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Revelatory Filly Skydance

By: Gabriel LaVedier

Act One: The Stargazer Saga

Dramatis Personae

Scootaloo as Skydance

Sweetie Belle as Daisy Dreams

Applebloom as Country Roads

Diamond Tiara as Candy Stripes

Silver Spoon as Judgmental

Twist as Time Tokens

Rainbow Dash as Ace Pinnacle

Zecora as The Violet Witch

Special Effects provided by Twilight Sparkle and Rarity

Stage Management by Fluttershy

Catering by Pinkie Pie (And Sugarcube Corners, in association with Sweet Apple Acres)

        The stage was set, and the time was right. All had been prepared and what remained was to get it started. The lights flashed on, and the music swelled, classical and electronic mingling pleasantly in the orchestra pit, while on stage, Daisy Dreams, with a masked chorus, broke into song before swirling images of stargazer lilies.

It’s me and you, doing what we do

In the dawn of our lives

A beginning of promise and harmony (It takes a long, long time.)

Gotta tell somebody,

Gotta move my body,

Gotta get out and go,

Oh my friend… Take my revelation.

In our starlit garden we held each other tightly

And by the moon and heaven swore we

Would stay friends evermore

It was a dream that was beautiful

And sure to last forever

But no, it melted in our normal lifestyle

Everyday, every time. (Everytime!)

Oh, oh no!

Oh do not say

That is how life is.

I’ve seen the truth

I know there’s more

A life for us. (Revelation!)

It’s me and you, doing what we do

In the midst of a storm

We are lost and cannot see the glowing way.

Gotta trust somebody

Gotta move out bodies

Gotta run for the sun

Oh, my friend, please follow me.

In a desert hot and lonely, fear on every side crawls

We have no one but each other on whom to call

Just our selves and what we found out

And in the dusty, barren expanse, we find a hidden surplus

Of all the courage and the confidence

To get past when we feel so bad

We want to give up (Oh, feeling so bad!)

But I see

A cooler clime and I

Know we will be ok

For you and I, for all our fears

Can do it all if we believe (Revelation!)

In a maze we run

All around we turn

With no ending in sight

Just the walls and our own sense of liberty

It will not be easy, it will not be fast

But, believe, if we stand together

We will be safe.

        The music swelled into an extended solo. Daisy Dreams looked out at the crowd and whispered, voice amplified to reach every ear, “Let’s dance together…” She crossed the stage during the solo, approaching the front and thrusting her head out towards the audience.

I will go my way and I hope you come

Of your own free will

I can show you where we can both be free

Oh come on with me

Oh come on with me

To a land in the sky

Oh darling, don’t be afraid

Take my revelation!

In the fruit of our lives

Past the bloom and the blush and ripening

Together, forever, with no fear at all

We found the land we have sought.

It’s me and you, doing what we do

Being honest and true, together in a bedding of lily

Gotta tell somebody

That I love somebody

That I always will

I found what I was missing.

This revelation. (This revelation.)

This revelation. (This revelation)

Tell some body!

        The music ended with a flourish and a sudden shutting off of the lights. There was a good bit of stomping the ground and a few whistles. The stage remained dark while the commotion went on, the scene changing only after it was done. It remained dark, but several light outlines began to move, looking like shadows moving amid the sea of shade, while Twilight Sparkle narrated.

        “Once upon a time there was a young filly, who lost both of her parents on the same day.” The shadows formed the images of a funeral procession, which shed members until nothing remained but a single Pegasus filly. “The young filly cried over this, feeling lost and alone. In the midst of this, she met a prince.” A regal figure strode in from the side, outline hazy and indistinct, moving between unicorn and Pegasus. “The prince assured her that he knew the way to no longer be sad, and how to live a life of strength. He left a small necklace with her, and then walked away into the distance. The young filly never forgot the strength and confidence of the prince. And, with the necklace around her always, she was determined to be just like him. Strong and confident.”

        The scenery changed, lights going up to a painted backdrop, which looked remarkably like Canterlot, but with more lilies in planters. The cloth backdrop ran on rollers, which moved the scene to look like the motion of characters or a sweeping panorama in action. Extras, colts and fillies alike, milled around dressed in formal-seeming red uniforms, until there was a general commotion and glances to the left of the stage. From that direction walked Skydance, also in a uniform, but one that looked cut like the colt uniforms, with added epaulettes and additional piping. Beside her bounced Country Roads, in a female uniform sans the extras, looking as cheerful as could be. The colts began to comment to each other, casting jealous eyes at Skydance, while the fillies squealed and reared, following Skydance as she walked along.

        Eventually, the colts and fillies scooted off of the stage as Country Roads and Skydance trotted in place before the moving backdrop. “Ah cain’t believe how amazing it is! Yew jes walk around and all the fillies go crazy! Ah cain’t do nuthin’ like that.”

        “It’s not all that great. They just NEVER leave me alone. It’s constantly a pain. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t gained this reputation that I have. I guess being a princely filly isn’t exactly the best thing. Colts get jealous, and fillies can’t stop swooning. And this place isn’t even all-girl! I just don’t get it.”

        “Awww, come on! You’ve gotta love it. They love ya and respect ya even without a Cutie Mark. Haven’t ya said that that’s why yew lahk this. Maybe ah should try it tew. Yew got another one a them necklaces? It always makes yew look SOOO cool.”

        Skydance looked down at the necklace and gave it a tap with her hoof. “Yea, this thing is pretty awesome. But, there’s only one in the world. I got it from my prince when he helped me out. And now I’ve come here, to Horsetari Academy, because I heard there was a prince here. But I still haven’t found him. Doesn’t matter. I’m becoming my own, and I guess that’s kinda the same. Thanks for coming with me, Country. It means a lot. I know you wanted to stay at home and go to the local place.”

        “Aww, well, yew know. Ah didn’t lahk the local place. Everypony was a-teasin’ me causa mah accent and ‘cause ah lived onna farm. But out here… Shoot, look at me! Ah gots me a fancy uniform and ah go to an Academy! And besides… Ah’ve never told yew but… Ah’ve just always felt lahk ah was bein’ called tew here. Not here  but somewhere near here. Ah cain’t explain. But ah felt it when ah was tryin’ tew get in.”

        “Ah, I understand. I felt it too. But I thought it was because I’d get a chance to see that prince again. Nothing so far. I just… Hey, what’s going on down there?” The scenery had passed to something resembling a balcony, Skydance and Country Roads coming to the front of the stage to look out over the alleged edge of said balcony.

        Rarity lifted her horn and activated her powers of illusion, to show a scene in a small greenhouse of stargazer lilies. Twilight Sparkle also added her power, producing the figures within. A demure Daisy Dreams, in a long and beautiful dress, completely unlike anything that seemed to be in the Academy rules, was sitting beside a very haughty-looking Candy Stripes, who was complaining loudly about a recent exam. “And you said that you were going to tutor me and I’d be able to ace it, and what happened? I flunked!”

        “I’m very sorry. But, I told you, you also needed to get some sleep and study again before the test. And, you really didn’t seem to pay attention when I was tutoring you…” Daisy Dreams kept her voice soft and demure, looking down constantly and trying to keep herself small and inconspicuous.

        “I didn’t ask for your excuses! You must obey me and I told you to help me with my exam and you failed!” Candy Stripes roughly shoved Daisy Dreams to the ground, standing over her with a hard look on her face. “You’re not supposed to fail…”

        “Hey! You can’t do that to somepony! Especially not a filly like that!” Skydance yelled down in front of the stage, while the illusory characters looked up in surprise.

        “Shows what you know! This is Daisy Dreams, and I can do anything I want.”

        “No you can’t! Just wait until I get down there!” Skydance made a leap that appeared to take her off the stage, the background wheeling rapidly and growing obscured by illusory action lines. When things had cleared, the backdrop was the greenhouse, Country Roads was gone, and the other two were physically on stage. Skydance hovered to the ground, wings beating rapidly to give the illusion of slowing her fall, with the real work done by Twilight Sparkle. “What gives you the right to treat her like that?”

        “I don’t have to speak to you, I…” Candy Stripes looked down ay Skydance and finally noticed the necklace. “Why are you even asking? You’ve got the necklace too. If you’re so eager to help her out, why don’t you use it? Come to the field on the edge of the Untrotted Forest after classes get out. If you dare.”

        “T-too…” Skydance herself also noticed the necklace around the other filly’s neck. It was the same as the one she had received from the prince. “What’s going on here?”

        “You’re either gonna show up and lose, or chicken out. I can’t tell which one yet but one is going to happen. Remember me, Candy Stripes, when you’re crying over your foolish loss. Come on, Daisy, let’s move.” With a sharp motion of her head, Candy Stripes and Daisy Dreams set off, with the demure filly giving a parting, soft-eyed glance back.

        “Jes whut the hay was that?” Country Roads clopped back onstage from the wings. “Ah was lucky there was some stairs by here. Ah swears, Skydance, yer gonna give me a hear attack at this rate.”

        “She had my necklace… How did she have my necklace?” Skydance was looking at the necklace, holding it up with one hoof. “Is he really here? Why would he give something like this to a filly like her? She shoved that filly down! I am SO going out there today…”

        “Out where?”

        “That locked-up field by the Untrotted Forest, the one that nopony ever seems to go to. Somehow… I think I can get in.”

        “Can ah come with ya?”

