Harmony's Song

by pchn00

First published

A young orphaned woman discovers family in a very unexpected place.

Harm didn't have the most glamorous life, but it simple and it was hers. A job, four walls, and enough extra cash to afford whatever she was in the mood to indulge in at the moment. A life whose routine was disturbed when a pair of agents for a distant Princess' secret service approached her claiming to have information about a mother she'd never met.

Life isn't as simple as it used to be.

(Some strong language, recreational drug use, potential for future 'adult' scenes)

Chapter 1: Meet Harm

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Chapter One: Meet Harm

"Harm! Get yer ass up! You got your sunday thing and we got a truck to unload!"

Pounding headache? Check.

Disgusting taste in mouth? Check.

Jerry screaming and serving as alarm clock? Check.

A quick glance around the loft showed no unconcious men or women, so that was a plus at least. Always a little awkward kicking them out in the morning. With a grimace the target of the morning's aggression sat up with a groan. Running a hand through slightly greasier than she'd like hair. Probably time for a shower. Maybe. Definitely after she unloaded the truck. Probably.

After a cursory examination of her clothes, a faded black Metallica t-shirt, only slightly frayed jeans and discovering no vomit she nodded in satisfaction and fumbled around on the floor for her boots. Throwing clothes this way and that and locating the target of her hunt, she tugged on the heavy leather footwear and stood up.

A yawn, a stretch, a loud pop coming from her back and she was out the door and looking out over the bar that she lived above. It wasn't much. Hell it was a complete dive. But it sure as hell beat the alternatives. Taking the steps two at a time with heavy clomps of her boots she made her way behind the bar, her boss slash landlord watching her as she went.

"Late night?" The heavy set man followed her into the small kitchen as she rummaged in the fridge.

"They all are. I work til two in the morning?" Straightening up with an old piece of cold pizza she turned, looking down at the man.

Jerry was not a small man. Six foot two, solidly built muscle now hidden under a layer of fat from soft living. Harm however was head and shoulders taller than he was, and while she wasn't bulging with muscle she was well toned. "You work til two, then you get hammered or stoned or both and watch cartoons all night."

A grunt was the woman's response as she walked by him, the pizza vanishing in a couple bites. "So? I get up more or less on time."

"It's two in the afternoon."

"And the truck just got here . See? On time." With a shrug and a grin she stepped out the back door to the waiting truck. While Jerry moved up to sign for the delivery, she got to work hauling in the crates. One after the other, working tirelessly and quickly. The back of the truck emptied out and the driver was on his way.

"I'm just sayin, it's not y'know... the best way to live, kid."

He could tell by the way her shoulders stiffened he'd pushed just a bit to much. "Th'fuck do you care how I live man? I throw grabby drunks out, I unload all your shit, and I pay what you ask when you ask. If I want drink and smoke and watch Adult Swim all night I will."

Lifting his hands he sighed. "Alright, alright. I just worry, I deserve t'get my ass chewed out because I worry?"

A sigh. Hand running through her hair again. "No. You're right. Sorry just... I don't like nagging. And I'm fine. Shit last time you made me see a doctor he refused to believe I smoked, drank, or ate anything that wasn't that organic BS."

"I remember. Alright well I'm gonna get these on the shelves, I'll leave the stuff for the basement by the back door. Take 'em down when you get back."

Waving over her shoulder she grabbed her keys from behind the bar and sighed at the streets and sidewalks covered in white powder. "Hate the fucking snow."


A small unassuming apartment complex was located across the street. The rents were some of the lowest in the city, and in Detroit that's saying something. The current occupants of apartment 402 were a pair of women in their mid to late twenties. Uninteresting save the wild hair colors and unusual gold eyes of the woman with the mint green hair and white stripe.

"Bonnie, this is 'not' the girl. We are absolutely wasting our time."

"Mmhm." Was the response she got from the woman with the indigo and pink curls.

"Every other word out of her mouth is... you know..."

"Fuck? We're adults Lyra. We can say swear words."

A huff from her partner. "I 'know' thank you, Bonnie. Yes, we can say them. We choose not to. It's a sign of a limited vocabulary."

"Mmhm." Bonnie tapped the earring hanging from her right ear. "This is Agent Drops, day seven of stake out. I say we give her one more week before we call it. Sound fair?"

There was a moment as her message was transferred. "How many signs has she exhibited, Agent Drops?" Came the reply after another minute.

"Four so far, but pretty sure we're not going to be seeing the fifth, ma'am."

Another long pause. "Alright. Use your best judgment Agent Drops. I know she's somewhere in that city and this is the first one who's really stood out from the others, yes?"

"Yes, ma'am. Junior Agent Heartstrings..." A harrumph from the agent in training. "...ran into her while picking up supplies in the city. So far we've yet to see a human even coming close to her size. She's exhibited strength signifigantly beyond her musculature would suggest as well."

"Alright ladies. I'm authorizing you to use the Element at your discretion, if you feel this might be her don't hesitate. I'm counting on you."

"Of course ma'am. Don't worry. You wanted the best, the agency gave you the best. Agent Drops out." Removing her hand from the crystal the connection went dead.

"Do you always have to call me 'junior' agent?"

"Yes. Because you're a junior agent. When our superiors say you're fit to handle missions alone, you'll stop being a junior agent." Setting the binoculars down she turned from the window to face her partner. "The subject is leaving on her motorcycle, send a scrying eye after her."

"Yeah, yeah." The transformed unicorn approached the window and knelt down comfortably. Eyes closed she began to hum softly. The ringing sound of her magic filling the room as a spectral eye formed and chased after the departing woman. "I'm on her."

"Good job, junior agent." Bonnie had to throw in with a playful smirk.

An equine snort was Lyra's response. "Well senior Agent Drops, maybe our superiors would like to know you're fraternizing with your trainee?"

"Oh it's extortion now? Let me guess, I fast track your promotion or you get me drummed out of the agency? Then I'll be the one mooching off of you, you know?"

"I'm not a mooch! I'm a free spirit. An artist."

"An artist who spent all day on the sofa or hanging out with foals reading comic books."

A long pause. "That does not in any way change my statement." Lyra glanced up coyly from her position on the floor. "I suppose in lieu of the promotion you could compensate me in... other ways. These freaky bodies aren't good for much but sweet Celestia I love these fingers."

A snort of amusement from Bonnie. "You mean you love 'my' fingers on 'your' teats."

Lyra shrugged. "Potato potah... hey she's going somewhere new."

"Oh? Where?"

Another shrug. "Not the pizza joint or her drug dealer and so far those are the only two places she goes. Oooo I could go for some of that."


"No dummy, pizza. Go pick us one up?"

"I'll pick us one up for dinner, yes. I'm not going anywhere while she's exhibiting a change in her pattern."

Lyra bit her lip. "Listening to you be all official and stuff is sexy."

"Later, Junior Agent. For now focus, please."

"Yes ma'am, Senior Agent. She's driving a good ways, looks like she's actually leaving the city."

"Lucky. I wish we could leave the city. It stinks worse than a minotauran steel works."

A shrug. "It's not so bad. They have pretty interesting music. And I've got like, tons of souveneirs."

"Which control has to look over and approve before you bring anything home. I promise that tablet you wasted most of your funds on isn't making the cut."

Wide-eyed Lyra clutched the little computer to her chest. "I'll smuggle it in! I can't live without it!"

"You have no way of charging it back home."

Mouth immediately opened to retort. Alas, Lyra found she had none to that. She settled for another equine snort and snapped her mouth shut.

Bonnie took the moment of peace to get up, stretch her legs, and tidy up the tiny apartment. She'd been all over the world of Equus working for the agency, but this was the first time she'd actually been to another world. Really besides technology being dominant over magic it wasn't to different from a minotauran city. The people were abrasive, violent, and rude. There were some exceptions she had to admit, but on the whole she missed home more all the time.

"Hey, hey! She's stopping! Cherrywood Retirement Village?"

Bonnie moved over to sit beside Lyra. "What's she doing?"

"Heading inside. Lots of old humans. Looks like some kinda community for their old folks. She's talking to an old stallion. She's ah..." A grimace. "...great."

"What? She's what?"

"She's... ugh... helping him eat. Now she's reading some book to him. I think he's kind of out of it. Like sick in the head or something." The look on her face was lifting Bonnie's spirits more and more.

The senior agent pulled out a list. "Kindness, check. I'm moving in tonight."

Lyra sat back and ended her scrying spell. "I hate it when you're right."

"Which is weird, since I always am."

Taking up the list Lyra glanced over it. Honesty, the woman never lied about anything. Typically she was honest to the point of rudeness. Laughter, she guffaws like an idiot at her cartoons all night. Loyalty, fierce loyalty to her boss, the bar, and the regular patrons. She goes well out of her way to look after them. Generosity, she isn't shy about sneaking rounds to regular customers. Kindness, check. Just one last test. "...man I hope she blows it."


"How's the old man, Harm?"

Harm shrugged as she entered the back of the bar, tossing her keys under the counter. "Sick, old, and out of it. They think he's gonna go soon." Hefting a pair of boxes and trudging downstairs. Her boss always gave her space when she came back from her weekly visit with her dad.

"Probly gonna be quiet tonight if you wanna just bum around your room, Harm." His voice holding more tenderness than usual.

"Nah." As she came back upstairs for another load. "I'm good. Besides I don't get free booze when I'm not working."

Jerry chuckled. "Fair enough. At least go take a shower. You're startin' to stink, kid. Bad for business."

Coming back for the last box she gave a nod. "Fair. I'll grab a shower."

"And wear a different shirt. Kid I toldja gimme yer laundry, I'll bring it home and wash it for ya. The missus don't mind."

"Alright, alright. Christ. I'll clean my room, just for you."

"Thanks, you're a delight as always."

Chuckling she trudged up the stairs to her room. One boot, then the other hit the floor as she tugged her shirt up over her head and started gathering up her laundry strewn about the floor. Jerry's just trying to be a nice guy, she should quit giving him shit all the time.

"What color is your hair naturally?" Came a woman's voice from behind.

Harm jumped nearly a foot off the ground, whirling around in shock. "Jesus fuck!" Grabbing the bat leaning by the wall near her bed she glared down the smaller woman with the pink and blue curls. "Lady you broke into the wrong persons place."

The woman was standing calmly, holding a box of hair dye in one hand. "Hair color?"

Harm paused, the tip of the bat lowering a bit. This chick broke into her place to ask about her hair? "Lady I dunno what you're on or what you're doing here but I'm gonna give you one chance to walk out and--"

"I'm here because someone sent my partner and I to find you, on behalf of your mother."

Eyes wide, the bat dropped to the floor with a clatter. "Excuse me?"

"Your mother. Well, I'm not one hundred percent sure you're who we're looking for but I'm fairly certain at this point. We've been watching you for a few days now. So far everything checks out but there's one more thing we need to test."

Her mind was racing. Twenty six years she'd wondered about her parents. Who were they? Where were they from? Why the fuck did they dump her in the middle of some god-forsaken forest when she was a baby? "...test? Like... blood or...?"

"No, nothing like that." The woman tossed the empty box of dye back in the trash. "My name is Sweetie Drops, I'm an Agent in her majesty's secret service."

"...like James Bond?" The hell kind of name was Sweetie Drops? Probably a call sign like Iceman or Cheeseburger like they use in the military.

"Sort of, sure." Harm tensed as the agent reached into her coat, but relaxed as she pulled out a small black case. "What color is your hair, Harmony?"

Harm flinched. No one called her Harmony. But she'd let it slide. "It's Harm. And..." Clearly struggling. "It's uh... lavender. With these pink and orange streaks, highlights I guess." She said, barely audible.

"And your eyes? I see the contact cases on the sink in there."

Her breathing was picking up. Was this really happening? Were her parents looking for her? Had they been looking for her all this time? Maybe she was kidnapped or... "I ah..." Reaching up she pulled the lens from her right eye. A very vivid sunset colored orange.

"Very good. Alright, Harm. Please open this case." Offering it to the much larger woman.

Who accepted curiously. "...what is it?"

"The last test to see if you're who we're looking for."

Slight hesitation before she flicked the latch up with her thumb and eased the lid open. "Jesus this is a big rock."

"Pick it up please."

Glancing from the watching woman to the large, magneta colored gem Harm gingerly lifted it between thumb and forefinger. A keening sound rang out as the gem began to glow with a bright inner light. The sound surprised her and she almost dropped it, but she managed to hang onto it. "What... what is this?"

"That, Harm is the Element of Magic. One of the Elements of Harmony. One of your elements. It wouldn't react like that for anypony else."

"Elements... magic? I don't understand. What does this have to do with my mother? Is this hers?"

"No, but that does belong to the one who sent us. Or it did? I don't know how it all works. A bit beyond my pay grade, but if you'd come with me across the street, I'll tell you everything I know."

Gently placing the gem back in the case, Harm closed the lid. "Do you know my mother?"

"I do."

"What..." Licking her lips. "What's she like?"


======== Canterlot Castle ========

"Anything else on the schedule, Raven?" The solar diarch of Equestria sipped her tea delicately as she enjoyed the sight of the castle staff busily setting up for the coming Hearthswarming festivities.

"No, Princess I do believe we're all wrapped up for the day." The small black maned earth pony smiled as she rolled up the sheaf of papers. "We have an hour until dinner if you have anything you'd like to do?"

"Hm." Another small sip. "Has Twilight emerged from the library?"

"Yes, Princess. She went right from the library to her castle in Ponyville."

Eyebrows rose in surprise. "And she didn't say goodbye?"

Her personal assistant shrugged. "It would appear not, Princess. Shall I prepare a sternly worded letter in response to this gross oversight of proper Princess protocol?"

A gentle laugh. Really Raven lived to hear that laugh. She did anything she could to get it out of the Princess. "If you can say that five times quickly, yes."

"Alas, bested again. I'm terrible with tongue twisters."

"I believe I'll dig out the decorations for the Hearthswarming tree, then. Luna loves to help decorate it with me. You're excused for the remainder of the day, Raven."

The mare dipped into a low bow. "Of course, Princess. I'll see you first thing in the morning."

Celestia smiled as she watched the mare go. Raven was the latest in a very long line of assistants, but so far she was shaping up to be one of the best. Setting the empty tea cup on the tray and giving a pleasant nod to the maid who hurried to clear it away the Princess rose and made her way back inside.

As she made her way to one of the many store rooms she couldn't help but wonder what Twilight was sneaking around the castle about. Probably dredging through old books for some obscure line or another about something she loved in her younger years so she could provide the perfect Hearthswarming present. Really it didn't matter what she got her, it's the thought that counts.

The filly was like a daughter to her. She allowed herself a rueful smile. Technically Twilight Sparkle hadn't been a filly for quite a few years now, but still she couldn't shake the image of the smiling little foal eager to learn. Perhaps she should get her a gift to remind her how much she meant to her. After all, there was no way Twilight could ever out do Celestia in terms of Hearthswarming surprises.

Chapter 2: Meet the Princess

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Chapter 2 Meet the Princess

"So... my mom is a magical, talking, Princess horse?"

"Pony." Lyra helpfully corrected.

"And you two are magical talking horses?"


"And I'm supposedly a magical talking horse?"


Bonnie drew in a sharp breath. "Lyra, here's twenty dollars. Why don't you go get us that pizza?"

Her partner's eyes lit up. "Meat Lover’s?"

"As much meat as you like. Just go. Please."

Lyra cast their guest a suspicious glance. "Are you going to be okay with her alone?"

Bon-bon responded with a firm look; which Lyra wilted under and beat a hasty retreat. "I apologize for her, Harm. She's still in training and hasn't quite learned how to act like a professional yet."

The large woman shrugged. "Whatever. What's the difference between a horse and a pony? Aren't ponies just baby horses?"

"Not exactly. On Equus, there are horses and ponies. Equestria, your homeland, is populated primarily by ponies. Places like Saddle Arabia are primarily horses, while other regions have mixed populations like Prance and such. I'm sure you'll learn all about it soon."

Harm blinked slowly as she processed the ridiculous pun names she was hearing. "...lady I'm like two seconds away from walking out of here and maybe slapping you and your yappy buddy around for fucking with me like this."

The experienced agent had a patient smile. "I know this is a lot to take in, Harm. However your size, strength, stamina, and I'm going to guess inhuman durability all stem from you being an earth pony like myself."

"You're a hell of a lot smaller than I am Agent."

"Er... yes. Well I expect you're a draft mare. A rare sort of earth pony with a surplus of magic. They're bigger and stronger than the typical earth pony. While I'm not as strong as you are, I'm still a lot stronger than I look. That's part of being a member of our tribe."


Bon-bon gives a quick nod of confirmation. "Yes, there are earth ponies like you and I. Unicorns like Lyra, and pegasi. Unicorn magic is focused around manipulating harmonic energy to cast spells, and pegasus magic allows them to fly and manipulate the weather."

"Sorry, back up. I don't care. So if we're supposed to be magical horses why don't we look like magical horses?"

"Oh, well it's very technical. The Princess can explain it to you when we get to Equestria. However in simple terms, your world lacks harmonic energy. When Lyra and I arrived we took human bodies, as did you when you were a foal. When we return to Equestria we'll be ponies again."

Harm set her jaw as she processed what the woman was saying. Either she was batshit crazy, or Harm had gone batshit crazy and was imagining all this in her head. "Prove it."

"Prove what?"

"That you're a magical pony from another world."

"Oh... that. That's very fair actually. Just a moment." Her hand went to the earring dangling from her right ear. It was pretty enough, a small piece of blue crystal twined in silver. "Princess, this is Agent Drops. I have the subject here with me. The Element of Magic reacted, she's who we're looking for."

Harm could hear the voice on the other end shriek excitedly, and she winced for the agent's assaulted ear. She couldn't make out the words on the other end but whoever it was was spazzing out big time.

"Princess... Princess please. I know, it's very exciting. Yes, ma'am. Yes... Princess can I just..." A sigh as her hand went to her forehead and she let the excitable mare wear herself out. "...all good? Tell Spike I said thank you for swatting you on the head. Miss Aarons wants proof we're from another world."

A brief pause while Bon-bon listened to the much more calm voice ask something. "Well I assume it's her adopted father's name, Princess. You can ask her whatever you like if she agrees to come with us. "—another pause—" Well as I said she's not convinced my story is true, which is very fair given that she's the only source of magic in her entire world."

Harm watched in silence as the woman talked into her earring. That was sure fancy, but it could be some new CIA toy for all she knew. "Alright, Princess I'll prepare the gate rune. Standby." Dropping her hand she huffed. "Very nice mare, but sweet Celestia she gets worked up about everything."

"Why do you keep saying that? Your doofy partner said it a couple times." The young woman watched the Agent rummage in a duffle bag, retrieving a number of small round stones.

Bonnie began setting the stones in a circle on the floor. "Say what?"

"Sweet Celestia."

"Oh... well it's sort of like when you say Jesus Christ I suppose."

"Oh... so my mom is what? Named after pony Jesus?"

"No, your mother 'is' pony Jesus."


Another sigh, she sighs a lot Harm noted. "Princess Celestia is an alicorn, an immortal pony who's ruled Equestria nearly since its founding about fifteen hundred years ago. She's the kindest, wisest mare who's ever lived. There was a time when she and her family were worshipped as deities. A practice she worked hard to stamp out when most of them left Equus for the Golden Fields of Elysium. Still, we keep a couple sayings. ‘Sweet Celestia’, ‘Luna's Teats’, that sort of thing. ...Luna doesn't like the second one."

Harm shook her head listening. "Jesus it's like you're telling me a fairy tale that you genuinely believe is true."

"Oh it's true." Bonnie laid the last stone in place as each one began to sing and glow. Light raced around the edges and to the center of each stone revealing intricate engravings on each of them. The light formed a solid ring that lifted slowly into the air, widening into a sort of rectangular doorway. Through it Harm could see... a horse. A purple horse.

"That's a purple horse."

"Oh my goodness! Hello! Oh this is so exciting! You're really Harmony!"

"Wow a very upbeat, talking purple horse. With wings. And a horn. I smoked something very strong last night; my dealer is going to get my boot up his ass when I see him next."

The little horse's ears folded back. "Oh my... well they did warn me you had a bit of a foul mouth."

It was a very surreal moment for Harm. The thing through the doorway was clearly some sort of equine. But the face was so expressive. And her eyes were huge. She could clearly see herself reflected in them. She was a bit at a loss for what to say. "Yeah, I swear a lot."

"Well! That's okay; though, I do ask you to not do so around any young foals you run into. We try to discourage that sort of language early on."

Harm sat back down on the edge of the bed, dropping her chin in her hand as she stared at the pony. "I'm guessing you're not my Princess-mom?"

"Oh! No, my name is Twilight Sparkle. I'm the Princess of Friendship." She spoke with a touch of pride, but her friendly tone didn't fade in the least.

Twilight was slightly surprised at the woman's reaction; who narrowed her eyes slightly. "Alright... okay. This is some kind of show right? One of those retarded Ashton Kutcher fucks with you things?"

Bonnie cleared her throat. "Princess? Maybe a brief demonstration for Harm?"

Twilight nodded. "Yes, yes of course." She flicked her eyes to the side, and her horn began to shimmer with a glittery aura of light. Harm just watched silently as a piece of paper levitated through the air, passing through the doorway and into her lap.

Harm stared down at the arguably perfect letters on the paper. 'This is real, I'm really the Princess of Friendship, you're really the long lost daughter of our Princess of the Sun.'

"....do that floaty thing again," the human numbly said, still gazing down at the paper.

Twilight smiled in response and Harm felt a tickling tingle run up her right hand as the shimmering aura appeared around it. The hand lifted itself into the air and waved back and forth a little, before she gave a sharp tug and freed herself from the gentle pull. The alicorn in the portal yelped and stumbled forward from the unexpected tug, but a quick flap of her wings steadied herself. "Convinced?"

"Ahhh..." Now staring at her hand and flexing her fingers. "...you're really a magical talking Princess pony, aren't you?"

Twilight's didn't fade. "I really am, Harm. So are you technically. As Princess Celestia's daughter that makes you royalty as well."

Hands folded in her lap, Harm fidgeted with her right hand. "So why are you here? Where's Celestia then?"

"Oh! Well I was hoping to surprise her with you for Hearths Warming."

Bonnie chimed in, "It's our version of Christmas."

"Oh." Was all Harm could think to say. It was rare for her to feel unsure of herself. "So what like, you'll have me pop in to say hi next week?"

Twilight's smile finally faded a little as she realized how serious this was. "Well, I thought it might be fun for you to come stay here at my castle with me for a few days. We could take some time to acclimate you to pony life, teach you some of the more important points you'd need to know for living in your new home—"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Lady I don't want to acclimate to pony life. I'm sure as shit not moving to pony land. In fact I'm starting to think if my mom wants to meet me she can come here and do it. I've gotten by just fine without her so far. I sure as shit stopped caring about her a long time ago."

Twilight's mouth fell open, eyes flicking from Harm to Bonnie, who simply shrugged. "I... but... but this is your home. She's your mother, you have a whole family here!"

"My home is above Jerry's bar." Harm jerked her thumb over her shoulder toward the bar. "My family is an old man with dementia on his last legs. Just because this Celestia squeezed me out doesn't make her my family, got it? I'd consider visiting to say hi and maybe get an explanation out of her, but I'm sure as hell not moving to pony land. I have friends and a life here."

The look on the Princess' face made it clear to Harm this was not the reaction she was expecting. "I... I see. Yes, of course this is... this is a lot to drop on you all at once." A deep breath as the purple pony collected herself. "Of course, I apologize Harmony..."


"Yes, I'm sorry, Harm. You're right of course, I just got a little excited. Princess Celestia means a good deal to me and seeing you after all these centuries." A little shiver of excitement ran down her spine, setting her feathers twitching. "She's going to be so happy!"

Harm's eyebrow rose. "Centuries? Lady I'm gonna be twenty seven in a week and a half."

Twilight nodded thoughtfully. "Well of course you're not nine hundred years old. There's a bit of a time travel element to all this."

"Time travel, now?"

"It's a long story which I will be more than happy to fill you in on in its entirety if you want."

"I don't, really."

Twilight's ears drooped a bit lower as her frown became more visible. "Er... right."

Harm got to her feet and paced the room quietly for a moment, stopping at the window and staring at the bar across the street. "So what? I pop over for a few days to say hi then you can bring me right home, yeah?"

"Yes, that's right. Come to Equestria for a few days. Meet your mother, see the world you were born on." Harm's faint frown deepened at the passion in the Princess' voice.

Turning on her heel she faced the pony again. "Why did she abandon me?"

"Ah..." Twilight's ears twitched at the question. "That's fair I suppose. It's a little bit of a story, but she didn't abandon you. You were taken from her. Why don't you prepare a bag and I'll tell you the whole story when you arrive. Holding this portal open is a bit of a drain on my magic."

Taken? So she was kidnapped? And by their standards it was hundreds of years ago? Did this Celestia even think of her? Did she still want to see her? Questions. A lot of questions. She wasn't terribly fond of questions on a good day let alone a day she learned she was supposed to be a talking princess horse.

A deep breath. "Alright. I'm gonna go get my things together, let my boss know I might be gone a few days. I'll be back in a few."

"Thank you, Harm. And don't worry, I can send you home whenever you like, okay?" As woman left the apartment Twilight turned her attention to Bon-bon. "You and Lyra can prepare to come home too Bon-bon."

"She'll be excited to hear that Princess. We have a few things that need to be looked over, and she's going to try to sneak a small computer in. Should probably keep an eye out for that. I'll get our things ready to go and inform the land lord."

"Bon-bon..." The agent turned to face the portal and her Princess again. "...is this a good idea?"

Bonnie hated it when her superiors asked her opinion. "No, Princess. I don't think so." She quickly continued at the comedic shock flooding over Twilight's face. "Don't get me wrong, I think Princess Celestia and Harm should meet. I don't think surprising the Princess with this is a wise choice, and I think Harm is right. Princess Celestia should come to her."

"Well... well that's not altogether unfair I suppose..." Twilight chewed her lip in thought. "I just got so excited. It's so rare I get to really do something special for Celestia."

Bonnie worked hard not to roll her eyes at that. If anypony's done special things for Celestia in the past decade or so it was Twilight Sparkle. "Well it's a very complex situation and should be handled carefully and thoughtfully is all I'm saying."

"I'll talk it over with my friends." This time Bon-bon did roll her eyes, fortunately Twilight wasn't looking at her anymore. The pack of lunatics Princess Twilight palled around with weren't exactly her idea of sound advisors.

It had gone a bit rockier than she'd hoped, but Celestia's filly was coming home. This was going to be the best Hearths Warming ever. But Bon-bon was right, this had to be approached with caution and tact. Twilight knew if anypony could understand that, it would be her fellow elements.

========Jerry's Place=======

"Alright, got my stuff. I'm gonna stash my bike downstairs if that's cool?"

Her boss had a less than enthused look on his face. "You sure this is all on the up and up kid? I know you can take care of yourself but it's kinda weird they're coming to find you after all this time y'know?"

Harm shrugged, slinging her duffle bag over her shoulder. "Yeah it's weird but I dunno, it's probably hard to find a missing baby I guess? I've never tried y'know?"

"Yeah, yeah I know. Alright well if you're gone more than a week I'm callin' th'cops."

A smirk. She had a feeling they wouldn't find her. "Well that makes me feel a lot better; thanks Jerry."

He cast a withering glance at her bag . "Are any of those clothes even remotely clean?"

"Eh, remotely. Sure."

"Kid, at least bring that suit I boughtcha. This' the first time you're meeting your ma. You gotta look nice."

Harm grimaced. "Fine, I'll bring the damn suit . I won't be happy about it though!" Thumping back upstairs and taking the only tidily arranged garments from her closet, she carefully fitted it into the bag before making her way back downstairs. "There, got the suit. Anything else?"

"No. That's it, kid. Just be yourself and it'll go great."

"Yeah because myself is so likable."

He chuckled. "I know you got a hard shell but I've seen that gooey center of yours."

"Great, I'm a fuckin' M&M now. I'll see you in a few days, Jerr. Thanks for the time off."

"Don't mention it, kid. Call if you're gonna be gone longer."

With a wave over her shoulder she stepped out of the bar and crossed the street to the agents’ hotel. "Hey!"

She turned at the sound of the voice. It was the green haired one, Agent Heartstrings and her pizza. "Hey what? Jesus I'm heading upstairs whaddo you want?"

Lyra thrust a tablet into her hands, expertly balancing Bonnie’s distraction in the other. "Smuggle this in for me! Tell the Princess it's yours and you I dunno, need it or you'll go crazy without some kinda reminder of home. She's super sappy. She'll totally buy it. You can give it back later."

Harm accepted the tablet and slipped it into her bag. "Can I get arrested and go to pony jail for this?"

"Nah. You're Princess Celestia's filly. You could probably run around Ponyville punting ponies in the backside all day and you wouldn't get arrested."

"Well. This sounds cooler than it did a few minutes ago." Noting Lyra's look she hastily continued. "Not that I'd be doing that for fun. If someone asks for it they might get my boot in their butt though."

"No one's going to ask for it." Lyra even got the door for her. "I guarantee if you're pleasant and friendly ponies will always respond in kind. ‘A stranger is a friend we haven't met yet’ is a popular saying in Equestria."

"Jesus Christ. Are you serious?"

"What? Being nice and pleasant isn't the worst thing in the world. Heck of a lot nicer than the way people treat each other in this smelly city."

Harm grunted in response as they walked back up to the apartment. Bonnie had the place packed and was already sending bags through the portal to the waiting Princess. "Good, you ready to go Harm?"

"Yes ma'am, Agent Drops ma'am."

The agent in question looked less than amused at the snark. "Right. Come on Lyra, you first."

Lyra wore a big grin as she broke into a run, and leapt through the portal. Harm's eyes widened as the woman became a sea-green pony with a horn poking out of her hair. A pony who was flailing around in her now ill-fitting clothes.

Bon-bon sighed and began stripping down. "I suggest you do the same, Harm."

