MLP Time Loops

by Saphroneth

First published

Twilight Sparkle has been here before. In fact, she's been here so often she's thoroughly bored. Time Loop stories for Equestria.

This is a fic based on the Time Loop Files, the format of which was first codified by Innortal on fanfiction.net.
Here's a brief guide.
The basic idea is, one character (the Anchor, usually the main character of a fictional setting) is looping back to the very first moments of their parent series every time either they die or some kind of time limit expires. They of course end up monumentally stir crazy given enough time.
Eventually others start to loop as well.
The reset is not always perfect. Sometimes a loop's history will be different to the "prime" loop, or canonical plot.
"Crossover" or "Fusion" loops also occur, randomly. These can involve the home loopers having a guest, or the anchor for one universe spending time in another, or replacements of one character by another.
Vacation Loops are where the Anchor (or others) decide/s "buck it" and lets off steam by doing whatever comes to mind. There's little or no attempt to maintain the original timeline.

In addition, and particularly more recently, it should be known that this story has a collaborative element to it - people may submit loop ideas or loops, ideally at the Spacebattles thread (a link to the current version of which is on the Trope page), and they may become included.


There's two page image options, thanks to Filraen - the current page image has been edited by the original creator from this work of theirs.. The other one is here:
http://hourglass-vectors.deviantart.com/art/MLP-Loops-466030169

Loops 1

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1
Twilight sighed.

She was stuck in some kind of time loop. By now, the evidence was incontrovertible – despite what everything she knew about magic, even time magic, said.

Every time the loop reset, she was right back here in the Canterlot library, just before trying to warn Celestia about the return of Nightmare Moon. It had taken her three loops to determine, experimentally, that nothing from one loop was carried over into the next.

Except her memories.

“Well,” she said, brightly, “If there was a better opportunity for study, I’ve never encountered it before. Spike! A book, please! Which doesn’t matter.”


2
Nightmare Moon spread her wings, laughing as the inhabitants of Ponyville panicked. “The night will last forever!”

After a moment, she noticed something on her left wing. A small red dot of light, that was moving towards her body proper even as she watched.


A huge blast of rainbow hit Luna’s alternate form, as Rainbow Dash broke the sound barrier right before impact.

Turned out that Dash didn’t actually channel harmony itself when she did that. But on seeing a thoroughly concussed Alicorn collapse to the floor, Twilight considered it at least progress.


3
Another loop, another Summer Sun celebration.

It was sort of cruel, beating up Luna like she was. But then, so far she’d been grateful for being freed from the darkness every time, no matter how strange the method Twilight used.

This was shaping up to be an exceptional one, though.

“Ooh! And that’s definitely an uppercut she’ll feel in the morning!” Pinkie shouted, from the balloon floating over what was left of Ponyville.

“But Black Sooty comes back with a bolt of pure night, and – no, it’s splashed off his scales!”

AJ shook her head as she adjusted the camera. “Gotta say, Twilight, this ain’t what ah was expectin’ to be the reason y’all asked for extra apples.”

Twilight shrugged. “Dragons like Spike undergo an exceptional growth phase when their hoard is in danger. I was able to get him into the frame of mind with the apples and a load of other stuff, then when Nightmare Moon turned up I told him Rarity would be in danger if her plan went through, and, well…”

Pinkie spread her forelegs. “Spikezilla versus Nightmare Moon! Round 1! Fight!”

Spike spat out a blast of flame that turned the arrested dawn into daylight.


4
“um… excuse me, miss nightmare, but, uh… do you want some tea?”

Twilight watched in disbelief as Luna’s corruption flowed off of her like water and dissipated. “To think it took me this long to try Fluttershy…”


5
Sombra, now, was more amusing. While she came at Nightmare Moon with barely a day’s prep time each new Loop, she could have as much as a year and a half when the Crystal Empire situation came up.

Her former number one method had just been getting Rainbow to hit him at half again the speed of sound after loudly praying for divine intervention. The look on Sombra’s face for the split second before he bounced off the wall had been priceless.

But now…

“Thanks for your help, Gilda.”

“No problem, general.” The griffin saluted, then chuckled. “Wasn’t sure what the hell you were thinking, but you were right. We did all want a bit of fun.”

Two thousand griffins swarmed into the Crystal Empire’s palace, and then out again with a dozen of the largest carrying Sombra between them.

“What do you want us to do with him, general?”

Twilight considered. “Slap two power limiters on him and leave him tied up on Rarity’s doorstep with a bow. And a label saying ‘new model’.”

“Evil.” Gilda grinned. “I approve. What next?”

The unicorn shrugged. “I’ve heard this place has some good wine in the cellars. Comes of centuries of isolation, or whatever happened to it. I think we could consider them… spoils of war?”

“That’ll piss off your brother.”

“Well, he did forget to let me know about his wedding last week.” Again.


6
“The Winter Wrap-Up in Ponyville is traditionally done without magic, Miss Sparkle.”

“Oh. How do you do the clouds?”

The Mayor blinked. “Pardon?”

“Pegasi use magic to fly and move clouds. And the reason earth ponies are so strong is because of their magic. So is it going to be groundbound pegsasi and unicorns without use of their horns doing all the work?”

“…er…”

“Because it might take a while.”

“I’ll… see if I can talk to my subordinates…”

Twilight felt like laughing beneath her pleasant expression. She hadn’t caught that the first time through, but it was a good point…

What did she think this cutie mark meant anyway, shovels?


7
Discord’s statue cracked, then shattered. Out of the stone ruins came the chaotic draconequus. “I’m back, baby! Okay, time to screw with Tia and Lulu and… whoever she’s got wielding the Elements this time. This should be fun.”

A dot of purple light appeared on the ground next to him. Discord materialized a microscope, turned it upside down, and examined it minutely at a distance of eight feet.

Then he threw the microscope away and looked at the dot of light. “Wonder what this is…”

“Hate detected.”

The voice seemed to come from everywhere at once.

The purple dot was joined by a red one, and then a green one, to either side. Turning, he saw blue, pink and yellow. They thickened, becoming searchlight beams, which at least let him know where they were coming from – above.

“Firing orbital friendship cannon.”

Discord slapped his forehead, producing a fish. “Oh, bodkins.”


“I feel kind of bad for him…” Fluttershy muttered.

Twilight shrugged. “Now we’ve shown him we’re not to be trifled with, we’ll let him out again and see if we can make him behave. Okay, Rainbow, take the cloud down!”

“You got it, Twi! Hah, I wish I’d seen the look on his face!”


8
“Right, how did that spell go…”

Twilight looked at the sky. It was only a few minutes from dawn, on the summer solstice.

If everything went as it had first time, Nightmare Moon would arrive in just a few minutes to start going on about how the night would last forever. Honestly, it was getting a little boring.

Twilight sometimes considered she’d gotten a little jaded. Well, what could the universe expect if it made her keep doing the same thing over and over?

Anyway, this at least would be hilarious.


“…forever!”

As Nightmare Moon started her evil laugh, Twilight closed her eyes and focused.

A faint touch to the Element of Magic… a spell from an ancient spellbook...

“Not today, villain!”

Nightmare Moon paused, looking around to the source of the loud voice, and saw a purple unicorn rearing back on her hind legs.

“I will defeat you myself, in the name of Princess Celestia!”

“You? You’re nothing but a child. Is this all Celestia has to stop me?”

“Yep! Magic power, go!”

At that point, Twilight’s spell triggered. Everything went white, and when it faded she had the Element of Magic on her forehead, and a familiar dress on her back.

More importantly, though, she was once more Princess Twilight.

“…what?” the Nightmare of the Moon managed. “But… what?”

“That’s kinda cool.” Spike muttered. “When’d you learn that?

“It was in the Star Swirl wing.” The newly ascended alicorn replied, before launching herself into the air and conjuring dozens of balls of lightning.

A good old fashioned punch up would be just the thing.


9

“Weirdest. Loop. Ever.” Twilight muttered, watching the plaid sky turning amber as the moon rose in the north.

It was. For one thing, she wasn’t Celestia’s student this time – though that wasn’t all that unusual in and of itself. For another, she was viewed a lot like Pinkie Pie had been in the original loop.

That would be because Pinkie Pie in this version of Equestria was the faithful student of King Discord, benevolent ruler of the surreal land of Equestria. And, furthermore, there was evidence that the dreaded Infernal Blaze was returning.

“It’s like someone held the whole country up to a funhouse mirror…”

She shook her head. At least there were some benefits. For one thing, things made sense around her – it was like she normalized the area nearby.

“Right. I lay about even odds on either me being the Element of Laughter this loop, or the Element of Magic being one of the five necklaces…”


“Fools! I shall destroy your pitiful ruler, and then restore my rightful Empire of the Sun!”

Twilight raised a hoof. “Excuse me, miss Infernal Blaze, but… you’re kind of on fire.”

“Of course I’m on fire! I am the goddess of the sun! I…” Infernal Blaze broke off, sniffed, and started screaming. “Oh me I AM on fire! Help!”

“Lake’s over there.” Applejack volunteered.

Infernal Blaze jumped bodily into the lake, which happened to be one of chocolate sauce. There was a splutch, a hiss, and a delicious smell.

After a moment Celestia’s head came out of the sauce. “Towel please.”


10

“So, Twilight Sparkle. Your friends have abandoned you. What do you say to that?”

Twilight conjured a notebook. “Well, I am looking for a thesis subject…I think ‘the long term effects of chaos magic’ sounds good.”

Discord blinked. “Pardon? You’re… not going to stop me?”

“Eeeenope.” The unicorn began writing. “So, discordification of a pony involves inverting one of their key personality traits along its own axis. Do you take a guess as to what that is, or is one of your salient divine powers the ability to analyze that sort of thing?”

“What?” Discord frowned, and turned the notebook into a bluejay. “You’re far too analytical, Twilight Sparkle. This is the realm of chaos!”

Twilight glared at him, flared her horn, and a bubble of normality bloomed out from her to the size of a small room. The bluejay flew into it, turned back into a book, and fluttered over to Twilight to let her keep writing. “I know, that’s why I’m writing all this down.”

“You… that’s a failsafe spell, isn’t it? How is that working?”

“I cast the spell backwards.” She noted that down along with everything else. “Wild magic traits in area under influence… do not… always scramble a pre-scrambled spell. Thanks for the info!”

She looked up at him. “If you’re not going to let me interview you, then don’t let me keep you. I’m sure you have lots of plans for redecorating.”

Discord looked at her, then off into the middle distance at nothing, shrugged, and shot off towards Manehattan.

“Right, that’s got rid of him. Now, where did the Crusaders go…”


“Day eighteen… or thirty-seven, depending on if you trust the sunrises. Discord has apparently spent three entire days converting every single cloud in the country into an elaborate topiary sculpture. On a related note, it now rains nectar.” Twilight hummed, watching a parasprite playing tennis with Angel Bunny. “That one almost makes sense, really. Plants and nectar.”

“I’m hurt.” Discord slid out of the pages of her book. “I’d hate to become too predictable.”

“You kind of are, actually. I mean, there’d be no point turning the roads from flagstones into granite, it wouldn’t be funny.”

“Really?” He snapped his claws, and an explosion of heat washed over them.

Twilight held up another notebook. It was turned to a page with the words ‘and then Discord turns it into high temperature, nearly molten granite’. “See what I mean?”

“Give me that!” He snatched the whole set out of her magical grip. “This is eight hundred predictions for how I’ll react to certain straight lines!”

“Exactly. And I’ve been ticking off the ones you’ve done.” This time, Twilight held up a bingo sheet. “If you do two more, I get a full house.”

Discord ground his teeth into flour, then blew flame on the flour to make some bread, pulled it into a baguette and ate it. “That is very annoying.”

“Yep. Oh, and that’s another one off the list…” Twilight said, calmly. “I expected more from you.”

“I can be unpredictable if I feel like it!” Discord said. “Go on, test me.”

With a flash of purple, Twilight vanished. She came back two seconds later with some Poison Joke in a careful telekinetic grip. “Is this one of yours, by the way?”

“Yes, last time I was out. Same with timber wolves and zap apples, I was quite the gardener…” The draconequus summoned a hoe with a flash of light and prodded the ground, which collapsed away under him. “Hm. That isn’t encouraging.”

“Nice to see you’re keeping up old habits.” The blue plant was crushed by telekinetic force into a dense mass. Twilight next brought out a painting from a famous surrealist. “This is not a pipe.”

“Yes it is.” Discord plucked it out of the picture, leaving behind a traffic cone. “I do like that pony’s art, though.”

“Right. Anyway, want to try smoking the Poison Joke? That should do with your nasty case of predictability.” Twilight showed the bingo card again. She’d crossed off the last square when Discord pulled the pipe out of the painting.

“Oh, go on then.” Discord rammed it into the pipe, set it on fire, and took a deep pull. From the wrong end, of course.

Twilight held up her notebook one more time at the last page, with a triumphant grin. ‘Discord gets stoned’.

“Oh, you crafty little…” Before he’d quite finished the sentence, Discord was a statue again.

“Right.” Twilight frowned suddenly. “Now, where did the others go? I’m going to need them to help operate the Elements…”


11
Trixie laughed as she cast two powerful age-altering spells on Snips and Snails, luxuriating in the power the Alicorn Amulet gave her. “See, Twilight Sparkle? Now Trixie is the greater unicorn!”

“Maybe, yeah.” Twilight said, nodding. “Oh, is that an Alicorn Amulet? I read about those, they give you a huge power boost. Are we allowed those?”

“Silence! Of course Trixie is allowed the Amulet, it took her many months of effort to obtain!”

“Okay.” Twilight’s horn flickered slightly, and the Element of Magic appeared on her brow. “Hey, watch this!”

There was a brilliant wash of purplish light.

When it faded, Twilight checked her new wings over. “Hmmm, bit larger than last time. Maybe I’m getting better at doing this alone.”

Trixie gibbered. “But… but… how? What?”

“Well, I am the bearer of the Element of Magic.” Twilight shrugged her wings. “Turns out it comes with benefits.”

“That is completely unfair on Trixie!”

“Oh, hush. You’re the one who brought a magical superweapon to this duel first, don’t complain now it’s not the one sided battle you hoped it was.” Twilight conjured a spell circle fifty feet across, which shunted the two male unicorns away and sealed the two mares in a shimmering opalescent dome. “Now, I’d actually quite enjoy a duel for once. Are you going to chicken out, or give me a good workout?”

Trixie replied with a fireball the size of a house. Twilight grinned, and started with four Marelin’s Magical Missiles and a Cone of Lightning.

This would be fun.


12
Applejack was a very confused pony. She’d gone to bed that night with everything normal, and the next morning… well, apart from anything else Big Mac asked her if everything was ready for the family reunion.

She hadn’t known one was going on at all.

To make things worse, there was no sign at all of her friends. More to the point, it was a completely different season than when she went to bed, and topping everything off was that Applebloom was quite visibly bored.

She’d asked where her friends Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were, and ‘bloom had looked at her like she’d gone funny in the head.


In fact, it was all so confusing she wondered if she’d tried bucking all the trees in the orchard again.

And then the whole Apple family had shown up, and she’d spent the morning scrambling to keep up with details she didn’t know. Something somepony had said suggested this was years in the past, which couldn’t be right… but which made sense, from what ‘bloom was acting like.

Then there was a loud bang, and a cloud of smoke.

“Watch in awe!” a voice shouted from inside the smoke.

“Ah, ponyfeathers. What all is Trixie doing here?” Applejack muttered.

Then the cloud cleared, to reveal…

The farm pony’s jaw dropped. “What th’ hay? Twilight?”

“Indeed! It is I, the Great and Infinitely Knowledgeable Twilight!”

The baby dragon next to her – Spike, clearly, Applejack realized – sighed and shook his head. “She’s been like this all morning. I have no clue why.”


“So, Twi. Spill. What in Tartarus is goin’ on?”

Twilight shrugged. “I have no idea. For some reason, I – and now you, apparently – keep going back to the dawn of the day we first met. I’ve been doing this for a hundred and thirty five loops, so I get kind of… stir crazy.” Behind them, Spike tried to eat too many apples at once, incidentally doing a nice job of keeping the rest of the Apple clan distracted from why Applejack was talking so familiarly with the strange unicorn.

“So, what now? And ah could swear you were a Princess last time we met…”

“Sometimes.” Twilight shook her head. “About fifteen loops ago, I went full alicorn right in front of Nightmare Moon tomorrow. It confused her so much, it was hilarious. Anyway, I think we should, well… learn what we can, keep ponies safe, try to work out why these loops are happening, and have fun. By the way, don’t be surprised if things are… different.”

“Different how?” Applejack looked sceptical.

“Well, I once started a loop to discover that I was actually the student of Queen Nightmare Moon. Just… take a moment to check your memory each time, okay?”

The orange mare nodded. “Got it. Now, what do we do about Nightmare Moon?”

Twilight grinned evilly. “I spent two loops learning everything Trixie had to teach me. She actually knows quite a lot about illusions. Now…”


“…last forever!”

“Ah can see why you said you were bored, Twi.” Applejack muttered. “Does she say that every time?”

“Every time.” Twilight confirmed, and lit her horn for a moment. “It’s done. Go.”

She raised her hoof. “Excuse me!”

“What?” Nightmare Moon said, turning her gaze onto Twilight. “Do you have a question for your new empress?”

“Yes, actually. It’s just… how, exactly, will we grow crops?”

“…pardon? You interrupt me with farming?” The dark goddess’ eyes blazed.

“Well, mortals – like us – kind of need food to survive. I’m sure you lost track of that a bit on the moon, but plants need the sun to supply them with energy – which they convert out of sunlight via chlorophyll and a source of water, as well as carbon dioxide in the air. That becomes glucose which is then converted into other sugars, like fructose, or just left as it is, and so that energy is stored in a form ponies can eat – so, without the sun, no food.”

Even Nightmare Moon’s eyes had glazed over during that explanation. After a moment, she shook her head to clear it and pointed her horn directly at Twilight. “Such concerns are nothing to me! I will not be denied my rightful overlordship by such ridiculous problems as plants!

At that point, an invisible Applejack bucked her in the chin so hard she went flying backwards through the rear wall.

“Buck that.” the farmpony said, then turned to Twilight. “That work?”

“Nicely, thanks AJ.” Twilight replied. “I’ll just go get the Elements of Harmony. Be back in a tick!”

She vanished in a flash of purple.


Outside, Nightmare Moon picked herself up from the wreckage of one whole side of the building. “What impertinent insect has the temerity to-“

She paused. She could hear a voice talking.

“Right, when my one starts to glow, just think about what I told you all to.”

It was that annoying unicorn who’d been arguing with her. What was she talking about now?

“So, mine’s Loyalty, right? Awesome!”

“I think Laughter is perfect for me!”

Those were new – and annoying – voices. Wait… she could swear that those words were… ominous.

“Kindness, kindness… oh, I hope I get this right. Sorry, miss Nightmare Moon, ma’am, but it is for your own good…”

“This is marvellous! It matches my cutie mark perfectly!”

Oh. That’s right. Horsefeathers.

Six colours of harmony hit her almost as hard as the earth pony had.


13

Twilight grinned at the three other Loopers. “Right, you three, you’ll like this.”

“What are you planning this time?” Dash asked. “Bet it’ll be fun!”

“Yeah. Oh, actually…” she conjured four pairs of mirrored sunglasses, and slipped them over their faces. “We’ll need these.”

Nightmare Moon finished her speech.

Twilight promptly hit her with a Want-It-Need-It spell.

“And that is what we call poetic justice.” The purple unicorn lectured, as several hundred ponies swarmed the stage to hug the startled Nightmare Moon.

Pinkie giggled. “That is funny! Better than when you showed us Spikezilla!”

“We love you!” somepony shouted, and then there was a crash as Big Mac managed to tackle Luna’s corrupted self.

“Well, now ah wonder if he’s just easy to affect with spells like that…” Applejack said, frowning at her brother. “Or if he just has a crush on her like ah heard.”

“I dunno.” Twilight shrugged. “Hey, want to try to work out what else the Elements can do? I bet you could tell if somepony’s telling the truth or not if you get a strong enough connection with the Element of Honesty.”

Dash looked up, grinning. “What would Loyalty let me do?”

“I don’t know. This calls for science!”


14 (How To Train Your Dragon loop crossover 1)

“You are kidding.”

The small green Toothless looked over at his (unusually, four-legged) companion through time and space. “Afraid not. This place is mainly populated by ponies.”

As Hiccup – well, his memories said he was called Hocus Hiccup, which was even worse than normal – contemplated this, a cyan… pegasus?... came through the door.

“Hey, Twi, what’s the plan for – you’re not Twilight. Where is she?”

Hiccup rolled his eyes. “Never seen her before. Is she the local Loop anchor? I think I’ve replaced her.”

“Don’t know what ‘anchor’ you’re talking about, don’t care. Where is she, buster?”

Hiccup and Toothless exchanged glances. “Welcome to your first fused loop, then. Sorry, you’re not getting your friend – Twilight, right? – this loop. I’m taking her place for all intents and purposes.”

The cyan pegasus looked suspicious for another second, then closed her eyes and concentrated. Hiccup felt some strange, deep magic pulse for a moment.

“Okay, yeah, she’s not anywhere I can feel for some reason. I’ll believe you… for now. Until AJ can give you a look over, anyway.”

“Another looper? Sorry, another time looping person?”

“Yeah, she is. Oh, I’m Rainbow Dash – but you can call me awesome.”

“Suddenly I’m reminded of Astrid.” Hiccup muttered to Toothless, who nodded in return.


As Nightmare Moon proclaimed her eternal reign, Hiccup looked to the five native Loopers. “This happen every time?”

“Like clockwork.” The orange pony – AJ – said wearily. “Last few times, Twi had us blast her with the elements mid-speech for the hell of it.”

“Does it have to be that? Or can she be defeated another way?”

“She can!” The pink pony said. “We usually use Spikezilla every twenty or so loops!”

“Right. Toothless, you’re on.”

The little dragon nodded, and ran forward. As the girls gasped, he swelled and shifted form into the twenty foot lithe predator from Berk, then took wing.

“Fun fact.” Hiccup said, brightly. “Toothless’ breed of dragon is called the Night Fury. They’re nearly invisible in the dark, and they’ve evolved as ambush predators against other flying entities at night.”

Blue flame shot through the air and erupted on something overhead. Wing! Two points!

The next shot was green. Oh, cool. The postal magic can mix in with my fire… hey, Hiccup?

Yeah?

I just found out how to teleport other objects at range.

Hiccup winced in sympathy for any enemy they would fight in the future. Ever. Except possibly Aizen, who frankly deserved it.

A green fire burned overhead for a moment, and a startled looking Princess Luna slammed into the ground horn first.

Toothless alighted next to her, looking incredibly smug, and shifted back to his loop-native form. “I just teleported her armour right off her. Who’s awesome?”

Pinkie raised a hoof. “Ooh, I know this one! It’s Dash!”

“You know it!”

Toothless looked slightly deflated. “Whatever. Regardless, Rider, that power is a keeper.”

Fluttershy eeped. “Um… did you say, rider? As in, dragon rider?”

“Yeah, I’m normally bipedal. Human, actually, if that means anything to… you?”

All of them were staring at him.

Rarity spoke first. “You mean Lyra was actually right?

With a sigh, Toothless reached into Hiccup’s mane, connected to his subspace pocket and pulled out some projection equipment. “We’re going to have to give them the ‘welcome to the multiverse’ talk. Why is it always us?”

“Ranma’s having a year off?” Hiccup suggested, then sniggered at the thought of how he’d take this universe. Wild horse indeed… especially since the gender ratio seemed about five to one in favour of female, here.


Meanwhile, in an entirely different universe, Harry Potter watched with interest as Quirrelmort was used as a ping-pong ball by the unicorn he’d tried to kill.

“And this is for basing your strategy on inadequate research!”

Note to self, make sure this unicorn never meets Hermione.

A phoenix flamed in for a moment, then vanished towards Hagrid’s hut and the young dragon within.

Huh. I thought he didn’t feel like Fawkes. And Norbert wasn’t female… wonder if that’s linked somehow.


“So, how do we beat Discord this time?” Dash asked. “New guy, you got any ideas?”

Hiccup mulled over everything he’d been told about the chaos entity. “Okay, I know. I’ll Befriend him.”

“We tried that. Pinkie’s the only one who can do it reliably. Fluttershy sometimes works too.”

“You’re not familiar with Nanoha’s world. The word has a different meaning there. Toothless?”

The rest of them looked over to the black dragon – and didn’t find him. Instead there was a small black octahedron.

Stand by. Ready.

Hiccup picked Toothless’ Device form up in a hoof. “Right, let’s go.”


“Ah, hello.” Discord said, emerging from the stained glass window.

Hiccup tilted his head, examining the magic. “Okay, this’ll work.” With a thought, he transferred Raising Dragon to his back, where it transformed into a kind of harness with a pair of gigantic cannons.

Set up. Blaster-three.

With a grin, Hiccup planted his hoof. The floor cracked, and strings music came from nowhere. “I always wanted to do this.”

Firing Lock is cancelled.

“Oh, I saw this…” Discord said, sounding nervous. “Can’t remember how it ended, though.”

Cartridge load. Divine Buster.

“Right, right, that was it.” The draconequus fled the palace through the window.

Pinkie grinned. “I remember this video too!” Her voice changed slightly. “He’s going to blast right through the walls? Oh dear sweet mother of Celestia!”

Said deity’s eyes widened, just before the gigantic eruption of magic demolished one of the load-bearing walls of her palace.


“Owie.” Discord said, coughing out smoke.

There didn’t seem to be much else to say.


15 (HTTYD crossover 2)

“…what the hay?” Twilight muttered, falling forwards onto her stomach. “Oof!”

“What is it?” A voice that was at once familiar and not familiar asked. “Oh, huh. New looper this time.”

“Looper?” she asked, trying to push herself back up again. It hurt. For one thing, she didn’t seem to have hooves any more. “Do you mean time loops?”

“Yeah. You don’t look used to human body shape, hold on.” The owner of the voice grabbed her arm and pulled her up.

She turned, barely giving her own new body a glance, and saw that the speaker was a green-eyed human. He reminded her (very slightly) of the human boy she’d seen last time, which had been only a few months long before something blew the castle up.

“There you go. Strange. According to this loop’s memories, you’re my twin sister. Well, welcome to Berk.”

“Loop memories?” After a moment, Twilight realized what he meant by the term. This version of her – Twit? Seriously? Worst name ever – had her own complete set of memories from birth. She remembered growing up on an island full of Vikings, being mocked along with her brother – Hiccup – for not being Viking enough, and their village being constantly attacked by dragons.

“Wow, that’s unusual…” she muttered. “I feel like I know you now.”

“Yeah, that’s how it works. I take it you’re relatively new to the Loops?”

“I’ve done several hundred!”

Hiccup shrugged. “I’m at over ten thousand, and some of the first generation Loopers have done several million. What’s your original name?” Seeing her surprise, he shrugged. “Berk is the only place that could possibly come up with a name as silly as Twit. I don’t doubt you’d rather use your real one.”

“Twilight.” She answered, after a moment. “Twilight Sparkle.”

“Oh, neat. I took your place last Loop. The others are fine, by the way.”

“You did? Huh.” Twilight frowned. “So, I’m not used to other loops… what happens here?”

“Dragon riding, basically.” Hiccup reached into his leather jerkin and pulled out… projection equipment?

“I’ll give you the ‘welcome to the multiverse’ talk, if you haven’t had it already.”


“Hi, Spike.”

The purplish dragon gave a rumbling growl. It sounded peeved.

“Yeah, they can’t speak.” Hiccup explained for her. “Toothless is telepathic now, but that’s the result of a Pern Loop. Fun place, if you ever end up there.”

He frowned. “Actually, if it’s Spike there too, I wonder how the Loop would resolve that. Dragons and riders on Pern tend to be same-gender. Anyway, I’ve got a couple of harness designs that might work for him…”

Spike roared.


16

Twilight blinked awake, and did the near-instinctive check all Anchors and Loopers learned to do.

Memory… normal time line. Nothing too unusual.

Next, she felt the local magic to see if anyone else was Awake this Loop. None of the other Elements were active, meaning that Rarity and the rest were all their Prime Loop selves, and there was no sign of outside Loopers either.

“Huh. Looks like I’m alone for once.” Twilight frowned. “What should I do…”


“I won’t tolerate this anymore!”

Celestia looked up from where Mrs. Cake had just overfilled her teacup. “What is it, my faithful student?”

“You mock your subjects like that, tricking them into embarrassing themselves. It’s a terrible abuse of power!” Horn flaring, Twilight teleported away.

“Oh, dear. I’m sorry, Mrs. Cake, it seems my student is a little… off, today.” Celestia apologized.

“That’s quite alright, your majesty.” Both Cakes chorused. Mr. Cake continued, “We’re quite familiar with Pinkie, and it seems as though Twilight is just as highly strung sometimes.”


Three hours later, Celestia was trying to work out what on Equestria had happened.

There were thousands of ponies of all three breeds marching on Canterlot, with red flags waving, singing a rather grim song about how the flags were red because they were dyed with… blood, of all things.

And her student was apparently behind all this, giving speeches about “the proletariat” and “the bourgeoisie” and so on.

It seemed as though Twilight had invented what she was calling ‘communism’.


“Right.” Twilight said as she trotted across the moon, reading by the light reflected off the planet below. “That’s communism ticked off the list. One more revolution and I’ll be able to write the best researched politics essay in history!”

“That’s why you did all this?” Luna asked, sitting next to her. “I thought you were serious! It’s why I joined in!”

“I was, sort of. It’s just, well, I’m actually in a time loop. I’ve already tried out at least fascism, anarchism – that one was fun, I basically gave Pinkie a megaphone and waited – a democracy, a direct democracy, rule by the short and mercantile republicanism. Communism seemed like a good idea.”

“Yeah, brilliant idea.” Luna said, stamping on the moon’s surface. “If I hadn’t fired off that lunar survival spell, you would have exploded.”

“Oh, shutup. I didn’t know that Celestia would get desperate enough to shove MY Element of Magic onto Trixie’s forehead and hope for the best.” Twilight stretched. “And you’re taking the idea of a time loop very calmly.”

“Twilight Sparkle, I happen to think you’ve snapped. I’m just humouring you.” Luna answered glibly.

Twilight turned. “You seem awfully sassy for once.”

“We’re in private. It’s allowed.”

Loops 2

View Online

2-1


Twilight teleported into Ponyville. “Right, let’s see…”

Pinkie bounced over. “Hiya again Twilight! I’ll go get the others!”

“Thanks Pinkie!” she shouted, after the receding earth pony. “You alright, Spike?”

“Yeah…” Spike muttered. “But who was she?”

Twilight shrugged. “I met her before, we stayed in touch.” Technically true… “Come on, let’s go over to that library we were assigned.”


“What’s the plan for this loop?” Applejack asked.

“Nothing much.” Twilight shrugged. “No big plan, anyway. As for the Summer Sun celebration, I think it might be Pinkie’s turn.”

“Yay!” Pinkie started drawing a plan. “I think that if Rarity helps set it up it won’t make anyone suspicious… and I can order a big shipment from Canterlot… you’ve got some spare money, right Twilight?”

“Yep.” Twilight nodded. “Dash, you’re the fastest. Mind helping Pinkie with getting that delivered?”

Dash grinned. “Not at all!”

“Right. Oh, what is your plan?”

“Well, you know how Nightmare Night is all about appeasing Nightmare Moon with sweets?” Pinkie’s smile got wider. “I thought about thirty tonnes rigged up to pour on her when I pull the rope should work!”


“…last forever!”

Pinkie pulled the rope. The avalanche of sweet things crashed down on Nightmare Moon - and stopped, before flying sideways to cover Pinkie in confectionary.

The other five Loopers started. “Pinkie!”

“Did you think you could stop a goddess so easily?” Nightmare Moon laughed, then dissolved into sparkles of starry night which shot out the door. There was a crash.

“Help!” Roseluck shouted from outside. “That horrible nightmare thing stole the library!”

Twilight blinked. “Did Nightmare Moon just steal my house?”

“Looks like.” Applejack said. “Come on, let’s dig Pinkie out before she tries t’ eat her way out.”


Pinkie had swirls around her eyes when they got her out. “Owie… that must have been some hard candy…”

“What do we do?” Fluttershy asked, as Pinkie shook it off and started popping caramel chocolates into her mouth. “That’s not normal, is it?”

“No, it’s not. We’d better hurry and find her before things get worse.” Twilight frowned. “How can the rest of you do with manifesting your elements?”

“Ah’m afraid ah need to have touched it first.” Applejack said. “Remember? We normally go collect them from the castle if we plan on blasting Nightmare Moon.”

“Right. I’ll go get them now, just in case.” Twilight vanished.

After about a minute, Rarity raised a hoof. “Shouldn’t she be back by now?”

Dash focused on the secondary powers of her element. “She’s not harmed, I can tell that much. But she’s just not come back.”


“What the hay?” Rarity said, shocked, pausing as she exited through the large building’s door. “What has happened to my boutique?”

The others looked it over. There didn’t appear to be any change – certainly nothing that would promote such a strong response from the elegant mare.

“Look at it! Just look! Fluttershy, you must see!”

“Er…” Fluttershy trotted closer, squinting. “That dress in the window has… oh, my. That’s terrible.”

“What’s terrible?” Dash asked. “It can’t be that bad, can it?”

“It’s been re-stitched half an inch off the join line!” Rarity said, her eyes wide. “And the one on the left side has been dyed four shades too dark!” She burst into motion, galloping into the building.

A high scream came from inside. “Nooo! They’ve all been ruined! What cruel pony would pair teal with chartreuse?

The others exchanged looks.

“Ah’m startin’ to suspect somethin’s up this loop…” Applejack muttered.


Fluttershy sadly read the sign placed in front of her house. Dash peered over her shoulder. “What? ‘I have your animals, if you want them back pay the ransom of twelve hundred bits’? What kind of low-down, no good coward would do this?”

“Ah thought it was Nightmare Moon.” Applejack pointed out. “What with her bein’ two steps ahead of us this loop an’ all.”

Rarity was still mourning her dresses.

Applejack took an uneasy look at Pinkie, who seemed to be on a sugar rush. Well, it could just be Pinkie being Pinkie, but her eyes looked just a little dilated…

No, that had to be the sugar. Even Pinkie didn’t normally emit a faint musical hum.


Big Mac caught up with them as they entered the Everfree proper. “Sis! Ah’ve been lookin’ all over for you. The trees…”

“What?” Applejack asked. “Nothin’ bad happened, ah hope?”

“That’s just it.” Big Mac shrugged. “They’re… lemons.”

“Wait, what?” Dash said. “But you’re the Apple clan. Apples. Right? How could you miss planting lemons?”

“They weren’t lemons yesterday.” Both siblings chorused.

“How does that even make sense?” Dash was starting to feel like the voice of reason. It didn’t feel comfortable.

“That’s just it, RD.” Applejack said. “It don’t.”


Halfway to the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, there was an explosion overhead. All five ponies’ heads snapped back, but all they saw was a series of expanding black rings.

“I don’t like this…” Fluttershy said, looking around nervously.

“Ooh!” Pinkie said. “A letter came down! Hey, Dash, it’s for you!”

The indicated pegasus took it. It was thick paper, with an official-looking seal on the front.

Holding it gingerly away from her, she opened it. When it failed to explode, she looked more properly.

Dear Rainbow Dash

We would like to inform you that you are our first choice for the position of Shadowbolt Captain, from over a hundred applicants.

The position carries a very competitive salary, and all our members have expressed interest in working with you.

Dash laughed, pausing in her reading of the letter. “Hah! Like that’ll get me. We did this before!”

“Well?” Pinkie said. “What does the rest of it say?”

“Huh? There’s more?” Pinkie pointed. “Oh. Er…”

If you are unable to give this offer your time, we will of course have no hard feelings. In this case, the number two option for this position will be used, and hence the role will go to-

“Lightning Dust?” Dash shouted. “That no-good two-bit careless… grah! Well, she’s not going to beat me this time!” She bunched up her legs to launch into the air, and got tackled by four ponies at once.

“Stay good, Dashie!” Pinkie shouted.

“It’s just another of Nightmare Moon’s tricks.” Rarity pointed out.

“Um… I think it would be a bad idea.”

“All right, all right. Sorry, okay?” One by one, her friends got off her. “Sorry. It just caught me by surprise, alright?”


Twilight slowly returned to consciousness. She’d materialized in the room with the Elements, like normal, and then…

Oh. She’d been hit on the head by a book. Judging by the impact, it was probably Edgar the Griffin’s Decline and Fall of the Romane Empire. The omnibus edition.

She looked around. Still the castle of the royal pony sisters. In fact, this was quite near the main entrance.

And there were voices coming from said entrance. The others were nearly here? How long had she been out?

Even as she tried to work out what else was wrong, they burst through the door.

“Nightmare Moon!” Dash shouted. “You better give Twilight back!”

Twilight tried to turn, to see where Nightmare Moon was-

“Hey!” Pinkie shouted. “Don’t pretend we’re not here!”

Then Twilight realized what had been so off when she woke up.

She’d been meticulously painted black and dark purple, her mane styled, her cutie mark painted over… she’d been dressed in armour which looked awfully familiar… there were fake black wings strapped to her, and she was wearing contacts.

“Girls, wait!” she said, urgently. “I’m not Nightmare Moon!”

“That voice trick isn’t going to fool us!” Dash said.

Applejack nodded. “RD? On three.”

Then somepony started laughing themselves sick. With a crash, a figure fell through a hole in the ceiling and slammed into the floor, still shaking with mirth.

Twilight regained enough presence of mind to use some of the spells Rarity had taught her and recolor her coat to normal, then teleported out of the armour and summoned her Element of Magic.

Everyone recognized the pony heaving with laughter over in the corner at once.

Luna?

“Ahh haa haa, hee hee, oh, my sides…” Luna finally contained her mirth enough to speak, and rolled onto her front before standing up. “Yes, it’s me... I assume there’s some kind of time travel going on?”

Twilight nodded. “Time loops. We’ve all done a good few hundred by now.”

“Well… ah, I needed that.” Another giggle escaped. “I pranked you all, for once! Ah, that was better than anything Celly’s ever done!” Luna shook her head, and tried to stay on topic. “Right. So – pfft… so, you all seem to have been doing this for a while.”

Pinkie nodded enthusiastically. Twilight elaborated. “I’ve got no clue exactly how it happens, but it seems like I loop the most often and the rest of us are on-and-off. Somepony like you might be only around very rarely.”

“We kin only hope.” Applejack said sarcastically. “Do y’all have any idea what I’m going to do with eight hundred lemon trees? Cuz I don’t.”


2.2


Twilight Awoke in the library as usual. She felt for her magic, and found… not quite nothing, but a very different sensation to normal.

“What’s…”

Her voice trailed off as she realized something else was missing. More specifically, Spike was – normally, she Awoke with him in the same room of the library.

Then the doors slammed open in a flash of pink magic. “Hiya Twilight! You’ll never guess what Celly told us to do!”

At that point, the Loop memories returned. Ah, that’s right. She was Twilight Sparkle, an earth pony whose theoretical knowledge of magic was good enough to get her a scholarship into the Academy anyway. And her best friend was Pinkie Pie, the craziest unicorn in Canterlot.

I’m going to need a freaking drink before this Loop is over…


Twilight felt an eye twitch coming on.

This wasn’t as crazy as the “King Discord” loop, but it was starting to get close. Fluttershy was an earth pony (which made a fair amount of sense), Rainbow Dash was a unicorn with an obsession with speed and weather spells, and Applejack and Rarity were pegasi.

Everyone’s special talent was still the same, though. It had made for a thoroughly strange loop so far, especially when Dash managed to break the sound barrier in a sprint…

The reason for the eye twitch was just because Pinkie had access to teleport magic. It would go away once she managed to repress the memory again.


It was nice being an earth pony in one way, actually. She could finally properly study how much stronger and tougher she was now than when she was a unicorn. Of course, she’d tried examining the same thing when she was Princess Twilight, but alicorns had much stronger versions of all three kinds of pony magic.

Mind you, the idea that earth ponies were stronger and faster than unicorns had had to compete with Rainbow Dash this Loop, and given up.

Hmm, let’s see… what happened next first time around…

“Hey, Twilight, can you come over to the library pleeease?” Pinkie asked, materializing in a flash.

“Sure, Pinkie!” For a fraction of a second, Twilight tried to teleport, then felt like facehoofing. You’re an Earth Pony this loop, Twilight! “What for?” she asked, to cover her mistake.

“Oh, I found a spell under ‘A’ in some old book, and it says it needs the Elements of Harmony to help with it! It’ll be super-duper-nice!”

Ah, horsefeathers. This won’t end well.


Discord applauded. “I never thought of making the moon into a disco ball! I have to say, Celly, I do approve of your choice of new princess.”

“Shut up.” Celestia said, sitting down next to him. “I forgot how hyperactive she gets, okay?”

Overhead, Princess Pinkie Pie shot past trailing a rainbow and making cat noises.


2.3

With a flash, Twilight materialized in Canterlot Castle right next to her brother. “Hi, B.B.B.F.F! What’s this I hear about a wedding?”

Shining Armor flinched back. “Gah! Who the hell… Twily?”

“That’s right!” Twilight replied, grinning. “What’s wrong?”

“Your… your mane and coat…” Shining pointed. “You’ve dyed them bright pink.”

“Yep! My friends and I formed a band, and Pinkie’s in charge, and she asked us to all dye our manes and coats! Sorry, I forgot to tell you about it. My bad, huh?”

The other five Elements came in, having been dropped off outside by Twilight. Every last one of them was blazing fluorescent pink everywhere except for their tails.

“But… but… what are our parents going to think?”

Twilight shrugged. “I’m sure it’ll be great fun! Hey, Pinks, what are we going to start with?”

Pinkie Pie pulled sheet music out of her mane. “Weee-ll, we have a choice between The Song That Never Ends or Discordian Rapshody.

Applejack frowned. "Why not Nightmare Moon's Revenge, Pinkie? Twilight wrote that one."

"Yeah, sounds great!"

Shining Armor collapsed with a thud, finally overcome with shock.

Twilight hoofbumped the others. "Nice work, girls! That'll teach him to not let me know he's getting married."


2.4


Twilight stumbled, almost falling, and shivered. “That was not fun!”

Spike watched, dumbfounded, as she teleported out of Canterlot library.


Six bright flashes of light later, the other five Elements found themselves inside the library’s upper bedroom.

“Girls…” Twilight tripped over her words. “Just… hold me.”

Mutely, she spread her forelegs, and the others hugged her.

“What’s wrong, Twi?” Dash asked. “Bad Loop?”

“Basically.” Twilight sighed, and shook herself. “Okay. So, I ended up there after, you know… trying to see if the Element of Laughter worked for Discord.”

Everyone contemplated that silently.

“Where’d you end up, Transformers again?”

“Applejack!” Fluttershy rebuked, then flinched. “Oops. Sorry for raising my voice.”

“It’s fine,” everyone else chorused.

“No, it wasn’t Transformers. Okay, I think I’m fine now, girls.”

One by one, Applejack, Rarity, Dash and Fluttershy got off Twilight. Pinkie stayed hugging her.

“Er, Pinkie… you as well, please.”

“Nope!” Pinkie said. “You’ll need it again in a minute!”

Twilight shrugged. “Whatever makes you happy. Anyway, I ended up in this kind of… bizarre version of Ponyville. Almost nobody actually did anything.”

“Liiiike?”

“Well, you know how Cheerilee works as a school teacher?” The others nodded. “Yeah. There, she was a storyteller.”

Applejack frowned. “So what was her job, then?”

“She didn’t have one. Nor did Pinkie – she just ran around giving everyone parties.”

“Ooh!” Pinkie said. “I like the sound of that place!”

Twilight shook her head, sending Pinkie’s mane flying. “No, you wouldn’t. You didn’t have any of your Laughter powers – you just occasionally used balloons to fly around.”

“Whaaaat? This place made me boring?”

“Yeah.” Twilight pointed at Rarity. “I only saw you and Dash there, apart from Pinkie. You were some kind of stuck up princess.”

“I was a Princess?” Rarity wobbled slightly, and materialized her couch just in case. “Twilight, I don’t see how you could possibly dislike the place!”

“No, small-p. You were an heir, about the age of the Crusaders or less, and there wasn’t a queen that I saw.”

“Oh.” That sounded much less inviting to the white unicorn. “That’s no good.”

“It just… nothing happened.”

“What about me?” Dash said. “Please tell me I was awesome, at least!”

Twilight gave her a look. “Dash, when I tell you this, I want you to remember the time that you replaced every book in my library with ones that were slightly out of print, and made me think I needed glasses.”

“…yeah?”

Twilight’s voice took on a syrupy sweet quality. “Rainbow Dash always dresses in style.”

Dash twitched, and fell over in a faint onto Rarity’s convenient couch.


2.5

“Hey, uh… Miss Twilight?”

Twilight looked up. It had been a fairly pleasant early Loop this time. None of the others were Awake, and she’d handled Nightmare Moon the normal way for once.

Surprisingly, though, in front of her were Applebloom, Sweetie Belle and Scotaloo.

That can’t be right… it isn’t until Twist’s cute-caneara that they normally meet properly…

“What is it, you three? Uh… I recognize you, you’re Applejack’s sister.”

“Yep!” Applebloom said proudly. “This is Sweetie Belle, Rarity’s sister, and this is Scootaloo. And we’re…”

Twilight braced herself for the shout.

“…well, we don’t know what’s happened. We’re in the past, somehow. Or, we’re in the present now, but we were in the future! But it wasn’t the future back then, and…”

Raising a hoof, Twilight headed off Applebloom’s babbling explanation. “Okay, I understand. Now, I don’t know exactly why this has happened to you, but I know what has happened.”

“Really?” Scootaloo said. “You’re so smart, pr-uh, I mean, Miss Twilight!”

Twilight grinned, summoned the Element of Magic, and momentarily flashed into alicornhood before undoing the spell again. “I’ve come back in time too. And this isn’t the first time. Basically, I keep looping back to the first day I came to Ponyville, and so do the other Elements of Harmony – sometimes. I don’t know how often you three will or if you’ll do it alone.”

The Crusaders absorbed that information.

“Miss Twilight?” Sweetie Belle said.

“Just call me Twilight, please.”

“Alright. Uh… Twilight, you said you’d come back more than once?”

“I have.” Twilight confirmed.

“Then… can you tell us what our cutie marks are?”

Twilight chuckled. “It doesn’t work like that. Even if you think you know what your cutie mark is going to be, you can end up with something completely different.”

“Awww…” the crusaders chorused.

“Besides, you’ve each had at least three different ones that I’ve seen.”

Now they were just dumbfounded.

“Uhhh… how does that work?” Applebloom asked.

“Okay.” Twilight conjured a blackboard. “Do you want the long version, or the short one?”

“Short!” Scootaloo and Applebloom said hastily. Sweetie nodded.


“That wasn’t short…” Sweetie moaned. “That took half an hour!”

“Of course it was!” Twilight said indignantly. “This is one of my thesis projects!”

“Right… hey, I got a great idea!”

Scootaloo whispered to the other two, who exchanged nods with her. “Cutie Mark Crusader timeline fixers go!”

Twilight watched them leave at a run. “This won’t end well. I don’t know where it’s going, but it won’t end well.”


From a distance, Twilight watched as the changeling army overran Canterlot.

“I was right, it didn’t.”

“Sorry, Twilight.” Applebloom said morosely.

“How did you even do this?”

“Well, we wanted to get revenge on that mean Changeling Queen!” Scootaloo began. “But when we did our ‘this is why we’re beating you up’ speech, she just… took notes.”

Twilight shook her head. “I think you girls still have a lot to learn about how everything has a result when you mess with time travel.”

“Yeah, we worked that out.” Scootaloo kicked a pebble. “What now?”

At that point, the changeling army captured Rarity, and Spike went off.

This is planning ahead, girls.” Twilight said smugly, as Spikezilla punched Chrysalis right out of the city. “Take notes.”


2.6

“Hey, Pinkie?” Twilight mused, glancing over at the recently Awakened pink party pony.

“Yeah, Twilight?” said pony replied, bouncing in place.

“You know Nightmare Moon?” Twilight nodded at Luna’s dark side, currently mid speech.

“Of course!”

“Well, it just struck me that she’s not had a proper birthday party celebration since she got stuck on the moon… a thousand years ago.”

Twilight handed Pinkie a key. “Here. I put supplies in the basement of the library. Go nuts.”

A pink blur shot past her out the door, then back in again and landed on Nightmare Moon in a shower of pastries.

“It’s your first belated birthday party!”

Nightmare kicked out with her legs, missing Pinkie entirely. “Get OFF me, you worthless nag!”

“Someone’s cranky! Must be party withdrawal!” Pinkie chuckled. “Hey, Twilight, go grab my party howitzer!”

Twilight nodded. “On it.”

“Applejack, I need more apple flavoured pies, stat! And balloons, I must have balloons! And someone bring me sprinkles!

Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy exchanged looks.

“Well, they’re excited.” Dash eventually said, as Pinkie hog-tied Nightmare Moon with a length of tinsel and plonked her down in front of a cake that looked more like a bonfire.

“Yeah.” Fluttershy replied.


Ten minutes later, Rarity polished off the last of the cake after being assured that one slice wouldn’t ruin her figure.

“While that was an… irritating diversion,” Nightmare Moon simmered, “Now you have released me, I will continue. The Night Will-”

“Fire, Twilight!”

The party howitzer round detonated, covering everything with frosting half an inch thick and landing Nightmare Moon up against the wall again.

“Now it’s time for your second belated birthday party!”

There was another cake. There were more presents. There was a fresh supply of balloons.

Nightmare Moon shook her head. “This is not how I envisaged my triumphant return.”


“Nine hundred and ninety nine…” Pinkie said chirpily. “Time for the last one!”

She looked around. Sadly, not many ponies were really in the spirit of a birthday party any more, being mostly passed out in a satiated haze.

And the country was kinda-sorta-running out of sugar.

“Why?” Nightmare Moon croaked. “Why do you torment me like this?”

“Torment? Silly, you don’t understand parties at all! They’re for fun! And they show that other ponies want to have fun with you!”

“Besides.” Twilight said, delicately eating a scone. “If she hadn’t gotten it all out of her system now, you’d be being ambushed at random times for the next decade. Anyway, I thought you wanted to be appreciated.”

“I have a new respect for the problems my sister faced.” Nightmare Moon deadpanned. “Now, can I please go? I need to… go and work off some of this sugar.”

“One more candy apple and a smile…” Pinkie coaxed. “And off you go.”

“…fine.” Nightmare Moon took the candy apple, and forced a grin. Pinkie clapped.

“There you go! Don’t you feel better?”

“A bit.” Nightmare Moon allowed.

“Yay! Mission successful!”

“And it only took y’all most of mah apples.” Applejack said. “Along with makin’ the Cakes the richest family in Equestria.”


2.7

Nightmare Moon strode back and forth upon the surface of her celestial home. Not long now…

“Hi!”

She turned, eyes flashing, and saw an eager looking young unicorn… standing on the moon.

“How are you alive?”

“Oh, that. Well, I guessed that lunar survival probably involved pressurized air in a bubble around the pony, so I adapted a bubble-head charm. Anyway,” the unicorn held out a sheaf of papers. “You hiring?”

Confused, Nightmare Moon took the paper and began reading. “Twilight Sparkle… Adept class mage – really? You look very young for it.”

“I can do the test, just like any other Adept.” Twilight said. “Anyway..?”

Nightmare Moon kept reading. “So, you’re my sister’s personal student?”

“Yeah, but I’m trying to keep my options open. I think a bit of time rounding out my knowledge of black magic would help.”

“Indeed…” Nightmare Moon looked sideways at Twilight. "I think I could use somepony like you."


The Ruler of the Night, Empress of Equestria, scowled out of her window.

“It’s just not the same.”

Twilight shrugged. “Well, it’s letting ponies grow plants, and it still IS night.”

“Yes, but my moon is supposed to be a pale orb of light, shimmering in the night sky. Not a giant mirror.”

“Can’t blame me for getting rid of the inefficiencies in the system.”

Two Night Guards alighted on the balcony. “Your darkness, there is a meeting of parliament in ten minutes.”

And you introduced this as well.” Nightmare groused. “I don’t see why we have to listen to all those idiotic minor nobles and sleazy politicians.”

“That’s easy.” Twilight answered. “This way, everyone’s too busy trying to work out how to exploit the system to be able to find the Elements of Harmony.”


Celestia kicked at the surface of the sun, which flared up in a burst of plasma.

“Nopony knows the trouble I’ve seen, nopony knows my sorrows…”


2.8


“These are my three sons. Spyro, age nineteen; Toothless, age seventeen; and Spike, age sixteen. Pick which one you want to be your fiancé.”

Rarity groaned. “This is not going to be a fun loop…”

“You’re telling me?” Twilight said, from the door. “I keep turning into a panda!”


2.9


The last thing Twilight remembered was a flash of multicoloured light, then-

“What were we doing?” she mumbled, as she forced her eyes open. “Something about giving the Crusaders the Elements of Harmony?”

“Yep.” Applejack said from next to her. “And ah think we bucked the universe up.”

Twilight looked around the furnished train compartment. “Oh. Hogwarts again. But why are we still ponies this time?”

“Beats me.” Applejack shrugged. “Let’s go see if the others ended up in a different compartment of the train.”


“So, this isn’t a fused loop.” Twilight mused, as she watched everyone cheer Dash going into Gryffindor. “Looks like we’re replacing people. Dash for Harry seems vaguely appropriate – you know, lightning bolts – but nobody seems to be really noticing that we’re ponies.”

“Is that unusual?” Fluttershy asked.

“Fairly. They were really confused when I Looped into the Trek universe.”


“There, there…” Fluttershy said, scratching the enormous reptile under the chin. “You didn’t mean to hurt anyone, did you? It was that nasty Mister Riddle who made you do it, wasn’t it?”

The Basilisk crooned, thumping the floor with its enormous tail.

Pinkie snatched up the diary. “Dibs! Ooh, this’ll be nice. My very own book friend I can write in and it can talk to me and I can tell it about parties and…”

The Diary Horcrux twitched, then self destructed.


“The first challenge is to, ah… retrieve the golden egg.”

Twilight and Dash exchanged glances.

“Right, so you first, Miss Rainbow Dash, of, ah…”

“The Wonderbolt Academy!”

“Oh, sorry. I should have remembered.”

As Dash drew out a Ukranian Ironbelly, Twilight rolled her eyes. The Twiwizard Tournament had got seriously broken this Loop – it had entered her as a student in Celestia’s Academy and Dash as part of the Wonderbolt Academy.


Twilight teleported to the egg, picked it up telekinetically, and teleported back. “Right, that was easy.”

As she trotted over to the stands, Dash got her own at five hundred miles per hour.


“Oh, come on!” Dash shouted. “We have to swim? Wings don’t go well with water!”

Twilight shrugged. “Come on. Unless you want to forfeit, and I’ll get both Fluttershy and Rarity?”

“Why did they choose those two, anyway?” Dash muttered.

“Same race, I think. Anyway, there is another option.”

“If it means I don’t have to lose, I’ll take it!”

“Right.” Twilight’s horn flashed.


“Shoo ba doo.”

“Language!” Twilight said. “Right, that spell should wear off in another ten minutes. And at least you got third place!”

“Bloop.” Rainbow flipped her seapony's fins, and gave Twilight a dirty look.


“Rainbow Dash, go!”

Dash took off like a rocket, flew over the maze and grabbed the trophy. There was a surge of motion, and she was in a graveyard.

Two seconds later Twilight teleported in next to her. “Hi, Rainbow. Yeah, this is Little Hangleton alright. Hang on a sec, I’ll get the others.”

Twilight flashed away again.

A high, cold voice shouted something, and Dash collapsed.


She came around a minute later, tied to a gravestone.

“Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited for this, Rainbow Dash? Your mother-”

Twilight, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie materialized next to her, and Twilight severed the ropes holding Dash in place. “Here, catch.”

Rainbow grabbed the flying necklace out of the air and slipped it on. “Right, let’s do this!”

“Wait, what are those?” Voldemort asked, before he and his lackey Crouch got a faceful of harmony.


“Five… six…” Twilight ticked off a list. “Last one left’s the Ring.”

“Right.” Dash frowned. “Aren’t I supposed to be one?”

“Not after using the Elements. I blasted it with a side beam – it didn’t stand a chance.”

“Cool.”

“Right. Hey, Fluttershy! I’m going to need Chompy’s help!” Twilight called.

Fluttershy nodded. “All right. Here, boy! Come on!”

The Basilisk (wearing a sleeping blindfold) slithered across the Chamber floor and nuzzled Fluttershy, before vanishing with her and Twilight in a flash of light.


“There we go.” Twilight said, carefully lifting the ring out of a box. “Wow, that is pretty impressive…”

“Twilight?” Fluttershy said. “Stop looking at the ring like that, it’s… er… worrying.”

Chompy rolled his blindfolded eyes, then spat a glob of venom at the hovering ring. It hissed, and exploded.

Twilight shook her head. “Ergh. Sorry, I wasn’t ready for it. The others were a lot easier. Anyway, it’s almost the start of year five now, so we finished just in time.”

“Yay.” Fluttershy cheered.


2.10 (Finagle007 from SpaceBattles)


"Congratulations upon your graduation. Team One will be... Applejack, Fluttershy, and Rarity, jonin sensei Luna." Iruka proudly announced, with a wide smile on his face.

"Yay," Fluttershy whispered, while Applejack and Rarity's faces lit up like the sun.

"Team Two..." Iruka continued, "Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight Sparkle, jonin sensei Celestia – what the-!"

With an almighty crash, a terrified and slightly burned Jiraiya came hurtling through the window, pursued by a furious (and damp) Celestia and Luna.

"HOW DAREST THOU SPY UPON US WHILST WE RELAX IN THE HOT SPRINGS, VILE PERVERT!" Luna boomed, Royal Canterlot Voice in full effect.

Jiraiya hopped back onto his feet and started to dance. "I'm no pervert, I'm a super - YOW! Watch where you point that thing!"

"Oh, I am," snarled Celestia, her horn glowing brightly as she unleashed another bolt of sunfire at the (very, very doomed) perverted sage.

"This is beyond troublesome..." Shikamaru muttered. Shino nodded in agreement.

Loops 3

View Online

3.1


“Twilight!”

“What is it, Dash?” Twilight turned from where the Alicorn Amulet was under the microscope.

“I want to be able to become an alicorn, like you can. I’m already the most awesome pegasus, what’s wrong with becoming the most awesome alicorn?”

“…right.” Twilight pulled out a notebook. “Cadence told me how she ascended… let’s see…”

A flash of light enveloped them both. When it faded, Dash found herself on a small island in the middle of the ocean. Strangely, it was now night-time.

“Okay.” Twilight said. “Summon the Element of Loyalty.”

Dash frowned, and the lightning-bolt necklace burst into existence.

“Good. Now, then. I am going to post a letter in twenty minutes that insults the Wonderbolts and calls them second-rate losers. It is in your name. If you want to stop it, you will have to get back to Ponyville before then.”

The pegasus’ eyes widened. “That’s cruel and unusual punishment, Twilight! I don’t even know where we are!”

Twilight gave a wicked grin. “It doesn’t matter. Go straight in any direction from here and you’ll get to Ponyville. Just hurry – we’re on the other side of the planet.”

She vanished in another purple flicker.

Dash stared dumbfounded for a second, then shot into the air with a thunderclap of displaced air and broke the sound barrier before she’d gone a hundred metres.


Okay, I’m going at about two thousand miles an hour, and I need to go… a lot faster than that. Dash’s wings blurred as she kept ramping up the speed. Weather magic reached out in front of her and pushed the air aside, and more pushed her from behind.

There was a sudden burst of multicoloured fire, blinding her, so she closed her eyes and pushed harder.

Behind the pegasus, the plasma sheath recombined back into air molecules. And around her neck, the Element of Loyalty began to faintly glow.


Squinting against the wind and the heat, Dash looked down.

There was land, then water… then land again. Huh. I always thought the ocean was wider than that.

The prairie around Appleoosa blurred past, too fast for her to spot the town, and then she was coming into Ponyville and oh buck slow down-


Twilight dove for cover.

What looked for all the world like a meteorite shot overhead, set fire to the library, and embedded itself in the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters.


Luna shot upright in bed. “WHAT VILLAIN HATH DESTROYED MINE SPARE ROOM?”


Twilight leant over the hole. “Hey, Rainbow?”

A groan answered her.

“There’s some bad news, and some good news. I’ll give you the bad news first.”

What sounded like a more resigned mumble.

“Right. The bad news is, you obliterated your house on the way into town, broke every window and set fire to my house on the way through, and I think Applejack’s going to be annoyed about half her orchard as soon as she works out what happened. And you’re a hundred metres deep in a mountain.”

“What’s the good news?” Rainbow asked, a little more coherently this time.

“Well, you’re embedded a hundred metres deep in a mountain that you hit at seventy times the speed of sound, and you’re still alive. I think it worked.”

“It did?” A blue blur came flying out of the hole, flipped, and landed next to Twilight. Rainbow Dash had indeed picked up a horn.

“Right. That’s a check, then. It looks like I was right!”

“Wait, what?” Dash looked at Twilight. “I thought you said you knew how this worked.”

“Well, guessed…” Twilight shrugged. “Basically, from what Cadence said, it looks like becoming an alicorn involves both an action that’s related to the extreme edge of your capabilities – with your special talent involved, of course – and a magical catalyst, like a lump of Heart stone… or an Element of Harmony.”

Dash pointed her new horn at Twilight. “You tricked me!”

“Yep!” Twilight grinned. “Had to, or it wouldn’t have worked. I think.”

The new alicorn sighed. “Okay, what’s next?”

“Well, hopefully you won’t need to hit that kind of speed to reascend. I think once you’ve done it once it gets easier. I’m going to teach you Star Swirl’s spell, because that’s the only thing I know that can undo a transition to alicornhood, and we’ll test if you can do it with just the Element alone.”

Twilight pointed. “But we might need to do that next loop. I think we finally found out what it takes to turn Ponyville into an angry mob.”

Dash followed the pointing hoof, and saw Big Mac passing out torches and pitchforks with an amiable air.

“They’re not all that angry…” she said critically.

“Well, explaining would be awkward.” Twilight countered.

“Yeah. Alright, what’s the plan?”

The unicorn pondered. “Well, that island I teleported you to was nice…”


3.2


“-last forever!”

Twilight released her spell, and then released the parasprites. Four of the little magical bugs flew forwards, looked around for something they considered to be “food”, then locked onto the only thing that currently qualified.

Nightmare Moon’s armour.

“Huh.” Twilight said, watching as Nightmare Moon ran in and out of doors, pursued by a gradually growing cloud of parasprites and slowly losing her armour. “It is funny when I’m not worried about them eating the town.”

Pinkie pulled a saxophone from somewhere, and started playing a raspy piece of music that seemed very appropriate. Especially when Nightmare Moon went into one door, and then came out of the other side of the street two seconds later.


3.3


Twilight tuned out Chrysalis’ ranting about how she’d be trapped in the old mines forever.

She was just waiting for the fireworks to start. Thanks to a single forged invitation, a bit of careful magic, and quite a lot of boredom…


Chrysalis finished belittling the annoying little purple unicorn, and closed the connection. Ah, that was good.

She’d had a point, though. It wouldn’t do to let the quality of her disguise slip, not this close to her triumph.

Checking in the mirror, she adjusted a few very minor details. The hair colour, the precise shape of the horn, and the coverts on the wings.

Green magic couldn’t be avoided, so she was being careful only to use it on Shining Armor – that one was so out of his gourd much of the time he probably wouldn’t have noticed if she’d detransformed.

Then, a wash of something… unusual came across her empathic senses. It didn’t feel like a pony, that was for sure.

“Crystals…”

Chrysalis turned, to see an unusual looking dark unicorn with an aquiline bearing.

“Who the hell are you?”

The connection to the purple unicorn reopened without her touching it. “Just to let you know, his name is Sombra. He’s the pony who took over the Crystal Empire. As far as he’s concerned, he’s finally found you – you being Cadance – and is going to… yeah, probably try and drain your magic, at the very least.”

Twilight grinned. “Imponysonating someone with their own problems is a right bitch, isn’t it?”


The room of Princess Cadance exploded in a fountain of black and green magic.

Everyone turned, shocked, to see Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and an unknown black unicorn locked in a spectacular magical battle. Cadance’ form was flickering, as though it was being projected onto a sheet of cloth in a high wind, and black chitin occasionally showed through.

“What the hell?” Celestia said, trying to make out what was going on through the storm of magic. “Isn’t that… Sombra?”

Twilight materialized next to her, with a badly exhausted Cadance along for the ride. “Hi, Princess. I found the real one! Where’d my brother get to?”

The Solar alicorn reacted automatically, pointing to the startled looking guard captain in a nearby plaza.

“Thanks! Right, hang on a sec, I’ll go get him.”

Twilight galloped off.

Cadance looked up at the explosions. “That does simplify my situation a bit, actually. I was wondering how we were going to handle Sombra.”

A badly singed piece of gold-chased card fluttered down from above. Celestia took it in her grip. “Er… Dear King Sombra. You are cordially invited to the wedding of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and someone you probably don’t care about. Her room is shown on the included map. Yours, Twilight Sparkle. Twilight did this?”

The pink alicorn shrugged. “Like I know. I’ve spent the last two months in a mine. By the way, how’s the wedding planning going?”

“You’re still worried about that?” Overhead, Chrysalis dropped her shapeshift and started to concentrate on pure firepower.

“I have spent two months trapped in a mine.” Cadance enunciated clearly. “I have spent a lot of time dreaming about that wedding. If you tell me it is going to be called off because of something so minor as a war, then I think I might cause you and Luna to both fall in love. With the same stallion. That one from Cloudsdale with the giant biceps.”

Celestia shuddered. “All right, point taken.”

Hundreds of changelings shot into the air from all over Canterlot, hurrying to reinforce their queen, then got bowled backwards by a colossal blast of air.

“Has Sombra even noticed that the pony he’s fighting doesn’t look like you any more?” Celestia asked, suddenly curious.

“I doubt it. He never was all that observant.”


“Well, this is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into.” Chrysalis grumbled, staring down at Equestria hanging below them.

“Crystals?”

“Oh, shut up.”


3.4

“Twiiiliiight?” the blue alicorn moaned.

“What is it, Dash?”

“I’m bored.”

“Well, sorry, but it’s taking me quite a lot of concentration to maintain this stability bubble.” Twilight flared her wings, slammed her forehooves onto the floor, and a magic circle bloomed out from her to five lengths in every direction. “There. Now, Dash, can’t you be at least a bit serious?”

“Why?” Rainbow Dash countered.

“We’re in the past. A long way in the past, in case you hadn’t noticed.” A raven shaped like a writing desk flapped past.

“I never was much of a fan of history.” Dash shrugged.

Twilight facehoofed. “I’d think even you would remember about how Discord was in charge before the Royal Sisters showed up.”

“Huh. So we’re that far back? Be neat to see what the Princesses looked like when they were younger.”

“No, you’re not getting it.” Twilight pointed from her to Dash. “We’re the Sisters this time. We’ve replaced Celestia and Luna.”

“…huh.” Dash absorbed that for a while. “Dibs on being Luna!”

“Why?”

“Twilight,” Dash said, as if talking to a filly. “Luna gets a thousand year nap.”


“Oh, what a world, what a world… my only regret is, that I never got to… sing! I am the enemy, I will succeed…”

Twilight tried to ignore Discord’s blathering. How long is this going to take?

“Twi! Can’t you make those elements go any faster?”

“I’m not used to using Honesty and Generosity, Dash! You should know how hard it is to use Elements you’re not used to!”

Dash shrugged, then wobbled and shifted to make sure the pair of necklaces around her wings didn’t fall off. “Laughter seems to like me.”

Stone crept another inch up Discord’s mismatched legs.

“…couldn’t you have come up with a better way of wearing these, than putting them around-“

“We are not having this argument again, Rainbow Dash!” Twilight snapped. “I didn’t see you coming up with any better options!”


An excruciating half hour later, Discord was finally sealed.

Me, but that took too long.” Dash panted.

“I know… wait.” Twilight looked over suspiciously at her ‘sister’. “Did you just use ‘me’ as an oath?”

“Yeah!” Rainbow replied. “Why not?”

“…never mind. Anyway…” Twilight pointed over to a growing crowd of ponies in the distance. “I think it’s time for our first public appearance.”

Dash looked at her, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Well, we beat Discord, now we have to set up the government of Equestria. That means paperwork.”

The former pegasus gagged. “Can I launch my coup now? Please? I want to relax on the moon!”


3.5

“We don’t have all day, Miss Sparkle.”

Twilight blinked, disoriented for a moment as the Loop began. Where the hell am I? I hope it’s…

Then she saw the egg in front of her. Oh, cool. The entrance exam.

Having researched it, Twilight knew that technically there was no one answer to the exam. You were basically supposed to show your ingenuity. The examiners were even allowed to offer advice if you asked.

But… that was boring.

With a crackle, she fired an age alteration spell at Spike’s egg. Carefully modulating it to overcome the natural magical resistance all dragons had, she aged the egg in a matter of seconds to the point it hatched.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that several of the unicorn examiners had dropped their clipboards in shock. Her parents were a little startled too.

Oh, yeah, that’s a high level spell. Ah well.

“Did I do alright?”

A tingling in her flank reminded her that she also had the nearly-unique experience of getting her cutie mark for a second time. Twilight more or less ignored what everyone else in the room was saying to meticulously examine how the magic worked.

Hmm… that’s five thousand words of thesis that need to be rewritten…


“Huh.” Rarity said, and shrugged. “So much for being pulled sideways. Suppose knowing what my talent is going to be helps.”

Whistling to herself, she started digging gems out of the ground and constructing a dress. “Wonder if I can make enchanted items without it being too suspicious. Perhaps a Cape of Charisma?”


Fluttershy awoke falling out of the sky. Shaking off her brief daze, she frowned. While getting to know her animal friends was nice, she didn’t feel like quitting. Not this time.

While the demure pegasus wasn’t nearly as fast as Rainbow Dash, neither was anyone else. She still got back to the academy faster than she’d been falling.


Dash hit the sound barrier almost as soon as she became conscious. Seeing that Fluttershy could handle herself, she made a u-turn and aimed up.

A column of rainbow fire shot into the air over the Young Fliers’ Academy, climbing quickly until it was above the clouds. Now too far to be seen from the ground, she went Alicorn, wrapped herself in air, and accelerated.

Let’s see just how high I can go!


“Hey, Mum, Dad, Inkie, Blinkie, watch this!”

There was a thunderous explosion, and it started to rain chocolate.

“Pinkamena, what on this good green Equestria was that?” Clyde asked, coughing in the clouds of sugar.

“It’s my patent pending Pinkie Pie Cotton Candy Cloud Contraption!” Pinkie rattled off, bouncing. “It’s fuelled by Peridot, Calcite and earth magic!”

Inkie stuck out a tongue. “Hey, this tastes of strawberry.”

Pinkie kicked at the field. “Well, I didn’t have much chance to do taste testing… I was aiming for banana and chocolate.”

“Oh, I like them.” Clyde said. “Good of you to think of me like that.”

“I try!” Pinkie beamed.

“So, how’d you find the time to build this? Ah hope the chores are done.”

“I did my chores before I got to work.” Butter wouldn’t have melted in Pinkie’s mouth. It was even true – she’d finished it last Loop, but hadn’t found enough calcite. “Hey, why don’t we have a party to celebrate?”


“Ah do still want to come and see y’all, aunt Orange.” Applejack said. “Ah just don’t want to forget the farm, and all. How’s about ah spend the harvest ‘n plantin’ down there, and ah come here for the growin’ season?”

Valencia Orange clapped her hooves together. “That does sound nice. We’ll be waiting, then.”


“Right.” Twilight said, looking around the abandoned Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters that night. “Everypony happy with what they’ve done?”

There was general assent. Fluttershy raised a hoof. “For some reason, er, my cutie mark is a bit different. Do you know why?”

Twilight checked. “Oh, yeah, it is. Interesting. Well, butterfly with speed lines is close to your original one.”

She then rounded on Dash. “And what were you thinking?”

“I wanted to go as high as I possibly could!” the alicornified filly answered.

“Dash, I had to rescue from orbit. Now, you can’t go back until you’ve managed to untransform – it’ll be strange enough that you hit escape velocity.” Twilight sighed. “Okay. Here’s my plan. We basically all get lost in a few days, somehow, and each of us turns up back at home half an hour later with our Element – we say we just found them somewhere. That should mean Celestia intervenes and gets us introduced to one another.”

“That makes sense.” Applejack nodded. “Don’t she know where the Elements are supposed to be, and all?”

“Well, the Element of Magic starts a Loop nowhere at all. I asked about that once – apparently they do sometimes just disappear, when they’re not attuned.” Twilight looked from one face to the next. “Anything else?”

There wasn’t.

“Okay. The rest of you can leave – Rarity, you can get them home, right?” Rarity nodded, building magic for a series of teleports. “Good. Dash, pay attention!”

Rainbow Dash kicked the floor. “Aw, shucks. Okay, let’s try this.”


Several years later…


Nightmare Moon crept into Ponyville. This was the pathetic town that her sister’s Summer Sun celebration was to be held at this year… the perfect place to announce her return.

Bursting through the curtain, she began to laugh – then slowed, as she realized something was just not right.

Nopony was running. Nopony was screaming. And there was a giant banner announcing that ‘the Elements of Harmony’ were in Ponyville for the Summer Sun concert along with Celestia.

“Er…” Nightmare said, looking around and spotting the six ponies wearing Element regalia. “…wrong stage?”

A pink pony wearing what looked like her version of the Element of Laughter trotted over. “Yeah, I think it might actually be the wrong night. I don’t know how you got confused, but the special Nightmare Night stage show isn’t for another four months.”

“Oh.” Moon tried to play along. “Sorry?”

“It’s good your costume is so well done, though. That’ll be a great help.” The pony smiled knowingly. “Tell you what, I’ll walk you home later. Just sit in the audience with us for now.”

Bemused, Nightmare Moon followed her off the stage. Somehow, she couldn’t help but feel like this wasn’t in the script…


3.6 (Metal Wolf Chaos)


“Hey, Twilight, what’s on my appointments for today?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Uh… looks like you have an interview with diplomats from Saddle Arabia over scheduling a Wonderbolts show in their capital.” Twilight replied.

Dash piloted her giant mecha forwards. “Sorry, I’ll have to cancel that. I’m off to SAVE EQUESTRIA!”

As the robot went to town on an entire small army, Twilight rubbed her temple with a hoof. “Something is seriously off about this Loop…”


“GIIIILDAAAAAA!” Dash roared, surfing out of the sky on a hunk of metal.

“RAAAINBOW DAAAAASH!” Gilda roared back, igniting the jets on her own giant robot and rocketing up to intercept her.

Twilight quietly let herself out of her prison cell. “Honestly. Did someone let Dash write the script for this one?”

Though she had to admit, the gigantic energy cannon on top of Canterlot Castle was actually pretty cool.


3.7 (gen 2)


“Note to self.” Twilight said. “Stop having Discord try on the Elements of Harmony!”

She crumpled up the paper she was working on, wished once more that she had a horn in this Loop, and tried to work out what clothes wouldn’t get her laughed at.

When she’d discovered that this Loop involved high school, she was cautiously optimistic. But then it had turned out that the actual lessons part of high school was almost irrelevant – instead, every other pony in the entire school seemed to consider dates, boys (or girls) and dresses much more important.

And for some reason every pony was bipedal, which felt weird.

Once more, she tried to use magic – both unicorn and otherwise – and came up blank.

“I wouldn’t mind so much if the lessons were actually interesting… it’s like someone made the school just for the dating…”


3.8 (Law and Order)


Detective Rainbow Dash looked over at her counterpart, as she closed the cell door. “So, was it him?”

“Yep.” Detective Applejack replied. “It’s him alright. But we kin hardly say in court that ah ‘just knew he was lyin’ with my magical honesty powers’, can we?”

“Guess not.” Dash kicked the wall in frustration. “I still say we should have kicked him around a bit.”

“That ain’t legal, Dash.” AJ replied sternly.

“Yeah, yeah. At least we managed to get him in on suspicion.”


“Right.” Twilight adjusted her lab coat and glasses. “Okay, DNA analysis, fibre matching and a hoofprint check… that’ll take a week or two.”

“What?” Dash said, shocked. “You kidding me?”

“Well, if I actually had to use the equipment normally it would.” Twilight lit her horn, and the computer began flickering through databases. “Good thing I can just use magic.”

There was a ding as the computer spat out a hoofprint match. The DNA analyzer was next, and began printing a list of concordances.

“Wonder how they do it on the human TV shows…”

“Ah think they just make it up, Twilight.” Applejack said, deadpan.

“Oh, that’s disappointing.” Twilight picked up the sheaf of papers. “Right, that’s a good match on the hoofprint, complete on the DNA, and the fibres are from the same batch of material. But that’s all circumstantial.”

“That’ll be enough.” Applejack grinned. “With our prosecution lawyer.”

It was nice to know more than Twilight about a given Loop for once – though if this were a CSI partial fusion rather than a Law and Order partial fusion (Twilight having identified the differences) then they’d have just been watching Twilight do everything again.


“The prosecution may cross-examine the defendant.”

“…thank you.” District Attorney Fluttershy stood up, her wig slightly askew. “Now, mister Striking Sparks, I have an important question for you. Please listen carefully, and answer correctly... if that's alright, that is.” She gave him a look. “You are accused of grand larceny of jewellery from the shop of one Rarity Belle. Did you do it?"

Striking Sparks stared back, looking straight at her. The defence lawyer frowned, confused by the tactics being employed by the gentle pegasus.

"...Yes! Oh, I've wasted my LIFE!" Striking Sparks broke down sobbing. “I did it. I stole all the diamonds I could carry from that shop! I hid them in a flat belonging to my brother-in-law at the corner of ninth and main, on the sixth floor, flat D. It’s the sixth time I’ve stolen in five years, and I’ll give you the list of where everything else went and who helped me!”

“Wow.” Dash muttered, up in the gallery. “That’s one hell of a Stare she has now.”

“Yep.” Applejack nodded. “Ah helped her practice it all last Loop.”


3.9 (Power Rangers)


“Welcome, ponies.” Celestia’s voice boomed from some kind of magical portal in the centre of the room. “I have brought you here to become the Elements of Harmony.”

All six Loopers looked between themselves, and eventually shrugged. Meh, may as well go with it.

“I and my sister were caught in a time warp by King Sombra in the distant past. He is trapped, but his wife Chrysalis has been sending out bands of Changelings to attack Equestria.” Celestia continued.

“Wait, hold on a second.” Dash said. “Wife?

“Yes.” Luna replied from inside the same portal. “Their wedding was quite nice, actually, but the reception was when the vagabonds struck.”

“Anyway.” Celestia overrode her sister. “The six gemstones before you are ancient magical artefacts. You can use them to become the Elements of Harmony, and fight off the Changelings.”

“What crystals?” Twilight asked.

There was a muttered argument in much quieter voices, then Celestia shouted again. “Spike!”

The dragon poked his head out of a door. “Yes?”

“Go get the Elements.”

“Sorry…” he disappeared into the back room, and came out again a few seconds later with a pile of gemstones. “Ai yi yi…”

“Right.” Celestia said, after they’d arrived. “Sorry about that. Now, er, take up the Elements, and save Equestria!”

Twilight moved forward, and picked one up in her magic. “I don’t see we have much choice, really…”

The others followed her and picked up their relevant gems – each one a jewel cut stone, but the same colour as the Elements they were used to.

“Now.” Luna added. “To transform, say-”

“NO.” Celestia interrupted her. “You don’t have to say Morphing Time, Power On, or whatever it was you were going to tell them! Just concentrate on the gem.”

All six nodded, and the gems glowed in unison.

“I wanted them to be called the Pony Rangers.” Luna sulked.


“Oh.” Twilight said, staring up at the eighty foot tall Changeling standing in the middle of Manehattan. “That’s new.”

“Hey, Twilight! Don’t be so upset!” Pinkie shouted from behind her. “Look!”

Twilight turned, and looked up. And up. And up again for good measure.

“We get a giant robot!” Dash and Pinkie shouted in perfect unison.

“…where’d that come from!?”

“Well, Spike gave us the keys to a garage after you left, and there were five giant robot animals in it! I just put them together like a jigsaw puzzle!”

“Now, Rarity!” Rainbow said, apparently driving the robot that was making the head. “Form emerald sword!”

“Can you even do that?” Twilight asked, then blinked. “Huh. Apparently yes.”


“I have returned!” Sombra shouted. “Now, dearest, why didn’t you try to free me from the moon?”

Chrysalis gave him a toothy grin. “Well, you needed your beauty sleep, dear. A thousand years wasn’t nearly enough.”

“Oh, you are evil.” The king tossed his head. “But I like you. For some reason.”

“You only married me for my enormous horde of interchangeable minions.” Chrysalis accused, then shrugged. “Eh. I’d have done the same. Now, where should we attack next?”


There was a slam, as Sombra bucked down the door of the Elements’ base. "We have captured the pink one! Now, if you want her to live-"

"Want who to live?" Pinkie said, from behind the others.

Sombra sighed. "Chrysalis! Next time, capture one of the ones who isn't pink!"

"We already tried that with the purple one!" Chrysalis shouted back.

"Grah." Sombra turned to the Mane 6. "Which of you can NOT teleport, fly faster than sound, or otherwise easily escape?"

Everypony pointed at Rarity.

"Thank you for your assistance. We'll see you in a week or two." Sombra trotted out again, and was wreathed in black shadow which dissolved to nothing.

“Should we have told them that?” Fluttershy asked.

“Yep.” AJ replied.


“This is hopeless!” Chrysalis said. “I mean, LOOK!”

Sombra followed his wife’s pointing hoof. “Are those changelings… holding their hooves over their ears?”

No. Chrysalis replied, simmering. “Because they don’t have them. That batch don’t have ears, and she’s still whining enough to annoy them!”

“Should we just send her back?”

Chrysalis nodded. “Go ahead. I give up. There’s no point trying to capture them. Let’s just try more giant armies.”

“I did have a plan to make evil Elements…” Sombra mused. “We could try that?”

After a pause, Chrysalis thwapped him with her wing. “That’s stupid. But… actually… hmmm. Do we still have Discord’s phone number?”


Two giant robots wrestled in the ruins of Canterlot.

Twilight trotted up a nearby hill. “Hi, Chrysalis, Sombra, Discord.”

“Grah.” Sombra said, then Chrysalis shook her head at him. “Sorry. Hello.”

“Where did you get this idea from?” Before them, the Megalicorn picked up half of Canterlot Castle and used it as a bludgeon against the Dark Changewing.

Discord pointed at himself. “The giant robot was all moi.”

“And Sombra here came up with the idea of negative Elements. Speaking of which…” Chrysalis looked around. “Where is the Element of Dark Magic?”

Sombra burped.

“Oh, dear…” Chrysalis shook her head. “You just couldn’t resist, could you?”

“Sorry.”

There was an explosion of red magic, and Trixie appeared. “Trixie found a replacement!” The alicorn amulet swung from her neck. “And is this Trixie’s counterpart?”

“Yep.” Twilight nodded. “Look, can we skip the normal fight and get straight onto the giant robot one?”

Trixie mulled it over. “Trixie thinks this is acceptable. Wagonlord, form!”

A gigantic thing of wood and canvas rose from the ground, held in Trixie’s telekinetic grip.

“Right… Spikezilla!”

Sombra turned to Chrysalis. “Don’t you miss the days when battles were small?


3.4 part 2 (from Madfish)


"…And so, in her boredom, Princess Rainbow took to pranking the whole of Equestria, until a particularly humorous jape on the Elements of Harmony themselves resulted in them giving her a timeout on the moon. But it is said that after one thousand years pass she will return, completing her Final Joke of Doom."

Finishing reading that last line, the personal student of Princess Twilight, Society of Creative Anachronisms member and self styled 'Knight of the Arcane' Luna did the maths on her abacus. Checking it twice, she came up with a four digit number that she found extremely worrying.

"Forsooth!" she swore, grabbed the abacus and book with her telekinesis, and took off at a gallop. Somepony called out to her, but she shot past too fast to catch what was said. She was on a mission! Her liege needed to be warned!


"We must be prepared, Squire Spike! This must be a test of our ability; we will complete the tasks that will keep the expectant populace calm while our liege prepareths for the unknown Final Joke." Luna expounded.

“Prepareths?” Spike said, dubiously. “I don’t think that’s a word. And stop calling me Squire.”

“But ‘tis thy rank, is it not, brave Spike?”

“Well-”

The lengthy argument over the precise definition of ‘squire’ as opposed to ‘armsdragon’, ‘courtier’, ‘page’ and ‘overly romantic unicorn’ continued for most of the trip to Ponyville.


“The ponies who inhabit this town are truly unhinged.” Luna said, shaking her head. “What remains to be done, Squire?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “The main remaining issue is the weather. If Princess Twilight’s cometary display is to be properly seen, the weather has to be perfect.”

“Verily.” Luna nodded.

“That’d be my job!” A white pegasus landed next to them. “Hi! My name is Celestia. My special talent is to remove clouds from the sky. Watch!”

The pegasus flared her wings, darted into the air, and spun in place twice. Air shot out in lumps, smashed into various small clouds, and made them fall apart.

“There!”

Luna closed her mouth. “’twas most impressive, fair Celestia.”

“Oh, you flatter me.” Celestia shook her tricoloured mane. “Oh, are you here for the sky display?”

The unicorn nodded. “Indeed, though-”

“I love it!” Celestia said, speaking over the top of Luna. “Especially when the sun rises right at the end, and it makes the colours of the sky change from deepest black and violet right through the spectrum to blue!”

“…agreed.” Luna looked over at Spike, unsure.

“But don’t let me keep you.” Celestia added. “I’ll keep an eye out for you tomorrow.”

In a blur of white, she shot off.

“That was strange.” Luna muttered. “Another for the theory that ponies here are a little crazy.” She spotted Spike snickering. “Er, ahem, I mean… lord, what fools these ponies be.”


The six Elements of Harmony blasted their foe, enveloping Danger Dash in rainbow light.

When it faded, what stood there was a blue alicorn barely taller than any of the six Element bearers.

“It is done.” Luna said, wobbling slightly on her hooves. “Repent, blaggard, or-”

“I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”

Princess Twilight materialized abruptly in the hall, and every pony bowed automatically.

“Oh, rise, all of you.” Twilight said, shaking her head. “All of you, in particular, deserve not to bow to me. You’ve managed to knock some sense into my sister, Princess Rainbow Dash.”

“Twi.” Dash said, staggering over. “Worst. Time. Out. Ever.”

The purple alicorn frowned, a little put off. “How so?”

“The Elements kept me awake! All thousand years. Every time I dropped off to sleep, there was this bzzz and they woke me up again! I just came back because I wanted to shut them up!” Dash ranted. “Now, get out of the way of that window. I’m going to go into my room, and I am going to go to sleep, and I am going to not come out again until… until… what’s a good holiday after midsummer?”

“That’d be the Day of Danger, when we fire off fireworks by the tonne.” Princess Twilight said. “It was supposed to be in memory of you, but I think it turned into ‘we need to keep her distracted with shiny things so she doesn’t prank us’.”

“Right. That. Anyway, don’t wake me until the Day of Danger, the one after next.” Princess Dash shot off at two hundred miles an hour, barely moving by her standards.

“Wow. She really is off her game…” Twilight muttered. “Anyway, where were we?”


3.10


Celestia couldn’t help but think something was a little off about her favoured student.

Not only had she found the Elements of Harmony with frankly slightly disconcerting speed, but she’d also assembled a team of ponies who were fully compatible with them so fast that she’d managed to catch Nightmare Moon on the way down.

Then she’d begun doing some extremely esoteric research into pegasus magic, material that Celestia found herself totally unable to follow. Something about “interferometry with standing waves of magic forming in the pinnules”.

Still, at least she seemed happy. But it was getting a little worrying how vague her reports were about the occasional trouble going on in Ponyville…


Flim and Flam materialized with their cart in a large, grey-floored room.

“Oh, hello.” A blue unicorn said, looking up and adjusting her large hat. “Trixie sees that Twilight Sparkle got disturbed when doing research again.”

Next to them, a huge crate of food slammed to the floor.

“Right. Trixie will show you around. This is the mezzanine level. A large number of rooms are provided on the upper floors, and the lower floors are where the space suits are kept.”

“The what?” Flim asked.

“Space suits. Did Trixie stutter?”

“Trix…” A griffin stepped out of a nearby door. “You have to explain things to the newbies. Hi, I’m Gilda. This is a moon base, by the way.”

“We’re on the moon?” Flam said, shocked.

“Everyone – pony, griffin, or whatever – who annoys Twilight Sparkle too much ends up here.” Gilda shrugged. “I have to admit, it is pretty cool. And honestly… I pissed off a pony who teleported me to the moon, and provided a base. She could have done worse.”

“Why are you so accepting of this?” Flim said.

Trixie pointed to some much larger doors. “That… would be the spaceship in the hanger over there. Trixie calls dibs on captain as soon as we have enough to crew it.” She looked sullen. “Trixie could totally have run it by herself, but the computers demand a minimum crew size.”

“Yeah.” Flam said, after contemplating that with his brother for a moment. “That is pretty cool.”


“Er…” Rarity ventured. “Where are you sending them all?”

Twilight shrugged. “Space camp.”


3.5 part 2


Nightmare Moon stayed shrunk into her seat as much as possible the whole time Celestia was on stage, only beginning to relax when the elder alicorn finally left.

“So, er…” she cast around for a topic. “What do you all do, then?”

Apparently her conversation skills weren’t great after so long on the moon.

“Well,” the pink pony started. “I’m Pinkie Pie, and I’m in charge of Pie Enterprises. Well baked ideas for any occasion! Here, have a moondial.”

Nightmare caught the strange device, which had a triangle on it. “…right. What do I do with it?”

“Put it on your lower foreleg, silly!” Pinkie said, holding up her own to demonstrate.

Still feeling a little silly, Nightmare complied. The triangle spun around a few times, then stopped, and cast a shadow despite there being nothing to cause it.

“It shows the time by using the position of the moon! Look, it has the phases, too!” Pinkie pointed to the orange pony next to her. “This is Applejack.”

“Charmed.” Applejack said, nodding to her.

“She’s kinda-sorta-got a financial lock on the majority of farming in the country.” Pinkie said. “I’ve seen her speak to farmers and Manehattan socialites in their own styles without missing a beat!”

The blue pegasus butted in. “I’m Rainbow Dash, official fastest pony on the planet. I do space missions!”

“…how?” Nightmare asked, feeling a little overwhelmed.

“I fly up!”

Nightmare waited. “Wait. That’s it?”

“Well…” Dash stretched the word out. “Twi does give me that air bubble spell so I don’t explode, but apart from that it’s all me. I fly up there, drop off a satellite, and come right back down on my own.”

The purple pony stepped in, seeing their guest a bit lost. “Satellites are something that sits in orbit and transmits or measures things – like radio.”

“And you invented ‘em, Twilight!” Dash pointed out. “Don’t be modest. Wish you wouldn’t give me so many geostationary ones to lift, though, that is a long way up!”

Twilight shrugged awkwardly. “It’s the best place…”

“Oh, sorry, I forgot.” Dash took the conversation over again, making Nightmare look back and forth between them like she was watching a tennis match. “This is my best friend Fluttershy. She’s usually the one who catches me when I come back down again.”

“That’s just a favour, though…” Fluttershy said. “Normally I work making sure the launch area is nice and clear, and sort out the logistics, and so on. It keeps me run off my hooves, but it’s… good work.”

“And I know you invent things…” Moon said, pointing to Twilight. “What about the Element of Generosity?”

“I’m surprised you don’t know.” The white unicorn said. “I am Rarity, Dressmaker and Crafter to her highness, founder and owner of the Rare Materials company and item enchanter extraordinaire. Dear, you do look nice, but that regalia could be enchanted to increase the effect, you know. Make you a much more visually stunning pony.”

Nightmare Moon felt vaguely insulted. But it was tempting…

“By the way.” Twilight said causally. “Don’t try anything, Nightmare, or we’ll use the Elements.” Nightmare stiffened in shock, but the six Element bearers stayed perfectly at ease. “So long as you’re not harming any pony, you’ll be fine. Hay, maybe you could try and work through your issues yourself.”

“Heeey!” Pinkie all but bounced out of her chair. “Maaybe we could go out clubbing tonight! Dash usually does with me, but the others are all such boring stick-in-the-muds.”

“…clubbing?” Moon asked, rolling the unfamiliar word around in her mouth.

“Yeah! Night clubs, you know?”

“This idea intrigues me.” Nightmare admitted.


Loops 4

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4.1


“Right.” Dash trotted back and forth in front of the other pegasi. “We have precisely six months until the Grand Galloping Gala. I want us all to be ready.”

Lightning Dust sneered. “For what? I thought this was some kind of special flight camp.”

Other pegasi nodded their agreement, or just rustled their wings awkwardly.

“I’m glad you asked.” Dash crouched, shot upwards, and broke the sound barrier after about ten seconds before circling around, shedding speed again, and landing in front of them.

“That is the Sonic Rainboom. Now, the Dash Certificate of Awesomeness is only awarded to those who can pull off a Sonic Rainboom on command.” The rainbow pegasus grinned. “Any other questions?”

“How the hay did you do that?” a pony halfway to the back blurted.

“Training. Meticulous training, and being awesome.” Dash’s grin didn’t change. “Now, who doesn’t want to be able to do that? Because you can leave.”


“No, no, no!” Dash shook her head in exasperation. “You’re not going to break the sound barrier like that. You have to actually USE the weather magic. Make the wind push you, make it strengthen your wingbeats.”

“…so that’s how you did that?”

Dash shrugged. “This isn’t easy stuff.”

Overhead, Lightning Dust flubbed a wingstroke and bounced off the sound barrier. Fluttershy caught her just before she hit the ground.

“Oh, right.” Dash grinned. “Yeah, I did that at least a dozen times before I managed to get it right. Don’t worry!”

“The idea of screwing up a dozen times in a row isn’t a nice one…” Dust muttered.


“And… go!”

One by one, fifteen pegasi dropped off the cirrus cloud. Successive booms sounded across the prairie as each left their own individualized explosion of weather magic.


“Nice work!” Dash said later, to the exhausted ponies. “Tomorrow we just rest, because we’re doing part of the entertainment for the Grand Galloping Gala.”

“How?” asked Cloud Dancer.

“Hell if I know.” Dash shrugged. “Twilight Sparkle gave me the details.”


“Goodness, Twilight.” Celestia said, watching as the instruments were moved into the dance hall. “That’s a little much, isn’t it?”

“Well, for the dance music, yes.” Twilight hefted a carillon in a magical grip. “But I’d like to have a piece about halfway through using all of these.”

“What piece could possibly involve a carillon, a full orchestra and a pipe organ?”

The purple unicorn grinned to herself. “You’ll see.”


“Attention, everypony.” Twilight said. “I would like to present a piece of music I researched exhaustively over the last year, the Overture.”

Rarity looked glad of the distraction from Blueblood. Pinkie and Applejack, meanwhile, were comforting Fluttershy after having made sure she wasn’t going to go after the animals this time.

Twilight’s horn glowed, and the music began gently with strings.


Twilight was having a great deal of fun doing this, actually. Running an entire orchestra – especially doing two counterpointing themes at once – was tricky enough that it was hard for even her to manage properly.

Maybe I could ask Rarity how she manages so much telekinetic control at once… I’d probably have to wait until she Awakens, of course.

The second theme built towards a crescendo. Unnoticed, she slipped in a little signal spell into the magic she was doing.


Dash spotted it at once. “That’s the signal! Dust, go! Now Dancer, aaaand… Raindrops!”


Three explosions sounded over Canterlot in quick succession, making most of the listening ponies jump. Twilight grinned, and then got the carillon going. You thought that was surprising…


“And… now!”

Dash set the second fight of pegasi going.


The spectacular finale of the 1812 Overture blasted holes in the sky over Canterlot and shattered every window in the city.


“Well?” Twilight asked brightly, turning around to see every other pony in the building trying to hide under tables. “What did you think?”


4.2


“And that’s why I think Cadance has become evil.” Twilight finished, and cancelled the creation spell that had provided her slide projector.

Nopony said anything for a moment. Then Celestia frowned. “Twilight, my dearest student… are you sure you’re not just jealous? I mean, your brother has apologized for not letting you know earlier-”

“I can prove it!” Twilight overrode her. “Dispel magic!”

The purple-tinged spell shot across the room, and hit a shocked Cadance.

Who detransformed, becoming Queen Chrysalis.

“Quod Erat Demonstrandum. Q.E.D.” Twilight said. “Thanks for your confidence, by the way, guys.”

All the others looked thoroughly embarrassed.

Chrysalis looked from the six Elements of Harmony, to the Princess of the Sun, to a rapidly recovering (and pissed) Shining Armor. “Er… I plead Queen’s Evidence?”

“We don’t have that law.” Twilight said. “We do have laws against kidnapping, mind control, impersonation, all-up identity theft…” Twilight kept going for several minutes, “…and looking at you I think you’re even in trouble for entry into the country without a passport.”


4.3


“Right!” Twilight said. “I’m sure this’ll work.”

Element of Magic, check. Lump of Cosmic Spectrum stone, check. Alicorn Amulet, check. The Rainbow of Light, from that Loop with that nice Megan girl, check. Rainbow of Dark looted from Tirek in a different iteration of the same loop, check.

Hanging both Rainbows – one pouch, one locket – around her neck and then the lump of crystal, she put on the Element of Magic, transformed, took up the Alicorn Amulet, and came back to awareness in a gigantic crater.

In front of her were her friends – and Trixie, strangely – wearing five of the Elements of Harmony. A circlet with a wand on it graced Trixie’s forehead, and they were all panting heavily.

Twilight looked around, then up – and noticed that the sky was full of gradually shrinking stars, returning to their normal sizes.

Oh. Note to self, don’t push your luck.

“…sorry.” She muttered, glancing down at her feet and seeing the ruins of most of the magical artefacts she’d been wearing. “I kind of overdid it, huh.”


4.4


Twilight nodded to Fluttershy. “Alright, ‘shy, I’ve got a job for you.”

“Y-you have?” Fluttershy said. “Okay. I’ll give it a go.”

Picking the Kindness necklace up from the floor, she handed it to Fluttershy. “Here. This has a spell attached to it which should keep you safe. Now, I’d like you to see if you can negotiate with Chrysalis.”

“Eep!” Fluttershy flinched. “I… why?”

“I think you’ll do fine.” Twilight said firmly. “Remember, you’ve not let us down yet, in any Loop. And I’d like for the wedding to go smoothly for once.”

Fluttershy mulled it over, then her face set determinedly. “I’ll do it, Twilight.”


“So.” Chrysalis laughed. “A lone pony comes to us, speaking of peace and coexistence. Something we have not been shown in a thousand years or more from your Princess Celestia.”

“Really?” Fluttershy said. “Do they know about you?”

“Clearly.” Chrysalis replied sarcastically. “How else did you find us?”

“…actually, I was just seeing who built the building I saw from the air.” Fluttershy answered, truthfully. After all, it might have been Diamond Dogs.

A few changelings looked quizzically at the yellow pegasus, feeling waves of universal affection rolling off her. She liked all of them.

“Feh. Words.” Chrysalis, and made to turn away. A ripple ran around the assembled changelings, and she stopped mid-movement. “Oh? How strange. It seems the hive has some affection for you, little pegasus. I may keep you around… for their amusement.”

“Alright.” Fluttershy said, agreeably. “If they feel that way, that’s fine.”


“I don’t understand it, Twilight.” Rarity said. “Fluttershy has gone missing. She wasn’t at the spa for our appointment yesterday. Do you know where she is?”

“Don’t worry, Rarity.” Twilight soothed. “Fluttershy is fine. She’s just making some new friends, that’s all. She might be a while, I’m afraid.”

“Oh. She mentioned she was going, but I didn’t realize it would be for that long. Well, tell her to stop by the second she gets back.”

Twilight nodded, and Rarity left the library.

Dash looked up from her Intricate Webber book. “That’s totally not the whole story, is it?”

“Nope.” Twilight replied easily. Ever since they’d shared a Loop as the Princesses, she’d felt closer than ever to the pegasus. Dash seemed to have the same comfortable familiarity with her, as well – a result of having been sisters-in-name for centuries. “Fluttershy is making friends. They’re just insectoid shapeshifters, if you get my meaning. And I sent her off with her Element, too.”

“What – oh.” Dash grinned. “Be nice to have her in the club.”


As ponies took their places in the seats before the wedding, a cry of surprise went up from one of the guard detail. Others followed his pointing hoof, and then started to see it as well.

Shining Armor sighed, upset at the interruption and what it might mean. “Sorry, dear. I hope this is nothing.”

“That’s alright,” his fiancée sighed. “I wish it hadn’t happened, but it’s not your fault.”

She stole a peck on his cheek, and he gave a little silly grin before putting on his work face.

By now, the approaching objects were close enough to be seen by everypony. There was a loose cloud of black-looking shapes flying through the air towards them, with two slightly larger ones leading them.

Of the Element bearers not in on what was going on, Pinkie worked it out first. “Yay, Fluttershy’s back! And she brought friends!”

