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The Mane Event

Part One

Twilight was peacefully reading in her study. It was the most relaxing thing in the world for her, spending a sunny, warm, gorgeous day inside, reading leisurely by the window. She could see the denizens of Ponyville trotting about outside, off on whatever errands they had to accomplish.  She had been there for hours, whiling away the day in happy solitude. Little did this bookworm pony know her quiet world was about to get very loud.

“Twilight!” She heard a shout from outside, “Twilight! I need your help.” A happy voice yelled as the door flew open. Twilight Sparkle turned to the doorway and saw her bright pink friend Pinkie Pie bursting into the room.

“What is it, Pinkie Pie?” Twilight asked sincerely. It was rare for her friends to just barge into her house, and more rare for this friend in particular to ask her for help.

“Well, you know how I’ve been together with Blues for a while, right?”

“Yup. Ever since I set you two up with that ice rink a few weeks back.”

“Well, he’s been really down on himself lately and kind of mopey and doesn’t really want to go out and do things with me anymore.”

“Right, well, his name is Blues, after all.”

“But that doesn’t mean he has to be so blue all the time! We do have fun most times and I’m really sure he just needs one really fun thing to break out of this…funk.” Pinkie said, still talking in her usual rapid-fire style.

“What did you have in mind?”

“We-elllll” She began, stretching the word for all it was worth. Twilight Sparkle got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach as Pinkie Pie skipped a beat for one massive inhale.

“You know how you only had two tickets for the Grand Galloping Gala until you wrote to Princess Celestia and then she gave you seven tickets so all of us could go together? Well I was hoping maybe you could write to her again and ask if maybe pretty pretty please I could get one more ticket so that Blues could come with me too and I could show him how wonderful parties are and then he’ll be happy again and everything will be alright.”

Twilight Sparkle would have been stunned at the outflow of words that came pouring from the pink pony not that long ago, but she’d gotten used to Pinkie’s speech patterns by now. Twilight hesitated for just a moment and began, “But Pinkie, that Gala’s only two days away. Besides, I’m not so sure we should bother the princess again with-“

“Please Twilight?” Pinkie pleaded, twisting her face into her best pout.

Twilight heaved a defeated sigh. She was powerless against that face. It was the face that had convinced Fluttershy to sing, even though her voice had been altered by the Poison Joke. “Alright Pinkie, alright.  I’ll send Princess Celestia a letter asking for another ticket. I’ve just got to wait until Spike gets home.”

“Ok, I’ll go find him.” Pinkie said and dashed out the door in a blur. She returned almost instantaneously with the tiny dragon in tow.

“How did you do that?”

“Oh, he was just outside.”

“Yeah, I was on my way back when she grabbed me.” Spike said, “You could’ve waited like, ten seconds and I would have been here anyway, Pinkie.”

“Well ten seconds was nine seconds too long.” She replied. “So he’s here Twilight, write it!”

“Spike, I need you to take a note,” Twilight Sparkle began, giving her assistant time to grab a pen and some paper. “Dear Princess Celestia, I’m sorry to disturb you about this, but one of my friends is hoping to bring a date with her to the Grand Galloping Gala. Is there any way I could perhaps get just one more ticket? If not, I completely understand. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”

Spike finished his notation and frowned. “Are you sure you want to send this? I’m not certain Celestia would want a letter just asking her for stuff.”

“I know, Spike.” Twilight said, “But I promised Pinkie I would.”

“Yes, that’s true. You should send it!” Pinkie said, bouncing in place.

“Alright…” Spike said hesitantly as he held the note up to his mouth. He breathed a gentle stream of green on it and the letter disappeared in a puff of smoke. He stood for a moment and watched it go. “Now, it’ll probably be a few minutes before we get a response. In the meantime, care to tell me what this is all about?” Spike asked the two present ponies.

“I need a ticket to bring Blues to the Gala.” Pinkie Pie said, “And Twilight said she’d get me one more for him so he can go too.” Her cheerfulness could get on a pony’s nerves sometimes, but her innocent pleasure about such a simple task as sending a letter put Spike in a very forgiving mood.

“Well, I guess that’s a fair enough reason.” He said, “But if you needed another ticket, you could have just taken mine.”

“That’s very generous of you, Spike.” Twilight said, “But isn’t there somepony you want to impress at the Gala? I bet if we got you dressed up in a nice suit and hat, you might get that dance you’ve been wanting.”

“Twilight! I thought we were just going to keep that between ourselves. I really didn’t want others to-*Burraap*” Spike’s inconvenient burp signaled the arrival of Celestia’s response. He caught the paper in his hand and unrolled it quickly. “To Twilight, my most beloved pupil: I am very glad that your friend is learning about the other types of relationships available to young ponies such as yourself. I think it would be wonderful if you and each of your friends could find a special pony to bring to the Gala with you. To that end, I have enclosed six more tickets. May you each choose wisely. Princess Celestia.”

Spike grabbed the tickets and held them out in front of his face, staring with a strange mix of wonder and fear. ‘Oh great,’ he thought, ‘Two tickets in Ponyville almost caused a riot. What’s going to happen with six more up for grabs? Well, five, I guess.’

As he was contemplating, Pinkie rushed up to him and grabbed one of them in her mouth. “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, Twilight!” She got out happily, despite the obstruction, “I know this’ll just brighten up Blues’ day! I can’t wait to go to the Gala now!” And Pinkie Pie once more dashed from the room with incredible speed. When the dust of her exit settled, Twilight turned and looked at the tickets still resting in Spike’s hands.

“Well, now what do we do?” She asked.

“We gotta get a ticket to each of your other friends.” Spike said, “And I know exactly who that job’s going to. I wish they could just get them themselves. I don’t like being a messenger boy all the time.

“Not that, Spike.” Twilight said with indignity, “What do we do about finding me a date for the Gala? Who would go with me? I don’t know of anypony I’d want to go with like that.”

“Then just give it to someone else. Anypony would be glad to get a ticket.”

“No, Spike.” Twilight said, “Princess Celestia gave me a direct order to find a special pony to bring with me to the Gala. I can’t just give it away!”

“Oh, I see. Well, that’s something you’ve got to figure out. In the meantime, you should let all your friends know they get another ticket, don’t you think?” Spike asked.

“I’m sure Pinkie’s got that taken care of.” Twilight said, “Once she knows something exciting, she’ll share it. In fact, I bet that any minute now-“

“What’s this I hear about an extra ticket?” A voice called from over their heads. Spike and Twilight Sparkle looked up to see their fleet-winged friend Rainbow Dash, hovering over their heads. “Pinkie interrupted a perfectly good nap; singing something about ‘extra ticket to the Gala, he sure is a lucky fellah.’ So, why does she get an extra ticket and I don’t?”

“But you do, Dash!” Spike said excitedly, “I sure am curious to see who you pick!”

“Who I pick?”

“Yes.” Twilight Sparkle cut in, “Princess Celestia has given us each an extra ticket to the Gala. She told us to find a special pony to bring along. Who are you going to choose?”

“Well, I…what?”

“Come on Dash, don’t you have that oooone pony that just makes you feel happy?” Spike asked. “I know I’d ask Rarity to go with me, but she’s already got a ticket. Plus now she has to find someone to go with too. Oh no! What if…what if she’s already got a perfect date? Twilight, I gotta go, bye.”

Spike dropped the tickets and ran out the door. He had to preempt Rarity asking another pony to the Gala. This was his chance to go with her before anypony else could steal her away. Rainbow Dash and Twilight were left behind, looking at each other.

“So…any ideas?” Twilight asked.

“Hehe, not right now.” Dash said, “I’ll have to think about it some. I’ll just take that ticket there and get back to yah.”

With that, the blue pegasus pony snatched the ticket with her mouth and flew back out through the window. Twilight Sparkle was left alone in her house with four new tickets and a head full of questions. Still, she was a practical pony, and was never one to let what she couldn’t do stop her from doing what she could. ‘I at least need to get these tickets to their rightful owners.’ She thought as she picked them up off the floor. ‘Might as well get going.’

“Oh no, Twilight, I don’t have anyone like that.” The gentle yellow pegasus said. “You can just give that ticket to someone else.”

“I can’t Fluttershy,” Twilight responded forcefully, “It’s an order from the Princess. This ticket is for you.”

“Um…but…eep!” Fluttershy jumped high into the air when she felt a tap on her flank. She quickly recovered herself and turned around to see an angry-looking rabbit tapping its foot impatiently. “Oh, well, I guess I could take Angel with me.”

“But Fluttershy” Twilight was about to protest when she realized it wasn’t her place. Each pony had their own extra ticket, and if Fluttershy wanted to go against the Princess’ wishes and bring Angel, that was her decision. “I guess that would work.” She finished.

“Oh thank you, Twilight.” The timid little pony said, “I’m sure Angel will just love exploring the royal garden with me. This is going to be the best night ever.”

“As long as you’re happy, I think that’s the main thing.” Twilight said as she trotted away from Fluttershy’s little cottage toward Sweet Apple Acres.

“Oh tha’s jus perfect, Twilight!” Applejack said excitedly when she heard the good news. “I bet Big McIntosh is gonna be pleased as punch tah come with me to the Gala.”

“Um…you’re bringing Big McIntosh with you?”

“Sure am, sugar. There’s nopony I’d rather bring with me.”

“Wow, I never knew that, Applejack.” Twilight was shocked, she never knew AJ felt that way about her brother. “I…um…well, alright then.”

“What’re you getting all weirded out fer, Twilight?” Applejack asked. “Why shouldn’t I bring Big McIntosh with me?”

“No, no, that’s fine. I was just surprised, that’s all. It’s your ticket and you can bring who you want with you. Forget I said anything.”

“Well, alright then. Thanks a ton, Twilight! Ah can’t wait to tell ‘im the good news. Oh big brooother!” She called out in a sing-song voice while walking back toward the farmhouse.

Twilight Sparkle turned and trotted quickly away. She had no idea AJ thought of her brother in that way. Twilight couldn’t help but admit that Big McIntosh was indeed a handsome stallion, but still; the thought just didn’t sit right with her. Regardless, Applejack was her friend. She probably should have picked a better place or time to let Twilight Sparkle know about her “special” relationship with Big McIntosh, but Twilight shook it off and pressed on. There was one more delivery to make.

Twilight walked on to Ponyville proper, eventually stopping outside the Carousel Boutique. She could see Rarity through the window, working diligently on some new dress. Rarity was always inventing, trying to find the next big style and show it off before any other pony had even dreamed such a design could exist.

Twilight walked in through the door and was greeted warmly by the owner. “Twilight! How good to see you. If you’re looking for Spike he just left. He seemed awful intent on getting me to agree to go to the Gala with him. He wouldn’t say why, though.”

“I know why,” Twilight began, “Princess Celestia sent us all an extra ticket. She wants us to bring a pony that’s special to us along to the Gala. Here, this one is yours.”

“Oh Twilight, how nice! But I won’t be needing another ticket.”

“Oh, did you decide to go with Spike?”

“No dear, I thought I let everypony know I intend to meet the best stallions Canterlot has to offer at the Gala. I couldn’t possibly do that while being escorted by another pony, now could I? That would be utterly distasteful.”

“So, you’re not going to do what Celestia wants us to?”

“Twilight, it would simply be uncivil of me to bring a date to the Gala and then ignore them. I must be alone to see who at the Gala has the right degrees of taste and tact to woo me properly.”

“So, what should I do with the ticket, then?” Twilight asked, still stunned from Rarity’s brash refusal to follow princess Celestia’s orders.

“Oh, give it to whomever you wish, dear.” She replied. “Just make sure they have the class needed to attend such a dignified event as the Grand Galloping Gala.”

“If you say so…” Twilight agreed reluctantly. She certainly didn’t want to go against a royal decree, but she could never force her friend to bring a date to the Gala. She simply had to hope Celestia would understand, and not be too upset at her.

On the walk home, Twilight reflected on the strange day she’d had. In two days she had to find somepony that was special to her, bring them to the Gala, and give away an extra ticket from Rarity. It was a lot to do with only one full day left ahead of her, and she still had no idea who to bring.

When she arrived back at her tree-house, Spike was in a sour mood. Twilight could almost see a tiny storm cloud hanging over his head as he sat in the middle of the floor, arms crossed in front of his body and mouth curved into a determined frown.

“I heard from Rarity. Did she drop you that hard?” Twilight asked, seeing the sad plight her assistant was in.

“No…she wasn’t mean about it or anything, but she still said no.” Spike replied grumpily, refusing to move from his designated moping ground.

“Well, at least you had somepony in mind.” Twilight said, “I still don’t have anyone to bring with me.”

“What about Caramel?” Spike asked, “Didn’t he ask you one time?”

“Yeah, but he’s just not my type. I need someone more…thoughtful, I guess. I don’t want a pony that’s all about joking around. I need a pony who loves reading, will listen to my ideas and thoughts. I need a pony that’s interested in stimulating conversation and magic studies. I couldn’t just take a pony with me because I had to. And besides, now I need to find an extra pony to take, since Rarity didn’t want her ticket.”

“You can take mine back, too.” A voice said from up above.

Spike and Twilight turned to see the speaker, Ponyville’s top flyer Rainbow Dash, coming in through the window again. “I got in touch with a friend.” She said, “and he’s already got a ticket to the Gala so, I don’t need this one. Give it to somepony else.”

“But Rainbow Dash-“ Twilight started to object.

“Hey, you said I needed to find a date, and I got one. I just don’t need to use this ticket to make it happen so, here.” She dropped the ticket from its place in her teeth and let it flutter gently to the ground. “Anyway, I gotta get some sleep. Big rainstorm scheduled for tomorrow. See yah, Twilight.” She called as she was off again in a flash.

“Argh! Two extra ponies now? Who in the world should I give these to?”

“Well, you could just send them back.” Spike offered.

