The author would like to extend his thanks towards his friend and editor, Geoberos, for working long unpaid hours and getting whipped into editing. Another thanks to MidnightShadow, who without a constant tutelage, we would never know the difference between a paragraph and a line break for internet-writing. One last huge thanks to Lauren Faust for creating a show that makes me smile every time I watch it.
Plus all you readers and bronies, you get some thanks too. Enjoy.
Chapter One: Arrival
Three days left. There were only three more days left until the foretold return of Nightmare Moon. The quiet night air surrounding the balcony swirled peacefully around the sole inhabitant. Lost in her own thoughts for the first time all day, the white alicorn had a frown upon her face that seemed to make the normally royal appearance less than appealing. Her eyes focused on the moon, thoughts of her younger sister racing through her head in small visions followed by sad smiles and more frowns and a single tear.
“If only there was a way…” Ever the princess, she always had to keep up appearances and keep her own selfish desires hidden away so that they couldn’t interfere with her duties. Closing her eyes, she knew that when the time came, she would have to trust in her faithful student to find the answer. A sigh followed these thoughts for she worried that Twilight could get hurt along the way. Even a princess would worry about her loved ones.
As she was about to accept the inevitable, a flash of light across the sky caught her attention. Her eyes fluttered open to see a streaming line traced into the night, a golden shooting star having flown past. She smiled at it, recalling a memory from long ago.
Back then, she had not been watching the stars from a castle. It was in a grassy field, next to her sister, that she had seen her first shooting star.
“Wow... It’s all so pretty!” She exclaimed, eyes beaming at the cosmic display she was watching. A golden star passed overhead and she let out another show of awe, falling silent a moment.
“They are, aren’t they, sis?” Her sister’s response came, happy that someone appreciated the show.
“I never get to see these during the day! You sure are lucky, Luna.” The white pony turned to flash her sister a smile, though she was upside down while doing so. Both of them giggled at the silliness, thankful for the break in formality they always faced. Finishing their fit, they returned to watching silently the show of stars.
“Mm… but... not a lot of ponies watch them.” Her little sister trailed off, a little saddened by her own words.
“Well…” Celestia paused, thinking up something to say to comfort her troubled sibling and then stood up proudly. “I’ll always watch them for you!” She exclaimed confidently, making Luna turn her head in silent shock. “Because! I know my little sister made them come up for me,” she finished her speech with a hoof on Luna’s head, rubbing it with some sisterly affection. “Promise.”
“… Thank you, Celestia…” Luna gave a chuckle, sobbing at the sudden happiness she was given.
The two of them laid back down, a red shooting star streaking through the vast night sky that Luna had made.
“I’m keeping my promise, Luna…” She whispered aloud, remembering that night with a tear. Glancing upward, she spotted a similar red star making it’s way across the night sky. With no extra thought, the princess made a small wish. “I wish that you would come home safely, my sister.” Half spoken and half from the heart, the wish floated across the quiet wind and into the night.
The red star glowed a little brighter as it streaked across the sky above the castle, then bounced backward in the sky. Puzzled, Celestia observed it’s movements. The star shot downward, falling straight towards the castle before making another abrupt turn and darting away. Intrigued, she followed it with her eyes as it descended over the Everfree forest and vanished beneath the trees. Almost immediately, she spread her wings ready to follow after it.
“Your Highness!” One of the guard pegasus called out to her from a neighboring balcony to which they were stationed. “Did that star just fall?”
“Yes, I believe it did.” She had managed to swallow her emotions and return to being the majestic royalty that she was, answering him quickly and sincerely. “I am curious to investigate it before it gets too late.”
“Then allow us to escort you, your highness.” The other guard pegasus replied before flying off to fetch the royal carriage. She knew that arguing with them wouldn’t be prudent nor very princess like, so she nodded and agreed quickly. A few small preparations later and the trio were heading towards the forest.
Being winged, the view from above proved quite the advantage. Looking downward, she saw a large scar in the wooded area beneath them. The fallen star had torn up the tree tops before it crashed through the middles, leaving quite a mess of wood and leaves. A reddish glow in the distance signaled where the star should have finally landed. The caravan of ponies descended onto the crash site with haste, landing just far enough away for safety.
Stepping down from the raised carriage, Celestia’s eyes were drawn to the red aura surrounding the crater. The whole area seeped with an eerie light, but she bravely stepped forward and her guardians followed. She peered over the edge of the crater, the light fading away as she did so. There in the crater, was a sleeping red colt. She furrowed her brow in confusion, wondering where the star had gotten to until it dawned on her. Had her wish brought this pony to her, and was this the answer she was seeking? “Airy, Skyward,” she motioned for the guards, who stared dumbstruck at the find. “I’d appreciate it if we could take him back with us.”
“But your highness, he could be dangerous.” Airy, the one to her right said, raising his wing in protest.
She leaned her head towards the crater, hearing a small snore as the colt slept soundly. “Don’t be silly, he’s sleeping.” Using a little of her princess influence, she finally managed to win over the pegasi into not only carrying him back, but also using the carriage to do so. Celestia happily flew back on her own, a little pleased that she was not being pampered by her guards as well. It wasn’t every day she got to spread her own wings and fly.
They arrived at Canterlot after not too long, and the two guardians carried the red pony, albeit with some complaints, to one of the spare guestrooms where they set him down on a bed. Surprisingly, he never awoke and simply rolled over to get more comfortable.
“I think we should let him rest for now, don’t you think?” She asked, a tinge of excitement lingering on her usual formal tone. The two guards looked at each other, confused about her highness’s new attitude. “I’d be grateful if one of you would keep an eye on him and alert me when he awakens.” Their princess had a smile that even they couldn’t refuse, one they hadn’t seen since her apprentice had come to visit.
“I’ll do it, your highness.” Skyward trotted forward, standing at attention next to the bed.
“Thank you very much,” she responded in kind, bowing her head to acknowledge his duty before turning back to look at the sleeping colt a few moments longer. His mane was normal, his coat normal as well. Yet there was something about him that she couldn’t quite place, a feeling that he was out of this world. No cutie mark, a unicorn horn, and a sleeping expression that was a tad cute to watch. Her thoughts returned to that memory in the field, a promise to watch the stars for her sister. Well, one had finally fallen to Equestria and she was not about to break that promise!
A yawn escaped her royal lips, and with a quick apology she trotted herself off to bed, leaving the new pony discovery alone for now.
Falling..? Why am I falling..? His thoughts were not very coherent, but neither was the dream he was having. Oh, I’m dreaming... He watched the dream world around him change, the night sky flashing before his eyes and the trees around him growing taller. I feel really tired… He tried to shut his eyes again but the ground started rushing up to meet him and before it could reach him his eyes opened for real.
Light flooded them, and he blinked instinctively, “What…what is this..?” He spoke.
“Oh, I see you’re awake.” A kind voice said from beside him. He turned to see who had spoken, his gaze meeting a white horse and a flowing rainbow mane. He was in awe, his mouth opened by itself at the sight and he tried to find words to say, but was met with a small chuckle from the other. “How do you feel?” She asked him.
He blinked, wondering about that question. Up until a few seconds ago, he didn’t remember feeling anything. In fact, there was nothing up until his eyes opened yet he knew the answer.
Strange that he had an answer but no reason, nor that he could talk when he had never spoken before. Furthermore, what he had said made the other’s face change to a shocked expression.
“Confused..?” He asked her back, not sure how best to ask that question. He had dozens floating in his mind but the order was getting confused.
“I wasn’t sure you knew how to talk.” She said with a smile that once again disarmed him. “But I see I am mistaken, and am glad that you can.”
“Who…where…? Speaking more words he did not know, he flinched as each word came with a meaning, popping in his mind. The sudden rush of knowledge had a physical pain along with it, and it was coming from his head. He crossed his eyes and looked up to see a horn, a small shimmer of light emanating from it. “What..?” Actually, as it hurt he was starting to see more words and words popping into his head. Horse, hoofs, me, I, am, why, who, she, white, hair, mane, sleep, horn, pony… The stream of words did not end and neither did the headache.
“Hmm?” The white one was looking at his horn and another word popped into his head. “What kind of magic is this?” She asked, and the answer did not appear, instead more words just appeared. They started connecting, making sentences, making sense…
Magic, words, connect, sense, learn, learning… That was it, he was learning. As the headache started continued, he now had a vocabulary and understood what that word meant!
“Magic..? What is magic?” As if a switch had been turned on, more words and meanings came into his head and he glanced around the room taking in everything that he could. Walls, ceiling, windows, bed, pegasus, unicorn, magic, pain, girl, rainbow, majestic, floor, sky, light…
The other pony eyed him with some concerned eyes, “Magic is--” She began.
“—the ability to manifest imagination...” The red colt finished for her, as if stating it from a textbook. The flood of words had stopped finally. “I know words… Why do I know words..?” He asked, not sure about that answer.
“Oh, now I see. That was a learning spell.” The meaning of that came fluttering from the back of his mind, it was a spell designed to take in knowledge quickly. He knew the answer to why it hurt, he was not supposed to know anything like that and yet he was performing it.
“I don’t know how do to that.” He admitted, stretching for the first time. Stretching was interesting, it made his joints pop and he realized he had never used this body before. In fact, the one thing he did know about this body was that it was not his original. He did not actually know what he was before this, only that he kept seeing words in his head that said that he had never been a pony before. He frowned, noting that his face did that when he felt this way. “I want to sleep…” He said, rolling over and curling back up. His eyes opened when a pegasus across from him gave a cough.
“Your highness,” the pegasus started, but was silenced by her shaking head.
“It’s alright, I’m sure he’s very tired out from that spell.” She started talking and he could hear her voice drifting away. “A learning spell takes quite a bit out of—“ He was out before he could hear the rest, the horn on his head still glowing.
His eyes opened again, this time he was more awake. The white mare from before was gone. Instead, he saw that one of the pegasi had stayed behind to guard him. He sat up with a yawn, looking at the unfamiliar room. Still unsure as to his whereabouts, instinct told him to get up and walk around. The colt did so, hopping up from the bed and making his way towards the door. However, a wing in front of him prevented him from going any further.
“Hiya.” He said to the other pony, not sure what else to say. “Nice weather we’re having… I haven’t seen weather before, but I think it should be nice no matter what it is.” The words streamed out.
“It is lovely weather outside.” The voice he had heard earlier returned from behind him and he turned to the door to see the white elegant horse enter. “I saw you were using another learning spell while you slept. How do you know it?” Her tone housed a concern he did not recognize.
“I’m not sure… I just woke up.” He paused in thought. “I was sleeping before, now I’m awake. Before that though, I was asleep for a long time…” His hoof scratched the top of his head. “I don’t remember anything before I woke up.”
She approached him and sat down as he spoke, giving him her attention.
“But but… No, I heard a voice!” He said excitedly, jumping for the first time. “It was yours, I think… It said something… I can’t remember…” He began to ramble, shifting around and then giving a sigh. “I’m sorry I can’t remember.”
“It’s alright.” She said reassuringly.
“I want to ask some questions!” His voice went back to the excited tone, and he sat down mimicking her action from before. It rested his back legs he noted. “Um first... let’s see, who am I?” That was an answer that he did not get from the sleeping, but one that was deemed ‘important’ in his mind.
“You don’t remember your name?” She asked him and he shook his head. “Then I guess we’ll have to think of one for you.” She looked over to the two winged guards for ideas. “How does Starlight sound?” The red colt shook his head.
“Red?” With a sigh, one of the guards pitched in only to be met with another headshake.
“Heavy?” The other said, getting looks from the other two and a shake of the head from the colt. The names kept coming, and he kept shaking his head.
“Ray?” Celestia suggested. It was short, something that seemed pleasing to him. Best of all, the word connected with other words in his head like shooting star. He nodded and smiled.
“I like that one.” He said happily. “Ray…” He said it aloud. “I am Ray... Nice to meet you.” He spoke to the white mare. “Who are you?”
Ray could see both of the guardians frowning at his directness towards her, but her smile was the one thing that he was most focused on. “My name is Princess Celestia, it is nice to meet you too, Ray.” The word princess clicked with royalty, palace, ruling, and a plethora of other terms. She gave him a bow and he returned it before turning to the pegasi.
“My name’s Ray, what’s yours?”
They turned to face each other, and then to the princess to see if they really had to answer. With a nod from her, they answered.
Ray grinned in delight at knowing these ponies’ names. He wasn’t sure why, but it was pleasing to be able to talk with them. “Nice to meet you, Airy Defender, Skyward Wing… Airy Defender, Skyward Wing…” He repeated their names to make sure he was saying them correctly. “Celestia.” He nodded in turn at each of the ponies as he recited their names. “Alright, I’ll remember them.”
Celestia gave him a smile, “I’ll remember yours too, Ray.”
For the next several hours, they talked and he got to understand more. He managed to walk around a bit too, laugh, and fall down all in the same few seconds. Right afterward, he laughed again. He learned more from asking than he would have from that strange spell he had done, at least more that he could focus on. He asked questions about the glass on the wall, and the outside world that it showed. He asked what those marks on their flank were, much to the dismay of the guards but a chuckle from the princess. He asked what the bright thing outside was too, where he was, and he received many answers.
“Oh my, the time has gone by, hasn’t it?” Celestia began, a responsive nod from Ray came her way. “If you’ll excuse me, I have duties to attend to.” She looked at the frown on his face and shook her head. “Watch outside and you’ll see a sunset.”
Like a little pony, he zoomed over to the window and sat quietly in anticipation. One of the guardians took up the post behind him, settling into his guard position while the princess trotted out. Eagerly, Ray waited and waited for what seemed like forever to his short attention-span. Finally, the sun began to get lower and lower in the sky until the night itself became dark. As it faded past the horizon, Ray’s eyes went up to the heavens and he saw them. Stars. The gears in his head began to tick, and he spoke. “I was a star…” He thought about it, not sure how he was a star up there and then was a pony down here. “I’ll ask Celestia when she gets back.” He had picked that up from the conversations, the others addressed her special, but she did not seem to mind when he called her by her name.
However, she didn’t come back immediately and he sat down by the bed quietly. The minutes went by and he gave a yawn. It didn’t look like she was coming back any time soon, and he gave a frown before crawling onto the bed. It was for sleeping on, he knew, and the tiredness he felt told him he was going to fall asleep soon. His eyelids started drifting down and before he could stop himself he was out again.
A knock at the door did not awaken him, and the Princess entered. “I’m sorry I’m late, I was caught up—“ Her eyes fell on the sleeping pony, and she gave a little smile. “Goodnight, Ray.”
Chapter 2: Rumors
Ray was up again after the sun had risen, talking the ears off of Airy when the princess arrived. The colt addressed her with a flurry of questions and then sat patiently, listening to the explanation of his arrival. It took barely a second of thought before his next words came out, “Okay, that sounds right.” The look of doubt on the pegasi’s faces caused him to grin. “Well, you aren’t lying and I don’t have any memories. I don’t see how I couldn’t be from the stars.”
Celestia returned the smile, “I’m amazed at the progress you’ve made since yesterday. If I didn’t know better, I would never have guessed where you were from. I’m planning on making an announcement today about you, will that be alright?” There was a hopeful tone in her voice.
“Sure, but I’d also really like to go outside today.” He responded by trotting over to the window, looking down onto the section of garden he could see. In all of the two days he had been awake, he did not remember ever having been outside, so he wondered it was like. He tried conveying this to them by jumping and head nods in their direction. “I mean, if that’s okay with you...” He glanced down at the ground and pawed at it shyly.
“As long as you are supervised, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.” She nodded to the two guards, both standing ready as if to defend him with their lives. “Oh settle down, I’ll be going too.” A smile shared between the red colt and the alicorn was interrupted as a rolled up piece of paper appeared in front of her highness. The sudden appearance made Ray take a step back with a noise.
“It’s alright, it’s just a letter.” With a glow of her horn, the scroll unfurled and she read it. Her smile faded gracefully and she glanced over to Ray. “I’m sorry, but something has come up and I won’t be able to join you.”
Ray shook his head and gave her a return smile. “It’s fine, duty comes before play if I’m remembering it right.” His eyes narrowed to the side as he thought. “I am.” He nodded with the answer. “Will you be gone long?”
“Unfortunately, I should be heading out now as well. Please enjoy yourself in my absence.” With an elegant bow of her head, she turned and made for the exit followed behind by both of the guardians.
The red colt gave her a goodbye wave of his front leg and trotted out the door and into the hallway where he was met by Skyward. The white pegasus stood in front of his path. “I can still go outside, right?”
“Yes, that was Her Highness’s command.” His wing extended to point the way, and he began to lead the way out towards the garden with Ray quietly followed along.
“Keke~” A light blue filly with a horn, small red spectacles, and a large pouch on her back strode through the garden unseen. Or rather every so often, she would duck behind a trimmed bush or statue. Having snuck her way this far for a scoop, she wouldn’t dare risk being caught by somepony! The press conference was not until the afternoon, but this little mare was not about to let anypony else steal her story.
The day before, she had heard from one of her good friends a rumor that there was a strange red horse visiting the princess from parts unknown. Like all good gossip, most of the royal family was known, as well as any apprentices or new arrivals.. However, this one pony was not yet accounted for and she had jumped at the chance for fame.
“Oh they laughed when I told them that The Mare in the Moon was going to be coming back this Summer, and they laughed when I told them about these little creatures I uncovered that multiply extensively upon eating food... But just you wait, just you wait! I’ll get this scoop, I’ll uncover some hidden conspiracy.. Does the Princess have some kind of affair, or a lovechild? Then they’ll know! Everypony will know my name: Penny Paper, Legendary Ace Reporter!” She posed dramatically after giving the monologue, realizing about two seconds later that she had just spoken out loud and quickly hid behind the nearest object she could find.
Thankfully, the castle seemed to be a bit empty at this point, and her outcry had gone unnoticed. “Whew..” Giving a sigh of relief, Penny took a glance out from behind her cover and with a shock she noticed something she was not expecting. There in front, about a gallop away, was the red pony in question. Uncommonly dark red mane with a lighter red coat, no cutie mark. She almost let out a shriek of excitement before she noticed that right behind him was a white pegasus wearing guard armor.
It wasn’t just guard armor, it was royal guard armor. This was one of the two officially appointed guardians for Her Royal Highness, and there he was seemingly guarding this pony. Another surge of journalistic enthusiasm shot through her and she frantically began to formulate theories, using magic to pull a pen and scroll from her pack and writing them down. She kept her distance as she started following them around, tipping her head and ear out to try to listen to what was being said. She was not close enough, definitely not close enough! Closing the distance while not being seen, she managed to duck under a bush just as guard’s head turned to her direction.
She could hear her heart beat and panic engulfed the filly as she heard some trotting towards her location. Oh no oh no oh no! Her thoughts raced as visions of her imagined glory starting crumbling down. Captured and humiliated, she’d never get her story! Another hoovestep towards her position sounding louder and louder. She tensed up, ready to make a run for it should she be discovered.
“Captain!” From above the bush and the garden, another guard pegasus descended. “We have reports of an intruder spotted near the main hall.”
Penny’s heart kept beating loudly, and she swallowed her breath to try to calm herself.
“I’m coming,” Skyward replied, taking off of the ground with a flap. It was met by a noise of awe from somewhere around her, and the reporter spied from her vantage point the guard captain in the sky. “Stay here.” He gave a command to the other pony nearby before flying away with the scout.
“Whew...” She managed to breathe a sigh of relief right before the red colt poked his head into the bush she was in, managing to get right up next to her face.
“Hiya!” He said with a friendly tone. “Why are you hiding in here?”
The surprise made Penny give out a shriek, but she closed her mouth with a hoof quickly since she didn’t want the captain of the guards coming back.
“Um...” The red colt turned his head to the side, confused by her behavior. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No no, I’m fine.” She quickly shook herself back into a normal mindset. “Just a little startled is all.” Then with a quick opening of her eyes, she faced the red pony with a grin. “I wasn’t expecting my story to just come up and greet me, but it did and now here I am, ha...” Her eye twitched a little and she adjusted her glasses. “Right! Well, better make the most of it.”
The unknown colt retreated his head and watched her exit the bush, brush herself off of the leaves, and then unpack her bag quickly. A pen levitated in front of her, a bottle of ink to the side, and a long piece of paper. “Now then.. What is--”
“Hiya!” He interrupted her and she furled her brow at him
“Yes, hello. Now, what is--”
“I’m Ray, what’s your name?”
She heaved a sigh, but then straightened herself up. It wasn’t really proper protocol to just jump into the interview without some kind of introduction. She remembered the scolding she got from the first hurried interview she had conducted in her first year. “Apologies, my name is Penny Paper. I am a reporter conducting research for the not-so-well-known newspaper, Equestria Daily.”
“Oh? That sounds neat.” His voice screamed with enthusiasm that she couldn’t really place, but at least he was willing to help her.
“It is, isn’t it? Well then... I’d like to ask you some questions about yourself, please be wholly honest with me.” She gave him a wink and then grinned as he nodded. “Excellent, excellent. Now then,” A quick clearing of the throat and she started her questions, “What is your relationship to Princess Celestia?”
He scratched his chin with a hoof, appearing to be thinking about it for too long. “I don’t think I’m related to her.”
“Not directly? Are you related to one of the other nobles, no but then why is the captain of the guardian pegasi watching over you?”
“Skyward Wing? Celestia asked him to watch over me.” His response held no hidden answers, but that didn’t stop her from trying to dig deeper.
“Such informality! Oh, you must really be related to her, and she even directed one of her royal guards to you. Are you a secret son of hers?”
“Uh...?” He stood dumbstruck, not really sure how to answer that so she started fishing for him.