Circling the field once, Fluttershy led Chrysalis and a hundred changelings in to land. The way her landing pushed up her hair made most of the watching ponies gasp – she had a small but still quite apparent horn on her forehead.

Trotting up to Celestia and Luna with Chrysalis half a length behind, she bowed. “Princesses, may I present Queen Chrysalis of the Changelings, here to pay her respects to the happy couple.”


Rarity pushed Fluttershy bodily towards Carousel Boutique. “You really should get your mane done, darling, it needs to show off that horn much better. And I need to make a dress for you – one suitable for a coronation, no less! Come on, you do need these measurements.”

“Um… okay…” Fluttershy said, skidding slightly on the floor. “I’d rather… no, never mind, if you think it’s important.”

Chrysalis watched with some confusion, and leant over to Twilight. “Is this normal?”

“For Ponyville? Yes.” Twilight, Applejack and Dash chorused.

Pinkie was currently suffering from a mild case of party overload, trying to work out which event to celebrate first. “…Ooh, I could do the diplomatic reception… but that didn’t go so well with the Buffalo. Maybe if I started small with the Fluttershy’s Back party, and went straight into the Fluttershy’s a Princess party…”

“Out of curiosity, how do changelings react to sugar?” Twilight asked.

“It’s a useful nutrient, and we can eat a lot. It can substitute in for love for a little while – not that we’ve had any problems since Fluttershy showed up.” Chrysalis said. “She is just remarkably… nice.”

“Pinkie’s going to like you.” Twilight said with conviction. “Ask her to show you her Genocide By Toffee.” Seeing the queen’s reaction, she tossed her head. “It’s not actually fatal… that is, if you stop in time. It should feed every changeling you brought, with some to spare.”

“… that concept is actually strangely terrifying.” Chrysalis muttered, watching the bouncing pink pony. “And yet I find myself suddenly hungry.”


4.5 (Sonic)


“In the world (her world!) where life is strong,

In the world (her world!) life’s an open book-”

“Can you stop singing!” Twilight snapped. “I know you like having you own theme tune this time, but come on!

Dash shook her head unrepentantly. “I love this world! I thought you’d enjoy it too, Twilight!”

“Being eight years old is putting a dampener on it.” Twilight adjusted the manifold to the piston engine on their biplane. “But yeah, I’m not surprised you enjoy a world where you have to run at four hundred miles an hour just to go shopping.”

“They have loop-the-loop roads, Twilight!” Rainbow looked like she wanted to introduce them to Equestria. “The only downside is that Dr. Robuttnik. And I like kicking robots in half, too, so that’s not all bad.”



4.6 (Evangelion)


Twilight staggered against the wall of a railway car as she Awoke into what seemed a fairly high tech loop. “Oof! Ah, great, I’m human…”

“Hi. You sound new to this Loop,” a voice said. She turned, memories of the Loop settling into place, and saw-

“What is it with me and being the sister of human Anchors?”

“Oh.” Shinji Ikari said. “So you’re… Twilight Rokobungi, right? My half sister, this Loop?”

Twilight nodded. “Yeah. Equestria is my home Loop.”

“Ah, you’ll be familiar with this kind of thing, then.” At her perplexed expression, Shinji elaborated. “We have giant robot fights here too.”

For a moment, the normally-a-unicorn wasn’t really able to make a sound. “Pardon? You think we have giant robot fights?”

“Well… yeah. I was in one of your loops. I mean, I stayed out of the way, but I was there alright. There was some giant robot… the megalicorn or something?”

Twilight slapped her forehead with her palm, staggering slightly as she got the hang of bipedalism again. “That wasn’t our prime loop. Nothing close.”

“It did seem a little too ‘Power Rangers’.” Shinji agreed. “Right, come on. Time to get out of the danger zone of Lord Derpface the Easily Defeated.”

He pulled on Twilight’s arm, and she followed him at a staggering run out of the way of a flying machine crash.


“I don’t get it.” Twilight said, frowning.

“You are not required to understand.” Gendo said, staring down at his daughter. “You are only required to obey.”

“No, what I mean is, why did the giant monster thing attack here? I mean, it is statistically incredibly unlikely that a giant monster with no understanding of language or humanity would come down one of the few places with one convenient giant robot, let alone with three.”

Shinji stood back, interested.

“We will discuss this later. If the Fourth Child will not obey orders, then the First Child will be used instead.”

Twilight shook her head hastily. “No, I’m not… okay, look. I’m questioning your methods and motives, not the necessity of stopping that thing from stamping up and down on the city until it breaks. Excuse me… is it Doctor Akagi?”

The scientist nodded.

“Would I be able to look at the literature concerning those monster things? I might have a few ideas.” With that, Twilight started walking briskly towards the gantry to Unit 03.


Twilight didn’t listen to the briefing much. In fact, she wasn’t really able to hear much. Her talent with magic apparently extended to this artificial machine’s ‘AT Field’, and she was able to sense everything within a mile of her Unit’s location.

But ick. This is not a robot. Just ewww…

She finally noticed Sachiel, and grabbed it in a telekinesis-style AT grip before holding it fifty feet off the floor. “What should I do with this?”

Shinji was laughing himself sick in Unit-01, and everyone else was shouting about sync ratios.

“Um… don’t know?” Misato eventually said.

“Just throw it into the sun!” Shinji gasped out through his paroxysms of laughter.

Twilight gave a mental shrug, and threw Sachiel as high as she could. While she didn’t think it would make the sun, it did seem to hit escape velocity.


“Only units 01 and 02 will be deployed on this mission.” Misato said, pointing at Israfael.

“Why?” Shinji asked. “Twilight’s doing fine, throwing Angels at the moon.”

Asuka looked torn between being impressed and being upset. She’d been rather startled when Twilight made her Unit throw Gahgiel into space, but at least it was another girl showing her up.

“We’re kinda getting complaints from the JSSDF that we’re showing them up.” Misato said, stifling a grin. “But orders are orders.”

“Okay.” Twilight shrugged. “I’ll go chase up that classified information. Ritsuko owes me a favour anyway…”


Rei brought out the Lance of Longinus.

“Wait.” Twilight said, incredulous. “We have an anti angel melee weapon and you’ve not used it? Right, that’s it.”

Twilight opened fully to Unit 03, wrapped an AT field around it, and materialized in low earth orbit. She grabbed Arael and threw it at the moon, then caught the Lance as it went past. “Okay, I’m keeping this.”


Lilith rose from the earth, and began Instrumentality.

“Does this happen every time?” Twilight asked.

Shinji nodded wearily. “It’s scary the first time, trippy the second time, and after that it gets kind of boring.”

“Your Loop is weird. And I say that in full knowledge of how strange all the other Anchors would find a world inhabited mainly by ponies.”



4.7 (from Filraen)


"Tia, wake up!" The piercing voice of her sister Luna woke Princes Celestia in her room at Canterlot Castle.

Had Celestia been in a clearer mind she would have given thanks that Luna didn't use the Canterlot Royal Speaking Voice, it was especially annoying to wake up to that. "Nnnrrgh, give me five minutes Luna. The Sun isn't even out yet."

A not-so delicate eyebrow rose on the Moon Princess' face "You raise the Sun, Tia. Of course ‘tis still night."

"All right Lulu, you win." And, yawning extravagantly, Princess Celestia raised herself from her bed. "Was there something important today?"

"We'll need to check preparations for the celebration for the Elements of Harmony bearers after defeating Discord... again" Luna answered with an annoyed-sounding voice; but Celestia knew better.

Both Luna and Celestia, due to being alicorns, had great magic power and amplified traits from earth ponies, pegasi and unicorns. More importantly, they were also well aware they were very long-lived in comparison to the other pony races, having seen their subjects live and die many times before. And while she had lived a long time, this relatively new "time loop" incident around Twilight Sparkle was most unusual.

Celestia then went to a nearby mirror to start brushing her mane, noting the amused look in her sister's face. The movement of the brush was calming, not at all like it was the first time she looped. She was so worried all her recent work was for nothing…

It had actually been Twilight Sparkle who informed her about the time loops. And while she was initially worried Equestria was in danger from some unknown force and worried as much again for the Element bearers as the Royal Pony Sisters weren't Awake often enough to protect them, she soon realized the loops were a blessing in disguise.

While Celestia may admit that was a selfish thought, the long years of her sister's banishment made her realize that effective immortality is only good if you can enjoy it with other, hopefully also long-lived, ponies. After her faithful student claimed the Element of Magic that fateful day, Celestia could enjoy it with Luna again, and now they could also share their long life with Twilight Sparkle and the other Element holders due to the time loops. However, should they get separated from one another, Celestia also asked them to write Friendship reports about those other worlds Twilight sometimes went into… those "pseudo-loops". It wasn’t much, perhaps, but for Twilight to remember she would meet her friends and mentor again was all the help Celestia could give… and she was a bit curious on what those other worlds were like, after the loop in that Konoha place.

After finishing brushing her mane Celestia walked towards her sister, thinking how glad she was that the loops always started the day before the thousandth Summer Sun celebration – instead of, say, just after Nightmare Moon was imprisoned. 'Thank Harmony for small miracles'.

Finally Celestia stood in front of her sister, looking directly at her. "Luna, can you do a little favour for me?"

"What would it be, Tia?"

Luna's level look lasted until her sister nuzzled her and said "The next loop we both are awake... would you be my sister again? No matter who we are?"

Luna just smiled, and nuzzled her back. "Always."

It was a good day to be alive.


4.8 (Any human self insert. Preference is “Hands” by AJT, I think.)


“I honestly have no idea how to solve this.” Twilight said, looking at the unconscious human lying on Fluttershy’s lawn. “I didn’t know this could happen.”

“Ooh! Ooh! I know!” Pinkie said. “You could make a conver-mmmph!”

Twilight’s hoof had gone into Pinkie’s mouth without her looking. “Let me make one thing clear, Pinkie. We Do Not Talk About The Bureau!”

“Mmkay.” Pinkie mumbled.

After a moment, Twilight pulled her hoof out again. “Right. Now, there’s a few options. We could put an illusion on him and pretend he’s a Diamond Dog.”

“That… could work…” Fluttershy mumbled.

Twilight nodded. “Only problem is getting him to go along with it. Second option is that we keep him out of sight.”

“Booooring.” Pinkie said flatly.

“Or we just let things happen and see how it goes.” Twilight finished.

“Well-” Fluttershy stopped. “Do you hear… something?”

“…omigosh omigosh omigosh omigosh I WAS RIGHT!” Lyra dopplered over the closest hill and skidded to a halt, throwing up big rooster-tails of dirt. “You guys found a human!

“Right.” Twilight said, calmly. “Option three it is, then. Pinkie, go let Celestia know to ignore any reports of mass panic out of Ponyville in the near future.”


4.9


“Twilight!” Spike said, as they Awoke. “What the hell-”

“Sssh!” Twilight said, then dropped a privacy spell around them. “Calm down, Spike.”

“What the hell happened!” Spike said, unrepentant. “Last I remember, I was thirty feet long, couldn’t talk, and you were a human!”

It took Twilight a moment to remember. “Wow, your luck isn’t great. That was when we met Hiccup, which was ages ago for me.” Loop memories settled. “And it’s Twi-gon Jinn, here. And you’re Spiky-one Kenobi.”

“Those are stupid names.” Spike muttered.

“Stupid or not, they’re what we’ve got to work with. Now, do you remember what we’re supposed to be doing?”

“Yeah, I – yeah! That’s really bizarre!” Spike took the lightsaber from his hip and looked at it. “Cool, I can swordfight now.”

“Focus.” Twilight reminded him. “We’ll need to be – oof!”

A pulse of darkness rolled across the Force, as their ship was destroyed.

Twilight enclosed herself in a bubble of air as poison gas flowed into the room. Spike didn’t catch what was going on, and took a sniff.

“Hmm. Quite tangy.”

After a moment staring, the Jedi Master rolled her eyes. Of course Spike could breathe poison gas. He could eat Baked Bads, this was nothing.

The door hissed open, admitting battle droids. Twilight sent them flying down the corridor with a telekinetic shove. “Come on, Spike, let’s go register our disapproval with the accommodations.”


“Alright, that is it.” Twilight said, as Destroyer Droids rolled up. “Come on, Spike!”

With a flash, she teleported them both to the Naboo surface.


Applejack struggled woozily awake. “What th’hell happened to me?”

“Please be calm, you are still recovering.” A voice said gently. Applejack’s vision cleared enough to see it belonged to a human-like figure wearing bandages and goggle-lenses. “We found you near the wreckage of a crashed ship. There were no other survivors. Do you remember what happened?”

She scanned her Loop memories, getting a basic sense of how this Loop operated, and winced. Apparently she’d been captured as a slave by pirates or something…well, at least she’d escaped, if that was how you wanted to put it.

“Here.” The figure reached behind itself. “There is something we found in the wreckage – it was the only other thing of value, instead of basic supplies and metal. You should probably have it.”

Applejack’s eyes lit up. Well, I’ll be darned. That’s the Element of Honesty. Ah guess it followed me here.

“Thanks,” she said, slipping the Element around her neck for safe-keeping. “How kin ah repay you?”

“I will admit that we do not have much in the way of surplus. Perhaps you could help us gather food and water?”

“All right.” Applejack nodded. “Soon as you say ah’m ready, ah’ll do it.”


“So, how’s Rarity doing?” Spike asked, slicing a battle droid in half.

Twi-gonn spun her saber telekinetically and deflected blaster bolts with a shield, then coupled it with a lightning spell. “Fairly well. She’s using the Loops to try to find the perfect dress for every possible occasion.”

“Neat.” Spike finished off the last droid. “Right, everyone on the ship! You as well… Queen, right?”

“That is correct, my young padawan learner.” Twi-gonn said.

“Twi, that sounds like I use a paddle to hit things.”


“Right, let’s see…” Applejack focused. There was that one loop she’d been blind, which had taught her a lot about earth chi, and then there was earth magic

Breathing deeply, she took a stance and pushed. Channel the energy. Don’t try to provide it yourself, just act as a channel.

The Sand People watched, astonished, as an apple tree sprouted from the bare sand. It got to about four feet high before Applejack staggered.

“Ergh… sorry, I don’t exactly have this all down yet. Ah’ll give it another go tomorrow.”


“No!” Spike shouted, as Darth Maul thrust his lightsaber into Twilight’s body.

Then Twilight flashed purple, and exploded with magic that bounced Darth Maul off two walls and into a giant pit. When the flash blindness had worn off and Spike could see again, he saw Twilight with wings and a tiara.

His jaw dropped. “…wait, you can DO that now?”

“Whenever I want, pretty much.” Twilight confirmed, then detransformed after checking her injury was healed. “Come on, let’s get back to wherever the Queen is.”


“So, how’d you swing this with Yoda?” Knight Spike asked, looking across at Padawan Skywalker. “I mean, if we’re still a team?”

“We are.” Twilight confirmed. “I said that young Anakin would need both of us as guidance rather than just one master, because he’s older than normal.”


Twilight fretted as she paced on the starship. Having Spike go off on his own to investigate Kamino was worrying enough to her – never mind that he was an adult himself now, he was barely even a stripling by Looper standards – and now Anakin had managed to get them onto a trip to look at his mother’s condition.

Admittedly, though, from what Hiccup had told her, she was lucky Anakin wasn’t Awake…

“Coming out of hyperspace.” Anakin said. “…huh. I think we got the wrong star system. That can’t be Tatooine.”

“Why not?” Twilight asked, peering out the window.

“Well, look at it!” Anakin pointed. “It’s… green. And that’s an ocean!”

The Jedi Master levitated up a holonet comm. “No, this is the right system. Right planet, as well. And… oh, okay. You know how there’s a million planets in the galaxy?”

Anakin and Padme nodded.

“Turns out that even interesting news doesn’t show up if it happens in the outer rim. There’s just too much to keep track of. This has been going on for years.”


The H-type yacht landed in Mos Espa, now a city with verdant plant life everywhere the eye could see, and a party came up to greet them.

Twilight gaped, almost stumbling down the ramp. “Applejack?”

“Howdy!” Applejack said, grinning broadly. “Ah thought y’all had to be somewhere. And you’re a Jedi, eh? Can’t say ah’m surprised.”

“But… but…” Twilight gibbered, pointing between Applejack’s wings and horn. “How?”

“Beats me.” Applejack shrugged. “Happened about when ah’d managed to green the whole Jundland Wastes, and it made the rest of the job all much easier ah kin tell you.”

“…right.” Twilight started to recover. “Of course. Massive achievement involving trees, and earth magic and stuff. And if you have the Element of Honesty here, that’d catalyze it properly. Well, welcome to the alicorn club.”

“Am I missing something, master?” Anakin asked.


Spike looked up defiantly at Count Dooku. “Twilight will take your entire separatist movement apart!”

“Oh, I don’t think so, young Jedi Knight.” The tall Sith stalked around Spike’s force cage. “We are quite ready for one Jedi Master.”

There was a sudden rumbling BOOM, and the top half of the Geonosian hive went flying, exposing them to the air. Two alicorns flew in, the purple one spinning two lightsabers by telekinesis and the orange one slamming her hooves into the floor to cause huge waves of earth and rock.

“…oh, you meant literally.” Dooku said, in the tones of someone hoping he had spare trousers somewhere. “In that case, Chancellor Palpatine is Darth Sidious, please don’t kill me!”


“That was evil.” Spike said, nodding in approval.

“I’m quite proud of it.” Twilight agreed. She’d taken Darth Sidious and Darth Tyrannus, slapped Sombra-grade power limiters on them and dumped them on the surface of the forest moon of Endor. Let them try learning Ewokese…

“Oh, why did you get the Jedi Council to change the rules on marriage? And, er, how?

“Basically…” Twilight tailed off. “Why is because Anakin and Padme are clearly in love. How is that I gathered up a list of all the Jedi who have had children. It includes a fair number of the founders of the order – like Nomi Sunrider and the whole Sunrider family – and one of the sitting members of the council, Ki-Adi-Mundi. But to really make my point, I printed it out. I used up the paper in that printer.”

“Huh.” Spike muttered. “So it just doesn’t work.”

“Yep!” Twilight said, then shrugged. “Besides, Cadance would try to strangle me if she heard I’d gone along with a Loop where love was banned.


4.10 (from Vulpine Fury) (first time in Gen 1)


Twilight sighed as she looked at herself in the mirror. The new coat colour was going to take some getting used to, almost as much as looking exactly like her mother in one of the 'normal' loops.

But then, this loop, it seemed, every first-born mare looked like her mother.

"Baby Twilight!" a grandfatherly voice called from behind her. "What brings you to the old Moochik?"

She seethed slightly at the "Baby." She was at least as old as the Cutie Mark Crusaders in a normal Timeline, for Celestia's sake! She took a deep breath like her Cadance had shown her and hoofed away the annoyance.

"Mister Moochik? Can you teach me?" He might not be Celestia, or even Cheerilee, but he was definitely at least as good as Professor Bastion Yorsets from Celestia's Academy. Far be it from her to pass up a magical education of any sort. Who knew? She might be able to apply some of the lessons when the Loops were over.


“Huh.” Twilight said, looking from the book titled Enemies of Ponyland to the enormous chariot-riding Centaur, Tirek. “This Loop might be a lot more fun than I was expecting…”


Loops 5

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5.1


“Okay, Spike.” Twilight said. “Since this is your first time looping in a home loop, you get to pick where to diverge from the original timeline.”

Spike pondered. “Hmmm… I kind of want to do something awesome… I know! Can you make a lightsaber?”

“No need.” Twilight’s horn flickered, and one levitated out of her mane. “One of the things Hiccup told me all Loopers eventually get working is a pocket dimension trick. He showed me how some time ago, and I shoved our lightsabers in there last time since I didn’t have any yet.”

Spike reached out his hand, concentrating, and his face lit up as the lightsaber left Twilight’s grip and floated gently over to him. “This is so cool!”

He coughed, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “Right. Okay, are any of the others awake?”

“No.” Twilight shook her head. “I checked. I’m guessing one of the next few loops I’m going to be having a run as one of the Royal Sisters, with AJ as the other one – that always seems to happen when somepony first ascends. But no-one is this loop.”

“Good.” Spike rummaged in the closet, found a belt, and threaded the lightsaber’s detachable clip through it. “I’ll let you know when I think of a good time.”


Rarity vanished underground as the Diamond Dogs pulled her down.

Right, now would seem to be a good time, Spike decided. He pulled his ‘saber from the belt Rarity had made for him last month, for what he’d said was a torch, and took a two handed grip. Igniting it, he set his stance and faced Rover. “I won’t let you ponynap Rarity.”

Rover laughed. “You too little.”

Shii-cho. Sun Djem.

Spike moved, and when he stopped Rover had had a drastic manicure – his claws down to stubs.

“I dunno. I think I’m doing alright,” he said lightheartedly.

“Uh…” Rover examined his lost claws. “How you do that?”

Spike shrugged. “Now, you will tell me where your pack took Rarity.” He waved his off hand.

Diamond Dogs were just about the textbook description of a weak mind.


“Really?” Twilight said, giving Spike a sardonic look after Rarity left. She’d spent almost twenty minutes gushing about how brave and dashing Spike had been in rescuing her. “You went with that?”

Spike grinned. “Hey, you did say I got to pick.”

Then his face clouded. “Oh, great. Do I have to go on the dragon migration every single time to pick up Peewee?”

“Nope.” Twilight replied, happily. “That problem I solved some time ago. I can pick up the right egg for you about the time of the Gala.”

“Good.” Spike breathed out, relieved. “Glad that isn’t a problem.”

“Though, speaking of that…” Twilight added, “I do know roughly how to swing it so that Rarity asks you to go to the Gala with her. Only problems are, you have to spend over a year working on being as mature as possible and it’ll be the one the year after next.”

Spike considered that. “Yeah, sounds worth it. Okay, how do I start?”

Twilight slammed a giant tome down in front of him. “Memorize this.”

“…did you ever manage to convince the non-looping me to do this?”

“Yep!” Twilight said. “Once or twice.”

“And how many times did you try?” he pressed.

“I lost count.” The unicorn shrugged. “A lot.”


5.2 (Pokémon)


“You know, Fluttershy,” Twilight said, sitting down on the side of Kanto Route 14. “I can’t help but think you have an advantage here.”

Fluttershy tickled a Shinx under the chin. “You’re a good girl, aren’t you? Sorry, what was that, Twilight?”

Twilight shrugged. “Never mind. But all I’ve caught so far is a Hoothoot, and that was when you were asleep. The Pokémon all head for you so fast I can never catch them.”

“Well…” Fluttershy said, “At least you have your starter.”

The Charmeleon that was Spike this Loop looked resigned. “Char.”

Twilight made a face. “I can’t actually train Spike very well because of the same problem! We’re having to rely entirely on battles with trainers, and that doesn’t usually go very well.”


“Hey, look, Twilight!” Fluttershy said, pointing at the Pokémon Blake had just sent out. “It’s you when you’re annoyed!”

Twilight’s eye twitched as she looked between the Rapidash and her Pokédex screen. “That’s just not fair.”


“Wow.” Twilight said. “It looks like you really did manage to catch them all.” Then, because she was still a pedant, added “well, not so much catch, as recruit.”

Fluttershy beamed.

Twilight then gave a sour look at the Rapidash in the paddock, who had been joined by Ponyta, Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion and Keldeo. “Though I can’t help but think someone’s playing a trick on us…”

Still, that they’d finished was nice. No more overenthusiastic kids throwing Poké balls at them…

“Ah, there you are!” Professor Oak said, causing a feeling of dread in Twilight’s stomach. “I just got permission for the two of you to go explore the Kalos region!”

Spike – still one of Twilight’s only three Pokémon, to go with her Noctowl and a rather incongruous Moltres – gave a resigned growl.

Here we go again, her Pokédex translated helpfully.


5.3: Diplomancy (Stainless Steel Fox)


This loop round it appeared that only Twilight herself had looped, the others had defaulted to their pre-loop memories. It had meant following the original path of events pretty much, though since she'd already known the answers, she managed to make her friendship connections during the day she arrived.

She'd taken her new friends into her confidence shortly after they arrived at Pinkie Pie's welcome party, rather than wasting the whole night worrying and complaining. Pinkie found the Reference Guide, and as she'd hoped, they'd insisted on going with her to collect the Elements.

While things had been easier without Nightmare Moon attacking them, they'd still had challenges, and her friends' characters had shone through. The upshot had been, even without the others having their loop memories, when Nightmare Moon had finally appeared, they were all ready to give her a face-full of rainbow.

Still that didn't solve the current problem, Trixie had appeared right on schedule. However, Twilight had decided to try a different approach. For once, she'd try diplomacy. Her friends had reacted in their usual fashion, complaining about Trixie's boasting, but when Dash started to boo, Twilight cast a one way silence charm around her head and turned to face them.

"Guys I'm surprised at you! What's with all the hate? Her talent is stage magic, showy magic! Her boasting is all just part of the act! Rarity, when you create clothing, you show it off to its best advantage? Rainbow, I'd have thought you of all ponies would appreciate a good performance!

And Applejack, I know you don't boast about your skills, but you enjoy showing them off, don't you? How would you like it if someone started booing you in the middle of a rodeo? Let's just enjoy the show."

The stern look that accompanied her comment chastened the three ponies, and they quietened down. However, Spike loudly exclaimed, "But you've got more magic in the tip of your horn than she has in her whole body!"

Twilight winced as Trixie's voice carried over the crowd. "Well, well, well, it seems we have a neighsayer in the audience! Who is so ignorant as to challenge the magical ability of the Great and Powerful Trixie? Do they not know that they're in the presence of the most magical unicorn in all of Equestria? You, with your back turned!"

Twilight sighed and turned to face her. "That was my companion, Spike. I'm sorry if we interrupted your show, I was quite enjoying it. Your grasp of manifestation magic and illusions is quite good, and your practical application is first rate!"

Trixie preened. "Ha! So you admit no-pony has more magical power than the Great and Powerful Trixie!"

Her fanfare and fireworks went off again. Spike started to protest, but Twilight cast a zipping spell on his mouth.

"For only the Great and Powerful Trixie has magic strong enough to vanquish the dreaded Ursa Major!" She spun her usual tale of heroism, and suitably awed the surrounding ponies. Snips and Snails started their fan-colting rant and Twilight winced.

She made a mental note to watch Snips and Snails like a hawk. If she could head them off, she could prevent both the Ursa Minor attack and Trixie's humiliation, which should prevent the business with the Alicorn Amulet as well. Not that that was a problem in itself, alicorn Twilight could spank amulet enhanced Trixie both in magic, and physically, as she'd once proven with Trixie's own whip when the mare was being particularly aggravating.

"It's true, my enthusiastic little admirers. Trixie is most certainly the best in Ponyville. Don't believe the Great and Powerful Trixie?" The unicorn showmare chuckled. "Well then, I hereby challenge you, Ponyvillians - anything you can do, I can do better. Any takers? Anyone? Hmm? Or is Trixie destined to be the greatest equine who has ever lived!?"

Spike finally unzipped himself and complained. "Please, she's unbearable! Ya gotta show her, you just gotta!"

"I don't need to prove anything! Besides, it'll only cause problems later…" Twilight was interrupted by Trixie again.

"Hmm… How about you?" Twilight wrestled with her conscience as the mare hectored her. She wasn't worried about showing off her power, she knew her friends would understand, she just didn't want to get in a horn waving contest with the blue unicorn. "Well, how about it? Hm? Is there anything you can do that the Great and Powerful Trixie can't? Well, little hayseed?"

She saw Applejack start forward out of the corner of her eye, and that decided her. She'd done her best to avoid aggravating Trixie, but events still seemed to be playing out the way they had originally, and she was not going to let her friends get humiliated to save Trixie's feelings.

Her horn glowed and she teleported on stage alongside Trixie. "It's one thing to challenge your audience to a contest, another to show contempt for them! Ponyville may not be a city the size of Canterlot or Manehattan, but they are good ponies, not 'hayseeds'!"

Trixie took a few steps back. "What? How did… I mean, a simple trick, and I can accomplish easily!"

She stepped up to the curtain at the back of her stage, and disappeared in a cloud of smoke, then reappeared in another on the opposite side of the stage. Twilight didn't mention she noticed the tops of the curtains twitch as something moved through them each time. You probably wouldn't notice it if you weren't up there on the stage with her. The unicorn had also recovered some of her aplomb.

"You're a brave mare to challenge the Great and Powerful Trixie!"

Twilight shook her head. "I didn't come up here to challenge you, just to ask that you show a little respect to other ponies. I don't need to prove anything, and neither do you."

She remembered Dash's speech to Lightning Dust and hoped it might work better on Trixie. "I get that you're all about doing impressive magic, really, I'm a student of magic myself so I understand how much fun it is to demonstrate a new spell. But you don't need to make other ponies look small to make yourself look big."

"Hmmph! Who are you to tell the Great and Powerful Trixie what she can and can't do? Well, come on, show Trixie what you've got. Show us all."

"Told you, not interested. I'm just your regular run of the mill Ponyville citizen. Nothing to see here, move along..."

Twilight turned away, casting two hastened spells against Trixie's likely reaction. The first was a modified medical imaging spell she'd learned during a loop where she'd been a nurse at Ponyville General Hospital. The glow of her horn faded and winked out as the characteristic frequency shifted up into the X-ray region and flared off the tip. The second was a custom contingent pocket dimension spell she'd figured out. Unlike shield spells, it was invisible and undetectable until you triggered it.

There was a crackle of lightning and a yelp from Trixie as the approach of the lightning spark from the cloud the stage unicorn had manifested tripped the spell. It formed a Klein bottle pocket dimension with a surface incident to an incoming attack. The upshot was, anything aimed at her would end up reversing direction while still going in a straight line.

She suppressed a small smirk as she stepped down into the crowd, who didn't look to be particularly pleased with the blue unicorn. However, Applejack had already jumped upon the stage.

"That's it. I can't stand for no more of this! Twilight was defending you earlier, you stuck up mare, and then you attack her, from behind even! You're just plain mean!" The farm pony glared at the smug unicorn and said, "You want a challenge? You got one! Can your fancy magic powers do this?"

She hauled out her rope and did her party piece to oohs and ahhs from the crowd. "Ha! Top that you two bit trickster!"

"Oh ye of little talent," Trixie's hat floated off her head, revealing her glowing horn. "Now watch and be amazed at the magical power of Trixie!"

Twilight cast another spell, threading a tendril of her own magic into the telekinetic grip Trixie had of Applejack's discarded rope, carefully avoiding disturbing Trixie's weave. Of course, with the X Ray spell still going, there was no visible sign of her spell-casting, something that would have been impossible to hide with any ordinary illusion effect.

She let it grab an apple, but when it went to hog-tie Applejack, she tweaked it so it overshot, and wrapped around Trixie's legs. Before the unicorn could cancel her grip, she found herself hog-tied, with an apple in her mouth.

"Well, I gotta say, that is pretty amazin'!"Applejack chuckled as the rest of the audience burst into laughter. Trixie untangled herself and jumped to her hooves, glaring furious over at Twilight.

"You! You must have sabotaged the Great and Powerful Trixie's spell somehow!"

Twilight yawned. "Was my horn glowing? Did anyone see my horn glowing? How could I affect your spell without casting one of my own? Not to mention that kind of fine control without you noticing it would require an incredible level of skill. Maybe your conscience just got the better of you."

Rainbow Dash was laughing loudly. "He he he! Hey Trixie! Just as well you got yourself an apple for the teacher, 'cause you just got schooled!"

"Oh yes, you technicolor trollop?" Trixie sneered. "Maybe you think _you_ can show me something worth my time?"

"Ha, I know so!" Dash took off, and pulled off her Rainbow Road stunt. At the end, surrounded by a sparkling rainbow corona, she posed and stated, "They don't call me Rainbow, and Dash, for nothing!"

"When Trixie is through, the only thing they'll call you is loser." As the stage unicorn grabbed hold of Dash's rainbow, Twilight countered by pushing a thread of magic through her connection to the elements and into Dash via hers, temporarily giving Dash access to her alicorn form's level of toughness and speed.

This time, as Dash was spun and hauled up into the air, she blasted free at the peak of her loop, coming out of the spin in seconds. Unused to her new level of power, she slammed instantly through the Rainboom barrier and created a rainbow coloured shockwave that spread out over Ponyville.

Dash slammed back down onto the stage like a thunderbolt, grinning madly and punching the air with a hoof. "A Sonic Rainboom! Yeah! That was a rush! I never figured I could use a tornado rather than a power dive to give me the boost I needed!"

"But that wasn't..." Trixie was still stunned. "You were..."

"Awesome, as usual!" Dash grinned, "But I couldn't have done that without your spell. Maybe you aren't so bad after all. Tell you what, call it a draw."

As she flew off stage, Twilight threw another pocket reflector around the cyan pegasus, but this time, Trixie was still so flabbergasted she didn't follow up with another thunderbolt. As Dash landed, Twilight said, "I'm proud of you Dash, the way you handled that. You showed you were the bigger pony, not rubbing her face in it."

The cyan mare rubbed the back of her head, looking slightly bashful. "Aww, after all, she did help me pull off an awesome stunt! Besides I figured if you were trying to avoid a scene, I should help. The truth is, I felt like you were there with me, all the way."

Twilight felt along their connection, and was surprised to find that her tampering had permanently pushed Dash into a slightly more mature state. It was likely she'd be able to trigger a Sonic Rainboom reliably from now on, and might have fewer other problems.

Trixie showed her spells included eavesdropping, as she declaimed, "Aha! You were interfering again!"

Twilight sighed, "Not this again! All that power, all that speed, that was all Dash." The literal truth. "But you're right, I was up there with her all the way. But the only magic I supplied was the magic of friendship." Also true. "You should try it some time."

"Grr! That's it! I demand you come up here and face me yourself!" Trixie exclaimed. "You talk a lot, but I don't see you putting your magic where your mouth is!"

"That would involve me sticking my horn in my mouth. Unhygenic, not to mention physiologically impossible." Twilight mused. "Look, everyone's had a good time, you did show some pretty fine telekinetic control on that rope trick, not to mention grabbing that rainbow, something few unicorns could do. I'm sure Applejack will call her challenge a draw too."

"If you ain't bothered by that sneak attack she pulled sugar-cube, I'll be happy to." Applejack responded.

"You see? Call it quits, and everyone goes home happy."

"Stop being so... so... reasonable!" Trixie ranted. "I want a proper challenge, and that means you!"

Spike called out. "It's about time! Go on Twilight, show her what a real unicorn can do!"

"Spike, I really don't want to do this." Twilight said, but he wasn't the only one. A lot of the crowd were with him. She cancelled her X-Ray conversion spell, and stepped forward.

"Very well, if this is the only way we can resolve this, I guess I have to. Guys, I hope you won't think I'm showing off, but she seems immune to reason, so it may be the only way to get through to her is to beat her at her own game."

She stepped up on the stage. "Okay, shall we get on with it?"

Trixie sneered again. "First, I want to know who I have the pleasure of beating today."

"The name's Twilight Sparkle, I run the local branch library and study magic."

"Ha! A bookworm egghead! There is no way you can match the amazing, show-stopping ability of the Great and Powerful Trixie!"

"If you say so." Twilight shrugged.

"Watch in awe, as I draw on my vast magical power..." Her horn glowed fiercely, and the stage started to creak. She started to sweat, and the whole wagon lifted up into the air several hoof lengths to the oohs and ahhs of the crowd. "... do you give up?"

Twilight nodded approvingly. "That is pretty impressive. Very few unicorns can levitate this much mass."

Her own horn glowed and the entire platform shot up another dozen feet. Then it started to rotate until it was inverted, with the two of them standing on the underside. "I just happen to be one of them."

Trixie was so surprised, her horn's glow faltered, but the platform stayed steady as a rock. She gasped and looked down in fear when she realised what she'd done, but she was still stood on the stage as normal, even if the sky was underneath her and the ground overhead. "How..."

"Reverse gravity spell. Never know when you might need it." Trixie looked ill, and Twilight took pity on her, returning the wagon to the ground, the right way up.

Trixie recovered herself. "So, you have some small skills after all, but can you do this?"

A bunch of flowers appeared hovering in front of her, and streamers of flags burst forth from within them, swirling around Trixie in colourful, ever-changing patterns.

"Nice manifestation. It's so real I can even smell the scent!" Twilight said approvingly. "How about adding these."

Butterflies started appearing among the streamers, giant monarchs, tiger moths, fritiliaries, all weaving in and out, wings iridescent in the sunlight. They perched on Trixie's flowers, almost covering them. She'd considered summoning parasprites, but had decided that would be too mean spirited. The trick was to beat Trixie without embarrassing her too badly. "Manifestations, not simply summoned."

The distinction might be lost on the audience, but Trixie should know manifesting animate creatures was harder than for plants or non-living flags. Trixie's items vanished, and she cried out, "Very well then! Try to match these!"

A spectacular fireworks display appeared overhead, flashing and sparkling.

"So, Evocation next?" Twilight asked. "Fire, and we've already seen you do lightning. How about water then?"

Hogwarts had been fascinating, and broadened her horizons. Adapting the Agumenti spell had been a simple enough project. A jet of water spouted from her horn, spraying out in a fountain. It puddled neatly around her in a ring, and rose up, forming into the shape of a pegasus which started to trot around the stage.

"Cold is good too!" A carefully shaped Cone of Cold froze it in place, rearing with it's wings outstretched.

"I notice you didn't try to do fire!" Trixie said, dismissively. "What's wrong? Too hot for you to handle?"

The statue exploded outwards, and in it's place was a similar shape made of fire, which flapped it's wings and rose into the air, leaving behind hoof prints burned into the deck. "Not really, I just didn't want to damage your stage."

There was hoof stomping and wild cheers from the audience as they watched the two unicorns match wits and magic. Wire frame illusions of Trixie's were countered by full colour images of Twilight's, her shield spell was tested by a fireball of Trixie's, while an irresistible dance enchantment was cancelled by Twilight's fail-safe spell.

Twilight countered by casting a want it-need it spell on Trixie's hat, but one targeted at Trixie alone, which led to an amusing scene of Trixie hugging her hat to herself, stroking it and calling it 'my precious'. Finally, a fed up Trixie conjured chains and a box and bound her in it, locking it with many locks, which did no good, as Twilight was still able to teleport.

In return, when Twilight reappeared, she decide to show off a spell she'd figured out from something she'd heard human magicians did. A box appeared around Trixie's body, her head poking from one end, her tail from the other, and her legs sticking out the bottom. It was supported by two wheeled stands, and split into two sections, each with the sides cut out to show Trixie's body was still inside.

Twilight cast a paired dimensional portal along the centre, then conjured two wooden dividers that dropped into place between the halves, to the shock of both the crowd and Trixie. Twilight pulled the halves apart and spun them so Trixie was looking at her own tail. "You might want to add this to your act."

"I can't..." Trixie slumped. "... I surrender! Put me back together! Please!"

"Okay." Twilight reversed things and Trixie was soon back in one piece. The stage unicorn turned to the crowd. "The Great and Powerful... That is all for today. The show is over!"

There were groans and cries of more, but her friends helped get the crowd moving.

Trixie was looking at Twilight as if for the first time. "Who are you, really?"

"Exactly who I said I was. Though I may not have mentioned that before I came to do research here in Ponyville, I was a student at Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Princess Celestia's own student actually."

The blue unicorn slumped ion the floor of the stage. "You tricked me! All the way from the beginning. Now I'll never be able to show my face in Ponyville again!"

Spike had come up on stage and added, "Yeah, you really showed her Twilight!"

Twilight frowned. "That was never my intention. I kept on offering you a way out, and I meant it. If you'd been willing to let things lie, we could have all walked away happy. Besides, all anyone will remember tomorrow was that the two of us put on a great show. Anyway, I would genuinely like to study your techniques. You're self taught?"

She knew the answer, having gotten Trixie very drunk on Applejack's best cider in a previous loop. Trixie was just as talkative in her cups, if not more so than usual. However, all she got right now was a nod.

"Then maybe an egghead bookworm can help you fill in the gaps. I'm sure you could learn that 'Dividing a pony in two' effect for a start. It's just a pair of linked dimensional portals. I'm sure you could use it in your act."

"Why are you being so nice to me?" Trixie asked, and Spike echoed it. "You know I was trying to show up you and your friends."

"I already told you, you don't need to make others looks small to make yourself look big. You're better than that. Princess Celestia sent me here to study the magic of friendship, and that's the most powerful magic of all. So which is the better option? To humiliate you and send you packing, a laughing stock? Or to help you become better, become something more, and hopefully gain the friendship of a talented unicorn in return?"

"You'd do that for me?"

"Uh... yes!" Twilight's expression made it clear that her hesitation was purely for effect. "I love my friends, and I love spending time with them, but I can't really talk about my studies with them. In Canterlot, I spent all my time studying, and no time making friends, and it's only now that I realise what I missed out on. The only ponies I can really talk to about my magic studies are the Princesses. Well, Luna and Celestia, anyway."

"You know... oh, you said didn't you. But what about Princess Luna?"

"I helped her out a while back. We've stayed in touch."

Spike snorted. "For 'helped out' try freed her from Nightmare Moon and saved all Equestria from eternal night! She's also the Bearer of the Element of Magic."

"Spike!" Twilight huffed. "It was a team effort, and besides there was a whole destiny thing going on. I don't make a big thing about it, some of the other Bearers would die from the attention. So I'd ask you not to spread it around. I just want to be let alone to be with my friends and do my research. So, the offer's open..."

Trixie was wide-eyed. "You are an unnatural pony, Twilight Sparkle. You have the ears of the Princesses, and you could be one of the most famous ponies in Equestria, nay, the world! But you are happy to live here, in this village, almost unknown."

"Different harmonies for different ponies. I know you'd enjoy the fame, but I wouldn't."

Trixie hung her head. "The Contrite and Eager to Learn Trixie would be only too glad to study with you."

Trixie had spent several hours with Twilight, running through some theoretical basics, and as a reward, getting taught the portal spell Twilight had used. She'd returned to her wagon, and Twilight was just finishing off her nightly observations. Her plan had been a stunning success, and she only hoped that Trixie would end up being aware of the loops.

She'd felt a new bond of friendship forming, still weak and nascent, so the possibility existed. As the local anchor, she seemed to affect which ponies were able to loop, and friendship definitely had something to do with it. However, there was something niggling at her, like an un-ticked box on her check-list.

A roar suddenly reminded her, and a quick glance from her vantage point on the observation deck confirmed it. She winked down to the ground and kicked in some alicorn speed to head towards where the Ursa Minor was heading for Ponyville. Hopefully she could get there before... There was a crunch in the distance as the Ursa Minor stepped on Trixie's wagon. She saw Spike approaching and scooped him up en passant.

"Twilight, we've got a..."

"I know, I saw."

She skidded to a stop as Snips and Snails egged the unicorn on. She saw Trixie take her stand with the Ursa roaring in her face, and say, "Uh, okay, stand back!"

Trixie's rope trick failed as Twilight knew it would, but by that time she was up alongside the other unicorn. "Huh, you don't see that every day. Need some help?"

"Uh uh!" Snips called out. "She's the Great and Powerful Trixie!"

"Yeah! She defeated an Ursa Major all by herself, she doesn't need your help!" Snails added.

"Yes! Yes, I do I do I do!" Trixie exclaimed. "I just made that story up to make myself look better! No-one can vanquish an Ursa Major!"

"Made it up?" Snips and Snails chorused freaking out in stereo.

"Then it's just as well that's an Ursa Minor, a baby."

"That's a baby?" Trixie squeaked.

"Yep, looks cranky too. Someone must have woken it up and brought it here. But that would require a combination of insane luck and abject stupidity bordering on the imbecilic!"

Spike just pointed at Snips and Snails, while the Ursa, clearly feeling left out of the conversation, brought it's head down and roared again.

Twilight sighed rather theatrically. "Right... Trixie, ready for a practical exam?"

Her horn glowed and she cast the lullaby spell, flaring her magic so it touched Trixie through her still weak friendship link, letting her feel the spell weave. "Feel that? Think you can take over?"

The music started to affect the Ursa, and it stopped roaring.

"Yes, but what are we doing?" Trixie's magic flowed out, taking over as the Ursa's eyelids drooped.

"Sonic enchantment, a number 16. Your story made me curious, so I did some research. It looks like some spirit, but it's actually a magical beast, though it does have an astral sub-type. That means it's toughness and strength are off the charts, so direct physical attacks won't cut it.

"It also has a degree of resistance to energy type magic attacks, and some general spell resistance. However, it's will isn't so hot. So enchantment and illusion spells work best, and using a sonic medium rather than a direct casting makes it harder for the spell resistance to stop."

The Ursa's eyelids were drooping, and it started to sway. "Okay, if you can keep it pacified, I'll get it back where it belongs."

Trixie's eyes widened, "You can't mean..."

The Ursa started to topple over, and Twilight caught it with her magic. With Trixie maintaining the lullaby, she didn't need to give it a bottle. Admittedly, she could have done it all by herself, but she was trying to avoid showing too much power.

"Let's go!" Her horn glow intensified, and the Ursa, curled up and looking almost cute, was lofted over the rooftops in the grip of Twilight's power. "Manifest one of those clouds down on the ground, okay?"

Trixie dropped the lullaby for a second to manifest a storm cloud, then caught it and restarted it before it had faded completely. Twilight's horn pulsed, and their hooves glow. She jumped up onto the cloud. "Now hop on. Cloud walking spell."

Trixie climbed on more gingerly, and tested the soft but supporting cloud underfoot. "Good, guide us after the Ursa."

The Ursa was delivered back to it's cave, and the trio returned on Trixie's cloud. Many of the ponies of Ponyville were up and about, including her friends. Trixie couldn't resist finishing off the music with a triumphant little flourish.

"Whoo!" "Unbelievable!" "Amazing!" "Trixie did vanquish the Ursa Major." "Yay for Trixie!"

Twilight jumped down alongside Trixie, but said nothing. For a moment the other unicorn posed proudly, head high, then glanced aside at Twilight and relaxed into a more normal posture and sighed.

"I may have... exaggerated a bit on stage for effect. The Great and Powerful Trixie is not quite that great and powerful. Trixie may have helped, but it was Twilight who lead the way, and did most of the work."

Twilight grinned. This was beyond her best expectations. "It was a team effort, and what she doesn't say is that she was ready to take it on alone until I showed up."

"Whoee!" Applejack exclaimed. "And there I was figuring she was all hat and no cattle. I'm sure sorry, Miss Trixie. I take my hat off to you, miss. Any-pony who can impress Twilight is a good apple in my book."

"Thank you!" Trixie looked genuinely pleased and happy until she saw... "My wagon!"

Twilight gave Snips and Snails a frown. "I think you owe Trixie a major apology!"

"Yeah, an Ursa Major one!" Spike quipped.

"We're sorry oh great and powerful one!" "We just wanted to see some awesome magic!" "And the way you and Twilight vanquished it was awesome!"

The two colts prostrated themselves in front of Trixie. "We deserve whatever punishment you give us."

Trixie glowered at them for a moment, then glanced over at Twilight again and smirked. "Very well, you can be my assistants for my show, when my wagon's fixed. I have some new tricks, experimental ones, that I want to try out."

"Yes, oh great and powerful one!" "Cool!" It seemed this particular punishment didn't hold any great fear for the pair.

"Actually, Trixie, if you're up for another new spell, maybe we can do something about that." Twilight stepped over beside her.

"But look at it, I'll have to utterly rebuild it!"

"Not necessarily." Actually, Twilight felt bad about it. If she hadn't gotten distracted training Trixie, she could have headed this off. "While the bonds between ponies are strongest, you can love and care for other things too. Your cart wasn't always wrecked. Envision it in your mind, as it was when it was brand new. Smell the fresh paint, the wood, see the stage, the decorations... Do you have it well in mind?"

"Yes..." Trixie was actually starting to tear up.

"Good, now push that image into your magic, and push it into the wreckage. Tell it to go back to the way it was."

A beam of lavender energy blasted from Trixie's horn, and the pieces of the wrecked wagon were thrown into the air, to swirl around in a vortex of energy. They fused together, shards and splinters slotting seamlessly into place, and eventually the spinning slowed down to reveal a fully restored wagon, shining in the moonlight to the awe of the crowd.

"Oh, thank you Twilight!" Trixie surprised the other unicorn by giving her a hug.

"You did all the work." Twilight gave an honest smile. Now this was a better way to end up than having Trixie running off, swearing vengeance. "I'm guessing Pinkie will have a 'you vanquished an Ursa Minor' party before too long."

"Pinkie?"

"You'll see..." she grinned.


5.4 Turning the Tables (Stainless Steel Fox)

Twilight awoke staring at her usual reference book. Her local memories cut in, and she decided this was pretty much a vanilla loop. She reached out to check something and found that Princess Celestia hadn't looped, not unexpected. She'd decided the next opportunity she got to prank the Princess and this was it.

She was well aware of Celestia's habit of using pranks to teach life lessons, and had decided to turn the tables for once. The Princess had left a lot of things to chance in the way she'd manoeuvred Twilight into defeating Nightmare Moon, and this loop Twilight was going to call her on it.

She stowed the book and headed for her study. On the way, as always, she met Twinkleshine and her friends, as normal.

"There you are, Twilight! Moondancer is having a little get-together in the west castle courtyard. You wanna come?"

Twilight gave a pleasant smile. "I'd love to. But I have to study right now. I 'll do my best to get over there later."

Leaving the stunned ponies behind, she smirked. The game was afoot.

Twinkleshine finally managed to close her open mouth. "Did Twilight Sparkle just accept a party invitation?"

Carefully entering the tower room that was her study, she avoided bouncing Spike off the walls and wrecking his gift. "Hi Spike! For me? You shouldn't have."

"It's for Moondancer…" The little dragon looked at her oddly.

"Oh, that party they were talking about?" She pretended to give the matter some thought.

"You know I don't normally have time for that sort of thing…." Seeing Spike's tail droop, she added. "But I guess there's nothing time critical about a bunch of ancient legends. Okay, Spike take a letter."

'Dear Princess Celestia,

I'm writing to you to request continued access to the restricted archive. As you know as part of my continuing studies on pony magic I have been working on a research project on ancient legends. I had hoped to complete it before the Summer Sun Celebration, but my friend and companion Spike wishes to go to a party being held by Moondancer this evening. As his guardian, I feel that I should go with him. Of course, then there will be the preparations for Summer Sun Celebration, and it's likely to be impossible to get any work done until after that.

As you know, my studies are my paramount concern, and I don't want you to think I'm making light of the honour you gave me in making me your student, or the unique opportunities for study you've provided me. However Spike is important to me too, and putting aside my studies for one night is a small thing compared to making him happy.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle.'

Spike had stopped writing half way through, as flabbergasted as the students earlier. "You'd do that? For me?"

Twilight felt genuinely shocked and sorry at his surprise. Had she really been so insensitive in the base timeline? "Of course! You're my number one assistant, and my best friend. And if you're that surprised by the fact, then this is long overdue!"

She repeated her message so Spike could write it down, and got him to send it. Of course, now she'd made the commitment, she realised it was something she should have done long ago. Awake or not, Spike deserved it, and one of the few things she'd never done was actually gone to that party.

She was very interested to see how the Princess would react. Without Twilight finding the Mare in the Moon prophecy on her own, she'd be in the position of having to either order her to continue her studies, which would then make it impossible to do the whole 'stop reading those stuffy books and make some friends' line, or find some other way to guide her to the same end.

Loops 6

View Online

Caution - this loop (6.1) is probably the worst in the entire compilation, almost certainly the worst by me. It's poorly done, has misconceptions, has outright mistakes, and generally speaking is rubbish. Do NOT rely on it for an accurate impression of the setting it crosses with; indeed, go read that setting and decide for yourself.

I'm keeping it here only to remind myself, in the future, that I can write absolute tat. So I should try not to.

6.1


Twilight blinked awake. “Oh. Hmmm, large wagon stuffed with books… ooh, maybe I’m replacing Trixie this Loop. That might be fun-”

At that point, the Loop memories arrived.

“WHAT?” The shout almost shook the wagon. “Okay, no. No way in Tartarus am I going along with this loop.”

Luna being the reigning Princess? Fine. That had happened before.

Trixie, not her, being the Element of Magic? Entirely sensible. No problems there.

But her being obsessive about the technical definition of magic? Having grown up nearly friendless, with Shining apparently having taken no hoof in her life?

Like. Buck.


“Hi.”

Trixie, Element of Magic and Student of Princess Luna, turned. “What is it?”

“Oh, well, I’m Twilight Sparkle. Kind of a fan, actually, but anyway – I had a question. Those Elements of Harmony? Ever tried setting them to broad beam?”

Trixie frowned. “Do what?”

“Broad beam. As per the paper by Lucky Strike in seven-thirty-four, any harmonic effect spell can be set to a number of modes from narrow beam to continent cleanse, as they’re refinements of the original area-burst effect made use of by Clover, Pansy and Cookie at the Founding.” Twilight rattled off magical formulae, parading out academic papers in front of the increasingly bewildered Trixie. “…so if you induce a deliberate harmonic of 14 hertz on the primary element and 15-20 inclusive on the others, it should produce a cresting-wave form which spreads to cover an area of reasonable size, and hence catch any quiescent or otherwise unnoticed corruption of any type in the area. And, well, better safe than sorry and all that.”

“…sorry, did you have a point?” Trixie asked. “I lost track less than half way into that.”

“But I thought you were Princess Luna’s special student?” Twilight asked, puzzled. “This stuff is final year optional material at the academy, admittedly, but I read the syllabus and it’s on one of the most often taken secondary modules. You… didn’t take it?”

“No.” Trixie replied. “I focused more on practical applications of magic, thank you.”

“Huh.” Twilight frowned. “That’s actually very disappointing. Well, sorry to trouble you.” With a flash, Twilight disappeared, leaving her notes and papers.

Trixie blinked. I didn’t even feel a magical signature from that teleport… it just happened.

Maybe this Twilight was onto something… it couldn’t hurt to look, she supposed…


“…so, long story short, there’s a big difference between working hard and actively trying to push out all competitors.” Twilight explained to Applejack. “It’s just not conducive to good will, if nothing else.”

“Well, that explains a whole lot.” Applejack said, looking into the middle distance. “If they’d only gone and told me that instead of carryin’ on about that ah was wrong, ah’d have had a lot better idea what they were after tryin’ to say.”

Twilight shrugged. “Glad to help.”


“What the hell are you doing asleep!”

Dash jerked awake, and looked over to see a purple pegasus with her forelegs crossed, hovering next to the cloud.

“Who are-”

“You’re Rainbow Dash, right?”

“Yes!” Dash replied, confused. “Why?”

“What did you get your cutie mark for, sleeping? You’re an athlete, not a lazybones!”

Stung, Dash made a grab for her tormenter, who slipped easily out of the way. “Hey, get back here!”

“You’re supposed to be fast.” The pegasus stuck her tongue out. “Make me.”

Seeing red, Dash launched herself forwards.


Twilight grinned, pumping her wings hard. This version of Dash was a layabout, which made frankly no sense given she still had the rainbow-thunderbolt cutie mark indicating that she’d broken the sound barrier in the past. Twilight had the sense her friend had slipped into a destructive spiral at some point in the past, like Applejack and the others.

And when Dash went into a destructive spiral, there was precisely one way to get her out of it.

Going into a spin, Twilight shaped the weather magic around her, then flared her wings and dropped abruptly out of the chase. Dash, startled, overshot and kept going – into a horizontal tail wind Twilight had set up.

BOOM.

“My work here is done.” Twilight grinned, transitioning through alicorn and back to unicorn. “Now, where’s Fluttershy…”


“Why are we doing this?” Lyra asked.

Trixie sighed, rubbing her temples. “Look, some unicorn came up to me and handed me this ridiculously detailed – like, thesis length – documentation on how harmony based effects work, and she seemed really disappointed I couldn’t follow it. Like I’d let her down, or something. I just thought I… I didn’t want all her work to be in vain, okay?”

Ditzy nodded. “Makes sense!”

“Right.” Trixie focused, pulling gently on the thread connected to the Element of Magic. It responded, slightly wilfully at first – then there seemed to be an almost audible click and it fell into place.

Concentrating hard, she worked in a frequency flutter to each element as it activated. Right, that’s all of them, now what-


Rainbow light chased across the country. Misty shapes, like horses, fled as it approached.


Princess Luna blinked. “What the buck was I thinking? Of course hereditary nobility is a bad idea if you don’t give them oversight and let them punish entire towns for a slight! Gaah!”


Twilight nodded to herself – job well done. “I thought so. Celestia’s magic is kind of important in keeping the northern barrier intact, so without her we had a serious case of Windigo.”

Rarity and Fluttershy were a little more shocked – having just got at least a bit used to a Pinkie Pie Party, the rush of strangely familiar magic had caused them to drop their cake.

“Oh, that reminds me.” Twilight levitated out an orange-chased egg. “This is a phoenix egg I found. Would you mind taking care of it, Fluttershy? I’m sure you’ll do fine.”


6.2


“Marvellous work, Rarity.” Sapphire Shores said, looking her new dress over. “I must say, you did excellent work.”

Rarity nodded. Every time, the dress for Sapphire was different. No coasting for this fashion designer!

“Oh, that reminds me,” the diva continued. “I was having a talk with one of your friends outside, and she made the most marvellous suggestion. I’d like to have at least fifty-two dresses, please. By next week if possible.”

Rarity’s eyes bulged beneath her mane. “How many?”

“Fifty two. Oh, and they each have to be made of a single, different material. Must rush, so I’ll be back for them in a week.” Sapphire said, and left before Rarity could close her gaping jaw.

Twilight came in, looking over her shoulder at the departing fashion icon. “Sorry, Rarity. I didn’t think she’d actually do it.”

“No, this is… is… perfect!” Rarity gasped, and began moving things around. “Right, I need… let’s see… I need the element of Generosity. Magical healing does away with the need for sleep, right?”

“I-” Twilight cut off her own sentence, as she watched Rarity dashing around and picking up more and more objects in her TK. “Did she say how much she’d pay?”

“Well, no…” the levitating tools slowed for a moment, then accelerated again. “But who cares! This shall be my crowning achievement!” Rarity summoned the Element of Generosity, and activated its secondary healing power. “To work!”

“Right, you seem to have things under control.” Twilight said brightly, backing out of the door. “Let me know if you need anything.”


“Okay…” Rarity ticked off, eyes shining. “Silk, cotton, flax, linen, satin, velvet, lycra, hay, that newfangled nylon… oh, of course, wool! I must not forget wool!” Two knitting needles levitated into the air, and got to work knitting a dress. “I have to emphasize the unique qualities of each material, not downplay them…”

She frowned. “Does Cashmere count as a kind of wool? I don’t know, how frustrating! Oh, it must be, I’ll make it very distinctive!”


Sweetie Belle held her pillow over her ears. Rarity was still going! It had been three days!

Eventually she reached a decision. “Hey, Sis, I’m going to go sleep over at Applebloom’s house!”

“Okay!” Rarity replied, distractedly. “Ask Twilight to take you!”


“Thirty-one.” Rarity said, eyes drooping. “And I can’t think of any fabric I’ve missed.”

Then an idea came to her. “Unless… it doesn’t have to be fabric, exactly…”

She turned the taps on in the bathtub, letting them run with the plug in while she cleared more space in the central room of the boutique. Once there was most of a tub full of water ready, she drew it out in a shimmering sheet and applied Oerth magic to it.

Shrink Item.

The tub full of water compacted to a small sheet of glittering, deep blue, translucent cloth. It gradually grew as more water was directed into it, and Rarity pondered if maybe she could mix in fresh water and salt water into the resultant outfit.

“Oh, and if there’s water, then there simply has to be fire!


Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, kicking water down on the fire. “Rarity, you could have at least put the thing out before you left…”

“Be fair.” Twilight replied. “She’s not slept in, what, five days? Even the Element of Generosity can only do so much to prevent tiredness.”


“…Rarity?”

Twilight knocked on the door. No reply.

“Rarity!”

Eventually, she decided there was nothing for it and opened the door telekinetically. There was a flumph as a dozen outfits landed on her, driven out by the sheer pressure.

“Pleh.” Shaking her head, she kicked herself free, rolled upright and teleported into the boutique.

“Rarity?”

A mumbled reply came from upstairs. Twilight followed it, stepping over the piles of clothes. They started off fairly normal, but got more and more outlandish as she moved into the building. Just in the ones Twilight stepped over, there was a translucent ball gown that looked like it was made of water – and, it would seem, was… a piece made of condensed moonlight, and how Rarity had pulled that off Twilight had no idea, and a… a…

Twilight stopped. “That’s a barrier jacket. Those are made of solid magic. Wow, she really is pulling some special stuff off. Ooh, diamond chain mail…”

Shaking her head, she got back on task. She’d counted fifty-three on the ground floor, and another two on the stairs (extruded sapphire scales bound together by wafer-thin sapphire sheets, all with an ocean motif, and a glittering gold foil outfit that had to be held together by magic.)

“Twilight.” Rarity’s exhausted voice came from her room. “Would it be proper for me to make the last one out of my own feathers, or is that a bit gauche? I can’t tell any more.”

Rounding the corner, Twilight looked in. Rarity was staring at herself in a mirror, deep bags under her eyes and mane unkempt. And she had wings.

“Rarity, how long is it since you slept?”

The alicorn blinked slowly. “…I don’t remember. I think it got dark six times but I didn’t go to sleep. Too much work. Too many ideas. Just one left.”

Twilight facehoofed. “Rarity, you’re an alicorn.”

“Am I?” Rarity said, looking back at herself. “Huh. Wings. Must be where the feathers came from.”

“Get some sleep, Rarity.” Twilight said gently. “You lost count – you’ve done fifty-five. More than enough.”

“…oh. Okay.” The couch zipped in out of nowhere, and Rarity collapsed onto it.


“Well?” Dash asked.

Twilight shot her a grin. “It worked, all right.”

The two sat in companionable silence, watching as Sapphire Shores and her assistants went ga-ga over every single outfit they got out of the building.

After a while, Fluttershy joined them. “I heard from Applejack. Rarity really is something, isn’t she?”

“You all are.” Twilight countered. “I’d say I was, too, but that’s boasting.”

“I’ll say it for you!” Dash volunteered. “So long as you do the same for me.”

“Sounds like a deal.”

Fluttershy raised a hoof. “Uh… how long is Rarity going to be asleep? Shouldn’t we be there when she wakes up?”

“Don’t worry.” Twilight replied, with a grin. “I think we’ll know.”


“…eeeeeeeeeEEEEEEE! OH. MY. GOSH!”

Applejack looked up from her work. “Yep, ah’d say she’s awake.”


6.3


Pinkie looked around. “Ooh, wow, human people. Only, not human people. They’ve got pointier ears. Hi!”

A harsh-faced humanoid looked her over. “…okay, what am I on?”

“Silly, you’re not on anything! Except a planet. But I know what you’re going to be in!” Pinkie reached into her mane, and pulled. Out came a large, cartoonish bomb with a fizzing fuse. “Party petard armed! Firework in the hole!”


Twilight stumbled, having Awoken mid-trot. Getting back into the rhythm of things, she reached out with her supernatural senses. “Okay… habitable planet, unoccupied… hugely stormy space, lots of psychic-magic energy everywhere… wow, but I can’t really tell where I am…”

There was a small positive signal on her Element, though. The Element of Laughter was active, and it was Pinkie’s one. “Wonder where she is,” Twilight said, sitting down on the surface of the world that would later be known as Macharia.


“No, no, no!” Pinkie said, shaking her head. “That is NOT how you do a party!”

Two of the figures looked belligerent, and the third turned from a (thankfully as-yet unused) set of knives. “Oh? What would you know about it?”

“Let me show you!” Pinkie grinned. “Hey, hand these out.” Reaching into her mane again, she pulled out a huge number of sealed envelopes. “Use that cool glowy-walky thing!”

“The web way,” one of them deadpanned.

“Yeah, that!”


Eldarad Ulthuan tripped over his own cloak and fell face down on the floor.

That was when he realized two things. The first was that being the butt of a joke wasn’t very fun. And the second was that it was time to get out of Eldar space right now.


The Emperor looked to the heavens. By fire and blood and steel he had unified humanity, and then the three Chaos Gods had cast his sons into the depths of space. But there were ripples in the Warp. The long storms were about to clear, and-

Everything went pink.


“Hiya Twilight!”

Twilight startled awake. “Wh… Pinkie!” Her friend was standing upside down on thin air, looking at her with a big grin… and a horn… and wings.

Oh, buck. Her mind calmly delivered. Pinkie’s ascended.

“Yeah, it’s me! Hey, I ran into some nasty stern people who didn’t know how to party. But I showed them exactly how to party!” Pinkie bounced upside down. “They all really, really liked my party!”

Twilight counted under her breath. She’d turned up in this Loop about two years ago, so… and it all looked horribly familiar all of a sudden…

“Pinkie,” she asked, carefully. “Did you just hold a year-long party for an entire starfaring civilization?”

“Yep!” Pinkie replied.

“Great. Well, I suppose that makes sense. Congratulations, you have actually topped the list of strangest things we’ve ever replaced in a Loop.” True to form, Twilight got out a list. She went past things like Rarity – Marigold Heavenly Nostrils and All of us – The Power Rangers, and then slowed down at the very end of the list. Plucking a quill and ink out of the air, she wrote on a new entry. “Pinkie Pie – Slaanesh. Right. Well, this universe is FUBAR now… feel like messing with the Chaos Gods?”

Pinkie’s smile shone. “DO I?”


**from the memoirs of Ciaphas Cain** (via Nikas)

"Jurgen, were did you get that cake?"

My aide pointed behind me, "The pink pony brought it for the party."

"What part..." I turned and beheld it, her. A pink, or rather PINK hide that would glow in the deepest starless space. Incredibly wide blue eyes. If one could be said to drown in eyes, these could sink Holy Terra without a trace. The Xeno had a form that could be considered Equine, if only in a child's scribblings. Crowned by wings and a spiral horn there was no doubt, she was Pinkamena Diane Pie, Warp Goddess of Laughter and Celebration.

Once again poorly imitating a proud Commissar of the Imperium I did my duty, and accepted the plate with a piece of cake upon it from her forelimbs. (1) She gave a sudden gasp as I saw recognition in her alien eyes.

"I know you!" she accused, pointing one flat ended forelimb at me, her wings flapping to get her to eye level with me. I readied to do my pitiful best to sell my life dearly for the Emperor. I was completely taken by surprise by the form of her attack.

Her eyes glittered with twinkling stars as she blurted out "You're CANDY CANE, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! Oh, I never got to throw a Megabestest hero ever party! Just a minute, I have to call in the orbital party support!"


(1) How a Xeno without grasping appendages managed to hold the plate is best left unconsidered. Several Inquistors of the Ordo Xenos have gone mad trying.


6.4 (from Mandemon)


"And here comes Sovereign!" Shepard said, just as the massive Reaper's hologram appeared. " Seriously, I can't believe you didn't meet him during your turn."

"Wow, so you are dealing with this thing?" Twilight asked, looking up to the Reaper. "And yeah, we never even heard of him. Only thing weird in that loop was that we never found Pinkie."

"Him and several thousand more.” Shepard scratched the back of his neck. “Though he's kinda cool dude once you get to know him, actually. Yo Sov, how are the bitches?"

"Wazzup Shep... OH FUCK NO!" Sovereign’s voice, while originally a menacing yet relaxed tone, suddenly devolved into panicked screams.

"Oookay... that was new." Shepard said.

"NO! NO NONONONONONONONO! NO! IFYOUAREHERETHEPINKONEISHEREANDIFTHEPINKONEISHERESHEWILLOHGODIAMSOFUCKEDFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK-"

"Oh! Hey Sovvy!" Pinkie Pie said cheerfully and waved her hoof, climbing from the ducts.

"FUCK THIS SHIT!" Sovereigns voice boomed and the hologram disappeared.

After a startled pause, Joker contacted Shepard. "Uh, Shepard, I don't know what you did, but the big dreadnought? I think it just beat the speed of Mass Relays. It pulled an impossible turn and sped away."

"Right Joker, stand by." Shepard said to the comm before turning to Pinkie Pie. "Want to explain?"

"Oh, there was this one loop, you remember, where we replaced Shepard and co, and you became Twipard and Dash became Darrus and I ended up in Geth space and I met Sovvy and I talked with Sovvy and Sovvy said it was ancient and never had a birthday party and it was really sad and we had parties and Geth were really nice and then he mentioned his friends and-"

"Oh... that one." Twilight said. "I was kinda wondering why the heck you were so worried about these Reapers, since we never met them during our loop…"

"...Tali, can you figure out a way to clone Pinkie? We could use her to blackmail Sovvy next time." Shepard said, turning to Tali who was barely holding her laughter.


6.5


“Twilight?” Pinkie said, suspiciously.

“Yes?” Twilight replied.

“How come you aren’t freaking out?”

Twilight shrugged, squashing to an inch’s thickness under a colossal anvil and bouncing back moments later with a sproi-i-i-ing. “Maybe I’m just a natural.”

“Nice work, guys!” Bugs Bunny said. “Especially you, Twilight.”

Pinkie simmered.


“Aha!” Pinkie shouted. “I know what’s happened!”

Twilight looked innocent. “Yes?”

“You’ve been to Toon University before!”

“…alright, guilty as charged.” Ten thousand volts ran through both of them, causing an interesting light display. “Strange Loop, that was, actually – the Toon university was run by Discord out of White Tail Woods.”

Pinkie looked sad. “I’d have loved that one!”

“Yeah.” Twilight tossed her head. “At least the non looping you graduated top of the class.”


6.6 - Disney (from Stainless Steel Fox)


Okay, this was a weird one, definitely a wild solo loop. Twilight’s memories told her she was apparently a feral unicorn who was wandering the world after her old home had been destroyed, a world which apparently contained humans. She was in a forest, which thinned out ahead, and animals were fleeing past her. There was also the sound of what she could now identify as gunshots.

She ran forward to the edge of the woods, which opened out onto a snow-covered meadow, with grass just starting to peek through. Deer were fleeing, and even as she watched, one of them fell, her young foal racing ahead without seeing it happen. Seeing the hunters getting closer, led by an arrogant looking human with a cleft chin and bulging muscles, she reacted instinctively.

A massive illusion of Spike in his Nightfury form swooped down on them, sending the group fleeing, and under cover of it, she teleported out, reached out to encompass the deer in her teleport, and warped back, deep into the forest. Drawing on her loop as a nurse, she examined the wound. It wasn’t fatal, but soon would be.

Fortunately, her fine telekinetic control allowed her to withdraw the bullet, and healing magic cleaned and healed the wound. A foal stumbled across her a few moments later, calling out.

“Mother, where are you?” He came to a splay legged stop on seeing his mother, who was just starting to stir. He dropped down by her and snuggled up, crying.

“Bambi… you have to get away…” She said weakly.

Twilight realised that they weren’t actually speaking in the normal sense, and that this version of unicorn apparently came with the gift of tongues. That was a keeper. “It’s alright, you’re deep in the forest. I don’t think any of those hunters will be coming in here any time soon.”

The snow had started up again, but Twilight just put up a low level shield to guide it away. The older deer just looked at her curiously, but the foal, Bambi spoke out. “Gosh, you look funny.”

That got Twilight conjuring a mirror to get a first good look at herself. She was her normal colouration, but her body was shaped more like a horse, and scaled as one if the deer were anything to go by. “I’m a unicorn. Your mother was hurt, but she’d going to be alright. You should stay with her. “

Noticing that they were both quite thin, she pulled a bale of hay from her subspace pocket and dropped it by them. She heard rustling, and saw another deer, a stallion with magnificent antlers approaching and decided that she could leave them alone. Besides, she’d thrown out an alarm spell, and it had just tripped. It appeared one of the hunters hadn’t been scared off, at least not far enough.

She teleported to near his location and stepped out in front of him, glaring.

“I thought I saw something in the meadow. What a magnificent beast! You will make a fine trophy for the wall of the inn!”

Whatever else was wrong with him, there was no problem with his reflexes, and he brought his musket up to his shoulder and fired in a single smooth motion.

The bullet came to a dead stop three inches in front of Twilight’s chest. “No, I won’t.”

Her telekinesis lifted him off the floor and held him immobile as she pried the weapon from his hands.

“Hmmm. Muzzle loading, flintlock action, rifled barrel. Basic but useful.”

“Give that back! I am Gaston, the finest hunter in the village, and demand you return it, creature!”

A small application of energy made the barrel glow red hot, and her telekinesis quickly twisted it into a pretzel. Cooling it equally quickly, and wrecking the temper of the metal in the process, she dropped it back in his hands.

“There you go. Now, we’re going to this village, and I will discuss the proper way to treat a unicorn.”

With him still floating along behind her like an impatient balloon, she trotted through the snowstorm in the direction of the other hunters. Gaston kept up a litany composed in equal parts of how awesome he was and what he’d do to her when he got free of her sorcery. He even started singing about it.

She could have shut him up with a silence spell, but his discourse was so illuminating, she let him carry on. He sounded across between Rainbow Dash at her worst, and the Trixie in full boast mode. His musical enumeration of his many ‘virtues’ confirmed her initial opinion that he was a brutal, bullying thug, with all the grace and charm of a slug… no that was being unfair to slugs.


6.7 (via Filraen)
(The Ranma loop that used to be here was incomplete, and has been removed at request of the original author. This is also one of his, which I erroneously concatenated with another of his loops earlier on.)


Dear Princess Celestia,

Thanks for letting me know you are awake this loop. As usual, this is my Friendship report for the loops you weren't awake.

I learned Friendship can come in many shapes and forms. Not long ago I met one of those "human" creatures, another looper, who showed me her ways to do Magic of Friendship. And while I was bit sceptic of the methods at first the stories of the results she told me and the pictures she showed me of how her friends had lived after put my fears to rest. I'd like to request a meeting with you and Princess Luna to compare and contrast the Magic of Friendship used by the human Nanoha Takamachi.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle

PD: I'm sorry for this report being so short, but as result of a practical test of her Magic of Friendship the loop ended suddenly, leaving me in that strange pony land (please don't ask me about that loop, I'm still trying to recover from it).


6.8 (from Mandemon)



------------------------------------

Trinity, New Mexico, 1946

------------------------------------

"Well, let's see if this works. I was quite surprised to see you here. Perhaps this time everything will go well." Einstein said as he made final adjustments to the time machine.

"Don't worry, it will work. I had practice. Let's just hope everything goes well." Twilight replied, standing on the platform..

"Alright, here we go. On 3... 2... 1..."

A flash and Twilight disappeared.

------------------------------------

Landsberg, Germany, 1924

------------------------------------

Twilight watched as a man walked out of prison, looked and whistled, before heading off.

"Herr Hitler."

"Ja? Was ist loss? Ich ha-" The man fell silent when he saw who, or what, had spoken to him.

"Ja... Ich verstehe..." A bright flash of pink light later, history was changed. Again.

------------------------------------

Trinity, New Mexico, 1946

------------------------------------

Another flash and Twilight reappeared.

"Did it work?" She asked right away.

"Yes, and no. Take a look." Einstein said and turned the television on.

"As the chancellor of European Confederacy declared war against United Soviet Socialist Republics to be over, United States has requested aid from EC to aid against the invasion of The Empire of The Rising Sun. After Empire deployed it's Super Fortress on Pacific, United States have been on defensive. However, recent discoveries indicate, that The Empire is trying to deploy another fortress on Atlantic. Chancellor Hitler had declared that Confederacy would not stand for any attempt to demean human life or freedom and has vowed to bring the Confederacy into the war. Latest polls however, indicate war weariness among-"

Einstein turned off the TV.

"Well, we did succeed in making Europe resist Soviets, quite successfully, but we ignored whole other problem, the Japanese. With nobody to stop them, they took quite a large part of East-Asia and are currently trying to knock out United States, who have been preventing them from expanding to Australia or anywhere else."

"Sorry it didn't work so well, I was sure we could prevent a world war." Twilight said, sadly.

"Oh, I've seen worse. The loop where I tried to establish MAD situation among every side went a lot worse. However, I did learn something. Nuclear Winter does not actually happen."


6.9


“Okay, this is strange.” Twilight said, tapping away at a PADD from her pocket universe. “We’re on Earth, in the early twenty-first century, and… guys, I think this is the hub universe.”

“What’s that?” Dash asked, peering over.

Twilight hit three more buttons, and levitated the display so all six of them could watch.

“I used to think…”

“Huh.” Applejack eventually said, as the video of Elements of Harmony, part 2 ended. “So we’re a TV show here?”

“I think everyone is.” Using telekinesis this time, Twilight used the Trek-loop computer to bring up a dozen web pages. How To Train Your Dragon, Naruto, Power Rangers, Neon Genesis Evangelion… they were used to the idea that some Loops were fictional material in other Loops, but this was a lot more than usual.

“Okay.” Rarity said, tapping her hoof. “What do we do now?”

“I have an idea.” Twilight said.


“…by a cosmic coincidence it would take too long to explain, we have ended up here on your Earth. We only have a relatively short time here before we must depart anew, but we feel that we owe it to you, if none other, to tell us how grateful we are.

In a way we cannot understand, you may have created us. If that is not the case, then you faithfully recreated us and told our story to millions. So thank you.

Yours,

Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity and Applejack

P.S. please find enclosed some photographs. We’re sure you’ll like them.”


Twilight sealed the envelope. “There we go. I’ll send it to her in a minute. Anything else we want to do?”

“Ooh!” Pinkie said. “Let’s go to fan conventions and pretend to be cosplayers!”

“…actually, yeah, that sounds cool.” Dash weighed in.

Grinning, Twilight shook her head. “I heard that when Naruto and Sasuke turned up here, they tried to interrogate their own author to force him to answer some tricky questions. Wonder what the other Loopers will think when they heard our main response was a thank-you letter?”


6.10 (from Stainless Steel Fox)


The power of love

The shopkeeper complimented his client. “Ah, you have a keen eye. The Alicorn Amulet is one of the most mysterious and powerful of all the known magical charms. Uh, ah- I'm afraid this is… far too dangerous.”

A bag of bits only slightly larger than his head landed on the counter.

“Would you like that gift-wrapped?”

Twilight Sparkle just grinned evilly.


‘Dear Cadence,

I suppose I should be calling you Princess Mi Amore Cadenza now, but I hope you don’t mind that I always think of you as Cadence, my foal sitter and one of my favourite ponies in all of Equestria. I should have written before now, but I’ve been crazy deep in my studies, and I know you’re really busy too. I’m ashamed to say this isn’t just a social letter, I need your help really badly. I found an ancient legend about Nightmare Moon. From my research, she isn’t just some fantasy figure to appease with sweets on Nightmare Night, she really existed!

The legends say she was Princess Celestia’s sister, and once controlled the moon and night, but she turned evil and Princess Celestia locked her away using something called the Elements of Harmony. I haven’t been able to find out anything more about these, but they appear to have been a really powerful magic artefact.

Why am I telling you this? Because the same legends say Nightmare Moon will return on the longest day of the thousandth year, the day after tomorrow. There’s a superior conjunction of minor moons which will align with our primary moon, and cause an amplification effect. The legend refers to it by saying ‘the stars will aid her escape’. Her stated goal was to bring eternal night, so her first action will obviously be to attack Princess Celestia.

I’ve passed my findings to Princess Celestia, but she’s just told me not to worry, and is sending me to oversee the Summer Sun Celebrations in Ponyville. I know I should trust her judgement, but I’m worried that without the Elements of Harmony, and with Nightmare Moon’s powers amplified by the conjunction, she might not be able to handle Nightmare Moon on her own.

That’s where you come in. I know it’s asking a lot, but if you can find a way to visit Ponyville tomorrow and stay for the Summer Sun Celebration, you could be on site to help. In my studies, I’ve located a magical amplifier called the Alicorn amulet that would boost your powers. It has the side effect of corrupting the user, but I’m certain that with your power of love, and my wide knowledge of spell-craft we can purify it before you use it.

I’ll continue to research other avenues as much as my duties allow, but this could be the one chance we have to defeat Nightmare Moon, not that it wouldn’t be wonderful just to see you again. Maybe the library in Ponyville has something on these Elements.

Your friend,

Twilight Sparkle.

P.S. Please don’t tell Princess Celestia, I am kind of disobeying her. I only hope she’ll forgive me.’


6.11


The background murmur of voices died away as Princess Twilight, Princess of Magic, stepped up to the podium.

“Equestria is an idea,” she began without preamble. “A bold, daring idea, by three ponies long ago. They decided to see if it was possible that a society could last built not upon pragmatism and wariness, but upon trust and friendship.

“Five hundred and fifteen earth ponies, four hundred and ninety-two unicorns, and five hundred and six pegasi first founded this country. They made it a haven for all, regardless of race, breed or species.”

Everyone in the plaza already knew this, but such was the reputation of the Princesses that her voice was the only sound in the whole massed square.

“When I and my sisters first came across Equestria, we joined as any other – farmers, shopkeepers, students. We were asked to become the rulers of the country three times. Twice, we refused… and the third time, of course, we accepted. But only on condition that we be princesses, never queens, for the people of Equestria are her true rulers.

“We have ruled long, and – we hope – well, but nothing can last forever and it falls to us all to make plans for the future, even if that future may never come. Accordingly, my sisters and I have discussed the matter at great length, and have decided to each select one champion to bear our symbol.”

Twilight stepped back, and Pinkie Pie, Princess of Laughter, replaced her.

“I pick Dissy! Oh, er, Discord of Wizard’s Peak!”

A rather startled dragon jumped. “Er… me?”

“Yes you, silly!” Pinkie giggled. “Unless you’re just pretending to be Dissy, because if you are then no.”

The indicated dragon, still looking a bit shocked, walked numbly up to the stage.

Pinkie levitated her Element necklace off her neck and onto Discord’s. “There ya go!”

Applejack had already taken the stand. “Ah think the best representative of me’d be Cadance.”


One by one, the six Princesses picked their ‘champions’. Discord for Laughter, Cadance for Honesty, Celestia for Loyalty, her sister Luna for Generosity, and Chrysalis of the Changelings for Kindness.

Finally, Twilight retook the stage. “And for my own symbol, the symbol of magic… I hereby select Sombra of the Crystal Empire.”

Chrysalis looked elated. Not surprising, Twilight thought. For some reason, Sombra and Chrysalis just kept being in relationships…

It would be interesting to see how this loop played out. All six of those they’d chosen were only about twenty or so. The same age they had been the first time they’d taken up their own Elements, in the original Equestria.

Actually, engineering a completely cosmopolitan Equestria had been a fun enough challenge.


6.12 (via Nikas)


Usagi wanted to cry. She went on this trip with Mamoru to get away from this! Though the locals seemed rather blasé about things as the police evacuated everyone from the monster. A flash showed why as to the crowd's cheers the local senshi showed up. Her outfit lacked the bows of her own, and the frills were a western fringe, more Annie Oakley than Idol Singer. Complete with a small arsenal of guns which the American Magical Girl quickly employed.

The situation was stalemated, and Usagi and Mamoru where looking for a discreet place to change when a pony in a western dress and cowboy boots nudged her aside with a muttered “excuse me”. Whirling a lasso she roped the monster, pinning it in place. "Now sugarcube!" the magical mascot yelled.

With a smile Megan shot the current monster with a rainbow charge out of her Winchester to disperse it. She waved to the crowd before she and Applejack shot off. Leaving behind Usagi, who was ranting to her fiancée: why did the gaijin get a useful mascot, while she was stuck with a lazy cat!


“You realize that I haven’t had to do anything?” Twilight asked. “Admittedly, being a spiritual advisor is kind of neat…”

“Just shows Megan’s up t’ the job.” Applejack replied calmly.


Applejack lowered her hat, and spat out the wheat stalk she was chewing. "Mount up Megan, time to show this here badguy how we buck the apples."

Rummaging for a moment, Megan got out a Springfield Carbine and slapped in a round. “You got it, Applejack.”


6.13 (from Namar13766)

Twilight looked around. "Okay, it's the day before Luna's first Nightmare Night. Any suggestions so that she enjoys it from the get-go instead of canceling it first?"

Fluttershy gave what would have been an uncharacteristic smile for her pre-loop self. "Pinkie and I had an idea..."


Pinkie nodded to Vinyl, who put the record on, and then started cuing in the dancers. If she got this perfectly, it would hit the chorus just as Luna broke the cloud layer.

“It’s close to midnight…
Something evil's lurkin'in the dark
Under the moonlight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream
But terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze
As horror looks you right between the eyes
You're paralyzed

'Cause this is thriller…”


“How did your night out go, Sister?” Celestia asked, as Luna walked up the steps.

“BRILLIANT!” Luna boomed, then flushed and lowered her voice. “The pink one played a song that could have been written for Nightmare Night! And I got so. Much. Candy!”

“She’s right, you know.” Meadowlark muttered around a mouthful of toffee, the guard not missing a step as he followed his principal. “I didn’t know there was that much sugar in Equestria.”

“Oh, dear.” Celestia said, stifling a grin. “That explains the letter I got.”


“Dear Princess Celestia.

I think I’m having a sugar rush. This is a bit strange because I haven’t eaten anything yet, so it must be all the sugar in the air!”

Loops 7

View Online

7.1


“Twilight!”

Twilight looked around. It was the evening after the formation of the Elements, and the purification of Luna. Since the purple Anchor was planning on experimenting with events at the Gala, she’d done it effectively as she had in the original time line.

The pink-and-yellow alicorn hovering outside her bedroom window sort of suggested her plans were going to have to change, though.

“Cadence!” she said, quietly but happily. “Hold on.” A silence spell manifested around Spike’s bed. “Okay, come around to the balcony, I’ll let you in.”


“So you’re Looping this time?” Twilight asked, levitating over a glass of sparkling water. “It’s nice to see you. What’s the plan this time?”

“You always let me plan things, Twilight.” Cadence said, accepting the drink and sipping it. “That’s nice of you.”

“Well, it is fairly rare I see you.” Twilight reminded her. “I know it seems different from your perspective, but I do have a fair number of lonely Loops.”

“I can imagine.” After a moment, Cadence changed topics. “Anyway, there’s some good news. And I need to ask you for a few favours.”

“…okay.” Twilight answered warily, suddenly suspicious.

“Favours first.” Cadence said. “First, I’d like everything right up to my wedding to go exactly the same as it did the first time around. I’m sorry if that’s wearing on you, but I’d really like the wedding to go as planned the first time.”

“No, it’s no hardship.” Twilight assured her. “Actually, after the last loop it might be nice to relax a bit.”

“Last Loop?” Cadence pried.

“Something very energetic involving giant robots again. Fun, but after a while you just want to relax, you know?” Twilight tapped a hoof. “Though Dash did beat up that Starscream robot in a very impressive way… anyway. The second thing?”

“Do you know a temporary memory spell?” Cadence asked. “Something that temporarily – not permanently – prevents a pony from remembering something?”

“I… think I do.” Twilight said. “Or I can have one fairly soon, an adaptation of Obliviation. But why? You’re starting to worry me…”

“And third,” Cadence said, “I want you to bring a lump of Cosmic Spectrum with you when you rescue me from the mines.”

Twilight put two and two together. “Shiny’s awake?!”

“Well done.” Cadence grinned. “Yes, he is, and it’s such a relief. But you know why I’m asking for all those things?”

“Yes.” Twilight began pacing. “You want the wedding to go exactly as it did the first time, so if Shiny’s awake you’ll need him to not remember about Chrysalis – otherwise, even if he’s good at acting, his emotions will give him away. You have much better control of your emotions because that’s what your talent is about, so you’re fine, and I can fake what we need effectively. And it’s too good an opportunity to miss.”

“Precisely.” Cadence said. “Now, if we do want things to go right, we’ll have to stay out of touch for a fair while. Otherwise you’ll be just too credible…”

“I understand.” The unicorn gave a determined nod.


Twilight sat back, watching the familiar glow building on the horns of Shining Armor and Cadence. It was always impressive to watch, this, but – considering that she could see the lump of Cosmic Spectrum Cadence had stuffed into his outfit – she rather thought her brother was about to outdo himself.

With a concussive boom, the shield/exclusion spell hit criticality and bloomed outwards, picking up all the Changelings and throwing them away.

…actually, by the looks of things the shield had expanded to the size of the entire country. That was a first.


“Well done, Shiny.” Cadence said, and snapped the thread of the spell Twilight had applied last month with a quick flicker of magic.

“What- oh.” Shining Armor stood up, shakily, and looked around. “Did you block my memory of last time that – that… of last time Chrysalis attacked?”

“Yes.” Cadence said, looking down and shuffling her hooves. “But it was for a good cause.”

“Really?” Shining asked. “Really?

“Yep.” Cadence flicked a hoof out, and Shining’s thought processes abruptly shut down as his girlfriend tapped him on the wing.

“Darling…” he asked, with impressive calmness, “Why do I have wings?”

“I said it was for a good cause,” she replied impishly. Then glanced over at Twilight. “You can explain things, right?”

“Think so.” Twilight replied. “I’ll say it was a wedding gift you were going to give, and explain to Celestia and Luna a shortened version of what happened. But in my experience it takes an hour for the wedding to get back on track, so be back by then.”

“Right.” Cadence nodded her thanks, then grabbed Shining Armor in a curtain of magic and teleported fifty miles east to an unoccupied country estate.


7.2


Twilight watched as Gilda ranted, berating Dash and every other pony in the room.

She knew it was hard on her friend to face this, and more so when she’d recently started looping and had to face it more than once…

The griffin finally finished, panting, and turned to go.

“Wait.” Dash said, the calm word sounding all the louder by contrast with Gilda’s shouts.

Gilda turned, almost against her will.

“Look,” the pegasus continued. “I’m not good at speaking – you know that – so sorry if this isn’t all fancy and… I’m making this up as I go, okay? I… I do like you. You’re one of my oldest friends. You were there for me, back at flight school…”

Everyone else was silent, listening to Dash’s voice. She’d lost the calm she’d had earlier, and the words were strained.

“But… I don’t know. Maybe you’ve changed, maybe I’ve changed, maybe I’m just noticing it now and I didn’t care before. But you just… you aren’t nice. More importantly – though it shouldn’t be – you aren’t nice to my other friends.” Twilight spotted that Dash’s eyes were shining with unshed tears, and a look over at Gilda showed that the griffin’s own face was screwed up like she didn’t know what to think.

“Please, Gilda.” Dash said, her voice wavering. “Don’t make me choose between my friends.”

Gilda blinked, scowling, then shook her head. “I… gaah! Why does this have to be so hard! I don’t know what to – and – aargh!”

“Look, you don’t have to be all sweetness and light. That wouldn’t be you.” The ghost of a smile crept across Dash’s face. “Just… I dunno, give me your address or something. We’ll work from there.”

“Yeah, I guess that works.” Gilda said, then looked around at the other ponies. “This never happened, okay?”

Twilight nodded encouragingly. “For some reason, I’ve been struck blind. And deaf.”

“Me too!” Pinkie said. “Ooh, where am I?”

Gilda surprised herself with a tired chuckle. “Heh. Okay, fine. I think I know your address. I’ll send you a letter after I think it over, alright?”

“That’s fine.” Dash nodded. “Hey, maybe you can come to the Best Young Fliers. I’ve got a great set planned!”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” Gilda said, and Twilight realized she meant it.


“Well done, Dash.” Twilight said, beaming. “That must have been tricky for you.”

“Yeah.” Dash replied, shaking her head. “I can’t believe I said half the stuff I said there.”

Twilight chuckled. “Yeah, funny how that works. Maybe next time you can try and get it sorted out earlier – I mean, if you get to know how she is now this loop.”

“Sure.” Dash shrugged. “I just… I dunno. Maybe she felt like how Pinkie was behaving was too much like what it was like when we were bullied? I know she stuck up for me back at Flight School.”

“Could be.” Twilight agreed. “From what I know of griffin culture, though, they’re very impressed by strength – not just strength in battle, either. Strength of character, strength of will… maybe if Fluttershy was a bit more confident, or…”

“Don’t know.” Dash replied. “Something to try out, maybe. Now I’m going to go and see if I remember how to write a letter…”


7.3


Nightmare Moon spread her wings, rearing back. “The Night Will-”

As was getting fairly normal for Equestria’s Time Loops, she didn’t finish the sentence. What was unusual, though, was that she got tackled by a gigantic purple dragon.

“Excellent work, my faithful minion!” a dark-purple-and-black alicorn boomed, eyes flaring and a wan light emanating from her. “Day and Night are outdated. This shall forever more be the land of twilight!”

“Actually,” the dragon asked, looking up from hog-tying Nightmare Moon. “How are we going to do that? I mean, the sun has to be up or down, right?”

“Use my title!” the alicorn snapped.

“Fine, then.” The eighty-foot dragon rolled his eyes. “Eternal Twilight, Lady of the Morning and the Evening. How are we going to actually do this?”

“Well… put the sun at the place it is at sunrise, and the moon at moonset.” Eternal Twilight said, her voice losing the echoing quality slightly. “You know. Like in the morning. Or the evening.”

“But…” the dragon didn’t let it go that easily, and ponies began to creep back out of their hiding places to watch. “The world is round, right?”

“Of course, Spykoranuvellitar!” Eternal Twilight answered promptly. “You know that.”

The Great Wyrm nodded. “Yeah, yeah. So… if you make it so it’s twilight in Ponyville, then if you walk forty miles east… what is it?”

“…oh.” The alicorn kicked the stage. “I didn’t think of that. It would be morning, of course. Cursed Celestia! She foils me without even trying!”

The two interlopers stood there for a moment, awkwardly shuffling their feet.

“What about overcast?” Spykoranuvellitar suggested. “Maybe you could invent glowing clouds or something.”

“Of course!” Eternal’s voice went right back to the booming, echoing shout. “Hurry, my faithful minion! We must establish a major and permanent cloudbank, which is also on fire at the top. To Cloudsdale!”

“And that’s another thing.” Spykoran added, taking flight after the alicorn and smashing a hole in the roof. “Why am I a minion?

“Villains have minions!” the alicorn replied, and after that they were out of earshot.


Celestia blinked at the thoroughly restrained Nightmare Moon. “What on Equestria happened to you?”

“Mmmff.” Nightmare replied, rolling her eyes towards the rope tying her muzzle shut.

“Oh, sorry.” With a flash of fire, Celestia incinerated the rope. Nightmare gasped in air.

“Celestia, sister of mine… why?” Nightmare managed. “Why must you torment me so?”

“Pardon?” Celestia asked. “This wasn’t me.”

“It can’t have been coincidence.” Moon said, pointedly. “A thousand years. A thousand years on the moon, I planned my revenge. And when I got here, and announced my arrival to the world, I got halfway through my planned speech and then got body-checked by a great wyrm. It’s just not fair.”

“A great wyrm… hmmm, there aren’t any I can think of.” The Princess of the Sun mused. “Not that would get involved, anyway. And… what’s happening to the sky?”

“Don’t ask me.” Nightmare Moon finally got a spell off, and dissolved into stars before reforming with the ropes left where they’d been shed. “Is that cloud… rainbow coloured? Did you redecorate while I was gone?”


“We have ignition!” Spike said.

Twilight grinned. “This is probably a really stupid thing to do, but who cares. We’re the only ones in danger.”

‘Eternal Twilight’ dumped a last batch of liquid rainbow into the cloud layer, then kicked the pilot cloud into the main cirrostratus.

There was a huge flash, and when it died down Twilight was short most of her hair and Spike had a singed tail.

On the other hoof, the cloud layer was merrily burning.

“Success! Now to go and make my demands to Celestia!” Twilight cackled, getting back into character. “Though I might want to apply a hair regrowth spell first. I look ridiculous.”

“Don’t you have a magic… thing… with your mane?” Spike waved a claw vaguely. “You know, like Luna and Celestia do?”

“No, but it might be nice to invent one.” Twilight agreed. “I’ll ask for how they did it next time. Anyway, let’s see…” she checked a list. “Our demands include, but are not limited to… the town of Trottingham except the left half, every first edition book in Equestria, the treasury – with condiments,” she nodded to Spike, “free passes to Ponyville sauna, a cool set of armour for me, and…”

Spike started whistling.

“You added this bit, didn’t you?” Twilight asked accusingly. “The dressmaker known as ‘Rarity’ to perform Damsel in Distress duties for one day a month?”

“You know it’s not a proper horde without a proper horse.” Spike said glibly. “Actually, though… why are we doing this?”

“It is very funny.” Twilight replied.

“No, I mean what are we going to tell them?”

“Oh. Hadn’t really thought that through.” Twilight admitted. “I suppose that if we can get Celestia and Nightmare Moon to put aside their differences, that’d be nice. But the reason we’ll tell them? Hmmm…”


“Why, Twilight?” Celestia asked, pushing with her magic at Eternal Twilight’s shield. “Why did you become so twisted and dark?”

“Ahem.” Nightmare Moon interjected, horn blazing right alongside her sister.

“Sorry.” Celestia apologized. “Force of habit.”

“That’s alright.” Moon accepted her sister had simply made a slip of the tongue, and kept hammering away at the shield.

“You weren’t ready for Nightmare Moon’s return!” Eternal Twilight shouted. “Neither of you are fit to rule, and so I decided to take over!”

“And what about young Spike?” Celestia slammed her hooves on the floor, increasing the intensity of her attack.

Spykoranuvellitar, standing to one side and taking up most of the Ponyville Square, looked embarrassed. “The pay’s good. She does dental.”

Nightmare Moon suddenly looked interested. Celestia nudged her. “Stay on-task, sister!”

“Fine.” Moon grumbled. “Did you have a plan for my return?”

“You’re looking at her.” Celestia replied. “She seemed like a good fit to use the Element of Magic.”

Twilight’s shield dropped so suddenly that the two estranged royal sisters’ attack overshot, and demolished the empty library.

“Oh.” Twilight said, shrinking back into a unicorn. “You could have said. Hey, Spike, go put the clouds out.”

“Why me?” Spykoranuvellitar asked, crossing his enormous arms.

“You’re fireproof, and you still have wings.” Twilight replied. “Besides, I need to go rebuild the library.”

“…that’s it?” Nightmare Moon asked. “Seriously?”

“Shut up and stop complaining!” Celestia hissed. “Do you want to fight her again?”

“…you have a point.” Moon admitted.


Dear Princess Celestia.

Sorry about the misunderstanding. I may have overdone it a bit there. But you have to admit, it would have set my mind at rest a lot more if I’d had the sense you were doing something.

The thing I learned about friendship today is that sometimes ponies who have grudges will team up against a more important enemy, and that that can help them get over the grudges.

P.S. if Spike’s sent most of the desk with this one, that’s because I haven’t managed to undo the growth spell yet.


7.3 additional


The library door creaked open.

“Oh, who is it- Nightmare!” Twilight said, startled.

“Please, call me Luna,” the alicorn of darkness said. “My sister and I have discussed things in great detail, and I wish to put the whole sorry affair behind us. No, I was here for a different matter. I heard about this ‘Nightmare Night’. What would be a good costume?”

Twilight blinked. “Why ask me, your highness?” She looked Luna up and down. She actually looked… like she hadn’t changed anything from how she looked when she’d turned up in battle rattle to try and overthrow Celestia.

“…I don’t actually know many ponies.” Luna said. “It’s only been a few weeks, after all. And you at least know who I am.”

“True.” Twilight nodded. “Well, you’re ready.”

“I am?” Luna seemed surprised. “But the holiday is not for months!”

“Yeah, but…” Twilight shrugged. “You’re kind of the patron slash scary thing of the holiday. You could go as, er… you.”

“What are you going as, then?” Luna asked.

Twilight frowned. “I might actually go as Eternal Twilight. Hmmm… can you encourage your sister to come to Ponyville too? If she dresses up as, I don’t know… Infernal Blaze, or something?”

“Ah, a theme!” Luna said, enthused. “Much like the costume balls I remember. Yes, I shall enjoin her to do so.”


“TREMBLE IN FEAR, MORTALS!” boomed out from a black shape wreathed in stars.

“THE NIGHT SHALL NOT SAVE YOU NOW!” added a second voice, accompanied by the crackling of flames.

The light in Ponyville gradually washed out, diffused by fog into a featureless grey. “THERE IS NO HOPE OF DAWN, NO SOLACE OF THE NIGHT.”

Gradually, almost every pony in the town gravitated to the main square – which the three figures had left alone, preferring to stalk the streets instead.

Then the front of one of the houses moved. “Boo.”


Spike, Twilight, Celestia and Luna exchanged hoofbumps and high fives.

“That’s the most fun I’ve had in a century!” Celestia said, still grinning.

“Indeed, ‘twas most enjoyable.” Luna added, slipping back into archaisms.

Twilight nodded. “Though it might have gone down a bit less well if Spike hadn’t dumped so many sweets into the square – after scaring every pony silly, I mean.”

“True.” Celestia said. “Now, I wonder how we’re going to top that next year…”


7.4


“How are we dividin’ this up?” Princess Applejack asked, bodily lifting the newly statue’d Discord into position in what would become the gardens of Canterlot palace. “I mean, ah know Dash did one o’ these loops with you, but…”

“Hmm…” Princess Twilight Sparkle frowned. “What about if I get the heavens and you get the earth?”

“Seems t’ work.” Applejack nodded. “Now, what first?”

“First,” Twilight levitated up a huge stack of books. “I’m afraid we do need to get rather good at paperwork.”

“Ah, horsefeathers.” Applejack said morosely, and picked up a quill with her telekinesis. “Good thing ah went to that nice school in Manehattan that one time…”


“Er, Applejack…” Twilight ventured. “You don’t think you might be getting perhaps a little fixated?”

