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I want to tell you a tale.

This tale is very important to me.

Will you listen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                         

 

 

                                                                           

                     

          >NEW GAME

CONTINUE

OPTIONS

                Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria, there were two regal sisters who ruled together and created harmony for all the land.

        To do this, the eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun at dawn. The younger brought out the moon to begin the night.

        Thus, the two sisters maintained balance for their kingdom and their subjects: all the different types of ponies.

        But as time went on, the younger sister became resentful.

        The ponies relished and played in the day her elder sister brought forth, but shunned and slept through her beautiful night.

        One fateful day, the younger unicorn refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn.

The elder sister tried to reason with her, but the bitterness in the young one's heart had transformed her into a wicked mare of darkness: Nightmare Moon.

        She vowed that she would shroud the land in eternal night.

        Reluctantly, the elder sister harnessed the most powerful magic known to ponydom: The Elements of Harmony!

        Using the magic of The Elements of Harmony, she defeated her younger sister and banished her permanently in the moon.

        "That story gets duller every time I hear it, Twilight," the baby dragon interrupted his mount.

        "I thought it was your favorite, Spike," the unicorn mare answered back.

        "Yeah, when I was five," the baby dragon named Spike laughed as he took in the country air. They were still a day or two away from Canterlot, their home town, and the road before them hadn’t gotten any smoother. "Don’t you know any cooler stories?"

        "Cooler stories?" the unicorn named Twilight inquired. "Like?"

        "How about one about an awesome hero that fights angels?" Spike laughed.

        "An angel," Twilight started, "right. Those only exist in your comics."

        "Yeah, and?" Spike retorted. "Heroes also yell out their cool attacks. Dragon Fang!" he yelled out while swinging an invisible sword, nearly toppling over and looking ridiculous.

        "That’s not how real fights work," Twilight pointed out matter-of-factly. She tried not to sound so smug about it, but couldn’t help it when Spike was acting so ridiculous. "If I went around shouting every spell I cast, I would look silly."

        "Or cool," Spike replied, regaining his balance.

        "Those comics are rotting your mind."

        "What else was I supposed to do? While you were attending some boring lecture all I could do was pick a corner in the local library and read every comic they had," Spike complained.

        "You could have attended the lecture on harmotech application with me," Twilight flashed Spike a cheesy grin, knowing his answer right away.

        "Blech, no thanks." Spike stuck out his tongue.

        Hours passed as the two continued along the worn path. The sun moved along in the sky overhead, continuing along its natural path impeded by no force. Eventually, they were stopped by a small cloaked being that stood on two legs. The tattered brown cloak over the being obscured every part of its body. "Spare bits?" the being asked Twilight with a high pitched voice.

        "If we had any," Spike answered, mustering every dead-pan bone in his body, "we wouldn’t be hoofing it."

        Twilight returned a nasty look back to Spike before turning back to the figure. "Sorry, but we barely have enough bits for ourselves." Her pack held a little under thirty bits, a sparse amount.

        "That’s a shame," the cloaked being replied before throwing it off. A two-legged dog with claws and clad in pots and pans for armor stood before Twilight. A kobold. "Han’sel! Gre’tel!" it called out. Behind Twilight and Spike, two more kobolds popped out of a bush bringing the total up to three. Each of them drew a rusty butcher knife and pointed the impromptu weapon at the mare. Attack!

        Twilight stepped back to avoid the closest kobold’s attack. It lunged at her, swinging the rusty cleaver madly. "Spike!" Twilight called to the baby dragon. "Jump!"

        Spike launched himself high into the air from Twilight’s back. Wielding a steel short-bow, Spike nocked an arrow and aimed it at the two upcoming kobolds called Han’sel and Gre’tel. Spike released the arrow. "Burning Lotus!" he called out, firing an arrow that ignited with flame mid-flight. The arrow struck one of the kobolds that had appeared behind Twilight. Upon contact, the arrow exploded and knocked the kobold off her feet sending her spiraling into the ground, the impact with the ground making her howl with pain.

        The other two paid no attention to their friend’s cries of pain as they surrounded Twilight. They stared at her, hungry for her purse and her life. Twilight eyed the kobold in front of her and began to charge her spell, her horn giving off a bright magenta glow. She rose herself on her hind-legs and stomped the ground with her forelegs, the magic in her horn coursing through her body and flowing into her hooves. The earth below the kobold behind Twilight erupted below him, the rocks magically flinging themselves into the sky and launching the kobold with them.

        "You pay for that!" the kobold in front of Twilight cried.

        "Don’t think so," Twilight grunted as she raised herself on her fore-hooves and bucked the falling kobold behind her. "Spike, now!"

        "What!" the kobold cried before Spike landed square on his back, causing him to collapse. The battle had been won and in record time.

        "Oh yeah! We did it! We win!" Spike cried out victoriously.

        "Let go let go!" The kobold under Spike struggled to get out from Spike.

        "And let you stick around to attack other ponies? No way."

        "Let them go, Spike," Twilight interjected, "there isn’t a police station for miles and we need to get going. I’m sure they learned their lesson."

        "Yes! Lesson learned! Lesson learned!" the kobold pleaded, devoid of any notion of pride.

        "You sure, Twilight?" Spike asked.

        "We can’t bring them with us. So let’s just go. Hop on." Twilight motioned back to the long road ahead.

        "All right." Spike gave up on attempting persuading Twilight and jumped back on her.

        "Kobold’s never forget kindness! Bye bye, stranger pony," the kobold that was once under Spike called out.

        "Bye Bye!" Han’sel and Gre’tel called out, each tending to their wounds.

        "What a bunch of screwballs," Spike commented when they were out of earshot. "They try to kill us, we beat them up and then they say good bye to us as if we were all friends."

        "Kobolds tend to have a very different view of morality," Twilight responded.

        "More book knowledge?"

        "Yep. By the way, what was up with that ‘burning lotus’?" Twilight cocked an invisible eyebrow.

        "I just thought of it! A really cool attack name!" Spike energetically replied.

        "Didn’t we just go over how ridiculous that is?"

        "Yeah, but it was ridiculously cool instead." Spike ignored Twilight’s quizzical stare.

        Spike took in the scenery. With the kobold attack behind them the countryside began to feel peaceful again. The look and smell of the country was everywhere: a blue sky above, green grass to the left and right, and a long trotted dirt road under them. He would have fallen asleep, but he promised Twilight he would stay awake to keep her company on the long lonely road. "We could have hired a carriage to take us back to Canterlot if you didn’t ‘accidentally’ buy all those books you know," he chided.

         "We’re not in Oatland very often, and these are important essays on principles of harmotech development and application," Twilight replied, smiling and ignoring Spike’s tone.

        "And this steam tech one is for?"

        "It looked interesting." Twilight had a hard time resisting a good book. "My personal library could use some variety."

        "Well, all right, so long as I don’t have to walk. It’s still kinda dull out here though. Well when we’re not getting attacked by anything."

        "Well that’s why I told you the story, which you rudely interrupted."

        "The same one you’ve told me over and over again?" Spike complained.

        "It’s a personal favorite," Twilight laughed. Since the day when she hatched Spike with her magic she told him that exact bed time story at least once a week when he was younger. It’s the bedtime story Twilight received from her parents in her foal-hood. She passed it on to Spike like a tradition, even if it annoyed him.

                 Spike ignored her and focused on his growing boredom and hunger. He reached for his pack and dug around hoping to chance upon any stray gems he might have forgotten to eat the day before. His search was fruitless."Shoot. Out of snacks," he cursed, "you have anything, Twilight?"

        "Check my bags. I might still have some cookies left from the bakery." Spike hopped up and dove into her bags, knocking around various delicate trinkets and valuables. Moments later he emerged from the bag, empty handed. "Nothing?" Twilight replied, a little surprised. "I guess we better stop somewhere to eat." Twilight felt her own stomach begging for a meal. She still had a long way to go before reaching Canterlot. "Check the map, Spike."

        Spike dove right back into Twilight’s side mounted bags and pulled out a map of Equestria.        "Town of Apple Acres is just a few miles north of here," he informed her, "it’s kind of out of the way though, but it does have apples in its name."

        "Apple fritters sound nice."

        "Keep eating them and you’ll get chubby," he chided.

        "Excuse me, who’s doing all the walking here? And carrying your lazy tail?" Twilight retorted, annoyed.

        "I’m a baby dragon," Spike replied back with a cheesy grin, "I have room to grow. I also do all the house chores while you spend all day studying at your desk. This is welcome exercise for your usual routine." Twilight couldn’t argue with the truth. She sighed and changed directions at the next crossroad.

SKIT: You’ll be big one day

 

Twilight: Huff-puff huff-puff

Spike: Exhausted?

Twilight: Yes…

Spike: I still have some water in my canteen.

Twilight: Thanks.

Spike: No problem. I wish I could help more but my stubby legs would get me left behind in a flash if I went on foot.

Twilight: It’s all right, Spike. You’ll be big one day.

Spike: Yep!

Twilight: Big enough to carry me anywhere in the world.

Spike: And where in the world do you need to go?

Twilight: You know, I never really thought about it, but how many can say they’ve ridden a dragon. It’s like something out of a fairy tale.

Spike: I guess it does sound cool, that is if you're not the one being ridden.

Twilight: And what are you doing now?

Spike: Taking advantage of my caretaker's responsibilities.

Twilight: What am I going to do with you...

 

SKIT: End

 

        The road eventually turned to Apple Acres, a town under the control of Canterlot. For most of Canterlot’s citizens Apple Acres is its chief source of food. The town itself resembled a colonial settlement with most of the buildings made of wood. Any establishment found here hung a sign with a picture of their products or service offered rather than a shop name, a sign of the mass illiteracy. Through the stench of moldy wood that hung in the air Twilight could smell apples. Sweet delicious apples. She turned her head to a building that hung a sign with an apple on it. "I think we can get food here," She told Spike.

        "You think," he chided.

        The apple-signed building opened into a worn down bar. At far side of the room two ponies played pool with an incomplete set of billiard balls; the lack of an eight ball didn’t stop two stallions from playing anyway. A large dirt stained window did little for the lighting and atmosphere and it gave everything inside a dirty, dusty look. Still, the smell of baked apple goods overpowered the bleak setting and Twilight and Spike’s stomach. At the main counter of the bar stood an old earth-pony mare. Her mane was tied back in a bun and white from age and her green coat lacked any youthful luster. Her tired, sunken eyes turned to Twilight. "Wha’cha havin’?" she grumbled, tiredly.                    

        Twilight approached the bar and sat on one of the stools. It immediately gave way under her, bringing her down to the floor with a loud thud. Spike and the old mare both got a good chuckle out of the universe's cruel joke. The old green mare got out from behind the counter to help Twilight up. "Sorry ‘bout that. We’ve been needin’ some new stools for awhile now." Twilight’s slip-up seemed to bring up the old mare’s spirit. "Name’s Granny Smith. Yeah, Granny is my name since I was a filly. Made it weird to talk to my real granny," She joked. "So, you gonna order or rub your haunches in public for the fellas?" she joked dryly.

        Twilight’s face turned red as she turned to the two stallions in the back. One of them gave her a wink. Twilight tried to compose herself as she turned back to Granny Smith. "Two apple fritters for me, thanks."

        "I’ll take a slice of apple pie if you have any," Spike added, choosing to deposit himself on the counter rather than risk sitting on a broken stool.

        Granny Smith nodded and turned to the kitchen. "Gimme ten minutes to warm it all up. Can’t afford to hire a separate chef now-a-days," she barely mumbled, complaining to no one in particular. Ten minutes later, Granny Smith returned with the food and two cups of water. "Eat up."

        Spike wasted no time devouring his pie with draconian ferocity. Twilight occasionally wondered if Spike liked to pretend if he was an actual big, scary, ferocious dragon when he ate food like that. Occasionally it was cute. Sometimes it was unnerving. It was always messy though. She turned to her own fritters and used her magic to lift the food to her mouth, careful not to make a mess while digging in. She took a bite. "These are great!" she commented to Granny Smith.

        "They better be," Granny Smith laughed, "cooking’s all I’m good for now-a-days. My hip ain’t what it used to be." Granny Smith accepted the compliment with some dry humor. "Don’t get many folks around here. Let alone unicorns and... What’s this overgrown newt suppose to be anyway?"

        "I’m not a newt! I’m a dragon!" Spike replied feeling offend.

        "Dragon? Thought those went extinct years ago," Granny Smith mumbled.

        "Well obviously we haven’t... I think," Spike replied.

        "So where are the two of you off to? A traveling unicorn and her pet overgrown newt."

        "We’re on our way back to Canterlot," Twilight replied. "We couldn’t afford a carriage-"

        "Because someone bought too many books," Spike interjected.

        "And we stopped here for some food." Twilight ignored Spike much to Granny Smith’s humor.

        "Well then how are you going to pay this here bill?" Granny Smith slipped a small sheet of paper over the table; a receipt for the meal. Twenty bits.

        "Twenty bits!" Twilight gasped.

        "Twenty bits!" Spike exclaimed.

        "Twenty bits!" the two stallions in the back laughed.

        "Twenty bits." Granny Smith grinned. "I need to pay off that stool you broke somehow."

        Twilight instantly lost any compassion she had for the old mare. Grudgingly, she took out the twenty bits from her bit-purse and placed them on the table. Granny Smith took the bits and hung a key on Twilight’s horn. "What’s this for?" Twilight asked, unamused.

        "I figure you need a place to stay if you're down on your bits and headin’ for Canterlot. Something a lot of us here know quite well is what it’s like to be bitless, so go find a pony called Applejack in the apple orchards and tell her you’re roomin’ with us tonight and that Granny Smith sent you." Granny Smith smiled.

        "Oh! Thank you ma’am. I don’t know what to say," Twilight said, feeling warmed by the generosity of the old mare. Maybe she wasn’t all bad, she thought.

        "You paid for two new stools, so it's the least I can do." And that warm feeling left instantly. The two stallions in the back were bent over the table laughing their tails off. "You two shut up! Drivin’ away business," Granny Smith yelled to the two in the back.

        "Business? Ain’t no one for miles, granny!" one of them yelled back.

        "I ain’t your granny!" Granny Smith spat back. "Call me that again and I’ll have to whip you whippersnappers into shape." Twilight decided to leave the scene before she got involved. She had heard country ponies tended to solve disagreements with their hooves. She turned to the doorway, using her magic to grab Spike, and made her way towards the door. Once outside, one of the stallions that were playing pool went flying through the window next to her with a broken pool cue following after. "You owe me a window, you hear!" Granny Smith yelled out.

        Twilight looked around town, trying to find the apple orchards. As it turned out it wasn’t far off from the bar she just dined at which was probably an intentional design choice. The orchard seemed to stretch pretty far. Twilight looked farther out, deeper into the orchard. The farther the land went the sicker the trees looked. The sound of hooves hitting wood caught her attention. Turning her head towards the sound, Twilight found an orange pony dressed in an unzipped cow girl jacket with a hat to match it.  The cow girl pony gave the apple tree next to her a hard buck, the shock of which caused the apples to fall out of the tree and into buckets located at the trunk. Twilight called out to her. "Are you Applejack?"

        The orange pony turned to face Twilight. Her face was decorated with freckles, solidify her country girl status.

        "Who’s askin’?" she spat back to Twilight.

        Twilight jumped at the sudden reply. "I was at the bar. The owner, Granny Smith, gave me this key and said to find Applejack."

        "Ah, Granny Smith sent you." The mare lightened up a little. "I’m Applejack. Your name is?"

        "Twilight," Twilight responded.

        "And I’m Spike," Spike added somewhat annoyed he’s been left out of the conversation for so long.

        "Twi’ and Spike," Applejack repeated, "gotcha. So what did you do to get that key?" Applejack asked.

        "Broke a stool and was billed twenty bits," Twilight mumbled still feeling cheated. Applejack responded with a light-hearted chuckle.

        "Yeah, that's Granny Smith all right. No one’s paid a meal at proper price in ages. Everything is so broke she has to charge customers to pay for it. Still, she’s my granny. My actual granny that is. Granny Granny Smith I use to call her until-" Applejack looked back and noticed the disinterest in her guests faces. "Never mind. You want me to show you to your room now, right?"

        "That would be nice. I could use the load off," Twilight admitted. Applejack turned to show her the way to a barn just a few blocks away. Twilight was hoping she wouldn’t actually be sleeping in the barn and that some separate main house was behind it. Her fears we’re both debunked and confirmed at the same time. The barn had a small side attachment.

        "Right in here." Applejack led her. "You gonna take that key off your horn any time soon. You look mighty silly like that." Twilight had forgotten about the key Granny Smith hung. Using her magic she levitated the key off her horn and placed it in her bags. "Fancy unicorn trick you got going there." Applejack opened the door into the side building. "Hey Apple Bloom. We got guests!"

        A loud crashing sound was heard from within. A small filly with apple red mane and a yellow coat launched herself out of the kitchen to meet the guests. Her head was adorned with a red bow, and a pot for a helmet. "Guests! Where?"

        Soon after her arrival a frizzy, red-maned filly appeared by the first one’s side. Her almond-white coated face was obscured by a pair of purple framed glasses and a colander helmet. "Gusths! Ooh! I sthould make sthome treatsth!" she said with a heavy lisp. She disappeared back into the kitchen, intent on making treats.

        "Anyway," Applejack started, "Apple Bloom, this here is Twilight and Spike. Granny scammed ‘em out of some bits so we’re putting her up tonight."

        "Hi!" Apple Bloom turned to the guests. "I’m Apple Bloom, and my friend making you candy is Twist. Welcome to the apple family Apple Acres Inn. I’ll be your hostess. I’ll take your bags to your room and put a mint on the pillow." With superfluous, youthful exuberance Apple Bloom had snatched Twilight’s and Spike’s bags and ran off to the back of the house. Twilight and Spike were left stupefied by the encounter.

        "Sorry about that. Bless her lil’ heart she’s just tryin’ to find her special talent and earn her cutie mark. So whenever guests show she tries inn keeping and hosting."

        "And how many guests have you had?" Twilight spat out in a dead-pan tone.

        "You’re the third one in two months," Applejack responded.

        "Not a lot of visitors?" Spike asked.

        "Yeah. Most ponies now-a-days take carriages or those fancy harmotech air things to go around or just don’t move at all. Puts a dent on the town’s economy," Applejack spat.

        "That sucks," Spike sympathized with the country mare, "but don’t you guys trade with Canterlot a lot?"

        "Yeah, but money is gettin’ tighter there too. Ponies just can’t afford as much apples as before." Applejack’s tone was getting lower, the subject obviously bringing her mood down. "I’ll just take you to your rooms now," She said turning into the hallway and leading Twilight and Spike to their room for the night.

        Twilight didn’t quite expect such a nice room. The sight of the barn set her expectations to a pile of hay for a bed, but instead she received a modestly furnished room with a bed sized for, one might expect, a legendary winged unicorn. Her bags lay in the corner and Apple Bloom had fallen asleep right on the bed with the mint in her mouth. "Oh, Apple Bloom." Applejack picked up the little filly with her mouth and gently placed her on her back.

        "This bed is so nice. Why place it in a guest room?" Twilight asked.

        "We can’t move the dang thing 'cause it’s too big," Applejack laughed. "Use to belong to my parents. Use to anyway, but we converted it into a guest room when bits started gettin’ tight. So enjoy," she said turning to the door way. "Please don’t think ill of Granny Smith. She means well, but times are tough for us here." Applejack left the room with the sleeping filly. Twilight and Spike were now alone in the room.

        Twilight turned to the bed. She wasn’t ready to sleep yet despite all the walking. She turned to her bags and started levitating out some books to study. "Back to the books?" Spike asked.

        "Yeah. These things don’t read themselves," Twilight responded.

        "How about we look around town. We’re almost never out of Canterlot so let’s take the chance to do some sight-seeing."

        "It’s a dusty little town with a ton of apples, Spike. Nothing to really see."

        "C’mon. Just for an hour. Please."

        Twilight sighed and gave up. "Fine. I spoil you, you know."

        "I know, so let’s go!" Spike said, excitedly tugging on Twilight.

        The door to the room opened revealing the frizzy haired friend of Apple Bloom, Twist. "I have thome cookieth for you." She smiled.

        "Aw, isn’t that sweet." Twilight couldn’t control herself as she commented on the kindness of the filly.

        "Sweet nothing I’m gonna have cavities for years!" Spike added shoveling cookies into his maw, prompting Twilight to grab him and drag him away.

        "Thank you. Just place them on the table and I’ll eat them later." Twist happily obliged before going to wake up Apple Bloom for another game of kitchen wars.

        A large crowd had begun to grow in the town square. In the center of the crowd stood a gilded wagon that exuded steam. "Looks interesting," Spike said while tugging on Twilight’s cloak. "I think it’s a magic show," he said, pointing to the sign that said ‘magic show’.

        "Spike, I’m a unicorn. You see me do magic all the time," Twilight stated in her matter-of-fact tone once again.

        "Yeah, but you’ve never done a magic show," Spike replied with perfect logic. Twilight just ignored the comment and scanned the town for anything else of interest. A blaring pink pony caught her eye, but her attention was further diverted to the building the pony walked into: A museum, one of her favorite establishments.

        "A museum of farming tools? Sounds interesting," she commented somewhat ecstatically. "Just think about all the knowledge it must hold on the advancement of pony based tools."

        "Nah, magic shows are cooler," Spike dismissed Twilight, "I think it’s starting." Spike bounced with anticipation.

        With a puff of steam the wagon in the center of town slowly began to open and expand. The crowd slowly backed away to allow room for the expansion. A sign popped out of the top of the wagon reading Dark Horns Troupe Presents: The Great and Powerful Trixie!

        "Dark horns? Never heard of them."

        "Think they have anything to do with the Dark Wings circus troupe?"

        "Don’t know. Maybe it’s one of them copy-cat deals."

        All at once the light in the area was dimmed, as if someone had tried to block out the sun. Twilight looked up to see that somebody was trying to block out the sun. A cloud spell has been cast overhead. For most of the ponies here who had little interaction with unicorns or even pegasi it was a feat of gods to move clouds. Twilight saw the spell as a cheap parlor trick. It was still an impressive spell to be able to use, but she thought it could be used for much more than a smoke and mirrors gambit. She turned her attention back to the stage as a cloud of smoke erupted and then dissipated to reveal a blue-coated white-maned unicorn with a wizard’s hat and robe. Multi-colored lights erupted from the clouds and focused on the new unicorn. Admittedly, Twilight was slightly impressed by the light show. Everyone else was completely dazzled by the sudden pyrotechnics.

        "Behold, simple ponies of Apple Acres!" the blue mare erupted. "I am the Great and Powerful Trixie!" A multitude of fireworks erupted from the stage to write the show-boating mare’s name in the sky. She received some stamps from the crowd, but the comment about the ponies being simple had offended many. "Yeesh. Tough crowd," Trixie muttered under her breath before composing herself. "Today, I will astound and stupefy you with feats of daring magic! Stories of wondrous valor! And acts of considerable incredibility!" She received a few more stamps now. In her mind, she was getting in the zone. "Assistant Snips!" At the call, a short stubby unicorn colt with little neck, blue fur, and a messy orange mane popped out, pushing a box with various slits in it.

        "Right here for you Miss G. and P.T." The little cot piped up, depositing the box, and disappearing back into the shadows of the stage.

        "Excellent." Trixie opened the box with her magic and climbed into it. "Now, assistant Snails!" A lanky colt unicorn with a muddy-orange coat and a blue-green mane had stepped out. He was pulling a tray stacked with daggers.

        "All ready for you, Miss Trixie," The assistant replied with a slow drawl.

        "Excellent!" Trixie replied again. "Now behold ponies of Apple Acres as my assistant here takes these daggers and thrusts them into my coffin of pain! Let the show commence!" At the command Snips started placing daggers into the box. Every time a dagger went in Trixie received an ‘ooh’ or ‘ah’. Trixie confidently smiled as she received her entertainers reward before- "OW! Snails what they hay are you doing!" she lashed out.

        "Eyuh, sorry Miss Trixie. I got clumsy hooves, eh," Snails replied. The bit seemed to amuse the crowd and some even laughed at the scolding Trixie gave to Snails. Twilight began to wonder if this was more a comedy act than magic routine. In a wave of disinterest she looked around at the audience. She spotted Snips, Trixie’s first assistant, creeping around the floor taking full advantage of the blocked out light and Trixie’s attention grabbing show as he attempted to pry bits out of open pockets. No one seemed to notice as Trixie went on with her show.

        "Thief!" Twilight called out, pointing at Snips. The rest of the crowd turned over to Snips.

        Snips gave the crowd and incredibly weak smile. "Busted!" Snips cried.

        "The act is over! Snips! Let’s go!" Trixie yelled to her assistant.

        Snips bucked up and ran back to the stage as it quickly transformed back into wagon. "Hope you enjoyed the show folks. Encore tomorrow at 7:00 AM pacific time zone, but now it’s time we vamoosed!" Snips waved farewell to them all before the wagon trailed off in a puff of steam.

        "Confounded unicorn thieves! Takin’ our hard earned bits!" a familiar country tone called out. It was Applejack.

        "Didn’t your grandma scam us?" Spike replied.

        "Hard earned scammin’, mind you."

        "Seems to me like a bit of karma," Twilight added. "What goes around comes around."

        "You sure you want to poke at the pony cookin’ your dinner tonight?" Applejack glared.

        "Point taken," Twilight responded. "They’re gone now and I don’t think that little guy managed to take a whole lot."

        "This is terrible! Traumatically terrible!" a voice cried out, the owner appearing soon after; a cream colored earth pony with a white mane. "Our museum has been positively pilfered! Our town's most priceless precious purloined by perilous pirates!" he alliterated. Twilight surmised that this pony was quite literate.

        "Wait, say that again, Clockwork?" Applejack asked.

        "The big fancy blade key thingy!" Clockwork cried yet again. "Those thieves must have taken it and taken off!"

        "What!" Applejack exclaimed. "Well then we’re gonna have to get it back then."

        "We?" Twilight said confusingly. "As in involving me?"

        "Yep. You’re a unicorn. They were all unicorns. You gotta know somethin’ about how they work."

        "I don’t know." Twilight shrugged. "Follow the trails of their steam wagon?"

        "Well all right then. Let’s go!" Applejack grabbed Twilight’s mane in her teeth and dragged her off, following the trail of the wagon, Twilight screaming as she was pulled off.

        "Oh boy, adventure!" Spike yelled out bouncing along with excitement. "Wait for me!"

SKIT: Big Fancy Blade Key Thingy?

 

Twilight: What in Equestria is a big fancy blade key thingy?

Applejack: Exactly what it says. It’s big. It’s fancy looking. You can cut things with it. It has teeth like a key. And it’s a thingy.

Twilight: Couldn’t think of proper name?

Applejack: Might have had one at some point but no one remembers.

Spike: Ooh! I bet it’s some kind of super important weapon of awesome magic!

Applejack: Nope.

Spike: Nope?

Applejack: Things as worthless as an empty can of oats now.

Twilight: So why are we chasing after it?

Applejack: It has sentimental value to the town.

Twilight: Sentimental value?

Applejack: It’s like a symbol for us.

Twilight: And you forgot what it’s called?

Applejack: For all we know it never had a name. But we tilled soil with that thing when Apple Acres was first founded.

Twilight: Wouldn’t that make it a big fancy blade hoe thingy?

Applejack: Yeah, but the young’uns said that sounded dumb. So we went with key.

Twilight: And key thingy sounds better?

Applejack: marginally.

Twilight: I’m marginally having a migraine now.

Spike: Let’s go retrieve the hoe blade!

Twilight: No...

 

SKIT: End

 

        Their journey had led them into a part of the Everfree Forest expansion that bordered close to the Canterlot region. "Well, this was a bad idea," Twilight remarked, "If they went in there then they’re as good as dead." Twilight turned to leave.

        "Now hold on," Applejack gabbed Twilight, "I hear tales of ponies foolhardy enough to live here and makin’ it work. Maybe them bandits we’re among those Everfree livin’ ponies," Applejack stated, "meanin’ they’re all right and they have the town treasure."

        "And what will we do if we encounter anything like gremlins or even a chimera!" Twilight panicked a little at the thought of encountering a chimera of any shape.

        "Oh I can handle a gremlin or two. Anythin’ else, well, we run like the ponies we are!" Applejack replied with confidence, puffing out her chest. "I can outrun near anything in here."

        "That’s great Applejack..." Twilight didn’t have the same level of confidence in her own physical skill. She turned her head to the ground, hoping Applejack wouldn’t see her uneasiness.

        "If we stick to the shallow parts I’m sure we’ll be fine, sugarcube." Applejack tried to cheer her up, noticing the lack of confidence in Twilight’s voice. "I dragged you here, and I’ll be bucked by a dragon before I let you die a fool death in this forest." She hoped to cheer her up.

        "I can arrange that," Spike piped up.

        "Oh? You know a dragon lil’guy?"

        "I am one," Spike stated with pride in his voice.

        "Yeah, a shrimpy one," Applejack added, laughing as Spike’s face shifted from confidence to annoyance. "Sorry, but I heard dragons were mean and terrible and vicious. Not... you."

        "Give me time and I’ll be burning your crops down in no time," Spike replied, darkly.

        "Oh be careful about that lil’ guy." Applejack nudged the dragon. "Us apple family ponies don’t take kindly to threats," she chided with a smile. "Now let’s go before them bandits make off with the towns big fancy blade key thingy." Applejack led the way into the forest. "I promise you, I’ll keep you safe Miss. Twi’," she winked.

        Twilight found a bit of comfort in the promise. "Thanks." Twilight followed, doing her best to believe in Applejack’s promise to keep her safe. Spike followed right after her on foot, bow in hand, arrow nocked, and ready to take on anything.

        The sounds of the forest did little to alleviate the frightening atmosphere. Bushes always rattled as if something was waiting within them to strike out. Twigs would break and Twilight would turn to find nothing. "It’s worse than anything I’ve ever read about," she mumbled, slightly unhinged to the point of talking to herself.

        They followed the tracks from the wagon right into the tree it crashed into. It lay in a smoldering pile of junk on the floor of the forest. The occupants were nowhere to be found. "Well consarn it!" Applejack cursed. "Where the hay did they go off to?"

        "That way," A soft voice answered back, the sudden answering of which had caused Twilight to jump into Applejack’s hooves. A cream yellow mare with a pink mane stepped out of the shadows. Her face was mostly obscured by a hood. A tattered and loosely fitting cloak hung from her body, covering nearly her whole body. Neither of the ponies or Spike could even see her hooves since the hem of the sleeves were so long.

        "And who are you?" Applejack snapped at the new comer, causing her to jump into Twilight’s hooves. The sudden shift in weight caused Applejack to topple over and bring the two ponies down with her.

        "Pony pile on Applejack!" Spike yelled as he jumped onto the pile.

        "Don’t pony pile on me!" Applejack yelled out. "Is everypony here some kinda scaredy cat?"

        "Sorry," The new pony replied.

        "So who are you?" Applejack asked again, picking herself up and dusting her jacket.

        "I’m..." If she had answered the question no one heard it.

        "You are?" Applejack asked again.

        "I..." No one was sure if she even said another word.

        "You are?" Twilight asked this time. The only noise that came out of the mare was a sound that lay somewhere between a squeak and a screech.

        "You are?" This time Spike tried. He was answered with a quick tackle into a hug by the newcomer.

        "Oh you are just so cute. Like a little pudgy overgrown lizard," the newcomer commented as she stroked spike’s scales.

        "Pudgy!?" Spike cried out.

        "Hah! Now who needs to go on a diet?" Twilight responded with enough indignation to call a bolt of lightning causing everyone to jump at the sudden crackle.

        "Everfree weather for you," Applejack commented, "Doesn’t make a lick of sense. Just comes and goes randomly without any pegasi around." Applejack turned back to the newcomer. "So, now that you have your hooves around our pudgy little friend-"

        "I am not pudgy! It’s just baby fat!" Spike defensively cried out.

        "Mind telling us your name now?"

        "I’m Fluttershy," the new comer finally answered.

        "That’s great, Fluttershy. Now can you let go of me?" Spike asked.

        "Oh, yes, of course." Fluttershy blushed as she let go of Spike, somewhat embarrassed by her behavior.

        "So you saw the ponies that were in this here contraption?" Applejack asked, pointing to the broken steam wagon.

        "Not really," Fluttershy answered. "I heard the crash and got so scared I ran into that bush, but based on the way the ground has been disturbed it’s obvious they went in that direction." Fluttershy once pointed deeper into the forest.

        "Well I’ll be! A regular tracker pony," Applejack exclaimed. "You must have been taught by the best."

        "Well, not really, just the way I was raised, really," Fluttershy replied.

        "Well we need that lay of the land know how if we’re gonna track down those bandit unicorns and get back my towns big fancy blade key thingy."

        "Big... fancy... what?"

        "Don’t matter. Think you can help us? Pretty please? I can guarantee some apples and apple baked goods in it for you" Applejack attempted to bribe the shy mare.

        "I guess that sounds nice," Fluttershy responded, tuning her head down as her hood covered even more of her face.

        "Well then let’s go. Lead the way Miss ‘Shy." Applejack tried to encourage their new painfully shy party member to take lead, much to Fluttershy’s displeasure. After some shoving on Applejack’s part Fluttershy had clumsily started to lead them deep into the forest. She was somehow even quieter through it all.

SKIT: Proper Introduction

 

Fluttershy: …

Applejack: How you doin’ there? Trail gone cold?

Fluttershy: Uh, no. They seem to be... very disorganized so their path is really obvious.

Applejack: Well perfect. Oh, I forgot to introduce myself in all the hubbub. I’m Applejack. I’m an apple farmer.

Fluttershy: That’s nice.

Applejack: Yeah. It is nice.

Fluttershy: …

Spike: Not one for conversation, are you.

Fluttershy: Well... I... Uh...

Spike: It’s all right. Neither is Twilight for that matter, the grouchy purple unicorn freaking out over there.

Twilight: SNAAAAAAAAAAKE!

Fluttershy: Oh, and you are?

Spike: I’m Spike.

Fluttershy: Applejack, Twilight, and Spike. Okay.

Applejack: Anyway, how do you do all those cool land tracking things?

Fluttershy: Uh... I just pay attention.

Applejack: You must pay a lot of attention.

Fluttershy: It’s just looking for the little details.

Applejack: Nothing I’ve ever been good at.

Fluttershy: Oh...

Applejack: Oh buck up. It’s not like I’m blaming you. You’re being a real help right now.

Fluttershy: Um, thanks.

Applejack: You’re quite welcome

 

SKIT: End

 

        As they progressed further into the forest Twilight’s anxiety over her surroundings grew stronger. She felt her body get tenser with every inch. She looked to her traveling companions to examine their own faces, hoping that a confident look from Applejack might be enough to calm her nerves. Applejack herself didn’t look any more comfortable and even Spike, who first expressed delight over the ordeal, was beginning to look troubled. Fluttershy, though, looked the same as when they first met her, ever anxious. Despite her anxiousness though, the forest did not faze her. At least until she stopped and looked back at them with a worried look. "Goblins," She whispered trying not to panic all of them. Twilight reacted with panic.

        "Goblins!?" she blurted out too late. Five of the small, hairless, pointy eared, creatures popped out. They were smaller than kobolds by a foot, but were more numerous and had advantage of knowing the forest better than the ponies did. One of them jumped out at Twilight with a sharpened pike in hand, but Applejack, true to her word, protected Twilight by head butting the creature mid-flight and then proceeding to trample over it.

        "All right, some action!" Spike aimed his bow at the farthest goblin. The Goblin had a bow as well pointed back at Spike. "Let’s dance, punk!" Spike yelled as he threw himself to the side to dodge an arrow. He fired one of his own arrows before he hit the ground. The projectile stuck the goblin in the shoulder, causing it to release its bow and charge at him with a miniature pike. "Burning Lotus!" Spike cried out as he shot another bolt that ignited with fire before sticking into the goblin and then exploding. The goblin collapsed to the ground.

        Two goblins had taken the chance to attack Applejack from behind. Applejack smirked as she reared herself on her forelegs. "Bad idea!" she said, bucking the goblins in the face. The sheer force of the strike sent the two goblins spiraling through a tree.

        With most of the goblins incapacitated, Applejack scanned the area for the last one. It was cowering before Fluttershy who wore an uncharacteristic and disturbingly powerful death glare. The goblin dropped its makeshift weapons and ran away in tears shouting for its mother. As Fluttershy turned to face the others the glare disappeared from her expression. "That was a close one," Fluttershy exhaled. The other three stared back dumbfounded and unsure of what just happened.  She winced. "Can you... please... stop staring," Fluttershy squeaked as she turned away, unwanting of the attention.

"That was amazing ‘Shy. You looked at that varmint straight in the eye and it ran away with wet under-knickers." Applejack patted Fluttershy on the back, who jumped at the contact. "Uh, you okay, 'Shy'" Applejack asked.

"Y-yeah," Fluttershy replied, "I’ll just go back to tracking. They should be close." Fluttershy turned away from them and resumed leading.

Applejack examined her own hoof for a moment before following Fluttershy. Something felt off.

SKIT: Name scheme

 

Twilight: You did it again.

Spike: What? The BURNING LOTUS!

Applejack: Yeah, what was with that?

Spike: It’s what I call that attack where my arrow explodes twice.

Twilight: It’s silly.

Applejack: Hmm... I should give it a try. Ugh. Apple Buck Storm!

Twilight: Agh!

Applejack: Oops, sorry.

Spike: Eh, kind of wordy. And why apple? Just buck storm could do.

Applejack: No. It’s gotta have apple in it.

Spike: Why?

Applejack: Just does.

Spike: Fine then. If that’s your naming scheme.

Twilight: Is everypony going to start calling out attacks now?

Fluttershy: …

Twilight: ...Fluttershy...

Fluttershy: …

Twilight: Your thinking about it, aren't you.

Fluttershy: Yes...

Twilight: Everypony here is crazy...

 

SKIT: End

 

        As Fluttershy led them deeper into the forest, the air had changed from unnerving silence to ponies bickering. It wasn’t Twilight and her traveling cohorts that filled the air with inane chatter, but the stage mare that they were chasing, Trixie. Twilight definitely recognized Trixie’s voice, but there was another pony with her. Twilight assumed that this was another accomplice, the one that took the town artifact.

        "This piece of junk is worth maybe thirty bits tops! It’s junk!" Trixie frustratingly yelled out from within the forest. "We can’t fix Trixie’s wagon with this."

        Fluttershy led them into a nearby bush where they could spy on the bandits and survey the scene. They got a clear view of them. Trixie was huddled next to a camp fire with the two assistant colts playing on the other side. The pony Trixie was arguing with seemed to be cooking something with the campfire. She was a brilliant pink with her mane a darker shade of pink and filled with poofy curls. Twilight recognized her as the pony that walked into the museum before the show started. "And now Trixie is lost with you all!"

        "Oh it could be worse, Trixie," The pink pony replied, her voice filled with sweetness and good intentions, the opposite of her grouchy accomplice. "We could be face to face with an Ursa Minor. That could be worse!"

        "Don’t jinx Trixie," Trixie retorted, "stupid two-bit ponies wouldn’t know good magic if they were turned into rabbits and pulled out of Trixie’s hat. To think a town filled with earth ponies is actually more skeptic of magic than in awe of it"

        "From what I saw the show was going fine," the pink pony tried to cheer up her accomplice, "until somepony went and caught Snips snipping purses."

        "Yeah, sorry about that, Trixie." Snips, the pony Twilight caught, apologized to Trixie.

        Trixie grumbled. "Well, it’s not your fault! It’s that blasted purple pony’s fault! If I ever see her I’ll turn her into a newt!" Trixie cried into the sky with indignation, calling forth yet another bolt of lightning and causing Twilight and her traveling companions to jump. "Who’s there!?" Trixie turned to the bush. She rose onto her hind legs and placed her hooves in front of her, ready to cast a spell.

        Applejack burst out of the bush. "Stop right there," she commanded, "I’m from Apple Acres and I’m here to retrieve the towns big fancy blade key thingy and anything else you might have stolen!"

        "You want that piece of junk?" Trixie’s expression turned from anger to annoyance. "Take it. It’s not worth the trouble of hauling it." Trixie turned to the pink pony. "Go fetch it for her, Pinkie." The pink pony stood still for a moment. "Pinkie! Get the thingy so Trixie can be rid of it!"

        "Huh," the pink pony suddenly blurted, "oh! Right away oh loud and obnoxious Trixie!" The pink pony jumped through the air and right into the bush adjacent to the one that Twilight was hiding in. She jumped right back out, returning to her previous spot, with the big fancy blade key thingy in her mouth. It wasn’t very fancy. It was quite rusty and the teeth of it looked flat rather than sharp. It looked like a farmer’s tool, which was a perfect symbol for a farmer’s town. With their quest complete Twilight stepped out of the bush to stretch.

        "Great, now let’s get back," Twilight said as she shook a few leaves out of her mane.

        "You!" Trixie suddenly pointed at Twilight. "You’re the one who ruined Trixie’s act!" Trixie was screaming and livid with rage.

        "You were stealing from your audience!" Twilight retorted.

        "As a performer," Trixie said putting on an air of pseudo-sophisticating, "Trixie cannot allow anyone who interrupts Trixie’s routine to get away with it! Dark Horns! Battle formation!" Trixie cried out. The pink pony just continued to cook while Snips and Snails continued to play. Trixie glared at the three and cleared her throat. "Battle Formation! I said!" she screamed, getting her accomplices attention. The pink pony jumped in front of Trixie, a giant bladed pinwheel on her back. Snails stood next to her, a shield attached to a foreleg. Snips stood on the other side of Trixie, a staff with a pair of scissors taped to an end to make a crude spear. "En garde!" Trixie exclaimed.

        Twilight groaned. "I never agreed to this. We have what we want so let’s go." A bolt of lightning grazed Twilight’s cheek.

        "I said en garde." Trixie eyed Twilight. Her horn giving off a bright magenta glow and a hoof pointed at Twilight.

        "This is crazy!" Twilight exclaimed.

        "Ready go!" the pink pony yelled out as she charged in for a fight. The battle had started.

        "Watch out!" Applejack jumped in front of Twilight to block the blow from the pink pony.

        "Applejack!" Twilight called back as another bolt of lightning nearly missed her fight.

        "You face Trixie now!" Trixie roared. "Lightning!" Trixie called out as a bolt of lightning escaped from one of her hooves.

        "All right let’s go!" Spike jumped at the closest target, the shielded colt.

        "What! But, what do I do?" Fluttershy barely dodged a blow from the scissor staff wielding colt. "Oh, this is bad."

        Applejack and the pink pony butted heads. They two stared each other in the eye for a moment while their heads struggled to overpower the other. The pink pony managed to pull off a perfect impersonation of a dog growl before withdrawing her head, causing Applejack to stumble over. Grabbing her giant pinwheel with her teeth, the pink pony swung the giant bladed weapon overhead before returning it to her back. The attack missed. Applejack wasn’t going to let herself get hit with such a slow attack. Applejack turned her body and used the momentum of the turn to buck the pink pony in the chest. "Revolution Apple Buck!" Applejack cried out as the hit connected sending the pink pony into a tree.

        The pink pony picked herself up and spit out a leaf. "Ooh! That was a neat attack name! Well try and stop this one!"  She grabbed the pinwheel, this time with her fore-hooves, and charging at Applejack. "Party Devastation!" she cried out as she raised the weapon overhead. The pinwheel started turning like a buzz-saw before the pink pony swung down, rending the earth under her. Applejack managed to dodge most of the blow, but the earth-shrapnel caught her off guard. The spinning weapon continued to dig into the dirt, kicking up more dirt before becoming clogging up.

        "Now!" Applejack roared as she rammed herself into the pink pony. "I got you now!"

        "Nope!" the pink pony answered with innocent enthusiasm as she let go of the weapon and jabbed at Applejack’s stomach. "Thunder Hoof!" A joy buzzer at the end of the pink pony’s hoof activated, sending a current of electricity through Applejack.

        "The hay!" Applejack cursed as she escaped from the pink pony’s attack.

        "Joy buzzers." The pink pony held her hoof, revealing a hidden gadget.

        "That’s a cheap shot!" Applejack dug her hooves into the ground. "I don’t like cheap shots. Applejack clenched her teeth.

        "This thing is kind of wimpy compared to my other gags," the pink pony taunted. "I thought you were tougher than this."

        "I’ll show you how tough I really am!" she yelled out as she charged at the pink pony again. "I’ll show you the strength of an honest work horse!" Applejack threw herself off the ground, slammed her shoulder deep into the pink pony. "Beast!" Applejack called out, a blue energy erupting from her in the form of a lion head and throwing the pink pony a few feet into the air. As the pink pony flew up Applejack grabbed her tail with her teeth and brought her back down to the ground. "La’thlide!" Applejack yelled with the pony in her teeth as she reintroduced the pink pony to the ground the hard way.

        As Applejack panted from the energy she spent on the combo, the pink pony got up from the attack, almost no worse for wear. "That was a great combo!" she said, dusting herself. Applejack couldn’t believe the level of punishment the pink pony could take.

        "How are you still standing!?" Applejack stated in disbelief.

        "I got ponies worth fighting for. When you got that, anything is possible," she said in a suddenly serious tone, "or something like that. C’mon! Another round!" she said, charging Applejack.

        Applejack gritted her teeth in a cocky grin. "Bring it pinky!"

        Spike and one of Trixie’s assistant colts, Snails, were caught in a fearsome duel. Snail’s shield proved to be the bane of Spike’s bow and arrow. Spike found the burning lotus useless against a shielded foe. Snails on the other hand had taken to using his shield like a battering ram when not using it to defend. Whenever he saw Spike nock an arrow he would raise his shield to protect himself from the arrow and then charge into, Spike, knocking him around with his shield.

        Spike was lucky his scales could protect him from the pain, but his body was beginning to ache from the constant bashing. "All right, new strategy." Spike grabbed his bow with both his hands and pulled on it. The bow separated into a pair of daggers. "All right, bring it!" Spike yelled as he charged into Snails.

        Snails raised his shield to protect himself from Spike’s sudden onslaught. As Spike attacked Snails charged a spell to counter with. Spike continued to hack away at the shield before turning up his head and seeing the glow of unicorn magic. "Uh oh."

        "Photon!" Snails called out. Rays of light built up in the space between Spike and Snails before erupting, sending the both of them flying in opposite directions.

        Spike recovered from the attack. "Not too adept with magic," he chided.

        "I’m getting better," Snails defended, placing his shield in front of him.

        "Really?" Spike pointed his daggers at Snails. "C’mon!" he yelled as he charged at Snails.

        "Okay!" Snails launched himself at Spike. "Helix Shot!" Snails called out as he jumped into the air, spinning himself into a living bullet.

        "That’s better," Spike called back. "Fang Rush!" Spike called out, pointing his blades forward and picking up speed.

        Snails attack broke through Spike’s, flinging the baby dragon into a tree. Spike bounced off the tree and landed on the ground below. While he still felt no pain Spike was dizzy and slowly losing consciousness.

        Taking a deep breath Spike looked up only to find his opening. Snails’ attack had caused him to become dizzy and he was open to attack. Spike slammed his daggers together, returning his weapon to its bow state. He nocked a single arrow and called out his attack. "Gale Salvo!" Three arrows fired from the bow, aimed directly at Snails, each arrow cutting the wind as they flew.

        Snails managed to compose himself in time to raise his shield at the last moment. The first two arrows collided with his shield, knocking him off balance. The last one stuck Snails in the side. Realizing his imminent defeat Snails tapped into the last of his strength to raise his shield.  "That was... a good shot, eh," Snails complimented Spike.

        "Thanks," Spike replied as his eyes grew heavier.

        "Now," Snails pushed himself on, "Helix rebound!" Snails roared as he threw his shield at Spike. The shield flew through the air and smashed right into Spike before returning to Snails. That blow was the last push Spike needed to slip into unconsciousness. The shield flew past Snails and landed on the ground behind him. Snails was unable to catch the shield as he to fell to the floor. This battle was a draw.

        Snips had attempted to spear Fluttershy with the pair of scissors tied to the end of his staff. Unfortunately, his stout build worked against him and he found Fluttershy to be unexpectedly agile, as if she had wings. However, she never struck back. Was she that much better than him in combat? He could feel his confidence waver. He shook his head to rid himself of the uneasiness. He had to try. "Scissor Spear!" He cried out as the pair of scissors at the end of his staff glowed along with his horn. He leapt into the air spinning, once again missing Fluttershy, and then barreled downwards at Fluttershy, who had somehow used her hoof to deflect the pinpoint move. At least that’s what he thought. He couldn’t see what lied under Fluttershy’s loosely fit robe.

        "Uhm, is it my turn now?" Fluttershy asked. "I’ve been waiting here for my turn to attack. Can I go now?"

        Snips stared at her in confusion. "Sure?" Snips answered back, unsure what else to say. Who stands around and waits to be attacked?

        "Uh, Time out tap." Fluttershy tried to sound confident in her attack. She tapped Snips on the head with her hoof.

        Snips’ will almost instantly broke. He felt compelled to just surrender then and there to the yellow mare. She was overpowering him with a force he couldn’t comprehend. Everything about her compelled him to want to obey her innocently cute attack and impose on himself a time out and surrender the match. "No!" Snips cried out, overpowering the urge to give in. "I won’t lose like this!" He cried out. The scissor on his staff began to glow once again along w. Once again he ran at Fluttershy, his emotions for Trixie reaching a fever pitch. "Fatal Scissor Surge!" He swung his staff at Fluttershy who dodged to the side but used the momentum to propel himself into another swing. Fluttershy side stepped again but found herself against a tree with nowhere to go. Seeing his chance Snips reared back and pointed his scissor staff at Fluttershy before charging for the deciding blow.

        It was over before Snips knew what happened. His makeshift staff was gone. It lie in pieces on the ground, and now he did too. All he saw was a flash of steel and the sound of chains. How? He had no idea. He was defeated pure and simple. He was fine with this. He tried his hardest for Trixie. He swore to himself the next time he got up he would become stronger for his hero, but now was the time to rest. Fluttershy caressed the young colt as he drifted into unconsciousness. She bared him no ill will and understood Snips did not blame her. This was not a personal battle and if they ever met again they would not feel hate for one another. She scooped the colt into her lap and sang the colt a lullaby. A warrior’s lullaby.

        Twilight dodged a lightning bolt. "This is crazy!" she cried."I don’t want to fight you!"

        "You ruined my show you insolent foal! I have my pride as an entertainer at stake!" Trixie yelled back as she sent another bolt at Twilight. Lighting seemed to be Trixie’s element of choice.

        "Are you crazy!?" Twilight narrowly dodged another bolt. "What if you set fire to this entire forest!?"

        "Oh please. Only a fourth-rate unicorn would allow her magic to get so out of control. I guess that’s what you are. A fourth-rate unicorn." Trixie grinned as she insulted Twilight. Trixie was right though, if Twilight could control her magic well enough she could avoid causing wild fires. "Now face Trixie, you fourth-rate unicorn. Lightning!"

        Twilight dodged another bolt. "Not good," Twilight told herself as she stomped the ground to send an earth spell at Trixie.

        As the earth gave way under Trixie she expertly back flipped through the spell with grace that befit an acrobat. "Your spells are paltry, at best!" Trixie insulted Twilight. "Ready to accept defeat now, fourth-rate unicorn?"

        "No! I’m not!" Twilight felt her blood begin to boil. She was done talking to the crazy mare. This utterly insane unicorn had called her out on her magic, now she was going to answer back. "You want magic? Here it is!" Twilight cried out.

        "Trixie will show you real magic then!" Trixie raised herself to her hind legs, her horn glowing brighter than before, a ball of electricity forming in her forehooves. "Thunder Arrow!" Trixie called out as the bolt left her hooves and barreled at Twilight.

        Twilight reared herself on her hind legs and stomped the ground again, this time to conjure a wall of earth to protect her. The spell destroyed the wall, but the spell had mostly been diffused by the earth by the time it hit Twilight. Now it was Twilight’s turn. She knew just the spell. Her horn began to glow stronger than it had all day. A blinding bright magenta light erupting from it. "Flame Lance!" she cried out as a flaming red dot formed in the sky.

        Trixie knew what this spell would do and was prepared to counter it. She saw a magical spear of flame barreling out of the sky and right at her, and she could have easily countered it with an ice spell if Twilight had meant to hit her with the spell. As Trixie began to charge the spell, Twilight jumped up into the sky and caught the magic spear with her teeth before it could crash into Trixie. Trixie was dumbstruck to see this and realized Twilight true intentions. Twilight planned to use the spell as a weapon, and Twilight did just that as she charged forward, wildly swinging the magical spear clenched in her teeth. Trixie turned just in time to dodge the blow. "This is my element of choice!" Twilight yelled back as solid fire danced between her lips. "Fire!"

        Trixie wasn’t prepared to deal with this. A fight against mages who simply cast their spells was what she specialized at, but a mage who could use magic as weapons? Those were few and far in between. Twilight swiped again, giving Trixie no time to cast spells. Trixie knew she was going to lose soon if she didn’t think of something. She tried to ward off Twilight with a barrage of weak lightning spells she could throw out at a speed rivaling the lightning itself. Twilight, however, dodged each bolts in perfect sequence, but was losing ground. Trixie found her opening. "I’ve got you now!" she yelled as she took the opportunity to unleash her stronger spell. "Thunder Arrow!"

        Twilight saw the spell coming and jumped over it. Trixie looked up. Twilight was in the air and she threw the spear she had conjured moments ago. The flame lance was barreling at Trixie. She tried to ready an ice spell, but it was too late. She was hit by the burning spell. Trixie lost. "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

        Twilight landed on her hooves and collapsed to the ground exhausted. She felt silly to get so riled up in a fight but did feel a sense of accomplishment in defeating another unicorn mage, even if said mage was utterly insane and off her rocker. She looked around to the rest of her group. Applejack and the pink pony had both passed out on the floor with some very noticeable head trauma. Spike and Snails had also fallen unconscious. Lastly Fluttershy was serenading Snips to sleep. To Twilight, it looked like everyone had taken a nap instead of fight like they had wanted and she didn’t. "Wake up!" she yelled.

        "I’m awake!" Applejack woke up startled.

        "Not the dresses!" Spike awoke with a cold sweat.

        "I didn’t do it, eh!" Snails shot up.

        "Spare me!" Snips woke up, only to find himself nestled in Fluttershy. He felt oddly embarrassed as she just smiled back.

        "Yay! We lose!" the pink pony stirred. "This calls for a party!"

        "No party! We’re taking this dumb big fancy blade key thingy and leaving!" Twilight roared.

        "Oh no you won't!" Trixie interjected. She was back on her hooves and looked fine aside from a few scorch marks. "Trixie is not done yet!" Mirroring Twilight she raised herself on her back hooves to stomp the ground. Rather than erupt, the ground under Twilight gave way as she fell to what she was hoping wasn’t her doom.

        Twilight squeezed her eyes shut as she felt the wind surge under her. She wondered if this how she would die; lying flat as a pancake at the bottom of this hole. As she fell time seemed to slow. Actually she had come to a stop. Twilight opened her eyes. She wasn’t falling. She was rising. She looked up to see a winged Fluttershy was pulling her up. "Fluttershy? You’re a pegasus?" Twilight asked.

        "Well... yes," Fluttershy said. Twilight felt relief wash over her. In a matter of minutes they were back on firm ground.

        "Twilight! You’re all right!" Spike exclaimed as he jumped onto Twilight the moment she was on the ground.

        "Yeah, thanks to Fluttershy," Twilight said, motioning to Fluttershy.

        "Y-you’re welcome," Fluttershy responded, turning away.

        "Well, do we have the big key thingy?" Twilight asked, looking around.

        "Yep," affirmed Applejack. "Consarned bandits ran off the moment Trixie pulled her little underhooved trick. No honor among thieves I tell you," Applejack sighed. "Least we got this thing back. Let’s go." Applejack turned away from everyone and looked back on the path they came in from.

        "Yeah, I need a bath." Twilight was not fond of the feeling of dirt and sweat all over her body. "Let’s head back to Apple Acres. Fluttershy, can you lead the way?"

        "Yes," Fluttershy affirmed as she turned once again on the path they had taken to get there. The air grew cold.

SKIT: Hardly

 

Fluttershy: Um, this should be the way.

Twilight: Are you sure? This is a different path.

Fluttershy: Yes. This will take us to the main road faster.

Twilight: Oh, that’s great.

Fluttershy: Yes...

Twilight: …

Spike: BOO!

Fluttershy: Agh!

Twilight: Agh!

Spike: Why is everypony so quiet? We should be celebrating. Right, Applejack?

Applejack: Huh? Yeah, I suppose.

Spike: Yeesh. What’s gotten into everypony? We won but it seems as if we lost. C’mon party!

Twilight: I don’t like to party with strangers.

Spike: You don’t like to party period! And we’re not strangers! We’re friends.

Twilight: Hardly.

Applejack: Yeah, hardly.

Spike: Yikes. So cold here.

 

SKIT: End

 

        They reached the forest clearing in one piece. They were all beaten and tired but they had triumphed with the big fancy blade key thingy as their reward. All Twilight could think about was a bath before finally turning in for the day. It had amounted to a long and tiresome day for her and the sun was nearly down. She turned to Fluttershy. "Thanks again. You’ve been a big help."

        Fluttershy took a deep breath before finally smiling and saying "You’re welcome." She didn’t try to avert her eyes from anyone and even wore a rather cheesy smile. She managed to hold this for five seconds before turning her head away to avoid eye contact.

        "Don’t do that!" Spike jumped on her back, causing her to jump. "We’re friends now."

        "Spike, don’t jump on her back. It’s rude," Twilight reprimanded him as she bit his tail and pulled him off Fluttershy.

        "No, it’s all right," Fluttershy responded, "I was just startled."

        "See," Spike turned to Twilight, "it’s all right." Spike looked back to Fluttershy. "Say, Fluttershy, now that we’re all friends why don’t you take off that hood?"

        "What!?" Fluttershy was startled by the question.

        "Spike, don’t be rude," Twilight, once again, scolded Spike.

        Fluttershy took a deep breath before lowering her hood to expose her whole face, much to everyone else’s surprise. Pink locks fell straight to the ground. No one had noticed with the hood up, but Fluttershy had very long hair and sky blue eyes. She noticed that they were all staring at her. "I don’t really go out for mane cuts," She tried to joke in her awkward way before turning her head away.

        Applejack broke the silence with a hardy laugh. Up until then she had been uncharacteristically quiet. "Mane cut? You need a lot more than that to handle all that mane, sugarcube." Applejack turned to the road. "If you ever need any apples, remember Apple Acres is just a few hours walk away from here. I’ll be sure to repay you, I did promise that."

        "A-all right," Fluttershy answered.

        "All right then. Later." Applejack started on the road back to Apple Acres.

        "Hey wait for me!" Twilight yelled. "Well, uh, good bye. Be well and... stuff." Twilight ran off. She expected she would never meet the shy pony again, making the farewell feel awkward after everything they just went through. She had traveled with, fought alongside, and was saved by these stranger ponies and after today the chances of seeing them again where slim, even if she was dragged here by Applejack in the first place. With Spike on her back she galloped up to Applejack who wasn’t too far ahead.

        The way back had been uncharacteristically quiet. Spike had no energy to roll out quips to pester Twilight with and Applejack had less to say. They were all tired and ready to collapse. Upon reaching town the three of them would have been fine to pass out and fall asleep then and there. "Let’s deliver this thingy and get back to the barn." Applejack tiredly pushed herself forward.

        The alliterative pony that had alerted them to the theft of the big fancy blade key thingy, Clockwork, was quick to express his joy in an alliterative way. "Oh how miraculously marvelous! The town of Apple Acres appreciates your ambition to arrest those abhorrent amateur illusionists."

        "What he say?" Spike asked.

        "He’s happy," Twilight answered.

        "Oh, really?" Applejack replied. "Anyway, those bandits got away, but considering they’re lost in the Everfree forest I doubt we’ll see them again."

        "Still I’m positively peppered with jeering joy that our big fancy blade key thingy is back in our marvelous museum." Clockwork jumped with joy.

        "Well that’s good to hear. I think. We’ll be headin’ back to the barn now." Applejack lead the way out as she tried not to stare at the silly pony who was composing poetry to celebrate the return of the town’s big fancy blade key thingy. Hopefully he will have come up with a better name for it.

        By the time the three reached the barn, the moon had taken its place in the sky. Twilight took a moment to stare at it. The formation of the craters and shadows had always caught her interest. The craters and shadows worked together to form an image; The Mare in the Moon it was occasionally called. Her father always told her many stories of it. "Comin’ Twi?" Applejack stood at the doorway. "Or you just gonna stand their starin’?"

        "I’m coming. Say, do you have a bath I can use?" Twilight asked.

        "Yeah. Follow me." Applejack led her behind the barn. Rather than a bath it looked like a miniature pool made from wood. "Hang your cloak on the rack there and enjoy as I get Apple Bloom to cook us up some grub. I’m too tired to cook."

        Spike instantly threw his jacket off to the grass and jumped right into the pool. "Geronimo!" he yelled out. "Man, the country is awesome! They bathe in pools rather than tiny bathtubs."

        "Those tiny bath tubs are still huge for your size," Twilight answered as she placed her cloak on a rack. It was drenched with dirt, sweat, a little blood, and was even a little scorched. Nothing a little magic couldn’t fix, but that was for another time. Twilight stepped into the giant tub and started to scrub out the sediments that were clinging to her fur.

        "Pardon me," a deep male voice called out from the pool. A large red earth pony with an orange mane emerged from the bath. He stepped out, shook himself dry, and returned to the barn all in a matter of minutes. Twilight’s face turned a deep red.

        "Man, you city ponies sure are sensitive," Applejack answered back as she jumped into the tub. "We have fur you know." Applejack had no clothes on.

        "I’m just not used to it." Twilight tried to defend her stance. "In Canterlot ponies don’t bathe outside and share a tub."

        "Sounds mighty dull. Nothing says relaxin’ like sharing a warm bath with the family and exchangin’ stories." She jumped into the bath.

        "Really," Twilight muttered.

        "Sounds like fun," Spike replied.

        For the next few minutes Applejack stared at Twilight, making her feel uncomfortable. "Do I have something on my face?" Twilight finally asked.

        "Your horn," Applejack responded.

        "Er, that’s always on my face."

        "No, I mean I heard a rumor about unicorn horns."

        "A rumor?" Twilight questioned. "What kind of rumor?"

        "Like they glow when you see a pony you like," Applejack responded.

        "Where, in all of Equestria, did you hear something as ridiculous as that?" Twilight moved her hoof to her face, the energy drained from her from such a ridiculous allegation.

        "Well, we got all kinds of rumors out here. Never see a unicorn around, so we just make stuff up to pass the time," Applejack replied.

        "If you make it up then you know it isn’t true!" Twilight almost yelled.

        "Yeah, but I forget what’s made up and what isn’t. Besides you looked liked my brother there what with all the blushing."

        "I do not," Twilight defended herself. To her side Spike was caught in an uproarious giggle fit at her expense.

        "Oh man! This is hilarious!" Spike almost drowned as he rolled in the water laughing his spikes off.

        "That’s kind of how is here," Applejack laughed. "Small town on hard times where everypony is the same. That kinda thing happens," Applejack sighed.

 

SKIT: Eggs

 

Twilight: Spike, the space behind your spikes are filthy.

Spike: Not my fault it’s hard to reach their.

Applejack: You dote on the overgrown lizard like a mother. What’s the story?

Twilight: Huh, oh I hatched him.

Applejack: What? Like you sat on him? When he was an egg?

Twilight: No, I did it with magic.

Applejack: Is that natural?

Twilight: Well, most of the time, no, but dragons are a special case.

Applejack: So he really is a dragon.

Spike: Yes! I really am a dragon. Don’t ignore me.

Applejack: Er, sorry.

Spike: Apology accepted.

Applejack: So do you see Twilight as a mother?

Spike: Not really.

Twilight: What? I’m scrubbing behind your ears how is that not mother like?

Spike: Children don’t usually clean the house, organize the book collection, cook the meals, and everything in between.

Twilight: True.

Applejack: Hah, sounds more like a brother and a sister.

Spike: Really?

Twilight: You think so?

Applejack: Trust me. If there is anything I know its brother and sister relationships. Helps that I have one of each. You met Big Macintosh earlier.

Twilight: Oh... that big... guy...

Applejack: You blushin’?

Twilight: No!

Spike: Yes.

Applejack: Careful. He’s the stud of the town and as dense as Canterlot fog. I know a lot of mares and stallions who won’t take kindly to foreign competition.

Twilight: It’s nothing like that. I just never been in the same tub with another colt other than my dad.

Applejack: Aw, ain’t that cute. Wait, that was like yeeeeaaaars ago, right?

Twilight: Of course!

Applejack: Just checkin’. Food should be done by the way.

Twilight: Finally, I’m starving.

Spike: Food!

Twilight: Ugh, before we go...

Applejack: What?

Twilight: Got any spare clothes?

Applejack: Again, we have fur.

Twilight: Please.

Applejack: Fine, I’ll see what I can grab ya.

Twilight: Thanks.

Applejack: … You’re welcome.

 

SKIT: End

 

        Twilight walked into the dining room. Applejack lent her a shirt with an apple pattern. It was a size too big, but it did get rid of the sense of nakedness she had without it. She still felt awkward when everyone else at the table everyone left their day where to hang. "Apple family apple fritters courtesy of Apple Bloom. The hostess of the apple family Apple Family Inn!" Apple Bloom proudly announced, balancing a tray of apple fritters on her head. "Do I have my cutie mark yet?"

        "Nope," Granny Smith replied.

        "Inn keeping is for chumps." Apple Bloom finally realized.

        "‘Bout time you figured it out," Granny smith replied. "Now pass them fritters here before they get cold."

        "Here you go Granny Smith."

        "Hey don’t forget about me." Applejack tried to snatch a fritter.

        "Hey I’m a guest! Don’t I get first dibs," Spike cried out.

        "Your spiked butt you’re eating before me."

        "I want some too!"

