The Pros and Cons of Working Over Time

by meanderingNekomata

First published

Minuette and Limestone Pie are bound by the Choosing Stone.

Sometimes we choose who we fall in love with, sometimes life chooses for us. Minuette and Limestone Pie find themselves coming to grips with the latter.

Note: This takes place after the series finale. More specifically, after Twilight's coronation, but before the time skip, so expect a few spoilers. Also features Lyra, Sweetie Drops (or Bonbon), Moondancer, Twilight Sparkle, Princess Luna, Cloudy Quartz, September (y'know, the comic background cameo from Fringe), and doubtless many more in the future the way things are going. I even plan on big things happening for and to some of them.

Credit for the art goes to a great friend of mine, Uma, or @UmaYorokobi on Twitter. If you like the new cover art and maybe wanna support the artist (please do), go check out her stuff. She doesn't do a ton of pony stuff, but she's a huge Wander Over Yonder fan, so if that's your thing, definitely check it out.

Of Stones and Choices

View Online

Across the horizon, all that could be seen were rock formations and clouds for several miles. Off in the distance, silhouetted against dark and dreary clouds, old buildings belonging to rock farms and refineries sat neighboring vast tracts of craggy landscape pockmarked on occasion by canyons, gorges, pits, and ditches. Off to the west, low mountain ranges scraped at the skies while light mist hovered low over the peaks. Here and there the land was dotted with mine carts sitting atop rails which led deep into the crystal mines within the mountains’ vast cave systems.

In the midst of all this stood the Pie Family Rock Farm, isolated from the other farms only by acres of land owned by Igneous Rock and ponies like him. Across these acres, ponies traveled to and fro, planting, harvesting, and tending to various rock formations while others set off for the crystal mines drawing wagons or returned with wagons full of gems and minerals.

Limestone was working in the southern field, harvesting the recent crop of geodes with patience and silence she rarely exhibited outside of her work. She made her way slowly across the southern fields, shattering a geode with a firm swing of a pickaxe and separating the shards into their respective baskets. Across the field her younger sister Marble worked at a slower, albeit less deliberate pace.

What her sister lacked in drive and stamina, Limestone made up for with determination, stubbornness, ambition, and beyond that, she took pride in her work. Sure, the tasks around the farm could be pretty mindless, but they kept her from focusing too much on anything else. Every thought was dedicated to whatever needed doing next. It was during this mental exercise that a bright blue hoof landed on her shoulder, wrenching her from her thoughts and triggering her fight or flight reflex. It was only the shriek of the pony in question that stayed Limestone’s pickaxe inches from her muzzle.

She set the tool aside and glared at the unicorn mare, all the while looking her up and down. The pony had clean cyan fur accompanied by a two-tone mane in a darker shade of blue and off-white. Her eyes shared the dark blue hue of her mane and most startling of all the sight of her was giving Limestone a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“You shouldn’t sneak up on me.” she grumbled. “Lemme guess, you’re the new representative here to pick up the Manehattan shipment, right? You’ll need to speak with my old man over in the eastern fields, he’ll…”

The mare ceased her thousand yard stare, shook her head and crossed her hooves, “No no no, you’ve got the wrong pony. My name’s Minuette, I’m here with the Canterlot Times. I’m here to take photos for an article my coworker’s writing about the revolution of industry in Equestria what with the new methods of rock farming and the implementation of various techniques to harness various minerals and gemstones across many industries from fashion to construc… and I’ve totally lost you, haven’t I?”

Limestone blinked at Minuette. “No, I get it, just, what’s that got to do with me? My father could probably answer any questions your friend has. We don’t have anything against ponies taking pictures of the place. I have geodes to harvest and shards to plant along with several shipments to load and a shed to fix up before sundown. As much as I’d love to help out, I have work to do.” And just like that, she picked up her pickaxe and turned back to her work.

“Okay, I’ll just let you get back to it.” She heard the receding hoofsteps of the mare for a moment, then they stopped. Once again, the mare spoke, this time in a slightly less energetic, softer voice, “Think maybe once you’re done, you can show me around? I mean, it's hard to know what to snap photos of without the somepony who can tell me heads from tails in this place, y’know?”

Limestone sighed. A beat. Two.

“Well, if you’re not up for it, I guess I could just…”

“I’ll do it.” the dark gray mare replied in her gravelly tone. “If you’re willing to stick around here a few hours, I’ll be with you when I’m finished. In the meantime, you can get some pictures of the farm in operation.”

“Okay!” Minuette replied in her usual bright, cheery manner. “By the way, I never did get your name.”

“Limestone, Limestone Pie.” she grunted, then smashed a geode.


The next few hours passed relatively quickly with Minuette cataloging life on the farm and Limestone stopping to explain what she and Marble were doing when Minuette seemed confused. The sun was down by the time Limestone trotted over to where Minuette sat, scrolling through her images on the digital camera. The wind had shifted and her mane was starting to blow into her face.

The mare looked up from her camera and upon spotting her, waving with a smile that spread all the way from one end of her muzzle to the other before attempting once again to blow the hair from her face. Limestone was surprised to find herself tempted to return the gesture. There was something about this mare, she decided. For some reason,she found that she didn’t want to say anything that might push her away. It was a strange sensation, but not an unpleasant one. Still, she fought it for reasons she couldn’t quite explain even to herself and made her way stoically over.

“Hey! So, Limestone, I’ve been thinking,” Minuette began, “I’ve got enough shots of work around the farm, but I’d still like something to really wow the readers, y’know? I know I’m just the photographer and all, but I wanna show them something beautiful they can’t see back in Canterlot. You don’t happen to have any kind of romantic view or some cultural relic I could catch their eye with, do ya? Y’know… maybe something with a story I can share with the writer to give the story some more pizazz? I’m not asking for too much am I? Cuz I can totally back off if I’m being unrealistic.”

“Well, there’s really not much. There’s Holder’s Boulder, but that’s more a family heirloom and I don’t like letting non-family members near it... there… is the Choosing Stone if you’re interested in seeing that. B-but don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not like I’m asking you to see it with me, or anything. Just, it’s the closest place I can think of besides the gem caves and it’s starting to get late.”

Minuette gave her a quizzical look as her cheeks burned a darker hue. “What’s the Choosing Stone?”

“You really wanna know?”

“Totally, I wouldn’t have asked otherwise. Show me! Oh, and I’d love to hear the story of this thing.”

Limestone groaned, then began to trot further south. “Okay, fine. The way my parents tell it, there was once a time when it wasn’t so easy to keep anypony out here to work the farms. Fillies, mares, colts, and stallions would constantly go stir crazy and run off searching for love and livelihood in the big city. A few farms shut down, most that didn’t were forced to hire outside help, and with less families moving out here and more moving away it became a bit of a cycle. Land became pretty cheap for awhile, which is part of the reason the Pie Family Farm grew as much as it did. Anyway, one day, one of our ancestors stumbled upon a magic stone with the power to show a pony their destined partner. He called it the Choosing Stone, bought the land on which it stood, and made it open to any and all. Ever since, it has boosted the morale around here so that most of the ponies that settle here don’t have to worry about the possibility of being alone for the rest of their lives just because they live out in the middle of nowhere. Not that I really need the motivation to stick around. I’ve got my family and besides, I’m gonna run this place one day.”

“So, you don’t have any big romantic plans? No fantasies of a somepony to sweep you off your hooves?” Minuette mock swooned, cocking an eyebrow as she nudged the rock pony in the side.

She looked away. “I-I n-never said that, maybe I don’t wanna be swept off my hooves or anything like that. Still, I… don’t focus on it. Sure, Maud’s got herself a special somepony and that’s good for her, but me? I can’t really afford to run off like her or Pinkie. This is my life, and I sure as Tartarus don’t plan on letting some other family take the Pie Rock Farm from me if I get matched with somepony around here.”

“And if you did find out your soulmate? Would you really just ignore them if they didn’t fit with your life here?”

Trotting a bit quicker, she overtook the cyan pony and said, “C-come on, it’s j-just up ahead.”


The mares trotted past a field of amethyst geodes into a clear patch of land at the edge of a deep and imposing gorge. In the center of their field of vision, a few feet from the edge of a jagged promontory, a large stone stood tall and imposing against the granite fields, starry void, and the chasm beyond. The moon seemed to silhouette the oblong stone perfectly as Minuette stared up at it in wonder. “So…”

Minuette blinked several times, turned around and asked, “how does it work?”

A gravelly voice called out from several feet away, “You just touch it, I think? Maybe ask who your destined pony is in your head? I dunno, they never really explained it, but then I never really asked. Why?”

“And here I thought I’d have to yodel or something.” She said, giving Limestone what she hoped came off as a sly grin and not constipation. The blue mare cantered over and around the stone several times. She took a deep breath in, then out, and put a shaky hoof to the cool, smooth surface of the stone.

For a second, nothing happened. Then, as she thought out her question, she felt a warmth flooding the stone, travelling through her from her fetlock to where her cutie mark sat on her flank. In the next moment she looked up at the tip of the oblong rock, there it was swirling around it like a dog chasing its own tail. She heard a gasp behind her. Shortly after, the image of an hourglass was chased by the image of a lime hovering over two small pale stones.

Both mares remained silent for a beat. Two. Three. As soon as Minuette regained her faculties, her hooves flew to her camera and she snapped a photo of the scene before them. Sure enough, the image in the camera’s display reflected exactly what she saw before her.

She’d never really put much stock in fate. Given her cutie mark, her abilities, she never thought destiny had anything set in stone for her. But here it was, writing on the wall, or the rock, rather.Then she heard the voice echoed inside her head, soft and feminine.

Minuette and Limestone Pie, thou art bound to each other in destiny and in love. Though it be not yet realized, thou shalt love one another in time. Go forth and do not fear this uncertain ground that you shall yet tread.

With that, the cutie marks vanished from where they had circled the tip of the spire. Looking back, she saw Limestone still behind her, still, silent. “H-hey um… Limestone? Er… I’m not alone, right? I mean uh, you heard that too, right?”

Limestone blinked, then blinked again. “T-Th-this has to be a joke… I can’t be anypony’s special somepony. I… how… what am I supposed to do?” She trotted over and grabbed Minuette by the shoulders, staring deep into her eyes. “You can’t r-really, love me, right? This has to be a dream. I can’t move to the city, I’ve got the farm and my family to take care of, you’ve gotta understand.”

“Hey... hey, hey. Calm down. This doesn’t have to be some huge deal, right?” She brushed a hoof through Limestone’s short light gray mane. The hair was smoother than she first thought. She wondered what conditioner she used. “I mean, I’m not gonna lie, I don’t exactly find you unattractive. I’m single, you’re single, we both have a preference for mares if your butch appearance is anything to go by. No offense, of course, it looks damn good on you! Sure, we don’t exactly know each other but maybe this could be a good thing if we let it. No need to freak out, I mean, unless you actually don’t like me or something. You don’t happen to secretly hate my guts do ya?” Minuette gave Limestone a wry grin, or at least she tried for a wry grin, or was it sly she was going for. Or maybe smug, confident? Whichever one said “I’m totally not out of my depth and know exactly what I’m doing.” She wasn’t quite sure, so she faltered a bit. There was a fair chance she could blame the whole thing on being flustered by the whole series of events, but that would defeat the point and now wasn’t the time for being relatable, so she tried to make it seem intentional.

Limestone started to breathe more evenly. “N-no, I don’t hate you. You seem nice, soft, warm, very forthcoming and open, I don’t really have any reason to doubt what I saw and heard it’s just… I dunno, unexpected. I didn’t exactly plan on this. I mean deep down I always knew this could happen, I just thought I’d have more time. Maybe you’re right, maybe this can be good but won’t it be hard on you? You work and live in Canterlot, right? You probably have friends there, and living on a rock farm’s hard work and… and it’s not like I could leave or visit often.”

Minuette put a hoof to her muzzle and kept it there for a moment. “Shh, look at me, just stop thinking for a second.” When she removed her hoof, she leaned in, closed her eyes, and kissed her. It took several seconds for Limestone’s head to catch up to what was happening, but once it did, she relaxed into the kiss. Her eyes drifted closed with the feel of the other mare’s lips on hers and time stood still. She felt warm, like she was melting but not in a bad way. Her mind drifted on soft clouds as she lost herself in the feeling. And then, all too soon, it ended.

When the two came up for air, Minuette asked, “Soooo, how’s that feel to you?”

The gray mare trembled slightly. “Uhhh, what?”

Minuette stifled a chuckle. “We don’t have to nail everything down right away. Let’s just enjoy the moment. One thing at a time, girl!”

“Right, one thing at a time, okay, yeah, that sounds… good.”

“Y’know, beneath all that rough surface, you can be pretty cute sometimes.”

Limestone groaned, then, “I could take you back to Maud’s room, she’s in Ponyville now and the train’s not coming til’ morning, so…”

“Yeah… yeah, I think I’d like that.” Minuette interrupted, though whether that sentence was going to have an ending beyond “so” was honestly debatable as far as she was concerned, so she didn’t quite consider it as such. Or at the very least she’d been invited to interrupt, there, that had to be it. She swore she was putting way too much thought into all this. But then, maybe this was just her coping mechanism for sudden and inexplicable change. She sighed softly to herself. Deep down, she always knew she should’ve gone for that degree in psychology.

Anyway, for now she just needed to focus on trotting back to the farmhouse and the fact that she had a potential hot marefriend who was also Pinkie’s dependable older sister now that she thought about it. “Wait a minute, back the train up,” she thought “I might be dating Pinkie Pie’s hot older sister!?”

Together the two mares trotted off into the night beyond, unaware of a shadowy figure slowly emerged from behind a large amethyst geode. The mare smiled meekly to herself and brushed her mane back over her left eye before taking a roundabout route back to the house.

What the Night Brings

View Online

Limestone’s room was a small, sparse place with a bunk bed she shared with her sister Marble. The walls were barren and gray, in one corner there was a desk stocked with stationary, ink, quills, envelopes, and stamps. This was one of the few luxuries the sisters had indulged in so that they could keep in contact when Pinkie first moved to Ponyville. Aside from these, the only fixtures were a bedside lamp on a small table, a night light Marble still used to go to sleep, and a single dresser the girls shared.

The lights were out and Limestone had only just begun to settle down when a sound startled her. She opened her eyes and sat up, noticing the shadow of her sister in the dim light provided by the night light. Limestone rubbed at her eye with her hoof and gave a slight yawn.

“Hey Marble, what’s got you out past sundown? Usually you’re in bed before me.” she rasped.

The younger sister stopped dead. “I… uh… c-c-congra- I mean, I was just finishing… helping out with the...” she looked around the room. “Oh! I was talking to that writer, the one from the paper.”

Limestone facehoofed. “Nice try Marble, but you’re a horrible liar, even if I didn’t already know that writer took the last train back to Canterlot around nine, I know for a fact that you find it hard to say a word to anyone you haven’t known at least half your life. Or do you not remember what a great conversationalist you were when Applejack and family came down for Hearthswarming?”

She blushed, “Th-that wasn’t, uh, I just… I wasn’t that b-bad.”

“Mmhmm, anyways, spill. C’mon, it’s not like you got in any real trouble. Even if you somehow broke a wagon it’s nothing I can’t help fix.”

“Mmrgh, w-well alright, but you can’t get mad.” the lighter mare whispered in as firm a voice as Limestone ever heard from her sister.

She waved a hoof. “Fine, fine. I’m too tired to be angry anyways. You break my pickaxe or something? Used my toothbrush? What?”

“I, okay, I um… I kind of followed you earlier tonight.” Marble’s said, her voice growing softer as she went while she ran one of her hooves back and forth through her mane. “When… when you were showing Minuette the… the Ch-Choosing Stone…”

Her elder sister sat there a moment. Two. She shifted so that her hooves were behind her and her muzzle was aimed at the top ceiling.

“I-It was wrong of me to spy on you like that, but I’ve never really seen you act like that around anypony. You n-never mentioned, I-I mean I never hear you talk about... rrgh...” the younger sister took a breath to steady herself. “It’s just, sometimes you say things that make me think you’re lonely out here. Look, I just, I know it sounds odd coming from me of all ponies, but I feel like you need more than just us in your life. You’re my big sister, you do so much for me and the family, and this seemed like a chance for me to help in some way, maybe.”

Marble heard her sister shift in the bed before her head peered out from behind the wooden railing above her. “So, you saw that, huh? Not sure what you could’ve done, I’m not even sure how I feel about it all yet. Still got a lot to sort out in my head, it’s all surprising and sudden, and I never really planned on any of it. You know how I am, I plan for things, I’m not good with stuff like this. I’m not even sure I can really handle other ponies in more than a business capacity. I know I got onto you earlier about having trouble with the Apples when they came down, but I wasn’t really much better. Even though the Choosing Stone paired us, I can’t help but think this is gonna go at least a dozen different kinds of wrong for both of us.”

As Limestone spoke, her sister climbed up to her bunk and sat beside her. Her expression was hard to make out, let alone read. When the elder sister finished, the younger put a hoof to her shoulder.

“Do you like her?” she asked in a voice that sounded almost as though the words themselves were coated in sugar. It was soft, almost teasing, but still somehow serious. It was a genuine question and Marble expected a serious answer. She never understood how her younger sister could convey her intention so clearly when she still struggled to communicate with unfamiliar ponies to such a degree.

Limestone thought for a few moments before answering. Her sister didn’t push her, didn’t fidget with the plain fabric of the bed, just waited calmly without making a sound. In this way, she truly lived up to her namesake. Anyone who cared enough to chip away at her timid exterior would find that beneath all that anxiety was a strong will and a kind heart. In that moment, she felt compelled to tell Marble how proud she was of her, but she shoved it down. Now wasn’t the time or place and more than that, her sister wanted an answer to her earlier question, saying so now would only come across as deflection anyways.

She allowed her thoughts to turn to Minuette, and let the words spill from her muzzle as they formed in her head. “Do I like Minuette? I think so? I don’t know her that well, but she’s a beautiful mare. I’m definitely attracted to her. Still not really sure what it means exactly to like somepony else… that way, but when I look at her, it’s like I don’t want to do anything that might hurt her. I feel like I need to avoid making a fool of myself in front of her.” She shook her head. “This’ll probably sound dumb but… I want to show off more for some reason, I want her to be proud of me. Celestia, I feel like a foal just saying that. There’s more to it though. When I’m around her, I feel happy and warm, but I also feel unsure of myself. I’m not really sure how to explain it all. If I try to focus on those moments I spent with her, I just can’t put it into words. Part of me says I’m exaggerating everything in my head and I’m just so starved for romance that I’m misinterpreting admiration and desire as genuine attraction. It all just seems so confusing and unclear to me. And then that kiss… it was just… I felt weightless for a moment and that can’t be anything less than me making shit up. I’ve only known the mare for one day! Less than that even! And to top it all off, the Choosing Stone had to go and spell out my destiny before I could begin to wrap my head around my own feelings. How am I supposed to react to that? What am I supposed to do now?” Limestone slumped against her sister and was almost startled when she noticed that tears were streaking their way down her muzzle. She quickly sat up and wiped them away with a hoof.

“Lime…” Marble started.

“R-relax Marble, I’ll be fine… I’m… I’ll figure something out. Sorry for getting so overdramatic, maybe I’ll, I dunno, talk to Pa about it later. If anypony knows about this Choosing Stone stuff, it’s him.”

Marble hesitated for a moment. “Okay, but are you sure that’s a good idea? You know how he is about the Choosing Stone. ‘The ruling of the Stone is absolute,’ remember? The moment you bring this up with him, he’s going to ask when the wedding is, whether you’re ready or not. As far as he’s concerned, you’ll learn to love each other like he and Ma did.”

Limestone hung her head at that. “Yeah, I know, bad idea. Even if it is as inevitable as he claims, I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on her… I m-mean on myself? Us! Ugh, I… I mean, I dunno. For now, I just… need to rest. It’s late, you should get back down to your own bed. We have an early morning tomorrow too.”

Marble nodded and obediently made her way down.

The room went silent. Ten minutes passed. Fifteen. As Limestone lay on her futon, she was almost convinced her sister had passed out on her when she heard that familiar tiny voice from the bunk below.

“I th-think she’s good for you, for what it’s worth. She seems kind and caring, and… and I know you always try to handle everything on your own. M-maybe if this all works out, you could… ”

“I’m not going to leave this farm, Marble. Who’d take over when Ma and Pa bite it if not me, huh? Pinkie and Maud are in Ponyville, and I can’t let all this fall to you or worse, one of the cousins or any of the neighbors looking to buy out Pa’s land. Maybe Minuette can help ease the burden, maybe she can’t, but it’s still mine to bear. Besides, if all those stories about the Choosing Stone are true, we’ll find a way. Our parents did, and Ma was Canterlot nobility. I just need to take this whole… thing one step at a time.”

“Okay.” Marble squeaked.

“Look, just, don’t worry about it. I’ll figure it out. Goodnight, Marble.”


And with that last whisper, the only sound remaining was the shifting of covers, leaving Limestone alone with nothing but her thoughts and feelings. It would be several hours before she finally fell, exhausted, into the peace of slumber.


Maud’s old room was a relatively simple affair. In the corner opposite the door, in front of a single small window, there sat a single bed with a dull gray mattress, a slate gray pillow, and matching sheets. Against the opposite wall there was a simple, seemingly hoofmade bookshelf-desk combo upon which various small stone fragments lay side by side. The shelves housed several books with titles that couldn’t be made to sound even vaguely entertaining or enticing to Minuette no matter how they were read.

A closet adorned the space next to the desk-shelf, within which were several matching bland outfits and an old box with frayed edges. Minuette forced herself to avoid peeking at the contents thus far out of respect for her potential marefriend’s sister’s privacy. Sister in-law? She thought to herself. No, that’d be rushing waaaaay too much.

Following her third or fourth casual survey of the room and its contents, she finally sat down on the bed. It was about as soft as a lumpy old couch, but she’d slept on plenty of couches between her sleepovers with Twinkleshine and Lemon Hearts when they were kids and all the trips they’d taken since. She thought back to the time they got a shitty motel room because there was a convention in Las Pegasus and all the good places had increased rates for everyone except attendees and VIPs. Couch is good, she thought to herself, I could do couch. That decided, she lay down on the bed and stared at the rocks, some of which shimmered, reflecting the glow of the moon which pierced the window behind her.

Unbidden, recent memories washed over her, the Stone, the images of her and Limestone’s cutie marks, the voice, the kiss, the feel of Limestone’s lips against her own. And with those memories, so many feelings swirled around. Even still, she wasn’t sure how to feel about it all. It was as though she was just now coming down from some intense fever dream. Some hot mess of a fever dream with a light gray mane and piercing green eyes.

In the end, it was too much to sit still and she was pacing about the room again like a filly whose parents were taking them to Pony Land in the morning. She couldn’t help it really, she always was the type to get caught up in hype. Stopping at the bedside once more, she allowed herself a few moments to indulge in the memory of that kiss. Wrapping herself in her forehooves, she couldn’t help but let loose a small squee. Looking back at the memory now that the fog had begun to clear, she thought of how forward she had been. More than that, she’d never felt so smooth in her life. In the moment, it just felt like the most natural thing in the world, almost as though Limestone’s lips had a gravity all their own. Thinking about it made her feel torn. Her head said she was rushing things while her heart told her that if she hadn’t, she might’ve regretted it forever.

Minuette considered the kind of pony Limestone was based on what she’d observed over the course of the day. She always acted tough as her namesake, but once her facade was shattered she became so fragile. The look in her eyes after the Choosing Stone had stated its verdict was almost like that of a small animal preparing to bolt. Maybe she would have if things had gone differently. Maybe her barriers would’ve come back up and she’d have run away from it all; if not physically, at least emotionally.

She wouldn’t have blamed her if she had. This whole destiny thing seemed pretty intimidating and even Minuette couldn’t quite shake the feeling of helplessness in the face of it all. It felt wrong in a way, like simply having knowledge of the pony you’re destined to be with screwed with how things were supposed to happen. But then maybe the visit to the Choosing Stone itself was destiny? Would that mean that everyone who went there was never meant to find out about their special somepony in one of those traditional charming ways she’d always heard about from couples or her parents when they told her how they met? Was that how she was always meant to meet the love of her life? No bumping into each other in a coffee shop, no one night stand grown into something more, no rivals to lovers story? Just point A to point B, forced together in the bluntest possible manner by a very literal fate? Where was the romance in that? If this were a romance novel, she’d call out the bad writing almost immediately! Where was the build up, the will they won’t they? Sure, readers usually knew that the couple gets together in the end, but the couple themselves shouldn’t know that!