“What’s that, Twi?” Applejack mumbled, around a mouthful of papers. “Ah’m too busy settin’ up more land grants.”

“Yeah, that’s the thing.” Twilight spread out a map with a crackle of paper, and markers appeared. “You’ve dedicated seventy-three percent of the continent to apple production. There was a ‘please, not apples again’ riot in Trottingham!”

Applejack shrugged. “They’re ingrates, then.”

“Look… I know you’re in charge of what happens on the ground, but… there are other foods besides apples.” Twilight pressed, feeling a strangely familiar sinking sensation.

There was a whump, and the yellow-orange alicorn in front of her was consumed by crimson fire. “Say that again, Twilight Sparkle!”

Here we go again… Twilight thought to herself.

It seemed like the first time one of her friends became one of Equestria’s two rulers, they always overdid something. Twilight was probably quite lucky to have Celestia and Luna to keep an eye on her the first time, actually…


“Right.” A sceptical pegasus said to her teacher. “So you want me to go to Ponyville and make sure the sky is clear for that star show thing?”

Yes, Dash.” Princess Twilight replied. “And take Spike with you, he needs a bit of exercise. Oh, actually, if you could handle organizing things as well?”

“Pfeh.” Dash shrugged. “If you want. What do you need?”

“Hmmm…” Princess Twilight frowned. “I think it’s on the checklist, but I’m particularly concerned about making sure there’s a mage on hand and… make sure the local schoolchildren have their trip to see the display scheduled right, as well. You should find who you need in the notes.”

“Then I am taking Spike.” Dash said firmly. “No way I’m going to read that much paperwork.”


What do you know, Twilight thought as she teleported into the familiar room of the Sisters’ castle. Loyalty was the crown this time. Neat.

Celestia as an earth pony was a bit stranger, but not by much. Her once-and-future mentor was equally comfortable as all three of the pony breeds, even more so than Luna (who was a unicorn for this particular loop).

“Well, ah screwed up.” Applejack muttered. “Nice of y’all to keep th’ ecological reforms goin’, though.”

“Least I could do.” Twilight replied sincerely. “It was amazing work.”

Then she turned to the Elements for this particular Loop. “Well done, by the way. All of you. Though… Dash, was it really necessary to carry all of them most of the way to the castle?”

“They were so slow!” Dash complained. “It was driving me nuts!”

“What did you expect?” Celestia replied. “You’re so good at pegasus magic that you’re taught by Princess Twilight.

Celestia was an interesting one, actually. She was the schoolteacher this loop. Cheerilee, meanwhile, was part of the local ecology team.

It was always interesting, how the Loops shuffled ponies around to fit their talents.

“Anyway.” Twilight continued. “There’s a harvest festival in a few months, sister. It’s technically in your honour, so… perhaps you could spend it with these fine ponies?”

Several of the Elements flinched.

Fluttershy raised a hoof timidly. “Uh… will she let us have foods that aren’t apple based?”

Twilight turned to Applejack.

“…all right, fine,” the currently-smaller alicorn said. “But this is a big concession on my part.”


7.5 (Moonstuck)


You are Princess Twily. You are on the moon for some reason.

“Huh.” Twilight said, looking around, and noticing that she was much younger than she usually started a loop. “This is new. And by the princesses I am cute!”

You are overcome by your own cuteness.

“Hmmm…” Twilight looked up. “Where did that voice come from?”

Stop breaking the fourth wall.

“Oh, sorry. Uh… inventory?”

You have hooves. There is a chair and a fedora.


Additional from 6.3 (from Madfish) (40K universe)


Fluttershy walked among the drifts of the freezing valleys she found herself on at the start of the loop. She had had to restore her alicorn status just to survive the frozen wasteland, as the weather was the harshest she’d ever seen. She could have allowed her self to die and end the loop for herself, but if the others were here somewhere they would need her help – given that the few times she had tried a spell beyond telekinesis, she’d felt sick as if monsters had tried to climb through her horn into her skull. Besides she owed it to her current companions’ mother to make sure they grew up big and strong first.

"I hope Twilight's going to be ok," she said to the wolves beside her, "Without her magic she gets- twitchy...."

She trailed of as one of the wolves, a cub a bit larger than her pegasus self, drew her attention to a light flickering in the distance. Lights meant people, hopefully friendly people.

As they approached she found herself disappointed as all that was there was some sort of pod covered with ice. Scraping the ice of the hatch she gasped as she saw the child within.

The wolves panted, breath frosting in the air as they looked in at what had surprised their surrogate mother.

"No! You can't eat him. We're going to take this pod to shelter and we're going to help the poor dear. If no one comes for him you can think of him as your new little brother."


7.6 (from Namar13766)


"Okay, it's the Summer Sun celebration.” Twilight paced. “How do we deal with Nightmare Moon this time?"

"I already took care of it,” Rarity said, smugly.

"Rarity, do we have to worry about ending up in Hogwarts, Eikan, or the Bureau?" Twilight, and most of the others, shuddered at the thought. Rarity, for her part, simply looked indignant.

"Of course not! I’ve been planning this one for several loops."

Dash rolled her eyes cynically. "That just means it could blow up worse because you just told us."

"Dashie!” Pinkie tried to look stern, though the giggles ruined the effect. “Don't be a meanie pants!"

"Is it musical? Who's in it?"

"Well, I went to see Steven Magnet..." Rarity hinted.


"Oh-hohohoho! My mustache. How wonderful."

"You look smashing." CURSE YOU NIGEL THORNBERRY!

"I. MUST. SING."

It was a kind of sick fascination that kept Nightmare Moon watching.

"25 years and I'm alive here still...," He sang, dropping his head in sorrow.

"Trying to get up that great big hill of hope," drawing out the P with tears in his eyes.

"For a destination." He looked up with a miserable face.

"I realized quickly when I knew I should," Steven drew up his hands operatically.

"That the world was made up of this Brotherhood of man," crossing his arms across his chest.

"For whatever that means." Steven shrugged, and drew himself up.

Out of sight, Vinyl Scratch switched out the piano for a drumbeat, simultaneously making streaks of color with sparkles liberally interspersed appear.

"And so I cry sometimes when I'm lying in bed, just to get it all out what's in my head, and I'm" He threw his head back as "I" echoed.

"And I'm, I am feeling a little peculiar." His headbang was more of a headbob.

"So I wake in the morning and I step outside, and I take deep breath and I get real HIGH," looking directly at Nightmare Moon's astral form.

"And I scream from the top of my lungs, What's goin' on?" He then grabbed her, shock preventing her from reacting.

"And I say HEEEEY EY AAAEY EY AAAEY AY AY, HEEEEY EY AAAEY EY AY! I said Hey!" He brought the princess poltergeist in close.

"What’s goin' on?” Steven then dramatically flung his arms out...sending her flying.


Several Loops later


Several human loopers looked at each other with varying degrees of shock. Then they looked back at the earnest-looking purple unicorn.

“Your friends are scary,” someone muttered.

Ranma smirked. "Okay, who can beat having a villain purified by a Meterosexual British River Serpent's Singing?"


7.7 (from Mandemon)


"Mama!" A way too cheery voice shouted. Twilight grumbled in her sleep. Had one of the Crusaders got into the Library? She merely turned her head instead of waking up.

"Mama!" The voice insisted. Aww, she was having such a good nap, they didn't make beds like these often.

"MAMA!" Guess there would be no rest. She slowly opened her eyes and turned to voice the annoying voice.

"What is it Celes..." Twilight fell silent. In front of her, a filly sized Celestia stood with an incredibly grin on her face, holding a picture. Next to her, equally small and equally smiling Luna was holding her own picture.

"We made pictures!" Celestia said. Then the memories came. Twilight tried really hard not to show the rising panic on her face.

"Um... yes, they are very nice, now let mommy sleep, okay?" she managed.

"Aww, but you promised we would go see Aunty Pinkie!" Filly Luna pouted. Twilight was not sure whenever she should squee and hug her or be disturbed.

"Yes, um, we will be. Just, let mommy nap for five more minutes, okay?" She needed it. She needed a lot more time than that, actually, but five minutes was probably all she could get.

"Okay!" Both fillies ran off. Once she was relatively sure they were gone, Twilight cast a silence spell and stuffed her head into the pillow. She really did not need memories of a foal birth.


"Celestia and Discord, sitting in a treehouse, kiiiisss-"

"SHUT UP! I don't have a crush on him!" Celestia shouted at Luna, who was giggling. Twilight was still trying to adjust to the whole idea of suddenly being a parent. To her own mentor, to boot. According to her memories, she had been Chief Librarian of what was known as the Holy United Kingdom of Equestria and Griffin... lead by a several thousand years old Spike. According to those same memories, she had moved to Ponyville to raise her two children.

"Oh, hey Twilight!" Pinkie shouted. "Dissy! It's Twilight and the sisters!" A small draconequus looked out the upper floor, before jumping down and turning the land under him into a pillow. He tried to run to the sisters, but Pinkie stopped him. "Dissy, what have I said about turning things and not turning them back?"

"Never turn anything into different things and not revert them unless it is to help someone or it is very amusing." Discord said, looking down and holding his hands behind his back. Pinkie nodded happily and gave him a nudge.

"Okay, now go play with your friends."

"YAY! Divine Cutie Mark Seekers go!" All three shouted and ran off.

"That... was disturbing." Twilight muttered. "So, you're Discord’s parent?"

"YUP! He is such a sweety, really! Never cleans his room, but he has his heart in the right place." Pinkie said. "Oh, and he just loves having fun, just like me!"


"So, while our… children… are looking for their cutie marks,” Twilight paused, and went down a different track, “seriously, can Discord even have one?"

"I don't know, you're the one with the big library! I just know he is equally excited as your two little girls!" Pinkie said. Twilight was starting to doubt that Pinkie was even Awake. She was taking all this way too easily.

"Anyway, we might as well as see what others are doing." Twilight said, turning around the corner to see the orphanage where – according to her memories – Rarity and Applejack worked. However, before they got there they met Fluttershy, who was trying to hold down a very exited Cadance.

"Please mommy!? Can we go see Shining Armor? Please please please pleaaaaaase!?" Little Cadance was asking, while doing the best puppy eyes impression she could. To her credit, Fluttershy managed to hold out… for about five seconds.

"Alright, after we have bought these items, then we can go see Shining." Fluttershy said meekly. She did have experience with animals, but Cadance was something she had never faced before.

"YAAAAAAAAAY! Come on Mom! You're so slow!" The little filly said, jumping up and down, running back and forth the shop and Fluttershy.

"Need help?" Twilight asked she and Pinkie walked to her.

"Oh, it's okay, she’s just eager to see Shining Armor..." Fluttershy began.

"Ohh! Pinkie Sense says someone has a cruuush~!" Pinkie Pie said, with Candance nodding.

"YUP! We are going to get married and then we are going to have a big wedding and cakes and a big castle and he is going to be my personal knight and..." Twilight more or less tuned out Cadance’ increasingly rapid fire fantasy.

"Is Shining Armor aware of this... relationship?" Twilight asked.

"I think he likes her too, but is afraid other boys will make fun on him because of it..." Fluttershy said. "So, where are the Princ.... Celestia and Luna?" She asked.

"Ran off with Discord to seek their cutie marks, though seeing how they seem to have kept their powers, I fe-" At that moment, a sudden down pour of orange juice fell on Twilight. Twilight merely looked upwards and saw the three kids, Celestia, Luna and Discord with a rather large bucket.

"Aww, apparently our specialty ain't pranking..." Discord said.

"How about farming?" Luna suggested.


"Alright, so, we are all here." Twilight said, looking down at her notes so far. "Spike is an ancient dragon that one day decided he’d grown tired of mortals ruining his day nap and… conquered the continent."

"Don't forget the part where he dried out the ocean between Equestria and Griffin Kingdoms, making them a single continent." Dash said, smirking. "All because one of the griffins dared to poke him."

"Right, that too. Well, looks like he isn't Awake, and if he is, he isn’t showing it. So, main thing is... we are all parents. In one sense or other." Twilight said, shaking her head. "I really didn't need to those memories to begin with."

"Oh, it ain't that bad." Dash said. "At least it's fun to wat- SOMBRA! STOP PICKING ON YOUR SISTER!" She shouted at the sight of Sombra trying to scare Chrysalis with a bug. Which, seeing that Chrysalis was still a changeling, was kinda weird.

"But moooom!" The little Sombra said, trying his best puppy eyes impression.

"No buts! Into the corner!"

"Aww..." Grumbling, but still obeying, Sombra walked into the corner and sat down. Chrysalis blew him a raspberry, before noticing the look Dash was giving to her and stopping.

"So, an orphanage?" Twilight asked Rarity.

"Yup. All those little ones, all in need of someone to hold them. Besides, Big Mac is just adorable when he pouts!" Rarity said.

"Adorable? It's hilarious!" Applejack said. "I can never take him seriously again! I mean, sure, Granny Smith did hint at it but I never knew he was such a cry baby!"


7.8 (from Zulaq)


“Ok,” Princess Twilight Sparkle turned away from the just closed doors to the throne room, “Whose turn is it to go evil and try and take over Equestria now?” she surveyed the nine other alicorns in the room.

“Oh, oh, me, me!” Princess Pinkie Pie shouted, bouncing up and down, “I have just the idea! I can throw a party! And then another party! And then another! And get this, all those parties will be part of my plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD! Or they would be if it weren’t for the fact that I’d rather party than actually rule. I wonder if that takes me out of contention?”

“Darling, I don’t really think you can use parties to take over the world,” Princess Rarity said somewhat haughtily.

“She can,” Twilight replied flatly, before shuddering slightly “And you don’t want to know the details.”

“Whose stupid idea was it to alternate who goes evil, and who gets to be a mentor to a new hero anyway?” Princess Rainbow Dash asked.

“Yours Dash. I think you said something about not wanting to spend a thousand years trapped on the moon and not being able to take a nap, again.” Twilight explained somewhat tiredly, “And seeing as there are ten of us alicorns now,” she gestured to the others who hadn’t spoken yet, those being Princesses Luna, Celestia, Applejack, Cadence, Fluttershy, and the sole male among them, Prince Shining Armor. “We thought it would be fair if we each took 100 years, rather than any of us spending a full thousand on the moon.”

“Well this stinks,” Rainbow said, “I mean just look at what some of you guys have done,” she turns to Princess Applejack, “I mean seriously, Hard Truth? Couldn’t you come up with a better name for yourself? It was kina’ hard for me to keep a straight face when I told Spirit Wind about you.”

“Now wait one doggon minute!” Princess Applejack countered Rainbow Dash, “Danger Dash wasn’t even dangerous. You just pranked the country enough that people were practically on all four knees begging us to stop you!”

“Yeah, well that’s better than simply making everypony tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!” Dash argued.

“Now ladies,” Princess Celestia interrupted, “I’m sure that you know that the truth can be a beautiful and terrible thing.”

“Dids’t thou just quote Albus Dumbledore?” Princess Luna inquired of her sister incredulously, “Really?”

“Oh come on, stop arguing,” Twilight interjected, “It’s getting us nowhere, and besides we already have a schedule written up, and it’s-“

“My turn, little sis.” Prince Shining Armor broke in with a grin, “I can’t wait.”

“What are you smiling about, Shining?” Princess Cadence asked her husband, “It means that we won’t be able to see each other for a century!”

“Two words darling.” Shining said with an even bigger grin, “Makeup sex.”

“Ohhh.” Cadence said, her eyes glowing a bit. Her voice dropped a bit and became husky, “I can’t wait. We can do that thing using those pirate outfits you think I haven’t noticed.”

“Gah!” Twilight practically screamed, bringing her hooves up to her eyes, “I didn’t need that mental image of my brother!”

“Well it’s a good thing you’re not married to him isn’t it, little sister.” Cadence said cheerfully, before turning back to Shining, “So what’s your plan for going evil?”

“Oh, I was thinking about something along the lines of kidnapping a certain princess.” Shining said with a lecherous grin, “and holding her hostage until the other Princesses agree that I become the sole ruler of Equestria!”

“So when do you want to start?” asked Celestia.

“Right now!” With that Prince Shining Armor leaped up, used his magic to levitate Princess Cadence and leapt out of the adjoining balcony, “Catch me if you caaan!” He shouted on his way out.

The remaining eight princesses just stared after him in silence before Princess Fluttershy asked, “So, maybe we should go after them?”

Rainbow Dash just looks at Fluttershy askew, “Seriously? I think we’ll need to give them a bit of time to ‘cool off’ first. Maybe a decade or two will do.”


“Ok, so who’s left?” Princess Twilight Sparkle asked of her fellow co-rulers of Equestria, “We’ve had Nightmare Moon attempt to make an eternal night.”

At the mention of Nightmare Moon, Princess Luna perked up, “We have had much time to practice our detransformation, but that was the first time we’ve ever repeated the transformation. I daresay we outdid ourself.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Princess Rainbow Dash waved her hooves, “I don’t get what was so special about turning the moon to cheese, or that thing about ‘Night Eternal’ is the only way you could get it to age properly.”

“Thou simply hast no sense of taste.” Luna scoffed, “It was the finest brie ever made.”

“It was!” Princess Pinkie Pie interjected, “It was just perfect for all those parties I threw as Party Pink!”

“That was a lot of parties, darling.” Princess Rarity sighed, “I daresay I probably put on more than a few pounds at them.”

“A few pounds!” Princess Applejack said, laughing, before making a gesture with her hooves as far apart as she could make them, “I think you were about this big by the time you realized. And then you singlehoofedly beat her and banished her to the moon. Or at least what was left of it after Pinkie finished carving it up for parties.”

Princess Rarity looked like she was about to start a big argument with Applejack, but Twilight stepped in before the two mares could really get going, “Moving on. After Party Pink, we had Blazing Sun. I have to say you did an excellent job with that Celestia.”

Princess Celestia blushed a bit, “It wasn’t much. I’ve had a lot watching Lulu do it, so I just sort of copied her actions a bit.” She turned to Princess Luna, “Although I am sorry about your cheese.”

Princess Luna looked rather downbeat, “It took over two hundred years for it to get just ripe enough. And then thou melted it!” And with that she began crying.

“There, there,” Princess Fluttershy reassured her, “At least it made the moon round again after Pinkie’s parties.”

“But all that cheese, Wasted!” Luna wailed, “And that cute little cottage cheese cottage we made for us to stay in was completely gone. And what was left was burnt!”

“Uh, moving on again,” Twilight interjected in-between Luna’s wailing about dead cheese, “After that we had Danger Dash, who pranked people until they could be pranked no more.”

“Eh, the old fall back was good enough for me,” Princess Rainbow Dash said, “It worked the first time, and I moderated myself a bit so the elements would let me sleep this time.” She paused a bit, before running a hoof along her wings, “Although getting all that goopy, melted cheese off of my wings was a bit of a pain.”

“After Danger Dash, we had me, Eternal Twilight.” Twilight said proudly.

“Meh,” Rainbow Dash yawned, “You didn’t really do that much. I mean your whole plan revolved around owning a copy of every book ever written, and then enslaving everypony in your library paradise. Where was the action! The excitement! I mean you even made sure to treat your slaves well; I think the worst thing that happened to them was a papercut.”

“Well it’s not exactly efficient to work them to death.” Twilight defended herself, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to train someone to work in a library properly?”

“Yeah, Twily,” Prince Shining Armor put in. “I mean, the only reason why we had to banish you was because you wanted to expand your library to the whole castle. Not exactly threatening.”

“Oh really,” Twilight said, her eyes narrowing, “And what about you. You turned into Dashing Armor, then you kidnapped Cadence.”

“And?”

“And there is no ‘and’. You kidnapped her, and then the two of you took a century long second honeymoon! At no point did we have to send you to the moon. Do you know how embarrassing it was to explain to my student that she had to go get my brother and sister-in-law because they let their second honeymoon go on too long, and we really, really needed them back at the court?”

Twilight paused, and gathered her thoughts for a moment, “Anyway, moving on, again. After that we had Hard Truth. I must say, I didn’t really think making everypony tell the truth all the time was much of an evil plan, but… you made it work, Applejack.”

“Shucks, It weren’t nothin’” Princess Applejack blushed, “Nopony knows more than me how the truth can make or break a relationship.”

“Ok, and after that we had Loving Evening,” at this Twilight drooped a bit, “whose plan consisted of kidnapping Shining Armor, and going on your third honeymoon. Seriously, Cadence?”

Princess Cadence blushed a bit, “Well when a pony has an itch, she wants it taken care of.” She looked at Shining Armor, and her blush deepened. “And I daresay that I have the best way to relive it, ever.”

“Please, spare me the details,” Twilight said dryly, “And after that we had The Fasionista! (exclamation mark included), who forced everypony to wear fashionable clothes, whether they wanted to or not.”

“Oh darling, The Fashionista! was my most brilliant idea ever.” Rarity gushed with a glow in her eyes, “If it weren’t for Rainbow Dash I’d never have had to have seen somepony wearing anything out of fashion ever again!” She let out a somewhat disturbing laugh, and the other nine alicorns moved away from her nervously.

“And now it’s Fluttershy’s turn” Twilight said once she’d recovered, “So-“

“Wait a moment!” Rainbow Dash interrupted, “I don’t think this is a good idea Twi.”

“Nonsense,” Twilight dismissed her, “We all agreed in the beginning we’d take turns being the villain, and now it’s Fluttershy’s turn.”

“I hate to say it,” Applejack interjected, “But I agree with Dashie. You haven’t forgotten that incident with Iron Will, have you?”

“Oh come on. What could go wrong?” Twilight said blithely, overriding her friends’ concerns, “It’s Fluttershy’s turn, and that’s all there is too it.”

“Well,” Princess Fluttershy said quietly, “I guess, if you think it’s alright.”

Fluttershy seemed to compose herself, before her eyes flashed red and she turned to Twilight Sparkle. She spoke, her mouth containing far too many, and far too pointed teeth for a normal pony, “I AM FLYING HATRED. AND YOU ALL WILL BOW BEFORE ME! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!”


7.9 (from DrTempo) (Metal Gear Solid universe)


Spike shook his claw in pain.

"Why won't you die?"

Spike had enjoyed this loop. Not every day he was a badass cyborg… Though the beginning where he was a whiny rookie on the Big Shell bothered him. Man, that whole ending had given him a MASSIVE headache.

And now, he was fighting Blueblood…or his counterpart, anyway. And he wouldn't stay down!

Cue Blueblood tearing off his shirt.

"Nanomachines, son!"

Spike shook his head at this. "Forget this." He drew a lightsaber, and went to town on Blueblood.

"Protect yourself from THIS."


At Mission Control, Twilight shook her head. “And he was doing so well… right, how do I explain away a lightsaber.” After a moment, she answered her own question. “Of course. Nanomachines. Silly me.”


As Blueblood went down, deader than dead, Spike smirked. He'd enjoyed cutting that jerk up like a Hearth's Warming turkey. Then Blade Wolf arrived, carrying the Murasama.

His jaw dropped. "Oh. Why did you need this thing again?"


7.10 (Namar13766)


Twilight looked at her friends in the library. "So what's our plan for this loop?"

Rarity chuckled. "Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and I think we'll take a vacation for this loop. What about you?"

Applejack chuckled, "Well, after hearing Sheppard's music, I think I’ll turn Big Macintosh into a Country Music Singer."

Pinkie smiled, before turning into Pinkamena Diane Pie, causing her friends to flinch...before noticing that the expression was the same Pinkie. "I'm also going to take a vacation." Fluttershy opened her mouth, before being cut off by Pinkie. "While looking like this, just to see how people react."

Rainbow rustled her wings slightly. "So what will you be up to Twilight?"

"I'm thinking of trying something with Zecora." She levitated a familiar book in front of herself.


Five of the loopers looked at the coronation of a new Alicorn in shock. Twilight looked slightly smug.

"Well, I think this settles the question of how similar zebras are to ponies, wouldn't you say?"

It was sort of a pity that Zecora wasn’t looping, actually, because that meant the ascension was for this loop only. But it was an interesting proof of concept.


7.11 (Mandemon)

(This one came from a typo which misspelt Sombra.)


"You have to be kidding me." Twilight said.

"Cryyyyysssstaaaallls... heaaaaaarts..." A drooling Crystal Pony was walking towards Twilight and her friends, who were not awake in this loop.

"Unfortunately, Zonpies created by Zombra tend to be like this." Candance said, blasting one of the infected ponies. "They spread the infection by biting you."

"And you want us to go into the deepest pit of their lair, to find the source of the infection?" Applejack asked.

"You know what? Buck it." Twilight said, and turned into an alicorn.

"WHOA NELLY!" Applejack jumped a foot into the air. The others were a little better able to control their shock, but not much.

"Let's see... how did Nanoha do it again... Oh right!” Twilight planted her hoof with a crack. “STARLIGHT BREAKER!"

A massive beam hit the castle, tearing through the walls and mindlessly shambling infected Zonpies. In the middle of the hive, a mass of flesh and crystals opened one of its many eyes to see a bright light approaching. Funnily enough, its last thought was "Not again."


7.12 (Filraen)


PLEASE NOTE: this loop was previously posted incomplete. This is entirely my fault, and the following version is the complete, edited, definitive one.


Ranma Saotome was going on a walk, getting used to this new body and loop.

He was on a new loop, of that he was certain, after distracting the Lovely Angels into a mission to a G-Stone powered Death Star, whose predictable result was the destruction of the whole galaxy. Honestly, given how bad the loop ended he was surprised he wasn't on Eiken. 'Then again, better lose a G-Stone and a Death Star than deal personally with Kei and Yuri when Awake…', Ranma shuddered at the thought of what could have happened again.

Then there was his body: a dark blue-colored small horse. While it wasn't the strangest body Ranma has inhabited, having replaced the bodiless Voldemort a few times, the lack of fingers felt just plain weird. Though… he didn't seem to stand out, in this population of small horses as colorful as the rainbow. It actually made him remember Nanoha's tale of a certain unicorn, a new anchor, she met some time ago. Probably he was in the unicorn's loop.

Apparently his name here was Rapid Hooves and the town he was in was named Ponyville, a nice enough place at first glance, 'though with my luck I can only hope it stays like that'. Still, better be careful: learn the ropes now to play pranks later.

"Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" an acute shriek filled the air. When Ranma looked at the direction he saw a cloud of smoke going into his way, whose cause was apparently a bright pink colored horse with a cotton candy-like mane, probably a she.

The mare rounded Ranma a few times looking at him carefully while his sense of panic started to fire like crazy and he finally realized three things: first, he was definitely a stallion here; second, he didn't remember seeing any males; and third, he was naked. 'Why I always have to get the crazy ones?’ To his surprise though, the crazy pink mare just stopped, looked at him in the eye and began running in another random direction.

That was strange.


"Twilight! Twilight!" The pink earth pony jumped by Twilight Sparkle's side.

"What's up Pinkie Pie?" The unicorn kept reading her book.

"I met a new pony today!" That made Twilight stop reading. She knew Pinkie Pie knew everypony who lived in Ponyville from her custom to launch "Welcome to Ponyville" parties, and then even extended to Equestria since the loop the Pincesses asked Pinkie Pie to make a census of Equestria's pony population. To have Pinkie Pie meet somepony she had never met before it was very strange. 'Unless...'

"How does this new pony look?" On this question Pinkie Pie started to jump again, even more quickly.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! I know that one! Let me see... he was an earth pony who had two eyes, two forelegs, two hindlegs and a mane. Also he was dark blue in color and had his mane in a black braid." That solved a few things, she didn't remember an earth pony with a braid other than Applejack. "Oh! and I also found him by following the most strange doozy: left ear three round right, right ear two rounds left and four pulls from my tail."

Twilight frowned a little. "That's a new Pinkie Sense, what does that mean?" One of there loops she had to understand how that worked.

"I'm not sure, but I've only felt it once before, when we met Hiccup and you weren't around." Pinkie tried to show how big Hiccup's dragon had been.

'That loop? Then that means...' "Ok Pinkie, you win. Looks like you'll host your first 'Welcome to Equestria's Loop' party. I want to inform the Princesses though, they are awake this time."

"Okie dokie lokie! I'll prepare my Party Cannon Mk. pi for this new friend!" Pinkie said, putting her right hoof in a salute.

Twilight Sparkle put a leaf inside the book to continue reading it later "All right Pinkie. By the way, what's his-" but by the time Twilight looked again at her friend Pinkie had already left "- name?". Ok, never mind. Better find Spike, she had a letter to send.


Dear Princess Celestia,

I send this letter to tell you information of great importance. Not five minutes ago I received a visit from Pinkie Pie to tell me she found a pony she has never meet before, who she believes is actually a looper. As such Pinkie decided to throw him a 'Welcome to Equestria' party.

Since Pinkie Pie is already making preparations for the party I believe it will start within the hour. Should you and Princess Luna wish to attend it I think you should teleport directly into Ponyville Library.

I'm sorry to send this letter so little time beforehoof but Pinkie Pie was very enthusiastic to throw the party quickly. Nevertheless, I have great hopes in Pinkie Pie and everypony to make this party a success, both as a student of the Magic of Friendship and as Equestria's Anchor.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle


"...and send it, Spike."

The child dragon looked at the scroll suspiciously "Looper? Anchor? You aren't making any sense, Twilight."

The purple unicorn just threw him an apologetic look "Sorry, I'll explain later. Please just go along for now, OK?"

"Fine," and with a burst of flame Spike sent the now rolled letter to the Princess. "Letter on its way. Now what?"

"Now we find the girls. Let's meet at the Library in half an hour." Twilight said.

Hearing that, Spike started to run. "I'll go to Carrousel Boutique first! See you later, Twilight."

Twilight Sparkle just smiled.


"Hey!"

Ranma looked around for the voice who was calling him, but saw nobody.

"Hey, you, new pony!"

Well, if there's nobody around there must be -¬¬ 'Up there!'

"At last! You'd swear nopony ever looks up." That was a light blue horse, apparently standing in the cloud looking down on him.

"I don't remember seeing you around here, and Pinkie Pie said she had met somepony new today." And apparently he was wrong, as when flying down the cloud he realized the horse was actually a pegasus, a pegasus whose mane was literally as colorful as the rainbow.

The pegasus grinned "I'm Rainbow Dash, the coolest and fastest pegasus of all Equestria and local weather manager. Your name?"

"Ran-pid Hooves. I just arrived here."

Rainbow Dash looked at Ranma as if measuring him. "Rapid Hooves, huh? So, how fast do you are?"

"Never really pushed myself, but I think I can do pretty good." Technically true. After all he had just found himself in this body.

"But not as fast as me." For Ranma the feeling of a yet-untold challenge from a stranger met just by walking around was... nostalgic.

Not being one to stand down, Ranma upped the ante. "You'd think, but you're the fastest pegasus only because I don't have wings."

"All right Rapid Hooves, it's on! See the tree by the end of the street? That's Twilight's house, the first pony to enter the house wins."

Why not? After all a bit of a run may help to understand this new body. "Just say the word, Rainbow Dash. And prepare to lose."

"At the count of three. One, two, three!" And then they started.

In the end Ranma wasn't sure who won the race as he got entangled with Rainbow Dash to enter through the designed-for-one-horse door. He knew neither he nor Rainbow was going as fast as they could, though, and he suspected the pegasus also knew it. Overall, the body may need a little time to get used to but he had the whole loop for that. Still, he’d miss having fingers.

Now that he thought about it, it was strange… the door was opened yet it was dark inside--

*click* "SURPRISE!"

Ranma looked around to what looked like a surprise party: balloons, confetti, foods, drinks and some cake on tables... for the pegasus perhaps? It wasn’t like he knew anybody yet in this world. Until he looked at a giant banner over the horses and unicorns.

Welcome to Equestria's Loop.

"What?"

"It's him, right? The looper you found, Pinkie Pie." Rainbow Dash called to the crazy pink mare from a while before.

"Yes Rainbow!" Pinkie looked even more like she was in a sugar rush. She took Ranma's equivalent to right hand into of her forelegs and shook them energetically. "Hi, I'm Pinkie Pie. What's your name? How long have you been on Equestria? What is your world called? Do you like cake? Everypony I know loves cake, and that's one of the reasons I love to work in Sugarcube Corner here and why I want to..."

"Pinkie! Let him stand up." A purple unicorn interrupted Pinkie Pie. Thankfully.

"Oops, sorry." Said the pink horse... pony? Before letting go of Ranma.

After standing up, the looping male pony asked the group "So, let me this straight. All of you are Awake right now."

"Except Spike here, yes." The purple unicorn pointed to the little lizard by her side.

"And she found me and realized I was also a looper." Ranma asked pointing to Pinkie Pie.

"Yes." The unicorn answered again. You'd expect one of the bigger unicorns in the back might be better choices to play spokesperson.

"And then you decided to throw a welcome party for me?"

"Actually the party was Pinkie Pie's idea." The unicorn said while pointed to the pink mare.

"I wasn't going to let the chance to throw a 'Welcome to Ponyville' party go, but in your case you were new to Equestria so the other banner wouldn't work here; to think I'd have the chance to make a welcome party for somepony from another world... I think I'd have used few more star-pattered balloons because stars and worlds are so close but I couldn't find them, and then I decided on starfish but I realized 'aren't we too far from the sea to get starfish?' so I threw away the idea and decided to go with the multicolor balloons..."

"Wait, just one question: how did you realize I was a looper too?" Ranma asked, stopping Pinkie Pie's rambling once again.

"But that’s obvious, because I know everypony who lives in Equestria." Wait, just like that?

"Everyone everyone?"

"Nope, everpony." The others don't seem to be surprised by the answer… so it was probably true.

"Well, I think I'll take your word from it. Better start with introductions: my name here is Rapid Hooves, but you can imagine that isn't my real name because I'm looping too. My real name is Ranma Saotome."

"What?! The first anchor?!" The purple unicorn was about to start talking excitedly when a single word stopped her.

"Twilight..." From one of the bigger unicorns in the back, the white one... they also have wings too, so pegacorn.

The purple unicorn flinched before throwing her a short apologetic look and returning to business. "Oh yes, sorry Princess. My name is Twilight Sparkle. I'm Equestria's Anchor and my friends here are the other loopers from this world..."


In the end, Twilight Sparkle was the unicorn anchor who had met Nanoha. She introduced herself as the local librarian and calling herself a student of "the Magic of Friendship." 'No wonder Nanoha seemed to like her'. The party itself had gone without incident other than some spontaneous firing of cannons from Pinkie Pie. Oddly, it happened to use a table with tablecloth, a punch bowl, glasses and snacks as ammunition... a trick to learn later.

Now there was time to meet the Princesses, something Ranma was a bit wary of. Apparently they had to make the party private so nobody realized they were here.

"So, do you have any plans for this loop?" Celestia asked.

"Not really, Your Highness" Better be polite with royalty, they always know how to screw with you.

"Princess, please." The Sun Princess corrected.

"Oh, right. Well, Princess, I just started this loop and I was actually thinking of going and learning how things worked in this world."

"I can see that, there are many things that are better to learn first hoof. But please, if you have anything you'd like, big or small, don't be afraid to ask Twilight Sparkle. We are in constant communication." As on cue Spike appeared and burned a rolled scroll, which vanished and appeared right in front of her.

"Well, Princess..." why did his weakness have to be women? "…in my own experience, most rulers who are as generous as you claim to be always have something you do for them." Even a Seto Kamiki Jurai, hopefully still non-looping, can be a pain after she got her sights on you.

"Oh, but there is one little thing you can do for me..." Celestia told Ranma, closing her eyes with a predatory grin, and Ranma felt the blood draining from his face. Looked like Equestria won't be the safe haven he thought it would be.

"W-hat is it P-princess?"

Princess Celestia opened her eyes as if she was a child entering a sweet shop. "Stories of your previous loops, of course!"

Huh?!

Celestia's composed yet cheerful tone continued "According to Twilight Sparkle, Equestria's loop is relatively new in relation to other worlds, and I'm even not Awake as often as I want! Twilight has told me about other places but I've been out of Equestria only a few times. But sadly we have an important mission here in Equestria, as I raise the Sun every day and my sister raises the Moon every night.

"I understand that by your looper standards I'm just a filly so I want to know what happens. This is the most interesting development we've had in centuries, and I want to help them," Celestia pointed to the other ponies in the room, "as much as I can."

Internally Ranma sighed in relief. 'For one moment I thought the mares were going to-'

"But there's also another reason." Celestia told him when the dark blue pegacorn... alicorn walked to her side, Princess Luna, both hardening their expressions and shifting their positions into a more regal one.

"Even before the loops started my sister Luna and I have ruled Equestria for over a millenia, and we are proud to believe in its founding principles: Harmony and the Magic of Friendship. We believe in friendship and redemption, in always working together so the next day, even if that day is in the past, is better than today, and in always have a place to call home and return."

Princess Luna continued where her sister left off "And 'tis with conviction and knowledge, true and certain in equal measure, that a soul may become heavy in the course of long life; that we, the Diarchs of Equestria, offer you, Ranma Saotome, together with any other Looper willing to accept, be they pony in form or no, our fair land as a place of sanctuary and respite from the wearying travel 'twixt worlds and loops."

Ranma was dimly aware that the other ponies bowed to the Princesses while he weighted what he was really being offered.

After coming to a decision, Ranma sighed heavily, stood tall in front of the Princesses and nodded with a smile in his face. "Sure, let's give it a shot." Who knows, it may even work for some time after all. They all seem to be a nice enough group.

He was going to miss having fingers though.


7.13 (Rufus Shinra and Lord of Bones)


Celly,

Got over the Eternal Night thing. Am on vacation. Will send postcard with pictures of any studly pool colts.

Hugs and kisses,

Luna.


"What's that sound?" asked the waiter stallion on the beach.

"Just my sister's plans for the next few years crashing and burning," answered the alicorn, drinking another cocktail with a smile on her face.


7.14


Celestia knocked on the door of her sister’s apartments. “Luna?”

No reply.

“Luna! The sun’s going down in a few minutes.”

Still no reply. Celestia opened the door and peered in. “Are you sleeping in ag-aaaah!”

“What?” the jet-black alicorn inside asked, her slit green eyes blinking in the sudden light. “Oh, Our apologies. We forgot to set Our alarm.”

“Nightmare Moon!” Celestia said, getting over her shock and lighting her horn.

“Yes, We know We have slept in, Infernal Blaze.” Nightmare Moon… rolled over out of bed and started getting dressed.

Celestia’s spell collapsed, as she tried to work out what the her was going on.


“Twilight!” Celestia said, teleporting into the Books and Branches library. “Nightmare Moon is back!”

“So?” her students’ voice said from behind her. “It is the evening. That’s her job.”

Celestia turned to the voice, and saw her student… with an aura of dim light around her, a pair of wings, and her eyes blazing with an internal fire.

Spike was standing next to her. Or, more lying next to her. That was because he was fifteen feet long, matte black and possessed of both a wide, salamander-esque mouth and huge wings.

Celestia stared for a moment more, then ran out the door.


Five of them.” Celestia said to herself. “How could this have happened?”

It had been bad enough when the two other Elements of Harmony in town had also turned out to be alicorns – their coats with the unnatural colouration of corruption. Worse still were the huge fangs of whatever sweet Fluttershy had become, and the crimson fires coursing over Applejack’s body.

The fact that they were still doing their daily routines was just weird.

She was distracted by a flash of blue. “Wait!” she called, hoping it was who she thought it was.

A moment later, Rainbow Dash came back down to land in front of her. Mercifully, the pegasus was unchanged.

“Thank goodness. I have terrible news, Rainbow Dash. All the other Elements are-”

There was a loud BANG, and she jumped at the shock.

“Hah!” Dash shouted. “Got you! The old firecracker trick!” As she spoke, she shifted. Her mane grew more vibrant, then got pushed aside by a horn. She gained an extra few inches, and her eyes flashed with fire. As an afterthought, she added “Oh, and it’s Danger Dash, by the way. Well, so long, I have to go deliver some rain.”

Celestia sat back on her haunches, flabbergasted.


“Well?” Dash asked, crowding around the table where the other Elements, Spike and Luna were already sitting.

“I think it worked.” Twilight replied, grinning. “She’s boarded up her room and says she won’t come out until things start making sense.”


Loops 8

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8.1


“Well, this sucks.” An earth pony with a pink mane kicked at the moon’s surface. “Looks like they weren’t lying…”


The remaining two ponies from that group stared at the Elements of Harmony.

“…really?” the orange pegasus asked, like someone who had given up all hope and who was now seeing a chance again.

“Hn.” The black unicorn from the group put in. “Nice to see someone can control Sakura.”

Twilight blushed, as she and the other five Elements powered down. “Thank you. But we said this was a safe Loop, and we meant it.”

The orange pegasus beat the air with his wings and took off. “I’m going to go spend the entire loop doing something nice and safe. Like sculpting. Clouds. Later, Sasuke!”

Sasuke considered. “Yeah, I agree with Naruto. Any calm, safe, boring things we could do?”

Fluttershy hummed. “Your speciality is… lightning, I think?” Sasuke nodded. “Then perhaps you could do transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. You know, little electrical shocks to help with therapy.”

“…that doesn’t sound that bad, actually.” Sasuke said.


8.2

Rainbow Dash Awoke, and saw Fluttershy falling in front of her. The pegasus paused, taking a fraction of a second to check the others via her link to Loyalty.

All six of them were here, and Awake.

Excellent.

She dove into a stoop, wings whirring. “I’m coming, Fluttershy!”

They’d discussed what to do next time this particular variant loop came up…

Rainbow Dash hit mach one, broke the sound barrier, and was engulfed in a flash of prismatic light.


Twilight looked determinedly at the egg. Right.

The first time, it had taken the boost from the Rainboom to hatch Spike. The second time… it had been easier.

The third time, Twilight poured as much magic as she could muster into the egg. There was a crackling boom, and half the wall was pushed aside by Spike’s body as he exploded from egg to young adult dragon in an instant.

Twilight wobbled on her hooves. “Ooh… I don’t feel so well…” and fell backwards. “Wow… hey, cool. Look, Mum, Dad! I’ve got wings!” She fluttered them. “They’re pretty!”

Twilight Twinkle and Night Light exchanged a look. The look spoke eloquently of the need for alcohol.

Princess Celestia galloped into the room. “What happened? I heard the wall collapse-” she saw the dragon trying to extract himself gently from the wall, and the filly alicorn in front of the hole, and her brain went blank. “Huh.”

“Oh, wow!” Twilight said, stumbling back to her feet. “Princess Celestia!” She gave a bow. “It’s nice to meet you, your highness.”

“…yes. Nice to meet you.” Celestia managed.


“Are you okay?” Gilda asked, backwinging hard to land next to the tangle of pegasi. “Dash? That was awesome, but I hope you managed to slow down…”

A blue wing twitched feebly, then Fluttershy extricated herself from Rainbow Dash and started to help her get back on her feet. “Um… thank you, Dash. For saving me.”

“Yeah, yeah…” Dash muttered, rubbing her forehead. “I wish those butterflies had slowed us down more, though… at least I cushioned you.”

Now that her friend was clearly out of danger, Gilda relaxed. “That was cool, like I said. You broke the flippin’ sound barrier, Dash! I – wait, what’s that on your forehead?”

“Huh?” Dash reached up and felt it. When her hair moved aside, it was clearly a short horn – like one might find on a unicorn.

Gilda boggled. “You been hidin’ things, Dash?”

“No, this is new.” Dash said, sounding bewildered. “And I – hey, Flutters! You’ve got your cutie mark!”

“So have you.” Fluttershy said.

“And you’ve got a horn too, what was it - Fluttershy?” Gilda looked completely lost. “Is that something that happens to all you pegasus ponies? Or just the ones that hit the ground after a rainboom?”

“Hay if I know.” Dash wobbled on her feet slightly, steadied, and gave her wings an experimental flap. “Okay, I think I can fly now. Let’s go back up there.”


“Mum! Dad!” Rarity shouted. “Look what I made!”

“Wow!” Rarity’s mother said, looking at the dress Rarity hovered up for her. “That’s very impressive. What’s it made of?”

“Water.” Rarity replied. “I did magic on it.”

“Oh, and did you do the same for the costume you’re wearing?” her father said. “Did you do magic on that too? You’ve worked very fast. I guess we found your special talent.”

Rarity inclined her head. “Nah, these aren’t a costume.” Her parents’ eyes widened as she spread the wings they’d thought were fake, and hovered up to eye level. “They just came from somewhere. Is this one of those things you said you’d explain when I was older, like where my sister came from?”


“Huh.” Clyde said, watching as his daughter took to the air and began casting spells. “I ain’t as surprised as I might be.”

“She always did have her head in the clouds,” his wife nodded.

“Oh, you.” Clyde gave her a look.


Valencia Orange jumped as Applejack materialized next to her in a flash of orange magic. “Hi, Auntie! Fer some reason ah got a horn an’ wings, an’ so ah’m going to commute!”

“…what?” Valencia said, her urbane nature completely deserting her.

“Well, ah saw this big flash o’ light in the sky as ah was decidin’ to go back to Sweet Apple Acres, and then ah got my cutie mark,” she showed it off to the staggered mare, “And then ah just… found ah had wings. And a horn.”

Applejack shrugged, bouncing around. “Ah don’t know where they came from, but ah worked out how t’ teleport easy! So, anyway, ah can come over here whenever ah feel like it! Ah don’t have t’ choose!”

“…okay.” Valencia managed. “Hold on a minute, Applejack, I have to go and… calm my nerves.”

Applejack nodded. “Okay!”

Wonder if she’s going to have a brandy…


“Right.” Celestia said, looking slightly awkwardly over the half-dozen alicorn fillies sitting in front of her. “I don’t know why, but all six of you became alicorns at more-or-less the same time last week. I realize you might be having some trouble fitting in with your peers after… what happened,” that was probably a considerable understatement, “and so I’ve asked someone else who has also been through something like this to help you through it. Any of you can speak to her if you have trouble, over anything – not just what is related directly to your transformation.”

Celestia gestured. “Cadence, if you would.”

The eighth and last alicorn in the room stepped forward. “Hello. My name is Cadence, and I used to be a pegasus until about two years ago. It’s nice to meet you all.”

“Hello, Cadence.” Five fillies chorused.

Twilight, meanwhile, was sniggering. “I know you! You’re my foalsitter. And my brother has a photo of you that he keeps trying to hide from me!”

Cadence flushed, and the rest of the fillies started giggling as well.


“Well, this seems to be working out well.” Rarity said, sipping some juice.

“Yep!” Pinkie agreed. “This is the earliest we’ve ever been introduced to each other!”


8.3 (continuation of 7.14)


“Princess?” Twilight’s voice asked.

Celestia mumbled something from beneath her pillow.

“We’d like to come in and apologize.”

Celestia thought it over. On the one hand, the corrupted version of Twilight had sounded just like that… but on the other hand, if there were seven evil alicorns after her they could probably have demolished the castle, whatever Celestia answered. “Alright, come in,” she said, pulling the nails out of the planks across her door.

One by one, the ponies outside filed in. Luna was back to normal, but the Elements of Harmony were all… different, was the best way to put it. They still had their horns and wings, and were their normal colours.

“Okay.” Twilight said, once they’d all entered. “Basically, there’s a strange phenomenon that’s been going on for a long time…”


“Did you have to promise that?” Dash asked.

“Well, we did scare her quite badly…” Twilight replied. “And when you think about it, she’s been working for over a thousand years without a break.”

“Yeah, I suppose.” The alicorn rustled her wings. “I could have done without us becoming the government this time, though. I did have a plan…”

Twilight shrugged. “At least there’s seven of us to spread the load.”

“True.”

Pinkie grinned. “I’ve never seen a coronation ceremony happen so fast! She got all six of us confirmed as Princesses Regnant in five minutes flat!”


Discord’s statue shattered open. “Right, time for some fun… where’s Celly, she’s usually good for a laugh… oh.” He looked around. “Are alicorns more common these days?”

Princess Twilight nodded. “Pretty much.”

The others moved into position.

Fluttershy spoke up. “Now, mister Discord, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way, or the angry way.”

“You really want to take the easy way.” Twilight confided.

“Hmmm…” Discord pulled an application form out of thin air. “Where’s the small print?”

“The easy way is that you don’t get all chaotic.” Rarity started. “Then we see if you’re willing to learn about friendship.”

“Hm…” the draconequus tapped his beard. “Boring. What’s the hard way?”

Five necklaces and a crown flashed into existence.

“Right, right. More statue time. I think I’ve had my fill of that for now. What’s the angry way?”

Most of the alicorns dove for cover.

Fluttershy blinked. Once, twice… and then she smiled.

It wasn’t a nice smile. There were too many teeth for that.


Discord hovered past Twilight, dropping his tattered application form.

She picked it up. The box for ‘easy way’ was ticked three times, and had a note attached saying ‘for the love of me, easy waaaaay’.

“That’s nice of him.” Twilight mused, grinning. “Okay, ‘shy, you can stop now.”

Flying Hatred reverted instantly to Princess Fluttershy. “Okay. I hope I wasn’t too hard on him…”


Dear Princess Celestia.

Discord tried to escape. Can you believe it? Fortunately, we were all ready for him, and he’s doing community service – mainly in local classrooms. Apparently he’s demonstrating what physics isn’t.

I liked the last postcard of yours. It looks like there’s a lovely view from the top of that mountain.

I’m glad you’re enjoying your holiday. Might I suggest the griffin lands next? I’ve heard there are some canyons there where the wind plays a tune as it blows through the rocks.


Disguised as a common guard, Chrysalis of the Changelings waited for her chance to strike. She’d spent the past month learning the routine and personality of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, and the time was ripe for her to replace the fool pony and usurp her place at the wedding in a months’ time.

“Oh, that’s nice.” She heard her target say. “Shining, your sister says she’s visiting with her friends.”

Chrysalis’ ears pricked. Another distraction. Another wait.

“Did she say when she’s coming?” The unicorn asked.

“Er… right now.”

Chrysalis nearly fell over as a huge flash of teleportation magic erupted not a length from where her disguised self was standing. When she’d recovered somewhat, she looked and felt for whoever this sister was-

And saw no fewer than six more alicorns standing there.

Quietly planning to fire her spies – possibly out of a cannon – she sent an abort signal through the changeling empathic network and started planning how to leave the country.

Fast.

One alicorn, she’d be able to deal with if she had the element of surprise. The country’s ruler, the thousands-of-years-old Celestia? Surprise and a great deal of magic from Shining Armor.

Six at once? Buck that.


8.4


“Sorry,” Cadence said awkwardly. “I’m afraid this is how this loop looks like going.”

Prince Shining Armor shrugged. “At least I get paper based magic. Shields are nice, but I sometimes want a little more variety.”

The six ponies normally known as the Elements of Harmony stared at Cadence with fixed expressions for another moment. Then Twilight (also known as the Deva Path of Love, this Loop) shook her head wearily. “Whatever. I do notice everyone in Naruto’s Loop seems to have been turned into a pony in some way… he’s not around, in case you were wondering. I checked.”

Akatsuki looked even stranger than normal when they were ponies wearing matching cloaks. Rarity looked like she was barely restraining a redesign fit.

“Er… so who’s Naruto been replaced by?” Animal Path Fluttershy asked.


A dozen Village Hidden in the Everfree ponies jumped after the local troublemaker.

“Ha!” he shouted, snapping his fingers and materializing a large trampoline. Most of them bounced off it, flying out of the village entirely, but one pony snapped out her wings and flew around it.

“Huh?” With a thud, Scootaloo body-checked the joker into the ground. “Awww…”

“Discord,” she shook her head. “Right, you’re cleaning up the monument. And without magic.”

“Do I get chocolate milk afterwards?” Discord asked.

“Alright,” she sighed.


Discord sat in the corner of the classroom, waiting for their teacher to show up. He’d enjoyed his meals with Scootaloo and the other two academy teachers, and of course he’d passed his test… but apparently you got points off for pranks.

So he’d barely passed. (It was a good thing that point deductions couldn’t result in a failing grade, or he’d have got negative eight hundred and twenty three percent.) And that got him on the team with the unicorn and the changeling making goo-goo eyes at one another while they waited.

Then the door opened, and a blue-black pony stepped through. “Sorry I’m late. I got stuck on the moon after the Hokage got annoyed. I’m Luna, and I’ll be your teacher. Come on.”


Twilight ended the scrying spell, and the eight alicorns took deep breaths.

“Discord. Discord is Naruto.” Cadence threw up her hooves. “Well, we’re doomed. He’s going to have to teach us the power of chaos, or something.”

“Who’s the Hokage?” the Pony path, Dash, asked.

“Celestia, of course.” Twilight rolled her eyes. “That one was obvious. But I checked – aside from the CMC being academy teachers like I showed you, no Mizuki, and us, we’ve seen all the changes. Orochimaru is as per normal, just a pony.”

“Ew.” Everypony said.

“Oh, that reminds me.” Cadence got out a notebook. “My current motivation is that an old friend of mine didn’t get married. Because of that, I want to make sure everyone in the elemental nations gets hooked up – and to do that, I will build the Dating Simulator.”

“…did I imagine those capital letters?” asked Twilight.

“Nope.” Cadence grinned.

“Well, this’ll be fun…” the Paths of Love chorused.


8.5 (L337 m4n)


Berry Punch walked into a bar, like she did most days, and asked one of her favourite questions. “Bartender… give me the hardest liquor you got!”

The bartender shrugged. “Sorry but we ran out of Liquor, Wine, and Ale… would you like a warm glass of milk instead?”


Berry came awake with a violent start, stifling a scream. No alcohol?

After a moment, she realized where she was, and went downstairs to get herself a nightcap to steady her nerves.


Twilight Sparkle walked into a large library, found herself a book to read, and sat down. Opening it, she was startled to find herself looking at blank pages.

Blinking, she looked down the page, then rifled through the book. A feeling of dread building, she grabbed two more books from the case – only to see the same thing – before screaming “Where are the words!"

Twilight woke up sweating and ran downstairs to her library. It took her four novels before she was certain her books were still fine.


"Rather crude Luna. Messing with the dreams of our citizens," Celestia admonished, before turning her attention back to the nightmares.

"Sister, given how many times I have been told they pranked me, I feel I deserve one night of revenge. Now be quiet, I plan to mess with a certain apple for that bucking one loop." Luna looked into each dream, then gained a grin that would look more fitting on Nightmare Moon.


Applejack came out to the front door of her farm, to find a number of ponies wearing black suits busily stripping it down.

"Hey, what are you doin’?" Applejack protested, getting in the way of one.

"We're the Internal Revenue Service and you owe us back taxes for seven years… your assets are being liquidated," the pony in black stated calmly.

Applejack gave the biggest scream yet, startling her siblings, and looked out every window in the house to check for tax ponies before finally going back to bed with the shakes.

"Yes, oh yes! Next one on the revenge list is… Pinkie! She'll be the next to fall for her constant parties that one loop. So much cake… so much," Luna brooded, thinking about the picture she’d been shown of how much weight she’d gained that Loop.


8.6 (continuation of 7.13)


“That’s right,” Celestia said. “Just one attack, nothing major.”

The individual she was talking to twitched his nose.

“No, you don’t need to actually kill anyone.” Seeing his reaction, the alicorn frowned. “Though I suppose you can threaten it if you feel like it.”

After a moment, Angel Bunny rubbed the fingers of his forepaw against his thumb.

“Five carts,” Celestia offered.

Angel turned away in a huff.

“Six?”

The rabbit looked over his shoulder, and made a circling gesture with his hand.

“All right, seven then.”

Nods.

“Right. I need to go contact the Golden Harvest family, they’re the only ones with that many carrots.” Celestia pointed a hoof. “You are a harsh negotiator for a lagomorph.”

Angel shrugged.


Celestia counted in her head. Right. One rabbit attack, then a couple of timber wolf attacks… that sea serpent… a manticore… and, finally…

This would cause her student to awaken the Elements if anything would. Admittedly, she wouldn’t have even tried this if it were not for how Twilight had gone exploring and found the things, but they still needed to be usable for Equestria to be safe. And with Luna out having a beach holiday, there had to be some other kind of threat.

Which led to why the alicorn of the Sun was poking an Ursa Major with a stick.

The enormous beast finally snorted, opened an eye… grabbed Celestia in a massive paw, and rolled over back to sleep with its new ‘soft toy’.


Twilight scanned the Everfree forest, homing in on her mentor’s magical signature. She’d already contacted the Awake Luna, and knew it wasn’t her doing that the sun hadn’t come up yet – but a missing Celestia could be a serious problem.

Possibly it was connected to why Angel Bunny had somehow demolished the town hall…

Finally finding the right place, she cautiously entered the cave.


“While I’m sure you’re amused, Twilight,” Celestia said with her precious little remaining dignity, “I do rather need help. Ursa Major are so resistant to magic I can’t teleport out.”

Twilight rolled around on the floor, still giggling. Every time she’d tried to come to her hooves, she’d caught sight of the complete opposite of ‘a pony with a teddy bear’ and gone right back to laughing herself silly.


8.7 (L33t M4n)


"Girls! I thought of something for this loop to prepare for the changelings. The idea came to me after that time I accidentally caused a Soviet victory in that Loop with Einstein." Pinkie bounced happily along before pulling a projector out of nowhere and setting the film up.

"Fellow ponies! There is an enemy hidden amongst us! CHANGELINGS! Trying to steal our home, the changelings lurk in the background!" the narrator showed a scene of shadowy eyes peering from the dark.

"But how do you recognize those dangerous fiends? With a simple question."

An earth pony with a shovel appeared on the screen.

"Do you like working Lucy?"

"Yes, sir!" Lucy saluted with shovel in hoof.

The camera panned right. Next to her was a pegasus in horrible changeling make-up

"And do you like working…?" the narrator paused while a close up was used on the changeling.

"Huuh…" she spoke unconvincingly before the scene shifted to the Equestrian flag.

"If her answer is anything but a yes, she is a CHANGELING!"


8.8 (Chojomeka)

"Just get it over with already, Ikari," growled the light coated Diamond Dog.

"…Well I guess the universe just decided to show you as you are in this loop, Asuka…” a tan pegasus replied. “You know… as a bitch?"

If Shinji's grin were any bigger it would have split his face in two.


8.9 (Belgarion213)


“My dear Twilight, there is more to a young pony's life than studying, so I'm sending you to supervise the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration in this year's location: Ponyville. And, I have an even more essential task for you to complete: make some friends!”

Spike was about to counsel the miserable Twilight Sparkle after the princess’s words, but paused. He had been with the purple Unicorn since he was hatched at her entrance to the prestigious Academy she attended, but the almost unholy light that shone in those eyes… it worried him.

He shrugged it off. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

“Make friends,” he could hear Twilight muse, “…Spike! That just might work!”

…Why did he ask these questions?


Dear Princess Celestia,

I have arrived in Ponyville and am continuing my supervision for the upcoming Summer Sun Celebration. Ms Applejack of Sweet Apple Acres has assured me that the food is coming along swimmingly, while Rainbow Dash, leader of Weather Ponies in Ponyville, has been maintaining a clear sky. Ms Rarity has created some impeccable decorations, awaiting your arrival, while Ms Fluttershy has orchestrated a truly magical orchestra.

I have made some few suggestions and eagerly await your arrival for the Summer Sun Celebration.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle.

PS: I am running into problems keeping the spark of life in the animated golems from escaping. Do you have any suggestions for how I can keep the mana flow variation within safe parameters without using self-perpetuating seal script? I dislike the thought of using that option because of the problems Starswirl encountered in his examination with the ‘Tribbles’ but I cannot seem to get the mana flowing safely without it. These won’t be very good friends with that level of instability.

Princess Celestia lowered the letter for a moment and stared into the distance. “…I didn’t mean it that way,” she said weakly. She supposed she should have been more direct to poor Twilight. A brilliant Unicorn but sometimes so distressingly literal minded.


“I don’t know about you,” Rainbow Dash said, edging away from ‘Bright Wind’, “But they give me the creeps.” There was something about the friends of this newcomer, ‘Twilight Sparkle’, which just put her on edge. Maybe it was the way they didn’t seem to blink?


“…are you sure this is what the Princess wanted you to do?” Spike asked his friend nervously, staring far below him at the giant pit of boiling metal. He didn’t know why the Ponyville library had a shaft that lead to what he assumed was Equestria’s mantle, or how Twilight had found it, but even a Dragon was a bit frightened of the level of heat down there.

“Of course Spike!” Twilight said, a dizzying number of glyphs floating around her in interlocking circles, half of them rotating clockwise, the other half counter-clockwise as her horn glowed almost scalding white and she wrote script directly onto raw metal refined from that furnace far below. “I can’t believe that I didn’t see it before! It’s obvious this is what she means!”

“I don’t know….” Spike said slowly.

Twilight kept smiling, while writing with a fine touch that only experience could bring on the metal far below. Of course she knew this wasn’t what Celestia had meant, but well there were needs.

The dimensional pocket that she had learned (and dissected the spell array for) from one of the older Loopers was impressive, very impressive. It was obvious that it had been an incredible spell at its beginning, but centuries – perhaps millennia – had gone into increasing the efficiency it had, allowing her to sustain a small, self contained universe from her own power. One that would follow her between loops.

That meant she could carry things between them, and Twilight Sparkle was a Mage. After that Star Wars loop and the millions of Pinkie Pies, the hostile Pinkie Pies… she would never feel safe again without her own subordinates.

Most of the older Loopers used clones. They were useful, but Twilight kept trying to micromanage the sensory input and motor control of all of her bodies, not letting ‘shadows’ of her mind form. A habit most mages really interested in the workings of magic had, though it could be worked around according to Lina anyway.

Twilight Sparkle spun the metal in the air, as script so tiny and so dense that it looked like two giant swathes of purple magic formed over the glowing white piece… she fought the desire to cackle. She was not the cackling kind of Pony!


8.10 (Stainless Steel Fox)

(Note: this ficlet assumes a “Dumbledore” or “manipulative-in-the-name-of-the-greater-good” Celestia.)


Turning the Tables part 2

Celestia caught the arriving scroll effortlessly as it flashed into existence. Philomena was perched on a stand in front of her as she took mid-afternoon tea in her private quarters. She noted the seal on it and smiled at the phoenix.

“It seems my favourite student has found the Legend of the Two Sisters, and drawn the correct conclusions. Now all I need to do is get her to Ponyville.”

She took a sip of tea and opened the scroll. Seconds later, the phoenix squawked in distress as she got doused in hot tea, courtesy of the Princess’s absolutely spectacular spit-take.

“But… she…” Celestia stared at the scroll wide-eyed, as if continued observation would make the words on it change. “Going to a party with Spike? Just to make him happy?”

Philomena flared up, instantly drying herself and chattered at the Princess.

“Yes, it is a worthy thing to do, and I’m proud she showed consideration, but she couldn’t have chosen a worse time! If I send her to Ponyville without knowledge of the legend, she won’t know what she needs to do…”

The phoenix chattered again.

“Too clever for my own good am I?” Celestia looked distant. “I knew from the moment I saw and felt that rainbow shock-wave of magic that the spirits of the Elements of Harmony had arisen once again in the souls of ponies. I felt Twilight's magic resonate with it, so strongly, I knew she was the missing element, the one who could bring the others together, use them to their full potential for the first time since…”

She shook her head. “I felt the other elements being touched, connected by that rainbow wave, and I've since felt them congregating in Ponyville. While I no longer have power over them, I still remember the sense of their magic. I'm sure they're being drawn to one another, and if I can just put Twilight in close proximity, she should act as the focus, awaken them with the spark of friendship. But she'll need the husks of the crystals that once housed them as well, to store the awakened elements.

“That was why I laid down those clues so many centuries ago, so they could be discovered at our old palace at the right time, to bring together the elements in the right way. I had worried that the element of magic might not be studious, but Twilight seemed perfect in that regard. They were cryptic against the possibility that the bearer might on realising the power they would come to wield, decide to use it for selfish reasons.”

The phoenix gave a flaming snort, and series of squawks.

“No, I don't think Twilight would misuse them either. She has consistently exceeded my expectations in every area, except that she could be more social. At any other time, going to that party with Spike would have been a good thing; it's only the timing that is inconvenient. Maybe I should have told her more directly, but everything seemed to be going so well without any further intervention. Now I may have no choice.”

There was an interrogative cluck from Philomena.

“I will summon her here, and tell her what she needs to know about my sister's banishment. Then I will tell her I need her to find the Elements, that they were hidden from me, but that I believe there may be records in Ponyville library. Then I will suggest she go in undercover as the overseer for the Summer Sun Celebration. That should put things back on the rails.”

Philomena fluffed up and gave her another chattering telling off.

The alicorn shook her head. “Tell her everything? I don't want to burden her with anything more than I have to. She can start out believing she merely has to find them, that she will ultimately have to wield them is something best left until she's had a chance to adapt. Maybe she could handle it all, but why take a chance? It's the same reason she can't know I intend to be captured. With the power of the conjunction, Nightmare Moon can overpower me, but keeping me from escaping the sun will weaken her greatly. So she won't be able to simply overpower Twilight and the other spirits before they can reactivate the husks. She'll have to use guile, and thankfully that isn't her strong point.”

Celestia sighed. “I could have gotten everything prepared months in advance, but I couldn't risk the possibility that Nightmare Moon might be able to sense the spirits or the husks of the elements. Luna was once connected to them too, remember? The wild magic of the Everfree hides them, and Nightmare Moon will come after me, even if she senses the spirits in Ponyville, because – as far as she knows – I’m the bearer, and the only one who could use them against her.”

The phoenix made a rasping sound.

“You still think I should have told Twilight some of this, don't you? In hindsight, maybe I could have, but my original plan has been working up until now, and I'd prefer not to change Wonderbolts in mid race.” Princess Celestia's horn glowed, and a quill and sheet of parchment appeared in front of her. “The less of all this I have to put in a letter, the better.”

She smiled at her own unintentional poetry, and set to work, ignoring that Philomena had put a wing across her eyes and beak, clearly unhappy with the decided course of action.


Twilight had millennia of real experience of social situations from her many loops, including the loops where she'd substituted for Celestia. Adding background memories from those same loops expanded that even further. So she was no longer the socially awkward filly she'd started out as in the base time-line. Indeed, she could duplicate her mentor's air of sangfroid quite easily. Added to her own talent and understanding of the magic of friendship, she could have had the entire party eating out of her hoof in five minutes.

Of course, being the sort of pony who could gain her alicorn-hood through her understanding of friendship, the idea of ponies worshipping her like that was repugnant. In all her loops, that was the one thing she'd never attempted. However, that didn't mean she wouldn't use her abilities to help Spike and accomplish her overall plan. Though in part, that meant hiding her abilities, and reacting more like base time-line Twilight would have.

So when her appearance at the entrance to the west castle courtyard with Spike on her back caused the conversations to quieten down, and most of the eyes of the mares and stallions assembled to turn on her, she made herself flinch with a nervousness she didn't actually feel, then visibly stiffened her shoulders and her resolve and headed for Moondancer, lowering Spike gently to her side.

Trotting over to the white unicorn, she said, “Uh… hi, Twinkleshine told me about your party, and Spike wanted to come, and I felt I should come with him. I know you didn't exactly invite me directly, but Twinkleshine implied it'd be okay…”

Clearly, the white unicorn opposite her was still stunned by the fact that Twilight Sparkle, the Princess's own student, and the pony who never came to parties, was at hers. It would be a considerable social coup for her.

Twilight reacted the way she once would have, starting to speed up her words, and glance around nervously. “…if it's a problem, I'm sorry I intruded on your party, I didn't mean to cause problems, I really have to be getting back now I've seen Spike safely here, I feel guilty enough that I told the princess I was taking time off to do this and I should go now before I make myself look any more foalish…”

Twilight started to turn away only to hear, “Wait! I'm very happy to have you here! I was just surprised. You don't normally come to any-pony's parties!”

She let herself visibly relax, smiling at the other pony. “That's why I thought maybe I should start. I'm good with magic, other ponies… not so much. I was reading some ancient legends about Starswirl the Bearded… I'm sorry, I'm babbling, and Spike wanted to come see you especially.”

That got the dragon exclaiming “Twilight!” in an embarrassed tone of voice, which made the other ponies giggle. Twilight had used magic and memory retention techniques to sharpen her already excellent memory to near perfect recall, but she'd actually forgotten that before Spike had gone gaga over Rarity, he'd been crushing on the pony in front of her.

Still, the little dragon came forward and handed over his gift. Shyly, he said, “I got this for you, I hope you like it.”

Twilight decided to make it up to her companion by tweaking it with a very low power want-it, need-it spell, synchronised to Moondancer. It would decay to untraceable levels in a few moments, and leave no permanent effect other than a vague fondness for the object. Moondancer reacted by hugging the teddy bear to her, and squealing “I love it!”

Spike got picked up in her telekinesis too, and got a big kiss on the cheek. He floated away with hearts in his eyes. Towards the buffet table, of course, even romance didn't interfere with his appetite. Meanwhile Twilight was introduced around, Moondancer and Twinkleshine somehow coming to a time-sharing arrangement of some kind, possibly by telepathy.

Twilight found she was enjoying herself immensely. For a looper, especially one as experienced as she was, novelty was more precious than gold… or, in her case, books. And yet here were dozens of ponies who before now she’d known only as part of the background, each with their own histories, ideas and quirks.

Of course, they wanted to ask her things, about the princess, about problems they were having with some of the tougher parts of their studies, and a surprising number of them about her brother. It seemed that the Captain of the Guard had a lot of admirers, not all of them mares. It was something of a shock to find at least a couple of stallions, and one mare who were more interested in her as well. Those she deflected as gently and nicely as possible.

She did her best to answer ponies' questions where she could, but mostly she asked her own questions, and listened. Centuries of experience had shown her that you could be accounted a great conversationalist simply by getting other ponies (and most other sentient beings) to talk about themselves, and listening. Of course, all this new information was also like fine wine or new book, to be drunk in and filed carefully in her highly organised memory.

In the cases of the people asking her for help, her questions explored what they did understand, and helped them to see what they didn’t. Something she’d learned from Princess Celestia was that guiding ponies to understanding something on their own made it stick far better than simply telling them. She’d wondered if that was part of the reason Princess Celestia had handled the quest for the Elements of Harmony the way she had, but the cases weren’t parallel. There was more at stake than just Twilight’s development as a pony, and while she was a bit awed that the Princess might have put that much value on it, she disagreed.

She did play one small prank. While she’d finally forgiven her brother for all the past times that he hadn’t let her know about the wedding until the very last minute (after all, from his point of view, it was just the once) that didn’t mean she couldn’t prank him. Ponies asking about her brother were informed of his weakness for double chocolate cookies, though in fairness, she did tell the stallions that she was sure her brother didn’t walk that side of the paddock.

It was working with no more than her base time-line self would have known, but the results should be that over the next couple of months, Shining Armour should end up getting a lot of love letters and boxes of cookies, not to mention approaches of varying directness. Before the end of it, he’d probably be sick of them.

Of course, there was always some-pony ready to upset the apple cart.

“Look at her, that stuck up little bookworm finally deigned to come mingle with the rest of us! Swanning around, showing off how smart she is!”

It was a unicorn who went by the name Sharp Retort. While she had considerable talent as an alchemist, her magic scores, both theory and practical, were generally near the bottom of the table. Twilight had never really met her, but she’d heard the other defining characteristic of this pony was her sharp tongue, and her desire to make a big splash socially.

In other words, she was a marginally more adult unicorn version of that evil minded little filly, Diamond Tiara, though with at least some actual redeeming features. After centuries of observation, Twilight had come to the conclusion that the only thing DT was good for was as a bad example.

Twilight apologised to the mare she was helping to understand Marelin’s theory of Morphic Fungibility, and turned to face the other unicorn, who was also wearing a fancier dress than most of the ponies there. “That’s not how I’d have put it, but I assume you have a reason for saying so?”

“You shouldn’t be here!” Sharp Retort sneered, “Go back to your books, it’s where you belong!”

Base time-line Twilight would have bailed at this point, so she flinched, ears flicking back. She took a step back, then she visibly steadied herself. She glanced around and saw that most of the ponies, other than a couple who were obviously Sharp Retort’s pals, were looking on with sympathy or encouragement for her, or annoyance at Sharp Retort.

Taking a deep breath, she replied, “Still not hearing a reason for your aggressiveness, but based on your test scores, attire and general attitude, it could be one of three possibilities. Either you are jealous of my academic achievements, my proximity to the Princess, or that you hoped to be the centre of attention here and my arrival spoiled that. Or it could be varying degrees of all three.”

Sharp Retort’s body language told her she’d zapped the alchemist's weather-pony right between the wings. “Why you… why should I be jealous of a pathetic little bookworm like you? You don’t have any real friends, or any real life! You're just a bunch of books in the shape of a unicorn!”

That got a number of looks of shock and disgust from her new friends, and she saw Spike, who’d been relaxing on a recliner by the buffet table, being fed tid-bits by a number of mares, jump up and start over, little arms swinging belligerently.

The comment would have hurt base-line Twilight deeply. She gave another wince, then took a deep breath, speaking calmly. “You know, you’re absolutely right. It is rather sad that until today, the only thing I knew about most of the ponies around us were their test scores. Thank you for reminding me exactly why coming to this party was such a good idea. On that basis, you have nothing to be jealous of. So why are you?”

“I'm not jealous! I can't believe you're all falling for her innocent act!” Sharp Retort looked around, but seeing no support from any-pony except her book ends, she gave a growl of annoyance and flounced out.

Twilight went over to the host of the party, head slightly bowed. “I’m sorry, Moondancer, I didn’t mean to cause a scene.”

“You weren’t the one causing it.” The other unicorn reassured her. “I’m sorry you had to deal with all that. That was just plain mean.”

“However, she had a point.” Twilight sighed. “I should be getting back to my studies. I still feel really guilty that I went to this party without the Princess okaying it.”

Spike had come up and hugged her leg. “C’mon Twi, we’re on break! I’m sure she won’t mind you taking one night off.”

“Yes, surely you’re learning stuff here too?” Moondancer asked.

Twilight decided they deserved a proper answer. While any-pony could generate a heart-song, it only happened when they were in the grip of some deep emotion. It had taken many loops to learn Pinkie Pie’s music-on-demand ability, but it was worth it for universes with a musical component, such as Equestria. “Oh yes, so much…”

“My researches they were enough,

And keeping my work up to snuff,

Ponies as friends I did not miss,

But I wasn’t prepared for this…

“Who’d have thought that chatting was such fun,

Learning about ponies one by one,

Sharing memories and helping them out,

It’s a wonderful new feeling without doubt!

“Companionship that I did dismiss,

Now I know that it’s simply bliss.

Making some new friends,

Helping ponies,

Seeing what life sends,

Not books only,

I want to do more of this!”

She had some idea of the workings of narrative causality from her long study of many universes, and there was no way the fates would let something like that pass without reacting. Cue Spike burping up a scroll with the Princess’s own seal. Depending on what was on it, the prank might end right here. Had Celestia learned that not providing enough information or guidance risked things going badly wrong, or was she still convinced that only she had the need to see the full picture?

‘Twilight, my faithful student,

I need to see you on a matter of great urgency. Come immediately to my chambers.

Princess Celestia.’

Apparently not. Twilight let the scroll drop to the floor, face an expression of shock. “It’s from the Princess, she wants to see me right away!”

Spike shrugged. “Okay, so what’s the problem? You love spending time with her.”

“Oh Spike, don’t you see? I said I’d come here rather than continue working! She must think I’m not taking my studies seriously!”

She was a bit embarrassed about acting like this, or rather the fact that she’d originally acted like this for real over a simple late letter. However, it was how she would have reacted back then, or rather how she believed she would have reacted. So she paced around, acting fuming and flustered, ears twiching.

“What if she gives me a test on what I was supposed to be learning? What if I fail? You know what teachers do to students who fail? They send them back a grade!”

“But Twilight, this was your project in the first place, and you’re not even in a grade!”

“No, you’re right! She may just send me back to magic kindergarten!” Creating an illusion of herself sitting in a tiny desk seat, being laughed at by colts was easy enough, while she did her best impression of a thousand yard stare. ”No, she’ll probably dismiss me as her student altogether!!!”

She was rather proud of managing to put three exclamation marks into a spoken sentence. Now it was time to put the cherry on top of this particular piece of humble pie. Before Spike could act as the voice of sanity, she teleported away to her tower study. She had a lot of things to do to enact the next part of her plan, and very little time to do them in.

Moondancer looked confused. “What… just happened?”

“Twilight’s off on one of her things again.” Spike sighed. “Maybe it’s because she’s so smart. She can find things to worry about that no-pony else would even think about. The Princess probably just wanted to ask her how she enjoyed the party. I’ll go find her and calm her down. She’s probably in her study… frantically studying whatever it was she thinks she was to be tested on.”

After he’d left, the party was a bit subdued, but soon got back into full swing. Said swing came to a dead stop when Princess Celestia herself flashed into existence at the entrance to the courtyard. Every-pony turned towards her and bowed deeply.

“Thank you, my little ponies.” The princess said with her usual grace. “I did not wish to interrupt your party, but I’m looking for Twilight Sparkle. I summoned her some time ago, and she had said she was at this party. Does any-pony know where she is now?”

Moondancer answered, a bit nervously. “When she saw your letter, she…”

“Freaked out!” Some-pony else said, after an awkward silence.

“… freaked out. She was going on about you dismissing her as a student because she came here rather than studying.” The white unicorn took a few seconds to work up his nerve, then asked, “You, you wouldn't really do that, would you?”

“Of course not!” Celestia was genuinely shocked. “I'm pleased to see her making new friends, I just needed her for an important job.”

“Spike did say she did this kind of thing occasionally. He said he was going back to her study to calm her down.”

Celestia’s mind was set at ease now that she knew where to find her errant student. However, she was curious, in part because how Twilight did here would be a good indicator of how she might do in Ponyville. “Twilight is not the most social of ponies. Was she enjoying herself up until my message?”

“If you call singing about it enjoying yourself, then yes I think she did.” Moondancer smirked. One way or another this party would be the most talked about of the year.

“Twilight? Singing?” In her millennia of experience, she'd had many surprises, but she’d never have imagined Twilight engaging in a heart-song, unless it was about a new book. “I see I may have to apologise to her, I had no idea she was that engaged in this party. Thank you all for making her welcome.”

“Oh, it wasn’t all one way, your highness.” Twinkleshine responded. “I mean, she was shy to start with, but as soon as she got talking… after five minutes you felt like you’d known her for ages.”

There was a general agreement from the ponies around her. One of the stallions added, “She really helped me too. You hear that she’s this magical prodigy, but it’s another thing to actually see it.”

“How so… Flash Card, isn’t it?”

“Yes, your highness.” He looked a bit nervous when the princess turned her attention to him, but carried on. “I’ve been having trouble understanding amniomorphic spells, I can do them, but I have trouble with the theory side. Or rather, I did until I talked to Twilight. Professor Speller’s taken me through it, but I could never get what he was going on about. However, Twilight managed to figure out where I was going wrong, and show me. She did it all in about ten minutes, and she didn’t make me feel like an idiot for not understanding it already.”

Celestia was impressed, not just at the level of skill his tale suggested, but that these ponies were all willing to come to Twilight’s support. As she knew herself, simply because you knew a subject didn’t mean you could teach it effectively. Once again, she wouldn’t have pegged Twilight as being one of the ones who could. She made a graceful departure, and headed for Twilight’s private tower, her confidence restored. It seemed, if anything, that her student was even more suited for her task than she’d imagined.

As she flew up to the entrance to Twilight’s study, she composed herself to help Spike perform any remaining calming down that needed doing. When she reached the door, it was ajar, which seemed odd, so she went straight in. Spike was sitting in the middle of the room, staring blankly at the opened letter that was clutched in his paw..

Another sealed letter sat on Twilight’s work table, with the seal that showed it was for Celestia’s eyes only. She picked it up and opened it, her earlier confidence replaced by worry. The writing was Twilight’s, but it was not her usual immaculate cursive script. The shakiness was slight, but it was clear her telekinesis had been disturbed by some great emotion.

‘Dear Princess Celestia,

I most humbly apologise for neglecting my studies in favour of socialising. I honestly believed a few hours delay in doing that research would make no difference. I will endeavour to avoid friendships in future as they are clearly too distracting. I so enjoyed myself that for some time I completely forgot about my work, something that is clearly unacceptable.

However, that does not excuse my error. I have failed you, and as ruler of Equestria, you can not let that go unpunished. To save you the embarrassment of having to dismiss me, and myself the shame, I hereby submit my withdrawal from Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. I will leave quietly, and find some other position. I hope you can eventually forgive me for not living up to your standards.
I remain your most devoted and faithful subject,

Your ex-student,
Twilight Sparkle.’

Celestia had experienced much in her vast lifespan, but she’d rarely felt the shock she did right then. Twilight had left? Her telekinesis snatched Spike’s letter from his paws, desperate to find any further scrap of information as to where she might be.

‘Dear Spike,

I have to leave for a while. I’m sorry to leave so abruptly, without saying good bye or explaining in person, but I have no choice. I’ve disgraced myself, disappointed the Princess, so I can no longer stay here. I can't return to my parents house either, not after this. Leaving you there was one of the hardest parts of my decision to do so. I would have taken you with me, but I shall have to find a new place to live, some other way to support myself, and in the meantime, things are likely to be tough.

I can hear you as if you’re standing there in front of me, saying it doesn’t matter. Best of dragons, it does to me and I couldn’t ask you to share the hardships I’ve brought on myself. Princess Celestia will care for you, I'm sure. As soon as I have somewhere to live, some way to provide for us both, I will let you know. If you still want to be assistant and best friend to a plain old unicorn, rather than Celestia’s favourite student, I certainly want you to be with me.

Your friend,
Twilight Sparkle.’

Having his letter taken off him had broken Spike out of his trance. He noticed Celestia for the first time, and his expression crumpled. “She was already gone when I got here!”

He ran over to her, and she patted his back as he hugged her leg tightly. “Do not worry, this is all a silly misunderstanding, one that will be fixed as soon as I talk to her. I only needed her to undertake an important mission.”

“But she's gone!” Spike cried out.

“Not for long. Canterlot isn't Manehattan you know. I shall have Shining Armour and the entire Royal Guard comb the city for her. I'm sure they will find her within the hour, and then we can put this whole unfortunate incident behind us.”

She placed him on her back, and carried him out of the tower, mind whirring. She considered the dragon on her back, and what she'd found out earlier. “Tell me Spike, does Twilight truly see me as so strict? I would never punish her so harshly, even if I felt her taking time off from her studies to make new friends to be a bad thing, which I don't.”

“Maybe you should have told her that!” Spike snapped, then looked away, ashamed. “I'm sorry, Princess.”

“Never be ashamed of speaking your mind.” Her magic gently brought his chin up. “Your loyalty to her does her credit, and you too. Now, please tell me your mind.”

Spike was clearly debating with himself on exactly what to say, loyalty warring with honesty. “No, it's sort of… You know she's kind of nuts about getting everything just right. She worships you, too. When she's pushing herself with another all-nighter, I think she uses the idea that it's what you expect of her to push herself that bit more. She invents these over the top punishments because to her, pleasing you is the most important thing in the world. So failing is the worst crime, and deserves the worst punishment.”

“So she projects her own desire for perfection onto me?” Celestia was feeling rather guilty as she flew towards the Royal Guard barracks. She'd left well enough alone because a studious Twilight was exactly what she needed the sixth element to be. It sounded like Twilight had been heading down the wrong path that Starswirl the Bearded had once trod. Maybe if she'd encouraged her to have more of a social life outside her studies, she'd have been less likely to see it as a failing.

In an immortal, self honesty was even more important than in most ponies. The accumulated subconscious garbage of facts you kept yourself from acknowledging as the centuries piled up could send you into madness as surely as Discord. So when she realised something she had hidden from herself, she faced it squarely.

It was clear now that she'd made not one but two grave errors. Firstly, she had focussed on developing Twilight's magical abilities and studious nature in preparation for her destiny as the Bearer of the Element of Magic, and in the process unconsciously dismissed her development in other areas as unimportant. As long as Twilight was able to make friends with the other bearers and was loyal to Celestia, that was enough.

It was not something she'd have ever decided consciously, indeed the idea of using a pony like that horrified her. Twilight was more to her than some magical super-weapon, even without her destiny, Celestia would still have taken her on as a personal student, as someone with that sort of raw magical potential and desire to learn came along once in a millennium (and she was one of very few ponies who could confirm that from personal experience). She was dear to Celestia, and the alicorn princess only wanted the best things for her.

But the fact that she hadn't consciously considered what that meant, that she'd assumed that everything was working out well had led to this mess. Now that that unconscious assumption had been brought out into the light, she could easily pick it apart. Without prior experience of making friends, how would Twilight have even the tools needed to make those vital friendships, or understand their importance in the first place? While Twilight seemed to have avoided that, from her performance at the party, the very fact that her existing social circle was so sparse and her development in other areas so limited had left her without other sources of strength, without the more balanced appreciation of things when her very loyalty and over-commitment had made her turn a minor incident into a huge betrayal.

It was symptomatic of a larger problem, the way she'd approached both the task of Twilight's personal development and the restoration of the Elements. She'd ruled for millennia, and in that time, she'd formulated some basic guidelines for successful rulership, the most important of which was not to do anything unless it was absolutely needed. As her Appleoosian subjects would say, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

She could so easily have become a tyrant, not in the manner of King Sombra, but simply by helping out her subjects too much, making them any more dependant on her and not able to solve their own problems, or grow from that experience. Yes, she could have made Equestria a place where no-pony ever wanted for anything or had to do anything other than exist and fill their time with parties and play, but she'd rather go Nightmare herself than live in such a 'utopia'.

As a result, she'd become master of the subtle nudge, the indirect approach, never acting directly where she could get other ponies to do it, or even find a solution for themselves. Most of her direct actions apart from raising the sun were stopping some-pony from doing something self-aggrandising, or that while appearing good in the short term would have long term negative consequences. But while her breadth of knowledge and long term viewpoint gave her a degree of wisdom, she was neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Philomena's arguments came back to her, and Spike's outburst. After so long she'd become set in her ways, and been unable to realise that this situation required a different approach. After so many centuries as the subtle manipulator, when a situation came up that did require a more horn-on approach, she hadn't recognised the fact, content to let things develop as they'd seemed to be working out.

She resolved to make it up to Twilight when she next saw her. She'd done what was easy rather than what was needed and it had cost her, and possibly many others including Twilight and her sister. She could have made the argument that she'd trusted Twilight to figure out what to do on her own, but the case could also be made that she'd showed a lack of trust in not believing Twilight could handle the information, a lack of faith that the unicorn could accept the responsibility without being tricked into it. When she next saw Twilight, there would be full disclosure, and a serious apology. She was Princess Celestia, and she would make things right.

“Don't worry Spike. I will fix this.” She landed in the courtyard of the barracks, taking the startled salute of the guards training there. “I need to see Captain Shining Amour, at once!”

Loops 9

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9.1


“You know…” Sweetie mused. “There’s something we should really do in these loops.”

“What?” Applebloom asked. “Like, look for our cutie marks? Again?”

“No,” Sweetie said, “not that. I mean, we should learn how to actually do things. Not just try to find the one thing we’re magically good at.”

Scootaloo shrugged. “I dunno. What do you mean?”

“Well…” Sweetie blushed. “I’d kind of like to know how to cook. Not, special talent, know how to cook, but more… actually-the-right-shape-food cook.”

The other two nodded, understanding.

“Anyway,” Sweetie continued, “I was going to ask Rarity about that. She’s fairly good. We’ll see how it goes. What about you, ‘bloom?”

The earth pony thought for a bit. “Perhaps ah’ll pay more attention when Big Mac tries to get me to help on th’ farm.”

Scootaloo spoke up. “And I’m going to try to learn some math. Last time Dash and I both looped, she said that math was important in understanding… well, cool stuff, like fighter planes.”


“Oh, dear,” Rarity said, “Well, it’s nice that you want to learn, but I’m afraid I’m really not good at… well… simple foods.” She shrugged. “Perhaps you could ask Big Mac? I’ve heard that he’s the one who does a lot of the cooking whenever there’s an Apple family reunion…”

“Okay,” Sweetie replied.


Big Mac slumped into bed.

Oh, it wasn’t the work that had him tired out. No, it was that his littler sister and her two friends were constantly pestering him for help.

If it wasn’t how to help run the farm, it was maths. If it wasn’t either of those, it was how to cook.

Still, there were compensations.


Applejack nodded. “Thanks, Twi. Ah felt like Mac deserved somethin’ for handlin’ all three of the Crusaders so well this Loop.”

Twilight grinned. “It wasn’t much, really. All I did was point out to Cheerilee that he was probably halving her workload, and she sent him a thank you card, and…”

“This happen a lot?” Applejack asked. “Mac and Cheerilee, ah mean.”

“Somewhat.” Twilight shrugged. “It can go either way.”


9.2 (L33t m4n)


"Girls, I know this is a new loop, but I have a plan. When the wedding occurs I want to do something drastic." Twilight had gone through this a thousand times, but a new twist is what made the monotony nonexistent.

"Twi, I don't like that grin on your face. That's the grin that made the town go through a crazy compulsion for a doll,” Applejack worried – not entirely without justification.

"Relax. I just need the magic pool, some training grounds, and a place to keep the clones. As a great sorceror once said: magic must defeat magic!"

Twilight may have had a crazy streak, but her craziness was warranted at times.

"So you’re hoping to use clones…to defeat clones!" Pinkie realized that this was something that was worth the crazy streak. She had a plan to differentiate the clones from herself this time if she was to take a dip in that clone pool again.

"Yep! Wanted to save it for a Star Wars loop, but a little sneak peek won't hurt." The grin was going cheshire by this point, and making some of the loopers uneasy about how this would go.

"And personality dear? You have a plan for that?" Rarity asked.

"Planned for that as well… look, girls, I have it all planned out. Just need a little help with getting it accomplished." Twilight replaced her grin with a reassuring smile which broke the remaining resistance towards the plan.


"Alright listen up! You want to be the best! You want to fly circles around the others and make them wail! You want to be the coolest!" Rainbow yelled out, flying above the others in drill sergeant mode.

"YEAH!" a number of clones responded with equal fervor.

"Then you are going to start off with being cool!" Rainbow brought a board down with her list of attributes to succeed.


"Alright dears, today we’re learning how to cross-stitch, and make an outfit with a fitting theme." Rarity brought the needle up with magic before bringing up several spools of thread and fabric from her table. "Now watch, and do as I do."

Teaching care and attention to detail is always good… as well as getting my work backlog cleared, of course… Rarity thought to herself.


"Okay…now if it isn't a problem, I hope to show you … um excuse me," Fluttershy was teaching about looking after the critters at her place but the clones were too simple – most were too busy either chasing the animals or playing with them to focus on the shy, little pegasus' words.

"I SAID LISTEN!" Fluttershy entered Flying Hatred mode, before calming down and turning her dark form off. "Alright now return to your seats and take care of each animal. Also no fooling around or being rough, understand!" Fluttershy ended her sentence with a 'Stare' which drove any disobedience out of the clones before resuming her lesson.


Pinkie didn't focus much on teaching, instead concentrating on keeping the group together and teaching them how to make a fantastic party and how the party cannon worked.

"And that's how you make an amazing gazpacho. Any questions?"

One clone raised her hand before jumping back when Pinkie appeared in front of her. "Yes Twi-clone 265?"

"Uh, how does any of what you said relate to partying or teaching us?" the clone asked cautiously.

"Oh! How silly, I'm supposed to be teaching you skills. Right we'll start with making the perfect surprise . . ."


"Alright ya'll now bring that harvest in and we'll be ready for the coming winter." Applejack figured she’d teach them the appreciation of hard work, and benefit from the process. Rarity had done it, why not her?


"Good job, girls! When the wedding happens Chrysalis won't know what hit her. This might be something to do more often." Twilight cheered, looking the clones over alongside her friends.


Chrysalis crouched behind an overturned table, using a fruit bowl as a helmet. “This is not going well.”

Another Changeling went flying through the air and bounced off her makeshift barricade.


9.3 (L33t m4n)


The telephone rang.

"Hello, may I speak with the owner of the "Stone Pony" bar?" Ruby Pinch spoke, her tone anxious.

"Yes, what can I do for you, kid?" said owner groggily answered while checking his clock.

"My mom is asking if you could please, open the bar a bit earlier today." Ruby Pinch asked hopefully into the phone

"Let me guess, your mommy must be a Berry Punch, right?" the owner frowned.

"Well, yes, she's Berry Punch and..." Ruby got out before the owner interrupted her.

"Figures...look kiddo, the bar strictly opens at 8:00 pm and it’s barely 2:00 pm right now so..." he gruffly replied while barely stopping himself from hanging up right there

"But mister..." Ruby pleaded

"No buts young filly, tell your mommy that if she wants to get in the bar..." he was used to Berry trying stunts like this… but never before had she roped her daughter into it.

"But mister, you don't understand..." Ruby pressed.

"I don't understand what?" The stallion was seriously considering just putting the phone down.

"My mom doesn't want to get in; she wants to get out..."


Twilight blinked. "Wait, Berry is Awake this Loop?"

Applejack shrugged. "Ah only found out when she volunteered t' help with th' Super Squeezy thing next week. Guess she just ain't one for movin' and shakin'. Actually, she's mostly been breakin' into bars."


9.4 (Madfish)


Hundreds of loops had passed and, finding herself nostalgic and the only one Awake, Twilight had set about trying to relive that first time as closely as possible.

Checking on her mental script Twilight finished her speech, "It creates the sixth element– The Element of Magic!"

She felt her magic and that of the others fill her and expand… but was surprised when their energies pulled together without levitating them. "That's odd," she thought as suddenly instead of forming the Rainbow of Light it instead glared a brilliant white.

Familiar with magical overloads she was about to dive for cover when a humanoid dived forth from it into the air with a cry of "By your powers combined– I am Captain Planet!"


Hundreds of loops had passed and, finding herself nostalgic and the only one Awake, Twilight had set about trying to relive that first time as closely as possible. Yes, last time it hadn't worked, but this time there was no sign of a fused loop to interfere.

Once more checking off her mental script Twilight finished her speech but focused more on the world around checking for any anomalies that would throw things off, "It creates the sith element– The Element of Magic!"

She felt her magic and that of the others fill her and expand… but was surprised when their energies pulled together without levitating them. "Not again," she thought as suddenly instead of forming the Rainbow of Light it instead pulsed a dull marble grey light.

Familiar with magical overloads but rather less worried this time she waited and a humanoid stepped with a definite finality from it into the air.

"Buck me," Twilight said in surprise as she took in the black clad figure before her, "this won't end well."

As the figure drew its iconic weapon, it spoke with a voice filled with loss, pain and bitterness. "Bearer of Friendship. I find your lack of faith disturbing."


Again the only one Awake, Twilight had yet again set about trying to relive that first time as closely as possible. Hopefully, this time it would be perfect!

Checking on her mental script Twilight launched into her speech.

This time she didn't even get as far as before. Upon declaring "These are my friends!" Instead of the spherical form of the Element of Magic appearing a large bronze oil lamp beaned her on the head.

Face hoofing she gave it a look as it lay on its side on the floor. "You know what? I can work with this," she snarked, giving it a rub. Not even looking as clouds appeared she spoke quickly so as to finish with the dangerous object as soon as possible. "Genie! First wish! That all those who threaten to take over or harm Equestria and/or its inhabitants would be healed by the Elements of Harmony of such desires! Second Wish! I wish that from when I next wake up I'd understand how Pinkie does what she does! Third Wish! I wish you were free!"

Taking a deep breath she turned around… expecting to see the Blue genie she'd been dying to introduce Pinkie Pie to, and instead seeing a rather more intimidating red one.


Many many many loops later, Twilight was the only one Awake… "Sod it." She went Alicorn, cast age regression on Nightmare Moon and summoned Celestia. "Your problem. I'm not taking any more chances."


9. 5 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Rainbow Dash looked down at the two fillies standing by the two seater Mareitech space fighter. "Cadets Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, you made top scores in the simulator, but I wouldn't be sending you out if our losses to the Zentradi weren't so high. Command thinks I'm nuts for giving two Cadet fillies who don't have a cutie-mark yet a Mareitech, especially with your handicap Scoots. Prove them wrong! You've got the makings of greatness, both of you, if you can keep it together. I'll try and look out for you out there, but Rainbow Squadron is going to take up most of my time."

"Yes mam, Captain Dash!" Scootaloo beamed. Dash didn't seem to be Awake, unlike the three fillies, and they hadn't even worked out where the Anchor was. From what Princess Twilight had said in their first loop, there had to be one, though this was an odd loop. They were on board a ten mile long spaceship, the Marecross, which had crashed into Equestria a millenium ago, filled with advanced technology. Only Princess Luna's efforts had prevented it from crashing with a force that would have wiped out Equestria, and since then, it had almost been forgotten that the Guardian of the Night Skies had once not been as revered as Celestia.

The vessel had turned out to be a warship, and one that had been in multiple battles before it was abandoned and Princesses Celestia and Luna had decreed that it must be studied. While they could guard the world, there might be other live ships out there, and whatever had attacked this one. Over the centuries pony scientists and mages had figured out the prnciples behind it's construction and in the process had advanced Equestria's own technology level. They'd rebuilt the ship and in the fillies own lifetimes, figured out how to repair the automated factories and variable configuration space fighters that made up it's primary armament with a mix of technology and magic.

Just in time as well. The Zentradi had attacked, and with a fleet so huge even the Princesses had been hard pressed to shield Equestria from it. The ship, renamed the Marecross had performed an emergency Hyperwink to get out behind the enemy fleet, and through a malfunction in the generator system taken the whole of Ponyville with it. They'd rebuilt the town in one of the cargo holds, and now they fought against the Zentradi, trying to find a way to defeat the fleet and save Equestria.

Sweetie Belle came up to them as the two put on their interface helmets and they indulged in a three way hug. "Be careful out there!"

"Don't worry!" Scootaloo gave a cocky grin. "It's just a scouting patrol. We'll be back in time to see you win the Miss Marecross competition."

"Yep!" Apple Bloom tapped the side of the fighter, currently kneeling down in pegasus mode. "I've got this baby tuned sweet as Granny Smith's Zap Apple pie. Who'd have thought I'd be good at fixing protoculture tech?"

They scrambled up into their positions, resting on the belly saddles and locking their hooves into the fore and aft control boots. The canpies came down, and Scootaloo trotted the fighter onto a vehicle lift.

"Mareitech 86, Red Squadron Beta 4, Marecross Control, ready for launch!"

"You are cleared for launch Beta four. Moving you to launch position. Beta One will meet you at Waypoint One to begin your patrol. Sending guidance co-ordinates."

The fighter rose up through multiple sets of air-tight locks to the landing deck, open to space but normally pressurised by the bubble of air retained inside the Marecross's navigational deflector shield. As Apple bloom programmed the navigation waypoints with the bootstick controls, Scootaloo walked the vehicle onto a launch catapult, and folded it down into fighter mode. A prssure suited deck unicorn signalled all clear with an illuminated baton, and they were pressed back in their saddles as the fighter was shot into space.


9.6 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Scootaloo the Pegasus

“Rainbow Dash was right!” Scootaloo called out as she dived down from her wing assisted jump and smashed her fore-hooves through the moto-bug. “This is awesome!”

Her wings blurred like a humming bird as she glided across the now battered turf of Green Hills zone on her red and white patterned Lightspeed horseshoes at speeds beyond sanity, while doing manoeuvres that most jet fighters would find nauseating. She passed down a line of floating gold rings and felt them vanish as they touched her.

She skidded to a stop short of the striped pole, that generally meant something bad up ahead, and glanced up. “Though it’s kinda silly that you can fly and I can’t.”

Apple Bloom floated down, tail whirring as she spun a ring shaped rotor blade with it. She dropped the last few feet and let the ring collapse in on itself forming a band on the tip of her tail. “You’ve got super-speed and you’re tougher than an alicorn, what more do you want? Though I gotta admit, being a tech genius is kinda sweet all by itself. How’re the new boots holding up?”

“I figure I’m at least 20% faster! Watch out!” A flight of buzz bombers swooped in and the pair spilt, Scootaloo bounding into the middle of the cluster and zipping back and forth, jumping and smashing as she went, while Apple Bloom spun up her tail, expanding the rotor to its full size. She flicked it, and it span away bisecting a buzz bomber that was diving at Scootaloo’s back and freeing the bird trapped inside.

It kept spinning back to her like a boomerang, and each time, she caught it on her tail by the padded interior ring, and flicked it out again to demolish one of the outriders while Scootaloo wreaked havoc in the heart of the formation. “Whooee! Take that you mechanical bozos!”

Even as the last of Dr Robotnik’s latest wave of creations fell to the earth in smoking, sparking pieces, the Earth pony was in among the carcasses, transferring various parts into her saddle bags. Scootaloo landed beside her and asked, “What’re you doing?”

“I wanted to build something like your old scooter but better. Using Kutta–Joukowski Lift Theorem, and some of the kinematic motivators I just scored off these badniks, I should be able to build a sort of hover board. You should be able to do all your old stunts and a bunch more besides. I could also use some parts for the Tornado.”

“Sounds cool, but isn’t hover-board kind of a dorky name for a piece of gear that extreme.”

“Okay, how about Extreme Gear?” Apple Bloom mused.

“I like it!” Scootaloo grinned. “Extreme Gear it is!”