“What? And defy Celestia? Never, Spike. I must find good homes for these tickets, or she may never trust me again.”

Spike decided that Twilight was simply overacting to this whole ticket fiasco, but thought better of telling her in her present state. When things got too stressful, Spike knew Twilight was prone to snap. He didn’t want to see that happen again, not after the Parasprite problem.

“I think maybe a good night’s sleep will help you decide.” Spike said, fully taking over the role of consoler from Twilight. “I know I always feel better in the morning if I’ve had a bad day.”

“Yeah Spike, that’s a good idea, thanks.” Twilight Sparkle said wearily. She dragged herself to bed and tried to fall asleep, but couldn’t shake the tension accumulated that day. Who in Equestria would go with her to the Gala? And how would she properly dispose of two extra tickets? Almost anypony in Ponyville would want to go. The Grand Galloping Gala was a huge affair, after all; but who was most deserving was a question only Twilight could answer. She tossed and turned in her bed until finally exhaustion got the better of her and she fell into a fitful sleep.

The next morning, Twilight awoke with a start. She had had a most strange dream, all about the Gala, tickets, and ponies wanting tickets. In her dream she saw all of Ponyville chasing after her for a ticket. In the dream she was running away constantly, trying to decide who needed the ticket most. At the end of the dream, Twilight had disappeared into the Everfree Forest and found a familiar pony sobbing softly among the trees. It was Trixie, alone and depressed. Trixie told Twilight how the news of her boasting spread across Equestria, until Trixie could no longer work as a traveling magician. Her career ruined, she became a hermit, completely alone in the forest.

Twilight was skilled enough in the ways of magic to know the difference between a normal dream and a vision. She recognized that a dream this vivid, dreamt by a pony who specializes in magic, could only be a sign of what was to come. Twilight still didn’t know how to use all the tickets entrusted to her, but she did know how to use one. She had to make amends with Trixie, and welcome her back into Pony Society.

Twilight packed well for her trip. She put the tickets securely in her saddlebag, grabbed a few snacks and plenty of water. She was certain she’d find Trixie by that night, but just in case she carefully folded her gorgeous gown that Rarity designed and packed that too. She quickly explained the situation to Spike who tried to stop her at first, but eventually gave in.

“Now make sure the library is spotless by the time I get back, and no parties, got it?”

“Of course, Twilight.” The dragon said, “Who do you think I am? Pinkie?” He chuckled gently and continued, “When will you be back?”

“I should be back by tonight, but I’ll be at the Gala tomorrow whether I make it back tonight or not.”

“Alright, see you there if you’re not here tonight.” Spike said, waving goodbye to his pony friend as she walked out the door.

Twilight started very early in the morning, before most of the town had woken up. She trotted quickly through town square, and was only a few blocks away from Fluttershy’s hut on the edge of the forest when she came upon a house that already had occupants stirring. It was the tiny house owned by the resident mailmare. Twilight knew her real name wasn’t Derpy, but everyone had called her that for so long, Twilight had already forgotten what her given name was. She knew that Derpy lived on a very small salary, and often tried to supplement it by moving furniture. She also knew that the mailmare always did her best to make sure her filly had a chance for a better life.

When Twilight got closer, she could see that Derpy was just about to leave for work, and was saying goodbye to her little filly before she left. “-and make sure to do what Ms. Teacher Cheerilee says today. No more fighting with other little fillies at the schoolyard anymore, okay?”

“But-“ The little one started, but was shut down by her mother’s glare. She wanted to tell her mom that she only got into fights because they were making fun of Derpy’s eyes, and the strange things she did around town sometimes, but instead let out only: “Okay, mom.”

“There’s a good little one.” Derpy said with a smile, patting her small child on the head with a free hoof. “Now talk to no strangers, go straight to school, be safe.” She said before turning and flying off toward the post office. Twilight smiled a sad smile at the pair, and finally knew exactly what to do. She trotted up to the filly who was still waving goodbye to her mother, despite Derpy already being well out of sight. When she saw Twilight approaching, the pony gasped and quickly shut the door.

“Hello? I just have something I need to give you.” Twilight said through the closed door. “Can’t you open up, miss…?”

“Nuh-uh.” Came the reply, “Momma said to talk to no strangers.”

“But you know me, I’m Twilight Sparkle.” She said, hoping to coax the filly out, “I run the library. You know my friend Applebloom, right?”

“Oh yeah,” The pony responded, starting to think she recognized the name Twilight. “I’m Dinky.” She said, opening the door slightly. “What do you need?”

“Well Dinky,” Twilight began, reaching back into her bag, “I’ve got a present for you and your mom. Have you heard of the Grand Galloping Gala?”

The filly’s head drooped at the question and responded sadly, “Yes. Mommy says in a few years, after she’s saved up some money, maybe we can go sometime.”

“Well Dinky, I happen to have two extra tickets with me.”

“Really?” Dinky said, her face lighting up.

“Yes, and if you can promise me two things, I’ll give them to you.”

“What’s that?”

“First, you have to promise me you won’t let your mom know I gave them to you. Just tell her the pony giving them didn’t want her to know. Can you do that?”

“I guess so…” Dinky said, displeased that she’d have to trick her mom. “What’s the second thing?”

“The second thing is that you have to promise me you’ll have a great time at the Gala!”

“I can do that, Twilight!” The filly replied happily, practically jumping for joy. “Oh, mom’s gonna be so happy!”

“I hope so.” Twilight said with a smile. “Now hurry up, you’ve got to get ready for school.”

“Oh yeah!” Dinky said, quickly running back into the house with her new treasures. Twilight watched her go and smiled again as she left to continue on her original quest. She was filled with a sense of joy, having made a good little filly happy. The feeling gave her some hope as she neared the Everfree Forest, about to embark on what Twilight knew could very well be a wild goose chase. The dream told her Trixie was somewhere in the forest, but the forest was large, and Trixie probably didn’t want to be found. Still, Twilight was determined, and trotted confidently into the woods.

The Mane Event

Part Two

Twilight began by simply walking down well-trodden path to Zecora’s hut. Twilight thought that, because Zecora lived in the forest, she might have a better idea of where to look for a new inhabitant. She walked confidently down the path with her head held high. All she needed was a tiny hint, some little clue as to where Trixie could be, and Twilight was sure she would be found. She reached the hut while the day was still new, but it was late enough that most ponies, and zebras for that matter, would be expected to be awake. Twilight rapped on the door with her hoof.

“Zecora? Are you there?”

“I am in here, so stop that knocking. Waking up to that can be quite shocking.” Came a call from inside.

“I’m sorry,” Twilight said, “I thought you would be awake by now. It’s Twilight.”

“Ah my pony friend, always in such a good mood. Can I interest you in some morning food?” Zecora said while opening the door to let her friend into the hut. Twilight, however, stood just outside the open door, not wanting to stay very long.

“No thanks, I’ve just got a question for you. I’m looking for someone I think might be living here in the woods. Have you heard of any new ponies making a home for themselves recently? Maybe as late as a few months ago?”

“Hmm…there are no new ponies, I believe. Perhaps you should ask your friend Steve?”

“The sea serpent? You think he would know?”

“He may seem to know about only his hair, but all ponies need water, and they’d get it there.”

“I see…the river.” Twilight said, mulling over Zecora’s idea. “Anyone living in the forest would have to get their water from there, and Steven would notice them when they came to get a drink. That’s perfect Zecora, thank you!”

Twilight was about to leave when Zecora asked, “If I may ask without you being offended, what will you find when your search has ended?”

“Hopefully, somepony very special to me.” Twilight answered before orienting herself and setting off toward the main river flowing through the Everfree Forest.

As Twilight walked on toward the river, her thoughts drifted back to the day she first met Steven Magnet, the day she and her friends had defeated Nightmare Moon. They crossed his river and continued on to Nightmare’s castle after Rarity fixed Steven’s mustache, though at the cost of her own tail. Twilight looked around the familiar patch of forest and realized her friend wasn’t there. She was surprised for just a moment until she had a chance to think it over properly.

“It’s not like he has to be right in this spot.” Twilight said aloud. “He could be anywhere, up or down the river. He might even be out at sea, for all I know.”

Twilight looked at the calmly flowing river and continued her monologue. “It’s probably no use looking for him.” She said, “It might even take longer to find him than Trixie. It’s a shame though; he did have such wonderful hair.”

“And a well-maintained, very fashionable mustache.”

“Yeah.” Twilight said, still staring straight ahead of her into the river. “I wonder if it’s grown back to his natural orange color yet, or if one side is still a ridiculous purple curl?”

“And what’s so wrong with purple, exactly?”

“Hah, as if I’d have anything against purple. No, it just looked ridiculous with one color on either side like that.”

“Well, I thought I looked marvelous!”

“Yeah, Steven really did care too much about…STEVEN!” Twilight shouted, finally realizing the fashion-obsessed serpent had been talking with her the whole time. She turned and looked at the long, thin reptile floating just upstream from her in the river. She noticed his mustache had indeed grown back to simply having a gorgeous orange sheen on each side as he swam his way right next to her.

“Hello, Twilight! Glad to see somepony still cares to visit besides Rarity. How have you been?”

“Well, a lot has happened since I saw you last. I’m doing pretty well. We defeated Nightmare Moon and I moved to Ponyville to study friendship for the princess and…did you say Rarity?”

“Oh yes, she visits almost once a month to catch up and chat.” Steven said, “I figured the rest of you had forgotten about me. Still, we do have such wonderful talks. Can you believe she’s designing dresses for Hoity Toity now? Oh, to be so involved in the world of pony fashion! And you know her!”

“Yes, well,” Twilight began.

“And Fluttershy, a model? She did seem like a nice young pony, but probably not model material. I hear it all turned out alright, but still. So much has happened to you girls. Oh, I could just listen to your adventures all day.”

“I’m glad Rarity’s been keeping you up to date,” Twilight said, “And I’m sorry I haven’t visited more.”
“It’s quite alright, Twilight.” He said. “Sorry for gushing out like that. You must have come for something, so what brings you to my neck of the forest?”

“Well, I’m looking for somepony I think might be hiding in the forest. Have you heard of the name ‘Trixie’?”

“You mean The Great and Powerful Trixie, most magical unicorn in all Equestria who lives in a small hut just about two kilometers from here?” Steven asked.

“Um…yes, her.”

“I was told specifically that I have not seen her around this forest at all. I have in fact never heard of this Trixie, and she most certainly doesn’t come to this very spot in the river every day at midday to gather water and sometimes converse with a most dashing Sea Serpent.”

“So…you have seen her?” Twilight asked, perhaps a bit confused that her venture could come to an end this easily.

Steven sighed and smiled at the perplexed pony. “Right, well, I haven’t seen the pony known as The Great and Powerful Trixie in the forest. But, if you stay here and chat with me for a few more minutes, I can introduce you to my new friend.”

“Oh, I see.” Twilight said, understanding. “Well, if that’s alright with you. Do you want me to just be here, or should I hide or something?”

“No, no, stay. Tell me about Spike. Has he been getting bigger? I remember when I was just hatched. Oh, those awkward growing days. Rarity says he’s developed something of a crush on her?”

“I don’t think he’s been getting bigger. At least, I haven’t noticed it.” Twilight replied. “Maybe it’s too slow for me to really see?”

“Oh no, when his spurt hits you’ll really see it.” Steven said, “I grew almost a foot longer in just over a month, and just kept growing from there.”

“Wow, that would be something. I never really thought about what we should do when he starts growing.”

“Well, I’m not too familiar with dragons. Don’t see many of them around here. Still, it should be exciting when he does get going. Oh! I think I hear hoof steps!” Steven said excitedly.

He turned around, leaving his back to Twilight, and faced the sound. Twilight followed his gaze and watched as Trixie trotted through the underbrush. Her trademark cape and hat were absent. The bright blue pony had only a large jug with her, being carried along by her magic. She walked confidently to the water’s edge, calling out, “Hello, Steven.”

“Hello, Trixie,” He answered. “May I say that your mane looks as lovely as ever today?”

Trixie giggled. “You may.” She said and bent down to get a drink of water.

“I think you’ll be surprised to hear I have another visitor today.” Steve began, “I think you may have met before. Trixie, may I introduce Twilight Sparkle.” Steven gave a wide sweep of his hand and moved his body back to reveal Twilight standing behind him. She stood and gaped at Trixie. She hadn’t been expecting Steven to expose her so quickly.

Trixie, for her part, raised her head to verify Steven’s claim. Realizing who exactly was standing there, she quickly spat out her drink in shock. She immediately shouted “NO!” and bolted back the way she came, leaving her jug resting next to the river.

“Oh, that didn’t go how I wanted to at all.” Steven said sorrowfully. “Go after her, quick!”

Twilight, needing just that little impetus to remove her hesitation, jumped through the shallow river and took off through the forest as fast as she could. Twilight realized quickly that Trixie knew the forest better than she did. Trixie was bobbing and weaving through every familiar tree, making great time as she got farther and farther in front of Twilight. The purple unicorn, by contrast, seemed to be struck by nearly every branch in the path, and nearly ran full bore in a tree or two.  It seemed to only take a moment, but Twilight was soon completely lost in the dense forest and could no longer see the slightest hint of Trixie running up ahead of her.

She stopped and tried to catch her breath. Twilight looked around her hastily and tried to track Trixie’s path. She looked around for any broken tree branches or trampled grass, but the only broken branches were her own from the path in, and the bushes all around her were too thick for her to see the ground. In short, Twilight had failed. The only safe choice was to go back to Steven, if she could find her way back.
Utterly frustrated, Twilight shouted: “Aaargh! Trixie! I just wanted to talk!” She looked in the direction she thought Trixie had run and said in a slightly more gentle voice, “I’m sorry for what happened before. Can’t we start over?”