        “No… I’m pretty sure this is something for me only. I’ve gotta… Face this myself. I’ll try not to take too long with it. I don’t know what that filly has in mind, but, I’m gonna beat her at whatever this is.” With that last statement, the lights went down and there was a general shuffling and slight rustling, as the low ambient light showed a new backdrop sliding into position.

        The lights went up again and revealed a forest with high, dark and skeletal trees. Beside it was a huge stone gate, carved with the image of a rose. It loomed before Skydance, who looked decidedly small in front of it. “Ok… So now what?” She came forward to tap her hoof against the gate.

        A box showed up in the air, to show the close-up of what the special effects were doing on the gate. A beam of light shone from a small circle on the gate, shining upon the necklace and causing a grinding noise and a general shaking of the stage. Slowly, the rock parted, while the rose on it seemed to shed its petals. Behind the gate was a painted staircase, leading up into a glowing unknown.

        Skydance stood at the base of the painted stairs for a moment before she moved towards them. The lights flared in a bright flash, the dimming of which revealed the illusion of Skydance trotting up a winding staircase while the orchestra played a portentous, classical-sounding tune that grew faster and louder the higher she went.

        Another flash greeted the end of the climb, and revealed a broad expanse, backdrop melding into the illusion on the stage. It was a stone field high in the sky, a light breeze passing over it and sending small streams of dust curling away over the side. Skydance could only look on in awe, glancing over the side to see the Academy and the forest far below.

        “It’s not that impressive once you’ve been up here a few times. But then again, I guess a nopony like you wouldn’t know anything about amazing things like this.” Candy Stripes and Daisy Dreams trotted slowly from the other side of the stone field. As before, Candy Stripes looked haughty and confident, while Daisy Dreams looked demurely to the side.

        “So, I’m here? What kinda challenge do you want to have out here? Football? Field hockey? Whatever it is, I’m not afraid. I’d think an earth pony like you would be more afraid than me…”

        “Ahahah. How quaint. Sports. Of course I’d expect that out of YOUR kind, upstart… Daisy! Attach the flowers.” Daisy Dreams quickly moved over to Candy Stripes and pressed something to her upper chest, leaving behind a large and showy stargazer lily. She quickly trotted across the field to Skydance and did the same to her. Before turning to return to Candy Stripes she looked at Skydance with large, liquid eyes, mouth open just a touch as though wanting to speak.

        “Ok, so… Flowers. This place really is girly. I thought the uniforms would make us look tough but…”

        “Sword of Celestia, grant me the power to achieve my ends!” Without any preamble, Candy Stripes brought her head down to Daisy Dreams’ chest, grasping something with her teeth and creating a flash of light. A prop sword was cleverly levitated low on the stage and slid out from under one of Daisy Dreams’ legs, a coating of seeming making it appear to be a wickedly edged real sword.

        “Hey! Wait a minute! Where did you get… And what are you gonna do with..?” Skydance stepped back slightly, closer to the edge of the field. And when she saw Candy Stripes charge her with a gleam in her eye she just started to run.

        Candy Stripes was dogged in her pursuit of Skydance, the sword slashing the wind as she charged over the stone field. She was fast, amazingly fast for someone that looked like she never worked a day in her life. She actually managed to get closer and closer, gaining on the retreating Pegasus, her wicked grin growing larger around the sword in her teeth.

        Skydance thought about what she was doing. It was completely against her nature. She wasn’t the kind to run. And certainly the prince would not have run. She turned quickly, and kicked out her right leg, aiming low at Candy Stripes’ legs, ducking her body as low as possible, out of the reach of the sword.

        Candy Stripes had dueled many a time, formally matching sword-to-sword with well-trained ponies that knew the old techniques and some of the formal varieties of invention and improvisation. But a turn and trip was completely unexpected. It sent her sprawling out, head tucking to prevent a full facial collision with the ground. In the process, the blade of the sword caught the ground at an odd angle and bounced up to cut the stem of the lily, which dropped to the field.

        Bells rang out over the scene, clanging loud and long as Candy Stripes lay on the ground, staring at her flower in disbelief. Daisy Dreams crossed the field, a smile on her face, to stand beside Skydance. “Congratulations. You have won the right to me, the Lily Friend. That was… Amazing.”

        “Wait… I did… What? What are you?” Skydance looked around. The sword was gone, Candy Stripes was glaring hatefully at her, and Daisy Dreams was pressing against her. “What?”

        The stage went dark again, and the backdrop was switched out yet again. In the low ambient light there could be seen a few loft beds being pushed onto the stage. The lights came up to reveal a background that looked like the inside of a bedroom. There was a desk on the painted background, the beds in the foreground, and three ponies, Country Roads, Daisy Dreams and Skydance. Country Roads was in a bed, looking down at Daisy Dreams and Skydance.

        “Well this is jes weird! Yew went tew deal with some pony and came back with yer own pet princess.”

        “She’s not a pet! And she’s not a princess. I think. I dunno. This is just.. Yea, weird. What did you say you were?”

        “I’m the Lily Friend. I go to the winner of the duels. I’m here to make you life come forth as you always wanted. And to help you reveal and maintain your Cutie Mark.”

        “Yea, duels… There’s a lot of explanation needed here. A lot of it. What is that place? And what’s with that… Sword?”

        “The dueling field has always been at Horsetari Academy. It is where the duels must take place. And the Sword of Celestia is granted to the holder of the Lily Friend. It will cut through the fog and reveal the path for you.”

        “And y’all won her? Great. Does she come with an off switch?” Country Roads flumped down onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

        “Yea… Ok… So, let me get this straight. Duels? Like… More than one? With who?”

        “The Student Council. Didn’t you recognize Candy Stripes?”

        “No, I’m new here, transferred late. How did I manage to get in on this? I’m not on the Student Council.”

        “But you have the necklace. That means you have earned the right to fight for me. Like a prince.”

        The statement stunned Skydance, and she could only look to Daisy Dreams, who was smiling at her.

        The lights went down again, while the orchestra began to play a very dark tune, heavy on the timpani drums and the intimidating shriek of a pipe organ. Even just a synthesizer version played by DJ Pon-3, it was quite intimidating. The lights came up in a muted form, with gray-tone filters over them to lend a dark air to the scene. It was a very Gothic-style chamber, containing a round wooden table around which were the members of the Student Council. At the side facing the audience was the back of Time Tokens, holding a stopwatch; to her right was a fuming Candy Stripes; to her left was a smugly-smiling Judgmental; and at the head was a figure in tightly-wrapped illusory shadows, looking larger than the others.

        The shadowy figure slowly unrolled a scroll, looking down at it seriously. “I have received another message from The Spaces Between. He is not very… Happy, about the performance of our friend Candy Stripes.”

        All eyes went to Candy Stripes, who looked even more upset. Time Tokens clicked the stopwatch on some unknown signal. “How was I supposed to know that little upstart would try something like that. And win? It was a fluke. And besides, we were never informed that someone like her would be here. How did she even get a necklace?”

        “Ours is not to question. It is just to win.” Judgmental coolly responded to the question with a smile. “We may no longer be Blank Flanks but that’s only half the riddle. We must use the Lily Friend to move our ambitions forward, to grasp what we most desire. We just need to fight her and win.”

        “And we will. The Spaces Between has sent word. Time Tokens, you will be the next to face her.” All eyes turned on Time Tokens, who clicked the stopwatch and then let it fall to the table.

        The music concluded with a flourish as the lights faded out. The backdrop changed and the actors shuffled, returning lights revealing Skydance and Daisy Dreams walking along the exterior of the Academy. “So, even though they all have their Cutie Marks, they’re still fighting over you?”

        “It’s not over once you get a Cutie Mark. That might even be the easy part. I can bring any dream to life if it is focused properly. I exist to serve the end of whoever is my champion. I’m like a bridge out, to something new and amazing.”

        “Who made up that rule? It’s no fun serving someone. Don’t you want to be free?”

        “I am free. Free to serve whoever has me. I like the fairy tale ending, being swept away by a great warrior, a handsome prince, who can make my dreams come true. So, I don’t mind serving as the Lily Friend.”

        “I don’t think that’s how it works. You can’t just wait for stuff like that. You’ve gotta work for it and go after it if it really means that much to you.”

        “But, that’s not how the old stories work. You’re supposed to wait and get what it is you want most. It will happen eventually without you doing anything. Every Cutie Mark comes along sooner or later.”

        Skydance was going to comment when she stopped in her tracks. There before her was Time Tokens, stopwatch in hoof. “The duel hath been thet. Today, I will have the Lily Friend and you will learn not to meth with fortheth you cannot underthand.”

        “Are you kidding? I thought this was over!”

        “No, you will have to duel the Student Council, and defeat them all. I pass from winner to winner. No one has kept me before and no one has won against the entire Student Council.”

        “This is going to get weirder and weirder.” With that statement the lights dropped once more and the scenery was hastily changed in the darkness. The return of light brought the dueling field, with Skydance, Daisy Dreams and Time Tokens standing on it.

        “Seriously? Again? I know that you said so, but come on…” Skydance stared incredulously at the cool and calm Time Tokens while Daisy Dreams placed a lily on her uniform.

        “The Student Council works on their own time and schedule, it’s not anything that anyone else understands.” Daisy Dreams pinned a lily to Time Tokens, who looked on impassively, stopwatch in a hoof.

