She doesn't know where it comes from or why it comes to her. For better or for worse Starlight finds herself in possession of powerful magic, and only has twenty-four hours to change the lives of ponies she's never met.
Starlight Glimmer's hoof slammed down on the incessant alarm with all the force she could muster, which wasn't much. Fortunately it was enough to convince the device into returning to its slumber. Something Starlight really wished she could do right about now.
It wasn't that she was unfamiliar with working on personal projects late at night, or having to wake up at the same time as the sun. It was that ever since moving into Twilight's castle, Starlight had little time to spare while being introduced to a new routine. It was only recently that her time had become more flexible. This allowed Starlight to free the night and banish the morning to where it belonged; out of her sight.
Unfortunately her body was yet to be informed of the new changes, and was doing its best to let her know.
Unwilling to expend the effort of moving any more than she was required to, Starlight kept her fore-hoof remaining stretched out on the alarm clock while mentally weighing the benefits of more sleep against getting her day started. She continued to stare at the ceiling above her between uncooperative eyelids for a whole 5 or 30 minutes before she realised that she had drifted off to sleep again.
She jumped up with a start and a yell, before being immediately pulled back off the bed and onto the floor in a birds-nest of bed sheets. Starlight sighed. It was going to be one of those days, she could never get the hang of those days.
After a few moments of untangling the sheets and quickly re-organising the bed, Starlight stumbled her way down the maze of halls and towards the smell of what she could only assume were pancakes. She must have gone all last night without eating as she now found herself very hungry all of a sudden. The thought of syrup covered, ice-cream sided pancakes filled her mind and energised her enough to almost start skipping. Almost. She threw a light gust of magic ahead of her to push apart the doors to the dining room.
Please have syrup, please have syrup, please ha-
There was no syrup. All that energy drained from her in an instant. Starlight didn't even have to look around. From the angle she had entered the room the entire table from left to right was visible to her; there was not a single shining golden bottle of liquid sugar anywhere to be seen.
“We don't have any syrup?” Inquired Starlight, to the other occupants of the room, in an almost accusatory tone.
“And a good morning to you too,” came a snarky reply from Spike. It appeared Starlight wasn't the only one put off by being up at this hour.
“Good morning Starlight, are you feeling okay?” Twilight Sparkle used her magic to prepare the last remaining pancakes onto a plate, before floating them in front of Starlight. A quick nibble from the top pancake told Starlight they were a tad cold, but otherwise tasted fine.
Twilight and Spike had already finished with their breakfast. Fortunately for Starlight they were perfectly content providing her morning company while she ate, regardless.
“Sorry, I'm fine, just getting used to late nights again. Now that everything's starting to settle down and I've found a routine again, I've picked up some old projects of mine as well as some new ones. I guess I forgot how easy it is to lose yourself in them.”
“And the next thing you know the birds are celebrating the rising sun and the outside world begins to wind up while you shuffle back into your cave,” Twilight smiled at Starlight all too knowingly, “Trust me when I say I'm no stranger to that feeling.”
Starlight scrunched up her face at the odd sounding comment. “That was an almost poetic way of describing the morning. Not quite, but almost.”
Twilight sheepishly pawed her hoof towards Starlight, “I, uhh, may have been up most of the night myself, organising poetry. It's more addicting than you might think.”
Spike chimed in, “Meanwhile I packed all of your supplies and travel books, not that you'll read them until you get back,” The bitterness in his voice from conducting an unthanked task was not missed.
“I will so read them!” shot back Twilight with a mix of irritation and indignation. “Well, some of them,” she said as she levitated her empty plate over to Spike as a hint for him to start cleaning up. He took it and started packing away the cutlery despite his less than enthusiastic response to the task. “Thank you for packing, though, Spike. I appreciate it.”
“Yeah yeah,” Spike replied.
“Are you going somewhere?” Starlight asked, also passing her now empty plate to Spike as he stomped past.
“Just up to Canterlot for the day, I figure if you're going to be busy at your lunch with Rarity and Fluttershy then I may as well go see a friend of mine who lives there. It's been a while since our last get-together. I don't have any work to get done either, so make hay while the sun shines I say.”
“Oh, didn't I tell you? Rarity wasn't able to make it today on account of, as she puts it, 'unforeseen circumstances'. Although I'd wager she's just behind on her work. And by work I mean spa treatments.”
“So I take it you three have rescheduled?”
“To tomorrow, yes.”
Twilight was very excited by this revelation, “Well in that case would you like to come up to Canterlot with me instead? I'm sure you and my friend Moon Dancer would get along very well. You might even find you share a few things about your pasts.”
Starlight looked towards the room entrance, almost expectantly, “Actually I've already made new plans for today.”
“Oh, what sort of plans?” Twilight asked.
Even several rooms and corridors away from the entrance the battering of the crystal doors could clearly be heard throughout the castle.
“Greetings castle dwellers!“ came a muffled yet familiar voice echoing to the dining room, “The Great and Powerful Trixie has arrived at your not-at-all humble abode to wow and amaze!”
“I hope you don't mind”, Starlight said, “Trixie and I are going to spruce up her show a little and I figured it'd be easier to test things here instead of dodging around ponies at the park.”
“Of course! I'm just glad to hear you're making plans on your own and getting out from under the castle. As nice as it is here you can't exactly exercise friendship lessons from your room,” Twilight threw her dragon prepared saddle bags onto her back and started waltzing towards the room doors. Each step was already bouncing with the anticipation of seeing her friend again, “The faster I get out of your mane the better than I suppose. Perhaps you can come and visit another time?”
Starlight followed behind at a more leisurely pace, “Of course, it sounds like it'd be a fun afternoon.”
“Just be sure to let Spike know what you're doing so that he doesn't freak out over explosions and lights going off or anything else Trixie might have in her show. Otherwise he'll come running in with buckets of water and throw before he thinks,” Twilight informed Starlight with a huff.
“I feel like you're speaking from experience there,” Starlight replied. The image of an unhappily dripping Princess and her books almost made her giggle.
“If you really want to hear someone speak from experience just ask Spike what the best way to dry half a shelf of encyclopedias is; he knows all about that.”
“We'll try to keep it away from the library so I don't have to,” Starlight assured Twilight.
As they reached the large entrance doors of the castle Twilight pushed them outwards with a light touch. They swung open to reveal The Great and Powerful Trixie standing at the top of the stairs wearing nothing but her cape, hat, several comically over-sized saddle bags and her signature smirk.
“Trixie was starting to believe nopony was home,” announced Trixie, “Hello Princess, Starlight. I hope my glorious arrival has not come at an unfortunate time.”
“Hey Trixie”, Starlight reached out and took a couple of the bags off her friend's back. Floating them into a small pile in the castle entrance hall. They were surprisingly light and soft for their size. Either fireworks or a whole lot of cloth would fit that criteria perfectly. Starlight decided it would likely be both.
“Hello Trixie, I hope you two have fun today,” said Twilight, putting on her best smile. While Twilight had become used to Trixie's presence and her closeness to Starlight, there would always be that spark of competition between the two. Although it had become more about continuing the rivalry for the sake of continuing it rather than any actual ill will. Especially after Trixie's recent efforts to help Starlight rescue Twilight and her friends from ex-Queen Chrysalis.
“You wont be joining us Princess?” asked Trixie, “Well then, I guess The Great Trixie and Starlight will just have to make do with the power of unicorns alone,” she continued, putting on a clearly fake pout.
“If it helps, Starlight here may as well count as two unicorns. Her magic is coming along fantastically. I can't imagine what kind of tricks you two will come up on your own.” Twilight said, “It was good to see you, Trixie. I'll see you later tonight, Starlight.”
With the greetings and farewells over, Twilight leapt off the top of the stairs and took flight towards Canterlot. As she disappeared over the rooftops Trixie looked back towards her assistant waiting for her in the doorway, “Shall we?”
“Come on in!”
“So, did you have any idea of what part of your show you wanted to work on?” Starlight asked, placing Trixie's bags in the middle of the dining room table. It was several corridors from the library, so they had figured it would be the safest place for magic practice. The last thing Starlight wanted was a repeat of her most recent training session with Twilight. She winced as a crunching sound came from one of the bags at the bottom of the pile, straining under the weight of the other bags she had placed on top. Fortunately Trixie either paid no attention to the noise or didn't hear it as she was already launching into her show-pony flair.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie was thinking of something flashy! Something dangerous! Something that goes ka-boom!” Trixie exclaimed, throwing her hooves into the air, “I need something that will take the show to the next level. Something that gets the attention of not just small hamlets of ponies, but entire cities!”
“Sounds challenging, but with myself as your assistant I'm sure we can cook something up,” Starlight announced confidently.
“I knew I made you my assistant for a reason.” Trixie opened one of the top bags and poured the contents onto the floor. Just as Starlight had guessed it was full of fireworks wrapped in sheets. The fabric was dyed the same purple shade of Trixie's cape and hat. Stitched into it was a cartoon-ish night sky which was crudely cut from faded yellow and blue felt. The fireworks were battered; there were rips along the seams and the fuses were frayed. It even looked as if water had seeped into a few. They had clearly been battered about during Trixie's travels.
Trixie caught Starlight's concerned look.
“Worry not my friend, these are show fireworks. They release magic instead of flames. It's what allows me to use them so close to an audience without singeing off anypony's coats. Trixie bought them from a magic shop during a stay in Canterlot once. They're a tad old now. But nowhere else sells them I made sure to buy enough to last my travels.”
At the mention of magic Starlight was instantly intrigued.
“Would you mind if I had a look at the spell? They can't be that hard to understand.” Without waiting for a reply Starlight picked up one of the fireworks and started to examine it. Magically feeling and stripping the contained spell down to its base parts.
“Trixie has looked herself, but had trouble understanding the mechanisms it uses. Actually I would be very interested if you could find a way to increase the amount of light they release? Or maybe just the intensity? I need something which could mask an entire stage at once. Something which could be used to hide the secrets of the performance.”
“Such as?” Starlight absently replied, already casting her own reworked spell onto the firework. Compared to what Starlight was capable of, this was foal's play.
“Well, the Moonshot Manticore Mouth Dive worked well because I, uh, vanished from sight before your teleportation spell was cast, so nopony noticed your magic being used. However, there is a far more advanced trick which would bring in masses from all around to see,” Trixie explained as she jumped up onto the crystal table, using it as an impromptu stage, and faced Starlight, “It involves me standing in plain sight in the center of the stage, all eyes on me, with a heavy metal box suspended from above.”