"...I'm going to turn into a little horse when I go through there?"

"Pony, and yes. Don't worry it's not so bad. I'm sure the Princess has some spells prepared that will help you get your balance."

Feeling considerably less enthusiastic about all this now the young woman nonetheless began to remove her clothes. "And I'll pop right back to being human when I come home?"

Twilight was the one who answered. "Absolutely. If I stepped through I'd be just as human as you, I promise. No side effects, nothing strange. You'll come home just as you leave it."

Harm's eyes were drawn to Bonnie's generous chest as she freed herself of her clothing, then stepped through the portal. Clopping down to four hooves and moving to help Lyra free herself of her cloth prison. Taking a moment to stow the rest of her clothes in the bag, Harm took a deep breath, and tentatively stepped through the glowing gateway.

The first thing she noted was how 'cold' the floor was on her bare feet. "Jesus! What is this diamonds?"

Twilight was staring at her in surprise. "No... but it is crystal...." She stepped closer and gingerly prodded the woman's thigh with a hoof. "You're still human."

"Yeah, those giant eyes don't miss much. I'm getting dressed. Very funny making me take my clothes off."

All three ponies watched as the human in their midst got dressed again. Twilight absent mindedly pulled the keystone from the gate over to Equestria, leaving the others arranged for a safe return.

“No, wait! My pizza!” Lyra shouted, the shirt she had been taking off flying over magical stones as she reached out in desperation.

"Princess..." Bonnie began, her eyes swinging away from her partner to Twilight. "...why is she still human?"

Twilight shook her head, horn shining as she looked Harm over curiously. "I'm not entirely sure. It could be that her core was somehow... altered by all the years she spent on Earth?"

Harm tugged her shirt down over her head. "My core?"

"Yes, your magical core." Harm saw both agents wince as Twilight began speaking. "Every pony has one. It's what allows us to use our magic. The strength and size of a pony's core determines how skilled we are with our various tribal talents. Yours is 'very' potent so your great physical attributes stem from there."

"I'm big because I have a lot of earth pony magic?"

"Precisely! I suppose this is going to... wait. Wait!"

Harm yelped and froze, in the middle of pulling her pants up. "What?"

"That." Pointing to the woman’s hip. "You have a cutie mark."

Harm stared blankly. "...did those words really come out of your mouth?" She looked from pony to pony, taking note of the tattoos on their butts . "My birth mark is a pony thing?"

"Birthmark? No no, Harm a cutie mark appears when a pony discovers her special talent. Her destiny! I can't believe you have one. Though I suppose you are a pony at your core. Oh it's lovely too."

Harm scowled and tugged her pants up, concealing the heart with the musical notes swirling around it. "A cutie mark. I can't believe you call it a cutie mark."

"Oh you have to tell us the story!" Lyra was finally free of her clothes and looking up at the giant in their midst expectantly.



"No." Harm's jaw set a bit firmer.

"Pleeeeeeea—" The unicorns voice abruptly cut out as a magenta shimmer formed around her throat.

Bonnie grabbed Lyra by the tail. "Message received, Princess. We're going to report to control for debriefing then return to Ponyville."

Twilight released the spell on Lyra. "Thank you, Bon-bon. I appreciate you girls' hard work." S he waited for them to leave, Lyra bemoaning the loss of the pizza, before turning back to Harm. "Well then. Harmony, it is my very great pleasure to welcome you to Equestria."

"Thanks, I guess... and really, please call me Harm."

The mare nodded. "Of course... may I ask why? Harmony is a lovely name."

Harm shrugged as she glanced around the room. It looked like a mix between a library and a chemistry lab. "I don't like music."

Twilight's mouth fell open in shock. "But... your cutie mark."

"Is a really ugly birth mark I tried to have surgically removed, I don't want to talk about it. I don't like music. End of story. Alright?"

The mare could tell if she pushed the subject it would only cause the woman to close herself off more and more, and that was the exact opposite of what she wanted to do. "Well than you don't have to." Her warm smile returned. "Come on, why don't I show you around the castle a little bit? My assistant is out today so we have the place to ourselves for now. When he gets back we'll all sit down to dinner. Sound good?"

Harm shrugged. "Sure I guess. Can I dump my bag somewhere?"

"Of course, right this way."

=======Deep Below Equestria======

The heavy scent of incense filled the throne room as Sir Argent Dark approached his Queen's resting place. Large windows lit by low burning purple flames illuminated important moments in his people's history. A mirror image to the surface pony's throne room he was told; not that he'd ever been there to compare. The only thestral's to travel to the surface were criminals or outcasts. "You summoned, my Queen?"

The large mare shifted in her bed of cushions made of the finest silks. Queen Radiant Darkness of the Deep Ponies was truly a sight to behold, and the loyal knight always had to fight to keep his awe under control. Towering over the others of her tribe, the Queen's gently glowing eyes were visible through the slits of the delicately engraved porcelain mask she never removed in the company of others. "I did, Sir Argent." Her voice was always pleasant to the ear, low and sibilant. Mane and tail of pure darkness shifted and wafted lazily when she was at rest, though became a roiling storm when she was roused to anger. A rarity, but something that happened from time to time.

The knight dipped into a low bow. "How may I serve the Hollows?"

"By delivering a message. To the surface. It is time Equestria's newest Princess and I spoke face to face."

The normally stoic and composed stallion's jaw dropped. "Th-the surface my Queen?"

"Indeed, Sir Argent." Her face was illuminated as her horn shimmered to life, and levitated a scroll to the waiting pony. "See to it personally that the Princess receives it and no other. Am I clear?"

He bowed and accepted the message. "Crystal, my Queen. I will depart at once."

"Very good, Sir Argent." The Queen settled back into her cushions once more, eyes drifting shut lazily. "Very good."

Chapter 3: Meet the Aunt

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Chapter 3: Meet the Aunt

=======Old Castle of the Royal Sisters, Ten Months and Two weeks ago======

"I think we're just about finished Spike!" Twilight was in an excellent mood. Twelve straight hours of uninterrupted cataloguing of the various books, manuscripts, and tomes filling the old castle had certainly made her cheery.

Her assistant seemed less than enthused. "Thank Celestia. My claws are killing me; we've been at this all day! The sun's been down for hours now."

"I know, Spike. And I really appreciate all the help you've given me today. How about tomorrow I whip up a stack of gem-cakes for you? I'm sure Rarity would let me borrow some from her stores."

At the mention of the mare Spike let loose an indignant huff. "You don't have to bother her."

Twilight sighed. "Spike you can't still be upset with her. You had to know it was never going to work, she's a lot older than you are . You can't be angry with her because she's started dating somepony."

"Watch me."

Twilight rolled her eyes. He'd been like this for the last two weeks after he learned the mare of his dreams had been seeing somepony she met in Canterlot. "Well finish up that shelf and then we can go home. Deal?"

"Yeah alright." The sullen dragon moved to the end of the shelf and began cataloguing the titles on the various books there. Still in the midst of a pout he loosed another huff of frustration, kicking up a sizable cloud of dust from the ancient shelves . Eyes wide, he fought to hold in the sneeze to no avail. An explosive 'CHOOO!' rang out through the hall as his flames flared into the books, incinerating them instantly.

He winced as he heard Twilight suck in her breath, and froze like she was performing her best 'Discord in the Canterlot Gardens' impression. "...what did you do?" Her voice a soft whisper.

Spike backed away horrified. "I-I-I didn't mean to Twi! Honest! I'm sorry! All the dust and I just... I just...."

Hoof to her chest. Deep breath. In and out. Sometimes these things happen . "It's alright Spike, it was an accident and..." She trailed off, staring at the shelf as the smoke cleared. "...and I think you found a hidden passage."

"What? I did?" Surprise clear in the little dragon's voice.

"You did." Stepping closer, her horn glowed as she swept the ashes carefully into a small satchel. A time rewind or mending spell might repair the books after all. It was faint but the smoke was curling inward toward the wall. Indicating a breeze. Her horn began to glow brighter as she wrapped the entire shelf in her magic, pulling it forward slowly to reveal the stone wall behind. "Spike I need you to gently breathe some flames along the base of the wall please."

Dropping to all fours Spike hurried to her side, eager to make up for his earlier mistake. He sucked in a soft breath and released the flames along the floor. Twilight could see the flames pull inward along the base of the wall. "Oh a pair of locks. Illusionary and mechanical." Her magic built up and washed over the wall removing the illusion spell . The cracks along the floor and walls visible now. "Aha, and there we are."

"Do we gotta find a candlestick or something to open it?"

"We could. Or..." Her magic intensified, the wall shuddering as she forced the ancient mechanisms to spin, corroded metal squealing in protest. Twilight set to work, forcing the door to go up and out of the way with a shuddering 'whoom'. A small mountain of dust washed over the pair. A quick magical bubble snapped into place around them as the dust settled in a few moments.

Twilight released a small globe of magic into the darkened room before them, the light hovering and bobbing this way and that.

Spike moved forward first. "This kinda looks like..."

"A bedroom." Twilight finished for him. And judging by the size of the furniture, and the sunny motifs it was clear whose room it was. They'd never found bed chambers for the Princesses, but she knew they were fond of their hidden doors and passages. No doubt Luna had a secret room somewhere around here too.

"Twi, I dunno if we should be in here. It feels a little like we're invading the Princess' privacy don't you think?"

Twilight 'did' think that. Even so... she, hay, all of ponykind knew so little about Celestia. "Just one quick look around, Spike. Then we'll go. We can even tell Celestia about this. Some of these things look personal, she may have forgotten all about it."

"Or she wanted it forgotten about." The dragon muttered.

Twilight's selective deafness kicked in as she moved around the ancient chamber. Not a speck of dust touched anything inside, she sensed a powerful preservation charm over the whole room. The silks on the bed looked freshly laundered. "Oh look..." She beckoned Spike to the vanity where a tiny, bluish steel crown sat. "This must have been one of her old crowns?"

"Kinda small don'tcha think?"

"Well she wasn't always as big as she is now, Spike."

"Oh, good point. So does that mean someday you're gonna be as big as she is? I mean you're already bigger than everypony else back home."

Twilight blinked. It was something she'd often wondered herself. "Probably, in time. Cadance has been getting steadily bigger after all. She's taller than Shiny is now. And Pinkie and Rari-" She stopped finishing the name when she noted Spike's wings twitching. "...ahem. Right."

"Yeah I guess so. Listen, I'm gonna wait outside okay? I feel weird doing this."

Twilight waved absently as she continued her exploration. All sorts of little everyday items lay scattered atop dressers and other furniture. Really it wasn't so different from Celestia's chambers in Canterlot. "Oh..." Her eyes were drawn to an antique silver tea set sitting beside a writing desk. "Oh this would make a wonderful Hearths Warming present! She'll be so surprised!"

Giddy at the thought of finally one-upping her mentor this year she raced to the antique pot and cups, even though the last Hearths Warming wasn’t even two months in the past. "Perfect condition!" Doing a little prance of excitement in place her ear twitched at a 'thunk' sound coming from a wardrobe behind her.

Horn alight, the doors unlatched themselves as she gently opened them. Inside were more books. All identical, smallish and bound in white-gold velvet. Twilight levitated the one that had fallen over to herself and opened it curiously.

'Lulu is being a pain in my flank as per usual. I swear she and Amore sit around and concoct these nonsensical pranks just to get under my skin . I don't know what I did to be cursed with a pair of little sisters but—'

Twilight snapped the book shut, eyes wide. These weren't just books; they were journals. Princess Celestia's journals. She blinked. Sisters? She'd heard of Princess Amore of the Crystal Empire, the mare who ruled it back in its glory days but she'd never heard her referred to as Luna and Celestia's sister.

Twilight bit her lip. She should close this up and forget she saw it. This was a huge intrusion into Celestia's privacy. "Hey, Spike! Why don't you head back; I'll finish cataloguing the books out there myself."

"You sure?"

"Absolutely! I'll see you at home." Her ear trained toward the door as she heard her assistant’s claws on the stone floor. "...I'll just read one journal."

=======Nine Days Later======

'I'll never forgive him for this. Never. I don't care about Equestria . I don't care about Luna or duties or any of the rest of it . He stole my foal from me. He stole my Harmony. As far as I'm concerned he can rot in Tartarus. As long as Star Swirl rots out of Equestria and out of my sight.'

Twilight pulled in a deep shuddering breath as she closed the journal. She stared at the cover of the final book for a long time, before replacing it on the shelf. A foal. A little filly, stolen from her mother before they'd spent a full day together. Her eyes drifted again to the tiny crown. She imagined Celestia crafting it herself, fancifully for her tiny future Princess.

Her jaw set firmly as she stood. She knew what she had to do.


"So... this Star Swirl guy poofed me to another world?"

Twilight had another sip of her tea as she finished the story, sitting across from Harm in her reading room—the most comfortable room in her castle. The woman and mare were seated comfortably on several large cushions. "And time, yes. It's why we had so much trouble finding you. We were um... looking for your remains to be honest. It was so long ago we thought you'd be long dead but then a friend of mine felt a little ping of Equestrian magic. She's something of a human expert."

"Celestia had been to see your father, King Sombra, many times. In our world Sombra was a monster, but in the one she travelled to Sombra was a good and kind ruler. They were in love."

"So what? Mom and pop had a falling out?"

"Oh, no. Not at all. No I'm afraid it's a bit more tragic than that. You see Harm, there are hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of alternate dimensions out there. In my studies I found several alternate Equestria's, I'm even a pen pal with myself from a world where everypony's gender is reversed. It's a touch surreal but he and I get along famously and have been exchanging magical ideas."

"Fascinating." The woman sounded anything but.

"Ehe... sorry I tend to ramble when magical oddities come up. Exchanging letters with Prince Dusk isn't causing any harm. It's just scraps of paper. However Celestia spending so much time in the other world was causing rifts, the worlds were on the verge of merging. It would have either destroyed both planets, or merged them and eradicated all the inhabitants of both, creating amalgams of all of us. Neither option was very appealing. So Star Swirl hid the gateway to good Sombra's world and forbade Celestia from returning."

"How can he do that? Isn't she like God?"

"Er... not exactly, she's very powerful, yes. Nearly impossible to kill but Star Swirl was the greatest magus of all time. If they came to blows it would have devastated the world as surely as the merge would have. She complied, unhappily; she grew sullen and insular. Then she discovered she was pregnant..." Twilight sighed.

"So what was the problem?"

"The problem, was that you were a blend of both worlds. Your birth caused the rifts to form once again. You couldn't be on your father's world, in fact you couldn't be in any Equestria without threatening to do the same. So Star Swirl sent you to a world without magic. I can tell by looking you over he placed powerful spells of health and good fortune on you. You've never been sick a day in your life, and things tend to work out in your favor when you attempt them?"

Harm crossed her arms under her chest as she listened. "Yeah to both I guess. I'm kinda lucky."

"Well, Celestia banished Star Swirl from Equestria in response. She shut out her sister, and basked in the adoration of her subjects which led to... other problems."

Harm grunted softly in thought. "I see. So isn't my being here going to smash the world's together again?"

"No. I thought of that. It took some research in the royal Canterlot archives, but I located the mirror and permanently severed the connection. After that it was simply a matter of scanning all the alternate universes my friends and I could looking for that one point of magic amidst a world without."

"You talk like it was no big deal, but that sounds like a big fucking deal." Harm didn't miss the way Twilight's ear twitched when she swore. She supposed while she was here she could try and clamp down on it a bit.

"Ah... yes well, it was I suppose. It was some effort but I genuinely believe it will be worth it in the end. Reuniting you with your mother is going to be wonderful. I owe her everything. She's been like a second mother to me, to be honest."

Harm settled back and ran her fingers over the tiny tea cup she was offered. "So what now?"

"Well! Now I'll show you around Ponyville."

"You don't think I might stand out a little? It might spoil the big surprise if word about a furless giant wandering around your city gets back to Celestia."

"Ehe, yes. I thought of that. I'm going to cast an illusion over you to make you appear to everypony else as a pony. Just don't touch anypony and it will hold up fine."

"Fair enough." Her eyes went over Twilight's shoulder. "Is that normal?"

"Is wha—" her words choked in her throat as she turned to find a thestral stallion stepping out of a shimmering gateway into the room. His coat was slate gray, mane and tail a deep purple so dark it was almost black . Most of his face save the glowing eyes obscured by his mask. "...aaaat?"

"Good afternoon, Princess. I apologize for this unexpected intrusion." His voice was rich and smooth, it carried an unusual tone that put the listener at ease.

"Ahhh..." Twilight blinked several times, recovering quickly. "It's... alright. Though I typically prefer visitors to use the front door. You're a Starlight Knight aren't you? I thought members of your order never came to the surface?"

"We do not, less ordered by the Queen. She has requested an audience with you."

For the second time in as many minutes Twilight was speechless for a long moment. "...the Queen? As in your Queen? Queen Radiant Darkness? Wants to meet me?"

Harm noted the Princess' voice rose in pitch as she spoke. "Who's Radiant Darkness?"

"Queen Radiant Darkness." The stallion put forth forcefully, taking a step forward, the batlike wings at his sides flaring open.

"She ain't my queen buddy. I didn't vote for her and you better put those wings down and step back before you get a slap."

Twilight hastily interposed herself between the two. "Please forgive her, sir knight. She's visiting from... very far away and has no idea who your queen is, she's barely aware of who our princesses are."

This seemed to calm the stallion, though he didn't remove his eyes from the foreigner. "Will you come before her?"

"Yes, yes of course. Give me just a moment and I'll join you of course. Do you have any idea how long I'll be away?"

The thestral shrugged. "Chambers have not been prepared so I do not expect long, your highness. I do not question the Queen's orders, merely follow them."

Twilight turned her attention back to Harm, who was glaring down the stallion just as much as he was her. "Harm, I'm going to join Sir..."

"Dark, Argent Dark." Harm snorted softly at his name.

"Sir Dark. Queen Radiant Darkness never takes audiences from the surface so far as I know. If she's asking for me it must be very important. I'll explain more when I get back. For now please stay on this floor of the castle . Spike should be back soon. He was told to expect a guest so he shouldn't be surprised to see you. I know it's a lot to ask but..."

"No prob. I'll poke through some of your books or something. Have fun I guess."

"Oh I expect I will! Well, Sir Argent! Shall we?"

He dipped his head in a polite nod, standing aside for the alicorn to enter the portal first. A brief snort in Harm's direction, then he followed her through.

Harm watched the portal slowly close before climbing to her feet. "Charming dude."

======= ??? ======

The crowd was silent as the little girl strummed the final note. Parents and kids alike were gathered in the small amphitheater of Camp Weemotonya. She blinked large blue eyes and looked out as they all stared for a moment. Before pandemonium erupted.

"More! Play more!"

"Again! Another song!"

The screams blended together as the mass surged toward the stage, the girl shrieking and covering her head, huddled into a little ball. When the noise very abruptly... stopped.

"It's alright, little one. You're safe now." The voice was feminine, warm, and had an otherworldly quaility to it.

The child peeked out from between her arms. Seeing the dark blue fur covered forelegs in front of her. Slowly she raised her eyes to the face of the mare looking down at her. Gentle teal colored eyes regarded her in a mix of concern and curiosity. A mane filled with stars wafted gently from her head. "You are human, yes?"

"Y-yes ma'am."

"What is your name, little filly?"

"H-Harmony, ma'am."

"I see. Well Harmony, that was quite a nightmare you had. But it's over now. You may return to your night's rest. If you like. If not, perhaps we could keep one another company."

Sniffling the girl slowly relaxed. Looking about nervously. The camp ground was empty. Just her and the mare. "Who are you?"

A warm smile. "I am Luna, Princess of the moon. Diarch of Equestria, younger sister to Celestia."


"I admit I am intensely curious as to who 'you' are Harmony. You are not the only dreamer in Equestria with humans in her dreams, but you are the only one who appears human in them."

"I'm... I'm nobody, ma'am."

"Oh I doubt that very much, Harmony." Luna took note of how the child very faintly frowned at the sound of her name, every time she said it, it drew an unhappy flinch from the girl. A girl who was aging before her eyes. From child to teenager. A very large teenager.

"I'm... visiting. Where... where are we? Is this my mind? My dreams? I don't understand."

"Indeed, Harmony. We are in your dreams. One of my duties as Equestria's night time protector is to ensure my subjects are not preyed upon in their dreams. Nightmares are at times created by unkind creatures seeking to prey upon the psyches of unsuspecting ponies."

"I see." The skinny teen was filling out to a fit young woman, the childlike fear and wonder replaced by adult skepticism and suspicion. "Were my nightmares caused by a monster?"

"I do not believe so, no. A past trauma it would seem. Would you like to talk about it Harmony?"

"No. And it's Harm." The human appeared to be fully grown now, her fears forgotten as she reasserted her proper self. "So what, you just creep around spying on peoples dreams? That's kinda creepy."

Luna frowned slightly. "I do not spy, Harm. A pony suffering under the torments of a nightmare must be relieved lest the problem compound exponentially and create a monster."

"Whatever." She regarded Luna silently now, scrutinizing her. "You're Celestia's little sister then?"

"I am. Where are you, Harm? How did you come to Equestria?"

"I was invited. I think I'd like you to leave, please."

Luna's frown deepened . "I cannot. I must know how you came to my kingdom, Harmony. You may be in danger, or a danger to my subjects. I would like to speak face to face and get to the root of this. There are many dark powers who would prey upon you."

"I said it's Harm. I'm fine. And I'd like you to very much get the fuck out!"

Luna braced herself, but was unprepared for the power of the onslaught of the humans sudden turn in mood. She found herself rather violently flung out of the dreamscape back into her own body so forcefully she was flung onto her back.

"....ow." With a grimace, the lunar princess sat up rubbing the back of her head, frowning thoughtfully. She roses to her hooves and left her tower, making for the Castle Observatory. Its occupant was naturally wide awake even at the late hour. "Good evening, Sunset Shimmer."

The unicorn looked up from the book in front of her. "Good evening, Princess Luna. What can I do for you?"

Luna liked the young mare. She was more forth coming than the typical pony, and tended not to beat about the bush. "Do you have any knowledge of any humans in Equestria?"

Sunset's eyebrows rose. "No, Princess. I have my phone and keep in touch with my friends but none of them have visited. Why?"

"Because one is in Equestria, I just banished a rather intense nightmare. I believe she did not care for me witnessing it and violently forced me from her mind."

"She forced you from her mind? She must be very powerful."

"More so than I expected, but not as strong as you may think. Anypone can force me from their dream scape if they wish. It's just never really happened before and took me by surprise."

Luna could see Sunset filing this information away. "I wish I could help but the only humans I know are through a mirror and I've never brought anyone back with me except..."

"Yes, of course, your assistant. The young woman claimed she was invited. If not you...."

Sunset came to the same conclusion. "Would you like me to head to Ponyville?"

"Please and thank you Sunset. I know you are Celestia's student and I do not mean to impose on your studies."

Sunset flashed a small smile. "It's no intrusion Princess, really. I'm happy to help. I'll leave right away."

Luna looked to the slumbering mare, snoring obnoxiously on the floor. "You will be bringing her?"

"She never leaves my side, as promised."

"Very good, Sunset Shimmer. Take heed if you discover this human in Twilight's castle, she seems volatile."

Sunset chuckled as she closed her book. "I can handle volatile humans, Princess. Don't worry."

Chapter 4: Meet the Assistant

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Meet the Assistant

"Princess Twilight Sparkle, welcome to Nocturne."

Twilight barely heard the thestral’s voice as she gazed over the balcony they had appeared on. A city that dwarfed even Manehattan in size sprawled out beneath her. Everything was carved from rock. In fact it almost looked like they had carved the city while the vast cavern was being hollowed out, so perfectly did the buildings blend into the stone. The city seemed to be split by large spans of stone connecting numerous plateaus. There was no sunlight that she could see, but the city was well lit by hovering globules of purple light.

"What are those?"

Argent stepped next to her. "The globes? We call it fey fire. You are familiar with the Umbra tribe?"

Twilight's smile widening just slightly was all the answer he needed. Umbra? What the heck was an Umbra? "Er... I'm afraid not."

The stallion nodded in understanding. "It is not surprising. Umbra and Prenumbra have, to my knowledge, never left The Hollows. "Umbra are to Unicorns what Thestrals are to Pegasi."

Twilight's eyes widened. "You have three tribes?"

"We do, yes. Umbra cast spells like unicorns. However they do not all possess the ability to levitate objects; instead, they can all create fey fire."

"One moment!" Argent flinched at the sudden burst of light as Twilight summoned some paper and a quill, hastily scribbling everything he was saying. "And the Prenumbra?" She looked to him eyes alight with excitement, though her smile fell faintly as she noted he seemed distracted. "Sir Argent?"

"....apologies, I was speaking with the Queen. She has given leave for me to answer any questions you have. The Prenumbra are like your earth pony tribe. They are the progenitors of the gem farms."

A head tilt in curiosity. "Gem farms? Why do you farm gems?"

"As tribute to the deep drakes."

Another note scribble. "And they are....?"

He nodded toward the furthest plateau. Twilight turned to regard it. "Oh my."

What could only be described as wingless dragons lumbered about the plateau. At least that was the only conclusion she could draw from the small sample size of three that she could see. "Why do you give them tribute?"

"They help protect us from the monsters of the deep, of which there are many. While we deep ponies are not without defenses of our own, the drakes provide more brute strength than we can muster. They protect our cities, we keep them well fed."

"Fascinating! A symbiotic relationship with wyrms! I haven't heard of such a thing since... since... ever!"

"Indeed. While I would ordinarily be happy to spend the evening engaged in conversation about my home, you have an unusual house guest you did not wish to leave alone long, correct? Let us move to the throne room."

Twilight was clearly torn, but ultimately she knew she couldn't just dump Harm on Spike. And who knows what would happen if the volatile human woman encountered Pinkie Pie without somepony to act as a filter. "You're right of course, I apologize. I can get a little... enthusiastic when it comes to learning something new. If possible I'd love to have you come by the castle for tea. Or I could come back and spend a day... or week. Or maybe a month."

Argent couldn't suppress a faint chuckle. "One step at a time yes? Come. The Queen awaits."

Twilight took a deep breath as she fell into step with Argent. "One more question?" As she noted something about the other ponies they passed.


"Why does everypony wear a mask? The thestrals on the surface don't."

"Ah... at first it was a sign of solidarity for the Queen. Then over generations they became a part of our culture. The engravings on them are for our herd names, our professions, our special talents."

"Oh goodness, this is so interesting. So every member of your herd has a similar mask?"

"They do. Our herd engraving are the underlying lines. To show that our herd and family is the foundation of who we are."

Twilight opened her mouth to let loose the next barrage of questions, then recalled they didn't have time for her to fill a book or two worth of knowledge. Yet. But she would. Oh yes she would. "Why does the Queen wear hers?"

"Her face was badly injured in the Titan War."

"Ah..." That event Twilight didn't need elaboration on. The war between the Titans, where Luna and Celestia lost their parents and most of the creators of Equus died. "I see."

A pair of sentries pushed open the doors to the throne room. Twilight felt an immediate sense of familiarity. Stained glass windows illuminated by flickering fey fire denoted great scenes in the history of the deep pony tribes. The founding of their cities, over throwing of monsters by the heroes of their tribes, and other events Twilight could hardly guess at. Though the Queen wasn't seated at attention on a throne like Celestia tended to. Instead she was reclined in a great bed of plush cushions.

She was taller than Celestia by a bit, Twilight wondered if the Princess would still get bigger or if Radiant was simply larger by genetics. Her mane and tail undulated similarly to Luna and Celestia’s, however hers looked like roiling pools of pure darkness. The mare was more generous in the rump and stomach area as well. Though it was an attractive sort of plushness.

"Thank you."

Twilight yelped as the Queen's voice echoed throughout the throne room as she approached. She noted Argent was no longer at her side either. "Er... for what? Your Majesty?"

"Noting the attractiveness of my 'plushness' I believe you put it? A very kind way to refer to the extra weight I have not bothered to shed."

"Oh... you... you ah... read my mind?"

"Not exactly. It is a little like over hearing ambient conversation. When two ponies are talking to one another you overhear them yes? Even if you are not a part of the conversation. For the thestrals it is the same with thoughts. We do not need to focus on a pony to hear what they are thinking at any given moment. Now to see deeper into the mind requires action on our part."

"I see. There have been rumors Princess Luna's night guard could read minds but it was always something of a—ah... joke."

"I assure you, it is no joke, Princess Twilight."

"Just Twilight Sparkle is fine, your majesty. Or just Twilight I suppose. Ehehe... I'm sorry I'm a bit nervous. You're just um..." One of the creators of my entire species! I can't believe I'm meeting her! Oh my goodness she can hear all this can't she?! I must sound like a complete foal! Time to stop thinking.


Right now.

Why can't I stop thinking?!

A soft chuckle from the Queen. "Be at ease, Twilight. Please. I'm no different than either of my nieces, I assure you. My sister and her husband did most of the work on your tribes. The dark ponies were mine."

"Of course . Of course. This is just... unprecedented. I'm something of a scholar and well, I've always been curious but we're not allowed down here and we know so little about you and—"

"Yes. I am aware of who you are. Your actions have not gone unnoticed by any of us. Discord speaks quite highly of you."

"Discord? Speaks highly of me? To you?" The flatness in her tone made it clear, despite his reformation and their budding friendship, he was not her favorite person in the world.

"He does in fact. You are so much like Celestia when she was young, I'm afraid he's transferred his good natured torment of her to you. Do try to endure it however, it would seem you are a very positive influence on him."

"Er... right. Well despite my personal feelings it's clear he's been making strides in attempting to become a good friend. Though I could do without him rearranging my library all the time. It takes days for me to get it right again."

"And is one of your favorite activities, yes?"

Twilight opened her mouth, then her ears flattened. "Er... yes."

"Perhaps he does it not out of spite, but his own way of showing affection. Who can say?"

Twilight giggled. "You? Of all ponies in all the world couldn't you say?"