No, she could still save this. It was an odd circumstance to be sure, but that just made their meeting more… unique, even if it was hard to believe. Besides, Minuette had seen stranger things, even read the young adult book series by the same name when her friends got into it. Point being, she was a grown mare, right? If she wanted to believe in breezy tales or tall tales or old mares’ tales, that was her business wasn’t it? Especially if it actually happened to her, well, so long as both she and Limestone hadn’t completely lost their minds or hallucinated everything. No, she had photographic proof, well, proof of their pairing at least. She didn’t think she could’ve recorded the voice even if she had the right equipment or spell on hoof. It was as though the stone had been speaking directly into her mind. Point being, now wasn’t the time to start questioning her sanity in a world filled with magical artifacts and all manner of crazy creatures.

Unable to contain her thoughts any longer, Minuette began to speak them aloud, “Okay, so then what do I do next? Do I even do anything? I’ve got a train to catch early tomorrow and photos to go through and, wait, I probably need a different shot of the Choosing Stone to use. I mean, no sense broadcasting what happened to all of Canterlot, that would really suck. At the very least I’d probably have the whole office teasing me about it. So, first off I need to do that before I leave. Oh, and should I give Limestone a kiss goodbye or would that be too forward or too much too soon? Maybe I should try to make sure her family’s not there when she sends me off just in case, wouldn’t want to make her explain all this before she’s ready.”

A thought dawned on her, one she didn’t like at all. “Unless maybe she’s having second thoughts. Ugh, I wish I knew for sure whether I should be happy or worried or what. I know I hardly know the mare, but I feel like I want to. At the same time everything’s going so fast, it hasn’t even been a day since we met and half the things Pinkie said about her didn’t prepare me for this. I came here expecting her sister Limestone to be some coldhearted, sociopathic bitch with an attitude and a pickaxe to grind, not a sexy butch farm girl with a gruff exterior and a soft side. Rrrrrgh, why’s romance always gotta be so complicated?”

Minuette groaned as she threw herself on the bed. “I need help.” she mumbled into the lumpy pillow.

The Lives and Times

View Online

It was nearly midnight by the time Twinkleshine made it back to Canterlot. She saw a mare with a yellow coat and cerulean mane waiting for her on the platform and trotted over.

“Sooooo?” Lemon Hearts asked, brow arched.

“So what, Lemon? You’re gonna have to be more specific?” her friend coyly replied.

“Soooo, I was wondering how everything went? You’ve been reporting on celebrities and models for like, ever. This is your first time writing a column that’s not about the kind of product Fleur de Lis uses on her mane or what designers Countess Coloratura is wearing for the upcoming Shining Bright tour. Now you’re writing your own piece, you have your work covering travel expenses and to top it all off, you’re working with our best friend as your photographer! Oh, and speaking of that little ball of sunshine, where is she?” Lemon made a show of looking around the station, then turned, making a show of shrugging.

Twinkleshine grinned at that. No matter how much she’d deny it, her friend had a flair for the dramatic. More than a flair even. It wasn’t hard to imagine her on Bridleway or even on the silver screen in Applewood. Ever since the Hearthswarming Eve play in Ponyville way back when, she simply couldn’t deny how stunning she could be in the spotlight, even with their admittedly minor roles. It had taken a few weeks after for Twinkleshine to come to terms with the green-eyed monster which might’ve threatened their friendship had it not been for Minuette.

The mare sighed wistfully at the memories. “She wanted to stay behind since she wants to take more photos, I made sure Igneous Rock and Cloudy Quartz would be okay with putting her up for the night. You know how she can be once she has an idea in her head.”

Lemon groaned. “Don’t remind me, I’m a royal caterer and I don’t think I’ve worked half as many events as she dragged us to. I mean, I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world, just sometimes she can be a bit much. Anyway, enough about that. You didn’t answer my other question! How’s the story going?”

“Well, I’ve only started my research for it, we’ve touched base with some of the local designers and we just finished up at one of the more prominent farms in Rockville, but we still need to visit some manufacturers and refineries in Manehattan. Then there’s some construction firms I wanted to reach out to, both local and in the Crystal Empire, and maybe a day trip to Ponyville to visit Twilight’s school and have some of the kids there answer a small survey about how mineral based products and structures have impacted their lives.” Twinkleshine’s brow furrowed. “I’d love to go beyond the borders of Equestria for further research, but I haven’t quite made a big enough name for myself to get that kind of funding.”

“Sounds like a lot of work. Sure you’re not taking things too far? I’m sure you could write your piece about life on a rock farm with the information you have and call it good. Maybe you’re trying for a promotion or something, but it seems to me like there’s more to this than just the job.” Lemon eyed her suspiciously.

The two mares made their way out of the station and up a Canterlot street. During the day, these streets would be filled with ponies. At the current moment, only a relative few creatures stirred. The atmosphere could’ve passed for eerie if not for the constant glow of street lamps which passed above their heads as they trotted by.

“It’s nothing like that, Lemon, I’m just doing my job the best I can. I’m covering a new topic and I want things to go well. Is there something wrong with taking pride in your work?” Twinkleshine replied.

Lemon rolled her eyes at that. She paused a few moments before speaking, biting her lip. Twinkle noticed, if they weren’t best friends it would’ve been a total move. “Y’know, your mom came to see me the other day. She said you’ve been constantly missing some ‘meetings’ she and your dad set up for you and that I ‘had to talk some sense into you.’ Oh, and she asked if you were seeing anypony.” Twinkleshine grimaced at that. Her mother was a noblepony, and she made sure everypony knew it. And by everypony, that included her daughter.

“Don’t worry,” Lemon continued, sensing her friend’s irritation. “I just told her I’d look into it and asked her to give you some space. I know how overbearing she can be.” Another pause, then: “Tell me if I’m wrong, but it feels like you’re throwing yourself into work to avoid something.”

The ivory mare sighed, her curly pink mane seeming to deflate a little. Lemon Hearts didn’t need the words which came next to tell she had hit the mark.

“Maybe you’re right about that. You always were perceptive. Sometimes too much for your own good.”

Lemon chuckled at that and gave her friend a small nudge. “You’re right about that. If it hadn’t been for me, we might’ve avoided the whole royal wedding fiasco. Still, all that aside, wanna talk about it? C’mon girl, dish, you know I’m not letting you off the hook for this until you spill those beans!”

“Okay, okay, fine. So, you know how I haven’t exactly been thriving when it comes to romance, right?” That earned her an odd look.

“Didn’t you date a mare about six months ago? What was her name? Amethyst something?”

“Amethyst Star, and yes, we didn’t last too long. She was a bit too high maintenance for me. Of course, where my mother is concerned, it doesn’t count since it wasn’t a stallion of noble lineage. You know how the ‘Canterlot elite’ can be.” Twinkle replied a bit too sharply for her liking and she winced. “Sorry, I’m just so… peeved with it all.”

Lemon gave a sympathetic nod, her soft cerulean mane accentuating the gesture as it bobbed and swayed with the motion. “It’s okay, I mean, I still don’t understand that. I get the desire for noble lineage and all among snobby ponies, but why must it be a stallion?”

Twinkle shook her head. “Any noble family who takes their status as seriously as my mother does wants nothing more than to continue their lineage. Adoption to her would be the same in her eyes as foaling a commoner.”

There was an almost imperceptible change in Lemon’s expression. Her face seemed to scrunch up just a bit in the most adorable way, like whenever she tried to work through a puzzle or crossword. “Don’t they have other magical means for two mares to bear children though? Celestia, even for a single mare if she’s up to it.”

The pale pony gave another sad shake of the head. “Any foal brought about by magical means would be an aberration to her.”

“What about artificial insemination or a surrogate? They’re a bit archaic, but there are ponies out there who still do that still…”

This time, Twinkleshine simply cut her off. “Bastard foals, in her opinion. Ridiculous, I know, but that’s how she sees it.”

The yellow mare let out a frustrated sound somewhere between a grunt and a growl. Then she sagged in seeming defeat. “So what’s she trying to do now with these ‘meetings’ you’re apparently missing? Is she dissatisfied with your job? Does she think getting you a more extravagant position may increase your chances of attracting a qualified mate or something?”

Her friend paused for a bit. As a pony of noble upbringing, Twinkleshine had been taught to control her temper from a young age, especially in front of her parents. Thus, the venom which tinged her voice when she finally spoke was like a finely honed dagger. “No, that would almost be better than what she’s doing. She and my father have decided that I am getting to the age where I’m beginning to lose my… 'appeal'. Mother is worried about my chances to such an extent that she has decided we as a family must resort to scheduling marriage interviews in order to ensure I end up with the right pony. Of course mother insists that they are being generous and considerate by not simply arranging a marriage without my input.”

As Lemon listened, her expression shifted from concern to anger, and finally to worry. Finally, a soft, warm fetlock met with Twinkleshine’s shoulder, stopping her in her tracks. Looking over at her friend, she noticed tears were beginning to form. “Twinkle, what if they do? I-if you’re not going to their interview things, maybe they’ll just decide for you.”

The pale unicorn mare beside her took the hint and pulled her dear friend into a calming embrace, stroking her mane in a rhythmic pattern, taking almost instinctual care to ensure not a single lock fell out of place. As Twinkle took in the familiar scent of lilac, she felt the tension within her begin to fade. “Shhh. It’s okay. I’m going to figure this out. If worse comes to worst I can maybe elope with somepony so they can’t go through with it. Keep the act up for a few years and no Canterlot noble worth paying attention to would consider me worth marrying. Tainted goods, and all that garbage. Bonus points if I marry a commoner or a family of lesser standing, even better if my mother particularly disapproves of them.”

Lemon wiped away some of her tears with a hoof. “Won’t your parents disown you?”

Twinkleshine met raspberry eyes with her electric blues. “I don’t care anymore. I’ve lived off my own wages just fine for awhile now. I guess I kinda saw this coming and wanted to make sure I wasn’t completely reliant on them when everything finally fell apart.”

As much as she tried to stay strong, somehow she couldn’t help but tear up a bit. She wasn’t wrong about the situation with her parents, she had every right and reason to hate them and how they’d raised her like their little puppet, but for some reason she just couldn’t. They were her parents, they’d been there for her when she really needed them to be. All that they did was for her benefit, at least in their minds. They loved her in their own twisted way, and as their daughter she couldn’t completely avoid loving them back. There were so many times she wished they would change, that they could just be a normal family, but the only thing that ever seemed to change was their expectations, the height of the hoops she had to clear to avoid their disapproval.

She felt herself pulled back into the hug and just like that, the dam burst. Tears streamed from her eyes for what felt like an hour. When she relented, they made their way to Lemon Hearts’ apartment in silence. Twinkle didn’t deny her invitation to stay the night. It was a small, one bed, one bath, combined kitchen and living room situation with walls which could’ve been paper thin, but she didn’t mind. She welcomed her friend’s comforting embrace as the two drifted off to sleep in each other’s hooves, ignoring the strange, intrusive feelings which could surely only bring pain.


The usual busy streets around Sugarcube Corner had slowed to a virtual crawl as midnight approached and most ponies lie sleeping, cozy in their beds. Mr. and Ms. Cake spooned in their King mattress in a master bedroom upstairs. The Cake twins slept surprisingly soundly in their crib. Meanwhile, in the depths of her Party Cave, Pinkie Pie was wide awake solving her latest mystery with her trusty sidekick, Gummy. She paced back and forth occasionally smacking her pin-covered cork board with a wooden pointer.

“...My Pinkie sense woke me at about 11:37 Ponyville Standard Time tonight, which, if you look at the diagram here is approximately 10:37 in Rockville since they fall under Las Pegasus Eastern Time! Given the time and the fact that there were two tail shakes, we can only assume that the event took place at or around the Choosing Stone, the left eye flutter indicates that it must involve one of my sisters, and the fact that I felt the distinct sensation of a buck to my rear end can only mean that the sister in question can be none other than one Limestone Pie!”

Gummy stared blankly into the distance.

Pinkie nodded several times in quick succession. “That’s exactly right, Gummy! Which brings us to only one conclusion. The Choosing Stone has united my sister with her soulmate, and it’s somepony I know well! So really, it could be anypony. You know what this means, right Gummy?”

The gator sat, sucked in a breath through his nostrils, then released it moments later. He licked his right eye.

The excitement became too much for Pinkie and before even she knew it; she found herself bouncing happy circles around the cave. “You’re on a roll tonight Gummy. We both know I can’t be in two places at once, well, I can, but we don’t want a repeat of the Mirror Pool incident. We’re still not sure if we got all the Pinkies last time. I could’ve sworn I saw one or two back in Manehattan last year. But never fear, Gummy, for I trust you to take care of this place in my place. You really did prove yourself at Twilight’s coronation, even if everything else went wrong. Now I’ll be off to deal with this Super Serious Sister Romance Emergency first thing tomorrow.” The pink pony posited, sliding to a sudden stop. “Good night, Gummy, and gooooooooood luuuuck!”


“Log L96-60W09 Time: 11:53 PM, Location: Canterlot Archives, Code Names: Sweetie Drops and Rook, we are currently in pursuit of a monster called the Librocabra. Our information leads us to believe that its Size Classification is Small and its Threat Classification is Infohazard. While there have been no recent sightings of the beast, it has been brought to our attention that several books have been found entirely empty of contents in the past few days. In the interest of keeping uninvolved citizens out of the way, the Archives are currently closed due to “fumigation.” Instructions are to capture and detain so long as it remains in the public section of the Archives, and to use all necessary force to take it down should it reach the restricted section including potential neutralization. We will now proceed with the search. End of log.” With that, Bonbon pressed the button again on the recorder and turned to Lyra.

"So when do I get an actual code name like yours? I've been thinking something like Lyra Hands or maybe just something short, like Fingers, y'know cuz…"

Bonbon chuckled at that. "I get it Ly, you only bring up humans all the time. Princess Twilight will give you your code name once you've completed a few missions. It's a rule Celestia came up with when the organization was founded. Too many ponies died during their first few missions back then. Giving them codenames early became a bit of a jynx of sorts. That and it gave rookies a reason to be overconfident and you can guess how that ended up. Still, gives you something to work towards and if you make it through enough missions, you get to pick your own. Just don’t forget our motto."

Lyra sidled up to her wife and draped a hoof over her midsection. "Yeah, yeah, ‘dead ponies are the enemy.’ Good thing I got one of Celestia's finest to watch my flank."

"And as much as I don't mind the view, we'd best be getting on with the mission. Don't want this bugger gobbling up anything too important so soon after you made it through basic training." She winked. "Besides, the sooner we finish, the sooner you get to try the new eclair recipe I whipped up."

"Only if I get to try them in bed. I have ideas for a recipe of my own." Lyra said, returning the wink.

Bonbons rolled her eyes. "Okay, okay, later though, if we're successful you can consider it a reward. Now no more distractions. You search the southern bookcases, I'll check the northern ones. Use the Message spell to contact me if you see it. Remember our numbering system for the bookshelves?"

"The letter 'A' followed by the bookshelf number based on the order I check them in from east to west starting with '1,' right?"
"Just so, love. Now let's cut the chatter and get to it."

The two trotted off and began their search. The Canterlot Archives building was about the size of four of Minuette's townhouse, and each row held six bookshelves which were divided into rows of three by a wide central aisle which cut through the center of the establishment. More shelves lined the walls from one end of the room to the other, providing enough space for ponies to comfortably trot between these and the rows of shelves opposite them. With the lights off, the entire place may well have been enveloped in darkness if it weren't for a large portion of the ceiling made of glass which functioned as a sort of giant skylight. At the time, the entire chamber was lit only by the soft luminescence of the moon above and the occasional dim flicker of Light spells when the mares encountered areas too dark for their normal eyesight to make out.

Bonbon was nearing the final group of shelves when Lyra's Message came through the ley lines, penetrating her mind with a shrill shriek of I GOT IT!!! THE WORM IS IN THE BAG!! ER, RIGHT, A15! BON, CAN YOU HEAR ME!? to which she responded, Ow! I can hear you just fine, no need to think so loud! I'll be right over.

When she arrived at Lyra's location, she found the mare dangling the containment unit in her telekinetic "hand" while striking a pose like a foal presenting a large bass after a day on the lake with whichever member of their family was the fishing buff. There was always one, or at least in her experience. "Yep, that's the worm alright, kind of a strange reversal considering the worm's usually the bait, but I'll take it." Bonbon took the clear, cylindrical container and made sure the lock was properly engaged before locking it in her briefcase for safekeeping. As she looked back at Lyra, she noticed her looking around warily. "What's wrong?"

Lyra met her gaze again. "This was way too easy, you sure this was all?"
"Sounds like somepony needs to be reminded of rule 11."

"Don't jynx the mission, I know, it's just that ever since I learned you were some secret agent monster hunter, I thought it was a super dangerous job all the time. And the way the teachers in basic talked about it all seemed so difficult and treacherous."

Bonbon nodded, "Some missions are harder than others, but even some of the simplest missions can go wrong for one reason or another, and the ramifications can be just as bad for failing what should have been an easy mission gone complicated as failing a difficult mission. Fortunately, most of the S-Tier ‘end of Equestria as we know it’ cases are handled by the Elements of Harmony, the Princesses, the Pillars, Discord, one or more of Equestria’s allied powers, and so on down the line. There are times we get called in, but mostly for cleanup or when something needs to be handled quietly. It’s a mixed bag, but its a good idea to err on the side of caution if possible. We probably should check the rest of the Archives just in case.”

“Good idea, I wouldn’t want to return to HQ only to find that the thing reproduced.”

Uneasy looks passed between the two at that thought. “Right, I’m fine with most assignments, but infestations are definitely some of the worst. I still remember the parasprite infestation in Fillydelphia. Sure, they’re easy enough to herd with music but containment or neutralization is another matter entirely. Took twelve agents two whole weeks before we discovered an area with enough natural predators to effectively minimize their population to normal levels and another month to make sure we hadn’t missed any. We still have to send operatives to ensure they haven’t gotten out of hand…” Lyra grinned smugly. “hoof, I meant hoof, at least once a moon. As much as I like to act like the job’s all cloak and dagger, sometimes it can just be a chore.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s most jobs for you,” said Lyra, running a hoof through her mane. “But at least this way I get to see you more often and you don’t gotta be all cagey telling me what happened at work. Besides, the pay is pretty amazing, we both get free lodging pretty much wherever, and the skin tight stealth suits are sexy as Tartarus!”

“I’ll be sure to file that last bit away for later,” her wife replied with a wry grin. “For now, let’s check the rest of the Archives and return to HQ. This place is waaaay too silent for comfort at night.”

The seafoam green mare agreed and the two trotted off to their respective shelves. Meanwhile, dull gray eyes peeked out at them from under a matching fedora. Dull gray eyes belonging to a certain pony with a dull gray suit concealing the front half of a coat slightly lighter in tone. The pony said nothing, watching in silence, and then the pony was gone.


It was an odd situation Minuette found herself in to be sure. There she was, tied up, back to back with a pony she somehow knew was Limestone, and dangling precariously over a jagged cliff. The strange thing was, she barely noticed the situation or, more accurately, she was more concerned with how Limestone was feeling.

She felt the other pony squirm against the ropes and just wanted to comfort her. Time and again, she tried to placate the panicking pony, but each time she opened her mouth, no sound came out. As her fellow bound pony struggled, she found it harder and harder to breathe. Then the rope they were dangling from snapped and they tumbled end over end into the abyss below.

Then she was somewhere else, an empty space. A rope seemed to extend from somewhere inside of her heart into a fog which manifested all around her. The rope grew taut and she was being pulled. So she chose the most logical option she could think of. She chased the rope as fast as she could, but when she reached the mare on the other side, she started running too. Running away from Minuette.

Seeing this, Minuette stopped. The rope grew taut once more and for a few moments she was afraid that her heart would burst out of her. Then the rope moved towards her, as though being reeled in by her heart. There was resistance on the other side, and Minuette understood that the other mare was struggling. Each time the mare struggled, she felt wrong somehow. Like pain, but different.

Slowly, the form of the mare reappeared through the fog, coming closer and closer until the two mares were muzzle to muzzle. The other mare looked terrified. The other mare was Limestone.

Then a form materialized between the two. It was another mare with wings and a horn and dark fur and a flowing mane of stars and it was Luna!!! The third mare looked to Minuette, then to Limestone, back to Minuette. Limestone and the world around Minuette went dull, all except for Luna.

The retired Princess of the Night put a hoof on her shoulder. “It seems that destiny troubles you, my little pony.”

Minuette stared blankly for a few moments before responding, her waking mind slowly catching up. “I guess I’m dreaming, huh. Oh, and welcome, Princes… I mean, Luna? You’re retired now, so is that all right? It’s like it feels wrong to call you Princess now since Twilight’s the new Princess, but I don’t feel right calling you just Luna like we’ve been pals forever either. And also, I figured you were retired, didn’t plan on you dropping in on my dreams anymore. I guess I kinda get it though, not like Twilight… oops, I mean Princess Twilight and her friends can visit pony dreams.”

Luna smiled at that. “You may call me Luna, and we could be friends if that makes it any better for you. So long as you don’t mind the fact that I’ve seen at least a decade worth of your dreams, some of which may have been particularly private or embarrassing. The reason I continue to scour dreams and purge nightmares is in part as you’ve stated. Few other ponies have my abilities in the realm of dreams. Even those that do don’t always feel inclined to help or if they are, may be inexperienced and require guidance before I can begin to leave any portion of Equestria in their hooves. Beyond that, I take joy and pride in my work with dreams, so even when the time comes that I am no longer needed, I cannot guarantee that I will not feel inclined to lend my assistance. As for Twilight, I’m sure she’d make an exception to that formality for an old friend. She is the Princess of Friendship after all.” She ended with a knowing wink.

“Well, I guess being buddies with you is not too different than being friends with my doctor, and we get along well enough. And you don’t even bill me for this dream therapy thing. Hey, maybe you, me, and Celestia could hang some time, wouldn’t that be something!? But anyway, I’m guessing you had a reason for visiting this traumatic nightmare of mine. You said something about destiny?”

Luna looked caught off guard for a moment and Minuette had to stifle a laugh. That certainly was a face. A few seconds later, the former princess’ shoulders relaxed. “I’d love to take you up on the offer, I’ll have to ask my sister if she’d like to join us, of course. Best to brace yourself though, I’m the more… relaxed between us. Back to the matter at hoof though, it seems that you have a fear regarding fate’s ties betwixt you and somepony you care about. It is an interesting situation to say the least, am I in error thinking that the two of you have been bound by the Stone of Prophecy?”

If the moon butt hadn’t had Minuette’s attention before, she did now. “Stone of Prophecy? Is that the real name of the Choosing Stone? Guess it can predict more than somepony’s future spouse, then. Look at us, only maybe our second time meeting and already we’re doing the filly talk gossip thing. Well, if you must know, the answer is yes! A big rock in the middle of Nowheresville, Equestria just pronounced me future mare and wife with Pinkie Pie’s hot sister, Limestone! But wait, there’s more, she has a gruff exterior and a soft interior if you catch my meaning.” She paused a moment, cheeks flushing red. “That’s not innuendo! Anyway, if that’s not enough, she has a life here, never expected to find her soulmate for life so soon, is Tartarus-bent on running the farm one day, and doesn’t want to inconvenience me by making a farmer’s wife of me. It’s all so exciting and confusing and frustrating and I kissed her and it felt so good and Luna, I don’t regret it!” She slumped against the dream alicorn. “So anyways, it’s like you probably figured out when you decided to pop by. I need help. I want to make this work, I’m willing to make compromises, but I don’t wanna just get married and skip all the dating and romantic tension of it all. I’d feel like I was missing out. I don’t wanna grow old with her and have our whole story revolve around some magic rock. But then, she’s a hardworking mare and from the look of things, I doubt she ever takes a break. How does one date that? Do I rush? Do I take things slow and draw her out of her shell? Maybe I’d be better off consulting Princess Cadence with marefriend troubles; call that ‘Plan B’, but for now, what do I do, Luna?”

The ex Mare in the Moon gave her a pensive look. This was gonna be a looooong night. She smiled. She thought of a young foal on a Nightmare Night not too long ago from her perspective. Long, but fun…

Not a Morning Pony

View Online

Morning, for Minuette, came with all the grace of a piano falling from the second story of a Manehattan townhouse. Celestia’s plaything was shining directly in her face, she had a persistent soreness in her back which nearly made her consider contacting a chiropractor, and her mouth felt dry as a desert, reminding her that she hadn’t had anything to drink before bed last night. That settled it, she definitely wasn’t recommending this place on Cloud B&B. Well, to be fair she hadn’t had breakfast yet, but she didn’t exactly expect fine dining here. Or dining at all, for that matter. She hadn’t exactly planned on staying the night and doubted they would want to take the time from their busy schedule to play host to an uninvited guest.

