The Masterpiece

by McPoodle

First published

Twilight must step in to prevent Pinkie Pie's mental disintegration

On the first anniversary of the defeat of Nightmare Moon, Pinkie Pie is preparing the party to end all parties. It is her masterpiece, to show her father that she was justified in fleeing the family farm ten years earlier.

Acting off of a mysterious remark by Princess Luna, Twilight Sparkle is trying to work out which of her friends is suffering from nightmares about a horrible danger coming to Ponyville during the Summer Sun Celebration. All she knows is that this pony lied about their cutie mark story...

And Pinkamena is also preparing for the arrival of her father. She has a masterpiece of her own, but it is quite different from Pinkie's...

Chapter 1: First Nightmare

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The Masterpiece

Chapter 1: First Nightmare

It was the most-ambitious party of all time.

It was set in a great cavernous hall, four stories high and big enough to fit ten Sugarcube Corners comfortably inside. Balloons, streamers and banners festooned its walls to the very top. Roving spotlights tried to keep the eye of the guest moving. There were all-you-can-eat buffets representing the traditional cuisines of Canterlot, Cloudsdale, Appleoosa, Fillydelphia, the Griffon Aerie, the Fifteenth Century and the Zebrican Alliance. DJ Pon-3 hosted a rave in one corner, and Octavia’s Ensemble played a graceful string quartet in another—the room was so big that you could get away with that. There were party hats and kazoos for all, pin the tail on the pony games and spin the bottle. There were areas set aside for dancing, areas for polite conversation and areas for telling uproarious jokes, tables to eat your food in polite company, and areas for dozing for when the excitement was just too much.

It was the most-ambitious party of all time. And it was a complete and utter failure.

You could hear the Maretoven at the same time as the Mouze, and each sound made the other sickening. The food was six hundred and seventeen varieties of baked bad, each more retch-inducing than the last. The acoustics of the room, created by the specific combination of balloons, streamers and banners, caused every pony’s voice to grate upon the other, and every statement to come out sounding like you were being insulted. The air was fetid and uncomfortable, or dank and chilly, depending on which spot you stood in and for how low.

A filly-sized Pinkie Pie, totally oblivious of how her party was faring, gleefully climbed up onto a table so she could be seen and heard. Unnoticed by her, a gray shadow began to grow behind her.

“So,” she said, “what do you think?”

The partygoers expressed their opinion by hurling their food at her.

“You spoiled my apples!” cried out Applejack, before turning and bucking a rotten applecore at Pinkie’s head. “I never want to speak to you again!”

“You’ve brought shame upon the good name of Ponyville!” yelled Rarity, using her telekinesis to upend a bowl of rancid punch over her head. “These hats are atrocious and the strings cut off our circulation!”

“Leave and never return!” proclaimed the united voices of Mr. and Mrs. Cake.

“But...I did it all for you!” protested Pinkie Pie. Cracks began to appear in her coat.

“You did it all for yourself!” snarled Twilight Sparkle, stepping forward. “You try to buy our love with parties. But it’s not going to work anymore. We’ve caught on to your tricks.”

“But I thought you were my friends...” Pinkie Pie whispered. Her hair flattened as the gray shadow embraced her, and chunks of her pink fur flaked off to reveal magenta underneath.

Rainbow Dash flew up into her face. “You don’t deserve our friendship. We found out the truth: you’re not even Pinkie Pie!”

“You’re right,” the mare proclaimed in a low voice, as her pupils constricted into reptilian slits. “Pinkie Pie is a lie.” She flexed her muscles, and the remaining pink flew off of her with a flash of light. When it had faded, she was revealed as a full-size alicorn.

On seeing her, the ponies all cried out in dismay. Married couples turned against each other, and foals tried to gnaw on their parents, only to be swatted down in anger. Applejack and Rainbow Dash rushed at each other, flailing furiously with their hooves, and Rarity and Twilight launched into a magical duel that would almost certainly end with Rarity in a hospital.


The shadow approved.

Unnoticed by the rest of the furious crowd, a sad midnight blue unicorn snuck out of the party and turned back into the Princess of the Night.

“Wake up, tortured soul,” she said as a burst of magic replaced the party pavilion with a plain of white. Princess Luna gave a regretful look behind her before flying into the night sky, and out of Pinkie Pie’s mind.

The sound of the pink mare’s wrenching sobs stayed with her for hours.

Chapter 2: Professional Help

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The Masterpiece

Chapter 2: Professional Help

The morning meal of the Royal Pony Sisters was usually a quiet affair. Ministers and secretaries always had a million pieces of business for the Princess of the Sun, but they were strictly forbidden from approaching her for any but the gravest of reasons before Celestia had ingested the royal coffee.

Princess Luna on the other hoof would usually be drinking some chamomile tea to calm her down for her daily rest. This contrast in dispositions meant that on those few occasions when she wished to use this time to speak with her elder sister, she was able to dominate the conversations, a rare occurrence for her.

This was one of those occasions.

“I witnessed a most-disturbing dream last night,” Luna began. “It belonged to—”

She was interrupted by the sight of Celestia raising a hoof while using her magic to sip her coffee. “You shouldn’t be discussing another pony’s dreams with a third party,” she said gently.

Luna’s brows knitted. This must be one of those “millennial changes”, she decided. “And why not?”

“Pony society has become much more focused on the individual over the centuries,” Celestia explained. “It’s the reason why the ‘Royal We’ has dropped out of use. As a result, there is a great deal of concern about privacy.”

“Interesting,” observed Luna. “And yet I’ve also noticed that we two, who used to have the most-private lives of any pony, now have next to no privacy at all.”

Celestia shrugged her wings and took a bite of toast.

“So should I stop visiting the dreams of our little ponies?” Luna asked herself out loud. She swiftly answered herself. “No. My power serves a need. Through it, I can connect to our subjects during a time when I am unable to speak with most of them directly. It was because of this gift that I was able to learn that the ponies had started to forgive, that convinced me that I could come out in public again during the recent Nightmare Night festivities. If the ponies value their privacy, then I will respect that. But if they would allow me, I would wish to extend that power.”

“What do you have in mind?” asked Celestia with a raised brow.

“There are many ponies who castigate themselves with no cause. Blame themselves for losses they had no control over. They rehearse these imaginary crimes again and again in their dreams. I think maybe I can help. If they will grant me permission, then I can help them untangle their dreams, and discover the true cause of their unhappiness.”

Celestia raised a hoof to her lip in thought. “That might be a more difficult task than you imagine, dear Sister.”

Luna nodded. “I understand dreams instinctually, but I am totally ignorant of how the waking pony’s mind functions. As a result, I can’t open my mouth without putting my hoof in it.”

Celestia’s hoof was now trying in vain to hide her smile. “I certainly would not have phrased it quite like that,” she said.

“Nevertheless, it is true. If I can barely converse with a waking pony, how can I convince them to allow me to interact with something so revealing as their dream?”

“It seems to me,” said Celestia, “that you need to learn the art of making friends. I would recommend you travel to Ponyville to visit my student.”

“No, no, no,” replied Luna, rapidly shaking her head. “I don’t need art, I need science! I have heard that there are individuals dedicated to the study of the pony mind. If I could submit to an accelerated apprenticeship under one of these masters, let’s say for ten years or so, then I am confident that I would gain the tools I would need to engage in my chosen endeavor! I’m not sure what kind of masterpiece would be appropriate afterwards, however...”

Celestia thought it was adorable how her little sister’s language would descend into technospeak whenever she got excited, at least since she had trained herself away from the Royal Canterlot Voice. “Yes, well coincidentally,” she said, “Twilight Sparkle herself would not be a bad choice of...master, to train under. She minored in Pony Psychology at the Academy.”

Celestia neglected to mention that this particular choice of minor lasted until half-way through the first session, when Twilight fled out of the classroom screaming. Nevertheless, she knew that the unicorn had maintained an interest in the subject despite that humiliation.

Luna nodded in satisfaction. “A mentor I am already acquainted with—excellent! I shall send her word that I’ll be visiting her tonight.”

“So soon?” asked Princess Celestia. “So this dream you saw was really that worrying to you?”

“Indeed,” said Princess Luna, as she lowered her head in remembrance. She decided that revealing a non-identifying part of what she saw would be acceptable. “In the dream, I saw the pony turn herself into a Nightmare.”

“A Nightmare!” exclaimed Celestia, startling the maids who were clearing her plates. “Was this pony an alicorn?”

“No, she was not,” Luna assured her.

This answer confused Celestia. “Then why are you worried?” she asked. “Only alicorns are susceptible to corruption by the Nightmare.”

“The Nightmare is but a symbol,” explained Luna, grinning despite herself at finding a subject where she was clearly more knowledgeable than her sister, even after the long banishment. “I do not fear that this pony’s dreams will endanger Equestria. What is at stake is a single pony’s mind, and the effect this mind’s potential damage will have on her friends. But isn’t that enough for me to do everything in my power to help her?”

“It is,” said Celestia proudly. “It is indeed. Go to Twilight Sparkle for advice, with my blessing.”

It was only then that Luna remembered the date. “But what about the Summer Sun Ceremony? It’s only two days away!”

“It’s alright,” Celestia said with a small smile. “I’ll be in Canterlot today and tomorrow, and in Fillydelphia on the 45th. I trust in your judgment, Sister.”

“If it is at all in my power to be by your side at the ceremony without hurting this pony, then rest assured, Tia, I will be there.”

The two ponies embraced, before separating for their separate spheres: Luna to write a letter to Twilight Sparkle and then get some sleep, and Celestia to open the Day Court and begin the business of the day.

Chapter 3: Cover Story

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The Masterpiece

Chapter 3: Cover Story

Twilight Sparkle stood on her balcony as the sun was setting, her telescope trained on Canterlot. She had caught sight of Princess Luna’s chariot, and was tracking its progress towards Ponyville.

“Where is she going?” she asked herself as she swung the telescope around to follow the chariot. “She’s not heading to the Library at all!”

“Well what about the cover story?” Spike asked from behind her.

“Cover story?” asked Twilight, before her memory caught up to her. “That’s right! In her letter, Princess Luna said she wanted to avoid ponies asking why she was visiting me so often. So she’s going to claim she’s here to inspect Ponyville’s preparations for the Summer Sun Ceremony, something legitimately in her duties as princess. Of course, she can only use that excuse for the next two nights.”

Using her magic, Twilight quickly secured the telescope. “To the Town Hall!” she proclaimed, before turning to her assistant. “And you: to bed!”

“Aww, but it’s early!” protested Spike.

“You’re going to be up all night tomorrow waiting for the Summer Celebration with the rest of us. There’s no way you’re going to make it if you don’t go to bed right now!”

Spike sulked. “Oh all right,” he muttered. “But you’re not allowed to have fun with Princess Luna without me.”

“Only boring psychological talk,” said Twilight with a grin. “I promise.”

~ ~ ~

“Alright, red streamers on the north wall, and purple streamers on the south wall. No, no, wider apart, wider! They need to look like they were randomly thrown at the wall, and magically stuck. Yes, just like that!”

“Last delivery of the day, Miss Pie. It’s a square table.”

Without even looking, Pinkie Pie pointed one hoof at the southwest corner. “That’s for the punch bowl. Put it in the gap between the two treat tables, rotated at a 52-degree angle...perfect! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Crafty! Everything is going perfectly!”

Watching the scene, Twilight Sparkle shook her head in wonderment. For a pony that so loved spontaneity, it was always strange to see how focused Pinkie Pie became when planning her parties.

Beside her, the Princess was methodically examining every feature of this room. For a cover story, she’s sure taking her inspection seriously, thought Twilight. It’s like she’s comparing this setup to some perfect party she’s seen before.

As Twilight watched, the party pony walked up to a dignified gray earth pony who was playing random notes on a cello, then listening carefully for the echoes each note produced.

“It’s after sundown, Octavia,” said Pinkie Pie. “They’re probably going to kick us out of the hall any minute now.”

Octavia waved her bow at Pinkie. “I’ve just about settled on the perfect location for the Ensemble,” she said. “I’ll leave when I am asked, never you fear.”

“Okey dokie,” replied Pinkie, before turning and hopping over towards the two watching ponies. “Hi, Twilight! Hi, Princess.” Twilight noticed her eyes briefly widen as she greeted Luna, but after that she was instantly back to her usual exuberant self. “Did you come here for some cake? Because Sugarcube Corner’s closed for the night.”

“My sister told me you were planning quite the celebration,” said Luna cautiously.

“You bet!” exclaimed Pinkie. “It’s the anniversary of the most important day in the history of Ponyville, and easily the second-best day in my life! It was the day when the six of us became the bestest friends in all of Equestria!”

“Is that all?” Luna asked with a smirk, “I seem to also remember it to be the day when a certain pony was freed from the Nightmare. And for that, I will be forever grateful.”

“Well of course it was the day we helped you, Luna,” said Pinkie incredulously. “I mean you were there—don’t you remember it?”

Twilight sighed. “She was being facetious, Pinkie.”

“Fa-what now?” Pinkie asked with a disarming grin. “So have you seen enough, or do you need the Grand Tour?”

“I’ll inspect things for myself, if you don’t mind,” said Princess Luna.

“OK!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie. “I can stay up tonight with you, or...”

“That won’t be necessary, Pinkie Pie,” Luna replied. “I’d like to spread out my inspection over the next couple of nights.”

“Oh,” said Pinkie, sounding strangely disappointed. “So...will you be in Ponyville during the Celebration?”

“No,” replied the alicorn, “I would much prefer to be in Fillydelphia, celebrating beside my sister. You don’t need me to be here during the Celebration, do you?”

“No, of course not!” protested the pink pony. “I was worried before because you might be throwing away a chance to be with your sister on a night that means so much to the two of you! You can visit Ponyville any day you’d like, since we’re a hop, skip and a jump away from Canterlot, but your sister’s extra-special day only happens once a year, right?”

“Indeed, Pinkie Pie,” agreed the Princess. “Nevertheless, I’m glad I came here tonight.” She gestured around her. “What you have here is quite an ambitious setup, one that I just had to see for myself. But now that I’ve seen it, I have to ask: why is it so big? You just said that you know that Princess Celestia won’t be visiting.”

“Oh, this party is not for Princess Celestia,” said Pinkie, waving wildly at Octavia as she walked by on her way out.

Unnoticed by Pinkie, Octavia stopped on hearing this explanation, and stayed to hear the rest of it.

“Well,” the party planner quickly back-pedaled. “I mean that of course the party is for Princess Celestia, like all Summer Sun Celebrations are. But she’s not here personally, so she’s not the one I’m trying to impress.”

“Who are you trying to impress?” asked Twilight.

“My father,” Pinkie said in a low voice. “When I left home for Ponyville, he promised me that he would visit on the first Summer Sun Celebration after my maturity, and well, that’s this year, so I really want to make a good impression on him. It’ll be the first time that I’ve seen him since then.”

“Well that sounds great!” exclaimed Twilight.

“No it does not!” interrupted Octavia, butting into the conversation. “Why are you allowing that monster to come to Ponyville?”

“Octavia!” exclaimed Twilight in shock.

“No, it’s alright,” Pinkie Pie said, lowering her head. “Every pony’s entitled to an opinion.”

“Well if you’re bringing that tyrant to the Celebration,” answered the musician, “then I feel I have no choice but to pull out of my obligation to play for it. I swore I would never meet Clyde Pie again for as long as I lived, and that is a vow I do not intend to break. I will willingly pay you the amount you were going to pay me in compensation to get out of this commitment.”

“, that’s alright,” said Pinkie Pie, clearly shaken. “You don’t have to pay me anything. I’ll...I’ll find somepony else.”

Octavia looked compassionately at the pink pony. “Pinkie...some day you need to find the strength to break free from that stallion’s spell over you.” Without another word, she turned and walked out of the building.

“Will you excuse me?” Pinkie asked Twilight and Luna in an uncharacteristically quiet tone of voice. “I need to go home now. I’m tired.”

“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Twilight said as she and the Princess exited the hall. “That is not like Octavia at all.”

“No, it is not,” said Princess Luna. “Octavia is one of the most-professional and level-headed ponies I have ever met. If she felt that she could not play for Pinkie’s father, then her reasons must have been substantial.”

Her attention was drawn to a loud ticking sound coming from above her. “You there,” she said, addressing a tan earth pony with an hourglass cutie mark who was working on a complicated mechanism set into the upper part of the building. “Time pony! What are you doing?”

