My Little Pony: Revolution is Magic
An MLP:FiM Fanfic byMaria Seinheart
Edited by Midnight Shadow
We all live in a land of peace and harmony, right? That may be true for those who live in the more peaceful places like Ponyville and Canterlot, but what about those who live in the harsh southeast regions of Equestria? For the denizens that live there, only the thought of labor runs through their minds. Ten bits a day was all the working class could ever get and most of them live in the slums and shadows of Stalliongrad, also known as the Ironworks City.
Those who live in or near Stalliongrad know nothing of happiness or harmony, which is very much abundant up north under the watchful eye of Princess Celestia. They who live in the southeast experience everlasting snow, pollution and oppression. Pegasus ponies do not regulate the weather there due to all the hazardous smoke and the mayor’s dislike for the pegasi race. This has resulted in the weather running amok, adding more woes to an already woeful region.
How in the name of Princess Celestia could this happen to a nation well-known for having a peaceful and benevolent leader? How could the princess let this happen? Most importantly, how is it even possible for ponies to survive in such harsh conditions?
That is what I am here to find out.
Chapter 1: The Road to Stalliongrad
“This is the final stop,” the train’s conductor told Twilight.
“There’re no other stops beyond Stalliongrad?” Twilight asked.
“Not unless you want the train to go through the Southern Wastelands,” the conductor said dryly, “Why have you come to Stalliongrad? It’s not a place known for welcoming unicorns and pegasus ponies.”
“I’m just visiting a friend of mine,” Twilight lied.
The conductor shook his head and looked Twilight in the eye in such a menacing way that Twilight took a few steps back.
“Be wary, there are no friends in Stalliongrad; only fellow laborers and, if you’re unlucky… enemies.” he said darkly.
“I’ll uh…keep that in mind.” Twilight said with a nervous grin. “Spike, wake up, we’re here.”
Her dragon assistant was still asleep on the bunk bed and it took Twilight several attempts before she could sober him up. He looked around lazily before looking outside of the window. “Oh, we’re here already?” he asked while getting off the bed and putting on a winter coat, “Felt like three hours.”
They travelled with minimal luggage but it was still heavy enough that Twilight could not afford Spike a ride on her back as she already had a heavy saddle bag. Once they stepped out of the train, they were immediately greeted by dirty snow, the smell of smoke and pony guards that did not seem like the usual guards from Canterlot. Instead, these guards wore flak jackets under winter long coats and fur caps that covered their head and ears. Twilight approached the immigration counter and presented her passport. Spike followed.
“Twilight Sparkle...unicorn…resident of Ponyville. It’s really rare to see someone from up North come down South.” the immigration officer said with a heavy accent in his voice.
He saw Spike and raised an eyebrow thoughtfully, “You’re a dragon merchant?” he asked Twilight.
“Dragon merchant? That sounds so wrong,” Spike said with a frown.
“Da, to the foreigners it is but to us ponies of Stalliongrad, it’s business. Dragons are highly prized for their scales, horns and wings. As for young dragon like you,” the immigration officer said while leaning closer to the counter, “you are worth more than twenty thousand bits. Yes, young dragons are suitable apprentices.”
Twilight took an instant dislike of Stalliongrad and her ponies, and even though she had anticipated hostility and a grim environment, from the books she had read, she had not anticipated it being this bad. She always thought that ponies feared dragons. Apparently, these ponies hunted dragons for a living and peddled them like they were goods.
“Here’re your passports. One word of advice before you go through the gates: stay away from trouble and most of all, stay away from the rebels. They’re but a troublesome lot,” the officer warned and gave them back their passports.
The rusty metal gate next to the booth opened with a creak and the two went through it. Once Spike was through, the gate closed and locked with a loud click. It startled Twilight and Spike but it did not seem to bother the other ponies that were around.
“So why exactly are we here, Twilight? I don’t think I like this place.” Spike protested.
“Neither do I but I want to know how life is in Stalliongrad.” Twilight explained.
“You could’ve picked a better place to experience.” Spike said with his arms crossed.
Treading through the snow was not as fun as it seemed and with the skies dark from all the smoke, Twilight begin to question how the ponies of Stalliongrad even got on with their lives in the dreary, polluted city. One thing Twilight noticed about Stalliongrad was that the ponies were all Earth ponies, the epitome of strength and labor. Since it was a city based on hard work and strength, it was no surprise at all but surely there had to be a variety, right?
The purple unicorn decided to check into a cheap hotel where she paid three hundred bits for a week. Of course, paying for something that cheap had its downsides. The hotel was not particularly well-maintained and the stairwell lighting didn’t help much at all. The lights flickered and pulsated so often that Twilight and Spike had to grope the railings to find their way up.
“Thank Celestia it’s only on the third floor,” Spike said while breathing hard, “Don’t they maintain the elevators?”
“I doubt it.” Twilight said in between pants. Using her magic, Twilight inserted the key into the keyhole of their room door and turned it. The door creaked open and several moths flew out. “I’m starting to regret wasting three hundred bits on a stinky little hovel with inadequate lighting and moldy bed sheets,” Twilight said when she inspected the room.
“Yeah, not to mention the lack of hot water. At least they have a toilet bowl.” Spike remarked, cringing when a cockroach crawled out from under it.
According to the Guide to Stalliongrad she’d read, the time difference between Canterlot and Stalliongrad was one hour forward. Twilight set her watch as she looked out the window. It offered her a good view of the city since the hotel was located on a small hill. As far as her eye could see, the most prominent sight of the city were the smoke stacks of factories that emitted smoke continuously. The streets were rather well-lit but the street lights were dimmed by the fog that rolled in that day. Sounds of grinding metal, hammering and heavy machinery dominated the city.