“Only problem is the wind-chill factor from moving that fast, It’s going to be way past cool. Maybe I can apply a diverting force to the air current flowing over the nose…”

“Later, we’ve got more company, and it looks like the big cheese omelette himself!”

The pair of them set themselves up and raced off to face the Doctor’s latest creation.


“I’m bored…” Sweetie muttered. “When do we get to do something?”

“Based on what I remember…” Twilight trailed off, counting in her head. “About another six months. Now, keep practicing telekinesis. You’re going to need to be good at it for… whatever the hell we have to do.”

“You don’t know?” Sweetie asked, levitating a box.

“No,” Twilight said. “And it’s very annoying. Basically, something happened last time with a telekinetic and a pyrokinetic, but it got very confusing and neither Dash nor I have much idea what it was.”


9.7


Twilight Awoke, and stretched. Unlike some Loops, she’d actually been lying down when she gained awareness.

The ground under her was dusty and hard. When she opened her eyes, she saw a black sky with twinkling stars overhead and a cratered landscape.

That’s vaguely unfair, she thought as she looked around. I’ve started the Loop already banished. Twilight got up, using her wings as counterweights rather than flapping them given the lack of air. A moment later, there was a pop as she fired off a huge air-bubble spell – while she didn’t need to breathe, it was nice.

“Hi,” Dash’s voice said from behind her.

“Oh, hi, Dash.” Twilight frowned, and shook her head as she turned. “Why are there two of – erk!”

The other nine Looping alicorns all waved at her. Pinkie then started pulling things out of her mane – a table, some chairs, and a board game.

“Yeah, we’re going to be here a while…” Applejack muttered. “Hope Pinkie has enough board games.”

“Wait,” Twilight said, trying to get her Loop memories to return. “If we’re all up here, what’s going on down there?”


“Right,” the newly self-crowned Queen Chrysalis said. “Now we’ve managed to turn those pesky Elements against the very rulers who relied on them, we have a thousand years to rule Equestria before they get back.”

King Sombra nodded. “And, of course, actually get married.”

“True, true…” Chrysalis frowned. “How does an outdoor wedding sound?”


9.8 (Vulpine Fury)


Twilight came to in a familiar Canterlot Park and waited for her loop memories to come in.

And waited.

She frowned. "Shouldn't I be remembering what my life is like here?" Opening her eyes, she did a quick inventory. She was an alicorn and had her Haversack saddlebags from Eberron in easy reach. From the heft of it, she was wearing her ceremonial tiara, and not the 'big crown thingy' the Element of Magic tended to manifest as for her. She was almost to her hooves when a familiar voice, distorted by not coming from her mouth reached her ears.

". . . and Harmony has been maintained for generations ever since."

Princess Twilight Sparkle very carefully poked her head from the bushes and watched a perfectly normal pre-Ponyville version of herself ponder a very familar book.

“The Elements of Harmony...” the younger Twilight mused. “I know I've heard of them before... but where?"

"Huh." The princess wondered. "Dash was right. I was adorkable." She settled her wings and decided to follow as stealthily as she could. It might be kind of interesting to see how things went when she herself wasn't the focus of everything. "Hm. Should I help her... or finally see what Moondancer's party was like?"


It had been difficult keeping back and letting the native Twilight meet her future friends. "Not least because I want to strangle the little recluse at times," Princess Twilight muttered. The additional difficulties of keeping herself hidden from Princess Celestia and an astral projection of Nightmare Moon were as nothing to keeping her first actual encounter with Pinkie Pie this loop from interfering with destiny.

"Miss Pie," she said gently. "Go ahead and take care of your other new pony-slash-Summer Sun party. She needs it more than I do."

"B-but Princess Vespertine! You're a new princess! Don't you deserve one, too?" The Pink Party Pony pouted.

'Vespertine' laid a gentle wing across Pinkie's withers, glad she'd been able to come up with an alias so quickly. "I promise I'll attend one of your parties very soon, just not this one. Cross my heart --"

Pinkie's eyes widened.

The looping Twilight twitched the tips of her wings. "-- Hope to fly --"

Pinkie's smile widened.

"--stick a cupcake in my -- OW!" The alicorn sheepishly lowered her hoof. "That last bit always gets me. Now, let me help you get into the library to set up before I have to go take care of 'Princess Stuff.' Oh, for the banner? Her name is Twilight Sparkle."


It was actually kind of nice to see the rest of Ponyville during that first day without the pressure of making sure she met her friends at the proper times to ensure they became friends during the trip to the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters.

However it seemed that "Vespertine's" attempts at subtlety had failed. Somepony had told the Mayor about her.

"Here she is, your highness," Mayor Mare said, pointing right at her and looking at somepony else around the corner.

"Cadance! What a surprise!" Celestia said, with her eyes closed in a friendly smile. The smile turned to shock when she opened her eyes and the princess before her had the wrong coat color. "Twilight? What? How?" Under the shock was pride; Twilight could tell.

Twilight curtseyed exactly the same amount Luna would have if she were in her right mind, a bit of archaic formality to drive her point home. "I'm not the Twilight you sent to check on the preparations today." She tilted her head and checked the position of the sun and the weather. "She's doing exactly what you assigned her to do, despite herself. And from what's going on with the weather, she's just meeting the third of her new friends." She chuckled at herself. "For convenience's sake, call me Vespertine."

Celestia's guarded expression would have wounded her deeply before the loops, but she'd been through enough loops to know this was mainly a show for the Mayor. Most wouldn't have the sheer knowledge of Celestia to know where she got her tells from. After the Mayor was gently dismissed, the two alicorns began to converse in earnest.


"You foal!" Nightmare Moon gloated. "I've destroyed the Elements of Harmony! Celestia is imprisoned in the sun! And best of all, I've got your alicorn sister at my mercy. What chance does a normal unicorn such as you stand against me?"

The native Twilight Sparkle scrunched her nose up. "Sister? I don't have a sister."

"I know I've said this before, but... You're kidding. You're kidding, right?" Nightmare Moon asked.

Vespertine smirked from within her bonds as she heard her friends, or at least this loop's version of them. "You're about to get schooled, Luna."


"But Princess Vespertine!" Twilight Sparkle protested. "I don't get it! Where did you come from? I mean, I appreciate the distraction you provided..."

"Well, Twilight," Pinkie Pie said. "When a momma alicorn and a daddy alicorn love each other very much...."

"Pinkie!" Rarity gasped, scandalized.

The looping Twilight laughed. "Let's just say that Cadance and I share some things in common, and you and I share common ancestors, Twilight."


9.9 (Rufus Shinra)


Twilight woke up and took quickly notice of her surroundings, with the casual expertise that came with a very long experience in finding out the most information possible from a single glance.

Human housing, Japanese traditional, she immediatly deduced as she saw the paper walls. The next item was another obvious help to her. A TV set, early nuclear era and... OK, I'm still in unicorn shape and no additional memories. So... where am I?

She turned around when she heard one of the doors sliding, facing a mid-twenties human, holding a wrench while his clothes and hands had some traces of motor oil. He apparently didn't look surprised in any way to the purple unicorn that appeared in his house:

"So... Looper?"

"Yes,” answered the wielder of the Element of Magic, pleased to see that she wouldn't have to wait too much to know where she ended up. "You too?"

"Not exactly," he said, before putting back his tool in a cupboard. "You could say that I'm 'Awake', but not in the sense you guys are."

"How so?" she asked, interested in a possible variation of the common pattern of Loopers and Anchors.

"Have you met Ranma, Harry or the others? Have they told you why the multiverse is looping like that?"

"Yes,” Twilight admitted. "They told me about that computer, Yggdrasil, and how they had to reboot the various universes periodically with us inside."

"Right,” the young man said, nodding.

"And what does this mean for your universe? You said you were 'Awake' in a different way? Are you an Anchor?" Twilight continued.

"No, just the sysadmin's boyfriend."

"Oh. You must have seen..." Twilight trailed off.

"Pretty much every Anchor and quite a few regular Loopers end up here sooner or later so they can meet the Norns. Beyond that, it's quite straightforward around here: no special memories, you come with your original body and such. Take a break, enjoy the food, things like that." He shrugged.

"Right...” Twilight accepted the information, thinking. “Anything of note?"

"Yes: don't get between Urd and the TV, unless you want to get in a prank war with a goddess. Anyway, tell me about your Loop, I saw quite a lot here, but colored unicorns are a first."

Twilight looked around as the noisy machines were apparently doing their work, under the frantic orders of an apparently young teenager. However, having known immortal beings even before awakening to the Loops, the unicorn knew better. Especially as the engineer who welcomed her in this dimension introduced said young girl as the Norn of the Future, which, according to the few things she heard from the older Loopers, was a full-blown Goddess, with a capital G.

Which did not stop her from acting like a child as her older sister teased her during the measurements. The unicorn took a brief look at the electronic-covered helmet which was perfectly fitting her cranium and her own horn, and shifted positions.

"Nice flank,” commented the white-haired Norn of the Past.

"Huh, thanks. I guess?" Twilight replied, uneasily.

"I checked on Yggdrasil about your universe. Cutie Marks, they're called? That's cute! Everyone with a nice little brand on their flanks..."

"That's not worse than the ones on your face,” replied Twilight, pointing her hoof at the sigils on Urd's face.

"Ours are more... stylish."

"If you say so,” commented the unicorn before turning her attention to the younger goddess. "So, what exactly are you measuring?"

"Your dimensional signature, to have a precise fix on your original dimension,” answered Skuld without looking away from her computer. "I have to be sure about your original timeline if we want to get this mess fixed one of these millenia."

"Doesn't your 'Yggdrasil' manage that already?"

"I don't know precisely when you started looping. That's one of the problems with dimensions where time-travel is actually accessible to non-divine beings. So, since that you're the Anchor and a time-traveller of your own, I can get that information from you."

"Oh,” said the purple unicorn while remembering her first experiment with time travel. "Oops?"

"Yes, 'oops',” said Urd. "But she can probably deal with that. Emphasis on 'probably'; she'll most likely need a helping hand from her nice older sister."

"Why would I need Belldandy for that?" snarked back Skuld.

"Anyway,” said Urd while bringing her attention back to Twilight. "Do you plan to stay here for a while?"

"If that's not intruding on you. And it depends how long 'for a while' would last."

"Long enough to meet humans unaware of magic, other dimensions and stuff," Urd said vaguely.

"Done!" said the chilidish voice to her right, interrupting them.

She felt the helmet release itself from her head, letting her mane free from its tight hold. At the same time, one of the doors opened itself, letting in the Norn of the present, followed by Keiichi. Twilight felt the urge to bow her head to the young woman whose pace and standing reminded her of Celestia, back in her home universe. Behind the appearances of youth and frailty were hidden power and kindness she could feel in every part of her body.

The goddess was holding a plate filled with food while Keiichi, behind her, carried in his arms some mechanical contraption that reminded her of some of the Loops where Pinkie took the role of one of the Flim and Flam Brothers. When the plate was delicately left in front of her, she knew instantly that she would not eat more perfect food in a thousand loops.

"Err...,” began the engineer while nodding towards his device, "I don't know if you need that, but..."

"Yes?"

"Well, you have... hooves. So, well, it may be difficult to eat and..." Keiichi trailed off in a cloud of politeness.

"Keiichi-san wants to say that he designed this prosthesis to allow you to use sticks or other food ustensils if you want to,” Belldandy intervened helpfully.

"Excuse me? You designed and built a prosthesis for a species you never saw before? In less than two hours?" Twilight blinked.

"... Yes?"

"Are you sure that you are not a wizard of some kind yourself?" Twilight asked.

"As far as I know."

"Keiichi-san is very talented with machines,” the goddess said with a cheerful smile. "He loves them and they love him back."

Twilight though for a moment about simply using her telekinesis to take the sticks and start eating.

Oh, why the hay not, after all?

She held her front hooves forward, in a position allowing the engineer to fit his devices to them.


The small prefab was, despite her initial expectations, as welcoming and full of life as her library tree could be back in Ponyville, albeit in a different way. While a few books, mostly technical and scientific, were left here and there, most of the internal space was taken by hundreds of tools, spare parts and the occasional vehicle, everything having some order beneath the apparent chaos.

An order ruled by Keiichi's boss, Chihiro. Twilight heard her name spoken by the engineer, always with respect and even some kind of awe, sparking her own curiosity at someone who could inspire such feelings to a man whose instinctive grasp of mechanics was only surpassed by his theoretical understanding of the scientific principles behind every engine or device he owned.

So she asked to see her, and Urd said a few seconds later that she would help, shoving a pill into her mouth.

Thus her current human shape, with no extravagance beyond a small tattoo on her arm representing her cutie mark. It wasn’t exactly normal¸ but at least it had hardly come at her cold.

"Twilight, huh?" said Chihiro as Keiichi left the workshop to deliver a freshly-repaired motorcycle to its owner.

"Yes," answered the newly human Anchor.

"Quite the meaningful name...,” commented the engineer before looking back at the engine in front of her. "Could you give me the size 8 wrench, Twi'?"

"Of course," she answered before taking the right tool from the wall where it was fixed.

"So, how long will you stay in Nekomi?" asked Chihiro while receiving the wrench.

"I'm not sure right now, but since Keiichi and Belldandy's... family are letting me stay at their home, I'm trying to make myself useful around here." Twilight made a noncommittal gesture.

"Hmm, do you have any engineering training?"

"I can work my way around a few things, but I'm a scientist myself, not an engineer...” Twilight said apologetically, before adding “…but I'm eager to learn."

The owner of the 'Whirlwind' workshop turned her head towards Twilight and examined her.

"What did Keiichi say?” she finally asked.

"That you'd probably give me a chance to get some experience."

"... of course he'd say that.” Chihiro tapped her chin. “OK, here's what we're going to do: there's an old engine near the rear door, behind the shop. I want you to take it apart... nicely, and get as much spare parts as you can from it. And I expect you to tell me why you kept or threw away each part. That'll give me an idea of what you can do."

"Thank you," answered Twilight. "Can I use your tools?"

"I don't expect you to use your hands or magic!" joked Chihiro. "Make yourself some place inside so I can keep an eye on you while you do the job."

Twilight nodded and went outside to find the engine.

Two hours later, the Anchor was still struggling with some parts, under the amused eye of Keiichi's boss and, as she went for another Allen key, asked her:

"Why isn't Keiichi back by now?"

"Huh, the customer was quite far... and K will come near his home on his way back, so he's probably having lunch there and be back in half an hour or so."

"Oh, OK," answered Twilight while ignoring the feeling that she was forgetting something. "So, how am I doing for now?"

"Not that bad for a beginner," the mechanic commented. "You have a knack for choosing the good tools, so that's good, but you don't have the experience and it shows in the order you're choosing the pieces to remove. But... I'll probably be able to get you in shape if you're willing to, and have the time, of course."

"Thanks a lot, I'd appreciate it."

Some advanced engineering could really be useful back in Equestria. So many opportunities for pranking... and useful things too! Thought the humanized unicorn with a smile, before going back to her previous chain of thoughts. Anyway, what am I forgetting now...

"Oh, by the way, I couldn't help notice some of the textbooks on the shelves," she said, pointing to one of them. "I didn't really expect some theoretical quantum physics in an automobile workshop."

"Huh? Nothing of interest here, just some reading for myself. There's always something else to learn, you know."

"I'd never say anything else in a million years," answered Twilight.

And that's probably not a figure of speech.

"Anyway, I've got to finish this transmission and then we'll take a break to eat, OK?" Chihiro said.

"As you wish, Chihiro."


Twilight went back to her engine, struggling with a screw she couldn't get unstuck and, after a few minutes, sat on the ground, trying to think at another way of getting the job done. Her thoughts were however interrupted by Chihiro's voice:

“Can I have the size 2 wrench, Twi?” the engineer asked without turning around.

“Sure,” she answered, before using her horn's telekinesis to carry the wrench to Chihiro's open hand.

Wait a sec. My horn?

Twilight put her hoof in front of her and realized she turned back into her original shape at some point during the past minute, without even noticing it as she was thinking about that damn screw.

Urd's shapeshifting pills had a limited duration! That's what I was forgetting!

The surprise made her lose her grip over the wrench, which fell with a loud noise on the ground.

She saw Chihiro turn her head towards the noise... and the purple unicorn now in her workshop.

Twilight had an embarassed smile.

Chihiro's eyes met hers.

"There's a perfectly logical explanation..." began the unicorn.

Chihiro began twitching.

"Give me a few seconds to think about one...” she continued as she took back the wrench through her telekinesis.

She, however, did not have those few seconds, as the engineer started yelling:

CUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTE!"

Before Twilight had any time to react, the engineer was over her, hugging her.

"What."


When Chihiro finally calmed down and stopped brushing Twilight's mane, the two of them sat near a table in front of each other:

"So..." began the engineer. “You're not from around here, are you?"

"Not really. And you're taking it really well,” Twilight complimented.

"What? The fact that you are actually a magical purple unicorn with a recommendation from Keiichi?" Chihiro shrugged.

"Yes, that," Twilight said, deadpan.

"Giving who he's living with, I find it difficult to be surprised anymore."

"What are you talking about?" Twilight asked, suddenly curious. She couldn’t mean…

"Twilight, please. He has two sentient robots living in his home, I've seen quite the lightshows in the direction of his house, a speaking cat and... well..."

She took one book off its shelf and left it in front of Twilight so she could read its title:

"Norse Myths, Legends and Pantheon," she read aloud. "Oh... it was obvious, wasn't it?"

"Pretty much."

"But why haven't you spoken to him about it? Or with anyone else?"

"It's his private life. Why should I get involved?” Chihiro shook her head. “He works well, his goddess of a girlfriend too when she comes here, so why should I get thing more complicated than they are. When he introduces me one of his 'foreign correspondants', I know I should expect some weirdness here and there, but he's some good judge of character overall, so if he tells me that you can learn something from me, why the hell not?"

"That was... unexpected."

"Says the purple unicorn,” Chihiro snarked. “Anyway, who should I call to get that shaping problem fixed?"

"Probably Urd. Just a question... How long have you known about, well, all of that?"

"Decades, probably more."

"... What? You're a Looper too?" Twilight asked, surprised.

"Not exactly," she answered. "I asked one of your 'foreign correspondants' friends about what was happening some time ago, and apparently, our proximity to Keiichi and the goddesses makes some memories about these 'Loops' of yours leak back to us. Some unconscious thing, apparently, but that's fine too."

"So that's why you have advanced textbooks and everything, because you have had..."

"More time, yes. And, well, that's probably required to keep up with Keiichi now."

"How so?"

"Let's just say that he's probably the most knowledgeable engineer on our world, now. So, when you'll be over with me, if you want some additional training, you should go and see him." Chihiro picked up the textbook and slotted it back into the shelf. “Now, where were we?”


9.10

Nightmare Moon burst into the building. “Tremble-”

“Welcome back!” shouted a hundred voices, so loud together that they drowned out most of her first sentence.

Chopping off her triumphant speech in favour of actually looking, Nightmare Moon blinked in shock.

There was a big banner hung over the top of the room, reading ‘Welcome Back, Princess Luna!’ Every table was surrounded by ponies all looking at her, with broad grins instead of the fear she was expecting. And there were a dozen day guards at the walls, with two dozen guards in black armour… the night guards still existed?

Nightmare was astonished. She’d thought her sister would instantly disband the Night Guards as punishment for her rebellion – if not execute them outright, in her darker moments.

While she was thinking, the pegasi in black-and-purple armour had marched up to the area just below the stage. The two in the lead bowed.

“Princess Luna, it is good to see you have returned to us. While our organization has dwindled until recently, we have maintained our traditions and wish to swear allegiance to you anew,” the one on the left said. He was the spitting image of her old, old friend, Sunshine…

With a flash of internal guilt, Nightmare realized she hadn’t thought of her friends in a thousand years.

Still, she concealed it admirably, and bowed to them in return. “My thanks…?”

“I am Sunshine, of the line of your guards since time immemorial,” he answered. “Princess Celestia informed us you were returning, and authorized us to recruit back up to strength – and recommended this party, as a matter of fact.”

Another crack opened in the layer of ice around Nightmare’s heart. This was not how she had imagined her return to Equestria going, but it felt… better. Cleaner.

Every muscle in her body twitched as a warm feeling rubbed against her cheek.

“It’s good to have you back, my dear sister,” Celestia said, nuzzling the other alicorn. “Would you like some cake?”

Nightmare focused on the plate that hovered up to her. The cake on it was made with sponge, and smelt of bananas, and there was a hint of moonberry jam. It was covered with icing in the shape of her cutie mark.

Oh, buck it.

“Yes, thank you.” Princess Luna said.


Twilight grinned. “Told you.”

Celestia nodded to her. “Yes, you did. I should have done this the first time.”

“Though,” Twilight continued more seriously, watching as Luna took the oaths of her guards, “one of the main reasons this worked was because we know her so well now. Not just how she is normally, but how she thought as Nightmare Moon. And if it had gone wrong, there would have been a lot more ponies in the danger zone.”

The Princess of the Sun nodded, accepting the point. “I am sometimes astonished by your growth, Twilight. Every time I see you, you’ve gained another few decades – or centuries, or even millennia – of experience. And I’m glad to have a Loop alone with you, so I can get to know you all over again.”

Twilight shifted uncomfortably. “You know I’m not comfortable with praise…”

“That is one of the very things that is praiseworthy.” Celestia nudged her. “Come on, I want to introduce Luna to you.”

Loops 10

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10.1


“…Friendship isn’t always easy. But it’s definitely worth fighting for!” Twilight finished.

Beating Discord as per the first time was relatively unusual – but, well, it was nice to go along with things. Besides, she wanted to analyze how the corruption effect worked.

The rainbow of light crashed down on Discord… and bounced off.

“Yes!” Discord shouted, materializing a guitar and playing a chord. “I knew it!”

“Knew what?” Twilight asked, feeling a bit lost all of a sudden. The rest of the world was being fixed by the Elements, so they were still working…

“Why, that the Elements of Harmony don’t work on someone who’s actually, genuinely good and redeemed!” Discord said, winking. “I’ll admit that they got me the first time, Twilight Sparkle, but not when I’m just pranking the lot of you.”

“...oh. Well, welcome to the Loops, Discord.” Twilight said.

“Glad to be here.” Discord snapped his claws, and drinks materialized. “You’ve won an exclusive interview with the Spirit of Chaos! Someone get the Foal Free press. Or has that not formed yet?”


Celestia flashed into existence at the edge of Ponyville. “Well done, Twilight, and all of you, for defeating… Dis…cord?”

“Anyway,” Discord said, as he passed the last of the cupcakes out. “That’s enough Generosity to be going on with. What’s next… oh, yes. Honesty! Oh, come and join us, Celly. Do let me know if I get anything wrong.”

Celestia sank back on her haunches numbly. What the hay…

“Anyway. One of the moments that always sticks in my mind, with your dear ruler there, is when she was a little filly and tried to make her bedroom lamp brighter.”

Celestia shook her head frantically. “Discord!”

“What?” Discord looked over at her, pouring her a cup of tea. Sideways. “I’m hurt, I really am. Look at me being all honest. That’s an Element of Harmony, isn’t it? Anyway, she basically pulled a tiny bit of the sun into the bedroom lamp, it exploded, and her face was this hilarious sooty black colour for weeks! It took her months for her eyelashes to grow back!”


10.2


“But that doesn’t make any sense!” Twilight said, pacing in front of Pinkie. “You can’t just… have physical reactions which predict the future! It causes an information paradox, which means… and… the whole… where does the party cannon… gaaaaah!”

And then Twilight’s head exploded.

There was surprisingly little blood, but a great deal of flame and smoke. Twilight’s body stood there with smoke pouring out of it, as Pinkie stared in shock.

Then the library door opened, and Twilight came out. “Hi, Pinkie – oh, no. Not again.” Lifting up ‘her’ headless body, she began to carry it back inside. “Sorry. One of the experimental Twibots got out. I suppose I should have installed an extra safety valve…”

Pinkie’s head swung between the unconcerned purple unicorn, and the blast scarring on the road. “…what?”

“Experimental Twibots. I was trying to make them so that, in case one of us ever gets hurt, we can still activate the Elements.” Twilight indicated the body she was carrying. “Only thing is, I haven’t got them nearly good enough yet to even let them start learning about how their element works. Did you show off your Pinkie sense?”

“…yeah,” Pinkie said, still a bit stunned.

“That’ll be it.” Twilight nodded, pleased. “I’ll make sure to lower the gain on their cognitive engines. There’s some things it takes a lot more experience to understand.”

Over where the robot Twilight had been standing, several large and heavy objects landed from a pegasus removal van.


10.3


“…girls,” Scootaloo began, “What is Diamond Tiara’s special talent?”

“Huh.” Sweetie frowned, thinking. “Bullying?”

“But that’s not very relevant to a diamond tiara, is it?” Scootaloo said, still thinking. “I mean, you know all those talks we got from Twilight and Rarity and Appejack and Dash an’ stuff… how every cutie mark is worth somethin’?”

Applebloom nodded. “Right, an’ bullyin’ ain’t much of a talent, either.”

“Wait.” Sweetie looked up. “I think I might have it. You know how she never admits she actually got something wrong?”

The other two nodded.

“Well, diamond is the hardest gemstone. Rarity told me that once.”

“Just once?” Scootaloo snarked.

“All right, probably more than once. But I remembered it that time.” Sweetie shrugged. “Anyway, I think she just won’t change her mind, or break, or anything.”

“Too bad she’s stuck on jerk…” Applebloom muttered.

“Actually, I wonder what she thinks her talent is,” Scootaloo said, “Maybe we should ask?”


“Oh, how tragic,” Diamond Tiara said as the Crusaders approached. “It’s the opposite of a jackpot. Triple blanks.”

The Crusaders stopped, looking from one to another.

“That was actually a pretty good one,” Sweetie said. “Seven?”

“Eight.” Scootaloo countered.

“Yeah.” Sweetie nodded. “Anyway. Diamond, we were wondering… what does your cutie mark represent?”

Diamond Tiara blinked. “Er… it means… I’m daddy’s special princess!”

“That’s more like her speed.” Scootaloo pointed up, where Princess Twilight – having ascended while handling Nightmare Moon for a change, this Loop – was flying to the shops. “You know. Alicorn.”

“…oh.” Diamond frowned. “I… don’t actually know.”

“Kin ah have a look?” Applebloom asked.

“What?” Diamond Tiara tried to turn her flank away from them, which only revealed the other one. “Why?”

“Well, we’re tryin’ to work out how cutie marks work,” Applebloom continued, as Sweetie Belle snapped a picture with a camera she’d borrowed. “So we’re tryin’ to work out what they all mean. How’d you get yours?”


“Well, that story didn’t make much sense,” Scootaloo muttered, “Why would Princess Celestia specifically send a letter to her dad saying his daughter was a nice filly? Especially if they’d never met.”

“Yeah. I kinda think she was makin’ it up.” Applebloom agreed. “Pity. It’d be nice to know how she really got her cutie mark.”

“Aha!”

The others turned to Sweetie. “What is it?”

“Well, it looks like most of the diamonds in her tiara are brilliant-cut. That means they’re the best kind of cut for a generic diamond. I can’t see any princess-cut gems, but this is the important one.” Sweetie pointed to the stone right at the middle of the cutie mark tiara. “That’s a well polished but uncut stone.”

The others stared at her as though she’d grown a second head.

“What? I helped Rarity for a couple of Loops.” Sweetie blushed. “Anyway. That means she might actually be – literally – a diamond in the rough. She’s just never had the chance – never faced the stress – that would let her shine.”

Scootaloo rasied a hoof. “By stress, we’re talkin’, like, an alien invasion, right?”

“Probably,” Sweetie giggled. “But it does mean something. She’s been too spoiled to develop her full potential.”

“Huh.” Applebloom kicked the floor. “An’ now ah feel bad for her. Why did we have t’ do this, again?”


10.4


"Why are we here, again?" Rainbow Dash asked Twilight.

"Well, I don’t feel like dealing with Discord, so we are going to nip that in the bud right away," Twilight answered as they turned around another bush. "Besides, this shouldn’t take... long..." Twilight fell silent as they arrived at the place where Discords statue was supposed to be.

Emphasis on supposed to.

"Okay, looks like we have a looper," Applejack said. "Well, this should be interesting." The group went inside to find Celestia and whatever trick Discord had set up, only to find a very confused Celestia reading a report.

"Um, princess? We think..." Twilight began before being cut-off by Celestia.

"That Discord has returned? Yes. Yes he has. Also, he is re-organizing our tax system to more efficient form and has cleared several our laws to be more streamlined and, oh yeah… he is not acting like Discord!" The Sun Princess shouted. "He is... not chaotic! He even organized the guard rotation to be clearer."

Luna walked out of a room next door and handed a cup of wine to Celestia, before taking a long snip from hers.

"He just looked over the workers union proposal and reformed it into the most efficient organization We have ever seen," Luna said, shaking her head. "He is currently looking over our diplomatic relations."

"Should we stop him?" Twilight asked tentatively.

"That’s just it. We are not sure! On the one hoof… IT'S DISCORD! On the other hoof, the entire system would be improved drastically by these changes! I can't decide!" Celestia cried. Discord entered the room carrying another report.

"See, 'Tia, if you had replaced the old inherited nobility with 'Nobility through achievement', you could have reduced the deficit by 32% and increased the general happiness by 22%!"

Celestia stared at Discord as he explained in great detail, before simply taking the paper and leaving. Luna soon followed.

"You're having too much fun," Twilight said to Discord, who had a crocodilian grin on his face. "But isn't this against your nature?"

"What? Randomly re-organizing the entire nation? Nah, I am merely being myself. I bet you never saw this one coming!"


10.5


“TREMBLE IN FEAR, MORTAL!” Nightmare Moon shouted. “WHEREVER YOU ARE, WHEN I FIND YOU THEN I SHALL WREAK MY VENGEANCE!”

“Wait,” Twilight said, frowning. “Mortal, singular?”

“Indeed.” Nightmare Moon’s voice was a bit less loud this time. “I, Nightmare Moon, noticed that for the last few years my Nightmare Night tribute from Ponyville has been significantly lower than normal.

Twilight realized that clearly Luna was Awake – either that or something was very wrong with the world – and decided to go along with it anyway. “Do you know why?”

“I suspect.” Nightmare Moon walked down from the dais, casually batting away two guards with her wings. “I suspect that it is a pony who arrived here between three and five years ago, and one who has far too much of a taste for candy.” Her nostrils flared, as she sniffed. “There is one here who smells of sugar…”

Pinkie Pie dove out the window.

“AHA!” Nightmare Moon bellowed, launching herself into the air with powerful wing beats and following. “YOU SHALL GIVE ME RECOMPENSE, GLUTTON!”

“Nevar!” Pinkie’s voice came from outside. “Whoops!”

There was a crash.

“DECOYING ME INTO A HOUSE IS NOT RECOMPENSE!” Nightmare Moon shouted, amid the crunch of falling masonry.

Twilight trotted outside to watch. It was all very impressive, actually – while Pinkie wasn’t Awake, she was treating this as just as much of a game as Luna was, and kept tricking the alicorn into overshooting or hitting trees.

After about twenty minutes, Celestia appeared in a flash of light. “Twilight! I heard that… what is going on?”

Twilight shrugged. “As I understand it, Nightmare Moon is annoyed that she wasn’t getting enough candy from Ponyville, and wants to get payback.”

Celestia’s jaw dropped. “…you mean it actually worked? I thought it was an old mare’s tale!”

“What, Nightmare Moon?” Twilight asked.

“No, Nightmare Night.” Celestia watched as Pinkie pulled off what could be best described as a Double Team, tricking Nightmare Moon into embedding herself into the floor. “I had hoped that a holiday where ponies spent their time outside, at night, enjoying themselves and enjoying scaring themselves, might help to convince her that her night was not truly neglected. I did not expect that the mythology that has grown up around it would be… accurate. In every particular.”

Pinkie dodged again, and then gasped as Nightmare Moon collided with Sugarcube corner. “Oh, no!”

“AHA!” Nightmare Moon boomed. “SO THIS IS WHERE YOU’VE BEEN KEEPING IT!” The black alicorn emerged from the attic with a comically large bag labelled ‘candy’, and flew off towards the moon.

“…what the buck?” Rainbow Dash managed.


10.6 (Mandemon)


"Twilight, return to the castle. Carriages are waiting for you and others. Yes, I am Awake. So are they. Celestia."

A short and precise letter, so unlike Celestia, Twilight noted. Had something happened? She had come to Ponyville in advance to set up things, but had noted that the others were Awake and thus she didn't really have anything to do. However, it was the day when Nightmare Moon would return and Twilight was slightly anxious to see whenever Luna was Awake or not. Lately, she had been Awake more often than previously and had made each appearance varied. The time she had appeared singing Hello my baby had been particularly funny. Twilight had never expected her to juggle all those instruments alone with magic.

She was not surprised to see the carriage waiting for her, with the others already there. When Celestia really wanted something done, it was done. She remembered that one loop with that whole three way Pony-Zebra-Griffin war. It took less than a week for Celestia and Luna to smash two other nations. As it turned out, the problem was not having enough power to deal with problems, but in knowing how to solve problems without using a metaphorical hammer on them all.

The group arrived at the Canterlot just as the night was falling. They noted that the place was rather full of nobles from pretty much everywhere – Celestia must be planning for something big. They were guided into the throne room, where Celestia was waiting for them.

"Oh good, you girls are here. Now, we just need to wait for one more pony and we are ready to proceed," Celestia said with a smile.

"Oh? Who?" Twilight asked.

Right on cue, Nightmare Moon appeared right next to Celestia, rousing a shocked gasp from the gathered nobles. Just as quickly as she appeared, Luna also shed her Nightmare Moon appearance and assumed her normal one.

"Ew, icky stuff. I never get used to that." Luna said. "Right, let's get this show on the road."

Right on cue, both used their magic to induce Alicorn transformations in all six Element bearers, confusing pretty much every pony in the room.

"Right, so here is the deal. Me and my sister here, we are kinda tired of this, so we are holding a vacation. Every single petty argument or whatever you suckers have, these six will deal with it. We are going to go and relax. Ciao!" Celestia said with a smile, before teleporting away alongside Luna. She reappeared five seconds later, causing everyone to sigh. Of course their beloved Princess would not do anything like this.

"Oh yeah, I am not joking. Also, you six, don't call us unless it's multiverse threatening stuff, okay? We really need this," Celestia said, and disappeared again.

A stunned silence descended.

"Um, surprise?" Twilight said, with an embarrassed smile on her face.


10.7


“ATTENTION, PONIES!” Luna shouted, appearing above the Ponyville town hall an hour into the Nightmare Night celebrations. “I AM ON A DIET! PLEASE PAY TRIBUTE IN VEGETABLES!”

Applejack and Carrot Top exchanged glances, then both started trotting to their respective homes to get their market stalls.


10.8


“Hello, Princess!” Twilight said, stepping aside from the door. “It’s good to see you. I was wondering whether you’d come, since there was that meeting with dignitaries from Saddle Arabia.”

Celestia paused. “What do you mean? I set it up so that they would be coming here. It is a diplomatic visit by them, not to them.”

Twilight shrugged. “I don’t know. I got a letter saying that you wouldn’t be able to make the magic show because of a need to visit another country.” Which was a surprise, actually… “I invited Luna and Cadence instead, and they both seemed very pleased by the idea.”

A sky-blue unicorn went past, reading from one of Twilight’s notebooks. “Trixie sees… so that is the basis behind advanced manifoldic formation of friendship harmonics… oh!” The notebook closed with a snap, and Trixie swept her hat off her head in a bow. “Princess. I had not realized that you would be present as well as your sister and niece. You do me honour.”

“Ah, you must be Trixie.” Celestia returned the bow. “Twilight told me that you had reconciled after a minor disagreement last year, though she did not tell me you were going to be a part of this display.”

“Well, she was in the area,” Twilight said, nodding to a cart that was parked out near the back window of the library. “I didn’t realize until after I was told you were going to Saddle Arabia.”

“Yes, about that.” Celestia frowned. “I don’t know why you think that – it certainly wasn’t in the letter I wrote… may I see the one you received?”

Twilight passed it over readily. Truth be told, she wasn’t sure why Celestia had changed her plans this Loop, but had assumed it was something to do with the newly Looping Trixie’s different behaviour. It was hard to tell what effect a change would have… but if she hadn’t in fact changed them, then it made no sense.

“You are indeed correct. How strange.” Celestia shook her head. “While I confess I do not understand the reason for the altered correspondence, it was never my intent to miss your display – which I now understand will be a joint one. Since the Saddle Arabian diplomats should be arriving at some point, perhaps we shall just go ahead as scheduled.”

“Works for me.” Twilight opened another of her notebooks, and held it out for Trixie. “What about one of these to start with?”

“A meteor swarm?” Trixie examined the magical formulae. “Very daring. I see it is something of a trust exercise – since the pony running the spell cannot also run the shield.”

“Basically.” Twilight grinned. “Be an impressive opener, won’t it?”

“Indeed.” Trixie nodded her respect to Twilight. “You are clearly learning what Trixie has to teach you about showmareship, Twilight.”


“You are Princess Celestia?” one of the Saddle Arabian emirs asked, blinking at the figure in front of them. “You do not look very much like a pony...”

“Well,” Discord replied, adjusting his fake wig and dress and keeping his voice to a falsetto, “We pride Ourself on an egalitarian nation, where any may be whatever she or he desires.”


“Most impressive, both of you.” Luna said to the two panting unicorns after nearly six solid hours of magical pyrotechnics. “I had not known half of those spells were possible.”

“Neither did Trixie…” Trixie muttered. “She has learned much… er, I mean, I have learned much from Twilight.”

“Indeed.” Luna turned to Celestia. “Why so worried, sister?”

“I don’t know why those diplomats didn’t turn up. It’s such a shame, they would have found that very impressive…” Celestia fretted. “I can’t help thinking something went very wrong…”

A scroll materialized next to her. Twilight automatically caught it, then relinquished it to Celestia who opened it.

“Let’s see… oh dear… ‘Dear Celly. Sorry for messing with your letters, I wanted a holiday. Don’t worry, I’m not evil any more… much… but it’s just so boring staring at hedges the whole time. Anyway, the Saddle Arabians loved me. Apparently I’m very good at belly dancing, who knew? I should have known I had a hidden talent. So, long story short, you’ve got all the agreements you wanted and then some, but they think I’m you. I look lovely in a dress. Paradoxically yours, Discord.’” Celestia put the letter down, and breathed deeply. In, out. In…

“HE DID WHAT?!”

“Well,” Twilight muttered to Trixie, “That’s one way to cause chaos.”

“Indeed.” Trixie blinked. “Him too?”

“Occasionally. It’s just so hard to tell, with him…”


10.9 (Madfish): Fluttershy and Rush (offshoot of 40K Loop)

(this first few paragraphs is a repeat from earlier, just to remind people where we are.)


Fluttershy walked among the drifts of the freezing valleys she found herself on at the start of the loop. She had had to restore her alicorn status just to survive the frozen wasteland and though the weather was harsher than any other. She could have allowed her self to die and end the loop for herself but if the other's were here somewhere they would need her help given the few times she had tried a spell beyond telekinesis she had felt sick as if monsters had tried to climb through her horn into her skull. Besides she owed it to her current companions mother to make sure they grew up big and strong first.

"I hope Twilight's going to be ok," she said to the wolves beside her, "Without her magic she gets- twitchy...."

She trailed of as one of the wolves, a cub but larger than her pegasus self, drew her attention to a light flickering in the distance. Light's meant people, hopefully friendly people.

As they approached she found herself disappointed as all that was there was some sort of pod covered with ice. Scraping the ice of the hatch she gasped as she saw the child within.

The wolves panted, breath frosting in the air as they looked in at what had surprised there surrogate mother.

"No! You can't eat him. We're going to take this pod to shelter and we're going to help the poor dear. If no one comes for him you can think of him as you're new little brother."


The Emperor stood over the unconscious form of his son. Victorious in battle, as he had not been in feasting, he turned, letting those around stare at his mighty form and their fallen King. It was good to see that these people were strong. They mastered their world and its beasts, as the mighty wolves with the guards and strange winged equine creature his son kept as a pet attested.

The time for asserting his victory done, he turned back to reach down and pick his son up – only to be stymied. He found himself staring into the yellow creatures’ eyes and felt its will slam into his own. Now the Emperor knew himself to be the most powerful psyker in the galaxy – but, while it takes great will to wield such power, that power is not in itself will. So, taken by surprise, he found himself frozen under its stare as the Creature had the gall to start to lecture him!

"How dare you! How dare you!" The Creature raged, "My Son freely invites you into his hall and even when you lost your challenge he gave you your request of victory for the second, you spit on his generosity and hospitality then strike him down by bringing an artifact of power to a duel of honour! What do you...?”

The would be Unifier of Humanity tuned out the Xeno's speech as he began to reassert his will as his own master. Only surprise had stayed his hand that long, and though he felt the force of the Xeno's attack strengthen enough to slow his limb it would not be enough to save it from being crushed under the force of his glove's powerfield.

Sometimes a fraction of a second is enough, though, and a sliver of time before he connected his chin was met by the rising Russ' fist throwing him back to the Great Hall's doors.

"You eat my food, drink my drink, then insult my household and try to kill my Mother. Let’s see how you do in a fair fight!" With that Russ gestured and the two greatest wolves in the hall were at his side, one presenting him with his axe and the other with a shield.

Even from the door and with his brains rattled the Leader of Mankind could feel the touch of the warp on them. Apparently bringing his son home would be more difficult than he'd expected.


Fluttershy had learned many hard lessons in this loop; She had learned that despite her talent and the abilities she had gained through the loops some creatures could not be reasoned with, she had learned to be a good mother making sure her charges were safe and able to grow in a harsh environment, she had learned of a deep abiding pride when her sons had brought the wolves and humans of this planet together uniting them for survival and protection as a greater whole.

"I thought I was stronger now," she thought as she shivered. The fear she had conquered centuries ago rekindled by near death, the implacable, disturbing eyes she had looked into and the sheer power she witnessed there. The sound of battle and the barking of wolves carried into the hall as the people within looked out to what she couldn't see. A few of them began brushing her mane to try and offer comfort.

"Why can't I help? I'm not strong like Twilight." The sound of what could only be a building collapsing made her flinch. Her son needed her and she was so weak that she was just lying down, shivering, like she always did.

"But I wasn't strong when I went into the Everfree that first time.... or when I faced the Dragon... but they needed me... no… I was strong, because they needed me!"

She took flight with a speed that was distinctly atypical of her, kicking open the hall shutters to avoid the battle outside. Glancing down as she made for the clouds she saw her little Leman charge out of a pile of rubble and hook the man's artifact gauntlet out to the side with his axe. Geri took the opening and leapt, teeth scoring his armoured shoulder to little apparent effect, before he was grabbed and swung bodily at Leman to break their mutual weapon lock.

Reaching the clouds, she wove an illusion to hide her actions and began to work them vigorously. "I might not be Rainbow Dash, but if Applejack can do this then I can too!"


"It seems, my Son, you've been abandoned! Like humanity ever is by the xeno when comes their time of need."

"She would never abandon me! It was she that taught me of Loyalty and Kindness on this harsh world. She took me in and made sure neither myself nor my brothers starved. With her teachings all of my Pack have prospered!"

"And yet she is gone." Punching Leman's shield squarely in the centre, sending the Primarch flying, he turned his back on him. The Emperor dealt Freki a viscous kick to the head, rendering the wolf insensate, while a gesture at Geri resulted in him flying over the surrounding buildings and out of sight.

With a berserker roar Russ returned to the fight hewing and chopping at air as the man before him skilfully evaded each strike, watching the rage in Leman's eyes build.

"I find myself disappointed. I have searched the galaxy for my stolen son, and I find that he sacrifices his skill for rage so easily." So saying he grabbed the haft of the axe swung at him and wrenched hard to break his berserking son's grip, familiar from a hundred battles against Chaos with the madness he saw before him. So he was understandably surprised to have misread the King of the Russ when Leman abruptly released both axe and rage and rammed the edge of his shield around his guard, aiming for his throat with all the skill that he'd apparently abandoned.

The Emperor jumped back, sparing himself, but the power feeds to his glove were severed as he brought it up to shield himself.

"Perhaps you are a worthy son after all!" He crowed with a smile, before he frowned seriously, "But we have much to discuss – as fun as these games have been."

Like Feni before him Russ was lifted into the air but instead of being launched away he was kept pinned to nothing as the Emperor began to talk.


Hidden above Fluttershy’s illusion of stratocumulus, the clouds churned, transformed by her magic into a roiling charged mass. She carefully opened a gap in the illusion and saw Leman held aloft far below. Her reservations were put aside as she flew higher and higher straining to keep her telekinesis caressing the massive cloud bank below. Inverting herself she took a deep breath of the rarefied air and allowed herself to plummet.

Flap.

She aimed for her gap.

Flap. "I'll-"

She sped up.

Flap.

Her telekinesis firmed and began closing the gap and pushing the cloud bank down, creating a funnel.

Flap. "Not-"

She neared the wall.

Flap.

She was through the closing gap.

Flap. "Let-"

Telekinesis pulled the clouds into contact with her tail.

Flap.

She flooded the clouds with her pegasus magic and pulled them faster.

Flap. "You-"

Nearly.

Flap.

The-

Flap. "Down-"

-re.

FLAP.

Her acceleration soared as her body plummeted. Her sons' attacker beginning to look up at the funnel of storm clouds trailing her and the clearing skies as her illusion shattered.

FLAP! "Ever-"

Straining to bring her tail past her hooves as she tucked her legs.

FLAP!

BOOM!

Through the wall she watched as Russ fell and was dragged away by Geri, as the man raised some form of shield spell.

FLAP! "Again!"

Releasing the clouds she twisted to the side and bucked the the cloud funnel still moving down as hard as she could.

KRACKKK!

Lightning crawled across the funnel like the biggest plasma globe in the universe, then lanced down at the God Emperor of Mankind with the precision of a sniper and the force of a lance barrage.

Then the world was silent. And down from above came a yellow alicorn, her unconscious form spinning like a falling sycamore seed, a few tattered wisps of cloud catching round her like a torn parachute.


"...did you see that?" Bjorn the Fell-handed asked. "I never thought someone would beat the little mother, or Russ!"

"Well," Grimbold the Aethling chuckled, "I don't think our guest thought they were that strong either. Look, he's out too!"

"A draw, by Fenrir!" Bjorn called. "Only a draw gives both sides full honour!"

"Oh, give over," one of the clanners said, gesturing at a wolf that was looking at Fluttershy. "They'll be fine in the morning."

"To lord Russ and the little mother!" Grimbold raised his horn.

Freyja Hearth-Mistress' snort could be heard over raucous cheering of the menfolk. "Honour implies our 'guest'," a word she spat like cursed Winter, "has some to regain. You saw him try and strike down our Little Mother when she justly chastised the lout. He's already shown his colours. He can stay in the stables, for I won't have him under our roof till our King is well."

From beside her a huge wolf bitch growled.

Freyja nodded, "You're right. I wouldn't trust him near the kennels with the pups either. Bring them into the Hall for now and we'll all keep watch over them."


10.10 (Filraen)


"So girls, who gets to choose how to deal with Nightmare Moon this time?"

"Ah think it's Fluttershy's, ain't it Pinkie?" Applejack offered.

"Yep," Pinkie Pie confirmed.

The yellow pegasus blinked. "In that case... Twilight, do you have that thing I asked you to keep that human loop? The one we wrote the thank-you letter?"

Twilight Sparkle grinned. "I like what you're thinking."

Fluttershy smiled. "Yes, I want to try some other magic than the Elements of Harmony to see if we can break Princess Luna out of Nightmare Moon."

"Sounds like a plan. Hang on, girls," and concentrating her magic Twilight teleported them all to Canterlot Royal Library.

"Oh, dear, when did you learn to use magic without flaring your horn?" Rarity asked, surprised.

"Oh, that?" Twilight answered, sightly flustered. "One loop I worked at Ponyville Hospital. And my horn is still flaring, it's just the light isn't visible. I had the conversion spell up because-"

"How comes the light isn't visible?!" Rainbow Dash countered. "Light is light, if there's light you can see it, if there isn't it's dark."

"SHHHH!"

Rainbow quickly looked around with a panicked look on her face.

Twilight whispered in response "Keep it down Rainbow! We are in a library."

"Oops, sorry."

Twilight continued explaining "Anyway, it’s like the X-Rays they use to check broken bones. You can't see light but-"

"All right, egghead stuff." Rainbow Dash waved with one hoof, dismissing Twilight's words.

Twilight just glared at Rainbow for a moment before returning to Rarity. "Sorry for forgetting to tell you, but we are going to do this at nighttime and we don't want the Princesses getting distracted with a horn flaring in the dark if we want to put Fluttershy in the spotlight."

Rarity nodded "Makes sense to light only the most important part of the scenery to draw all the attention; which reminds me, are you going to be all right Fluttershy?"

"I... want to try this, so don't worry Rarity, I'll be fine." The yellow pegasus tried to reassure her friend.

"All right."

"However," Fluttershy added, "I'm going to need your help with Princess Luna."

"Sure."


Celestia was alone in Canterlot Castle's Royal Hall. She had dismissed the Royal Guard just after sunset with the justification that she needed to get ready for the Summer Sun Celebration ceremony in Ponyville. In reality, she was setting herself as a first line of defense against Nightmare Moon and as bait, should she fail, so her faithful student Twilight Sparkle could reclaim the Elements of Harmony.

At some point her patience bore fruit, as she felt an intimately familiar magical presence attacking her. Dodging to one side, she found the figure she was waiting for in the royal throne.

"Celestia," Nightmare Moon spat, as if it were the worst imaginable insult, "we meet again."

Suddenly Celestia felt a strange wave of magic pass through her. The sky had somehow lost part of its color, leaving it gray. Celestia tried her connection to the Sun, finding it farther from her control than ever. Was she beaten so easily? Had she failed in rescuing her sister? Why did Nightmare Moon look so surprised right now?

Celestia didn't really have time to ponder such questions as she started hearing music, a soft and slow tune. Then suddenly a spot in the dark hall became illuminated, showing a yellow pegasus who seemed to look at both her and Nightmare Moon. After a while, and following the music, she started to sing.

Fate has been cruel and order unkind
How can I have sent you away?

The pegasus had a soft voice, a nice match for the sad song she was singing.

The blame was my own; the punishment, yours
The harmony's silent today.

Celestia felt... something, as if the song captured her own self 'That song, could that be about...?'

But into the stillness I'll bring you a song
And I will your company keep
Till your tired eyes and my lullabies
Have carried you softly to sleep

Suddenly a white unicorn appeared by the side of the yellow pegasus, who continued singing where the pegasus, who looked in the verge of tears, left.

Once did a pony who gleamed like the moon
Look out on her kingdom and sigh
Dejected she cried, "Surely there is no pony
Who loves me, or finds any love in my night."

Nightmare Moon's face betrayed her bewilderment, as if the song affected both alicorns equally.

So great was her pain, she rose in rebellion
Against those who cared for her most.
She let the Nightmare fall on those she ruled
And threatened to grip them in permanent cold.

It was only then when the pegasus resumed singing, now in a duet. Somehow Celestia knew the words of this unknown song even before they were sung by the ponies.

Lullay dear princess, goodnight sister mine
And rest now in moonlight's embrace
Bear up my lullaby, winds of the earth
Through cloud, and through sky, and through space
Carry the peace and the coolness of night
And carry my sorrow in kind
Sister, you're loved so much more than you know
Forgive me for being so blind

The sky suddenly returned to its usual color, and Celestia realized there weren't just only other two ponies: they were six, including Twilight Sparkle! The ponies also started to move in a slow yet captivating choreography while their singing continued, the lyrics telling the simplest, yet truest, version Celestia had known of the long ago tragedy. The turning of her sister Luna into Nightmare Moon, and her banishment to the moon by Celestia's own hoof a millennia ago.

After the second verse and a section of music without lyrics finished Celestia couldn't hold it anymore: with tears she only now noticed flowing, she started singing in conjunction with Twilight Sparkle and the other ponies and -- to her surprise -- Nightmare Moon.

The years now before us fearful and unknown
I never imagined I'd face them on my own
May these sunless seasons swiftly pass, I pray
I love you; I miss you all these miles away

At this point everypony except the alicorns had stopped singing, but Celestia hardly realized it. She had only eyes and voice for Nightmare Moon, who was still singing and crying to a song which touched both of their souls, none daring to move for fear breaking what seemed an illusion.

May all your dreams be sweet tonight
Safe upon that bed above the lights
And know not of heartache, fear, nor, gloom
And when I dream, I'll fly away to meet you soon
Sleep, sleep, sleep...

When the song ended Celestia felt expectant. Now what? After what appeared to be another thousand years Nightmare Moon closed her eyes and Celestia saw magic enveloping the darker alicorn. A moment later the magic vanished and it was Princess Luna who opened hers.

"Celestia," Luna said in a cracking voice, "we meet again."

Only then both alicorns dared to move, this time to reach each other's embrace.


Twilight Sparkle tried to contain her tears, and her excitement. At least the reunion of the Princesses helped with the latter – but not with the former. During the musical number not only was she "lightlessly" casting a Dimensional Barrier to distract the Princesses and the music spell for the song Fluttershy found, but also she was taking care on observing how the song affected the Princesses.

Fluttershy's plan was a complete success: using what she dubbed "heart-songs", the way ponies seemed to spontaneously inspire and create musicals, combined with a song specially tailored for the Princesses to dispel the corruption in Nightmare Moon. This time they didn't even need to use the Elements of Harmony or to become alicorns, and the best part of all: she had material for yet another Thesis!

Drying her tears she rounded up her friends and started to leave. "Princess Celestia, Princess Luna. Now we have to go to finish the preparations of the Summer Sun celebration in Ponyville. We'll wait for you there." Celestia could only answer with a nod.

Loops 11

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11.1 (Stainless Steel Fox)


The three Crusaders eagerly awaited the arrival of 'Nightmare Moon'. Twilight had agreed to let them handle her appearance this loop. Luna wasn't awake, but that would be part of the fun.

Ah, here she was.

"Oh, my beloved subjects. It's been so long since I've seen your precious, little, sun-loving faces."

Rainbow Dash wasn't awake, and did her usual non-awake attack run on Nightmare Moon, and was as usual stopped by the unawakened Applejack. "What did you do to our princess?"

Nightmare Moon chuckled. "Why, am I not royal enough for you? Don't you know who I am?"

Before Pinkie could guess, Applebloom stepped forward, and called out, "You're Nightmare Moon! But you shouldn't be here for a couple of months yet!"

"I am gratified that at least some-pony remembers the legend, but I have returned on the longest day of the thousandth year, as prophesied."

Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo stepped up beside Applebloom as she continued. "So… you're not here for Nightmare Night?"

The Nightmare looked honestly confused. "No, silly foal, I am here to bring the Night Eternal!"

"Whoa!" Applebloom exclaimed, "Isn't that a bit steep for not getting enough candy?"

"Candy? What is this 'Nightmare Night' you speakest of?"

The trio inwardly grinned. They'd seen Luna restored by talking before, and starting to speak ye olde butchered equestrian was one of the signs of her breaking through the Nightmare persona.

"It's a night where we dress up and collect candy to offer to you so you don't eat pony fillies and colts,” Applebloom rattled off, with just a hint of nervousness.

Nightmare Moon actually looked disgusted. "Eat ponies? What calumnies hath my sister foisted on this world in my absence?"

"Told ya!" Scootaloo nudged Applebloom as they'd rehearsed.

Sweetie Belle added, "Well, nobody actually believes that bit, but it's a good scary story, and you're an awesome, scary pony!"

"Thou wantest to be scared?" Nightmare Moon was clearly all at sea… so they kept pushing out the boat.

"Oh yeah! Scary can be fun when it's all just a game! Nightmare Night is one of my favourite days of the year,” Applebloom explained. “We get to dress up and stay up late and party all night, and get lots and lots of candy. And Nightmare Night wouldn't be Nightmare Night without Nightmare Moon."

The Nightmare turned to smoke and flew down to the three pony fillies, appearing right in front of them, a black aura and lightning crackling around her. "Doth thou still think me a figure of fun?"

"Whoo!" "Cool!" "Do it again!" The three fillies, rather than being intimidated, applauded her. A few other ponies started joining in, Pinkie chief among them.

The Nightmare was taken aback. "Thou art not terrified? Why doth no-pony get it? I am here to imprison my sister Princess Celestia, as she once imprisoned me in the moon, and bring eternal night! I know nothing of this Nightmare night you speak of!"

Sweetie Belle's lip quivered. "Does that mean Nightmare Night is cancelled?"

Applebloom asked, "Your sister? Why would any-pony do something like that? Especially a sister. My sister Applejack and I are the closest of friends. She'd never banish me to the moon for a thousand years, not even if i was really naughty. Well I guess she couldn't in the first place, not being an alicorn and all, but even if she could, she wouldn't."

Nightmare Moon huffed. "Very well, since it is clear no-pony understands how I was wronged, I shall have to explain. A thousand years ago, my sister and did work together as princesses of Equestria, she raising the sun and bringing the day, while I did raise the moon and brought the night as Princess Luna. But while ponies enjoyed my sister's day, they feared and shunned my beautiful night, sleeping through it. I ultimately resolved that I would make the night last forever, so they would have to appreciate it. But my sister managed to defeat me and locked me away in the moon for a thousand years."

"That was really mean!" Applebloom commented.

"It was the only way for ponies to see my night..."

"No, I mean ponies ignoring your night. Nights are cool too." Applebloom decided not to mention the whole ‘diurnal biology’ thing.

Scootaloo continued, getting excited. "Yeah, there are all kind of things you can do at night, like have sleepovers, or bonfires, or watch the stars... we even study them in school, and pegasi and ships use them to navigate by."

"Or have a long romantic stroll and snuggle up together under the moon..." Sweetie Belle sighed, eyes distant.

Nightmare Moon shook her head from side to side as if trying to dislodge a fly, her mane wavering in colour. "You no longer fear the night? But..."

Applebloom pressed on. "Of course, making it night forever was a bit of an over-reaction. I mean we need day too, to grow crops and stuff. Eternal night would mean every-pony would die of starvation, and then who'd appreciate your night?"

The Nightmare's mane turned darker, then lighter, so Sweetie Belle added, "But banishing you for a thousand years? That's kind of over-reacting too. My sister and I sometimes argue, but she's never given me a thousand year time out. But even though we argue sometimes, we're still sisters, and we still love each other. You should have been able to talk it through, work out some way that to get ponies to appreciate you more."

"Maybe they were just too mad at each other," Applebloom said, "Even Applejack and I get mad at one another sometimes, and we say and do things we don't really mean. I'm sure princess Celestia is sorry about what happened."

The three ponies put their heads together and whispered, then pulled some sacks from under the table. Applebloom said, "These were our special Summer Sun Celebration candy stashes, they took weeks to put together. If we give them to you, could you bring back Princess Celestia, and not do the whole eternal night thing, just talk with her and make up, maybe?"

Nightmare Moon looked incredulous and rose up on her hind hooves, mane flaring. "You're kidding, right? Thou doth have the temerity to bargain with an alicorn princess, and more so you do offer sweetmeats as your prize?"

Scootaloo started looking through the bags. "We don't have any temerity or sweetmeats, but we do have hard candy and chocolate and gummies and boiled sweets and even some cloud cupcakes...."

That utterly wrong footed her. She landed back on all fours, face scrunched up, and then bust out laughing. Not evil laughter, but a good honest belly laugh. The darkness in her mane flared and was blasted away, and her armour shattered. Her eyes turned from green and slitted to regular irises of a cyan blue, and after a few moments she recovered enough to speak.

Very well, young fillies, we have a bargain." She raised her head and her horn flashed. The sun rose, and from its centre came a ball of light, which landed by her and resolved itself into Princess Celestia.

Every-pony bowed. The elder alicorn blinked, looking around, and saw her sister standing in front of three fillies with a bag of sweets.

"Well, I… did not expect that…" Celestia said, trying to work out how that had just happened. "It seems I owe you three fillies a great debt of gratitude for freeing me and restoring my sister."

"Aw, it was nothing..." Applebloom blushed.

Sweetie Belle piped up. "Yes, we know how sometimes things get out of hoof between sisters."

"I don't..." Scootaloo sighed and looked meaningfully over at Rainbow Dash. "I wish I did..."

Princess Celestia gave all three of them a gentle smile. "My deepest thanks to all of you anyway. I wouldn't have considered it possible if I hadn't seen it myself."

"Indeed sister." Princess Luna added. She rubbed her forehead. "They bargained for your freedom with words of wisdom and bags of candy. Now I do consider the matter, bringing eternal night just so ponies could appreciate my night sky was possibly the most idiotic idea since Romane Numerals. In truth, I can not imagine what I was thinking!"

Princess Celestia teared up. "Oh Luna, it's been centuries since I've seen you like this. I would have done anything to spare you your exile, but there was a taint of darkness in you, something foreign, and it twisted you. Working alone, I could not use the full power of the Elements and free you from it, so I had to freeze you in the moon until I could find a way to separate you from it. I thought only the full power of the Elements of Harmony could do it, and using them the way i did even at lower power would ruin them for centuries, so I gave myself a millenium to find an answer and for the Elements to recover. If I had known the answer was so simple..."

She moved in and hugged the startled Luna. "I have been so lonely these past thousand years! We were meant to rule together little sister. Will you accept my apology, and my friendship?"

Luna hesitated for a moment, then returned the hug. "Only if you will accept mine."

Many joyful tears were shed, then Pinkie Pie exclaimed, "This calls for a party!"

The three fillies gave each other a big grin and high hooved. "Cutie Mark Crusader Diarchy Restorers! Yeah!"


11.2


“Your majesty?”

Mufasa, ruler of the Pride Lands, turned. “What is it, Twilight?”

The shaman (well, this Loop anyway) spread her hooves. “I do not have anything definite, but I suspect that your brother may be planning something.”

“Scar?” Mufasa frowned. “Why do you suspect that?”

“A number of reasons, some of them too arcane to be understood.” Well, yeah, Twilight thought, as in, I’ve watched the film. “But I think there are things that could be done to mitigate what might happen.”

The lion began pacing down the side of Pride Rock, following his zebra shaman. (Twilight had been intrigued to discover that the Loop had made her into a horned zebra, and that her cutie mark was more… tribal in design, for some reason.) “What do you suggest? I strike first?”

“No.” Twilight shook her head emphatically. “I suggest that you begin a phased plan of increasing the opportunities available to hyena.”

“…pardon?”

“The lions, aside from Scar, are content with your rule. Most other predators on the plains are too small to pose a threat. It seems that the most likely source of power for any coup – not just one from Scar, if such is possible, but any – is the hyena, since they’re angry.” Twilight took some powder from a pouch – that Loop she’d spent learning from Zecora was coming in very useful – and cast it into the air.

She manipulated the bound spell in the powder to show what she wanted it to show. Shanzi, Banzai and Ed, prowling through the Elephant Graveyard.

“See, my liege?” she said, pointing. “They are gaunt with hunger – not starving, certainly, but nor are they able to eat their fill.”

“This bears consideration.” Mufasa frowned. “Thank you, my shaman. Continue your work.”

It was as good as a dismissal.


“You know, there’s only one thing I wanna know,” a boar said, pausing in his meal.

“What’s that?” his companion asked.

“Why are you a meerkat?”

Angel frowned. “Why not?”

Spike shrugged. “I dunno. Just seemed like you’d be... well, something more rabbity. And how come you’re Looping anyway?”

Angel copied the shrug. “Like I care. Pity Fluttershy isn’t around, though.”


“So, what you’re saying is…” Shanzi paced, her two packmates circling further out, “…that if we do what Mufasa says, he’ll let us have his scraps?”

“Rather more than scraps,” Twilight replied. “Anyway, why are you following Scar? Doesn’t he offer basically the same thing but with more effort?”

She blinked. “For that matter, aren’t you matriarchal?”

“Eh.” Banzai padded closer. “She doesn’t tell me what to-awp!”

Shanzi lowered her paw from the cuff that had sent him sprawling. “Yes. I. Do. Anyway, it is an interesting offer, but there’s one problem.”

“And that is?” Twilight asked politely.

“We could just eat you, right now.” Shanzi nodded sharply, and Ed leapt at Twilight from behind.

There was a pop, and he landed on Shanzi’s face.

“Argh! Gerrof, idiot! I said gerrof, I’m not a zebra, oow!”

“I’ll speak to you later,” Twilight told Banzai (the only one currently listening) and vanished in a magical flare.


11.3


“Right, here we go!” Applebloom said. “You ready, Scoots?”

Scootaloo nodded from the cockpit of a credible imitation of a Sopwith Camel. “Ready!”

“Okay!” Applebloom bucked the propeller, and the engine sputtered once or twice before catching and starting to run properly.

Scootaloo waited a moment, then nodded again. “Looks good.”

Applebloom ran back to the left wheel, took a string attached to the left chock in her mouth and hurried over to the outer edge of the lower left wing. Once there, she fitted herself under it. “Mfree, Twmmf, Mmne…”

Sweetie pulled the right chock out at the same time Applebloom pulled on the string attached to the left one. They both started running forwards, holding up the wings as the biplane got moving. Once it was faster than they could run, they slowed down and watched.

The biplane bumped over the ground, accelerating, and began to jounce as it hit slight irregularities in the field. Once, twice… then it didn’t come down again.

“Woo!” Applebloom shouted, jumping up and down, as the Crusader I climbed steadily into the air. Once it was a couple of hundred yards up, it banked slightly and began to circle as Scootaloo carefully gained height.

“Well, it worked,” Sweetie said, watching with a grin on her face. “What next?”

“Next, ah think we try for an improved version that don’t need two sets of wings.” Applebloom frowned, already thinking of other ways to make the Crusader II better. “Or we could try makin’ the wings outta wood, instead of bein’ fabric.”

“Sounds like a good idea.” Sweetie nodded. “I know Rarity is going to be amazed when she sees what we did with her waste bolts of cloth, though.”

The airplane overhead waggled its wings, then dove gently. They could hear Scootaloo’s voice, faint over the engine.

“This is so cool! I…”

Applebloom didn’t catch the next bit. “What did she say, Sweets?”

Sweetie Belle lit her horn. “Sec… rewind… oh.”

“What?”

“That’s what she said.” Sweetie deadpanned. “She said ‘oh.’”

The buzzing drone of the engine above cut out.

“Ah, horsefeathers…” Applebloom muttered. “Must be the carburettor.”

A large parasail opened overhead as Scootaloo bailed out. The Crusader I kept going without her in a gradually steepening dive, which ended as it hit the nearby lake with a huge splash.

Sweetie slowed Scootaloo’s landing with telekinesis, and the pegasus stomped over to Applebloom.

“I’ve got some issues with the design.” Scootaloo shook her hooves, which seemed to be wet. “The engine leaks.”

Applebloom bent down and sniffed. “…yeah, that’s fuel alright. Guess a combustion engine wasn’t a good idea.”

“You’re telling me?” Scootaloo pointed to the plume of smoke. “The fuel leaked into the cockpit, and then the engine cut out! That was not fun!”

Sweetie looked smug.

“Alright, alright, you win Sweets.” Applebloom kicked the ground. “We’ll build a crystal engine for the second one. Now, er… how do we explain this to Steven Magnet? I think the Crusader I hit his summer home.”

“We have a long way to go before we can build a Mareitech…” Scootaloo shook her head.


11.4


“…okay,” Fluttershy said timidly. “I know I can become an alicorn now, but… I don’t really feel up to this…”

Twilight finished establishing her stability bubble, pushing back the chaos of Discord-controlled Equestria with a variant failsafe spell. “Well, it seems to happen every time somepony ascends. Well, except me… I did have a Loop where I replaced Luna, but that wasn’t straight after my ascension… anyway. We have to deal with Discord.”

“Okay.” Fluttershy’s face set. “I can handle this, Twilight.”

“Good.” Twilight tapped a hoof. “I get Magic, you get Kindness… which two other Elements do you feel up to?”

“No, I can handle this.” Fluttershy flew off.

“…huh.” Twilight said. “That’s unusually bold for Fluttershy.”


“…so, anyway, the point is, I just don’t see the upside of harmony for me.” Discord lay back on the couch he’d conjured. “I mean, I’m a being of chaos and disharmony. Harmony is sort of opposite of me.”

“Perhaps you just haven’t had the right examples,” Fluttershy replied. “I mean, take as an example what happened with the Windigoes. Alone, the three tribes were completely unable to resist their effects – but together, they were much more powerful. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, you see…”

“Fair point,” Discord allowed. “What do you suggest I would enjoy, then?”

“Well, my –sister,” Fluttershy said, remembering just in time what was going on this Loop, “is quite an expert with magic. I’m sure she’d love to work with you. And I can tell that you’re quite a fun draconequus to be around – if you can resist turning ponies into things they’d rather not be, at any rate.”

“A difficult challenge,” Discord said airily. “I’d much rather do a bit of… discordianism.” He snapped his fingers, and tapped Fluttershy on the forehead just below her horn. “Let’s see what you think now!”

Fluttershy blinked, and frowned. There was a burst of magic which bowled Discord over.

You have been a very naughty boy!

“…this feels like Karma,” Discord said. “I don’t like it.”


“…I said I was sorry,” Discord muttered.

Next to him, Fluttershy’s wings twitched. She could have been shrugging slightly – it was hard to tell.

“Though I am impressed with your sister,” the draconequus continued. “I mean, she tried working with you instead of against you for nearly a year after you kicked me up here.” He pointed to the crater he’d left when he hit the moon. “Nice shot, by the way. Anyway, what finally got too much for her?”

“…wolves.”

“Pardon?” Discord bent down.

“I set Canis Major on the castle!” Fluttershy shouted. Discord went flying backwards from the sheer force.

“I don’t know what you did to me,” Fluttershy continued, shaking her head. “I keep getting angry so easily, and for no reason! I… I thought she wasn’t putting enough effort into zoological funding, and so I decided to use my part of the gardens to take care of a few animals, and by the time I’d finished putting all the rest of them in there it filled the Everfree forest, and I didn’t have anywhere to put the Canis Major, so… I got them to invade Twilight’s part of the castle, to show her why she should respect our little friends.” By this point, Fluttershy was hiding herself almost entirely inside her wings. Only her horn and eyes were poking out.

Discord whistled. “That’s actually quite impressive.”

The two divine entities sat awkwardly for a bit.

“…can you make a sauna?” Fluttershy asked tentatively.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Discord replied. “Water, grape juice, or key lime pie?”

“Water, please.” Fluttershy paused. “Can it be lemon scented?”

“I can make it fizzy, too!” Discord replied with a grin.


“Stupid things!” Twilight said, barely restraining the urge to kick the Element of Loyalty. “I wanted to undo whatever Discord did to destabilize her moods, not send her up there for a thousand years!”

She sighed. “Oh, well. Looks like it’s going to be waiting until our friends turn up again…”


“You want me to organize a welcome home party?” Pinkie Pie, special student of (a very tired) Princess Twilight asked with glee.

“Yes, Pinkie.” Twilight massaged her temples with her forehooves. “There are two deities up on the moon who are going to be coming back down in a month or so. Neither of them is actually evil, or nasty, they were just… put in time out. I’d like you to make it clear to them that they’re welcome in Equestria.”

“Okay!” Pinkie said, bouncing. “Who are they?”

“One of them is Discord.” Twilight paused. “Just design a party for yourself, for him, only more so. The other one is my sister, Princess Fluttershy. She’s very sweet, and likes things subdued… but she does have a bit of a temper, so make sure things are done well.”

“Okie Dokie!” Pinkie bounced off.

Twilight let out a heartfelt sigh of relief. Pinkie Pie was a true friend, but not to be taken in extended doses.


“Okay, Spike!” Pinkie said. “How’s things going on the Discord side?”

“Well, we’ve got all the local ponies who are into intensive partying lined up.” Spike turned a page on the clipboard. “One ‘Rainbow Dash’ has said she’ll do her speciality piece to open the disco, and there’s a DJ who’s going to keep it going.” The young dragon frowned at the paper. “DJ Lunacy? Whatever. Anyway, that was the last thing left to handle.”

“They sound fun!” Pinkie nodded to herself. “I’ll go see them in a moment! What about the other side?”

“One Octavia is going to do the music for that one. All classical, nothing too startling. There’s also a pegasus dance troupe who’ve volunteered to help… Cirque du Celestia? Sounds interesting. They’re supposed to be very good. Anyway, a very nice – very, very nice – unicorn called Rarity is helping to outfit everypony for that, all in period dresses and suits to add a touch of the familiar for her.” Spike looked a bit distracted by the subject of said unicorn, but rallied quite well. “And the catering’s lined up too.”

“Good!” Pinkie said. “Now to let Princess Twilight know! Get that flame ready, Spike!”


“…huh.” Twilight muttered, reading the letter. “Luna’s a DJ this time? I have to admit, given nightclubs, it makes a certain amount of sense…”


“It started well!” Pinkie said brightly, looking over the smoking ruins of Ponyville.

“I believe you,” Princess Twilight replied. “I was there. But I didn’t see where it went wrong.

“Oh.” Pinkie thought. “I think it was about when Luna overloaded the spell that was maintaining a sound barrier between the two parties, deafened everypony at the soiree, and startled Princess Fluttershy.”

“Okay.” Twilight spread her wings. “I’ll go look for my sister, she’s probably in the Everfree somewhere. You try and find Discord.”


“Don’t worry, Fluttershy,” Twilight said. “Nopony actually got hurt.”

“I just feel like I keep breaking things!” Fluttershy wailed. “I’m not cut out for being an alicorn!”

“No, you’re doing better than almost anypony else has…” Twilight said critically, thinking back on ‘Danger Dash’. “You coped with the moon very well. Besides, it seems like being an alicorn actually makes emotional extremes stronger. You weren’t ready for it – that’s all.”

She stretched out a wing, and laid it over Fluttershy’s back. “Come on. Besides, Luna and Dash both had their episodes last a thousand years. Yours tend to be a lot shorter.” Twilight pondered for a moment, trying to think of something to say.

“…I found Angel Bunny.”

Fluttershy’s eye peeked out of her wings. “You did?”

“Yep. He actually runs the griffin empire, for some reason. Strangest trade agreement signing I’ve done yet.” Twilight considered that statement. “Well, apart from the one from last Loop, where we agreed to trade love to the Changelings. Actually, speaking of them, I normalized relations five hundred years ago. Want to see if Chrysalis can help you with that emotions problem? There’s a state visit next month.”

“…alright, then,” Fluttershy whispered.


11.5


“THE NIGHT WILL LAST FOREVER!” Nightmare Moon shouted, glorying in her own return.

“Really?” A suspiciously familiar voice asked. “Hello? So consistent.”

“Discord?”

“How did you know, lulu?” Discord raised an empty glass, then quaffed the air in it. Mead flowed in from nowhere to fill it up from the top, and when he finished the glass was completely full with liquid that didn’t spill. Picking up an empty bottle on the table, he ‘emptied’ his glass from it. “But I don’t like the idea of the night lasting forever. I mean, it’d get boring inside three minutes.”

“Night and day are irrelevant!” The mayor shimmered, and turned into a large, insectoid creature. “Changelings! Sieze them!”

Almost every other pony in the room also dropped shapeshifts.

“We cannot allow them to jeapordize our infiltration!” Chrysalis said.

There was a knocking on the door. All three divine entities paused, looking towards it.

After almost a full twenty seconds of staring, Discord sighed and snapped his fingers. The door opened.

A large, armoured unicorn stepped through. “Crystals?”


“Ooooh…” several dozen ponies said, watching the fountain of magical backlash as four immensely powerful beings battled hammer-and-tongs.

“Aaaaah…”

A Changeling went soaring into the air, clinging grimly to a large firework labelled ‘Komodo 3000.’

“Hey, Pinkie…” Twilight began slowly. “Is that the one that-”

“Duck and cover!” Pinkie overrode her, diving to the ground.

There was an enormously bright flash, and night became day for about five seconds.

“I told you not to store that in the town hall!” Twilight said, once the firework had finally burnt out. “Actually, I told you to store it in your pocket dimension inside a water-jacketed box.”

“Eh.” Pinkie shrugged. “I wanted to see what Dissy would do with it!”

A smouldering changeling landed next to them, stumbled upright and promptly collapsed again. “I can’t see!”

“Don’t worry,” Twilight replied. “The box said your eyesight comes back in two days.”

“Are you sure this will solve all our problems, Twilight?” Princess Celestia asked, looking dubious.

“Oh, yeah,” Twilight reassured her. “I mean, once they’re all tired enough we could probably actually talk them through things.”

She winced as a bolt of pure night removed the top half of her library. “Granted, that could take a while…”


Discord panted on the floor, utterly exhausted. There were three hundred changelings surrounding him, covered with various flavours of pie or jam, and one duct-taped expertly to the remains of the wall behind him.

Chrysalis wasn’t much better. She was still standing, but visibly supporting herself with a table.

Sombra had discovered that the goblets in the room were made with crystal glass and was busily trying to chew his way through some, mainly to get up the energy to move.

And Nightmare Moon still had a spell sizzling on the end of her horn. Granted, it was a low grade stun spell, but it was more than the others could manage. “Hah! You, you… fools, you… foals, couldn’t defeat the true might of… Equestria’s true ruler. Who’s the winner now?”

Celestia stepped through a hole in the wall. “Me, actually.”

Discord rolled his eyes. Chrysalis finally collapsed to the floor, her last two conscious changelings standing guard over her. Nightmare Moon’s spell fizzled out, and she wobbled on her hooves.

Sombra started snoring. “Cryyyys… taaaaals…”

“Right.” Celestia decided to ignore him for now. “Anyway. Who wants some tea?”


“This is stupid…” Chrysalis muttered, finishing off the paperwork and passing it to Princess Cadence.

“Oh, sorry…” Cadence replied, after checking the date. “I’m afraid that Sombra has booked that month to attempt a hostile takeover of Equestria. You’ll have to reschedule.”

“What?” Chrysalis stamped on the floor. “That’s not fair! You’ve only got one wedding!”

“Sorry.” Cadence shrugged. “At least it’s better than another double booking, right?”

“I suppose…”


11.6 (Mandemon)


"3... 2... 1... Get ready..." Twilight said, as the moment of Nightmare Moon’s return came closer. Her latest plan to speed up the whole collecting Elements of Harmony had worked well. Too bad the others weren't Awake in this loop.

Right on time, Nightmare Moon appeared on the stage.

Wearing a top hat and wearing a monocle.

"I say, this is the most joyous time indeed! For I have returned from my enforced leave of this word, as decreed by my sister!" the dark alicorn said, in an affected accent.

"What," Twilight said, echoing the feelings of everyone else.

"Gotcha! How's it going, Twilight?" Luna said, shifting away from her Nightmare Moon appearance and dropping her disguise.

"..." Twilight had the sinking feeling that she’d just been punk’d.

"Oh, come on! Don't look at me like that. You pulled all kinds of tricks on me in numerous loops, for once it's my turn," Luna said with a smile. "Now, how shall we trick my sister? I assume she is not Awake, seeing how your friends there are very confused."

Twilight pondered. “Hmmm… Pinkie, do you have a clown wig available?”

“Of course!” Pinkie reached behind a bush… no, on second glance she picked up the bush, and pulled a cord to turn it from green to rainbow coloured. “I have them all around Ponyville!”

Luna developed a grin. “I like where this is going.”

“Can somepony explain what’s goin’ on?” Applejack asked.


11.7 (Stainless Steel Fox)


"Sweetie Belle? Where are Scootaloo and Applebloom? And where is your project for the Science fair?" Cheerilee looked around, in case she’d missed two fillies and a project.

"They're bringing it here right now, Miss Cherrilee. We did ask if we could do a combined project and you did agree." Sweetie gave a nice smile.

"Yes, I did, but I expect something that reflects a high level of effort from all three of you." The teacher frowned; it would be a hard one to mark, in truth, but they worked so much better together she didn’t have the heart to say no.

"Ha!” As usual, Diamond Tiara cut in. “I bet those three blank flanks produced a big fat nothing, just like the cutie-marks they don't have! My daddy brought me the finest model airship kit money could buy!"

"Oh really, Diamond Tiara? I thought you said you built it yourself." Sweetie looked sly for a moment.

"I did, I built it all myself! I even read the explanation of how it works…” Diamond tailed off, realizing she’d just be digging herself a hole if she kept going, and changed tack. “At least I have a project; Sweetie Belle doesn't even have a paper airplane!"

"Not a paper one, no..." Sweetie Belle heard the howl of jet engines and grinned.

A shadow fell across the school yard as a winged shape swept over it on jets of flame.

"Ahh! It's a dragon!"

"Hide!"

"Call for help!"

The blocky, angular shape of a Mareitech space fighter did a vertical landing in the field beside the school, and the whine of its engines died down. It was painted white with burgundy trim and tail fins, on which was emblazoned the blue and white Cutie-mark Crusaders logo. The twin canopy lifted up, revealing Scootaloo in the front seat and Applebloom sitting behind her and to the side. There was an empty space beside the earth-pony filly.

"What is it?" Cheerilee finally stuttered.

"It's our flying machine, the Cutie Mark Crusader Mark VIII. Applebloom did the primary design and engineering, Scootaloo developed the flight control systems and aerodynamics, and I worked on the thaumic power core and avionics, though I did get Twilight Sparkle to help me with the power core design. But that's allowed; you did say we should get an adult pony to help us if we were doing anything dangerous." Sweetie looked earnest. “That’s okay, right?”

The three of them had been hiding their looped abilities until now, specifically for the fun of the reveal, but now she could show off a bit. Her horn glowed and she started showing a slide show of illusion images showing the design and construction of the CMC8 in the workshop/hangar they'd created under the tree-house.


11.3 additional (Madfish)


The Crusaders’ attention was drawn from the pyre of their first biplane by a small herd of four unfamiliar ponies racing in their direction.

None of them were much out of colthood from their looks, and one shouting, "I say, are you three alright?" revealed at least one of them had a strong and unusual accent.

"We're fine. We remembered to make parachutes… this time." Applebloom blushed.

Sweetie winced, remembering what had happened when they’d tried making their own balloon. It had taken a very alert Rainbow Dash to catch them when the thing caught fire…

"Well, jolly good, I suppose…" the speaker was a slightly overweight pale green pegasus. Having said his piece, he trailed off in confusion.

Scootaloo broke the silence by asking, "So who are you anyway?"

"Oh. Yes, how rude of us," clearly now they had ascertained that the fillies were safe the pegasus had other things on his mind. Refocusing, he started introductions, "I am Algae- Algy, my friend here I think is Jams," he wiped a frustrated hoof across his brow as he nodded to the other pegasus with him, a tan stallion with his mane tucked into a flight cap. "Sorry- James," clearly wanting to finish he sped up, "Smyth and Ginger," he finished with a gesture to a grey earthpony with black mane and mustache, and an appropriately coloured unicorn who was clearly the youngest there.

With some concern Sweetie asked, "Are you feeling all right?"

Chuckling the tan pegasus added, "Just a bit under the weather. I don't think any of us have ridden the dragon quite as hard as this before. I don’t even remember getting the cig…"

"You were riding a dragon? That's kind of cool, most ponies just run scared of them,” Scootaloo said. “So… you're Loopers, right?"

Blank looks.

"You know, repeating the same things over and over?" Applebloom tried, wondering what a cig was.

More blank looks.

"Your first loop and it's a Crossed Loop? How's that even work?" Sweetie gestured in the air, trying to show how strange that was.

"We can't even get Twilight to explain this stuff to them… she's gone to set something up for Sombra and we're the only other ones Awake," Scootaloo sighed.

James blinked, "I think it would be best if we saw a doctor. I don't think we're hearing what you're actually saying.”


11.8 (Stainless Steel Fox)


"Are you okay?" Applebloom still found it hard to see the lack of recognition in her best friends’ eyes. This was the hardest part about looping, everything you'd done and seen with your friends just… wiped away.

At least she knew, thanks to Twilight in their first – and joint – Loop, that there was a Looping Sweetie out there, and a Looping Scootaloo. Fillies who remembered trying to beat up Chrysalis, and accidentally causing a major invasion of Equestria…

Still, these were versions of her friends too. She owed it to them to give them the best time she could.

Sweetie Belle shivered slightly, but looked over gratefully at the earth pony. "I think so, but she was really scary!"

"Aw... Rainbow Dash could have taken her!" The pegasus on the other side of the unicorn exclaimed.

Applebloom grinned, having seen the previous loop where Dash had gone full alicorn and done exactly that. "I'm sure she could. My sister just wanted to make sure she didn't take her on before any-pony else was ready to help."

That had to be done carefully. Implying Dash couldn't, or calling her reckless, was an easy way to make Scootaloo hostile.

"That was your sister?" Scootaloo asked.

"Yep! Mah sister Applejack, and I'm Applebloom. Pleased to meetcha."

"Scootaloo... and I wish Rainbow Dash was my sister."

The unicorn had moved back slightly, looking down, but Applebloom quickly turned her attention to her. "How about you? We've shared the underneath-of-a-table-hiding from the real life Nightmare Moon. Am I ever going to up my offering on Nightmare Night!” That got a chuckle. “But that makes us 'hiding under a table' buddies. We should know each others names, at least."

"Sweetie Belle." She looked more confident. "And Rarity is my sister, the white unicorn with the three diamond cutie-mark. Ooh! That Nightmare Moon isn't getting any of my candy, not after the way she treated Rarity!"

Applebloom hauled herself from under the table, very deliberately trying to hide her flank with a fold of cloth. "Well if she tries to eat you, I'll help stop her! I know kung fu! She'll have trouble eating any-pony with no teeth!"

"I can help too!" Scootaloo exclaimed. "I'll run rings around her!"

"You can fly that fast?" Applebloom felt a rush of warmth, as Sweetie started engaging in the conversation again and it began to move from ‘her talking to the others’ to ‘all three of them talking together’.

Scootaloo slumped. "I can't fly, not yet, but I'm the fastest on a scooter in all of Ponyville. And I will fly one day, just as awesomely as Rainbow Dash!"

"Don't doubt it." Applebloom finally let the cloth slip, making it look like an accident as she helped the other two out from under the table. She glanced back and then hung her head. "No! It's okay, you don't have to hang around with a blank-flank if you don't want to. In class, it's only Twist and me."

"You got a problem with blank-flanks?" Scootaloo sounded half annoyed, half amused. She presented her own bare flank. "I thought I was the only one."

"Oh! I thought I was!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed. "Let's be friends!"

Applebloom still teared up slightly at that. "I'd like that."

"Yeah, that'd be great!" Scootaloo bounced, fluttering her wings to get some hang time. "The three of us are totally alike! No cutie-marks, lots of awesome..."

"Maybe we can do something about that, the first thing I mean." Applebloom suggested. Without the common cause of cutie-mark hunting, their friendship grew more slowly and she wanted every moment before it was snatched away. Despite the fact that she'd pretty much given up, she still held out hope she could help her friends. "We could work together to find out who we are and what we're supposed to be."

"Oh oh! I know, we could form our own secret society!"

"I'm liking this idea!"

"How about we call ourselves, the Cutie Mark Crusaders!"

Applebloom grinned with the others, feeling at home again, but part of her was still wistful. Well, maybe this time it would be different. After all, these loops were endless, maybe in eternity even she'd be able to find her cutie-mark.


11.9 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Calling out the Cutie


Applebloom had experienced about a dozen loops by now, and was fed up. Neither Sweetie Belle nor Scootaloo was looping with any regularity yet, and while she had loopers like her sister and Twilight Sparkle to help, having to make friends with her cutie mark compadres over and over again was frustrating. But worst of all was having to deal with the ever increasing nastiness of Diamond Tiara, over and over again. It wasn't that it hurt so much any more, after you'd been called Blank Flank enough times, you developed scar tissue over your sense of self esteem.

No, it was just annoying, and dull. It wasn't even as if the two stooges were particularly inventive. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were so shallow, you could use them as a ford. They delighted in making ponies' lives miserable, though Applebloom was ashamed to admit that she hadn't really noticed until she'd become one of their primary targets. The endless stream of 'blank flank' and 'loser' comments was more like Neighponese water torture. Well, it was time to do something about that, for this loop at least.

This was the critical point. Cheerilee followed the script for her lesson on cutie-marks to the letter, and when Diamond Tiara hissed to her and tried to get her to take the blank note, she went along with it. As per usual Cheerilee didn’t notice anything when the evil minded brat started messing around, but as soon as the note was in Applebloom’s hooves, she homed in on the earth pony like a stooping hawk.

Applebloom had considered replacing the blank paper with a vicious note from Diamond Tiara to Applebloom, written in disappearing reappearing ink so it would make sense when she jumped up and made her smart remark about Applebloom’s blank flank being like the blank paper. She’d even found a discarded report by the other pony and practised her hoof-writing style to add authenticity, but ultimately she’d decided that was the sort of thing Diamond Tiara would do, and she wasn’t going to let the mean spirited brat turn her into something similar.

No, this was better. She’d fight the bully honestly and directly, not by sneaky tricks. The whole thing with Babs Seed had taught her that sometimes the only way to deal with bullying was openly, not by becoming what you hated, much as you’d get some temporary pleasure out of turning the tables. She’d also have a chance to talk about something that she’d been thinking about more and more as loop after loop had ended as it started, without a cutie-mark.

She’d talked it over with Twilight Sparkle and Zecora, as well as her big sister. They’d helped her to get her thoughts in order, and prepare for this. Two of them were loopers with literally millennia of experience, as well as being the smartest and most sensible ponies she knew, and while Zecora wasn’t a looper, she had a vast reserve of wisdom.

Cheerilee took the note, as usual. “What could be so important that it couldn't wait until after class? It’s blank!”

“Remind you of any-pony?” As usual Diamond ‘witted’ Tiara made her snarky remark and got the entire class laughing at her oh so hysterical comment. She must have spent hours coming up with that one.

Time to change the script, the farm pony thought. Applebloom let the laughter die down a bit, then asked; “Miss Cheerilee? Do you believe Diamond Tiara is right?”

The teacher looked confused. “What do you mean?”

“Well, apart from the fact that you let her just stand up and make what was clearly meant to be an insult about blank flanks in general and me in particular, you’ve been saying how wonderful it is to get your cutie mark. So that it means if you don’t yet have your cutie mark, you’re an object to be pitied at best and ridiculed and laughed at at worst, at least that's the way Diamond Tiara reckons it…”

That cut off any remaining laughter like a knife.

“Of course not! Just because you haven’t found what makes you special, doesn’t mean you aren’t. As I said before, your cutie-mark comes in its own time.” Cheerilee seemed genuinely shocked, and Applebloom gave a relieved grin. However, there was still another point to be made.

“I’m right glad to hear that, but it still leaves a problem. You tried to make me feel better by talking about me finding a cutie-mark talent, which is kind of saying that it’s your cutie-mark based talent that makes you special. Is that the only way a pony can feel worthwhile?”

She sighed. “Take me for example. Yes, I’ve never found that one talent I’m really good at, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have useful skills. I can do lots of different things, I can cook up to the level of a short order chef, balance a ledger, and not just on top of my head, clean a house, field repair a plough or a cart or build one given the tools and materials, then pull it fully loaded over 2 miles of rough ground in 15 minutes – and that takes more than strength and endurance, you have to be able to pick your route or you’ll end up axle deep in the ground – care for and feed most domestic and farm animals, herd many of them, change a baby, sew a dress, change a wound dressing, care for most minor ailments and trauma injuries up to setting a bone or sewing up a wound, speak Zebra – though I’ll admit I’m only conversation level, not fully fluent – make a speech,” she grinned, “identify dozens of common and uncommon herbs and magical plants, brew 32 different herbal medicines and 3 actual magical potions, have a brown belt in Northern Shire-lin Karate and will test for my black next month, navigate the Everfree, abseil, free dive, find my way by the stars, and name a good chunk of the constellations.”

She took a deep breath. “… and that’s all I can think of at the moment. But if one of them is my particular talent, my flank hasn’t gotten the message, so by cutie-mark based thinking, I’m second rate, to be told, not to worry, ’your cutie-mark will appear in time’. I’m not saying you’re doing it to be nasty, Miss Cheerilee, I’m just trying to show that your cutie-mark and your cutie-mark talent might not the only way of judging a pony’s worth.”

She’d started connecting with Zecora and Temple Fortress, her martial arts sensei, from the moment she awoke each loop, and done her best to start off from where she'd left the previous loop each time. While she still worked with the other Crusaders, trying out many things, she'd found skills she'd liked, and done her best to learn them the long way round. Add to that some of Twilight’s training on how to organise the memories of many loops so they didn’t drive you insane, and she'd become a lot better at retaining knowledge.

It wasn't perfect, the muscle memories didn’t carry over from loop to loop, but even there the effort to get them back was purely re-training, as if she'd slacked off her training for a few months and had to get back into shape. She'd had subjective decades to train, so she was a lot better than she admitted. Plus she'd had those same decades to learn all the skills that ran a farm, of which there were a lot. Helping Fluttershy, Rarity and Twilight out out, and learning what they could teach in return, had added to her broad base of skills and knowledge.

Of course, Diamond Tiara couldn’t let her litany pass. “Ha! As if you could really do all those things! Where would you even find out about Zebras, or learn how to make magic potions? Only unicorns can do alchemy!”

“Some potions don’t need a unicorn to enchant them. If you use innately magical ingredients any-pony can create one. And I was taught by Zecora. She’s the zebra that lives in the Everfree forest.”

That got shocked gasps and a few small screams. “But she’s a monster.” “Evil witch!”

Even Miss Cheeerilee looked horrified. Applebloom rounded on her classmates.

“She's not some kind of monster just because she lives in the Everfree! She’s really cool, a shaman, a healer and student of magic and herbalism. She came all the way from her homeland to the Everfree because it has so many unique magical plants and herbs and she wanted to study them. Can you imagine the courage that took, to leave everything – everyone – she ever knew?

“It doesn’t help that the inhabitants of the only nearby town have only avoided driving her away or worse because they’re too scared of what she’d do to them if they tried. I guess us colts and fillies could be forgiven, after all, we just believe what our parents tell us.” She turned to face Cheerilee. “But I’d have thought at least you’d… I don’t know, be willing to find out the truth. That’s what you’ve always taught us, to learn and understand, find out for ourselves.”

“Sure, right!” Diamond Tiara sneered. “It’s convenient that you’re claiming to be taught by someone who no-one wants to go near, so no-body can ask her! As for you, how would you get to even talk to her without being turned into a toad? Though that might be an improvement!”

“”Uh… hello? Sweet Apple Acres is next to the Everfree Forest. We check the boundaries regularly to see nothing freaky comes out. Zecora was collecting some herbs near the boundary, and she didn’t seem to be turning any-pony into anything, any more than she does anything bad when she comes in to town. So I screwed up my courage and talked to her. She was really nice, and explained what she was doing, and…”

Applebloom shrugged. “We got to be friends. I could go on about how Applejack and Twilight Sparkle got involved, and how they eventually trusted her to see me safely to her place, and how she eventually let me start learning from her. Zebra magic is closest to earth pony magic, but they can do things with it Equestrian ponies never thought of.

“Our earth magic is focussed inwards, such as our magic strength and toughness, or passive like our connection with growing things. But they can project it like unicorn magic. It can’t do all the flashy spells unicorns can, but it can affect living and natural things. Some of Zecora’s brew are just non-magical herbs, some use magical ingredients, and some are use the magical herbs as a base to invest some of their own earth magic. You can get some really powerful healing and enhancement effects that way.”

“Oh, and I suppose you can do all that!” Diamond Tiara sniffed.

Applebloom gave an amused snort. “I already said I only know three real potions, and they’re all purely based on magical ingredients. I’m gonna need a lot more training before I can project earth magic like a zebra. Though I’m hoping my martial arts will help. Northern Shire-lin is based on drawing on the magic of the earth actively to enhance your attacks and toughness beyond what passive earth pony magic can do. If I can learn to draw on it, I should be able to learn to project it. Once again, it’s going to take a lot more practice and hard work, but it'll be worth it.”

“I still think you’re lying just to be the centre of attention!” Actually, that was probably a fairly sensible thing to assume. The list of skills she’d rattled off had taken decades to pick up… but it was also wrong, and she wasn’t going to let the accusation stand.

“Ask Twilight Sparkle or my big sis.” Applebloom gave a small smirk. “As for the rest of my skills… try me!”

Then she turned to Miss Cheerilee. “Sorry about going off like that, but I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time, and hearing her act like that just set it off. I’ve worked hard for my skills, tried a lot of different things to see if they were my cutie-mark talent, then decided to continue them and learn them anyway.”

This was absolutely true, she was only omitting that she’d done so over a dozen or so time-loops.

“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and hearing it dismissed simply because I don’t have a, a… sticker, got me riled up. Which reminds me, we all know her cutie-mark is that diamond tiara she’s so proud of, but I don’t remember hearing what her actual talent is… Oh, and I’ve helped Applejack nurture and hoof pollinate plenty of apple tree seedlings, and my flanks still bare, so despite my name, my talent is not making apples bloom. So what about it, Diamond Tiara? This is a lesson about cutie-marks. What does yours mean?”

“I don't have to answer you!” Diamond Tiara exclaimed defensively.

“Nope, you don't. I just figured since your so all fired proud of that cutie-mark, your talent must be awesome. Strange you don't want anyone to know it; I'd have reckoned you'd shout it from the highest rooftops. I'm still looking for mine, despite what I said, and me and my friends are going to have fun doing it too.” She finished her little speech with a broad grin; it was true, too. Next up, surfing!

Diamond Tiara's face was furious, and Applebloom knew she'd won. This round, at least. She'd already made friends with the other Crusaders, so going to that cute-ceanera wasn't necessary, and having put Diamond Tiara in her place she intended to ignore her, possibly the worst possible thing she could do to an attention seeker like the pink earth pony.

Since Applebloom wasn't going to steal the Heart's Desire plant this time, there'd be no cutie-pox, and she thoroughly intended to get Sweetie Belle singing and Scootaloo dancing at the talent show. So the next time they'd cross horns wouldn't be until Family Appreciation day. She already had a plan for that, and the Gabby Gums episode, not to mention her cousin's visit. Yes, time-looping wasn't exactly fun, but it had compensations.


11.10 (Lord of Bones)


Hiding behind one of the potted plants along the hallway, Celestia watched and waited for her sis...no, for Nightmare Moon to take the bait. She didn't know what the dark alicorn was planning, but behind the pranks there had to be something… undoubtedly something nefarious. All the same, she'd gone to all the trouble of making her trap decidedly harmless, but more than potent enough to buy time for a follow-up binding spell.

So, she waited.

And, like Grogar himself, Nightmare Moon slipped out of the shadows and looked down at the trap. The elegant head looked to and fro, then bent down to eat the cake holding down the pressure plate.

Celestia bravely held back a sob as her prized cake; so prized that she could only have it once a year, was demolished by the moon princess. Still, it was for a good cause, and when the pressure plate was set off-

Nightmare Moon burped, and blushed. The empty plate vanished in a dark blue burst, leaving Nightmare Moon alone with nothing other than the crumbs around her muzzle and a conjured napkin.

And a conspicuously absent trap.

"Oh, come on!" snapped the Sun Princess. She sprung out of her hiding place and pushed the surprised night alicorn aside, before stomping on the plate to no effect. She struck it a few more times with her hoof, until she heard the 'click'. "Fina...oh, horseapples."

There was a decidedly uncouth 'SPLAT'. Nightmare Moon winced, and Celestia poked her head out of several hundred pounds' worth of cake batter and extra-thick whipped cream.

Stumbling and swearing, the Sun Princess tossed and turned in the mixture, before she saw Nightmare Moon's face; a face that was crinkled up in a smile so very Luna that it made Celestia's heart ache.

A silver-shod hoof bopped her playfully on the nose. "Beep beep," laughed Nightmare Moon, before zooming away in a burst of speed.


Loops 12

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12.1 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Diplomancy – Ticket Master


Twilight had had a suspicion of what was going to happen from the time she'd come to help out Applejack, which had turned into a solid belief when she heard about the farm-pony's bet with Big Mac and now turned to certainty as Spike burped up a letter with a Royal seal. Oh great, it was that time again.

“A letter from Princess Celestia!” Twilight had been thinking about this day, and how to handle it better than she had the first time. She'd always felt guilty about how the Grand Galloping Gala had turned out for her friends. The after-party they'd had at Donut Joe's had been fun, but all the anticipation and excitement, leading up to that massive disappointment... At least these loops would be good for something. Spike was reading the well remembered words.

Hear ye, hear ye. Her Grand Royal Highness, Princess Celestia of Equestria, is pleased to announce The Grand Galloping Gala to be held in the magnificent capital city of Canterlot, on the 21st day of, eh, yadda yadda yadda, cordially extends an invitation to Twilight Sparkle plus one guest.

“The Grand Galloping Gala? Woo hoo...” As Applejack's expression lit up, she schooled her own to be less illuminated. “What's the matter sugar-cube? I'd have figured you'd have been as pleased as a hound dog with two tails to wag!”

As Spike burped up the two golden tickets, Twilight replied, “It's a great honour to be asked, and it'll be wonderful to spend time with Princess Celestia... when she's not doing her duties as host. I guess that's why the two tickets, so I can bring a friend to keep me company. It's just, I've never been, but from what I've heard there's certainly no galloping. It'll be a big bunch of nobles standing around comparing egos and wallet sizes. I'll fit in about as well as a spell book in a rack of ledgers and fashion magazines. Have you been to one Spike?”