The Queen smiled as if the thought just then occurred to her. "Why yes, I suppose I could."

"Queen Radiant... if I may, not that I'm ungrateful but... why did you ask for me? Now of all times?"

"I believe you know precisely why I have chosen this exact time to call ask you here."

"...ah. It's because of Harm? I assure you she's er... harmless. Ehe he. No pun intended. Her magical core is entirely earth pony. Very potent earth pony, no doubt she has a very strong will and impressive physical abilities but I fail to see how she is in any way your concern. Er... your majesty."

"She is my concern because she is not to distantly related to me. She has the blood of the titans within her, Twilight Sparkle . And were she still in the world Star Swirl sent her to, she would not be my concern. However now that she is here and becoming in tune with the weave of magic she has been named for, you have unintentionally opened her up to very dark forces. She is far angrier and more violent than other ponies, yes?"

"Well... yes. She is, but while she may have a short temper and more inclined toward violence than a normal pony, she has a good heart. She wouldn't just attack out of the blue."

"Luna had a good heart as well, Twilight Sparkle. However she had considerably more negative emotion festering in her heart than other ponies do. And it attracted... evil forces, yes?"

Twilight's eyes widened in alarm as she realized what the Queen was speaking of. "A nightmare? You think she may attract one?"

"I believe it's a very real possibility. And if she becomes possessed and twisted by a nightmare as Luna did, horn or no horn the damage she could do would be catastrophic. Luna was sullen and jealous when the nightmare took hold in her heart. Young Harmony is violent and angry."

"I'm such a fool. I can't believe I overlooked this! I... I'm so sorry. I'll... send her home right away of course."

"That is not what I am suggesting. After all the young filly deserves a chance to meet her family, learn of the world of her birth, her people. I simply wish to take steps to ensure the safety of your tribes and mine. The typical safe guard for banishing the evils of the surface will prove less effective should she fall to evils embrace."

"You mean the Elements of Harmony?"

"Yes. They are still where you draw your power from when you become more ah... colorful."

Twilight flushed. While the rainbow power felt lovely and was undeniably a wonderful thing. The cosmetic... enhancements... were somewhat less than desired. "You don't believe it would work with her?"

"I do not. When Harmony was born it was felt all across Equus. It's how Star Swirl finally discovered my niece was pregnant after she'd spent the past eleven months magically concealing it. Harmony's unique parentage gave her an extreme overabundance of magic. Her mother asked me to assist in relieving the foal of some of the burden less she hurt herself or others unintentionally. I did so, and the excess magic was crystallized into six gemstones."

"So... the Elements of Harmony are... a very literal name? They belong to Harm herself?"

"They were a part of her at one time, whether they belong to her or not is up for some debate, yes? Nothing would please me more than for her to one day receive her birth right, but I believe at this juncture it would not be an appropriate time."

"Without the elements how are we supposed to stop her if she does become possessed by a nightmare?"

"I would like to send one of my subjects home with you. Officially she will be the ambassador of the Hollows to Ponyville. Unofficially she will be keeping an eye on Harmony. If she feels the filly is about to fall to a nightmare, she will place her in a mental coma until she can be removed back to the world she came from. There is no magic there and a nightmare would not survive in such an environment."

"I don't know if I like the idea of lying to Harm about all this."

"Then do not lie to her. In fact the dangers should be explained to her so she is aware that her actions have graver consequences here than her home world."

"Equus is her home world."

"I believe you of all ponies know that home is not where you are born, it is where you make it, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight wanted to argue, but of course she immediately dismissed it. Ponyville was home. "You're right, of course."

The Queen wore the ghost of a smile, visible by the slight pulling of her face that wasn’t hidden by the mask. "I tend to be. Ambient?" Twilight couldn't help but start as a young thestral mare stepped seemingly out of the shadows. "This is Ambient Dark, one of my hoof maidens and an expert delver."

Twilight regarded the young mare, possibly old filly? It was hard to tell with the mask, curiously. She was smaller than the average pony, with a slate gray coat and well maintained deep purple mane. "Delver?"

It was Ambient who answered. "The term we use for entering deep into another’s mind, memories, or subconscious."

"Ambient’s older brother has served me very well for quite some time. She is young, but curious about the surface world and very skilled in her art. She will remain near Harmony at all times, if she detects a nightmare attempting to attack the mare she will halt its intrusion."

"She's that powerful?"

"Yes, 'she' is." Ambient responded, clearly somewhat annoyed at being ignored.

Twilight flushed in embarrassment. "I'm sorry Ambient, this is all just a bit of a surprise. How close will you need to be to Harmony?"

The young mare shrugged, her wings opening slightly at the motion. "Once I have spent an hour or so a hundred feet from her I will be able to attune my senses to detect her up to a half mile or so away. I doubt there will be any great troubles doing so."

Twilight was nodding in thought. "Can you ah... attune yourself while she sleeps?"


"Well then." The Queen cut in, drawing their attention once more. "I suppose it's time you two were off. Good luck, Twilight Sparkle. I look forward to speaking again soon."

"As do I, your majesty."

Ambient fell into step with Twilight as the pair exited the throne room. The Queen could already hear Twilight Sparkle throwing rapid fire questions at the poor filly.

===== Twilight's Castle =====

Harm sucked in her breath and sat up quickly, blinking around blearily at her surroundings. She was in the library laying in the massive bed of cushions near the fireplace. A stack of 'Power Ponies' comic books next to her. "Nnnn. I need a drink."

"What can I getcha?"

She whipped around at the voice. Staring in momentary confusion at the sight. It was a lanky reptile, purple and green scales predominantly. The voice sounded a good deal like a teenager going through puberty; that unfortunate state between boy and man where he'd get random cracks in it. "...what're you, the maid?"

He snorted, smoke curling from his nostrils. "No. I'm Twilight's assistant. Jeez she wasn't kidding when she said you could be rude. I'm Spike by the way, it's an absolute joy to meet you."

Running her hands over her face Harm got her feet under herself and stood up, causing Spike to crane his neck up at her. "Sorry. Bad dreams. And creepy horses spying on my bad dreams. Do ponies have alcohol?"

"They do, yeah. Twilight keeps a bottle of Apple Whiskey for her 'adult' parties. Or some nice wines for when she has dignitaries over but I don't think she'd be okay with me getting into that."

"Whiskey's good. By adult parties do you mean uh..."

The young dragon stared back at her . "...sex? No, gross. I mean like when she has friends over to discuss books or politics. Stuff like that."


"She doesn't like to drink when she has sex, makes it harder to enjoy apparently."

"Yeah that er... wait what?"

Spike shrugged and dropped to all fours as he padded across the library to a large oak cabinet. Pulling it open, he revealed a well-stocked pantry. "What what?"

Harm watched as he pulled out a bottle with an apple shaped stopper on top and poured a glass. "Sorry I just uh, have a hard time picturing her having sex. She's so... cute."

Offering her the glass Spike tilted his head. "And? Sister that's like half of what ponies do. They work, they play, they rut."

"That's three things."

"Yeah well between you and me the middle one kinda blends into the first and third."

Harm grunted softly in acceptance as she sipped the offered drink. "Oh this' good. So like, high libidos are a normal pony thing?"

"Pretty much. I guess your humans are kinda like the humans me and Twi visited before? Super embarrassed about talking about sex and stuff?"

"Pretty much."

"Weird. Twilight could probably explain it better but it's like... not a big deal here. When somepony gets an itch, they get it scratched. There's romance of course but that's about the inside stuff, not so much sexual attraction."

Another grunt as she settled back in the cushions. "I guess that's cool."

There was a long silence as she lightly sipped from the glass, holding it toward the dragon when it was empty and he obligingly refilled. "Sooo... you like comics?"

"I do. Comics, cartoons, video games. If it's something people look down on adults for liking, I probly like it."

"Why would they care?"

A shrug. "That my friend is an excellent fucking question."

She did notice he didn't flinch at her swearing. Was it a dragon thing or a teenager thing she wondered? "Well they have a little arcade in Ponyville, but I doubt the games are anything you'd be impressed by."

"Yeah shit seems pretty low tech here." As she tossed back the glass and held it out again. Spike raised an eye ridge but didn't comment as he just brought the bottle back and refilled for her.

"Well we have magic. That's pretty cool right?"

"Hrm." She downed this glass almost instantly. "I had my fill of magic back home"

It was very rare for a pony to give Spike the credit he was due. He was raised by Twilight Sparkle, one of the smartest ponies in generations. No small amount of that intellect rubbed off on the young wyrm. He tended to have more common sense to apply it to than his caretaker however. He refilled her glass without being prompted. It didn't take a mind reader to know there's a story there.

"I didn't think your world had any magic, besides you."

"Far as I know, it doesn't." Her eyes were losing focus just a bit as she nursed her drink. The alcohol potent enough to get the hardiest of earth ponies intoxicated.

"What happened?"

"...I don't like to talk about it."

"Did someone get hurt?"

He worried he pushed her too far when her nostrils flared and she tensed. But the alcohol seemed to have done its work and she relaxed almost instantly, her anger burning down to a faint simmer. "Yeah. A lot of someone's. Kids mostly."

Spike tidied up the comics strewn about, not commenting on them being out of their Mylar as he sealed them back up. "Did you do it on purpose?"

Harm blew out a heavy breath. "No... I was... shit, eight? Nine? Something like that. It was summer camp, a talent show." She paused to take a drink. "I wanted to sing. I used to love it."

"So what happened? They boo'd you off the stage and stampeded to chase you out?"

"Ha! No... no. That woulda been better." She lazily held the glass out for a refill, which he obliged again. "I never sang in public. My old man told me not to. Keep it to myself, sing to the woods... I grew up near this big forest." Another deep breath as she sipped from the glass. "So I sang the stupid camp song, I don't even remember it anymore. All the parents were there with the kids, y'know? To see the show. When I finished people just went... berserk. Clawing at each other, hitting, trampling to get at me on the stage."


She gave him a rueful smile. "They needed more. I guess I dunno, maybe my voice was magic? Made them feel good, really good? They all had this stupid smile on their faces while I sang. Fuck if I know, kid. I just know they wanted me to sing more, but I was too scared. They got angry, violent, attacked each other for who 'got to take me'. Lotta kids got hurt in all of it, one of them died. And... I never sang again."

"Oh." Was all he could think to say. "I'm sorry, Harm. I'm not a magic expert but I read in a book sometimes a pony is what they call a Bard and her music is really powerful."

"Well lucky me." The woman blinked and nestled back in the cushions again, the glass almost tipping, but Spike caught it in his tail. "...these're comfy."

"Yeah, the library is probably the nicest room in the castle. No big surprise given how..." He trailed off, noting the human's eyes had drifted shut. "...heh." He gently tugged her boots off and draped a blanket over her. "Hope you have better dreams, Harm." He finished tidying up before regarding her silently for a few moments, then slipping out of the library.

Chapter 5: Meet the Castle

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Chapter 5: Meet the Castle

"You got her drunk?!"

Spike winced and braced himself as Twilight's voice boomed out and blew him back a few steps. "She was having really bad nightmares, Twi! She said it helped her sleep!"

Twilight grunted in disgust and nudged the unconcious woman's thigh with a hoof. "Well she's most definitely sleeping heavily now. I've never seen anybody pass out drunk before." Gingerly she levitated one of Harm's arms, and gave it a wiggle before letting it fall limply into the cushions.

"Yeah well, you've never seen Berry Punch and Vinyl Scratch after an all nighter..."

Twilight chose to ignore her assistants mutterings, gazing down at the slumbering Harmony, before sighing softly. "She looks deceptively pleasant when she's asleep."

Her assistant shrugged while he finished reshelving the comics Harmony had helped herself to. "She seemed nice, just kinda rough. Like a griffon. Or Cranky. Am I supposed to just keep pretending the masked thestral filly isn't standing in the room staring at us?"

Twilight's ears perked and her head jerked around to the fireplace. And the young mare standing next to it. "Oh my goodness! Ambient I'm so sorry, how very rude of me."

Ambient inclined her head in the faintest of nods. "It is no trouble, Princess. No offense is taken. However I am not a filly."

"Yeah well those legs are a little stubby for you t'be a mare, lady."

The fur on the neck of the thestral bristled. "Y--you are one to speak of stubby legs, hatchling!"

"Hey I take like, a thousand years to reach full size. What's your excuse?"

Before Ambient could shoot another retort Twilight cleared her throat firmly. "That's quite enough of that. Ambient, this is Spike's home as well and you will be polite to him."

Ambient's ears flattened against her head as she lowered to the floor in a clear sign of non-aggression. Causing Spike to puff up his chest happily. Until Twilight rounded on him next. "And you are grounded."

Eyes wide, Spike sputtered for a moment before he found his voice again. "G--grounded?! Me?! What for?!"

"Sneaking into my liquor cabinet and insulting a guest. Now go to bed, I'll have a nice big chore list for you in the morning, and you can forget the inevitable party Pinkie is going to throw Harmony and/or Ambient as well."

Blowing a small burst of smoke from his nostrils, Spike stalked away down the hall, where a door could be heard slamming. Ambient remained bowed as she looked up at Twilight. "My deepest apologies for my outburst Princess. It was unbecoming of me, and I will endeavor to keep such childishness at bay in the future."

Twilight sighed softly, shaking her head. "It's alright, Ambient. He started it... and please stand up straight." The erudite Princess was completely incapable of shutting off her scholarly curiosity. "I've seen thestrals in the palace affect a pose like that when Princess Luna was disciplining them. Does it have some sort of cultural signifigance?"

"Indeed." The young mare stood straighter on her hooves, eyeing the slumbering human with undisguised curiosity. "We expose the backs of our necks in a show of subservience, and by way of apology. If you feel the insult was grievous enough you could take my life with no effort."

Twilight's eyes widened. "What?! Do ponies really do that?"

"No, of course not. It is a symbolic gesture. Perhaps centuries ago when we were less civilized. To do so now would not be illegal I believe, but it would mark you as a blood thirsty fiend and none would have dealings with you."

"Fascinating. I really need to write this down. We know so little about your tribes."

Ambient inclined her head in a nod, edging closer to the sleeping Harmony. Gingerly playing with the unconcious woman's hands and fingers. "Just as we know little of your tribes, save old tales which I very much suspect are more heresay than truth." She stepped away from Harmony as she finished speaking. "She is somewhat pleasing to the eye, is she not?"

"By her people's standards she's attractive, but rather... rough. I suppose she is pretty, yes. I'm eager to see what she'll look like as a pony. You need to be close to her to form your ah... link, yes?"

"Yes. I will sleep here tonight." Picking a spot in the cushions away from Harm, she settled into them. "It is not exactly a link. Think of it in the way you become familiar with a scent. You can easily locate your close friends or family in a large crowd yes?"

"Of course."

"It is much the same. As I become familiar with her minds pattern, I will be able to quickly and easily pick out her mind among the masses from quite some distance. This will make ensuring she does not fall to a nightmare far simpler."

"And you'll be able to tell if a nightmare has taken an interest in her right away?"

Ambient nodded. "Of course. When a nightmare pierces the veil it is felt by any with potent enough psionic abilities. I will know immediately and act accordingly."

This was all a tremendous relief to Twilight. "Well help yourself to a blanket. There's a restroom right across the hall. It can get a little lively in the morning. Ponies coming and going, but most of the residentials are in the east wing so you shouldn't be bothered. Everypony in the castle knows about Harm and I'm sure they'll be eager to meet you."

Ambient inclined her head in a faint nod, as she retrieved a blanket and curled up on the cushions near to Harm. "I look forward to it, Princess Twilight."

Twilight Sparkle stepped out of the library, not bothering to quiet her hoof steps. The way Harm was passed out she imagined even a Pinkie party wouldn't wake her up. Sighing and shaking her head she turned and trotted down the corridors of her castle.

Her home had changed so much in the passed few years. Between Rarity's constant insistence on hiring a proper staff, (in retrospect a good idea, and greatly updating the decor, (also a good idea) the place has turned around a good deal. The biggest reason for the changes was that as Princess of Friendship, she primarily handled matters of diplomacy with Zebrica and Griffonia. The delegates coming to a big empty castle was more than a little embarassing in retrospect.

Each of her friends of course had their own chambers. Pinkie Pie was the only one who used hers full time. Rarity's were mostly to show off to guests, while Rainbow Dash's had become a giant storage room of sorts for the junk she wouldn't part with. Applejack used hers now and again when she 'needed a break' from her family. Fluttershy's were more or less out of politeness than anything.

Her ears perked as she neared the primary dining room. The sounds of very vigorous eating coming from within. With a sneaking suspicion as to who was helping herself to her castle pantry, she steeled herself with a deep breath and stepped inside.

Sure enough the mare she expected was busily working her way through a veritable feast all on her own. "Hello Sonata."

The earth pony mare's ears perked and she looked up. Long ponytail bobbing as she noted the Princess, giving her a cheery wave. "Heya, Twilight. What's up?"

Twilight's eyebrow rose. "You, in my castle. Eating my food at... two thirty in the morning."

Sonata shrugged. "Blame her, not me. She woke me up." Thrusting an accusatory hoof at the kitchen doors, as Sunset Shimmer stepped through levitating a sandwich on a plate.

"Oh, hi Twilight."

"...hi, Sunset. What did we say about turning her loose in the kitchen?"

Sunset eyed Sonata's 'late night snack' dubiously. And sighed. A flash from her horn sent 'most' of it back to the kitchen much to Sonata's dismay. "You're not a siren anymore Sonata. You've already put on quite a few pounds since coming to Equestria, do you want to totally blimp out?"

A keening whine came from the mare as she contemplated her pudgy belly. "No..."

Sunset shook her head with a bemused sigh. "She's like a goldfish. She'll just keep eating til she pops."

Twilight couldn't help but giggle a little. "Oh I know. Celestia sent me a letter all about her raided cake storages.

The unicorn grimaced and took a seat across from her assistant. "I'm so disillusioned. When I was her student... the first time... she wasn't nearly so... so..."

"Goofy?" Twilight supplied.

"Yeah. Though I guess in a way it's kind of comforting to know she's just a pony like us."

Sonata recovered from her stolen bounty quickly and chimed in. "I think she's fun."

"That's because she thinks it's funny when you harass the nobility and lets you get away with anything."

Sonata shrugged, having no arguement for that and resumed her eating. Sunset took a small bite of her own sandwich and turned her attention back to Twilight. "I take it you found Harmony then?"

Twilight nodded excitedly. "I did! She's er... not what I was expecting." Her enthusiasm dimming quickly. "Queen Radiant requested me in the Hollows. She's worried Harmony may attract a nightmare, and sent one of her delvers back with me."

Sunset's eyebrows rose rapidly. "Whoa. The thestral Queen never sees anypony from the surface. This is kind of a big deal, huh?"

"Bigger than I was expecting, that's for sure. I'm guessing this isn't a social pop in?"

Sunset offered a shrug as she had another bite of her snack. "Princess Luna knows there's a human here, and sent me to investigate. I'll just tell her you're handling it. That should take care of things."

"And it's not untrue. She just doesn't need the full details. I want her to be surprised as well. Harmony is her niece after all."

"So, what's she like? Not very Celestia-esque I imagine?"

Twilight huffed softly and snatched a pastry off Sonata's plate, ignoring her wailing complaints. "Not at all. She's more like a griffon than anything."

"So abrasive, rude, foul mouthed, violent?"

"Pretty much."

"Huh." Sunset looked contemplative. "Usually ponies act like that for a reason."

"I'm fairly certain she has one. There's a story she's not keen on sharing. Spike got a bit out of her which I got out of him. It sounds like she may be a bard, and accidentally enspelled a large group of humans on the world she was trapped on. It turned violent and a human foal was killed in the mayhem."

Sunset flinched sympathetically. "How old was she?"

"Young. To young to go through something like that. It's likely that had a strong impact on shaping her into the mare she is now."

"So I assume you're hoping somepony with a troubled past can reach out to her, make friends and break down her barriers?"

Twilight feigned innocence, examining her hoof casually. "I hadn't thought of that. I suppose I could ask Starlight or Trixie if you're busy..."

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Starlight is busy on one of her little friendship missions, and I somehow doubt unleashing Trixie on a volatile human is the way to endear her to Equestria."

Her friend offered a small smile. "True on both counts. This isn't how I pictured this all happening."

Sunset's eyebrow rose. "Let me guess. She has a life of her own and isn't planning on dropping it entirely to immigrate to an alien world of alien creatures at the drop of a hat?"

"Well when you put it like that..."

"I think we should go with the plan. We keep her here in Ponyville, show her a good time. Probably try to screen her from Pinkie Pie. I was looking over some of Lyra and Bon-bon's reports. I somehow doubt she'd be appreciative of Pinkie's special brand of in your face friendliness."

"Oh, good idea. Though you have to admit she has gotten a lot better."

"Yeah well I'm sure I'd be a different pony too if that happened to me." Sunset was unable to hide some of the bitterness in her voice.

Twilight sighed softly and shared a look with the now staring Sonata. She knew this was an incredibly raw nerve for the mare. "Sunset you can't force it. If it's meant to be it's meant to be."

Sunset Shimmer closed her eyes and took a deep breath, ears laying flat atop her head. "You're right. You're right, I know you are. And I know I'm moving in the right direction. Dealing with evil you showed me that. I just have to be patient."

Sonata looked relieved... and resumed wolfing down her food. Twilight smiled. "We're here to help you every step of the way too. I'll send a letter Luna's way telling her I had a slip up with an experiment, and our guest will be here for a few days. She's busy enough with Canterlot's Hearthswarming celebration that I doubt she'll come by in person anytime soon. We'll just progress as planned. I'll tell her you're going to stay for a bit to help make her feel more comfortable."

"Sounds like a plan. Oh! I have some notes I'd love to go over on amniomorphic arcanology!"

Sonata stifled a groan and rolled her eyes as the pair launched into their boring magic talk. Wiggling out of the chair with a (mostly) full tummy she trotted from the room. The few ponies working at this late hour paid her little mind as she made her way to the library. Curiosity usually won out over common sense when Sonata Dusk was concerned.

Gently nudging the large doors open she slipped in silently, regarding the slumbering duo in the cushions. She'd seen plenty of thestrals so the young mare wasn't of much interest. Her eyes fell on the human. She was a giant. And she had awesome taste in clothes. Sonata missed them sometimes. She'd kept her studdend leather bracelets but that was about it. Easing closer she could smell the alcohol on the humans breath as she snored indelicately. She noted the thestral lifting her head to regard her, but as with all things not directly effecting her present train of thought, she was ignored by the thick headed mare.

Stepping up onto the cushions she snuggled right up against the woman's back with a contented sigh. This human practically had power oozing off of her, and it was a sensation that brought great comfort to the former siren.


"Good morning Lu-" Celestia's eyes widened at the sight of her sister nursing a nose bleed at the dining room table. "Luna what happened? You look dreadful."

Luna grimaced and sipped from the glass of grape juice on the table in front of her. "I was ejected from a nightmare last night."

The elder Princess clicked her tongue reproachfully. "I warned you not everypony would appreciate your presence in their private dream realms, Luna. It's not difficult to force you out once they're aware of you."

"I am quite aware of this, however t'was no pony at all but a human."

"Oh? One of Sunset's friends visiting again?" Celestia grimaced. "It's not Pinkie Pie again is it? Two of them is one and a half to many."

"I suggest you steel yourself as we have eternity to get used to her."

"If we live another ten millenia we will never get used to Pinkie Pie."

Both sister's eyes darted to a suspiciously moving frond in the corner. "...sister you know speaking her name to often can summon her forth."

"Oh Luna that's ridiculous..."

A long pause as both stared at the plant. Before eventually turning their attentions to one another again. "So if not one of Sunset's friends then who?"

"I know not. I have dispatched Sunset Shimmer to investigate. There were odd magical signatures coming from Ponyville yesterday. I assumed that is where the human is to be found."

"Of course it was Ponyville. It seems these days if it's a magical oddity it's Ponyville."

Luna had to nod in agreement. "I am sure between all of the genius unicorns Twilight seems to be attracting to her side, they will sort the matter out quickly enough. On the subject of Twilight Sparkle, what over the top nonsense have you prepared for her gift?"

Celestia favored the serving ponies who brought her breakfast with a grateful smile and a nod. "Oh nothing special. I just dug up some old books I thought she'd enjoy perusing."

The younger diarch fixed the elder with a flat stare. "Just some old books?"

"They may or may not be Clover the Clever's original transcripts penned in her own horn writing."

Luna rolled her eyes. "Tis impossible to outgift you, sister."

"Years of experience Luna." Celestia took a small sip of her morning tea and sighed happily. "Years of experience."

--Twilight's Castle--

"Nnngh." Harm was not pleased. Bright sunlight was streaming in the windows right into her face making it nearly impossible to force herself back to sleep. It felt way to early to be up though. Grunting again she squeezed the pillow between her arms tighter to her chest in protest.


Gak? In her experience pillows typically didn't say 'gak'. Cracking her eyes open blearily she cast a tired eye downward. To be greeted by a pair of big purple ones looking back at her. "Hey not so tight, huh?"

"Gah!" Harm flung herself backwards, sending the startled mare tumbling away with a surprised yelp. She landed on something warm, and soft. Something that let out an equine screech of surprice and pain before she felt a small body thrashing under her wildly. Whipping her head around in alarm she caught a leathery wing right to the face, blinding her as the batlike membrane wrapped around her head.

A panicked Ambient Dark was flailing her wings and limbs wildly as Harmony thrashed in the bed of pillows. The door to the library flew open as Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer rushed inside. Alicorn and unicorn took in the scene. Sunset levitating Sonata from her upside down position on the floor and setting her on her hooves, while Twilight hurried to extricate Ambient from Harmony's face.

"Are you okay, Sonata?" The unicorn asked her assistant.

"Yuh huh. Earth pony now y'know. We're tough."

Sunset offered a small smile before turning back to the clump of limbs on the cushions. An exasperated Twilight simply teleporting Ambient off of Harm.

"What the fuck?! What is this?! Why are these two in my bed!"

Twilight was the only one in the room to flinch at the cursing. "First of all... this is my library, not a bedroom. Secondly this is Sonata Dusk, and Ambient Dark. Ambient was curled up here to help keep you safe... I have no idea why Sonata was in here."

The pony in question shrugged. "I liked her scent. It reminded me of Adaggio."

Sunset and Twilight leveled a flat look at the former siren. "Is that a good thing?"

Sonata squirmed in place, scuffing a hoof on the floor. "She just made me feel safe is all. I got that feeling around giganto here."

Harm squinted in annoyance at being referred to as giganto, but the little pony looked so pitiful any anger disappeared quick. "Wasn't I supposed to be some big secret? Should they be seeing a pony?"

"I hadn't intended for you to pass out drunk in my library where anypony could wander in and see you..." Twilight couldn't quite keep all the snark out of her tone. "...but you're right. You're going to appear to everypony else as very tall, so they won't all be talking at your groin area. Still, don't expect anypony to look you in the eye when they talk."

It was way to early and Harm was a feeling a bit to much of a hangover from the powerful apple brandy from the night before. It had been a long time since she'd felt the effects of a night of drinking the next day, and she wasn't liking it. "Whatever works, man. Just do it so I can get a shower."

"Maybe you'd like to apolo-" Twilight let out an alarmed squawk as Sunset Shimmer ungently prodded her in the side. "...ahem." Shooting the unicorn an annoyed glance, Twilight's horn burst to life as the bright ribbons of light spread from it and began to wisp around Harmony's body.

The surly woman couldn't hide some of the wonder from her eyes at the light show. Gingerly reaching out to touch it, and letting out a soft chuckle at the tickling tingle touching it elicited. The lights vanished as quickly as they came. "...whazzat it?"

"That's it. You look pretty good if I say so myself!" Twilight sounded very proud of herself.

"I'll say."

"Uh huh."

Harm looked from Sunset Shimmer to Sonata Dusk. Frowning slightly. "...right... so... shower? Then food."

Twilight stepped aside. "Third door on the right for the rest room. I'll have Spike bring your bag by so you can get your toiletries."

Ambient finally spoke up. "I will wait outside and walk with you to the dining room if it is not disagreeable, Lady Harmony."

"It's not disagreeable if you drop the lady and call me Harm." Not waiting for an answer, she strode from the room. Keenly aware of the eyes following her movements.

Sonata blinked and turned her attention back to Twilight. "Jeez. And I wanted to rut her before she looked like that."


Harm wiped a hand over the fogged up bathroom mirror. Examining her reflection in it. For the fifth time. It was definitely a pony looking back. Though her muzzle was more... squarish than the other ponies she'd seen. Her hair or mane she guessed, had her weird colored roots showing but the tips were still the black she normally dyed her hair. Really it looked kinda bad ass. Seeing her natural eye color looking back at her was a bit weird, especially with them blown up to giant pony size. Turning her head this way and that if she looked hard enough, she could pick out recognizable features.

"...Harm, I do not mean to intrude but you have been in there for some time. And I am quite hungry."

"Huh?" The young thestrals voice drew her out of her self examinations. "Oh. Uh, sorry. Seeing a little horse look back in the mirror is kinda trippy." She ran a brush through her hair, tugged on some reasonably clean clothes and stepped out of the bathroom.

Ambient rose to her hooves as Harm stepped out, and the pair started down the hall. "So you're supposed to be like, my bodyguard or what?"

"Not exactly. I am here to guard your mind from nightmares."

"Uh... I appreciate the sentiment but I'm a big girl. I don't need someone to hold my hand if I have a bad dream."

"Evidently you just need copious amounts of alcohol for that." Earning a sharp look from the woman. "Jesting aside, the nightmares I am on watch for are evil entities beyond the veil who are attracted to individuals filled with negative emotion. In order to posess them and twist them into rampaging monstrosities."

"...oh." A long pregnant pause sat in the air. "...well uh, thanks? Am I uh... filled with negative emotions?"

"Not as much as one would expect. Despite your gruff exterior you are in fact a very kind individual. I anticipate our time together will be pleasant enough."