The use of the words “time pony” caused the pony in question to panic and drop the instrument he had been working with. It tumbled end over end before embedding itself into the dirt at Luna’s hooves. From the part that was visible, it looked like a rather fat screwdriver.

Before she had much of a chance to examine it, the object’s owner had raced downstairs and had retrieved it. “I...ah, yes, how may I help you, Your Highness?” the earth pony managed to say with a Trottingham accent. A moment later, he remembered his manners, and bowed.

“I was asking what you were doing up there that required such a loud repetitive sound,” she replied.

“The clock? Oh, well I noticed how badly the Ponyville Winter Wrap-Up went last time”—he failed to notice Twilight Sparkle wincing at these words—“and so I thought that things might be more efficient around here with a good clock. This one came straight from Manehatten, the second one of its kind in existence, in fact! Right now it’s being calibrated to count down the seconds until the Summer Sun Celebration, but I think it can be used for all sorts of purposes. Yup, after this baby’s in place, there will be no reason for anypony to ask what I’m really up to—‘time pony’ means I work on clocks, right? Right? Of course!” He noticed the increasingly bewildered looks the two mares were giving him. “Right! Now I’ll be getting back to work. Not suspicious at all!”

Twilight shook her head and began leading the Princess back to the Library. “Never mind him,” she said told her. “Every pony in this town is crazy.”

“That must be why you live here,” the Princess said with a smirk.

“I am not crazy!” exclaimed Twilight.

“I never said you were,” objected Luna. “I was merely referring to your interest in pony psychology.”

“Oh yes! That! Err...I hope you don’t think I study the residents of this town like they were all test subjects, Princess.”

“Of course not, Twilight,” said Luna. “Based on your Friendship Reports, I had the impression that you were a force of order in this town.”

Twilight winced a bit. “I suppose that’s one way to put it.”

“And yet I see that you are not involved in the preparations for this celebration, despite your most prominent role last year. May I ask why that is?”

“Ah, well as a matter of fact, Pinkie Pie insisted that she handle all the details of this party herself. Even after Mr. and Mrs. Cake had to go to the hospital to deal with the complications of the Cakes’ pregnancy, Pinkie refused to allow anypony to help with either the upcoming celebration or the daily duties at Sugarcube Corner.”

“And this worries you?” asked the Princess.

“Well of course it worries me,” replied Twilight. “I mean, I can understand if Pinkie might think that I am less than good at organizing parties”—a brief memory of the time she tried to organize Pinkie Pie’s surprise birthday party caused her to wince once more—“but this is looking dangerously close to an Applebuck Season scenario. I wish I knew what I could do to convince her that she needs help.”

You and me both, thought Luna.

“I wish I knew why she was so obsessed,” added Twilight.

“Oh, I think I can help you there,” commented the Princess. “After all, Pinkie Pie told us that she reached her age of maturity.”

Twilight had to think for a minute to recall the definition of the outdated term. “Yes, she turned eighteen a few months ago.” And yet another reminder of that party.

“Well there you have it. She is preparing her masterpiece for her father’s inspection. Since her occupation is ‘party planner’, that masterpiece will take the form of a spectacular party.”

“Wait, you mean the Classical Era definition of the word ‘masterpiece’, right?” asked Twilight. “The work that a journeypony completes to prove her worthiness of becoming a master of her profession? I didn’t think anypony did that anymore.”

“If Pinkie Pie and her father both know what the age of maturity is,” said Princess Luna, “and plan a special occasion around it, it stands to reason that she would belong to an extremely old-fashioned family. The practice was starting to die out back when Nightmare Moon was first banished.”

Twilight noted how calmly Luna referred to her villainous alter ego, a good sign of how well she had recovered from her tartaric experience. Only once that was clear did she feel comfortable continuing. “But I still don’t understand,” she said. “Clyde Pie is not a party planner. According to Pinkie, he’s a ‘rock farmer’, although I’ve never been able to figure out how that actually works.”

“Hmm...” pondered Princess Luna. “Then perhaps you’ll just have to ask your friend Pinkie why she is acting the way she is. Oh look, we have arrived at your place of residence.”

Chapter 4: Genre-Savvy

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The Masterpiece

Chapter 4: Genre-Savvy

Twilight poured tea for Luna, who had settled into a comfortable position beside the kitchen table in the Library tree. The two were being extra quiet—from the faint sound of snores upstairs, it appeared that Spike actually had managed to fall asleep early. A long day of assisting Twilight prepare for this meeting had sort of ensured that.

“I haven’t had a chance to get a good look at your library before, Twilight,” said the Princess.

“And what do you think?” the unicorn asked demurely.

“It’s very well organized, but I suppose I should have expected nothing less from my sister’s student.”

Twilight blushed at the compliment.

“I’ve seen more than my share of books over the past year as I’ve strived to catch up with a millennium of progress,” confided Luna. “There seems to be an imbalance here, however.”

“What do you mean?” asked Twilight.

“The vast majority of your collection is non-fiction,” Luna told her. “The only story books are in that little shelf near the entrance.”

“Ah, well I inherited those from the former librarian, Canna Table,” Twilight explained with a sigh. “They are the most-frequently borrowed books in the library by far. I have been trying my best to encourage a love of non-fiction in Ponyville’s reading set, but so far I have had little success.”

The Princess was surprised. “Do you have some sort of bias against stories?” she asked. “I learned a lot about modern attitudes by reading contemporary fiction.”

“Oh, some stories are quite interesting,” said Twilight. “The Daring Do series, for example. But I find most of them to be too similar. The same plots, with the same recycled characters and the same unlikely plot elements. I’ve had many interesting conversations with Pinkie Pie on the subject, although she approaches the subject as a fan rather than a detractor. She has a colorful term for these elements of narrative: ‘umbers’, or maybe it was ‘wenges’? In any case, I am a mare of facts, and I try to keep stories at leg’s length.”

“That would be a mistake,” Luna warned her. “Stories are very important to us ponies, whether we like it or not. We have an inner need to make sense of our lives, to weave the random moments of existence into a coherent whole, and that whole we create is always in the form of a familiar story. I remember, back after Celestia and I had defeated Discord, how we were embraced by the populace, and made into the central part of their lives. We were incorporated into the personal stories of thousands of ponies, and their expectations began to subtly affect our actions and thoughts, first in public and then in private. Celestia was more popular than me, because her role in Discord’s defeat was more visible, and because she controlled the sun. I had my followers as well, but all I could see, all anypony could see, was that she was the winner and I was the loser.

“That narrative grew to take over my every waking thought,” Luna continued, her eyes focusing off into the distance. “I sought out stories of rivalries, and reveled in their tales of ingenious revenge. It was in that way that I laid myself open to the honeyed words of the Nightmare. And the results of that became the subject of the greatest cautionary fable in Equestria’s history.”

Twilight walked around the table to reach up and put a hoof on her foreleg. “But it was also by those story conventions that Nightmare Moon was defeated and you were freed.”

“Was it?” Luna asked with an arched brow. “I have my own suspicions on that count. Let me hear yours.”

“Well first of all, Nightmare Moon had the power to kill us at any time,” Twilight told her.

“And that’s exactly what she tried to do with her trials,” replied the Princess.

Twilight nodded. “And if we were not worthy of the Elements of Harmony, those trials would have killed us. But the point is, the trials pulled us together, and brought out our best qualities. You see, Nightmare Moon had no choice, because she had bound herself to a fairytale story. It had given her the strength to take you over, but it also gave her a weakness: she had to provide an opening for the Elements to be reborn.”

“So you do understand the power of stories,” said Luna.

“Well yes, but...taupe!” Twilight realized that her voice had crept up a bit too much in volume, and looked nervously up at her bedroom. After a few seconds, she was relieved to hear Spike’s faint snores resume.

“Taupe?” asked Luna in confusion.

“I finally remembered,” Twilight told her. “That word that Pinkie uses to discuss common elements in fiction—it’s ‘taupe’.”

Luna smiled. “Somehow I suspect the color of a mole’s coat is not the word she was using,” she said. “Now you were saying...”

“I was saying that stories do have a powerful influence, but far too often, that power is for ill instead of good. When my friend Zecora first came to town, she was suspected of being an evil enchantress, because in her cloak she reminded the inhabitants of Ponyville of a very-well known horror story about such a being, who would creep up to their victims cloaked by the night, until suddenly zomponifying them.”

“Hmm,” pondered Luna. “I’m beginning to suspect that my chosen ensemble for Nightmare Night was less than ideal for endearing myself with the locals...”

“And it works on a much subtler level,” continued Twilight. “For instance Rarity, in any of dozens of stories on the fiction shelf, would just be a shallow self-obsessed drama queen, and Rainbow Dash would be a dumb jock. There are so few distinct characters in those books, and everypony that reads them finds themselves drawn to match themselves to the closest character they can find: the humble but determined heroine, the arrogant genius villainess, the comic relief...I think the reason Pinkie Pie might like reading those stories so much is that she pretty much is the stereotypical comic relief character already, and those types always turn out fine.”

“And who are you in this cast of stock characters?” Luna asked.

“Well, will you look at the time!” exclaimed Twilight, before walking back around the table and refilling their cups. “I’m sure you didn’t come here just to discuss taupes. Your letter mentioned that you would like to learn more about pony psychology.”

Luna noted the transparent attempt to change the subject, and left herself a mental note to try to continue on their interrupted conversation at a later time. “That is correct,” she said. “For this first session, I thought it best to lay down the groundwork, to tell you what I hope to get out of our conversations, so you can be properly prepared for our future meetings.”

“That sounds like an excellent plan,” said Twilight.

“Let me start with a confession: I spend a portion of my nights visiting the dreams of other ponies. Does that bother you?”

Twilight lowered her cup and thought. “Not particularly,” she answered. “I think I have detected your presence at least twice in my own dreams.”

“That is impressive,” said Luna. “Few are the ponies subtle enough to do that.” She then raised an eyebrow in puzzlement. Celestia had told her that ponies did not like having their dreams spied upon, but Twilight Sparkle was taking this news very calmly. But then she realized that Twilight was no ordinary pony. She had spent the greater part of her life around Princess Celestia, an alicorn that had to consciously prevent herself from overhearing the thoughts of every pony around her. A pony raised under these circumstances could have no expectation of privacy. This fact also served to make her Luna’s perfect ambassador to the other ponies.

“What’s it like, visiting other pony’s dreams?” Twilight asked, interrupting her reveries. “Is it a type of magic you can teach other ponies, or is it unique to you?”

“It is ordinary pony magic,” Luna replied, “but at a level of complexity that not even you are ready for yet. But I can bring other ponies into dreams with me.” She smiled at the opportunity to show off. “Would you like to see?” she asked, holding out a hoof.

Twilight looked around her. “This early?” she asked. “Is anypony even asleep yet? Other than Spike, I mean. Ooo, can we try going into one of Spike’s dreams? I’ve always wondered what they’re like.”

Luna smiled. “Perhaps another time. For your first time, I’m not proposing taking you into an actual dream, just a memory of one. A memory of one of your dreams, in fact. That way I know it will be safe.”

Twilight stood up, practically shaking all over in her excitement. “What do I have to do?” she asked.

“Lie back down,” Luna instructed with a smirk.

Twilight pouted, but then did what she was told.

Luna walked over to her, and then settled down so that their heads were next to each other. “Just relax,” she said, “and remember above all that you are in a dream. Now follow where your spirit is pulling you...” She lowered her horn to touch Twilight’s forehead, as the unicorn closed her eyes...

The midnight sea stretched endlessly in all directions but up and down, illuminated by thousands of sparkling bubbles. Far, far above was the mirror-like surface of the water, and a short distance below was the sandy floor, covered with scattered lumps of coral in colors of red, indigo, green and orange. Schools of silver fish darted by in amorphous formations.

Twilight’s first impulse was to panic, for there was no way she could be breathing. But she fought that panic down, and held onto Luna’s advice. She was in a dream, and dreams didn’t need to breathe. Besides, she remembered this dream, and it was a good one.

She looked around her, puzzled. She wasn’t where she remembered being in this dream. In fact, she didn’t seem to exist in this dream at all. “Where am I?” she asked. She was grateful she at least retained the ability to express herself.

“It is safest to put as little of yourself in a dream as possible,” the voice of Princess Luna instructed her. “Right now, you are little more than pure thought. By staying over here, far from the interesting part of the dream, we guarantee that we aren’t noticed by the dreamer. Of course, this is a memory, so it will not change regardless of our actions, but this is supposed to count as training, so we’ll pretend it’s more dangerous than it actually is.”

“Understood,” said Twilight, and she saluted. Well, that was interesting, she noted. When she had thought about the gesture, her disembodied hoof had come into a sort of phantom existence, just long enough to move up to where her head would have been.

“You must discipline your thoughts in a dream,” Luna instructed her. “Any random thought could be brought to life, no matter how impossible they may be in the waking world.”

Floating towards them from the distance came a dark shape, undulating with the current.

Twilight eagerly watched its approach. “So what happens if we are noticed by the dreamer?” she asked.

“Dreams are pretty robust things,” Luna replied. “If there’s any possible way that you can be incorporated into the dream without forcing the dreamer to wake up, then you will be. The more noticeable you are, however, the more you will be forced into the dream, and the more important you become in the dream, the less control you have over your own actions. If you are not careful, you could become the dreamer’s puppet, forced to do whatever her sleeping mind invents, until such time as she wakes up.”

The approaching shape resolved itself into a deep sea octopus, seven or eight times as big as a pony. It was a deep purple in color. In a matter of seconds it had propelled itself past the invisible observers.

The Princess let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. “I had forgotten how beautiful that was,” she said.

“It looks pretty incredible from the outside,” replied Twilight. “But being the octopus...I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.”

Twilight opened her eyes to see the Princess looking warmly down at her. “You handled that a good deal better than I had expected,” she said.

Twilight nodded. “I had that dream right after visiting the Equestrian Seaquarium for the first time. I don’t know how many times I tried to dream it again, but it never happened—I’m never able to get enough control over my dreams to be and do what I want in them. But you’ve got virtually free rein. Is it true that you can do anything in a dream?”

Luna’s smile turned into a frown. “Yes, but that’s not the point,” she lectured Twilight. “In a dream, you are dealing with a pony at their most vulnerable. All of their secrets are painfully exposed, and they are at the whim of impulses they can successfully control by day. In their dreams you are in a position to cause tremendous harm if you are not careful. That is why I strive always for a light touch, to see only the outermost layer of a dreamer’s mind, and to never affect a dream in any way.” Her look turned wistful as she continued. “Well...that is what I have been doing so far, since I returned to my senses last year. I am hoping that I can transition to something new, with your help.”

Princess Luna explained to Twilight her intention to use her dream powers to assist troubled ponies. “There is one pony in particular that I have been observing for more than a week, a pony that is suffering from quite-severe nightmares. These nightmares, in turn, are caused by the impending collapse of a lie that dates all the way back to cutification. And that lie is tied into the growing conflict between the two voices in this pony’s head.”

“A pony with Dissociative Identity Disorder?” asked Twilight. “I don’t know anypony with that particular problem, and I would have noticed, because I am a very good observer of my fellow ponies...” And then she stopped herself and looked with growing panic at the Princess.

“I did not say that you knew this particular pony,” Luna said, not noticing Twilight’s reaction. “I need to find the best way to approach them. They are keeping the matter of the second personality a secret, so I believe they will be naturally distrustful.”

“U...understandable,” said Twilight. “Is this other personality growing stronger over time?”

“It appears to have more influence in times of stress, I’ve observed.”

“Well if the Nightmare is the source of the personality...I mean if the personality is the source of the nightmares...”

“Twilight Sparkle,” Luna interrupted with a frown. “The pony in question is not me.”

Twilight blushed in embarrassment at her false accusation. “It’s not?”

“No. I am completely free of the Nightmare, Twilight. If I had the slightest suspicion that this were not the case, then I would have informed my sister, and all of the Elements of Harmony. I would not have acted in this furtive manner.”

“No, I suppose not. Still, I wonder who this pony is?”

“That is not your business,” the Princess said curtly. “I merely ask for approaches I may use in convincing this pony that I can help.”

“Yes, of course,” said Twilight. “Well, this pony is keeping the other personality very well hidden I would say. Also, they would react badly, I would think, if you baldly revealed that you knew the secret. It would help if we knew the reason for the concealment. What do they think would happen if the truth ever got out?”

“That subject is what most of the nightmares are about,” said Princess Luna grimly. “The fear is of abandonment. That all of the pony’s friends would leave.”

