The Sparkle In His Soul

by JaydexTheShadowKnight

First published

Princess Celestia sends Twilight Sparkle and her friends to investiage dragon activity in the Smokey Mountains. There, they discover a human named Allen, who's ended up on their world by accident and needs their help to find a way home.

Princess Celestia sends Twilight Sparkle and her friends and two of her elite guards to investigate reports of dragon activity in the Smokey Mountains. When they get there, they discover a dragon chasing some strange creature, which turns out to be a human college student named Allen Benton who's ended up in their world by accident. Now, he'll need the help of Twilight and her friends so he can find an item he dropped in the mountains that is the key to getting home. However, recovering and using the item may not be as simple a process to get home as he thinks. And after spending time in their world, will Allen still be so eager to return to his life on Earth?

Note: This story takes place after the events of the season 3 pilot "The Crystal Empire - Parts 1&2". It is also a complete reboot of my HiE universe and has no bearing on my original multi-chapter stories. This tale is one of several story arcs I have planned for this new universe, and unlike my past ongoing stories, I have planned and developed this one infinitely better. I have a clear path of where each arc is going and they will build on each other.

*Warning: This story features explicit human on pony sexual content. This story also features tender romance, some antics involving alcohol, and plenty of daww moments.

Cover at by Realider.

Chapter 1 - "What in the World?!"

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The ground quaked behind Allen as he ran for dear life. This has to be some crazy dream, he thought as his shoes tore through the grass and dirt while he continued to flee. The rumble grew louder and just as he was nearly convinced this was a dream, a heart-shattering roar filled the air. Daring to glance back, he saw a hulking red dragon charging after him.

This seems less and less like a dream! Allen panted as he took refuge behind a large rocky mass. Why is a dragon chasing me?

The ground continued to rumble under the beast’s giant footsteps. Uncertain as to where the dragon was, the human dared to peak around his rocky sanctuary. His eyes widened as the dragon splayed its jaws open. Not taking any chances he pulled behind the rock just in time to see a volley of crimson flames blast against the side of the rock and spread across the dried grass, no more than a few feet in front of him.

Heat rolled off the flames and made Allen break out into a warm and frightful sweat. Not waiting for the fire to spread, he turned and started running, but he was beginning to tire from this chase. He was no where close to being the figure of physical fitness and was starting to struggle for breath. Another rocky formation came into view and offered him a place to catch his lost breath. But the perilous roar of the dragon filled the air as it called after the human.

What did I do to anger this thing, and since when are there dragons on Earth? He could only speculate as he puffed for breath. Then, like before, the dragon made a familiar sound, the same it made the last time it spewed its blazing breath. However, before it could unleash its fiery wrath, he heard a daring voice ring out, “Hold it right there, hot stuff!”

Allen blinked in disbelief as he saw what looked like a light blue Pegasus sailing overhead. It was sporting a vibrant rainbow mane and matching tail. He shook his head and blinked again as he saw what looked like an orange pony galloping his way. Her pale blonde mane spilled out from under what resembled a Stetson and flapped along the front portion of her barrel, neatly secured with a red hair tie.

The pony skidded to a halt in front of him and glanced behind him, kicking up a small cloud of dust. She swallowed thickly as the dragon roared again. “I’m not sure what you are, but if ya don’t wanna be dragon chow, follow me!”

Not needing to think twice about it, Allen said, “I’m right behind you!” He took off after the pony, hoping that somehow she knew how to evade this titanic pest. “What the heck is going on? And how can you talk?”

Applejack tried not to roll her eyes as she let out a strong sigh, before glancing back. “There’s no time ta explain. Just keep up with me and ya’ll be alright.”

Somehow with a dragon in pursuit, Allen didn’t find much comfort in what she said. That was when he noticed the ground ceased rumbling. Daring to peer over his shoulder, his discovered they weren’t being chased anymore. “What the?!”

“Whoa, partner, slow down, yer heading for a…” Applejack tried to chase after the strange creature, but it was too late.

Allen looked forward just in time to see his path rapidly disappear as he tried to stop. But it was no good. His momentum was too strong and carried him right off the edge of the cliff. Had he not started plummeting to his doom, he might have found some beauty in the view sprawling out before him, but instead, all he could do was yell. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!”

He banged against some of the rocks as he continued to fall, descending rapidly toward the ground below.

Pain rolled across his body as somewhere between panic and his yelling he noticed a voice call out, “Hold on!”

Allen’s body shook as his fall began to slow. He whimpered as the ground still continued to close in on him. Never before had anything like this ever happened to him.

“Hang in there!” A voice strained. It was quite familiar to him. It was the same one he recalled taunting the dragon. “Fluttershy, come here! I know you don’t like to fly, but I need your help.”

“Oh, my goodness.” Allen heard another softer voice call. It had a very pleasant and soothing quality to it.

He sighed as his descent continued to slow. Then as his vision began to blur, he noticed a raspberry glow encompass him. “Yeah…this has to be…a dream.” He mumbled as he closed his eyes and fell silent. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy continued to gently cradle the strange creature as Twilight lessened their collective descent with her magic.

The three landed softly on the greener grass at the base of the cliff. “Phew.” Twilight brushed a hoof along her forehead. “Are you two okay?”

Rainbow Dash grinned. “Of course I’m okay. What about you, Fluttershy?” She turned her eyes to her fellow Pegasus.

She nodded silently, before finally responding. “Yes…I’m okay.”

The two Pegasi let go of their newly acquired charge and set his motionless body on the ground. Twilight stepped up to it. “Now, how about this thing?”

Applejack walked over to it, a disheartened look in her green eyes. “It isn’t… Is it?”

Twilight studied the creature carefully. “Hmmm. It doesn’t look dead.” The unicorn looked on a little closer. “Wait…look!” She pointed a hoof at its mouth. “It’s breathing.”

“Oh my.” Fluttershy gasped as she overcame her intimidation and walked closer. “It’s hurt. See…blood.” She pointed her hoof.

Applejack removed her hat and placed it over her heart before placing it back on her head. “It must’ve got hurt as it fell…well until you two and Twilight caught it.” Applejack nodded pointing to Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.

Twilight nodded. “Come on, we’d best get this guy or thing or whatever it is, some help.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? It might be dangerous.” Applejack cautioned, as she looked the creature over. “It may be hurt, but I know animals. They can be a mite dangerous when they’re a hurt.”

Fluttershy stepped closer. “I don’t think so. And until we find out otherwise, can we a least call it a “he” or a “him”. It just sounds rude to call him “it” all the time.”

Twilight placed a hoof to her chin. “But we don’t even know what this is…male or female. Though, I thought I heard it talk.” Twilight looked at Applejack. “Applejack, did you hear it say anything?”

Applejack slanted her eyes. “Hmmm, come to think of it, it did say a few things.”

“Well then, what are we waiting for?” Fluttershy asked standing close to the creature. “Let’s take him back to town and get him to the hospital. I know he might seem scary to the others, but he’s in no shape to hurt anyone. And he needs our help.”

Twilight nodded as she gave the matter more thought. “You’re right, Fluttershy. We can always say he’s a hurt animal that needs our help.”

Rainbow Dash snickered. “We can say one thing for sure. He’s no friend of that dragon’s.”

“True enough I reckon. Well, what’re we wait’n for?” Applejack looked around. “We should get some of those long leaves and a little mud, make him something to dress those more serious cuts till we get back ta town.”

“Leaves and mud?” Groused Rarity walking up to the group. “How can you be so uncouth, Applejack?”

Applejack blinked. “Uh, beg your pardon, Rarity, but those are just natural remedies I’ve used all my life.”

Rarity stomped a hoof and scoffed. “Perhaps when you’re out in the wild or working on a farm.” The unicorn cleared her throat. “But there are those of us that came prepared.” Rarity turned to her pale pink saddlebags. A soft blue glow encompassed her white horn as she pulled out some cloth. “I just happened to have some material we can use to bind his injuries…um, we are calling it a “he” now, in accordance with Fluttershy’s wishes…aren’t we?”

Twilight placed a curious hoof to her chin, then looked over at Rarity. “I guess so. And that’s some good thinking, Rarity. Oh and you too, Applejack.” The two smiled at Twilight, just as she went to lift her right foreleg. “Now come on we…”

“Hey, everypony, it looks like we’re in the clear.” Pinkie pie bounced in, beaming the group a bright smile.

“Pinkie Pie, good, you’re here. Then that’s all of us.” Twilight noted.

“Yep. The guards said we’re good to go. That nasty dragon fled to its cave. So we’re safe for now. They sent me on ahead, while they made sure the dragon stayed in its cave.”

“That’s a relief. Now come on. We have to get back to Ponyville.” Twilight led Pinkie to the others.

“We’re all set here, Twilight.” Applejack and Rarity had finished prepping the creature as they set off on their trip back to town.

* * * * * *

Ponyville General Hospital sat rather silently as the late afternoon sun glistened off its sturdy walls. Inside, the normally busy ER was peaceful. All patients had been transferred to their own rooms and the staff members, aside from a few nurses, were taking a much-needed break.

Doctor Screen sat back on the couch in the staff lounge. “Ahh, after the past few days…pure madness. I’m enjoying this break from the chaos. Though, I can’t speak for all of you.”

Nurse Tenderheart poured a cup of coffee, then added some creamer and sugar to it. She picked up the steaming beverage and stirred it briefly as she walked over to one of the plush chairs. “I won’t argue with you. The calm is a nice touch.” The nurse let out a sigh. “Though, it rarely lasts.”

Dr. Screen leaned back and contemplated sprawling on the sofa as he stretched out his forelegs. “Yes well, that’s all the more reason to enjoy it while it lasts.” He closed his eyes and took a cleansing breath. Glancing around the room, he saw Nurse Sweetheart had passed out on one of the chairs and was resting soundly.

Nurse Tenderheart sipped her coffee and smiled. “That’s true enough.”

The doctor started to lie down when the door to the lounge burst open. “Dr. Screen!” Called Nurse Redheart.

He stopped himself in mid motion and sat back up. Turning his cerulean eyes to the preen and white Nurse Redheart, he asked, “What’s going on, Redheart?”

She placed a hoof over her chest and took a quick breath. “We have a trauma, sir. Twilight Sparkle and her friends have brought some strange creature in. From what I could tell it seems injured and is in need of our help.”

Dr. Screen rose to his hooves and pushed up his glasses, before looked over at Nurse Tenderheart. “Tenderheart, better call up to Dr. Horse and one of the attendings. I don’t want to be the only doctor in here in case any more traumas come in.” Dr. Screen ran his hoof over his face. “Well, the calm was nice while it lasted.” He sighed as he grabbed his stethoscope in the grip of his cyan magic. “Okay, where is this creature?”

“They’re in Trauma 1.” Redheart replied as the doctor followed her to the room.

Inside, the patient was already lying motionless on the bed. Twilight and her friends were there, but made sure to stay away from the nurses and the now entering doctor, giving them room to work. “Okay. What do we know? Talk to me, ponies.”

Twilight stepped up. “Well, we weren’t sure until the nurses undressed him, but he looks to be mammalian. And…” Twilight glanced at his nether region, before looking away, a sheepish look on her face.

Nurse Redheart and Dr. Screen looked at the creature. Redheart giggled a little. “I’d say it’s a male…but not an overly impressive one.”

Dr. Screen shook his head. “Now, now, Redheart, is that any way to treat our patient, no matter what he may be? And he may simply be cold. It doesn’t look like his kind have much in the way of fur like we do.” The doctor looked him over as the strange creature lay on its back. “Hmm, what happened to him?” The doctor looked to Twilight and her friends.

“Well. Princess Celestia sent us and two of the elite guard to investigate dragon activity in the Smokey Mountains. We found a dragon roaming around one of the plateaus and saw it chasing him.” Twilight paused for breath.

“Yeah,” Applejack joined in. “I found him hiding behind a large rock and down right scared. I told him to follow me, but as we ran, he didn’t realize the dragon stopped chasing us, and just as I told him to stop.” Applejack placed her hat over her heart. “He ran right off the cliff.

Rainbow Dash snickered. “Yeah, but he didn’t get too banged up. Fluttershy and I totally saved him…uh.” Rainbow looked at Twilight and blushed. “With a little help from you, Twilight. But, his fall could have been a lot worse.”

The doctor placed a hoof to his chin, looking the ponies over and then back to his patient. “I see,” the doctor replied, before giving a listen to the patient with his stethoscope. “Hmm, he’s breathing. The airway doesn’t sound obstructed. And…ah there’s his heartbeat.” The doctor nodded. “All right then, Nurse Redheart, get the patient into a gown and hooked up to a monitor. Then, type match and cross check him, in case we need to perform a blood transfusion. Get a few units of O-Neg in here and some plasma too just in case.” Dr. Screen eyed the patient and his wounds. “And while you’re at it. You might as well run a C.B.C., a Chem 7 and do a chest film. Even though it sounds clear, I don’t want to chance anything obstructing his airway. And we should also do an abdominal C.T. to rule out any damage to his internal organs or internal bleeding for that matter.”

Nurse Redheart looked at Dr. Screen curiously. “Doctor, are you going to treat him as if her were a pony?”

Dr. Screen gave a firm nod. “Aside form some minor discrepancies, he appears mammalian, not unlike some form of hairless ape.” He adjusted his glasses. “So, I don’t see why the normal regiment we use to treat a pony wouldn’t be a good place to start.”

Nurse Redheart nodded dutifully and straightened her hat. “Of course doctor. We’ll get started. Come on, everypony. Our patient needs us.” She and the other nurses went to work getting things together.

Meanwhile, the doctor stood back with Twilight and her friends, quite puzzled from the unusual patient. “Just where did this guy come from…and how did he get here?”

“That’s a good question,” Twilight replied, watching as the nurses went to work. “I’ve never seen anything like him before.”

Chapter 2 - "The Experiment"

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Earth, Allen’s apartment

Allen burst into his tiny apartment and gave the door a swift shove closed. He tossed his work apron on his bed and flopped into his desk chair, before finally leaning back. “Home…at last!”

He ran his hand over his face and took a deep breath. “Okay, time to check out my YouTube channel.” Allen grinned as he eagerly unlocked his computer and navigated to his page. Now that he was getting the hang of audio mixing, he wanted to see how his subscribers were enjoying his latest works. Just as his excitement began to mount, Allen’s phone chirped at him. It was the same annoying bird tweet he assigned to his mom’s number.

A loud groan echoed through his apartment as Allen dug out his cell phone. Glancing at the screen, he saw he had a new text. “Seriously, I just got home from stocking shelves and already mom is pouncing on me.”

He hung his head, as he wasted no more time unlocking his phone and reading the message. Allen rolled his eyes after reading it. He promptly sent a reply. “There mom! Eight hours or mind-numbing shelf stocking and she wants to make sure I’m studying. Give me a break…she can’t even leave me alone on my day off classes.” Allen left his free arm flop lifelessly along the arm of his chair. “Isn’t it bad enough to always be on my back when I’m at the campus, but yeesh.” Glancing at his notifications, he did find some cause for joy. There were no texts from his father. “Well, at least dad isn’t jumping down my throat.” His phone chirped again.

Allen’s eyes slid down to the screen of his phone. Before he could roll his eyes again, the familiar sound of a Skype call drew his attention to his computer screen. “Oh good, it’s Jim.” He chuckled as he spoke his reply aloud to his mom as he typed it. “James is calling me, probably something about our lab project. Gotta go. I shouldn’t miss this chance to study.” Allen laughed aloud as he set his phone down and answered James.

The screen popped up with a clear picture of James staring back at him. “Ah, Allen. It’s about time you answered.”

“Jeeze, Jim, not you too?” Allen just shook his head as he slunk back into his chair and swayed back and forth a bit. “I just got home from work. First mom yells at me and…wait! Why are you calling me?”

James laughed. “That mom of yours.”

“Don’t forget my dad too.”

“How could I? They rarely give you a moment’s rest…well accept when you’re sleeping. Anyway, I’m calling because I have something you’ve got to see. How soon can you come by the lab?”

Allen closed his eyes and sighed. At the moment the thought of doing anything felt like too much as he noticed a pain in the back of his right knee. “Come on, Jim. You want me to come over there now? I didn’t even get to check my YouTube channel yet.” All Allen felt like doing was remaining part of his desk chair.

James pushed up his glasses and scratched his hairless chin. “Come on, forget your YouTube channel. This is something you’ll enjoy. And it should finally make your parents back off too.”

Allen blinked his pale green eyes as he sat up in his chair. “Wait…this isn’t about the experiment, is it?”

“Oh, you better believe it is, my friend. I’ll tell you more when you get down here. I don’t want to risk anyone monitoring this call, otherwise I’d say more.”

Allen smacked both sides of his face, as he remained upright in his chair. “Okay, okay. Just let me get myself together. I’ll be there in 20 minutes…depending on traffic at this hour.”

“Good, just get here.” James waved as the chat window closed.

Turning around in his chair, Allen ran his hand over the stubble on his chin. “Well now, this must be big. I haven’t seen Jim this excited in a while.” Allen glanced at his computer screen. “I really wanted to check my channel.” He smiled. “Well, I can do it from the lab. I’ll just change and get a few things.”

After changing his clothes, Allen grabbed his Kindle, cell phone and nabbed his charger. “There, and better bring my charger just in case.” He checked his wallet and nodded half-heartedly. “Good enough. Well, just need to use the can and I can head out…oh and might as well grab a Rockstar. Gonna need the caffeine and taurine.” He just chuckled. “It’s like Barbossa said in “On Stranger Tides” – “Sleep when you’re dead.””

* * * * * *

James paced around with his arms crossed as he and the others waited for Allen. Thomas looked over at James and smirked. “Come on, Jim, if you keep pacing around like that, you’re gonna wear out the tiles.”

He gave Thomas a blank look. “We both know that’s nonsense. These tiles are quite durable to say the least. And it’s “James”. Only Allen may call me “Jim”.”

A giggle wafted through the air. Sarah flipped back her long auburn locks as she shook her head. “Careful Thomas, you don’t want to hurt James’s feelings. Only his close friends can call him “Jim”.”

Thomas threw his arms up in the air. “Whatever. And seriously where is…”

The door to the science lab flung open, and in dashed a winded Allen. “I…I’m here…here. Sorry, they decided to work late paving 9th Street.”

James shook his head and uncrossed his arms. “It doesn’t matter. At least you’re here. Now we can get started.”

Allen took a swig of his Rockstar energy drink and licked his lips. “What do you mean get started?”

A suave expression encompassed James’s face as he walked over to the large table where all their equipment was sprawled out, include an odd boxy black hexagon-like circle. “We’re finally ready to give the projector a real test this time.” Excitement and pride decorated each of James’s articulated words.

“For real?” Allen had to double check. “And where’s the professor?”

Thomas scoffed. “Oh, please who needs that pompous old windbag. We’re the ones doing the lion’s share of his work. Why should he get all the credit for this experiment?”

Taking one last sip of his energy drink, Allen looked to the ceiling, then said, “Well, he is the one heading this project. Thus, he has all the know how.”

James slammed his fist on the corner of the table. “No he doesn’t! Until I started helping him. The best that ignoramus was working on was a low-grade laser. He had no idea how to properly tune the projector so it could manipulate two points in space.” He then pointed to the rear of the projector. “It was my idea to harness the power of four compressed UltraBatteries, so that the energy demands of the device wouldn’t pull so hard on the power grid and risk limiting the energy we need for this to work.”

Allen swallowed hard. He knew when James got like this that he’d better listen. “Okay. You make a valid point. But what makes you think this will go any better than the last time we tried this? The professor was here and…”

“Yeah,” James began as he pushed up his glasses. “He was the problem, that dolt. Half the wiring wasn’t hooked up correctly, we were only working with a quarter of the power we could have used.”

Sarah laughed as she checked the notes from the folder that she was holding. “Oh yeah. I remember that day. All the test did was give us all a bad case of super frizzy hair.”

Allen nodded. “Yeah, see? Sarah remembers.”

“Yes well, today we’ll be working with full power. I checked the connections seventeen times and ran twenty promising simulations on the lab computer. Only one time was there an anomaly and it was only a minor fluctuation of 5% on the focal stream. I’ve since corrected that issue. Oh and here.” James handed Allen a flashy looking black rod.

“What’s this for? Wait…the Recall Rod?” He glanced at James curiously.

James nodded. “Exactly. Since the lab has the only working Portal Frame. We need the Recall Rod to serve as a proxy for the Portal Frame.”

Allen playfully smacked his forehead. “That’s right. I remember you telling me about this thing.” He secured the rod and stood in front of the frame. “So, is there anything else you want me to do? Should I check the flow regulators? Or is this where you need me?”

“Perfect. That’s right where I need you. Thomas, Sarah, energize the projector. I’m going to make sure the destination coordinates are set correctly.” James typed on the keyboard as he checked the necessary fields. “Hmm, this looks right. If all goes well.” He turned to the others. “Allen and I will walk through the Portal Frame and emerge in the Rocky Mountains. Based on the time there, we should be in time to see the sun start to set over the valley.”

“The UltraBatteries are reading at 100% charge.” Sarah doubled-checked the readout and nodded. “Yep, good to go here.”

Thomas glanced at the capacitor and then looked over to the group. “Everything checks out here. We’ve got power coming in from the grid. Let’s do this.”

James walked over to Allen. “Just think, Allen. If this works, we can eventually use the projector to send people to distant planets in mere minutes. Think of the cost saving on not needing space ships, or having to spend countless years traveling in the vacuum of space. And best of all, if anything goes wrong, simply use the Recall Rod to return to the projector’s point of origin. It’s brilliant!” James took a deep breath and clenched his fist holding it close to his chest in a triumphant manner.

Allen liked science well enough, but not to the same degree as his fellow lab partners. Still, he was quite excited to be part of all this. It was thanks to Allen’s overbearing parents that he met James. Originally he started off tutoring Allen, but over time they found common interests in science as well as music and video games. The later was more to Allen’s liking. In fact James was the one that helped him with his passion for audio mixing and the layout for his YouTube channel.

This experiment reminded Allen of so many things he’d seen on the Science Fiction shows and movies that he loved to watch. To think, he and the others were about to attempt something that many believe to be nothing more than the offspring of scientific theories. He smiled as he looked over at James. “This is exciting! And I know a lot of people that will be thrilled it if this works.” Allen grinned.

“I know. We could use this to start terraforming other worlds.” James chuckled in a giddy fashion, before holding his arm out. “Okay, throw the master switch. Activate the projector!”

“Okay.” Sarah walked over to the emitter part of the device. “Here we go.” She clicked the switch and the device began to buzz and whirl.

Thomas checked the energy flow. “Everything looks good. The power flow is holding steady.”

Sarah checked the projector matrix. “The emitter’s projector matrix is building to critical. 50% and rising.” She looked over at them and back to the monitor. “65%.”

James pulled Allen close as his excitement continued to build. “This is it, Allen. Any second the Portal Frame will engage.”

Allen just looked at the blank boxy circle, hoping nothing would explode.

Sarah continued reading the emitter’s charge rate as they all waited. “85%…95%…100%.”

The focal point of the projector began to buzz and crackled as in mere moments a powerful beam of energy fanned out into the Portal Frame. The receptors on the frame lit up and began glowing a brilliant shade of electric blue. The center of the aperture began to glow with the same light as the beam resonated off of it.

The lights dimmed only for a split second, and a strong rush of air burst forth from the aperture. James stared on with trembling delight. “It worked! Look, Allen! There’s actually something on the other side.”

Allen blinked in disbelief. Before him stood a spinning vortex of sorts and at its center was what appeared to be the Rocky Mountains. “Wow, Jim, you did it!”

“Yes. Let’s go through and make history, buddy. Just think, your parents can finally get off your back!”

“Yeah.” Allen grinned as the two of them stepped toward the portal.

“Good luck you two!” Thomas called after them.

“I’ll be looking forward to your call.” Sarah grinned as she gave them a two-finger salute.

In seconds the two had crossed through the Portal Frame. They emerged and saw the blazing sun slowly setting above. “We did it, Allen! We’re here in the Rocky Mountains!” James was overjoyed as he started a disjointed dance of celebration.

Allen fished out his cell phone and figured now was a good time to call Sarah back at the lab. “Ok…here we…wait.” He couldn’t believe his eyes. “No service. Wait, let me see…wow, not even 911 service.” Allen felt a moment of panic, then he realized the mountains might not have any cell towers near by or perhaps he needed to try for better reception.

James was still dancing as he walked over to Allen. “Oh yeah, we did it, we did it!” He saw the bummed look on Allen’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t get anything on my phone. No service, no Internet, nothing.”

James waved a dismissing hand. “No worries. My phone has a satellite uplink with it. Hmm…” He checked his phone closely. “That’s odd. I don’t have any service either. Not even with my uplink.” James smiled as he shook his head. “Oh well.” He glanced back and saw no trace of the portal, which meant that it had simply closed after they stepped through. “Everything worked as it was supposed to. We’ll just use the Recall Rod and head back.”

“Oh, right.” Allen put his phone away and went for the rod.

“YEAH!! WE DID IT!! WHOO HOO!!!” James continued to celebrate, shouting toward the mountain, not a care in the world.

“Are you sure that’s such a good idea?” Allen cautioned attempting to activate the recall rod.

“Why, what could…” He was cut off. A loud piercing roar ripped through the air.

“Um…you might stir up a wild animal.” Allen felt a nervous sweat from on his brow and he pressed the power switch.

“Big deal. That’s just some panther or lion.”

Allen gulped fearfully as he held up the Recall Rod. “Uh, this sounded a lot bigger than a lion.”

They heard the roar again, only this time, it was much closer to them. “Allen, you’d better activate the Recall Rod. I suddenly have that sinking feeling.”

“Working on it. There, I was right, that was the power switch.” Allen let out a sigh as the device illuminated and whirled to life.

A large dark shadow fell across them as the ground began to quake. “Allen…hurry!”

The two looked back and could not believe their eyes. “No, it’s not possible!” James shouted. “Allen, run!!”

“There’s no way that could be a…”

“Dragon. Well, it sure looks like it. Any luck with that thing?” James looked fearfully to his friend.

“Yeah, here we go!” Allen held up the rod and a jolt of energy shot out ahead of them, opening another portal. “Yes! It worked!”

“Good, then lets get out of here!” James tore off for the portal, with Allen right behind him.

The dragon roared again, before opening its large mouth and blowing a cone of fire at them. Allen veered to the right, while James dove for the portal. After making it inside the aperture, the portal began to collapse. “Allen!” James called to his friend.

“Jim!!” Allen yelled as he tried to make it for the portal. But, it closed just before he could enter. The shadow of the dragon fell over Allen as he whimpered. “Oh, God.”

* * * * * *

Equus Prime, Ponyville General Hospital

“NO!” Allen gasped awake and sat up snapping his eyes open.

Nurse Redheart carefully placed her hooves on his arms. “Easy there. Try not to move around too much.”

Allen laid back and let his head sink into the soft pillow. The incessant beep of what sounded like a heart monitor filled his ears. “Huh?" He looked around and saw what looked like six ponies and a seventh one dressed like a nurse. They were all standing around his…hospital bed? His pale green eyes widened in disbelief as the memories started to gel in his mind. “Jim…” He looked around frantically. “Where’s Jim?”

“Who’s Jim?” asked Twilight.

Allen glanced at his visitors and recognized two of them. He recalled the cyan Pegasus with the colorful hair flying at…a dragon?! Allen blinked twice as he then saw the orange one still wearing a cowboy hat.

“Ooh,” he groaned, a few jarring twinges of pain flew up his legs and arms. “W-What happened and where am I?”

Allen noticed one with a horn on her forehead stand up and step closer to him. Her body was clad in lavender fur and her mane and tail were mostly dark sapphire with a streak of violet and rose trailing through them, topped off with matching bangs. She can’t be a unicorn, he thought.

“Oh, good.” Twilight smiled. “Applejack was right, you can talk. Now who is this "Jim" you’re looking for?”

Allen grimaced and grunted a little, trying to get comfortable. “He’s my friend…someone similar to me, only skinnier and he wears glasses. Have you seen him?” The human looked around the room but saw no trace of his friend.

Applejack looked at Twilight curiously then turned her eyes to Allen. “Um, we didn’t find anyone else but you in the mountains.”

“Oh.” Allen lowered his head. “So he wasn’t there.” Then Allen remembered – the recall rod worked, and James made it back through the portal, but it closed before he could get through. “That’s right, he must have made it back then.”

“Back where?” Twilight asked, blinking her eyes.

Allen shook his head and sighed. “It’s a long story.” The human looked himself over then back to Twilight. “What happened to me?”

The unicorn giggled. “That’s also a bit of a story. Hang on a second.” Twilight walked over to the doctor. “So what’s his prognosis?”

Dr. Screen reached for Allen’s chart. “Ah, here we go.” After giving the notes a quick glance, he turned to Twilight. “He should be fine. The wounds he suffered were mostly superficial. A few required a stitch or two, but it’s a good thing you and the others intercepted him before he fell the whole way to the ground. It could have been a lot worse.”

“Thank you, doctor. Oh, and does he need to…” Twilight looked at the doctor questioningly.

“What? Stay in the hospital? No, the heart monitor was just to keep an eye on his vitals for the time being. He’s stable and in no danger. I’m still not sure what he is other than mammalian. It’s possible he really is some breed of hairless ape, but I’ve never seen anything like him in Equestria…at least not any place I’ve been. Regardless, I don’t see any reason why we can’t release him into your custody.”

Nurse Redheart walked over to one of the nearby shelves. “Here’s where we placed his belongings. He didn’t have much, other than his clothes and some strange-looking items.”

Twilight nodded thankfully and looked at Allen and then back to the nurse and doctor. “All right. Thank you both for all of your help.”

Nurse Redheart smiled. “Of course. We’ll leave you alone for now. Just stop by the font desk when you’re ready to check out.”

Dr. Screen turned to Twilight. “And if he should feel any worsening pain or discomfort, be sure to bring him back here.” With that he and Nurse Redheart stepped out of the room.

Twilight sighed briefly as she rejoined her friends. “Are you okay?” She asked Allen.

He shook his head. “I’m not sure.”

Twilight offered him a smile, and took a deep breath. “Well, at any rate allow me to introduce myself. I am Twilight Sparkle and these are my friends.” She waved her hoof past each of them. “This is Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy.”

He nodded politely to all of them. “It’s nice to meet all of you. You’ll have to forgive me, but this is a lot to take in. So, you are all ponies…and uh Pegsuses?”

“Pegasi,” said Fluttershy, smiling as she helped him with the correct word.

“Right, Pegasi…and unicorns? That can all…talk?” He blinked incredulously.

Pinkie Pie smiled grandly. “Yep, we sure are.”