“The price we pay for technology…” Twilight muttered to herself.
“Hey, Twilight, have you seen my stash of gems? I’m getting hungry,” Spike called out.
Twilight couldn’t recall seeing it after they’d checked in at the immigration counter. It must have been stolen, she knocked her head with a hoof for being so careless, “Darn it, somepony must’ve taken it!” she replied angrily.
“Oh, that’s just swell,” Spike said sarcastically, “what’re we gonna have for dinner then?”
Twilight looked up the guide book again and noted that the cheapest foods around Stalliongrad were…well…cabbage, celery and lettuce. There were several food outlets that served gems for dragons too but they were too expensive and dragons were not allowed to buy directly. The only foods that were appetizing and cheap enough to be bought in large quantities were cupcakes and muffins.
“Looks like we’re having cupcakes and muffins for dinner tonight,” Twilight said with a sigh and closed the book.
“I’m getting sick of cupcakes thanks to Pinkie Pie but...we don’t have a choice, do we?” Spike remarked.
“We have to spend within our budget. Princess Celestia gave me only fifty-thousand bits to spend and while it’s a drag carrying so many gold bits around, it’s our only means of surviving Stalliongrad. If we lose them, we don’t have any gems to exchange.” said the purple unicorn.
Twilight looked out of the window again. She felt rather lonely without the rest of her friends. Spike was the only company she has in this unknown and hostile city. She was not sure what to expect next once she stepped out of the hotel, but Twilight had come here with a purpose. She had to fulfill it.
“C’mon Spike, grab some bits and we’ll go get ourselves something to eat,” Twilight said to her assistant.
With the luggage in the hotel room, Twilight locked the door and secretly placed an enchantment on the door to prevent other ponies from trying to break in. She allowed Spike to ride her back since there was no load in her saddle bag except for the guide, several bits, a letter from Celestia and a journal just in case she needed to log in something important.
In every corner of the city there were guards, unmoving and silent. Sometimes, Twilight wondered if they were still alive or frozen to death while on guard duty. She could not help but feel like she was being watched by not only the guards but by the Earth ponies as well, looking at her as if she was an outcast.
“This takes the feeling of getting watched to a whole new level. I don’t like this, Twi,” Spike muttered.
“Neither do I.” Twilight said when she caught one of the guards eyeing her darkly as she turned around a corner.
There was a bakery not far from where she was staying, so Twilight decided to buy something to eat there. The door to the bakery was the first door that hadn’t creaked since she’d first stepped into Stalliongrad. There was a jingling sound when the door struck the bell located above the door.
“Mm…I for one welcome the smell of freshly baked muffins,” Spike said and licked his lips hungrily.
“Oh ho, what’s this?” the shopkeeper said with a smile when he saw Twilight and Spike. “A unicorn and a dragon. Ye’re me first unique customers after so many years of seeing the same dreary faces that come in here.”
The shopkeeper looked a bit like Pony Joe back at Canterlot except the shopkeeper had dark brown mane and skin and he is an Earth pony rather than a unicorn. Unlike the rest of the ponies out on the streets, this shopkeeper was in smiles although Twilight could see hints of hardship etched onto his face. Nevertheless, the smile was a welcoming sight.
“You mean unicorns and dragons don’t come in here often?” Twilight asked the shopkeeper while Spike examined the different varieties of confectionary on display.
“Aye, that is true. Dragons aren’t even allowed into shops not because they don’t fit; it’s just that they do not even have a respectable status. They’re all considered slaves,” the shopkeeper explained.
“Hey, that’s not very nice,” Spike snapped when he heard what the shopkeeper said.
“Sorry, lad, didn’t mean to offend ye but that’s the truth here in Stalliongrad. As long as ye have a passport and a guardian with you, ye’re considered a free dragon…though the streets aren’t safe for young dragons like ye. Young dragons are very much sought after compared to adult dragons and can ye imagine the price they pay for one? Even though the princess has banned all forms of slavery and smuggling of baby dragons, Stalliongrad does not take orders from Canterlot. Here, the mayor has the final say,” the shopkeeper said sadly.
Twilight could hardly believe her ears. She never thought somepony would actually defy Princess Celestia’s authority, All the time, she had the perception that everypony in Equestria heeded to the princess.
“How could the mayor do such a thing? Aren’t we all supposed to respect the authority of Princess Celestia?” Twilight asked.
“Lassie, ye must be living under a rock. Either that or ye’ve read a text book that doesn’t tell ye everything ye need to know about Stalliongrad,” the shopkeeper said while shaking his head.
“So what is it that I need to know?” Twilight asked.
The shopkeeper was hesitant to answer her because he saw some guards looking into the shop from the windows with their mouths clutching the gun yoke, as if they were waiting for a reason to fire their rifles at the shopkeeper.
“I can’t answer to your question, lassie, not with prying eyes and eavesdropping ears about. In Stalliongrad, just watch out for two things that can get ye shot: talking bad about the mayor and doing things that gives any guard a reason to fire at ye on the spot such as tete-a-tete about local politics and conversing with suspected rebels. Heck, its better that ye get out of Stalliongrad as quickly as ye can. Something big is about to happen here and its best ye did not get involved.” the shopkeeper whispered.