        "Eeyup."

        "And what’s that mean."

        "Dang rugrats stealin’ my food."

        "You steal my food all the time!"

        "I’m an old mare. I need my nutrients."

        "I’m a growing mare! I need ‘em more!"

        "They’re almost all gone!"

        "Old fart."

        "Little brat."

        "Freckled dummy."

        "Eeyup."

        "Don’t you agree with her."

        "The overgrown lizards eating ‘em all!"

        "Like hay he is!"

        "Nnnope!"

        Twilight was amazed at the scene unfolding. The family that was so close they insult each other directly to each other’s faces, but now they are all laughing. She never experienced this at home with her father. She looked down at the single apple fritter on her plate and started eating quietly while everyone else fought over the tray.

        "Man dinner was fun," Spike yawned as he lay in bed. "We never do anything like that with Night Light."

        "Nope," Twilight agreed. "Makes it hard to eat though."

        "Say Twilight, we have to come and visit some time."

        "You sure? It takes half a day to get here and I can’t afford to fix up Granny Smith’s apple shop."

        "But it’s been so fun here! And what about Fluttershy. It would be a shame if we never saw her again."

        "I suppose," Twilight once again agreed. She felt a little saddened at the idea of never seeing these ponies again, but it was too much effort to keep a friendship with them with all her studies to contend with. "Maybe during summer break."

        "Oh all right," Spike said as he closed his eyes. "Say Twilight. You never finished that story earlier."

        "That’s because someone interrupted me," Twilight giggled back.

        "Humor me," Spike laughed back.

        "All right." Twilight smiled.

 

The eldest sister took responsibility for the moving of the sun and moon across the sky, but the grief she felt caused her to weep greatly over the horrible act she had done.

Her heart in turmoil, the many friends of the elder sister tried to comfort her, but no matter what the elder sister was unhappy.

Unable to quell the anguish within her, the eldest sister’s friends left her one by one until only three were left.

To these three ponies the elder sister gave a prophecy to hand down the generations before she closed the doors to her castle for good, never to be seen again.

Some say she’s still in her lost castle, moving the sun and moon for all of ponydom.

 

        "And what was the message?" Spike asked even though he knew the answer. It made Twilight happy to tell this story.

When the stars in the sky are frozen

And the cries of the earth are calling

When the sky overhead has fallen

And the light of the sun is waning

When the cries of the moon have subsided

The land in our hearts coming into view

My castle doors will open again

To greet all of my subjects and friends

Light of harmony flooding the fields

The stars in our hearts twinkling still


I wish I could say Canterlot, or Equetstria for that matter, was a safe place to live.

It isn’t.

NEW GAME

>CONTINUE

OPTIONS

                "Spike wake up!" Twilight yelled for the fifth time that morning. The baby dragon continued to lull in bed, oblivious to the angry unicorn above him. With ever snore, he released a puff of smoke that would float by Twilight's face, irking her and causing her to gag. She stared down at the devilishly innocent-looking face. Perhaps a good water spell might wake him up? She thought to herself.

                "Problem?" Applejack entered the room, already fully clothed for the day ahead of her. She took a quick look at the sleeping reptile and Twilight's flustered expressions and stifled a chuckle. "Heavy sleeper?"

                "Like a lead weight," Twilight groaned. "It's like this every morning."

                Applejack made her way to the window and unlatched it, allowing a breeze to filter through the room. "You know," she started, "here on the farm, we've perfected all kinds of ways for dealin' with heavy sleepers." Spike continued to snore throughout Applejack's speech. "Now for this kind of sleepin' we have a very special technique…"

                "That technique is?" Twilight asked curiously.

                "Revolution Apple Buck!"

                Spike was sent hurdling out the barn window by Applejack's powerful kick. He soared through the air, past an entire orchard of apple trees, over a broken down truck, and finally landing in the ice-cold bathtub with a loud splash. His tiny body buoyed to the top of the tub, eyes still closed, and not a single scratch on him as he continued to snore.

                Twilight gaped in horror at the sight. She herself had never handled Spike like that before. "Are you… did you… that was…"

                "Huh, never met a sleeper that heavy," Applejack commented as she ignored Twilight babbling "How does he sleep through all that?"

                "You kicked him out the window!"

                "And?" Applejack replied with a genuinely straight face.

                Twilight had a hard time closing her mouth. Country ponies are something else, she decided. "The dragon scales keep him from feeling most forms of pain," Twilight sighed.

                "Then no harm no fowl." Applejack dismissed Twilight's worries with a wave of her hoof.

                "You still can't just go around kicking him! That's… extreme!"

                "Extreme?" Applejack shot Twilight an offended look. "Listen, around here it's either work from sun up to sun down or go hungry 'cause our harvest wasn’t big enough. We can’t afford laziness from anypony or lizard!” Applejack punctuated by stomping her hoof.

                Twilight was taken aback by Applejack’s sudden shift in demeanor. "I didn't know things around here were so…" she trailed off, mumbling to herself.

                Applejack turned away from Twilight. "No, you didn't, and I can't blame you for that, so sorry if I snapped a little," she apologized. "Listen, my brother made some breakfast, so go get some before Apple Bloom eats everything all right?" With a tiny smile, Applejack left Twilight alone in the room, still down from talking about the depression going on in Apple Acres.

                Twilight sighed. "I don't get her," she commented to nopony.

                "Get who?" nopony asked back, causing Twilight to jump and hit the roof. She crashed down on the floor and looked up to find Spike looking down at her from the windowsill. "You okay, Twilight?" he asked, drenched, but wide-awake.

                "Spike? When did you wake up?" Twilight asked as she collected herself off the floor, body sore and mane a mess.

                "A few minutes ago," he answered. "You know, it's pretty refreshing to wake up in a tub!"

                "Really..." Twilight groaned as she rubbed her sore face, hoping to soothe some of the pain away. "Well, star collecting your things. We're leaving soon."

                "Aw, no breakfast?" Spike complained.

                "Actually, Applejack said her brother cooked some breakfast. Get dressed first and then you can go ahead while I pack up."

                "All right, 'mom'." Spike grabbed his jacket and threw it over himself before flashily sheathing his daggers.

                "And that was?" Twilight asked, amused by his sudden energy.

                "I'm working on my victory pose. What do you think? I'm thinking I toss my daggers into the air and then catch them just before I sheath them." Spike drew his weapons and decided he would demo the pose for it for Twilight. He tossed the two daggers into the air.

                "Spike, that's dangerous!" Twilight warned him.

                "It is not," Spike replied as a dagger slipped from his claw and planted itself in his foot. "Okay, maybe it needs a little practice."

                "Are you okay?" Twilight stared at the wound with concern for her dragon assistant, hard scaled as he was.

                "Its fine," Spike replied, casually pulling out the dagger. "It didn't go very deep anyway."

                "All right then." Twilight turned back to her dirt-stained cloak and disorganized backpack. "Just go have breakfast while I finish up here,” she groaned.


                The air in the dining room and den smelled of fresh-baked apple goods. Applejack’s elder brother, Big Macintosh, emerged from the kitchen wearing a pink frilly apron and carrying a plate of fresh pancakes in his mouth. He placed the plate on the kitchen table and admired his work.

                "Wow, smells good!" Spike emerged from under the other side of the dining table and stared greedily at the delicious pancakes, mouth salivating and fangs exposed. "Do all apple-family ponies cook this good?"

                "Family tradition," replied Big Macintosh, "give us an apple and we'll make breakfast, lunch, and dinner with it," he stated before turning back to the baby dragon, "and last time I checked, you got more than your fair share of fill last night during dinner."

                "Yeah, it was great by the way!" Spike ignored Big Macintosh's disapproving glare.

                "Don't touch anything," he ordered, "and when is your owner-"

                "Twilight is not my owner," Spike interrupted him.

                "Fine, just when is Miss Twilight going to come down?" Big Macintosh asked.

                "Soon, she's just prepping up for the trip back to Canterlot." Spike turned to Big Macintosh. "So, can I have some pancakes?" he finally asked, almost drooling over the still fresh and steaming confections.

                "One," he answered. "Apple Bloom! Granny Smith! Breakfast is ready!" he called out to his younger sister and grandmother.

                "Comin’!" The little filly ran straight across the room, sliding to a stop just past the table and jumping onto it. "Smells great, Big Macintosh! I want five!"

                "You'll have one," Big Macintosh reprimanded her. "If you get a tummy ache you can't do your chores."

                "Oh phooey!" Apple Bloom cursed.

                "Why are you all yelling so early!?" Granny Smith shouted from across the hall. "Old mare can’t get any sleep these days." She limped into the room and sat herself in an old wooden chair. She centered her tired eyes on Spike. "Lizard, where's your keeper?"

                "Twilight is not my keeper," Spike almost roared, "and I'm a dragon!"

                "Somepony call me?" Twilight asked as she trotted into the dining room, adorned in her magically cleaned cloak and weighted down by a saddlebag full of books.

                "Sleep well?" Granny Smith asked with a mischievous smile.

                "Oh. Yes. Thank you for the room," Twilight replied as thoughtfully as she could to the crusty old mare. She still felt cheated out of her bits.

                "I'm happy to know you were comfortable. You come back to town now. Break some more stuff and you can take more baths with Big Macintosh here." Granny Smith winked back to Twilight, who felt a shiver run down her spine and the blood rush to her face.

                "What- I- That was an accident!" Twilight stumbled over her words as she turned away from Granny Smith and the rest of the apple family, mostly from Big Macintosh.

                "Granny, that was an accident," Big Macintosh repeated.

                "Accident? Get in a bath tub with a cute mare, even if she could stand to lose an inch around the croup, and you want to call that an accident?" she babbled.

                "Granny..."

                "Your gran-pappy caught me in the tub once and that’s how your mama was born. No accidents about that."

                "Granny!" Big Macintosh shouted as he covered Apple Bloom’s ears.

                "What was that?" Apple Bloom asked.

                Big Macintosh tried to give Granny Smith a scolding look, who returned the favor tenfold, decimating most of his free will. Giving up, he turned back to Twilight. "Miss Twilight, I apologize for any of my granny's outbursts," Granny Smith gave Big Macintosh a sour-apple face, "but, I was wondering if you could accompany my sister and me to Canterlot; seeing as you're headin' there today as well. Safety in numbers and all," he asked, never taking his warm eyes off Twilight.

                "I-I would love to," Twilight answered, unable to turn her gaze away.

                "Keep sweet talking the mare and we'll be fine for another generation of apple-family ponies," Granny Smith smugly commented to herself.


                Big Macintosh lead Twilight and Spike through the town of Apple Acres, heading for the town entrance that would lead to the official road to Canterlot. By policy, the road that leads between Apple Acres and Canterlot was to be protected from the creatures of the Everfree Forest by a militia set up by Canterlot. It was the safest way to Canterlot, even if a goblin or two would slip by every now and then.

                At the town entrance, Applejack greeted the two ponies and Spike.

                "Cart loaded?" Big Macintosh asked Applejack.

                "Eeyup. The orchard's been picked clean and everything's been stuffed in the cart. Not a single apple is left in the orchard now," Applejack confirmed, "so we've got to make it to Canterlot and sell them." Applejack turned to Twilight, who began to feel uneasy, and then back to Big Macintosh. "So I take it she'll be traveling with us, Big Macintosh?" she asked her brother.

                "Eeyup…" he replied.

                "Hm? Was this planned?" Twilight inferred.

                "Why yes it was, Miss Twilight," Applejack answered back, "so I do thank you for your voluntary help in pulling the apple cart and all." Applejack gave Twilight her warmest, most genuine grin to hide the side of her that was pleased by her little scheme's success. "I'm mighty grateful."

                "I-I never agreed to this!" Twilight turned to Big Macintosh, hoping for some kind of explanation.

                "I'm sorry, Miss Twilight," Big Macintosh replied.

                "It's all give and take," Applejack interjected, "you help us pull the cart, and if anything shows up on the road we can protect you. This big lug is pretty strong after all. Them muscles ain't just for looking pretty."

                "Lug? Pretty?" Big Macintosh wasn’t fond of those adjectives.

                Twilight wanted to say no, but Applejack was right, there is safety in numbers. "Fine, I'll help you pull your cart," Twilight spat back.

                "Great!" Applejack grabbed a harness and started to hook it up to Twilight.

                "Hauling apples to Canterlot," Spike piped up from behind, "isn't that going to take all day?"

                "It might, but with some extra work I'm sure we can cut down on some time." Applejack turned to Twilight. "Big Macintosh and I will be pullin' the thing to. We aren’t leavin' the whole thing on you."

                "Still," Twilight groaned, "ever since I got here it's been one scam after another."

                "You really are new to Apple Acres."

SKIT: City Life?

Big Macintosh: Say, Miss Twilight.

Twilight: Yes?

Big Macintosh: What's city life like?

Twilight: Oh! It's great! All the museums, the breadth of the books available at the public library, the educational facilities-

Big Macintosh: Not what I was expectin'…

Spike: You're asking the wrong pony. Twilight spends all her time studying.

Twilight: I'm a student. It's what students do!

Spike: Even during summer break?

Twilight: Yes!

Big Macintosh: Hm…

Twilight: You've never been to Canterlot?

Big Macintosh: I've been there, but every time it's just to sell apples. I never get to spend much time admirin' the city since I need to hurry back to the farm when sellin' is done.

Twilight: Oh, I had no idea…

Big Macintosh: If more ponies would just buy more apples I might be able to spend a day in the city for once, but until then I need to work for the farm.

Twilight: Uh… when you do get that chance to see the city let me accompany you. I can still show you around to the more interesting places.

Big Macintosh: Why thanks.

Applejack: Somepony looks happy…

Spike: Tell me about it…

SKIT: End


                The sun hung high in the sky as it beat down on Twilight. Hauling an apple cart, even with the sturdier apple-siblings next to her doing most of the work, was tiring her out. Around them, trees become more and more scarce as they got farther from the Everfree Forest, giving way to lots of hills, but with so few trees for landmarks it became difficult to discern how much farther Canterlot was. "Do you know how far we are from Canterlot?" she asked Applejack.

                "We still have a ways to go," she commented back, "but if we keep up this pace we might be able to make it before evening sets in."

                "Great," Twilight grunted.

                "We're still that far!?" Spike complained from the top of the apple cart, adding to the haul load.

                "Yes, we're still that far, and your complainin' ain't gonna speed up the process." Applejack looked back at the lazy dragon, her eyes narrowing on where it might be most painful to buck him even with the dragon scales. "Twilight, tell that iguana of yours to pull his weight before I send him flying all the way to Trotingham."

                "Spike, just be quiet," Twilight groaned and turned back to Applejack. "Sorry, but he's like this a lot. He means well though, most of the time."

                "The least he can do is shut his trap," Applejack muttered to herself as she continued to pull the cart.

                Big Macintosh wasn't paying much attention to the bickering going on around him. He had gotten too used to it back home, where bickering was a daily regimen, exercise, and past time. He kept his eyes and ears open to the world around him, alert for any disturbance or change. He was always on edge for danger, and the faint sound of footsteps made him stop dead in his tracks. "Applejack," he whispered.

                "What?"

                A loud roar erupted from the hills behind them. Twilight turned back to see a monster emerge from the horizon: a large black-furred beast with claws sharp as daggers and an elongated, scaly head like a snake. It stood higher than four ponies standing on each other. It was a chimera.

                "What the hay is a chimera doing so close to the road!?" Applejack flared up in anger. "No, this ain't right!"

                "Forget the cart!" Big Macintosh shouted. "We have to escape."

                 "We can't…" Applejack quivered at the sight of the monster. "We can't leave the cart!"

                "We don't have much choice, Applejack," Big Macintosh tried to calm his sister, "that thing is too big to fight off."

                "Like hay it is!" Applejack undid the harness binding her to the cart and charged at the chimera, eyes narrow on where to buck it as hard as she could.

                "Applejack!" Big Macintosh yelled out. "More bull than pony, dang it." Big Macintosh undid his own harness and chased after his sister.

                "This is bad." Twilight stared in horror as the apple sibling ran towards the monster. "What do we do?"

                "We gotta help!" Spike drew his daggers and slammed them together to form his bow. He withdrew an arrow from his quiver and took aim.

                "If we aggravate it, things can get worse," Twilight warned.

                "Things are already worse!" Spike yelled as he released an icy arrow. "Sapphire Fang!"

                The cold arrow soared past Applejack and buried itself in the monster's leg, coating the fresh wound with ice. "Go away!" Applejack yelled as she rammed herself into the frozen leg of the chimera, shattering the flesh around the leg. The monster let loose an angry hiss as it fell onto the injured leg. It raised a claw over Applejack, ready to crush her in a single swipe.

                "Applejack!" Big Macintosh yelled out as he tackled his sister, carrying her out of the way of the monster's claw. The chimera crushed the ground where Applejack once stood, reducing rock into dust. "Are you stupid? That thing almost killed you."

                "I ain't dead yet." Applejack pushed her big brother off of her and got back on her hooves. "If we lose this cart we won't have enough bits to last us the month!" she yelled back at him. "You want to watch your family starve to death!?"

                "We'll make it by like we always do, but not if you're dead." Big Macintosh gritted his teeth, aware of Applejack’s next course of action already.

                "Well I ain't dying!" Applejack turned back to the chimera and charged at it. She used all her strength to pick up momentum before planting her fore-hooves into the ground, turning her body. "Revolution Apple Buck!" She turned and kicked the chimera as hard as she could, driving all the energy she built up into it.

                The chimera hissed angrily at Applejack. It raised both of its claws, angry at the pony that would try and buck it.

                "Gale Salvo!" Three arrows carried by wind barely pierced the monsters hide. The chimera turned, giving its attention to the latest attacker. "Hey! Snakes for brains! Check this out!" Spike yelled back at the chimera as he nocked another arrow. "Crimson Lotus!" he yelled as he let loose the flaming arrow. The arrow exploded with energy, rocketing through the air and burying itself in the chimera's neck before exploding again.

                "Now that's what I'm talking about. Way to go, iguana!" Applejack yelled back before facing the chimera. "Big Macintosh! Go from the other side!"

                "Dang it, Applejack!" Big Macintosh cursed back at her as he placed himself on the other side of the chimera. "I'm ready!"

                Applejack jumped and rammed herself into chimera's stomach. "Beast!" she cried out, letting loose a lion’s roar of azure energy.

                The chimera struggled to keep its balance as Applejack's primal force shook the monster to the bone. Big Macintosh took his chance and jumped at it from behind. He slammed his fore-hooves into the creature, conjuring and forcing a piercing white light into its body. The chimera howled in pain as Big Macintosh continued the unrelenting attack, driving the chimera off its last good leg. Big Macintosh threw himself off the monster and ran back to Applejack’s side as the chimera landed on the ground, shaking the earth around it.

                "You see that!" Applejack panted. "We saved the cart."

                "It's not done." Big Macintosh steeled himself as the chimera began to move again.

                "Wha-"

                The chimera slithered its way behind the siblings, keen on using the other half of its warped biology to swallow them live. Seeing Applejack as the smaller of the two, it unhinged its jaw, ready to snap up and devour Applejack, whole.

                "Watch out!" Twilight cried out as she cast her spell.

                Before the chimera could prey on Applejack, a stalagmite fired upwards from under its body, fully piercing the hide and inflicting a serious wound. The chimera's mind was incapable of understanding the phenomenon and thrashed about on the floor as another stalagmite erupted upwards, burying itself in the monster's shoulder.

                "One more time, Twilight!" Spike yelled out.

                "Stalagmite!" Twilight, lost in a moment of panic, cried out.

                One last spike of earth erupted upwards and placed itself into the monster's jaw. The monster hissed into the air, extending its neck as far as it could, crying out in pain. Seeing the band of ponies as too much of a threat to its life, the chimera slithered away.

                Applejack fell onto her hindquarters, desperate for breath. "I don't need to do that again anytime soon," she gasped.

                "Then don't do it in the first place," Big Macintosh berated her as he breathed precious air. "You could have gotten yourself killed. The farm will be fine if we lose a cart of apples but we can't lose you."

                "It doesn't matter now. That thing is gone," Applejack retorted, still gasping for air.

                "Only because Miss Twilight was here to save us with her magic."

                "What? M-me?" Twilight stuttered. "It's nothing, really. I guess chimeras just didn't know about unicorn magic."

                "That unicorn magic saved us anyway, Miss Twilight." Big Macintosh beamed at her, grateful to make it out of this ordeal alive and whole.

                "Fine, so I may have run into it without thinking things through," Applejack cut through them, "but why the hay was a chimera so close to the road!?" Applejack turned to Twilight, directing her anger at her. "I thought that Canterlot set up a militia of some kind to monitor the Everfree Forest. Something that big should have been spotted right away and dealt with before it got all the way out here!"

                "I-I don't know!" Twilight retorted, angry about being yelled at. "Canterlot doesn't have bits flowing through it, you know that! Maybe they don't have enough to keep the militia all the way out here, I don't know!"

                "Isn't your dad an elected official, Twilight?" Spike asked. "I bet he'll know."

                "Night Light? Yeah, he's on the council," Twilight confirmed.

                "What? You’re the daughter of nobility?" Applejack asked.

                "No, my dad was just voted into the Canterlot Council a few years back. We're hardly nobility and barely have enough bits ourselves."

                "We eat cabbage almost every night," Spike sighed. "What I would give for a ruby."

                "Well tell your pappy that a chimera got lose and is probably still free somewhere. Last thing we need is to be attacked again by the same dang chimera. Especially one that big."

                "Fine, I will," Twilight sighed, finally able to catch her breath now that the worst of the encounter was over.

                "Well," Big Macintosh butted into the conversation, "if we're done here we need to get back on the road. The skirmish took too much time from us if we want to make it to Canterlot before nightfall."

                "Right," Applejack sighed.

SKIT: Getting old…

Spike: Heh heh

Twilight: And what are you laughing about?

Spike: You called out your spell.

Twilight: This again? It's getting old now.

Big Macintosh: Actually, what was that about anyway? Calling all those fancy names. Even Applejack did it.

Applejack: Er… well…

Spike: Simple, you just name the attack you're doing, and call it out.

Big Macintosh: Why?

Spike: It's awesome!

Twilight: It's silly.

Big Macintosh: Hmm… how does Heavy Bomber sound?

Spike: Hey, that's pretty good.

Twilight: Not you too…

Big Macintosh: It does seem like a simple sort of fun.

Twilight: This is… disappointing…

SKIT: End


                Night had fallen over Equstria, but the gates to Canterlot finally came into view. The rest of the journey had mostly been quiet so that the four of them could keep their eyes and ears open in case of another chimera attack and the rusty gates of Canterlot was a more than welcome sight. A couple of armored guards called out to the apple caravan. "Halt! Who goes there?"

                "It's me, Twilight Sparkle," Twilight answered.

                "And we're the apple traders from Apple Acres here on business," Applejack added.

                "Sparkle!?" One of the guards, a pale blue unicorn with a white mane, jumped down from his post. "Your father has been pestering me all day!"

                "Sorry, Pokey," Twilight apologized, "he just worries a lot."

                "I don't need you to tell me that," he complained. "Well, go greet him before he pesters me again and I lock him outside the city."

                "Really?" Twilight chuckled. "I think he could use a vacation."

                "Oh hah hah," Pokey groaned.

                "If you two are done," Applejack got the two unicorn's attention, "I would really like to set up shop, in town."

                "Right." Pokey returned to the gate, levitating a key out from within his armor. "Good luck selling, you’ll need it," he informed Applejack.

                "In that case buy something," Applejack spat back at Pokey while undoing Twilight’s harness. "It's been… interesting. Farewell, Miss Twi'," Applejack said to her as she took the harness.

                "Farewell, Miss Twilight," Big Macintosh added.

                “Yeah, farewell," Twilight replied back to them.

                "We'll visit Apple Acres again real soon." Spike jumped on Twilight so he could get one last look at the apple siblings.

                "I'm holding you to it, iguana," Applejack replied, "Granny Smith needs a new door for her saloon."


                The upper district of Canterlot could be described as a monument to its culture. Ivory towers lined the streets and were used as homes as carefully maintained flowers bloomed across the street. In the center of Canterlot's upper district, a performance was taking place for any noble idle enough to stop and pay attention. On a makeshift wooden stage, the same blue mare from Apple Acres and her assistant, the same muddy yellow colt, preformed an impromptu magic act for nearly all of the Canterlot nobles. Most of these nobles were convinced it was a comedy routine.

                "For my next trick," Trixie proclaimed, tied up and suspended from the ceiling of the makeshift stage, dangling over a pool of water filled with sharks, "The Great and Powerful Trixie will escape from the pool of demise! Assistant Snails!"

                "On your command, Miss Trixie!" Snails answered back, pulling a few levers rigged to the rope binding Trixie. Trixie began to descend at an astonishingly fast rate.

                "Too fast!" Trixie yelled.

                Within the audience of nobles, the same blue red-maned colt from before maneuvered his way through the forest of legs and hooves, snipping away at any stray purses that were weighted down with bits. After the disaster in Apple Acres, Canterlot was a gold mine. His quest for bits, however, deposited him in front of the eyes of a dark-blue unicorn stallion with an even darker mane. The stallion looked down at him, right in the eye.

                "You know, stealing is illegal," he informed Snips.

                "Eh, yeah, w-well," Snips stuttered. He was about to gallop off as fast as he could, but the sudden shifting of the crowd knocked him over. The crowd had just seen Trixie miraculously break out of her bindings before becoming shark feed. His cover wasn't blown yet, at least.

                "I take it you're with the show-mare?" the stallion asked.

                "Y-yeah?" Snips answered, unsure of what to do. "Are you going to oust me?"

                "No," the stallion answered, "just be sure to go on a shopping spree here when you're done. Some of the shops here could go for a little influx of bits."

                "Y-yeah. No problem there," Snips answered back before waddling his way back into the crowd.

                "I finally found you, Night Light," a voice called to the dark blue stallion.

                Night Light turned in the direction to the voice. "Sparkle!" he cried out.

                "Pokey Pierce tells me you've been bugging him about me," Twilight groaned. "I'm a fully grown mare, you know. I can take care of myself."

                "I still worry about you. What if you were raided by kobolds or, even worse, attacked by a chimera?"

                "Actually, both those things happened to me," Twilight told him with a slight grin.

                "What!?"

                "Is this… a magic show?" Twilight turned to the stage, ignoring Night Light's overreaction. "Is that… Trixie?" She couldn't believe that the utterly insane unicorn she had dueled not only made it out of the Everfree Forest alive, but had also made it to Canterlot where she was probably continuing her scamming scheme. "We need to warn the crowd for-"

                "A little purse-pinching colt?" Night light finished for her. "I already met him. Seems like a nice little guy."

                "So you're just going to let them steal hard earned bits?" Twilight questioned.

                Night Light couldn't help but laugh at his daughter. "I'm sure their bits left them just as easily as they earned them." Night Light knew his daughter didn't understand what he meant and decided to change the subject. "So, where is Spike?"

                "We separated a little ways back. He said he was going to grab some donuts at Pony Joe's. By the way he's using your tab to bring back a box."

                "Clever little guy," Night Light laughed.


                The lower district of Canterlot portrayed a grey world. Many of the buildings were damaged and pot-holes littered the streets for ponies to trip on. "Candy! Candy for sale-" a pony cried out before tripping over a pot-hole. She picked herself up and continued her treck. "Bon-bons! One bit for one piece!" Her coat was cream-colored and she wore a magenta dress with a basket of candy hanging from her neck. Her pink and blue curly mane bobbed up and down as she moved through the busy streets. "Bon-bons! One bit!"

                "Hey, Bon-Bon!" Spike called to the pony. "I'll take a couple."

                "Oh, Spike,” Bon-Bon replied back, “I didn't know you returned from Oatland so soon." Bon-Bon set down the basket and offered some of its contents to Spike. "I'll give you an extra one, free of charge."

                "Whoa, really cool of you." Spike greedily took the candy and stowed them away in the pockets of his scales.

                "How does that… even work?" Bon-Bon asked, incapable of comprehending dragon biology.

                "How does what work?" Spike asked, unsure of what she meant.

                "Well… never mind. Just enjoy the candy. I do like to keep my repeat customers happy." Bon-Bon beamed down at Spike with a warm smile.

                "Well I'm definitely happy," Spike replied back.

                "What's this? Candy?" An armored pegasus stallion shoved Spike out of his way as he walked up to Bon-Bon. The gold colored armor he wore denoted him as a member of the Cloud Kingdom's military, and the gray drape within the armor was indicative of his low rank. "Hey, Honeysuckle, check this out: Canterlot candy."

                "What was that, Tornado?" Another armored pegasus appeared out of the sky, this one a mare. "Wow, is everyone in Canterlot a beggar or something?"

                "Beggar!" Bon-Bon took offence to the title. "I am a chocolatier. Not a beggar. Now if you want one, it will be one bit," she scoffed at the pegasi.

                "One bit for a piece of candy?" Tornado laughed. "Sure, I'll take a whole box full!" The pegasus threw a hoofful of bits at Bon-Bon, most of it landing on the floor. "Is this enough, I bet it is," he laughed at her.

                "Quite throwing your bits away on trash," Honeysuckle groaned, growing bored with the display, "we have a job to do here for the Summer Sun Event, remember?"

                "Hey," Spike piped up, "Bon-Bon's bon-bons are not trash!"

                "I'm sure, gecko." Honeysuckle brushed off Spike with just a bat of a wing, throwing him to the ground.

                “Why you,” Spike hissed as he got back on his feet, withdrawing a dagger."I'm not a gecko!" he yelled back.

                "Just one more moment, I think this one's about to cry!" Tornado chastised Bon-Bon, taunting her as she looked at him with death in her eyes.

                “Did Steel Wing send you to pick fights with street vendors!?” Bon-Bon yelled at the pegasus.

                “What was that? You saying something bad about the king?” the pegasus guard spat back at her, raising a hoof.

                “He's no king of mine,” Bon-Bon voice drew venom. “A bit of a far cry from razing borders, though. Has our king gotten bored sitting on his tail all the time, now?”

                Tornado’s face burned red. He raised a hoof. “That’s it you-”

                "Pesante!" a sea-green pony called out as she swung what could possibly be described as a giant lyre at Tornado.

                Tornado found himself flying into a wall, crashing against it and dropping to the floor, his jaw, possibly a little more loose, hung open and his legs pointing off in odd directions. He tried to pick himself up, but the pain in his face was overtaking most of his thoughts. He looked at his assailant and found himself staring at a sea-green unicorn mare. She wore armor, but not of any uniform he recognized, and the center of her cuirass bared a lyre emblem. However, her most curious feature was her posture. She stood only on her back-hooves, extending the rest of her body upwards and freeing her fore-hooves. Next to her floated a broad-bladed lyre, the weapon enveloped by her golden unicorn magic.

                "Y-you!" Tornado grumbled as he shook the dizziness out of his head. "What they hail are you!?"

                "Lyra, behind you!" Spike called to the sea-green mare.

                "Take this you coward!" Honeysuckle roared as she dive-bombed on the sea-green mare.

                "Bravura!" The sea-green mare raised her broad-edged lyre at the pegasus and swung it just seconds before the pegasus would crash into her, calling forth a stream of water from the instrument. The two forces bounced off each other, knocking the pegasus out of the air.

                Honeysuckle cursed to herself as she repositioned herself for another attack. "So we're playing with blades now, huh," Honeysuckle scoffed as she withdrew a double-bladed sword with her teeth.

                The sea-green mare turned to the pegasus, her weapon floating in front of her. "Bring it!" she yelled at her.

                "Hold it!" a new voice broke through the crowd, and instantly grabbed Honeysuckle's attention.

                "C-Commander Spitfire!?" Honeysuckle turned to the new pegasus mare and dropped her weapon with her gaping mouth. The new pegasus wore armor like Honeysuckle and Tornado, but with a sky blue drape rather than the grey of the other two pegasi. Her coat was a soft yellow, but her mane a fiery red.

                "Honeysuckle, Tornado, I demand an explanation, now!" she ordered at the two, eyes flaring and ears sharp enough to pierce rock.

                "I… It's all Tornado's fault!" Honeysuckle turned on her partner frantically. "He wanted to mess with one of the street ponies and then he gets his muzzle broken by that pony over there!" she ranted, pointing at the sea-green mare who had become confused by the turn of events.

                "Let me get this straight, Tornado decides to pick on civvies, and you get in a fight with one!" Spitfire roared. "Soldiers, I demand to know where you left your pride as proud soldiers of the Cloud Kingdom! This is an outrage and an insult to our nation!" Spitfire continued to rap on the two soldiers who were feeling smaller and smaller in front of their superior. "You two are to retire to the hotel room the city of Canterlot has graciously paid for us in our time here, and stay there for the rest of the day, that’s an order!" Spitfire yelled at the two.

                "Ma'am, yes ma'am!" Honeysuckle saluted to her captain before grabbing Tornado and dragging him off as fast as she could.

                Spitfire let out a sigh of relief. "I swear, we need an etiquette class if our soldiers are acting like this."

                "And you are," the sea-green mare finally said.

                "I am Captain Spitfire," she answered, "a captain in King Steel Wing's army, and you are?"

                "I'm Lyra," the sea-green pony answered. "I'm a musician here in Canterlot."

                "A musician? Canterlot sure has all types if it even has warrior musicians," Spitfire chuckled, but her expression soon turned hard. "Regardless, are you insane? My soldiers were out of line for what they did, but if this fight of yours got out of hoof it could have turned into a cross-national incident. I don’t even want to think of some of the headlines the tabloids will pop up with just for this little skirmish."

                "Your soldiers attacked first!" Lyra yelled. "I was defending Bon-Bon… I mean, the citizens!"

                "If you really want to protect others, you're going about it all wrong,” Spitfire lectured. “I suggest you think a little more over your actions rather than jumping in head… lyre first. I can tell you this; if you were one of my soldiers, I wouldn't just be just talking to you right now."

                "Well it's a good thing I'm not!" Lyra yelled back.

                "Yeah, it is." Spitfire turned away from Lyra and flared her wings for take off.

                "Wait," Bon-Bon cried out. She ran up to Spitfire, a bag of Tornado's collected bits between her teeth. "These belong to the stallion."

                Spitfire gladly took the bag. "I doubt this is going to make up for the cut coming out of his paycheck, and I thank you, miss, for being rather cool throughout all this. I can assure you that those two will get reprimanded for acting so foalish." Spitfire noticed the basket of candy behind Bon-Bon. "I take it you're a candy vendor?"

                "Yes," Bon-Bon replied.

                "I'll take four then. How much?" Spitfire asked.

                "Oh, it's four bits."

                "All right." Spitfire retrieved the bits from her own purse and finished the trade. "Thank you," she said with a wink as she flew off into the sky.

                "What a nice mare," Bon-Bon commented.

                Lyra's pupils had shrunken and her mouth nearly fell off its hinges. She finally clenched her teeth and stared at where Spitfire had disappeared off to. "What does she know," she huffed.

                "Tough break, sister," Spike replied as he tossed the one dagger into the air. He failed to catch it as it came down, almost skewering his hand.

        “That’s dangerous,” Lyra muttered as she levitated the broad-bladed lyre to her back.

        “Hardly,” Spike replied as he pulled out the blade claw, not wincing once. “Oh shoot, the donuts!”


 

                Twilight trotted down the streets of Canterlot. She had decided to leave Night Light to watch the rest of Trixie's show and return home where she could finally collapse into her bed. She was dead tired and the day had given way to nightfall long ago. Worse yet, she knew she wasn't going to get any sleep yet.

                Twilight turned a corner, passing by most of the shopping district where most of the vendors had set up. "I wonder how many apples they sold," she asked herself absentmindedly.

                "Excuse me, pardon me, coming through!"

                Twilight was knocked off balance. She managed to catch herself before hitting the floor and turned to the offender, a bright pink pony wearing a black coat with a large burlap sack on her back. The same bright pink pony that was with Trixie. "You!"

                "Huh, it's you too!" The pink pony jumped back on her feet the moment she looked up at Twilight. "Say, how have you been since you made it out of the forest cause the whole time through Trixie was all mad and Snips and Snails were all giggly and I was all-"

                "Stop! Thief!" a pegasus mare cried out.

                "Oh! That's our cue!" The pink mare turned back to Twilight.

                "Our cue?" Twilight repeated in confusion. "What does that even-"

                The pink pony grabbed Twilight's tail and ran off, dragging Twilight with her.

                "What the! Hey! Stop! Ow! Help! I'm being ponynapped! Help!" Twilight howled as she was dragged off by the pink pony who giggled madly the whole time through. The pink pony found a dark alley she could hide in. She threw Twilight into the slimy alley and then dove in behind her, landing right on top of Twilight. The pegasus that was chasing them flew right by, completely missing her mark.

                "Wow-wee that was fun!" The pink pony got off of Twilight and took a moment to inspect the haul she had managed to get her hooves on. Two sets of pegasus armor, both with gray drapes. "I bet I’ll get a truck load of bits for this stuff!”

                "W-what?" Twilight blinked the spots out of her eyes. "W-where did you get that?"

                "Oh, I'm borrowing them from a couple of pegasus guards I ran into. One of them looked like he was beaten over the head with a giant lyre I mean who knew those things were so dangerous? So I walked up to them and asked if I could borrow their armor, and they said yes and then we played tag and I ran into you and the end!" the pink pony said in one breath, an innocently wide smile plastered on her face.

                Twilight stared at her. How did she manage to say all that? How did she manage to make it out of the Everfree Forest for that matter? How did anything in that explanation make sense? She could only manage a few words. "You're insane!"

                "Well, that's just one pony's opinion, or two… maybe three? No, I'm definitely sure it's higher than four," she replied. "Anyway, I'm glad I ran into you again!"

                "I'm not," Twilight barked as she got back up. "The last thing I need is to be associated with a crazy pony that went and stole armor from a couple of pegasi." Twilight ran away from the pink pony, galloping off as fast as she could.

                "W-what? You're leaving!?" The pink pony dropped the pilfered armor and turned back to Twilight. "W-wait! Please! Don't go!" she cried out.


                "Dust everywhere. I swear no one in this family knows how to clean up after themselves," Spike complained as he started on the chores that had been ingrained in him since the day he could first pick up a duster.

                The sudden slamming of the front door caused Spike to lose balance. "Spike! Spike, are you home?" Twilight ran into the living room. "Oh, good, you're here." Twilight finally paused to gasp for air.

                "You okay?" Spike asked.

                "No," she answered, "I was almost ponynapped by that pink pony that travels with Trixie."

                "You ran into her?"

                "Yes," Twilight gasped. “She stole some armor from a couple of pegasi and then tried to make me an accomplice or something! Can this day get any worse?"

                A knock came from the front door. "Seriously?" Twilight asked herself. "Is the entire world out to get me?"

                "I got it," Spike replied as he answered the door.

                "Wait, no!"

                Spike opened the door. "Special delivery," a gray pegasus with a blond mane answered.

                "Oh, it's just Ditsy." Twilight allowed herself to breathe again.

                "Got a package for Twilight Sparkle," the grey delivery pony replied as one of her eyes began to look off in another direction. "Signature please." She reached into her bag and brought out a clipboard with a quill tied to it clenched between her teeth.

                "Of course." Twilight used her magic to take the clipboard and quill and sign her name on the dotted line.

                "Thank you." Ditsy took back the board and stowed it away. From within the bag she withdrew a small package wrapped in paper and held it out to Twilight. It was shaped like a book.

                "I don't remember ordering anything, though," Twilight responded as she took the package from Ditsy. No return address was on the package. "Suspicious."

                "Thank you," Ditsy replied as she flew off.

                "Not much for talk, is she?" Spike remarked.

                "She doesn't really have the time. Canterlot is pretty big and she's one of the few pegasi that actually lives here, and she's the only one in the postal service so she gets saddled with a lot of the work," Twilight explained. Ditsy was such a curiosity in the town that most knew her by name, which was quite a feat in itself.

                Twilight turned her attention back to the package and unwrapped it. The contents of which were, indeed, a book, Predictions and Prophecies. Odd book, Twilight thought to herself.


                "Sparkle! I'm home!" Night Light called out as he entered the house.

                "Hey, Night Light," Spike greeted him, "if you're looking for Twilight she's on the roof already."

                "Thanks, Spike." Night Light sniffed the air. "Cabbage stew?"

                "Yep." Spike smirked as he stirred the pot. "Twilight's least favorite."

                "My favorite, though! I missed your cooking," Night Light complimented Spike, purposely inflating his ego.

                "Well it's not like anypony else here can cook as good as me."

                "Sad but true." Night Light made his way up the stairs of the small and old house. He found the latch to the roof was already open, and Twilight already gazing out over the deck, her eyes analyzing the stars. Night Light stepped into the breezy night air and took in the view before him. Their house was built against the cliff Canterlot was situated on and this allowed the top of the house to overlook the forest behind the city. "You know, from the top, the Everfree Forest just looks magical."

                "It's the inside that's the problem," Twilight solemnly commented. "I was in there the other day. Scary place."

                "What!?" Night Light gasped. "Are you okay?"

                "Yeah. I'm fine," Twilight told him. “It’s a long story."

                "We have time," Night Light told her as he adjusted the telescope to point at the moon, "so tell me about it."

                "You know that show-mare that was performing today?" Twilight started. "Well…" Twilight told Night Light all about her day in Apple Acres: Being scammed by Granny Smith, dragged out into the Everfree Forest by Applejack, the encounter with Fluttershy, being attacked by goblins, and the fight with Trixie. "All that for some rusty farmer's tool."

                "Sounds to me like you made some good friends," Night Light responded, smiling.

                "Friends?" Twilight mulled over the word before banishing it from her mind. She turned back to her father who was busily adjusting the telescope. "Still looking for your moon mare?"

                "Every night," Night Light responded. "I know she's somewhere up there."

                "Trying to replace mom…" Twilight trailed off.

                "Perish the thought," Night Light responded, growing somber. "I still believe your mother is out there, somewhere."

                "She went into the Everfree Forest and never returned," Twilight responded. "She was probably killed by a chimera."

                "Your mother is a talented mage."

                "Today, a chimera showed up on the main road to Canterlot. The chimera I mentioned earlier," Twilight told him, the words heavy. "I was with an apple caravan and we all managed to fight it off, but it's still free somewhere. What happened to the militia, Night Light?"

                Night Light let out a heavy sigh. "We don't have the bits to keep the militia so far out." Night Light stepped away from the telescope. "We don't have enough bits for anything! I swear those nobles are going to bleed Canterlot dry and then probably move to Caballus! Leaving the rest of us to be eaten live by chimeras!" Night Light grew angry, his hatred of the privileged becoming more apparent.

                "Can't you do anything?" Twilight asked.

                "Not really. They've lined the pockets of most of the other council members. Perhaps the only representatives left that aren’t under some hoof are Gilded Scroll and I," he lamented. "Any policy we bring up is instantly voted down, and, if this continues, things are just going to get worse."

                "I guess Canterlot has seen better days."

                "Yeah, and if the nobles don't pony up we won't be able to afford some weather, which is going to hurt Apple Acres. They won't be able to grow food without the rain, and then more of us in Canterlot get to starve," Night Light spat as he turned back to the telescope and began adjusting it again. "Worst case scenario we get absorbed into the Cloud Kingdom and lose our republic in favor of King Steel Wing's rule, but hey, territories of the Cloud Kingdom get free rain. We wouldn't have to worry about food then, just presumptuous pegasi."

                "Let's change the subject," Twilight said to her father, "I don't think talking about this is going to get you in a better mood."

                "It never does," Night Light replied as he began scanning the moon with his telescope.

                "How long have you been searching the moon now?" Twilight asked.

                “Hmmm...” Night Light thought, “Maybe thirty years now?” Night Light wore a nostalgic smile as he gazed upwards. His mind went back to his foalhood. He remembered the day his parents gave him his first telescope, the same one in front of him now, and he looked through it and gazed at the moon. That day he got his cutie mark, a pair of crescent moons, and he found the legendary mare on the moon. "She was beautiful."

                "You must have had quite the precocious crush.”

                "Perhaps," Night light laughed, “I only ever saw her the once on that day.”

                Twilight turned back to the opening of the roof. “I'm going to turn in. Don't stay up too late."

                "You know, she's Princess Luna, in your mother's story. The mare in the moon."

                Twilight paused. "Wouldn't that be Nightmare Moon now, Night Light?" Twilight responded, not wanting to talk about such a subject with him.

                "Nightmare Moon is Luna."

                "And she wants to bring about nighttime eternal, last time I checked."

                "Perhaps…" Night Light looked back to his daughter, but she was already gone. He turned back to the moon above him. "Twilight Velvet, my love, where are you? Do you know, moon princess?" he asked.


                "Food's ready, Twilight!" Spike yelled from the kitchen. "You done star gazing?"

                "I'm done, but I'm not that hungry tonight, Spike." Twilight responded as she made her way down the stairs, towards her room.

                "Not hungry!? Didn't you fight a chimera today? And you haven't eaten anything since then!" Spike replied worryingly. "Are you okay, Twilight?"

                "I'm fine," she groaned. "I'm just going to bed early, all right."

                "Back to our old schedules, I guess" Spike sighed.


                Twilight closed the door behind her as she walked into her room. It wasn't very big. It was rather small in fact. In one corner stood a table with a stack of organized papers and essays displayed neatly on top along with a single book, the one just delivered to her. Twilight dragged herself over to her bed and collapsed, too tired to bother with blankets. "I guess there's only one thing left to do," she muttered to herself. Using her magic, Twilight grabbed the book from her table. "Predictions and Prophecies," she read the title out loud.

                Twilight opened the book. Within its pages, various excerpts from legends that some might say are just an old-ponies’ tale. One of these tales, however, caught her eye. "The return of Nightmare Moon?" Twilight read aloud, gaze curiously into the pages. "The mare from my mother's story." Twilight began to read the excerpt. "The Mare in the Moon: myth from olden pony times. A powerful pony who wanted to rule Equestria, defeated by Celestia harnessing the Elements of Harmony and imprisoned in the moon. Legend has it that on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape and she will bring about nighttime eternal." Twilight turned to her calendar. "The Summer Sun festival is in a few days. That would make it the longest day, is this the thousandth year?" she asked herself. Is Nightmare Moon really going to show up and bring with her eternal night? Twilight looked down at the book. Another entry caught her eye. "The elements of harmony," she read aloud. “The reason mom left, saying it was her duty... duty...”


                The morning sun rose into the sky and its warm rays beat down on a sleeping baby dragon. "Spike, wake up." Twilight ordered as she raided the kitchen for any dried foods. "Spike? Oh here we go again," she groaned. "Don't make me punt you out the window."

                Spike did not wake up. He didn't even move.

                "Spike!" Twilight yelled at the top of her lungs.

                "Two more minutes…" he yawned.

                "Fine, just get ready to go."

                "Where are we going?" Spike asked, a little more interested now.

                "We're going to find the elements of harmony!" Twilight told him as she searched through the hallway closet. Twilight found what she was looking for; a gilded spear.


Is it ever a wonder what's real and what's just a tale?

It just seemed like a foal's quest at first.

NEW GAME

>CONTINUE

OPTIONS

        "Saddlebags?" Twilight paced across the den as she listed off items for Spike to check off. Her voice gave off an optimistic vibe: she always felt at ease when she had some semblance of control.

        "Check," Spike confirmed as he checked off the list item.

        "Bucket?"

        "Check."

        "Food?" Twilight continued to list.

        "Check," Spike replied as he stuffed Twilight's saddlebags with a few extra gems for the road.

        "Sandwich recipe to cook food with?" Twilight asked.

        "Do we really need a recipe for making sandwiches?" Spike groaned.

        Twilight turned to Spike and began to lecture, "Of course, Spike. The culinary arts are not one to be taken lightly. On the road we'll only be able to carry so much food with us at a time, so we need to be able to ration carefully. That means making sandwiches to the letter; no more free-style cooking for us," she concluded.

         Spike raised a claw, ready to argue back, and then gave up. He didn't want to provoke another lecture, so he quietly slipped the recipe card into the saddlebags, sandwiched between a loaf of bread and a bag of daisies.

         "Do we have the maps?" Twilight asked, "Such a key item is crucial for the traveling pony." Equestria could be a deadly place to get lost in, and the Everfree Forest had already proved to be a fatal trek for the unprepared.

        "Definite check." Spike opened his backpack to reveal various maps of Equestria, and what little information was available about the Everfree Forest. "I copied as much as I could from the library. By the way, the price for colored magic prints went up again."

        "Again?" Twilight groaned. "My school projects are going to get pricey now."

        "Says the mare who can't get less than an A." Spike rolled his eyes.

        "Last, but definitely not least, checklist for future reference?"

        "Twilight, who do you think you're talking to?" Spike held a rolled up checklist in the air before stuffing it into Twilight's saddlebags.

        "I should expect no less from my number one assistant," Twilight giggled, "did you leave that note for Night Light like I asked you?"

        "Yeah, but don't you think you should tell him face to face? I mean, I don't know much, but didn't your mom disappear into the Everfree Forest? I don't think Night Light is going to be happy about this."

        "She did," Twilight replied as she loaded herself with her saddlebags, "but she was looking for the elements of harmony: there has got to be a reason for that."

        "And your hypothesis, Dr. Sparkle?" Spike laughed as he jumped on Twilight's back.

        "Well, it may sound silly, but what if she was trying to find them in case of Nightmare Moon's return?"

        "The mare from your tale?"

        "My mother's tale, yes. Celestia did exist one thousand years ago. What if Nightmare Moon did too? Then the prophecy about her being released could be true too."

        "Twilight," Spike groaned, "this is beginning to sound really far-fetched."

        Twilight sighed: the more she talked about it, the more ridiculous it sounded. "Yeah, it kind of is. Still, finding the elements of harmony could be a boon to the field of magic study."

        "Whatever you have to tell yourself."

        "Thanks, Spike," Twilight gratified her dragon companion.

        "No problem, Twilight."

        Twilight and Spike left before dawn that morning; the moon was still visible in the sky, gazing down upon the city. Twilight treaded lightly through the lower-city streets. She was heading for the city gates, but a pink pony in a black coat intercepted her.

        "I finally found you!" the pink pony squealed, her giant pinwheel bouncing on her back along with her, and her face distorting with an impossibly huge grin. "I've been searching high and low for you."

        "Y-you!" Twilight growled. For the third time in three days this mysterious pink pony had barged into her life, and for the third time she was going to get a migraine. "Are you stalking me?" she accused her.

        "Oh, hey," Spike popped up from behind Twilight's head to get a good look at the pink pony. "It's you again! You were with Trixie, right?" he asked.

        "Uh-huh!" the pink pony nodded. "Who are you?"

        "I'm Spike," Spike gestured to himself, "and this is Twilight," he said gesturing to Twilight.

        "I know that, silly," The pink pony replied as she got closer to them.

        "You do?" Spike asked.

        "Who are you?" Twilight took a step back, pointing her horn at the pink pony. "I am in no mood for games right now."

        "Huh?" The pink pony looked confused. "I'm Pinkie Pie, silly," she said with a smile.

        "That tells me nothing, and I don't even know if that’s true. I don't make it a habit to trust bandits."

        "A bandit? Where?" Pinkie Pie jerked from side to side, looking for any sign of bandits or thieves. "Bandits are notoriously tricky, you know."

        Twilight groaned. "No! I mean, you're the bandit! You stole that key-thing from Apple Acres! You're a bandit!"

        "Oh that," Pinkie Pie waved a hoof to dismiss Twilight. "Silly, I was only borrowing it. I even gave it back already. I didn't steal anything."

        Twilight's eye twitched. "You only gave it back because I was dragged out into the forest by that orange apple-pony!" Twilight roared.

        "Wait, a pony that's an orange apple?"

        "No!" Twilight yelled, "and what about the pegasi armor you stole?"

        "I'm still borrowing it!" Pinkie Pie lit up again with a wide smile.

        "So you borrow things…" Twilight began to fear where this was going.

        "Yep! Only grouchy grouch meanies steal."

        Spike was doubled over on Twilight's back, consumed in a fit of laughter as Twilight tried to apply some code of logic and morals to the pink pony. She found that it was impossible to apply a normal thought process to Pinkie Pie. "Fine!" Twilight yelled. "Go borrow something else and leave me alone."

        "But we're friends!" Before Twilight could get away, Pinkie Pie threw herself on-top of Twilight, wrapping her completely in an almost rib crushing hug.

        "We are not friends," Twilight struggled to say as precious breath escaped her body. "Spike, help!"

        "We're not?" The pink pony asked, still holding tightly onto Twilight.

        "We're not!" Twilight cried out with the last of her air.

        "Well that can change!" Pinkie Pie dismissed Twilight's complaint and continued to be incomprehensibly happy. "So what are you up to, new friend?"

        "Nothing!" Twilight cried out.

        "We're going to find the elements of harmony," Spike answered.

        "Spike!"

        "Ooooh," Pinkie Pie started, "that sounds like lots of fun. What's an element of harmony?"

        "It's," Twilight started, "it's… I guess it’s a magical artifact. Celestia used the elements of harmony to banish Nightmare Moon to the moon a long time ago. I'm looking for those…" It sounded ridiculous: it was ridiculous. "I don't know much more than that." Twilight's hopes were slowly falling. She hadn't even left Canterlot and her journey was already turning into a failure. She cast her eyes away from Pinkie Pie and Spike. In her head, she was already cursing her lack of foresight and she didn't want to hear what Spike or even the insane pink pony had to say.

        "That's okay," Pinkie Pie let go of Twilight and forcibly turned Twilight to face her. "I'm sure you'll find it!"

        "Th-thanks?" Twilight stuttered.

        "And I'll help you!" Pinkie Pie declared.

        "What!?" Twilight gawked. "Why are you…" Twilight wanted to accuse her of some greater scheme at work, but as it stood she was the only one had given her any positive feedback on her quest, so she rephrased her question, "Why do you want to help me?"

        "Because…" The pink pony thought to herself for a moment. "I believe you, silly."

        "Somepony doesn't know Twilight too well," Spike teased.

        "Spike," Twilight groaned. "Listen, Pinkie Pie-"

        "You said my name!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed,

        "Yeah… well, how do I know you aren’t going to 'borrow' the element from me?" Twilight asked.

        "If it's that important to you I won't 'borrow' it," she said with a wink.

        Now I really don't get her.


        "Pokey!" Twilight called out to the guard of the Canterlot gates. "Can you open the gate?"

        Pokey, irritated that his night-watch nap had been interrupted, slowly turned to Twilight. "Twilight? Again? Whatever. I can't open the gates for another ten minutes. That's standard protocol." Pokey sighed as he repositioned himself in his chair, trying to get back to his nap.

        "Pokey!" Twilight growled.

        "Rules are rules," he laughed. The Canterlot gate guards were notorious for their lack of empathy and cynical demeanor, created and refined from down-trodden souls and hours upon hours of unrivaled boredom.

Twilight groaned in frustration. Arguing with the gate guards was considered a Canterlot tradition. With nothing left to do, Twilight sat herself down, anxious for dawn to break and signal the beginning of her journey. "How much longer…" she groaned.

        "Nine more minutes, Twilight," Pokey laughed.

        "Well, look who it is?" an accented voice called from behind them.

        Twilight turned around. "Applejack, Big Macintosh. I guess you two are heading back to Apple Acres?" Twilight asked.

        "That's right," Applejack replied. "We managed to sell enough to make ends meet, which is better than last time. And what are you doing here? Don't tell me you're visiting already?" Applejack laughed, but her eyes caught a glimpse of a certain pink pony. "Wait a minute…"

        "Hi!" Pinkie Pie bounded up to Applejack, catching her off guard. "I'm Pinkie Pie! You beat me up back in the Everfree Forest! You were really good at fighting! Who taught you all those artes? I bet she was some kind of kung-fu master." Pinkie Pie kept going on and on with no end in sight.

        Applejack turned to Twilight, desperate for some kind of escape from the endless babbling. Twilight could only suppress a snicker and shoot Applejack a merciless glare. Applejack turned to her brother, Big Macintosh, with eyes begging for salvation. Big Macintosh didn't even try to hide his amusement like Twilight did. Turning back to Pinkie Pie, Applejack tried to interrupt her, "Would you…"

        "So after our fight we just kept walking around in circles for hours and hours and Trixie kept saying stuff about being the best pony ever and we ran from this crazy big chimera with a snake head. It was scary! But then we found Canterlot and we built a stage and I borrowed some armor from some nice well-meaning pegasi and I found Twilight but she-"

        "For the love of Canterlot, shut up!" Pokey cried out, successfully silencing Pinkie Pie.

        "You know how to get rid of us," Twilight taunted the sleep-deprived guard. "Opening the gate a few minutes early isn't going to hurt anypony."

        "Perhaps," Poke started, "but when I signed up as gate watch, I pledged the rest of my life to harassing others and being a prick in general. Why, I consider it my life's purpose to be irate and insensitive."

        "Just open it!" Twilight yelled, her last nerve dead. "I can blast open the gate you know."

        "That would be a sight," Pokey mused. "All right, fine. I'll open the gate." Pokey jumped down from his post, shooting Twilight and Pinkie Pie an annoyed look. He magically took out the gate key out from his armor and opened the gate. "Are you happy?" he groaned.

        "I'll get back to you on that," Twilight replied.


SKIT: Sour Apples

Applejack: So, here we are again; I figured yesterday would be the last I ever saw of you.

Twilight: The feeling is mutual. Although, I'm happy I don't have to pull the cart this time.

Applejack: You could offer your assistance. It's only the polite thing to do.

Twilight: Like scamming me?

Applejack: Some ponies sure do know how to hold a grudge.

Pinkie Pie: I could help you with that!

Applejack: Oh no, missy. I'm not risking you runnin' off with my apple cart!

Pinkie Pie: I won't do that, honest.

Applejack: I still ain't chancin' it.

Pinkie Pie: Such a grouch...

Applejack: We apple family ponies pride ourselves into growing up to be just as sour as a rotten apple.

Twilight: I can see that.

SKIT: End

        The road to Apple Acres hadn't changed a bit in a day. The morning sun was rising over the hills, painting the road with an orange glow; there wasn't a cloud in the sky to block out any rays of light. Twilight was traveling with Applejack and Big Macintosh again with the silent agreement that if a chimera appeared they would protect each other.  Luckily, no chimera had attacked them like before.

        "So," Applejack turned to Twilight, "what are you up to now, Miss Twilight?" she asked. "I can't imagine you returning to Apple Acres for some down-home hospitality."

        "Well…" Twilight replied, knowing how ridiculous the answer was sounded. "I'm searching for the elements of harmony."

        "Elements of what-now?" Applejack somewhat echoed. "What in tarnation is that?"

        "It's…" Another question with a ridiculous answer. "It's just supposed to be some magical instrument needed to combat Nightmare Moon," she said in one breath.

        Applejack shot Twilight a concerned look. "Miss Twi', you seemed like a mare that had her snout in a book all the time, but now it sounds like your chasing a fairy tale."

        "I know," Twilight sighed, "I know it sounds ridiculous."

        "So what?" Pinkie Pie butted in. "What if the elements are real and Nightmare Moon is too? Twilight will be the only pony who would have known about it and know how to fight Nightmare Moon! Isn't that neat?"

        "You're asking me if the possible destruction of Equestria would be neat?" Applejack scoffed. "Sorry, but, sugar-cube, you sound like your one barn short of a farm, and you act it too."

        "Aww, thanks!" Pinkie Pie replied as she got closer to Applejack, much to her discomfort.

        "Regardless, it still sounds crazy. Right, Big Macintosh?"

        "I don't know," Big Macintosh answered, "what if Miss Twilight is right."

        "Then I'll strap a piston engine to my boot and fly into space," Applejack retorted with a huff. "Honestly, you all sound silly. Where are you even goin' to start?"

        "The Everfree Forest near Apple Acres contains the former city of Canterlot, now called Old Canterlot," Twilight began to lecture. "According to Canterlot history, Celestia used to hold her court in Old Canterlot. She eventually moved to the mountain side where it is now and eveypony moved with her, leaving Old Canterlot to be overtaken by the expanding Everfree Forest."

        "Impressive," Applejack commented, "sure do you know your history."

        "I'm a student!" Twilight exclaimed with pride. "Of course I know these things."

        "Must be nice, school," Applejack sighed.


        It was almost evening by the time Twilight had reached Apple Acres. The trip between Canterlot and Apple Acres took almost the whole day and the sun would be setting soon.  "Back here again," Twilight sighed.

        "I'm sure we can work out some arrangements for your stay at our farm." Applejack grinned.

        "No thanks," Twilight snapped back. "I brought a tent," she said smugly.

        "Your loss," Applejack shrugged. "Good luck on your quest, Miss Twilight."

        "Aw man," Spike groaned. "Do you even know how to pitch a tent?"

        "No, but I brought a pamphlet with instructions." Twilight used her magic to retrieve the pamphlet from her saddlebags and proudly hold it up to Spike. "I came prepared."


        Applejack and Big Macintosh sat alone in the den of their barn. Big Macintosh poured through a multitude of papers depicting bills and the financial state of their apple orchard scattered over a desk. Applejack sat by a fireplace, nervously tapping a hoof. "So," she started, "taking into account all the expenses, what's our haul? What are we looking at for fall? Will we be able to fix my truck, Betsy?"

        Big Macintosh looked up from the finance report. "Not even close. We made enough to keep going, but that's only if Canterlot can buy some rain." Big Macintosh shifted his weight, moving his fore-hooves to his temples. "I heard a rumor that Canterlot won't be able to buy some for fall, so we may need to get the town together to buy some rain ourselves."

        Applejack almost cracked the floor with how hard she stomped her hoof. "Dang it. We need more bits."

        "I know, Applejack. I know…"

        "I'm going outside," she said after a long pause. "I need to clear my head."

        "Don't be long."


        The sun finally fell below the horizon, and soon the moon would ascend into place high in the sky and shine its pale light on the poor town. Applejack sat by one of her favorite trees, trying to make sense of her situation. "Dang it," she cursed. "This barn is going to go under if I don't think of something." She adjusted her hat, trying to block the moonlight from her eyes. She wanted to scream at someone if only to vent her anger, but that wasn't like her. "I just want my family to be okay; to not have to worry about going hungry. Is that too much to ask for?"

        "Of course not!"

        Applejack shot up, nearly losing balance in the process. She glanced around, looking for the intruder on her thoughts. "Who's there!" she called out.

        "Up here!" a high-pitched voice replied.

        Applejack looked up. Deep in the leaves of her favorite tree was the pink bandit pony. "You again? If you're here to steal some apples you'll find the whole orchard picked clean."

        "I'm not here to borrow anything, silly!" Pinkie Pie jumped down from the tree, landing perfectly on her hooves. "I couldn't help but overhear your predicament, so I thought I could offer a solution!" Pinkie Pie smiled brightly at the farm-mare, who felt a little perturbed by the scene.

        "And what might that be?" she asked, wary of any possible response that could come from such a random pony.

        "You can come with Twilight and me to Old Canterlot!"

        "Are you crazy!?" Applejack roared. "The Everfree Forest is dangerous enough even in the shallow parts, and you want me to go with you into the deepest parts of it, where all the really nasty and dangerous stuff is, on a wild goose chase for some element?"

        "Well," Pinkie Pie replied, "just imagine all the loot you can find; thousand year old Canterlot stuff from Celestia's age. I know that stuff goes for lots of bits in Caballus."

        Applejack was about to rebuke her argument, but she actually stopped to think about what she said. No one ever goes that deep into the Everfree Forest, not even bandits and thieves. There was sure to be plenty of treasure amongst the ruins that she could sell to bring bits back into the farm. Of course, this meant going into the Everfree Forest. "You'll just end up dead on the floor," Applejack concluded.

        "Not if we all work together!" Pinkie Pie shouted.

        "We'll get lost."

        "What about that pony that guided you before?" Pinkie Pie asked breathlessly.

        "Fluttershy… yeah… she's good at navigatin' the forest and all…"

        "I'm sure she'll be willing to help," Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "So, are you going to come with us? Huh? Huh? Huh?"

        Applejack considered it for a moment. Desperate times do call for desperate measures… but this is too desperate. "I… fine, but we need to go now."

        "Now now?"

        "Yes, now." Applejack didn't want her family to know.


        "Twilight…"

        "Yes, Spike…"

        "This is not a tent." Spike gestured to the tangled mess of wire and fabric. Twilight's pamphlet had proven to be useless before the reason of common experience. "This is a mess."

        "I refuse to sleep at that farm," Twilight stated.

        "Well, what's wrong with my farm?" Applejack called to her from behind. "I see your tent is going well," she said with a smirk.

        "Here to gloat?" Twilight asked with little patience.

        "A little, but my main reason is to tell you I'll be joining you on your little journey to the Old Canterlot."

        "You're coming with us? What happened to chasing fairy tales?" Twilight asked, offense ringing in her voice.

        "That don't matter," Applejack replied, stomping a hoof into the ground. "There just might be treasure, and that means bits. Bits I need. So there you have it."

        "You're grave robbing!" Twilight accused her. "That's just... disrespectful!"

        "I do what I have to to keep my family out of the grave, got it!" Applejack yelled back, her anger getting the better of her.

        "Uh, girls," Pinkie Pie interrupted them, "let's not fight. We're supposed to be friends here."

        "I'll let you know when I start feelin' warm and tingly," Applejack bluntly replied, "but in the meantime let's haul ourselves out to Everfree and get this over with."

        "Right now?" Twilight argued. "Are you crazy?"

        "I have to be if I'm actually goin' into that crazy mixed up forest, so The sooner this is over the better."

SKIT: Twitchy Twitcha Twitcha Twitch

Pinkie Pie: Oh!

Twilight: What is it?

Pinkie Pie: My neck feels twitchy!

Twilight: …so?

Pinkie Pie: Pinkie senses… tingling!

Twilight: Pinkie senses?

Applejack: What in tarnation is this about?

Pinkie Pie: My pinkie senses!

Spike: Pinkie senses?

Twilight: Just what are pinkie senses?

Pinkie Pie: I don't know.

Twilight: What?

Pinkie Pie: They just show up and, depending on the kind of twitch, something happens.

Twilight: I find this hard to believe.