“Wow. I can hardly believe it.” His eyes widened. “Oh, I’ve been rude. I’m Allen, Allen Benton. And.” The human looked around. “Other than in a hospital, can you tell me where I am?”

Twilight Sparkle nodded. “Of course.” The unicorn knew this wasn’t going to be a simple first encounter as she prepared to answer Allen.

* * * * * *

After answering a few of Allen’s questions and getting him to address a few of her own, Twilight suggested they take things back to her place. Since Allen was cleared to leave the hospital, she said the setting would be more relaxed and conductive so they could talk and explain things in better detail.

Close to an hour and half had gone by since they arrived at Twilight’s home in the Golden Oak Library. Allen sat there on one of the easy chairs in Twilight’s living room. The human sighed as he sipped from a glass of cold apple cider. He smacked his lips, enjoying the beverage’s sweet and lightly tart apply aftertaste. “And that’s pretty much what happened.”

There was a wide array of emotions pasted on the faces of the main six following Allen’s explanation of how he ended up in their world. Most were fascinated, Rainbow Dash was trying to hide her boredom, and Pinkie Pie was surprisingly not in the room. Though as Allen cast his gaze about the room, and the many shelves housing books, the one thing that stuck out the most to him was the unending intrigue present on Twilight’s face.

“That’s amazing. So you’re telling me…uh, humans…is that what you said your race is called?” Twilight’s eyes were glistening as she smiled at him.

Allen nodded as he took another sip from his cup. “That’s right.”

Twilight continued to smile as she clapped her hooves together. “Great. So, you’re telling me your kind has developed some kind of device that allows for teleportation?”

Setting down his glass, Allen nodded. “That’s right. It’s still experimental, and doesn’t seem to have worked right. Well, at least James made it back.” The human sighed. “I can’t believe all this is really happening.” All of this still seemed like one big dream he was trying to wrap his head around.

Fluttershy walked over beside him and place a hoof on the arm of his chair. “Um, are you okay, uh…Allen was it?”

“Yeah. You’ll have to forgive me, uh…Fluttershy?” She nodded. “It’s not everyday I end up in an alien world with talking ponies.” He felt around the back and sides of his head. “Nope, no bump.” His hand found nothing on his forehead either. “Well, I don’t appear to have hit my head. Guess the doctor was right.” Allen smiled looking out at his hosts. “And if I didn’t already…I want to thank you all for saving me and helping me.”

Twilight smiled after wetting her whistle with some of the cider. “You’re quite welcome. It’s not everyday we get such…uh, a unique visitor like you in Ponyville.”

Rainbow Dash snickered. “Yeah, I’ll say.” She proceeded to take a large gulp of cider from her glass. “You’re the first hairless ape I’ve ever seen.”

Allen swayed his head a little, that was the first time anyone had every referred to him as an ape. He wasn’t quite sure how to take it. Rarity caught that look in his eyes and fought to keep from spitting out her mouthful of apple cider. The unicorn quickly composed herself, and very ladylike, cleared her throat. “Now, now, Rainbow Dash. Our guest has a name. Allen, please excuse this ruffian. I guess not every pony has manners.”

Rainbow Dash glared at Rarity, slanting her eyes. “Manners? What do you mean manners? All I said was…”

“It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it. Allen is hardly an ape.” Rarity turned to Allen. “I do apologize for her, darling. It’s just how Rainbow Dash is.” She turned the Pegasus’s way and lightly glared at her. Rainbow Dash just crossed her forelegs and let out a light huff.

Allen held up a hand and replied. “It’s all right. No harm done. I just haven’t been called an “ape” before.” A less than pleasant silenced formed, and Allen wasn’t sure what to say, then he spied Applejack, resting on the couch with Twilight. He smiled and held up his glass. “Applejack, did I hear you right? You said your family makes this amazing cider?”

The earth pony waved a hoof. “Aww heck, it’s nothing too fancy, but you bet your buttons we do. It’s part of my family’s tradition. And I’m d-lighted to hear ya like it some much.” Applejack gave a nod.

“Of course.” Allen smiled.

Twilight cleared her throat. “Now, I’m guessing what’s on your mind at the moment is wondering how you’re going to get home.”

He sighed, sinking back into his chair. “Yeah. But, we checked my things at the hospital, and the recall rod wasn’t there. Without it, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to get home.” Allen lightly groaned. “And that’s if it still works. I managed to get it work long enough to send James home. But there’s no telling if it has enough power to work more than once.”

Twilight placed a curious hoof to her chin. “Hmm. Even if the power did run out, maybe we could find a way to recharge it…or even come up with an alternative power source.”

Allen partially nodded his head. “That’s a definite possibility. But, until I find it, there’s no telling” He mimed punching himself on the head. “How could I have been so careless and just dropped it?”

“Well, ya were running from a dragon.” Applejack interjected while she sat up. “In the confusion it’s possible you dropped the darn thing.”

“Yeah, that sounds like me.” Allen sighed.

“Hey, everypony! Who wants nachos?” Pinkie Pie came into the living room, lightly bouncing and had a great big smile on her face.

Spike followed behind her carrying a large platter piled high. “I hope you’re all hungry.” He sat the platter on the sizable coffee table.

Allen smiled. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. “That’s right, I never ate dinner. Everything happened so fast. Oh, but are these overly spicy?”

Spike waved a claw. “Nah, there’s nothing too spicy in them.”

“Wait…Spike, what are you supposed to be?” He eyed up the scaly lizard, noting his claws and tail.

Spike blinked. “What? I’m a baby dragon.”

Fluttershy giggled as she patted Allen’s arm. “Oh, don’t worry, unlike that big mean dragon in the mountains, Spike’s all right. And he’s so adorable.” Fluttershy cooed, smiling over at him.

“Cut it out, Fluttershy.” Spike turned his head and couldn’t help but blush a little.

Allen let out a relaxed sigh. “Okay, that’s a relief. Sorry, Spike, I’m just not used to being anywhere that has dragons.”

“It’s cool. But in the meantime, go on everypony, dig in?” Spike grinned, waiting for them to sample the fruit of his and Pinkie Pie’s labors.

Twilight smiled at their guest. “Go on, Allen. As our guest, you can be the first to try them.”

Allen shared Twilight’s smile as he eyed up the small mountain of nacho goodness. “It’s certainly inviting. What all did you put in them? They smell amazing.” His stomach gurgled and growled.

“I’ll field this one, Spike.” Pinkie Pie stood behind the platter. “These are made with shredded cheddar, shredded jack cheese, nacho cheese, diced tomatoes, sautéed red and green peppers and all this rests on a bed of yummy tortilla chips. Oh, and there’s mild salsa and some sour cream for dipping them in.”

Allen reached out and grabbed a nicely coated chip, inviting the culinary delight into his mouth. He crunched down on it. His eyes widened. “Wow, what a taste, even without the salsa and sour cream.”

“Oh good, he likes them, Spike.” Pinkie cheered. Spike crossed his arms and nodded contently.

The human reached for some more and made use of the small plates he saw Pinkie Pie sit on the table. “Come on, dig in every…uh pony.” Allen grinned. “Mmm, these are amazing, Spike.”

“Aww, go on. I make them all the time.” The dragon grinned.

As they ate, the scent of something else caught Allen’s nose. “Wait…sniff, sniff. Spike, what is that heavenly aroma coming from the kitchen?”

Spike took a whiff and smiled. “Oh, those, are just my special freshly baked homemade triple-decker nut crazy vanilla cream cookies.” There was a ding from the kitchen. “Ah, the first batch is done.” He grinned heading for the kitchen. “If you’ll all excuse me, I’m gonna be busy in the kitchen.”

The others just chuckled at Spike’s enthusiasm as he returned to the kitchen. And it didn’t take the group long to devour the mountain of nachos.

Patting his belly, Allen leaned back in the chair and sighed. “Mmm, that was good.”

“It sure was…burp.” Rainbow Dash giggled. “Oops, excuse me.” She grinned. “Ah, well, after the cookies get out here, I think I’ll be heading out.”

Rarity lightly fluffed her mane. “Yes, I suppose I’ll be doing the same. As much as I enjoyed our outing and meeting you, Allen. There are outfits I have to get back to working on. I fear tomorrow will be here all too soon.”

Applejack nodded. “Yeah, I reckon we all have things to get to.” She looked over at Allen. “So, partner. Where are you going be shacking up tonight?”

Allen’s arm dropped lifelessly along the side of the chair. “You know, I have no idea.”

Twilight Sparkle shook her head. “Nonsense. I have plenty of room, you can just crash here tonight.”

Allen ran a hand through his short raven hair. “Well, if you’re sure it won’t be any trouble, Twilight.”

She just smiled. “Nope, it’s fine. Besides, you’ll need somewhere to stay, at least till we can find that, did you say…recall rod?” Twilight endeavored to remember.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Allen nodded, sitting up and resting his arms along those of the chair.

Then before anyone else could speak, Spike came out with a plate loaded with cookies. “Here you go, guys. I’m still working on the rest, but you can start with these.”

Allen smiled as he and the ponies enjoyed Spikes cookies. Things may not have been going quite as he expected, but he was glad that it didn’t appear he would have to face this new land all on his own.

Chapter 3 - "The Dream"

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The evening sky was slowly changing colors as the sun started to set. The vivid yellows and oranges were becoming a fiery red and magenta with early hues of purple and dark blue. Everypony had gone home, except for Fluttershy, who was still in the living room with Allen and Twilight. There were still some of Spike’s freshly baked homemade triple-decker nut crazy vanilla cream cookies resting on a plate on the coffee table.

As the temperatures of this cool spring evening began to fall, the chilled apple cider was replaced with steaming cups of hot mint tea.

Allen sipped from his cup, contemplating another of Spike’s delectable cookies.

Twilight giggled as she saw him eyeing up the plate. “Go ahead. If you want another cookie, help yourself.”

The human waved his hand. “Nah, I should probably stop. My gut is already big enough.” He snickered patting his rotund belly.

The unicorn smiled. “If you say so. And if you’re done, Spike can always add those to the rest he’s finishing up in the kitchen.”

“Yeah.” Allen nodded. “I think I’m done. The tea will be the perfect end to dinner.”

Fluttershy chuckled. “You’re funny, Allen.”

He blinked at the Pegasus. “Really? You think I’m funny?” Allen snickered. “I didn’t think I said anything humorous.”

“Trust me, you did.” Fluttershy smiled, then invited a sip of tea into her mouth. While she knew she’d need to check on her animal friends before too long, she could never resist a cup of tea. And much like Twilight, Fluttershy found Allen fascinating. From everything she ever heard or read about aliens, they were usually big or scary or something worth running for the hills from. But Allen on the other hoof, he wasn’t any of the above…well, he may have classified as big, a little bit. Though, he was more on the plump side than big. In fact he wasn’t that much bigger than they were in comparison. The Pegasus recalled their trek back to Twilight’s place. As she walked closely with Allen and Twilight, she clearly remembered that on all fours she came up to his belly.

“Fluttershy.” Twilight waved. “Did you get enough tea?”

“Huh?” Fluttershy shook her head and blushed a little. “Oh, yes, Twilight, sorry. I think I spaced out a little. It’s something that a relaxing cup of tea does to me.”

“That’s okay.” Twilight chuckled as she turned to Allen. “And how about you, Allen?”

The human stared into his mug and swished it. The warm contents lightly sloshed around. “Yeah. I’m still good, thank you.” He smiled.

Fluttershy continued sipping from her mug. “Mmm, this is really good, thank you, Twilight.”

“Your welcome.” Twilight set the teapot down and took a sip from her cup.

It was then that Fluttershy and Twilight were both drawn to Allen. Twilight puckered her lips funny as she watched the human. “Uh, what's that you have there?”

“Huh?” Allen looked up at her. “You mean this?” He held up a curious object.

“Yeah. Is it normal for humans to carry glass rectangles with them?” She asked completely clueless as to what he was holding.

Allen laughed as he flopped against the back of his chair. “Actually it is, but this is hardly just a glass rectangle. This is my phone.”

Twilight blinked her eyes more than a bit puzzled. “I don’t get it. You mean like a telephone?”

He nodded, turning to face her better. “That’s right. On Earth we use these things to do quite a bit, not just communicate.”

“Wow.” Twilight lightly gasped. “Telephones are still relatively new in Equestria. They’re something only big cities and businesses have right now.”

“Huh.” Allen looked at his phone. It hadn’t dawned on him how much humanity really does take technology for granted. He never conceived of places that didn’t have such modern marvels. “Well, for all effective reasons mine is little better than a hand held computer right now. Seems it’s higher communication functions don’t work here.”

Befuddlement was mired on Twilight’s face as she blinked again. “What’s a com-put-or? Did I say that right?”

“Actually it’s com-pu-ter. And…” Allen paused to think for a moment. “To put it in a nutshell, think of it like an encyclopedia or reference guide, only on Earth it has a way of accessing the vast libraries and topics of countless locations all over the world. Not to mention it could do a ton of other things, like play games and send messages, the list goes on.”

“Really, that’s amazing!” Twilight bubbled as she leaned closer to him. “And what made you decide to take it out now?”

“Well…I remembered there’s a feature on here that can let me track a sort of tag built into the recall rod. With it we should be able to find it a lot easier when we head out tomorrow. I gather it’s not a good idea to try searching at night?”

“You’re certainly right there.” Twilight nodded in agreement. “The mountains alone can be quite dangerous at night, and not just because of the creatures that live there. And it’s been a rather tiring day, so we’d all do better with a good night’s sleep.”

Allen nodded as he turned off and pocketed his phone. “I can’t argue with you there.” He leaned his head back for a moment, that familiar sense of fatigue radiated out across his body. Looking back at both of them, Allen smiled. “But at least the app should help make the search easier.”

“Given the size of the mountains, I’m glad you thought of using it.” Twilight shared Allen’s smile as she turned to Fluttershy. “What do you think, Fluttershy?” Twilight blinked at the quiet Pegasus.

Fluttershy was just sitting there lightly humming to her self, when she finally noticed Twilight’s voice. “Oh, sorry, I think I was spacing out again. So that phone can help with the search?”

“Yeah.” Allen nodded.

Fluttershy closed her eyes and smiled. “Okay. Then, I do think it’s a good idea.”

Twilight scratched the back of her head. “You sure seem a bit spacey tonight. Are you okay?”

Fluttershy nodded again and lightly blushed. “Oh, sure. I think it’s just the excitement of the day. I mean like you said earlier, it’s not every day we meet an alien.” She smiled at Allen, before she looked over at the nearby grandfather clock.

Twilight followed Fluttershy’s gaze and nodded. “So, I’m guessing it’s about that time for you?” The unicorn smiled at Fluttershy, before taking another sip of her tea.

“Yes. I should really check on my animals, but I wasn’t quite ready to say good bye.” Fluttershy downed the last of her tea.

Allen smiled at the Pegasus. “Well, like the others, it was really nice meeting you, Fluttershy.”

“Oh, and you too. Have a good night, and I…uh hope our search goes okay, so we can find a way to get you back home.”

Allen chuckled. “You and me both. I’m guessing my parents will be worried.” He sighed. “Only, not because they’re worried about me. Rather, they’ll be afraid I’m missing because I don’t want to keep up on my studies or something.” Allen took another sip of his tea. “Yea, I can image what they would say now. “Oh, Allen, you need to do your homework.” And my dad would be like, “He’ll do anything to get out of working or studying.”” The human hung his head. “I’ve never slacked a day in my life…well, not since elementary school, and my parents haven’t given me much of a break since.”

“Awww, I’m sorry. Well, at any rate, I hope you have a good night’s rest then.” Fluttershy smiled as she waved to both of them.

“Thank you, night, Fluttershy.” Allen waved back and enjoyed the warm feeling he got from her thoughtful words.

“Bye, Fluttershy!” Twilight said, joining Allen in waving to her.

“See you, Spike,” Fluttershy called to the kitchen.

“Later, Fluttershy!” Spike’s voice rang out from the kitchen.

Twilight laughed as she walked over and closed the front door, then proceeded to lock it, now that her friends had all departed. To show his gratitude to his hosts, Allen joined Twilight as she cleaned up the living room and then, they joined Spike and helped him finish up in the kitchen.

* * * * * *

The sun slowly set as Allen gazed out the window of Twilight’s Study. He cast out a heavy sigh, still trying to make sense of everything. So, I really am in another world. He thought as his eyes remained fixed on the darkening fiery sky.

“Allen?” He quickly recognized the voice of Twilight Sparkle calling to him.

“Huh?” Allen looked her way. “Yes, Twilight?"

She turned around on her small wooden stool and smiled. “How are you holding up?”

He shrugged his shoulders. That was something he was still trying to figure out. “Okay, I guess. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of all of this.”

Twilight offered him sympathetic eyes. “I suppose I might feel the same way, if I were in your position.”

“What are you writing?” Allen stopped himself. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to be nosey.”

She smiled again as she stood up and walked over to him. “That’s okay. I was finishing writing a letter to the princess. I’m sure Celestia will want to hear about our trip to the mountains.”

Allen turned back to the window. “Did you mention anything about finding me?”

The unicorn paused a moment, before she answered, “I did. But only because I’m not entirely sure we’ll be able find the recall rod and help you make it back home.” Twilight sighed, casting her gaze along side of his, out into the fading evening sky. “It’s beautiful…isn’t it?” Twilight smiled and looked over at him.

“Yeah, it is.” Allen blinked, as he looked her way. “But it’s hard to believe that isn’t Earth’s sky I’m looking at, but actually…uh, what did you call this world again…Something Prime was it?”

Twilight giggled softly. She found it oddly cute that he was trying to commit the names of places in her world to memory. “It’s Equus Prime. You remembered half of it.” Allen forced a smile, which gave birth to an awkward silence. Before meeting her friends, Twilight didn’t use to mind these silences, but since her friends helped her grow and come out of her shell, she found she no longer liked them. She took a moment to think of something to say to shatter the piercing silence, then her eyes brightened as she turned his way. “So, do humans like you enjoy sunsets on your world?”

Allen nodded, still keeping his eyes out the window. “Oh yes, I know I do. Only, on our world, there isn’t a pair of alicorn princesses controlling the sun and the moon.”

Twilight took in a quiet breath as her gaze rejoined his. “Well, it’s just one of the many unique features in our world.”

Allen turned to Twilight and smiled. “It’s not a bad thing. And I must admit, the princesses sure know a very pretty evening sky.”

“They sure do.” Twilight chuckled a little nervously. Then she perked up, quickly remembering her manners. “Well, you’re my guest tonight. I asked Spike to prepare my spare bed for you. In the meantime, you don’t have to just stare out the window. You’re welcome to read a book, or perhaps you’d like to write down your thoughts or maybe something else.” She swayed her head, not entirely sure what he’d like.

“Thank you. For the moment, I think I’d just like to enjoy the sunset.” Allen remained at the window, then turned her way. “Oh, and I want to thank you for dinner. Not to mention offering me a place to sleep tonight.”

Twilight smiled. “You’re quite welcome. I’m glad your injuries weren’t too severe. Having you around this evening certainly made things interesting.”

Allen continued admiring the sunset, then turned her way again. “I certainly had a good time and enjoyed meeting you and your friends.” He smiled.

Her smile grew as she looked at him. “Well, I know they enjoyed meeting you, just as I have.” She stood beside him again. The last of the red embers of the sunset had faded.

“Well, it looks like night has officially fallen.” Allen gave a nod.

Twilight placed a hoof to her chin. “Hmm, Allen, I have a question for you.” She turned his way.

He smiled, turning to face her. “What is it?”

“Do you like astronomy…uh, err, I mean stargazing?” She grinned sheepishly, forgetting that she sometimes uses overly large words that others may not know.

Allen’s face lit up. “You bet I do. Astronomy is part of my major in college…well it was the science that seemed to offer the most creative aspect. But yes, I love stargazing.”

She gave a nod. “Then follow me.”

Twilight led Allen upstairs to her loft. He gave it a thorough look, noticing it was quite spacious. There was a nice size window to his left and to his right her bed with a stylish blue blanket covered with moons and stars. There was a mirrored vanity with drawers and a lone chair on the other side of the bed. Glancing behind him, Allen saw a shelf with more books neatly arranged. Then, as they rounded the right side of the bed, there was a door that Twilight opened, which led to another set of stairs.

“Here we go.” Twilight smiled brightly. “Up here.”

The stairs led to a small treetop balcony and there resting behind the guardrail was a rather large telescope. “Oh wow, that’s some telescope.”

She giggled a little as she stood beside it. “Yeah, well we could have used the one we passed on the way up to my loft, but this one’s a lot stronger.”

“Sweet.” Allen craned his head around, taking in the nighttime vista. “Wow, this is some view you have up here.”

Twilight chuckled and held her hoof up toward Ponyville. “If you think this is something, you should see it during the day.”

“I can imagine.” Allen continued admiring the view of Ponyville’s nocturnal lighting. “The town looks very picturesque.”

“I couldn’t agree more. In fact, that’s how I’ve come to feel about Ponyville, since I arrived here a little over three years ago.” Twilight smiled in the dark as she met Allen’s gaze over the town. She turned to the human and held up an energetic hoof. “Now why don’t I show you this telescope in action?”

Allen rubbed his hands together and grinned. “Yes, let’s.”

“Hmm, let me just check something…” Twilight looked around, then she licked the edge of her hoof and held it up. “Yeah, just as I thought, no wind, perfect.” Twilight walked over to a small table that had a white candle resting in a special golden holder. Her horn lit up with a raspberry glow as the candle sparked to life. A smooth orange flame flickered faintly as it bathed the area in its welcoming light. “There we go.”

“Wha?” Allen’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. “H-how did you d-do that?”

“Hmm?” Twilight looked at Allen and followed his pointing hand to the candle. She giggled as she looked back at him. “Oh, you mean light the candle?”

Allen nodded stiffly. “Yeah, how’d you do that? Your horn lit up…and then poof, the candle lit.” He blinked as he placed a hand along his chin. “It was almost like magic.”

“Actually,” Twilight began, a note of pride in her voice. “It was magic.”

“No way!” Allen all but gasped as he continued catching flies. “You can do magic…and you’re saying magic exists in your world?”

She nodded. “Uh-huh.” Twilight chuckled, placing a hoof over her mouth. “Forgive me, it’s just I’m guessing from your reaction you’ve never seen magic before?”

“Nope. Earth has no real magic. It only exists in legends and fantasy.” Allen explained, still spellbound at Twilight’s ability.

“Well, we could talk about magic in my world.” Twilight sighed. “Only, it’s a rather involved topic. And I’d really like to show you some of the marvels in Equestria’s night sky.” She softly bit her lower lip. “Could we discuss magic tomorrow?”

Allen smiled, it was still a bit shocking that Twilight could do magic, but after giving what Twilight said some thought, he didn’t want to quash her enthusiasm. “Sure we can always discuss magic on our way to the mountains tomorrow.” He stood beside her and smiled. “And seeing how excited you are, I’d really like to see what your night sky has to offer.”

She clapped her hooves together. “Wonderful. Now let me set up the telescope.”

Twilight made several adjustments to the telescope as she got things ready for Allen. While she did that, he craned his head upward and studied the brightest stars, but as he noticed shapes and patterns in them, none of them looked familiar. Wow, more proof I’m really not on Earth anymore. The night sky is even different.

* * * * * *

Twilight made a slight adjustment to the telescope. “There, now tell me what you see.”

“Okay.” Allen gave a hard look through the eyepiece. “Huh… Is that a planet?” He asked sounding almost awestruck.

She giggled softly and nodded as he looked at her. “Yes. It’s one that was found not to long ago from a pony in Canterlot. It’s one of the more distant planets in our solar system.”

“What’s it called?” Allen asked, simply amazed at both the similarities and differences of their worlds.

“Quintus.” Twilight replied. “Don’t ask me the reason they named it that.”

Allen nodded glancing up at the sky again. “I have to say, I’m not use to seeing so many stars at night. Back on Earth, the sky above my apartment doesn’t really show too many stars. Just the brighter ones and some of the constellations.”

Twilight joined him looking skyward. “Well, I’m glad I could share this with you.” She pointed to one of the closer constellations. “Do you remember what I told you that one is?”

He followed her hoof and did recognize the group of stars that made a crude figure that resembled an alicorn. “Oh yeah, that’s the constellation of Luna, right? Named after one of the princesses?”

“That’s right. And Allen?” Twilight looked at him with a sweet expression.


“I’m glad we could do this. It’s been fun.”

“It sure has.” Allen let out a yawn and stretched his arms over his head.

“Getting tired?” Twilight asked. He nodded blankly. “Then, we can call it a night. It’s starting to get late anyway.”

The night air was becoming increasingly nippy. Twilight doused the candle as she and Allen went back into her loft. The human stretched and let out a longer hearty yawn. “Those were some amazing sights to see.”

Twilight smiled as she closed the door to the rooftop stairs. “I’m glad you had a good time.”

“You better believe it!” He nodded enthusiastically. “I really liked the “Horse Head Nebula”. That was just amazing, and your telescope made it seem so close, I almost thought I could reach out and touch it.”

Twilight laughed at his enthusiasm as she walked over to her bed, while Allen started looking around. “So where did Spike set up your spare…oh.”

“Yeah, I hope this is okay.” Twilight held up a hoof and presented her spare bed to Allen. It was resting right across from hers, the foot end of each bed facing one another, with a gap of no more than four feet between them. “This is one of the best places for it. I set this up here for Rarity and Applejack a few years ago when we had a slumber party.”

Allen placed his hand on his chin, then he yawned again. “It certainly looks comfy. But…are you sure I won’t be invading your privacy this way?”

Twilight blinked a little curiously at him, then she shook her head. “No, why would think otherwise?”

He shrugged his tired shoulders. “Eh, just thinking about your comfort. But if you’re cool with it.”

She smiled. “Of course I am. Oh, and if you need to use the bathroom, it’s just behind the door at bottom of the steps to my loft. Right now, I think I’m just gonna…” Twilight flopped on her bed and somehow managed to work her way under the sheets. “Yeah…this is nice.”

Allen just chuckled as he removed his long sleeve shirt. He set his phone, his kindle and the charger on a small recess along one of the bookshelves. Then, he placed his shirt somewhere out of the way, followed by his shoes and his socks. Placing his hand on the zipper of his jeans, Allen paused. He swayed his head a little before unzipping and unbuttoning his pants. It felt a little awkward dressing down in front of Twilight. Even though she was a unicorn, something about her presence made him feel more like he was around a girl than a pony.

“Mmm, can I turn off the light?” Twilight asked half asleep.

“Uh, one sec.” Allen just dropped his pants, and tucked them over with his other clothing. Then, he turned back the covers and laid down, making his way to the far side. “Okay,” he answered pulling up the sheets and blanket. He figured it wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, this was going to be his only night in her world anyway. After they get the recall rod back, he’d be homeward bound.

Twilight turned off the lamp and let out another yawn. “G-good night, Allen. Sleep…zzzzz.”

Allen snickered quietly at Twilight’s tired antics. He turned on his side and let his head sink into the plush pillow, and before he had time to think or worry, he quickly drifted off to sleep.

* * * * * *

Allen wasn’t sure where he was. At first everything seemed dark, then he noticed a light and found himself in a grassy field, near a very familiar oak tree. “I know this place.” Walking over to it, he smiled grandly. “Grandpa! What’re you doing here?”

The elder man chuckled, turning around to greet Allen. “There you are, my boy.”

“Wow, I can’t believe you’re here.” Allen’s smile grew. “I thought you passed away years ago, but here you are.”

Allen’s grandfather chuckled and pushed up his glasses. “I’m always here. You can’t get rid of me that easily.”

“But, grandpa, I’m trapped in a different world and don’t know if I can find a way home.”

His grandpa reached out and patted his shoulder, before he chuckled again. “That’s the funny thing about home, Allen. It’s not always what you think it is. And no matter where you go in life, just remember what I’ve always told you.”

“Yeah, I remember.” Allen smiled.

“Anytime you are unsure. Simply ask yourself, “How do you want to be remembered?” And I know you’ll always find your way home or to whatever path life has in store for you, my boy.”

Allen smiled and nodded. “Of course, grandpa. I treasure your advice and love your stories.”

“That’s why you’ve always been my favorite grandchild.” He leaned close to Allen and whispered, “Just don’t tell the others I said that. They might get a little jealous.” His grandfather winked and laughed again.

“I won’t, grandpa, I promise.” Then as Allen began wondering if he was dreaming or not, he figured this was a great opportunity to give his grandpa a long overdue hug. He reached out his arms and wrapped them around his grandfather. For a moment he felt his grandpa’s warm and weathered body through the smooth texture of his shirt. A few tears pooled in his eyes just as his grandfather vanished. “No! Grandpa…please come back.”

Allen cried out as the tears rolled down his cheeks. Then, things shifted. Glancing around, he saw a grouping of colorful tents on an open plain and there was a warm wind blowing the flags that stood at their summits. He looked around and noticed what looked like wooden crates and racks of weapons, older weapons that he’d never seen before.

Just as he went to get a closer look, he heard the oddest footsteps and heard a voice call out, “Captain, we have to move our forces out, the enemy is preparing to move against us.”

Allen blinked as heard more strange footsteps and other sounds of movement. Then a second voice declared, “We must stand together!”

Shouting voices briefly filled the air and a chill wind began to blow. Then, Allen heard another voice, a lovely and elegant feminine one call to him, “Allen, please…don’t go!”

Then the words of his grandfather echoed in the wind. “How do you want to be remembered…remembered…remembered…”


Everything went dark as Allen tore from his sleep and found himself alone in the darkness. “What the heck was that?” He whispered a little louder than he realized.

Then, he heard Twilight moan within her sleep and mumble. “Mmm, that’s the constellation of Luna.”

He furrowed his brow in the darkness, before remembering where he was.

Twilight spoke again from within her slumber. “You like it? Good…ah, I like it too. I-it’s one of my…fav…favorites.” She let out an adorable squeaky yawn and became silent, except for the faintest snoring that mixed with her breathing. Allen found the sound oddly soothing.

Now that he knew where he was, Allen took a moment to reflect on his dream, but he just shook his head. “Stupid dreams. Why do they…” he began to grumble softly as he covered up again and yawned. “H-have to b-be so strange?” Allen let his head sink deeper into the pillow. “Mmm, I think I’m just really tired. Lousy dragon, chase me will you…” With his final words mumbled, Allen feel back to sleep.

Chapter 4 - "The Letter"

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Allen groaned softly as he began to stir. Slowly, his eyes began to open. At first, he wasn’t sure where he was again. Then, as he turned and saw Twilight’s bed, he remembered. “Oh yeah,” he mumbled in a voice that was barely audible. Glancing over at the window, Allen saw sunlight peering in from around the edges of the curtains. Looks like the sun’s up. He noted, while rubbing the sleepiness from his eyes.