Twilight didn’t feel comfortable with the way the shopkeeper talked to her. It sounded like Stalliongrad was going to hell. Twilight and Spike quickly made their purchases and bid the shopkeeper farewell before heading back to their hotel room. She removed the enchantment and the two went into their room hurriedly and Twilight closed the door and locked it.
“Twilight, I’m starting to wonder why you didn’t pick places like Manehatten or Fillydelphia to conduct your cultural studies. It’s official, I hate Stalliongrad and I think we’d better get out of here.” Spike said.
“I know, Spike, I know, but there are things I must find out about Stalliongrad. I think it would benefit all of the ponies of Equestria that we find out the truth about this place.” said Twilight as she paced up and down in the room.
“Curiosity killed the pony, Twi. This isn’t worth our lives at all,” Spike said flatly.
Spike was reasonable for once and she was inclined to agree they should get out of Stalliongrad, but her curiosity overwhelmed her inclination to flee. Besides, cultural studies were not the only thing Twilight was doing in Stalliongrad. Just before they left, Twilight received a letter from the princess asking her to “have a friendly conversation with the mayor and tour his workplace”, saying that the mayor was the best source for cultural information.
What struck Twilight as odd was the fact that the princess seemed both eager and reluctant to allow Twilight to go to Stalliongrad, based on the tone of the letter. It might be that Celestia was worried, but something didn’t add up. Twilight took out the letter from her saddle bag and reread it again while eating some of the muffins.
“Mm…these muffins are a delish,” Spike said with his mouth full, “I may hate Stalliongrad but the muffins are fantastic!”
Twilight ignored her hungry assistant and concentrated on reading the letter. She felt there was a hidden message as that the princess usually sent her rather straightforward missives, not etched with attempts to hide something.
My dearest most faithful student Twilight,
It is good to see that you are willing to step out into the world but you must know that Stalliongrad may not be the best of places to conduct your studies and observations. Dangers lurk in every corner and it is not safe for a young unicorn like you to be in a society which despises unicorns and pegasus ponies. However, if you do insist on going, go with my blessing. I will give you some money to cover your expenses there. The best source of information is the mayor. Speak to him, tour his workplace and get him to tell you everything about Stalliongrad. Consider this as my task for you as well and report your findings to me like you usually do. I believe what you learn can benefit Equestria. May your studies of the magic of friendship guide you in Stalliongrad.
It seemed a little too specific on where to get information. Nevertheless, Twilight ruled it as the princess giving suggestions and pushed aside her feelings of doubt. She could not doubt her mentor when she never once doubted her own student.
“You…okay, Twilight? You look a bit worried.” Spike noted.
Twilight paused for a while and shook her head slowly. “Nah, it’s nothing,” she said softly and put the letter back into her saddle bag. “Spike, update the journal.” she said.
“You don’t want to write a letter to the princess?” Spike asked.
“Not at the moment. I’ll have it written after I’ve completed my stay in Stalliongrad. For now, we’ll write down our observations,” Twilight answered.
“Whatever you say,” Spike said and took out the journal and a quill.
Twilight walked towards the window and looked out of it while dictating to Spike on what to write in the journal.
Day 1, July 4th
It is only the first day in the city of Stalliongrad and the air of hostility is overwhelming. Looks of suspicion were directed upon Spike and me. Wherever we go, we could see the guards eyeing our every move. Stalliongrad may have contributed a lot to Equestria in terms of technology and equipment production, but the city’s environment and aura leaves much to be desired. Personally, I feel that everypony is just tired and I do not blame them. The factories, the smoke, the weird seasons and weather, all are not helping to liven up the mood. When this is over, I shall recommend that the mayor of this city do something about it. It is unbearable to see them suffer like that.
Twilight wished she’d had a camera with her right now because she could see almost the entire city from the Stallion Line Hotel. Not that the sight was pretty; she felt that it would be something educational for those who did not know Stalliongrad. After looking outside for a while, she heard snoring and saw that Spike was fast asleep on the bed. She smiled and decided to tuck him in, but decided against using the moldy blankets. Luckily for them, they brought along extra blankets and Twilight used one to cover Spike.
“Sleep tight, my number one assistant.” she whispered.
Twilight closed the window before she prepared herself for a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, the water that came out from the tap was clean and Twilight could brush her teeth without the fear of getting a stomach ache the next day. After spending several minutes reading some books, she lay on the couch and used her powers to flick the switch and turned off the lights. It did not take long for the purple unicorn to fall into slumber.
Revolution is Magic
Written by: Maria Seinheart
The day was young and the sun was barely over the horizon, but the factory whistles were already blaring and the streets were teeming with activity. Speaker towers located throughout the city broadcasted ‘encouragement’ to the ponies and urged them to work harder ‘for the betterment of Stalliongrad’s future’. As Twilight toured the streets, all she could see were unhappy faces and half-opened eyes, and the broadcasts were not helpful in increasing morale. Rather, they produced the opposite effect.
“And remember, my fellow Stalliongradians, a good worker is a live worker, paid to work for a living. A bad worker is a dead worker and you’re no use to society. Earn your daily wages; feed your family and live to see another day. Don’t let rebel propaganda distract you from your true purpose in life. You have your Cutie Marks for a reason so put your talent to use. Be productive and work for a better future for our fair city. This is Mayor Nikolai Hoovenkov wishing all Stalliongradians a safe and productive day.”