"You get all that from watching me sleep?"

"Not entirely. I am an expert in thestral magic. A prodigy if you will. My tribe specializes in magics of the mind. I can get a sense for someone, pony, dog, drake, whatever they may be from spending time in their vicinity. You are quick to anger, and to answer verbal threats with physical response, though you are quite versed in controlling your strength and knowing the proper amount of force to apply to get your point across without causing permanent damage."

"Oh." Tucking her hands into the back pockets of her jeans she quietly contemplated what she was hearing. "So wait, are you like... reading my mind?"

"No. While this is something I am capable of it is incredibly rude to do so without permission. I simply hear surface thoughts, and when I spend time around somebody long enough their... essence, magic, soul.. whatever word you wish to use, makes itself clear to me."

This was venturing dangerously close to self-introspection and philosophical territories that were wildly outside of Harm's comfort zone. "So are you just gonna follow me everywhere?"

"That is not necessary. I can monitor you for some distance away to ensure no nightmares are attempting contact. That being said I find myself intrigued by you, and would not mind pursuing a potential friendship."

"...that's a very formal way of saying you think I'm cool and wanna hang out?"


The castle was busy this morning. Ponies in cute little maid dresses were rushing to and fro. Harm noted more than a few were giving her the once over as they walked by. "What's the deal? Am I a crazy sexy pony?"

"More or less, yes. You are very large, well muscled, and carry yourself with confidence. That means you have impressive stamina, and can provide physical protection. Surface ponies tend to be followers, and are attracted to others who exhibit strong will and charismatic presences."

"So I'm big and not shy so they find that super sexy?"

"Your rounded flanks, plush plot, and plump teats help as well."

"Ah." Of course she couldn't help but look down at her own chest. Suddenly intensely curious about what her rear end looked like as a pony. She hadn't paid it much mind in the bathroom, nor had she been really looking at the ponies around herself. Now that she looked though she was seeing the differences. Some of the mares were skinny in the hips... flanks, she corrected herself. Others were wider. One of the mares tails swished as she walked giving a glimpse of the rounded mounds of her teats.

"I doubt it will be long before you are propositioned for a rut here or there. I recommend you turn down any advances so long as you are intending to move about in disguise."

"Eh? What? A rut? You mean sex?"

"Yes. That is the common terminology for intercourse enjoyed simply for the joy of intercourse."

"Is that something that's going to happen a lot? Just like out of the blue?"

"Most likely." Ambient looked up at Harm, her eyes curious behind the mask she wore. "Is that not the practice where you are from?"

"Ha. I wish. No, pretty much everyone's really prudish where I'm from. I'm kinda considered uh... slutty I guess the word is."

Ambient screwed up her muzzle in confusion. "I am unfamiliar with the word."

Harm shrugged. "It means I like to have sex a lot, usually with different people."

"Ah. Well that sounds like more or less anypony you will meet. There are of course exceptions to every rule but for the most part physical intercourse is simply a means to pass time, or a way for two friends to grow closer together. Particularly between mares during their season, if they do not want a foal."

"During what season?"

"When they ovulate? Heat is another word for it."

"Huh. That usually happen around spring time?"

"Typically. Have you experienced it?"

Harm shrugged as they walked. "Maybe. I don't have a normal period that's for sure. The doctor's could never figure it out. I'd just get warm and tingly around May, and a little extra y'know. Horny."

"It sounds as if even in your transformed body your bodily functions are more similar to your equine nature than human."

"I still eat meat and stuff."

"Ponies can eat meat. Most choose not to, but many pegasi include fish in their diets."

"Huh." More things to ponder on. It didn't sound to terrible around here. Especially if she could sleep with whoever she wanted without anyone tsk tsking her. Of course that raised more questions. Did she want to sleep with these ponies? They were cute but she hadn't seen much that she'd file under the sexy tab.

A maid opened the door ahead of the pair as they entered the dining hall. Numerous round tables dotted the huge room, which was dominated by a massive rectangular table down the center. A number of the smaller tables had ponies seated at them already, while the larger one was more or less being used as a buffet table as far as Harm could see. The food itself looked amazing. A huge assortment of breakfast foods. Pastries, juices, cereals, even a platter of mostly untouched sausages on the end.

"Ohh man. If they had some hard cider I'd be in heaven."

Twilight was sitting nearby with Sunset Shimmer, Sonata Dusk, and a unicorn Harmony hadn't met yet. Her coat was pale blue, with a silvery mane and tail. Twilight just huffed softly at Harm's comment, while the new unicorn grinned broadly. "Hear, hear! Trixie has been trying to get Twilight to offer at least 'something' in the alcoholic variety for months now. At the very least with supper."

Twilight Sparkle huffed again. "Alcohol should be for special occasions. Not for whenever somepony feels like getting drunk and making a mule of themselves."

Harm only half paid attention to the arguement as she heaped herself a plate of food. Balancing a glass of orange juice as she took a seat at Twilight's table. "Trixie has NEVER made a mule of herself when drunk. She is a delight when intoxicated. Not to mention just because you offer alcohol does not mean your guests are going to drink themselves to the point of drunkeness."

"Twilight's just worried she'll accidentally get drunk again and 'organize' the trees in the town park again." Sunset cut in, before Twilight could respond to Trixie's comment. Eliciting a giggle from all the ponies at the table save Twilight herself.

"O--one time! That only happened one time!" The Princess was blushing hotly as her friends howled with laughter. Even Harm was smirking in amusement as she tucked in to her breakfast.

Sunset chortled as Harmony went to town on the food. "Well she definitely eats like her mother."

Harm's eyes snapped up and focused on Sunset. "You know her?"

"I do. I'm her present protege. Magic, politics, life and so forth."

Harm jabbed her fork down on Sonata's foreleg as the mare reached toward one of the pastries on her plate. "So were you in on this whole scheme to bring me here?"

"A lot of us were. Trixie, myself, Moondancer, Starlight Glimmer. Really just about everypony in Twilight's little brain trust had a hoof in the creation of the gate stones. It was kind of a big deal."

Twilight blushed beneath her coat. "Not that big of a deal."

"Yes, we only bridged the gap to a completely new universe. Not an alternate Equestria mind you, but a completely different universe altogether. Trixie agrees, it was barely worth mentioning at all." Trixie managed to keep a tiny hint of smugness from her tone.

Sunset was about to respond when something over Harm's shoulder caught her eye, and she clammed up hastily. Giving Twilight a nudge to her side and gesturing. "Oh my... ah, well... I suppose this was inevitable."

"What was?" Harm turned in her seat to see what they were staring at. It was a unicorn stallion. Tall and solidly built, with peircing green eyes. A well kept jet black mane was swept back from his broad muzzle, held in place by a plain band of silver with a large green stone inlaid in the center. His slate gray coat was a rather unassuming color, but the armor he wore around his hooves and legs was of very fine make.

"So." His voice was deep and commanding. "This is my daughter."

Chapter 6: Meet the Town

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Chapter 6: Meet the Town

"Harm? You okay?"

Harmony heard the voice but she was doing her best to ignore it. To ignore it and to forget the confusing and infuriating encounter she'd just endured. She was only dimly aware of the menagerie of creatures on the snowy streets rapidly scrambling to get out of her path as she stormed away from the crystalline castle behind her.

"Harm, I'm not sure Twilight's okay with you being out and about without h-"

"Well she can go fuck herself then." She finally took note of Spike rushing to keep up with her long stride at her side.

"Hey! There's no reason to be like that."

Spike immediately realized his mistake as the woman's eyebrows shot up and she spun on her heel, glowering down at him. "No? No there isn't?" He was backing up as quickly as she was advancing on him. "You sure? Like maybe a fucking alternate universe version of my biological dad is in there and she didn't tell me? You don't think maybe I have a reason to be angry about that?"


"An alternate universe version of my biological dad who looked me up and down, snorted and walked off? Because I gotta say pal, if I don't have a reason to be pissed at her, him, and this shitty pastel world then I'm pissed off for no fucking reason aren't I?"

Spike was more aware of the gawking crowd than Harm seemed to be. "I... well... okay yeah when you put it like tha-"

"So why don't you fuck off. Tell her to fuck off. And while you're at it, go find that Sombra prick and tell him to fuck off for me too, wouldja? Wouldja be a pal and do that for me Spike?" She didn't miss the hurt in his eyes, but right now she didn't care.

With a deep breath Spike gave a small nod. "Okay. I get it, you need some space. Just uh... when you've cooled off you'll come back right?"

Harm had to chew the inside of her cheek not to lash out at him again. She knew it wasn't his fault that this was happening to her. She took several deep breaths and ran a hand through her hair. "Yeah. Yeah I'll be back at some point today. Sorry I said to fuck off. To you I mean, I'm not mad at you."

"It's okay."

"It's not, but thanks for saying so. She and he can still fuck right off though."

Spike couldn't supress a small chuckle. "Fair enough. Here." He dug around in the small satchel he wore at his hip and tossed her a bag that when caught jingled heavily.

"What's this?"

"Some spending money." When she opened her mouth he cut her off. "It's fine, I live in a giant castle. I can get more whenever I want. Go do something fun. Eat something bad for you. You do have fun outside of drinking, right?"

Now it was Harm's turn to chuckle. "I do, yeah. Thanks. I'll getcha back when I can."

"I believe you. I dunno where you're gonna get any bits, but we'll figure out something. Have fun today, okay?" He waved, without waiting for a reply and spread his wings flying back toward the castle.

Harm tucked the bag of coins into her jeans pocket, finally taking note of the crowd staring at her. "...the fuck are you all looking at? Go live your fucking lives."

Her smile got a little bigger at the cartoonish level of open mouthed shock she'd just drawn from some two dozen or so ponies. She was already feeling a little better.

==== Castle of Friendship ====

"Nnnnngh brble grbl glub...."

Sunset and Trixie shared a look with one aonther sitting on either side of Twilight. The latter of whom was moaning and muttering to herself, face down into a bowl of cereal.

"It wasn't uh... that bad... Twi..." Sunset trailed off, her gaze again going across the room where the round dining table had been hefted and flung through the wall, creating a new impromptu window in the dining room.

"Wwwwghle brgle blrb..."

"I don't know Sunset, it seemed pretty bad."

Sunset shot Trixie a dirty look as her comment drew another muffled wail from the alicorn in the cereal bowl. "Okay... yes, it was bad." She used her magic to lift Twilight's face out of her breakfast. "But you can fix it."

Twilight didn't bother to try and fight back against Sunset's magic... or to hold her head up herself. "How? Everything about this has gone wrong! Harmony hates me, and Equestria! And probably Celestia!"

Trixie took the opportunity to levitate a napkin over, gingerly drying Twilights face of milk, tears, and more snot than she'd like to clean off another pony. "This has gone pretty terribly, yes. But that doesn't mean you just give up. Did you give up when Nightmare Moon or Discord or Chrysalis or Tirek or Starlight Glimmer threatened to destroy the world?"

Sunset snorted in mild amusement. "I doubt Starlight would appreciate being lumped in there?"

Trixie shrugged. "She's the only one who actually succeeded in destroying the world so far as I know. That makes her the biggest villain on the list if you ask me."

"That doesn't stop you from shacking up with her every time she's back in town."

"I never said I found it an unappealing quality, did I?"

Twilight couldn't help but perk up just a bit while listening to her friends banter back and forth. Much as she hated to admit it, but Trixie was right. She couldn't give up. Besides, it couldn't get any worse than it already has.

In the midst of calming herself, the dining room doors were slammed open as a panicked Moondancer rushed inside. "Twilight, we've got trouble!"

"For Celestia's sake, what now?!"

"Sunny Skies is visiting Ponyville today."

=== Ponyville ===

Not terribly long ago, Ponyville was such a small town, the only thing of note about it was that if somepony wanted to visit Canterlot, it was a cheap place to stay and a short train ride into the capitol for some tourism and sight seeing. All that changed of course, when Twilight Sparkle was sent to oversee the Summer Sun Celebration just over a decade ago.

Now, Ponyville was on the verge of being a full blown city in its own right. It had its own castle, its own Princess, its own center for higher learning. New residents had been popping up steadily after Twilight opened her school. Now Ponyville was well on its way to becoming the center of social growth in all of Equestria.

Not just ponies, but griffons, changelings, dragons, yaks, hippogriffs, buffalo, and even a few minotaur had put down roots in Ponyville. The underground labrynth they'd constructed brought in plenty of tourism all on its own.

The population boom brought an economic one as well. Many of the tiny market stalls from the old open air markets had been replaced by proper store fronts, the stalls relocated closer to the farms still thriving just outside the town. Though less outside than they used to be as Ponyville's steady expanse has pushed the buildings closer to the farmlands.

Ponyville was experiencing an unexpected, but not unwelcome batch of changes. At first many of the old earth pony families were resistant to the many changes happening in their towns. Then they realized the huge spike in profits for their goods would mean better living for their families. The complaints didn't last long.

The burgeoning city was also home to the nations greatest heroines, a fact that the people's of the land were growing more aware of, thanks mainly to Twilight Sparkle's first friendship student, Starlight Glimmer, who was rather aghast at the notion that most of Equestria was not only unaware of several potential world ending catastrophe's averted by Twilight and her friends, but equally unaware of the roles they played in stopping the more overt threats.

Starlight Glimmer went to the largest newspaper in Canterlot and gave a tell all expose on the exploits of the young Princess of Friendship and her companions. Some fact checking later, and the six young mares were the biggest celebrities in Equestria.

So it was safe to say Ponyville was well on its way to becoming the new 'it' place to be. All the newness aside, the ponies remained the same. Good, friendly folks happy to lend a helping hoof or make a new friend.

But Ponyville had one last great secret. Sunny Skies.

Everypony in the town knew of course. The cheerful pegasus who took the occasional weekend vacation in Ponyville. She was from Pegasopolis, a weather mare from the distant pegasus city. She loved sweets, she loved music, festivals, parties, and massages from Bulk Biceps and nopony else.

She was also Princess Celestia.

Pinkie Pie was the first pony to notice. When she arrived to welcome the newcomer to town she saw through the disguise immediately, but assumed the Princess was playing some sort of fun new game, and was happy to play along. Later at work she off handedly mentioned to Mrs. Cake to prepare Celestia's favorite tea and cakes, when pressed for a reason she explained. After that it spread like wild fire through the town.

To all ears except Celestia's. She was still under the impression her disguise was flawless, and the citizens of Ponyville, while not the brightest in the kingdom could figure out their beloved Princess just needed a break every now and then. What pony didn't? So for a day or two every four months or so, they played host to the pegasus mare from Pegasopolis.

Celestia herself lived for these little moments when she could slip away and just be a pony. Trotting through the markets and having to pay for her goods like a normal pony instead of having everything, oft times literally, thrown at her hooves. The Hearths Warming preparations in Canterlot were proceeding smoothly, the tree was decorated with Luna, and today she was going to take some free time for herself.

It was going to be a good day.

== Ponyville Restaurant District ==

Harm had always been a tall woman. She was the tallest girl in school every year, and she was taller than anyone else she'd met in her life up til now. But walking the streets of Ponyville brought a new level of surreality to her having a couple inches shy of seven feet in height.

Most of the people were so tiny. The ponies were tiny. The griffons and horsepony's and weird bug pony's were tiny. The dragons were tiny even. The only people not tiny were the minotaurs and she'd only seen two of them. It was also a little odd having most of them addressing her crotch when they shot her a greeting.

The friendliness was getting a bit grating really. She was a city girl, she liked the city. She liked the crowds and the noise. But she also liked how everyone did their best to ignore everyone else. It was comforting in a way. Now she felt like everyone was staring at her and it was starting to freak her out.

Finally having enough of it she ducked into a nearby alleyway and moved far enough from the street that she was mostly hidden in the shadows between buildings. "Fuck-a-doodle-doo." Muttering to herself she pulled out a tightly wrapped joint and lit it with the lighter in her back pocket, taking a long drag and exhaling slowly and sank into an easy crouch with her back to the building behind her.

"What's that?"

"Yah! Fuck me!" Harm leapt to her feet dropping the joint from her lips as she did. Before it could hit the ground it was snagged in a pale green shimmer of magic. The woman looked to her side at the offending pony. "The fuck is the matter with you, sneaking up on someone like that?"

The pony in question was younger she guessed, maybe a teenager? It was hard to tell. So far she'd seen tiny stubby and chubby, and the slightly less tiny, less chubby, and less stubby versions. This one was the latter, but her legs seemed a bit to long for her body, like she was still growing into them. Her coat was an off white, and her hair and tail were a mop of black and lavender curls.

"Oh uh... sorry. I didn't mean to sneak up on you." The young mare sheepishly offered the smoking joint back to Harm, who snatched it. "It was just a new smell and I was curious."

Harm huffed softly and sank back into her crouch, taking another drag. "Mhm. I bet it is." She took a closer look at the mare. She was clothed, kinda. More so than most she'd seen which was still weirding her out. This pony had studded canvas bracelets on her fore legs, numerous piercings in each ear, and way to heavy black eye liner on. The saddlebags slung across her sides were a matching black canvas to her bracelets.

The mare stared silently for a long moment before speakign again. "...so?"

"So what, kid? Don't you got shit to be doing?"

She immediately snorted. "I'm not a kid! And... kinda. But I'm blowing it off right now because my sister sucks. What are you smoking? It doesn't smell like any kind of herbs I've seen other ponies smoke."

Harm's teenager suspicion was confirmed the way the pony's voiced squeaked on kid. But she didn't press it. "Well it's for grown ups where I'm from. Don't worry about it."

The pony lapsed into a sullen pout and plopped her rump in the snow nearby. Another long silence stretched before she spoke again. "I like your boots."

Harm raised an eyebrow glancing down at the thick black leather boots she was wearing. What the hell did they look like to a pony? "Thanks. Nice bracelets."

The little mare's eyes lit up. "Really?"

"Really really. Want a little advice?"

"Uh... sure?"

"Ditch like half the earrings and half the eye liner. Less is more. I'm guessing you're going for punk soft-metal but you come off as goth heavy-death metal which is not a look you want."

The mare blinked several times. "Uh.. yeah? Really? You don't think it's... uncouth or stupid?"

Harm shrugged taking another drag. "What I think doesn't matter. What do you think?"

Another short pause. "I think my eyes are sticky and my ears feel like they're going to droop like a mule."

"Hey, I get it. I've been there. When I was a kid I went through kinda the same thing before I found my look. You'll get there."

"Jeez. My sister just says I'm going through a phase and I'll grow out of it. But I really like my music, I like Pontera and CHRYSALIS and Motor Hoof! And the clothes and I like dyeing my mane and-"

Harm hastily raised her hands. "Whoa, whoa kid calm down. Deep breath. If you like it then fuck it, do what you want. If this sister doesn't like it then fuck her too."

The pony's eyes widened, either at her cursing or at what she was cursing at Harm wasn't sure. "...huh." She sat back quietly digesting what she'd just been told. "Hey, I'm Belle."



Harm snorted in mild amusement. "It's short for Harmony."

Belle rose an eyebrow. "If you don't want to tell me your name it's fine."

"The fuck is that supposed to mean? I just did."

"Oh... uh, really? I just thought y'know..."


"Well nopony is named Harmony."

"Why the hell would you say that?"

Belle shrugged. "I dunno why, it's just one of those uh... y'know. The t word that means stuff people don't do for some old reason."


"Yeah! Taboo. It's a taboo to name a foal Harmony."

Harm took another, heavier drag off her joint before putting it out on the bottom of her boot. This was pretty fucked up news. Her god mom was so fucked after she disappeared she outlawed anyone else having her name. "Well it's just Harm anyway like I said. See ya around, kid." She got up and started walking out of the alley.

She wasn't terribly surprised at the sound of hoof steps following after her. "Where're you from?"


"Never heard of it."

"Well it's where I'm from."

"Oh. So why're you in Ponyville?"

Harm eyed Belle from the corner of her eye, not breaking her stride. The young pony was trotting quickly beside her to keep up. "Sight seeing. How long are you gonna follow me, kid?"

"Oh, sorry. Am I bothering you?"

She wasn't, Harm had to admit. She seemed like a good kid, but mixed up in that way every teenager was. Trying to figure shit out. Harm had been there. "No. I'm just not great company most of the time. You probably got better shit to do."

"No. Not really. But uh, I do have to do some grocery shopping for my sister, so I should probably get to that. It was really nice meeting you though, Harm. Thanks y'know? For talking to me like a grown up and not some stupid filly."

Harm shrugged. "I work hard to talk to everyone with the same level of disdain. It's one of my better traits." She finished with a small smirk.

It drew a genuine laugh from Belle. "I'll remember that. I hope I see you again. Maybe you could hear some of my favorite albums!"

Before the woman could protest, Belle was rushing off into the crowds. "Huh. Cute kid." Tucking her hands into the pockets of her jeans she resumed her aimless trek through the town. She paused now and again to eye the window displays from the various shops in the market district. But her nose and stomach drew her steadily toward the aroma's of the restaurant row.

Halfway to a large cafe shaped like a cupcake of all things, she was stopped dead in her tracks by the spectacle unfolding in the streets in front of her. Some kind of flash mob had formed and was putting on a full blown musical number about buying the perfect present for their friends and families.

"What the actual fuck have I walked into?"

"Well." Came a feminine voice at her side. "When enough harmonic energy builds up centered around a strong emotion or event ponies tend to sort of resonate with each other and burst into coordinated and choreographed musical numbers."

"Huh. That's... something."

"Not a big music fan, huh?"

"No, not really." Harm finally glanced down at the speaker. She was pink. Very pink. A huge mass of curls atop her head, where a horn could just barely be seen peeking out. With pink fluffy wings tucked into her sides and a huge poofy pink tail to top it off. "That is a lot of pink."

"Thanks. Don't like pink either?" The mare was watching the spectacle in front of her with shining blue eyes.

Harm shrugged. "No, I like pink a lot actually. I dyed my hair with pink highlights for years."

"Why'd you stop?"

"Got to be a pain to do it that way all the time. Layering the dye and all that."

"Ah, that makes sense. No magic salons on Earth, huh?"

Now Harm's eyebrows rose. "Who are you?"

"Pinkie Pie." The pony finally turned her attention to Harm. "Princess of parties."


"Really really. It's nice to meet you Harm."

She didn't call her Harmony, which was a point in her positives column. "You're one of Twilight Sparkle's friends then?"

"I am."

"You helped her bring me here?"

"Well not the whole spell crafting part, but I put a bunch of magic oomph into the actual making of the rune stones. My magic mostly makes balloons, confetti, pastries. That sort of things."

"You shoot cake making lasers out of that horn? That is the best use of magic I've heard of since I got here."

"I know right?"

Harm took a moment to study the mare closer. She was bigger than the average pony so far as she could tell. Certainly more rounded in the stomach and rump areas. "So the wings and horn thing mean Princess then?"

"Not always. There's a few of us without titles. Mine's not even official, it's just what everypony calls me. It makes them happy so I roll with it."

"Mm. Cool of you."

"Thanks. Thinking of getting a bite to eat?"

"I was until the street got cut off by this Disney movie. Looks like it's thinning out though."

"Yeah, they don't last more than a couple minutes usually." Pinkie began to trot forward, and Harm followed without prompting. "You want a snack or a meal?"

"Anything in big portions."

This drew a laugh from Pinkie. "My kinda mare. I know a good spot, wanna join me?"

Harm shrugged. "Sure." Pinkie seemed cool enough. She had a very chill vibe that put the woman at ease and it was nice having someone not talk to her groin. Her mood was steadily turning around, and improved markedly when she saw the sign hanging over the building they were approaching.

"You guys have bars here?"

"Yup. Why wouldn't we? And Berry Punch has the best drinks and eats in the city. Unless you want sweets of course, but you don't strike me as the sweet tooth kinda gal."

"I am not. I mean I got nothing against cake and stuff, I'll eat it but I don't go outta my way for it."

"Gotcha." Pinkie led the way, Harm watching in amusement as most everyone in the pub shouted out her name.

"Guessing you're popular here."

"Heh, I'm popular everywhere." For a moment Harm thought she saw a flicker of fatigue in the friendly mare's blue eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared. "I see a table over there, why don'cha grab us a spot and I'll get a couple pints."

"Best idea I've heard in a while." She crossed the bar taking in the crowd. It was a bit more smiley than Jerry's place back home, but it had the same sort of air about it. Folks coming here to forget their worries for a short time, or to act like asses with their friends for a while.

She frowned at the tiny stools a moment, before catching eye of some larger ones stacked in a corner. Helping herself to one she planted it at the table and lowered herself onto it, thumbing through a menu while she waited for Pinkie to come back.

"Shoot! You grabbed the last table. Can I join you? It's standing room only."

Harm glanced up to see a lily white pegasus mare staring at her pleadingly with big violet eyes. Her mane and tail were a golden blonde, with a long multi-colored braid hanging over one ear. "You a big talker?"

"Not particularly. I've just been on my hooves all day and a drink at Berry's is my favorite way to end a day in Ponyville."

"Hm. Cool by me then, I'm here with someone so as long as she doesn't wanna give you the boot."

"Who? Pinkie Pie? We're good friends, she won't mind." The mare helped herself to a stool of her own. "I haven't seen you around town before."

"You know everyone in this city?"

"Heh, no. But a draft mare who smells like the city while in Ponyville stands out is all. Here for the tree lighting?"

"No. Sight seeing is all."

"Ah. I'm Sunny by the way. Sunny Skies."

"Cool. I'm Harm."


"Yeah it's short fo-"

Harm was cut off as Pinkie returned with a pair of large frothing pints. "Sunny! What a... delight to run into you here while I'm here with my new friend Harm! Ha ha! I can't believe I'd bump into you. Here. Of all places." Pinkie's smile was huge and a bit on the manic side.

Harmony reached out and slowly took one of the pints, taking a drink. "Damn, this is good too. Sorry she asked if she could sit, I guess we got the last table."

"Ha ha ha! Of course! Of course she did, of course we did! Wow I cannot believe this!"

Harm looked over at Sunny with a raised eyebrow. "Want her to leave, or what?"

"No! No no, it's always nice to see you, Sunny. Just uh... took me by surprise! I'm a little frazzled usually I keep pretty good track of everypony in Ponyville."

Sunny's smile dimmed slightly. "Pinkie are you getting enough sleep? You seem very um... strained."

"Nope! It's fine. I'm fine! Can you excuse me for just oooooooone teensy second? I'm super duper sorry to be rude Harm I just have to um..." She vanished in a flash of pink.

"Huh. She lost her chill quick."

Sunny shrugged and helped herself to the unclaimed pint. "Well hey, free drink."

"Heh, you're alright."

== Twilight's Castle ==

Sunset Shimmer was gently rubbing Twilight Sparkle's back to try and calm the hyper ventilating Princess. "Twilight, it's going to be fine. Ponyville is a big place. They're not even going to bump into each other."

A pink burst of magic drew both of their attentions to Pinkie as she teleported into the room. "AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!"

Eyes wide Sunset and Twilight leapt to their hooves. "Pinkie what is it?! A monster attack??"

"I ran into Harmony by the cafe and I played it super duper cool and mellow and we hit it off and I took her to Berry's to get a bite and a drink and SUNNY SKIES SHOWED UP AND IS SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH HER RIGHT NOW!"

Sunset flinched as if visibly struck, and timidly turned her attention to Twilight. The alirocns pupils had shrunk to pin pricks and she was sucking in short gasps of air at an alrming rate. "Hey... hey! It's... not that bad..." She took a step back as Twilight's head whipped around to stare her dead in the eyes.

"Not. That. Bad."

"Ahem... n-no..." She coughed to get the crack in her voice under control. "No. Princess Celestia seals her magic right? Nopony can tell who she is, and she doesn't have her unicorn magic when she's Sunny Skies. She can't see through Harm's illusion."

She could see Twilight heard her words. And was slowly processing them as her breathing returned to a normal pace. "...okay. We have to play this cool. I can be cool! That's me! Cool as a cucumber!"

"Twi, why don't you and Pinkie uh... take a breather. I'll go pick up Harm, I'll make some excuse for why she has to leave okay? It'll be fine."

Twilight Sparkle took a few deep breaths, closed her eyes. Took one more and exhaled slowly. "Okay. You're right. This literally can't turn into an even bigger problem, it's fine."

Sunset flinched again. "Why did you say that?" Summoning her own magic she vanished with a pop.

== Berry's Pub ==

Things went awry much quicker than Sunset Shimmer expected. In the form of a flying chair colliding with her face the second she rematerialized inside the pub. Taken completely off guard she went down like a sack of potatoes. She was dimly aware of hooves hooking around her barrel and pulling her behind the bar.

Groggily the unicorn focused on her rescuer. "...Berry? Wha' happened?"

"A couple of minotaurs were giving my waitress a hard time." She flinched at the sound of breaking glassware. "She was trying to get out from around them, I was about to head over and shoo them out when that huge mare Pinkie Pie brought in stepped in. They exchanged words, than one of the bulls punched her. Right in the face!"

Sunset flinched. "Ouch."

"Right? She fell flat on her butt and looked uh, mostly confused? Then she smiled and jumped on him and it kinda spiralled out of control from there."

Sunset shook her head a couple times and peered over the bar. She could see ponies throwing punches, kicks, even a couple bites. A pair of griffons were cheering in the rafters while the clear center of attention was two minotaur bulls squaring off against Harm and of course, Sunny Skies. The latter of whom was laughing like a maniac while she darted in and out of the minotaurs legs. Sunset flinched as the pegasus delivered a crushing buck to the bulls groin. "I felt that one."

Her horn sputtered to life as she grew more and more focused, prepping a spell to put an end to the melee. Before she could a shrill whistle split the air as guard ponies spilled into the pub. The five burly earth ponies set about to quickly quelling the light fights, while three of them tacked the two bulls and Harm herself respectively. They seemed confused as to what to do with Sunny, but in the end two minotaurs, a pegasus mare, and a human were marched out in cuffs.