He looked back to Twilight’s bed and blinked. There to his surprise, he saw the unicorn sitting up, wide-eyed and smiling at him. “Good morning, Allen.”

“Uh, hi…I mean, morning.” Allen grinned briefly as he stretched and let out a short yawn. “Oh, what time is it?”

Twilight glanced over at her alarm clock. “Almost eight.”

“Good.” Allen nodded as he slowly sat up. “Still somewhat early.”

“Yeah. Did you sleep okay?” Twilight asked before stretching out her forelegs.

“Well enough. That is…” Allen began, letting out another yawn.

“Uh-huh.” Twilight continued smiling at him.

He scratched his nose. “I had the strangest dream about my grandpa. Along with some odd sounds and voices and what looked like…ah.” Allen waved his hand. “Nevermind. It was just a weird dream, like dreams tend to be.”

Twilight nodded, then she chuckled. “I know what you mean. I’ve had plenty of crazy dreams.”

Her laugh made Allen smile. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, I did.” She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. “In fact, in my dream, we were still stargazing.”

Allen laughed to himself, recalling Twilight’s little outburst after he awoke briefly during the night. “We weren’t looking at the constellation of Luna by any chance, were we?”

Twilight blinked for a moment. “Actually we were. How did you know that?”

He waved a hand and chuckled. “Just a hunch, and didn’t you show me that while we were stargazing last night?”

She placed a hoof along the side of her head. “Oh, that’s right…how silly of me.” Twilight tilted her head and smiled. “So tell me, Allen. You mentioned majoring in Astronomy at college?”

Allen nodded, shifting his feet under the covers. “That’s right. My parents have been pushing me to major in science. Astronomy…well, it’s actually Astronomy and Astrophysics. It was the only one that really appealed. I mean, at least it seemed to offer the most creative aspect. I don’t know.” He shrugged.

Twilight tapped her hoof along her chin, then shifted under her blanket. “I’m curious. What about science don’t you care for?”

He swayed his head a little. “Well, it’s not that I don’t like science. In fact, science does a lot of neat things and offers explanations to how things work in both the world and the universe.”

“Go on,” Twilight urged, as she was eager to hear more.

Allen closed his eyes briefly while he nodded. “Well, since elementary school, I’ve always found dinosaurs to be really intriguing, but becoming a paleontologist didn’t seem like too good a path to go. You have to climb and dig through a lot of rocky terrain. Not sure that’s something I’d be good at. Plus, I read that it doesn’t pay very well.” Allen paused to scratch his head, just before another thought came to him. His face brightened as he added, “Oh, I’ve also been very fascinated with volcanoes over the years. Of course when I learned that volcanologists sometimes have to get very close to dormant or even active volcanoes…eh, I had a chance of heart. I don’t think I have the stamina to run fast enough if a volcano would erupt. I know that not all lava flows are super fast, but after I read about pyroclastic flows…” Allen crossed his hands and waved them a few times. “That was the end of that. There’s no outrunning a massive cloud of volcanic material that moves over 400 miles an hour.” He shook his head sternly, then glancing up at the ceiling, Allen continued, “So, I then got to thinking about space and everything in it. And that’s why I finally ended up with Astronomy and Astrophysics.”

Twilight smiled. “Well, that was quite informative.” She nodded her head a few times, then raised a hoof. “You offered up logical reasons why you turned the other two fields down. But, I’m sensing that you aren’t telling me everything.”

“Yeah…right.” Allen puffed out a sigh, before looking back at Twilight. “Like I said, it’s not that I don’t like science, it’s just…I don’t really want to be a scientist. I’d rather do something more original, more…expressive.” Allen clenched both of his fists and shook them poetically. “Besides, science requires a lot of math, some of it’s really difficult and advanced stuff that I’m just not that good at.” Allen hung his head and sighed again.

“Oh, well then, what do you want to do?” Twilight asked leaning forward, while crossing her forelegs.

Allen perked up and lightly stretched his back. “For one thing, I love listening to music, and now that I’ve been learning how to work a mixing board.” He smiled grandly. “It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve often wondered what it’d be like to DJ a party. Oh, and aside from music, I love art, of course it takes me a while to draw or paint anything remotely good, but maybe with practice. And back in high school, I often enjoyed writing. It offers so many ways to express yourself. In fact, poetry was a really fun way to do that.”

Twilight raised her eyebrow. “Oh, you wrote poetry?”

Allen scratched his head and chuckled nervously. “I did, of course I doubt it was as good as an experienced poet.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Twilight offered him a hopeful expression. “We all have to start somewhere.”

Thinking back to his work on the mixing board, he had to nod in agreement. “You have a point there. I remember feeling lost the first time I worked on a mixing board.” Allen grinned.

Twilight giggled softly. “Reminds me of when I first started practicing magic. Now, besides poetry, did you do any other writing?”

Allen ran his hand over his chin, taking a moment to think. “It was a little while ago, but I did try working on a novel once, but, again, I know for a fact I need a lot more practice.”

She tilted her head and smiled. “That reminds me of something Princess Celestia used to always say, “Practice is the gateway to incredible things.” So, as long as you do what you love, I’m sure you’ll figure out what you like best. And those are all wonderful, especially since you sound so optimistic when you talk about them.” Twilight closed her eyes and smiled. “And thinking about what you said. I can tell you I love listening to music, and the halls of Canterlot Castle feature some amazing works of art. I try to check them out every chance I can.” She paused for a moment, a sheepish expression formed on her face. “And I’m sure you’ve seen all the books in here.” Allen nodded. “I just love to read. I’m so glad writers create so many different types of work – from reference guides, histories, fiction and of course novels.” She tried not to blush. “And, I enjoy reading a good fantasy novel or poetry book on rainy days…ah, all while sipping a warm cup of tea or cocoa.” Twilight sighed, forgetting herself for a moment.

“That sounds like a great way to spend a rainy day.” Allen closed his eyes and smiled. “But at least, you understand.”

“Of course I do.” Her eyes filled with sympathy. “It’s sad to hear that your parents aren’t letting you pursue your true passions.”

Allen let out a heavy sigh. “I know, it really is, but maybe someday I can make them see the real me.” There was a sudden glimmer of hope in his pale green eyes.

His optimism made Twilight smile, and having Allen here offered her a delightful change from her normal wake up routine. “I’m glad to see you have hope.”

“Yeah, so am I. Ooh.” Allen lightly winced.

“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked as her carefree expression quickly morphed into one teeming with concern.

Allen held up a hand. “I’m okay.” He closed his eyes and let his head tilt back, before he turned her way. “Just a muscle spasm. “My body doesn’t want me to forget about yesterday.”

“Are you feeling any pain?” Twilight looked at him.

“Some. The muscle twitches are easing, but those few spots on my arms and legs are still a little sore…it’s not too bad though.” Allen chuckled. “Considering I fell off a mountain.”

“Well, if you are hurting, don’t forget the doctor gave you something you can take for the pain.” Twilight reminded him.

Allen nodded. “Yeah. I put the bottle with my stuff.” He looked at Twilight and lightly shook his head.


“Yesterday was a day of firsts for me. I was involved in a science experiment that involved teleportation. Then, I ended up on an alien world, fell off a mountain and was saved thanks to the help of two Pegasus ponies and a unicorn.” Allen started to laugh, as to any normal human this would sound like some crazy dream or maybe part of bad buzz.

Twilight let out a soft chuckle. Even though what happened to Allen, minus the experiment wasn’t too uncommon an occurrence for Equestria, she could see how it seemed a bit much for someone that came from a world bereft of such things. “Like you said, a day of firsts.”


Twilight stretched out her forelegs again and stifled a yawn. Then, before either could say another word, her stomach growled. “Oh my.” Twilight blushed a little. “What do you say we head downstairs and have some breakfast?”

Allen stretched again. “Mmm, that sounds good. I’m surprised my belly wasn’t growling.”

Twilight giggled as she walked over to her vanity and gave her hair a good brushing. Meanwhile, Allen pulled on his pants and proceeded to get dressed. Once the two were ready, they made their way downstairs.

* * * * * *

It was a peaceful Wednesday morning in Canterlot. The sun was slowly making its way into the sky. In her room, Princess Celestia let out a faint yawn as she continued to sleep. The thing she loved about Wednesdays was that they were her one day to sleep in. Aside from waking long enough to raise the sun, she could then lay back down and still catch a few extra hours of rest.

The middle of the week saw the royal court’s slowest days. They were mostly a time for meetings and paperwork. Royal subjects and the nobles didn’t storm their way to the castle with their newest rants until the end of the week, most of the time. In fact, the majority of Celestia’s appointments and various appearances didn’t take place till late in the week or on the weekend.

With that in mind, she enjoyed the rare instance of not having a care in the world, well, at least not until ten o’clock. Celestia would usually drag herself out of bed between 8:30 and 9:00, but it was a far cry better than having to stay up after raising the sun.

The princess turned over and bid her eyes to open. Glancing at her alarm clock, she stared until the hands and face came into focus. “Ah…8:35.” She let out a rather lengthy yawn and smacked her lips. Celestia shuffled around under her blankets, partially sitting up. “Might as well get up,” she murmured.

The princess threw back the covers with her golden magic and slowly made her way onto her hooves. She enjoyed a quick stretch and fluffed her lovely white wings, before donning her regalia. Stopping in front of her vanity mirror, Celestia made sure her crown was on straight. Thanks to her magic, her colorful mane was already flowing majestically, prim, and lovely. “That should do it…and of course. Can’t seem to wake up without needing a trip to the little filly’s room.”

Celestia sighed as she went into the bathroom and relieved herself. After washing up, she doubled checked her mane and stepped back into her bedroom. “I don’t know why, but I always end up peeing a river when I wake up.” She placed a hoof to her mouth and laughed. “It’s a good thing I’m alone. That would certainly be a crude thing for a princess to say in public.”

She chuckled again as she walked past her desk. Glancing over, she noticed a scroll resting on it. “Oh, what’s this? Ah, Twilight must have sent a letter.” Her horn lit up with a golden yellow glow as she unrolled the parchment. Celestia held it up to her magenta eyes and began to read it. “Dear Princess Celestia.” She smiled. “I never get tired of that. Hmmm, this must be the report from her trip to the Smokey Mountains.” Celestia continued reading the letter. “Aha, so the reports were correct. Huh, what’s this? “We found a dragon chasing someone.”” Her eyes widened. “Merry Way, come here!!” Celestia cried.

The door to her room flew open and in galloped her faithful maid and servant. The white mare stopped in front of the princess, clad in her maid’s attire as she bowed respectfully. “You called, princess?”

Celestia turned to face Merry Way. “Yes. Please go and get Princess Luna at once. Tell her it’s an urgent matter and to meet me in my private dining room.”

Merry Way rose and blinked her bright blue eyes. “Of course, but, Your Grace, Princess Luna is sleeping right now. Do you want me to wake her?” She asked with considerable reluctance.

The princess paused and closed her eyes. Merry Way’s concern for Luna sleeping was touching. It’s one of the reasons Celestia was so grateful to have her among her castle maid staff.

Celestia turned to Merry Way, a serious but gracious look in her eyes. “Yes. I know my sister is resting, but this won’t wait.”

The maid nodded dutifully. “Of course. Will there we anything else, Your Grace?”

“No, that is all. Thank you, Merry Way.” Celestia managed a smile as Merry Way bowed again and then promptly departed. The princess grabbed the letter and exited her room.

* * * * * *

Celestia stood near the large table in her private dining room and just shook her head. The door opened as Luna made her way inside. She joined her older sister at the table, covering her mouth as she yawned. “Ahh…what’s so important that you had to wake me up already?” Luna shook her head and stretched her dark blue wings. “You know today is my transition day. And it’s nowhere near eleven.”

“I know.” Celestia lowered her head. “I didn’t mean to disturb you. I’m quite aware this is your transition day, dear sister.”

“Yes.” Luna yawned again. “Why is it as we move into spring and the nights grow shorter that my transition days take place sooner?”

Celestia simply smiled and raised a hoof. “Well as the weather becomes warmer and the days longer, our subjects wish to see more of their princesses.”

“I suppose I can’t hold that against them or be too upset.” Luna was still a bit groggy, but managed a sincere smile. “It’s just a little tricky to adjust from being up most of the night, so I can be around to sit in on the busier court days for our subjects later in the week…mmm, and join in on the weekend functions, whatever they may be.” Luna stretched her shoulders and smiled. “Well, at least my Midnight Proxy and my Lunar Guards can tend to the night when I’m not around.” The princess shook her head and yawned again. “Pardon me, dear sister. Mmm, most of me is awake.”

Celestia couldn’t help but giggle. “Of course. And I do apologize again for waking you so soon.”

“Well, it is nearly nine and I wasn’t up that late…only till a little after three. So, what did you need me for?” Luna blinked curiously.

Celestia turned to the table and grabbed the letter. “I received this letter from Twilight. It has her report on the Smokey Mountains.”

“And?” Luna stifled a yawn.

“It looks like the rumors and reports we heard were correct. There is dragon activity there.” Celestia held up the letter.

“Hmm, but I can only wonder what stirred them up. Unless, you don’t think that premonition you had could mean anything?” Luna kept her eyes on her sister, while partially raising a hoof.

“I still don’t have enough proof. But, there’s more.” Celestia sighed after glancing back at the letter. “Apparently, dragons weren’t the only thing Twilight discovered in the mountains.”

Luna stepped closer to Celestia. “What else did she find?”

“Well, see for yourself.” Celestia presented the letter to Luna.

She took it in the grip of her soft blue magic. “Hmm, what does it…” Luna read the letter and then turned to Celestia, her teal eyes had gone wide. “Can it really be true? They found a human?”

Celestia sighed. “That’s what the letter says.”

Luna’s mouth hung open for a moment. “After all this time…one has found a way to come back here?”

Celestia shook her head, looking back to the letter. “No, I do not believe so. According to Twilight, it wasn’t intentional.”

“It wasn’t?”

“It seems the human came here by accident.” Celestia explained, setting the letter down.

Luna turned to Celestia and rubbed her hoof over her chin. “Well then, what should we do about this?”

“I thought about that.” Celestia began. She cast her gaze out a nearby window and then looked at Luna. “I’m going to write back to Twilight. I think it’d be best for one of us to go to Ponyville and see if she really has found a human.”

Luna gave a nod. “I agree. And at least we know one thing. There isn’t anything to fear from humans. You remember as well as I do that they were once our greatest allies.”

Celestia closed her eyes and hung her head. “Yes, I remember only all too well.” She sighed heavily. “It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye.”

“And then, there was that last battle against…” Luna was cut off.

Celestia held up a hoof and gave Luna a stern look. “We swore never to speak of that day!”

Luna’s ears drooped and she nodded solemnly. “I know. And to see you react this way, all these centuries later…Celestia. I’m sorry.”

The elder princess shook her head. “It’s all right, Luna. I know he meant a lot to you as well.”

Luna nodded. “Yes, but not nearly as much as he meant to you, sister.”

Celestia stood there for a moment, trying not to let the painful memories of her past enter her conscious mind. She banished them with another sigh, then turned to Luna. “I’ll send a reply to Twilight after we eat breakfast. I was hoping you’d join me.”

Luna cast out another yawn and stretched her back again. “Hmm, I was going to lay back down…but.” She took a few sniffs. “Are the chefs making what I think they’re making?” She turned her head and gave Celestia a look her elder sister was all too familiar with. “Is that cinnamon I smell too?”

Placing a hoof over her mouth, Celestia laughed. “Yes, I know what you like, and I figured it’s the least I could do for having to get you up so soon.”

Luna’s face softened and she smiled, less groggily. “Okay, I’d be happy to then. Oh, and if you’d prefer, I can go to Ponyville…that way you can see to things here and you know seeing another human...the memories. It could be painful.” Luna cautioned.

Celestia stood there in silence for a moment, echoing voices from her past spoke a few incoherent lines, but nevertheless, she knew which they were. Then, turning to Luna, Celestia nodded. “Yes, Luna, you may go in my place. You’re probably right, little sister, it would be best…at least for now.” Celestia shook her head and managed a smile. “Now come on, why don’t we eat?”

Luna smiled and stood right up beside her sister. “Of course, big sister.” The two shared a loving hug, then took a seat at the table. A few moments later, their servants came out with a series of plates and platters, nice and piping hot. Luna’s eyes widened in anticipation, while Celestia just chuckled.

* * * * * *

Allen swallowed the last bite of his eggs and leaned against the back of his chair. “Mmm, that really hit the spot, Twilight.” He smiled.

Twilight took another sip of orange juice from her glass. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

He scratched his belly, before downing the last of his orange juice. “Man, that was good. You’re a great cook.”

“I’m glad you think so. Of course, I could probably use more practice.” Twilight laughed. “You know it’s nice when I can cook. Usually, Spike does most of the cooking for me, with the exception of those days we go out.” Twilight ate the last forkful of her potatoes. “Yeah, reading all those books and cooking with Pinkie Pie and Applejack is paying off. I’m glad I let Spike sleep in today.”

Allen smiled as he looked around. “Ah, I was wondering why I didn’t see him. And…” He snickered. “Is that odd sound from the back of the library, Spike snoring?”

Twilight covered her mouth as she giggled. “Yep, that’s him all right.”

“Now I know what a baby dragon sounds like snoring.” Allen laughed as he sat up in his chair and placed his fork on his plate. Then, taking his napkin, he wiped his mouth one more time. “And I’d have never guessed you ponies ate food like this.”

“What makes you say that?” Twilight looked at him inquisitively.

“Well, on my world horses and ponies eat things like hay and oats. Not foods like nachos or scrambled eggs. But then again, on my world they don’t talk either.” Allen chuckled, while lightly shaking his head.

Twilight smiled at him. “Does that mean you like the fact that we do?”

He nodded, before trying to get every last drop of juice out of his glass. “Of course. I can’t say I’d be too fond of eating nothing but hay and oats. And it’s really awesome that you all can talk.” Allen covered his mouth as he burped. “Excuse me. Those eggs and potatoes were great. I’m still tasting them.”

“I’m so glad you liked them. And it’s refreshing to meet someone else that enjoys them scrambled with cheese.” Twilight sighed as she placed her fork on her empty plate. “So often I’m the odd ball out wanting scrambled eggs, while everypony else seems to like theirs over easy or sunny side up.”

Allen lightly grimaced as he swayed his head back and forth. “Eh, eggs are all right over easy, but they can be messy, and I just love mine scrambled with cheese. By the way, what type of cheese did you say you used on those?”

Twilight leaned back in her chair. “I used Equestrian Cheese. It has a really mild and creamy taste, plus it melts so good over things like eggs.” She chuckled. “It really goes well with cheddar when you melt it in with pasta, like macaroni.”

Allen nodded as his mouth watered from the thought of a nice mess of macaroni and cheese. “Sounds tasty. Of course…” Allen patted his gut. “I really need to start watching my carbs.” He cast out a heavy sigh. “There are so many days I sit back and can’t believe I let myself go like this.”

Twilight blinked, placing her hooves on the edge of the table. “So then, are you saying that not all humans look like you, Allen? It was something I’ve been wondering about.”

He shook his head. “No, not really. I mean there are plenty of large people like me, but most are skinnier than I am. It’s a real problem.”

She gave him a puzzled look. “Why would being a little chunky be a problem? There are plenty of ponies a little on the plus size in Equestria. Though,” Twilight placed a hoof to her chin and glanced toward the ceiling. “They do tend to live more in the bigger cities.”

“Yes well, I’m not sure how it is in your world, but it can lead to a number of health issues for people like me.” Allen looked past Twilight and scratched his cheek.

“Well, then, why did you, as you said, “let yourself go”?” Twilight asked leaning forward. “Oh, I’m not being too nosy, am I?”

Allen shook his head. “No, you’re fine. And I’ve given it a lot of thought over the past few years. In a nutshell, I think it’s because of my parents.” He sighed again.

Twilight ran her hoof over her chin. “Hmm, you mentioned them before. And how they won’t let you pursue your dreams.”

Allen nodded. “That’s right. And trying to live up to their high expectations, doing things I hate is anything but relaxing.” He lowered his head and closed his eyes. “I think that’s why I eat all the wrong things and ended up letting myself go. I mean, I wanted to try going to the gym, but between work and going to classes, I just feel so tired afterwards. And I don’t have much time as it is for my hobbies, like audio mixing.”

The unicorn gave him sympathetic eyes. “That’s so sad.”

“Yeah, that’s how I feel about it.” Allen sighed, then looked over at her. “And speaking of my weight. I have to wonder.”

“And what’s that?” Twilight asked.

“We know how well my last trip to the…Smokey Mountains was it?” She nodded. “We know how well that went. Even though you and your friends will be going back with me, is it really good for me to go like this?” Allen looked at her, a less than confident look on his face.

Twilight looked down at the table for a moment, before looking back at Allen. “Since we got back from the hospital last night, I’ve been wondering about that.” She perked up and smiled. “But I do have an idea, if you’d like to hear it?”

“Sure.” Allen smiled as he leaned forward, placing a hand on the table.

“I know a stallion that could teach some basic defense skills, and if you’d like, I could also have him teach you sword play. I have my magic, and my friends have their own unique skills, but it might be a good idea if you could defend yourself in case we get separated or we run into anything wild or that dragon again.”

Allen thought about what she said for a moment, then his eyes lit up at her mention of the word “sword”. “Wait, you mean he’d teach me how to use an actual sword?”

She smiled and nodded. “Of course I do.”

He placed both hands on the table and partially stood up, a more than excited look on his face. “That would be so awesome!”

Twilight couldn’t help but giggle at his enthusiasm. “I’m glad you seem so eager to learn.”

Allen grinned. “Are you kidding? I’ve always dreamed of learning sword play.” He turned his head and grimaced. “Only, since my grandfather passed away, my parents refuse to let me learn anything cool like that.” He sighed. “They say it’d be a waste of time.”

The more Twilight learned about Allen’s parents, the less she liked them. She couldn’t believe how cruel they were to their own son. True, they probably wanted what they thought was best for him, but still, their methods seemed poorly chosen. “Well, while you’re here, you’ll get that chance.”

The excitement remained on his face. “Sweet. Oh, there is one other thing I wanted to mention.”

“And what’s that?” Twilight asked.

Allen pulled out his cell phone. “Well, I trust the mountains are a really large area, right?”

Twilight nodded as she stretched out her hoof. “Large is an understatement. The area is enormous! Oh, and that’s right, you said your phone could help us find the recall rod.”

“Mm-hmm.” Allen nodded, then he held up his phone. “Right now I have a 68% charge left on my phone’s battery. But, I don’t know if that’ll be enough to explore the mountains and find the recall rod. And you don’t have electric outlets on your world, do you?” He looked at her trying to recall the hospital and things he’s seen at her place.

“As a matter of fact we do.” She smiled.

“Do you think there’s any chance my charger cord could fit in your outlets then?” He fished out his charge and placed it on the table.

Twilight ensnared it in the raspberry glow of her magic, bringing it over to her. She held it up and examined the plug very carefully. “Hmm. This looks similar to our outlets…but, the prongs are different than ours.”

Allen placed both his hands on the table and looked at her questioningly. “Different how?”

“Well…” Twilight rose from her chair and walked over to the counter. She pointed her hoof to one of the outlets. “This is what our outlets look like.”

Allen stood up form his chair and joined her, studying the outlet. “Hmm, it looks similar…oh, I see.”

“Yeah.” Twilight showed him as she failed to get it to fit the slots in the wall. “While the plug on your charger and the holes in the outlet look like they should be compatible, there’s a difference in their design.”

“Right, I can see that.” Allen scratched his chin. “There’s a slight size variance.”

“Mm-hmm,” Twilight nodded. “But, not to worry.” She held up his charger cord. “I have some equipment in the basement I use for experiments and research. And, my comprehension of electronics is quite good. I’m not sure how long it’ll take, but I could probably make some sort of outlet adapter that would enable your charger to work.” Twilight nodded confidently.

“That’s good to hear.” Allen smiled, then stood there for a moment. “Okay, then. If you take me to see this stallion, I can work on learning defensive sills…and how to use a sword.”

Twilight chuckled at the giddiness in Allen’s voice. “And while you do that, I can start work on the adapter.”

A look of hope and confidence formed on Allen’s face. “Looks like we have a plan.”

“We sure do. Come on, I’m going to leave Spike a note, then we can head out.”

“Okay.” Allen followed Twilight up stairs to her study. There, she penned a note for Spike. After checking a few things and a couple books, she gave him a nod. The two made their way back downstairs. Twilight left the note where Spike couldn’t help but find it, and then she and Allen departed out the front door, closing it silently behind them.

Chapter 5 - "Blade and Regalas"

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A pair of chirping robins flew overhead as Twilight and Allen emerged from the library. Their sweet morning melody reminded Allen of spring mornings back on Earth. He closed his eyes for a moment as he soaked in the ambiance, while noticing the slight nip in the morning air.

They had just started walking away, when Allen turned and looked back. “Whoa.” There, the morning sun glistened against the lush leafy branches and seemed to make it blend harmoniously with other buildings of Ponyville. The human could finally appreciate the Golden Oak Library in its entirety. “Twilight, your home looks incredible as the sunlight hits it.” Twilight turned and smiled while Allen stood their holding up his hands and using his thumbs and index fingers to form a makeshift frame. “Yeah, it really is picturesque. I don’t think it looked quite the same when you and your friends led me here from the hospital. Of course, I was still a bit woozy.” Allen snickered a little self-consciously.

Twilight moved closer to Allen and joined him in gazing at the mighty oak. “Yes, I’ve always liked the way the library looks in the daylight.” Glancing at his face, she saw the sloppy smile and chuckled. “And you were rather out of it when we brought you here.”

Allen nodded and said, “You’ll get no argument from me.” Then, as he continued staring at the oak, he held up his handmade frame one more time. “Yep, just like the rest of Ponyville, this place is so charming.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that. Now, come on.” Twilight motioned him with her hoof. “On our way to barracks, I can show you some of Ponyville.”

There was a strong and lofty energy in Allen’s step as he walked beside Twilight, while they made their way further into town. “Sweet. It’ll sure be neat to see more of this place. Especially now that I’m more with it.”

Twilight just closed her eyes and smiled again. Then, she briefly glanced his way and said, “If you like what you saw of it last night. You’ll really enjoy it up close in the daylight.”

“Mm-hmm.” Allen nodded. Then, recalling what Twilight had just said, he turned her way, wearing a rather perplexed look. “Hang on a second. Did you say “barracks” a little bit ago?”

She nodded as they continued walking along. “Yes, I did,” she replied bluntly.

Allen puckered his lips funny. “Uh, why does Ponyville have a barracks? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that a building used to house soldiers?”

“Yeah.” She shook her head. “It’s a bit of a story. I’ll explain once we get there.”

“Okay.” Allen’s words were a little less energized as he continued to follow her. He still wasn’t sure why a town like Ponyville would have a barracks, let alone any military personnel stationed at it. Though as they turned down another street, one thing did make sense to Allen. He couldn’t think of anyone better to train him than a soldier…a warrior.

Allen blinked as they continued their trek through town. There were more ponies around then there were last night. At first he started to feel a little nervous, but that was until he examined their faces more closely. He expected to see troubled looks and fear, but instead, he saw bright eyes and happy smiles. As they passed more ponies, they started waving to them. Some of the ponies even called Twilight by name as they waved, while engaging in their various morning rituals – be they working in their yards, out running errands, or just greeting the day on their way to work.

“Twilight, why is everyone smiling and waving at us?” Allen blinked, wondering if his eyes were just playing tricks on him.

The unicorn looked around at the other ponies and then at Allen. She smirked a little as she chuckled. “They’re just being friendly. Several ponies saw us bring you into town yesterday. Some asked us who or what you were. We just told them you’re a visitor form a distant land that had some trouble in the mountains.”

Allen came to an abrupt halt as he stood there, a look of disbelief on his face. “Seriously?”

Twilight turned and walked back to him. “Well, yeah.”

The human glanced around at the still jubilant ponies. “So, you’re saying they aren’t afraid of me – an outsider…an alien being?”

She stared at Allen for a moment, scratching her head curiously. Then, she slanted her eyes and all but gave him a snide look. “Oh, should we be afraid of you?” Twilight walked past him, then glanced back at him. “From the time we spent together last night and so far this morning, I haven’t seen any reason to fear you.”

“True, I’ll give you that.”

Twilight just shook her head. “I don’t know how outsiders or “aliens” are viewed on your world. But, here in Equestria, we don’t immediately push the panic button. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t entirely lower our guard, but, we don’t go looking for trouble either.”

“Right. Okay, then I can see why you wouldn’t be afraid of me.” Allen noted, while he started making sense of the ponies’ reaction to him.

“And trust me when I say, there have been far stranger things to walk down the streets of Ponyville than you.” Twilight nodded. Then she giggled briefly, while recalling some of the unique characters that had indeed paid the town a visit.

“So then, onward?” Allen asked.

“Of course.” Twilight laughed again.

“What? What’s so funny?”

She just waved her hoof again. “Ah, it’s nothing. I was just thinking about some of the other “unique” visitors Ponyville has had over the past few years.” Twilight smiled. “I’ll have to tell you about them, if there’s time.”

Allen let out a nervous laugh. “I’m not entirely sure I want to know, given your reaction.”

Twilight grinned briefly as they resumed their walk. “Oh, don’t worry, it’s nothing bad. It could be a little on the strange side though.”

“Eh.” Allen shrugged his shoulders. “Strange is fine.”

“Hmm.” Twilight nodded. Then, as they walked along, she took a long look at Allen’s attire, which consisted of a navy long-sleeve sweatshirt a pair of blue jeans and what appeared to be funny looking black and gray shoes on his feet.

The unicorn continued studying him, until Allen noticed her eyes on him. “Uh, Twilight. What are you doing?”

She panned her eyes up to meet his. “Oh, I was just examining your clothing. It’s a little different from the clothing we wear. In fact, most of the time, many of us ponies don’t even wear clothing.”

“Yeah, I noticed that. But didn’t think too much about it. I mean, you do have fur and thick colorful tails.”

Twilight nodded in agreement. “Yes, and we usually just put on clothing for special occasions, or for a job, and there are those of us that just like to dress up – like my friend Rarity.”

Allen recalled Rarity’s name. “Oh, right. I remember her. Didn’t she say something about having outfits to work on last night?”

“Yes, she did.” Twilight smiled. “I’m glad you remembered. And getting to my point.”

“Okay.” Allen wasn’t sure what this had to do with his attire.

“Since you’re going to be here longer than you originally thought, and your kind does have to wear clothing, right?” Twilight looked at Allen, anxiously awaiting a reply.