At her command Trixie created the frame of a magic box several meters above herself.
“After some talking up the danger of such a trick, Trixie would command you to cut the rope holding it up.”
The fake box started to fall towards her.
“And just before the box squashed me, the fireworks would go off an-”
A gentle hum hung in the air as the light of Starlight's altered firework settled. Neither Trixie or Starlight moved, both surprised by the intensity of the flash. As they slowly looked around to check if the rest of the room was okay, Trixie noticed she was now encased by the magic box which had landed on the table during the flash. She skittered out of it nervously, taking some comfort that it wasn't the real box.
“Well, in the actual show Trixie would be prepared for that and appear on top of the box, not in it,” Trixie said giving Starlight a quick glare.
Starlight smiled nervously, “Heh, perhaps I made it a little too bright.”
“Nonsense, that was perfect!” Trixie's attitude spun around, “Bold enough to capture the attention of the whole crowd. Nopony would pay attention to any magic used after that. Say, could you do the same to all of the fireworks?”
“Absolutely!” Starlight said excitedly at the opportunity to contribute more of her magic to the show. She immediately got to work on the rest of the fireworks. “Although I'm confused by one thing, why not use your smoke bombs? They block sight really well.”
“I'm glad you asked my wonderful assistant. Smoke bombs may be fast at providing cover, but they're still slow enough to allow keen eyes to pick out the secret to the act, especially a trick as quick as this. By using light, it will fool all eyes into believing they have just witnessed grand magic, not some street illusion. At least word will spread of the death-defying act. At last The Great and Powerful Trixie will become a household name!” Trixe caught herself, “Sorry, The Great and Powerful Trixie and Starlight Glimmer will be household names.”
“Oh goodness no I couldn't be,” Starlight shook her head, “The crowds should be excited to see you. This is your act, I don't want to impose on that.”
“Hmmf! I'm afraid that as my assistant it will be unavoidable. If it helps you don't have to say anything during the act, and when we hit it big maybe nopony will even remember the silent assistant.”
Starlight looked unsure, Trixie raised an eyebrow at her, “You know there's a difference between attracting a crowd and controlling one right?”
Starlight knew what she was getting at, “Of course! I just don't know how I feel about being back in the spotlight.”
“Starlight, you led a team to save every Princess of Equestria, all the Elements of Harmony, and overthrew the evil leader of an entire species all at the same time. I'm pretty sure standing on a stage wont be what ponies remember you for.”
“It wasn't just me, you were there with us,” Now it was Starlight's turn to raise an eyebrow, ”In fact why don't you just advertise your show with that accomplishment? You would get ponies from all around to see the magic which saved Equestria.”
“Are you saying I haven't already? Take a look at this!” Trixie pulled one of the bags over to her and dumped several rolled up posters from it onto the floor. Starlight took one and unraveled it. It was an advertisement for Trixie's next show.
~THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE PRESENTS~ CAN'T BEAT EM'? CHANGE THEM!
COME SEE THE GRAND MAGIC OF A PONY WHO CHANGED THE CHANGELINGS!
ON TOUR NOW ~COMING TO A CITY NEAR YOU~
In the background of the poster was an imposing picture of Trixie looking over a group of the newly transformed changelings. Where in Equestria Trixie commissioned these images from Starlight would never know.
“I'm not sure how Thorax would feel about the imagery but this looks good. Has it not been drawing the crowds in?”
“Ugh, I wish I could say it did,” Trixie scrunched up her muzzle, “but ponies just think I'm piggybacking off the recent news to sell the show. As if a simple show-pony such as myself could be a part of an epic adventure. Maybe the Ursa Major story I told ponies before I met Twilight isn't helping. But this time Trixie really did fight off an evil threat!“ she rolled her eyes, ”Everypony's a sceptic. All I need is that one big break, something in the act itself to really push it over the edge and attract some real attention.”
Starlight gave Trixie a determined look, “Well then, let's make this the best act possible!”
Together they dove into patching up Trixie's show. Starlight continued with the production line of fireworks. Stripping apart the spells and injecting her modifications. Meanwhile Trixie examined the star fabric for signs of wear and tear, then stitched up any damage she found. She also managed to fit in some practice escaping from the falling box a few times with varying degrees of success. She did so without the aid of fireworks, there was no point in wasting them. As they progressed they piled everything show-ready by the door so they could pack them back into the bags. Slowly the pile grew into a large molehill. Starlight was wondering about the integrity of the fireworks when suddenly the doors were thrown open and in wandered a large stack of books. No that wasn't right, it was a large stack of books being carried by- “Spike look out!” Starlight yelled. It was too late.
“Woo-hoo-ho!” Spike was caught off guard as he tried to stop too fast and the weight of the books he was transporting tipped him back and forth like a Cockatrice trying to balance on the pointy end of its tail. Everything happened in slow motion, falling books, flying fireworks, a chain reaction of explosions, then blinding white. The light grew and grew. It expanded at an exponential rate. The force from the fireworks wooshed down the halls. Chaos echoed throughout the whole castle. In seconds the light engulfed the library, second floor, basement, and even the roof. Entire bookshelves were thrown apart. Pans and plate rattled themselves off the shelves. The fire-less force even grazed some of the houses closest to the castle. Had it been night ponies would have sworn the sun had risen. Just as quickly as it had formed the disco ball of a castle dimmed and faded; revealing the damage left in its wake.
While the castle itself appeared unscathed, any objects not held down with at least two decent paperweights could be found several rooms away from their starting position, or further. Even as the last remnants of the light disappeared and eyes were safe to be opened again, pieces of paper and Trixie's fabric continued to float down from the ceiling which they had found themselves on.
“Oh no! I'm so sorry guys, I had no idea you were practicing in here!” Spike was apologising profusely, throwing himself onto his knees to beg for forgiveness.
Starlight thought fast, “It's okay Spike. Don't worry it, we'll get this cleaned this up in no time.” She was internally chastising herself for not following Twilight's advice.
“But I caused this, I should have looked inside before walking in. It is my responsibility to clean it up.”
“That's sweet of you, but we decided to do this here without even letting you know. It's our responsibility.”
Spike didn't look convinced.
“How about we clean up this time and you clean next time,” Starlight continued, “even if it's our fault?”
So long as she never made a mess again, Starlight could fix this.
Spike was still unsure, but he smiled nonetheless; he wasn't going to get in trouble and nopony was going to be angry with him, “Sounds like a deal! If you don't tell Twilight about this, please?”
“You have my silence, Twilight wont know anything.”
“And what of my fireworks? Those weren't cheap you know.” While Trixie wasn't red faced furious, she was definitely upset and expecting some form of compensation. And she had every right to, while Starlight had a princess to help her out, Trixie paid out of pocket for everything. This could be detrimental to her livelihood. Starlight had to think faster.
“Your next show isn't for a couple of days right? Well I told Twilight I'd go up to Canterlot at some point. I'll buy some replacement fireworks for you while I'm there. Those ones were probably in need of replacing anyways.”
Trixie nodded, she didn't need the fireworks for practicing. And she could trust Starlight to make good on her word. “Very well, that sounds agreeable to Trixie. Thank you, Starlight.” Trixie said, pleased with the outcome.
Starlight smiled, crisis averted. Until she looked around the room and the smile dropped off her face as fast as it had arrived, “We should probably get this cleaned up first though.”
HooHoo....*tick* *tick* *tick*...HooHoo...
Starlight Glimmer squeezed her eyes together and threw her hoof out at the clock. With a *clank* They connected.
HooHoo....*tick* *tick* *tick*...HooHoo...
She had missed the clock. Starlight drew her foreleg in and cast the hoof out again hoping to catch the infernal device this time.
HooHoo....*tick* *tick* *tick*...HooHoo...
It was at this point Starlight realised something was wrong. She had smacked the clock twice, perfect hits too, but it was still making noises. Also her hoof was really starting to hurt. Now that she thought about it her clock was making a very different sound to what it usually makes. It sounded much more...lively? Starlight cracked open an eye to investigate what was wrong. The angle was a little strange from where she lay, however, she managed to work out the hands on the clock by her bed displayed six o'clock. This was most likely the morning. She still had another hour before she needed to wake! Starlight scowled at the clock for its inaccurate time keeping.
That did not come from the clock. Looking around the rest of her room Starlight's eyes latched onto a pair of shiny black eyes staring back at her through the nearest window.
“AAH!”, Starlight screamed and pulled her sheets up to her chest defensively, ready to fight or fly. The eyes in the darkness tilted slightly. It was unsure what to make of the strange action. Blinking a few times Starlight was able to make out a silhouette around the eyes. An owl shaped silhouette.
“Oh, Owlowiscious, it's just you,” Starlight said, very relieved and feeling slightly foolish for mistaking the sound of an owl for a clock. She dropped the protective sheets, carefully fumbled her way out of bed and wandered over the closed window. In the light of the almost-rising sun from outside, as faint as it was, Starlight noticed Owlowiscious was sitting on something. She also noticed the tiny scratches where the owl had been tapping on the window.
“What do you have there, bird?” she asked, unlocking and pushing up the window with her magic. She propped her hooves onto the window sill. Owlowiscious hopped around her before she even had a chance to give his feathers a stroke. He wasted no time leaping into the room and gliding onto Starlight's bed; making himself comfortable in the warm sheets.
“Hmmmm,” Starlight grunted in annoyance towards the sneaky owl. She pointed a hoof in accusation, “You did that on purpose.” Owlowiscious turned away and ruffled the sheets; he had won and was simply claiming his prize. Starlight shook her head, “I'll use you for a pillow next time, bird.” The feathers sure looked soft enough.
Starlight turned her eyes away from Owlowiscious and to what he had been sitting on. It was the newspaper. She wondered if the Owl had found it or stolen it. She wouldn't put it past the little thief, he had already stolen her bed. Then again maybe it was payment for use of her bed. Starlight wasn't sure what to make of that, but decided it was best to include as much context as she could if she told the story to Twilight.
No longer able to return to sleep Starlight figured she may as well sit down and read the paper brought to her. She wasn't much of a newspaper pony. Most, if any, news she heard about came from Twilight or her friends. This arrangement suited her just fine. In her old village there was no newspaper. The town was so small there was just no need. Starlight knew of everything that happened. If she didn't know about something which happened, somepony was punished.