Sunset let her spell die before casting. "...Twilight is going to literally explode."

Chapter 7: Meet the Half-breed

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Meet the Half-breed

Harm had been in a couple different jails. County, city, even a tiny little one like something out of an old western when she and her dad were on a trip through the American Southwest. It was far from the first time she'd been arrested so she handled the processing in stride. She fudged a lot of the answers to the questions they asked, and the pony cops didn't seem terribly concerned with the answers anyway.

Questioning the witnesses had turned up she wasn't the initial aggressor so she was mostly being held in a cell while the situation was all sorted out. She'd name dropped Princess Twilight as her host while in Ponyville and that seemed to light a fire under most of their asses. The cell she was currently in was less a cell and more a guest room though.

The beds were well stuffed, with good springy mattresses. Thick fluffy pillows and blankets sat on them. The toilet and mirror in the corner even had a curtain to pull over for privacy. She moved over to the corner and opened her mouth wide, focusing on the three new gaps in her teeth where a minotaur had punched them out. "I don't remember the last time I got hurt in a fight."

"Dun fide a lod ub minotaurs bak home?"

Harm winced and glanced over at Sunny sitting on one of the beds. The pegasus had two black eyes, probably a broken nose, and a couple missing teeth of her own. "Nope. My first minotaur." She plopped back down on the bed across from Sunny Skies. "They got magic dentists around here?"

"Nod magic no, bud I god a friend in down who can probly ged your teeth fixed for yuh." The first thing Celestia planned to do after a good night's sleep back in her bed was send a tonic to whatever inn Harm was staying at to fix her teeth. "You fide preddy good. Do id bunch back home?"

The woman chuckled at the poor mare's speech impediment, and settled back on the bunk, her legs hanging off one end. "Not a lot, anymore. I used to. I'm a bouncer."


Harm tiled her head to face Sunny, eyebrow raised. "You've never heard of a bouncer? We pretty much do what I did tonight. Sit at the bar and keep things from getting to outta control. People get stupid when they get hammered y'know?"

"Oh, thad's a good idea. I dun ged oud in de cidy's much."

"I love the city."


Harm rolled onto her side, propping her head up with her hand. "I'm a big girl, right?"

Sunny had to nod at that. Obviously she was big.

"I've been big my whole life. Bigger than everyone else around me. It drives guys nuts seeing a chick bigger than they are, and it makes adults uncomfortable in school when one of their students is taller. So I make people uncomfortable. But in the city it's so crowded, everyone has their own shit going on, their own places to be they don't care how tall you are or that you can bench a ridiculous amount. They just want you to be not in their way."

"I suppose I can see the appeal of anonymidy."

"Right. It's not just that though. I like the noise. I like the lights all day and night. My dad took me camping once, worst three nights sleep of my life. The silence freaked me right the fuck out."

Sunny giggled softly. "You cerdainly hab a way wid words."

Harm snorted in amusement and shrugged. "I swear a lot, sorry. Dad did too. I don't even think of it as offensive, they're just adjectives to me y'know?"

"Oh I'be heard much worse, you aren'd gonna offend me." Sunny quietly contemplated. "I'be neber heard someone dalk aboud de cidy like thad before. Maybe I'll gib Manehaddan anoder visid."

"You should. And don't do the tourist bull shit everyone else does. Eat at tiny hole in the walls, go shopping at little mom and pop joints. That's where the city really is."

"You're very differend from odder ponies I'be med, Harm."

"Yeah well, I'm not that weird back home. ...personality wise, obviously I'm still freakishly huge."


Harm snorted in mock anger. "Hey, fuck you."

Sunny smirked showing off her gap toothed smile. "Fuck you doo."

== Later ==

Harm snorted awake at the sound of the cell door clanking open. She blinked blearily and sat up, only barely catching sight of Sunny Skies' tail disappearing around a corner and out of sight. She focused on the door and found the huge pony from her dreams staring at her with intense teal eyes. "So, we meet again."

"That's a dramatic way to say hello."

Luna regarded Harmony coolly. "I am told I am rather old fashioned, yes. Come along. I'd like to share words while we walk back to Twilight Sparkle's castle."

Harm grimaced rubbing her jaw gingerly. "I don't suppose you have any vicadin or something?"

"I do not. Though if it's pain you wish soothed I can work a simple spell to do so, with your permission."

Harm shrugged. "Knock yourself out." Seeing the clear confusion in the mare's eyes she continued. "Er, yes please."

"Very good." Luna's horn shimmered with magical light as Harm felt a warmth seep into her jaw, the pain eased a good deal.

"Dang, not bad thanks."

"Quite. Come along." Luna stepped aside as Harm let herself out of the cell, the two walking side by side in silence as they left the jail. The ponies they passed hastily dipping into bows so deep their noses almost touched the ground.

"So you're kinda a big deal huh?"

Luna had to snort softly in amusement. "Kind of, yes. How much did Twilight tell you of Equestria?"

"More than she needed to. I kinda zoned out pretty quick."

"Heh, yes that sounds like her. I am Princess Luna, half the ruling diarch of Equestria. I am shepherdess of the moon, and guardian of ponies dreamscapes."

"Okay. So wuzzat mean in English?"

Luna pursed her lips in thought. "I raise and lower the moon each night, and keep ponies from being tormented by the worst of their nightmares."


"Pardon?" Luna stared at the human in mild alarm at the harsh language.

"You raise and lower the moon?"

"Ah, of course. A magicless world. Twilight Sparkle spoke of another world she visited where the sun and moon moved on their own? Here they are moved by myself and my sister, Celestia."

"Literally. You two literally move the sun and moon."

Luna's eyes twinkled with slight mischief. "Look up."

Harm shrugged and did so. The large full moon was bright enough to illuminate the city streets even without the help of burning lanterns. A large full moon that was doing slight but noticeable waggles in the sky. "...holy fuck. Are you really moving the fucking moon right now?"

"I am, yes." Luna's horn went dull again as the moon stopped its impromptu dance.

"Whoof. I need a drink. And Celestia really moves the sun?"

"She does. Harmony, why are you here in Equestria?"

"It's Harm. And because I was invited."

Luna stopped walking, gently tapping the woman's chest with an extended wing to stop her as well. "Harm then. I do not wish to be rude, Harm but as I said in your dreams I am responsible for the safety of the people in my kingdom. By all accounts you acted with chivalry in the pub defending a young maiden's honor, but you are an... oddly powerful individual to engage in fisticuffs with a minotaur and emerge more or less unscathed. You are an unknown entity in my kingdom who contains the strength to deal harm to my citizens."

Luna cut Harm off before the woman could retort. "I am not against your presence in Equestria, far from it. Newcomers and visitors are always welcome so long as their intent is benign. I simply ask for your understanding toward my situation. You are an alien being from outside our world with great strength. We have had... problems with other such creatures in the past. I unfortunately do not share my sister's trust of Twilight Sparke's judgment. The young mare is surely good, true, and heroic but she is also somewhat shy of common sense at times. I simply wish assurances you are no threat to my people."

The more Luna spoke the more Harm's initial biting retort died down. Nothing she was saying was all that unreasonable. It was all pretty valid really. She didn't know how much she should tell Luna, though. She was her biological aunt. Her mom's sister. If she told her who she was would she tell Celestia? At this point Harm was passed giving a shit about the stupid pony Christmas surprise nonsense. But she wasn't sure she was ready to meet Celestia.

"Twilight thinks I'm from Equestria. That I was taken from my parents when I was a baby and dumped on earth."

Luna's eyes widened. "Good heavens, is this true?"

Harm shrugged. "So I'm told. She says I have an uh, earth pony core?"

Luna pursed her lips together in a thin line, her horn and eyes shining with magic as she examined Harm more closely. "...you certainly do though the magic seems... odd. Warped and changed unnaturally but you are unmistakably an earth pony in a human body. How fascinating."

Harm huffed and waved a hand dismissively. "Great, I'm fascinating. So uh... yeah she's got me here to meet my folks I guess."

"Where are they?"

Harm paused just a moment. She hated lying. She sucked at lying. The more she heard of Celestia though the more nervousness kept creeping up on her. She did not like that feeling either. "You gotta ask Twilight Sparkle I guess."

"Ah. Rest assured, I shall. Hm. Your name is odd."

"Oh uh, well it's the name I got."

"Indeed." Harm shifted from foot to foot under Luna's scrutinizing stare. "...come along. I wish to have words with Twilight Sparkle immediately."

Harmony fell into step behind Luna.

== Twilight's Castle ==

"I can't believe you called Princess Luna!"

Sunset winced at Twilight's continued meltdown. "Twilight, I had to. Princess Celestia was arrested."

"Oh you know they would have let her out in the morning."

"Probably, but..."

Sonata was bored. This was boring. It was usually boring with Sunset nowadays, but at least in Canterlot she got to sleep and eat and nopony was yelling. She didn't miss the yelling. There'd been nothing but yelling around here lately. She knew there was the whole 'don't leave my sight, Sonata' rule that Sunset had but... she was bored. And tired of the yelling.

So she got up and left the room unnoticed by the arguing mares. Trotting through the crystalline castle passed the occasional maid or busy unicorn resident working on some dumb magic something. She found her way to the dining hall and helped herself to a late second dinner from the spread still sitting out. That was one upside to this place, the ponies here were working at all hours so there was always fresh food.

She glanced across the room to the weird thestral filly eating by herself. She thought about joining her but decided the mask was still weird and didn't want to. So she didn't. Heaping a tray with enough food to feed six hungry stallions she plopped down at a table far enough from the weird bat pony to make it clear socializing wasn't on her agenda, and began to eat.

Not long after, her ears swiveled toward the door, the sound of boots clumping against crystal was easy to hear from a ways off. The human came in. She liked the human. She had that Adaggio swagger without the Adaggio yelling or calling her an idiot. Sonata glanced toward the hastily patched hole in the dining room wall. She was also powerful, and that was appealing to the former beta siren.

Her name was Harmony she remembered, but she liked Harm. That was a cooler name anyway. She eyed Harm as she got a tray of her own and moved to a table in the dining room. Sonata glanced toward the bat filly, who'd also taken note of Harm's entrance. That wouldn't do. "Hey! Can I sit with you?"

Harm looked up, maybe a bit surprised at the question. "Uh, yeah sure."

Sonata triumphantly picked up her tray and trotted a few tables over to join Harm, noting with pleasure the bat filly went back to focusing on her food. "Aren'tcha cold?"

Harm shook her head, as she gingerly took a bite from some jello. "No, I don't get cold."

Sonata noticed Harm missing a couple teeth, and the scent of blood still hung around her pretty heavily. It was a nice scent, one she missed. It also looked like Harm was in a fight and she sorta wished she coulda been there. "Never?"

"Nope. Probly cause my mom's a sun god or whatever."


"Excuse me?"

"Celestia's not a god, she's a titan." Judging by the way Harm was staring at her, this was new information to her. That made Sonata happy, it wasn't often she knew something someone else didn't.

"So what's the difference?"

"I 'unno." She shrugged, then realized it was the wrong response because Harm's face tightened immediately. Sonata hastily continued. "Uh, well I do know the titans were the first y'know, everythings. Ponys, dragons, changelings, whatevers."

"Huh. So my mom was what? The first pony?"

"Well no, she and her sisters were the daughters of the first two ponies. So that makes them titans, and you half-titan I guess."

"Huh. So like, Twilight Sparkle is an alicorn but not a titan?"

"Uh huh. Alicorns live forever but they can be killed, titans can't be killed except by other titans."

"There a lot of these titans running around?"

Sonata was growing more and more pleased with herself. Someone was talking to her and like, wanted to actually hear what she had to say. This was new. Sunset Shimmer was okay, she was definitely an alpha mare which was nice but she didn't really care about anything Sonata had to say for the most part. "Uh, I dunno about a lot. Less than there used to be. Discord lives in Ponyville... I think. He hangs around it a lot."

"Is he a pony too then?"

"Ha! No. He's uh, the spirit of chaos. He's okay I guess, he's funny when he's picking on someone else. Not so much when he picks on you though." She paused in her talking to stuff her face for a few minutes before conitnuing on. "There's Celestia and Luna. Uh, their Aunt Radiant Dorkness." She said that loud enough for the bat filly to hear, who did judging by the squawk of protest coming from her table. "Then Tiamat the dragon Queen, Miasma the first changeling... I think the wolf one is still out in the Misty Isles."

"That's kinda cool I guess. Do they like, do stuff like Celestia and Luna do?"

"Uh... I dunno. I know Miasma just eats a lot and Tiamat has lotsa treasure. Radiant sits on her butt doing nothing as far as I kno-"

"That is enough of insulting my Queen!" Both Harm and Sonata looked to see Ambient Dark hastily approaching their table. "I do not know what qualms you have with her but Queen Radiant is the keeper of the Tree of Darkness! Her role is immensely important!"

Sonata's ears flattened and she bared her teeth in a warning, causing the young thestral to stop in her tracks. "My qua... qu... whatever is Radiant killed my mom in the Titanfall War."

Ambient's eyes widened behind her mask. "You are a descendant of Sirine? You?"

"No, I'm the descendant of Sirine. So you can take your stupid mask and shove it right up your fat Queen's butt. Now beat it, I'm talking here."

Ambient's eyes darted from Sonata to Harm, the latter of whom just shrugged. Huffing softly the thestral turned and rushed from the hall. "...kinda harsh weren't you? She's just a kid."

"Eh, maybe. Whatever. Her Queen's a bitch."

Harm snorted in amusement. "So are you a titan too then?"

"Half, like you. My dad was a mortal pony my mom fell in love with."

"Huh. That's kinda cool. We're sorta the same huh?"

Sonata was not a smart person. She knew that, she was fine with that. She survived by attaching herself to someone smarter. Not necessarily stronger, she hadn't run into many of those. But smarter for sure. Even so, she knew there was a chance for something... new. New was the right word. Something new for her here. A peer? A friend? She didn't know. She did know she should think about what she was saying a bit more than normal though.

"Sorta, I guess. I mean we are both half-titans for sure."

"So do you know my mom?"

"Mhm. We grew up together. We weren't like neighbors or besties or anything but when our parents all got together for their big boring meetings we'd hang out with the other kids. Most of them were half and half's like me but there were a couple other pure blood titans. One of Miasma's kids is still running around, I think her hive's in the Badlands or something."

Harm grunted softly as she ate the mostly jello and pudding dinner off her plate. "What's she like?"

"Who? Celestia? She's fine I guess. I mean she has to be kinda strict around me cause of my parole or whatever, but she has good junk food stashed around the castle where she thinks nobody can find it."

Harm's eyebrows rose. "You're on parole?"

"I guess, sorta. My pod got banished to this other Equestria filled with humans, like you but smaller and goofy pony colors. We fought this human version of Twilight's friends, and lost, and lost our siren magic. Adaggio threw herself in the ocean or whatever and Aria just kinda bailed so Sunset Shimmer found me living out behind a Big Belly Burger. She said she was going back to Equestria and if I did whatever the Princess said I could come to. So I did."

"Jesus man, I'm sorry about your friend."

Sonata shrugged. "Friend isn't the right word, but thanks. It hasn't been so bad except for Sunset sitting around studying all the time instead of I dunno, doing literally anything else."

"Beats prison, right?"


Harm chuckled again, before getting up. "Well it was cool talking to you. If I don't get bounced for fighting tomorrow, maybe we can hang out again."

Sonata's ears perked. "Yeah? You want to?"

"Sure, why not? You seem cool."

Compliments were also something new for Sonata Dusk. At least they were since she hooked up with Adaggio which was a really long time ago. "Uh... yeah okay. Thanks. You're cool too?"

"Heh, see ya around then." Sonata watched the big woman leave, and didn't leave her seat. She also didn't go back to her meal. Instead she just... thought. It wasn't something she enjoyed, and it wasn't something she did often. But right now, it was a time to think.

== Castle Canterlot ==

"...did you enjoy yourself in Ponyville, sister?"

Celestia smiled a gap toothed smile, her vision only partially obscured by the eye that had swollen shut. "Best day I've had in decades." She levitated a small bottle to the watching Luna. "Can you have this sent to my cell mate?"

Luna eyed the tooth growing tonic with slight amusement, but finally nodded. "Yes, I can see that it reaches her. You took one yourself I hope?"

"I did. It takes a bit to kick in you know." She glanced at her sister again, who seemed to be rather on edge. "I wasn't really in any danger, Lulu."

"Hm? Oh, no I know. I had a conversation with Twilight Sparkle. When she is out of sorts she is difficult to deal with."

"Oh? What's upsetting her?" Celestia poured herself a glass of the Apple family's brandy, easing into her bed with a stretch.

"Nothing of great import, just a bit of business involving a young mare reuniting with her family. For now you should get some sleep, hopefully the... swelling goes down about your eyes."

Celestia shrugged, her good natured smile returning. "If not it'll make for a fun day at court tomorrow."

Her younger sister laughed lightly as she left the room. It was nice seeing Celestia so happy at least.

== Twilight's Castle ==

Harm groaned softly at the rapping on her door. She stirred with agonizing slowness, grimacing at the throbbing pain in her jaw. "Who izzit?"

"Um... it's Twilight. May I come in?"

She wasn't really in the mood for a lecture of any sort, but it was Twilight's castle. "Sure." She winced at the sunlight streaming in from the hall outside as Twilight Sparkle opened the door. She'd actually slept in a bedroom last night, that had very heavy curtains over the windows. Judging by the odd hours kept here a lot of the inhabitants must like sleeping in.

"Does your er... face hurt?"

Harm snorted softly. "That's the wind up to a bad joke where I'm from. But yeah, it does."

Twilight shut the door behind her restoring darkness to the room, only lit by her glowing horn as she levitated a small bottle off the night stand into Harm's hands. "Here, drink this. And do it quick it tastes awful."

"What is it?"

"Tooth tonic. It was sent for you by uh, Sunny Skies."

"Oh cool. So it'll what? Get rid of the aches?"

"And regrow the teeth, yes."

"Huh, magic. Neat." She uncorked the stopper and winced at the smell. Taking a deep breath she tipped it back and had to fight from spitting it right back out. It tasted like she imagined ground up teeth mixed into a paste tasted like. Hastily swallowing it she gave a full body shiver. "Bleeugh fuck me."

Twilight giggled softly. "Yes well, the worst tasting medicine is often the best they say. I bet the pain's already gone."

Harm tilted her head rubbing her jaw. "Yeah, it is. Just kinda numb."

"Good, that means it's working." The Princess scuffed a hoof across the floor awkwardly. "I'm sorry about not telling you this world's Sombra was in the castle. He and his wife come and go often so I didn't even think of it."

Harm blew out a heavy breath and flopped back in the bed. "Sorry I threw a table through your wall."

"It's okay. We learned early on that the castle regrows and repairs itself. Spike would take little nibbles out of the walls here and there when he got hungry."

"Mmm. Any trouble over last night?"

"No, not really. The minotaurs were teenagers, but witness accounts said you stood up for Berry Pinch, and that they threw the first punch so you just responded with self-defense."

"Why did Luna show up to bail me out? Why not you?"

"Oh! Well um... hm. Well she was interested in you. We had a long talk last night about you. I wasn't sure what exactly you told her, but from context I gleaned everything but who your mother actually is, yes?"

With a shrug Harm finally sat up again and got out of bed. "I don't like lying, and when I do I'm bad at it."

"There's nothing wrong with that."

"I guess. Can I get a run in before I grab something to eat?" She tugged off her shirt and rummaged around in her duffle bag, wiggling out of her jeans at the same time.

"You can. I was hoping you'd join my friends and I for breakfast in our conference room?"

"Why?" Twilight watched in fascination as the woman grabbed one rumpled shirt after the other, before seemingly arbitrarily selecting an off white one with a trio of young animated human on the front linked arm in am arm with the words "Best Friends Squad!" written along the top. It stopped just shy of covering the tall woman's mid riff, exposing a glinting piercing there. Harmony then replaced her faded jeans with a pair of stretchy shorts.

"Well they'd like to meet you. Most of them helped bring you here after all..." She trailed off as a barefoot Harm headed for the door. "Are you going to run inside?"


"Um, it's below freezing outside." Twilight began to trot as the woman walked briskly from the room.

"I gathered." She continued with a short sigh. "I don't get cold, ever, in any temperature, even freezing water."

"Oh! Oh, how interesting. I wonder if it's because of your lineage."

"I'd assume so, no one else I've ever heard of can shrug off the cold like me. I like to run in minimal covering so..." She gestured to herself.

"Oh, of course. I was just a little worried is all." With a little huff Twilight quickened her pace when it seemed like Harm wasn't interested in slowing hers to converse. "I don't suppose you have any other uh, unique abilities?"

"I do."

It took Twilight a moment to realize she wasn't going to elaborate. "Er, and they are?"

Harm heaved a sigh and turned on her heel to face her. "Look man I'm not a morning person, I'm not chatty when I first wake up. But if it'll shut you up, I can read, write, understand, and speak anything."

Twilight's eyes widened. "No."


"Oh my goodness! Anything? Anything you've encountered so far I mean?"


"Are you sure? That's amazing! I have books and texts that scholars have been trying to translate for years! How did you figure this out?"

Harm rubbed her forehead with a grunt of frustration. "There was a Chinese kid at my elementary school who didn't speak great English. She was talking to her parents in a language no one else seemed to get. But I thought 'hey it'd be nice if I could talk to her like that and maybe make her feel more comfortable'. And then I did. That's how it works, I tell my head read or speak this and I do. Technically I can't even read English."


"Yes, I never needed to learn because I just said to myself 'read this' and I did. Now I am going running, do not follow me. I'll be back in twenty minutes, I'll take a shower, then come find me for your breakfast thing. Okay?"

Twilight's mind was racing at the possibilities to even register Harm's rudeness. "Okay! Have fun!"

"Mmm." Harm strode passed a pale blue pony with a striking rainbow hued mane and tail, a stubby horn just barely peeking out of her hair, large wings folded at her sides. Not bothering with a greeting she stepped out into the snowy morning and immediately broke into a sprint.

Rainbow Dash watched the tall human race off into the snow. "Dang. She is rockin' those booty shorts."

Twilight blinked out of her stupor. "Oh? Oh! Um, yes I suppose so. Good morning, Rainbow Dash."

"It is now. I'm feeling like a morning work out myself." Dash yelped as Twilight's magic grabbed her tail before she could race out after Harmony.

"Not right now, Rainbow. Harm is um... not really the most sociable in the morning apparently."

"Everypony likes a workout buddy, Twilight. But I gotcha, I'll do the meet and greet stuff. Then try and get her into bed."

Twilight rolled her eyes and fell into step beside Rainbow Dash, heading toward the map room. "Good luck."

== Road to Town ==

"Oh goodness, we're going to be late."

Discord managed to resist rolling his eyes hard enough they fell out of his head. He still rolled them of course, but not that hard. "Fluttershy I can teleport. You can teleport. We can all teleport. No one is going to be late. I can stop time if it'll make you feel better."

"Oh um, that's sweet but no thank you. And you're right, I just don't really... like teleporting..." Fluttershy's eyes drifted to the long horn that to most, looked elegant growing from her forehead. She just thought it was annoyingly large. She kept banging it on things when she tried to pick them up with her mouth.

"You'll adjust. You have forever to get used to it, trust me in a century or two it'll be like second nature. You'll do it so much you'll probably get as fat as Celestia."

Fluttershy giggled softly as she slung her saddle bags over her back. "That's not very nice. She's not fat."

"Festively plump?"

Another giggle came from the young alicorn. "That's enough I think. Princess Celestia has been a good friend to all of us through these um, changing times."

"I'll say. I've never had more fun! All you new alicorns popping up are sending the nobility into absolute fits! That giant pony shaped hog up in Grapeshire is training a militia no less!"

Fluttershy sighed softly. "I don't know what they're so worried about. None of us have any interest in politics."

"I know that. You know that. But the wealthy elite don't think like common folks like you or I, Fluttershy."

Now it was Fluttershy's turn to roll her eyes. "Discord I think of all the words to describe you, common isn't one of them."

"True. True. So who's this big mystery guest I'm being forced to meet?" Discord detached his paw and had it scratch at his ear for him. It'd had the most annoying ringing in it recently.

"Well you remember that big project Twilight was working on?"

A ringing that was actually getting louder steadily. "Mm. The one I was forbade on pain of unleashing Pinkie Pie in my realm for entering the castle while she was working on it?"

"That'd be the one. Well she finish-" Discord was trying to listen to Fluttershy but the ringing was drowning her out. With a frown he reattached his paw and stepped outside, leaving a slightly bewildered Fluttershy behind him.

The source of his agitation became clear very quickly. A tall human woman was sprinting along the road around Ponyville. He didn't know where she came from but the noise was definitely coming from her. With a snap he appeared in her path. "Who are yo-"

"Eeeeeyaaaah!" Wide eyed Harmony kept moving forward but rather than dodge around the monster that suddenly appeared in the road she kicked off with her back foot and vaulted forward, knee extended smashing it into the things face.

With a loud cartoonish pop Discord's head came free of his shoulders and rocketed into the stratosphere. "...rude." Was all he could think to say.

Harm stumbled away from the body as blood pumped wildly from the things neck, the body flailing around before toppling into the snow. She fell flat on her butt on the ground holding her chest and wheezing for breath.

"Oh my goodness, Discord!" The wild eyed woman looked to see a yellow pony rapidly approaching the scene.

"What... what the fuck? What the fuck was that?! Lady what is happening?!"

"Oh goodness, you must be Harmony. I'm so sorry I don't know what's gotten into him! Discord! You come down here right this instant and apologize! ...and clean up all those cherry filling, it's way to high in sugar for any critters to come and eat."

Harm stared in disbelief as the thing's head appeared in a silver flash, floating over the ground. Then it started talking. "Why am I in trouble? She kicked my head off!" The body stood up, grabbed the head and put it back on its neck.

"Can't you see you terrified the poor thing?"

"Terri-she kicked my head off my body!"

"Apologize mister, right now."

With narrowed eyes Discord rounded on the woman still sitting in the snow. "Who is she? And why does my head feel like it's going to pop around her?"

"Oh um... well this is Harmony."

"Harmo..." Discord blinked. "Harmony? As in Harmony Harmony? Celestia's Harmony? Why does she look like this hairless monkey? Why isn't there a huge holiday right now?"

"Well um... it's a long story but she was lost on a human world. And Twilight wants to surprise Princess Celestia with her on Hearthswarming so..."

"Wait. Wait wait wait. Twilight Sparkle and I assume her unicorn brigade found the Harmony, is keeping her in Ponyville, and isn't telling Celestia right away? I couldn't have set a better stage for this to all explode gloriously if I tried! For a minute I was thinking of sending her to the bottom of the ocean to get rid of this headache but this is much better. I suddenly have someplace to be though, so I'll be missing breakfast. I'll see you for Tuesday tea, Fluttershy. Tah!"

Before pony or woman could get a word in, Discord vanished with a snap. "...what the fuck was all that?"

Fluttershy offered a small smile and extended a hoof to help Harm up,. which she accepted. "That was Discord, the spirit of chaos. I'm afraid he can be a bit much the first time you meet him. He's really very sweet, just um, try to ignore everything he said."

Discord was one of those titans that Sonata mentioned. He must be a pretty big deal. Harm frowned thoughtfully, looking down at the mare. "Well... okay uh... fuck. Kinda ruined my run."

"Mmm." Fluttershy's eyes roved the woman's body, currently glistening with a fine sheen of sweat. "Well my house is right up the hill there. Want to grab a quick shower and a cup of tea to collect your nerves?"

Harm blew out a heavy breath. "Uh, yeah I guess? You're one of Twilight Sparkle's buddies I'm guessing by the wing horn combo."

"Mhm. I'm Fluttershy. We were actually about to head to the castle for your welcome breakfast."

With a shrug the woman started up the hill toward the house. "Sure a shower sounds awesome."

Fluttershy admired the womans flanks in those skin tight shorts she was wearing a brief moment before following her up the path. "This might seem sudden but I've been working hard on being up front and asking for what I want so..."


"Want to have sex in the shower?"

Harm's eyebrows rose. She remembered Spike mentioning how casual it was here and that she should be prepared for offers. She didn't expect it to come from one of Twilight's friends. One she'd just met no less. On the one hand, it was kinda like having sex with a horse? A cute talking horse with fab hair and gorgeous eyes. On the other hand she hadn't slept with anyone in like three days and was getting the itch.

"Yeah, sure."

== Twilight's Castle ==

"I'm starving!"

Twilight sighed. "For the last time Rainbow, we're not starting until everypony else gets here." Her eyes darted to the clock on the wall. "Where in the world are they?"

As if on cue the doors banged open as Applejack trotted in, an ear to ear grin on her face. "Mornin' everypony!"

"Good morning Applejack, you look like you're in a good mood." Twilight found herself smiling in relief.


Dash hovered just over Twilight's head. "What's up? Why the big grin?"

"Oh you'll see."

They did indeed see, as a clearly distraught Rarity staggered into the room dramatically. "It's just to much to bare!"

Twilight and Rainbow shared an identical 'here we go' look as Rarity slumped heavily into the chair bearing her cutie mark. She was nude which was rare for an occasion such as this where dressing up wouldn't have been out of place. Her small downy wings looked out of place on her much thicker, more muscular body. "What's wrong? Outgrow another dress?"

Rarity shot the snickering Rainbow Dash a look that could turn a cockatrice to stone. "Yes! But that's not what's wrong this morning!"

Twilight gave Rainbow a warning glare as she sat next to Rarity. "Oh Rarity, what happened?"

"Sweetie Belle... she... she... cursed at me!"

Applejack snorted under her breath, softly enough not to draw Rarity's attention as she helped herself to a glass of juice and her own seat.

Twilight just looked alarmed. "Oh no! Where did she learn any curses? Not from any of my books!"

"Uh! Not that kind of curse, Twilight! She said a... bad word."

"She said fuck." Applejack helpfully put in, causing Rarity to wail and Dash to gasp in delight.