“That’s right. It’s a bit embarrassing for humans to go around without any clothing. Unlike you ponies, we lack the fur and tails to maintain our modesty.”

“Oh.” Twilight’s face reddened a little. “I think I understand. In fact, that’s why I think it would be a good idea to stop by Carousel Boutique and visit Rarity. I suspect you’ll need more than the clothing you’re wearing.”

Allen’s face went a little blank, before he replied, “You’re right. I hadn’t thought about it, but I will need more clothes. I doubt it’d be a good idea to sit and wait for my clothing to wash…uh, you do have washing machines and dryers, I hope? I’m not going to have to go down to a stream and beat my clothing on a rock am I?”

Twilight giggled. “No, you won’t. We do have washing machines and dryers. Now come on. I’m sure Rarity can help us.” The smile returned to Twilight’s face as she led them toward Carousel Boutique.

* * * * * *

The sun was nearing its zenith as it cast its rays on Canterlot Castle. Princess Celestia was perched on her elegant seat as she continued holding the morning court within the vast throne room.

The princess smiled politely, while she listened to her loyal subject present his case. The stallion checked over his papers one last time, making sure he hadn’t missed anything, then he nodded. “Yes, so you see, Your Grace, that’s what I’m hoping to accomplish. All I need now is to get a building permit.”

The polite smile remained on Celestia’s face. “That was a very thorough explanation. And have no fear.” The princess turned to her aid. The unicorn floated a piece of parchment over to the princess. Celestia’s horn lit up as she used her magic to dip her quill into the inkwell that was resting on the small side table. She then proceeded to sign the legal document. “There. With my signature this form is official, you can give this to the permit office and they will take care of everything.”

The stallion’s mouth hung open for a moment, then he smiled and bowed respectfully to the princess. “Thank you, Your Grace. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”

Celestia giggled silently, and offered him a contented smile. “You are quite welcome. This is why I’m here, to help loyal subjects like you.”

Celestia’s aide walked over to the stallion and gave him the paper. He took it and bowed again. “Thank you, princess. Have a splendid day.” He turned and lightly trotted out of the throne room. The unicorn guards used their magic to shut the doors, which closed with a low metallic thud.

“Oh…” Celestia sighed, rubbing her hooves along both sides of her head.

The side door, next to Celestia’s throne opened. Princess Luna strolled in and sat on the empty throne beside her sister. “So, did I miss anything important, while I stepped out to freshen up?” Luna glanced over at Celestia.

Celestia shook her head. “No, today has been rather slow. Just the usual, you know? Like before you stepped out. Somepony needs a permit or wants the crown to support their request for a loan, or a rezoning…ugh, or some other benign ranting.”

Luna smiled as she sat back in her seat. “Ah, so business as usual then.”

“You guessed it.” Celestia cast out another sigh. “You can be glad you missed putting up with 1,000 years of this. I’m only sorry for the circumstances, which you got out of…”

Celestia stopped as Luna held up a hoof. “It’s fine, dear sister. No need to go on a tangent about my imprisonment, not again.” Luna smiled. “We’ve long since overcome that ordeal. But, you may be right. Either way, at least you no longer have to deal with the whiny nobles and squabbling peasants on your own.”

Celestia smiled. “You know something, Luna? That makes me feel a lot better.”

Luna shared Celestia’s smile, but it quickly faded as one of the guards came galloping up to the thrones. “Your highnesses!”

Celestia took a deep cleansing breath and sat up straight. “Yes? What is it?”

The Royal Guard bowed, then as he rose he said, “Princess Cadence and Shining Armor have both returned from the Crystal Empire.”

“Ah, that means they have completed their assignment at last.” Celestia wore a look of joy as she motioned a hoof toward the guard. “You may show them both in.”

“At once, Your Grace.” The guard turned around and trotted over to the large double doors. He gave a nod to the two guards at each side of the door. They nodded back and used their magic to open the way. He walked up to the two arriving ponies and cleared his throat. “Eh-hem. Presenting Princess Cadence and Shining Armor.” He waited for the two arrivals to enter, then bowed one final time and exited the throne room. Cadence and Shining made their way to Princess Luna and Princess Celestia. One of the castle maids was following closely behind them as she pushed a small elegant wooden cart.

The doors closed as they stood before the two princesses. Celestia greeted them both with a cheerful smile and nodded. “Princess Cadence, Shining Armor, welcome back to Canterlot.”

Cadence smiled and joined her husband in bowing before her aunts. “Thank you, princess.”

Celestia rose form her throne and descended the stairs below. She placed a gilded hoof on her niece’s shoulder. “There’s no need to be so formal. Now, would you two care to give me your report, please?” She stepped back, still smiling brightly as she faced them.

Cadence took a deep breath, before answering, “I’m happy to report that after spending four additional months in the Crystal Empire that Shining Armor and I have completed the task you gave us.”

“Wonderful. I trust the council of elders was able to work with you?” Celestia asked, confidence rippling in her voice.

Cadence nodded and smiled cheerfully. “Yes. After meeting with the council, we were able to review the candidates for both the position of High Steward and Captain of the Crystal Guard.”

Shining Armor stepped up and shared their enthusiasm. “And I’m pleased that we were able to help them choose the best ponies for each station.”

Princess Cadence nodded. “That’s right. After holding a vote, a steward and a captain were chosen. Any candidates that didn’t get selected were kept to aid those chosen for each position and to stand in, should anything happen to those that were appointed.”

Shining Armor gave a solemn nod. “That’s right. Once a steward and captain were selected, we spent the past few months helping them get everything in order and while it was a little rough at first. I know the empire is now in good hooves.”

Cadence smiled as she straightened her crown. “And they are currently checking their citizenry and royal documents to see if they can track down their original queen or any of those from her family. That way a true ruler can take over.” The younger alicorn hung her head, a strong note of sorrow in her lavender eyes. “Though a few members on the council started to recall their queen. And many believe she didn’t survive while King Sombra was in power.”

Celestia closed her eyes and observed a moment of silence upon hearing the grim news. “A true pity to be sure. Well, at least you were able to help fill two key roles in the meantime.”

“Yes.” Cadence perked up. “Despite the sadness about their queen, at least the empire is back and once again standing on its own. The crystal heart is as lovely as ever.”

Shining Armor smiled as he turned to a nearby window and held up a hoof. “That’s right. The love and energy from the empire is still swirling in the sky every so often. You can’t help but see it.”

Celestia smiled as she saw the colorful swirls of energy rippling like an aurora in the blue sky.

“Oh, and there’s one more thing.” Cadence turned to the maid and gave a gentle nod. The maid pushed the cart up to Princess Celestia. Cadence smiled cheerfully as she pointed a gilded hoof at the cart. “These are some gifts the crystal ponies sent back with us. Including…” Cadence’s horn lit up with a soft blue glow. “This signed pledge from the Crystal Empire’s new High Steward. It states that if we ever need help that they will happily send guards, relief supplies, and anything they can offer in goodwill. And in return, they humbly request the same from us.” Cadence floated the rolled document over to Celestia.

The elder princess took the scroll in the grip of her golden magic and unfurled it. “Hmmm. Ah, and I see you signed on behalf of Canterlot. Very good, Cadence.” Celestia smiled. “This is most welcome news indeed.” The smile grew on Celestia’s face as she turned back and looked to her sister. Luna gave a silent nod and smiled back. Celestia turned to address them again and let out a calming sigh. “I knew I could count on you two. And I’m so glad to have both of you back in Canterlot.”

“It’s great to be back, “Cadence replied, her eyes sparkling with delight.

“It really is.” Shining Armor nodded, his face was equally jubilant. “The Crystal Empire is a nice place to visit…but it’s not Canterlot…it’s not home.”

Celestia placed a hoof on Shining Armor’s shoulder. “You don’t know how it joys me to hear you say that. And, with you back, I hope you’ll resume your duty as captain of the Royal Guard.”

He stood tall and saluted the princess. “It will be an honor to return to work as captain.”

“Glad to hear it.” Celestia turned to her niece. “And Cadence, I would absolutely treasure your aid with royal affairs. It will allow Luna and me the chance to better tend to our subjects needs and requests.”

Cadence bubbled as she met Celestia for a loving hug. “You know I’m always glad to help, anyway I can.”

“I do.” The two took a step back. “Now, I image your journey home was long and tiring. That’s why I’m giving you two the rest of today and tomorrow to rest and settle back in.”

Shining Armor nodded, but had a very serious look on his face. “I appreciate the time off. But, I hope you don’t mind if I check in with the guard tomorrow morning.”

Celestia gave a short nod. “Very well, I have no problem with that. But I’d better not hear that you’ve spent all of tomorrow at the barracks.”

The stallion shook his head and tried not to grin. “Of course not, princess.”

“Thank you, Celestia.” Cadence bowed respectfully. “Is there anything else you need from us?”

“No.” Celestia motioned her hoof to the guards at the double doors. “You two may go.”

Shining Armor bowed before the princesses then joined Cadence as they departed the throne room.

Luna rose from her throne and joined her sister. “Aren’t you going to bring them up to speed?”

Celestia shook her head. “They just returned from a long journey and a vital assignment. We’ll let them rest for now. Besides, we’re still missing one piece of the puzzle.”

“Of course.” Luna stood beside Celestia. “Did you send Twilight your reply?”

Celestia nodded. “I did.” She turned to Luna. “I told her, you would be stopping by this evening.”

Luna looked to the stained glass windows, the ones that depicted so many pivotal events in Equestria’s past. “My trip there should be interesting…at the very least.”

Celestia nodded, as the two turned and retired from the throne room, making a discrete exit out the back.

* * * * * *

Allen puffed out a breath as he stood there in Carousel Boutique, wearing nothing but his T-shirt and underwear. Rarity adjusted the tape measure along the human’s waist and then moved it to his shoulders. She turned to a nearby pedestal and wrote down some numbers and made a few notes on a sheet of paper. Then, placing a hoof to her chin, she nodded. “Hmmm.”

Twilight looked at Allen, softly biting her lower lip, before she turned to Rarity. “Well, what do you think?”

“Hmmm.” Rarity gave Allen a long hard look, then checked all the various measurements she had taken. “Yes, darlings. I believe I can help.”

Twilight’s face lit up. “You can?”

Rarity nodded twice, and then floated the tape measure back over to a nearby table. “Of course. Twilight, you know I love a challenge, and I’ve made similar clothing to Allen’s in the past. Besides, our clothing isn’t so different from his.” Rarity tapped her hooves on the floor. “Now I’m really glad I fixed those slacks for Iron Will.”

Twilight let out a sigh of relief, then smiled brightly. “That’s great news, don’t you think so, Allen?” She looked at the human.

Glancing their way, Allen nodded. “Yes, that’s great to hear. Uh, are you done taking measurements, Rarity?”

“Oh, yes, I am, darling. If you two will pardon me, I just had a great idea!” Rarity half sung the word ‘idea’ as she giggled and walked over to her drawing board, the sheet with Allen’s measurements followed her within the grip of her soft blue magic.

Allen redressed, pulling his pants and long sleeve shirt back on. “There.” He tucked the shirttail into his pants and walked over to Twilight. “Are we good to go, then?” Allen asked, as he slipped on his socks and shoes and started tying them.

She nodded. “I believe so. Uh, Rarity?”

“Oh, yes, yes, great seeing you two. If you’ll excuse me…I’m in the zone.” There was glee in her voice as she started scratching some things down on a clean sheet of sketch paper.

“All right. Thank you, Rarity.” Twilight called, waving a hoof.

“Yes, thank you, Rarity.” Allen joined Twilight waving.

All Rarity did was lightly flail a hoof at them as she continued with her work. The prospect of making clothing for an outsider like Allen was really stirring Rarity’s itch for something different.

Twilight and Allen stepped out of Rarity’s shop and resumed their original course. The unicorn let out a calming sigh.

“Well, that was a lucky break,” Allen noted as they walked side by side.

“Yes, it was. I figured, what pony better to make you some clothing then Rarity?” Twilight grinned briefly.

“She certainly seems like an inspired choice. Just one question.” Allen looked at Twilight a bit seriously.


“How am I supposed to pay her…or the stallion for that matter?” He sighed, giving Twilight a dubious glance. “I don’t really have any money.” Allen reached for his wallet and rummaged through it for all of five seconds. “Unless, do you take dollars?” He sighed heavily. “Which I only have a five and a few ones.”

Twilight looked at the oddly marked pieces of pale green paper that were resting in his opened wallet. She smiled warmly and reached up to pat his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I can help, and just like the doctor at the hospital, the stallion owes me a favor. And Rarity is a very reasonable pony.”

Allen put his wallet away. “All right then. I just feel a little funny without any money on me.” He snickered halfheartedly. “Of course I usually don’t have much in the way of money.”

Twilight looked up at him as they stopped for a moment. “Allen, it’ll be okay. Trust me. You’re here under unique circumstances, and I really don’t mind helping you.” Twilight gave him a sincere look. “I’ve been in your situation before. It was thanks to kind ponies and my friends that I was able to make it through quite a few tough times.” Twilight smiled grandly. “And because of that, I have to admit I have a soft spot for an underdog like you.”

Allen smiled. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had been so nice to him, especially without expecting a major favor in return. “Thank you, Twilight. If nothing else, you have my endless gratitude for everything you’ve done.”

She gave him a joyful look as they resumed walking again. “You’re quite welcome. Now come on, Allen. We’re not far.” Twilight smiled as she continued guiding him along the road.

Allen saw more ponies passing as they kept walking, and like before he couldn’t help but notice the curious markings on their flanks. He’d seen them before, but hadn’t really had a chance to give them much thought. He glanced over at Twilight and this time really noticed the grouping of sparkling stars on her own flank. “Say, Twilight, there’s something I’ve been wondering about.”

She turned to him, the cheerful smile was still on her face. “And what’s that?”

“Why do you ponies have marks and symbols on your flanks? Do they mean something or are they just decorative?” He asked while scratching the back of his neck.

Twilight looked at him funny and muttered to herself, “Marks on our flanks?” Then her face lit up. “Oh, you mean our “cutie marks”?”

“Cutie marks?” Allen blinked, placing an incredulous hand to his chin. “And what do they do?” He held out his hand in confusion and had an equally lost look on his face.

Twilight glanced upward for a moment as she considered the best way to answer his query. While she was usually quite thorough, it hadn’t dawned on her to tell Allen about cutie marks before now. “Well…it’s a bit involved, but in a nutshell. Cutie marks represent a pony’s special talent. Usually before a colt or filly reaches puberty, they discover the one thing in life they’re best at. Once they do, their cutie marks appear.”

Allen’s mouth hung open for a moment, then he nodded. “Wow. That’s like some amazing kind of magic.” He just shook his head. “Huh. The more you tell me about Equestria, the more I see it’s quite a place.” Allen nodded confidently, and all Twilight’s explanations did was stir his curiosity about her world.

Twilight chuckled, she never would have guessed someone would find every-day Equestria so fascinating. “Allen, you’ve only seen a little of our land. Equestria is just one country in the vast world of Equus Prime.”

For a moment, it almost saddened Allen that he would be going home. Just from what tiny bit he’d learned about Equus Prime from Twilight and her friends, it made a part of him want to learn even more. But, he couldn’t possibly stay. He had a life back on Earth, and friends…and parents, that all were counting on him to do great things. That’s why learning these defensive skills and getting the recall rod back had to remain his priority.

“Allen, are you okay?” Twilight looked at him, her eyes filling with concern.

He shook his head. “Of course. I was just lost in thought.”

Twilight smiled his way, then closed her eyes for a moment. “That’s okay. I tend to do the same thing from time to time.” The two shared a friendly chuckle, and then as Twilight looked ahead, she gave a nod. “Allen, we’re here.” She held up a hoof as they arrived at the far side of Ponyville.

Allen glanced around and noticed what he could only conclude were guards or soldiers, and a series of large wooden buildings. “So, I take it, this is the barracks?”

Twilight smiled and nodded. “That’s right.”

“I still fail to see why a town like Ponyville needs a barracks? And…” He took a long hard stare past the buildings. “Is that a wall around the town. In fact, I though I noticed something like a wall around Ponyville when we were stargazing last night. It was hard to tell, mainly because it was so dark out.”

Twilight let out a long sigh. “Well yes it is. Let’s just say while Equestria is mostly a peaceful place…it’s had its share of trials.”

“Hmm.” Allen scratched the stubble on his chin as he took another look at the barracks and the nearby part of the wall. “Must have been some really serious stuff then.”

Twilight nodded. There was a note of worry on her face. “You don’t know the half of it.” She placed a hoof to her chin as the memories of so many harrowing incidents filled her mind. “There was the changeling invasion last summer. And a little over four months ago there was the issue with King Sombra and the Crystal Empire.”

Allen stood there, an incredulous look plastered on his face. “Changeling invasion…Crystal Empire? Huh.” He let out a halfhearted laugh. “You weren’t kidding. This really is a unique land. No wonder there was a need for a wall.”

Twilight drew back a little, worry blossoming on her face. “You aren’t bothered by it, are you?”

Allen shook his head. “No, well…maybe a little disturbed, but at least it explains why learning to protect myself is such a good idea.”

The unicorn smiled. “Uh-huh. Phew.” She ran a hoof over her forehead. “I was worried I was scaring you.”

“Nah, though in all honesty, I’ve never been in a country or place like this.” Allen laughed a little self-consciously. “Of course, I’ve never fallen off a mountain before either.” He grinned as he laughed sheepishly.

Twilight giggled at him. “There’s a first time for everything. Come on. We need to find the commander.”

“Right.” Allen smiled.

Allen examined the area closely as he and Twilight made their way closer to the barracks. The human came to a halt as one of the guards approached them. Twilight smiled and waved to him. “Good morning, Swift Wing.”

The Pegasus greeted her with a friendly nod. “Good morning, Twilight. What brings you to the barracks? Oh, and your friend…isn’t he the one that Buckler and Arrow Wing helped you bring back to town yesterday?”

Twilight nodded affirmatively. “That’s right. This is Allen.” She held her hoof up and pointed to him.

“Allen.” Swift Wing nodded. “So what can I do for you two?”

She paused for a moment and gathered her thoughts. “Well, my friends and I need to accompany Allen back into the mountains. He dropped something during his arrival that is the key to getting him home. Before we head back, Allen and I decided it would be a big help if he learned some sword skills so he can protect himself, just in case our trip back doesn’t go as planned.”

Swift Wing placed a gilded hoof to his chin. “Hmmm. The commander should be able to help you with that.”

“Good. Is Commander Regalas here this morning?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah, I’ll take you to him. I think he’s observing some of the new arrivals running their combat drills. This way.” Swift Wing motioned to them.

“Come on, Allen.” Twilight smiled as they followed Swift Wing. His armor glistened in the sunlight as they walked along.

Allen turned to Twilight. “Who is Commander Regalas?”

They came to a halt and she pointed her hoof. “You’re about to find out.”

He followed her hoof and nearly did a double take. “Whoa.” There standing with two other guards was the commander. Regalas was watching as his guards were running some simple formation and combat drills. The Pegasus had bright white fur and was clad in the standard golden armor of a Royal Guard. His head was ensconced in one of the signature helmets and his blonde mane was lightly spilling out from under the helmet’s edge.

“Commander!” Called Swift Wing.

Regalas turned and blinked his sapphire blue eyes. “Yes, what is it, Swift?”

Swift Wing cleared his throat. “Twilight Sparkle and Allen are here to see you.”

“Twilight…and Allen?” He looked at the human a glint of intrigue in his eyes. “Ah, right, the charge my guards helped return to town yesterday.” Regalas looked the human over. “How are you fairing today?”

Allen looked himself over and barely even felt any pain from his minor injuries. “Good.” He simply bowed his head. “Um, sir. Thank you for asking. And I’m grateful to your guards for helping me.” Allen wasn’t entirely sure how to conduct himself in front of such a soldier, but he knew that such an individual deserved his respect. And while Allen couldn’t put his finger on it, there seemed to be a powerful force emanating from the commander. It made him feel both uneasy and a bit shaky on his feet.

Regalas let out a hearty laugh and shook his head. “Relax, Allen. You don’t need to be so nervous.”

“Nervous…who’s nervous?” He asked knowing full well that he wasn’t fooling anyone.

Twilight couldn’t help but laugh at his poor attempt to deny he was feeling more than a little uneasy. “I guess you still have a way of intimidating some, commander.”

The commander nodded, trying not to laugh again. “It certainly seems that way. Oh, Swift.” Regalas motioned to him. “You may go.” He turned his eyes to Twilight. “Now tell me, what can I do for you today?”

“Well. You know, Allen isn’t from around here, right?” Twilight asked.

Regalas nodded and replied, “I gathered. I know I haven’t seen any of his kind around Equestria before.”

“That’s right. And my friends and I are trying to help him get home,” she explained. Twilight looked at Allen and then at Regalas. “We need to return to the Smokey Mountains and retrieve something he lost there. With it, we should be able to help him return to his home. But, after speaking over breakfast, he and I think he could benefit from some sword training.”

“Hmmm.” Regalas rubbed a hoof over his chin, then looked Allen over again, before taking a step forward. He smiled at Twilight. “I know what to do.”

“You do?” Twilight’s eyes lit up. “So that means you’ll train him?”

Regalas shook his head. “No. I won’t, not entirely anyway.”

“Then who?” Twilight gave him a befuddled look. “One of your guards?”

“No. They’re all very skilled with a blade, but if you want to really give Allen some helpful skills…there’s only one stallion I know.”

“Wait, you mean?” Twilight’s mouth hung open.

The Pegasus nodded. “Yes. The blacksmith’s grandson, Blade, he’s one of the finest swordsponies in the land. You won’t find better than him.”

Twilight nodded slowly. “Right. I’ve heard he knows his way around a sword.”

“Yes. Come on. I’ll take you to him.” Regalas motioned with is head as he started toward the blacksmith’s forge.

Allen grinned excitedly. “Wow, so they’ll both help me?”

Twilight nodded as she replied, “It sure looks that way.”

* * * * * *

The forge, like the barracks, lay on the western side of Ponyville, only it was just a little ways south. Their walk wasn’t overly long. In fact after barely ten minutes, they had arrived. Commander Regalas held up an armored hoof and turned his head toward Allen and Twilight. “We’re here.”

Allen took a few more steps, with Twilight following closely behind him. The human panned his head around and took in the sight of the blacksmith’s shop, which was in a fairly sizable building, made of a combination of brick and stone with a nicely tiled roof. Glancing up, he happened to see the shop’s sign that read: Clang’s Forge.

He looked at Regalas. “So this is the place we’ll find Blade?”

The Pegasus nodded. “Yes. Come on, we can head inside. His grandfather should be minding the shop.”

Allen stood there as he looked up at the sign again. He blinked and rubbed his eyes as he noticed a plume of smoke billow up from behind the shop. Allen tilted his head, taking a good listen. Sounds of banging metal rang out from nearby.

“Come on, Allen.” Twilight called as she motioned him to follow.

The three made their way into the shop. A bell mounted above the door rang out with a quaint sound as they stepped inside and began looking around. Allen’s mouth fell open in silent awe as he saw things he’d only dreamed of laying eyes on. To the shop’s left, there were tables and displays with all manner of weapons. There were swords, both simple and very elegant. Some of them were on racks with scabbards resting nearby, while others were already sheathed and laying out on tables or in wooden bins. Others, even more impressively crafted, hung on a series of clutches on the wall, and were accompanied with fancy battle-axes, spears, lances and even war hammers. There were even a variety of bows and a rather extensive assortment of fine arrows, which rested in a series of bins. Part of Allen wanted to check out everything, but knew the real reason they were there.

The sounds of hoofsteps against the wooden floor from Twilight and the commander broke his train of though and drew his attention to the right side of the shop. There, more practical everyday items were arranged. Items such as: cooking pots, frying pans, various cooking and eating utensils, pastry ware: like cake and jellyroll pans, baking sheets, and cupcake and muffin tins, to name but a few. Allen marveled at the exquisite detail and care that was clearly put into the construction of everything in this shop.

“Wow. I’ve never seen anything this incredible in my life…but I’ve always wanted to.” Allen was in awe as he continued roaming around.

Twilight stayed fairly close by and just chuckled to herself. “Clang does have one of the most popular forges in all of Equestria.” She smiled at Allen, as he looked her way. “But, you’re telling me you never saw anything like this on Earth?”

Allen shook his head and sighed. “Sadly, no. I’ve only seen such things in pictures or in movies. There are those that make replicas of famous swords from history and fantasy, but my parents would never allow me to get one. And even now that I have a job, they say it would be a waste of my own money and that I should keep it for my schooling.”

Twilight went to reach toward Allen, but she feared they weren’t acquainted well enough for a deeply sympathetic hoof on his shoulder to be a good idea, though part of her really wanted to, and he didn’t seem to mind when she did one earlier, while they were discussing money. Yet somehow, this time she felt reluctant, regardless, she decided at the very least to just keep smiling. “Well, as part of your visit to my world, now you can say you have seen such a place. So look around all you like.” Twilight held up an enthusiastic hoof.

Commander Regalas walked over and bore them a stern expression. “Sorry, but that’s not why we’re here.”

The group turned toward the back, in response to hoof steps coming from behind the back counter, steps that almost seemed to echo on the wooden floor. “And why are you here?” The words belonged to an older stallion, one whose voice had an aged but profound quality to it. He walked up to the counter and gave them all an intrigued look with his lavender eyes.

Commander Regalas turned and walked toward the stallion. “Ah, Clang, there you are.”

Clang ran a hoof over his gray beard and mustache. “Yes. So tell me, commander, what brings a member of the Royal Guard to my humble shop?”

Allen looked Clang over. His mane and tail matched his facial hair and his pale red coat seemed to reflect his age, yet his cutie mark – a black hammer raised above an anvil still had a vibrant look to it. “Hmmm.” Allen ran a hand over his chin.

Commander Regalas pointed his armored hoof at Clang. “Allen, Twilight, this is Anvil Clang…one of the finest blacksmiths in Ponyville. For that matter, in all of Equestria.”

Allen’s eyes filled with intrigue. “Whoa, are you the one that made all these incredible items?!” The human turned and waved his hand toward everything behind them, a strong note of disbelief in his voice.

Clang chuckled softly at the human’s flattering words. “It would be nice if I did, but no, my lad. I didn’t craft all of these items. My son and grandson helped me with a lot of those.” He nodded. “And local artisans, jewelers and craftsman helped me fashion the decorate hilts and accents of a variety of these items.”

“Oh wow, would it be possible for me to see the forge?” Allen asked, giddy as a child.

Clang simply chuckled again, then he replied, “Why of course. I’d be happy to show you around.”

The commander cleared his throat in a rather annoyed fashion. “Again, that’s not why we’re here.” Regalas turned his sapphire eyes to Clang. “We’d like to meet with your grandson. Is Blade here?”

“Ohh.” Clang ran a hoof over his beard and the intrigue continued to blossom in his eyes. “You’re here to see Blade. Yes, of course he’s here.” Clang turned to Allen. “In fact he’s out working in the forge. I guess you’ll get a chance to see it after all.”

Allen all but grinned with enthusiasm. “All right!”

Clang nodded again, resting a hoof on the counter. “By the way, forgive an old stallion for prying, but you wouldn’t happen to be the…”unusual visitor” I heard some of the other ponies talking about late yesterday evening, would you?”

The human drew back a little. He was surprised that anyone would be talking about him like it was a big deal. Twilight couldn’t help but giggle at his reaction. “Allen, you seem so surprised that ponies are talking about you.”

He scratched the side of his head, turning his eyes her way. “Well, back on Earth, I could walk in a crowd and scarcely draw more than the odd pair or two of eyes. That’s why to see the ponies looking at me on the street and to hear Clang talking about me like I’m some big deal.” Allen chuckled nervously. “I’m just me…I’m nothing special.”

The old stallion nodded and gave the human a sincere look. “I wouldn’t say that, lad. I’d like to think I’m a good judge of character and you seem rather intriguing. Now, before we get too far off topic…Allen. Why don’t we head out back to the forge? We wouldn’t want to annoy Commander Regalas more than we already have.”

Regalas still had a very irritated look on his face, but at Clang’s words, his serious expression fell and a more surprised one took its place. “Hey, I wasn’t annoyed. I just don’t like to waste time.”

Clang stepped out from behind the counter and motioned them to the other back door. Opening it he gave a firm nod. “Right this way.”

Allen walked through all smiles and still clinging to that childlike giddiness in his eyes. Twilight followed behind him, oddly enough almost like a puppy not wanting to be left out of the excitement. Regalas brought up the rear and gave Clang a funny look. “I really wasn’t that annoyed.”

“Yes, of course you weren’t. Come on commander. Right this way.” Clang chuckled as he walked outside behind them.

Allen’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. It wasn’t like the forges he’d seen in most movies. In fact, it reminded him of the one he saw in an epic medieval adventure game he played on those few occasions when his parents weren’t breathing down his neck. Of course those were also times that happened when his grandfather was still alive.

Shaking his head, Allen marveled at the partially opened concept of the forge. He discovered the forge itself, along with a series of awnings, workbenches and tables, a shed, and a large variety of tools. Allen sniffed and couldn’t miss the strong scent of burning charcoals and hot metal drifting through the air, along with that of grass and distant wildflowers. They were ambient scents he didn’t expect to smell, but given the forge’s partially open concept, it made total sense.

“Wow, this is really something.” Allen lightly gasped as he walked closer to the furnace. The sounds of banging metal had stopped, and the burning scent of charcoal and metal became stronger. There was also the sound of puffing air.

Turning to his right side, Allen noticed Clang had caught up. “What made you go with this design?”

He turned to Allen and smiled. “I’m glad you asked that, lad. Now, spring and fall are rather mild in Ponyville, and summers here can be quite warm. So, only using two solid walls allows for better ventilation and also gives the furnace better air circulation. Besides, when it gets colder during the winter, I have temporary partitions I can use if I need to enclose things.” The stallion took a long look at the layout and then turned to Allen. “Of course, the large awnings allow for a good deal of coverage when it rains. I’ve never really had any issues with it.”

Allen nodded, soaking up every word of Clang’s explanation. “Oh wow!” His eyes widened again as he made a quick dash for one of the awnings. There, Allen saw a series of sheathed swords leaning along the wall and a few were resting on a large wooden table. “Awesome!” He turned to Clang. “May I?”

Clang gave an affirmative nod. “Of course you may. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get my grandson. Oh, and be careful, those have already been sharpened.”

Allen secured his grip on the sheathed blade he had just picked up. Clang’s warning left him a little startled. “Whoa, it’s a good thing I haven’t drawn this yet.”

“Blade!” Clang called out to his grandson as he walked away from Allen and Twilight.