She shook the thoughts from her head; she was past that, she should act like it. The paper loudly crinkled under her magic use. Opening to the first page Starlight took a seat at her desk and delved into the events of the past, and sales of the future. The first pages contained sports and competitions. Something about a Buckball championship and a local chess competition. Apparently a 'Sisterhooves Social' was taking place soon. Starlight wasn't sure what a Sisterhooves Social was but she could guess it was some sort of team competition from the pictures. She pocketed the topic to raise with Rarity later today during their lunch. Perhaps she was entering with her sister.
The next page consisted of a two page spread informing Starlight of great deals on used sofas. She flipped to the next page and what she read made her pause. Large bold text covered the entire page:
Ponyville Resident Roseluck Seriously Injured in Freak Accident
A Tragedy which occured at Ponyville markets has left local resident Roseluck in a serious condition in Ponyville Medical. The accident occurred during the peaceful midday hours when a rouge cart's coupler came loose of its holding uphill of the market. The cart rolled down Wither Hill before slamming into several tents. Fortunately the cart did not travel further than the first row of tents and no other attendants were involved in the accident. At this time no foal play is suspected however the occurrence is being investigated by local guards. Mayor Mare is expected to make an announcement about the event during the next town meeting. Princess Twilight Sparkle was unavailable for comments at this current time. Early Equestrian recommends anypony using a cart for work or general transportation to check all parts for damage or rust.
Just below the grim article was a strategically positioned ad for custom fitted cart parts.
Starlight placed the newspaper down on the table and looked towards the window, allowing her mind to wander in thought. She tried to think back to if she had ever met Roseluck. The name sounded familiar. Perhaps one of Twilight's friends had mentioned her. Maybe she did need to leave the Castle more often, Starlight thought. Twilight and her group were really the only ponies she knew well. Well, including Trixie. Although today Starlight was heading out to meet Fluttershy and Rarity for lunch at a local restaurant. Perhaps, she thought, she could try and introduce herself to some new ponies. Twilight would be very impressed if she did that.
Starlight nodded to herself. With a feeling of fresh determination she floated the paper into the wooden bin under her desk and made for the door.
Starlight hopped down the castle entrance stairs one at a time. The sun had fully risen a few hours ago and the town was lit up. A gentle glow now came from the sun-clad buildings and the dirt road to the town center was warm under her hooves. Despite the perfect day there was hardly a hooffull of ponies out. Starlight figured they must have gone inside or to the markets for lunch. When her stomach rumbled she decided those other ponies had the right idea.
With a trot and a skip in her step Starlight bee-lined for the the restaurant she was meeting her friends at. When she had left her room Starlight had found the castle absent of Twilight. A few prods at the sleeping dragon in the map room revealed that Twilight hadn't returned from her trip yet. Also, that this was not uncommon and she got distracted too easily. Starlight just internally shrugged and moved on with her day.
Trotting through the residential area and past the markets Starlight paused for a moment and looked towards the crowd of tents and baskets of items. Fresh fruit and weaved bowls on display. She had told herself she would try and meet somepony new. She could take a quick look around, maybe even convince somepony to come to lunch with her. Starlight held a hoof towards the market before deciding against her plan and placing it back down on the ground. She could do it on the way back, yes, there no reason to keep Fluttershy and Rarity waiting. With the daily plan reformed in her mind, Starlight took off again.
It didn't take her long to reach the restaurant. Ponyville was still a small hamlet after all. Even if it was currently in somewhat of a growth spurt thanks to the introduction of Twilight's castle.
“Starlight!” called out a pony, snapping her out of her thoughts. Without realising it Starlight had almost trotted right past Fluttershy and Rarity who had been waving at her from their table. Starlight waved back nervously, playing it cool with a forced smile.
“Oh! Sorry I thought it was the next place over.” She quickly trotted over to the table. The restaurant was easily one of the largest buildings in Ponyville, yet it still managed to fit with the aesthetic. From their outside table Starlight could see the thick straw roof and large timber supports framing the multi-coloured crosshatched windows. The table they had chosen sat under the shadow of the building. Fluttershy was browsing the menu in front of her and just beside Rarity was a gardens worth of Roses wrapped in a paper bundle.
“Have you two already ordered yet?” Starlight began as she took her spot on the last straw pile.
“Oh goodness no, we wanted to wait for you,” Fluttershy smiled and slid the menu she had in front of Starlight for her to browse. “Although, um, we have already decided,” she said tapping her hooves together nervously. Starlight took the menu and started reading through the fairly basic items. Hay fries, hay burgers, and sunflower sandwiches for variety.
While Starlight made her difficult decision the trio discussed how their days had been and the various tangents they led down. Rarity explained her history with Sweetie Belle and the Sisterhooves Social, and their plans to compete in the up and coming competition. Each of them had just finished up ordering their meals when Starlight remembered what she had read this morning and decided to bring it up.
“Did either of you hear about what happened at the markets yesterday?” Starlight started.
Rarity and Fluttershy each looked towards each other to check if they were the only one not in the loop. When they each saw the other was just as confused by the question they both turned back to Starlight.
“What happened, darling?” Rarity asked.
“Carrots were an extra bit but I don't remember anything particularly note worthy,” Fluttershy offered.
“Oh, well I read there was an accident with, er, Roseluck I think? I've never met her myself but I'm sure I've heard her name somewhere. Do either of you know her?”
“Accident with Roseluck?” Rarity looked towards the bundle of flowers by her side, then back to Starlight and raised an eyebrow. “Well that can't be right I bought these from her just today.” She pointed to the flowers. Starlight frowned, equally confused. Had she misread? She thought back to the paper. It had definitely said 'Roseluck', hadn't it? While Starlight placed a hoof to her chin in thought, Fluttershy leaned over to Rarity.
“I thought you said a handsome stallion gave you those,” she said, raising her own eyebrow. Rarity rubbed the back of her neck, realising her own slip up.
“Er, well, what I mean, I mean I was given the money to buy them. But he did pick them out! eheh!” She managed to put together with an unconvincing smile, crumbling under Fluttershy's penetrating eyes.
The three spun their heads towards the noise which echoed from several houses over, Starlight came to a stand.
“Wh-what was that?” asked Fluttershy in a shaky whisper, hooves instinctively over her chest.
Starlight didn't look away. “I'm not sure but we should go check it out,” she said, before trotting off at a brisk pace towards her best guess at where the noise came from. Rarity agreed and followed suit with Fluttershy in tow. The sound had lured in ponies from all around. Like a leaf caught in a stream moving towards a drain, Starlight was guided towards the sound with no resistance. The crowd funnelled straight into the market and thickened as the three neared the center. A commotion was being made ahead where a large group of ponies stood watching something of interest. Starlight strained her neck to see over the crowd but decided to just step back when it became obvious she wasn't going to see anything attempting to push her way through. She considered levitating herself above the crowd when a voice rang out from somewhere inside.
“Please move aside!”
There was movement in the crowd. Rarity and Fluttershy stopped next to Starlight, the latter out of breath. But Starlight didn't even notice their presence. She was far too curious about the ongoing events in front of them, an ill feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. From the crowd a medical clad unicorn appeared, gently yet quickly pushing through the onlooking ponies. In tow was a stretcher backed by another unicorn medic. Of all the things Starlight could possibly notice about the medical team, it wasn't the red cross on their uniform which stole her attention or even the 'Ponyville Medical Unit' text spelled out under the cross. It was the deep raspberry mane of the still pony being carried on the stretcher. Starlight could only see flickers of the pony between the rest of the onlookers. She began stepping forward in an attempt to get a closer look when she stopped cold. Between the two ponies in front of her, for just a second, Starlight could see the pony's cutie mark clear as day. A single rose.
Starlight ran. She ran as fast as she could. She paid no attention to the staring ponies. She paid no attention to the concerned yells of Fluttershy or Rarity. She simply ran. She had to get back to the castle. She had to be sure.
It couldn't be right, but there was no other explanation. She had been given precognition of today. There was nothing Starlight knew of, no magic in Equestria, which could do that. Sure there were spells that allowed you to travel to the past and even change it. But the future was off limits to even the most powerful of unicorns and magicians. Had she been given the paper to prevent the accident? Some form of time travel before the time to travel had occurred. Had she missed her chance? Had she failed?
Somepony yelled out from nearby. It was Trixie. She was running after Starlight trying to get her attention having seen her during her magic practice.
“Starlight! What are we running for?” Trixie yelled, struggling to keep up.
“I need to get back to the castle,” Starlight answered, between breaths. She was already tired but ran through it regardless,” Something happened, something bad. And I think it's my fault.”
Trixie caught up and bumped into Starlight's side, concern for her friend clearly evident on her face, “I thought you were past this, you can't keep blaming yourself for what you did to Twilight and Equestria.”
“No not that.” Starlight clarified, “Look, I read about an incident and then it happened. I could have prevented it but I thought it had already happened so I didn't!”
Trixie eyed Starlight for several moments trying to work out if her friend was joking until she almost tripped over a stray rock. Correcting herself, Trixie replied, “Trixie is not sure she understands. How did you know about the incident?”
“I read about it in a newspaper that I got this morning from an owl.”
“I see,” Trixie didn't, “and this magical newspaper is at the castle?” There was an emphasis on the 'magical' that did not go unnoticed.
Starlight nodded, “I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. I just need to check it again to be sure.”
When they reached the castle Starlight levitated herself straight up and into the window of her bedroom. Leaving behind a particularly irritated Trixie who now had to take the long route through the front doors to just follow.
Starlight landed on her bedside table before hopping down onto the floor. She was out of breath but wasted no time stumbling over to her desk and pulling out the wooden container underneath it. It was empty. The paper had been right there this morning, she was sure of it. Starlight started lifting every object on and around her desk. Perhaps the paper was just behind something, or under something else.
“Oh hey Starlight, wasn't expecting you home so soon,” Spike said from the doorway, having heard all the commotion she was making. “How'd the lunch go?”
“Spike!” Starlight yelled frantically. She blinked over to him and grabbed Spike by his shoulders, “Have you seen a newspaper anywhere? It was in my room earlier and now I can't find it.”
Spike smiled proudly. “Oh, I was cleaning up before Twilight returned and just thought I'd clean your room as well. After what you did for me yesterday I couldn't leave you sitting in filth!”
Starlight placed him down on the floor and started pacing. “Oh no, no no no...”. She had lost the paper. The once chance and one lead she had was gone.