She groaned, rolling out of bed. This would definitely take some getting used to if she ever ended up moving out here. Outside of Pinkie Pie, what did the Pie family have against comfortable living conditions? Maybe she could get a nicer futon shipped out. She shook her head, definitely getting ahead of herself with that one. Well, they did say when two mares got together, they could be married and sharing a home before the month was out. She’d always taken that stereotype with a grain of salt, but maybe with the right mare…

“Nope, slow down, that’s a dangerous way to think of all this.” She said to the empty room. “Ugh, I really need coffee.”

Minuette absentmindedly equipped her saddlebags and camera before stumbling out into the hall, stifling a yawn as she did. Making her way to the dining room, a fragrance caught her attention. It smelled like… waffles? That was odd. She was expecting something more rock-oriented. Sure enough, when she reached the room in question, the Pies sat around a table with plates of waffles, toast, hashbrowns, and glasses of water. Already surprised to see her admittedly presumptuous assumptions dashed, her jaw almost hit the floor when she noticed the extra plate at the table. This was a problem.

She hadn’t even bothered to join them for dinner, she just ate the ready-made meal from she bought from a convenience store in Canterlot before she came. Had they made her dinner last night too? That was just great. Her first impression on Limestone’s parents was as the mare who snubbed their dinner invitation. And come to think of it, Limestone had invited her. She just thought she’d be imposing by accepting. That, and she didn’t think she was in any shape to meet the family of her potential marefriend after all that had happened last night. Life just wasn’t fair sometimes.

She sighed quietly to herself before applying her brightest smile and trotting over to the table. “Good morning! Thank you all sooo much for letting me stay the night, and you even made me a plate for breakfast! Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t even bother introducing myself. I’m Minuette, photographer for the Canterlot Times!” Was that too much energy? Maybe she ought to dial it back a bit. She knew they were Pinkie’s family but nopony really needed more than one Pinkie.

Breathe, Minuette, breathe. You’re doing fine, just gotta make it through breakfast, then you can get that second photo of the Choosing Stone, ask Limestone to walk you to the train station and… uh, play the rest by ear I guess.

Igneous chewed, and chewed, and chewed, and finally swallowed a bite of his waffle with the aid of a sip from his water glass. The entire room was silent for the duration, like they were waiting for him to speak. Minuette was frozen on the spot, the atmosphere seemed so tense that a single wrong word or move could prove disastrous. Finally, he spoke:

“We are pleased to have you here, Minuette. I am called Igneous Rock.” He nodded to the severe mare in the seat to his right, then turned back to stare Minuette dead in the eyes. “This is my betrothed, Cloudy Quartz. It is my understanding that you have already made the acquaintance of our daughters, Limestone and Marble. Do not misunderstand the generosity shown to you by our family. As with all who seek lodging here, we expect diligent labor in return for food, shelter, and respite. We trust that you understand our position.”

He’d spoken slowly, yet deliberately, like every word he said was chosen specifically to convey the exact meaning he intended to get across. His expression and tone said what his words failed to account for. He was not joking, nor was he threatening her if she didn’t go along with what he wanted; but if she didn’t oblige, she didn’t expect to be allowed to stay there again. More than that, there was a note of expectation in his voice which made her feel as though he would be disappointed if she denied him. And, she reminded herself, this may be her future father-in-law. A potential future-father-in-law who just offered me a chance to prove myself to him. Limestone too. She found herself nodding a little too vigorously before she even finished the thought.

“Yes! I mean, cool! I mean, yeah, I uh, I understand.” she looked away as her face colored at the thought of how overeager she’d sounded. Minuette snuck a glance at Limestone to find the mare struggling to contain a chuckle.

He nodded once. “For a single night’s stay, you are to spend four hours in the field. Once breakfast is done, our daughters will show you to your tasks.” With that, the family returned to eating mostly in silence.

She looked down to her waffle, which had already cooled a bit waiting for her to arrive and had only continued to do so as she’d neglected it in favor of the stallion before her. Waffles were one of her favorite breakfast foods. As she bit into it, she wondered what it would be like to have a dad.


Limestone was unsurprised by the development, albeit a bit regretful she hadn’t warned Minuette the night before. Still, that reaction was priceless. She hadn’t seen anypony respond to her father like that since the last time Pinkie was around, and she was family! The closest she’d seen aside from that was a few years ago when Trixie had come and stayed for nearly a year. That mare never was very good at rock farming, no matter how much she insisted otherwise.

Now it was just her and Minuette heading for the gem caves since Marble had opted to give them some alone time, claiming she had a thing to do over in some vague direction she’d pointed to when Minuette had pressed her. Then she ran off in said direction and hid not so stealthily behind one of several boulders they’d be breaking down at some point before sending the components off to be made into kitchen counters, bridges, statues, floor tiles, and office buildings, among other things.

As they trotted off to the caves, Limestone reminisced, telling Minuette about how amazed she’d been when she’d learned all the things that their farm contributed to. The idea that all across Equestria; now even beyond its borders, anywhere a creature looked, they may see Pie family rocks, crystals, and gems built into structures of all kinds, molded into tools, formed into cement for roads and sidewalks, woven into dresses, and adorning accessories made her proud of the work she did every day. When she realized how much she’d been talking, she glanced over at Minuette sheepishly. Since when was she this chatty? Somehow, talking to her like this had just felt so natural, almost like they’d been friends for years.

The mare seemed impressed, easing nerves Limestone hadn’t been aware she’d been having. Taking the silence as an invitation to respond, Minuette asked, “So, how did you get your cutie mark?”

“Oh, this?” asked Limestone, pointing to the mark adorning her flank and grinning slightly at the blush the move elicited from the blue pony. “I discovered a method of creating artificial limestone. One year, a huge order came down from Manehattan. We weren’t as big then as we are now and without that, we wouldn’t have been able to fill the order without putting a huge strain on our workers and resources. There were still other outstanding orders we would need to fill for the following months. All this was happening at a time when I wanted to find my place on the farm, some sort of legacy I could pass on as all my ancestors had before me. When the order came in and I saw how devastated Ma and Pa were about it, I just knew that it was my moment. I figured that if rocks could be broken down into different components, we could use things like sand, dirt, pebbles, and gravel which had once been part of larger rock formations, and stick them back together with the right adhesive to reconstruct the limestone we needed. In the process, I found out it’s much easier to reconstruct the limestone to fit a desired mold or design than to chisel it from existing stone. These days, artificial stone has become a popular cheap alternative to actual stone for construction companies since we get to cut out the middle pony in favor of pre-cut molds. As a result, real stone has gone up in price a bit where it could be more easily substituted for the alternative, with aristocratic ponies putting so much stock in their need to have things which are genuine or real, especially if it’s more expensive. Suits us just fine though, we make a tidy profit on their need to make some aspect of their lives appear genuine to their peers.”

Limestone had heard enough about nobility growing up to have an unfavorable view on most of them. City ponies too, but less so, at least city ponies didn’t go around acting like they were better than everypony else. More often than not, they worked hard and cared about the important things. The only exception she made was for her mother, who had become disillusioned with the noble lifestyle, never treated anypony like they were beneath her, and took the time to understand life on the farm. It was only thanks to her that Limestone was even able to consider the possibility of redeeming qualities in some few members of any group which referred to themselves as noble or part of the elite.

“Yeah, I guess so…” Minuette said with a far off look in her eye.

They were nearing the caves just west of the northern fields when it happened. Limestone had been about to respond, but she spotted a pink speck from the corner of her eye which turned immediately into a pink blur when she turned to look at it. “Oh, shit. No, no no no no!” Almost immediately, she realized something. It was moving in their direction. That could only mean one thing. She knew.

“What!? What is it?” asked Minuette, startled by the sudden reaction.

“Might want to move about a couple hooves to the right.” Limestone replied, getting into position to buck.

The blue mare obeyed and moments later watched as a precisely timed buck from Limestone’s rear hooves impacted the pink mass with a force which propelled Pinkie Pie several feet into the air and sent her sliding a good distance across the hard stone and gravel before jolting up and pouncing on her sister like a rabid dog.

“Limestone! Limestone! Limestone! I knew it! I know the feel of that buck anywhere! So who’s the special pony!? I can’t believe you finally went to the Choosing Stone! ImeanIwassosureyou’dbethelastponytowannaknowwhoyourspecialsomeponywas,butwowwhatasurprise!!!”

“Pinkie.” Limestone grumbled.

“Isn’t that just sooooo crazy!?” Pinkie put a hoof to her chin. “I was even planning to come out here myself to see who mine was again, I feel like I couldn’t see last time cuz they didn’t have their cutie mark and you know I figured out a while ago that the way the Choosing Stone works is a lot like how the Friendship Map in Twilight’s old castle -and it still feels super weird talking about a castle like its an old house- except instead of sending you off to far off destinations to solve friendship problems, it tells you the pony you’re destined to be with forever.”

“Pinkie!” Limestone groaned.

“Y’know, it’s kind of the perfect time for it. Twilight’s Princess of Equestria now, Maud has Mudbriar, Fluttershy and Discord have a thing going on, Lyra and Bonbon are finally married, you’ve found some mystery pony who I apparently know somehow, and…” At that moment, Pinkie’s left ear twitched twice, followed by her right. Her head turned to face the patch of ground where Minuette was now looking on, somewhere between horror and confusion. The party pony sucked in a huge breath. A pink hoof suddenly pointed her way, her smile growing wider than the blue mare had previously considered possible the moment the mare’s gasp ended, startling the blue pony from her gawking. “Minuette!? You’re Limestone’s special somepony!?”

PINKAMENA DIANE PIE!!!” Limestone growled, finally wrenching herself from her sister’s grasp.

“Yeeees Limestone?” Pinkie finally replied with a grin so smug Limestone would deem it illegal if that weren’t such a dumb Pinkie Pie idea. At the same time though, she had no idea what to say now that the worst sister who could’ve possibly found out about this, knew about it. In all the time Limestone knew Pinkie, she had never been able to keep a secret on purpose, especially if it was as important as this. Ma and Pa would know by morning and would be looking into matching wedding gowns and local venues.

“Limestone?” Pinkie asked, waving a hoof in her sister’s face.

Limestone blinked. Hard. No. This was not happening. She felt trapped, the walls were closing in and there was nothing anypony could do about it. Fear and rage coalesced within her and before she knew what she was doing, she had slugged Pinkie across the face.

She was about to go for another swing when Minuette finally came to her senses and stepped between them. “Lime, calm down. Please, let’s all just talk about this. No need to start doing and saying things we can’t take back, okay.” The mare shot Pinkie a look. “That means you too. You’re getting an explanation, but only if you can keep all this between us for now. We’re still figuring things out ourselves and having everypony in Equestria know that we’re… together?” she chanced a glance back at Limestone who sighed and shrugged. There was a slight smile on that face though and Minuette was a camera pony. She had an eye for detail. Looking back to Pinkie, she continued, “So, I need you to Pinkie Pie Promise me you will not breathe a word of this to anypony, especially your parents. Got that, Pinkie?”

The once elated sister’s smile dimmed a bit before Limestone chimed in. “Marble knows, she uh, saw us, so if you want to talk to her about it that’s fine, I guess. Maud is like a steel trap about these things, so you can tell her as long as you let her know it’s a secret.”

Minuette took a second with that one, then nodded, adding, “And I’m not going to be able to keep this from Lyra, Lemon Hearts, Moondancer, and Twinkleshine back home, they’re my besties and I need somepony to unload on aside from your hot sister here. I mean, no, I can’t keep taking that back, it’s like ingrained on my psyche at this point. Can you blame me, she’s fuckin’ rugged!” Limestone turned away at that, but it wasn’t hard for anypony to tell she was turning several shades of red. “Point is, they’re all loyal. None of them will tell. Oh, and Bonbon will probably hear about it from Lyra, but she’s like Maud with these things, steel trap. Something about her work, according to Lyra, but what making candy has to do with keeping secrets is anypony’s guess. Anyway, you don’t have to keep it entirely to yourself if you absolutely need somepony to talk to besides us.”

Pinkie sighed. “You two drive a hard bargain. Okay, I, Pinkamena Diane Pie” she winked at Limestone, who groaned, eliciting a laugh from the pink pony. “swear not to tell anypony about your relationship aside from MaudMarbleLyraSweetieDropsLemonHeartsMoondancerTwinkleshineandGummy cross my hooves and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” She finished up the motions and seemed to finally realize where they were. “Soooo, casanova,” she nudged her sister, “you taking Minny here on a date to the mines? I know they’re pretty beautiful this time of year.”

Limestone applied hoof to face. Pinkie’s face. “No, Pinkie, she’s paying for using Maud’s room last night. She was here late and missed the last train.”

“Oh! You’re gonna teach her how to mine crystals and gems!? Can I come?”

Minuette chimed in, “I thought you said you left this place cuz you were tired of rock farming.”

Pinkie waved a hoof at that. “Nah, just not enough ponies to plan parties for out here. Rock farming’s in our blood. Like, you know how Applebloom doesn’t exactly have an apple cutie mark, but she still helps AJ on their farm when she can? It’s kind of like that but since I’m in Ponyville now, so I don’t help out as much as I used to. Trust me, if Rockville were as full of ponies as Canterlot or Ponyville and most of my friends lived here and Mr. and Ms. Cake had a bakery here and the sky wasn’t so gosh darned gray most of the time, you’d see me here muuuuuuch more often...”


It was past noon by the time the three mares finally left the gem caves and headed for the homestead with carts full of some of the more mature crystals and gems they’d gathered. It was interesting to learn how they utilized the water cycle and regulated temperature within the caves to control their growth. It made Minuette feel almost like the crystals themselves were alive. Between the unofficial tour, taking pictures of the breathtaking views of precious stones, and learning firsthoof how to harvest them, she’d had a surprising amount of fun.

“...And then I touched the Stone and asked my question. Then, all of a sudden our cutie marks were flying off and the thing was talking in our heads, telling us that we’d totally fall for each other and there was nothing we could do about it. And there we are, haven’t known each other for a full day, suddenly told we’re meant for each other and you can guess how that went cuz I’m not going into details. Oh, and I got a picture of our cutie marks all swirling around the top. That about covers it, sounds like something out of a trashy romance fic doesn’t it?” Minuette finished, gauging the Pinkie’s reaction.

“I wouldn’t go thaaat far, wouldn’t wanna hurt the author’s feelings. I’m sure she’s working reeeally hard on this.” she said, winking somewhere beyond Minuette.

“I don’t always understand those weird metaphors, Pink, but I think that almost sounds kind of sweet. Like you’re saying we may not be the perfect couple, but the fact that we were chosen for each other means that fate is working hard to make sure we get a happy ending or something. It is nice to think that we’re probably not gonna end up heartbroken, or dead, or kept apart by feuding noble families who won’t see reason until we kill ourselves over some big misunderstanding.” Minuette draped a hoof over her forehead dramatically.

Pinkie laughed. “Yeah, Poneo and Jewelette isn’t my favorite love story either. I only went cuz Rarity insisted it was the best classic tragic romance of our time, but I kept getting mad at the characters for not just running away together. And where’s the happy ending!? All good romance has to have a happy ending!”

“Right? How about you, Limestone? You’ve been quiet for a bit. Got any favorite plays or musicals?” Minuette asked, giving her a look of encouragement.

“We went to see the Hearthswarming Eve one in Canterlot when I was a filly, A Hearthswarming Tale, I think. That was… not so bad.” Limestone slumped a bit.

“Did something happen?”

“I uh… better get going!” said Pinkie, voice strained and fake smile plastered on her face. She seemed to have deflated a bit at this subject. “Gotta go ask the Stone about my special somepony and get back to Gummy! Probably not a good idea for me to stick around with this big ol’ secret of yours. Besides, three’s a crowd and all that. Hope the date goes well!” The pink pony became a pink blur in the distance once more, stopping only for a moment at the homestead to deposit her cart.

Turning back to Limestone, Minuette noticed the pony’s expression had shifted somewhat. She’d gone stiff, and her eyes tracing the trajectory of her sister. She looked frustrated about something. “Limestone?” she asked.

“Huh, what? Th-this isn’t, I’m not...” the gray mare responded, suddenly jolting back into motion. A hoof flew to her face as if by reflex. Then she went still again, intentionally this time. Her right hoof fell back to her side as she took in a breath and slowly released it. And with that, the calm, collected, and in-control Limestone had returned. “Okay, what I meant to say was please ignore Pinkie. This isn’t a date, it's not good to just throw that word around. I can do better than this. Just because the Choosing Stone paired us together, doesn’t mean I can slack off and just call anything we do together a date. I guess I just want you to know that if I’m going to take you out, I’m going to take it seriously.”

Minuette felt her chest heat up at that. She hadn’t known the mare could be such a romantic. Once again, she vomited her response before her mind entirely registered what was happening. “Is that an invitation?” What was that?! This isn’t the time or place for a line like that! Please, for the love of Celestia, tell me I wasn’t making half-lidded sex eyes at her when I said it.

It was during this self-recriminating train of thought that Limestone made her response. And she had to exert physical effort to avoid cringing at herself when she realized she’d missed it and would have to ask her to repeat herself. “Come again?”

“I said, would next Friday work? I’d do something sooner, but there’s some big fashion event starting up in a few days, so we’ll be busy filling gem orders on until it’s over.”

“Oh, yes! Definitely! I mean, I think I can make that work.”

The rest of the day was a blur. She got another picture of the Choosing Stone, though it was decidedly less glamorous in the light of day than when it was lit by the cool light of the moon. When they reached the station she settled for a hug, deciding she’d rather not push too much, especially with a date already planned. Or in the works. There was really no way of knowing how much of this Limestone had already thought through, after all.

Minuette leaned into the seat cushion and stared out on the barren landscape as it passed by. The seat next to her was as empty as the landscape that passed before her. This was gonna be a long trip.

Unicorns of a Feather

View Online

“And so, I hereby call this Midnight Donut to order.” declared Moondancer, raising her strawberry frosted donut aloft for effect. “Minuette, if you would?”

The mare in question had gathered them all there for a bit of a tradition they had formed based around a book series Twinkleshine read and subsequently shared with the rest of their friend group. It was overall, a relatively simple concept which kept them all closer as friends: whenever one of them had some major announcement or needed support or advice on something, they would call a ‘Midnight Donut.’ Each member of the group would pitch in for a couple assorted batches of donuts to enjoy at one of their homes as they talked through it all. This time, they were at Moondancer’s house. Of course, the books specified a different kind of dessert, but ultimately the mares decided that donuts were kind of their thing.

Minuette stood from her seat on the couch and looked around at each of her friends. “Before I start, I need to give a bit of background. As some of you know, I was in Rockville with Twinkleshine for work a few days ago. Well, while I was there, I met two of Pinkie’s sisters, Limestone and Minuette. They showed me what a day on the farm is like for them and at the end of the tour, Limestone took me to see a magical rock they call the Choosing Stone. Apparently, it’s supposed to tell you the pony you’re destined to fall in love with, so I thought to myself: ‘Well, why not?’” At this point, she couldn’t help noticing Twinkleshine, Lyra, and Lemon Hearts were leaning in with expectant faces. Twinkleshine was even motioning for her to go on now that she’d paused to take them in. Moondancer was at least a bit better at containing her excitement, but she could still see it in her goofy grin and the way she nodded along.

She couldn’t really blame them, despite all their differing interests, romance was a genre they could all get excited over. Maybe it was because they saw themselves in those stories, so whenever one of them was in a relationship, it was always so exciting. Like somepony in their group had become the protagonist of a romance novel. There was a sort of entertainment to the whole thing. Everypony always ended up with such different and unique stories, it could be a surprise to see who they were dating, and best of all, they all got to contribute to that story. At the same time, it was more than that, things like this brought them together, tested, and proved the bonds of their friendship. Bonbon had even become an exciting new addition to their circle of friends.

Deciding she’d kept her besties in suspense long enough, Minuette continued her story. “So, I put a hoof to the Stone and asked who my destined pony partner was. My cutie mark flew right off my flank along with Limestone’s and they started circling the thing! Then it spoke into both of our minds and basically told us we were meant for each other. So basically, long story short, fate has decided that I’m meant to be with Pinkie’s older sister! Correction, Pinkie’s hot older sister! Oh, and she’s taking me on a date next Friday! So, as you can see, I need help.”

Naturally, Twinkleshine was the first to speak up. “Wait, wait, wait, so you’re telling us that I left you alone for one night and you found yourself in a fated romance with a pony you only met that day?!”

“To say nothing of the odds that your special somepony would not only be in Rockville with you at the time, but would be right there with you when it happened!” Moondancer chimed in. “Assuming that this Choosing Stone does exactly what you say it does, and given that it’s you we’re talking about, one of the most well traveled ponies I know, that alone makes the odds at least a million to one! Add in the fact that you just met that day and who knows what other factors to consider regarding this mysterious Limestone character and her situation and it might well be even slimmer.”

“Forget about that!” Lemon Hearts retorted. “What’s she like?! Are you into her?! Is she into you?! How’d she react to all this?! I wanna hear allllllll the details!”

“When can we meet her?” asked Lyra. “I’ll be finishing up on a couple art gallery exhibitions here in Canterlot soon, so maybe Bonbon and I could take a train out with you.” she winked. “Don’t worry, we can be inconspicuous about all this if you haven’t talked to her folks yet, which I’m guessing is the case given the circumstances. Ooh, we could even come up with some cover stories for future dates if you need some time together before bringing it up. I know firsthand that in-laws can be… difficult, future or otherwise.”

“Okay, okay! I’m glad you’re all excited for me.” Minuette waved them off. “I’ll answer all of your questions, don’t worry. Lemme see here, Twinkle, Moon-Moon…”

“Still didn’t agree to that nickname” Moondancer grumbled, cutting her off.

“C’mon, it’s super cute! Besides, I can’t really shorten your name by half like all the others, just ‘Moon’ or ‘Dancer’ sound like they’re missing something and I don’t always feel like calling you by your full name. But what I was gonna say was that I agree with you two about this all being super insane. Like, I wasn’t even really looking for a relationship and I was just curious about who I’d end up with later in life, I never expected it to pair me with the pony who was all of maybe five hooves away at the time. Still, I managed to get photographic proof that it happened, so, definitely not a dream or anything. Now she knows that I know, and I know that she knows, and I kinda ended up kissing her, and said some things that gave the impression I thought we could make it work because I was afraid she’d up and bolt if I didn’t give her a reason not to. Well, that and it just felt right in the moment. Dunno what came over me.”

“Hold on,” Lyra interjected, “you did what?!”

“I’ll get to that one at the end, Lyra. One question at a time, please! So, Lemon Hearts, to answer your questions, she’s really toned, like looks-wise she has some amazing muscle definition, but not in the admittedly kind of freaky Bulk Biceps way. More like one of those models they use for swimsuit and fitness ads. Oh, and she’s an Earth Pony, more on the gray side than Pinkie, but then, at this point I’m pretty sure she’s the anomaly in the family where that’s concerned. She’s got a short, kinda off-white mane which was almost begging for me to run a hoof through it the whole time I was there. Personality-wise, I get the sense that she puts up a tough front to convince herself she’s stronger than she really is because she feels like she has to be. She has a strong sense of responsibility and takes a lot of pride in her work and her family’s farm. I think I like her as a pony and at the very least, I’m definitely physically attracted to her! As for how she feels about me, I’m not entirely sure, I think she likes me though. Or she wants to. She did kind of ask me out on a date, after all.”

Before anypony could respond to that, they heard a knock.

“Oh, I’ll get that!” said Moondancer, trotting out of the room as the others glanced between each other in confusion. They peeked around the corner, into the hallway at the end of which sat Moondancer, an ajar door, and Princess Twilight Sparkle. And they tripped over each other almost on cue, a pillar of peering ponies swiftly became a sprawling pony pile in the middle of the hallway. Out of the pile came a single name echoed by four voices. “Twilight!?”

Twilight gave a sheepish wave around Moondancer. “Hi guys, I guess Moondancer forgot to tell you guys she invited me, huh?”

“You could say that…” said Twinkleshine, stretching out the words as she held her forehooves about an inch apart.

Moondancer tapped a hoof nervously. “Sorry guys, I just wanted it to be a surprise. Y’know, the whole gang’s back together for a night of bonding and all that. Sure, Twilight’s the ruler of Equestria now, but what better way to relieve stress and make her feel at home here in Canterlot. And while she may not be the Princess of Love, I’m sure she’ll have some insight into your new relationship, Minuette! Soooo, what do you all think?”

There was a brief moment of silence before anypony responded. Then, a chorus of nods and agreements from her friends.

“Of course, this is perfect!” exclaimed Twinkleshine.

“Couldn’t have picked a better night.” said Lemon Hearts, nudging Minuette.

“Maybe the sun’ll rise a bit later tomorrow and we can all get a few extra hours of shuteye!” joked Lyra.

“You did remember to tell her to bring donuts, right, Moon Moon?” asked Minuette. “Oh, and feel free to bring Spike along next time, it’s been too long since the last time I saw the little guy.”