Twilight shook her head. The mayor seemed to care less about the livelihood of the city’s population and more about productivity and work. It was taking a toll on the citizens and even if the mayor noticed it, he couldn’t care less. Anypony that lagged behind were ushered by the guards to move faster. Those who refused were beaten with a baton, even if they were old. Twilight saw an old pony get a beating from a guard near the crossroads for not walking fast enough. It pained her to see something like that happen so she decided to put a stop to it.
“Hey, leave that old pony alone!” Twilight shouted out at the guard.
The guard stopped what he was doing and looked at Twilight. He kept his baton and approached her in a menacing way. He was two feet taller than her and probably several times stronger. His glare was enough to deter others from approaching him.
“You talking to me, unicorn?” he asked darkly.
“Yeah, I am,” Twilight said.
“Give me one good reason why shouldn’t I beat you,” the guard added.
“Because I’ve done nothing wrong. You, on the other hand, are beating up a helpless old pony. Have you no sympathy at all?” Twilight asked.
“Sympathy is for the weak, foal. In Stalliongrad, only the strongest survive and if you cannot keep up with survival, we’ll help you keep up. Young or old, all are subjected under the same law,” answered the guard. He flexed his muscle and said, “You’re a foreigner, unicorn, and you’d better know your place. You’re in our lands and if you try and defy us, we have the authority to use force. Be thankful that I’m kind enough to let you go with a warning but if you ever dare cross our paths again, I guarantee that there won’t be a next time.”
With that said, the guard left the place. Twilight ignored the stares from other ponies and quickly helped the old pony up. He was bruised but at least he was not seriously injured from the incessant beating he received earlier.
“Are you alright, sir?” Twilight asked softly, “can you walk?”
“Thank you, young pony,” the old pony answered while he brushed off some snow off his coat,
“you’ve got a kind heart but please, do as he says and never cross a guard. You don’t deserve to be killed or incarcerated in prison for that.”
“But how can you let somepony abuse you like that? This is unethical, it’s wrong!” Twilight said.
“Yes…it is, but we live in a society where the government has the final say. Oh…it has been so for as long as Stalliongrad existed. Ever since the days of Iron Hooves, Stalliongrad has always been an oppressed society. They’re so concerned with being strong and organized that the government controls every little detail of our lives. The only freedom we have is a bathroom break,” said the octogenarian pony.
He smiled at her and beckoned Twilight to follow him. She did and followed the old pony to the same bakery where Twilight bought her food last night. The two entered the shop and was greeted by a mare behind the counter.
“Ah, Old Pony Jenkins, you’re back,” the mare said with a smile on her face.
“Yes, and I’ve brought along somepony too,” Jenkins said while gesturing at Twilight.
The red mare looked at Twilight and smiled at her too. “You must be the unicorn that came in last night. My dad told me about you. The name’s Sunshine Glimmer.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Twilight Sparkle,” Twilight said while returning the smile.
“Twilight Sparkle…that’s a nice name,” Jenkins said. “Reminds me of my niece. Can’t remember what her name was though. Hadn’t seen her for years ever since her family moved to Canterlot.”
“So what brings you all the way out here, Twilight? I doubt you’ll find anything interesting to look at in Stalliongrad,” Sunshine said while ignoring Jenkins.
“I’m just on a study trip. I’ve always wondered what life is like in Stalliongrad,” Twilight replied.
“A cultural study, eh? Well, I can’t say you’ve picked the right place to do that. Stalliongrad is anything but a cultural paradise and besides, something big is gonna happen soon and it’s best that you’re not part of it,” Sunshine warned furtively.
Twilight refused to let the opportunity go this time. She knew something was going on and she wanted to get to the bottom of things, “Ok, Sunshine, I’m curious about something. Your father told me something is gonna happen here and I want to know what that is. Is it a war?” Twilight asked.
Sunshine looked around and made sure no guards were near the shop. There were a few, but all of them were busy with other things since it was still early in the morning. She took no chances and lowered the shades over the windows.
“You’re right, there’re rumors of an imminent war but the rumors can’t be verified. If there’s ever a war, I don’t wanna be here. I thought about leaving Stalliongrad this week…just in case it really happens, but I can’t leave my dad behind. He doesn’t want to leave his shop unattended.” Sunshine said.
“Wait a minute, you told me that something big is going to happen yet you’re not sure?” Twilight asked while pointing at Sunshine.
“Um…you can say I’m in a dilemma on whether to believe it or not. Given the recent rebel broadcasts on radio and increasing violence in surrounding satellite states, it could be true. The leader of the rebels promised that they will strike within this week. However, I’ve yet to see any rebel activities in Stalliongrad and the uprisings in satellite states were quelled rather quickly so…I have my doubts.” Sunshine explained, though she sounded rather uncertain.
“Or perhaps it’s a ploy by the rebels to make the government think that they’re incapable of delivering their promise,” Jenkins interjected, “maybe it’s like a warning shot.”
“What’re you a rebel or something?” Sunshine asked suspiciously.
“Nah…just making up assumptions,” Jenkins said dismissively, “I wouldn’t support the rebels though. They’re nothing but a bunch of hooligans,” he added loudly.
Sunshine nodded her head slowly and looked at Twilight.
“Listen Twilight, I may not be sure if the rebels are really going to strike within this week as they have promised but for your safety, please leave Stalliongrad. The government is already initiating a massive lockdown to prevent rebels from getting any outside aid and several satellite states have been declared locked and no traffic is allowed in or out of them. If this happens to Stalliongrad, you’ll have nowhere to go and you’ll be a prisoner here until the war ends either in a rebel or a government defeat and I cannot say how long this war will drag on. The shortest war that ever occurred in Stalliongrad lasted for three years and it was practically hell on earth,” Sunshine warned grimly.