Applejack: Yeah, me too.

Spike: This coming from the group looking for the elements of harmony?

Applejack: I'm just in this for the bits.

Twilight: Still, it doesn't make any sense. Let's just keep going.

SKIT: End

        Even after two days the tracks from Trixie's cart hadn't disappeared, and in the light of the moon Applejack was able to follow the tracks right back to the tree it crashed into; where they first met Fluttershy. The cart was still stuck in the tree, and still a mess.

        "Oh wowee, the steam cart is still here!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed as she jumped on top of the broken down pile of scarp. "I bet Trixie will be happy to know it's okay."

        "Oh yeah," Twilight added, "I forgot about her. Isn't she your partner in crime?"

        "Kind of," Pinkie Pie answered. "We go around borrowing stuff and getting bits for Ponyville."

        "Ponyville? Is that where you're from?" Twilight asked.

        "Yep! Don't tell me you've never heard of it!?" she gasped. "I'll need to bring you there for a party!"

        "Ponyville?" Applejack butted in. "Where is that?"

        "Never heard of it, AJ?" Pinkie asked. "It's just waaaaay north of here."

        "It doesn't ring many bells. I think it's been mentioned around the farm a few times. Maybe we used to do business with Ponyville? I don't know." Applejack conceded. "Also, don't call me AJ. I'm Applejack."

        "I'll have to throw you a party too then!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

        "You can hold onto your parties. I just need bits. Now where is that pegasus tracker pony." Applejack looked around the treetops, but couldn't find sign of any Fluttershy. "Probably hiding in some stump somewhere."

        "Well, if I was a timid pegasus pony where would I be?" Spike asked himself. "I got nothing."

        "I've got an idea!" Pinkie Pie withdrew the giant pinwheel attached to her back.

        "What are you-"

        "Timber!" she yelled out as her weapon began to spin. She swung it into the base of the trunk, cutting cleanly through the wood. The tree toppled over, crashing to the ground loudly. All manner of creatures for miles heard the sudden crash of the tree.

        "Are you trying to call every stinkin' chimera to us!?" Applejack yelled out, directing her anger at Pinkie Pie.

        "Yelling isn't going to help the situation," Twilight chided.

        "Uhm, is somepony there?" an innocently soft and familiar voice called out.

        "Fluttershy!" Spike exclaimed. "It's us: Spike, Twilight, and Applejack. Well with one more now."

        "I'm Pinkie Pie!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

        Fluttershy quietly crept out of a nearby bush, her large cyan eyes examining over the assembled cast before her. "Uhm, hi," she timidly greeted Pinkie Pie.

"Hiya!" Pinkie Pie ran up to Fluttershy and started shaking her hoof repeatedly and completely stunning the shy pegasus.

        "Hey." Applejack grabbed Fluttershy away from Pinkie Pie, saving her from Pinkie Pie's unending hoof-shake. "Listen, we need your help to get to Old Canterlot."

        "You need my help to go where?"

        "Old Canterlot," Twilight repeated for Applejack. "It should be north by north-west of here, but with how thick the forest gets it will become difficult to navigate, which is where you come in. I… we need your help."

        "That sounds dangerous." Fluttershy backed away from Twilight, afraid of the request itself.

        "This is really important," Twilight pleaded. "It's a matter of global security!"

        "It is?

        "Yes!" Twilight exclaimed.

        "I guess... I can try," Fluttershy responded. "Why do you need to go there?"

        "I'm looking for…" Twilight sighed. "I'm looking for the elements of harmony."

        "What's that?" she asked.

        Twilight groaned. How many times was she going to have to explain her wild goose chase plan today? "The elements of harmony are magical artifacts used by Celestia to defeat Nightmare Moon and banish her to the moon and now I'm looking for them because Nightmare Moon could, I repeat could, be returning to try and bring about night time eternal, there!"

        "Wow, I'm impressed," Pinkie Pie chirped.

        "Uhm… okay?" Fluttershy responded.

        "Sounds like a load of hooey, don't it," Applejack commented.

        "Well, maybe not all of it is hooey," Fluttershy tried to sound inoffensive, possibly sounding worse for it.

        "Well, can you just tell us if you can lead us there so I can see my crazy plan blow up in my face already." All the negative reinforcement was beginning to wear away at Twilight. Her own self-doubt wasn't helping either.

        "I think I know where you're talking about is," Fluttershy responded. "It's a bit of a ways from here though."

        "Of course it is," Twilight groaned. "Nothing is ever easy."

        "If it was easy it wouldn’t be an adventure," Spike replied.

        "Uh, girls, we have a problem," Pinkie Pie muttered to everyone else.

        "Chimeras…" Fluttershy squeaked.

        A pack of half-wolf half-lizard chimeras surrounded them. They surrounded them from every angle; hanging in trees and poking out of bushes. An odd cacophony of growls and hisses erupted around them.

        "Dang it, just like I said would happen," Applejack grumbled.

        "Put your claws up!" Spike yelled as she withdrew his daggers. Two of the chimeras jumped at him. "Fang Rush!" Spike cried out as he ducked the first chimera and sliced through the second one.

        "Oh no, oh no!" Fluttershy panicked as a chimera jumped at her. "No!" she yelled out as she drew her weapon, deflecting the chimera's attack; her sickle gleamed eerily as it poked out of her sleeve.

        "Fluttershy, duck!" Applejack called out as she charged at her. Fluttershy just barely ducked as Applejack jumped over her, catching a chimera in mid-air. "Harvest Dance!" Applejack kicked the chimera while air-born. Turning herself, she gave the creature another buck, busting its neck, before landing back on the ground.

        Pinkie Pie swung her pinwheel to bat off another chimera. "This is really exciting!" she exclaimed as she jumped over another one. "But I wish it wasn't a fight for our lives!"

        "Less talking, more surviving!" Twilight gasped as she launched a series of fireballs.

        "Oh, right. Surprise Infliction!" Pinkie Pie swung her pinwheel upwards, cleanly cutting a leaping chimera. "Twilight, above you!"

        "Huh?" Twilight barely dodged three of the assaulting monsters. "Spike!" Twilight called back. "Get on my back!"

        "Coming, Twilight!" Spike yelled back as over a chimera, dragging his daggers through it, and then jumping on-top of Twilight. She bucked up to launch him high into the air. Slamming his daggers together, Spike formed his bow and took aim of a chimera. "Gale Salvo!" he cried as he let lose the volley of arrows.

        Twilight wielded the spear she had brought with her between her teeth. A chimera jumped at her. She closed her eyes as she drove her spear forward at the monster, almost completely skewering it. Breathing heavily, she threw away the corpse and pointed her spear at another chimera. "Comet Cannon!" she cried out as a chunk of ice erupted from her spear, blasting another chimera into a shivering pile of ice.

        The few chimeras left grouped together to mount one last assault on the ponies. "Everypony, behind me!" Twilight cried out, her horn beginning to glow.

        The chimeras launched their assault as a single pack. Twilight's horn gave off a bright magenta light as a wall of ice sprang up from the ground, skewering many of the chimeras.

        "I got it!" Applejack yelled out as she jumped into the weakened fray. She slammed herself into the wall of ice. "Beast!" Applejack's primal force blew apart the ice, sending frozen shrapnel into whatever was left of the monstrous pack. Any surviving chimeras chose to flee. The battle was over, and at their hooves laid a small pike of dead chimera bodies.

        Twilight gagged at the sight. It was in self-defense, and chimeras of all kinds were notoriously aggressive. Still, it didn't feel right.

        "This is horrible," Fluttershy lamented. "We… we…"

        "That was intense," Spike yelled out over Fluttershy with an unhinging chipper attitude.

        "Spike," Twilight interrupted him, "I wouldn't call this a time to celebrate. We just killed-"

        "It's kill or be killed," Applejack interrupted Twilight. "We don't have the time to sit around and think whether it was right or wrong."

        "But killing is wrong!" Fluttershy asserted, almost jumping on Applejack before reverting to her meek ways. "I mean… even with…"

        "This was self-defense. If chimeras want to mess with me, then they better be ready to get bucked in the face." Applejack's words were cold. It did little to comfort the distraught yellow pegasus. "Now then, think you're ready to lead us?"

        "I… fine…" Fluttershy surrendered.

SKIT: The Best of Friends…

Fluttershy: Uhhh…

Pinkie Pie: Yes?

Fluttershy: Weren’t you with the bandits?

Pinkie Pie: I'm not a bandit. I'm Pinkie Pie!

Fluttershy: Oh, okay.

Pinkie Pie: And you're Fluttershy!

Fluttershy: Y-yes… I am.

Pinkie Pie: And starting today we're going to be the best of friends!

Fluttershy: Okay?

Pinkie Pie: By the way, you know anything for dealing with a twitchy neck? Mine is killing me.

Fluttershy: I… know some massage techniques.

Pinkie Pie: Neato!

Twilight: Is it me or is this group getting crazier with every addition?

Spike: You act like this is a bad thing.

Twilight: I'm the only sane pony here.

SKIT: End

        Twilight had been traveling for a few hours. Fluttershy was able to expertly lead them though the twists and turns of the forest. Once again, Twilight found herself becoming nervous with the ambient sounds of animal calls, footsteps, and the flapping of wings.

        "So," Applejack started, "how far are we from Old Canterlot?"

        "Well…" Fluttershy thought for a moment. "I've never been that deep into the forest. I don't know how thick the forest gets then."

        "Aren’t you a pegasus?" Twilight stated bluntly. "Wouldn't you have flown over it at some point?"

        "Well… I'm not very good with heights," Fluttershy sighed.

        "What?" Spike blurted out. "A pegasus afraid of heights? What's up with that?"

        "Spike, be quiet," Twilight reprimanded the dragon. "That was uncalled for."

        "It's… true," Fluttershy said, and went quiet.

        The forest grew thicker as they ventured further, and the night was getting darker. It wasn't just Twilight who was beginning to feel fatigued. "Maybe we should stop and rest," Spike suggested. "It's not like pushing ourselves is going to help, right?"

        "That doesn't sound like a bad idea," Applejack replied, the fur on her forehead sticking to her face. "Got any water? I'm thirsty."

        "Water, coming up," Twilight grinned as her horn began to glow. "Splash!"

        A torrent of water erupted from under Applejack, launching her into the air.

        "Oops," Twilight gasped. Spike took the moment to catch as much water as possible with the bucket he brought.

        Pinkie Pie managed to catch Applejack on her way down. "Aw, no flowers?" she joked.

        "I have to ask, was that on purpose?" Applejack winced, now soaking wet and irritated.

        "That was an accident," Twilight stated defensively. "You said you were thirsty so I cast a water spell... a little to close you."

        "Too close my water-logged patootie…" Applejack groaned. "Fine, we got water. What do we have to eat?"

        "Sandwiches," Twilight proudly declared, "I brought a recipe for sandwiches and plenty of bread and daisies." Twilight pulled out the note-card with a transcribed recipe for daisy sandwiches written in perfect horn-written cursive; one of her prouder achievements. "We'll have perfectly measured and rationed sandwiches in no time."

        "Iguana," Applejack tapped Spike, "is she serious?"

        "Sadly," Spike groaned.

        "Can't say daisy sandwiches sound very appetizing," Applejack groaned. "And 'perfectly measured'?"

        "Well," Fluttershy butted-in, "I know where we can find some edible mushroom."

        "Oh! I can make some stew then! I need a fire though," Spike added.

        "Mushroom stew? Yeah, that can work," Applejack replied.

        "All right! Stew it is. I'll call it Wild Stew a la Spike."

        "Like I'm trustin' anything you make, iguana."

        "Oh! This calls for a party!"

        The group was suddenly alive with chatter over the proposed meal. Everyone except Twilight, who began to feel her efforts were in vain for copying and bringing the sandwich recipe. "Well, yeah, I guess that sounds good." When Twilight looked up she found Fluttershy, Applejack, and Spike had already disappeared on her, off to hunt for their respective tasks, leaving her alone with Pinkie Pie who was busy setting up streamers. She sighed, trying not to apply common sense to her last companion..

        "So, giggle at the ghostly; Guffaw at the grossly," Pinkie Pie sang to herself as she hung decorations over the trees. "Crack up at the creepy; Whoop it up with the weepy."

        "What are you singing?" Twilight asked.

        "A song my granny would sing to me whenever I felt scared. It always gives me a little bit of courage when I sing it," Pinkie Pie replied as she continued to hang balloon.

        "Is that how you're able to stay calm in this?" Twilight murmured, gesturing to the forest. "The place makes me feel so… tense. Just the sounds are enough to make me tense up." Twilight curled herself up as her mind wandered to the infinite sounds the forest produced.

        "It's all right, Twilight." Pinkie Pie sat herself next to the lavender mare. She mimicked her, curling her body up, and smiled at her. "You don't need to be all scared alone when you have friends with you."

"I guess that would be nice," Twilight sighed, "if I had any friends."

"We're friends!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, her happiness slowly flowing into Twilight.

        "Well," Twilight tried to retort, "We're not friends; just a bunch of crazy ponies on a crazy mission."

"And that makes us friends!" Pinkie Pie answered.

        Twilight genuinely laughed as such a simple answer. "Crazy friends I have then." She smiled. Twilight turned her attention back to the sandwich recipe card jutting out of her saddlebags. "My sandwich recipe," she sighed, "worthless."

        "Or not!" Pinkie exclaimed.


        "These shouldn't be poisonous," Fluttershy held a mushroom that she harvested with her sickle moments ago.

        "All right, I'll get to picking," Applejack, now in a better mood, began searching the forest grounds for the mushroom, leaving Fluttershy and Spike alone.

        Spike picked up a dry stick and stuffed it into his backpack. "So, Fluttershy," he started, "how did you get to learn so much about the Everfree Forest?"

        "Well, I was raised here," Fluttershy answered. The tribe that raised me taught me all about living here safely."

        "Oh? Cool. Where are they?" Spike asked.

        "They move periodically, so I don't know where exactly they are now." Fluttershy answered. "After awhile I grew too big so, well I don't live with them now."

        "That sucks," Spike answered a little too insensitively. "Uh, what I mean is…"

        Fluttershy giggled. "Yeah, I guess it does suck."

        "Don't you ever think about leaving the forest and living with other ponies?"

        Fluttershy didn't move. The question paralyzed her. "I… I'm not very good at talking with others. I'm fine here, so it all works out." She turned away from Spike and resumed her search for mushrooms and firewood.

        "Oh." Spike wished he hadn't asked that question. "If you say so."

SKIT: I Have to Do This

Applejack: Dang it... why am I out here in all this?

Applejack: Stupid forest. Stupid Canterlot. Stupid expensive rain!

Applejack: Just need to concentrate on the task at hoof...

Applejack: But now I'm lookin' for mushrooms to feed them crazy ponies.

Applejack: Pretty lucky of me to get to Old Canterlot so I can pry some vases or something.

Applejack: Though, it was that pink pony's idea...

Applejack: Why do I have a bad feeling?

Applejack: Somethin' bad is going to happen. I can feel it in my hooves...

Applejack: But beggars can't be choosers, though.

Applejack: I have to keep goin'... for my family... right?

SKIT: End


        "We're back!" Spike exclaimed. "I hope you're all ready for Chef Spike's Forest Floor Mushroom Stew!"

        "That's a terrible name," Applejack replied, "and I ain't trustin' an iguana to cook my food. I'm cooking this." Applejack held the bag of mushrooms away from Spike.

        "No way! You're going to ruin my masterpiece!" Spike exclaimed as he jumped for the bag.

        "That's all right!" Pinkie Pie butted in. "Because Twilight and me made sandwiches!"

        "Perfectly measured and rationed sandwiches; following the recipe to the letter. No crumb or petal was wasted," Twilight added with pride.

        "Soup and Sandwiches. Yeah that works." Spike replied. "I'm still cooking the stew!"

SKIT: Chef's Pride

Applejack: You're heatin' it too much!

Spike: This is magical dragon fire! It works way differently.

Applejack: You're still going to boil out all the flavor.

Spike: No I'm not!

Applejack: This ain't even remotely edible.

Spike: Says you!

Twilight: What is with all the arguing…

Spike: Twilight, tell Applejack that I have to cook every single meal back home.

Twilight: It's true. He does do the cooking.

Applejack: I still have years of experience on him.

Twilight: That is also true…

Spike: I have my chef's pride riding here! I'm not going to let an amateur ruin my stew.

Applejack: Amateur!?

Twilight: I'm done here…

Notice: Spike earned the title Little Chef!

SKIT: End

        The air was permeated by a delicious aroma and a bickering pony and dragon. A pot of stew hung over a magical green campfire while Applejack and Spike argued with one another about how best to prepare the stew.

"It's done!" Spike called out to Twilight and the others. Spike held out the first bowl of stew. "Despite some unnecessary interference." He glared at Applejack.

        "I made it better!" Applejack argued.

        "Party time!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed as she took the bowl from Spike and buried her face in it. When she came back up for air she called out, "Let's eat everypony and Spike."

        Twilight anxiously inspected the stew created by Spike's efforts. She was already hesitant about the idea of eating Everfree Forest mushrooms, and the stew itself looked less appetizing than cabbage stew. "Are you sure this is safe to eat?" she asked with concern. "I don't know any spells to handle food poisoning."

        "Positive!" Spike poured himself a bowl and ate some of his own stew just to prove how safe it is. "See?"

        "Spike, your stomach is a garbage disposal. It's hard to trust that kind of opinion."

        "It's fine!" Pinkie Pie announced as she greedily devoured the stew.

        "It's," Fluttershy paused, "okay."

        "Not my best work," Spike replied, "but I think we all know why."

        "Whatever, iguana. The only reason it's edible is because of my work." Applejack pounded her chest to punctuate her statement, much to Spike's chagrin. "Y'all better thank me by eating up, everypony."

        "Is no one going to eat a sandwich?" Twilight held up the platter of sandwiches in vain. "I worked hard on these."

        "How do you work hard on makin' a sandwich?" Applejack asked.

        "Well… whatever!" Twilight grew flustered and decided to just eat the sandwiches herself.

        In an hour the soup was gone, and only a few of the carefully prepared sandwiches had been eaten. The moon in the sky had reached the apex of its path, shining down light for Twilight and everyone else to use. "Is everypony ready?" Twilight asked.

        "Yeah," Applejack commented. "So how far are we now? It's already midnight."

        "I don't know," Fluttershy answered.

        "Why don't you fly up and take a peek." Spike suggested.

        "I guess I could," Fluttershy answered nervously. She withdrew her wings from within the confines of her robe and began to rise upward. She wasn't steady at all, but she did manage to rise above the treetops.

        "See anything?" Applejack yelled to her.

        Fluttershy dove down to the ground, her body shaking in a fit of panic. "Hide, now!" Fluttershy jumped into a bush next to her, her jittery body causing the bush to audibly rustle alongside her whimpering.

        Applejack turned to Twilight. "What was that about-"

        An ear piercing shrill broke through the tree tops, causing Twilight and her companions to hold their ears in pain. A winged chimera broke through the tree tops and landed itself in front of Twilight and Applejack. It was large, as big as two ponies, and vaguely avian with long limbs, especially its legs. Its beady eyes were locked on the two ponies as its head twitched in agitation. It leapt at them; Twilight and Applejack could only stare in fright.

        "Watch out!" Pinkie Pie threw herself in front of Twilight and Applejack. "Thunder Hoof!" Pinkie Pie wound up her fore-hoof and drove it into the monsters scaly hide. Her joy-buzzer came to life and electricity surged through the chimera's body. The chimera responded by spinning, forcing Pinkie Pie off of it, and kicking her to the floor. The chimera jumped on her, pinning her down to the floor with its talons, and lashed out at Pinkie Pie with its beak. Pinkie Pie screamed in pain as the monster dug into her shoulder.

        "Shoot!" Pinkie Pie's scream snapped Applejack back to her senses. She sprang into action, racing at the monster. "Get off of her! Revolution-"

        The chimera raised one of its elongated legs and kicked Applejack into the air. Applejack flew back a few feet, but was caught by Twilight's magic, enveloping her in magenta light. The monster took the chance to pounce on Applejack again, delivering two swift and hard kicks to her body. Twilight tried to soften the blows with her magic, but Applejack could still feel each hit through the aura surrounding her.

        "You monster!" Spike cried out as he withdrew his daggers, the blades glimmering in the moon light. "Diving Dragon!" Spike jumped into the air and then shot himself at the creature, diving onto the creature and burying his weapons in the monster's back.

        The chimera howled in pain as Spike forced his weapon deeper. The chimera flared its wings and shot into the air, taking Spike with it.

        "Help!" Spike yelled as the chimera rocketed higher into the sky.

        "Fluttershy, do something!" Twilight called to the shivering pegasus. "It's going to hurt Spike!"

        "I-I-I don't know," Fluttershy stuttered. "It's really high now."

        "Dang it, fly up there and do somethin' before it comes back down and pancakes the iguana!" Applejack exclaimed. "You're the only one who can catch it."

        A hail of razor sharp feathers erupted from the treetops, causing Twilight to shriek.  With every flap of its wings the chimera shot another hail of feathers that them.

        "Shoot!" Applejack cursed. "Dang it, I can't do anything from here."

        "Applejack, cover me!" Twilight's horn began to glow as her spell charged. "I'll burn it to a crisp!"

        "That's what I like to hear!" Applejack stood in front of Twilight, trying to act as a living shield. "Beast!" she cried out as her primal force clashed with another wave of feathers, knocking them away.

        "Flame Lance!" Twilight called out. In the sky, a spear of pure fire barreled at the chimera. The monster saw the projectile and flew over it, completely evading the spell.

        "Help!" Spike cried out again from the back of the monster.

        "Fluttershy!" Twilight cried. "Please! You're the only one who can reach it."

        "I-I can't. It's too scary." Fluttershy retreated back into the safety of her bush.

        "Dang it," Applejack cursed, "you're going to get up there and take that thing down even if I have to force you myself!"

        "Wait, what?" Fluttershy's confusion lasted only a few moments.

        "Revolution Apple Buck!" Applejack bucked Fluttershy into the air.

        "Applejack!?" Twilight was shocked.

        "I used more apple and less buck. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Just be sure to back her up."

        Fluttershy unfurled her wings and caught herself in the air. She let out a sigh of relief as she stabilized herself, and completely lost breath the moment she looked the chimera in the eye. "Uhm, if you would please… put down… Spike… please?"

        The chimera let out an ear piercing screech as it flew right at Fluttershy, its wings extended outwards and talons flashing menacingly.

        "Oh boy," Fluttershy squeaked as she withdrew two sickles from the confines of her robes. "Can’t we talk about this?" she pleaded.

        The chimera screeched at her as it flew at her. Fluttershy turned tail and flew as fast as she could to escape the predator.

        "Fluttershy!" Twilight called to her. "Try and restrain it so I can hit it with a spell."

        "Restrain, right, easy," Fluttershy lied to herself as she flew in an arc to try and out-maneuver the chimera, but to no avail. She wasn't going to out-fly this thing. The chimera caught up to her, and reached out to claw her with its talons. On instinct, Fluttershy attacked the creature. She threw her sickles, bound by chains, at the chimera. The chimera knocked away the weapons with its talons, the sickles recoiling back into the confines of Fluttershy's robe.

        "Fluttershy!" Spike called out. "Throw me a sickle! We'll tie it up!"

        Fluttershy winced as she dodged a hail of feathers. She wished she could fly away, but she had no chance of escaping such a vicious predator. She wound her fore-hooves back and swung forward as hard as she could. "Aching Chains." Fluttershy's voice echoed as she threw her sickles at the chimera. The chimera tried to kick them away again, but the chains danced over its talons and embedded themselves within creature. "I- I got it?" Fluttershy questioned as the monster shot upwards, dragging Fluttershy with it; Fluttershy screaming the whole way through.

        "All right!" Spike cheered over Fluttershy's screaming. He crawled down to the monsters leg and pried off the sickles and threw them over the creatures shoulder and around its neck. "All right, pull!" Spike grabbed onto the chain and threw himself off the chimera, throwing its flight trajectory off balance.

        The chimera was nearly thrown out of the air, but it managed to catch itself in time, only to be impaled by Twilight's flame lance. Fluttershy withdrew her chains back into her robes, dragging Spike along with them and delivering him into her hooves. Twilight's spell dragged the chimera off into the forest, away from Twilight and everyone else. With a mix of relief and anxiety, Fluttershy flew back to the ground.

        "Holy cow that was exciting!" Spike exclaimed as he jumped off of Fluttershy and onto Twilight.

        "That was terrifying!" Twilight cried as she hugged Spike close to her. "I was so worried something bad might happen or you would get hurt or worse! What were you thinking!?" Twilight asked in a panic.

        "I don't know," Spike shrugged, "I'm fine, Twilight. You don't need to be so doting."

        "Twilight!" Applejack called out to her. "Get over here!" Applejack was kneeling by Pinkie Pie, who was looking pale.

        Twilight galloped over to the pink pony. Pinkie Pie was bleeding along her right shoulder. The wound she had suffered from the chimera looked dangerously deep. "You girls okay?" Pinkie Pie asked weakly.

        "You idiot! What were you thinkin'! That thing almost killed you!" Applejack cried out. Tears were telling up in her eyes for a pony she barely knew. "I can't go home to my family thinkin' a pony died because of my carelessness!"

        "Get out of the way." Twilight shoved Applejack aside and put her horn on the wound. "C'mon, I know this spell. Concentrate." Twilight shook a little as she felt the blood touch her horn. "Cure." As the words left Twilight's lips, magic began to envelop itself around Pinkie Pie's wound. The wound began to sew itself back together. After a few moments the wound was gone. Not even a scar remained.

        "That was amazing, Twilight!" Pinkie Pie tried to jump up to hug Twilight, but instead tripped and fell onto her, with desired results. "Woah, that made me feel all woozy for a moment."

        "I was able to heal the wound, but you still suffered a bit of blood loss and you need time for your body to register that it's okay now, but you'll be fine," she informed her. "Pinkie Pie, thank you."

        "It's no problem," Pinkie Pie replied. "I know if some grizzly beastie was after me you girls would save me in a heartbeat."

        Twilight and Applejack exchanged some rather uncomfortable glances. Both of them doubted whether they would be able to take a blow like that for the other so instinctively. Pinkie Pie was able to read the looks on their faces. "Well, I still would do it again," she sighed.

        "Pinkie Pie," Applejack started.

        "You said my name!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "That's the first time you've said my name, Applejack!"

        "Yeah, I guess it is," Applejack sighed, a small smile forming on her face. She tried to hide it. "Just, that was dangerous. That thing looked like it was made of knives. So, just, don't do anythin' so fool-hardy. I can't bring a dead pony back to town."

        "Dead bodies make for really good fertilizer, though," Fluttershy added.

        Applejack didn't blink. "I don't want to know how you know that."

        Pinkie Pie burst out laughing. "I bet I would grow some great flowers!" She continued to laugh, mocking the idea of her own death. It was an infectious laugh as Twilight soon found herself laughing too, then Applejack, then Spike. Even Fluttershy couldn't resist a quiet giggle.

        "All right, all right," Twilight broke through the laughter, "if we're done here, Pinkie Pie can you get off of me?"

        "Oh, sorry, I was just having so much fun!" Pinkie Pie pried herself off the purple mare.

        Twilight levitated out from her bag one of the sandwiches she had carefully prepared earlier. "Eat this to regain some strength."

"Okie dokie lokie, Dr. Twilight!" Pinkie Pie responded.

With a sigh of relief, Twilight turned to Fluttershy. "Did you manage to see how far we are from Old Canterlot?"

        Fluttershy pawed the ground uncomfortably. "Sorry, no."

        "Well then, I guess our midnight break is going to be extended until Pinkie Pie is feeling better."

        "Thanks, everypony," Pinkie Pie replied sweetly.


        Lyra barely dodged a heavy blow from a powerful chimera. A monstrously large chimera with a snake head had attacked Canterlot, and it was up to the militia to defend it. "Pokey! Where are the mages!?" Lyra cried out to the gate guard.

        "Ditsy is rounding them up!" he yelled back from atop the city walls. "Give her some time!"

        "I don't have time to give. This thing is going to break through the wall if we don't do something soon!" Lyra yelled back.

        Spitfire flew across the chimera, grabbing its attention long enough to turn it away from Canterlot. She turned around, withdrawing a double-bladed sword, and flew straight at the monsters throat. The monster snapped at her with its powerful jaws, forcing her to turn up or else be devoured. "All right, I can play hard too." Spitfire cooly responded to the attack. She flew high into the sky before barreling downward. She spun her body, turning herself into a living buzzsaw. "Spitfire Tempest!" Spitfire's body caught ablaze as she buried herself into the monster and brought it to the ground.

        Lyra jumped up at the monster, raising her broad-bladed lyre overhead. "Deluge Lamentoso!" she yelled. She slammed her weapon down on the chimera and then swung upwards, calling forth a magical stream of water. She finished off the attack by slicing through the stream, and the chimera.

        "It's not done yet!" Spitfire warned her.

        The chimera slithered behind Lyra, who was too exhausted from her attack to respond.

        "Shining Fang Drop!" Pokey Pierce crashed down on the chimera, his magic engulfed in the katana he drove through the monster's hide. "Pyre Havoc!" Pokey Pierce dragged his katana upward through the chimera, coating the blade in magical fire before jumping off the monster. The chimera was completely stunned. "Mages!"

        The chimera was assaulted by a barrage of magical fireballs, icicles, disks of water, and lightning as every able bodied unicorn in Canterlot flung every spell she knew at the monster. The chimera thrashed about as it was pelted by the magical barrage before becoming still.

        "Is it done?" Lyra asked as she raised her weapon.

        "I hope so," Spitfire huffed.

        "Mares, don't worry," Pokey laughed, "the captain-"

        "You're not a captain," Lyra interrupted him.

        "Future captain of Canterlot's militia was able to pull through and save the day," Pokey gloated.

        "Stop trying to take the credit," Lyra groaned.

        Pokey leaned against the body of the dead chimera, or so he thought. The chimera's body twitched back to life as its snake head rose over Pokey. He turned around, scared for his life as he gazed into the black slitted eyes of the chimera.

        "Holy Lance!" Night Light's voice echoed through the night.

        Spears made of pure light formed above the chimera's head and impaled it from all sides. The monster's head fell to the floor, eyes cold and dead. It was done. Canterlot was finally safe.

        "Is everypony all right?" Night Light approached the three ponies. "Is anypony hurt?"

        "I'm all right," Pokey gasped.

        "I'm uninjured," Lyra groaned.

        "I could use some medical attention," Spitfire limped onto a foreleg. "Are chimeras always this rough? I don't think I've ever encountered anything like that at the Cloud Kingdom."

        Night Light walked up to Spitfire and placed his horn on her injured leg. "Cure." With a flash of golden light Spitfire's leg had been completely cured. "Is that better?"

        Spitfire stretched the leg and moved it around a little. "Amazing. It still feels numb, but other than that, if feels just fine."

        "Just some basic healing." Night Light turned to the damaged walls of the city. They weren't destroyed, but they had taken too much damage to withstand another attack from such a level of chimera. It would take tens of thousands of bits to repair it; bits he knew weren't likely to exist. With a sigh, Night Light turned back to the three survivors. "Canterlot owes all three of you a debt of gratitude."

        "I'm enlisted in the militia," Lyra commented. "It's my job to do this."

        "It's my job to protect all civilians, Cloud Kingdom or otherwise," Spitfire replied.

        Pokey wanted to revel in the glory, but his much more humble cohorts made it difficult to look good. "Yeah, what they said," he groaned.

        Night Light acknowledged the three heroes and galloped off. He had to call the Canterlot council together immediately.


        "And I said, 'oatmeal? Are you crazy!?'" Pinkie Pie continued to gab on and on, slowly wearing away any patience and pity everyone else had for the motor-mouth mare.

        "Pinkie," Applejack fidgeted, "can you please stop talkin'. I don't know how much more I can take."

        "How much more what you can take?" Pinkie Pie asked.

        "I think we're ready to move on," Twilight groaned. "Spike? Fluttershy? Where are you?" Twilight quickly scanned the area to try and find the purple dragon and yellow pegasus. "Where are you?" she called out again.

        "Over here!" Spike answered back. "Twilight, you have to check this out! Fluttershy can talk to animals!"

        "Spike, that's preposterous," Twilight answered back. "First off, animals don't have a verbal language to communicate with. Second-"

        "Would you quit lecturing and just see for yourself!"

        Twilight, too tired to argue back, gave into the dragon's demands.

        Fluttershy sat before a brown owl, smiling contently. Neither of them did any actual talking, but seemed to truly enjoy each other's company.

        "I don't see any talking going on here, Spike," Twilight chided. "Fluttershy, let's go!" she called to her.

        "Oh, sorry. I was just enjoying this owl's company."

        "Spike says you were talking to it," Twilight joked and laughed, expecting Fluttershy to join her.

        "Well, not really talk, but I find it rather easy to communicate with animals," Fluttershy sighed. "Easier than other ponies anyway."

        "Really?" Twilight asked.

        "Yes," Fluttershy answered. "I guess I've always had this kind of talent."

        "Think it can tell us how far we are from Old Canterlot?" Twilight asked. The owl hooted at her, a tinge of annoyance carried in its hoot.

        "He's a boy, and he's quite smart," Fluttershy answered for him.

        "Really." Twilight felt a slight novelty in being possibly cursed out by an owl. "Well, Mr. Owl, think you can tell us how far we are from Old Canterlot?" she asked with a grin.

        "Well," Fluttershy started, "can you show us to Old Canterlot?" The owl took off immediately. "He wants us to follow!" Fluttershy sprang into life as she chased after the owl.

        "Wait for me!" Spike called as he grabbed onto Fluttershy's tail, giggling madly.

        "Wha- Spike!" Twilight groaned. "Applejack! Pinkie Pie! C'mon!"

        "We got a lead?" Applejack asked.

        "Looks like it!"

SKIT: The Heartless

Twilight: Amazing, Fluttershy. You really can communicate with animals.

Spike: I said that!

Fluttershy: It's not that amazing…

Twilight: It is: I've never met anypony with that kind of ability.

Applejack: Say, Fluttershy, can you talk to chimeras?

Fluttershy: No, I can't. It's impossible...

Applejack: Woah, you didn't have to get so down about it.

Fluttershy: When I communicate with animals it's like I'm listening to their hearts, but not chimeras.

Pinkie Pie: So chimeras don't have hearts?

Fluttershy: Maybe…

Twilight: Then, how do their bodies pump blood?

Applejack: Think metaphorical-like, sugar-cube.

Pinkie Pie: But how can they party!?

Applejack: Party?

Fluttershy: Maybe chimeras don't have hearts, but that kind of makes me sad, because then all they can do is hurt others.

SKIT: End

        The owl lead Twilight’s group through the twists and turns of the forest. It was hard for them with only moonlight for illumination, but eventually the forest became less dense, and the sounds of monsters and predators became less ubiquitous. Eventually they were in front of the ivory towers of Old Canterlot. "Incredible," Twilight mouthed.

        Old Canterlot gave off the distinct impression that time itself had forgotten about it. Everything stood still in a way that unhinged the mind. Any one motion stood out from the rest of the world here. The owl continued to lead them deeper into the lifeless city.

        "Hoo-wee," Applejack gasped. "There's sure to be a mess of precious treasures somewhere in a place like this, I reckon."

        "It's amazing!" Pinkie Pie screamed. "This place must have been crawling with ponies way back!"

        "It's... really spooky," Fluttershy squealed. Not even animals would take refuge in this town, and that made her nervous.

        "But we found it!" Spike cheered. "We found Old Canterlot!" he bounced up and down, continuing to cheer with joy around the ponies.

        "Thank you, Mr. Owl," Twilight thanked their guide. With a small hoot the owl flapped its wings and took off into the sky, returning to the Everfree Forest that Fluttershy found him in..

        "Well, now that we’re here..." Twilight trailed off, gazing at the ancient towers. They look just like the upper district of Canterlot.

        "So, Pinkie Pie, where are all the valuables usually kept?" Applejack asked for an expert thief’s opinion.

        "Museums!" Pinkie Pie answered.

        "We are not robbing a museum!" Twilight barked instinctively.

        "I need the bits more than a dead city does," Applejack argued.

        Twilight grew flustered. "Fine, but the elements come first. Then you can take anything you want," she said mockingly.

        "Fine by me." Applejack rubbed her fore-hooves together as she examined each building, eyes peeled for any signs of wealth to be had.

        "So, where would the elements be?" Pinkie Pie asked.

        "Uhh," Twilight quickly turned about as she examined the city. The city lacked a castle which she assumed would be an obvious place to store magical artifacts. "I guess we'll just have to look everywhere?"

        "That sounds boring," Spike groaned as he followed along.

        Twilight tried every door she came across. Most of the locks were so rusty or broken that Twilight could simply force open the door. However, she couldn't find anything resembling an element of harmony. "Do you even have a clue as to what these presumed elements might look like?" Applejack complained.

        "Well." Twilight reached into her bag to bring out a beaten leather bound book with a golden pony insignia on the cover. Twilight opened the book and flipped through the pages.

        A quick peak from Applejack revealed the book to be a picture book. "Twilight, what are you doin' with a picture book?"

        "This is a book about Equestria's history up till Celestia's disappearance," Twilight argued.

        "It's a picture book…"

        "It's the best resource I have," Twilight groaned. She finally found the page she was looking for; a picture of five differently colored gems encircling a sixth one. "Our best bet is that the elements look something like this."

        "They don't look very different from your typical jewelry," Applejack commented. "You could buy these at cheap knock-off stores. We actually have one in town, too."

        "These are special," Twilight argued.

        "And how will we know they're special?"

        "Well," Twilight paused. Once again she was at a loss for an answer. "I don't know."

        "Well, then we better get searchin'," Applejack walked past her. "C'mon."

        "Huh?" Twilight gawked. "What happened to your skepticism?"

        "Oh I'm still skeptic, but I doubt that's going to change your mind. Hay, my own skepticism doesn't even change my mind."

        "You're…" Twilight smiled. "You're one complicated pony, Applejack."

        "Did you think I was all buck and no brain?" Applejack joked. "I'll need to buck the brains out of you if you're suggesting that."

        "Hey, you're getting along again!" Pinkie Pie cheered. "When we get back we're going to have to celebrate."

        "Yeah, we'll only need to wade through the Everfree again. Can't say I'm lookin' forward to that," Applejack joked.

        An ear piercing shrill broke out from the forest. Twilight turned to the sound as a bruised mess of a chimera limped out of the trees. The same chimera from before, but it had brought more. Two similar chimeras accompanied the bruised chimera from either side.

        "Looks like we were followed." Applejack planted a hoof into the ground. "Our work is cut out for us this time, girls."

        "I'm a guy," Spike groaned.

        "Not the issue." Applejack tensed her muscles. "I'm not going to be caught off guard this time you feathered freak."

        "I'm not going to let anypony get hurt." Twilight wielded her spear in front of her.

        "I won't either." Pinkie Pie placed a hoof on Twilight.

        "I'm not going to get dragged everywhere this time!" Spike formed his bow and nocked an arrow.

        "Well, you all have fun with that," Fluttershy barely said above a whisper. "I'm going to go hide… far away… good luck."

        "You're going to stay and fight!" Applejack scolded her.

        "Yes ma'am," Fluttershy squeaked.

        "There's five of us, and only two and a half of them," Applejack stated. "We can win this."

        The three chimeras came at them at once. The two able-bodied ones flew while the wounded one ran clumsily. "Cover me!" Applejack threw herself into the attack. The two stronger chimeras tried to attack her from both sides.

        "Burning Lotus!"

        "Fireball!"

        A fiery arrow caught one of the chimeras in the side while a volley of magical fireballs fended off the other. Applejack slipped through the two chimeras and converged on her target. "Take this!" Applejack tackled the weaker chimera by ramming a fore-hoof into its beak. "Harvest Dance!" Applejack kicked the chimera into the air and jumped after it, bucking it again while air-born. "Autumn's Fall!" Applejack roared as she dove onto the chimera, sending the both of them to the ground with an audible crunch.

        "My turn!" Pinkie Pie jumped over Applejack, her giant pinwheel gleaming mercilessly in the moonlight. "Party Destruction!" Applejack moved out of the way for Pinkie Pie to finish off the pinned and weakened chimera.

        "Behind you!" Spike called out.

        Pinkie Pie turned just in time to duck over a swooping chimera. "Fluttershy! You got to bind 'em again!"

        "A-again?" Fluttershy stuttered. "I-I can't do that."

        "We'll cover you." Twilight pointed her spear at a chimera and let loose a bolt of ice. The chimera easily dodged the blow, but it did keep it at bay.

        "Gale Salvo!" Spike kept up a constant volley of arrows to try and keep the chimeras at bay. "You can do it, Fluttershy!"

        "I-I don't know," Fluttershy stuttered again. "I…"

        "If you don't do something, we're hosed," Applejack told her, "we can't escape a couple of flying chimera: they'll just keep dive bombing us till we go down. You need to go up there and fight them. Twilight and Spike will protect you, but you have to do something!"

        Fluttershy felt pressured. She didn't want to fight. She wanted to hide. "I… can't…"

        "Then we're going to die!" Applejack yelled at her. "You want us to die!?"

        "N-no…" Fluttershy nearly teared up.

        "Then get up there and use your fancy chain stuffs to pin them. We're not asking you to kill, or even hurt them. Just bind them."

        "Promise you won't kill them?" Fluttershy replied.

        "If we can get them to run with their feathered tails between their legs," Applejack replied with a cocky smirk. "Go girl!"

        "A-all right!" Fluttershy opened her wings and flew up. Behind her Twilight and Spike fired spells and arrows to protect Fluttershy. "I-I can do this," she told herself.

        The chimeras locked eyes with the new challenger. If they had hearts perhaps they would have been broken by the pegasus's resolved eyes; instead, the chimeras flew at her, maneuvering through the magical barrage. They extended their talons at Fluttershy, wanting to rip her in half.

        "No!" From within Fluttershy's right sleeve a sickle appeared and clashed with the two pairs of talons. From her left sleeve a sickle threaded with chains swung out and snaked its way over one of the chimeras. The other chimera tried to fly under Fluttershy to rip her in half, but from within the confines of her robe a third chained sickle appeared and lashed itself at the chimera, burying itself in its back. "I'm sorry," Fluttershy apologized as she swung the two chimeras together. "Ouroborus!" A fourth sickle appeared and wrapped itself around the two chimeras. From each hoof, Fluttershy had a chain extending and tying itself around the monsters. "I got them! Now what?"

        "I've got it!" Twilight called out as she disappeared in a flash of magenta light.

        "W-where did she go?" Applejack asked, flabbergasted.

        "Up there!" Pinkie Pie pointed a hoof at a shining light high in the sky.

        In the sky above them, Twilight was barreling downward, her spear pointed at the chimers and her body engulfed in fire.

 "Burning Moon Fang!" Twilight cried out. Fluttershy untied her chains just before Twilight collided right into the chimeras, dragging them to the ground and exploding. Twilight withdrew her spear from the monsters and winked away. The now-crispy chimeras couldn't even stand after such an attack. Fluttershy galloped up to the injured creatures, intent on trying to help them, but a weak snap from one of their beaks made clear what would happen if Fluttershy got any closer.

        "Well? Git!" Applejack yelled at the monsters. "We can go on and it won't end pretty for you."

        No one was sure if the chimeras actually understood Applejack, but, with what little strength the chimeras had left, they picked themselves up and ran off back into the forest, their self-preservation instincts taking over.

        "What was I thinking!?" Twilight cried as she fell over in exhaustion. "I don't think I've ever done anything so dangerous and stupid."

        "I don't think you've ever done anything so awesome!" Spike jumped onto her, wrapping her in a scaly hug. "That was just so cool!"

        "Yeah, Twilight," Pinkie Pie added. "You're going to need to teach me that trick for parties."

        "Sorry, it's a unicorn thing." Twilight grinned: the thought of Pinkie Pie with the ability to wink scared her more than the chimeras.

SKIT: Hidden Depths

Applejack: So, Fluttershy, just what are you hiding underneath all that robe.

Fluttershy: Huh?

Applejack: I wasn't expecting you to have all that chaining gear underneath. Gotta admit, I'm a little afraid to take you on in a lasso competition now. Where did you learn to lasso like that anyway?

Fluttershy: The tribe taught me. Sickles were what they used, so they taught me so I could defend myself.

Applejack: Doesn't sound like a group of ponies I would want to meet…

Fluttershy: Oh, they aren’t ponies.

Applejack: The… hay? You sure are a mysterious one, Fluttershy.

Fluttershy: Thank you?

Applejack: You're welcome?

SKIT: End

        They had tried nearly every door in the old and broken city. Most of them lead to houses, with a few to some possibly once important, but now broken down, establishments. Only one building was left. "It's always the last one," Pinkie Pie commented knowingly.

        "We still don't know for sure if these element thingies exist," Applejack replied. "Don't get your hopes up just yet."

        "Well, now is our chance to find out." Twilight bucked open the door. The insides of the building were unlike the rest of Old Canterlot; it was preserved. The building only had a single room with no windows, save for a single sky light. The circular wall of the building contained a mural. On one side of the mural stood a regal white winged unicorn. On the opposite side, a midnight black winged unicorn stood proud and cold. "This must be a depiction of Celestia and Nightmare Moon!" Twilight gleefully exclaimed. She has never been so close to something so ancient, and there, in the center of the room on a raised pedestal, sat a single stone orb with a diamond indention. "Is this it?" Twilight asked herself.

        "It don't look like the pictures in your book," Applejack answered her.

        "I know, but..." Twilight gazed at the stone orb as she walked up to it. She touched it with her hoof. She could feel it: powerful magic was contained within the stone. "This has to be it!" she exclaimed. "We did it! We found… an element of harmony." The book foretold of five elements that would awaken a sixth and before her sat only a single element. "Why is there just one? All the work and fighting for one." Twilight slumped onto the floor.

        "We can think about that later," Applejack interrupted her. "Now that you have your elements how are we going to go about takin' everythin' that isn't nailed down?"

        "Is bits all you can think about?" Twilight groaned.

        "Hey, I have a family to think about," Applejack angrily replied.

        "And they're back to fighting," Spike commented.

        "Spike, shut up," Twilight huffed. "Just, help me with this and then we'll find something valuable for you to sell."

        "My neck is twitchy!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

        "So?"

        "And my tail is all a twitchy too!"

        Both Twilight and Applejack stared at the pink pony with mild exasperation. "So?" they said in unison.

        "Twitchy neck means earthquake, and twitchy tail means something is going to fall!"

        Twilight turned away from Pinkie Pie in disinterest. "Pinkie, that's preposterous."

        "No, that's my pinkie senses! Not prepositions," Pinkie Pie answered her.

        "Let's just grab this thing," Applejack butted in.

        Applejack and Twilight worked together to move the element of harmony off its pedestal and stuff it into Twilight's saddlebags. With the element securely in storage, Twilight and her traveling companions left the empty room with its mural.

        "All that work, just for one element," Twilight moaned. "I don't even know where to look for the other five."

        "Uh-oh," Pinkie Pie gasped, jumping up and down to get everyone else's attention. "We got to find a shelter!"

        "What? You're pinkie senses?" Twilight groaned.

        "Yep, and it's a doozy!"

        "A doozy?" Applejack echoed. "What's that suppose to mean?"

        The ground underneath them began to shake. "W-what's going on!?" Fluttershy panicked.

        "A real earthquake!? Dang it, why now!?" Applejack cursed.

        Old Canterlot began to fall apart; the city forgotten by time was crumbling. The ivory towers collapsed, crushing anything under them, and the ground was also beginning to separate. "What the hay!?" Applejack cursed as she narrowly dodged a statue. "Watch out, Fluttershy!" she called out.

        "What?" Fluttershy didn't see the falling pieces of building falling towards her. She was nearly buried alive.

        "Fluttershy!?" Pinkie Pie crushed the debris with her pinwheel. "Fluttershy! Are you okay?" Fluttershy didn't respond: she was out cold.

        "Everypony!" Twilight called out. "Get close to me!" Applejack, Spike, and Pinkie Pie carrying Fluttershy galloped up to her. Twilight enveloped them in a bubble of magic for protection. Moments later, the ground under them gave way. The bubble of magic fell, Pinkie Pie's tail twitching the whole way.


At the time, she didn't have the strength to keep going.

Who could blame her?

Nothing went as planned.

New Game

>Continue

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        The entirety of Canterlot's council had been called together in the dead of night. Were it not for a combination of a chimera attack and an earthquake, many of the representatives would have stayed in their beds content to sleep. Night Light, sitting at a round table with all the elected representatives, took the floor and started, "As most of you are aware, or should be, Canterlot was recently attacked by a chimera. Said chimera attacked our outer city wall. I managed to get some architects to examine it, and based on their feedback we can assume that if another chimera attacks, especially one as strong as the last one, the wall won't be able to protect us," he concluded. He turned back to his fellow representatives, "It will cost approximately thirty million bits to repair."

        The council of Canterlot gasped at the astronomical price. The city treasury did not have that level of bits, and the only way to get bits quickly was to appeal to the nobles, many of which the representatives were already deep in the pockets of. The representatives went silent.

        A khaki mare with a disheveled greying mane stood up. "Well!" She banged her hoof on the desk, calling everyone's attention. "You heard Night Light: If another chimera attacks, we could lose lives."

        "Gilded Scroll," an ivory-furred representative called to her, "this is the first time a chimera has attacked the city in over a hundred years," the representative pointed out. "How much danger are we really in?."

        "This is the first time because we have always had our militia set up outside of the city! Now that we moved them back we have no means of obtaining advanced warnings!" Gilded Scroll argued. "We move back the militia to save bits and look what happens: The largest chimera yet makes it to the city." She gave a reproachful glance to most of the council, especially the ones who voted on moving back the militia. "We don't have the bits, so either we borrow from the Cloud Kingdom or Caballus and fall into debt, raise taxes when most of our citizens are having a hard time putting food on their tables, or appeal to the noble house for some form of loan. We can take it to a vote, now."

        "Motion," Night Light started, "to vote on appealing to the nobles for funds to restore Canterlot's outer wall."

        "Second," another representative added.

        No sooner had they started the vote than Pokey Pierce burst into the conference hall. "Everypony! Listen!" He yelled between labored breaths. "The earthquake!"

        "What about it?" Gilded Scroll asked him. "What happened, Pierce?"

        "It created a canyon! All the routes to the border have been destroyed!"

        The representatives all gasped at once. "How is that even possible?"

        Later, with the meeting behind him, Night Light trotted down the streets of Canterlot, only the light of an almost full moon served as his guide as he bumbled home where he would find the same note from Twilight and some twice-leftover dinner. The meeting had amounted to a little over nothing. Tomorrow, he would have to swallow his pride and appeal to the stuffy ponies who held the vast majority of Canterlot's wealth; with a bucket between his teeth and his dignity on the floor.

Such a sorrowful sight, my little pony…

        "Who's there?" Night Light turned, responding to the darkness of the night. His horn began to glow, providing a little light to see further, but all he could see was the moon overhead.


        I can hear water. Applejack slowly willed herself awake. In the dimly-lit darkness, she could make out that she was in a cave, torch-light reflecting off of a lake behind her. Realizing she was having a hard time breathing, she pounded on her chest, forcing out the water caught in her lungs. She struggled, but soon her breathing returned to an even pace. She turned to Twilight and the rest of her traveling companions behind her: they were all out cold. "Dang," she cursed as she made her way to Twilight, hoping to revive her. She pumped on the lavender mare's chest, forcing water out through the unicorn's mouth. Applejack placed her mouth on Twilight's and exhaled into her. Applejack was rewarded with the sound of labored coughing.

        Twilight coughed and hacked as she regained consciouness. "W-what happened?" she asked, dazed and confused. An orange mare came to Twilight as her vision slowly restored itself. "Applejack? What happened?"

        "Glad to see you're okay," Applejack mumbled. "You know how to revive drowned ponies, right?"

        "Yeah," Twilight coughed.

        "Then pick a pony and get to work." Applejack got up from her spot.

        "Pick a pony?" Twilight's mind buzzed for a moment before focusing on a single thought. "W-where's Spike?" Twilight asked, looked around the dark cave for her faithful dragon companion. She found him under Fluttershy, who seemed to have grabbed tightly onto him in their fall from Old Canterlot. "Spike!" She ran up to the little dragon, her body feeling weak and almost collapsing, and grabbed him away from Fluttershy. She surrounded the dragon in an aura of magic, lifting water out of the dragon's lungs. "Spike, wake up!" she cried again. "Please!"

        "Well, ain't that useful," Applejack commented as she started reviving Fluttershy. Applejack noticed that her wings were visibly damaged, pointing in the wrong direction. "That don't look good," the worried mare muttered.

        "T-Twilight?" Spike mumbled as he came back to life. "Twilight, what happened?"

        "Later, Spike," Twilight sighed, happy that her precious dragon companion was alive.

        "You might want to go do that magic hooey on that pink pony over there," Applejack motioned to Pinkie Pie, still passed out in a corner, "now."

        Eventually, Twilight and her traveling companions were all awake, alive, breathing, and happy to be as such. "I'll never take you for granted again, air!" Pinkie Pie cried as she tried to hug the air she was breathing. "So, just what happened?"

        "There was an earthquake," Twilight pointed out, "it destroyed Old Canterlot. The floor split apart, but I put up a barrier spell that should have protected us." Twilight thought hard for a moment. "We were falling… and I fainted. So the spell probably fizzled out when I did, sorry."

        "It's alright!" Pinkie Pie bounded up to Twilight and wrapped her in a deep hug. "What matters is that you tried!"

        "Okay," Applejack interrupted them, "so what happened after that? I'm drawing a blank."

        "We must have fallen into an underground water reservoir," Fluttershy answered. "I know that there are a few in the Everfree Forest, and one is used exclusively by my tribe." The worried pegasus looked back at the lake. "It's not this one, though."

        Pinkie Pie let go of Twilight and asked, "So, who pulled us out?"

        "Yeah!" Twilight realized the validity of the question. "Who did?"

        "Hello, ponies," a coarse voice answered.

        Twilight turned to face the would-be attacker: a large hulking kobold. She readied her spear, ready to attack if he moved even slightly to attack them. "Who are you?" she commanded.

        "Roh'ver," the kobold answered with a malicious grin. In his paw he held a formidable iron lance. "And don't attack," it laughed, "unless you want to be pony-kabobs for Diamond Dog tribe!"

        "Are you the one who rescued us?" Fluttershy asked, her delicate eyes turned on the canine-like creature for an answer.

        Roh'ver felt his will to fight suddenly leave him as he stared into the pegasus's unflinching stare. "Yes," Roh'ver answered, frustrated and still agitated. "Spo'teh said tribe owed purple pony and lizard favor."

        "I'm a dragon!" Spike yelled out.

        "And I'm cat." Roh'ver dismissed the baby dragon's ranting. Devoid of the will to fight, he lowered his lance, now bored and perturbed by the situation, especially the yellow pegasus.

        "Spo'teh?" Twilight repeated. "Who is that?"

        A smaller kobold appeared from behind the larger Roh'ver. "Hello, purple pony," the smaller kobold greeted her, "I am Spo'teh. I attacked you few days ago with Han'sel and Gre'tel."

        "The kobolds who attacked us on our way back to Canterlot!" Spike drew his daggers and pointed that at the smaller kobold, prompting Roh'ver to grab his lance and point it at Spike, just waiting for anyone to make the first move.

        "Stop!" Twilight yelled. "If you saved us," Twilight pointed out, "then you don't want to fight, right?"

        "I want to fight," Roh'ver replied, "but Diamond Dogs owe you favor, so we need let you go," he huffed. "Spo'teh can show you out. I bored, so go. You bore me."

        "Yeah… thanks," Twilight repeated. She turned back to the smaller kobold, somewhat stunned that sparing them when she first met them had actually paid off. "Your name is Spo'teh?" she wanted to make sure.

        "Yes," he answered. "You ponies fall from ceiling into Diamond Dog territory. If I not here, you would be enslaved, or eaten, or both."

        "Both?" Twilight tried not to think about how both could occur.

        "I'll led you through tunnels, but don't get lost. Other kobolds might kill you." Spo'teh replied.

        "Sounds like fun!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

 

SKIT: Invitations

Applejack: Twilight, please explain to me why I'm being escorted by my pet dog's twice removed bastard cousins?

Fluttershy: You have a pet dog!?

Applejack: Beside the point, Fluttershy!

Fluttershy: Sorry…

Applejack: Twilight, answer!

Twilight: Because we're in their territory, why else?

Applejack: When I signed up for this-

Twilight: To raid Old Canterlot; an ancient and historical city.

Applejack: When I signed up, nopony told me about getting stuck in a kobold cave!

Twilight: Well it wasn't me who invited you.

SKIT: End

 

        Spo'teh lead Twilight and her traveling companions through the winding tunnels dug out by the kobolds. The small kobold's warning to them was well-founded; as Twilight was lead she could feel the hungry stares of every one of the furry beats she passed. She looked back to find Applejack and Spike with a similar level of nervousness.

        "Wowee! This place would be great for hide-and-seek!" Pinkie Pie chirped as she bounded along with Spo'teh. "What do kobolds like to play? I mean, I've never met one before but you all look kind of like dogs but youre big and hulking and-"

        "Pinkie," Applejack interrupted her, "please, stop." Applejack could feel the aggravated glares boring into her back. "For our sake, stop."

        "Are we almost there, Mr. Spot?" Fluttershy asked.

        "We here," Spo'teh answered, stopping before the boulder-covered mouth of the cave.

        A tall hulk of a kobold stood at the closed-off opening. He was larger than Roh'ver, but his slouched posture made him look slightly shorter. "Spo'teh, what you do with ponies?" he asked the smaller kobold with a gruff and deep voice.

        "Lead them out of Diamond Dog tunnels, Fi'doh. Owe them favor, so don't eat them," Spo'teh replied. "Open cave now?"

        "Okay," Fi'doh answered. He grabbed the boulder with his gargantuan paws and tossed it aside as if it were nothing but a toy ball. Sunlight poured through the cave revealing the morning sunrise.

Twilight motioned to Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy and they all took off.

"Farewell, pony friends," Fi'doh waved as they galloped off. "You welcome back in Diamond Dog tunnels, but recommend you don't. Roh'ver crazy."


 

        Twilight ran as fast as she her hooves would let her, to get as far away from the kobolds as she possibly could.

 "Never, ever, doin' that again!" Applejack finally stopping to breathe, everyone else gasping for breath behind her. "I am done with this!" she cried out. "I was almost killed by chimeras, almost done in by an earthquake, and almost made into dinner for some danged kobolds! I'm goin' home. Good luck on your wild goose chase."

        "You're leaving us!?" Pinkie Pie gasped. "You can't do that!"

        "And why, might I ask, can't I?" Applejack flared up, gritting her teeth and scowling at the pink mare. Her breaths came in quick spurts, emphasizing her anger.

        "Because… because…" Pinkie Pie's eyes shifted around in her head as she tried to form some answer. "Because we don't know where we are. It would be dangerous to go alone, right? If you get attacked-"

        "I'll buck 'em!" Applejack interrupted her. "Last time I listened to you, I ended up here!"

        "I-I was just trying to h-help," Pinkie Pie stuttered. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen."

        "Well of course not, you crazy good-for-nothing bandit!"

        "Applejack," Twilight placed a hoof on the orange pony's shoulder, "I get that youre angry, but now isn’t the time to take it out on her." Twilight turned back to Pinkie Pie, who looked on the verge of tears. "You're going to make her cry."

        "And since when do you care about the feelin's of this bandit!?" Applejack turned on the lavender mare, her out-of-control emotions dictating her movements, raising her hoof.

        "Don't you even try and hit Twilight," Spike threatened, drawing a single dagger.

        Applejack winced as her eyes turned to her indignant hoof. She sighed, trying to calm herself, before replying, "Sorry, Twi', Pinkie," she said quietly, trying not to incriminate herself any further.

        "Apology accepted!" Pinkie Pie cried as she pulled herself against the malcontent orange pony.

        "Get off me," Applejack groaned as she pushed the hysteric pink pony away. "Listen, I just want to get home, alright?"

        "But what about the elements, and Nightmare Moon!" the pink pony gasped. "We can't save the world without your help."

        "You don't need me to find any elements, and most certainly not to save any world. Do you even have any leads on where the next ones are?" Applejack asked.

        "No," Twilight sighed. She pulled out her books, turning through the pages to find the ones that discussed the elements of harmony, but only in theory and in legend. "All the books suggested that the elements were kept at the old castle of the royal pony sisters, but we didn't find this element in a castle and there was only one. Everything has been blown off-course from what I know," she groaned, defeated.

        "But, we still managed to find this one!" Spike reached into Twilight's bag, pulling out the single element of harmony they found in Old Canterlot. "It's proof the elements exist, right? So Nightmare Moon could show up, and if she does, we'll need these to stop her."

        "Yeah," Pinkie Pie added. "We can't give up on our quest just cause we don't know where to go next! We have to wander around, find a town, talk to ponies, and chances are one of them will have a clue," she said, banging her fore-hooves together to make a point.

        "Her parents must’ve dropped her as a foal," Applejack chided.

        "Possibly," Twilight agreed, a little concerned for the pink pony, "but she's right about one thing: we need to get our bearings and find a town. Fluttershy, can you fly up and..."

        Fluttershy faced away from Twilight, her wings obviously broken and in no condition for flight.

        "Right, my bad." Twilight berated herself.

        "Can you heal them like you did my shoulder before?" Pinkie Pie asked.

        "If I try to heal the bones without fully understanding the damage, or even pegasus physiology for that matter, I could end up permanently deforming her wings. It would be better to find a town with a hospital."

        "Then we need to get Fluttershy to a doctor, stat!" Pinkie Pie panicked. "I'll gallop off and look for a road!"

        "Oh no you don't," Applejack stated firmly. "I'm not trustin' you for a hill of wheat."

        "Ooh! You could make a lot of cakes with that much wheat!"

        "Focus!" Twilight cried out. "We'll stay together, safety in numbers, and look for a road. Are you still good to walk, Fluttershy?" she asked, less concerned for her and more annoyed with having to maintain the peace among her traveling cohorts.

        "Y-yes," Fluttershy answered.

        "Then let's go."

SKIT: Rotations

Spike: So it's agreed?

Applejack: Yes, iguana.

Spike and Applejack: We will take turns cooking.

Applejack: Until we split up we'll make a rotation chart.

Pinkie Pie: Ooh! Ooh! Put me in!

Applejack: The bandit cooks?

Pinkie Pie: I'm Pinkie Pie, not 'the bandit', and yes I cook!

Spike: Like?

Pinkie Pie: Cakes and cupcakes and pancakes and crab cakes!

Applejack: Crab cakes?

Spike: Okay?

Pinkie Pie: Ooh! Fluttershy! Can you cook?

Fluttershy: Well... I have a little experience.

Fluutershy: I'm... pretty good at planning nutritious meals.

Applejack: We'll need some counter to all the sugar the bandit's gonna feed up.

Twilight: Ooh! Are we talking about recipes!

Pinkie Pie: We're planning a cooking schedule!

Spike: No! Twilight isn't allowed.

Applejack: Is she that bad?

Spike: Whenever she touches a stove or an oven she burns something.

Twilight: That's only because I cook with magic, and I'm getting better.

Spike: You don't need a fireball spell to make fancy toast!

SKIT: End

        "Hey everypony, over here!" Applejack called out. In the distance she could see a large city bordering the ocean. "I found a city!" she called out again.

        Twilight and Pinkie Pie barely caught up with Applejack, as they were supporting an exhausted Fluttershy. "How are you feeling, Fluttershy?" Twilight asked.

        "Better," Fluttershy gasped between breaths. "I guess I tired myself out a little too fast." She didn't feel as light on her hooves with her wings damaged.

        "It's alright!" Pinkie Pie assured her. "Pinkie Pie is here to help!"

        "Thank you," Fluttershy replied.

        "Hey, Applejack," Spike called out from Twilight's side, "any clue about the city you see?"

        "Beats me," Applejack answered back, "but it's all big, and nice looking."

        "That doesn't sound like Canterlot!" Pinkie Pie laughed. "Canterlot looks all old and almost broken down!"

        "Yeah, well..." Twilight tried to think of something nice to say about her hometown. "Canterlot is the home of ancient culture, though. We still have customs dating back to Celestia's rule. In fact, the summer sun celebration is held in Canterlot and should be taking place in a few days."

        "And it ain't worth a hill of beans," Applejack replied. "Now, can we get going? The sooner we have our bearings, the sooner I can go home and be done with this crazy mess."

        "Aw, don't leave, A.J." Pinkie Pie put on her warmest smile and largest eyes, hoping to convince Applejack with visual appeal.

"First, don't call me A.J. Second, I have a younger sister who tries that all the time: I'm immune"

        Applejack led the others down the hills: Twilight, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy straggling behind. She was moving a bit too fast for them as they carried Fluttershy, and Spike was too short to keep up with Applejack's strides. "Can y'all hurry up?" she called back.

        "You could help, you know," Twilight griped. "It's only fair with how helpful Fluttershy's been to us."

        "You two seem to have everything fine back there," Applejack retorted.

        "So helpful," Twilight sighed. "Can you at least see the name of the city from here?"

        Applejack searched the city for some sign of a name. "Fil... ly... del... phia?" she read slowly. "Any idea where that is?"

"Fillydelphia!" Pinkie Pie exploded with energy. "I was there with Trixie before. It's great! All big and huge and plenty of sweet shops! And it's by the sea! So that means beach parties!"

"Fillydelphia means we're in Cloud Kingdom territory," Twilight added.

"Great, stuffy pegasi," Applejack complained.

        "No, this city is mostly earth ponies," Pinkie Pie pointed out. "It was originally an earth pony settlement before King Meanie Wings went and conquered it."

        "You mean the short-lived pegasi conquest ten years ago?" Twilight asked.

        "Yeah! King Meanie Wings went to the border to Canterlot and just started conquering stuff. Then he just stopped, what's up with that?"

        "Tons of rumors about that story," Spike piped up. "My favorite one involves a failed assassination attempt. Since then pegasi haven't been very welcome around Equestria."