“She looks after you, doesn’t she? How long has this been going on for?”
The red colt started recoiling a bit as her presence became more dominating. “Um, I guess she does look after me.. And since yesterday.”
“Ah, so you’re a foreign pony.” She took a moment to think up some more questions while he scratched at the ground in embarrassment. “You still look like you’re hiding something...”
“I’m just not used to the attention.” Ray admitted, still scratching at the ground.
“Oh, so you were isolated before a few days ago, or maybe you were being hidden away from the world. Ha, I knew I uncovered some deep conspiracy! Are you the Princess’s hidden son?”
“I’m not her son...” He both half-asked and half-stated.
“Ah, but what other reason could she have to hide you?”
“She said she was going to announce me to the world today.”
“Oh my, but why the sudden news! Think Penny, you can do this.. Think think think,” She trailed off, lost in thoughts until she gasped a second later. “Can it be? Are you some sort of hidden prince from her missing sister?”
“She has a sister..?” He asked with confusion.
“Oh yes, that has to be it. I had heard rumors about the Princess’s most eligible bachelor nephew, and here I am talking to him!”
“Eligible?” confusion sounded in his voice.
“Well, you aren’t seeing anypony at the moment are you?”
“I’m looking at you right now.”
“Oh stop, that’s so flattering but I’m not interested. You’re not going to be secretly engaged any time soon are you?”
“No, I don’t think I’m to be wed any time soon.” His answer was given slowly back to her.
“Well then, that proves my point.” Her ears perked up and she glanced skyward. “Out of time, thank you very much for the interview!” Hurriedly, she magicked all the items back into her bag and rushed off in a quick trot.
“Kay, bye Penny!” He called after her, sitting in the spot that the guard captain had told him to stay put in.
“Ha, so lucky... ‘There’s no way you can get a scoop like that, Penny~’, well I did!” She could be heard musing to herself as she made her way back to the hole she had come in from.
Ray stayed put, contemplating what had just happened. The whole scenario seemed strange, but he had tried to answer questions honestly and it couldn’t hurt to help Celestia out with her announcement. Still, what was he to her? What was family? The thought of being just a star or not mattering made him a little, no quite a bit sad. He had a frown on his face as Skyward landed next to him. He met eyes and the pegasus gave a snort.
“I am sorry to have kept you waiting so long.” He gave no report, since this was not his job. Normally his job was to guard the Princess, but she had assigned him to this space foal, much to his disappointment. He also noticed the frown on the colt’s face, but made no attempt to ask why. There was just one task on his mind at the moment, keeping this palace and his charge safe. That however did not stop Ray from asking him questions.
“What am I to the Princess?”
“I cannot answer that, you will have to ask her upon her return.” A quick response from Skyward put the colt back into his thoughts.
“Then I’ll ask her when she gets back. In the meantime...” His voice trailed off as he spotted a majestic crimson bird flying across the blue sky not far from them both. “Wow...” Ray went back to trying to figure out the rest of this garden and the outside world.
By the time Celestia had returned, Ray had spent plenty of time tracking down and naming off animals in the garden. There were quite a few he found, noting that there were probably many more and that no one could possibly hope to get close to them all in one day. Besides that, most of them were afraid and tended to skitter away from him. All except one, who was resting on his back as the Princess and Airy landed in the garden.
“I see you’ve met Philomena.” She said with a smile, gracefully trotting up to the three. The phoenix took off from his back and landed on her outstretched leg. “And I see you’ve met Ray,” she told the bird as it nodded in agreement. “How have you two been getting along?”
They both spoke at the same time, then paused together and laughed lightly. Philomena squawked out something while Ray stayed silent, waiting his turn to talk. Celestia nodded to the elegantly plumed bird before it flew off and away, circling around the red colt one more time and giving him a farewell squawk. “I’m glad to see that you’re getting along so well with everypony you meet, or in Philomena’s case, every phoenix.”
“Did everything go okay for you too?” His attention settled on her and she gave him a nod.
“Yes, a small dragon from a neighboring land decided it would rest in Fillydelphia and made quite a mess. But we managed to talk it out.” She felt excited to share the news, or rather that somepony had asked her aside from it being a royal duty. Not to mention that when he listened, she could almost see the questions written on his face that he was waiting to ask. To her surprise, Skyward was the first to speak though.
“Your Highness, there was an incident while you were away. A young roc made its way into the main hall and got stuck. We managed to free her however.” He reported directly to her, not mentioning his small venture away from Ray, nor addressing him for that matter at all.
“I see, thank you very much for help. It seems like many things are falling out of the sky recently.” She gave him a nod of approval and he trotted back behind her to resume his job of keeping her safe. Celestia returned her attention back to Ray. “What about you, did anything happen while I was away?” She could see his face light up with many things, and she motioned with one of her wings for him to follow so they could talk while they walked.
Talk he did, he had many things to say. From the way he was speaking, he sounded like a very excited young pony who had an eventful first day of school. There were many things brought up: questions about the large bright thing in the sky, questions about the various animals and why they were so shy, questions about why the ground was so green and why when he looked at it he felt hungry. Celestia tried her best to keep up with his excited questions, answering when she could amidst his flurry of enigmas.
“-- And then this filly showed up and--”
She looked over to Skyward, who also had a surprised expression on his face. The princess narrowed her eyes a little, still smiling as if she would speak to him later about just how long he was away from the star pony.
“--and then I wanted to ask you something when you got back!” Ray finished as they stood in front of a large door. “What am I to you?”
The question disarmed her, and for the first time all day she was left without an answer. What was Ray to her? She had found him, and she was letting him stay in the castle. But what did he mean to her... was he anything but a pony from space? She frowned, unsure as of what her own feelings were and looked down at him. Before her eyes, she saw his face turn familiar, one like her own sister whom she missed every day, a pony that simply wanted to be appreciated for her talents.
He reminded her of Luna. He was like her sibling or child that she was taking care of, somepony like Twilight. What would happen when she announced that he was a pony from the stars, fallen to Equestria for some unknown reason and so close to Nightmare Moon’s return? Worry ran through her mind and she closed her eyes, hoping the answer would come to her in time.
“You are--” She began but was interrupted by the large crowd of ponies gathered in the great hall, all eagerly eying the two of them. Airy to her right and Skyward to her left stepped forward, standing at attention and keeping a sharp eye on the crowd. It gave her just the moment she needed to wipe the surprised expression off her face and regain composure.
“Ladies and gentlecolts,” She addressed the crowd, all waiting in silence at her announcement. “The previous evening, a star was seen falling from the sky.” A soft murmor escaped over the group, but was hushed as she resumed her speech. “The star landed inside the Everfree Forest. Some of you may be concerned about further stars falling, but I can assure that there is no need to worry.”
“Why is he up there standing next to the Princess?”
“I heard he’s the Princess’s visiting nephew!”
Celestia strained her ears to hear what was being said, albeit very loudly, while keeping her poise. An idea struck her and she started to address them again. “There are rumors that my nephew is visiting from a foreign land. The facts aren’t all established, but I do believe that this pony is indeed part of my family.” She looked over at Ray who had a both a confused and shocked smile on his face. “He will be staying here in Canterlot for the time being. I would very much appreciate it if everypony would extend a warm welcome to Prince Ray.”
“I KNEW IT!” There was a shout of joy from the back of the crowd, a light blue coated filly with small red glasses was hopping up and down excitedly while some of the ponies beside her stared at her peculiar actions.
She looked down at her ‘nephew’, hoping she had made the right choice. When she saw the expression on his face, the one where he was smiling so much that he was about to cry, she knew she could live with it.
Chapter 3: Uncontrolled
The time following the announcement was spent answering far too many questions. Thankfully, Ray had his newly appointed family to help out with some of the trickier ones. Celestia was dancing gracefully over questions while giving the crowd truthful responses. It finally ended when the red colt’s stomach decided that it would protest having been ignored for two days. With a royal nod, the crowd was dismissed and she led her new nephew out while the two guards followed suit.
“Did you mean it..? Family, I don’t quite understand that, but I know it’s supposed to be a good thing...” The first words out of his mouth were full of doubt as he trotted up beside her, the hesitation not stopping him from speaking.
“I did, and I still do. I may have unofficially adopted you, but I do hope that’s alright.” She didn’t have enough time to reflect on whether or not that was the correct decision or whether it was what Ray wanted.
He shook his head, answering her back. “It is, because you’re the only pony I’ve gotten to know.” His head turned back to see the two pegasus keeping watch. “Well, you guys too, though you don’t seem to talk as much to me.” The two of them glanced at each other before turning to see Celestia give them a go ahead.
“We--” Airy began.
“-- take our job seriously. We are Her Highness’s personal guard.” Skyward finished. “It’s nothing against you.”
“Besides, since Her Highness has just announced you as her nephew, it wouldn’t hurt us to be a little nicer.” Max cut back in. “We apologize for the past treatment.”
Another growl from Ray’s stomach changed the topic. “It’s fine, really..” He said flustered, though the blush didn’t show from his already crimson appearance. “This is hunger?” He asked aloud, staring off to contemplate this new feeling in his gut as they made their way to the dining hall.
Ray had never eaten grass. In fact, Ray had never eaten before in his life, and the entire experience seemed far too much to take in for just one sitting. Plates had been brought, presented on expensive looking platters with servers and smiles. Unsure of what to eat first, he nibbled gently on the first thing he could reach. The taste alone was divine and before he could stop himself, he had consumed the entire dish. “Mmgh!” He said in appreciation, smiling and chewing happily to the more the confused server-ponies.
Moving to another plate, he expected similar results but was amazed by the different texture and taste that this one had over the other. His eyes lit up as the realization that each food here would taste different from each other and that each would most likely be just as delicious in their own way. Excitedly, he chowed down each dish that he could reach and in between taking mental notes of the flavors.
There was a gasp, and he turned his attention to see several other ponies gathering around the table, some shaking their heads at the sight of his eating. Recognizing it as disappointment, he started shrinking down into his chair instinctively. He glanced over at Celestia to check to see if he had offended somepony accidentally. Her smile reassured him and he wriggled his way back up to continue eating, watching the Princess and trying to mimic her actions. That however did not stop him from hearing the comments that were just above a whisper.
“He doesn’t seem very princely...”
“I heard he’s from another land, he can’t be expected to know how to properly behave at the table...”
“He doesn’t have a cutie mark, how rare for someone at his age...”
It was true, he had no defining mark on his backside like he saw on Celestia, Airy, Skyward, or Penny. He remembered having asked about that the previous night, and the response was that it came to a pony when they discovered his/her special talent, usually when they were older. Since he was just two days old, he didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to not have one. Still, he would ask Celestia about it later to make sure he wasn’t doing something wrong again.
Managing to get through the meal while trying to endure the various judgments that he could hear, each that seemed to make his heart feel heavy, he stayed as close as he could to the Princess. Though because of it, he continued to hear more and more from each pony that he met. Each of the nobles around the castle, as well as the helpers, that he met had something to say to him. He gave them each a happy greeting, asking their names and learning many. It was amazing how much different ponies he could meet now, and he wondered how he would be able to keep track of each of their names.
An idea struck him that he could give them his own names, which he remembered to be called nicknames. He glanced up to his new family and pondered on a nickname for her. “Auntie Celest?” He asked after a few moments.
She looked back with a priceless expression of confusion. “Ah, is something on your mind Ray?” It went back to a friendly smile, though something about what he said seemed to have triggered a response, as her eye sorta twitched.
“Yes. I was thinking that there are a lot of names to memorize, and I wanted to think up a way to remember them better so I thought about nicknames and I was trying to figure out what I could call you, but I don’t think you like it so much because your eye’s twitching...” He tilted his head as he explained, hoping to pass on some of his intentions.
Giving a chuckle, the Princess shook her head. “I was just surprised, I wasn’t expecting you to say something like that. It is fine, shall I call you something else?”
There was a slight delay in the colt’s response, as he still had his head turned. “Nope, Ray is good.. But if you want to think up something, you may call me what you want.” He silently went back to thinking and walking. What was that noise she just made?
“Ray?” Celestia’s voice called out to him as he was lost in his thoughts and had almost walked into the wall.
“Oh! Oh.” He said, stopping just as his horn touched the wall. “I didn’t see that there.” With a yawn, he turned to follow her. “Why is it getting so dark..?” His knee buckled out from under him and he started to fall, being caught at the last moment by outstretched wings from both pegasi, as well as Celestia rushing over to his side.
“Another learning spell?” Even though his body wasn’t responding well, he could hear her voice from the dark. “No wonder you’ve been sleeping so much...”
That magic name again, learning spell. Magic that took in the surroundings and gathered as much information as possible, it was strenuous for the user because it accelerated a normally slow process. Never perfected, it would continue to take in knowledge alarmingly fast until the user would likely pass out. Overall, it was a dangerous type of magic to use, even for an experienced magical user. He had the definition in his head, all the while his horn throbbing from the uncontrollable spell.
“I wish I could help...” He heard her voice and the answer miraculously popped into his head. Of course, he couldn’t talk nor could he focus on it as the information flowed quickly. “Please take Ray to his room so he may rest, then meet me at the library.” He didn’t want her to leave, but he heard her slowly walk away as more darkness sank over his senses and he descended into a deep sleep.
He woke up with Celestia standing over him, her horn touching the one on his head. The pain from the horn had stopped, but the pain in his head and the fatigue were still present. Adjusting his eyes to the change in lighting, he could tell that he had been out for some time. “What happened...?” His throat felt scratchy as he spoke.
“You passed out.” She withdrew her head, leaning back. “I’m not sure why, but your magic seems to be out of control.” Her face had a sad smile as she spoke. “There was a chip in your horn, but I just repaired it.”
“That would explain why it would be out of my control, but that does not explain how I know that level of magic. I appreciate that you repaired my horn, since it would not be enjoyable to be casting uncontrollable spells.” His reply was half-sleepy, yet strangely complete, and the expression on her face of shock caused him to smile. “Huh, that made me sound like a textbook... How long was I out?”
“About five minutes.” The response made him blink in confusion. He genuinely felt as if he had been knocked out for much longer.
Ray glanced around at his surroundings, noting that he was now back in his room. Even though his head hurt, he suddenly knew quite a lot more. He also knew that the only way to sort all this information was to sleep it off, let thoughts turn into memories and useless information would be stored away for another time. For the first time, he had the thought that being this smart was horribly inefficient. The thought left his mind as he saw the Airy and Skyward standing at the door and a new emotion took hold. This one was identified as humor.
“Ha..hahah..” He chuckled, sitting up in the bed. “Why are you... guys...?” Since he had never laughed before, the feeling of happiness at the sight caused him to crack up. Most of Airy was bright blue, as if paint had splattered all over him from a specific direction. Skyward on the other hoof had a similar paint job of bright yellow. Their faces also told the story that they were not too happy with the new colors.
The Princess was the one to answer that. “While you were out, another spell went off and colored those two.” She pointed towards them. “As well as the hallway you were in.” There was a silly grin that only accelerated his laughter.
“You guys...” He coughed and took a deep breath to calm down his laughter. “Thank you for carrying me.” Ray bowed his head in their direction and received a complimentary snort, though he couldn’t tell if they were still upset or accepting his thanks. “Will it come off?” His attention shifted back to Celestia.
“It should, don’t worry.” She said, regaining her poise after sharing the laugh with him. “What about you? Are you still tired?” Concern was evident in her voice, and he replied with a nod. “I see, then you should rest more.” Another nod from him and she stood up to leave, giving him a courtesy bow and heading for the door.
“I’m sorry...” He called out quietly to her, waiting for her to turn around before continuing. “For making you worry, Auntie.”
She smiled at him with a motherly acceptance. “It’s alright, I’m glad that you are not hurt.”
After she had left, taking her two newly colored guardians with her, Ray lay back down and put a hoof to his horn. He had no knowledge of magic period other than definitions and explanations. Furthermore, he knew that the unicorn horn was not easily damaged, so it would have to have been from a huge impact. Heaving a sigh, he knew that his arrival was the cause, as well as not understanding any fundamentals of the practice. He was also aware that her explanation of it had been short, though most likely it was because she did not want him to worry about his own injuries. Once again, the feeling of being too smart for his own good entered his brain and he stuck out his tongue in disgust. With the help of his already fatigued body, he rolled over and drifted off.
This time however, he dreamed. He was in the sky very high up, looking down upon the ground. There was no sensation of falling, nor any sensation of any kind other than awe as he watched ponies walk around beneath him. None of them noticed him however, and he flapped his hoofs to move in the air.
“Thank you for your help.” A chillingly wicked voice sounded from above and he looked up, seeing the brightness of the moon so close to him because he was high up. The dark side of the moon glazed over, covering the rest of it’s pale surface in black. Mirroring this, the land beneath him went dark as well, moving suddenly from day to night. Glancing back down, he saw that there were no ponies left on the ground, there was nothing but darkness as it swirled around him. “You have fulfilled my desire, now you may...” The voice faded away as he the void encompassed him.
“Celestia..? Skyward Wing? Airy Defender?” He called out into the empty space, but there was no reply. There was no light, no echo, nothing but himself in this black pit. “Don’t... don’t leave me here...” His own voice was starting to dim, he curled up in his cold spot, about ready to cry. “I don’t want... I don’t want to be here...” His legs felt cold, and he opened his eyes to see that they were slowly vanishing into the void, darkness crawling up them. “No... NO!” He cried out, yelling at his body as it started to fade. It stopped in its place, retreating back from him and he could see his own four hooves again. Not only that, he was starting to glow, not from his horn like he had seen before but from his hooves and legs, his whole body starting to emit a reddish light.
“Give my family back!” He shouted into the darkness now, and it receded away. It showed Celestia some distance away, curled up with the same restrictive darkness seemingly holding her in place. “I’ll save you!” Ray rushed forward, the light surrounding him glowing brighter. However, as far as he ran he could still not reach her. She forever stayed just a few feet away, just within his reach but not close enough. “Auntie Celest!”
Her eyes opened and she looked over to him. “Be brave, Ray.” With her final words, it encompassed her and she vanished from his sight completely.
With a jolt, Ray sat up quickly, feeling the pressure from his dream cause him to wake up. He couldn’t remember any more of the dream other than the last words he had heard and the sudden fear that came with it. “Be brave...” He muttered aloud, looking through the window at the night sky and feeling a shiver run down his spine. With a sigh of relief, the colt curled himself back up under the blanket and silently wished he would never dream like that again.
Chapter Four: Prophecy
Morning came around and the colt stretched out as sleep finally let him slip from its grasp. With a bound, Ray hopped up from his bed and onto the floor. The headache from the previous evening as well as the feeling of overwhelming knowledge had faded, and he gave a sigh of relief.
“Good morning, Ray.” a voice from outside his field of vision caught his attention and he turned to see the Princess enter, regal as always, “How are you feeling this morning?”
Grinning a bit too much for somepony who had both collapsed and overslept the previous day, he answered back with some gusto, “Good, I feel great.”
“I’m glad to hear it, I was hoping you’d be be feeling better.” with a twist of her head, and a sparkle from her horn, several packages flew in. “It seems you’ve gotten quite a bit of mail and attention since yesterday.” His eyes followed the flying parcels, and he felt some childish anticipation at the thought of his first gifts. “As well as the clothes I ordered for you.”
That comment made Ray smirk, as he was aware that ponies didn’t normally wear clothes. Most likely they were for some formal occasion. Narrowing his eyes and stroking his chin, he gave it some thought, “Something is going to happen today?”
Celestia’s smile came with a calm shake of her head, “Tomorrow is the Summer Sun Celebration, the longest day in Equestria where we celebrate the gift of sunlight.” as she said this, she stepped over to the window, glancing out at it, “I will raise the sun in the morning and that will mark the beginning of the festival. Today will see the preparations finished.”
Ray was halfway through eating the paper off the first package when she looked back at him and she couldn’t hold back a chuckle. He stopped and set it down, giving an embarrassed smile, “I haven’t seen the sun come up, is it like the sunset I saw?”
She nodded gracefully, “It is just as beautiful coming up as it is when the moon comes out at night.”
“You’re in charge of both of them, right?” his attention was half focused on the now open package and on her as he listened.
“Yes, I am.” she reminded him, then quieted down as he let out a gasp at the gift. His eyes lit up as he lifted out two black and gold trimmed hoof cuff links. In no time, he had them on and was proudly displaying them.
“I think they look good on you.” her compliment went nearly unnoticed as he was opening another one. Sitting down to watch his reactions, she smiled when he did and it was pleasing to see him so happy over gifts. By the end, he was wearing all sorts of apparel that clashed unfashionably.
“Hm...” he said, looking at himself in the mirror, “I think that’s a bit too much.” removing piece by piece, he was left with just the two cuffs before he nodded in a conclusion. Returning his attention to the Princess, he gave her a bow, “Thank you very much, Auntie Celeste.”
Her smile didn’t fade as she returned his gesture, “You are most welcome, Ray.”
She stood back up and motioned for him to follow. He immediately went to her side like it was his spot all along, trotting along happily, “It will be a busy day, are you sure you can handle it?”
The colt grinned widely, “Of course, I feel so much better since you helped yesterday. Thank you very much for that as well.” He gave her more thanks as they strolled down the hall. “Good morning Airy. Good morning Sky.” Greeting the two pegasi with a short bow, he noticed they were no longer oddly colored. They gave him a return scowl as he gave them nicknames.
“Oops, I mean if you are okay with me calling you that.” Ray quickly apologized and waited for their response.
“It’s fine, your highness.” Airy answered, a touch of uncertainty in his voice at calling the new prince by a title.