“No, and I plan to keep it that way. I don't want any of that girly frilly frou-frou nonsense. “

Applejack cut in. “Well if he ain't interested, I surely would. Land sakes, if I had an apple stand set up, ponies would be chowin' our tasty vittles till the cows came home. Do you have any idea how much business I could drum up for Sweet Apple Acres? Why, with all that money, we could do a heap of fixin' up 'round here.” Applejack’s eyes became distant. “We could replace that saggy old roof, and Big Macintosh could replace that saggy old plough, and Granny Smith could replace that saggy old hip. Why, I'd give my left hind leg to go to that gala.”

“Uh...” Twilight raised a protesting hoof. “You do realise it's held in the palace grounds? It'll probably be catered by the palace chefs. Your wares would be up against fancy hors d'oeuvres made by the finest chefs in Equestria...”

She was interrupted by a vertically descending Rainbow Dash. She glanced up and materialised a thick mattress over her and Applejack's head that intercepted the plummeting pegasus like a catcher's mitt. As she lowered it down, the pegasus sprang off and asked, “Are we talking about the Grand Galloping Gala?”

Applejack huffed. “Rainbow Dash, you told me you were too busy to help me harvest apples. What were you busy doing, spyin'?”

“No, I was busy napping, and I just happened to hear that you have an extra ticket?” The irrepressible pegasus replied, hovering upside down in front of Twilight.

“Yes, but I'd have thought you of all ponies wouldn't find a fancy dance like the Gala interesting,” Twilight replied.

Dash began to spin her fantasy about how going to the Gala would be her ticket into the Wonderbolts, and Twilight wondered why she hadn't spotted the many, many flaws in the pegasus' plan the first time. Probably because she had no more idea of what the Gala was really like back then than they did, and had been just as excited. She felt even more guilty. She was the one who always did her research, who found things out, and she'd let her friends down by not checking this. Still, she could at least do something for Dash.

“This performance... It's one of their most spectacular and important?”

“Yup!” Rainbow Dash preened.

“Requiring split second precision and teamwork?” Twilight pressed.

“You betcha!”

“And if some-pony dived in the middle of it and threw off their timing, the whole thing could unravel?”

“Yes... wait what? Uh....” Rainbow Dash gave a rueful chuckle and rubbed the back of her neck with a hoof. “Heh, heh, I guess I hadn't thought of that. But I could still go and spend time with them, get to know them.”

“Uh huh, Twilight was goin' to offer me the ticket, weren't ya?” Applejack interjected. “I asked first!”

“That doesn't mean you own it, c'mon, I'll hoof wrestle you. Winner gets the ticket.” Rainbow dashed over to a stump and held up a hoof and Applejack quickly joined her.

Twilight managed to push them apart before they got started. “I'll decide who gets the ticket, they're mine after all. But I don't think either of you would get as much out of going as you think. As I was saying to Applejack, the Gala will be catered by the Palace kitchens part of the ticket price, and while I'd pick her confections over some frilly palace hors d’oeuvres any time, those upper crust Canterlot party-goers will probably stick their noses up at buying stuff off a cart.”

She rounded on Dash. “As for hooking up with the Wonderbolts, I suspect every-pony at the party will have the same idea. I doubt you'd get any more time with them than I'll have to talk to the Princess. I have to go,” Twilight emphasized, adding just a bit of a slouch to her stance. “The Princess invited me by name, and I can't disappoint her, but you don't have to.” Her stomach rumbled, and she gave an embarrassed little grin.

Neither Applejack or Rainbow Dash looked pleased.

Applejack exclaimed, “It sounds like you'll don't want us to go!”

“Yeah, what's the matter? Aren't we fancy enough to be with you at the Gala?” Rainbow huffed.

“Girls, that's not it at all...” Twilight cried out, but the pair of them were walking off in opposite directions. She gave a big sigh and hung her head. This wasn't going to be as easy as she thought. “C'mon Spike. I'll wait until they've both cooled down. I need something to eat anyway.”

“Now that's an idea!” the little dragon enthused.

She levitated the dragon up onto her back, and as an afterthought, levitated all the remaining baskets of Golden Delicious over and into the barn before heading back into Ponyville. In the distance she could see the two other ponies continuing their interrupted hoof-wrestling match.


As they walked through the town towards the central square, Spike asked, “So who are you giving the ticket to?”

“I'm hoping no-pony!” Twilight said. “Not that I wouldn't love to have both of them there as friends, I was just trying to make sure they weren't disappointed...”

Even fore-knowledge couldn't always save you from the bouncing ball of chaos that was Pinkie Pie. Exactly why she shot out of the top half of an open door would remain a mystery, but her destination quickly turned out to be Twilight. Pinkie Pie landed on the road, and the two golden tickets landed on her muzzle.

“Gah! Bats! Bats on my face!” She engaged in the usual zipping around like some insane ground bound firework, then finally realised what they actually were and went off into her own little fantasy land about what the Gala was like. Twilight reckoned it was better to let her run down on her own, so she left well enough alone until Pinkie finished with, “Oh thank you Twilight, it's the most wonderful-est gift ever. “

Twilgiht attempted some damage limitation. “Y'know, that doesn't sound like any description of the Gala I've ever heard. It’s more of...”

“Are those what I think they are?” Rarity was there gazing at the tickets clutched in Spike's hand.

“Yes, yes, yes! Twilight's taking me to The Grand Galloping Gala in Canterlot,” Pinkie said, completely ignoring Twilight’s hoof-waving.

Rarity was starry eyed. “The gala? I design ensembles for the gala every year, but I've never had the opportunity to attend. Oh, the society, the culture, the glamour! It's where I truly belong, and where I'm destined to meet… him.

“Him! … Who?” Pinkie Pie asked, and boy did she get an answer. Twilight still couldn't believe that Rarity had ever fantasised over a worthless piece of horseflesh like Prince Blueblood, but then for someone who'd never met him, his title and appearance might make his superficially attractive. Prince Blueblood was one pony she thought couldn't improve even if he were stuck in a time loop. As for becoming a Princess, well, Twilight had ideas along that line for those of her friends, but hooking up with Blueblood wasn't one of them…

“Twilight, I simply cannot believe you would invite Pinkie Pie so she can... party, and prevent me from meeting my true love. How could you? Hmph!” Rarity folded her forelegs.

Twilight couldn't help it, the idea of Rarity calling Blueblood her true love was just so silly she burst out laughing.

“Well, really!” Rarity growled. “You don't believe that the Prince would be interested in a simple Ponyville girl such as myself?”

“No, I mean yes, but...”

“Maybe he'd see more to me than you obviously do!” The white unicorn flounced off, looking annoyed.

“That's okay, you were going to give the ticket to me anyway...”

Pinkie Pie was interrupted as the ticket was snatched out of his claws by Angel, who dashed back to Fluttershy with it. “Angel, these are perfect.”

Twilight rubbed her forehead with a hoof. “I haven't made any decisions about the extra ticket yet.”

“You haven't?” asked Pinkie Pie, shocked, and Rarity appeared by her side.

Fluttershy asked. “Um, excuse me, Twilight. I would just like to ask, I mean, if it would be alright, if you haven't given it to someone else...”

Twilight sighed. “Let me guess, you're interested in seeing the Princesses' private garden.”

Fluttershy hesitated, then was urged on by Angel. “Oh my, yes! Well it is only open the night of the Gala, and that's the only night all the flowers will be in bloom, not to mention the fauna, the humming hummingbirds and the buzzing buzzards... “

“Wait just a minute!” Rainbow Dash dropped down from the sky.

“You were following me, “ Twilight sighed.

“No. I mean, yes. I mean, maybe. Look, it doesn't matter. I couldn't risk a goody-four-shoes like you giving that ticket away to just anybody.”

“Wait just another minute.” Applejack was there too.

“And the gang's all here!” Twilight rolled her eyes. The five ponies were getting into a five way argument, and her stomach was rumbling. “Right now I could eat just about anything, even oatmeal.”

“For lunch? Oatmeal? Are you crazy?” called out Pinkie Pie before she returned to the fray.

No-pony was happy right then and there, and they made no secret of it as they complained. Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Rarity all seemed to share the opinion that she didn't think them suitable for a fancy party, Pinkie Pie was… well… Pinkie Pie, but it was the depressed Fluttershy who tugged at her heart strings the most. Maybe she should tell them what she had planned, but she wanted to get everything organised first.

Twilight lit off her horn and threw up a firework spell which went off with a bang. “Quiet!”

She sighed. “Girls, please don't argue. Applejack, I already explained why I don't think you'll get much out of going to the gala with a cart, and Rainbow, it's not going to get you into the Wonderbolts. Rarity, Prince Blueblood may look the part, but he's really not your type. Pinkie Pie, the Gala isn't the sort of party you're thinking off, a formal ball, not a carnival. And Fluttershy, you aren't even bothered about the Gala, you're only interested in the gardens.”

“Huh, it sounds like you don't want any of us to go to the Gala!” Applejack said.

“Not like this!” Twilight was getting fed up of not being fed. “Right now, I'm going to get myself some food. Meet me at the library at sundown, and I will try and work this out so everyone goes away happy.”

“You will?” They chorused, looking happier.

“Yes, now I've got to go!”


“Rainbow, I am not comfortable accepting unwanted favours, so I'd appreciate it if you close up that rain cloud right now.“

Twilight materialised an umbrella for the table at the restaurant as Rainbow Dash sealed up the hole she'd made in the clouds. “I said sundown, and I meant it!”

Just as she was about to take a bite of the sandwich, Rarity appeared with her own private rain shield. “Twilight, it's raining!”

“Yes, yes I had noticed,” Twilight sighed.

“Come with me, you should get inside before you catch a cold.”

“Let me guess, you just happen to have a dress for me that's perfect for the Gala, and you just happen to have a matching dress.” The Anchor rolled her eyes.

Rarity blushed. “Well, maybe? But that's what friends do for one another, and we are the best of friends, are we not?”

“A true, true friend would trust me to do the right thing, and wait until sundown.” Twilight growled. “Oh, and let me eat my meal in peace!”

“Did someone say eat?” Applejack's voice drifted over. Twilight quickly munched on her daisy sandwich before the farm-pony's covered cart got there. Seeing all the goodies stacked inside would make her even hungrier.

Before the farm-pony could even speak, Twilight cut her off. “No, your farm made treats may be delicious, but they're a bribe, just like the dress Rarity made. I expected more from you. I told you, sundown!”

She finished off her sandwich and dashed away, with Spike on her back and a purple shield protecting her from the rain. As expected, Fluttershy was inside, spring cleaning.

“No. Thank you for the help, but I'm not accepting favours from anyone. That's not what friendship is about. Sundown!”

As she let the pair out (and had Angel bunny kick her in the fetlock en passant) she was dragged out of the door by a pair of pink fore-hooves.

Her horn lit up at the top of the first bump, and she brought herself to a stop in mid-air. “Pinkie! Sundown, no sooner!”

She teleported back to the library, and slammed a purple energy dome over the whole place. She had a lot to do, and she couldn’t afford interruptions… or being chased around by the crazed horde of ponies that would manifest when Pinkie spilled the beans.


At sundown, with her preparations done, she raised the dome. A few moments later, there was a knock at the door. Spike opened it, and the five ponies trooped in.

“Have you decided...?” It was hard to tell which pony had asked first.

“Will you let me say something first?” Twilight’s tone made them all pause. “Do you have any idea how bad you made me feel by trying to force me to choose one of you? Whoever I chose, I'd leave four other disappointed ponies, four friends I let down. I may be still learning about friendship, but bribing me and trying to cheat each other out of the ticket? I'm sure that's not it. You are all my friends, and I want to make you all happy, and with just one extra ticket I can't!”

All five ponies looked back and forth between each other guiltily. As she hoped, each of them relinquished their claim on a ticket, even Rainbow Dash.

“We're sorry, Twilight!” they all said, in chorus.

Twilight smiled. Just because she intended to change things up, didn't mean she couldn't make the same point as originally. It had been a lesson for all of them the first time, and one of the first bonding experiences as a group. Now to the fun bit.

“That being said, it did teach me an important lesson about friendship. That while sharing your blessings with friends is one of life's great pleasures, it isn't fun unless you share it with all your friends equally.” As she finished, the others’ faces went through various shades of puzzlement.

She levitated seven tickets from the open saddlebag on the table and laid one in front of each of her friends. “I wrote to Princess Celestia asking if you could all come. She said yes.”

The other ponies burst out in cheers. So far so good.

“Don't thank me just yet. I heard some of you say I didn't want you to go because I thought you weren't good enough for a fancy place like Canterlot.” That stopped Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow Dash cheering, and the others stopped out of politeness. “Nothing could be farther from the truth! You're my friends, and I want the very best for you. I didn't want you to go to the Gala because I was trying to protect you from being disappointed!”

That got them all looking curious.

“I spent the afternoon doing research, and gotten direct confirmation from the Princess herself. She considers the Gala to be one of the dreariest, awful, most stuffy events of the year. And she's been doing it for a thousand years or more!” Twilight doubted that any of them understood quite how wearying a thousand years of boring social occasions would be… but she herself had at least some idea, and a little of that came across in her speech. “As host, she has to put up with it, and if I can do anything to relieve her boredom, I will be by her side. That's why I have a ticket.”

“Applejack, taking a cart of goodies to the Gala will not net you the piles of money you hoped. It's fully catered, as I thought, and the sort of ponies you'll be selling have never bought off a stall in their life. They'll snub you, and all you'll bring home is sore hooves from standing around all night,” she shook her head, “along with a cart full of leftovers.”

Seeing the farm-pony slump, she continued.

“But if you go as a business mare, and talk to the ponies there, you might be able to pick up some contracts for Sweet Apple Acres. Speaking of which,” she winked, “I also found out who to talk to at the palace about supplying the apples for those fancy hors d’oeuvres I mentioned, and you've already catered the Summer Sun Celebration for the Princess. I can set up a meeting, and I'm confident once the chefs at the palace have tried your apples, you should get that contract. That should net you enough money for your Granny's new hip. As for the plough and the barn...”

She lifted the pony bust off its pedestal and smashed it to pieces with her telekinesis, then cast a Reparo spell. It magically restored itself. “Let me have a look at them first before you hoof over any money.”

“Twilight, this is too much...” Applejack started to say, but Twilight waved her silent.

“Rainbow, I did some checking and I was right, the Gala is the busiest night of the year. I sent a letter to Spitfire herself, and she gave me a good idea of what they expect. It's the duty no-pony wants, being dragged around by ponies eager to get their picture taken, having to listen to endless dull stories from ponies who just want to be able to name drop. It's possibly the worst time to try and get to know a pony.” After all, Dash had only managed what she did the first time by a complete fluke that had proven nearly impossible to re-engineer.

“You talked to the commander of the Wonderbolts directly?” The cyan pegasus was incredulous.

“Not directly. I never really thought about it, but my position as Celestia's personal student does mean I have some status in court.” Rarity hid a grin at her self-deprecation, guessing at the probable depth of understatement. “Besides, my brother Shining Armour is adjutant to the Captain of the Guard at Canterlot castle, and it's likely he'll take over the top slot when Commander Ironhoof retires next year.

“As adjutant, he deals with relations between the Royal Guard and Equestria's other services such as the Wonderbolts. They are often drawn from the Royal Guard and vice versa. He knows Spitfire personally, and he helped get my message through.”

Rarity's eyes went wide. “Your brother is going to be Captain of the Royal Guard?”

“Yep!” Twilight giggled. “Sorry, though, I think he's spoken for. My old foal sitter, Princess Cadence, I think she has a thing for him, and vice versa.”

That had all of the ponies wide eyed. “Sugarcube, I had no idea...”

I don’t normally talk about it, I don't want ponies to think I'm all high and mighty.”

Spike chuckled. “Yeah, High And Mighty is a unicorn stallion and the second biggest snob in Canterlot after Prince Blueblood.”

Twilight grinned. “I also mentioned that I knew a pegasus called Rainbow Dash who was one of the most awesome fliers I knew. We shall have to see if that goes anywhere, but mentioning things like your one pony controlled tornado and the way you cleared the sky in ten seconds flat apparently piqued her interest. I'm hopeful she'll spare a few hours to come down and see you before the next Young Fliers Competition in Cloudsdale. I've gotten you your chance to meet her, what you do with it is up to you.”

“OhmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohMYGOSH!” Rainbow Dash didn't look like stopping any time soon, so Twilight moved on to Rarity.

“When I said Prince Blueblood wasn't your type, I didn't mean you weren't good enough for him, I meant the opposite. Spike will back me up on this,” and a glance at the dragon showed he was nodding vigorously. “He's efficient, I'll give him that. No-pony else could combine such stupidity, arrogance, narcissism and inability to admit any other point of view than his exists, let alone has any validity, in one pony. In fact,” a grin flashed across Twilight’s face, “it would normally take three. I would not set my worst enemy up on a date with him, let alone one of my dearest friends.”

Twilight could remember how Blueblood had treated Rarity originally, and in some of her earlier loops had found out far more about him than she wanted to know.

However, I've decided that I shouldn't assume any pony is beyond help, even Blueblood.” After all, miracles happened – and that wasn’t an entirely sarcastic thought, either, what with one redeemed deity and another. “Also, I think you'd be the one pony who'd enjoy the gala for what it is. So what I'm going to do is give you a chance to study him and decide for yourself before the Gala. You said when we first met you wanted to go to Canterlot and enjoy the sophisticated atmosphere. I should have seen I could help with that long before now.”

“It's going to take time to arrange, but Princess Celestia has agreed to let you stay at the palace for a couple of weeks, in the East Tower. It's normally used by visiting ambassadors, so it should be comfy enough.” Vast understatement. “I'll write to Cadence and let her know you're coming, I'm sure she'll want to meet one of my new friends, and she's about the friendliest pony I know.

“Spike knows more ponies outside the Royal family, as Princess Celestia brought him up after I hatched him. I was thinking of asking him to go as your assistant.” She turned to Spike. “You know Hoity Toity, don't you?”

Spike hadn't been privy to this wrinkle, and was over the moon. “YES! I mean yes, after I helped him out with the thing at the place. I know High Hat, Fancy Pants, Diamond Dust... all the ponies any-pony should know! But don't you want me here as your assistant?”

It was clear he was torn between going with Rarity and worrying Twilight didn't need him any more. She gave him a gentle smile. “Oh Spike, I'll always need you, but I can manage for a few days on my own. If things become desperate, I'm sure I can come ask for help.”

Rarity was still stunned at the idea of staying at the palace and getting personal introductions to the most important ponies in Canterlot. “I... East Tower... Princess... oh, my...”

She collapsed backwards in a swoon with a smile that looked like it would have to be surgically removed. Twilight manifested a fainting couch to catch her.

“Well, that went well.” Twilight grinned. “Rarity, eyes on the prize, or rather Prince Blueblood!” (Still a prize, though usually with the word ‘buffoon’ appended to the end.)

That got her unfainted in a hurry. The purple unicorn continued. “The idea is to give you a way into Canterlot society, and go to the same sort of events he goes to. You'll be able to watch him and make your own decisions, and in the meantime, I'm sure you can promote your skills and get lots of dress orders as well. So when you go to the ball, it won't be as some unknown, but as the exclusive fashionista Rarity. So even if Blueblood turns out to be unsalvageable, you'll still enjoy the night to its fullest.”

“Oh Twilight!” Rarity gasped, “It's more than I ever dreamed!”

Twilight turned her attention to Fluttershy. “I can get you in to the Royal Gardens a lot sooner than the Gala, if you're willing to accept some restrictions. The problem is, the animals in there aren't as... well, they've all lived in the gardens their entire lives and they're not used to strange ponies as your animal friends. If you just appeared, you might scare them off before they could get to know you.”

“Oh my, that would be terrible!” Fluttershy gasped. “But I'm sure I could get them to come to me if I just treat them gently.”

“Maybe,” Twilight replied, knowing otherwise – Fluttershy’s talent was one thing, but for animals that delicate it would take weeks to work on its own. “But if you want to visit them, you'll have to do it in the company of Mr Greenhooves, the palace gardener. I think you'll like him, he's… sort of your counterpart for the palace gardens. I think he knows every animal there by name. With him along, he can help you overcome any timidity they show. By the night of the gala, you'll be familiar to them, and you should be able to enjoy the blooming without a problem.”

“Well, if I have to...” Fluttershy said in a slightly downcast tone.

“Trust me; I want this to be the best night ever for you, which is why I'm not leaving anything to chance. Though there is one other pony you may meet. Princess Luna spends a lot of time in the gardens, in the evening at least.”

“Princess Luna?” Fluttershy asked nervously. “She won't be... mad at me?”

Twilight sighed, rather theatrically. “Right now even getting mad would be an improvement. I've been corresponding with Princess Celestia, I kind of felt responsible as I was directing the Elements of Harmony when we freed her. She still feels really guilty about Nightmare Moon, about what she did, she's not a happy pony. I guess there's no way she could be after what she's gone through. She's hiding away from things. Princess Celestia is worried about her, and I am too. She's back to her original form physically, but she's nowhere near ready to take back her duties.”

Twilight could see Pinkie ready to explode, and cut the fuse.

“Pinkie, normally you'd be perfect for cheering her up, but for now she needs some-pony less... energetic. What she really needs right now is a friend, somepony who won't judge her, won't try to force her to be anything she isn't ready for. That's why I'd hoped if Fluttershy met her, she might be the right pony to bring her out of her shell.”

“Oh! Oh! Has she turned into a snail?” Pinkie asked. “Is that why you need Fluttershy to talk to her?”

“No she hasn't, but she needs gentleness right now.” She turned back to the pegasus. “Fluttershy, you don't have to if you don't want to, in fact I can make sure your visits are scheduled so you don't, but if ever there was a job for the Element of Kindness, this is it.”

Twilight felt slightly guilty, she knew what buttons to push, and engaging Fluttershy's 'mother to all things living' reflex and pointing it at Princess Luna could be considered manipulation of the worst sort. But it should be so good for both of them. With Fluttershy's support, Princess Luna would hopefully recover much sooner than she originally had, and having someone like Luna as a friend should help Fluttershy's confidence no end.

She could see the subtle changes, the straightening of the wings, the slight narrowing of the eyes, and knew the bait had been well and truly taken. Fluttershy was now on a mission.

Finally, she turned to Pinkie. “I'm sorry, there's no way to make over the Gala into the kind of festival you described. It's a fancy formal ball, and that's what all the other guests will want. It may not be what you or I consider fun, but it is to them. I can get you books on what the Gala is supposed to be like, but I can't do anything more about it.”

“Don't worry Twilight!” Pinkie beamed. “There's no kind of party I can't handle!”

“I'm trying to get you a chance to help out at the Hearth's Warming Eve celebrations at the castle, which will be exactly that sort of festival you want. We can all go together, and I'm sure with your unique touches, it will be the best Hearth's Warming Eve ever!”

At that Pinkie did explode in a burst of streamers, and started bouncing around. “Two parties for the price of one! Of course, we're not paying admission so that's still zero, but this will be so super-duper-fantastically-amazing.”

Twilight relaxed, it seemed she'd succeeded. Every-pony seemed happy, and if she'd advanced things several months for most of them, that just meant they'd have more time afterwards to enjoy the memories.

“Uh, Twilight?” Applejack spoke, and Twilight worried that she'd left something out. “I think we all owe you a huge apology. You went to all this trouble, and after the way we squabbled over that durned ticket. You didn't need to do this. We're your friends, through thick and thin, and that ain't gonna change.”

“Yes, I did.” Twilight was relieved. “I know you're all my friends, and what I did wasn't some kind of trick to get you to like me more. I just want the very best for my friends, I didn't think you could get what you wanted from the Gala, and I just happened to have the ability to make sure that you could get it some other way. It isn't like I've given it any of you on a silver plate, you'll still each have to work to get what you want, but I could help you along, and that's what friends are supposed to do.”

A tea pot floated out of the kitchen, followed by a box of the Cakes' finest cakes. “Now let's have some tea, and enjoy just being friends.”


12.2


“You did what.”

Dash shrugged helplessly. “He asked!”

Twilight sighed. “What did he ask?”

“He asked me what would be a good idea for a story, and I told him about one of those Transformers Loops. Then he got all excited, and started writing.” Dash pointed. “He’s over there. Scorch Mark, I think his name was.”

Twilight shook her head, looking the unicorn over. He seemed entirely too excitable…

“Ah, there you are!”

Before she could fully process his words, he’d hurried over. “I love this story! Do you know anypony who could help with the special effects? I changed a few things, of course, because doing giant robots is a little bit harder to make work than magical transforming beings, but…”

Twilight picked up the script – surprisingly complete, given he’d only had lunch to work on it. “Transformares?” She opened it and skimmed through. “This… actually, it’s not as bad as I’d feared…”

“I could help with the cool explosions!” Dash volunteered. “I love them!”

“Hmm…” Twilight pondered. “I could go find Trixie. She’s good with this kind of thing too. Especially explosions. And Rarity’s always good for costumes.”

“The only problem is who would fund such a film,” Scorch Mark said, slumping slightly. “Making convincing transformations is going to be very expensive…”

“Actually…” Twilight slowly smiled. “I have an idea that could save money.”


“Hello, Queen Chrysalis of the Changelings. My name is Twilight Sparkle, and I’m helping with the production of a film which could use your talents and those of your hive. As such, I’ve negotiated with the director and producer to secure their approval to offer you a very lucrative contract, with ten percent of the gross being transferred to your hive and with sundry other benefits.”

“…what?” Chrysalis managed, staring at the purple unicorn who’d materialized in her inner sanctum.

“By sundry benefits, I include but do not limit the description involved to the fact that you and all other Changelings will become film stars, resulting in an overall highly positive opinion of your race and making it much more easy for you to sustain yourselves. Any transformation for which a given changeling requires more magic than they currently possess will be facilitated by our Kindness and Laughter assistant directors, who specialize in positive feelings,” Twilight rattled off.

“And you want us to…” Chrysalis read through the contract in front of her, feeling very confused. “…be actors in a film? Where we change from normal ponies into giant beasts which fight one another?”

“One set of them the villains, the other set the heroes,” Twilight confirmed. “Remember, amongst the benefits there’s that you’ll end up able to integrate with the ponies of Equestria freely, and that ponies will have overall positive opinions towards you.”

“…this bears some thought…” Chrysalis mused.


Fluttershy staggered out of the movie theatre, and collapsed onto a bench. “I feel… overwhelmed…”

Dash and Pinkie left next, excitedly talking about the premiere. “So awesome!”

“Yeah!” Pinkie bounced. “And was that big blast of prism dragonbreath-”

“You bet it was! Sonic Rainboom, perfectly timed!”

Spike hurried out with a big box of popcorn, entirely finished. He was keeping it because he was on the side – Twilight had managed to make his ‘Spike-Zilla’ transformation controllable, so he was one of the biggest monsters in the film.

Rarity took off her earmuffs. “I knew these were a good idea! That film was very impressive, but just so loud!”

“Yeah,” Applejack agreed. “Still, it was kinda cool seeing all o’ them giant monster fights.”

“I don’t know if you’ve heard,” Twilight said to Trixie, as they left last of their group, “But he’s already started work on a second script. He wants Princess Luna to get involved.”

“Oh?” Trixie still had a flush from excitement – seeing hundreds of ponies loving her work was an amazing thrill. (And the huge amount of bits she was going to get from the film wouldn’t hurt, either…) “What is this one about?”

“Not sure yet. Probably going to have even more explosions, though, so you and Dash won’t be out of work.” Twilight winked. “I do have the title, though. Transformares: Dark of the Moon.

She’d finally worked out what was going on, after checking her extensive collection of fiction from the hub-loop. They’d found a pony variant of Michael Bay.

No wonder he got on so well with Trixie and Dash…


12.3


“Hey… Spike?”

Spike turned, nearly knocking over a shelf with his tail. “Whoops… what is it, Twilight?”

“Well, two things. First… don’t you think you’re overdoing it a bit?” Twilight pointed. “I mean, you’re kind of… big…”

Ever since Twilight had showed Spike how to adjust his own relative age (and hence size), he’d taken to growing at least three feet right as they arrived in Ponyville – usually overnight – and calling it a growth spurt.

“Maybe. If this doesn’t work, I’ll go back down a notch.” Spike shrugged. “What was the other thing?”

“Well, I’ve been meaning to ask… why is it that you like Rarity?” Twilight winced, and tried to clarify. “That might have come out wrong. What I was actually asking was… okay, first time around when we turned up in Ponyville, it seemed like a crush, and… you know. But you’re older now, and…” Twilight made a helpless gesture. “I don’t know how to put it.”

“No, I get you.” Spike carefully manoeuvred around the stacked returns and headed for the kitchen. “I’ll make some tea.”


“Okay, so you’re kind of right.” Spike passed Twilight her tea. (Earl Bay.) “It did start off as just a crush – like with Moondancer, in Canterlot. But…”

Spike stopped, and sighed. “It’s hard to put. I think it really got started back when I had that…greed growth incident.”

Twilight nodded sympathetically.

“See… I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Rarity isn’t a particularly nice pony, by nature.” Spike waved his claws, as if to fend off disagreement. “Let me finish. Her first instinct is always for herself – stealing some of a dragon’s hoard, or how well she’s doing with her dresses, or how much she’d love to be a model… but – and it’s a big but, a big, glorious-”

“Get on with it,” Twilight mock-growled. “Or I’ll start thinking there’s an extra t in there.”

“You got me.” Spike grinned. “Anyway. Her first instinct is for herself, but she knows that and she tries as hard as she can to overcome it. Even when she’s not Awake, you can see it – and the Looping Rarity has pushed it so far back you could barely tell it was there.”

The dragon paused, and blushed. “Is it strange that I really like a mare with self control? The kind of self control that could make a dragon into an altruist?”

“Yes,” Twilight said flatly, and Spike chuckled at her tone. Inside, however, she was making all sorts of realizations.

“…she reminds you of you, doesn’t she?” Twilight said softly. “Or who you want to be, I don’t know. Somepony – someone, I suppose – who’s got the control to restrain their darker impulses.”

“Pretty much.” Spike shrugged. “There’s other bits, too – she’s smart, graceful, we like a lot of the same things and she does look very good, but what I just said is kind of the core.”

“And you know it’s real because of her Element,” Twilight continued.

“Yeah. Mind you,” Spike momentarily let a flame-gem in a golden gorget flash into being around his neck, “I’ve got one too…”

“You’re really proud of that, aren’t you?” Twilight could remember when he’d got it. A very, very strange Loop where Spike – as a young adult dragon – had replaced Rainbow Dash as local weather coordinator, Element of Harmony et cetera. (It turned out he really was the new Rainbow Dash, for certain values of ‘new’. Though Ponyville had had a suspiciously arid climate that Loop…)

Spike nodded, his hand going to where it had been. “It’s kind of the… proof, I suppose, that I’m doing things right.”


12.4


“…aaaaaaaAAARGH!” Applebloom screamed, and ran out of the class.

Scootaloo put up a hoof. “Miss Cheerilee? Shall Sweetie and I go get Applebloom back?”

Cheerilee nodded tiredly. “Fine. Just go ahead. I’ll expect you to do well on the history test next week, though…”

The other two fillies shot out after their friend.

“And as for you, miss Tiara, you’re going to take notes for poor Applebloom,” Cheerilee continued.

“But I only-”

“I know all you said was that she didn’t have a cutie mark, and I don’t know why she reacted so strongly.” Cheerilee dropped some extra sheets of paper in front of the pink filly. “But she did. So get writing. And I’m going to check them afterwards to be sure they’re good ones.”

Diamond Tiara gave an exaggerated sigh, and started writing down notes about the founding. Cheerilee stayed another moment to see how they were going, then nodded. Not bad, actually… Tiara did good schoolwork, and got along fairly well with the rest of the class most of the time, but something about her and the ‘crusaders’ just kept striking sparks.


Scootaloo bounced over a hill, using her wings to control her jump even if she couldn’t fly with them. “Over here!”

Sweetie came over the slight rise next, and the two of them sat down on either side of Applebloom.

“Okay, what is it?” Sweetie asked.

“I just… gaah!” Applebloom kicked the ground. “If she was just an idiot I could ignore her. It’d be hard, but I could. But… I keep thinking of that second Marecross Loop.”

The others nodded, understanding. Flight Coordinator Diamond Tiara had run her squadron with a rod of iron, browbeating them in public over the slightest mistake… and had brought eleven out of twelve pilots out the other side of the war alive. That was a little over half the entire surviving roster from the six squadrons on board.

“She was a bitch, but she was a bitch for a reason,” Scootaloo agreed. “I hated it when she was tearing me apart over that flubbed transformation timing, but if we’d done it against the Zentraedi…”

“Yep.” Applebloom made an explosive gesture with her hooves. “Bang, zoom, right to the moon. And when that isn’t coming up, it’s the time she ended up in charge when the machines attacked… you know, the metal-changeling-things?”

“Yeah…” Sweetie agreed. “I think I’m seeing why you left.”

“Exactly.” Applebloom shook her head. “Every time there’s serious trouble, she rises to the occasion like she was born to it! And then she goes back to being the petty, small minded jerk we’re used to.”

“Maybe we could ask Twilight to have Nightmare Moon win next time, to see what happens,” Scootaloo suggested idly.

Then the Crusaders exchanged glances.

“Actually…” Applebloom said, slowly.


“Diamond tiara action!”

Nightmare Moon flinched backwards as the spinning item of jewellery came close to her face.

Below the rooftop that Applebloom and the other Crusaders were hiding on, a battle was taking place. Golden Voice, Silver Spoon, Platinum Star and the other Jewelry Scouts were devastating dozens of moon-born creatures of the night, while their leader – Diamond Tiara – kept Nightmare Moon herself at bay.


“…ah think we got a defective Loop…” Applebloom said, watching in stunned amazement.

“Yep,” Scootaloo concurred. “It’s like somepony took a Sailor Moon Loop and reversed the naming theme.”


12.5 (Lord of Bones)


Celestia backpedalled in fright as her student was consumed in a pillar of seething violet fire. Around her, the court assembly panicked as they heard the roar of a dragon just before the entire palace shook, as though a small earthquake had hit it. The sides of a vast pair of spread wings were easily visible outside, considering they blotted out the sunlight streaming in from between the pillars and windows.

The firestorm in the audience chamber slowly died away, revealing an alicorn only slightly smaller than Celestia herself. An armoured brace ran from the base of the glowing black horn down her neck, with a cuirass of the same metal protecting her chest. Both wings blazed like fire; one the feathery wing of a pegasus, the other the bat wing of a thestral. Her mane and tail were clouds of hissing violet flame, and her hooves were shod in silver.

On her flank, the deep purple of Twilight's cutie mark glowed malevolently.

Her former student spread her wings and opened sultry violet eyes. "I am queen of the end of day and the beginning of night! Here I say, and so it is truth, that I shall rule! Bow, my little ponies, for the Hour of Twilight has come! THE DUSK SHALL LAST FOREVER!" Her voice thundered as the Bearers of Harmony flanked her, all grown to her size and just as darkly beautiful.

There was a dull "thud!", and both assembly and nightmares turned to the sight of Princess Celestia passed out from shock next to a slack-jawed Luna.

"…too much?" Twilight asked meekly.


12.6


For once, Twilight woke up in bed.

Wait a minute, the lavender pony thought as she stirred, that’s not quite right. Er… for once, I’ve started the Loop in a bed. That’s much less ambiguous.

Delicate matter of nomenclature thus resolved, she crawled out of bed and looked around.

Er, wow…

The room was expensively decorated, to put it mildly. Nothing too excessive, certainly not opulent, but the simple cut of the furnishings – which were made with fine cashmere and velvet and dyed in her precise coat and mane colours – was a statement in and of itself. And the deep pile carpet was another.

She did a quick check, discovering that she was an alicorn this loop. Further investigation revealed that a number of familiar looking dresses were hanging in the closet, and her Magic tiara was resting on the dresser atop a pile of books.

Now, if only my Loop memories would return…

Someone knocked on the door. “You up yet, Twily?”

“Yeah, just a minute!” Twilight called back automatically, then blinked. Apparently she was still living with her parents. Which meant something unusual was going on this Loop…

“Okay, but hurry up,” the voice continued. Twilight frowned, because despite it being male she couldn’t quite identify it – it certainly wasn’t her father’s, but the door distorted it, “or I’ll have to reverse gravity in there to make sure you’re not still in bed!”

At that precise moment, the memories arrived.

“Oh, buck me…” Princess Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Trottingham, younger child of King Discord and Queen Celestia, said to herself.

Not only were she and Crown Prince the Prince of Horseshoe Bay Shining Armor (both alicorns, as it happened) the children of Discord and Celestia – who had taken kingdom titles, for whatever reason – but several other familiar faces were also turning up in various important positions.

Princess Luna, for example, was the former heir to Equestria’s throne, but was now third in the line of succession after her sister had produced two children. For her part, she was as of yet unmarried – something of a blessing for Twilight, who was starting to wonder if the alicorn of the night would have been married to Angel Bunny or something. Or Blueblood… shiver. (He was, as it happened, a duke this time – duke of Canterlot. And one without any blemishes on his record of service. Either this was a different Blueblood or he was planning something.)

Furthermore, the nearest other kingdom was Amoria. Ruled by – Twilight was almost expecting this – King Sombra and Queen Chrysalis, though the fact that their daughter was Cadence was a completely new twist. Oh, and then there was the fact that Spike was pulling his occasional “ruler of the Griffins” trick, and that there had been several border incidents between Equestria and Amoria in the last few years.

It was obvious what the Loop had planned for her.

Politics…”


“Shiny.” Twilight walked into her brother’s room, noticing the same combination of tasteful and insanely expensive that marked her own room – though with the addition of maps and a complete suit of armour piled in various places around it. “Please tell me that the word ‘anchor’ means something to you.”

Her brother blinked, then grinned. “Yep. This is one hay of a strange Loop, isn’t it?”

“Yep.” Twilight pulled two bottles of Applejack’s finest cider out of her subspace pocket, then blinked at Shining. “Do you want one?”

“Er… okay.” Shining watched, bemused, as Twilight pulled a third bottle out, levitated it across to him and then started on the first of the two she was apparently going to have.

After a long draught of apples – well, mainly apples – Twilight felt a lot more alicorn. “Okay. What happens now?”

“Seems fairly obvious.” Shining’s grin could have lit up the room. “Two words, little sister. Dynastic marriage.”

“…oh.” Twilight managed a weak smile. “Okay, I suppose that is a good thing on your part, then. You and Cadence, just like every time.”

“Exactly. You know, you should find a somepony for yourself,” Shining ventured.

“Nope.” Twilight shook her head. “Most other Loopers are female, which… just doesn’t really interest me. The rest are Spike – who is spoken for – and Discord, who doesn’t loop often anyway and who I didn’t have an interest in even before he became my dad for this loop.” She took another drink of the cider. “Good thing this stuff is non alcoholic.”

“Er…” Shining raised a hoof. “How long has that been in your subspace pocket?”

“…oh, right. I wondered what the extra tang was.” Twilight levitated a drop out of the bottle and put it on a spatula, which promptly dissolved. “Huh. Probably best not to drink much more of that now, then.”

“I’d say so.” Shining nodded. “And I can see you’ve put some considerable thought into this, so I won’t press you on it. Anyway, I’m going to get dad-”

“La la la!” Twilight interjected.

“Look, we have to get used to calling him that for now, okay?” The elder, male, alicorn wondered just how strong that cider actually was, watching his little sister bounce around the room with her hooves over her ears. “Right. Okay. So, I’ll make sure a message is sent asking about the possibility, because quite frankly when we turned up things were on the slippery slope to a war.”

“Cool.” Twilight nodded. “Well done, Shining, for preventing a war by getting nookie. Anyway, I’m going to go to the library.” She spread her wings, and Shining caught her tail in a telekinetic grip.

“No flying while drunk, Twilight.”

“No fair.” Twilight pouted, then began walking to the library instead.


Princess Luna, Princess of Manehattan, stomped into the throne room. “Thy younger child, mine sister, has taken a quarter of the books in the library and removed them to her room.”

“…oh.” Queen Celestia frowned. “Can’t you get her to give them back?”

“She is.” Luna shook her head wearily, and the rulers noticed a bruise on it. “She’s throwing them back out, with little slips saying ‘finished’ on them, at a rate that approximates to three per minute.”

King Discord nudged his wife. “Told you that my side would come through eventually!”

There was a small explosion, and the castle shook.

Luna rolled her eyes. “If my liege will excuse me, I suspect that that may have been the distillery I saw her setting up.”

Celestia buried her head in her hooves. “And she was doing so well…”


“Well, this is a new experience,” Twilight muttered.

Her brother shrugged. “Next time, make sure to put stasis spells on magically potent drinks, or they’ll turn into magically potent alcohol.

This time they were in her room, and Twilight was busily writing an essay. The theme was ‘why princesses should not brew volatile alcohol in their rooms’. (That was from her mother. Her father had added to that punishment, but also given her three gold stars and a new bathroom.)

“Still.” Twilight finished the current paragraph with a flourish, and cast a word-count spell. Nine thousand, two hundred and fifty three words.

“Cheer up!” Shining said, nudging her. “Only another thirty-one thousand to go.”

Twilight suspected she’d have gotten off lighter if the scumble hadn’t gang-detonated and blown her outside wall clean off the castle…


“Your majesty,” Blueblood raised a hoof, “There is one more matter, now that the vows have been taken.”

“What is it?” Celestia replied, with a smile. Blueblood had been very helpful in getting the wedding organized, so this was hardly unusual.

“Well, this needs to be a bit more of a Blue wedding.” There was a sudden flash of steel, and a dagger emerged from his tuxedo. Dozens of ponies charged into the room, wielding weapons, and a goodly number of the guests also drew steel. The dozen griffins around Emperor Spykoran looked around warily.

“You see,” Blueblood continued in the sudden stillness, “I’ve always wondered what it feels like, sitting on a throne. And now I get the change to have three at once.”

Twilight started laughing. “You’re a moron.

“What?” Blueblood turned, stung. “It’s valid! So long as I kill you all in the right order, so that the two lovebirds technically inherit, and then I kill them too, since I have a position in the line of succession I can legally obtain the twin crowns. And the griffins give the throne to whoever kills the previous Emperor.”

“No, not that!” Twilight fell over, rolling around on the floor in paroxysms of hilarity. Between the gasps of laughter, she managed to get out, “You just tried to assassinate eight deities and a greater dragon!”

Blueblood turned back to Celestia, who was by this point glowing a dull yellow with heat. “Ah. Er… parley?”


“Good suggestion, Twilight!” the king of Equestria said, grinning. “I never thought of using the moon as a holding cell.”

“So long as thou dost get them off mine satellite soon…” Luna said, less happy about the whole thing.

“Oh, I had an idea for that, too.” Twilight levitated up a map. “Here. The island of San Equus. No pony habitation there, the griffins never run trade lines that far south and there’s enough grass to keep them alive.” The young alicorn’s grin grew malicious. “Why not even make it an independent kingdom? See how many of them are content with being bossed around by Blueblood.

Chrysalis matched her daughter-in-law’s grin. “I like it. Poetic justice.”

Loops 13

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13.1 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Calling out the Cutie - Revenge of the Everfree


Diamond Tiara cursed as she pushed her way through the underbrush. This whole thing was turning into an even more massive debacle than her original actions. Why couldn't that rotten little farm filly have known her place and been properly humiliated? Instead, she'd turned the tables with her preposterous speech and gotten the entire class on her side, making it look as if it was Diamond Tiara who was in the wrong.

Obviously, this set of circumstances couldn't be allowed to stand. There was no way one pony could know all those things, especially a blank flank loser like Applebloom. So Diamond Tiara had challenged her to back up her boasts. When it started to snowball, and turn into something the whole of Ponyville had gotten interested in, Diamond Tiara had felt smug – after all, what was the point of letting somepony lie to you? This would teach her a lesson.

But the annoying bumpkin had so far gone through the tests set up for her without a bobble. She'd fixed up a broken wheel and damaged harness on a two wheeled farm cart, then slipped into the harness and hauled it back and forth over the back forty of Sweet Apple Acres under the watchful timer of Time Turner.

Building a wooden wall from the planks and supplies she'd brought in the cart, then raising a single room sized barn and roofing it using parts she claimed to have made earlier, using the rest of the supplies to build some training dummies that she then enthusiastically demolished under the watchful eye of that crazy old earth pony Temple Fortress.

That was the other annoying thing, the number of ponies who seemed to spring out of the ground to help run her through her tests. After finishing off the dummies, she fought a couple of other students from his dojo, and beat them, though she was sure it had all been a set up despite the assurance that they wouldn't going easy on her. Seeing her sweeping the legs out from under a stallion half against her size and holding him to the floor with a 'Mountain stance', it had to be! (Though they had made noises about her using skill to compensate for relative lack of strength, whatever that meant.)

Which brought them into the Everfree forest. Applebloom was up ahead with Miss Cheerilee and Zecora, identifying plants and picking some of them for later use in showing her brewing skills. Diamond Tiara growled again. Who could tell if that gibberish the two had spouted at each other was a language? But it had impressed Cheerilee. That was why Diamond Tiara was following them. She had to do something to sabotage Applebloom, before she succeeded and humiliated Diamond Tiara again. Anyway, there had to be something behind a curtain somewhere, right?

She'd been a bit nervous about following them into the Everfree, but so far it hadn't been any different to walking through Whitetail Woods, a bit darker and creepier, but nothing like the horror stories she'd heard. Of course, that blank flank did it, so it couldn't be that hard. She strained to hear what they were talking about up ahead, and trampled her way through the large patch of blue flowers without even thinking about it.


Diamond Tiara woke up from a nightmare, remembered what had happened yesterday, and wished she was back in it. As if watching Applebloom cook and bake and brew potions wasn't bad enough, it hadn't been Twilight who'd come to test her knowledge of stars and navigation. Princess Luna herself had shown up. Apparently Twilight had been telling tales, and the description of this contest had piqued her interest.

Applebloom, of course, had somehow weaselled her way through Princess Luna's questions. It had been evening when they started, and Luna had raised the moon, then started switching around the star patterns to test if Applebloom could identify the time of year… which, of course, she could.

Now she'd have to go to school and face the class as the neighsayer who had been made to look like a fool by the foul farm filly. She rolled out of bed, grappling for her comb as she turned to look at herself in her palatial room's full length mirror.

The scream was audible in Canterlot.


Applebloom had finished her morning chores and was just getting ready for school when there were angry voices from outside, near the gate. She grabbed a last piece of toast in her mouth as she trotted out to see what all the hoo-ha was about. As soon as she came in sight of the gate, there was a scream of "There she is!" and some more raised voices.

Applejack and her big brother were at the gate, talking or rather arguing with a bunch of ponies led by Filthy Rich, and centred on Diamond Tiara.

"You're plumb crazy! What makes you think that Applebloom had anything to do with it?" Applejack asked, as angry as Applebloom had ever heard her – well, when there wasn’t some kind of invasion going on, anyway.

"She's been humiliating me ever since I teased her about that blank flank. This is her latest revenge, another way to punish me!" Diamond Tiara sobbed.

"We did see her brew up magic potions yesterday, so… " Filthy Rich began.

Applejack got right in his face. "Finish that sentence and you can forget ever getting another jar of zap apple jam. Applebloom would never do something like that!"

Applebloom swallowed the last bite of toast and asked, "What the hay am I being accused of? Before you bring out the boiling oil, I'd at least like to know why."

"This, you rotten little peasant!" Diamond Tiara presented her flank, which was as unblemished as the day she was born.

Applebloom couldn't help it, she burst out laughing.

"You see!" The pink pony growled.

"I… I'm sorry…" Applebloom chuckled. "I had nothing to do with it, but whoever did it must have had a major sense of poetic justice. The queen of cutie-marks deposed… Hmmm… Hold on a second…"

She trotted over to Diamond Tiara, who tried to scramble back with an 'Eek!'

"Oh stop it, I'm not going to hurt you, I just need to smell something." She ducked her head towards Diamond Tiara's hooves and sniffed.

"What are you doing you freak!"

"Figurin' out that you mosied on into the Everfree forest, and ran longwise through some blue flowers." Applebloom lifted her head and looked back at Applejack. "Poison joke. Zecora told me all about it. It has a unique scent, and some nasty effects."

Of course, looper Applejack would know perfectly well what poison joke was, but in-loop she had no reason to, hence the little piece of play acting.

"How could a flower make my daughter's cutie-mark vanish?" asked Filthy Rich.

"It’s wild magic, it does what the name says, plays a nasty prank on any-pony that walks through it. She's lucky; you could have been turned into a diamond statue, or a duplicate of her own tiara."

"Lucky?" Diamond Tiara was still sobbing. She threw her hoof to her forehead in a dramatic gesture worthy of Rarity. "My life is ruined!"

Applebloom rolled her eyes. "Oh stop with the drama. Zecora has a recipe for an antidote, you can be back to normal as soon as you take a dip in it. And I won't even ask why you were sneaking around after me in the forest. If there was ever a case of some-pony upsetting their own apple cart, this is it."

"There's an antidote?" Filthy Rich asked. "Then you must fetch it at once!"

Applejack growled. "So you were accusing my little sister of poisoning your daughter, but now she can help you change your tune."

The stallion hung his head. "I'm sorry, I was just scared for my daughter's health. Please, help her!"

Applebloom nodded. "Sure I will. But I'm not missing school and chasing off into the Everfree right away. There's no further danger, she's just minus a cutie-mark for a bit."

"I can't go to school like this!" Diamond Tiara exclaimed.

"Nope, you need a shower." Applebloom giggled. "I'll go get Zecora as soon as school breaks for the afternoon."


At the school it was a zoo. Rumour had apparently gotten there ahead of Diamond Tiara, though considering the fuss she'd been making on the way to Sweet Apple Acres it wasn't hard to guess why. Normally, the pink pony would have been happy to be the centre of attention, but in this case, she was practically cringing at the fillies and colts looking at her.

She'd rushed home for a quick shower, then put on the dress she'd had made up for her cute-cenera, which oddly enough covered her flanks, obscuring her cute mark, or rather where her cutie-mark should be. Considering the other ponies had come in their normal attire, i.e. buck naked, this only served to make her look dreadfully out of place. Even Silver Spoon didn't have a dress on, which made things worse.

Diamond Tiara had dawdled at home, wanting to give the other ponies as little time as possible to interrogate her before class started, but that just seemed to have allowed a bigger crowd to gather. As well as her class mates there were ponies from the other classes that normally had their lessons at other times, and Applebloom, always Applebloom in the middle of it.

She was chatting to that geek Twist, and a pair of other blank flanks, a unicorn and a pegasus who she'd seen around. She hadn't bothered to learn their names, but that hadn't stopped her and Silver Spoon using all of them for verbal target practice several times in the past. After all, they'd been easy targets. She'd even managed to make Twist and the unicorn cry, which had been particularly satisfying.

As she approached, the pegasus gave a smirk. “Ha! Not so high and mighty now, are you? I may not have my cutie-mark yet, but at least I'm not afraid to show my flank!”

She winced. So that was it, Applebloom had been getting together a group to continue to persecute her…

“Scootaloo!” Applebloom exclaimed. “I may not like her any more than you do, but I ain't going to stand by and let any-pony get picked on because she has a blank flank! How do we expect to get any respect if we turn around and do the exact same thing?”

Diamond Tiara growled back. “Don't play innocent, I'm sure you've told the entire school what happened!”

“Yep, I figured I should tell them about the poison joke before some-pony decided I'd fed you some crazy potion, or Sweetie Belle had used Rarity's blemish concealment charm on you. Though considering the way you treated her last week, I wouldn't have been shocked if she had.”

“I never thought of that!” The unicorn in question suddenly said, eyes wide.

Applebloom gave her a quick hug with one fore-leg. “Just as well, that's the sort of mean trick she'd play. Do you really want to drop to her level?”

“No, but I'd have liked to have seen her without her cutie-mark.”

“C'mon, she's already managed to embarrass herself far worse than any prank we could ever pull. Twist and I have to get to class. I'll be late to the club-house, I've got to go ask Zecora to brew up an antidote for her.”

The other three agreed and gave a four way high hoof. “Okay!” “See you then.” “Cutie Mark Crusaders, ho!”

Diamond Tiara's ears pricked up at that, and as they moved inside she sneered, “Ha! After all your talk, you're just as obsessed with getting a cutie-mark as any-pony! Or are you going to tell me that's not what your pathetic club of misfits is about?”

That got her a sharp look from Miss Cheerilee, who'd heard the tail end of her sentence. Twist cringed slightly, but Applebloom just shook her head.

“Just because I think there's more to a pony than a cutie-mark, doesn't mean I'm not interested in seeing what mine is, if any. I guess I was when I started, but now it's as much a fun thing to do. We hang together at a tree-house on the farm, play games, go out trying different activities to see if we get a cutie-mark, and basically have fun. If we actually get a cutie-mark out of it, that's a bonus.”

She shook her head. “You’re focusing on the destination and ignoring the journey, at least that’s what my sister would say. Well actually, I figure you’re just feeling bad and wanting to spread it around, but it comes to the same thing.”

Miss Cheerilee cleared her throat. “Every-pony, quieten down. I’ll take register, and then I think Applebloom should give a short explanation of just why it’s not a good idea to go into the Everfree forest without some-pony who knows what they’re doing. If then.”

Diamond Tiara just sat there and fumed.


13.2 (crossover with Spyro)


“Wwwwwelcome to Magic Crafters!” Cosmo said, looking down at the purple dragon who had just freed him and stretching sinuously. “I want you to rrrelease the dragons, rrreclaim our treasure, and rrrecover the eggs from those pesky blue Thieves.”

He disappeared in a flash of magic, leaving behind his pedestal.

“Reclaim, huh?” Twilight the Flutterpony sniggered. “Yeah, bit late for that.”

“Hey!” Spike the Dragon replied, looking hurt. “I’ve only eaten the tasty ones… it’s not my fault that they’re all tasty…”

“Admittedly, I do wonder what Spyro usually does with all his.” Twilight hummed. “Hey, try not to fall off any more cliffs, okay? I can only save you so many times before I start to get tired.”

“Yeah, thanks for that.” Spike crouched down (easier than normal, because he was an all-up quadruped this time) and launched himself forward in a charge.

Gnorcs in silly metal dresses went flying.


“Hey, Twilight!” Spike looked around, towards some sheep (which promptly fled) and then at a large portal. “I fancy a trip to the beach. Can you take me?”

“No.” Twilight said. “You’re always making me teleport you everywhere, use the portal for once.”

“Okay,” Spike grumbled, and gestured towards the portal to Dragon Shores. “Come on, then. And when are you going to work out how to get me to fly properly? Age-shifting doesn’t work here.”

“When I work out how the Flights do it, that’s how. And no sooner.” Twilight did a loop-the-loop in irritation. “I can’t even READ here! The dragons’ books are all twelve feet tall, and I’m barely bigger than the words!”

There was a tugging sensation as they passed through the Dragon Shores portal, and then they were in some strange, non-beach place with a cheetah, a faun and a mole talking at them.


“Okay, look,” Twilight said. “We weren’t supposed to be here, so if you’d just-”

“But we need your help to defeat Ripto!”

Twilight picked up a fireball headed her way, and fed it through a one-way magical mirror – also, incidentally, pumping the energy in it up by a factor of a hundred.

There was a loud explosion.

“Okay? Can we go now?” Twilight did not like it when she was proven wrong by Spike, especially when his argument was actually based off not wanting to walk.

“Uh…” the cheetah, Hunter, looked back and forth between her and the crater. “Did you-?”

“Twilight!” Spike shouted. “They have gems bigger than ME here! Let’s stay for a bit!”

“…oh, alright. Maybe here they have books,” Twilight sighed.

“Oh, splendid!” the mole said. “I was wondering, do the portals you normally use follow a longitudinal or transverse wave pattern? Because I tried the first one, but it didn’t pick up well until I’d gone through transverse and back.”

“A mix, actually.” Suddenly, Twilight was also an enthusiast for staying in Avalar. At last, someone who has an intellectually stimulating task to work on! “We use Rayleigh waveforms, because those allow for more specific origin points which can be in the air and… oh! So that’s how the Flight portals work – they must carry the superfly spell in the waveform!”

“Splendid!” The studious mole took out a pencil and started writing that down. “We have a similar enchantment on the daises leading to Speedway portals, but that’s in the arch and not the warp torus itself.”

“Right.” Twilight checked on Spike, and saw he was trying to get a gemstone almost as big as Princess Celestia out of the ground. “Okay, we tend to use Runcible-type gates with more flexibility on the waveform, but the downside is that the Horns of the Spoon take a lot more power… I did wonder why they bothered…”


“Don’t worry, Bianca,” Twilight said, the purple glow around her intensifying, “I’ll handle this. Hey, Spike!”

“What?” the dragon asked, halfway through a game of Ancient Egyptian Tanks.

“I managed to locate the Sorceress, so we can teleport straight to her. And I think I can apply Superflame, Superfly and Invincibility in the teleport flare.”

Spike jumped out of the tank and was next to her in a second. “Cool. Let’s go.”

“Yep.” Twilight’s glow became blinding for a moment.


“And so, we say goodbye to the Forgotten Worlds,” Spike said with an affected voice. “Land of giant monsters, malfunctioning portals, stolen dragon eggs and ludicrous numbers of Rhynocs.”

Twilight grinned. “Wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Nah. Fun place, once you get past the occasional deathtrap or horde of giant scorpions.” Spike hopped through the portal, and Twilight followed a second later. “What now?”

“I… guess we wait until the next disaster.” Twilight paused. “Well, you wait, anyway. I’m going to go try and work out how the Supercharge ramps work.”


13.3


“I don’t understand it,” Celestia said, shaking her head.

The object of her confusion lay in the gardens of Canterlot palace. A three-hundred-foot-tall building, containing inside it a statue of herself – at thirty times normal scale.

It had appeared overnight. And she had no idea where most of her gardens had gone…


“Oh, how flattering.” Luna looked around the huge building. The outside was covered with frescoes depicting her at her work of shaping the night sky, and the inside held silver sculptures of her surrounding a great replica moon.


“Explain,” Firefly said flatly.

“Hey!” Dash raised her hooves. “This one totally wasn’t me. Anyway, why would I build a giant lighthouse out of clouds? It sounds like far too much effort for me.”

After a moment, Raindrops nodded. “Yeah, it is. You’d have left it half finished.”

“Hey!” Dash paused, then realized what she was objecting to. “I mean, er, yeah! Exactly my point.”

“Only question is, then, who did?” Firefly said. “I mean, it’s helping pegasi find their way home, but these strange black insect-ponies calling themselves changelings keep bumping into the main mirror.”


Fluttershy flew up to get a closer look at the strange sight. “Oh, my.”

A jet-black obelisk, covered with runes which glowed purple, jutted out of the Everfree forest canopy. And above it, held in a deep purple glow, hovered a magnificent garden – with rare animals and plants which she was sure were only supposed to be in the Canterlot palace gardens.


“Was this your doing, Braeburn?” Sherrif Silver Star asked, pointing to the east.

“Nope,” the Apple replied, shaking his head. “Weren’t me.”

“Well, who would put four giant stone pyramids out here?” Silver Star squinted. “And that’s a griffin statue next to ‘em, too.”


“Down a bit… left a bit… and done!” Spike said, checking off the sixth item on the list.

Twilight finished off by casting the spells that secured the enormous earth pony statue in place, and then dropped the cloaking spell. “Right. That’s the Colossus of Horseshoe Bay set up… now, one to go. Which one is it?”

“The mausoleum.” Spike tapped his chin idly. “Not sure who to commemorate, really. I mean, most of our rulers are still around.”

“…easy. The Founders.” Twilight frowned. “Only problem is finding where they were buried. Any ideas?”


“…anyway, we managed to get them all done inside the same twelve hour period,” Twilight finished. “With a lot of magic, anyway.”

Discord clapped. “Very good, Twilight. Most impressive. So, you set up the Seven Wonders of Equestria? What was the reaction?”

“…Celestia was a bit annoyed that I’d pinched her garden,” Twilight admitted. “But I had to move it anyway to put down the Temple of Celestia at Canterlot, so…” she shrugged. “Fluttershy was very happy.”


13.4


“…Princess?” Twilight started at the unexpected sight. “What is it?”

“While I am grateful that you’ve made such good friends, Twilight,” Celestia said, stepping into the Ponyville library, “I must confess that I originally sent you to Ponyville for reasons that were not entirely altruistic.”

“Okay, then.” Twilight frowned – was this connected to why Luna was over two months late? “Go on.”

“It was my original intent to allow you to form friendships, it is true…” Celestia looked pained, “but that was in part due to the Elements of Harmony. They can only be wielded by a group of ponies with true friendship between them, and I feared the return of my sister – who has become Nightmare Moon.”

Twilight nodded. “I see, and I do understand the logic. But… I remember that book. Wasn’t Nightmare Moon supposed to return on the Summer Sun festival?”

“She was.” Celestia nodded. “I was most impressed by how well you and your friends organized it, by the way – masterfully done. But the absence of my sister still troubles me.” The alicorn of the sun lit her horn. “Twilight… I ask a great favour of you. Will you accompany me to the moon where my sister has spent these last thousand years, so as to determine whether she is still there or has escaped without my notice?”

The Element of Magic blinked. “Er, why me? I’m flattered, but…”

“You are the pony I would trust more than any other, Twilight.” Celestia’s voice held a quiet serenity. “And, in truth, my sister and I are closely matched – your power would, perhaps, be enough to tip the balance.”

Suppressing a grin at the private joke – if it came to it, she had more than enough power – Twilight nodded in turn. “Okay, then, Princess. I won’t let you down.”

“Thank you.” The glow turned to a blinding flash.


Celestia and Twilight materialized inside a gigantic frosted-glass dome.

The ruler blinked, her air-bubble spell being completely unnecessary in the atmosphere already present in the dome. “I don’t remember this being here…”

“Oh, hi!” said a voice from overhead, in the distant heights of the dome. There was a series of bright magical flashes, and the dome turned fully transparent.

Twilight blinked as Princess Luna flew down, carrying a huge slab of quarry-fresh stone. “Celly! I haven’t seen you in SO long! And who’s this?”

Celestia recovered her poise quite quickly. “Dearest sister. This is my student, Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight bowed. “It is an honour.”

“I bet she’s a regular anchor of strength for you,” Luna said, and winked at Twilight. “Anyway, I got over the whole Nightmare thing about… three years after I came up here, and I’ve spent the rest of the time building. There’s a complete environmental dome here, which stretches out across about half the nearside.” Creating a series of illusions, Luna continued explaining. “I made the dome light-reactive so the sunlight isn’t too intense – that’s to compensate for the lack of the atmosphere – and the top surface has the Mare in the Moon motif. I know it might be interesting to have the whole thing transparent to emerging light so that the greenery I hope to transplant up here will be fully evident – imagine it, Celly, the moon having as many ponies and as much life on it as the planet below!”

The long, rambling explanation by an evidently Awake Luna about what she’d done over the course of the last ten centuries wound on for about twenty more minutes. Twilight was impressed – Luna had not only built a habitable area rather larger than any one continent, but she’d also constructed future cities, towns and villages within it. Any prospective colonists would almost literally just have to move in.

Celestia’s jaw was just getting gradually more slack.

“…anyway,” the alicorn of the moon finished, “Why are you up here? I mean, it’s nice of you to visit, but…” she gasped and checked a moondial Pinkie had given her once. “Oh! I completely missed the date! Sorry, Celly, I hadn’t realized I could come down by now. Anyway. Do you want to write the colonist adverts or shall I?”


13.5 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Squeezing out the Competition


“Well, looky what we got here, brother of mine, it's the same in every town, Ponies with thirsty throats, dry tongues, and not a drop of cider to be found…”

Flim’s musical number came to a halt with the sound of a gramophone record needle scratch as he got a chance to look around at the road outside Sweet Apple Acres. Lots of ponies, all of them merrily drinking mugs of cider. One rainbow maned Pegasus had a pyramid of empty mugs in front of her, and another mug raised in salute to the stall which was clearly selling it.

There were still barrels stacked behind the stall, and a massive pile of bits overflowing the cash box. The orange pony in the hat who seemed to be in charge of the stall looked over at them sourly. “I hope you can pay for that post you just knocked down.”

“What in Equestria?” Flim couldn’t help saying. “We heard that there was a cider shortage here in Ponyville! That’s why we brought our unique and superb…” The music started up again. “Unseen at any time in this modern world, born of creativity.”

Seeing ponies starting to pay attention, the two started trading off.

“Folks it’s the one and only, the biggest and the best,”

“The unbelievable,”

“Unimpeachable”

“Indispensable”

“I can’t believ-able”

“Flim and Flam Brothers’ Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000.”

The music came to a halt again as Applejack retorted, “That’s nice and all, but you’re a mite out of date. Last year we couldn’t produce enough cider, that’s true, and we wanted to do better without compromising on quality.”

She waved back at the orchard behind her. “That’s why we got my friend Twilight in to do what she called a ‘time and motion study’. We were doing the whole process by hoof, even driving the apple press of a treadmill, and changing the full barrels for empties. Turns out the only stages which really needed to be pony-intensive was bucking the trees to get the right apples, and quality control on the apples to see that only the best get in. Takes a skilled pony to tell which apples are just right for our cider.”

“Our machine has a selector that does it automatically, and turns it into grade-A top-notch five-star blow-your-horseshoes-off one-of-a-kind cider…” Flam stopped, turning. “Hey, get away from there!”

Applebloom was tapping the wheel of their transport. “Huh, seems like a thaumic boiler system and a magically controlled spectro-mechanical analysis device feeding an undershaft powered processing line hooked up to a vacu-motive collector. Fast, but I bet it takes a lot of maintenance, not to mention a dedicated unicorn to power it. You’ll get maybe a couple of hours of use out of it before you have to tear it down for an overhaul. No wonder you were riding around looking to make a quick bit rather than trying to market it.”

Applejack grinned. “Mah little sister Applebloom has a knack for mechanical dohickeys. She built our new cider processing system.”

Applebloom pointed over to a long line of wooden struts and machinery half hidden by the trees.

“Tain’t as fancy or mobile as your contraption, but it’s practically all mechanical, a simple conveyor system driven by an electric motor. Rather than a complex magical gadget, we just pre-filter using a simple feeder system onto a scale which drives a flipper that diverts the apple out of the process line if it’s obviously too light. With the pre-washing stage and stirrers running off the same drive shaft, we can remove any leaves and twigs that got that far too.

“That allows Applejack and Big Mac to buck, and me and Granny Smith to check the apples that make it through the pre-filter. We have push button flippers to drop out bad apples rather than taking them off the conveyor by hoof, which saves a couple of seconds on each apple. May not sound like much, but over thousands of apples it adds up.” Applebloom shrugged. “It was the bottleneck for the whole process, so with the two of us working on it and the other improvements we've managed to more than double our throughput, while still keeping the hoof picked quality that makes our cider the best in Equestria!”

“I’ll say!” called out the pegasus. “This has got to be your best year yet!”

"I even rigged up an automatic feeder system for the barrels. Just a simple ramp and counterweight driven mechanism, but it does the job. And the best bit is that it's all way overbuilt, it should run for days without any maintenance other than changing the filters in the washing stage and refilling the barrel magazine.” There was a clunk as another barrel entered the mechanism. “All wood construction too, apart from the hardware, so it was cheap to build too."

Applejack couldn’t help smirk slightly at the crestfallen faces of the two hornswagglers. “I’ll tell you what; you can buy a bunch of apples at wholesale rates. Even with our new system, we won’t have much left to export. You might find a market for what that gadget makes in Trottingham or Hoofington. We’ll even knock off five points if you credit the apples as coming from Sweet Apple Acres. Of course, that’s on top of what you owe us for the fence post…”

Flim fidgeted under Applejack's gaze.

“Ah, about that, we're sort of, low on funds just at the moment.”

“So, you're broke.” The farm-pony gave a sigh. “Figures!”

Flam replied, “We have plenty of assets, it's just they're all tied up in the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000…”

“Like I said, broke.” Applejack replied, giving them both a look. “Well, you can always work it off in kind. Since we know your names, I guess you should know ours. I'm Applejack, and this's my little sis Applebloom. Over there you've got my brother Big Macintosh, and Granny Smith.”

Truth be told, she had very little time for these two swindlers. They'd tried to steal the farm out from under her family, though the Apples hadn't exactly made it hard for them. However, only she and Applebloom knew that, as neither Big Mac nor Granny were loopers. Still, it went against her nature to just kick these guys out in the cold, as they hadn't actually done anything this time.

She'd let them earn the price of the fence post and their stake in apples, but she did intend to work them hard. Maybe she could teach them the value of an honest day's work, rather than a get rich quick scheme.

Applebloom was still examining the device with an appraising eye. She still dimly remembered that she'd been excited by the machine, and ready to use it, until the Flim Flam Brothers had suggested their yellow dog terms. Even in the original time-line, it had lead to her learning more about mechanics and the idea to design a float for the Summer Harvest Festival.

In a way, it had ultimately led to her finding her cutie-mark, a couple of dozen loops later. The problem had been, her talent wasn't just fixing stuff, though that had been a part of it, but inventing new devices and new machines, especially electronics. It had taken a fused loop, that first one where she'd subbed for a fox called Miles 'Tails' Prower, to show her where her skills really lay. (And annoyingly, it was never the same thing to get her mark two loops in a row…)

A lot of the technologies she was best at hadn't yet been invented in base-line Equestria. Her cutie-mark expressed itself as a number of different things, depending on the circumstances, spanners and apple carts had frequently figured, but whenever she went really deep into computers and electronics she got a rainbow striped apple with a bite out of it. She guessed it represented a zap apple, since they involved electricity and innovating new techniques to turn them into an amazing jam.

Still, this machine had been the first thing to turn her thoughts to creating rather than fixing up, so maybe she owed them at least something. Besides, she could use their knowledge. “Y'know, it isn't a bad design. Over-complicated, but the ideas are actually pretty sound. It looks to me like you got interested in adding all kinds of bells and whistles rather than making the basic systems reliable.”

She couldn't actually blame them for that; it wasn't as if she hadn't suffered from that herself on occasion, especially when she was trying to tech up to building her own Maritech. Some of her more enthusiastic experiments had ended in malfunctions that involved terms like 'blast radius', and in a couple of particularly bad cases, 'funeral'. At least it had been her own. Even with every-pony being resurrected at the start of a loop, killing one of her friends would have been something she'd not have wanted to cope with.

“I wouldn't have thought an earth-pony filly would know much about magical engineering,” Flam said carefully, clearly aware that Big Macintosh was watching them both with a stern expression.

“You'd be surprised. Maybe I could help out, in return for some help myself. When I want to get some magical elements into my designs, I have to get in Twilight Sparkle or my filly friend Sweetie Belle to help out. But Twilight Sparkle's more of a straight up artificer, she makes purely magical items, and Sweetie Belle's talent is more to do with singing, and using her magic to enhance it, or vice versa.” Applebloom shrugged. “Besides, Sweetie doesn’t have much in the way of actual magical power to access yet.”

“They can both do it, but I feel bad about getting them to help me out for nothing. I figured if I could find a way to substitute my earth pony magic for unicorn magic in the rune sets, I could do the whole thing myself. Since you're the only two ponies I've seen apart from me who mix unicorn magic with machinery, I thought you might be able to help me figure it out. In return, maybe I can help you iron the bugs out of your doodad so it's actually a product you can sell, rather than a garage queen.”

Flim, seeing a chance to ingratiate himself, and avoid more arduous farm work immediately said, “Why sure, little lady!”

Then he back pedalled, seeing the obvious flaw. “But we can't promise anything, earth pony magic can't be projected the way unicorn magic can.”

“That ain't exactly true.” Applebloom grinned, and picked up an almost empty mug of cider. She passed a hoof over it and the mug was full again. That had the two unicorns buggy eyed.

“Zebra use similar magic to earth ponies, but they've learned to project it. I learned potion-making, off of a zebra named Zecora, who lives in the Everfree forest, which often involves investing a brew with your own magic. I even managed to learn a couple of other tricks, like multiplying the dregs of a liquid to refill a cup. A simple application of the law of homeopathy.” Sure, it took a hay of a lot of magic – far more than you could make back from the potion – but it was a neat party piece to pull off once or twice.

She sighed. “But investing magic into rune sets etched into metal requires different techniques to investing it into a magically active organic base. My martial arts training helped too, but I still can't quite get it.” She didn't say that it hadn't been her training under Temple Fortress, but under Master Roshi that had really buffed her earth magic manipulation.

From what Goku had said, the original Bulma hadn't been in the least interested in martial arts, though she was a genius engineer, but at least some of Applebloom's earth pony nature had carried over into her human body, and she'd been able to take the Turtle School training regime. She'd never be a Tenka'ichi Budo'kai Winner, but an also-ran by Dragonball world standards was still a serious martial artist by almost any other universes standards. Except Nerima, but then that was a special case.

“Don't get too comfy with those two, little sis. I aim to make them do some heavy work to pay for their apples. You can have them when I'm finished with them.” Applejack motioned with her head in the direction of the rise that held the Crusader's tree-house. “Have them park that contraption at your workshop and bring them back down. We've still got a passel of work to do before the sun sets.”

“We haven't…” Flam started to say, but Flim put a hoof over his mouth. “You'll provide food and a place to sleep too?”

“I reckon we can manage something.” Applejack replied, tersely.

“C'mon!” Applebloom waved at the two of them, and stepped through the gates to Sweet Apple Acres. “And be careful with that thing, you don't want to knock anything else down.”

She walked on ahead, leading them along the path through the orchards, and listened closely. The two of them were talking, and probably thought their low voices were drowned out by the background noise of their machine, but Applebloom had a lot of experience picking out voices from over the roar of machinery.

“Brother, why were you so eager to accept their offer?” Flam was asking. “Sure that filly did a party trick, but we could just try the next town over and see if we could scare up some business there. I didn't like the gleam in that Applejack mare's eyes when she talked about putting us to work.”

Flim gave a little smirk. “Brother, you're missing the point. What we have here is opportunity. At the very least we can get a meal and a bed for the night. Who knows what else a couple of well groomed and devilishly handsome stallions might be able to accomplish? At least that filly up front isn't as hostile as the rest of her family. I'm sure we can charm her into putting in a good word for us with her sister.”

The moustachioed stallion gave a huff. “If we can convince her that we've actually helped her. She's probably read a couple of books and is just playing at inventing. Or do you think she can actually help fix the 6000?”

“Who cares? We play along. Hopefully she'll have some basic tools, and maybe even parts we can use. We should be able to convince her to provide parts to show off our artificing skills on. It's better than nothing, at least.”

Applebloom gave a little chuckle. This was going to be fun. She stopped at the foot of the hill that the Crusader's tree-house sat on. It was built up with a main house, a lookout post surmounted by a telescope poking from the top, and a couple of small air-boat hulls and other platforms sticking out from the upper branches. A broad grassy path lined by apple trees on both sides, led up the side of the hill but stopped well short of the tree-house itself.

“Okay, park it here,” Applebloom called out. “I have to open up the workshop.”

She scampered up the hill, and disappeared into a small shack at the base of the tree-house.

Flam rolled his eyes. “That's her workshop? It's barely big enough to fit a wagon, let alone this.”

There was a crunch, and a rumbling sound. A line appeared in the grass in front of them, and the lines of trees running up either side of the wide path tilted outwards as the 'path' split to open upwards into a pair of massive doors, running the entire length of the hillside. The opening was wide enough to fit a dirigible, let alone the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000.

A paved road with dotted lines of lights running along each side ran into the hill. As they watched, blowers started up in the grates that ran along the centre line, clearing away the dirt that had fallen from the crack between the doors.

“Okay, bring it in!” Applebloom's voice came from nowhere, or rather, they guessed concealed speakers. They followed the instructions, filled with equal parts trepidation and curiosity. Both were well rewarded. As soon as they were in, the doors started to close over them, sealing down to a shallowly angled ceiling, lit from underneath by the runway lights.

The space at the end of the runway clearly took up most of the interior of the hill. A massive main hangar, at least twenty pony-lengths high and over a hundred each way dominated, but along each side were smaller bays containing still massive machines. An open frame lift at one end clearly rose up to the 'shack' by the tree-house, and the entire place was lit by banks of electric lights of a power and density they'd only seen in Manehattan. The smell of metal and lightning hung in the air.

Applebloom was enjoying the expressions of shock on the two pony inventors faces. A Maritech fighter was parked up alongside a humanoid robot that stood over halfway to the ceiling, painted in yellow with crimson trim, her Apple Labour. Several smaller suits of armour stood on pedestals, and various other vehicles and devices such as a sizeable Extreme Gear board were neatly arrayed along the walls.

She trotted over. “I'm sure we can find some basic tools in here somewhere. I even have a couple of books, though most of them are on my computer system.”

Back when she was starting out, it had generally taken months to build even a basic workshop, and it had been frustrating to have to start over each loop, even when she'd managed to get Twilight Sparkle to store some of the key equipment she needed in her stuff-space pocket. But that was before she'd been through the world of the dragon balls.

While capsules should have been the answer, they'd proved to be awkward to store in her sub-space pocket. The two incompatible spaces had interfered with each other and tended to dump out whatever she was storing at random times. She’d invented a shrinking watch which miniaturised things in real space, but that had proved to awkward to produce for pieces of kit much beyond the size of a human.

Ultimately it had been the martial arts training that she'd undergone that had pumped up her energy reserves and ability to manipulate earth magic. It had also fed into her being able to maintain a much bigger volume of stuff space. Now she could pack everything she needed, all her heavy production machinery and equipment, into her own stuff-space pocket. Setting up the workshop was just a matter of days, hours if she got Applejack to pitch in.

“This is…” Flim was flabbergasted, and Flam was flummoxed.

“Oh, this is nothing,” Applebloom said. “You should see the Geofront Twilight Sparkle built under Golden Oaks Library, well under all of Ponyville. It's a couple of miles across, has its own eco-system even. It's designed to store the whole of Ponyville in case of an emergency, but she mainly uses it for her artificing. She drives her mage furnace off a magma core-tap, it makes this place look like a rabbit hole.”

Admittedly, Twilight only built the danged thing once every few dozen times Applebloom met her – too much effort otherwise – but it was there this time, so it was a valid point to raise.

She waved to an empty section of wall. “You can park up there. It's handy for the photo-etching process line. I figured one way to reduce your maintenance is to replace those magical valves with one hundred nano-meter integrated rune-sets. Completely solid state, using a magically active mithril/orichalcum layer on a cold iron substrate. I can probably shrink the entire quality control module on your gadget down to a square about the size of a single bit piece.”

“That's impossible! No-one can etch magical symbols that finely!” Flam flustered. “A unicorn horn is only so sharp.”

“Photo-etching, I said. I use a resist dye made from black hellbore, a common base for potions. It's magically active and leaves a magical trace on the runic pattern, which is raised rather than engraved. All a unicorn horn has to do is spray it with magic, and the runic pattern is charged up. No need to etch each symbol with your horn while investing magic into it.” It occurred to Applebloom, perhaps a bit late, that she was probably overdoing it on the advanced terminology… ah well, they’d learn.

She chivvied them towards the lift. “Now come on, my big sis doesn't like to be kept waiting.”


13.6


Celestia felt herself tense up involuntarily. While the preparations for the Summer Sun festival seemed complete, at least those which Twilight had overseen… there was also the matter of Nightmare Moon’s imminent return.

If her crazy plan had worked, then – just maybe – she could see her sister safe once more. But… if not, then all she had worked for in the last thousand years would be erased.

Time.

She walked out onto the small stage in Ponyville town hall.


About halfway through the preparatory speech, she saw something out of the corner of her eye and stopped in confusion. Her audience rustled, wondering why she’d stopped, then turned to look at the same thing she was.

A mug with steam wafting off of it, hovering in the air.

Then… Celestia’s knees went weak with shock. Luna followed the cup, which was clearly held in her magic, blinking sleepily and wearing a dressing gown.

“Celly? Sorry to interrupt…” Luna lowered the mug slightly, and Celestia caught sight of plain milk in there, “But I can’t find where you keep the cocoa. Did you rearrange the kitchen?”

“…what?”

“Well, I was getting ready for bed,” Luna said, breaking off in a jaw-cracking yawn, “anyway, I was getting ready, and I was going to have a cup of cocoa and some biscuits before I turned in. But I couldn’t find the cocoa, and I’ve already heated the milk so I thought I’d ask.”

Luna raised something to her mouth, and ate it. There was a crunching sound. The next words she spoke were slightly muffled. “Excellent biscuits, though. I approve of the chocolate shards baked into them.”

“…Luna?” Celestia tried to get over her shock. “Er… second cupboard from the left, behind the sugar.”

“Thanks. Sorry for the interruption.” Luna vanished in a flash of dark.


13.7


Celestia massaged her temples. “I’m sure I must be imagining it…”

“What is it, dear sister?” Luna asked, finishing off her evening breakfast.

“Earlier today I went for a walk in the gardens,” Celestia explained. “And I could have sworn blind that Discord’s stone prison had moved.”

“Surely not!” Luna said, shocked. “He has escaped?”

“No, no, his statue’s still on the pedestal, it was just… differently posed.” Celestia shook her head. “Or that’s what it looked like. Maybe I’m just tired.”

Her sister put a hoof on her foreleg. “Go to sleep, Celestia. I should be handling more of your workload than I am, anyway.”


The next morning, Celestia flash-heated some toast (a bit extravagant, but she was feeling chipper after her extra sleep) and passed Luna making herself dinner.

The lunar alicorn pointed at her. “I think that you might be right, sister.”

“What?” Celestia asked, a butter-loaded knife paused mid-spread.

“He’s sticking his tongue out.” Luna said, pointing towards the gardens.

The elder alicorn forewent jam and hurried out into the grounds, eating her toast on the move.


“Is it the stress, Luna?” Celestia asked, shaking her head. “Are we both losing it?”

“I do not know.” Luna frowned. “What did he look like this time?”

“Jazzhands.” At Luna’s look of confusion, Celestia created an illusion. “There was a minotaur a few decades back who called this pose jazzhands. Not sure why…”

“No headdress any more?” Luna checked. Celestia nodded in confirmation.

“Right, there’s only one way to solve this,” the elder sister added. “Luna, I would take it as a favour if you would handle my duties for the day. I am going on stakeout.”


Celestia ignored the rain pattering on her wings. There was no way she was going to spend five minutes asking for the weather schedule to be changed, and potentially waste six hours of staring through binoculars.

Lulled by the whispering of the rain, it took her about three seconds to notice when the statue abruptly disappeared.

“…wait, what?” she said, lowering the binoculars. “But… all I did was blink…”

Grey stone caught her eye, and she turned towards it. It was almost a hundred metres from where Discord’s statue had been, and it was…

…frozen in a running pose.

Another blink, and it disappeared again. This time, it appeared precariously dangling from the roof.

Another – and it vanished altogether.

Celestia swept the gardens, looking for the grey stone of Discord’s statue and backing up in slight fear…

Then bumped into something. She whirled, seeing the statue only a yard or so away from her.

Dangling from its hand was a sign that read ‘boo!’


Luna galloped onto the colonnade. “What is it, Sister! I heard your scream-”

“Don’t blink, Luna!” Celestia shouted without turning around. “I think it moves when we blink!”

“Actually, I don’t need you to blink,” Discord replied conversationally, brushing grey dust off his skin and fur, and tossing the sign into the distance. “It’s just funny.”

He looked at the two glowing horns pointed right at him. “Oh, what? It’s just a bit of fun!”

“This is what I think of your joke, Discord,” Celestia countered. “Fire!”


Dear Twilight Sparkle,

I am sending you a large fridge containing the draconequus known as Discord. This chaotic entity ruled over Equestria in times long past, but was defeated and sealed by my sister and myself using the Elements of Harmony.

He escaped at some time last week, and attempted to play games with Luna and I. We did not take this well, and as a result he was hit by two very powerful spells – one fire, one ice.

Since I’m sending him to you in a fridge, I’m sure you can work out which order they were in. In any case, he survived, but it is our hope that he will not be ready to attempt his mind games again for some time – at least until the ice thaws.

Please either re-seal him or attempt to rehabilitate him as you did my sister.

Always ready to speak with you,

Celestia.


Twilight heaved the fridge open. “I told you that imitating the Weeping Angels was going too far.”

Discord declined to comment. Possibly because of the foot-thick coating of ice.


13.8


Celestia felt the by-now-familiar surge of the world reorganizing itself around her, as she Awoke into a Loop.

She took a moment to scan her memories. After the Loop where she’d nearly missed an ongoing invasion, it was something she never forgot…

“Goodness,” she said, blinking. “That’s a long way back…”

It was, in fact, barely three years after Luna had first transformed into Nightmare Moon.

Celestia pondered what to do. She could wait over nine hundred and seventy years for Twilight Sparkle to be born, or…

“I think ‘or’, this time,” Celestia decided.

In the first place, she wanted to see what the Griffin lands were like. In the second, she wanted to see if giving Luna her own subjects would help her recover.

And in the third, there was a bit of the trickster in Celestia. Just a bit.


Nightmare Moon was woken from a deep, decade-eating slumber by a WHUMP of displaced air.

Air? On the moon? She quickly drew herself erect, breathing in deeply as she realized that, yes, for whatever reason there was air available.

Also, there was a fifteen-foot tall slab of bedrock and soil in front of her, stretching at least a mile to the left and right. Flying up, she saw it was just as large in the forwards direction – and it had trees on it. Trees, and flowers, and grass, and…

For a few minutes, Nightmare Moon looked more like a filly prancing amongst something she’d not thought she could enjoy any more.

Another WHUMP drew her out of her reverie, this one coming from much further off. The alicorn took flight, circled, and looked out in the direction it had come from.

This new slab, like the first one, turned out to be dozens of miles on a side. Instead of forest, it held grasslands.

A third concussive wash of air, followed by an almighty splash. Millions of gallons of sea water appeared in one of her large craters, filling it almost to the brim.


By the time half an hour had gone, there was enough transplanted land on the moon to equal a small continent, and Moon was utterly baffled.

Then an earth pony materialized with a pop.

“…eh?” he said.

“Why art thou here?” Nightmare Moon asked, flying down in front of him.

“Mine ruler, Princess Celestia, enquired of me as to whether bananas were the fruit I preferred,” the pony replied, frowning at the alicorn. “Upon my negative answer – since my family are more into the trade of growing apples – she made some bespellment and transplanted me here. Where might here be, if I be so bold as to enquire?”

“This? This is the moon!” Nightmare gestured around, then blinked. “Though in truth it does not look like it did when We awoke this morn.”

She frowned. “One supposes that if mine sister’s tyranny hath progressed this far, it behooves Us to offer sanctuary to those others who fall afoul of her ire. Attend me…?”

“Crab Apple, your highness,” the earth pony supplied. “We had wondered at thy disappearance, Princess Luna…”

“Crab Apple.” Nightmare nodded. “Come, then, and we shall find you an area of land to till.”

There were three more pops, and two pegasi and a unicorn materialized.

“…but I said I did!” one of them protested. “Why ask the question if thou art going to apply the same result in any case?”

Nightmare Moon blinked. “A moment, stout Crab Apple. It seems We may need to establish an immigration desk.”


Celestia let a grin cross her face. At last, she was finished.

Every single pony in Equestria, and about eighty percent of the land, had been transferred to the moon. The resultant patchwork green-blue-yellow orb overhead looked… different, but interesting – especially as Celestia had tried to arrange the teleported bits to recreate the shape of the Mare in the Moon.

And Lulu always wanted more ponies to appreciate her. Right, now then, what shall I do?

Celestia realized that she had, for once, managed to escape paperwork.

Right. I am going to go try out surfing.”


“What,” Twilight said, as she finally Awoke into this version of Equestria…’s moon.

“…huh. That’s actually kind of neat.”

She was the student of Princess Luna, and currently taking a course at the Lunarium Academy of the Magical Sciences.

Luna was still a princess, but she wasn’t a ruling one. One hundred years ago, she had handed power over to an assembly of ponies electing their heads of state and of government by popular vote, and now held a purely religious role in this new lunar republic.

From what Twilight could determine, Luna didn’t actually want that religious role, but when a single pony is a one-horned meteor shield they become a religious figure all over again quite quickly. And there was the occasional little smile on Luna’s face when she rolled her eyes in exasperation that said her annoyance might not be quite full-blooded…

Of course, she was still on the moon. What had happened?


“Thank you, Twilight,” Luna said. “I don’t know why my sister sent every pony in the country to the moon for a thousand years, but if an answer can be found I’m sure you and your team will find it.”

Twilight shrugged. “Good thing we managed to get Shadowbolt support through the senate, so we’re not going to be going in completely alone.”

“Indeed.” Luna nodded. “Go well, Twilight Sparkle. And your friends.”


Twilight and her team – her five friends from the original timeline, of course, as well as two Shadowbolts – flashed into existence on the pristine shoreline of Equestria.

“Okay, everypony,” Twilight said. “Keep an eye out for trouble.”

“Hello!” a cheery voice said. Twilight turned, and her jaw dropped in disbelief.

Princess Celestia was riding a huge curler into shore, wings beating to let her keep up an impossible angle on the crest of the wave with her surfboard.

Dash’s eyes glistened. “Soooo coooool…”

With a rumbling crash, the wave finally broke, and Celestia rode the swash right up to their hooves.

“I never get tired of that!” Celestia said, grinning. “Anyway. I assume you’re from my sister?”

“…yeah,” Twilight managed.

“Good. Here’s a letter for her.” Celestia passed over an elaborate envelope. “Hold on, the waves are good, I want to keep going while they’re big.”

Picking up the surfboard, she galloped back out to sea.

Twilight’s eyes were drawn to a very familiar purple dragon, also on a surfboard.

“…has she spent the last thousand years just faffing about having a good time?” she asked incredulously. “Well, apart from hatching a baby dragon…”

Then she noticed the slip of paper hidden underneath the letter. Hey, Twilight, I awoke really early this time!

“Oh. Okay, then,” Twilight shrugged. “Fair enough. Right, I’ll teleport us back.”


“That’s just not fair,” Luna said, grinning despite her words. “She swindled me into a job.”

“Well, you managed to give it to us,” Twilight countered. “So you’ve got just as much free time now…”

Loops 14

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14.1


Reconciliation


“I’ve heard you’re having some… problems?”

Applebloom spun in place, trying to ignore a sinking feeling. She recognized that voice. “Discord!?”

“Exactomundo.” Discord started playing keep-up with his fang. “One, two, three… anyway, I’m not actually evil any more. For given definitions of ‘not evil’… I’m not sure I’ve got the hand of it, to be honest.”

Discord broke off his ramble for a moment, caught the fang, and used it to write on a scroll. “Was… honest. Ooh, three more times and I get a free pen!”

Applebloom blinked. Discord was a bit overwhelming at the best of times…

“Anyway. Enjoy the trip!”

He snapped his claws. Applebloom had just the time to frame the question in her mind – what trip? – before the magic triggered.


Diamond Tiara began to come awake. “Nnngh… can’t be time for school yet…”

As she stirred, the back of her (still very drowsy) mind began to notice things that didn’t make sense. For one thing, there was sunlight beating down on her. She could feel the heat on her coat, especially on her left side.

But that didn’t make sense, did it? She’d certainly gone to bed at home…

And then there was the fact that on her right side, the cooler one, there was something… itchy.

She shifted position, and something gritty dug into her forelegs.

Suddenly, she realized what it was.

“Why is there sand in my bed?” Diamond asked, blinking and getting up. And seeing that, instead of her familiar bedroom, she was on some kind of beach. “Am I dreaming?”

“Nope,” a horribly familiar voice answered from landwards of her. Diamond spun, wobbling slightly, and saw that… as she’d thought… it was Applebloom.

“Basically,” the other filly continued, “I dunno exactly why or how this happened, but we’re stranded together on a desert island.” Applebloom rolled her eyes. “Go team.”

Diamond Tiara felt like sneering, but that was quickly subsumed by a rising wave of panic. “Stranded?”

“Yeah, pretty much.” Applebloom pointed further inland. “I kinda woke up first, so ah went t’ the top of the biggest hill ah could find. There ain’t anythin’ else ah can see – no fields, no other land, nothin’. Just sea, and this here island.”

“Why? What happened? Did you do this?” Diamond felt sick. “I… I… what about school? I’ve never been tardy!”

“We got bigger things to worry about,” Applebloom pointed out firmly. Diamond resented the tone of voice – and the fact that it made her feel like an idiot – but it let her get a clamp on part of her hysteria. That just made the rest of it come to the fore, though.

“W… what do we do?” she asked quietly.

For a moment, Diamond could swear that Applebloom was gauging her with the kind of look that she was more used to getting from miss Cheerilee. Then the moment passed, and there was just the cool appraisal of another filly. Imagination painted a sneer beneath.

“Okay.” Applebloom put aside her assessment of Diamond, and began pacing. “I know a bit about surviving in th’ wilderness – you know, the Everfree-”

You have been in the Everfree?” Diamond blurted, unable to stop herself. “How? Wasn’t that unicorn… Twilight something, petrified last month? And if she’s the student of Princess Celestia, how…”

“Huh.” Applebloom’s short statement carried some surprise. “I didn’t know you knew that. About miss Twilight, I mean.”

My father keeps me up to date on all the local ponies of importance.” Diamond puffed out her breast. “It’s something I should know, as a pony who’ll be important herself one day.”

This time, Applebloom looked very sad.

Diamond shook her head. Can’t be anything important.

“Okay, anyway,” Applebloom resumed, “’cause our farm’s right up next to the Everfree, ah know how to survive in there for a bit just in case ah get lost, or somethin’. But this ain’t exactly the Everfree.”

“Oh, well spotted,” Diamond rolled her eyes this time. “Sure you don’t have some Buffalo blood in you?”

Applebloom looked up for a moment. “…nah, don’t think so. But mah cousin’s kinda interested in a buffalo girl, so might be that ah’ll have one in the ol’ family tree soon enough.”

“…no, that was a…” Diamond sighed. “Never mind.”

“Ah, I gotcha.” Applebloom gave a sage nod. “Still, there’s a few things ah do know. Most important things are normally shelter, water an’ food in that order. Here…” she looked up at the sun, burning fiercely with a midday heat which felt wrong to the earth pony filly – seeing as she felt like it was only eight or so in the morning. “Ah think water’s the most important.”

“Well, go on then.” Diamond waved. “You know this sort of thing, so go find some water.”

“Yeah, about that…” Applebloom rubbed the back of her neck. “If this were the Everfree, ah’d be able to do it easy. But it ain’t. And there’s two of us.”

“…so?” Those details seemed quite unconnected.

“Ah just plumb don’t have th’ time.” Applebloom gestured around at the whole island. “In th’ Everfree, ah’d know where to look for water, food, shelter, all that. But here? It might be that th’ water’s halfway across the island. I could probably manage myself, but not both of us.”

Diamond started to get a sinking feeling.

“So, we’ve got a problem.” Applebloom nodded to her. “Well, you have the main one. Basically, y’all got a choice. Either we each look for our own needs, or we work together. And ah do mean together.”

Diamond Tiara knew almost exactly what ‘together’ meant. She’d have to do some of the backbreaking work, as much as this… farmer, who was much better at it anyway even if she didn’t have a cutie mark for it, and even take orders from her.

“No way am I working with you!” she said, suddenly coming to a decision. “You don’t have a cutie mark for this, so you’ll probably just screw it up!”

Part of her thought that annoying the pony who was clearly the expert around here was a very bad idea. But it was a small part, and she didn’t really pay any attention.

“Aright, then.” Applebloom nodded to her, in a very good imitation – good enough that Diamond had to admit she couldn’t find any actual flaws in it – of court style. “Ah’ll go get lookin’ for mah water, then.” And she turned around and trotted off.


14.2


‘Dear Princess Celestia. Since I find it very, very hard to choose between my friends – and I do not think it fair to invite a pony to a ball without also inviting their friends – I will have to decline your invitation and return my gala tickets.’

Twilight finished writing, signed the scroll, and passed it to Spike. “Send it, please.”

“Right.” Spike incinerated the scroll and tickets.

“But…” Pinkie gazed at where the tickets had been, stretching out a folorn hoof. “Party?”

The unicorn shrugged. “Look, I’d rather just not go than have us fight over it…”

Spike gulped. “Uh oh… I don’t feel so good… uh…”

Green flame erupted, and a wrapped package coalesced to land on the table with an almighty thump.

As an afterthought, a scroll appeared on top of it.

Twilight picked this one up herself. “Spike… there’s some throat sweets in the bathroom cabinet, third row on the left. I think you need one.”

“Yeah,” Spike croaked and headed off.

Twilight scanned the scroll. ‘Dear Twilight Sparkle. Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Here – the Ponyville census data should be up to date, so this should be about the right number. Yours, Princess Celestia.’

She lowered the scroll. “Pardon?”

Pinkie ripped the paper off the package. “Hey, it’s hundreds of gala tickets!”

Rarity nodded. “That must be what she meant by census data. Oh, this will be marvellous!” She took two tickets and headed off to her shop. “I will have so much business!”

Twilight resolved to try a slightly different way of phrasing things in the future.

Though this would probably be a lot more enjoyable, actually, if the snobbish attitudes of Canterlot high society were simply buried under the entire population of Ponyville…


“Well, we’ll certainly give you a try-out,” Spitfire said. “I’ve never seen a pony that can do what you can in the air.”

“Yay!” Dinky cheered, as the Ponyville mailmare accepted an application form that Soarin’ passed her. “Go mum!”


“Twilight!” Applejack said, hurrying up to the unicorn. “You gotta teleport me home!”

“Why?” Twilight blinked. “I thought you were doing a roaring trade?”

“Ah ran out,” Applejack said bluntly. “Now get me to somewhere ah can resupply, afore Carrot Top overtakes me!”


“Sho, anyway, enough about… about… me!” Berry said, taking another drink of the excellent vintage. “Wha’ about you?”

Blueblood adjusted his tie nervously, looking for an escape route. There were other ponyville mares eying him from all directions, waiting for their chance.


“Okay, the next thing you do is you put your hooves up like this!” Pinkie said, demonstrating.

Princesses Celestia and Luna tried to copy her, wobbling slightly.

“Close enough!” Pinkie grinned. “Almost there, just three or four more steps to go, and then we try with the music!”

“What is this called?” Luna asked, steadying herself with wingbeats.

“Well, Angel Bunny and I invented it, so I call it the hare hare dance!”

Dozens of nobles looked on, most of them undergoing partial brain reboots.


“Wait,” Sparkler said, casting a spell over herself and Fluttershy. “That should help. It’s what I always use at Winter Wrap-Up when the animals are cranky.”

“Oh.” Fluttershy shuffled her hooves. “What does it do?”

“Basically, it just makes animals calmer. I know it’s what your talent is supposed to do already,” Sparkler shrugged, “But I don’t have it, and any little helps.”


Dash helped Cheerilee corral some of the colts and fillies who had started to wander off. “Hey!”

“Thank you, Dash,” Cheerilee said, sighing. “They’re hard enough to handle at the best of times.”

“You’re telling me!” Dash gasped, having just intercepted the Crusaders about to do what would have started as an attempt to get a high society cutie mark and ended as an international incident. “I’m the fastest pony in Equestria and I can’t keep up! Hey, Featherweight, put down that camera!”


Spike cracked his knuckles, and sat on the piano’s stool. “Right. What did you want me to play?”

Rarity frowned. “Let’s see… what about the Moonlight Sonata?”

“Right.” Spike ran over the music in his head. “Yeah, I know that one. You go get Cadance, I’ll grab Shining Armor.”

Neither of them were quite sure why they’d decided to play matchmaker, especially with ponies who’d clearly already fallen for one another. Perhaps it was just an excuse to be out of the – riotous – main room, which had been fairly annexed by the Ponyville contingent.

Or maybe it was because Rarity wanted an in with the couple to design their wedding outfits, and Spike wanted an excuse to play romantic music in the same room as Rarity.

Whatever the reason, they were both quite happy with the arrangement.


“That was the most fun I’ve had in a thousand years,” Celestia said quite seriously, as caretakers started to clear away the detritus of the evening. “Can I invite them all again next year?”

“Well, I doubt any of them will complain,” Twilight mused. “But you might have a mass boycott by the Canterlot nobility.”

Celestia shrugged. “Bunch of stuck-ups anyway…”


14.1 b


Reconciliation, part two


Applebloom trotted briskly into the island’s forest, looking around for anything that might be useful.

And ah had to unpack everythin’ that might be useful into th’ lab again… About all that was left in her subspace pocket – such as it was, and what there was of it – was a ream or so of paper and some pencils, as well as a mobile phone. Which would have been rather more useful if Equestria had cellular phone towers or even satellites.

She stopped, as something caught her eye. A coconut lying on the ground. Looking up, she saw the tree it had come from.

A quick, expertly measured buck, and she had a fresh coconut. A minute or so with a convenient stone, and she’d broken into it and drunk some of the ‘milk’ – which was a relief, given the climate.

She also now had a gourd to carry water, as and when she found it. Pity she didn’t even have any saddlebags.

“Ah guess that’s another thing t’ work on…” Pushing herself back up, she took the husk of the coconut in her teeth and began carrying it awkwardly with her towards the hill.

Sure, she could store it in her subspace pocket, but that would get blatantly obvious to Diamond. And… it didn’t seem fair to her, either, to make a big thing about sharing the effort and then use advantages like that.