        "For a good reason," Applejack spat.

        "I'm sorry," Fluttershy cried.

        "Oh, no it's not your fault, Fluttershy," Pinkie Pie consoled Fluttershy. "That was King Meanie Wings doing. You would never hurt anypony, or anything for that matter."

         "Can we get on already," Applejack began forcing them along. "I mean, we do need to get her to a doctor, right?"

        "Right," Twilight agreed.


        Fillydelphia felt both wildly different and familiar to Twilight. Like Canterlot, Fillydelphia was dominated by large buildings and busy streets, but rather than ivory towers, Fillydelphia had modern skyscrapers. That was the best way Twilight could describe the city: modern.

        "Anypony see a hospital?" Twilight asked.

        "I know where one is," Pinkie Pie answered. "Applejack, take Fluttershy for me while I lead the way!"

        "Fine," Applejack replied, allowing one of Fluttershy's hooves to be draped across her back. She found the pegasus unnaturally light, at least compared to an earth pony.

        "Now follow me!" Pinkie Pie lead them through the busy streets, occasionally stopping for something shiny or sweet that caught her eye and then reminded of her original purpose. With Pinkie Pie mildly focused, they managed to find the hospital within an hour.

        Inside the hospital, at the entrance counter, a pink-maned pony greeted them. "Hello, I'm nurse Redheart. Is there a problem?" she asked.

        "Our friend's wings are broken!" Pinkie Pie cried out hysterically. "You have to do something, quick!"

        "Broken wings," the nurse repeated. "Does she have any medical conditions we should be aware of?"

        Pinkie Pie turned to Fluttershy, who looked like she had no idea what the nurse pony was talking about. Pinkie Pie turned back to the nurse and shrugged, "No?"

"Then I'll get a stretcher and room prepared immediately." The nurse galloped off to prepare a room and the other necessary supplies to treat the injured pegasus.

        With Fluttershy's treatment being worked on, Applejack asked, "So where are we exactly? How far are we from Canterlot and Apple Acres?"

        "Spike," Twilight commanded, "map."

        "Right!" Spike saluted before whipping around his backpack and digging through it for a map of Equestria. "Got it right here!" he answered as he pulled out the rolled up parchment and opened it. He pointed to the north edge of Equestria, bordering the sea. "We're here, and Canterlot is here!" he moved his claw towards the eastern end of the map."

        "Doesn't look more than a few nights journey," Applejack commented. "Heck, if I leave now I could reach Apple Acres before the end of the week."

        "Are you mares on your way to Canterlot?" The pink-maned nurse had returned with a stretcher for Fluttershy.

        "Yeah, why?" Applejack asked.

        "You didn't hear about the fault tearing off the land?"

        "What do you mean?" this time Twilight inquired. "Did something happen to Canterlot?"

        "How to describe it... " the nurse wondered, placing a fore-hoof on her chin. "Basically, the earthquake created a canyon, destroying all the roads and completely warping the land. It's uncrossable, unless youre a pegasus."

        "What!?" Applejack yelled. "No road? Are you telling me every danged road to the Canterlot region is out!?"

        "I'm sorry, but yes." the Redheart answered solemnly. "Now, if you can help your friend onto the stretcher, we can start treating her."

        "Right," Twilight replied, helping Fluttershy lift herself onto the stretcher.

        "Well don't this just beat all!" Applejack stormed out of the hospital, her anger reaching a fever pitch.

        "Wait!" Pinkie Pie called to Applejack, but she ignored her. "Will she be alright going off alone like that?"

        "Just let her steam," Twilight groaned. "I don't think being around us is going to help her cool off."

        Fluttershy was wheeled off into an intensive care ward, leaving Twilight, Pinkie Pie and Spike alone to try muddle over the situation. Twilight turned back to her saddlebags, the single element of harmony slightly deforming it. It was almost indistinguishable from any other rock, but the overwhelming flow of magic Twilight felt every time she touched it was proof of its greater nature. So now what do I do?


        Applejack trotted through the streets of Fillydelphia, not particularly paying attention to where she was going. She didn't care if she got lost, all that mattered to her was finding a way back to her town of Apple Acres. How am I supposed to get back home? Granny Smith is going to tan my hide for this one. Stupid bandit and her stupid ideas!

        "Hey, watch where you're going!"

        Applejack looked up to realize she had stumbled into a another pony.

        "Sorry," Applejack halfheartedly apologized. "I'll keep my eyes on the road more."

        "You better," the annoyed blue pegasus responded. "Dang it, I've got to go! You got off lucky." She ran off.

        "Just what is she so riled up about?"

        "Come now and fight!" another pegasus advertised from the sky. "Fillydelphia's arena is open to all challengers! Can you win the grand prize? Ten-thousand bits! Show your stuff in the arena of legends!"

        "Prize bits!" Applejack repeated.


        "Fluttershy! You're okay!" Pinkie Pie squealed as she hugged Fluttershy.

        "Careful," Nurse Redheart warned. "We don't want to break them again."

"Okie dokie lokie!" the bubbly pink mare responded.

Fluttershy's wings had been tended to and bandaged. She was relieved of her pain, but now bound to the ground until her wings were mended. "Thank you," Fluttershy thanked the nurse in a voice that could barely be called a whisper.

        "Just rest up for a few weeks and you should be just fine," Nurse Redheart informed Fluttershy before turning to Twilight and Pinkie Pie. "I was barely able to get out of your friend here that you two carried her here?"

        "Yes," Twilight responded.

        "You two did a good job of getting her here without causing more damage to the poor dear. Not many ponies would go that out of their way for a pegasus."

        "What does that mean?" Spike asked.

        "Pegasi aren't very well received here.  It's part of the stigma from King Steel Wing's short lived crusade."

        "I'm sorry," Fluttershy weakly replied.

        "No, Fluttershy," Pinkie Pie held the meek pegasus, "You don't need to apologise for that."

        "Thank you," Twilight bowed to the nurse.

        "I'm just doing my job," Nurse Redheart replied.

        Twilight lead her traveling companions out of the hospital, back into the sunny streets of Fillydelphia. With a sigh, she turned back to Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. "Girls," she started, "I've been thinking, and we need to find a way back to Canterlot. This journey is over."

        "What!?" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "You can't do that!"

        "I started this assuming all the elements were in one spot. I didn't anticipate them being split up, and I can't scour Equestria, or possibly even the world for that matter, without anything to go on," she explained. "Let's find Applejack and figure out a way back."

        "Well, it was fun while it lasted," Spike lamented. "Back to cabbage stew and all-nighter essays."

        "I can live without the cabbage stew," Twilight sighed.

        "I can live without the all night essays!" Spike argued.

        "But your claw writing has gotten so good."

        "Hey there girls, and iguana," Applejack greeted them.

        "You're in a better mood," Spike huffed. "What's the deal?"

        "I found us a way to make some bits," the orange mare replied. "Apparently, this place has an arena competition going. Winners get bits, ten thousand to be exact."

        "So you want us to risk our lives just so you can get some bits?" Twilight didn't like Applejack's idea, and she was tired of fighting. "Forget it."

        "I'm sorry, but who risked her life for some measly rock again?" Applejack tapped her hoof, waiting for an answer.

        "It's not a rock," Twilight answered, "and you've made your point. I guess I do owe you."

        "That's what I like to hear," Applejack teased. "Listen, with the prize money we can split it equally and hire an air-carriage to get us back to the Canterlot region. How's that?"

        "Sounds fair," Twilight groaned, "but I still don't like the idea of it."

        "Just as long as you're still fighting. It's two on two style matches. We'll sign up, and I know you can be quite useful with your unicorn magic and all."

        "I still don't like the idea of it!" Twilight repeated.

        "I'll do it!" Spike piped up.

        "No way!" Twilight replied as she threw Spike onto her back. "You're not going to fight!"

        "Lame!" the agitated dragon sighed.

        "So how are you going to get back to Canterlot?" Applejack sternly replied. "I'm all ears."

        Twilight narrowed her eyes on Applejack and sighed, "You're despicable."

        "Save that hate for the fight."

SKIT: Going to Make a Scene

Pinkie Pie: Twilight and Applejack fighting in the arena? This is so exciting!

Spike: Is the arena that big of a deal?

Pinkie Pie: You've never seen the Fillydelphia arena!?

Spike: No.

Pinkie Pie: It's all big and loud and ponies everywhere cheering and they host the biggest parties after every tournament and the best part is they have this speaker system hooked up all over the place so one pony can talk to all the ponies at once with a microphone!

Spike: Pinkie, you feeling okay?

Pinkie Pie: I'm just fine, why?

Spike: You're kind of making a scene.

Pinkie Pie: Oh, I've got a scene ready alright!

Spike: Oh boy.

SKIT: End

Twilight couldn't help but marvel in awe at the Fillydelphia arena. It was modeled after Canterlot Architecture to impress a feeling of grandiose ambition, and even housed a marble statue of a winged unicorn with a double-bladed sword in its teeth. The scenery, as a whole, was breathtaking.

        "We're here!" Pinkie Pie squealed. "Ooh! Where is it!?" She zipped off, bouncing from wall to wall of the arena halls.

        "Hey, wait for me!" Spike cried out as he chased the uninhibited mare. "C'mon, Fluttershy!"

        "Oh, alright," Fluttershy moaned as she tried to keep up with Pinkie Pie and Spike.

        "I guess they're going to find seats?" Twilight assumed. She hoped that leaving Pinkie Pie and Spike alone wouldn't cause any trouble.

        "Here." Applejack shoved a clipboard onto the lavender mare. "Fill this out."

        "And why do I have to?" Twilight groaned.

        "I thought you liked writing reports or something." Applejack grinned back.


        "Nope," Pinkie Pie sighed as she zipped from one room to another, prying off doors and checking its contents. "Where is it?"

        "Looking for something, Pinkie?" Spike asked.

        "Yep!" Pinkie Pie answered with no hint of explanation, resuming her search.

        "We're not going to get in trouble here, are we?" Fluttershy panicked.

        "Just leave everything to Pinkie Pie!" Pinkie Pie bucked open another door. "Found it!"

        "You're not supposed to be back here!" the pony within the room yelled. "Get out of here!"

        "Thunder Hoof!"


        "You do know this is a bad idea, right?" Twilight informed Applejack. "What makes you even think we can win this? We're not trained fighters."

        "You may not be, but you think my fancy hoof-work was just made up on the spot?" Applejack replied. "My mom taught me to fight to buck-off apple thieves." She flexed her backlegs, accenting her physical prowess. "Just you watch who the trained fighter really is."

        "Is ‘Team Sparkles' here?" A brown earth pony approached the two.

        "Sparkles?" Applejack glared at Twilight. "And where did that come from?"

        "You did let me fill out the form, and it did ask for a team name." Twilight smiled back, pleased with herself. "So, what did you need?" She turned back to the new pony.

"Just here to lay down some ground rules, since it says on the form you've never competed before. First, it's not a fight to the death, just ‘till one team gives in. The moment the other team gives up, you stop or risk getting disqualified. Second, you're a unicorn, so we need to ask that you wear an inhibitor. We don't want ponies being fried or frozen or something. You alright with that?"

        "I can hold back my magic," Twilight offered. "Are there any alternatives to wearing an inhibitor?"

        "Sorry, ma'am. It's regulation."

        "Fine," Twilight groaned as a ring was affixed on her horn.

        "You look silly," Applejack smirked.

        Twilight glared back at the amused orange pony and warned her, "This ring doesn't stay on forever."

        "Alright," the brown pony started, "you two can go take your places in the arena now. Good luck."

        Twilight and Applejack waited in front of the barred gate to the arena floor. It opened automatically a moment later, welcoming the pair into the arena stage. The crowd around them cheered for the upcoming battle. Twilight was left breathless by the arena's interior, but the arena stage had nearly stolen her nerve. It must have seated more than a thousand ponies, all looking at her now. "This is really nerve-wracking and looking more and more like a bad idea."

        "Just concentrate on the match," Applejack replied. "Remember what I said way back when we first entered the Everfree? I'll keep you safe."

        "Are we on good terms again?" Twilight asked.

        "Maybe, let's see how long it lasts this time," Applejack joked. "Thanks, though, for putting up with me."

        "Don't go mushy on me," Twilight readied her spear.

        "I'll be as mushy as stale bread!" Applejack readied herself.

        Pinkie Pie's voice erupted throughout the arena, completely catching Twilight and Applejack off guard. "Hey there everypony!" Most of the audience members had to hold their ears just to keep Pinkie Pie's voice alone from giving them a concussion. "Today's arena announcements are brought to you by Dark Horns member Pinkie Pie: me! Someponies might say it's stupid of me to hijack a mic and then say my name over the air, but what fun is there in playing it safe?"

        "She didn't..." Applejack's mouth nearly fell off her face.

        "And here, as her assistant, is I, Spike! The last dragon in Equestria!" Spike's voice came next.

        "They did..." Twilight groaned, trying to hide her face in shame.

        "Say hi to all the ponies, Fluttershy!"

        "Uhm... well..." Even with a hundred speakers to amplify her voice Fluttershy still came across as incredibly soft.

        Pinkie Pie's voice came back again."So let's see who's up here? Ooh! Team Sparkles! Hi Twilight! Hi Applejack! Good luck!"

        "Are we going to be looked at as accomplices to a psycho pony now?" Twilight groaned.

        "I'm about to go psycho on somepony," Applejack muttered.

        "And their opponents are, drum roll, please." Spike put on all his theatrics as Pinkie Pie started banging her hooves on a table for a drum roll. "Representing the Lezerano company, probably the wealthiest corporation in all of Equestria, is Team Mint!"

From the other side of the arena approached pair of well-dressed blue ponies: one a stallion and the other a unicorn mare.

"All the way from Caballus, fillies and gentlecolts!" Spike announced again. "So you know they've come far, just itching for a match!"

        The blue stallion readied a single note-shaped blade. "Don't expect me to go easy on you just because you’re mares."

        "I hope you're not implyin' somethin'." Applejack eyed the presumptuous blue pony. "Twilight, let me take that one." Applejack cracked her hooves, itchy to bury them in the pony’s face.

        "Blues, you need to shut up," the unicorn mare responded. "I'm Minuette, by the way. It is a pleasure to meet you," the blue unicorn cheerily introduced herself, a bristled quarterstaff levitated next to her.

        "Let the party begin!" Pinkie Pie shouted through the speakers, signaling the start of battle.

        Applejack charged at Blues. "Revolution Apple Buck!" Applejack turned to kick Blues into the air, but he deflected the attack with his note-shaped blade. "Dang it," she cursed as she tried to regain her balance.

        "Marche Waltz!" Blues lunged back at Applejack, his blade grafting a musical score into the air before striking again, shattering the illusion and nearly cutting Applejack.

        "Eat this!" Applejack hollered as she threw herself at Blues. She turned herself, seemingly to give her next kick as much force as she could. Predictably, Blues tried to deflect the blow with his blade, but Applejack feinted the blow, catching Blues off-guard. With her opponent defenseless, Applejack crouched and knocked him off his hooves with a low sweeping kick. "Skyward Shot!" Applejack forced her fore-hoof through Blues, launching him into the air. "Harvest Dance!" Applejack followed Blues into the air, kicking him multiple times before calling out one last attack, "Autumn's Fall!" She flipped herself, bringing down her back-hoof on Blues' head and sending him at the ground. She landed right on top of the stallion, dealing one last blow.

        "Did you see that combo!?" Spike's voice erupted from the speakers.

        "Wowzee!" Pinkie Pie's voice came next. "I mean, I've been on the receiving end of those chains but A.J. sure has leveled up her game since then!"

        "Stop calling me A.J.!" Applejack yelled back.

        Twilight was still caught up in her fight with Minuette. The blue mare was proving to be a much more adept fighter with her weapon than Twilight anticipated.

        "I'll finish you now," Minuette said coldly, a stark contrast to her earlier cheerfulness.

        "What!?" the lavender mare fidgeted by the sudden change in demeanor.

        "God's Breath!" Minuette enchanted her bristled staff, creating a hurricane around it and pointing it at Twilight. "Farewell." The concentrated stream of wind was released, roaring at Twilight.

        "Watch out!" Applejack shoved Twilight out of the way, taking the powerful blast of wind for her. Completely knocked off her hooves,  she flew into the arena walls, creating a crater.

        "If I wasn't wearing this inhibitor that would have ended very badly," Minuette warned them as she began to collect wind around her staff once again.

        "Applejack, are you alright!?" Twilight yelled back at her.

        "I've felt better!" Applejack responded. "Stay on your hooves, she's going to do that again!"

        "Alright!" Twilight galloped off to the side, hoping to disrupt Minuette's aiming.

Minuette tried to turn her staff to face Twilight again, but moving what could only be described as a miniature hurricane was too much of a strain on her dampened magic.

        Twilight positioned herself directly behind Minuette and leapt into her to attack. She dove at the blue unicorn, her back hoof extending outwards to kick Minuette.

Minuette was forced to give up the spell as she raised her staff to defend herself. Twilight's hoof bounced off the staff as she kicked herself higher into the air, using the staff as a stepping stone, positioning herself right over Minuette's head. She aimed her spear downward, gathering frost at the edge of the tip. "Comet Cannon!" she cried as a single comet hailed down on Minuette, knocking her out.

        "Holy smokes that was one spicy meatball!" Pinkie Pie added to the attack.

        "Meatball?" Spike's quizzical voice followed suit.

        "Team Blue surrenders!" Blue announced, limping over to pick up Minuette. "No more, you've won."

        "And that's the match!" Spike announced. "Any highlights for that one, Pinkie Pie?"

        "Yes! This message has been brought to you by the Cake's Shop in Ponyville! Go to Ponyville and buy a cake! Gee, I can come up with something catchier than that."

        "The match, Pinkie, the match!"

        "Remember foals, don't play with matches!"

        "They're insane," the annoyed orange sighed. "I figured you would raise that iguana to be more well-behaved than this."

        "You and me both," the exasperated lavender unicorn groaned, pulling Applejack out of the pony shaped hole in the wall.

        "You two fight well," Blue complimented them. "If you can pick up the slack, you just might win the prize."

        "Might? Slack!" Applejack echoed. "And just what makes you say might?"

        "Last years champions fight really well together. Individually, you two are good, but if you can't fight together than you aren't going to win. This is a team effort," he added lastly. "An exercise in friendship, even."

        "Friendship?" Twilight questioned. "What does beating each other up have to do with friendship?"

        "A surprising great deal. Are you willing to trust another pony with your life?" Blue asked, breaking away from his earlier tone of congratulations to one of stern seriousness.

        "Well," Twilight muttered, "no. In a life or death situation the best pony to trust would be yourself."

        "Pragmatic, if cynical," Blues said. "Regardless, good luck. You did beat us fair and square and I prefer to lose to winners, not losers."

        "Shut up, Blues" Minuette mumbled. "I have a killer headache."

        "Sorry," Twilight apologized.

SKIT: Not Listening

Twilight: What in all of Equestria does fighting have to do with friendship!?

Applejack: Are you still caught up on what that blue-in-the-face pony said.

Twilight: He just sounded so condescending about it.

Applejack: I take it you don't like being preached to.

Twilight: It just doesn't make sense.

Applejack: Uh, Twi', you listening to me?

Twilight: He wouldn't be saying that if my magic wasn't being inhibited.

Applejack: He's not the only pony blue-in-the-faced.

Twilight: Hm? You say something.

Applejack: Yes.

Twilight: What?

Applejack: Nothing of interest.

SKIT: End

        Back inside the contestant lobby, Twilight was allowed to remove the magic-dampening ring. She placed her horn on Applejack and recited the spell. "Heal." Twilight's magic flowed into Applejack, healing the orange mare's wounds, bruises, and cuts. "Feeling better?"

        "Yeah." Applejack stretched her body, trying to get used to being so suddenly well. It almost felt like shock. "That's the last time I go chasin' tornadoes. So, now we just got to wait for our next match."

        "Looks like it," Twilight groaned.


        "And Team Dash takes out the Bantam Bouncers!" Spike announces across the speakers. "I've never seen a pegasus with moves like that! The Bantam Bouncers may have had rhythm but I guess the iron hammer of justice wasn't enough. Any commentary, Pinkie?" The intercom went silent for a moment. "Uh, Pinkie? Equestria to Pinkie Pie?"

        "What? Huh? Oh! Sorry about that folks! I kind of spaced out there! So who's next up on the chopping block!" Pinkie squealed in delight as she read the name cards. "Team Sparkles versus Team Pie-Lovers? Ooh! Do I have a fan-club already!"

        "Team Pie-Lovers?" Applejack looked around the arena for her opponent. "Where are they?"

        "Sorry about that," a voice apologized from high above. A blue pegasus with an even darker blue mane dropped out of the sky. He wore armor from the Cloud Kingdom military, a blue drape along the armor declaring his commander rank.  "I was just eating some victory pie from my last match. Sorry if I kept you waiting. My name is Soarin'." He smiled at his opponents, exciting the crowd with a combination of deep boos and high-pitched squeals.

        "And just what the hay are you supposed to be?" Applejack wryly questioned.

        "Me? I'm a commander in the Cloud Kingdom military. I thought I would come here and test my skills against real competition." Soarin' looked back at the crowd. "Sample some pie too."

        "I don't like this guy any more than the last!"

        "Agreed," Twilight sighed.

"Where's your partner already so I can get to buckin' you!"

        "Oh, he's not here. Yeah, but I'm not surrendering, so let's have a fun match." Soarin' smiled back at the two. "I actually really like strong mares."

        "Twilight, do stay out of this," Applejack hissed. "I'm going to break his snout!"

        "Good luck with that," Twilight groaned as she sat herself down. "I mean, it would be unfair for a two on one match."

        "Oh dang," Soarin' sighed. "Still, one pretty mare is good enough for me."

        "Well," Spike's voice erupted, "with our contestants just itching to fight let's ring the bell! Pinkie Pie!"

        "Go!" A bell was struck, signaling the start of the match.

        "They didn't have that before," Applejack responded. "Alright, Coltsanova, time for your comeuppance!" Applejack charged at Soarin', ready to bash his face against the arena floor. "Revolution Apple-"

        "Watch out." Soarin' drew his double-bladed sword and parried Applejack's buck. "That's dangerous, little filly," he warned her, smiling.

        "Who you calling a little filly!?" Applejack swept at Soarin's legs. Like Blues, the cocky pegasus was swept off balance, followed by a hoof striking him in the chest and throwing him into the sky. "Skyward Shot!" Applejack steeled herself. "Now for the follow-up, Harvest Dance!" Applejack threw herself after the pony, ready to buck him again with all her strength.

        "Sorry, love," Soarin's wings flared up as he caught himself in a gust of air and deflected Applejack's attack. "I am a pegasus. I can't really let myself get caught in the sky, unless I want to."

        Applejack cursed as she began to fall back to the earth. "No-good lousy little-"

        "Again, sorry love," Soarin' winked. "Soaring Lightning Blade!" Soarin' dove down on Applejack, crushing her against the ground and calling bolts of lightning down with him.

        Applejack screamed, the electricity causing her muscles to spasm, and Soarin's sword pinching her shoulder. "Twilight!" she yelled back.

        "Fireball!" Twilight sent out a volley of fireballs, weakened by the inhibitor placed on her.

        Soarin' looked up and saw the spell being cast just in time. He reeled his sword back, the insignia on his armor beginning to glow. "Hurricane thrust!" Soarin' swung his sword, producing a stream of wind that pierced Twilight's fireballs. He turned to the lavender unicorn, grinning sheepishly. "So are you both going to take me now?" he asked playfully.

        "Shut up!" Applejack punched Soarin' with both of her fore-hooves. "Beast!" Her energy erupted through her hooves in a lion shaped blast of blue force. Soarin' was thrown off and back into the sky, where his wings flared up once more, catching himself in the air again.

        "Wow, an impressive exchange between Team Sparkles and Soarin'!" Spike announced. "I've got to say, I've never seen a pegasus fight like this. Is that magic Soarin' is using? I don't know, but the work horse and scholar have their work cut out for them. You have anything to say, Pinkie?

        "It's simple, Spike." Pinkie Pie's voice overtook the dragon's in the speakers. "Soarin' can use magic because he's eating performance enhancing pies."

        "Can they just shut up!?" Applejack complained as she recovered herself. "Twilight, think you can use shoot him out of the sky with your magic?"

        "Remember how well that worked on the chimeras the other day?" the lavender mare answered. "I can't hit something as fast as him."

        "So we need to pin him again?"

        "That would be the idea, yes." Twilight answered.

        "Then cover me!" Applejack charged at Soarin' again.

        "Filly want to play?" Soarin' flew high into the sky, eclipsing the sun and flying into Applejack's blind spot.

        Applejack cursed, "Cheeky... little..."

        "Soaring Lightning Blade!" Soarin' dived at Applejack again, lightning surging from his blade.

        "Not this time!" Applejack jumped up to meet her opponent. "Landslide!" She caught Soarin' mid-fall, and threw him back to the ground.

        "Comet Cannon!" Twilight's spear erupted with ice, pelting the Cloud Kingdom commander.

        "Autumn's fall!" Applejack landed herself on Soarin's back. His armor absorbed most of the blow, but it still left him stunned. "You're done now." Applejack hissed as she backed away from the pegasus commander.

        "You mares are impressive." Soarin' chuckled as he picked himself off the ground. His armor was visibly damaged and his fur was frozen in a few places, but his cheery demeanor never left. "I give, you win."

        "What?" Applejack cried in astonishment.

        "The battle is over!" the speakers erupted with the baby dragon's voice. "Cloud Kingdom commander and pie aficionado, Soarin', has given up that match to Team Sparkles! Meaning they get to go on to the final round! We're cutting it close here, ponies! Who will win!?"

        "Well, in my book everypony's a winner!" Pinkie Pie added. "Well, unless you lose. Then you should probably go to the hospital! Oh! We were at one earlier, right Fluttershy?" The speakers went silent. "Fluttershy says yes."


        "So how's it look?" Applejack asked as she exposed her shoulder for Twilight to heal. "It burns like a deep-fried apple stuffing right now."

        "I can handle this," Twilight replied as she placed her horn on Applejack. "Heal." The wound began to close on itself, sealing the gash and healing the flesh. "Better?"

        "Much better." Applejack was happy to be in top form so soon again. "I knew it was a good idea to drag you with me to this."

        "As long as we get those bits," Twilight sighed. "It will make getting back to Canterlot so much easier-"

        "Ten! Seconds! Flat!" Spike's booming voice interrupted Twilight. "Just like Team Dash promised, they finished their mach in ten seconds. We're looking at Team Dash versus Team Sparkles for an arena finale! Are you excited, ponies? I know I am!"

        "Fluttershy! Do a cheer!" Pinkie Pie very audibly pushed the nervous pegasus to the mic. Sounds of a struggling and chains emanated through the arena as Pinkie tried to get the nervous Fluttershy to say something.

        "Uh, while my co-hosts are busy untying themselves, we're going to take a ten minute break before the final match, folks! Get your snacks ready!"

        "Because the next one is a doozy!" Pinkie coughed. "Fluttershy, I... can't... breathe!"

        "They're still at it," Applejack snorted. "How come nopony has kicked them out?"

        "We've got ten minutes to rest up, better make it count if our opponents are going to be that good."

SKIT: Tricky

Twilight: How did Soarin' use magic like that?

Applejack: You mean the thing where he hit me with lightning?

Twilight: Yes. Only unicorns should be able to fight using the elements.

Applejack: Fancy pegasus trick maybe?

Twilight: Tricks don't usually hurt.

Applejack: That's for sure.

Twilight: Hopefully our next opponents aren't so tricky.

Applejack: We'll take 'em. We beat that last guy.

Twilight: Only because he gave up.

SKIT: End

        Ten minutes passed, and Twilight and Applejack took their place in the arena again. On the other side was their opponents, smirking with pride. "A griffon!?" Twilight exclaimed. "This has to be against some regulation!"

        On the other side of the arena stood a blue pegasus mare with a rainbow mane, and brown furred griffon with white feathers, both wearing Cloud Kingdom armor with red drapes. "Check out these dweebs, Dash," the griffon snidely commented.

        "What are they?" the pegasus laughed. "A costumed egghead and a country-star reject?"

        "You again!" Applejack pointed at the blue pegasus. "You're the pony that bumped into me!"

        "What!?" The pegasus yelled back. "You ran into me! Oh this is perfect. I'm going to beat the stuffing out of you!"

        Spike started his announcements, "Alright everypony! On one side is Team Sparkles from Canterlot. Twilight, resident unicorn extraordinaire, and top student at Canterlot University; and Applejack, local bumpkin who wouldn't know good cooking if it clung to her fetlocks!"

        "Darn iguana," Applejack cursed.

        "And on the other side is Team Dash!" Pinkie Pie answered next. "On Team Dash we have Rainbow Dash, the mare with flare and a mane like rain... bows! and Gilda, a teen-aged griffon with attitude! Both high ranking soldiers from the Cloud Kingdom military. You know, Spike, I've never met a griffon before! Do you think griffons like to party? I hope they do because-"

        "Stop!" A new voice erupted from the speakers. "You're under arrest for breaking and entering! This area is for staff only!"

        "Finally," Applejack sighed.

        "Sorry, but we're having technical difficulties," Pinkie Pie alerted the audience. "Spike, Fluttershy, cheese it!" A very audible crash and struggle erupted over the speakers, leaving the crowd confused, entertained, and frenzied.

        "Hey, what do you think you're-"

        "Party Cannon!" An explosion erupted from high up on the arena, possibly where the announcer's office was located. Two ponies and a baby dragon ran out of the room, running from a team of guards. "Even when on the run from the law, Dark Horns entertainment promises to give you one hay of a show!" Pinkie Pie screamed. "Party time! Ready, go!"

        Gilda instantly closed in on the two. "Dash! Cover me!"

"Already on it, G.!" Rainbow Dash drew her double-bladed sword and slashed it along the ground. "Tenbaken!" she shouted as a sky blue wave of energy released itself from her sword, aimed at Twilight and Applejack.

Gilda, already ahead of the wave, lashed out at Twilight and Applejack. "Schatten Jagd!" She brought her claws down on both the orange and lavender pony, tracing lines in the air as she struck them. Applejack caught one claw between her hooves while Twilight struggled against the force of the claw on her spear. Gilda smirked as she let go of the attack and flew upwards, the pegasus's wave colliding with Twilight.

        "Twilight!" Applejack turned to her, only to get assaulted by Gilda from behind. "Danged chicken!"

        Gilda expressed mild amusement from Applejack's struggling. "Chicken, right." With the orange mare trapped in her talons, Gilda flew up into the sky.

        "No!" Twilight called out.

        "Over here!"

        Twilight turned just in time to deflect a blow from the sky blue pegasus.

        "Shunjinken!" Rainbow Dash thrust her blade at Twilight, who barely managed to block the attack with her spear. "Close one," she taunted. "So how long can you keep it up?" Rainbow Dash took a step forward, forcing the lavender unicorn back.

        Struggling to keep her spear suspended against the blue brute, Twilight raised herself on her back legs and stomped the ground. "Stalagmite!" Twilight shouted as the earth under her opponent erupted, producing a spike.

        Rainbow Dash's armor managed to protect her from most of the attack, but forced her off Twilight. " Pretty good, now try this!" Rainbow Dash threw her sword at Twilight. "Meguru No Honoo!" she cried, her sword igniting and spinning at the lavender mare.

        Twilight managed to deflect the blow with her spear, but the blade only flew up, turning to assault her from overhead. She threw herself to the side, letting the blade bury itself in the ground.

        "Like it?" Rainbow Dash gloated as she swooped down to retrieve her blade. "Special arms pegasus weaponry! Only for exceptional pegasi, like myself!"

        "This ride of yours have an ending?" Applejack yelled at the griffon that flew higher and higher.

        "Yeah, it ends with you on the ground," Gilda answered her, turning around to dive bomb the ground with the orange pony still clenched in her talons. "Letzten Moment!"

        "I'm not going to take this sitting down!" Applejack cried as she struck at Gilda.

        "Oh? So what are you going to do about it?" Gilda taunted Applejack smugly.

"I'll show you the strength of an honest work-horse!" Applejack swung her body, managing to shove her shoulder into Gilda. "Beast!" Applejack's primal force forced the griffon to let go, allowing Applejack to free-fall to the earth. "Twilight!"

"Applejack!" Twilight yelled back as she raced to catch Applejack, the blue pegasus grinning from ear to ear and egging her on. She caught the orange mare on her back, almost being crushed in the process.

        "That, was scary," Applejack gasped. "You okay?"

        "You're heavy," Twilight groaned.

        "Sorry."

        "Wow, that sure was something," Rainbow Dash commented, floating over her two opponents. "Are you done yet?"

        "Hardly!" Applejack roared as she launched herself at Rainbow Dash. "Harvest-"

        Gilda swooped in and tackled Applejack mid-attack, pinning the mare against the arena walls. "Remember me?"

        "Get off her!" Twilight cried as she dove at the griffon, her spear aiming at the holes in Gilda's armor. "Havok Spear!" Twilight turned and kicked her opponent, her back-hoof striking her opponents armor, before taking her spear and striking the griffon.

        Gilda was forced off of her prey by the lavender mare's assault. She managed to get away before the spear could cut too deep into her skin. "Sly little dweeb," she cursed. Gilda flared her wings, launching herself at Twilight and Applejack. "Spirale Kralle!" Gilda lunged at the two mares again, extending her talons out-wide and spinning rapidly to cover herself from every angle.

        "Stalagmite!" Twilight cried as she stomped her hooves on the ground, raising a complex of stalagmites to mire the griffon's assault. "We have to go, it won't last long."

        "Hi again!" Rainbow Dash yelled out as she dived at Twilight, her blade clenched between her teeth. "Rekkuuzan!" Rainbow Dash started spinning herself, allowing her blade and momentum to cover her at all sides.

        "Twilight!" Applejack managed to grab her partner and throw themselves out of the way of the attack. With a hard thud, they landed on the dirt of the arena floor. "They keep flying at us, what do we do?"

        "Not sure," Twilight groaned as she picked herself up. "If only I didn't have this stupid inhibitor."

        "So get rid of it!"

        "That's against the regulations here!"

        "We're fighting a pegasus and a griffon! I don't care about regulations!"

        Gilda and Rainbow Dash soared into the sky, one's talons ready to pierce and the other's sword ready to cut. "Want to give them the special, G?" Dash turned to her partner.

        "Fine," Gilda replied with retrained enthusiasm.

        "The cross thrust special!" Rainbow Dash dove at Twilight and Applejack again, with Gilda behind her. The pegasus extended her blade outwards and assaulted the opposing ponies. "Shouha!"

        Applejack tried to block the blow with her hooves, but was knocked off balance.

        "Juumonji!" Gilda cried as she struck Applejack, knocking the wind out of her, in mid-air.

        "Holy smokes!" Pinkie Pie cried, still running from armored guards. "That was incredible teamwork from Team Dash? Can Team Sparkles recover?"

        "Applejack!" Twilight cried as she galloped up to the orange mare's side. "Are you okay?"

        "Barely," Applejack cried. "Nothings broke, can you heal me?"

        "I'll try." Twilight placed her horn on Applejack's wounds, but Rainbow Dash's flying sword flew between the two, interrupting Twilight.

        "This is a match, not a hospital," Rainbow Dash taunted, "so no healing while I'm on watch!" Rainbow Dash dove at twilight again. "Rekkuuzan!" she began spinning her body again, ready to end the match, but she didn't hit a pony, she hit the ground, knocking the blade out of her mouth and Rainbow Dash herself out of her momentum as she hit the floor. "What the?"

        Twilight and Applejack were on the other side of the arena. "Heal!" Twilight cried as Applejack's body began to heal. The inhibitor on Twilight's horn crumbled to dust.

        "What the hay?!" Rainbow Dash cursed. "How did you do that!"

        "Winking," Twilight replied as she disappeared and a flash of magenta light, and reappeared above Rainbow Dash. "Havok Spear!" Twilight kicked down on Rainbow dash before swinging up, knocking the pegasus back into the air.

        Rainbow Dash managed to regain her footing once in the air. "I've got wings, remember-"

        "Star Shower!" Twilight swung her spear upward, unleashing a salvo of magical shooting stars on the gloating pegasus.

"What the?" Rainbow Dash was pelted by the astrological force, blasting her out of the sky and landing back on the ground in a puff of smoke.

"Little dweeb!" Gilda screeched as she assaulted Twilight.

"Super Harvest Dance!" Applejack caught the griffon before she could reduce Twilight to a pile of scraps, kicking her in mid-air several times before back-flipping back to Twilights side.

"Amazing turnaround from Team Sparkles!" Spike cried out, nearly overloading the speakers and the audiences ears. "Just when you thought they were down for the count, they get up and give Team Dash a run for their money!"

Rainbow Dash was the first to recover. "So, you're playing with magic now? Fine." The Cloud Kingdom emblem on Rainbow Dash's armor began to glow. "Try some pegasus brand magic! Air Thrust!" The wind around Twilight and Applejack condensed and turned savage on them, cutting into the stunned fighters. "G! Now!"

"Jagd Schatten!" Gilda flew like an arrow at the suspended mares, slamming her claws on both of them, and throwing them against the wall. "Finish them, Dash!"

"Spark Wave!" Dash cried out, creating a sphere of electricity around the orange and lavender mare. For Rainbow Dash's opponents, the world went dark.


        How many times am I going to have to wake up like this? Applejack groaned as she slowly opened her eyes. "What- what happened?" she asked, hoping someone was there to answer.

        "Oh good, you're okay," a voice answered her.

Applejack turned in the direction of the voice, finding Nurse Redheart tending to her. "You again? What are you doing here?"

        "Well, these arena tournaments tend to attract all the hoof-heads in the city together and somepony always gets hurt."

        "You calling me a hoof head?" Applejack groaned.

        "You would have to be to participate in these barbaric matches."

        Applejack wanted to say something, but the nurse was right. "Fine. Where's Twilight?"

        "The purple one? She's here. Just turn around," the nurse informed her.

        Applejack turned her body, finding Twilight in much worse condition than she was. "You alright, Twi'?"

        "I've had better days," Twilight groaned. "Well, this was all for nothing."

        "I'm sorry," Applejack apologized. "You was right; this was a bad idea."

        "Are you kidding me!?" Pinkie Pie burst into the room, Fluttershy following closely behind her. "I haven't had so much fun in such a long time! We need to do this again!"

        "Next time you can get your flank kicked," Applejack spat back. "Last time I try throwing around hooves for money."

"Pinkie Pie," Twilight called the giggly mare, worried, "where's Spike?"

"Huh?" Pinkie Pie looked behind herself. "Isn't he... huh!? Spike? Spike!?"

Twilight threw herself out of the care bed. "Spike!" she called out, worried.


Lyra faced down the fiery pegasus commander. "Fight me!" she yelled, her broad-blade lyre pointed menacingly at the soldier.

        "I told you before," Spitfire told her, "I don't fight civilians. Are you still hung up over what I said a couple days ago?"

        "It won't matter when I beat you in a fight. Then we'll see who has the strength to protect what."

        "You can't fight what's not here," Spitfire retorted as she took to the skies.

        "Coward!" Lyra yelled back.

Such a sorrowful sight, my little pony…

        "What!?" Lyra looked around, trying to find the source of the voice. "Who's there?" All she could find was the moon above her, the image of the mare on the moon almost sneering at her.


She surprised me

She started to open her heart to friendship

New Game

>Continue

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        "Spike!" Twilight cried out. She ran down the corridors of the arena, checking every nook and cranny for Spike. "Where are you, Spike!?"

        "Twilight!" Pinkie Pie called out from behind her. "Twilight, you're still too injured. You need to get back in bed and rest."

        "I don't need rest!" she yelled back. "I need to find Spike!" She was losing whatever patience she had built for everyone around her. "It's your fault he's missing, and you’re expecting me to lie down and relax! I can't! Not without Spike!" All she cared about was finding the one constant she had in her life: the rambunctious and sarcastic voice of a baby dragon. "Spike! Where are you!?" She cried out one last time before passing out.

        "Twilight!" Pinkie Pie called out to her, catching Twilight before she could hit the ground. "Somepony! Anypony! Please, help!"


        Twilight lay in one of the arena's infirmary beds, a heart monitor attached to one of her forearms, slowly beeping away. Pinkie Pie hovered over Twilight, wide eyed with worry and guilt. "Is she okay?" she asked Nurse Redheart. "She's going to be okay, right? She just overexerted herself... right!?"

        "Don't worry, she's stable," Nurse Redheart replied, calming Pinkie Pie down. "She'll be fine, but only if she rests."

        "Guess she falls apart fast without that iguana of hers for company," Applejack chided from the other bed. "I almost feel sorry for her if that's all it takes to shake her up."

        Pinkie Pie rested her forelegs on Twilight's body, wishing she could so something to help Twilight other than hold back tears. "It's all my fault. "If I kept a better eye on Spike he wouldn't be missing, and then Twilight wouldn't hate me," she choked out before burying her face in her hooves.

        "You’re awfully attached to somepony you just met a couple days ago," Applejack scoffed. "I just don't get you, bandit."

        "It's because we're friends!" Pinkie Pie argued back, uncharacteristically raising her voice in defiance. "I mean... we came all this way together, right? We've followed each other through the Everfree Forest, saved each other from chimeras and even shared meals together. Are we still not friends after all that?"

        "You think I wanted to do all that?" Applejack hissed. "I don't want any part in this. I never did!" Applejack could feel her anger rising, quickly losing control over the things she was saying. "My family must be worried sick about me, and I can't blame them either, and it's all your fault, bandit!"

        "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Pinkie Pie cried out before running out of the room, tears running down her face.

        "And just what is yelling at her going to do?" Nurse Redheart chastised Applejack. "You're here because of your own choices. Saying hurtful things and shifting the blame onto others isn't going to get you out of any predicaments you're in now."

        "Stay out of this," Applejack grumbled, turning to face away from the nurse. Under her breath, she muttered to herself, "Can I do anythin' without hurtin' somepony?"


        "Stupid Pinkie." Pinkie Pie berated herself, walking down the hallways while trying to hold herself together. "I need to find Spike... for Twilight's sake?" She picked up her pace to a quick trot, moving from one hallway to another with her eyes peeled for anything purple. "We passed through here after running from the guards," she tried to retrace her steps, desperation beginning to take over, "and we passed by these rooms." She skidded to a stop and knocked furiously on the closest door. "Is anypony there!?"

        The door opened, Blues from Team Mint standing on the other side. "I'm sorry, but the rooms along this hallway are reserved for clergy and officials from Caballus," he informed her.

        "Oh, that's all right," Pinkie Pie answered him. "I'm just looking for a little purple dragon. Well, I guess most ponies think he's a lizard, though. He's purple with green scales."

        "I'm sorry, but I haven't seen anything with that description," Blue made a formal bow to punctuate his apology. "Although, I think one of the clergy staying here said she saw something along those lines. What was her name... Rarity, I think."

        "R-Rarity!?" Pinkie Pie gasped.

        "Yes, she's a white mare with a curly purple mane and tail. She's wearing a modified Caballun cloak and a set of mirrors, so she's not hard to miss if you look around. She mentioned something about a purple lizard, so that might be that one you're looking for."

        "T-thank you," Pinkie Pie bowed to Blue, emulating his formality to express her gratitude, "you don't know how much this means to me."

        "I am happy to be of assistance." Blues turned back. "I saw Rarity head for the lobby a while ago. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have somepony to attend to."


        Applejack stretched her legs, relishing being on her hooves once again; never one to feel right just lying in bed all day. "I'm feeling right better now," she told Nurse Redheart.

"You have an amazing ability for self-recovery. You should thank that more than me."

        "Us Apple family ponies are made of some pretty tough stuff." Applejack took a lot of pride in her bloodline. "It's just the way we are, I suppose." She looked back at Twilight, still lying in the infirmary bed. "Any idea on when she'll be up?"

        Nurse Redheart checked that heart monitor attached to Twilight. "Her pulse and breathing rates are fine, so he just needs some rest. I have yet to see unicorn magic that can substitute for that."

        "Well, that's good to know." Applejack was well again and ready to buck back at anything that challenged her, which meant dealing with the problem of getting back home. "No prize money for the losers, I reckon?" she sighed.

        "You still fought well."

        "Holy Bejezus!" Applejack jumped, landing on her back and scratching her head. "Land's sakes, Fluttershy," she groaned, "give me a some warnin' before you go and scare me like that again; I forgot you were in here."

        "Sorry," Fluttershy muttered.

        "Are you just goin' to apologize for every little thing?" Applejack berated her, picking herself off the floor and advancing on Fluttershy. "You're goin' to have to stand up for yourself sometime."

        Fluttershy turned away from Applejack, burying herself deeper within her robe, avoiding eye contact at all costs. "It won't matter," she mumbled, "when I'm back in the forest."

        "Keep telling yourself that," Applejack sighed.

        The door to the infirmary was bucked open, revealing a widely grinning Pinkie Pie standing in the doorway. "Girls, I found somepony who knows where Spike is! Everypony, meet Rarity!"

        A white unicorn mare with a curly purple mane and tail walked into the room. "Yes, well, hello. I am Rarity, a pleasure to meet you all."  The robes she wore denoted her as a member of Caballus' clergy, the left side of which was adorned with a series of mirrors. "Well, I saw a purple lizard being taken away by Amethyst Star, a priestess from Caballus. At the time, I had no idea that the lizard was a dragon, or that it was the pet of somepony."

        "Claims to be dragon anyway," Applejack snorted, "but that little fellow does belong to Miss Twi' here," she motioned to Twilight, resting in bed, "and she seemed to have quite the freak-out when she realized he was missing. If they're Caballuns like yourself, I don't suppose you could help us retrieve him? Shouldn't be too much trouble."

        "I know where they might be, but I can't promise much beyond that."

        "But," Pinkie Pie got between the two ponies, pulling them uncomfortably close, "if they do have Spike, than we can save him before Twilight wakes up, and she won't have to worry!" she exclaimed excitedly. "C'mon girls, we have a dragon to save!"

        "Is she always like this?" Rarity asked.

        "I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself," Applejack sighed.

        Pinkie Pie dropped the two ponies and made for the doorway before turning back. "You're coming, right, A.J.?" she pleaded.

        "Stop calling me that. Only my friends and family are allowed to call me that, and you're neither, bandit," Applejack sourly spat back. She turned back to Twilight, who hadn't moved in the slightest, feeling some pangs of guilt over the predicament. Would Spike still be here is she hadn't dragged Twilight to the arena, she wondered. "Fine, yeah, whatever," she said with a sigh. "Let's go grab that grumpy little iguana before our friend here wakes up and has another panic attack."

        "That's the spirit!" Pinkie Pie shouted. "Let's go, Fluttershy!"

"What?" Fluttershy flinched. "Me too?"

        "Of course!" Pinkie Pie grabbed Fluttershy. "Lead the way, Rarity!"

        "What have I gotten myself into?" Rarity held her head, feeling the onset of a migraine.

SKIT: Just an expression...

Pinkie Pie: Say, Applejack, did you really mean what you said back there?

Applejack: What did I say?

Pinkie Pie: You said Twilight is our friend!

Applejack: I did?

Pinkie Pie: Yeah!

Applejack: It's just a phrase. It don't mean anything.

Pinkie Pie: So you still don't see Twilight as a friend?

Applejack: Well...

Pinkie Pie: Well?

Applejack: She's a better fighter than I anticipated, especially for the bookish type. That's respectable.

Pinkie Pie: And me?

Applejack: You are a no good bandit that I can't wait to be rid of!

Pinkie Pie: Aw, A.J., you say the nicest things.

Applejack: I have plenty of nice words to say about you.

SKIT: End

        Rarity lead Applejack, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie through Fillydelphia and to a luxurious inn that Applejack was sure she would never in her life be able to afford a room in.

"Here we are," Rarity announced. "Amethyst Star, along with her personal team, is staying in this inn. I can't say for sure if the lizard I saw them take was your Spike or not, though."

        "In all my life," Applejack started, "I've only seen one over-sized purple lizard. If they don't have Spike, I'll put on a girdle and dance the pony-pokey."

        "Darling, I doubt you could pull it off." With a flick of her mane, Rarity lead the way into the hotel and addressed the receptionist, "Could you tell the Caballus party staying here that Rarity is here to see them? They're probably staying under Amethyst Star's name."

        "Of course, just give me a minute," the receptionist replied.

        "Don't you have a key?" Applejack asked.

        "No, I don't work under Amethyst," Rarity sighed.

        "Aren't you all from Caballus though?"

        Rarity huffed, "We may all be from Caballus, but our social standings are different. Simply put, I'm not good enough to be a part of her group."

        "And what does that mean, Miss Caballus Pony?" Applejack groaned. "I don't know anything about your hoity toity city."

        "Well..." Rarity opened her mouth, slowly forming an answer to Applejack's question that might give her an understanding of, what Rarity found to be, Caballus' convoluted structure, but was cut off by the receptionist calling to her.

"I'm sorry, but nopony seems to be in the room."

        "I see, thank you," Rarity replied, turning back to Pinkie Pie. "Sorry, but there isn't much more I can do."

        "What!?" Pinkie Pie gasped, "but can't we storm the room or something? We can't just give up yet."

        "You can't, I can." Rarity replied with a huff, turning to the exit and readying her march to leave the pink pony's mad clutches.

        "Nope!" Pinkie Pie answered her back, slipping a hoof through Rarity's cloak and effortlessly dragging her to the stairs. "C'mon! We have a dragon to save."

        "What the?" Rarity babbled in confusion before coming to her senses. "I-I will have no part in this barbarity! Do you hear me?" Rarity struggled against Pinkie Pie's vice hold on her, wanting nothing to do with whatever maddening scheme Pinkie Pie had prepared, but she was surprisingly strong, easily overpowering Rarity. "Let go! I have a sister to attend to!"

        "You have a sister? I didn't know that." Pinkie Pie responded. "You should introduce me to her!"

        "Let go of me you ruffian!" Rarity screamed as Pinkie Pie dragged her up the stairs.

        With reluctance, Rarity lead Pinkie Pie to the hotel room where Amethyst Star was staying. She knocked on the door, but no one answered. "See," she said with a groan, "can I go now? I did what I could and that's it."

        "Try knocking harder," Pinkie Pie suggested.

        "I will not. You want this door open? You try knocking than." Rarity stepped aside, allowing Pinkie Pie to approach the door. She instantly regretted this decision when Pinkie Pie took her giant pinwheel and chopped down the door. "T-that's not a knock!" she stammered, wide-eyed and mouth open. "That is breaking and entering!"

        "This pony is screwier than I thought," Applejack muttered in disbelief. "We're in plain sight for crying out loud! Are you trying to get arrested?"

        Pinkie Pie ignored them as she casually trotted into the room. "We can't get in trouble because nopony is home. Take a look."

        "We long established that nopony is home already!" Rarity yelled back in frustration. "That still doesn't give you the right to act like a complete barbarian and chop down doors. I am done with any part in this, and if anypony comes to me about this mess," Rarity gestured into the room, it was a complete disaster zone, "you're going to be the one to pay."

        "But I didn't make this mess. I only broke the door down."

        "What?" Rarity took a closer look into the room, once again noticing its disastrous state. "Odd, I always took Amethyst for the orderly type? Well, whatever. They aren't here, neither should we be, and I don't know where they are. Now, may I leave without fear of you assaulting me again?"

        "Nope!" Pinkie Pie replied as she started opening drawers. "C'mon, maybe there are some clues in here on where they could be."

        Rarity took a step into the room. "Really, what are the chances of WAH" She took another step in, and she slipped on a piece of paper and fell on her back, the offending document drifting gracefully onto her face. "Really..." she groaned.

        "Ooh, let me see!" Pinkie Pie grabbed the paper off of Rarity's face. "Ooh! It's a note!"

        Good work on acquiring the target. I'm sending somepony to meet up with you at Fort Stratus.

        "What is this? A party invitation?" Pinkie Pie offered the note back to Rarity.

        Rarity's eyes shot wide open, deliberately examining each letter of the message with scrutiny and attention to detail. "This has Blue Blood's personal seal on it!" She hissed, pointing at the blue wax seal in the corner. "But, what does it mean? What is he doing?"

        "Blue Blood? Who's that?" Applejack asked.

        "He's the head of the church in Caballus," Rarity explained, "but what target is he asking Amethyst to deliver?"

        "What if he’s talking about Spike!?" Pinkie Pie gasped. "We need to go save him, right away!"

        "We still don't know if they actually have Spike. This 'target' thing could be anything." Applejack groaned. "We can't jump to conclusions and go rushing into things."

        "Uh, girls," Fluttershy piped up, "I... I think I found a clue." Fluttershy stood by a table counter with various jars of green liquid and bits of purple scales littered on it. "These look like the same shade as Spike's," she said with a hint of worry creeping into her voice.

        "Oh nelly," Applejack whispered, feeling blood drain out of her face. "You don't think they hurt the little guy, do you?"

"We have to find Spike, and quick!" Pinkie Pie screamed. "To Fort Stratus!"


        Fort Stratus stood a few miles to the west of Fillydelphia, abandoned by the pegasi who built it and slowly giving way to the passage of time. Pinkie Pie lead everyone to the dilapidated almost-ruins. "Here it is," she announced, "Fort Stratus. It was once a fort for the Cloud Kingdom before some resisting ponies snuck in and set off a bunch of bombs, but this was before King Meanie Wings went and conquered the border himself."

        "Just, what the hay kind of place is this?" Applejack took in the sight before her, a large complex of technology she had never seen before. Coupled with the state of the fort, she had numerous misgivings about going inside the building. "This is dangerous, you know."

        "The message said they would be meeting at Fort Stratus, not inside," Rarity responded lazily. "Seriously, how did I get caught up in all this?"

        "You can leave whenever," Applejack shot back with a tone of indifference. "I can do without your nagging through all this. This pink pony already has a talent for causing migraines for me as it is; wouldn't surprise me if was her cutie mark in some way."

"Actually, my cutie mark is balloons, see." Pinkie Pie moving aside her coat tails, exposing the triad of party balloons that were her cutie mark. "It symbolizes my love for parties!" she explained earnestly. "Why, I can still remember my first party. Wanna hear about it?"

Applejack ignored Pinkie Pie. "I've got apples for a cutie mark, and it means I buck apples for a living," Applejack drawled out her sentence deliberately as a mild insult directed at Pinkie Pie. "I would be bucking apples right now if a certain crazy pink pony didn't rope me into all this craziness."

"Oh silly, you buck apple-trees, not apples."

"Let's just keep going already!" Applejack yelled, ending the conversation. "We're not going to get anywhere just yapping to each other." She started to circle the large fortress, her senses piqued for any signs of pony activity.

"Right behind you, A.J." Pinkie Pie replied, sticking close to Applejack, much to her discomfort.

SKIT: Worldly

Applejack: Hey, Pinkie, just how did you know about Fort Stratus

Pinkie Pie: I traveled to Fillydelphia with Trixie before. She's actually the one who told me about this place.

Applejack: Really? That raving mare? She struck me as one who needed to be kept in a white jacket.

Applejack: Which does make perfect sense for why you would be traveling with her.

Pinkie Pie: She may have that odd habit of speaking in the third person, but she's awfully knowledgeable about stuff.

Applejack: Like a scholar?

Pinkie Pie: Maybe. I've asked Trixie a ton of times about her life, but she never shares anything.

Notice: Pinkie Pie earned the title Knowledgeable!

SKIT: End


Twilight stirred in her bed, slowly opening her eyes. "Ugh," she groaned, slowly shaking the exhaustion out of her body. "W-what happened?"

        "You collapsed from exhaustion," Nurse Redheart informed her. "You ran off, looking for your Spike, and collapsed from exerting too much energy."

        "Oh yeah," Twilight groaned, "that's right." She massaged her temples, slowly clearing away the fog in her mind. "Spike! Is he here? Where is he?"

        "I'm sorry, but he isn't here." Nurse Redheart replied. "Before you freak out, I should tell you that your friends went looking for him so you can stay here in bed and rest."

        "My friends?" Twilight looked back at Nurse Redheart, confused. "You don't mean Applejack and the others?"

        "They aren't your friends?

Twilight was about to answer her and she wanted to say no, that those crazy ponies she had spent the past few days with had nothing to do with her, but the words never came. She, instead, stared down at her bed-sheet, trying to find and answer there. Are they my friends? "They all went looking for Spike for my sake?"

        "Yes, they did it so you could stay in that bed and get better. If that isn't a friend, then I just don't know what is."

        "Thank you, but I'm feeling better now." Twilight leapt out of the bed, trembling as she hit the ground. "Where's my spear?"

        "Didn’t you hear me?" Nurse Redheart groaned. "I said you need to rest, you're in no shape to be up and about.”

        "How long have they been gone?"

        "They left a few hours ago, now please get back in bed?"

        "Thank you," Twilight replied, spotting her spear in a corner of the room.

        "You're still not well enough," Nurse Redheart tried to explain in a futile attempt to calm Twilight. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"

        "I'll take it easier this time," Twilight's answer didn't make Nurse Redheart feel any better, "but I'm worried for... well for my friends. So I need to find them and Spike." Twilight bowed one last time before taking off. She galloped down the halls of the arena, keeping her stamina in check to keep from passing out again. "Applejack!" She cried out. "Fluttershy! Pinkie Pie! Spike! Where are you!"

        Twilight didn't pay much attention to where she was going, so it was inevitable that she would bump into another pony. She ran into a blue pegasus, tripping and collapsing to the floor, taking the rainbow-maned pegasus down with her.

        "What's with everypony running into me!" The pegasus, who Twilight recognized as her last opponent in the arena match, complained. "Huh, it's you again."

        "Sorry," Twilight apologised. "Rainbow Crash, was it?"

        "I'm not the one crashing," Rainbow Dash snapped back, "and it's Dash, not Crash."

        "Again, I apologize, but I'm busy looking for... for my friends. The orange pony with me in the match and the nut jobs who hi-jacked the announcer's seat."

        "Oh, those guys," Rainbow Dash laughed. "Best commentary ever. I'm thinking of using ten seconds flat as a catchphrase. What do you think?"

        "I think I'm busy."

        "Well," Rainbow Dash grinned, "I might have seen where they were heading, and I might be willing to tell you."

        "Really?" Twilight turned back to Rainbow Dash, hoping she might divulge the information she needed.

        "But, it'll cost you."


        "How big is this thing!?" Applejack complained. "We've been circling it for close to an hour now and still no sign of any ponies or an annoying iguana. We're in plain daylight for crying out loud but we can't find anypony!"

        "Maybe they're hiding," Pinkie Pie suggested. "I know that if I was trying to have a super secret meeting I would want to hide it somewhere nopony would find me."

        "I'm not going to justify that with an answer."

        "Actually, she may have a point," Rarity chimed in, much to everyone's, especially Applejack's, surprise. "Meeting all the way out here is suspicious as is, and we already found some rather incriminating evidence to something sinister going on. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say these ponies do not want to be found."

        "I guess you have a point," Applejack hesitantly agreed.

        "You mean I have a point!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "Still, what are they trying to do with Spike?"

        "Well, if he really is a dragon, any number of things really," Rarity started to explain. "Just about any part of a dragon can be used to make some rather powerful potions. From bones to scales, dragon parts are valuable!" Rarity's mind swirled with ideas of what she would do with so many bits. "Oh how much easier my life would be with that many bits."

        "Maybe," Applejack interrupted her train of thought, "but he doesn't deserve to be treated like some ingredient for a fancy potion. Get your head out of the clouds and let's find him."

        "Hmph," Rarity groaned.

        Fluttershy spoke up. "Maybe they're inside the fortress?"

        "That can't be a good idea." Applejack took another look at the building; it looked like any sudden breeze would cause it to topple over. "It seems kind of dangerous to go inside."

        "We can just take a quick check," Pinkie Pie suggested. "We can be out lickety-split before we have any chance of being crushed."

        "Well, all right." Applejack gave in, and they all began searching for the entrance.

        "You know," Rarity started, "I think I hear something." Her ears shot upwards, listening for the slightest of sounds. "Hoofsteps!" She galloped off in the direction she heard the steps emanating from. A trio of unicorns dressed in Caballus robes stood by the entrance to the fort, vigilant for any movement.

        "Well, I reckon we found them." Applejack walked up to the  unicorns. "Say, have you seen a little purple lizard? He's about this big and-"

        "Nopony is allowed past this point," one of the unicorns uttered back at her. "Leave, now."

        "Will you listen to me," Applejack yelled back, frustrated. "Purple lizard, green spikes, no sense of cooking. Have you seen him?"

        "Leave!"

        "Forget it. Hey, prissy pony, you try!"

        "My name is Rarity!" Rarity snapped back, approaching the unicorns. "Listen, we're looking for a purple lizard by the name of Spike. Per chance, have you seen him?"

        "We're here on official orders from Blue Blood, Rarity," one of the unicorns scoffed at her. "I suggest you don't interfere with what happens here, or we will make your life difficult."

        "More so than it already is? I would like to see you try," Rarity snapped back.

        "Whoever the hay Blue Blood is, his lackey's got our iguana!" Applejack walked up to the closest unicorn, her eyes narrowed on him. "Let us through. Last chance. I can't be held responsible for what happens next," she warned them.

        "Leave!" the unicorns shouted again, ignoring Applejack.

        "Don't say I didn't warn you. Pinkie Pie, your turn." Applejack backed away from the unicorns.

        "What are you talking about?" the perplexed unicorn asked, and was answered almost immediately.

        "Crazy Devastation!" Pinkie Pie fell out of the air, her giant pinwheel spinning as she slammed it down between the unicorns, creating an explosion that left a crater on the floor and knocking the unicorns unconscious. "Easy peasy."

        "W-What!?" Rarity stood still, stunned at the level of destruction the pony before her was capable of causing. "That was? But? You did?" She continued to blather on, incapable of creating a coherent sentence. "How did... how did you do that?"

        "Remember what I said, Miss Rarity," Applejack replied, finding amusement in the high-strung pony's flabbergasted mumbling. "This pony don't make a lick of sense."

        "But... still!"

SKIT: Did I say that?

Pinkie Pie: Say, Rarity?

Rarity: What?

Pinkie Pie: What did those unicorns mean by “make your life difficult”?

Rarity: Oh, well, suffice to say my life in Caballus boils down to constant manual labor.

Applejack: Wait, hold that thought. You, doing hard labor? You just don't seem like the type.

Rarity: Oh, be quiet. I work at the grand church where they either have me mopping floors or repairing old uniforms.

Applejack: And Blue Blood is the one who runs that church?

Rarity: Yes, don't remind me.

Pinkie Pie: So they would tell Blue Blood? Then what?

Rarity: I don't know. Probably get assigned more shifts, or worse, go on another date with that inconsiderate, tactless, ill-mannered excuse for a pony.

Applejack: Date?

Rarity: Did I say that? Moving on.

SKIT: End

        "What the hay is all this stuff?" Applejack looked all around her, examining the high-tech walls of the fortress. Everything about it was foreign to her, from the general structure, to the amount of technology used, and even the aesthetic bugged her. "I've never seen any place like this before."

        "It's all harmotech," Pinkie Pie explained. "When you're as rich as the Cloud Kingdom, you can afford to make these high-tech fortresses to spy on other ponies with. Kinda creepy, but it's all broken now."

        "Dang, I bet I could have made a killing if just some of this stuff still worked."

        "And I thought the pink one was the bandit," Rarity mocked Applejack.

        "Watch your mouth, missy," Applejack shot back, threateningly.

        "Uh, girls," Fluttershy spoke softly, but still getting her companion's attention. "I think I can hear voices coming from the top." Everyone went silent, priming their ears to the faintest noises. The voices came in, difficult to make out, but distinct pony voices coming from somewhere above them. "Do you think it's them?"

        "Come on!" Applejack charged down the hallways, looking for a flight of stairs and her hoof-steps echoed across the building.

        "Looks like a party is about to start!" Pinkie Pie squealed. "Let's go, Fluttershy."

        "Can we think about this?" Fluttershy whimpered as she was dragged off.

        "Oh for the star's sake," Rarity moaned as she brought up the rear. "This is a very bad idea."

        Working together, they managed to find a set of stairs which they followed to the roof, where the source of the voices was coming from. Applejack stepped out first, and before her stood multiple unicorns dressed in magenta cloaks. In the center, between them, was a cage containing a sleeping Spike. "Well, if I didn't know any better," she started, "I would write this off as just suspicious."

        "Wow, there's a lot of them!" Pinkie Pie pointed out, pursing her lips and eager to see what will happen next.

        "You're insane if you want to pick a fight with some of the most powerful unicorns in Caballus," Rarity groaned, now gasping for air as she finally surmounted the stairs.

        "Rarity," a pink unicorn with a blue mane called out, "what are you doing here?"

        "Oh, A-Amethyst!" Rarity stuttered. "Well, you see, these ponies are friends of the mare who that particular lizard belongs to. Why, I was almost abducted. You could say I was forced against my will!"

        "You best not be selling us out." Applejack shot a scrutinizing gaze at Rarity.

        "N-No! Nothing like that." Rarity turned back to Amethyst Star. "Could you please give us back the lizard?"

        "We have direct orders from Blue Blood to turn this dragon over to him," Amethyst Star answered back. "Rarity, I order you to stand down. Return to Fillydelphia, and take these ponies with you. You should be preparing for the Summer Sun Celebration tomorrow, remember?"

        "Yes, like saying a few tired lines needs preparing," Rarity groaned. "Well, you heard her. Let's go." Rarity tried to pull Applejack away from the scene, but she wasn't budging.

        "Now, Miss Star was it?" Applejack started, "Where I come from, we don't take kindly to kidnappers, foal or otherwise. So let's be civil about this, or else."

        "Or else, what?" Amethyst Star's horn began to glow with a purple light; she pointed it at Applejack, the other unicorns gathered behind her following her lead.

        "Oh, I was afraid of this," Rarity sighed.

