Aqua finds reprieve on Equestria, but it does not last long.
During her search for Terra following the climatic battle at the Keyblade Graveyard, Aqua attempts to find rest on a familiar world with an old friend. However, the peace does not last long all thanks to trouble brewing in the wake of a travelling showmare's arrival.
Aqua slowly trotted through the darkened path. Around her, gnarled trees stood tall and flourished, their lengthy branches blocking out most of the sun. Ahead of her, the path continued endlessly into the depths of the Everfree Forest.
She whirled her head to the side when an unfamiliar sound pierced the air. Aqua didn’t like this place. Not one bit. She would not have been forced to make a crash landing here had that asteroid not came at her. It was hard for Aqua to see it coming from out of her blind spot. But what happened, happened, and nothing could change it. What the young Keyblade Master could do was find a way out of this eerie forest and make her way to Canterlot.
A nostalgic smile graced Aqua’s lips. Canterlot. It had been some time since she last visited. When it was just her and Terra under Master Eraqus’s wing, he would take them to other worlds to undergo specific training regimes. Like learning how to feed off the land in the Wumpa Islands or undergoing stealth training in Outer Heaven. A wielder of the Keyblade had to be more than just swordsmanship if he were to be prepared to face the darkness.
In this instance, Canterlot, the capital of Equestria, was where Aqua had received additional magic training, Specifically at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. The young Keyblade Master fondly recalled the time she spent a the school, learning under Princess Celestia herself and alongside the brightest and most magically-talented minds Equestria had to offer. Aqua made good friends with the other students--well, most of them. There were a few who were rather uptight and didn’t appreciate the talents of their fellow peers. Like that one who loved to refer to herself in the third person. What was her name… Trixie? She certainly got on everyone’s nerves with her excessive showboating.
Aqua giggled at the idea of putting her in a room with Ven just to see who would last the longest against the other’s ego, then felt her mood drop.
Last time Aqua saw him, he was sound asleep in Castle Oblivion--a world of her making following the destruction of their home. Ven’s heart had been damaged to the point where he was in a permanent state of sleep, one he would not wake from until his heart had fully healed. However long that will take, Aqua did not know, but she had her hopes it the recovery would be a speedy process.
In the meantime, there was the task of finding Terra. No one knew what happened to him following the battle against Master Xehanort, prompting Aqua to search for him after Ven’s safety was ensured.
So far no leads had turned up. The situation left Aqua all the more in a dower mood. Her two best friends were lost in one form or another, and she could nothing about it except bide her time for one and persistently track down another. Hopefully after a day’s rest in Equestria, Aqua would find Terra. Then they would wait for Ven to wake up together.
Screams ripped Aqua from her thoughts. She whirled her head around left and right, searching for the source of the sounds. Another scream helped pinpoint their location. They were just ahead of her, past the mossy log blocking the path.
The blue-haired girl--for the time being a blue-maned unicorn--broke into a gallop towards the center of the calamity. It would take time for Aqua to get used to moving on all fours, let alone the imminent usage of her horn, but she had to make due for now. Aqua leapt over the log and skidded to a halt. Her eyes widened at the sight before her.
The young ponies, one yellow, one white, and one orange, were surrounded on all sides by creatures with glowing green eyes. That stank of wood and rot all thanks to the timber comprising their wolf-like bodies, and their guttural growls sent the three fillies huddling closer together.
Aqua’s eyes narrowed at the creatures. She would not let them lay a paw on the young fillies. Having summoned her Keyblade and flawlessly catching it in her magic--an act that surprised her--Aqua ran towards the calamity. She cast a fire spell at one of the wolves. It yelped and attempted to douse the flames consuming by rolling on the ground.
One of the fillies looked towards the newcomer with renewed hope. “Somepony came for us!” exclaimed the white one.
“Take out the timberwolves!” rasped the orange one.
Ah, so that’s what they’re called, thought Aqua. A couple of dodges later, she stood in front of the three fillies, using her body to shield them from the wooden wolf creatures known as timberwolves. She counted three of them, not counting the one lying still in a smoking heap, and each were perturbed at the newcomer who took it down.
Aqua chanced a glance back to little ponies behind her. “Get yourselves to safety. Quickly.”
The yellow one’s red mane bobbed when she nodded. “Gotcha.” She turned to her friends and with another shared nod, the three of them ran off to hide in safety behind several trees. That put Aqua at ease. Now she could fight these things without the risk of hurting the young fillies.
The atmosphere grew thick with tension between the combatants, each waiting for the other to make the first move. It ended up being the timberwolf to Aqua’s left. It dove at her, claws outstretched with the intent of laceration. Aqua dodged the attack with ease by cartwheeling to the side. However, the timberwolf to the right rammed into the girl and sent her stumbling back. Aqua winced at the pain in her side. Splinters from a creature made of wood hurt worse than a swat from an Unversed.
Timberwolf number two made to swipe at her. Aqua quickly recovered and cast a reflective barrier around her, then watched satisfyingly as its paw struck the barrier and bounced back. Taking advantage of the opening, she made short work of the timberwolf with a triple firaga spell.
The first timberwolf came around and opened its jaws lined with sharp wooden teeth and clamped them around Aqua’s Keyblade. It tugged. She tugged back. The cycle repeated a few times. Compared to a physical grip, holding on to her Keyblade with magic was not as easy. That didn’t mean she couldn’t use magic entirely. Aqua connected with her Keyblade and unleashed a blast of wind that tore away the jaws of the timberwolf. The creature howled in what Aqua guessed was pain and leapt back to nurse its wound. The young wielder brought her Keyblade closer to her. She didn’t want to deal with that tactic again.
All the while, the third timberwolf, the largest of the group, stood by the sidelines, waiting for the moment Aqua left herself vulnerable. Finished with tending to itself, it’s lesser companion lunged at the girl. She retaliated with a few strikes from her Keyblade that shredded it to bits before the attack ever landed.
That’s when the alpha timberwolf made its move.
Before Aqua could react, the timberwolf pounced her and had her pinned beneath its paw. It lowered its jaws and growled. The girl gagged at the beast’s breath; it stank. But bad breath was the least of Aqua’s worries. She needed to get free lest she wished to become the timberwolf’s next meal.
“Hey! Over here!”
The timberwolf turned its head to the sound, and so did Aqua. The fillies had left their safe spot and were taunting the beast. The yellow one blew a raspberry while the white one shook her rump. The orange one shook her hoof tauntingly. “Yeah, you! Go pick on somepony your own size!”
The timberwolf growled, then barked angrily at their antagonizing, prompting the three fillies to flinch in fear.
“Dang it, Scootaloo, you had to go and say that!”
“Well, my bad for trying to help, Apple Bloom.” Scootaloo shot back.
Apple Bloom looked over at their unicorn friend. “And stop shaking your butt, Sweetie Belle!”
“What?” Sweetie Belle squeaked. “I was just trying distract it.”
“I think you overdid it.”
The timberwolf turned to fully face the three. In the process it moved its paw and freed Aqua from its hold. Aqua quickly got up on old fours and scanned the beast for a weak spot. She found one, then reared her Keyblade back as she powered up another, more powerful fire spell. “Terra and Ven are gonna act so mature when I tell them about this later,” she sarcastically told herself with a smile. Aqua plunged her blade into the beast’s rear and a torrent of fireballs plagued its insides.
In seconds the timberwolf howled at a higher pitch than before at the sensation of its wooden hindquarters burning to ashes. It ignored the ponies and ran off deeper into the forest to find a source of water to douse the flames, yelping and occasionally dragging its rear against the ground along the way.
Scootaloo pointed a hoof at the retreating creature. “Look at him. Look at him and laugh!”
“Scootaloo…” Sweetie Belle warned sternly.
