sister or something?"
Trixianna didn't want to shatter the illusion for the little filly, "Y-yeah, something like that. You know if you wanted to meet Trixie you could have just came to one of her autograph signings. I guarantee there's much less chance of getting mauled by wild animals at those." She pulled away the thorny vines and got a good look at her fan. She was indeed one of the foals front the front row seats, her well kept fur was stained by the grimy mud and her own blood, she couldn't help but feel responsible for what this filly had gone through.
"You should count your lucky stars i found the note you left on my- i mean Trixie's door. I doubt anypony would have looked in here otherwise." Trixianna levitated Dinky onto her back and prepared for the treacherous journey back. "Can you help watch for monsters with me? I'd hate for us to fall into an ambush."
"Allrighty! Then you can take'em out just like you did that timberwolf that had me trapped!" Dinky said with childlike glee.
This concerned Trixianna, she had heard one but seen hide nor hair of a timberwolf, let alone take any out. "What do you mean?"
"Well it was you who saved me right? It was about to gobble my flank and then it was gone. I just assumed it was you," said Dinky.
Now Trixianna was getting really spooked, "I think we should get out of here right away." She burst into a fast trot, leaping over fallen logs, ducking under low hanging vines, looking for the elusive exit to the forest. This continued until they came across a ghastly sight, laying on the ground in front of a cave was the severed head of a timberwolf. Pouring out of where it's neck once rested was a sweet smelling sticky pitch.
"Uh i think that's the same one that tried eating me. What did this?" Dinky was shivering with fear on top of Trixianna, she in turn gave her a reassuring pat on the head.
"I'd rather not find out," As they tiphooved away Trixianna kept her eyes locked on the cave entrance, she didn't know what was inside but the deep heavy breathing told at least one thing. It was large, it was sleeping and most definitely it would not want to be their friends.
From her perch Dinky saw something that filled her with great terror, she began frantically signaling to her escort to look ahead. When she did Trixianna was filled with the same terror, just a few hundred feet away sat a positively enormous behemoth. It's starry blue back was turned to the ponies but they could see it had in it's paws the corpse of the timberwolf. With a resounding crack the creature tore the wooden carcass apart and began lapping up the sweet fluids inside.
Both ponies felt like the wind was knocked out of them, they both knew for sure what the creature ahead of them was, there was no mistaking it. They stood a mere stones throw away from...
The dreaded Ursa Major.
The sun was going down, and there was no sign of Dinky anywhere. Derpy had asked all her little friends if they had seen her anywhere, Berry Pinch said she hadn't even talked with her at all today. Diamond Tiara feigned concern and replied the same. Derpy even went so far as to track down the two she was hanging out with before.
"Dinky's missing!? C-come on Snails we gotta go find her!" said the stout Snips.
"Yeah she's our friend and everything!" said the lanky Snails.
The two ran off in search before Derpy could even ask any questions of them. This day was quickly getting out of hand, her parents had entrusted Dinky to her, with very specific rules and guidelines. "Crap i'm the one that's gonna get it when we get home. Why can't you just do what your told Dinky?"
Thankfully a friendly face came by just when Derpy was feeling down, "Are you alright Derpy? You seem down about something." said Twilight. Over her shoulder was a plastic tote bag full of leftover Hayburgers, a late night snack no doubt.
"Oh thank goodness it's you Twilight! It's my sister Dinky, I've been looking everywhere and i can't find her. She's always doing stuff like this but i still get worked up every time it happens." said Derpy.
"I could help look if you like, i'll ask Trixie if she can as well." said Twilight.
"Thank you, you don't know what this means to me," Derpy said with a little bow. "But what makes you think Trixie will help us?"
Twilight had to arrange today's events in her head, "Oh right i haven't told you yet. I went by just like the card said, and it turns out Trixie's nothing like she acts on stage. She's really nice and we hit things off really well."
Derpy felt some relief, "Good, i was kind of dreading hearing how badly it went."
"Her wagon is parked just over here, i just hope she's back from the spa." said Twilight.
As the two walked over a piece of paper blew into Derpy's face, "GAH! Get it off Twilight!" Twilight complied and took a look at it.
"Oh this must be the note Trixie left before we went to lunch, you can even see her little drawing." She paused, "Odd, there's something on the back as well." Twilight flipped the page and read it's contents. "I think you should see this Derpy." Twilight said in a shakey voice.
Derpy grabbed the paper from Twilight and read it for herself. Her heart sank, and then it flared up with fury. The two of them knew where to find Dinky, and they both dreaded what they would find there. As fast as their legs and wings could carry them Derpy and Twilight made their way to the Everfree Forest, hoping against all hopes that they wouldn't be too late.
Boast Busters: We worry about the ones we love, it's just what we do
The problem was obvious, a gigantic stellar bear stood in their way to freedom. The solution was less obvious, there seemed to be no way of sneaking around it and the only way out was beyond it. Trixianna could feel the sheer terror of the little one she was carrying, deep down she felt it too, but for her sake and her own she was trying to keep a calm head.
"What are we gonna do? There's no way we can win, If only the Great and Powerful Trixie were here." Dinky said in a hushed voice, careful not to gain the unwanted attention of the Ursa.
"I can tell you what were not going to do kid, were not going to get eaten and were not going to meet our end in this forest. I can promise you that much." said Trixianna.
"B-but how?" asked Dinky.
She had to think quickly, though it was engrossed with it's meal she knew that wouldn't be for long. 'Alright think, it's a bear right? And this cave must be it's den, so this area of the forest must be it's territory. If it attacked the timberwolf because it was intruding then... it must patrol, right?' she thought to herself.
"Here's the plan, were gonna copy your idea from before. We'll hide in the brush and wait for it to leave, once it's gone we'll make a mad dash for Ponyville. If it left you alone before then perhaps it has poor eye sight, couldn't see you, i think as long as we remain still and be really quiet it wont detect us."
"It's just like a game of hide and seek, right?" asked Dinky.
"Hmm right, except if we get found we don't join the seekers we just get eaten. So, extra incentive to win right?" Dinky nodded an affirmative and the searched for their hiding place. The two settled on a large hallowed out log, just big enough for the both of them to fit in side and out of sight. Through a knot hole they could keep watch, now the only thing left was to wait.
The seconds turned to minuets, minuets turned to hours, hours turned to days, days gave weeks a pass and went strait on into years then finally years turned back into minuets. Forty five of them, or as close to that as Trixianna could estimate, seeing as their was no sun or moon they could see to use as a visual aide. It was during these supposed forty five minuets that the Ursa continued eating it's morsel and lumbered about it's domain in a bit of a stupor.
While they whittled the time away a hushed conversation started between the two. "Can i ask you something Trixie's sister?" asked Dinky.
"Anything just as long as your quiet."
"Are any amazing at magic too?" asked Dinky
"Not particularly, i wasn't blessed with a cutie mark of magical power, and to be honest i have trouble just getting past base level spells. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing really, i'm just afraid if i don't get a magic cutie mark i wont be able to become a great and powerful unicorn like Trixie." said Dinky.
"I'll let you into a little secret... what's your name?" asked Trixianna.
"I'm Dinky Doo."
"Well that's a sweet name Dinky Doo. I'll tell you a secret if you can promise not to tell." Dinky nodded yes, she liked secrets. "Can you see my cutie mark?" She motioned to the emblem on her flank.
"Kinda, it's really dark in here." An amber glow flicked on from her horn, filling the stump with a warm light.
"Does it remind you of anypony else?" asked Trixianna.
It did look familiar, but she couldn't quite place why. Dinky looked through her memory for where she might have seen it before. "That's funny it's just the same as .. Trixie's..." She looked up away from the moon and wand mark to the face of the pony she was sharing space with, as Trixianna smiled and nodded it dawned on her. "Your the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
Trixianna immediately covered her mouth, muffling the little fillies joyful fan-girling. Outside the bear had heard the outburst, to the Ursa it sounded like the squeak of a mouse. In it's simplistic animalistic mind it thought, 'Rumbly in my tumbly, mousy mouse is not big enough.'
When it was clear the bear was not searching them out she removed her hoof, "Sorry about that, i didn't mean to alarm you."
"B-b-bu-but your the Great and Powerful Trixie. How can you be great and powerful without a magic cutie mark?" Dinky asked as her world was rocked.
"That's what i'm trying to tell you Dinky, there's allot more to magic than just raw power. There's also skill, misdirection, and when things get real down and dirty like now, there's luck. I've already come to terms with the fact that i may never be able to use powerful magic like Twilight Sparkle, but that doesn't mean i can't find new ways to get creative with the magic i can do." Trixianna finished her motivational speech then to illustrate her point repeated her rope snake trick with a vine, this time though it was nice and friendly.
"Wow, no wonder your great and powerful Trixie." Dinky said with awe.
"Hey Dinky can you do me a favor?" asked her elder.
"Anything! Oop, I mean anything." Dinky replied as she caught herself.