        "Your fancy unicorn magic doesn't scare me," Applejack gloated. "I'll show you the strength of an honest work horse!" She was lifted into the air, surrounded by a purple aura of magic. It was a familiar sensation to when Twilight had caught her before with her own magic, save for one thing: Twilight's magic was far stronger. Applejack struggled against the pull of magic on her body, and she was even winning. "You've got nothing!" she cried out as the other unicorns worked together to restrain her. "Girls, help!"

        "It's party time!" Pinkie Pie jumped at the closest unicorn, twirling her body to increase the force she would hit the unicorn with.

        "What the-" the unicorn cried out as he fell under Pinkie Pie's weight.

        "Grab her!" Amethyst Star order to the other unicorns.

        The unicorns broke their concentration on Applejack as they jumped on Pinkie Pie.

        "So much attention, just for me?" Pinkie Pie laughed as she grabbed her giant pinwheel with her teeth. "Dizzy Punishment!" She spun the pinwheel around herself, flinging an unsuspecting unicorn and herself into the air. "Fluttershy! The combo!"

        "Oh, okay." Fluttershy whipped out one of her sickles and flung it at the air-bound unicorn. "Aching Chains!" The sickle came to life and coiled itself around the unicorn. With a tug from Fluttershy, the unicorn was slammed into the ground. "S-sorry about that."

        "This is crazy!" Rarity cried. "W-We shouldn't be fighting!"

        "Traitor!" A unicorn fired a bolt of lightning at Rarity, prompting her to flinch.

        "Wha- who did that!" Rarity turned on the offender, the four mirrors along her robe coming to life and floating behind her, coated in an aura of blue magic, her own horn giving off the same light. "Eternal light, ever true and undefiled, grant this wanton sinner before me the majesty of thy judgment!" Rarity's mirrors began to glow, before firing off several beams of light. "Ray!" Light spread across the roof of the building, blinding and burning any pony foolish to get caught.

        "Let go of me!" Applejack gritted her teeth as she gave the magic around her one last pull, but she couldn't break free. "Dang it!"

        "Give up," Amethyst Star commanded her. "I could fling you off the side of the building if I wanted to, and I doubt you would survive the fall."

        "Let me warn you that apple family ponies are made of some really tough stuff. Better make sure that fall kills me before I come back up and buck you!"

        "Aren't you cocky," Amethyst Star sneered.

        Twilight's voice erupted from the sky. "Burning Spear Fang!" A unicorn with a mane and tail of fire barralled out of the sky, landing right in front of Amethyst Star. The resulting shock-wave of the attack created a surge of fire, forcing Amethyst Star to break her concentration on Applejack and retreat away.

        Applejack landed on her hooves, and turned to Twilight. "Well, I wasn't expecting to run into you up here," she commented, stretched her legs. "Are you okay to be out of bed? How did you even find us? Or get up there?"

        "First: No, I'm not fine to be out of bed," Twilight laughed, her mane and tail returning to normal, "and it was rather easy to find you all. You guys make a rather conspicuous group when put together, so enough poking around Fillydelphia gave me all the clues I needed. As for how I got up there... well, I hitched a ride."

        "Hitched a ride?"

        "I see a fight!" Rainbow Dash dove out of the sky, tackling a unicorn and knocking him unconscious.

        "Rainbow Dash!?" Pinkie Pie blurted. "You're here too!?"

        "You girls are so going to owe me one," Rainbow Dash laughed, "but first I need to clean house!" Even though she had forgotten her sword, she was still going to fight.

        "You brought her with you?" Applejack eyed Twilight.

        "She's quite useful," Twilight responded. "Did you all really come all this way just to find Spike... for me?"

        "Yeah, I owe you one for putting you through that haymaker of an arena. Look over there, Miss Twi'." She pointed over to the cage in the center, Spike unconscious and trapped within.

        "Applejack, thank you."

        "Save all that for later," Applejack replied. "First, we have to rescue the sleeping prince."

        "Right!" Twilight's horn began to glow, the fringes of her mane and tail beginning to ignite as magic coursed through her body.

        Amethyst Star was stunned. The unicorn before her was not an ordinary one. "What the? What level of magic is this?"

        "Twilight! Cover me!" Applejack threw herself at Amethyst Star. "Beast!" she cried out as she swung one of her hooves, blue energy roaring forth from it.

        Amethyst Star casted one of her own spells in retaliation. "Stone Wall!" A barrier of earth materialized in front of Applejack, halting her assault.

        "Twilight! Got anything?" Applejack yelled back.

        "Try this!" Twilight felt her magic flow out of her body. She directed the flow to Applejack, allowing her magic to wrap itself around Applejack's hooves. "Try not to get burned!"

        "Don't you worry about that!" Applejack tackled the earthen barrier again. "Fiery Beast!" Applejack's natural energy mixed with Twilight's magic, causing a lion's head of fire to emerge from Applejack, completely decimating the wall. "Gotcha!"

        "Impossible!" Amethyst Star cried as Applejack continued to charge at her.

        "Eat this!" Applejack slammed her body into the ground, calling forth another explosion and numerous pillars of fire.

        Amethyst Star managed to block most of the blow with a green barrier, but in doing so she spent too much of her magic: she wouldn't be able to strike back. "What the hay was that?" she groaned.

        "Just a little teamwork," Applejack replied back, cracking her hooves. "So, you can either give back Spike, or get a hoof in the face."

        "Twilight!" Pinkie Pie called out. "Somepony is trying to grab Spike's cage- Surprise Infliction!" Another unicorn tried to attack Pinkie Pie, but she managed to counter it with an upward swing of her pinwheel, drawing a crescent shaped gleam in the air.

        "Spike!" Twilight winked behind Amethyst Star, closing in on Spike's cage, and next to that cage stood a cloaked pegasus. "You won't take him!" she screamed, her mane totally consumed in fire.

        The cloaked pegasus took hold of Spike's cage, flaring its wings to take off.

        "Flame Lance!" Twilight conjured a spear of fire, pointing at the pegasus trying to make off with Spike. She jumped, grabbing the spear with her teeth, and riding it at her target.

        The pegasus unsheathed a double-bladed sword from within its cloak. With a swing, the sword clashed with Twilight's spell, forcing Twilight down to a stalemate. "You won't take Spike!" Twilight screamed, enchanting her spear to attack the pegasus from behind, forcing it to retreat. "We're done here!" The pegasus called out with a feminine voice. "This battle is lost. Retreat before we suffer more casualties." With a beat of her wings and incredible finesse, the pegasus took off into the sky, soon disappearing over the horizon/

        "Count your blessings." In a flash of purple light, Amethyst Star winked off, and one by one the other unicorns following suit, leaving Twilight and her companions alone on the roof.

        "Oh, this isn't going to end well for me," Rarity sighed.

        "Spike!" Twilight cracked the lock on the cage, carefully taking Spike into her fore-legs. "Spike, wake up!"

        "We should get him back to the nurse," Applejack suggested.

        "Yes, of course." Twilight held Spike close to herself. "Please be fine."

SKIT: Noisy

Applejack: Of all the ponies to show up out of nowhere, I would have never expected you to show up, Miss Twi'.

Twilight: Neither would I. I'm doing stupider things every day now. Pretty soon I'll jump off a cliff.

Applejack: I'll be sure to catch you before you do.

Rainbow Dash: Hey, aren't you forgetting somepony here.

Applejack: Oh yeah, you. I guess I also owe you some thanks.

Rainbow Dash: Oh, I want more than that.

Applejack: What?

Twilight: Ugh, just ignore her for now.

Twilight: But, who are you?

Rarity: Oh, I am Rarity from Caballus.

Twilight: You're from Caballus! Oh, I have so many questions about what it's like there.

Rarity: Uh, sure, no problem, darling.

Rainbow Dash: Pft, Caballus is nothing compared to the mighty and awesome Cloud Kingdom.

Rarity: I'm sure. Instead of a bumbling fool for a leader, you have a tyrant.

Rainbow Dash: You best not be insulting King Steel Wings while I'm around.

Rainbow Dash: Hey, fellow pegasus, you know what I'm talking about.

Fluttershy: Uh, actually, I live in the Everfree Forest.

Rainbow Dash: What!?

Applejack: We sure have all types in this group now. It's getting pretty noisy.

Pinkie Pie: I know, isn't it great!?

SKIT: End


        Nurse Redheart had just packed up the last of her tools. The combatants from the tournament were all treated and she could finally return to her clinic on the other side of town. That is, until her door was bucked open, and on the other side was Twilight with a sick looking baby dragon on her back. "Please," Twilight pleaded, her eyes tearing up, "can you treat him?"

        "I'll try," Nurse Redheart replied as she carefully moved Spike to a bed. She turned back to Twilight and behind her were five other ponies crowding the room and making the air feel dense. "Would the rest of you please wait outside?"

        The other five mares moved into the adjoining hallways, each collapsing on a bench from exhaustion. "Well," Applejack sighed, "I think I've had more adventure in the past few days than ever before in my life."

        "You need to get out more," Pinkie Pie giggled. "Adventuring is so much fun, like every day could be a big party, and it often is."

        "I don't need any more parties like that," Applejack shot back, her voice lacking the typical strength she had and instead coming out in short panting breaths. Her adrenaline was wearing off and fatigue setting in. "I need to go home, take my whooping, and rest."

        "W-Whooping?" Fluttershy squeaked.

        "It ain't nothing," Applejack replied tiredly.

        "I'm going to agree with the orange one on this," Rarity sighed. "This was murder on my mane."

        Rainbow Dash laughed. "I guess not everypony can have a perfectly stylish mane like mine all the time."

        "There is nothing stylish about that knotted rat's nest!" Rarity argued, all the while Pinkie Pie laughed over the scene unfurling. "Have you even heard of a comb?"

        "Everypony," Twilight called out.

        "Heya, Miss Twi'," Applejack answered her. "So how's the iguana doing?"

        "Somehow, he lost a lot of blood," Twilight replied, "but he'll be all right if he rests. Nurse Redheart and I are going to move him to her clinic where she can treat him better."

        "That's good to hear," Applejack replied, finally able to relax for the first time all day.

        "Okay, now that that's over with," Rainbow Dash butted in, "I think it's time for my payment."

        Twilight sighed. "You're horrible, you know that?"

        "That's not what I want to hear."

        "Oh Dash, she's the best. A cut above all the rest. With wings so strong she soars on high, she'll one day be the master of the sky." Twilight sung with a toneless voice.

        "Like music to my ears."

        "You mean to tell me you hauled your keister around like that... for a cheer!?" Applejack stared at Rainbow Dash. "You’re some level of crazy, I know that much."

"Like, crazy awesome!" Rainbow Dash spat back. "Yeah, I know."

"Nelly, get me away from this one before I have to buck her back down to earth with the rest of us."

"Hey, Dash!" Gilda's sour voice echoed across the hall. "Where the flock have you been?"

        "Hey, G.!" Rainbow Dash casually met Gilda's attitude with humor. "Beauty rest treat you well?"

        "Just answer the question, and for that matter what are you doing with these dweebs anyway?"

        "I helped them out with finding their dragon or something. You know, the lizard that took the announcer's table."

        "Whatever," Gilda grumbled, "let's just get away from these losers."

        "All right, all right." Rainbow Dash turned back to the ponies. "It's been fun," she said with a wave.

        "What, don't leave!" Pinkie Pie pleased.

"Sorry," Rainbow Dash replied as she walked away, "but duty calls."

"I should be taking my leave as well." Rarity got up from the couch, turning in the direction of the reserved rooms.

"You too?" Pinkie Pie sighed.

"I have a sister to look after, and we need to start packing for the Summer Sun celebration tomorrow."

"We'll be there!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

"Yeah, if we can find some bits," Applejack groaned, now left alone with Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. "I guess we better start looking for something."

"Excuse me," a finely dressed stallion approached the trio. "You're the pink pony that hijacked the announcer's chair."

"Yep!" Pinkie Pie replied.

"Are you going to haul her to jail now?" Applejack replied, a little too hopeful.

"Are you kidding? You and the kid were a hit with the crowd. I'm wondering if I can get you to do it again? We can pay you!"

"Bits!"

        "The universal language, baby!"


        "Twilight..." Spike mumbled as he opened his eyes. "Twilight, is that you?"

        "Spike!" Twilight cried as she hugged him. "You're okay!"

        "What happened? The last thing I remember was running from the guards..."

        "I'll explain it to you later, Spike, but right now you need to rest."

        "Yeah, I could do for a little sleep." Spike nodded off.

        Twilight carefully put down Spike. Now that she was sure he was okay she could let herself relax. She collapsed into a nearby chair wearing a relieved smile. "Good night, Spike."

        "Twilight!" Applejack barged in.

        "Shush!"

        "Oh, sorry, but we got bits for getting back to Canterlot, courtesy of the crazy mare's crazy announcing."

        "Back to Canterlot," Twilight mused, turning to her saddlebags lying in a corner. "Well, I would hate to miss the Summer Sun Celebration." What are the chances of Nightmare Moon appearing?

        "So how's the little fella'?" Applejack asked as she entered the room.

        "He's fine," Twilight answered, "and that's what matters. Applejack, thank you for everything you did. I have no idea how I can repay you."

        "That don't matter. I did it because I owed you for putting up with me in that arena. Besides, it just seemed like the right thing to do.


        Twilight stood outside of the Fillydelphia dome, housing the harmotech air-carriages that would take her back to Canterlot. Spike sat on her back, idly munching on some cookies she had bought him. "It's been quite an adventure, huh?"

        "I'm kind of sad that we're going back already," Spike answered her.

        "Sorry, but I don't plan on raiding every cave and ruin looking for the elements."

        "Dang, sounds like fun."

        "Hey!" Pinkie Pie called to her from the entrance of the dome. "Twilight! We're over here!"

        "Our friends are calling us," Twilight sighed.


I'll never forget that night

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        "We're above the clouds!" Pinkie Pie squealed as she gazed out with window of the flying-chariot; a large vehicle that could house a hundred ponies and fly through the air without any pegasi pulling it. She grabbed Fluttershy, pulling her to the window of she could see for herself. "This is amazing!"

        "I-I don't like being this high," Fluttershy squeaked as she retreated back to her seat. "H-how much longer till we land?"

        

        "We still got a few hours, 'Shy," Applejack answered; she wasn't feeling comfortable inside the flying-chariot either. "Just hold tight. That's what I'm doing anyway."

        "You all act like it's going to fall apart at any moment," Twilight laughed. "Haven't any of you ever ridden in one of these before?" Silence was Twilight's answer, prompting a groan from Spike as Twilight opened her mouth, just waiting to lecture. "It's built by applying the principles of magic to technology like all harmotech. By harnessing spells used by unicorns and the magic found in pegasi-"

        "Don't care," Applejack interrupted her, "just want to be on the ground again."

        "Me too," Fluttershy agreed.

        


        Hours passed before Twilight could finally see Canterlot coming into view. She let out a girlish squeal at the sight of her home town. "It's Canterlot! We're home at last, Spike."

        "You’re home," Applejack groaned, "but I still have to walk all the way back to Apple Acres, and I know Granny Smith'll be none too happy about me up and disappearin' for so long. Bandit, I blame you."

        "No problemo, A.J.!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed back.

        The flying-chariot landed in Canterlot. Fluttershy welcomed the feeling of the earth underneath her hooves. She could have kissed the ground. "How far are we from the Everfree Forest?"

        "If you can keep up a good pace it will be a half-day's journey," Applejack answered her before turning back to Twilight. "I guess this is where we part ways again, huh."

        

        Twilight fidgeted uncomfortably at the thought of parting ways. "Yeah, just when we started getting along."

        "Don't go bein' too friendly now: I kinda liked the arguin'," Applejack joked. "Miss Twi', you take care, and if you do pop around Apple Acres again, I'll see about Granny Smith giving you an actual discount."

        "So long as I'm not paying for any more of her bar."

        "Shall we get a move on then, Fluttershy?" Applejack asked.

        "Yes, please."

        "No!" Pinkie Pie screamed. "You don't need to go back to the dark and scary forest, Fluttershy," she pleaded, grabbing hold of the pegasus. "I'll take care of you. You can join the Dark Horns and be a trapeze artist when your wings get better!"

        "W-what!" Fluttershy squeaked. "I don't want to be a trapeze artist."

        "Well then, how about lion tamer? There's plenty of circus acts to try out for!" Pinkie Pie turned back to Twilight, still holding on tight to Fluttershy. "You'll be at the Summer Sun Celebration, right?"

        "I wouldn't miss it for the world," Twilight laughed.

        "Then we'll see you then!" Pinkie Pie gave her good-byes as she dragged off Fluttershy, who resisted in vain against Pinkie Pie's vice hold.

        "Personally," Applejack started, "I think she was safer in the forest than with that crazy mare."

        "Probably," Twilight agreed.

        Twilight escorted Applejack to the gates of Canterlot, Spike resting comfortably on her back. As the gates came into view, she started feeling apprehensive: she was walking a pony she could call a friend out of town, something she had never done before. This isn't like me, she laughed as the thought passed through her mind. "I guess this is it."

        "Sparkle!" a familiar voice called to her, cutting off Applejack. "Sparkle, is that you!?"

        "Pokey!?" Twilight answered back.

        "Thank goodness you’re back!" Pokey replied with an uncharacteristically empathetic inflection in his voice, jumping down from his post on the city gate.

        "Is something wrong? You're not usually... happy to see me, or anypony in general."

        "Canterlot is falling apart at the seams," Pokey informed her, his expression stern and serious. "Listen, a couple days ago a chimera attacked us and nearly destroyed the outer wall."

        "What!?" Twilight cried. "Is everypony all right? What happened?"

        "We managed to kill it, but now we need to repair the wall, and the earthquake cutting off the roads has killed trade with the other nations, and..." Pokey's voice went low, "recently, there have been these rumors. Like, if you stay out at night, especially at midnight, you can hear these weird whisperings."

        That doesn't sound good. "This is a rumor?"

        "I hope it's just a rumor," Pokey answered her. "I've been patrolling this city all night. I haven't heard any whispering, but Lyra says she hears it constantly at night and can't get a lick of sleep."

        "Is she okay?" Spike asked, concerned.

        "She's a tad on the ornery side lately, almost hair-trigger. She's even picked a few fights now and is constantly challenging one of the Cloud Kingdom commanders who's here for the Summer Sun Celebration. She's gotten pretty violent in all, possibly from the lack of sleep."

        "Thanks for the update," Twilight replied.

        "No problem, Sparkle. I need to get back to my post now. Be careful."

        "I always am," Twilight said lastly before Pokey disappeared behind the door to the gateway perch.

        "I hope Apple Acres isn't this bad." Applejack looked past the gate to the road home, rapidly being consumed with homesickness and worry. "Well, this is where we part ways, Miss 'Twi. I got quite a ways ahead of me," she sighed.

        "Take care, Applejack." A formal send-off was all Twilight could offer her. "The next time we see each other, you can just call me Twilight.".

        "Until next time, Miss Twilight," Applejack joked. "Good luck with your Summer Sun Celebration."

        "Later, Applejack." Spike waved one of his claws.

        "You too, iguana!" Applejack started down the road to Apple Acres, slowly getting smaller in the distance.

        "I guess we should head home as well now," Twilight sighed.

        Spike jumped back onto Twilight. "Wonder how Night Light is doing without us."

        

        "Probably a mess," Twilight chuckled, starting on her way back home.

        

        Pokey's words rang true about the state of Canterlot's citizens; everyone looked shifty-eyed and nervous of one another as if their friends were going to backstab them. Most of the regular street vendors were closed amidst the atmosphere of paranoia, leaving Canterlot to feel cold and hostile. "Do you think there really is something to the rumor?" she asked Spike.

        "Whisperings at night? Sounds too overdone," Spike replied with humor. "Like being in some two-bit scary story. It could just be a vampire playing a trick on the town, which would explain why Pokey hasn't heard anything but Lyra has."

        Twilight was still concerned about the rumor. "I would prefer a vampire over..."

        "Twilight Sparkle!" a loud and haughty voice cried out.

        "W-what!?" Twilight looked up to find a blue unicorn barreling at her, bringing lightning down with her. "Woah!" Twilight threw herself to the side, barely avoiding the blow. "Trixie? What are you doing?"

        "You're going to pay, Twilight Sparkle!" she cried out, concentrating lightning in her fore-hooves.

        "Are you still mad?" Twilight asked in disbelief. "And crazy enough to attack me like this in broad daylight!?"

        "I won't be satisfied ‘till I've seen you reduced to cinders, Twilight Sparkle!" Trixie cried out as she pointed her hooves at Twilight, forming three orbs of lightning. "Thunder Arrow!" Trixie unleashed her spell, the orbs of lightning sailing through the air and aimed at Twilight..

        Twilight stomped her hooves, forming a barrier of earth to protect herself. "We're in public! Are you insane!?" Twilight cried back.

        "Die, Twilight Sparkle!" Trixie began to charge another lightning spell around her hooves.

        "Shoot, gotta run," Twilight sighed as she turned tail and ran as fast as she could, Spike holding onto her.

        "Get back here!" Trixie cried, chasing after Twilight.


        "Apple Acres," Applejack sighed, "home sweet home." The town hadn't changed a bit in the few days she was gone. She trotted over the Granny Smith's bar, readying herself for the worst her sour grandmother had to offer, but the bar was closed. Applejack panicked, turning and galloping back to her family orchard.

        Applejack bucked open the door of her home and found her little sister, Apple Bloom, asleep by a burnt-out fireplace. "Apple Bloom." Applejack couldn't help but smile at the precious sight.

        "Applejack."

        Applejack turned to the voice. "Somepony call-"

        Applejack flew out of the house. Big Macintosh stepped into the outside air, closing the door behind him. "You have nerve, sis."

        "Granny Smith sent you to give me a licking?" Applejack grimaced as she rubbed her sore face. "Mighty nice of you to hold back."

        "This is from me, not Granny Smith, and It's not in my nature to hit a pony when he's not looking."

        "It's also not in your nature to hit a mare," Applejack laughed back, slowly getting back on her hooves.

        "Since when were you a mare?" Big Macintosh smiled back at his sister. "You've always just been Applejack."

        "I like your answer, and for that I'll be sure to not kick your flank too hard-"

        "Rhomb Shoulder!" Big Macintosh charged into Applejack, knocking the wind out of her, before throwing her into the sky.

        Applejack landed with a hard thud, her body ready give up on her. "You got a lousy naming scheme," she taunted him. "What happened to not hitting a pony they ain't looking!"

        "You just let your guard down." Big Macintosh offered a hoof to help up Applejack.

        "You ain't gonna hit me again, are you?"

        "You want me to?"

        "Actually, yeah," Applejack sighed. "I know I must have had the family worried sick, so this is probably the least of what I deserve." Applejack didn't take the hoof. Instead, she lay on the floor, her limbs spread out and aching, staring into the sky, slowly dimming from a setting sun. "The moon's gonna pop out soon."

        "Yeah, and?" Big Macintosh forced Applejack back onto her hooves.

        "You remember Miss Twi'? She went looking for these things called elements of harmony off in the Everfree Forest, where Old Canterlot is, and a crazy pink pony convinced me to join her so I could pilfer Old Canterlot for anything of value and return home, a burlap sack filled with stupid artifacts." Applejack closed her eyes, embarrassed. "I know it sounds ridiculous, but I thought I could make bits for our poor farm."

        "Applejack," Big Macintosh pulled up his sister and placed a hoof around her. "We'll be fine without a farm, or bits, or even apples; I told you this. We're apple family ponies, we don't go down easy, but when kin goes missing, well then we plum rot away."

        "Yeah..." Applejack choked back a few tears. "I thought we would get back before mornin', but that dang earthquake went and swallowed us up. Is it true that it tore up the roads out of Canterlot?"

        "Eeyup..."

        "Then, I guess we really are going to lose the farm: we got nopony to trade with now."

        "Actually," Big Macintosh couldn't hide his grin, "we got a job selling apples at the Summer Sun Celebration with a rather generous offer from Caballus."

        "Wait, Caballus?" Applejack's mind went back to the Caballuns that tried to kidnap Spike.

        "Yeah, Caballus."

        "Well," Applejack sighed, "we've got a job, and a cart full of apples to sell," she laughed.

        "You know you need to face Granny Smith now, right?" Big Macintosh asked her.

        "Is she still awake?"

        

        "Hasn't slept a wink since you disappeared."

        "Shoot," Applejack cursed. "She inside?" Big Macintosh nodded. "Of course. Time to take the worst of it." Applejack got up, stretching her legs for what she was sure was going to be the beating of her life, the kind that made chimeras seem like little bunny rabbits.

        "Granny Smith," Applejack announced as she walked into the house, again, "I'm home."

        "You little brat!" Granny Smith popped out of nowhere, swinging at Applejack with her tired and old hooves. "What they hay were you thinkin'!" She slugged Applejack, sending her spiraling out of the house again. "Worrying your family like- like-" Granny Smith was interrupted by a fit of coughing. "Like... like... dang it, girl, I raised you better than this!" She coughed again, covering her mouth with her hoof.

        "Granny!" Applejack rushed to her side. "Are you okay?"

        "This is nothing, but you!" Granny Smith kicked Applejack into the air, jumped up and kicking her back to the ground, leaving an indention on the floor. As she landed, she placed a hoof on Applejack's chest, pushing her deeper in. "Do you know what it's like to live in a house with a couple of crybabies!? Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh wouldn't stop bawling for their darn sister! I couldn't get a wink of sleep!"

        "I'm sorry, Granny Smith," Applejack coughed back, her head swimming in pain.

        "You apologies to Bloom yet?"

        "No, but I will when she wakes up."

        "Wake her up and apologies, now!" Granny Smith yelled at her with sour breath. "I need to get some darn shut-eye." She turned back to the house, her joints creaking with every step.

        With Granny Smith's beating over with, Applejack could finally relax. She struggled to pull herself out of the self-shaped hole in the ground, but she couldn't budge an inch. "Hey, Big Macintosh, can I get a little help here?"

        Big Macintosh grinned to himself as he pulled Applejack up. "How you feelin'?"

        "Big Macintosh, in the past few days I've been beaten up, shocked, dropped out of the sky, and almost eaten by kobolds, and I would rather go through that again than get bucked around by Granny Smith," she chuckled before turning back to Big Macintosh. "Did you really cry?"

        Big Macintosh blushed despite his deep red coat. "You're my sister, and I get worried with how bull-headed you are."

        "Can't blame you for that."

        "Like I'm scared of you," Applejack nudged her brother in the shoulder. "Thanks for holding the fort for me."

        Applejack walked back into the house for the third time. She couldn't help but wonder if Apple Bloom was going to throw her out of the house too. She would be proud of her little sister if she could, but she was in too much pain as it is. She nudged Apple Bloom awake. "Hey, Apple Bloom, wake up."

        "Applejack?" Apple Bloom yawned. "Applejack!" she dove into Applejack's fore-legs. "You're back!"

        "Not gonna give your sister a hard one?" Applejack teased her. "You wouldn't be the first."

        "I'll have time to pummel you later!" Apple Bloom yelled back. "I just want my sister right now."

        "Yeah, I just want my sister right now too."

        "Hey, A.J.," Big Macintosh called to her. "We need to get ready for the Summer Sun Celebration."

        "Can I come too?!" Apple Bloom begged, her wide eyes still tearing up.

        Applejack ruffled her little sister’s mane. "You sure can."

   


        Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Snips and Snails sat outside of one of lower Canterlot's modestly priced restaurants, a sparse meal spread out before them. "And then what happened!?" Snips eagerly asked Pinkie Pie, as he and Snails listened to intently to her recounting of the past few days, Fluttershy awkwardly sitting right next to her.

        "Well, the guards were swooping in on us, so I pulled out my trusty party cannon and blew them away! Me, Fluttershy and Spike all took off to escape them while keeping up our announcing! Rainbow Dash and... what was the griffon's name? Gilly?"

        "Gilda!" someone answered her.

        "Yeah, that was it!"

        "Hey, dweeb!"

        "Oh, silly; I'm not a weed, I'm Pinkie Pie!" She turned around, finding herself snout to beak with Gilda, the griffon friend of Rainbow Dash. "Hi, Gilda! Where's Rainbow Dash?"

        "Over here, pink pony!" Rainbow Dash called from behind Gilda. "Hey, have you seen Commander Spitfire around? She's an orange pegasus with a fiery mane and armor a lot like mine."

        "Oh, I saw her yelling at a couple of pegasi who's armor I borrowed a couple days ago," Pinkie Pie excitedly answered.

        "What?" Rainbow Dash scratched her head, trying to piece together what Pinkie Pie said. "Wow, you're random, but at least I know she's here. Let's go find the commander, G."

        "Right behind you," Gilda replied. She shot one last dirty look at Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy before catching up with Rainbow Dash.

        "Wow! I've never seen a griffon before!" Snips chirped. "While you got to go out and have extra adventures, Snails and I were stuck here listening to Trixie go on and on about how she would get her revenge on that lavender pony. What was her name? Twinkle?"

        "Trixie sure has been obsessed," Pinkie Pie sighed. "It's like she’s a whole other pony now."


        "Did we lose her?" Twilight panted for breath, her back on the door of her home. "Is Trixie gone?"

        "I think so," Spike gasped. "Wow, she sure knows how to hold a grudge. You messed with the wrong pony, Twilight."

        "Oh, shut up, Spike. We're home an safe now unless she wants to break down the door and have the guards on her."

        "Sparkle?" A tired Night Light threw himself off of the sofa after hearing his daughter’s voice, galloping to the doorway and staring warily at Twilight. "Oh stars, it is you!" Night Light sighed with content before refocusing his gaze. "Thank goodness you're safe."

        "Yeah, it's been one wild trip," Twilight laughed.

        "Heya, Night Light." Spike hopped off of Twilight's back. "You eating well?"

        "All I've eaten is leftover stew. My sandwich recipe card went missing!"

        Twilight managed to hide her laughter as she addressed her father again. "Summer Sun Celebration is tonight, right"

        "Yes," Night Light responded weakly, holding out a couple of tickets to Twilight and Spike with his magic. "We need tickets to get in this time, so take these. It's also going to be, in part, an appeal to the nobles to help rebuild the city wall. It's a lot easier to get them to be charitable on Celestia's day. You know, supposedly celebrating harmony and what not." He paused, letting silence fill the room before addressing Twilight again in a much softer one. "So, how did your hunt for the Elements of Harmony go?"

        "Actually," Twilight sighed. "I only found one element." Twilight opened her saddlebags, revealing the single element of harmony she had found. "Here it is, the one element of harmony I could find in Old Canterlot," she sighed. "It wasn't even in a castle. I found it in an old building that might have been an art exhibit at some time, so I guess the entire legend got mixed up somewhere."

        "Is that really an element?" Night light touched the rock with his hoof, and instantly felt the powerful force of magic within it. He shot away from it, as if scared of being consumed by the element's powerful magic. "This is incredible, Sparkle!"

        "It still just looks like just a rock," Twilight laughed, resting her body against it, "but how about we get ready for the Summer Sun Celebration?"


        The time had come for the Summer Sun Celebration and ponies filed into the upper Canterlot, tickets being taken at a gateway being guarded by Pokey and Lyra for the event. Pokey had taken to doing most of the word as Lyra struggled not to nod off, leaning herself against the fence while standing on her hind legs. "Hey, Lyra," he placed a hoof on Lyra's shoulder, prompting her to flinch at his touch.

        "What is it, Pokey?" Lyra slapped aside Pokey's hoof.

        "Why don't you take a break? This isn't the most demanding job I've ever been stuck with."

        "I'm fine, Pokey. I slept all day, so I can be up all night."

        "And you're doing such a good job."

        "Shut up before I play your requiem."

        "Hey!" a country-laden voice interrupted the two. "We're from Apple Acres. Got an order from Caballus to serve these apples."

        "You again," Pokey sighed, somewhat amused. Applejack had returned to Canterlot and brought her brother. "Yeah, I see your name on the list here: Applejack."

        "What about a Big Macintosh?" Big Macintosh inquired.

        "Apple Bloom," she muttered. "I ain't on the list either, am I?"

        "Well," Pokey looked back at the clipboard. "Oh, here you are, and right under it Big Macintosh. I swear, the ponies who write these things have nothing better to do but make my life miserable. You three come on in."

        "Thanks!" Apple Bloom replied, jumping with joy and leading her elder siblings into the celebration.

        "You lied," Lyra berated him.

        "I'll let you know when I care," Pokey shot back. "You want to go ahead and split up a family, be my guest. I'm not kicking out ponies because some nobles thought this should be a private celebration."

        "You're just a big softy," Lyra teased.

        "Hey, don't forget my prickly exterior: I have an image to maintain here!"

        "Hey, Pokey!" Spitfire called to him.

        "The representatives from Cloud Kingdom are here," Pokey sighed. "Normally, I would warn you about being pelted with rotten fruit, but you made quite an impression with the city during the chimera fight, so I think you're good to go." Pokey looked behind her. "Not your usual company."

        "They're still on probation. This is Rainbow Dash and Gilda. They should be on the list."

        Pokey turned back to the clipboard. "Yep, here they are. Enjoy the celebration."

        "Oh yeah!" Rainbow Dash cheered. "It's party time! Point me to the grub!"

        "Why the flock did we have to be sent?" Gilda complained. "I would rather be back at the barracks breaking in new recruits."

        Spitfire lead Rainbow Dash and Gilda into the celebration, leaving Pokey and Lyra to stew once again. "Still don't like her?" Pokey asked.

        "What's there to like?" Lyra spat back. "Besides, she's a pegasus and a commander in Steel Wing's army. Traits that, together, should be sounding alarms of suspicion."

        "Lyra, it's the Summer Sun Celebration, the day we celebrate the longest day of the year, when Celestia would raise the sun herself and Equestria would stand united in an age of harmony."

        "You really believe that Celestia could move the sun and moon?"

        "Why not?" Pokey laughed. "Maybe it was the only way she got us all to behave. Be good or I'll put the sun on a time out!"

        "Now you're just being terrible!" Lyra laughed. "It almost feels like old days."

        "Speaking of which: Bon-Bon is coming."

        "W-what!?" Lyra stuttered as she composed herself, falling onto her fore-hooves.

        "Good afternoon Pokey, Lyra," Bon-Bon greeted them. "How's guard duty treating you?"

        "It's nothing I've ever dreamed of," Pokey grimaced. "Think you can toss over a few bon-bons my way?"

        "If I give you any more, your teeth will rot out." Bon-Bon berated him. "Just accept my ticket and let me through."

        "Oh, Bon-Bon, you're so cold," Pokey cried mockingly, only to be slugged by the candy-maned mare. "Hey, that almost hurt."

        "I'll make it hurt next time," Bon-Bon replied. "Honestly, Lyra, how can you stand to deal with this guy?"

        "W-well," Lyra stuttered, "I-I just ignore him."

        "I guess you were always better at that than I," Bon-Bon shrugged, Bon-Bon retrieving a golden ticket from within her dress. "Will you let me in now?"

        "At once," Pokey replied, letting her through. "She hasn't changed a bit; still as mean and forceful as ever."

        "Would you have her any other way?"

        "Not for all the bits in the world!" Pokey laughed. "Look alive, we still have more guests."

        A Caballun cloaked unicorn approached Pokey.  "We're from Caballus," a gray unicorn with a disheveled blond mane introduced himself, behind him stood Rarity and her younger sister, a white foal with a pink and purple curly mane. "Goldlight, Rarity and Sweetie Belle."

        "Gotcha on the list, right here," Pokey replied, looking past Goldlight and gazing upon Rarity. "Say, want to grab something to eat later?"

        Rarity put on a catty smile for Pokey. "Sure, I think I saw a wonderful crepe shop a few blocks away, fifty bits each, and I would just love one. Are you hungry, Sweetie Belle?"

        "Yep!" the little filly replied.

        Pokey winced at the sudden back-lashing. "Funny, just come on in."

        "Of course," Rarity replied, leading Sweetie Belle into the celebration, Goldlight dragging behind.

        "Nice try," Lyra laughed at him.

        Pokey glared at her, challenging her. "I'd like to see you do better..."

        "She's not my type, too selfish," she joked.


        To the side of the festival, in the lower district, two mares and two colts were ascending the wall that separated lower Canterlot from upper Canterlot, using a rope they had managed to hook over the wall. "Are you sure about this?" Snips asked as Pinkie Pie led him up the incline. "If we fall we're gonna be squashed!"

        "Have I ever lead you guys astray?"

        "Eh, lots of times," Snails answered.

        "Ignore that one time!" Pinkie Pie shrieked back as she picked up her speed. "Just imagine all the ritzy ponies that will be dancing around just waiting for their bits to just wander off. We'll come back to Ponyville as heroes!"

        "Eh, if we don't get caught."

        "Just leave everything to your auntie Pinkie!"

        "Uh, auntie Pinkie," Fluttershy called to her, "aren't we a little too high now?"

        "We're almost to the top!" Pinkie Pie called back, trying to encourage her accomplices further. "The view from the top is breathtaking!"

        They all finally reached the top and looked out over the top, able to see all of the Summer Sun Celebration and everyone there. "Sweeeeet," was all Snips and Snails could say.

        "You're looking the wrong way!" Pinkie Pie squealed. "Behind you, sillies!"

        Snips and Snails turned around, gazing out over Equestria in its nighttime splendor. "It's beautiful," Fluttershy replied.

        "I bet you never see anything like this from the Everfree Forest."

        "No, not at all."

        "And you can see things like this all the time if you can leave it. You can travel with us! It will be like a party every day."

        "I... I don't have that kind of energy."

        "Please," Pinkie Pie pleaded. "We'll have so much fun. C'mon guys, put on your puppy-dog eyes."

        "I still don't know."

        "All right," Pinkie Pie sighed, collapsing over and gazing at the moon.

Such a sorrowful sight, my little pony…

        "Who said that!?" Pinkie Pie bolted upright, her eyes shifting from side to side. "Did you guys hear that?"

        "Hear what?" Snails replied.

        "A voice!" Pinkie Pie replied, twitching slightly. "Something... big is about to happen."

Such a sorrowful sight, my little pony…

"Shut up!" Pinkie Pie screamed.

        "We're here at last!" Twilight giddily exclaimed, surrounded on all sides by decorations for the celebration. "I can't believe I almost missed this. I could dance."

        "Instead of humiliating yourself, you should point me to the buffet!" Spike exclaimed as he jumped on top of Twilight's head, using the vantage point to scout where all the food was. "Spike wants a dumpling!"

        "I think they're by the western wall," Night Light replied. "Better hurry before somepony else takes them."

        "Not on my watch!" Spike hopped down and took off in the direction of the buffet.

        "Spike, wait!" Twilight cried as she chased after him.

        At the buffet, a blue pegasus was caught up in consuming everything in sight before anyone else could. "Dang, this spread is good. You sure you don't want some, G.?" she held a couple of spinach dumpling to her friend's face. "These things are delicious!"

        "I'll pass, Dash." Gilda shoved the dumplings away, trying not to gag. "I ate before we got here. I'm good."

        "Suit yourself!" Rainbow Dash dove back into the bar, gorging herself.

        

        "Out of my way!" Spike screamed as he jumped over Rainbow Dash.

        "Spike!" Twilight cried, still chasing him.

        "Apple Bloom!" another voice called out.

        "Applejack?" Twilight looked around.

        "Twilight?"

        "Spike!" Spike yelled out. "What, I thought we were doing a thing."

        Twilight grabbed Spike and threw him over her back. "You're not getting out of my sight again." She was afraid that, with some Caballuns around, someone might try and kidnap Spike again. "You're staying put."

        

        "Lame," Spike groaned.

        

        "Twilight," Applejack nudged her, "have you seen Apple Bloom, my little sister from before?"

        

        Twilight stretched her memory back to the day she first met Applejack. "Yeah, I remember her, but I don't think I've seen her anywhere. Is she here?"

        

        "She should be!" Applejack yelled back, worried. "Apple Bloom!"

        

        "Let's look for her together," Twilight suggested.

        On the other side of the celebration, Rarity was galloping all over the place, calling out her sister's name. "Sweetie Belle! Where are you?" She was beginning to strain her voice. "Honestly, can she stand still for just a minute?"

        

        "Well, of all the ponies to run into," Applejack called to her. "I guess you did say you were going to be here."

        

        "Ah, Applejack and Twilight, was it?" She offered a hoof to Twilight. "I guess we didn't get much chance to talk at our last encounter. Please believe me in that I had no part in the kidnapping of your pet."

        

        "I am not Twilight's pet!" Spike yelled out from behind Twilight. He hopped out from behind her to address Rarity directly, and froze.

        

        "You're not? My apologies."

        

        "N-no problem," Spike babbled. "Say, are you looking for a master chef and live-in butler?" he asked, completely enamored with Rarity.

        

        "Spike!" Twilight bit down on his tail and threw him over her back.

        

        Rarity stifled a laugh. "What an interesting little fellow you are, Spike."

        

        "Don't encourage him," Twilight sighed.


        Fluttershy continued to gaze out over Equestria, Snips and Snails sitting on either side of her as Pinkie Pie sulked a few feet away. Fluttershy wasn't sure how to handle the sudden mood shift of the forceful pony. Pinkie Pie had pushed her along the entire time with a cheerful attitude that, on a certain level, grated her.

        "You!" a new voice called to her. Fluttershy looked back to find a blue unicorn pointing an indignant hoof at her. "What are you doing with Trixie's assistants? The pink one usually isn't this quiet."

        "O-oh," Fluttershy recoiled further into her hood, trying to hide from Trixie's anger. "S-she... just said to shut up..."

        Trixie turned back to Pinkie Pie. "So she hears it too." She kicked Pinkie Pie, who kept to herself. "Yellow pegasus, have you seen Twilight Sparkle; the lavender pony that has ruined Trixie's life?!"

        "N-no," Fluttershy squeaked, growing fearful of Trixie.

        "Useless," Trixie groaned.


        Applejack and Rarity continued to search for their younger sisters, Twilight and Spike assisting them. "Apple Bloom!" Applejack yelled out as loud as she could.

        "Over here, sis!" was her answer.

        "Apple Bloom!" Applejack turned in the direction of the answer. Apple Bloom and two other fillies stared back at her: a white unicorn with a light pink and purple mane and an orange pegasus with a purple mane. "Uh, hi?" Applejack greeted them uncomfortably.

        "Sweetie Belle!" Rarity cried out indignantly as she approached the filly. "Just what were you doing?"

        "I made some new friends," Sweetie Belle replied. "This is Apple Bloom and Scootaloo!"

        Applejack continued to stare at the fillies until she was tackled by Scootaloo. "Hi, I'm Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash's number one fan! I saw you fight her in the arena, was it as awesome as it looked?"

        "Get off me," Applejack groaned. "All I know about that rainbow mare is that she's got too much ego for a pony her size."

        "Anyway, sis," Apple Bloom jumped on her sister, "we're now," Sweetie Belle jumped on Applejack as well.

        "The Cutie Mark Crusaders!" they all yelled out at once.

        "Girls, you're steppin' on my lungs," Applejack winced. "I need to breathe."

        "Sorry, sis." Apple Bloom and her two friends jumped off Applejack. "Anyway, we have to go do some crusading for our cutie marks! So I'll see you later!"

        "What, no, get back here!" Applejack yelled out in futility. The three fillies had already run off in a cloud of dust.

        "Sweetie Belle!" Rarity yelled out.

        "Well," Applejack sighed, "what's the worst that could happen?"

SPECIAL SKIT: Tales of Cuties!

Apple Bloom: Alright, crusaders. Now that we've assembled it's time to get down to business!

Apple Bloom: Cutie Marks!

Sweetie Belle: Cutie Marks!

Scootaloo: Cutie Marks!

Apple Bloom: So how can we get a cutie mark?

Sweetie Belle: I once asked Rarity, but she said she couldn't really remember.

Apple Bloom: Then we need to find ourselves some ponies who do remember. I bet there are a bunch around here.

Scootaloo: We should start with Rainbow Dash! Where is she?

Apple Bloom: Rainbow Who?

Scootaloo: Rainbow Dash! The most awesome pony ever!

Apple Bloom: Sorry, Scoots, but the most awesome pony ever is Applejack.

Scootaloo: Rainbow Dash!

Apple Bloom: Applejack!

Sweetie Belle: Uh, girls, shouldn't we be looking for some ponies to find their cutie mark stories?

Notice: Tales of the Cuties! Coming soon!

SPECIAL SKIT: End

        The time was ten minutes before midnight. With each passing minute, ponies around the celebration grew more apprehensive. The celebration would start with a keynote speech, usually delivered by a representative from Caballus.

        "Greetings, everypony," Rarity addressed the audience, "I am Rarity and have come here today to lead us in the traditional prayers to Celestia." A few small cheers and clops emanated from the audience, but the apprehensive and heavy mood drowned out any festivity to be had. Rarity composed herself, and started the sermon. "We gather here, on this day, to remember the time of Celestia, when she would rule the land of Equestria in a state of harmony." Rarity closed her eyes. "Let us remember Celestia," she said as the clock struck midnight.

We will remember so much more than that.

"What?" Rarity looked around, searching or the source of the voice. "Who's there?"

        "Behind you!" a pony from the crowd called out.

        Rarity turned around, behind her a growing mass of star-filled mist was gathering, growing, slowly forming into the form of a tall pony. With a crack of lightning, the mist opened, revealing a haggard jet-black pony with rusting blue armor.

        "W-who are you?" Rarity stuttered, backing away from the jet-black pony.

        A horn stretched out from the crown of the pony's head, and wings flared up from behind her. "Oh, my little ponies, it has been such a long time since I've seen your sunny faces," she hissed at the crowd, her voice dripping with ire. "A thousand years, to be exact."

        "Nightmare Moon," Twilight mouthed, frozen in fear. "This... can't be happening."

        "Oh," Nightmare Moon's ears twitched, "it feels good to hear another pony say my name." She gazed at the crowd, her manic eyes examining each one with soul-rending intensity. "But, do not fear, my little ponies, for I have heard your cries from deep within my moon. The lament, the crying, the agony. These are emotions I am very familiar with, my little ponies. You will all have what you desire and more. We all will, my little ponies." She smiled, exposing her jagged teeth. "The princess of the night has returned, and as her first decree it will last forever."


I couldn't blame them for what they did

They were weak and hungry

NEW GAME

>CONTINUE

OPTIONS

She had made her declaration, one that had struck every one of the ponies deep within their souls, and she relished in it. Nightmare Moon stood tall and proud before the crowd, almost regal, but her hatred for the ponies radiated out from deep within her piercing eyes and twitching lips. None of the ponies could stand to look her in the eye for more than a second before feeling her all-consuming enmity bore into their minds. "The night will last forever!" she declared again, laughing maniacally and throwing her wispy night mane into the air. Clouds gathered around her and threw lightning across the plaza just because she willed it. "Bow, my little ponies, before your Princess of the night! Princess of all Equestria!"

"And what if I don't!?" a raspy voice answered her. Rainbow Dash flew above the crowd, sword clenched in her teeth and wings flared in defiance. She did not fear Nightmare Moon. On the contrary, she was smirking, aching to make the first attack. "It sounds to me like you just declared war on the mighty Cloud Kingdom, so I'm gonna have to take you down!" There was no hesitation in her voice, only foolish pride. "Let's go, G.!"

"Are you crazy, Dash?" Gilda lazily asked. She flew up and took a defensive stance next to Rainbow Dash, but it was obvious that she was not only unafraid of Nightmare Moon, but downright disinterested with the display.

"More like crazy awesome," Rainbow Dash shot back. "The Cross Thrust formation, go!" She flew at Nightmare Moon's side, awing the crowd with her bravado. Many wondered if she really did stand a chance, some even hopeful that the Cloud Kingdom's military might would be reflected in the foolhardy mare; if the power of the winged unicorns was greatly exaggerated. With both herself and Gilda in position, Rainbow Dash and her partner dive-bombed Nightmare Moon swords and talons outstretched. "Shouha Juumonji!" they both shouted.

Nightmare Moon chuckled slightly, dissolving into a cloud of mist just moments before the pegasus and griffon could strike her, taking delight in watching them crash into one another and fall to the floor with a satisfying thud. Her mist drifted menacingly over the two, who were too dazed to notice the jagged-toothed mare slowly re-materialize, poking her half-finished head out of the cloud and drawing fear from the crowd. "Well, isn't this interesting," she scoffed, her menacing and haughty tone infuriating the pegasus. "A griffon, here in Equestria?"

"Up yours," Gilda spat back, her predatory eyes fixed on the almost-whole Nightmare Moon. "I've heard every griffon joke in the book."

"A pity, a thousand years gave me such a long time to practice humor." Her smug attitude disappeared, replaced by one of complete contempt and malice. Her horn gave off an eerie dark-cyan light and a circle of darkness opened up under the fallen knights. "Darkened roars that echo across the lands of turmoil, Bloody Howling!!" she cried, her voice sweeping across the crowd as magical screams of darkness erupted from the circle and consumed Rainbow Dash and Gilda, it's wailing sending chills through anyone who heard it's terrible song, save for Nightmare Moon who gazed from over her victims, malice shining in her toothy grin. "Had enough fun?"

"Stop!" Spitfire rushed to the stage, positioning herself between Nightmare Moon and her fallen soldiers. "You've won this fight. There is no reason to continue."

"They're still breathing, that's more than enough reason" Nightmare Moon dryly commented, unsettling Spitfire.

"They surrender, so let them go!"

"Commander!" Rainbow Dash yelled as she slowly dragged herself back onto her hooves. "I don't ever remember losing!" She hated to lose.

"Rainbow Dash, I order you to stand down or I'll have you court-martialed. Is that understood?" Spitfire's tone was serious and grave. Strong enough to finally convince Rainbow Dash to back down, mild cursing excluded. "Good," she sighed, slightly relieved. "Gilda, I hope you also understand."

"Yeah yeah, I get it," she hissed.

"Good." Spitfire turned back to Nightmare Moon, who stared back at her in amusement.

"Very entertaining," she chuckled, "but I never said I was done fighting. Anypony who dares to resist my will will meet a terrible and painful ending; I have an example to make."

"In that case," Spitfire spoke slowly, picking her words carefully, "I will take any responsibility for any cross-national crimes my subordinates are guilty of as their superior officer, your majesty."

Nightmare Moon's smile returned, slowly descending back to the ground with a low rumbling. "At least somepony here gets the message," she hissed, enveloping Spitfire in her aura of magic and hoisting her into the air. "Their crimes are your crimes now, and for the crime of lifting your blade to your Princess, I sentence you to life in the dungeons. Be grateful for my mercy, my little pony."

Spitfire found the aura around her fading and fell to the floor, unable to catch herself in the fall. She turned back and found that her wings were still bound by Nightmare Moon's magic. She quickly trotted over to Rainbow Dash's side and whispered something in her ear before being magically tugged away. "Just getting off some last words," she joked lightly. "I want my next of kin to know that I'm in merciful hooves."

"And mercy you will have." Nightmare Moon's words shot ire at the bound commander, and with a swish of her mane the fiery pegasus had vanished. "Now then..." Nightmare Moon finally turned back to the crowd of ponies, all staring back at her with a mix of fear and awe. "The time has come, my little ponies," she started, "for my, no our crusade across Equestria. I promised you better days, and you will have better days." Her last words were filled with a cruel sense of sincerity, genuine in ways that left many feeling hollow. "No longer will you go to bed with fear of hunger. You want your bits, well, I see plenty here!"

Various ponies across the crowd were lifted into the air, their hooves wiggling pathetically. The wealthiest ponies of Canterlot were all suspended in midair, becoming horrified as they were all one-by-one turned upside down and shaken. Bits rained out of pockets and purses and Nightmare Moon chuckled coldly, her amusement growing as she watched depraved ponies dive for the golden baubles.

"Out of my way!" Applejack growled as she bucked another pony off a pile of bits. "These here are mine, you hear!?"


"What the!?" Pinkie Pie squealed in panic, fidgeting from right to left. "What the hay is going on? Who is that pony? What's she doing? Why does she have horns and wings? How is she doing all that? Why do we call 'em Guinea Pigs when they aren't pigs!?"

"I've been wondering that too," Snails added.

"Pinkie, shut up," Trixie replied coldly. "That is Nightmare Moon, the former princess of the night." She flared her nostrils and gritted her teeth, a small bolt of electricity escaping her breath when she exhaled. "We're returning to Ponyville, now!"

"What!?" Pinkie Pie's head snapped to Trixie. "Shouldn't we stay longer!? I mean, it's raining bits! Now's the best chance we've got to make some real moolah! Why it would be a crime not to steal so many bits! Right, Snips, Snails?" She turned to the two colts, tiny glints of hope in her eyes.

"She does have a point," Snails drawled slowly. "We do need bits."

"We can make a ton real fast, Miss Trixie, if we just run down and grab some!" Snips piped in, eager to get his hooves on as many bits as possible.

Trixie glowered at the other three. It was obvious to them now that she didn't care about stealing. Trixie turned to Fluttershy, who was content to stick to the sides and be invisible, silent as ever. "Bits aren't going to mean hay soon," she angrily scowled at everyone. "I am saying this for your safety. I do not fear any Nightmare, but I cannot be bothered to protect weaklings like yourselves when things get dangerous."

Her words cut right through Pinkie Pie. "Trixie," she whimpered, "is something wrong?"

Trixie shot a menacing look at Pinkie Pie before turning towards the night sky. "I am leaving for Ponyville right now because I doubt the Nightmare Moon would like escapees. You're either coming or leaving, so pick. I'll be at the front gate, waiting. Don't waste my time." With a swish of her cloak and a stare as hot as lightning, Trixie jumped off the stone fence and descended into lower Canterlot, leaving Pinkie Pie to ponder over her ultimatum.

"Do you think she meant it?" Snips asked feeling downtrodden. "I mean, we've been getting along so well until now, right?"

"Boys," Pinkie Pie turned back to the crowd, "go back to Ponyville. Trixie's right: it's going to get really super duper dangerous here."

"Are you coming with us?" Snails asked.

"Nope." Pinkie Pie balanced herself on her back hooves, trying to look as tall and heroic as possible. "Auntie Pinkie Pie is going to save the world! But to do it, she needs to know you guys are safe, alright?"

With eager smiles, Snips and Snails nodded their heads furiously. "Sweet!"

"Stay safe boys." Pinkie Pie winked and grabbed Fluttershy, depositing her on her back. "You ready, Fluttershy?"

"What?" she squeaked. "I-I don't know about this. Can't I just return to my forest? That looks like a long way down, Pinkie Pie. Uh, why are you stepping closer? Shouldn't we think about this?"

"Nope!" Pinkie Pie smirked and jumped off the stone fence, dropping ten stories into what was once the Summer Sun Celebration, Fluttershy screaming the whole way down.


Twilight could barely stand to move. She was petrified in the gaze of the monster that took delight in watching the ponies scramble for bits, hurting one another to scrape up the little pieces of gold. The legend of Nightmare Moon's return had come to pass, and Twilight had failed to collect the Elements of Harmony. She failed, and she didn't have the nerve to do anything but gawk,. She scooped up Spike and holding him close to herself so that he felt her racing heartbeat."Twilight?" he whispered softly into her ear.

"The time has come, my little ponies!" Nightmare Moon announced with a booming voice that shook the entire city. "You want your bits and power? Then you will serve me! Equestria is mine for the taking, and you stand on the edge of opportunity. Serve me, and you will never go hungry again! Worship me, my little ponies, and you will never go cold on a winter's night! The era of the winged unicorns has come again, and I shall be the one to herald it!" She spread her wings and rose into the sky, the clouds above her twisting and turning in a raging mass of wrath and spite. Her cold words left everyone unsettled, but many found a kind of dark hope in the promise of an easier life. "Just remember, my little ponies: there is no escaping, for the night will last forever!" And she disappeared, dissolving into a star-filled mist that began to spread over the sky, blanketing the city in darkness.

Silence lingered over the crowd until one voice finally broke it. "What the hay was that about!?" Spike cried out, causing everyone to turn to him.

"Spike," Twilight sighed, burying her snout in the back of his jacket "I really need to teach you about tact."

"Sparkle!" called a familiar voice. Twilight turned to find Pokey galloping up to her, gasping for breath and words. "What-what was that-that thing!" his voice trembling, shaking with each word he uttered. "It had w-wings and a horn and was so b-big. The way it dissolved was unworldly."

"A fabled winged unicorn," Twilight whispered, casting her gaze downward. "Nightmare Moon, the monster who was once imprisoned on the moon by Princess Celestia during her reign." She turned back up and gazed at the moon, the only thing visible in the night sky now. It was clear and bright. The spots that had once formed the mare on the moon were gone. "It's all true..."

"Hey, keep it together," Pokey tried to comfort her. "Panicking isn't going to solve anything."

"Twilight!" another pony called to her. Twilight turned and find Pinkie Pie's giggling and bubbly face staring back at her, a wide-eyed and stiff Fluttershy strapped to her back.

"Where did you come from?"

"I jumped over the fence, silly," she answered, finding no absurdity in her own remark.

"So much for the guard," Pokey sighed. "Just where is everypony? I was lucky enough to have Lyra for assistance, and she's up and disappeared on me."

"Things seem to be going from bad to worse, don't they?" Twilight sighed, once again reminding herself that she could not panic, not with everyone around her agitated and fighting one another to grab the last few bits left on the ground.

"Yeah, they do," Pinkie Pie replied solemnly. She deposited Fluttershy and her giant pinwheel, easing her burden. "Twilight, we've got to find the other Elements of Harmony and stop that black snooty-pants! You're the only one with the know-how to find them!"

"What? Why me?" Twilight's mind wandered back to the single Element of Harmony back in her home. "I-I can't do it. I'm just a single pony!"

"Not with all of us together!" Pinkie grabbed Twilight and Fluttershy, bringing them uncomfortably close together. "We're friends, right? We can find the elements if we work together easy-peasy."

"No, we can't!" Twilight yelled as loud as she could.

"Sparkle, what is she talking about?" Pokey asked.

"Twilight found one of the elements," Spike answered, his mouth plugged up moments later by Twilight's hoof, much to his displeasure.

"Well..." Twilight droned off, but a call from her father interrupted her.

"Sparkle!" Night Light waved to her, beckoning her closer. Pinkie Pie let go of Twilight, allowing her to approach her father. "Twilight," his voice was low, careful not to be overheard, "do as the pink pony says," he said mournfully.

"What!?"

"Gather your friends and leave, quickly, before it's too late. Nightmare Moon is probably sealing the exits as we speak" His eyes were shifty and his heartbeat was slowly rising, filled with dread. "She won't let us go, not if she hears about the elements. A flying chariot is your best shot."

Twilight couldn't comprehend anything. She just felt a simple hopelessness in it all. "But, why?"

"You’re the only hope Equestria has. That's what your mother said."

Twilight's mind froze for a moment. "What did she say?"


"Curse that Goldlight for leaving me to fend for myself like this!" Rarity screamed. Even with a full moon and an empty cloudless sky, it was impossible for anyone to see further than their hooves because of Nightmare Moon. Rarity ingeniously used her mirrors and her own talent for light magic to illuminate her surroundings and found her light magic was just the trick.  "He must have run off with his tail between his legs the moment he saw that... that..." She couldn't bring herself to say Nightmare Moon's name. She had looked the monster right in the eyes, something that left her with an ice-cold lump stuck in her chest. "We need to get back to Caballus, quickly!" she told Sweetie Belle.

"But, sis!" Sweetie Belle argued back, "I need to find Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. When everypony started panicking, they went missing."

"Now is not the time for that, Sweetie Belle." Rarity ignored her sisters complaining, forcing her along as she tried to maneuver her way through the dark and desolate city. "Oh, why do I have to put up with all this!?" she groaned, indifferent to the growing number of ponies attempting to sneak up on her. "And what do all of you want, hm?" she hissed, drawing Sweetie Belle behind her.

A single bright-yellow unicorn approached her. She looked at Rarity with an air of disgust, her horn giving off a low blue shine. "You're the pony from Caballus. Nightmare Moon doesn't want you leaving."

Rarity huffed, her eyes narrowing in a grimace of annoyance. "And who is going to stop me? You all? And here I thought Canterlot was supposed to be a town that prided itself in ethics."

"Rarity, don't make them mad," Sweetie Belle whimpered, drawing herself between Rarity's legs.

"You’re thinking of the blow-hards from the noble courts. We're the ponies that have had to put up with them, and we're far from polite." A dagger floated out from behind the yellow mare, shining menacingly at her prey. "Just make this easy on all of us and surrender."

"I surrender to nopony," Rarity snapped back, magically pulling her four mirrors in front of her, creating a shield. "I dare you to make the first move," she taunted them, her body tightening up at the odds facing her, cursing herself mentally.

"Get her, boys!" the yellow mare yelled, a gang of maybe twenty ponies charging Rarity.

"Meguro No Honoo!"

"Schatten Jagd!" The ranks of ponies were forced to scatter as Gilda barreled into them, Rainbow Dash's ignited sword following after her. "You better have a good reason for making me do this, Dash," she shrieked back to her cohort, absentmindedly tossing a charging pony behind her.

"We're knights, remember!?" Rainbow Dash argued back as she retrieved her sword. "This is the kind of thing Commander Spitfire would do, so quit complaining and just enjoy the fight!"

"Oh, I can do that much!" Gilda smiled mischievously as she spotted another two ponies galloping straight at her. "Spirale Kralle!" She dove at them, spinning her body and knocking out one of them before turning to kick the other.

"What are you two doing!?" Rarity grimaced. "I don't remember asking either of you two for help!"

"Oh yeah, I'm sure you were just going to have a tea-party, huh?" Rainbow Dash slammed her blade into the ground creating a power shock-wave that threw the ponies in front of her off their feet. "Tenbaken Kai!"

"I was doing just fine, thank you!" Rarity blocked an attack from one of the gang ponies with her mirrors. She charged the mirror with magic and released a bullet of concentrated light from it. "Prism Shot!"

"Would you two quit squawking and fight!?" Gilda roared, tossing aside another pair of ponies and striking the pony faster than any eye could see, striking again when she withdrew her talon. "Schimmer Drücken!"

The gang of ponies were slowly reduced in numbers as they charged at Rarity and the Cloud Kingdom knights. The yellow unicorn was left, the dagger still floating by her side, cursing under her breath, her anger reaching a fever pitch as Rarity smugly moved aside the knights and approached her. "Try harder next time, darling." She willed the dagger at Rarity, but the blow was blocked by one of her glowing mirrors. "Prism Bullet!" was the last thing she heard before being knocked unconscious.

"Well, that was bothersome," Rarity groaned, ignoring the knights as she strode past them. "Come along, Sweetie Belle," she beckoned to her sister.

"Hey, how about a thank you?" Rainbow Dash sarcastically asked, holstering her blade on her back. "I mean, we did save you and all. Something most ponies would be grateful for."

"I never asked for your help," Rarity snapped back. "I could have handled them all on my own. It was you brutes who wanted to fight so much." Her own mirrors still floated behind her with an aura of magic and hostility.

Rainbow Dash became infuriated, her hooves becoming itchy to sock the prissy unicorn right in the muzzle and teach her some common courtesy, but her anger melted away when a little while filly bounded up to her.

"Thank you!" Sweetie Belle bowed to the two of them. "Rarity won't admit it, but she's really thankful!"

"Sweetie Belle!" Rarity roared.

Rainbow Dash nearly fell over in laughter at Rarity's reaction. "Well, at least somepony is grateful," she chuckled. "Say, squirt, think you or your sister can tell us where the docking bay is?"

Rarity sighed, turning her mirror's light back to the streets of Canterlot. "That's what we're trying to find, but I think I'm on the right path. I take it you're also trying to make it out of the city."

"Yeah," Rainbow Dash sighed. "Commander Spitfire told me to get back to the Cloud Kingdom and warn them about Nightmare Moon, and the quickest way is by flying chariot. An army of pegasi will at least give that monster something to think about before she attacks anything."

"Or give her something to fire at," Gilda joked coldly. "Lots of bodies just falling to the ground."


Twilight lead the way back to her home where the single Element of Harmony was stashed away. Even with the impenetrable darkness slowly encroaching around the city, Twilight was able to expertly navigate the streets and alleys. I've lived here for as long as I can remember, after all, she mused to herself. She found the door to her home and unlocked it. "Here we are, girls."

"Not all of us here are girls," Pokey grumbled as he fumbled his way to a lamp, igniting it with a basic fire spell. The lamp came to life and shined a faint light through the halls of Twilight's house, but the effects of the encroaching darkness dampened the little light and soon it was nothing more than a sliver of warmth and was quickly extinguished. "This is crazy!"

Twilight ignored Pokey and lit her own horn, shining a weak but effective light across the room. She reached in her saddlebags, pulling out the Element of Harmony. "This is it, one of the few things we can use to combat Nightmare Moon." She spoke quietly, fearful of any prying eyes or ears. "But we need the others, and the last one doesn't even reveal itself until the other five have been gathered." She paused for a moment, letting the torrent of magic contained within to seep a little into her hooves. Twilight felt her own inner reserve of magic growing insatiably strong.

"Let me see!" Pinkie Pie snatched the orb away and a spark of electricity shot out from her, zapping Pokey. "Hey, I've never done that before!" she giggled. "But how did I do that?"

"Maybe it was the element!" Spike piped up, jumping on the table to get a better look at the element. "Is there a button on it to make it shoot out electricity?"

"Nope. I just touched it and then zap!"

"Delightful," Pokey moaned. "I don't suppose we could keep the zapping to a minimum?"

"It wasn't my fault! The element did it!" Pinkie Pie shoved the stone into Pokey's face, driving another current of electricity through the poor guards body. "Oops, this thing is dangerous!" Pinkie Pie replied with a slight giggle. "How about I make it up to you with some cupcakes sometime?"

"They better be made from sugar and rainbows for all the pain you're putting me through, mare," Pokey spat back. "Sparkle, why in all of Equestria are you carrying something so dangerous!?"

Twilight grabbed the stone and shoved it back into her saddlebags. "It's never acted like this before!" She spoke with a mix of apology and curiosity. "But what could be causing it to act so oddly? A magical reaction? Was it discharging? Does this happen often? Spike, prepare some parchment!"

"Sparkle, focus!" Pokey yelled. "Don't forget about our mission here."

"This is for the elements, Pokey." Twilight ignored him, trotting past him and through the front door.

SKIT: A Lost Friend

Pokey: Where is she...

Pinkie Pie: Bit for your thoughts?

Pokey: Bah, where did you come from?

Pinkie Pie: We're traveling together. I've been next to you this entire time.

Pokey: Fine.

Pokey: A friend of mine, Lyra, I lost track of her shortly before Nightmare Moon appeared and...

Pinkie Pie: You're worried about your lost friend...

Pokey: Yes. She hasn't been herself lately. She's been acting irrationally.

Pinkie Pie: Oh...

Pokey: It's nothing you need to worry yourself over. Please, just leave me to stew.

Pinkie Pie: Hey, if you're ever feeling down, just remember about those cupcakes I promised you!

Pokey: I'm holding you to it, mare.

SKIT: End


Twilight found her way through Nightmare Moon's darkness and could feel the docking bay for the flying chariots in the distance. She, Pokey and Spike lead Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy through the eerily quiet city. It had chilled Twilight to find the her hometown so empty and lifeless. Are they still back at the celebration? Or did they all lock themselves in their homes? It doesn't sound like a bad idea right now. She shook her head, dispelling any dread and reserves she still had. This is for Equestria...

"Twilight," Spike whispered from behind, "are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"It's not too late to turn back."

"I can't do that." She turned back to Pinkie Pie, who showed no sign of hesitation in her movements in contrast to Fluttershy's constant fidgeting. "I'm scared, but somepony has to stop Nightmare Moon."

"I'll be right behind you the entire way," Spike spoke with sincerity.

"Promise me you'll stay there."

"Shh!" Pokey quieted everyone, straining his eyes to see through the night shroud. "There are ponies ahead. Two at least. They're patrolling it, like guards."

 "Oh! Are they good guys?" Pinkie Pie asked, leaping on top of Pokey to get a better view. "I still can't see a thing,"

"Crazy mare," Pokey grunted under Pinkie Pie's weight. He wasn't sure if it was the weight of her giant pinwheel, or if she ate too much, but he swore one of his ribs were broken. "Get off me?"

One of the guards turned in the direction of Twilight's company. "Did you hear something?" he asked the other guard.

"Better tell Lemon Hearts about this," the other guard replied. "She's still steaming from the last encounter."

Twilight and her friends huddled close together, listening to the guard ponies. "Anypony get the gist of that?" Pinkie Pie asked.

"They said they were going to tell a pony named Lemon Hearts about us," Fluttershy answered, catching Pokey Pierce off guard, who had come to assume the mare was mute. "So, we're probably going to be surrounded soon if we don't get out of here," she answered again in a much lower tone.

"This is already off to a bad start," Pokey sighed.

"Then there's only one thing left to do," Pinkie Pie giggled, throwing a hoof over her weapon. "Charge in!" The response from her friends was less than positive.

"Or we could sneak in," Pokey sighed. "Nightmare Moon has already given us a nice leg-up in that department."

"Well, if you want to be boring about it."

SKIT: Eyes of a Hunter

Fluttershy: Eyes left, ears right. Eyes right, ears left.

Pinkie Pie: Is that a nursery rhyme?

Fluttershy: What? No. It's something I was taught.

Fluttershy: When you're sneaking around in the dark, you want to use the edge of your vision to notice movement.

Pinkie Pie: That doesn't make sense!

Twilight: Actually, it's brilliant!

Pinkie Pie: What?

Twilight: The back of your eyes is lines with rods and cones that-

Fluttershy: Shush, I hear somepony.

SKIT: End

Twilight stood on top of the docking bay station building. She peeked in through the edge of a sky window, the insides of the building illuminated with various lights to fight off Nightmare Moon's darkness. Inside, numerous ponies, all of whom she recognized as Canterlot citizens, stood around a trio of earth ponies. "Applejack?" she whispered.

Inside, Applejack was cursing to herself for letting herself get caught in her current situation. She had tried to sneak out of Canterlot with as many bits as she could hold and her brother and sister, but she was ambushed and knocked out by the gang encircling her. "Well, you got my bits. Let me go!"

"No can do," a yellow unicorn, Lemon Hearts, answered her. "Nightmare Moon told us not to let a single pony out of the city, or else."

"Or else what!?" Applejack barked back. "You really think that crazy pony is going to make your lives better? She ain't."

"We don't have a choice," Lemon Hearts sighed. "Suppose we did resist, then what? She took down Cloud Kingdom knights. I can barely open a jar of peanut-butter." She mournfully eyed the dagger floating by her side, her mind wandering to less savory thoughts. "We resist, and she'll probably kill us, but if we follow along then maybe our lives will become easier."

"That's a load of pony-feathers," Applejack spit. "Nothing in life ever comes easy."

"Shut up," Lemon Hearts pointed the dagger at her. "Every day we've had to deal with blood-sucking nobles and those full-of-themselves pegasi hogging every little bit of food. We have to scrounge for bits just to afford your apples, which you can barely sell at such low prices without putting your own pelt in the red. To top it off, you're no better than the rest of us! Just another beggar looking for a hand-out."

"How about you try saying that when I'm not tied up!?" Applejack roared. "At least I haven't given up and sold my soul to some wannabe princess!"

"Applejack," Big Macintosh whispered, "just be quiet. Think of Apple Bloom at least."

"Dang it," Applejack cursed, narrowly avoiding Lemon Hearts' flying dagger.


Pinkie Pie flinched when she saw Lemon Hearts threw the dagger uncomfortably close to Applejack. "We have to do something, quick!"

"Calm down, Pinkie," Twilight retorted. "We can't help them if we barge in and get caught."

"So we're going to help them?" Pokey asked her.

Twilight paused, considering the question carefully. She took one look back at Applejack and knew her answer. "Yes. Applejack is my friend, so I have to save her, and I have just the plan for it." She turned to Pinkie Pie, whose face betrayed her excitement. "Pinkie Pie: you and Pokey are going to barge in while Spike, Fluttershy and myself sneak in and untie the Apple family."

"Sparkle, that is insane!" Pokey argued back in disbelief.

"You have any better plans?"

"No, but what if your little plan fails? What about the element of-" Pokey stopped, both he and Twilight turned to her saddlebag. "Can you get it to discharge again?"

"We'll find out, if you go through with the plan."

"Sparkle, you're evil."


Pokey held his sheathed katana close to himself, feeling his heart racing. Next to him, Pinkie Pie showed no sign of hesitation. She had put her full trust in Twilight, something Pokey couldn't comprehend, and he had known Twilight longer. "Crazy mare, you better not turn on me when it gets rough."

"Crazy stallion," Pinkie Pie replied back, imitating Pokey's whiny voice. "You better not bail on me when the party starts," she chided. Nudging him in the shoulder. "Besides, don't you trust Twilight?"

"It's been hard to figure out who to trust lately, and Twilight herself is a tough nut to crack."

"All you need to know about Twilight is she'll do anything for her friends, so let's go!" With a smile, the two jumped in through the windows, raining broken pieces of glass everywhere. Pokey unsheathed his katana and swung it at the closest pony. "Azure edge!" he shouted, unleashing a wave of azure energy that knocked the pony off his hooves. Ponies were gathering around him already. "Dang."

"Jump, Pokey!" Pinkie Pie ordered and Pokey complied, jumping as high as he could. Pinkie Pie bit down on her giant pinwheel and spun around, forming a small pink hurricane. "Dizzy Punishment!" The gang of ponies were knocked away, giving her and Pokey room to breathe once again. "Who wants some!?"

"Crazy mare, don't provoke them!"

"Who the hay are you two!? Wait, Pokey!?" Lemon Hearts suspended her dagger in front of herself defensively. "What are you two doing here!"

"We came to stop Nightmare Moon and save Equestria!" Pinkie Pie announced. "So you don't have to worry about bossy-boots Nightmare Moon ever again!"

Lemon Hearts became infuriated. "You think you can stop her? Well you're going to have to defeat all of us first! Everyone, gather up!" From halls and hidden rooms, a hundred ponies flooded into the room with either a dagger or a sword suspended in front of them or clenched between their teeth. "You think you think you can stop Nightmare Moon when you can't even take us on?" she replied back, anger welling up in her voice. "Who the hay are you?!"

"I'm Pinkie Pie," Pinkie Pie declared back, "a bandit from Ponyville! Now give up, or prepare to fight!" From within her coat, Pinkie Pie withdrew a cake and she threw it at the closest pony. "Cake Assault!"

The pony had no idea what he had been hit with, but mere seconds later he found Pokey Pierce's knee wedged in his muzzle. "Raging Blast!" Pokey unleashed a powerful shockwave, sending the pony flying back into the crowd.

"You bozos!" Lemon Hearts yelled. "Attack them all at once, don't give them time to recuperate!"

The gang of ponies all charged Pinkie Pie and Pokey Pierce at once, giving Twilight, Spike and Fluttershy the chance they needed to sneak in and rescue the apple family. "Hey, Applejack," she greeted her.

"Twilight." Applejack was dumbstruck, fumbling her words. "What are you doing here?"

"I need a flying chariot, but when I saw you tied up I knew I had to rescue you," was her reply. "I'm not going to leave a friend in danger."

"Miss Twi', thank you." Applejack felt the rope binding her hooves leave her, freeing her to get back at the ponies who jumped her, fair and square. "Big Macintosh, protect Apple Bloom!"

"Eeyup," Big Macintosh replied, throwing Apple Bloom over his back, who cheered them on.

Applejack cracked her neck and turned back to the gang of ponies. "Howdy there," she yelled as loud as she could, momentarily grabbing everyone's attention. "Allow me to show you all some Apple Acres courtesy." She dove right into the nearest pony, ramming her shoulder into her body and tossing her into the air. "Beast!" she cried out, letting out all her pent up energy, a window-shattering lion's roar piercing through the room, blue energy launching the pony into the air. "Bandit!"

"You got it, A.J.!" Pinkie Pie leapt higher than anyone thought she could with the burden of her heavy and powerful weapon, but still she managed to soar through the air and catch the airborne pony. "Crazy Devastation!" She struck down with the pole of her pinwheel rather than the edge, and batted her victim back to the ground. "Twilight!"

Twilight rose on the back of her hooves and slammed down on the floor as hard as she could. "Stalagmite!" Spikes of earth erupted from below many of the ponies, knocking them away from her friends as she tried to tactically summon the spikes in a way to disperse their ranks. "Spike, go!"

"It's my turn!" Spike lept into the air, drawing a single arrow and blowing on it slightly, enveloping it in green embers. "The next step of the Burning Lotus!" he proudly declared as he nocked the arrow. "Dragonfire Lotus!" He fired the arrow, and before it could hit anything it exploded into a light rain of green embers. Many of the gang ponies were forced to duck and hide, some of them even getting lightly scorched, but still they had more ponies than they could count to fight. "Any more ideas?" he asked, separating his bow into daggers.

Twilight withdrew the Element of Harmony and held it over her head. "C'mon, spark!" she pleaded with it, but nothing came of it. "Uhm, lightning bolt? Lightning ray? Lightning storm? Storm of the Century?"

"Was that last one an actual spell!?" Pokey yelled back as he deflected a sword aimed at his throat. "Sparkle, what's happening!?"

"I don't know, it's not working!" she cried. "C'mon, element, do something!"

"Kuuha Zesshougeki!" From through the doors a blue pegasus flew into the room, tackling one of the gang ponies before disappearing and reappearing right behind the pony, tackling him again. "Hey, I found the docking bay!" Rainbow Dash yelled back. "And a fight!"

"Now we're talking!" Gilda slowly entered the building, smirking to herself as she counted how many skulls she'd get to beat in. "So, do I get to fight you all, or is it first come first serve?"

"Honestly, can you be any more barbaric?" Rarity groaned as she shined her mirror light across the building, completely penetrating Nightmare Moon's aura of darkness and shining true light across the room. For the first time, Twilight and her friends were able to see more than a few feet in front of them, even hurting their eyes. "Don't get too used to the darkness now," Rarity joked as she increased the intensity of her light, blinding nearly everyone.

Gilda took her opportunity and barreled into the closest pair of ponies. "Schatten Jagd!" She brought down her claws, nearly burying them in the floor. "Who's next!?"

The gang of ponies began to ease away from the sight. More and more their numbers were falling before the tenacity of the intruders. A vicious griffon was all they needed to turn tail and run, leaving Lemon Hearts alone to deal with them. "Cowards!" Lemon Hearts shouted, brandishing the dagger defensively.

"Oh good, this one still has some fight in her." Gilda smirked at her next target, her eyes teeming with bloodlust and the hunger for more battle.

"G., quit it!" Rainbow Dash yelled. "She can't do anything, so just let her go."

"Way to take the fun out of it." Gilda turned, just barely swiping Lemon Hearts with her tail, and retired to a far corner of the room.

Lemon Hearts fell to her knees, entirely defeated, giving no attention to the ponies that trotted past her to the flying chariot that separated Canterlot from the rest of the world.


"What do all these buttons do!?" Rainbow Dash cried out as her eyes wandered over the control panel of the flying chariot. "Who the hail even designs these things? Eggheads! Eggheads who don't know how the common pony thinks, that's who!"

"Can you do anything other than complain?" Rarity whined back at Rainbow Dash. "Since I've met you it's been a non-stop stream of complaints. Honestly dear, be quiet and let the smart ponies do their work," she huffed.

"Oh, then let's see you operate this thing." Rainbow Dash stepped aside, egging on the pristine white mare to press any button and pray that the ship wouldn't blow itself up. "I'm waiting."

"Well, certainly, you have to start by turning it on. That only makes sense."

"Have you two figured it out yet?" Twilight called from the other side of the cockpit. "Spike, have you managed to discern any of the controls?"

"Huh, what was that?" Spike snapped out of his trance, gazing with fascination at the white pony. "I can't hear you, Twilight, speak louder."

"If this pegasus wouldn't keep getting in my way I would be done by now," Rarity huffed, crossing her forearms to make a point. "Aren't pegasi supposed to know all about this flying stuff?"

"I'm a soldier not an airline attendant!"

"What's with all the shouting!? Are you girls having a party without me?" Pinkie Pie poked her head into the room and was subsequently thrown out. No one trusted her to be in a room stuffed with delicate controls and shiny buttons. "Oh c'mon, it can't be that different from a steam-wagon!"

"Which, if memory serves me right, is currently stuck in a tree in the middle of the Everfree," Applejack chided. "How long do I need to hold her down? I need to get back to Apple Acres fast-like."

"You should stay and join the party instead, A.J.!" Pinkie Pie squealed, turning the tables on Applejack and pinning her down in an impromptu wrestling fashion. "I win!" she giggled, her victory punctuated by the vibrations of the flying chariot's engines coming to life. "Ooh! Did you figure it out!?"

"See, I told you," Rarity gloated. "You just need to find the power switch."

"Well, set a course for the Cloud Kingdom!" Rainbow Dash yelled in excitement. "Like hail we're going to take some nightmare's declaration with our wings folded!"

"What?" Rarity gasped. "Heavens no, we need to go to Caballus first. Blue Blood might know the most about dealing with this Nightmare Moon."

"Uh, girls," Fluttershy whispered. "We're going up."

"Up?" Applejack bleated. "Up! I need to get off this thing!" She threw off Pinkie Pie and made a beeline for the door, bucking it open and subsequently knocked off her hooves as Gilda shoved her aside with a beat of her wings. Gilda chuckled lightly as she strode past her and took a seat in one of the passenger's chairs. Applejack spit out a mouthful of griffon feathers and gazed at the ground in horror. Big Macintosh was just a tiny red dot from how high she was. "Someone turn this thing back!"

"I don't know how!" Rainbow Dash cried, sweating bullets as the chariot continued to rise higher into the air.

"I know how!" Pinkie Pie squealed as she brought her hooves down on the console.

"Who let her in here!?" Rarity gaped.

"It's time to save the world, girls!"

Would you like to save your game?

Notice: Tales of the Cuties - Pokey Pierce chapter unlocked!


Pinkie Pie's tail just kept twitching...

 

NEW GAME

>CONTINUE

OPTIONS

EXTRA

The flying chariot ascended higher and higher into the air with most of its passengers screaming in panic. "Wow, are you feeling the Gs this thing is capable of, ladies?" Pinkie Pie squealed as she indiscriminately mashed random buttons on the dashboard. "One of these things has got to do something!"

"You crazy idiot!" Applejack hollered over the whirl of the engines. "Get off the dang board and stop fiddling with things before you get us all killed!"

"I don't want to die!" Rarity screamed.

"Nopony is dying!" Applejack bucked Pinkie Pie away from the dashboard and threw herself over it, examining each knob carefully even under the stress and panic. "Okay everypony, just calm down. This can't be any different from a tractor."

"This is a flying chariot! That's way different!" Rainbow Dash protested in vain.

"I don't see any bright ideas from you, so shut up and let me think!" Applejack yelled as loud as she could, leaving everyone else in the cabin quiet as a mouse, except for Gilda who giggled madly to herself in the back of the vehicle. Applejack turned back to the dashboard, sweating bullets, and started fiddling with the levers. Just as suddenly as she pushed a lever, the chariot stopped in mid-air catching everyone by surprise.

"That... worked?" Spike gasped. "That worked!"

"Of course it did," Applejack huffed. "Just like a tractor. You're all in safe hooves."

"No we're not!" Pinkie Pie sang, her tail twitching up and down violently. "Everypony hold onto something!" she giggled as weightlessness settled into everyone on-board. She couldn't contain herself as everyone around her started screaming and the flying chariot began to drop out of the sky.

Applejack turned back to the dashboard again, attempting to gain control of the ship again. She stomped a hoof into a nearby pedal, and the engines roared back to life. "Get going!" she grunted as she smashed her hooves into the control panel. The flying chariot took off, nearly sending Applejack to the back, but she was caught by Pinkie Pie just in time.

The flying chariot flew off, still rapidly descending to the ground with no force to push up on it. When it finally met with the earth, it almost broke into pieces as the rocky terrain scraped against the bottom of its hull. When it finally stopped, the door of the chariot popped right off and Pinkie Pie crawled out of the opening, dropping and collapsing onto the cold ground giggling maniacally. "We need to do that again!"

"Never again," Applejack groaned, collapsing right on-top of Pinkie Pie, almost causing her to deflate. "I prefer the ground a lot more to the air, thank you."

"Flying is nothing like that!" Rainbow Dash soared out of the vehicle, regally descending to the ground and making a show of it. "If you had wings like me, falling is not a problem at all."

"Except you crash all the time?" Gilda followed suit after her partner, landing in front of Rainbow Dash and giving her a dry chuckle. She deflected a blow from Rainbow Dash's hoof and continued to giggle at Rainbow Dash's fuming face. "Don't blow your lid now, Rainbow Crash."

"Shut up already," Rainbow Dash hissed, leering at Gilda as she sat herself by a nearby rock for support. "So, anypony dead?"

"I might as well be!" Rarity answered her, stumbling out of the mass of scrap-metal, her once perfect mane now a dreaded mess. "Oh, does anypony have a comb?" The vacant expressions on her companion’s faces were all the answer she received. "Useless, all of you."

"So where are we?" Pinkie Pie asked, pushing off Applejack who fell to the floor limp.

"I'd fly up," Rainbow Dash answered her, "but it's too dark to see anything. How much longer do we have till daybreak anyway?"

Twilight gingerly trotted out of the flying chariot with Spike balanced on her back. She gave off a grave aura as she gazed into the empty night sky longingly. "Daybreak should have been an hour ago." A collective silence settled over everyone as the gravity of the situation became more apparent. "I can only assume that Nightmare Moon really has stopped the sun." She cast her eyes to the cold melancholic ground that seemed to mourn the loss of the sun, more so than she had.

"What the hay!" Applejack cried as she grabbed Twilight around her shoulders. "What the hay is that supposed to mean nighttime forever! How am I supposed to grow some apples without sunlight!? How am I supposed to support my family!? Well!" She dug her trembling hooves deeper into Twilight. "You can't be serious, you just can't..."

Pinkie Pie placed a concerned hoof on Applejack’s shoulder. "Applejack, are you okay?"

"Leave me alone, bandit," she snapped back curtly. "Ever since I met any of you this has been one crazy thing after another! I can't do this anymore! I need to go back home! My brother, my sister, my granny..." She fell to her knees, choking back her tears.

"It's all right, Applejack." Pinkie Pie, despite Applejack’s ire, still tried to cheer her up. "Everything will be alright."

Rainbow Dash fidgeted uncomfortably. She felt itchy and anxious waiting around as Twilight effectively prophesied the end of Equestria. "Hey, Rarity was it? I need to borrow your light mirror thingies."

"Light mirror thingies," Rarity repeated curtly. "These are not just mirrors. These are talismans, thank you, meant to augment magic and made from secret Caballun techniques, not thingies!"

"Yeah, yeah, don't care." Rainbow Dash swooped over Rarity's back and hoisted her into the sky. “Just get with the light making already. We're burning moonlight!" Rainbow Dash looked over to Gilda and motioned for her to follow. "Let's go. We need to figure out where we are, and quick."

Gilda stretched her wings and brought them down in one powerful beat, shooting her up to Rainbow Dash in seconds. "Lead the way," she offered apathetically. "You're the one holding the giant flashlight anyway."

"How rude," Rarity gruffed. "I am not a giant flashlight, and if you want my help you had better at least say please. It's only common courtesy."

Gilda didn't budge, or even acknowledge Rarity. She was busy staring off in the distant blackness.

"All right then, please," Rainbow Dash groaned.

"That's better." Rarity enchanted her mirrors, wrapping them in her azure aura and shining light across the field. Outside of Nightmare Moon's fog of influence her light shined brighter, able to illuminate the surrounding area as clear as day. "Well?"

Rainbow Dash flapped her wings and took off into the sky with Gilda, Rarity's screaming trailing after her. “Be right back!" she called to the other just before disappearing completely from view.

Equestria: Fields of Darkness

Spike sighed as he leapt down from Twilight's back. "Dang."

"What's the matter?" Twilight asked as she returned to the Flying Chariot. Fluttershy was still hiding within its confines, curled up in a ball and nearly covered head to hoof in the expansive folds of her robe, trying to protect herself from the world.

"That Rarity mare was really beautiful!" he began to gush, swooning about like a leaf caught in a gentle wind. "Those sapphire eyes and a coat as beautiful as diamonds." He twirled about as he rejoined Twilight’s side, collapsing onto the floor and a moment of light-headedness.

"Should I be worried that you're describing her like food?" Twilight used her magic to pry off the plates of the control panel to examine the underlying work. An assortment of enchanted gems lay before her, each one shining with a recognizable aura of magic. "I might be able to repair this," she gleaned as she examined the gems more closely. "Spike, think you can look around for any spare gems that might be kept in storage?"

"You're trusting me to find gems?" Spike gasped. "Wow, this must be serious."

"It is, Spike." Twilight let her head fall over the gems, her mane cascading between the magical stones as she closed her eyes to feel their warmth against her cheek, identifying each individual spell placed on each gem. "This is very serious."


High up above the clouds, Rainbow Dash struggled to keep the wiggling Rarity between her legs still mid-flight. "Stop moving already! This isn't any easier for me."

"Oh yes, so says the pegasus with actual wings and doesn't need to worry about falling to one's death!" Rarity screamed. "Let's land. I feel myself slipping. I'm slipping!"

"You're not slipping!" Rainbow Dash roared. "A little help here, G."

"You're the one who wanted to bring her." Gilda made of a show of her apathy, carefully laying on a current of air, until Rainbow Dash's pleading finally got to her. "Alright, fine." She flew straight at Rarity, hooking her around an arm and flinging her in the air. Rarity's screaming voice echoed throughout the night sky until she landed safely on Gilda's back. "You can stop screaming now. You owe me for this, Dash."

"You barbarians!" Rarity cried, clutching to Gilda's body as her life depended on it. "How could you treat somepony that way!?"

"Very carefully," Gilda snickered, Rainbow Dash joining in with her now that she was less burdened. "Get comfy, princess, because I don't care to be gentle."

"Brute!" Rarity spat.

"Thanks, Gilda." Rainbow Dash flew next to Gilda, the two sharing a look of amusement over Rarity's distress.

"Are you two even listening to me!"

"No, I’m not," Gilda replied, turning her head in another direction. "Hey, you hear anything?"

"No, why?" Rainbow Dash was caught off-guard as Gilda turned and flew off in another direction, taking Rarity with her. Rainbow Dash beat her wings and shot off after her. "G., did you find something?"

"A predator!" Gilda answered her, shooting upwards in a split second, and diving back behind Rainbow Dash with squirming mass of feathers clutched between her talons and a wide-eyed and shocked Rarity clinging hard enough to leave a dent in her armor.

"An owl?" Rainbow Dash sighed as she inspected the bird. "Cool, but why?"

"It's a hunter thing," Gilda replied cooly. "Something you would never understand." She turned the owl to face her, her talons pinching around its neck. "So, you going to fess up as to why you were sneaking around, or do I need to pound some beak?"

"What is she doing?" Rarity asked in befuddlement. "Is she talking to an owl?"

"Speak now or leave with your beak in pieces." Gilda smirked as she tightened her claw further around the owl's neck. "C'mon and squawk already!"

"Who!" the owl sputtered under Gilda's choke-hold. "Who! Who!"

"What, really?" Gilda released the squirming mass of feathers. "Hey, unicorn, make your mirror thingies shine upward, before I shred your mane."

"Why I never!" Rarity huffed, but did as she was told. She shined her mirrors upward into a complex mass of clouds. As her light revealed more of its finer details, Rarity nearly lost balance over the breathtaking sight of a real pegasus sky city.

"I don't believe it!" Rainbow Dash whooped. "It's the capital of the Cloud Kingdom! Heaven!"


Applejack sat against the side of the fallen chariot, staring down at the frigid dirt that continued to get colder. "No sun means no food," she whispered to herself. "No food means we all die anyway." The sound of breaking twigs caught her ears, and she chuckled to herself. She bucked against the side of the chariot. "Twilight," she hollered, "can you turn on the lights on that thing!" She was answered by the sudden illumination of the field, the headlights of the chariot revealing a pack of chimera that had tried to sneak up on Applejack. "Well I'll be," Applejack smirked as she cracked her neck, "timberwolves."

Pinkie Pie nearly screamed at the horrid sight of the half-wolf half-tree chimeras. "What do we do, what do we do!?" she panicked, running back and forth and aggravating Applejack.

"I'll tell you what I'm doin'!" Applejack roared as she galloped right into the pack. "I'm going to send all 'em packing!" She turned around, throwing her shoulder against one of the timberwolves and channeled all her primal energy through the monster as she howled out the roar of her attack as she roared, "Beast!" The blue lionhead of energy burst forth from her shoulder and crushed the timberwolf, raining pieces of wood everywhere. "Revolution Applebuck!" she shouted, whipping around to buck a timberwolf in the side, creating a large crack in its body.

"A.J., watch out!" Pinkie Pie screamed as another timberwolf pounced Applejack from the side, embedding its fangs into her. "Applejack!"

"Stupid varmint," Applejack cursed as she tried to throw off the monster. "Eat this! Rending Force!" Applejack rose on her hind legs and stomped the ground, driving all of her primal energy into the ground, splitting the earth around her that erupted with energy that blew away the timberwolves around her.

"Crazy Devastation!" Pinkie Pie threw herself into the fray, hacking right through a timberwolf and splitting it in two. "Are you okay, Applejack? Does it hurt?"

"Of course it hurts!" Applejack howled back at her. "But so long as I keep fightin' I can't feel a thing!" She forced a hoof through the body of another timberwolf, shattering its head. "Don't get in my way, bandit."

"Will you ever call me by my name?" Pinkie Pie groaned as she sliced through another Timberwolf.

"Are you really going to ask me that now!?" Applejack barely ducked under a lunging timberwolf, bucking up just as it was over her and crushing its chest. "Bandit, right now we're fighting. Save the insecurities for later!"

Applejack and Pinkie Pie continued to fend off the monstrous pack of chimeras, slowly whittling down their ranks with every sweep of Pinkie Pie's pinwheel or Applejack's flying hooves, but she relished every moment of it to take her pent up anger and force it on something else. It was a luxury she did not have often. "Take this you overgrown tumbleweed!" Applejack roared as she advanced on the last timberwolf. "Revolution Apple Buck!" She threw herself forward, catching the ground with her forehooves and pivoted to crush it with her momentum and raw strength. It cracked right down the middle and shattered into a pile of sticks. "That's the last of them," she sighed, as she collapsed to the ground.

Rainbow Dash and Gilda descended from the sky, the Cloud Kingdom knights wearing expressions of pure astonishment, and behind them was a pegasus-drawn chariot with Rarity seated within it. "Where was that fight back at the coliseum!?" Rainbow Dash gawked just as her hooves touched the ground.

"Did you find anything?" Applejack grimaced as she ignored the words of praise.

Rainbow Dash smiled proudly and flared her wings upward. "As it turns out, we're right under Heaven, so when Gilda and I flew up, we were able to grab a chariot to pull the rest of you up. Yeah, pretty awesome of me, huh?" she gloated, awaiting words of praise that Pinkie Pie was more than willing to indulge Rainbow Dash in as she hopped around the chariot exuberantly, but Applejack remained silent.

"I'll go get Twi' and the others." She pulled her tired body up again and dragged herself to the broken down flying-chariot.

Inside, Twilight was hard at work prying off interior panels. She was completely absorbed in her work and it showed as she completely ignored Fluttershy who was huddled up in a corner, occasionally breaking her focus to bark an order to Spike in the back of the cabin. Fascination played across her face as she hopped between walls, monitoring every little disturbance as she moved and replaced gems. "Spike, I think I found the problem! The balancing system was completely dislodged during the crash and most of the gems were cracked in the process, but if we fuse the leftover landing gear gems with the gyro-gem, then we can fix up the problem no sweat!"

"And just what the hay was all that?" Applejack blurted, Twilight's insane-like ramblings left her with a light-headed sensation. "Twi', please tell me the crash didn't dent your head or nothin'."

"I'm fine," she replied as she yanked out a few wires. "I'm just trying to keep myself occupied for now, and this thing is probably my best shot at finding the other elements." She replaced a few gems within the system and, to her delight, the flying chariot began to hum. "I can't believe that worked."

"Good for you, Twi', but I got some news. That rainbow varmint pegasus returned and, accordin' to her, we're under heaven or somthin'. Anyway, she returned with a pegasus-drawn chariot to get us up to there, so I don't think we'll be needin' this thing anymore."

Twilight eyes shot open and the gems that were circling over her fell to the ground with an audible clink. "We're under Heaven!" she shouted, nearly knocking Applejack back. "Heaven, the location of the Cloud Castle, where King Steel Wing resides? We have to get up there immediately and warn him about Nightmare Moon's return. There's no time! Spike? Spike!" Twilight manically paced around the control room, breaking her nervous habit only when Spike appeared so she could haul him into the air with her aura of magic. "We're going!" She motioned to Fluttershy, who silently got up and followed her outside with just the faintest of steps.

"Do I at least get to know where we're going?" Spike crossed his arms as he was harshly tugged along as Twilight followed Applejack back outside where the pegasus-drawn waited, surrounded by a mess of timberwolf remains.

Fluttershy trotted over to one of the fallen chimera's splintered heads. She picked it up, examining it with piercing eyes that carried a glint of sorrow. "We're going to have to keep fighting, aren't we?"

"We?" Applejack repeated with a tone of annoyance. "It was just me and the bandit out here, Fluttershy."

Fluttershy dropped the head. "I didn't ask to be a part of this," she shot back.

"So why are you here?"

Fluttershy didn't respond, only momentarily turning to Pinkie Pie, who was already on the chariot trying to rouse the pegasi pulling the craft into a game or song of some sort. She felt anger for all of a moment as it died, replaced with acceptance. "Let's just go," she finally sighed as she stepped over the remains of the chimeras and boarded the chariot.

"Rainbow Dash," Twilight called out, "I need to talk to King Steel Wing to warn him about Nightmare Moon. Do you think you can get me an audience with him?"

"I'll pull some strings." Rainbow Dash answered her before calling to the pegasi pulling the chariot. "Okay, boys, take us to Heaven!"

SKIT: Pegasi and Magic Part 1

Twilight: Say, Rainbow Dash, how were you able to use magic?

Rainbow Dash: Can't tell you.

Twilight: What!?

Rainbow Dash: It's Cloud Kingdom secret technology. I can tell you that it involves harnessing the natural magic inherent in all pegasi; the ability to manipulate clouds.

Twilight: So your armor can channel the weather?

Rainbow Dash: Huh? How did you figure out it had to do with my armor?

Twilight: Whenever you cast a spell it glows. Oh, Do you have a cloud built into it?

Rainbow Dash: Actually, yeah.

Rainbow Dash: She's really perceptive... I should be more careful about what I say around her.

SKIT: End

If it wasn't for Pinkie Pie's constant jabbering, the trip to the Cloud Kingdom capital would have been eerily silent save for the howl of roaring wind. Twilight hugged Spike tightly to herself as she contemplated how she would appeal to King Steel Wing. How am I supposed to tell him that a thousand year-old winged-unicorn has returned from the moon to conquer Equestria?

"Bit for your thoughts?" Spike asked from under Twilight's chin. "You only hold me like this when you're having a real hard time with something." He felt her head relax over the side of his head. "C'mon Twilight, say something."

"It's just the gravity, Spike."

"What?" Spike looked up at Twilight, whose features were now more relaxed. She looked ready to fall asleep on top of him, but Rainbow Dash's loud and gravelly voice was more than enough to wake up everyone in the chariot.

"There it is!" she yelled as loud as she could. "The Capital of the Cloud Kingdom! Drink it in girls, because it's quite the sight." She moved to the side as the chariot broke through the clouds, emerging into a clear and empty night sky that was bathed in a different sort of light. In the distance, the passengers of the chariot could see the largest city in all of Equestria coming into view, a large castle surrounded in every direction by clouds with glorious structures built atop them, each one streaming light into the sky like a city made of light. "The pride of Equestria, I would say," Rainbow Dash added.

"Amazing!" Rarity gawked as she took in the image. "I had heard tales that Heaven was a city of culture, but this takes everything I had heard about and blows it away!" She gushed and squealed as the chariot got closer to the city, a side of her previously unknown to the rest of the occupants, who stared at her as if something was wrong. Only Pinkie Pie was grinning from ear to ear.


The pegasus-drawn chariot flew into a landing bay on the edges of the city, a construct comprised entirely of metal that was magically supported by the clouds it lay on, allowing for non-pegasus ponies to step into the city. Twilight and the others were escorted onto the docking bay where they were approached by another knight. The drape of her armor was colored blue and her fur a soft peach color. Most of her features were covered in armor, and her helmet took up nearly her whole head. "Captain Rainbow Dash, Captain Gilda," she barked in a commanding tone, "are these the ponies you mentioned earlier? The ones from Canterlot?"

Rainbow Dash and Gilda saluted as Rainbow Dash alone addressed the commanding knight. "Yes, Lieutenant General Quick Gleam, ma'am!" She turned and pointed to Twilight. "All of these mares were present during Nightmare Moon's appearance at the Summer Sun Festival in Canterlot."

"Yeah!" Pinkie Pie butted in, leaning over Rainbow Dash to greet the knight personally. "I'm Pinkie Pie, it's nice to meet you!" Her weight, coupled with her massive pinwheel, caused Rainbow Dash to collapse to the floor.

Quick Gleam's expressions were impossible to read behind her visor, and her mouth barely twitched as the other guards stifled giggles quietly crept through the room. "Captains, you are to prepare a report and then return to me in my quarters at the castle and afterwards we will inform King Steel Wing. Be sure to set up our... guests with collars. Dismissed." She turned and trotted off, leaving the others in the room with one word in mind.

"Collars?" Rarity bleated, turning to the others. "What did she mean by collars?"

In the forelegs of one of the knights was a row of collars bearing emblems of the Cloud Kingdom much like the ones displayed on the armor of all the knights. "These are enchanted to allow non-pegasi to walk on clouds," the knight with the collars explained. "You'll need to wear these if you want to safely walk around the city without fear of falling off."

Rarity answered the knight with a fuming grunt. "You must be joking if you even think I'm going to wear something so drab."

"It's wear this, ma'am, or be escorted out of the kingdom, and policy does not require us to escort you the entire way down."

"Why, I never!" Rarity's horn flashed menacingly, prompting the other guard to draw his double-blade against Rarity. "So that's how it's going to be? Fine," she hissed as her azure aura faded away. "Get on with it. The sooner I'm off this cotton-swab, the better anyway." While her eyes still menacingly bored into the knight, she did allow herself to be collared. She instantly felt the magic taking effect with the slightest tingling sensation before fading into nothing.

Twilight stepped forward next to allow the collar. "These are created with the same principles behind the enchanted gem system used to create the flying chariots, correct? Do you have unicorns living here to research and make these, or are they done on one of the ground cities?" The knights simply looked at each other and nonchalantly placed a collar on Twilight, who felt the same sensation.

"Do I have to wear one too?" Spike complained as a smaller caller was presented to him. "Fine." He grabbed the collar and begrudgingly put it on.

"Next?" the guard sighed, and Pinkie Pie bounced up to him and slipped her head through a collar gracefully.

"Tingly!" she squeaked. "I bet these would be great for parties."

"Remind me not to go to any of yours," Rarity huffed.

The knights turned to Applejack, who backed away uneasily. "Can't I just stay in here? Or you can escort me back to the ground? I'm just a farmer pony, really. You don't have to pay any attention to me."

"You can't leave, A.J.!" Pinkie Pie leapt at Applejack, who barely ducked in time to allow Pinkie Pie to sail harmlessly over her before colliding into a wall. Pinkie Pie, in her dizzy state, picked herself up and swayed in two different directions as she stumbled to Applejack's orange blur. "We need you to save the world and stuff!"

"I've heard better arguments from a fortune cookie. Fine, I'll wear the collar, but I'm not gonna be happy about it." With her compliance the knights placed the collar on Applejack and turned to Fluttershy, presenting to her the last collar.

"That's alright," Fluttershy responded she lifted one of the folds of her robe to present her bandaged wings. "I'm actually a pegasus."

"What? No way!" Rainbow Dash flew over to Fluttershy to examine her wings. "How could somepony so meek, be something as awesome as a pegasus? It doesn't add up."

Fluttershy let her robe fall over her wings again to hide the identifying feature. She turned to the open door and stepped through it onto the clouds that composed the city. She stood effortlessly on the cloud and turned back to Rainbow Dash with an unreadable look. "Is this good enough for you?"

Rainbow Dash smirked and let out a dry chuckle. "So you do have some pride. So, I guess you really are a pegasus. Well, let's head for the castle. Our winning counter-attack isn't going to make itself!" Rainbow Dash lead the others out into the open air where their hooves touched the clouds in a sensation that felt like plush. "Welcome to Heaven!"

The Cloud Kingdom: Heaven

Twilight's eyes widened as she looked up to find hundreds of pegasi flying around going about their daily lives on the breeze of the wind. "I've never seen so many pegasi!" she blurted absentmindedly, and next to her Applejack and Rarity wore the exact same expressions. "I guess this explains why you never see them on the ground."

"Yep," Rainbow Dash squealed. "Isn't this place just awesome!? Well, I mean, if you can move around naturally without fear of falling off it's really awesome, but for you guys I guess it must be terrifying because if you fall it's splatsville!"

"You have such a way with words," Rarity groaned as Rainbow Dash began to lead them further into the city and towards the grand castle situated in the center of the town. The perfect place, she thought, for a king to look out and spy over every inch of his domain.

SKIT: Pegasi and Magic Part 2

Applejack: This thing is itchy. Why do I have to wear it?

Twilight: So you don't fall through the clouds.

Pinkie Pie: That sounds like fun!

Applejack: For you, bandit.

Applejack: Alright, Miss Twi', think you can explain how this doohickey works?

Twilight: I've got a few ideas, but the likeliest one is that a spell was enchanted into the collar. Specifically a spell for cloud walking.

Applejack: So how can all these pegasi do it without magic?

Twilight: Silly Applejack-

Applejack: Pardon?

Twilight: Pegasi are naturally magical, just not the same way unicorns are.

Twilight: Pegasi have latent magic which allows them to manipulate clouds and the weather as well as walk on clouds and, somehow, pull chariots effortlessly. They might even have other more subtle magical abilities that nopony really knows about, because they're just that subtle!

Applejack: Well, good for them...

Applejack: Pegasi and unicorns. All a magical bunch arn'cha.

SKIT: End

Fluttershy had to catch herself as she gazed at her winged brethren. As far back as she could remember she had never been surrounded by so many pegasi, or even so many other ponies. Fillydelphia paled in comparison to Heaven, and it made her nervous, and partly hopeful. "Are... are all the pegasi here?" she asked.

"What?" Rainbow Dash swirled around and looked at Fluttershy questioningly. "Not really? I mean, you can't fit all the unicorns in Caballus, and you can't fit all the earth ponies in... wherever they go."

"Oh, alright then," she sighed, lowering her head.

"Are you okay, Fluttershy?" Pinkie Pie asked, surprising Fluttershy with genuine concern. "No need to look all sad when your Auntie Pinkie is here to turn that frown upside down! Ooh! How about a party! Wait, Parties on clouds? It's genius!"

"N-no thanks," Fluttershy stuttered as Pinkie Pie began to overwhelm her with her babbling. "I-I was just thinking that maybe... my parents are here." She turned away from the others to hide her embarrassment, fidgeting when Pinkie Pie placed a hoof on her shoulder. "It's nothing, really. Don't we need to save the Equestria... or... something?"

"Oh Fluttershy!" Pinkie Pie threw herself at Fluttershy, her forelegs stretched out open, and landed right on her face as Fluttershy moved out of the way at the last moment. "Hey, this doesn't taste like cotton!"

"Er, thank you, Pinkie," Fluttershy squeaked, "but I'm fine, really."

"I hate to interrupt," Twilight got between the two, "but we need to talk to the King, immediately."

"Just follow me!" Rainbow Dash hollered.

SKIT: Cool

Gilda: Hey, Dash, why are you being nice to these dweebs?

Rainbow Dash: Well, the purple one, Twilight, seems to be the one most knowledgeable about the situation. The rest seem to be coming along for the ride.

Gilda: They're all annoying, and weak.

Rainbow Dash: Fine, fine. We'll ditch 'em after we finish our report to the King.

Rainbow Dash: This is a matter of national security, so we have to put up with them for now, right?

Gilda: I guess that works. So long as we ditch 'em I'm cool.

Rainbow Dash: Then let's go.

SKIT: End


The castle of Heaven was built from clouds, seamlessly merging into the cloud that the city was based on. Twilight marveled at the expertly crafted architecture, finding it very similar to the coliseum back in Fillydelphia. "At least I don't need to fight anypony here, I hope," she sighed, remembering her time at the coliseum with disdain.

"This place is awesome!" Spike cheered as he climbed up one of the pillars of clouds. "Pegasi sure know how to live it up!"

"Hail yeah we do!" Rainbow Dash gushed. "I could go on some more about how awesome Heaven is and really show you around, but I do have to file a report." She led them into the main lobby of the castle, which was eerily deserted, but adorned with a few benches and drapes displaying the kingdom's crest. "Why don't you all wait here or something. Twilight, was it? I'll see about that audience after my report. You can stay here, I guess. It won't take long!" She flapped her wings and sped off into one of the many corridors of the castle, Gilda following soon after her just before flashing Twilight and the others a condescending smirk.

"They just ditched us, you know," Applejack angrily snorted, sitting herself uncomfortably by one of the pillars. "This is not the same as good ol' dirt and trees."

"Dashie wouldn't leave us," Pinkie Pie piped up, drawing everyone's attention with her latest pet name. "What?"

"Dashie?" Applejack snorted. "You're handing out pet names to complete strangers now, bandit?"

"Dashie! She's Rainbow Dash and she's dashy, so she's Dashie!" she pointed out matter-of-factly, which only drew more exhaustion out of Applejack. "And our Dashie would never abandon a pony in need."

"Bandit, you're delusional, because she just did." Applejack pulled her hat down over her face to better ignore Pinkie Pie's babbling.

Rarity stood on the opposite side of the room, observing the others with indifference. She was anxious, her mind constantly returning to Sweetie Belle. Her hoof was tapping against the floor, but made no sound because of the cloud floors plush nature. "Ugh," she groaned, "I don't have time for this!" She planted her hoof in the floor, disappointed with the lack of sound.

"What's the matter, Rarity?" Pinkie Pie turned to her, her bubbly personality unfaltering in the face of Rarity's stoic grimace.

"None of your concern."

Hours passed, and Twilight was at the end of her patience and the ponies around her were just as visibly frustrated, except for Fluttershy who sat in a corner as quiet as ever. She reached into her bag, letting her hoof hover over the element of harmony as her mind returned to the fight at the dock in Canterlot. Why didn't it spark when I touched it? She closed her eyes and let her hoof rest on the element, and soon she began to feel the wild shifting of magic between her and the element. The flow sifted around her for a moment before she felt it beginning to change. She was warming up, and the element was getting hotter. "Ow!"

"What?" Spike bleated, suddenly stirred back to life. "Something wrong, Twilight?"

"The element, it burned me!" she cried as she shook her hoof in pain. "This thing sparks uncontrollably, and then heats up like a ball of fire. I just don't understand it."

"Who would have thought the element of harmony could be such a trouble-maker," Spike teased her, chuckling at Twilight's stone-faced stare.

"Maybe I can get these nightmares to annoy Nightmare Moon back to the moon," Twilight threw back, soon chuckling at her own terrible joke, which had left Spike in fits on the floor.

"And just what in sam hill are you too yuckin' it up over?" Applejack yelled from across the room, but Twilight and Spike couldn't hear her over the sound of their uproarious giggles. She turned to Fluttershy who just shrugged back at her.

"Ooh! Maybe we can use the elements to rock her world!" Pinkie Pie threw in, joining Twilight and Spike in a round of laughter and terrible jokes.

"Would you three be quiet?" Rarity groaned. "Keep this up and we're liable to be thrown out—"

"Excuse me!" a loud and authoritative voice called to them. A mare with a peach coat and a short golden mane had appeared from the infinite corridors of the castle. Her modest dress made her out to be one of the stewards of the castle. She had no discernible wings, but did not wear a collar like the ones Twilight and the others wore. "Are you all the mares that accompanied Rainbow Dash and Gilda?" she asked in the same voice of authority.

"Yes," Rarity huffed, "we're the ones that accompanied those harrowing brutes if you must know."

"Then please accompany me to the throne room. I was told one of you specifically wants to talk to the King."

"That would be me," Twilight replied as she approached the steward. "Please, lead the way."

"Of course." The steward turned and began down the central large hall of the castle, leading Twilight and her companions past numerous painting of the previous kings and queens of the country. One particular portrait of a mare with a dark blue coat and an even darker blue mane caught Twilight's attention. Under it, the label of the portrait read 'Hurricane'.

"Is this the same Hurricane from the Hearth's Warming Eve Tale?" she asked enthusiastically.

"Yes, that is," the steward answered her with pride. "We, the royal family, are all direct descendants of Commander Hurricane, as her full title would have it."

"We?" Rarity repeated. "You mean to say you are not a maid here?"

"Maid!?" the peach pony gasped, jumping back at the thought. " I am Princess Nimbus Knell! Not a maid!" Everyone but Rarity stared at her blankly. "The Princess of the Cloud Kingdom, second daughter of King Steel Wing, and current heir to the throne!" She was becoming increasingly flustered with the clueless looks directed at her and let out a very guttural groan.

"Sorry," Twilight offered her. "I've just never heard of you, and we can't really see the wings under the dress."

"Yeah!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed as she bounced around Nimbus Knell. "Whenever I heard anything about the Cloud Kingdom. It's always about King Steel Wing, only I call him Meanie Wings because everything I hear about him is bad news but I guess that has to do with the whole conquering the border deal. Say, what was up with that?"

Princess Nimbus Knell had been completely overtaken by Pinkie Pie's forwardness as well as the hyperactive mare’s motor mouth sentences. "I, well, you see... my father is waiting for us! Let's be on our way, quickly." She turned around, and bolted down the hallway, desperate to escape the bouncing pink mass of energy.

Castle of Clouds: Throne of Heaven

Twilight swallowed as she gazed to the top of the impossibly high doors that lead into the throne room. With a single knock from the Princess, the doors were opened, and inside Rainbow Dash and Gilda were already standing at attention on one side of the room. In the very center of the back, against an impossibly high throne of pure silver clouds, sat the King of the pegasi, King Steel Wing. He was large and almost as tall as Nightmare Moon. Like his namesake he was colored a steel grey, and his mane was pure white like a cloud. Twilight wasn't used to seeing a single pony carry themselves as proudly, as him, or at least one that didn't also carry with her a very powerful malice. "Hello," she bowed, "I am Twilight Sparkle from Canterlot. I come with an urgent message."

"I know," King Steel Wing spoke in a deep and powerful voice. "The report from Quick Gleam stated that a winged unicorn appeared at Canterlot calling herself Princess Nightmare Moon and is claiming domain over Equestria?" He stared down at Twilight from his throne with golden piercing gaze.

"Y-yes," Twilight responded. She found something about King Steel Wings' presence unsettling. "I have reason to believe that it's her presence that is causing the sun to not rise. At least, that's what she said was her goal in the tale about herself and Celestia."

"One mere pony is keeping the sun from rising?" King Steel Wing questioned. "You would tell me that a mere pony-tale has prophesied the end of Equestria and that Nightmare Moon is going to reign down her night upon us all!?" He had visibly shaken the lavender unicorn. "Well, that's most likely the case." The suddenness of the statement threw off everyone in the room, except for the unflappable Pinkie Pie. He grinned, talking in everyone's surprise.

"Wow, and I heard King Meanie Wings was as thick-headed as they come!" Pinkie Pie commented nonchalantly.

"Bandit!" Applejack tried to tackle Pinkie Pie so she could manually silence her, but she danced out of the way at the last moment. "Bandit, now is not the time for you to flap your gums."

King Steel Wing continued to smirk. "So, is that the latest rumor? I was hoping for something more creative." He turned back to Twilight, who was still too surprised to address him properly. "While Nightmare Moon's appearance is indeed sudden, I'm not so foolish to ignore the state of the sky. The sun has yet to rise, and in its place stands a moon barren of the mare-on-the-moon sign. To top it all off, Rainbow Dash and Gilda reported that she is holding one of my finest commanders captive and has indirectly declared war on the Cloud Kingdom, and I can believe all this because we carry two of Celestia's greatest treasures: Celestia's Eternal Sword, and the Element of Loyalty."

"The Element of Loyalty," Twilight began to babble, "as in an Element of Harmony, as in one of the six of them, as in what we need to defeat Nightmare Moon, and you have one!?" Her mind raced with anticipation. Maybe there was a chance that she could save Equestria, she thought.

"Indeed, one of them." He unfurled his massive wings, and in ascended to the top of his throne, and at the very top he picked off a perfectly smooth and round stone with a gem-like indenture. "This is my Element of Loyalty, the symbol of my sovereignty." Around the room a mysterious wind picked up, and Twilight could feel magic in the wind just like from the element in her saddlebags. King Steel Wing landed and placed the element on the floor, and the wind died down as quickly as it came.

"That was incredible!" Pinkie Pie squealed. "Do it again, do it again!"

"But how?" Rarity gawked. "That magical wind, where did it come from."

"We have had our unicorns study the element privately," King Steel Wing began to lecture, "and as far as they can tell it is a byproduct created when the Element of Harmony attempts to tune itself to the natural magic of any pony that touches it, at least for hooves that are untrained in the art, which comprises the majority of pegasi and earth-ponies."

"Incredible!" Twilight gushed as, forgetting her position and purpose, bounded up to the element and the king and began studying it with her scholar's eyes. "I must see them! The data! Can I get a copy? How long has this been going on in secret?"

"What an eerily familiar sight," Princess Nimbus Knell groaned.

"Wow, what an egghead," Rainbow Dash chuckled. "So, we're going to prepare a defense strategy, right? I can't wait to get my rematch with that Nightmare whatever! I've got a score to settle."

"Just point me at what I need to beat up," Gilda added, allowing her talons to flash in what little light of the room there was.

"I shall begin preparation immediately. Soon, all of Equestria will bear witness to the full military might of the Cloud Kingdom!" King Steel Wing allowed his voice to reverberate throughout the room, and possibly even the castle, filling it with energy. He turned back to Twilight and the others and addressed them. "You all have done my country a great service in coming here to deliver this message. I shall have a room prepared for you, preferably one where you can see the total victory of my army."

"Thank you," Twilight bowed. "Now, about those research notes?"

"Those are property of the state and not for prying eyes." King Steel Wing smirked and turned to Nimbus Knell next to him. "Nimbus, why don't you show our company to the royal guest rooms while I prepare for my winning defense."

"At once, father." She bowed before turning back to Twilight and motioned for her to follow her out of the throne room and back into the complex of corridors, turning their backs to a king whose eyes danced with fervor for battle.

SKIT: Of Geese and Ponies

Twilight: Shoot, I was so close!

Pinkie Pie: Ooh, close to what?

Twilight: Those research papers! For years I was told the Elements of Harmony were just legends! For all I knew it was all one giant wild goose chase!

Pinkie Pie: Goose, but I thought we were looking for the Elements of Harmony?

Twilight: And then I learn they are real, and not just that but that the Cloud Kingdom has been studying one for years and has kept the findings hidden from the public!

Pinkie Pie: But what if the wild goose was the Elements of Harmony? I mean, who would think to look for an element in one!

Twilight: Years of studying the powerful magic contained in these stones! Do you have any idea what that kind of research could do for academia, no, for the world!

Pinkie Pie: Nightmare Moon wouldn't even see it coming too. It's the perfect plan!

Applejack: Are you two even listening to each other!?

Rarity: For the sake of my ears, please stop!

SKIT: End

Nimbus Knell lead the party through the hallways to a series of rooms assigned for guests of the castle. To be treated so lavishly. Twilight was caught off-guard when she expected her message of bad news to be initially met with denial and even accusations of conspiracy. She chose to count her fortunes, believing that soon, perhaps, the sun would rise on Equestria. "So, which one is my room?" she asked, smiling awkwardly.

"Choose whichever you want," Nimbus Knell replied graciously. "You have come a long way for the sake of a kingdom you owe no fealty too. You have earned this."

"Thank you, but that's not really the case. My original goal was to find the Elements of Harmony, and I, along with the others, escaped Canterlot on a flying chariot nopony could fly, so we crashed and just so happen to be close enough to the Cloud Kingdom for Rainbow Dash to find. Really, this is all just an unexpected miracle."

"It's a miracle for the sake of the Cloud Kingdom none the less. In fact, it's poetic. Perhaps Princess Celestia herself guided you all to us so that Nightmare Moon could be stopped. It's romantic even," Nimbus Knell chuckled as she opened the closest door. "Don't worry yourself over details. Now, if you'll excuse me." She turned and galloped off, disappearing into the shadows of the halls.

"At long last." Rarity, indescribably tired, turned to the opened door and shook off her delicate shoes before gently lowering herself onto the nearest bed. "At long last I can rest. Now if only I had something to drink."

"Coming up, m'lady!" Spike chirped as he ran to the bathroom and returned with cup of water, holding out to Rarity with both of his claws while propping down on one knee. "Anything else I can get for you, oh dazzling one?"

"Well aren't you cute," Rarity fawned as a mischievous glint sparked in her eyes. "Oh, my back is just killing me. I don't suppose you could help with working out some of the kinks?"

"Anything!" Spike, faster than the eye could blink, was on Rarity's back and carefully maneuvering his knuckles around, kneading Rarity's back as she groaned in pleasure. "I am at your beck and call."

"Well, that's sad," Applejack giggled as she watched Rarity expertly string Spike along. Beside her, Twilight couldn't help but cover her eyes in shame for him.

"I think it's cute," Fluttershy added, catching everyone off-guard with her sudden expression.

"Enough laying about, girls! Tonight, we hit the town!" Pinkie Pie exuberantly squealed as she grabbed Applejack and Twilight around their necks. "I've never been in a pegasus city before! Do you think their pastries are different? Do they have ovens here? C'mon, girls!"

"Bandit, what in all of Equestria makes you think I want to go prancin' around a pegasus town with you of all ponies?" Applejack tried to escape Pinkie Pie's hold on her but found her grip to be as strong as iron. "Dang it, let go!"

Twilight easily winked out of Pinkie Pie's grasp, and felt a little guilty as Applejack stared at her with a look of betrayed feelings, a look Twilight felt no remorse in ignoring. "Sorry, Pinkie, but I think I'm going to follow Rarity's example and stay off my hooves for the night. Right, Rarity?"

"Are you kidding me?" Rarity jumped off the bed, launching Spike into the wall behind her, as she began working her shoes back on. "A chance to sample sophisticated culture here in the Cloud Kingdom capital? I would be mad to pass up an opportunity!"

"That's great!" Pinkie Pie squeal as she wrapped her now free hoof around Fluttershy. "Ooh, we should try and get Rainbow Dash to show us around! The six of us together, it will be like the best night ever! C'mon, Twilight!"

"No thanks, really! I, uh, need to take a bath!" She quickly winked herself into the bathroom and locked the door behind her, keeping an ear to the door, waiting for the moment when Pinkie Pie would leave.

"Well, if you say so," Pinkie Pie woefully moaned. "Well, let's go, girls!" With Fluttershy and Applejack still in her inescapable hold, Pinkie Pie zipped out of the room with an excited Rarity following after her, who in turn was followed by an eager Spike. The room was silent, save for the creaking of the bathroom door as Twilight tip-hoofed out.

Giving the room one last quick glance, Twilight sighed in relief as she took in her empty surroundings. "Been awhile since I've been this alone, but..." A wry smile quickly formed across her face. "Well, this is the perfect chance to see just what all those studies are about. Knowledge shouldn't be hidden away, it should be published and shared!" Steeling herself, Twilight cast a spell that granted silence to her hoofsteps and quickly trotted out of the room.


"All right, girls! Let's paint this town pink!" Pinkie Pie cartwheeled her way down the halls of the castle, Applejack following along with a sour disposition. She glanced from side to side, and gritted her teeth, holding back more than enough words she wanted to pile on Pinkie Pie. "So, first we need to raid the local pastry shop! Charge!"

"Pastries!?" Rarity balked at the thought of risking a stain on her perfectly cut robe. "No, no, no, darling. We're in the cultural capital of the sky, literally! We must first sample the raw class and sophistication."

Applejack placed a hoof on her head and shook. "I'm not liking this already."

"And just what are you all doing?" Rainbow Dash's raspy voice called out to them. She approached Pinkie Pie and the others. Just behind her, Gilda kept a keen eye on them, her talons shifting and stretching as if she was ready to leap and pounce on something. "Didn't Princess Knell show you all to your rooms?"

"She did, but we're going out on the town to party!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed, summoning a cloud of confetti from seemingly nowhere. "I've got it! Dashie, you should show us around town! You said you wanted to, right! I bet you make an awesome tour-guide."

"Dashie?" Rainbow Dash looked back at Gilda, and she reacted by cracking her knuckles loudly. "Why not," Rainbow Dash sighed. "It's been awhile since I've been back and I finally got Quick Gleam off my wings. I think I'm overdue for a break."

"Says the mare that was caught sleeping through the last drill," Gilda spat.

"I already got reamed for that, so I'm going out. You coming, G.?"

Silence hung in the air for a minute, sliding uneasily between the two knights, before Gilda finally answered her. "Fine."


Twilight anxiously tip-hoofed through the fifth corridor she had crossed. Her half-closed eyes slid across every door and cross-road as the expanded her mental map of the facility more and more. Her head snapped between two more openings as she carefully weighed which one might lead her to the trove of knowledge she sought. "Which one!" she groaned so loud her voice bounced across the corridors.

"Is someone there?" A dark-blue pegasus with a darker mane appeared from one of the thousands of doors. "Huh, a unicorn? What are you doing around here?"

"I was, uhhh, lost!" she blurted, flashing the pegasus a toothy and unsettling grin. "Yeah. I'm new here and was recently transferred here for the research of the Element of Harmony. I don't suppose you could point me the way?" Her heart raced in her chest as her mind kept jumping between a varieties of worst case scenarios.

"Okay," the pegasus responded nonchalantly. He turned around and waved his hoof for Twilight to follow. "Well, hurry!"

"R-right!" Twilight strained to make her body move again as she bounded after the pegasus. He led her across more halls than she could count before finally leaving her by an extravagant and gilded door without a second thought. This is it! she thought as she took one last look around. Finally alone, she pushed open the doors. Inside was a brilliant room filled with gems each enchanted with magical energies. In the center stood a unicorn and Princess Nimbus Knell.

"What the?" Nimbus Knell bleated. "What are you doing here!" she jabbed her hoof at Twilight, who had to resist the urge to put up a magical barrier.

"Is this a new recruit?" the dark unicorn asked. "Hi, the name's Night Shade."

"She is not!" Nimbus Knell barked as she closed in on Twilight. "You came to try and spy on Cloud Kingdom secrets, didn't you!" She watched in satisfaction as Twilight hung her head in shame and defeat. "I knew it."

"Chill, Knell," Night Shade sighed. "She won't find much here if that's what she's looking for. King Steel Wing took the element. Probably plans to weaponize it for the upcoming sortie."

"Is that possible?!" Twilight bleated before covering her mouth, but Night Shade took a deep breath and she began listening in earnest.

"More than possible really," she lectured. "It's like a compact battery of magic when you get down to it, but it's also unruly. Oddly enough, the magic contained within the Element of Loyalty is very chaotic and can be quite unreliable if you actually want it to do something."

"What else did you find out?" Twilight begged to know.

"Night Shade, as Princess of the kingdom, I order you to remain silent."

"Oh c'mon, Princess. She's probably just another student trying to learn more. I can't help but sympathize with that." Night Shade trotted over to the middle of the room where a few enchanted gems sat on a raised platform. "I mean, she already seems to know about the existence of the elements. What harm is there."

"You mean other than weaponization of research data and using it against our nation?" Nimbus Knell replied indignantly. "I don't want to see giant beams of magic suddenly pop up from the cloud under us."

"I would never do such a thing!" Twilight growled with fervor. "Scientific research should be used for the betterment of ponykind, not for creating weapons! I didn't know the pegasus Princess was so paranoid of invasions." It took a moment for Twilight to realize, and when she did it was too late; she had openly mocked a Princess.

Nimbus Knell stared at Twilight, tracing every muscle spasm on Twilight face, and sign of shifting hooves, or even a nervous tail tick. "The data we gather here is of a very sensitive nature. Were it ever to fall into the wrong hooves, it could mean lives. I know for sure there are a few in Caballus who would love to turn the Element of Generosity into a means to breach our clouds."

"So there's an element in Caballus as well?"

"Yes, but, from what little I have heard, Blueblood keeps it under a very tight lock and key. Few, if any ponies, have actually gotten to touch it in a thousand years."

"Do you know where the others are?" Twilight nervously asked. Her eyes flashed as she waited anxiously for an answer.

"The other three are... most likely lost," Nimbus Knell answered her. "Lost in the annals of history with the fall of the earth-pony state and the collective-pony state."

Twilight blinked at the sudden influx of information. "Pony states? I've never heard of those."

"The history goes that when Celestia disappeared the five Elements of Harmony were split, to create five pony states. One for the pegasi, one for the unicorns, one for the earth-ponies, one to form a collective state with all three, and the last one was to be ruled by the last of Celestia's personal students as a sort of city of ancient culture. That was a thousand years ago anyway, and time changed a lot of that.

The earth-ponies made many cities across Equestria and spread themselves out too much, so I guess they lost track of the element. The collective-pony state was the opposite case though. Most of the ponies went to the other states, and their element is likely stowed away in one of their forgotten cities. Your Canterlot was supposed to be the capital of the unicorn pony state according to the history, but most of the unicorns ended up following Blueblood, and if anything happened to the element you would know more than me."

Twilight remained silent as she processed everything Nimbus Knell had just told her. But I found my element in those ruins. If it was supposed to be in New Canterlot, what was it doing in old Canterlot? Twilight turned back to Nimbus Knell and bowed. "Thank you, Princess. The information you have provided me... it will be helpful in the future."

"I... well, it is of no problem!" she adamantly stated, adopting a regal stance. "It is the job of a Princess to help her country and subjects, even if you are not one of them."


Out in the city of Heaven, Rainbow Dash eagerly led Pinkie Pie and the other visitors through the bustling streets. She couldn't help but loop around the sky as she pointed out her favorite shops and places to hang out, and gliding behind her was Gilda with a perpetual sneer on her beak. "If you want pastries, that place sells the best donuts, cupcakes and muffins! Probably helps that it's the King's favorite place to eat so it gets tons of publicity."

"It's gonna have to be really good to beat the Cakes stuff!" Pinkie Pie warned her as she barreled into the store with a bag of bits hanging from her mouth.

"What an unruly mare," Rarity groaned. "Tell me, Rainbow Dash, where is the culture? If I'm going to walk around with this tacky collar I can at least get a nice scarf to cover it."

"I don't know," Rainbow Dash shrugged, ready to follow Pinkie Pie into the store, but one of her back hooves was caught in Gilda's talons. "Huh, you hungry, G.?"

"What are we doing?" Gilda hissed, drawing Rainbow Dash closer. "Why are we chaperoning these lame-os around? I put up with them because I thought we would ditch them, so why are we still here?"

"Chill already," Rainbow Dash sighed. "We just got back. Don't you want to have some fun?"

"I could have tons of fun, without them around." Gilda eyed the other ponies venomously and cracked her knuckles again. "So, are we going to ditch them?"

"Fine, later, I promise."

"Yeah, I bet," Gilda hissed vehemently.

Back on the clouds, Rarity grunted and huffed as she took in her surroundings. "It's all food-stuffs as far as the eye can see!" she whined. "I had heard so much about pegasus fashion too. Whatever, I'll just go and find a store myself." Rarity turned, and found herself snout to snout with a mouth filled with blueberry muffins, nearly startling her off her hooves.

"Don't leave yet!" Pinkie Pie pleaded, spitting crumbs all over her. "We'll find a scarf shop later, I promise."

Rarity wiped away some crumbs off her face. "But, how did... how did you do that?"