Aqua trotted over to the trio, kneeling down so she was eye-to-eye with them. “Are you three okay?”
Apple Bloom beamed. “We sure are, thanks to you!”
“Yeah, that was some pretty awesome magic.” Scootaloo said excitedly, bouncing on her toes. “Where’d you learn to fight like that?”
“You mean where did I learn to defend myself.” Aqua corrected softly. There was a difference. “Some of it I learned at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. In fact, the Princess herself taught me a few fire spells.” The fillies awed at such prestige, their child-like amazement bringing a smile to Aqua’s face.
Sweetie Belle in particular squealed. “You know Princess Celestia? As in, you personally know her?” When the Keyblade wielder nodded, her green eyes brightened further in astoundment. “That’s amazing! Did she teach you the barrier trick, too?”
Aqua shook her head. “Mostly I learned this back home with my…” Her face fell. “...with my Master. And my friends.”
Seeing their savior sad sent Sweetie’s ears wilting. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to...”
Aqua quickly waved her hooves, reassuringly saying, “No no, it’s okay. You were just curious. You didn’t know.” Her ears perked at the sounds of howling in the distance. Aqua felt the young fillies instinctively draw closer to her. Her gaze into the dark forest hardened with steel. “We’d better leave before more timberwolves show up.”
“Sounds like a good idea to us.” agreed Apple Bloom. She and her friends started walking off in the direction of what Aqua assumed was their home. Aqua followed closely, having come to the logical conclusion they had a better sense of direction here than an offworlder. Said conclusion looked like it was right on the money. The further they went, the less dense the forest became. She even could see light filtering through the gaps in the overhanging canopy.
“By the by, you probably guessed this already--” Aqua shifted her gaze to the red-maned pony. “--but I’m Apple Bloom, and this is Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.”
Aqua smiled. “It’s nice to meet you. My name is--.”
The four of them stopped at the new voice added into the mix. Aqua in particular drew in a breath. That voice was so familiar to her. It couldn’t be... she thought. Lo and behold, a minty green unicorn emerged from the shrubbery ahead, accompanied by another, cream pony.
Aqua’s face brightened. It was her. “Lyra!” She dashed over to her old friend and wrapped her forelegs in an embrace Lyra was eager to return. After several seconds of savoring the moment, Aqua realized where they were and pulled back with a confused look. “It’s great to see you again, but what are you doing out here?”
“I ought to be asking you the same thing. We were keeping an eye on those three when they decided to run off into the woods.” Lyra sternly eyed the young fillies behind Aqua. “Let me guess: crusading again?”
Apple Bloom shrunk, embarrassed. “Um...yeah?”
“If it makes you feel any better, Operation: Cutie Mark Crusaders Monster Hunters is a bust.” Scootaloo chimed in.
The cream pony expressed her amusement at the situation. “It does and it doesn’t. Monster hunting? What were you thinking? Do you realize how dangerous it was to run off into the Everfree Forest to catch a monster as part of your crusading?”
Sweetie Belle shrugged. “It’s not like this is the first time we’ve gotten into trouble.”
“Just wait until your sisters hear about this. They’ll pitch a fit.” A hoof dragged over the cream pony’s face as she sighed. She then looked up and smiled at Aqua appreciatively. “We owe you out thanks. I don’t know what we would’ve done if something happened to them.”
“I guess it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time.” A brief silence fell upon them before Aqua spoke up again. “My apologies, but who are you?”
Lyra’s eyes widened, remembering they had never met. She wrapped a limb around her cream-colored companion and introduced her. “This is Bon Bon. She’s a friend of mine who lives in Ponyville. I’m actually staying the week with her.”
“I'm Aqua. It’s nice to meet you.” She held out a hoof.
Bon Bon shook it. “And I assume you know already Lyra?”
“We go a ways back.”
More howling, this time closer, interrupted the conversation. Bon Bon’s eyes narrowed at the forest. “Sounds like you drew the whole pack here. We’d better get out of here and back to Ponyville fast before they catch up. We’ll talk more after.”
Aqua, Lyra, Bon Bon, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders made it to Ponyville without further incident. As soon as she entered the quaint little town, Aqua gazed upon it in awe. It was beautiful, simple, rustic, and overall radiated an aura of peace.
Ponies milled about, performing their usual errands or running stalls selling various wares. They passed by a flower shop and Aqua could smell the mixed scent of roses, lilies, daisies, among others. They reminded her of the flowers Kairi had given to her after having been saved from the Unversed. Thank goodness they turned into a keychain right after, otherwise the bouquet would have been nothing but petals in the wind by now.
Aqua really loved those flowers.
They reached a fountain with a statue of a pony rearing back. Apple Bloom motioned to her friends. “C’mon, Crusaders. Let’s head over to Sugarcube Corner and think up of a new plan.” Before either Bon Bon or Lyra could object with a lecture, the Crusaders dashed off into town on to their next adventure.
Aqua looked on, somewhat concerned. “Do they always get into this much trouble?” She asked as she adjusted her saddlebags. That would take some getting used to again.
“Ever since they formed the Cutie Mark Crusaders, yeah.” Lyra replied.
“The Cutie Mark Crusaders?”
“A group they formed for finding their cutie marks,” explained Bon Bon. “Those three have made it their mission to do anything and everything to discover their special talent. I have to say, I’ve never seen any foals so determined to acquire one.”
Aqua gazed at her own flank. Branded there was a cresting ocean wave that sparkled in the sunlight. Long after her first visit to Equestria, she still wondered what it represented for her. Was it a simple definition of talent or an abstract representation of personality? Maybe both?
“Though their antics have gotten them into plenty of trouble.” Lyra chimed in. “Tends to cause chaos from time to time.”
That got an amused smile out of Aqua. “Chaos? You make it sound like they’re a walking natural disaster.”
The minty unicorn smiled knowingly. “They make a close second to the local mailmare.” She giggled at Aqua’s cluelessness. “You’ll find out soon enough. Still, the Crusaders have become admired around town. Three blank-flanked strangers one day, three best friends sharing the same dream the next.”
A wistful feeling came over Aqua. “Yeah. A dream.” Watching the Crusaders now as they became tiny colored dots in the distance, she was reminded of herself and her friends, and the dream they shared together: to become Keyblade Masters. She prayed one day the Crusaders, as well as Aqua and her friends, would achieve their dream.
A dark shape in the corner of her vision disrupted Aqua’s moment of nostalgia. She was at first tempted to dismiss it as weariness playing tricks with her vision, but the wave the shape moved seemed familiarly unnatural, as did the darkness the young Keyblade Master could sense emitting from it.
She brought her full attention to the dark blue blotch and watched as it streaked its flattened self along the ground. It weaved around the pedestrians milling about in the street while remaining undetected by them, something Aqua found disturbing. The shape eventually wove its way behind an apple stand manned by an orange pony in a stetson.
Unversed… what are they doing here?
Lyra tilted her head in confusion. “Is something wrong, Aqua?”
“We have a problem.” She turned to them, only to witness more blue blobs streak underneath the trio and branch off into different areas of town. Needless to say, Lyra and Bon Bon were just as unsettled by it as Aqua. “They are called Unversed, creatures of darkness that feed off negative emotions. If they are here, then there has to be someone close by drawing them in.”
“Who could be bringing them to Ponyville, and why?”
“I don’t know, but we’d better stop them.”
Bon Bon stepped forward, determined. “Then we ought to split up and follow them around town. If the Unversed are drawn towards negative emotion, they may lead us to whoever is controlling them.” “And do it quietly. We don’t need to attract attention and start a panic, otherwise it’ll be like the Summer Sun Celebration all over again.”
Aqua’s lips curled up in approval. “I think we’re gonna get along just fine, Bon Bon.”