“That...that would be awful,” said Twilight. “I couldn’t imagine losing the friends I’ve made in Ponyville.” This was a lie. She could imagine it, and it was the source of her own nightmares. Twilight pondered her next course of action for a few seconds. “Alright,” she concluded, “I’ll spend tomorrow researching this condition and drawing up a list of potential ways you can get past that distrust and convince this pony that you have her or his best interests at heart.”

“That is what I wished to hear,” Luna said warmly as she rose to her hooves. “I will return to my nightly duties now, but I’d like to return here two hours before sundown tomorrow. That way, we can get more done without having too much of an impact on your sleeping hours. Is that agreeable with you?”

“Yes, that sounds fine, Princess,” replied Twilight. “Let me show you to the door.”

As soon as Luna had flown out of sight, Twilight got to work drawing up a list of ponies she suspected of having the slightest chance of suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder and/or lying about their cutie mark story.

Chapter 5: Second Nightmare

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The Masterpiece

Chapter 5: Second Nightmare

Master Pie had come to Ponyville.

He was wearing a gray cloak, and pulling an enormous cart containing a crate. In that crate was a truly infernal machine. Walking listlessly on either side were Inkie and Blinkie, Pinkie Pie’s elder sisters. The eyes of both were blank, as they were under Master Pie’s complete control.

Because of the setting sun behind him, he was only a shadow with eyes. Glowing golden eyes. As he walked down the main street of town, he would glance imperiously at one pony after another, and the result would always be the same: the pony would bend down low to the ground, and her eyes would become blank just like the Pie Sisters’. The lights in the homes and businesses also dimmed in his presence. Soon, Master Pie’s eyes were the brightest thing in Equestria.

He stopped before the miniscule form of Pinkie Pie. She looked exactly as she did right after seeing Dashie’s Sonic Rainboom, her frizzled mane as big as the rest of her whole body put together. “I’ve got my masterpiece ready for you, Papa!” she exclaimed, gesturing excitedly at the Town Hall behind her. Muted music streamed out from behind the closed door, and from the windows came the only warm lights left in town.

“That is no masterpiece,” growled Master Pie, in a voice like boulders scraping each other. “And you are no daughter of mine! Show yourself, Pinkamena.”

From the darkness stepped an adult version of Pinkie Pie, her mane hanging flat and her coat a distinctly darker tint than that of the filly Pinkie. “I have no masterpiece to present to you,” she said flatly. Anger burned in the back of her eyes.

“The masterpiece is you yourself, Pinkamena,” said Master Pie with a sinister smile, walking closer to the pair of pink ponies. “You are my present, my means of breaking the tyranny of the sun.”

“I don’t get it,” said Pinkie Pie, smiling widely and turning her head sideways in a vain attempt to put any kind of a happy expression on the cloaked pony’s face.

“And she never will, if I can possibly help it,” said Pinkamena. “Face it, Papa, your plan for me has failed. We came here, instead of Trottingham. We broke the prophesy.”

“And then the prophesy changed,” said Master Pie, peering intently into Pinkamena’s eyes. “The Summer Sun Celebration moved from there to Ponyville, with no explanation given! And how else can you explain the Bringer’s return to Equestria—it was we that summoned her! That is the Cult’s power made manifest!”

“But your cult’s plans failed!” insisted Pinkamena. “Your Bringer of Justice was herself overthrown, and Pinkie herself was a good part of the reason!”

“I just thought that Black Snootie needed to laugh a little!” added Twinkie Pinkie.

“Then our job is merely redoubled!” Master Pie replied. “Behold! For the Chosen Vessel has once again returned to this town!”

He pointed at the form of Princess Luna standing in the middle of the square. Her eyes were a glowing white and her jaw was slack.

“You have the power to reawaken the Bringer of Justice! You are the culmination of centuries and centuries of forbidden magic. With but a single touch, you can undo a million humiliating defeats! Do as I have trained you, Pinkamena Diane Pie! Fulfill your destiny!”


With the attention momentarily directed away from herself, a fearful Princess Luna released Pinkie Pie from her nightmare and fled back to Canterlot Castle.

She did not know if what she had heard in the dream was real. But it was a fact that Pinkie Pie had managed to completely immobilize her in the Dream Realm when her dream suddenly needed an immobilized Princess Luna in it. If the nightmare had been allowed to reach the point where Pinkamena was supposed to corrupt her into becoming Nightmare Moon again...

She wrote up a letter cancelling the next day’s appointment with Twilight. She wasn’t about to return to Ponyville until she knew a great deal more about the Pie family.

Twilight Sparkle was awakened from a very pleasant dream about actually being able to cook by an insistent banging on the library’s front door.

She looked over at her clock (a birthday present made by Doctor Whooves). It was a good four hours before dawn.

She turned over and tried to tune out the sound. Whoever it is, it can wait until the morning...

...unless that’s Princess Luna, she realized, and this is a Dream Emergency!

~ ~ ~

“Princess?” Twilight called out as she yanked open the door with her magic.

She was answered by silence. Several seconds passed before the dark shape in the doorway finally spoke. “I...I’m not the Princess, Miss Sparkle, and I’m sorry to have awakened you, but there are several questions I am in desperate need to have answered.”

Twilight leaned forward to try and get a better look at her questioner, which in turn caused the pony to lean back. She was wrapped in a cloak, she had a straight mane, and she didn’t have a horn, but that was all Twilight could make out. The voice was vaguely familiar, but Twilight was the first to admit that her ability to identify ponies by their voices was virtually non-existent—some days it seemed to her as if only a handful of ponies provided the voices for every single resident of Ponyville. “Come inside,” she said finally. “I’ll help you in any way I can.”

The visitor said nothing, and waited until Twilight had turned and walked a good way into the tree before warily following her. Twilight noticed that she seemed to hide in the shadows, a funny thing, since Twilight wasn’t aware that the ground floor of her tree had any shadows to hide in before now. “Can I get you something?” she asked over her shoulder. “Some coffee, or hot chocolate?”

“ thank you,” said the mystery pony. “I have no defense against caffeine.”

“O...K,” commented Twilight quietly. She glanced upward at a stray lock of her mane. “Oh, I am sorry about my appearance. Let me just go and—”

“No,” said the pony, stopping Twilight’s flight upstairs with a magenta hoof placed on her shoulder. The hoof was quickly removed before Twilight could get a good look at it. “I was the one who forced you out of bed, after all. If I couldn’t handle a little bedmane, then I shouldn’t have arrived at this unfriendly hour.”

Twilight sighed and settled herself down in a cushion at one end of the main chamber of the library. Unsurprisingly, the mystery pony took a seat as far from her as possible, with a bookcase to hide her face behind. “I am curious about your confrontation with Nightmare Moon last year,” she said.

Twilight Sparkle leaned back, examining the shaded form before her intently. “I received a good many questions on that subject from the residents of Ponyville in the days after the incident,” she said. “I take it that you’re new here?”

“Not really,” the pony answered with obvious discomfort. “I simply haven’t had the opportunity, or the inclination, to approach you before now.”

“Well, what would you like to know?”

“I remember...hearing...that you knew of Nightmare Moon’s return before it actually happened. Do you know how she returned to Equestria?”

Twilight raised her eyebrow. That was a very good question, she thought, the kind of question I would have asked if I wasn’t the pony in the middle of the whole thing. And she’s the first pony to have ever asked it. “Nightmare Moon’s banishment was for exactly one thousand years,” she said. “A cluster of four stars surrounding the Moon’s location at the precise end of that period were gradually pulled together using a fraction of the power that propels the Sphere of Stars, and the magic of that conjunction provided the energy Nightmare Moon needed to escape her prison.” She wondered if a non-unicorn could possibly understand that explanation. In fact, she wondered if a unicorn whose specialty was anything other than magic could possibly understand that explanation.

The cloaked pony nodded. Whether or not she was faking her comprehension, Twilight couldn’t tell. “I also heard that Trottingham was meant to be the location of last year’s Summer Sun Celebration,” she said, “but it was changed at the last minute to Ponyville. Do you know anything about this?”

Twilight frowned. “The location of the next Summer Sun Celebration is always announced the day after Winter Wrap Up,” she said. “There had been a long-standing rumor that the thousandth ceremony would be in Trottingham, based on some numerological nonsense that I was never able to wrap my head around, but that’s all it was—rumor. I am privy to Princess Celestia’s log book, where she plans out many of her public appearances far in advance, and I can tell you that Ponyville was selected as the millennial location long before I had even heard the Trottingham rumor.”

For a moment, Twilight froze, as she realized the entry confirming Ponyville as the location was written many centuries before there had even been a Ponyville. She hoped that the mystery mare didn’t notice.

“Thank you,” the cloaked pony said with satisfaction as she rose to her hooves. “It’s good to know that he was lying once again.”

“Who was—” Twilight began as she stumbled to her own hooves, to be interrupted by the other pony shaking her head.

“I must keep my secrets, Miss Sparkle,” she said. “Suffice it to know that truth and logic are my most powerful weapons against my enemy.” She turned, and without another word, walked out of the library.

“Wait!” cried Twilight, racing to the door and straining to make out the mystery pony’s form as it dissolved into the pre-dawn blackness. “Know that you are not alone! I will be here anytime that you need...a friend. Well horseapples, that could have gone better.”

“What could have gone better?” asked Spike, standing behind her. “And who was that?”

“Never mind, Spike,” Twilight said with a sigh. “And...I don’t know. I’m sure I know every pony in Ponyville, but I have no idea who that is. Maybe I should ask Pinkie Pie about her tomorrow. But for now, how about we get back to sleep?”

Pinkie Pie woke up the next morning feeling exhausted. Given how hard she had been pushing herself the past week, this was no surprise. What was a surprise was the pages and pages of paper covered with concise writing she found covering the floor. She picked a page up and tried to make sense of its dense convoluted logic, but that only gave her a headache.

Pinkie shrugged before beginning to collect the pages into an ordered document. This was a lot better than the piles of deathtraps she usually had to disarm upon waking up from nights like this.

Chapter 6: Pinkie Pie Forgets Her Age Again

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Chapter 6: Pinkie Pie Forgets Her Age Again

Twilight Sparkle was running late.

She had woken up to find all the books mysteriously misaligned on the shelves, as if the tree had been tilted at a slight angle long enough for things to slide around ever so slightly. She was unable to determine the cause of this.

Once that was cleaned up it was time for the daily list, and today’s was a doozy.

There were multiple ponies to try to trick into revealing their inner “Miss Hide” and there was the matter of inquiring into Pinkie Pie’s obsession with the upcoming celebration, including helping her to find a replacement for Octavia’s Ensemble, and then there was the extremely ominous note from Princess Luna about why she couldn’t return tonight and—

“Actually, that note didn’t sound ominous at all,” said Spike, interrupting her thoughts.

“Of course it was ominous, Spike!” Twilight insisted. “It was ominous precisely because the tone was so calm!”

It was at moments like these that Spike wished that Twilight had gone through with her Psychology minor. After all, that minor came with a free psychoanalysis on the very first day of class.

Just then there was a knock on the door.

“Maybe it’s the mystery pony!” exclaimed Spike.

“Or maybe it’s Princess Luna in disguise!” exclaimed Twilight.

“Or maybe it’s Pinkie Pie here to explain everything!” exclaimed Spike.

“Or maybe it’s none of the above!” exclaimed the voice of the pony on the other side of the door.

Twilight and Spike looked at each other. “Vinyl Scratch,” they said in unison.

Twilight opened the door and sure enough, the pony on the other side was Vinyl Scratch, the DJ. There was no other pony it could have been, after all. Only Vinyl was able to hear through a full hoofswidth of solid door, a partial compensation for her blindness. Of course, this fact was something she desperately did not want other ponies knowing about, but Twilight and her friends were on the small list of exceptions.

“Well this is a surprise,” said Twilight. “What brings you to Ponyville?”

“Oh, a few pieces of business,” said Vinyl. She pulled out a large cardboard square. “Like giving the only other dragon music aficionado I know the latest recording by Melodiya.”

Spike accepted the record and cradled it lovingly. “Neat, a whole collection of marching songs, sung by the Dragon Army Chorus! Can we listen to this tonight, Twilight?”

“Tonight’s the party in Town Hall,” answered Twilight.

Oh about tomorrow night?”

The purple unicorn groaned. “Great, that’s another night without any sleep.”

“Eh, what are you going to do?” replied Vinyl somewhat sheepishly.

“How’s your Trottman factory coming along?” Twilight asked.

“That’s our Trottman factory, partner. And the answer is: not so good. Prince Constant’s funding has dried up, and I can’t get him to return my letters. I wonder if you’d have any better luck.”

Twilight looked at Vinyl in silence. “What makes you think that I’d have any better luck than you?” she asked finally.

“Well, I mean you’re from Canterlot, so that means surely you hob-nob with the princes on a regular basis and...I have to go there myself, don’t I?”

“That’s what I’d recommend, yes. And don’t worry—the nobles tend to have their money in multiple banks at once, and they never notice when one of them runs out. You just need to go over there and remind the Prince that you’re one of the commoners he likes, and then he’ll point you at his back-up bank.”

“Why do they need multiple banks, anyway?” Vinyl asked.

“I dunno,” Twilight replied. “Probably some silly paranoia that Princess Celestia will take their money away if they annoy her. She hasn’t done that for seven...eight centuries, at least! While you’re here, Vinyl,” she continued, “have you heard about Octavia pulling out of Ponyville’s Summer Sun Celebration?”

“Err, yeah, I heard, Twilight, and I’m really sorry.”

“So is there any chance...?”

“I’m already committed to play for the Princess herself in Fillydelphia, Twilight. I can’t very well pull out of that, can I?”

“No, I suppose you can’t. I do have another question, though.”

Vinyl smirked. “If you’re going to give me the whole Twenty Questions treatment, could you at least invite me inside to take a load off of my hooves?”

~ ~ ~

Vinyl Scratch lay back on her cushion, using her magic to raise up her glass of ginger ale so she could get a sip of it. “Ah, that hits the spot!” she exclaimed. “So what else do you want to know?”

“Octavia said that she was backing out because she didn’t want to meet Clyde Pie, Pinkie Pie’s father. Do you know anything about him, or why Octavia doesn’t like him?”

Vinyl put down the drink with a bad taste in her mouth. “Ah, you might not know this, Twilight, but I don’t really like talking about my family. And do you know the sure-fire way to get somepony to ask you about your family? By asking them about theirs. So that means I don’t tend to learn much about other pony’s families.

“But Octavia likes to talk when she’s too tired to play, so I know a little. Just bits and pieces, mind you.”

“That’s fine,” said Twilight. “I’ll take any information I can get.”

“Well first off, you know that Octavia and Pinkie Pie are cousins, right?”

Twilight thought for a bit. “Well, I didn’t know,” she said, “but I suspected there was some sort of family connection ever since I saw them together at the Grand Galloping Gala.”

“Well from Octavia’s mutterings, I get the feeling that the Pie family goes way, way back, and they hold certain...less than popular opinions.”

Twilight was immediately reminded of Princess Luna’s remarks about Pinkie’s family. “I’ll agree with at least part of that as well,” she said.

“Well, that’s all that I really know for sure. The other stuff runs in the realm of some really hateful gossip. I really shouldn’t tell you...I don’t want you to get the wrong opinion of Pinkie’s family based on the second-hoof remark of a pony who—well, you saw how Pinkie ruined her performance at the Gala...”

“I don’t think Octavia has any personal animosity towards Pinkie Pie,” said Twilight. “In fact, I distinctly recall her wishing that she’d ‘break free’ from her father’s spell over her. That sounds to me like she pitied her, rather than hated her.”

Vinyl Scratch frowned. “‘Break free of his spell’, eh? That sounds way too close to what she told me. I mean, almost literally.”

“What are you saying?” asked Twilight.

“I’m saying, and let me emphasize again that I have absolutely zero proof of this, that Octavia thought that Clyde Pie...was a Noctiferian.”

Twilight sat up in shock. “The Nightmare Moon Cult? But I thought it was stamped out a quarter-millennium ago!”

“I’m sure it probably was,” Vinyl said with a grin. “The Noctiferians are a prime villain for the conspiracy nuts. Trust me—I meet a whole lot of strange ponies at the end of my DJ sets. And normally, I wouldn’t consider Octavia one of those nuts. But her parents sure are. Maybe this one belief settled in even when the light of reason uprooted the rest? Maybe Papa Pie is so creepy the idea of him being a cultist actually starts to sound like a reasonable explanation? I dunno for sure. Now promise me you’re not going to jump to conclusions on this. If you have the Royal Guard pounce on some innocent farmer in the middle of nowhere because you think he’s practicing the Dark Arts on the dirt with his rake, you just know that it will come back to bite me on the flank.”