The first stream she found was ten minutes into the forest, but it was a pitiful and muddy thing. Taking the stop as an opportunity to finish off the coconut milk, Applebloom then crouched down where a tree shaded the water somewhat and decided to test something.

One of the first things Zecora had taught her was what almost amounted to an earth magic ‘spell’. It simply told the user how pure water was.

The spell was almost unbelievably primitive in nature, and took quite a lot of effort to do, but it was useful for making sure that the water you were about to use for a potion wasn’t contaminated – or, for that matter, to test if the water you were about to drink was potable.

As she’d expected, the test came back negative. But it was good to know that she could still pull it off.

“…kay… what do ah know about geography…” Applebloom studied the island carefully. “Right. Ah reckon that, if it rained, there’d be water… on… oh, ah’m an idiot.”

Picking up the coconut again, she headed for the beach. If there was a good stream, it would of course flow into the sea… and she could follow it back up, to find where it was easily accessible.


“Stupid flies, stupid sand, stupid sun, stupid island…” Diamond Tiara muttered continuously as she trudged through the undergrowth.

Rivers just… happened, didn’t they? No, that didn’t make sense. She tried to remember what they’d been taught about the founding of Ponyville – why it had been set up near (though not on) a riverbank, and why the river had been dammed a decade or so later.

“…okay, I need to find a canyon. Stupid trees, stupid…”

Diamond tripped over a rock, and stumbled. There was a moment of sharp pain, but when she looked it seemed like she hadn’t actually cut herself. It still felt horrible. And she was getting sweaty in this horrible heat, and she was thirsty, and there were still all those insects and…

She wanted to go home.

The filly forced herself back upright. There was no way she was letting Applebloom beat her at something!


“Finally.” Applebloom picked up the coconut shell, and filled it from the clear water of the spring she’d just found. That would do for a while, but it would probably be best to pick up another coconut or two – and then get to making some kind of set of saddle-bags to let her go further with a water supply.

Hmmm… perhaps more coconuts, strung on twine? Ah don’t know how to make twine, o’ course, but… ah, I’ll see if there’s some vines.

Water thus taken care of, the next thing on the list was food. That was easy enough for now – more coconuts, since there were several palm trees along the beach alone. Applebloom had also seen a few grasses and quite a lot of ferns – hardly gourmet, but perfectly edible.

Shelter. That was the third thing which was important. It could get very cold at night, especially out in the open – sand, in particular, lost heat within minutes. (One Loop, she and Applejack had moved to Appleloosa – the stargazing trips they’d taken were beautiful, but she’d never before known you could be shivering in the desert!)

How can ah do this… palm fronds, ah guess, for a kickoff. Ah’d try knockin’ down a tree, but that might have to wait until ah have a saw or somethin’ to turn it into planks.

That led to her thinking about an artesian well, because the spring wasn’t exactly strong. Just a trickle, really, into a thankfully large pool.


As the sun set, Applebloom stood back and looked at her work. She’d only had a few hours to really work on it, but she felt fairly proud of what she’d created.

It was, fundamentally, a lean-to. Built around the base of one of the largest trees she’d found, dozens of medium-sized branches had been piled on to a frame supported by a couple of forked ones. Using the hairy husks of the coconut to rope bits of it together with fragile ties had brought her some time to work with it, and by the time the ties had parted the accumulated weight was enough to hold the frame fairly stable.

Finally, she’d piled sand around the outer edge of the shelter, and more of it to make a simple firepit.

Now, where’s those dry bush bits ah wanted to use with a fire drill…


About half a mile away next to the stream she’d found late in the day, cold, hungry and scared, Diamond Tiara cried herself to sleep.


14.3


“Okay,” Twilight said. “This should be fun.”

The other pony in the room nodded. “I’ve got my costume.”


Twilight took a stance, all four hooves on the floor. “Ready?”

“Laughter!” Pinkie said, following the instructions of the strangely knowledgeable purple pony.

“Honesty.” Applejack was a little less eager, but willing to give this Twilight the benefit of the doubt that she knew what she was doing.

“Generosity!”

“Loyalty!”

“Kindness…”

“Magic!” Twilight finished, and flared her horn.

Nightmare Moon watched, confused and worried, as six beams of light coalesced…

And out of them came a pink-purple-yellow alicorn decked out in a fuku, who kicked her in the jaw. “In the name of Harmony, you shall not trouble Equestria any more, blaggard!”

Twilight held in a snigger.


“You’re sure you don’t know what happened?” Celestia asked.

“No,” Cadence replied, shrugging. “Poor Shiny was very worried when I collapsed, but it must have just been a faint or something.”

“Perhaps…” Celestia left, and Cadence could imagine the confused thoughts running through her head.

Shining entered the room. “I don’t feel comfortable lying to Celestia about something like this.”

“Oh, Shiny!” Cadence fluttered her eyelashes. “No harm done, right?”

The stallion frowned, then shrugged. “I suppose.”

In all honesty, he didn’t know precisely what had happened – or why his girlfriend had suddenly got changed into a short dress and teleported out of the room.


“…I suppose the Elements did look a bit like my old foalsitter,” Twilight allowed. “But it could just be that they take the form of someone familiar to me? I mean, she is who I associate with comfort and with harmony – it’s her talent, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. It is…” Celestia finally shrugged. “I suppose they did work – my little sister is back, and that’s what matters here.”


Discord appeared in Celestia’s study. “Hey, Celly! Long time no see. Oh, where are the Elements?”

“That is just the problem!” Celestia shouted, startling Discord. “I have no idea. For some reason, whenever Twilight and her friends do… something, they summon a duplicate copy of my niece who kicks the problem until it is not a problem any more.”

“They do, huh?” Discord asked. (Hey, he wasn’t going to lose this opportunity to press Celestia for information. Especially when she apparently hadn’t noticed it was him.)

“Yes! Nightmare Moon comes back – kicked in the face. Dragon causes problems in Ponyville – kicked in the chest. Rampaging hydra? Kicked in all the faces. And then there was the Ursa Minor that got kicked in the fundament.” Celestia sighed. “I don’t know what is going on.”

Then she blinked. “Wait. Discord?”

“Thank you, come again!” Discord said, jumping out the window.


“A-ha-ha!” Discord said, holding up a grey Cadence. “I managed to corrupt the pony who was using the Elements of Harmony, and now there’s nothing you pathetic ponies can do to stop me!”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “There’s two problems with that. First, that’s my mild mannered foalsitter, not the Elements summon. And my foalsitter’s talent is, well… harmony. As in, getting on well with everyone. Reverse that, and…”

The grey Cadence kicked Discord in the teeth.

“Second, we can still perform the summoning.”

She and her five friends rattled off the names of their Elements, and the by now familiar Cadence-in-a-Fuku appeared in front of them. The other Cadence promptly collapsed.

“Er…” Discord mumbled around the hand massaging his injured jaw. “This isn’t going to go well for me, is it?”

“Nope!” Twilight replied cheerfully.

Admittedly, making a magical double of Cadence with the mirror pool could have gone very wrong, but it did let her be in two places at once as and when they needed her to be.

And, as fuku-Cadence kicked Discord in both knees and followed up with a roundhouse kick, Twilight could just about spot Celestia on a balcony in the distance. And judging by her movements, probably tearing up her latest theory and stamping on the bits of paper.


14.1 c


Reconciliation, part three


Applebloom whistled to herself as she finished making a hole in a piece of good stone. With the branch she’d prepared for it, it would be a passable hammer…

“Applebloom,” she heard a familiar voice croak.

“What is it?” she asked, turning around. “Ouch. You’re a sight.”

Diamond Tiara’s mane was unkempt and ragged at the ends, where it hadn’t held up to the night on hard ground well. There were runnels of salt down her muzzle where she’d clearly been crying. Her coat seemed matted with sweat, her colour was quite unhealthy, and she was actually trembling slightly just standing there.

“Yeah,” Diamond said, not even reacting to Applebloom’s comment much. “I… I…” She seemed to be struggling with something. “…help? Please?”

Applebloom blinked, surprised. Then chastised herself for that response. She ain’t a monster, and ah should remember that. “Sure. I guess this means we’re working together now?”

“Yeah.” Diamond Tiara nodded jerkily. “I don’t know anything about this. I just… I want to go home.”

Applebloom nodded. “Okay. Come with me, ah’ll show y’ how to find stuff. You’ll have to pick your own up, but ah’ll tell y’ what to do.”


“Right,” Applebloom said, about an hour later, to a much recovered Diamond.

By kicking up water from the pool she’d found yesterday, she’d managed to give Diamond a cold shower (since having her bathe in the pool might have left it too dirty for drinking) and that followed by drying in the sun had had a considerable effect on the earth pony filly.

“Now, one of th’ most useful things is these here palm trees. Y’ll have had coconut at those fancy dinners o’ yours?”

“Yes, I have.” Diamond looked up at the tree. “But where’s the coconut? Isn’t it supposed to be white?”

“Only on th’ inside,” Applebloom replied. “And it ain’t shaved, either. But the real important stuff is actually th’ milk. Okay, watch me first.” Backing up carefully to the tree, she kicked out at it and knocked one coconut loose. This one she let fall, and it bounced to the floor without breaking (as it was supposed to).

She scooped it up. “Okay. Think y’ can do that?”

“…what, kick a tree? But…” Diamond seemed lost. “…don’t you have to be very strong to do that?”

“T’ do it for a living, yeah.” Applebloom nodded readily. “Mah sister and brother are two o’ the strongest ponies in Ponyville for that reason. But any earth pony – hay, any pony at all – can buck once or twice. Come on, ah’ll spot y’all.”

Seeing Diamond’s reluctance, she sweetened the deal. “Since you’re new, and all, you get this one as well if you knock one down. It’s only fair – you ain’t trained for this.”

The shock on Diamond’s face was followed by a flash of genuine gratitude, before it was replaced in turn by suspicion. “Is there something wrong with that one?”

“What? No!” Applebloom shook her head vigorously. “Hay, if you’re worried about that ah’ll let y’ have one of the ones in th’ stores back at th’ shelter instead.”

“No, I…” Diamond struggled again. “…sorry. I… Father made sure I was familiar with business practices, and… you just don’t get gifts, there.”

Applebloom nodded. “Ah get what y’ mean. Guess they just ain’t used to bein’ honest.”

“Suppose.” For a moment, there was an actual smile. But then Diamond seemed to realize it was there, and crush it down again.

It was a start, anyway.

“Right, so first ah’ll have y’ do it slowly, so y’ know what you’re supposed to do.” Applebloom reached out and supported Diamond’s midriff.

“Hey! Get off!”

“If y’ do it slowly, you’ll just fall over unless ah spot you.” Applebloom replied, using the same tone she remembered Applejack teaching her with. It seemed to help, as Diamond just tried kicking out instead.

“Right, that’s actually pretty good.” Applebloom pushed Diamond’s knees down slightly and raised the angle of her hooves. “That lets you kick the hardest. Martial arts, actually…”


“Not again!” Diamond said, scowling. Despite six or seven blows to the palm tree, it remained resolutely unbucked.

“Hmmm…” Applebloom said, frowning herself. “Your technique is fine now. Ah know what it must be – you’re just not hitting hard enough.”

“This is as hard as I can do!” Diamond whined.

“No, it ain’t,” Applebloom denied. “It’s just as hard as y’all think y’ can do. Now, ah want you to know how ah used to help mahself learn. Ah pictured th’ tree as the thing ah felt th’ most angry about, and ah bucked it as hard as ah possibly could, and that made me kick it harder. And th’ thing is, it actually made me feel better about what ah was angry about. What is it that makes y’all angry?”

Seeing Diamond blush slightly, and deciding to not ask for now, Applebloom shook her head. “Never mind. Just imagine that palm tree is the thing that makes you angry. And you’re gonna buck it so hard you’ll send it flyin!”

“…aaaaAAAARGH!” Diamond let out a scream of rage, and kicked the palm tree with all her might. The force of the blow sent her mane flying in all directions, finishing the work of unravelling her original delicate hairdo, and drove her forwards as the tree bounced back. She tumbled forward in a complete somersault, landed sprawled on her back, and panted with the effort.

Applebloom whistled, walked out of her sight-line for a moment, and then came back with four coconuts.

“Well, if you ain’t a natural at this!” she said, grinning. “Ah said ah’d give y’all one for the one y’ knocked down, and so here y’ go. You got two, so here’s two more.”

Diamond Tiara blinked. “I… did two?”

“You sure did. Nice work, pardner!”

Diamond matched the grin. “Maybe that’s why you don’t have a cutie mark for it, then, if a posh filly’s better at it!”

She froze, mortified. That had just… slipped out.

But Applebloom only laughed. “Good one. Ah admit, y’all have a point… anyway, here’s the important bit. ‘cause of that bright sun, y’all are sweatin’ a lot. That’s kinda salty, so y’ need t’ get the salt back. Now, the milk in a coconut ain’t actually milk, but it’s got a lot of those salts…”


“Good,” Applebloom said, as Diamond dragged another branch into the area around the (now expanded) shelter. “That should do us for firewood for th’ evening.”

Taking two of the sharpest-tipped branches, she speared some coconut meat on each one and passed one to Diamond. “Here y’ go. Don’t worry, ah’ll handle dinner. Y’all have earned it.”

The pink filly accepted the speared coconut, and felt tears prickle in her eyes. “…thank you. I’m so…”

“Nah, like ah say, y’ earned it,” Applebloom said, trotting off. “Now, where did ah see that Taro…”


14.4


Shining Armor woke up.

Blinking, he realized just where he was. It was… his room, back at Mom and Dad’s house. But it looked… old.

Like it used to when he was… oh.

Twily told me about these, Shining thought to himself as he got up. A quick check revealed that he did indeed have his cutie mark – and there were cards on the bookshelf congratulating that fact. It must be the morning after his cute-ceneara.

I think that makes Twily about… four? Three? Something like that.

That meant he hadn’t met Cadence yet. Pity, really.

Actually, it meant Cadence was still a pegasus. Which really sucked, because that meant he couldn’t meet her again until after she’d ascended – throwing off those delicate circumstances would be a bad idea.

Right, what was I supposed to be doing… he dug through his old memories. Right. School.


“Well done, Shining!” the teacher said, reading over the essay. “Though I’m surprised you gave me five pages – I only set half a page.”

“…oh, sorry,” Shining rubbed the back of his neck apologetically. “I guess… yeah, I was just really interested.”

Actually, he was having trouble adjusting to being a colt again. Twilight might think she was the most academically inclined of the family, and that was for the most part true… but writing? Shining wrestled Guard paperwork every loop. Compared to that, essays were nothing.


Twilight grinned, shaking her head. “Shining… I can’t believe you accidentally used a spellform that hasn’t been invented yet.”

“Look, I said I hadn’t had a loop like this before!” The colt pointed at his little sister, now about seven. “And you’re one to talk! Literally. You’ve been this articulate since we looped in, and that was ridiculous for four.”

“I’m a prodigy, Shiny.” Twilight shrugged. “Even more now, I suppose… I think Celestia’s already noticed me. Hey, when’s the graduation party for your school?”

“Uhh… three weeks. I’m probably going to be top of the class,” Shining said, grinning uneasily.

“I’d be disappointed if you weren’t, it’s only junior high,” Twilight rejoined. “Anyway, here’s an early present for you. It arrived yesterday.”

She plucked a letter out of her schoolwork and passed it over. Shining took it, opened it, and then just stared.

He could just about hear Twilight saying something through the rushing sensation that made him feel weak-kneed with relief, but he didn’t care what it was. The letter was the only important thing, right then.

Next year, love. Next year.

-Cadence.


“Right, you ‘orrible lot!” Drill Sergeant Emery Paper shouted. “I don’t want any of you wannabe Private Pansies who can’t handle the pace! Thirty times around the ground at a gallop, and that’s on the ground for you pegasi! Move!”

Shining fell into a comfortable rhythm fairly quickly. He’d kept up his own personal regimen since he’d first turned up this Loop, out of sheer habit, and it had paid dividends – he was very fit. As might be expected for a young stallion who’d trained daily since he was ten.

Actually, he finished first. Well ahead of all the other unicorns, and beating out an earth pony called Steel Resolve by about two seconds.

“Well, well…” Emery came over and looked him up and down. Taking in, in particular, the fact that Shining quickly recovered from the exertion. “Looks like you ain’t just a smart-arse, cadet Armor. Does your ladyfriend like that stamina of yours?”

Shining nodded. “Yes, sir! Makes it easier for me to keep up when she goes flying, sir!”

Emery blinked, thrown off slightly. But he recovered quickly enough that only Shining’s veteran eye noticed. “Glad to hear it! Now, the rest of you get the message?”

One pegasus staggered as he reached the finish, nearly collapsing from the sustained exertion of the sprint.

Emery shook his head theatrically. “Clearly not! Cadet Armor’s lady friend doesn’t seem to have trouble managing something you lot clearly can’t keep up with!”

Shining felt dozens of death glares on him. Well, looked like he was the designated target for this round of Basic…


“What’s that you’re working on, lieutenant?”

Shining turned, seeing that the speaker was a major, and saluted. “Sir!”

“At ease.” Major Jump – High Jump, son of High Class – looked over the spell formulae scattered across Shining’s table. “This looks very complex, lieutenant. I can’t quite follow it myself. What’s the intent?”

“Right. This here is the intent formulation – basically, it defines the target of the warding. And this one defines the sink end of the equation.” Shining tapped the paper, pointing out buffers and flow directors and overflow systems. “More or less, it allows for a protective spell to be cast over a principal that deflects the effects of hostile magic spells – there’s the intent filter, see – into an inanimate sink which takes the damage.”

The younger unicorn shrugged. “It’s still not very good, since it can’t take more damage than the sink can absorb before failing and it doesn’t last more than an hour or so, and it takes a prepared sink…”

“This isn’t good?” Major Jump shouted, banging the table and making Shining jump. “Lieutenant, if this spell is overloaded then the pony it protects would have been severely wounded or outright killed anyway by the attack it deflects! What’s the problem?”

“Well…” Shining trailed off, embarrassed. “The spell formula takes up eight pages of dense script. The only ponies I know of who can actually cast the damned thing are my sister and I.”

“Sister?” Jump frowned. “Oh, I know the one. Twilight Sparkle, right? That filly who’s revolutionizing the academy. Yes, if it takes that kind of ability to pull off I can see why it would be a problem. You’re trying to simplify it down, then?”

“Yes, sir.” Shining nodded smartly.

“Good stallion. Keep at it. And I’ll expect to see you and your girlfriend at the party my wife’s setting up next week, as well – I’ll want an update.” Jump tapped his forehead and trotted off.


“I forgot how much effort this whole thing was,” Shining said, shaking his head. He’d just received the information that he was to be promoted to captain – and even with all his foreknowledge, he’d only shaved about a year off the total time.

Cadence shrugged. She’d avoided ascending this time, claiming that it would be ‘interesting’ to stay as a pegasus for once. “Well, you were very good the first time around, dear.”

“Suppose. Oh, Twilight reminded me that Nightmare Moon’s return is scheduled for next week. What do you say we go and watch?”

“Sounds good to me,” Cadence said. “What’s she planning this time?”

“Actually, she wanted my help. I wonder why…” Shining trailed off.


“Twilight,” Cadence said, “This is just cruel.” She was giggling, though – the sight before them was just too funny.

Twilight shrugged. “I’m thinking of making an artefact that casts this spell when triggered, actually. You up for that, Shining?”

Shining nodded. “Why not.”

In front of them, Nightmare Moon tried desperately to retain either dignity or threat level. It was difficult, because she was trapped inside a giant pink shield that rolled around like a hamster ball.


14.1d


Reconciliation, part four


“Diamond,” Applebloom said sharply, “Ah think it’d be best if you saw this.”

Diamond Tiara hurried over. The week or so they’d spent on the island had been wearying for her, but she’d gained no lack of respect for Applebloom’s practical skills. Anything which worried her was probably cause for alarm.

“What is it?”

“Well, ah don’t have a weather forecastin’ cutie mark,” Applebloom said, deadpan, and Diamond held back a giggle, “but that don’t look good.” The engineer and Looper nodded to the east, where clouds were gathering on the horizon.

“So? It’s just a storm, right?” Diamond asked.

“Yeah, it’s a storm,” Applebloom agreed readily. “And no, it ain’t just a storm. They ain’t scheduled out here, there ain’t a team of pegasi watchin’ it to make sure it’s safe, and we ain’t got much of a shelter against that kinda winds.”

“…oh. Sorry,” Diamond said. “I just… yeah, you know.”

“No sweat.” Applebloom thought for a moment. “Ah think it might be a good idea for us to look for a cave, or somethin’. Either that or a big ol’ tree which is good and sturdy.”

“Right.” The pink filly nodded. “I’ll look on the north side, you take the south.”

“Fine by me.” Applebloom paused. “You know how to check if a tree’s after bein’ sturdy?”

“No…” Diamond said, drawing the word out. “But I do recognize what a cave looks like, and what a tree looks like. And – gosh! – I can even recognize the difference between a big tree and a small one. So I’ll find the ones for you to check.”

This time, it was Applebloom who chuckled. “Alright, you got me.”


“Hmmm…” Applebloom said, looking the large fallen Monkeypod tree. It still had earth on the exposed roots and hadn’t rotted away at all, so presumably it hadn’t fallen too long ago. “Yeah, this might actually be better than an intact one.”

“Good.” Diamond’s voice had nothing but relief. “I thought it might be, but I didn’t know if that was a good idea, and…”

“Well, you’re right.” Applebloom started looking around. “If we use some big logs, or maybe fell another tree so the canopy is a kinda umbrella…” she paused. “Tell you what. Can you go get some more coconuts, and make sure all the ones we got which we use for water are full, and bring ‘em up here? Except two. Leave them by th’ firepit, because ah think it might be a good idea fer us to get ourselves around a hot meal before the storm comes.”

“That sounds like a good idea.” Diamond waited for a moment, then set off.

“Well, ah knew she could rise to it, but ah’m still surprised she did,” Applebloom said to herself. “And ah shouldn’t be.”

Applebloom had been careful to keep in mind what her unexpected companion could and could not do so far, and never set her a challenge she couldn’t do. Granted, a couple of times at least she’d thought she couldn’t do something, but after enough prodding she gave it a try – and promptly proved herself wrong.

Watching her, the farmpony-in-training had been struck by a realization.

Diamond Tiara, loud-mouthed spoiled bully that she was, wasn’t actually very self confident. Oh, she seemed it, and probably even felt like it, but her obvious surprise at being able to do the tasks Applebloom set her told its own story.

And she’d been so proud of anything she and ‘bloom had built together, it was almost heartbreaking.

Guess that comes of having everything done for you… you start to think you can’t do it yourself…

Applebloom had been analyzing the trees while she thought. Selecting a breadfruit tree, she gave it an almighty buck – which sent it crashing down, the bulk of the foliage on top of the fallen trunk but with a substantial amount over the area she’d selected to be their ‘cave’. A second, this one some kind of ash, finished the job.

“It ain’t perfect, but it’ll do,” she said with satisfaction. “Now, ah’d better get some vine, too, for ropes to tie the branches together…”


Diamond Tiara huddled next to a pony that, only a little more than a week ago, she wouldn’t have been seen dead with.

That might still be an option, she thought. No. Shut up.

“Hey, Applebloom?” she asked, shakily. “You heard how the wind’s always the best part, right?”

Applebloom chuckled. “Yep. And ah heard when you said the waitin’ was the best part, and ah bet in ten minutes you’ll say the rain’s the best part.”

“Oh, no, you worked out my cunning plan.” Diamond paused. “How did you manage to make the soup? What did you cook it in?”

Both of them knew what Diamond was doing – trying to distract them from the storm. But it was nice to pretend they didn’t.

“Okay, this is actually kinda neat,” Applebloom said. “You know how you heat up water and then it boils?”

“I have noticed. Once or twice.” Diamond Tiara’s sarcasm was almost a physical object, no matter how brittle her voice was.

“Good. Well, don’t know if you know this bit, but things have to heat up to burn too. It ain’t enough for them to be held in a fire. So, paper burns a lot easier than wood does.”

There was an almighty crash from outside, and both fillies jumped.

“Really makes one appreciate pegasi,” Diamond said shakily.

“Yep,” Applebloom agreed. “Anyway, as ah was sayin’, ah cooked it in a coconut. The coconut had to get so hot to catch fire that it couldn’t do that when there was water right next to it – the water would get to boilin’ long before the coconut would get to burnin’.”

“Wow.” Diamond blinked. “That is neat. Why doesn’t Cheerilee ever teach us about that?”

“’cuz if she gave us access to fire, then me and Sweetie and Scoots would probably burn the Everfree down,” Applebloom deadpanned.

Mention of the other two Crusaders wounded the conversation severely, but it wasn’t more than another thirty seconds before Diamond Tiara got it going again with another question. “What about the hair?”

“The coconut hair?” Applebloom grinned uneasily. “Well, see, ah kinda ruined the first batch, ‘cuz ah forgot to take the husk off…”

Despite – or perhaps because of – the tenseness of the situation, Diamond Tiara giggled. That turned into a shriek when a lightning bolt struck very near by.

“Y’ know, you probably saved mah life,” Applebloom said, into the relative stillness. “Ah was all for hidin’ under a tree, and ah think they’re supposed to either fall over or explode if they get hit. But this tree ain’t the tallest around, not any more, so it ain’t gonna get struck.”

“Heh… does this mean I owe you less?” Diamond asked, still shivering. She felt Applebloom move closer, until they were touching.

“There ain’t any question of who owes who, Diamond,” Applebloom said. “We work together, and we stay alive.”


The storm blew itself past them overnight. Exhausted, wet and emotionally drained, the two fillies fell asleep once the wind dropped and woke nearly at midday.

The island – the one they’d started to think of as ‘their’ island – was an incredible mess. Trees were bereft of limbs, small floods had cut muddy incisions into the surface soil, and their beach-shelter had been carried away by the winds. The whole beach was covered with driftwood.

“So much for a week o’ work,” Applebloom sighed. “Ah well. At least we got more wood to work with-”

There was a sudden explosion of light, nearly overhead.

“What’s that?” Diamond Tiara asked, squinting into the sky.

Applebloom laughed, beating her hooves on the floor and then started dancing – not very well, of course. “Woo-hoo!”

“What is it!?” the other filly insisted.

“That’s a sonic rainboom!” Applebloom said, grinning fiercely. “There’s only one pony who can do one o’ those!”

A purple flash appeared a few hundred yards down the beach.

“Applebloom? Diamond Tiara? Wonderful!” Twilight shouted, galloping over. “Oh, I’m so sorry it took so long for us to find you!”

“Well, ah could wish y’all had turned up sooner,” Applebloom said, still grinning with the euphoria of being finally rescued. “But it weren’t all that bad, ‘cept for the first day and the last.”

“Yes, we saw the storm.” Twilight winced. “Must have been terrible.”

“Diamond here found us a place to ride it out,” Applebloom said, nodding towards her. Said pink filly started at being addressed, looking a bit overwhelmed.

Rainbow Dash landed next to Twilight. “Okay, I told the crew where we are. They should turn up by evening.”

“Crew?” Applebloom asked.

“Yeah.” Twilight nodded. “I forgot to mention – Filthy Rich hired a zeppelin to help with the search. Dash and I have been using it to quarter the entire ocean, once Discord finally told us he put you on a desert island.”

“Pity you didn’t manage to get him to say which one…” the young Apple groused.

Diamond Tiara was nearly speechless. “Father hired a Zeppelin?

“Yep!” Dash nodded. “He really is filthy rich, isn’t he? Hay, the Wonderbolts volunteered to help, too. It was just luck that I was on the south-flank sweep today.”

Twilight eyed the two fillies, but said nothing about their unusual lack of friction. “Okay, want to show us around? We’ve got about four or five hours until Jack of all trades is within easy teleport range – I was pushing it a bit with that one…”

Applebloom knew that was a flat lie, given that this was the Looping Twilight (as always), but didn’t press it. “Okay. Hey, Diamond, you found where we stayed last night, you show ‘em.”

“O…okay.” Diamond looked around for a moment, getting her bearings. “Right. This way.”


“Hey, Diamond, you got a moment?” Applebloom asked.

The filly looked up. It was their third day back in Ponyville, and the first day back at school (the first had been consumed with reunions and the second with a combination of the press and medical checkups).

“Uh…” for a moment, Diamond’s eyes flicked over to Silver Spoon, next to her.

Applebloom held her breath.

“Yeah.” Diamond got up. “Hang on a minute, Silver.”

“Sure.” Silver Spoon nodded.


“Okay. There’s something ah didn’t tell you,” Applebloom said, once they were in a fairly out of the way corner. “This… is kinda hard to explain. Twilight does it better. Basically, ah’m one of a load of ponies in a time loop. Every few years, we go back to the day before that Summer Sun celebration where Nightmare Moon turned up. Not all of us always turn up, and ah’m one of them – Twilight’s the one who always does this…”

“So… we’ve been through this before?” Diamond asked, eyes widening.

Before she could decide what to feel, Applebloom waved her hooves. “No! The whole desert island thing, that ain’t never happened before. And ah’m going t’ try to make sure it ain’t never going to happen again.”

“…do you mean it happens all the time, or…?”

“No, that’s just me bein’ a farmgirl.” Applebloom scratched the back of her head. “Anyway, I just… wanted to let you know. It don’t feel right, keepin’ secrets from y’all after that.”

“…I kind of have one too, then.” Diamond swallowed. “When you told me to imagine the tree was the thing I was the most annoyed with? It was, er, you and the other bl- the other crusaders.”

Applebloom laughed. “That’s all? Ah kinda guessed it might be!” The laughter died down. “But thanks for tellin’ me.”

“That’s okay.” Diamond smiled. “And thank you for telling me. Er… am I a… a bitch, in the other loops?”

“Kinda, yeah.” Applebloom nodded. “Ah ain’t gonna lie. But it actually ain’t all that surprisin’, cause you’re ten and ah’m… lots.” She then looked around and whispered to the other filly. “It ain’t the first time you’ve saved mah life, either. It seems like whenever you’re in one o’ these loops and it goes strange, you’re actually kinda awesome.”

Then the Apple gave a shrug. “Still a bitch… but an awesome bitch.”

Diamond broke out laughing herself. After she’d managed to push it back to giggles, she said “well, if that’s the best I can get…”

Applebloom grinned. “Hay, I dunno. There was this one time you were a magical filly warrior…”

“Do you have pictures?” Diamond asked. Then frowned. “But… next time, I… oh, I wish I knew how to make it so I didn’t act so nastily to you.”

Suddenly she gasped. “Wait, I know! It might work, anyway.”

“What’s that?” Applebloom asked.

“You know… loads of stuff from these loops, right? Make a business deal with my father, some time shortly after the Summer Sun celebration. It’s about two weeks after Nightmare Moon’s return that Father started walking me through our business partners and why they are what they are, so…” Diamond shrugged. “Best I can do, I think.”

“…that might just be the best gift y’ could have given me, if it works,” Applebloom said. “Ah don’t want to have you as an enemy, in any life. Friends are much nicer.”

“Yeah,” Diamond replied, nodding. “They are. Sorry I didn’t know that before.”


14.5


“Goodness,” Princess Rarity said, looking around. “So this is what the Discordian era looked like. I have to say, he didn’t have much of a sense of style back then…”

Princess Twilight Sparkle nodded. “Maybe it took him over a thousand years in a statue to think of good jokes?”

“Possibly. Right, what happens now?”

Twilight gestured to the other four elements. “Pick two, we have to use three each to do the sealing.”

“Do we have to? I mean, can’t we just talk it out?”

“Nope,” Twilight shook her head. “Fluttershy tried. It just… didn’t work. He’s not got the perspective being defeated can give you.”

“Right.” Rarity looked the elements over. “I pick… Kindness and Laughter.”

“Okay.” Twilight paused. “Why?”

“Because that way they are colour coordinated.” Rarity looked offended that Twilight even had to ask. “Alright, how do I put these on?”

“Wings. Sorry, I never worked out a better way.” Twilight levitated the Loyalty and Honesty necklaces over her own wings, fastening them at the base.

Visibly cringing, Rarity followed suit. “This looks dreadful.”

“It’s Discord, he won’t mind.” Twilight shrugged.

“Yes, but I do…”


“Look, Rarity,” Twilight said warily. “I’m just giving you a warning. Dash, Fluttershy and Applejack all overdid something massively when it was their turn with me in this loop variant, so…”

“Oh, you worry too much,” Rarity replied. “Anyway, I have some political manoeuvring to get done. Remember? We agreed you got the natural world and I got the work of civilization.”

“True…” Twilight nodded. “But I’m still… oh, maybe it is nothing.”


Princess Rarity paced back and forth. “I don’t understand it! No matter how fabulous, ornate, utilitarian or subdued the clothes I create, the griffins don’t like them! We’re running a heavy trade deficit… I must find something that they like!”

Her problem could be summed up with the fact that most supplies of cotton and silk came from the Griffin Lands. Since they had claws, as opposed to hooves, it was much easier for them to make fine cloth.

“Hmmm… oh, this is so frustrating!”


Twilight blinked. “Okay, explain that again.”

“So, we were running a trade deficit with the griffins,” Rarity began.

“I got that bit.”

“I discovered that the one product that we make which griffins are willing to purchase is our range of magical items.”

“Okay…” Twilight pressed. “And how did you get from that to invading their country?

“I’m… not entirely sure,” Rarity said, frowning. “But it involved catnip at some point in the process. Possibly we started selling it to them, I’m not sure.”

“So.” Twilight massaged her temples. “You personally invaded the Griffin Lands, overthrew their government, seized their entire supply of fabric for the last three years and went on a month-long bender making dresses.”

“That about sums it up,” Rarity nodded.

“Right. Sorry, but you’re probably going to have to head to the moon. Quite apart from anything else, we need to salvage Equestria’s international reputation – and that means making it clear you weren’t acting according to official policy. At least you didn’t take the army.”

Rarity raised a hoof, then sighed. “Alright, Twilight. Sorry, it looks like I did go over the top.”

“Yeah, you think?” Twilight asked sarcastically. “Look, I’ll send you up some supplies or something. Make it a yearly event.”

“Alright.” Rarity frowned. “But they’ll get so dusty if I just leave them there… perhaps I should send what I make back down again?”

“Why not.” Twilight lifted up a calendar. “I think ‘Charity Day’ would work. The rich donate, the poor get the clothes.”

“Sounds good to me.” Rarity looked a bit more chipper. “Alright. See you in a millennium.”


“Sorry?” Celestia asked. “You want me to what?

“I want you and your sister to go dig Princess Rarity out,” Twilight repeated. “Since she may be a little… obsessed, after that long on the moon, you may need to find ponies who can operate the Elements of Harmony. Perhaps those friends Luna’s made in Ponyville?”

“Alright…” Celestia said, dubiously. “But why dig her out?”

“Off-cuts,” Twilight answered. “A thousand years of accumulated off-cuts from a thousand years of Charity Days.”

The power-spell specialist unicorn left, still looking a bit flabbergasted.

“It’ll be nice to see her again,” Spike said. “I didn’t know she’d ascended too.”

“It was only last Loop,” Twilight explained. “I think this is the first time someone aside from me and the newest alicorn has been awake in one of these, actually.”

“Neat. And, uh, thanks for hatching me so early.”

Twilight nodded. She’d hatched Spike’s egg personally the minute it turned up, meaning that the dragon was about thirty now and a well-known sight around the palace.


14.6


“Hey, you’ve got a blank flank!” Diamond Tiara shouted into the stillness of the cute-caneara, pointing at Applebloom’s exposed side.

Applebloom winced. Not again-

“No fair!”

-wait, what?

The other ponies were looking at Diamond Tiara with equal confusion.

“Well, she could have a talent in anything! Hay, I don’t even know what mine means…” Diamond indicated her own cutie mark. “I mean, what does that mean? I’m good at wearing jewellery?” Her tiara slipped down slightly. "Guess not…"

There were giggles, and Applebloom watched in shock as Diamond Tiara proceeded to joke about every cutie mark in the room.

When she got around to Applebloom, Diamond winked, and whispered “Gotcha there, Applebloom!”

“Wait, are you-”

Diamond nodded, and winked again. “Lucky you, huh?”


Loops 15

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15.1 (expanded by Filraen)


Rainbow Dash awoke lying down in a cloud over Ponyville. The sun was warm and the wind soft so instead of checking through her loop memories, apparently too much work for now, she lazily decided to check which other ponies were Awake. Feeling the connection to the Element of Loyalty she realized everypony was-

Pain.

Sorrow.

Hurt.

Desolation.

Grief.

One of her friends was in pain. It couldn't be a physical feeling, because no physical injury would hurt so deeply or cause sadness so deep. One of her friends needed her. The response from the Element of Loyalty was as automatic as breathing: making a Sonic Rainboom from her lying position she flew in a direct line towards the source of this feeling. It was only moments later, only because she realized she was going to crash into her friends arriving at the front door, when she realized she was heading straight to the library.

She managed to dodge them, though the library now had a Rainbow Dash shaped hole in a wall and had a few bookshelves that had to be organized, but it was all right as she could see Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy…

"You all right, Rainbow?" Applejack asked, pushing some books off her.

Twilight.

"Yeah, AJ." Rainbow stood up and looked to her friends "Must be Twilight."

Noting how Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were already going into the next room Applejack nodded once and then pointed to them "Come on, let's hurry."


Fluttershy was glad all she and all her friends were awake this loop. She was sure none of them would have forgiven themselves if they were unable to do anything for Twilight because of not being awake, even if she'd have preferred Rainbow not making another door in Twilight's house. But that barely mattered as they went to the bedroom, to meet Twilight Sparkle crying on her bed hugging a photo frame.

"Er… Twilight," Fluttershy blinked, "what's the matter?"

Leaving the frame on the bed Twilight spread her hooves. Recognizing the signs of a recent bad experience, the others crowded around her to give her a group hug. To Applejack's surprise, Twilight started really wailing this time. Not just the confusion or sadness from one or other of the strange loops… this was a deeply personal grief. As time passed and the sun set she could feel the pain receding, if only slightly.

Eventually Twilight hiccupped to a stop. "Okay… sorry, guys. This was just…" a sniffle. "I hate this."

"Bad Loop?" Dash asked. "How bad could it be?"

"No, not bad." Twilight shook her head. "In many ways it was the complete opposite. Okay, basically, I was the only one there, and it was fairly close to our prime loop." she broke off to sniffle again. "I thought it was just like baseline Equestria, actually, and I was planning on something to do with the – with Sombra, so I let things happen. But I got… attacked, by some kind of cult who wanted to resurrect Nightmare Moon."

"That doesn’t sound much like Equestria…" Applejack muttered. "All the cults ah ever heard of turned into fan clubs when the relevant god or alicorn turned back up."

"Yeah, there’s a reason this one was different." Twilight sniffed. "But, basically, it was successful and really wrong at the same time. They got Nightmare Moon back, alright… but about Apple Bloom's age, with no memory of her past life and not evil.

"I just…" Twilight shook her head. "I let my guard down. I was stupid, really. I know we – all Loopers – are prevented from having children by Yggdrasil, but I forgot why."

Fluttershy felt a sinking feeling inside her when she realized what she would have done in Twilight's case. If this filly was a reincarnation from Nightmare Moon she would have been received so much rejection from many ponies, and if she really didn't have any memories from her time as Nightmare Moon, if she really wasn't evil, if this really was the chance to redeem the corruption on Princess Luna…

"You adopted her, I bet!” Pinkie said, as if completing Fluttershy's thoughts, then her face fell. "Oh, Twilight…"

"Yeah," Twilight croaked, taking the frame photo on her bed and showing the photo -of her and a black filly alicorn- to her friends. "After all, if she really was a threat, Nightmare Moon was still weak so it was supposed to be safe. So I called her Nyx, and… and she was dear to me as anyone I’ve ever known. And…"

Twilight didn’t finish. Everypony there felt her pain of what happened. One moment, Nyx was there… and the next, gone as if she’d never existed, and to never exist again.

"Anyway," Twilight forced herself back up, "I don’t really feel like dealing with Nightmare Moon this time… can you girls handle it?"

Rarity pondered. "Probably. Can I borrow the Element of Magic?" Twilight wordlessly took it from her subspace pocket and placed it on Rarity's head. "We won’t be subtle, though."


15.2 (Another Kind of Magic fused loop)


“Trixie is confused.”

“Yes, I know.” Twilight looked over. “Remember I mentioned the loops? Sometimes they do strange things like this.”

“It is just Trixie’s luck that her first proper one is so unusual.” Trixie frowned, then her eyes widened. “Wow. Tri-I mean, I, have a whole new set of memories?”

“Yeah, those happen too,” Twilight said casually. “Apparently we’re sisters in all but name here. Neat.”

“So…” Trixie grinned. “This is actually quite fun. Apparently that dragon of yours rather prefers me over you.”

“Well, Spike isn’t mine, or yours. He’s his own being… we just pay him.” Twilight shrugged. “Actually, though… here’s the deal. I won’t get involved this Loop.”

“In what?” Trixie frowned.

“Well, I’ll still do all the library stuff, and so on. And help you out with learning more magic… but I won’t take the Element of Magic this time. It’s your turn.” Twilight grinned. “Consider it a final exam.”

“What?” Trixie’s jaw dropped. “I can’t… I mean… you’re ridiculously skilled at magic! How could I be worthy of it if you-”

Twilight chuckled. “It’s sometimes hard to get the hang of just what the time loops mean, isn’t it? I’ve been Looping for a long time, Trixie. I’m not much like the introverted scholar who first went to Ponyville. In fact, you might find it easier making friends than I did. Just…” she made an indefinable gesture. “Make sure to be more like the Trixie that you became after Ponyille, not… before.”

“You do not need to tell Trixie twice…” the blue-coated unicorn muttered. “And why do I remember your brother being very unfair to me?”

Twilight scanned her own Loop memories. “That would be because this version of you likes setting off homemade explosives. Hey, look!” She opened a chest and brought out a scroll. “Twilight Sparkle’s five step checklist for when Trixie Lulamoon has access to explosives.”

Trixie snatched it from her. “Stage four: duck and cover? And stage five is how to fill out an incident report for the Guard!”

“Guess this version of me really knows you well,” Twilight teased.


“Okay, well done,” Twilight said, as Trixie climbed into bed in the library after a long day of celebration, for the return and purification of Princess Luna. “But… what did you say you did to Nightmare Moon?”

Trixie paused, adjusting the covers. “Uhh… a flashbang spell that blinded her long enough for me to retrieve the elements, then I threw an anvil at her, launched a firework bigger than my entire body and blew half the castle wall off, then dropped the ceiling on her. After that I used a triple-detonation spell, an accurately kicked rock, an attracting point, and was about to start working up one of those Force Burst spells you taught me when the others arrived.”

“…wow, overconfident much?” Twilight managed.

“Actually, no,” Trixie flourished her hat. “Part of my talent is knowing how to trick a crowd – and so I launched a combination of highly pyrotechnical attacks mixed in with ridiculous cheap shots. It kept her off balance for long enough that the others could turn up, but I didn’t think I could actually beat her.”

“No, for direct combat I usually have to use alicorn mode,” Twilight confirmed.

Trixie stared at her. “You have to use what?

“…I’ll explain later.”


15.3


“Hmmm…” Twilight paged through a book on Zebra potion making. “I wonder how that would work…”


Chrysalis looked over the pilfered map from the Canterlot guardhouses, and sent approval to the changeling who had stolen it. “Good, good. Not too much longer before we can strike…”

There was a purple flash overhead.

Intruder! jangled through the empathic Changeling network, alerting the guards and sending them soaring into the air in their hundreds.

By the time they reached the place the flash had occurred, however, there was nothing there. Not even on their empathic senses.

Just a bottle, which said ‘open’.

The changelings conferred amongst themselves, deciding to let their queen handle it. Accordingly, one of them picked it up – and it slipped out of his hooves.

Good going, Murphy… every other changeling in the hive thought at once.

Then the bottle smashed on the hive floor.


“Right,” Twilight said, adjusting her binoculars. “Potion bottle applied to changeling hive. Bottle has been dropped, potion release anticipated at ten-twenty-three and fourteen seconds.”

The magic-crystal recorder next to her took down every word.

Then there was an almighty green flash and she was standing in Paradise Valley.

“…oh, buck,” Twilight muttered. “Experiment conclusion: Love Poison applied to changelings results in explosive positive feedback. Not recommended.”

She let out a long sigh. “Now I have to endure a Loop where Rainbow Dash dresses in style. Again.”


15.4


“Does any pony dare to challenge Trixie?”

Twilight had a slight smile on her face. This was Trixie’s first ‘baseline’ loop, so it would be interesting to see how she handled it…

This time, Applejack went first. She spun her lasso, demonstrating a most impressive grasp of how to handle a rope and how to make the practised little flips that would cause it to change direction seemingly out of nowhere.

Trixie nodded. “So, your weapon is a lasso. Interesting.” Trixie’s horn lit, and she unfolded the back half of her wagon to make a larger, square stage. “First fall, first contact or surrender?”

Applejack blinked. “What?”

“Well, Trixie did say challenge…” Trixie shrugged. “Trixie thought a battle would be more impressive.”

Twilight frowned. This had the potential to go wrong…


Within five minutes, though, she saw that Trixie had judged right.

Though it had the trappings of a duel or combat challenge, it was actually a bit more like a presentation match. Applejack used her lasso to try and catch Trixie, who evaded – barely, on many occasions – with fancy hoofwork or teleports. Trixie replied with a series of low-power spells, many of which Applejack blocked with the rope of the lasso itself and the rest of which just about missed.

Overall, the effect was of a pair of closely matched and fast-thinking pair of ponies having a fun and entirely non-lethal ‘fight’. Trixie even came off worst, Applejack’s lasso coiling around her tail as she dodged and pulling her backwards before she managed to teleport out.

A bell dinged as Trixie skidded to a stop from a shield-blocked buck. “Right, time is up.”

Applejack stopped twirling her lasso, confused.

The showmare trotted over to her and shook her hoof. “Trixie is most impressed. Good match.”

Applause broke out.


After Dash had demonstrated her own skills, Trixie pondered for a moment. “Hmm… well, Trixie can’t fly. So no luck there. A race?”

“Sure!” Dash replied, grinning. “What rules do you want to use?”

Trixie held up a convenient book. “What about Canterlot rules, third revision, to the outskirts of the town and back?”

Dash took the book, skimmed it for a bit and nodded. “Yeah! If you think you can beat me!”

“On the starting blocks,” Trixie rejoined. “Put your muscles where your mouth is.”

At the ‘go’, the pegasus shot off at high speed. Trixie ran after her, and then vanished in a puff of smoke.

“Hey!” someone shouted.

“That can’t be fair!” another pony said.

Trixie materialized back on stage and crossed the finish line, then looked nonplussed at the booing coming from the crowd. “Oh, what is it now?”

Twilight walked over, having worked out what was going on. “You did say Canterlot rules third revision, right?”

“Yes.” Trixie nodded. “The ones which allow teleportation.”

“No, that’s second. Third only permits non-cast magic.” Twilight pointed to the relevant line in the book.

Trixie blinked. Blinked again, slowly and theatrically. “…oh. Oopsie…”

The booing turned to giggles.

“Oh, shut up!” Trixie said to the crowd, stamping a hoof foalishly. Her hat fell off. “Any pony could have done it!”

Dash shout out of the sky, panting. “Okay, I guess you beat me. How the hay are you that fast?”

More giggles.

“…did I miss something?”


After that, several more ponies tried their hoof at challenging Trixie to something. Several of them lost, more of them won, and Trixie usually either made them look good or made herself look the fool, or more often both.

Though Derpy’s trick, which involved a Klein bottle, just let her to scratch her head and give up.

Finally, she challenged Twilight directly. This time, she let Twilight pick the form of the challenge.

Twilight mused for a moment, and decided.

Tennis. With fireballs.

It was already fairly impressive when there was one fireball going. It was a lot more so when, on an unseen signal, both Trixie and Twilight lobbed another fireball each into the air. And when there were no fewer than fifteen fireballs going back and forth, it started to become obvious that there wasn’t going to be a quick winner in this challenge.

After about ten minutes, Twilight called a halt. “I think we’ll call that a draw.”

“Indeed,” Trixie said, panting a lot more than Twilight was. But then, she’d been on the go all afternoon. “Good game, Twilight Sparkle.”

Trixie gave her a bow, then extended that to her whole audience and many challengers. “And Trixie hopes you have enjoyed the show!”

Fireworks went soaring into the air.


“Well?” Trixie asked, that evening in the Books and Branches. “How was that?”

Then she frowned. “Though I wonder where you put that chair I brought from Canterlot when we moved…”

“That was last Loop, it didn’t happen in this Equestria,” Twilight reminded her. “I know it’s tricky to keep track. And yes, I’m very impressed with how mature you were.”

“It was hard,” Trixie admitted. “But at least this time there hopefully won’t be an Ursa attack.”

Something roared in the distance.

“…oh, you are kidding me.” Trixie sighed, and picked her hat up off the floor. “Can I count on your help?”

“Sure.” Twilight headed for the door. “And yeah, this might not happen every time, but it happens far too often.”


15.5


“Hi, Matilda!” Pinkie said cheerfully, mentally crossing her hooves. “What brings you into town today?”

“Ah, hello, Pinkie.” Matilda nodded to her. “It’s good to see you. Well, actually, I wanted to buy some carrots and flour. I plan to make a carrot cake.”

“Oh, neat!” Pinkie’s smile lit up the square. “I know a Carrot Cake! Well, a different kind of carrot cake… anyway, I know how to make an edible carrot cake too! Hold on a minute, I’ve got a special recipe!”

Pinkie hurried back into the shop and started looking, half her mind counting. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen…

On ‘twenty-three’, she bounced back out again with the recipe and handed it to Matilda. “Here you go! I’m afraid it needs to have a few things that aren’t on a normal carrot cake recipe, but I know just where to get them. Applejack’s stall started having a sideline in oranges recently, so you can ask for orange peel there – or just whole oranges and eat the rest, if you want to be daring.” Pinkie giggled. “And the raisins are sold over there, by Sour Grapes.”

“Is he… sour?” Matilda asked.

“Nah, he’s really sweet. But Sweet Grapes isn’t as funny so he wasn’t called that.” Pinkie shrugged.

“Okay. Thank you, Pinkie.” Matilda picked up the flour that Pinkie had put on the table when she wasn’t looking and paid for it. Pinkie’s gaze alternated between Matilda and the other side of the square.

“Oh, did you hear the one about the bats?” Pinkie suddenly said.

“No, I didn’t,” Matilda replied politely.

“Neither did I, but I bet they did.” Pinkie huffed. “Bats hear all the best jokes. Stupid ears…”

The donkey giggled. “Ah, Pinkie, you always surprise me. Well, thank you again!”

“No problem!” Pinkie smiled, then started handling the next customer. That joke should have just about done it…

There was a commotion across the square as Lyra stepped up to the counter.

Yes! “Excuse me,” Pinkie asked the green unicorn, and shot over there.

Two shoppers had collided, as one of them wasn’t looking where he was going. Pinkie helped both of them up, babbling something about how if they’d bumped together closer to a bush she could have helped them with any boo-boos, because she had medical kits hidden all around Ponyville in case of… well, emergency.

“Oh, sorry,” Pinkie said, “where are my manners! I’m Pinkie Pie, and this is Matilda. Who are you?”

“Cranky Doodle. And-” the donkey froze. Pointed at who he’d bumped into. “I remember you.”

Matilda gasped.

Pinke gave them some space. She wasn’t the kind of pony who would interrupt a happy reunion.

But she’d have to get permission to organize a carnival after this. There was party going to waste!


15.6 (Elmagnifico)


The door to the Sweet Apple Acres farmhouse creaked on hinges that honestly ought to be oiled at some point. Applejack made a note to ask her sister to do it in the morning, then looked to the reason for her door-opening.

Twilight Sparkle stood on the threshold, her hair distorted in unkempt disarray, framing bloodshot eyes underscored by black circles. Applejack looked askance at her friend as the purple unicorn stood in the light shed from the doorway, a slice of brightness against Luna's backdrop… and left eyelid twitching.

"Can ah help ya, Twilight?" the farmpony asked, with some trepidation.

Purple eyes moved, shifting from gazing into empty space to fixate on Applejack.

"I finally figured it out."

One of Applejack's eyebrows quirked.

"Figured what out, Twi?"

The manic grin never faltered even as the unicorn it belonged to spouted exposition.

"Why nothing seems to go wrong anymore. I told myself I'd let this loop develop naturally, but something keeps changing it."

Applejack's quirked eyebrow shifted to meet its counterpart, shifting from curiosity to skepticism.

"Beg pardon?"

"I think it started just after we defeated Nightmare Moon. Remember how Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Pinkie Pie pestered me about going to the Grand Galloping Gala?"

Applejack nodded. "Yep. Took y'all pretty much the entire day to get them to lay off ya before th' Princess sent ya more tickets."

A purple eyelid twitched.

"Indeed. But you ALL were supposed to be obsessed with going."

A hoarse voice interrupted Twilight's tirade and caused Applejack to divide her attention momentarily. "Applejack, who is it?"

"It's Twilight, but she don't seem right in the head."

"Course she ain't. Ye've kept th' poor thing on th' doorstep for a while now, invite her in!" Granny Smith said with assurance.

"Right, Granny. Why don't ya come in, Twilight, and explain around the fire?"

Violet bangs rippled back and forth as Twilight Sparkle's head shook in response, and she continued.

"It's happened other times. Fluttershy for instance. When we went to confront that dragon that was blotting out the sun, she grew the confidence to pull through almost a quarter of the way up the mountain. She was meant to not overcome her fears until she was at the top. Mayor Mare knew to put me in with the organizing committee right out of the gate. We visited Cloudsdale without a hitch. Met Zecora so naturally, when ponies had been avoiding her for months. Resolving the Appleoosa situation before it escalated. I never did find out why Discord never showed his face. The parasprites I traced though.I've seen it all play out countless times, and there have been changes before. But not this go 'round. This started as a baseline Loop. I meant to leave it that way, or work out why it wasn’t one. But I've figured it out. Traced it all back to one somepony."

Applejack looked at her friend askance.

"Care to clarify?"

"Somepony else knows what's going to happen ahead of time, and has been changing things so it happens more gently, or the problem doesn't occur at all. Countless disasters have been averted already."

Applejack relaxed slightly, a smile playing at her lips, even as confusion threatened to slip behind her eyes.

"Well if'n they're makin' things easier, ah don't quite see th' problem."

Twilight stamped a hoof against the threshold, the wood responding with a *thunk* that punctuated her statement.

"That's the thing, you have no idea how this has affected the timestream, many valuable lessons haven't been learnt!"

A frown of doubt crossed Applejack's face as she responded.

"Now that's just plain wrong. Y'can't judge somepony by the disasters they avert. Seems to me that's the opposite of what ya should be doin'."

By this point, the other Apples had taken notice of the debate going on across the doorstep. Granny Smith had a hoof to her ear, straining to make the discussion audible. Applebloom was riveted, her eyes and ears soaking in every word. Big Macintosh was just peering over the top of a farmer's almanac, taking in the scene quietly. Twilight's tirade continued.

"Oh, I wouldn't have worried so much if they'd come round and told me what was going on, then I would have been sure this was a normal loop. But nooo. They just continued on. Another pony might have been flashier, utilized the situation more directly to their benefit. Taken some credit, acted more directly or netted some abnormally large benefit. But not our culprit. They're subtle-like. Degrees of separation, a word here, some wisdom there, a bit of encouragement or a pick-me-up right when it's needed, so very innocuous. That's why it took so long for me to realize who was behind it. He almost got away with it too."

Behind Applejack, her younger sister was staring slack-jawed at her brother.

Big Macintosh the Looper had turned an even brighter shade of red than normal, and he was being careful to avoid eye contact with anypony.

"Shucks."


15.7


“Good news,” Twilight said, passing Trixie some herbal tea. (The showmare had encountered the blend last Loop, learning what Zecora had to teach her, and taken to it with gusto.) “I think I’ve worked out a way to get you introduced to Ponyville early.”

“You have?” Trixie blinked. “I thought I usually turned up fairly early…”

“Fairly, yes,” Twilight dragged the words out, “but not soon enough that I can finagle you an invitation to the Grand Galloping Gala. I know you like that sort of thing.”

Trixie nodded. “Fair point. Can I have Rarity make me a dress made of fire?”

“I… actually don’t think she’s Awake this time, so only if she is when you next turn up.” Twilight shrugged. “Sorry.”

“Ah well.” Trixie gave a theatrical sigh. “I suppose I’ll have to rely on my dazzling wit to wow the crowd.”

“Knowing Canterlot nobility…” Twilight stopped, and pondered. “That might actually work. They do tend to spend a fair fraction of their time coming up with cutting barbs and performing social manoeuvring.”

“Anyway.” Trixie tossed her head. “With that out of the way, what is this plan?”

“Right.” Twilight winked. “Basically, I think by now you can technically count as an old friend. So I’ll simply set things up with an old friend so that they perform the opening act at the Summer Sun festival.”

Trixie gulped. “…doesn’t that mean Nightmare Moon will come onto the stage directly behind Trixie?”

The Anchor shrugged. “Basically. But my brother worked out a spell that should help keep you safe – I can cast it on you before you go up.” Twilight began counting under her breath, then looked up again. “Actually, I have… a spare Intelligent Device, a copy of a thing called the Rainbow of Light, a full set of battle armour from when I recruited you as the head of my guard – back before you Awakened – and…”

Giggling at Trixie’s gradually opening mouth (and expression like Hearth’s Warming had come early), Twilight rummaged in her subspace pocket. “Aha!”

Twilight sprinkled what she’d found on the table. “Twenty-four Cartridges for an Intelligent Device’s feed mechanism. That’s enough for two reloads, assuming you go in with six in the chamber and we spend six practising.”

Trixie blinked. “Are you trying to set me up to fight Nightmare Moon?”

“Yep.” Twilight nodded. “I think I taught you all the really powerful spells over the last few Loops, and an Intelligent Device isn’t actually all that hard to learn to use. Since the plan is to do this next time you’re Awake, we can probably get that practise in now.” Then the purple unicorn grinned. “Even if the result is a stalemate or that you eventually get beaten – and I honestly don’t know which way it would end up going – then it should at least look like you’ve brought me time to get the Elements running.”

“Right.” Trixie’s face set. “That does sound like quite the introduction.”

“That’s the plan.” Twilight frowned. “Oh, don’t forget your Element, either. The passive power of the Element of Magic does things like make spells more efficient, which should help.”

“To say the least…” Trixie muttered. “Trixie cannot believe she is doing this.”


“Anyway. Any pony here from Manehattan?”

Some of the audience raised their hooves.

“Well, so much for thirty percent of Trixie’s material.” Trixie pulled some pages out of her stack of notes and crumpled them up, then threw them away.

Looking at what was left, she blinked… then cantered across the stage to where the bits had gone and picked them up. “That was not according to plan. Trixie definitely did not plan to crumple up the page she was on. Anyway…”

She pointed at a pony in the audience. “What is it that you do?”

“Me?” The pony looked around. “Er… I sell quills and sofas.”

“Quills and sofas.” Trixie nodded. “Right. Trixie supposes that makes as much sense as anything. But doesn’t it get you down sometimes?”

There was scattered laughter.

“The rest of you can ask whoever’s closest to you who actually got the joke,” Trixie said with a sigh.

This time, there was a bit more laughter.

“It’ll do.” Trixie leafed through her notes. “You’re not getting this whole gig, are you, audience? Trixie tells jokes, you laugh. That is how it is supposed to work.”

She put them back down on the nearby lectern. “So, anyway. The Summer Sun festival. Longest day of the year. Trixie can’t help but think we might have got the wrong end of this one, to be honest. I mean, it’s four AM and here we are, up before the sun. If ever there was a day to be asleep when the sun’s up, it’s when the sun’s up for so much of it.”

Suddenly, there was a commotion backstage.

Nightmare Moon stepped through the curtain, batting away incoming guards. “Oh, my beloved subjects-”

Trixie interrupted her. “You.”

Nightmare Moon focused on her, an expression of astonishment on her face. “Why do you provoke me?”

“My name is Trixie Lulamoon. You interrupted my comedy routine.” Trixie grinned as the adrenaline began to kick in. “Prepare to cry.”

She heard Twilight’s voice taking charge behind her, evacuating the building, and reached out to the contingent spells Twilight had helped her set up.

One-two-three, and she was ready for this.

Hat and cape were in place, though the clasp for her cape had been replaced by the Rainbow of Light. Beneath her hat was concealed her Element of Magic – a slim circlet with a wand at the top – and her new Intelligent Device, Loki, was held in one hoof.

But what really showed something was different was the armour. Twilight had made it to the same standards as the Princesses’ own battle armour, and it showed. (It also held the bound-spell version of Shining’s protective enchantment, the other end of which was apparently keyed to an entire mountain.)

Stand by, ready. Set up.

Loki finished the preparations, hovering over her right shoulder in staff form.

Nightmare Moon blinked. “What-”

“You wanted to come back here after a thousand years?” Trixie asked. “Come back and take over as though you’d never tried to usurp sole rule in the first place?”

“My night never got the attention it deserved!” Nightmare Moon shouted back. “It-”

Trixie held up a hoof. “Wait a moment. While this is probably going to end up as a fight, I deplore starting a fight in which I don’t have the element of surprise.”

Before Nightmare Moon had quite finished processing that sentence, Trixie launched off a Missile Storm, and then things got quite loud.


Twilight winced as the town hall exploded. “That’s going to be costly to fix…”

Mind you, it was hardly the first time Ponyville had needed substantial rebuilding. Well, it was the first this Loop, but it seemed to average three or four times per Loop.


Trixie teleported away from an attack by a sliver of a second, fired off three illusions – two of them obvious, one of them just within what she guessed was Nightmare Moon’s skill to localize – and used the moment of confusion to expend three cartridges.

The resultant lightning bolt split the night, shaking the ground and hammering through most of Nightmare Moon’s defences. As she turned to locate the origin point of the blast, a tree fell on her.

“Always the way,” Trixie said to herself. “Misdirection. Feint, feint, kick to the head. Loki, Blaster One.”

Affirmative. Blaster One engaged.

Two semi-autonomous blaster bits flew out of Loki’s launch bay, leaving four still in there. That let her split her fire more effectively, but she still had to actually cast all the spells herself and her horn was starting to ache.

Let it! This is the most fun I’ve had in SO long!

Another dark bolt flew off the Nightmare’s horn, hitting her in the thigh. Protective magic crackled, and what would probably have blown her apart became just a faint ache in the left rear leg. Though there was probably a chunk of mountain missing somewhere.

As the battle escalated, she started relying on Nanoha-style spells more. Thrown objects, fireworks, illusions and just the occasional loud noise had their place, but to actually keep Nightmare Moon off balance took some serious firepower – if she didn’t feel under threat, she’d stop taking the distractions seriously.


Nightmare snarled, as another of the annoying unicorn’s illusions turned to dust under a Dark Bolt.

This was the most infuriating foe she had ever faced! The illusions were too good for her to properly unravel half the time, and when they weren’t they were just there to make her think something. She was being manipulated, and didn’t like it.

And she had to treat all the illusions as serious threats, too, which meant spending FAR too much magic on them. Earlier, the unicorn – Trixie something – had somehow endured an attack that would have blown a hole in a castle wall, and probably the whole castle.

Another illusion appeared, this one just a little bit off. Nightmare Moon determined to ignore it, focusing on the slightly better-hidden signature which could be-

And then a bolt of blue magic speared out of what she’d written off as an illusion, smashing her in the flank and nearly knocking her over.

Then a house landed on her.

Snarling, Nightmare Moon disintegrated the house and took to the air. That pesky unicorn couldn’t be up here!


Flier Fin.

Trixie winced as Nightmare Moon started levelling the town, methodically pulverizing buildings one by one. Better them than me… that protection spell is feeling ragged.

“The illusion is working?” she asked, hoofing the spent cartridges out of Loki and loading her last six.

Affirmative.

“Good… and the town is clear?”

Indeed. A pause. The answer is the same as last time you asked.

“Sorry.”

Trixie looked around. All six of the blaster bits were active… she still had enough magic… and Nightmare Moon was still shooting things only she could see.

“Cartridge load.”

Loki fired off all six remaining cartridges, and Trixie’s reserves swelled back to full. Enough.

Then she dispelled the illusion she’d been maintaining. Across Nightmare Moon’s eyes and ears.


Nightmare Moon blinked as the town below her wavered like smoke. What-

“Hey!”

She turned towards the origin of the voice, and saw that infernal unicorn again. Hovering in mid aid, exactly as Nightmare had thought she couldn’t. Gratifyingly, Nightmare had apparently done some damage – the armour was torn in places, and Trixie’s hat was missing. But-

There was a ball of magic building on the end of that strange staff thing.

And something atop the unicorn’s head, which felt surprisingly familiar. A circlet of crystal, with the wand atop it burning with an intense blue flame.

Then, two objects darted from nowhere and wrapped a golden chain around her middle, holding her in place.

“It’s called Enkidu,” Trixie said. “It’s the most powerful binding spell I know, so it should hold for at least a few minutes. I just wanted to explain something to you.”

Nightmare growled.

“Villains – evil doers – ponies who want to be powerful, who want to win and who want to rule over others. They’re always the ones who have all the impressive powers. They’re the ones who you read the stories, and you think ‘wow. I didn’t know any pony could do that.’ You want to be able to do what they could.” Trixie shook her head. “But you never want to be them. And that’s because of something that… almost everyone understands, somewhere deep down. It’s that being selfish doesn’t really work.”

“And that’s for a good reason.” As Trixie continued, Nightmare Moon caught sight of four other objects, each of them with the same gradually growing ball of magic as the staff.

“Basically, good ponies aren’t any less powerful than evil ones. In fact, because they cooperate, because they learn from one another, they can become more powerful. No, it is something else… Tell Trixie, one thousand years ago… did your sister ever fight you?”

Nightmare blinked. “…no. She just hit me with the Elements of Harmony.”

“And do you think that that was because you could defeat her?” Trixie bobbed her head. “Possibly, possibly. But there’s another good reason. Look at the town below you.”

The bindings gave Nightmare enough movement to do so.

“See how devastated it is? That’s the point. Good ponies aren’t less powerful. They just care more about collateral damage.”

Trixie grinned. “But this town was evacuated. Starlight Breaker.”

Five bolts of surprisingly pink magic erupted.


Trixie coughed. “Ow. My horn hurts.”

“I bet it does…” Twilight said, trotting briskly over. “Did you really have to do this much damage?”

The blue pony giggled. “So much for being accepted…” After a moment, Trixie shook her head, and recovered some of her composure. “I think I did fairly well, actually.”

“Yeah, you did. You tricked a goddess, manoeuvred her into a trap, and then hit her with enough magic that she…” Twilight craned over the rubble of a wall, “Seems to be cured, actually. Guess Nanoha universe magic really can just about manage it, with enough boosts. Congratulations…”

Twilight conjured a mirror.

“…Princess Trixie.”

Trixie blinked, taking in the sight of her new wings. “Oh.” Then she frowned. “Wait a minute. Was this your plan all along?”

“…kinda.” Twilight shrugged. “I honestly had no idea if it’d work, but even if it didn’t it would still be a useful test.”

“You should have told me!” Trixie accused. “Turning ponies into deities without their permission is… er… Trixie was going to say impolite, but she thought impossible would have fit until a few hours ago, so she stands corrected.”

“I don’t really know if it would even work like that,” Twilight admitted. “Anyway, no harm done, right?”

“No, Trixie supposes not.” The new alicorn then slumped over and started snoring.

“Yeah, yeah, leave me to explain everything…” Twilight groused.

Celestia appeared in a flash of light. “Twilight! What happened here? And… wait, is that my sister?”

“No, cutie mark’s wrong. Though she is called Lulamoon…” Twilight pointed. “Luna’s over there.”


15.8


Rarity stepped outdoors, and breathed deeply. Ah, midsummer’s eve.

A new Loop, and new opportunities.

Wonder who else is Awake… she pondered with half her mind, the other half trying to decide what was ‘in’ this Loop.

Ooh, perhaps I could go with a theme focused on birds? It would be simply marvellous!

With a flash of green fire, something appeared in front of her. Surprised, she caught it. Now what does Twilight want this time?

The envelope was alabaster in colour and slightly scented with saffron. Frowning, she opened it, and took out the letter.

Dear Rarity,

Spike here. I thought I should let you know that I’ve finally actually started Looping. Twilight let me know that you were Awake this time, and so I thought I’d try going about this whole thing… right.

I know I had a silly crush on you. I would like to hope that that crush has gone away with maturity, but I can’t be sure, since I certainly don’t feel any less attracted to you.

If I was a proper dragon, I’d probably try to steal you away, or something like that. But I’m not, so… I’d like to do something a bit more sensible.

I’ve made a reservation for two seats in a restaurant in Canterlot, for the evening meal – the one run by Blue Cordon. Twilight’s agreed to help with the teleportation required, so I would be honoured if you would give me the pleasure of your company.

Yours,

Spykoranuvellitar (Spike).

P.S: Twilight found a way to help me change my physical age. I won’t look like a baby, so don’t worry on that front.

Rarity blinked.

Then started to smile. “Well, he certainly doesn’t do things by halves… I can never be sure of managing to get a meal there. Wonder how he got the reservation…”

Yes, this could be interesting. Spiky-wikey was always so sweet, and this much more mature Spike – she’d never seen or heard him use his full name before…

Most interesting.

Then she gasped. “Only seven hours to do all the normal preparations and get ready! And I must look my best! Oh, maybe I should make him a suit as well! No, perhaps that would be taken as an insult…”

She shot back into the boutique, already planning what she was going to make. Romantic dinner, simple meal, or whatever else it turned out to be, she was not going to waste the chance to show off her dressmaking skills in the premier Canterlot restaurant!


“Thanks,” Spike said, scratching the back of his head. “I know this is short notice…”

“Oh, no problem,” Cadence assured him. “In all honesty, Shining and I had booked the seats before we discovered that his parents would be free this evening. We’ll be able to visit Twilight Twinkle and Night Light – that’ll probably be just as nice.” She giggled. “Shining certainly thought so! I swear, he calls that formal outfit of his – the one he’d have had to wear there – worse than full plate armour. I barely had time to suggest it before he agreed.”

Then she grew sly. “Besides, what else am I doing here, but my job?”

Spike coughed. “Well, yes, that is my hope. But I’d rather it all start slow.”

“Good attitude.” Cadence nodded. “Try to win a lover, and you might gain an enemy. But try to gain a friend, and you might just win a lover…”

This time the dragon blushed slightly, and adjusted the tie she’d helped him with.


“So,” Rarity said, halfway through the main course. (She was having something inventive involving bamboo shoots stuffed with cheese; Spike had opted for a pasta dish.) “Do tell me, Spike. How on Equestria did you get us a table at such short notice?”

Spike smiled, ever so slightly nervously. “Well, Cadence and Shining had a reservation they didn’t particularly want to make use of – apparently they booked it well in advance, and then it turned out that Twilight’s parents were having a night in.” The dragon – currently about the same size as Rarity – broadened his smile. “More power to them.”

“Indeed – I wish I’d known about that. But, then, you have rather more of an in with the two of them than I do.” Rarity paused, checking that the table was indeed far enough from other ponies who might overhear them. “How did she handle your unexpected size increase?”

The dragon shrugged, and swallowed his latest mouthful. “I passed it off as a growth spurt, to tell the truth. It isn’t as though dragon biology is well enough understood to preclude it.”

“Of course.” Rarity nodded along with the explanation. Then she put a hoof to her chin in thought, expertly keeping the fabric of her sleeve from touching the table. “Though – one has to wonder. Have you taken advantage of the… well, the loops, when I wasn’t present, to… become involved with me?”

Spike hid his discomfort at the topic. Then decided he didn’t need to, and permitted a wince to escape. “Honestly… yes. One which was the first time I’d actually turned up in Equestria itself, and then another time about two loops after that.”

Rarity nodded. “I’m glad you let me know. How did it go?”

“The first time…” Spike smiled slightly. “Basically, I saved you from the Diamond Dogs – rather than you save yourself, I mean. I like to think I was quite dashing, but…” The dragon shrugged. “I was still young, then. Twilight and I hadn’t worked out the age changing trick yet. In any case, the farthest it got was that we went to the Gala together a few times.”

The unicorn digested the information. “I imagine I was quite grateful. The first time… those dogs were scary.”

“You were.” Spike sighed. “I felt really good about it, actually… but, at the same time, there was this nagging question at the back of my mind. Two, really. The first one was is this right? I mean, I was using my knowledge of the future to develop a relationship with a pony who hadn’t… it kind of felt wrong.”

“And the second one?” Rarity asked, when he didn’t continue.

“I couldn’t shake the feeling that you saw me as a child. You probably did.”

“I’d say… more than that, probably,” Rarity replied, thinking back to her own mental state from all those years ago. “I always did like a knight in shining armour – though not the actual Shining Armor, of course.”

Both of them chuckled.

“I imagine I did have some stronger feelings for you, but…” Rarity shrugged, sending the dress rippling and causing the colours down it to change as she moved. “Well, I’d have wanted to wait until your majority.”

“Which would never come, of course, but you couldn’t know that.” Spike took a drink from his glass – he’d asked for the sourest vintage they had, which had raised a few delicately manicured eyebrows but which suited him quite fine. (They’d been grateful to be able to sell something they’d have had to throw out, once he explained the biology involved.)

“What was the second time?”

“That was… stranger.” Spike shrugged. “I got Twilight to try turning me into a pony, basically. Stupidest idea I’ve ever had. I didn’t get far with you…”

Rarity giggled despite herself. “Oh, dear. Sorry, Spike, but… that is rather a funny image.”

The dragon nodded. “Yeah, once I got a bit of perspective I could see how it was funny too. I was trying to look all suave when I didn’t even know how to walk properly, it must have been dreadful.”

“And after that?”

“I… just didn’t bother. Partly because of those same problems I mentioned, but partly…” Spike sighed. “I don’t want it to be… or… okay. In simple terms: I think that I love you. But I can’t be sure. I don’t know if this is still a crush, I don’t know if… well, if the things which I like about the… the you that I know, are the ones which you like about yourself. The ones you’ve kept. And I don’t know if you like me.”

“Which me do you mean this time?” Rarity said quietly.

“The… looping you. I… basically, it’s like I knew what you were like as a child. And like you knew what I was like as a child.” The dragon rubbed his forehead. “So, before I – before either of us starts even thinking about going further, we should make sure we each know what the other is actually like.” Spike then flashed a grin, this one with a lot more humour in it. “Hi. I’m Spykoranuvellitar, but everyone calls me Spike, and I’m Twilight Sparkle’s assistant. What’s your name?”

Rarity matched the smile. “Rarity. I’m a dressmaker, and I like making magical items as well.”

“Nice to meet you, then.”

Then they remembered the meal, which had sadly cooled off a bit.


15.9


“Mister dragon?”

The dragon who had set up in the mountains overlooking Ponyville opened one eye. “What is it, little pony?”

Fluttershy pressed the tips of her hooves together. “Well, you see, we’re having a bit of a smoke problem. We were wondering if you could stop?”

That only got laughter. “Why should I stop? Are you going to make me, little pony?”

“I’d… really rather not,” Fluttershy said, “but if I have to, then I will.”

More laughter.

Fluttershy’s eyes hardened. “Alright, then. Angel? Sic ‘em.”


Applebloom held up cards. “Eight point six!”

Scootaloo disagreed. “Only four point five, I think. He’s really not controlled his landing well.”

Sweetie Belle held hers up. “Six and a half. I really like the startled yowp noise he made.”

There was a crack, as Angel Bunny kicked the dragon entirely into the air a second time. The three fillies gauged this new trajectory, and then started holding up more scorecards.


“How did you do this?” Twilight asked. “Whatever it was, it was cool…”

“Oh.” Fluttershy blushed. “I basically made Angel my animal companion – you know, like druids have. And then I went alicorn and pumped more power into him.”

Twilight nodded, watching Angel twist all six of his target’s limbs into a single chokehold. “I have to say, he took to it well.”


15.1 continued


"By the way, Rarity," Fluttershy asked, when they were arriving to Ponyville Town Hall in preparation to take care of Nightmare Moon, "why did you ask Twilight for the Element of Magic?"

"Because I want to try wearing and using it. Doesn't it look fabulous on me? I must definitely must have a few pictures taken wearing it." Rarity posed.

"You sure it's gonna work, sugarcube?" Applejack asked as she, like the others, summoned their Elements.

The white unicorn frowned slightly. "Not really. But in that case we are still five alicorns against one."

The rest of the night was a silent wait. Even the usually energetic Pinkie Pie wasn't in the mood for talking, everypony mourning Twilight's loss.

Eventually, Rainbow Dash pointed to the moon, now without the alicorn shaped shadow. "Here she comes." That was all the signal Rarity and the others needed to start activating the elements, from a place hidden enough to conceal them, so that they’d be ready by the time Nightmare Moon made her appearance.

"My beloved subjects, it has been so long."

…or so they believed, because the Element of Magic wasn't activating.

Please, Element of Magic! Twilight really doesn't need to deal with Nightmare Moon this loop.

The lack of response from the crown only angered her. "Oh, buck it! Plan B!" And then the Element holders started running towards Nightmare Moon just in time for her usual declaration.

"The night will last-" … which was as far as she got, because Nightmare Moon's speech was interrupted by a blur of blue movement which punched her in the jaw.

"OUR NIGHT" Princess Luna said to Nightmare Moon with the full force of the Canterlot Royal Speaking Voice, and blew on her right forehoof.

"Princess Luna?" all five Element bearers chorused, skidding to a halt in confusion.

"Oh, hi!" Luna waved to the Elements bearers, and trotted over as guards covered the recumbent form of Nightmare Moon.

Once in range, she lowered her voice so only they could hear her. "For some reason I turned up separate to Nightmare Moon this time, any idea why? And where's Twilight?"

"Ohh… my head…" Nightmare Moon said, clutching it. There was a burst of light, and she shrunk down to filly size. "What happened?"

That filly was…By Harmony. "Dash! Get Twilight NOW." She only received a Sonic Rainboom as answer.

"Rarity, what's the deal?" Princess Luna asked.

"It's about Nightmare Moon, it could be a very long shot but-" The crack of teleportation interrupted her, bringing Twilight Sparkle and Princess Rainbow Dash. Rarity wondered if there was any library left as of now.

"We’re here," Twilight said, bloodshot eyes showing she hadn't stopped crying after they had left. "What did you want-?"

She broke off mid sentence, locking eyes with the little alicorn on the dais. "…Nyxie?"

"Momma! I mean, Twilight!"

Luna gestured to the two guards to stand down, as Nyx launched herself across the room into Twilight’s forelegs.

"What happened? I was going to bed and then suddenly I was on the moon, and then I tried to play Nightmare Moon when I saw the Summer Sun celebration. Are we in the past?"

"Thank you… whoever’s organizing this, thank you. For letting me have my daughter back." Twilight muttered while hugging Nyx tighter.


"…so I won’t be around much?" Nyx asked. "That kinda sucks."

Twilight nodded. "I know, I wish you would be more but it’s just the way these loops seem to work. But promise me, please let me know the moment you awake in any loop – that'll be the very next loop for you, but I don’t know how long it will have been for me."

"I promise momma."

Then the purple unicorn smiled. "But what matters more is that you’re going to be here at all. When I thought I’d lost you…"

After a moment, Nyx adjusted her glasses. “Hey… next time I turn up, can we play a prank on Princess Celestia?”

“Whatever you want,” Twilight said. “Whatever you want.”


Dear Princess Celestia,

By unexpectedly using a loophole in the "no children" policy for loopers I ended adopting a small filly I named Nyx. I think I could gush for a long time about her, so I'll leave it for when we meet in person (feel free to ask Princess Luna for pictures, you'll be for a surprise). The important part is, I found myself heartbroken when the loop reset and I couldn't even give my farewells to my daughter. However, thank Harmony, Yggdrasil somehow decided to make Nyx awake the very next loop.

I think I now finally understand why you requested me to write you these Looper Reports so many loops ago. I may not know when, I may not know how, but now that both Nyx and myself are looping I know we will meet again someday, in the same way the Looper Reports are a promise for us to meet again. Now I see how those promises give me the strength to go on each day.

Thank you, Princess. For taking care of me even when you aren't awake.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle

Loops 16

View Online

16.1


Discord snapped his fingers. “Well, so much for the gallant captain of the guard.”

Shining Armor’s coat washed out and became grey, as his Discordification took effect.

“…wait…” Discord looked over at the Element bearers. “Why aren’t you worried?”

“Discord?” Twilight said, sniggering. “My brother’s talent is defensive spells. What’s the opposite of defence?”

The Draconequus started to say something, paused, and then sighed. Snapping his fingers, he created a podium and stepped onto it. “Can I at least have time to pose?”

“Ooh!” Pinkie hopped up and down. “I know the answer! It’s offense!”

Twilight shaded her eyes as the Plasma Lancer spell triggered.


16.2


“Thanks, Shining.” Cadence said, nuzzling him for a moment. “Just a month to go.”

Shining Armor blushed, then nodded. “Can’t wait.”

After a moment more, Shining left his fiancée’s rooms and headed home.

“One month?” A voice said from down the corridor. “Excellent…”

Cadence looked around. “Who was that?”

A servant, one who had gone past not five minutes ago doing laundry, flashed green and became a black, insectile alicorn-like creature. “Me. Queen Chrysalis. And I’m sorry to say… little pony… but your wedding isn’t going to go as planned.”

Chrysalis walked forward, green magic glowing around her horn. “Well, in one way in particular. It won’t be you up there with Shining Armor… it’ll be me…”

Another flash of magic, and Cadence was facing her double.

The newest princess of Equestria blinked… then grinned. “Excellent!”

“…what?” Chrysalis nearly tripped over.

“Oh, hang on, there’s some mistakes with your disguise. That shade isn’t quite the colour of my coat… and that’s the wrong horn spiral curvature… yes, that’s better.” Cadence stepped back and walked around the befuddled Chrysalis. “And I don’t think much of those fetlocks… wait, is my rear really that large? I need to lay off the cakes…”

“You won’t have any cakes where you’re going!” Chrysalis rejoined, trying to regain the initiative.

“Well…” Cadence used her magic to lift over a huge pile of paperwork. “Here. I discovered that my aunts were taking on far too much of a load of paperwork, and so I volunteered to help out. Of course, they then each gave me half of theirs, so I’ve ended up overworked myself… honestly, I was letting it pile up a bit… of course, you’ll have to handle that yourself, if you’re going to replace me.”

Cadence looked over at the faux-alicorn. “Or did you not expect that?”

“NO!” Chrysalis shouted. “Of course I didn’t! I thought it would be a pleasant month or so in nice surroundings, draining love from your sickeningly devoted fiancé, and then I would invade Equestria!”

“Yeah, no.” Cadence shrugged. “Funny how plans don’t work out, isn’t it… I wanted a quiet wedding.” This time, she thought to herself.

“Anyway,” she summoned magic to herself, “Bye!”


“Well?” Shining asked, as Cadence materialized in his room.

“Either she’s left, or she’s going to do all my paperwork. Either way, I think we can get away with a weekend in the mountains.” Cadence grinned. “Twilight was right, this is more satisfying than just kicking her or something.”


16.3


If there was one thing that Rainbow Dash had learned through the course of the Time Loops, it was restraint.

It hadn’t come easy to her, to be certain, but she did manage it now and again.

But this was one of the Loops Twilight had said she could cut loose on. So that wasn't a consideration.


Dash entered the first stage of her Best Young Fliers’ competition set. Rather than go with something outwardly flashy, she simply executed a series of loops, Immelmann turns and finally five Kulbits in a row.

Oh, they were well performed, certainly, but nothing to compete with her usual pyrotechnics. But…

She could already hear it. The pegasi in the audience with an experience of stunt flying were noticing it – her aerobatics were breaking the laws of physics quite thoroughly. Firstly, because she was doing the whole thing in a glide. And given that…

Heh. Dash felt a grin emerge, as she let the airflow fall off her wings completely. Yeah, I’m stalling. And it doesn’t look like it, does it?

A simple backflip in mid air, and she caught the airstream again. This time, she beat her wings – once only, the first time since she’d started her set. And rocketed forwards.


Spitfire gaped. “Soarin’? Is that supposed to be possible?”

“Nope.” Soarin’ managed. “She just tripled her speed in one wingbeat.”

“Oh, good. I did wonder…”


Time for something more impressive. Dash stopped abruptly, killing her entire relative velocity in one go and sending her slipstream rocketing upwards into the clouds around. Then, as she began to fall, the blue pegasus accelerated in earnest.

Again, she was focusing on pure skill. Holding her velocity down to the barest fraction below the speed of sound, a cloud formed around her – not the transient one from breaking the sound barrier, but one that just stayed and stayed.

It was likely only a few dozen pegasi in the audience would recognize what she was doing – controlling her speed to within a metre per second at the very edge of the sound barrier. But, as her personal weather magic signature interacted with the cloud, it produced a cone of rainbow light all around her.

Her expert eye gauged the progress of what she’d set in motion overhead. Nearly… nearly…

A wide, sweeping turn took her over a mile away from the stadium. Dropping speed and executing a wingover, she took aim.


“…wait…” Soarin’ pointed up. “Should the clouds be doing that?”

Spitfire followed his hoof. “Wh-no! Of course not!”

A minute ago, there’d been a scattering of light, fluffy clouds – just enough to make it interesting if the pegasi wanted to use them in their routines. But whatever was going on – was it this Rainbow Dash’s doing? – meant that they were coalescing, and turning an ominous black.

Actually, it looked like they were about to do a spontaneous lightning discharge.

“Everypony d-”

Two huge explosions merged into one, drowning out her voice.


Dash landed in total silence, the cloud she’d created blown away by the blast.

“And I call that the Lightning Cutter. Neat, huh?”

After about five seconds, it finally registered that she’d just used a sonic rainboom to block a lightning bolt in mid air.

Then the applause started.


16.4


Twilight sent off the usual letter to Celestia, warning her about the imminent return of Nightmare Moon.

After a minute or so, she got the reply back – just the same as normal. But the top, as Spike read it out, said:

Dear Spike,

Please hand this to Twilight without unfolding it. I’m afraid there’s something private I’d like to discuss with her.

“Huh,” Spike said, stopping there. “Wonder what she wants. Secret mission?”

Twilight shrugged, already guessing what the subject was.

Dear Twilight Sparkle,

As you may have guessed, I’m Awake again. And, sorry to say, I’m feeling a little bit tired. What do you say, should we work out some kind of gigantic prank on Equestria as a whole?

“She wants to see me,” Twilight interpreted to Spike. “I’d better head over there.”


“Right,” Twilight muttered, poring over the notes they’d been making. “So… it looks like the most likely option is number three.”

Celestia giggled. “Oh, I wish I could see the look on my sister’s face…”

“I’ll make sure to record it,” Twilight promised.


“Well, basically…” Twilight said to a crowd which included the mayor, two of the other Element bearers and a fair fraction of the town, “The reason the Summer Sun is being held here is because it is closest to the old royal seat, in the Everfree. This has been scheduled for a full thousand years, though,” Twilight shook her head, “it looks like most of the paperwork got lost over the intervening time. Anyway, Princess Celestia is stepping down-”

There was a sudden hubbub of conversation.

“Excuse me? Thank you. As I was saying, Princess Celestia is stepping down in favour of her sister, Princess Luna. One of the Royal Sisters has to be in the heavens at all times to maintain the cycle of the years, and the other on Equestria to maintain the cycle of the days. Celestia’s time on Equestria is up, so she’s off to the sun.” Pure invention, but it sounded good. “And that means we need to give a good welcome to Princess Luna. After all, she’s been a little out of touch…”

“Right.” Mayor Mare gave a determined nod. “Let’s get to work, then!”


Nightmare Moon stepped out onto stage. “Oh, my beloved subjects-”

Then she blinked. Banners on the wall saying “goodbye Celestia”, “good luck” and “welcome back Luna”? What was going on?

Celestia trotted smartly up to her, so brazen that Nightmare found it difficult to react. “Welcome back, Luna. Your job now, I’m off to the sun.”

And then she vanished. Completely.

“…what?”

Then a unicorn came onto the stage. “Welcome back, your highness. Now, we do have a plan of work in place, so let’s start with one of the most important issues – you see, the construction of farming land was given a high priority under your sister’s stewardship, but water conservation and control was rather less rigorously applied. I think a good first place for a tour of inspection would be-”

“…what is going on?” Nightmare Moon managed.

“It’s the Precession, of course.” The unicorn smiled tolerantly, and started explaining in the tones of someone saying what everyone already knew. Just for the record, as it were.

It was all news to Nightmare Moon, but… well, it couldn’t be too bad if she was suddenly in charge.


“Why are there so many clouds?” Nightmare Moon asked, scowling into the sky. “Can the Pegasi not deal with them?”

“Not really, no,” Twilight said. “They’re kind of overwhelmed. I mean, sun lamps and hydroponics have worked to provide sufficient food for the population, but a large increase in cloud cover is inevitable when it’s constantly daytime over the largest ocean on the planet.” Twilight conjured a visual aid, spinning the blue-green orb to highlight the huge ocean opposite Equestria itself. “See? The area of daylight is causing mammoth amounts of evaporation.”

Nightmare sighed. “And would this problem be solved if We made sure it was no longer Eternal Night?”

“Pretty much.” Twilight shrugged. “It’s just climate science, really. And it’s a little hard to admire a night through a thick layer of clouds.”

“…fine, then.” Nightmare Moon’s horn glowed, and things got perceptibly lighter.

“It’ll probably take a few months for the climate to settle back down, I’m afraid…” Twilight said. “Still, the pegasi should earn their keep for the duration.”


Celestia spun in the air on her magically-reinforced tungsten-diamond surfboard, the photosphere of her star like a warm breeze against her coat. “I never knew this would actually work! Prominences are much more awesome than mere waves!”


16.5


“…and then we used the Elements on Sombra,” Twilight concluded.

Celestia blinked. “Didn’t I say not to take them? I know it was hard, Twilight, but I had to be certain you weren’t vulnerable to corruption… I won’t repeat my mistake with Luna.” The alicorn of the sun rubbed her temples. “I was keeping an eye on you, scant though that excuse sounds, and…”

Then she shrugged. “But it apparently doesn’t matter, if you used the Elements anyway. Why did you take them?”

“Oh, we didn’t take them,” Twilight said innocently. “We summoned them once we’d got there.” Putting action to words, Twilight summoned her Element of Magic to her forehead. “Neat, isn’t it?”

Celestia nodded. “It is, actually. But… oh, never mind. Apparently it is impossible to separate you from them then, so a lot of my worries are alleviated.”

Twilight passed over some papers. “Here – I’ve got Sombra assigned to an anonymous group, to help him recover.”

The elder ruler scanned what Twilight had given her. “Crystalholics anonymous?”


“Grar. I am Sombra, and I am obsessed with… crystals.”

“Hello, Sombra…” chorused four diamond dogs, three teenage dragons, a sea serpent, Pinkie Pie and Discord.

“Wait.” Sombra pointed at Pinkie. “Pink pony. How?”

Pinkie sniffed. “I like granulated sugar, okay?”


16.6 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Playing Catch-up


Apple Bloom's underground workshop was pretty much as Flim and Flam had seen it, though that was loops ago. She'd pretty much automated the process of setting it up, letting it run while she went off and did other things. The appeared near on alcove which had a whole lot of racks of herbs and plants, and tables full of brewing equipment. Though Diamond Tiara hardly noticed with all the other incredible things they could see.

“You built all… this?”

The farm-pony grinned. "My talent is inventing and making stuff, the more sophisticated the better. That's why I had so much trouble getting my mark in the base-line reality; most of the things I'm good with don't exist unless I invent them. And while I'm great at application, I don't have the spark of genius to make the original breakthroughs. Computer, give me a standard projection display and two bottles of apple juice, no ice.”

“Working.” A voice came from no-where. A vertical, translucent panel of light appeared in front of them, and a tray came flying over as if brought by unicorn telekinesis. However, it had four whirring ducted fans at the corners which were the probable cause.

“I've gotta wonder how many blank flanks just never had the opportunity to do whatever their talent was. I can trigger a making and fixing basic stuff cutie-mark now I understand it, but I'd probably never have found my true cutie-mark without the fused loops. Some of them have far higher base tech levels, and I learned everything I could from them."

She reached up and touched various pictures on the screen, and it flowed through a succession of cutie-marks, all involving apples and tools or brushes, one an apple cart with a hammer and spanner crossed underneath in the style of a skull and crossbones. It finally settled on her Zap Apple cutie mark, with the bite out of it exposing a golden tracery of circuits and runes.

“But we’re not here to talk about me. I figured you deserved to know just how awesome you can be. The first one I was thinking of was in a loop where Equestria was being attacked by aliens… I explained about fused loops, didn't I?" Applebloom checked. At the nod, she continued.

She pointed to the three versions of Maritech space fighter lined up, one in pega-form. She touched the screen at various points, and it showed a slide show of video clips from that loop, overflying the Marecross, a second cockpit view of a space battle, the three Crusaders, older and with two in uniforms. They were giving each other a three way high hoof.

“An alien battleship crashed on Equestria in the distant past, and the aliens had come to get it – and wipe out any inconvenient discoverers.” That said with a grimace. “However, the Princesses ordered that it be studied and put back together. It advanced Equestria’s technology, and we worked out how to replace some of the things we couldn’t duplicate with magic. “

"But that’s just background, I intended to show you what you can be when you aren't being a jerk… Though in that case you still were, pretty much, but it was for good reason – you know, being an awesome bitch like I said. You two couldn't pilot, but you tested high for Operations. We were in Red Squadron, me and Scootaloo flying a fighter, and you ended up as our squadron's Flight Co-ordinator. Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon were both bridge bunnies,” Applebloom paused, and explained the unfamiliar slang for Diamond, “support operators.”

"You were an evil minded sadist, a martinet, a drill sergeant who was such a hard ass we joked that was why you had a diamond on your flank… and you brought eleven out of twelve teams in the squadron out the other side. You have to understand, we were hopelessly outnumbered, and most other squadrons suffered better than one hundred percent losses. After we took that Zentran battleship and Scoots made squadron leader, we didn't lose a single pony."

She touched more symbols, and a scene appeared. The view from a camera looking down on part of a control room, with Diamond Tiara at a console, flanked by Silver Spoon and Sweetie Belle. “Got the bridge recording after the battle of Ares, it contained some particularly fine examples of Tiara-speak, and it was your birthday coming up…”

The uniformed Diamond Tiara started speaking. “Red Five, FC. If you hold your formation any looser, you’ll lose your grip completely, if you haven’t already! Tighten up your interval and bring Beta flight round to 16 mark 125, Red Gamma needs support!”

“FC, Five. On it like a bonnet!” Apple Bloom’s voice came back.

“FC, Red Eleven, I’m getting my cutie-mark shot off here!” The voice sounded on the edge of panic.

Diamond Tiara’s voice cut through it like a knife. “Get that Maritech scratched and it’s coming out of your pay! Use that planetoid at 206 12 as cover and pega-form to shoot them as those pods overfly. Beta’s coming to support you.”

FC, Eleven, thanks!” the un-named flyer had clearly calmed down.

The scene continued, Diamond Tiara’s pithy comments not interfering with the way she managed Red squadron like a virtuoso. It was interspersed with take from Mareitech on-board and remote satellite cameras and edited together with an exciting soundtrack. It had the feel of a big budget science-fiction blockbuster, and it served to show Diamond Tiara in the best light as she repeatedly manoeuvred the components of the squadron to evade and destroy the Zentradi pods and mobile suits.

When the clip ended, Apple Bloom said, “The entire squadron collaborated on making that, Sweetie Belle put together a custom soundtrack , and we showed it to you at your party. I think that was about the only time I’d ever seen you lost for words.

She grinned, “Though that certainly wasn’t the case after we captured that battleship. I didn’t have fotage for it, but I finally managed to build a memory reader neural interface a few loops ago. So, this one is direct from my memories.”

A new scene formed, Diamond Tiara was facing Apple Bloom's viewpoint, wearing a similar uniform to the one they'd seen earlier.

"You are a pair of idiotic, grandstanding, lunatics!" She yelled, then cracked a tight grin. "However, you are a pair of successful, idiotic grandstanding lunatics, which makes up for it a bit. What were you thinking? Scootaloo, I thought you were better than to get boxed like that."

"I was riding heard on the rest of the flight, give me a break!” Scootaloo looked put-upon, but still flushed with excitement. “Some of those rookies are awfully green. I stayed in the fight after one engine got blown out and our avionics harness got hammered, and we covered the rest of the flight until they got to safety. But by that time, that battleship had come up and it could have taken us with its point defence, let alone its main guns.”

“Huh, they could have hit us with a spit-ball at that range, and that doesn't count the dozens of escort vessels.” Apple Bloom added. “Even if I'd been able to get the engine back up, we'd still probably been nailed trying to escape.”

“I read your after action reports. You let a near miss appear to take you out, played dead, though they could have just finished you off anyway. You somehow managed to jury-rig enough computer control to go pega-form with a saddlebag computer, and when they took you on board, bam!” Film-Diamond seemed to realize that she was losing her image, and went back to being coolly detached.

“They'd never taken prisoners before, and running away was certain death. To be honest, neither Scoots or I figured what we were doing would be any different, but we reckoned we could take more of them with us.”

Diamond Tiara growled. “You do or die types give me an acute pain in the rump! You realise how much trouble I'm going to have try and get the rest of that space happy crew of reprobates in Red Squadron not to try and pull a similar stunt! You had the Princesses’ own luck that you somehow managed to take them off guard, and when you did get blasted, you ended up being blown into one of the machine spaces.”

Apple Bloom appeared to shrug. “We were working towards it. Zentran tech is either 'use until it stops working' or self-repairing. We figured no-pony would look for us in the machine spaces. Plus, they may be armoured and secured to Tartarus on the outside, but they've never needed internal computer security. Though even I didn't think I'd be able to crack them that easily. But the engineering forums are right, they don't innovate either. The same programs we used to interface with the Marecross's thousand year old original systems worked just as well for that one.”

Scootaloo chuckled. “Oh, man, it was fun to see the havoc when she faked a power core overload and triggered an abandon ship. And scrambling the IFF files so the main guns started seeing everything over the size of a shuttle as an enemy… It was beautiful!”

You could hear Apple Bloom’s appreciation in her voice. “Scootaloo gets props too. She got that hulk moving with the controls I jury-rigged from our Maritech and flew it pretty much blind all the way back.”

“If you keep patting yourselves on the back like that you'll hurt your fore-leg… or I will.” Diamond Tiara sniffed. “I guess I'd be just as mad either way. If you'd gotten your fool selves blown to atoms, it would have blotted my record. I guess having to ride herd on your fellow flying circus rejects to stop them from pulling something similarly insane is the lesser of two evils.”

Apple Bloom chuckled. “We love you too DT!”

There was another growl. “Gahhh! Don't call me DT, it's Flight Controller or ma'am! Well, despite the fact that you both look and smell as if you've spent a week on the waste reclamation level, you are in very good odour with the top brass. There was mention of medals, but we'll have to see exactly what comes of that, if anything.”

She gave an evil grin, her composure restored. “However, I can tell you that they're detaching a prize crew to send that hulk you captured back to Equestria for refitting, and your good friend Rainbow Dash is getting bumped to Wing Commander and is in charge of the oversize squadron they're sending with it for fighter cover. That means the squadron leader slot of Rainbow Squadron is up for grabs…”

Scootaloo was practically hovering in mid-air in excitement as she continued. “…and will go to Lightning Dust. But it means that Squadron Leader Soarin is going to move into Rainbow, and that means you are the new biggest noise in Red Squadron, Squadron Leader Scootaloo and Senior Flight Engineer Apple Bloom. And may the Princess have mercy on our souls.”

She sighed over-theatrically at the pegasus, who had a grin that would probably take surgical intervention to remove. “What did I do to deserve this? A poor innocent pony like myself, saddled with two of the biggest ding dongs in the whole of the MDF.”

“I dunno. Just lucky, I guess.” Scootaloo grinned.

The scene ended with Apple Bloom sporting a distant look and a big grin. “You'd have sooner walked the length of the Marecross's main deck without an pressure harness, but you did care for us, all of us, and we would have flown straight into Tartarus at your instruction because we knew you'd never ask us to do anything if it wasn't in the best way to protect every-pony.”


16.7 (Stainless Steel Fox)


(Alert: the previous part of Turning the Tables – located in chapter eight – has been edited somewhat, to better show what Celestia’s intentions as opposed to her results were.)


Turning Tables (Continued)


If Twilight had been privy to her mentor's thoughts she'd have probably thrown in the towel right then, considering her mission accomplished. In fact, she'd have probably felt a bit guilty at the way Celestia had worried about her. She might disagree with how her mentor had handled the Nightmare Moon situation in the base-line loop, but that didn't mean she didn't care for her deeply.

As she stepped up to the ticket booth at Canterlot station, she reflected on the irony of what she was about to do. Celestia's horn-off approach would actually work for this version of Twilight, who was certain she could solve the Nightmare Moon crisis without any assistance from the Princess. In fact, she was looking forward to the challenge of rekindling her old friendships without the framing device of being the overseer for the Midsummer Sun Festival, and doing it while staying under Princess Celestia's radar.