Holding up the weapon, Allen admired its covering. “This…is…so…cool! Ahh.” He lightly shuddered with delight as he slowly unsheathed the sword. Its polished blade glistened in the ambient sunlight giving it an almost mirror-like surface. “Wow…” Allen gasped as he pulled the blade out the rest of the way.

Twilight stood there with Allen, contently swishing her tail. “I had no idea you were this fascinated with swords, when I told you about learning swordplay this morning.”

Allen set the scabbard on the table and continued examining the finely crafted blade. “Twilight…you have no idea. I’ve dreamed about a moment like this.” His left hand was a little shaky as he raised the blade up. “The balance is incredible. Ooh, and the weight. Huh?”

“What is it, Allen?” Twilight gave him a curious look.

Allen lightly swayed the blade and flexed his wrist, making the sword move a little. “I had no idea the weight would be this manageable. Too see swordsman depicted back home, I thought unless you were really strong, it would be a trial to hold one of these.”

Twilight smiled and closed her eyes. “Maybe you’re stronger than you think.”

“Hmm, it’s possible. But it’s not like I lift weights or anything…well, not since I was in my early High School days.”

Meanwhile, Clang and Regalas walked over to the forge. Heat rolled from the open flames and out the vent. “Blade?” Clang called again.

There were a few pounds from the piece of metal Blade was working. Then, gripping it firmly in the tongs, he plunged it into a slack tub full of fresh brine. The liquid hissed, while steam rolled forth as it quenched the flaming metal. Blade’s dark blue coat almost hid him in the shadows of the roof. He turned his silvery gray eyes toward his grandfather. “What’s up, gramps?”

“Come here, my boy. You have visitors,” Clang called.

“Huh?” Blade removed the metal from the brine and set it back on the anvil. He removed his apron and gloves as he emerged from under the awning. “I have guests?” He blinked, running a puzzled hoof through his fiery orange mane.

“You do.” Clang pointed to the commander.

Catching sight of Regalas, Blade smirked. “Oh, it’s you…commander.”

Regalas fought the urge to roll his eyes. Why does he have to be the best swordspony in these parts? The commander walked over to the younger smith. “Yes, it’s me. Only, I didn’t come alone. I’m in need of your services…well rather, they are.” Regalas turned and pointed a hoof at Allen and Twilight.

“Whoa, what’s that thing? Wait a sec…is he?” Blade turned to Clang. “Gramps, is that the visitor everypony’s been talking about since yesterday?”

“Why yes, my boy. His name is Allen and he’s not from around here.” Clang chuckled softly. “But he needs your help to learn the ways of the sword.”

“Wow.” Blade blinked incredulously. “Well, all right. Come on, commander.”

“Grrr, would you stop saying it like that?” Regalas nearly lost his firm composure at Blade’s relentless attempt to tease him.

“Like what?” Blade asked as they walked up to Allen and Twilight.

“You know?” Regalas remarked.

“Fine.” The young stallion shook his head, then turned his eyes to the human. “So, you must be Allen.”

Allen gave Blade a cursory look. “Yeah, that’s me. So, you’re the one Regalas brought us to see?”

Blade nodded. “That’s right. Not only can I smith weapons, but I’m also an ace swordspony. I go by Tempered Blade, but I’m sure you already know that most just call me “Blade”.”

“Yeah, I got that. Hmm…” Allen gave Blade another look and his eyes brightened as he saw the mark on his flank – a heavy hammer raised above a fired sword. “That’s a really cool cutie mark you have.”

Blade turned to examine his flank. “Oh, yeah.” He grinned and snickered. “I’m happy with it. So, you want to learn the ways of the sword?”

Allen nodded lifting up the sword he was holding. “Yes. And if your grandfather doesn’t mind, I’ll just use this one to get started.”

Blade broke out into a roaring fit of laughter, before composing himself. “Oh, I love the enthusiasm of rookies.” He shook his head. “No, put that sword away. Real sharpened blades are far too dangerous for first-timers.”

“They are?” Allen’s mouth fell open and his face fell a little as he sheathed the sword and set it down. “So what do we use?”

“Over here.” He motioned with a hoof as they walked away from the forge and over by the large tool shed. “Here we go.” Blade stopped at the side of the shed and picked up two long wooden swords. “We start with these practice swords. You need to learn the basics before you can use blunt or sharpened metal swords.”

He offered one to Allen. The human took it in his left hand and held it firmly. “Okay.” Allen nodded his head. “This still has a nice feel to it, and it makes sense. Using a sharpened sword…given that I’ve never used one before, I bet it wouldn’t end well.”

Blade shook his head. “No, it wouldn’t. Especially if you aren’t even wearing basic armor.”

Allen looked himself over. “Oh, yeah. All I have on is simple clothing.”

The stallion nodded. “You got it. And even with these wooden swords, if you miss a blow, they can still smart.”

Rubbing one of the bruises on his right arm, Allen nodded. “Yeah, I’ll bet.”

Twilight gave Allen a caring look. “Are you going to be up for this? You did just fall off a mountain yesterday.”

Allen laughed nervously. “I know, but you and your friends saved me, things could have been a lot worse. Besides.” The human stood firm, there was a determined look in his eyes. “I need to toughen up. Who knows what we’ll run into when we go back to the mountains?”

“All right. If you’re sure?” Twilight held up a hoof again, fighting the urge to pat his shoulder.

Allen looked at her and smiled. “I am. Don’t worry.”

“Okay. But I’ll stay here for a little, just till you get started.” Twilight gave him a supportive nod.

“Thanks. I just hope I can rise to the challenge.” Allen angled himself and kept his legs apart.

“Hmmm.” Blade looked the human over. “You’re stance isn’t half bad. It could use some work. So, do you know anything at all about swordplay?” He blinked his silvery eyes at Allen.

Allen gripped his practice sword firmly. “I know this much, your sword must function like it was part of your body.”

“Exactly. If you take care of your sword…it’ll take care of you.” Blade nodded clutching his own wooden blade in his hoof. “Now…show me what you’ve got…and we’ll go from there.” Blade grinned and gave a nod.

Allen stood fast as he held his weapon at the ready. “Okay. Hahhhhh!”

Chapter 6 - "The Ways of the Sword"

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An hour had passed since Allen began his training with Tempered Blade. Twilight continued to watch from the side with Commander Regalas as the human did his best to learn.

Drawing back his wooden sword, Allen prepared to charge Blade. The stallion held his wooden sword up and gave a subtle nod. Allen took a deep breath and steeled himself. Then, he took off running toward his trainer. The human kept his hands firmly gripped on his weapon as he neared his opponent.

Allen lashed his sword forward, and with a sly smirk, Blade flexed his hoof. His sword struck Allen’s with impressive force. The wooden blade flew from Allen’s hand and smacked into the ground behind him. He began stumbling as the force of Blade’s blow mixed with his forward momentum left him staggering, until he fell flat on the grass.

“Allen!” Twilight called out.

He moved onto his knees and propped himself up on his hands, a strong bead of sweat rolled from his hair and ran down his face, dripping off his chin. Twilight ran up to Allen, but he held up a hand. “I’m okay, I’m okay.” He huffed for breath as he muttered, “This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.”

Twilight looked his way. Oh, Allen, why are you being so stubborn? She wondered as she fought the urge to help him up.

Allen worked his way back onto his feet, while letting out short sigh. “There, and I’m up again.” He snickered half-heartedly. It was clear this wasn’t going to be easy, in fact it would probably be the toughest challenge of his life.

Twilight’s horn lit up as she ensnared his practice sword in the raspberry glow of her magic. She smiled as she held it aloft for him. “Here, Allen.”

He took the sword from her and smiled graciously. “Thank you, Twilight.”

“You’re welcome.”

Allen gripped his wooden sword as he stood facing Blade. “All right, this time I’m going to…”

Tempered Blade held up a hoof. “Take a short break, Allen. I need to speak to the commander. Besides, you look like you could use a breather.” Blade smiled as he walked past the human. “But, not too shabby. You’ve got a ways to go, but yeah.” The stallion let out a soft chuckle as he walked up to the commander and motioned to him. The two stepped away from Twilight and Allen.

Meanwhile, Anvil Clang walked out from the forge and smiled at Allen and Twilight. “That was a very good start,” he spoke in his distinguished raspy voice.

Allen wasn’t so sure he shared Clang or Blade’s combined sentiments. “If you say so. But, I’ve got a long way to go at this rate.” He huffed, taking another deep breath.

“Here,” Clang said, offering Allen a mug of cold water. “You may not realize it, but you’ve been going at it for a little over an hour now. I think some water will help.”

Allen took the cup from Clang. “Thank you.” Gratitude was heavy in Allen’s voice as he downed the chilled water. He savored its cold temperature as it flowed down his throat and into his stomach. “Ahh, I needed that.”

Clang chuckled as he turned to Twilight and offered her some water. “And what about you, Twilight?”

She took the mug in the grip of her magic and nodded. “Thank you, Clang.” She joined Allen in downing the cool water.

After finishing their water, the three of them heard a voice call down to them. “Hey!” Casting their eyes skyward, they caught the sight of Rainbow Dash as she dropped in for a stylish landing. “Ah, Twilight. I thought I saw a flash of lavender from the air.” The Pegasus snickered.

“You did. So what are you up to, Rainbow?” Twilight asked.

Rainbow Dash shook her head. “Eh, nothing special, just keeping a eye on the clouds, but so far nothing but peaceful skies.” Rainbow turned to Twilight and Allen and couldn’t help but notice Clang. “So, what are you and Allen doing here at the forge?” She raised a curious brow.

Twilight smiled at Rainbow. “We’re here so Allen can learn how to use a sword. He wanted to be ready for our trip into the mountains.”

“Oh, that makes sense.” Rainbow looked over and noticed Allen clutching on a wooden sword. “Are you any good?”

Allen scoffed at Rainbow Dash, then shook his head. “Good…” He puffed out a sigh. “More like a disaster.”

Twilight grimaced at Allen as she gave her empty mug to Clang. “Come on, Allen. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m not an expert, like Blade or Commander Regalas, but I think you’ve got a chance.”

“Seriously?” Allen looked at her, recalling his performance over the last hour, he really didn’t agree with her. “You actually think there’s hope for me?”

Twilight smiled and nodded. “Of course I do. We all have to start somewhere.” She giggled. “You should have seen how hard it was the first time I used magic just to turn the page of a book.”

Allen relaxed his shoulders and gave her a solemn nod. “You’re right,” he replied. “I guess I should give myself a chance.”

“Of course.” Twilight patted his shoulder supportively, then took the empty mug from him. “Never give up. Just like you did over the past hour.”

Clang took the other cup from Twilight, then turned his lavender eyes on Allen. “She’s right, my boy. And I’d like to refer you to encouraging words my father used to say.”

“Yeah?” Allen glanced Clang’s way.

“He used to say that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. But if you want it enough…fight for it.” Clang gave Allen a firm and determined nod.

“Yeah.” Allen gripped the wooden sword. For a moment, he started thinking about his grandfather. The words or Clang’s father reminded him of the many helpful tips and the endless advice he always had for him. Allen nodded. If they all believe I have a chance, then I have nothing to lose from trying and everything to gain. Yeah. The determined look he had at the start of his training returned as he looked at Clang and the others.

As the four of them talked amongst themselves, Regalas looked over at Allen, then back to Blade. “So, what do you think?”

Blade ran a hoof under his chin. “Hmm…there’s definitely potential. I think he has a chance.”

Commander Regalas tapped his hoof over his mouth. “I have to agree with you, but, many of my rookie guards had the promise of potential. And while basic training was tough on them, not all of them made it once they were out. In fact, more than a few perished in battle. Still…” The stallion removed his helmet and set it on a nearby table. “With a positive attitude and if he holds on to that determination I’ve seen in his eyes, more than once…there’s hope for Allen.”

Blade nodded as he patted the commander’s shoulder. “Exactly. I doubt we’ll make a pro out of him within a week, but I think we’ll be able to help him get the basics down before too long.”

Regalas smiled for the first time since arriving at the forge. “There’s definitely a chance.” The commander chuckled.

“What’s so funny?”

Shaking his head, Regalas replied, “I’ve been in the guard for 27 years, and it’s still hard to believe that someone as skilled with a sword like you isn't a member of the Royal Guard.”

Blade laughed for a bit, then smirked at Regalas. “And this coming from a Royal Guard that should have been captain some time ago. I don’t get it.”

Regalas turned his head to the sky, then looked back at Blade. “It’s not like I wasn’t tempted. But, the captain of the guard is a station that needs reliable individuals to help back them up. I learned this when I served under Captain Lance, the first captain I supported. And things aren’t any different with Shining Armor as captain. Besides, I can’t imagine a stallion more deserving of the position. Shining worked so hard for it.”

“Fair enough,” Blade replied with a nod. “And the real reason I never joined the guard.” Blade looked over at his grandfather, then back to the commander.

“I’m listening.”

“I love working on gramp’s forge, and I enjoy helping those that want to learn the ways of the sword. But, I have no desire to go to war. And the guard is part of Equestria’s army. I just use swords for protection, not for senseless violence and killing.”

Regalas laughed a little. “Why do I have a feeling you’ve said this to me before?”

Blade snickered with a partial grin. “Only because, I have. It’s just I think this is the first time you’ve really been listening.”

“True enough. Come on, Blade. Let’s see if Allen is ready to continue.” Regalas patted Blade on the back as he reclaimed his helmet, while they walked back toward the others.

Twilight looked up at Allen. “Well, I should probably get back to the library and get started on that adapter.”

Allen nodded, letting the blade of his wooden sword rest on the ground. “All right. And I want to thank you for staying to cheer me on. Even though I was being so hard on myself.”

The unicorn smiled. “It’s all right. I’ve done the same to myself over the years.” She giggled. “Oh, are there any indications on your charger? I want to make sure the adapter doesn’t damage your phone. There’s always a chance our electric isn’t compatible with your phone’s battery.”

The human felt a slight start. How could he have gleaned over such an important detail? Taking a moment, he recalled the label on his charger. “Yeah, on the charger plug itself, there are some specs listed. Uh, you’ll probably need a magnifying glass to read the tiny print.”

“Okay,” Twilight replied. “Well, I’ll see you back at the library. Uh, any idea when you’ll be back?”

Allen thought for a moment. “Probably later this afternoon, closer to…I don’t know, four or five maybe.”

“That’ll work. It gives me a ballpark figure.” Twilight smiled, then waved a hoof as she trotted off.

Rainbow Dash turned her eyes to Allen. “So, are you gonna get back to it?”

“Hmm.” Allen nodded. “Oh yeah. I may be terrible now, but I’ll give it everything I have.”

“That’s the spirit!” Blade replied as he and Regalas rejoined them. “You ready?”

“You bet,” Allen remarked holding his practice sword firmly.

* * * * * *

Twilight set Allen’s cell phone charger on one of her large experiment tables. She then began gathering a few random things that she felt would aid her in fashioning an adapter for it. The last thing she grabbed was a magnifying glass.

Returning to the table, Twilight inspected the charger, until she found the indications Allen had mentioned. “Ahh, here we go.” She held it up and gave them a thorough read under the magnifying glass. “Hmm. This may be a little more involved then I thought.”

As Twilight contemplated her next move, the door to the basement opened. “Twilight, are you down here?” Spike called to her.

Twilight looked up from her table. “Over here, Spike.”

Spike closed the door and scampered down the basement stairs. He huffed a little after reaching the bottom. “Whew, I sometimes forget just how many steps lead down to your lab.”

The unicorn chuckled as she smiled at her assistant. “So, what’s up, Spike?”

He held up a scroll that was clutched in his right claw. “This letter from the princess came in while you were out. I was cleaning up in the kitchen when you came back and almost forgot I had this.”

Twilight gripped the letter in her magic and levitated it over and unrolled it. “Hmm, Dear Twilight…” She read the message and then looked at Spike half in shock. “Oh, my goodness. Princess Celestia is sending Princess Luna to visit this evening. They want to meet Allen and make sure he really is a human.”

Spike blinked as he looked over the letter. “Wow, having a human here must be a bigger deal than we thought. Especially, if Princess Luna is coming to meet him.”

Twilight shook her head and swallowed hard. “I’ll say. But at least I have time to get ready. And Allen said he’ll be back around supper time, so he should be here before the princess arrives.”

“That’s good. Um, is there anything you need me to do to get ready for Luna’s visit?”

The momentary feeling of panic fled as Twilight looked at Spike, her number one assistant. “Yes, if you could make sure the place is tidied up and to prepared some refreshments for this evening, I’d be eternally grateful.”

Spike saluted dutifully and smiled. “You’ve got it, Twilight. You can count on me.”

With that said, Spike took off and made his way out of the basement. Turning back to her worktable, Twilight held up the magnifying glass and resumed staring at the charger. “Hmm, now let me see. What kind of current do you run on?”

* * * * * *

Allen swung his wooden sword carefully. As it connected with Blade’s, the stallion called out, “One, two, three, four…” With each number he called, Allen made sure to swing his sword in a specific manner. He did his best to ensure his motions were properly formed and that he struck Blade’s sword each time. “Good. Very good, Allen. You’re starting to get the fundamentals down. Once you master these, then you can master the basics.”

The two went through the motions a few more times. Allen tried not to show any signs that he was tiring, while he made sure to meet each of Blade’s movements. “Ha, there. I got it.” The human huffed for breath.

Blade nodded as they stood there with the blades of their practice swords still connected. “All right, Allen. That’s enough for today. You’ve been here for over six hours now. Take some time and let everything sink in. We’ll start back up tomorrow morning.”

“Okay, sounds good. I guess we don’t want to over do it the first day, huh?” Allen remarked as the two lowered their practice swords.

“That’s right. But make sure you get some rest. Each day will get a little more intense…” Blade started to walk away, before he glanced back at Allen. “Count on it.”

The human walked over to Clang and Rainbow Dash. The two had remained there, offering their moral support, and in Rainbow’s case, her critique of his performance. Clang walked over to Allen. “Not bad for your first day. Just remember what my grandson said about the fundamentals.”

Allen nodded. “Right, they’re the key to the basics and then the more advanced techniques.”

“Exactly.” Clang smiled as he reached out a hoof. “Here, I’ll take that practice sword for you. It’ll be here waiting for you tomorrow.”

Rainbow Dash blinked as Clang started to walk away. “Well, I guess that’s it?”

“For now.” Allen chuckled softly. “Well, I hope I wasn’t too boring.”

“Boring?!” Rainbow Dash blinked again. Then, she zipped over in front of him. “What do you mean? That was really exciting.”

“For real?” Allen gave her an odd look, then just shook his head. “I guess watching me eat dirt and grass was entertaining.”

The Pegasus held up a hoof. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! This has nothing to do with how many times you were knocked off your feet…” Rainbow tried to keep a straight face, recalling how humorous some of his falls to the ground were. “Or how many times I laughed. Eh-ehm.” She cleared her throat. “This was about how in spite of all that…you kept getting back up and kept trying. You showed real heart today. And in my book…that is awesome!”

Allen smiled; he had been so caught up with how poor his performance was in the beginning that he didn’t realize Rainbow was right. No matter how many times he messed up, he got right back up, or picked up his sword and faced Blade. “Thank you, Rainbow. Now that you mention it, I did give it my all.”

The Pegasus nodded. “You sure did.”

“Oh, there you are, Allen.” The familiar voice of Rarity called.

Both he and Rainbow Dash looked at the white unicorn with puzzled eyes. “Rarity, what are you doing here?” Rainbow questioned.

Rarity smiled as she trotted over to them. “Why looking for him of course, darling.” She turned to Allen. “Twilight said I could find you here when I saw her earlier, it was while I stepped out for a breath of fresh air.”

“Well, you found me. But, what do you need with me?” Allen asked.

“It’s simple, darling. I’ve got some of your new wardrobe ready for you to try on.” She held her head up and smiled proudly.

Allen stared at her in a combination of excitement and disbelief. “Really, you’ve already made some clothing?”

Rarity nodded. “Of course. Come on, we’ll stop by my boutique.”

“All right.” Allen smiled. “Sweet. I guess I’ll see you later, Rainbow.”

“Okay. Have fun trying on clothes. Ugh, that’s my idea of bor-ing!” The Pegasus scoffed, before spreading her winds and taking off in a streak of rainbow color.

Rarity waved a hoof. “Oh, pay her no mind. This is hardly going to be boring. Now come along.”

Allen nodded. “Sure. I guess when I’m done at you’re place, I’ll go check in with Twilight and see how she’s doing with that adapter.”

“Adapter?” Rarity asked as they departed the forge.

“Yeah, for my phone…oh, right. You weren’t there when I checked on it last night.”

“No, and it sounds more like something Twilight would be good at. At any rate, follow me. Ooh, what happened to you? Twilight said you were learning swordplay, but you’re all dirty.”

Allen laughed. “It’s a long story.”

Rarity smiled. “Well, you can shower at my place. You don’t want to get those new clothes all dirty now, do you?”

“No, well, not right away.” He grinned as they continued walking.

* * * * * *

Allen stood there in Rarity’s tub, while the shower splashed lukewarm water over his body. Now that he was clean, he was just enjoying the soothing sensation of the water drenching his tired muscles. After a few minutes passed, Allen finally turned off the shower and drew back the curtain.

He stepped onto a carefully placed towel and took a long look around Rarity’s neatly kept bathroom. Allen nodded as he admired how everything seemed to be placed in a practical manner. Even the clean and neatly folded towels she had resting for him on the side of the counter seemed to fit right in with the washroom.

He dried off and then, per Rarity’s request, he took the clean robe from the other side of the counter and put it on. Despite the fact that it had been made for a stallion and not a human, Allen was still amazed that it fit him so well. True, it was a little off in the shoulders, but all in all it was comfortable to wear, at least for a short while anyway.

Taking a deep sniff of one of the sleeves, Allen sighed from the clean and refreshing scent of the material. “Everything in here is as inviting as a crisp spring morning.”

Allen made his way out of the bathroom and walked over to Rarity’s bedroom. There, he saw her inside, busying herself at her sewing table. She looked up from her project and smiled at him. “Ah, there you are, Allen, darling.” The unicorn got up and walked over to him. She eyed him up and took a few long sniffs. “That’s better. And don’t you just love that comfy feeling that comes from being fresh from the shower?”

Her enthusiasm made Allen smile, but he couldn’t disagree with her. “Oh yes. There is nothing like the revitalizing feeling that comes from taking a shower.” He laughed. “It’s almost like being reborn, in a way.”

Rarity nodded jubilantly and continued to smile. “I know what you mean. Now, here, over on my bed I’ve set out a few of the items I made for you.”

Allen followed her over to the bed and marveled at the spread of garments. “My goodness, Rarity. How did you make all this in just a matter of hours?”

“Oh, it’s no biggie, Darling. There have been times I’ve had to make entire ensembles and multiple copies of the same outfit for a client. And that’s considering they only give me about a day to do everything.” She softly ran her hoof along the folded pair of jeans. “So, I’m no stranger at making things rather quickly. Besides, I was in the zone. Everything just came to me. Oh.” Rarity turned to him. “It also helps that I keep a lot of my patterns handy. And it wasn’t too difficult to make allowances for your shape and the fact that you’re a biped.”

Allen reached out and picked up one of the shirts. “Wow, this is really amazing work, Rarity.”

She closed her eyes and smiled. “You just go ahead and try these on. I’m just going to step out and give you some privacy.” Rarity giggled a little self-consciously. “And, I might as well use the little filly’s room while I’m at it. Now, just take your time, darling.”


Rarity stepped out and closed the door behind her. Allen rubbed his nose, then proceeded to untie and remove the robe. After placing it on Rarity’s bed, he took the underwear and gave them and the T-shirt a try.

Allen hoisted the underwear up and let the elastic band lightly snap around his plump waist. “Hmm, not bad,” he muttered as he pulled the T-shirt on. It was a simple white shirt, but just like the other undergarment, this one fit nicely as well, in fact it was just a touch loose. This made it all the better as Allen tucked the tail into the waistline of his underwear.

He surveyed the room and searched it for a mirror. His face brightened as he noticed one on the far side of Rarity’s bed, along the wall opposite the foot end. Allen gave a subtle nod. “Yeah, these fit really good…wow.”

Allen made his way back to the bed and tried on the blue jeans and blue long-sleeve shirt. He pulled the pants up and had no trouble buttoning them or zipping the zipper. Then, Allen worked his arms and head through the shirt and noticed it fit nicely over his undershirt and actually had just a little spare material to tuck into the waist of his pants. He checked these in the mirror too and noticed how nicely they also fit. “Awesome. Wow, that Rarity is incredible. I’ll be thanking her for this…ooh and Twilight for suggesting we get her to make this stuff.” Allen nodded, smiling contently as he took another look at his reflection.

There was a soft rap at the door. “Allen, darling, how are you doing in there?”

He turned his head toward the door. “Good, you can come in Rarity. I’m decent.” Allen snickered.

The door opened and Rarity trotted back inside. She saw Allen standing there next to the mirror. “Well, those certainly suit you now. How does it all feel?”

Allen twisted lightly and moved his arms, then lightly swayed in place. “Really good. You did an amazing job…are you sure you haven’t made human clothing before?” He asked with a teasing smile.

Rarity stood next to him, looking at their combined reflections. “Why no, darling. You would be the first. But, like I said, it wasn’t overly difficult. Ooh and I love a challenge…hee, hee.” Rarity giggled. “And it’s nothing a strong note of inspiration doesn’t help. Everything just seemed to flow like water.”

“Sweet. I can’t thank you enough for making these for me. And so quickly too.” Allen turned her way, offering her a genuine smile.

“Oh, think nothing of it, darling. And, before I forget.” She walked over to her worktable. I don’t want to forget to give you these.” Her horn lit up with a soft blue glow as she held up a pair of white crew socks. “I made you socks as well. I just looked at the ones you were wearing this morning and then compared them to other socks I’ve made in the past. It wasn’t too hard to make a custom pattern.”

Rarity offered the socks to Allen. He took them and continued to smile. “Thank you Rarity. All need to do is put these and my shoes back on and I’ll be all set.” Allen leaned along the side of her bed as he pulled both socks on. “Oh, where are my shoes?”

The unicorn thought for a moment. “Oh, that’s right.” She lightly fluffed her violet mane. “They’re downstairs. If you’ll recall, I didn’t want you to track any dirt or grass stains into my boutique, so I had you take them off and leave them by the front door.”

Allen nodded. “Oh, right, now I remember. I just know that after you offered the use of your shower…heh, heh. I couldn’t wait to clean up.”

Rarity smiled. “I understand how you feel. If you want we can go down and get your shoes awhile. It’s a good thing you’re shoes are in good shape.” She began as they left her bedroom and headed downstairs.

“Yeah, I guess shoes would be tricky to make,” Allen remarked.

“Yes, I’ve never really done more than add accents to shoes I’ve bought from the shoe shop. Of course if you do need shoes, I’m sure the shoe shop could help you, darling.”

“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind, just in case it takes Twilight a long time to work on a way to charge my phone.”

“Yes. Oh and there.” Rarity pointed by the front door. “There are your shoes.”

“Good.” Allen walked over and recovered them, slipping them on his feet, before tying them. “There we go, now I’m all set.” He nodded firmly.

“Not quite, Allen, darling.” Rarity walked over to one of her tables and used her magic to retrieve a small bundle. “Here.”

He took the bundle, and noticed it had some weight to it. “What’s this?” he asked.

“These are your other clothes. They’re in need of washing, but Twilight can help you with that. I know she has a washer and dryer at her place.”

Allen thought back to his previous conversation with Twilight. “Yeah, I remember her mentioned that she does have those. Good.” Allen’s eyes widened for a moment. “Oh, Rarity, what do I owe you for the…”

She held up a hoof. “Now, now, you don’t need to worry about payment. If anything I owe Twilight a favor of two. Besides, your smile and kinds words made it worth the effort.”

He smiled at her, even if he didn’t feel completely confident that she wasn’t worried about getting paid. “All right then. Thank you again. Well, I should get out of your hair and check in with Twilight.”

It was then that Rarity noticed Allen favor his left arm a little. She placed a hoof to her chin and nodded. “Hmm, Allen. Is your left arm bothering you?”

“Huh?” He looked at it and then at her. “Oh, well maybe just…just a little. Might have been from swinging that wooden sword all morning,” he noted, holding it up.

“I thought so, and when you went up the stairs to use my shower, you were walking a little funny.”

Allen grinned a bit sheepishly. “Yeah, my legs are a little sore. Probably from the training, and I did fall off a mountain yesterday. I guess I’m still not at 100% yet.”

Rarity smiled as she reached up to deftly pat his shoulder. “Not to worry, darling. I know just the thing. I’m a little sore from whipping up those clothes so quickly. Why don’t you join me at the spa, my treat? Aloe and Lotus will make you feel like a new stallion…uh, well in your case, a new human.” She laughed a little nervously.

“It’s okay, Rarity. I’m not gonna squabble over a few misspoken words. That’s for sure.”

She smiled at him. “So, are you coming?”

Allen rubbed his hand over his chin. “You did say, “your treat,” didn’t you?” Rarity nodded twice. “In that case, I’d be delighted.”

“Follow me.” Rarity giggled. “It’s not far.”

The human smiled as he departed her place. Rarity stopped to put up the closed sign and locked up her shop. Then, she led him toward the spa.

Chapter 7 - "A Royal Introduction"

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The spa door jingled as Allen and Rarity stepped inside. Immediately, Allen’s nose was assaulted with the various perfumes, oils, and incenses that were drifting through the air. Oddly enough, he found the mixture of the fragrances to be quite pleasant.

“So, this is the spa, huh?” Allen asked as he turned Rarity’s way.

“That’s right. Come on, darling.” Rarity smiled grandly as she led them to the front counter. There, she rang the bell.

Barely a moment passed, before Lotus arrived at the counter. Allen watched as the light cerulean mare flipped back a stray lock of her pale rose mane, which had slipped out from under her white headband. The human froze for a moment as he noticed Lotus’s azure eyes on him, before she turned to acknowledge Rarity.

“Ah, Miss Rarrity, welcome. I trust you’re here for your “usual”?” Lotus smiled happily, while greeting one of her favorite customers.

Rarity returned Lotus’s jubilant expression. “Why yes. And I’ve brought a guest with me, Lotus.” The unicorn turned and glanced over at Allen. “He could use one of your best massages. Now, would you and Aloe please take good care of him?” Rarity blinked her eyes earnestly.

Lotus turned to look over at Allen again. She tried not to let her mouth drop, before she responded, “Why yes. Would you parrdon me for just a moment?” The spa pony vanished behind the enclosed counter.

Allen stood there with a charmed smile on his face. Wow, she has an adorable accent. It sounds Swedish. He snickered.