“I promise, Vinyl. No wild accusations without proof.”

“No wild accusations, period! If you had proof, it wouldn’t be wild anymore.”

“Alright, I’ll promise to be cautious,” Twilight said with a smile. “Thanks for the visit.”

“And thanks for the ginger ale,” said Vinyl, getting up.

“Do you need any help getting out?” Twilight asked.

“I spent the first nine years of my life in this very tree, Twilight, remember?” asked Vinyl in a very cold voice. After all, the reason she hid her blindness from others was to prevent just this sort of patronizing. “I think I remember how to get out.”

Twilight felt absolutely mortified. “Um...”


“...goodbye,” she concluded.

“So, should I add ‘cult chasing’ to today’s list?” asked Spike.

Twilight sighed. “No, but you can add drawing up a research request for the Royal Archives—I already know that there’s nothing in Ponyville’s collection that would help. I suspect that Vinyl’s completely right about that story being a crazy prejudice of the Harmony family, and nothing more. After all, Pinkie Pie’s about as un-culty a pony as you can ever meet, and she didn’t even know who Nightmare Moon was when she showed up!”

“Is ‘un-culty’ a real word?”

“Shut up, Spike.”

Rainbow Dash was lazing around her cloud house, drawing doodles around her weather reports, when she was interrupted by the buzz of her doorbell.

“Coming!” she said brightly. A cloud-bound Ponyville pegasus didn’t get very many visitors, after all.

She opened the door to find Twilight Sparkle in full-on dork mode, complete with a pair of “old mare glasses”.

“Nice weather we’ve been having, don’t you think?” Twilight asked the gaping mare before her.

Rainbow Dash shook her head incredulously. “You mean the straight week of rain we needed to break the drought?” she replied.

“Oh, it was a nice change of pace, that’s all!” exclaimed Twilight.

“Twilight, what are you doing here?”

“Can’t a friend come up to visit?” Twilight tried to ask with an innocent tone. “I just whipped up a cloudwalking spell—just for fun, mind you—and thought you might enjoy my company.”

To say that Twilight was “up to something” would count as the understatement of the year, so Rainbow said nothing as she let Twilight in.

The unicorn cast an eagle eye on every feature of the cloud home, like she was the detective on a crime scene. “It’s a nice home you have here,” she commented. “I really should visit more often.”

“Yeah...” said Rainbow behind her with a suspicious expression, “you really should.”

“And how’s Tank?” asked Twilight, referring to Rainbow’s recently acquired pet tortoise. “I wouldn’t want to wake him up or anything.”

“You don’t need to worry about that,” said the pegasus with a laugh. “That guy slept through one of my Rainbooms once.”

“Ooo, what’s this?” Twilight suddenly exclaimed, levitating something up from an end table so she could get a better look at it. It turned out to be a little sculpture of the cloud house made of cotton balls and toothpicks. “It doesn’t look like a pegasus made it,” she concluded.

Rainbow Dash sighed, knowing exactly the reaction she was going to get after answering that question. “It’s a Mother’s Day gift from Pinkie Pie.”


Yup, called it, thought Rainbow. “Let’s see if I can remember her cockamamie explanation...” she said, rubbing the back of her neck with some wingfeathers, “I think it was something like ‘This is for the care you have put into Ponyville’s weather all these years, which makes you a teeny-tiny bit like a mother to all of Ponyville.’ It was from her and a bunch of orphans she convinced to help her. I think she was doing it for them as much as for me.”

“That, uh, explanation doesn’t make a bit of sense,” Twilight said dryly.

“It’s a Pinkie Pie explanation,” Rainbow Dash said. “What are you going to do?” She looked around her nervously before adding, “So I’m not very good at this hospitality thing...”

“Oh, I’m alright,” said Twilight, settling into a cloud couch. Rainbow picked a recliner to sit in, and leaned herself back with her hooves behind her head. “So I was reviewing my Friendship Reports,” Twilight continued, in a tone rather like the couch she was sitting on was made of flint instead of cumulous, “and it raised some questions about the Best Young Fliers competition.”

“Which part?” Rainbow asked cautiously. “The part where I was being awesome or...”

“The other part.”

Rainbow sighed. “Yeah, I figured as much.”

“Rainbow, you got really nervous when Rarity started getting more attention than you at the Rainbow Factory. It was a side of you that I’ve never seen before. a whole other pony.”

The blue mare sat up abruptly. “And what is that supposed to mean?” she asked indignantly.

“Well I was just wondering,” said Twilight, taken back by Rainbow’s reaction, “if there’s some side of you the rest of us don’t know about. A side that you feel you need to keep secret from us. Because you should know, if you do have any secrets, you can trust me with them.”

For the second time that day, Rainbow Dash looked at Twilight Sparkle like the unicorn had gone insane. “What are you talking about?” she finally sputtered. “Look, what you see is what you get with me. I’ve got no secrets. You saw me scared? Well, alright, I’m not very happy admitting it, but yes, I do get scared sometimes. Makes the thrill of victory all the sweeter afterwards, as a matter of fact. Maybe sometimes I pay too much attention to what everypony else says and not enough to what I have to tell myself.” She pointed proudly to herself with one hoof. “But this side, what you see every single day, is the only side I have. Why are you asking anyway? Is somepony spreading nasty rumors about me? Because if so, I think you ought to tell me who it is!”

“Nopony’s been spreading rumors about you, Rainbow, honest!” protested Twilight. “...Not you specifically.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I...well, I can’t tell you who I heard it from, but I heard that somepony was hurting because there was this other side to her that she had to keep secret.”

Rainbow Dash froze. “And you’re sure that this pony is one of your friends?” she asked.

“...No. I’m not even sure that this pony is a ‘she’.”

Rainbow Dash sighed. Twilight thought it was in disgust, but actually it was in relief. “Twilight, how many ponies do you know?” she asked.

“Um, well, that’s quite a large number, if you include casual acquaintances.”

“Gimmie a round number.”

“Alright...a hundred, maybe two?”

“And were you planning on accusing every single one of them of being crazy?”

Twilight looked sheepish.

“Because I don’t think they’d be as understanding as I am being right now,” Rainbow said with a victorious smile. It wasn’t that often that she could out-argue Twilight Sparkle.

“Yeah...I suppose you’re right,” Twilight said, looking really guilty.

Rainbow Dash couldn’t stand to see one of her friends looking like that. “But, uh, you might want to ask Rarity about how such a marshmallow could bend the Diamond Dogs around her hoof so easily...”

“That’s right!” exclaimed Twilight. “Oh, thank you, Rainbow! Don’t worry, I’ll let myself out.” And she practically flew out of the front door.

Rainbow Dash got up, walked up to the open door, and sighed as she closed it. “I am so going to get it for that from Rarity,” she said to herself. But she knew it was worth it, to distract attention away from Pinkie Pie. She may not have made a “Pinkie Pie Promise” to the pink pony on the day of her disastrous birthday party...or to the other pink pony in her head, but she certainly had made one to herself. Nopony was going to make fun of her friend for being different. Of course, that didn’t change the fact that her friend was...random.

After a moment, she chuckled. “Yeah, that explanation of Pinkie Pie’s for my present was pretty lame...” She thought back to the precise words of their conversation...

“Happy Mother’s Day!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie from her gyrocopter as she tossed the present to Rainbow Dash.

The pegasus opened the box, and just stared inside in disbelief. “Did you make this?” she asked. Despite the childish materials, it was an exact match for the form of her house.

“Well, I had a little help. But the idea was all mine!”

“Pinkie Pie, how old are you, anyway?”


Rainbow Dash stared at her.

“Did I say eight?” Pinkie Pie panicked. “I meant eighteen.”

Eight! Rainbow Dash laughed to herself. Well, why can’t one Pinkie be younger than the other? Although, if she was eight, then that would mean...

Rainbow Dash’s pupils suddenly became as big as saucers.

Then that would mean maybe I really am her mother.

Chapter 7: A Dangerous Shortage of Sugar

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Chapter 7: A Dangerous Shortage of Sugar

Rainbow Dash decided that maybe keeping an eye of Pinkie Pie would be a better use of her day off than sitting around her cloud house all day.

After a few circuits of Ponyville, she finally spotted the pony bouncing her way down the path to Fluttershy’s house.

Rainbow Dash sighed in relief as she matched her pace to that of her friend. She seems well enough now, she thought to herself. I wonder what she did to make somepony suspicious? And who was it? Carrot Top? Yeah, probably Carrot Top. That pony doesn’t know when to keep her big mouth shut.

Pinkie Pie eventually arrived at Fluttershy’s house and, after a moment of conversation, was let inside.

Rainbow Dash pondered what exactly she should do. Trying to listen in at the window would only get her caught by Angel—it had happened multiple times in the past. She could just barge straight in the window and pretend that one of her tricks had messed up—Celestia knows that happened often enough. But that would make it harder to follow Pinkie Pie around afterwards. Eventually, she settled for lying down on Fluttershy’s roof. She wouldn’t be able to listen in on the conversation from that position, not unless yelling was involved. But since ponies yelling was precisely what she was worried about, she decided that lying on the roof would just have to do.

~ ~ ~

It was only a few minutes later when Pinkie Pie emerged from the cottage. “Oh thank you again, Fluttershy!” she exclaimed, loud enough for Rainbow Dash to hear. “You really saved my bacon!”

“Your what?” asked Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash had by now crept up to the edge of the roof so she could hear everything.

“Uh...nevermind!” replied Pinkie. “Are you sure you’ll be able to get your birds rehearsed by tonight?”

“Oh don’t worry,” Fluttershy assured her. “I was already training them. It’s a fun activity when it gets too hot...or too wet...for them to fly around, and I’ve had lots of free time lately, what with all of the animals moving out all at once.”

Warning bells started going off in Rainbow Dash’s head, but unfortunately she had absolutely no idea what it was they were warning her about, so she tuned them out.

“And you’re not going to be embarrassed about performing in front of all of those ponies?” asked Pinkie.

Fluttershy gave a brief “eep!” before nerving herself to reply more verbosely. “Well, there’s nopony at the Summer Sun Celebration who I won’t know, and who hasn’t heard my birds before. And besides, somepony has to play at the Celebration—it’s a tradition! I promise I won’t let you down.”

“I know you won’t, Fluttershy,” Pinkie said warmly as she hugged her friend. A moment later, she started shaking like crazy.

“Pinkie!” Fluttershy exclaimed. “What’s the matter?”

By wrapping her forelegs around herself and squeezing tight, Pinkie was able to stop herself. “There’s no need to worry,” she explained. “My Pinkie Sense is on the blink this week, maybe because I’m working so hard on this party. I mean, if every doozie I’ve been getting in the last couple of days was right, that would mean the whole town’s about to be leveled, and we know that’s not gonna happen during the Summer Sun Celebration!”

Fluttershy eeped once again in fear and hid behind the door sill. “Are...are you sure that everything’s going to be fine?”

“Sure I’m sure!” exclaimed Pinkie. “It’s probably just a physiological manifestation of my daddy issues!”

Neither pony hearing that had any idea what she was talking about.

“Um...OK, so long as you’re sure, then I guess it’s OK,” said Fluttershy.

Rainbow Dash on the other hoof didn’t feel “OK”. Octavia ditched Pinkie! she realized. And I was the one who suggested her! When I get my hooves on her...! For a moment, she considered flying straight to Canterlot to give the concert pony a piece of her mind, but then she saw Pinkie bouncing her way down the road that led to Sweet Apple Acres, and decided that her loyalty outweighed her outrage.

~ ~ ~

Unlike with Fluttershy’s cottage, Applejack was out surveying her orchard, which meant that Rainbow Dash could easily monitor the entire conversation between Pinkie and the farmer mare from the cover of a low cloud.

“So, any luck?” asked Pinkie with a degree of alarm that worried Rainbow. “Did the trees spring magically back to life after a mystic earth pony rain dance?” She began enacting just such a hypothetical rain dance, with Applejack standing in for the dead apple tree being resuscitated.

“Pinkie,” said Applejack with equal degrees sadness and patience, “things just don’t work out that way.”

“Says you!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie, sticking out her tongue. “I need your apples to make my pies. Those pies are an important part of the Summer Sun Celebration. The Summer Sun Celebration this year has to be perfect. Therefore, your summer apples have to be ready for me! That’s logic!

“Ah...” Applejack stretched out the word as long as possible as she tried to find a polite way to refute that “logic”. “No it isn’t,” she finally concluded. “Those trees came down with crown rot, and that’s that. Thank Celestia we were able to isolate it, but the summer crop’s a gonner. All we harvested was a bunch of mush, and not even you can turn infected apple mush into edible pies. But don’t you worry none. I said I wasn’t going to leave you in the lurch, and I’m a mare of my word. Follow me.”

Applejack walked over to the barn, followed by Pinkie Pie and a certain low-hanging cloud. She pulled the door open and gestured inside. “Do you think you can work with this?”

Pinkie Pie stuck her head in and looked around. “Applejack, somepony stole all the apples in your cart, and replaced them with pecans! Who would do a thing like that? Is evil squirrel gang? Oh that’s horrible! Those striped suits look really awful on red fur!”

Applejack audibly shut her gaping mouth, before saying, “Pinkie Pie...just...never mind. I couldn’t get you no apples, but I called in a few favors, and was able to buy up all these pecans from back east at below cost.”

“I’ve never worked with pecans before,” said Pinkie Pie.

“Well I also managed to wrangle the recipe from Cousin Nutsy for an out-of-this-world pecan pie, if I do say so myself,” said Applejack, passing her a half-sheet of paper. “Now she’d only do this on condition that you don’t pass that recipe on to another soul. Do I have to ask for a Pinkie Promise on that?”

Pinkie Pie frowned briefly. “Applejack! I am a baker by trade, and this falls within the sphere of professional courtesy! There’s no way that I’d ever give away another baker’s recipe without their permission.” She then turned her attention to the ingredients. “Now let’s see...I have the pecans, of course”—she looked over the pile of nuts in the barn with a critical eye—“enough to make four dozen pies, which is just enough...I won’t need the butter...only half as much flour as the apple pie recipe...uh-oh.”

“What is it, Sugar?” asked Applejack, looking over her shoulder at the recipe.

“That’s just it—sugar!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie. “Pecan pie requires twice as much sugar as apple pie! Twice!

“So you don’t have enough?” asked Applejack in a worried tone.

“Well, I have enough for the pecan pies, and enough for Sugarcube Corner, but I won’t have enough for me!

Applejack and Rainbow Dash simultaneously rolled their eyes.

“Pinkie Pie, I think you can stand to go without sugar for a few days,” Applejack said flatly.

“You don’t understand!” Pinkie Pie cried out, really serious. “If I don’t get enough sugar, she’ll come out!”

Rainbow Dash’s warning bells went off again, and this time she knew exactly what they meant.

Applejack started to say something, probably to ask who “she” was, but she didn’t get more than a half-syllable out of her mouth before she was bowled over by Rainbow Dash.

“Hey Applejack!” the pegasus exclaimed nervously. “Do you know where your barn is?”

Applejack slowly raised herself to her hooves, and then pointed to the building right next to them.

“Oh. Right.”

“Now why’d you have to go and do that for?” Applejack said, picking herself back up. “I was just talking where did that party pony get off to, anyway?” She glanced into the barn, and saw that the cart containing the pecans was nowhere to be found. “Well, I guess she finished her business here. Do you mind telling me what you’re up to—Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash!”

“What?” asked the pegasus, who was already high in the sky and already headed westwards.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?” asked the orange mare, easily projecting her voice loudly enough to be heard.

“Just making a quick trip to Hoofington,” Rainbow Dash said. “I’ll be back in time for the party!”

In an instant, she was too far away to answer the inevitable follow up question from Applejack: “And what in blazes is so vitally important about Hoofington?”

The answer was simple: it’s where Ponyville’s sugar comes from.

Chapter 8: Enter Pinkamena

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Chapter 8: Enter Pinkamena

Twilight Sparkle stumbled out of Carousel Boutique, pursued by an angry Rarity.

“Twilight, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” she exclaimed. “Have you no sense of personal boundaries?”

“I didn’t mean any harm by it,” Twilight protested. “I was merely curious—”

“One day that curiosity of yours is going to get you into more trouble than even we can get you out of! I mean, imagine what would have happened if your wild suspicion had focused on poor Fluttershy?”