“I’d prefer not to be called Sky, your highness.” Skyward was more than willing to share that, but still tacked on the title of formality.
“Okay.” Ray did not have any sort of formality in his voice. “In that case, I would also prefer to not be called ‘your highness’. Just Ray is good.”
Both guards glanced at each other, not sure how to respond to being told to not address him properly.
“As you wish, Ray.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
The red colt beamed with enthusiasm. “I’ll start working on a different nickname for you then!”
Skyward let out a soft sigh while Airy gave his guard partner a pat on the back before all four of them laughed.
“What do we have to get done for the Summer Sun Celebration?” Ray asked his aunt, wondering what kind of preparations needed to take place, “Do we get to go outside the castle? What can I do to help?” The questions came at a quick pace and she did her best to keep up with them.
The list of preparations was long andCelestia recited it almost from memory. Unfortunately, the main answer for each of the tasks was that he was not able to help out.
Disappointed, the colt gave a long sigh and lowered his head, “So I’ll be tagging along all day without being able to help?” He sounded both defeated and unhappy with the situation, “I wish I could do something.”
The princess gave him a concerned smile before a scroll popped up in front of her. “Oh? A letter from Twilight Sparkle.”
Ray’s ears perked up as he’d heard the princess mention that name when he was asking questions two nights ago. He attempted to stealthily sneak around behind her to read what was written. However, Celestia had finished reading rather quickly and had magicked a pen and paper and was writing a response. He was barely able to pick out a few words from the letter.
“Preci... that something really bad is about to happen?” He read aloud, getting a strange reaction from the two guards, “Nightmare Moon?”
A flick of her royal head and the Princess had rolled the old scroll back up before he could read more. He pouted, but she finished scribbling her new letter, to which he had just enough time to read the last word, “Friends?”
With another glow from her horn, the piece of paper curled up and was sent away in a puff of smoke.
“Hm...” He went into thought, hoping to unravel this new mystery.
“Ray, it is not polite to read another pony’s mail.” She gave him a frown and he retreated back to his spot and pawed at the ground.
“Sorry.” he apologized, since he hadn’t known it was considered wrong, “I’m curious though, there’s a mare in the moon? Eternal night?” His eyes got wider as he recalled his nightmare from the previous evening. “Nightmare!” He raised his hooves rather dramatically as she continued to stare at his strange reaction. “Oh, yes! I had a dream last night about that!”
It was Celestia’s turn to have her eyes widen, “Would you mind sharing?” She seemed intrigued and Ray began to spout out the pieces he remembered.
“I was... somewhere, and then... it got dark. The moon got dark too, and then everything was dark.” He closed his eyes, trying to focus on things. “There was an eerie voice, but I don’t remember what she said...” When he opened them, he managed to remember one more piece. “You were there and you said ‘Be brave’.”
Celestia’s eyes were still wide, and she seemed even more lost in thought than Ray had been. “I wonder...” She looked over him with an unusual expression and then gave a small nod. “I have thought of something you can do, Ray.”
“Oh! Really?” he bounced in front of her, ready and waiting to hear what possible thing he could do.
The red colt sat on the balcony, waiting for the other pony to arrive. His thoughts were fresh on the task Celestia had given him. He smiled happily at the recent memory playing through his head.
“I have given my most trustworthy student, Twilight Sparkle, a job to do. She is going to be overseeing the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration in Ponyville. I have also tasked her with making friends.” Her voice became a little more focused, “I would like you to accompany her and try to become her friend as well.”
Ray could hardly contain his excitement and he stomped the ground. He had never made a friend before, so he hoped he could make this work out. Actually, the more he thought about it he wasn’t sure how to make friends, or what friends were exactly other than the definition. Still, he was determined to try and make Auntie Celeste proud.
“I just don’t see why she would say that.” A voice from afar prompted him to sit back up, as well as making the two pegasi behind him to come to attention as well. They weren’t Airy or Skyward, but they were here to escort Twilight and him to Ponyville. His mind raced as to figure out what the first thing to say would be.
“I’m sure Princess Celestia has a good reason.” There was another voice coming down the hall. Ray frowned, unsure why there were two voices and he did not know which one was Twilight Sparkle. He pawed at the ground, the anticipation eating him up from the inside as well as the strange jittery feeling in his stomach.
He heard the previous voice groan and from the doorway came a pony and a lizard. The pony was about his size, with a light purple coat and an interesting purple mane with a pink stripe along her left side. She also had a star like cutie mark on her flank. The lizard was green and purple, and was walking upright with short spines running down his back and along his pointed tail. He did not have any cutie mark, so Ray thought that maybe he was also young. Both of them stopped and stared at him for a moment, and the female pony’s right eye narrowed.
“Um, who are you?” She asked him and he blinked several times in response.
“Oh! Right!” he bounced up, extending a hoof to shake, “I’m Ray, I’m waiting for Twilight Sparkle to show up.” His hoof was extended to the short lizard and it prompted a laugh from it.
“I’m not Twilight, she is.” it admitted, but reached out a clawed hand, “I’m Spike, it’s nice to meet you Ray.”
“Nice to meet you too, Spike, I’ve never seen a talking lizard before!” he shook the lizard’s hand with some gusto, but then Spike’s hand retreated.
“Lizard?” The tone showed much disgust with that word, “I’ll have you know, I’m a full fledged dragon.” He folded his arms up in contempt, looking away from Ray with an angry scowl on his face.
“Oh! Sorry, sorry.” Ray bowed low enough that his face was on the ground, “I’ve never seen a dragon before either.” The apology worked, as the dragon appeared pleased to have been so well respected.
Putting his arms behind his head, he replied back, “It’s fine then, just be more careful in the future.” His expression changed to a more smug one and Ray nodded from the ground.
“Ahem.” There was a voice from behind him and both Spike and he turned to see the purple pony waiting on the chariot with the two pegasi ready to go, “Are you two done chatting? We have to go, Spike.”
From the way she was talking, she was not impressed by the first meeting and so Ray rotated his entire body, head still on the ground, to face her.
“I apologize to you as well, Miss Twilight Sparkle.” he decided to add the ‘Miss’ in front because it seemed more appropriate to make up for his earlier mistake.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. But we must really get going.” she motioned for Spike to come with her head and he ran around to board the chariot too.
“Yeah, I guess we do!” Ray’s enthusiasm was not taken down, even by this strange setback. He hopped aboard too, taking a seat right between the two of them, much to the dismay of Twilight.
“Excuse me, but who did you say you were again?” A twinge of annoyance in her voice went unnoticed.
“Ah! Sorry, forgot that didn’t I?” he turned to face her and bowed again, though not nearly as low, “My name is Ray, and I was sent by the Princess to help you get your duties done! And also to be your friend!”
She smirked at that last part, shaking her head, “Really? Then why didn’t she send me a message?”
Spike let out a burp and both ponies turned their attention to him. From the green flames, with which Ray was very impressed as he clapped with his two front hooves, there appeared a little scroll. The dragon caught it and unrolled it, “P.S. I am sending my nephew along. He is new to Equestria, so please be kind to him.”
With a sigh, Twilight slumped over the side of the chariot. “Fine... But I guess we can get the job done faster and I can go back to proving that I’m right.” She waved a hoof at the pegasi and they lifted off.
Ray froze up as they took off, glancing over the side as the ground moved away from them. Uneasiness set in his stomach and he backed away and towards the center of the chariot. If there was one thing he knew now, it was that he was definitely afraid of heights.
Spike sat down next to him, looking up at the now shivering pony, “Is this your first time flying?” The dragon asked with incredulity.
“Y-yeah...” Ray shakily said, looking over at his new companion. “Also pretty nervous, I don’t want to disappoint Auntie Celeste.”
“She lets you call her that!?” Twilight immediately shot up and glared at him with some pretty intense eyes. Or rather she was staring at the very thought of someone being more attached to her mentor than she was. “Ugh... I apologize for my rudeness.” she immediately changed her tone, giving him a nod, “I had something I wanted to work on more than this, but it is the Princess’s request.”
“What did you want to work on?” Ray wanted to keep talking, as it was keeping his mind off the increasingly distant ground he was sure was moving away from him.
“Oh, just proving some ancient prophecy.” she reluctantly spoke, leaning back over the side of the chariot in defeat at not being able to do her goal.
Ray was instantly intrigued, “Oh, can I hear it? I haven’t gotten to hear any stories like that since I arrived.” once more, his curiosity kicked in and he completely forgot about where he was, instead he started to focus on listening to her.
“Uh...” Twilight hesitated then gave a sigh as he and Spike were both eagerly awaiting her next words, “Very well.” her tone changed into a storytelling one.
“Once upon a time, there were two regal sisters who ruled together and created harmony for all the land. To do this, the eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun at dawn. The younger brought out the moon to begin the night. Thus, the two sisters maintained balance for their kingdom and their subjects, all the different types of ponies.”
Ray listened to the tale, learning many new words he had never heard and immediately interrupted Twilight as she was telling the story. The glare she gave him, made him lower himself and apologize before she moved on.
“--And harmony has been maintained in Equestria ever since.” Ray’s hoof immediately shot up. Another sigh from Twilight as she asked him, “Yes, Ray?”
“So.. what was the prophecy?”
“I haven’t gotten there yet.” She sounded annoyed again, and he slunk back down.
“Well, Twilight seems to think that Nightmare Moon will come back.” Spike was the one to speak next, and he stood up raising his hands up to dramatically pose, while impersonating her, “In the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape and she will bring about night time eternal.” It was a fairly good impression, and Ray gave him another hoof clap. “But it’s just an old mare’s tale.”
“It is not just an old mare’s tale.” Twilight was less than impressed at that rendition of her, “And if I didn’t have to check on the preparations, I could prove that we need to do something about it!”
“And making friends,” Spike interceded with what he considered to be the most important piece of the letter. “Look on the bright side, at least she arranged to let you stay in a library, doesn’t that make you happy?”
“Yes, yes it does. You know why? Because I’ll be able to get more studying done and prove that I’m right.” she was very determined. “And since she sent her nephew to help us, we can finish the work in no time at all.” Her gaze moved over to Ray who was sitting strangely still. “Um.. you okay there?”
“Stars... aiding her escape?” He muttered, looking up at the sky.
“Um, Ray?” The dragon poked him. “I’m telling you, it’s just a myth. Don’t get too worried over it.”
The red colt had a heavy frown on his face, his thoughts on the dream and this prophecy. He could only hope they were just an old mare’s tale, but he had a desire to talk with Auntie Celeste about this as soon as he could.
Chapter Five: Apples
“Well, here we are. Ponyville.” The young dragon announced their arrival as he hopped off the carriage, immediately starting to wander around in an exploratory fashion. His caretaker gave a sigh, taking the more polite approach of stepping down and then thanking the two escort pegasi for the trip. The last off, Ray, followed her approach and gave them a bow and each a bout of thanks.
“I wonder what the ponies are like here?” wondered the dragon.
“Spike, we’re not here to make friends, remember?” In one fell swoop, Twilight both beckoned him, caught up with him, and immediately attempted to quell his urge to socialize. For her, there was only one goal in mind and she was determined to see it through regardless of the consequences.
“Um.. but isn’t that the reason why we’re here?” Ray cut in immediately as he caught up with the both of them. For him, he had the main goal of helping her and in turn helping out his aunt, and though he wouldn’t do anything to unsure success, he was determined to do his best regardless.
“Ray’s right.” Agreeing with his new buddy, the dragon crossed his arms at Twilight. For Spike, he had three goals in mind though mostly they were about food. He was also determined to speak his mind, regardless of the fact that she would most likely shoot his ideas down after he voiced them. “Don’t you even want to try?” With a twinge of cuteness, the young dragon managed to get her to admit defeat with a sigh just as a pink filly walked by.
“Hiya!” Ray was the first to speak, having never encountered anypony as pink as she was. The approaching pony stopped for a moment as if stunned by his voice. Not to be outdone, the red colt imitated her and stayed perfectly still for as long as he could. Just as Twilight was about to speak, the filly jumped up into the air, literally hovering for a few moments as she gasped loudly and ran off into the distance leaving the three of them standing dumbfounded.
“Yeah...That was worthwhile.” Sarcasm dripped heavily from Twilight before she let out another long sigh. “Can we just get this over with?”
“That was awesome!” Ray jumped up as well, attempting to stay in the air as long as the pony he had just met did. He managed about half the time before gravity resumed. “Did you see that?” He had a huge smile on his face, glancing over to Spike first who had on a confused expression, and then Twilight only to catch her face of utter disbelief at the whole scenario. “I mean! She was like--” Letting out a huge gasp, he leaped back up and was able to keep in the air for longer this time, landing back on the ground in a thud.
“I can’t believe I’m going to be wasting my time here.” Less than impressed, the purple pony walked off away from him, followed by Spike. The dragon took no time in hopping up onto her back.
“It’s not wasting time to make friends,” he adamantly objected to her, who looked back up to catch his downward gaze.
“It is when I could be--” She stopped dead in her tracks, the action making Spike almost fall off her. “That’s it!” With a cry of victory, she turned back around and headed back towards Ray who was now standing up. The dragon on her back had to hold on again as she moved rather quickly. “I’ve got this figured out.” Giving him a smile, she confidently spoke her mind. “You can go and check up on things for the Summer Sun Celebration, and I will be researching on how to stop Nightmare Moon.”
Both Ray and Spike gave her doubting looks, though the red colt was the first to speak. “I dunno, I was just supposed to help you with--”
Twilight cut back in before he could say more. “Oh, this will help me immensely! It will get done and I can help out the Princess by proving my theory in time!”
“But when are you going to have time to make friends?” Spike asked from her back, a concerned look on his face.
“We’ll have plenty of time for that after all the preparations are seen to.” Her horn gave off a soft light and a scroll appeared before Ray. “There, that should have everything on it. I’ll expect you to finish sometime before it gets... What are you doing?” She blinked, staring at the red colt as he took the roll of paper in his mouth.
“Karrnnit.” He spoke through the paper.
“Once more, without the paper.” She corrected him with an upraised eyebrow. He spat it out gently, then gave another reply that made her raise the brow higher.
“Why aren’t you using magic?” Twilight pointed with her hoof to his head. “That horn can’t just be for show.”
“Oh. Yeah, I can’t use magic.” He gave her a big smile, but she went ahead and did a facehoof regardless.
“You can’t use magic...” It wasn’t so much a question as it was a refusal to admit the answer. “A unicorn... A royal unicorn that doesn’t use magic... Related to the princess... Can’t use magic!?” As she spoke, she seemed to be a little twitchy at the very thought.
“Also, I’ve never been to Ponyville. I have no idea where I’m going.” His smile never went away, though the continued use made her already agitated face even more so.
“You’ll figure it out.” She said in a very aggravated voice, turning around and making her way away from him as if he was the scourge of ponykind.
“Okay! Have fun!” He called back, looking around and taking the scroll back into his mouth.
“Um.. are you really going to just let him walk around like that? He doesn’t seem like he has all the screws in his head on tight.” Spike gestured with his claw, questioning Twilight.
With another sigh, she stopped and looked up at Spike. “You’re right. Would you mind helping him out then? I’d rather nothing happened to the Princess’s nephew while we’re here.”
Spike jumped off her back and landed, making a pose and giving her his response. “You got it!” The young dragon made his way over to the red pony as Twilight shook her head and headed on her way to the library. By the time he reached Ray, the colt was asking another pony for directions.
Having just met her as he was passing by, she had a look of concern on her face at his carrying a scroll in his mouth and trying to talk at the same time. He spat it out and addressed the white coated filly, noting that her hair was both pink and dark blue. “Is this Sweet Apple Acres?” He sounded hopeful, which made her give a more concerned face.
To the rescue, Spike hopped up on Ray’s back, giving the filly a dismissive nod. “I’ll take it from here.” The look of confusion and concern didn’t slip from her face as she moved on away from the strange pair.
“Oh hey Spike.” Ray said, looking back at him. “Where’s Twilight?” Before the dragon could answer, Ray bent down and scooped up the scroll again in his mouth. It was taken out by Spike who shook his head with a sigh.
“I’ll hold onto that. She went off to the library.” He folded his arms in a pout, “I tell ya, she’s not very socialable.”
“Oh? Well maybe we can find some friends for her while we’re out checking on the preparations?” Ray said, glad that he no longer was carrying the roll of paper in his mouth. The question seemed to make the dragon react, as he sat up straighter and had a smile on his face.
“Yeah, that’s a great idea!” He said, unrolling the scroll and looking over it. “Ah, here’s the map of Ponyville. Sweet Apple Acres is--” Spike paused a moment as he studied the map, “--that way!” He pointed with his free hand to which Ray responded and began trotting off. “So...” Glancing down at Ray, he asked the question on his mind. “You really can’t use magic?”
“I can, I just don’t know any. Is that strange?”
“Nah. But don’t mention it to Twilight, she’s really big on the whole magic thing.” Spike reclined on the colt’s back as they made their way towards the farm on the map.
“Alright, I won’t say anything.” Compliant, the red pony kept on walking before turning his head back to ask a quick question. “So, are we friends..?”
Spike gave it a quick thought, stroking his chin. “Sure, I guess.” Beneath him, the red colt stopped walking.
“That means... You’re my first friend ever!” Ray sprang up in excitement, bouncing the dragon on his back.
“Woah! Take it easy!” Once the pony had settled down, Spike addressed him again. “Am I seriously your first friend?”
“Yeah.” With one hoof on his chin, Ray pondered aloud, “What do friends do?” The question prompted a loud sigh from the dragon and they proceeded onward, talking about various things. Before too long, Spike took out the list and read from it.
“Summer Sun Celebration, Official Overseer’s Checklist. Number One: banquet preparations. Sweet Apple Acres.”
“Oooh...” Ray said with awe as he approached the gates to the farm. It was very impressive, and even more so once he was inside. The view from here showed a huge apple orchard that stretched as far as the eye could see, as well as several other crops growing here and there on their own huge fields. There was a large barn in front and several storage houses off to the sides as well. A noise from the right directed his attention there, and he watched a light colored filly rush a tree, turn quickly and kick it with her back legs sharply. Several apples fell from the tree and landed neatly in buckets placed around base of it.
“Wooah. That was cool!” Ray said, bounding towards the new pony with Spike in tow. As they got close, the dragon took the moment to get off the easily excitable colt before he would be thrown off accidentally. “I mean! You! And! Woah...” The words were coming out faster than he was able to think them correctly, so after a few more outcries he stopped but still had a silly grin on his face.
“Um...” The filly eyed him over for a moment at his behavior, then extended a hoof. “Howdy stranger. Yer not from around here, are ya?”
Ray kept quiet as he was still entranced from before. Spike spoke up first. “We’re here to check on the food preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration.” He nudged the colt with an elbow to help snap him back to his senses.
“Yeah! Sorry, was lost there. Never been on a farm before.” He admitted and then extended his hoof to hers. “I’m Ray, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Never been on a farm before? You must be one of them fancy city ponies then. It’s fine and dandy, it’s rather impressive, ain’t it?” She took his hoof and shook it. “The name’s Applejack, and this here’s Sweet Apple Acres. We grow the best apples this side of Equestria.”
Trying to keep up with the one-sided conversation, Ray nodded and replied when he could, “It is impressive! I’ve never had apples before, but I’ll bet--” He was cut off by the sudden freezing motion of his new female acquaintance and her gasp.
“Never. Had. Apples?” Her eyes were large and she zoomed away from him like a pony possessed. Some distance away, the sound of a triangle rang out and he heard her yell out, “Soup’s on everypony!” The sound of hoofsteps filled the air and in no time, the pair were surrounded by several dozen other ponies and a well placed table complete with a tablecloth.
“Everypony, listen up!” She called out, having sat herself next to Ray and Spike. “This here’s Ray, a city pony who ain’t never had apples!” There were gasps from the crowd in front, and the red colt shrank down in attempt to hide from the embarrassment. “So let’s give em a great big sampling of all we got!” At that, there were shouts of excitement and hustling as the ponies starting bringing out courses.
“This here’s Apple Fritter, Apple Bumpkin--” The list went on as she introduced wave after wave of new ponies. Ray was having a difficult time keeping up, but luckily they each had a distinct cutie mark to go along with their dish and name. By the time she was finished, the table was stockpiled with many baked goods and apple treats. “--Apple Blossom, Big Macintosh, and Ol Granny Smith. Up an at em Granny Smith, we got guests!” The older looking pony in the rocking chair woke up and mumbled something that he couldn’t catch. “And that’s the whole Apple family.” Applejack turned to face him, proudly displaying the large meal.
Still dumbfounded by the large pile of unknown foods, Ray’s eyes were on those. “What do I eat first..?” His thoughts were back on the meal he had with Celestia and all the prying eyes, though all the eyes on him now were not full of disappointment as they were expecting.
“Good point, there’s a lot to choose from fer a first timer.” Applejack began sorting through them trying to find one that would be good. The action was far too slow, as Ray leaned forward and took a bite of the most available thing he could find. It was shaped like a small pastry filled with some gelatinous substance. Chewing, words could not describe the feeling nor the taste that in his mouth. He swallowed, his eyes grew large.
“THAT. WAS. DELICIOUS!” Almost shouting, he dived back onto the food and began eating everything available. He made sure to savor the first bites and relish in the sometimes sweet, sometimes tart flavors that came with them. As he was eating, there were shouts and gasps, most of them cheering him on and telling him to try different dishes.
“Wow, I sure wasn’t expectin’ that.” Came the comment from Applejack as he continued to demolish all the foodstuff in record time. “Yer not bad, Ray.” She put a foreleg around him, “I ain’t never seen a city pony eat like that though, that’s a mighty strong appetite you got there.”