Rarity turned to Allen. “What? Why are you smirking like that, Allen?”

He chuckled again. “Nothing. I just found her accent very charming.”

“Ah. I know what you mean, darling.” Rarity closed her eyes and tittered softly.

Lotus had slipped out from the counter and made her way to the massaging area. She smiled as she discovered Aloe at the massage tables. “Ah, sister, there you arre.”

Aloe finished restocking the towels at one of the tables, before she looked up at Lotus. “Yes, I’m here, replacing towels. Is everything okay?” Aloe asked, a slight look of surprise on her face.

“Yes…um. Just come with me.” Lotus placed a foreleg around Aloe and pulled her from the tables. “Over herre.”

Lotus had them stand behind the large leaves of a decorative plant. “Look there in the waiting area.”

Aloe puckered her lips funny as she wondered why Lotus was suddenly acting more than a little bazaar. Nevertheless, she did as he sister instructed. A joyful smile formed on the Aloe’s pale rose face. “Ah, I see Miss Rarrity is herre.”

Lotus face-hoofed. “No, no, no. Next to Miss Rarrity…look she brought a guest.”

Aloe shifted her gaze as she noticed the peculiar creature standing next to Rarity. “Oh my, who or what is he?”

“I don’t know, but she asked that we give him a massage. We could see if he’d talk while we do our thing. I wonder where he’s from or what he might be.” Lotus remarked, doing her best to remain hidden behind the decorative shrub.

Aloe laughed at her sister. “For all your usual curiosity, I see you’re still being a little shy.”

Lotus frowned at Aloe as she playfully scolded, “Don’t tease me, Aloe, not yet.”

Aloe just smiled. “I’ll make sure things arre ready for them. You go get them shecked in.”

“Of course.” Lotus winked as she made her way back to the counter.

Rarity stood there lightly tapping her hoof on the floor. “Well, this is a tad unusual for here.”

Allen looked at her and nodded, before he said, “I wonder where Lotus went?”

No sooner had Allen asked and the spa pony returned to the counter. She closed her eyes and lightly lowered her head, before she said, “So sorry about that. I had to sheck on something in the back. But yes. We’d be happy to help your friend. Let me just have you two sign in and I’ll get you two back to the shanging arrea.”

Allen tried not to grin, but for some reason Lotus’s accent just tickled him. He couldn’t explain it. Rarity slid the clipboard with the sign in sheet his way. Allen took the quill that was resting on it. He studied it curiously, before it dawned on him that he saw Twilight using one when she was working on a letter last night.

The human looked around until he found the inkwell. He dipped the quill in and then scratched down his name, right under Rarity’s. “There we go.”

Lotus looked at the clipboard. “Okay, Miss Rarrity and…Allen. If you two would just come around and step this way, please.” The spa pony stepped away from the counter and led them out of the waiting room and back past the large plant she and her sister had just been hiding behind. They went a little further and Lotus held up a hoof presenting them with the changing area. “Here. You can each step behind one of the two scrreens and put on a robe.

Lotus swallowed a little nervously. “Uh, let me know if you have any trouble getting one of our robes on, Allen.”

Allen smiled at Lotus’s thoughtfulness. Then he waved a dismissing hand. “Not to worry, it should be fine.” He nodded recalling he was able to wear a robe at Rarity’s place.

Looking his way, Lotus nodded. “Okay, but if you should have any trouble, please don’t hesitate to call for me.”

Rarity and Allen each went behind one of the two privacy screens. Allen had been so taken with Lotus’s accent, which really reminded him of someone Swedish, that he’d nearly forgotten that he still had the bundle with his old clothing. “Uh, where do I put my clothes and I forgot I was carrying a thing with my other clothing.”

Allen stood there for a moment, he wondered if the spa pony would come behind the screen, though he was still dressed, so he didn’t think it’d be a concern. That was when he heard her call back to him, “Therre arre some drawers along the wall. You can put your clothing therre. If you need a whole drawer, that’s fine. Wednesday is one of our slow days.”

He checked the wall, and just as Lotus had stated, there, Allen found a series of drawers. He pulled one out and smiled. “Here were go.” He turned toward Lotus. “I found them. Thank you, Lotus.”

“You’re welcome!” She called back.

Allen chuckled again, still quite taken with her accent as he placed his bundle of old clothing in and then added his new attire after he undressed. After closing the drawer, he saw a small assortment of robes hanging on a rack close to the screen. He examined the selection and chose a simple white one that had blue trim and a cloth belt.

After donning the robe and tying the belt, he stepped out from the screen. He took a shaky breath, but felt more at ease given that he kept his underwear on. All he wanted was a massage, thanks to Rarity he was already fresh and clean from showering.

Rarity emerged from her screen. She was clad in her usual white and yellow robe accented with a fancy cursive purple ‘R’ and tied with a purple cloth belt. Rarity looked over at Allen and held up a hoof. “Enjoy whatever you’d like, Allen. They do more than just massages. Me, myself, I’m going to soak my hooves to start. I’ll probably be here for a few hours at least. But if you don’t want more than a massage, feel free to head out once you’re done. And don’t worry, I’ve got you covered, darling.”

Allen lightly bowed his head respectfully. “Thank you again, Rarity. I can’t begin to thank you for your kindness.”

Rarity crossed a hoof over her shoulder. “Oh come now. It’s nothing really. And you’re more than welcome.” With that, Rarity left Allen to whatever he wished.

Lotus walked over to Allen. Once again she looked at him with due fascination, then she smiled at him. “I see you had no trouble putting on a robe.”

He shook his head. “Nope, this one feels very similar to one I tried at Rarity’s. It’s just a tad off in the shoulders, but it’s still comfortable.”

The spa pony closed her eyes as she smiled. “Then, did you want to starrt with a massage?”

“Yeah, that’ll be good.”

“Follow me.” Allen walked over to the massage tables, staying close to Lotus.

As they walked, Lotus kept looking back his way. Allen found the expression she gave him both intriguing and a little unnerving. Why does she keep looking at me like that? If I didn’t know any better…I’d think she was attracted to me. Wait, wait, wait, that’s ridiculous, Allen, there’s no way one of these ponies would be drawn to a human…is there? Nah, of course not. He shook his head now that Lotus had them come to a stop, as she presented the massage tables.

Aloe greeted them both with a friendly smile, while she stood next to the tables. “Ah, Lotus, is this the customer you were telling me about?”

Lotus nodded, then she replied, “Yes. This is Allen. He’s Miss Rarrity’s guest.”

Aloe eyed him up, a similar smile like Lotus’s forming on her face. “Well then, I gather you’re herre for a massage?”

Allen nodded, feeling just a tiny bit nervous, seeing as Aloe was giving him almost the same look that Lotus had. “Yeah. I was…working out for a while and feel just a little sore.”

“Well, not to worry, my sister and I can take carre of anything that ails you.” Aloe gave him a confident look and then winked at him.

“Okay, um I guess I just lie down on one of these tables.” Allen placed a hand on his chin, while he examined the three tables.

Lotus moved to the head end of one. “Here, you can use this one.”

“All right.” Allen sat down on the table. “Should I lay on my back or my belly?”

“Your back is fine to starrt. Oh, would you like us to burrn any incense or use any massaging oil?” Aloe stood there, lightly swaying her light cerulean tail.

“Uh, oh boy.” Allen stammered. On Earth, he’d never been to a spa, and most times anyone that offered to give him a massage, well, it never ended well. From what he saw of massages on TV and in movies, they seemed like a lot of fun, but in reality they usually hurt more than they helped. And given the looks they were giving him, he was reluctant to add any thing like oils or aromatherapy to the mix. “Let’s save the incense and oils for another time.”

“As you wish.” Aloe replied, but to his relief she didn’t seem disappointed from his decision.

There, see, Allen, it was just your imagination. He nodded to himself as he looked over the table.

Lotus walked over to him and gently placed a hoof on his knee. “Relax. You seem a little stressed. You must have pushed yourself too hard.”

“Too hard,” words Allen was no stranger to. Since the day his parents decided he was going to succeed where they didn’t, despite their countless successes in science, he’s always known the push of hard work and ended up overdoing things more than a few times. It was actually surprising he hadn’t been to a spa before, of course it was probably another of those things he figured that his parents felt were just a waste of money. And that’s considering they were both accomplished scientists and while biology wasn’t their major, they knew enough of it from their studies in college and abroad to understand its benefits.

Lotus patted his knee and looked into his pale green eyes. “Arre you okay?”

Allen shook his head. “Yeah, I’m fine. I was just spacing out a little.”

Lotus giggled, then she gave her sister an implied look. Aloe nodded and moved to the other side of the table. Lotus turned her focus back to Allen. “Come, just lay on your back. I heard Miss Rarrity talking to you when I came back to the counter earrlier. She said your legs and uh, arrm were botherring you?”

Allen nodded, holding up his left arm. “Yeah, this arm and both my legs.” The human turned and lied on his back, turning his head to look at Lotus.

She smiled over at him as she went to work. Her hooves pressed against his sore left arm as she began her work and applied varying pressure to his tired muscles.

Much to Allen’s surprise, her ministrations were quite soothing. There was just a little pain at first, but then as her hooves moved and kneaded around his limb, he sighed in response to how relaxed she was making him.

“How is that so farr?” Lotus asked sweetly, still bearing him a welcoming smile.

“Mmm,” Allen just sighed and nodded. “Yeah, that’s nice.”

The smile remained on Lotus’s face as she continued massaging his arm. She turned her eyes to Aloe and nodded. “If you don’t mind, Aloe is going to starrt on your right leg.”

Allen looked up and saw her standing on his other side. “Oh, okay.”

Aloe smiled at him as she gently moved the end of his robe, just enough to expose his legs. “Therre we go. Now, just relax. My sister and I will relieve all those aches and pains for you.”

The silly smile returned to Allen’s face. He found Aloe’s accent just as adorable as Lotus’s. Yep, that accent has to be Swedish or this world’s equivalent. And there was something about the way her mane and tail just complimented her rose fur that kept the smile on his face.

Aloe shared Allen’s warm smile as she started at the foot and ankle of his right leg. Much like her sister, Aloe started with gradual pressure and worked her way around the lower portion of his leg.

Lotus had finished with his arm and stood behind him, so she could get a good angle on his shoulders. “Aside form training too harrd, how has your day been, Allen?”

He looked up at Lotus and took a cleansing breath. “Pretty good actually. Though, it may be a while till I’m able to head home.”

“Oh?” Lotus began, while she rubbed his shoulders. “And where is home?”

That was a good question. It hadn’t been an issue telling Twilight and her friends about Earth. But would it be such an easy topic for other ponies? He smiled before he answered, “I come from a distant land, and got lost in the mountains yesterday. Thankfully, Twilight and her friends found me and have been helping me.”

Lotus nodded as the happy look remained on her face. “They are wonderful ponies. And I’m sorry to hear you’re lost.”

Aloe nodded as she looked up from her work. “Yes. Arre you going to be okay?”

“Uh-huh. The ponies of Ponyville have been very friendly. So, if I’m stuck here for a little while, at least it’s no big deal.”

Aloe and Lotus looked at each other, a distinct look on their faces. Then Lotus looked back down at Allen. “Well, hopefully we can help with any tension you’re carrying.”

“I appreciate that. But how about you two, how’s business?” Allen knew it wasn’t the best of topics, but he knew that when he’d got to the salon for a haircut, it was a good way to make conversation with the stylists.

“Till you and Miss Rarrity came in, it was rather slow.” Lotus replied.

“That’s right,” Allen began, “You said Wednesday’s are slow.”

“Mm-hmm.” Aloe nodded as she moved up his leg, and worked the pain from his knee.

Allen took in another deep breath as he turned his eyes back up to Lotus. She was lightly humming as she continued massaging his shoulders. She worked her hooves around them for a few more moments. “There.” Lotus looked at a nearby clock. “Your shoulders arre done. I’d better go sheck on Miss Rarrity. Aloe, could you be a dear and finish his massage?”

Aloe smiled and gave a simple nod. “Of course.”

Lotus stepped away from the table and left Allen there with Aloe. He turned his focus to her and smiled as she began working on his lower thigh. “So, how long have you and your sister had this spa?”

Aloe paused for a moment and turned her eyes to the ceiling, then she looked back at Allen. “A few years now. We used to worrk in Canterlot.” Aloe cast out a heavy sigh. “But we didn’t have a good location and Canterlot nobles were so picky with what they expected for their money. So, we came here …I want to say thrree years ago. Yes, and things have been great here.”

Allen smiled as he took another soothing breath. “Well, I’m glad you two are here. So far, this is the best body massage I’ve ever had.”

Aloe smiled and tried not to make it too obvious that she was blushing. “Aww, that’s sweet of you to say. My sister and I really love what we do.”

“It shows.” Allen closed his eyes and let his head sink into the plush pillow.

His eyes popped open as he noticed Aloe nearing his upper thigh. For a moment, he wasn’t sure how much of a body massage they gave here. He felt that nervousness return as Aloe’s hooves drove further up his leg, nearing his nether region. He tried to curb his anxiety but he wasn’t sure he wanted a happy ending, least of all from a pony. No matter how cute they or their accent may be.

He puffed a breath out of his mouth, then before another moment passed, she withdrew her hooves and walked around his feet and started on his other leg. Allen sighed and felt like smacking himself in the head. You idiot, why would you think these two would offer happy endings here? This isn’t an isolated room, stupid. I really need to stop watching so much Anime and Science Fiction. He snickered a little as he let out a relaxing sigh.

“Sorry if I hit a nerrve there.” Aloe spoke sincerely.

Allen shook his head. “It’s okay, I think that spot was just a little tender from overdoing it.” He was about to mention his fall off the mountain, but figured it made little sense. Besides, he didn’t feel like going into details. But overall, this was nice. Aloe and Lotus were really friendly, had cute accents and were great at what they do.

Part of Allen wanted to try out some of their other services, but he didn’t want to take advantage of Rarity’s kindness. He already felt he had pushed it to the limit with the clothing. Still, he was very grateful, but once Aloe was done with is massage, he was going to head out and check in with Twilight. He glanced around and saw the clock Lotus had been checking.

Yeah, he nodded to himself. It’s almost five. I should head back to the library. But for now, I’m just going to enjoy this break in the action. Man, I could use someone like Aloe back on Earth. A massage like this would be pretty good. Oh and if she was a cute girl, then I’d enjoy a happy ending. Allen chuckled under his breath, then closed his eyes as Aloe continued his massage, leaving him for the moment without a care in the world.

* * * * * *

Aloe accompanied Allen as he walked back into the waiting area. He took a deep cleansing breath in through his nose and out through his mouth. “Ah.”

“So, is there anything else I or my sister can do for you?” Aloe asked looking the human over.

Allen shook his head as he tucked in a portion of his shirttail he missed after he changed. “Nah. I’m good. Mmm.” He stretched a little. “That was a good massage though. Thank you, Aloe.” He smiled.

“You’re welcome. Miss Rarrity said she was paying for both of you.”

“That’s right.” Allen nodded, making sure he had the bag with his other clothing. “Be sure to give Rarity my thanks. Have a good day.”

Aloe smiled and nodded. “Same to you, Allen. I hope once you find your way home, that you’ll think to come back and visit us. We’d be happy to be at your service.”

There it was. A very bittersweet thought and feeling. If he does make it back to Earth, it would be unlikely that he’d ever make it back here. Even though Ponyville felt nothing like home and despite his parents, Allen did long to return home, well, at least to his apartment. Still, he couldn’t deny a melancholy sensation at the thought of not being able to return to visit the spa ponies or this unique town they all lived in.

Not sure what to say, Allen thought he’d say what he truly hoped for. “Yeah. I can’t make any promises, but I would enjoy coming back here, if I’m ever in the area.” He smiled and waved.

“Okay. Take carre, Allen.” She waved a hoof as he made his way out of the shop.

Her accent was still very charming and that enchanting look in her eyes almost made him forget she was a pony. Shaking his head, Allen looked around, he wasn’t completely familiar with Ponyville, despite the tour Twilight had given him. “Uh…”

Allen ducked back into the shop. There he saw Aloe at the counter starting on some paperwork. She looked up at him. “Yes?”

He scratched the back of his neck. “Do you know how I can get to the Golden Oak Library from here?”

“Ah, yes. Just head straight once you get outside. And make a left at the stationery shop. You should be able to see it and get your bearring from there.” She smiled.

“Oh, right. Thank you, Aloe.” Allen had a sheepish look on his face as he waved to her.

“You’re welcome, Allen!” She smiled and waved again.

Allen wore a stupid grin as he made his way back outside. His lack of familiarity with Ponyville was certainly a problem. But at least now he had some idea how to make his way back.

He followed Aloe’s directions. Then after making it to the stationery shop, he looked in every direction. He didn’t see the iconic library or its leafy branches anywhere. “Now, how did I get lost?” He mused aloud.

“Lost?” He heard a strong but elegant voice speak.

Glancing over his shoulder he saw another of the ponies walking his way. Only this one seemed a bit taller. She had a dark blue coat and a swirling mane that was sapphire blue and had a purple outline. Her mane is swirling, is that even possible? He wondered. Allen gave a silent nod when he saw a slender horn protruding from her forehead. Ah, she’s a unicorn. Her hair must be some magic trick or spell. Clearing his throat, Allen replied, “Yes, I think I’m lost.”

“Are you sure? Maybe you are just off course a little. Come now, tell me where are you heading?” The unicorn asked in the same potent but delicate tone.

“I’m on my way to the Golden Oak Library. Twilight Sparkle is expecting me.” Allen looked around and still saw no trace of it. “I’m not from around here, and seem to have lost my way.”

The pony nodded. “I see. Not to worry, I am heading there myself. Come, I will escort you.”

“Really?” Allen asked.

“Of course. It’s no problem.”

“Thank you, so much.” She just smiled. Allen gave her a closer look. He found it odd that she seemed so made up. She had a fancy black tiara and a necklace of some sort, which featured a white crescent moon. Turning his eyes to her hooves, he noticed she had on sparkly shoes that appeared almost lavender in color. Furrowing his brow, Allen concluded she must be like Rarity and enjoy dressing up or at least accessorizing.

The unicorn turned her teal eyes Allen’s way. “So, you do not appear to be from around here.”

Allen shook his head. “No, I’m not.” For a moment he almost thought he’d tell her the complete truth. Then, much like his time at the spa, he decided a little embellishing wasn’t such a bad idea. “I’m from a distant land. Far from…Equestria.”

She nodded. “I see. That would explain it. Oh, and look. We have arrived.”

“Wow.” There was a momentary feeling of disbelief as Allen saw the library. It turns out he was only two blocks away. It figures. He thought as they made their way to the front door.

The unicorn knocked on the front door. Then, to Allen’s surprise, she unfurled a lovely pair of wings, which matched her fur flawlessly.

Wings?! Allen blinked. “You have a horn and wings?” He gasped.

The library door opened and Twilight greeted them. “Oh, good evening, Princess Luna.”

Allen’s mouth fell open. “P-p-p-princess?!” He looked at Luna, then to Twilight and the back at Luna. “Princess Luna?” His eyes widened.

Twilight smiled. “Ah, Allen, there you are. Good.”

Luna tried not to snicker as she turned to Twilight. “We had better head inside. I do believe your friend was not expecting me to be the pony I am.”

Twilight nodded as she stepped outside and guided a stymied Allen into the library, followed closely by a softly snickering Luna.

* * * * * *

There was an awkward silence as Twilight led Allen over to her living room. “Have a seat, Allen.” She directed him to the spacious couch.

He looked at her and then over at Luna. “She’s a princess?”

“That is correct,” Luna replied walking over to them.

Allen looked around, then popped up to his feet and moved so he could kneel before Luna. “Your highness. Forgive my lack of manners. I had no idea you were royalty.”

Luna placed a hoof over her mouth and giggled. “Oh, come now. There is no need to be so formal.”

Allen kept his head lowered. “Are you sure? As far as I know…well, on my world anyway. It is very rude to disrespect royalty. In fact it can come with a rather harsh punishment.”

“Oh, well, you have nothing to fear. Come now.” Luna placed one of her elegantly covered hooves under his chin. “Please, look up. I have no doubt that you respect the crown. But here, we can be a little more casual.”

“Really?” Allen asked as he raised his head to meet Luna’s gaze.

She smiled at him. There was intrigue in Luna’s teal eyes. “Yes. Now, come, have a seat.”

Allen sat down on the sofa, beside Twilight. Turning her way, he asked, “Why is Princess Luna here anyway?”

Luna sat in the plush chair across from them and held up a hoof. “I’ll answer that question. In fact, I’ll speak a little more casually as well.”

“Okay.” Allen smiled.

“My sister received a letter from Twilight. She mentioned dragon activity in the Smokey Mountains and about finding you – a human.” Luna sighed as she gathered her thoughts. “Let’s just say, your arrival here isn’t the first time our world has seen your kind.”

Allen’s pale green eyes widened more than a little. “Wait…there has been a human here before?”

Luna nodded. “That’s correct. And not just one.”

Twilight turned her attention to the tea service sitting on the coffee table. “Did anyone want some tea? I had Spike prepare a pot.”

“Huh?” Luna looked over at Twilight. “Tea? Sure, I would love a cup. Thank you. Uh, just sugar for me.”

“Allen?” Twilight looked over at the human.

“Sure. Just sugar for me as well. Ooh, raw sugar, if you have it. Thank you, Twilight.”

Twilight chuckled as she poured tea into three mugs. “You’re welcome. Just give me a moment.” A moment was all it seemed to take as Twilight added the requested sweetener to each cup, and like Allen, she added raw sugar to her own tea as well. Using her magic, she carefully set a cup and saucer in front of each of them. “Here you are.”

Allen reached down for his and nodded thankfully, then cautiously took a sip. “Mmm. Lemon ginger?”

“Yes. A very soothing blend.” She smiled, then took a sip from her own cup.

Luna’s horn lit up with a soft blue glow. She raised her own cup and took a few delicate sips. “Mmm, yes a delectable blend.”

Allen set his cup down. “Uh, you were saying…princess?”

“Right. Your kind has been to our world before. Only it was a very long time ago.”

Twilight held up a plate of crackers and cheese. “Here.”

Reaching over, Allen took a few pieces of marbled cheese and a few crackers. “Thank you, Twilight.” He munched on a cracker. Then once he swallowed it, he gave Luna his full focus. “So, how long ago was it?”

Luna nibbled on some cheddar, then sipped from her cup. “A very long time ago. Nearly 1,200 years.”

Allen spit the tea back into his cup and gave Luna a dubious glance. “1,200 years?! That long?” He blinked at her and then at Twilight.

Luna couldn’t help but giggle at his reaction. Then, placing a hoof over her mouth she cleared her throat. “Yes. A long time for most, but for an alicorn, like me, it’s not that long at all.”

“I’m sorry, an ali-what?” Allen placed a hand to his chin. “You said, Alicorn…corn? Is that right?”

“Why yes.” Luna nodded, stretching her wings. “You were more than a little surprised when you saw my wings as we arrived.”

He nodded. “Well yeah. I mean, I’ve seen winged unicorns in various forms of fantasy on Earth. But, never heard them called “alicorns” or would have ever guessed you would be more than just something out of myth and legend.” Allen paused for a moment. “Wait, are you one of the two princesses Twilight told me about? She said one moves the moon and one moves the sun.”

“That’s right. I am the princess of the night.” Luna closed her eyes and sighed. “And it’s a pity. Seems the humans that left chose to deny our existence and that of our world.”

“Chose to deny?” Allen and Twilight spoke at the same time, while looking at Luna.

Lowering her head, Luna cast out a heavy sigh. She sipped from her mug, before she replied, “Yes. It was a sad day when we bid farewell to the humans.”

Allen bit off some more cheese, then after he swallowed it, he said, “My kind. I gather you are convinced I’m human?”

Luna nodded and took a deep breath. “Yes. Even though your look is a little stockier than the humans I remember best were, there is no mistaking it. In fact, just looking at you is bringing back so many memories.”

For a moment, Allen wasn’t sure what to say. Then it became obvious. “Just what happened? Why aren’t there any humans here in Equestria? Well, other than me.”

Reaching for her cup, Luna discovered her mug was empty. “Twilight, could I trouble you for…”

“A refill, princess?” Luna nodded. “Certainly.” Twilight’s horn lit up with a raspberry glow as she raised the teapot and filled Luna’s cup. “There you are.”

“Thank you.” Luna added some more sugar, this time raw sugar. She stirred it, then invited a few sips. “It’s a shame my sister, Celestia, isn’t here. While I was very close to the humans that lived here, I believe she was even closer to them then I was.”

Twilight refilled her cup and Allen’s, then looked over at Luna. “What makes you say that?”

“I’m sorry, but she has sworn me to silence on speaking on our dealings with humans. All I can tell you is that we had no choice but to send them back to Earth.” Luna whimpered faintly. “It was not an easy or a favorable decision. But sadly, the fate of Equestria hung in the balance and if we hadn’t sent them back, both our kinds would have paid the price for defying Grim Night.”

Swallowing some cheese, Twilight stared in awe at the princess. “G-Grim Night? Who or what?”

Luna shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Twilight. I’ve already divulged more than I should have.”

Allen grimaced, setting his cup back on the table. “Okay, fine…so you’ve told us all you can. But, then why did you need to meet with me?” Allen’s eyes widened. “Wait…I’m not in trouble, am I?!”

Luna shook her head. There was a bleak look encompassing her face. “No. You aren’t.”

“Does it matter that he’s here?” Twilight asked. “I mean, we are trying to help him find a way back to Earth.”

The princess looked up. “You are?”

“Yeah.” Allen nodded, but he was less than enthused about it.

“Then, I believe I am finished here.” Luna set down her teacup and stood up firmly. “Please keep my sister and me informed about your progress with getting Allen home. If you should need any assistance, please let us know.”

“All…all right. Thank you for stopping by, Princess Luna.” Twilight rose to her hooves and walked Luna over to the door.

“Wait!” Allen called. Luna and Twilight stooped and turned back. He gave them both a puzzled look. “So…that’s it? You came all this way to see that I’m a human, tell us some cryptic tale and…leave?”

Luna nodded and held up a hoof. “Yes. That’s all there is to tell. It was lovely meeting you, Allen. I am sorry to cut this so short, but if you’ll excuse me, I had best get back to Canterlot. My sister will want to hear my report and it will soon be time for me to raise the moon.”

With that, Luna departed the Golden Oak and was gone. Twilight walked back over to Allen. He gave her a puzzled look. Twilight nodded grimly. “I know, Allen. I would have liked to hear more of the story too.”

“Well, I guess at least the visit went well.” He scratched his head.

Twilight nodded. “Yes. I actually thought she’d be here a little longer than that.” The unicorn walked over to Allen and smiled. “Now, I wanted to wait till Luna left, but was meaning to ask. Are those new clothes?”

“They are.” Allen smiled. He stood up and showed them off. “What do you think? They look just like my other clothes. Rarity did a great job. I’m glad you suggested we stop at her place.”

Twilight closed her eyes and smiled. “I knew she could help. And those look great on you.”

“Yeah, Rarity said the same thing. Oh and that she owed you a favor or two.” Allen grinned.

“Believe me, she does. That’s why I wasn’t too worried about cost.” Twilight looked Allen over again. “Yes, those turned out nicely. Oh, but where are your old clothes?”

“Right here.” Allen held up the bundle with them. “Eh, they’ll need washed.”

Twilight smiled. “No problem. I can help with that.” Her face lit up. “Oh, tell me, how did the rest of practice go?”

Allen nodded. “Not bad. You want to hear about it?”

“You bet I do.” Twilight joined Allen as they sat back on the sofa.

“Okay. Oh, and then you can tell me about your progress on my charger.” Allen remarked.

“Of course. Now, about your training?”

Allen grinned as he collected his thoughts. “Well, there I was, getting ready to lunge at Blade. And of course I fell on my face again…and Rainbow Dash laughed. But I got right back up and held my wooden sword at the ready…”

Twilight sat on the couch, lightly swishing her tail as she listened to Allen talk about the exploits of his sword training. For whatever reason, she was really happy to be spending time with him again.

Chapter 8 - "The Smokey Mountains - Part 1"

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Allen ran toward Tempered Blade as he crossed swords with him. Their practice blades struck a few times. Then, stepping back, Allen lunged forward. “Haaa!!”

“Guess again.” Blade countered Allen’s attack and stepped aside, leaving him to stumble and fall flat onto the grass, again and unarmed.

Regalas placed a hoof over his face and shook his head. “No, no, Allen. You’re too aggressive.”

“Grrr.” Allen snarled under his breath as he picked up his sword and returned to his feet. “I don’t get it. I thought the point was to be forceful and show no fear.”

Blade smiled and nodded, lightly brandishing his wooden sword. “Now, I get it. Uh, commander, this is your area of expertise.”

Regalas nodded as he walked over to Allen. “Yes. It is indeed. “Come, Allen.”

“Huh? Still not there?” The human asked the stallion.

He shook his head. “No, but considering how you were six days ago. You’ve come a long way in a short time. Now, let me explain.”

All let out a frustrated sigh. “Okay.”

Regalas looked to the sunny sky and took a focusing breath. He turned his sapphire eyes to Allen. “Now. There are times when taking an aggressive stance is wise. But in battle, more often than not, victory comes from within.” He pointed to his head. “From within the mind and also…” The white stallion pointed to his chest. “From within your heart. The best thing to do in battle is to anticipate. Know your opponent. Like we mentioned over the past few days. And from knowing your opponent, you can also consider the outcome of a fight. Victory is always what one strives for. However, you can’t achieve victory without also considering its opposite.”

Allen looked at Regalas and couldn’t miss the serious and sober look in his eyes. “Oh, right, you mean defeat…or failure.”

“Exactly. And this next part may sound foolish. But, it’s actually beneficial to think about defeat, because it distracts your mind so you can do what you need to in order to win. Does that makes sense?” Regalas gave Allen a long focused look.

Allen deadpanned for a moment. Then his face lit up. “Wait, maybe this will sound dumb, but are you basically telling me not to expect anything when beginning a fight?”

“Well, would you look at that?” Blade gave a satisfied nod.

“Now you’re catching on. It seems crazy, but the best warriors go into battle aware of this fact. They don’t expect anything, they don’t expect to win or to lose. There’s no shame in fighting to a stalemate. It’s at that moment when you can see a chance for compromise and then.”

“Ah, a chance to win…ugh or a chance to lose.” Allen groused at the thought of defeat.

“Don’t worry. As often as you’ve fallen to the ground, you already know what it feels like to lose. And just because you fall in a battle, doesn’t mean you’ve lost. As long as you can stand and fight…you’ve got a chance.”