“Fluttershy!” cried Twilight, suddenly springing to her hooves. “Of course, why didn’t I see it before! She never did adequately explain her behavior at the Grand Galloping Gala...”

Rarity appealed to the pony who was just walking past the Boutique at that moment: “Oh, Applejack! Be a dear and talk some sense into our resident magician! It appears that she just won’t listen to reason, so perhaps a dose of your horse sense will do better!”

“‘Horse sense’?” Applejack asked with a raised brow as she approached. So intent was she on confronting Rarity, that she nearly tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. After giving the offending crack a dirty look, she proceeded to answer Rarity: “Well if’n that’s what you want to call it this week...what seems to be the trouble?”

“Twilight here was confidentially informed by a friend that somepony she knows has an...eccentric personality, and she’s been trying to worm out of each of us which one it is!”

“Are you sure it ain’t you?” the earth pony asked laconically.

“Applejack! I am not eccentric, and besides, I was using that term as a euphemism for a more humiliating condition, and besides...she was considering interviewing you next!”

“What!” Applejack repositioned herself to stop Twilight from sneaking off down the road to Fluttershy’s cottage. “Sugarcube, what have I always told you about betraying a pony’s trust?”

Twilight tried to maneuver around Applejack, but she was dealing with the Mistress of Herding, and soon was forced to give up. “Um...that it’s the fastest way to lose their friendship...”

“...FOREVER!” echoed the voice of Pinkie Pie from several blocks away.

Twilight smiled. She never bothered to finish that particular sentence anymore.

Applejack facehoofed. “No, that’s what Pinkie Pie says. What do I say about betraying a pony’s trust?”

Twilight put a hoof to her chin to think for a few seconds. “...Don’t do it?” she finally guessed.

“Exactly!” exclaimed Applejack. “Now somepony entrusted you with this unsavory bit of news about how there’s a crazypony. Did this somepony tell you who it was?”

“...No,” answered Twilight reluctantly.

“Did this somepony tell you that you could bug every one of us like a parasprite at a ladybug’s picnic to find out who it is?”


“So why are you doing it?” Applejack demanded.

Twilight cartwheeled her forelegs around trying to come up with an answer that wouldn’t make the mare before her any madder. “Well I, I just...I just had to know! If one of my friends is hurt, then I want to know, so I can help!”

“Uh-huh,” replied Applejack, eyeing Twilight carefully. “And can you help?”

“W...well of course I can help!”

“Really, Sug? I don’t never remember you castin’ no spell to fix a pony’s head!”

“But I’ve been doing a lot of studying about pony psychology. I’m sure if I just—”

Applejack silenced the purple pony with a hoof on her lips. “But you’re not sure, are you?” she asked.

Twilight, her mouth still held closed by Applejack’s hoof, silently shook her head in a “no”.

“And I bet this friend of yours does know.”

Twilight slowly nodded her head up and down.

“Well there you go, then. Twi, you need to recognize that sometimes, you’re not the expert. You don’t know more about apples than I do, and you don’t know more about all things frou-frou than Rarity here.”

Behind her, Rarity rolled her eyes at her least-liked term for what she did for a living.

“Mm-mm,” said Twilight.

Applejack glanced down at the hoof still in position, and then removed it.

“Perhaps I should do some more research,” said Twilight. “The Celebration doesn’t start for a few hours, so I should have plenty of time to look up more about this...condition that we’re worried about. After all, how can I be a good teacher if I don’t understand the needs of my student?”

“That’s the spirit!” said Applejack. She watched as Twilight turned and walked back towards her treehouse.

“Well!” exclaimed Rarity. “Now that that is out of the way, what are you doing in town, Applejack? I thought you were still recovering from the lamentable loss of your crop.”

Applejack eyed her levelly. “They’re only trees, Rarity.”

Rarity was about to counter this claim by bringing up Bloomberg, but she had the distinct feeling that there was an aspect of her recent past that made snarking about inappropriate affection less than wise, and so she elected to remain silent.

“As a matter of fact,” Applejack continued, “I came into town to ask about Rainbow Dash.”

“Rainbow Dash!” exclaimed Rarity. With a quick intake of breath, she managed to calm herself...mostly. “Yes, well I would like to have a word with the little prankster myself. What did she do to you?”

Applejack took off her hat and scratched her head with the edge of a hoof. “She didn’t do anything, really,” she said. “She just acted funny—dropped down on a conversation between me and Pinkie Pie, and right afterwards zoomed off towards Hoofington.” She put her hat back on so that she could use the holding hoof to point westwards.

“Hoofington?” Rarity asked herself. “I do not recall any word of a competition or weather business over there. Why would she wish to visit Hoofington?”

“That’s what I’m wondering,” replied Applejack. “I’ll tell you one thing, though: whatever her reason, from the look on her face, she considered it really important.”

“Huh,” said Rarity, that being the sound she tended to make when she no longer had anything useful to contribute to a conversation. “Well if you do manage to bump into her before I do, be sure to send her my way whenever you get your particular mystery settled to your satisfaction.”

“I’ll do that,” Applejack said with a nod. “Well good day to you, Rarity.” She stared to walk away, and ended up tripping over the same sidewalk crack she had hit before. “Don’t say nothin’!” she warned the unicorn over her shoulder. “I swear that this here crack wasn’t here yesterday!”

“I’m sure it wasn’t,” said Rarity with a verbal smirk. “Good day, Applejack.”

Pinkie Pie was taking her cart back from Town Hall to Sugarcube Corner after dropping off the first dozen pecan pies. Having run through the last of her sugar reserve, she was fighting to keep her eyelids open. She stopped and turned around to check the time.

TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK, went the giant clock.

In Pinkie’s mind, this was transformed into : PAPA is COMING, PAPA is COMING, PAPA is COMING! She could just feel the gray-robed stallion, pulling his boxed machine of doom and leading her zomponified sisters into town right behind her.

She turned around.

They weren’t there, but it didn’t matter, because they were coming! They were coming!

With the sound of a deflating balloon, the pony’s fluffy mane suddenly fell flat.

It’s not too bad, Pinkamena told herself. I just have to start screaming now, that’s all.

So she did.


With a gasp on hearing Applejack’s cry, Twilight turned away from the front door of the library and raced back to Town Hall.

She arrived to see Rarity and Applejack comforting the party pony, who she recognized was suffering from a panic attack.

Twilight started to approach, but then suddenly stopped herself. Surrounding a panicking pony with too many others trying to help actually stood a good chance of making the attack worse, Twilight knew. She had also established a bad track record for psychological interventions today. So she elected to just observe for now.

The first thing that the other two ponies were doing right (that Twilight suspected she probably would have failed at) was not talking. They were holding the pony in a relaxed embrace and waiting for her to stop shaking.

As she was watching this, Twilight reflected that a panic attack actually made perfect sense for Pinkie Pie. Well, it would make perfect sense if she actually was the traumatized daughter of a cult leader. After all, Clyde Pie was scheduled to reunite with his daughter any time today.

Twilight walked over to the hall and peeked inside. The furnishings were finished (including a podium for the mayor), and except for most of the pies, the food and drinks were all in place. Twilight spotted a set of bird perches, which told her how the entertainment problem had been solved. As near as she could tell, everything was ahead of schedule.

She turned around to see Applejack address the pink pony. “What say you let me help you with those pies?” she asked in as gentle as voice as possible.

“You can’t, Miss Applejack, you can’t!” the pony replied in a familiar little voice. “It won’t count for her if anypony helps!”

Her’? thought Twilight.

“Well how about this,” Applejack replied, “you make up another batch of pies, and I’ll tell you if’n you’re following my cousin’s recipe correctly. Is that within the rules?”

The other pony nodded. “Oh, while I have the chance, I have to ask you something about the apple trees you lost.”

“What do you want to ask?” the farmer pony asked.

“They were in the southeast corner of Sweet Apple Acres, right?” the pink pony asked. “The part that gets drainage from Rambling Rock Ridge?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Did you know that the soil under the Ridge acts like a magnet for phosphorus? Is it possible that phosphorus deficiency might have contributed to your trees’ reduced disease resistance?”

Applejack paused, an eyebrow lifted high. “Could be,” she finally concluded. “Could be. Now why don’t you clean up, and then I’ll join you at the Corner to watch you bake.”

“Alright, Miss Applejack,” the straight-haired pony said shyly before turning and pulling Applejack’s cart back to Sugarcube Corner.

“She’s worse than I thought,” commented Rarity.

“She’s just fine,” retorted Applejack.

“What just happened?” asked Twilight. “And when did she become a geologist?”

Applejack rolled her eyes. “She’s always been a geologist. Can’t farm rocks if you don’t know nothin’ about them, after all. She just don’t like to use that know-how much, since it reminds her of home.”

“Well, alright,” said Twilight, “but what about that look in her eyes? I’ve never seen her like that. It’s like...”

“ a fox in a dog convention?” finished Applejack. “She just gets like that sometimes. Like at the end of a long day when nothing’s been going right. I saw her have a lot of those when she first moved to Ponyville. She got a lot better afterwards when she gained her confidence, but at the time, it was like she...”

“...was a whole other pony,” finished Twilight. The sound of her mental gears clicking into place was actually audible. “I met her last night.”

Chapter 9: Ill-Met in Hoofington

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Chapter 9: Ill-Met in Hoofington

Rainbow Dash flew over the Everfree Forest, adjusting her course on a near-constant basis to deal with unpredictable updrafts from the uncontrolled microclimate below.

As she flew, she turned over in her head everything she knew about Pinkie Pie’s other self, especially in light of the knowledge that this other self was the true Pinkie, while Pinkie herself was somehow born from Rainbow’s first Sonic Rainboom.

Yeah, as if I don’t have enough responsibilities to worry about, she joked to herself to try to break the tension.

She decided to call this original Pinkie personality “Pinkamena”, after her birth name.

A few minutes later, she landed in the main street of Hoofington, right in front of the office of Crafty Crate’s Delivery Service. Without a second’s hesitation, she strode right in.

“Oh hey, Rainbow,” said the burly tan pegasus. “What brings you so far out of Ponyville?” He was sitting in the settee usually reserved for customers. Two grayish fillies standing behind the desk quickly ducked out of sight.

“I understand you do some of Pinkie Pie’s ingredient shipments?” Rainbow asked.

“Yeah,” said Crafty, nodding. “Has she run out of something?”

“Yup, she changed her plans at the last minute, and now she needs some more sugar,” Rainbow replied. Phrased exactly like that, it wasn’t a lie at all! she thought.

“OK,” Crafty said, reaching across the desk to pick up a thick clipboard and page through its contents. “How much did she say she needed?”

“Oh, much sugar does she order in a normal week?”

“Four ponyweight of brown, and eight ponyweight of white.”

That much?!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash. She made a rough mental calculation, and came up with far less sugar than that needed to make Sugarcube Corner’s confections. Apparently, it took an awful lot of sugar to keep Pinkamena at bay.

“Yeah, that much. So, should I put it on Sugarcube Corner’s tab?”

“No, I think we’ll put it on my tab this time,” Rainbow said. “After everything she’s doing for the Celebration, I think she deserves it.”

“Alright...your bankruptcy,” Crafty muttered under his breath as he reached across the desk once more to fish a ledger out from under a pile of paperwork. “Now before you ask: no, it won’t be ready for three hours. Why? Because that’s a lot of sugar to gather together, and because you didn’t order in advance. Let that be a lesson for you. And finally: you can get a good lunch at the Inn of the Prancing Pony if you haven’t eaten yet. You’ll have to be back here in the afternoon, though, if you want to take your shipment to Ponyville in time for the Celebration—our next scheduled run is not for another couple of days.” Crafty had obviously worked with the impatient mare before.

Rainbow thought for a bit. “I think I’ll stay in town,” she decided. “This will be a good chance to learn more about Pinkie Pie. She did come from here, didn’t she?”

The eyes of the two hiding fillies cautiously peeked at Rainbow over the edge of the desk. The older one had a pure gray coat with straight mane of a darker gray, while the younger one had a more purplish gray coat and her straight mane was pure gray.

Seeing them, Crafty smiled. “Pinkie used to live on a homestead a thousand strides northwest of here. I never saw her before the day she left, but her father would sometimes come into town to buy supplies.”

At the mention of the word “father”, the two fillies quickly popped back down. The desk began to shake from their combined shivering.

“It’s alright, dears, it’s alright,” said Crafty soothingly, as he rubbed the top of the table with his hoof like a father would gently pet the mane of his daughter after she had awoken from a nightmare. “He hasn’t been in town in five years, and that time he bought enough food and supplies to last him a decade.” Crafty had to laugh to himself at this point. “The dern fool was convinced the royal government was going to fall, and it would be every pony for herself. Told us all we’d be sorry we hadn’t stocked up like he did. Well I don’t see Princess Celestia turning in her crown anytime soon, do you?”

“Nope,” Rainbow said, shaking her head with a smile. “So I think...Pinkie Pie had a couple of sisters...Inkie and Blinkie?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Crafty said with a knowing smile as the silent fillies once again showed themselves. Technically, they were mares due to their age, but they certainly were acting like fillies.

“Whatever happened to them?” Rainbow Dash asked with a matching smile, knowing full well what the answer would be.

“Well they left their father after their mother passed on...eight years ago, wasn’t it?”

The fillies nodded.

“The ponies of Hoofington stood up to Clyde Pie when he came to town,” Crafty said, getting serious. The fillies looked at him in admiration. “Told him that it was time that those two got to make up their own minds. If they didn’t want to live out there with all that mining equipment and weird inventions, then they had every right to leave. We all took care of the pair of them in turns, but eventually they decided they liked my wife and I best.”

The fillies reached out with their forehooves, and their foster father indulgently bent down to receive their hug.

Rainbow watched with a warm smile. “Would you like to hear about your sister?” she asked them.

The fillies looked up at Rainbow and visibly shrank, causing her to pout.

Crafty Crate sighed, and walked Rainbow to the door. “I’m sorry, Rainbow, but you have to understand: those two are very skittish. The fact that they were willing to be in the same room as a stranger is a great deal of progress for them. Maybe later if I have time I can head over to the Inn—you can tell me some stories about Pinkie, and I’ll relay those stories to them. Not as colorfully as you can tell them...”

“Ah, that’s alright,” said Rainbow, looking back from the doorway. “Feel free to tone them down if you’d like. Pinkie stories do tend to be pretty unbelievable, after all.”

“I’ll see you then.”

~ ~ ~

Rainbow Dash walked down the main street of Hoofington, a warm feeling in her heart after meeting the Pie Sisters.

As she looked around her, she was struck by the extremely ancient feeling of the town. All the buildings were made of wattle and daub with straw roofs, as all commoner homes were back in the Pre-Classical Era. The clothing (what little was used) looked modern, but in many other respects, it was like Rainbow Dash had stumbled into the days before Luna had become Nightmare Moon.

It was therefore all the more disconcerting to discover a shingle hanging over such an ancient door advertising that the practitioner within was specialized in psychology. On a whim, Rainbow flew over and rapped on the door. “Hey, Doc,” she cried out. “Is there any chance I can get some free advice?”

After a hushed conversation inside, the door was opened by a grumpy unicorn. He had a pale orange—nearly white—coat and a jet black mane, and he was wearing a cardigan checkered in forest green and black. “Please state the nature of the mental emergency,” he said acidly. It was precisely what he was required to say under the circumstances, but he clearly expected to regret it.

The pegasus was momentarily intimidated, but she quickly recovered her nerve. “Hey, if you’re busy then I’ll come back later,” she said casually, walking away. “I just wanted to know if you knew anything about split personalities. Maybe I’ll ask the doctor doctor instead.”

“Come back here, young filly!” the psychologist ordered.

Rainbow stopped and smiled to herself before wiping the grin off of her face and turning back around. This trick worked all the time when she wanted to find out something from her optometrist aunt.

“You probably read that ‘Mage Heckle and Miss Hide’ story, didn’t you?” he accused her. “Or worse, had some fool Canterlot unicorn repeat the plot to you from some inane Etheric melodrama. If there’s one thing worse than the garbage writers put into vulnerable minds about amnesia, it’s Dissociative Identity Disorder. Now sit down, while I give you some useful knowledge about my field of study for once!”

Rainbow Dash did as she was told, working hard to keep the grin off her face over the antics of her sudden instructor.

“I’m Doctor Simmer, by the way,” he said.

“Rainbow Dash,” the pegasus said, presenting a hoof to shake. As she did this, she leaned over to see Dr. Simmer’s cutie mark: it was a pony brain, bobbing around in a clear pot being heated to boiling by a Honeydew burner.