Trixie, for her part, had kept running after Twilight stopped. She heard Twilight’s first scream and stopped. She listened closely and could just make out Twilight’s plea over her own heavy breathing. Intrigued, Trixie began to walk carefully, slowly, and very quietly back toward the river. As she got closer to Twilight, she realized how little the purple unicorn knew about the wild by how very loud Twilight was. Even just trying to walk through the forest, Twilight rustled so many branches and stepped on so many twigs, Trixie was sure every Cockatrice and Manticore for miles around could hear her.

She continued to watch as Twilight stumbled through the forest. Very quickly, Trixie realized the other unicorn pony was veering far off path. ‘She’ll never get back going that way,’ Trixie thought. ‘Who knows how long she’ll be lost in here?’ She kept watching as Twilight sat down in a small clearing and opened up her saddlebag. Twilight took out two shiny red apples and a flask of water.

Trixie, feeling certain of her secrecy, felt her mouth drool slightly when she saw those apples. She had been consisting on only leaves and a few berries from the forest. It had been far too long since she tasted freshly cultivated apples. And those two, she knew from her time in Ponyville, had to be from Sweet Apple Acres, one of the best apple orchards in Equestria. She was so lost in thought she almost missed Twilight say, “I’ll trade you an apple for telling me the way back to the river.”

Trixie jumped, causing the bushes she was hiding in to rustle loudly, confirming Twilight’s suspicion. “I thought you were following me.” Twilight said with a wry smile. “So, care for an apple?”

The blue pony, knowing she was caught, came into the clearing sheepishly. Trixie quickly recovered herself and remembered why she held such animosity toward Twilight. “I don’t know why you’re here,” She said haughtily, “But I’ll help you get back, just so you can leave me alone.”

“Well, if that’s what you really want, Trixie, I won’t stop you.” Twilight said calmingly. “But before that, here.”

Twilight floated the apple over to her fellow unicorn. Trixie in turn had begun walking to close the distance between them. She caught the apple with her own magic and took a quick bite as she sat down next to Twilight. She practically melted at the taste. Its sweetness and pleasant crunch were more wonderful than she remembered. “What are you really here for?” Trixie asked after swallowing her first bite.

“You.” Twilight said quickly, “Or, well,” She added, trying to ease the bluntness of her immediate response, “I wanted to bring you back to pony society. Give you a fresh start, so you don’t have to live here.”

“How in the world did you find me?”

“It was fate.” Twilight said, before realizing that sounded like a cheesy romance-movie line. “I mean, I saw you in a dream, living here in the forest. I knew then I had to find you and bring you back. I just got lucky that you happened to know Steven. He and I were friends before you and I even met.”

“I see.” Trixie said, considering Twilight’s story. She had heard of unicorn ponies seeing visions of the future, but she never known that Twilight Sparkle had this ability. Trixie took another bite of her apple and reveled in its flavor. “How would you do this thing?”

“I would take you as my date to the Grand Galloping Gala.” Twilight said, regretting it immediately. ‘Why does everything I say come out like I’m trying to court her?’ she asked herself. She looked over at Trixie and saw that she had stopped eating her apple in mid-bite.

“The…the Grand Galloping Gala?” Trixie said after a large gulp removed the apple bits from her mouth. “Why? So everypony can laugh at me? ‘Oh look, there’s Trixie. She’s a failure as a magician.’ ‘I know! Can you imagine a unicorn that can’t use magic correctly?’ ‘I bet someone brought her as the entertainment!’ ‘Yeah, an appropriate clown for the party.’ ‘Hahaha!’”

“Trixie, no, that’s not what I wanted at all.” Twilight said. “I’ve been thinking, on this trip to find you, about who you really are. I realized that you are a powerful magic user, and to become such, you must have studied very hard.”

“Of course. Nopony learns proper magic tricks without reading about them and practicing for days on end.”

“Exactly. I figured something out while coming to get you. I realized that, because you are such a powerful magic user, you must be full of ideas, and you must have learned many interesting things in your studies. You love reading, and could probably talk about magic and all that goes with it for hours and hours if you wanted to. Trixie, you are exactly the pony I want to take with me to the Grand Galloping Gala.”

Trixie almost gagged on her apple and took a few steps back. Twilight was…coming on to her? In earlier days, before that fateful incident, Trixie would not have been surprised at anypony throwing themselves at her, offering their services for whatever The Great and Powerful Trixie wanted. But now, having been dealt a harsh lesson in humility; to be approached like this by the very pony who taught her that lesson surprised Trixie greatly.

“Twilight, I just, well,” Trixie began at a slight loss for words, but slowly broke into a smile as she said: “Well, to be blunt that’s a bit out of the blue. I never knew you wanted me that much. But I can’t blame you. I am magnificent. I suppose if that’s how you truly feel, I have no choice but to accompany you to the Gala.”

Trixie put on airs just a bit, talking as if she were doing Twilight Sparkle a great favor. Twilight, for her part, didn’t seem to care about that. She was confounded that her phrases had given Trixie the idea that Twilight wanted her physically.  “Oh Trixie, that’s not-“ Twilight started to say, but then she looked at Trixie’s face. She was practically beaming, smiling at Twilight with a look pure joy.

Twilight thought instantly that Trixie was only this happy-looking because somepony was attracted to her. Twilight told herself that she would have to be very gentle with her next words, and considered what to say especially carefully before continuing, “Trixie, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, but that’s not quite what I meant..”

“Oh, you mean, you don’t want to take me to the Gala?” Trixie asked, crestfallen.

“That’s not it either. What I wanted to say is, I think you would make a great friend. I don’t think of you as, um, as a potential mate.”

“Whew.” Trixie said, letting out a held breath, “That is relieving.”

“Good, I’m glad you…wait…what?”

“No offense, Twilight, but you’re just not my type.”

“What do you mean, not your type? What’s wrong with me?”

“Well, that straight-laced, bookish thing you have going on? Definite turn off. Plus, that ridiculous highlight in your hair? What is the point of that? Are you trying to make ponies think you’re ‘dangerous’ or something? Please, who are you kidding?”

“It’s my natural color! Besides, I happen to like my hair!” Twilight said angrily. Who was this pony to brush her off like that? Twilight was about to retort back with a vengeance when she spied Trixie trying desperately to stifle a giggle. Trixie couldn’t hold it in anymore and burst out laughing as Twilight’s frustration. Obviously, not in on the joke, Twilight asked in a huff, “What’s so funny?”

“Haha, you are, you silly pony.” Trixie said light-heartedly. “Oh, you don’t need to take everything so seriously all the time. I learned that from my time in the forest. So you don’t swing towards mares? Big deal. Doesn’t mean we can’t go to the Gala together and have a wonderful time. Oh, but I have nothing to wear!”

Twilight was glad Trixie had gotten over the initial stages of denial and mistrust, but thought maybe Trixie was too willing to trust her. Twilight decided to chalk that up to Trixie’s desire to come back, be with other ponies, and chose not to dwell on the thought. She replied, “It’s a good thing I found you before it was too late in the day, then. Let’s head back to Ponyville, and we’ll see if Rarity can whip you up something before tomorrow.”

“The Gala’s tomorrow?” Trixie asked, astounded, “and you just set out to find me today? You really are a silly pony.”

“I suppose I am. But sitting here is just wasting us time. Come on, let’s go.” Twilight said, turning to look at the forest and trotting in among the trees. She stopped after a few steps, remembering that she was still lost. “Actually, how about you lead the way?” She said.

Trixie was still sitting in place, looking at the remains of her apple before she tossed it into the woods. “I can’t go back and ask Rarity for a dress.” Trixie said softly, “I utterly embarrassed her last time I was there. Your friends Rainbow Dash and Apple…something too. I would have embarrassed you in front of everyone, given the chance. They won’t just forgive me.”

Twilight smirked slightly, fortunately out of Trixie’s line of sight. “Oh, I think you’d be surprised at their capacity for forgiveness.” Twilight began, “They forgave Nightmare Moon almost immediately after stopping her from taking over Equestria. I think, given the chance with a sincere apology, they can muster up some forgiveness for you too.”

“Do you really think so?”

“You’ll never know until you try.”

“You’re right, Twilight. You always were, I guess.” Trixie said, standing up from the ground. “Steven has pointed me in the direction of Ponyville a few times from his river, but I don’t really know the way. Can you lead after we get that far?”

“Of course.”

“Alright, and I want to know everything that you’ve been up to since we last met.”

“Oh, you’re going to love it.” Twilight said, following her new, blue friend through the thick forest growth. “Well, not long after you ran off, Fluttershy found the cutest little critter in her yard…”

The Mane Event

Part Three

“…and then it turned me back to normal and we left.”

“You’re kidding me! She actually stared down a Cockatrice and got it to reverse something it already turned into stone?”

“What can I say? She does have a way with animals.”

“That’s amazing. What was it like, being stone?”

“Truthfully, I don’t remember much from when it happened. I just remember that it was very cold, and dark. It doesn’t kill you, being turned to stone; it just makes you kind of…stop. There’s this incredible feeling of being alone. Nothingness. You know that no one can help you, and you’re doomed to stay that way forever. Unless you happen to know Fluttershy, apparently.”

“Wow, that’s horrible. I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re okay now, Twilight.”

“Thanks, Trixie.”

The two unicorn ponies had taken their time getting back to Ponyville. After saying goodbye to Steven, and making promises to visit him again soon, they set off at an unhurried pace. Twilight was reiterating to Trixie some of the crazy adventures she’d had these past months in Ponyville. They were so caught up in the stories, they didn’t even notice they’d left the forest and were almost into town. Being so inattentive, Trixie didn’t notice the large puddle of mud directly in front of her. She tripped when her hoof dropped down into it, nearly tumbling face-first into the dirty water. Fortunately, Twilight noticed her starting to fall and levitated the pony to safety.

Trixie let out a relieved sigh and took stock of her surroundings. It was very nearly dark. She could almost see Luna dutifully raising the moon on the horizon. The sky was gray and overcast. A light rain was still drizzling over the entire town; a remnant of the fierce storm the pegasus ponies had created earlier that day. “At least the weather is keeping most ponies inside.” Trixie said, “We won’t have to deal with random passers-by.”

“Right.” Twilight replied. “I doubt everypony would be pleased to see you right now. Let’s just get to Rarity’s shop.”

Twilight took the lead and directed her new friend through town. They snuck their way into the Carousel Boutique. Twilight entered first, causing the shop bell to ring as she opened the door. She was about to yell out a greeting to Rarity, but she heard strained voices arguing farther inside.

“I’m sorry Ms. Rarity, I can’t accept these! Neither dresses nor tickets. They aren’t ours, so I won’t let them be taken. She didn’t follow orders, talked to strange ponies. Shouldn’t be rewarded for that.”

Twilight wasn’t especially familiar with the voice raising these objections, but thought in the back of her mind that she recognized it from somewhere.

“But you must look your best for the Gala! Consider it a gift to the event rather than yourselves. These dresses will make you both look so wonderful!”

That, however, was a voice Twilight knew all too well. But why was Rarity arguing with a customer like that?

“We’re not going, we can’t. They’re not ours to take.”

Twilight decided it would be better not to interrupt the spat, but was still curious as to its subject. She motioned to Trixie to be quiet, and crept closer to the voices. She positioned herself against a wall outlining Rarity’s workspace from the rest of the shop and listened.

“I can’t take charity like this. A pony should work for their keep, and mine didn’t get these. A unicorn, Dinky said, and what unicorn goes to fancy parties and makes dresses for fancy parties? Rarity!”

Twilight gasped quietly, quickly stifling her sound. Of course! Derpy…er….was it Ditzy? Either way, the mailmare was mad her filly had taken those tickets without her knowing it. And she thought Rarity was behind it. Twilight filled in the rest of the story quite well with her inductive powers: Dinky must have talked about the tickets at school. Sweetie Belle then told her sister about it and Rarity, given her generous nature, would instantly set about making dresses for them both to wear. Derpy came to the shop to try and give the tickets back and found Rarity busy making dresses for them, cementing Rarity as the mysterious ticket-giver in her mind.

Hoping to diffuse the situation, Twilight gave up her sneaking ways and entered the room with the arguing ponies. She had guessed everything correctly with one exception: she hadn’t figured on Derpy bringing Dinky with her to the shop.

Dinky’s face contorted horribly when Twilight trotted confidently into the room. She had been diligent in keeping her promise to Twilight from that morning, but let it slip that a unicorn had given her the tickets. Poor little Dinky’s heart had been dropping all afternoon. First, her mom was mad that she’d talked to a stranger. Dinky tried to explain that she sort of knew the pony, but that didn’t convince her. Then, her mom wanted to give the tickets back, saying they hadn’t earned them. Rarity held strong, however, and Dinky was just getting hopeful about being able to go to the Gala again when Twilight appeared. Dinky immediately assumed she was here to take back the tickets for breaking their promise, and it took all of the tiny filly’s effort not to burst into tears.

“Twilight, dear!” Rarity said when she saw her friend. “I was just explaining to this very sweet mail pony here why she simply has to let me design a dress for her and her precious little filly.” She then turned and looked at Derpy directly, saying, “Please, excuse us for a second.”

Rarity took Twilight to the side, putting her hoof heavily across Twilight’s shoulders and whispered angrily, “And maybe you can tell me why she has two tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala? I believed I specified a pony with class and dignity?”

“She obviously has too much of both.” Twilight whispered back, “If she had a little less, she would have greedily snapped up the tickets, instead she thinks we pity her.”

“Still, I didn’t want to have to make two new dresses the night before the Gala. But they have absolutely nothing to wear, I’m sure.” Rarity said, knowing she lost the first argument but still determined to elicit some guilt from her friend, “I can’t have them showing up without at least a decent saddle to the most spectacular event in Equestria.”

“About that…” Twilight began. “Actually, I’ll tell you later.” She stood up, brushing Rarity’s hoof off and talking to Derpy, who’d stood across the room patiently while Dinky fidgeted next to her. “Ma’am, I assure you, your filly did nothing wrong. Dinky is an excellent young pony.”