“Once these ponies start fighting, they will fight on and on until one side concedes defeat or ends up wiped out,” Jenkins added, “It happened before and no doubt it will happen again.”
It was not the first time that Twilight felt impending doom but this really made her think twice about staying. To stop her cultural studies halfway was unthinkable; she’d always got her tasks done no matter what. However, it would be foolish to try and complete a task while her life was on the line. Getting herself involved in a war was the last thing she wanted. Twilight was not prepared to fight…she’d never learned how to fight. Equestria had been a utopia of peace for so long that war was nothing but a long forgotten prospect that had not happened for over a thousand years. In a battle, all Twilight could do would be to disable her opponents or run from them; not kill them.
Twilight made up her mind, she would leave Stalliongrad the next day - but not before she visited the mayor. She was not sure if the mayor would welcome her or have her arrested on the spot but Twilight decided to try her luck anyway. It was a bit late to change her plans for that day, so Twilight decided to see the mayor the next day and leave Stalliongrad immediately after.
“Oh, would you look at the time. I really gotta get going,” Twilight said quickly, “I um…thank you for your kind hospitality but my assistant is waiting for me and I’m running behind schedule.”
“What about your food?” Sunshine asked.
Twilight bought several muffins and a sandwich and left the shop quickly. After Twilight left, Sunshine just shook her head while Old Pony Jenkins sighed.
“She has to leave, Jenkins. I don’t think its right for us to drag foreigners into our affairs,”
“But do you really think she’s able to leave? Twilight…chose the wrong time to visit Stalliongrad and there is no way the government would let her go even if she pleaded them to. She’s already stuck here whether she likes it or not,” Jenkins remarked while looking out the snow encrusted window. “The windows are soundproof, right?”
“Yes, dad just had them installed a few days ago,” Sunshine answered.
“Good…I’d hate it if the guards overheard our conversation,” Old Pony Jenkins muttered.
Twilight returned to her hotel room and found Spike flipping through the television channels. He seemed bored and did not seem too happy that Twilight came back later than promised.
“I was worried that something might’ve happened to you, Twi. Where were you?” Spike asked when he saw Twilight came in.
“Sorry, Spike, I got into a conversation with the locals.” Twilight said apologetically. “Anyway, I bought you the muffins you liked.”
“Aw, sweet!” Spike exclaimed happily. “Oh, I found this poster laying on the floor some time ago. It must’ve been blown in here by the wind,” he said and handed Twilight the poster.
Twilight took a look at the poster and saw that it was a wanted poster for a pony named Ilya Marenkov. According to the wanted poster, she was the alleged rebel leader and the government was offering a three million bit reward for her capture. The poster was fairly new so Twilight assumed that Ilya hadn’t yet been caught. Ilya seemed like a dirty, downtrodden young mare with a dirty face and an unkempt mane but her eyes showed signs of a charismatic leader and a fiery character.
“That’s a lot of money they’re offering for her capture,” Twilight commented.
“She doesn’t look all that powerful,” Spike said with a dismissive wave of a hand. “How can she be a leader if she looks so weak?”
“Never underestimate someone who looks weak. For all you know, she may be the most dangerous pony to the government. I mean, why would they offer a three million bit reward for someone so disheveled?”
Twilight went through her timetable while they were eating their breakfast. They were supposed to visit the Stallion Dam and attend the Midyear Worker’s Festival but since Twilight was behind schedule, she decided to skip the tour of the dam and attend the festival, which was held in the afternoon at Lower Stalliongrad, the site of the original Stalliongrad – or Ponygrad as it was formerly known.
“So where’re we going today?” Spike asked after he finished a cupcake.
“We’re going to Lower Stalliongrad to attend the Midyear Worker’s Festival. It’s a week of fun and games and some say that this festival is the second largest festival in all of Equestria after the Summer Sun Festival,” Twilight explained.
“Hmm, sounds like something Pinkie Pie would enjoy. Maybe you should’ve brought her along too,” Spike remarked.
“I would, but after seeing how this place is, the last thing I want is Pinkie Pie attracting unwanted attention by attempting to cheer up everypony here,” Twilight said with a chuckle. “C’mon, get yourself ready. We’re leaving in ten minutes.”
Since Lower Stalliongrad was quite some distance away, Twilight and Spike took a tram there. The tram ride was surprisingly a smooth one because Twilight anticipated the tram to be stopped at checkpoints. Instead, the guards allowed the tram to pass without stopping. The ride also brought them close the mighty Trans-Equina River where the Stallion Dam was located. The gravity dam was half a mile wide and generated twenty-five percent of the city’s power. The dam was also Equestria’s largest dam and a main tourist attraction.
Unlike Upper Stalliongrad, Lower Stalliongrad was less guarded and the ponies there were friendlier though the environment was not at all clean due to the pollution coming from Upper Stalliongrad. Lower Stalliongrad was mainly a light residential and commercial zone and that meant no high rises or great factories; just family-sized houses and small shops. Snowfall was lighter here and young fillies could be found playing in the snow even though it was a bit dirty.
“This is a nice change of scenery and atmosphere,” Spike noted when he got out of the tram.
It was a welcoming change indeed but Twilight wondered what made Lower Stalliongrad so different. Was it because the area was less industrialized and less guarded? Perhaps a quick look into Stalliongrad’s history could help shed some light but for now, Twilight wanted to see what the festival has to offer.