Bon Bon nodded and with an unspoken command, the three dispersed and tailed their respective Unversed.
As Aqua discreetly made her way to the apple stand, she couldn’t help but feel disturbed by this turn of events. Back at his tower, Master Yen Sid explained the Unversed came to be with Vanitas’ creation. Thus, it stood to reason they would cease to exist in the event Vanitas was destroyed.
Their appearance in this world raised questions. How were the Unversed still thriving? Did Vanitas survive and now tail Aqua in a quest for vengeance? Had the Unversed evolved to where the could exist beyond Vanitas? Or was there someone else in control, like that man in the black coat? Aqua had to find out the answers before things got out of hand.
Everything was relatively the same by the time Aqua was within a couple meters of the apple stand. Good. The fewer complications, the better chances of find out what was going on without bringing harm to the residents.
Aqua’s stomach growled. That was one complication that needed to be simplified, and it didn’t help the scent of apples was setting off her appetite.
“Sounds like somepony’s hungry for some apples,” joked the apple seller.
Aqua shrugged. If she was going to deal with another potential crisis, it’d be best not to do it on an empty stomach. She walked over to the apple stand, putting on a pleasant smile. “Kind of hard not to be when they smell so delicious.”
“Aw, shucks. You’re too kind.” The apple seller leaned over the counter and waved a hoof at her various products. “So, what’ll it be for today? I got apples, apple fritters, apple dumplings, apple tarts, apple cinnamon muffins--.”
“If you keep going, I might just take the whole cart.”
The apple seller winked. “Then I’d call that a job well done.”
The two shared a laugh. Tempting as it was, Aqua didn’t have the munny to spare, despite what her appetite may have said otherwise. “Just a couple of apples will be fine, thank you,” said Aqua, then after a pause, “On second thought, I’ll take a tart, too.”
When the apple seller gave her the price in bits, Aqua handed her the same amount in munny. The currency was acceptable elsewhere, so it ought to be here, right? Aqua’s question was answered when the seller took the munny without question and handed her her food.
“There you go, fresh from Sweet Apple Acres.” The orange pony gave her a scrutinizing look. “I don’t reckon I’ve seen you around here before. The name’s Applejack.”
The two shook hooves, though Applejack did more of the shaking. Vigorously, too, much to Aqua’s discomfort.
“Pleasure to meet you, Aqua. You just moved to Ponyville?”
“I’m visiting an old friend of mine, actually. Lyra Heartstrings?”
“The lyrist? Shoot, I know her. She’s always dropping in to visit the candymaker down the street, Bon Bon. The way those two hang around one another, it’s like they’re attached at the hip.” The country pony chuckled. “I don’t think you can pry best friends like them apart with a crowbar no matter how hard you try.”
“Silly Applejack, crowbars are for fighting off alien invaders from another dimension.”
Aqua suddenly felt a weight on her back. She turned her head to find a pink pony side-saddling her as she spun a spanner in her hooves with admirable dexterity.
“Now spanners... they work wonders in gumming up the works like break-ups, but break-ups aren’t wonderful; they’re super sad and super wrong, especially with best friends because of that special bond that’s taken years and years and years to develop. What best friends need are parties.”
The pink pony arched her neck over at an unnatural angle to meet Aqua’s face with a wide smile. “And speaking of parties, I see a new pony in town. Which means a “Welcome to Ponyville” party!” she sing-songed.
Aqua suddenly found herself covered in confetti, wearing a party hat, and felt a kazoo stuck in her mouth, all from a cannon the pink pony pulled out from nowhere. How did she move there so fast, and where did that fanfare come from? The young Keyblade wielder was unsure if she should be giddy or disconcerted.
Applejack rubbed her hoof over her face. “Land sakes, Pinkie Pie…”
“Whaaat?” Pinkie Pie whined. “I’m just saying hello.”
“That’s your excuse to throw a party.”
The pink pony shrugged. “Eh, guilty as charged. But throwing parties isn’t against the law, so I’m not really guilty, am I?” Her gaze darted to something on the ground. “Oo-ooh, what’s that blue thing? It looks like one of those colored spots in your eye when you stare at the sun too long.”
Aqua followed Pinkie’s line of sight. Lo and behold, the lone Flood was streaking away from the apple stand and further into town. She narrowed her eyes at the Eldritch abomination. Oh no you don’t.
Politely excusing herself, then storing away her food, Aqua rushed after the Unversed. The chase was on, and it was a difficult task. In addition to keeping her sights on something quick-footed and could flatten itself at will, she had to weave her way around ponies who happened to be in her path, some of which were hauling carts or other heavy objects in general, and to all she apologized when she dodged them.
Two such ponies were carrying a glass panel across the street, neither them aware of the oncoming blue unicorn. Aqua didn’t have time to run around, nor did she have the room, leaving her to gracefully doubleflight over the obstacle.
She then turned at an intersection, only to nearly collide into a large red stallion hauling a cart of hay bales. Aqua teleported on instinct. “Pardon me!” she called out behind her once she was past him.
Aqua slowed down to a stop when she lost track of the Unversed. Where did that pesky Flood go? It couldn’t have gone too far, she thought as she investigated the street.
Her ears perked at the sound of rustling. The Flood leapt out from a row of bushes, and much to her dismay, it wasn’t alone this time. Others of its kind were accompanying it and leaping up the side of a cottage. Why they did so was beyond Aqua, but she had to stop them. She teleported again. When she reached the flat rooftop, Aqua had to lean against the cottage’s chimney to catch her breath. Normally teleporting was not so strenuous, but chasing Unversed on an empty stomach was taking its toll.
All the while she scanned the roof for the elusive Unversed, but again to her chagrin it and its brothers had stealthily evaded her. The young Master made use of the vantage point and scanned the rest of the town for her quarry. As she did so, Aqua took in the sight of the small village. It was much more beautiful and quaint than her view from the ground.
Once again, no Unversed. Aqua sighed in defeat slid down against the chimney. She had come to Equestria to rest during her search for Terra, only to be met with a threat previously believed to have been vanquished. Worse, Aqua had to drag in Lyra and Bon Bon into the mess. Thus far, little progress had been made in stopping the Unversed. Hopefully they were having better luck. So much for a reprieve...
Pinkie Pie popped up from the chimney, spooking Aqua. Her pink coat was caked with soot. “Hey there, Aqua! You ran off before I could give you a slice of your “Welcome to Ponyville” cake.”
She shook herself clean and procured a slice of red and brown cake from her person. It took Aqua a moment to regain her composure before she considered taking the cake. She did, more so out of being hungry, but also out of respect. When someone offered her a gift, Aqua accepted it with thanks and without question. Pinkie Pie’s cake was no exception.
She took a bite and was instantly pleased by the flavor. Aqua smiled once she swallowed. “It’s delicious. Thank you, Pinkie Pie.”
“No probelma, mi amiga. Not to toot my own horn, but I can bake a pretty mean cake. Actually, nice cakes; I don’t know any mean cakes, but I know Mr and Mrs Cake are nice. They run Sugarcube Corner down the street. I actually work there, too, and the goodies we bake there are ama-a-a-zing!”
“If they are as good as this cake, then I don’t doubt it for a second.” Aqua took another eager bite of the cake. How did she know this was her favorite flavor?
As if she could read Aqua's thoughts--which Aqua guessed she probably could--Pinkie answered, "Because once I meet somepony, I know them like the back of my hoof. Oh hey, that's new." Pinkie oogled over a piece of soot still on her hoof before flecking it off. "If I want to bring a smile to somepony's face, I gotta know what they need." She smiled proudly. "And I never fail. One hundred percent guaranteed smiles all around."
Aqua was intrigued. "What inspired you to bring others to smile?"