"Can we drop the Great and Powerful thing, it's fine on stage but it get's kind of grading after a while. Besides my friends shouldn't have to call me anything but my name." said Trixianna.
"Y-you mean i'm your friend?" This was more than Dinky could have ever asked for, aw who am i kidding she was asking for this earlier today.
"Sure Dinky, your foolish as all Tartarus for coming in here alone, but i can tell your a good kid."
"Okay from now on i'll call you Trixie. Oooh this is awesome wait till Snips and Snails hear i'm friends with Trixie." Dinky enthused. Trixianna smiled, well close enough.
Dinky unexpectedly jumped up and wrapped her hooves around Trixianna hugging her tightly. "*OOF* This is the second time I've had a pony try and hug me today. I guess Ponyville's just a hugging kind of town." She reciprocated the gesture and hugged her back, as she did she could feel the scratches caused by the thorns, some of them were already scabbing up. "Do they hurt?"
"Yeah a bit, but it's not too bad, i get cut and scraped up all the time when i play outside." Dinky said as she left the embrace.
"Alright hold still and i'll show you something neat even the lowest level unicorn can do." Dinky obliged and held still, A subtle flow of magic left Trixianna and into Dinky. Her body gave off a slight glow and she felt all tingly.
"What was that? It feels like i'm getting butterfly kisses allover and my cuts don't hurt anymore." said Dinky.
"I shared some of my excess magical energy with you, it's technically not even a spell, more like a natural ability. You loose your grip on your inner power and let it flow freely, mostly it's used in treating unicorns suffering magic depletion but in your case it can also help speed up the healing process." Explained Trixianna.
"Wow that's soo cool, can i try?" Dinky asked.
Trixianna thought on it but decided to advise against it, "You should probably wait a few years before you try, this ability uses your own well of power, I'm guessing your just starting to use magic, am i right?" Dinky nodded yes. "When your just starting out your reserves are pretty small, but they grow the more you use magic. Give it some time and it'll be easy." As she said that Trixianna's legs gave out underneath her.
"Are you alright? Is there something wrong? Did i do something wrong?" Dinky fussed over her fallen teacher.
Trixianna propped herself up, "No you didn't do anything wrong, it's just releasing your magic tends to drain your strength. That and the fact i was already tired before coming out here.. i'll be fine is what i'm saying. I just need to rest for a while, do you think you can watch for the both of us while i get some shut eye?"
"You can count on me Trixie! I mean you can count on me.." Dinky caught herself again, and dutifully took her spot at the knot hole. Confident in her abilities and too tired to care otherwise Trixianna shut her weary eyes and drifted off into sleep. Her dream was odd, prophetic even. She was on stage in the forest, and the audience was comprised of nothing but ponies with miniature Ursa heads topping them, all roaring and cheering on the show.
As she stirred in her sleep Dinky kept up the watch, ever vigilant. If she were in uniform she'd have the look and poise of a royal guardsmen down pat. The minuets dragged on for what seemed like an eternity, but eventually the Ursa finally decided it was done with whatever business an Ursa occupies itself with. It was when it started lumbering off back into the deeper parts of the forest that Dinky decided to wake her companion.
"Trixie... Trixieeeeee.. Trixie! Wake up." Dinky took to jumping on her inert body like a trampoline, the response was immediate.
"Gah! Ursas, there all over me!" the startled mare was swatting away at the imagined pony-bear dream abominations, when she opened her eyes however she was reassured to find the cramped comfort of the hallow and happy to see the youngster standing on her ribs. Wait scratch that she was not glad, just in pain, lots of pain. "Dinky i know it's tight in here but do you mind not standing on me? Please?"
"Sure thing Trixie." Dinky said with childlike glee, hopping off.
Trixianna rubbed the sore spot, 'Ow, that's going to bruise.' "Is their some reason you decided to wake me up, or did you just want to practice the spring board on my bones?" Said Trixianna, letting the pain speak for her.
Trixie's hurtful speech flew strait over Dinky's head thankfully so she replied in earnest. "Yeah the Ursa Major is finally leaving, we can go home now!"
"Truly?" Trixianna took a peek through the peephole just in time to see the Ursa jaunt out of sight. She pulled herself up and pushed back an errant strand of hair. "Good job Dinky. And i'm sorry i got angry at you."
"Yay i did a good job! Wait you were angry with me?" a frown took over Dinky's face.
"It's nothing to trouble yourself over kiddo, come on let's get out of this Celestia forsaken forest."
"Yay!" said Dinky.
With some effort the two squeezed out of their hiding place and into the open air, both glad to be free of the dank stagnant air that inhabited the hallow log. Before they went too far out they were sure to carefully look and listen for the Ursa, but it truly seemed as if he had gone away. The sounds from the cave also were encouraging, still the steady rhythmic breathing indicating whatever was in there was still asleep.
They were almost home free, nearing the boundary of the forest, both relived and a bit proud of their accomplishment of surviving relatively unscathed. As they rounded the corner they saw two figures bathed in moonlight they were both surprised and overjoyed to find.
For Twilight and Derpy the surroundings they found themselves in were familiar, they even passed by the cliff that gave out underneath them back during their first visit to the Everfree. Not that they were paying much attention to little details like that, Their focus was singular, find Dinky and bring her out of this Tartarus hole. She wasn't super hard to track mind you, her little hoof prints dotted the muddy floor all around. The story they told however was getting more and more dire.
First she pauses, runs up to something then is running even faster, more wild. Along side her tracks is a second set, based on the distance it must be much larger than her and heavier. The tracks ended at a patch of thorns, and most troubling of all, dried blood covers the spines. It was here that the brave face Derpy wore cracked, "This can't be right, this can't be Dinky's b-bu-bu-b-" She was unable to say it.
"I'm sure it was just a pig or something else that got stuck, take heart we'll find her." Twilight squeezed Derpy's hoof tight, she could feel her tremble uncontrollably.
"I just don't- i just don't know what went wrong. Why would she do something this reckless?" said Derpy.
"Does she do this kind of thing often?" asked Twilight.
"Only all the time, it seems like every time i turn my back she's off scaling a tree or getting lost in a crowd. One time she decided to play hide and seek without telling anypony, once we realized she was gone it took everypony three hours of searching to find her, she had been hiding inside the school house bell the entire time, and the only reason we found her was she came running out when Ms. Cheerilee rang for the end of class." Derpy's throat had a huge lump in it making it hard to express herself.
Twilight decided to use this as a point of encouragement, "So if she could stay hidden that long, do you think she can keep herself safe until we find her?"
"A-alright," Derpy said with a little sniffle.
"In the meantime we should keep looking, let's try retracing the path we took to the castle. If she found her way there she would at least be relatively safe." said Twilight.
This possible ray of hope brightened up Derpy's face, "Yeah and we can try asking that magnetic guy if he's seen her anywhere. Let's go!" And with renewed vigor the two set out again, recreating the pilgrim path that changed their destinies those months past.
Along the way they came across the clearing where they faced the unbelievably scary trees. On a second viewing and in sufficient lighting the trees didn't seem nearly as disturbing as they once did. This only furthered their inward sense of hope, that they would find Dinky unharmed.
When they came to the shallow river Twilight called upon the river dragon, "Steven Magnet are you there? Were in distress! Were signaling an S.O.S."
The waters parted and revealed the aquanaut, "Wrong species, but yes i am here. Hello ladies, what brings you to my door- er riverbank?"
"What'da mean wrong species?" asked the puzzled Derpy.
"You mean you don't know? You were using the traditional call for another water dwelling sapient species. But they tend to stay in the seas, not going upriver-" He leaned in resting his chin on his hands, "-Ah such majestic creatures the sea ponies. The have a certain natural beauty, rivaled only by moi of course." Steven ran his clawed hands through his hair, he was feeling pretty confident in his looks today.
"Well.. whatever, we don't have time to waste talking about sea monkeys. I need to know if you've seen my sister anywhere here in the forest!" Derpy said getting back on focus.
"Hmm is she the equine with the black and white stripes i see walking about every once and a while?" Suggested Steven.
"No, Dinky looks like a tiny version of me.. except she's a unicorn." said Derpy, Twilight on the other hoof was curious about this other pony he mentioned but decided to leave that for another time.
"She looks just like you? Then surly i would have taken notice of such a vision." He gave Derpy a coy wink. Unsure how to take that, as a compliment to her or creeping on her very underage sister, Derpy decided to play it safe and assume the best of Steven.
"Well were plum out of luck then," said Twilight. "We've wasted this much time coming all the way out here and there's no sign she ever came this way."
"Never fear ladies, hop aboard and i shall carry you safely to the the entrance. The waterways are much swifter than any old trail anyhow." The leviathan pulled more of his snakelike body out of the river, just large enough to fit Twilight and Derpy comfortably.
"Why thank you, that's very kind of you to offer." Twilight said as she took her seat. Derpy on the other hoof nervously prated around. "Come on take a seat, it's clear she didn't come this way."