Twilight floated a box of donuts out of her bag. “Spike can handle device to raise the sun and moon if I sleep in. And if not, well, I’m sure Equestria can handle a few inconveniences as I settle into my new position. He’s still young for a dragon so I can’t really bring him out this late just yet, you can always visit the castle if you wanna come see him though, Minuette. I’m sure he’d love that! And speaking of love, did I hear something about a new relationship?”

Minuette nodded several times, smile spreading along with a faint blush. “Yep, or at least I think so, it’s kinda this whole complicated magic stone destiny thing. I’ve already gone over it with all of these guys here, but I’m sure I’ve got another summary in me if everypony’s up for it.”

And just like that, with some nods of agreement and words of encouragement from her friends, Minuette began her tale of unexpected romance once more.

“So, a few days ago, I went to Rockville with Twinkle here to take photos for the article she’s working on for The Canterlot Times about the recent improvements in rock farming and their effects on all kinds of industries…”


Princess Twilight Sparkle was sitting on the couch beside Moondancer, still trying to comprehend what she had just heard by the end of Minuette’s story. There was a magical artifact which could determine the special somepony anypony was meant to be with. This artifact pretty much told Minuette that she was destined to be life partners with Pinkie’s sister, Limestone. That meant that her old friend Minuette was going to become Pinkie Pie’s sister in law. It didn’t really help when Lemon Hearts chimed in with Minuette’s earlier account of Limestone’s physical appearance or when Lyra did the same with the stuff about how they kissed, forcing Minuette to elaborate. And to top it all off, Twilight kept coming back to the fact that these were two ponies who had only met a few days ago. All of it seemed like it was going so fast, it gave her a sort of mental whiplash.

Then there was the more pressing concern of the upcoming date. It all just felt like she was in something out of a novel. At the same time, hadn’t she dealt with much more fantastical and strange things between the threats to Equestria and her own ascension to Princesshood? When she thought of it like that, it felt a little less daunting.

Okay, now for the hard part, she thought. Dating advice for a couple joined together by a magical stone, dating advice for Minuette and Limestone. And I’ve never been on a date in my life. Oh please, books, don’t fail me now.

“Do you know where she’s taking you?” Twilight tried, reaching out with her magic for a cruller. She bit into it, only to realize she’d accidentally grabbed a blueberry donut instead. Ah well, blueberry works too.

Minuette swallowed her bite of raspberry glazed with a swig of milk, shrugging before she replied, “No clue, said she’d figure it out and we could meet at the station next Friday around noon. I was honestly half expecting her to have the date on the farm since it’s familiar to her, but I guess it makes sense not to have a date too close to home so her parents don’t find out.” She took another bite, chewed, swallowed, preventing some of the strawberry creme from dripping out with a quick swipe of her tongue. “I’m not sure how well she knows Canterlot though. Maybe she’ll stop by sometime before then and scope out a place or two, maybe she’ll be spontaneous and we’ll just wander around and pick a place. I gotta be honest, the whole not knowing part has me pretty psyched, like, in a good way. I’m not even sure I care all that much where we go. I’m more excited to find out where she picks if anywhere.”

“I get what you mean. Where somepony takes you for a first date does say a lot about them and what they think of you.” Twinkleshine said, matter of factly. “Some generic fancy restaurant may imply something along the lines of ‘I don’t know much about you in particular, but I want to impress you and I’m not afraid of spending a few bits to prove it.’ And while something more personal could say ‘I want to let you in on something I find special, fun, or important,’ it could also mean ‘I haven’t taken the time to pay attention to your interests.’ Likewise, if they go for something more catered to you, it could mean ‘I care about you and want this date to be a special experience for you,’ or it could mean ‘I’m trying to buy your love by giving you what you want, is it working?’ There’s a lot of nuance, and sometimes you have to get to know a pony better before you understand what the date means to them, while other times, it’s plainly obvious from the outset.”

Lemon put a hoof on Twinkle’s shoulder, giving her a knowing smile.

“Yeah, yeah, thanks, Lemon. Sorry if I’m rambling, I just can’t help but be passionate about these things. Sometimes I’m surprised I’m not the one with the heart cutie mark!”

Her friend snickered at that, removing her hoof to cover her muzzle. “And I’m guessing you’d have me taking on all the hard hitting news stories and celebrity gossip then, huh?”

Twinkle gasped dramatically. “Oh, I could hardly do that to you, they’d eat you alive!”

The group chuckled at that before Minuette cut in again. “Okay, so ‘read into where she takes me and try to get inside her head.’ Got it! What about clothes? Should I wear something on the date or go casual. And if I do, should I wear socks? Do you think that would be too much for a first date, or just in case, a second or third date? I’m kinda favoring a natural look at the moment since I kinda have her at a disadvantage being from the city and all, but then I also feel like the right outfit could really dazzle her! But then, I don’t wanna look like I’m trying to get her in bed on date one either. She made it clear that she’s taking this date seriously. I’m not entirely sure how to go about a serious date. I mean, should I even take it as seriously as she is? How do you even go about being a serious dater if you’re the datee? I mean, she didn’t really ask me to, but if she is and I’m not…”

“Minuette!” Lyra interrupted. “Calm down, it’s going to be fine. If there’s anything I’ve learned about relationships, it’s most important to be yourself. If they don’t like you for who you are, they’re not worth your time. Do the date your way and if you mess up, I’m sure you’ll be able to laugh about it later. If not, well, maybe that magic rock isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, or maybe you’ll meet again years down the line as changed ponies and click then, I dunno. And at any rate, best to show your date who she’s dating firsthoof, don’t ya think?”

“Yeah, thanks Lyra.”

“And socks are definitely too forward for a first date,” Lemon Hearts interjected. “Better for a third or fourth, maybe a second if you really think things are going places. As for outfits, I’m sure I can help you throw something together. She’s a farm mare, and worried about the sustainability of a long-distance relationship. You need to make her forget about those worries, really pull her in. Going casual is fine and all, you could probably make it work regardless, but it won’t hurt to give her something to fantasize about.”

“Lemon!” Moondancer chided, blushing slightly.

Twilight laughed. “It’s fine, Moony, Spike’s not around and we’re all grown mares. Honestly, you girls are already pretty on the ball with all the relationship advice. I guess I’ll throw in my two bits too, though. Fair warning though, I’ve still got no experience with the whole ‘dating’ thing, so this comes completely from books and my understanding of friendship as a basis for romantic relationships. The point of a date is to learn about each other, so ask questions, have fun, and try to be her friend first before focusing on all the stuff that comes next. It is only the first date, there’s plenty of time for everything else.”

Minuette nodded. “Thanks, Twilight. I’ll try. Really glad Moon Moon brought you, even if you don’t have a lot to say about what I’m going through, it’s very nice of you to just be here. Oh! And I’ll definitely try to come by the castle from time to time! Maybe I’ll even bring Limestone along at some point if things are still going well. I know, ‘best laid plans of mice and ponies’ and all, but better to hope for the best, right?”

“Probably for the best,” Moondancer agreed, “you’re at your best when you’re cheerful and happy.” She winked. “How else do you think you manage to sucker all of us into taking so many trips and breaks from our otherwise busy lives? I can pretty much guarantee you that if you sweep her up in your enthusiasm and excitement, she won’t stand a chance.”

Minuette’s smile broadened and in a blink, she was noogying her bespeckled friend’s mane with her other hoof around her withers. “C’mon, Moon Moon, you had fun on that trip to Neighagra Falls, and you know it! And I’m not the only pony who loves a good impromptu event or two when the mood strikes me, right, Lyra?”

“Well, I am an event organizer, so it’s kinda my job, and I usually manage to get free tickets. It’d really be a shame to waste them.” Lyra replied. “But trips are fun! She’s got you there, Moon Moon.”

“Not you too!” Moondancer exclaimed, turning to Twilight, “Please don’t start using that nickname too, Twilight.”

Twilight shrugged. “I don’t see what the problem with it is, it’s pretty cute really. But if you really don’t want me to, I can do that for you.”

And for the second time that night, as her friends are fond of saying, the Moon went red.


As the night drew to a close, Moondancer’s friends began to settle in for the night. All except one alicorn princess. They had a tradition of staying the night at the house where the Midnight Donut was held, but Twilight couldn’t be a part of that. She had royal responsibilities, but reassured the group of friends that they might be able to hold the next one in the castle.

Moondancer had invited their old friend along for exactly the reason she’d given Minuette and crew. That wasn’t the only reason though. There was a feeling in her heart she couldn’t quite rid herself of, no matter how much she told herself that pursuing it would be madness. Still, her old flame for her childhood friend stood the test of not only time, but also rank and status.

So then, it was inevitable that Moondancer asked Twilight if she could walk her home. Even knowing that Twilight could easily fly home. Even knowing that she was a powerful alicorn princess who had saved Equestria with her friends several times over and could easily handle any pedestrian threat that may trouble her. Even knowing that she was so far out of her league, she might as well be in another division.

At the same time though, when Twilight mentioned having never dated, she couldn’t help but feel a small hope ignite within her heart. It filled her with warmth, and the night brought with either a feeling of recklessness or confidence, she couldn’t quite decide. When Twilight said okay, the feeling only grew.

It was cold outside when they left, Moondancer and Twilight were bundled in winter coats and hats complementary to their coats as they strolled down nearly empty streets. Moondancer could only imagine it was almost three in the morning when they left. It would take at least thirty minutes to reach the castle by hoof, and she suddenly found guilt joining the bubbling pot of emotion inhabiting her heart. Then, almost inexplicably, determination joined that feeling. If she ever had a chance, it was now. She had to at least try, she couldn’t just let this be the night she inconvenienced Twilight and gave up on her feelings entirely. She’d convinced herself that if she couldn’t let Twilight know her true feelings tonight, she’d never be able to. And then she’d spend the thirty minute walk home mentally berating herself, possibly the rest of her life regretting it.

About nineteen silent minutes into the trip to the castle, she finally spoke up.

“Hey, Twilight?” she asked, voice struggling to rise above a whisper.

Startled, Twilight jolted to a stop, turning to face her friend. “Err, yes Moony?”

“There’s um, something I need to… confess.”

Here it was, moment of truth. Now or never. C’mon Moondancer, just say it! No getting lost in that flowing mane or those deep purple eyes of hers! Just words, just actions! Just like a band-aid! “I’ve had a crush on you since we were fillies!”

And there it was. Maybe that was too much. She’d never felt so exposed in her life, heart pounding, frozen in place, unable to walk back her words no matter how badly she wanted to, waiting for a reply which would likely shatter her in an instant. She fought back the wince which felt like the natural response to incoming blows such as this. I said it. I can’t falter. If I don’t she’ll think it’s a joke. Maybe she’ll think I’m a joke. If she doesn’t already. No, no, none of that. Just stop trembling, dammit!
As Twilight’s muzzle opened to voice her response, Moondancer’s thoughts ejected from her mouth almost like a reflex. “Please don’t make me say it again! It was hard enough the first time!”

“Since…” Twilight repeated.

“Yes,” Moondancer replied.

“So, even now?”

“Yes, even now.”

“Wow, um, so, what happens now?” Twilight asked, giving Moondancer a confused look.

“Uh, you give me a response. I think. I dunno, tell me you like me too or I’m disgusting and you never wanna see my face again. Well, maybe not that extreme, but… I don’t know, Twilight, I figured you just would.” Moondancer replied, gaze going from rigid and terrified to incredulous and mystified.

Twilight tapped at the ground with her hoof a few times. “Well, I uh… I really like your… mane? Celestia, Moony, I’m not sure how to feel about all this. Maybe I like you, maybe I don’t, I just haven’t really had a ton of time to think about it. When I knew you as a filly, I was always just so wrapped up in my books I barely even gave anypony aside from Princess Celestia and my brother the time of day. It still amazes me that anypony considered a pony like me to be their friend. And when we reconnected, I just felt so guilty, like I’d abandoned all of you. After that, I still hardly had any time to see any of you. I don’t hate you, that’s for sure. I’m surprised and flattered to hear that you see me that way. Maybe if we spend some more time together, I’ll see it too. I guess what I mean by all that is yes? Sure? Give it a shot? We can try a few dates and if we both feel the same way or not, we’ll figure things out from there, okay. Just know that I don’t know you like Minuette or Twinkleshine or Lemon Hearts or Lyra do, but even if things don’t work out, I’m sure we can find a way to be friends.” Finally seeming to get a foothold in the conversation, she pointed to her crown and gave her a wink. “I am the Princess of Friendship, after all, and if things do work out, well, my sister-in-law is the Princess of Love.”

“Huh, I uh, didn’t expect that. Wow, thank you? Should I say that, like is that even an appropriate response? I dunno, I just feel like saying thank you for giving me a chance, and thank you for understanding. I’ll give it my all, er, that sounds awkward too, doesn’t it?” Moondancer gushed. Now that the chance had been offered to her, now that the possibility she could have a future with Twilight Sparkle was a reality, she could hardly help it. She needed to show how what her response made her feel. Still, words fell short, so she soon fell into silence again. It was a happy silence though. A hopeful silence.

“So,” Twilight said, after a few more minutes passed, “what do you like about me?”

Anxieties of Bond Consolidation

View Online

Time seemed to somehow simultaneously move at both breakneck and snail’s pace during the days leading up to the date. Minuette was just so excited and nervous with anticipation of the event that it seemed she couldn’t decide on whether she never wanted the day to arrive or wished that it had been yesterday. It was for this reason that when the day itself was upon her, her feelings seemed at war between impatience for the date to begin and a sense of complete unpreparedness, even in spite of her friends’ assistance the past few days.

Lemon Hearts had helped her with her outfit. They decided on something relatively simple for the time being. No dresses, no socks, just some pastel pink horseshoes, blue saddlebags, and a simple yellow scarf. That way, they reasoned, she wouldn’t seem too overdressed if they went somewhere casual or underdressed for anything more elaborate. Or at least, that was the plan. In truth, it wouldn’t be the best if they went anywhere too nice, but then Limestone would stick out as well, so they opted not to worry too much over that possibility.

Twinkleshine and Lyra gave her advice, occasionally disagreeing about dating etiquette and the necessity of certain formalities. While she didn’t expect a date to pull out all the stops, Twinkleshine still expected dates to follow certain rules while Lyra had a more casual, laid back approach.

Moondancer ended up being unavailable ever since their Midnight Donut. She wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. Still, her nerves had kept her from focusing on her friends’ potential problems for the moment, or at least forced her to put them on the backburner for now. Didn’t keep her from being curious though, what was up with Moon Moon? She’d have to get ahold of her once the date was over.

“Okay, Minuette, only an hour left. You’re dressed, ready, you can do this!” She paced another small circle around the first floor of her townhouse. “Just a ten minute walk from here to the station. Should I be early? Would that make me seem too eager? Still, beats sticking around here for another forty-five minutes…” she nodded to herself. “Right, who knows, maybe she’ll be early too. If I really need to, I could just wait in the bathroom and pretend to show up maybe a couple minutes late? Alright, it’s decided…” she breathed in, out. “Opening the door.” Minuette said, narrating her actions aloud now as though the narration itself drove her forward. “And heading to the station.”


-- 50 minutes before the date

“Hey, Twinkle?” Lemon Hearts asked.

“Yeah, Lemon?”

“You know that stuff you told me about your parents and the marriage interviews?”

“Of course, it’s only the stressful background noise of my life right now. Why? You got some harebrained scheme to save me from a loveless marriage and parental disappointment?” Twinkleshine asked, leaning her head back with her right hoof draped over it before giving her friend a wry smile and a wink.

“Well, it’s not really my scheme. You were the one who brought it up last time.”

Twinkle cocked her head to the side, giving her friend a confused expression. “I’m blanking, help me out here?”

Calm down, just be casual about it. Ugh, what am I even doing? She’s one of my best friends, I can’t just… Lemon just stared blankly at Twinkleshine for a moment, caught up in those eyes, the manestyle after which she’d modelled her own. She knew Twinkle wore it better. This just helped her feel closer… closer to the unattainable. Even if she went through with this, she knew her friend would never see her that way. But then, maybe that was why she had to. Right, I can’t just consider myself here. This is about Twinkleshine, not me. The next few years won’t be any different for me, nopony ever measures up anyway. And this is just another way I can help her. As her friend.

Evidently, she had been silent for too long, as she soon saw a white hoof waving in front of her face accompanied by the words “Hey, Equestria to Lemon Hearts. Anypony home?”

“Oh! Sorry! I kind of spaced there a moment, didn’t I?” Lemon replied with a sheepish grin.

Twinkleshine waved it off. “No, it’s fine, now, you were gonna remind me about my brilliant plan.”

“I uh, the marriage plan. You said, y’know, that you could just elope with a friend. Somepony who could act the part of your significant other long enough to get your parents off your back.” Lemon swallowed, as though the action would wash away the anxiety she felt even suggesting what she was about to suggest.

“Oh, right, that.” Twinkleshine gave her a sly grin. “You trying to set me up with somepony, Lem?”

“No, no, no!” Lemon answered almost too fast, waving her hooves as she turned several shades redder. “Y’know what, better to just drop it, it was a stupid idea anyway.”

“Lemon, don’t do that, just tell me. I promise I won’t laugh, no matter who you suggest.” she gave her friend a wink before saying, “If it’s a stallion though, I may have to question if you’re secretly in league with my mother.”

“Oh dear sweet Celestia, no! I’d never do that to you.”

Her friend giggled. “Hey, lighten up, I was only joking. So, who is this mystery mare you’ve got in mind? C’mon, Lemmy, don’t keep me in suspense here.”

Encouraged, Lemon took on a teasing tone. “Okay, I’ll give you a few hints. She’s a unicorn with a yellow coat, a mane on the lighter side as shades of blue go, and she’s known you for years.”

“Wait,” Twinkle said, voice tinged with uncertainty, “you’re not suggesting…“

“I am. I’d like to apply for that position, if it’s open to me. We both know I can be a pretty good actress, and with all the history between us, I’m sure your parents would find it believable.” Lemon smiled wide, aiming for a look of confidence. Fake it til you make it and all that. “Besides, we’re friends. Best friends, even! This way, I can be there for you anytime you need me and we can face your parents together!”

There was a long silence between them. It was the most uncomfortable silence Lemon had ever experienced with Twinkleshine. A chorus of alarm bells sounded in her head, telling her she’d just blown it. Telling her that she was maybe all of a minute away from losing Twinkleshine’s friendship, if not immediately, then gradually through awkwardness. She’d just popped the cap off her feelings for her friend and was about to pay the price. Lemon winced in anticipation of the other mare’s next words. She wanted to take it all back, say it was a joke, some prank, but it was too late now.

Then Twinkleshine spoke. “Are you sure about this, Lemon? It’s not gonna be easy for anypony I go this route with. We’d have to lie to your family too, even if we tell our friends the truth. You’re a really good friend, and I know how selfless you can be, especially when it involves our group. Whoever I do this with would have to be committed to the role, if my parents so much as hear of any outside affairs, they’ll throw us both to the timberwolves in some hope that I’d come to my senses. They’ll put everything we do under intense scrutiny. I really do appreciate you stepping up as my friend, but no matter how I look at this, I’d be asking far too much of you.”

And all at once, Lemon Hearts released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “Is that all?” she asked, barely containing her smile.

The ivory mare stood dumbfounded for a second. Two. Then, regaining her footing in the conversation, “I’m being serious right now. This isn’t going to be another stage play. If we go through with this, it would be the next year or two of our lives at least. And didn’t you have a coltfriend the Hearth’s Warming Eve before last? You won’t be able to look for love during that time if we do this, and if anypony deserves to find the pony of her dreams, it’s you! Hell, maybe even the creature of your dreams, as blasphemous as mother would find me even suggesting that.”

Lemon had to fight to keep from saying what she was thinking at that moment. That she had already found that pony. That it was Twinkleshine who ruined any relationship she tried simply by existing. That the mare who stood before her now was the standard to which she’d held every single date she’d had for the sole reason of forgetting her attraction to one of her best friends. That nopony ever managed to reach that standard. Instead, she said, “My relationships never last. You know that. I’ve been looking for an excuse to stop looking for awhile anyway. And I can’t see myself letting you go through this with anypony else. All our besties have a special somepony in their hearts right now and I wouldn’t trust some random stranger or acquaintance with this. Maybe any skilled actress could make the act believable with enough effort, but if you’re going to spend upwards of two years with a pony you don’t even love,” she sucked in a breath, steeling herself, “then wouldn't it be better if it was somepony you at least like a whole lot. Besides, you’re going to need somepony who can be there for you when things get rough. You’re strong, but I know you. You’ll need somepony to vent to, somepony who understands you, and what better place is there for me at those moments except by your side. I know there’s no place I’d rather be. I'd only worry otherwise.”

Twinkleshine didn’t respond to that. Didn’t have a response for that. Instead, she looked out of the bushes again, and sounded relieved when she announced that the birdie had landed. Minuette, had entered the station.

Her yellow friend put a hoof to her shoulder, waiting for Twinkleshine to turn once more and look her in the eye. “Just think about it, okay. I’m serious about this.”

Swallowing the lump which had lodged itself in her throat, she answered. “I will.”


--30 minutes before the date

Dear Sunset Shimmer,

Hey, how’s it going? What’s new in your world? Any Equestrian magic seeping through the portal and wreaking havoc? Just asking because I know I could use the distraction right about now. That was a joke. I'd probably be too busy to help at the moment even if that were the case. But probably best if I stop wasting both our time and get to the point, huh?
So, about a week ago, an old friend told me she had a crush on me ever since we were in Celestia's School of Magic and I might have told her I’d give her a chance. And by might, I mean that I definitely did. The problem is that I haven’t really seen much of her since we reconnected and I’ve never really properly dated anypony before. Well, that and we haven’t really talked since then. It has been busy between running the kingdom and teaching at the School of Magic, so maybe I missed her. I don’t know, we didn’t exactly set a date last time we talked. Is it normal to spend so long apart from someone you agree to date?
Sorry for writing when you’re probably in class, the royal schedule doesn’t always allow for the best timing and I really need some advice. I know plenty about friendship, but not a lot about dating aside from romance novels and nothing specific to my circumstances. On that note, I’m pretty sure Celestia and Luna never really dated during my lifetime and I’m not sure what the protocol is here. Do I have to disclose this to the whole kingdom or is it something we keep to ourselves? Do I have to invent a new protocol since it's been so long? Is this something I need to talk to Moondancer about or is it my civic duty to share it with my subjects? Did Celestia ever tell you anything?

With that, Twilight closed the book, set down her quill, and let out a sigh. This was going to be a long day.


--10 minutes before the date

Moondancer trotted between a row of bookshelves, eyeing the shelves as she went. She’d been searching for a particular book for the past week now. Apparently, a number of books in the library had been irrevocably damaged during some sort of infestation. Since then, they’d had the library fumigated and orders for copies of damaged books were put out.

Most of the orders came in on Tuesday, but the book she’d been waiting on was one of the few whose delivery had been delayed. According to the head librarian, it had just come in that morning though.

Her eyes traveled over titles, reading them with a speed that came naturally to anypony who read as much and as often as she did. It didn’t take much more than a couple minutes to find what she’d been searching for. Moondancer smiled as she levitated Dating and Romance: A Beginner’s Guide from its place on the shelf. It was a book she’d seen regularly over the years, but until now she simply hadn’t had reason to actually read it. That didn’t mean she wasn’t intrigued by it in the past, only that she usually found herself putting it back with a sigh, telling herself there was no point.

As she placed the relatively thin tome on the table of her usual bench, she found that the usual feeling of hopelessness had morphed into feelings of anticipation of future dates, anxiety over how she might mess up, and regret that she hadn't asked Twilight out before she became the Princess of the entire nation. That, and the fact she hadn't bothered reading this ahead of time. She just wasn’t used to being this unprepared, and romance novels could only help so much. Moondancer was almost certain that over half of Twinkleshine’s suggested reading list was heavily exaggerated. Love was a process, it had rules, ponies didn’t just end up inexplicably attracted to each other for Celestia knew what reason. She had no trouble listing off every single quality she liked about Twilight. Now, it would be up to her to show the Princess of Friendship that she was worthy of her love, and for that she’d need every bit of help she could get.

With no further delay, she flipped the book open to Chapter 1: Planning A First Date.


Limestone took another glance at the tickets she bought on her last trip to Canterlot. She really hoped she was right about Minuette being into this sort of thing. Feeling the train grinding slowly to a halt, she returned the items to her saddlebags and headed to the exit. Her sister’s words echoed in her mind: “Trust me, she’s going to love it. It was Ma’s favorite, remember?”

“Guess I finally get to see for myself at least.” she grumbled under her breath as she detrained. Limestone spotted Minuette almost immediately. The mare was pacing by one of the benches, glancing at the clock which was suspended on a pole like a streetlamp, then to the bathrooms, then to where the train was and back to the restrooms again, and finally freezing in place as her gaze fell upon Limestone. The outfit she was wearing looked nice. But then, she got the feeling that there weren’t too many outfits that Minuette couldn’t make work one way or another.