"I used to live on a rock farm," Pinkie started with a thoughtful look. "My family grew up on it, and nopony in my family smiled. Not ever. Not even the sun; the sky was covered icky, gloomy gray clouds. Then one day, I saw something uberly super; a rainboom exploded in the sky and cleared it of those depressing clouds. That day, I smiled for the first time in my life. I wanted to share that happiness with everypony by bringing smiles to their faces. So that became my life's mission."
When she saw such a devotion bring a smile to Aqua's face, Pinkie looked at a watch that wasn't on her wrist a moment ago. "And that makes three smiles from you in forty-two seconds. Nowhere close to my record of seven-thirteen, but a smile is a smile."
The young Keyblade Master looked off into Ponyville's afternoon sky, uttering hopefully, "Terra... I hope to see a smile the moment I find you. And from Ven, too, once he wakes up."
Pinkie's bush of a tail twitched uncontrollably. "Pinkie Senses tingling..."
Confused by her behavior, Aqua opened her mouth to ask about this Pinkie Sense when own sixth sense to darkness kicked in. In one swift motion she summoned her Keyblade and spun a full circle. Three wisps of dark flame burnt out of existence a moment later. She looked up from her stance to see more Unversed heading in the direction of an open square, where a crowd of ponies was forming. The Flood weren't as numerous as she anticipated, but Aqua was still unnerved by the sight of Archravens and Hareraisers joining the mix.
"We need to stop them."
"Okie dokie lokie." Pinkie grabbed a parasol from... somewhere... and wrapped a hoof around a dumbfounded Aqua's waist. "Fillies and gentlecolts, please keep your hooves, wings, and horns inside the ride at all times. Thank you." Without consideration for height, she dropped off the roof and sailed downward to the streets below. The descent gathered the attention of several onlookers, but it was short-lived as they returned to their routines as if this was a common occurrence in Ponyville, something Aqua assumed was the case.
The landing was smooth. Once Pinkie had released her, Aqua readjusted her blue mane. "I could have just jumped down on my own."
"Now where's the fun in that?"
Aqua couldn't help but smile once again at the pink pony's infectious attitude.
Lyra Heartstrings An old friend Aqua met at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns during the latter’s specialized magic training. She is an upbeat lyrist and sensitive to the emotions of others, especially those of her best friend Bon Bon. She finally came to the foreground to tug at our heartstrings in “Slice of Life” (2015).
Bon Bon A candy shop owner in Ponyville, Bon Bon is the straight mare in her friendship with Lyra. She may put up with her antics, but Bon Bon will remain unamused at anyone else’s. She also has a natural talent with handling monsters. She revealed her true identity in “Slice of Life” (2015).
Apple Bloom A natural leader, she helped form the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a group her friends dedicated to finding their cutie marks. With her friends, Apple Bloom’s adventurous spirit has often gotten her into trouble around town. She first blossomed on screen in “Mare in the Moon” (2010).
Sweetie Belle An imaginative youth, she helped form the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a group her friends dedicated to finding their cutie marks. With her friends, Sweetie Belle’s inquisitive mind has often gotten her into trouble around town. She adored us with her squeakiness in “Call of the Cutie” (2011).
Scootaloo A daredevil at heart, she helped form the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a group her friends dedicated to finding their cutie marks. With her friends, Scootaloo’s competitive nature has often gotten her into trouble around town. She scooted onto the scene in “Call of the Cutie” (2011).
Applejack A down-to-earth apple farmer from Sweet Apple Acres. As the Element of Honesty, Applejack helped save Equestria from Nightmare Moon and her eternal darkness. She tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Except when she lies, which often fails spectacularly. She rounded up viewers young and old in “Mare in the Moon” (2010)
Pinkie Pie First she’s here, then she’s there, and no one can explain it. Pinkie Pie, the Element of Laughter, helped save Equestria from Nightmare Moon and her eternal darkness. She is an eccentric party pony who’s one goal in life is to ensure everyone she meets leaves happy. She brought smiles to audiences in “Mare in the Moon” (2010)
By the time Aqua and Pinkie arrived at Town Hall’s square, the crowd had become dense with the townsponies. And with ponies packed tightly in one spot, it was harder to see where the Unversed were. They could be hiding among the crowd, the bushes, the fountain, the supports beams of Town Hall, anywhere.
The problem was, Aqua couldn’t sense whether or not any Unversed were within the vicinity. It was as if the they suddenly vanished without a trace, something that unsettled the young Keyblade Master.
“Can your Pinkie Sense tell us anything?” She asked. If Pinkie could detect them like she did on the roof, then the task of wiping them would be considerably easier.
Pinkie literally stretched her neck several heads above the crowd. “Nope. I’m not getting a reading.” She lowered herself down, ashamed. “My Pinkie Sense only works right when something is about to happen, and right now I got nothing. Sorry, Aqua.”
“Don’t be. It was worth a try.” Aqua assured with a hoof to the shoulder, even though internally the revelation only furthered her concern. What was going on?
Lyra and Bon Bon skidded to a halt before the pair. Judging from their panting, their respective tailings had been strenuous.
‘I see you’ve met Pinkie Pie.” Lyra commented once she caught her breath. “Any luck?”
Aqua shook her head. “They’re gone.”
“You, too?” Lyra was shocked, a sentiment Aqua and Bon Bon shared. The situation was becoming more and more worrisome by the minute.
Bon Bon warily scanned their surroundings. “Something screwy is going on around here. In any case, we ought to stay within the area. They are drawn towards negative emotion, right? Then something must be going on to bring them over here in the square.”
“Maybe it’s gotta do with the caravan over there?”
At Pinkie’s suggestion, the four of them peeked their heads over the crowd. Sure enough, a yellow wooden caravan with a red roof was situated at the front steps of the town’s hall. A wooden sign with a blue wand and wisp of magic hung at the front, and image both Aqua and Lyra found oddly familiar.
Bon Bon narrowed her eyes with determination. “It’s as good of a lead as any.” She brushed past Aqua with a little more force than necessary and led them around to the edge of the crowd, where they managed to find a suitable view in the front.
Once they situated themselves, a theatrical voice came over the audience. “Come one, come all! Come and witness the amazing magic of the Great and Powerful Trixie!” The caravan opened up into a stage, then from a burst of smoke appeared a blue unicorn in a wizard’s hat and cape that blew in the breeze.
“Trixie?” Lyra and Aqua said in unison, surprised.
The audience voiced their awe, and Trixie built up her momentum from their reactions. “Watch in awe as the Great and Powerful Trixie performs the most spectacular feats of magic ever witness by pony eyes!” Fireworks flew and burst in a dazzling light show.
The audience was awed indeed, Pinkie especially. “Oo-ooh!”
“Huh,” said Lyra with amusement. “Trixie actually went with the whole magician thing.”
“She certainly has the personality for it.” Aqua chimed in.
Bon Bon quirked a brow at the two. “You know her?”
Lyra nodded. “Anypony who went to CSGU knew her. Trixie loved to show off her magic tricks. Nothing like lasers, but fireworks and smokescreens are pretty spectacular in their own right. Her showboating was annoying at first, but we got used to it after a while.”
“Besides, it’s necessary for an entertainer to be boastful,” Aqua again chimed in. “If you want to sell the audience, you need a sizable ego.”
Bon Bon glanced to an adjacent group of ponies. “Tell that to them.”
Aqua followed her gaze and immediately recognized Applejack among the group, who voiced their mutual disapproval at Trixie’s show. Not even five minutes into a magic show and already some were frowning upon it? For goodness sake, it was only entertainment.
Trixie’s eyes narrowed at a pegasus’ jeering. “Well, well, well… it seems we have some neigh-sayers in the audience.”
