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be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website: (usually she updates her blog every Sunday evening but she can and will surprise you) **Special Note: all of Joan's archives are now up--almost ten years of 'bitter girl.' As Joan says, go wild!**

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Last Days of Equestria

I lied.  One more.

Rainbow Dash arrives at the castle in Canterlot to be greeted by Princess Luna. “Where is every pony?”

“Nice to see you too, Dash,” is Luna’s response. “They’re all busy. Things have changed since you’ve been away. How’s your leg, by the by?”

“It’s fine,” R.D. dismisses out of hand, still looking around. “Well, I need to talk to some pony.”

“What’s wrong with me?” Luna inquires. “What do you need to talk to some pony about? What are you doing here, anyway? I thought you were in Griffonland, helping Queen Fluttershy.”

“That’s just it—I was,” Dash confides in a lower voice. “You don’t know what she’s turned into. I can’t talk to her–I can’t even stand to look at her anymore. She’s hideous.”

“What do you mean?” Luna inquires for specifics with increasing trepidation.

Rainbow awkwardly gestures. “She’s wearing all this make-up and it looks really terrible on her and either she can see it or she can’t–I don’t know which is worse. She’s scaring every Griffon and she seems to enjoy it. It’s like she’s gone power mad. Some pony has to perform an intervention.”

Luna gestures as comprehension sets in. “I went through the same thing, for a little while, till Twi brought me around, so I know what you’re talking about. Come on–let’s go see Tia.”

But Princess Celestia is no help. “I can’t talk to her–she’s taken the listening device out of her ear. She thinks she knows better than me. Let her be that way if that’s what she wants.”

Dash and Luna exchange worried looks after Celestia vacates their presence in a royal huff. “This isn’t good,” Luna ruefully observes. “Come on–let’s go over to the main factory. See what Twi says.”

And Twilight Sparkle is similarly distracted. “Guys–I have my own problems,” she practically yells at them in her manager’s office. “We may have a strike on our hooves here. And I’m way behind in my reading. Spike is goofing off, as usual. You know who you need? Rarity is your answer–go find her.”

“Brilliant, Twi–thanks,” Luna interjects as she kisses Twilight goodbye. “We’re off to save Fluttershy.”

“From herself,” Dash adds. “Don’t wait up.”

So Rainbow Dash and Princess Luna cruise Rarity’s shop, to find her busy with some pony looking for a birthday party dress. “Guys–what do you want?”

Luna gestures. “Finish with your customer and we’ll explain.”

“So you want me to close my business to fly with both of you to Griffonland to talk Queen Fluttershy down from the ledge where she’s perched to jump from?” is Rarity’s speech to both of them once they explain the situation.

Dash’s face falls to pieces. “I don’t like things the way they are now. Remember when life was simpler, and if any pony had a problem, we all worked on it to help that pony out? What’s happen to the good old days?”

“They’ve been replaced by the bad new days,” Luna dejectedly replies. “Where every pony is being selfish and no pony wants to help another–looks like.”

Rarity dramatically sighs. “All right–enough guilt, you two. If you can pry Spike from Twilight’s evil grip, then I’ll go.”

Rainbow flashes her trademark grin. “It’s a deal.”

Once Luna and Dash fly Rarity to Griffonland, she approaches Fluttershy, alone. “Hi Rarity,” Shy greets her old friend from her throne.

“Hello Shy,” the marshmallow-white unicorn gingerly begins. “How do you like being Queen?”

“Oh, I love it,” is Shy’s prompt response. “I love giving orders and the food is simply divine. You should try it some time.”

“You know what I think would be good?” Rarity suggests. “A day at the spa–just you and me. How does that strike you?”

“Sounds like fun,” Shy agrees. “Let’s do it.”

So they spend a few hours lying around, taking bubble baths, listening to music, getting pedicures and massages. Finally Shy asks the obvious question. “Rarity, what are you doing here?”

Rarity opens her eyes and sits up to address this. “I came to see you, of course. I missed you.”