“Excellent? She tries to trick her mother, takes things from strangers, won’t tell her where they came from? This is excellent?”

“I’m sorry, those were all my fault.” Twilight began, trying to calm the excited mare. “You see, I didn’t want…this to happen. I was afraid if you knew where they came from, you wouldn’t take the tickets. I just thought you and your filly deserved a nice break after all you’ve gone through. I thought the Grand Galloping Gala would be a great way to relieve some stress and have a good time.”

“You? Twilight Librarian gave these to my Dinky?”

“Yes, ma’am. I told her not to let you know who gave them to her. I just wanted it to be a happy surprise. And now Rarity is offering to make dresses for the both of you, like she did for me and a few of my other friends as well. She is very giving like that, and the two of us think you would simply adore the Gala.”

“It’s not our place, Ms. Twilight.” Derpy began, trying another tactic to get rid of these tickets. “We can’t go to a fancy celebration. We aren’t fancy ponies, just simple Ponyville folk.”

“The Gala is a celebration of all pony life.” Twilight said, “If a pony as unsophisticated as Applejack can go, you certainly can too.”

“Still, it’s not ours. Take them back. We’ll go when we earn it.”

Twilight smiled. She saw in Derpy’s eyes…well, the eye that looked at her straight…that Derpy had no more good reasons not to go. Now Twilight was ready to play her trump card. “I’m sorry, but they’re yours now. I offered the tickets to Dinky, and she accepted of her own free will. When that happened, the tickets were bound magically to her. Then, she gave them to you, and you accepted them from her. So now, the tickets are bound to you. They can’t be stolen away, and won’t leave until someone accepts them willing with you giving them willingly. I won’t take them back, and you can’t make me.”

“Then I’ll just give them to somepony else.”

“And will they have earned it?” Twilight asked, catching Derpy in her own logic. “Less so than you, since they’d get tickets given out of guilt. I gave them to make a good little filly happy. I had hoped to make that filly’s mom happy too, but it seems I couldn’t do that.”


“Please mama…can’t we go?”

Dinky finally spoke. She had been waiting patiently throughout the argument, her hope being renewed each time Twilight spoke. She realized now that nopony wanted to take the tickets from her mom, and they would simply be wasted if they decided not to attend the Gala. Because of this, Dinky put on her best pleading face and approached her mother. Derpy looked at her filly’s sad face, took a glance at Twilight and Rarity, both waiting for her response. She turned back to Dinky and softened her features into a gentle smile. “I guess we have no choice, little one.” She replied.

Dinky practically jumped onto Derpy and wrapped her hooves around her mother’s neck in a big hug. Derpy looked at both Rarity and Twilight and said, “Thank you for such kindness.” She then looked at Rarity and asked, “Tomorrow to pick up the dresses? Early morning?”

“Yes dear, come here just after your mail route. Oh, I forgot. No mail tomorrow. School’s off too, isn’t it?” Rarity said, looking at Dinky.

“Yes ma’am” The small unicorn replied happily.

“Well then, you two need to get some beauty sleep. A big day is ahead of you tomorrow!” Rarity said, practically shooing them from her shop. They passed out of the room and straight through the shop. Trixie was still pressing herself against the separating wall. Fortunately for her, Derpy and Dinky didn’t look back, and Rarity and Twilight didn’t advance out of the room as they left. She had heard the entire conversation between the four, and realized how caring Twilight Sparkle was.

She had had a slight lingering doubt in the back of her mind since seeing Twilight in the forest. She thought that, just maybe, Twilight wanted to get some sort of revenge for the fiasco with the Ursa Minor. But a pony who could go so far for kindness surely wouldn’t put even more effort into revenge.

Still, Trixie stayed put in her hiding place. She knew barging in on that confrontation was a bad idea, and now thought that Twilight would introduce her when the time was right. She stood still, tried to hide her breathing, and listened again. She heard Rarity say: “How did you know they were here, Twilight?”

“I didn’t” her purple friend responded, “I came here for something else. Though I’m starting to think it may be impossible.”

“What did you need?”

“Well, I was hoping you could make me another dress for the Gala tomorrow.”

“Oh Twilight, I’m just barely going to be able to finish these two and get to bed at a reasonable hour. I’m sorry, but the last disaster with dresses helped me learn my limits. I simply couldn’t finish a third dress by tomorrow.”

“I understand, Rarity. Don’t worry about it.” Twilights said, turning to go.

“Wait a minute, dear.” Rarity said, “What happened to the first dress I made you? Did it get ruined? I told you not to wear it until the Gala.”

“No, no, it’s fine.”

“Then why do you need another one? Do you not like it? I thought-“

“No, Rarity, stop.” Twilight said, afraid to go down that all-too-familiar path. “The dress is perfect. There’s no problem with it. I just wanted another one for…a friend is all.”

“Oh, ho! I understand, Twilight, you don’t need to be sheepish with me.” Rarity said with a knowing wink. “I’ve seen that look before. You don’t need to hide things from me dear. I see the signs all too well. Being evasive, asking for things for a ‘friend’. Yes, those are just the signs of a pony who finally became interested in fashion! Well, let me tell you, I have loads of dresses that would look just dandy on you here in the shop. Now, they won’t be as wonderful as the dress tailored specifically for your style and personality, but of excellent quality nonetheless.”

Rarity walked excitedly away from her sewing table as she talked, leading Twilight back into the front end of the store. She went right past the hiding Trixie and straight to a rack of dresses near the front of the store.

“These here are a bit too summery. You need a good, dark base color to show off your coat. Perhaps this one here. Oh! I know! I’ve got just the design against the back wall here. Come, let me show…YOU!”

Rarity finally noticed her uninvited guest, and flared with anger at Trixie. She remembered vividly the heinous crime Trixie had committed against her hair. Green? Honestly. Do what you want to a pony, call them names or be cruel, whatever you wish. But to commit an act of violence against fashion? That was inexcusable in Rarity’s eyes. Her horn shone brightly as she yelled at the frightened blue unicorn. “So, you’ve come back to finish the job, have you? First my hair, then my dresses? I won’t stand for it!”

“Rarity, wait.” Twilight said, jumping in between Rarity and her prey. “She’s not here to destroy your dresses. She’s here because I asked her to be.”

“What? But Twilight, why?”

“I’m taking her as my date to the Gala.”

“WHAT?!” Rarity yelled out again. “But Twilight, you can’t! Her brand of boasting and unsupported bravado is exactly what the Gala doesn’t need! You can’t take her; she’ll be a blight on the whole party!”

“See? I knew it.” Trixie said, finally breaking her self-imposed vow of silence. “Nopony will accept me here, Twilight. It was a nice gesture, but it was just silly to think I belonged in Ponyville.”

Trixie started for the door, but Twilight quickly blocked the only exit. “Trixie, wait. You can’t expect them to forgive you without even asking for it. You did leave without making amends last time. And Rarity,” Twilight added, speaking a bit louder, “Don’t be so quick to judge other ponies. Trixie did come off a bit…rough last time she was in town, but we’re going to make it right. I’m not going to lose a potential friend just because some ponies can’t forget the past.”

“Well fine.” Rarity said, with harshness lingering in her words. “I did overact a bit. Still, I won’t be letting a pony like her appear in one of my original creations. She can go somewhere else to find a dress.”

Twilight was about to protest when Trixie looked at her sadly and said, “I understand, Rarity. I hurt your pride that day. I did it intentionally, and I did it to make myself look better. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did, and I’m sorry for the reason I did it. I hope someday you can forgive me, but I realize that day is not today. Goodbye, Rarity.”

Trixie quickly swept past Twilight and out the door. Twilight looked at Rarity, opened her mouth as if to speak, closed it, and followed Trixie outside. Trixie was standing in the drizzle, looking up at the now-dark sky. A slight chill was in the air and Trixie shivered. Twilight stepped close to her and saw that the wetness on her face wasn’t just from the rain. She said gently, “Why don’t we go back to my place for tonight? I’ll think of something for you to wear.”

“Thanks, Twilight.” Trixie said, and followed her silently back to the tree house.


“No, nuh-uh. No way. Nyet. Nein. Can I be putting this any clearer?”

“Spike, she’s just going to stay the night. You’ll hardly notice her.”

“I don’t want her here. What if she decides to do something to me?”

“What would she do?”

“I don’t know…turn me into a newt or something?”

“A newt?”

“Yeah, those things are slimy, and disgusting.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Because she’s evil.”

Twilight was arguing about, of course, Trixie staying the night at the tree house.

“She’s not evil, Spike. She was just a bit overanxious to prove her worth.”

“Still, I don’t like it and I don’t want to sleep anywhere near her.”

“You don’t have to.” Twilight finally decided that it wasn’t worth getting Spike’s approval and laid down the final, irrefutable argument, “This is my tree house, and I get to decide who can and can’t be in here. I decide that she can. If you can’t deal with that, there’s no reason you have to stay here tonight.”

Trixie had been standing not three meters away, listening to the two argue as if she wasn’t there. It was a strange feeling for her, to be ignored like this. She was used to being the center of attention, though she had been working to get over that craving. Still, the sight of someone arguing over her was a bit unsettling. She wanted other ponies to like her again, but the task seemed like it would be harder than she initially thought.

“Well, I still don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to like it, Spike. It’s going to happen.”

“Fine.” He said, stomping off in the direction of their shared bedroom. “Just don’t wake me, and don’t make me talk to her.”

Twilight sighed and looked at her guest. “Sorry about Spike. I think he’s still upset about what you did to Rarity. He’s got a major crush on her.”

“Oh. I can see where that would make him angry.” Trixie replied, not sure of what else to say.

“I figured out what to do about the dress situation.” Twilight said, opening up her saddlebag and levitating her dress from within. She laid it on the counter top, and straightened out a few creases that had developed from its time folded up. “I have this one Rarity made for me, and..” she broke off the sentence to enter the bedroom. She came trotting out with a far inferior dress. Its main color was red, but had yellow sleeves and two big yellow buttons on the underside. “I have this one she fixed up for me too! So we have two dresses. Isn’t that just perfect?”

Twilight was obviously very pleased with herself, and Trixie didn’t want to dampen her mood, so she put on a brave smile and replied, “Yeah, that sure is lucky.” She needed to quickly change the subject to not give away her disappointment. “So, where am I supposed to sleep?”

“I forgot all about that.” Twilight said, her eyes expanding and retracting in one quick motion. “I don’t have any extra beds. I guess we’ll just have to share one.”

“Twilight Sparkle.” Trixie said with faked indignation, “You claim to have no amorous feelings for me, but proposition to sleep with me in the same bed even before our first date? I must say I’m shocked.”

“Wha? Bwah, um, not like that!” Twilight was obviously flustered. She really was too innocent to hold her own against Trixie. Trixie laughed softly and decided to let Twilight off the hook early. “Haha, oh dear, I know you didn’t mean it like that.” She smiled and continued. “Well, I assume the bedroom’s through there?”

“Um, yes.” Twilight said, after Trixie motioned with her hoof to the bedroom. The whole idea had become much more awkward for her after Trixie’s joke at her expense.

Trixie walked toward the room and said, “If it’s alright with you, I’m going to bed right away. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a mattress and fresh sheets.”

“Oh right, about that.” Twilight said, “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind…well…taking a bath before going to bed?”

Trixie looked at Twilight and saw that she was wrinkling her nose at the thought of Trixie going straight into her bed. Trixie would have been offended at Twilight’s demand, except that she had to admit the weeks in the wilderness had not been kind to her appearance. She tried to bathe often, but without the luxurious shampoos and soaps created by the best pony crafts workers, her mane had simply lost its sheen. Her coat had become coarse, and the pleasant berry smell emanating from her body had been eliminated by the harsh conditions of life in the Everfree Forest.

Trixie nodded and said, “Which way?”

Twilight pointed out the bathroom and left to go to sleep herself. Trixie started up the water and added a healthy amount of bubbles, glad to finally have indoor plumbing again. She stood in the tub, carefully washing her mane and tail first, then moving on to brushing her coat. She thought about how much harder this whole process must be for ponies without magic, and silently thanked Celestia she didn’t have to worry about that. She eventually finished the process, dried herself off with a fresh towel, and admired herself in the mirror.

“Mmm, you are a gorgeous pony.” She said to her reflection. “Everypony’s going to want to dance with you at the Gala. Oh…I can’t wait.” She smiled once more at her own image and followed Twilight and Spike’s paths into the bedroom. The two were already sleeping, Spike in his tiny bed on the floor and Twilight higher up on the ledge, resting on one side in a spacious, soft-looking bed. Trixie, looking forward to sleeping in a proper bed again, walked to it immediately and slipped in under the sheets. She laid down on her side and placed her top two hooves over the sleeping Twilight. Twilight’s body recoiled a little, and she sleepily mumbled something unintelligible. Trixie buried her muzzle into the hair of Twilight’s mane and smiled. She thought how, if somepony had told her this morning that she’d end the day sharing a bed with a beautiful unicorn, she would have told them just how crazy they were.


The day had finally arrived. Everypony who was anypony knew about the Gala, and all of Ponyville knew that The Elements of Harmony each had a ticket. They were all expecting something spectacular that day. Some said a grand royal party would be bringing them all to Canterlot, some said the Princess herself would be in Ponyville to guide her champions to the celebration, others said the elements would have to get their own travel, as the Princess was much too busy to worry about something like that. Still others had heard rumors that the ponies were bringing dates, and waited around to see who the chosen pony was for each.

The town was stirring early and Equestria was still cloaked in pre-dawn darkness when Twilight awoke to the sound of heavy breathing in her ear. She wanted to jump out of bed, but felt pressure keeping her down across her side. She relaxed for just a second and quickly deduced that it was Trixie. Twilight immediately regretted inviting her into her bed for the night, but had to admit the warmth from Trixie’s body did feel very nice. So nice that she wanted to just…drift back…into…’NO!’ she thought, this time actually jumping out of bed and onto the floor. She remembered how important today was, and instantly shook away the desire to fall back asleep.