Aqua deadpanned. This world and its horse puns…
“Who is so ignorant as to challenge the magical abilities of the Great and Powerful Trixie? Do they not know they are in the presence of the most magical unicorn in all of Equestria?”
Needless to say, the tension between Applejack and company and Trixie was practically palpable, and rising. The pegasus hovered over to the stage and brought herself nose-to-nose with the showmare. “What makes you so awesome?”
“Why, only the Great and Powerful Trixie has magic strong enough to vanquish the dreaded ursa major!” Wearing her everlasting confident smile, Trixie summoned a neon-lit ethereal image of herself and a bear four times her size with the cast of her horn. “When all hope was lost, the ponies of Hoofington had no one to turn to, but the Great and Powerful Trixie stepped in, and with her awesome magic--” the bear burst into sparkles, “--vanquished the ursa major and sent it back to its cave deep within the Everfree Forest!”
Excitable murmurs rippled through the crowd. Of course, the encounter was most likely nothing more than a tall tale for show, but it certainly was a riveting one.
The young dragon in Applejack’s group believed the contrary. “Please, Twilight, just show her up! It’s unbearable!” He begged to the purple unicorn in question.
“What do you mean show her up, Spike? I’m nothing special.”
“Yes you are!” Spike countered. “You’re better than her!”
Twilight calmly tried to convince him otherwise. “I’m not better than anyone.”
Having caught whiff of their argument, Trixie stepped forward to the edge of the stage. “Hmm? You think you're better than the Great and Powerful Trixie? You think you have more magical talent?” Her smile grew all the more cat-like and arrogant. “Well, come on, show Trixie what you've got. Show us all.”
The sudden attention jarred Twilight. Instantly she began to ramble nervously. “Who, me? I'm just your run-of-the-mill citizen of Ponyville. No powerful magic here. I, uh... I think I hear my laundry calling. Sorry, gotta go.”
She dashed off, her dragon friend looking on in dismay.
Aqua couldn't help but feel sympathetic. Twilight didn’t believe she was anymore powerful than Trixie, and yet the magician belittled her in front of an audience. Of course, Aqua had no clue as to how powerful either were magically, but either way such arrogant bullying was uncalled for.
But wasn’t I arrogant before?
When they had reunited in Radiant Garden, Ven called Aqua out for letting the title of Master get to her head. She denied it, believing she was only doing her duty and following Master Eraqus’ orders, but over time, especially now, Aqua came to realize that maybe her new status did bring her to feel superior over her friends.
Her gaze firmly settled on Trixie. As tempting as it was to show up Trixie in a magic duel, Aqua restrained herself. She wasn’t a unicorn, for starters; merely a human in the guise of one. Even if she were a unicorn, as a Keyblade Master, Aqua had a far greater advantage over the showmare, and an unfair one at that.
It would be best for karma to take its course without foreign intervention. One day, Trixie will know humility. But for now...
“Was there ever any doubt?” Trixie’s voice was dripping with pride.
If there were any objections, they were prematurely silenced when someone among the audience screamed. Heads whirled at the interruption and Aqua’s jaw dropped in horror. A score of Flood Unversed had Sweetie Belle trapped and surrounded. She was positively terrified, trying to keep herself away from them, but only futily brought her closer to one than the other with every backpedal.
The Unversed pounced.
“Sweetie Belle!” Someone screamed.
Instinct kicked in and Aqua found herself shielding both her and Sweetie Belle with her magic barrier. The group of Flood rebounded the instant they hit the shield, sprawling on the cobblestone.
Little did she realize another, larger Unversed, the Bruiser, had materialized behind them. It swung a fist that brought about the same punishment Aqua gave to its fallen brethren only moments before.
Aqua looked down at herself. Sweetie Belle was held tight in her forelegs, protected by her body. Good, she was unharmed. Aqua wished she could say the same for herself. The strike left her weak and woozy.
In desperate need of a potion, she reached into her saddlebag and retrieved a bottle. She chugged down the minute amount of liquid and waited for it to take effect. It did, but not in the way she expected; she was enveloped in energy that rhythmically thumped through her being and surrounded by a few floating neon cubes.
Aqua read the label and mentally facepalmed. Instead of restoring her health, she inadvertently powered up her Rhythm Mixer ability with a Daisy Sorbet.
Well, no use complaining. Better make the best of a bad situation.
Before the Bruiser could strike again with a charge, Aqua rolled out of the way. She quickly deposited Sweetie Belle to the side and rushed at the Unversed. She spun forward and swiftly cut it down. When more Unversed--Flood and Hareraisers--arrived to take the fallen bruiser’s place, they were wiped from existence just as quickly with several blasts of sound.
To Aqua’s dismay, more Unversed appeared after that, sending the townsponies into a fit of hysteria. They ran in all directions like roaches in the light, crashing into one another and screaming in terror as the Unversed ran amuck in the square.
Three such ponies cowered behind an overturned cabbage cart.
“This is a disaster!”
“This is awful!”
“The horror! The horror!”
They screamed in unison when Scrappers and Archravens rushed at them with claws outstretched. Before the Unversed could reach their targets, a few fireworks struck them from behind. Many sets of red eyes whirled on the pony who dared to intervene.
“Do not fear, Ponyvillians, for the Great and Powerful Trixie shall rescue you!”
In another puff of smoke, Trixie had moved from the stage to the center of the calamity. The Unversed closed in to attack. However, Trixie was quicker to react, having summoned several more live fireworks and sending them at the abominations in spectacular fashion. One by one, the Unversed were shot down in a burst of light and color, and soon they were nothing more wisps of darkness fading away in the wind.
The remnants of the crowd cheered at the display. Trixie took in the praise, removing her hat and bowing to those present. “Thank you, thank you. The Great and Powerful Trixie appreciates your praise and is glad you are safe. However, the fight has tired Trixie greatly and she requires her rest.”
The crowd voiced their disappointment, having expected much more.
“Do not fret, for the Great and Powerful Trixie shall return tonight with another show of magic that will bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses.” The stage folded itself back into a caravan and with that Trixie disappeared in a puff a smoke. The crowd dispersed soon after to resume whatever earlier chore or project.
“Oh thank goodness, Sweetie Belle!” The white unicorn rushed over to the young filly and embraced her tightly. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I am, thanks to Aqua.”
The unicorn turned her gaze to the young Keyblade Master. “You have my gratitude for saving my sister from those dreadful monsters.”
“I was simply doing my job, ma’am.” Beneath her outward calm, Aqua was somewhat nervous with the small group of ponies forming around her, no doubt to thank the stranger for her part in driving the Unversed out.
“Please, darling, call me Rarity,” she insisted with a flip of her purple mane. When Aqua introduced herself, Rarity bowed her head. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Aqua. I must say, I never knew we had another powerful magus in town.”
“Actually, I’m not from around here, only visiting a friend.”
“Visitor or resident, your presence has certainly made a difference.”
The pegasus from earlier swooped in. “I’ll say. Those were some sweet moves you pulled after drinking that potion, when you spun around like ‘skritch skritch skritch’ and fired shots all like ‘wub wub wub wub’.” She copied the motions with gusto. “Whooping tail with beats? So awesome!”
A nearby pony in purple shades agreed with an enthusiastic nod.
Aqua held up her hooves, somewhat overwhelmed by the attention. “Honestly, it was no trouble at all.”
“Don’t be so modest, darling. You can afford to bask in a little praise every now and then, unlike some ponies.” Rarity shot a sly smile at her rainbow-maned friend before it went sour. “Trixie… such a boastful character, and so rude.”
“And a loudmouth,” her friend chimed in, shooting an equally sour look at the caravan.
“Yes, Rainbow Dash, and a loudmouth.”