“You did?”

“Yes. We all miss you, Shy.” She waits a while before she continues. “Haven’t you missed us?”

“Sometimes,” Shy admits. “Sometimes I miss the way things used to be. How’s everything back in Ponyville?”

“Well, it’s changed. Nothing stays the same. What’s new in Griffonland?”

“This place is something else,” Shy intones in a conspiratorial whisper, still unconciously leaning forward, as Rarity is. “The Griffons are all so weird. They look at me so funny.”

“Well, maybe you do need to dial it back on the make-up,” Rarity offers, hoping to sound casual about it, finally relaxing and languorously sinking back into her mud bath. “Change your mane a little. I can help you with that.”

“O.K.,” Shy readily agrees. “That sounds like fun.”

Meanwhile, back in Ponyville, Pinkie Pie starts snooping around. “Where’s Rarity?”

Spike gestures to the most remote reaches of infinite space. “She went somewhere with Luna and Rainbow Dash–go ask them.”

“I think I will,” is Pinkie’s prompt response.

At the castle, Princess Celestia is equally vague and evasive. “Pinkamena Diane Pie–that’s none of your business,” the Princess scolds the pink Earth pony with such ferocity that makes Pinkie even more curious.

“Fine–then I’ll just go see for myself,” she decides in determination.

By the time she catches up with Shy and Rarity, the cat is pretty much out of the bag. “Pinkie, do you know what an orgasm is?”

Rarity tries to wave Shy off. “Queen Fluttershy–now is that any way for a monarch to talk?”

Shy in turn waves Rarity’s complaint away. “We’re among friends. And it’s just us girls. Friends can tell each other the truth, can’t they? Well, I can tell you that Miss Rarity here gives the most exquisite, delicious, entirely scrumptious orgasms in the entire known universe. Have you ever had one? You ought to try it sometime.”

Pinkie appraises Rarity for the veracity of this while Rarity is turning several shades of red in crimson contrast to her normally blanched complexion. “Well, fair is fair; what Shy does for me pales in comparison to any Earthly pleasures that I’ve heard tell about.”

“Oh sweetheart–you’re so modest,” Shy returns the compliment with.

“Actually, what I was wondering was how soon you’re coming back to Ponyville, Rarity,” Pinkie throws out rather than listen to this garbage go on for much longer. “To your business, for example?”

Rarity dismisses the idea out of hand. “Oh, I trust Spike to run the joint. Shy has asked me to hang around and I said, you know, I could get used to being the Queen’s consort.”

“Then I looked into her eyes,” Fluttershy continues in high drama. “And I told her that I loved her–that I’ve always loved her.”

“And that’s when she asked me to stay,” Rarity finishes for the other pegasus. “Forever and forever, world without end, Amen. So that’s what I’m going to do. Got a problem with that, Miss Pinkie Pie?”

“Nope–sounds good to me,” Pinkie brightly returns, random as always. “How about me–can I stay too?”

“Why not?” Shy asks the incorporate air around them while smiling broadly at the thought. “The more, the merrier.”

“Uh-oh,” Princess Celestia mutters to herself as she observes the scene from her castle tower. “This can only end badly.”

At the next pony staff meeting, Rarity and Pinkie Pie are conspicuous by their absence. “So what’s going on in Griffonland?” Twilight unfortunately inquires.

“All it is is debauchery,” Celestia explodes in anger from her position in the circle, the seared mental images playing back endlessly, over and over again and again in her head. “Morning noon and night, every single day; they never stop.”

“But you watch it,” Luna speaks up from her seat, leaving the unspoken ‘So why can’t we?’ part of that comment unsaid.

“Oh, do you want to go too, Luna?” Celestia snaps at her sister. “What about you, Twilight? How about it, Apple Jack? Carrot Top? Does every pony wish to visit? And participate?”

Twilight shrugs. “It might be a nice change of pace.”

“Dash is running the show,” Princess Celestia tersely explains, avoiding eye contact with any of the assembled ponies. “Leaving the other three free to indulge themselves.”