Spike was doubly impressed at the display, “I don’t think I could eat that much in one sitting. I can try though.” He looked over at their hostess who smiled and beckoned for more food to be brought. “Mm, mm!” The dragon started to devour his own portions happily while the other ponies talked.
“That was so good.” Ray had tears in his eyes from experiencing such deliciousness. “Banquet preparations check!” A burp erupted and he paused in shock, then chuckled. The rest of the Apple family joined in, some still applauding his feat. “So next, I guess we make friends.”
“Friends? Why, I’d say yer already part of the family after that show.” Applejack said, grinning back at him.
“Family?” Ray asked, confused but immediately gave a return grin. “Alright, I like the sound of that!” There was some more cheering from the rest of his new family, and then he got an idea. “Oh, and I mean for this other pony I’m here with. Her name’s Twilight Sparkle, she’s here to make friends too.” He spoke briefly to Applejack, describing the purple pony with as much detail as he knew. Luckily Spike was there to fill in the rest.
“She sounds like she could use a big welcome.” She was speaking aloud to the others, who gave words of agreement. “We’ll give her the biggest welcome the Apply family knows of!” More shouts and cheering filled the air.
“Alright, I hope it goes well.” Ray glanced over to Spike, who had finished eating his portions and was standing alongside him. “We have more to do?” A nod from the dragon and he gave their apple hostess a bow. “Thank you very much for the food.”
“It’s no problem, Ray. You just leave ol’ Twilight to us, we’ll make sure she gets a warm Apple family welcome!” With those words, the table and several plates of food all catered by the ponies were carted off and towards the town. “Y’all have a nice day.” Applejack curtsied with her legs and Ray mimicked before they departed for their separate ways.
Chapter Six: Meetings
“Food’s done, so next on our stop is the weather.” Spike announced, holding a pencil in his hand while they walked back towards town, “It says there’s supposed to a pegasus named Rainbow Dash clearing the clouds.”
“Hm...” Ray paused and looked down at his scaled buddy, “Where do you keep that while not holding it?” he asked with a curious look on his face. The dragon looked back, then down at the scroll and pencil in his hand.
“Oh, I have this little place on my back--” Twisting to show it off, he rolled up the paper and stuck it neatly between the spines on his back.
“Neat.” The red colt took a second to admire it before getting pummeled in the back of the head. The impact sent him and whatever hit him spiraling along the ground and into a mud puddle. Dazed, he waited for his eyes to realign before glancing up at the brown and blue pegasus on his back. She started to laugh before apologizing.
“Uh, excuse me..?” With a flap of her wings, the mud covered blue pony flew up and hovered over Ray, still chuckling to herself, “Here, let me help you.” She offered to help, zooming away and returning with a small dark cloud, placing it right over the muddied colt. Bouncing on it, water rained down on him, leaving him a very soggy pony. “Oops? I guess I overdid it. How about this?” Another quick idea from the pegasus and in an instant, she was swirling around him in a tornado fashion, “My very own, patented, rainblow dry!” The already clean pegasus landed in front, taking her own bow at the success. “No no, don’t thank me. You’re quite welcome~”
Going from muddy to watery to being air dried was not as pleasant as Ray would have expected, nor was it all that bad. Although his mane was short, it was still long enough that the sudden airflow made it stick out in random directions, and his tail was also messed up. He had never actually taken the time before to do his own appearance, so he admired it for a moment or two. “Thanks, it looks good.” He said, truly thankful for the quick fix.
Still chuckling, the pegasus broke out into laughter followed by spike. Confused, Ray took the moment to look her over as she rolled on the ground. She had short spiky hair like him, though hers was multicolored in more ways than one, like a rainbow. The cutie mark on her flank was a rainbow colored lightning bolt and a raincloud. “You must be Rainbow Dash!” He figured it out and called her out on it. At the mention of her name, she straightened up launching Spike off her.
“The one and only!” Dash hovered in front of him. “Have you heard of me?”
“Yeah, you’re the one that’s supposed to be--” Ray paused in thought. “--keeping the skies clear for tomorrow.” His words made no impact on the pegasus, as she simply lazed on a cloud just above their heads.
“Yeah yeah, that’ll be a snap. I’ll get to it in a jiffy, just as soon as I finish practicing.” She didn’t bother to look back at them, already lost in her own little cloud world.
“Okay, that sounds good.” Wandering back over to Spike, he extended a hoof to help the little guy up. “What are you practicing for?” He asked, getting an immediate reaction from Dash.
“The Wonderbolts!” Standing on her cloud, she pointed at a poster on a nearby wall that had the images of several similarly dressed ponies with goggles and lightning bolts on it. “They’re gonna perform at the Celebration tomorrow.” Doing a backflip off the current cloud, she landing gracefully onto a second and finished her thoughts, “And I’m gonna show em my stuff.”
“What are the Wonderbolts?” Ray turned to ask Spike. The pegasus responded for him, quickly flying in close.
“Are you kidding? You don’t know who the best fliers in Equestria are?” It was rhetorical, but still Ray shook his head at her. “Wow, where are you from?” Another rhetorical, but still the red colt answered her.
“From Canterlot. But only recently, I came from--” He paused, remembering that he had a cover story. “--far away.”
“Well that seems weird. Don’t sweat it, I’ll fill ya in.” She did a loop in the air, narrating her speech with some aerial tricks. “Only the best of the best fliers get to be in the Wonderbolts. Tomorrow, I’m gonna dazzle them with my insane speed and skills, and they’ll have to let me in!” She sounded fairly confident and finished with a graceful pose midflight.
“That sounds pretty good, I hope they let you in. You fly pretty well.” Ray gave her what he thought was a compliment, to which she flew back down in front of his face.
“Only pretty well? Not spectacular?” Dash applied some pressure into the question.
“I haven’t seen...many... fliers...” The colt recoiled a little under her stare, and his responses were very brief and timid. “So, yes... you fly the best... that I’ve... seen?” Gulping, she looked him dead in the eye before backing off.
“Yeah, I am the best, aren’t I?” She proudly accepted his words and went back to lounging on one of the nearby low drifting clouds leaving Ray to sigh in relief. “Don’t worry bout these clouds, they’ll be gone in no time.”
Spike glanced over to him, giving a shrug, and then retrieving the list to check it off. “Alright, we’ll hold you to it.” Nodding in agreement, they made their way towards the next location.
“Hey wait!” Dash called back, zooming in front of Ray again. “Didn’t catch your names.” She was right, he hadn’t properly introduced himself.
“This is Spike,” he motioned with his hoof as he spoke, indicating his littel draconic friend, and then pointed to himself. “And I’m Ray.” Remembering to extend his hoof to her from the last meeting, he frowned when she didn’t take it.
“Kay, I’ll catch ya later then.” Making this her third time back to the clouds, she relaxed once again. Spike and Ray once again exchanged glances before the dragon took a step forward.
“Actually, I’d like to ask you something else.” He coughed to get her attention, which was directed with a half-angry stare. “Well, you see.. Our friend Twilight Sparkle..” He twirled his claws under her stare, not trying to meet her gaze. “She’s new here too, and we’re hoping you could go meet her...” When he turned back to see what Dash’s response would be, he saw that she was back to lounging.
“Eh, I’ll get around to it.” Indifference was in her voice.
“She’s at the library, I think the Apple family was just headed there.” Ray chimed in, and his words made her ears perk up.
“The Apply family? As in all of them?” She sounded intrigued, a mischievous grin on her face, and at Ray’s nod it only got more mischievous. “That is something I have to see!” She bid them a quick farewell and darted away in the skies. Spike and Ray were once again left to themselves and each shrugged for the third time that moment.
“--nice?” Ray finished the sentence that they had started piecing together. “I’m sure she’ll get on the clouds, she said she would.” He looked up at the white and fluffy things in the sky, wondering how she could easily rest on them. “What’s next on the list?” The dragon had the scroll out and pointed to a large circular building just west of their location.
“Number Three: Decorations.” Spike led them into the building, which soon revealed itself to be a theater of some kind. There were many balconies for viewing the main floor, each had draperies and on top of that they were decorated with banners displaying the sun, the moon, or a beautiful yellow flower. In the middle of the room, a large red carpet was their guide to the pony in charge of it all.
Stunning was the best word to describe her. She had a pristine white coat, an expertly groomed and curled purple mane and tail, a cutie mark composed of three separate shining jewels, and an air about her that seemed dignified. The unicorn horn at the top of her beautiful face glowed as she examined floating ribbons, attempting to decide which would be the best suited for the purpose of further decor.
Mesmerized then would be the best word to describe both boys. Spike snapped himself out of it to brush himself off and ensure he was looking his best. Satisfied, he took a few steps forward then turned to look back at Ray. The colt was still in a trance, so a quick claw snap from Spike got him back to his senses.
“Oh, sorry.” Ray apologized aloud to no one and walked up with the dragon to the unknown beauty. “Hello~”
He was cut off by her, who didn’t bother to turn around and instead waved a hoof in his direction, though very elegantly. “Just a second. I’m in the zone, as it were...”
At the sound of her voice, both males swooned again. With the final decision of a large red bow, she magicked it onto one of the side poles, finishing her decorations. “Yes, sparkles always does the trick, does it not? Why Rarity, you are a talent.” Spike and Ray both nodded silently at her words, though she didn’t see them. “Now, what can I help you with?” Turning to them, she gave a cute smirk at their reactions. “Oh come now, I’m not that beautiful am I?” Again, both of them nodded. “Well, I suppose I do have that effect on ponies. Come come, it’s not polite to stare at a lady.” She clapped twice with her two front hooves and the spell was momentarily broken.
“Ah! Hi.” Ray was first to speak this time, “We’re here to check on decorations.” Finally free to move his neck, he glanced around at the hall again and gave a nod. “It looks great, love it.” He smiled at the pretty unicorn who acknowledged his compliment with another hoof wave.
“Well, I should hope so. I spent so much time on getting it altogether. It’s so very hard to have a good sense of fashion, don’t you think?” Ray nodded of his own accord, having to agree that he had no sense of fashion that he was aware of. His gaze fell on the two cuffs he still had on, smiling at them. The unicorn gave him another look over, commenting on his appearance. “I do have to wonder what is the matter with your mane?”
“Oh, I got rainblow-dried.” He quoted Dash, holding up his front legs to try to demonstrate what he meant. Setting them back down, he gave himself a shake and the hair fell back into its normal place neatly. “There we go.”
“A tad unsightly, but just as effective.” She commented, keeping half of her gaze on Spike. “Is your friend there alright?” She indicated from a safe distance.
Ray focused on Spike, poking him in the side. Since he had last seen him, the little dragon was now literally floating above the ground in a daze. “I think he’s still stunned by your handiwork.” Back to the unicorn, he extended his front hoof for a handshake. “I’m Ray, what’s your name?”
She approached gracefully, extending her own gently in a manner he had never seen. “I am Rarity, most sophisticated pony in Ponyville.” He wasn’t sure what do to, so he took her hoof and shook it lightly. “Ahem..” She was not impressed so he released it and took a step back. “You said you were here to check on decorations?”
Ray stopped his pawing at the ground in embarrassment and nodded. “Yes, I was sent by Auntie Celeste to help check on the preparations.”
Rarity’s eyes got big, then narrowed in disbelief. “Where did you say you were from again?”
“I’m from Canterlot.”
“And your aunt?”
“I think she’s from Canterlot too... She is Princess Celestia after all.”
Shock erupted on the unicorn’s face, and she gasped before taking a bow. “I didn’t realize you were royalty! Oh to have disgraced you without the proper etiquette!” She remained bowed, almost
“There’s no need to bow, I mean I’m not really royalty or anything...” Ray rubbed the back of his neck with a free hoof, trying not to look as embarrassed as he felt from this strange attention.
“Aren’t you Prince Ray?” She quickly righted herself, magicking over a magazine with the words: ‘Equestria Daily’, displaying it for him to see. It had some text right next to a blackened out picture of a unicorn and a question mark: ‘Reporter gets a rare talk with the newest member of the royal family.’ Rarity humbled herself before him again. “I read it, but it seems I was not careful enough to recognize all the signs. I beg your forgiveness, your highness.”
“Um.. really, I don’t think this is necessary--” Before he could finish, she let out another gasp.
“I am heavily underdressed! I will be right back, oh I hope I have something that’s just right for this occasion!” She fled the hall, leaving the magazine at his hooves. Ray frowned at it and glanced around before slipping it behind a curtain with his hoof.
“Hey, where’d the pretty lady go?” Spike asked, landing gently on the ground next to Ray.
“I um.. don’t know. But yes, she was pretty.” He and his dragon friend took a deep breath in remembrance, then both sighed at the same time. “The decorations look good, so we can cross that off. What’s next?”
Taking the roll off his back spikes again, Spike read aloud. “Music, it’s the last one.” Figuring from the map, they exited the audience hall and headed out towards the cottage listed on the sheet. “Did you catch her name?” The dragon was once again back on his back on Ray’s back.
“She said her name is Rarity.” He told his young friend, who began to repeat the name back in a trance. After a few more steps, he focused his ears and eyes. “Do you hear that?”
Spike sat up, straining his hearing to catch the gentle noise. “Sounds like birds.” A quick claw point and they made their way towards the origin of the sounds. It was off to the side of the path that they were travelling on. A pegasus with a soft yellowish coat and flowing soft pink hair was instructing several different color birds in singing. Her speech was so soft that neither Ray nor Spike could catch it, so they sat waiting on the sidelines attempting to figure out what she was saying.
“I think she’s in charge of the music.” Ray whispered from their vantage point.
“How did she get all those birds together?” Spike whispered back.
“I dunno.” They both shrugged and observed a bit longer as the song was starting to get move lovely and well put together. “I think the music’s coming along nicely.” The colt’s voice went above a whisper, and the pegasus turned her attention towards them. Noticing, Ray gave her a wave and was surprised to see her rush immediately over.
“A baby dragon?” She seemed excited and landed right in front of Spike. “I’ve never seen a baby dragon before! He’s so cute!” Her voice that was barely a whisper before was much more audible and she fawned over him.
“I know, me neither. At least not till this morning.” Ray agreed, but she was too focused on Spike to pay attention to his comment.
“Well well well.” Spike enjoyed this new attention with a proud puff of his chest
“Oh my, I didn’t know dragons could talk! This is so incredibly wonderful... I don’t know what to say!” Even though she was louder than a whisper, her voice was still very soft. She began to flutter upwards. The colt gave her a look over, wondering if this was how he reacted this morning and remembered that it was indeed. “What’s your name, little guy?”
“I’m Spike.” The dragon beamed at the attention.
“Hi Spike. I’m Fluttershy.” She looked downward shyly at her own introduction. “Wow, a talking dragon... what do dragons talk about?” Eagerness flitted in her voice and she gently landed on the ground, sitting in front of him as she awaited his next comment.”
“Well, what do you want to know?” He answered her, taking a seat on the grass.
“Absolutely everything.” Fluttershy replied back, giving him her full attention.
“Weeeelll, I started as a little cute purple and green egg...” He started to tell his life story to the extremely interested filly while Ray sat down on the grass to hear about it as well. By the time the story was done, the sun had lowered into the sky and dusk was fast approaching. “...and that’s the story of my whole entire life, up until today. You wanna hear about today?”
“Oh yes please!”
“Yeah.” Ray and Fluttershy were intrigued at the long epic that their dragon friend was spewing out. It was impressive to hear a story with himself included, Ray noted. To him, it didn’t seem like the events today would even make a good story, but he was pleasantly surprised. The colt even went so far as to stand up when his name was mentioned, getting inspiration to do some background acting while Spike narrated. Thankfully, the day’s errands were much shorter than the entire life story, so it wasn’t too long before the grand epic came to a finish. Afterwards, he hopped up on Ray’s back to pose with him. Quite a few birds had gathered around the group, though they had kept their distance from the male pair.
“That was wonderful.” Fluttershy clapped quietly, a happy smile on her face.
“Thank you, it’s nice to be appreciated.” The dragon proudly beamed some more and his red mount gave him an agreeing nod. “Wow, it got late. I wonder how Twilight’s doing?”
“Oh that’s right...” Ray pondered with a hoof on his chin. “I hope she made some friends from the ponies we sent her way.”
“We should probably go check on her.” Spike concluded, mimicking Ray’s chin scratching. “It was nice meeting you Fluttershy.” He gave her a wave, though she was up off the ground and floating right behind them when they had made their way off.
“Can I come with you? It’s just that...” She looked down in embarrassment, once again living up to her name of shyness.
“Sure, Twilight could really use another friend.”
“I don’t mind.” Ray gave a nod, letting the dragon point him in the direction they needed to go before departing.
“That’s good...” Breathing a sigh of relief, the filly followed behind them. “Um... Ray...?” About halfway there, she spoke up to address the red colt for the first time.
“Yeah?” He looked back at her, still walking.
“I um... didn’t say hi to you... before...” She stumbled through the words, but managed to get them out after avoiding his gaze.
“It’s okay, I was just as excited to meet Spike too.” He smiled, enjoying the light conversation that was happening between him and this new acquaintance. “I’m just glad to have finished all the checkups on time. I guess we have to work on helping Twilight make friends now, right?” He glanced back to Spike who nodded in agreement.
“Yep. Hey Fluttershy, you wouldn’t mind trying to be her friend too, would you?” The dragon came up with a witty idea, speaking to her cutely.
“Oh of course, I’ll try my best...” She wandered off, unsure of herself but still adamant enough to try to get her words out.
“Ah, we’re here.” Ray looked out at the sun heading down. “Auntie Celeste was right, the sunset is pretty.” He gave a smile and strolled into the library, unaware of the surprise inside.
Chapter Seven: Surprises
“SUR - PRISE!”
Ray blinked as the lights came on fast, looking around in a daze at the many faces all staring back at him. His first reaction was to shrink away, which he started doing before a familiar pink pony made her presence known by quickly getting close.
“Hiya! Remember? That’s what you said earlier when I saw you! And when I saw you, I didn’t recognize you because I know just about everypony in Ponyville and so I thought you were new and—“ The endless stream of words came too fast for him to concentrate on, so he instead started to shrink back towards the door. A glance back showed that Fluttershy had already made her retreat, unsuccessfully into a nearby bookshelf, several other ponies nearby giggling at the incident. “—So I decided to throw you a welcoming party!” She finally finished her speech and Ray had turned back to face his hostess.
“I…” He thought about asking her to repeat then realized that might not be the best option. “Thank you for the party.” Giving a smile, his hopes that she would back off were met with disappointment as she continued to smile and stare back at him. “Who are you again..?”
“Pinkie Pie, like I said before.”
“Sorry, was a little dazed from the sudden surprise.” Now that it had worn off, he took a look around at the scene he was in. There were many ponies here, all chatting around them all. Some were giving the new arrivals some stares, and he felt embarrassed to be the center of attention again. He had never been to a party, the word was in his head and it brought back other words. Fun was one of them, as well as socialization and groups. “I... I’ve never had a party before…” He admitted aloud, to which an astonished gasp in front of him replied.
“Never had a party? I know just how to fix that!” She put one of her front legs around his neck, jerking him to the middle of one of the open areas and cleared her throat. “Everypony, listen up!” Excitement rang out in her voice and all the background ponies turned to give her their attention. “This is Ray’s first party! We should make sure he has lots of fun!” Another successful cheer and before he could escape he was surrounded in even more proximity by many ponies.
“Hello! You asked me for directions earlier.”
“Welcome to Ponville, Ray.”
“Well howdy, Ray!” A more familiar voice rang out and he saw Applejack approaching. “Good to see ya made it back from all those chores in time for your party.”
“Pinkie Pie always throws the best parties.” Another familiar voice, the blue Pegasus floating over his head made her presence known. “I didn’t know you were bringing Fluttershy along too.” Ray tried to locate the other flier, but she was being well hidden. He didn’t blame her, this was by far the strangest thing he had been in all day.
“Yeah, I mean it was pretty awesome to throw two parties in a row! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a chance to do that before.” The pink filly made her way up next to Ray, handing him a cup of unknown dark colored liquid. He cautiously sniffed it and took a sip, tasting punch and the sweet fruitiness and grinned. “There’s so much to do tonight! We’re gonna play pin the tail on the—“ Going back into a long speech, Ray sipped and listened silently until he had a chance to talk again.
“Did you say two parties?”
“I sure did!” Pinkie looked at him like she had mentioned this beforehand then started to explain again. “After I saw you in town, I was like, GUUUH!” She did that thing where she floated up off the ground for a moment with her gasp, while Ray smiled in awe. “So I found out you were gonna be at the library and I showed up and met with Twilight! She went off to study while I went to invite everypony in Ponyville to come, and when she came back we all yelled out: ‘Surprise!’” She was acting out the scenario with gusto. “And then she said you’d all be coming by later, so we all set up again and then when you showed up we all yelled out: ‘Surprise!’ Actually, where did Twilight get to?” She looked around the room for the missing filly.
“That’s good to hear, I was hoping she’d make some friends.”
“Well, I wouldn’ quite say that.” Applejack interjected. “Course she was out here for the party, but it wasn’t too long before you two showed up.” She paused for a moment. “Course, we all stopped in to say hi while she was reading them books.”
“I wasn’t even sure you could fit your whole family in here, but it ended up being so funny.” Rainbow said with a chuckle, locking eyes with the blond filly. It ended with the two of them laughing.
“I reckon it was something to see. Too bad you missed out, Ray. Ray? Now where did he get to?”
Having slipped out moments before, the red colt had made his way out of the party. He had a mission to attend to and he was determined to see it through. “Twilight?” Cautiously, he poked his head up and examined the surroundings. There she was, sitting with a book in front of her at a faraway desk.