Aqua was moderately put off by their disdain towards the showmare. “She may be rude, but a magician is supposed to be boastful. It’s all part of the entertainment.”
“There’s entertainment and then there’s slander. Trixie rubbing in this victory is rather callous if it’s directed at Twilight.”
“True, that was uncalled for, but Twilight leaving left only a few of us to handle the Unversed when they attacked. And for a showmare, Trixie did a fair job in ridding of them.”
“I suppose she did…” Rarity let out a patient breath, then genuinely smiled. “In any case, the town is safe and sound. Allow me to thank you for your selflessness. I’m having afternoon tea with a friend at my establishment and would love for you to join us.” Before Aqua could object, Rarity forestalled her with a hoof. “Ah ah ah, I will not take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Sweetie Belle, who had remained silent during the exchange, spoke up. “It’s true. She always gets her way in the end.”
“I can vouch for that,” Rainbow Dash added.
“All a matter of persuasion, darling, among other things, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I get my way all the time.” Rarity tolerated the younger unicorn’s roll of the eyes.
“Forgive me if I come off as rude, but…” Aqua glanced at Lyra and Bon Bon, who had also been patiently hanging back since the calamity blew over. She did not want to abuse Rarity’s generosity, but she did come to this world with the intention of spending time with Lyra. “I don’t suppose you have room for more?”
The implication dawned on Rarity and her eyes widened. “For your friends? No no no, how rude of me not to take them into account. I didn’t mean to intrude on your visit. Of course they can join us! The more, the merrier.”
“Count me out. I’ve got a speed record with my name on it.” In a rainbow streak, Rainbow Dash was gone.
“You will have to forgive Rainbow Dash. As great of a friend as she is, her priorities can sometimes outweigh her manners.”
Aqua chuckled. “Believe me, I’m familiar with that.”
Rarity mirrored her chuckle. “Then you know what to expect of her once you two meet. Now, enough dawdling. We need to find Fluttershy first. Poor dear can be fearful of the simplest things, and with this recent debacle she must be downright terrified.” She motioned for her guests to follow.
Aqua couldn’t help but shake the feeling they were being watched. Out of the corner of her eye, she swore she saw a black hood peeking from a nearby alley. She could have simply been seeing things, but that tiny little voice in the back of her mind said otherwise, as did her sixth sense to darkness.
Something was rotten in the town of Ponyville.
Trixie Lulamoon The Great and Powerful Trixie is a travelling showmare, a former student of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and allegedly the greatest unicorn in all of Equestria. As a magician, Trixie’s role is to dazzle audiences with charisma and illusions, but no one said they had to like any of the boasting. The Great and Powerful Trixie took the stage in “Boast Busters” (2010).
Rarity She helped save Equestria from Nightmare Moon from her eternal darkness. As the Element of Generosity, Rarity possesses a willingness to sacrifice with no expectations of payment, a trait that makes this fashionista shine like a diamond. She made her fabulous entrance in “Mare in the Moon” (2010).
Rainbow Dash Fast, fierce, and did I mention fast? Rainbow Dash, the Element of Loyalty, helped save Equestria from Nightmare Moon and her eternal darkness. She may be cocky, but she always has her friends’ interests at heart and never leaves them hanging. She made things 20% cooler in “Mare in the Moon” (2010).
The search for Fluttershy was more difficult than Rarity claimed it would be. She, along with Aqua, Lyra, Bon Bon, and Sweetie Belle, had scoured the square and the street leading up to her shop, but thus far to no avail. The Unversed must have spooked Fluttershy more terribly than usual, a worrying thought that plagued the group.
When they reached Carousel Boutique itself, the group split up to search the surrounding area. Aqua and Sweetie Belle were browsing around the tents of a nearby shop when the latter spoke up.
“You and Lyra seem to be really good friends. How did you meet exactly?
Aqua pulled back a curtain. “We met when I first came Canterlot with Master Eraqus. He brought me there to undergo magic training with Princess Celestia as well as teach her students a thing or two about magical combat.”
Sweetie Belle’s eyes lit up. “Oh, right! You touched on that earlier when you showed up those timberwolves.”
“Lyra was one of my lab partners in class,” Aqua continued with a nostalgic look. “She practically welcomed me with open arms--er, hooves, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
“Just like that?”
“Well, maybe there was a little more to our first meeting. It’s a long story, but one for another time. Right now, we need to find Fluttershy.” She could see the disappointment in Sweetie Belle’s eyes. The young filly really wanted to hear the story. “I’ll tell you all about it later, after we find Fluttershy. I promise.”
“Okay...” conceded Sweetie Belle as they exited the tent. “I just hope those monsters didn’t scare her too much. Knowing Fluttershy, they’d send her running out of town.”
“I’m starting to wish I did. Those monsters were really scary,” said a timid voice. A look upwards revealed a butter-colored pegasus hugging a tree branch in a death grip, her long pink mane dangling to where it could almost tickle someone’s nose.
Sweetie Belle just kept looking up. “Found her.”
Rarity must have had excellent hearing, for she and the others were right there not even a moment later. “Fluttershy, darling, thank goodness we found you! Are you alright?”
“Um, I think so...” Fluttershy cautiously scanned the ground below. “Are they gone?”
“Rest assured, the monsters are gone. Now please come down, it’s perfectly safe.”
Fluttershy was not convinced, huddling close to the tree. “Are you sure? They could be lurking in the bushes again. Or the trees, just waiting for the teeny tiniest moment I’m not careful and pounce.”
Bon Bon dragged a hoof down her face. “This is going to take a while.”
It took some persuasion, but they managed to convince Fluttershy to come down from the tree.
Once in the boutique, Rarity immediately rushed off to the kitchen to brew some tea, while Aqua and company took their seats at the table. The color scheme of the kitchen appealed to the Keyblade Master. Blue tile, lavender walls, redwood cabinets with brass handles, it was a lovely setup.
Sweetie Belle trotted up to older sister. “Can I help with the tea, Rarity?”
A flash of hesitation adorned Rarity’s face before she regained her composure. “No thank you, Sweetie, but you may fetch the shortbread cookies from the pantry.” When Sweetie Belle turned to get the cookies, Rarity let out a silent sigh of relief.
Aqua turned to Fluttershy. “Hm?”
“Thank you, for fighting off the monsters. Normally I’d be unhappy about somepony hurting little creatures like them, but when I saw what they could do, I knew they weren’t nice.”
“By nature, the Unversed are not kind creatures,” Aqua stated gravely.
“Unbirths?” Sweetie Belle asked, having returned with the cookies.
“I believe she said Unversed.” Fluttershy hesitated, then turned to Aqua. “Um, what exactly are Unversed?” She listened intently as Aqua explained what exactly the Unversed were. By the time she was done, Fluttershy was visibly uneasy. “Oh goodness. Definitely not the sort of creatures I work with.”
“You tend to animals?”
The timid pegasus’ demeanor brightened at the question. “Oh yes, I do. Nothing makes me happier than taking care of adorable creatures, whether they are big or small, furry or scaly. Especially Angel Bunny.”
Lyra stifled a laugh, much to Bon Bon’s annoyance.
“Tea’s ready, darlings,” Rarity announced as she brought the steaming china pot and a set of cups to the table.
After Rarity poured her a cup with the appropriate sugar and cream, Aqua thanked her and took a sip. She revelled in its soothing properties. She needed this after the craziness today had offered so far.
“You like?” Rarity asked expectantly to her guests.
“The pleasure is all mine.” Rarity took a sip of her own tea. “You mentioned you are friends with Lyra and Bon Bon, yes?”
“I only met Bon Bon earlier today, but I’ve known Lyra for a few years.”
“You have? Well, I simply must hear the story of how you two met. Telling stories tend to go well with tea time, after all.”