Noticing that her date hadn’t moved to come meet her since they made eye contact, she took the initiative and trotted over. “Hey, Minuette,” probably best if I start by saying something about her outfit. “that’s a nice look on you.” She, by contrast, was wearing only a set of saddlebags a few shades darker than her coat.

“Thanks,” Minuette said, cheeks flushing slightly, “my friend Lemon Hearts helped me pick out clothes. I’d be lost without her keen eye for these things. So, uh, where are we going?”

“You’ll see when we get there. I figured you for the type who loves surprises. You’ve got a lot in common with Pinkie to be honest, not in a bad way, you’re much more even tempered. Not always ‘on’ like she is. She’s my sister and I love her, but she can be a real hooffull sometimes.”

Minuette giggled at that. “Yeah, I can see that. And you’re right, I do like surprises, I’m just excited and wasn’t sure whether it was the ‘hear about it at the station on the day of’ kinda surprise or the ‘find out when we get there’ kinda surprise. We’re on the same page now. Go ahead, lead the way.”

“Right. Let’s go then.” Limestone replied, sounding as stiff as a board. Worse than that, she realized exactly how her words came out. It was the kind of situation where she’d wish she could go back in time and rephrase or say something better, and somehow she had a feeling that there’d be a lot of that over the course of the date.

Ah well, too late now. Better to plow ahead than waste time on regrets, or so Ma had always told her. So she did just that, absentmindedly taking Minuette by the hoof and striding with purpose in the direction of Canterlot Square.

Dream a Better Dream

View Online

--The night before

“And what have we learned about trying to fight a night terror prior to having a full grasp of the underlying cause?” Luna asked her new team of interns.

“To wage war against the unknown may yield strange crops, indeed. A new path is charted, the road veiled in mist. The Magician, to be sure, but shall it be upright or reversed?” the unicorn mare replied, her far-off gaze falling on nothing in particular. Her alabaster hoof rose only to clear a lock of her flowing periwinkle mane from her forehead, revealing the third eye she had manifested. The two remaining eyes remained tightly shut, as they had all night.

“That night terrors are fuckin’ weird. It was a monster, okay? I thought I could just kill it and everything would go back to normal. Like normally, foal dreams up some monster, you kick it’s ass, crisis averted. They’re not supposed to get worse!” the earth pony stallion complained, his charcoal gray coat and juniper mane blending strangely with the darkness which surrounded them.

A chuckle erupted from their fourth and final member, gradually growing into full blown laughter. “You shoulda seen yourself, all ‘don’t worry child, I’m gonna lay out that baddy out in ten seconds flat.’ Then ya just go to town on it with those runes of yours and it hurls ya right into the nearest rubbish bin! You can’t make this shit up!”

“Oh yeah? I’d like to see you do better!”

“If you recall, I did. It was so obvious, the foal’s a crystal pony, the monster’s a dark shadowy entity that turns the earth to jagged black formations in ‘is wake. I’m new to Equestrian ‘istry and even I know who King Sombra was. Goin’ straight up to the kid with offers of protection is gonna make ‘im peg ya for ‘is father figure. At that point, you were no match for the monster in ‘is mind same as ‘is real dad. S’why ya shoulda used the dream to become something scarier than the monster and crushed it like I did.”

“At least I didn’t lose control and become a flaming ball of rage who nearly destroyed all in his path!”

Silence!” Luna exclaimed in her Royal Canterlot voice, drawing the attention of her interns once more. “The lesson which you should take from this incident is that you must fully understand the nature of the problem which plagues a pony’s subconscious and form a plan which will alleviate the fears and anxieties at the root of the nightmare. Failure to do so properly could cause further damage to their psyche, strengthening their insecurities and hardening their hearts. Sometimes you may even need to simply watch the nightmares play out several times before you fully grasp the situation.” The former royal sighed, “I understand that you are eager to master the art of quelling nightmares and prove yourselves. When I first learned to enter the dreams of ponies, it was with the desire to obtain the same love and respect which was shown to my sister. I thought that if I could appeal to them by slaying the demons which plagued their nightmares, they would praise me for my efforts. That eagerness lead to more than a few mistakes of my own, mistakes which caused irreparable damage to the ponies around in those times. I do not wish for you to follow in my hoofsteps in this regard, so be patient, listen, pay close attention, and act only when you know how to approach the situation.” she gave them all a slight, somber smile.

“There is no flawless path to travel. Errors in judgement are as certain as the northern winds.” proclaimed the unicorn.

“Of that, I have no doubt. But you all have something I never had the benefit of. You have allies and, if you want them to be, possibly friends as well.” Luna turned even as the last sentence left her muzzle, trotting over to the next dream bubble followed by her motley crew of helpers. Her students.


The walls of the establishment were simple, yet sophisticated in their adornments. A few paintings by well known local artisans and and red draperies which hung about the windows. Lights were dimmed, and much of the illumination was instead provided by candles which sat in the center of each and every table. All the while, servers flitted about in a well dressed frenzy, attending to the needs of each guest.

“Pie, table for two?” asked the host, startling Minuette from her reverie.

“Yeah, that’s us.” Limestone answered in her stead.

“Right this way,” the stone faced stallion professionally replied before turning and leading them to one of the tables draped in starch white tablecloth.

Once they had been seated and their drinks had been ordered, Minuette turned to look at Limestone. She was scowling, not at her, but at some of the well dressed ponies sitting adjacent to them.

“Hey, Limestone?”

“Yeah?” Limestone answered, her scowl subsiding as her gaze drifted back to her date.

“You really didn’t need to go to all this trouble, y’know?” Minuette gave a wave of her hoof, indicating the restaurant around them.

“What do you mean?” she asked, warily.

“I mean, I don’t need you to be somepony you’re not just to impress me.” she gave Limestone what she hoped would be interpreted as a reassuring smile.

Limestone’s next response came out almost as a growl. Tears formed and hung in the corners of her eyes, as if held there by sheer force of will. “You don’t think I can handle this. You’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you? Looking down on me, pitying me!”

“No, that’s not-” Minuette tried.

“I knew this was a mistake! I’m better off on the farm! To Tartarus with whatever that dumb rock says!” the mare got up abruptly, knocking over the table in the process and rushing for the exit.

“Wait! Limestone, that’s not what I meant!” Minuette called, starting to give chase.

Meanwhile, the candle rolled freely towards the draperies, catching them alight.


What seemed like hours had passed. Minuette quickly lost track of Limestone in the dark as the street itself seemed to shift about her, confounding her attempts. When she returned to the restaurant, she found fireponies at the scene of a badly charred building. Alarmed, she trotted up to a pegasi mare she remembered seeing at another table. The pony had a beige coat and a brown mane which was currently in a chaotic state, her dress was singed, and she kept glancing back at the damaged structure.

“Excuse me, do you know what happened here?” she asked, even though part of her dreaded the answer.

As she turned to see who had addressed her, the mare’s expression went from somber to angry as recognition flared in her eyes. “You!” she snarled. “You’re the one whose date started the fire!”

“Wait, what!?”

“Don’t even try to play dumb, I saw the way she was staring at us! You two did this on purpose! I already told the police everything and they have her in custody, so don’t even try to weasel your way out of this.”

“They’re taking Limestone to prison? No, no, no! This can’t be happening, this whole thing is just a huge misunderstanding!” Minuette turned to head for the police station, and plowed right into another mare.

“So sorry about that, I’m just in a hurry. I gotta get to the police station.”

“What is done can be undone, for it has not happened and will not be. It is anxiety which blinds you to what is immaterial. Your attempts to deny the fates their due strikes me as comedy most foolish. All is written, as are we, but marionettes drawn by silver strings. Rest assured, your performance shall be most wonderful and kind indeed, my dear, through all struggles which arise. Leave doubts behind you or cling to it as a foal to a beloved trinket, both outcomes remain ever the same. It is only the journey which is uncertain.”

Hearing these strange words, she looked up to see a tall mare with an alabaster coat and a long periwinkle mane. The mare’s build reminded her of Fleur de Lis and a few other upper class ponies. It was a widespread belief among the Canterlot nobility that ponies of such proportions were descendants of royalty, and they usually took care to ensure that everypony knew it. This mare in particular was smiling though. Her eyes seemed shut tight, or at least they did until a breeze caught her mane and revealed the existence of a third, amber iris. She wasn’t prepared for that.

“Who are you?” she asked, intoning the words slowly as she digested the sight before her.

“Hello again, Minuette.” came a familiar voice from behind her. “I apologize for not visiting sooner, things have been busy as of late.”

She turned again to see Luna trotting over, followed by two others. Two stallions, one an earth pony, the other a member of a race she only knew about through Lyra’s fascination with all things cryptid. A kirin.

The creature had violet eyes, a dark blue coat, and a literal mane of lime green hair. His rust red horn was accented with stripes of a lighter shade, and peeked out from a patch of sapphire scales that extended from the top of his face down to his tail.

Minuette looked back to the unicorn from earlier, then to Luna and the stallions flanking her. Finally, she spoke, “I guess this is just a nightmare then, huh? Well, that’s a relief at least. So, Luna, you gonna introduce me to your new friends or are we just gonna sit here giving each other weird looks?”

“Ah, of course, pardon my rudeness. These are my pupils, I am teaching them to handle nightmares in my stead. I’m sure they’re all capable of introducing themselves personally.

“Fair enough. I’ll start then, I’m pretty sure if you’re all here Luna probably told you a bit about me, but my name is Minuette. In any case, it’s nice to meet you all, or nicer than continuing this nightmare anyways.”

As if on cue, the kirin strode up and held out a hoof which she took and shook. “Name’s Winter Breeze, and I bet you’re prolly tryin’ to pin down just what in the blazes I am, am I right?”

She smiled at that. “You’re a kirin, I’ve only ever heard the old stories from a friend of mine though, you guys are in some kinda war with a group called the nirik, right?”

“Whoa, smart lass, but you’re off by a hair, or I guess it’s more ‘long the lines’a the legends’re off. S’like this, right? We kinda are the nirik, but only when we let our anger get th’ better of us. I’d run ya through the whole sorry tale, but we don’t got much time for that.” The kirin returned to his place by Luna’s side and the earth pony took his place.

“Hey, my name’s Grim Harvest. Creepy and dramatic, I know, but my parents had a much more literal reason for naming me this. Basically, I was born during a drought, and my parents own a farm, so they named me in remembrance of the hard times they made it through. Maybe that’s oversharing for somepony I hardly know, but I feel like I need to tell folks ahead of time so they don’t get the wrong idea. I like to think I’m a friendly and helpful guy, so I like to get ahead of it before anypon-er, creature starts judging me for the name.” he pointed to his cutie mark, which consisted of several interlocking symbols arranged in a circular pattern. “Doesn’t help that I have an affinity for crafting and understanding ancient magical runes.”

Minuette winced in sympathy. “Sounds rough, sorry you have to go through that kinda thing. I kinda get what you’re going through though, I get some strange looks when ponies find out my special talent is time magic. I’ve scared a few potential friends and marefriends off with that. They always worry I’m gonna abuse it and rig our conversations or something just so I can manipulate them or make myself look good. All I really use it for is to see more of the world and go to events I might’ve missed otherwise. It’s a whole thing, but basically my rule is that I don’t use it to fix problems, only for fun.”

Grim nodded. “That’s a good way of handling it. All magic has the potential to be harmful, that’s why it’s important for those who use it to do so responsibly.” then he followed Winter’s lead, returning to Luna’s side.

Minuette looked to the mare who had not moved from the spot she occupied beside her since she plowed into her. The mare held her gaze for a good thirty seconds. The silence was long and uncomfortable. When she opened her muzzle to ask the unicorn for her name, she finally spoke, “You may refer to me as Mystic Sibyl. I am merely tangential to your story in most iterations, though the weave does speak of a few rare alternatives in which the cords of our fates become more tightly entangled. So it is, then, that introduction and warning are proper in equal measure. Take care not to become reliant on the gifts of my sight, for darker outcomes shroud that road. To answer your questions: I am fond of poetry and riddles, for they do not provide simple answers. The pink one is known to me. They are the color of the sky immediately following a downpour and what is seen through them is the world as it is, rather than as it shall be. We shall meet again when or if the time is right, you needn’t seek me, though you may.” She smiled ambivalently once more, then trotted away into the darkness of the night.


--The day of the date

As Limestone led her through the streets of Canterlot, Minuette reflected on the encounter she’d had the night prior. Mostly though, she tried to focus on the positive. One line in particular kept coming to mind. Something Mystic said: Leave doubts behind you or cling to it as a foal to a beloved trinket, both outcomes remain ever the same. It is only the journey which is uncertain.

Whatever other meanings had been hidden in her phrasing, Minuette chose to take it as Mystic’s way of telling her to stop doubting herself. She seemed like a nice enough pony once you got past the cryptic, almost monotone manner of speaking and third eye. Luna took a similar tack in the advice she gave Minuette. Even still, it was hard not to worry she’d somehow stick her hoof in her mouth and ruin everything.

Still, she was going to try. It wasn’t as if she was ever completely in control of her words around Limestone anyway. Besides, a magic stone told her this was a sure thing, just trust in magic rocks, Minuette, it can’t be that hard.

The two continued on in silence and Minuette had become so lost in thought that she nearly ran into Limestone when she stopped. She probably would have too, if it weren’t for the mare stating the reason for her sudden stop aloud. "We're here." Registering what the words meant, her eyes flew up to examine the building before them.

It was a theater, more specifically the Canterlot Community Theater. It wasn’t an outlandishly rich or lavish establishment, but rather one filled with a lot of heart. In fact, most ponies who had ever taken part in school plays around Canterlot had been on this stage in some capacity. She remembered doing a few plays there herself as a filly.

Canterlot Community Theater wasn’t a large building, not much larger than an auditorium and the place could barely seat more than two hundred ponies, but somehow it was rarely full enough to require extra seating. They ultimately decided to sit closer to the front, ending up in the middle of the third row, behind the seats reserved for family members of the cast and crew.

“So, what are we watching today?” Minuette asked, genuinely curious about Limestone’s choice in plays. She vaguely remembered her saying something about only ever going once, so maybe it’d be a surprise for both of them.

“The play’s called Serenity’s Shadow, it’s Ma’s favorite. I don’t really know a lot about this stuff, but I thought you might like it too since you brought it up with Pinkie last week.” she gave Minuette a sheepish look. “Uh… you haven’t seen it already, have you? If you have we could do something else or…”

“No, this is great, and I haven’t.” she covered Limestone’s hoof with her own. “And even if I had, every play is different. Different ponies play different roles in different ways, and I have a different experience with whoever I go with. For example, I’ve never been on a date here. That memory will be ours and ours alone. Who knows, maybe we could make a tradition of it, most of the plays done here do happen at least once a year.”

“Yeah! That sounds great. If we like it anyways. It should be good though. It’s gonna be good.” she was smiling again.

“Oh! I should get a picture of us before it starts!” Minuette reached into her saddlebags, pulling out a compact camera she’d brought with her just in case, holding it out in front of them as she wrapped her other hoof around Limestone’s shoulder. “Say ‘first date’!”

“First date.” she said, her near whisper easily drowned out by even Minuette’s inside voice.

And with that, Minuette snapped the photo. It wasn’t a digital camera, so they’d have to have the photos developed later. They wouldn’t know how they looked until later, but she hoped that by then it would be a cherished memory worthy of a scrapbook regardless.


By the end of the first act, it was very clearly a romance. The story hit fairly close to home too. Two lovers, Kharma and Aurora, connected by destiny, divided by society and social status. Really, Limestone knew it would fit better with her parents’ story than her own, but still she found herself invested, even inspired and envious in a way of how the main character took to his destiny. Still, he left his family to chase his love, she didn’t think she could do that. She loved her family too much, she had to be there for them or everything would collapse. Wouldn’t it? Part of her worried she would be the one to collapse without them.

She looked over to Minuette, who was enjoying one of the cookies the students were selling for a couple bits out in the hall. Her marefriend seemed happy. Limestone wanted to keep that expression on her face, protect it even. I want to be the Kharma to your Aurora, but I can’t be in two places at once, can I? Even Ma says you can’t have your pie and eat it too. She left her family behind for love, but how could I do the same to mine?

Limestone thought all this, but she kept it in. It was selfish, she decided, but she wanted this moment. Even if it couldn’t last, she knew it could keep her warm on cold lonely nights on the farm. When Minuette told her she couldn’t live on the rock farm and the two went their separate ways until one or the other ultimately gave in. That was the only way she could see this going, and so she opted not to think of her own inevitable heartbreak, but of the many memories she planned to make between this date and then.

So she talked about inane things like how she was enjoying the play and which character she most connected with. She shared the story of her parents’ romance and gave her explanation for why her Ma felt so strongly about this play, how her father learned he was destined to marry her then noble mother through the Choosing Stone, how she left her family for him, connecting the two stories. Not an easy feat for a fifteen minute intermission, but she felt like she gave a decent summary at least.


The play ended with Kharma giving his life for his love’s continued happiness, health, and for the unification of their kingdoms. He lost his life at the hooves of his brother, Palace, when he attempted to save his brother from what he believed was nothing more than a harmful delusion by killing his bride. Kharma took the fatal blow in her place, to his brother’s regret and dismay.

It was the kind of story which made Minuette actually cry, and cry she did. She soon found a hoof about her shoulders and a teary eyed face beside her own. “Hey Limestone, it’s okay, y’know?”

“What is?”

“If you wanna cry you can. It doesn’t make you weak.” she replied, wearing a small smile.

“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re the one crying here.”

“C’mooooon,” teased Minuette “bet you’d cry if something like that happened to me.”

“I wouldn’t let…” she hesitated. She couldn’t promise that. Not if she couldn’t be there to protect her. Not if she chose her family. “That’s never gonna happen. And you really shouldn’t make those kind of jokes.”

“Okay, I’m sorry.”

There was a silence between them after that. The comfortable kind, as organic when it forms as when it is broken. So when Minuette finally broke it on their way to get lunch at a local sandwich place, they fell right back into conversation as though it had never happened.


Somehow, Minuette found her nervousness growing less and less prevalent as the date went on. It was as though Limestone herself somehow projected an idea of safety, of comfort. Her previous worries, the nightmares, they all felt silly as the two sat at a table outside, just talking about anything and everything. No serious topics, of course, as she didn’t feel like tackling those this early was a good idea, but stories and jokes and general chit chat were liberally exchanged.

The sun had begun to set before they realized. And even as the bright ball of flame made its way over the horizon, she wished this day would last forever. She could make it happen, she knew she could, but that would ruin it. Things like this were precious because they didn’t last.

So she walked Limestone to the station, the two took one last picture, indulged in another electric kiss goodbye, and she promised to plan the next date for the following week. Minuette practically floated home that night. The day Minuette fretted over had come and gone, and now the next one couldn’t come soon enough. Time is weird like that, nopony could ever really decide what they wanted it to do. It really was for the best that so few ponies could bend it to their will.

The gray stallion looked on from beneath a streetlamp as Minuette returned to her townhouse and trotted through the door. He adjusted his suit, which had been ruffled during over the course of the day’s activities. The stallion pulled a sucker from his breast pocket, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth. Trotting off into the shadows of the night, he hummed a tune he remembered from a certain play.

Concerning Best Laid Schemes

View Online

It was Sunset Shimmer’s lunch period when she got Twilight’s message. She’d stopped by her locker on the way to swap out books for the period after lunch and noticed her magic journal radiating in that way which could only mean Twilight needed her help with something or other. Immediately, her mind went to maniacal villains and magical artifacts but then maybe she was just venting like the last few times. Moving to Canterlot and ruling Equestria was a big change after all, and it was stressful.

That in mind, she grabbed her journal, her lunch bag, and exchanged books before heading to the cafeteria. What she’d found by the time she got there was an unexpected trip down memory lane. As she read Twilight’s entry, she remembered what it was like being the progeny of Princess Celestia. How her mother approached dating as a ruler was strict, no stallion or mare she dated could ever share in or inherit her royal duty. The same applied to her offspring. They would hold no power or status greater than that of the highest ranking aristocrats.

The reasoning behind it was simple, though Sunset hadn’t been able to accept it at the time. Equestria’s monarchy was built upon a foundation which assumed an immortal, or at the very least several centuries’ long rule by the same ruler or rulers. When she was younger she’d tried to earn her wings. She tried to create her own spell, cobbled together from several others and nearly killed herself attempting to cast it. If not for her mother's intervention, she very well could have, though she felt very different about it then. More recently, she even attempted to take her mother’s position by force with an army of mind-controlled high school students.

Even now, as she looked back she felt the weight of her guilt. It began as such an innocent wish. She was just a filly who wanted to help her mommy.


--Years ago

“But I wanna be a Princess, like you! I can help! You, yourself said that I have potential!” a young Sunset screamed from her spot on the bed.

“Potential is no substitute for temperament, my little pony,” the monarch replied in a tone which conveyed that she was tired and altogether done with the topic at hoof, “and it’s not that easy, even if you were an alicorn tomorrow, you don’t have what it takes to rule a kingdom!”

Sunset glared at her mother. “And what is that? I wouldn’t know since you’re hardly around to teach me outside of school! Even then you’re usually too busy helping the other fillies and colts!”

“Patience, understanding, tolerance, the ability to hide away inconvenient emotions like anger when acting on them would be unwise and the judgement to know when and how to go about venting them or utilizing them when necessary. These are just a few of the qualities a ruler must have.” She sighed, trotting over to the bed to sit beside Sunset. “You are my daughter, Sunset, and I love you. I take time out of my schedule to make you breakfast, lunch, dinner, eat with you. I spend any free time I get with you and your father. You want to be a Princess, I get that, but just try to understand that it’s a job with many responsibilities. Until the next Princess comes along to rule this land of ours or my sister returns to her senses, it's going to be hard for me to manage any kind of personal life. I can't bring myself to marry a mortal and even having a daughter was a big step for me. Just thinking that the time will come when I outlive you is terrifying, but I need to face that. That said, you need to face the fact that maybe your life can be more free than mine.”


She couldn't remember how she'd responded to her mother that night. Knowing how she was then, she'd probably grumbled or argued, still convinced her mother was keeping her from fixing everything wrong with her life. Thinking back on it, there was so much about Celestia she had misunderstood back then. Actions taken to prevent her from having to live through the same pain and loss.

As Sunset read a second time through Twilight’s entry, she thought of what her royal friend would have to face when Moondancer and her friends died, when she died. This was the life her mother had been trying to save her from, and yet despite the love and no doubt motherly affection she’d had for Twilight, she let her have that life of pain and suffering.
That had been her breaking point, the reason she used to despise Twilight. Now she couldn’t help but wonder how her mother allowed it. Was it some sort of penance for driving her biological daughter away? Had she told Twilight anything or was she content to let her learn about her immortality through experience alone? And if the new Princess didn’t know, should she tell her? Should she ruin the illusion before Twilight had the chance to live what normal life she had left, before she realized?

Thoughts like these plagued her the next few days, distracting her from class and from her friends’ usual banter. She still hadn’t written back as Tuesday night approached. Sunset was getting ready for bed, having resolved to figure everything out in the morning when she heard a plink against her window. Then another. Then another. When she went to see what was causing the sound, she saw Pinkie Pie outside with an armful of pebbles. She sighed, then opened the window before she could toss the next one.

“What are you doing, Pinkie?” she called out.

Hearing a response at last, Pinkie Pie looked up to the window and smiled wide before launching into one of her mile-a-minute tirades. “Oh, Sunset! Well, it kinda seemed like you were fixating on how to tell Princess Twilight in Equestria about how she’s going to outlive her friends or if you should tell her at all, especially now that she may have a new relationship going on, so I thought about it and came to tell you that you should probably go talk to her yourself. Maybe ask Starlight for help, she’s good at being blunt.”
Sunset simply stared at her friend for a moment. Then, she laughed. “Y’know, Pinkie, you’d think by now we’d be used to your crazy good intuition.”
“It’s not so hard as all that, I just read ahead, is all. I just thought this part was taking waaay too long, so you might as well get to the point. No sense stretching it out another year, right?” she casually shot back, shrugging as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
She gave Pinkie an exasperated look. “Nope. Not even gonna ask. Hold on, I’ll get ready and we can go.”


--Earlier that day
Starlight looked at the recent addition to the school’s courtyard for the fourth time that day. The statue stood as still as ever, three villains trapped in stone, a changeling queen, a centaur, and a pegasus child. To anypony else, it would’ve appeared as a monument to the Princess of Friendship’s triumph over three powerful enemies. To others it could be interpreted to be a sign of the alliance between nations. She knew better than that though.