“Welcome, welcome to Stalliongrad’s greatest festival! I’m your festival host, Aleksandr Neighhalko!” a blue-gray colt greeted jovially when Twilight and Spike entered the town square. “You’re from Canterlot, right?”
“Well, I was born in Canterlot but I live in Ponyville,” Twilight answered.
“Swell, I have a family member that lives in Ponyville…can’t remember what her name is but she loves music. Anyway, welcome and please feel free to enquire about this festival! I am the host after all,” Aleksandr said with a grin.
“I have a question,” Spike remarked, “Why are you so freaking happy?”
The question only made the colt chuckle and he slugged Spike in a friendly manner, “That’s a good question. I’m just born and raised happy. I know what you’re thinking, you think that all ponies that live in Stalliongrad and her surrounding states are all sad ponies, right? Well, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true that the southeast is not the best place to be happy but hey, somepony’s gotta be happy, even if it’s me.” Aleksandr explained softly so that the guards could not hear him.
“So what exactly are you happy about?” Spike asked some more.
“Weeellll…basically anything. I’m happy that I’m still alive to see the next day, I’m happy that I’m the host for this year’s Midyear Worker’s Festival and I’m even happy that my grandma is still alive,” the colt said while pointing at his grandmother seated beneath a giant bronze statue of Joseph Stallion. “It may seem weird to most but we must be thankful for the little blessings we have in life. People can jeer and sneer at you and even hate you but you must ask yourself: Amidst all these prejudice, hate and oppression, what is the best way to liven things up?”
This pony definitely knew how to enjoy life and Twilight wondered if he was Pinkie Pie’s long lost brother. Pinkie Pie never had a brother but he was almost like her except he never bunny hopped nor overreacted. He was random only because he wanted to entertain any sad faces he saw. The purple unicorn also noticed his Cutie Mark were two drama masks.
“Comrade Neighhalko, you’re needed at the Mystique Emporium!” a colt called out to him from a coffee shop.
“Work’s never easy but enjoy what you do. Now would you two excuse me, I’ve got a show to run. Dosvedanya!” he said and went away.
Spike still looked confused, whilst Twilight was happy that even in a place like Stalliongrad, happiness could still be found. Maybe she was wrong about Stalliongrad after all.
“For a pony who smiles a lot, he sure sounds like a philosopher,” Spike said after some seconds of silence.
“Perhaps, but what he said made a lot of sense. If there’s somepony I’d like to introduce to Princess Celestia, it would be him,” remarked Twilight. “I wonder what this Mystique Emporium is. I’d like to have a look at it,” she added.
After asking the locals, she was told that the Mystique Emporium was a performing arts center. It was the only unique-looking building in Lower Stalliongrad and it did not take Twilight and Spike long to find it. The building was indeed unique because the architecture was not anything Twilight has seen before. It featured flying buttresses, keeps and a lot of stained glass windows which had pictures that depicted the early days of the land before Celestia founded Equestria. The building itself was quite tall and it could be seen even from several miles away.
“So that building is the Mystique Emporium. I must admit, it has the mystique feel to it,” Twilight commented.
“Looks like something out of a horror movie,” Spike quipped.
What was inside surprised Twilight further because the Mystique Emporium was full of unicorn and pegasus ponies from all over Equestria. Most of them were performers and Twilight even spotted two members of the Wonderbolts there greeting their Stalliongradian fans. There were also tamed dragons performing for the crowd as well as unicorns making magic.
“Now I see why they call this the second largest festival in Equestria. Look at all the ponies in here. Not to mention the gems,” Spike said hungrily when he saw that gems were included on the buffet table.
“Those are not for you, Spike, so don’t try to steal any,” Twilight said sternly. “C’mon, we’ll go see if we can find somepony to interview.”
“Ohh…” Spike groaned sadly while he glanced back at the platter of multicolored gems.
She approached one of the Wonderbolts with the intention of interviewing her. The Wonderbolt saw Twilight and smiled at her before removing her mask.
“Hey, it’s nice to see a familiar face around,” the Wonderbolt said.
“I’m sorry but have we met?” Twilight asked.
“Oh, silly me, we haven’t met face-to-face but I believe your friend is Rainbow Dash, no?”
“Why yes she is. I’m Twilight Sparkle.”
“I’m Spitfire. I didn’t expect to see you so far from home. Don’t mind me asking but what exactly are you doing here?”
“Oh, just on a study trip and whatnot. I know it’s not the best place in all of Equestria but so far I’ve learned a lot of things I never knew about this place.”
“I used to think this place is some sort of prison for bad ponies but after coming here several times to perform for the Midyear Worker’s Festival, I’ve learnt a lot of things. I’ve been to almost all seven satellite states and most of them have very nice communities and good local governments. I even learned some of their language,” Spitfire said.
“That’s nice,” Twilight remarked.
“I really must get going; it’s almost our turn to perform. Do stay for a while and enjoy the festival. You’ll love it,” Spitfire said and put on her mask as she got ready.
Twilight looked around some more and she enjoyed every second of it. There were so many things to see and experience that Twilight found herself wandering around in the crowd as she tried to catch a glimpse of some really spectacular acts. Even Spike took his eyes off the gems to watch the performances.
Not far from Stalliongrad was a great suspension bridge that extended across a great chasm carved out by the Trans-Equina River millions of years ago. It was the only bridge that allowed railway traffic to and from Stalliongrad, and Equestria depended on this major bridge to receive equipments and supplies from Stalliongrad. There were other means of delivering them such as using roads and pegasi delivery companies but Stalliongradians preferred the train as the main mode of transportation and delivery.