Sweetie Belle piped up. “You promised you would tell it after we found Fluttershy.”
“Fair enough,” Aqua giggled. “It started when my Master and I came to Canterlot…”
Four years before the events of “Birth by Sleep”.
The air was abuzz with chatter as students walked single-file to the classroom. They were excited, and had good reason to be. A guest speaker was to appear today and give them a lecture on the defensive aspects of magic. Rumors about his identity spread through the crowd like wildfire, and Aqua heard many of them as she entered the classroom and took a seat in the center. A powerful magician, an accomplished swordsman, a locksmith with a hobby, she heard them all.
Of course, Aqua had already known who the guest speaker was well before she arrived on this world. Years, in fact. And as the earth pony in question made his way to the front in Princess Celestia’s company, she smiled excitedly.
“Good morning, students,” the princess greeted. “Today, we have a guest speaker to start off our lesson on combative magic. May I present to you… Master Eraqus.”
Master Eraqus stepped up to the podium and, for a moment, took in the sight of the students before him with discerning eyes of which Aqua was very familiar. He nodded to her before clearing his throat.
“Magic is more than a simple tool for everyday life. There will be times when you find yourself in a situation where one means you harm, and in these times your magic serves as a means to defend yourself.” Eraqus gestured to his forehead. “As you can see, I have no horn, and thus am not able to use magic conventionally like a unicorn. However, I have prior experience confronting those who have chosen to misuse it. Observe.”
At his cue, Princess Celestia cast a fire spell at Eraqus. His keyblade materialized in his hoof in a flash of light, which then he used to summon a shield of light. The fire fizzled upon impact.
The students clapped at the display. It was a simple one, but enough to establish Eraqus’ credit.
“Princess Celestia has invited me here today to assist in teaching you how to utilize your magic combatively. But first, you will divided into groups of three. I will explain why once this has been done.”
Aqua watched as Princess Celestia named off her students and directed them to different areas of the room. She made a thoughtful hum when the alicorn princess’ tongue lingered on the name of a lavender unicorn for the briefest second before moving on to the next.
The princess eventually reached Aqua. “Aqua, Lyra Heartstrings, and Trixie Lulamoon.” Guided to a spot in the front, Aqua was joined by two ponies, one mint green with a lyre cutie mark, the other cornflower blue with a sparkling wand cutie mark.
Once everyone was divided into groups, Eraqus continued, “Excellent. Now for your lab assignment. Each member will study his or her own magical talents, then list previously known strengths and weaknesses in addition to basic defensive uses. Once that is done, compare notes with the rest of your group. You goal is to uncover new methods to counter your opponent’s magic as well as use your own more efficiently, based on what you learn from them.”
“You may experiment with live exercises, but keep it civilized. We do not need a repeat of last year’s incident,” Celestia chimed in.
The students giggled, prompting Aqua to whisper to her lab partners, “What happened last year?”
“Somepony misfired a spell out of anger and struck himself with it.” The minty unicorn giggled. “Poor guy was puking up slugs for hours.”
The blue one stuck out her tongue in disgust. “Vomitrocious.”
“Oh yeah, it was pretty nasty.”
“You will have a month to complete the assignment and demonstrate what you have learned,” said Princess Celestia. “So to give you a headstart on the project, we will spend class time in the library. Remember, if you have any questions, please ask me or Master Eraqus.”
With that, the class vacated their seats and made their way to the school’s library. As she walked down the hall, Aqua was excited with the new project. It was not as thrilling as learning magic from the princess one-on-one as her Master implied, but that was not to say learning from other students focused on magic was not the next best thing nor a nice change of pace.
Aqua’s mint-coated lab partner fell into step next to her. “I’m Lyra. You’re Aqua, right? That means you have a knack for water magic?
“For the most part.” Aqua took a peek at Lyra’s cutie mark. It was a golden lyre. “Yours focuses on sound?”
Lyra nodded. “And a little bit of love, too. That’s where the Heartstrings part comes in.”
Aqua held a leveled gaze for a long moment. “You’re pulling my leg, are you?”
Lyra giggled. “Alright, you caught me. I can’t really perform love magic. Just play the lyre till I tug at somepony’s heartstrings.” She wrapped a foreleg around Aqua’s shoulders. “You know, Aqua, I think we’re going to get along just fine.”
Fluttershy Helped save Equestria from Nightmare Moon and her eternal darkness. As the Element of Kindness, Fluttershy is nice and respectful to others, and lends a helping hoof to those in need. However, her shyness can make it difficult for others to get to know her. She fluttered into our hearts in “Mare in the Moon” (2010).
Master Eraqus A Keyblade Master who served as loving mentor and father to Aqua, Terra, and Ven. He believed the world must be purged of darkness. Following the emergence of the Unversed, he was struck down by Master Xehanort, but rumors have it he lives on in some form. Master Eraqus sent us on our journey in “Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep” (2010).
Princess Celestia The ruler of Equestria, she provided Aqua with supplementary training in magic prior to the emergence of the Unversed. Princess Celestia is a kind mentor, but her mysteriousness leaves some wondering what she’s thinking. She sent us on our other journey in “Mare in the Moon” (2010).
Trixie concentrated once again, her horn glowing bright in the dimly lit caravan. How many times had she been practicing this teleportation spell only to fail? Four? Five? She resisted to groan in frustration at having lost count. If she was to succeed at last, Trixie had to maintain her concentration.
Still, she couldn’t help but feel irked at her inability to perform the spell. All Trixie had to do was teleport herself from within the caravan to the street outside. Her show later that evening would require a fair number of jumps if her audience was to remain mesmerized throughout. As a showmare, Trixie saw it a travesty to leave any second untouched by suspense or surprise.
The problem was teleportation happened to be a rather complex spell, much more so than the basic arsenal of illusions spells and smokescreens she utilized in every show. Very few unicorns had the capability to cast it.
Such hindrances regarding said level of difficulty didn’t stop Trixie from trying, however. She always enjoyed a challenge in the magical arts. If she found a spell that came to her liking, she would put effort into mastering it no matter how difficult nor, occasionally, dangerous.
Trixie’s lips curled in a confident smile. Hindrances pertained only to the average unicorn, and she certainly was no average unicorn. No, she was the Great and Powerful Trixie, decorated student of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns and one of the most magical unicorns--no, the most magical unicorn--in all of Equestria. If she could summon fireworks, she could accomplish anything.
Her spirit bolstered, Trixie’s horn grew brighter and brighter until its pale illumination bathed the entire caravan. Tendrils of wind and energy began enveloping her until she appeared to radiate an aura of pink and white. Trixie grinned. She did it! She maintained the fluctuation of energies. Now all she needed to do was--
Trixie found herself covered in soot and her normally kempt white mane blown back. She made to let out a frustrated groan, only to succeed in coughing up a puff of black smoke. This only fueled her ire, but as a proper mare, Trixie refrained from allowing it to push her over the edge. Instead, she took a slow, calming breath, then huffed.
“Perhaps the Great and Powerful Trixie requires a break,” she conceded. She had been at this for a while now. A few minutes of fresh air ought to do her some good, give her time to pick over the probable problems in her spellcasting. Then she could come back with a clear head and resume rehearsal for the upcoming magic show.
After a quick clean-up of her coat and mane, Trixie left her caravan and trotted off into the Ponyville streets. Things had certainly calmed down quickly since those creatures attacked. Disturbingly so, she had to admit. It was as if the town had never been attacked to begin with.
“I suppose the stories are true.” Trixie said to herself. Ponyville was a town known for its daily dose of disasters and its residents’ ability to rebound back to normalcy right after, a reputation she believed to be exaggerated. She even had second thoughts bringing her show here in fear--concern--of her audience unable to find amusement in it. When your town is the ground zero for a monster attack or freak magical accident on an almost frequent basis, mind-boggling magic acts seem tame in comparison.