“Is, is something wrong?” Spike asked, genuine concern in his voice. He placed his claws on Starlight's shoulder, stopping her mid pace.
“Well did you find it, Starlight?” Trixie asked, having made her way through the rest of the castle to meet them.
“No,” Was all Starlight said, unsure of what to do or say now.
“Was it really that important?” Spike asked, “I'm sure you could go get another from the market stand. Paper Plate always has extra. I know because Twilight always likes to grab one for her Ponyville timeline,” he suggested.
Trixie answered for Starlight, “According to Starlight it was a magical newspaper. Told the future or something to that effect.”
Spike was taken back, “Woah really? That's so cool!” He cried, looking to Starlight with genuine excitement in his face. “You could do all kinds of things with that. Like predict the weather or win the lottery!” He cupped his face, eyes sparkling, imagining all the possibilities.
“No Spike, somepony was hurt today. I was given the chance to stop it but I ignored it.” Starlight said firmly. It wasn't a toy, it had been a warning.
Trixie placed a hoof on her friend's shoulder where Spike had placed his a minute ago, “So you messed up, moping about it in Twilight's castle wont help anyone. Especially not that hurt pony who needs all the joy they can get right now.” Starlight looked towards Trixie's comforting smile. She was right. Starlight might have messed up but that didn't mean she couldn't do her best to set things right now.
“Besides, it's a newspaper. So you'll get it tomorrow, right? Maybe you'll have another chance?” Spike suggested in an attempt to cheer up the clearly distraught Starlight.
“Maybe,” Starlight began, “We don't know where it comes from though. It might have ended up with me by mistake or maybe it was supposed to be delivered to Twilight? I think I'm just going to help Roseluck where I can for now. Just fix the damage I already caused before thinking about that paper anymore.” Starlight looked to Spike, “Is Twilight back yet? I think I need to talk to her about this.”
Spike shook his head, “Not yet. Which is perfectly fine for me because there are no more chores to do until she does.”
Starlight nodded, “I guess we wait until tomorrow then.”
HooHoo....*tick* *tick* *tick*
Starlight's eyes shot open. She looked at the clock on the nightstand. Six O'clock right on the dot just as the night before. Starlight leapt from her bed and threw open the window. Owlowiscious hopped into her room without a second thought before again making himself at home in her sheets. Starlight didn't even pay attention to him, as right where Owlowiscious had just been standing, sat a brand new newspaper. She had to know. With a trembling hoof she picked up gift from the owl and observed the date printed in the top right had corner of the first page.
Spike awoke to silence. Twilight wasn't preparing her daily notes, which meant she was still away. He jumped into the air. Excitement ran through him as he thought of all the things he was going to do on his chore-less day off. Throwing the blanket from himself Spike ran for the kitchen. Breakfast was before anything. As he ran past the map room he noticed a magic glow coming from inside. Placing a claw on the door he pushed it open slightly to reveal Starlight Glimmer leaning back on Twilight's chair, a newspaper wrapped in her magic glow was spread out in front of her.
“Is that it? It came?” Spike asked excitedly. He ran over to her and started reading the page the paper was open to.
“It came,” Starlight said evenly without looking away. She wasn't unhappy, but certainly not cheerful. No, Starlight was determined. She had another chance to change things. To make them better. Spike could see it on her face. He grew excited. If his time with Twilight had taught him anything, that was a look of an adventure in waiting.
In truth, Starlight had spent the majority of the morning thinking over what the paper meant. And how much she could do with it. She had ideas, made a plan, and most importantly, she found a direction.
“So what's happening today? Another market accident? Someone fall off a cliff?”
Starlight smiled almost sadly, “Cat stuck in a tree.” She closed up the paper and folded it up to carry with her. “If you want to do good you've got to start small I guess.” Starlight hopped off the chair and up on to her hooves. “Want to come with, Spike?”
Spike puffed his chest up and saluted, “I've got your flank, sister!” he exclaimed.
“Then hop on up.” Spike didn't need to be told twice, he skilfully jumped onto Starlight's back as he had done with Twilight for years and they shot off towards the door.
Blue magic engulfed Lost Penny's cat and gently carried it from the top branch of a tree just out of town to the worried owner. The cat's gentle purring could be seen as it disrupted the waves of the magic holding it. The cat put up no resistance and even stretched out its arms as it neared its worried owner. Penny took the cat in her hooves and gently calmed it with a loving pat.
“Thank you so much, young lady, for getting Ruffles down from the tree; he was in such distress. I don't know why he insists on going up there,“ Penny said in her croaky voice with a huff. “Is there anyway I can repay you?”
“Oh it's no problem at all, we're just happy to help,” Starlight replied, a retail smile on her face. Spike and Starlight waved to Ms Penny as she started her walk back home, rescued cat in tow.
“Well, that was easy,” Starlight said flatly.
“Almost too easy, I thought it would be at least a little exciting.” Spike was laying with his back over Starlight's. “You sure there's nothing else in that paper?”
“I'm afraid not. Although I do have something else to get done today which involves the paper.” Starlight started trotting towards the markets at a brisk pace. “Come on Spike, we've got some bits to win.”
”So your plan is to win the lottery and give the bits to Roseluck?” Spike asked as he watched Starlight put her newly bought ticket in-between page 4 and 5 of the newspaper.
“Of course not Spike, ponies might suspect something if I just give her the money straight up. I'm just going to pop in and give her the ticket as a,” Starlight thought for a second for the right word, “get-well gift. I'll just say I heard about what happened and that I wish her all the best,” She explained.
“But, isn't that unfair to the other ponies with tickets?” Spike raised his eyebrow despite Starlight not being able to see his face while on her back. Starlight smiled, it was something she had considered but was glad Spike raised the issue. He wasn't going to let her get away with doing the wrong thing.
“Oh I'm sure they wont mind, even if they did know. It's only a few hundred bits anyway, somepony won it just last week. Besides, I can't just leave her how she is without doing something to help.” Starlight looked downcast, reliving the moments from yesterday in her head.
“Cheer up, Starlight,“ Spike reached out a claw to lift her head, ”If you feel like you have to do it then it's probably the right thing to do.”
Starlight looked over her shoulder at Spike and smiled to him, “I hope you're right.” Spike was always a good source of motivation. She was sure he had helped Twilight through some tough times.
Starlight unrolled the newspaper in front of her, ”Do they put the hospital's address in the newspaper?” she asked, flicking through the pages, stopping only when she noticed something strange. Her brow furrowed in confusion. She checked the page before and after the current one before accepting what she had found wasn't just her being confused. The article about the cat was missing. As in completely gone. She had the right page and everything. Only in place of the article which she had read just this morning was an article covering a lost foal.
“Oh no, it's gone...,” Starlight said, alarmed by the change.
“Erm, what's gone?“ Spike asked, confused by Starlight's confusion.
“The paper, article, about the cat. It was here and now it's not.” Starlight pointed to the altered spot on the paper.
“Well that makes sense, you saved that cat so now they wont write about it in the paper tomorrow,” Spike offered.
“I know but I didn't think the paper was real time. But look, it's been replaced by another story.” Starlight floated the paper over to Spike to allow him to read.
Little Filly Missing in Big Town
Yesterday Dream Wave and Star Sign experienced something no parent should when they found their unicorn filly, Nova Glow, missing. It is assumed the child was separated from her parents when they departed their train in Ponyville during the trip from Baltimare to Canterlot. Due to the finales of a Buckball game between Ponyville and Canterlot, which we will be covering, an overly crowded station may have made it difficult for the young filly to follow her parents. Speculation currently places the child on the train to Canterlot, however when Canterlot authorities were contacted they reported seeing no foals of Novas description. If anypony has information regarding the whereabouts of Nova Rings please immediately inform authorities or our staff at Early Equestrian so we can contact her parents.
Beneath the article was a picture of Nova Glow happily playing some sort of chasing game with her friends. Starlight had taken in all the details. A small filly, unkempt hair, unicorn. The note on the picture described her as 'Yellow maned, lilac coat/eyes, cutie mark of magic flair'. The decorations around the filly hinted the picture had been taken during her Cute-ceañera.
“Missing filly? So, a foal went missing because you saved a cat? How does that work?” Spike scratched the back of his head trying to process how the two were connected.
“I guess this would have happened anyway.”
“And they thought a cat was a better story than a missing child?”
“Maybe they had already pushed it to print before this story came to light? Or maybe it's because this story is about a kid from Baltimare whereas the cat was local. Whatever the reason is we need to do something about it. The kid could be hurt or worse,” Starlight said, reading over the details of the article once more.
“And what about Roseluck? If you don't give her the ticket today you'll win the bits,” Spike pointed to the paper where the ticket was kept, reminding Starlight of her previous goal.
She thought for a few moments before levitating the ticket out and passing it to Spike, “Think you could do me a favour?”
Starlight stood on the train platform. It was busy today, exceptionally so. The paper had certainly been right about the Buckball match attracting a crowd. There were as many team coloured shirts and oversized novelty hooves as there were characters on a page. Starlight could hardly hear her own thoughts over the cheers and 'whooping' of the crowd, the excitement of the upcoming game on every face.
She recalled the missing foal article. The filly went missing while traveling with her family from Baltimare to Ponyville. She was with them on the train, however after leaving the station they were nowhere to be found. Starlight looked around the crowd of ponies. It wouldn't be hard to imagine losing an adult in all this noise, let alone a tiny filly.
“Excuse me ma'am, do you need a ticket?” asked the station manager from his booth. He was looking towards Starlight through tired eyes, it had clearly been a busy day for him.
“Oh no thanks, I'm waiting for somepony,” Starlight replied with an awkward smile. The old stallion nodded and shifted his attention to a pony just arriving who was head-to-hoof in Ponyville's purple and green team colours.
Starlight wasn't really sure what she should be looking for. She just hoped she would be able spot the filly in all this chaos and help her find her parents.
From nearby the rhythmic *tunk*-*unk-*tunk*-*unk* of rotating metal wheels could be heard. A wisp of smoke wafted over the nearby hill. The train was almost here. Starlight stepped back and into a position where she could see as much of the station as she could. She didn't want to miss anything.
The train pulled up to the station with a loud screech and the hiss of grinding breaks. The doors opened smoothly and small lines were dug through the crowd by the ponies exiting the carts like ants digging into the ground. Starlight looked around desperately at each of the passengers leaving but couldn't see any fillies among them. Ponies walked around her to leave the station allowing her to get a better look. However still none of them looked close to the paper's description.