“Hm?” Surprised, she turned her head at the intruder and then gave a sigh of relief. “It’s just you.” Crawling from his vantage, Ray made his way over to her in no particular hurry. “How were all the preparations?” She asked, very businesslike in her demeanor, though her eyes were back on the page in front of her.
“Good, everything’s ready for tomorrow. What about you? Did you find anything useful?” His head craned as he tried to read over her shoulder.
She shut it with magic, the book floating away from the desk and onto a stack of others. “I did, in fact. There’s no proof that Nightmare Moon will return, but I did manage to find several guides in the event that she does.” She indicated with her hoof the stack of reference material in question. “We are completely prepared, just in case.”
“Great.” He breathed a sigh of relief then tensed up before asking the question on his mind. “Was there any mention of the stars aiding in her escape...?” A book floated his way, magicked by the other unicorn. It opened up to a page of the moon and four stars surrounding it like corners of a square. The moon’s dark side looked much like a unicorn.
“It’s a cosmic phenomenon that happens once every thousand years..” She answered back, another book in front of her that she was reading from. “It says, ‘It is believed that this alignment was used to formerly imprison Nightmare Moon, so that upon the return it will grant her freedom.’ It also says that’s just a myth, but I’m sure I can convince the princess of this.” Twilight seemed very content with her findings.
“That’s good to hear…” Ray breathed another sigh of relief, glad that he was not going to cause some sort of great catastrophe. “What about your other mission?” He asked after a few moments of relaxation.
“I’ve been in here studying all day.” She cast him a cold stare. “Although somepony told everypony else where I was staying, so I have had the pleasure of being interrupted all day as well.”
“But you’re done now, right?” He asked hopefully.
“Yes, I’ve got all the research I need… But we should be preparing!” She sounded upset that he would even consider doing otherwise. “The fate of Equestria does not hinge on me making friends.” She gave him her final answer, putting several of the books into a carrying bag as she started to make ready.
Ray frowned at her words. He had met several ponies today and they had called him friend, or family in some cases. It had made him feel special in a way he didn’t quite understand, and he wished he could get her to do the same, especially because it was a request from his aunt. “I think that this is important.” His voice took on a different tone, and Twilight looked at him stunned. “Auntie Celest thought it was important, and I agree with her.” She took a step back. “You need to get your head out of the books for once and see that you need to at least try.”
“I…” She buckled a bit and admitted defeat with a sigh. “I see your point.” She magicked her bag and books back onto the desk. “I never expected to hear you be so serious, it took me by surprise.” The purple unicorn smiled uneasily at him, the tables having turned moments ago.
Ray blinked and realized that he hadn’t even been prepared to do that himself. “Er… Yeah, I guess I can… get the right words out sometimes…” He stumbled through his words again as she strolled past. “Anyway, this is my first party so don’t crash it.”
“And why would I crash a party? I’ll have you know I did some research on this party thing as well. We should be very set, just as long as nothing unexpected happens.” She sounded just as confident as before and pushed open the door separating the rooms.
“It’s the Prince!”
“He’s really a Prince?!”
All eyes focused on the exiting pair. Ray tried to awkwardly smile, his eyes finding the beautiful white unicorn from before at the center of this newest surprise. She had chosen an extravagant outfit and was giving him a strange look. He gulped and leaned into whisper to Twilight, “You mean something like this?”
For most of the evening, Ray stayed closed to Twilight for two reasons. The first was that he was keeping an eye on her, making sure she was attempting to converse with the other ponies. The second was that it was safer to travel together in this unknown thing called a party. It was definitely a unique experience, though the herd of fillies following his movements was also just as interesting.
He had succeeded in getting them to stop calling him ‘prince’, but their fanaticism was not about to go away so easily. Even when he tripped during his first dance, they still swooned and made strange noises in his direction. The oddest thing he found was when he would try to speak to one of them, they would quickly flee and then regroup to giggle. At least most of them, Rarity was the one that stood out at actually talking back. He even managed to find Fluttershy, though that had also become a party game in of itself with the winner being Rainbow Dash.
As the evening continued, he found himself more and more willing to accept the attention and enjoy this so-called party thing. He had met many new friends and was trying to figure out a way to remember them all. Twilight had also managed to start talking, and there were several ponies listening and chatting with her. The best moment of the evening was when Spike started to wear a lampshade on his head and dance.
An announcement that Celestia had arrived and it was nearing time for the celebration sparked some movement in the group. The once lively party began to disperse and he bid farewell to each one as they left. Taking the lampshade off of Spike, he looked at the dragon with a grin while his little buddy grinned back. They both turned their heads at the rustling from behind them, seeing Twilight decked out in her back filled with books.
“I’m going to try to get an audience with the Princess before the ceremony begins,” she announced, “Just to let her know what I’ve found before it’s too late.” The concern in her voice had returned and she looked over to Ray as if he could help.
“I’ll go on ahead.” He said, dashing off before either could stop him. His excitement building up from all the events today was about to go off. The red colt desperately wanted to share all these new things with his aunt, knowing she’d be just as happy to listen to him. With the thoughts of her on his mind, he galloped his way to the town hall. Making his way through the crowd of ponies, he found Airy stationed outside a door.
“Airy!” With a bound, he leaped full up into the air and onto the shocked pegasus. The ambitious tackle was soon over as they both stood back up and the guard gave him a bow. Ray shook his head at the gesture but stopped himself to bow back. “Sorry, I’m a little excited.” Airy’s eyebrow raised and Ray corrected himself. “I’m very excited.. Is Auntie in there? I want to talk to her!”
“Yes, her highness is in here... but the ceremony is about to begin and she requested that she not be disturbed.” Lifting his wing, he was ready to deny the red colt his entrance.
“But but but but but but but!” With much enthusiasm, Ray pressed his luck by giving some pathetic eyes and pawing at the ground. “I won’t be in there that long... I just really miss her...” A light bulb went off. “Aren’t I supposed to report about my task to her as well? Please oh please?” Another quick grovel at the pegasus’s feet and he finally started to waver before a voice from behind the door spoke out. Twitching an ear, Airy’s wing lowered all the way and he stepped to the side in defeat. “Thanks Airy.” The pony strolled past him happily.
“Ray, it is good to see you.” His aunt greeted him, giving a sad smile. “I trust that everything went well today?”
“Yep! We checked everything, I met a lot of ponies! Oh, it was unbelievable, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!” He took a deep breath, ready to spew out the contents of the entire day in the next instant.
“I’m sorry Ray, but...” The princess closed her eyes in silent thought. “I’m going to have to ask you to do something else for me.” When she opened them again, her mane started to vanish. It was not just her mane, from her feet. She was turning into air right before his eyes. “I need you to be brave and help Twilight again.” Her smile was the last thing to go away. “I know you can do it, I believe in you.”
His heart jumped in his chest, the sight of her slowly fading away gripped him hard. He felt his knees wobble and tried to speak out. It wasn’t that she was not here right now, he had said goodbye to her earlier today. Inside his chest was the unspeakable fear that she was never coming back, realizing that she was no longer here. She had vanished suddenly, quietly, and he couldn’t handle it in time. The one pony who had saved him, the one pony he had counted on and lived with the previous days. His first family. It was gone.
Ray fell to his knees, shocked at the new emotions. For the first time he had been alive, this new pain was something unbearable and dangerous. It was worse than being scared, of not fitting in, of being on the spot. It was far worse than the headaches, the pain of kicking his shin on the castle wall, or being judged by the other nobles. His mind scrambled for the word, it was buried in the back of his mind. When he found it, he let out a tear. He was sad.
More tears started to fall, but his face was still too shocked. From elsewhere, he could make out that somepony was talking in the distance but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. There was only this empty feeling in his heart, this pain that would not go away. He hated it. He hated sitting here in sadness, knowing that he was powerless to stop what had happened. Clinging to that thought, he stood himself back up weakly just as the curtain in front of him was raised.
There in front, Rarity had just lifted the curtain to present the princess, and the large audience of ponies in the balconies and ground were all giving him their eager attention. It then changed to confusion, a murmur over the crowd. “Where is the Princess?” He heard it asked, not just by one pony.
“She...” He looked where she had been, then down at the ground while gritting his teeth. He spoke again, louder so that everypony could hear him. “She’s gone!”
“Ooh, she’s good...”
Chapter Eight: Darkness
All at once, a commotion broke out. Airy stormed the room and began to immediately start asking Ray questions. “What do you mean she’s gone?”
“She just vanished... right before my eyes...” As he spoke in a huff, he realized he had been breathing heavily before. “I don’t know... where she went...” He stiffened as a menacing laugh filled the room.
A dark mist slunk in from the windows, gathering on the highest balcony in the hall. From the swirling haze, a mare as dark as the night sky emerged and stood proudly and casting her gaze at all below. “Ah, my beloved subjects. It’s been so long since I’ve seen your precious, sun-loving faces.” Disdain pervaded her voice as she spoke, the night mist having formed her mane and tail.
“What did you do with our Princess?” Ray looked down to see Rainbow Dash being held back by Applejack. His eyes widened at that thought and he brought his stare upwards at the intruder who simply chuckled at the attempt to attack her.
“Why? Am I not royal enough for you?” The mare narrowed her eyes and flapped a wing in annoyance. “Don’t you know who I am?”
“Nightmare Moon...” Ray whispered in fear.
“Does my crown no longer count, since I have been imprisoned for a thousand years!?” Moving quickly and stealthfully, she stared down Fluttershy and the birds that were supposed to sing for the celebration. “Did you not recall the legend?” She was next to Rarity now, looking her in the eye. “Did you not see the signs?” From the corner of her eye, she spotted Ray and paused in her thoughts. He felt a sense of despair as he stared back.
“I did!” A shout from the crowd, a fully loaded Twilight Sparkle made her way up to the center of the stage below. Her outcry brought both Ray’s and the mare’s attention to her. “And I know who you are. You’re the mare in the moon. Nightmare Moon.” A gasp rushed over the audience.
“Well well, somepony remembers me. Then you must also know why I’m here.”
Twilight gulped, the realization that her preparedness was not enough to face this mare of darkness. “You’re here to...”
“Hahaha...” Nightmare Moon laughed menacingly again. “Remember this day little ponies, for it was your last. From this moment forth, the night will last. Forever!” She cackled triumphantly as her misty mane and tail flooded upward into the top of the hall and formed a storm. “Now then...” The whirlwind behind her raged as she approached the red colt and his pegasus guard. “You have served your purpose.”
Airy stepped forward and charged her position, only to meet with empty air as she dissipated. She reappeared behind Ray, tendrils of her mane wrapping around him. “I did not command you to stop me from taking back what is mine.” A lightning bolt from the torrent lashed out and struck Airy, knocking him aside. Ray struggled as the darkness started to cover his body, preventing his legs from moving and holding his head. “Be a good star and come with me, you may still be useful.”
“No, stop!” He shouted, looking down at the crowd of ponies his eyes desperately asking for help. His friends from earlier were helpless to stop this, but they started rushing to help him. His vision faded as a tendril covered his eyes. Thoughts raced in his head, fear and anxiety filled him. No... I won’t. Let... Me... GO. “GAH!” Ray shouted and he felt his horn catch on fire. A bright light erupted from his whole body and he heard the mare exclaim before she retreated.
“Insolent foal. You will regret this.” Her dark cloud slithered away from the light and out the window, followed by Rainbow and Airy. Ray watched them fly off and slumped to the ground, still shaking at the thought of being consumed by that darkness. His aura dimmed, but he still glowed enough that it was visible.
“Ray, you alright?” Applejack was the first to his side. “Just getting one royalty not enough fer her?” She helped him up, keeping him from wobbling. “Um.. why is it that yer glowing?”
“What did she mean by that?” Rarity was already there, but had stayed just out of the way trying not to get hit by lightning or dark tendrils. “Did she call you a star?”
“Twilight...” Ray’s first words were calling out to the one pony he was sure could handle this situation. “Twilight...” One final outcry and he blacked out.
“What do think is going on?”
“Maybe he’s a spy?”
“I’ve never seen magic like this before, nopony can glow like that.”
His head hurt, more than it had when he lost control of his magic. He must be dreaming still, Nightmare Moon hadn’t come and kidnapped his family. She was right here, waiting for him to wake up. “Auntie..?” He opened his eyes, looking up at six ponies all looking back down at him.
No, it had not been a dream. All the events he wanted to forget had indeed happened. He sat himself up, shaking himself off and noticed that he was still giving off a red aura.
“You okay, sugar?” Applejack asked him and he nodded silently.
“How come she wanted to kidnap you? Are you some kind of spy for Nightmare Moon!?” Rainbow flew up into his face, her tone accusing him of espionage.
“No, I never met her.” He shook his head, answering her with sad eyes.
“Do not talk to his highness like that!” Airy stepped forward, angrily confronting the blue pegasus who then turned and glare at one another.
“Airy... it’s fine... I want to tell them the truth...” Ray’s words were heavy and they caused everypony’s attention to focus on him. “I... Have only been a pony for three days.” He looked around, seeing each of their reactions. “I was a star before that... Aun... Princess Celestia adopted me then...” He spoke of his landing, keeping things concise and being completely honest. When he finished, he lowered his head ready to accept whatever judgment came his way.
“Well golly, I reckon you must be the first star I’ve ever talked to.”
“I’ve never met a star before...”
“Royalty and a star? That’s almost too much for anypony to handle.”
“Wow, what kind of parties do stars have? Is that why you’re glowing? This is more amazing then the time I went: ‘GUHH!’”
“Well no wonder you never heard of the Wonderbolts.”
“What was the princess thinking?” Twilight was the least accepting of this, shaking her head. “And why didn’t she tell me? I know she was avoiding me earlier, but this whole thing could have been avoided!” She frowned, stomping the ground in frustration. “Ugh, this doesn’t make sense.”
“Can we stop Nightmare Moon?” Ray was the next to speak, all the eyes meeting his again. His were focused on Twilight’s though. “Twilight.” When he spoke, the others looked at the unicorn in question.
“I...” She backed up at being addressed so suddenly, then looked at her bag. “Yes, I believe we can.” As he got back to his hooves, she explained to them about the elements of harmony. She finished and addressed him. “Ray, did the princess say anything helpful?” He remembered Celestia’s final words and nodded back to her.
“She said to help you. I think she knew you’d find the answer.”
“Well what are we standing around here for? Where are these Elements of Harmony, anyway?” Rainbow was eager to go.
“Hold yer horses there, we better let Twilight take the lead on this one.”
“Uhh...” Unsure of her forced position, she faced the small herd with a cautious appraoch. “What do you mean, ‘we..’?”
“You didn’t think we’d let you go alone, did you?” Rarity spoke up. “We all want to help.” Her words were met with nods from the rest of the group. Further complaints from Twilight were cut short as she accepted the situation.
“I guess I’ll need all the help I can get.” She admitted, much to the delight of the others. They all prepared to leave, each taking a book from Twilight and being instructed. Ray was the odd pony out at the moment, and looked around to find his little dragon buddy. He found Spike sleeping in a bed, most likely exhausted from the events. His own body felt heavier than normal, but he was surprisingly awake. Airy stepped in front of him.
“Your highness, I await your orders.” Ray blinked at the guard, putting on a soft smile.
“Airy, I wish you to remain here. I don’t want to see the rest of my family vanish in front of my eyes again.” The guard nodded at the orders. “Where is Skyward?”
“He is attempting to maintain order at the town hall, making sure the ponies get home safely.”
“Help him please.” Ray gave the last order and with a bow, the loyal guard left his side.
“You sure bout that? We could always use another pegasus to help us.” Rainbow questioned him and he shook his head at her.
“He took a hit, remember? I don’t want to see that happen again.” Ray strolled right past her and outside to think. The aura surrounding him lit up the ground around him in a reddish glow. He didn’t want anypony getting hurt because of him. Those same emotions of sadness and regret started to play through his head again and he frowned. He didn’t know how to get rid of them. With a heavy sigh, he tried closed his eyes to focus on anything other than these feelings. Upon opening them, he saw Pinkie Pie’s face close up. “Uwah!?” He fell backwards and ended up rolling under Applejack.
“Wow, you are so jumpy!” Pinkie bounced up in joy.
“You got something on yer mind?” The third time this night, he was being helped up by the blond filly. “You look real down.”
He gave her a nod. “How do I stop feeling sad?” The comment elicited a cocked eyebrow in his direction, and the others had stopped to wait for her reply.
“I reckon you stop feeling sad after you start feeling glad.” She patted the top of his head with a hoof. “You are pretty young, aintcha? The honest truth is that you need to stop thinking bout all the bad stuff, and work hard on making the best of whatcha got.” Applejack indicated the rest of them. “You have friends to help you through it too.”
Ray listened and then a grin slowly spread across his face. “You’re right. I’m sorry for being such a downer.”
“Aw, we forgive ya.” A group nod to confirm her speech and then he truly smiled at the thought. Twilight cleared her throat and each pony fell into place behind her. The order ended up with him being in the middle, as he was the only immediate source of light other than the moon’s glow. As a neatly organized group, they headed towards their destination of the Everfree forest.
“Ah heck, I’ll just ask. Ray, how come yer glowing?”
“You’re just like a little nightlight! Well, more like a big red nightlight.”
“Also, do you know any reason why Nightmare Moon would try to kidnap you?”
Ray addressed the questions in order. “I don’t know, I think stars are supposed to glow though. Thanks, Pinkie. And no, I don’t know why but I think she knows.”
“Well that’s just great, that means we have to play guard duty for you.” Rainbow was less than amused, flying over his head. “Though I’m not sure about all the other dangerous creatures in the Everfree forest.” She put on a spooky voice. “You know what happens to ponies that go into the Everfree forest, right?”
“Rainbow!” Applejack spoke up to try to quiet this down.
“They never come out!” Too late, Rainbow posed dramatically as a lightning crack in the background rang out. The ground shook and then started to crumble out from beneath all but the fliers. Fluttershy took ahold of Rarity while Rainbow caught Pinkie who was mid bounce, leaving the three earthbound ponies tumbling down with the falling slab of rock. Ray managed to latch onto a small tree branch with his teeth, instinct kicking in and telling him not to let go. He stuck out his front leg and grabbed Twilight as she almost barrelled past.
He let out a sigh and started to pull her up, seeing that Applejack had also managed to snag a branch and was holding on. Twilight’s bag had slipped off and fell over the edge of the rock face, a loud thump later showing just how high up they were. When she was up enough, she grabbed the branch with her hoof and he adjusted himself to where he wasn’t holding it with his mouth. “Whew... Glad that’s--” He didn’t get a chance to finish, the branch he had snapped and he fell backward. His aura flickered as he rolled down the steep incline.
Applejack had let go and was racing down to catch him before he fell over the side. Her hoof reached out a mere second too late and he fell over the edge. Visions of the previous day fluttered before his eyes and he closed them expecting to hit the ground any second. It never came and he opened them in surprise. He was floating in the air, his foreleg caught by Rainbow who was struggling to keep all three of them airborne.
“That was super cool, Rainbow!” Pinkie Pie, next to him shouted up.
“I know, but you guys. You guys are heavy.” She brazenly said, flapping her wings harder and still going lower.
“I thought you didn’t want to play guard duty?” Ray asked her incredulously.
“Ha, like I’d leave you hanging. You really do need an escort, don’t ya?” Her witty remark hit him just as his back hooves hit the ground.
“Thank you.” He gave her as best a bow as he could.
“Yeah yeah... Anyway, now that you owe me one...” She began, but the others had caught up to them. Applejack had led Twilight down a safer path and Fluttershy had gotten Rarity down safely.
“Well done Rainbow, that was a spectacular catch.”
“You should have seen it from where I was, it was the best seat in the house!” Pinkie bounced up again.
“I didn’t know you had it in ya to move that fast.”
“I’m glad we’re all safe.” Twilight walked over to her fallen bag and magicked it back onto her. “That was an incredible feat from everypony. Let’s keep moving, we don’t want any more cliffs falling on us.”
Chapter Nine: Judgment.
The next few minutes held a brief respite for the group as they recovered from the fall. It ended with a roar and the seven ponies faced towards the origin of the sound, a large dark figure in the distance that stood blocking their path. Releasing another howl, it stepped from the shadows, advancing towards them.
“Manticore!” Twilight identified the approaching threat, taking the appropriate evasion action to avoid its charge. The others took up their positions, while Fluttershy attempted to speak up in protest. Unsure of what to do, Ray fell into line with the others as they were about to rush the beast.
“Star...” A voice called out to him. Pausing the charge, he looked for the source. All other sounds around him fell silent as he heard the voice address him again. “Simple foal... You don’t know what you are, do you?” The harshness in that tone hit him. “Come back to me and I will see to it that your little friends return home safely.” To the side, his eyes met with the dark mare’s, swirling in a sea of mist. Her mouth formed and she began to speak in words he could not hear.
“STOP!!” All eyes turned towards the pink and yellow pegasus, who had bolted in front of the charging ponies and manticore. With confidence, she approached the large beast and carefully reassured him before plucking a thorn from his outstretched paw. It roared again, lunging to eat her in one gulp. At the last second, it turned into a playful kitten lick as the once dangerous creature purred at his tiny savior.
“Whew...” Ray and the others breathed a sigh of relief, and he turned back to face that dark cloud he had just seen. Nowhere in sight, he shook his head and wished the thoughts from his head. Applejack was right in that he needed to focus on the future, and he clung to it with a grin. “That was amazing, Flutteryshy.” He gave the embarrassed filly a smile, Twilight asking how she knew that the manticore was in pain.