Because of that, it was a highly prized target for the rebels.
Hidden behind some snow-covered shrubs, three rebel ponies tracked the movements of two guards at the bridge guard house. Their patrol route seemed to have a pattern so it was easy for the rebels to predict the guards’ movements.
“According to the schedule, there shouldn’t be a train coming this way for the next…five hours. Let’s act quickly before we cause unwanted casualties,” a rebel colt with black mane said while consulting a train traffic schedule.
His two comrades nodded their heads. Slowly and quietly, the three rebels snuck up upon the guards. Their white winter coats allowed them to blend into the snow. As they neared the guards, one of them emerged from the snow and pushed a guard over the edge of the chasm. The other guard did not have time to respond and was pushed over the edge as well by a rebel with a balaclava.
“Patterned movement is so exploitable. The guards should know better,” a red-maned colt said with a soft chuckle.
There were two control panels inside the hut. One controlled the security barriers while the other monitored train traffic. One train was inbound to Stalliongrad from Appleloosa and it carried food supplies for Stalliongrad. Since Stalliongrad’s weather was not suitable for growing crops, the city supported itself by importing foods from Equestria.
“Okay, gentlecolts, let’s do this. Oleg, Dmitri, rig the bridge with explosives now,” the colt with the balaclava ordered.
While the two planted explosives on the bridge’s weak spots, Vladimir kept an eye on the traffic monitor. At the same time, he tuned the radio to match the radio frequency used by the rebels. The guards did not have many communications officers within their ranks so it was easy to hack a radio without being detected. It did not take Vladimir long to tune into the frequency he wanted.
“This is Team One reporting in. Comrade Ilya, we’re in the process of rigging the bridge for demolition. So far so good,” Vladimir said after he took off his balaclava.
“Excellent work, Vladimir. Team Two to Four are rigging the rest of the rail lines with explosives. Fall back to rebel headquarters after you’re done,” Ilya replied. “Oh, one more thing, have you informed Buckwheat Station that this section of the railway is closed?”
“I’m working on it, comrade Ilya. If the train has yet to pass Buckwheat Station, it’ll be safe. If not…they can be redirected to other stations or we can only rely on the security barriers to stop the train,” Vladimir explained.
“See to it, I don’t want any innocent lives to be lost because of our actions.”
Vladimir tuned the radio to match the frequency used by station masters to communicate with other station masters. It was not long before the station master of Buckwheat Station responded.
“This is Station Master Martini, how can I help you, Guard House Five?”
“Station Master Martini, has the train from Appleloosa stopped at your station yet?”
“Lemme check my log……yep, the train just left the station about five minutes ago and is headed for Stalliongrad. What’s wrong?”
“The Stallion Bridge is undergoing repairs and will not be open to train traffic. You must divert the train.”
“There is a switch rail ten miles before the bridge and it’s the only switch rail from Buckwheat Station to the bridge. If you just switch the paths, it will bring the train to Southport Station. I’ll contact the station master there to explain everything.”
While pulling levers was an easy task, the management made it hard for him to pull the right lever because there were many other levers that controlled switch rails after the bridge but none of them were labeled according to name. Instead, the levers were labeled using serial numbers.
“Um…there must be a manual somewhere that explains which lever belongs to which switch rail,” Vladimir muttered as he searched the hut frantically for a manual.
His compatriots were done rigging the bridge with explosives and were ready to leave but they were annoyed that Vladimir had not completed his task. They found him messing up the entire hut instead.
“Vladimir, quit bucking around. We must go before the next guard shift happens,” Dmitri said.
“It’ll be easier if somepony didn’t label these levers with numbers,” Vladimir snapped, “help me find a manual or something so I can pull the right lever and divert the train to another station.”
They did find a manual in one of the file cabinets. Unfortunately for them though, the evening shift guard arrived and the three did not have time to check which lever controlled the switch rail before the bridge. One of them simply pulled a lever while Dmitri wrecked the radio. The three left the place before the guard saw them.
They did not realize that the lever they pulled activated the wooden security barriers in front of the bridge. It was not enough to stop a train at full speed.
It was a full moon that night but it did not really mean anything to anypony because it was just a blurry disk in the sky. Except for a few ponies with extra time in their hooves, nopony was out that night. They were all too tired after a day of work. On the other hand, Twilight and Spike were on their way back to the hotel and were wide awake even though they had fun for the entire day.
“This has to be one of the greatest days in my life,” Spike exclaimed, “We get to see the Wonderbolts perform with the dragons, see Aleksandr make a fool of himself and even Trixie making magic.”
“Speaking of Trixie, I’m surprised to learn that she settled down in Stalliongrad,” Twilight added.
“It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? I thought this city doesn’t welcome unicorns and pegasi.”
“That is true but it doesn’t mean all satellite states follow Stalliongrad’s example. Trixie will have a better chance of making a living in Vollograd compared to Stalliongrad and the remaining six satellite states.”
“I thought she would have a better chance of gaining fame in places like Manehatten or Canterlot. Why Stalliongrad?”
“That, Spike, is her reason. I wish I could talk to her about it but we don’t really have the time. It’s getting late and we need to leave tomorrow,” Twilight answered.
“So you’ve finally made up your mind to leave this city,” Spike said with a smile.
“I’ve been warned by three ponies to leave this city and all of them said the same thing about something big that’s gonna happen. If it’s a war, we’re not ready to face it and its best we leave with our lives and report to Princess Celestia about it. Maybe she can do something to fix the situation,” said Twilight.