As the Buckball fans started boarding the train, Starlight still had not seen any filly leave. She was definitely still on the train, Starlight had to get on as well. Dashing over to the station manager, Starlight quickly threw some bits forward, “One to Canterlot, thanks!”, grabbed her ticket ran in behind the last ponies getting on.
The door shut behind Starlight and she had to scrunch herself up as small as she could to avoid getting her tail caught. This was awful. A pony could hardly turn around without bumping into somepony else. There was a flag poking into Starlight's side and scarf tickling her muzzle. She scowled, she had to move to where there was more space, there was no way she'd find anyone like this. The train suddenly lurched forward and the occupants were thrown backwards before catching their balance. The disruption allowed Starlight to at least move to a larger pocket near a wall. Leaning against the wall, Starlight was able to prop herself up and look over the train cart she was in. It was a jungle of colours. Greens, Blues, Reds, Purples. All except yellow.
Carefully, Starlight levitated herself to the roof, and ducked her head down to avoid bumping into the metal supports. Up and over several other ponies, Starlight floated herself through the cart and over to the door to the next one. As she floated over the other occupants she kept an eye out for the filly. There was nothing but rowdy fans and cheap merchandise everywhere she looked. None of the occupants noticed or cared about the glowing unicorn floating above them. Starlight overheard discussions of defenders, new tactics, and coach changes. None of which was of any interest to her. She finally made it to the door where she lowered herself down to step through it to the next cart.
This next cart was as much of a mad house as previous. The spew of colours moving and shuffling around was as before, maybe even worse. Again Starlight floated through, keeping a look out. Upon finding nothing she moved to the next cart.
Among all the disarray in this one Starlight was immediately able to make out a single point of calmness. A fixed point which she honed in on and immediately levitated herself directly over to. The young yellow maned filly sitting by herself had been looking out the window sadly, almost oblivious to the chaos around her. There was a noticeable absence of other ponies around her, the seat she sat on occupied by only her bag. Nova then noticed Starlight approaching her and moved her saddle bag to make space. Starlight floated down into the now clear spot next to the filly and smiled in as much of a friendly manner as she could manage.
“Hi there, I'm Starlight,” Starlight began.
The filly hesitated, her attention fixated on Starlight's horn, but managed to reply after a moment of watching Starlight lose her magic aura.
“I..I'm Nova Glow. Are you a spirit?” asked Nova in a light, scratchy voice. Her mouth stayed open in awe of Starlight's magical display. Nova held a hoof out and pushed Starlight's foreleg, checking if she was really there.
Starlight giggled, “Unfortunately not. Although I do know one. Did you miss your stop?” Nova withdrew her hoof and looked back out of the window.
“No, I haven't reached my stop yet,” she said.
Starlight was confused, “Then, where are you stopping?”
Nova held her saddle bag close to her. “Canterlot,” The filly replied simply. It was clear she didn't want to talk about whatever plans she had.
“Do your parents live there?” Starlight asked, fully aware of the real answer.
Nova's eyes desperately looked around for something to focus on, anything except Starlight. “Um, no.” At least she was being honest
“What made you want to go to Canterlot?” Continuing the conversation. Starlight was starting to get an idea of what was going on. Nova didn't answer her. The shoulder of a pony in the isle bumped against Starlight's head. She ignored it and asked Nova in a calm voice, “why did you stay on the train?”
Nova continued to look straight ahead, her eyes becoming damp, “Be-because mother wont let me stay in Baltimare.”
Starlight leaned forward, trying to catch Nova's gaze. “Well why not, is your family moving?”
The filly sniffed and wiped her muzzle with a hoof. “Yes, we're moving to Canterlot.”
“You don't want to move to Canterlot, so you catch a train to Canterlot?” Starlight raised an eyebrow at the strange train of thought by the filly.
“Um, yes?” The filly held her bag close to her. “I just wanted to get away, and maybe go back to Baltimare later.”
Starlight changed her tactic. “So, why don't you want to leave? Canterlot is a nice place.”
“They want me to join Celestia's school. Be-because of my cutie mark. But that mMmeans I wont get to hang out with my friends anymore,” Nova explained. Starlight wasn't sure what to say anymore. She was staring straight into the other side of her childhood. The thought of leaving her friends clearly upset her, the little tremors as she spoke were growing worse. Starlight knew the pain well. She had to fix this.
“Nova, you will see your friends again. But your future is important too. Do you want to learn magic?” Starlight placed a hoof on Nova's shoulder to get her attention.
“Y-yes, I enjoy using magic,” she replied between shaky breaths.
“Good,“ Starlight took a deep breath in and thought back to her lessons with Twilight, “Sometimes friends need to split up to do things they want to do. There are some things that have to be done by ourselves. That doesn't mean your friends will be gone forever, or that they aren't your friends anymore. When I was around your age my best friend left to learn magic just like you.” That caught Nova's attention. She looked directly at Starlight, now hanging on every word. Starlight continued, getting lost in her own reminiscence, “When he left I was broken, I thought the sun would never shine in my life again. We were silly foals and never wrote to one another. He was too shy too initiate letters, and in my anger I just straight out swore off friends in general.” As Starlight explained Nova was growing sadder and sadder, her fears being confirmed by the magic mare.
“So, y-you're saying I should stay in Baltimare and never leave my friends?” Nova asked.
Starlight shook her head, “No, because even though I thought I'd never see my friend again, I did. And now we're friends just like before, just with our own lives.” Starlight saw Canterlot station was coming into view out the window behind Nova. “Why don't you tell your friends your worries, and tell your parents too. Then when you leave you can write to your friends to let them know how your studies are going, and of all the new magic you'll learn.” Starlight gently bumped against Nova, “Maybe even go for visits between studies, you certainly know how to use the train.”
“I...I could do that,” Nova was in thought, deciding whether or not to follow Starlight's advice.
Starlight left the choice to Nova, “We're almost at Canterlot station. You can stay on board if you want, or you can get off here and come back to Ponyville with me. I'm sure your parents will understand that you just got stuck on board, I wont tell them otherwise if you don't. Please.” Starlight smiled at her hopefully, unsure what she'd do if Nova didn't come with her.
The train came to a halt and the doors slid open. “Canterlot Station!” a cry from the station manager rang out. The Buckball supporters flooded off the train leaving the two in silence. Nova made her decision.
At Ponyville Train Station two ponies and the station manager stood nervously, two of which were slightly shaking and leaning against one another. The station was eerily quiet, the army of game supporters now gone. Right on queue, under a billow of smoke, the train from Canterlot to Baltimare showed up right on time. It pulled into the station and opened its doors with a thud. The ponies on the platform waited with bated breath, which was released as soon as they saw a little yellow unicorn exit through the door on the middle cart with a saddle bag slung over her back.
“Nova!” The mare yelled out, galloping over to the filly and squeezing the breath from her before Nova even had a chance to say anything. The stallion wandered over afterwards and scuffed up Nova's hair. Despite his calmer demeanor his glassy eyes and the small streaks under them gave away how he felt.
On the far side of the platform, unnoticed by the other ponies on the station, was a unicorn reading a brand new article in the newspaper she received this morning.
Magic unites all. Every pegasus, every unicorn, every earth pony. Equestria really is a place of connections and harmony. They say there's only 6 degrees of social separation between each and every one of us. Yet despite this web of consciousness there are so many ponies you will never come into contact with during your life; who as far as you know never even existed. In some cases it's for the better, and in some cases it's a missed opportunity. But regardless of how many of those opportunities walk by you on the street each and every day, every single one of them will affect you and everypony you will or would have ever otherwise ever met. In that sense your life is determined by those around you far more than by your own hooves. In fact, you might just owe your entire life to somepony you've never met.
Today was already looking clear as crystal. No clouds had formed overnight and the weather team had already posted the day's schedule on the town notice board. The sky would remain empty up until, and including, nighttime. Iron Bridle, the local blacksmith, had decided to take this as an opportunity to fix the roof over his kitchen before the next storm came around. The last thing he needed was another brew of watered down stew. The previous batch had caused an unspoken rift between himself and the missus that only a patchwork of tiles could mend.
The rest of the town was taking to the streets as well. It may have been a small town but when the weather called, the residents were sure to respond on the first ring. A gaggle of children ran by Iron, laughing together. The scooter the one at the front of the pack reminded Iron of his younger days. He thought back to the endless summers he spent scootering around town, but the only things that came to mind consisted of the phrases 'oh no' and 'ow'.
There wasn't much that needed to be done to the roof. Just a couple of lazy tiles which required some help getting back into formation, and a nail to keep them steady. Iron climbed up the ladder he had placed against the house, and got to work. The first couple of tiles put up no fight. But now one particularly rebellious tile just wouldn't budge. Something was catching whenever he tried to push the tile under the tile above. He considered spending the next few hours lifting up every tile above this one just to dislodge it. But he figured it must only be a small chip or bump along the bottom that was preventing passage. One good hit should break it off.
He gave the front of the tile a good whack with his hammer and this time the tile actually stuck. It was progress! Iron placed his hoof on the tile and pushed. Although while the tile didn't move, his back legs sure did. Before Iron knew it he was picking up speed and flew off the roof. He already knew how this would end.
“Woah!” cried out Iron Bridle as he suddenly found himself unable to continue his fall. From the angle he was hanging at he couldn't see what was holding him up, perhaps an estranged nail had caught his jacket on his way down. His front legs dangled just several pony heights from the cobble path beneath him. A few of the tools he had been using to the patch the roof had slid along with him, when they were not caught like Iron they simply clattered to the ground. One of the stones of the cobble path cracked loudly under the fall of a hammer. Gently, the older stallion found himself being lowered to the ground where he was able to make use of his legs again. The magic that had been holding Iron by his back right leg dissipated and he looked around for his hero, who happened to be standing right in front of him.
He grabbed his hat from his head and planted it to his chest with a shaky hoof, “T-Thank you so much, ma'am. I should have replaced this whole roof moons ago!” he cried.
Starlight gave him a gentle smile, “Oh it's no problem, I wasn't just going to let you fall now was I?”