This was her assignment from Princess Twilight. Discord escaped stone imprisonment all on his own, how long would it take three villains who had learned to work together? Whether they hated each other or not, they’d proven they had the ability to act as a team. Or at least, that was the story she’d been given. If she knew Twilight though, and she did, she’d seen this cooperation as a sort of proof that there was still hope for them. That hope was all the reason Twilight needed.

It was a good idea, and Twilight’s tendency to redeem villains whenever possible was also admittedly a fairly genius defensive strategy for Equestria and beyond. Sure, there would always be the possibility that it would come back to bite her. Relapses and double-crossing could occur, but when it worked. Proper redemption meant another strong asset gained for the cause of friendship and one less villain who would attempt to take over. Keep that going long enough and though there could be setbacks, in time, she could see a stronger and more peaceful Equestria.

Despite all this, Starlight couldn’t help but feel anxious about the prospect of taking on the daunting task of showing them the light of friendship herself. Sure, she wasn’t alone in the endeavor and she had prepared countermeasures against their magic, but these were creatures so full of spite that she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to get through to them.

A hoof landed on her shoulder, startling her out of her contemplation. She could’ve sworn she’d jumped at least a foot or two in the air in response, and she hadn’t even cast a Jump spell on herself. As she turned to see who disturbed her, she saw the familiar bearded face of her vice headmare.

“Sorry, Starlight, I tried to announce myself, but you were kind of checked out.” The stallion said, rubbing the back of his head with a hoof, a nervous habit he’d picked up from the Japaneighs manga that had caught his interest lately. She could thank Spike for that.

“It’s fine. I was just lost in thought.” she replied, her gaze falling back to the statue.

“Worried about the new assignment?”
“You could say that.” Starlight gestured with a hoof to the stone changeling queen “I mean, I’ve tried to get through to Chrysalis before and it didn’t work. I’m pretty sure she hates me for destroying her hive and taking away her changelings. Shouldn’t I be the last pony to teach her friendship lessons?” She trotted a circle around the statue, talking as she went. “You’re taking care of Cozy Glow, and while she is a manipulative brat, once you know not to trust her, she’s pretty much just the latter. And don’t even get me started on how difficult it’s going to be to convince Tirek.”
Sunburst stroked his beard for a few moments. This was a common mannerism for Starlight’s second in command. He was working through a tough puzzle in his head. She stopped her pacing and waited for his response. It didn’t take long, but his reply was tentative, almost nervous.

“I think I know what to do with Tirek, but you’re not going to like it.”

She sighed. “Sounds about par for the fucking course right about now. Just… out with it, okay. Even if it’s awful, it’s something and I’ve got nothing right now.”

He took a breath, “Okay, okay. I think we should send him to the human dimension, the one you told me about. Like the sirens, I feel like it’s the only place he can learn to live a normal life.”

Starlight put a hoof to the bridge of her nose. “You know how I feel about banishment.”

It was Sunburst’s turn to sigh. He put a hoof on her shoulder again. “I do. But this doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement. If he can prove he has changed, we can let him come back. Just give him a few years over there. Maybe he can find some better calling on his own. Who knows, he may not even want to return to Equestria. From what you’ve told me, Sunset Shimmer rather likes her life there. Maybe he will too.”
A hard look passed between the two. “Any other day, I’d probably tell you that was a terrible plan and go rant to Trixie about how much you suck for even suggesting it.”
“But?” He replied, hopefully, a small grin beginning to form.
Starlight softened. “But I don’t have any better options I can think of. We already have our hooves full with two villains, if we can handle the third by sending him to a world where he’s harmless; magically speaking, even just temporarily while we figure out some contingencies or come up with an actual plan for reforming him, that’s at least better than keeping him trapped in stone anyway. It’s like Trix always says, ‘You can’t solve everycreature’s problems, some things they just have to figure out for themselves.’ Though admittedly nine times out of ten she only says that when she’s about to ask for time off.”
He chuckled at that before returning her a troubled look. “So, you’re serious then? You’re really fine going along with my plan on this one?”
“Why else did I appoint you as vice headmare if not to help me make the hard decisions.” She winked. “Well, besides organizing schedules and helping with fundraisers and all that other administrative work you do. Now, I’ll handle getting Tirek through the portal and releasing him from stone; you write Twilight a letter to let her know about the change in plans. And make sure Gabby delivers it, I know it’s not going to the griffon lands, but she’s super reliable and this is important.”
The stallion went pale. “W-wait, you want me to write the letter?”
“Yeah, it was your idea after all. If anypony’s taking the heat for this, it’s not gonna be me.”
Pulling a scroll and quill from his bag with his telekinesis, Sunburst muttered under his breath as she trotted off towards Twilight’s former castle. “I swear you’ve been spending way too much time around Trixie.”


Minuette was back on the job, trusty camera around her neck and Twinkleshine at her side. The pair had arrived in Manehattan several hours prior and already they’d completed a couple interviews with local enterprises. She got several good shots of the cityscape from the vantage points provided by the highrise they’d just come from along with some pictures of the warehouse and a few profile shots of their interviewees. As always, very few of the shots would make it to the actual paper, but what didn’t make it to print still made for good scrapbook material.

Most days she could lose herself in her photography work fairly easily, have some fun, make some memories. This day in particular she’d found herself distracted. Her mind kept wandering to Limestone. Thoughts of the date the other day, memories of the feeling of her lips, her scent, and more filled her mind, making it hard to concentrate. At least twice now she’d been nearly left behind and once she’d even caught herself fantasizing about Limestone’s body and the R-rated things she wanted to do with her. Not now, brain. I’m at work.

It was at this point that she collided with Twinkleshine, who had stopped suddenly.

“Oh, shit. Sorry, Twinkle, I was miles away.” she said, wincing.

Her friend just smirked. “Uh huh, judging from that look you’ve had on your face I think I can guess where.”

Minuette’s face went red at that, “A-anyway, why’d you stop? This doesn’t look like the office for Filthy Rich Construction’s Manehattan branch.” She made a show of looking around at the buildings surrounding them. “You get lost or something?”

“That’s because it’s not. Look, Min, I uh, I need some advice.”


Twinkleshine had been considering Lemon Hearts’ proposal for the past few nights, weighing pros and cons, thinking through the logistics of the potential fake relationship, looking at it all from every angle she could think of, but still she found herself at an impasse. Should she or shouldn’t she? Going with this plan had to be incredibly selfish and inconsiderate, right? She couldn’t put poor, sweet, selfless Lemon through that, take a year or two of her life all to herself, could she? But then, it was Lemon’s decision. She had been the one to bring it back up, and she seemed kind of excited about it, serious about it even. If she denied her, Lemon might be hurt, she didn’t want to give one of her best friends the impression she didn’t believe in and trust her or, conversely, the idea that she wasn’t good enough to be her fake wife. Twinkleshine didn’t even want to think about how that would affect the mare, especially given how far that was from the truth. Lemon was the best pony for this job, just like she’d said, no matter how she looked at it. A little too perfect even...

She’d been thinking about it all through work and she needed an outside opinion.

“Oh, yeah, of course I can help ya out. What’s going on?” Minuette replied, finding a nearby bench and taking a seat, and Twinkleshine took a seat beside her before continuing. This kind of conversation definitely warranted a bench.

“So, to start, you’ve met my parents, right? You know how prideful and pushy they can be.”

Minuette blanched. “Yeah, I hear you. Canterlot nobility like them can be an uptight bunch, you’ve got it rough. So what’s up their asses this time?”

“They’ve been trying to arrange marriage interviews for me. I’ve mostly been dodging them with work, but that can only go on for so long.” Twinkle sighed, “They keep going on about how I’m almost beyond marriageable age and how they want to have proper grandfoals sired by a stallion of good lineage.”

“You and a stallion? They must be dreaming if they think that you can lead a happy life like that. So, do you have a more permanent plan than hiding away in work until it’s over or is that what you’re asking me for?” The blue pony rubbed her chin in thought. “Maybe we could skip town for a while. Limestone’s parents in Rockville would be able to take us in if we worked for it.”

“Well, I’ve sort of got a plan, it’s just…”

“Just… what?” Minuette asked, intrigued.

“It was an idea I thought of off the cuff when I was venting to Lemon, the night after we went to the rock farm. I suggested that I could marry someone as a fake arrangement and stick with them until I get beyond my parents' idea of marriageable age. Then we could divorce and my parents wouldn’t hound me nearly as much if at all, given that it’s hard to find a noble suitor who would marry a divorcee, let alone someone outside the socially acceptable age range for such things.”

“Sounds like a decent idea so far. So what went wrong? Did Lemon suggest herself as a candidate or something?” her friend asked, nudging her in the side.

Twinkleshine stiffened.

Minuette examined her features, the look on her face, the blush, “Wait,” then realization dawned on her. “Oh, oh shit. Wow, that’s… I mean, I never expected our little Lemon to be so bold. So, what’d you tell her?”

Twinkle took a second to get her bearing before saying, “I went over the risks and what she’d be giving up. I figured maybe she was being impulsive and hadn’t considered all this plan would entail, but she was fine with everything. In the end, she just told me to think about it. And now, here I am, I can’t stop thinking about it, so I’m asking for your help figuring out just what I should do.”

“You wanna know what I think?” Minuette smirked.

“Of course, that’s why I asked! This is serious, please don’t tease me right now!”

“I think you should say yes!”

Twinkle froze for a beat, blinked once, twice. “Okayyy… can you walk me through how you came to that conclusion?”

“Well, to start, you could stand to be a bit more spontaneous.” her friend chuckled. “The two of you have known each other for years, so it makes sense for some romantic feelings to have developed over time, there’s plenty to work with for your cover story. You know each other pretty well, you’re both skilled actresses in your own rights, and who knows… maybe there’s some chemistry there?”

The pale mare’s cheeks went bright red. “Wait, wait, what was that last bit?”

Minuette slung an arm around her gal pal. “Oh, I dunno, maybe Pony Cupid is stealthily lining up her shot. C’mon, you dated half the mares in our class back in school, you can’t tell me you’ve never considered it.” She gestured an arc in the sky with her other hoof as if to emphasize the magic of romance.

Twinkleshine shook her head and removed Minuette’s arm. “We practically grew up together! I mean, she probably sees me like a sister.”

“A sister she’s willing to fake marry to the point that she brought that plan up herself. I’m just saying, we’ve both read enough trashy romance novels to know where this is going.” Aaand, she was doing the raised eyebrow thing. She must’ve felt so smug right then.

“They’re not trashy, and this is real life, not some book.” The periwinkle mare argued, unable to completely refute her friend’s point.

Minuette shrugged. “Sometimes life imitates art, and vice versa. Heck, look at my situation and try to say it’s anything but a textbook fated romance. This whole thing sounds like your basic fake relationship/childhood friend trope and we both know it!" Her voice took on an overly dramatic tone as she continued, "Two characters pining desperately for the other, but kept apart by misunderstandings until they’re thrown into a fake relationship by circumstances. This is totally your wheelhouse, y’know.”

Twinkle put a hoof to her head. “I know, it sounds like that cliche, but there’s no guarantee it’s gonna work out that way. Real life doesn’t have half of the happily ever after stories romance does, and I don’t do tragedies.”

“Just saying, if this really is Lemon’s hail mary attempt at a relationship with you, and you reject her, it will be pretty tragic for her. Even if it isn’t, you know Lemon doesn’t take rejection well, even if she does a good job keeping it in. Do you remember the last time she let it all build up and exploded?”

Twinkle gulped. “Fire pony?”

Minuette nodded solemnly. “Fire pony.”

“Okay, so I’m really doing this, huh?”

“You have my full support!” the blue mare gave a cheeky grin.

“Gee, thanks, have I mentioned what a great help you are?” Twinkle replied, deadpan.

Minuette’s smile only widened at that. “Not yet, but I could get used to it.”

To Err is Equine

View Online

It was another overcast day on the rock farm, and to Limestone, the weather mimicked her mood a little too well. Over the course of the day she’d been distracted on several occasions by thoughts of her marefriend. When she was tilling the new field for quartz geodes, she found her mind wandering to thoughts of their last date. Later, she was working on fixing the axle on a busted cart when she began to wonder about what Minuette was doing right about now. Hours of mindless repetitive tasks took on a different kind of rhythm when she wasn’t always focused on efficiency and what task came next.

She wasn’t sure how to feel about it. On one hoof, she felt frustrated about the perceived loss of efficiency, on the other, she couldn’t really ‘fix’ it. It didn’t register to her as a problem so much as something more natural. As her feelings grew and the distance between them remained, she understood that thoughts like this would pop into her head. Limestone wasn’t a stranger to thinking about others she cared about, but before now the only ones who fit that bill were her family.

Looking back, she hadn’t really made any friends growing up. She had her sisters and her family and that was all she’d thought she needed. The workers her father employed came and went and they only saw other rock farming families at official functions. Those relationships were fundamentally different in Limestone’s eyes growing up.

Workers were at best acquaintances, and while she’d show them proper hospitality when necessary and appreciation for a job well done, they’d change with the seasons, so she never let them get close. The other families of Rockville were their competition. The relationship the Pie had with their competition was businesslike and professional, on occasion, they’d even work together on contracts. Still, Limestone knew there were those who would love nothing more than to hitch their wagon to the Pie family and take over when her parents were gone. She and her sisters were lucky her parents were such strong advocates for the Choosing Stone method of determining a spouse, otherwise they’d have been swarmed by suitors. The very idea made her skin crawl.

The overcast sky became darker as late evening came, with an amber hue coating the sky between the clouds and the craggy rock below. Light glistened off the harvested shards and crystals sitting in their respective carts. At a certain point, it appeared as though the sun were trapped between the clouds and the ground below.

Seeing this scenery brought another thought to Limestone’s mind. She wanted to share this with Minuette someday. Her heart sank as she considered once more, the logistics of their situations. It was too much for her to ask Minuette to leave her life for this. It was too much to give this up for love or romance, but she knew someday they’d both have to choose. The Choosing Stone was never wrong, and it could be years in the future, maybe even decades, but at some point it would happen. She only hoped she could be ready for whatever happened when that time came.

“Live in the moment,” she reminded herself aloud, then, remembering what Minuette said that first night, continued, “one thing at a time.” With that mantra in mind, she could banish the sad thoughts in her mind for another day and focus on enjoying what she had now.


It had been several days since Limestone’s date with Minuette, and Marble hadn’t been able to get much out of her sister. Granted, that night she’d only asked things like “How was your date?” and “Did Minuette like the play?” and “Did you two plan another date?”, but Limestone must have known she wanted more than vague half-answers in a somber tone. Now, watching her sister stare out over the horizon at the evening sky, she decided enough was enough. This wasn’t her sister, and since she wasn’t willing to talk about it on her own, she’d need to take some drastic measures to snap her out of this funk. She felt like she needed to show her sister this relationship business was not something she should run from.

So, with all the courage she could muster, she called out to her elder sister. “Hey, Limestone?”

Limestone blinked, not used to having her sister call her by her full surname when she wasn’t being completely serious. “What is it?” she asked, turning to face her, meeting her eyes, and making it clear Marble had her undivided attention.

“Come with me, there’s something I want to show you.” she said, before trotting off in the other direction.

Her normally stern sister blinked, confused, but followed behind at a steady pace. “Hey, is something wrong? You’re starting to freak me out.”

Marble only continued to trot forward, not turning back as she said, “Not with me, I just feel like seeing this will help you.”

The two continued in silence for a while, and eventually they found themselves in the amethyst geode fields. The younger sister knew her elder had to have picked up on what was going on by now. There was only one thing of importance in this direction. Still, the two said nothing. Marble took this time to steel herself for the moment to come, the event she and her sister had put off for as long as they could help it.

Finally, Limestone broke the silence, and it was like a dam had burst, “Are you sure you’re ready for this, Marble? I know I wasn’t when it happened for me. We can still head back, finish up today’s work, and go home. You said this was to help me, but shouldn’t you come here for yourself on your own time? There’s no need to rush.”

It was hard for Marble to go against those words. In any other circumstances she might’ve agreed, but she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t do this now. After all Limestone was prepared to sacrifice for her and for their family, how could she not be willing to make such a small sacrifice to show her sister she didn’t have to be afraid of love? Instead, she simply said, “It’s okay, Lime. You don’t have to be alone in this anymore. We can face it together.”

With that, Marble approached the Choosing Stone in all its imposing glory and rested a hoof on the cool, smooth surface and thought about her question. Then, something unexpected happened. A blast of pure magical force radiated outward across the sky, giving off a purple glow and nearly knocking the younger sister over. But she was a Pie, even if she was seen as the most timid and shy, she could stand her ground when it mattered.

Then, when the shockwaves subsided, the two sisters looked up to the top of the Choosing Stone. There, Marble’s cutie mark danced and swirled in circles, waiting for its partner. Several minutes passed with no changes, Limestone trotted towards her sister, prepared to give her comfort if she needed it. The younger sibling simply watched her mark in its solo dance around the tip of the ancient artifact. She didn’t know what to think, wasn’t sure whether she’d failed or been interrupted by some magical event.

In the distance, a bright red blur appeared over the horizon. Over the course of several seconds, it raced towards the Choosing Stone, spiraling around it in several high speed ellipses before settling into a proper orbit with Marble’s three polished stones. The two looked on in surprise and wonder. The other mark depicted a sun, like the cutie mark of the former Princess Celestia at first glance, but as they took in the details, they noticed the mark was split between red and yellow coloration on the rays, and had the opposite coloration in the center, where red and yellow took up different sides in darker hues.

Before Limestone or Marble could comprehend what this meant, everything went still and time seemed to freeze. When all was still, Marble heard a soft, feminine voice echo in her head.

Marble Pie, your destined partner straddles the line betwixt worlds, she is as the shimmering light born of the setting sun, alas, her star has come to ground for a time. Seek her, thou shalt in the realm of Harmony, in the town where her tree has laid down roots, but if thou shouldst not act with swiftness, she may ascend once more, and many shall the moons be before thine fates align in time. Two paths, a choice is made, shall two ascend, or two remain.

Then, the two cutie marks faded away, time seemed to resume its flow as the sounds of the rock farm returned. Marble turned to her sister and asked, “Uh, sis? Did you hear a voice when you and Minuette…?”

“Yes, why? What did it tell you? Did the stone give a name?”

“N-No, but it gave hints, and err, apparently I don’t have much time if I’m gonna find her anytime soon. D-do you think you can help? I-I mean you’re already going through a lot right now, and I know that, but I...”

This was what she'd been trying to show her. The message behind Marble's request was clear, if she could move forward like this in spite of all her fears and insecurities and take initiative, Limestone could face her fears and talk about them instead of running and hiding them away. Or at least she could let her sister in on what was bothering her.

“What did the stone tell you, word for word?” Limestone interjected. She reached into her saddlebags for an eraserless graphite pencil and clipboard of paper she’d brought with her to take stock of their progress on outstanding orders, flipping over one of the forms so she could write as her sister dictated.


Starlight looked over the scene before her in abject horror as she lowered her Shield and Silence spells. The components of the portal were strewn about the room, some had been flung with enough force to lodge themselves in bookshelves and the walls. The duplicate of the exchange journal she’d made as a substitute catalyst so that Twilight could write to Sunset with the portal in use lay on the ground in tatters, and Sunset Shimmer herself lay unconscious behind her in a heap.

Thinking back, it had been an idiotic move to try to send Tirek through the portal wearing an amulet of magic absorption. The area of effect may have been relatively small and focused on him, but even that five hoof radius was enough to disrupt the magic field of the portal. The wards against magical interference on the entrance had been enough to allow him entry, but as soon as he was in… well, that was a problem for future Starlight to handle. For the time being, she wasn’t even sure if Tirek could’ve survived a portal collapse mid-transit, and before thinking about how she might have totally failed her mentor and ruler by accidentally murdering the villain she was supposed to reform, she had to deal with the more immediate issue of Sunset Shimmer stuck on this side of the portal.

As if on cue, she heard some stumbling behind her. It seemed Sunset was still adjusting to her pony body again, and the magical sonic boom had to be disorienting even with the Silence spell Starlight cast as soon as she understood what was happening. She trotted over and helped Sunset to her hooves. Moments later, she heard the pony mumble something under her breath. “What was that, Sunset?” Starlight asked.

“WHERE THE FUCK AM I!? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO ME!?” she shrieked, then she turned to face Starlight more directly, and stared for a moment before saying, “Wait, how the fuck do you know my name?”


-Several minutes prior

Sunset and Pinkie had just arrived at their destination, the portal to Equestria housed in a statue which represented their school mascot, the Wondercolt, whatever a wondercolt was. In Sunset’s mind, it conjured the image of a young male horse who was wonderful or wonderous for some reason or another. Still, it was catchy, and easy to make cheers and songs about, so she wasn’t really complaining. Especially when their competition’s mascot was called a Shadowbolt, which only made her think of some dark streak of lightning.

“Are you sure I should go tell her in person? I have the journal right here, I could still write to her about it later.” Sunset gave Pinkie a pleading look.

“Oh, please, I get the sense that you’re supposed to go there anyway. I think…” Pinkie’s leg wobbled three times, and she scratched at her ear. “Or maybe not you,” she said, pointing to someone approaching in a leather jacket and studded jeans with a motorcycle helmet under one arm.

Sunset eyed the stranger with interest as they… as she approached. As soon as she could see her face, she paled. They looked exactly the same aside from some gauges in her ears, her outfit, and the fact that her hair was tied back in a ponytail.

She spoke first, “Hey kid, what’s your name?”

“Sunset Shimmer, who’s asking?” Sunset replied warily.

“No, that’s my name, gimme your real name, ya fuckin’ imposter! Y’know, it’s not good to go around taking folks place just cuz they ain’t around.”

There was a dangerous tone to the way her double said that and she didn’t like it, suddenly the portal seemed a lot more appealing. Pinkie seemed nonplussed, commentating cheerfully, “Ooooh! Drama! Sunset, we just gotta hear her dark backstory!”

Hoping to put this problem on hold until she got back, she headed for the portal.

Her double ignored Pinkie and moved between her and the statue. “Hey! Where you goin’ in such a hurry? Think this is some kinda fuckin’ joke?” she pushed Sunset hard.

Sunset was tired, she was stressed out, and somehow, this persistent double had managed to get to her. So, running more on instinct than reason, she did the first thing that came to mind. She pushed back. For a moment, she saw flashes of memory, a picture of Principal Celestia in a white dress next to some man in a tuxedo, an argument between the two, her double crying behind a convenience store, a shabby apartment. The instant her hands parted from the double’s stomach, the scene before her returned. Her double tumbled backwards through the portal. The motorcycle helmet falling out of her grasp and bouncing slightly on the floor before rolling out of sight.

From there, everything went so fast. Sunset tried to reach out to grab her double, but she was already gone. She tried to run through the portal after her but her legs flew out from under her as Pinkie tackled her to the ground and shoved the motorcycle helmet over her head and blocked her own ears. A second passed, two, Sunset was about to ask Pinkie what was going on when she heard the dull roar as the statue seemed to shatter outwards from the portal side. Looking up, she saw a haggard older man with bright red skin in a business suit with a shining blue amulet hanging from his neck.

Surveying the scene around him, he reached a hand down to help the two girls up. “My name is Tirek,” he said, “I suppose you girls are the welcoming committee.”


It had been a rough day for human Sunset Shimmer (Author’s note: Let’s call her Sunny for now). She’d been kicked out by her landlord because she hadn’t gotten the pay raise she’d been hoping for when the last band she got signed to the record label she scouted for wasn’t the breakout success she’d expected them to be. Worse than that, they broke up less than a week into recording due to personal issues.

She didn’t scout for a big label either, so paying to pursue lawsuits against bands that broke contract was difficult to fit within the budget. As a result, her pay took a hit instead, thus she was unable to make rent and out on her own again. She just barely had enough to cover her therapy sessions and food for the month with a little to spare.

Sunny looked out at the high school campus her mother ran and thought about what her shrink said during their last session. He’d brought up that going to see her and talk things over might be good for her emotional recovery. She’d laughed in his face, her mother hadn’t reached out since she stopped coming to school, no way she’d wanna be a mother to her kid now.

As she looked at the campus, something caught her eye. A girl with bright red and yellow hair was walking next to a pink girl with poofy pink curls. The first girl turned to face her as she approached, carrying her helmet for a bit of intimidation factor, you never knew with teenagers. Sure enough, the yellow girl had stolen her look.

Well, not entirely, but enough to take her place at Canterlot High. Her head began swimming with questions, had she taken her place? Was it her fault her mother never called, or was this some sick joke on her mother’s part? The fuck was her problem? Where did she get off stealing her identity? Anger welled up within her.


Sunny was talking to a purple talking horse with a horn. She was a yellow talking horse with a horn. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, time suddenly stopped. In the time she took to try to calm down, another voice started talking directly into her head. It sounded calm and soothing, and she felt herself relax as though nothing else mattered in this moment.