Allen nodded. “Right.” The human placed a ponderous hand to his chin. “Hmm, I understand now. Okay.” He secured his grip on his weapon. “Now…let’s try this again.”

Blade held his wooden sword at the ready. “All right. Go!”

Allen and Blade struck their swords together. The air filled with the sounds of wood cracking and striking against wood and the smell of freshly disturbed dirt and grass.

Then, just as Allen contemplated launching an attack, he heard a familiar voice shout, “Allen, Allen! I’ve done it! I’ve figured out a way to charge your phone!”

Glancing over to the forge, he saw Twilight Sparkle running toward him. Her face was brimming with excitement.

Tempered Blade chuckled as he lowered his weapon. “Well, I guess we can call it a day, Allen.”

Allen blinked as he held his weapon at the ready. He turned to see Twilight trotting their way. A smile curled up on his face as he waved his free hand at her. “Hey, Twilight!”

Just then, Blade cried out as he charged Allen. The toned Earth pony held his practice blade out as he zeroed in on the human. Allen turned in time to see Blade, his sword still at the ready. Allen studied Blade’s face carefully and knew he had only seconds to make a decision. The smile remained on Allen’s face as he took a quick sidestep and held out his left foot. Blade’s momentum didn’t leave him any time to react as both his fore and hind left hooves collided with Allen’s foot and sent him careening to the ground with a heavy thud. His blade flew from his hoof and struck the side of a nearby shed, narrowly missing Twilight.

Twilight drew back a hoof and looked at Allen with wide eyes. “What just happened?”

“Ha! I finally got you, Blade!” Allen clenched his fist and shook it triumphantly.

Regalas chuckled as he trotted over to the fallen Blade. “He really got you that time.”

Blade brushed back a lock of his orange mane as he looked up and blinked his silver gray eyes. He stared at Allen for a moment, then broke out into a fit of laughter. “He sure did.”

Regalas helped Blade back onto his hooves. “I dare say we’re seeing those results we were expecting.”

“I’ll say.” Blade looked over at Allen, just as Twilight joined him. “Man, Allen, what made you try that maneuver?”

Allen stood there with Twilight and held his blade at rest. “Well, I’ve known that in the past when somepony has come to visit or distract me that you have a tendency to launch sneak attacks like that. That’s why I kept my sword at the ready, and then I heard you yell as you charged.” Allen snickered. “And I thought about what you two just told me. I saw that look in your eyes, Blade. So I took a chance.” He laughed again. “I actually expected to be eating dirt.”

The commander nodded and then clapped his hooves together. “Way to go, Allen. You demonstrated what we told you beautifully. And see, didn’t it help?”

Allen nodded. “It sure did. I’ll have to remember that.” He quickly turned to Twilight. “Oh, sorry, Twilight. Didn’t mean to ignore you, but it’s rare I don’t walk away from one of Blade’s attacks…without eating dirt.”

Twilight shook her head and smiled. “That’s all right. It was a treat to watch.” She looked the human over. “I can see you’re really making some headway.” Twilight looked to Blade and Regalas. “I can’t thank you two enough for helping him.”

Blade waved a hoof. “Ah, it’s no problem.”

“Yeah.” Regalas stood proudly. “As a commander in the Royal Canterlot Guard, it’s my pleasure to help aspiring warriors.”

Allen blinked. “Warriors…but I’m not a…”

“Oh, Allen, great news…I know how to charge your phone.” Glee bubbled in Twilight’s eyes.

“Oh. Hey, I’ll see you guys later.” He waved to them, then started walking with Twilight. “So, you managed to make an adapter?”

She shook her head and scoffed. “Of course not…that was a dead end. But, I realized something, energy is energy, weather it’s made by a power generator or magic.”

Allen tilted his head and gave her a funny look. “Okay, so how does that work without an adapter?”

Twilight patted his shoulder. “It’s simple. We have your charger and it has metal prongs that work as an energy conductor. All I need to do is generate a mild magical current with my horn…I can adjust the intensity as you read the display on the screen, so we should be able to charge your phone that way. And this way it won’t matter what type of current your phone uses. Magical energy creates a universal form of electric.”

Allen had no idea how magic worked, well besides the fictional rules from numerous stories on Earth, but Twilight spoke with such confidence, he saw no reason to doubt her. Besides, she’d been working for the better part of a week to help make this all possible. “Well, I doubt we have anything to lose by trying.”

“Nope. Come on…let’s head to my lab.” Allen just nodded as the two made their way to the Golden Oak Library.

* * * * * *

Allen set his cell phone on the table and attached the charger cord to it. “Okay, ready.” He looked over at Twilight.

“Hmm.” Twilight finished flipping a few pages in the book she had resting at the other end of the table, next to where she was standing. She turned around and gave Allen a confident look. “Okay. Let’s do this.”

“Wait, you found a book to help?”

Twilight nodded. “Of course. I didn’t want to just go in blind, so I found a helpful guide to energy manipulation that was written by a very skilled unicorn. He knew his way around magically generated electric.”

Allen nodded his head and smiled. “Great. Okay…here.” He slid the charge plug her way.

“Okay, here goes.” Twilight’s horn lit up with a raspberry glow as she aimed it at the prongs of the charger. She unleashed a gentle beam of magical energy that struck the prongs. “Let me know if you need me to turn up the intensity.”

“All right.” Allen looked at his phone and his face lit up. “The charging indicator is showing. Hmm…” He checked the charge rate. It was down to 52% after minimal use over the past week. Taking another look he noticed it went up. “Hey, it move to 53%. Can you give it just a little more?”

“Of course.” Twilight’s voice was happy as she channeled more magic into her horn. The beam grew just a little. “There, how’s that?”

Allen checked the display and his eyes widened. “That’s it. Up to 58%.” He very deftly picked up the phone. “Hmm, the phone doesn’t feel hot at all…I think you’ve come up with a real winner here.” He checked the screen again. “Whoa, up to 63%. At this rate it’ll be charged in about a few minutes, but it doesn’t seem to be taxing the phone.” He looked at her funny.

Twilight chuckled. “And to think I thought Starswirl was the best unicorn wizard. Of course Electric Flash was inspired by Starswirl.” She grinned as she kept her horn aimed at the charger.

“Oh, right, that legendary unicorn mage you told me about.” Allen glanced at the screen. “Awesome, Twilight…you’re incredible! It’s almost back to full power! Looks like we’re at 80% now.”

A few more minutes passed and Allen held up his hand. “Okay, perfect…100%, fully charged.”

Twilight cut off the magic from her horn. She held up her head and stretched it a little. “Ooh, glad that didn’t take too long.” Allen ran over to her and gave her a hug.

“You did it, Twilight! Thank you…you’re incredible, the best!” He gave her a friendly squeeze.

“Oh.” Twilight smiled and couldn’t help but blush a little. “You’re welcome, Allen.”

He nodded and grinned. “Do you know what this means?”

“I do.” Twilight held up a hoof. “We can lead you back to the Smokey Mountains and find the recall rod…” Her hoof dropped and so did her voice. “And help you…get back home.”

“Yeah.” Allen smiled for a moment, then like her his enthusiasm faded. “Huh…home.” He shook his head. “I guess there are some things we’d better take care of to prepare for the trip back into the mountains.”

Twilight closed her eyes for a moment, then looked up at Allen with a renewed smile. “That’s right. I’d better go tell the others. Let me see.” She checked her clock. “Yep, it’s still early afternoon. I don’t see why we can’t plan our trip for tomorrow.”

“All right. Oh, I should go thank Blade and Regalas…and I’d like to see Clang too.” He held up his phone and marveled once again that it was now at a full charge.

Twilight walked up to him. She stood there for a moment, then reached up to pat his shoulder. “All right then, you go take care of that and I’ll meet up with you later.”

“Sounds good.” Allen pocketed his charger and his phone. Then, he and Twilight made their way out of the basement and set off to their respective destinations.

* * * * * *

Allen stood there at the counter of Anvil Clang’s shop. He took a lengthy look around, before he turned to the elder stallion. “Can you believe it, Clang?” There was enthusiasm in the human’s voice.

Clang ran a hoof along his beard. “So, after about a week, you’ve finally got a chance to go find that item you lost and head home.” He nodded. “You must be excited.”

“Yeah, I am.” But suddenly, Allen’s words didn’t seem to match his tone.

“Is something wrong?” Clang spoke with genuine concern, while focusing his pale purple eyes on Allen’s suddenly troubled face. “You don’t sound too excited.”

Allen’s pale green eyes slowly shifted over at Clang, before he sighed. “Well, it’s not that I’m ‘not’ excited about going home, Clang. It’s just that…after spending a week here in Ponyville, I realize I’m going to miss it. I’ll be glad to be back home, but the fact that I’ll never be able to come back here, well it’s more than a little sad.”

Clang chuckled thoughtfully at Allen. “I understand, my boy. This is a very unique place. But, I might advise you not to go getting ahead of yourself.”

Allen raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What do you mean?”

“Don’t forget. You’ll have to venture into the Smokey Mountains and retrieve that item you lost, first. So, until you complete your journey to reclaim it, you might want to save any melancholy until after you’ve returned.” Clang fluffed his beard.

“Hmm, you know you make a good point.” Allen stared out across the collection of finely forged weapons.

“Come now, cheer up. Here, I have something for you.” Clang smiled as he turned and walked to one of the shelves behind him.

“You do, what is it?” Allen perked up as he placed his hands on the edge of the counter.

“Right here.” Clang set an item down in front of them and looked at Allen, offering him a smile.

Allen’s eyes widened. “A sword…for me?” He placed a hand on his chest and gave Clang an excited jaw-dropped expression.

Clang closed his eyes and nodded. “Of course. If you’re going to be venturing into the unknown of the mountains, you’ll need far more than a simple wooden training sword. Give this a look.” The stallion scratched his beard.

Pulling the sword closer, Allen held it up and noticed it had some weight to it. “Wow. The design on this scabbard is beautiful.” Allen checked over the dark brown leather, and silver chape and locket of the sword’s sheath. He placed a hand on the hilt and slowly drew the blade. The polished metal of the blade shined in the ambient daylight that shone through the shop’s windows. “This…is really for me?” Allen turned his head toward Clang.

Clang chuckled at Allen’s enthusiasm. “Yes, it’s all yours, sword, scabbard and belt. Everything you’ll need.”

Allen studied the sword for a little longer, then slid it back into its sheath. “Thank you, Clang.”

“You’re quite welcome, my boy. Think of it as a gift for all the progress you made this week.” Clang smiled and nodded. “Just remember, it’s very sharp and not to be trifled with.”

Allen set the sword down and shook his head. “Certainly not. I know this is no toy and needs to be used responsibly.”

“Did somepony say, ‘Responsibly?’ ”

Clang and Allen both looked up as they saw a gray crystal pony enter the shop. He looked at both of them with his green eyes and blinked as he took a closer look at Allen. “Hmm…so is this the ‘visitor’ everypony has been talking about?” The Earth pony looked at Clang.

“Why yes, this is Allen. And I’m sure you can tell, he’s not from Equestria.” Clang held up a hoof.

The crystal pony placed a hoof to his chin. “Then, what are you?”

Allen smiled. “I’m a human. I come from a world called ‘Earth’, it’s very far from here.”

He gave Allen a serious stare, then smiled. “Well, if you’re a friend of Clang’s, then you’re a friend of mine. Hi! I’m Meta Blade, a pleasure to meet you.” Mete Blade lightly nodded.

“Oh, yes, it’s a pleasure, Meta Blade. And like Clang said, I’m Allen and it’s nice to meet you as well.” Allen snickered nervously.

Clang chuckled. “Don’t let Meta intimidate you Allen. He’s a fellow blacksmith, like me.”

Allen looked at Clang and then over at Meta Blade. “You’re a blacksmith too?”

Meta Blade ran a hoof through his short but somewhat spiky green and dark green mane. “This mane never does like to cooperate. But yes, like Clang, I’m a blacksmith…and you can find my forge in the glistening Crystal Empire.”

“Crystal Empire? Whoa, I’ll bet that’s a heck of a place to see, just from the name.” Allen paused for a moment. “Yeah, I can only imagine what it might look like.”

“Well, you might be right, but I’d recommend visiting. You have to see the empire to fully appreciate it.” Meta Blade walked over to the counter and placed a hoof on it. “So, Clang, how are you?”

Clang fluffed his beard and laughed. “Oh, not bad, not bad. And you, my boy?”

“Just as good as always. Things have been peaceful up north. So much in fact, I haven’t had to go on patrol for a while. Which has left me more time for the forge.” He grinned.

“Oh, then if you’ve been at the forge, are you here to check on your order?” Clang glanced back at the shelf and then back at Meta Blade.

“Actually, I am.”

Clang walked to the shelf and grabbed an item concealed in a long case. “Here it is, already packed for travel.”

Meta Blade ran a hoof over his chin. “Hmm, now let’s see…” He opened the box and examined the item. “Oh, this sword will be the perfect base.”

Allen peaked over at it and marveled. “Whoa, that is a really neat sword.” He placed a hand on his chin and surveyed the blade. It was rather similar to the one Clang had just given him, and even had a fancy hilt with jeweled embellishments. “Hey, that’s very close to the sword Clang just gave me.” Allen patted his hand over it.

Meta Blade turned Allen’s way and saw the sheathed weapon. “Ah yes. This is one of Clang’s signature swords.”

“Signature swords?” Allen blinked for a moment. “And what do you mean it will be the perfect base?”

Meta Blade chuckled and patted a hoof along the sword, which was still resting in its case. “Well, Clang and I like to make weapons for each other. Then we like to add our own accents or even temper or partially re-forge them. And then we just see what we can create from the inspiration we share.” Meta looked over at Allen and smiled.

“Wow, then I bet you make some really cool creations that way.” Allen looked at the sword Meta Blade had ordered.

“You don’t know the half it.” Clang just chuckled. “Meta likes to add special crystals from the Crystal Empire and see if he can create augmented weapons with special properties.”

Allen’s eyes widened as his face lit up. “Seriously? You can do that? Like bind magical materials to give a sword…uh, I don’t know, elemental powers.”

Meta Blade grinned and nodded. “You’re very sharp, Allen. That’s it exactly. And see my cutie mark?” Meta pointed to his flank. “It’s not a fancy sword with an aqua blue aura that makes it glow psychedelic purple for nothing you know.”

Allen gave the crystal stallion’s cutie mark a careful glance. “Wow, that’s one of the neatest cutie marks I’ve seen yet.” He blinked. I think the only one I’ve seen that I like better is Twilight’s. Of course the spa ponies had nice cutie marks too…and then there’s Fluttershy’s group of butterflies… Allen shook his head. “But wow, so that represents what you do?”

The grin remained on Meta Blade’s face. “Oh yeah. It’s a bit of an involved process. Though, it’s always worth the effort.”

Allen just nodded, then causally glanced at the clock hanging on the wall behind Clang. “Whoa. When did it get to be after five?”

Clang chuckled. “Hard to say with time. I guess you have to go?”

“Yeah.” Allen nodded as he picked up the sword. Giving it a look, he wrapped the belt around his large waist and gave it a try. It pulled and secured perfectly, with room to spare. “Wow, Clang. I didn’t know if this would fit.”

Meta Blade looked at Clang and then over at Allen. “One thing you should know about Clang, Allen. He always makes sure his customers get what they want, even if they don’t know it.”

“Yeah, this is awesome!” Allen turned and was able to easily draw the blade with his left hand. “Clang, you are amazing!”

Meta Blade just laughed, while Clang closed his eyes and smiled. “I’m glad you like your gift. Now, shouldn’t you be going?”

“Going? The time!” Allen bowed to both of them. “Thank you, Clang. And it was great to meet you Meta Blade! Take care you two!”

Allen took off and made his way out of the shop. Clang and Meta just stood there as they watched him dart out into Ponyville.

Meta Blade placed a hoof to his chin. “I like him. He’s unique…for a…human did he say?” He turned to Clang.

“That’s right. But, we may not see him again, once Twilight and the others lead him to the Smokey Mountains.” Clang sighed.

“Oh, how come?” Meta gave Clang a curious look.

Clang cleared his throat and looked at Meta. “Allow me to explain…”

* * * * * * *

Night had fallen over the Golden Oak Library and the hour was growing late. Allen had gone to bed, just before Twilight. He was still sharing the spare bed in her loft. Now that he’d been there for a week, his arrangements were actually becoming rather comfortable. To Allen, it was like having a sleepover with a friend. Of course, he checked with Twilight almost everyday, concerned that he was being a burden to host in her room each night, but she assured him she was happy to give him a place to stay.

There was only a matter of hours till he and Twilight would awaken and join the others at the train station. Allen wanted to go home, but as he slept, memories of his arrival in Equestria, specifically the incident in the Smokey Mountains, plagued his dreams. In them, he recalled the towering dragon and it’s infernal breath. Then, he’d find himself running from the beast and end up falling off the side of the mountain.

Allen’s eyes opened as he glanced around Twilight’s loft. It was blanketed in mostly darkness. He looked over at the window shelf and there he saw the pale phosphorescent glow of Twilight’s alarm clock. After staring at the clock’s face, Allen silently flopped back onto the bed. Great, it hasn’t even been two hours. Allen sighed. And I doubt I can get back to sleep now.

He sat back up and just stayed there in the bed, staring out into the darkness. Then, he gave a listen. Something was missing, but he wasn’t sure what it could be. Then it dawned on him, the sound of Twilight breathing in her sleep, and occasionally snoring very softly. However, he couldn’t tell if she was still in her bed or not.

Regardless, he didn’t want to disturb her, so he very quietly left his bed. He considered grabbing his Kindle Fire. After all, it did have a modest stash of his stress-relieving pictures and videos on it, but for the moment, he just made his way over to the window. Pulling back the curtain, Allen gazed out into the star-filled night. “Maybe it will be simple enough.” He whispered.

“Allen?” He heard the familiar voice of Twilight Sparkle.

Allen turned his head to the right and saw her shadowy figure walk over to him. “Twilight...did I wake you?”

She shook her head. “No. I was just about to ask you the same thing. I woke up before you did. Are you all right?” Even though it was dark, there was just enough ambient star and moonlight filtering in to allow Allen to see the concern in her violet eyes, which looked a deep midnight blue in the darkness.

He nodded slowly. “Yeah, I’m all right…well, if you ignore the fact that I can’t sleep.”

Twilight used her magic to slide back the curtain. Then, she sighed as she joined him in looking out the window. “So, you can’t sleep either?”

Allen looked her way and shook his head. “Nah. I keep having weird dreams.” He hung his head. “I’m almost embarrassed to admit it…but I’m scared.”

Twilight blinked at him. “Scared? Why?”

He walked over to his clothing, which was draped on a lone chair. There, he had the sword Clang gave him hanging on the chair’s back. “Well, my last trip to the Smokey Mountains was horrifying…to say the least. I mean, I have been given some helpful tips from Regalas and Blade, but…even with this sword Clang gave me.” Allen ran his hand along the smooth leather of its scabbard. “How do we know I won’t end up being a burden to all of you? And the dragon was just one thing we ran into last time. What if there’s other creatures living in the mountains?”

Twilight drew back a foreleg, then walked over to Allen. She placed a supportive hoof on his forearm. “Allen…I can’t say everything will be all right. But, my friends and I will do everything we can to help you.” Twilight smiled. “Like we did before.”

Allen shared her smile and placed a hand on her hoof. “You six were a big help last time.” He shook his head. “I’m probably just being paranoid for nothing.”

“No. Your fears are valid.” Twilight looked down and saw his hand. She was glad her room was dark. Allen’s hand was warm and oddly comforting. Her cheeks became flush, but at least he couldn’t see them. “So, you can’t sleep…huh?”

“Yeah.” Allen looked at Twilight and then back out the window.

She turned her head to the side, then looked back at him. “You know, I might have an idea.

He cocked his head at the side. “Oh, what’d you have in mind?”

Twilight withdrew her hoof and moved just a little closer to him. She offered Allen a very warm and almost flirty smile. “This might sound a little odd, but maybe we could try cuddling a little, uh…it might help you calm down and relax.” There was silence. Twilight bit her lower lip, wondering if it was stupid of her to have even suggested it. “Uh, forget I said…”


“Huh?” Twilight shook her head for a moment. “Wait?”

Allen placed a hand on her shoulder and gently stroked her downy lavender fur. “That might work.”

“Yeah, it just might. Oh…you don’t mind that I’m a pony, do you?” She smiled, while she attempted to give Allen her cutest expression.

“No.” He replied in a calm voice. “I mean, as long as you’re cool with me being a human, right?”

Twilight smiled and nodded. “Of course I am.”

Allen smiled. “Twilight.” He spoke her name softly. “Uh, my bed okay?”

“Sure.” She nodded as they walked over to it.

Allen crawled back in and slid back after lying down, giving Twilight plenty of room to join him. Part of him wasn’t sure if this was a good idea or a bad idea. Still, he knew if they were to have any chance of succeeding tomorrow, they’d both need their rest. “Come on in, Twilight.”

“Okay.” She crawled in beside him. Her cheeks were still red, but thankfully it was still too dark for Allen to notice.

“Do you have enough space?”


“So…” Allen noticed his arms were trembling just a little. “Uh…jump right in, I guess?”

“Yeah. Here.” Twilight moved up against him.

Allen watched her intently as she leaned in and started rubbing her cheek against his. He sighed from the inviting sensation of her soft fur along his shaven skin. “Mmm.” Allen nearly moaned, not expecting cuddling with Twilight to be so alluring. Even though she was a pony, specifically a unicorn, it didn’t seem that way, and certainly not in the dark. No. Twilight was a gentle and caring female, offering her company to help quell Allen’s anxiety.

Despite a slight quiver in his body, Allen moved to place his arms around her. He was hesitant at first, but as Twilight leaned a little harder against him, she said, “Go ahead.”

Two simple words were more than the acknowledgement he needed to proceed. Allen embraced Twilight, and then he nuzzled her, keeping their cheeks rubbing together. Growing more confident, he began running a hand along her furry back, but stopped about mid way. Twilight sighed in his ear, sending chills up his spine; the whole thing was almost sensual. She continued nuzzling his cheek, and as she did, a portion of her silky mane swept along the side of Allen’s face. It only served to absorb him even further into the moment. He reached out a hand and swept it along her silky hair, then paused a moment. Twilight didn’t shoo away his arm, so he just kept caressing her lovely tresses.

Twilight resumed nuzzling his cheek, before slipping her hooves around him. She gave him a rather affectionate squeeze, then paused as they stared at each other in the darkness. Their mouths were only inches apart as they vented warm breath on each other. Still of the moment, Allen leaned front and kissed Twilight. He pulled back and gasped. “Twilight…I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.”

She placed a hoof over his mouth, very gingerly. “That’s okay. I don’t mind. In fact…” Twilight removed her hoof and gently plowed her lips into his. Her hooves tightened around him and she whimpered softly as he secured his arms around her.

Allen wasn’t sure how much time had passed since their second kiss started. Actually, he didn’t care. Thinking back to each passing day, he was happier and happier to see Twilight. As their lips remained locked, it suddenly dawned on him that he might be developing feelings for her. Twilight’s kiss was gentle, bold and enveloping, which led him to believe she might be feeling something for him as well, even if it was only the smallest ember.

Their lips finally broke, leaving them to pant softly in the shroud of night. “Whoa…Twilight. That was unexpected.”

“Yeah…it was.” She ran her hoof along his cheek. “But, I really liked it.”

Allen smiled as he ran his fingers through her mane. “You know what…so did I.”

“Allen, I didn’t get to tell you, but, I was awake…because once we get the recall rod back…you’ll be gone.” Twilight pulled him closer in her hooves. “And I can’t really explain it, but I know I’ll miss you once you leave.”

“Yeah. That’s another reason I couldn’t sleep.” Allen hugged her back. “I’m not sure of a lot of things, but I know I’d miss this world, the others and of course you, Twilight.”

“Allen.” She sighed softly and kept her hooves around him.

“This was a good idea.” Allen let out a calm breath. “I feel a lot calmer now.”

“Oh, then maybe we should stop.”

“Or…we could just stay like this for a little longer. No harm in holding each other…is there?” Allen smiled at her, then nuzzled her cheek.

Twilight sighed and nuzzled him back. “No, there isn’t.”

Then, before either of them knew it, they had both drifted off, still embraced and lying in Allen’s bed.

* * * * * *

The rest of the night passed peacefully, allowing the sun to rise on a new day. Twilight began to awaken as her eyes slowly parted. At first, she wasn’t sure where she was. Her mind was still veiled in the fog of slumber. Looking around, she realized she was in her room, but she wasn’t in her bed. Gazing directly across from her, she saw Allen lying beside her, still resting. A smile formed on her face as she recalled cuddling with him last night and that she must have fallen asleep in his bed.

She sighed softly, recalling the two kisses they shared. Twilight noticed the welcoming warmth of Allen’s arms, which were still wrapped around her. Remaining in his embrace gave Twilight a sense of security and was very soothing. She stared at him fondly, then began to wonder. What is this feeling? Am…am I developing feelings for Allen? She paused a moment, then her mouth fell open. But it can’t be. I only met him a week ago. Besides, he’s got to leave soon and what would the others think? After all, he isn’t a pony. But…would that matter? After all, Spike loves Rarity.

Before Twilight could give the matter any more thought, Allen began to stir and opened his eyes. “Oh, hey, Twilight.” He yawned and stretched. “You’re still here.” Allen smiled a little groggily at first, then his eyes widened. “Wait, last night…” He paused for a moment and slowly ran his fingers over his lips. “That’s right, we kissed, didn’t we?”

“Yes, we did, after enjoying all that cuddling and mmm…you also touched my hair.” Twilight smiled and sighed rather dreamily.

At first Allen was a little uneasy, until he saw the fond look in her eyes. It was a lot like the ones she gave him last night. Even though it was pretty dark, he could see enough to tell. A warm smile curled up on his cheeks. “That was really relaxing.”

“It was.” Twilight patted her hoof on his shoulder. “You know, I just had a thought. I know you’re still not really looking forward to the trip into the mountains, right?”

Allen noticed his arms were still around her. He moved his right hand to gently caress her downy back. “Yeah, I can’t say I’m excited about it. But, it will be good to get home, I guess.”

“Oh. But, have you considered just staying here? I mean, it sounds like your life back on Earth isn’t anything that great.” Twilight looked at him, her eyes were full of wonder.

“Hmm.” Allen placed a hand to his chin. “It’s a delightfully crazy idea. But…” Allen hung his head. “Despite my parents. I do have friends and a life I can’t just forget back on Earth. I mean, I can’t just abandon it…can I?” Allen sighed. “Right now, I’m the only human in your world. I can’t even say if I belong here.”

Twilight bit her lower lip. “But, nopony here cares about the fact that you’re the only human.”

“True, but what about places other than Ponyville? Your world has a lot to see. Would other places be so accepting of me?” Allen began considering it, until he remembered his meeting with Princess Luna. “That’s right. What about what the princess said the other night? She mentioned that my kind had to leave once before or everyone would be at risk from that Grim-something guy. So, even if I wanted to stay, I doubt I could.” Allen sighed.

Unfortunately, Twilight wasn’t sure how to answer that. Besides, she still had her doubts as well, which was why she simply gave a resigned nod. “You’re right. I had nearly forgotten about that. It was just a thought.”

Allen placed a hand on her chin and coaxed Twilight to look up. “For what it’s worth, it was a very tempting thought.”

Twilight placed a hoof on his cheek, a wide array of emotions were present on her face. “Yeah, you mean it?”

He nodded. “I do. Remember that.” Allen took a moment to run his hand along her mane, which was just as silky as last night. Twilight closed her eyes and leaned against his hand. “Twilight…I hate to ruin the moment, but we should get up. We’ll soon have to meet up with the others.”

Twilight sighed. “You’re right.” She slowly broke free of his arms and pulled away, hesitantly. “We’d better eat breakfast and then finished getting ready for the trip.”


Allen couldn’t miss the look on Twilight’s face. It was more than a little dejected, which actually made his heart feel tight. Still, while the thought of not being able to stay or return to Equestria saddened him, Allen wasn’t sure this was a world he wanted to stay in forever, besides the way the princess spoke, he couldn’t even be sure he was allowed to stay.

He continued to ponder that as he got dressed. Then, he thought about what Clang had said. He still needed to make the trip into the mountains and retrieve the recall rod. Only then would he truly have to worry about any reluctance he had regarding leaving or staying.

* * * * * *

The train deposited Allen, Twilight and the others at a remote train station along the foot of the Smokey Mountains. The group was silent as Allen removed his cell phone and called up the app that would help them locate the recall rod.

Twilight stood beside Allen and glanced his way. “So, do you have any idea where we should start?”

“Hmm.” He checked the screen as it took a moment to refresh. There was a short series of beeps as the screen showed a very vague map of the area ahead. “Looks like it’s somewhere…up there.” Allen swallowed hard.

Twilight followed his pointing hand. “Ah, up in the mountains.”

“Say, isn’t that about the place we done found you, Allen?” Applejack joined them in looking up the very mountain they were standing next to.

“Yeah.” Allen nodded. “That’s the same one I…fell from.”

“Oh dear.” Fluttershy trotted over to Allen. She looked at him and blinked her teal eyes. “Are you okay, Allen?”

He nodded as he steeled himself, placing his right hand along the hilt of the sword Clang gave him. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. It’s just a little unnerving coming back here.”

Twilight smiled, while she stayed close to him. “Don’t worry, you’ve got all of us with you. So you don’t have to face this alone.”

“Yeah.” Allen smiled as a look of confidence began to morph onto his face. “All right then. Come on, this way.” He motioned with his arm.

They were off to a slow start, but the seven of them began their ascent up the trail into the Smokey Mountains.

* * * * * *

Allen wasn’t sure how long they’d been searching. While his phone had plenty of charge, the app wasn’t really meant to render any accurate maps with identifiable terrain, thus all they had to go off of was a white grid with a black background and a bright blue pulse that could track the chip on the recall rod.

The group fanned out into two teams. Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash and Applejack went in one direction, while Allen, Twilight, Fluttershy and Rarity went in another. Twilight and Allen broke off from the group when the human thought he might have found something.

“Well?” Twilight asked.

Allen shook his head. “Nah, it’s nothing. Just a rock with some kind of shiny coating, maybe pyrite.”

Twilight sighed. “Oh well, it was worth a look.”

“Yeah. Oh, wow.” Allen walked over a few steps. “Twilight, check out the view!”

The unicorn followed him over to the edge, but they both kept back to a safe distance. “Wow! That really is quite a view.”

“Tell me about it.” It was then that Allen’s phone beeped. “Hey, the app refreshed again. Ooh, it looks like we’re definitely getting close. It says we’ve closed to within 500 feet. The recall rod must be close now.”