"Next stop, Dashie!"

SKIT: Insensitive

Rarity: Oh, how did I get roped into all this? I can already feel that migraine kicking in.

Spike: I hear unprocessed lemon gels are a great way to handle those! I'll go get some.

Rarity: Oh, thank you, dearie.

Fluttershy: Spike.

Rarity: If you don't mind me asking, you seem rather out of place among this group.

Rarity: Everypony here is dressed in tacky garbs and armor, but you manage to carry yourself with some... elegance, I suppose? What's your story?

Fluttershy: I, well,  I was living in the Everfree Forest-

Rarity: That's ghastly!

Fluttershy: And then I ran into Applejack and Twilight and Spike and Pinkie Pie and... well I just got carried away in it all...

Rarity: Well, I guess if you're okay with it.

Fluttershy: Not really-

Spike: I'm back!

Rarity: Oh, thanks, Spike.

Rarity: You were saying Fluttershy?

Fluttershy: Oh, nothing...

Fluttershy: I...

Fluttershy: I just want to go home...

SKIT: End

 


Twilight couldn't concentrate as she wandered the halls of the castle. Her mind kept wandering back to the elements, and how she was going to find the ones that were lost. "Maybe the pegasi will stop her," she hoped. She stopped and leaned against a door, now realizing how tired she actually was. The door was bucked open, flinging Twilight straight into the wall in front of her, and promptly bounced off the fluffy white walls. "What the?" She picked herself up and found Soarin' heaving on the floor with bloodshot eyes. "You!?"

"Who's there?" Soarin' quickly replied as he tried to get up, but collapsed in exhaustion. Between haggard breaths he started rambling to Twilight. "You, somepony, have to tell the king. Nightmare Moon! She's coming!"

"W-what!?" Twilight shrunk back, her stomach tightening at the mere mentioning of Nightmare Moon's name. "What happened?"

"I was in Fillydelphia, and I ran into these three fillies. One of them, a little pegasus named Scootaloo, told me that Nightmare Moon was going to sink the city somehow! Where is the king? I have to tell him immediately!"

"He's actually preparing right now. He-"

"We have to alert him now!" Soarin' roared. "If Nightmare Moon sinks the city hundreds will die!"


Rainbow Dash had lead everyone to one of Heaven's few natural gardens, a special housed in area specially designed to hold soil and support plant life and with a rainbow river running through it for a dramatic effect. "This is amazing!" Pinkie Pie squealed as she ran her hoof through the rainbow river. "Is it edible? Please tell me it's edible!"

"You can have some," Rainbow Dash smirked as she watched Pinkie Pie greedily lick her hoof. Moment later, her face twitched in surprise, her fur turning every color of the rainbow before returning to its natural pink. "Oh man, that was priceless! Rainbows are really spicy, just so you know."

"Now I do," Pinkie Pie sighed in content.

Fluttershy, for the first time since leaving the Everfree Forest, was able to take comfort in her surroundings as she leaned against one of the trees, admiring the sound of chirping birds.

"Well, 'Shy, you look like a whole new mare all of a sudden," Applejack commented, taking a seat next to her. "Can't say I like the feeling of cloud under my hooves myself. Plain ol' dirt is a lot nicer."

"I agree," Fluttershy replied back as she nuzzled her cloak for comfort.

"Really?" Applejack turned to the pitch black sky. Numerous torches had been placed around the city to bring light to everyone, but every time she looked at one she was reminded of where she was and how far away from where she wanted to be. "I never would have imagined to hear those words from a pegasus. Say, Fluttershy, did you grow up in the Everfree Forest?"

"Not always, I think. I remember briefly living in a city with other pegasi and even other ponies." One of her chained sickles fell out of her loose sleeves. "I think, one day, I got lost, and I was taken in by a tribe of Everfree dwellers that taught me how to survive." She held the sickle up to the sky.

"Ever tried looking for them? Your parents?"

"Once, but... I had a hard time talking with other ponies."

"You're talking to me," Applejack pointed out.

"Yes, I am." Fluttershy stared at her reflection in the gleaming metal. "A city full of pegasi. Maybe I can find them."

On the other side of the park, Gilda had managed to steal Rainbow Dash away from Pinkie Pie, who was now busy bottling the rainbow liquid. "Dash, this has gone on long enough. Let's go, now!"

"Geez, Gilda, when did you turn into such a party-pooper, let alone care about orders," Rainbow Dash grumbled. "The way your acting is so uncool right now."

"The way I've been acting?" Gilda nearly screeched. "Some strangers show up, and you can't seem to stay away from them. Seriously, why are we even associating with these dorks? Besides, we need to get back to prepare for the sortie."

"I know, I know," Rainbow Dash nearly yelled back. The two stared at each other for a few moments, but Pinkie Pie had managed to squirm her way between the two and surprised the pair.

"Hey, Dashie, I've got the perfect idea for this rainbow juice!" she squealed with fevered delight.

"You again," Gilda hissed. "You're not wanted here, now beat it."

Pinkie Pie stared back at Gilda for a few moments before smiling and offering her hoof. "Uh, I didn't mean to be rude or anything. I just want to hang out with my friend Dashie. Nothing wrong with that, right?"

"Why you," Gilda hissed, angered at being put in the spotlight so suddenly.

"Lighten up, G," Rainbow Dash added. "Nopony's getting hurt and we'll be back in time for the sortie."

"Nopony is getting hurt alright," Gilda added through a very sour snarl, but took Pinkie Pie's hoof to at least try and maintain an air of collectedness. Her talon, however, was met with a shock so powerful that it nearly fried off her head feathers.

Pinkie Pie smiled as she held up her hoof and displaying her joy buzzer. "Dashie told me you liked pranks. This one's a personal favorite of mine," she giggled, joining Rainbow Dash in a fit of laughter.

"Did she tell you that," Gilda hissed.

"Yep!"

Gilda struck Pinkie Pie across the face with a balled-up talon, smiling with satisfaction as her knuckles made contact with the pink pony's snout. "Would you like a hurts donut? Wait. I think I was supposed to ask you that before I socked you," she sneered. She couldn't control the malicious smile spreading across her beak.

"Gilda, that was totally out of line!" Rainbow Dash yelled at her. "What's wrong with you today!?"

"We're going, now," Gilda barked at her. "Or do you want me to report to Quick Gleam?"

"Gilda, you suck," Rainbow Dash replied, turning to Pinkie Pie and helping her up. "You okay?"

"I'll be fine," Pinkie Pie groaned as she rubbed her face. "That was a really mean prank."

Gilda ignored Pinkie Pie as she skyrocketed into the air and out of the garden. Rainbow Dash could see that she was heading straight for the castle. "Sorry, girls, but I have to go. King's orders and all."

"Aw," Pinkie Pie groaned. "Will we see you later?"

"Yeah, totally." Rainbow Dash smiled back. "Hanging with you girls has been a blast."

"Hey, Pinkie Pie, what's wrong with your tail?" Spike asked, latching on to the twitching pink mass and riding it up and down. "Hey, this is fun!"

"Uh-oh! Twitchy tail!" Pinkie Pie screamed, knocking off Spike. "That means something is gonna fall."

"I beg your pardon, but what in all of Equestria are you talking about?" Rarity eyed Pinkie Pie's tail nervously, finding it hard to ignore the twitching mass of tangled pink hairs.

"It's my pinkie senses. I means that-"

"Forget I asked," Rarity groaned.

SKIT: The Games We Play

Rarity: That was rather devious of you.

Pinkie Pie: Are you talking to me?

Rarity: Yes, you.

Rarity: Tell me, do you dislike the griffon?

Pinkie Pie: Well, she did punch me. That was just uncalled for!

Rarity: Of course it was.

Rarity: This pink pony... I could stand to learn something.

SKIT: End

 


King Steel Wing gazed proudly at the assembly of his army from his balcony. Behind him stood an entourage of all his top-ranked soldiers, each one of them wearing a blue drape save for Rainbow Dash and Gilda who wore the lower ranked red drapes. King Steel Wing, with zeal and passion, addressed his subordinates. "You are all the finest ponies Equestria could ever ask for," he started, rousing his troops into shared fervor. "Now is the time to put your mettle to the test! Let me warn you all that the opponent you face is more than just a foreign army, you face-"

"Nightmare Moon!" Twilight ran into the dais, screamed as she bursted into the scene, shoving her way past the knights and dropping to the floor gasping for air. "I ran into a pony named Soarin', and he wanted me to warn you that Nightmare Moon is going to try and sink the city."

"That's preposterous!" King Steel Wing admonished her. "It took a thousand pegasi to build this city, and you expect me to believe that a single one is going to tear it out of the sky? It's foalish to think that Nightmare Moon is that powerful!"

"Sir!" A black pegasus with a sky-blue styled up mane called out. "Urgent news! A small army has appeared close by, mostly comprised of unicorns and earth-ponies! No uniform, so unable to determine their allegiance, but they were headed by this big black pegasus with a horn and had this misty blue mane! It was... scary, sir."

"Nightmare Moon," Twilight whispered below her faint breath.


Nightmare Moon stood proudly before her assembled army of Canterlot's inhabitants. At her side was Lyra, who had to use her sword to support herself as she stretched her neck upwards, her mouth agape as she stared at what was taking place. Under Nightmare Moon's will, the clouds were separating, revealing the capital in the sky. "Watch closely," Nightmare Moon hissed, magic carrying her voice through the ears of every one of the ponies. "Watch closely and witness the power of your Princess."

Lyra gasped, watching Nightmare Moon as she floated into the sky, her wild mane giving off a blinding aura of light, and her horn fired off a strand of light that weaved its way across the sky and piercing the city of Heaven. Seconds later, an explosion of dark magic erupted from the base of the cloud, and it began to sink. The city was falling.


It happened slowly for Twilight, the feeling of weightlessness setting in slowly. She felt her hooves leave the floor, and turned to Rainbow Dash, her body trembling with fear. Rainbow Dash grabbed onto her, her wings flapping in every direction to control their descent as every other pegasus took to the sky for safety. The Cloud Kingdom was falling, and bringing down the sky with it.

In the homes and streets of the city, pegasi were flying in every direction, grabbing onto last remnants of their lives before it would all crash and settle into dust. Their eyes shrank in horror, gawking in despair as their lives crumbled under the flap of their wings. Their homes fell faster than their tears.

Outside the kingdom, the small army of Canterlot's citizens, forced into their bonds by Nightmare Moon, witnessed the travesty, their fear in their new leader awakening to a new level. Nightmare Moon had the power to fell a city. Nothing was beyond her terrible magic, and it would have been foal's play for her to sweep through the city mercilessly raining down her dark judgment, but she wanted them to fight for her. She wanted to see them hurt one another and revel in it.

The eternal moment came to an end at long last as the clouds were welcomed into the majesty of the earth, and dissipated, settling into a mournful fog that wrapped the crumbling ruins of the Cloud Kingdom. Lives were buried under homes were buried under a now fallen kingdom, laying at the feet of the mighty mountains that were once believed to be their mighty shield. Twilight, laying in the fallen castle with Rainbow Dash over her, opened her eyes to a broken city. "No..." she whispered, never audible in the chorus of anger and cries that were erupting from the pegasi of the Cloud Kingdom.

Nightmare Moon grinned maliciously at the sight, feelings filled with wicked joy and cold intent. Her eyes flashed wildly as her ears took in all of the anger the pegasi had for her actions. It filled her, their anger feeding into her own anger. "This is your punishment for forgetting me," she whispered into the wind. "But never again, foolish pegasi. Your era is done, and in the annals of history you will never forget me and what I have done to you tonight! Hate me, forever and ever!" She turned to her shackled army of hungry ponies, and grimaced. She spread her wings and soared into the light of the moon. "This is it, my little ponies!" she called out to them, lacing her voice with lunatic magic. "My little starving ponies, you want your food? Then pluck it from the mouths of these greedy pegasi! You want your easy lives? Well, first you need to work for it! Work hard for me, my little ponies! This is the first step to a new dynasty! My new dynasty! Go forth, my little ponies! Go forth and rip and tear everything they have taken from you! Satiate your desires on the carcass of this fallen city! Tonight, Equestria will tremble in fear. The reign of Nightmare Moon begins now! Fight each other! Kill each other for me, my little ponies, your Princess demands it!" Nightmare Moon's voice echoed across the city, her voice enthralling her army into a mad rage, and they ran towards the fallen city, knives and swords of all kinds shining in the sad moonlight.


The Fallen City: Heaven

Landing safely of the wreckage of the castle, Twilight's stomach lurched as she witnessed Canterlot's citizen’s storm the city and start attacking pegasi indiscriminately. She was afraid for them as they danced to Nightmare Moon's twisted whims. "If they fight like this, they'll all end up dead," she observed mournfully.

"Nightmare Moon!" King Steel Wing roared, gripping a pulsing purple double-bladed sword between his teeth. "Nopony attacks my city!" His wings flared up as rage filtered out of him with every breath. "Warriors! Take flight and defend your city, your friends and family!" His battle cry was met with a chorus of anger and bloodlust from the knights. In a gust of wind the army shot into the sky and dispersed, intent on defending what was left of the city and killing the invaders.

"Father, wait!" Princess Nimbus Knell called out to her father.

"No!" he bellowed. "I will not let a shadow from the past come in and hurt my ponies!" His voice echoed throughout the crumbling castle. He flapped his wings and shot through the ceiling, climbing high and higher into the sky. "I, King Steel Wing, the king of Heaven, sentence you to death!" He angled downward and descended to the ground, his blade pointing at Nightmare Moon.

The monster mare saw the foolish pegasus that dared to call himself a King in the Princess's presence. "You're kidding, you're kidding right?" she taunted him, her eyes lighting up with murderous intent. "The sky will fall before the might of the celestial bodies! Foalish pegasus! I am greater than heaven!" Nightmare Moon's wings unfurled, casting shadows in the fires of war miles long. Her fur stood on edge as the air around her filled with electricity. She stomped a hoof, and waves of darkness erupted around her, creating a shield that clashed with King Steel Wing's sword, the collisions of power resulting in an explosion of mesmerizing light of every color of the rainbow.

"Evil monster!" King Steel Wing grunted. "Your resistance will make your death that much more painful!"

Nightmare Moon did not respond. She was not expecting power as great as King Steel Wing’s sword. "This sword," she hissed, "is not yours!" Her voice cried out, louder than lightning and even more powerful.  Her starry mane and tail whipped from side to side, almost writhing in pain. "You will pay for using her sword on me!"

King Steel Wing's eyes grew fierce as he bit down harder on the purple blade, drawing out more of its ancient power. "Monstrous scourge, I will end you with Celestia's own blade!" Power seeped out from the sword, enveloping the King before towering upwards into the sky, creating a column of pure light that began to sharpen itself into a sword. By King Steel Wing's will the energy began to merge together and form a blade of light. "Take this, fiend!" King Steel Wing yelled. "Aurora Blade!" He willed the sword of light at Nightmare Moon, and it came crushing down on top of her.

Light erupted in every direction, making it impossible to see anything that would remain of the attack. Still, King Steel Wing smirked to himself, reveling in the demise of the Cloud Kingdom's invader.

"Is that it..." came the chilling words. The light finally faded, and standing in the center of destruction stood Nightmare Moon. She was not like the gloating and composed monster that King Steel Wing first struck. What he was witnessing now was an animal, a hungry animal. "You will pay for that! You will suffer for that! Nopony can use her sword. Nopony!" Her scowl curled into a vicious and twisted grin as her eyes shrunk to dots. "Now, feel the full might of the fury of the night! I will crush you with the stars themselves!" She rose into the sky and the clouds parted for her, revealing the majesty of a full moon. She eclipsed it, flying directly between King Grey Wing and her full moon. "Radiance of light shimmer and fall! Unleash thy brilliance upon this sinful land and encroach it in your light! Come, Starlight!"

King Steel Wing drew the sword nearer to himself as he watched the stars in the sky move for Nightmare Moon. "What the heck is that?" he muttered. "This can't be!"

"Drown in light!" Nightmare Moon howled as the stars in the night sky fell and converged on King Steel Wing. When the dust cleared, the King of the Cloud Kingdom lay in a crater on the ground, his armor shattered and body nearly torn asunder, left to waver on the throes of death, but for Nightmare Moon that wasn't good enough. "I'll give you credit for surviving this long," she sneered as she concentrated her dark magic into a spear, hovering over King Steel Wing with bitter sentiment.

"Rekkuuzan!" Rainbow Dash flew straight at Nightmare Moon, spinning her body and blade into a tempest of steel. Her blade made impact not with the dark Princess, but by an ephemeral wall of her own magic.

"You again!" Nightmare Moon raged and expanded her magical shield, blowing away Rainbow Dash and knocking her out of the air.

"No one hurts my friend! Spirale Kralle!"

Nightmare Moon found herself wincing in pain for the first time since her return from the moon. Gilda's talons were buried deep into her back, threatening to tear out a piece of her. Filled with anger and defiance, Nightmare Moon turned her body ephemeral and blew through the griffon, shredding away her armor. She materialized over the griffon, and stomped down on her, descending and forcing Gilda to the ground, the force of the decent burying her in a pile of debris. "You as well," Nightmare Moon hissed. "And just what is a chick like you doing in the land of ponies?"

"Up yours!" Gilda yelled back.


"Gilda!" Rainbow Dash cried out as she dragged her hulking King through the war torn city. "Gilda, fly away!"

"To think that monster can fend off the blade of Celestia," King Steel Wing replied with haggard breath, clinging the blade by his side. "There is no way to stop her."

"No, there is one way." Twilight's voice rang out to them, and the unicorn herself stepped out of the shadows of debris to greet them. "The prophecy said the elements of harmony have the power to stop Nightmare Moon. It was too hopeful to think that maybe your army could..."

"You dare mock the might of my pegasi?" King Steel Wing's chest heaved with every word.

Twilight ignored his question. "King Steel Wing, I humbly ask for you to lend me the Element of Loyalty for the sake of stopping Nightmare Moon."

"So, cutting to the chase," he wheezed,  glaring at Twilight with eyes burning with anger at the proposal. Who was she to order a King, he wondered. "Take my element," he begrudgingly answered her. "Take it, and with it destroy this thing that dares to call itself a Princess and rob the Cloud Kingdom of its glory!"

"That's the plan," Twilight sighed, "and easier said than done."

"Rainbow Dash," King Steel Wing spoke up again. "I order you to accompany this unicorn in her quest for the elements by any means necessary."

"What!?" Rainbow Dash blurted. "But Nightmare Moon is here, attacking now! Ponies are dying, and you're telling me to high-tail it out of here?!"

"I gave you an order, knight," King Steel Wing replied with grave intent. "Or should I order you to dive-bomb that thing again and lose your life in the process!"

"But..." Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth, her eyes flashing wildly through her city and home. The crumbling building and screaming pegasi all made her sick with anger. She wanted to lash out, but couldn't. The object of her rage was a monster with powers she could not rival, and now her duty was commanding her to leave this city with her tail between her legs.

"You're wasting time!" King Steel Wing roared.

"I understand, your majesty," Rainbow Dash replied, her voice hollow and cracking. She gently let down King Steel Wing and unfurled her wings. "Grab tightly and hold on, Twilight. I'll get us back to the castle in no time."

"Understood," Twilight responded as she jumped onto Rainbow Dash's back. Rainbow Dash's wings beat, and soon they were soaring through the air, the city of Heaven burning under them.


Applejack had never been so happy to be touching land, she even kissed it. She, Pinkie Pie and Rarity were only alive because of Pinkie Pie's idea to ride a cloud to the ground, and they almost lost their lives in the process. "This is too much!" she screamed. "I just want to go home already!"

"Is everypony okay?" Spike muttered while holding down his lunch. "What... what happened?"

"It must have been that ghastly Nightmare Moon," Rarity answered him. Her mirrors floated behind her defensively, casting rays of light across the sky. The pegasi knights were scattered all over, diving towards the ground. "We need to go, now!"

"No! We have to find Twilight and Rainbow Dash first, quickly!" Pinkie Pie yelled, helping Applejack back to her hooves. "C'mon, we have to go, and quick!"

Rarity stared at the pink bandit with annoyance. "And why should we? Even further, just how are we supposed to find them in this mess? What we need to do is salvage a flying chariot and make our way to Caballus. It's the only haven now."

"Not without everypony else!" Pinkie Pie argued back. "They're our friends!"

"Your friends maybe," Rarity sneered. "I'm only trying to help you all out of the generosity of my heart, but I'm not about to jeopardize my life for you all. This is war!"

"No! We're not leaving them!" Pinkie Pie screamed as loud as she could, catching Rarity off-guard and causing her to leap back. Pinkie Pie looked at Rarity with intense eyes that refused to leave anyone behind. "We're all getting out of this together!"

"We're just going to get ourselves killed? Is your friendships worth your life?"

"Yes," Pinkie Pie answered her genuinely. "I'll risk my life for my friends, so I promise nothing bad will happen to you, Rarity."

"Why?" Rarity whispered under her breath. The crumbling ruins around reminded her that time was of the essence and she didn't have time to question Pinkie Pie further. "Lead the way, quickly!" she hissed. "I don't want to die a miserable death here."

"Then let's go!" Pinkie Pie waved to her, and the three of them made for the crushed ruins of the Cloud Kingdom castle.

SKIT: A Pink Enigma

Rarity: Applejack...

Applejack: Yeah, what?

Rarity: Just who is that pink pony?

Applejack: You mean Pinkie Pie? She's a bandit me and Twi' ran into awhile back. She and her gang stole something important from my town and since then she seems to stick to us like glue. That about wraps it up.

Rarity: That's it?

Applejack: Yep. What? Expecting more?

Rarity: Yes, I was.

Rarity: Pinkie Pie, who are you?

SKIT: End

Pinkie Pie swung her giant pinwheel, crushing a piece of rubble and letting everyone into the heart of the chaos. Everywhere, ponies were fighting one another. "Twilight! Rainbow Dash! Where are you!"

"Pinkie Pie, watch out!" Spike lunged at Pinkie Pie, shoving her to the ground and narrowly avoiding the spinning blade of a pegasus knight. "Hey, what's the big deal!"

A single knight dropped out of the sky, brandishing the blade. "All the earth ponies and unicorns here are from Canterlot!" he roared. "Why should I trust anypony without wings?"

"We're not here to fight! We're just looking for our friends! Honest!" Pinkie Pie pleaded, but behind her a torrent of water erupted and knocked the pegasus knight off his hooves, tearing his armor to bits and leaving him a bruised pulp. "What the!? What was that!" She turned around and found a sea-green unicorn standing on only her back hooves, covered in blue armor with a lyre emblem on the cuirass.

"Lyra!" Spike blurted out. "What are you doing here?"

"Well," she sighed, "Nightmare Moon made me the head of her army. Compared to my previous job, I mean, it's a hoof up, right?"

"Then you have to call them off!" Pinkie Pie threw herself at Lyra's hooves. "If you're the head, you can make them stop!"

Lyra stepped back, and fidgeted with the spiked collar around her neck. "It's not my decision to make. Orders are orders. Sorry."

"So, you’re Nightmare Moon's pet now?" Rarity brought her mirrors out in front of her, gathering light in the reflections. "I take it this is where we were heading?"

"You catch on quick," Lyra grumbled, drawing her broad-edged lyre and charging at Rarity. She swung her weapon and collided with Rarity's row of mirrors. "Orders were to attack anypony who hasn't sided with her. So, if you could just surrender, I can let you go."

"I'll pass, Prism Shot!" The light from Rarity's mirrors erupted out, throwing off Lyra and putting considerable distance between them. Rarity turned back to the others. "Well! We're being attacked! Do something!"

"I don't want to fight!" Pinkie Pie cried. "This isn't for fun like before!"

"This is for survival!" Rarity screamed as loud as she could. "If you want to find your friends than you better darn well fight!"

"Rarity! Behind you!" Fluttershy called out to her, withdrawing the sickles hidden in her robe and throwing them into a torrent of water directed at Rarity. "Aching Chains!" The sickles came to life and tore through the current, disrupting Lyra's spell and saving Rarity.

"Let's go, unicorn!" Applejack galloped at Lyra, who responded by levitating her weapon in front of her, ready to swing back at Applejack. She closed in on Lyra, and saw the blade coming. At just an inch away, she leapt backwards. "I got you! Rending Force!" She landed on the ground and dug her hooves into the ground, creating a shockwave that tore through the earth and sent shrapnel of rocks at Lyra. "Well, what are you all waiting for? Let's run!"

SKIT: Where Credit is Due

Rarity: Oh my stars and garters! That was terrifying.

Applejack: Says the pony who was at arms first.

Rarity: The situation called for it!

Rarity: Besides, I can't honestly say I'm used to fighting like this.

Applejack: Still green I supposed.

Rarity: Green is a terrible color.

Applejack: It's an expression. Besides, don't you owe somepony here some thank-yous for savin' your life?

Rarity: I supposed I should give credit where it's due...

Rarity: Fluttershy, thank you for saving me like that.

Fluttershy: Oh, well, uh... you're welcome.

Rarity: It's more than I can say I would do for any of you.

Applejack: I feel warmed already...

SKIT: End

The remains city was slowly falling itself apart with the howls of ponies tearing into each other with reckless abandon. Pinkie Pie tried to ignore the carnage and mayhem as she led the others. In the distance, she could see something massive approaching them, something big and fast. "Girls, watch out!"

"It's the chariot!" Spike piped up. Everyone's eyes grew wide as flying chariot that had gotten them so far pulled up right next to them at the last moment, and Rainbow Dash was riding it from the roof.

"Get in, now!" she yelled as the door opened up. Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity and Spike rushed into the gilded behemoth, and inside at the controls was Twilight nervously fidgeting between levers.

"You're okay!" Pinkie Pie cried as she wrapped herself around Twilight, tears streaming down her face and collecting in the folds of Twilight's cloak. "I was so worried!"

"It's so hard to believe you all lived through that," Twilight replied in bewilderment. "Anyway, we have the Element of Loyalty now, and according to Nimbus Knell we can find the Element of Generosity in Caballus. Blueblood has it."

"Leave it to Blueblood to make life miserable," Rarity sighed.

"Do you know the way?"

"Yes. It should be west of where we are now... let's hurry."


 

Equestria: Cold Heart's Pass

The chariot continued on through the land of Equestria, guided by Rarity's light leading them to the magical city-state of Caballus. The journey was quiet, few daring to speak for more than the briefest expressions. Even Pinkie Pie, who tried to stay positive in the glum atmosphere, could barely talk. Every one of them was too busy trying to keep from falling apart in their own ways.

"How much longer?" Applejack asked quietly. Were it not for the absolute silence between all of them it would have been impossible to hear her.

"At this pace, we might be able to make it within a few hours," Rarity answered her.

"Gotcha," Applejack sighed. All she could think about was reuniting with her little sister and how she was going to scold her for following her out into this dangerously dark land.

Fluttershy curled herself in the same position she had done before she was dragged off to the Cloud Kingdom, where her hopes had been crushed along with nearly the entire city. Her entire world had fallen in more ways than one, and she tried to hide her tears within the confines of her loose robe. "I guess I'll never find them," she whispered to herself.

Rainbow Dash chose to sit away from the others, latching herself to the top of the chariot outside where she could try and watch the scenery pass her by. She was doing everything she could to not take out her anger on the nearest possible outset. In her mind the castle's fall played repeatedly along with her failures and losses in parallel. She turned to the sky and let out a loud and harsh scream that strained her voice. None of the other ponies paid attention to it. It wasn't the first scream she emitted either. "Next time, I'll get that Nightmare Moon, or die trying!"

In the back of the chariot, Twilight laid with Spike curled up in her scarf and sleeping on her lap. The two elements of harmony were next to her. Periodically she would extend her aura to the spheres and feel the magic between them, a powerful magic completely alien to her. "This is just a fraction of the magic needed to stop Nightmare Moon, and I can't even match up to one of these," she told herself, staring intently. "I have one plus loyalty, and generosity is in Caballus." She kept recounting various facts to herself like a chant to calm herself. "Kindness, loyalty, generosity, honesty, laughter, and the sixth element. I'll need all of these."

Would you like to save your game?

 

Notice: Tales of the Cuties - Soarin' chapter unlocked!


Sometimes, that feeling would really get to her...

It felt like we were being constantly lied to...

 

NEW GAME

>CONTINUE

OPTIONS

EXTRA

Twilight peered out of a window of the land-bound chariot as it drove through the frozen wasteland. It was just ice and snow as far as the eye could see. She had never heard that Caballus, considered by many the city of the unicorns, to be built in such on such cold and desolate land. "Is this really where you live, Meredy?"

"Yes, my beloved warm and cozy land of Caballus. And my name is Rarity," she groaned.

"Oh, sorry." Twilight turned back to the heart-chilling wonderland. "Hm, what is that?"

"Chimera!" Rainbow Dash's voice erupted from the roof of the chariot. "Everypony, we've got three avian types approaching from the sky! Unicorns, get up here! Gecko, shoot high!"

"I am not a gecko!" Spike huffed as he planted his feet into the roof of the chariot and took aim with his short bow. "I can't reach them from here! Twilight, get up here and shoot them with your magic!"

"Are you crazy?" Twilight cried out. "I'll fly off."

The piercing shrieks of the chimeras erupted as it flew down, four massive talons piercing the roof of the chariot and tearing it clean off, and taking Spike with it.

"Spike!" Twilight yelled out as fire built up over her horn. "Let go of Spike! Flame Lance!" She jumped up, grabbing hold of the expanding fireball with her teeth as it reformed into a spear. She reeled back her head, and flung the spear forward as hard as she could. It broke through the roof of the chariot and struck the chimera in its chest, causing it to drop Spike. Rainbow Dash flew at him, catching him mid-flight on her back.

"How's this for a vantage point, chameleon?"

"Better, and let me tell you that I'm a dragon!" He breathed green fire on an arrow and nocked it against his bow. "Dragonfire Lotus!" He shot the arrow and it soared into the sky before exploding into a hail of burning green embers that pelted the chimeras.

"Impressive, now hang on! Everypony else, cover me!" Rainbow Dash ordered and she shot up higher than her targets.

"Hear you loud and clear, Dashie!" Pinkie Pie squealed as she knelt on her party cannon. "Taking aim aaaaaaaand...."

"Where in Equestria did that come from?" Applejack commented.

"Fire!" Pinkie Pie stomped the cannon and it exploded with confetti as the cannonball shot through the chariot and lodged itself in the side of one of the chimeras. It fell out of the sky, disappearing into the frozen horizons of the tundra. "Who's next!?"

"Applejuice, take the wheel!" Rarity ordered as she magically placed her mirrors over the top of the chariot. "Well, hurry before we crash!"

"You could at least say please, and it's Applejack!" Applejack grabbed hold of one of the levers with her forehooves and placed her back hooves on the pedals that controlled the speed of the chariot. "Alright, time to floor it!" she stomped the pedals, and the chariot took off at double speed, throwing everyone else off balance.

"Imbecilic ruffian," Rarity groaned as she struggled back to her hooves. She saw one of the chimeras swooping down at them and took her chance. "Radiant Wall!" she cried out as the light of the mirrors focus into a barrier of light that the Chimera crashed into. "Now, shatter!" The wall exploded, blasting away the chimera, which was sent flying straight into the end of Rainbow Dash's sword.

"Thanks," she replied as she spun and threw the chimera into the dirt, following the attack by throwing her sword at it. "Sangai!" The blade spun into the beast, grinding away at its back and forcing it further into the ground before popping upwards and returning to Rainbow Dash. "That's two!"

"Bogey, five o'clock!" Spike cried out.

"What the hail does that mean?" Rainbow Dash sighed, caught off guard as the talons of the last chimera grabbed her with its talons and threw her back at the chariot. She landed with a loud crash, busting up the vehicle even further. "Ow," she moaned, rubbing her head. "So, any bright ideas now?"

"Hit it with everything we've got?" Rarity offered as she redoubled her efforts on the barrier. "Surely between all of us he have enough to singe a wing or something."

"I don't know. Could we control that?" Twilight wondered until the chimera raked against the side of the chariot. "Okay, less talky, more blasty."

"That's what I like to hear!" Spike nocked an arrow and waited for Rarity to lower her barrier. "Everypony ready?!"

"Rarity, on the count of three, lower the shield," Rainbow Dash ordered, met with an understanding scoff. Rainbow Dash placed her hooves on the insignia on her chest-plate and felt the magic building in her armor. "One," the air around Twilight condensed and the head of Spike's arrow ignited, "two," Rarity's horn glowed brighter as Pinkie Pie readied another salvo of confetti, "three!" The barrier disappeared and Rainbow Dash let loose her hurricane of magic. "Gale Edge!"

"Icicle Vault!"

"Dragonfire Lotus!"

"Ray!"

"Party Cannon!"

The chimera’s body was assaulted by a magical blade of wind before being assaulted with ice, fire, light, and streamers. Yet, despite the onslaught, is kept its breath long enough to barrel downwards toward the chariot in a last ditch attempt to finish its prey.

"Applejack, do something!" Twilight cried.

Applejack stared at the console board, a bead of sweat flowing down her forehead. Faced with few options, she did the one thing she found always worked when it came to machines. She turned around and bucked it, causing the chariot to swivel to the side, dodging the falling chimera as it collided with the ground and began tumbling. Both it and the chariot collided with the corpse of a much larger chimera that had been reduced to a pile of charred ash and bone. "Whoa nelly!" Applejack cried as she crashed into the windshield.

"You have got to be kidding me," Rarity moaned as she dusted her robe. "Still, I guess we're alive."

"That's a mighty fine way to say thanks," Applejack groaned as she slid to the floor. She took a single long breath and smiled to herself. "But, yeah, we're alive alright."

"Thanks in no small part to your... unorthodox driving," Twilight mused as she examined the controls. They were broken beyond repair. "I don't think I can fix this."

"In that case let me eat it," Spike piped in as he stared greedily at the fractured gem structures that made up the inside of the dash board. "Means more rations for everypony else, right?"

"Unless somepony plans to cook us some chimera wings," Rainbow Dash added, met with an awkward silence from the rest of her cohorts. "Do any of you have a sense of humor?"

"How would you like it if somepony tried to gobble you up," Fluttershy hissed. "It's... not nice to joke like that."

Rainbow Dash's ears twitched as she glared at Fluttershy. "How would I know? I don't know, maybe because I was up there! Trying not to get snatched out of the sky! You ever try fighting a chimera? You ever try doing anything but hide in a corner!" she roared, left breathless and seething. "Well, anypony agree?"

"Dashie, you're out of line!" Pinkie Pie screamed. "Apologize to Fluttershy, now!"

"I'm sorry you're useless." Rainbow Dash exhaled, put her forehooves behind her head, and laid back with her eyes closed as she ignored the fuming pink pony.

"Dashie, now you're sounding like a meanie-pants," Pinkie Pie sighed, but Rainbow Dash ignored her. She turned to Fluttershy, opening her forelegs to hug and console her. "Dashie is just mad, Fluttershy. She didn't mean anything she said." Fluttershy huffed and turned away, leaving the chariot in silence. "Hey, Fluttershy, where are you going?"

"Maybe she just wants to be alone, bandit," Applejack replied. "Quite frankly, some silence would probably do my head a world of good right now."

"B-but, who would want to be alone?" Pinkie Pie asked sincerely. Around her, everyone chuckled silently to themselves, thinking about how they all just wanted to be in bed, alone, somewhere safe, without the weight of the world crashing down on them.

SKIT: Anthem

Applejack: …

Rainbow Dash: What are you staring at?

Applejack: You, frankly.

Applejack: I always thought pegasi were close-knit, seems I was wrong.

Rainbow Dash: That pony, a pegasus? She may be able to walk on clouds but she's no pegasus.

Rainbow Dash: A pegasus is strong, loyal to her kingdom, and never lets another pony down!

Applejack: Land sakes, did they make you repeat that in school a hundred times a day?

Rainbow Dash: Standard morning drills back at the academy.

Rainbow Dash: Either I was able to recite it from heart or I wouldn't get lunch!

Applejack: Oh sweet apples...

SKIT: End

Outside, Fluttershy sat by the side of the chimera, barely hanging onto its life as its breathing came and went in terrible waves. Sometimes strong, sometimes weak. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Its beady eyes stared at her with an intense ferocity, but it had no strength to lunge out and attack her.

"Please," she pleaded, "would you tell me why you attacked us?"

The chimera gave no answer.

"Please," she tried again. She reached out her hoof, letting it hover over its head as its eyes turned and affixed themselves on it. "I'm not going to hurt you," she said quietly as she lowered her hoof. This was the closest she had ever gotten to a chimera. "Just a little more," she whispered to herself, and her hoof touched the head of the chimera. It convulsed, its eyes nearly popping out of its head as it endured her touch. "There, it's going to be all right now," she cooed.

The chimera took one last big breath, and died.

Fluttershy removed her hoof from its body as she heard the pitter patter of steps behind her.

"Hey, Fluttershy, are you alright?" Spike asked as he stared at the corpse. "Heh, I did a pretty good job protecting everyone today," he said, feeling proud of himself.

"It's dead now," Fluttershy whispered, "and we still don't know why it attacked us."

Spike didn't know how to respond at first. "Isn't chimeras attacking anything that moves just the way things are?" he asked. "I mean, that's how it's always been since I was hatched. Every day in Canterlot, we had to worry about attacks. It could get pretty scary sometimes."

"And you never thought about why?" she responded. "Why are they like that?" Spike didn't respond and she wasn't expecting him to. She merely picked him up and placed him on her back. "Let’s get back to the chariot before we freeze."

"Are you feeling better now?"

"Maybe a little," she sighed as she walked past the larger burnt corpse to the broken down chariot.

Inside Twilight was salvaging as much of the control system as she could as everyone else sat in their own corner of the chariot, twiddling their hooves. "Okay," Twilight finally said. "This thing is ruined and if we don't do something fast, we're going to freeze to death here."

"Can't you make a magical campfire? Shoot, have the iguana do it." Applejack asked.

"That won't get us anywhere, especially if Nightmare Moon is on her way to Caballus." The room grew silent as they all remembered the terrible events that took place just a few hours ago. Was the pegasus army still fighting them off, they wondered. Just what was happening at Heaven? "I can produce a flame to keep us warm, but we need to get moving, now. Rarity, how far are we from Caballus?"

"Possibly a half-day's trot in this weather. We might die," Rarity answered her.

"Might, but not will," Twilight tried to encourage everyone. "I'll keep us all warm. I've done it before, really. Plus, without the chariot we'll be smaller and quieter, meaning less likely to be attacked."

"Not to mention out in the open," Rainbow Dash hissed. "This is a dumb idea."

"Well, you fall apart fast," Applejack laughed. "Well, I'm with Twi'. We're just going to freeze our lil' butts off here, so we better get movin'."

"Thank you, Applejack," Twilight replied warmly. "Rarity can take lead; I'll stay in the middle to keep us all warm. Applejack and Pinkie Pie on my side and Fluttershy behind me as Rainbow Dash takes a scouting position overhead—"

"Why do I have to!" Rainbow Dash angrily flared up.

"Because only you can. Fluttershy still hasn't recovered from her injuries," Twilight explained. "You're the only one who can do it. Please."

"Well, I can't," Rainbow Dash groaned as she finally stood up and revealed her bent wings. "I can't exactly fly with these, so you better rethink your strategy."

"We don't have much choice anyway," Twilight admitted as she moved past Fluttershy. "We have to get to Caballus, quickly before we freeze. Rarity, please lead."

"Since when do I take orders from you," Rarity huffed back.

"I'm asking you to order us around!" Twilight agonized. "Can we please get going before we freeze over? I don't want to become a pony-flavored popsicle!"

"Well, if you put it like that."

SKIT: Expectations

Twilight: So, Rarity, can I ask you a question?

Rarity: Well, I guess.

Twilight: What's Caballus like? I've heard all sorts of rumors like its just flowing with magic and it's where all the greatest advancements in harmo-tech have taken place!

Rarity: Well, we do have lots of that kind of stuff lying around... but it's not all that great.

Twilight: What?

Rarity: Your place in Caballus is dictated by your level of magic.

Rarity: If you have strong magic, then expect to live a cushy life where everything is waited on you horn and hoof. If not, then expect to do most of the waiting or beg for scraps.

Twilight: Oh... that's not what I was expecting...

Rarity: I'm glad I've shattered your expectations.

SKIT: End

The chill of the air bit at Twilight as she followed Rarity's lead through the bitter land. She kept a strong flame ignited on the tip of her horn, the warmth of which served to keep everyone around her from falling to the snow's cold malice. The slightest veil of snowflakes imposed itself against the backdrop, each flake melting to nothing against Twilight's body, but the strength of the cold was all too prevalent. "Is everyone okay?" Twilight asked routinely.

"It's goin' to take more than ice to do this pony in," Applejack often answered.

"I could go for a snow-cone! Anypony have some syrup?" Pinkie Pie would joke to lighten the mood. "Oh! How about a game? I spy with my little eyes something white!"

Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash remained silent, shooting each other icy stares every other hour.

Lastly, Spike would hum to himself, admiring Rarity from afar as she broke against the wind and the land, keeping them all going as their lives hung in the balance. They all understood that dangers of being stranded in the vicious tundra.

"You sure this is the right way?" Rainbow Dash asked harshly. "Everything looks the same!"

"Of course everything looks the same. It's all white!" Rarity spat back. "If you want, you can fly up and get a bird's eye view. You might even spot Caballus."

"Oh, I would just love to, so I could leave you all behind," Rainbow Dash roughly replied.

"So much for the noblesse of the pegasi," Rarity huffed. She anticipated Rainbow Dash's assault and prepared a magical barrier around herself for Rainbow Dash to crash head-first into.

"Stupid unicorn tricks," Rainbow Dash grumbled as she rubbed her sore head.

"In response to your predictable pegasi brutality," Rarity snidely remarked. "Did your manners fall with your city?"

"What was that?" Rainbow Dash smashed her hoof against Rarity's barrier. "Say that to my face! Without this stupid barrier!"

"Girls!" Twilight shouted as loud as she could, the flame on her horn erupting with a fireball. "If we start fighting now, we're goners. Can you please hold onto your stupid pride until we reach the city! Then you can beat each other up for all I care." Rainbow Dash and Rarity didn't answer. They fell back in formation and continued on their trek. "Rarity, how much longer?"

"Oh, I think we're halfway there."

"I bet," Rainbow Dash sourly spat. "Well, it's been terrible knowing you all."

Fluttershy remained apathetic to everyone's arguing, keeping her eyes to the land for any signs of life. If there was any to be had, it was from the frozen remains of dead chimeras. "What?" she turned to the sky. Something had caught her eyes. "A bird? Look, everypony, in the sky!" She pointed to a tiny shadow casted by something over the moonlight, just a little ahead of them.

"Are we going to follow it now?" Rainbow Dash groaned.

"Well, the last time we followed a bird we found one of the elements," Applejack answered her. "I'm more inclined to follow that than Rarity over here."

Rarity's eyes narrowed. "Are you trying to insinuate something as well?"

"Does it matter? We've got to find some way out of this cold, and that bird might be our best shot and I trust Fluttershy's instincts a lot more than you."

"You're going to follow a random bird to your deaths?" Rarity asked in disbelief. "How do you even know this bird is heading to Caballus?"

"Well," Fluttershy interjected, "it stopped. So, I think it's waiting for us."

"Whoa, she's right!" Pinkie Pie added, peering at the shadow through a pair of binoculars. "Stringy Forms! Superb hunters known for—"

"That's it!" Twilight shouted out to shut everyone up. "It's not getting any warmer and I don't know how much longer I can keep this flame going! We need to make a decision now!"

"I'm voting for the bird," Rainbow Dash snorted.

"I think I'm goin' to cast my vote for the bird too," Applejack added.

"Uh, well, I think it seems nice," Fluttershy squeaked.

"Bird, bird, bird!" Pinkie Pie chanted jubilantly.

"Majority rules, we're following the bird," Twilight sighed as she gazed up at its shadow in the sky. It hadn't moved an inch. They all started moving forward, and the bird flew forward a little, guiding them. "Your animal senses seem to extend beyond Everfree, Fluttershy."

"T-thanks." Fluttershy blushed and turned away from everyone else. "It's nothing, really."

"Don't be so modest!" Pinkie Pie giggled as she clamped onto Fluttershy's side. "Who knows how long we would be wandering around in the snow following Rarity?"

Rarity remained vindictively silent.

SKIT: Pegasi and Magic Part 3

Applejack: You know, I just thought of something.

Twilight: What?

Applejack: How is there all this snow here, but no pegasi?

Twilight: Why, Applejack, I'm glad you asked that!

Spike: Here we go...

Twilight: While it's true that pegasi control most of the weather in Equestria, there are still documented phenomena of weather born in the natural world.

Applejack: Hold it, so there's such a thing as natural weather?

Twilight: Natural weather? Well, I guess you could look at it like that, but yeah.

Twilight: These phenomena appear in areas with a high concentration of magic born from the natural world.

Applejack: So, natural magic?

Twilight: I-I guess it could be looked at that way as well.

Applejack: So, where there's natural magic, natural weather shows up?

Twilight: Precisely! The Everfree Forest is actually a good example of this. So many events happen there that are outside the scope of pony law that it’s a scientific wonder, a magical wonderland, and a mystery all rolled into one.

Spike: Not to mention a graveyard.

Applejack: I think I get it. So, could I catch one of these natural clouds and raise 'em at my farm?

Applejack: Apple Acres would never have to pay for rainwater again!

Twilight: Huh? Uh, no. A natural cloud is still a cloud. You can't raise them, let alone catch them.

Rainbow Dash: You can if you're a pegasus.

Applejack: Of course...

Applejack: Well then, back to scraping the barrel and rationing water...

SKIT: End

They had followed the bird for many long hours. Twilight was growing desperate, fearful of hypothermia and the death that would come with it. She wanted more than anything now to be back in her bed in Canterlot, back to before her life took such a sudden turn. Back to studying with a mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows. "What happened?" she sighed.

"What happened to what?" Pinkie Pie inquired. "Are you okay, Twilight? Oh! We all need to huddle close together to conserve body heat! C'mon, girls!"

"Over my dead and frosted body am I gonna touch you, bandit," Applejack replied over her chattering teeth.

"I just need to make the flame bigger." Twilight shut her eyes and redoubled her concentration on her magical flame. It grew twice its size in an instant, but swayed more viciously as if trying to escape its magical confines. "How's that?"

"It's not going to matter soon," Rainbow Dash answered her darkly. "Face it, we're freezing to death out here! We're done! Game over!"

"We are not!" Rarity broke her silence, turning back to the others with a sly grin. Her mirrors magically floated out from behind her and she began to cast a powerful light over the horizon, revealing the city of Caballus. "Let's go!" They all gathered their strength, and started galloping forward as fast as they could, and as they got closer, the air grew warmer.

Caballus: The Old City

Twilight didn't know what to expect from Caballus. She had heard rumors that it was a shining utopia of magic and unicorn scholars. She had heard it was ahead of the rest of Equestria in technology by a hundred years. It was, in fact mostly ruins and collapsed buildings. "Not what I was expecting," she sighed regretfully, and as she turned to Rarity, she realized it wasn't what Rarity was expecting either.

"What happened here?!" Rarity cried out as loud as she could before running into the splintered buildings and broken streets.

"So, this isn't natural then... what could have happened here?"

"It was a nasty earthquake!" an energetic voice from behind them answered. Twilight and the others turned to meet a pony as pure white as Rarity and dressed in the same purple robes. Her mane was a vibrant multi-hued blue and a white unicorn horn poked out from within its tangles. "Hi, the name's Vinyl Scratch," she bowed, staring at them through the purple lenses of her sunglasses. "Welcome to Caballus."

"Thank you?" Twilight replied as she bowed back. "Is everything alright here? I can provide some healing magic for relief where it's needed."

Vinyl Scratch stared back at Twilight, Twilight assumed, with her mouth agape. "You know healing magic?" she gasped. "Well what are you doing standing around here? Come with me!" She grabbed Twilight around a hoof and dragged her off into the city, leaving everyone else behind in a cloud of dust.

"So, what do we do now?" Spike asked.

"Well, it seems to me like someponies here are hurtin', so we should get to helpin', right?" Applejack answered him.

"You help, I've got better things to do," Rainbow Dash apathetically shot back. "Only reason I'm here is to let the guy in charge know that some Princess is going to kick down what's left of this sadsack city. You all can do whatever, but we part here, got that?" She turned and galloped off.

"Dashie," Pinkie Pie called out, "wait!"

"Let her go, bandit. We've got our work cut out here." Applejack readjusted her hat and followed after Twilight and Vinyl Scratch into the ruined city.


Twilight focused her magic over the wound of an old stallion whose back-leg had been twisted under the rubble of his collapsed home. She concentrated on moving the bones back into place and affixing them with magic, and around her both unicorns and a few earth-ponies alike gazed in wonder. "There, done," Twilight groaned as she wiped the sweat off her brow. "Feel better?"

"Thank you, so much," the old stallion replied, bowing furiously. "Thank you, thank you!"

"It's nothing," Twilight answered him, flushing with embarrassment. "There are much better healers than me. This is really novice-level stuff."

"But you can do it, and nopony else here can!" Vinyl Scratch shouted as she patted Twilight hard on her back, almost shoving her to the ground. "You're really something miss!" She smacked Twilight on her back again, knocking her off her seat. "I have no idea where we would be if you didn't show."

Twilight groaned and picked herself up. "I had heard, though, that Caballus was filled with powerful unicorns. Don't you have healers here?"

"Oh, we do," Vinyl Scratch moaned, her mood switching in a heartbeat to a sullen demeanor, "but they're all busy tending to the more magical unicorns around here, which is actually kind of odd what with them being more powerful and all. You see, most of the unicorns around here would be lucky to open a jar of peanut butter, myself included," she joked, enticing an uneasy chuckle from those nearest to her. "So who's next for the magic touch!" she yelled out as loud as she could as all the ponies rounded up those who were hurt the most during the earthquake.

"Well, I am happy to help," Twilight smiled nervously.

"Vinyl!" Rarity screamed out frantically, "I need your help! Now, hurry! My parents are trapped!"

"On my way, Rarity!" she cried back before turning to the audience. "Be back in a jiffy, folks." She waved and galloped off as fast as she could, but not many paid attention as more injured ponies were brought to Twilight.

"W-wait," Twilight cried as she was surrounded on all sides. "Don't leave me alone here!" As the crowd converged on Twilight's natural instincts to run from attention started to kick in, but a familiar weight latching onto her back stopped her. "Spike?"

"Did you miss me?" Spike asked. Behind him, Fluttershy surveyed the scene, shifting uncomfortably as hundreds of ponies encroached around them.


Rarity banged her hooves against a massive rock and screamed as loud as she could. "Mom, dad! Don't worry! We'll have you out soon enough!" Behind her were three fillies: Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo. "Just stand as far away as you can!" She turned to Vinyl Scratch. "Ready?"

Vinyl Scratch readjusted her sunglasses and both it and her horn gave off a hot light. "Ready when you are."

"Okay then." Rarity aimed her mirrors at the debris and began to charge them with her magic. "Prism Shot!"

"Optic Blast!"

Rarity's mirrors and Vinyl Scratch's sunglasses exploded forward with light that vaporized the debris into pebbles and dust, and from that cloud of dust emerged a stout indigo unicorn mare and a broad white unicorn stallion. "Mom, dad!" Sweetie Belle cried as she ran up to hug them. "I was so scared."

"It's all right, Sweetie, mommy's here," the indigo mare replied before turning to Rarity. "Thanks, Rarity."

"Yes, well, try not to get caught in crumbling building again," Rarity answered her flippantly.

"Oh c'mon, Rarity, show some emotion!" Vinyl Scratch grabbed Rarity around her shoulders and practically shoved her into her mother's face. "It's a real heart-warming scene."

"Vinyl, please," Rarity hissed as she dusted herself. "Well, switching to a different topic. Sweetie Belle, just how did you get here from Canterlot?"

"It's a long story," Sweetie Belle answered her. "But, somepony named Lulamoon was able to guide us through the snowfields."

"She was a huge grouch," Scootaloo groaned. "We couldn't say anything without her flipping out."

"Well, at least you're all safe," Rarity sighed as she examined Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. "Your... friends, Sweetie Belle. I hope you know what you're doing with them as I'm not going to take care of them."

"Relax, Rarity," Sweetie Belle replied with a sweet smile. "I was going to ask mom and dad, except I didn't know our house fell apart..."

"Oh goodness!" Rarity exclaimed as she turned back to the pile of rubble and flung herself at it, digging at the cold stone with her hooves. "My things! They're all gone! My extra robes, my savings! It's all under these stupid rocks!" She pushed in vain against the nearest piece of debris before growing frustrated and blasting it with her mirrors.

"It's alright," her father said certainly. "We're all fine, nopony is hurt. We'll be back on our hooves in no time."

"No we will not!" Rarity barked back. "We can't afford another place to stay! We have nothing left! We have nothing, so don't you dare tell me we'll be fine when things are most certainly worse than ever!" She huffed, spun around, and galloped off, leaving her father stunned and silent. He knew she was right.

"Mom, are we in trouble?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"Well, no more trouble than before. Don't mind your sister, she's just taking it a little too hard." She stroked her youngest's mane and smiled reassuringly. "Bad luck hit us a long time ago, before you were born, and we still made it out just fine."

"That's the spirit, Mrs. P." Vinyl Scratch whooped. "In times like this, we've all got to work together! Show Equestria that Caballus is one big happy family."

"Speakin' of family," Apple Bloom interrupted them, "but if Rarity is here, does that mean Applejack is here too?"

"Orange earth-pony with apples for a cutie mark?"

"Yeah!"

Vinyl Scratch grabbed Apple Bloom and set the filly on her back. "She's around here somewhere, so hang on!" she whinnied as she galloped back towards the crowd, doing her best to make Apple Bloom smile.

"Well, at least someponies got their family back," Scootaloo sighed as she turned her head to the sky, towards where she believed the city of Heaven was. She was surprised when Sweetie Belle's mother picked her up and gave her a hug.

"Don't worry, little one," she comforted. "Moms are tough. I'm sure she's just fine and can't wait to have you back in her life."


Twilight finished healing another pony, and nearly passed out from the strain she was putting on herself. At her side, Spike dutifully fanned her with his jacket as she raised her head back to the growing crowd of ponies. "Can I... take a break?" she asked hesitantly. "I'm running low on energy, really."

"You heard the mare, shows over!" Spike yelled at the crowd before turning back to Twilight. "Need a snack, Twilight? I think I still have some spare orange gels."

"Thanks, Spike. That sounds good."

"You look softer than an overripe banana, Twi'." Applejack appeared behind Twilight, carrying a bruised pink unicorn filly on her back. "I found her under some rubble. Think you can do a little somethin'?"

Twilight felt drained already. "A ‘little something’ should be all I have left." She touched the heaving body of pink and surrounded it in her lavender aura. The filly's breathing returned to normal. "All better, I hope."

"Thank you," the pink filly whispered as she helped herself down from Applejack's back.

Applejack turned back to Twilight and spoke with worry. "I just don't get it; this place is worse off than Apple Acres. I thought a city full of unicorns would be like a paradise full of fancy magics."

"Oh ye of little minds!" Vinyl Scratch hollered out as she kneeled on Applejack suddenly.

"Where in tarnation did you come from?" Applejack hissed.

"I'm a ninja." She turned back to the crowd while climbing on top of Applejack.

"Applejack!" Apple Bloom squealed in joy as she clung to her sister's neck. "Applejack, Applejack! You won't believe what happened to me after you all left us back in Canterlot! There was fighting and I got to hear some stories and there was lightning and—"

Applejack caught her sister by surprise and hugged her tightly against herself. "I missed you too," she chuckled. "You can tell me all about your adventures later."

"Aw, sisterly love," Vinyl Scratch mock cried as she pretended to wipe snot off her snout. "That's hitting me right here, in the heart."

"Cram it," Applejack shot back, "and get off ‘a me!"

"Now, now, I mean it," she laughed.

Vinyl Scratch paused, taking in the calm and at the same time chaotic moment of growing anxiety. "You know, Caballus is far from paradise. We're in the middle of our own winter wonderland, minus the wonder." She leaned on Applejack and gestured to the large structure in the center of town, the cathedral. "The closer you live to that thing, the better off you are. That's where Blueblood lives, along with the most magical ponies in Caballus, and possibly all of Equestria. Would make for a good tourist attraction if this place wasn't frosted year-round."

"And the rest?" Twilight asked.

"Look around you," Vinyl Scratch sighed as she gestured to all the poor-looking ponies. "I mean, it's not all bad here. We got a nice cold-barrier to keep us cozy, and the Lezerano Company and Fancypants work hard to try and bring in more food here since we can't really grow anything, but prices for any nations outside of the Cloud Kingdom are rising. So, things are only getting worse."

"So why don't you move?" Applejack asked.

"And go where? I'm not overflowing in bits." Vinyl Scratch climbed down from Applejack. "I was born here, and this is the only place I have to go, unless I want to risk my butt in the ice wastes and get wasted by a chimera."

"Do you have any sense of personal space?"

"What's that?" Vinyl Scratch leaned against Applejack again, sporting a catty smile. Applejack shifted away and Vinyl Scratch fell to the floor, still smiling up at her and Twilight. "Really, it's not so bad here. Really..."

The crowd suddenly became active again and began to part, making way for a gray mare clad in a pristine black coat that covered her from shoulders to flank and trailed behind her with its outrageous coattails. Her mane was entirely black, and along her back was a large case. She did not have a horn, but many of the ponies in the crowd shied away from her.

"Who is she?" Spike asked.

"Octavia," Vinyl Scratch answered him, her tone becoming slightly aggressive. "The most magical earth-pony in all of Equestria, and maybe even the entire world."

"Wait, a magical earth-pony?" Twilight's eyes brightened as she started to mentally note every little abstract oddity about the mare: from the way she walked to her stoic and emotionless expressions. "What's so magical about her? How does she cast spells?"

"You'll probably see what I mean soon," Vinyl Scratch huffed.

The gray mare Octavia, now in the center of the crowd, rose onto her backlegs, adopting a two-legged stance and allowing her large case to rest next to her. "Attention, everypony." She spoke with a low but deep and unshakable authority. "Blueblood and the council of unicorns are aware of the situation going on here. Please, be patient. They are working hard for all of us."

"Blueblood working hard? What a load of pie!" one of the stallions in the crowd shouted out.

"If you have any complaints take them up with somepony else," she hissed back at the stallion, eyeing him with a contemptible glare. "I repeat, Blueblood and the unicorn council are discussing how to handle the current situation. If everypony could just remain calm I'm sure this will come to pass soon."

"Pass this!" the same stallion roared as he leaped at Octavia, his horn aglow and encasing a staff in his aura of magic. He aimed it at Octavia, ready to drive it through her.

Octavia reached into her case and pulled out a broad-sword, gripped between her phalanges, and deflected the blow with ease and grace. The stallion lashed out at her again, and she cut the staff into pieces. "Stand down," she ordered.

"What the hay has the unicorn council ever done for us!" the stallion yelled as loud as he could. "Everytime! It never ends! Nothing but secrets and lies! Why should we trust them now? We're at our worst and they're doing nothing!" The crowd began to stir with anxiety, taking in every true word of the stallion.

Vinyl Scratch tapped Twilight's shoulder. "Here, take these ear plugs," she held out a couple of corks, and offered the same to Applejack, Apple Bloom and Fluttershy. "Put them on."

"I will repeat myself. Stand down," Octavia ordered to the entire crowd but the only grew more restless. She reached back into her case and pulled out a beautifully chiseled cello. She placed her blade against its strings, like a bow.

"We're not afraid of you!" the stallion roared.

Octavia played a string of notes on her cello, a harsh and angry chord that blew the stallion of his hooves. She set her sword back against the cello. "Abyssal Solo." She began playing, a slow piece, like a lullaby but instead of warming its listeners, it left them cold and weak. Around her, the crowd of ponies began to fall, strewn along the floor in sleeps darker embrace of comfortless dreams. With nearly the whole crowd unconscious, Octavia stowed her cello and sword back in the large case and hauled it and herself back to the cathedral.

Twilight was left paralyzed and bewitched by the sight. "I've never seen anything like that!" she finally gushed. "Sleep magic? What branch of magic was that? Darkness? Wind? She was able to cast it with music? How?" She turned back to Vinyl Scratch, giddy with anticipation.

"You're an... odd one," Vinyl Scratch sighed. "Well, to sum everything up, I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"I don't know," Vinyl Scratch repeated again. "She was discovered all of a sudden to be able to cast magic by playing her music. Nopony knows how, or at least nopony I've met." She turned back the sleeping mass of ponies. The sight made her jaw tight. "All the magic in the world, and we get this."

Twilight got up, magically hauling her sleeping Spike onto her back. "I need to go now," she said quickly.

"Hey, wait! But, what about everypony here! Y-you're not done," Vinyl Scratch protested, grabbing the end of Twilight's tail and yanking her back. "C'mon, just a couple dozen more ponies. You can't just leave us in our hour of need here!"

"I'm sorry, but this is really important." Twilight winked away in a flash of light, leaving Vinyl Scratch to fall over on her face.

"Just great," Vinyl Scratch sighed as she picked up her broken sunglasses off the ground, examining them with her magenta eyes. "These are gonna cost me a ton to fix."


Rainbow Dash stared up at the large walls of the cathedral. "Alright Rainbow, time to pony up." She turned back to her delicate wings and grimaced. "Remember, just like they taught you." She stretched her neck and bit down on the tip of one of her wings. She closed her eyes, paused, and yanked. A stomach-churning crunch erupted from her joints as she worked to pop her wings back in place. "I am never crashing again," she told herself as she admired her handiwork before chuckling at the notion.

She steeled herself again and bit down on her other wing, repeating the revolting but necessary process. With both her wings back in place and functional, she beated the air a few times. "No pegasus should ever be stuck on the ground." She turned upwards to the highest window, and shot upwards, disappearing into the cathedral.


Twilight breached back into the world, just a few feet in-front of its doors. Two large black-coated unicorns guarded the gate. "And you are?" the closest one asked her.

"Y-yes, my name," Twilight stuttered before recomposing herself. "I am Twilight Sparkle. I am here for—"

"Off with you!" the guard barked back. "The Twilights haven't been seen in Caballus in more than a decade. Who do you think you are trying to pass off as one of them?" The guard whipped out a spear, encased in a ghostly aura of magic, pointing it at her menacingly. "I should spear you for such gall."

"W-what?" Twilight jumped back as she stared down the spear. "Listen, I don't know what mix-up has happened, but my name really is Twilight Sparkle. I'm not trying to impersonate anypony!"

"Twilight Sparkle, daughter of Twilight Velvet? You're her?"

"Yes!" Twilight beamed, glad that the mix-up was over, or so she thought. She narrowly dodged the spear as it flew past her head. "That's dangerous! W-what was that for?"

"You know darn well what that was for!" The other guard came at Twilight from her side. "Eat my spear you cur!"

Twilight ducked under the spear, and became enraged. "I-if you're going to attack me I will defend myself!" She whipped out her spear to deflect a blow from the other guard and then pointed it at the other guard. "Shooting Star!" A star shaped fireball erupted from the tip and knocked the guard-pony off his hooves. Twilight menacingly held her spear in front of her, suspended in her magic. Spike woke up, stretched and yawned.

"Huh? Twilight? What's going on?" He stared at the two guards.

The still-standing guard stared at her with his mouth agape. "I don't believe it... her mane and a dragon!" The fire of Twilight's mane reflected off his eyes. "Y-you really are a Twilight?"

"That's what I've been trying to say!" Twilight yelled as a fireball from her mane shot into the sky.

The two guards backed down and kneeled before her. It was a gesture Twilight wasn't used to. "We apologize, Miss Twilight."

Twilight's mane returned to its natural two-stripe state. "W-well, in that case can I go through?"

"Of course!" The two unicorns turned to the large doors of the cathedral and magically opened them. "W-welcome back!"

"Er, thanks?" Twilight hesitantly cantered into the cathedral, never taking her eyes off the guards as she stepped into the large halls. Fully within, she starred in every direction. "I don't suppose I could get some directions?" She turned back to the opening, and found Octavia staring back at her apathetically. "Hi?"

"I haven't seen you around here before," she said deliberately.

"Yeah, well, I'm new here. I'm here to see... Blueblood. Can you show me the way?" Twilight asked.

"In that case, you can follow me to him." She strode past Twilight, taking a path down one of the hundreds of hallways and corridors that made up the complex, barely acknowledging the other's presence.

SKIT: As Cold as Ice

Twilight: ...

Spike: You okay?

Twilight: Probably not. I just wasn't ready for all of this.

Spike: Still hungry?

Twilight: It's nothing food can fix. This place is just so... cold...

Spike: Well, I guess with all the ice around, but there is a cold-shield around the place.

Twilight: It's more than that. Since we've first walked into the city I just felt... heavy...

Spike: Nothing some exercise can't—

Twilight: Just listen!

Twilight: It's this place, Spike. Something about this place is really cold, and it's not the ice.

SKIT: End

Octavia led Twilight to a grandiose pair of doors, emboldened with a caricature of a compass rose. "This is Blueblood's chamber." She didn't seem happy about her arrival, but she rapped her hoof against the door.

"Come in," came a low but giddy voice as the doors magically opened to let in Octavia and Twilight. In the center of a large and messy room, with scrolls, tomes and maps scattered all over the room, stood a large and muscular white unicorn with a mane of pure gold. He stared right past Octavia with his sea-blue eyes and right into Twilight. "Well, what have we here?"

"Blueblood," Octavia hissed. "I'm here to give my report. I told them exactly what you said, word-for-word, and they attacked me."

"Oh gosh!" Blueblood shook in his chair. "I do hope you're all right!" Every word from his mouth was laced with sarcasm.

"As you can see, I'm just fine," Octavia groaned. "I put them all to sleep with a spell. Am I dismissed?"

"Oh, yes, go ahead. Grab some lunch. Grab me some scones while you're at it. Some honeydew green tea as well, I'm famished." He waved his hoof, and Octavia left, huffing over being ordered to grab him some lunch, leaving Twilight and Spike alone in his room. He stared at her, smiling idly.