Sunset Shimmer, stranded, though thou art, it should please thee to know that thine travels be not in vain. Love awaits on a string of destiny hidden within a pie of marble. In a heart of stone thy shall find succor, in a bed of granite shouldst thou find warmth. Return alone, thou might to the realm beyond reach, but behind, thine heart shall remain until the time of thy return.

Then the world around began to move again. The pony beside her said, “I’m Starlight Glimmer, don’t you remember? I didn’t think I was that forgettable. And you’re in Ponyville, Equestria. Or, more specifically, Princess Twilight’s old castle.”

Sunny only returned a vacant stare. “Princess who?” she asked, dumbfounded, “Ponywhere?”

Starlight shrugged and shook her head. Sunny had no way of knowing what was going through her mind. At last, she said simply, “This is gonna take a while, c’mon, let’s go somewhere more comfortable and have a cup of hot cocoa. That always calms me down.”

The once yellow human turned orange unicorn sighed. “Sure, I guess that makes as much sense as anything else right now. Lead the way.”

When Business meets Pleasure

View Online

Planning a date was no issue for Minuette. With her previous first date jitters out of the way, control over their next date’s destinations and plans, and the ability to bend her own time to her will -given that the required paperwork was filled out and safely tucked away in one of Doctor Whooves’ many filing cabinets at the agency, - she felt more than prepared to tackle this responsibility and show Limestone the best date ever. Though maybe she shouldn’t raise the bar too high, otherwise future dates might be much more challenging.

Looking over all the intel she’d gathered over the past couple “personal days” as she called them, both in that she’d live out the same day multiple times, and in that she didn’t have work, she ruminated on where she’d take Limestone for their second date. This was her second time experiencing the current day, to be specific, and that meant it would be dedicated to planning.

The previous run of this day had been all about information gathering; checking fliers, newspapers, asking about upcoming events at the community center, and so on. This was all standard date prep for her, though she was rusty. Hardly the kind of thing she needed to use her gift with time magic for if she was being frank. Still, it worked out better for her time management. Deep down, she knew if she ever really wanted to go all out to ‘wow’ Limestone, she could canvas the day in question, learning many of the unscheduled events that just happened to occur. From there she could avoid the possible date-ruiners like inclement weather due to errors in pegasi weather scheduling or villainous takeovers or monster attacks and scope out some of the neat things that happened spontaneously. She briefly thought of the magic shockwave from yesterday, then shook her head, she wasn’t quite sure how to categorize that. In any case, it would mean a load of paperwork and burn up most of her energy, but she could do it if she felt the occasion was particularly momentous.

Still, micromanaging every aspect of an evening seemed a bit much to her. It took a lot of excitement and surprise out of just about any experience, especially dating. Of course, once the date was underway, she would refuse to go back for anything except an actual emergency, and she didn’t plan on going so far yet anyway. Maybe for a marriage proposal or a wedding day, but, wait, she was getting ahead of herself. Or was she? It was a little hard to judge what was too soon when a magic stone said you’d end up with somepony eventually, no matter what.

Minuette sighed, she was overthinking this again. For all her planning, she’d ultimately decided something simple would be best. The last date was already pretty magical, and she was excited to learn more about Limestone, even the small stuff. She remembered the dinner they had last time, watching how she ate, the expression she’d make when she was deep in thought, the cute way she looked almost lost in the moments following a kiss, keeping her eyes closed just a little longer than necessary. Minuette sighed again, wistfully this time, she wanted to see more of that.

Just three more days...


Marble asked Limestone for the third time, “Are you sure about this?” as they approached the door to the townhouse.

Limestone sighed, then said, “Look, sis, I was sure enough to take off for the day and clear your absence with Pa, wasn’t I? We’re family. I’m not about to make you come all this way on your own when you can barely talk to the ticket pony. You asked me to help you, I agreed.” She nudged her sister. “Besides, weren’t you the one who wanted to show me that I shouldn’t be afraid of love?”

Her sister sighed, then straightened. “You’re right. Okay, let’s do this, and this is my request, so I’ll knock.”

“Hey,” Limestone said, setting a hoof to her shoulder, “don’t push yourself too much.”

“If I can’t even get along with my sister’s marefriend, how am I supposed to talk to a complete and total stranger from another world?”

Limestone smiled at that, “Okay, fine. I’ll be here if you need me.”


A light knock sounded on the door. “It’s open,” Minuette called automatically, confused that one of her friends would feel the need to knock. Then again it could be Twilight, or… wait, she did give Limestone her address during the last date in case she wanted to drop by on a day she was free and surprise her. Maybe this was her? That knock did sound a little uncertain.

Minuette bolted upright and stuffed her date plans under the sofa as she heard the door open and close, followed by hoofsteps echoing down the short hallway. She quickly checked herself in a small, novelty hourglass-shaped mirror hanging on one of her walls. It was kind of functionally awful, but it was all she had at hoof at the moment. Nothing in her teeth, hair seems fine? She could rewind her time, but that would mean more work than it was worth in the long run, and if this was another romantic if awkward moment in their journey as a couple, she figured it would be important to experience it as it was meant to be. Besides, she shouldn’t try to be perfect all the time and Limestone shouldn’t expect that of her. Well, that and constantly rewinding her life would become mentally exhausting and physically draining if this became a trend; it was still magic after all, even if it was her special talent in addition to one of her jobs.

Deciding she looked fine, she turned just in time to see a rather unexpected Marble enter the room, followed by Limestone. Confused, she directed a questioning glance at Limestone, at which point she nudged her sister, who still hadn’t said a word.

“H-hey M-M-Minuette, um… s-sorry for bothering you, b-but uh… I mean, I’m s-sure you’d r-rather it were just my s-sister h-here. Heh.” She swallowed hard, looked down, took a breath, and straightened before clearing her throat softly. “What I’m trying to say is, Ineedyourhelpfindingmyspecialsomepony!” she finished, all in one breath.

“Er…” Minuette looked from Limestone to Marble, then back to Limestone. “Care to explain?”

The gruff, stacked, toned mare put a hoof on her sister’s shoulder. “I got this one, Marble. You did pretty good.” Then she turned to Minuette, who was totally not staring at this point, and began explaining the situation from the beginning.

As Limestone finished, she added. “I don’t really know anypony here, and I really didn’t want to go to Pinkie on this one, given the situation. We’re lucky she’s probably busy with something else right now, otherwise we’d have a repeat of what happened when she found out about… us. Anyway, I thought maybe you might know something.”

Minuette thought about the magic shockwave. “You say it came from the same direction as that ‘purple sonic rain-whatever’?” She asked, mimicking Limestone’s earlier phrasing. Somehow, she found the way Limestone talked about things she didn’t understand adorable.

“Mhm.” Marble confirmed.

Minuette sighed. “Guess I’ll have to ask that guy then. Come with me outside for a second.”

The two sisters looked at each other, shrugged, and followed Minuette.

“Hey, September, I know you’re out here, I need to talk to you for a minute.” Minuette called out into the street.

Across the road, a gray, maneless, tailless stallion in a black suit and fedora set his newspaper down on the bench upon which he was perched. He got up and crossed the street in a leisurely fashion.

Marble and Limestone simply stared as the stallion trotted towards them. By all rights, his lack of mane and tail should’ve made him stick out, and if not that, at least his fashion sense should've caught their eye. Somehow, neither of them had noticed him until Minuette called out to him. And despite his slow pace, he reached them surprisingly quickly.

“Greetings.” he said, completely monotone. Despite that, he had a slight, barely noticeable smile on his face. Not a mischievous smile or anything sinister, more the kind of smile one might show when they’ve just taken a bite of something good, or upon noticing that it’s a beautiful day, fit for a walk in the park.

“Tell me what I need to know.” Minuette replied, not bothering to return the greeting. She didn’t want him to get sidetracked. In her admittedly limited time working and interacting with him, she found that it was usually best to get straight to the point.

“There is more than one of everything.” He paused, blinked, stared at her for several seconds, then continued. “In Ponyville, there is a monument which marks the initial victory of the Elements of Harmony over Tirek. It once served as the abode of this era’s monarch.”

And with that, he trotted off around the corner of the townhouse adjacent to Minuette’s. She didn’t need to check, she knew he’d be long gone if they did. Instead, she turned back to Limestone and Marble, both of whom had looks of confusion plastered to their faces.

“He’s someone I work with. Not my photography job, more of a rare side gig every few years, if that. It’s a kind of… hereditary position. My mom worked with him too. Only ever really worked with him twice myself, but he’s usually there whenever something like this comes up.” Minuette word-vomited by way of explanation.

When that only got her blank looks in reply, she facehoofed. “Look, I’ll explain more later. For now, all you need to know is that he’s an amazing informant and his leads always pan out. He may be a bit cryptic and creepy, but he’s useful and he knows what he’s talking about.”

That earned a nod from both of them and she ushered them back inside. This was getting more awkward by the moment.

Finally, Limestone spoke up, “So, did you understand what he meant by all that about the ‘monument which marks the Elements of Harmony’s victory over Tirek’ or whatever? All I really remember about the first Tirek incident was that the Princesses issued a state of emergency which delayed our shipments for a while. That, and there was some kind of weird rainbow thing flying around at some point. Personally, I missed it, but a lot of the workers were talking about it.” she shrugged.

Minuette nearly let out an audible sigh of relief at the reply, but held it in. Now wasn’t the time to go over her family’s ancestral duty to Equestria. That was just yet another heavy topic she didn’t feel like her fledgling relationship was quite ready for just yet. The ‘dark secrets’ talk had to be a sort of give and take in private with ambiance, or at least that’s how it was in books she’d read. “He meant Twilight’s crystal castle in Ponyville, it popped up out of the ground around the time Tirek went down and since her old home was destroyed by him, she started living there instead. I think her pupil’s still there. I’ve heard a bit about it when I used to visit Twilight there. It makes sense that if a portal to another world were anywhere, that’d prolly be the place.”

“Oh, okay, well then, I uh… guess we’d better get going then, huh?” Limestone asked awkwardly, her gaze lingered on Minuette a bit before she turned to leave. “Well, see you in a few days I guess…”

“Thank you… it was erm, good seeing you again…” Marble said in a small voice, turning to follow her sister in an equally awkward exit.

What are you doing, Minuette? She thought to herself. Of course the whole secret side job business would unnerve Limestone. Maybe now wasn’t the time for explanations, but it would have to be soon if she didn’t want to let this fester. Besides, she clearly wants you to come along. This is totally one of those ‘go after her, you fool’ moments!

“Wait,” Minuette said, grabbing a striped pink and white scarf from a hanging wall-mounted coat rack near the door. It had little hour glasses for the hooks, this one was a custom order. “I’ll come with you, I know where to go and I’ve met Starlight a couple times. Admittedly, we haven’t exchanged more than a couple greetings and a bit of small talk, but it’s better than someone she doesn’t know just knocking on her door out of the blue anyway.”

Limestone turned, her lips turned up almost imperceptibly. Almost. “Are you sure? This is a family matter, you don’t have to. I can handle it if you have plans or work or something.”

“No, no, it’s no big deal, besides, it’ll be a good chance to get to know my marefriend’s little sister a little better. If that magic rock says we’re spending our lives together, I should make an effort to get along with my future sister-in-law.” Maybe this was pushing a bit much, but Limestone had mentioned that Marble already knew about them. She knew she was getting ahead of herself, but she just couldn’t help it.

Marble went a deep shade of red. “Uh, um… mmhm, r-right. I uh… wow, a n-new sister, huh?”

At that, Limestone’s cheeks flushed as well. “N-n-not so fast, it’s still early days, it’s n-not like we have any sort of wedding date planned. No need to rush everything.”

“Sure, one thing at a time,” Minuette replied, enjoying her marefriend’s reaction immensely; she was so cute when she was nervous! “Still, if you think I’m gonna pass up a chance to get embarrassing secrets and cute stories of your childhood, you’re sorely mistaken.” she teased.

Limestone grumbled under her breath.

“Besides,” Minuette continued, “she’s gonna need some practice if she’s meeting her own destined bride or groom to be.” Then she froze. “Wait, Hold on! I can’t believe I almost forgot my camera!”

She ran to the other room and grabbed her trusty Ponyroid Celestial 660 from its home atop a shelf near her work desk and rushed back to where the Pie sisters were waiting. “Let’s take a selfie for the road!” she cheered, inserting herself between the two and hooking a hoof around each of their necks. Minuette floated the camera out in front of them, sometimes being a unicorn had its advantages. Her smile was broad, even as she looked from one sister to the other to gauge their reaction and willingness to indulge her.

Limestone glanced at Marble, who gave a meek shrug, followed by a small smile and a nod. And with an eye roll and a grumbled, though not quite reluctant “Fine,” from Limestone, Minuette nearly squealed in excitement. Instead, she said, “Alright, saaay soulmates!”

“Soulmates!” they exclaimed, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Minuette’s voice most prominent, with Marble’s almost fading in the background and a pensive, somewhat wistful tone to Limestone’s utterance. The verbal landscape painted a picture of their emotional states, and if Minuette had been paying more attention, she might have read into it. There was an audible click and flash, and with the soft whirring of machinery, the photo was produced from the camera's built in printer.

Minuette floated the picture up to the light, waiting the couple minutes it took for the image to appear, a part of the process which was the reason she usually swore by instant film over any digital camera for personal use. Something about this made a production of each shot, gave a sense of grandeur to each memory captured on film. It was for this reason that she didn’t throw out photos for lack of quality or inability to hold up to a certain standard. Even the digital photos on her work camera that weren’t up to snuff got a spot in their own relevant scrapbook out of respect for the moment. She didn’t see the use in taking picture after picture until you got the “perfect” angle or shot, or at least not when it came to photos taken to document events in her own life. Sure, staged and vetted photos may look prettier, more flattering, but they lose a lot of personality, meaning, and sincerity.

Looking back on something like that, fake smiles perfected over several attempts, angles intended only to get somepony’s good side, it would be easy to get the impression that things were nicer back then, that one’s life used to be better somehow or was more stable, easier to handle. True pictures showed, if you looked carefully enough, the true feelings behind a picture in which everypony was told to smile for the camera almost as well as one taken without warning. Composition, camera angle, how the image was framed, and choice of location to the extent that there was one, may say something about the mood or state of even an off camera photographer. Those in the photo would have their own strained smiles or weary eyes or guarded expressions or sometimes simpler expressions of true elation, excitement, or laughter and body language would tell the rest.

As she looked at the new photo, she could see just as clearly the anxiety and nerves of Marble, whose head drooped a bit as she slouched into the hug, turned away slightly with a light blush lingering on her cheeks. Still, her eyes focused on the camera with a sort of stalwart determination one might otherwise miss.

Limestone, on the other hoof, stared almost through the camera, as though lost in a personal fog. Her smile appeared genuine and warm, but uncertain, faltering somewhat. Her posture, likewise, seemed rigid, as though she were unsure what to do with herself in the moment. These communicated a number of different emotions warring in her mind, something that didn’t surprise Minuette in the slightest, given the complications of their relationship, the current situation with Marble, and the uncertain nature of their future. At the same time, Minuette was sure her marefriend didn’t mean to let her in on any of this. Limestone was the type to see herself as the rock to be relied upon, even when she was falling apart inside. She may see it as some personal failure to show such vulnerability, but that was exactly what she expressed in this image; vulnerability, and, to some extent, fragility. A need for things to go right and an inability to recognize the best course of action to ensure this outcome. A feeling of ‘what should I do now?’ that Minuette personally could relate to.

Then, there was her, in the center. Minuette’s smile was broad and overtly cheerful, an expression of her genuine joy in adding another picture of Limestone and herself to the album she’d started to document their relationship, this time with Marble included. Her arms wrapped around them, she could really sense the closeness she was trying to inspire in them, as well as a bit of tension which came from her usual role as a friendship manager, always trying to make sure things flowed well in group dynamics and nobody was left out.

Still, she really was excited to get to know Limestone’s younger sister better, outside the environment of the rock farm and more specifically, outside the company of their parents and the breakfast atmosphere which she still remembered as being thick enough to cut with a butter knife at least. More than that, this was an adventure of sorts to find Marble’s soulmate from another world, and where Limestone may feel nervous and protective of her little sister, Minuette could hardly contain herself at the prospect. Being involved in somepony else’s love life brought that out of her, which she supposed she could attribute mostly to her friendship with Twinkleshine and her obsession with all things romance and drama. Or maybe it was just that her friend group shared and relied on each other more through their tradition of the Midnight Donut.

She considered all of these things in far fewer words as she looked over the picture, and the warmth inside her only grew. Minuette wasn’t upset that the state of her marefriend and Marble’s emotions was anything but placid, that they were anything other than happy and excited as she was. No, rather than think of all that was wrong in the here and now, she looked forward to looking back on this photo years down the line and seeing how much they’d progressed.


It had barely been a day since she ended up in this world and, while Starlight had managed to calm her nerves and explain, and she was beginning to get the hang of this whole pony movement thing, there were some things that were just too weird. Sunny was sitting at a crystal dining room table across from the light purple pony. Between them sat a paper bag with a logo for a place called The Hay Burger.

Last night, they’d had salad for dinner, she was okay with that. She had nothing against eating healthy. The pancakes this morning were fine, even without the usual bacon accompaniment. That said, when Starlight mentioned there was a burger joint in Ponyville, Sunny jumped at the chance to experience just a bit of her former world, even if it did end up with some vegan patty, given the recent trend of her food. What she did not expect on her burger, however, was hay.

She stared down the bag and the pony across from her in turn, seconds ticking by as the purple horse simply bit into her burger and let out a small moan of pleasure before swallowing and giving Sunny a questioning look. “Something wrong?” she asked, innocently.

As much as she wanted to be a decent, if not polite house guest to Starlight in return for housing her and; as it turned out, saving her life when the portal exploded, she couldn’t just quietly eat this generously provided meal without saying anything. Aside from that, her sleep the night prior had hardly been restful. So, with a sigh, she said, “It’s the hay. I’m sorry you went out of your way to get this for me, but hay is animal food where I come from. Vegetarian dishes are fine and all, just, I guess eating hay is almost as weird for me as I imagine eating meat may be for you, if you get what I’m trying to say.”

At that, Starlight set down her burger. “I’ve been to the other side of the portal, I understand. Everything can be pretty jarring initially. You’re in a different body, there’s some things you can do now that you couldn’t before and some things you could do easily before that you can’t do so easily now. You might be surprised by what your taste buds find good over here though. Think about it, your entire biological makeup has shifted. Are you really so sure that hay won’t taste good?” She floated Sunny her burger. “Just try it, that’s all I ask, if you hate it, we can go to Sugarcube Corner or something.”

Sunny sighed, eyeing the floating burger for a few seconds before taking it in her hooves. She’d spent the better part of yesterday learning the trick behind using her new appendages like this. It turned out that all varieties of ponies, as Starlight had explained, had at least some limited magic, enough to grip things with their hooves as though they had a limited, physically attached, telekinetic hand at the end of each stump. Well, less of a hand and more of an invisible limb which could form to interact with anything in terms of grabbing or releasing within a range of roughly five to ten centimeters. She may not have mastered levitation or learned any kind of magic, but this was still progress. Besides, she’d needed the why, what, and wheres of her situation far more when they’d had that particular conversation. Seeing as she’d likely be here a while, the magic lessons could take a back seat for the time being.

She took a bite. As she chewed, she found the flavor was oddly enjoyable, not quite the same as any of the burgers back home, but hardly as disagreeable as she’d been expecting from something she associated with farm animals. But then, when she thought about it, she was now a technicolor, mythological variant of said farm animals, so it made a strange kind of sense. Swallowing, she looked over to Starlight, who was sporting a slight smug grin as if to say “Soooo? It’s great, isn’t it?”

Sunny could give credit where it was due, the burger was pretty good. “So I’m guessing you work as a teacher or babysitter or something? You’d be pretty good at getting a kid to eat their veggies.”

Starlight’s grin widened. “How do you figure?”

“Well, I don’t see a little version of you running around the castle, so you’re no mom.”

That nearly made Starlight laugh, an action which definitely would have ended with the water she’d just taken a sip of spewing out of her mouth at least, and maybe her nose too. “You got me there, I’m actually a principal now, though I used to be a guidance counselor.”

Sunny took another bite of the burger. “Quite the promotion,” she replied once her mouth was clear. She had to admit, this hay stuff was quickly growing on her.

“Well, the former principal had to go and become ruler of Equestria.”

Now, it was Sunny’s turn to chuckle, “I’m sure the principal of my old school would love that kinda job. Then she could micromanage everybody.”

Starlight’s expression sank a bit at that barb, but before Sunny could realize, there was a knock on the door which echoed through the empty halls of the cavernous crystal castle.

“I’ll get it,” Starlight said, getting up from her chair and depositing her burger back in the bag.

Sunny got a strange feeling in her gut, like she should follow Starlight to the door. She didn’t know if it was some protective instinct or if she just didn’t want to be left alone right now or what, but it felt like something was urging her on. Something insistent. Shrugging to herself, she got up and finished what was left of her burger in a couple big bites before saying, “Hey, wait, I’ll come with you.” Thinking on it, she knew Starlight could handle herself with the magic she’d displayed, maybe it was the other way around, maybe this unicorn made her feel safe in a world full of the unfamiliar and the unknown. She had spotted a book with the title “Griffons: A Reference Guide,” in bold and serious font, as though griffons were any old run of the mill creature which one might find need to reference. Nevermind the fact that at least one form of writing here was somehow legible and recognizable to her.

Starlight paused for a moment, giving Sunset a once over, then nodded. “Okay, you really should meet somepony other than me, even if it is just the mail pony. Her name is Derpy, by the way. She’s a very nice mare, if a bit directionally challenged. Oh, and you haven’t met a pegasus yet, she’s a pegasus, so that’s one thing off your probably extensive checklist of things to get used to around here.”

There was another knock by the time they reached the grand door which marked the entrance to this castle. Speaking of things to get used to, living in a castle made of any sort of gem, on top of that, figuring out how to sleep comfortably in her new horse body, were currently at the top of said list.

Starlight opened the door, and for the first time, Sunny got a glimpse of her namesake, bright and blinding as it would be after extended periods in a dark space. She squinted, slowly beginning to make out the backdrop of the town of Ponyville she’d heard about the night prior, and finally, the three ponies who stood in the doorway. Two of them looked almost like normal mares, minus the more petit, aesthetically appealing appearances these ponies seemed to have, the other was a unicorn like her. The lighter gray mare with a long mane drew her attention the most, she had sleek, luscious curves and looked reserved, nervous, yet in spite of that there was a determined look in her eye as she shook her head and stared Sunny head on. Staring into her eyes was mesmerizing. She felt lost suddenly, as if time had stopped. She remembered the words she heard in her head the day before, when time really had stood still.

Up to that point, Starlight and the blue unicorn had been talking about something, whatever they were saying was lost on her, though. Almost without thinking, no, no almost about it, she cut in. Abruptly, and without preamble, she trotted over to the light grey mare and asked “Hey, what’s your name?”

The mare straightened, took a deep breath, then released it. A breathing technique almost anyone could recognize if they paid enough attention, or Sunset thought so anyway. Her mom taught her that method of calming down and letting go of nerves when she was a kid. She briefly thought of her botched plans for potential reconciliation, but the moment quickly drew her attention back to the mare before her, now apparently mentally prepared to give a response.

“Marble Pie. And you?”

She remembered a line from yesterday in a moment of serene, crystal clarity: Love awaits on a string of destiny hidden in a pie of marble. This couldn’t be coincidence, or that’s what her gut said, and she always tried to follow her gut. One too many bad experiences had followed when she’d ignored her gut reaction, and she’d learned to trust it. Her mouth felt dry, and her mind felt miles away, muddled, fuzzy. She concluded that her rational reaction to all of this would have to be something to explore another time.

Breathless, she replied, “My name is Sunset Shimmer.” And that’s probably about where she should’ve stopped there, but the silence that immediately followed seemed to spur her to fill the air with something, anything, and so she continued, “Not this world’s Sunset Shimmer, she’s in my world, I mean, not that you’d know her or anything since she’s been there a while. Or maybe you do? I don’t know how time works here and it’s just that you look young and… well, I mean, not that it would matter if you were older or anything, just saying. Either way you look good, I mean really good, beautiful even. Very pretty eyes. But yeah, you probably don’t know her, so I’m the only Sunset Shimmer here right now, and I probably look like a complete and total idiot right now, I should really stop talking.”

Marble chuckled at that, a flushed look on her face as she said. “And here I was afraid I would be the nervous one.”