Twilight had a different reaction. She felt a worrying pit forming in her stomach. "O--oh? Really? I can't believe it. Ehe he he... where would she even pick up language like that."

"From HER!" Rarity thrust an accusatory hoof at Applejack.

The farm mare's eyes widened. "Whoa nelly now. Y'know we don't really worry so much about bad words around the farm but I certainly don't go shootin' em off all willy nilly. An I don't rightly appreciate the accusation either."

"Well where else?! And you certainly thought it was funny when she said it to me in the kitchen this morning!"

Dash turned her smirk on Applejack. "Why were you in Rarity's kitchen this morning."

Cheeks burning the earth pony tugged her hat further over her eyes. "None of yer business is why. An in my defense, it was hilarious."

"It was not!" All three mares winced and folded their ears down as Rarity's voice reached decibles not meant to come out of a pony's mouth.

Twilight gently rubbed Rarity's back. "Why don't you tell us what happened?"

"Ugh..." Rarity's magic snatched the glass of juice out of Applejacks hooves and brought it to her own lips. Ignoring the indignant 'hey!' coming from Applejack she took a deep shuddering breath. "I was just tidying the kitchen a bit, when she came stomping through the kitchen like she does nowadays-"

"I'd hardly call it stompin' Rares."

Rarity shot Applejack a withering look before continuing. "I mentioned if she wanted to wear some accessories I could prepare something a bit more appropriate for a young filly-"

"What's wrong with how she dresses? I think it's pretty cool."

"Yes I'm sure you do, thank you Rainbow Dash." Dash took the hint and fell silent, landing beside Applejack. "Then she said 'nah, I like what I'm wearing.' So I asked if maybe a color other than black. Then she looked at me and said 'I like my look and if you don't you can just... just..."

"Heh, Belle told her she could fuck right off if she didn't like it."

Another keening wail came from Rarity as her head thumped down on the table in anguish. It was this scene that Harmony and Fluttershy entered into. Harm's hair was still damp from the shower and she was still in her work out clothes. Fluttershy was equally damp, a detail neither Applejack nor Rainbow Dash missed. Harm looked around the room and settled on the sobbing pony.

"What the fuck is her deal? Someone die?"

Chapter 8: Meet Celestia

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Chapter 8: Meet Celestia

Harm knew this was important to Twilight Sparkle for whatever reason. She just didn't much care. Excellent time in the shower with Fluttershy aside she didn't know the others. Pinkie Pie seemed okay at first but she lost her cool pretty quick and that kind of neurotic high energy was something Harm went well out of her way to avoid in a social situation.

She'd been introduced to most of them, and the names were easy enough to remember. Sunset Shimmer and Sonata had gone back to Canterlot and she was kinda finding herself thinking she'd rather have gone with them. They both sort of resonated with her the way the others weren't really. Shared experiences and all that. These ponies seemed nice. Friendly. They went on big adventures and stuff. She got it. They were a big deal.

Just not to her.

So she smiled politely, she nodded when she was supposed to nod and threw in the occasional 'uh huh' or 'cool' when she deemed it appropriate. It wasn't until she went to the buffet table to load up a plate that Applejack approached her alone. "Miserable, huh?"

"Huh? No. I mean, I wouldn't say miserable."

"Heh, I get it. Twi's a good filly but I don't think she's really parsed that you're a person an not just 'Celestia's little filly'. You got your own likes an what not an I got a bit of a suspicion that brunch with the Princess and her closest friends ain't one of them."

Harm had to smirk at the mare's frankness. "Good guess. I mean you guys seem fine I just uh, y'know. Don't know you."

"I get that. We don't know you either. That said I'm willin' to bet you ain't shy about cussin' in front of young folk. Sweetie Belle for instance."

Harm stared blankly for a moment before the name clicked. "Oh, Belle. Punk rock kid. Yeah we talked yesterday."

"Had a feelin'. Uh, do everypony a favor an don't mention that to Rares huh? Apparently Belle shared some of your wisdom with Rarity and Rarity did not care for it."

"Mmm." Harm was about to say well fuck her then but bit her tongue. It wasn't easy. "So are you the pony on the bottle of booze I inhaled the other night?"

Applejack was just as happy to change the subject. "I surely was! Enjoyed it did ya?"

"That's an understatement. The shit I get back home I gotta drink by the gallon to get a buzz. Your stuff hit me after one glass."

"Shoot, a whole glass? Most ponies can't handle more'n a shot or two. You drink like an Apple."

"Heh, I'm a big girl and a big drinker."

"Well I have family business tonight, Hearth's Warming Even an all. An tomorrow is the big day up in Canterlot, but day after if you wanna swing by the farm I can show you the good stuff."

Harm frowned thoughtfully. Was she going to be here that long? She should probably stay a couple days after meeting her mom she supposed. Do... mom and kid stuff or whatever. "Yeah, that could be cool."

"Well alright. We'll roll out the royal welcome for ya." She finished with a wink and a chuckle and trotted back to the table with her meal.

Harm lingered by the food a bit longer, glancing toward the ponies. All of them had wings and horns of varying sizes except Applejack who was lacking both. With the exception of Twilight they also seemed to be going through some weird second puberty. Fluttershy's legs were to long for her body, the blue one, Rainbow Dash had huge clumsy wings, while Rarity had the opposite problem of very small wings on a large thickly muscled body. Pinkie Pie seemed more or less proportioned fine save her stubby horn.

There was one pony she hadn't been introduced to still, which she thought was odd. A pale white unicorn with an ephemeral mane and cool pink eyes was standing at the buffet table opposite of Harm, helping herself to bites of fruit here and there. She was taller than the rest with a slight curve to her horn. "...sup?"

It took the mare long enough to respond that for a minute Harm thought she was ignoring her. But gradually she focused on and locked eyes with Harm. "...are you talking to me?"

Harm looked left and right, then back at the pony. "Who the fuck else would I be talking to?"

The mare tilted her head staring hard at Harmony, looking her up and down. "How very curious."

"Yeah I'm a regular circus attraction. How come they didn't introduce you?"

"Ah, manners. I apologize I'm not used to... having to use them. I am Pearlescent Strings, but just Pearl is fine."

"Okay, Pearl. Well... what's the deal?"

"Well they don't know I'm here."

Harm looked back at the ponies, most of whom were now regarding her curiously, before looking back at Pearl. "...why not? You're standing right there stuffing pancake into your face."

Pearl snorted a brief laugh and set her pastry down. "Fair enough. It's because they're neither near to death, nor capable of perceiving a being such as myself."

"What the fuck does that mean? Am I dying??"

"No, you're simply... greater than they."

Harm opened her mouth to ask another question, but Twilight Sparkle gingerly approached her side. "Harm, who are you talking to?"

Harm looked down at Twilight, then up at Pearl who simply shrugged. "You really don't see her?"

Twilight shook her head. "See who?"

Harm gestured emphatically. "Her! The big white unicorn sitting there apparently stealing your food."

Twilight cast a worried glance over her shoulder at her equally bewildered friends. "Harm um, there's definitely nopony there."

Harmony brows drew together as she bristled in annoyance. "Why the FUCK would I make this up? What about me up til now has screamed incorrigible prankster to you?"

The young Princess flinched but abrasive nature aside she had to admit Harm did have a very fair point. Her horn ignited as she worked a complex true seeing spell. Turning her attention back to where Pearl was sitting, the unicorn's eyes not leaving Harms with a smug smirk plastered across her face. "Tell her to cast Clear Eyes' Sight Sharing charm on you."

Lips pressed into a thin line Harm looked down at Twilight. "She says to cast Clear Eyes' Sight Sharing charm on me."

"Oh! Oh... um..." Twilight Sparkle vanished with a soft pop, reappearing a moment later with a thick book. "I have it here. It's not one I've really had cause to use before." As she prepped the spell her friends gathered about curiously. Magic ignited along her horn again and formed a tether of light between herself and Harmony. Once more Twilight turned toward where the human woman was staring.

Immediately Twilight's body went rigid. Ears splayed flat against her skull as she sucked in her breath. In a tiny voice she managed to whisper, "The pale mare."

Her smug smirk widening into a toothsome smile, revealing noticeably sharp incisors Pearl stood and dipped into a low bow, before shimmering from view. "She said her name was Pearl."

"Pearl. The pale mare has a name?" Twilight's mind was abuzz at what she'd just seen and learned. "...the pale mare was stealing brunch in my castle?"

"Who's the pale mare? Who was she?"

It was Fluttershy who answered. "Um, the Pale Mare is well... Death."

== Castle Nocturne ==

Queen Radiant Darkness stirred from her meditations as she sensed the coming disturbance. He wasn't unwelcome at times, so long as he acted with the slightest hint of decorum. She closed her eyes against the coming flash, as Discord appeared with a burst of silvery magic.

"How is shein Equestria?"

"Good morning Discord, I hope this day finds you well?" Radiant didn't bother to rise from her cushions.

"Oh don't good morning Discord ME, Radiant. Harmony is in Equestria."

Radiant quirked a brow behind her mask. "Isn't Equestria known for its harmony?"

Discords mouth opened, then shut with an audible snap and despite himself he had to chuckle. "I set myself up for that one didn't I?"

"You did. And I am aware of my grand-niece's presence."

"Well what are you doing to fix it?"

"Fix? There is nothing to fix, Discord. Her return was foretold, just as yours was. And what comes next is foretold as well."

"Isn't she going to rip apart the fabric of reality or something just by being here? Don't get me wrong I enjoy tearing up reality just fine but I like to be the one doing it. Also I've become fond of some of the people here."

"The great Lord of Chaos making friends with ponies. Tut, tut. How far you've fallen."

Discord rolled his eyes, this time they did plop out of his head and bounce across the floor of Radiants' throne room. "Should I lock myself up and BROOD in my castle all day while my subjects carve my likeness into every knick knack they own?"

For a brief instant anger flared in Radiant's eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it arrived. "Fair enough, my barb was unwarranted. I'm quite happy you seem to be getting along in this modern age. You're the only one I can still have a proper conversation with."

"Oh? What about the old lizard?"

Radiant shrugged and rose from her cushions with a stretch. "Bahamut has been hibernating for a thousand years now, and shows no signs of stirring. And his daughter was never terribly fond of me."

"Kids, what can ya do? But seriously for a minute here. Is she dangerous?"

"Oh immensely. But not in the way you worry. Twilight Sparkle and her little coven have severed the lines connecting our dimension to the home realm of Harmony's father. There's no chance of rifts or a merge happening."

"...why am I not relieved?"

Radiant motioned with a wing for Discord to follow as she left her throne room and ambled lazily down a side passage. "We are nearing the beginning of the sixth era."

Discord's frown deepened, his jocular nature vanishing entirely. "New eras usually come with apocalypses. Apocalypsi?"

Radiant shrugged. "Either I suppose. And yes, they do. But never the less, the Era of Peace is coming to a close." The pair entered a small room lined with ancient scrolls and texts. Radiants' magic seized a curtain pull and yanked, revealing a sprawling mural engraved into the stone. "The first sign was the resurgence of the alicorn tribe." The first picture was indeed a number of familiar colored alicorns zipping about.

The next depicted a scene of a blue earth pony emerging from a portal. Then it showed her standing before Celestia in her throne room. The fourth was the mare in front of the Tree of Harmony. The fifth showed her wearing a crown standing atop Canterlot Castle, the masses bowing. "The Era of Harmony will soon begin."

"But it's already wrong."

"What? Of course it isn't. It's never wrong."

Discord tapped the second image. "She's not a pony, she's a monkey with no fur or tail."

"You know they're called humans."

He shrugged. "But I'm still right."

Radiant rolled her eyes as she redrew the curtain over the prophecy. "It's symbolic. An earth pony in a human skin is still an earth pony."

Discord however, seemed less convinced. "I wonder about that..."

== Ponyville ==

It was another cold day. Not that it bothered Harm, but she could tell the way ponies rushed here and there or huddled together. The town was pretty quiet compared to yesterday, folks at home for pony Christmas she assumed. Aside from the bat winged pony at her side there weren't many folks out and about.

"I take it your brunch ended poorly?"

Harm shrugged at her question. "Apparently I met the pony grim reaper and it freaked them all out."

"Ah, the Pale Mare was there?"

"Yeah, you know about her?"

Ambient hm'd softly to herself. "Well I know of her, likely more than most surface ponies. She is was an albino of the deep tribes. Supposedly she is a titan like some of the others you've already met but there is little record of her. She can only be seen by those near death or her fellow titans."

"So why was she in Twilight's castle bumming food?"

"I have no idea." Ambient offered a shrug. "I suppose everypony gets hungry and it is probably difficult to shop about in a market when you cannot be seen or heard by the vendors." Her eyes drifted to the small package in Harm's hands. "Where are we taking this anyhow?"

Harm shrugged. "I'm tossing it in some bushes a couple blocks away."

"...may I ask why?"

"One of those two agents who came and found me asked me to smuggle it into their world for them. It's contraband or whatever."

"Will you not get in trouble for this?"

"Eh, I doubt it. I'm God's kid right? Who's gonna discipline me?" Harm laughed, but it sounded forced and a touch shrill to Ambient's ears.

"Mm." The young thestral fell silent as the pair walked the streets of Ponyville. Harm navigating them by road signs until she came to the cottage with the trio of candies on the mail box. Following the note she'd received earlier she stuffed the package with the tablet in the bushes by the mail box and continued on.

She didn't head back to the castle at first. Instead she took a sort of meandering route zigzagging along the streets, wandering aimlessly like she had the previous day. Ambient was content to see the sights along with her, being just as much a visitor to this land as Harmony was. "Are you planning to visit Lady Rarity's boutique?"

"No? Why the hell would I want to go there?"

"Did she not offer to craft you a dress for the meeting with your mother?" Ambient didn't have to read deeply to feel the waves of fear, anxiety, and anger radiating from Harmony at the word mother.

"I don't wear dresses. I brought a suit from home."

"Ah, I too do not care for skirts and the like."

"No?" Harm glanced at her traveling companion for the first time since she decided to tag along on her errand. "Do a lot of formal functions in... bat land?"

Ambient offered a patient smile. "My homeland collectively is called the Hollows. It is a series of interconnected caverns filled with our cities. My city is called Nocturne, the capitol of the Hollows where Queen Radiant makes her home."


"As to your question, yes. My brother is the Queen's consort and Captain of the Starlight Knights and... I'm boring you."

"What? No. Oh you read minds. No not boring me just... my attention wanders."

"They make medication for that."

Harm smirked. "Smart ass. I know, I have some. I don't like what it does to me when I take it. Go on though. It's more interesting than anything Twilight has to say."

"Mm. Well I am one of the Queen's personal students so when she has a formal function I have a formal function. Formal functions mean dresses."

"Bummer. Hey so like, Celestia's parents are gone right?"

"They are."

"So why isn't she Queen Celestia? Why is she a Princess?"

"Ah! I wondered that myself actually. Evidently she never married."


Ambient shrugged. "And that's it I guess. When a Princess weds she becomes a Queen."

"Huh. Weird."


They lapsed into a silence again, but it wasn't awkward like before. More comfortable. Ambient stole occasional glances at the giant walking at her side. She was powerful physically but emotionally was quite another matter. Her observations proved all the more keen when Harmony's inner peace was suddenly wildly disrupted. Refocusing on her surroundings with some mild alarm Ambient quickly located the source of Harm's discomfort.

They'd come to a large plaza in town, dominated by a massive golden statue of a regal alicorn mare looking out at them with a serene stare. The rising sun carved behind her head made it clear who it was. "So... this is her, huh?"

"It is safe to assume so, yes."

"Huh." Harm walked closer, and hopped up on the base of the statue walking around it slowly. Examining every inch of it from tail to horn. "...huh. You uh, think this is real gold?"

"It would be safe to assume that as well. Surface ponies tend to be rather... lavish with their decoration."

"Yeah. Yeah uh, I guess so." Harm climbed down and moved to sit on a nearby bench, staring at the metallic giant in front of her.

"Harmony, if I may... you seem very out of sorts. If you like I could soothe your emotions a bit. Help you calm down."

Harm grunted at the use of her full name but didn't bother to correct Ambient. "I appreciate it but I have my own way of soothing. Wanna get drunk with me?"

Ambient had never been drunk. Most alcohol was forbidden in the Hollows except a small bit of mushroom wine on very special occasions. "Yes, I do."

"Well let's go get shit faced."

That didn't sound very appealing, until Ambient gleaned the meaning from Harm's surface thoughts.

== Twilight's Castle ==

Ambient silently vowed never to get 'shit faced' again. As she rose with a groan from the foot of Harmony's bed. The woman was still very unconscious, and the young thestral limped her way out and winced at the bright sunlit halls of the castle. "Whoa."

She winced and turned to the voice. It was Twilight Sparkle's young wyrm, Spike. "...please do not shout."

"Uh... I didn't. Sorry. Aren't you not supposed to be out without your mask?"

Ambient's eyes widened and she sucked in her breath, hastily rushing back into the room. Spike could hear a very unhappy Harmony squawking in alarm before Ambient returned with the mask on her face. "Thank you for pointing it out."

"I don't get why you hide your face, you're pretty cute under there."

Ambients' cheeks darkened. "Y--yes well, it's cultural. If you will excuse me I very much need a glass of water."

"Got trashed with Harm, huh? First time having a hangover?"


"Gotcha. It happens to Twi sometimes, I can whip you up something for it."

"It would be appreciated." Ambient fell into step with him, before the sound of her own hooves felt like thunder piercing her brain. She took to hovering lazily behind him down the hall. "Were you and the Princess not in Canterlot?"

"Yeah we just got back a few minutes ago. We do Hearthswarming Eve with the family every year so we can spend Hearthswarming day at the castle. We just came back to pick up Harm."

"Hm." Ambient followed him to the kitchens, where he moved with impressive quiet and grace preparing her hang over cure.

"Ambient! Good morning!"

Ambient emitted a small wail and covered her ears with her hooves as Twilight Sparkle bellowed her greeting. "She's hung over, Twi."

"Oh! Oh, um. Sorry. Wait, how old are you?"

"Old enough to know that was a poor idea."

Twilight shot Spike a look. "I told you we shouldn't have left her alone all day Spike!" She winced as Ambient wailed again. "Sorry, Ambient."

Spike shrugged and brought a glass of unpleasant looking... and smelling fluid to Ambient Dark. "Oh, whatever Twi. So they had fun drinking. You did have fun right?"

"I suppose... yes." Holding her breath she hastily downed the foul concoction. Shivering heavily as she got it down her throat and offering Spike the glass. The young dragon replaced it with water, which she gratefully nursed. "Princess Twilight I believe I have a matter of some import to discuss."

"Oh? By all means. Spike could you see if you can get Harmony up and about? The train pulls out in a couple hours and if she's um... not very lucid she might need time to wake up."

A less than enthused Spike huffed. "Yeah go wake up the giant hung over human, awesome. Happy Hearthswarming, Spike."

Twilight sighed at his melodrama and turned her attention to Ambient. The young mare took another long sip of her water. "I do not think it prudent at this time to introduce Harmony to Princess Celestia."

"What?! Why not??"

Another soft whine came from Ambient, but she had to admit her headache WAS feeling better. "When I first encountered her, her emotions were very... dull for lack of a better word. She felt anger, happiness and such but as if through a very thick filter of something I cannot quite put into words. However the more she's been here the more this filter has lifted. It is dangerously thin now and if broken completely I worry she may react... strongly."

Twilight Sparkle frowned thoughtfully, while absentmindedly pouring herself a glass of juice with her magic. "I wonder if it's related to the elements."


"The elements of harmony, they're crystallized pieces of Harm's magic removed when she was a baby to control her immense magical energy. Maybe when they removed the elements it took something else from her too."

"Hm. And now that she is in proximity to the bearers of these elements it is what? Reawakening her muted emotion?"

"It's possible. How can that be a bad thing though? This is good news I think."

"Yes and no. Consider it like a small wound you'd put a bandage on yes? Do you immediately rip the bandage off, or give the wound time to heal before removing it?"

"You make it sound like Harm regaining these emotions is hurting her."

"I think it very much is, yes. She has never had to deal with them to this extent, and the more she does the more she flounders. She is feeling lost and worried which are feelings I do not think she is used to. I worry about her mental state if she meets Celestia as she is now."

Twilight sighed softly as she mulled over Ambient words. What she was saying did make sense... but Celestia was so close to having her filly back. "I'll let Harmony decide."

"That is-"

"She's a grown mare and can make this decision on her own, Ambient. But thank you for your concern and your counsel."

Clearly Ambient wanted to say more, but she recognized a tone of royal authority when she heard it. "As you say, Princess."

== First Class Train Car ==

Twilight looked from Spike to Harm, then back to Spike. Probably for the tenth time since the trio boarded the train. Finally she jerked her head meaningfully in Harm's direction.

Spike grimaced and took a deep breath looking up at Harm. "I like the suit."

Harm glanced down at herself. She was wearing a tailor made black suit, a white dress shirt underneath and very uncomfortable dress shoes. An ornate silver locket dangled from her neck. Her hair was pulled back in a lazy ponytail. "Thanks. My boss got it for me." She didn't look at him as she spoke, she just stared out at the passing countryside.

When no elaboration was forth coming Twilight flailed at Harm again, earning a dirty look from Spike. "Oh yeah? What for?"

"Oh uh, a friend of his needed extra security for his concert. So he rented me out for a big chunk of cash. Needed a suit to do the job though."

"You were a bodyguard? That's kinda cool."

"Eh, the guy was an ass." She finally looked away from the window. "Crappy music too."

"Harm..." Spike swallowed his nerves. "Are you one hundred percent sure you're up for this?" He ignored the look Twilight was shooting him. "I mean Princess Celestia's kinda immortal and you are too right? There's no reason to rush."

Harmony seemed to deflate into her suit as she sagged in her seat on the train. "I'm fine. It's fine. Really. It's fine. Super fine."

"Please stop saying fine."

She narrowed her eyes at Spike but didn't lash out, just relaxed again and went back to staring listlessly out the window. Twilight finally spoke since boarding the train. "That's a lovely locket, Harmony."

"Mmm. I'm pretty sure my mom gave it to me."

Spike didn't think Harm ignoring her full name's use was a good sign but Twilight didn't seem to be concerned, just curious about the locket. "I do sense a bit of magic about it. What makes you think it was from Celestia?"

Harm didn't respond verbally, she just lifted her hand and clicked the locket open. There were no pictures inside, but a voice that was unmistakable Celestia's sang out in soft dulcet tones;

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

You make my happy when skies are gray..."

Harm clicked it shut before the song could continue. She took a quick breath and rubbed at her nose before leaning her head against the window. Twilight Sparkle had to blink back tears at the small piece of jewelry's magical revelation. "Celestia must have recorded it for you, probably for when she would be busy with court business I imagine..."

"I guess."

Twilight was starting to feel a worrying niggle of doubt that maybe Ambient and Spike were right. Rather than heed it, she ignored it and put a hoof on Harm's knee. "Well you'll be meeting the real thing very soon."

Harm could see the cliff side city in the distance growing a lot less distant. "Yeah..."

== Canterlot Castle ==

Celestia yawned lightly as she glanced at the time. Nearly time to lower the sun, which meant it was time to kick off the Hearthswarming Ball. She really did hate having to deal with the nobility, but seeing the look on Twilight's face when she opened her gift this year kept her going. She had to fight the urge to sneak off to Ponyville, though she suspected the town would be fairly quiet given the holiday and their focus on family there.

The train carrying Twilight and her friends was likely pulling into the station by now. Musing to herself she crossed from one side of her spacious personal chambers to the other, levitating her 'festive functions' crown and regalia out. Stepping into the boots and replacing her usual finery. "I should make Pinkie Pie a proper Princess just to see how the nobles react."

"They'll probably explode."

Celestia nickered softly in surprise and whirled to find Sunset Shimmer standing in her doorway. "Sunset! You startled me."

"Really? I hadn't noticed." But by the mare's smirk it was clear she had. She let herself into the room and offered Celestia a small gift. "Here. Happy Hearthswarming."

"You don't want to wait for everypony else?"

"Eh... I'm probly gonna skip the get together."

Celestia frowned slightly. "Oh? Why?"

Sunset offered a non committal shrug, but Celestia had a fair idea. The ascension of so many ponies of late was likely beginning to eat at Sunset Shimmer's pride. Especially given all she'd accomplished in the other world. "Well, you'll be missed."

"Heh, I bet."

Celestia glanced at the gift her student had given her, before passing it back. "Bring it to Luna's this evening. You can join us in our own celebration tonight. Bring Sonata too."

"Er, really? I mean isn't that your family time?"

"Yes, Sunset. It is. And I consider you a part of that." Celestia trotted briskly from her room, a smirk of her own in place. Nopony one upped her at inflicting stunned silences.

== Castle Entryway ==

Harm had never been in a real castle before. Her old man had taken her to Medieval Times a few times back home but she was pretty sure that was all fake. Canterlot Castle didn't seem fake. Twilight and her friends were leading the way while Spike kept pace at Harm's side. "All that is like, real gold and marble and shit, huh?"

"Yeah. I mean, I think so. I'm pretty sure if it's Celestia or Luna related it's real gold or silver."

"Of course it is." There was a huge crowd of pones gathered, but they all seemed to part almost subconscious for Twilight Sparkle and her entourage. The upside of royalty, Harm assumed. She was keenly aware of all the looks she was getting. She knew they saw her as a pony but she was definitely a stranger in Twilight Sparkle's circle, which means she stood out. Folks who stand out get talked about.

"Harm... seriously. We can bail. I know some pretty cool spots in Canterlot we can hit up instead."

Harm took a deep breath. She seriously considered it, but she was so close. "No. No I can't turn around now. But uh, thanks Spike. Really."

"Alright.." He let the matter lay as they entered the doors. Celestia would be lowering the sun soon and the guard would be changing over but for now the usual day guard were present in their golden armor. Harmony looked them over as she entered the castle proper but they didn't pay her much attention so she returned the courtesy. Inside was just as gorgeous as the outside. Beautiful silk tapestries hung from the ceilings, large paintings adorned the wall while smaller sculptures and busts dotted the inside of the foyer.

The place was packed with ponies in giant stupid looking dresses. She couldn't help but glance at the gem laden monstrosities Rarity had created for Twilight and her friends, and was doubly thankful to Jerry for making her bring her nice suit. Her eyes were drawn to a massive portrait of Celestia in the center of the entryway, Luna beside her. The pair smiled gently and their eyes seemed to follow her wherever she moved. She supposed it was meant to be comforting to the incoming common folk but she just thought it was creepy.

"Quite an impressive pair, eh?"

Harm blinked when she realized she didn't recognize the voice. She looked to her side to find a male pony with elegantly styled blue hair and an equally styled moustache standing beside her. He wore a fine silk suit jacket with a monocle over one eye. "Oh uh, yeah I guess."

"First time at the castle?"

"That obvious huh?"

He chuckled. "You have the look about you. I must say that is an exquisite suit. Not enough mares wear them in my opinion."

"Oh uh... thanks. Nice... monocle."

"Ha! Well thank you, I've always been fond of them."

Harm turned her attention to him, happy to not be looking at the portrait. "So what's the deal with those things anyway, I always wondered. Like do you need glasses in just the one eye or...?"

"Keep an old stallion's secret?"

Harm nodded.

The pony lowered his voice. "I always thought they were cool as a colt, so I wanted one. My father never indulged me, so as soon as I saved enough it was the very first thing I ever purchased."

"Ha. That's pretty awesome actually."

"Thank you, most would find it a silly story but I'm quite fond of it. You came with Princess Twilight Sparkle's entourage yes?"

"Oh uh, yeah. Shit did I lose her? I got distracted."

"Heh, not to worry her friends tend to stand out. Let's see if we can't reunite you, hm?"

"Thanks. I'm Harm."


"It's short for something."

"How delightfully mysterious. I'm Fancy Pants, Duke of Canterlot."

"...really? Fancy Pants?" She snickered.

"Yes well, I blame my father. Made his fortune in, can you guess?"

"Making pants?"

"Quite. He was a commoner who worked his way up to great wealth and wanted me to aspire to even greater heights."

"So, Fancy. You in the pants game too then?"

"Sweet Celestia, no. I'm a real estate magnate when I'm not being dragged into some political scheme or another by the other nobles of Equestria. What do you do, Miss Harm?"

"I hit people."

"Ha!" His bark of laughter drew no shortage of stares and scandalized looks from the other upper crusts of Canterlot. "Really?"

Harm shrugged with a smirk. "Sometimes. I'm a bouncer."

"Ahh, I see. So you weren't entirely jesting."

"No, but most folks look at me and decide they'd rather calm down or leave quietly than for me to bounce 'em."

"I certainly believe that. Ah! And I see our frantic Princess is about to have a classic Twilight Sparkle meltdown. No doubt searching for you."

"Mmm." She could see Twilight Sparkle flying and teleporting all over the place above the ball room before her eyes landed on Harm. She appeared in front of the pair with a bright flash.

"Harm! Where were you?!"

"I was in the hall looking at the art, then talking to this dude. Relax."

Twilight ruffled her wings in annoyance before calming herself and flashing Fancy a smile. "Thank you, sir. I should have been keeping a closer eye on her."

Fancy raised an eyebrow. "Why? She seems quite capable of caring for herself."

"Ehe he! Yes! Yes she is. But still, thank you. Come on, Harm."

Harm rubbed the back of her neck. "Actually I think I'll just kinda mingle y'know? Just come get me when it's time for your sit down or whatever alright?"

Twilight Sparkle wasn't to keen on the idea, but she knew pushing the issue would just cause a backlash. "Well okay, I'll see you soon then."

"Yeah, okay. And uh, nice meeting you."

"You as well, Miss Harm. Perhaps we'll have the chance to talk more another time."

"Yeah that'd be alright." She meant it too. He seemed like a pretty cool guy. She drifted away and into the party, the crowds parting for her like they always did. She migrated toward the buffet table and was relieved to see a couple familiar faces in Sunset Shimmer and Sonata Dusk. The former of which looking exasperated as the latter stuffed her face non-stop.