"If it's alright with you i'll fly, maybe i can see her from up top." Derpy spread her wings and took off, the leaves on the ground all swirled about in the wake she made.
"Well then we best be off," said Steven. And with that they cast off shore, Twilight and her ride swiftly snaking through the river and Derpy keeping in pace while eyeing all her surroundings like an eagle. Unfortunately her laser point vision didn't allow her to see the low hanging branch just in front of her.
"*KA-THUD* *KER-SPLOOSH*" Before either of them could warn her Derpy's head collided with the errant tree and she plummeted into the waters below. Thankfully just as soon as she was in, she was out. Twilight had a firm hold of Derpy with her levitation and safely brought her to dry land, or dry back in their case.
Twilight immediately was looking for a concussion, moving her hoof in front of Derpy's eyes. They sort of followed the movement, but she was unsure if it was just her wall eyes or a sign of something wrong. "Are you alright Derpy? You took a nasty fall there,"
Placing her hooves to her head she railed, "Ooh, i'll be fine, everything's just a bit spinny. That's why i don't multitask while flying very often. Stuff tends to pop up in front of me when i'm not looking." Derpy said excusing herself.
"Just try and be more careful, we wouldn't wan't Dinky to have to worry about her sister if she's in the hospital." said Twilight.
"If i may ask, just what does this sister of yours mean to you?" asked the dragon who had remained mostly silent until now.
This question caught Derpy off guard, it's not that she couldn't answer, it's just you tend to take for granted the ponies who are a part of your life every day. "Dinky's like my annoying little doppelganger, she's hyper, always butting into my business, and never knows when to leave me alone. But she's also my best friend in the whole world, i can tell her anything and know she'll keep it a secret. Go anyplace with her and have fun. And now i'm terrified that i'll never see her again." Derpy gave way to sobbing once more, and Twilight provided a shoulder to cry on.
"Hey, there there, what'd we d agree on? Were gonna find her and she's gonna be fine, alright?" Twilight said in her most reassuring way.
Her friend's love and attention was enough to stop the well of tears, "*Sniff* T-thanks Twi-l-light, your so k-kind." Derpy said in between sobs.
Watching her display seemed to affect Steven some to. "I wonder if he's even still alive, i suppose he could be a she. I never did get to meet them...." The water dragon drew silent and somber.
Something about what he was saying reminded Twilight of their first encounter, "Steven, I hope you don't think i'm being a nosy old mare, but who are you talking about? Is it a lost love?"
This raised his luxuriant eyebrows, "A lost love? Yes i suppose that's an apt way of describing it. After all what greater love is there than that of a parent for his child? Or at least i assume so, i never did get the chance."
"You were a father?!" gasped Twilight and Derpy.
He seemed a bit offended by that, "Is the notion that ridiculous, you think a handsome rouge like me couldn't find a dragoness willing to ..." He was about to graphically describe dragon mating rituals, but decided that present company was probably not ready to hear all the gory details. "-Ahem, have my children. Nay i say, they were practically clawing at my feet, back then i was known as Handsome Magnet."
Derpy and Twilight couldn't help but imagine what a female dragon fawning over a younger Steven Magnet would look like. "Of course the one i chose was special, and the egg we made was special too. But one day it disappeared and soon after she left, after that i took to living here in the river where i can focus on the only thing i have left, my good looks." He ran his claws through his hair once more, but this time it was less self congratulatory and more sad realization of the truth of his statement.
"Oh Steven that's so awful, i shouldn't have asked you about that, i brought up so many painful memories." said Twilight.
Steven brought himself out of his funk to reply, "No no, i wouldn't have answered you if it was painful. Three years isn't enough to forget, no amount of time is enough to forget. But it does lesson the grief," He gave his wispy mustache a little twirl, "It is i who should apologize, i should not have distracted you from your important task with my woes. We have arrived ladies"
He pulled alongside the back and sank low to allow them to exit. "Thank you again for the ride, would you possibly be able to help us search?" inquired Twilight.
"Unfortunately no, while i can traverse dry land if i need to, my legs aren't good for much more than swimming. Thou i would be happy to search the river bottom for the child." As he finished saying that Derpy gave way to tears once more. "Oh- oh dear, um i didn't mean to look for a body. For all we know she could be trapped in a clam shell, or a bubble. Crazy stuff happens under the water."
"You mean it?" Derpy halfheartedly asked.
"Oh yes, in fact i should start looking right away. Bye bye, tell that lovely stylist i said hello." With that said, Steven disappeared bellow the water surface, leaving no trace that he was there in the first place.
That left Twilight and Derpy alone once more. As they stood on the shore they contemplated where to go from here. Try going deeper into the forest, into uncharted territory or leave and return with a well equipped search party. The choice was a difficult one, time was of the essence and neither of them wanted to leave the other alone in this dank hole, lest they get lost themselves.
But fortune smiled on the would be rescuers, cautiously walking around the bend came two ponies. One they were overjoyed to see alive and well and the other surprised to find in this place. "Dinkums!" shouted Derpy as she ran over and scooped up her little sister. She held her tight, and let her tears loose once more.
Dinky could feel the wet fur of her sister, feel the anguish she had caused her. "I'm so sorry sister, i never should have left. I didn't want to make you worry, i didn't wanna-" Dinky started hyperventilating, getting to worked up to express how sorry she was.
Derpy cut her off, gently stroking her mane, "Shush, hush, Your safe that's all that maters. You had me worried sick but that doesn't mater, your alive and your safe."
As the two continued hugging it out Twilight and Trixianna were left looking on at the touching scene. "Well i wasn't expecting to find you here, i thought you were still at the spa." said Twilight.
"I wasn't expecting to find anypony, we've been hiding outside the Ursa den for so long i figured our chances of rescue were slim to none." Trixianna said with a flat tone. "I take that's Dinky's older sister?"
"Yes, she's been worried sick ever since she realized Dinky was missing. I'm guessing you had something to do with her being safe, am i right?" asked Twilight.
"Right after i got home i found the notice she left on my door, then i ran off here. As soon as i found her we've been playing hide and seek with the monsters. Did i mention there was an Ursa Major yet?"
"This isn't part of your stage act, is it?" Twilight needed to confirm.
"Unfortunately no. And if i'm not mistaken, i believe were still standing in his territory, and you don't want to see what he did to the last thing it caught in it's turf." Trixianna shuddered thinking about the Timberwolf and the pile of bones outside it's cave.
"Then let's get a move on, Derpy i hate to interrupt your reunion but this place isn't safe." Twilight said with authority, assuming the role of party leader.
Derpy snapped to attention, "R-right, come on Dinky you must be tired out. I'll let you ride on my back the whole way out, alright?"
"Yay piggyback rides!" Dinky squealed with glee, you almost couldn't tell the awful experiences she had gone through tonight. She jumped aboard and landed on Derpy's back with a thud, but she was used to the abuse on her poor back. Anything if it meant getting home safe and sound.
"So which way out Twilight? You've been in here before right?" Inquired Trixianna.
Twilight closed her eyes and formulated their plan, using the approximate time and the position of Luna's moon in the sky she could use it as a compass. "Let's see, if i'm right and i'm fairly sure i am east Ponyville should be that way." Twilight said while pointing in a direction. She was about to head out when something struck her, "Um the moon is looking awful blue tonight, isn't it?"
This drew the attention of the other three, they all looked and all had to agree. The normally bright white rock in the sky had a definite tinge of blue to it. "Is this what a blue moon is?" asked Dinky.
"No, a blue moon is a name for an extra full moon during a month. This is- is... Sweet Celestia!" Twilight exclaimed.
And the reason for her outburst became apparent to the rest very quickly. As the blue moon they were seeing was not really blue at all, they were only looking at it though a filter. That filter being the simi transparent body of the Ursa, the Ursa who was now facing them head on and baring it's fangs at them.
There was no where to hide.
No place to run.
For the last time, these four ponies stood face to face with the dreaded Ursa Major.
"What the B*@# is that!?!" Screamed Derpy, as she stared at the snarling Ursa.
Dinky reacted with shock, "You said the dirty word, i'm telling mom."
"Not the time or the place Dinky. And i still haven't gotten an answer, what is that thing!?" said Derpy.
"It's the Ursa Major, he's the one that we were hiding from for so long." said Trixianna.
Dinky seemed unusually calm and collected, she took her sister by the hoof and said, "Don't worry all we have to do is hide in some bushes and wait for him to leave." She said with cheer, after all, that plan seemed to work out fine the last two encounters with wild beasts.
Twilight thankfully was the voice of reason, "Sorry Dinky i don't think he'll just ignore us this time. It knows were trespassing and by the look in it's eyes i'd say it's none to happy about that." For Twilight time seemed to slow it's march as she began observing intently everything about their foe, hoping to find some weakness before it launched it's deadly attack.
The Ursa was tall, on all fours it stood roughly ten unicorns, hoof to horn tall. It's body was strange, almost completely transparent with a tinge of dark blue. She surmised this was likely a natural camouflage so it could blend in with the night sky. On it's pelt were markings resembling the constellations above, no doubt Cloudchaser would be interested in seeing this from a distance. Oddly enough the Ursa had a distinctly non bear like feature, a long catlike tail.
On it's forehead it bore a bright white mark like the north star. It's teeth were jagged and unsymmetrical, used for only one purpose. But most striking of all was the Ursa's eyes, it's bright yellow eyes accented by blood red pupils. These eyes glowed with intensity, they could unnerve even the most seasoned of adventurers. If the eyes truly are the window to the soul then this creature's soul is filled with nothing but rage.
Having failed in her goal to locate a weakness Twilight returned to her normal awareness of her surroundings.
"--- were in a tight spot here, which plan should we go with Twilight?" asked Trixianna.
"Huh, wha, huh?" Twilight confusedly stumbled.
"Were you not even paying attention? We need to know, do we try and escape? Or try and fight it out?" asked Trixianna, who cautiously kept an eye on the colossus.
The choice was difficult, there was no way to get past it on foot. Twilight could telleport away but she doubted she was skilled enough to take the others with her. Another problem with that is teleportation without a set destination is very risky, you could end up halfway inside a tree, or deep underwater, never to see the surface again.
"Derpy can you carry Dinky and fly at the same time?" asked Twilight.
"I can but i don't think i could carry either of you on my own, just don't have the wing strength." Derpy apologized.
"It's fine, just get her to safety. We'll hold it off while you get help." Twilight assured her friend.
Derpy looked her in the eyes, said an emotional thank you hoisted Dinky onto her back and took off. The two unicorns on the ground stood as menacingly as the could be to a behemoth, covering their exit. As the two left the area, Trixianna turned to her fellow, "There.. there won't be anypony coming. Will there?"
Twilight let out a self defeating sigh, "I doubt it, and even if by some miracle she can find anyone to help it will probably be too late for us."
"So then this is how i go? I always figured it would be in some kind of stage accident, like somepony used a real gun instead of the prop during the Quickdraw Shootem' act." Trixianna mused.
"Hows that one go?" Twilight asked.
"Tut tut, trade secret." said Trixianna.
"Oh please, we're both going to be dead anyway." Twilight said in a matter of fact way.
Trixianna mulled it over, "What the hay," and proceeded to whisper it in her ear.
"Impressive! I would have loved to see you perform that." said Twilight.
Trixianna closed her eyes and smiled, she knew she would, it always knocks em dead. "I gotta ask, you have any regrets?"
"Plenty." Twilight said, thinking about the last moment she had shared with Spike, nothing to out of the ordinary. It was the end of a rigorous magic practice session, she had just finished working on her twenty fifth spell, the fabled mustache spell. Spike had been begging and pleading to test it out on him, and against all her better judgment Twilight acquiesced.
A flash of light later and Spike's upper lip was no longer bare, a black handlebar graced his face. "Nice, now Rarity has to notice me!"
'And i'm not going to be there for him when she breaks his little heart. When goes off to school for the first time. When he graduates top of his class. When he ... when he, oh Spike i'm so sorry.' the thought of not being there for her boy was bring her to tears.
"How about you Trixie, do you have any regrets?" Twilight asked as she wiped her eyes.
"Only one, if this is to be the last appearance of the Great and Powerful Trixie, she really ought to be in costume. Silly i know since were about to be eaten it shouldn't matter what i'm wearing but, it's kind of hard to get in character with out it." said Trixianna. To her surprise a magical glow came from Twilight's horn and from thin air materialized a wizards hat and cape almost identical to the ones Trixie wears on stage.
"Wha-how-huh?" Trixianna stammered.
"It's number eighteen, fabrication. I hope i got the pattern right, i haven't used this spell much." Twilight said shyly.
Trixianna held the purple fabric in her hooves, ran it across her fur, it felt just like the real thing. "It's perfect." She swung the cape across her back, buttoned the clasp and donned the gigantic hat. The show was about to begin, "So Ursa Major, you think you can defeat the Great and Powerful Trixie? I say it will be the other way around, it is you who shall taste bitter defeat this day!"
The Ursa for it's part took notice of the minuscule pony shouting at him. It had been lazing about, waiting for it's prey to put up a fight, it's no fun when your dinner just rolls over without struggling. He sauntered over to the two ponies and leaned in close, preparing to give one of his trademark earthshaking roars. The kind that send even the bravest of monsters fleeing. The blue one was making strange chattering noises at the purple one, 'What annoying creatures,' he thought.
He opened his mouth, drew in a deep breath, but was shocked to find his entire face was covered in a painful tingly sensation, followed by a numbness. "GWARRRR!!" Screamed the Ursa, pawing at it's face trying to regain any sensation.
"Ha Ha! Fool, you walked strait into Trixie's lighting! Taste the wrath of the greatest unicorn!" Trixie conjured up another tiny storm cloud and a second later it discharged, the bolt singing the Ursa's fur but not doing any real damage.
"And taste the.. ah.. great.. justice of the wise and uh learned Twilight's magic beam!" She shot out a concentrated beam of magic, striking the Ursa right in the eye. "Sorry i'm not used to this kind of showmanship." Twilight said in apology to Trixie.
"No your doing fine, though i wonder what your costume would like like with that name?" Trixie said in encouragement.
The Ursa reeled with pain, as his vision returned everything was blurry and hazy, so it hunted by sound and smell. It followed the sounds of their banter and swung wildly, with the back of it's paw it struck one of them sending them flying into a wall.
"Twilight!" Trixie shouted after her friend, then turned her gaze back to the hulking behemoth in front of her. "Oh poopy." She too got backhanded into a wall, quickly putting an end to the winning streak they were on. A labored breath escaped Trixie's body as she slid down the rock and onto the hard ground. Though her head was ringing like like the schoolhouse bell she clearly knew one thing, this was the end.
Derpy had successfully escaped the Ursa's ambush with Dinky, she had accomplished the near impossible. But as she landed on the mossy ground bellow and folded up her wings she couldn't help but feel like she had betrayed Twilight. After all, Derpy was the first pony she had ever befriended, she even admitted it. And now she was fighting for her life while Derpy was safe and sound, it didn't feel right at all.
As Dinky got onto the ground she felt immense relief, feeling solid earth bellow her hooves instead of open air was very reassuring. "Now we can go home right sis?" Dinky asked hopefully.
Derpy hymmed and hawwed, "Dinky i'm about to go do something really stupid, your going to have to walk home on your own."
"What are you gonna do?" asked Dinky.
"I'm going to save my friend," Derpy said with determination, her eyes were almost dead strait ahead as if reflecting that determination.
"I'll go too! I wonna help Trixie out too!" said Dinky, who then started charging back into the Everfree, back to the site of the standoff. Derpy quickly put the kibosh on that.
"No way! Your going strait home and not looking back once." Dinky was not pleased.
"That's not fair! I wannna help!" she was throwing a little tantrum, stomping her hooves.
Derpy was firm but kind, "I know how you feel but try and think about this clearly. You can't use magic yet and you're not exactly the fastest in your class. If you really wan't to help go home and tell mom and dad what's happening." With that she unfolded her wings and unceremoniously took off.
Dinky started trudging her way back home, dragging her hooves as she muttered to herself. "It's no fair, i can help. Just because i don't know magic yet doesn't mean i'm useless." She stopped in place and turned around, "Yeah i can do plenty of stuff good, i can throw rocks and cheer on Trixie and Twilight and even Derpy." With her self confidence bolstered, Dinky took off back into the forest, by now she could navigate the grounds around her like the back of her own hoof.
"I'm gonna prove it! Just you watch sister."
The scene was grim, two competent fighters reduced to near unconsciousness. The Ursa not showing any signs of fatigue, or any damage for that matter. It was cruel and playful, as it took the purple horse and pined it's tail to the ground, watching her try and run away. Much akin to how a cat will sadistically play with a mouse before finishing it off, it reveled in this act.
Twilight was scared out of her wits, she knew there was no escape, it was a sad fact of life. She wasn't expecting this maddening game, she could feel the weight holding her tail lifted and she ran as fast as she could. But a large blue paw fell down in front of her blocking her path, Twilight almost tripped over herself as she changed course running in the opposite direction, only to be stopped again.
The pattern continued until she couldn't run any more, her heart pounded wildly, her breathing was erratic and she collapsed where she stood. She didn't want this to go on any longer, in desperation she screamed at the monster. "Come on! Didn't your momma teach you not to play with your food?! Come and get some you ugly dastard!"
Twilight's horn lit up as she readied a number nine spell, when used properly it's a small fire equivalent to a match. When used improperly, like when one supercharges it with enough magic to power a city block it becomes a towering inferno burning hotter than an active volcano.
Twilight was feeling like it was an improper kind of day.
As the Ursa came down to swallow her Twilight set off the spell, she could feel her mane and tail catch ablaze and see her fur lose it's natural purple hue and become an alabaster white. It was as if she was become a vessel for the cleansing fire she was about to unleash.
But before Twilight could watch the world burn she was saved out of the mouth of the bear by an unexpected but very welcome source. "Derpy! What are you doing here?" Twilight said in shock as they flew though the air.
"I'm not going to leave my friend to die, what kind of friend would that make me?" Derpy winked and started a curving decent towards the ground. "Hold tight!"
"Wait i thought you said you couldn't fly with a passenger as big as me or Trixie?" said Twilight, her fiery features disappearing.
"I'm not flying, i'm falling with style!" Derpy said as she began to spin out of control, the two landing with a thud.
As they regained their hoofing the two were joined by a third, Trixie had picked herself up off the ground. "Think you got enough in you to go one more round?" asked Twilight.
"Trixie was born ready!" she said with a twirl of her cape.
"So what's the plan Twilight?" asked Derpy, it was clear she put her full trust in Twilight's judgement.
Something about the way the Ursa had been malevolently toying with her sparked an idea, an idea that just might work. "Trixie if you guided me do you think i could pull off the tricks you used on me during our duel, but on a much larger scale?"
Trixie thoughtfully put a hoof to her chin, "I don't see why not. There all basic spells, yeah i think it could work."
"Alright then Derpy you garner it's attention while we get the materials we'll need." Derpy took off and started harassing the Ursa from the skies, Twilight and Trixie started scrounging the trees for their tricks.
"We could use these stinging nettles for the 'Card Storm'." Trixie said as she uprooted swaths of them from the ground, careful not to get any on her.
"And this vine would work for the 'Rope Snake' trick." said Twilight as she levitated a colossal vine that had wrapped itself around a tree. The diameter of the vine was even bigger than Twilight, and likely weighed hundreds of pounds.
"But we'll need something extra... I got it!" Trixie dove into the woods and emerged with an assembly of mix matched bright foliage. Using her magic she arranged them at the end of the vine to resemble the hood of a cobra, with large intimidating false eyes.
"Ooh real scary, i'm quivering in my boots right now." said Twilight.
Trixie felt wounded, true she was no artist but she didn't have to be that blunt. "Stomp on my heart why don't ya."
"No i'm serious, i'm terrified of snakes. If i didn't know it was fake i'd be running in fear right now." said Twilight with all sincerity.
The sweetness of the compliment touched Trixie's heart, it's not often she received genuine praise. She opened her mouth and was about to thank her when she was interrupted by Derpy doing a flyby.
"Think you two could hurry it up? I can't keep this thing busy forever!" She said as she narrowly dodged a swipe of it's claws.
"Fine Trixie shall take the stage. Come fellow magician, let us show how great and powerful we really are!" said Trixie.
With a grand entrance full of pomp and circumstance Trixie took to the center of the clearing, Derpy took that as her Que and disengaged. With nothing left to chase the Ursa looked around and found a lone unicorn clad in periwinkle and adorned with stars. The moon itself shone a shaft of bright white down upon her, bathing her in it's radiance. The Ursa however wasn't impressed by the sight, only instinctively rushing to gobble it up.
But she didn't flinch, didn't run. She just waited until the Ursa was mere meters away before giving the command. "Now!"
In an instant the Ursa was surrounded, everything he could see was covered by a swirling mass of foliage, when he tried to part it he was repaid with a horrible stinging sensation. "Ha ha fool! None can match the power of Trixie!" She gave a motion signaling the snake. "And for Trixie's next act she shall bring motion to the motionless, life to the lifeless!"
The massive vine began lifting itself up and slithering around. The Ursa was immediately taken back, it was by no means frightened of snakes, but this was like no snake it had even seen. It watched cautiously as it slithered up to the unicorn lay down it's head and allowed her to lead it. Perhaps it had underestimated the ponies, if they have dominion over creatures like that.
Twilight led the faux viper swiftly, it coiled around the Ursa, binding it's limbs, and getting face to face whipping out it's hood, Twilight was trying her darnedest to keep it's attention. As the Ursa wrassled with it's opponent Trixie dismounted and took her place right on the creature's shoulders. She painstakingly crafted a thundercloud, using all the magic power at her disposal. "Right, only one shot at this," Trixie said as she carefully aimed for the beasts spinal chord.
The Ursa was unaware of what the little pony was up to, but it sure felt the results. A massive shock followed by complete darkness, and loss of all control. With deftness Trixie ran down the Ursa's body before he collapsed into a heap, His fall caused a tremor that shook the whole area. "Did we get him?" asked Trixie as she cautiously backed away from the motionless mass.
"It looks like it but i don't wan't to get anywhere near that thing." said Twilight as she emerged from her hiding place in the bushes.
Derpy was the one to step up, "Alright i'll check you pansies." Derpy said, annoyed with her friends who were more than willing to go toe to toe with this colossus but are too scared to check if it's breathing. First she flew up to it's nostrils, no air was moving in or out. Then she flew to it's eye lids, pulled one up and looked intently. The pupils didn't dilate, and they didn't follow her movement at all.
"Well? Is it dead?" asked Twilight.
Derpy landed in front of the Ursa, picked up a rock and tossed it hitting the glyph on it's forehead. "As a door nail."
But what she didn't see was the Ursa's lungs filling with oxygen, it's bright yellow eyes opening once more. She didn't see the clawed paw of the Ursa until the impact. "Derpy!!!" Twilight screamed in horror as she saw her friend get mortally wounded.
Derpy fell to the ground, claw marks ran down her side, the cuts ran deeper.
"Get away from her you cretin!" Screamed Trixie, she backed up her statement with a surprisingly powerful lightning bolt. This was enough to dissuade the Ursa from pursuing his wounded prey, if only for a short time. While Twilight rushed to her side Trixie shot a death glare, the Ursa paced back and forth waiting for the opportune time.
"Derpy! Say something, anything! Just let me know your still in there." Twilight was unsure of what to do, she had done some rudimentary research into medicine, mostly so she could tell when Spike was really sick or just faking it. Though she was no professional she could already tell she was in no good shape. There were four deep lacerations running down her midsection, and copious amounts of blood loss.
But her life had not left Derpy just yet, her golden eyes flitted open and she said, "Oh hi Twilight, i was just having the most wonderful dream. I was going on a trip and everyone came by to see me off, they even brought me muffins to take with me. Isn't that nice?" Derpy said in a woozy voice, she tried getting up on her own, only to find she didn't have the strength. "I need to go thank everypony for making me muffins."
"No Derpy don't move, your going to make your cuts worse." Twilight was beside herself.
Here is how matters stood at the moment, One: all three of them were trapped in a smallish arena with an Ursa roughly ten times their size. Two: both Twilight and Trixie had been utilizing their magic so much they would soon become exhausted and no longer be able to defend themselves. Three: and most importantly Derpy had just been gravely wounded and without medical attention soon her situation looked grim at best.
Just when things couldn't get any worse they did, a tiny voice echoed into the arena. A voice that all who heard it had hoped she had been safe at home by now and not in this dangerous place. "Never fear, Dinky Doo is here!" Dinky's little head popped over the ridge, she was cheerful. As she topped the hill she could be seen in full, she had tied her mane up with a vine to keep it out of her eyes. Her cheeks were marked with lines of mud, similar to a hoofball player. She was also carrying a foreleg full of rocks, evidently she had come to lend her support.
"Dinky what are you doing? Get out of here, it isn't safe!" said Trixie, not turning her back to the Ursa.
"That's what Derpy said, but i can help. I even brought these rocks." She proudly presented the rocks, lost her grip on them and they tumbled down the steep incline, she followed after them. "Plus i can do other stuff to like-" Dinky stopped herself when she caught sight of what had happened to Derpy. In the moonlight Derpy looked like a bloodstained angel, Dinky ran all the way, tripping several times because she could take her eyes off her.
"Oh hello Dinky, are you here to bring me more muffins?" said Derpy, she seemed genuinely pleased to see her, still apparently in her dreamworld.
"S-s-sis your b-bleeding. W-why are you b-bleeding?" Dinky was shivering uncontrollably.
Derpy looked down at herself, and was shocked to discover that she was indeed bleeding. "Whatya know i am bleeding."
"We thought the Ursa was gone for good, but he faked us out and hurt her badly. If we can't get her out of here soon she might die." said Twilight, unaware of how her words were affecting the young child. Dinky started silently crying, her tears pouring down her cheeks and onto the parched ground.
"Daw, don't cry sis, Mr grumpy bear's just grumpy because he hasn't had any muffins. You know what'll solve that?" Derpy raised her head to Twilight expectantly.
Twilight although happy her friend was still contious and not going into shock, was starting to get annoyed by her odd behavior. "Let me guess it's muffins, right?"
"It's Muffins!" Derpy weakly through a vaguely muffin shaped stone at the Ursa, it didn't make it more than a few feet. "Dinky can you go bring Mr. grumpy bear his muffin?"
But Dinky didn't move, didn't say anything, only tears kept rolling down. Twilight finally took notice and tried to comfort her, "Don't worry we'll find a way, things always have a way of working out-" It was Twilight's turn to get interrupted, as she placed a hoof on Dinky's shoulder her eyelids shot open. Instead of her beautiful golden eyes there was a blinding white light emitting from her sockets. Her body began convulsing and twitching, raw magic radiated around her and she began levitating.
"Well that's new!" said Derpy.
"What in blazes?! Twilight what's happening?" asked Trixie, the spectacle was enough to get her to stop her stare down. The Ursa as well was distracted, frightened even.
Twilight knew the signs by heart, after all she had dealt with the same condition as a filly. "She's having a magic surge! Her body's producing more magic than it can handle."
"Well is it dangerous?" asked Trixie.
"Only if she starts firing off random spells!" A ray of magic flew off, freezing the tree it struck. "Yes this is very dangerous!"
Spell after spell began firing, sunlight, darkness, pockets of space loosing all gravity. One fortuitous spell turned the pile of spillt rock near Derpy into a pile of freshly baked muffins with butter. "Thanks Dinky." said Derpy as she dug in.
Dinky's mind was in chaos, like a whirlwind of ideas, flooding her contentiousness, driving her mad. Then there was a calm, an eye to the storm, a singular idea with such clarity it had to be right. Something awoke in side Dinky... Dinky realized the power of the true form spell.
With out touching the ground Dinky moved to the Ursa, it backed away in fear until his back was to the wall. When it couldn't get any farther it decided to fight, only to find it's attacks blocked by the invisible force of DInky's magic. With barely any effort she cast true form, it's magic twisted and warped the body of the Ursa, reducing it to nothing more than a frightened looking bear, no larger than a normal bear cub. With no chance left the former Ursa turned tail and disappeared into the Everfree.
Dinky silently floated back over to the group of three, her apparent purpose over she waited for what was next. Her eyes glowed ever so sightly less, the convulsions had reduced to noticeable twitches and kicks. "What do we do now?" asked Trixie.
"She needs someone she trusts to help her out and back to us. And i don't know how well Derpy would do at that considering the state she's in." Twilight motioned to Derpy, she was playing with muffins, mushing them all over her face and licking up the crumbs.
"A-alright i'll try." Trixie took a deep breath and inched her way till she was right next to the eerily floating filly. "Hey Dinky you did good, you did a good job. The Ursa Major is gone, we can all go home now."
She didn't respond only floated. "Keep trying," Twilight said encouragingly.
"You saved us all, i'd say you were even worthy of being called Great and Powerful." Trixie was delighted that she finally responded, her eyes returned to normal, and she no longer floated like she was possessed.
"Really!?! I'm great and powerful?" said Dinky, not missing a beat.
"Yeah kid, you really are." Trixie said, leaning in and gave her a great big hug. As she did all the spells she had cast during her surge state began reversing, including the muffin in Derpy's hooves turning back into a stone.
"Aww i was gonna eat that one." Derpy said sadly, she got up and joined the hug. "Glad your okay now Dinky."
"Hey! Your not bleeding any more!" Dinky said with surprise, and indeed she wasn't. Most of the cuts had healed over, and dried up.
"Hmm, i'd guess that the dissipating magic did that." Hypothesized Twilight.
"Who cares how it happened, get in here and join the group hug Twilight, we all deserve this." Derpy said, it felt good to have control over her mental faculties once more. Twilight obliged, and she had to admit it felt nice. Being here with all these ponies who had come to to mean so much to her in such a short time. Having concurred what seemed insurmountable, it was.. nice.
They held on together for what seemed like an eternity, until they heard something unsettling, the distant roar of the Ursa. "I think his spell just wore off, what do you say we continue this from the safety of Ponyville hmm?" suggested Trixie. All were swift to agree, and even swifter on their feet, booking it to the Everfree exit and home.
It ended up being several more days till Trixie left Ponyville. The all night excursion had left her too exhausted to haul her cart to her next stop, so she ended up canceling the whole gig. After a well earned day of rest she went strait back to performing on stage for the the foals and adults alike. She even was starting to develop some regulars.
Derpy had the remaining damage looked after at the hospital, where she had them dressed in bandages for the next couple of weeks. Dinky was immediately grounded for life upon returning home as well as lectured to no end for worrying her dear mother to death. Secretly both her parents were immensely proud of both their daughters and the lengths they went to for each other.
Twilight went home and started making up for lost time with Spike, talking with him about every little thing, until he got sick of it. As the week was coming to a close Twilight sat down to compose her report to Celestia. The past days had been jam packed with so much, she was unsure what to put in. But she tried anyway,
I am truly blessed in friendship I've discovered. I have so many friends i can count on, in everyday life and when it really counts. And I've also striven to be the same for them. It's truly beautiful, the fruitage of that type of friendship, i'd like to see the world filled with that someday.
I think i may have found a promising candidate for the School for Gifted Unicorns. It's the younger sister of my friend Derpy, she shows great magic potential, not unlike me at her age. I'll keep a close eye on her and try and foster a yearning for learning. I'll keep you posted if anything happens.
Your faithful student
As she hoofed over the letter to Spike for dispatch Twilight decided to give him a little space and read for a while. She pulled out her old monster encyclopedia and looked up Ursa's, in case one ever decided to show up in town she wanted to know all about how to properly fight them. Much to her dismay however she discovered something that churned her stomach. A labeled illustration, of two creatures. One they fought against and one she was glad they didn't. Above the blue bear was "Ursa Minor" above the Purple bear, four times it's size was "Ursa Major"
"Oh, that was just a baby......" Twilight felt like it was time for a little lie down.
The Ponyville library, the Golden Oaks was proving to be a nice little home. Twilight had taken to it immediately, she was surrounded by centuries of knowledge and it was her job to care for it all. The loft even had a beautifully crafted bed frame and comfortable mattress for Twilight. Spike on the other hoof, or claw as it were didn't have a bed of his own there simply wasn't enough room. Twilight assured him she wouldn't mind sharing the bed, but Spike was going through that stubborn independent streak that all foals go through and many never grow out of.
So Spike was left with a small dog bed that Fluttershy kindly donated, gently snoring away at the foot of his mom's bed. Even with the artificial lighting that had been installed both Spike and Twilight preferred to wake with the sun, something about drawing closer to their princess. So when the two were rudely awakened by Ponyville's clock tower loudly chiming it raised some questions.
"Just one more minuet Twilight." Spike groggily mumbled from inside his sheets.
"Spike you know how to make breakfast, i'm too tired." said Twilight, she squirmed and tossed, without thinking she levitated another pillow and hid away her face from the world.
At this point both roommates bolted upright in their respective beds, they shared a dazed look of confusion. "Since when did Ponyville start ringing the bell before six? It's still dark out," Spike asked rhetorically.
The cogs in Twilight's mind started turning and tried to rationalize the situation, "I think Derpy's coltfriend just got put in charge of the clocks here in town. Maybe he adjusted it wrong?"
"Well he's doing a great job so far, top notch work." Spike said sardonically.
Twilight gave a little tut tut gesture, she wasn't raising Spike to be a rude dragon. "Come on now Spike, ponies make mistakes. Can you say you've never made any mistakes?"
Spike reluctantly answered, "No."
Twilight smiled, "Hey I've got a great idea, hop up here and we'll watch the sunrise together!" Spike was in the process of doing so when the clock chimed seven.
"That's odd, Celestia is usually so punctual with the sunrise. I hope she's not sick..." Twilight let the thought linger, almost afraid to continue it.
'Eight! What's going on here?' thought Twilight. "Spike could you open the window? See what's going on outside." The stout dragon moved to the widow frame, his little feet making pitter pat noises as he ran.
Spike opened up the window and was immediately assaulted by a wave of thick smoke, it poured into the upper room. Struggling through the coughing Twilight ordered the window be shut. Spike was unfazed by the air pollution, as he closed the aperture to the outside he breathed deeply. The thick smog filled his lungs and sat heavy inside him.
"Twilight can you smell it? This is amazing!" enthused the little dragon.
"Oh i can smell it alright, once i find the pony whose burning garbage they are going to get a piece of my mind." said Twilight.
"It's not garbage, there's brimstone and sulfur and i'm pretty sure i smell gems in there as well. I've never smelt anything so wonderful!" Before Twilight could question him further on how he could tell apart all those scents, Spike was assaulted by an unscheduled incoming correspondence.
Twilight patted him on the head and retrieved the letter, as she unfurled the scroll and read it she was filled with anxiety. "Oh my."
In spite of the plume of ebony smoke billowing through Ponyville, most of it's residents hadn't really changed their activities. Perhaps it was they simply didn't care, or perhaps it was a result of that strange social behavior where nopony looks up. Whatever the case, life in Ponyville was going on as it always did.
The boutique owner was deciding which of her designs to feature in the store front today. The Quills and Sofas manager Mr. Davenport was proudly placing the open sign in his window. And in a lonely corner of town the two proprietors of the day spa sat at a patio table, mulling over their weekly correspondence from home. There was the usual, well wishes from all their parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunties, uncles, and the obligatory picture of everypony with Lotus' pet Ewe she had to leave in Ilia.
Sneaked somewhere in the gigantic bundle was a report on how the village was doing financially. Aloe was the first to read over the solitary sheet, "I am always hating having to read these Lotus. It brings down the whole mood,"
"Same here, but do not be forgetting, it is a part of our duties that we accepted when we moved here in the first place." said Lotus. She set aside the note in crayon, drawn by one of her little siblings and motioned for the finance report. As she read it she was filled with anxiety, "Oh my!" she exclaimed.
"I know, increased shipping charges from the food handlers will cost the village hundreds of bits more per order. Perhaps we can make some cuts at the spa so we can be sending more back home?" Aloe suggested.
Lotus was unsure, it was a fine line between the quality of their service and the clientele's needs and wants. "*Ugh* We could.. but-" Before Lotus could finish her thought the air was filled with the sounds of the schoolhouse bell ringing.
"It is a weekend yes? Why is the bell ringing?" asked Aloe.
"Come we must go, it is town meeting time." Lotus said with certainty, she had at least studied the newsletters distributed by the town hall. The two spa ponies got up from their seating and followed the constant ringing to the source. Already a large assembly had gathered, a low murmur spread throughout.
Standing at the foreground was Twilight Sparkle and little Spike by her side, she waited till it seemed most all of Ponyville had arrived. "Thank you all for coming on short notice everypony. I just received an important letter from Princ-" Twilight stopped herself since she was being drowned out by the ringing of the school bell.
*DING DONG DING DONG*
"Thank you Ms. Pie i believe we have everypony's attention!" Twilight yelled at the top of her lungs, hoping to get the energetic pink pony to stop banging her head into the bell.
"Oopsie, guess i got carried away." Pinkie Pie apologized as she extracted herself from the inside.
With the interruption stopped Twilight continued, "As i was saying i have received an important letter from Princess Celestia regarding the disastrous circumstances we find ourselves in." Each pony turned to the one next, unsure what she was talking about. "The giant smoke cloud pouring across our skies!" Twilight motioned all around to the skies to extenuate her point.
"Sweet Celestia, when did that happen?" was the general idea being spouted by the crowd.
"According to intelligence the princess has received, this smoke is being caused by a dragon at the top of a nearby mountain. Currently the smoke is reaching as far as Canterlot, but it's quickly spreading even farther." said Twilight.
"Well what's she doing about it? Where's the royal guard?!" said one petulant pony.
Twilight was getting annoyed, that's not the way you speak about the Princess or her army. But she set aside her strong feelings and answered his question. "The royal guard will not be deployed, at least not yet. Instead Princess Celestia would like ponies from our area to deal with the problem first. The terrain and climate will be harsh, so be sure of your skills. Is there anypony who will volunteer?"
This simple question gave rise to great laughter from Twilight's audience. "Why would i give a flying feather about some smoke? Tell the royal guard to get off the flanks and take care of it themselves!" said the same stallion.
This time Twilight raged with righteous fury. It's one thing to not speak of Celestia without the proper respect, but you do not insult Shining Armour and his men. Twilight was about to unleash verbal hell on this crass ruffian when Spike gave her a little nudge, reminding her how she is to handle herself, being a representative of the princess.
Twilight took a deep breath and responded, "Besides the willing spirit to help your fellow ponies, you might also be motivated by the reward of five thousand bits being offered for the resolution of this problem." This time Twilight's speech was met, not with laughter but stunned silence. Five thousand was allot, even the fabulously wealthy would turn their head, (maybe not enough to pick it up off the ground, but it would at least catch their attention.) "So i will repeat, is there anypony who will volunteer?"
Hushed chatter spread throughout, many plans were raised and shot down in their infancy then. Without hesitation one pony spoke up, "I will go, i will slay this dragon!" The crowd parted to reveal it was Lotus Blossom who had spoken, she was met with cheers for her bravery. Aloe who stood beside her was looking a bit angry with her friend.
"Lotus is that you? I won't stop you, but you must know it will be terribly dangerous." said Twilight concerned for her friend's safety.
"I'm confident i can do this," said Lotus, lying to herself.
"Very well then, it seems we have a champion. By the way you don't have to kill anything, all you need to do is get him to leave for somewhere else." Twilight said, only now remembering that vital condition.
"Oh, thank you." Lotus was unsure if that made her upcoming task easier or harder. "You be joining me Twilight? I could use your assistance."
Twilight was slow to answer, "This is probably better discussed in private. Come by the library latter today and we can talk then." With that businesses taken care of, Twilight dismissed everypony and went of to submit the bounty to the mayor. As they all shuffled away Lotus was left alone with Aloe, who had quite allot to say.
"Just what was that all about?" demanded Aloe.
"What i was seeing a need and i am the one filling it," replied Lotus innocently. "We need more money to send home and this will bring money, is good thing yes?"
"Oh yes, is good thing, you'll be off getting eaten alive and i'll be here left alone in spa. How about talking to me before making choice that affects us both, huh?" Aloe was getting rather huffy about the whole issue. It wasn't so much Lotus putting herself in danger, she understood that part plenty. After all she had heard all about Lotus' excursion to the Everfree Forest, and all about the powerful necklace she returned with, to be honest Aloe was somewhat jealous that she hadn't gone instead.
"You are being completely right Aloe, i did not speak with you before, that was wrong. And you are right, the spa is too big for one pony to run by herself. I've got it! You can find somepony who can work as .. as .. what is word? My mind goes blank." Lotus strugled for the proper term.
"Part Time?" suggested Aloe.
"Yey, part time! You can take care of interviews and we both decide who stays when i get back, yes?" said Lotus.
"Agreed!" This prospect was exiting to Aloe, "I've never hired anypony before, i wonder what it is like being the big boss lady."
"I must be being off, i'm sure with my friends' help i can accomplish anything.
"I'm sorry Lotus but i can't come with you." said Cloudchaser. The Pegasus was strapping on her goggles and a respirator mask. "Ever since the mayor got hold of that letter she's declared a state of emergency. Everypony on the weather squad is on duty diverting the smoke away from Ponyville."
"That is understandable, maybe Berry can help, after all she has survival skills." said Lotus.
"Alright i gotta go, i have to meet up with Rainbow Dash and my other squad mates. Stay safe alright!" Cloudchaser said as she took flight.
To Berry's house!
"I can't go off to some mountain! Not when my poor baby is terribly sick!" Berry said from behind her door.
"Oh my, i was not knowing, may i come in? Maybe i can cheer up Berry Pinch." asked Lotus.
There was silence, apparently Berry was having to think about even letting one of her closest friends inside. "Fine, just don't upset her she's oh so delicate." The door opened to reveal the tiny unicorn filly encased in a protective bubble, the kind used for ponies born without immune systems.
"Oh my, oh my, i had no idea something this bad was going around. Take heart Berry Pinch, you will be feeling better in no time!" said Lotus, her comment was met by a groan distorted by the plastic surface of the bubble.
"I'm NOT sick, how many times do i have to tell you mom!" yelled Pinch.
"Nonsense you were coughing your lungs out when you went outside. But your safe now, safe from all those nasty germs." said Berry Punch.
"I just inhaled some smoke, that's all, i swear!" Pinch said, but she immediately regretted her wording.
"You were smoking!?! Whose the dead Mother B*#@%r that gave my baby cigarettes?!" Berry continued rambling on about the state of Equestrian youth today and other things of that like. Berry Pinch on the other hoof slumped back, knowing full well she was going to have to sit through this tirade.
Feeling sympathy for the young girl Lotus did something she probably shouldn't have. "You know you have a nice pointy horn right?"
This little reminder gave Pinch the idea and the drive to pull it off. She sauntered over to the side of her medical prison, and with a swift movement of her head, *POP* She was free, "Bye mom see you later, going to Dinky's!" Berry Pinch yelled as she sprinted out the door. Her mother was too slow to stop her.
"Pinchy, baby come back! Mommy doesn't want you getting sick or succumbing to peer pressure! Pinchy!" Berry ran off after her daughter, leaving Lotus alone in the house.
"I'm sure Derpy will help, she's always so reliable."
"Sure i'll go along with you. Mountain climbing sounds fun!" Derpy said with enthusiasm.
'Finally somepony who can come with.' lotus thought to herself. "You are not knowing how much that is relieving me, but Derpy you are a Pegasus, you can fly."
"Actually no. My doctors said i need to stay off my wings until my wounds heal up. Something about causing irreparable damage if i use them too soon." Derpy gave a little twirl showing off the cotton bandages wrapping her midsection. "So when do we head out? What stuff should i bring? Is everypony gonna do a suiting up montage?"
Lotus stood and stared, she had completely forgotten just how bad things had gotten. She hadn't been there at the time of course, but from the way Twilight had described things, Derpy nearly had met her end. "Um, how am i supposed to say this without hurting your feelings? It is for the best you stay home."
"No, come on i'm fine." Derpy insisted.
"It is i who must insist, if you hurt yourself again on my behalf i could not forgive myself." said Lotus.
Derpy sighed, she was getting tired of ponies walking on eggshells around her. Being home bound for a whole week was taking a toll on her psyche, she couldn't even go back to work if she wanted to, she would have to get a doctors release before she could return. "I guess your right. just promise to think of me when your off having your adventure okay?"
Louts was feeling like a jerk, like the mom who has to deny her child the toy he really wants even though he's been good. "I'll do that Derpy," Lotus bid her a swift recovery and moved on to the next on her list, Golden Oaks Library.
Lotus was sitting at the reading table in the library proper, waiting for Twilight to return with the tea. She hadn't asked for any but Twilight had insisted it be served. As the minuets passed Lotus picked a random book off the shelf and hoofed through it, to be honest she didn't really understand what it was about. She learning more and more of the Equestrian language from being around her Ponyville friends and customers. But about the only written words she understood were those used when making a bill.
Having failed to understand 'Advanced molecular physics' she replaced in on the shelf and looked for something else to occupy her time. Lotus was pleasantly surprised to find a small assortment of literature in her own mother tongue. Before she could pick anything out Twilight emerged from the kitchen, in front of her was a simple porcelain tea set, the silver tray shone with a slight magenta glow as it levitated.
"Sorry for the wait-" Twilight apologized, "-for the life of me i couldn't find any tea bags. Is loose leaf alright?"
"Yes, of course." Lotus assured her, "So when should we be going? I am thinking if we leave before-"
"Sugar?" asked Twilight.
"Sugar? Oh no thank you. So if we leave before noon we can be camping at the mountain base." Lotus looked to Twilight for approval.
Twilight didn't talk at first, only nervously tapped her hooves together. "I-i won't be coming with you Lotus."
"What do you mean? You are always the one leading us on adventure," asked the confused Lotus.
Twilight hung her head in shame, "I know, that was my role when Nightmare Moon attacked, but things have changed a bit since then."
"Changed how?" asked Lotus.
"Well for instance last week i watched my best friend get mauled by a giant bear! I really don't need to go through that again," Twilight's anger was flaring up again.
"I am .. sorry, i had not thought about that." said Lotus.
Twilight calmed down enough to reply, "There's nothing to apologize about, I've been keeping this bottled up inside and haven't talked with anypony about it, not even Spike." As she vented, Spike came in the room, the little dragon had been listening from upstairs.
"I'll go with you Lotus! I wanna meet another dragon." said Spike.
"No you aren't! I'm not letting you run off to who knows where and getting put in danger." Twilight said with motherly authority.
"It won't be dangerous, i'll be with Lotus. Come on back me up!" said Spike.
Lotus had to take a step back, it wasn't her place to undermine what Twilight was saying. "I am sorry Spike if Twilight is saying no, then that means no."
"Aw man, that's not fair, i really wanna-" Spike stopped when he saw the stern look Twilight was giving him. "Yes mother."
"There's a good boy, why don't you go upstairs and we'll go over your geometry work together, doesn't that sound fun?" asked Twilight.
Spike didn't respond, only muttering as he trudged up the wooden steps, "I'm terribly sorry about that, he can be a bit hard to handle sometimes." said Twilight.
"No need to apologize, but i am left wondering who will join me. Cloudchaser has a job, Berry Punch is too busy with her child, Derpy Hooves is still injured and you will not go." Lotus said in mild despair.
Twilight took a sip from her tea cup and answered, "You haven't asked Lyra yet?"
"No, though i cannot imagine she would come with me." said Lotus.
"Well it never hurts to ask," said Twilight.
"Very well, how do you get to her house?"
"You wan't to do what?" Lyra asked in disbelief.
"I wish to earn the bounty by dealing with the dragon problem." Lotus said, she was getting really tired of negative responses. "If you cannot come just go ahead an be telling me, i cannot-"
"Sure i'll go, sounds fun!" Lyra said nonchalantly.
"Wait wha?" said Lotus.
"Yeah i'll go, like i said sounds like a hoot. Plus every adventure needs a bard, you gotta have one. To keep morale up, chronicle the journey that kind of thing." As she said this Lyra opened up her magic pocket and produced her hoof crafted lyre. "And it'll give me time to practice, i wan't to be really good for when i meet Parish at the gala."
Lotus was taken aback, she was filled with a strong sense of kinship. "Many thank yous Lyra! You do not know what this is meaning to me!"
"Aw think nothing of it, i mean twenty five hundred bits is a pretty big motivating factor too." jested Lyra.
Lotus became silent, you could hear a pin drop. "What are you meaning, twenty five hundred?"
"My half of the bounty, it's standard procedure, spoils are divided evenly among the party." Lyra said stating the facts.
"Oh i was not aware of that," said Lotus, clearly disappointed.
"You don't have to bring anypony along, and hey who could blame you. After all, i know i'd want to be all alone up on that ridged mountain where i could slip and fall into a bottomless crevasse at any point. Yep, all alone when your standing face to face with a fully grown blood thirsty dragon."
"Alright already, i will take you with me and you will get your fifty percent." Lotus had given up trying to look for any others, Lyra was her only option.
"I knew you'd see reason, i'll start packing right away, and we'll meet at the clock tower say, in half an hour?" Lyra asked.
"Half an hour, yes." Lotus said in resignation.
Half an hour later the two met up, Lotus had come packed with all the basics, food, water, a lean too. She had also helped Aloe write up an advertisement for the part time job. Lyra had pretty much all the same, but she also had her old lyre sticking out of her saddle bag. "So you ready?" asked Lyra.
"I am, have you got your house in order? We will be hiking for several days to get to the summit." said Lotus.
"Don't really have a house to get in order, no pets, no family so all i have to do i lock up." admitted Lyra, she savored the bachelorette lifestyle.
"Then let us be off!" The two made haste out of Ponyville and to the ever looming mountain in the distance. "Lyra?" asked Lotus.
"You have lived in Ponyville longer than i have. Does that mountain have a name?"
"Not as far as i'm aware of."
"What should we call it then, it might get confusing if we are keeping on calling it 'The Mountain'. What are your thoughts?"
Lyra took a good long look at it's shape, "Well considering it's inhabitant 'Dragon's Tooth' sounds pretty applicable."
Lotus nodded, "Dragon's Tooth it is."
By the time they had made it about five miles from Ponyville they were stopped on the road by a familiar baby dragon running as fast as his stubby legs would carry him. "WAIT! Please *Huff* *Hah* please wait!" Spike weazed out as he came to a stop.
The two adventuring ponies obliged him, "What are you doing here 'Mr. Hands'?" Lyra asked, using her pet name for Spike.
"Twilight changed her mind, she said i could come with you guys. Isn't that great?!"
Lotus was skeptical, "Really now? She was very firm before."
"I know, but that's what happened, she said she'd thought it over and this was something she really wanted me to do. Celestia's honest truth." Spike's lizard like eyes darted back and forth as he spoke.
"Wait we can't bring him! Then we'd have to split the bounty three ways, you cant divide five by three. You just get one point six six six six six six six six six six-" Lyra continued until she ran out of breath. "*Gasp* It just won't work!"
"Personally i am thinking having a dragon would be more useful than a bard, he could aide in negotiating with the dragon." said Lotus.
Lyra was insulted, "Hey i'd be totally useful with the dragon, haven't you heard, music soothes the savage soul?" The bickering continued.
"Um if it helps any, i don't need any money. I just want to meet the dragon," Spike rocked back and forth on his feet.
Both ponies stopped arguing, "Oh," they shared.
"Welcome aboard Mr. Hands! Seeing as you are the member with the least seniority, you shall serve as the camp cook." said Lyra, a broad smile graced her face.
"Alright with me, i end up doing most of the cooking at home anyway." Spike said with pride.
"Well let us be getting back on the road everypony, we need to make it to the base camp by nightfall." said Lotus.
"Say you know what we need now? A song to pass the time!" She produced the lyre and started doing an awkward walk with her hind legs so she could play and move at the same time. "I think you'll recognize this one, it's a little diddy that goes something like-"
"Oooooooo were off to find the dragon, the giant ol dragon of Dragon's Tooth mountain. Because because because because because!" She handed off the verse to Spike.
"Because .. of the horrible things he does?" said Spike in a weak singsong voice.
"Now you got it! Because of the horrible things he does!"
The song went on for quite some time, all the way to the camp as a matter of fact. Spike seemed to enjoy it, Lotus not so much, she was more than overjoyed to find the campground set up already for their use. A fire pit with some wood that hadn't yet burned completely, sites that had been swept clean for their tents. It made set up a breeze, after a nice meal of lentils cooked in a pot over the fire, they all settled in for the night.
Lotus and Lyra in their individual tents and Spike sleeping on the hot coals to conserve body heat. Each one dreaming of what lay in store for them on the peak of Dragon's Tooth.