“Very appropriate,” the unicorn noted about her name, nodding in approval. “Now the first thing to know is the name of the ailment: Dissociative Identity Disorder, or ‘DID’ for short. It’s not called ‘split personality’, and it is most certainly not schizophrenia, which is a different mental disorder all together.

“Second, you don’t just get DID from a potion or a spell, no matter how convenient it is for the plot of your silly little story. DID is a defense mechanism, the last possible defense mechanism for some ponies before giving up on living altogether.”

This suddenly had Rainbow Dash’s full attention.

“A pony only develops DID at a very young age,” Dr. Simmer continued, “and only in response to stresses they cannot handle any other way.”

“Can you get it from being teased?” Rainbow asked.

“No,” the psychologist replied in a dismissive tone, “not unless every pony in the whole of Equestria was mocking you, and although you might think your foalhood was that bad, it wasn’t, because ponies like to exaggerate how awful they had it in the past to make them feel better about their dreary lives in the present. No, in most cases, DID has one, very specific cause: foal abuse.

That is the reason I do not like to see this very serious ailment being made light of. Do I make myself...hello? Rainbow Dash? Are you still in there?” He waved a hoof in front of the frozen pegasus before him.

Rainbow Dash’s veins had turned to ice on hearing the two fatal words. At that moment, a hundred off-the-hoof comments about Clyde Pie that she had brushed off before all coalesced into a sickening whole.

Her eyes suddenly focused on Dr. Simmer with an intense glare, and he stepped back in shock.

“Thanks, Doc,” she said gruffly. “Thanks a whole lot. Now if you don’t mind, I have some business to take care of.”

A second later she launched herself into the sky, flying north as fast as her wings could take her.

“What do I care?” Doctor Simmer said to himself. “It’s not like anypony ever tells me what’s going on around here!” With a snort of annoyance, he turned on his hooves and stalked back into his office, slamming the door behind him. “Now then,” he said to the patient who was strangely hiding from the window, “why don’t you tell me more about this imaginary persecutor of yours...I believe you called her ‘The Sparkle’...?”

Chapter 10: Showdown at Sundown

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Chapter 10: Showdown at Sundown

Four hours later, Twilight Sparkle looked over all of the open books around her and sighed. “None of these are any good at helping me figure out what to do about Pinkie, or the other Pinkie!” she exclaimed.

Just then there was a knock at the library door.

“Well,” exclaimed Spike, getting up to answer it, “isn’t that narratively convenient!”

“Spike, you think everything’s narratively convenient! I swear, I never should have taught you that phrase.”

Spike opened up the door with a grin, and then immediately launched into a bow. “Your Highnesses!”

“Both of them?!” exclaimed Twilight, running to the door.

“It’s nice to see you, Twilight, Spike, but I’m afraid I really must be flying,” said Princess Celestia. She turned to her sister and pulled her into a gentle embrace. “Come back to Canterlot whenever you’re able,” she told her. Then without another word she launched herself into the sky.

Librarian and assistant craned their necks out to watch. “It’s always so amazing the way she looks when she does that...” commented Spike.

“So, Princess, what made you change your mind about returning to Ponyville?” Twilight asked Luna, before moving aside to let her in.

“I did some research,” Luna replied, “and I’ve discovered that Clyde Pie is no longer a threat.”

Twilight Sparkle knew where this conversation needed to go, and she didn’t want her baby dragon around to hear it. “Spike, could you let me know how the party preparations are coming along?” she asked.

Spike had an instant suspicion that the unicorn was up to something, but at the same time he was more than a little creeped out by some of the things he had helped her research, and he didn’t feel comfortable getting any deeper into it. “OK,” he said cautiously, before walking out the door.

As he was reaching out to shut it, he stopped suddenly and yawned, then stuck a claw in his ear and wiggled it around. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “There’s something funny about the air out here!”

Luna frowned. “I noticed. It appears that the weather pegasi have instituted an abnormally high pressure system, to ensure there are no clouds for the Celebration. Well, go along your way, little dragon.”

Spike smirked. “Later, Princess!” And with that he closed the door behind him.

Luna looked guiltily at the floor. “I should have thought of sending him away before I brought up Pinkie’s father,” she said.

“It’s alright,” Twilight replied. “I’ve screwed up enough times to know when and how to do that. So, you knew about the rumor, then, about Mr. Pie being a Nightmare Moon cultist?”

“Yes,” said Luna, “and I examined the file that my sister had on him. She had heard of this rumor nearly two decades ago, and sent an agent to determine if it was true or not. Let me tell you what that agent learned about Clyde Pie:

“Clyde was born in Hoofington. He tried to become an inventor of the future, but nothing he made ever worked, so he took the opposite course and became obsessed with the past, and of the rumors of Nightmare Moon’s return. He heard about the Noctiferians, and decided to revive the cult all by himself with the money he made as a consulting geologist. At this, as with so much else in his life, he was an utter failure. He never discovered any of the occult volumes that the Noctiferians created and my sister destroyed, indeed he appeared to know nothing about them other than the name of their organization and the fact that they wore gray robes. Somewhere or another he had come up with the repugnant notion that a live sacrifice was required to summon the Nightmare, when the fact of the matter is that she’s a lot easier to summon than that. As for recruitment, there were only ever two members of the Revived Cult of Nightmare Moon: Clyde Pie, and his wife Sue, and she was only a member because she was completely dependent on him. The investigator unfortunately ignored all sorts of tragic clues about Clyde’s family in his single-minded quest to discover if the stallion was a threat to Equestria or not, but it seems pretty clear...”

“...that he took out his frustrations on his family, causing at least one of his daughters to develop a second personality,” finished Twilight coldly.

“Ah...yes,” said Luna awkwardly. “You managed to figure that out. Pinkamena Diane in particular seems to have been singled out for his rage because she was a filly prodigy. At a very young age she apparently was already better at inventing and geology than her father, at least according to the examiner who tried and failed to get her out of a non-existent home-schooling program and into a regular school. And there my research ended.

“At this point, I knew that Pinkie Pie had obviously freed herself of her father’s control, at least directly, but I felt it to be my duty to see if Sue Pie was still alive, and if Pinkie had any sisters who failed to escape. So I discovered where the Pies settled down, and went out there. I shared my concerns with Celestia and even though I was convinced that he was no threat to me, she insisted on accompanying me.”

Luna’s voice got quiet as she recalled the next part. “We got to the place less than an hour ago, a miserable little played-out farm no good for raising anything but rocks, but it appears that we weren’t the first visitors that day. The ground had been trampled by dozens of hooves, and there was a newly dug grave next to Sue Pie’s much older one, with a simple wooden marker inscribed ‘Clyde Pie’.”

Twilight gasped. “Did somepony—?”

“No, Twilight,” Luna answered quickly. “Celestia and I used our magic to examine the grave, and it was clear to us that Clyde Pie died of natural causes over two years ago, like his wife had six years before that. The pony was just so unloved—justifiably if regrettably—that nopony ever ventured out to his remote home before today to learn that he had passed. I thought it important to see you as soon as we discovered this, rather than spend time on the minor mystery of just who found and buried him.

“Twilight, it is vitally important that we control the manner in which Pinkie Pie learns the fact of her father’s death.”

Twilight nodded in realization. “Applejack would say she’s been winding herself as tight as a cheap watch on date night. The thought that her father is coming to meet her tonight has her on the verge of a nervous collapse. She came here last night with her other personality in control, saying she needed information about Nightmare Moon’s defeat to use against ‘her enemy’. She plans to confront him, to finally break his power over her. If she suddenly learns that that opportunity has been forever taken from her, could...cause her mainspring to go ‘Sproing!’”

“Well, take a metaphor entirely too far,” commented the Princess. “But essentially, my thought process was similar to yours. Is there any chance we’ll be able to talk to her before the party gets started?”

Twilight glanced out the window at the setting sun. “Just barely. But we’ve got to hurry!”

“Pinkie, did you order a shipment from Hoofington?” Spike asked. He had volunteered to help the straight-maned pony when it became clear that he had a better memory than she did of how the real Pinkie ran a party. (He had also figured out pretty quickly that she was terrified of being found out, which was the reason he was calling her “Pinkie”.) He was currently in the doorway, looking west. “Because I see one coming this way,” he added.

Pinkamena froze for a second, and then smiled darkly. “Go back inside, Spike,” she said as she headed out of Town Hall, “and don’t come out no matter what you hear.” Oh well, she thought to herself, I was no good at pretending to be Pinkie anyhow.

The end of the western road was bathed in a golden sunlight so bright that it was nearly impossible to pick out details. What she could see was a large rectangular shape, pulled by a pony. The pony might have been surrounded by a halo caused by the intense sunlight, but Pinkamena decided that it was a robe instead. Walking on either side of the box were two small ponies. That they were Inkie and Blinkie was an absolute certainty.

At that moment, the universe shrunk to only two ponies, and only one of them had the right to speak.

“So!” she bellowed to the sun-obscured figure. “You finally returned! I was gonna lecture you into submission, but you always found a way to win, so I’m going to do something a little more drastic!” Reaching behind her, she pulled out Pinkie’s party cannon, but this one had been altered to her specifications.

“Say goodbye, Papa!” she snarled, as she put the pony in her sights.

No, Pinkamena! cried the voice of Pinkie in her head. If you do this, you’ll be just as bad as he is!

“Shaddup, Pinkie!” she screamed, as she pulled the trigger.

There was a tremendous flash of light, which burst out of the cannon and raced towards the box before exploding with a roar.

“It got him! I got him!” Pinkamena cried out in glee. “Did you see, Pinkie?”

Her face suddenly went slack in horror. “Pinkie? PINKIE?! Where did you go?”

With a loud “SPROING!” sound, she collapsed.

Twilight and Princess Luna raced up to the fallen pony from one direction, and Spike from another. They had all been screaming at her to try and correct her mistake, but she had acted like she couldn’t even hear them.

The Pie Sisters, merely knocked over in a blast not meant for them, got up and looked back and forth between their sister and Rainbow Dash. Silently, they made their decision and walked over to the pegasus and helped her to get up.

“Wha...what happened?” she asked. She held out a hoof, and watched as it was quickly coated with falling granules. “Is it raining...sugar?” As her hearing faded back into existence, she picked up the sound of a marching band from the southern end of town. Apparently it had attracted most of Ponyville, because the square around Rainbow Dash was deserted.

Fluttershy, Rarity and Applejack soon joined her. “Are you alright?” Rarity asked.

Rainbow shook her head a few times to check for equilibrium damage. She noticed that it was a bit harder for her to breathe, like she had a small weight on her barrel, but nothing she couldn’t deal with. “Yeah, I’m OK,” she said. “I think I’m pretty much blast-proof by this point. Although that really wasn’t much of a blast—even the pony she thought I was might have survived, if he was unlucky enough to still be around, that is. Maybe Pinkie sabotaged the party cannon when Pinkamena wasn’t looking.”

The silence was broken by the screeching of Fluttershy’s birds, who suddenly burst out of the Town Hall and flew off in all directions.

“Oh, dear!” exclaimed Fluttershy quietly. “I wonder what’s gotten into them? Could I possibly...”

“Go,” said Applejack with quiet authority. “I got a feelin’ even more’s goin’ on than just this business with Pinkie Pie.” The ponies around her all had the same expression on their faces, as if they just knew that something awful was about to happen.

After Fluttershy had left the scene, Rainbow Dash quickly dusted herself off and joined the two “eggheads”. Princess Luna in particular was staring intently at the fallen mare. “Well, there’s no other recourse,” she said finally. “I’m going in.”

“Wait!” exclaimed Twilight, putting a hoof on the Princess’ shoulder to stop her from touching her horn to Pinkamena’s forehead. “Let me go.”

Rainbow looked back and forth between the two of them. “You’ve got a way to go into Pinkie’s head and finally fix her? Count me in!”

“No, to both of you!” Princess Luna ordered. “This is no mere dream I propose to enter, but a nightmare of the most horrible kind! Pinkie Pie’s mind is suffering from a cataclysmic breakup, which she may not survive! And that means that an unwary traveler could easily share her fate if she does not take the utmost precautions. You,” she said, pointing a hoof at Rainbow Dash, “have no idea what you’d be getting into and you”—she now pointed to Twilight—“are nowhere near ready for this level of danger. You have no idea what she’s going through!”

“Yes, I do!” insisted Twilight, looking her student/mentor deep in the eyes. “She’s hurt, and she’s confused, and she thinks she’s made the worst mistake in the history of the universe,” the unicorn said, her voice choking up. “She thinks that she will never be forgiven and right now, more than anything, she needs to be told that she will be forgiven, that life will go on and she will go on with it! Please, Princess, please let me go in there...before it’s too late.”

Spike stepped forward, and wrapped his arms around one of Twilight’s legs. She looked down at him and he looked up at her.

“Spike, I have to—” she began.

“You’re right,” he said to her. “You’re the one who has to do this. Be careful.”

“I promise,” she replied.

Luna meanwhile had stepped back in shock at Twilight’s words to her...and in recognition. Must all seekers of truth suffer the way I...the way we have suffered? she asked herself with an aching sorrow. “Al...alright,” she finally concluded. “I will let you in. And you will be careful. I will remain here, on the outside, and I will be your anchor. Call out to me if you are in the slightest danger, and I will pull you out. Do not disobey my instructions! I will not be committing two mindless ponies to the insane asylum tonight!”

Spike shivered, and the Princess instantly regretted her words, but they could not be unsaid.

“I promise,” said Twilight, bowing her head.

Luna lightly touched the unicorn’s forehead with her horn, and Twilight collapsed into senselessness. She then touched it to Pinkamena’s forehead for but a moment. “There,” she announced. “It is done.”

Spike wrapped his arms around Twilight’s neck, then sat down to wait.

“OK, now let me in!” demanded Rainbow Dash.

“No,” said Luna, as she settled herself down next to the dragon and two sleeping ponies.

“Why not?” the pegasus demanded. “There’s strength in numbers!”

Luna sighed. “If you went into that pony’s head, Rainbow Dash, who would you be trying to save?”

Rainbow blinked in confusion. “Pinkie Pie, of course!”

“And what about the other one, this ‘Pinkamena’? Are you scared of her?”

A whole range of emotions ran across the hot-blooded mare’s face. “Well, she did try to kill me. Twice.”

“That’s why you’re not going in,” said Luna with a steely expression. “Pinkie Pie’s survival is irrelevant. Twilight Sparkle is going in to rescue the real pony: Pinkamena Diane Pie.”

Chapter 11: Final Nightmare

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Chapter 11: Final Nightmare

Twilight found herself on a rocky plain that stretched to the horizon in all directions under a steel-gray sky. Running wildly among the stones was the straight-haired magenta pony Twilight had seen three times before in her life. As she ran, every rock seemed to reach out to trip her.

Actually, Twilight reflected, every rock is reaching out to trip her. This is a dream after all.

Twilight carefully considered the rules for safely navigating another pony’s dreams taught to her by Princess Luna. Considered them, and tossed them aside, for she needed to dive right into the center of this dream and join it if she had any hope of rescuing this poor pony, this...Pinkamena, before her. Only one rule remained to her, keeping her thoughts clear, and so she strove to rigorously follow that one rule above all else.

“Where is she?” cried out Pinkamena again and again. “Where is she?”

With an audible “pop!”, Twilight Sparkle appeared beside her. “Have you looked everywhere?” she asked. “Perhaps we can make a list.”

“Miss Sparkle!” cried Pinkamena, startled. “’re one of Pinkie’s friends! I know why you’re here!”

“Yes,” said Twilight, “I’ve come to help...”

Pinkamena suddenly found herself in a courtroom, wearing a prisoner’s striped pajamas and sitting in the witness box. A crowd of every pony in Ponyville was booing her. Rainbow Dash was the prosecuting attorney, and the jury was twelve identical Applejacks. The judge was a surprised Twilight Sparkle. Above her, instead of the traditional abstract silhouettes of the Princesses, was a framed photograph of a scowling Papa Pie. As for the defense attorney in this case, Pinkamena was defending herself, as that was the surest way to lose.

“This mare is a murderer!” declared Rainbow, pointing dramatically at the defendant.

“It’s true!” wailed Pinkamena.

“Has the jury reached its verdict?” asked Judge Sparkle.

Twilight was terrified to discover that she could no longer control her body.

“Guilty!” declared twelve Applejack clones.