“Trixie, Spike, wake up.” She said, excited. “It’s morning!”

“What? No it isn’t, Twilight.” Spike said, rubbing his eyes. “It’s still dark”

“Right, but we’ve got to get ready.” She said. “The chariots are coming to pick us up in just over an hour.”

“Isn’t that plenty of time?” Trixie asked, rousing herself from her slumber.

“Just barely. We’ve got to eat, wash and style our hair, get dressed-“

“Okay, I get it.” Spike said, standing up and stretching his arms wide. “Let’s go.” He walked over to the kitchen, stumbling a little on his still-wobbly legs.

Twilight smiled at Trixie as Spike left and followed him out the door. The two unicorns and dragon had a quick breakfast. Spike went right to work making sure each and every scale was perfectly straight before donning a small tuxedo with cane and top-hat that Rarity had sewn for him. Twilight and Trixie, in the meantime, had washed their manes and tails in the bathtub and set about drying and straightening them, Trixie adding a slight curl at the end of hers. Their hair now perfectly set, the mares walked back into the main room. Trixie began to levitate the red dress and started to put it on.

“What are you doing?” Twilight asked.

“I’m putting on my dress. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“No, Trixie. I’m wearing that dress. This one’s yours.” Twilight said, pointing toward Rarity’s masterpiece.

“Twilight, I couldn’t let you do that. That dress was made just for you.”

“But look at it, covered in stars, the different shades of blue playing off each other expertly. Trixie, this dress will look so much better on you.”

Trixie looked deep into Twilight’s eyes and saw how excited she was to offer this to Trixie. Trixie was not familiar with the pleasure one gets from giving a gift to a friend, so she didn’t understand why Twilight would look so happy to wear the obviously worse dress to the Gala. “Really, it’s alright Twilight. You should wear your dress, and I’ll wear this one.”

“Come on Trixie, I’m trying to make you happy, here.” Twilight said, realizing she’d have to spell it out for the blue unicorn. “The point of these two days is to make you happy. I want you to have a wonderful time today, and the best way to do that is in this dress. Think how wonderful you’ll look. Think of all the stallions that will turn their heads at the beautiful blue unicorn in a stunning dress. Please Trixie, wear this one.”

She couldn’t resist an outpouring of the heart like that. Trixie graciously set down Twilight’s red dress and picked up the flowing blue one. The two unicorns finished dressing in silence, the hand-crafted gown fitting Trixie like a glove. They turned toward the bedroom door as Spike, clad in his tuxedo burst through the door with a confident, “So how do I look, ladies?”

The two giggled in unison. Twilight said, “You look wonderful, Spike. The fillies won’t be able to keep their hooves off of you.”

“I’m not after the fillies. I only go for real mares, like Rarity.” Spike said, keeping up his cocky persona. “So then, shall we go?”

“It is about time.” Twilight said, “Let’s go meet everypony else.”

The three stepped out of the tree house and into Ponyville. They were surprised to see so many ponies already out and about in the town square. A small crowd was gathering, each hoping for something different and amazing to happen. Among the numerous other ponies, Twilight noticed Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash being interrogated by an inquisitive group. They began to walk up to them when one of the ponies in the surrounding crowd let out a yell: “TRIXIE!”

Twilight recoiled at the sound. She was afraid that some citizens would be sore at her choice of companion, but she was hoping to leave with her to the Gala mostly unnoticed. She hadn’t thought a crowd like this would appear to see them off. She turned to face the voice, expecting the worst. She saw two small unicorns galloping at top speeds toward them. She recognized them instantly, one short and stout with a teal colored body and dark orange mane. The other unicorn was slightly taller, but still shorter than either Twilight or Trixie. He sported a creamy orange-brown coat with teal mane. The two stopped just short of Trixie, almost crashing into her side. Upon stopping Snips and Snails both began talking a mile a minute to the object of their flame.

“Trixie! I can’t believe it! You’re back!”

“We missed you much, where’d you go?”

“Wow, you sure look pretty in that dress.”

“Did you learn any new magic tricks to show us?”

“Can I get you anything?”

“Are you going to stay with us for a while?”

“Please don’t go away again, Trixie.”


“Boys, Boys! Please, contain yourselves.” Trixie said, trying to calm her crazed admirers. “I understand your enthusiasm. You are right to love The Great and Powerful Trixie, but now is not the time.”


“What do you mean, oh Great and Powerful Trixie?” They asked in unison.

“This fine mare here is my date today. You’ll just have to wait until we’re done. As you know boys, a lady

doesn’t leave her escort. It isn’t fair. It isn’t nice.”

“Hey wait. Great and Powerful Trixie, isn’t that a-“

“No, no it’s not…um…Snails, right?” Trixie said, stealing a quick look at the brown pony’s flank.

“Oh, she remembered my name!” Snails said, turning to his portly friend.

“Wow! I can’t believe it. Do you remember mine too, Trixie?”

“Was it…um…Scissors?” She said, once again trying to guess based on his cutie mark.

“Ha! I get a nickname from her!” Snips said, bragging right back to his friend. “That proves she likes me better than you.”

“Nuh-uh!” Snails said, not noticing that Twilight and Trixie were already sneaking slowly away for them. “It just means she hasn’t thought of a good one for me yet. It’ll be even better than yours.”

“No way. Mine’s already perfect, so how could yours be better?”

The two friends stood there arguing. In the meantime Trixie and Twilight had made their way to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. The small crowd surrounding them parted with a collective gasp at Trixie. A murmur went up throughout them, wondering where she came from and why she was in such a stunning dress. Rainbow Dash looked at Trixie in anger and asked Twilight, “What’s she doing here?”

“She’s my date.” Twilight replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Oh, I see. I’m glad you found somepony to take.” Fluttershy said softly, Angel perched on her hindquarters.

“So, you and her are…y’know…uh huh?” Dash asked, making odd motions with her hooves.

“Don’t be silly, Dashie!” Pinkie Pie said, appearing suddenly behind her. “Twilight just wanted to make friends with Trixie, so she went out to the Everfree forest and found her and is bringing her to the Gala.”

The party pony and her date, Blues had arrived mid conversation. She was dressed just like her best friends, clad in the special outfit Rarity had made for each of them. Hers was a fashionable take on a soda jerk uniform, complete with dainty hat, one blue and white-striped bow on each hoof, and beautiful pink dress with candy cane designs. Blues was dressed in a much more standard outfit: a blue sequin-studded suit, a white undershirt with a red tie, and a blue pinstriped fedora.

“How did you know that?” Twilight asked, always astounded at the information Pinkie had.

“Spike told me!” She replied happily.

The sound of horns broke through the sky. All the gathered ponies turned toward the sound and saw six golden chariots descending on Ponyville. Each one was pulled by two stoic pegasus ponies of the royal guard. The crowd parted to create a landing strip and the chariots lined up side by side, their open ends facing the crowd. The guards said nothing.

Twilight Sparkle had enough experience with the royal chariot service to know they were simply expected to get on and let the pegasus ponies do their jobs. She still wasn’t sure where the others were, the tickets had said to be ready for pickup by eight so they could be on time for the Gala’s opening ceremonies at ten. Canterlot was almost an hour away by chariot and they didn’t want to take even the slightest chance at being late.

While Twilight was worrying about her not-yet-present friends, Pinkie hopped gaily into one of the chariots, beckoning her date over to stand by her side. Their approach and excited waiting almost made the whole scene feel like a regal procession. This feeling was reinforced by Fluttershy and Angel next taking dignified steps into their own chariot with Fluttershy being extra careful not to soil her dress. Spike, realizing this one would be the least crowded, decided to accompany the two for the duration of the trip. Twilight, not wanting to break the mood, walked in a similar manner into her own chariot, Trixie stopping similarly by her side.

Rainbow Dash, not being one for fancy parades, flew quickly into her own chariot and said loudly, “Where are those slow pokes?”

Seemingly in answer to her question, the door to Carousel Boutique flew open, sending oos and aahs up from the crowd. In the doorway stood a very uncomfortable looking grey pegasus pony. She was dressed in Rarity’s newest creation: a gown that looked like something a princess would wear. Its base color was a gentle light blue, with pink fringes. Arranged in order near the edges of the dress were pink hearts, representing a mother’s love. The front hooves had bows a slightly deeper shade of pink than the fringes, with a blue cone hat with short pink ribbons.

The mare made her way awkwardly down the steps and into the street. She went through the crowd which parted way for her all along the path to her chariot. Following her was a small unicorn filly. The filly was in a more modest dress. It was white with a pink band near the end and running up the back to the collar. On the back of her color was placed a large pink bow with a blue gem in the center. A similar bow was arranged around her horn, with smaller bows on each hoof. The filly pranced happily just behind her mother, the two of them stopping on the floor of their designated chariot.

Rarity appeared after them, dressed in her own Gala specific dress. The deep pink dress with yellow streaks, topped off with a golden tiara was very precious to her. It was made by her friends when she was in a horribly depressed mood. The dress embodied their feelings toward her, and she was always careful to treasure it. She stepped daintily into the chariot already occupied by Rainbow Dash, realizing that Applejack had yet to make her appearance.

The ponies stood in their respective rides for a few minutes, becoming more and more apprehensive about leaving. They guards were getting nervous too. It was their responsibility to get everyone to the Gala on time, and waiting too long here would force them to fail that task. Dash was just about to suggest they leave without AJ when a shout rang out above the crowd. “WAIT!”

They turned toward the noise and saw Applejack. Her mane and tail were braided neatly. She was, as the others, wearing the dress Rarity had made for the occasion. Hers was a smooth brown saddle with green side drapes, her own leather hat, and green cowgirl boots. The unexpected part of her getup was the wagon full of apples she was pulling. Right behind her was her brother, Big Macintosh. He was dressed in a fetching black suit with pinstripes. He wore a red undershirt and a long black tie. He had two carts in a neat line attached to his pulling collar, which itself clashed with his suit. His carts were filled with apple pies, strudels, and other apple-based treats.

The guard pony’s eyes filled with fear when they realized what the Apple siblings expected. The other ponies quickly tried to think of a way to accommodate this new burden. Twilight spoke up first: “Alright, here’s how we can get this to work. Angel, Spike, you ride with us. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash will have to fly themselves to the Gala. Two carts can just barely fit in one chariot, and the other rides with Rarity.”

“Oh, I’m not sure I can make it all that way…” Fluttershy said softly. “Maybe I could fit in with somepony else?”

“These could start getting awful tight.” Trixie remarked, already disappointed that she’d have two interlopers in her chariot with Twilight.

“Well, I can’t ask Der…er…Dinky can’t go without her mother, and there’s no other flyer here…”

“She can ride with us, right mommy?” Dinky called out.

“That would be fine, I think.” Derpy replied.

“Oh thank you, Ms. Doo.” Fluttershy said, squeezing into their chariot.

‘Oh, of course!’ Twilight thought to herself, wanting to smack her head with her hoof. ‘Ms. Doo. Ditzy Doo. How could I have forgotten for so long?’

It took some arranging, and some shoving to get everyone ready to fly, but eventually they were ready. The carts were set, the ponies were ready, and Rainbow Dash was hovering over the whole crowd. The guards looked straight ahead, waiting for the signal. The de facto leader of their group nodded his head and grunted as he and his partner started running along the ground. They flapped their wings mightily and were soon airborne. The entire fleet followed, leaving behind a crowd of ponies murmuring and talking about what they saw that morning. They discussed how fabulous the dresses those who left had worn, how strange it was to see Ditzy and Dinky among that otherwise highly distinguished and well-known group. They talked about Rarity and Rainbow Dash not having dates, Applejack apparently dating her brother, and Trixie’s reappearance, with Twilight Sparkle no less.

The conversations continued until the fleet of chariots was well out of sight and on their way to The Grand Galloping Gala: most spectacular of parties in all of Equestria.

The Mane Event

Part Four

The six chariots kept in a close formation of two rows of three during the ride, allowing the ponies to talk amongst themselves during the trip. The first row consisted of Pinkie Pie and Blues with Applejack and Big Macintosh in the middle and Ditzy Doo, Dinky and Fluttershy on the far left. Behind them was the chariot filled with carts, Rarity and more apples in the middle, and Twilight, Trixie, Spike and Angel on the far right. Rainbow Dash took it upon herself to be messenger-pony, in case conversation took place between the rows.

“This sure is exciting, mama!” Dinky said, standing between the two pegasus ponies, “I’ve never been so high up before.”

“It can get really scary up even higher.” Fluttershy said, “Cloudsdale is so high up, most days you can’t even see the ground.”


“Isn’t this fun, Blues?” Pinkie asked. “Look, you can see so much from way up high like this.”

“Yeah…sure is.” Blues said, gulping. He was having a hard time not imagining the chariot breaking away from its drivers and smashing into kindling on the ground far below.

“Oh you don’t need to be so nervous.” Pinkie replied, noticing his shaking hooves, “These things hardly ever crash. I think.”

“Heh, that’s not very encouraging.” He said to his date with a timid smile.

“I’m so glad we all found somepony special to bring with us!” Pinkie said, changing off of a topic Blues obviously found uncomfortable. “I’ve got Blues, Twilight found Trixie, Fluttershy’s bringing Angel, Rainbow Dash and Rarity are meeting somepony at the Gala, and Applejack, your special someone is Big Macintosh?”

“That’s right, Pinkie.” Applejack said, “ain’t nopony more special than my big brother here. Why, he’s gonna help me sell more apples than ever before. I can’t wait to see those fancy-shmancy ponies go crazy over our apples.”

“So, you only brought him to help with the apple sales?” Fluttershy chimed in.

“Of course. Y’all weren’t thinkin’ me and him were…intimate, were ya?”