“Sometimes you just need to show a little kindness.” She replied to Twilight’s remark and returned his smile. Each of them fell back into formation, chatting lightly about the recent events and how the forest was not as big a challenge as formerly thought. As the trees started to cover the night sky, they each huddled closer to their walking light source, much to his embarrassed dismay. It didn’t help that they were just about touching him, until of course they actually were.
“C-c-could you guys...” Despite being red and glowing already, he felt his face heat up with a blush. They all turned to look at him as his aura shifted darker red and the light around him dimmed.
“Ray, you look so red right now!” Dash chuckled right as she flew into a low branch, landing on top of him and bringing the rest of the group into a pile. They stayed there awkwardly before the girls broke out into laughter, Ray joining them soon after.
“I wonder what we have to do to make him glow pink?” Pinkie Pie let out a random thought, a mischievous grin as she continued to laugh.
“I bet he’d turn blue if he held his breath.” Applejack let out the next joke.
The laughter was cut short by the star lights and moonlight cutting through the trees suddenly, revealing that the trees that had closed in while the lights were off now displayed disturbing faces. Straight from laughter to screaming, the group cowered in fear and scrambled off of each other, save for one. Pinkie was still laughing, directly at one of the trees in front of them. She began to mimic the faces, still laughing as if the former scare had never even taken place. Of course, she was still sitting on Ray while doing this.
“Pinkie, are you crazy!?” Twilight asked skeptically.
“Oh girls, don’t you see?” She bobbed herself off of Ray as she started to sing. “When I was little filly and the sun was going do-ow-wn~” Taking a step, she danced with her song while the rest of them looked on in surprise.
“Tell me she’s not...” Twilight began, being cut off by the second verse as Pinkie jumped in front of them with her dance.
“The darkness and the shadows, they would always make me fro-ow-wn~”
“She is..” Rarity answered the purple unicorn Ray straightened himself up and looked around as the dark mist started to fill the area. He glared at it defiantly as Pinkie sung.
“I’d hide under my pillow, from what I thought I saw! But Grandma Pie said that wasn’t the way, to deal with fears at allll~” As Rainbow tried to ask what was, the pink pony went straight into another verse, dancing on two legs. “She said, Pinkie, you gotta stand up tall. Learn to face your fears~ You’ll see that they can’t hurt you, just laugh to make them dis-a-ppear~” Bounding over to one of the trees, she faced it directly and let out three laughs. “Ha. Ha. Ha.” In a puff of smoke, the image of gnarled teeth and claws vanished.
Ray blinked in amazement and took his chance at the nearest tree. “Ha!” He glared at it with a smile, feeling the fear fade away and the magic creating the illusion broke. Satisfied, he turned to where he had seen the approaching tendrils of dark mist, only to find they were no longer there.
“Chortle at the ooky~ Snortle at the Spooky~” Pinkie was still singing, and he took up the laughter with her and the others as the faces vanished one by one. “And tell that big dumb scary face to take a hike and leave you alone and if he thinks he can scare you then he’s got another thing coming and the very idea of the thing just makes you want to... ha.. haha.. Laaaaaugh~” She finished the musical number and the tree-faced illusion was gone.
They were back to where they were before, laughing on the ground, though Ray was grateful that they hadn’t all piled on him again. Still giggling, they picked themselves up and resumed their trek. “I wonder what I have to do turn rainbow colored.” He grinned at the flier to his side, who chuckled back at the thought.
“I’m sure it’d have to be super terrifically amazing!” Pinkie was leading the group now, but she stopped at the head of a raging river. Looking for a way around, they heard some cries of anguish in the distance. The source of the torrent was a sea serpent, thrashing the waves and making a huge fuss.
“Foal...” The dark voice called out to him again, everything around him fading into silence again. Ray scanned for the source, intent to laugh the threat away. “Did my sister not even tell you the truth?” He tensed, the mare’s eyes meeting his again. “Or did she not even know?” Once again, her mouth formed from the mist and she began to speak words he could not hear.
“AHH!” Again interrupted, all eyes turned to see Rarity remove a scale from the sea serpent and slice off her own tail with it. Everypony gasped as she magicked it up off the ground and onto the water dragon’s face, repairing the very obvious mustache.
“My moost-ashe!” He exclaimed happily. Ray hadn’t even noticed that the serpent had an accent since he was distracted. The colt turned back to confront the voice again, not catching a glimmer of the dark mare. Giving a worried frown, he closed his eyes trying to figure out what she had meant. Had he been lied to?
“Oh Rarity, your beautiful tail...” Twilight was unsure of what to say to the once extravagant beauty.
“It’s fine dear, short tails are in this year. Besides, it will grow back.” Rarity seemed torn by the decision, yet she stayed firm in it.
“So would the mustache.”
“You look fine.” Ray approached and gave his words of encouragement. “Long or short tail, you can’t change your ladylike qualities.” She blinked back at him, then swooned a bit at the compliment. He shrugged and noticed that the water had finally calmed itself.
“We can cross now, let’s go everypony.” Twilight took the lead into the river but was lifted out of the water by the elated sea serpent.
“Allow me~” Bending his snakelike body, he created several stepping stones for them to cross on. Ray was third to cross, hopping along the back and gave his new acquaintance a mustache compliment and thank you. “Oh, you’re too kind~” The dragon bashfully accepted it, swimming away once all had made it across.
“We’re almost there!” Twilight motioned to the large castle not too far in the distance. “We should find the elements of harmony there. Though the missing sixth one was not mentioned enough in my books..” She broke out her collection from the bag, scanning through it once more to be sure. “We’d be looking for a spark.”
“What do the elements look like?” Ray asked, matching her gait. He hadn’t been paying attention when she had instructed everpony before.
“They’re likely to be colored stones, on an altar like this one.” She floated a book in front of his face, the picture on it showing a ring of five unique shapes set into an elegant stone structure. “I hope applying a spark of magic will be enough to make the sixth appear.” He could sense the uncertainty in her voice and they once again stopped as they reached a chasm.
“How do we get across?” He was the first to ask, eying the castle on the other side of the ravine. It seemed strangely familiar to him.
“I got this, no problem.” Dash’s voice answered, flying over their heads and landing at the other side. A few seconds later, the bridge was reattached and she motioned for them to come over. No incidents, no problems, just as the pony said. The seven made it safely across the bridge, and faced the castle. “So this is it eh?”
“Ugh, it looks so... run down. It could really use some touching up.”
“Why do I feel like I’ve been here?” Ray asked aloud, the others looking at him as he started being the first to step towards it, the others following behind him. “I have... I have been here before.”
“Whattya mean by that? I thought you said you were staying in Canterlot.” Applejack came up next to him, prompting a question.
“I don’t know why, but I know I’ve been here at least once before.” He replied, keeping his eyes forward at the structure. A malicious laugh filled the air in front of them, and the group froze in unison.
“It’s coming from the castle!” Twilight exclaimed, rushing towards the entrance as the others galloped after. The corridors twisted in front of them, but still they kept running. When they rounded a corner, they saw her standing in the open doorway to a large ruined room. “Oh no...” She let out a soft cry at the sight, and they filed in after her each exclaiming. Ray was the last in and he gasped at the disaster before his eyes.
The alter that held the stones, the elements of harmony, it was shattered pieces scattered across the room. At his front hoof, a piece with half the marking for laughter lay still. There was a large hole in the wall to the right, making a huge cut into the floor and out the other side of the room.
“What could have happened?” Twilight looked about ready to cry. Her hopes of saving Equestria were ruined by this travesty.
“Hahahaha...” The dark laugh returned, cackling at the unknown joke. “Don’t you see? The feeble elements of harmony, the one thing that could have stopped me. Destroyed, by your little friend no less.” She continued to laugh wickedly. “This couldn’t have worked out more perfectly for me.”
“Wait, what do you mean...?” Twilight, curious and less unafraid than she had been all day, stepped towards the night mare. “My friends couldn’t have done...” Her eyes widened, and she looked back at Ray.
“Ah... now you see it. Yes, the little fallen star--” Nightmare Moon grinned evilly, casting her glare at the seven ponies. “--destroyed the Elements of Harmony.” She laughed again. “And he did it without being aware. Oh this is just too perfect.. Thank you little foal, for granting my wish.”
The fillies all stared at him, shocked at the sudden realization. Nopony spoke, save the dark mare who continued her advance towards them.
“Now then.. I have another wish for you to grant. Foal, I wish these ponies away.”
Ray’s head hurt and he collapsed to his knees, putting his hooves over his head. Words flooded into his mind. “Casa dela vicht--” He could feel his horn throbbing and he began speaking things he had never heard. “--Ein Soph Auir.” The incantation finished and through the tears in his eyes, he watched his six friends become enveloped in light and disappear. He was alone again, now alone with the wicked mare of darkness.
Chapter Ten: Wish
Ray’s eyes wavered as the tears filled them. He had cast magic he did not know, and his friends had paid the ultimate price for it. He gasped for air, coughing as he realized he had stopped breathing.
“Oh? Why the long face?” Nightmare Moon stood triumphantly over him. “Simple foal, you never knew did you?” She leaned down, her wicked grin staring him in the face. “You were not just a star. You were a wishing star.” She flapped her dark wings, the gust pushing several remnants of the smashed Elements alongside him. “A star that grants wishes.” She strolled past him, letting it sink in at her success. “I knew that the stars would align and my cage would be broken, but my night also granted me one more advantage.”
Ray stared at the ground in silent and sad thought, all of this not making any sense. He had the power to grant wishes? Why could he not save his friends or Celestia then? What purpose was this power if he could not save those he cared about?
“My wish was thus: to destroy all that which would oppose my return!” The mare crushed a piece of the former Elements beneath her hoof. “Now, nothing can stop my endless night!” Content with her victory, she turned to leave the red colt alone to wallow. “Oh, but first.” She turned back, her eyes piercing into his. “I’ll have to wish you away too. Your powers will be for only me to use.”
The colt curled up, closing his eyes and holding his ears shut. “No no no... Go away... go away...” His once glowing red aura shrunk as the dark tendrils made their way over to him. “I will... I am... I wish-” His eyes shot open, the idea suddenly coming to his head. He stood up, the light around his body emitting more vibrance, pushing back the mist that had come for him. Ray’s eyes began to glow and he stared at her. “I wish to stop you!”
At his shout, his body erupted into a bright red light that filled the room. The dark pony fled from it, turning into a mist and slinking into the shadows. He felt warm as the light shone throughout, finding the hiding mare and causing her to revert to a horse once more.
“What treachery is this?” She struggled, unable to move from the spot she was in. “Such powerful star light, but I am the mare of the night. You will obey me. I wish for this to end.” She stared at the glowing beacon, the frown on her face becoming more angry. “I ordered you to end this light show. How dare you defy me?”
He couldn’t hear her, but he saw her talking to him and getting increasingly infuriated. For the first time he felt pity on another. This mare was too bathed in darkness to be happy. Ray’s eyes closed and he slipped off into sleep, the light in the room continuing to radiate harshly.
“Is everypony okay?” Applejack righted herself, looking around at the other fillies.
“What was that? I knew he was up to something!”
“Ugh, so much dust. I’ll manage.”
“I’m okie dokie.”
“Where are we?” Twilight looked up and around. “That was a high level teleportation spell. How did Ray know it?”
“Duh, isn’t it obvious?” Rainbow Dash, punched a hoof into her other. “That two timer’s been working for Nightmare Moon the whole time!”
“But...” Fluttershy interjected quietly. “He was crying...”
“Well... maybe he’s a good actor?” The other pegasus offered a valid explanation.
“First not a prince and now on the wrong side. Oh Rarity, why the change in luck?” The white unicorn cuddled with the remains of her tail.
“Wait a minute...” Twilight brought out a book from her bag and flipped it open. She oriented it so it faced the others, showing two pictures of night skies and text under each. The one on the right was a normal night sky and Twilight read the caption aloud. “Shooting stars have always been seen in the night above Equestria and for centuries ponies have wished on them.”
The next page had a night sky but with a red shooting star streaming across it. “There was a recorded sighting of a red shooting star, and this one was said to have granted wishes. However, not a single pony has seen this star for a thousand years.” Finishing her reading, she looked worriedly at the text.
“So yer saying that Ray is that there wishin’ star?” Applejack asked skeptically.
Twilight nodded back. “It would explain why Nightmare Moon was able to escape, and how she would know that he could grant wishes, but I don’t think he knows it.” She began to concentrate. “Now we have to figure out a way to defeat her without the Elements of Harmony, and Ray’s powers...”
“Ooh ooh, we could laugh her away!”
“Can we try to ask her nicely..?”
“Let’s just storm in and take her head-on!”
“I think we should rescue Ray, otherwise she could keep using him.”
“Ray needs our help, that’s fer sure.”
“You’re right, we can’t give up on our frien--” Twilight began talking to herself, a sparkle twinkling in her eye as she started to realize the truth. “I have an idea.” She proudly proclaimed before a bright flash jerked everypony’s attention towards it. Each pony poked their head out the nearby windows to see the cause. A red light was shining straight upwards and out of the ruined Hall of Elements. “Come on, we have no time to lose!” She led the six of them as quickly as they could gallop.
The grand hall for the former Elements of Harmony was a disaster area. Every piece of rock in the hall was floating in the air, suspended in the crimson light. A glance upward and they saw what looked like Ray, positioned at high in the air and motionless. He was a red beacon of cosmic light, filling the room with his glow. Nightmare Moon remained standing in place near the far side, glaring at them as they entered.
“I see he failed in sending you away. Now you face my power!” She straightened herself up, the dark tendrils of her mane lashing forward but going nowhere. “Tch! This is impossible!” She literally fumed as the mist came off her and evaporated under the star’s light.
“Nightmare Moon!” Twilight stepped forward, unaffected by the light’s power. “You may have destroyed those rocks... But the spirits of the Elements of Harmony are right here!”
“Applejack, who comforted our friend with the honest truth at his time of need represents the spirit of Honesty!” The shards laying around the hall shivered and hovered up, several flying over to and around the mentioned filly.
“Rainbow Dash, who rushed to her friends’ aids when they needed her most, represents the spirit of Loyalty!” More shards flew from the sky, circling the airborne pegasus.
“Fluttershy, who tamed the angry manticore with her compassion, represents the spirit of Kindness!” The embarrassed filly was accompanied by several shards of stone.
“Pinkie Pie, who banished fear by giggling in the face of danger, represents the spirit of Laughter!” At the words giggle, she did so and was surrounded by her own flock of shards.
“Rarity, who calmed a sorrowful serpent with a meaningful gift, represents the spirit of Genorosity!” The unicorn smiled uneasily as she was encompassed by rocks.
“Together, we overcame every obstacle you threw at us!”
“Ha... let me guess, the sixth element is that foal up there?” The dark mare stood opposing them, tearing her foot off the ground and stamping it hard. “This little spark cannot contain me.”
“No.” Twilight shook her head. “The spark was not just his light, but what the light represented.” She glanced up at the skyward red night-light-colt. “It was the spark of wanting to help my friend, realizing that I did indeed, have friends.” She smiled happily, giving them a look over before confronting Nightmare Moon again. A solitary rock materialized in the air above her. “You see, when those elements are united by a spark, they represent the final element. The Element of Magic!”
An intense magical energy swirled around the six friends, the fragments of stone assembling into jewelry that took their place on each, symbolizing the specific element they represented. From the torrent, several rainbow colored beams shot out, heading straight for the immobile dark mare.
“No! NO!! This cannot be happening!” She shouted as the multicolored magic entrapped her. As soon as she was no longer visible, the immense light from the ceiling pony dissipated. It was no longer bound to hold her in place, and his wish had come true. Nightmare Moon had been stopped long enough to be destroyed by the Elements of Harmony.
Ray was not Ray, but instead he felt different. He had no feelings, only the lingering emptiness that there should be something there. From his vantage point so high, he saw the mare of so many troubles crushed by a magic so powerful that it had stopped his own. A tear fell down his face at the thought, but from where the tear came he could not tell. He simply shook it away.
He glanced over to the six fillies below him, who had recovered and were admiring their new pieces of jewelry. He thought they looked familiar, but that feeling passed as he lowered himself down, hovering a few inches above the ground. “The wish has been granted. What is your next desire?” The six of them stared at him in shock, and he stared back mindlessly. He spoke mechanically. He was created to grant wishes and that was what he would do. Everything else was unimportant.
“Ray, we--” The purple unicorn started to talk but he immediately cut her off.
“I do not know this Ray.” They gasped at his words.
“Don’t you remember your friends?”
“I have no friends. I exist to grant wishes.” He answered back, staring with his uncaring eyes at their shocked faces. If they were not going to request of him, he would return to the sky.
“Ray.” A voice that struck deep inside him called out and he turned his head to side to watch the sun rise quickly into the sky. From the glimmer of light that shone from it, stepped a white alicorn, larger and more elegant than the other ponies in this room. As she appeared, the others bowed to her and the purple unicorn ran over to hug her.
“Princess Celestia!” She shouted.
… Auntie..? A voice from deep inside said a name.
“Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student.” The alicorn returned the hug, looking over her pupil. “I knew you could do it.” His mind faded back into darkness as the two of them conversed.
“Celestia. Your wish has been granted.” He interrupted, pointing with his nose at the crumpled dark blue alicorn where the former Nightmare Moon had been.
“Princess Luna...” The white princess stepped towards the other. “It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this.” She knelt down, looking the younger one in the eye with compassion. “It is time to put our differences behind us. We were meant to rule together, little sister.”
There was a loud gasp at the news, but instead Ray opened his mouth. From it a sound like a click and then a new voice filled the air. “I wish to see my sister again... I want her to forgive me...” The record stated, he closed his mouth. The one known as Luna had made this wish three nights ago. It had needed no granting, for the elder had already given her sister the forgiveness she needed and they hugged. Celestia’s wish was that her sister return safely, and it had happened as well. The colt paid no interest in their teary reunion, instead he chose to speak again. “Both wishes are fulfilled. What more do you desire?”
“Ooh.. You can grant any wish?” The strange pink filly bounced up to his face, looking directly into his glowing eyes.
“That is correct. What do you wish?”
“Woaahh.. I wish for... A giant cake!” She shouted and at her request, a three-tiered chocolate cake decorated in strawberry and vanilla icing fell down just to her side, landing safely. “And a cart full of balloons!” With a loud pop, the item in question appeared for her and she jumped up again. “And lots and lots of--” She was cut off as the orange pony put a hoof over her mouth.
“Take it easy there, hon!”
“You really can’t control it, can you?” The purple one addressed him again.
“I exist to grant wishes.” He repeated, staring back at her. “That is my only role.” Seeing her eyes turn teary made him feel strange inside.
“Ray.” The white princess addressed him again. He turned to face her and her younger sister. The smile on her face told him something, like he had some other purpose than to grant wishes. That was foolish. He had no other purpose.
A thought that he ignored, instead focused on the white alicorn as she was about to ask for another wish. He would grant it, that was his job.
“Ray, what do you wish for?”
He paused, unsure of what that meant. He had always granted others’ wishes. He had never had his own desires. He was just a tool.
A tool to be used.
I am alive...
A tool for others’ happiness.
I have friends... I have family.
Existed solely for wishes.
I have my own desires now.
What was this new desire?
I want to live with my friends... I want to be free from this.
In his mind, he saw a red pony surrounded by others. He was smiling.
“I wish...” He spoke his inner thoughts. “To have a different purpose. To be Ray.” His red aura fluctuated, lashing at the air as before sinking away into the daylight. Softly he sank to the ground and his legs buckled from fatigue. Ray struggled to stay up, but succumbed and fell forward only to be caught by his aunt.
“Welcome back, Ray.” She said with a smile.
Final Chapter: Dawn
With a yawn, Ray opened his eyes to see nothing but white. He straightened himself up and looked around to find out where he was. Taking a breath, he remembered the events from not too long ago. The colt had made a wish and then passed out after hugging his aunt and letting out happy tears.
“Good morning, Ray.” Celestia was the first to greet him, turning back to look at him and letting her wings down.
“Good morning, Auntie...” He sleepily replied, stretching up to see he was on her back. She must have carried him. A glance to the side and he saw the other princess... Luna was her name. “Good morning, Luna.” He gave her a warm smile, feeling better than he had all day. The princess looked away in embarrassment.
“Hey, Ray’s up!” Pinkie popped her head up in front of his. “Thank you for the cake and balloons earlier!” He had no idea what she was talking about, so he just nodded and agreed.
“You had us all worried, but glad to see yer all right now.” Applejack shot him a look followed by a big grin. He rubbed the back of his head and apologized quickly, turning to his aunt and asking why he was being carried.
“The Princess insisted.” Twilight was walking right next to her favorite pony in question, and answered before.
“I don’t see why she wanted to. You’re way too heavy.” He recognized that voice as Rainbow’s, flying right over them. He frowned at her and rolled his eyes.
“Ray is actually very light.” Celestia replied, looking up and giving an honest reply.
“What? No way is this guy...” Determined to be right, the pegasus swooped down and tried to scoop him up, succeeding with relative ease. “Hey, when did you get so light?” That was answered by his stomach growling loudly and everypony giving a laugh. “Okay, nevermind.” She dropped him off on the ground, and he gave her his thanks.
“Oh, Ray! Look!” Rarity pointed with her hoof at his backside. He turned to see something there that had not been. A shooting dark red star, much like his hair, streaking across his flank and wrapped in a second layer of gold.
“Hey, this must be that cutie-mark-thing!” He bounced up and down, Pinkie Pie jumping up next to him as it looked fun. But she was not the one giving off light, and it was getting brighter as he was happily celebrating. “Woah... This must be my talent.” Ray grinned, proudly displaying his skill. “Shining like a star.”
“It’s a pretty light.”
“Can you do different colors?”
The red colt stood in silent thought and then held his breath while the glow around him turned blue until he let out his breath and giggled at that idea working. “Yep!” They laughed with him and his stomach growled again, sending the group into another chuckle and turning his aura yellowish. Ray turned off the light like a light switch and walked back to them, his friends all gathering around to admire the cutie mark and give their congratulations.
“This calls for another party!” Pinkie was happily bouncing at the thought, moving at a high speed towards Ponyville in the distance. Ray spotted it and looked up at the sunlight with a grin, knowing that another party was soon to be happening.
“OH NO!” He cried out, prompting all eyes back to him. “I missed the sunrise again..!?” He sighed, walking with his head low, then looked up to his aunt for forgiveness.
“It’s alright Ray. You’ll get to see one some day.” At her words, he raised his head back up, glancing over to see Luna hiding on the other side of his caretaker.
“I’ll stay up all night again if I have to!” He made a ridiculous claim, watching the other princess’s ears perk up at that idea. Going around Celestia’s backside, he snuck up on Luna. “Hiya, I don’t think we’ve met.”
She recoiled, nearly bumping into her elder sister. Looking up at her white sibling, she was given a reassuring nod, and then turned back to greet him. “Yes... I’m Princess... Luna...”
“I’m Ray.” He answered back quickly, still keeping the smile. “I thought I heard your voice earlier though.” Stepping along side her, he boasted up into the air. “You made a wonderful and pure wish, and I’m glad to have helped it come true.” Turning back to her, he saw she was about on the verge of tears again. “Did I say something wrong again..?”
“No... I’m just... glad.” She sniffled. “I thought you’d be angry at me for...” Not wanting to say the name, she just looked down at the ground in silence.
“Hm...” He mused for a moment, then remembered something. “Ya know, I was pretty down too. But then my good friend Applejack told me that you gotta stop worrying about what has happened and start being excited about the future. Focus on being happy.” Paraphrasing heavily, he winked at Applejack who rolled her eyes at having her words so garbled.
“I’ll try that... Thank you.” The princess gave her best attempt at a smile and he returned it.
“Your friend certainly is fast at getting prepared for a party.” Celestia commented to Twilight, for as soon as they entered the town there were decorations and ponies all awaiting their return. Her student simply laughed awkwardly, not sure what Celestia meant by that. The rest of them were stunned at the sheer suddenness with which everything had been put together. There was only one thing on Ray’s mind now though.
“APPLES!” He excitedly bum-rushed one of the tables filled with the delicious fruit.
Princess Celestia had no choice but to stay and attend the festivities, as her adopted nephew roamed about. She reintroduced her sister and gently stayed by her side. When she finally nabbed Ray, she made sure to reintroduce him as well. This time, she stated he was a fallen star and she had adopted him. With the fears of Nightmare Moon and Ray’s Wishing Power both gone, she felt more relaxed than before. Silently she wished that there would be no duties to pull her family away from this moment of happiness, and then smiled that Ray went back to eating.
Princess Luna was welcomed warmly by everypony as the returning princess of night. Several ponies presented her with gifts of flowers and treats, and she happily accepted. She formally apologized for her previous actions, but all the ponies forgave her on the spot. Remembering what Ray told her, she kept a smile on throughout the morning and felt happier because of it. She did not stray far from her older sister though.
Spike gave Twilight a hug and excitedly listened to her tale after much pestering to hear it. Ray managed to surprise Spike with some extra appletastic treats midway, and they ate happily in while Twilight embarrassingly had to recite the previous night’s events. The dragon then spent the remainder of the morning admiring and fawning over Rarity.
Rarity was quite the center of attention, showing off her wonderfully new jewelry that signified she was the Element of Generosity. It was much easier with Spike at her beck and call. After politely shooing away some of Ray’s obsessive fans, she gave him a wink that sent the colt into a daze. However, much to his dismay, she began to organize the fans once more so that there would be a much more reasonable and orderly way of admiring the prince. She received many orders for new outfits based on Ray as well.
Rainbow Dash nearly passed out when one of the Wonderbolts came up to her at the request of the prince. They hadn’t been able to perform earlier, but had showed up on time. She was invited to the Best Young Flier’s competition not only to compete, but also as a special guest. Despite her fangirlishness, the pegasus stayed cool in the face of awesome.
Fluttershy stayed quietly away from the party until she was needed to have the local birds sing for the festival. Hesitantly, she gathered her friends and together they performed above expectations. She was given applause and asked for encores, to which she bashfully shied away from.
Airy and Skyward once again took up their spots next to the princesses, glad to see their safe return. They were immediately bounced and hugged by Ray who had finished eating and regained much of his former weight. All in a pile, Skyward finally succumbed to laughing. Once the celebration was nearing its end, the nobles were ready to head back.
“Twilight? Why the long face? Are you not happy that your quest is at an end and that you can return to Canterlot for your studies?” Celestia noticed her pupil’s expression and questioned it. The unicorn would normally have been racing to get back home and to a library.
“Well.. that’s just it. Now that I finally have friends, I have to leave them...” Twilight admitted, looking back at her friends. Ray had to give them a look over to and realized that he would also be leaving this group of ponies he had grown attached to.
“Oh...” He reluctantly responded. Celestia looked back and forth between the two of them as they both sighed heavily, then she smiled at her idea.
“Spike, take a note please.” The dragon had his pen and paper ready. “I, Princess Celestia, hereby decree that the unicorn Twilight Sparkle shall take on a new mission for Equestria. She must continue to study the magic of friendship. She must report to me her findings from her new home in Ponyville.” Once she finished, Twilight was surrounded by her friends and they cheered happily.
“Another note please, Spike.” The princess was not yet finished, and the dragon once again had another piece of paper again. “I also decree that my adopted nephew, Prince Ray, will take on studies for living as a pony, and will also reporting his findings to me.” She leaned down to address him personally. “And he should come visit every now and again.” Another round of cheers at her royal decrees and the group of seven ponies all smiled happily.
“Of course I’ll come visit you Auntie Celest, and Auntie Luna.” He gave them his best bow. “But you have to come visit me here too, when you’re not being held up by all those fancy-dos.” His grin was returned by the white alicorn.
“As you wish, Ray.”
Luna took a look behind her, wondering if he was still following her. “Come on Ray, we’re running late.” A second later, she caught sight of his glow as he trotted up the hill along after her out of breath. When he had reached the spot next to her, the light around his body dimmed and he panted. “Are you alright?”
He raised his head and nodded. “We’re still on time... right?” Ray managed to get the words out in between his breaths. “I didn’t think it was gonna be this far away.”
Luna had on a genuine princess like smile as she silently tsked. “It wasn’t that far away. The castle’s still within view.” She pointed with her hoof at the new palace in which she was staying with her sister. Before her confinement she had stayed in the Everfree Forest. Canterlot was different, but it was home now.
“Yeah but..” Ray took a seat, letting his legs rest. “You flew half the way.” He returned her gaze with a grin and they both laughed quietly.
“This is it though,” She turned her head to indicate the direction she wanted him to look, then sat herself elegantly on the ground next to him. “Any moment now too.”
A moment after she finished getting herself comfortable, the event in question began to occur. Far away, the ground began to light up and stretch itself across the land. A crest of bright light shone up and outward while bathing all that it shone on with a red and orange glow. The hill on which the two ponies was transformed in color as the sun slowly and dramatically rose from its resting place. The higher it climbed in the morning sky, the less the intensity of reds and instead other colors began to show on the trees and grasses.
The moment was done, for the sun had made its rise and was time to start a new day.
Ray’s eyes were wide, grinning and smiling happily at the horizon. “That was beautiful..” He described, looking over at Luna to see her reaction. He froze up a little as the cool morning wind blew past the both of them and made her dark mane blow. Her eyes were focused on it as well, and she looked sad but smiling at the same time. “Thank you.”
Luna turned to meet his gaze, raising an eyebrow. “You’re welcome, but for what?”
“For helping me stay up to watch this, and for showing me the best spot.” He had asked Celestia, but she was going to be busy raising it and he always had a hard time staying up. Even as he finished giving thanks, he let out a yawn.
“I see.” She shifted to address him more properly. “And thank you for staying up with me, Ray.” Gratefully, she bowed her head to him.
“It’s fine Auntie Luna.”
The princess put on a pout. “I didn’t get to mention this earlier, but I don’t like being called Auntie.”
Ray blinked back at her. “How about Big Sister Luna?”
There was an audible pause for a moment as they stared back at each other. It ended with a shuffle as they both stood up to see which was the taller. It ended up being Luna.
“That sounds better.” Happily, she sat herself down again. Ray followed her motion and rolled over on the grass with another yawn. “How long are you going to stay?”
“A few days. Auntie would like to make sure I can perform some basic spells before I head back.” He had tried to use some earlier that week and it ended up quite disastrous. They said the colors would wear off with some cleaning, but he still decided to come back for some lessons.
“That’s good. I would enjoy it if you were here to help me readjust as well.” Luna’s voice trailed off as she remembered how things had changed so much in her time gone.
“If I could fly like you, then it’d be easier to come visit. Or if Canterlot and Ponyville were closer... I wish-” He put a hoof over his mouth. “Er... No, wishes are something that I have to make come true.” Ray pushed himself up and gave a bow to his new elder sister. “Let’s go back home. We have a busy day to get through before we stay up all night again.” He finished it with a yawn again, and they laughed and made their way back.
The author would like to thank his friends that were forced into editing on short notice with little pay. Geoberos, TJ, and Vyce.
Another thank you for Hasbro for continuing to provide us with episodes and entertainment every week. Thank you Lauren Faust for turning MLP into FIM.
One final thank you to the reader. Enjoy.
Scene One: Welcome Back
“No buts, Spike. I don’t feel comfortable performing that sort of spell, and it’s way too complicated.”
“But you’re the best at magic in all of Ponyville. It’d be such a snap!” The dragon snapped his fingers at his words which prompted Twilight showing him her right hoof. “Oh. Well it’d still be easy for you.”
“Spike, I’ve made up my mind. It’s not going to happen.”
Her tone was unyielding. After some silent moments of reflection, her dragon companion bowed his head and heaved the heaviest sigh he could and answered reluctantly. “Fine...”
Spike kept looking at the book he had presented earlier. Enchanting Encounters: Improving Your Social Prowess with Magical Enhancement. All the big words went over his head, but there was one spell that caught his eye. ‘A Little Attention,’ a downgraded version of ‘Want it, Need it’ spell that could bestow notice in a pony or dragon. Spike thought it was a perfect way to get Rarity to notice him. Twilight quickly shut the idea down, and so the dragon reluctantly laid the book down onto a stack on the nearby table.
“Really Spike, magic should be used for things other than winning Rarity’s attention.” With a tone of victory, Twilight returned to her book. Not a second later, there was a knock at the door, and without taking her eyes from her studies, she spoke out to her assistant. “Spike, would you mind?” The dragon slunk his way over to the door, opened it, and then leaped off the ground in excitement.
“Ray!” He shouted and jumped to give the red unicorn a hug.
“Spike!” Just as enthusiastically, Ray returned the hug. “How ya been?”
“Great. Aw you missed out on a bunch of fun stuff! Like when Twilight Sparkle chased off that Ursa Minor.”
“Woah..” Ray took a seat at the door as he imagined the other unicorn facing down a giant bear. “I have to hear how that happened! Oh but uh... first...” He straightened himself out and took a short bow. “May I enter?” He asked in a diplomatic and formal manner.
“Sure, come on in.” Spike raised his brow at the odd behavior “That sounded pretty prince-like.”
“I had to practice. I’ve got to start taking my position as a prince more seriously.” Once inside, he slackened up. “Auntie Celeste has had me practicing magic too, and I found out something I can do!” As he began to get excited, his body began to give off a soft glow that grew in intensity with his excitement.
Spike took a step back to watch his friend work the magic. He remembered that Ray was the only pony to be able to create a natural glow because he was a fallen star. The colt had with him a satchel and from it he took out a small colorless orb in his mouth. “Ohkh, wahtc gis.” Taking a deep breath, the aura around him changed into a greenish glow. His horn began to glimmer with the use of magic. A short sparkle later and the orb began to glow the same color as his body. With a grin, Ray set the ball on the ground and watched as it continued to produce green light.
“Woah...” Spike’s eyes were wide. “Can you do other colors?” Ray nodded and presented several other orbs that had already been filled with light: red, yellow, orange, purple.. Spike asked, “Is there a way to turn them off?” Ray clopped his front hooves together once and all the lights dimmed and became colorless orbs again. “That IS neat,” Spike complimented.
“That is impressive.” Twilight’s voice made the two turn and greet her as she trotted up to her guest. “Nice to see you again, Ray.” Courteously, she bowed as a sign of respect for his position. After the formalities subsided, she instantly turned her attention to the orbs. “What kind of enchantment is put on these? And why aren’t you using magic to carry them instead of--” She hesitated, but then asked anyway. “--your mouth?”
“I can.” Ray pouted and clumsily floated an orb in front of him. “Whenever I try to lift more than a few I start to get dizzy...” He set it back down as gently as he could.
“You have to keep practicing, magic is a skill that needs to be fine tuned. I’m sure your teacher has said this.”
“Auntie Celeste finds it funny when I carry them in my mouth, and yes she has mentioned that I should work on my magic. I am a unicorn after all.” With a shrug, he started picking up the orbs with magic and setting them in his bag. The last he put in front of Spike. “This one is for you guys, it’s purple. It looks best at night.”
“Thanks, Ray.” Spike went to find a place to store it.
Once Spike was gone, Twilight voiced another concern. “It’s great to see you, but I thought you were going to stay in Canterlot until your magical abilities were, well...” She grimaced at the memory of him failing to do basic magic the last time he was in Ponyville.
“Oh, well I’ve been learning as much as I can. Big Sis has been teaching me in the night and Auntie has been teaching me in the day. I’ve also had to learn to be a prince, which hasn’t been easy either. But the arrangements for me to stay in Ponyville are done now.”
“Oh? Where are you staying? I’m sure Pinkie Pie will want to throw you a welcoming party, if she already hasn’t heard.”
“She snuck up on us when we got here, and she already had invitations made!” He pulled out one of the invitations from his side pouch and handed it over to Spike.
“Us? We?” Twilight raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, Auntie came with me. She didn’t want to make too big of a fuss about her arrival, so she just went to the Mayor’s to finalize my living arrangements. I came by to say hi and show that I’m improving. Oh, and I’ve got this invitation.”
“She’ll probably be too busy to stop by then, right?”
“Hopefully not, she said she’d stop by here after she finishes. Auntie was also invited to the party. Pinkie was very well prepared.” He rolled the glowing red orb with a free hoof while he spoke. “Oh yeah! I’m staying at the observatory on the other side of Ponyville.” He jumped up in excitement. “It was being renovated since the pony who used to live there got offered a position in Canterlot and I get to live there now.” Ray pulled out another invitation from his bag and floated it over to Spike.
“So you’ll be living by yourself?”
“For now. It’s a test to see if I can handle being a responsible adult.” He proudly posed. “But you guys are always welcome to visit, and I’ll also be by to check out books on magic all the time. Gotta practice.” He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
“I’m sure you’ll do great. If the Princess has that much faith in you, then I will too.”
“Speaking of magic books, do you mind if I pick up some while I’m here?” Ray asked.
“Sure.” She motioned towards one of the tables and the stack of books floated over and in front of Ray. “These just got checked back in earlier today, and I think you’ll find these useful for studying and practicing.”
“Thanks.” He attempted to catch them but several fell to the floor with a thump. “I’ll practice, I promise.”
“Spike, would you mind helping Ray carry these?” Twilight gave him a pleading smile.
“Oh, and you can tell me about the Ursa Minor!” Ray chimed in, keeping his eyes on the books he was holding in the air.
“Sure thing.” Spike plucked up the fallen books and followed behind Ray. “You don’t want to come see his house?”
“I will at the welcoming party, but you did say the Princess was coming by here, right?”
“Yep, she said she’d be by the library. Don’t worry, I’ve got these, and Spike is helping. Thanks a bunch, Twilight.” He gave her a bow, and the books moved with his head. “See ya.”
Spike finished telling his tale as the two arrived outside the observatory.
“Wow, I can’t believe Twilight was able to do all that. That’s a hundred times better than what I could do.”
“She can do a lot more too, wait until you see number twenty five. That was great.”
Ray wondered what ‘number twenty five’ meant as he led Spike into his new home. The observatory had been vacated and redecorated recently nearly looking like his room at Canterlot now. Plenty of living space along with the finest decor and furniture had been moved in almost as if by magic. There was even a writing desk already stocked with quills and parchment at the ready for his reports back to his aunt. Ray walked over to the desk and laid the books down on it, and Spike followed to drop off the rest.
“I’m really glad that Auntie was able to get all this together. I hope I’ll be fine living by myself...” Ray gave a sigh, then opened the first book and browsed through it. “Should I start now...?”
“Hey, do you think you could try out a spell?” Spike had a mischievous grin and showed a page written with complicated instructions.
“Um.. I could try. Twilight did say I need to practice.” He gave the spell a look over and tilted his head to the side. “Simple attraction spell, makes a person more noticeable to another.” He read on silently. “Wow, that sounds pretty hard.”
“Twilight couldn’t even do it.” Spike said. “Well, she didn’t even try it.”
“Really? I think she could have easily cast it.”
“I know right?” The dragon agreed with him. “You could totally do it.”
“Sure.” He read over the instructions and then glanced to Spike, “Who did you want to affect?”
“Well...” Spike stroked his chin, pretending to think. “You could, I dunno, make Rarity notice me a little more?” He lowered his head in shame. “She barely notices me at all. Just for a few minutes, please?” The dragon put on his best puppy-dragon face.
“Sure, as thanks for helping me carry those books.” He closed his eyes and focused on the spell he needed to simultaneously think and cast. He also needed to apply the right amount of energy, drawing some from that near endless supply of star light glow.
His horn began to glow as the magic kicked in. Spike leaned in with anticipation.
A loud bang came from Ray’s horn and a shock wave of magic spread outward from the two.
Ray sat himself up in a daze and waited for his vision to come back into focus. “I’m not sure if it worked. Do you feel any different, Spike?” The dragon had to stand up himself too.
“I don’t know, what should I feel like?”
“It didn’t say.” Ray took a glance around the room. The blast had knocked over every book and chair, but the fragile things were perfectly fine. “At least I didn’t color the room like last time.”
“Oh well...” Spike gave a sigh and sat in a slump on the floor in thought.
Ray gave his friend a look over, and his star aura clicked on like a light bulb with the idea he got. “How about you go check it out, though? It could have worked.” Spike perked up at the thought. “Plus, Twilight would be impressed if I managed to pull off a spell she couldn’t.” Ray thought happily about getting praise from Twilight. “And I’ll clean this up, ‘cause I still need to practice moving things.”
“Alright, I’ll be back to let you know how it went.” Spike left with a salute, leaving Ray to practice.
Scene Two: Sneaking Suspicion
Spike excitedly made his way across Ponyville towards Rarity’s beautique. His mind wandered in anticipation and he walked straight into a vending cart.
“Ah, are you okay?” An unfamiliar voice called out to him from behind the cart. Spike looked up to see a red-maned earth pony he half-knew looking over him in concern.
“Yeah, I’m okay, Roseluck.” The quick glance toward her ware of roses reminded him. It gave him an idea. “I could use a rose.” He reached behind his scales to pick out some bits that he had tucked away.
“Oh?” Roseluck narrowed her eyes at him, then smiled. “You look like you have something important to do, so this one is on the house.” With a wave of her hoof, she offered him his choice from the roses she had displayed.
“Really? Aw thanks, Roseluck.” He debated a moment, trying to pick a good rose that Rarity might like. He settled on the reddest, most full bloomed one he could find. With it in his claws and a new smile on his face, he departed with a hum.
Finally at his destination, Spike rapped on the door and then gave his spines a stroke back with his free claw to tidy himself up. The top half of the door opened and the beautiful white unicorn looked down at him through her red working glasses. He felt himself stop breathing at sight and his heart skipped a beat.
“Spike! You’re just in time.” She spoke with urgency. With haste she opened the door and ushered the dragon inside. Unable to control his body, Spike entered and followed her with lovestruck eyes. They stopped at one of the displays where several dressmaker mannequins were outfitted with various designs.
One was wearing an extravagant jewel studded tan suit while another wore a black leather jacket, and more designs were still lined up. The middle had a dark red cape and hood with a star pattern on the back. Near the end of the row was one that was wearing a small velvet vest and two decorated back-leg shoes. The last one in the line was donned with a brown fur felt hat and dark brown jacket.
“Now then, I shall explain the situation. I just heard that Ray had returned, and that his welcoming back party is this afternoon. The thought that I could show off some of my latest designs on a royal pony was too much to pass up and I started planning several designs for a gift.” She motioned to the five decorated mannequins. “Thus, which of these do you think Ray would like best?”
Spike blinked himself back out of his trance, then looked over the outfits in question. “Well, Ray always has those hoof-cuffs on, but I don’t think I see him wearing anything else.” He pointed to the one with just a vest and nodded approvingly. “Guys really don’t like wearing frilly stuff, and I don’t think he’d like too many jewels on it.”
Rarity gave it a look over and starting musing to herself. “Not too many jewels... Simple simple, yes I could make it work. Thank you, Spike.” She dismissed him with a nod and began to work again, fabric and mannequins moving about at her magical command.
“You’re welcome.” He answered on instinct, ready to be at her beck and call again. He snapped out of it as he remembered he was holding a rose. “A gift for you, oh beautiful one.”
She turned to look at it and gave him a warm smile. “Thank you Spike, I know just where this can go.” The rose floated out of his hand and positioned itself perfectly on a nearby mirror. Rarity resumed work as soon as she was finished, her scissors cutting into the fabric she had just selected.
Spike half-frowned and then flexed his arms. “Notice anything different about me?”
Without looking, Rarity answered him. “Nothing unusual.”
Fully frowning, Spike unflexed himself. “Nothing?”
Heaving a sigh, Rarity turned around to face him. “Well, I see you combed your spines back and cleaned your claws. Apart from that, you seem just fine.” She smiled. “I would like to work on this suit, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, right.” Spike‘s shoulders slumped and he headed for the exit. He quietly muttered to himself. “I guess it didn’t work.”
Outside of the beautique, Spike pondered the situation while he made his way back to the observatory.
“Hi, Spike.” A familiar voice called out behind him. He spun himself around to see Rarity’s little sister staring at him. “Oh hi, Sweetie Belle.”
“I noticed something about you!” She said excitedly, her voice in a sing-song tone.
“Oh really?” He perked up.
“Yeah, your scales are really shiny today.” Her eyes never left him as she spoke.
Spike gave himself a look over. “They do, don’t they? Thanks, Sweetie. I just wish Rarity would notice.”
“Oh, she always gets like that when she’s working. She didn’t even compliment you on your clean teeth.”
The dragon blinked in surprise, then sighed again. “Yeah, I guess. Anyway, I’ll see you later.” He barely took two more steps away before she moved to follow him.
“Wait!” She moved to be next to him, trotting alongside. “Where are we headed?”
“Um... I was planning on going back to help Ray clean up.” Spike raised his eyebrow in confusion at her odd actions.
“That sounds great, can I come with you?” Her sing-song voice returned.
“Yay!” Sweetie Belle started humming as the two strolled through town.
“What are you thinking about, Spikey?” She asked him.
“Oh, I was wondering if there was a way to get Rarity to notice me.” Spike admitted, then stopped. “Wait, Spikey?”
“Oh, can I call you that?” She stopped in front of him and gave him a glance of big-sweet-pony eyes. “I’ll tell you how to get Sis to recognize you.”
“Well, I guess that’s a fair trade off.” He was willing to go that far if it meant winning Rarity’s attention.
“Okay, Spikey.” She sung his name and then twirled. “Sis likes famous ponies, so you gotta do something that will make you famous. Not that you aren’t already super famous.” She gave him a big smile.
“Me? Not as famous Twilight or Rainbow Dash.”
“No no, you’re much better than them. You’re the only dragon in Ponyville.”
“Oh yeah, I do have that.” He beamed.
“You just gotta show it off more.”
“Yeah.” He felt more motivated and picked his head up from its slump.
“Is that Spike?” An unrecognizable voice spoke from nearby..
“It is! He’s right there.” Another voice spoke loud enough for Spike to hear.
Spike ceased the walking and turned to investigate. There were many ponies following him and Sweetie Belle, and they had all stopped when he stopped. All of them also kept looking at him with an odd grin. He scratched his head, turned to keep walking and the group moved with him. “I feel like we’re being followed.”
“I think we are. But I think that’s just ‘cause I’m hanging out with you.” Sweetie’s tone was very strange. Strange enough that Spike had to pause to take another look at her and the collection of mares behind him paused with him.
“Spike!” Roseluck called out to him again as they passed through the merchant area of Ponyville again. “Would you like another rose?” She offered him another pick but he shook his head. She frowned sadly. “That’s alright, but you’re welcome to another if you change your mind.” He glanced back to see her leaning on her cart and staring at him. In fact, all the ponies who had just until now been shopping or selling were staring at him.
“Spike!” A rainbow flash swooped in from the sky and plucked him up from where he was. Before he could protest, the pegasus who snatched him interjected. “No time. Let’s go.” Leaving a cloud of dust, she carted him away.
“Aww...” Everypony in the area sighed dejectedly at his departure.
“Rainbow Dash, what’s the big idea?” Spike managed to ask once they landed. He spotted Applejack’s farmhouse across the ridge and figured he was on Sweet Apple Acres.
“What? It’s not like you were busy doing anything. Aaaaand--” She spoke suggestively, “--I wanted you to be the first one to see my new trick.” Already off the ground, she shot herself up with a burst from her wings and then spiralled downward. Altering her approach, she twisted herself up and then did a sharp loop-de-loop in the air. She repeated and then landed on the ground, posing dramatically at the finish.
“Woah. That was cool!” Spike gave applause.
“Please, that was just the warm up. Now I’m ready to do the Rainbow Spike Loop.” She leaped from the ground and was about to fly upwards when..
“Rainbow Dash!” Applejack’s voice boomed through the air. At breakneck speeds, she galloped straight at the two and skidded to a halt in front of them. “I don’t believe this.” The look of frustration on her face was enough that Spike instinctively flinched as she closed in on them. “You know full well that you can’t hog Spike all to yerself.”
“Hey, I got to him first.” Rainbow Dash flew in close to confront her. “Besides, I wanted to show off my new trick that I made just for him.”
“Well I was going to have him taste test some new apple treats that were made just fer him! And since he’s on my farm, I think that’s what he should do.”
“Um, girls?” Spike felt thoroughly confused.
“Yes Spike?” Both of them answered in unison as they gave him their attention. The stares gave him chills.
“Both things sound good, but I should really be going. I’ll catch ya later!” He made a hasty retreat towards the observatory.
“Ugh... See what you did? You scared him off!” Rainbow raised a hoof in anger and it was met by Applejack’s.
“I’ll show ya who scared him off!”
“What was that all about?” Spike thought aloud again, having made his escape from the pair of ponies. He hurried through the strangely empty streets of Ponyville and glanced to the clock to check his time. “Woah, and what happened to the time?. I’m late!” With more haste than before, he ran to get back to the observatory in time for the party.
Upon opening the door, all eyes were turned to him. Ray was in the middle and was the first to speak. “Hi, Spike.”
In a singsong state, all of the ponies that were at the party had their eyes on the dragon and said in unison, “Hi, Spike.”
The dragon gulped.
Scene Three: Trouble Brews
“Hi, Spike!” Pinkie Pie bounced up in front of Spike’s face before ushering him inside. “Can you believe how fast I got this got party together? I mean, I just put out invitations earlier today and so many ponies showed up! I didn’t even know we could fit them all in here.” She beamed at him closely before prancing about. “Don’t be shy Spikey, you are the guest of honor here!” Out of nowhere she put a party-hat on his head and then grew silent while staring at him.
Spike questioned what he thought was odd. “I thought this was Ray’s welcoming party?”
“Well it is! But while I was preparing, I got the idea that we should celebrate our favorite dragon in Ponyville at the same time! So I combined the two and came up with a super party!” When she pointed at Ray, he waved his hoof back. “And Ray said it was okay, so it’s a go!” She closed in extremely close to his face with a huge grin and waited for his response.
“Um.. Okay. Wow, this was pretty unexpected. Thank you, Pinkie Pie.” Obliviously, he beamed as all the ponies gave him a welcome.
“Now let’s party!” Pinkie immediately disappeared from sight, presumably to resume being the hostess for the party.
Ray managed to get next to Spike. “Spike, how did things go with Rarity?”
“Oh, I don’t think it worked. Rarity completely ignored me like usual.” He answered and heaved a sigh to show his disappointment.
“Spike, I hope you like carrots, I picked these for you.” Carrot Top interrupted their conversation, bowed, and put a bundle of carrots in front of Spike before watching him with a smile.
“Aw, I was hoping it would work...” Ray gave a sigh of defeat.
“Spike, I brought you some more roses.” Roseluck interrupted them. She dropped off a basket filled to the brim with extravagant roses in front of the dragon. When he went to thank her, she giggled and retreated.
“Yeah, but no harm done, right?” Spike took this momentary pause to study the two gifts he had just received.
Berry Punch stood in front of the two boys and set down a filled glass of juice. “Spike, I brought you some punch.” She lifted the glass back up with her mouth and offered it to him.
“Oh, thanks.” He took it and held it up to his lips to take a sip. Before it reached his mouth, the entire crowd audibly held their breath.
“Um, Spike?” Ray asked.
“Yeah?” Spike took a sip of the punch and the crowd resumed their breathing.
“Something doesn’t feel right.”
“There is something that feels odd, all right.” Spike repeated what Ray said, and heard several ponies audibly agree with him. “I just can’t seem to figure it out.”
“Eh, maybe it’s nothing.”
“Spikey!” Out of nowhere, Sweetie Belle popped up at Spike’s free side and gave him a huge grin. “We didn’t get to finish our date.”
A chilling silence fell across the room. Everypony had heard what had been said. Ray and Spike exchanged glances as the realization of what happened dawned on them.
“I think the spell worked.”
The room felt suddenly crowded as all the ponies in the room started to close in on Spike and Ray.
“Spike!” Twilight’s voice called out like a mother hen’s, and she teleported her way in front of them both. “I am so glad to see you. I don’t want you leaving my side again.” She made her approach to replace Ray when another voice interjected.
“Spike!” Pinkie Pie appeared in between Ray and Spike. “I’m throwing a special party later, and I want you to be there!” In one pink blur, she was already face to face with Spike and speaking with excitedly. “You’ll be there, won’t you?”
“Spike!” Applejack and Rainbow Dash were at the door, both struggling to get in. They were both covered in scrapes and dirt, eyes on Spike. “I saw him first!” They spoke together and then glared at one another.
“He’s my dragon.”
“But he’ll have the most fun at my parties!”
“He took my gift of roses!”
“He drank punch that I gave him!”
“I am the mayor of Ponyville, I should decide who gets to spend the most time with Spike!”
The boys searched frantically for a way out as the rabble increased. The group of anxious and flustered ponies started converging on each other. Ray spotted a hoof waved in his direction and pulled Spike out with him.
Once clear of the crowd, he recognized that it was Fluttershy that was leading them outside. She shushed them as they were about to thank her. Outside the observatory, the guys breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks Fluttershy, I didn’t know what we were going to do.”
“Oh, well..” She lightly pawed at the ground and then swooped lightly into the air to pick up Spike like a baby. “I just couldn’t stand to see Spikey Wikey getting all worried and fidgety from all that icky attention.”
“Not you too, Fluttershy!” Spike cried out before Flutteshy put a large ruby gemstone in his mouth.
“Shh shh. Momma Fluttershy is here.”
Ray spoke out. “This is getting way out of hoof. Fluttershy, can you give Spike back?” His words were met with the stone-crushing glare of Fluttershy. “I mean, ya you can hold onto him for now...” He crumbled under the stare.
Spike finished chewing his way through the gem pacifier and was given a second one immediately followin. He removed it manually. “Where did you get all these tasty gems from?” It went back in as he listened.
“I stopped by Rarity’s to ask for some, but she was so busy and I helped myself.” Fluttershy admitted.
Spike spat out the gemstone. “Wait, you took these from Rarity?!”
“Oh, I know it was wrong... but it was for a good cause, Spikey Wikey.” She nuzzled the top of his head affectionately.
Ray spoke up again. “Fluttershy, we need your help to keep--” Her glare wasn’t as effective because he wasn’t making eye contact this time. “--Uh, Spikey Wikey safe from everypony else.” The intensity of her glare lessened and he pleaded again, “Could you distract them while I work on a protection spell? I’ll need him back, otherwise it won’t work.”
Fluttershy’s eyes narrowed at Ray. “So you want him all to yourself too, huh?”
“Ray, I have an idea.” Spike cut in which brought the intimidating stare off of Ray. “I think we should just...RUN!” Spike slipped out from her grasp and made a break for it back towards the town.
Fluttershy gasped softly, and slumped to the ground. She sniffled and grew teary eyed as he fled. Ray felt sorry for her but had to catch up to the fleeing dragon. He glanced back to in pity and saw the horde of ponies now coming from the party and making their way for the boys.
“What are we supposed to do now!?” Ray asked as he caught up with Spike.
Running proved tiring, so the next best thing was hiding. Hiding was much more difficult, since the library had been overrun by ponies and headed by Twilight Sparkle. Sugar Cube Corner was also out of the question, as once glance showed it was surrounded by fillies waiting for an ambush. Staying to the shadows and alleyways, Ray and Spike were not left with many options.
“Can’t you fix this?” Spike pleaded with Ray, dropping to his knees.
“The book with the spell in it is at home, and it wasn’t even supposed to last for this long! It was supposed to just affect Rarity, wasn’t it? I don’t know why it would affect everypony else!” Frantic and trying to keep his voice down, Ray thought about what else could work. “Think think..” An idea struck him and he lit up like a light bulb for a moment. “If you could distract them, I could try to find the book and get this all sorted out.”
“What?! But what happens if they catch me?!” Spike shook his head.
“Okay, how about I distract them, and you get the book?” Ray suggested.
“How are you going to do that?” Spike liked this one better.
“I’ll tell them I know where you are and try to lead them on a wild goose chase.” Ray stuck his head out of the alley stealthily, assessing the situation.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yes. I caused this mess so I should help fix it. I have to take responsibility.” He repeated what he had been taught, but still he was nervous. “As soon as you have the clear, I want you to make a run for it.”
Spike saluted him as the unicorn ran off. A minute later, the ground was shaking as the herd of fillies enthusiastically chased after Ray. The dragon took his chance and bolted back for the observatory.
The inside of Ray’s house was quite a mess. All the organization of both party and living had been trampled when the crowd departed. The spell books that had been neatly stacked on the table were scattered on the floor and ripped. Spike picked one up, checking the cover and then tossing it aside. He tried again with the next book but it was no such luck. Sweat beading down his face, he finally found it on the third try. After flipping through to check if the spell was intact, he nodded in satisfaction and then scrambled back outside.
Outside the observatory was a large congregation of ponies. Ray was hog-tied in front of the group. All eyes were back on Spike.
Scene Four: Now What?
“Ray!” Spike chewed on his claws as he called out to his only ally in this dire situation.
“Yeah, they figured it out pretty fast.” Ray explained from his vantage point. They had trussed him up like a rodeo bull. “Applejack is very good at tying up ponies too.”
“Spiiiiiiike~” The group of fillies all called out in unison again, the chime in their voice nearly swooning. Leading the group were Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Twilight, and Fluttershy. The entire mass encircled and began to close in on the defenseless dragon.
“Ray, you need to find the spell!” He tossed the book over the crowd and it landed right next to the incapacitated unicorn.
“I’m on it!” Ray bounced himself up over to the book and turned the pages with magic while he searched. “You need to stall them as much as possible!”
“Stall?” Spike’s time ran short as the crowd’s hooves reached out to take him. “WAIT!” He shouted and posed. “Has everypony heard my life story?” It stopped the mob and they fell silent.
“I haven’t.” One of the ponies spoke up.
“Neither have I...” Another pony admitted.
“Well... I started out as a purple and green egg--” He began and all at once the group sat down in anticipation of his story. He made it to just after Twilight hatched him when..
“Spikey, who do you like most?” A pony from the back asked a question, and the entire group leaned forward wanting to know.
“Uh... Like the most..?” He gulped, not sure how to answer.
“Yes, out of all of us.. Who do you like the most?”
Spike looked out across the crowd, scanning. “I mean, I can’t really decide that right now..”
“Spike likes me the most.” Twilight stood up. “Because I am his caretaker, and he lives with me.” There was a murmur in the audience.
“Spike and I have the most fun!” Pinkie Pie stood up. The murmur got louder.
“SPIKE!” Everypony shouted at him. “Tell us! TELL US NOW!”
Spike clenched his teeth, panicking on the spot. “I like Rarity the most!” He admitted loudly. The herd gasped. “Rarity’s the only pony for me?” He half asked, expecting some sort of angry response. Instead, the group stayed quiet and silently walked off leaving Ray and Spike alone in the grass outside the observatory.
“Wow, that actually worked. Sorry you had to tell everypony.” Ray struggled at the ropes.
“Naw, it’s okay. I’m just glad that stopped the spell.” Spike frowned but gave a huge sigh of relief and sat down exhausted.
“Not just yet. I think I can manage to undo the spell, but..” He rolled over to show he was still tied up. “A little help?”
A helpful claw later and Ray was freed and back on his feet. “Okay, I just have to reverse the steps and hopefully things will go back to normal.”
Both of them looked up to see Pinkie Pie standing there with a purple wig on, and a white party hat angled like a horn. Almost immediately, she was accompanied by every other pony who had left not too long ago, except now they were all dressed like Rarity. The disguises were oddly uncanny but also unflattering. In their best Rarity imitation voices, they all cheered out again.
Spike’s jaw dropped and then he sighed. “Please fix this.”
Another few moments and a similar magic boom rang out as Ray tried to cast the counter spell. Dizzily, he stood back up. “Did it work?” Spike was the next to stand up, eyes spinning in circles.
“I don’t feel any different.”
“Ugh... what happened?” Berry Punch stood up next, taking off the wig. “What was that loud bang?”
Spike and Ray exchanged glances. Ray asked her, “How do you feel about Spike?”
Berry looked at them with eyes half open. “Who?”
The boys grinned happily at the results and then addressed the next pony to right herself. “Roseluck, how are you feeling?”
“Ugh, dizzy.” She admitted. “What am I wearing?”
Both Ray and Spike raised their respective forelimbs in triumph. “It worked!”
Back at the party, Ray found out that everypony affected by the spell had no memory of it. There was explaining to do however, but it was unanimously decided by the two boys that some details were best left unexplained.
“Basically the spell I was showing off at the party put everyone to sleep...” Ray finished explaining what happened and then bowed in apology. “I am sorry that my carelessness resulted in such an outcome and beg you all for forgiveness.”
“When I meant you should practice, I didn’t mean for you to practice high level spells.” Twilight scolded him but then gave him a reassuring pat. “If you need help on those, be sure that somepony is around in case things go wrong.”
“As long as you promise to be more careful, especially with that magic, I can forgive you.” AJ was the next for words.
“I’m sure the next party trick you do will be more thought out and even more spectacular!” Pinkie blew up a balloon to replace some of the ones that had popped from the events earlier.
“Prince Ray.” A voice addressed him and all eyes turned to see Princess Celestia entering. As she made her way towards him, everypony bowed in her presence. “I must apologize for arriving so late to the party. I had to return to Canterlot immediately after meeting with the mayor.” Diffusing the situation with her apology, everypony looked to Ray to see what his response would be.
“It’s fine, Auntie, I am glad that you were able to make it.” He answered with dignity. “Was everything alright?”
“Yes it was. I had to drop off one of these for Luna.” With a glow of her horn, one of Pinkie Pie’s invitations fluttered in front of Ray.
“AND WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE OUR YOUNGEST SIBLING WAS WELL RECEIVED BY THE CITIZENS OF PONYVILLE!” Luna’s voice boomed loudly as she arrived behind her older sister.
Everypony looked at the loud princess for a moment. Celestia spoke up quietly. “Princess Luna, we are making an informal visit today. There is no need for the traditional royal Canterlot Voice.”
“OH... WE SHALL... Speak less formally.” Her voice quieted. This was her second public appearance in quite some time.
Ray smiled and bounded up, but then composed himself. “I am glad that you came as well.” He looked past them both to see quite an entourage of guard ponies. “As did...most of the guard...?”
“Thou arst quite an important pony, little brother.” Luna’s voice was at a much nicer tone and the ponies that had cowered from her entrance were now curiously observing her.
“I don’t think I’ll be ever get used to the attention.” Ray admitted and he and Spike nodded in agreement and laughed, followed by chuckles from everypony else.
“Alright Spike, since you insist.” Twilight gave him the go ahead and returned to her book.
Spike had the pen and paper ready and began to write. “Dear Princess Celestia. Today, I learned a valuable lesson about attention. Trying to gain somepony’s attention with flashy methods like magic won’t make you happy, and can end up causing more problems than it would help. The best way to get attention is to earn it by being yourself. Signed, your faithful dragon, Spike.” Finishing, he rolled it up into a scroll and blew flames upon it. The letter turned into smoke and flew out the nearest window and away.
Twilight nodded. “That is a valuable lesson to learn, Spike. I’m sure the Princesses would be glad to hear it.” Satisfied, she resumed reading and then paused to look back up. “You didn’t happen to try THAT spell did you?”
The scroll reappeared right in front of Ray and he instinctively tried to catch it with magic. It worked and he grinned at his success. Celestia waited for him to unroll it and he did so with a little extra thought. Patiently, she read over the report and gave a happy smile.
“How about you, Ray? Have you learned anything today?”
Ray gave a sigh. “I learned that I should practice steadily what I know and improve slowly, not trying to force any growth.” He floated an orb in front of him and focused on getting some star light into it. “I need to have proper respect and control for the magic that I possess.”
“Well done, Ray. I am glad to see that you are making such progress.” She gave him an endearing nuzzle. “This will be your first night away from the castle. Will you be alright?”
“If you need anything, you can be sure to call one of us.”
“I’ll be fine.” He pouted. “I promise to write you tomorrow and let you know how things are going.”
“Alright, Ray.” She gave in and bid him farewell with a bow. “Goodnight.”
“Night night, Auntie.” He escorted her out and they both watched Luna dance in the sky to lower the sun and raise the moon for the night. The sight attracted a crowd and there was several applause.
“WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR APPLAUSE, RESIDENTS OF PONYVILLE.” Luna replied again booming her voice.
“Should I learn the traditional royal Canterlot voice too?” Ray asked and Celestia shook her head with a chuckle.