“Single to Manehatten, please.” She horned over the bits to the counter-pony, schooling her expression to be slightly sad. This was another false trail she was laying. If her estimates were correct, Princess Celestia and her brother would assume a life-long Canterlot native such as herself, and one who'd spent a lot of time in libraries at that, to stay in Canterlot. Saying in her letter that she couldn't stay at her parent's house would imply that she was looking to stay somewhere else in Canterlot.

So the Princess's first response would probably to go through Canterlot with a fine tooth comb before checking the station or air-ship port. When they did, they'd discover she'd gotten a ticket to the far end of the line, and start looking for her there, rather than Ponyville. To further muddy the waters, she had no intention of letting any-pony see her get off there. Teleportation from a moving vehicle wasn't easy, but it was possible if you had as much experience as Twilight did.

Eager to be about it, she left the carriage and got out of sight of any-pony inside as soon as they were well clear of the station. First some changes, her horn glowed as she wrapped an illusion around herself that would take an alicorn to pierce. Her coat became a washed out blue, her mane white and tied back in a bun, and her cutie-mark, an open book with a red bookmark in it. Her saddlebags changed too, actually being changed into a simpler, less expensive design, and a pair of manifested pince-nez glasses completed the disguise.

Her horn glowed again and she and flashed away and reappeared a few hooves in the air on the outskirts of Ponyville, near the road from Canterlot. A double check to see she hadn't kept any of the trains’ velocity, and that she'd not been seen, and her horn flared and lowered her to the ground. Walking into town she headed straight for the mayor's office.


“These credentials are very impressive, Miss Codex.” The mayor examined the paperwork in front of her. “With these you could certainly get a job in any library or archive in one of the big cities. May I ask why you chose to come to Ponyville?”

Twilight, now Codex, knew the question was just for form's sake. The old librarian, Flower Dew, had been offered a job in the Royal Canterlot Archives, which not only paid better but had put her far closer to her grand-children in Canterlot. Twilight suspected Princess Celestia's horn in that. As a result, the Mayor had been keeping Golden Oaks open ad hoc, whenever she could find a pony with a few hours to spare.

Since none of them were trained in Library Science, the books were in a terrible mix up, put back wherever the pony in charge thought they should go. It was one of the reasons Twilight had found it so hard to find the reference guide. It should not have been in the popular fiction section, under E. The upshot was that the mayor was ready to hire just about any-pony, or a griffon or Diamond Dog for that matter, if they could show they could do the job.

She showed none of these thoughts and instead gave a sigh. “Big cities, and all the things that come with them, are exactly what I'm trying to get away from. I have personal reasons for wanting to find somewhere quiet to think things over and put my life back…”

She stopped herself as if she'd said more than she intended. “Can we leave it at that? I'd rather not talk about it. I can do the job, if you want me too.”

The mayor was a softy at heart, Twilight had worked with her long enough to know how she'd react. She felt a bit guilty at taking advantage of the other mare's good nature, but she could do the job, and although her references were faked, they were actually less impressive than her real ones. The mayor would eventually send off to the archives and to get statements from her referees and find out the deception, but that wouldn't be until after the Summer Sun celebration, which was all the time Twilight needed.

“I'm sure we can use you on a trial basis. Some-pony from Canterlot is coming to oversee the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration, and the Princess has requested she stay at Golden Oaks, but if you don't mind giving up your room for the night…”

Twilight smiled. “I'm sure I can sleep on a cot for one night. I'll wait until after the Midsummer Sun Celebration to get unpacked. In the mean time, if she's interested in books, I should be there to help her find what she needs.”

“Excellent!” The mayor smiled back at her. “That kind of attitude is exactly what we need!”


Twilight spent a couple of happy hours re-shelving and cataloguing the misfiled books and getting the place spick and span. When you knew the vast number of household charms she did, and had lived in the place for centuries, you knew exactly what needed doing. Then her stomach rumbled, indicating that teatime was fast approaching.

She decided to head for Sugarcube Corner over Sweet Apple Acres, as she'd be able to get in groceries in town as well as some delicious cakes for tea. She knew that Pinkie would have been working at the counter when she first arrived, which explained the lack of an encounter, but she wasn't sure if she still would be by now.

“Hello, welcome to Sugar Cube – Wow! I've never seen you before!”

Twilight smiled at the hyperactive pink pony behind the counter. “That's probably because I just got into town today.”

“That would be why! Gosh you're smart! I'm Pinkie Pie!”

“And I'm hungry. But my name's Codex. I'm the new town librarian.” Twilight was basking in the banter. If there was ever a pony to lift your spirits it was Pinkie Pie.

“Ohhh! Codex the Librarian? Do you slay mighty Thesauruses with a single strike of your due-date stamp?” Pinkie's manner made it clear she wasn't mocking, just being her usual random self.

Twilight rubbed the back of her head with a hoof, playing along. “Well I have dealt with some fairly nasty Grimoires, even a few Incunabula. But my mind is sharp, my indexing skills intact, my heart is pure. And my knowledge of the Pony-decimal indexing system is encyclopaedic. Is this your shop? I mean with a name like Pie…”

“Oh no silly,” the pink pony giggled, “Just because I'm called Pinkie Pie, doesn't mean I own a bakery. No, the Cakes own Sugar Cube Corner, I just live here. So now we know each other, we're friends. Welcome to Ponyville, my newest best friend Codex.”

At that, Twilight let her expression grow more wistful. Time to play her in-loop role. “Friends? Just like that? I shouldn't… but I guess it doesn't matter any more.”

She gave a deep sigh. “I'd like that. I had to leave my friends behind when I left.”

“Aww! It's okay, you can make new friends here! I can help, I know every pony in Ponyville, and all the cows and donkeys and mules and everyone else. It'll be easy, I mean, I'm your friend, and we've only just met…” the pink pony's brow furrowed in thought, “… though it seems like I've known you for a long time.”

That had Twilight confused. Was Pinkie's Pinkie sense, or one of the other reality bending talents that she regularly displayed letting her sense the loops? She covered it with a grin. “Well I'm glad to meet you, Pinkie Pie. Could I have half a dozen of your pineapple perfect muffins please?”

Pinkie's eyes widened. “Golly, you're even smarter than I thought! I only just invented them today! I hadn't even put them out for ponies to try yet.”

She hoofed over a half dozen delightful looking muffins as Twilight mentally kicked herself. “Uh… Mysterious Librarian Powers. You have to be able to sense hidden cake to stop people leaving crumbs or icing on the pages when they're browsing.”

Pinkie gave her a long stare, then exclaimed. “Okie Dokie Lokie! Since you're new in town, have them on the house, or rather the shop.”

“I'll need a long ladder then. Sorry, I mean that's very generous.”

Fortunately Pinkie liked the joke and chuckled. “You're a lot more fun than our last librarian.”

“Um… I read a lot of joke books? Speaking of books, I've still got a ton of work to do getting the library sorted out before I go to bed.”

Twilight went away with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Admittedly making friends with Pinkie was hardly a great feat, but to be honest, this was a far better first meeting than her original one. She was considering how to set up similar meetings with her other friends, and didn't notice when someone came around a corner.

She and a white coated unicorn ended up sprawled on the ground, but her telekinesis grabbed her bags of groceries, her muffins, and the bundle Rarity had been carrying before they hit the ground. Okay, maybe there was some force drawing her to the other elements. She reacted pretty much as she would have anyway.

“Oh my gosh! I'm sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going!” Twilight sprung to her hooves and offered a hoof up. Her bun was undone and white mane hair was straggling out.

“No harm done, I should have been more careful myself.” The unicorn used the proffered hoof to help herself up and dusted herself off with deft flicks of telekinesis. “Thank you for saving my new design. If it had ended up in the dirt, it would have been ruined. And I made is especially for the Summer Sun Celebration.”

“Glad I could help.” Twilight had always wondered why Rarity had shown up to the Celebration without a dress, maybe in the base line she'd run into some-pony else with slower reflexes.

“Oh, my dear, aren't you straining to carry all that?”

Twilight realised that she was still holding up the various items, a tricky load for most unicorns, without showing visible effort. She moved her groceries back into her saddlebags, the box of muffins back onto her saddle, and proffered the dress to Rarity. “It's alright, I'm a librarian, I've had a lot of practice. Books are heavy.”

“Oh? What's a librarian doing in Ponyville?” The white unicorn laid the bundle gently across her own saddle.

“Running a library… I hope.” Twilight quipped. “I'm taking over Golden Oaks, I just got into town today. I'm Codex, by the way.”

“My goodness, where are my manners? I am Rarity, fashonista and proprietor of Carousel Boutique.“

“Pleased to meet you.” Twilight held out a hoof, which still had dirt on it. “Oh… sorry!”

“Oh, come my dear, we must get you cleaned up after your little mishap…” Rarity turned around and started leading her towards the boutique. Despite the fact that this was perfect, Twilight felt she had to play her role.

She shook her head and hung back. “Please, you don't need to…”

“Nonsense, it's the least I can do for saving my dress.” Rarity's tone brooked no argument, so Twilight reluctantly allowed herself to be led exactly where she wanted to go. As she expected, the quick clean-up turned into an impromptu dressing up session, as Rarity politely interrogated her. “So, darling, where exactly did you come from?”

Twilight had considered this, and decided it couldn't hurt to stick to the truth. Besides she knew how Rarity would react. “Sugar Cube Corner, but if you're asking where I lived before I came to Ponyville… Canterlot.”

Canterlot?! Oh, I am so envious! The glamour, the sophistication! I have always dreamed of living there! I can't wait to hear all about it! We are gonna be the best of friends, you and I… Rubies ?! What was I thinking? Let me get you some sapphires!”

Twilight wanted to see how this would have played out if she hadn't run away. “Wait! I'm sorry, but I'm not some fashionable society mare. I spend all my time in libraries, reading about stuff other ponies have done. I never really went out and did anything myself. This is the first time I've ever left Canterlot.”

It was completely true for her in-loop self. She hung her head. “I'd like to be friends, but I'm sorry if I'm not what you hoped for…”

However, Rarity came through with flying colours as she'd expected. “Oh don't be silly my dear, you coming from Canterlot is merely the icing on the cake, so to speak. I'm sure we'll still be great friends. I love a good romance, or a mystery. Or even the occasional adventure novel.”

Twilight didn't have to fake the big smile that brought to her face. “Do you like Daring Doo?”

She knew the answer to that; Rainbow Dash wasn't the only pony to be taken with the exploits of the pegasus professor of ponylithic puzzles. However, she wasn't that vocal about it. Rarity blushed. “I have to admit, I've read a tale or two. Not the most refined of ponies, but who can not love the way she finds lost treasures and beautiful magical gems.”

“Now wait a second, what about the scene in The Griffon's Goblet where she has to get into the Griffon Ambassador's party to get a rubbing of the map on the ancient shield?” Twilight replied, showing her credentials as a Daring reader quite handily. “She may not be an elegant society pony normally, but she can pull it off when she has to…”

Twilight headed back to the library as night came and the moon rose. The discussion had carried on for long enough that Rarity had insisted on making dinner for them both. Twilight, or rather Codex had offered the muffins as dessert. They'd chatted about Daring Doo and other stories Rarity liked, and Twilight had even kicked in some gossip from Canterlot, the sort of things any-pony might know. Once again she'd hinted that something bad had happened to her while avoiding talking about it directly.

As with Pinkie this new first meeting with Rarity had been a lot more successful then the original one, and the burgeoning friendship far more solidly based. She took a deep breath of the fragrant night air and looked up at the mare shadow on the surface of the moon. She might not be doing it the usual way, but by Celestia, Twilight was still going to defeat the Nightmare and free Luna, one way or another. She wondered how her mentor was doing. Hopefully she wasn't taking the derailment of her plans too hard.


“Your highness!” Shining Armour came galloping up to the Princess's chambers at an unseemly rate, only to find the Princess Celestia poring over a stack of papers and ancient tomes, and looking decidedly frazzled. “I have news of my sister!”

“You've found her?” Shining was shocked at the naked relief in Celestia's voice.

“I'm afraid not. But I do know why. She bought a one way ticket to Manehatten at the railway station early this afternoon. I'm sorry your highness, I never even considered that Twily might leave Canterlot, I mean she's lived here all her life…”

He stopped as Celestia waved a hoof at him. “It isn't your fault, neither did I. It seems my student continues to surprise me with her actions. I assume you've already sent pegasi out after the train?”

“The fastest in the Royal Guard, a flying chariot and escort. Unfortunately, they may not reach the train until it reaches Manehatten. I impressed on them the need for speed, but if Twily is trying to lose herself, then there would be no better place than Manehatten to do it.”

“Assemble a second team, Captain… Shining Armour. I will personally flash them there.”

That knocked Twilight's brother back on his fetlocks. Princess Celestia's flash teleport ability was often talked about, but she almost never actually used it, much less carried others with her. With it, she could travel the length of Equestria in seconds.

“Yes your highness, at once…” he hesitated. “Forgive me, bit why is it so important that we find her right away? I'm sure we can track her down in a few days, even in Manehatten. For that matter, I'm sure she'll eventually contact our parents or myself once she's settled down. I know how she gets sometimes, but she'll calm down.”

Princess Celestia sighed, and reached a decision. Time to make good on her vow to be more open about what was going on. Telling her brother would serve as practice for when she found Twilight.

“I'm afraid we do not have time.” The princess indicated one of the cushions in the room. “I have to tell you a story of something that happened long ago, and the part Twilight was… is to play in righting it. Once upon a time, in this land of Equestria, there were two regal sisters who ruled together, and created harmony for all the land…”

She explained the history of herself and her sister, throwing in some elements that she hadn't been sure of when she wrote the original legend. Centuries of research showed that there had been something more than just her sister making up Nightmare Moon, a darker essence that had twisted her sister from simply disgruntled into world ending monster.

Then came the hard bit, explaining about the Elements of Harmony, and how his sister and five other as yet unknown ponies were apart of them. She even discussed her original reasoning as to why she'd handled things the way she had, and how she'd later realised her mistakes. By the end of it Philomena had flown over and was sitting on her shoulder, nestling into her mane, and crooning softly.

At the end, Shining Armour sat very quietly. It wasn't every day that you heard the confessions of a goddess. “You've given me a lot to think about…”

Celestia shook her head, getting a startled squawk from Philomena. "I wouldn't have asked of you or any of your troops what I've expected of Twilight, not without their full and informed consent at least. I'm… sorry, truly sorry, can you believe that at all times I wanted what was best for Twilight, that the last thing I wanted was for her to get hurt…"

She stopped herself. “Only the full power of the Elements can free my sister from that Nightmare, and only Twilight can properly reawaken the Elements and use their full power. I was so focussed on preparing her for that, that I forgot that there were other important things she needed to learn. I was at least as close to Luna as you are to Twilight, wouldn't you do anything to free your sister in a similar situation?” By the end she was all but pleading in tone.

“I… you don't have to justify yourself to me, your highness,” Shining said quietly. “I am sworn to your service, to give my life to protect you if need be, and I know Twilight is at least as devoted to you.”

Celestia gave a rueful smile. “That actually makes me feel worse. It only confirms that if I had started out being open with Twilight about what I needed her to do, she would have instantly volunteered. Hopefully I will still have time to do that, but if I don't, I need you to be at the Summer Sun Celebration.”

“Of course, I will protect you…”

“NO!” Celestia was edging on using her Royal Canterlot voice, and Shining Armour's mane was blown backwards from the force of it. “Whatever you do, do not interfere! Empowered by the conjunction, my sister will be too powerful for me to defeat. Your defensive spells are without peer, but defence will not win this battle and free my sister. She has to capture me, so I can force her to divert most of her power into restraining me, and trapping me in the sun. That will give Twilight the chance to collect the Elements from the Palace and activate them."

"But Princess, won't that hurt you?"

“Consider it the contribution of a foolish old mare to the task of defeating Nightmare Moon and freeing my sister. The bearers of the Elements are in Ponyville, and it's my hope that wherever Twilight is, when she learns what has transpired she will come to find out for herself. You must pass on this knowledge in my stead. If there is any-pony in Equestria that Twilight will trust, it is you. Tell her everything, tell her I do believe in her, that she can do this, tell her…. I'm sorry.”

“I will… I will prepare a recovery team at once.”

Shining Armour bowed his head, and rose up from his cushion to take his leave, leaving the immortal alicorn princess alone with her thoughts, and her regrets.

“Princess Celestia?” The voice was Perriwig, her seneschal. “I apologise for disturbing you at this late hour, but there is the matter of a replacement overseer for the Summer Sun Celebrations. Who do I send in Twilight Sparkle's stead?”

The Princess sighed, the appointment was unimportant now that she couldn't use it to send Twilight Sparkle to Ponyville. However, she still had to find some-pony, or rather make sure some-pony was found. “Use your best judgement. I trust you will find some-pony suitable.”

“As you command, your highness.” he bowed and retreated. As he did he considered the choices. It should be some-pony of sufficient importance that the inhabitants of Ponyville wouldn't feel slighted. He'd thought Twilight Sparkle a poor choice anyway, while she might be close to Celestia and a good organiser she had little official standing…

Of course, he had the perfect candidate. He'd overseen the Celebration last year in Canterlot, and was a suitably important pony for the purpose. With a sense of purpose, he headed off to organise things. Whatever distress the Princess might be feeling over Twilight Sparkle's disappearance, at least this was one thing she wouldn't need to worry about. The Summer Sun Celebrations in Ponyville would go off without a hitch.


16.8


“Huh. Human again.” Twilight scanned through her memories. Nothing particular, just that she’d recently moved house.

That made her feel uncomfortable. Loops almost always had something going on. And when the other (horse)shoe didn’t drop for a while, that usually meant it was something big.

Twilight would never forget the time Pinkie Pie materialized in front of her, warp goddess of the Eldar Empire.

“Wait…” A horrible suspicion dawned on her. Something Spike had teased her about for weeks.

She reached into her subspace pocket and pulled out a PADD, scrolling through the gathered fiction of the Hub Loop to find what she was after.

“Yep. Thought so.”

Twilight put the PADD down next to her and sighed. “I’m replacing Bella Swan. Oh, I wish I had TMS Harmony with me…” Right now, the dreadnought class ship would be a great equalizer. Sadly, it was a little big for her to easily fit in her subspace pocket – even now, let alone when she’d been in that Loop.

After a bit of feeling sorry for herself, she got a determined expression and stood back up. “Right. Where did I put that wand…”


There was nothing quite so satisfying as letting a Loop sort itself out. Well, almost sort itself out.

“Right. And what happened next?” the assistant chief asked, flipping onto the third page of his notes.

“Well – I don’t know if he actually did,” Twilight said, shuddering, “but he told me that he was sneaking into my room and watching me sleep.”

“Right…”

“And that’s when I asked dad to handle it. I mean, he’d been worried before, but I thought it was just… nerves, you know? And he hadn’t done anything really creepy until then, but looking back…” The girl shrugged helplessly.

“Thank you for your time, miss Sparkle.” The police officer closed his notebook. “I’m afraid this might go to court, but we’ll try to keep the disruption in your life minimal.”

“I appreciate it,” Twilight said. “I’d just like everything to go back to normal, really.”

That, at least, was true. A chance for several uninterrupted years of schooling in a nuclear-tech level world? Excellent!


“But you can’t arrest me!” Edward Cullen shouted. “My father will sort this out! He’s done it before!”

“He has, has he?” Charlie Sparkle said, frowning. “And I thought he was such a nice man.”

Edward thrashed at the handcuffs, which unaccountably failed to break.


Twilight grinned inside. There were no better targets for Mordenkainen’s Disjunction than the Cullens, in her opinion.

And now the justice system could handle them quite nicely.

“Right, where did I put that physics textbook…”


16.9


“You know what,” Dash said suddenly, “buck it. Gilda, you take my slot.”

The griffin blinked. “Dash… this… what? I mean, what?

“Seems fairly simple, Gilda.” Dash grinned. “You take my slot in the Best Young Fliers. You deserve a chance.”

“But…” Gilda’s beak opened and closed. She was at a loss for words for almost ten seconds, until she finally came up with something to say. “Dash… don’t do this! I mean, you’ve wanted to do well at the Best Young Fliers for years!”

“So have you, you told me as much training last week.” Dash shrugged. Then she caught Gilda’s eye, and winked. “Besides, I think I’m easily awesome enough to get the attention of the Wonderbolts anyway. It isn’t as if a broken down old hen like you is going to have a chance!”

Gilda’s eyes widened, and her ruff rose. “Did you just call me a broken down old hen?”

“Well…” Dash drew out the word, now looking sly. “You could always prove me wrong.”

The griffin seethed. “You bet I will, Dash! You’ll eat those words!” Suddenly, she laughed. “Well, I’m good and motivated now! I didn’t think you ponies could be that devious!”

Dash gave her a fierce grin. “Hey, we haven’t been invaded in decades. Why do you think?” Dash gestured skywards. “Make me proud, Gils.”

Gilda shot into the air.


“Huh…” Dash said, squinting up. “Don’t remember seeing any pegasus use the clouds like that.”

Twilight nodded. Gilda was darting from cloud to cloud such that only a few ponies were able to properly follow her movement. To the rest of them, it looked like she was entering one cloud and then appearing from a completely different one seconds later.

She was definitely getting the full benefit from joining Dash’s exhausting training regimen over the last few months, that was for sure.

Then the griffin started simply gliding. Most pegasi made use of thermals, but Gilda was clearly a master of the art – even spinning her own thermals with minute movements of her wings that resonated in the air.

“Hey, I think she’s impressed Spitfire,” Twilight suddenly said, pointing with a nod of her head. “Think they’ll have to redesign the Wonderbolt outfit?”

Gilda had entered a dive while they weren’t watching. Now she stooped on the main stage at well over half the speed of sound, flaring her wings to cancel her momentum perfectly on the floor itself.

Her landing was light as a feather.

“Interesting,” Twilight said as they applauded. “I like the combination of poise and grace, there…”

I’m wondering if I should get her to try for the Rainboom,” Dash replied. “She was getting pretty fast there.”

“Could be interesting. Let me know if you need help with that,” Twilight said contemplatively. “I know a fair amount about pegasus magic theory, though you’re second to none at the practical side.”


16.10


Luna stumbled.

She was… Luna, again. Why? What had caused the burning rage, which had enveloped her for the last thousand years, to so abruptly dissipate?

Accepting there wouldn’t be a quick answer, the Princess of the Night prepared to dream-walk – nothing major, just to observe. If she was to return, it had best be with a full understanding of how culture had developed.


Twilight grinned. “Nice to see you, Nyxie.”

“Thanks, momma!” Nyx returned the grin. “Hey, I came up with a great idea for a joke to play on Celestia!”

The unicorn listened carefully, occasionally offering corrections or asking questions.


Dear Princess Celestia,

I have come across a young filly who I think would be an excellent applicant to your academy. While I understand that normally those wishing to attend are sponsored by their parents, in this case I feel that I must strongly recommend her attendance on my own authority – such as it is and what there is of it, of course.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle.


Twilight looked up as Spike burped up a scroll. “Is that the reply?”

“Yeah…” Spike skimmed through it. “Basically, yes. She’s scheduled an exam for this afternoon.”

“Yay!” Nyx said, bouncing around. “Thank you, Twilight!”

“You deserve it,” Twilight said, smiling down at the overexcited filly. It was true enough – while Nyx didn’t have access to quite the power of an adult alicorn, she still had a lot of magic at her disposal. And since she’d once turned Fluttershy into a tree…

And, just to make a point of sorts, Twilight had given her a cosmic spectrum crystal pendant to wear. It looked good on her, too…


“Alright,” Celestia said, entering the examination room. Since there was no need to bring parents along and since classes were in session, the room was nearly empty – she’d decided to attend personally, because that way she could also see how Twilight was doing.

Then she blinked. “…what?”

“Hi!” the alicorn filly said, running over. “Are you Princess Celestia? Oh, sorry, that’s a stupid question, of course you are! My name’s Nyx!”

“Twilight,” Celestia asked, “…where did you say you found her?”

“I didn’t, actually…” Twilight shrugged. “What’s the first part of the test?”

Now seriously wrong-hoofed, Celestia answered without thinking about it. “Conjuration.”

“Okay,” Nyx said, concentrating. Her horn glowed, and her wings half-spread with the effort…

And, with a cloud of smoke, Princess Luna fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs.

“…oops,” Nyx blushed. “Who’s she? I think I messed up…”

Celestia’s eyes darted from Nyx, to her Cosmic Spectrum pendant, then to her sister. “…pass, full marks.”

Twilight grinned. She knew what Celestia would be guessing thanks to the presence of the pendant – Nyx had somehow ascended beforehand by way of her pendant, clearly wasn’t evil because the stone would show up the presence of evil, and therefore this was an accident. “Hear that, Nyx?”

“Yay!”


Loops 17

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17.1

Rarity passed Spike another gemstone. “Can you round this one off?”

“Sure.” Spike carefully whetted the ruby with his claws, slicing off the cornered edges and following that up by rolling it around in his paws. “There you go; that should be fine.”

She plucked it from his hands without looking, and slotted it carefully into a recess in the outfit she was designing. “Right, that should do…” Needle and thread worked, sealing over the recess so that the gem was concealed beneath a thin layer of silk.

“So, what are you going for?” Spike asked, drilling a hole through a sapphire with his claw.

“Well,” Rarity said, “I’m trying to make something to work as Applejack’s semi-permanent coronation dress. Something for her to default to, if you see what I mean.” She caught sight of the blue stone, and winced. “Oh, dear, did I give you a sapphire? Oops – that should have been an emerald, since I’m trying to stick to apple-related colours.”

Spike nodded. “Right – I’ll try to remember that myself. Can I…?”

“Go ahead.”

The dragon popped said sapphire into his mouth, shattering it with his teeth and swallowing. “Delicious. So, why are the gems not so apparent?”

“Well, you know Applejack…” Rarity moved her work light over the outfit. “The gems aren’t immediately visible, but they still colour the silk over them. It’s to represent how her country-girl nature is still her foundation – as the silk is foundation to the dress – but it conceals refinement within.”

“Ah, I see.” Spike frowned. “Wouldn’t cotton work better? I mean, it is a plant, and silk thread is animal based and usually associated with wealth itself…”

“…drat.” Rarity rolled her eyes, and the dress flew apart in a burst of telekinesis. Cotton snaked in and started to reassemble the base frame. “Well spotted… I can’t believe I missed that.”

Spike started in alarm. “Won’t that wreck all the work you’ve done so far?”

“Not really, no…” the unicorn assured him, still focusing on her work. “A lot of what I do is… building the image in my mind as I build the dress itself. Since I’ve already got a fair way into the process, I can just reconstruct what I’ve already done.”

Her horn glow died down. “There. See?”

Spike nodded. “Very impressive. Oh – what did you want next?”

“Peridot, please,” Rarity said, frowning at the area of the spine. “And then some topaz.”

“…there are yellow apples?”

“I admit,” Rarity shrugged, “Applejack doesn’t seem to grow many. But they do exist – from a different part of her family, but it’s there. Now, how do I handle the wings…”


“There we go,” Rarity said eventually, “I think it looks fairly good.”

Spike evaluated the dress. It looked fairly simple, mostly white, but with more than enough trimmings in orange to keep it from being considered a bridal dress. But when the light hit it, it shimmered green-red-orange-yellow. In fact, the way the colours of the smaller gems moderated the larger ones, it had the rough complexion of an apple as well.

The wings were properly accommodated for, as well – an ingenious fold in the fabric on each side concealed holes, and when extended the wings would be able to beat without stretching the dress too much.

On the other hand, there were so many gemstones in it that it could probably deflect crossbow bolts, entirely separate from the enchantments woven into it. That made flying a chancy prospect for anyone who wasn’t either an alicorn or Rainbow Dash.

“Interesting, certainly…” he said diplomatically. “I’m just afraid that AJ might consider it too frou-frou for her.”

“You aren’t suggesting that my dresses are too frou-frou, are you Spike?” Rarity asked, with a pleading note in her town that was almost entirely feigned.

“No, no,” Spike assured her. “A hypothetical Applejack is suggesting that.”

“Well, so long as it’s only a hypothetical one, then I’ll endure it quite well,” Rarity said tartly. “I might test her reaction to a lesser version of this – one without the wing holes – though I’ll probably need your help for that one as well.”

“No problem,” Spike said. “Same time next week?”

“Alright, then,” Rarity replied. “It’s a- time.”

Neither of them commented on what she’d nearly said.


“So, how’d it go?” Twilight asked.

“Alright,” Spike said, shrugging. “I helped her make a dress – very gemstone heavy. Learned quite a lot about how gemstones hold enchantments, too, which was interesting.” Then he grinned. “And I don’t think I’ll need dinner tonight, either – shaved crystals.”

Twilight nodded. “I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.”

“What are you working on, by the way?” Spike asked, looking at her paperwork.

“Oh,” Twilight shifted the papers. “I’m trying to arrange a clerical error that has Discord’s statue shipped to the Griffins.”

“Huh.” Spike paused. “Why?”

“Why not?” Twilight replied. “I mean, we’ll be on call in case it turns out to be less funny and more tragic. But I’m partly wondering if he even can discordify a griffin – does he just rely on the magic of cutie marks?”

“Fair enough.”


17.2

“Twilight!” Trixie said, trotting over. “I have a perfect plan for Nightmare Night!”

“Oh?” Twilight asked, looking over Trixie’s costume.

The younger looper was, in fact, dressed as Maleficent – hopefully just a fashion choice… but after a moment Twilight mentally shrugged. After all, she’d worn practically every Nightmare Night costume she could think of.

For that matter, she was just going to ascend for her costume this time.

“Observe!” Trixie said, lifting something from the nearest rooftop and bringing it down for investigation. “A simple firework.”

“Yes…” Twilight said, warily.

“It is completely safe, having only enough fuel to fly for half a second, and burns up completely upon exploding – the actual pyrotechnics come from a small bound spell which produces only light,” Trixie continued, indicating components of the rocket.

“Right.” Twilight nodded. “Looks nice and safe. Entirely subdued. How many did you set?

Trixie pondered. “Not sure. I lost count somewhere around twelve thousand.”

“Celestia’s star, Trixie!” Twilight said, then lowered her voice at the looks of ponies around them. “Sorry. But with that many-”

“At least twice that many. I lost count many times.”

“With a minimum of twenty-four thousand fireworks, it doesn’t matter how small they are, it’s going to look like the whole town’s exploding.” Twilight threw up her hooves. “Right, I suppose it’s too late to take them down again. But be careful!”


Luna circled Ponyville, preparing for her return to partake of the festivities in this Nightmare Night.

Something about her dark side? She wasn’t sure of the details. About all she’d been able to get out of Celestia was that costumes were worn.

Then there was a huge bang, followed by a hissing shriek that went on and on. Her guards nearly flubbed their wingbeats as Ponyville was enveloped in fire and smoke.

Red and orange and yellow sparks fountained out of the top of a smoke-shrouded cone shape as she looked on, astonished. There were periodic explosions, sending the smoke rippling away, and then a huge shape of winged fire shot skywards. Extending feathered wings with a craaaack, it turned – revealing itself to be a huge phoenix – and ascended into the heavens.


“Don’t you think you overdid it!?” Twilight shouted, hooves and wings over her head.

Trixie adjusted her hat as firework launch sticks rained down. “Not really. All Trixie did was give Ponyville itself a Nightmare Night costume – as the site of the birth of a phoenix!”

“…phoenixes don’t do that,” Twilight deadpanned. “Seriously, when they hatch they just hatch. They’re birds, not volcanoes.”

“Oh.” Trixie shrugged. “Better than nothing.”

Luna’s chariot half-crashed into the library. The princess and her guards tumbled out, running for cover as Luna snapped off spells skywards.

“Princess!” Twilight called. “Over here!”

“WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!” Luna shouted. “SOME KIND OF GRIFFIN TRICK, WE THINK!”

Twilight shook her head in exasperation. This was going to be one hell of a letter to Celestia. (The salient point would probably be ‘please don’t invade the Griffin Lands’).


17.3

Celestia ran, the sick taste of failure in her mouth.

Her student – her beloved student – had fallen into corruption no less deep than Luna’s own, of a thousand years past. And all five of her friends had fallen the same way.

She was being chased through her own castle by six twisted alicorns, who blew walls and columns aside to follow her.

Then there was a blur of motion.

“Haha! Have at thee!” a familiar voice said, accompanied by a musical series of twangs.

Celestia turned to find Discord – Discord? – holding off dark-Applejack and dark-Fluttershy with a piano in one hand and a duck in the other.

“Celestia!” he said, shouting over his shoulder while making it rain tofu to slow the alicorns down. “Retreat! Get out of the castle, I’ll join you outside!”

Thoroughly confused, Celestia looked for a good escape route. The windows caught her eye, but dark-Rainbow Dash shot past them as she made for the closest.

Another Discord ran past her in the other direction, wielding a swordfish and a scroll marked ‘FiM script, S4E1’. “They’re this way as well!”

Her head swivelled. Yes, the first Discord was still where she’d last seen him, and the second one wasn’t something she’d imagined – he was dance-battling dark-Pinkie Pie.

“Hurry up!” Discord implored her. “You’re the only one who can use the Elements of Blarmony!”

Celestia frowned. “Elements of WHAT?”

Both Discords and all four visible alicorns sighed. Twilight and Rarity materialized next to Celestia, and all six of them went back to normal.

“Smooth move, Doofus,” Twilight said, hitting the left one on the head with a baguette the right one handily provided. “You couldn’t have come up with a better name?”

“I was under pressure, so sue me.” Discord crossed his arms and huffed. The other one put on a lawyer’s wig and began taking depositions from the six Element bearers.

“…what?” Celestia said helplessly.

"Sorry, Celestia,” Twilight apologized. “Next time we'll do much better."

"... What do you mean, next time?!"

Ignoring her mentor, Twilight turned to point at Discord and Pinkie. "This is the last time I let you two plan our pranks."

"Why's that Twilight?" Pinkie asked, tilting her head.

"Because you're really bad at it – too much improv. Seriously, next time Applejack and Fluttershy plan the prank, although you can of course offer suggestions."


17.4

“Okay,” Luna said, finishing her note. “Celestia’s Awake, as well… I checked.”

“How?” her double asked.

“We have a code. A flag she puts up if she’s Awake, so I can scry for it.” Darkness enveloped the note and it vanished. “Anyway, it’s sent.”

“Good.”

Both of them sniggered.


“Well, well, my beloved subjects,” Nightmare Moon began.

“Excuse me?” a cross voice said from offstage. Another Nightmare Moon walked onto the dais from the left side. “Your subjects?”

“They’re mine as well,” the first one said indignantly. “I think.”

“Oh, you think?” the left one said. “Well, I know.

“Doesn’t matter.” One Nightmare Moon stuck her tongue out at the other one. “‘cause it’s my Night.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Is too.”

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

The assembled ponies of Ponyville watched with utter confusion as the two Nightmare Moons argued like fillies.

“Is too, a hundred thousand times!”

“Is not, infinity times!”

The one who hadn’t just spoken paused, staring at her hooves. “Is too… infinity plus one times!”

“That’s just infinity times. I win.” Another stuck-out tongue.

“Why you…” The right-hand Nightmare Moon reared up, and slapped her counterpart on the cheek.

The other one touched the mark, and then slapped back.

“…what the buck?” Rainbow Dash whispered to Twilight. “Is that evil alicorn having a slap fight with herself?”

Twilight shrugged.

Suddenly, there was an explosion of light in the corner. “GIRLS!”

Both dark alicorns froze, blushing guiltily.

“Why are you arguing?” Celestia asked, stepping from the flare of her appearance.

“She started it,” the left one said quickly.

“Did not!”

“Girls!” Celestia sighed. “Fine, I don’t want to know. Just say sorry to one another.”

“…sorry,” the right hand one said grudgingly.

“Sorry to you too.”

“Right. All better?”

The two Nightmares nodded. “Yes, big sister.”

“Right. Now, go to your rooms. I’ll deal with you later.” As the two identical alicorns vanished in teleports, Celestia turned to the crowd. “Sorry, my younger sisters can be a little impetuous at times. Where were we?”


Laughter rang in the halls of Princess Luna’s room.

“That was hilarious!” Luna said, finally calming herself enough to speak.

The alicorn filly on the bed giggled. “Bet we confused everypony!”

Luna nodded. “Yep. You know, Nyx? I like your style.”


17.5 (QI based Loop)

Twilight shuffled her papers. “Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening! And welcome to QA, the show that’s all about things which are amazing. With me tonight are the Monarch of Mirth, Discord!”

The assembled audience applauded.

“The Sovereign of the Stars, Nightmare Moon!”

More applause.

“The Mistress of Mutability, Queen Chrysalis!”

A buzzing underlay this applause.

“And… the court jester, Prince Blueblood.”

Blueblood rolled his eyes. He didn’t know either why or how Twilight Sparkle had managed to get three major threats to Equestria onto her panel game, but Auntie had made him be the recurring guest.

“Right.” Twilight’s horn glowed, and an illusion appeared in the air – the city of Manehattan. “The first question is, why is Manehattan called the Big Apple?”

Blueblood pressed his buzzer, which produced a short burst of circus music. That made him seethe – and he’d bet a thousand bits the other three had some kind of royal march.

“Yes, Blueblood?” Twilight said.

“It’s from a series of race meetings,” he answered confidently.

Alarms went off, the words “race meetings” appearing in place of the skyline.

Twilight shook her head, as Blueblood triggered one of the “wrong answer” traps. She had to set them up ahead of time, so it was just bad luck – or credulousness – which meant he kept hitting them. “No, sorry, that’s not correct.”

Discord buzzed in with a brief snatch of The Duke of Plaza-torro. “It’s because the Apple clan were involved in settling it.”

“Is the right answer!” Twilight conjured more images.

Nightmare Moon spoke up. “Was that not when they were a family of nobility?”

“That’s right, points for that,” Twilight said. “Not many know that the Apples at one point had a patent of nobility. I understand that it more-or-less lapsed fifty years or so later when none of them really wanted it; though their seat in the parliament lost through the patent was quickly replaced by one won in election.”


17.6

“What do you want to do, Rarity?” Spike asked. “Next time, I mean.”

Rarity frowned. “…surprise me.”

“Really?” Spike blinked. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” The unicorn nodded emphatically. “This is supposed to be a two way street, but you’ve just been a little too accommodating… which is sweet of you, but it doesn’t give me much of an idea of what you like.”

“Fair point.” Spike scratched the back of his neck. “I’ll see what I can think of, then.”


“I don’t know,” Twilight said, shaking her head. “And if I did I wouldn’t tell you. She has a point.”

“I guess so.” Spike hung his head, then looked up again and started walking off muttering to himself.


“Alright,” Rarity said eventually, “this is a fairly pleasant walk, but I’m sure that’s not what you were going for.”

“Not really, no,” Spike replied.

“And I suspect what you are going for is in that bag?”

“Yep.” Spike adjusted the strap. “Not far to go…”

Around a minute later, they emerged into a fair sized clearing – the first they’d encountered in the hour or two they’d been walking through White Tail Woods.

At the far end were a number of round straw butts, with concentric rings painted on them.

Rarity squinted. “Are those… archery butts?”

“Yep.” Spike slung the bag down off his shoulder and extracted a yew longbow, as well as a smaller bow made with more modern composites. “Which would you rather use?”

She took the smaller bow. “This one, I think… I didn’t know you liked archery.”

“It’s a kind of Jedi training – I don’t know if Twilight told you about that whole thing?” She shook her head, so Spike went on. “Basically, my… third loop, I think, Twilight and I were part of this kind of awesome order of ninja magic monks. They taught a lot of self control stuff, which…”

Spike broke off and gestured to himself. “It’s been kind of helpful for me, it’s where the age shifting got started. And it’s been useful otherwise. But archery’s really helpful training how to use some of the powers – because if you can see where the arrow would hit if you let go, then you can aim it properly. And that helps train precognition.”

“You can see the future?” Rarity asked.

“Only really, really close in stuff. Second or two.” Spike shrugged self-deprecatingly. “It’s based on what almost has to happen, unless you do something different – more or less. I don’t really follow it myself… anyway.” He picked up the yew bow and an arrow, and began breathing steadily.

An image began to appear in his mind – an arrow, striking the outer ring of the straw. Concentrating on the image, willing it to stay stable, he tracked slowly across until the arrow hit dead centre.

Then he released the string.

Rarity applauded politely as it struck. “Very well done.”

“Thanks,” he said, blushing slightly. “Your turn.”

The whole smaller bow glowed and lifted into the air, accompanied by an arrow. Rather than vertically as Spike had to, the unicorn held hers horizontally – sighting carefully down the arrow, and then raising it slightly.

Swoosh-thwack!

Spike blinked at the arrow, right on the outer ring of the bull. “Wow.” Then he looked suspicious. “Have you done this before?”

“Guilty as charged!” Rarity said. “I actually do this a little myself – though not to any great standard.”

“If that’s not a great standard, I’d like to see what is…” Spike said. “Shall I move them further away?”

“That would be nice.”


17.7

“Crystals.”

“Okay!” Pinkie said abruptly, pulling out a hat and apron – followed by a table, a cash register and a sign. “Welcome to Crystal Catering, can I take your order?”

Sombra blinked. “What?”

“We~ll…” Pinkie slid a menu across the table and checked her hat. “We have a full selection of crystal varieties – Olivine structure to Quartz structure, and in carbon or silicon-based with various additives. If you want an ionic structure, that’s extra unless it’s on the menu.”

“Um…” The startled unicorn took the menu and began reading it out of reflex. “Barite bonanza, please.”

“Okay, coming up!” Pinkie vanished through a door that hadn’t been there before, and turned up again after a lot of grinding noises. She passed the plate to him and pointed out a table. “Here you go! Extra Iridium on top.”

“Thank you.” Sombra dropped some bits on the counter and turned for the table.

“…seriously?” Shining Armor asked. “He was hungry?

Pinkie shrugged. “I dunno.”


17.8 (Serenova)

Twilight awoke sitting in a chair. It was nice to be sitting down for once. Before she even opened her eyes she checked her loop memories. The fact that she felt funny sitting in the chair meant that she wasn't in her normal quadrupedal form.

She had to hold back a groan as she realized this was another Trek loop. At least she wasn't shaped like a pony this time - THAT had been one bucking weird loop.

Slowly taking inventory of her loop memories, she figured out her family history and that she was on the Enterprise-D. That would explain the slight vibration she felt through her boots. Finally opening her eyes she took a look around and took stock of her quarters. From what she knew of this loop, it was standard crew quarters. Bedroom, bathroom (sonic shower included) and living area. She was seated at the desk in the desk in the living area, apparently going over reports from some physics experiment she was working on. As she began reading through the notes on the PADD in front of her she was interrupted by the computer.

"Incoming transmission from Shining Armor," the computer intoned.

Twilight turned to the monitor on the desk and said, "On screen." The screen lit up and she was greeted with a very confused person, who, coincidentally was Shining Armor. "Shiny!" she said happily, "To what do I owe the honor?" She didn't know if this version of her brother was looping or not and didn't want to give anything away until she knew. None of the other elements were with her (she had felt along the connection and gotten nothing), but she had no magical connection with her brother to check.

"I'm awake Twilight, please tell me you know how to walk on two legs," Shiny said plaintively.

Twilight burst into giggles at her brother. "It's easier to use your loop memories for moving around," she said through her giggles. "I'm about…" and she paused to check how far she was from their supposed home, "Twelve hundred light years from you right now, so you're on your own with getting around," she finished.

"Aww, man, and Cadence isn't awake either," Shiny almost whined.

"Don't you start that with me B.B.B.F.F.!" Twilight said with a smile, "You'd just grab her and go on another honeymoon. I'm going to try to grab some tech to have for when we're back home while we're here. I'm thinking some tricorders will do well, along with some medical supplies."

Shining Armor just shook his head at his sister, "You do that, I'm going to figure out what in the world I actually do here. I'll talk to you later," he said, and the connection went dead.

Shaking her head, Twilight went back to what she had been doing this loop.

Three days and a skirmish with the Romulans later, she was praying for this loop to be over. She'd already replicated two tricorders (one science, one medial) and stuffed them in her subspace pocket. She'd also nabbed a hypospray and some extra PADDs with medical and scientific data in them. She figured the looping Applebloom and Scootaloo would appreciate it at least, along with adding to her own reading. She only wished that there was actual paper around, but she'd live. It was harder to not slip up around Captain Picard. She was very experienced with random loops by now, but even non-Looping Picard could be intimidating. Especially when Twilight's base self in this loop was much like the studious original Twilight before she started looping.

Eventually, Twilight managed to enjoy herself and relaxed for the rest of the loop. She was glad she wasn't replacing anyone important and simply let herself enjoy being along for the ride. Designating this as a recreational loop (even if she worked really – that science experiment she was running), would be nice.


17.9 (Indalecio) (Dragon Ball)


As Apple Bloom woke up she felt, different, this loop. Coupled with the new memories slamming into her and the fact that she no longer had hooves, she could tell that she was going to be human for that loop.

'Well, this is a new experience I reckon.' Twilight told her about some of the times that she was human, but it was the first time she was experiencing it for herself.

Apparently her name was Bloom Apple, and she along with her sister Jacqueline Apple were the heirs to the large and wealthy Seed Corp.

She turned back to the book and artifact she has been studying short before awakening. The Dragonballs, of which there were seven of, would grant one wish to whomever gathered them all. She had briefly considered wishing for the perfect colt...boyfriend.

'Need to watch those terms there.' Her sister Jackie, had always been the refined, social butterfly, and truth be told, she had been a little jealous of the attention she got. But, after awakening, it seemed a waste of the awesome power of the dragon.

'But what to wish for? I guess it'll come to me in time.' As she stepped out the door, she grabbed her backpack and took off for the unknown.


The boy named Goku sitting across from her kept giving her odd looks as they were eating. She was about to ask him about that when he finally spoke up.

"You're a looper, aren't you?"

It shouldn't have surprised her that there would be other loopers in this world, but it did. She finally found her voice.

"Yes, how did you know?"

"This is the third time I'm looping. The person you're replacing, Bulma Briefs, looks different than you, also."

"So what this this Bulma like?"

"She's one of my oldest friends, she's a bit spoiled, but she's a genius engineer."

"Hmm.."

"So whats it like where you came from?"

"Well, I and all my friends are ponies where we came from."

"A what?"

"Little horse."

Goku pointed to his throat.

"No...little horses. Ponies."

"Ahhh.." said realization, but there was a hint of mischief in his eyes.

"You..made that joke on purpose, didn't you?"

"May....be.." continuing he said "Do you ponies have martial arts?"

"Yeah, I been studying with my master Temple Fortress."

"Would you like to learn human martial arts?"

"A..hmmm"


Goku took a few arm and leg bands from a bag he carried with him. They were indentical to ones he wore.

"Put these on."

Taking the offered arm and leg bands, Applebloom noticed they were quite heavy.

"I spent a majority of my last loop learning Kaioshin magic, specifically learning on how to make thing heavy."

Realization hit her. "Oh these are for training."

"They seem heavy now, but after awhile you get used them. And then you get heavier ones."

Having put them on she felt like she could hardly move. This was definitly going to take some getting used to. She stretched her arms out and slowly waved them around.

"So what now?"

"We've got a turtle to rescue."


We awoke the next day and found the turtle just where Goku said he was. After talking with it, the turtle asked for some refreshments.

"Salt water? Seaweed? I don't think we've got seaweed, but salt water is doable" I got out a bucket, and put some water and salt in it.

Taking the salt water, the turtle drank. "The truth is, I've wandering around the past year and I've been trying all this time to get back to ocean"

I got out a map, and did some quick mental calculations. "Thats 120km from here. You're going in the wrong direction. Wow. Thats far."

The turtle looked cresfallen. "We could take him to ocean. Thats no big deal." said Goku.

I thought for a moment and fished around for my packet of seed caps. I selected one and after using, a hand cart appeared.

"We can use this and take turns."


My arms were ready to fall off by the time we reached the sea. I was used to pulling carts in my pony form, but this was a totally different experience. In the end, I did most of the pulling, while Goku scouted. I could hear various roars and shouts as Goku cleared the path before us, and in the end we got there without problems.

The turtle insisted on repaying us and after entering the ocean soon came back with a short, old man with a Turtle Shell on his back.

After greeting us and introducing himself as the Turtle Hermit, he sought to give us a reward.

"Come! Immortal Phoenix!" he shouted. After a few minutes of nothing happening, the turtle spoke up.

"Umm...the Immortal Phoenix died of food poisoning."

"Oh right. I was going to summon the Immortal Phoenix and grant you all eternal life.."

'If the Immortal Phoenix died of food poisoning, the immortality it granted probably wasn't it was cracked up to be' I thought to myself.

"...but instead, I'll give you this!"

"Nimbus! Come to me!"

This time, a cloud came down and stopped right in front of us.

"With this you'll be able to fly anywhere you want, but it only works for the pure of heart. Let me show you how it works." He jumped on it, and landed on top.

"Tada! Now you try it."

Goku seemed slightly surprised by this, but jumped on and rode around it for awhile and came back to a stop in front of us.

"Just like old times."

"What?"

"Nothing. Nothing."

I noticed what looked like the 3 star Dragonball hanging from the Turtle Hermits' neck. "Hey mister. Could we possibly have that ball thats hanging from your neck? It looks like one of the ones we've been searching for."

"She helped you out right?" the hermit asked the turtle.

"She practically pulled me all the way here!"

"Wow! Thats pretty impressive! Not many girls your age would've been able to do that. I guess you can have this. Its an old necklace I found at the bottom of the sea a hundred years ago." He handed the necklace to me and I examined it. It was the third star ball alright.

"Hey Bloom. Try to get on!" I gently tried stepping on the cloud and it took my weight. With more confidence, I climbed on and held onto Goku.

We thanked the Turtle Hermit and zoomed off into the night sky.


"Normally Bulma isn't able to ride this, but you seemed like a good person, and this opens up our options." he continued. "I think you impressed the Turtle Hermit, and I was a bit surprised as I've never seen him able to ride it before."

"Oh? Why not?

"He's actually a pretty decent guy, but he's usually really pervy." I giggled at that.

"So Goku, where to next?"

"I was thinking of trying to learn shapeshifting. Want to try?

"Sure."


We dropped by a place called Aru Village and after settling things there between Oolong and the villagers, we received the Six Star ball for our efforts.

"Oolong's a shapeshifter, but he never mastered it. Our next stop with Yamcha and Puar should go better as Puar's the better of the two."

"Who Yamcha and Puar?"

"Yamcha's a desert bandit. He joined us in our adventures, but never managed to keep up. He dated Bulma for awhile, but it didn't pan out. Puar is his friend and as I said, a shapeshifter. He looks like a blue flying cat most of the time, though."

After hitting a stretch of desert, Goku had Nimbus slow down. After searching awhile, we saw someone in the distance and sped to them.

What had seemed like one figure, quickly became two, a woman with rainbow hair and a flying orange pony.

"We're looking for Yamcha..the desert..bandit" and then Goku couldn't hold it together, he burst out laughing, nearly falling off the cloud, and after what he'd just told me, I couldn't blame him.

"Rainbow Dash? Scootaloo?" The two looked pretty angry by whole thing.

"Its Dashcha the dessert bandit!"

"And Scoot!"

"Whoever told you our names was way off. I'm not sure why you came out here, if you know of us, but you're going to regret it. Give us all your capsules and you money, and maybe we'll think of letting you live."

So, they weren't awake this time. And yet, being on this cloud, I couldn't help but smile at the irony of Rainbow being on the ground at this point. And apparently Goku couldn't either, for his own reasons, as he, unable to contain himself, finally did fall off the cloud.

"Sorry. Sorry. You just weren't what I expected." He sniffed and smiled. "Again. Sorry."

"Not sorry enough!" as she drew her sword and attacked Goku. Goku fought back, dodging and weaving and eventually knocking her on her butt.

"Feh. So you've got some skill afterall." Dashcha stood up and dusted herself off. "So why did you come out all this way."

I spoke up. "We actually came to see Scoot."

"We heard there was a shapeshifter in the area and wanted to see if you could teach us shapeshifting."

Scoot was about say something when Dashcha cut in. "Whats in it for us?"

"Ah've got one capsule with a car with a full tank of gas in it."

"Sounds fair. Alright, we accept." said Dashcha, Scoot still trying to get in a word edgewise.


"So I was going to say, I can unlock the ability to shapeshift, but after that, it takes a lot of practice in order to do it well."

"Ah'm okay with that. You can't get very far in anything without practicing."

"Okay, the two of you stand still for a moment." Scoots hovered over and placed her hooves on mine and Goku's forehead. I felt warm for a moment and I felt a whole less solid, like I could collapse into a pile of jelly at any moment.

"Okay, now try to these simple exercises..."


Goku's POV

While Bloom was practicing shapeshifting, I decided on trying to spar with Dashcha, again.

"So Goku, where'd you learnt to fight?" I dodged one of Dashcha kicks.

"From my grandpa, Gohan Son." And returned on of my own, which she didn't bother blocking, but as soon as she got up, she became all excited

"Oh my gosh! You're related to Gohan SOn? He's like really famous. After the Turtle and Crane Hermits, he's probably like the second strongest martial artist in the world. Oh hey! Let me get my scrapbook."

Living up her name, Dashcha ran off and in maybe 10 to 15 minutes later returned with a scrapbook. It had lots of old newsclipping and pictures of the Turtle Hermit, the Ox-King and Gohan Son.

"Wow. There isn't anything I'd wouldn't do to meet the Turtle Hermit, but he's probably dead by now. No one's heard from him decades. But I'd love to meet one of his students."

"Actually, we just saw the Turtle Hermit this morning. And my grandfather's on Mt. Paozu. I'm sure he'd love a visit from a fan."

"ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh,ohmygosh!" Dashcha started hyperventilating and grabbed me and screamed into my face. "Where! Where did you see him?"

"By the coast. I think he lives off on an island somewhere."

"This is so awesome! Scoots! We're going!" Dashcha grabbed Scoots hoof and ran off in the direction of the ocean.

"They didn't even take the capsule we promised them."


Bloom's POV

"I know the next Dragonball is on Frypan Mountain. I'm a little anxious. This is the time and place I met my future wife Chichi and her father the Ox-King.”

We were zipping along on Nimbus heading for a next destination.

"Eh? What are they like?"

"The Ox-King is a huge mountain of a man, and very protective of his daughter. Chichi was also a fierce martial artist, and had a clumsy awkwardness she later grew out of. In her later years, she was very education minded, and made our eldest son, Gohan, study all the time."

"You named him after your Grandpa?"

Goku got quiet for a moment. "Yeah. In my original timeline, I….killed my grandpa without knowing it. You saw my tail right?" He wriggled it around for emphasis and it tickled my nose.

"Yeah, what’s that got to do with anything?"

"If I have it, if it’s not cut off, I transform into a giant ape when seeing the full moon, mindlessly destroying things and….people."

"In my first loop, I avoided looking at the moon, and my grandpa still lived in that loop. Along with learning Kaioshin magic, I also learned to control the were-ape form. It took a year of constantly transforming, but I managed to get it down. My grandpa still lives in this loop too, and for that I'm glad."

Goku continued.

"I think I see Frypan Mountain in the distance. Strange, it’s not on fire. Let’s land."


Goku's POV

I hopped off of Nimbus with Bloom right behind me. Up upon Frypan Mountain, I could see Ox-King's castle. Down below, was a small village bustling with activity.

"It seems so normal…" I scratched my head.

"Ah! You must be tourists! I knew a little advertising would pay off. Please, please let me show you around." I turned to the voice, seeing a girl about my age. She looked like Chichi, sounded like Chichi, but she wasn't Chichi. It must have been the purple hair, and purple wizard robe and hat.

"Chichi?"

"Excuse me?" She looked inquisitively at me.

"Are you Chichi?"

"Twi Lee."

"Wait. Are you Twilight Sparkle?" Bloom interjected.

"Oh! You must be loopers! I was wondering when someone else was going to show up. Honestly, I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm doing this loop. It’s all very refreshing."

Uh oh. Guess I'd better not spoil any of it.

"It’s me! Applebloom!" She pulled Twilight into a quick hug.

"Applebloom! You're….can't….breathe."

Bloom eased up and let Twilight down. "How are you? Have you seen any of the Cutie Mark Crusaders?"

"I'm good. I've just seen Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo, but they're not loopers this time, though they've replaced some friends of Goku, here."

"Pleased to meet you"

"Oh, so you must be familiar with this loop."

"Looped two times already. So far each has lasted about 80 years."

"Wow! That long? Ours just lasts a few years." She paused, and then continued. "So, when you landed, you said everything looked normal."

"Yeah, usually everything's on fire. The Ox-king sets fire to the area surrounding his castle to protect his treasure, but it goes out of control, and he isn't able to get inside."

"Oh dad… I guess it’s kinda weird to be calling him dad… I convinced him not to do that. There's natural gas pockets all over the area. Instead, we're now mining the natural gas and using it heat the castle and surrounding residences…."

At this point I zoned out. Bloom looked really interested, and conversed excitedly with Twi Lee. I was hoping to pick up some science and engineering-fu, but I guess it wouldn't be this loop.


Goku and Twi Lee rode the nimbus until they started passing over a mushroom forest.

"Bloom, are you ready?" The disembodied voice of Bloom Apple answered from a suitcase that was also on this cloud.

"Ready as I'll ever be."

"You sure this is going to work?"

"Yes! This is going to be great! First they'll see the dragonballs, and then 'Pow'!"

A minute later a rocket propelled grenade shot at them. Goku narrowly dodge but dropped the suitcase. He quickly turned around, but someone in a mini-mecha ran up and grabbed suitcase.

"Ah!"

"Wait!"

"Stop!" cried Goku waving his arms.

"Your acting is terrible."

"It worked, didn't it? Now we just need to chase after them, but not too fast."


The self-styled Emperor Pilaf stood with his underlings Mai, a woman sporting ex-Red Ribbon army fatigues and duster, and Shu, a short, dog-faced Ninja. We're not sure what Emperor Pilaf is, but he appears to a goblin in what could charitably be called a clown suit.

"All the dragonballs! At last the world will be mine!" Emperor Pilaf cackled loudly and his henchmen soon joined in.

"Wait, why does one of the Dragonballs have eyes?"

There was a large puff of smoke, and then 'Pow!'


"This is Bloom. Come in Goku and Twi Lee." Bloom spoke into her cellphone over the 3 unconscious forms of Pilaf, Mai and Shu and all 7 Dragonballs.

"We read you."

"I've got the Dragonballs."

"Did you have trouble?"

"E-nope"


Miles away from there, on the desert floor, three figures assembled with all seven Dragonballs gathered before them. The balls glowed, and a giant purple dragon appeared.

"I AM SPIKRON, THE ETERNAL DRAGON. SPEAK YOUR WISH NOW, AND I WILL GRANT IT."

Bloom stepped forward. "I want all our friends from Ponyville and all Goku's friends to be awake in this loop."

"I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT."

Bloom explained the situation.

"THAT IS BEYOND MY POWER. SPEAK ANOTHER WISH AND I WILL GRANT IT."

Bloom thought for a moment. "You know Goku's saiyan heritage and giant monkey form. I want something very similar to it, just as giant equine form." Turning to Twi Lee, she asked "Do you want in on this?"

Twi Lee frowned. "No, I'm good."

"Okay, then just for me."

"IT SHALL BE DONE!"

Out of the base of Bloom's back appeared a long red pony tail.

"YOUR WISH HAS BEEN GRANTED! FAREWELL!" the eternal dragon vanished, the balls dimmed to pieces of rock and scattered to the four corners of the world.


Goku frowned for a moment. "That might not have been the best wish to make. You'll be at the mercy of the full moon, and the transformation is quite painful, blinding you to what’s going on around you."

"You mastered it, didn't you?" said Bloom absentmindedly, examining her new tail.

"Well, yeah, but it took me a year. A long year of waking up naked surrounded by destruction. Just be careful not to look at the moon until you get it. Meditate and train a lot, it should help, especially the meditation."

There was a pause and Twi Lee spoke.

"I kinda wish Spike had been awake, though. I can't wait to tell him about this."

Bloom continued examining her tail. "He was pretty cool."

"You know the Dragon?

"He's my assistant back in my home loop, but he's only a baby at the time. Just yea tall", said Twi Lee, gesturing.

Goku turned to Bloom. "Well we found the Dragonballs, mission accomplished. What do you plan on doing now?"

"Hmm…Ah've got school in a couple of weeks, so I'm probably going to go home. What about you two?"

"Twi Lee and I have been talking. We're going to visit my grandpa on Mt. Paozu for a bit, and then maybe wander around. Maybe see Otherworld. I might be able to coax King Kai into teaching us more Kaioshin magic."

"Sounds fun. Do you want to meet up again when the Dragonballs return?"

"Count on it!"


And time passed. Goku and Twi Lee travelled around. They visited Goku's grandpa on Mt. Paozu, the Turtle Hermit, King Kai and finally found themselves on planet Yardrat, generally seeing the sights, and picking up new tricks when they could.


Goku and Twi Lee use instant transmission to travel to King Kai's planet, appearing in a flash of light. They fall before King Kai and genuflect.

"Please train us!"

"Who are you people?"


After Bloom experimented with her were-pony for the first time, she vowed to make the creation of stretchy clothes a priority.


Dashcha finally found the Turtle Hermit and began training with him. Later as Bloom went to search for the Dragonballs again, Dashcha approached her with a request.

"Training with the Turtle Hermit is a dream come true. But I keep wondering, with him being so old now, What was he like in his prime? I gotta know. I heard the Dragonballs can grant any wish. I want to see and be trained by Master Roshi in his prime. Can we ask the Dragon to grant that wish?"


We eventually found some of the other Elements of Harmony.

Rarity and SweetieBelle had taken the place of Goku's old rivals Tien and Chaotzu and we confronted them at the world tournament.


Rarien, sporting a small blue gem in the centre of her forehead and clad in a purple sari, confronts Dashcha at the Tenkaichi Budokai tournament.

"Your orange gi clashes with my purple sari. We'll have to fix that," said Rarien with a smirk and small emphasis on the way she said "fix".


Fluttershy took the place of Launch, now calling her self Kachushy, and was taking care of Piccolo Jr, after we had dealt with his genocidal father.


Kachushy stands before a Piccolo that’s at least a head taller than her and stares him in the eyes.

"No Piccolo, you're not killing anyone, you hear? I thought I taught you better than that!"

"Yes, mom."


Pinkie Pie we didn't find until many years later.


A dwarfish alien clad in wizard robes stands before a large organic sphere that suddenly split in two. The room fills with steam.

"Yes, yes! Arise Majin Pie and serve Babidi as you've served my father before."

Finally a woman with bright pink skin and clad in a stereotypical genie's clothes appears.

"I feel sick"

She barfed four times, her mouth growing cartoonishly wide each time, each time vomiting up one the swallowed supreme kais.

"Ughhh…."


17.10 (by Ranma-Sensei) (Hey, Arnold)


“Huh, seems like I have a middle sister, this loop. Well, at least it’s not Asuka, again. And it’s definitely better than Ranma Heyerdahl.”

Twilight opened her eyes. The first thing she noticed was herself being human. The next, that before her stood a human girl, about 1.20 meters in height and wearing two pigtails of golden blond hair. “Uh, hi?”

The girl before her sighed exasperatedly. “Please don’t tell me this is your first fused loop.”

Twilight shook her head. “No, I just tend to awake mid-stride it seems, and I ran into a wall, this time.” She smiled. “Twilight Pataki, nice to meet you. So, what do you do around here…. Helga?”

Helga G. Pataki grinned. “Oh, troll my peers, usually. When people around you have the mental capacities of Fourth-Graders, you’ve got to be inventive.” She turned thoughtful. “I wonder if Arnold’s awake.”

Twilight searched her Looper memories. “The boy you have a crush on?”

Helga gave her a withering look. “I’m only saying this once: I. Love. Arnold. No crush, capiche?”

The pony-once-again-turned-human nodded frantically. “Okay, change of topic: Why am I wearing Gothic style clothes?”


Twilight sighed. Here she had hoped to get a chance at studying in a nuclear society school. Instead, all her peers seemed to want to do was slack off and beat up on younger students, as was currently the case….

“Yo, shorty!” the boy she had come to know as Wolfgang hollered, “Get your weird football head out of my way.” The next moment he shoved Arnold against the hallway’s wall.

Twilight bristled. “Wolfgang!” Stepping forward, she grabbed onto the boy’s neck, which was considerably helped by the fact that she was bigger than him. “What do you think you are doing to my sister’s friend?”

“More like boyfriend, if you ask me.” the spindly boy next to her sniggered.

Wolfgang flailed around. “Shut it, Edmund, and help me!”

At this point, Twilight had quite enough and swung the bully around, letting him drop on his ass behind her. “Get lost, Wolfgang.”

“I will get you, Pataki, I swear. One day, I will get you!”

“Yeah, right.” Turning around, she said: “Boo.” Laughing as the goon squad turned tail and ran, Twilight then helped Arnold up. “You alright?”

“I think so.” Dusting himself off, the football-headed boy then extended a hand. “Arnold Shortman, Helga’s boyfriend. And you must be Twilight, I presume?”

“Uh, yeah.” Taking the proferred hand and shaking it, Twilight grinned. “So, I take it you are awake, too?”

“Yep, and as Helga, I am grateful you are nothing like Asuka or….” he shuddered, “Lina.”

“Say….” Twilight gauged him. “What do I have to do around here to get some studying done?”

“I…. think I can help with that.”


“This is great!” Twilight rolled around on her bed and squealed. The moment Arnold had shown her to the public library, her eyes had gone all watery. It was a little upsetting that it had taken so long to register for a library card, and only being allowed to borrow twenty books at once felt unfair, but according to Helga she had a rough timeframe of about one year and a half, so it was only a minor setback.

“Time to start having fun,” she said, and opened the book labelled Astrophysics 101.


17.11 (Elmagnifico)


"So, why didn't you come forward? Most newly Awakened ponies seek me or the Princesses out for help within the first few Loops..."

Big Macintosh looked sheepish. After the scene Twilight had made at Sweet Apple Acres last night, he had wanted nothing more than to bury his head in one of his freshly-plowed fields. The fact that both his sisters were constantly badgering him about the cause of said fracas made the subject even more awkward.

Now, to clear the air, Twilight had offered to straighten things out (after a good day and a half's rest), on the condition that he agree to be interviewed.

He sighed. Talking had gotten easier as time went by, but he still didn't like doing it unnecessarily. Might as well get it over with.

"Well, ya see Ms. Twilight, ah didn't right notice for a while mahself. Mah routine's pretty straightforward, and some days it just runs into itself, often the only way ah keep track of time is from the seasons. Don't have much goin' on aside from the farm, so harvestin' and plantin's all that needs payin' attention to. Plus, weird stuff happens around mah sister an' y'all mighty frequent, so things lahk a moon goddess attackin' th' Summer Sun Celebration didn't tip me off the first time it all repeated."

Twilight nodded.

"I can see that, but you obviously noticed at some point. Why didn't you ask me then?"

"Well, after ah sussed that the first few repeats weren't a string a' coincidences ah couldn't pluck up the courage to ask."

"Oh? Why not?"

"When y' see somepony turn into ah goddess firsthoof, it don't seem quite appropriate to bother them just cause you think stuff oughta be happenin' different."

Twilight paused. 'Alicorn Mode' was certainly intimidating for non-Awake mortal ponies, a new Looper would plausibly have the same reaction.

"I suppose that's reasonable. For the first couple of days, at least. But why didn't you come forward later that loop?"

"An' then y'all turned evil and yer dragon friend grew fifty stories high. Somethin' about Eternal Twilight?"

Twilight's ears fell. That loop. Now that was bad luck… apparently she was too skilled an actor for her own good by now.

Macintosh continued.

"After thatn', ah was plum scared you'd do it again, so ah resolved to keep as far away from ya as possible. Weird stuff kept right on happenin', an from that point on ah just tried to help any way ah could. Ah kept mah family safe, no matter what. Sometimes, one or both of mah sisters'd act weird too, hangin' around you an' doin' strange stuff, so ah never explained to them either. They kept forgettin' stuff every time things reset anyway, so ah just kept quiet. Watchin'."

Twilight's eyes widened. She briefly wondered if there were any other Loopers in Macintosh's position, whether her crazy antics had driven any other ponies into hiding.

"Now, ah'm not normally th' kinda pony that needs change. Ah like a routine, an' for things to be reliable-like. Over time though, it got painful watchin' mah sisters, an' other ponies, gettin' hurt in stuff that ah could do somethin' about. Ma an' Pa may not be around, but they didn't raise me to be a stallion that'd stand by when he could help. On the other hoof, ah didn't want to be a snack for no dragon."

Macintosh sighed. Best to just get this out as quick as possible.

"So over time, ah saw how little things would change what happened. Ah got to learnin' the patterns, how ta change things without gettin' attention off th' scary purple unicorn. Ah guess this time ah finally did too much good."

Twilight could feel her emotions roiling. Shame at scaring Macintosh, a touch of anger that he'd been so vexing, and many others warred for dominance behind her eyes.

In the end, she stretched up and put a hoof on Macintosh's shoulder.

"Well Big Macintosh, I guess I owe you an explanation. You see, it all started with this tree called Yggdrasil..."


17.3 redux (Filraen)


Celestia ran, the sick taste of failure in her mouth.

Her student – her beloved student – had fallen into corruption no less deep than Luna’s own, of a thousand years past. And all five of her friends had fallen the same way.

She was being chased through her own castle by six twisted alicorns, who blew walls and columns aside to follow her.

Then there was a blur of motion.

“Haha! Have at thee!” a familiar voice said, accompanied by a musical series of twangs.

Celestia turned to find Discord – Discord? – holding off dark-Applejack and dark-Fluttershy with a piano in one hand and a duck in the other.

“Celestia!” he said, shouting over his shoulder while making it rain tofu to slow the alicorns down. “Retreat! Get out of the castle, I’ll join you outside!”

Thoroughly confused, Celestia looked for a good escape route. The windows caught her eye, but dark-Rainbow Dash shot past them as she made for the closest.

Another Discord ran past her in the other direction, wielding a swordfish and a scroll marked ‘FiM script, S4E1’. “They’re this way as well!”

Her head swivelled. Yes, the first Discord was still where she’d last seen him, and the second one wasn’t something she’d imagined – he was dance-battling dark-Pinkie Pie.

Suddenly dark-Pinkie Pie left a howlish scream "NO!" and vanished, just to appear in front of Celestia, except as an earth pony completely untainted by the corruption.

"EVERYPONY STOP!"

"What's the matter, Pinkie? We were doing so well." Twilight Sparkle appeared alongside her, now back as unicorn. Soon Twilight's friends appeared alongside them.

"It's... HER!" The pink pony suddenly moved to where a white pegasus with a brown mane was apparently leading other ponies away.

"Ah!"

"Hi, I'm Pinkie Pie. Who are you?" Pinkie Pie asked with a big smile.

The surprise from the white pegasus faded back into a knowing smile as she looked to where Twilight was "You caught me. I'm Starlight Breaker."

"Starlight... Nanoha?!"

Starlight Breaker nodded. "Even stopping a prank for a visitor? I'm not sure if I'm honored or disappointed. How have you been?"

“…what?” Celestia said helplessly as their lively chat continued.


17.12 (Filraen) (31 minutes)


"Twilight, we are already on air!"

Fluttershy's voice brought Twilight Sparkle to her senses. One day wasn't nearly enough to get used to this loop. The world seemed nuclear-tech level but against all odds she hadn't seen any human or pony yet.

Then again, Twilight Sparkle knew this was going to be a weird loop wen she saw herself in the mirror after awakening and saw Smarty Pants looking back.

"Right," Twilight Sparkle, anchorpony plush, placed her woollen hooves over the desk she was and looked at the camera with her button eyes in front of her in a way so she could also see the screens by its side, on containing the live TV broadcasting and the other scrolling text. "Welcome back to 31 Minutes, the most important news bulletin on television.

"Mass protests have been happening in Puppetrolis in the last hours, and there it's our reporter Pinkie Pie to give us more information. Pinkie?"

The broadcasted image now showed Pinkie Pie, whose body was only a pink microphone with eyes, jumping up and down. "Oh, hi Twilight! You know there's a lot of people here in Puppetrolis getting together so I made a note about that's happening.


"Hi everypony, this is Pinkie Pie's Pop Poll! Today's question is 'what do they call you?'" After a small introductory curtain the image showed Pinkie Pie asking different people the pop question. Answer ranges from 'no-face' from a beheaded doll, to 'Nim' from what appeared to be a black alicorn plushie, 'cool guy' from an ice cream and 'R2-D2' from a trash can from a park. What most confused Twilight was, except for the beheaded doll, everything could have eyes attached and if it had eyes it could talk even if it had no mouth. It didn't make any sense!


By the end of the note Twilight could swear Pinkie Pie was having a wide smile if she had a mouth, waiting for her feedback. Well, the note itself wasn't actually bad but... "Pinkie, what did it have with the mass protests in Puppetrolis?"

"Isn't it obvious, Twilight? Nopony has a good nickname, that must be why everypony is out here!"

"O...k..." Twilight said barely containing the urge to scream in frustration. "Thanks for the note, Pinkie."

"Bye Twilight!" And with that the direction cut transmission with Pinkie Pie.

Focusing herself to talking to her viewers again Twilight continued "And now the weather forecast report with our meteorologist-"

"ME! Nightmare Moon!" Nightmare Moon looked as menacing as a big black alicorn plushie toy could be. "Good evening, Twilight Sparkle."

The anchorpony was confused: she had met Princess Luna in the editorial meeting earlier today, what could have happened?

"Psst, Twilight," Fluttershy, in a plastic doll body, approached her from the opposite side of Nightmare Moon. Apparently Twilight was dumbstruck for too long. "Just go along for now, we are almost finished."

Fluttershy was right, the weather report was the last part of today's program and it was Princess Luna's section.

"Right," the anchorpony continued with false cheer. "Good evening, Nightmare Moon."

"Very good night for you too, Twilight Sparkle." Nightmare Moon answered emphasizing the word 'night'. "The next week on Puppetrolis will have clear skies all the time, giving a perfect opportunity to watch and enjoy the night sky.

"Temperatures will go on decline: for Tomorrow we expect zero degrees maximum and by the end of the week we'll have maximum around the one hundred negative degrees."

"How that can be?" Wronghooved, Twilight couldn't help but ask. "We are in the middle of summer, and not even in the coldest winter days we get under minus ten degrees!"

"But that's obvious Twilight Sparkle. Because the night will last... FOREVER! MUAHAHAHAHA!"

"Twilight Sparkle." A voice could be heard loud and clear through all the studio.

"Director Celestia?" Hopefully she could help with this trouble.

"I left something for you under the desk just in case something like that happened. Please free my sister from the blackness."

Nightmare Moon's laugh stopped cold when she saw Twilight arming herself and Fluttershy with some sprayers. "No! Please! Anything but bleach!"

"Know what Nightmare Moon? I've quite frustrated since I awoke yesterday and now you've given me a great source of relief," Twilight said with a grin that matched Nightmare Moon's in her best days. "Let's go girls."

In the TV broadcasting screen Nightmare Moon's pursuit made the backdrop to the credits roll.


17.13 (Namar13766)

Twilight Sparkle and the rest of the looping Six exchanged surreptitious grins. For this loop, their plan for dealing with Nightmare Moon involved the introduction of pizza to Equestria, a spare Lance of Longinus from an Evangelion loop, and an operatically trained Spike, who possessed a singing voice that could cause a pair of panties to spontaneously combust.

Wait for the mayor to finish, let the curtains pull back, see a black cloud, and watch it form...KING SOMBRA?!

"Who are you? What have you done with Princess Celestia?"

The early-returned banished king merely smirked, sipped from a glass of water before speaking.

"GREETINGS! I'M KING SOMBRA! I HAVE WALKED PARTWAY FROM THE CRYSTAL EMPIRE TO CANTERLOT 3 TIMES! NOT TO ACTUALLY GO THERE, BUT TO GET A RUNNING START TO JUMP TO THE MOON! WHERE I WILL KNOCK OVER NIGHTMARE MOON AND CALL HER A MASSIVE POOF!"

The silence that followed dragged on uncomfortably, until it was broken by Lyra dryly commenting to Bon Bon, "Well, at least it can't get weirder."

"MUCKLE DAMRED CULT! 'AIR EH NAMBLIES BE KEEPIN' ME WEE MARES!?!?"

As one the looping six twitched, as the memories of a particularly crazy loop, one which even Pinkie had described as Batshit Insane, resurfaced.

Spike for his part, merely facepalmed. "Oh, no. How did Granny Smith become Old Mare Henderson again?!"

Loops 18

View Online

18.1

Twilight grinned. “Do you like it?”

Princess Celestia blinked in shock. “This is… I don’t even know what this is.”

“Oh, that’s easy!” Twilight said. “I worked out exactly what you meant. I had to make some friends so that my plan for fighting back against Nightmare Moon would be safe!”

Celestia looked at the padlocked fridge. “So…?”

“So, this is my plan.” Twilight opened the door a crack, and grabbed at something with her telekinesis before slamming the door and repadlocking it in a trice.

“Twilight… there is a Windigo on a leash in the room,” Celestia observed, beyond shock into a kind of glassy coolness.

“Yep! That’s my plan.” Twilight held up the leash, easily corralling the thrashing monster with it. “It has double-code release authority – look, two leash handles!”

“So your plan to deal with Nightmare Moon is…”

“…to freeze her solid!” Twilight grinned earnestly. “It should be completely safe, my friends and I can do that whole friendship-blast thing from the Hearths Warming myth – we spent the whole afternoon practicing!”

“…right.”

“I call him Polaris!” A pink pony skidded into the room. “Isn’t he cute?”

“Pinkie,” Twilight said with a groan. “Stop using puns that the Princess has no hope of possibly getting.”

“But it’s a good pun!” Pinkie protested. “It’s totally high-brow satire! Look, he is a deterrent that would cause a winter and he’s called Polaris! Oh, oh! And just in case he does somehow get off his leash and decides to be a meany meany pants, Twilight here got Applejack and Rainbow these neat toasting forks to poke him with! Fire beats Ice!"

"They’re not toasting forks, Pinkie…” Twilight said wearily. “They're tridents."

"Hey,” Pinkie looked upset. “Why do you get to make puns if I can't?"

"I don't know what you mean, Pinkie,” Twilight said loftily.


“The Night Will Last Forever!”

“So, then…” Twilight said, raising a hoof. Her other foreleg was still under the table. “Would you say you’re… angry at Princess Celestia?”

“What?” Nightmare Moon laughed. “Anger does not even begin to encapsulate it!”

“And you’re full of rage, pain and hatred?”

“YES.” The alicorn stamped her hoof. “Y.E.S. I am angry. I am pained. I wish to make Celestia suffer on her sun for as long as I suffered on my moon, and then a thousand years more for every insult!”

“Right.” Twilight nodded. “Rarity?”

Rarity nodded.

Together, they said, “Sic ‘em, boy!”

And then there was a kind of howling roar and snow everywhere.

When Nightmare Moon refocused, she was inside a comically large icecube and there was a thrashing monster being forced backwards by two tridents and a leash.

Pinkie beamed. “Looks like you need to… chill off.”

“YYYEEEEAAAAHHHH!”

Everyone jumped. “What was that?” several voices asked.


Twilight blinked. “…huh.”

Discord petted the Windigo. “Oo’s a good boy? You are! You’re such an entropic little cutie, aren’t you?”

The monster rolled over onto its back, tongue lolling out.

“Can I keep him?” Discord pleaded. “I will hug him and call him Polaris and-”

“Wait, why Polaris?” Dash asked.

“That’s his name, duh.” Discord indicated the tag.

“Huh. Was that Pinkie’s doing?”

“Probably…” Twilight said. “Alright, if you’re good. But we might need him on occasion.”


“You eat emotions?” Twilight said. “Interesting.”

“Why?” Chrysalis asked.

“Well, Discord’s pet invited friends over.” Twilight dove for cover.

“What?” Chrysalis looked dumbfounded. Then there was a chill wind, as a thousand ghostly shapes came over the walls.

“So, what happens next?” Pinkie asked over the howling and buzzing. “One side feeds on love, the other side feeds on hate… who wins?”

“Us,” Twilight said with a certain smug air.


“…yeah, this feels unfair.”

The Crystal Empire promptly turned to ice.

“Right,” Twilight nodded. “Let’s go remove the Sombricicle and get them thawed out again.”


18.2

Spike grinned. “Don’t worry, it’s safe. They have pegasi paralleling the jump, and they catch us if we’re too close for a safe open.”

“So you said,” Rarity admitted, looking out the open bay door of Jack of all Trades. The airship’s engines were humming gently as they countered the wind, but otherwise holding them stationary over a plain south of Trottingham.

“It’s the main reason you managed to talk me into this…”

“Well,” Spike adjusted his parachute unnecessarily. “I do love this kind of thing, and you did say you wanted to see what I enjoyed. Just one jump, okay?”

“I should hope so!” Rarity looked uncertain, then her resolve firmed. “Alright, I’m ready.”

“Good.” Spike glanced over at the others – unicorns, earth ponies, even the odd pegasus with wings strapped or with wing injuries. Fellow thrill-seekers.

Oh, he’d flown before – even if his ponderous flight as an adult dragon couldn’t compare to that one loop as a quicksilver pegasus – but somehow falling out of the sky was… more.

At least he got a lot of fall time. They were high enough it would take something like two and a half minutes total to reach parachute-open time.

“O-kay,” the jump master said. “On my count. Three. Two. One. Go!”


Spike grinned, feeling the air rushing over his scales. Now this was what he called fun!

There was a faint itch where his wings would be growing shortly… probably the instinctual reaction to being in the air. It was part of why he did this, really, the ability to get close to his species in a whole new way.

Then he glanced over at Rarity, and saw something that worried him. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing fast.

It was a moment’s half-formed thought for him to steer over to her and grab on. “Rarity! Are you alright?”

“No,” Rarity said, her voice catching. “I… sorry, Spike, but… I…”

“Don’t worry. You’re safe,” Spike reassured her. “You’re wearing a parachute. It’s at least another minute until we need to open them. This isn’t the Young Fliers’ competition.”

He kept talking, pitching his voice low, talking without really caring what he was saying so long as it was reassuring. Rarity started sobbing, clinging to him as if to reassure herself that he was there.

“Ten seconds,” one of the pegasi said, as she began to quieten down. “Are you two alright?”

Spike nodded back, and pulled his cord. His extra-sized parachute bloomed overhead, jerking them both back “up” – really a simple slowdown – but they were still moving quite fast.

He adjusted his grip on the white unicorn as the grassy field below rushed up, and bore the brunt of the ground impact with a suppressed shout of pain.


“I’m so sorry.” Rarity shook her head. “I didn’t think I’d go to pieces like that.”

“No problem,” Spike assured her, scratching a spot on his back. Dragon scales were tough – he’d only bruised. “Wasn’t your fault.”

“But I feel like it is. That’s a weakness, and…” Rarity trailed off, blinking furiously. “I… deplore feeling weak.”

Spike spread his arms. After a moment, Rarity shook her head. “No thank you, Spike. Later, I think… maybe yes. But… not now.”

“Alright.” The dragon nodded. “Kinda makes sense, anyway. Cadence told me once that you often second-guess actions you take when you’re stressed… especially things to do with, er… relationships.”

They sat there for a bit.

“Tell you what,” he said, suddenly. “I’ll ask Twilight if we can have the Gala tickets next time. Have it to ourselves.”

“Isn’t that terribly selfish?” Rarity asked.

“Nah.” Spike shrugged. “Well, maybe a bit. But I am a dragon.”

Rarity giggled.

“The great dragon Spykoranuvellitar, no less!” Spike puffed out his chest, knowing full well that he looked absurd. “Who could begrudge two tickets for his hoard, especially since at the moment it consists of two autographed books, a piece of cheese, and a wind-up toaster?”

“…pardon?”

“Yeah,” Spike looked shifty. “If you’re a dragon, midnight snacking is kind of expensive.”

This time Rarity’s giggles lasted longer, and she was smiling at the end of them. “Thank you, Spike. I feel better now.”

“No problem.” Spike paused, wondering if he should risk bringing the matter up again. “Er… have you considered asking Princess Luna to help with that fear of yours?”

“No, actually.” Rarity frowned. “That might be a good idea. Thank you for suggesting it, Spike.”

“No problem,” he repeated.


18.3

“Girls?” Twilight said, and the five other Elements turned to her. “There’s somepony I’d like you to meet.”

“Who is it?” Pinkie asked. “I like meeting new ponies!” She looked a bit dour for a second. “Especially since it’s been getting kinda rare…”

By answer, Twilight stepped back from the door.

“…hello,” Trixie said. “Tr- I understand that you are the Looping versions, then?”

“Yep,” Applejack replied simply.

“Then it is nice to meet you.” Trixie sketched a bow. “I understand that my… well, my normal self has acquitted herself less than well on a few occasions with you.”

“Pretty much.” Dash nodded. “Does this mean you’re Looping too?”

Trixie nodded, looking nervous. But she swallowed hard, and stood tall.

Suddenly Applejack stepped forwards and took her hoof. “Then it’s nice to meet y’all. How long you been Loopin’?”

“Oh. Er… only four so far.” Trixie waved a hoof. “I’m still rather new to all this.”

“Full barrage, party close, immediate effect!” Pinkie said into a radio, and dove for cover.

Trixie blinked. “What-”

SPLUT.


“Trixie does not even particularly like lime,” the unicorn said, treading icing. “What just happened?”

“Oh, right.” Twilight shrugged. “I think Pinkie set up an autoloading party howitzer with voice activation earlier today. I don’t know why.”

“Can you please teach Trixie two things?” At Twilight’s nod, Trixie continued. “First, that icing-walking spell you are using. It would be most useful.”

“Sure.” Twilight nodded, hoisting the magician out of the impromptu torte. “And the second thing?”

“How to subscribe to that party pony’s news letter.” Trixie’s eyes shone suddenly. “She thinks in a way that I find very interesting.”

“…what have I done?” Twilight asked rhetorically.


18.4

“So, let me get this straight,” Spike said carefully. “I’m a pathetic excuse for a dragon because I was raised by ponies. Specifically, by a ‘namby pamby pony princess’.”

Garble and his two bookends nodded.

“Right. And you don’t know what kind of dragon I am?”

“Like it matters!” the one on the left said. (Spike still couldn’t really tell them apart.)

“Okay.” Spike nodded. “Got it. So, what’s your special power?”

“Huh?” Garble said. “Why would we need special powers? We’re already, you know, dragons. Is this some pony thing?”

“Oh.” Spike shrugged. “’cause one of the namby pamby pony princesses I know kinda helped to raise me. And she taught me three main things. Number one: how to read.”

The teens looked singularly unimpressed.

“Number two, how to make friends.”

If anything, they got more apathetic.

“And number three: How to do this.”

Spike stretched, and went on stretching. There was a brief period of morphic confusion, and then he tapped a claw on the ground.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

“Kinda cool, huh?” he rumbled, now at least Wyrm in size.


Luna opened her door. “Whom is knocking at this late hour?”

Three dragons prostrated themselves on the floor in front of her door. “Teach us awesome stuff, pony princess!”

She blinked. “…very well, then. You shall be inducted into my Night Guards, and thence be taught the ancient power of balefire. The flame that burns cold.”

Meadowlark grinned beneath his wing. He’d just been thinking the Night Guard needed a bit more… oomph.


18.5

“…I can’t run this!” Diamond Tiara shouted. “It’s inconceivable! Incomprehensible!”

“Why not?” Scootaloo asked. “It’s what happened.”

“That’s as may be…” Diamond said, sighing. “But it would destroy the credibility of the paper if we printed it without evidence.”

“We have credibility?” Sweetie asked.

“Sssh,” Applebloom admonished her.

“Ah well. I suppose we have a civic duty.” Diamond slid the copy over to the typesetter.

“…pardon?” that colt asked, looking at the paper. “Princess Luna is the one ambushing ponies with tennis balls?”

“Yeah,” Scootaloo said, shrugging. “I didn’t have time to take a photo before she saw me, though.”


Princess Luna grinned as she read the headline.

Luna-tic Princess?

“Ah, I do so enjoy creating bizarre headlines… let’s see, what next?”


Celestia spat her tea out.

Moon used for advertisement! Is the Princess of the Night hard up for cash?

She ran to the window and looked out. The slowly sinking satellite had the words Eat at Joe’s! written across it.

“…hm. Well, not my problem.” Celestia firmly put a lid on the issue, and decided to leave things to Luna.


Local pony breaks sound barrier!

“That’s not a headline…” Twilight muttered. Then she read further.

No, seriously, we mean she broke it. As in, nothing has gone supersonic since.

“But…” the anchor blinked. “How? She’s not even Looping!”


Pinkie Pie declares independence, establishes republic of Sugaria

Guard captain caught with Celestia’s niece!

Luna rules, Celestia drools!


“Explain,” Twilight said flatly.

“Alright…” Luna blushed. “I may have started bribing them.”


18.6 (The Bill, perhaps?)

“…I don’t believe that scum like you could possibly exist! To betray your people, your family… you make me sick, and if I was the one in charge of sentencing you I’d have you in a hole so deep you’d have to tunnel up to Tartarus!”

Someone knocked on the door.

Inspector Dash stopped shouting, and moved away from the relieved criminal. “Ah, my shift’s up. I’ll get my partner to chat to you.” The door opened, and Dash slipped out.

Inspector Gilda came in. “Yeah, Dash can be like that.”

“Oh, I see!” The unicorn grinned. “This is good cop, bad cop! Well, it ain’t going to work!”

Gilda grinned. “Yeah, you got it right. Except for one thing… Dash always was a softy.”

The unicorn paled.

“Yep. She was the good cop.”


“Now that’s professional,” Twilight said critically. “No marks – not even real injuries – just a shave. And he did need one.”

“Yep,” Dash replied, sitting down in the interrogation room. “Gils is good with those claws. Hell, I’ve seen her cut a feather in half – while it was falling.”

“Oh,” Twilight held up a hoof. “…aaand he’s confessing. How long was that?”

“Four minutes, seven seconds.”

“Hmmm…” Chief Twilight Sparkle wrote it down. “Unusually resilient one, that one…”


18.7

“Hey, this is cool!” the alliteratively named Princess Pinkie Pie said, gazing around. “Discord’s in charge, right?”

“Right now, yes.” Twilight nodded. “This is the Discordian era. I’m surprised your one of these got deferred by one loop, actually – probably it was because of that nice colt who Fluttershy helped. You know, the guy from Fenris.”

“Yeah!” Pinkie nodded back. “Lemon Rush was so nice – well, except when someone threatened Fluttershy, anyway. So what happens now?”

“Basically, we seal Discord and run Equestria.” Twilight frowned. “Which Elements do you want?”


“This is the best job ever!” Pinkie said, beaming. “Where’d you get the idea of a Quaestor, anyway?” The brightly coloured robes shifted a little.

“Rome,” Twilight replied. “I knew you’d enjoy that kind of thing, so I made it so there’s no weekends. Just about a hundred and eighty celebration days a year.”

“All individually themed?” Pinkie’s eyes shone.

“I certainly tried.” Twilight smiled, enjoying Pinkie’s obvious enjoyment of her new position. It had been tricky to work out how to divide their responsibilities, but this seemed to be working out fine.


“Okay, Pinkie…” Twilight rubbed her temples. “What have we learned?”

“Uhhh… oh! Mortals can’t cope with a blood sugar level in excess of eighty percent!” Pinkie said brightly.

“…Okay, what things, plural, have we learned?”

Pinkie frowned. “Don’t try to summon a daemonette outside the forty-kay loop, cuz it doesn’t work and I don’t run them any more. Don’t invite crocodiles to parties, at least not adult ones. And don’t bake a special caramel cake shaped like floor and then startle the dragon ambassador with a bursting-paper-bag gag, cuz if he breaths fire then the whole thing explodes.”

“Right,” Twilight nodded. “That’s better. Now, I have to say, this is a new one on me for these Loops.”

Both of them turned to look at Equestria below.

“How long until the Elements let us go back down?” Pinkie asked.

“Not sure.” Twilight shrugged. “I hope they can handle themselves down there.”

She had to wonder why she’d been included in the lock out. Possibly it was because of the botched and overpowered daemonette summoning, which had instead finally produced a very confused Changeling in the instant before the explosion.


“…okay, then.” Chrysalis looked around the smouldering crater. “Hmm… I wonder how much gratitude ponies would have for a nation of changelings that helped them rebuild their capital city?”


“We’re back!” Pinkie shouted. “Now, who wants some chocolate?”

“Me, please.” A Changeling hovered over and took one. “Very nice. Thank you.”

Twilight blinked, watching the insectoid critter buzz off and go into a furniture shop. “What happened while we were gone?”

“I dunno, but I like it!” Pinkie bounced into the air and stayed there, beating her wings. “Hey, look, free daily concerts!”

“Oh, those must be so that Changelings can get their fill of love,” Twilight realized. “Well, we seem kind of superfluous. Shall we just go to the concert?”

“Yay!”


“Should have known,” Twilight muttered to herself.

Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash worked their bass and guitar respectively on stage. Applejack drummed away in the background, Rarity was doing rather well on piano, and as for the singers…

I'll give you all I've got to give

If you say you love me too

I may not have a lot to give

But what I've got I'll give to you

I don't care too much for money

For money can't buy me love

Can't buy me love

Everybody tells me so

Can't buy me love

No, no, no, no!”

Celestia and Luna sang together, trading off on alternate lines with the ease of long practice and longer association.

“They’re really good!” Pinkie enthused.

“Yeah,” Twilight said, nodding along. “Wonder if they’re going to even need the Elements…”


18.8

Hiccup looked around. “Toothless? Where did you go?” Seriously, he added over their telepathic link – courtesy of a Pern loop so long ago it felt like they’d never lacked that closer-than-brothers relationship, what happened to you?

A purr came over the link, and a side-bleed of the dragon’s emotions. They were so strong – and so sleepy – that Hiccup nearly tripped.

Hey, Hiccup, Toothless eventually said, in the telepathic equivalent of a lazy drawl, I defect. I’m working for this girl now.

Hiccup finally reached the clearing he’d originally met Toothless in – all those loops ago. However, there was a girl there already with flowers in her hair… and a rather grumpy looking bunny on her shoulder. And she was scratching Toothless under his chin.

“You’re a nice one, aren’t you? So this is your home loop?”

Toothless nodded happily, begging for more scratches.


“You must be Fluttershy, then?” Hiccup confirmed. “It’s been… whoo, a long time since I last met you guys. Bit more experience with the multiverse since?”

“Yes, thanks.” Fluttershy Hofferson stroked Angel Bunny, who waved a carrot warningly at Toothless when he tried to sidle closer. “Twilight told us she met you a few times.”

“Yeah…” Hiccup shrugged. “Strange thing, she tends to be my sister. Anyway, you seem to have subverted my dragon.”

I’m not yours! Toothless replied huffily. We have a contractual relationship, remember. And there’s nothing in there precluding additional riders.

“Yeah, yeah…” Hiccup said, stretching. “Man, I’ll miss Astrid, though. She’s a good girlfriend… if scary.”

Fluttershy giggled. “All right. This is your home loop, so how does it work?”

“Basically, we have to teach the village how to become dragon riders. Step one: catch your dragon.” Hiccup nodded towards Toothless. “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, they’re suckers for fish, catnip, scritches or just generally anything that works on a cat. Or a dog.”

I prefer to think of it as cats liking what Night Furies do. Toothless rolled over on his back. Speaking of which…

Hiccup got up and gave his friend a rub. “They are kinda high maintenance at times, but if you get a dragon as a friend they’ll last you as long as you deserve. Longer, even.”

“Okay…” Fluttershy got a speculative look in her eye. “I’ll see if I can find a dragon to befriend for myself.”


“Should have guessed…” Hiccup shook his head, as the humanized pegasus gave a chin scratch to the latest in a relay of over four hundred dragons.

One of the nadders tried to jump the queue, and an expertly aimed carrot from Angel sent him sprawling backwards to meekly retake his place.

“This is going to look bad at the exam…”


“Hi, I’m Astrid. The name means beautiful, which I am, and these are my animal friends.” The pegasus gave a sweet smile. “They like me.”

Stormfly nodded enthusiastically. The manticore, hydra, cockatrice and ursa major exchanged glances, felt their bruises and decided to play along.

“…well, that suggests a way of dealing with Nightmare Moon,” Twilight said. “Er… what’s with the axe?”

“It helps me be friendly,” Astrid said.


18.9

“Twilight.”

Twilight stepped into the audience chamber, half her mind on what she planned to do to handle Sombra this time around. The idea of getting him into an eating contest with Spike seemed to be a fun one…

Celestia looked her in the eye. “Twilight Sparkle. You are to take your friends, the Elements, your brother, his wife, my sister, half the army, as many large monsters as you can obtain, and Trixie Lulamoon, and beat self-styled King Sombra like a test your strength machine.”

The anchor’s thoughts swerved wildly, as Celestia went off-script. “Er… pardon?”

“Did I stutter?” Celestia frowned. “No, you’re right. Also take the Wonderbolts, a regiment of expeditionary forces from the Griffins, every dragon we have treaties with and, if necessary or desired, an asteroid strike.”

“…wait, are you Looping?” Twilight asked.

Celestia looked grave for a moment. Then sniggered. After a game attempt to recover her composure, she finally burst out laughing. “Got you!”

Twilight shook her head, a grin stealing over it. “You did that.”


18.10 (C.S.) (by Zulaq)


It was another regular base loop for Twilight, and she was playing it as the first time, because she had a new plan in mind for dealing with Discord. She had just finished finding the information on Nightmare Moon’s imminent return and sending her letter to Celestia.

5…4…3…2…1…

Spike burped up a scroll.

Twilight listened with only half an ear as Spike started reading, “My dearest, most faithful student Twilight, please come to my chambers immediately.” Spike dropped the letter with a gasp, “Wow, she must be really concerned about this Mare in the Moon thing. Don’t you think Twilight?”

Twilight didn’t respond, as she thought about what the summons meant. If Celestia was awake then she’d have to change some of her plans, but then again, loops with just her and the princess could be fun. Turning to Spike, she spoke, “Don’t worry, Spike. I’m sure the princess is just wants to confirm my findings. I’ll go see her right away.”


“Wait,” Twilight asked incredulously, “you’re telling me somepony’s stolen the Moon!?”

Celestia definitely wasn’t awake, but Twilight had no clue what was going on. Maybe Luna was awake, and was messing with her sister again?

“Yes,” Celestia stated gravely, “Two hours ago, I noticed was no longer under my power. I attempted to ascertain its status, and my spells say it’s not where it should be. The only clue that came up was this.” She lifted green metal curved band, with seven spikes jutting out of it.

Curious, Twilight used her magic to bring the object to her for a closer examination. “It appears to be a tiara. Albeit, a rather uncomfortable one,” she mused, “It’s made of copper, the green is just oxidation. This definitely reminds me of something. But what?” She thought for a moment, before her eyes widened in realization, “It’s a miniature of the crown on top of the Statue of Leighberty in Manehatten!”

Celestia looks relived for a moment, before donning a resolute face. “Twilight, I want you to go to Manehatten and investigate the Statue of Leighberty. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find some more clues there.”

“Wait a minute,” Twilight protested, “Shouldn’t the guards handle this, maybe the police? Or even you, I mean whoever did this was strong enough to steal the moon!”

“I’m afraid that won’t work,” Celestia sighed, “I cannot inform anypony else. If the people were to learn that the moon is missing, panic might ensue. I cannot go myself, because I’d attract far too much attention, and arranging royal visits is an extremely involved process that we just don’t have the time for.” She sighed again, “Fortunately, even though it’s not the longest day of the year yet, days are still far longer than normal this time of year, so it’ll be most of the day before I have to raise the moon. I might be able to buy some more time, pretend I’m keeping the sun up a bit longer than normal due to some unusual solar activity I want to observe, or some such, but I have to be here in Canterlot to do it.”

“I guess I understand,” Twilight replied, “But how am I going to get to Manehatten in time?”

“I’m going to teleport you there directly,” Celestia stated, with her horn beginning to glow, “So good luck, Twilight Sparkle!”

In a flash of light, Twilight disappeared.


Twilight Sparkle appeared in a burst of light and shook her head. That was not a normal teleport, she thought to herself. It felt almost as if moving through a tunnel, which had screens on it showing various scenes from around Equestria, instead of the instantaneous transportation she was used to.

But Twilight had no time to contemplate the strange teleport, as the scene before her stunned her. She was standing at the base of the Statue of Leighberty, and far above her, she can see twelve grey and red pegasi securing ropes to the crown atop the statue’s head. Quick to act, Twilight teleported herself to the statue’s head herself.

Thankfully, teleporting under her own power seemed normal, and Twilight arrived only to find an even stranger scene than she thought. The twelve pegasi were still fliting about, attaching ropes, but there were also five other ponies on the roof. Four were grey and red unicorns, using magic to cut the metal of the tiara away from the rest of the statue using magic. But the fifth was the strangest, a mare wearing a huge red fedora, a long yellow scarf and a red greatcoat, which covered almost all of her body aside from her head and long black mane. Twilight wasn’t certain what type of pony she was, given her clothes covered up the areas where wings or a horn might be.

The strangely dressed mare was the first to notice Twilight’s presence. She turned to face Twilight, and smiled. “So the Princess figured out my clue did she?” she spoke, with a faint smile on her face, “But then again, it was such a simple clue. And who does she send as her emissary?” She examined Twilight with a simple, dismissive, glance. “Obviously nopony of import.”

“Hey,” Twilight protested, feeling odd that she’d been so causally dismissed, “I’ll have you know that I’m Celestia’s personal student! And I was the one who figured out your clue.” Twilight reigned herself in a bit, it wouldn’t do to get worked up on a mission like this. “Who are you? And why did you steal the Moon?”

“Oh,” the mare questioned in an amused manner, “we might have a little detective here, asking so many questions. I’m sorry I won’t answer your questions yet, but you’re not quite the detective I want. So what do you say that you return to Celestia, and I continue my little plan.”

“I’m not going anywhere! You’re going to stop this, and return the Moon, right now! Or else!”

“Or else what my dear?” the mare questioned, “You’re still a child compared to me.”

“Or this!” with that, Twilight shot a beam of stunning magic from her horn, but the strange mare merely sidestepped it.

“Oh, so you do have some spark,” the mare chuckled to herself, “But I don’t have the time to spend playing games with you. After all, I do believe I’m done here.” As she spoke, a loud metallic groaning sound erupted from the statue, as the unicorns finished detaching the tiara and the pegasai began lifting it into the air.

The unknown mare lifted her right forehoof, and Twilight could just see some sort of advanced bracer just under the edge of her coat. The mare pointed her hoof at the flying tiara, and a grappling hook shot out of the bracer and began pulling her up into the air. She twisted about to speak to Twilight once more, “We shall see if you are a good enough detective to challenge me, Twilight Sparkle. So I give you this clue; apples to apples, I think I’ll just take a chip off of the old block.”

Twilight was stupefied by the scene before her. There was no way that a dozen pegasai could lift something as heavy as the tiara, but they were not only lifting it, they were flying at a decent pace, and only getting faster as she watched. She watched as the group of criminal ponies disappeared into the distance, and all she did was shake her head.

Twilight knew that there were literally dozens of things she could have done to change the situation, but the sheer audacity (and implausibility) of the crime being committed had her off balance. Even now, she could probably magic up some solution, but instead, Twilight broke out into a grin. This just might be an interesting loop.


18.11 (elmagnifico)


Big Macintosh sighed.

It was the day of the Apple Family Reunion. The one where he'd first seen Twilight Sparkle. All around him, he could see the other Apples doing reunion things, at this stage mostly standing around and sipping cider saved for the occasion. From over by the buffet table, the Element of Honesty took a moment from helping Granny Smith with the salad to give him a look.

"Y' okay Mac? Ye've done nuthin' but mope since breakfast."

Macintosh paused. This was the other mare, the one that was sometimes there instead of the Applejack he had watched grow countless times before. She hadn't said as much, but the signs were there. She carried herself differently. Subtle motions. She'd sometimes flex her shoulders like he'd seen pegasi do. Her stepping was more careful, calculated. After years and years being around his sister, it had put him on edge. Acting and lying were different things, and she was better at the former than the latter, but an astute observer could pick it out if they tried.

After so much time, small things were bound to change. He supposed somepony looking at him might see similar differences between his Looping self and his counterpart. On the other hoof, he'd spent most of his Loops hiding from one pony or another, which might have masked the tells. He wasn't sure. All he knew for sure was that it was his effects, how he'd changed the ponies around him, rather than anything he'd been directly observed doing, that had finally tipped Her off.

Of course, now he knew that Twilight Sparkle was just the victim of boredom and a mischievous demeanour, not an evil dusk-bringing eldritch abomination. He didn't really approve of the pranks. One had nearly given that loop's version of Granny Smith a heart attack when she'd noticed. Even if she still would have been there next time the world reset, she was still his grandmother. Watching her die would still have hurt. It would have hurt his sisters too.

He sighed again. He didn't want to keep this secret any longer.

"Ah've got somethin' to tell ya."


The barn, cleared to accommodate the festivities in case of rain, had proved the perfect place to explain things.

"So ye've been loopin' for a while now, but Twilight only noticed when ya changed enough stuff?"

It had been so easy this time. Instead of cutting him off at the first mention of time travel, like Applejack had in loops past, she'd listened. Right up until he'd mentioned she had been there for some of those loops.

"Eeyup."

She seemed angry now. Ranting full blast.

"An' ya didn't tell her about the loops 'cuz she turned into Eternal Twilight right in fronta ya?"

It felt good, in a strange way. Calling him out on stuff he'd been hiding was something his sister did.

"Eeyup."

She looked him in the eyes.

"And ya kept me in th' dark, not trustin' yer own kin ta have yer best interests at heart?"

He shook his head.

"Ah told ya a few times, in some of th' early loops. Y' either didn't believe me, or ya wanted to go ta Twilight immediate like. Ah managed to convince ya that was a bad idea. Didn't feel lahk it were safe after thatn'."

The green orbs staring into his narrowed.

"You know that's different. That weren't the loopin' me."

"See, that's the thing.” Mac groped for words. “Y'all aren't the sister ah know. Ya got her body, ya got her voice, ya got her eyes. But y' ain't the same pony."

A stomp of anger. Frustration. So very like Applejack.

"That didn't stop me from bein' yer sister before! What about when ah went off to Manehatten, ah wasn't the same pony when ah came back!"

"Y' didn't start hangin' out with Eternal Twilight an' turnin' into no goddess after y' went off to Manehatten! Fer all ah knew, y' were some time warpin' changeling in league with th' eldritch abomination!" Mac realized his voice was riding, and tried to calm down a little.

"Twilight's no abomination!"

"AH KNOW THAT NOW!"

Silence fell.

It was broken by the receding clatter of tiny hooves outside the barn door.

Instinctively, his eyes shifted to the red barrier. Applebloom. Ah, Fewmets.

"Ah, horseapples."

The whisper was quiet, and likely meant for no ears aside from hers. His eyes widened.

When he looked back at his sister, she was scowling at him. She spoke, barely louder than her swear.

"How many?"

He tilted his head. How many what?

"How many loops did y'all lie to me?"

Recognition dawned at his eyes, but he kept his reply quiet.

"Four."

She paused for a second before continuing.

"We ain't done mister. Ah got a shindig to run, an' you've got duties to attend, but after that, we're settlin' this."

She trotted out to find Applebloom, leaving Macintosh alone in the barn. He sighed, before quirking the corners of his mouth just a little. It would be hard, but he would try his hardest to fix things. After a minute or so, he followed his sister.

It would be a good reunion.


18.12 (Stainless Steel Fox)


"I know who you are. You're the Mare in the Moon – Nightmare Moon!"Twilight exclaimed, focussing most of her attention on quietly completing a dimensional ward spell to cover the entire area around the town hall.

The wicked mare of darkness (TM) gloated. "Well well well, somepony who remembers me. Then you also know why I'm here."

Twilight put on a bored expression and spooled a hoof. "Yeah, I know eternal night, never see the sun again, yadayadayada. I still think it's one of the most moronic villainous plots ever."

"How dare you mock me!" Nightmare Moon crackled with lightning, and her aura flared. "I have all the powers of the night!"

"And I have a Jim." Twilight returned.

"No amount of physical exercise will save you!"

"Not gym. Jim. JIM!" the last was called out in a loud voice.

A big grey hand came smashing through the wall behind Nightmare Moon and grabbed her. "Pretty Pony Princess!"

"Arrrghh! You have a cave troll?" NMM squirmed in the grip of the massive grey slab of humanoid, who was hugging her and saying how he would cuddle her and call her George.

"I promised him a pretty pony princess of his very own. Good luck escaping, cave trolls are highly resistant to magic."

"Urh! Little foal, I can simply..." Her aura flared and nothing happened.

"Oh, so that's where I put that area ward against dimensional travel. Kinda knocks over your ability to teleport or turn ethereal. Ooops!" Twilight smirked.


18.13

“Lady Rarity, bearer of the Element of Generosity, of Ponyville! Mister Spykoranuvellitar, of Canterlot.”

A few heads turned as the dragon and the unicorn entered Canterlot Castle’s largest dance hall, but most of the guests were otherwise occupied. The Gala was the premier social event… though that also made it where everyone checked their current score in the great game of status. And a fair fraction of the nobility of Equestria were engrossed in trying to calculate the current leaderboard.

Of Ponyville?” Rarity asked in an artfully concealed whisper, her lips barely moving. “And I wasn’t aware I was a lady.

“Well, normally you’re not.” Spike’s whisper had a little less skill behind it, but ponies would have a lot less opportunity to learn to lip-read dragons anyway. “I asked Celestia about it, and she agreed to grant that title to element bearers as a minor mark of respect. And the ‘of’ is just where you live, when you have a title like that. For me it’s where I was born.” He looked around the room. “My, all the notables are here.”

“How cunning of you,” Rarity said, then broke off their conversation. “Oh, Rich! Fancy seeing you here!”

“Rarity.” Filthy Rich bowed gently, his eyes flicking to Spike. “And Spykoran as well. You’re certainly dressed for it.”

Rarity made an elegant gesture in token of disagreement – which neither pony took seriously; it was just part of the way one did things. “One tries.”

Spike let his own gaze wander to Rarity’s dress. They’d spent three days working together on it and on his tuxedo, and both were filigreed with gemstones ordered by refractive index. Light that struck them curved and came out somewhere else, splintered into a rainbow of colours, and the gems were so fine they looked like mere glitter unless seen closely.

But to him, the real reason Rarity looked good wasn’t the dress. She made it look good, and not the other way around.

“So, tell me,” Rich asked, addressing the dragon directly, “what is it like living with the highest-scoring graduate of Celestia’s academy in history?”

Spike smiled slightly. “Well, she does her own taxes…” Rich quirked his mouth, and Spike went on. “She’s… brilliant, is the only word that applies. I’m probably something of a biased source, but I really don’t think the Element of Magic could have a better bearer.”

“And, of course,” Rarity added, “you do help her out when she forgets to eat.”

Spike raised a hand. “A touch, I do confess. Well, cooking is something I don’t mind doing – I even think I may have some skill at it, though being a dragon I can’t simply tell that from how my own creations taste.”

Rich nodded understandingly. “What about…”


The two of them spent about an hour doing a turn around the hall, engaging in dozens of short, varied conversations on a wide variety of topics. Their Looping experience served them well, letting either or both of them at least have a reference and a comment or two about nigh on any subject.

Particularly interesting was when Princess Celestia managed to get a few minutes away from the receiving line and speak to them. Her knowing expression told Spike that she had at least some intimation of how close they were, but she confined herself to small talk… and one embarrassing story about the time when Equestria’s court including a dragon was still a cause of terror for ill-informed petitioners, leading to five ponies hiding behind a pillar from a two-year-old Spike with an ice cream.

Ultimately, the music began. With no Pinkie Pie, the orchestra were able to perform a more normal set, and the first piece was a moderately paced quadrille.


“Don’t look now,” Spike said quietly on their second dance (a slow waltz), “but I think that Blueblood’s been glaring at us for the past five minutes.”

They slowly changed places, Rarity following the traditional dance and Spike moving in a variant that they’d worked out some time ago to compensate for his different body shape.

“Yes, I see what you mean,” Rarity replied. “Goodness, but I feel rather better than I should about him being jealous of you.”

“You think that’s what it is?”

“For my sins,” Rarity gave a tiny grin, “I happen to know him rather well. I do feel some sympathy for the prince… after all, he’s grown up under rather a lot of pressure… but, then, other royals had the same situations and they handled it much better. But yes, that rather appears as though he’s jealous.”

“With good reason,” Spike replied, executing a complicated step which had been designed with a low centre of gravity in mind. He managed it without stumbling, but it was a near thing. “I feel like I’ve got the best dance partner on the floor.”

“You flatterer.” Rarity fluttered her eyelashes, eyes laughing. “I – oh!”

The waltz had come to an end, and without missing a beat Octavia and her quartet changed into a fast arabesque.

Spike and Rarity exchanged glances, grinned, and threw themselves into the physically demanding dance.


Dragon and unicorn only came off the dance floor three times that night.

The first time was when Rarity laughingly asked for a break, and the two of them headed over to the buffet for some food and – especially – water. Octavia was outdoing herself tonight, which meant lots of physically demanding dances, and they needed it.

The second time, Spike disappeared backstage for a few minutes, and came out again onto the orchestral dais itself. Sitting at a piano, he proceeded to rattle off the hardest pieces Twilight had been able to find him – starting with a Bach piano concerto, following that up with the Hammerklavier, and finishing with something simply called “Study in A flat major after op.25” which was essentially written for four hands.

Though that earned him a round of applause, he waved it off and vanished backstage again to change from waistcoat and tails back to his tuxedo.

While he was gone, though, Rarity found herself approached by Blueblood.

“Might I beg the honour of the next dance, my lady?” he asked, and Rarity had to admire his skill. If she hadn’t had several dozen loops’ worth of disastrous Gala attempts of one sort or another to remember, she’d have thought this was her dreams coming true.

“My apologies, your highness,” she replied, affecting a slight air of distraction, “but I have already promised mister Spykoran the next dance.”

“It rather seems as though you have promised him all the dances,” Blueblood muttered. “Though he is, it would appear, a lucky fellow – all our local mares are rather disquieted by your presence.” A dazzling smile. “They’re not used to competition, especially not competition with such grace.”

“I would hardly describe myself as competition,” she began, and he interrupted her.

“Nor would I, my lady… because that implies that they are within shouting distance of you.”

“I really must get on.” Rarity turned half-away from him, looking to see if Spike had already come back in, and then saw a look of pure venom flash across Blueblood’s face before his training reasserted itself.

She gave him a sardonic look which told him that she’d seen his momentary loss of composure. “Ah, dear Spykoran must have returned. Thank you for letting me know.”

As Rarity trotted briskly over to the dance floor once more, she fancied – deep in her core – that she could hear the sound of grinding teeth.


“Spike,” Rarity asked, halfway through the latest in a litany of dances so long she’d begun to lose track, “do you remember that letter you sent me, before our dinner at Blue Cordon’s restaurant?”

“Er…” the dragon frowned. “The one last loop, about getting hold of lightsaber-quality crystals?”

“No,” she shook her head. “The first one. That very first letter you sent me after we turned up in a Loop together.”

Spike nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“Well, by my count we have had approximately a hundred and eleven years to think about the subject,” she continued, still placing her hooves with faultless care. “And I would like to ask you if you think anything’s come up.”

“…goodness.” The dragon thought for perhaps five seconds. “No, I can’t say I’ve noticed anything major… you’ve only improved, from the pony I first had a crush on.”

“Good,” she said, and then as the waltz ended reached up, pulled his head down, and gave him a fiery kiss. “That’s about what I think, too,” she said softly, as her lips released his.

Spike’s eyes were suddenly wet with unshed tears. “You… really?”

“Yep.” She winked, suddenly and irreverently. “It took me a long time to be sure, and I’m sorry for that. But I really have fallen for you.”

Suddenly, both of them noticed that the sound in the room was ebbing away. Looking away from one another, they saw the various ponies present were clearing the dance floor.

“Should we-”

“Of course not,” Princess Celestia said, startling them both as she spoke from within a few metres. “This is yours, and yours alone.”

With that, she withdrew, and Spike and Rarity were alone in the middle of a cleared space at least twenty metres in every direction.

Then the musicians started playing again.

It was concert music, not dance music, and as a general rule one simply did not start with a finale piece. But that didn’t matter. And as the finale of the Rebirth of the Phoenix began to swell around them, going from strings alone to horns to drums and flute, and swelling into one of the great triumphal musical pieces, the young-old dragon who was a mage’s assistant and the unicorn who had always dreamed of creating beauty simply danced.

The third time they left the dance floor that night, no other pony replaced them. It would have been a cheapening of what they had just witnessed.


“So?” Twilight asked. “How did the Gala go?”

Spike beamed. “As well as it possibly could have gone. Unquestionably,” and here he gave Twilight a wink, “the best night ever.”


Loops 19

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19.1

Twilight looked up at the refurbished castle with satisfaction. “Excellent. Well done, everypony.”

AJ nodded. “Yep. A good day’s work, ah’d say.”

The other four Element bearers lay around in various states of collapse. It had taken a twelve-hour-long burst of effort from all six of them to get the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters habitable, but it looked pretty good.

“Right. Okay, everyone, take tomorrow off. Enjoy your new rooms,” Twilight continued briskly. “AJ, you can commute if you want, or move your family in – I don’t mind. But we’re going to want to get to work on the monitoring station soon.”

“You know,” Dash wheezed, “This can’t be what Princess Celestia wanted you to do once we cured her sister.”

“Why not?” Twilight asked, frowning. “It’ll let us use the Elements on any villain who might threaten Equestria, it means we’re already in one place so there’s no need to waste time getting together, and it’ll let us detect when villains turn up in the first place.”

“You think there might be any?” Rarity asked, pulling herself upright.

“Probably.” Twilight shrugged.


“Right. Trixie calls this meeting of the League of Minor Antagonists to order.”

There was a hubbub of confused voices.

“Trixie said order!” There was a loud bang. “Thank you. Now, Trixie is sure you are all wondering why you are here.”

“Well, duh,” Gilda said scathingly. “None of us have ever met one another. Well, except me and Lighting Dust over there.”

“It’s Lightning!” the pegasus snapped, stamping.

“Who put po-ny in charge?” Fido asked.

“Trixie did.” Trixie’s gaze swept the assembled ponies, griffin, Diamond Dogs, one confused buffalo, a large and irritable dragon, and Philomena the phoenix (wearing a name tag with the legend ‘observer’). “Trixie came up with the idea, recruited you all, and Trixie will be in charge.”

“Really?” the dragon said, grumbling.

Trixie erupted in blue light. “Really,” she said casually, as the corona of power revealed her wings. “Trixie said she was great. And powerful! You should take her at her word.”

“What the buck?” Lightning Dust said, blinking. “You’re an alicorn?”

“Nope.” Trixie was sitting back down, light and wings gone and cloak firmly over her back. “Why? Did you see something?”

“…oh, forget it.”

“Trixie already has. Whatever it was.” The unicorn waved a hoof. “Now, our objective: the Elements of Harmony. Trixie recommends stage one should begin soon.”

“What’s stage one?” Gilda asked.

“Why, that’s simple.” Trixie grinned, activating a slide projector. “We place buckets of water over doors that they tend to walk through.

“Po-ny is clearly insane,” Fido muttered.

The buffalo nodded, still wondering why he wasn’t in a desert any more.


19.2

“Okay, come on.” Spike stood, and gestured to his girlfriend – a word that still gave him a little frisson when he thought it. “We’re going flying.”

Rarity flinched. “Do we have to?” she asked, covering for her slip.

“Well, you don’t have to,” Spike admitted. “But I saw how you were last loop – don’t try and deny it, either. You really don’t like flying.”

“I don’t, no.” That was no great secret. Luna hadn’t managed to do much more than deeply bury the fear in armour of ice, and while it didn’t paralyze her in terror… it was still obvious from the sheen of sweat that Rarity did not like flying.

“Well… I dunno,” Spike shook his head. “You earned those wings of yours, Rarity, and I… I know what it’s like to hate your own body.”

The dragon shook his head again. “But hate’s too strong a word. More like… dislike? Or just feel like you can’t bring yourself to use the full scope of its abilities? No, that’s not it either. It’s so hard to-”

Rarity pressed a hoof against his lips. “I do know what you’re trying to say, Spike.” Then she chuckled. “Even if you’re not doing very well at saying it.”

“I’m at a disadvantage!” Spike said. “There’s a hoof in my face.”

“It wasn’t when you started talking, dear,” Rarity riposted.

“Got any proof?” For a moment, the young dragon grinned wickedly. Then his face fell, as he remembered the topic.

After a moment, Rarity nodded. It seemed like she was nodding half to herself. “Okay, you have a point. I’m an alicorn now – or I can be – and letting that go to waste would be simply atrocious.”

“Yeah. Besides, I’ll be there.”

“And I couldn’t ask for a better.” Rarity then giggled. “Oh, but I hope you’re going to age to the point you have wings! I’m not learning to fly while carrying you on my back!”

The dragon frowned. “That’s a point. Actually… should we ask Dash to help? She’s the best flier we know.”

“She is, yes…” Rarity considered. “No, I don’t think so. Dash finds flying far too easy. It’s first nature to her. If anything, my preference would be for Fluttershy – she’s by no means a natural flier, and she’s had to work at it.”

“True. Shall I get her?”

“No.” Spike blinked at how firmly Rarity had spoken, and she shook her head with a knowing grin. “Dear me, Spiky-wikey, you do miss the wood for the trees sometimes. You’re a great big strong dragon! I’d lay odds it was just as hard for you to learn as it was for Fluttershy to.”

“Probably harder, you’re right.” Spike thought back. “Yes, it was hard enough for me to force myself into the air. But I still think we should get Fluttershy, because she’s the one who had to overcome a fear of flying.”

“Next time,” Rarity decided, after a moment. “Unless this time goes well. But let’s see how we do alone together first.”

“Okay.” Spike squared his shoulders. “Sounds good.”

“And after this I’m going to get your adult form properly measured.” Rarity’s eyes took on what might be considered a slightly dangerous glint. “I won’t have you without a decent wardrobe, whatever your size!”

“…we’re not going to be declaring war for the materials, are we?” Spike asked, with a crooked smile.

“I swear!” Rarity quite deliberately flounced. “You invade another sovereign nation in the search for swatches one time, and you’re hearing about it forever!”

That was good for a shared laugh.

“Thanks, love,” Rarity said, quietly, after a minute or so of silence. “You’re right, I do need a kick up the backside about it. Sooner or later, there’ll be a loop where I need to fly.”

Spike shrugged awkwardly. “I kind of wanted to show you a few good romantic spots, too. Just the odd little place I like to go and meditate, but if we could both get there then they’d be perfect for a picnic.”

“Ah, motivation…” Rarity looked off into the middle distance. “I look forward to it. Well, let’s go. Where do you suggest we start?”

“Ponyville dam,” Spike replied promptly. “The lake’s a good safe splashdown spot, and hard flapping is at least a simple way to fly – you feel you’re in full control, and it lets you get that part of it down. Besides, your actual skill is good… it’s a psychological thing.”

“Very well, then.” The unicorn summoned a swimsuit. “Nice day for a swim.”

Spike blinked. “Are you trying to distract me? Because… it’s kind of working, actually…”


19.3

“I actually kinda wish I had a grandmother half as neat as yours,” Diamond Tiara said absently. “I mean, she got a land patent from Celestia herself!”

“Always with th’ hob-nobbing fer you, ain’t it?” Applebloom shook her head. “And here ah thought you were gettin’ to appreciate commoners.”

“Well, I do.” Diamond pointed over at Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. “See? I appreciate them.”

“Y’all bribe them.”

“We are totally happy with that!” Scootaloo said, balancing an ice cream about the size of her leg. “Bribery is good!”

“But as I was saying,” Diamond pressed, “I do appreciate commoners. But you, oh farmer’s daughter, are yeomanry.”

“…what?” Applebloom blinked, trying to remember the meaning of the word. “Ain’t that the same thing?”

“Not quite.” Diamond bestowed a disapproving look on her, with only a slight smirk to reveal she didn’t mean it. “Silver?”

“It’s simple.” Silver Spoon pointed over at the distant orchard. “Basically, you own your own land – or, rather, your family does.”

“...wait, that’s it?” Applebloom felt vaguely disappointed.

“Well, yeomanry have other characteristics.” Diamond smiled beatifically. “Chief amongst them a stubbornness of truly gargantuan – neigh, epic – proportions. One that puts such little things as a thousand years on the moon into the shade.”

Applebloom giggled. “Okay, you got me. But why does that make us yeomanry, instead of commoners?”

“Basically…” Diamond looked a little embarrassed. “Actually, it’s because there used to be three kinds of ponies. Ones who had others work for them, ones who worked for themselves, and ones who worked for others. And most of the top lot didn’t care about the difference between the other two.”

Then she made a throwing away gesture. “But who gives an apple. They’d consider Silver and I nouveau riche, you an uppity yeoman’s daughter and Scootaloo and Sweetie to be dreadfully common.”

“So… what you’re saying is, none of it matters anyway,” Applebloom said slowly.

“Yes, yes, but don’t expect that in writing.” Diamond frowned, then raised a hoof. “Idea! I give you poor, benighted provincials – and Silver, of course – a taste of true class.”

“Which is?” Four voices said, not quite in chorus.

“…hay if I know. As far as I can tell, though, class tastes like expensive chocolate. So that seems like a good start.” Diamond counted out bits. “Wow, I never realized just how much allowance I had… which way is Sugarcube Corner?”


19.4

“Okay, guys,” Sora said, summoning Fimbulwinter and Fafnir. The two keyblades crackled with frost and fire, and air began to swirl around him. “In fast, beat up Axel, then we can finally get our Gummi ship back this Loop.”

“Gotcha!” Donald quacked, his own legendary weapon snapping with power.

He and Goofy fell in behind their Anchor, as he broke down the doors of Twilight Town’s old mansion.

“GREETINGS!” a large, blue-black animal shouted. She (he?) reminded Sora of a cross between a unicorn, Hercules’ friendly pegasus… and Saix, somehow. “YOU WOULD BE THE DESTINED CHILD WHOSE MEMORIES WE HAD TO REBUILD IN THY DREAMS?”

“Er… yeah?” Sora looked around, trying to spot something different. Nope, the mansion was the same as ever… but those winged-unicorn statues now looked kinda suspicious. “Where are you from?”

“EQUESTRIA.” The… whatever-she-was said, lowering her voice enough that Sora could at least detect a gender. “NOW… WHERE IS THE NEAREST POOL? WE NEED A HOLIDAY.”


“Filling in for Auntie Luna suuucks,” Nyx grumbled. “Moon goes up, moon goes down. It’s boring. Hmmm… wonder if I could make it go… sideways?”

Naminé shrugged. “I’m just grateful for the rest.”


19.5 (inspired by “New Recruits”, a picture by DMKruiz.)

“Well, ah got to admit…” Applebloom walked around the first applicant. “She ain’t got a cutie mark.”

“But she’s way too old.” Scootaloo carefully scrutinized the nervous applicant, who began to turn rather more annoyed. “Like… at least twenty.”

“Well, I say we should take her.” Sweetie Belle nodded. “’Bloom? Scoots?”

“Yeah, sure.” Applebloom nodded as well, and after a moment Scootaloo made it unanimous.

“Can you, er… transform smaller?” Sweetie asked, rummaging amongst their things. “We don’t have a large size cape.”

“Fine.” Queen Chrysalis flashed with green fire and became much smaller. “This will do?”

“Yep,” Applebloom answered.

“As for the other one… hey, can you take off your armour? We need to see if you have a cutie mark.”

“Crys-tals!” Sombra said, shocked.

“No, I didn’t mean it like that!” Sweetie babbled, then blinked. “Wait. We don’t even have that kind of taboo.”


“You think this stands the best chance of working?” Princess Celestia asked, watching as the Crusaders (three official, one probationary) chased Sombra around the meadow trying to get a look at his flank.

“Well, it’s worth a try…” Twilight held up a book. “Apparently it’s called reintegration therapy.”


19.6 (Filraen, continuation of 17.3 take two)


In Rainbow Dash's opinion, it was a pity they had to halt a great prank. Then again, giving a place of rest for other loopers was something Princess Celestia ordered to all of them and the pegasus agreed with the reasons. Explaining all of that to a non-Awoke Celestia, after she they had used their dark alicorn forms? Awkward.


"Is that it?" Celestia was very worried about this development. Was this a trick born for the darkness and corruption to make her let her guard down? She wasn't sure what she would do, alone or with the Day Guard as backup, against six alicorns in direct combat. Were they telling the truth? And what was the role of Discord, who was currently eating popcorn with Starlight Breaker, in all of this? She wasn't sure what option was the more terrifying one.

"I think we can offer some proof and fix everything at the same time," Twilight Sparkle said before looking back to the other ponies and nodding. Then all six of them changed into alicorns, finally seeing how the corruption took their forms. Fearing what she had really unleashed in Equestrie a cold sweat ran through Celestia when Eternal Twilight's horn started to shine and then she saw appearing... the Elements of Harmony!? How could they answer to anypony's call? After each alicorn wore an Element, Celestia saw how a rainbow-colored wave spread from the alicorns, warm to the touch, fixing the castle and clearing the sky.

"So, how was it?" Eternal Twilight said, in a voice not unlike Twilight Sparkle.

Celestia decided it was the best moment to faint.


But that didn't matter right now. She was back in Ponyville and taking care of the weaher as usual and with a new apprentice this loop she could have more time to nap which was always a good thing.

"Twilight told me you can control the weather, how does that work?" Starlight... no, Nanoha asked. By some reason she didn't like to be called for her pony name.

"Well, we usually work in teams to move clouds and make different weather patterns. Do you see how I'm standing -not flying- on a cloud right now?" Rainbow Dash asked while stomping the cloud with one hoof for emphasis.

Nanoha nodded, while hovering by the rainbow-maned pegasus side. She seemed extremely at ease in a pegasus body, Rainbow Dash noted, barely walking if she could fly.

"I'd normally start with you trying to stand on a cloud, but… you seem to have a good knack for flying."

"I just love flying, and having actual wings here is very interesting." Nanoha’s eyes sparkled.

"I can understand that, just tell me if you're getting too tired to take a rest." Rainbow Dash smiled. "Time to practice: try to buck this cloud..."


"Hey, Twilight, can I borrow some parchment?" Rainbow Dash asked her friend.

"Let me see if there's some left around here." Twilight looked at the ruins of the library - the lack of walls giving a great vantage point to see the ruins of Ponyville. "Here. What for, anyway?"

"I want to write a letter to Princess Celestia about what I've learned this loop: never let Nanoha in the weather management team when there's a thunderstorm scheduled."


19.7 (Madfish)


The villagers of Ponyville were shocked. They'd just seen a tripped, spun, slipped, inverted, flipped and finally netted Nightmare Moon – now hanging from the ceiling.

Applejack turned to face the Mayor and coincidently the crowd she laid out the sequence of events.

"That's amazing… but if there's no Nightmare Moon who is that?" asked the Mayor gesturing at the net.

"Rarity if yah would?"

With a beam of light from her horn the makeup removal spell washed over 'Nightmare Moon' revealing-

"Royal Celebration Co-ordinator Twilight Sparkle!" shouted an even more shocked crowd.

"The one thing we didn't get was the 'why', Sugarcube,” Applejack said. “Why the whole Nightmare Moon scam? What did you gain by faking that Ponyville would hold the Summer Sun Celebration?"

"The five of you did pretty well," Twilight answered sounding rather unworried for a party wrecker in a net being stared at by a growling Pinkie Pie. “The part of the plan you failed to understand was that I moved every calendar in Ponyville forward a day and cast a spell to stop anypony noticing.”

"But why?" pressed Big Macintosh Apple from where he'd triggered the net.

"Simple. I needed to find a group of ponies to stop Nightmare Moon." Twilight nodded to herself absently.

"But, Darling, you're Nightmare Moon,” Rarity pointed out, gesturing to the costume wings that had fallen off at some point in the process.

With a certain smugness Twilight finished filling in the gaps, "Only for tonight. Tomorrow at the real celebration, which really is here by the way, the real Nightmare Moon will be freed and kidnap Celestia unless I can find a group of 6 Ponies like yourselves to stop her.”

"You'll forgive me darling if we're… sceptical." Rarity frowned uncertainly – it sounded a lot like Twilight was a few stitches short of a dress.

"No fur off my muzzle, I've done my bit. You've already got the book in the Library so tomorrow the six of you can go to the Old Palace and get them." Twilight kicked back.

"Well," said the mayor after a moment of silence, her voice firming "take her away!"

As she was led out the door Twilight shouted back, "And I’ve gotten away with it because of you Meddling Mares and your Studly Stallion!" Then somewhat quieter with distance, "Seriously! Studly! Call me some time!"


19.8 (Stainless Steel Fox)


"Gentlemen, it appears one of the guests of honour is late, probably still caring for an injured animal, knowing her. She is a butter yellow pegasus with a pink wavy mane and tail. She is also rather timid, so I want you to treat her with the utmost courtesy and gentleness. I'm sure you will do your duty in an exemplary fashion."

The two guards standing in front of the entrance to Sugarcube Corner both nodded curtly.

Twilight looked around. She was not going to let this instance of the party slip into the sort of disaster that the original was. "Rarity, how's the anti-mess spell holding up?"

"It's marvellous, Twilight!" The unicorn mare returned, enjoying the feast spread in front of her. "I must put it on all of my dresses! Where did you find it?"

"In an old book of household charms." Where she'd written it after creating it from scratch over the last couple of loops. "I don't see why you couldn't enchant it into one of the gems using a rune matrix to make it permanent. I'll draw something up for you."

"Thank you, darling... Salad fork over there, soup before salad, Applejack," she said to the bewildered looking farm-mare alongside her.

"Thanks kindly sugarcube, it's been a long time since I did this kind of fancy eating."

Satisfied that they were both happy, Twilight checked on Pinkie Pie, just in time to divert a seven layer cake into the pink pony's trajectory and prevent her taking Princess Celestia's cake.

"Thank you, sirs." Fluttershy's voice came from the door, and Twilight went over to intercept her.

"I'm so glad you could make it. It wouldn't be the same without you."

"Sorry I'm late, I had to finish taking care of a patient first."

Twilight smiled at her. "It's okay, I thought it was something like that. Come on, I know the Princess is going to love you, and she's brought a her pet phoenix with her."

Fluttershy's eyes sparkled at the idea. "Ohh!"

They came over just as Celestia finished tea trolling the Cakes. "Princess, may I present my friend Fluttershy."

The princess turned her gaze on the yellow pegasus. "Ah yes. I understand from Twilight Sparkle's letters that you enjoy tending to the needs of woodland creatures."

"Oh yes, your highness, I love to take care of animals."

"As do I. As Princess, I care deeply about all creatures, great and small. Nothing means more to me than the well-being of all my subjects." The half-dead parrot in the cage next to her chose that moment to cough. "Ah, Philomena, my pet. You're awake. Do say hello to our gracious hosts."

"Oh my..." Fluttershy was as usual shocked to see the state of the pet. Twilight quickly stepped in.

"Princess? I didn't realise she was that close to a burning day. I guess you wouldn't want to leave her alone while she goes through it."

The Princess nodded. "As you say, I wanted to be there for her."

Fluttershy looked confused. "Um... what's a burning day? If you don't mind me asking..."

Twilight kicked in lecture mode 1. "A phoenix is pretty much immortal, but they do it by regenerating every hundred years or so. When a burning day approaches, they start to moult and look ill, and eventually burst into flame and burn to ash."

Seeing Fluttershy's horrified expression she quickly added. "It's okay, they regenerate from the ashes into a younger version of themselves. It's just a part of their natural life-cycle."

"Twilight, I hadn't realised you'd studied phoenix life-cycles." Celestia said with a slightly surprised expression.

"I found a book on exotic creatures in Golden Oaks Library, and considering we're next to the Everfree..."

A Royal guard came up and whispered in the princess's ear. "Really? Well, if I must... I'm sorry, everypony. I'm afraid I have to cut the party short. The mayor has requested an audience with me. Royal duty calls. Thank you for a wonderful time. It's been a joy getting to know you all better."

"Uh! Princess, before you go, do you mind if Fluttershy and I look after Philomena while you're at the meeting? I'm sure Fluttershy would love to take care of her."

"I don't see why not." The Princess replied. "Farewell, every-pony."

Fluttershy looked wide eyed as the Princess left. "Oh thank you Twilight! I'll take really good care of her!"

"I thought you'd enjoy it. I'll get that book." Twilight replied. "Though really all we can do is make her comfortable until she burns up."


19.9

Twilight grinned into the camera. “Hello, and welcome to ‘Tough Science.’ I’m your host, Twilight Sparkle, and with me are Rainbow Dash and Trixie Lulamoon.”

She then looked a bit nervous. “Actually, they kinda scare me…”

“Come on, come on!” Trixie’s horn glowed, and the camera moved around to focus on her. “We’ve received many letters from all over Equestria, asking us important questions that must be answered for science. Dash! The first letter!”

“Right.” Rainbow Dash lifted a letter from the pile. “This one’s from a little colt by the name of Pipsqueak, and he asks ‘is Luna best princess?’” Dash blinked. “Can we even…”

Trixie shook her head. “A simple question, with two answers. The first answer is ‘of course not, that would be you, your highness’. And the second answer is ‘yes you are, please don’t hurt us Princess Luna.’ The answer depends who is asking.”

“Isn’t that kind of… cynical?” Twilight asked from off camera.

Trixie shrugged. “Next letter!”

“Right.” Dash rummaged around. “Ooh, I like this one.”

“Do tell.” The unicorn moved over to have a look.

“’Dear Mythbuckers,’”… Trixie paused. “Twilight! Trixie told you that we should be called the Mythbuckers!”

“They only call us that because you wrote the adverts and put that on them!” Twilight shouted back.

“Talk to the hoof.” Trixie went back to the letter. “Hm. Apparently this pony is asking us how big a crater it would make if a barrel of rainbow extract were detonated.”

“Actually, that’s interesting.” Twilight wheeled a blackboard in front of the camera, and started drawing. “You see, explosions going off in the air don’t tend to create a crater at all. They cause a lot of pressure wash, but no crater unless the fireball of the explosion itself hits the ground. If the explosive goes off on the ground, then it can make a crater, but the best thing to do for a really big one is to camouflet – that’s when the explosive goes off underground.”

“…thank you.” Trixie bucked the board back offscreen. “But who cares what the numbers say, we’re going to blow stuff up ourselves! Dash, where did you put that rainbow extract we… liberated?”

“You did what?” Twilight asked.

“Forget you heard that!” Trixie then looked at the camera. “We can edit the incriminating statement out, right?”


“Three, two, one…”

The ground heaved up, and then it rained dirt onto the three ponies and their slit trench.

“Excellent!” Trixie said, surveying the crater almost as soon as turf had stopped landing. “At least twice as big!”

“So, that’s the answer?” Dash asked. “I mean, we’ve done, like, ten tests by now.”

“We have…” Trixie tapped a hoof on the ground. “But we did not test a detonation where the barrel of rainbow extract goes off next to other barrels of rainbow extract.”

Twilight blinked. “Oh, Celestia… I can’t tell which of you two corrupted the other, but it’s not making for quiet loops.”

“Quiet is boring!” Trixie replied indignantly. “Besides, Trixie at least exercised discretion on the princess question. Clearly best princess is Trixie.”

Dash and Twilight both looked peeved, but let it go. “Right.”


“I would never even consider this were we not in a time loop,” Twilight said absently, lifting the last barrel onto their pile. “Right, what did we say minimum safe radius was?”

“Trixie prefers to put it this way.” The unicorn made an expansive gesture. “Good thing we’re in the frozen north.”

“True.” The unicorns fired off cloud-walking spells and then teleported to a cirrus forty miles away, and Dash lit the fuse before rocketing off into the air to join them.


“And there’s the answer,” Twilight said to camera. “With the right environment, a properly buried charge, and lots more rainbow extract, the resultant crater can be as large as half a mile. But don’t try this on your home planet unless you’re really careful.”

She turned. “Isn’t that right, Trixie?”

“Worth it!” Trixie shouted from the hospital bed.

Twilight sighed. “Anyway. If you’re doing these kinds of experiments, you really need to make sure you have as many magical precautions as you can – as well as non magical ones, too.”


“So this is what you learned last Loop?” Celestia asked, as the video ended.

“Yeah…” Twilight shrugged. “I’ve been kind of scraping the barrel for a while now… at least for lessons to learn with Trixie. With her, it tends to be ‘don’t use high explosives to make breakfast’.”

The ground shook.

“Speaking of which, I think she’s finished making the crumpets. Want one?” Twilight asked.

“I think I will pass, thank you,” Celestia replied solemnly. “And I fear for Equestria next time she’s in charge.”

Twilight shook her head. “Actually, Trixie is fairly sweet… she’s just an adrenaline junkie. And you can’t talk, oh Princess Cowabunga.”


19.10

“Oh, ah see!” Applejack said, noticing the small copse of apple trees. “Mah element must be manifestin’ as somethin’ like mah cutie mark!”

Discord chuckled soundlessly. As he’d thought, the intricate maze he’d woven was convincing the Element bearers that he’d set up some kind of test.

“Thought so!”

Wait, what?

Discord blinked, noticing that Applejack was now wearing her Element of Honesty.

“Where did you even get that?” he asked, materializing with a whoosh.

“Ah just did.” Applejack shrugged.

Discord grit his teeth, as over on the other side of the maze Rarity’s element turned up out of nowhere.


Twilight giggled. “This maze of yours isn’t doing too well, is it, Discord?”

“Shut up!” he said petulantly. “And you don’t have your element, so there. A unicorn without a horn doesn’t have any magic, so you can’t deserve your element now!”

“Oh, yeah, about that…” Twilight hefted a box from behind a hedge. “I found them.”

Discord focused in on the box. It was a large crate, with a horn next to an “X 6” legend, and a wing next to an “X 12”.

“But… I didn’t…”

Twilight kicked the box, which fell open. There was a moment of confusion, and then all six Element bearers were alicorns.

“Huh. Cool!” Pinkie said, looking herself over. “This is super amazing! Hey, Twilight, you got your groove back!”

“My what?”

“I mean… horn.” Pinkie pointed. “And element, too!”

Discord’s jaw hung open. Then he knelt down in front of them. “You win. Teach me how to prank, you’re clearly better at it than I am.”

Twilight shook her head. “Prank? I don’t know what you mean. But if we have won, mind putting everything back the way it was?”

“Fine.” Discord snapped his claws.

“No, not like that,” Twilight grinned. “Dear me, Discord. Evacuate the castle, and then restore it to how it was – in your time.”

“There wasn’t a castle there in my time…” Discord said, then it dawned on him. “Oh, wow. You are good.”


19.11

SCP-2314

Classification: Safe Euclid Keter Euclid

Special Containment Procedures:

Since SCP-2314 possesses the ability to teleport with no known range limit, containment in a meaningful sense is effectively impossible. The approach taken at site-12 has been essentially one of psychological containment - SCP-2314 is made to be comfortable in the assigned containment room, and encouraged to stay.

To this end, SCP-2314 is provided a large (10x10x5 m) main room, with access to separate lavatory facilities, and many of the same conveniences found in a normal suburban home. In addition, a discretionary fund has been set aside to keep SCP-2314 supplied with new books - SCP-2314’s voracity for the written word has proven amply sufficient to keep it content.

Food is strictly vegetarian, but aside from this little different from human norms combined with standard equine preferences. (Note: apparently daisy sandwiches are considered a delicacy – possible reward?)

Description:

SCP-2314 is an equine being, approximately five feet in length and four in height. Its coat is predominantly purple, with a striped mane (provenance of striping unknown and under investigation) and a small single horn in the middle of the forehead.

SCP-2314 is female, professes to be fully mature, and is overall cooperative with investigations but projects an air of tolerant amusement. SCP-2314 has full understanding of and ability to speak English, though occasionally words are used which are alterations of English (for example, ‘beforehoof’ as opposed to ‘beforehand’). SCP-2314 refers to herself as “Twilight Sparkle”.

In addition, SCP-2314 possesses abilities which are effectively consistent with those of reality warpers. Teleportation and telekinesis in particular have been noted, and it has been determined that SCP-2314’s horn glows when such an ability is being used. The reasons for this are not yet known, but SCP-2314 has little objection to subjecting to a variety of tests on these and other ‘magic’.

Addendum:

SCP-2314 self-identifies as a unicorn, and it is recommended to use this term when referring to her species.

Also, whoever classified her as Keter was an idiot. Yes, she can teleport. Yes, she’s intelligent. Yes, she sometimes seems to be smarter than we are (whoever gave her that book on quantum physics should take note of the annotations in the margins). But she shows neither attempts nor desire to break out of containment, and frankly I don’t see her doing anything particularly nasty if she DID leave. For goodness’ sake, she’s addicted to books. We could recontain her by staking out the nearest library.


Excerpt from interview SCP-2314-2:

Interviewer: “So, you’re a… unicorn.”

SCP-2314: “Yep.”

Interviewer: “Where’d you come from?”

SCP-2314: “Canterlot, originally. Sorry that’s not much help as an answer, but it’s the best one I’ve got. Perhaps we should focus more on my abilities?”

Interviewer: “I’m asking the questions.”

SCP-2314: “And I’m suggesting better ones. Hey, watch this!”

*slight humming sound*

Interviewer: “…why is the table glowing purple and floating?”

SCP-2314: “Telekinesis. Cool, isn’t it?”

Interviewer: “…I’ll be right back.”

SCP-2314: “Okay! Be back soon!”

From this it should be clear that SCP-2314 is both enthusiastic and does not stick to the script. A collegiate attitude is recommented.


Twilight waved to the security cameras. “Morning!”

It was an interesting experience, being the subject of study like this. It would be nicer if they’d just trust her enough to help with examining the other creatures or objects in containment, but a steady supply of books was good enough. (That and hearing them trying to work out how her magic operated. It was getting so tempting to just tell them, but it kind of felt like that would spoil it for them…)


19.12

The Nine Riders of the Nazgul rode out of Mordor. They crossed the Anduin by night, then reached the Fords of Isen on Midsummer’s Eve.

And at that point, all nine horses blinked.

“What the hay?” Twilight Sparkle asked, shrugging violently and throwing the Witch-King of Angmar off her back. “Where are we?”

“I dunno!” Pinkie answered, shaking herself like a dog as Khamul the Easterling went flying.

The other four Elements, Luna, Shining and Cadence kicked their respective burdens off with equal ease, the Nazgul not expecting their brutalized mounts to suddenly lose all fear of them.

“Wait a second…” Shining frowned. “This is Arda. I remember reading the books.”

“Oh, right!” Twilight nodded, as the Nine began to get up. “Yeah, sorry, I was here once before but in a completely different place.”

She then shot a look at the Witch-King. “And as for you, the prophecy only says no man can kill you. I’m a female unicorn. Sod off.”

The Witch-King looked back and forth between the nine rebellious horses and his eight fellows. Then all the Nazgul drew morgul-steel.

“Suit yourself. Elements, girls.”


The flash of rainbow light could be seen from Minas Tirith.


“Okay, what now?” Cadence asked, as Twilight (restored to her base form by the use of the Elements of Harmony) converted the remaining three black horses into unicorns or alicorns as appropriate.

“Well… I guess Celestia must be here somewhere.” Twilight tapped a hoof. “Actually, she’s probably Shadowfax. After that… anyone fancy invading Mordor?”

“What, just us?” Rarity asked, taken aback.

“Nah, I bet Spike’s around somewhere.” Ignoring Rarity’s sudden blush, Twilight continued, “Dragons are powerful here, and I doubt Sauron would be too happy to be hit by the Elements regardless of that.”


Denethor tapped the Palantír of Minas Tirith. “I swear, if this has broken…”

The seeing stone persisted in showing a motley group of brightly coloured horses – some with wings, horns, or both – cantering east along the great road.


19.13 (from Melavio)


Rarity looked around as she Awoke, and noticed a few off things. First, she was in a castle that certainly was not the Royal Pony Sisters castle, nor was it Canterlot, nor even the capital of the Crystal Empire. Secondly, she was very much a human again. Lastly, and strangest yet, there was a candelabra and a clock that were currently conversing with her. They seem to be looking at her with varying expressions of worry and curiosity. Searching through her memories, Rarity noted that she was Rarity Belle and had come to this castle to beg for her father's release from the clutches of the evil Dragon.

At least Spikey-Wikey was likely in the loop with her.

"Ah! Mademoiselle, it is a pleasure to meet you! My name is Lumiére, and this square fellow of mine is Cogsworth," the candle holder noted, gesturing to his friend.

"A pleasure to meet you Mademoiselle," the clock stated before bowing.

Rarity smiled and curtsied, "Why thank you for the introductions, monsieur’s. My name is Rarity, and I'm looking for the Dragon to release my father."

Lumiere's smile faltered, "Ah well, our Master is a bit temperamental, so let us go elsewhere first and-" *WOOOSH* A large creature descended from the rafters and landed behind the two animated objects. Gulping, Lumiere and Cogsworth both turned around to find…their Master smiling tenderly?

"Bonjour, Mademoiselle Rarity. It is good to see you again," stated the large purple dragon. He bent down to take Rarity's hand in his claw and gave it a gentle kiss.

'Good, Spike is awake this loop.' "Enchente, Monsieur. As I explained to your wondrous servants here, I am looking to secure the release of my father."

Spike cocked an eyebrow, "I'm sure we can arrange something." Both of the loopers began to walk towards where Spike knew the dungeons would be, but were stopped by the loud rumbles of Spike's stomach and the matching sound from Rarity's. Both blushed before Spike spoke up. "Um…I don't suppose you would grab us a quick meal, would you Lumiere?"

Looking back at the two, Spike and Rarity found Cogsworth desperately trying to clean his glass face and Lumiere with his mouth open. Lumiere quickly closed it as the question floated down to him and decided to go with the flow. Perhaps they would get this curse broken yet.

"But of course, Master. Follow me." Both loopers followed the bouncing candle into a grand hall before sitting down at an equally grand table. Coughing to clear his throat, Lumiere began to speak.

"Monsieur and Mademoiselle. It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight! Now, we invite you to relax, to pull up a chair, as the dining room proudly presents…your dinner."


“Marvellous,” Rarity pronounced. “I must admit, I don’t tend to eat meat, but this meal was good enough that I might – almost, almost! – consider doing so more often.”

Spike nodded, seeing what she was actually saying. It was a reminder that she normally didn’t have the palate for meat – on account of not normally being human.

“Anyway. My father?”

“Of course.” Spike stood, hands on the table. “There is only one possible remuneration I can accept for releasing your father. Your service to me… for ever!”

Rarity barely had time to react before Spike shrugged. “Worth a try. What about twenty years? Ten? Five? Okay, help me sort my wardrobe and a kiss for luck, and that’s my final offer.”

Unable to help it, Rarity burst out laughing. “You are the most atrocious negotiator I have ever dealt with!”

“Well, in my defence…” Spike paused, then shrugged. “Nope, got nothing. Anyway, my wardrobe?”

“Most certainly. Though it won’t be any great hardship…”

As they left the room, Rarity frowned. “Wonder who the Anchor is? Maybe Twilight’s around somewhere.”

“Could be.” Spike waved a hand – maybe yes, maybe no. “But then, this world’s hardly small, and we could be on the other side of it from the anchor. Twilight was here once – she was a different kind of unicorn to normal, so maybe that’s who the Anchor normally is.”


Belle Bell, owner of a small bookshop in Ponyville, paged through a book on her counter. She was told by one of the local loopers, one Fluttershy, that the main anchor of the loop would be coming to meet her once she arrived from Canterlot. Belle was excited to meet another looper that loved books as much as she did. The door jingled, signalling a new entrant into the shop.

"Welcome to Belle's Books, where the whole world…is…*SNORT*" Belle was holding her hoof to her snout in order to contain her laughter. Before her was quite certainly the local anchor Twilight Sparkle. On her back was a quite familiar individual to Belle. If that individual was suddenly two feet tall and adorably fluffy.

The Beast snorted as Belle collapsed laughing. "I wanna go home."


MLP Loops 20

View Online

20.1

“Mua ha ha!” Trixie laughed evilly, horn flaring as she reshaped the land around Ponyville to her whim.

“But… that’s impossible!” Twilight cried, shielding her eyes.

“Really?” Trixie asked, suddenly sounding uncertain. “You sure?”

“Actually, yes,” Twilight said. She got out some paper and wrote equations on it. Trixie moved around to watch, occasionally nodding or pointing at some particularly important clause.

“There,” Twilight finished. “See?”

Trixie perused the paper, lips moving. “You are correct.” The spell abruptly dissipated. “Oh well, worth a try. Do you know a good restaurant around here?”

“I’ve heard good things about the Farrier’s Rest.” Twilight nodded. “Mind if I join you?”

“Not at all.”

Dash blinked. “Wait, what just happened? Did you just disprove Trixie with science?”

“Actually, it was logic,” Twilight replied over her shoulder. “Proof by contradiction.”

“But we saw her! She was doing it!”

“Anecdotal evidence counts for nothing.” Twilight walked off, discussing something or other with Trixie in a low voice.

Dash shook her head again. “Ah, whatever.”


“Nice one,” Trixie said, nibbling on some celery. “The looks on their faces…”

“Yeah.” Twilight frowned. “Hey, tell you what. Want to turn up next time as an alicorn?”

“Trixie likes how you think.”


20.2

“The Night Will Last Forever!” Nightmare Moon finished, and dramatic thunder crashed.

Then it cut off as suddenly as a knife, and a sky-blue alicorn trotted onto the stage from the left. “Mother!”

Nightmare Moon blinked, as things went abruptly off-script. “Pardon?”

“For goodness’ sake, mother,” the newcomer said, shaking her head wearily. “What are you doing?”

Some of the spectating Ponyville ponies noticed that her cutie mark incorporated a moon motif, alongside a wand. Twilight Sparkle, meanwhile, tried to avoid giggling.

“Who are you?” Nightmare Moon asked.

“And you don’t recognize your own daughter!” Trixie said, shaking her head and continuing to trot up to her ‘mother’. “You are drunk, mother. Come on, let’s get you home.”

“I am NOT drunk!” Nightmare Moon shouted. “I am the rightful ruler of Equestria, not some two-bit sot!”

“Hey!” Berry Punch shouted from the crowd, putting down her third beer of the night. “Sots are ponies too!”

“And now you’re going to make a scene.” Trixie’s voice had what Twilight judged as an artfully recreated hitch in it. “This happens every week. Is there somewhere I’m going wrong? Some filial duty that I’ve failed in?” A tear rolled down Trixie’s cheek.

Nightmare Moon was by this point completely confused. “Er… what… don’t cry?”

Trixie smiled wanly. “Please, mother,” she said, in a soothing tone. “You’ll feel much better once you’ve slept it off. Come on, now, we can leave these poor ponies to… whatever they were doing, and go home.”

There was a bright blue flash, and both alicorns vanished.

“…okay, what just happened?” Dash asked. “I mean, what?”


Trixie showed up the next morning at Twilight’s door.

“Cured her!” the stage pony said proudly. “Got her drunk for real and we had a heart-to-heart, she got it all out of her system, and then I explained what was actually going on.”

“Huh.” Twilight noted that down. “Guess sometimes all a pony really needs is a shoulder to cry on.”

“Yeah…” Trixie then blushed, and ruffled her wings. “Might not be a good method to try out again, though. Nightmare Moon can be a bit of a fighty drunk. Anyway, if Celestia asks, that’s why Horseshoe Bay is now just … er, Horseshoe. Later!”

She vanished again in a puff of smoke.

Twilight cast a scrying spell. “Whoa. Yeah, that’s a lot of terrain damage. Good thing nopony lives on that bit…”


20.3

“Ah, Cadence. Good to see you. If you’ll just come this way?” Celestia gestured. “There’s just a few matters of administration to work out before the wedding.”

“Of course,” Chrysalis said smoothly. “Not a problem.”

There was a little flicker of anticipation coming from the ruler of Equestria, but none of the rage which would indicate her ruse was discovered… so it was likely to be just looking forward to the wedding itself.

Then she froze, halfway through a pair of double doors.

Sitting at the other side of an ornate table was the real Cadence.

“Hello,” Cadence said frostily. “So, who are you getting married to, and why did you feel the need to hijack my wedding? It’s my wedding, thank you very much!”

“But… how did you escape?”

“Magic.” Cadence shrugged. “Anyway. I certainly don’t have a problem with you getting married – in fact, you can take my slot – but you don’t get my groom. Any preference?”

“But… what?” Chrysalis dropped her shapeshift. “Shouldn’t you be angry?”

“I’m not angry, so much as… disappointed.” Cadence waited a moment. “No suggestion? Right, we’ll just use the best stallion we had booked – a noble from my homeland, I’m sure you’ll like him. Rings… we had a couple of the hoof ring variant made, so you can take them with our blessings. Dresses… oh, no, that won’t do. Shining!”

Shining Armor walked over from behind Chrysalis, shooting her a dirty look. “Yes, dear?”

“Can you go fetch your sister’s friend? The one who’s good with dresses? We need a rush job.” Cadence nodded to herself. “I think I’ll pay for it, too.”

Her boyfriend nodded, and vanished in a teleport.

Chrysalis’s head was whirling, trying to keep track. “What is going on?”

“Food is fine… though I’ll have to handle the catering for the changeling half…” Cadence mused, ignoring her. “Oh, last minute change to the statuettes on the cake. Aside from that, I think that’s everything… no, wait. What music do you like?”

Chrysalis startled. “Oh. Er, not sure.”

“I’ll just guess, then. Right, that’s everything. Rarity of Ponyville should turn up to fit you momentarily.” Cadence disappeared in her own teleport.

“…what the buck?” Chrysalis asked the air.

A pink blur shot into the room, bounced off three walls, and coalesced into a pink earth pony with candy-floss for a mane. “Ooh, okay… definitely liquorice for you!” Five seconds with a sketchpad, and the pony shot off again in another blur.

Then a white unicorn appeared with a tape measure and three metric tonnes of raw material. “Ah, a challenge! Goodness, though, the colour will be a sticking point… how do you feel about turquoise? It’s not done to have a wedding dress that isn’t white, but then that’s only a custom in any case.”

Chrysalis was now beyond words. Rarity took the silence to mean agreement, and began lifting up bolts of dyed silk to compare with Chrysalis’ mane.


“I can’t help but think that we might be storing up trouble for later this Loop…” Celestia observed absently to Shining.

“Maybe,” Shining allowed, watching as his sister, his basically-a-little-brother, and Princess Luna bamboozled King Sombra into a tuxedo. “But, well, they do tend to be actually rather good for each other. Besides, this way we don’t have to either change the arrangements for the wedding or have another one exactly the same as our normal one.” He shook his head. “Weddings are nice, but my lovely wife is a bit… obsessed with them. Just don’t tell her I said that.”

“My lips are sealed,” Celestia assured him.


20.4

“Okay,” Rainbow Dash said, frowning. “This is where we turn you into an awesome pegasus.”

“…alright,” Fluttershy replied. “But, didn’t we already do this?”

“Yeah, kinda.” Dash shrugged. “Though I don’t intend to settle for good this time. I want to see awesome!”

“What does that mean?”

“Sonic. Rainboom.” Dash punctuated the words with hoof-beats… then stopped, looking into the distance. “But, wait, would yours even be a rainboom? I mean, it’s my weather magic signature that makes it be a rainbow. Ah, who cares.”

Fluttershy blinked. “You think I can do that? But… you’re the only pony to ever do a sonic rainboom.”

“Yet,” Dash replied. “Now, come on! Where’s that tow rope and those butterflies…”


“Come on!” Dash urged. “You can do better than this!”

“I really can’t,” Fluttershy panted. To her credit, she’d just managed a three hundred mile an hour burst in a dive. Impressive enough that the Wonderbolts would probably have at least given her consideration, which was a huge improvement for the pegasus… but nowhere near Dash’s goal.

“I’m just not strong enough to. I don’t know how you manage to push yourself so hard with just your wings.”

“…wait,” Dash said, looking suddenly guilty. “What do you mean, just my wings? Most of my speed is weather magic. Didn’t I mention that?”

“Er… no,” Fluttershy replied, then waved her hooves. “But I’m sure you meant to! It isn’t your fault…”

“Right.” Dash shot off, and teleported in with Twilight a few seconds later.

“Okay, Fluttershy,” Twilight said, smiling. “Now you get to have us teach you about weather magic!”

“Yay,” Fluttershy said softly. It wasn’t quite clear if that was sarcasm or just… Fluttershy.


“Come on, come on…” Dash murmured, watching the speck of yellow plunge out of the sky. “Just a bit faster…”

The cloud formed, narrowed… and broke.

It wasn’t a Sonic Rainboom. It wasn’t a boom, there was no rainbow colouration, and it wasn’t even very loud. Fluttershy’s magical signature merged with the transient cloud from breaking the sound barrier, and rolled outwards like a comforting pillow.

And a swarm of butterflies, bees and birds rose to meet it.

Twilight noted that down. “So they are personalized. Interesting. Maybe the original sonic rainboom was done by another pony with a rainbow signature…”

“Sounds about right,” Dash agreed. “Maybe I should look that up. Oh, can you let Pinkie know it’s time for a ‘Fluttershy is super awesome’ party? She deserves it.”


20.5

“Ah, it’s good to see you, little mother.”

Fluttershy eeped. “Can’t… breathe…”

Leman Russ released her, ignoring the gobsmacked expressions of his honour guard. “And these must be Twilight, Rarity, Pinkie, Applejack and Rainbow Dash!”

“Ah, you remember us!” Twilight said, smiling. “I hoped you would.”

“I could never forget you.” The Primarch tapped a massive finger absently against his sword hilt. “Now, what’s first… of course! A feast!”

Pinkie grinned. “I like the sound of that!”

The Space Wolves thought it over, and decided – en masse – that they did as well.


“So, what brings you to my humble corner of the universe?” Russ asked that evening. The two Fenrisian wolves he always raised lounged around him, all three dwarfing the six Equestrian visitors quite handily.

“Well… we just, turned up here.” Twilight shrugged. “Loops are fairly random, after all. Though, actually, none of us have much idea what a normal Dark Millennium Loop is like. Anything you can tell us?”

“Oh, don’t get me started!” Russ shook his head. “Bjorn can tell you all about it, he usually lasts quite a while even if I get thoroughly lost to the Warp.”

Bjorn made what was almost certainly a rude gesture. “I always end up in a damned dreadnought, you mean. Boring as hel.”

Russ grinned back. “Yeah, whatever. Anyway, what usually happens is that things get really nasty. I can never seem to stop all the Legions falling to Chaos – I saved the Thousand Sons, and the Raven Guard fell. Then I tried keeping the Death Guard pure, and that was it for the Ultramarines. Even tried killing off Horus, and that’s when I found out the whole thing got started by a Word Bearer! And as for trying to handle the Alpha Legion, I can never tell if I’m coming or going.”

Twilight pondered that. “I guess Pinkie really did do a lot of good when she replaced Slaanesh.”

“Wait, she did what?” Bjorn laughed out loud. “That must have been hilarious!”

“It was super fun!” Pinkie’s eyes glowed. “I had all the parties!

“…actually, now I’m scared,” the Space Wolf looper muttered. “Wonder how Ciaphas would take that.”

“Ciaphas?”

“Oh, I remember him!” Pinkie beamed. “He was awesome! Kinda nervous, though.”

“I don’t blame him,” Leman said, sotto voce. “Little mother, your friends are sometimes a little unnerving.”

“I know, Lemon – Leman, sorry.” Fluttershy exhaled sharply. “But they’re friends, and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.”

“Aye, I know the feeling.” Russ scratched Geki behind the ear, looking into the distance.


“Alright, girls,” Twilight said, beating her wings soundlessly to hold station in the immaterium. “Three, two, one..!”

A bolt of rainbow light sizzled across the howling wastes of the warp, and impacted dead centre on the Eisenstein.

Twilight nodded briskly, as Nurglite daemons fled from the huge ship. “Five down, fourteen to go.”

“This is getting tiring, though,” Rarity admitted. “You know the Elements never work so well outside Equestria.”

“Yeah, I do.” Twilight let her magic build up for a gigantic teleport. “But we’re handling so much chaos I think we’re getting a fair performance out of them anyway. Right, next stop Ultramar.”

Her power crested, and in an eyeblink they were a long way away.


“And… done!” Twilight ticked off another item on her list. “Webway access acquired, Webway fixed, and Commorragh cut off from the network. What’s next?”

Sifting through the paper, she answered her own question. “Here we are. Necrons. Any ideas?”

Dash raised a hoof.

“Apart from too many cyclonic torpedoes.”

Dash lowered a hoof.

“I know!” Pinkie said, suddenly. “I’ll go chat with Trazyn! He’s fun.”

“Fun? Fun?” Russ goggled. “He once stole my thirteenth company!”

“Eh,” Pinkie said, grinning. “Unlucky for some.”

“Right, Pinkie’s handling that one.” Twilight pencilled that in. “Oh, how’s the Emperor doing? I haven’t seen him in a week.”

Russ grinned uneasily. “I may have sucker punched him after he questioned Mother’s presence.”

“May?” Fluttershy asked warningly.

“Alright, I did sucker punch him.” The Primarch shrugged. “Turnabout is fair play – and at least I wasn’t wearing a power fist.”

He sobered. “I don’t know how to thank you enough. I mean, there’s still problems turning up all over the place, but the Emperor and my brothers are all still alive and… mostly… sane.”

“Alpharius is the most fun one, silly!” Pinkie grinned. “Well, apart from Omegon.”

“How do you even tell them apart?” Rarity asked absently.

“Guesswork!”


“…and so, in the name of the Emperor of Mankind, ruler of the million suns, and in the name of his Empire of Man, and his tributaries, we welcome you to the stars. May you live long and well amongst the heavens.”

Guilliman stepped back from the com system. “How was that?”

“Laying it on a bit thick, there, don’t you think?” Fulgrim asked. “I mean, come on. They’re explorers, not politicians.”

“Well, I happen to think you made the right choice.” Dorn shrugged. “I mean, it’s not every decade that an out-system power turns out to have discovered antigravity and artificial intelligence before even launching a moon mission. And five thousand years ago they were nomadic hunters.”

“Still are.” Magnus the Red nodded. “Not one of them has a flicker of magic. That’s superstitious and backwards to my reckoning.”

“I agree with Roboute,” Twilight said before the brothers got into too major an argument. “And I’ll just remind you that it kind of is my ship.”

She felt a bit of a guilty thrill of pleasure at the thought. Russ had insisted, the Emperor had been interested, and she hadn’t felt she could turn it down… and the huge battlecruiser had turned out to be very useful, especially packed to the gunwales with scientific equipment and experiments.

Jetbikes were pretty flippin’ cool, for example.

But this was only the third time she’d managed to have the embarrassingly-titled Saviour of Prospero in position to make an official First Contact.

All in all, she reflected, a 40K Loop could be quite pleasant. Well, if you headed the whole ‘only war’ thing off as soon as possible, and took measures to keep it well contained.


“Get OFF me!” Khorne growled, snatching at the bubbly pink blur.

“Nope!” Pinkie said, jumping from him to Tzeentch. “Ooh, what’s today’s plan?”

“Get rid of you!” the Chaos God replied, scowling.

“Ooh, just like all the other times!” Pinkie paused, pondering. “Ooh, alliteration. Anyway, you’re really not very creative at this kind of thing.”

“Just GO AND BOTHER SLAANESH OR SOMETHING!” Khorne bellowed.

Pinkie considered it. “Nah. Ooh, is that a doggy?”

“That is not a doggy. That is a hound.”

“Po-tay-to, po-tah-toe.” Pinkie threw it a dog biscuit, and it panted happily. “Dog. See?”

“Why can’t we kill her?” Khorne asked, sighing heavily.

Tzeentch kicked something. It turned out to be a flatfish. “She’s more chaotic than we are right now. And that flippin’ Laughing God and the Deceiver are both helping her.”

“Figures.”


20.6

“Hmmm…” Magnum muttered, trotting around Spike in a circle. “So, you’re a dragon.”

“Yes,” Spike said, confirming the screamingly obvious.

“Didn’t know she was the type,” Pearl added. “It’s certainly… exotic.”

Spike bushed to the base of his scales, holding his tongue by dint of long experience.

“Motehr!” Rarity said, shocked. “Stop terrorizing my boyfriend!”

“That’s not decided yet, dear,” Magnum said absently. Finishing his inspection, he trotted around to in front of Spike. “So… tell me. You much of a stallion for sport?”

“Stallion, no. Sport… yes,” Spike answered, thinking it over carefully.

“Hm. What kind? Hoofball?”

“No.”

“What about Trottingham hoofball? I mean, it’s the boring kind, but-”

“No, not that either.” Spike shook his head, an displayed his claws. “I’d go through too many balls.”

“What about a bat sport? Baseball? Rounders?” Magnum sighed. “Not poncy cricket, is it?”

“None of the above.” Spike was starting to grin, now.

“Volleyball? Basketball? Netball? Tennis? Table-tennis?”

Rarity giggled as her father tried out every sport he could think of.

“All right, I give up.” Magnum pointed a hoof. “Okay, wise-guy, what sports do you play?”

“Play isn’t the right word.” Spike raised a hand and began ticking off. “Archery – though Rarity’s edging me there nowadays; three martial arts; Chess-”

“Chess?” Magnum interrupted. “That’s not a sport!”

“It is when Twilight animates twenty-foot chess pieces who don’t know the rules. Anyway, where was I…”

“Martial arts and chess,” Rarity supplied promptly.

“Thanks. Anyway, as well as those, fencing and swimming… oh, and extreme sports.”

“Extreme?”

“Come on, I’ll show you!”

Rarity was torn between laughing and sighing. In the end, she just giggled into her sleeve. “Oh, dear.

“Well, he seems nice enough,” Pearl observed, as Spike led an unwary Magnum off for an afternoon’s male bonding. Or possibly abject terror.

“He is.”

“You’re sure about this?” she pressed.

Rarity gave a huge, happy sigh. “Very,” she answered, with a diamond certainty that matched her cutie mark.

“Right, then,” Pearl said. “I approve of him, then.”

“…just like that?” Rarity asked. “I mean… not that I-”

“Don’t worry!” Her mother laughed. “It’s all about you, dear – the whole point of meetings like this is to see if you’re really happy, and to give you an out if you’re not. But you haven’t had that silly grin on your face since you first got your cutie mark, so I certainly don’t mind.”

“Thanks, mum.” Rarity hugged her.

After a minute or so, Pearl pulled back. “So, details.”

“He’s a great musician, as well – piano, mostly.” Rarity sorted through details in her head. “He actually listens when I explain how my dresses and artifacts work, which is nice. He cooks well – though admittedly, as a dragon, he’s had some very strange ideas…”

“How bad?”

“Melon and trifle curry.” Rarity stuck her tongue out. “Bleah, quite frankly.”

“I can see why…” Pearl said, covering a grin.

Magnum materialized with an expression frozen into shock.

Pearl frowned. “Dear?”

“…I have no problem with him can we go now please dear?” the stallion rattled off in one breath.

“Well, I suppose so, but-”

“Okay bye nice seeing you Rarity!”

Magnum disappeared in another teleport, taking his wife with him.

About a minute later, Spike came into view on a hang glider. Dropping to the floor and slowing himself with the Force, he looked around. “Did I miss them?”

“Well,” Rarity said to herself, stifling a giggle, “looks like Dad hit his limit. I didn’t know he could teleport that far…” She looked up at Spike. “We might want to try a different angle next time, though, Spiky-wikey. Something that doesn’t traumatize my father.”

“Sure,” Spike nodded readily. “And, er, sorry for overdoing it.”

“Don’t be.” Rarity shrugged. “The ‘meet the parents’ thing is supposed to be scary… although that is meant to be for the colt.”


20.7

“Ready?” Shining asked.

Cadence nodded, and grinned. “One, two, three!”

The music started, with heavy use of pan-pipes. The couple – both alicorns – pranced down the steps of a Mesoamerican-style pyramid.

Pinkie might have been at least slightly bonkers to have come up with this as a wedding celebration opener, but… well, it was novel.

“I hardly think I’m qualified,” Shining sang, “to come across all sanctified.” He shrugged as they reached the bottom steps. “I just don’t cut it with the cherubim-”

“Shiny, what are you talking about?” Cadence interjected.

“There again,” he continued, in a less sceptical tone, “They’re on their knees. Being worshipped is a breeze, and rather suits us in… the interim…”


“It’s tough to be a god!”

“You know,” Twilight mused, as her brother and sister-in-law reached the chorus, “I can’t tell if they’re serious or not.”

“It is tricky,” Luna agreed. “And they, like you, both ascended.”

“Indeed.”

After a moment, Celestia joined them.

“I hope that the ponies attending won’t take that song the wrong way…”

Twilight shrugged. “Canterlot can take a joke. Besides,” she added, as the couple started literally walking on the air, “it’s not as if they’re really pretending.”

Celestia crossed her eyes. “Now I’m confused. Can you really pretend to be pretending to be real?”

That got a giggle from her sister and her erstwhile student.


“Oh, come on!” Twilight said, mouth hanging open.

“And therefore,” Blueblood droned, “It falls upon the sole member of the royal family never to have had pretensions to divinity to take up the mantle of rulership until such time as the crisis of confidence has passed.”

The Anchor contained her anger. It wasn’t easy, though, since she was well aware that the ‘crisis of confidence’ consisted entirely of Blueblood feeling a bit ambitious.

“Alright,” Celestia said, surprising Twilight. “Go ahead.”

“Princess!” Twilight hissed. “What the-”

Celestia winked. “Come on, now, Twilight, you heard him. A crisis of confidence is something we must avoid provoking further.”


“We are in awe,” Luna said, reading Blueblood’s latest letter. It was a mixture of abject begging for his aunt to please come back and save him from the paperwork monster, and angry orders that she not abandon her subjects now that the crisis of confidence was over. “How did you manage this?”

“That’s ‘didst thou’, Luna,” Celestia corrected.

“No it isn’t,” Twilight disagreed. “I am as well. That’s where the plural comes from. Now spill!”

Celestia looked mischievous. “I may have told everypony in the castle and bureaucracy to make sure Blueblood was fully involved in the exciting work of running the nation.”

“…so every pony who needed anything signed went to him,” Twilight finished. “Oh, that’s almost evil.”

“Wait until you see my next trick.” Celestia replied, eyes sparkling.


“You?” Blueblood said, looking at the sick phoenix. “You are Auntie’s personal representative?”

Philomeena nodded, and gave a hacking cough that covered Blueblood in soot.

“Faugh!”

She giggled behind a wing, hiding it as soon as he’d managed to get his eyes clear.

After a moment, a green flame appeared overhead and coalesced into a letter. Warily, Blueblood opened it.

“You have won a free subscription to ‘Friendship’ magazine,” he read slowly. “We will send you a free binder and all the back episodes in just a moment.”


“You didn’t mean it, did you?” Luna asked. “Not all of them?”

“No,” Twilight admitted. “That would be several tonnes. No, just the ones relating to how you can have too much of a good thing, and so on. The lessons he needs. Who knows? Maybe he’ll pick something up.”


20.8 (elmagnifico)


“Macintosh, are you awake?”

“Eeyup.”

Twilight's face fell as she realized that was technically true whether the stallion was looping or not.

“Are you awake-awake?”

Macintosh just tilted his head at her. This probably wasn't him, but there was one way to be sure.

“ETERNAL TWILIGHT, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Twilight facehoofed as Big Mac gave her a look like she'd gone slightly insaner than normal.

“Right. Not looping. Could we just pretend this never happened?”

Mac nodded his head, not commenting on the muttered comment he overheard as the purple unicorn left.

“I *really* need to work out a system with him next time he's awake...”


20.9

Once upon a time, many years ago, Nasrudin was condemned to death. It is said he had poached one of the Kings rabbits to feed his starving children.

His case was hopeless but he nonetheless took the only avenue open to him. He appealed to the King to have the death penalty lifted. This was so unusual that the King (perhaps out of boredom) granted the man a one minute audience.

Nasrudin appeared before the King and said, "Your Majesty, I have been found guilty of a crime and the penalty is death. I have a unique gift and my death would be a great loss to the world, so I ask you to spare me."

"What is this gift?”asked the King.

"I am the only person in the Kingdom, perhaps the whole world, that can teach horses to sing."

The King laughed. "And, for this outrageous claim, I should let you go?" he asked.

"It is not outrageous," replied Nasrudin. "It takes time, a lot of patience and the gift that only I possess, but I can teach your horse to sing."

"Very well," said the King, "you shall have a year. You will be taken each day from prison to the Royal Stables. If you can teach my horse to sing I will spare you. If I find that you have lied to me you will be tortured before you die. Now, take him away."

As Nasrudin was being led away the jailer asked him, "What was the point of that? In a year you will be dead and now you will have to suffer first. You will not escape."

"You may be right", replied Nasrudin, "but I have bought time." I now have a whole year and in that time a great deal may happen. The King may die, his horse may die or, who knows, the horse may learn to sing".


Nasrudin blinked. “I honestly didn’t see that coming.”

The mare winked at him, tossed her purple-curled mane, and launched into Siegfried and Kriemhild from the Nibelunglied.


20.10 (Elmagnifico)

Macintosh went about his chores, savoring the simplicity of the tasks. Things like bucking trees, plowing fields, and preparing the farm for the reunion were all straightforward. He could look at the problems and see quite clearly what he needed to do to accomplish them.

Making amends with the members of his family that were looping? Not so straightforward.

Applejack had been outraged. The bond between Apples was not shallow, and the fact he hadn't trusted her had nearly cut that deep. Nevertheless, that was over with.

Now, all that remained was to explain to the filly humming around his feet as they brought in the day's harvest.

Applebloom had always been his “little” sister. He and Applejack were more or less equals nowadays. They split the adult tasks between them, with Granny Smith intervening when necessary. Applebloom, on the other hoof, was the one who needed a shoulder to cry on, lunches for school, and a bit of attention now and then to keep her from going completely bonkers.

Even more than Applejack, little Bloom had been the sibling he'd helped raise. He'd watched her grow from a little sprout that did little more than eat, sleep and cry to the filly she was now. She'd kept on growing, making friends, learning so much, slowly but surely moving toward adulthood. He had seen it happen to the filly umpteen times.

But this was not that filly.

The signs were more subtle than with Applejack, but they were there sure enough. She moved with a practiced ease. The adorable little mistakes she'd make from time to time were not there, or looked scripted to his eyes. When he spoke to her, he could tell she was listening, but the gears behind her eyes were obviously turning with something more than the impish schemes of a schoolfilly.

This was the looping Applebloom.

Applejack, thank the Princess, was not awake, and neither was anypony else aside from Applebloom and Twilight, if his earlier visit to town was any indication.

He stopped, the cart straining against the harness as its momentum tried to keep going despite him. Directly ahead and slightly down, there was a pair of huge sparkling eyes and and the wide smile she likley thought would get her what she wanted.

He tilted his head. What was that?

“Ah said, ahm' super excited for the fam'ly reunion! Ya think we'll get any of the Manehattan cousins down this year?”

He shook his head, both answering the question and searching his memories for the reason. Might as well keep up appearences a little longer.

“Eenope. They're on hard times out there, got ta run their bakery ta make up fer last year. Y'll meet yer cousin some other time.”

“Awww...”

He was reasonably sure the ensuing pout was genuine. Those two had really hit it off after their initial meeting. He wondered if Babs had started looping...

And so, the two Apples went on, Applebloom chattering ceaselessly at her brother, Macintosh just enjoying the company of his sister, albeit an alternate version thereof.

They were almost back to the farm before he finally decided to end it.

At first, he was worried she'd have the same reaction as Applejack. It turned out his fears were misplaced. Perhaps the implications hadn't sunk in yet, but Applebloom just seemed to be happy to see him.

“An' we can go on all sorts of adventures, an' we can work on gettin' you powers!”

Mac winced as Applebloom continued.

“ooh, ah wonder when you'll become an Alicorn, ah mean, me an' mah friends haven't yet, but all the adult loopers have.”

Another wince. That had been an awkward conversation. Applejack's sense of humor had apparently changed for the sarcastic.

“Would ya need an element of harmony, or would ya be able to do it like Caden-”

A large red hoof cut off the tirade. Gently, like a massive plush muffle. Two huge doe-like eyes looked up into Macintosh's, and he couldn't keep himself from smiling.

“Ah appreciate th' thought Bloomers, but ah don't need no fancy unicorn princess powers. Me an' Ms. Twilight already had a talk 'bout that. Ah just want to keep on keepin' on. If the situation comes up where ah need to be somethin' like that, we'll deal with it then.”

The doe eyes continued even as the hoof left her mouth.

“We'll still have adventures an' hang out an' all that, won't we?”

Macintosh felt his smile widening as he replied.

“course we will. Ms. Sparkle gathers trouble lahk a lantern gathers moths. Ah'm sure we'll hit mor'n enough interesting adventures.”

The sparks were dancing behind her eyes again, and her smile reached from ear to ear.

“An' we'll face 'em together, right?”

Macintosh winked. The answer went without saying, but a bit of reassurance wouldn't go amiss. This was his little sister, after all.

“Eeyup!”


20.11

“We need to find a good Earthbender,” Katara said, looking around as though one would appear up out of the ground.

Sokka nodded, half his mind on something else. Specifically, how Toph was doing.

She’d had it hard for the first few loops after she awoke, he knew, but by now Sokka knew exactly how to manipulate events to make sure she got away from her parents every time – and without letting on that she had Metalbending, either.

Ah, the life of an anchor, he thought. And I don’t even have Bending. Whose idea was it to put me in charge of these guys?

“’scuse me,” a voice whispered next to him. Absently, Sokka moved aside.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” the Anchor replied… then spun on one foot and stared, as a small orange horse surfed casually up the street on a wave of earth.

And was it him, or did the horse have milky white eyes?

“Wait a second,” he said. “Toph?

The horse shook its head, still moving.

“Are you a Replacement?” Sokka asked, remembering what a crazy fellow Looper in an orange jumpsuit had told him, that time Aang… wasn’t Aang.

The grinding sound of earthbending died away, and the horse turned to look almost towards him. “Well, shucks. Looks like ah found me a local Looper… at last…”

“Nice to meet you,” Sokka said, ignoring the increasingly bewildered looks of his friend and sister. Oh, and the whole street. “I’m Sokka.”

“Applejack,” the horse replied. “I ain’t usually blind, but ah got to admit that this whole earth movin’ trick is kinda neat.”

“And are you usually… a horse?”

“Nope. Pony.”

“Right.” Sokka thought wistfully of the alcohol he probably wasn’t allowed to buy in the Earth Kingdom, then shrugged and turned to the gathering crowd. “Thank you for watching our rehearsal! We’re part of the Ember Island Players, touring to raise awareness! Come see us some time!”

Sokka had learned from long experience that there was literally nothing that he couldn’t pass off as Ember Island Players rehearsal. Their production from the first time around had actually been relatively accurate

“What is all this about, Sokka?” Katara hissed.

Sokka shrugged. “I found our Earthbender.”

“But… horse?”

“Pony,” Applejack corrected firmly. “And ah know Earthbendin’!”

“Can you teach someone?” Aang asked. “Like, me?”

“What the hay, let’s give it a try,” Applejack said. “Ah got to admit it’d be neat t’ know more about how bendin’ works myself, but ah learn by doin’ anyway.”

“I still don’t think this is a good idea,” Katara muttered.

“Hey, the Firebenders learned from dragons.” Sokka tossed his boomerang in the air. “Nothing actually wrong with it.”

He tossed the boomerang again, and a lasso snagged it from the air.

Turning, he saw the newcomer had the lasso firmly in her… mouth?

“How did you aim that?” Aang asked, staring.

“Earthbending.” Applejack’s voice was just a tiny bit smug.

Katara nodded. “Okay, that is pretty cool.”


20.12

“Are you certain this is going to work?” Diamond Tiara asked, frowning at a rather unusual version of her customary headgear.

“Well…” Sweetie grimaced. “Not certain, no. But pretty close. I mean, we’ve seen this loop type once before, and my sister went over these things with a fine-tooth comb.” So saying, she slipped on her necklace and its golden pendant.

“Right.” Diamond gulped, then put on the tiara. When she unaccountably failed to explode, she tried to pretend she’d never been nervous at all while still keeping a close eye on it.

“Where’s Silver Spoon?” Applebloom asked, her own copper-apple bracelet already firmly around one hoof.

“Dunno.” Diamond touched the tiara gingerly. “How do these work?”

“I think sis said she’d made it so they were voice activated?” Sweetie thought for a moment, then nodded. “Alright. ‘Harmony power, make up!’”

There was a flash of bright gold light, and when it faded Sweetie was wearing what looked like a cross between royal regalia, a filly’s dress and battle armour.

“Okay, that is kind of cool,” Diamond allowed. “The armour is enchanted and collapses into the necklace, or whatever. But… what was the command phrase?”

“Rarity said the only way we’d say it by accident was if somepony came out with a makeup line called harmony power.” Sweetie giggled. “Actually…”

“Next time,” Applebloom chided her. “We have enough to be going on with this time.” She looked at her bracelet. “I still wish I knew how this thing worked, but Rarity is still better than me at seal script. Anyway, Harmony power make up!”

“What name did you choose?” Sweetie asked, as Applebloom’s own fuku-armour materialized.

“We choose names?” Diamond said. “Why wasn’t I informed?”

“Because you don’t need to choose a name,” the other two chorused.

“Seriously, Diamond Tiara is good enough already. Same for Silver Spoon,” Applebloom added. “Though ah do need one, and I’m leaning towards Copper Apple.”

“Golden Voice, for me,” Sweetie replied.

There was a skidding sound, as Scootaloo arrived outside. “Hi, less-cool ponies – oh, wow, I take it back. Hi, Applebloom and Sweetie Belle.”

Diamond waited. “What about me?” she asked, after several seconds of silence.

“Nah, I already said hello to you.” Scootaloo winked

Diamond stuck her tongue out, before coughing and pulling it in again.

“Anyway,” she said, trying not to blush at her sudden loss of dignity, “what’s Scootaloo’s new name?”

“Bronze Wing.” Scootaloo showed her own power trinket, this one an amulet, then activated it.

“Come on!” Applebloom said, nodding at her. “Your turn.”

“Okay,” Diamond said. “If you say so. Er… Harmony power make up?”

Another flash of light, this one a brilliant rainbow colour.

“Right. Marvellous. Excellent.” Diamond looked herself over. “What now?”

“Well…” Applebloom frowned. “Ah’m not actually sure. Ah seem t’ recall that when you had this last time, you kinda… threw the tiara?”

“What about you, then?” Diamond pressed.

“Sonic powers.” Sweetie posed. “I can sing loudly enough to send monsters flying!”

“And I can-”

“No, never mind that now!” Ignoring Scootaloo’s hurt look, Diamond pointed at Sweetie. “You didn’t mention the monsters!”

“…oops?” Applebloom tried.

“Yeah, basically, Nightmare Moon ain’t going to be cured like normal, or something,” Scootaloo explained, “and we have to kick monster butt until we can purify her or whatever. Anyway, as I was saying, I can-”

“But I’ve never got in a proper fight in my life!” Diamond wailed.

“Easy enough to fix.” Applebloom nodded firmly. “Ah’ll get Dash and we kin teach you martial arts.”

“Martial arts?” Diamond shook her head. “How vulgar. Oh well, if there’s no choice.”

“Oh, there’s a choice,” Sweetie said, grinning. “You could just throw the tiara at monsters.”

“Sign me up,” Diamond directed Applebloom without a moment’s hesitation. “Actually, can we start right now?”

“Doesn’t any pony want to know what my powers are?” Scootaloo asked plaintively.

“I’m sure Silver Spoon will,” Sweetie comforted.


20.13 (Stainless Steel Fox)


Turning the Tables continued


Twilight Sparkle woke up the day before the Summer Sun Celebration in what she considered her own bed. Golden Oaks library had been her home for accumulated centuries of loops, and it was one element of the familiar she wouldn't have wanted to change. She'd manifested a spare bed for Applejack and Rarity during that sleepover, so creating a cot to keep up appearances wouldn't be any hardship.

She decided to have apples for breakfast, and in the process reconnect with another of her friends. To be honest, she was leaving the two hardest till last, Rainbow Dash since she moved around so much, and Fluttershy… well shewould be a challenge. Without a baby dragon to 'spike' her interest, she would be very hard to approach.

Using the washroom and casting a few spells to complete her morning ablutions and shore up her cover identity, she headed out for Sweet Apple Acres. She'd covered finding out about it in-universe by asking the right questions of Rarity, so visiting to see the place for herself and buy some breakfast apples right from the source was completely ordinary.

From the carts and carriages around, even a small air-boat, it appeared the impromptu Apple family reunion had already begun. Dozens of Apple relatives were visible, helping out and generally getting on with things. But she needed to find Applejack. Ah, there was Apple Bloom. She would have to see if she could help the poor filly figure out her cutie-mark this loop. Twilight was certain her talent was for building and repairing stuff, but for some reason it never seemed to result in a cutie-mark.

"Pardon me young lady, but I'm looking for Applejack? I wanted to buy some apples for breakfast, and Rarity told me she was in charge here."

"Uh, big sis is probably in the orchard bucking apples for the festival, but she's awful busy right now. Who're you?"

Twilight had to smile at the filly's directness. "The name's Codex, I'm the new librarian. I just got into town yesterday, and I'm still finding my bearings. So what about you?"

"I'm Apple Bloom. Pleased to meet you Miss Codex." The filly head out a hoof, and Twilight took it.

"Why not drop in the library some time? We have plenty of books for fillies and colts."

"Ah, don't really read that much." Apple Bloom admitted. "I'm more interested in trying to figure out my cutie-mark."

So that particular trait had preceded Diamond Tiara's little party. Not that it was surprising, a lot of unmarked colts and fillies started to get worried when their friends started getting their marks and they didn't.

"Well, I'm not just going to hoof you the old saw about it coming in its own time. Though it will, I'm sure." Twilight liked the little filly, and wanted to do something nice for her.

"Maybe if you come to the library, I can find you things to read on cutie-marks. If you know more maybe you'll figure out what your special talent is. And remember, that isn't your only talent. You can be good at things without having a cutie-mark in it."

The filly looked at her lopsided, with a querying expression.

"Okay, take myself. I'm a librarian, but I'm also good at astronomy, and I've learned quite a bit of magic. I'm willing to bet you know some-pony who's good at something that isn't part of her cutie-mark." Twilight was willing to break cover slightly to prompt her with one example, but Apple Bloom was quite smart enough to think of it on her own.

"My sister Applejack! Her cutie-mark is apples but she's really good at rodeo stuff, herding critters and using a lasso. She's won blue ribbons in every rodeo in Ponyville for years!"

"There you are then." Twilight nodded approvingly, getting some-pony to come up with an answer themselves usually made the lesson stick better. "Your cutie-mark talent is important but it isn't the only thing that makes you special. Always remember, you are defined by what you believe and how you act, not the mark on your flank, and don't let any-pony tell you differently.."

Twilight realised she was lecturing, but she really did feel for the filly's predicament after seeing her work so hard for no reward in so many loops.

"Huh, I never thought about it like that…" Apple Bloom said, and then she smiled up at the unicorn. "Gee, you're smart! Maybe I will come and read some books."

"I'm happy to help." Twilight said with a feeling of satisfaction. Hopefully, she could help the filly cope more effectively with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon when they started acting out.

"Apple Bloom! You've still got some chores that need doing!" A familiar voice called out. Applejack was coming up to the gate.

"Okay sis! I was just resting for a bit." Apple Bloom turned away, then said over her shoulder, "Goodbye, and thanks!"

"It was my fault, I got chatting to her." Twilight said.

"Shucks, it ain't a problem. I overheard what you were saying, that was a right decent thing you did. Lil' Apple Bloom has been getting kinda antsy since her class started coming into their cutie-marks."

"I thought as much." Twilight shrugged. "I meant every word. I've seen it before, fillies who obsess on finding their cutie-marks and forget that they're more than that. Not to mention bullies who think no cutie-mark means they're a loser."

What she didn't say was that Apple Bloom was chief among the first class of aforementioned fillies.

"I hear ya! I was late coming into my own cutie-mark, so I got some of that myself. I even went sky-hooting off to Manehatten, but I finally figured out this was where I belonged. " Applejack shook her head. "Anyhow, I'm Applejack, welcome to Sweet Apple Acres!"

"I'm Codex, the new town librarian. I just arrived here from Canterlot. As for finding where I belong... Never mind." Twilight held out her hoof and prepared for a shaking.

"Well howdy do, Miss Codex, a pleasure makin' your acquaintance!" Applejack finally released her hoof and dropped hers down, crossing her other fore-leg. "So, what can I do you for this fine day?"

"I fancied some apples to go with my breakfast, and Rarity said you had the finest apples in Ponyville."

"Heh! Try finest in Equestria!" Applejack looked back over her shoulder at the mass of ponies. "Well some of my family from out of town might have their own opinion..."

"I thought there were rather a lot of ponies for just one farm."

Applejack gave a whinny of amusement. "Yup, these are my kinfolk from all over Equestria. I asked them to come help getting together the food for the Summer Sun Celebration, and they came. It ain't every-day you get to see the Princess raise the sun in person."

Twilight gave a slight flinch, just enough to be noticeable. She saw Applejack notice it, but the mare wasn't likely to pry, at least not until she knew Twilight better. She schooled her expression to pleasantness, and asked, "So anyway, how much for a half dozen apples?"

"Don't worry about it, I guess since you're new in town, you can have a free sample. Matter of fact, we're just starting to get some samples ready for when that Royal Overseer comes to check on things. I guess you could give us a second opinion."

"I really shouldn't…" Twilight said, though she wanted to, and not only to have more chance to restore her friendship. Some of the smells coming from the farm-house were making her stomach growl. "… but yes, I'd love to!"

There followed a series of introductions startlingly similar to the events of the prime time-line. But this time, Twilight took the trouble to memorise the ponies as she was introduced, though it had been made easier by repeated introductions in prior loops.

She got Applejack talking about her rodeo successes, and Apple Bloom about her school work, and did her best to get to know something about every-pony there. As with the party in Canterlot, she knew exactly how to get the other ponies talking about themselves, and as she'd learned from Pinkie Pie, remembering things about ponies wasn't hard when you thought of them as your friends.

She ended up eating rather more of the samples than she'd intended, and making entirely honest complements about their excellence, and decided she needed to balance things. "I really should help out some, after all of your hospitality…"

Applejack waved it off. "Don't worry about it! I reckon you're practically a part of the family! It's a pleasure to meet a pony who appreciates…"

"I say! Where is the pony in charge of this… shambles?"

Twilight froze up. No, it couldn't be! Had her disappearance sent Princess Celestia completely insane? She should have realised that the Princess would have to pick a replacement Royal Overseer, but out of all the ponies in Canterlot, to select Bluebloodas her representative?

She trailed Applejack back to the gate, hoping she was wrong. No, there he was, dressed in a stylishly cut tweed jacket that he must fondly imagine made him look like a rugged pony of action. He was flanked by two Royal Guards, probably the ones who'd flown him here, presumably to highlight how important he was. Though considering his penchant for annoying ponies, maybe he actually needed bodyguards. While she'd had little to do with the Prince in her original time-line, she'd run across him several times in the loops and he'd never made a positive impression.

The fact that he'd clearly considered her achievements in both magic and academics as worthless compared to the all-important noble title and wealth he'd gotten by being born, and had been heard to refer to her as that 'jumped up little academic who subsists on my great aunt's charity' did nothing to endear him to her. She suspected he'd had designs on Cadence in more than one time-line, and her brother's romance with Celestia's adoptive niece had hardened his attitude to her family in those cases, and made him even more unbearable, something that she'd have originally believed impossible.

She pushed down her personal dislike of the stuck-up narcissistic prat, and tried to remind herself of his few positive points. He was also loyal to his great aunt, and a competent organiser. Also, while much of the Canterlot social elite were just as pleasant as any-pony else, there was a proportion of toffee nosed egotists, and Blueblood was the perfect foil to keep them in check by being even more top-lofty and superior than they were. If Celestia had been forced to deal with some of the more interesting examples of the dangers of inbreeding that Canterlot produced, she'd probably have gone Infernal Blaze long since.

However, Celestia normally kept her nephew in a close check rein, and sending him to somewhere like Ponyville to interact with normal ponies demonstrated a level of ineptitude that bordered on the imbecilic. However, that probably meant Celestia had nothing to do with it, she had probably handed off the task to some subordinate who lacked her keen appreciation of the level of disaster the arrogant clothes horse could engender simply by being his usual unbearable self. Not to mention his first port of call was the Apple homestead, which just about put the dollop of cream on this choice slice of disaster apple pie.

"I'm Applejack, and this is Sweet Apple Acres, not a 'shambles'. Are you the fella who's supposed to be checking on the vittles for the Summer Sun Celebration?"

Blueblood gave a sniff of distain. "Iam Prince Blueblood, Royal Overseer for the Summer Sun Celebrations, and you will address me with the courtesy due to my rank!"

Twilight winced. Yup, Blueblood still had it, not that any-pony else would wantit.

Applejack's voice took on an edge. "You can be sure I'll treat you will all the respect you deserve."

"Very well. Bad enough that Celestia's precious little charity project has run off to hide somewhere, leaving meto clean up the mess, but you could have at least made sure there was a carpet or something to keep my hooves clean while I crossed that yard full of dirt. It was bad enough having to walk up a dusty road, do you know what this will do to my hooficure?"

"Why I'm right sorry yer royal annoy… highness, I'll just get my kin-folk to lay down in a line so you can step from pony to pony without getting your hooves dirty."

"Don't be silly!" Blueblood exclaimed. "Look at them. They're so scruffy there wouldn't be any advantage to it. No, I suppose I will have to walk across the yard myself. The things I'm forced to do in the name of my Great Aunt…"

He walked in, trailed by the two guards who had the good grace to look at least slightly embarrassed, and the death glares of the entire Apple family. Twilight could have put a stop to it, popping wings as well as a horn in front of the idiot usually shut him up, but base-line Twilight wouldn't head for an immediate confrontation, and neither would Codex. Going alicorn would break her cover about as badly as possible and leave her with a lot of explaining to do.

On it's own, that wouldn't have stopped her, her friends were more important to her than that, but even without massive alicorn powers and the advantages of a hundred loops of study, neither base-line Twilight Sparkle or her alter ego was a push over. She could salvage this the smart way, without simply throwing power at it. It was a close thing though, she'd had no intention of making things harder for her friends, and she felt responsible.


MLP Loops 21

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21.1 (more Turning the Tables, by Stainless Steel Fox)


“Is this some sort of joke?” Blueblood's perfectly polished tones came from the gazebo where Applejack had held the tasting. “You intend to offer Princess Celestia this... this carnival stall junk food?”

“Now don't you take that tone with me, mister hoity toity hooves! This is made from Sweet Apple Acres finest apples, and every-pony in the Apple family contributed their best recipes to this spread.”

“You intend to offer Her Royal Highness Princess Celestia common apples?” Blueblood looked down his muzzle at her. “The Princess only partakes of the finest cuisine, oranges from Manedarin, sweet cactus from Saddle Arabia, crisped Neighponese seaweed with the finest rose honey crystals from the Neighderlands. All of it is prepared by the finest chefs. As the ruler of Equestria she deserves no less.”

Applejack scratched the back of her head with a hoof. “That's as may be, but I figure after all that fancy food, she might like to try some plain old apples, just for a change. And when it comes to making 'em into cakes and pies, I back our family against any-pony in Equestria... or all those other places, matter of fact. We even got some-pony from Canterlot to taste 'em already, and she reckoned they were just fine! Ain't that right, Codex?”

Blueblood followed Applejack's gaze, and caught sight of Twilight's disguised form. “And what are you?”

Twilight pushed down her first reaction, which would have seen him turned into the first ever royal artichoke, and tried to mediate. “I'm Codex, the new town librarian, and I did live in Canterlot before I moved here. I think you're being far too hard on Applejack and her family, I loved everything I tried.”

She noted the lack of crumbs or anything else around him. “It may not be as fancily presented as you're used to, but it's really good, and it's for the whole of Ponyville. You should try it at least.”

“And hiding in a library for your entire life has made you an expert on organising a Royal visit how?” Blueblood sneered. “I don't need to try these pitiful pastries! Just as I don't need your advice to decide that the catering for the Summer Sun Celebration is not done!”

He levitated his checklist and made a big cross against the first bullet point, and with that he turned on his hooves and trotted towards the gate. “I will have to get the Mayor to order proper food from a Canterlot bakery, one that serves the Palace, not some amateur farm-pony...”

Applejack was fuming, and a couple of other members of her family seemed about ready to chase him down, guards or no guards, and were being held back by Big Macintosh. “Why that stuck-up no-account...!”

“I can fix it.” Twilight said, interrupting her before she could “A simple copy correction spell and it'll be a tick. I can even delay it a couple of hours so he won't notice.”

“You can do that?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Sure, it's not enchanted legal parchment, just plain old paper. It's a standard spell for any-pony who has to manage paper-work.” As a librarian would, or a student of magic. After all, quills blotted occasionally.

Applejack thought about it, then sighed, hanging her head. “Nope! It's tempting, but I ain't going to cheat like that. Besides, what if he's right?”

Twilight snorted. “Princess Celestia wouldn't think that way for a second. Even if it wasn't up to her usual standards, she'd still accept and appreciate that it was an honest effort, and trust me, those things are as good as anything you'd get in a fancy Canterlot bakery!”

She noticed Applejack looking at her curiously and reviewed her last few sentences. Oh, horse-apples!

“How'd you know all that about the Princess?”

The only thing to do was roll with it. “Uh... well every-pony in Canterlot knows how the Princess acts. She is kind of a big deal, after all. Palace gossip even reaches us librarians. I also know all about 'Prince' Blueblood, and trust me, that was exactly how he normally acts.”

Applejack seemed to accept that. “Is there anything else we can do, any way we can appeal?”

Twilight knew exactly what the responsibilities of a Royal overseer were, and that Blueblood had overstepped his authority, but base-line Twilight wouldn't. However, she'd spotted a book that could help when she'd been organising the library. She'd read cover to cover several times in previous loops . “I don't know, but I think I saw a book in the library that could be useful. Can you keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't do any more damage while I get it?”

“I'll do my best!” Applejack headed off.

Twilight made her own way back to the library and just outside it almost ran into Rarity again. Twilight had been looking where she was going, but t