“Oh no, no.” They all said quickly, afraid to admit that was just what they were thinking.

“What are they talking about, mommy?” Dinky asked, tugging on the end of Ditzy’s dress to gain her attention.

“Not for little fillies to know that yet.” Ditzy said kindly to her child. “I’ll tell you later, dear.”

In the back row, the conversation was taking a rather different direction.

“So Twilight, dear,” Rarity began, raising her voice slightly so it could be heard one chariot over, “I was wondering if you could clear something up for me.”

“Of course, Rarity. What is it?”

“I didn’t want to say anything with that crowd watching back in Ponyville, but I was just wondering if you could tell me why exactly you’re wearing that awful old dress, after I made you a stunning new dress for the Gala.”

“Well, Rarity, I just-“

“And if you could tell me why” She continued, narrowing her eyes to display her growing anger, “that marvelous, hand-crafted dress is being worn by Trixie, whom I specifically said would not be wearing one of my dresses to the Gala.”

“Rarity, I just wanted-“

“Really, I don’t know why you couldn’t just acquiesce to my wishes just this once.”

“Rarity!” Twilight yelled, silencing even the ponies in the front row of chariots. “Your wishes were mean-spirited. You’re still upset about something Trixie did months ago, even though all she wants right now is your forgiveness. I’m trying to show her that ponies in Ponyville are kind, caring, good ponies who are willing to overlook another’s flaws in the name of friendship. You’re not making that any easier for me right now.”

Rarity stopped and stared at Twilight. She had been full of, at least in her mind, righteous indignation just a moment ago. But the purple unicorn’s words gave her pause. Was she really being too hard on Trixie? Should she have given in and decided to be best friends right away? No, Rarity decided, she shouldn’t have to make nice with another pony just because Twilight said so. Her whole life’s work, her one true purpose here on Equestria had been insulted by Trixie. Rarity admitted that maybe she’d been too harsh on Trixie when she did seem penitent, but she shouldn’t just pretend nothing happened.

While Rarity was debating with herself internally, trying to come up with some rebuttal, the ponies in the front row were trying to determine what had just happened

“What’d she say?”  Blues asked Big Macintosh, feeling a bit more comfortable talking with another stallion while surrounded by mares.

“I’m not sure.” The red pony responded. “Did you hear anything, Rainbow Dash?”

“I caught a bit of it.” She said, flying in lock step with the chariots, keeping just over Applejack’s head. “Apparently Rarity’s mad that Twilight gave Trixie her special dress. Twilight told Rarity she’s just trying to show Trixie how nice Ponyville ponies can be, but Rarity won’t let her grudge against Trixie go.”

“Well that’s silly.” Pinkie Pie chimed in, “All ponies deserve a second chance. We can’t all be perfect all the time.”

“I think you are.” Blues said, mostly out of honest respect for Pinkie, and perhaps just a tiny bit out of wanting to win brownie points with his date.

“Aww, that’s so sweet, but nopony’s perfect.” She said, “Even I tend to be too suspicious of my friends sometimes.”

“Hmm…too quick to forgive or too slow. Which is worse?” Ditzy Doo asked from the far left chariot. “One may make ponies too trusting, one may make ponies too lonely.”

“Well, everyone can change, right?” Fluttershy added, “Maybe we should just see what Trixie does from now on.”

“Enough about all that, look up ahead!” Rainbow Dash cried, pointing the way with her hoof.

The ponies all turned their eyes with anticipation and saw the great capitol city of Equestria: Canterlot, break through the clouds in front of them. On a clear day, one could just barely make out the skyline from Ponyville, but the proximity to the city along with the cloudiness of the morning made it an awe inspiring sight. The whole city was built right into the side of a mountain. Great spires jutted out from the rock face, and multiple waterfalls fell from great heights to the valley far below.

Carrying their heavy loads, the chariot continued their slow flight through the town. Down below, a multitude of ponies turned to look at the procession as it flew over the rooftops. The guard ponies gave little notice to the ones on the ground. They continued toward the great castle, as they had been instructed. They flew right past many banners and flags, the entire town was apparently preparing for the Grand Galloping Gala.

The chariots’ passengers took in the sights of a city on the precipice of celebration. They could feel the excitement in the air, and Pinkie was even pointing out some attractions that she simply had to attend that day. Twilight Sparkle mentioned to Trixie some places she remembered from her time living in Canterlot, and the other ponies were simply marveling at how busy the whole place looked. This feeling of wonderment at the city continued until the ponies realized they were not stopping in the city itself, but had been flown into the royal castle. The chariots landed just outside two large wooden doors draped in red cloth and displaying large, round golden handles.

The royal guards tried to stand as calm and stoic as ever, but a few of the less strong members were breathing heavily from the long trip. Especially worn out were the two guards tasked with flying two carts full of apples and apple accessories. Some of the other guards gave them sympathetic looks as the entire party dismounted, each thanking the guards for the safe trip.

Twilight Sparkle, most familiar with the princess and the customs of royalty in general, went straight to the impressive doors and pulled back an incredibly ornate knocker with her magic. She told Applejack to move the carts out of sight, and then gave the door three strong raps.

“Enter.” Came a voice from inside.

Twilight pushed the door open with her snout and the group entered the cavernous main hall of the castle. A long red carpet created a path from the door straight to two great thrones. On the left was a tall golden throne, decorated with inlaid gems and carvings representing the history of ponykind. On this throne sat Princess Celestia, raiser of the sun and ruler of Equestria. To her left stood a slightly shorter throne made of silver. It was also covered in gems and engravings, but to a lesser extent than the golden one. Sitting on a plush red cushion on this throne was Luna, Celestia’s younger sister and controller of the moon and nighttime.

The group approached cautiously, afraid of doing something to upset this impressive duo, until Celestia said, “Twilight, no need for your friends to be so timid. Come over here. Luna and I are very excited to meet each of your choices.”

The eleven ponies, one rabbit, and one dragon presented themselves in front of the thrones.

“Hiya princesses!” Pinkie Pie said, being the first to speak up. “I’m Pinkie Pie!”

“Haha, yes we both know, Pinkie Pie.” Luna said, smiling at her innocence. “I think my sister and I are very familiar with you and your five good friends. However, there are some faces I am not familiar with here. Whom did you bring with you?”

“This is Blues.” Pinkie said as he walked up next to her in front of the rest of the group. “We met during Winter Wrap up and both really enjoy skating and hot chocolate.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Blues.” Celestia said. “I hope you enjoy the Gala.”

“I’m sure I will, princess.” He replied.

“Ah’m Applejack, yer majesties.” The tan earth pony said, “And this is my brother Big Macintosh.”

“Oh, I see.” Celestia said with a bit of surprise. “Well, I’m glad you two are not embarrassed about who you are.”

“Your fetlocks are…unshorn.” Luna said, practically staring at the stallion’s hooves.

“Sister, now is not the time.”

“You’re right, sorry.”

“Um…I’m Fluttershy. I brought Angel here with me.” The small yellow pony had her rabbit friend on her haunch as she talked with the princesses. “We were really hoping to see the royal garden today.”

“Another very interesting couple…” Celestia said, starting to wonder if her message to Twilight had been conveyed properly. Still, it was possible a pony and a rabbit…well, feelings can bond the strangest of pairs together. “I’m sure you two will find it a real treat. I am rather proud of some of the rare plants in that garden. Also, Philomena was looking forward to meeting you again, Fluttershy. I’ll let her spend the day with you in the garden, if you wish.”

“Oh, that would be lovely.” Fluttershy said before making way for the next couple.

“I am Twilight Sparkle, and I brought Trixie with me.”

“Yes, I had heard stories of ‘The Great and Powerful Trixie’.” Luna said, looking with a small bit of contempt at the blue unicorn, “Something of a traveling showpony, is she?”

“Not anymore, princess.” Trixie replied. “I have currently undertaken what might be called a study of friendship from Twilight here.”

“An excellent subject for any young pony.” Celestia said with a  smile, “I hope Twilight has been a good teacher.”

“Indeed, princess. She’s the best I could have hoped for.”

Celestia had always suspected something of this sort from Twilight. She never did seem interested in the male ponies around Canterlot during her time here. Even Celestia’s nephew had tried to make her acquaintance at one point, but Twilight had had no time for any pony that couldn’t advance her magical studies. Trixie, at least from what the princess could gather, was at a decent magic user; somepony Twilight could perhaps be interested in.

“My name is Ditzy Doo, princesses.” The next pony pair advanced before the thrones. “I work at mailings in Ponyville. This is my filly, Dinky.”

“Hello, ma’ams.”

“Ms. Librarian Twilight Sparkle gave us two tickets. We are honored to meet you.”

“And I am pleased to meet you as well, Ms Doo.” Celestia said.

“Could Mr. Doo not come with you?” Luna asked.

“Um…” Ditzy began to blush and stared intensely at the floor. She wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Daddy’s gone on a trip.” Dinky said. “We’re not sure when he’ll be back.”

“Oh, I understand.” Celestia said, smiling warmly at the little filly. “I sincerely hope you have a wonderful time today.”

“I will, princess.” Dinky said happily.

“Rainbow Dash, Rarity, are you two here together, then?” Celestia asked of the two remaining ponies.

“No, princess.” Rarity said, a little bit upset at the implication. “I was hoping to find an eligible bachelor pony here at the Gala.”

“And I’ve got a date here already.” Rainbow Dash said. “I’m sure he’ll be at the opening ceremonies.”

“Yes, those are starting soon.” Celestia said, surprised and disappointed at the preceding event. She had been looking forward to meeting the chosen ponies for Twilight and her friends. Instead, two of them hadn’t bothered to bring anypony, one was with a rabbit, one with a sibling, and Twilight with another mare. Pinkie, the pony she had always considered the oddest, turned out to have the most ‘normal’ tastes. Still, Celestia did recognize that with Equestria being predominantly female, Twilight’s preference for mares wasn’t all that out of the ordinary.

“We should get going, sister.” Luna said, sensing Celestia’s disappointment. “We shouldn’t be late for the start of our own party.”

“You’re right.” Celestia said. “All of you, thank you so much for coming today. I hope you have a wonderful time. Please join us in the palace courtyard presently for the opening ceremonies.”

Luna and Celestia took flight and left the room straight up, through a large hole in the roof. Everypony else went back out through the doors they had come in from. Big Macintosh hooked himself up to all three carts as they were directed by the guard ponies to the courtyard. A large crowd of ponies had already gathered there. The sun was about halfway through its ascent in the sky. The day was warming up nicely, and the crowd was buzzing with anticipation. Soon the festivities would begin.

Rainbow Dash was constantly scanning the crowd, looking for her supposed date. “Can’t find him, sugarcube?” Applejack asked.

“Not yet, but he’ll be here.” She said.

“Y’know, I suspected since you first said you’d be meetin somepony here, but it’s pretty clear now. You don’t have to lie to us, Dash. It’s alright you couldn’t find a date.”

“What? No, that’s not it. I’m Rainbow Dash! Who wouldn’t want to take me to a party?”

“I was kind of suspecting the same thing.” Twilight Sparkle added. “Really though, it’s alright. You don’t have to pretend with us.”

“No, he’ll be here, I promise.”

“Okay, Dash.” Twilight said.

Princess Celestia and Luna stepped out from the castle proper onto a balcony above the crowd. The din from the ponies below quieted down as the princess began to speak. “Friends, ponies, Equestrians, lend me your ears.” She began, “Today is a day for dancing. Today is a day for celebration. Today is the day of the Grand Galloping Gala.” A cheer went up from the crowd at the end of that sentence. Celestia waited until they had calmed to continue. “And today is a very special Gala for me. Today is the first Gala in history that I get to celebrate with my dear sister, Princess Luna.” Again, the crowd cheered. “Thank you. I’m sure you all know the…difficult past we’ve had, but we’ve been able to put that behind us. As you all celebrate today, I ask you to enjoy the games, attractions, and food provided. But I also ask you all to remember my sister. Remember that no pony is beyond redemption, and we all must be willing to forgive those who may have wronged us in the past.”

The crowd broke into a large cheer, the ponies all stomping their front hooves into the ground. “And with that, my little ponies, may you enjoy the Gala!” Celestia finished her speech to even more raucous cheering. She smiled and waved with her hoof at the crowd as Luna followed suit next to her. They both then turned and looked at the sky as three streaks appeared on the horizon. The sound of near super-sonic flight was unmistakable. The crowd barely noticed until it had passed, but the rushing sound of a patented Wonderbolt’s flyover was difficult to miss.

After the flyover, the princesses took to the skies themselves and flew over the crowd to the dance floor. Their hired DJ, Vinyl Scratch, took their signal and began playing her newest mix of popular Equestrian dance tunes. The crowd began to disperse to various areas of the castle and city. Fluttershy and Angel made a beeline toward the back of the castle, guided by guard ponies to the royal garden. Applejack and Big Macintosh headed toward the refreshment area, ready to set up a Sweet Apple Acres booth. Rarity followed the princesses to the dance floor, while Dinky and Ditzy Doo went to an information pony to determine exactly what all the attractions were. Pinkie Pie was about to head off to the games pavilion when Blues stopped her. He pointed to Rainbow Dash who was still scanning the crowd diligently.

“Do you think she really has somepony coming to meet her?” He asked.

“I’m not sure. Maybe.” Pinkie said.

“Should we ask her to join us? I don’t think I’d like to be left alone at a party like this.”

“That’s so nice of you. What a great idea.” Pinkie said before approaching her friend. “Dashie, do you want to come with me and Blues? We’re going to go play pin the tail on the pony!”

“Uh, no thanks Pinkie Pie, you go on ahead. I’m waiting for someone.”

“Okie dokie.” She said, in not quite as chipper a voice as usual. She and Blues then walked off.

Twlight and Trixie were the only two left. Spike had followed after Rarity immediately, hoping to impress her with his dancing ability. “So what do you want to do first?” Twilight asked her date.