“Pinkamena, you are guilty of murder!” declared the judge in the most disapproving tones imaginable. “And the penalty is—”

“I DEMAND that you stop this miscarriage of justice immediately!” declared Princess Celestia, bursting into the courtroom through the ceiling.

In the judge’s seat, Judge Sparkle had become a pure puppet character, just like the prosecutor and the jury. Twilight was now disguised as the Princess.

“Princess!” squeaked Pinkamena, falling out of the witness stand and pressing her forehead to the floor.

“Rise, my little pony,” said Celestia.

Twilight squeed internally. She had always wanted to say that.

“You have rushed to punishment much too quickly,” the Princess said to Pinkamena as the earth pony looked up with uncertain eyes. “Pinkie is still alive, I am sure of it.”

“Sh...she is?” Pinkamena asked. “Do you know where?”

“No,” said the Princess with a reassuring smile, “but I’m sure with a little help you can find her.”

Twilight rushed out of the Princess’ body, leaving her a cardboard cutout, and animated her own body once more. “I can help you,” she started to say, but before she had gotten even a single syllable out, Pinkamena made her decision.

“Winona!” Pinkamena declared. “She’ll be sure to find Pinkie Pie for me!”

“Seriously?” Twilight said, breaking the fourth wall.

Now as a general rule, Twilight thoroughly disapproved of Pinkie Pie’s antics regarding the fourth wall of their day-to-day lives. It showed a less than stable grasp of one’s sanity. It was perfectly alright to speak to the “author/audience” in a dream, because that individual actually existed. Although on second thought...

...on second thought, it made perfect sense for Pinkie Pie and Pinkamena to believe in the Fourth Wall. They had grown up in an awful world of injustice and fear, the very opposite of the world of classic stories. By pretending that their lives were written by somepony else, they were assured that their every adventure would have a happy ending, and that life would actually be fair.

Twilight was satisfied that she had reached such a good conclusion...but that still didn’t change the fact that she was now stuck in Winona’s body.

“Row row!” said Winona. “Row row row row row row row!”

“You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?” commented Twilight from the sidelines.

Winona started sniffing around. When she had found her scent, she raised her head and howled loudly.

Twilight had never owned a dog, and had never bothered to learn much about them. As a result, she wasn’t very clear on what particular breed Winona was, and whether all dogs following scents did so in the same way as a stereotypical frostinghound or not.

The dog nosed a hole in the fabric of reality, and dove through. With a shrug, Pinkamena followed.

~ ~ ~

They found themselves in a memory of the family rock farm, a location not that different from the place where Twilight had materialized. Pinkamena watched as a tiny filly version of herself pushed some rocks around.

Suddenly, there was the sound of an enormous explosion, and a rainbow wave rapidly spread across the sky. The little filly screamed, as she was blasted by a tremendous wave of magical energy. As the magic continued to pour through her, she gradually faded from existence, until in the end nothing was left at all.

Twilight looked on, shocked. She had sought out the memory of Pinkie Pie’s “birth”, but it appears that she was missing even from that.

Winona turned around in a circle, sniffing and snuffling. Then she suddenly froze and pointed at a seemingly random direction.

Pinkamena looked at her suspiciously.

“Row row!” insisted Winona. “Row row, row row row!”

The magenta mare shrugged, and walked in the direction indicated through another tear in space.

Twilight-Winona led Pinkamena through dozens of other memories detailing the transition between her persona and that of Pinkie Pie’s. Pinkie Pie was absent from all of them.

What became clear to Twilight was that Pinkamena led a dreary and miserable life. It seemed hopelessly unfair, especially in contrast to Twilight’s own life.

Unlike the heroines of all of the classic stories that Twilight had ever read, she had not lost a parent at a young age, had not been raised by cruel aunts, had not had to fight against a pitiless world. Everything in Twilight’s life was handed to her on a silver plate, up to and including having the Sun Princess of Equestria as her own personal magic teacher. It was not the life story of a heroine. In fact, it rather closely resembled the life history of your typical storybook villainess.

This was one of the chief reasons why Twilight Sparkle refused to believe she lived in a story. Because if she was in a fairy tale story, with a fairy tale plot, then at this point in the story she was the character due to give in to her monomania to control the world, and then she would become the villainess who would have to be put down by the actual heroine of the story. In that world, the “Lesson Zero” incident would be a horrible premonition of Twilight’s inevitable mental disintegration, instead of just a really, really, really bad day.

Twilight had questioned, again and again, why she deserved to live such a carefree life while so many other ponies suffered. She tried to help the less fortunate when she could, but she had always been held back by her poor skills interacting with other ponies, so her efforts always turned out to be half-hearted at best.

In the end, she concluded that her experiences did have a purpose. A happy childhood and finally making friends had made her an emotionally strong pony.

It was that strength that allowed her to press through disappointment after disappointment in Pinkamena’s dream. A lesser pony might have been dragged down by the prevalent current of hopelessness, but that would have been fatal. Only optimism could serve to revive Pinkie Pie, and save Pinkamena.

After all, you needed a lot of optimism to put up with being Winona.

This time, they emerged into a memory of Applejack’s barn. An older Pinkamena was staring down Pinkie’s other friends, convinced she was about to be kicked out of their friendships.

“If this is a farewell party,” a visible Twilight Sparkle said, deploying her formidable power of logic, “why does the cake I picked up from Sugarcube Corner say, ‘Happy Birthday, Pinkie Pie’?”

The other Pinkamena looked around her, at the balloons, the decorations and finally the cake, which did indeed say ‘Happy Birthday, Pinkie Pie!’”

And then she exploded, and the other ponies started having a party with nopony.

“You’re not helping,” the surviving Pinkamena growled.

Twilight sighed. She needed to approach this from a different angle.

Pinkamena was convinced that Pinkie was dead, thought Twilight, and that without Pinkie, she had no reason to live. But this was ridiculous, because Pinkamena created Pinkie, so that meant that Pinkie could never die. She was just stubbornly hiding that side from herself, in her relentless need for self-punishment.

Twilight decided that she needed to trick Pinkamana into bringing back Pinkie. But first, she had to clean up a misconception.

Winona jumped up in the air in front of Pinkamena, and grabbed onto a bead that was hanging in mid-air. Using her weight, she pulled the string that was attached to the bead, and this unrolled a projector screen. A traditional school room materialized around them—just as with the courtroom, the portrait of Equestria’s rulers that usually appeared in such a room was replaced by the visage of Pinkamena’s disapproving father. A projector operated by an A/V pony that rather closely resembled Twilight flickered to life behind them.

On the screen, the smoke cleared from the wreckage of Pinkamena’s revenge cannon. Pinkamena’s sisters helped the cannon’s victim to rise, revealing her as Rainbow Dash.

“What?!” exclaimed Pinkamena.

A flashback showed a group of shadowy ponies with torches and pitchforks descending on the Pie family farm, opening a door to see a pile of bones which faded into Clyde Pie’s gravestone.

Twilight guessed that there was a 65% chance that the scene went as she showed it, and a 35% chance that instead Rainbow Dash had crashed through the ceiling yelling “For Pinkie Pie!” at the top of her lungs.

“Is it true?” Pinkamena asked incredulously. “Am I finally free?” As if in confirmation, the portrait of Clyde Pie fell off the wall and into a conveniently placed trashcan.

An extremely brief moment of genuine happiness was immediately soured by more thinking. “I...wait...” the magenta mare fumbled, backing away from the screen. “You mean I killed Pinkie...FOR NOTHING?!”

Winona’s eyes went wide. “Row row!!” she shouted, jumping up and down. “Row row-row row row row!”

“Stop telling me what to do!” retorted Pinkamena.

“Row, row row-row row-row-row row row row row row-row row row row row row!”

“I do not turn everything you say or do into the end of the world!”

“Row row!”

“Do not!”

“Row row!”

“Do not!”

Twilight face-hooved.

“Stop that!” declared Pinkamena. “Dogs do not face-paw!”

“Row row roow row?” asked Winona.

“I do know, that’s why!” replied the earth pony.

“Row row rooooow?”

“Oh don’t cop that attitude with me, Missy!”

The dog stuck her nose up in the air. “Row row row row row row-row!” she declared defiantly.

“Oh yeah?” retorted Pinkamena. From her mane she pulled a metal mesh cube the size of her hoof, then pulled it from opposite corners, expanding it into a cage big enough for—

“Row!” exclaimed Winona, as she was stuffed into her new carrier.

Bad great dane/frostinghound/pointer/collie!” scolded Pinkamena. “I’m sending you back to doggie kindergarten!”

“Row-row row-row-row-row? Roooooooooooooooooow!” the dog wailed.

Pinkamena raced away until the annoying sound had faded away entirely, putting her back in the endless rock field again.

Well, that was another dead end, thought Twilight. How about...reverse psychology?

~ ~ ~

Pinkamena walked on, mile after mile, uncertain where exactly she was going. Perhaps the heat from the pitiless sun would shrivel her internal organs, and end her torment that way. It sounded appropriate to her.

In the distance she made out a shimmer a bit taller than the other shimmers. Having nothing better to do, she approached it.

The shimmer turned out to be a Sparkle. Twilight was leaned over a slightly bigger version of Pinkamena’s doggie box. As Pinkamena watched, the unicorn put one ear up to the box and listened for a few seconds, and then fell on her back, laughing uproariously.

Pinkamena approached cautiously. “What’s in the box?” she asked cautiously.

“It’s Pinkie Pie,” said Twilight. “I found her, and now she’s mine.”

“You can’t do that!” protested Pinkamena. “She’s my imaginary friend, so I get to keep her!”

Twilight clutched the box close to her chest. “Mine!” she exclaimed.

Pinkamina grabbed a handle of the box and started tugging. “Gimme!” she cried.

“Nu-uh!” retorted Twilight.


“Make me!”

“!” Pinkamena screamed with all her might, and tugged mightily on the handle. This caused it to fly out of Twilight’s clutches and into Pinkamena’s chest. She tumbled end over end several times, finally ending up landing hard on the box. This in turn caused the box to partially collapse with the sound of breaking glass.

Twilight winced.

“What’s going on here?” the magenta pony demanded, opening the box. Inside was a broken hoof mirror.

“Well you see,” Twilight explained awkwardly, “You were supposed to see yourself smiling in the mirror, and think—”

“You tricked me!” screamed Pinkamena, finally finding an exterior focus for all of her frustration. “You’re just like all of the others!”

Out of nowhere, she pulled her revenge cannon. “Taste crunchy vengeance!”

Twilight raced into a convenient bush, and soared out with her horn swapped for a pegasus’ wings. This allowed her to easily avoid the missile.

Pinkamena upgraded the cannon for rapid fire, and sent a dozen bombs screaming Twilight’s way. They simultaneously detonated in the same spot, creating a slowly dissipating cloud of smoke. Pinkamena raised a hoof to her eyes to get a better look.

“Did you get her?” asked a tiny voice. Pinkamena looked up to see an Appletini-sized Twilight Sparkle pegasus standing on her head. Upon being spotted, she suddenly danced a Zebrican hat dance, singing “Rata-ta-tata-ta-tata-ta-ta!” at the top of her lungs, before disappearing in a “poof!” of purple smoke.

You know, Twilight thought to herself, I’m beginning to see why Pinkie Pie liked Discord so much...

Can’t catch me!” pegasus Twilight cried, flying by high above.

“Oh yeah?” replied Pinkamena, seeing that she was now in a junkyard. Cobbling together parts seemingly at random, she soon had created some sort of undefinable masterpiece of invention. She stepped into an applecart seat and pulled a pair of goggles over her eyes. With the yank of a lever, a powerful spring launched her into the air. A crossbow-like contraption on the front of the cart sent a lasso flying across until it caught Twilight around the stomach. “Now I have you!” Pinkamena cried.

Twilight looked over her shoulder with a crafty smile. “Do you have me, or do I have you?” And with this she kicked her flying into overdrive.

“What are you doing?” Pinkamena cried in alarm, as both she and Twilight began to be battered on all sides by powerful winds. A sort of wall of air started converging into a cone in front of them.

“If I can’t find a Pinkie Pie,” Twilight shouted wildly, “I’ll just make a Pinkie Pie!”

This was followed by an explosion, an utter and complete fracturing of absolutely everything, as the world was shaken utterly apart.

The two ponies plummeted through the skies, holding each other and screaming in terror. There was nothing they could do to save themselves, because Twilight’s Sonic Bookboom (hey, Twilight made it, she can name it whatever she wants!) had stripped her of her wings and made her into an earth pony.

They screamed and screamed and screamed, and screamed some more.

And then Twilight got tired of screaming, and looked behind herself.

Pinkamena continued screaming, until she was tapped on her withers by Twilight and made to look where she was looking. What she saw caused her to stop tumbling end over end, although she was still floating.

The landscape was in the form of a sky scene painted on a long canvas stretched between two vertical rollers. Turning a crank on one of the rollers to wind the canvas upwards as fast as possible...was Pinkie Pie.

“Well go on,” Pinkie prompted. “I’ve seen better ‘falling to their death’ takes from rabbits and dogs than I have from the likes of you!”

Pinkamena reached forward, very deliberately, and bonked Pinkie Pie on the end of her muzzle, creating a squeaking sound. “Found you,” she said, very quietly and very happily.

Chapter 12: Cave #1, or Cave #2? (and Credits)

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The Masterpiece

Chapter 12: Cave #1, or Cave #2?

“Go on and wake up,” Pinkie Pie instructed Pinkamena. “I’ll clean up around here. This place looks way too gray.”

From her mane, Pinkie Pie pulled out a can of spray paint and started using it to saturate the air with a faint mist the color of her coat. There was a hastily applied label on the can which said “PINK”, but it was peeling off, revealing the original name of the product to be “UBIK”.

“OK, Princess Luna,” Twilight said to the sky, “we’re ready to come out!”

“Everypony follow me to the shelter!”

Twilight Sparkle opened her eyes and looked around. For a moment, she wasn’t sure if she wasn’t still in a nightmare.

The buildings all around her had toppled, and on both sides of her were frenzied ponies fleeing for their lives.

Just then the ground started rocking, and earth ponies and unicorns were knocked over like tenpins by an invisible bowling ball. The pegasi who had been flying overhead watched helplessly. Something slammed into the purple pony’s flank.

Twilight realized that all the shaking at the end of Pinkamena’s dream had actually come from the real world—Ponyville had just been struck by its first big earthquake in a generation. And the object that had struck her was Spike.

“Sorry,” he apologized.

Beside them, Pinkamena was scanning the area around her with eagle eyes.

Twilight realized that the three of them were riding in Applejack’s cart, and that it was being levitated by Princess Luna’s magic to protect them from most of the shaking.

After only a couple seconds, the shaking from the aftershock had stopped, and Princess Luna and the pegasi helped the others to get to their hooves. “Let’s keep going!” shouted the Mayor from the head of their small group. “We’re nearly there!”

Seeing that things had settled down for the moment, Twilight turned to Spike. “I hope you weren’t too worried about me,” she said.

“Naw!” exclaimed Spike, trying to cover up his former fear. “The Princess kept me up to date on everything you did in Pinkamena’s head.”

Everything?” Twilight asked nervously. “You mean even—”

“Hey, Applejack!” Spike exclaimed. “Wanna hear Twilight’s impression of Winona?”

Twilight muzzled Spike with a spell. “Not another word!” she warned, before releasing him. She then turned to Pinkamena. “And are you going to be alright?” she asked.

Pinkamena looked around at the boxed pies that shared the cart with them. “Just let me eat a couple of these, Miss Sparkle,” she said, “and you’ll have Pinkie back. Everything can go back to normal.”

“Please, call me Twilight,” the unicorn said as she put a hoof on Pinkamena’s shoulder. “I don’t want everything to go ‘back to normal’,” she said, “because that would mean you going back to hiding from us in the world at the back of your own head. I’d like to be your friend, if you’d let me.”

“And so would I!” chimed in Spike.

“ friend?” Pinkamena asked Twilight, bewildered. “I tried to kill you, and Dashie before that!”

It did not escape Twilight’s attention that Pinkamena, who called everypony else “Miss”, used the same nickname for Rainbow Dash that Pinkie did.

“I forgive you,” said Twilight. “After all, dreams don’t count. And what happened to Rainbow was a misunderstanding. I’m more worried about what you wanted to do to the pony you thought was Clyde Pie. I know he did horrible things to you, Pinkamena, and that he should have been made to answer for what he did, but you didn’t need to be the one to carry out his sentence. Justice is blind for a reason.”