“That’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard from you, Twi. I’m sure the princess will do anything she can to stop…well…whatever’s going on here,” the purple dragon remarked with a shrug.
The night was quiet and by the time the two returned to the hotel, it was already eleven o’ clock. Spike was fast asleep on Twilight’s back and she had to carry him all the way up to the third floor. After entering the room, Twilight locked the doors and placed Spike onto the bed and tucked him in. She updated the journal before she went to bed.
Day 2, July 5th
I cannot believe that I’m leaving Stalliongrad that soon. As much as I want to stay and finish my studies, current circumstances did not allow a complete stay. There were rumors of an imminent war and I’m not ready to defend myself should it happen. Still, I’m not leaving until I complete the task given by Princess Celestia and that is meeting the mayor. My plan now is to meet the mayor before leaving. Oh, today was a fruitful day too and we got to see and enjoy the Midyear Worker’s Festival at Lower Stalliongrad. You wouldn’t believe the familiar faces I saw there and I got a chance to speak to one of the Wonderbolts too. I believe that there is happiness in Stalliongrad but the quality of life here still needs a change.
With the journal updated, Twilight fell onto the sofa and went to sleep.
While most of the ponies throughout Equestria were asleep, ponies that worked night shifts or overtime were still busy with their jobs.
Running through the dead of night and braving a blinding snowstorm, Promontory and his three engineer partners pulled the freight train at top speed and ploughed through the snow-covered tracks. If it weren’t for their thick winter coats, they could have been frozen to death.
“Makes me wish that we’re back at Appleloosa. The weather in this part of Equestria is really disagreeable,” Caboose said.
“Yeah, but at least we won’t get attacked by those buffaloes anymore ever since they made peace with those Appleloosans. Here, however, reeks of suspicion.” Steamer added.
No engineer pony liked delivering freight to Stalliongrad but somepony had to do it. Unfortunately for the four colts, they were next on the schedule to deliver the goods. They were already two hours behind schedule and that earned them a shelling from their boss. It was not entirely their fault because the snowstorm made things hard for them.
“C’mon, full speed ahead. Caboose, switch on the train lights,” Promontory called out to his colleague at the back.
Caboose nodded and pulled a yoke that activated the train engine’s two powerful lights. Still, it was not strong enough to illuminate far through the blinding snow. As they neared the bridge, none of them saw that the security barriers were down. There were no guards at the hut either because the only evening shift guard had gone to report the messy hut to the authorities back at Stalliongrad. Somepony had also messed up the radio, so the guard had to return to the city to deliver the word by mouth.
“Hey, what’s that?” Promontory asked when he noticed something blocking the bridge.
It was the lowered security barrier.
“In Celestia’s name! Stop the train! Brake!” yelled Promontory, his cries being lost to the wind.
His three compatriots swore loudly and they all did their best to stop. The engineer ponies braked hard to try and avoid crashing into the barrier but they were unable to do so; the tremendous momentum of the train was impossible to reduce in time. The train slammed into the four beleaguered ponies as they frantically fought the locomotive. It and them ran right through the barrier in a sudden explosion of splinters and carried on into the night. Just as the train’s engine reached the other side of the bridge, there was an almighty explosion that tore into the darkened sky and lit it up like dawn. The bombs went off and the entire bridge collapsed, showering the place with metal shards and wooden splinters. With a grinding cacophony of metal and wood, the carriages started to fall into the chasm and threatened to drag the four along with them. The four worked frantically to unhitch themselves, hooves scrabbling for purchase as the multi-ton monster slid slowly and defiantly backwards, and down.
The first three engineer ponies managed to free themselves quickly, shrugging out of the harnesses with practiced motions but the last pony was stuck as the weight dragged it taught, tight against his hide. He struggled in vain to release his bridle and harness, panicking, sweat beading his brow, his eyes wide and white with fear.
“Help me! Oh Luna help me!” he cried.
“I’m comin’ Caboose!” yelled Promontory, galloping frantically to the engine even as it hung over the precipice, whilst Steamer and Evening Star pulled with their teeth at the yoke, doing all they could to keep the massive machine from the clutches of the darkened ravine, even as debris rained about them and the super-structure of the bridge weakened and fell. They were fighting a losing battle. Caboose sobbed openly, weeping and praying to Celestia.
Caboose had tried to bite the ropes but it’d been no good. The pony had one chance, and one chance only. He burst into the engine room and found his prize. Promontory grabbed the fire axe in his muzzle and leaped from the cab. Thundering through the snow, he slammed it down with practiced motion into the ropes that held the yoke and they snapped. The harness attached to Caboose’s halter and bridle jumped forward as the doomed train finally slipped off the tracks into the watery chasm. The train splashed into the river below and the thousands of apples and food supply crates within bobbed to the surface and flowed downstream into the darkness along with the train’s wreckage.
“Damn, that was a close one,” Caboose muttered while panting hard.
“I’ll say,” Promontory added. “There’s no way we can cross that chasm and the only way we can go back is through Stalliongrad and taking the Old Road at the northern border of the city.”
“So we’re gonna have to go through Stalliongrad?” Evening Star asked.
“Yes, we are,” Promontory answered flatly.
“I was afraid you’d say that,” Steamer remarked.
“C’mon, we’d better get to Stalliongrad and report this, all hell is gonna break loose when they hear the bridge exploded.” Promontory growled angrily. “Let’s move our flanks before the storm can get any worse, or before whoever set that light show up decides they need to finish the job.”