“What do you think?” Twilight dares ask Luna in front of every pony.

“Twi, maybe that’s not such a hot idea right now,” Luna demurs.

“O.K.–it was just a thought,” T.S. responds quickly enough. “Shall I start with the factory report?”

After the meeting, Twi asks Luna, “What’s up with Tia?”

“I think she’s hurt,” the Dark Princess confides. “I think she feels used and abandoned by Fluttershy, who’s being an ungrateful wench if you ask me.”

“Luna, Shy’s had a hard time,” Twi begins but is cut off by her paramour.

“Well who hasn’t?” Luna explodes at Twilight, much the same as her sister previously had. “Who’s led a charmed life? You? Me? Tia?”

Twi minimally shrugs in contrast to how worked up the other is becoming. “Tia has, yes.”

“Listen to me: Tia’s worked her whole life for the betterment of Equestria, and what has it gotten her?” Luna snaps back at Twilight. “Half of our senior staff is over in Griffonland, living it up. Bunch of ungrateful ponies, if you ask me. If my opinion counts in any way.”

“Of course it does honey,” Twi responds. “I still love you. I just miss my friends, that’s all.”

“I do too, but we can’t abandon Tia. Not right now,” Luna decides. “It would kill her.”

“All right,” Twilight readily agrees. “Then that’s the way it is.”

“Think we should cheer her up?” Luna throws out for discussion. “Or leave her alone.”

T.S. shrugs again. “She’s your sister–you know her better than I do.”

“Let’s check up on her,” the Princess of the Night suggests.

Luna knocks on the entrance to the viewing chamber. When there is no answer, she tries the door knob.

Twi waits out in the hall as Luna enters. When she exits a few seconds later, her eyes are wide as proverbial saucers.

“What happened?” Twilight asks as soon as they have removed themselves from the door area.

“Uh—she’s not upset,” the Dark Princess circumspectly advises her favorite sweetheart while rolling her eyes. “We don’t need to be concerned about her.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what you saw?” T.S. incredulously inquires of the other.

Finally Luna meets Twi’s insistent gaze. “Um—how can I say this nicely? Queen Fluttershy has seen fit to put her earpiece back in place.”

“Why couldn’t you just say that?”

“Because they weren’t exactly talking—I mean they were but—good grief Twi; do I have to draw you a freaking picture?”

“Was it sexual?”

“What do you think?” Luna responds in exasperation. “Do you still want to visit?”

“Do you?” Twi counters. “After what you just saw?”

Luna doesn’t say anything but her eyes are even wider and sparkling and her smile is huge. “Desire and decision,” the Empress of the Night solemnly intones. “The two things that make a live world.”

“So is that a yes?”

“Let’s go,” Luna declares in absolute resolve. “Right now.”

A few weeks later, a tall woman with long straight red hair dressed in a grey business suit pays a call on the castle in Griffonland:

“Tia?” Luna alerts her sister. “There’s this woman out here who says her name is Lauren Faust and she wants to talk to you.”

“Send her in,” Celestia responds while she thinks, Here we go.

“Princess Celestia,” the woman begins once she is shown in. “I’m Lauren Faust and I’m sorry to bother you but I have a message from the network. I tried the castle first in Equestria and they told me you were here.”

“Yes?” the Princess prompts in total poker-face mode.

“This isn’t easy for me to say, so I’m just going to say it,” the visitor continues. “The network’s position is that you’re in breach of contract basically; this isn’t what we signed up for. The ponies have gotten way too graphic—this is entirely out of hand. You guys need to go back to the way things used to be or they’re going to pull the feed on you in one week.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Celestia lightly inquires after a while.

“To give you a chance,” Lauren harshly replies in contrast. “If you’re the Princess, then do something: issue a proclamation or however you want to handle it. The orgies and the group sex have got to go, at the very least. This is a show for little children—or it used to be, anyway.”

Celestia gestures. “All ponies have free will. And nothing stays the same.”