Then, she felt a hoof on her shoulder, followed by an amused “Hello, Equestria to Sunny, you didn’t forget me again, did you? Or the rest of our guests?” Starlight gave her a wink when she looked over, and suddenly she felt like she was in one of those dreams where she goes somewhere only to realize she’s wearing nothing but underwear. Only, this was a world of magical talking horses and most of them find clothes… optional. She looked back to Marble briefly, then mentally scolded herself, remembering their company, then additionally thought to consider how it was that she suddenly found other technicolor horses so alluring when literally yesterday she only thought of human women that way and whether or not she should be ashamed of that since she was one of them now. Her mind was going a mile a minute, it seemed.

“Breathe.” This time, it was Marble who reminded her in her soft, worried voice. She did as asked, breathing deeply in, then out. Closing her eyes. Letting the thoughts wash away.

“Sorry about that,” she said, addressing the whole group this time. She thought back to the outburst of nervous babbling she’d just displayed and figured the cat was very much out of the bag as far as her situation was concerned. “As you can probably guess, I’m new here and uh… kind of dealing with a lot of changes in a very short time period.”

The darker gray mare seemed to crack a small smile, before addressing her bubbly, blue compatriot, “Please, tell me I wasn’t like that when the Choosing Stone paired us.”

Her blue friend giggled, saying, “Close, but we actually were alone, or thought we were, anyways,” she gave Marble a knowing look, causing a blush to form on her cheeks, “and you had some idea of what was going on, not that I wouldn’t have been flattered if I did manage to put you in a state like that.”

Sunset knew flirting when she heard it, and this was definitely it. Those two were a couple, she guessed. Good to know she was in like company, at least. Some people back home made sexuality a big deal.

“Anyway, you all know my name, and I know Marble’s, but I don’t know either of yours. Now that I’ve made a complete fool of myself in front of you, I might as well know your names.” She gave them a friendly smile, or what she hoped was a friendly smile, she’d learned over the years that her “friendly” smiles frequently crossed the line into menacing or vindictive, in appearance. She could only hope this new pony body wasn’t quite so intimidating. She was still wearing a ponified version of her favorite leather jacket. Sadly or otherwise, the rest of her outfit didn’t seem to have made the trip.

The blue unicorn was the first to respond, she grinned wide, before saying, “You’re good, I like you, a lot of ponies might be very awkward after an embarrassing moment like that, but you bounce right back, don’t ya? My name’s Minuette! Very nice to make your acquaintance, o traveler from beyond the outer ring.”

Sunset let out a small laugh at Minuette’s cheeky joke. “Thanks Minuette, I very much hope to learn your ways. And you?” she asked the tough looking gray mare. On closer inspection, this mare was surprisingly fit. Her muscles were remarkable enough to be a defining feature, and maybe, if she were the type who was into that, given her apparent newfound horse infatuation, she might find her pretty hot. Still, seeing herself as the one who wore the proverbial and literal leather jacket in her relationships; less in the sense of assigning herself some kind of male role or greater role in terms of power dynamics, more in the sense of not being the feminine type and generally being outgoing, headstrong, and a little stubborn as a person and now as a pony, she could respect her.

The dark gray mare seemed to puff herself up a bit before responding, emphasizing her muscular assets, “I’m Limestone Pie, Marble’s my younger sister. Hurt her and you’ll answer to me. Otherwise, we should be fine.”

“Lime, please stop.” Marble asked, putting a hoof on her shoulder. “I’d rather avoid any more embarrassment today.”

“Fine,” Limestone grumbled, deflating a little, “it needed to be said though. You’re my sister, and it’s important to me that whatever happens, nobody fucks with you. Just… promise you’ll let me know if something’s wrong, okay?”

“I will, and besides, how am I supposed to learn to stick up for myself if you always do it for me, huh?” Marble practically whispered. Sunset knew she wouldn’t have heard had she not been inadvertently paying close attention to everything she said since she started talking. Still, the whole conversation had this strange undertone to it, like everypony here knew something she didn’t. She turned to ask Starlight about it, but realized she’d wandered off at some point mid-conversation.

Then, Minuette stepped in and said, “Well, it was really nice meeting you. I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of each other soon enough.” she winked. Minuette hooked an arm around Limestone’s withers, “But I promised this one here a tour of Ponyville. We’ll be back to pick up Marble when we visit with the other two Pie sisters. Maybe you can join us then. Anyway, have fun, you two!” She gave a couple more winks before dragging the buffer of the two sisters off on some tour of the neighborhood.

Sunny was now entirely confused, standing in the doorway to a crystal castle with what she now apparently deemed to be a hot mare who was being left with her for some reason that they were somehow all in on. It was like they were all trying to play matchmaker, but none of them even knew her, so that made no sense. And by the time she thought of asking to join Minuette and Limestone on that tour; seeing as she was new here, a tour would probably be very helpful, she’d already lost sight of them.

She turned to Marble, whose face had gone beet red at some point while she was trying to play catch up with everything that was going on right now. “Hey, soooo, you wouldn’t happen to know what all this is about, do you?”

“Mmhmm,” Marble replied.

“Would you mind telling me?” Sunset asked.

Marble took another breath, steeling herself. “Inside, please.”

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure, I mean, I should’ve offered, or maybe Starlight should’ve offered? Or maybe she did, but it was awkward with me just standing in the doorway talking to you all? I’m sorry, I completely missed out on the whole reason you guys came here and everything, just kind of spaced, so that’s my bad. Well, I mean, not that I’m usually this ditzy, just not every day I become a horse and run across a cute horse like you and then, this is gonna sound crazy, but there was totally this voice in my head when I came through, and everything stood still, and it kind of mentioned your name in some cryptic, poetic way and… sorry for putting this all on you, I know, we’re total strangers, and I probably sound crazy right now, but I’m just not very good at thinking when I get all flustered like this. Wait, I’m sorry, let’s go in.”

Once they got in the door, Marble spoke, “So you heard the voice of the Choosing Stone too, then?”


When the door closed, Marble felt like she could breathe a little easier. Something about being around all those ponies without her sister or, surprisingly, Minuette, was still pretty suffocating to her. It was as if those two had managed to provide a sort of safe haven in the middle of the storm of ponies moving this way and that. And while Ponyville was smaller than Canterlot and less packed than the train, she still felt anxious without either of them nearby, even with her destined life partner adorably floundering and inadvertently oversharing. The secondhand embarrassment wasn’t very helpful, but the words were sweet, and it was comforting to some extent, for once, to have someone openly more nervous than her, around her.

Moreover, beneath all the social anxiety and knots in her stomach and the determination to show her sister that love wasn’t something to dread or be afraid of, there was no small amount of excitement. Since she was young, she’d heard the story of their parents’ union through the Choosing Stone. And since that time, she always longed to find for herself what they had. Up until this moment though, she’d been too nervous to try. Years passed as her insecurities mounted, questions like ‘What if there’s nopony out there for me?’ and ‘What if I don’t deserve them?’ and ‘What if I don’t have what it takes to even tell them they’re my soulmate? What then?’ cropped up regularly in her mind back on the farm. Then Pinkie Pie left, and Maud left, and she began to tell herself that by avoiding the knowledge of her soulmate, she was showing some sort of solidarity to Limestone, who had been so affected by the loss of their sisters’ company. She’d told herself back then that she was just sticking by her sister until she found a way to move forward, when really she’d been hiding from her own ‘What ifs’.

When Marble took that step, deciding once and for all to discover her soulmate, it was just as much for herself as for her sister. This was what she thought of when she asked, “So you heard the voice of the Choosing Stone too, then?”

It wasn’t a completely innocent question. She’d heard enough stories when she was younger to know that both sides always heard the message. It was in whether they bothered to listen, to pay attention, and in how they responded which would determine their journey moving forward.

Sunset looked surprised, and a bit caught off guard. “Wait, so, you mean I didn’t imagine that!? And that name, ‘Choosing Stone’, was it? I think your sister mentioned it earlier. What is it? What does it have to do with all this, with us?”

Marble wasn’t surprised in the least that her soulmate would have questions. She’d taken all of this seriously, from her decision that the time for her to ask had come to her own dissection and careful consideration of the words the Choosing Stone told her. And, well, she was promised an otherworldly setting sun, a star which had come to ground, straddling the line between worlds. She expected questions, and lots of them. Marble had prepared answers, and practiced them, late into the night.

What she didn’t expect, was how relaxed she felt now that it was just the two of them. It was as though Sunset exuded a comforting warmth true to her name.

“You may want to sit down for this,” Marble said in a soft voice, as she said most things, though with more confidence than she’d initially expected.

“Oh! Yeah! Of course! Follow me,” Sunset exclaimed, blushing from embarrassment for the second time since Marble met her, then led her to a nearby crystal table upon which sat a to-go bag from Hayburger. She wondered if she’d interrupted their lunch.

Sunset pulled a chair out for her guest, and another for herself. It was unclear to Marble whether this was done out of common courtesy and general politeness, or if there was a deeper meaning to the gesture. Chivalry wasn’t dead, she guessed, or at least as she understood it anyway. She’d only heard the phrase a couple times in passing. Regardless, she appreciated the gesture, and thought it wise to stop staring at the empty seat and sit down.

Once the two were seated, Marble took a deep breath, and began her explanation. “No, you didn’t imagine it, you did miss one of the more exciting parts, though, from what I understand, you had a bit of an exciting event of your own going on right around then. Not everypony gets to be at the center of the magic explosion that went off when you got here. To answer your next question, the Choosing Stone is a magical relic in my hometown, though I’ve heard that it used to go by other names in the past, like the Stone of Destiny or the Soothsayer’s Stone. These days, the ponies in Rockville use the Choosing Stone to find their soulmate. I used it to find you, just as Minuette used it to find her partner.” She recited the answers well, without pause, and with something approaching confidence and pride even. It made her wonder how she’d do when Sunset asked something she hadn’t prepared for ahead of time, which made her nervous all over again. But something about the look in Sunset’s eyes when she spoke was encouraging, like she was trying hard to absorb every word. Somehow, she once again found herself letting go.

A bright blush overrode Sunset’s natural orange pigment, “Oh… wow, um, I wasn’t expecting, I mean, why would I? But then, that makes a lot of sense when I think about it. So, you tracked me down here, probably with some equally old, poetic sounding, cryptic words which I guess somehow spelled out who I am and where you’d find me?”

This one was easy. “Yes, and yes.” She pulled the form her sister had written the voice’s prediction on and showed it to her, setting it down on a nearby table.

The solar-colored mare stared at the writing for a few moments, reading it in her head. When she finished, she nodded a couple times, then got up, looked around for a bit, and finally asked sheepishly, “Do you have a pencil? I wanted to have my half written down too, while it’s still fresh in my memory.”

Marble nodded, pulling an eraserless pencil from her bag. “Mhm, go ahead, I’ll write.”

“Okay, so it went kind of like this: Sunset Shimmer, you’re stranded, but you’ll be happy to know that your travels are not in vain. Love awaits on a string of destiny hidden within a pie of marble. In a heart of stone you’ll find succor, in a bed of granite you’ll find warmth. You might go home alone, but behind, your heart shall remain until the time of your return.”

Marble smiled as she finished writing. “Sounds cozy,” she said.

Sunset seemed like she’d been about to make a comment, then it was as though she’d lost track of whatever she was going to say, and just said, “Yeah. It does,doesn’t it?” in a breathless kind of way.

If she kept looking at her like that, Marble wouldn’t be held responsible for her actions. She may be shy, but the helpless look in her eye that Sunset got at times made her feel like a predator of sorts, bold in ways she had never really experienced. She shook her head, no, this mare was clearly in a very vulnerable state right now. She was figuring out how to live in another world, coping with whatever she’d left behind, likely willing to cling to any ray of hope or silver lining she found with full force. It was only natural she was already fawning so much when Marble had shown up like some kind of comforting presence here to make everything okay again. And what better escape from the situation she found herself in than the promise of a relationship?

“Hey, Sunset?” Marble asked.

“Oh, uh, yes? What is it?” she replied in that word-vomiting way of hers.

“I know you probably still have a lot of questions, and I’m taking you by surprise not long after you got here from another world. It strikes me as unfair on my part to spring all of this on you at once. Is there anything you need to talk out or process about all this?” Marble asked with genuine concern. She didn’t want to come into Sunset’s life and sweep her off her feet through sheer momentum before the mare knew which way was up.

This seemed to throw Sunset, focus her. It was like she’d suddenly been splashed with cold water. She put a hoof to the underside of her muzzle and closed her eyes.


Sunny thought about what Marble said, and quickly realized just how lost she’d been in the moment. She’d managed to push most of her worries and concerns and questions to the back of her mind.

Now, the implications of the situation began to sink in. This wasn’t her home. As long as she remained here, there was a life, however cruddy, that missed her. She had friends back there, though she had drifted apart from the few good friends she’d had around the time she quit school. There was her dad, but then, he’d kicked her out on her ass as soon as she’d turned eighteen. He wasn’t the best father after her mother left him either, he was an alcoholic, not physically abusive, but absent. She’d had to learn to cook her own meals, her dad ate out most nights, but kept the fridge stocked with odds and ends in case he didn’t have the money to swing it or decided to spend the night in. It may be months if not years before he’d realize she was gone, and that was if the other Sunset didn’t replace her there too. Maybe it was better that way.

“You okay?” Marble asked, quietly, causing Sunset to realize just how long she’d been silent.

“Yeah. Just thinking that this whole deal isn’t so bad. My life back home wasn’t all that great, I’d just lost my apartment due to a work problem, I can’t really think of any reason I’d really want to go back. Besides, it’s not like I’d be missed. Hell, the Sunset from this world’s taken my place, where I dropped out of school, she picked up my slack. Maybe she’s living my life better than I ever did. And is that world really big enough for two of me anyways? I dunno. The more I consider it, the more this seems like a second chance, a clean sleight of sorts. I’m a unicorn in this world, which apparently means I can do magic if I train. I've got this huge place to live in at least while I figure things out, some magic rock has led my soulmate straight to my door. It seems like everything’s coming up Sunny this time around.”

Marble nodded, sending Sunset a small smile before the look of concern reappeared, “And there’s nothing you find wrong or strange about your current circumstances? You do still have a lot to learn, and speaking from experience, it can be hard and intimidating to find yourself somewhere new where you don’t know anypony, or anycreature these days. This world may be magic, but there’s also plenty of danger because of it. There’s all kinds of monsters and villains who try to take over, it’s not a super frequent problem, but you should know about it. Aside from that, you’ll need to learn different ways of talking to creatures of this world. It’d be awful if you end up saying something embarrassing or upset someone because of a misunderstanding. Not that I want you to go back, but it’s important that you consider these kinds of big decisions carefully.”

Sunset tilted her head from side to side, weighing pros and cons. It didn’t take long. “Somehow, that stuff doesn’t bother me too much. Maybe it did when I first got here, even earlier this morning, when I came across a book about griffons, that freaked me out a little. And I may have been a bit squeamish about eating hay at first.” Sunny motioned to the to-go bag on the table before continuing, “Still, when I think about all that compared to the idea of a return to the shitty life I had, this isn’t so bad. It’s possible if you hadn’t come, and I never really considered the prospect of staying, I might’ve just found a way back without questioning whether it was the right choice because it was the familiar choice. But even then, I can see myself searching for a way to return eventually when I realized I’d thrown away a perfect chance to start over. You don’t get too many of those in life, and especially not with so many perks.” she winked.

Marble blushed, “I uh, I guess I can’t really argue with that logic. I am envious though, you’re very strong in ways that I’m not. If I had the choice between a better life and returning to what I’m used to, I’d probably choose to stay where I was rather than explore something different and new.”

“But isn’t that what you’re doing right now with me? Trying something new and different than your everyday life? I mean, I’m from another world entirely, you’ve never met me before, I’m probably more unusual than anything you normally deal with in the course of an afternoon.” Sunset finished with a shit eating grin, like she’d just won a prize.

“You’re not wrong, I came here because this was important, for me, for my sister. I went over about a dozen excuses for why I put myself through the anxiety of being around so many strangers, but in the end, the most important reason was a selfish one. I wanted what the Choosing Stone promised. I wanted you.”

Sunset flushed again at that. She knew she was blushing entirely too much for one day, but this mare kept doing things which made the heat rise in her cheeks. And that wasn’t even going into her body, her eyes, the way she wore her hair. Everything about her was lithe and sexy to Sunny. It was all she could do to not stare too long. She was also quickly learning that most ponies wore minimal if any clothes and that certainly wasn’t helping. As for her feelings on her sudden and inexplicable attraction to ponies, she’d landed on the rationalization that she was now a pony herself, so this was a part of that, which made it only natural. On most occasions, she found that going with the flow was much easier than going against it and questioning every little thing.

“So, about that… what happens now? Do we go on dates? We probably should since we’re apparently soulmates and all, right? But then, the Choosing Stone already said we’re right for each other anyway, so do we just skip that step? I don’t think I’m entirely ready for that, if that’s what you want.”

Marble gave a small chuckle at that, before saying, “I mean, if my parents found out about the Choosing Stone’s prediction, they’d definitely push for us to marry on the spot. Both of them think it’s a waste of time to date and worry over all the complications and drama of not being formally wed. As for me, I’m fine with either way. Marriage isn’t quite as intimidating as it sounds. It can take the pressure and expectations off of a relationship. But I also understand that the prospect of starting something so permanent without getting to know each other first through dating can be difficult, and may feel like you’re getting in over your head or moving too fast. Regardless of what you decide, I’d prefer for us to be honest with each other about our boundaries. What makes us uncomfortable, scared, nervous, so that when we’re ready to push beyond those boundaries or forced to face something we don’t like, we can be there for each other.”

Sunny shifted, she found her thoughts drawn to how much she’d already shared. She never really thought of herself as the open book type, but then, it was possible she’d never had the chance outside of therapy. And Marble did sound a lot like a therapist with her soft, gentle voice and demeanor. Though her old therapists mostly just listened and prescribed some action which may be in her best interest if she were open to it. That, and they never talked about having a relationship with her, nor did she find herself checking them out in the same way she did with Marble. But then, most had been too old for her anyways.

“Talking to you is oddly therapeutic.” she said without really thinking.

“And how does that make you feel?” Marble asked, sounding almost entirely genuine.

The joke caught Sunset off guard and she laughed hard enough that she had to catch her breath. It wasn’t so much the joke itself, but the way Marble said it, the fact that she of all ponies was making a joke after all that serious talk, and how simple it was. It felt as though it came out of nowhere.

When she caught her breath, she said, “Well, I feel a lot better than I did this morning.”

“Should we consider this a date then?” Marble asked.

“Yeah, I think we should.”


When Starlight answered the door, she’d hardly been expecting Minuette and the Pie sisters. She’d heard a fair bit about them from Maud and Pinkie, well, more Pinkie than Maud, but that was just because Pinkie was… well, Pinkie. As for Minuette, she knew she was one of Twilight’s old friends from Canterlot, and she ran into her all the time, whether in Ponyville or on trips abroad, usually with some combination of Twilight’s other Canterlot friends. It struck her as kind of odd that any pony would have the time or resources to travel so much.

Their explanation had been cut short by Sunny’s awkward entrance, but she understood the gist of it, and as crazy as it all was, they were there to see her. Thinking Sunny would be fine with them, she’d excused herself to go see to the assignment she’d been neglecting.

Now she was here. She’d informed Twilight of the situation earlier this morning and quickly received a reply scroll. It said that Moondancer was helping her to adjust and calibrate the portal at the castle, but it would be a while before they had it up and running. Until then, Twilight wanted her to focus on making sure otherworld Sunset was fine and to work with Chrysalis.

So far, she’d accommodated Sunset to the best of her ability, now it was time to deal with the less pleasant of her two obligations. Starlight walked into the garden where the former statue of three villains was now only a statue of one. She surmised that Sunburst was out with Cozy Glow right now. For the time being she was glad she didn’t have to tell him what happened with Tirek, she knew he wouldn’t take it well considering it had been his idea to send Tirek over.

She shut down that train of thought, she didn’t want to have that conversation with Chrysalis, and from Starlight’s experience with changelings on the whole was that they had a tendency to be sensitive to emotional states. Most of the time, they were polite about it, but she didn’t expect the same luxury from the villain whose hive she made turn on her.

Am I really in any state to handle her right now? She let out a sigh. Will I ever be ready? If I keep waiting for the right moment, I’ll be waiting forever. Time to rip the band-aid off I guess.

She channeled her magic and released the petrification spell binding Chrysalis.

Chrysalis let her mouth fall closed for the first time since she’d been petrified. She stood there, glaring daggers at Starlight. As though daring her to say something.

Of course, this would go nowhere if she said nothing. “Hey, Chrysalis, I know you’re probably not exactly thrilled to see me right now.”

“That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. Do you have any idea how insufferable those two are? If you must imprison me in stone again, at the very least let it be alone!”

Starlight was surprised that Chrysalis’s first words weren’t a personal reprimand. But then, maybe she’d gotten all that out when she was still a statue. It would be nice if that were the case, but she wasn’t counting on it. “I’ll consider it. Look, I know we kind of got off on the wrong hoof for all this. You thought you were doing what was best for your hive. I’ve been there. I took away the cutie marks of an entire town, and when Twilight and her friends took that away, I was pissed. I spent months plotting my revenge, then I went back in time to prevent their friendship from ever happening, and when Twilight finally brought me into one of those timelines, do you know what I saw? Equestria was an empty wasteland, all because I couldn’t see past my own foolish ideology. I see a lot of my old self in you, and I want to help you in the same way Twilight helped me. Please tell me you at least understand where I’m coming from here, even if you disagree.”

Chrysalis sneered. “And what? Now you’re going to say something like you care about me or some such nonsense. I have no need for your pity or your foolish friendship.”

Starlight sighed. “Must you be so dramatic all the time? I mean, do you even hear yourself right now? I’m not taking pity on you anymore than I took pity on me back when I was brainwashing ponies into following my own narrow-minded ideology. I just think that you’re better than this. You don’t have to have everyone hate you or fear you to command respect. Princess Celestia and Luna did just fine without a reign of tyranny, so does Twilight now that she’s Princess of Equestria.”

“So you’re just going to tell me that everything I was doing was wrong then? My style of rulership had been practiced within changeling hives going back decades. It is not only my privilege, but my right to rule through fear and power and manipulation as I see fit.”

“And look where it’s gotten you.” Starlight pointed to the magic-blocking choker affixed to her neck. “Y’know, for all the awful things that you’ve done, you still have the chance to work things out if you just let others in. Would it really be so terrible to not be in charge? If you could have your hive back, would it be the worst possible thing to rule with kindness and an open mind rather than an iron hoof? If every changeling is no longer starving, but rather thriving by sharing love, can you really say that you were better off attempting to take over Canterlot and drain all the ponies’ love there before throwing them away and moving on to your next target?”

As she finished her questioning, Starlight was met with silence. Chrysalis looked like she was frustrated. She just stared at the floor.

This went on for so long, Starlight was half convinced she’d be better off re-petrifying the bug pony queen until tomorrow and picking the conversation up there. She did still have Sunset to worry about. Before she could act on this thought, though, Chrysalis spoke. “As irritating as it is to admit, maybe you’re… right. I was reckless, and let my anger get to me, and maybe there were other ways I could have tried…” Her voice had an odd quality to it, something she’d never heard before from the once-monarch. It sounded melancholy, somber, and her changeling queen vocal chords gave an eerie tonality to that particular manner of speech. “I guess I let my pride get the best of me and when I failed again and again, I just couldn’t see why. Then I lost my hive, and you gave me someone else to blame. It was all my fault though. I was the one who was starving my hive by not considering alternatives to stealing love. Since I was small, I’ve dreamed of being a ruler, but when I became one, I suppose I was not prepared to take on that responsibility.”

Starlight looked into her emerald eyes, trying to gauge the sincerity of her admission. She snorted. “Nice try, Chryssi, but you’re gonna have to do better than that. Still, you do recognize that you’ve made mistakes in your leadership, even if you can’t fully own up to it yet. Tell you what though, I’m willing to make a deal with you which would make this whole process a lot more comfortable, and, if things go well, I’ll even work things out with Thorax so that you can regain leadership of your old hive.”

“Deal! What do I have to do?”

“Oh, well, if you behave yourself, I’m willing to allow you to stay unpetrified and stay at the Crystal Castle with me. So long as you don’t cause trouble, you can have free roam in Ponyville. That collar will prevent you from changing form and if you try to remove the collar or set hoof outside of Ponyville, I will be notified.” Starlight was enjoying having Chrysalis at her mercy for once rather than the other way around, especially after how their last fight ended. She’d never take her eye off an enemy again before she’d confirmed her victory. Also, having Chrysalis unpetrified meant she wouldn’t have to explain the Tirek situation to her quite so soon.

“Those terms are… acceptable. And the condition for the return of my hive?” Chrysalis asked, sounding annoyed.

“Oh, that one’s pretty simple.” Starlight gave her a smug smile. “You just have to share love with a pony.”