As Iron quickly picked up his tools off the ground, Starlight turned the newspaper by her side around to view the front page story. The bold-fonted headline no longer described the gruesome demise of Iron Bridle, but instead now read:
Promise of Blue Skies Garden Competition
Broken in Tragic Snail Invasion
There are some problems even I can't fix, Starlight thought to herself. She was starting to take a shine to this paper business. Yesterday she talked a scared filly out of running away, and today she saved an earth pony from his natural nemesis, gravity. Despite living in what was essentially the community hub of the town, and being friends with the Princess of Friendship herself, Starlight was still relatively new to the town. As such she didn't actually know many of the local ponies who called Ponyville home. She hadn't even realised just how many ponies lived here. Coming from a town where you could see every citizen simply by looking out your window, it was very intimidating to Starlight. This new paper of hers was forcing her to go outside and interact with other ponies. Granted it was to help them in their time of need and not socialise. But still, she was interacting with ponies she had never met before. Twilight will be so proud when she hears about this.
“Eh' hum!” A very obvious attempt to attract Starlight's attention had been made, and by the inflection thrown in it hadn't been the first attempt. Starlight looked up from her paper to see who had made the agitated noise. Standing in the middle of the path right in front of Starlight was the hat and cape donned magician, Trixie. She had a somewhat impatient look on her face.
“Sorry,” Starlight cringed apologetically, “how are you, Trixie?”
Trixie threw her head to the side with a flair which could rival Rarity, “Trixie will forgive her closest friend...this time.” She eyed the paper Starlight still had open in front of her, “I take it your magic paper arrived in good fashion then?”
“Yes, actually,” Starlight said as she floated the paper over to Trixie so she could read the printed date written at the top of the front page. Trixie, however, skimmed right over the date; her eyes had been immediately drawn to an article further down the page. Starlight waited for Trixie to take the paper in her own magic as she read. Trixie did not do this.
“Hmmm...” Trixie mused as she read from the paper Starlight was holding for her, “Apparently there's a concert happening today in Canterlot. A once off performance by composer Adagio Concerto,” Trixie sighed, ”Sometimes I wish the music scene here was as lively. All we have is Blue Note's..er..solo saxophone nights.” Trixie made the face of a child who had been told to eat their asparagus.
“I didn't know you were one for music, ” Starlight mentioned.
“Trixie has an interest in all art based acts, it's why I started showbiz in the first place.” Trixie smiled at Starlight, before suddenly remembering something, “Speaking of Canterlot, did you have a chance to pick up those fireworks of mine?”
Starlight had in fact forgot the fireworks somewhere in all the action of the previous day. “Oh, err, I'm afraid not.” She cursed herself for not picking them up while she was actually in Canterlot. Then again she hadn't had any bits on her at the time so she wouldn't have been able to do purchase any anyway. But still...
“Fine, Trixie will just have to go to Canterlot herself and get them.” Trixie said, in an oddly calm manner.
“Oh don't worry about that! I've done everything I need to today, I can make a trip up there right now!”
“While I appreciate it, I'd still like to go. I can take some posters and set them up around the concert.”
Starlight gave Trixie a blank stare. What did the concert have to do with fireworks?
“What for?” Starlight asked.
“Well,” Trixie started to explain, “the audience will enter the concert, during which I place my posters around the theatre, then when they come out they'll be so excited about the show that they will want to see another one and presto! There's another show right in front of them, look at that!”.
Starlight sighed, of course Trixie would want to go just to advertise herself. “And the event organisers are really okay with you using their show to advertise like that?”
“Maybe. I've never actually asked. But their show has finished by that point so why should they care?” Trixie reasoned.
“If you say so...” Starlight said, unconvinced. “Go grab your stuff and we'll meet at the station in an hour.”
“Sure thing, see you there!” replied Trixie, almost skipping away.
Starlight simply rolled her eyes and made her way back to the castle to pack.
Starlight and Trixie stepped out onto the breezy station. It was late morning and the bustling crowds were in full swing. Even though the train was enjoyably quieter than yesterday, the train had still filled up during it's journey from Ponyville station and Canterlot station. Slipping through the hustle they managed to make their way to the station exit. They then traveled down the wooden stairs and onto the brightly coloured cobble main street where the crowds parted to at least a somewhat comfortable distance. As they made their way away from the station, the sounds of impatient pushing, shoving and steam engines was smoothly replaced with the click-clacking of hooves on stone and whistling wind. The highest of society were out and about making use of the clear day. Many of which, Starlight noted, were looking straight up at the cloudless sky, even while walking. Along with the fancy dresses and suits were a mix of tourists, workers, and government officials sprinkled throughout the the crowd. Watching them work was like watching a hive of ants. It looked like chaos but there were no collisions. Every pony knew exactly they were and how to avoid everyone around them to get their job done.
“So, fireworks or concert first?” Starlight asked.
Trixie motioned towards her bags, “There's probably time to grab the fireworks first, it wont take long. I just want to make sure I put these flyers up before the show ends so that it's the first thing ponies see when they leave. Could you check what time it starts again, for me?”
Starlight brought the paper out from her saddle bags as the two of them side-stepped out of the way of a small paper boy.
“Hmm, any idea what the time is right now?” Starlight asked Trixie.
Trixie pointed towards a large clock tower over shadowing several smaller buildings and the two unicorns. “According to that clock, eleven fifteen. It can't be too long now.” Trixie patiently waited several moments for a reply, but Starlight was yet to look up from the paper.
“Well?” Trixie asked, “Don't tell me you're getting cold hooves now, Trixie told you it's perfectly legal!” She gently prodded her friend's shoulder.
Starlight jumped slightly under the touch. “Oh! Sorry, have a look at this.” She readjusted the angle of the paper so that Trixie could see what Starlight then pointed to. “I just noticed under this article there is a notice for a missing pony.”
“Oh, okay then.”
“Okay then?” Starlight asked incredulously.
Trixie stumbled, “W...bu....ponies go missing all the time Starlight, just let the guards handle it. That's their job after all.”
“Except that this notice is in tomorrow's paper.” Starlight reminded Trixie.
Trixie caught on to what Starlight was getting at, “Oh! So you think they'll go missing today...and you think you can stop it?”
“I have to try.”
“How come you didn't you see that article earlier? I can't imagine you missing something like that.”
Starlight looked back down at the article. “I guess I was only looking in local news and this is for a pony here in Canterlot. I hadn't even thought about trouble outside of Ponyville...”. It made Starlight pause, of course there would be ponies needing help all over Equestria. Ponyville wasn't the only city in the world after all. She thought of all the cities; Manehatten, Baltimare, New Pegasus. Would she have to keep travelling to each of them?
Trixie bumped herself against Starlight with the best supportive smile she could conjure up, “If you need to follow this I completely understand. I can handle everything else.”
“Are you sure, Trixie? I mean we came up here specifically for you.”
“It's fine, really. Go do your hero thing. You helped me enough finding this concert for me.”
"Well here, take these." Starlight levitated several bits from her bags into Trixie's. “For your fireworks.”
“Thanks, we'll meet back here around sundown?”
Starlight nodded, “That sounds good to me!”
With their parting words the two separated again.
The crowds were growing thick around the theatre where well dressed ponies were waiting in an disordered fashion. Judging by the several uniformed ponies by the door the show was nearing it's start and it wouldn't be long before the crowd would be herded in for preparation of the show. Trixie just had to wait. So to pass the time she sat in the window seat of a small, yet fancy, coffee shop across the street. She had already passed by the fireworks store before coming here and picked up a three dozen fireworks. They were almost spilling out of her bag at this point. Gently taking a sip from her double strength coffee Trixie picked out several locations for her posters. Places where they would be most noticeable. She had a total of 8 in her bag. Which Trixie decided should be plenty to cover all bases and angles. Trixie's attention was suddenly pulled towards the doors of the theatre where a commotion had started. The patrons awaiting outside were starting to shuffle forward inside. This was Trixie's chance. She quickly finished her drink and threw her bags over her back. As the last of the audience entered the theatre, the doors were closed. With a flash of her magic Trixie pulled out the first of the posters.
One by one she placed them onto the smoothed marble walls and held them in place using sticky tape she cut from a roll. The first three went up easy enough. They almost blended in with the other posters already present on the wall. Trixie noticed several ponies watching her as they passed by. Curious about the posters. Trixie marvelled that it was already working. It was just too easy. She pulled out the forth poster from her bag and lined it up on the wall. In her magic she pulled out the roll of tape and cut off a small strip with a pair of scissors. She had just placed the scissors back in her bag and positioned the tape above the poster when Trixie and the wall in front of her was suddenly engulfed in shadow.
“Excuse me ma'am, do you have a permit for public advertising on government property?” A gruff voice asked behind Trixie.
“Sure sure, ” replied Trixie, pressing on the strip of tape.
“I'll need to see that permit then, ma'm.” The voice announced.
This pony had a lot of nerve. Trixie let out an exasperated sigh before turning around to the interruption. She opened her mouth to give them a piece of her mind.
Unfortunately “Uuuuuuuhhhhhh,” was all she managed. In front of her was the most no-nonsense, exceptionally shiny-armoured castle guard she had every seen. The armour was so shiny Trixie could see herself in it. If it wasn't for his penetrating stare she might have stolen a look.
“Well?” The guard asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, right...I have that permit right here in my bag...” Trixie said, thinking fast. There was no way out of them this, she had already committed to the permit excuse, of which she very definitely did not have. Not only was this going to ruin her whole day, it would ruin Starlight's too! Starlight was doing important work, she couldn't let this interrupt that. Which only left her one option.
“Ah, here it is!” Trixie announced, before throwing the object she had pulled from her bag to the ground.
Chaos exploded all around and visibility was suddenly reduced to none as the smoke bomb ignited. Trixie wasted no time bolting as fast as she could. She blasted out the side of the smoke screen, leaving a trail in her wake. The guard cried out and threw his foreleg out to stop her, but his hooves grabbed nothing but hot air. He jumped out of the smoke just in time to see a sky blue tail disappear around a cobble brick shop corner.