        “Ok, so, now… Swords. I mean, real swords? There was that magic one and I had nothing. So do you not get…” The question stumbled as Time Tokens drew a sword from her loose uniform, the prop made to look like a real epee. “A real… One… Ok. Now… Magic sword…”

        Daisy Dreams trotted back to Skydance’s side and lifted her head. “You must draw the sword forth, calling out to it, Sword of Celestia. Tell it what you desire. You’re like me. I saw. You want something very specific. So tell it.” A bright flash of light shone from the chest area, the handle of a sword appearing to emerge from it.

        Skydance looked at the handle dubiously, but still called out, “Sword of Celestia… Grant me the power to bring Cutie Mark location!” Taking the handle in her teeth she drew it swiftly out with an audible metal scrape. She took what she thought was an appropriate fighting stance, looking hard at Time Tokens.

        With the click of the watch, Time Tokens charged, sword held steady in her mouth, steel flashing and swinging with audible slashes in the air. She wasn’t as brutally ruthless as Candy Stripes had been; what she was, was efficient. Every strike was done with a purpose, often chained together in an attempt at moving Skydance in a certain manner or getting her sword into a particular position for another strike at the lily.

        As before, the chains and single strokes were designed to function best against somepony who had been trained for them. Even when fighting, there were certain ingrained responses with sufficient education and practice. Skydance was making it up as she went along, and barely managing to do that. Her head waved side-to-side so much she was afraid she’d make a milkshake out of her brain. But it was helping. She wasn’t being stricken; the practiced moves worked to a point, when a random motion deflected some piece of the chain, or even the coup stroke.

        Time Tokens tried to look impassive but slowly started to sweat. Her eyes narrowed and her force increased. She pressed her attacks when she had the chance, often left cutting air when Skydance dashed out of her way and made a break for a more open, central position. Adjusting the sword in her teeth, she made a grand lunge for the wide-eyed Pegasus.

        Skydance turned the blow with a quick twist of her head and struck again under the the liften sword to slice off the huge lily. It hit the stone ground with a light thud, prompting Time Tokens to click the watch once more, and similarly drop it to the ground. “Thith ith impothible… I wath chothen by… How could I lothe?”

        “How in the hay did I win?” Skydance dropped the sword to the dueling field’s floor, staring at the flower-less Time Tokens. The sword slowly vanished, leaving behind nothing but an oddly-lumpy patch of ground, illusion laid over the actual prop.

        The lights went down again, with the normal shuffling of the scenery, the lights coming back up to reveal the dorm room. Country Roads was sitting before a vanity, looking at herself in a mirror. Her face was rather garishly made up, overmuch lipstick, too much blush, piles of eye shadow, great globs of mascara. “Oh ah’m a pretty lil filly, ah’m a citified country gal…” She sang slightly off-key, smiling at herself. It wasn’t that big, but she smiled anyhow. Too much makeup was what she saw a lot, and so she tried to make it work for her. “Ah’m a pretty lil filly, and ah loves mah new look…”

        All of a sudden there was a small tendril of sparkling violet curling up from among the makeup, a moist cloth clutched in it. Country Roads watched in shock as the tendril-held cloth gently started wiping at her face. Despite the great variety of cosmetics on her face, the cloth wiped it all away perfectly, leaving her in her pure, natural state. And from within the mirror, there came a hazy outline, and a soothing, calm voice. “You will never need this affected stuff, your natural beauty is enough.” The makeup gone and message stated, the tendril and image both vanished.

        Country Roads stared at the mirror, slowly extending a shaky hoof to try and touch it. Before she could, there was the sound of an opening door, Skydance and Daisy Dreams walking into the room a moment later. “Oh, hey there, gals. How did it go?”

        “Well, she’s still doing to be taking the spare bed in here, so I guess it went well. It was still weird. I had to fight someone. With a sword, and cut a lily from their uniform. This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.”

        “Weird stuff is happening all over.” Country Roads commented, looking to the mirror. It now looked exactly like it had prior to the event. The only thing somewhat confirming the event was the cloth, smudged with removed cosmetics and showing to have been held around the middle by a single, long appendage.

        “How long does it take between duels? That was a day, I don’t know if I can handle this every day.” Skydance slid into her bed, the lower of the free beds.

        “The Student Council does what they are told. They get direction from somewhere, at random. They can lay low and not do much but be ordinary students for a long time, or they can have a flurry of matches. No matter what, to the winner goes… Me.” Daisy Dreams slid into bed beside Skydance, pressing close against her.

        “Errr, yea… I see. Umm… Your bed is… It’s the top one.” Skydance wriggled uneasily against Daisy Dreams’ touch.

        “I don’t like to be alone. I’m glad you won me. Maybe you won’t leave me alone like the rest of them did…” Daisy Dreams looked sadly down, head settled against Skydance’s neck.

        Skydance looked completely lost, looking down at the sad unicorn pressing against her. A glance to Country Roads garnered only a shrug and a motion of her legs to indicate some kind of action. One leg lightly came up and around Daisy Dreams. “H-hey, it’s alright. If you need to sleep here, you can.”

        “Thank you.” Daisy Dreams remained cuddled up against Skydance, breathing slowly, almost seeming to sigh as her head rested there. Country Roads tilted her head a bit, but Skydance just gave her a smile and said something, sotto voce, not heard by the audience. “I need closeness. It’s the one thing that makes me happy.”

        “Then… Come on. Let’s go to sleep.” Skydance and Daisy Dreams curled up in the bed, back-to-back. This left Country Roads to trot over to the light and flick it off, dropping the lights to a low level before she climbed into her bed and flopped down.

        Over the darkened scene there appeared a pair of barely-visible eyes, which scanned across the sleeping fillies. A soft voice spoke out before the lights went down completely, “This fear you all attempt to hide, is born because you lack a guide.”

        The background shuffled, shifting once again to the imposing Gothic setting of the Student Council meeting room, with the appropriate background music swelling as the shadowy figure glared down at the rest of the members of the Council. All were cringing save for Judgmental. “Two. Two defeated. First by an unarmed filly, then by a spastic flailer. Are you sure you’re worthy of this position? To fight for the Lily Friend? Well, we shall see. There has been no word from The Spaces Between. Keep your heads low and your snouts clean. Until we get word, we must respect the holder of the Lily Friend.”

        Candy Stripes lifted a hoof. “Just how much… Respect, should we give her? She humiliated us, and has taken what rightfully belongs to the Student Council, not some upstart…”

        “All respect possible. By no means do you need to be polite. Avoid them if you can. But nothing too overt.” The shadowy figure nodded and moved its head. “Go then. Prepare for what is to come.”

        The music and lights dropped completely, the only sound being a rather busy and hurried scuffle in the background, dim ambient light showing a huge amount of work going on in the darkness. Furniture being scooted in, backdrop changed, extras trotting onto the stage.

        The lights came back up, with the orchestra playing a light classical tune. The scene was one of some kind of a party, illusion adding touches to make it look even more authentic. There were tables at the edges of the stage, lined with food and punch, while at the centers fillies and colts danced with each other.

        From the right side of the stage emerged Country Roads, Skydance and Daisy Dreams, dressed in their normal attire, as that was apparently the dress code for the gathering. Country Roads immediately went for the snack table, to consume apple cupcakes and drink the apple punch. It was on-script, but her enthusiasm made it quite the messy affair.

        Skydance shook her head subtly at the overly-enthusiastic consumption but went on with her lines, speaking aside to Daisy Dreams. “A dance? Seriously? This is weird. At my old place we had once at the end of the year. But you said this is the third one? I didn’t think I came in that late.”

        “Oh, we have lots of dances here. This Academy was founded by someone who was very connected to royalty and loved the grand balls and wonderful gatherings of the nobility. So it was decided that there would be frequent dances, according to the taste of the leader of the Academy. Typically once a week, with grander ones every so often. This is a very informal one.”

        Skydance looked at the colts and fillies carefully dancing together, in perfect step, the choreography aided on by subtle magical cues keeping them in time and place. “Wow. I hope I missed the grand ones.”

        Daisy Dreams pressed in against Skydance, pulling her lightly towards the center of the stage. “There’s still some left to come. Now please, dance with me. You promised me you wouldn’t leave me alone.”

        Skydance attempted to duck away from Daisy Dreams’ motions, but was pulled into the center of the dance floor, finding herself in the limelight, stared at by the other dancers. Daisy Dreams started to move, hooves and body moving in a manner that was smooth and easy. Skydance, for her part, moved in a jerky, uncertain fashion. It looked entirely scripted, but she pulled it off well enough.

        All of a sudden the ring of other dancers was broken by Candy Stripes, who trotted self-importantly through to the stunned Daisy Dreams and pushed at her. “I don’t care what happened, you’re still mine.”

        “Hey! I don’t really care about all this Student Council junk, but you can’t just treat somepony like that.” Skydance was in Candy Stripes’ face right away, shoving hard against her.

        “Skydance…” Daisy Dreams looked almost taken aback by the whole thing. She moved in close behind her, gently placing a hoof on her back. “Don’t. What would it prove other than she can make you mad and mess up your concentration?”

        Skydance scowled hard and seemed to be ready to push into Candy Stripes’ face. But she just turned aside and looked with a bit of surprise at Daisy Dreams. “So what if she does? Why shouldn’t I let her get to me? We’re fillies. We can mix it up.”

        “But do you want to? It’s you, I know. It’s who you are. But is it worth it? To lose me to a jealous beast?”