"Hey, Harm. Enjoying the part?"

She shrugged at Sunset's question and helped herself to a small pastry. "No. Not my kinda party."

"Mun eiver."

Sunset sighed. "Sonata, swallow then talk. But I agree, I don't like this stuff either. I'm more of a rager kind of partier."

"Yeah? Hard to imagine you little guys getting hard core."

"Stick around, I could show you some shit."

Harm laughed. "Well damn, I didn't think you guys could swear."

"Eh, I picked it up in the other world I was living in for a while."

"So... hey. Let's bail. Show me around the castle a little."

Sunset and Sonata shared a look. "I dunno if Twilight would like that."

"So? Is she your boss?"


"Then fuck it. You know where the fancy dinner is gonna be, right? Just send her a... horn text and let's go."

Sunset snorted in amusement but shrugged. "Sure, alright." A brief burst of magic flashed along her horn. "What do you wanna see?"


== Throne Room ==

The room was empty save the trio standing in the center. Harmony looking around slowly, taking it all in while Sunset and Sonata stood over to the side, letting her have her time and space. She crossed the room quickly with her long stride, standing in front of Celestia's throne. It smelled nice. Like wild flowers and fresh rain. Gingerly she reached a hand out and ran her fingers along its edges. "So she sits here every day huh?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

On impulse Harm turned, and planted her butt in the seat cushion. It was comfy. Plush but not to soft, just enough firmness to give some support. The same with the back cushion. She leaned back slowly. She crossed one leg over the other. She threw one leg up over an arm of the throne, before returning to a neutral seated position. "Comfy chair."

Sonata leaned forward. "Yeah? I always wanted to sit in it..."

Sunset stepped on Sonata's tail as she tried to go forward. "Not surprised, Princess Celestia likes to sit and eat and uh, mostly that's it."

Harm chuckled and stood up. She glanced at the long stairwell around the other side of the throne. "Hey... can I just meet you guys at the dining room?"

"Harm I don't know if that's a great idea. Twilight will have a melt down..."

Harm shrugged. "I just want a little time to myself is all."

"Well... alright. We'll wait outside the throne room okay? Just don't take too long. The sun's down, dinner'll be in about thirty."

"Mmm." Harm offered a noncommittal grunt in response. The two ponies did leave, and she was alone in the throne room. She looked around the room again. She took in the stained glass windows. The delicately crafted glass really was impressive. She recognized Twilight Sparkle and her friends in a few of them. Most had people she hadn't met yet.

She walked with calm, measured steps along the windows and to the staircase behind the thrones. The steps were carved wide and long, clearly made for someone of a quadrupedal gait. She climbed them quickly, finding herself up on a higher level of the castle. Fresh flowers lined the halls, brightly illuminated by shining golden globes hanging along sconces above her. Magic probably.

Her trek continued down the hall. Her left hand out as her fingertips grazed the smooth stone walls and hard wood doors. Her dress shoes made little sound in the plush carpets as she walked, before finally stopping at a door. There were no special markings, no big sign. But she knew what room this was.

She tried the handle, and found it unlocked so she showed herself into Princess Celestia's personal chambers. The smell on the throne was much stronger in here. The room her mother slept in. More hesitantly now, she stepped into the room taking it all in. The massive bed that would barely fit in Jerry's bar, let alone her small room above it. Opening a large set of doors revealed Celestia's closet. Which was only slightly larger than her loft. Dozens of shoes and crowns, all varying shapes sizes and colors lined the walls of the closet.

She closed the door quickly. Finding herself compelled to keep poking around she checked another door on the wall opposite the closet. As soon as she crossed the threshold gentle music began to play, as those magic globes lit up the wash room. At first she thought she was looking at an indoor pool, but judging by the rest of the rooms accessories, it was a bathroom. Her fucking mom bathed in a massive pool of heated and judging from the aroma, scented waters.

She closed that door quickly as well. Backing into the room she looked around slowly, one more time. Then took a deep breath. "What the fuck am I doing here?"

== The Dining Hall ==

A groggy Luna plodded her way into the lively private dining room she and her sister generally shared alone. Today was a clear exception, Twilight Sparkle and her friends were in attendance. As well as Cadance, Shining Armor and the young Flurry Heart, and her twin brothers both clearly fighting to stay awake at the late hour.

Celestia was chatting with Twilight, the latter of whom was gushing excitedly over the unwrapped package in her lap. Luna rolled her eyes slightly and moved to her customary seat, nodding thanks to one of the thestral maids who served in the castle in the evening, as the young mare poured her a mug of coffee. Nursing it gently she sighed and tuned out most of the noise.

A small commotion drew her eye to the main doors as they opened, and a somewhat worried looking Sunset Shimmer pulled Twilight Sparkle aside. They conversed in hushed tones before Twilight yelped in alarm vanishing in a bright flash. She continued to sip her coffee as Celestia trotted over, beginning to question Sunset.

Sunset Shimmer was not like most ponies. Neither was Luna, which was a common bond the two had discovered and had slowly but steadily formed a genuine friendship over. She was sardonic, at times abrupt, and had little patience for nonsense. She was also a good liar, but had a small tic where her left ear would twitch when she was avoiding the truth. Finding herself beginning to worry Luna set her mug aside and motioned the maid back over.

"Fetch Commander Echo for me at once."

The maid bowed her head and closed her eyes. The faint outline of thestral mind magic illuminating them. "Oh, she was already on her way, Princess."

"Ominous." Luna rose from her seat and without a word to anypony stepped out in the hall to wait for the commander of her night guard. It was a short wait. The thestral mare was flying with clear purpose toward the dining room, but landed when she spotted Luna. "Commander, what is the trouble?"

"Bit of weirdness, Princess." Echo was a thestral mare of middle age, her stark white mane contrasting to her inky black coat. Streaks of silvery grey showed here and there in her hair, while she had clear laugh lines about her eyes. "We had an intruder in your sisters chambers."

"Were they apprehended?"

"No. We didn't know what exactly to do. It was a huge draft mare in a suit, we checked with the door watch and they said she was a member of Princess Twilight's entourage."

Luna narrowed her eyes in thought. "What exactly did she do?"

"Entered Celestia's chambers, milled about for several moments then leapt out her bed chamber windows into the courtyard below. Then she just bolted."

"She took nothing?"

"No, Princess. Not as far as we could tell."

Luna's frown deepened. Why would Twilight Sparkle bring such a pony? "The mare's coat and mane?"

"Black mane, blue coat."

"Hrm." The same coloration of Harm's illusion. Harm, the earth pony trapped as a human who was here to meet her estranged mother. Harm, whose name was short for Harmony. Luna rocked back on her hooves as if physically struck.

Echo's eyes widened in alarm. "My Princess? What is it?"

"Assemble the guard." She barely managed to find her voice.

"Princess? Which squads?"

"All. All of them! Assemble all of them, now! Find this mare! Every thestral in the castle must be out hunting her down! If she is located do NOT engage, contact me immediately! Am I understood?"

Echo didn't know what was going on but her lady liege was worked up and that's all she needed to know. Without a word she spun, spreading her wings and taking to the air.

Luna took a long moment to collect herself. Several deep breaths before she re-entered the dining room. Sunset Shimmer was speaking to Sonata Dusk at one corner of the table, and she made her way to the pair immediately, leaning in and lowering her voice to a harsh whisper. "If you and your empty headed compatriots do not find and return Harmony immediately my sister may well raze Equestria to the ground in a ball of molten fury, am I understood clearly?"

Sunset sucked in a breath and cast a nervous look toward Celestia. "I tried to tell Twili-"

Luna cut her off with a not so gentle slap across the face. "Damn Twilight Sparkle. You should have told me. You should have told Celestia. How could you betray us like this?"

Ears folded, Sunset Shimmer shrank back from the fury in Luna's eyes. "Princess I'm sorry. We'll... we'll make this right, right? The thestral filly at Twilight's can find her!"

"Do it. And know that there will be consequences for you, Twilight Sparkle, and everypony else involved in this travesty. We are MOST displeased, and the only reason I am not telling Celestia right this second is because if she learns of it it could very well doom our kingdom." She paused, glaring at the mare staring at her in fear. "Why are you still here? GO."

With a yelp but Sunset and Sonata vanished in a bright flash of teleportation magic. The room had fallen silent, everypony staring at her. Celestia looked most concerned. "Luna? What's wrong?"

Luna's wings ruffled uncomfortably. "Nothing you need concern yourself with, Celestia. A minor emergency but your festivities do not need to be interrupted. Please, enjoy yourselves. And do excuse me." Before her sister could ask another question, Luna was gone. First teleporting above the city, then taking wing about it searching desperately for a family member long lost.

== The Road to Ponyville ==

Harm wasn't one to show off. She didn't like it when attention was on her. Of any sort really. She kept as low a profile a girl could when she was just shy of seven feet tall. Everyone knew she was different. They knew she was strong.

She was also fast. Very fast.

The landscape was a blur as she ran as hard as she could. Canterlot already fading in the distance behind her as her legs pumped, carrying her toward Ponyville faster than the train had carried her away. She was a fair jumper as her rapid trip down the mountain Canterlot was perched on attested to.

She didn't know what she'd do when she got to Ponyville. Hopefully one of the geniuses could open the portal and send her home. She just had to get away from this place. The tears had stopped, probably because she ran out. But the tightness in her chest wouldn't go away.

She didn't see the dark shapes in the sky high above. Even if she were looking for them she probably wouldn't have noticed them. It was a foursome of young night guards. While not nearly as fast as Harmony, her frantic run found her tripping often. She'd pick herself back up and charge on quickly, but it slowed her enough for one of the many dispatched squads to locate her.

"That's gotta be the fugitive huh?" The youngest in the squad, a stallion barely old enough to qualify as such looked to his more experienced fellows.

The oldest in the bunch, a veteran mare nodded. "Obviously. I sent the Commander a message, she'll find Princess Luna and they'll be here soon enough. For now we just-"

But the young cadet had stopped listening. Eager to impress his superior and hungry for advancement in the guard he'd dipped into a dive angling at the fleeing earth pony. While she was running at very impressive speeds, a full dive from this height carried him at her quickly enough to close the distance, and collide hard with her.

Harm had no idea what hit her, but it hit her hard and fast and she went down just as hard. Skidding along the snowy ground, bouncing once off a hidden rock and tumbling end over end to land on her back in the snow. With a groan she picked herself up. Her suit was trashed but she barely cared, wiping blood from her nose with her sleeve she groggily scanned the area for her assailant.

She barely saw him in time. The black and purple armor was hard to see when he was airborne but he came in low enough for another dive that he was outlined clearly by the snow. Shrugging off her jacket she whipped it overhead and stepped aside, letting the diving attacker swoop right into her waiting suit jacket. She balled the other end around him as he tried to escape, then drove her first into the squirming bundle hard several times. She heard a satisfying crack before he went still.

She didn't hear the others. But they were all around her coming from nowhere. These she didn't see against the snow, but she felt them. They darted in quickly, struck her hard then were gone. The face, chest, stomach, arms, legs. A constant barrage of quick jabs and more than a few cuts. She spun back and forth trying to locate the source of the attack but the more experienced thestral guards weren't falling for her jacket trick again.

She knew she was losing blood, to much of it judging by the way the world was getting fuzzy and she was swaying on her feet. She braced herself for the next barrage, but before it could come a keening crack split the air, as black crystal jutted from the ground all around her. Harmony focused with some effort and saw three bat pony's in some kind of fancy purple armor squirming in the crystal.

"It seems the erstwhile fruit of my otherworldly loins has found herself on the wrong end of the law in fair Equestria."

She turned to the smooth male voice, as this world's Sombra calmly approached her. "I just..." She took a few unsteady steps toward him and lost her footing, falling forward to be caught by him.

"You just what, child?"

"I just want to go home."

"Then home you shall go." He cast a baleful glare toward the trapped night guard, before he and Harmony disappeared.

The squad leader grimaced. "Princess Luna is going to have our heads."

== Twilight's Castle ==

Harm heard voices arguing. A male and a female. She recognize them. Looking listlessly in their direction it was Sombra and Sunset Shimmer. She glanced around the room again in mild confusion. Wasn't she just outside int he snow? Something warm was on her hand. Looking down she found Sonata Dusk resting her head over her hand and thigh, looking up at her.

"Sonata... I wanna go home, man."

Sonata perked her ears toward the arguing pair, then looked back to Harmony. "Can I come with? This place sucks."

"...get me home, You can come with. I'll... letcha crash in my place or something."

"Alrighty. You'll probly have to help but we can do it." Nodding once, she moved over to stand behind Sombra, who seemed more interested in debating with Sunset than minding the former siren. He probably should have paid some attention to her, as Sonata lifted a heavy tome off one of the book shelves and clubbed him in the back of the head, dropping him to the ground hard.

Sunset shrieked in shock. "Sonata!? What are you do-" Sunset Shimmer joined Sombra on the floor as Sonata clubbed her across the face with the same volume. Tossing it aside she trotted to Harm and helped the woman to her feet.

"So like, we can open the gate. They just left the rune things out."


"But I need you to sing with me."

"Nnnn, I dun sing, Sonata."

"I know, but I need another bard to harmonize with me to do this. You don't have to like, sing words just make noise. Alright? Just follow my lead."

Harm did not want to do this, at all. But she wanted to be gone even more, so she nodded along with Sonata. The pony took in a breath and began to gently croon a simple rhythm, but Harmony could feel there was a crackle in the air. She listened for a moment to get the meter before reluctantly she opened her mouth.

Sonata had been around for a long time. She'd sung with a lot of partners, made music with a lot of creatures. But she'd never heard anything like the sounds coming from Harmony. Each note was pitch perfect and carried enough weight to make her embarrassed of her own tuneless squawking. But she kept at it, and the pair's joined harmony was having an effect.

The rune stones shuddered, flashed, and finally flared to life creating a crackling gateway. Harm stopped singing immediately and stumbled forward, tumbling through into the same motel room she'd left from a few days ago.

Sonata cast a quick glance back at Sunset and winced. "Sorry." She lunged forward, as she passed the portals entryway she snapped her tail, flicking the key rune through the portal with her, just barely making it through herself as it snapped shut behind.

== Canterlot Castle ==

It had been an odd Hearthswarming but they all were the last few years, Celestia mused to herself. She walked to her chambers with a stretch, rolling her neck and yawning heavily. It was far later than she was used to being up, and she was very much ready for bed.

Her sleepiness evaporated somewhat when she noticed her chamber doors open. All the staff had the day off, and she knew none of Luna's guards would enter her chambers and leave the door ajar. Cautiously she nudged the door open fully. "Chrysalis if you're here for some revenge scheme I am not in the..."

She trailed off when she saw a small object sitting on her night stand. The world fell away and there was nothing in it but Celestia... and the small silver locket sitting unassumingly beside her reading lamp. Numbly she crossed the room and stared down at it. With a shaking hoof she reached out and nudged it open.

Celestia's cry could be heard all through the city of Canterlot.

Chapter 9: A Mothers' Wrath

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Chapter 9: A Mothers' Wrath

The silence was stretching so long even Captain Echo was feeling uncomfortable. Her eyes darted from Luna to the three guards still encased in crystal. A slight twitch in her ears was the only thing to give away her nervousness.

Luna broke the silence after the seeming eternity. "Who is to blame?"

Echo licked her lips. Ordinarily she'd give some sort of smart mouthed quip. She had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn't be appreciated here. "I am, ma'am. Clearly my orders weren't clear enough." Her soldiers weren't fooled by the words. All three knew they were going to catch hell from their commanding officer.

"Mm." Luna glanced to the young stallion who'd started this, the jacket he was previously wrapped in now serving as a pillow. "The answer is I am to blame, of course. I was unclear in my orders."

"No, Princess it was our squad who-"

Luna cut the thestral mare in the crystal off with a raised hoof. "You see you were ordered to observe the subject and report her location to me not because she was a dangerous fugitive, but because she was out of sorts and in extreme emotional duress. I wished to approach my niece in person so that I may soothe that duress."

Echo's ear twitched again. "I'm sorry Princess I must have misheard, niece?"

"Yes. Your squad assaulted Celestia's daughter."

Another long silence stretched. "Like uh... how y'know... Twilight Sparkle or Sunset Shimmer..."

"No, Captain Echo. As in my sister carried her to term then gave birth to her, then she was torn from her hooves before two days had passed. She was here to meet with Celestia this evening, but her nerves caused her to flee. I thought my guard capable of tracking her, and reporting her locale to me. Instead they assaulted her. You have assaulted a member of the royal family. In olden times such an offense would be considered treason. I however am more merciful and shall instead think of a punishment as public and humiliating as possible. Then, if I am satisfied I may allow you to remain in Equestria and not send your sorry hides screaming down into the Shades, am I clear?!"

Luna took wing before they could reply, leaving them still trapped in the black crystal. Echo looked to the cadet then at her soldiers. "He'll live, when he wakes up he'll wish he hadn't. You'll all think the Shades are a walk in the clouds compared to what I'm going to do to you lot." She sucked in a sharp breath and exhaled it just as quickly. A keening wail coming from her mouth as the crystal shivered then shattered dropping the trio to the ground. "Get him to a medic then sit in the corners of the barracks like school foals until I return."

None of them argued with her.

== Twilight's Castle ==

Luna arrived to find Sombra with an ice pack against the back of his head, Sunset Shimmer with one on her face. "I take it Harmony is not here then?"

Sunset hastily averted her eyes while Sombra grimaced. "She is not. The spawn of Sirine clubbed the pair of us then opened the gateway, I assume with bardic magic."

Luna glanced around the room to the circle of rune stones, with one clearly missing. "Where. Is. The. Keystone?"

"I expect the siren took it with her to prevent your following them."

Luna closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. "Where is Twilight Sparkle?" She got out through gritted teeth.

"Panicking in her library." Luna turned her attention to Sunset as she finally spoke up. "I think she might be desperate enough for time travel."

"I will speak with her and calm her down. This is not beyond salvaging."

"I am not so sure." Sombra nodded toward a window, where the sky outside was brightening.

Luna didn't need to see the sky to know what was happening. She could feel the moon being forced aside as Celestia's sun blazed up into its place in the sky, though it was burning hotter than it should be. "Oh no."

A streak of golden light zipped through the window, racing about the room and settling above the circle of stones. Seconds later the temperature in the room spiked as Celestia herself appeared. Even Sombra took a nervous step back at the sight of her. Celestia mane and tail were whipping and roiling faster than ever, her eyes wide and more than a touch wild. Small embers flicking about her hooves as she whipped her head left and right.

"Where is she?! You will not keep her from me! Not again!"

Luna hastily stepped between her sister and the others. "Celestia... calm yourself, please. I am handling this. I assure you we will find her and reunite you in moments."

Celestia stared at Luna, blinking slowly for, as a long moment of silence stretched. "Calm myself?" She took a step forward, but Luna held her ground. "Calm myself? Is that what I should do Luna? Should I take a deep breath and calm down?"

It was taking all of Luna's control to keep her composure. "Y--yes." She cleared her throat. "Yes. Yes, sister I know this is-"

"You know nothing! You can't know, Luna! Don't even pretend! Where is she?!"

Sombra was nearer the window and the chill winter air so he wasn't as uncomfortable as the other two. Sunset Shimmer wasn't so lucky, the heat was becoming unbearable as sweat beaded all over her coat. She gasped as the air grew difficult to breathe, and she stumbled toward the doors. They nearly smacked her in the face as they flew open and Twilight Sparkle hurried in. "Princess, please! Don't be mad at them this was my fault!"

For just a moment Celestia's anger calmed, not much... but just enough. "Explain, Twilight Sparkle."

"I just..." Twilight gulped heavily. "Spike and I found your hidden room in the old castle and I read the journals! I'm so sorry but we know so little about you and I was curious-"

"Explain quicker."

Twilight gulped again. "I read about Harmony and knew I had to do something. I gathered the brightest minds in magic and we searched for her. It was Starlight who had the idea of looking through timeand dimensions, that was the key. Starswirl sent her not just to another world but another time as well."

Celestia blinked slowly, processing this. It made sense. "Keep going."

"We found her, alive and well! We were looking for... um, a body. Just something for you to have some closure but we found her! We sent two top agents of S.M.I.L.E. to investigate and confirmed it."

"This just happened moments ago I presume?"

Twilight was momentarily confused. "I... moments? No four days, Princess."

Luna winced. There was a right answer to Celestia's question and that was not it. Celestia took a step toward Twilight. "...four days?"

"Um, yes Princess."

"My daughter has been here, in this crystalline monstrosity for four days and you did not inform me because..."

"I..." It was now that she realized maybe she should have been listening to everypony who was telling her this was a stupid idea. "...I wanted to... present her to you as a... Hearthswarming surprise..."

Celestia's eyebrows rose and she took a step back. "Well. Consider me surprised, Twilight Sparkle. Consider me very surprised. Where is my Harmony now?"

"Fled, back to her own world."

Celestia rounded on Sombra as he answered. "How? Why?"

"I was star gazing on the veranda when I spotted her running across the snow. She's a very easy figure to pick out. She was being assaulted by several of your sister's guards, I intervened. She requested that I send her home. I planned to oblige but Sunset Shimmer disagreed. While we debated Sonata Dusk bashed us both unconscious and the two of them left."

Celestia whirled back to Luna, eyes dangerous wild. "Assaulted?!"

"Against my orders! I wanted her found and her location given to me that is all!"

"Given to you? Given to you?! I am surrounded by idiots! All of you! Out!" It wasn't a requested. Her horn burned brightly as her magic swept the three mares from the castle, painfully and abruptly.

Sombra stared impassively, though inwardly he winced for them. "I am not among that number?"

"They keystone is missing, I need your blood to reopen the gate without it."

"Ah, of course." He didn't complain or question it, simply levitated a letter opener from the writing desk nearby and used it to nick the bottom of his hoof, allowing some of the blood to drop onto the ground. Celestia imperiously thrust one of her own hooves at him, and he obliged creating a small cut. Her own blood falling and mingling with his.

"You know I've always been curious about blood magic."

"If I return I'll teach you anything you like about it." Eyes closed Celestia focused on the blood as the small puddles shivered and expanded, growing into a oval shaped gate.


"If." She stepped through, and it closed behind her.

== Outside Jerry's Bar ==

As she landed on her feet, Celestia began to connect the dots. A human world. The human in Equestria Luna was corresponding with. This was her. Some rational part of her knew Luna couldn't have known at the time, she'd have brought this to her. The irrational part said she'd make her pay for deceiving her later.

She rose to her full height and flexed her hands. It'd been a very long time since she felt this sensation. There were a pair of confused human youths in the midst of painting a wall with some sort of silver cans were staring at her, mouths agape nearby but she dismissed them. If the blood gate didn't bring her to Harmony directly it brought her to someplace very dear to her.

She looked up at the establishment in front of her. "A tavern." She tried the door but found it locked. She could have unlocked it with a spell, instead she turned the knob hard enough to break the lock, allowing herself inside.

The inside of the tavern had powerful aromas, mostly humans but the drinks behind the bar and food in the kitchens were also strong. A portly human male was staring in shock. He looked like he was in the middle of preparing to leave out a back door when Celestia entered.

She was an imposing figure in Equestria, and no less on Earth. A few inches taller than Harmony herself, her body clothed in a gauzy white gown that clung tightly. Her thick hair still wafted in an unseen breeze. "Holy shit, yer hair aint'cha?"


"Yeah... you gotta be. Harm's ma, right?"

That name, Harm. It struck a sudden chord with her. "Harm..." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Ignoring the male she approached a set of wooden stairs, taking them two at a time she followed the scent of the mare she'd met in Berry Punch's own tavern.

The room was a pig sty. Clothes strewn about the floor, odd figurines mingled with empty food and beverage containers. It smelled horribly... it smelled like Harm. Like Harmony. Her Harmony. "I talked to her. I shared a drink with her. I shared a cell with her..." Celestia walked into the room fully, taking it in.

"That sounds like Harm."

Celestia didn't turn to look at the human. "You know her well?"

"Oh sure, her whole life almost. Her old man and I met on a fishing trip up north."

"Her old man. Her father? She has a father?"

"Uh... doesn't everyone."

Celestia inhaled sharply. She fought her temper down. She was not this man's Princess, she was a stranger here. "Indulge me... please."

"...well you got Harm's temper. Sorry. Uh, yeah. Yeah look I'm happy ta talk all night about Harm with ya if ya want, but wasn't she goin' ta meetcha?"

"Evidently something happened that scared her off." Celestia ran her fingers along her daughters possessions, before staring down at the bed. "This is where she lives? This... room?"

"Uh, yup. Yeah. I rent it to her." Jerry chuckled nervously. "Well I guess rent it to her implies she pays rent huh? She stays here."

This tiny room wasn't the size of her closet back home. "She is in your employ then, Mr...?"

"Oh uh, Jerry. Jerry Hodgins. Yeah, I guess. She's a bouncer here."

"Yes... of course." Her daughter was a tavern wench. Things were beginning to click into place. The poor woman spent four days in Equestria no doubt hearing how great she was from everypony she spoke to. No wonder she fled. "Where is she?"

"Uh, yeah I dunno I thought she was with you. If ya don't mind my askin'... are you like, an alien?"


"...oh. Well... oh. I mean I kinda always figured they way her an Armie are but uh..."

"Armie... is her father?"

Jerry ran a hand over his head. "Hoo. Man I don't do well with this sorta thing. I'm kinda fallin' apart here, sorry lady. Yeah, yeah Armie's her pop. Guessin' if you don't know that, he ain't the real dad."

Celestia frowned slightly. She was intimidating this human to the point of uselessness. She offered him a patient smile. "I apologize if I am making you uncomfortable, I have not seen my daughter since she was taken from me. It has been... a very long time. To my deep shame I admit I gave up on ever seeing her again. So now that I am so close I am both curious and over eager to reunite."

Her tone and words seemed to go a long way toward easing his tension. "It's alright. I'm guessin' it didn't go so hot then?"

"It did not. I'm afraid she grew intimidated about who and what I am, and left before we could meet properly."

"You must be somethin' else. Harm and intimidate don't really go together unless she's doin' the intimidatin'."

"Yes, I expect that's true." She picked up one of the toys, turning it gently in her hands before setting it back down. "You're sure you have no idea where she is?"

"Yeah. I didn't hear her bike or nothin', so she didn't go far I guess? I dunno, the kid's usually pretty reliable y'know? Doesn't wander off without sayin' anything to me."

"You must mean a great deal to her."

"Oh. Uh, I dunno about that. Hey, you wanna come down? Have a drink. I got some wings I could drop in the fryer for ya. If Harm's uh... around, she'll be home soon."

Home. Celestia flinched slightly when he said that. This washer home. Harm's home, not Harmony she reminded herself. Her Harmony who wasn't a filly, but a grown mare. A foul mouthed hard fighting, hard drinking mare. Who lived in squalor above a filthy tavern. Celestia fought the rising anger back down again. "Her father... do you know where he is?"

"Yeah. Yeah I do uh, they got visitin' hours and such y'know?"

"Visiting hours? Is he imprisoned?"

"Hah! Armie in prison? Nah, never met a guy that straight laced. Nah he's sick, in a convalescence home. They only allow family in late."

"I am not concerned with that. If I could beg your assistance would you be willing to escort me to where he is? I would very much like to meet the man who raised my daughter."

Jerry wasn't sure what it was, but this woman had an edge of danger about her and he didn't like it. On the other hand she could probably fold him in two as easily as Harm could, and he had no way of getting ahold of her. Making a mental promise to buy her a cell phone he swallowed his nerves and offered his best smile. "Sure, we can take my truck."

== Cherrywood Nursing Home ==

Celestia stepped out of Jerry's truck, cracking her stiff neck from having it cocked at an odd angle for so long. "I will not be long, would you be willing to wait for me, Jerry?"

"Yeah, sure. S'just uh, two in the morning but sure."

"Thank you." Celestia ignored his obvious sarcasm, looking up at the large building. She was familiar with such homes in Equestria, and cared little for them. One's elders should be cared for by family not strangers. Still this wasn't her land, and not her place to critique. Some needed care their families simply couldn't provide after all.

With a small sigh she stepped to the front doors, taking a step back in surprise as they hissed upon of their own accord. "Hm." Quick stepping through them she was less startled when they closed on their own.

A human woman about Jerry's age was behind the desk, staring at her openly. She was wearing a pale pink set of scrubs, while a pair of thick glasses hung from a chain around her neck. "You uh... friends with Harm?"

Celestia quirked a curious brow. "You know Harmony?"

"Heh, I know her well enough not to call her that, that's for sure. Figured the uh... size of you, and the hair color... and it's floating, why is it floating?"

"Magic. I'm here to speak with Harm's father."

"Oh well uh, how are you related?"

"I am Harmony's mother."

"Oh. Oh wow you look really good for a kid that age huh? I meant how are you related to Armie? Guessing not wife since you've never come up."

Celestia's patience was wearing thinner and thinner. With a twist of her fingers she cast a simple charm spell over the woman. "I would be very grateful if you would tell me where I may find Armie?"

The humans concern melted away into a wide smile. "Of course dear, room 307. Have a lovely visit."

Celestia didn't return the smile as she strode briskly away down the hall. Everything here made her uncomfortable, from the powerful scents to the bright false lightning and artificial floor and ceilings. She'd seen elevators in Manehattan but the ones here were very... shiny. She rode one up to the third floor, exiting and following the signs to room 307.

The door was unlocked, and she showed herself inside. The room was sparse, a bed and an old radio mostly. A large human male was sleeping restlessly in the bed, his padded leather cuffs at his ankles and wrists holding him secure. She could tell he'd once been a giant of a man, though the years had been unkind to him. The skin hung slack on his muscles, rough lines creased his face.

She approached slowly. Something about him was familiar. She took a step back as his eyes snapped open and focused on her. "Princess? Princess Celestia?"