The address of the pony who had submitted the missing pony report was written at the bottom of the article. Starlight felt like the writer had made a mistake including that, but decided not to question it as it was exceptionally useful. Fortunately the street was not too far away from the station and after less than half an hour of sign following Starlight was now standing in front of a somewhat large and plain complex building. The building looked like it hadn't been renovated, or cleaned for that matter, since its construction. Strips of paint curled down the outside revealing the bricks underneath. Plants were sparse in the stone covered garden bed along the wall. And the few that were managing to live barely clung to life. A rusted iron fence patrolled around the leaf painted front area. The leaves themselves appeared to have fallen from the single winter-stricken tree inhabiting the centre of the front yard. The previously clear sky now felt empty and cold shadowing this building. The gate at the front couldn't even muster the energy to let out a squeak, instead opting for a low grumble as Starlight gave it a forceful push inwards. Out of the corner of her vision she noticed some blinds shuffling behind one of the second floor windows. Slowly, Starlight crept up the short concrete steps and to the front doorway. She wished she had brought some clothes, or at least a scarf. Canterlot was cold this high up, and the wailing winds that plagued this side of town certainly weren't helping.
It was noticeably quieter inside the building, only the occasional dull knock or cough could be heard through the walls. The room Starlight had entered appeared to be the reception, complete with a neck-high desk jutting from the far wall and an elevator just to the side of the stairs. An elevator that Starlight really wished had an out-of-order sign on it just to prevent the remote possibility of her using it. There was also a waiting sofa directly to her right. At first Starlight thought it was made of fake leather, but on closer inspection the sewn coverings were simply covered in a fine layer of dust. The smell of rot was starting to settle in her nostrils. She had only been to Canterlot once, but it had been to much more pleasant areas that were closer to the centre. Much more high end apartments and such. If she had any doubt about telling that kid to avoid Canterlot before, it was gone now. Even if it was for vastly different reasons.
Starlight jumped at the sudden interruption to her thoughts. It had come from the door behind the receptions desk. She noticed a small, rust-brushed, bell on the counter. And gave it a light tap.
“Hol-COUGH..on,” the coughing door answered in a raspy voice. After a few seconds of standing in silence a pony shuffled their way into the room. The aged unicorn mare gently rocked side to side as she walked. Multiple layers of scarves hid a frail body beneath. Stopping just behind the counter, she cleared her throat.
“Can I help you?” the mare asked to the centre of the room. Starlight stepped forward so that she was standing in the mare's line of sight.
“Hi there, my name's Starlight Glimmer. I was wondering what room I could find...er...,” Starlight quickly flicked her eyes towards the paper by her side, “...Corn Cob?”
The mare raised her head and squinted at Starlight through her tiny glasses, trying to see something that Starlight couldn't begin to guess. After a few seconds she nodded to herself. “He mentioned you'd be coming around, I was expecting someone older to be completely honest. You kids aren't about old media anymore. Always on those magic spiders and such.” She reached out her hoof towards Starlight, “I'm Bell.”
Starlight reached out and shook the hoof as if it was a wet paper flower. The last thing she wanted to do was injure the gatekeeper to her goal. “Starlight, it's a pleasure to meet you,” Starlight replied, smile taped on face.
“Well come with me and I'll show you to his room, I need to let Corn know there's a package for him here anyway.” Bell shuffled her way towards the stairs while Starlight followed slightly behind. They travelled two stories up. Then made their way down a corridor that was clearly only fitted for one. Several doors down, Bell stopped at an unmarked door and gently knocked twice. The knock was so quiet Starlight wasn't sure if the occupant would even hear it. Apparently it was loud enough, however, because the door suddenly opened a crack. A nervous looking stallion poked his head through the gap.
“He-hello?” The stallion said, his eyes locked onto Starlight.
“Hi, Corn. This young mare was asking to see you,” Bell said.
Corn's eyes flicked to the paper poking out of Starlight's saddlebags and back, “Oh, good. Thank you so much, Bell.” Corn said, relief evident on his face.
“Also there's a parcel waiting for you downstairs in your lock box,” Bell mentioned. “Good luck you two.” With single a nod of her head Bell slunked off back down the hall to return to her door-side post at reception.
Their was a click from behind the door. Starlight finally got a proper view of Corn as the door swung open. The stallion had a strong green coat but a mane so light Starlight almost thought it was translucent at first.
“Please, come on in,” Corn said, stepping aside. Starlight walked into the apartment and was immediately struck with how messy the room was. It was as if someone had turned the room upside down, and then back over again.
“Nice...place you have here,” Starlight attempted to compliment.
Corn looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time, “Oh, yeah. I don't know if I've been taking things too well to be completely honest. Let me get you a drink...” He proceeded to grab a large number of papers off of the top of what Starlight now saw was a couch and moved them to the floor.
“Speaking of being completely honest, Ms Glimmer, I thought Ink Scoop was supposed to be writing this?” Corn asked, offering the couch to Starlight and making for the kitchen.
Starlight accepted the seat, “You mean the article in the paper?”. The statement had confused Starlight.
“Tea or coffee?” Corn asked from the kitchen. Starlight heard the clattering of kitchenware, “And yeah, I'm really thankful you guys are being so quick to do this for me.”
“Coffee thanks, and what do you mean? I just read the article about your missing friend and wanted to ask some questions.”
There was a pause in the kitchen sounds, “...is that so?” Corn finally said. He stuck his head out of the kitchen and looked straight at Starlight.
“Is something wrong?” Starlight asked, unsure what was putting Corn off.
Corn shook his head, “No...no, I was just thinking I might go down and get that package now while the water boils. It could be important. Please, make yourself at home,” he said, walking by Starlight to reach the door. As he closed the door Starlight saw his eyes looking back in at her until the last second. Starlight frowned, but also felt a tinge of pity for Corn. The loss of this pony, Starlight wasn't sure if they were a friend of relative, must have really been getting to him.
While she waited for Corn to return she gave the apartment around her a closer look. There was a picture of the missing pony on several piles of posters. An earth pony mare from the looks of it. She couldn't tell what colour her coat or mane was because the print was in black and white. Starlight then also noticed a letter on the desk next to her. She knew she really shouldn't look. But it could be important to finding the missing pony. Better to ask forgiveness and all that.
Starlight started reading the letter.
We have received your letter and wish to do whatever we can to get word of this around.
The kettle whistled from the kitchen as the water started to boil. Starlight read further.
If you are available we would like to send over one of our writers, Ink Scoop, to write the article for with your help. We can then fast forward the print to the next day. We understand time is of the essence.
Starlight Glimmer re-read that last line. It took her just a moment to realise why that line was nipping at the back of her mind. Somewhere from the kitchen, the kettle was screaming. She realised something had felt wrong the entire time she was in this apartment. Suddenly what corn had been saying now made sense. Starlight was too early. The article was going to be written today, and then printed tomorrow. The article hadn't been written yet, and Corn thought she was the writer! Not only that, but the writer could arrive any minute. She had to leave now before things got weird.
Starlight bolted for the door. If she was fast enough, Corn would never have to question what had happened. She'd just leave and be on her way. She leaped over the piles of paper and yanked open the door. Then she froze. The doorway was filled to the ceiling with armour. Armour on tough looking guards to be specific. From behind the guards, Starlight could see Corn's concerned face looking over to her.
“Ma'am, we're going to need you to come with us, “ the guard at the front said.
The scuffle of hooves on stone followed closely behind Trixie as she ran. The smoke bombs she had thrown had provided only a temporary distraction for the trained guards which had now caught up. She darted between crowds of ponies but their cries of shock and surprise left a path of chaos which even the thickest of guards could follow. Fortunately for Trixie, no ponies attempted to be hero of the day and step in her way. This kind of crowd was way too careful about their expensive dresses and suits to do anything of the sort. As Trixie ducked around a corner she quickly scanned for somewhere to hide. Over the other side of the road was a small gap between a frilly dress outlet and a very plain looking toy store. Within a second she was sprinting down the ally, and jumped behind some bins by the back doors of the stores. It would have been too dim too see anything in the alley if not for the light reflecting off of various puddles which had become trapped between the broken path. Dripping echoed off the tight walls. From the entrance Trixie heard the sounds of guards travelling away from her hiding spot. She had done it, she had escaped. Now Trixie just needed to find Starlight and get out of here. Trixie took a step out into the alley way and straight into a surprisingly large puddle. The alley water splashed up onto Trixie's coat.
“Bleh!” She cried, “How gross-”. Trixie was cut short by a door opening sharply to her left. In the door way was a brutish looking unicorn staring her down.
“HEY! You're not supposed to be back here!” He said.
Trixie decided this was not the place for her to be right now and attempted to run, but to her horror, found her legs did not obey. Around the edges of her vision she noticed a light cream aura, the same colour, in fact, as the aura around the door unicorn's horn. Then, Trixie saw nothing.
“What do you mean she was on to us?!” A voice yelled out from the hall.
“I mean she was snooping about the door, she was onto us I tell you!” Another yelled back.
“And do you know she was looking for us and not one of the other hundred doors out in that alley?”
“Well...aa...you know...she just had that look about her!”
Trixie had only woken up a few minutes ago but she was already tired of the bickering coming from the other room. “Trixie has no idea who you are or what you are doing!” Trixie yelled out. The two voices continued, clearly lost in their own argument.
“Why do you keep doing this?!”
“Someone has to keep watch, we'd have been caught multiple times over by now otherwise!”
Trixie was just about to yell at them again, but was interrupted by a small sniffling sound somewhere behind her. She would look around to see where it had come from, if she could. But the ties around her hooves and chest kept her sticky-taped to the chair she was sitting on.
“Hello? Is somepony here with Trixie? I demand you release me at once!” Trixie exclaimed.
There was more sniffling, “If I could I would have done so to myself days ago...”
Looking over her shoulder, Trixie noticed the other pony was right behind her, presumably tied to her own chair. Now, Trixie prided herself on being not only a brilliant magician, but frankly a very clever pony in general. And it certainly didn't take a pony with even a fraction of her genius to put two and two together.
“You're the ponynapped pony, from the paper aren't you?! That's perfect!” Trixie laughed to herself.
“What's so good about that? As far as I can tell we're both goners now. We'll just disappear and never be seen again...” The other pony asked.
“Oh! My friend is looking for you, which means she's looking for us.”
“Oh...well then..maybe there's hope...do you know how long it might take her?” The pony seemed flushed with renewed spirit, a genuine smile present in her words.
“Well, soon I'm sure. She's my friend so she's really smart, also she has a magical newspaper that tells the future. She'll just read about where we are!”
There was a few seconds of silence from the other pony, then a sigh.
“...yeah, I'm doomed.” The renewed spirit had deflated just as quickly as it came.
*DUNK* *DUNK* *DUNK*
The guard tapped on the wide cell bars which were keeping Starlight from her mission.
“Just so you know what's happening we're going to start questioning in a half hour. So make sure you think reeeaaally hard about what you want to tell us.” The guard stared in at Starlight, making sure she heard every word.