“You understand what this means, right? No more money from the network, or from merchandising?”

“Thank you for coming by, Miss Faust, and we appreciate your warning. I will discuss this with the others and see what they say, but I may as well tell you right now, do not be hopeful of a positive reply.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Lauren concludes, losing patience and bordering on anger. “I’m afraid you leave us no choice. Good day ma’am.”

“Well children,” Princess Celestia sadly draws up once their visitor departs. “I’m afraid it’s the end of the road for us. The good times are over.”

“Tia, how can you say that?” Luna incredulously inquires while every other pony sits in silence, trying to take the ramifications of this bombshell in. “We can tax the Griffons to pay for the occupation army here and plunder Griffonland’s resources to replace the money from the network. What was she talking about, merchandising? I was about to say something there. How can she stop us from running our factories? You can’t halt free trade.”

“Luna,” Celestia solemnly and reproachfully addresses her sister. “Is that really the kind of world you want to live in? Is that really how ponies treat their neighbors?”

“Absolutely,” the Dark Princess of the Night resolutely declares without hesitation or ambivalence. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and no dog’s going to eat me. You’re the one who wanted to take advantage of the Griffons' weaknesses to begin with.”

“I know,” Princess Celestia quickly replies with a knowing grin and a wink. “I was just joshing you all. Who needs the network and their money? Equestria has endured for over a thousand years; ponies will always triumph.”

“Boy, you really gave me a scare there,” Twilight relates in relief as she expresses all the other ponies’ general reaction.

“Just keeping you on your toes,” Celestia crisply replies. “So who’s ready to go back home?”

“I have to stay and help Fluttershy,” Rarity immediately informs the group.

“I understand,” the Princess of the Light responds and she does. “What about you though, Pinkie Pie? Think Trixie misses you back at the magic shop?”

Pinkie nods her head in acknowledgement. “I know she does, and I miss her and the store. I can pop in on Spike for you Rarity; check up on him. But I’ll be back to visit.”

“Sounds good,” Celestia affirms and she shifts to Luna and Twi. “How about you two?”

They nod in accord. “Home with you—and back to visit, yeah.”

“Tell Apple Jack it’s her turn next,” Rainbow Dash advises the departing crew.

“Will do,” Twi declares. “Love is in the air.”

“As well as the herd,” Luna offers. “Bye gang.”

“Bye—bye,” all acknowledge.

A few days later, Lauren Faust appears live on cable network television when the next episode of the program was to air:

“Hello to all the fans of ‘My Little Pony;’ I’m Lauren Faust, the developer of the show,” she begins. “Tonight’s episode will not be seen today; nor indeed any other day. I’m sorry to tell you that the series, which I love with all my heart, has been canceled. I wish there was something more I could say, other than I tried my best to keep this from happening but in the end, there was nothing I could do. To all those that will miss the show—just remember: as long as the characters live on in your heart, it’s exactly like when a loved one dies. He or she will always be with you. Take care.”

Dear Princess Celestia

Even though nothing is forever, some things will always be.  Everything old is new again.  But I'm not writing to preach wisdom at you; you already have enough of that.  Just wanted to say thank you again, for all you've done and all you've given us.  I know sometimes we may seem ungrateful but we're not.  We're just ponies after all and ponies just want to have fun.

Your Faithful Student,

Twilight Sparkle

“General Discord,” R.D. addresses the General in greeting.

“What is it, Rainbow Dash?” Discord snaps. “I’m very very busy.”

“I can see that sir,” Dash affably responds. “What with your maps and toy soldiers and whatnot; looks like you have a whole campaign going on there.”

“You have no idea,” Discord sneers in utter contempt. “The evil plans that I have laid. Well what is it? I don’t have all day.”

“The Queen Fluttershy commands you to crush the revolt of the Griffons,” Rainbow instructs the other. “There is a charismatic young leader among the Griffons, who thinks he can lead his followers to glorious rebellion and unseat the occupying Pony Army. