Around The Bend

by Chatoyance

First published

Twilight Sparkle takes a shortcut and discovers a street that doesn't exist on any map.

Persuaded by Pinkie Pie to loosen up, Twilight Sparkle uncharacteristically deviates from her routine and finds a street that does not exist on any map, a street that should not be there. Down this road is both a threat, and an answer, one that may help us all reconcile the troubling inconsistencies between Season One, and all subsequent seasons of MLP:FIM.

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1. The Street That Wasn't

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By Chatoyance

Chapter One: The Street That Wasn't

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
- Gloria Steinhoof

She was precise. Organized. Rational. She certainly was NOT an 'old fuddy-duddy McFuddy pants' nor was she in the least 'Captain Clockwork of the Prissy Pony Fussy-Gussy No-Fun Patrol'. That last one had been Dash's, but the first was unmistakably Pinkie's work. Rainbow wouldn't have said the second slight if it hadn't been for Pinkie initially saying hers. Twilight calculated that logically, she should be angry first at Pinkie Pie, to the amount of seventy-two kilo-grumbles, and only secondarily annoyed with Rainbow Dash for the remaining twenty-eight kilo-grumbles... no, make that only twenty kilo-grumbles, eight could decidedly be reserved for that apple muffin that wasn't setting well in her stomach. Yes. That was it. Exactly.

Twilight had left Sugarcube Corner - in a properly calibrated rage - at precisely two forty-six in the afternoon. Not that anypony could tell from the clock tower, of course. The Ponyville clock tower had been six minutes slow for the last three days, and this had annoyed Twilight no end. Worse, this was not the only instance where such an inaccuracy had occurred - last month the clock had been fast by eight minutes for nearly two whole weeks! It was Twilight's intent to lodge a formal complaint with Mayor Mare at precisely two minutes past three, a time she had carefully reckoned her grievance would receive optimal attention and response.

The Mayor would be stepping off the train at that moment, back from her visit to Canterlot. Doubtless her first act would be to check the clock tower to see if her arrival was on time. That would certainly be the first action Twilight herself would naturally take upon arrival. The discrepancy would be immediately obvious, of course, and this could be exploited to maximum effect. Attention to detail was everything.

"So what if the clock is slow? That just means more time to have fun!" She wasn't sure if Dash actually believed what she had said, or if she understood the fallacy and had intended the statement as a jest. Rainbow had sounded quite serious, in her way. Twilight knew Pinkie had understood - Pinkie Pie was far more intelligent than most ponies gave her credit for - but yet she had agreed with Dash and even suggested deliberately altering the clock in the tower so that they could live the whole day over and have twice the fun. The notion was absurd. Pinkie must have been joking. Of course she was joking, Twilight finally decided. Pinkie might be odd, even quite bizarre, truth be told, but she was not actually irrational.

The worst of it all, though, had been Rainbow's suggestion that Twilight was fundamentally unable to act with spontaneity. Dash hadn't put it that way, of course, it was unlikely Rainbow could even spell 'spontaneity' much less use it in a sentence, but that was the jist of the entire row. Why was it so important that she 'loosen up'? She was 'loose'. All of her joints bent smoothly. She was 'loose as a goose', as someponies were known to say. But, Twilight thought, loose or not, at least she wasn't unhinged.

Chuckling softly at her clever internal jibe, Twilight resolved to put her spontaneity to the test. Rather than taking the most obvious path to the train station, which was Stirrup Street just off of Horseshoe Lane, she would... take a shortcut! Twilight shivered with the exciting feeling of such daring exploit! Yes, a side path, perhaps one that might be just a miniscule amount more expeditious because of being a more direct overall angle than the main thoroughfare. But which side street? Twilight had memorized every map of Ponyville that was in the library. She searched them in her mind.

There were many things Twilight appreciated about Ponyville, and one of them was that it had a simple, relatively straightforward layout. Unlike Canterlot, with its endless maze of twisting roads, secret passages, roundabouts and corkscrew tower paths that wove above, through and upon the living rock of the mountain, Ponyville was simple. It was a roughly oval town with a large central plaza, and a very uncomplicated layout. Set on a wide, flat, river plain between mountains, with the only change in elevation being very low, rolling hills, Ponyville comfortably reclined on the rich farmland, unlike the tight, twisted-up, multilevel labyrinths of Canterlot.

Twilight grinned. She would not take the main path, not this time! Pinkie and Dash were wrong about her. She would just... arbitrarily choose a street. She would pick the street on a... whim. Yes! A whim! Twilight couldn't help but chuckle - it was all so exciting, to deviate from her well crafted plans in such a manner. It felt... almost naughty! She couldn't wait to tell that annoying Pinkie - and twenty-percent less frustrating Dash - about her adventurous turn of attitude. She knew what fun was, by Luna!

She didn't even see what street she had turned onto. She always checked the signs, this time she hadn't! It was exhilarating to just... go... down a street and not know what street it was. It was almost scary! It could be any street... no, that was not correct at all. In point of fact, she mentally noted, the street she was on could only be a subset of the total number of streets within Ponyville, defined by the fact that they specifically branched off of Stirrup Street, where she had previously been. That meant that the number of possible streets she could potentially now be trotting upon had to be exactly...

No! No cheating! If this experiment in spontaneity was have validity, she could not ruin the data by coloring it with the bias presented by her own knowledge of the town. That was why she had deliberately stopped running the maps she had memorized through her mind moments ago. The street she was on must remain unknown in order for maximal whimsey to be achieved. This street must be... indeterminate.

She was on 'Indeterminate Street'. That was the name she would use to identify it. Of course, she mused, in giving the unknown street a name - even an arbitrary name, a label she herself had chosen - had she not in fact just defined the street, making it in actuality 'Determinate Street'? Twilight stopped suddenly and shook her head. AUGH! Now she was thinking just like Pinkie. She did not want that. Sweet Celestia, she definitely did not want that.

The time! What was she doing? Twilight Sparkle looked up to check the face of the clock tower - which she would correct within her mind - but there was no way to see the tower. The tudor-styled buildings were just too high. The street was lined with tudor cottages, inns, and shops, all two to three stories high, with no gaps or gardens or open areas. It would help if there were a commons filled with some pavilion tents - they were simple to look between, and the clock tower face would be easily visible. But this street was all close construction, thatched roof buildings rising above the cobblestone street. Occasionally a cart containing produce or trinkets to sell blocked the way.

Oddly, there seemed to be nopony around. This was a market street, yet it seemed completely empty. The air felt curious and oddly stale. Twilight felt the hairs of her withers rise. Even the lighting seemed strange, somehow. Was it sunset already? What time actually was it now?

Suddenly, the cobblestone gave way to a very strange surface. The surface was flat, smooth, and looked like it had been sculpted, or poured. It was gray and flat, with tiny cracks in parts of it. Here and there in the occasional cracks, the odd stem of grass poked through. Whatever this strange walkway was, there was precious little drainage to it, it was nearly of one piece, divided into large, square, flat slabs that abutted one another. Was it some kind of clay? No, it was very hard. It must be rather rough on hooves, Twilight thought.

The gray stuff started just after a cleft in the ground. It was a crack, about five hooves wide, that ran from somewhere between the buildings on the side of the street where Twilight was, all the way across the hard-packed earthen road, where it vanished into the small gap between the buildings on the other side.

The buildings on the far side of the crack in the ground were odd, too. They seemed to be much taller, four or five stories, and not all of them had thatched roofs. Some had... something unusual... tile perhaps? It was hard to tell. They seemed to be built with more than just wood and wattle and plaster... the beams were braced with metal! The bases were made of the same gray stuff as the walkway there. And the firefly lamps one normally saw had no openings or hatches in them. The poor insects would suffocate, and if the lamps had been made for candles, the problem was just as bad. It was very perplexing indeed.

There was an odd smell coming from that part of the town, too. It smelled like oil from a lamp, only more intense. And there was faint smoke in it, but not from fireplaces, and the scent of metals in it as well. It was then that Twilight noticed the signpost.

She decided to countermand her previous rule and find out where she was. The sign said that it was 'Shark Street'. Shark street? Impossible! Twilight knew every single street in Ponyville and there was no Shark Street. More than that, no pony would ever name a street after a predator - and in any case, the ocean was hundreds of miles away. The only way to even know what a shark was would be to look in a book. Twilight knew her books well, and the image on the sign was definitely a member of the clade Selachimorpha, the caudal fin was a definitive indication.

Shark Street. There was no Shark Street! Was this a joke? The thought of Pinkie Pie-like city planners and builders existing in the world confounded Twilight. Whatever all of this was, it had been here for a long time. The road sign was far from new, the strange walkway was old and cracked, and the extra-tall buildings beyond the cleft in the ground had sat there for many, many seasons.

This was beyond bizarre. Worse than that, none of it fit into Twilight's neat and tidy understanding of Ponyville. Nothing bothered the purple unicorn mare more than things not fitting, not making sense. This did not make sense in the least, and the deep horror of this challenge to normalcy, organization, and outright order instantly placed Twilight's original goal to accost Mayor Mare far down on her internal list of Things To Do Today.

This needed to be dealt with. This needed to be understood. This... improper street had no business existing, and Twilight resolved to get to the bottom of it. This sort of disruption of proper topography needed serious redressing, and she was just the mare to do it. Just how big of an insult to cartographers was this? How much of her current maps would need to be completely redrawn? This decidedly required a reconnaissance to find out.

The first issue was the crack in the ground. Twilight peered over the edge. It was dark and ran down as far as her eyes could see. It wouldn't do to let a leg slip down there. There was only one thing for it, if she wanted to continue - a gap of five hooves was too large to comfortably and safely step over. It would require a light hop. A 'Hop, Skip, and a Jump' as Pinkie would put it. Not that Twilight was particularly well disposed towards Pinkie right at the moment, but it really was what she would say.

Twilight decided that the hop and the skip were entirely superfluous and went straight for the jump. She stepped back a few paces to get a slight running start, then gave a little leap and found herself safely on the other side. It was easy, foal's play really. Now she was entirely on Shark Street. The smell in the air was even stronger now, and she began to hear strange noises coming from all around her. Busy noises, like hammering, only much faster and much more powerful. Metal on metal sounds. Pumping purrs like steam devices, only far more fierce and insistent. And voices, many, many voices.

Twilight followed the sounds around the corner, which banked sharply to the left. Her hooves hit hard on the flat, gray walkway that bordered the road on both sides. It felt uncomfortable, and sent shocks up her cannons through her fetlocks. She decided to walk in the road instead, at least it was the hard-packed earth she knew.

The area ahead widened out. It was a flat green, the grass nibbled... no, cut... close to the ground. And in the middle, jutting out into it, was something vastly more disturbing than a street that wasn't on any map.

It was a street high in the air, on what looked like the cliff-edges of a narrow mountain, right smack in the middle of Ponyville. It was utterly impossible. Ponyville was a rural town set in a flat river valley. But there, without any question, was a terribly tall, high cliff, on the top of which was a road which descended rapidly from some other place higher up. Very high up. And that was not the worst of it - the narrow, precipitous road itself, after a steep curve, ended in an abrupt and improbably unsafe, unguarded, utterly deadly... cliff.

Twilight gawked at the impossible cliff-road far above her. She stared, open mouthed in sheer incredulity. There were no mountains in Ponyville. Ponyville was flat, with low rolling hills. It was a river plain. That's what made it such good farmland. Worse than that, a mountain in the middle of the city would have been noticed. Somepony would have definitely put it on a map. She herself would have noticed a mountain in the middle of Ponyville over the last year, no question. She looked around her - had she somehow been teleported somewhere else?

The clock tower was there, she could see it now. There was the city hall, she'd know that anywhere, it was unique to Ponyville. She could see the leafy top of her own home, the Golden Oak Library. This was Ponyville. There was no question this was Ponyville, and it was impossible, and her mind began to break, and it hurt.

It was as the headache began that her heart skipped a beat, fear rising in her soul. There was a carriage, some sort of a conveyance, heading down the narrow, high, impossible road that ended in an abrupt cliff. The ponies in the carriage were screaming, filled with horror and dread. The narrow road they were on was deathly steep, without any way to turn off of it that did not end in a fatal drop. But this, in itself, was not the reason the ponies in the carriage were screaming, though it was certainly a very good reason indeed - no, the reason they were screaming was that the carriage was picking up speed in that certain way that Twilight easily calculated as Having No Brakes.

2. The Town That Shouldn't

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By Chatoyance

Chapter Two: The Town That Shouldn't

“Historic continuity with the past is not a duty, it is only a necessity”
- Oliver Wendell Hooves

Twilight Sparkle gaped in horror and astonishment as the strange carriage plummeted down the improbably steep, narrow roadway. Both sides of the road were deadly cliffs, but the worst and most unlikely thing about the road was that it terminated in an abrupt drop with no barrier and no possible way to stop. The road seemed to have been built purely for the purpose of being a deathtrap, since it could serve no other conceivable function. Its design and very existence was insane.

The shrieking ponies in the runaway carriage would simply die, horribly and horrifically, when they flew off the end of the ridiculous road only to smash into bloody, bleeding masses of ruptured flesh and powdered bone. Below the precipitous road, on the wide green, Twilight could see ponies milling about, some enjoying picnics, others strolling to and from the shops that surrounded the greensward. None had seemed the least concerned about the impossible existence of the granite mount that had somehow come to exist in the center of the flat river land that was Ponyville - at least until the screaming carriage had begun its dash to destruction.

Now the ponies, many of which Twilight recognized, were gazing helplessly in terror at the imminent tragedy. Forcefully wrenching her own mind from her shock, Twilight refused to allow this travesty to occur. Gathering her magic within her, she bore down with all of her might and encompassed the runaway carriage and its howling occupants within her hornfield just as they shot out past the end of the road. Held firm inside her softly glowing thaumaturgical grasp, Twilight slowly lowered the carriage to the green and released her telekinetic grip. The glowing field projected by her horn collapsed, and she felt herself sag in exhaustion from the effort. The carriage had been traveling at quite a speed, and nullifying that much kinetic energy had been taxing.

Ponies began surrounding her, congratulating her, and comparing her to some sort of comic-book heroine she had never heard of. Most bizarre, it became clear that this was a regular occurrence, and that all manner of similar nightmares had happened before, apparently at the rate of several a week - because she could not, would not accept the claim of several times a day.

None of it made the least sense. Even if carts and carriages met their doom even once per week, Ponyville would become a mass grave within mere months. It was absurd, and Twilight could take no more of it. Screaming incoherently at the crowd of well-wishers, she galloped off in a panic away from not only the location, but the implications of the ponies words.

Down one street and then another Twilight ran, blindly, afraid that she had somehow gone mad. After a time, loss of breath conspired to slow her, and she was forced to trot, and then to amble. She found herself in the main ponyville marketplace, within the wide cobblestone courtyard that surrounded the City Hall. Twilight stopped and looked around her.

There was no sign of the great stone mountain where the deadly road had been. Twilight scanned the horizon, but there was no sign of where she had just run from. The terrible death-road had been hundreds of hooves in the air, cut into a vast and tall ridge of granite that could not possibly exist upon the flat lands of Ponyville, and now, it once again did not. She shook her head. She could make no sense of what had just happened or for that matter, where.

Twilight was thirsty, after her efforts and her panicked dash. Merely being around the kind ponies of the marketplace would serve to calm her nerves. She could get something to drink, something to eat perhaps, and she could make some discrete inquiries as well. If the mountain road was real, other ponies would know of it, and if it was not, she would know she had suffered some kind of insult to her mentation.

She enjoyed the Ponyville central marketplace. Unlike the snooty, upper-class stores of Canterlot, the market stalls, carts and small shops of Ponyville were welcoming places filled with kind ponies more interested in a friendly word than a successful sale. It was a place where if a pony was short a bit it mattered little, where generosity and kindness were the rule. Twilight thought of Carrot Top's little cart, where Spike often shopped - many was the time when he would come home with an extra bunch just because Carrot Top had decided that he looked especially hungry that day. Twilight recalled the time that Banana Moon had outright given her a bunch to take for no reason other than she had felt like doing it.

The market ponies would be a stabilizing influence on her disturbed thoughts and troubled feelings. Plus, she could really use a nice fruit smoothie, now that she thought about it. That was her plan, then. She would go pretend to shop, ask a few discrete questions, purchase a nice fruit drink, and sit down and try to make sense of things. It was a rational plan, taking care of mind and body both.

Twilight strolled through the market, on all sides were colorful stalls and carts selling everything from asparagus to cherries. But something was off. For one thing, the number of carts and stalls seemed much greater, as if Ponyville had increased in population by twice or even three times. But more disturbing was that the voices coming from the constant bartering of the ponies around her were anything but gentle or happy.

"What do you think you're doing?" An angry pony slammed a hoof down on a countertop.

"Mindin' my own business, maybe you should try it." The response from the tough-looking vendor was harsh, cold, and... mean.

"Two bits for tomatoes is outrageous, one bit is the right price!" The customer practically spat her words.

"You don't like it, go take a hike!" This was not the market that Twilight knew or understood. In some ways, seeing ponies act this way was more upsetting than that... insane, mountain death road just moments ago.

Everywhere she wandered, Twilight heard the same harsh tones, the same angry, bitter arguing over price or quality or amount. Prices were raised on the spot in order to gouge customers in need, and nothing was ever offered without a steep price demanded. The market had turned into a cutthroat effort to profit at all cost, filled with shouts and anger.

"I...I j-just have a few bits. I need some sugar for my grandfoal's birthday. It was only two bits y-yesterday!" Twilight turned and recognized the quavering voice of kindly Granny Smith, Applejack's grandmare. She must be planning for Applejack's birthday, which was coming up in just two days. Twilight suddenly realized, sadly, that she could not accurately calculate the hours and minutes as well, because of the current strange circumstances.

"Well, because you need it so much, it's four bits today, so dig a little harder in that fleabitten old saddlebag of yours, granny - Haw, Haw, Haw!" Never in her entire year in Ponyville had Twilight Sparkle heard anypony speak to any other pony in such a manner. Certainly not to one of the very founders of the town itself.

"Excuse me?" Twilight stepped in, nodding and smiling at Applejack's beloved grandmare. "Allow me to help. I'd love to chip in for Applejack's birthday, she's one of my best friends. Here you go, here's ten bits, Granny Smith, get everything you need, please!" Twilight smiled, happy at being able to resolve at least one conflict in this strange day.

Granny Smith looked at the bits on the counter, and spat at them. "Y-you think you're all better than simple f-farm folk, because you're the f-fancy student of Celestia an' all? K-keep your bits, I ain't takin' no charity from some upstart unicorn!"

The Apple clan were a stubborn group, but this was unusual even for them, and definitely unusual for Granny Smith. Twilight backed away, shocked at the response she had received for her kindness. "You gonna take your bits back or what?" The vendor was insistent. Twilight shook her head to clear it, confused. "Well, happy day then! More for me!" The bits were instantly swept under the counter as if they had never existed. "No refunds!" The vendor stallion gave Twilight a harsh look.

Twilight's hooves moved of their own accord, as if they could no longer bear to be near the marketplace. She would find no succor, no refreshment here. The crowd was definitely greater than normal, and none of it was the least bit polite or pleasant. Twilight found herself in a fast trot between the carts and stalls, seeking the open courtyard.

It was at this moment that a cyan-blue blur swooped out of the sky, flaring wings at the last moment, to stand in front of her, blocking her exit from the market. The rainbow-colored mane shook itself out of cerise eyes. The eyes looked angry.

"What were you DOING back there? I HAD that carriage, Twilight! You completely ruined my awesome entrance and stole ALL of my thunder! What did I ever do to you, huh? What, now you're out to be the next big hero of Ponyville? You wanna challenge my supreme awesomeness? Don't make me laugh! I'll take that challenge! Any day, any time, right now if..."

"I... I don't understand... Rainbow? What is..." Twilight was utterly confused.

Dash was livid with anger "On the Cliff Road, the runaway carriage! I HAD that, Twilight! But you butted in, and stole all my glory! There were reporters and everything!"

"B-but the ponies..." Twilight's mind reeled at the thought that the Element Of Loyalty, one of her dearest friends, would ever value her own fame over the lives of others "It doesn't matter who saved them, as long as they were..."

"Shyeah, right! Get with the program, Sparkle!" Rainbow Dash's expression was mocking and cruel "It's all about the fame... and you jumped my claim!"

Twilight was running again, ducking and weaving through the market, just trying to escape. Dash was angry with her because she had saved the runaway carriage on the deadly road. Dash was so angry, and all of it was directed at her. The road, the market, Granny Smith, and now this. Tears ran from Twilight's eyes as she dived between two overly tall buildings only to find herself standing on a road overlooking a large construction area.

The construction zone was busy, and many ponies in yellow hard-hats wearing tool belts were at work within it. They were constructing a tall building in the center, a structure that seemed like it would dwarf even the brick buildings of Manehattan. Twilight stood on the edge of the pit and wiped her eyes as she caught her breath.

The construction ponies were using machines that Twilight had never seen before. There was a large crane machine that ran on some kind of strange wheels that were surrounded by bands that moved when the wheels turned. The crane machine had a sort of little shed with a chimney on it, and a pony worked levers from within the shed while dark smoke puffed from the top. It couldn't be steam, steam was white. It wasn't a cold day, it was summer.

The crane moved! It swung and extended like some great leg made of wood and metal, and the hook on the end dropped on a long cable. It wasn't magic, Twilight could sense that much. The construction ponies were using the crane to lift beams up to the higher levels of the skeleton of the building.

Where were the pegasai? Pegasai could fly, they were excellent construction workers, they could work together to lift beams and even pull entire cartloads of supplies into the air. Whatever was hitched to a pegasus became an extension of them - they could simply park vast loads of building materials in the air for ponies to use. There wasn't a single pegasus in the work crew. They were all earthponies, every last one.

The smoke from the noisy crane-machine smelled oily and terrible, but the strange banded wheels that moved the whole of it, shed, crane and all, did capture Twilight's attention. They were truly a clever invention, though one she had never heard of before. They must be brand new, yet the machine looked as if it had seen many, many years of use. This was the second impossibility, Twilight's mind noted. No, the third, she instantly corrected, the very fact of whatever was happening was itself impossible, which counted as a third imposition on causal reality. The street, the cliff road, and now this... technology.

The idea of steam-powered armatures had been considered, at length, in several volumes of The Journal Of Equestrian Equineering, and even Starswirl himself had intimated that one day other forces than those of magic and of intrinsic and extrinsic pony abilities might permit unheard of advances - but he had warned, as she remembered, against pursuing such advancement because, as he had put it, 'innovation demands excavation'. He had pictured a world gone mad, where entire mountains were leveled to provide the raw materials for speculative mechanisms of the future. Always a wild read, that Starswirl, such a visionary.

But here in front of her was just the sort of future technology that the old master of thaumatology had cautioned about. The sooty chimney on the crane shed must burn something, Twilight reasoned, lost in rational examination, that had more power than mere wood and water and steam could provide. Some other fuel that nopony had discovered yet. Twilight's eyes grew wide. Of course! She had been shifted into the far future where...

No. That could not be it at all. Twilight, sitting now on the edge of the construction site, considered the ponies she had met. Rainbow Dash, not a day older. Granny Smith, still alive. This could not be the far future. Yet the loud, smoke-belching, strangely wheeled... tracked?... crane-machine appeared well used and ...old. It was impossible. It was as if she had somehow stepped into another Equestria altogether. A mirror Ponyville where Rainbow Dash was uncaring and less than loyal, where Granny Smith and the entire marketplace was bitter or mean, and... no. That was not the answer either. The matter of that impossible, vanishing deadly cliff road glared out. An alternate universe would be just as consistent and solid as the universe she knew. Vanishing mountains suggested something far more exotic.

Twilight stood once more, calmed by the work of sorting and organizing her experiences, and looked around once more for the great mountain that must exist in the center of Ponyville. There was nothing - Ponyville was its usual, flat, riverland location as always. No mountain. No cliff. No deadly road.

This could not be explained, Twilight concluded, by time travel, nor by some alternate universe variation of the world she knew. This was stranger than either of these fantastic, speculative notions. She was not insane, either, she decided, at least the likelihood was very low - Rainbow Dash had been aware of the impossible road, and despite the mountain mysteriously vanishing, everything else remained constant. The crane did not vanish when she looked away and then back again, neither had anything in the marketplace appeared dreamlike or mutable. The death road was a blatant inconsistency, but everything else seemed solid. There might yet be some explanation for the missing mountain. An invisibility spell, perhaps? No, it would be a pointless and gargantuan effort.

She needed more information. She also needed to find out if she could return to her own Ponyville, for this certainly was not it. Whatever this place was, it was not her home, even if the ponies she knew seemed to live here. Wait! There was a simple means to determine if this was a changed Ponyville, an alternate Ponyville, or something else. Granny Smith lived here. Rainbow Dash was represented, or at least some variant of Dash. It would be reasonable to expect all of her friends - or variations of them - would be in this place too.

She needed to go to the library. Home. Or at least the version of her home that existed here, wherever here was, whatever here was. Would there be another Twilight Sparkle in the Books and Branches? If there was, this must be an alternate reality of some kind. Vanishing mountain notwithstanding, meeting another her would strongly suggest some kind of parallel universe as described by Starswirl in his seminal work 'Speculations on Thaumatic Ontology', volume three, pages 223 to 226. Such a thrilling book - such tomes were one of the few things she missed about living in Canterlot. Well, that and proximity to the princess, of course. Twilight blushed slightly at the thought.

Twilight headed towards the direction of the library. She could, if she wanted, stop at Sugarcube Corner and check to see if there was a version of Pinkie Pie here as well. It would also be interesting to see if the Pinkie here was in any way different from the Pinkie she knew. That might be telling.

Twilight deliberately skirted the marketplace, she did not want to chance another run in with the self-centered, uncompassionate Rainbow Dash of this... realm. It bothered her that she did not know what to call... whatever this was. A term would come in time, she reassured herself. It was always so disconcerting to lack proper terminology.

Sugarcube Corner was ahead. Would the Pinkie-Pie here be as loving, gentle, fun - and occasionally teasing - as the Pinkie she knew? The circumstance she was in had entirely removed any remaining ire she had possessed with regard to her friends. She felt foolish to have allowed herself to become so angry over their ribbing of her. She was a bit prepossessed with details and overly concerned with propriety and... face it, she thought, she was anything but 'loose'. The fact of it was that her friends were right about her. She never had been able to truly let go, not even when she was just a foal, growing up alo....

Twilight found herself smacked to the ground, stunned and on her rump, her legs splayed out from the brutal impact. She looked up to find a bright yellow and pink wall of fury looming over her. It was Fluttershy, but it was no Fluttershy she could have ever imagined.


3. The Pinkie That Paled

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By Chatoyance

Chapter Three: The Pinkie That Paled

“It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”
- Mare Twain

It wasn't Fluttershy. It couldn't possibly be Fluttershy. The panting, growling yellow monstrosity staring with malice at Twilight Sparkle defied every concept the purple unicorn had of her friend. Fluttershy had a hard edge inside her, Twilight had cataloged it during one of her regular 'friend profiles' she maintained inside her head, and this strength had come in handy in many circumstances - she had counted on it, in fact, during an encounter with a dragon earlier in the year.

But Fluttershy's inner strength was driven by one thing - a total commitment to the safety and protection of the ones she loved, be they ponies or the animals of the forest. Fluttershy became her strongest when she was defending the innocent and the weak, and Twilight's studies on pony psychology had clearly indicated that her power derived from a strong nurturing instinct, deep within her ego. She fought as a lion mother would, to protect her cubs, and her cubs were her friends and any creature in her care.

But this Fluttershy, this mockery of the Fluttershy that Twilight dearly loved and deeply respected, had knocked one of her closest friends down and was having trouble containing the impulse to do further physical harm. If this creature could be more unlike the Fluttershy that Twilight knew and called friend, she could not imagine how.

"Hmmph!" Fluttershy sneered at Twilight, sprawled out in the street, looking down over her muzzle at her, as if she were beneath contempt. "Watch where you're going in the future!" The thing that was not Fluttershy stomped heavily away, leaving Twilight shaking, grateful that worse had not happened. Twilight's tail hurt where she had landed on it, and her dignity was damaged - but at least the incident had not come to an outright brawl, which had seemed, just moments ago, entirely possible.

Twilight slowly got to her hooves, looking around at the crowd. Not a single pony other than herself was agape. To them, this was not abnormal, or at least it was not a matter of shock or astonishment. Virtually every pony in Ponyville knew Fluttershy - the time she had served as a model for Photo Finish had seen her image plastered all over the town. That had made her perhaps the most recognizable denizen of Ponyville, and her rejection of fame to care for the small animals near the Everfree had been gossip for weeks afterwards. Twilight should not be the only pony shocked by what had just happened. Yet the ponies passing in the area acted as if nothing had occured.

Twilight continued toward Sugarcube Corner with a feeling of dread in her heart. What would she find there, what kind of Pinkie Pie inhabited this twisted reflection of the cosmos she knew? Though she often became frustrated with Pinkie, and it was true that when Pinkie and Dash got together their rambunctiousness could become infuriating to her, deep down Twilight adored Pinkie Pie. In a way, she envied her.

Pinkie was utterly kind and loving. There was literally nothing she would not do to help and cheer a friend, and she counted every pony in Ponyville - and probably the entirety of Equestria - as her friends. She was odd, silly and strange, but also almost shockingly smart... there were times that Twilight had privately wondered just how intelligent and aware Pinkie Pie might be, and sometimes the conclusion was humbling. But secretly super-intelligent or not, the one thing that truly defined Pinkie Pie was boundless love for others. Pinkie didn't need to study friendship - Pinkie was friendship.

Twilight could not bear to see that image in her mind spoiled, but she also needed help. Pinkie had... gifts. Insights. Pinkie seemed to understand things in ways that went beyond what Twilight considered possible. In this mad, insane realm, perhaps Pinkie Pie was the one pony that might truly be able to help her.

Twilight studied the front door of Sugarcube corner. As far as she could tell, the door was identical to the one in her Ponyville. She had started defining things in terms of 'her Ponyville' and 'this Ponyville', as a means to comprehend her situation. Just what separated the two Ponyvilles? It wasn't the architecture of this building at least. Sugarcube Corner was Sugarcube Corner. Looking at it alone, Twilight could easily convince herself that she was finally home. With a small gasp of worry, Twilight opened the door and entered.

Sugarcube Corner was empty of customers, not entirely unusual at various times throughout the day. Twilight walked to the counter and rang the bell. "Just a moment!" The voice was unmistakably Pinkie Pie's, and it sounded entirely normal. It was the usual sound of Pinkie when she was busy baking, and Twilight felt cautiously cheered, though she was still worried. It was reasonable to be worried, she reasoned, she was a stranger in a strange sweetshop that on the whole didn't seem that strange at all, and that was surely reason enough to be even more concerned since it was when things seemed the most normal that... oh dear! Twilight blinked and caught herself. Her ongoing studies of Pinkie Pie had clearly affected her in some manner. Then again, perhaps the situation she was in would naturally instigate Pinkie-like thoughts in any pony, considering the...

"Oh, hi Twilight! I didn't expect you here today. Not that you aren't welcome, because you definitely are, it's just that you usually come in on Maresday, and this is Hoofsday, or is it Coltsday? No, it's Hoofsday because on Coltsday Rarity comes in and gets six large eclairs which I shouldn't be telling you about because I don't think she wants anypony to know she likes to eat eclairs, or at least that many eclairs, unless she does want ponies to know, in which case it doesn't matter! Can I help you?"

Oh, thank Celestia! thought Twilight. Pinkie was Pinkie. Immutable, unchangeable, forever Pinkie. Well, except for that strange time on her birthday, of course, that was kind of creepy. But then, every pony has moments when they feel down. The bottom line was that this Pinkie was Pinkie. It was such a relief.

"Um, Pinkie, I've been having a kind of a strange day today and... I wonder if maybe we could talk. I think I need your insight into things more than I ever have before." It would likely take quite a while before she could get Pinkie to settle down, of course, but the process had to start somewhere. Pinkie would go on and on for a bit, then it would be necessary to restate things, at which point Pinkie would take some aspect seemingly wrong and go off on a tangent. It would seem random, but it would not be, and after some bizarre twists and turns eventually something useful would come out. Twilight steeled herself for the first round of... Pinkie-ness to burst forth.

"Certainly, Twilight. Maybe you could start by telling me what is going on?"

Uh oh. This was not Pinkie. Not the Pinkie Twilight knew. It wasn't bad, like her encounters with Dash and Fluttershy had been, but all the hairs along Twilight's withers were standing up again. Calm, quiet, rational Pinkie - without any change to her poofy, cotton candy hair - was very odd at the least. Pinkie was acting normal. That wasn't right.

Suddenly there was a loud crash as the front door of the sweet shop burst open. Rarity swept in to the store, forehooves raised above her, wailing in a wild staccato cadence "Out of all the worst things that could happen!" An elaborate, heavy divan somehow came into existence and was slammed down onto the floor of the confectionery. Twilight could not explain its sudden presence, and her mind spun in disbelief. Rarity flopped, in a bizarre, overly exaggerated flounce onto the unexpected furniture and yelled out "This is THE!"

Rarity paused. Twilight stared at the seamstress. Rarity shrieked out "WORST!"

Twilight blinked several times, incapable of grasping such crazed, unusual behavior. Rarity could be very emotional, even unreasonably caught up in personal drama but... this was beyond anything Twilight had ever seen. Just as Twilight was about to say something, Rarity suddenly burst out with her conclusion "POSSIBLE! THING!"

Rarity was weeping and moaning now, tears streaking her normally impeccable coat. Occasionally, she would slam her hoof down on the divan, as if deliberately trying to make as much fuss as possible purely for its own sake. "What's the matter, Rarity?" Pinkie had said the words quietly, seriously.

"OOOHHH! POOR Rainbow DASH! She's hurt her WING the poor, dear THING! It's SOOOO AWFUL!" Rarity had a hoof to her forehead, striking an overdramatic pose that was less real concern than Look At Me. Rarity peeked through one of her tightly squeezed eyelids to make sure she was the center of attention. Although she was still learning about friendship and pony emotions, Twilight was always good at observation and every bit of what she saw before her convinced her that this Rarity was crying crocodile tears, her only real interest being how she could milk Rainbow Dash's tragedy to gain attention for herself.

If this Rarity was the Element Of Generosity for this strange Ponyville, then the generosity she represented was not one of spirit, nor of kindness.

"I would be happy to talk with you, Twilight, but perhaps we could do so on the way to see Rainbow? Where is she Rarity?" The more that Pinkie Pie spoke this way, the more Twilight felt an unnameable dread rising within her. "We should bring her some books! Rainbow loves her Daring Do stories!"

Twilight's ears perked at this, despite her dread "Wait! Rainbow Dash... reads?"

"All the time, now. Don't you remember, you silly filly? Last time she hurt her wing, you brought her a Daring Do book and she ended up loving it, only she didn't want anypony to know because she was afraid of being called an egghead like you, not that you're an egghead, well you are, but you shouldn't be called that of course, because it's rude, and nopony should be rude, but sometimes they kind of are and..."

Twilight let Pinkie ramble for some time. Hearing this Pinkie, in this strange place, sound more like the Pinkie Pie she knew and loved made Twilight feel better. It was such a relief to hear Pinkie babble right now, even if it was only a quiet sort of babble devoid of her usual, frantic...

"Oh, PINKIE! Do stop your babbling, you are SUCH a DRAMA QUEEN!" Rarity seemed incensed that she was no longer the center of attention. She performed an exaggerated double take "Relatively speaking, of COURSE!". Rarity batted her eyelashes several times.

No. "NO!" Twilight shouted. "I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE OF THIS!"

Twilight found herself running for the door. She didn't stop to open it, but focused her magic and did a short, line-of-sight teleport to the street she could see out the window. She appeared in a burst of light outside of Sugarcube Corner, her face in a wide feral grin, her teeth gritted in anguish.

"I simply... can't... take any more... of this." Twilight's head sagged down, as she wandered off, feeling beaten and discouraged. Maybe Pinkie could have offered something... but not with Rarity there... and even if she could have had some kind of talk with this realm's Pinkie Pie... she wasn't sure she could bear to see her bouncy, joyful, erratic pink friend act... ordinary and normal. Especially with the experience of Rarity carrying on as she was. No, Sugarcube Corner offered no respite, and no answers, after all.

The world itself was different and wrong. The world. The world was everything... everything was wrong. If everything was wrong - except for the specific architecture of Sugarcube Corner, she reminded herself - then that meant that this was an all-encompassing problem. A cosmic problem. Something was deeply wrong at the cosmic, all-encompassing level.

Going home would solve nothing. It didn't matter if there was some alternate version of herself living in the library with some duplicate-but-not-quite-right Spike. Seeing that would only upset her further and provide no answers. It could even be counterproductive - what if the alternate version of herself turned out to be some irrational, completely neurotic freak, instead of a steady, balanced, determined student? No, it would be too upsetting to deal with.

For a cosmic level problem there was only one pony to turn to, and She was not precisely a pony. Celestia. Immortal, omnipotent, the living goddess of the sun. So kind and loving that she preferred her subjects to call her 'princess' rather than 'Almighty'. Celestia, who had lived over a thousand years, who had lived through Discord, who had brought order to his reign of chaos, turning a universe of twisted insanity into the rolling hills and mountain peaks of Equestria.

If any being could help her, Twilight resolved, it could only be the living sun goddess Celestia, the absolute monarch that controlled reality itself - her mentor... and her friend.

Whatever else, Celestia would help. A goddess was above all worlds, all alternate realities. Celestia, like the avatar of the sun she was, would shine through all levels of reality, even into this strange realm. She was a cosmic being, and this was a cosmic problem. It was time to go where true light shone.

Twilight turned herself towards Canterlot. All of the answers would be there.

They could be nowhere else.

4. The Canterlot That Can't

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By Chatoyance

Chapter Four: The Canterlot That Can't

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels."
- Foalcisco de Goya

Twilight Sparkle didn't have time to wait for the train. She needed to get to Canterlot immediately, or rather she needed to get to her mentor and friend Princess Celestia immediately, and the next train was more than an hour away. It would take all day to gallop to the castle, and it would take at least an hour to set up her balloon. Fortunately, she was a very talented unicorn.

Teleportation is a relatively high level skill, demanding intense study and massive ability. Most unicorns never learn it at all, concentrating only on spells and abilities useful to the focus of their interest, represented by their cutie marks. But Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark, her primary focus was magic itself, and from the youngest age she had demonstrated an uncanny, and sometimes terrifying facility for wielding it.

This was why, at a very young age, she was taken entirely from her parents and put in Celestia's care. It had been represented to her as a opportunity to learn magic at the highest level, and she had been overjoyed. But the fact of it was that there had been no other option. This had been made clear during her horrifying entrance exam for Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. She had lost control of her vast natural power and nearly destroyed Canterlot itself. If Celestia had not intervened, and bound Twilight's magic, the very structure of reality itself would have continued to unravel, spreading outward from the chaos and destruction she had already wrought on the exam hall - and everypony there. She had only found out later that she had unknowingly transformed her own parents into potted plants during her complete loss of control.

She had been a danger to herself and the very world, so Celestia had taken her under her wing, both literally and figuratively. While her life in Canterlot had been rich and splendid and ordered, she had missed out on having a proper foalhood entirely. She had been a loner even with her parents, always studying, an only foal that kept to her room and her books. At Canterlot, she was no more social, and Celestia permitted this, even encouraging her solitude, supposedly for the safety of others. It was only when she finally was sent to Ponyville that she first learned the value and worth of having friends. That lesson, that first taste of companionship and friendship was the very spark that had ignited the Elements Of Harmony. Had she been a social animal before that profound, life changing moment, eternal night might have been the fate of Equestria.

Celestia moves in mysterious ways. As was appropriate for a being more than two thousand years old, at minimum. Celestia had spoken of the thousand-year reign of Discord, under which she and her sister suffered so. A thousand years of Discord, a thousand more caring for the world with her sister in exile within the moon. Twilight had no concept of how old Celestia might truly be.

Celestia would help. Celestia would make everything that had happened to her this day make sense. It could not be otherwise - Celestia predated the sun and the stars, she had turned Discords chaos into the land that was Equestria, she was immortal and all powerful. She was humble, but no less a goddess.

Twilight performed long line-of sight jumps, teleporting to a spot far in the distance that she could see. A flash of brilliant light marked her departure and another her arrival, as she passed outside of the normal dimensions and reentered the world at a new location. This most difficult of spells, mastered only by the Royal Unicorns was foal's play to her - she often teleported about merely for simple convenience. Her years of solitude and study had granted her powers beyond the pale at a very young age. It was no wonder she was Celestia's favorite student, or that Celestia kept a close eye on her activities.

To cheer her as she made her way up the mountain to Canterlot, popping in and out of standard Eucliquestrian spacetime, she recited from memory the oldest story from the Pony Book. It had no official name, it was far too ancient. Written in the earliest form of Royal Unicorn, the book was possibly the oldest surviving tome in Equestria. It was heavily illustrated, an illuminated manuscript of great beauty and wonder. It had the head of an equine on the cover, but the face was strange - exceedingly long of muzzle and curiously shaped. Twilight had speculated on whether it represented some extinct breed of ponykind, or perhaps, if the book was as old as some suggested, the face on the cover was what ponies once had been, just after the conquering of Discord. Nopony knew. Even Celestia would not answer her most pointed inquiries.

Twilight had memorized the book, and especially the creation story in the beginning, which described how Celestia and Luna had worked together to remake the world after the terror of Discord. Twilight began, when she had appeared from the spaces between one moment and the next "Once upon a time..."

There was another burst of light and Twilight was nearly a thousand hooves down the road "In the magical land of Equestria," Twilight paused her recitation and adjusted her targeting to account for the bend in the road as it climbed the mountain. "there were two regal sisters who ruled together." Twilight paused to consider just how far her next teleport could reach. There were two bends, where the road ducked into the mountain and reappeared, she considered if the could reach the farther one safely. Caution won, and she decided to target the nearer bend. She did not want to miscalculate and appear between the bends, only to fall into a chasm below.

"The eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun while the younger used her powers to raise the moon." Twilight looked past her hooves at a stone spiraling down into the shadowed cleft of the rock face. Her forehooves were almost over the precipitous edge. She backed up, carefully. That was just a little touch close. She would need to be more careful. She decided to finish her words before her next teleport, and not split her attention further. "Thus, the two unicorns brought balance to the world."

She couldn't see the upper surface of the road now, it was too high above her. That was a problem. Considering what had just happened, she was not going to make a 'best guess'. She'd have to hoof it uphill for a while, until she could once again get a good line of sight. Teleporting blind was a good way to end up a former pony. Twilight trotted on at a careful speed, one she had learned during the Running Of The Leaves.

As she made her way up the winding, steep road, she tried to imagine what the world had been like before Celestia and Luna had remade it. When she and her friends had fought Discord, she had gotten just a taste of what things must have been like for the two immortal princesses. Discord had only just begun to remake the world, and Ponyville and its environs had become a nightmare realm of floating mountains, distorted space, soap for earth and bubblegum for sky. During Discord's thousand-year reign, there literally must have been no world at all, not as Twilight understood the term. It must have been true, pure, maddening primal chaos.

The power that Celestia and her sister represented. To construct an entire, rational world out of such random horror, to place the mountains and pour the seas, to manufacture the sky and create a working biosphere. To bring the species and breeds of the world into existence. To make ponykind and to let them loose upon the newly formed world. To will into existence the sun and the moon and the stars, to even be able to imagine a rational reality, after a thousand years of absolute and total chaos.

Discord had called Celestia 'grim'. If she was, then it was because she must know what a lack of order meant. A love of order and organization was something Twilight shared with her beloved mentor. Celestia would make things right. Any being that could order the universe, and lift the sun as if it were a party balloon was as close to ommipotent as any reasonable definition of the word could be. The humble deity who called herself a princess and mingled with her creations. Twilight loved her princess for that.

She was at the top of the mountain now, and could resume her teleportation. Her studies about long-distance running had served her once more, she was only slightly out of breath. Burst of light after burst of light brought her closer and closer to the main gates of Canterlot. Celestia must be lowering the sun, now, her sister preparing to raise the moon. The sky was red and the day was ending. To move the very stars. The concept was beyond staggering.

The Hearth's Warming Eve play, a favorite holiday treat for foals - and adults too - carried the conceit that mere unicorns could control the universe and its functions. It was a silly notion, but the stage play was useful - it taught the value of working together and of the eternal bond the three breeds shared. It had been rumored that Celestia herself had written it long ago, to give her new creations a myth to cling to, to keep them together when she and Luna were still reconstructing reality after Discord. Another rumor suggested that Luna had penned it. Nopony truly knew. As Twilight made the front gates across the bridge, she wondered what it would feel like, to have such supernal power. The thought frightened her.

For a thousand years after Discord, Celestia had held both day and night in her hooves, while Luna was in exile. Celestia could control the entire cosmos, alone. Twilight shook her head, her mane rippling as she ran. It didn't do to dwell on such things, they were too vast, too grand, even for her bright mind. Leave the cosmos to Celestia. To whom it belonged.

After Celestia lowered the sun, it was her habit to take tea in the gallery that overlooked the Maze Garden. Twilight resolved to intercept her mentor there, and explain to her the strangeness of the day, and to beg her help. It was the most logical and rational thing to do, and Twilight ever loved the fruits of reason. She lowered her head to make speed, and ran on down the twisting, complicated paths and roads of the mountain castle. First through one tunnel in the rock and then across a terrace garden she galloped, the night descending, the darkness enshrouding all in violet-hued beauty.

Twilight wasn't sure what she had hit, but it was large, and heavy, and she instantly regretted it. She should have been watching, she should have been paying more attention. When she was able to stand again, she shook her head to clear it. The large, white stallion she had collided with steadied her with a hoof. Oddly, rather than being upset, he was smiling indulgently at her. Beside him was a pink pegasus, long of leg and regal of bearing.

Twilight began to apologize but was interrupted "Twi? What are you... you have to watch where you're going, sis. Where are you going in such a hurry, anyway?" The white stallion addressing her was dressed in royal garb, with twin sashes and a shield-shaped badge of honor.

The pink pegasus seemed concerned for the stallion, they must be a couple "Are you hurt dear?" at the shake of the stallion's head, the pegasus addressed Twilight next "Are you alright, Twilight? You took a nasty spill! Are you sure you are okay?" her eyes were kind and loving. That was when Twilight noticed her head.

On it was a horn.

This pink pegasus was not a pegasus at all. She was... she was an alicorn. Like the princesses. Like Celestia and Luna. It wasn't possible. This could not be real. Twilight stepped back in horror. A third deity. A third absolute power in the universe. The disappearing mountain could not compete with this destruction of reality. "Twilight? What's the matter dear?"

The creature seemed to know her by name. "Twi, did you get a knock on the head? What's with you? You look half scared to death!" The white stallion seemed half concerned, and half perturbed at Twilight's reaction.

"W-Who are you? How do you know my name?" Twilight backed up farther, slowly, carefully.

"Twi, stop messing around. Is this one of your games?" The white stallion seemed more towards the annoyed side of things now.

"A game? How wonderful!" The pink... alicorn... seemed happy at the thought of play. She seemed pleasant, at least.

"Remember how Twi used to love pretend games when we were growing up? She'd just come up and pretend to be somepony else, usually somepony from history?" The pink... creature... seemed very familiar with this false history. She smiled and nodded as if in remembrance.

The stallion turned and stared intently at Twilight "Is that it? Who are you this time... Starswirl the Bearded again, traveling in time? That's it, isn't it?" The stallion turned to his pink companion. "Twi just adores 'ol Starswirl. That was her favorite, pretending to be that old coot. My sister, the history freak!" The stallion laughed.

Sister. In this world her alternate self must have had a brother. This was him. Twilight's mind reeled. She had been an only foal. If she had known a brother, her life would have been entirely different - she would be an entirely different pony. A brother to play with, to confide in, would have brought her out of her shell, brought her out into the world. She would have known friendship before the pivotal moment where the Elements Of Harmony were awakened. That moment would not have happened, the spark that had come from her shock and amazement at finally comprehending the wonder of friendship would not have been the bright and powerful, life-changing event that it was.

And in any case, how could she had even had time for a brother? Celestia had taken her to live in Canterlot at an extremely early age, as a mere foal. Her life had been study, Celestia, baby Spike, and her tower. A brother would have changed her unrecognizably. And she would not have needed to study friendship, because she would have inevitably been shown it, brought into contact with others through such a brother. Not a single element of her life history would make sense with a brother.

Yet in this world, there he stood.

"Twi! Stop messing around, at least say hello to Cadence!"

The burst of light was bright. Twilight felt slightly crispy when she regained her senses. She was somewhere in the castle, she wasn't sure where at the moment. It had been a blind teleport. She had panicked. It was a stupid, foolish act - she was fortunate to have survived. It was only because she had spent so much of her life in the castle that she had not ended up fused with a wall, or embedded, dying, in a floor or ceiling. She had spent her entire childhood, what there was of it, inside these walls, inside this castle and its towers. It was her childhood. It had been her life.

Twilight Sparkle slumped against a marble pillar and wept. She cried and howled, brought to the level of a mere foal inside. She had been so lonely. Celestia was wonderful, of course, and more a mother to her than her own, and she had not lacked for books or lessons or any material thing. But she had been lonely, even if she had not understood it. She had lost herself in her love of learning, but deep down....

She had sometimes fantasized about having a big brother. She had wished for a big brother who would play with her and show her the sort of fun that she saw other ponies having when she looked out of her tower windows. In this reality, he existed, just as she had imagined him. He was there, right there, down in that city, somewhere. The brother that had never been.

As she sobbed, she realized that not everything about this strange shadow world was bad. In this world, Rainbow Dash read books. To have even one pony share her love of reading would be wonderful - she had devoutly wished that one of her new friends would share that with her. In this world, Pinkie Pie was a pony that could be talked to, seriously, about serious things. She wasn't hyperactive and constantly bouncing about. In this world, Twilight just might find out how smart Pinkie really was.

And in this world, she had a brother, perfect and tall and shining, just as she had pictured in her foalhood, when she had felt particularly alone. She had always been so alone. When she had awakened, at last, to true friendship, the power of that moment was enough to ignite the Elements Of Harmony, but in her heart, she wished that it had not needed to be that way. If she could have only had a happy, playful foalhood... like normal unicorns...

But she wasn't normal. That was the point. She was the most 'gifted' - wasn't that the word the princess always used? - the most 'gifted' unicorn that Celestia had ever known. It was a dubious gift. She had nearly destroyed her parents and Canterlot on her exam day. It could have been the world. Of course she needed to be isolated. Celestia would have been a fool to do otherwise. Celestia, ageless and wise beyond measure, was no fool.

Twilight rubbed her eyes with her fetlocks, letting her coat absorb her tears. She sniffled and tried to clear her nose. She swallowed and coughed briefly. Celestia. She had to get to Celestia, no matter what.

"What is the matter, my dearest student?" Celestia had found her.

Twilight's heart raced in joy. Finally, finally, everything would be alright. Her teacher, her princess, her... Celestia... was here, finally, now, here in front of her! Everything would make sense at last.

Twilight looked up, into the concerned face of her beloved princess. Her eyes scanned the adored countenance, savoring it. It was then that she noticed Celestia's broken horn.

5. The Student That Surpassed

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By Chatoyance

Chapter Five: The Student That Surpassed

The No-Prize, begun in 1964 by Stan Lee, was a faux award given out by Marvel Comics to those readers who spotted continuity errors in the comics and who then managed to invent particularly clever explanations as to why the errors were not truly errors at all. The term has come to mean any explanation which acceptably rationalizes blatant errors in continuity and logic in general.

"...If that's true, if what you are telling me is fact, then how did Equestria come into being? Discord! Chaos! I've seen it - well just the faintest hint of it, but even that shadow of Discord's true intentions rendered everything I could observe into a twisted demesne of nonsensical desultory derangement!" Princess Celestia was patiently listening to her favored student, knowing through long experience that soon the purple unicorn would run out of words. "It doesn't make sense! Absolute chaos reigned - who or what put that all into the shape of Equestria we know today, if not for you and your sister? Discord could change reality itself! He is, for all intents and purposes an Elder God, right out of Horse Pinto Lovecraft, and it would require a supreme being to establish a rational order upon the entirety of the cosmos he destroyed! It couldn't have just fixed itself!"

Twilight was panting now, a speck of drool tracing a shining line down from the edge of her muzzle, her eyes filled with baby tears just waiting a chance to grow up and trickle out into the world. She and Celestia had been talking for hours now. Twilight had told her princess of her adventures in exacting detail, and in turn, Celestia had described her own.

"My dearest student, my dear Twilight, I may not be the almighty Celestia you have known, but I care for you no less, and it grieves me to see you this way. I do not have every explanation to offer you. Those times after the fall of Discord are hazy for both me and my sister. That was a very long time ago, Twilight. I cannot tell you how Equestria derived from a universe of absolute disorder, any more than I can tell you how the Elements Of Harmony were used in that day to defeat Discord the first time, or why it is that we need you and your friends now. So much has been lost to the centuries, and my memory is not what it was." Celestia smiled softly at her student, now close to her by the fire in her royal chambers. The two lay on the soft woven mat before the grand fireplace, facing each other, almost nose to nose.

"You... your memory... isn't... what it was." Small tears ran down the little unicorn's muzzle. She felt so small now, like a foal who had lost her mother. "H-how... did you... break your horn?"

Celestia sighed. "When the Changelings attacked, I foolishly thought to challenge their queen myself, but I was not prepared for how much power she had accumulated. After my defeat..."

"You were defeated?" Twilight squeaked in disbelief at the very idea that Celestia could be overcome. Then she sagged, remembering that this Celestia was not the Celestia she knew. This was a shadow of her teacher, a shade as if from Tartarus itself, and this Celestia was not omnipotent. The Pony Book might not even exist in this world.

Celestia looked down at Twilight, pausing to allow her student to regain her composure, before she continued. "During the battle my horn was burned terribly by the queen's energies. It seemed as though I had escaped unscathed, but as time passed, it was noticed that cracks had appeared in my horn, and last night I found the tip had broken off." Celestia stretched out a golden-shod hoof and laid it gently on Twilight's smaller, purple hoof. "It is not such a tragedy, dear one, I assure you. It is my intent to have my horn tended to, to regain the point, and in time it will grow out again. For now, it is a reminder that I need my subjects as much, or more, than they need me."

Emotions raged within Twilight - grief, anger, frustration. She had spent a lifetime with her Celestia, a lifetime of solitary study, learning well the nature of her world, her princesses, of how magic worked, of how history had flowed, of the very creation of the universe. All of that was wrong here. The Pony Book. The story of the restoration of Equestria. But all of that was as nothing to the loss of one precious thing. Here, the Celestia she knew was gone. The Celestia of this realm was just as kind, just as loving, but she was incapable of defending her realm even against... "What were they again, these 'Changelings?' you called them?"

"Yes, Changelings." Celestia winced slightly as she used her broken horn to levitate the teapot beside them, where they lay by the fire. She poured fresh tea first into Twilight's cup, and then her own.

"Were they very powerful?" Twilight hovered her cup in front of her muzzle and gently blew on it to cool the contents. She did not want to cast Snowfall's Blizzard, because while efficient, it might end in a block of ice and some embarrassed apologies.

"Not individually, no. They are an insectoid species, weak by themselves, but strong in great numbers when they swarm." Celestia sipped her tea. "They take the forms of others, and then feed off of the misdirected love that flows their way."

"Wait... earlier you said there were thousands of them, and that they broke Shining... my brother's... shield after they had been revealed, right? What did they hope to accomplish? If they replaced everypony, who would be left to love them? And if they had been discovered, why fight at all? They could not hope to fool anypony else, tactically they should have withdrawn immediately and sought some new feeding ground anywhere else!" Twilight set her cup down, to let the tea cool more.

"Perhaps they lacked your military brilliance, my clever student!" Celestia's soft laughter tinkled like bells inside Twilight's ears. For a moment, she could let herself believe that this was her Celestia, and that she was safe, and home in her own world once more.

"Again, none of this makes sense. You, YOU, were beaten by... bugs. It's hopeless, isn't it?." Twilight tried her tea once more. It was still fairly hot, but she could sip it, and it was green, and sweet, and tasted so familiar. This was still the tea she knew and loved, the tea she had taken with her mentor all the years of her foalhood.

"Perhaps you should tell me what you make of all of this, Twilight. I may not be the grand being you have described to me, but I have lived a very long time, and I have seen and learned many things. I may yet be able to help you." Celestia sipped her tea and smiled softly around the cup.

"Princess! I didn't mean... I never intended..." Twilight lowered her head and sighed. "I've come across things strange and wonderful both in this world, your world, I suppose. There were things that cannot hope to make sense, such as the mountain with its road of death, and the mean spirits of the ponies in the marketplace that I told you about. I'm glad I never saw the hydro... hydro-elec-tan..."

"Hydroelectric. Electricity is akin to the lightning that pegasai make when they stomp on a dark cloud. It is generated by the movement of water turning turbines inside the dam." Celestia smiled.

"If you want lightning, why not just have the pegasai make it?"

"The quantity required for modern industrial processing is far beyond anything that mere pegasai could produce." Celestia took another sip of her tea. Twilight just shook her head, remembering Starswirl's words 'Innovation demands excavation.' If the dam was as large as Celestia had described earlier, there must be vast swaths of this Equestria reduced to nightmarish craters in order to provide the raw resources needed for such massive projects, and the infrastructure required to permit their creation. Twilight decided to ignore this additional discrepancy and return to her summary.

"Anyway, there are things that simply cannot make sense, princess. But there are others that are... well, they are things I have hoped for, or wanted to see."

"How so, Twilight?" The princess had leaned forward slightly, her eyes intent.

"Well... I always wanted a brother. Secretly, I mean. You were wonderful to me, really, but sometimes I was... lonely. I know that it had to be that way, you must have been planning for the return of Nightmare Moon from before my mother was born, but... it was lonely..."

"That was your Celestia, Twilight. In my memory, in this world, you had your brother. You had friends and were constantly off and about with Cadence, or romping about with Shining Armor. You were quite the giggly little filly, in fact." The princess poured more tea for them both, her broken horn glowing softly.

Twilight thought about that. Whatever version of herself that lived on this world must be so much better adjusted than she. She envied herself. Her other self. "In this world, Rainbow Dash reads - can you imagine it? I always wanted one of my friends to share my love of books. And the Pinkie Pie of this world is not like mine - if anything, the Rarity of this world is more like the Pinkie I know... only in a kind of unpleasant way. She was annoyingly self-centered and selfish about attention. Pinkie was never like that in my world, even at her most rambunctious. Pinkie Pie here is silly, but in a quiet, soft way. I always wanted to see Pinkie settle down, so I could talk, really talk with her."

"Tell me, Twilight, do you have any resentment, at all, towards Rarity?" Celestia's question was pointed.

"Um... what?" Twilight was taken aback. "Resentment? No! Of course not! I mean, she gets on my nerves sometimes, what with carrying that boulder for her, and how she was all like 'we'll be the best of friends' when I first met her, only because she found out I came from Canterlot, and all that craziness with her and Applejack at my first ever sleepover - it was my very first, because I never had any friends or anything and - never mind. But no. I greatly appreciate Rarity and I am glad she is my friend!"

"Twilight?" She had seen that look on her mentor's face before.

"Yeah, Ok. I guess... maybe just a little. But I'm still grateful that she's my friend!"

Celestia set her cup down. "I'm sure that is true. It is not my intent to cause you distress, but I think it is relevant to the situation you have found yourself in. Please try to answer me honestly now - do you have any such issues with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy?"

Twilight thought for a moment. Where was the princess going with this? "Um... well, Rainbow Dash always calls me an egghead. She's just being affectionate! Really! She doesn't mean it as an insult, not... as a real insult. Not the kind of insult that's supposed to hurt, exactly..."

"And Fluttershy?"

"She's such a problem sometimes!" Twilight's face contorted with frustration. "I really needed her when we faced that dragon - it was a DRAGON! - and it was everything just to get her up the hill, and she just hid and refused to help, and we all got pretty beat up. In the end, though, she came through like a champ, Celestia! We couldn't have done it without her! Rainbow always underestimates Fluttershy. I keep reminding everypony that she has depths that... that.." Twilight was almost pleading, as if she were defending her friend from some imagined complaint by Celestia, and not herself. "I just wish that sometimes she would show a little more backbone, is all."

"Isn't that what she did, in the marketplace?" Celestia looked over her cup, which she held tightly to herself.

"Yes, I mean NO! She was mean and obnoxious and... I guess. I guess you could describe it that way. It was just too much. It was beyond reason." Twilight struggled for just the right words. "It was out of control!"

"Ah. I see. Out of control." Celestia smiled and looked deeply into Twilight's eyes.

"What? Have you figured out something?" Twilight knew that look on her mentor, she had seen it before many times.

"You have told me of many things this night, my student. You have told me of how my world differs from the world you knew, and also how it is similar. But most of all, you have told me how the changes you see relate to you. To your hopes, your wishes, and your frustrations... even your angers." Celestia took another sip, and set her cup down with finality.

"Both worlds, your Equestria and mine, are born from Primal Chaos, from the reign of Discord. Both are mutable, changeable. Magic is change, and Equestria is, if anything, a magical realm. It is only a matter of ability, and power." Twilight stared at her beloved friend. She did not like where this was going.

"Twilight, when you were first tested to join my school as a tiny foal, you lost control. It is no exaggeration to say, as I am certain that both I, and your Celestia, must have discussed with you, that your natural abilities are extraordinary. In my world, I was terrified of you, for - to be frank - your power surpassed my own in every way. It was everything I could do to restore you and save the world. I trust your almighty Celestia had an easier time of it. But for me, your foalhood loss of control was every bit the threat that Discord represented."

Hearing this hurt Twilight, somehow. To think that her princess was afraid... of her.

Celestia patted Twilight with her hoof. "The Twilight here, with her friends, fought the Changlings long after I was imprisoned and lost. I can only imagine what you could have done. I felt your power for the entire day, likely from the moment of your arrival here. It is how I found you, earlier, in the castle. It is palpable, Twilight, a level of magic I have not felt since Discord himself. Tell me again what happened during your exam in your world."

Twilight looked down. Her quick mind had already guessed the answer to all of this, and it was not pretty. "I tried very hard to hatch Spike's egg... the egg that would be Spike one day, I mean... and nothing worked. But then there was this loud explosion - I later learned it was Rainbow Dash, doing her very first Sonic Rainboom - and it startled me. I was already terrified, and... something in me just... broke." Twilight shifted her hooves nervously. "I don't remember what happened next, but you've told me... the other you told me... and others who saw, too... Spike apparently grew to enormous size and age, blasting the top off the entire building. My parents were transformed into potted plants, beams of energy were ripping around the testing room, converting and changing and twisting up everything and it was just growing and getting larger and I couldn't stop, I couldn't stop and... and..."

"And I came and between us, we made it stop, didn't we?" Celestia had her fetlock draped over Twilight's now, her head close, almost cheek to cheek. "And it got all better, didn't it?"

"I could have destroyed the world, Celestia."

"Yes. But you didn't. You didn't want to destroy the world. All you've ever wanted was to do good. That is why I spar... took you under my wing. You needed help. You just needed to learn to control your own power." Celestia nuzzled her student. Twilight gratefully accepted the gentle reassurance.


"Yes, princess?"

"Tell me, if a being were powerful enough to transform living ponies into plants and objects, twist and bend space and time enough to grow a dragon egg into a mature adult, and had such power that the world itself could have been recreated if she had not been stopped, what would happen if she had a moment, just a moment, where her mind drifted, where she fell out of her usual routine, and some of that power was... released?" Celestia was pressing her cheek to Twilight's now, a firm, loving comfort.

"Princess..." The tears were beginning to flow now, down Twilight's cheeks. It was as she had feared. Not that. Please not that.

"It could happen to anypony, Twilight. Nopony can be vigilant with their thoughts every second of every day. At least... no mortal pony. Maybe your Celestia, the one you knew, the one you described. But to demand that of yourself would be unreasonable... and impossible." Twilight was bawling now, and the Celestia of this new world held her tight, so tight, until her crying exhausted itself, until she once again fell quiet.

"Did I break the world forever, or just travel to some parallel world? Can... can I get... back?" Twilight sniffled, a last sob escaped her muzzle.

"I don't know, Twilight. I do not have such answers. I'm sorry." Hearing Celestia, even a variation on Celestia, apologize to her, like an ordinary pony... it was so difficult.

Twilight looked at the fire, burning warmly in the large, carved stone fireplace. "The vanishing hill, the inconsistencies... all the confused, broken parts of this reality... I did that, didn't I? Because I don't have the experience or the concentration to shape an entire world without grave mistakes. You shouldn't say you're sorry. I failed you. I wrecked everything, didn't I?" Twilight pulled back and stared into the eyes of the Celestia of this world.

"Twilight... maybe there are flaws to this world... my world... but I cannot see them. This is the only world I know. I am aware of Pale Mare Road, I have stood on it. I have even saved ponies from the cliff's edge there. It makes sense to me, and likely to everypony else here. When you describe how... dangerous and... ridiculous it is, I can almost see your point, just for a moment... and then what you have shown me fades. I am the product of my world, I believe I am limited to seeing it as normal, because for me, it is." Twilight seemed ready to cry again at this. "What I am trying to say is that... for me, the world is not broken at all. The world is fine. The world is perfect to me, and just as it should be. What I really see is a dear friend who is in great pain."

"What should I do, Celestia? I don't know what to do." Twilight hung her head. "You should have turned me to stone, right after that exam. Put me in your garden. Maybe... Maybe you should do that right now." Twilight stared hard into Celestia's eyes, trying to be brave.

"I didn't do that back then, and I won't do it now, and the reason has never changed." Celestia gave her student a nuzzle "You are a good pony who just happens to have extraordinary gifts. I believe now, as I did then, that you merely need to learn how to use them properly."

"Then how do I fix this? I want... I want to go home. I want what I knew, what I loved... back." The words seemed to hurt Celestia slightly, and Twilight regretted putting things that way.

"I understand." Celestia gave Twilight a reassuring touch with her hoof. "But it may not be possible. You may have to learn to live with the world as it is now. But... if your world still exists, if you did not change the world but instead only split off an alternate splay, then perhaps you may find your way back by controlling the way you think about things."

"Tell me! How? What do I have to do?" Twilight was desperate for any scrap of hope.

"If the world I inhabit is a fractional world, a shard split off from the reality you came from, and if it is true that you fell into this world through a careless thought, then perhaps through careful selection, you can differentiate one world from the other." Celestia sat up on her haunches, towering above where Twilight lay, and stretched her back. "If you have naturally begun to shift between such worlds, as another expression of your rare and special talents, then you may find yourself doing so again. Such shifts may happen without your conscious control, brought on by your own moods. You may need to learn to recognize which Equestria is which, and find the strength to walk in both worlds with confidence, as best you can. At least until you have mastered your world-shifting ability enough to finally choose which realm you would stake claim to."

Twilight pondered this. "So... you're saying that... it may have been a natural and reasonable expectation that something like this would happen... and that I basically..." Twilight sat up herself "...have to learn to live with it, and eventually to control it."

"Yes, exactly, my very best student." When Celestia was proud, it was literally like the sun coming out. Or at least is was for Twilight's original Celestia. But this Celestia had her charms too - for one thing, she was more approachable. Even calling herself a 'princess', there was no doubt that Twilight's Celestia was a goddess, and that the gulf between them was as vast as Luna's starlit night. This Celestia, vulnerable and infinitely closer in so many ways, felt more like a close friend in ways that warmed Twilight's heart. "When I have said that a talent for magic such as you possess comes along only once every five hundred years, I have not exaggerated. I suspect that even to your more... deific... Celestia, you must truly be a marvel, and, truth be told, a caution as well.

In any case, you have two Equestrias now, Twilight, whatever you ultimately discover about this. The Equestria you remember, and this one, if nothing else. And perhaps this Equestria is not as rich, or splendid, or logical as the one you knew, but it exists, and you exist, and things move on." Celestia leaned closer "Perhaps you will find your way home, perhaps this will become your home. Maybe you will even dance between the two Equestrian realms enjoying each for what they offer. I know that you can sort through this, that you can organize this. Because that is what you do."

Twilight began to smile, for the first time since she arrived in this strange, broken cosmos. Organization. If there was one thing in all possible worlds she was good at, it was organization. "I shall resolve to catalog the differences and keep them straight in my mind, Celestia. I cannot accept that my world, my original world, is gone forever. So I choose to assume that there are two parallel Equestrias, one a little looser... around the logic... than the other, but - also with some compensations as well."

With that, Twilight Sparkle did something she would never have done, could not have even considered doing, with her immortal, omnipotent, goddess Celestia. She threw herself at the Celestia in front of her and wrapped her forelegs tight around her. She placed her head close to Celestia's shimmering withers and nuzzled her like the mother she had always been to her.

This Celestia was not startled, and returned the warm and tender embrace. Twilight felt as if she were floating forever, in a sea of purest joy. This world was not logical. It could never make sense the way her true world, her original world had. But in this world, she could hold her beloved Celestia close, as she would a normal, ordinary, flesh and blood pony. Twilight could not help her tears. She had wanted to be able to do this, this one thing, more than any other wish. More than a calm Pinkie Pie. More than a friend who shared the love of reading. More than seeing Fluttershy be strong. More than anything ever.

The impossible gulf between her and this fragile, injured Celestia was absent.

The day had been maddening, troubling, disturbing. She had wanted to make sense of it all, and with Celestia's council, after a fashion, she had. But more importantly, most importantly of all, she had gotten her dearest wish.

"So, Twilight Sparkle," Celestia straightened up, after their embrace had ended "will you be staying here, or off to find your mysterious street, and your way home?"

"I don't know if I can find that street ever again..." Twilight wiped her eyes with a fetlock "... but I will keep an eye out for it, as the days progress. And if I do find it, I will make sure that I map the location, so that I may forever know each of my beautiful Celestias, and be able to spend time with them both." At that, Celestia, this world's Celestia smiled warmly, and gave her favorite student a tiny kiss on the nose.

It was not going to be easy, dealing with two realities - or, if it ultimately proved so, one somewhat damaged reality - but Twilight had resolved to make the best of it. Twilight blushed, the echo of Celestia's tender kiss still felt upon her nose, reminding her that however her sense of logic and reason had been insulted, there were at least... compensations.


Appendix: The Chatoyance Guide To The Ponyverses


Equestria Prime is defined as being a pseudo-Medieval/Renaissance fantasy world with some elements of Victorian steampunk technology. Electricity does not exist, but magic does. There is no large-scale mining or industrial blight. The world is self-consistent, the characters have personalities that grow and develop over time. Celestia and Luna have a divine, or at least demigodly status, and are capable of stellar and planetary manipulation at will. They are apparently immortal, and may not even be entirely physical - certainly they can become energy, transform into objects, become multiple independent entities with independent wills and possess many other god-level abilities. The focus of Equestria prime stories is on character growth and development as the various characters learn from the consequences of their actions within the context of their society. The world appears to have geographic consistency, and places and events can be mapped within the viewer's mind.

Episodes that take place within Equestria Prime:

Friendship is Magic, part 1
Lauren Faust

Friendship is Magic, part 2
Lauren Faust

The Ticket Master
Amy Keating Rogers & Lauren Faust

Applebuck Season
Amy Keating Rogers

Griffon the Brush Off
Cindy Morrow

Boast Busters
Chris Savino

Meghan McCarthy

Look Before You Sleep
Charlotte Fullerton

Bridle Gossip
Amy Keating Rogers

Swarm of the Century
M. A. Larson

Winter Wrap Up
Cindy Morrow

Call of the Cutie
Meghan McCarthy

Fall Weather Friends
Amy Keating Rogers

Suited For Success
Charlotte Fullerton

Sonic Rainboom
M. A. Larson

Stare Master
Chris Savino

The Show Stoppers
Cindy Morrow

A Dog and Pony Show
Amy Keating Rogers

A Bird in the Hoof
Charlotte Fullerton

The Cutie Mark Chronicles
M. A. Larson

Owl's Well That Ends Well
Cindy Morrow

Party of One
Meghan McCarthy

The Best Night Ever
Amy Keating Rogers

The Return of Harmony Part 1
M. A. Larson

The Return of Harmony Part 2
M. A. Larson

Lesson Zero
Meghan McCarthy

Luna Eclipsed
M. A. Larson

Sisterhooves Social
Cindy Morrow

May the Best Pet Win!
Charlotte Fullerton

Sweet and Elite
Meghan McCarthy

Secret of My Excess
M. A. Larson

Family Appreciation Day
Cindy Morrow

The Last Roundup
Amy Keating Rogers

The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000
M. A. Larson

A Friend in Deed
Amy Keating Rogers

It's About Time
M. A. Larson

Hurricane Fluttershy
Cindy Morrow

Ponyville Confidential
M. A. Larson


Interstice Episodes are defined as being capable of existing within either Equestria Prime or Equestria Beta. Elements of these episodes could be construed to indicate either story cosmos, or inconsistencies within an episode - that otherwise could be considered Prime - appear out of place or milieu.

Episodes that take place within the Interstice between the two universes:

Feeling Pinkie Keen
Dave Polsky

Green Isn't Your Color
Meghan McCarthy

Over a Barrel
Dave Polsky

The Cutie Pox
Amy Keating Rogers

Hearth's Warming Eve
Merriwether Williams

Baby Cakes
Charlotte Fullerton

Dragon Quest
Merriwether Williams


Equestria Beta is defined as being an alternate universe version of Equestria Prime. In the Beta universe, human-like, relatively modern technology exists with all that such technology implies. Steel girder construction and hydroelectric dams implying strip-mining and open-pit industrial blight. Electrical devices that could not be powered by magic are clearly seen. There is evidence of advanced technology not driven by steampunk means, and tropes within the story reflect the modern, human world. The focus of the stories is about comedy and action, with little to no character development and often direct refutation of events and character growth established in the Equestria Prime cosmos. Celestia and Luna are mortal ponies who may, or may not actually manipulate the sun and moon. They are virtually unable to defend themselves or their realm, and must depend on others for that task. They may be charlatans with little real power. The world itself is inconsistent and cannot be properly mapped in the viewer's mind - places and locations can exist merely to serve as a stage for a gag or joke.

Episodes that take place within Equestria Beta:

The Mysterious Mare Do Well
Merriwether Williams

Read It and Weep
Cindy Morrow

Hearts and Hooves Day
Meghan McCarthy

Putting Your Hoof Down
Merriwether Williams; story by Charlotte Fullerton

MMMystery on the Friendship Express
Amy Keating Rogers

A Canterlot Wedding - Part 1
Meghan McCarthy

A Canterlot Wedding - Part 2
Meghan McCarthy

The Lost In The Herd Series:
One: The Big Respawn,
Two: Euphrosyne Unchained,
Three: Letters From Home,
Four: Teacup, Down On The Farm

The Conversion Bureau Novels:
27 Ounces: A story of eight and one half ponies
The Taste Of Grass
The Conversion Bureau: Code Majeste
The Conversion Bureau: The 800 Year Promise
The Conversion Bureau: Going Pony
The Reasonably Adamant Down With Celestia Newfoal Society!
Recombinant 63: A Conversion Bureau Story
HUMAN in Equestria: A Conversion Bureau Story
The PER: Michelson and Morely
Little Blue Cat
Cross The Amazon
Adrift Off Fiddler's Green: A Conversion Bureau Story

The Short Stories:
Her Last Possession
The Conversion Bureau: PER Equitum
The Conversion Bureau: Brand New Universe
Tales Of Los Pegasus
The Poly Little Pony

The very first and original
Conversion Bureau Group
archives only the best Three Rules Compatible stories!

Optimalverse Works:
Friendship Is Optimal: Caelum Est Conterrens
Leftovers: A Friendship Is Optimal Story

Injectorverse Works:
I.D. - That Indestructible Something

The Non-Conversion Bureau Fanfics:
The Ice Cream Pony Summer
Around The Bend