“Look, you don't understand, there's going to be a ponynapping!” Starlight tried to explain to the guard.
The guard rapped the bars again, “You're in no position to be talking about ponynapping. Mr Corn has already informed us of your attempted extortion.”
“Look, I have a friend here in Canterlot with me! She can vouch!” Starlight said.
This got the guard's attention. “Well, now we're getting somewhere.” He pulled out a notepad, "How do we found this pony?"
“Her name is Trixie, she said she was going up to the theatre area. She should still be around there somewhere!”
The guard dotted down the information as it was given, “And what does she look like?” The guard asked.
“Cyan coat, blue and white mane. Also she wears a cape and a hat with stars.”
“I'll send some guards out, better hope we find her, for your sake at least.” The guard trotted away, leaving Starlight alone in her cell.
“Okay, I have an idea.” announced Trixie.
“Let me guess, you can see the future too?” asked Trixie's unwilling companion.
“Close, but no. I might not have my friend's powers, yet, but I do have something else.” Trixie reached out with her magic to her saddlebags which were laying in the corner of the room. She felt about the bag with her magic, looking for something, and being extra careful not to accidentally activate her new fireworks.
“Ah hah!” She yelled.
“Sssshhhh!” The other pony shushed.
“Oh please, those two can barely hear themselves over the other one.” Trixie rebutted. Sure enough, the yelling had not stopped for a single instant.
“Well? What is your genius plan to get us out of here?” Ask the other mare, unable to see from her angle.
“I got...” Trixie thrust the pair of scissors in front of her unwitting roommate, “These!”
“...you had scissors this entire time and didn't think to use them?!” The other pony practically screamed,
“Well I was using them earlier today and forgot about them until now...whatever your name is!” Trixie frowned. “What er...what should Trixie call you anyways?”
“Clay? What kind of name is that for a Canterlot pony?” asked as she started to snip at her binds. “I expect Clayvoyance maybe, but Clay?!"
“Clay is the type of name for a country girl before she leaves for the big city to chase her dreams. Which I guess at this point was a mistake.”
Trixie was almost through, just a couple of strands remained. “Well, Trixie is not from here either. So maybe Canterlot just doesn't like outsiders...” The rope around Trixie's hooves snapped suddenly as the scissor blade cut through and flung from her forelegs onto the ground.
“Yes!!” Trixie shouted. Her celebration masked by the sounds of a fight that had broken out at some point during her procedure of acquiring the scissors. “Great, they finally lost it," Trixie muttered, "We should leave while they're distracted. If we're lucky, they'll even knock each other out for us.”
Trixie spun around to the other side of the chair and finally got a proper look at her accomplice for the last hour. The yellow earth pony shifted to the side to give Trixie the space to cut her binds. Just as Trixie lifted the scissors to the rope, however, the door was violently thrown open. Trixie dropped the scissors in panic and spun to face the intruders, her horn lighting up in defence.
“STOP RIGHT THERE AND STEP AWAY FROM THE PONY!” The guard at the front of the group commanded. Trixie didn't want to, but Trixie didn't have a choice in the matter as two of the other guards stormed the room and immediately held Trixie down, placing a set of hoof cuffs on her. One of them even flicked her horn, causing her to lose the defence spell she had been preparing.
“Why are you arresting The Great and Powerful Trixie! She demands to know!” Trixie cried out.
“We have reason to believe you are working with the gang of ponynappers. We already have your friend in custody." The guard addressing Trixie smirked, "In fact she's the one who told us you were in the area.”
"I'm really sorry Corn, this is all we can do at this time." The guard said, apologetically. "We have several patrols currently investigating the area we believe the ponynappers may be residing in. But until we know for certain we can only detain..."
"Right...of course. And what of the unicorn mare?" Corn asked, wanting more information.
"Right now she's given us a location. But for now she's just in our custody until we know more." The guard looked at corn pleadingly. "Why don't you head home? Didn't you say you were writing an article with the Early Equestrian? May as well get that sorted, just in case this lead doesn't go anywhere, you know?"
Corn nodded, it made sense. "Okay then. You're right." He gave a quick smile to the guard before making his way towards the exit of the station.
“Trixie did nothing wrong!” Trixie cried out. She was currently in a caravan of guards as they made their way back to the guard station. There was two guards ahead of Trixie walking with Clay, followed by herself and the two ponynappers who were all chained together, and then two more guards behind her. The guard directly behind Trixie was carrying her saddlebags with her fireworks and tape.
“Careful with my bags, you don't know what's in there! Trixie warns you!” Trixie warned over her shoulder.
The guard in question briefly raised an eyebrow, before deciding to ignore the criminal. Trixie turn around to look at the ponies in front of her. Clay was looking all around at the ponies stopping to watch the convoy, a slight smile on her face. She was clearly just happy to be outside for the first time in what was probably days. The two ponynappers on the other hoof, were attempting to trip each other up in their hoofcuffs. Their ongoing argument had been finally silenced by the head guard who grew sick of it within minutes of leaving their hideout.
Suddenly Trixie found herself running straight into the back of the two criminals, as one of them had finally succeeded in their game of hoofies and tripped forward onto the cobblestone path, the chain connecting the three brought Trixie down with him. Unfortunately the guard behind Trixie also missed this event and tripped over the tripped Trixie. As the guard fell forward, Trixie's bag was thrown from his back. Time itself seemed to slow as Trixie watched her own bag fly over her head and spun like a wheel as it skidded and spun along the ground.
When her bag finally skidded to a stop, Trixie let out a breath she didn't realise she had been holding. Then one of the guards, probably the one behind Trixie, attempted to pick the bag up with magic, and Trixie's bag exploded. Low budget fireworks flew out in every direction, activated by a minimal amount of magic. They crackled, and boomed, and snapped, and sparkled. The entire area was lit up like a disco rave. Everypony on the street turned their heads to look towards the onslaught of colour and light.
Everypony including a light green stallion with hair so fine it wafted like seaweed caught in a rift as the fireworks zoomed past. A stallion who had just been leaving the Canterlot guard station. His eyes, however, landed on something else. Somepony more bright, more important, more amazing than the light show going on around him. Somepony who was also now looking directly back at him through the smoke. A pony who was currently in the middle of a guard convoy. One he had been searching for, for almost a week. The face of his love.
Within in the chaos firing all around the two of them, the world between the two ponies had stopped. In their own bubble of silence, nothing else mattered. Neither said anything as they crossed the distance between them. Corn gently placed a hoof onto Clay's face. The air was heavy with smoke and burning. But neither of the ponies cared. In fact neither had blinked since they spotted each other. The crowed around them were awed by the sight, many cheering as the two held each other, and kissed, within the smoke and fire. The only pony not in amazement of the sight was a light blue, currently shackled, pony, whose jaw had dropped in disbelievement.
“T...Trixie's fireworks...” was all she managed to croak out.
The two lovers in the centre of the street held onto each other as if it was their last day together.
“I thought I'd never see you again...” Corn cried into Clay's shoulder.
“Neither, “ whispered back Clay.
Within the last cell on the right of the Canterlot jail, Starlight and Trixie sat in silence across from each other. There was nothing to say. Both of their days had resulted in mostly failure. Trixie had informed Starlight her missing pony was no longer missing. But that still left them in jail. Without the ability to bail the other out they simply had to wait for Twilight Sparkle to arrive and use her position to free them. The guards had originally taken Starlight's request for the princess as sarcasm and it had almost resulted in her losing her visitor privilege. Fortunately she was allowed to send one message, so she sent an SOS to Spike. It might be a few days to get a messenger to Ponyville but at least it was something. And on top of that, Celestia knows how long Twilight was still going to be away for. So in the mean time, Trixie and Starlight decided to get comfortable. As comfortable as they could be with two bickering stallions in the cell next to them.
From the hall there was a clip-clopping of hooves. The gate to their cell suddenly shook, attracting the attention of both mares. On the other side was the guard which Starlight had been talking to previously. He looked very disinterested. After a moment of fiddling with the key and lock the door swung open.
“Everything's cleared up, you two are free to go.” The guard announced, in a nonplussed manner.
Trixie and Starlight looked to each other, neither sure if this was a ruse or some sort of strange joke, and then back to the guard.
“Just like that?” Starlight asked, “What changed?” The guard didn't bother replying and simply turned away before leaving. Not willing to risk a change of mind the pair decided to follow suit. They carefully trotted down the hall and into the reception area, feeling like a pair of fish out of water. As they entered the main waiting room, Starlight froze at the sight of the one-mare-party that was waiting for them.
Princess Twilight was standing by the exit, an unimpressed look solidified on her features. Before Starlight could get a word out or even hide behind one of the guards Twilight lurched forward, and into full lecture mode, “Starlight I'm not mad but I left you alone for two days and you managed to get both yourself and Trixie arrested.”
Despite her tone Twilight still reached her forelegs out and gave Starlight a squeeze around the neck. Starlight wasn't sure how to respond to the mixed signals. Fortunately Trixie spoke so she didn't have to.
“Excuse me, Princess, but we had separate investigations. I can get myself arrested just fine on my own.” She pronounced, making a point to look offended. To which Twilight simply sighed and followed after Trixie out the station door.
“Do we have to sign anything or...?” Starlight asked, before following Twilight out the front door.
“No it's fine, I said I would handle any punishment on my own. Although I would personally like to hear your side of things before I deal any,” Twilight said, giving Starlight a sideways glance. Starlight decided to change the topic.
"How did you know we were here?" Starlight asked.
"Spike sent a note explaining everything." Twilight answered.
There was something else Starlight was curious about, “Soooo...,” Starlight began, “What did Celestia need you for?”
“Oh she just needed my help identifying some recent magical disturbances. She asked Discord if he knew anything but he got all cryptic about it as usual.” Twilight answered with a puff.
“Huh, any idea what it could be then?”
“Well I've got all the data we've collected so far but I need to check some of the books I've got back at the castle before I make any conclusions. Actually, maybe you could help me!” Twilight announced excitedly.
“Sure thing, the sooner we get back the better then!” Starlight said.
“Heh-hum,” an annoyed grunt sounded from the unicorn a few meters in front of the two.
“Oh right,” Starlight said, “Would you mind if we made a small detour first?”
Twilight looked to Starlight questioningly.
Starlight grinned back in a completely innocent way, “We need to pick up some fireworks.”