“Whatever you wanted to do first is fine.” Trixie said, still taking in the splendor of the event. “Do you think, maybe we should…” She pointed with her hoof over to Rainbow Dash who was now flying erratically as she searched the crowd.

“No, I think it’d be better if we left her alone.” Twilight said. “Why don’t we start over by the games? You may not have guessed from looking at me, but I’m pretty good at horseshoes.”

Twilight and her date sauntered off to the games area. They noticed Blues failing horribly at pin-the-tail; leaving a pony with a tail sticking out of its snout as Pinkie laughed next to him. He quickly joined in the laughter after removing his blindfold. They walked past other games areas filled with ponies enjoying sports such as tug of war, badminton, and more normal carnival games, like a test of strength and a gold-fish toss where contestants could win a pet gold-fish if they threw a small plastic ball into the right bowl.

They had to wait a small while for the line of ponies ahead of them, but Twilight and Trixie eventually got into a two-on-two match with a very spirited unicorn and earth pony couple. The game was incredibly close, with Trixie throwing a ringer in the eleventh inning to win 21 to 18. Having won, the two claimed the right to keep the sandbox and take on the next challengers, but they were quickly dispatched by a pair of male unicorns who they later learned were widely recognized as one of the top five horseshoes teams in Canterlot.

The pair then decided to take a leisurely stroll through the royal garden. It was built almost like a natural maze, its walls made of high shrubs with dirt paths winding throughout. Many other ponies were there, walking slowly and enjoying the beautiful, rare flowers lining the paths inside the shrubs, as well as multiple larger areas inside showcasing patterns and pictures made with multi-colored flower arrangements.

They met up with Fluttershy near the entrance. She was in the middle of explaining to Philomena why she shouldn’t try to catch Angel, who was currently cowering underneath the yellow pegasus pony. The phoenix gave a caw through its mischievous smile as she glared at the frightened bunny. Twilight had never seen Angel scared before, and it was a strange sight to witness the normally arrogant and somewhat controlling rabbit almost scared for its life.

“I’m serious, Philomena.” Fluttershy said, “You can’t do that to poor little creatures. Besides, Angel is my friend. I know you wouldn’t really hurt him, but you shouldn’t scare him like that.”

“Caaaw!” replied the bird.

“Hi, Fluttershy! Enjoying the garden?”

“Oh, hello Twilight. Yes, it’s very nice.”

“Philomena giving you a bit of trouble?”

“Just a little. I know she’ll be nice from now on though, right?”


Trixie giggled a little, prompting the bunny to come out from under his protector and stamp his foot angrily in front of her. He just couldn’t stand this pony laughing at his misfortune. “Sorry, Angel.” Trixie said in apology, trying hard not to laugh at him. His cute appearance made it difficult for Trixie to take his anger seriously.

The five formed a small group and explored the outlay more together. They saw an outcropping of Poison Joke, a flower all too familiar to Fluttershy and Twilight, who had to explain their encounter with the flower to Trixie. They continued on, often mentioning a particular flower or arrangement they found interesting. This calming walk continued on until Trixie’s stomach began to growl fiercely. She blushed slightly and said, “I think my body wants me to eat something. Would that be alright, Twilight?”

“Yeah, now’s a good time to go eat. Care to join us, Fluttershy?”

“Thank you, Twilight, but Angel and I are going to stay here.”

“Caw” Answered Philomena, flying over the group as she had during their time in the garden.

“I guess that means you’re staying too. Well, have fun, you all.” Twilight said as she and Trixie found their way back through the winding garden paths and into the large food court. Numerous different ponies had set up shops inside the Gala. They were selling many different kinds of food and drink for the patrons. Twilight saw stands with popcorn, cupcakes, sarsaparilla, ice cream sundaes, cherries and carrots and watercress sandwiches, and many other forms of pony delicacies.

In the middle of the food court, Twilight and Trixie noticed Rainbow Dash sitting at one of the dining tables with nothing in front of her and an open space to her left. She was looking over at one of the food stands when Twilight approached.

“Hi Rainbow Dash, what are you doing?”

“Oh, hi guys!” She said, “My date just left to get us some grub, so I’m here holding this seat.”

“Uh huh.” Twilight said suspiciously. “Which way did he go?”

“Oh, I lost him. I was trying to figure out what sort of food he was getting, but I guess it’ll just be a surprise.”

“It is packed around here. I can see where you’d lose another pony pretty quickly.” Trixie said.

“Well, I hope you two have a great lunch.” Twilight said as she left.

“Isn’t that kind of sad?” Twilight asked Trixie after they were out of earshot.

“What do you mean?”

“She won’t even admit to us that she doesn’t have a date. I don’t mind so much that she doesn’t have anypony, but I wish she’d just come clean with us instead of pretending she’s actually with someone.”

“I dunno, maybe there really is somepony here with her?” Trixie offered. “I know false boasting when I see it, and she really didn’t seem to be lying to us.”

The two continued on to find an appropriate stand when they were stopped by a long, almost unmoving line of mares in their path. They looked to determine where this line lead, and saw at the very front a small wooden counter with the sign “Sweet Apple Acres” above it. They skipped around the line to talk with Twilight’s good friend Applejack, and maybe get a free sample or two.

“Howdy fellahs.” Applejack said when she noticed the two unicorns. “Sure is somethin’, ain’t it? We’re gonna sell out by supper time at this rate!”

Twilight looked at the stand and saw that Big Macintosh, instead of Applejack, was the primary seller. He was constantly moving back and forth between the counter and the carts of raw apples and other treats they had brought. Each mare in line sighed happily after telling him their order and watched the stallion as he filled their food-related wishes.

“Are you sure you’re okay with what’s going on?” Twilight asked. Being in the back row on the journey to Canterlot, Twilight hadn’t heard Applejack’s real reason for bringing Big Macintosh to the gala. She was still under the impression that Big Macintosh was Applejack’s ‘special pony’.

“Of course! Why wouldn’t I be? We’re gonna get at least enough to fix up the barn and buy a new plow. Not sure about granny’s hip though, what with medical costs going up and all that.”

“No, I mean, look at how all the mares are fawning over him.”

“Well shoot, I can’t blame ‘em. He’s the manliest stallion here, that’s for sure. Not all uppity and delicate like these here Canterlot males. Nosirree, he’s a real working horse, he is.”

“But isn’t he…um…your date? Aren’t you jealous of all the attention he’s getting?”

“Twilight, he’s my brother, why would I be…Oh, sweet Celestia. Why does everypony always think I want to bed my brother?!”

Applejack may have said that last line a bit too loudly, as many of the mares toward the front of the line stopped what conversations they were having and stared at the tan mare. Applejack blushed deeply, drooped her ears and lowered her head, trying to hide behind the wooden counter she had set up. “Geeze Twlight, now everypony’s looking at me.”

“I’m sorry Applejack, it’s just…”

“No, I get it, that’s fine. But honestly, if you’d get the word out I’m not interested in my brother physically, that would be nice.”

“I’m sorry, Applejack, really I am.” Twilight said turning to go. She had taken just two steps away from the stand when the crowd near the stand let out a collective gasp. Looking back Twilight and Trixie saw none other than Princess Luna approach the humble apple stand. The ponies around the stand bowed as Luna went straight to the front of the line and ordered an apple fritter. “I’ve heard such wonderful things about this stand today.” She said, smiling at Big Macintosh, “And its dashing worker.”

Twilight saw Luna lean in and whisper something into Big Macintosh’s ear. She thought she could see him blushing slightly, but it was difficult to tell under his already red coat. Luna smiled again, took the fritter and flew off back toward the castle. Big Macintosh returned to his customers with the smirk of a pony who’d just heard a particularly juicy secret.

“What was that all about?” Trixie asked.

“I’m not sure.” Twilight said, “Still, I don’t think it’s our business. Now, what should we eat?”

The two ponies decided on some popcorn with a bottle of sarsaparilla and a carrot and cucumber sandwich each. They tried to find Rainbow Dash, but she had already left her spot by the time they returned. They found a nice spot at one of the tables and discussed how the time had been just flying by so far that day. It was already mid afternoon by the time they finished eating.

“Want to hit up the dance floor?” Trixie asked, ready to partake in the Gala’s most well known event.

“I suppose so.” Twilight replied, “But I have to warn you, I think I might have been born with four left hooves.”

“It’s alright.” Trixie said, laughing. “I’ll lead.”

When they arrived at the dance floor, the first thing they set about doing was finding their friends. Rarity was standing off alone, forming part of a large ring of ponies who stood in a circle around the floor. They were all waiting for another to ask them to dance it seemed, looking anxiously for anypony who would approach them at the start of a song. Spike the dragon was out on the floor, dancing happily with Dinky to one of Vinyl Scratch’s patented dance mixes. Ditzy Doo was dancing near the pair with an unknown stallion. Twilight and Trixie went over to Rarity to find out how the day had been going for her, while also waiting for the next song to join in the dancing.

“Rarity! How have you been, dear?” Trixie asked, almost mimicking Rarity’s airy style of talking.

“Oh, it’s you. Hmph. I’m doing fine, thank you. How has your day been, Twilight?”

“It’s been wonderful so far! We played horseshoes, and toured the garden and had a great lunch. How about you? Have you had a chance to dance with Prince Astron yet?”

“No.” She said sadly, pointing to a large white unicorn out on the floor. “He’s been on and off the floor for the past few hours, but he’s been surrounded by mares the whole time. I don’t want to be just another groupie to him, so I’ll wait here until he notices my unmatched grace and fashion sense.”

“Well, suit yourself.” Twilight said, “But you know there’s someone who will dance with you in a heartbeat.”

“Yes, I know, but Spike seems to be having a good time anyway.”

“I guess so.” Twilight said, looking back at the smiling dragon’s face.

“Alright fillies and gentlecolts.” A voice boomed over the speakers, “It’s time for the more formal dances to begin. We’ll return to the party mixes later, but the next hour by request of Princess Luna herself is ballroom dancing only.”

“Oh, perfect!” Trixie said, walking out onto the floor with Twilight in tow. “I simply love these classic dances. Just follow my lead, and do your best not to bump into my hooves.”

The pairs of ponies lined up across from each other. Most were male-female but plenty of mare-mare pairs were present as well. The two lines bowed to each other as a set of strings was heard making their first chord on the record. The song was a classical foxtrot and the two lines approached. Twilight and Trixie met face-to-face and began the steps. First Trixie stepped forward and to the left as Twilight followed backward. The pony couples spun off and began to fill the dance floor, leaving Trixie and Twilight practically alone near the center.

The rest of the world seemed to fade away as Trixie got into the rhythm of the dance. Two slow steps followed by two quick steps. She couldn’t get too fancy with an inexperienced partner, but began to incorporate some turns and spins into the basic front and back routine as Twilight appeared to become more comfortable. Their hooves rarely even touched each other, but the two ponies could feel the connection of their bodies moving in time together. They moved and twirled around the dance floor, forgetting even the existence of anyone other than the pony in front of them.

The music continued for what seemed like forever for the pair, all of their thoughts focused on the face staring back at them. The music was quickly coming to an end and Trixie could tell the moment would fade. She stepped in toward Twilight when she wasn’t expecting it and places a hoof around her back. She pushed Twilight from the front with her free hoof and caused the pony to bend backward over her other hoof. Twilight was too shocked to stop this from happening, but ended up in a perfectly executed dip just as the song finished..

Twilight and Trixie stayed there for a few moments, staring deeply into each other’s eyes. They were only jolted out of their personal world by the sound of hooves against the pavement. The other party guests were applauding their performance. “What a marvelous dance.” They heard one of the other attendees say. “I haven’t seen classic dancing like that in a long time.” Another voice called out.

The two bowed to the crowd and walked off the floor. “That was wonderful, Trixie.” Twilight said.

“Ha, I hear that a lot.” Trixie replied.

“That was amazing!” Rainbow Dash said, trotting up to her friend from the ring of ponies. “Where’d you learn to dance like that?”

“Well, actually…” Trixie began, “Steven taught me while I was in the forest.”

“You’re kidding! You know that crazy serpent?”

“Yes. He was just about the only friend I had.”

“Well that’s awesome.”

“So where’s your date?” Twilight asked, still noticing the lack of another pony by Dash’s side.

“He just had to use the bathroom, then we’re going to dance the night away!”

“Oh, okay Dash.” Twilight said.

As she did, Twilight felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to see a pony she didn’t recognize. The pony was bright yellow, with blue-green mane and tail. Her cutie mark was three hearts, two the same color as her mane and one a deeper shade of green. “Excuse me, ma’am.” She said, “I’m Lemon Hearts. I was just wondering if I could borrow your partner for a dance?”

“Oh, yes, by all means. That is, if you want to, Trixie.”

“Certainly!” She said, beginning to walk off with the new arrival. “But don’t worry Twilight, I’ll save the last dance for you.”

As the two went off to catch the start of another song, Twilight felt another tap at her shoulder. She turned again and was greeted this time by a large white unicorn with dark blond mane and tail. His cutie mark was a large star with four gold points overlaying four purple points. Twilight recognized him as the distant nephew of Celestia, the Prince Astron.

“Hello, Twilight, was it?” He said in a deep, comforting voice. “My aunt Celestia talks about you often. She is very impressed by the progress you’re making in Ponyville.”

“I’ she?” Twilight asked, flustered to be in the presence of a stallion so imposing not just in stature but also in status.

“She does.” He replied. “I was wondering if you wanted to discuss some of your finding on friendship. Perhaps during this next song?” He asked, pointing to the dance floor.

“Yes, I’d love to.” Twilight said, smiling as he led her away from the large throng of mares following behind him.

She made her way back onto the dance floor just as the previous song was ending. She and the prince lined up on opposite sides of the floor as she had with Trixie. So entranced was she with the prince that she just then noticed Princess Luna was immediately to her left. “Hello,Twilight.” Luna said when she was finally recognized.