"You are Blueblood then?" Twilight asked as she instinctively placed Spike behind her.

"The one and only," Blueblood responded as he flipped his mane. "Octavia did address me as such, after all."

"I... heard you have an Element of Harmony." Twilight raised a hoof, expecting some kind of retaliation, but Blueblood's grin instead stretched into a toothy smile.

"That dusty old thing," he mused. "Whatever could you want it for?"

"Then you haven't heard of Nightmare Moon's return?"

"What?" he mockingly shouted. "Nightmare Moon has escaped? Well, this is the first I've heard of this."

"She appeared at Canterlot, and pretty much enslaved the entire town as her own personal army. They already attacked the Cloud Kingdom. She... was able to make the city sink."

"Well then, whatever shall we do?" Blueblood got up, and Twilight drew further away from him. She did not like him. "Is my Element of Harmony some part of a grander scheme, my close and dear Twilight Sparkle?"

"Close and dear?" Twilight echoed. "This is the first time we've met."

"So, you don't remember," he flatly replied. "Well, I can't expect you to remember that far back. You were just a foal. I've changed your diapers before, you know. You used to live here, in Caballus, in these walls."

"Care to elaborate? My parents have never mentioned anything like that."

"Well, I guess you could say we all had a falling out, which is a shame," he sighed, but never dropped his smile. "Your mother, Twilight Velvet, used to rule this land here with me."

"What!?" Twilight bleated. "What are you going on about?"

"You know the story of Celestia and Nightmare Moon's battle, right?"

"Yes, my mother used to tell me that story every night," Twilight retorted, and Blueblood turned sharply at her.

"At the very end of the story, it talks about Celestia's last students. Do you know who they are?" Blueblood smirked as Twilight shook her head. "Well, one of them was my ancestor," he gestured to himself.

"So your ancestor is the one that took one of the elements to found this pony-state?" Twilight asked.

"Ooh, so you took a very special history lesson, well the second student was your ancestor." He pointed at her. "Twilight Dawn was her name I believe, and since then every first born daughter in your family has been named Twilight something."

"That's... a lot to take in," Twilight answered him. "You're expecting me to believe all of this? Right out of nowhere?"

"What reason would I have to lie about this? So you could embarrass yourself as you go about town praising your own name. Go ahead, tell them all your name is Twilight, and watch the reactions. The love, the hate, the confusion. Yes, expect a lot of confusion. Your family name has been gone for quite a while, after all. But, if you want more proof, I've got a few pictures lying around."

"Maybe another time, I don't plan on staying long in Caballus anyway. So, the element?" she asked.

Blueblood trotted to the back of his messy room. "I see your one element, and raise you two." He pulled out two spherical stones. Two Elements of Harmony. "Generosity and laughter. Because I'm so generous, and I love a good joke." He magically placed them on the desk. "You need them, right, to stop Nightmare Moon?"

"I-I don't believe it!" Twilight shouted. "Where did you find the second?"

"I have my sources," Blueblood pridefully commented. "Generosity was the element our ancestors took to for Caballus, and laughter was the element used to found the collective-pony state. Which leaves you to find honesty of the earth pony states." He paused and grinned again.

"Thank you," Twilight answered him as she gazed at the magical stones that symbolized Equestria's hope. "That's four elements. Well, Blueblood, thank you," she bowed, "but before I leave, I have to ask, why did you give the order for Spike's dragonnapping." She turned to make sure Spike was still behind her. He was, and was staring angrily at Blueblood."

"I don't remember doing that," he replied sarcastically. "Nope, don't recall a thing."

Twilight's dislike for Blueblood deepened. "I see, and, lastly, out of sheer curiosity what was the name of the third student."

Blueblood brought his hoof to his chin. "What was his name... oh yes: Starswirl."

"Starswirl!" Twilight chirped. "As in Starswirl the Bearded, the father of the amniomorphic spells? My ancestor studied magic next to him?"

"What happened to not believing me?"

She blinked. "Uh, well, I still need to confirm everything. Just, something to think about. For now, I think I'll leave." Twilight took the two elements and stuffed them in her saddlebags. She turned, Spike keeping close to her side, magically closing the doors behind her. Just before she finished closing the doors, Blueblood called out to her.

"Be sure to visit again." The doors slammed shut.

Twilight shivered as she shook out the last words Blueblood said from her ears. "That was weird," she groaned to Spike, "but now we have four of the elements, so I guess it was worth it."

"Let's go find the others and tell them the good news," Spike suggested as he jumped back on Twilight's back. "We got what we came here for, right?"

"Right," Twilight sighed as she moved carelessly through the hallways. "Which way was it out of here?"

"Down the hall and to the left," a haughty voice answered her.

"Oh, thank you." Twilight turned, and was face to face with a blue unicorn mare. "Trixie!?"

"Twilight Sparkle!" Trixie reared back and threw a card directly at Twilight's face. She ducked under it, nicking a few strands of her mane. "I have been waiting a long time for this," she hissed as she reached into her cape.

"W-what are you doing here?" Twilight babbled as she defensively wielded her spear in front of her. "Isn't this a dangerous place to fight?"

"Still a fourth-rate I see. Wheel of Fortune!" She threw ten cards at once, but Twilight ducked under them.

Twilight growled as she pointed her spear at Trixie. "If you keep attacking me like this I'll remind you why I was able to win our last duel!" She readied her spear, but an explosion of stone from behind her knocked her onto her stomach. On the floor, she turned back and saw a ghostly glyph inscribed in the air where there was once a wall, bordered by ten cards. "Okay, that's new."

"I wasn't serious in our first duel," Trixie taunted as she reached back into her cape. "This time I'm going to bury you in the ground and prove my superiority!"

Spike jumped off Twilight and aimed his bow at Trixie. "Make a move, I dare you."

Trixie blinked, and threw Spike down the hallways with her magic. "I despise interruptions."

"Then you will hate this," came a new voice. A magenta unicorn appeared between the two, brandishing a scythe that was bladed at both ends. She held one end against both Trixie and Twilight. "Fighting within the cathedral is not permitted. Trixie, I expected better from you than this."

Trixie laughed as she brushed away the blade of the scythe. "And what are you going to do? You're even weaker than her!"

"Stand down, Trixie. If you want to fight than at least take it into the city. Or do you want me to report you to Fleur de Lis?"

Trixie grimaced and turned, her cape hitting Amethyst Star. "This is just a delay till the inevitable, Twilight Sparkle. We're going to fight, and I'm going to come out on top." She left sorely, stomping the floor with each hoof-fall.

"Unruly mare," the magenta unicorn cursed as she turned away.

"Can I get some help," Twilight groaned, still lying on the floor.

The magenta unicorn turned back to Twilight. Her eyes narrowed into slits. "I guess you don't remember me, so I'll reintroduce myself. I am Amethyst Star, the leader of Blueblood's personal squadron of unicorns, the group that dragon-napped your little assistant over there."

Twilight sprung to her hooves, calling out Spike's name. "Spike! Spike! Get back here, Spike!" She turned and glared at Amethyst Star, smoke seeped out of her mane. "What have you done with Spike? If you've hurt him I'll—"

"Stand down, I've done nothing to it." Amethyst Star pointed her scythe down the hallway as Spike emerged from its darkness, holding his stomach.

"You'd think that being grabbed by you all the time would prepare me for this stuff," Spike groaned as his face turned a shade of green. "I was wrong."

"Spike! Thank goodness you're safe again!" Twilight cried as she squeezed him against herself. She turned back to Amethyst Star. "Do I need to worry about you trying to take Spike again?"

"You probably do," Amethyst Star shot back, keeping a double-headed scythe at the ready behind her. "It's not against the rules to engage in self-defense. Attack me, and I will be forced to take defensive measures, and you don't have any 'friends' to surprise me this time."

Twilight gritted her teeth as her anger at Amethyst Star threatened to take over herself. "The moment I see you reaching for Spike I'm going to fill throw so much fire—"

"Keep your metaphors, I get the idea," Amethyst Star interrupted her venomously. "If you're done antagonizing me I'll be off." She left for Blueblood's room, leaving Twilight in the dark.

"Good riddance," Twilight barked.

"So, what now, Twilight?" Spike asked as he jumped onto her back. "Head back to town?"

"Soon, first," Twilight turned back to the complex of hallways and corridors, "I want to look into what Blueblood said."

"You actually believed that load?"

"I bet not all of it is true, but the way the guards acted earlier, I don't know. Something is just nagging me, I guess..."

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Rainbow Dash ogled the mystical golden spear before her. It was the first thing she saw when she flew in through the window opening and she had never seen a more finely crafted weapon other than King Steel Wing's Eternal Sword. "Wasn't expecting to see something this cool with how run-down this place is."

"Who's there?" came a regal and feminine voice. A tall white unicorn with pink hair appeared from the shadows of the room. She wore pure white robes that flowed behind her. "A pegasus, here in Caballus? Care to explain yourself, trespasser?"

"I'm Rainbow Dash from the cloud kingdom," she explained, reaching for her double-blade. "I was ordered by King Steel Wing to come here and warn you that Nightmare Moon is on her way here, and believe me when I say what she brings won't be pretty."

"Nightmare Moon? The same one from the mare in the moon legend?" the unicorn asked. Rainbow Dash nodded her head, leaving the unicorn with a stomach full of uneasy feelings. "I see, yes that would make the most sense, oddly enough. I thank you, Knight Rainbow Dash." She bowed respectfully.

"Yeah, uh, no problem." Rainbow Dash rubbed the back of her head. "And your name is?"

"Fleur de Lis, head of the unicorn council. I will go report to Blueblood at once. If you would, please follow me."


Twilight examined the halls of Caballus carefully as she walked past each corridor. "Nothing's ringing any bells," she sighed dejectedly to Spike, seated on her back.

"Then Blueblood was lying, just as I thought," Spike answered her. "Well, case closed. Let's go meet back up with the others, I don't like this place anymore than you do."

"Yeah, I guess we should..."

"Hey, egghead!" cried out Rainbow Dash's cracking voice. She appeared from behind, accompanied by a tall white unicorn. "So, you managed to get in even with those cruddy guards? Well, no need to worry. I informed Fleur de something here and now we're going to go inform Bluestuff that he's going to have a demonic moon-spawn on his doorstep soon. Yep, no need to thank me." She spoke with an entirely smug expression.

"Good for you, Rainbow Dash, but Blueblood already knows," Twilight informed her, straight-faced. "In fact, he's probably known for a long time."

"Then where's the army, the resistance, all the magical gatling rays I heard rumors about?"

"Gatling rays?" Fleur de Lis sighed. "Our practice of using harmo-tech for wartime purposes must be greatly exaggerated. We have some tools for fending off chimeras and an outdated defense grid, but an invading army is going to have to traverse the cold harsh lands of Caballus before they reach the city. It's our true the ultimate deterrent." She turned back to Twilight, her eyes falling on Twilight's back. "I have not seen you around the Cathedral. Your name?"

"Twilight Sparkle," she answered her.

"A Twilight! After all this time?" Her tone became jubilant. "Though, it's somewhat hard to believe. I don't suppose you have any proof?"

Twilight stared at her in confusion. "And how do I prove that?"

"Well, I hope you'll think of something," Fleur de Lis replied. "I hope we get a chance to talk later when I'm done with Blueblood." She strode past Twilight gracefully, disappearing into the hallways to Blueblood's little chamber.

"Well, looks like this mission is taken care of," Rainbow Dash yawned, stretching her repaired wings. "I say we hightail it back to Heaven before Nightmare comes and blows this house down."

"You're just going to leave everypony here?" Twilight asked.

"And what would sticking around do? We have no chance against Nightmare Moon and neither do any of these sadsacks. Nopony here stands a chance, and I'm not risking my neck for someponies I don't know."

"Yet you said we," Twilight pointed out. "We barely know each other."

"I guess I owe you for saving my rump back there," she angrily answered her. "Do whatever you want, I don't care. One piece of advice, if you're going to die, try not to do it stupidly."

"Duly noted," Twilight shot back. "And good luck out there without a cold-shield to protect you."

"I'm working on it," Rainbow Dash huffed. She didn't wait for Twilight to reply. She stormed off in a flurry of angry feathers.

"She's not going anywhere anytime soon," Twilight sighed, returning to her investigation of the cathedral. "You know, I think I'm getting pretty tired, Spike," she sighed. "I wonder where the sun would be right now."

"Let's forget what Blueblood said and get back to the others. Nightmare Moon can show up any minute, right? We've gotta fight!"

"You saw how well that usually goes, Spike. Our only hope is to find the fifth element."

"Then what are we waiting for?"

"Maybe a clue? I have no idea where the last element is other than that it was taken to form the earth-pony state." A light lit up on Twilight’s head. "Which means it's most likely where their capital was!"

"So what's the capital of the earth-pony state?"

"There's only one place to find out!" she giddily replied. "To the library!" She took off like one of Spike's arrows, gleefully anticipating the number of archaic and enlightening tomes.


"There you go," Applejack sighed as she tightened the bandage on another filly. "Now, don't you go pushin' yourself. This is just a temporary fix. Go have a real doctor see it sometime." The filly bowed graciously and hopped along, putting more work on the injured hoof than Applejack said she should. "Oh well."

"Isn't this place great, Applejack!?" Apple Bloom squealed in delight as she rolled in the snow. "Snow angels and snow-ponies and snow fights all year long. I bet this place is a real hoot on a good day, eh, Sweetie Belle?"

"Not really; It gets kinda old when you have it all year long," Sweetie Belle sighed. "Plus it can get really cold when the shield weakens or even goes out."

"But we almost never get weather back home! If we're lucky, we get a little rain. Say, Scootaloo!" Apple Bloom yelled out. "Why you pegasi gotta charge so much for weather?"

"I don't know; I don't make the rules," Scootaloo retorted passively. "It's just how it always is."

"Hi girls!" Pinkie Pie exuberantly yelled out as she appeared from seemingly nowhere. "This place is gloomier than a day at a rock farm. So what's everypony been up to?"

"Helpin' hurt ponies. You should try it sometime, bandit," Applejack groaned as she wiped beads of sweat from her forehead. "Colder than a two-day old fritter too. Although, just what were you up to? Ever since I've met you you've been stuck on me like you've had roots, and now you're off somewhere else." She stared accusingly at Pinkie Pie, who seemed more suspicious than usual. "What are you up to, bandit?"

"W-well I was just looking for somepony," Pinkie Pie answered her.

"You know somepony here in Caballus, which I now know might as well be in the middle of nowhere? Explain."

"Oh, I know ponies all over Equestria. It just comes with having a magnetic personality." Pinkie Pie smiled sweetly, and it disgusted Applejack.

"I'll believe that after I've bucked my own brains out," she snorted. "I bet you’re plannin' to steal some kind of priceless artifact with some mane-brained scheme. See how well that goes."

Pinkie Pie smiled and ignored Applejack, turning her attention to another pony. "So, Fluttershy, what have you been up to. Hiding in the shadows again?"

"Just trying not to get in anypony's way," Fluttershy whimpered.

"You can at least help us bandage the wounded," Applejack berated her. "If you can show sympathy for a chimera than you can show sympathy for other ponies, so get your tail over here."

"I-I'm not good with other ponies..."

"Nice excuse," Applejack sighed as she got to work on bandaging another pony. "Wish I had the same kind of luxury."

Pinkie Pie squirmed a little as the mood became tenser. "C'mon, girls. No need to argue. I mean, that gets us nowhere. Applejack, can't you show a little more patience with Fluttershy?" She placed a comforting hoof on Applejack's back.

"Bandit, don't touch me. I'm not in the mood to deal with you right now." The air grew colder.

"Sorry, Applejack," Pinkie Pie glumly answered her. "Uh, Fluttershy, you want to go do something? I bet there's some fun to be had in this place."

"No," Fluttershy answered her, drawing a dry chuckle from Applejack.

"Oh, then, has anypony seen Rarity?"

"Eenope," Applejack said disinterestedly as she finished bandaging another pony.


Twilight giddily opened a pair of tall doors into a cold stone room covered from wall to wall with shelves of books and reams of scrolls. "Not as cozy as the one in Canterlot, but just think about all the different kinds of books they have!"

"Twilight, how did you find this room so quickly?" Spike asked after collecting his stunned thoughts. "You've never been here before, right?"

"Right," Twilight uneasily whispered. "We can ponder how I knew about this place another time. Go get down the maps stacked along the wall over there and I'll comb over the history section."

"Yes, ma'am," Spike teased as he scurried off of Twilight's back.

Twilight trotted over to the ancient history section instinctually. There were numerous gray books buried in the lonely alcoves, a task that would seem daunting to most, but for Twilight it felt like a second calling. She took five ready books from the racks, carrying them in her saddlebags along with the four elements. "This is starting to get heavy," she groaned as she sat down at a table in the open. "Is there anypony here?" she asked aloud.

"Coming!" came a feminine voice. A light blue unicorn appeared from one of the sections of the library. "So, we meet again?"

"You're the pony from the tournament!" Twilight blurted out astonishingly. "I didn't mean for that to come out so rude. What are you doing here?"

"I work for the Lezerano Company, which does a lot of work here in Caballus. That and I live here, big surprise for a unicorn," she joked. "But, what are you doing here?"

"Looking for maps," Twilight groaned. "What's the oldest map you have that's was after Celestia's time?"

"Let me see what we have back here," Minuette sang as she gleefully rummaged through a series of shelves on the back wall. "After Celestia time, but the oldest. I take it you're looking for a map of the old pony-states?"

"You know about those?" Twilight faltered. "How?"

"I spend a lot of my time studying history, and the library here has some very ancient tomes." She dropped a series of scrolls on the desk. "Here we are. Some of our oldest maps in just the time period you asked for.


Rarity pouted and fumed as she trotted past the cathedral guards and straight into the hollow building. She hated this place she was so familiar with. She knew every inch of the cathedral, because she had probably had to clean every inch of it. "With any luck, I can coax a few bits out of that pig of a unicorn," she growled angrily to herself.

"Rarity," Amethyst Star's voice broke the silent hallways, "it's been awhile."

"A-Amethyst! So good to see you," she stammered, fidgeting under Amethyst Star's contemptible gaze. "So, how did things go for you after the events at Fillydelphia? I mean, no hard feelings right? That pink pony just grabbed me and forced me to do those awful things."

"I've already reported you to Blueblood," she barked back coldly. "However, he seems more than willing to let your transgressions go. I should warn you though not to mess with our business again, do you understand?”

"To think that swine is willing to let me go?" Rarity whispered under her breath.

"Who are you calling swine?"

"Nopony, dear," Rarity sighed in relief. "Well there go my plans to ask for an advance... by the way, what is the plan to deal with Nightmare Moon? You're aware of the situation, right? She's probably marching to us now as we speak. She made nearly all of Canterlot into her army."

"I have not received any orders from Blueblood," Amethyst Star replied monotonously. "Until I have my orders, I suspect we are on standby."

"Standby? Standby!" Rarity felt her heart sink. "What do you mean standby? Did you not hear the part where she tore Heaven out of the sky! I should know, because I was there! I almost died in that fall for star's sake!"

Amethyst Star groaned. "I repeat, standby."

"But she's on her way! How will we protect ourselves?! We don't have the same kind of army the pegasi have! We're sitting here defenseless!"

"Standby, Rarity."

"Standby for what? Our deaths!?" Rarity pleaded, mortified. Amethyst Star offered her little comfort, simply standing there, staring at her as if she were foreign object. "Useless," Rarity whispered as she turned and galloped off to town, heaving in anxiety.


Twilight pored through the ancient maps, deciphering expertly the ancient letters and lines. She traced her hoof along the borders of the states intently. "The earth-pony state was initially the biggest," she sighed. "They had enough fresh water to find that they could expand almost indefinitely. But, which of these cities was the capital?"

"You're thinking about it all wrong," Minuette replied. "The earth-ponies didn't stay centralized like the pegasi. They had a very strong romantic-pioneer concept when it came to branching out. With most of the unicorns locked up in Caballus or Canterlot and the pegasi keeping to themselves in the sky, most of Equestria was pretty much free to be colonized, which is ultimately why they couldn't and wouldn't stay centralized."

Twilight turned back to the earliest map available. There were just a few dots on it to symbolize towns and they were very close together and just bordering the Everfree Forest. "One of these cities, the very first earth-pony cities, is then most likely where the element is then." One name caught her eyes. "Ponyville, that sounds familiar."

"It's where Pinkie Pie's from," Spike told her. "She's told us a few times."

"And you paid attention?"

"Well, kinda," Spike shrugged. "She is our friend, right?"

"I... guess," Twilight sighed. "Ponyville is as good as place as any to start and is close to the rest, but how do we get there?"

"You're standing in one of Equestria's greatest bastions of harmo-tech, and you're wondering how you're going to cross the sky?" came Fleur de Lis's commanding voice. "We meet again, Ms. Sparkle, or are you fine with just Twilight?"

"Twilight is fine," she answered her. "Uh, how did your meeting with Blueblood go?"

"Terribly," she remarked harshly. "With Blueblood, I fear for Caballus' future." Fleur de Lis took a seat at the table, glossing over the open ancient maps. "Planning a vacation in the middle of our twilight, Twilight?" she joked.

"I'm looking for the element of honesty. I was thinking that these cities are my best shot..."

"The element of honesty, of the Elements of Harmony?" Fleur de Lis asked, stunned. "You're looking for them?"

"I have four of them already." Twilight opened her saddlebag, revealing the four powerful stones within. "The sixth will show itself when the others are gathered, and these elements were used to defeat Nightmare Moon before—"

"You truly are a Twilight," Fleur de Lis interrupted her.

"A Twilight? Is there more than one of me?"

"Your mother, and all your grandmothers before you. All named Twilight, and all of them have been remarkable ponies in their own right, especially when compared to Blueblood's line of power-abusing shut-ins," she spat.

"I wouldn't call myself remarkable," Twilight insisted while blushing. "I'm just a student from Canterlot. I still need to finish my studies."

"And then what, Twilight? What will you do when your studies are done?"

"I, uh, don't know," she admitted, feeling uneasy. "Studying is just all I'm good for."

"All that studying could serve Caballus well. You are, assuming you are the real daughter of Twilight Velvet, one of the rightful rulers of Caballus, and one with a lot of power compared to our council of unicorns." She placed a comforting hoof on Twilight's back. "Just think about it for now. You don't need to take on any responsibility you're not ready for, but I'm sure Caballus would welcome you with open hooves." She soothingly said with a genuine smile.


Pinkie Pie kicked a few rocks at her hooves boredly, leaning against one of the many broken homes that now made up the old city. "Hey, uh, Applejack, need any help?"

"Pass me the gauze over there," Applejack told her.

"Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie Pie replied as she dropped a nearby pack of gauze into Applejack's hoof. She watched Applejack bandage an elderly stallion. His mane had fallen out years ago and were it not for his glasses he would be as blind as bat. Applejack smiled as she waved him off, and welcomed another mare her own age and started applying bandages. "You're really good with this stuff!"

"First aid is a skill everypony should know. It's just as simple as that," Applejack told her.

"I know the heimlich!" Pinkie Pie grinned.

"Well, I guess that something..."

"Hey, Rarity!" came Vinyl Scratch's booming voice. Next to another collapsing building stood Rarity, crestfallen. "Rarity, what's the deal? Couldn't get that advance?"

Rarity strode past her and approached Applejack. "I just spoke with Amethyst Star."

"Who?" Applejack bleated.

"The pony that kidnapped Spike, but that's not important right now because she told me that there is no plan to deal with Nightmare Moon!"

"No plan? Doesn't that mean that all these ponies, who don't know about Nightmare, are as helpless as a newborn piglets?" Rarity nodded. "But ponies are going to die!" she nodded again. "But—"

"You can quit that now," Rarity interrupted her. "I have one suggestion for us: run, and run fast."

"And abandon everypony here? Are you crazy or incapable of thinking of anypony but yourself?"

"I am perfectly capable of thinking of my family in this, and I did give you some headway for whatever reason, but this isn't a problem that can be solved with brute strength."

"So, what, you're goin' to run and hide in that frozen wasteland that nearly did us in?"

"While I may still be hazy on some details of escaping with our lives, the fact remains that staying here is certain death after the events we saw at Heaven. If you're so against the idea, fine. But, dare I ask, what do you plan to do?"

"The only sensible thing," Applejack huffed. "Stay and fight."

"Fight for what? Untimely death?" Rarity argued back.

"Just what are you two talking about?" Vinyl Scratch butted in-between the two. "I heard lots of stuff about running and death. So, care to explain?"

Applejack looked at Rarity, who looked back at her. Rarity talked first. "Remember how I was appointed to go represent Caballus at the Summer Sun Festival? Well, at the event, Nightmare Moon appeared." She waited for the words to sink in, but Vinyl Scratch only stared back at her blankly. "The mare from the legend, that one that tried to plummet the world in Eternal Night and Celestia nearly killed herself stopping."

"Isn't that all just a foal's story? I mean, some of the stuff I heard about Celestia is hard to believe anyway. Move the sun? I'm not five anymore."

"Well, Nightmare Moon is real and the sun was supposed to rise hours ago! She's just torn down Heaven, quite literally, and she won't stop until all of Equestria is under her gaudy boots. We're counting down the hours until she marches in here with her army of Canterlot's enslaved. Vinyl Scratch, to put it simply, unless we get out of here we are utterly screwed because Amethyst Star has informed me that Blueblood has put the guard on standby." Rarity gasped for air and threw her head back. "She's a monster and there's nothing we can do against her."

"I told you what we can do, we can fight." Applejack stared at Rarity, her ear twitching. "Are you goin' to stand and let your home and kin be destroyed by some Princess whose britches are older than my granny? Fightin's the only hope we have ‘cause there ain't no runnin' from this. The fact that I can see the moon when it's lunch time is proof of that."

"Applejack..."

"Rarity, do we really have something to worry about?" Vinyl Scratch asked her anxiously. "I mean, what's really coming?"

"Exactly what I said earlier, a monster."

"It's just kind of unbelievable. I mean really..." Vinyl Scratch was ready to go on about the absurdity of Nightmare Moon; how it was ridiculous to believe that such a being was actually in Equestria and razing the land, but the solemn looks in Applejack's and Rarity's face stopped her. "You're... you're serious?"

"Yes, very," Rarity told her.

"Then, I guess we better start rounding up all our spears," she sighed.

"Vinyl! Are-are you serious?" Rarity babbled in disbelief.

"Dead serious, because I don't want to wake up dead tomorrow, assuming there is a tomorrow. So, start spreading the word, and let them all know that the schmucks in the cathedral aren't doing hay against it. Maybe a little rioting will get them off their tails."

"No rioting." Applejack scorned the notion. "We've got to start organizing. Bandit, Fluttershy, you overhead everything, right?"

"Loud and clear!" Pinkie Pie squealed as she jumped into their private planning circle. "Okay, I'm thinking hot sauce mortars on the roofs, some baked bad tossers in the windows, a barricade of week-old baguettes along the perimeter—"

"Shut up or make sense," Applejack groaned. "We're not going to win with food. Scratch, what do we have to work with?"

"An old self-defense grid."

"A what-now?"

"Listen," Rarity huffed, "we have sentry towers scattered around the city. The problem is that it's powered by unicorn magic, and our strongest unicorns are all busy locking themselves up in what might as well be a citadel now."

"You've got a mess of other unicorns, why not use them?" Applejack questioned.

"Most of which are injured and barely capable of casting intermediate level spells," Rarity expressed in exhaustion. "Do you think all unicorns are capable of breaking boulders and calling forth meteors from space?" Applejack nodded her head. "You're wrong..."

"Well then we'll make them!" Vinyl Scratch shouted. "C'mon, girls! We've got a town to save."


"This is our hangar," Fleur de Lis announced as she led Twilight and Spike to the top of the cathedral, Minuette taking up the rear. In the center stood a Flying Chariot. "You can use this, right?"

"We can crash it," Spike answered for Twilight. "Nopony knows how to drive one of these things."

"Well then, how about Minuette drives it?" Fleur de Lis suggested, pointing to the startled blue unicorn. "Is this acceptable?"

"I guess," Twilight muttered. "I mean, if you're okay with it and all?"

"Help save Equestria from eternal night? I think I can handle that," Minuette joked. "You can count on me, Twilight."

"Well then, now that that's all settled, do you think you could follow me, Twilight?" Fleur asked gracefully.

"I don't see why not. I mean, you've been so generous, how could I say no?" Twilight answered back, bowing awkwardly. "Between Blueblood and Trixie I was beginning to think everypony in this place was crazy."

"Well, I guess we do have a few eccentrics."

"Is that what I am, eccentric?" Trixie stepped out of the shadows, wearing a malefic scowl that seemed to spark with rage. "You, of all ponies, are going to call me 'eccentric'."

"Trixie, I order you to back to your living quarters," Fleur de Lis shot out quickly. "I will deal with you later for your brazen attitude. Leave, quietly."

"Oh, that's going to be fun," she laughed as she strolled past Twilight. "We're not done, not by a long shot," she whispered pointedly just before leaving.

Twilight remained silent and still for a moment. She found herself growing more anxious of Trixie every time she met her. "What is with her?" she asked the other two. "Is she like that with everypony here?"

"Trixie is... difficult, but ignore her," Fleur de Lis answered her. "Minuette, keep an eye on Trixie. I want to finish giving our guest a tour." Minuette saluted her and galloped off. She led Twilight back into the mass complex of hallways that anyone could get lost in.

SKIT: Worries

Twilight: Spike, I've been thinking.

Spike: Is this different from the typical thinking you do?

Twilight: Ideally, we'll find the last element in Ponyville, and then the sixth element will reveal itself. When that happens, I'll need to confront Nightmare Moon with the elements, and it's going to be very dangerous.

Spike: So, you're worried about me and don't want me around...

Twilight: I don't know what I would do if something bad happened...

Spike: Twilight, I'm not helpless, and I'm just going to get really anxious without you.

Twilight: I know, but that doesn't change that I'll still be worried.

Spike: But... but...

Twilight: Do you really like fighting that much?

Spike: No, I'm just going to get worried if I'm away from you...

Twilight: I promise I'll be fine, Spike.

Twilight: I'll definitely come back in one piece.

Spike: Then I'll need to start planning your epic victory feast.

Twilight: Make sure it has daisies in it.

SKIT: End

 

Under Caballus: Chamber of Clover

Fleur de Lis lead Twilight deep underground, well below the bottom of the cathedral. The deeper they went, the colder it grew. Ice lined the walls of the cavern, and even sweat on their foreheads froze into crystals clinging to their bodies. At the end of this journey, Fleur de Lis presented a stone-wall monument, inscribed with the impression of a four-leaf clover. "Is this symbol familiar to you?"

"Other than being a four-leaf clover?" Twilight replied. "Well, I know that Clover the Clever used the four-leaf clover as her personal seal... does this wall have something to do with her?"

"Precisely," Fleur de Lis responded. "Behind this wall, Clover sealed something of great power. It's quite the mystery though."

"Why would you show me this?" Twilight asked. "Is what's behind this wall capable of defeating Nightmare Moon?"

"Possibly," she sighed, "but the wall in impenetrable. At least, theoretically impenetrable. As for why I showed you this, well, I think that, maybe, with you at the helm here Caballus has some brighter days ahead."

"I still don't know about all that."


"Get those walls reinforced! Double-time on the barrier! Get all able-magicked unicorns to the grid towers pronto! And someone get me a cup of joe! Dark like the night sky!" Vinyl Scratch barked order after order, ponies hanging on her every word. "C'mon, ponies! Let me hear you sweat!"

"How did you get them to all start listening to you?" Applejack asked in disbelief. "I don't think I could ever get Apple Acres to start moving this quickly."

"Well, some of them heeded the warning about a mad god coming down on us like bird turds, others took some coaxing... which may or may not have involved the selling of my good friend Rarity."

"What!" Rarity cried out. "What do you mean selling?”

"Relax, nothing major. Like, a kiss on the cheek. Stallions would do anything for a beautiful mare."

"You are the worst..." Rarity groaned and held her head in shame and to sooth her slowly growing migraine. "I still can't believe we're doing this."

Applejack chuckled weakly, fighting against the gravity of the situation. "Life is like that, I guess. I'm gonna go check on this around town. Scratch, keep doing what you're doing." With an affirming nod from the eccentric mare, Applejack galloped into the more ruinous portions of the town, where many ponies were breaking off bits of broken walls to build the barrier.

"Follow me, single-file everypony," Pinkie Pie giggled as she led a troop of colts and fillies along. "The adults are working hard to make sure the city is safe for when that evil Black Snooty shows up to eat everypony. Rargh!" Her fake guttural growl elicited laughter from the little ones as she continued to lead them along.

"You heard the crazy pink lady, get goin'," Apple Bloom chimed in as she helped Pinkie Pie along with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.

"So, here's where you are, bandit," Applejack sighed. "Corallin' children?"

"When the fighting starts, we need them all to be safe, right?" she pointed out as clear as day.

"So, you're actually going to stick around and fight?"

"Of course, Applejack."

"And you're not scared?"

"I'm as scared as a snake on a spit, but I can't let it get to me with everything on the line like it is," she told her sincerely. "Neither of us want anypony here to die, right?"

Applejack looked down to her sister, working hard for the good of a town she knew nothing about. "I guess you're right, bandit. I don't want a single pony to die here, so, for once, I'm gonna trust you when I'm in the thick of it. Got it?"

"Really!" Pinkie Pie gushed, getting uncomfortably close to Applejack. "Well, you can count on me!" Pinkie Pie saluted. "With all of us working together, Nightmare Moon doesn't stand a chance."

"You got that right!" Applejack whinnied while jumping up on her back hooves. "You take care of the young'uns. Meet you back with Scratch?"

"Okie Dokie Lokie!"


Fleur de Lis led Twilight back to the entrance hall of the cathedral. "I hope you've enjoyed this little tour. Caballus may not seem like much at first, but it's just teeming with exciting little secrets."

"Thank you," Twilight bowed graciously, "for everything. I'll go round up the others immediately and get ready to depart."

"You're quite welcome. Until we meet again, Twilight. I look forward to it." She turned, and left.

Twilight took a deep breath, readjusting her posture to one of fierce determination. "Alright, let's get going, Spike."

"And go where?" came a deep and cold voice. A grayish-purple unicorn with a golden mane came from behind Twilight. He wore the same purple robes nearly all the other Caballuns wore. "So, you must be the Twilight everyone around here is whispering about."

"Do I know you?" Twilight asked, uneasily.

"You can call me Goldstar," he informed her.

"Right, well I don't have time; I really need to get going."

"Go where?" Goldstar asked quickly, cutting her off. "Where are you going, any why?"

"I'm going to gather my friends—"

"You have friends?" he interrupted her.

Twilight paused, mulling over the word she said so instinctually and never thought about. She used to believe for so long that friends were too much of a hassle to make, let alone maintain. "I guess I do... well, I need to go gather them."

"Why?" he asked again, almost viciously.

"To save Equestria! Our home, where we live!" Twilight couldn't stand Goldstar. He kept staring at her, eyes full of contempt, and almost pity. His face would never say any emotion other than condescending stoicism.

"And how is it that of all the ponies here in Equestria, you're the one that would come to save it."

"What?" Twilight bleated. "I don't understand."

"How are you so sure you can stop Nightmare Moon?"

"I found out how, in this book." She pulled out her copy of Predictions and Prophecies, turning the book instinctively to the page on Nightmare Moon.

Goldstar started chuckling to himself as he tried to turn his eyes away from the book, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not. "Well, that's an interesting book—"

"Goldstar!" came Blueblood's bellowing voice. "Why don't you go bother somepony else, now."

"Pleasure as always," Goldstar chuckled before turning to Twilight. "Until we meet again, Miss Twilight Sparkle. He finally pried himself away from the book, and slowly walked away, still chuckling to himself. He shot Blueblood a look of indignation before disappearing from view.

"And who was that?" Twilight asked. "Another eccentric, as Fleur puts it."

"Eccentric? Much nicer than what she used to say. Sure, let's call Goldstar another eccentric. An eccentric you should stay far away from."

"I don't think you need to warn us about that," Spike commented. "He's creepy!"

"Noted," Twilight told Blueblood. "I guess you do leave that little office."

"When the need arises. By the way, could you follow me to the dungeons? It seems your rainbow-maned friend has gotten herself into a little trouble."


Applejack and Vinyl Scratch strained to put the last barricade in place. Firmly secured, they leaned against it and exchanged a smile. "You're fired up now," Vinyl Scratch commented. "Before you were so gloomy. What gives?" she asked while wrapping a hoof around her to pull her closer.

"Well, I just remembered that I'll be fightin' for pony lives, not just the ones I know back home. And, quite frankly, if that bandit can pull more than twice her weight and smile about it, than what kind of example am I setting?"

"Hah, you all sure are something! Waltzing into our frozen city and getting us all fired up to fight a war? You need to visit more often!" Vinyl Scratch stood up and motioned to Rarity. "Think we can get some help here?"

"If I must," Rarity sighed as she focused the light of her mirrors into a beam to weld the barricade. "I don't understand you. How can you fight for us all like this? What are you trying to gain from this?" she asked Applejack menacingly. "Your kind of altruism is completely unheard of."

"Altruism? You're forgetting that I'm doing this to save my own fur too." Applejack laughed. "But, if I can help it, I've decided I'm gonna stop Nightmare Moon from harming any more ponies."

"That's what I like to hear," Vinyl Scratch added. "You gonna drop the ice queen act any time soon, Rarity?"

"When I stop getting roped into idiotic antics."

"That's what I need!" Applejack suddenly shouted. "Rope. Lots of uses for rope. I'll be right back." She galloped off back into the busy streets, leaving behind two confused ponies.

"I guess country ponies like rope," Vinyl Scratch joked with shrugging.

"I'm ba-ack!" Pinkie Pie sung out as she jumped out from behind Vinyl Scratch and Rarity. "All the young and old-timers have been collected and are trying to get the guards to open up that big citadel place, so it’s up to us to go stir-crazy and buck that meanie-pants back to the moon! Can I get a hooah!?"

"Do you ever stop talking?" Rarity groaned.

"Hooah!" Vinyl Scratch yelled as loud as she could into Rarity's ear. "War is one-half psychological, one-half surprise, one-half tactics, and one-third preparedness."

"I'm not even going to bother to correct that..."

"By the way, has anypony seen Fluttershy?" Pinkie Pie inquired. Vinyl Scratch motioned to the crest-fallen pegasus, sitting in the shadow of a rock out of view and out of the way. "Fluttershy, what are you doing over there? Everypony's doing their best, we've got to too!"

"I'm fine," Fluttershy replied.

"Fluttershy—"

"So are you just going to prove Rainbow Dash right?" came Applejack's stern voice. "Consarn it, nopony is going to help you if you can't help nopony."

"But," Fluttershy squeaked, "I'm no good at anything, really. It's best I just stay out of trouble."

"Ponyfeathers, that's not true," Applejack cursed. "C'mon, you gotta try." Fluttershy remained silent.

"How about I take Fluttershy to that cathedral place?" Pinkie Pie suggested. "We can't force her to fight if she doesn't want to."

"Fine," Applejack sighed. "I got too much work to do here than to bother with this. Scratch, point me to the next task."

Pinkie Pie escorted Fluttershy off to the cathedral, leaving the three exhausted ponies to return to their preparations of turning Caballus into an impenetrable fortress.

"Ponyfeathers," Rarity inquired. "Is that some kind of colloquialism?"

"Colloqui-what?"

SKIT: To Defeat Fear Itself

Pinkie Pie: It's not in the dusk every day to carry you ♪

Pinkie Pie: I ain't so strong, I ain't so strong to go on ♪

Pinkie Pie: Living in the past is not the way to live ♪

Pinkie Pie: I wish you could hear me say that I miss you ♪

Fluttershy: …

Pinkie Pie: What's that matter?

Fluttershy: How, how can you stay so strong in all this?

Pinkie Pie: It's a Pie family special secret!

Fluttershy: …

Pinkie Pie: I mean, well, it's not that hard. You just take any scary predicament you're in, and make it funny.

Fluttershy: And how do you do that? How do you find this funny?

Pinkie Pie: I'm pretending it's going to be like one big party.

Pinkie Pie: Only, instead of drinking punch, I'm going to be giving punch!

Fluttershy: That's... violent...

Pinkie Pie: Yeah, well, uhh...

Pinkie Pie: I know! The next time you see that Nightmare Moon, remember...

Pinkie Pie: She's naked!

Fluttershy: She's... what?

Pinkie Pie: I mean, all she wears is a few pieces of armor.

Fluttershy: My gosh, you're right.

Fluttershy: Doesn't she get cold, or embarrassed?

Fluttershy: It... actually is kind of funny.

Pinkie Pie: Exactly!

Fluttershy: Thanks. I'll try your 'pie family secret' next time.

SKIT: End


Rainbow Dash idly sat in her cell, hooves tied behind her back. "Lame, so lame, total lameness, am I going to be let out of here anytime soon, or die of lameness!?" she yelled as loud as she could. A muscular white unicorn led a smaller lavender one into her view. "Twilight, you get busted too?"

"I didn't sneak in here," Twilight pointed out. "You, on the other hoof, did."

"Really great at facts there, egghead, but think you can get me out of this?"

"That's exactly why I'm here," Twilight smugly replied. "Maybe if you said please."

"Oh, you're good," Rainbow Dash chuckled with no intention of ever saying please.

Blueblood chuckled at the pair as he opened the door with his magic. "Off with you two, you have an element to find and a world to save, right?"

"Mind telling me how we're supposed to leave?" Rainbow Dash shot back.

"We have another chariot and a pilot for it this time. Let's go round up the others quick and leave before Nightmare Moon shows up."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Rainbow Dash added in. Blueblood led them back to the entrance, where to guard ponies were frantically trying to keep out a mob of elderly and children. "What's going on?" Blueblood commanded from the guards.

"It seems that word of Nightmare Moon has reached the ears of the lower-ponies," the guard answered him. "They're demanding sanctuary in the cathedral, sir."

"So, you wanted to keep it all a secret," Twilight asked Blueblood, eying him suspiciously. "What did you have planned for when she showed up?"

"I have my plans, Twilight, and you have yours," Blueblood harshly threw back. "Are you honestly going to stick around here and risk everything? What's important is stopping Nightmare Moon."

"Well, that's true..."

"Twilight!" Pinkie Pie squealed from behind the guards. "Hey, Twilight, over here! You've got to convince these guards to let everypony in! Applejack and Vinyl Scratch are busy fortifying the town, but we need a safe place for all these ponies."

"Miss Twilight, what are your orders," the guard ponies asked.

Twilight stared at the crowd, and back to Blueblood. His face was unreadable. "Why are they asking me?"

"You're the daughter of Twilight Velvet, do I need to repeat that?" Blueblood answered her boredly. "Since she's missing, and you're here, you have every right to order anypony you want around. It's great for when you're hungry. Speaking of which, where is Octavia with my lunch."

"Then, let them all in," Twilight ordered to the guards. To her bewilderment, they complied, lowering their spears and letting all the ponies in. "That worked?"

"Wow, Twilight, are you royalty?" Pinkie Pie asked in bewilderment.

"I'm not too sure."

"Well, thanks, but I need to get back and help Applejack. Take care of Fluttershy!" She zipped off in a blur of pink before Twilight could stop her.

"Wait, but... ugh," Twilight groaned, slumping to the floor. "We need to get out of here."

"So why don't we?" Rainbow Dash added. "Forget the others, we've got a chariot!"

"I suppose we could," Twilight wondered. "If we can return with the last element before Nightmare Moon returns, then it won't matter, right?"

"How heartless," Blueblood laughed as he trotted off. "Leaving your friends behind and all."

Twilight took a deep breath and sighed, throwing her head back. "He has a point."

"If we... work together... maybe?" Fluttershy squeaked. "They're all working really hard out there."

"And yet you're here with the old farts and the little kids," Rainbow Dash added dryly. "Guess that shows how hard you've been working."

"You're right," Fluttershy answered her, her tone strong and unwavering. "But so are you."

"Yeah, but I don't care about anypony here. My loyalty is with the Cloud Kingdom, that's it."

"Applejack and Pinkie Pie don't owe these ponies anything, but they're working harder than anypony."

"What's your point?" Rainbow Dash's eyes narrowed on Fluttershy, not angrily, but intrigued.

"You're lazy," Fluttershy said flatly.

Rainbow Dash threw her forelegs back and jumped into the air, laughing as loud as she could. "I'm lazy, eh? Well, it's about time you stood up to something. Maybe there's some pegasus in you after all."

"I am a pegasus..."

"You will be yet," Rainbow Dash chirped as she dragged Fluttershy into the air. "Stick with me and I'll make you one."

"What? But? Huh? I... you're not mad?" Fluttershy asked, confused. "I mean, I called you something terrible."

"Lazy is far from the worst thing I've been called."

Spike jumped up between the two, standing on their shoulders. "Well, you two seem to have made up, really awkwardly anyway."


"Everything is ready," Vinyl Scratch whispered as she stood tall on the tallest wreckage she could find, a purple scarf dangling in the wind.

"What the hay are you doing? Get down from there," Applejack admonished her from a ditch. "Stay up there and you'll give away our location!"

"Jeez, jeez, can't a mare have a moment?" Vinyl Scratch jumped down from the wreckage and landed softly on Applejack's back. "By the way, you're very soft."

"Get down!" Applejack roared as she bucked her off. "Quit playin' and grab a spear."

"Oh, I'm no good with those things. I got something even better!" She pulled out a couple of black razor-sharp disks from nowhere, keeping them floating mystically at her sides. "Without my sunglasses to buff my magic score, I'll be relying on these babies."

"Whatever works."

"I'm ba-ack!" Pinkie Pie sung as she jumped into the ditch. "So, what did I miss?"

"The cutting of our last strings of sanity," Rarity dryly answered her.

"And yet you're still here, mind explaining that, Rarity?" Applejack shot back, grinning.

"It's really quite simple, I live here and you've managed to corral my family into this mane-brained scheme. What can I do?" She leaned back against the trench walls, staring up woefully at the moon in the sky. "And when this all comes tumbling down, I'll be there to give you a piece of my mind, I do hope you know."

"Well we won't let that happen," Pinkie Pie giggled, pulling Rarity into a hug. "Because we're all going to defend your home! Right, Applejack?"

"That's why I'm here, right?"

"You two, are honestly going to defend this city, which you owe no fealty or favors with your lives?" Rarity asked, bewildered.

"That's the plan. Not a very smart one." Applejack shrugged, calming herself before the worst part

"Thank you," Rarity whispered to herself as she steeled her nerves. A column of darkness erupted in the distance, a signal courtesy of Nightmare Moon herself. The ponies of Caballus readied their spears and slings, the unicorns in the tower defense grid charging it with all the magic they could muster.

A troupe of ponies of every kind appeared at the front gates, led by a sea-green unicorn who stood on her hind legs. She magically raised a large broad-edged lyre into the air. "Under the orders of her majesty, Princess Nightmare Moon, you all have been condemned to execution on the ground of harboring weapons for usages against her majesty's regime!" she announced loudly and solemnly. "Please, surrender."

One of the towers of came to life, and fired a beam of light at Lyra. She narrowly escaped its scorching ray, jumping back at the last moment.

"Please, surrender and there will be less casualties."

"Casualize this!" one of the Caballun unicorns roared as he let loose a catapult filled with building debris. It showered into the makeshift army, injuring many.

Lyra raised her lyre overhead, and swung widely, enchanting her weapon with water magic. "Pesante!" she screamed as she crushed one of the flying rocks. "Attack!" she unsteadily cried out. Nightmare Moon's army flooded into the town.

Hundreds of ponies flooded into the town, and even some pegasi took to the skies, swearing their allegiance to the moon princess. They weaved through the beams of light, trying to penetrate the towers with just their blades, some succeeding, some being shot out of the sky.

"Hold your ground!" Applejack roared. "Hold the walls; release the rest of the catapults!"

The sound of catapults firing echoed through the air and ponies fell with the rocks, but Nightmare Moon's army had the advantage of numbers. When one fell two would take her place. The first set of barricades fell soon enough after the initial invasion.

"Ponyfeathers!" Applejack cursed as she jumped out of the ditch. She galloped right into the fray of the fight, and reeled back a hoof. "Skyward Shot!" she yelled out as she drove her hoof into another charging pony and shot her into the sky. She turned around and leapt at another pony. "Autumn's Fall!" she roared as she landed right on her, knocking her out.

"Applejack, duck!" Rarity threw her mirrors into the air. "Arching Light!" Light from the mirrors shot out and converged on a pegasus flying at Applejack.

"Cover me!" Applejack threw herself at another pony, light from Rarity's mirrors hailing behind her. She knocked out her target with a swift buck to the head, and scanned the area for her target. "Where is she?"

"Aquatic Cadenza!"

Applejack couldn't react in time as Lyra came down on her, driving her weapon into the ground and creating an eruption of gushing water that shot Applejack into a stone wall. "Dang it..."

"This could have been avoided if you had surrendered right away," Lyra lamented. "Now look what you forced us to do."

"Like hay that nightmare mare would do that. She wants blood!"

"Enough!" Lyra cried as she raised her blade. "Deluge—"

"Surprise Infliction!" Pinkie Pie cried out as she raised her pinwheel on Lyra, knocking her away from Applejack.

"Prism Shot!" Rarity yelled as she fired a bullet of light from a mirror.

"Pulse Thrust!" Vinyl Scratch announced as she magically tossed one of her discs.

Lyra raised her lyre to defend herself, but was forced to retreat. Pinkie Pie took Applejack and slung Applejack over her back. "Let's go, they're pushing back the line everywhere else," she announced to the other two. With a nod, they all galloped back, all the way back to the cathedral.

Nightmare Moon's army continued to advance on the city, pushing back ponies further and further till they were at the cathedral's steps, but only half as strong.

"Set me down, bandit," Applejack groaned as she saw the crowd come into view. "I'll tear right through them."

"Not in your health," Vinyl Scratch warned her. "Rarity, get charging!" Vinyl Scratch ran straight into the crowd, flinging herself into the crowd while rotating her disks around her. "Turntable Whirlwind!" The disks turned into a small black tornado around her as she tore through the crowd. "How do you like that," she chuckled before the army caught her. "Oh shoot."

"Ethereal Rift!" Rarity chanted out her spell, the ground under Vinyl Scratch lighting up and flooding up with light, flinging all the ponies into the air. "Vinyl Scratch!"

"I gotcha! Grand Mixer!" Vinyl Scratch threw her disks mid-air against the other ponies, flinging herself backwards as her enchanted disks, calling lightning from the sky as they struck the ponies. Vinyl Scratch landed right at Rarity's hooves. "Four down, four hundred more to go?"

"Very efficient," Rarity groaned.

"Look!" Pinkie Pie squealed, pointing to the front of the cathedral.

Octavia appeared in front of the army, standing between them and Caballus' last bastion. "Representing army of Nightmare Moon, I have orders that state if you take another step I am to take drastic measures to remove you from Caballus. You have been warned."

The army continued to advance, forcing Octavia to play.

"You were warned," Octavia smugly snickered as she brought her broad-sword to her cello. "Symphonic Choir!" She played a string of notes, and swung her sword, shooting off cascading bolts of light that crashed down on the army, halting their advance.

From out of the shadows, Amethyst Star jumped into Nightmare Moon's army and lashed at the nearest pony with her double-headed scythe, bringing with her a squadron of Caballus' strongest unicorns. "Lotus Flower!" she screamed as she flicked one of her targets into the air, jumping up and flicking them away with powerful swings.

Twilight couldn't believe her eyes as she watched the ensuing battle from the gates of the cathedral.

"Are you just going to stand there, gawking?" Trixie asked her, appearing from nowhere.

"How do you keep doing that?" Twilight asked, disturbed.

"It's something you'll never know," she snidely commented as she charged into the invading army and jumped over it. "Empress Throne!" She threw three cards into the chaos, creating a magical pillar of water that gushed upward, lashing out against any nearby ponies before forming a solid column that Trixie stood atop of. "Greetings all you lower-class foals! I am the Great and Powerful Trixie, and boy do I have a show for you!" She raised a hoof to the sky and started giggling wildly. "Thunder Sword!" Blades of pure lightning shot down from the sky, piercing the sky and dispersing the mob.

"Isn't this a bit much?" Applejack groaned. "We want them gone, not dead..."

Twilight watched Octavia, Amethyst Star and Trixie tear through the makeshift army with ease, but she grew uneasy as the fight went on longer. "Where is Nightmare Moon? Why hasn't she shown up yet?"

"Maybe she's going for a sneak attack?" Spike answered her without thinking. He nearly fell of her when she turned and started galloping into the Cathedral. "Slow down!"

Rainbow Dash turned and noticed Twilight galloping off. "Huh? Hey, Fluttershy, double time!"

"What?" Fluttershy bleated.

"Just follow me!" Rainbow Dash led Fluttershy after Twilight as she galloped further into the cathedral. They all stopped at a pair of broken double doors, a pitch black mare inside magically holding up Blueblood.

"So, you're the leader of this rabble?" she snidely asked him. "How should I break you? Perhaps your horn?"

"Orbital Raid!" Twilight threw her spear, spinning in mid-air and struck Nightmare Moon's back, the spear magically rebounding back to her.

Nightmare Moon threw Blueblood to the back of the room, turning malevolently to the mare that dared to strike her. Her piercing sharp eyes, burning with anger, caused Twilight to freeze up in fear. "And who are you?" she asked dryly.

"I... didn't think this through too well," Twilight whispered, scared.

Nightmare Moon took a step forward, sending out little waves of darkness every time her hoof hit the floor. "You two, yes I remember you two," she said maliciously. "You two were at the festival. The pegasus who attacked me, and the unicorn in the crowd. Isn't this interesting, my little ponies."

"Got another bright idea, Twilight?" Rainbow Dash asked before gripping her sword in her teeth. "C'mon, snap out of it."

Twilight shook herself. "Stay on the defensive and don't take your eyes off of her." She could feel her heart in her chest racing away, driving her blood through the icy fear beginning to suffocate her.

"Twilight," Fluttershy whispered, "run."

"What?"

Fluttershy jumped at Nightmare Moon, three chained scythes flying behind her. "Flailing Pain!"

"You're kidding, right?" Nightmare moon raised herself onto her back legs, narrowly avoiding the flying blades. An aura of darkness began to materialize behind her, arching over her and coming down on Fluttershy in a tide of scornful magic.

"Fluttershy!" Rainbow Dash cried as she flung her sword, catching the wave.

The scythes coming out of Fluttershy's robe reeled in, leaving only the edges revealed. Fluttershy took a deep breath and swung upward. "Painful Presumptions!" Nightmare Moon's darkness tried to catch Fluttershy at her back hooves, but she shot upwards at the last moment, and nicked Nightmare Moon's face. "Fleeting Dream!" She swung downward, and nicked Nightmare Moon again.

"Little foal!" Nightmare Moon screamed as her aura of darkness swirled around her. She directed the dark magic at Fluttershy. "I will tear out your breath!"

Fluttershy jumped over the converging magic and kicked Nightmare Moon with a fourth hidden sickle. "Repeating Misery." She spun in air and lashed out with another sickle again. "You need to run!" she cried back to Twilight. "Go!"

"I'm not leaving you!" Rainbow Dash cried as she plunged herself in Nightmare Moon's dark aura. "Dankuuken!" She spun her body, gathering the misty aura, and shot upwards to dispel the malefic magic.

"Do you think that is enough to stop me?!" Nightmare Moon's tail roared. Her tail snaked around Fluttershy's hooves as she raised a hoof over the helpless pegasus. "Die!" She tried to crush her, but Twilight grabbed her and winked the both of them away at the last moment. Her hoof slammed into the ground with enough force the shake the entire cathedral. "Little— AGH!"

"Gotcha," Spike smirked as he knocked an arrows. "Gale Salvo!" He fired five arrows all at once with the howl of raging wind. The arrows pierced Nightmare Moon's side, but drew no blood. She was scrapped, nicked and pierced, but no blood poured from any wound.

"Monsters... monsters all of you!" Nightmare Moon screamed as her body dissolved into a whirling vortex of dark magic. "I'll consume you!" came her reverberating voice from the center of the chaos. "Nothing will be left! Not even bone!"

"Any bright ideas now?" Rainbow Dash asked Twilight. "There's nothing to hit!"

"Then we'll make something to hit. Start charging a really strong spell!" Twilight magically held her spear overhead, spinning it overhead as she channeled her magic into it. "Oh comets that cut across the sky! Rain down upon this bedlam and create a path for my victory!" The spinning spear turned into a wormhole encased in a sheet of ice. "Trail Blazer!" A massive comet erupted from the wormhole and crashed into Nightmare Moon's dark hurricane, freezing it solid. "Rainbow Dash, crush it!"

"I've gotcha!" Rainbow Dash threw her hooves forward and released a powerful gust of wind from her armor. "Cyclone!" The winds tore into the frozen twister, shattering it to pieces.

"Did we... win?" Fluttershy asked incredulously.

"Probably not," Twilight answered her as she placed her spear in front of her defensively. Almost on cue, the vapors that composed Nightmare Moon freed themselves from the icy coffins and converged back into the diabolic form of the dark Princess.

"Is that it?" she sneered. "I've barely started."

"Eat this!" Spike yelled out as he tore his bow apart into daggers. "Glimmer—"

Nightmare Moon caught Spike mid-attack in her aura of magic. She held him up by his tail in triumph. "This is the best Equestria can give me! A thousand years to prepare for my arrival and not even a properly trained army! Instead I get fillies playing games and this shrimp!" she shot Spike into the nearest wall, reveling in the destruction she was causing as each step she took out let out a cascade of darkness that swelled over the cracks of the floor. She wanted to engulf everything in her darkness, especially the pegasus that first dared to attack her. "You're first."

"Rising Dragon!" Spike roared as he cut across Nightmare Moon's legs and then leaping off into the air and thrusting his daggers at Nightmare Moon's face. She drew away at the last moment, taking away the smallest scar that a small droplet of red blood slipped out of. "Don't you dare touch them!" Spike threatened.

"Such fortitude," Nightmare Moon dryly commented. She stomped a single hoof and another pool of darkness erupted forward, directed right at Spike.

Spike clenched his daggers and lept into the air, just over the tide. "Diving Dragon!" He propelled himself out of his momentum and right at Nightmare Moon again, clenching his teeth hard enough to draw blood from his own mouth, but he gasped when he felt the dagger sink into her side. He clung to her, scared for his and everyone else's life.

"Insolent little whelp!" Nightmare Moon kicked and bucked as she tried to shake him off. "How dare you! How dare you!" She screamed and a terrible wind erupted upwards around her, pulling Spike into the air. She caught him with her magic and smashed him against a wall.

Spike, barely conscious, flailed in vain trying to reach his daggers still sitting in Nightmare Moon's body.

"Surrender and die!" She crushed him into the ground and started stomping on him. "Die! Why won't you die! Break and die!"

"Get off him!" Twilight cried as she reeled forward with her spear, engulfed in a roaring inferno. Nightmare Moon ducked under the strike, but Twilight reeled back and thrusted again. "Binary Star!" Nightmare Moon backed away from the second hit, but a star erupted from the tip of the spear and struck Nightmare Moon's face. Her helmet flew off.

"You," Nightmare Moon wheezed as she held her head between her hooves.

"You," she seethed as she pitifully grasped around for her helmet.

"You," she cried meekly as her mane flailed around madly.

"You!" she finally yelled as loud as she could as her mane turned into a vicious cyclone of ethereal and dark magic. The stars in her mane blinked madly in and out of existence, trying to communicate hatred at Twilight and Spike. "How dare you do this to me! After I've trounced you into the ground! Who are you! Answer me!"

"Just a student," Twilight proclaimed.

"And a dragon," Spike added as.

"A student and a dragon," Nightmare Moon whispered angrily, as her eyes scanned Twilight and Spike. She froze, and her mane dissipated back to its natural haze. She stood still, save for her heaving chest as she gasped for air. "It's a dragon?"

"Twilight, is she... okay?" Spike asked as he watched Nightmare Moon begin to twitch around madly. She turned in every direction, as if expecting something.

"Where is she?"

"Where is who?" Twilight asked.

"Where is Celestia?!" Nightmare Moon roared as loud as she could, her voice shaking the earth and calling cries of thunder. "Where is Celestia?! I know she's here! She's been waiting! That's the only reason! I won't let her! I won't let her take me back! I'm not going back! No! I did not spend one-thousand years suffering with little belief of an end to lose now!" Her rambling became more frantic and rapid as she went on. She turned back to Twilight, confused, afraid and angry. "Where is she?"

Twilight backed away, startled by the sudden shift in mood. She corralled Spike behind herself. "Celestia," Twilight started, "disappeared a long time ago... not long after she sealed you away."

"After my... what? No, no, no!" She started shaking her head and backing away. "No! I don't believe that!" She rose into the air, tearing the roof to pieces with a vortex of magic as she rose. She kept rising till she was the highest thing in Caballus. She could see all the carnage her machinations had caused, and it still wasn't enough to get her sister's attention. She cried.

Where are you?

The entire city stopped to marvel as the mad-mare began to glow even brighter than the moon.

Where are you!

"Twilight, what's going on!?" Rainbow Dash yelled as the howl of wind began to tear at Caballus.

"I don't know. Maybe she's gone crazier?"

Celestia!

The name of the past ruler of Equestria began to cut through everyone in Caballus.

Show yourself!

 

I won't let you send me back!

 

Celestia!

The earth shook as the princess' fury shook the moon in the sky. For a few minutes, the world was filled with light again, but from the moon. Its pale hue gave no comfort, but heralded a macabre castle of twisted design, floating down from the moon, casting a shadow across all of Equestria.

"What the hail?" Rainbow Dash cursed as she watched the tiny spec descend into Equestria. "Where did that come from?"

"I have a few guesses," Twilight muttered, keeping her eyes on the Princess in the sky, twitching and convulsing wildly. She had gone silent, but her presence could still be felt, stronger than ever.

The twisted moon-castle landed in the middle of the Everefree Forest, directly in front of the ruins of Old Canterlot. Nightmare Moon disappeared in a wild flash of light, taking her army with her, leaving behind all the carnage and violence she reveled in earlier. Caballus was left nearly in ruins, but with only a few bodies littered in the streets.


"Thank goodness you're safe!" Pinkie Pie bawled as she latched onto Twilight, staining her cloak with her. "I was so wo-oried!"

"I'm glad I'm safe too, Pinkie Pie," Twilight replied, trying to push away from the clingy pony with little results. With a sigh, she gave in and let Pinkie Pie cry her puffy eyes out.

Minuette stood at attention and saluted the rest of them. "I am Minuette, though, I think you all know that from our fun at the tournament. Anyway, I'll be driving the Flying Chariot for us, so just tell me our destination and I'll fly us there in no time."

"Well, I'm kinda disappointed," Applejack sighed. "I wanted another chance to drive this thing."

"You keep your hooves away from the controls!" Twilight shot back as Pinkie Pie strangled the air from her lungs.

"You girls have a whole lot more guts than I gave you credit for," Rainbow Dash mused as she looked over Applejack and Rarity. "You know, for a prissy snob and a stubborn mule, you two can be kind of awesome when you want to."

"Kind of awesome?" Rarity pouted. "I had to fight an army to get 'kind of' awesome."

"Yeah," Rainbow Dash grinned. "Now if you want to see real awesome, you should have seen Fluttershy attacking Nightmare Moon! She was all 'shing' and Nightmare Moon was all 'I'm Nightmare Moon, despair and junk' but then Fluttershy jumped and kicked her in the face!"

"Fluttershy... did that?" Applejack expressed in disbelief. She turned to Fluttershy, who had taken to hiding within the confines of her robe. "Rainbow, are you pulling my leg?"

"Nope, I can vouch for her," Spike added. "Fluttershy's got some real moves when she wants to. C'mon, say something!"

Fluttershy, in an uncharacteristic moment, lifted her with some air of assurance. "I can, uhh, really kick butt." The stares she received in response were enough to send her back into her fuzzy haven.

"Oh, I wish I had seen it!" Pinkie Pie giggled, finally letting go of a suffocated Twilight. "C'mon, let's spar!" she squealed in delight as she drew her giant pinwheel. "Party Destruction!"

"False Pretenses," Fluttershy shrieked as she took off." Everyone started laughing as they watched the pink blur chase the helpless yellow one. It was the moment and feeling they needed after so much fighting and anguish.

"You're all such good friends," Blueblood laughed as he strode into the hanger. "I hope I'm not interrupting a moment."

"Don't worry, you already have," Rarity groaned. "Now go ruin something else, please."

"Still as cute and feisty as ever," Blueblood gushed at Rarity.

"Say another word, I dare you," Rarity threatened darkly.

"I don't suppose you have a nicer younger sister?"

Rarity drove her hoof into Blueblood's smiling face, a satisfying crunch followed by an eruption of blood playing out. "You are the absolute worst kind of pony imaginable!"

Blueblood continued to smile as he magically healed his broken nose. He strode past Rarity and approached Twilight. "Equestria, neigh, the whole world is depending on you. I don't mean to pressure you, but the stakes are high, I hope you understand."

"Yes, I do."

"You have managed to surpass my expectations in many ways, Twilight. A shining new hope for Equestria is surely at hoof." He chuckled to himself, but noticed Twilight’s continuing unease. "What I'm trying to say, is that I believe in you. You're the only one that can save us."

"Thanks," Twilight smiled. "I'll try not to let you down."

Equestria: The Dark Skies

Twilight, sat over the top of the flying chariot, holding her spear tightly close to her body as if it was the one thing keeping her from flying off, and the book that had been delivered to her in the other. It would be awhile before Nightmare Moon's castle would appear in the distance. "Who delivered you?"

"Need some company?" came Rainbow Dash's cracking voice. Even before Twilight could answer she took a seat next to her. "Isn't it dangerous for you to sit up here?" she playfully teased while poking her in the back. "It's splatsville from up here."

"If I sensed any danger of falling off I would wink inside the chariot," Twilight replied.

"Gutsy, aren't you," Rainbow Dash laughed. "Well, a gutsy leader is better than a scared one."