        “Beast?! Why you…”

        “No.” Skydance glared back at Candy Stripes. “I think I’ll keep you around a while longer.” Skydance trotted away from the dance floor, moving her head slightly. “C’mon, let’s get some snacks before Country Roads eats them all.”

        The two left Candy Stripes seething at her inability to move Skydance to an unscheduled fight. Judgmental moved up beside Candy Stripes and watched the two fillies moving off. “So this is the new respect. I had no idea it looked so much like belligerence.”

        “We were to be respectful but not polite. I was… Expressing a view. I still think she was mine. She had no right to fight me. No right to challenge me at all. So her ownership isn’t sure.”

        “Didn’t you challenge her?” Judgmental grinned smugly.

        With a scowl from Candy Stripes, the lights went down.  After a quick shuffle of scenery, the lights came up on the dueling field, Skydance holding the Sword of Celestia, facing down Judgmental who was looking at a lily on the ground. “I see. Even with your inexperience I never had a chance. I guess it’s true. You’re something special indeed.”

        Skydance released the sword, which vanished before it hit the floor. Skydance dropped to the ground, sitting with a disbelieving stare at the severed lily. She had thought it would be impossible to beat one more Student Council member. “How do I do this? What’s keeping me from losing?”

        Daisy Dreams softly pressed her head against Skydance’s cheek, pushing her slowly towards the stairs down from the dueling field. “You do it because you’re focused on a real goal. You want your Cutie Mark. And because of that you have guidance from the Sword of Celestia. It makes little motions that make all the difference.”

        “Oh… So it’s the sword that does it…” Skydance slowly walked along the stairs and down the path towards the campus proper. “But why me? What’s so special about me that made this kinda thing happen? I was just walking by when I saw you with Candy Stripes.”

        “You didn’t have to stop. But you did.” Daisy Dreams pressed up close to Skydance and rubbed her nose under the other filly’s chin.

        Before Skydance could reply, both of them were faced down by an older mare. She was dressed in an Academy uniform as ostentatious as Skydance’s own, and similarly stallion-styled. She had rainbow-divided mane and tail with a sky blue body. A set of powerful wings lightly unfolded and folded on her back. “You’ve been doing good. It’s very impressive. I suppose you deserve some congratulations.”

        “Who are you?” Skydance looked on the new arrival with a mix of caution and subtle awe.

        “That’s the President of the Student Council. Ace Pinnacle. She gets all the messages that say who will fight who. She’s still waiting to be told to fight.”

        “Wait’s over. I got the message right after the one that sent Judgmental at you. We’re gonna be fighting.”

        “Us? You’re a full-grown mare! How did you even get on the council anyhow?”

        “It must be headed by someone like me. Keeps things in line. Besides, I think it was fate. We’ve met before, you know. You know me, even if you don’t remember. I’m your Prince. I can be really convincing as a colt.”

        There was a sting of music and a sudden flash of light, an illusion suddenly focusing on Skydance’s huge, disbelieving eyes, covering the entire stage. “Wh-what?” Her voice boomed, a waver added to it that made it sound like an internal monologue. “My… My prince? What? I mean… I don’t remember if he was actually a he. Or a Pegasus or unicorn or earth pony. I don’t remember. Suddenly, she seems familiar. Maybe I do remember. There’s something there…”

        “So how long has she been like this?” The illusion faded out, leaving the stage visible, showing the dorm once more, Country Roads peering at the stiff Skydance, while Daisy Dreams mopped her head down with a cool, moist towel.

        “Ever since she saw Ace Pinnacle. She’s technically the President of the Student Council, but I’m not sure what she actually is. She’s not really a teacher, a student, an administrator. She’s just… Here. And she said that she was Skydance’s prince in disguise.”

        “Really!? Wait a minute. Yew mean this whole time that prince was really a princess? What does that mean? How does that even work?”

        “It’s like Skydance. She dresses like a colt but she’s a filly. And she said she’s good at looking like a colt when she wants to.”

        “I think…” Skydance suddenly spoke. “I think I remember. I remember her, twice. I remember the prince as a dim, little memory. But I also remember a rainbow mane and tail, saving me when I was trying to fly. It was a heroic moment. Very… Prince-like.”

        “So you mean, it might be true? She might be that there prince yer all crazy over finding’?”

        “I don’t know. But I should at least find out. I’ve gotta fight her anyway. So I’ll ask about that and whatever she says, well… I at least remember a little something now.”

        “But can you trust what you remember? The Student Council wants me back. And Ace has never been good at losing. She’ll do anything she can to avoid it.” Daisy Dreams softly placed her head on Skydance’s shoulder, looking up with large, liquid eyes.

        “Hey, you said it yourself. The Sword knows what I want. And it helps me win. So there’s no worry. I’ll do this easily. You’re kinda starting to grow on me. By the way, sleep the other way. You poked me in the nose the other night, about an inch from getting weird.”

        Daisy Dreams placed her head softly on Skydance’s chest, looking happy and content. “Whatever you say…”

        The lights went down once more and the scene shifted to a very foggy dueling field, Skydance facing down Ace Pinnacle. She was just drawing out the sword. “Sword of Celestia, grant me the…” She looked to the smugly-smiling Pegasus mare, even more sure she recognized her. “The power to bring…” She HAD been the one that saved her life. “To bring Cutie Mark location.” She must have been the prince.

        “Good luck, kid. Even if there’s no use. After all, I’m the prince.” With a flourish of her sword, the duel began.

        Daisy Dreams stood to the side, watching the heavy drama build, as the fog rolled in even more thickly, leaving the audience able to see only silhouettes. “Don’t forget what you’re fighting for!” She cried out, desperately staring into the thick cloud.

        The silhouettes rose into the air, magically projected onto the fog. They circled one another warily, swords held high in their mouths, ready to be brought to bear. Skydance made the first move, dashing forward hard and cutting at Ace Pinnacle’s chest. The blow was turned and returned with ease, the extra strength in the larger mare sending the filly sailing across the sky.

        Skydance righted herself and turned to where she last saw her opponent. There was nothing there. She rushed towards that point, just to keep moving and turned her head just in time to block a heavy diving strike. She tumbled through the fog again, quickly regaining her balance and going on the attack once more.

        As the heavy blows were traded in midair, a double illusion panel appeared in front of the stage, one showing Skydance’s face, the other showing Ace Pinnacle’s face. The fight raged and the faces remained mostly steady, both fixed in serious scowls of focus. But as it continued, Skydance began to soften her features, eventually coming to regard her opponent with a wide-eyed look. On the other side, Ace Pinnacle went from serious to confident, smiling and giving a long, smooth stare.

        With a slide of metal-on-metal and a quick wisp of sound a lily was severed and fell to the ground. Bells rang out triumphantly as both figures came to the ground. The tolling of bells cleared the fog, revealing the tableaux. Daisy Dreams looked on in stunned disbelief, as Ace Pinnacle touched down with a look of triumph before a cowed-looking Skydance, sans lily.

        “H-how… How did I lose..? The sword was leading me. The sword was supposed to…” Skydance looked down at the sword as it faded away.

        “The sword only guides you to your heart’s desire. It moves to help you win. If you want to win.” Daisy Dreams whispered the words, slowly clopping to Ace Pinnacle’s side.

        “You didn’t want to win. You couldn’t bring yourself to want it. Couldn’t bear to beat your prince. That’s why you lost. You just didn’t have it in you. Don’t feel so bad, kid. There was no way you were going to win anyhow. Come on, let’s go. I won you fair and square.” Ace Pinnacle motioned with her head, leading Daisy Dreams away down the stairs.

        Skydance, looked down at the fallen lily, and hung her head in shame as the lights went down. However, a single spotlight remained focused on her. Around her head, an illusory conversation was carried out, between herself and Country Roads.

        “What do ya mean she’s not gonna be livin’ here no more?”

        “It’s just what I said. She’s not going to be here anymore.”

        “But why?”

        “Why do you think? Because I lost her, that’s why!”

        “’Lost her’? She’s not yer keys or a book! She’s another filly! She’s prob’ly alone and scared and sad, just like she used tew be! She trusted yew! What are yew gonna dew?”



        “What AM I gonna do?”

        Skydance stood up suddenly, a bright flash of light illuminating the stage. There was no backdrop, just a black expanse. She marched boldly to the side, where Ace Pinnacle stood beside a dejected Daisy Dreams. “Hey! Ace! I don’t care if you are my prince  or how I remember you! Daisy said she was never happy with the Student Council but she LOVED being with me! I don’t care if it’s against the rules, I’ll challenge you again. Just you and me, right here and now.”

        Ace Pinnacle laughs, long and loud, the sound amplified to make it far more obnoxious, and confident. “Really? A day of moping and suddenly you’re a super warrior? That’s not really how it works, kid. But fine. Come to the Dueling Field. Anytime you’re ready, I’ll be there. Oh, and bring a sword. You won’t keep getting lucky.”

        Skydance was returned to primary focus, and moved back to the center of the stage. She looked upwards into the light, while a disembodied voice spoke. “We got a message from the president of the Student Council. Congratulations on being accepted to the fencing club, even late. She wanted us to release this foil to you. No need to tell you to be careful, if they’re letting you in, they’ve seen you fight. No more practice swords, eh?” A plain, unassuming, knob-blunted foil came down, and was taken up by Skydance, who walked forward.

        The lights went up again to reveal the stone door of the dueling field. She boldly moved up to face it, greeted by the familiar flash of light, grinding of stone and peeling of the gate’s petals. Once more, the appeared to take to the stairs, while special effects and strongly orchestrated music made the travel seem real.