"That voice... Captain Armor? Mythril Armor... you? You were complicit in this!?"

He thumped back in the pillows, arm jerking in the restraints. "Knight Captain Mythril Armor reporting for duty, ma'am!"

"Are you trying to salute me? Are you mockingme, Captain? How dareyou after..." Celestia trailed off. The old man wasn't looking at her anymore. He stared unfocused at the ceiling, humming softly to himself. "...what is wrong with you..."

She moved closer, studying him intently. "Of course... Harmony grew up here. Her magic adapted to this world but you... you were starved for Equestrian magic weren't you?" She was going to get her answers. Lips pursed in frustration she held her hands out, releasing some of her personal stored magic and feeding it into the Captain slowly.

It had the desired effect, his eyes cleared and his humming stopped. He gazed about the room blinking slowly, before focusing on Celestia. "Princess... you're here. You're finally here." Tears formed in the old man's eyes.

Eyes narrowed in confusion Celestia moved to his side, looming over him. "You were expecting me, Captain?"

If her cold tone worried the Captain it didn't show. "Of course. Well, not you ma'am. Starswirl said he'd be along for us when it was safe. I'm glad to see you're alright."

Celestia's thoughts raced as she worked to process everything. "Safe from what, Knight Captain?"

Now it was the Captain's turn to look confused. "The assassins? The changelings who'd infiltrated the castle coming for Harm."


"As you say, ma'am. She prefers Harm. Starswirl came to me, thrust the foal in my hooves and charged me with protecting her. Then he sent us here."

Starswirl the bearded. Celestia ground her teeth, fists clenched tightly at her sides. Not only had he stolen her foal but he deprived her nation of one of its finest military mind at the same time. "I... see."

Mythrial Armor's brow furrowed. "Ma'am? I'm confused. I know she's not... she's not what you'd have done with her but I did my best. I was never good with foals. I had no idea what I was doing but... I tried."

Celestia didn't miss the desperation in his voice. "...yes, I know. You did a fine job, Knight Captain. I think it's time you got home."

"Ahh..." A smile finally found its way to his face. "How's Equestria? It's been so long, no trouble from the griffons anymore I hope."

"The griffons..." Celestia trailed off when she realized the Knight Captain had lost everything that night as well. He'd been gone just over fifteen hundred years. His wife, his sons, everypony he knew was gone. Except herself and Luna, which she expected would be little comfort.

Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes and collected her thoughts. "Captain I... we will talk at length soon. I'm going to send you home."

"Finally. Is Harm waiting there?"

"Not yet, I intend to find her soon."

"Find her? What do you mean, find her? Where is she? She's not with you?" He attempted to sit up, grunting at the restraints.

Celestia removed them with a wave of her hand. "She is not. We'll be back in Equestria soon enough, Knight Captain."

"Princess with all due respect I'm not going anywhere knowing my girl is missing."

Nostrils flared as Celestia stared down at the seated man. "...your girl, Knight Captain?"

"I..." He faltered. "...I apologize, Princess. Your filly of course I just... I raised her. From a foal. I'm... attached."

He was a victim as much as Harmony and herself, she had to remind herself. Getting angry with him would solve nothing. "The land is unhealthy, you will return to Equestria and debrief with Luna, am I clear?"

While clearly unhappy, he wasn't going to argue with her. "Yes... Princess."

"Very good, Knight Captain Armor." She didn't spare anymore words on him, she pricked her finger and opened the blood portal, gently nudging him through to the other side. She briefly saw her sisters concerned face before slamming it shut again.

A few deep breaths later she left the nursing home, returning to Jerry and his truck. The man was speaking into a little device in his hand, finishing his conversation as she arrived. "I know where Harm is."

"You do? Where is she? Please!"

"She's in the hospital."

Chapter 10: A Mothers' Lament

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Chapter 10: A Mothers' Lament

It was a tense ride in the truck for Celestia. Every time Jerry had to slow down or stop altogether for various signs and lights she felt her impatience growing. Clearly this was obvious to the man as he kept shooting her nervous looks, sweat beading on his brow. Finally he rolled down the window a crack. "You uh, makin' all that heat?"

"Yes. It happens when I become stressed."

"Oh." What else could he say? She said it as if it were the most normal thing in the world. "Harm doesn't do that."


"No. Uh, not so much that I ever noticed before. She's fine I'm sure. Harm's a tough girl. She's been in there plenty'a times but never ya know, as a patient."

The chatter was serving enough of a distraction that Celestia couldn't help but calm somewhat. "Oh?"

"Oh sure. Neighborhood used ta be pretty rough, til Harm moved in. She cracked a lotta heads, cleaned the place up good. She always had ta come down every week or so. She got shot a lot."

"With what?"

"Uh, a gun. It never broke the skin or nothin' but she'd get wicked bruises and bitch an moan til I brought her in for them ta give her some kinda pain meds." He chuckled at the memory. "Good times."

"You cared for her when her... father became ill?"

"Oh sure. Hell before that. Armie didn't know how ta raise a kid. I mean I don't neither but the wife was always good with em. Have a few of our own runnin' around the country now. Couple of the boys are back home for Christmas." Jerry looked thoughtful for a moment. "Guess them bein' aliens explains why he didn't seem to know much about nothin' when we met, huh?"

"Yes, I suppose he would have been very disoriented. But... Armie... was a decorated military hero from a very turbulent time in our people's history. He is exceptionally skilled at adaptation among other things."

"Sure, sure that makes sense. He caught on to stuff quick." Jerry floundered for something to keep the conversation going, but sort of lapsed into a tense silence as they navigated the city streets.

Before long they arrived at a massive building complex that rivaled Celestia's castle in size. She'd seen other worlds with huge cities but this one was by far the most advanced from a technological standpoint. She pushed her natural curiosity aside as she followed Jerry inside. She was aware of the looks she was drawing from the humans in the building but paid them little mind, she was used to being gawked at.

It reeked of illness and medicine. She never cared for healing houses. She was rather squeamish and it was why she pushed so hard for healing magics to be so widely practiced back home. Of course the benefit to her subjects was her prime concern... but not having to endure these sorts of institutions was a huge bonus for her.

Lost in her own musings she paid little mind as Jerry conversed with the uniformed humans. He seemed increasingly agitated so she focused on him again. "What's wrong?"

"It's way passed visitin' hours so normally it's family only. You uh, well d'you got ID or anything?"

Celestia just raised an eyebrow at the question and approached the human behind the desk, reaching into the folds of the gauzy gown she wore she produced a small leather bound book, opening it for him. "I am here to see my daughter."

The woman looked at the paper, then to Jerry. "If you say it's okay Jerr, it's okay. Maggie's already with her, fifth floor ICU."

Jerry nodded his thanks and ushered Celestia down the hall toward some elevators. "Didn't expect you to have a license or anything."

"I do not." Celestia showed him the book of paper, it was blank. "The viewer sees whatever they need to see to allow me passage in a given situation. I traveled many worlds in my youth and this was an easy way to get around many hassles. What is an ICU?"

Jerry blinked trying to wrap his head around what she was saying about the little book, he almost missed the question. "Uh, intensive care unit. It means she's hurt pretty bad. Dunno what the hell can do that to Harm though."

Celestia's fists clenched tightly as she rode the elevator up with Jerry. The man loosened his collar from the sudden heat coming off her, and she forced herself to calm her temper. "My apologies Mr. Hodgins, I am trying to remain calm."

"Nah... nah I know how ya feel. It's alright. So listen... I know yer anxious ta see Harm but maybe lemme go in first? If she's in a bad way seein' you might upset her more."

"I hate to admit it but you are probably correct. I will wait, but not long."

"Sure, sure. Just uh, grab seat I guess." Jerry motioned to a set of leather bound seats while he moved quickly in the other direction.

Celestia was about to follow him, before she noticed who was occupying the seats. Gritting her teeth she stormed up to the bored looking Sonata Dusk. "What are youdoing here?"

Sonata raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Waiting for them to fix Harm. What're youdoing here?"

"I..." Celestia was taken aback at Sonata's blase tone. "I am here to see my daughter!"

"Oh. She doesn't wanna see you."

"Nnk." Celestia ground her teeth in frustration. "Sonata I am being serious. Whydid you follow her to this world?"

Noting the shift in Celestia's tone, Sonata gave the Princess her full attention. "We're sisters."

Celestia's blinked, confused for just a moment before she got the girls' meaning. "You're not a siren anymore, Sonata Dusk. You don't have a coven."

Sonata's dull stare never changed. "You're not a pony right now, did you just forget thousands of years of instinct and culture because you look different on the outside."

Again Celestia was surprised by the other woman. "That... that is different Sonata and you know it."

Sonata shrugged, clearly losing interest in the conversation and looking away again. "We shared song together, so she's my sister. That's all there is to it. I can't carry a tune anymore but my bardic magic is still there."

Celestia wanted to scream and lash out at Sonata, but she knew there was no point. She took a seat across from her trying to keep her composure. "Do you know Harmony's condition?"

"She prefers Harm."

Celestia took a slow breath in her nose, and a slow exhale from her mouth. "...yes, I recall that. Sonata please answer my question."

"She was poisoned by those thestrals your sister keeps as her pets or whatever."

"Poisoned?!" Celestia was on her feet in an instant, rushing in the direction Jerry had gone. She found him standing outside staring into a glass window, fists clenched at his sides. On the other side of the glass a number of humans were rushing about the prone and bloodied form of her daughter, laying pale and still on a large table.

When Celestia moved to let herself in, Jerry hastily interposed himself between her and the door. "Hey yer not supposed to go in there, ma'am."

She made the faintest of gestures, lifting him off his feet with her magic and setting him down away from the door. "Sonata! Come!" She could hear the pounding of feet as Sonata Dusk hurried from her seat toward Celestia.

The humans in the room reacted poorly to her being there. Shouts of surprise and demands for her to leave. She ignored them, again using her magic to move them out of her way, one by one she swept them into the hall only releasing them when Sonata arrived. "Close the door, and make sure they can't get in."

Sonata hm'd to herself as she grabbed an iv stand, bending it around the door handle and keeping it from opening. "Don't think they can get in now."

"Good. You need to hold Harmony down while I purge the poison."

"She prefers-" Sonata wilted under the glare of Celestia, and hurried over to her side.

"Hold her as still as you can. She's going to thrash around as I burn the poison out."

"Uh, burn it out?"

"Yes, Sonata. Do you carry vials of anti-toxin to powerful thestral anti-coagulants on your person?"

There was a pause. "I... don't thinkso?"

"Then hold her down."

Sonata swallowed and draped herself over Harmony as best she could, getting a secure grip on the heavy metal bed. "Okay uh, got her."

"Right then." The glow around Celestia's hands intensified as she laid them on either side of Harm's face. "I'm so sorry for this."

Then Harmony woke up screaming.

== Elsewhere ==

"Huh." It was all Harmony could think to say. She remembered leaving pony land, and coming back to Detroit. Then... getting dizzy. Now she was... she looked around. In some sort of huge white void.

"...huh." What else could she say really? She squinted, straining to see anything over the horizon but there was nothing. Just white, everywhere she looked.

"Uh, hello?"


"Yah-ha shit fuck!" Harmony leapt upward and away from the voice suddenly at her back, whirling to find Pearl, or the Pale Mare. Whatever the fuck they called her. "Oh shit, am I dead?"

"Not quite." Pearl regarded her calmly.

"Well what the fuck does that mean? Am I or aren't I?"

"It means 'not quite'. I have many flaws but lack of enunciation isn't one of them."

"Apparently being an asshole is."

Pearl shrugged, tiling her head to regard Harm curiously. "Yes, probably."

Harmony glared at the tall pony for a moment of silence. "Well why the fuck am I wherever the fuck I am if I'm not dead?"

"You're in purgatory. Where the dead pass before moving to their final resting places."

"So... I am dead?"


Harm sucked in her breath and stepped closer quickly, her eyes flaring with anger so much that Pearl back pedaled in alarm. "Look lady you wanna tell me what the fuck is going on before I completely lose my mind?"

"You're not dead, you're in a state between life and death. Only a titan can kill another titan and Luna's guard are most certainly not titans."

Harm didn't seem to be calming any, but she wasn't stomping forward anymore. "So why'm I here?"

"I wasn't watching but I assume you were gravely wounded. We can't be killed by mortals but we can be hurt, our bodies even destroyed. We reconstitute later but it often takes several decades."

"Decades? What the fuck am I supposed to do for that long? Bum around this shit heap of nothing?"

Pearl shrugged. "Er, I sincerely hope not. You're very loud and angry. I find it upsetting."

"Well I died so fuck you."

Pearl scuffed a hoof. "I think I am going to leave now, safe travels."

Harm lunged forward as Pearl turned to leave. "Wait! Wait don't go! Shit... I uh, sorry I know it's not your fault I've just had... a really shit few days. And this is a big fucking cherry on top of my shit sundae. All this white is really freaking me out too."

"Ah." The scene just shifted. Harm didn't have another way to explain it. One moment it was solid white, the next they were inside a small home. Comfy chairs, a thick plush couch, a kitchenette with a tea kettle on.

"Whoof. Magic huh?"

"Yes. This is my home."

"Oh, uh... okay." Harm awkwardly lowered herself into a seat. "Thanks for inviting me in?"

"You are welcome." Pearl poured her a cup of tea setting it in front of her.

Harm wasn't much of a tea drinker but it had been a less than awesome few days so she sipped from it. "This isn't bad, what is it?"

"Daisy with a hint of lilac."

"Huh, like... flowers? Like actual daisies."

"Yes, you've never had them?"

Harm shrugged eyeing the tea before drinking again. "No, humans don't really eat flowers. Jerry says I used to eat Maggie's flowers out of her garden when I was a baby but I don't remember that."

"Who are Jerry and Maggie?"

"My back up folks I guess. Jerry and my dad were fishing buddies, Maggie is Jerry's wife. We were neighbors and they kinda took care of me a lot. Dad sucked at it."

"They sound like good people."

"Yeah." Harm set the tea cup down and got up, moving to look out the cabin window. "They're family I guess. Maggie was like a mom, I always thought of their sons as brothers."

"So you're not terribly in need of a mother?"

Harm snorted. "I haven't been in need of a mother for like eight years, man. I'm almost twenty seven."


Harm regarded Pearl with mild confusion. "So I'm an adult?"

"Hm. I do not see that."

"Oh. Well. Fuck you too I guess." She looked back outside. "What's with the tree?"

Pearl moved to her side gazing out the window as well. "That is my pillar."

"It looks like a tree."


Harm sucked in a sharp breath through her nose. She didn't think this chick was deliberately fucking with her but she was losing her already thin patience.

Pearl seemed to notice Harmony's mounting frustration. "I apologize, Harmony. I am not very social and conversation is rare for me. I forget you are not native so I shall explain if you like?"

"Sure. And I'm sorry too, I know you didn't have to hang with me here so I'll try to be chill."

Pearl inclined her head and motioned to the sofa again where Harm took a seat. "There are six pillars that were created by the original titans and maintain the balance of the world. Three trees of black magic, and three of white magic."

"So like, three bad ones and three good ones?"

"No. Black and white magics are like any other weapon, they are only good or bad in the hooves of their wielders. The pillars of black magic are Death, Darkness, and Chaos. The pillars of white magic are Life, Light, and Harmony."

"So that's the Pillar of Death? What's it do?"

Pearl shrugged. "I do not know, maintain the concept of death perhaps? Since I was born it has been my job to shepherd the souls of the dead. No one really told me any specifics, I just knew what to do. Perhaps the tree instructed me."

"Okay. So each of these things has like a gardener?"

Pearl chuckled softly. "No, only the trees of death, darkness, and chaos have gardeners as you call it. Equus has been imbalanced for a very long time."

"Which is bad." Harm was listening but she was also growing increasingly uncomfortable. Like someone had cranked the thermostat up way to high, which was weird because she never got uncomfortable in the heat.

"Probably. I do not give the world of the living much notice."

"Other than to steal food from buffet tables?" Harm couldn't miss the chance to be a dick, but she wiped some sweat from her forehead, her breath getting shorter. "What the fuck is going on?"

"I believe you are being revived, congratulations."

"Thanks... but why is it so fucking hot?"

== The Living World ==

"So...na...ta... her... hands...." Celestia was barely managing to maintain her focus on burning the poison out of Harmony. One hand was on either side of her daughters face, in a vice like grip as she released the smallest amounts of her magic into the flailing, shrieking woman. Unfortunately Harmony's hands had found Celestia's throat and were steadily choking the life out of her.

"I can't hold her down and hold her hands, Cici!" It was all Sonata could do to maintain her hold on the thrashing Harmony, laying across her body and pinning her to the bed.

With a grimace Celestia looked to the door where a constant stream of hammering could be heard. She twitched a finger in its direction melting the IV stand holding it shut to slag. The door flew open as several humans barreled in. Several medical staff and men in uniform rushed into the room, as well as Jerry. "What the hell're you doing to her?"

Reluctantly Celestia paused in her efforts, the golden glow around her abating instantly, and Harmony flopping back into the bed limply. "I will explain this once and not indulge any questions, you may either help or be removed from the room am I clear?"

The giant woman who was glowing a moment ago only got dazed nods from the gathered men and women.

"Excellent. Harmony has been infected with a toxin utilized by my sisters' soldiers to incapacitate extremely dangerous threats. It saps the victims magic and prevents their wounds from closing, so even someone as hardy as Harmony will be rendered helpless. Ordinarily an antidote is given once the culprit is in custody, however Harmony fled my world and returned here where there IS no antidote."

She laid a hand on her daughters sweat soaked forehead. Sonata Dusk leaned against the nearby wall to catch her breath. "I cannot open the path back for several days, so I have to release the tiniest amounts of my own magic into her body and systematically eliminate every trace of the toxin. This is an excruciatingly intricate process, and unfortunately incredibly painful to Harmony. As you saw we need assistance in restraining her. Does everyone understand?"

There was a bit of confused murmuring before Jerry nudged one of the men in uniform hard in the ribs. "Don't stand there like an idiot, go get yer sister's arm. I'll take the left, you get the right."

"What? Why do I gotta get the right? She's right handed, it's her stronger arm!" The man in question was of considerable size and stature himself, like Jerry he was tall and heavily built, though more muscle than paunch like his father.

"You want the legs?"

This caused the officer to pale and he shook his head rapidly, hastily moving over to Harmony's right arm while Jerry moved for the left. "This is my oldest boy, Jake. Jake this is Harm's ma, Celestia. She's a Princess or somethin'."

"Oh uh, nice to meet you ma'am." Jake motioned to the other uniformed human, a dark skinned man who moved to his partners side. "Alright, help me hold her arm here Danny."

Danny grimaced. "Man I've seen your baby sister lift a dude twice her size with that arm and toss him through a wall."

Jake nodded. "Yup, and we get to hold it still while the lady does what she's gotta do."

Celestia nodded politely but paid their banter little mind. She did note that he called Harm his 'sister', Jerry's family was likely closer to Harmony than he initially let on. "Sonata, take her legs."

"Bothof them?!"

"Sonata if one of the humans tries they'll likely wind up killed by her, you'll be fine."

Sonata looked like she very much had a different definition of fine than Celestia did, but she moved to do as instructed. The doctors seemed less inclined to follow the strange woman's orders until a large woman in scrubs began berating them. "You lot aren't just gonna stand around while my girl is hurting, get in there and help dammit, the lady was just glowing with fire coming out of her hands, I think it's safe to say this is the best treatment we got for Harm."

The nurses' words seemed to motivate them to action, though they had little to do other than hold Harmony down by the middle. One orderly helped Jerry with the left arm while two more helped Sonata with her legs. Taking a deep breath Celestia nodded to the group. "Alright, I'm going to begin again. Get ready."

Even with the efforts of the humans and Sonata, they weren't able to keep the wildly thrashing Harmony still long. Sonata caught a foot to the face that sent her staggering back. With her legs loose Harm was able to buck her torso more forcefully shaking off the orderlies, while her right arm flexed hard enough to send both officers flipping over the table, clipping Jerry and knocking him to the floor as they crashed into the opposite wall.

Celestia braced herself for Harmony to begin attacking her again, when a stern voice cut through the din of Harm's snarling. "That's enough, young lady!"

Celestia was almost shocked into stopping her work as Harmony's body went rigid, her hands reaching for the Princess but not quite making it to her throat. Looking to the door she saw the nurse who'd called Harmony her girl. "I think you've carried on long enough, let the woman do her work."

The Princess refocused her efforts as Harm twisted and writhed in her hands, but wasn't lunging for her any longer. "It... hurrrrrts...."

The woman in the nurses' scrubs crossed the room quickly, taking one of Harms' hands in her own. Harmony immediately clamped down on it strong enough to draw a brief pained expression. "I know it hurts, baby. But you have to be strong alright? You went twenty six years without so much as a boo-boo, a few minutes of ouchies aren't anything to be caterwauling about."

Harm gasped softly as Celestia twisted her magic inside slowly, but methodically. The nurse murmured soothing words and gently stroked Harms face. Her presence seemed to calm her greatly, and Celestia was able to work in peace.

But watching the way the two interacted with one another, she felt anything but peace in her heart.

== Later ==

Two unconscious orderlies where wheeled to their own rooms for treatment for their concussions. Sonata Dusk was seated on an exam table getting her broken nose treated. Jake and his partner were getting x-rays for possible broken ribs while Jerry was being fussed over by his wife, even though he had escaped more or less unscathed.

An exhausted Celestia sat beside Harmony's hospital bed, exhausted both physically and mentally. But looking at her daughters calm face as she slept soundly made all the mayhem worth it. She was a little surprised by the privacy they were being given by the medical staff, ordinarily such people were extremely fussy over the people in their care but right now she just didn't have the energy to indulge her curiosity.

"How's she doing?"

Celestia looked up. She felt a pang of irritation but dismissed it quickly. It was the woman who'd called Harm 'her girl'. She must be Jerry's mate. She was in her middle years by Celestia's best reckoning. A broad woman with a friendly enough face, her greying brown hair pulled back in a tight bun. A name tag that read Maggie was pinned to the breast of her pink scrubs. "Resting, but she'll be fine in a couple of days."

Maggie moved into the room and handed Celestia a cup of water before she turned her attention to Harmony. Fussing over her blankets, fluffing the pillow, mopping at some sweat on her forehead. "I worry about my boys all the time. Especially Jake. But Harm, I never thought I had to worry about her."

Celestia observed the woman closely. She was clearly used to situations like this, all medical professionals had to be. Especially ones that had been doing it as long as she had. But her movements were tense, a bit frantic. Her eyes were threatening to water at any second. "You love her very much don't you?"

"She's my girl. Sorry for saying, I know you gave birth to her but I raised her. Jerry will tell you different but that's the way it is. Armie, bless his heart, is a good man but he was helpless with a baby. He only got worse as she got older."

Celestia wrestled with her emotions. The annoyingly present rage threatened to boil over again but with tremendous effort she forced it back down. "Thank you, for being good to her. For giving her the things I couldn't."

Maggie sniffled softly then took a deep breath. "You said she's going to be our for a while?"

"The poison is potent and the treatment was exhautsing for her, it seems her natural healing is on par with my own, but it should be two or three days at the soonest before she wakes up."

"Dammit. We're going to have to intubate her, can't run an IV."

"Why?" Celestia wasn't familiar with the terms but it sounded like something she should be informed on.

"Well she needs fluids and we can't get a needle in her skin."

Celestia furrowed her brow. "Explain this to me, please."

Maggie looked her over for a moment before nodding. "Alright... we would normally run a small tube filled with the fluids she needs through a needle in her veins. But Harm's skin is so tough we can't get the needle in. So instead we have to run a tube down her throat and do it that way."

"Show me the needle you would use." Seeing the woman's frown, Celestia hastily added a please.

"Mmm." Maggie moved to a nearby cabinet opening it and taking out a small kit. She brought the needle over to Celestia, who took it carefully, cupping both hands over it there was a soft flash of gold. When she opened her hands again the metal was an odd purple color. "What did you just do?"

"I transmuted it to adamantine. That should go through her skin with no problem." She offered the needle back to Maggie, who took it gingerly.

Clearly skeptical but concerned for Harmony, Maggie moved back to Harm's side and gingerly pressed the needle against her arm. She couldn't hide a small gasp of surprise as it slid in easily. With ease born of years of practice she fed the IV quickly and hung the bag over Harm's bed. "...who are you?"

"My name is Celestia. Celestia Sol Equus if you'd like my full name but truth be told very few people even know I have more of a name beyond Celestia." She allowed herself a faint chuckle. "I sometimes think most of my subjects think my first name is Princess."

"I got your name from Jerr. I mean whoare you? whatare you?"

"Ah..." Celestia sipped the water and let out a soft sigh. "I am the Princess of a land called Equestria. If you like I'd be happy to chat all about myself at another time. As to what, I am technically an alien."

"And so is Harm? She's never done glowy stuff like all that."

"Ah. We have three main tribes of people where I'm from. Some do magic, some fly, some have great physical ability and magic of the land. That's the tribe Harm was born into."

"How come she wasn't one of the magic ones if you are?" Maggie was clearly skeptical of all this but she did see this woman shoot fire out of her hands and turn a needle into some kinda purple metal.

"A fair question. I am... mmm... I suppose most people would consider us gods of a sort. We called ourselves titans. We're not all knowing and all seeing of course, but we're each immensely powerful. My parents created the world and gave birth to my sisters and I. My youngest sister discovered a means for us to have the traits of all three tribes. Until recently I thought a natural occurrence of such a thing was impossible. When she was old enough I planned to guide Harmony through ascension."

"Hm." Maggie digested what she was hearing. "Well you sound as crazy as a sack of cats if you don't mind my saying."

Celestia shrugged, quirking a small smile. "I'm quite sure to you I do, yes. Nevertheless it is what it is. I'd normally be happy to invite you to Equestria to validate my claims but at the moment my only concern is Harmony."

Maggie hm'd to herself again. "Come on, let's get some coffee. You look like you need a whole pot of it."

Celestia was loathe to leave Harmony's side, and it clearly showed on her face. "She's not going anywhere. Technically visiting hours are over anyhow so you're not supposed to be in here. We're being flexible given the... unusual circumstances, but the rules are the rules and they apply to everyone. Even alien Princesses."

Despite herself, Celestia couldn't help but laugh at the woman's jocular manner. "Yes, very well. I don't want to cause Harmony any more distress than I already have. Coffee sounds delightful." She rose and followed Maggie from the room, looking back at Harmony's sleeping face one last time before the pair departed.

== Canterlot Castle ==

"No way."

"But Cadance please, the situation..."

Cadance raised a hoof, cutting Luna off in mid-sentence. "I have the Crystal Empire to look after, Luna. Between hostile yaks and even more hostile reindeer I don't have time to deal with the Canterlot drama."

Luna's wings twitched open in outrage, glaring at the magical mirror linking Canterlot and the Empire. "How dare you be so dismissive of all this! Celestia may not return!"

"Maybe not. I can't really blame her after the ludicrous shit show you ponies staged down there." There was a pause as Cadance looked away from the mirror. "...yes sweetie, mommy did say a swear and she'll put a bit in the jar in a minute. I have to hang up on Aunt Luna first."

"I... you wha-" The mirror abruptly went dark, showing Luna her own reflection. Nostrils flared in outrage, it was all she could do not to hurl the accursed thing at the wall shattering it. Grinding her teeth she turned and stormed out of the communications room, turning her glare onto the silently waiting Captain Echo, who was studiously studying the stonework in the floor.

"Where is Twilight Sparkle?"

"Princess Twilight has er... not responded to our communique's Princess."

A slight twitch found its way into Luna's right eye. "Did ANY of the halfwit newly ascended alicorns respond to my summons?"

"Oh! Yes, Princess. The ladies Belle and Pie are in the western tea room."

"Ngh. Come up with something for Lady Pie to do, now. I wish to speak with Lady Belle alone."

Echo rushed off to obey Luna's orders while the Princess paced in the hall, wings flexing open and closed as she worked to calm herself. "Rough night, Princess?"

Luna looked over her shoulder to see Raven, Celestia's personal assistant. She'd had little interaction with the mare mostly due to their conflicting sleep schedules. "That would be an understatement."

"Well, I'm here at your disposal Princess Luna."

Luna ceased her pacing, turning to face the young unicorn mare. "I appreciate the offer, Miss Raven but your services won't be necessary until Celestia returns."

"Begging your pardon Princess, but did those thousand years on the moon choke every brain cell you have to death?"

Eyes wide, Luna's wings flared to their full span. "How dareyou?"

"No, Princess. How dare you. Yes there's a crisis, yes this whole situation is absolutely insane and stressful. Princess Celestia may be gone for some time however, and that means you must run the kingdom, alone. Just like she did for so many years. And you are woefully unprepared to do that."

"I am-"

Raven cut her off. "Completely incapable of handling Celestia's duties. You barely managed for a day when you two switched places for one day and night. You need somepony to handle the schedule, to ease you into your new duties. And nopony in the castle, in this whole city is as able to do that as I am. Just because Celestia is away doesn't mean we can completely forget the day to day of running Equestria. If you don't handle this we'll have to turn even more power over to the nobles council. Is that what you want?"

The longer the mare spoke the more Luna's temper cooled. Wings folding into her sides she took a deep breath. "You speak very candidly, Miss Raven. It's odd for a pony to speak of my sister without using her full title."

Raven's cheeks darkened just the smallest bit. "Well. Princess Celestia and I have grown close the last few years. In private she insists I don't use her title."

"Mmhm." That's one bit of castle gossip confirmed. How very interesting. "Alright then, Miss Raven. I suggest you adjust your sleep schedule. I will hold open court and handle all of Celestia's duties, but keeping my own hours."

Raven chuckled softly. "Princess, I've been Celestia's aide for eight years now. I'm lucky if I get two hours of sleep in a night as it was."

Despite everything happening, Luna couldn't help but crack a small smile. She could see why this mare had caught her sisters eye. "Very well Miss Raven. Educate me in the finer points of running my kingdom."