“That’s great. Let’s go…” Just as Twilight went to take a step, the ground began to shake and the area they were standing on started to crack and break. “Allen!” Twilight looked over at him. There wasn’t time to react as the ground broke and crumbled under them. “Ahhhhh!!”

Allen stepped back as he heard Twilight scream. “Twilight!” The rocks stopped breaking and the dust quickly settled. “Twilight!” He called again.

“Allen, help! I’m over here!”

He followed Twilight’s distressed voice. She was hanging over the edge of the mountain and had her hoof nabbed onto it. Fear and panic were in her violet eyes as Allen called out, “Rarity, Fluttershy, HELP!!” Allen swallowed hard as he pocketed his phone and walked closer to the cliff’s edge. He dropped to his belly and made his way to Twilight.

“Allen, help me!” Twilight whimpered as she dangled from the edge.

“Take my hand!” He reached for her right hoof and nabbed it securely in his left hand. “I’ve got you.” But as he went to pull her up, he suddenly realized he might not have the strength to pull her up. Allen did his best to fight the panic, but he feared it was a losing battle. He looked down at Twilight, while she looked back at him. “Twilight!”


“Whatever you do…DON’T LET GO!” He gripped his hand tighter to her hoof, but as he tried to pull her up again, his arm just tensed, leaving her to hang there. “TWILIGHT!!”

To Be Continued…

Chapter 9 - "The Smokey Mountains - Part 2"

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Allen held onto Twilight’s right foreleg tightly. He was determined to not to let her fall, but no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t hoist her up from the precipice. “Darn it! I’m not strong enough to pull you up, Twilight.” Allen briefly turned his head to the side.

Twilight looked up at him. “It's okay, Allen. We’ll think of something…and I won’t let go…if you don’t.” She gave Allen that same endearing look he saw in her eyes before they cuddled last night.

Allen did his best to share her look and banish the fear from his eyes. “Never, Twilight, I have you. Wait, maybe...yeah. I might have an idea.”

“What?” Twilight gave him an encouraging look.

“There isn't any way you could use your magic, is there?” He firmed his grip hoping his arm could shoulder the burned.

“Um...I’m not sure.” Twilight whimpered again as she kept her left hoof nabbed on the edge of the cliff. She tried to pull herself up using Allen’s grip for support, but couldn’t get any footing for her hind hooves. “Ohh…Allen. I’m trying to pull myself up, but I can’t get any leverage. Hmm, I guess…I could try my magic, but it’s a little tricky right now.”

Nodding his head, Allen did an internal facepalm. “Twilight, I wasn't thinking. Of course it’d be tricky. You need to concentrate when you do magic.”

“Yeah.” She swallowed nervously.

“Don’t worry, Twilight, I won’t let g...ahh!” Allen noticed his grip start to falter. He readjusted himself and added his right hand to holding Twilight, allowing him to renew his grip with his left hand. “I have you.” Twilight looked up offering him hopeful eyes.

Allen continued to hold onto her, fearing the inevitable. Then he heard a voice call out, “Darlings! Hang on, help is on the way!” Rarity came galloping over to them.

“Rarity!” Allen looked over his shoulder as he saw her racing toward them.

She came to a stop behind Allen and then without any hesitation, she dropped to the ground and wrapped her forelegs around him. “I’ve got you, Allen, darling!”

Allen let out a sigh; Rarity had a firm grip around him and offered a much-needed anchor to make it just a little easier to hang onto Twilight. “Thank you, Rarity. Twilight, I’m going to try pulling you up again!”

“Okay.” Twilight replied uneasily. Allen went to pull her up, but as Twilight firmed her grip to the edge of the cliff, a portion of it broke off. “Wahhhh!” Her left foreleg flailed and shifted her weight.

Allen’s eyes widened from the added strain, but he felt Rarity clamp down harder. He kept his grip as best he could, while digging up every ounce of strength he had. “I still have you, Twilight.”

Twilight looked up at him. There was still genuine fear in her eyes, but she did manage a brief smile.

“Darlings, are you two okay?” Rarity looked over at Allen.

“Working on it, Rarity.” Allen looked back at her and then back to Twilight. “Man, where’s a Pegasus when you need one?”

Time was running out, Twilight knew Allen couldn’t hold onto her forever. She looked back up at him. “Allen, I think I have an idea…I!” She blinked. “I’m seeing things!”

“Allen, Twilight!! I’m coming!” Allen joined Twilight in looking up just as Fluttershy came flying in.

“Huh? Fluttershy?” He shook his head incredulously.

The Pegasus came flying in, beating her wings swiftly as she hovered near Twilight. “Hold on Twilight, I’ve got you.” She placed her hooves around the unicorn’s waist. “Allen, you pull and I’ll lift.”

He nodded as he strained to speak. “Okay…Fluttershy.”

Allen tried to pull Twilight up again, while Fluttershy started to lift up as her wings kept her aloft. Twilight watched the others closely as she finally was raised off the side of the cliff. Once she was up, the group moved back from the ledge, just as another section of the cliff broke off and toppled down the side of the mountain.

Allen joined the others sitting there, taking a moment to catch his breath. Fluttershy landed and trotted over to him. She placed a caring hoof on his shoulder. “Allen, are you okay?”

He looked over at Fluttershy and smiled. “Yeah. Thank you so much for your help, Fluttershy.” Allen smiled at her. “I never expected to see you do something like that.”

Her cheeks turned a little red. “Yes, well, you…and my friends were in danger.” Fluttershy sighed and placed a hoof over her chest. “I know I’m hardly the bravest pony in Equestria, but I won’t stand idly if my friends need me.” She gave Allen a warm smile.

“Aww, Fluttershy.” He returned her smile and didn’t hesitate to draw her into a friendly hug. “You were amazing.”

“Huh…me, amazing. I uh…oh my.” Fluttershy closed her eyes as her blush deepened. She wasn’t used to getting such praise, which was why she hardly knew what else to say.

Allen just smiled as he let her go. Then, he looked over and saw Twilight. She was sitting on her rump and had a half-baffled look on her face. He rose to his feet, a little wobbly at first. Then started to walk.

“Darling, are you okay?” Rarity looked up at him.

He gave her a gracious smile as he looked down at her. “Of course. I can’t thank you enough for helping, Rarity. You and Fluttershy were amazing.”

Rarity waved a dismissing hoof. “Aww, I was just helping out friends. I mean, you’d have done the same for me, wouldn’t you?” She gave Allen big eyes.

He chuckled at her. “Of course I would, for you or for anypony. I’m grateful to all of you. Oh, Twilight. Excuse me, Rarity.”

She shared his warm smile. “Of course, darling.”

Allen stepped away from Rarity and walked over to the slightly frazzled Twilight. He knelt down beside her. “Twilight, are you all right?” He placed a hand on her lavender shoulder.

“Huh?” She looked up at him. “Oh, yeah. A little sore, maybe a bruise or two.”

Allen looked her over. “Hmm, yeah, you don’t seem to be cut or banged up too badly. Thank goodness.” He sighed. Then, while looking at her, Allen hugged her. “I was worried about you.”

“Mmm.” Twilight placed her forelegs around him and hugged him back. “Allen. I was worried about you too.” They pulled back, but stayed embraced. “You held on all that time.” Her eyes were a little glassy.

Allen gave her a warm and somewhat tired face. “Yeah, I did. I wasn’t sure if my grip would hold, especially once that piece of the ledge broke.”

“Well, I’m grateful. Thank you.” Twilight smiled and giggled.

He shook his head. “Don’t thank me. Fluttershy and Rarity deserve more of the credit.” Allen sighed. “Without them, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Twilight smiled. “Oh, I’m sure you’d have thought of something.”

He shared her smile. “Yeah, you're right.” There was a beep from Allen’s pocket. “Wait, my phone. The app must have found something.” He pulled out his phone and checked the screen. “At last. We’re getting closer now.” Allen rose to his feet and glanced at Twilight. “Are you ready?”

Twilight stood up and steadied herself. “Yep, I’m good to go.” She was just a little wobbly as she stood there.

“Rarity, Fluttershy, come on you two. Let’s find the others and then get the recall rod. Before anything else can happen.” Allen looked around thoroughly, then motioned to them the way his phone pointed. Twilight stayed close to Allen as Fluttershy and Rarity joined them.

* * * * * *

The sun was nearing its zenith in the cerulean sky as Princess Luna made her way through the Canterlot Royal Gardens. She looked around, but found no sign of her sister.

Celestia was a good twenty yards from Luna, surrounded by lush trees, shrubs and bushes. She was facing a stone memorial and took in a shaky breath. Tears were in her eyes as she gazed at the simple monument. She could no longer make out the message inscribed because the tears had blurred her vision. Celestia sighed heavily. “It’s foolish, I know…but…” She took a few steps closer and ran a gilded hoof along the slab. “I still miss you.”

“Celestia…sister, there you are.” Luna stepped softly as she walked up to the elder princess. She saw the monument and then the sorrowful look on Celestia’s face. “Aww, sister…it’s all this talk of humans again…isn’t it?”

She turned Luna’s way, while her lower lip quivered a little. “Please, Luna.” She held up a hoof. “Leave me…I do not wish for you to see me like this.”

Then, to Celestia’s surprise, she noticed her sister’s loving hooves ensnare her into a hug. “Come on now, Celestia…Tia…you know I can’t do that.”

Celestia sobbed a little. “Th-th-thank you, L-Luna, Lulu.” She sniffled and wiped away a few tears, then cast out another heavy sigh. “You’re right. It’s because of Allen’s arrival. That was why I came here…I wanted to pay my respects.”

Luna joined Celestia in looking at the large pillar of stone. “Yes. I must confess to feeling choked up at the thought of him as well. Trevor was a dear, dear friend.”

“He was, Luna…and more. And I still miss him.” She took in another staggered breath. “I will never forget his sacrifice for you…for me, and for everypony.” Celestia held up a hoof.

“Never.” Luna hugged Celestia again. “We will never forget our friend. I only hope wherever he is that he’s happy and at peace.”

Celestia broke out of Luna’s hug and patted her shoulder. Then, she placed her hoof back on the pillar. “Yes…peace. I can only hope and that he is not somewhere suffering.”

“I’m sure he’s fine.” Luna offered her sister a smile.

The elder princess took several steps back and looked toward the west, the direction of the Smokey Mountains. “Did you read Twilight’s letter, the one she sent yesterday afternoon?”

Luna joined Celestia as they stood together gazing toward the mountains. She turned Celestia’s way. “I did.”

“They’re probably well on their way to finding that item Allen lost. I hope their trip is uneventful.” Celestia turned back toward the monument.

Luna placed a supportive hoof on Celestia’s shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll do fine. Allen seems resourceful and we know Twilight and her friends know how to handle themselves in countless situations.”

“That is very true, Luna. It is a shame I will never get to meet Allen. But, I just was not sure I was strong enough.”


Celestia looked Luna’s way. “I am fine. And just in case they did run into any trouble, I dispatched some help earlier this morning to keep an eye on them.”

Luna placed a puzzled hoof to her chin. “Oh, you mean the two guards that accompanied them last time?”

“Yes.” Celestia nodded. “I only hope I was not too late sending them or overly paranoid for doing so.”

Shaking her head, Luna replied, “Of course not. You just wanted to make sure they’d be safe.”

Celestia simply smiled, then Luna’s eyes widened. “Oh right. I hate to interrupt your grieving, but we’re both needed in the throne room. Shining Armor has an update from the western boarder.”

Celestia took a cleansing breath and gave a solemn nod. “Of course. Let us not keep him waiting.” She stood tall and joined Luna as they left the gardens, and made their way to the throne room. Just before they turned to enter the castle, Celestia took one final look at the memorial.

* * * * * *

Fluttershy and Rarity followed close behind Allen and Twilight. The human kept his phone close and checked it every now and then. “Hmm.”

“Anything yet, Allen?” Twilight looked his way.

“Yeah, we gotta be getting closer.” Allen panned his head around. “Now, if only we could find the others.”

“Waaaaaaaa!” Called out the panicked voice of Rainbow Dash.

Allen and the others followed the sound and saw Rainbow streaking in the air, beating her wings frantically, while Pinkie Pie and Applejack darted along below her.

“Girls, what’s the rush?” Twilight held up a hoof.

Applejack and Pinkie Pie skidded to a halt, while Rainbow hovered above them. “What’s the rush? Are ya kiddin’ me? We gotta keep movin’ or that darn thing will get us.”

Twilight blinked. “What will get you, Applejack?”

“That creepy thing that kept following us.” Rainbow’s magenta eyes were wide and fearful.

Allen blinked incredulously. “Wait, something has you scared?”

“What? Scared…well not scared, but uh…on alert, yeah!” Rainbow Dash nodded.

Twilight placed a hoof along her chin. “But, there isn’t anything following you?”

Rainbow Dash glanced back and narrowed her magenta eyes, giving a long hard look. Then, she looked back at Twilight and the others. “Huh, you’re right. I wonder where it went.”

“Wait!” Applejack adjusted her hat and held up a hoof, while looking at Pinkie Pie. “Pinkie, ya getting anything?”

“Huh?” Allen pursed his lips and gave the farm pony a funny look. “Why would she be sensing anything, Applejack?”

Pinkie Pie bounced over to Allen, but her face wasn’t quite as cheerful as usual. “Well, we didn’t know anything was out there, but then we all got a cold chill and then, my tail started to go all frizzy!”

Twilight’s eyes widened. “Frizzy! Doesn’t that mean something spooky is nearby?”

Pinkie nodded. “That’s right, Twilight.” She grinned. “Good memory.”

Twilight closed her eyes and shook her head. “Well, even though it was hard to believe, I’ve learned to respect your ‘Pinkie Sense.’ ”

“ ‘Pinkie Sense?’ ” Allen gave them both a dubious glance.

“It’s a long story, Allen. But needless to say, if Pinkie’s getting any bad vibes, her body twitches will let us know.” Twilight patted Allen’s side.

“Huh. Good to know.” Allen placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. “Pinkie, are you getting anything now?”

Pinkie shook her head and held up a puzzled hoof. “Nope, it’s gone.”

He cast out a quiet sigh. “Good. Then, if you six are ready.” Allen checked his phone. “We’re less than 200 feet from the recall rod.” He followed the path to the right, which lie in the direction his phone pointed. “It’s this way.”

“Right. Come on, girls.” Twilight motioned with a hoof.

“Wait! It’s happening again!” Pinkie’s eyes widened as her tail frizzed.

Allen slowly panned his head over toward Pinkie Pie and saw her tail frizzing. His hand returned to the hilt of his sword. “This…can’t be good.”

There was an odd rustling from nearby. Applejack’s green eyes widened. “Whoa Nelly, it’s back!”

Everyone’s eyes were drawn to the rocky mass ahead. A dark figured emerged from it and stepped into the light. “What is it?!” Allen’s mouth hung open.

“I don’t know, but watch out! It’s got some odd way of protecting itself!” Rainbow Dash took the sky after delivering her warning. “I’ll see if I can get its attention.”


The creature drew closer to them. It had a sleek reptilian figure and was clad with dark gray scales. The beast hissed at them, before opening its mouth wide, then it sprayed a blast of greenish liquid at them.

“Everybody run!” Allen called out in a panicked voice.

The group scattered just as the liquid splashed against a nearby rock. Steam rose up form it as the large chunk of igneous melted into almost nothing.

“Oh great, it can spit acid!” Twilight groaned.

Allen looked back over at her. “Now what? We have to do something.”

The creature noticed Rainbow’s shadow along the ground as it crept closer to the darkened side of a large rocky wall. It craned its head up and spewed its vile acid.

“Whoa!” Rainbow managed to dodge the attack, making it back to the ground. The Pegasus let out a short sigh of relief, before she looked up and noticed a large chunk of rock break away from where the acid had struck. “Aww, rats!”

“Rainbow!” Allen ran toward the Pegasus and managed to knock her out of the way. The hunk of rubble smashed into the ground, narrowly missing them. Allen moved back and carefully returned to his feet. “Rainbow, you okay?”

She looked herself over and grinned. “You bet I am.” Rainbow rose back onto her hooves and ran a hoof behind her rainbow mane. “Uh, thanks for that. I mean I would have been fine, but still.”

“Yeah. I know. You didn’t really need my help.” Allen laughed.

“Watch it!” Rainbow shouted as the creature sprayed another volley of acid. It weakened the rocky overhang above them and sent more debris falling their way. “Aww come on!”

Allen went to cover Rainbow Dash, just as he looked up and saw the debris ensnared in the familiar raspberry glow of Twilight’s magic. “Come on, Rainbow, let’s get out of here.”

“This way you two.” Twilight motioned as she set the debris down. She huffed a little as she wiped the sweat from her forehead. “Whew. That was close.”

“You’re telling me!” Allen ran with Twilight and Rainbow, while the others ran in different directions.

The beast did it’s best to cover the three groups, but finally made for Applejack and Rarity. It hissed at them, while it nimbly drew close to them, moving on its thin but toned arms and legs. The reptile spread its jaws as it unleashed more of its corrosive acid.

“Sweet Celestia! Run, Rarity!”

“You don’t have to tell me twice. Ahhhhh!!” Rarity screamed as she and Applejack did their best to elude the beast.

Twilight skidded to a stop and started channeling magic into her horn. “Let’s see how you like this?” She bore the creature an angry grimace. Aiming her horn, she fired a beam of magical energy at it. It’s slotted yellow eyes widened as it leapt out of the way of her attack. “Darn, I missed!”

Allen came to an abrupt halt and snarled under his breath. “Nuts to this! I’m sick of running.” He drew his sword and held it firmly. “Let’s hope I remember what Blade and Regalas told me.” Steeling himself, Allen took off toward the menacing lizard.

Twilight started making use of her teleport magic attempting to get a clear shot of the creature. She managed to teleport behind it, while her horn lit up with a bright raspberry glow as she channeled more magic into it. Without a word, she unleashed another attack. The beam sailed toward the lizard, but it hunkered to the ground and managed to avoid her attack. “Oh come on! I won’t miss again!”

“Ahhhhh!!” Allen took advantage of the creature being distracted and charged with his sword at the ready. He cleaved at the beast, but to the human’s horror, it stopped the blade with its hand. “What the?!”

It turned its yellow eyes at him and growled. “Raaahhh.”

Allen swallowed hard; his heart nearly leapt into throat. “Now what?” He thought fast as he attempted to pull back his blade, but the creature gripped it tightly, and despite being sharp, it didn’t seem to have cut his foe in the least. Ugh, why am I so useless. I warned the other’s this might happen. No, no…have to stay focused and positive. Remember what Blade and Regalas said. Allen gulped as sweat coated his forehead. Guess I’ll be dining on dirt again.

Just as the creature went to reach for Allen, it stopped. There was a raspberry flash on its back. “Allen!!” Twilight stood nearby, her horn was still glowing brightly.

“Twilight!” Allen only looked the unicorn’s way for a second, before focusing his eyes back on the lizard. It hissed in pain and finally let go of Allen’s sword. Not wasting this opportunity, he stepped back and put some distance between him and the attacker.

The beast panted for a moment and saw the group slowly move from a defensive stance to a more intimidating one. Twilight had managed to injure it and Allen kept his sword at the ready. The others surrounded it, still keeping a cautious distance as they all knew about its vile acid breath.

It slowly panned its serpent-like head around to each of them, its forked tongue slipped out of its lizard lips as it stood proudly. The reptile flexed its jaw, then let out a chilling call, which had a distinct otherworldly quality to it.

Twilight, Allen and the rest of the mane six stood fast, and in a few moments they discovered why the beast had let out that call. More growls filled the air as three more of the beasts crawled out from the rocks and slowly advanced on them.

“Twilight, any thoughts?” Allen looked at her; fear was starting to resonate in his pale green eyes.

“Ohh.” Twilight groaned. Then, she took a cleansing breath. “Guys, we still outnumber them and we know they aren’t invincible.”

Applejack grinned as she went for her rope. “Then, it’s just gonna be a good old fashioned fight.”

“Sure looks that way.” Rainbow Dash snickered.

“Everypony ready?” Twilight looked the group over.

A pair of spears landed near the lead creature. “Yeah!!” Called two voices that Twilight immediately recognized.

“Huh?” She and the others looked to the path they had just come from. There, two of Celestia’s elite guards stood, a brown unicorn and a white Pegasus, clad in their golden armor. “Hey, Crossguard, Solar Light!” Twilight waved at the two of them.

They both nodded, while Solar Light used his magic to recover their spears. Crossguard stepped forward and saluted. “We’re here to render assistance at the request of her majesty Princess Celestia.”

Twilight smiled. “Glad to have you two. Okay now, let’s show these lizards who’s boss!”

The two guards joined the others as the lizards took advantage of their agility and maneuvered to surround the group. Each splayed its jaws and sprayed forth their greenish acid.

Allen and the ponies did their best to elude the assault, but it seemed that even with the addition of the guards this was not going to be an easy battle. Twilight looked to Allen and the others, hoping to think of a way out of this. “Everyone, get ready to…huh?”

Just then the ground under them began to quake. In moments a giant shadow fell over all of them. Allen froze in place, shaking his head. “No, not again. I-i-it can’t be!”

A loud roar pierced the air as the red dragon poked its head over the rocky walls. Twilight whimpered. “Oh, this isn’t good.”

The dragon narrowed its orange eyes and studied the group of Allen, the ponies and the four lizards. It growled under its breath as flaming embers seeped out from around its mouth. Following a quick turn of its head, it opened its mouth and unleashed its powerful fire breath. The cone of flame rained down on one of the lizards. It shrieked out in pain as the flames quickly charred it to cinders. The dragon turned its sites to the other three and quickly rose into the air, beating its massive wings.

In a display Allen found both impressive and horrifying, the dragon quickly saw to dispatching the remaining beasts with its breath. Like the first, they immolated in mere seconds and turned to small piles of ash, which gradually blew away in the mountain breeze.

“Huh! Good riddance!” Bellowed the dragon in a strong voice as it made a smooth landing. He then puffed out a breath and turned to look at Allen and the ponies. “Are all of you okay?”

Allen blinked in disbelief. “Huh? You aren’t going to barbecue us?” He looked up at the dragon, which easily stood some twenty feet tall or more.

The dragon folded his wings and placed a clawed hand over his chest, giving Allen a funny look. “Barbecue? Of course not.”

“Then why…” Allen scratched his head and let the blade of his sword rest on the grass, but kept a firm grip on its hilt. “Why did you attack me the last time I was here?”

The dragon shook his head. “I wasn’t trying to attack you.” He snarled. “I was after those devious snargs.”

“Snargs? Wait, you mean those lizard things?” Allen looked around and only saw the ashy remains of the first one that menaced them.

“That’s right.” The dragon nodded. “They are terrible acid spewing reptiles that are the product of dark magic.”

“Dark magic?” Twilight interjected as she stood beside Allen. “In all my studies of Equestrian history, why haven’t I ever heard of these snargs?”

The dragon gave her a solemn look. “It depends on how far back you’ve studied. And some historical literature from that era was locked away or destroyed.”

“How long ago would that be?” Allen dared to ask.

The dragon placed a claw to his chin. “Hmm, well, I haven’t see snargs in at least twelve centuries. During the darker times of Equestria.”

“Huh. So then, you weren’t after me last time?” Allen blinked, continuing to find it hard to believe he wasn’t originally the dragon’s target.

“No. I had been tracking more of those snargs.” The dragon lowered his head in contrition. “I sincerely apologize if my presence here last time caused any of you any trouble.”

“Wait, wait, wait!” Rainbow Dash flew up to the dragon. “You mean when I flew at you, you weren’t after Allen or driven off when I buzzed around you?”

“Again, no. I didn’t know what you wanted and didn’t have time to ask. There was too much at stake. I had to confirm the presence of those snargs and stop them.”

“I’m confused, why are those there snargs such a bother? I mean, y’all are a great big dragon after all.” Applejack blinked.

“A group of four like that doesn’t pose too much of a threat. But, just like other creatures that lurk in the shadows. They are dangerous in large groups, because they swarm and spew that horrid acid of theirs.” The dragon punched his fist into his other claw. “They are such a menace.” He sighed. “A red dragon like me can deal with a great many of them, but younger and smaller dragons or ponies like you, would be at a huge disadvantage.”

Twilight nodded her head. “Well then, it looks as though we owe you our thanks.”

The dragon smiled. “You are very welcome. I won’t leave anyone to face those creatures alone.”

“Yeah.” Allen waved to the dragon. “And I accept your apology. It just seemed like you were after me. You even used your fire breath on me.” The human rubbed his arm nervously.

The dragon grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry about that. My aim was a little off, but I was actually aiming for snargs. They were hiding in the shadows, and my first volley of fire let me see where one was hiding.”

“Oh. Well, that changes everything…I guess. Huh. Oh, Mr…Dragon, do you have a name?”

“A name? Me?” He smiled and laughed. “They call me Crimson Flame. Uh, you can just call me Crimson. I protect these mountains from danger.”

“Whoa. I’ll bet Spike would have enjoyed meeting you.” Pinkie Pie nodded.

“Spike?” Crimson blinked.

“It’s a long story, Crimson.” Twilight smiled. “Well, it’s a relief to know you aren’t a threat.”

He shook his large head. “No. You have nothing to fear from me. But, now that I’ve confirmed the presence of even more snargs. It’s hard to say how long this break will last. More may return. I won’t know until I meet up with my fellow guardian dragons.”

“Wait.” Allen looked up again. “There’s more than just you?”

Crimson laughed. “You’d better believe it. Here.” He blew a small flame that quickly formed a small shiny object. Crimson puffed a breath on it to cool it, then passed it to Allen.

Allen caught the curious red gem in his hands and looked it over. “What’s this?”

“A dragon stone. If ever you need me. Hold this up and call my name. I can sense its call from a very great distance. But…” Crimson held up a scaly finger. “Only use it in a time of true emergency.”

“All right.” Allen placed it in his pocket. “Thank you, Crimson.”

He smiled and nodded. “Anytime. Now strange creature, I wish you and the ponies a safe trip.”

“Wait, my name is Allen.” Crimson had already started lifting into the air.

The dragon looked down and nodded. “Farewell, Allen!” Crimson turned his focus to the sky and took off further into the mountains.

“Wow. I sure didn’t expect that.” Allen stood there for a minute and just blinked.

Twilight chuckled as she pawed Allen’s side. “Don’t forget, we still need to find the recall rod.”

His eyes widened. “Oh, yeah! Let’s get right on that.” Allen sheathed his sword and fished out his phone. He brought up the app and checked the location. “Well, despite that unplanned battle, looks like the rod is…less than 300 feet…that way.” He pointed up a small path, which looked all too familiar.

Twilight started to follow Allen, then she stopped. “The rest of you, stay here. But, if we aren’t back in five minutes, come after us.”

“Five minutes. Ya got in, Twi.” Applejack nodded. The others offered similar acknowledgements.

Twilight rejoined Allen as they continued up the short path. He kept a close eye on his phone and the path before them. “Looks like it’s right along this plateau, over…HERE!” Allen followed as the phone beeped intently.

“Is that it?” Twilight pointed to a strange black object. Excitement was on her face as she followed Allen over to it.

“Hmm.” He reached down and claimed the item. “Yes. Finally, we found it!” Allen held it up and just stood there for a moment. A gentle breeze whisked through his short brown hair and made Twilight’s mane and tail dance.

“Well?” Twilight looked at Allen eagerly. “Aren’t you going to see if it works?”

He turned her way and nodded. “Yeah. Now, I’m not nearly the scientist that Jim has turned out to be, but I have a basic grasp of the fundamental principles from our experiment. If this thing still works, all I need to do is power it up and hit the return switch.” Allen rotated the rod and revealed the few buttons on it. He pressed the power button and the device whirled to life. “Okay. Looks like its working."

Twilight stayed closed to Allen. She wasn’t sure if she was excited or sad. She turned to him. “Well, is it working?”

He nodded. “Mm-hmm. Here goes.” Allen held up the rod as it began to buzz with energy. A beam of light peeled off the end of the rod and hit a focal point on the dimensional barrier and then simply fizzled. “Huh?” He looked at the rod and hit the recall button again. “Come on.” The device whirled up again and then shorted out, a faint trail of electrical smoke rose up from the emitter.

Twilight looked back to him. “Is that it?”

“I don’t get it. Was it broken from before?” He hit the power switch again, but nothing happened. Allen pressed it three more times, but still nothing. “Nope.” He shook his head. “It’s not working.” He lowered the device and sighed.

* * * * * *

After Allen gave the recall rod a final try, he and Twilight rejoined the others and made their way back to the train platform. Now the group was onboard the express bound for Ponyville.

Twilight sat with Allen as he stared out the window. She placed a hoof on his right hand. “Cheer up, Allen. At least we found the recall rod.”

He turned her way. “Yeah, but how do we repair it? Principles are one thing, but actual construction of such devices is beyond me.” Allen blinked as he gazed into Twilight’s eyes. “But, you might have an idea, right?”

She used her magic to hold up the device. “Hmm. I found a way to recharge your phone. Maybe we can fix the recall rod.”

“Yeah.” Allen nodded.

Twilight looked at the rod some more. “Hmm. There may be a way.”

“Here's hoping.” Allen resumed looking out the window. After another harrowing trip into the Smokey Mountains, he was even more conflicted about whether he should stay or go home. It had already been a little over a week since he arrived in Equestria. Surely his parents were furious by now, but perhaps there was no way for Jim or the others to come back for him.

Allen’s mind returned to entertain the idea of staying in Equestria, but two things made him unsure of this option as well. First off, was he allowed to stay indefinitely? And second, given the vile creatures that call this land home, was this really a place he wanted to live in forever?

He startled a little. Turning to his side, Allen noticed Twilight had leaned against him. She let out an adorable yawn as he smiled and placed an arm around her. His eyes widened for a moment, but as he looked around, aside from the two guards, the other ponies had all fallen asleep. His eyes returned to the lovely unicorn, which was now resting against him. Allen’s heart nearly melted at the sight of her beside him.

Resting his head against Twilight’s, he at least found one thing that would make staying here bearable. It seemed there was no easy answer. He was just going to have to take this one day at a time.

“Allen.” Twilight spoke fondly from within her sleep.

That’s when he remembered, despite all the chaos in the mountains, they did survive, and he even helped save Twilight’s life. “Twilight,” he whispered softly, keeping his arm around her. Allen stayed there with her and let his troubled mind grow silent, besides, just like the others, fatigue was finally starting to set in. Soon, Allen’s eyes fell shut and he drifted off to sleep. The train continued ferrying them all back to Ponyville as it clattered down the rails, leaving the Smokey Mountains far behind them.