        At the “top” of the stairs were Ace Pinnacle and Daisy Dreams, as promised. Ace already looked like she had won, and was wearing her lily on her chest. “You never should have come here. This isn’t your fight. It’s none of your concern. It never was. You were a mistake, Candy Stripes’ own attitude getting the better of her. So, go on. Leave. Save yourself the trouble.”

        Daisy Dreams slowly approached Skydance, a lily in her mouth. As she clipped the flower to the other filly’s chest, she looked up with tear-stained features, eyes red and raw. She spoke a few words, some unheard by the audience, two amplified enough to carry. “Rescue me…”

        Skydance’s wings flew open, a commanding ‘woosh’ imposed on the scene to enhance what little material there was to work with. “She’s not a thing. She’s a pony. And she doesn’t want to be with you.”

        “What she wants doesn’t matter. She’s the Lily Friend. She’ll do this until we’re told to stop. Like I said, it’s not your concern. You’re a matter to be handled.” Ace Pinnacle leaned down to Daisy Dream’s glowing chest. “Sword of Celestia, grant me the power to bring ultimate understanding!”

        Skydance leaped up and began to rise, as did Ace Pinnacle. The two pegasi stared at one another, neither one seeming eager to make the first move. Then something stirred Skydance. She streaked towards the older mare with a gleam in her eye.

        The Sword of Celestia was a real sword, a mystic blade with a wicked edge wielded by a trained and experience warrior; the other sword was a mass-produced steel foil without an edge or a tip. Therefore it was no surprise that the contact between the two was short and tragic. Skydance made contact near the tip of her weapon against the middle of Ace Pinnacle’s. Both of them swung so hard the blunted tip was sheared clean off.

        Skydance quickly whipped around and stabbed rapidly at the lily before her. The sliced foil had become a perfectly pointed stabbing impliment. Rather than sweeping, she could stab rapidly, any sweep in danger of missing and leaving the lily open to further picking. Ace Pinnacle narrowed her eyes and used the force of her wings to try and propel herself into Skydance, to no effect save a change in the place of battle.

        “I told you to give up! Don’t make this harder on yourself. The sword will do as I tell it.” Ace Pinnacle mouthed her lines around the handle, the words pre-recorded and played back by the sound system.

        “I don’t care! You’re not going to hurt Daisy anymore!” Skydance twisted her head around and around, swirling her foil with the Sword of Celestia and pushing forward with all her might. That made Ace Pinnacle push back, exactly as intended. She couldn’t dislodge the sword form the mare’s mouth, but she used it as an anchor point, focusing on keeping her foil against it to guide her in. With a flick of her head, which gave the game away, the point of her chopped foil dug into the flesh of the flower and pulled it from the uniform.

        Bells exploded into clanging as the impaled flower waved on the tip of the damaged foil. Both of the soaring pegasi came down to the floor of the dueling field, Skydance met by a crying Daisy Dreams. “I knew it! I knew you could do it! I knew you wouldn’t leave me with them. You saved me…”

        “Hey, I promised. You’re kinda growing on me. And you’re getting good at not poking me in the nose with that thing when you turn in your sleep.” The two fillies touched their muzzles, looking into one another’s eyes.

        “What I wanted, and how to win… Two different things entirely. I get it now.” Ace Pinacle hit the ground and looked over to the two fillies. “I guess it just takes focus. Fine. Unauthorized duel, surprise win. I’ll get a notice about what to do in a bit. Enjoy your little victory.” She smiled, sheepish but sincere. “Hey, I mean it. Enjoy it. I don’t really lose. Ever.”

        “I’m taking her away. Somehow. I won’t let you take her to do weird stuff anymore. All this fighting and Student Council stuff… It’s not normal. And she deserves better.” Skydance and Daisy Dreams walked off the stage to the left.

        “Keep telling yourself that, kid…” Ace Pinnacle was left on the stage, the background fading and a spotlight growing brighter overhead. She placed her hooves down and there was a flash of light. The hooves impacted a table, around which was the Student Council. “So… This is unnatural.”

        “Does this mean its over? Finally?” Judgmental looked hopefully to the head of the table, and shot a quick glance down at Candy Stripes.

        :No! It can’t be over! I never got what I wanted out of this deal! I jumped through all the hoops, and I will NOT leave this empty-hoofed!” Candy Stripes petulantly pounded the table and shook her head, tears pouring down from her eyes.

        “Calm down. We’ll find out what’s going on. I have a new message from The Spaces Between. Our newest instructions for what to do about this situation.” She unrolled a scroll and began to read from it. “You have all… Failed. The duty was simple, to keep the Lily Friend in your grasp. The actions of one upstart destroyed all that work. Could you be that pathetic and worthless?” As the others started to react to the words, they failed to notice the deep, royal blue mass that was arranged around the table, and was snaking tendrils up along their bodies. “Because of this, it seems that the best solution to all of this is to take such matters into my own hooves.”

        Time Tokens was the first one to notice the tendrils snaking up her body. She had only enough time to click her watch and drop it before the tendrils wrapped around her limbs and over her face. That was enough to attract the notice of the others, save Ace Pinnacle, who read on. “To that end, I will be taking possession of all the resources previously delegated to you.” None made a sound. Their mouths were shut with the blue tendrils, all their limbs taken up, like marionettes on colorful strings. “There is no room for failure. You will become far more effective…”

        The blue slid up Ace Pinnacle’s legs, unfelt as she said the last words. “Because I will guide you as I always should have.” The scroll fell down to the table as the Pegasus struggled against the now-encroaching tendrils. “We had a deal! We had a deal! You can’t do this to me! You promised me..!”

        The words were silenced by blue wrapping around her mouth. She was swiftly pulled into the darkness around the table with the rest of the student council. An illusory image of the table’s top was shown to the audience. It was embossed with the image of a stargazer lily. But the blue swept across the surface, leaving the image of a calla in its wake, right before the curtain came down.


Revelatory Filly Skydance

By: Gabriel LaVedier

Act Two: The Calla Saga

Dramatis Personae

Scootaloo as Skydance

Sweetie Belle as Daisy Dreams

Applebloom as Country Roads

Diamond Tiara as Candy Stripes

Silver Spoon as Judgmental

Twist as Time Tokens

Rainbow Dash as Ace Pinnacle

Zecora as The Violet Witch

        The curtain rose on the stage which was set up for the dorm again. Country Roads was at her mirror, wiping at her face with a moist cloth, cleaning up the slight grime of an ordinary day and looking deeply into her own features. She could only smile at herself. Natural beauty indeed. She looked good enough and that was fine.

        From the side emerged Skydance and Daisy Dreams, Daisy Dreams leaning against Skydance as though she was exhausted. “Guess who won? Don’t even ask me how, I don’t think even I believe it.”

        “Oh my gosh! Amazin‘! And now she’s back fer good, right?”

        “Nope. We’re not staying. We’re getting out of here.”

        “Wait, you were serious about that? You really want to leave the Academy? I thought you just meant you were going to stop dueling because you didn’t want to fight anymore.”

        “Well, I was but, you know… We really need to get out of here. This place is crazy and it’s not going to get any less crazy no matter how long we wait. Let’s just head for the front, and walk out. You can call your parents and they’ll take us back home. Country, you wanna come too?”

        “Ah… Ah cain’t go.” Country Roads looked into the mirror, running her hooves over her face. “Ah still feel like ah have to be here, there’s somethin’ fer me tew dew here. Ah wish yew luck, though, Skydance. Yew’ve been good tew me.”

        Skydance nodded to Country Roads, then turned to face Daisy Dreams. “Come on. Let’s get out and never look back.” From under the prop bed she dug out two helmets, and a wooden scooter. She quickly tossed one helmet over to her compatriot and slid on her own.

        “I… I don’t know…” Despite the clear doubt, Daisy Dreams put on her helmet, and mounted the scooter behind Skydance.

        With a buzz from Skydance’s wings, they were off, the entire dorm set moving off stage while the backdrop cycled through scenes of hallways and exterior shots, moving faster and faster until they screeched to a halt before a set of massive, painted gates, looking well-sealed and, apparently, made of wood and iron.

        “Hey! Open up! Let us out of here!” Nothing moved, and no voice responded to Skydance’s call. “I said, let us out! We, uh… We’ve got a pass to go off campus!” Still nothing. “You can’t just keep us here! I demand, um… I demand to speak to… Someone! Someone official! Let me talk to my caretakers! Let me out!”

        “Skydance…” Daisy Dreams gently tapped Skydance on the shoulder. “I’ve never seen the gates open. I don’t think anyone has. No one ever leaves. We just stay in the dorms and get taken care of. I just… I don’t know how, but I know we can’t leave here. We’ve never been able to leave. Think about it, have you talked to anyone outside since you got here? How did you even get here?”

        “I was… I was living with a foster family, after I left Cloudsdale. And then some things happened. And then I was living here. I knew Country Roads from the town I lived in with my foster parents.”

        “But how did you GET here?”

        Skydance was quiet for a while, looking up at the huge backdrop. “What is this place? What happened? Are we… Are we dead?”

        “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I just know that I can’t even remember what I was doing before this. All I remember is walking around the campus, wondering what was going on. Then the Student Council made me the Lily Friend and I started figuring things out about this place. But I still don’t know enough.”