Pinkamena struggled to keep her outrage in check for the pony who had reunited her with Pinkie. “But he got away with it, every single time,” she finally said in a tired voice. “I was the only one who knew the right thing to do—the only one willing to do the right thing. Why shouldn’t I do what’s right?”

“Because of what it does to you,” said Twilight, fixing Pinkamena with a worried look. “You start out fixing other ponies’ problems without asking their permission. Then you take the law into your own hooves when nopony else will listen. And it just starts to run out of control from there.” The strands of the unicorn’s mane started to unravel as she became more and more unhinged by her own words. “After all, you know what’s right for everypony else, don’t you? Everypony would be so much happier if they just listened to reason! And if a pony disagrees, then it’s your duty to correct them, right? If they’re not with you, they surely must be against you! Until, until, until”—she wound herself back down to sanity with these words—“you find yourself living in a castle in the sky, the absolute mistress of Equestria, but also the absolute mistress whose subjects are all terrified of you. You’ve given up your soul, piece by piece, as you did all the horrible things you thought you had to do to achieve your dream, and now you finally realize that you’re the villainess, and you sit down and wait for the heroine to show up to save the world...from you. And by that point, that’s exactly what you want, because you no longer have a reason to live.”

“That timeline has only a 0.065% chance of occurring,” commented Princess Luna acidly to herself, “and Tia promised me that she’d never tell Twilight about it.”

Twilight sighed deeply, and then looked back at Pinkamena. “I see a lot of you in me, Pinkamena,” she said, “and I’d like to be your friend. I’d like to teach you some of the things that Princess Celestia taught me, about seeing the best in my fellow pony, about how to at least try to control my temper. What do you think?”

“,” said Pinkamena after closing her gaping jaw. “You’re even crazier than me, and trust me, that’s saying something! But I still don’t understand. What could you possibly see in me to think that I would be any good as your friend?”

Twilight sat back and started to count the reasons off on an imaginary list. “One: you value reason and logical argument, and so do I. Two: you’ve always been there for Pinkie. And three—”

“You made Pinkie!” interrupted Spike. “Nopony who did something as amazing as that can be that bad.”

Twilight nodded in satisfaction. “What he said,” she added.

Pinkamena smiled sheepishly.

This slightly awkward moment was interrupted when Rainbow Dash dropped out of the sky to stare down Pinkamena.

“So,” she said in a confrontational tone, “who won your little battle to the death?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “We saved Pinkie, Rainbow Dash. Both of us.”

“Well actually—” began Pinkamena.

Both of us,” insisted Twilight.

“I’m sorry for the way I treated you,” said Pinkamena, her head bowed. “Both today—“

“You thought I was your father,” Rainbow interrupted. “In my opinion, you should have hit me much harder.”

“—and at the birthday party,” Pinkamena continued. “Please forgive me.”

“Well I dunno,” Rainbow said with a sigh. “I don’t even know you.”

Pinkamena looked away awkwardly.

“Did I ever tell you the story,” Princess Luna suddenly interrupted, “of the unicorn who did nothing while the gentle and beloved alicorn princess had to levitate a heavy cart containing her, a dragon and two other ponies?!

“Oops!” exclaimed Twilight, activating her levitation to help the Princess.

Pinkamena smiled. “Pinkie says to remind you that you’re also hauling a batch of the finest pecan pies ever tasted in Ponyville.”

“Of course,” Luna said dryly, “how could I forget the most important part of the story?”

Rainbow leaned forward into Pinkamena’s face, peering intently into her eyes. “So...Pinkie can see everything that’s going on while you’re out here?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Pinkamena, “and I can see everything Pinkie sees when she’s out here.”

Great!” Rainbow exclaimed sarcastically, stepping back. “So now I have that piece of awkwardness to deal with every time I talk to Pinkie until the end of time!”

Smooth...” muttered Spike with a roll of the eyes.

Pinkamena stared at Rainbow for a beat, then rolled her eyes at an internal instruction. “Hi, I’m Pinkamena,” she said, sticking out a hoof. “Let’s start over.”

This forced Rainbow Dash to face how incredibly rude some of her last couple of statements were, and she winced. “Yeah, alright. Hi, Pinkamena, I’m Rainbow Dash. Put ‘er there!” After the requisite hoofshake she added, “Tell Pinkie that her introductions are still as corny as ever.” She then used her wings to hover in place over the floating cart, lessening the load being supported by Luna and Twilight’s magic.

“Um, would you mind terribly much if I called you ‘Dashie’?” Pinkamena said, blushing. “After all, you’re practically family.”

Rainbow Dash nodded mutely. She didn’t even want to think about what her metaphorical relationship with Pinkamena would be if she was Pinkie’s “mother”.

Just then, Applejack ran up beside the cart. “Well if we’re introducing ourselves to the semi-new pony, then hi, Pinkamena.”

“Hi, Miss Applejack,” said Pinkamena shyly.

“It’s just Applejack now, Sugarcube. I always knew it was you whenever you called me ‘Miss’. That’s to say that I knew you were different from Pinkie, but I was never quite sure, only mostly sure. So, do you have some kind of degree in geology?”

“No,” said Pinkamena, “but it was the family business, and I read through all of my papa’s books on the subject.”

“I suppose that means I should get a right proper expert when it comes to that water problem in the south east field.”

“I understand,” Pinkamena said, bowing her head.

“Now hold it right there! Just because I should get the college graduate, don’t mean that I will. Besides, fixin’ a phosphorus problem’s not all that hard—you just have to fix the pH, right?”

The magenta pony looked up in shock. “Yes, that’s right!”

Rainbow Dash looked back and forth between Pinkamena and Applejack in amazement. “Since when did you become some sort of freaky geology genius?” she asked the apple farmer.

“Hey, there’s all sorts of things you don’t know about me. I’m allowed to be mysterious and all complicated-like if I want!”

“Oh, sure you’re complicated, Miss ‘Don’t Muddy the Issue with Your Fancy Mathematics’!” Rainbow replied with an eye roll.

“Where’d you hear I said that?!” demanded Applejack. “MacIntosh!”

~ ~ ~

After a few more minutes, the group passed the Ponyville city limits and reached a tall hill just outside town. There, they converged with the much larger group that had been following the marching band when the earthquakes had started, a group that had been led by Doctor Whooves. (“Oh now, I’m no hero,” the Doctor said later. “It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Of course, that clock of mine did make it a lot easier for everypony to gather together for the parade on time, thereby saving all of their lives...”)

Now reunited, the population of Ponyville began to enter a large limestone cave with a sign that designated it as the town’s official disaster recovery center. It had been set up as a last resort in case of rogue weather escaping from the Everfree Forest, but it worked just as well as an earthquake shelter. Or so everypony thought.

“Everypony out of the cave!” Pinkamena suddenly demanded.

The ponies around her started to look around themselves in fright.

“What’s wrong, Pinkamena?” asked Twilight.

Pinkamena lifted a wet hoof and shook it. “This cave still has standing water from all the rain last week!” she exclaimed. “Somepony could get a cold. Besides, I saw a much drier cave on the other side of Snowy Rock.”

The other ponies, hearing that the reason was not life-threatening but merely a matter of comfort, talked amongst themselves for a few moments, and eventually decided to take her advice.

Pinkamena led the group out of the limestone cave and around the hill to the other side, where they found a smaller cave made of granite. Under the direction of Twilight and the Mayor, the cave was soon cleared of debris and the ponies could move in. It was a tighter fit than before, but definitely more comfortable.

Twilight took Pinkamena, Princess Luna, Rainbow Dash, Applejack and the Mayor aside (Fluttershy and Rarity were tending to the wounded, and Spike was with the foals). “Nice job handling the crowd back there,” she told Pinkamena in a quiet voice. “Now what was the real reason why we had to move?”

Pinkamena shook her head in disbelief. “A limestone cave as a disaster relief center, especially one prone to waterlogging? That place was a deathtrap, and trust me, I know deathtraps!”

“B...but that location was specifically scouted for the town by a professional geologist!” protested the Mayor.

“That ‘professional geologist’ wouldn’t have happened to have been Clyde Pie, would it?” asked Princess Luna.

“As a matter of fact—” the Mayor began.

“That’s just great!” Rainbow exclaimed. “Even from beyond the grave, that stallion’s trying to kill everypony!”

~ ~ ~

The ponies were doing an inventory of their supplies when another aftershock hit.

“This one seems the strongest yet!” exclaimed the earth pony named Rose.

There was a vast rumble, and for a moment the cave shook so fast that everypony’s vision blurred.

Well, there goes Papa’s disaster recovery center,” Pinkamena muttered under her breath.

“Did you hear that?” asked Carrot Top. “The cave we were just in collapsed. This one’s next!”

“The horror! The horror!” exclaimed Rose’s friend Daisy.

“OK, this looks bad,” said Luna, backing up from the crowd as they began to transition into stampeding behavior.

Pinkamena looked around herself, and spotted Rainbow Dash as the closest of her new friends to the dessert boxes. “You gals need really Pinkie right now,” she told them. “Dashie, pie me!”

“—and the orange was falling further and further behind!” said Pinkie Pie, reared up on her hind legs and gesturing wildly. “So the apple leapt up onto Chester’s back and screamed, ‘Chester, you have to eat the pear! It’s the only way we can win the race!’ and Chester said—”

The entire crowd echoed the punchline: “But I hate pears!” and fell down laughing, none more so than the Doctor.

Pinkie settled back down on all fours, and surveyed the cave proudly. Dozens of panicking ponies had been turned back into friendly ponies by one of her best comedy sets, and it was clear now that the part of Ponyville that really counted, the ponies, was going to survive this crisis, like so many others in the past.

It’s too bad, though, about the big party, commented Pinkamena from inside her head. You might never get a chance at creating your masterpiece.

“Are you kidding?” Pinkie said out loud. “This is my masterpiece!” She strode out into the cheering crowd.

Princess Luna walked back to Twilight and her friends from the cave entrance. “Well, the sun’s risen, so the Summer Sun Celebration has officially begun,” she informed them. “I really didn’t want to spoil Tia’s day, but it is remarkably difficult to hide an earthquake from her attention. She’ll be here in a few minutes.” She took a quick mental survey of the scene in the cave. “There were no casualties, which is certainly good news. And the town will be rebuilt. It’s just a pity...I nearly had the budget balanced this year!”

“There, there,” Twilight comforted her. “I can’t ever balance my budget, either.”

“So what’s going to happen to Pinkie...err, Pinkamena...I mean, both of them?” asked Rainbow Dash. “Will she ever be cured?”

“‘Cured’ is not the word I’d prefer to use,” said Luna. “If all of you continue to try to be the best friends to both Pinkie and Pinkamena that you can be, then, over a period of years, they will gradually grow closer together. Pinkie will become more mature, and Pinkamena will become more fun-loving. Eventually you won’t be able to tell the two apart, and then, neither will she. But there’s a lot of damage to be undone before that day.”

“Boring!” exclaimed Pinkie, bouncing into the scene. “Look, are we done? Can I end this story?”

Twilight sighed. “Alright, Pinkie,” she said, giving in to the pink pony’s delusion. “End this story.”

“Ponyville was rebuilt, good as ever,” said Pinkie. “And all the alicorns, and ponies, and dragons, and zebra, and griffons, and Diamond Dogs, and donkeys, and cowsies, and buffalo, and phoenixeses, and bunny rabbits, and doggies, and gators, and cats, and turtles, and sea serpents, and animals and cryptids”—she finally gasped for air—“lived happily ever after!

“T H E _ E N D!”

~ ~ ~

“...and all the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large—”


Credits and Acknowledgements

First and foremost, big kudos to Burraku_Pansa for editing on this story—it would have looked a lot sloppier without you.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is copyright Hasbro, with extra credit given to Lauren Faust for the specifics of the series. The characters of Pinkie/Pinkamena Diane Pie, Princesses Luna and Celestia, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Spike, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Nightmare Moon (or at least the concept of the Nightmare), DJ Pon-3/Vinyl Scratch, Octavia (and her ensemble), Mr. and Mrs. Cake, Discord, Zecora, Big MacIntosh, The Great and Incognito Trixie, Tank, Angel, Winona (who will surely be suing Twilight in the near future for defamation of character), the ponies fans have named Doctor Whooves (and Hasbro sometimes calls “Time Turner”), Carrot Top (aka “Golden Harvest”), Crafty Crate, Clyde, Sue, Inkie and Blinkie Pie, the locations of Equestria, Canterlot and its castle, Cloudsdale, Appleoosa, Fillydelphia, Trottingham, Hoofington, the Everfree Forest, Ponyville, Sugarcube Corner, Sweet Apple Acres, Carousel Boutique, Princess Celestia’s Academy for Gifted Unicorns, and the concepts of the Summer Sun Celebration, the Winter Wrap Up, the Grand Galloping Gala, the Best Young Fliers competition, the Classical Era, baked bads, Friendship Reports, the Daring Do series, the Elements of Harmony, the Sonic Rainboom, Diamond Dogs, Parasprites, Bloomberg (and Tom), Pinkie Pie Promises and the Pinkie Sense, and Black Snootie (whoever she is) are taken from that source, with any visible alterations my own fault. Hoofington is not on Hasbro’s official map of Equestria, but fans generally agree that it’s on the other side of the Everfree (and that Trixie is currently staying there while she recovers from her run-in with “The Sparkle”). Characters original to me include Cousin Nutsy, Doctor Simmer (based on the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager, who you’ll note was based on the personality of a Doctor Lewis Zimmerman), and the librarian Canna Table (Vinyl Scratch’s mother, her name a weak pun on the musical term “cantabile”). The Equestrian Seaquarium is my creation, I think. The Inn of the Prancing Pony takes its name from The Lord of the Rings, but you'll have to wait for my future fanfic of the same name to learn precisely how different it is from its namesake. The idea that Pinkie’s depressed state during the “Party of One” episode was an actual case of “split personality disorder” is a theory of the fans—I suspect that writer Megan McCarthy and director James Wootton merely meant this to be a “really, really, really bad day” for the pink pony, not a sign of genuine mental illness, but where’s the fun in that for us writers? The Griffon Aerie and Zebrican Alliance are ideas floating around the fandom that I picked up.

The idea of a Nightmare Moon cult is certainly not unique to me, although I think the use of the word “Noctiferian” to describe it is mine. I’m also not the first to name the legendary Sonic Bookboom, alas.

A large part of this episode derives from “Party of One”. Explicit reference is also made to “Applebuck Season” and “Lesson Zero”.

“Maretoven” is Equestria’s answer to Beethoven. “Mouze” is DJ MOUZ. “Taupe” is Twilight’s misremembering of “tropes”, as in TV. “Melodiya” is the name of a Russian record label, and the “Dragon Army Chorus” is of course based on the Russian Army Choir. The “Trottman” and the “Etheric” both come from my Betwixt Silver and Gold series of fanfics; the former is a reference to the Sony Walkman. Prince Constant is also from that series. “Mage Heckel and Miss Hide” is the Equestrian version of “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. The “Zebrican Hat Dance” is the Equestrian version of the “Mexican Hat Dance” (and you thought I could go an entire story without embedding a YouTube link!). A “frostinghound” is Equestria’s answer to a bloodhound, because nopony would put the word “blood” in a dog’s name, and those ponies are so sweet some of them are probably filled with frosting anyway.

The “narratively convenient” line for Spike is a reference to my fanfic “The Perfect Little Village of Ponyville.”

Pinkie Pie’s reference to rabbits and dogs falling to their deaths comes from the ending to the 1941 Warner Bros. cartoon “Heckling Hare”.

“UBIK” is from the 1969 Philip K. Dick novel of the same name.

Pinkie Pie’s last words are an obscure reference from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but surely nobody remembers a line that minor, right?

“Crunchy vengeance” from another fandom entirely. (Hi, Mr. Nowak!)

The calendar I’m using here, where the Summer Sun Celebration is on the 45th of Summer, is the invention of Loyal2Luna.

If there’s one plot device I was uncertain about (aside from using DID in the first place), it’s the earthquake. I set up for it with the following clues: the books shifting at the start of Chapter 6, the news of the animals fleeing at the start of Chapter 7, Pinkie’s doozies, the new crack that Applejack trips over in Chapter 8, the air pressure changes that Spike, Princess Luna and Rainbow Dash (with her difficulty breathing) notice in Chapter 10, along with Fluttershy’s birds fleeing and finally the general feeling of doom in the ponies.

Yes, this is my second pony fanfic where a purple octopus has shown up. And Twilight Sparkle in the show is voiced by Tara Strong. Coincidence? I think not!