At least, that was the impression she was under. But as those in the business say, the show must go on. Now that she had one performance out of the way, Trixie felt satisfied knowing she made the right choice to bring her show to Ponyville. The townsponies were just as easily enthralled as any other by it.
Her hooves soon lead her to an outdoor cafe. Trixie took a seat at one of the tables and leaned her head back to look up at the cloudless sky. Her satisfaction manifested itself in a confident smile. Yes, this was what she had hoped for: another town in the land of Equestria enamoured by her talent, but most of all another step closer to showing Twilight Sparkle that the Great and Powerful Trixie was indeed great and powerful.
Trixie’s confident smile wavered. Twilight Sparkle… she was always ahead of the class. So gifted with magic, she excelled at even the most difficult of spells; so bookish, she could remember random tidbits of information like the back of her hoof; so… so perfect, Princess Celestia took her in as her pupil.
And Trixie? Always second best, never succeeding her in ability or knowledge. How despairing--scratch that, a travesty it was for her to live in the shadow of Celestia’s prized student.
A sigh escaped her and Trixie suddenly felt more fatigued. She lay her head upon the cool ceramic of the table, her gaze blank. Even if she did prove herself against those creatures while Twilight turned tail and ran, Trixie would never surpass her. She never could then, so why would the present be any different?
“Always second best…” she muttered weakly.
A travesty indeed.
“Is that what drives you?”
Trixie blinked. She looked around, but found no one near her table. She then arrived at the realization the words came not from the anypony’s mouth, but within her own thoughts. All feelings of self-pity had evaporated by then. She couldn’t help but instead feel disturbed at the fact somepony had gotten inside her head, which by now was flooded with a million questions.
“Trixie begs your pardon?”
“Besting your rival. That is what drives you, is it not?”
The Great and Powerful Trixie habitually held her head high. “That’s none of your business, and even it were, there is nothing wrong with Trixie pushing herself with the incentive of becoming the best.”
When she brought it down, she nearly suffered a heart attack. In the seat across from her, which had been previously vacant, sat a pony. At least, she believed it to be a pony. Trixie couldn’t surmise breed, color, or even gender all thanks to the black cloak the stranger wore.
“Mayhaps, mayhaps not,” the stranger replied. It’s hoof nudged a tray with a daisy sandwich and hayshake towards Trixie. “I believe you will like this.”
For a lengthy moment, Trixie just stared at the tray of food, debating whether or not to indulge. In the end, and against her better judgement, she took a sip of her shake. “A hay shake? With extra hay?” Trixie shot a hoof at the newcomer. “The Great and Powerful Trixie demands to know who you are!”
Beneath its hood, the stranger’s eyes briefly flashed white. “A spirit of the darkness, one who knows much about you, Trixie Lulamoon.”
Trixie felt her stomach shift uncomfortably. Something was off, very off about this pony. Who was it, what did it want, and why Trixie? The showmare was positive an autograph was the least of the stranger’s priorities.
“You studied at a prestigious institution with a focus in illusions. You travel Equestria as an accomplished showmare. Your ego depicts you an equine of pride and power.” The stranger leaned in close. “Yet now you confess otherwise.”
The stranger in the black coat unsettled her more than she let on, though come to think of it, it didn’t really matter. If the stranger could get inside her head, then it knew more than enough of Trixie’s feelings, thoughts, and desires.
Trixie leaned forward as well, eyes narrowed. “There is such a thing called ‘privacy’,” she hissed. How dare this stranger pry into her thoughts!
“In my world, privacy has ceased to be relevant.”
She couldn’t tell if that was said matter-of-factly or mockingly. The stranger seemed more focused on being cryptic than putting emotion into its responses. She found it irksome regardless. “If it’s no longer relevant, then explain why you were eavesdropping.”
“To see where you heart lies.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Why do you seek to be the best? To simply hone your skills, or do your motivations run deeper than the mere prospect of excelling?”
Trixie rolled her eyes. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“I suppose it is to be believed so, but I prefer you to humor me and tell me aloud.”
“Your pride speaks for itself.”
“Indeed,” she replied with a smirk.
The stranger shrugged. “If you wish for this conversation to remain short, then very well, but allow me to impart meaningful words upon you. Envy and pride are difficult afflictions and I well know the power that can stem from them. A wondrous power, a dark power. However it is costly. Once you accept the darkness, it will consume you and all held dear shall be lost. Should you choose it, are you willing to accept the cost of such power?”
The stranger vacated the seat. “I trust you will make the right decision. Fare thee well, Trixie Lulamoon.”
And like a vapor in the wind, the stranger was gone.
Trixie couldn’t help but stare at the empty chair across from her. Who was that pony?
When her stomach growled, Trixie decided to throw caution to the wind and eat the meal the stranger had brought her. As she chewed over her daisy sandwich, she also chewed over the event that had transpired some moments ago.
So it knew of her true motivations, and in return she was offered a choice. Some would say temptation, but in the end choices and temptations were different shades of the same concept; either say yes or no, reap the benefits now, deal with the consequences later.
The benefits in this instance were readily apparent. If Trixie chose to succumb to temptation, the glory and power she had sought since youth would be hers. No more Twilight Sparkle this, no more Twilight Sparkle that, and certainly no more being second best.
Admittedly, the thought of losing herself to her darker emotions left Trixie rather anxious and filled with more questions, but again, reap now and deal later. However, one question would slip through and repeatedly bring its balled fist down on the door to her conscience.
Was giving in really necessary for her to achieve greatness?
Another sip of her hayshake. Maybe she didn’t need to dabble in the darkness. Trixie held merit through her travelling show and school records vouched for magical prowess; she had gotten this far without intervention, so why change her methods now when she stood only mere steps away from her goal? As the earth ponies say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“Perhaps there’s more to that pony than it let on,” Trixie thought aloud. She caught herself, shaking her head. “No. I’ve come too far to allow some random stranger to mess this up." She didn’t need darkness on her side; she was a force all her own, a force Twilight Sparkle will soon reckon with.
Confident once again and resolute with her next course of action, she stood atop the table, posing herself dramatically. “All I need is me, for I am the Great and Powerful Trrrixie!”
“Laugh like a megalomaniac while you’re at it.”
“Yeah, you might get more of an audience.”
Her mouth remained curved in a confident smile. She knew those voices very well. “Twilight Sparkle.” When she turned, Trixie’s eyes fell upon the lavender unicorn and her accomplice. “And your little dragon friend, too. Spike, is it? It’s been a very long time. I’m surprised you’re not still hiding away in your library.”
Twilight ignored the barb. “Trixie, we need to talk.”
“Oh, we can talk later.” She leapt off the table and casually brushed her way past the pair. “The Great and Powerful Trixie needs to resume preparations for tonight’s show, and trust me when I say it will be quite the spectacle.”
When a pair of claws gripped her leg, Trixie stopped.
“You gotta stop and listen to her,” Spike pleaded.
“And why should I?” Why should Trixie listen to anything Twilight Sparkle had to say?
Twilight spoke up as she walked around to face Trixie, a concerned expression adorning her features. “What you’re about to do is going to hurt a lot of ponies. Those creatures that attacked earlier? I know what they are, and I know why they’re here.”
Unknown This stranger in a black coat approached Trixie with the knowledge to become truly great and powerful. Its identity and motivations remain unclear.
Trixie Lulamoon (II) A travelling showmare with an ego to boast. Underneath all that bravado, Trixie feels ashamed at not being as adept as (or better than) Twilight Sparkle, and remains jealous of her because of it. What does she plan to do to best Celestia’s prized pupil?