        Skydance looked at the gate once more and reached out a hoof, almost touching the backdrop. “This is weird. We need to do SOMETHING. We can’t just stay here. Somehow, I don’t think the Student Council is gonna be too happy about getting beaten.”

        “Stop accepting the challenges. You have me, and you don’t want me to go back. So just don’t say anything the next time they challenge you to a duel. That way, they can get as mad as they want, but they can’t really do anything about it. It’s perfect.”

        “I guess that would work. I just… I wish I knew what was happening.” Skydance mounted the scooter again, and looked up at the huge gate. After feeling Daisy Dreams re-mount the vehicle, she buzzed her wings and zipped off the stage.

        The lights fell and the background changed, as evidenced by the sound of flapping fabric and a slight thud. The lights came back up to find Skydance and Country Roads walking in front of the main school building, occasionally passing indistinct background ponies. “So you really don’t remember actually arriving here?”

        “Naw. Ah jes recall hearin’ that ah got in. Then the next thing ah knows, ah’m settin’ up in the room thinkin’ ah’m so lucky tew be here. It IS powerful strange that we don’t remember ever comin’ in or anythin’ else.”

        Skydance stopped to look up at the backdrop of the school. “I mean… The place is nice. Big, fancy, lots of history… Or… Wait… It… Doesn’t have any history… How do we know about this place?”

        “What dew ya mean? This is Horsetari Academy, the most famous of all private academies in all of Equestria.”

        “Yea… But why? How old is it? Who’s come out of here that’s famous? What’s the… Soccer team? The Rugby team? The school fight song?”

        “Ah… Ah…” Country Roads looked up at the painted school, suddenly shivering. “Ah don’t know nothing’ ‘bout this school ‘cept what it’s called. Ah never cared before…”

        “And that never bothered either of us because we didn’t need the details. All the little things made just enough sense. But thinking exactly about it makes us remember, we don’t remember.”

        After a moment of looking up at the backdrop, Candy Stripes walked stiffly in from the side. Her face was blank and slack, eyes just focused on Skydance. “You have the Lily Friend. She is property of the Student Council. You will submit to defeat and return her.”

        “First of all, she’s not a thing! You ponies are creepy! Stop talking about her like she’s just a piece of furniture. And secondly, oh, you’ve got a lot of nerve. Like I’ll lose to you again. Not happening. But I’m not going to agree with that attitude. Not like I would. I’m not going to make her think she’s an object to be fought over.”

        “It is not your decision. You have the Lily Friend. You drew the Sword of Celestia. You fought. Enough to lose and win again. Return to the field to fight. It is your duty. You must obey the will of the Council.”

        “So… Are you going to force me up there?”

        Candy Stripes looked blankly at Skydance for a moment. “No. We do not have the ability.”

        “Then, I’ve got class in a bit. Later.” Skydance and Country Roads both walked away off stage, leaving behind Candy Stripes to be dropped into darkness.

        The lights came up on Country Roads in front of her mirror, brushing her long, red hair. She casually glanced at a clock on the wall, then over to a set of saddlebags. “Still got time tew get tew class. Gotta keep mah hair lookin’ purty.”

        The bow on the dressing table came up and down again, held by violet tendrils. It settled down atop her head and adjusted itself to a perfect position. All around, an airy voice said, “Now out the door! And you will see,/ Nothing impresses like responsibility.”

        Country Roads looked into the mirror hard, staring at her bow while her hooves felt at her hair. Nothing remained in her hair save the bow. She had seen that. It had happened. But she very quickly stood up and slipped on her saddlebags. Before rushing off the stage, she looked to the mirror again. “Th-thank y’all kindly! Ah… Ah didn’t… Ah sorry fer wastin’ time.”

        The lights went back down, but came up again very quickly, revealing three desks facing towards a backdrop of a classroom. On the far right sat Country Roads, who kept adjusting the bow in her hair; in the middle was Skydance; and taking a seat at the left side was Time Tokens.

        While a sonorous male voice droned on in the background on some esoteric subject, Time Tokens turned towards Skydance and leaned in slightly. “Your refuthal to acthept the duel will not help you. You will be made to fight. The Lily Friend ith part of thomething much bigger than you can imagine. Give in to your role and lothe to someone in the Thudent Counthil tho that the dethtined action can go on.”

        Skydance slowly turned her head to the side, an incredulous look on her features. “Seriously? In the middle of class? I don’t even like class or pay attention that much. But even I know that it’s stupid to interrupt the teacher. Why are you even sitting here? You’ve never sat back here before.”

        “I cannot be punithed by the teacher. And he will not even notith uth. Thith ith a matter for the Thudent Counthil. That keepth uth out of hith notith. Now, go to the dueling field. Bring the Lily Friend. Fight uth ath you are dethtined to.”

        “Umm, hello? Still in class. And I told your creepy little friend that I’m not going to treat Daisy like a thing. So just… Get over yourselves. And quit talking to me. Leave me alone.” Saying that, she took a pencil into her mouth and started to imitate taking notes as the voice went on.

        “Pssst… What’s she sayin’? Alls ah can hear is hissin’ and spittin’.”

        “Not important. More stupid Student Council stuff. Just keep on ignoring her.” Skydance spoke softly around the pencil, looking straight ahead and not even bothering to noticed that Time Tokens was staring at her with the same vacant expression Candy Stripes had given her.

        The lights went down, some shining of telekinesis visible in the darkness while hooves moved on the stage. The lights came up again to show Skydance in a line behind Country Roads, with trays placed on a counter. Behind them in the queue came Judgmental. Skydance turned her head and glared. “Really? While I’m eating? Seriously? This is quickly going from creepy to just sad. Leave me alone. You’re just wasting your time.”

        “You will be convinced in one manner or another. There’s no escaping this. It is now your destiny. You interfered where you did not belong. And now you need to see it through to the end. You shouldn’t have interfered. Now do your duty and fight us for the Lily Friend.”

        “Yer askin’ fer a good ol’ fashioned farmland whoopin’ is what yer doin’!” Country Roads rather angrily turned on Judgmental, glaring past Skydance at the blank-looking filly. “Yew leave Sky an’ Daisy alone or ah’ll whup yer flank so bad you’ll be a Blank Flank again! Ah ain’t even kiddin’. Yew Student Council ponies is jes gettin’ on mah nerves and ah’ve had enough!”

        Judgmental looked on, her face unchanging. “You are not part of this. You have no business speaking to members of the Student Council. Do not speak to us any longer. And you, holder of the Lily Friend. Come to the field. Fight. Fulfill your destiny.” With that, she trotted out of line and offstage.

        “This is just going to get more and more annoying. At least they’re running out of members. Unless they start repeating themselves.” Responding to a cue, Skydance and Country Roads slid down the counter with their trays.

        The lights came down, and a spot went up, highlighting Daisy Dreams at the front of the stage while the back was cleared. “I should understand this more than I do. I’m the center of all this. But I understand even less than Skydance does. How did I get here? Where did I come from? Who am I really? Why me?”

        “It was never just about you. That was the most important part of all this.” Another spotlight came up, highlighting Ace Pinnacle. “Did you really think that a foretold event could be put off by a stranger coming in? Not much of a prophecy if it just takes one bystander to mess it up. So you know what that means.”

        “But you were always fighting over me. Passing me back and forth, making me help everyone move towards their goal. If I’m not important then why did you do that?”

        “We had to wait.”

        “Wait for what?”

        “For this very moment…” A blue mist engulfed the scene, the spotlights filtered in blue before the cut out with the loud thunk of the power suddenly cutting off.

        A spotlight came back on, illuminating a bunk bed, while Skydance entered from the right and shook her head before throwing herself into the bottom bunk. “Today is going to go down in history as the worst one ever. Student Council stupidity, I got a D on my last test, and lunch was terrible. I didn’t think you could burn salad. Sorry I’m late. I took the long way back. Country was keeping you company, right?” She lifted her head and looked across into the darkness.

        Another spotlight popped on, illuminating the area Skydance was looking at. Country Roads was laying on the floor, looking out cold. Surrounding her was a swirling mass of violet energy, which leaped up and vanished once it had been observed.

        “Country!” Skydance rose up and ran over to her friend, gently nudging at her. She looked unhurt, just stunned. She groaned softly but didn’t do much else. Beside her on the ground was a note, written in blue ink on crisp, white paper. A close-up was presented over the stage as Skydance read it aloud. “Destiny is destiny. The pieces are in place and they will not be prevented from meeting their final fate. Come to the dueling field to face what you have been running from. It ends today. You would not dare disappoint your idol. Or the Lily Friend. Do not disobey.

        “No… Daisy…” Skydance looked offstage, and then quickly dove under her bed to pull out her scooter. Before she could take off, Country Road’s body was lifted up by violet tendrils and placed against her back.

        “Keep her safe as you battle today,/ And never forget to trot your own way.” A voice echoed around the room, and the violet tendrils slowly stroked Country Road’s mane.

        “What’s happening? Please! Can you help me? Tell me what to do!” Skydance tried to look back, but found herself unable to do so with Country Roads balanced precariously against her.

        “A lesson hard which you must learn,/ Only to yourself should you turn. In times of trouble and to-do/ No one knows your heart like you.” The violet tendrils placed helmets on both fillies and again stroked the mane of Country Roads. “Never fear the path you choose./ Walk it proudly and you will not lose.”