“Princess Luna! What are you doing here?” Twilight asked.

“Well, this party is being held in my castle, after all.” She replied with a chuckle.

“I mean, who are you dancing with.”

“Oh, I think you may have met. Take a look, he’s right next to your dance partner, I believe.”

Twilight looked just to Astron’s right and saw that she did indeed know the pony who was to be Princess Luna’s partner. It was Big Macintosh, apparently done with work and ready to party hard enough to make up for lost time.

The music started and the two sides approached. This particular number was a form of waltz. Twilight was again unfamiliar with the steps, but Prince Ashton was a natural on the dance floor. He lead her in the proper manner, and they began to talk when Twilight was comfortable enough with the pattern.

“So tell me how you find Ponyville. Do you like it better than your time in Canterlot?”

“Well, I am farther from the university, and from princess Celestia, but I’m finally figuring out what it means to have real friends. I suppose you could say I prefer the city of Canterlot but the people of Ponyville.”

“Are the people of Canterlot really that distasteful?”

“No, that’s not it.” Twilight said, hoping to defend her statement. “I just didn’t really give them a chance. I was always too interested in books and not enough in people. I’m sure the people in Canterlot are lovely as well.”

“Some of them” Astron replied. “Others…well…I think I may prefer the kind of people in your Ponyville, to be truthful.”

“How do you mean?”

“Take a look at her, over there.” Astron said, motioning toward Rarity. “She’s so interested in how she appears to others, and so possessive and caring of her clothes, she can’t take the time to even notice ponies she doesn’t consider worthy of her. I don’t think she’s danced with one pony all day. She’s the kind I can’t stand here in Canterlot. They’re too self-important, with hugely inflated egos. I’d much rather spend time with a pony who’s more like your Spike. He’s been out here all day, dancing with whoever will join him. I’ve seen him specifically pick out ponies who hadn’t had anyone dance with them for a long time and invite them to the floor. He’s the kind of caring individual this city needs more of. Being his caretaker, I assume I can attribute his kindness to you.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far.” Twilight responded.

“I think it might not be that far from the truth.” He said. “I talked to that dragon for a little while. He seems like a very decent fellow. I hope I’m still around when he grows up. Equestria would be a better place if all dragons were like him. He told me the story behind your, shall we say, unusual choice of dress as well.”

“Oh that, well, it’s not that big a deal.”

“It reveals your character, Twilight Sparkle. And that character is one I find most attractive.” He said seriously, looking once more into her eyes. The music stopped. It seemed so abrupt. They had been too engrossed in conversation to recognize the musical cues signaling the song’s end. Astron recovered quickly and bowed to his partner. “It was a pleasure making your acquaintance, Ms. Sparkle. I hope we will have the chance to meet again soon.”

Twilight stood dumbfounded as Prince Astrong strode off. She would have stood in place a bit longer had she not heard her name begin called. “Hey Twilight, over here!”

It was Rainbow Dash, calling her over from along the dance floor. She DID have somepony next to her. Twilight went to meet her friend and the mysterious pony at her side. From a distance, she thought it was simply a blue-coated pony, but when she got closer she saw it actually a blue uniform. She then saw the aviator goggles resting atop the pony’s head and knew who it had to be.

“Twilight, allow me to introduce my date: Colonel Colt, leader of the Wonderbolts.”

“Nice to meet you, Twilight.” He said, shaking her hoof with two of his own.

“So, how did you two meet?” Twilight asked.

“Well, our first meeting was when she interrupted one of our shows.” He replied, “But later we spent a lot of time together after she won the Best Young Flyer competition. We just hit it off, and I’m still trying to convince her to join us right away.”

Rainbow Dash laughed, “I know, but I told you, I’m not ready yet. The time commitment is just too much. I couldn’t spend any time with my friends. Give me a year or two first.”

“Whatever you say, Dashie.” He said, smiling at her. “So, should we dance?”

“Oh yeah!” Dash replied, grabbing her date and dragging him over to the floor.

‘So she really had somepony all along.’ Twilight thought as she watched them go. She looked around at the growing crowd surrounding the dance floor. The hour for formal dancing was almost up. Twilight knew when that happened most of the ponies present would break for supper, followed by a few more hours or activities before the closing ceremonies. She saw Astron talking with a few of the mares surrounding him and turned away quickly when his eyes met hers. She also noticed Spike and Dinky standing next to Rarity, and Ditzy, Big Macintosh, and Trixie out on the dance floor with their respective partners. Twilight could also pick out Pinkie Pie and Blues dancing to a lively tango. She hadn’t seen them arrive, but that was pretty standard when Pinkie Pie was involved.

Rarity, in the meantime, was utterly crushed. Prince Astron, the pony of her dreams had been ignoring her all day. But one little dance with Trixie, and suddenly he approached Twilight Sparkle and wanted to dance with HER? Rarity didn’t know what had gone wrong. She had styled her hair perfectly. Her dress was magnificent, by far the best of any pony at the Gala. Hoity Toity himself had told her today how much he enjoyed seeing her handiwork on the ponies around the Gala. But still, Astron chose Twilight, despite her old, plain, inferior outfit.

She was on the verge of tears at her misfortune when she was graced with a most unique visitor. Princess Celestia herself had come to the dance floor to talk with Rarity.

“Rarity, are you not having a good time?” The princess asked. “I thought this Gala would be right up your alley.”

“Oh, the Gala itself is fine. I just don’t understand why nopony will dance with me.”

“Is that the problem?” Celestia asked. “I’m sure there are many stallions here that would love to dance with a mare as beautiful as you.”

“Maybe.” Rarity said, “But the only one I really wanted to dance with was your nephew, and he doesn’t even know that I exist.”

“Rarity.” Celestia said in her most gentle voice, “He’s the only stallion you want to dance with? Are you rejecting all others out of hoof, before even giving them a chance?”

“Well, I guess so.”

“I think you’ve got a very common problem. Rarity, are you letting your idea of perfect get in the way of excellent?”

“What are you talking about, Princess?”

“Well, in your mind, Astron is the perfect pony for you, right?”

“Of course. He’s handsome, charming, and a marvelous dancer.”

“And you think there is no one else in Equestria with those same qualities?”

“There might be…”

“Rarity, life doesn’t just happen. You can’t wait on the sidelines here, expecting a dashing, considerate, perfect male to sweep you off your hooves. You’ve got to get out there, let the stallions know you’re interested in dancing, meeting them. Let them know you want to know them. Show interest in them. You’ve been standing here all day, staring at Astron. What chance does another male have against your ideal of the perfect mate? Who would even take the chance when your standards are absolute perfection?”

“Rarity?” Spike interrupted, trying for the umpteenth time today to get just one dance in with his perfect pony. He was just going through the motions of being rejected again, so he didn’t even realize Princess Celestia was right next to her. “I know you’ve said no, like, twenty eight times now, but I would be honored if you would give me this dance.”

“Spike, you know I’m waiting for…I mean, yes, Spike. I’d love to.”

“Really? You would?”

“Yes, Spike, let’s.”

“Hmm…guess I spoke too soon.” Celestia said as the two left.

“Fillies and gentlecolts, your attention please.” The voice boomed out once again. “This will be our last dance for the formal hour. After this we’ll get back to your regularly scheduled dance jams, so grab your date and get ready for one last dance before things get crazy out on the floor again.”

Twilight watched the ponies she knew out on the dance floor. Almost her entire group of friends were out there, dancing happily with their partners. She could guess how fast Spike’s heart was beating with one hand on Rarity’s neck and the other holding on to one of her legs. Rainbow Dash and Colonel Colt had found some way to turn a slow waltz into a kind of break dance. She wasn’t sure exactly what they were doing, but they both seemed to be having fun nonetheless. She smiled as Blues tried to reign in Pinkie’s rambunctiousness for another slow-tempo song, thinking how much easier it would be when the songs got faster and louder later on.

Spike in particular was having a very difficult time. He wasn’t accustomed to formal ballroom dances and was trying his best not to trip up Rarity. The mare for her part was smiling at Spike, but he couldn’t tell if it was out of pity or happiness. Regardless, his heart was racing. Being able to hold Rarity like this was a pleasure he never thought he’d attain. The song went on as they moved cautiously around the dance floor, making sure not to bump into any other couples.

At the song’s conclusion, Spike felt a pang of regret. He hadn’t said a single word to her throughout, and knew that now she’d go off again to pine away for prince Astron. He bowed to Rarity as he’d seen the ponies do at the end of earlier songs. Rarity bowed back and leaned in to kiss him quickly on the cheek. Spike floated on air, and he could almost see pink hearts float around his head as Rarity said, “Thank you, Spike. Let’s do this again soon.”

“Yes, yes definitely!” He replied euphorically. Rarity said, “Phew, I am famished,” before trotting off to the food court. She had literally been standing all day in hopes of catching the eye of the prince, and had completely skipped lunch. “I’ll be back soon, Spike. Then let’s dance again, alright?”

“I’ll be waiting, m’lady.” The purple dragon responded happily.

The party went on deep into the night. Luna excused herself for a small amount of time to raise the moon but quickly returned to continue dancing with Big Macintosh, after wrenching him away from another mare who had foolishly decided to dance with him in the meantime.

Fluttershy eventually came over to talk with Twilight who was quietly sipping on some punch and watching the dancing. The couples danced for many songs, and the other areas of the Gala had in fact begun to pack up. Prizes were awarded for the many different games at various times after night fall. The pair Twilight and Trixie had lost to earlier won a small prize for most won games of horseshoes, and Blues even got a ‘fake’ trophy for funniest tail-pinning. He left it with Twilight while he and Pinkie were dancing. Spike and Rarity danced together off and on, with Spike graciously allowing himself to be replaced by the many stallions at the Gala now wanting to dance with her. Apparently they had all been too intimidated before. One of them even mentioned how he wanted to ask her to dance, but her beauty was so imposing he was afraid. Then he finally decided if a baby dragon had enough courage to dance with her, then he did too.

Applejack had long since packed up the empty apple carts along with all the profits from today in the waiting chariots at the castle, and was watching the dancing with a mix of pride and contempt. She was very happy her brother was so popular, but a touch upset that nopony was as interested in her. “Still,” She said to her friends, “I did what I set out to do. The apple family is going to put all this money to good use.”

Twilight watched Trixie with some pride as well. She seemed to be most popular with the mares, but danced with a fair share of stallions as well. She changed partners every third song like clockwork, never getting too attached to any one pony. Ditzy danced with many different partners as well, her lazy eye becoming something of a sure-fire conversation starter. Dinky was never far from her side, but was able to meet a few younger colts herself with whom to spend some happy hours dancing.

By the time Trixie came back for the last dance with Twilight, she was almost worn out. “I’m sorry Twilight, but I think you’ll have to lead this time.”

“I’ll do my best, Trixie.” She said, following her friend onto the dance floor.

At the closing ceremonies, Celestia and Luna once again appeared over the whole crowd of ponies from the balcony, although the crowd was noticeably smaller than it had been that morning.

“Thank you all so much for a wonderful Grand Galloping Gala.” Celestia began, “I know myself and my sister had a marvelous time with all of you, and I hope you all had a great time as well. I just wanted to thank you for a very pleasant past year as your ruler, and look forward to many more years of peace and prosperity here in Equestria. I hope to see you all at the Gala next year!”

The crowd cheered their approval as the royal pair reentered the castle. Yawns were heard through the crowd as Twilight and her group headed back to where their chariots waited. Rainbow Dash said a heartfelt goodbye to Colonel Colt, with him giving her a loud smooch before they parted. Ditzy had a small collection of mailing address from interested males she had danced with, though her pile was dwarfed by Rarity’s.

Fluttershy left with a rare moonflower given to her by princess Luna placed behind her ear.

The group stepped back into their chariots and waited as Luna came out to say goodbye to all those present, and Big Macintosh in particular. She then thanked them all for attending and flew off into the castle. The guards were hitched up to their designated chariots and took off toward Ponyville.

The ride home was easier on the guards, since they were able to mostly glide down instead of flying upward, and had a greatly lightened load. Upon arriving home, the ponies all parted their separate ways, Trixie going back with Twilight for one more night in the tree house.

“So, do you think you might want to move into Ponyville?” Twilight asked.

“I do. Do you know of any good builder ponies who could help me get a house constructed?”

“Not right now, but I’m sure I can find somepony.”

“That would be great. Thanks again for letting me use your dress. I’m sorry you had to spend the whole day in that one.”

“It’s really alright, Trixie. I had a great time today anyway.”

“I did too, Twilight. Thank you.”

“Me three!” Spike said from Twilight’s rump. “It was the best night ever.”

“Hehe, it sure was, Spike.”

After arriving at the Treehouse, Spike and Trixie went straight to bed. Twilight, however, decided to stay up and write the princess a letter about the past few days.

Dear Princess Celestia,

          I learned so many lessons about friendship these past couple of days that it’s difficult to know where to start. I learned that sometimes, with forgiveness and compassion, old enemies can become new friends. I learned that helping others and making sure another pony has a good time can be a great way to make sure you have a good time as well, and I learned that

*knock knock knock*

Twilight was interrupted by a loud knocking at the door. She couldn’t imagine who would still be up this late, but she went to the door and opened it. Standing on the other side was Prince Astron with a chariot and two guard ponies just behind him.

“Prince, what are you doing here?” She asked.

“I just remembered that I forgot to give you my address.” He said, handing over a small slip of paper. “Please, write me. Let me know if you’re free this weekend. I would like to know more about your studies on friendship.” He kissed her gently on the cheek and walked back to his chariot. The Prince rode off into the sky with Twilight watching. She eventually stopped staring at the empty night and finished her note.

And I learned that kindness, caring, and a good heart always shine more brilliantly than even the best made dress.

            Your faithful student,

                Twilight Sparkle.