        With a quick nod, Skydance buzzed her wings and zipped offstage, the lights dropping as she did. There was a slight bit of motion as the beds moved offstage, and the backdrop was replaced. When the lights came up, Skydance and a shakily-standing Country Roads were standing before the great rose gate to the dueling field. “What happened in there? What was with all that… purple stuff and the weird voice?”

        “Ah… Ah don’t really know. Fer a while ah’ve been getting’ help and advice from a rhymin’ voice and all those purple thingies. Then today when ah was in the room talkin’ tew Daisy, this big blue thing burst in. Alls ah saw was her get grabbed and a big bolt of blue come at me. Then the purple stuff came an’ protected me. But ah still fainted.”

        “Well, whatever it is, it told me to take care of you. So I’ll do it. Come on, you get to watch me kick flank. Time to teach those Student Council weirdoes a lesson.” With that, Skydance marched to the gate and let it see her necklace, starting the familiar special effects sequence with the opening of the gate and climbing of the stairs. The only difference was Country Roads following her up the winding staircase.

        At the top of the stairs, the sky seemed strangely dark, far more overcast and threatening than it had been on the ground. The field itself seemed different, the stones rougher and less evenly-set. And on the field, the entire Student Council, holding Daisy Dreams.

        “I can’t believe you did this! I don’t care what kind of weird school this is, and I don’t care how mysterious it is! You can’t just kidnap somepony and get away with it. And if nopony else comes after you, I will. You want me to beat you, I’ll beat you.”

        Ace Pinnacle nudged Daisy Dreams over, sending her trotting over to press in against Skydance. “We will make this as appropriate as possible. Draw the Sword of Celestia as is your right. Fight until your muscles ache and your eyes fail. Fight as long as you think you can stand. And fall, in the end. Fulfill the destiny set out for you.”

        “I was so scared. They came for me and just brought me here. I don’t even remember how. It was all just a blur.” Daisy Dreams rubbed her head against Skydance, wiping her tears away on her uniform and shivering.

        “Don’t worry. They’re not getting what they want.” Skydance kissed Daisy Dreams on the head and then shouted over at the Student Council. “Why would you do this? If you could have kidnapped her anyway why did you keep bothering me to come fight you? If you wanted her so badly, why all this stuff?”

        “You didn’t really think you were an accident, did you?” Candy Stripes stepped forward, drawing a sword as Ace Pinnacle continued to speak. “There’s no accidents involved in destiny. Everything was in place the moment you got that necklace. Why do you think it worked?”

        Skydance looked down at the stage, then back up at the Student Council. “Fine. I’ll play your mind games.” She leaned down and took hold of the sword handle which appeared with a flash. “Sword of Celestia! Grant me the power to bring Cutie mark Location!“ The sword was drawn with a flourish, spotlights glowing brighter, the environment looking less gloomy. In that moment, Daisy Dreams pinned a large, bone-white calla lily to Skydance’s chest. “Focus… Focus on one thing. And I can win.”

        “I love pony tales…” Ace Pinnacle spoke as Candy Stripes lunged, clashing sword-to-sword with Skydance. “I love them, but I stopped believing in them a long time ago.”

        The fight was uneven from the start. Skydance was still full of righteous fury and was fresh from consoling Daisy Dreams. Savage twists of her body and flicks of her neck knocked back Candy Stripe’s sword. And she barely even reacted. “I never wanted to fight. Fighting is beneath me.” Her mouth moved as pre-recorded lines played. “But I needed the power I was promised. I needed to have more than a cutie mark. I needed something… Something I could never name.

        “It was always about something more. But nothing I ever did was enough. The Lily Friend was supposed to give me all I ever desired. But each time I got what I wanted, through her, I was never satisfied. And when I lost… I could never believe I could lose to anyone. I knew what I needed! Something. Some… Thing…”

        The sword flew from between Candy Stripe’s teeth after a powerful flick from Skydance, her next motion cleanly severing the calla lily from her shirt, bells exploding into jubilant clanging as it hit the ground. “Now, we’re leaving…”

        As Skydance and Daisy Dreams started walking away, Time Tokens stepped forward, sword drawn and calla pinned. “No. You fail to appreciate what this is…” Ace Pinnacle spoke as Time Tokens charged, meeting Skydance sword to sword. “This is the confrontation to retrieve what is rightfully the property of the Student Council. A battle of real meaning.”

        “She! Is not! Property!” Skydance slammed her sword viciously against Time Tokens’, throwing her weight into the attack.

        “The’s not property to me. The’s a pathage.” Time Tokens struck with mechanical precision, moving her body in simple chains, turning and deflecting the vicious blows thrown her way. “The’s the thecret to reaching my dreamth. I’m tho alone, even in the Thudent Counthil. With the Lily Friend, I have a friend who can’t leave. And if I’m not alone, maybe I can move on to what I want motht.”

        Skydance was not moved by Time Tokens’ speech. She used the mechanical precision of the strikes against their deliverer, sword held out and steady while a blow was made, hitting the sword down and at an angle, slapping the sharp blade against the calla’s curled petal and spike, slicing them from the rest of the flower, resulting in a new ringing of bells. “Let us go you monster!”

        “’Monster’? You’re very ungrateful to your heroine. I saved your life. At least appreciate that and do what you’re told. You only have to lose and it’s all over.” Ace Pinnacle looked impassively upon the scene of Time Tokens slowly moving away from the main site of battle, Judgmental trotting up to face Skydance.

        “Never! I’ll do anything to keep her free.” Skydance warily circled Judgmental, who did not seem very inclined to attack. She simply trotted along, slowly eyeing her opponent. It was a tense standoff, both moving in and out of the circle, Skydance not wanting to rush a strike, and Judgmental simply being inscrutable.

        “I never wanted to do any of this.” A quick slice glanced off of Skydance’s sword, and another made the metal ring as it quickly cut in from another angle. “I only wanted one thing in all the world. One thing I couldn’t have. There’s never been anything I couldn’t have before. But then they promised me that if I fought, I could have it.” The strikes rained down, fast and brutal, the dainty-looking filly twisting her head and stabbing her body forward with an almost murderous abandon, not seeming to care much if her sword was aimed at the calla lily. “But it was all a lie. I didn’t get what I wanted. No matter how much I won, I was defeated just as quickly.

        “Victory meant nothing, defeat meant less. All I wanted were eyes on me, and she never even saw me there. Never got jealous when I held the Lily Friend, never stopped to make me feel better when I lost her. Didn’t have the emotions to curse me or comfort me. And even so, I would still do anything for what I wanted most. And if this is what it takes I’ll do it.”

        Skydance was on the defensive. Her sword rang and flashed, deflecting the almost-undirected blows and attempting to turn them away from her face. She couldn’t get a good thrust or swing of her own in, the rain of strikes was like a deluge. “Hey! Watch it! You’re not even trying to hit this stupid flower!”

        “I. Don’t. CARE!” The following attacks were harsh and staggered, aiming for practically everything except the target. “This whole thing is meaningless. It doesn’t matter. I just did what I was told and got nothing. Maybe if I finish this whole thing off, I won’t have to keep doing this.”

        There was a motion from the Student Council, Candy Stripes slowly coming forward and shaking her head, as though coming out of a long, foggy sleep. “Judgmental… Do you mean you… I thought you wanted her so bad because she was your destiny.”

        “I only wanted her so you would see me.” Even while speaking, Judgmental never turned around, or stopped attacking. Her moves were getting more erratic. Not enough that they could be countered; on the contrary, anything but dedicated defense would be suicidal. She was making almost a hailstorm of metal.

        “I hated her so much.” Candy Stripes walked onto the field, looking slightly stiff and jerky. “Every time I saw her with you, I wanted to get her. For myself and my dreams. But to take her away from you. She didn’t deserve to be near you.”

        With a huge toss of her head, Judgmental released the sword, sending it clattering onto the ground offstage. Still stiff and jerky, she turned away from Skydance and looked to Candy Stripes. “I never thought you felt… GNKH!”

        Suddenly, both Candy Stripes and Judgmental flopped to the ground, bodies contorting as blue crackles of energy appeared over them. While they writhed, blue tendrils lifted Ace Pinnacle up like a marionette, and placed a sword between her teeth. “No offense, kid. I don’t really have a lot of options here.”

        “What is that?” A figure appeared behind Ace Pinnacle, a deep, dark shadow with a stallion’s silhouette. But from it radiated an aura of deep blue. “Is this… What’s making all this weird stuff happen? What is it? Hey! Show yourself! Tell me what’s going on!”

        “Yea, not really gonna get an answer there. He’s a little… Upset. He doesn’t like to lose. And hates losing control. Why do you think I’ve gotta be hauled up? But I’ve got all my fighting skill intact and I can’t stop myself from using them. Hope you’re still sharp, because he…” The blue tendrils vanished as Ace Pinnacle’s body shuddered, expression growing slack and distant. With a lunge, she threw herself at Skydance.

        Skydance met the lunge with her sword, attempting to deflect the strike. But her filly body was no match for the force of a leaping mare, especially one driven on my some unknown force. She was the one pushed back, and rather savagely at that, sent rolling along the ground. “Ugh! Come on! Snap out of this and let us out of here! You know something’s going on.”

        The rainbow-maned mare slashed and hacked with strength, speed and skill, pushing her younger and smaller opponent back with an almost murderous energy. “It’s not up to me anymore. I’m pretty strong, because you think I am. Must be hard to fight your perfect protector.”

        Skydance didn’t answer for a bit, too focused on deflecting the hammering blows that were almost literally leading her around. She had very little control over her direction, and could only look for the slightest break in the waving metal threat. “What do you mean? I’m not… I’m not doing any of this! If I was I’d be out of her already.”

        “It doesn’t work like that…” Blue energy crackled around Ace Pinnacle’s body and her motions were interrupted. Skydance tried to take advantage of it but she recovered and went back on the attack. “You need to remember now. Remember the last time we met. Remember the day I saved you and turned into your protector. Because I AH!” The energy crackled again, but the attack went on. “I don’t think you can win this time.”

        Skydance focused hard, while also blocking the coming blows. A wisp of smoke covered the front of the stage, and onto that was projected the prepared flashback. All that was seen was Skydance, looking on as Ace Pinnacle was praised and cheered by ponies in the clouds.

        “Gotta work hard if I’m going to be as good as she is…” The flashback-Skydance placed goggles over her eyes and flapped her wings, tossing herself off of the cloud she was on and zipping around in the air. She did a few elementary loops and spins, gradually increasing her speed and the intricacy of her tricks as she went on.

        In the middle of her routine, rushing by the clouds and whipping around in mad patterns, she miscalculated her position and hit a cloud with a wing, a shriek emerging as the appendage was injured. With one wing out, she could only flutter her remaining wing uselessly while she plummeted from the sky.

        The shriek reached Ace Pinnacle after a short bit of time, barely heard amongst the congratulations. By the time she looked, Skydance was already far below and falling further. Without hesitation she was up and flying, zooming down through the air towards the tumbling form of the small filly, with a few other, slower pegasi in her wake.

        A tense series of cuts showed on the flashback mist. Various shots of Skydance’s terrified face cut with images of a determined Ace Pinnacle rushing down at a sharp angle trying to intercept Skydance. A shadow-puppet-like version of the scene showed the perfection of the hypotenuse made by the speeding mare to intercept the tumbling filly. All the rest, in fact, was only in stark black and white shadow versions.

        The sound slowly muted as the scene went on, Ace Pinnacle’s silhouette seeming to elongate as her speed increased. Her wings were a blur as she went all out to reach her target in time. She reached the falling Skydance and took her into her hooves. With that accomplished she turned around quickly, attempting to backtrack herself to cancel all of her momentum. Her angle was far sharper than she wanted, and the ground was approaching.

        Unable to slow down as she wanted, her kicked out with all four of her legs, shoving Skydance away from her towards the approaching, slower pegasi. In doing so, she greatly lowered Skydance’s velocity, giving the others a chance to reach her. But it was too late for her. The silhouette of Ace Pinnacle continued to flap and try to slow before striking the top of a tree, and vanishing into the shadow of a forest.

        The smoke wisp dissipated, leaving Skydance looking stunned, and Ace Pinnacle standing still before her, blue energy bleeding off of her, pulling towards Skydance with almost desperate motions. “You… you…. I was right, wasn’t I? We’re dead. We’re here because we’re dead….”

        “Nah, you’re not. I mean, I am. I’m just what’s left on your mind. Cooler than I probably was, but here for you. I can be awesome, because you need a big icon. You always did. You even forgot I was gone because you needed me not to be. But, you remember now.”

        Tears seeped from Skydance’s eyes, and the sword of Celestia fell from her mouth. “How can you be here? You’re dead! You saved me and you died! Why are you here?”

        “It wasn’t my idea. Wasn’t even really yours. It’s all thanks to why you’re here. Did you ever wonder why there are so many Blank Flanks here? And why the ones that aren’t walk around looking completely lost, completely out of their minds and useless at trying to tell anyone anything? Why the teachers are shadows and the only adults with any substance are big names like me? It’s not a coincidence. It’s because this is… this is the most confusing place you’ll ever be.”

        Skydance slowly approached Ace Pinnacle, whose body was still unmoving, with the blue mist flailing wildly in all directions. “Where is it?”

        Ace Pinnacle started to tremble, her eyes rather wide open. With a sudden cry her mouth shot open and blue mist fired out of it, pouring out and curling around on the ground. It quickly floated up into the air, slowly coalescing into the shape of a heavy unicorn stallion. His coat was pure white, while his mane and tail were made of blonde hair trailing blue streamers. On his body were plates of blue armor very reminiscent of Nightmare Moon. “Where you are…” He spoke with an exaggeratedly-cultured voice, heavy on the reverb. “Is where I want you.”

        Skydance slowly staggered backwards, towards Daisy Dreams and Country Roads, who were huddling together. She watched as Ace Pinnacle fell to the ground, slowly writing as the blue miasma left her. “W-who are you? How did you make her alive? How did you do any of this?”

        “Who am I? Impudent little peasant!” The swirling blue mist rushed towards Skydance for a split second, before it pulled back, and the large stallion looked thoughtful. “But I suppose it is inevitable. Though I am gloriously omnipresent, I do not announce that you know me. But you do….” From all around there came a rush of wind and noise. Flyers from famous fashion boutiques and lines, posters from the most heavily-advertised movie hits, snippets of the most popular music, static-filled scenes of the most popular television shows. Every last drop of young pony culture swirled around the scene. “I’m your very best friend, in your face and in your head, every second of your day.”

        All three fillies backed away from the barrage of media madness, recognizing every single thing presented. They were blared at fillies like them all day every day. The very picture of what they were expected to do. “But how did you..? She’s still dead….”

        The figured laughed cruelly, shaking his huge head. “Princess Celestia tells you to brush your teeth. The Wonderbolts tell you to try your best and never give up. Rugby players sell you horseshoes. Models pitch you fruit juice. The famous and glamorous are everywhere, living and dead, to make you do exactly what I want you to do. How hard is it to resurrect some local yokel heroine to pitch my vision exactly as I wanted it? All I needed was your memory of how she was and the rest was up to me.”

        “’M not… ‘m not just your stupid puppet…” Ace Pinnacle trembled on the ground, rising up on trembling legs with a loud groan. “She thought I was alive. Hay, she thought I was you. I’m still here. You don’t own me anymore. You never should have brought me into this place. Now I’m gonna be a thorn in your side.”

        “Thorn, you say? Well, that can be arranged.” The blue mist snaked out towards Ace Pinnacle, who, for the briefest of seconds, could be seen with cuffs around her forehocks. The mist split off into individual strands which quickly turned itself into vines made of rose stems. As they wrapped around the trembling mare’s forehocks, she was dropped into darkness, the only light reaching her being indirect illumination from the side of the stage with the three fillies and the stallion.

        “Hey! What is this?” Ace Pinnacle rose slowly, body twisting and spasming in the grip of the twining rose stems. They wrapped down her arms in the indistinct light, tightly wrapping her body and restricting her movement.

        “You know, even when this time is not under my control, it still is. I’ve already put certain ideas in everypony’s heads. And after that, it just takes a little nudge…” Bright lights started to glow in the air, slowly resolving themselves into swords. And along with them, soft whispers that echoed out among the audience.

        “I heard she was hanging around that Skydance again.”

        “Isn’t it weird she’s with all the fillies all the time?”

        “How did she get to be president of that council? She’s not a student. She’s not even a teacher.”

        “What does she do around here anyway?”

        “Did you ever notice her mane? Totally fake. Dye-job all the way.”

        “I heard she got caught with something. I don’t know what but they hushed it up quick.”

        “There was some kind of controversy with her private stuff.”

        “She wasn’t even supposed to be around fillies, I think. I heard it from my cousin.”

        “It’s just creepy. Totally creepy.”

        “Isn’t it always the way? Rumors they just… cut deeply.” One of the swords flew in towards the struggling Pegasus and impacted with a responding grunt, the scene now shrouded in darkness, sparing gruesome details, and the sensibilities of the special effects team. “And they come unbidden. Because, isn’t it what all the stories say? The songs, the movies, the shows. Rumors. Gossip. Chattering behind backs is normal. Destroying someone…” Several swords flew into the darkness, more pained grunts announcing their impact. “That’s normal. Innuendo, well, it strikes right to the heart.” Another sword flew in, a sharper grunt issued in response. “And the Thousand Swords of Malice, they’ll teach you to try and stand up to me…”

        “A-ace! Ace?” Skydance stepped forward a small distance, eyes wide and wavering.

        At first the darkness was silent. Then it erupted with a fear-filled voice. “RUN!”

        The three fillies followed the instruction immediately, turning towards the stairs. “Oh no, you three are not escaping me. We are not finished here!” The blue tendrils whipped out, intent on grabbing the three fillies.

        A wave of violet energy sprang forth, stopping the blue tendrils from reaching the fillies. And then a violet figure shaped like a mare appeared between the stallion and the three rushing off the stage. “Use all the power you know how/ But you are not touching those fillies now.”

        “Get out of here you relic! You ancient and useless wretch! Nopony needs you any longer! You’re old news and have been for ages. I’m the new wonder. And you can only dream of days when you were anything but a history lesson.” The blue tendrils lashed out again, striking at the violet figure.

        The violet shape melted back into haze and followed the fillies off the stage. “You do not rule all you think. Frankly, monster… You stink!”

        A special effect projection onto mist showed the three fleeting fillies being led into the Untrotted Forest by the cloud of violet. The stallion watched the retreating three with a snort and turned towards the dark, which contained Ace Pinnacle. “Tongues never stop, rebellious fool. And, my unwilling pawn, you’ll see just how much rumors can hurt…”

        With that statement, the lights fell and the curtain dropped.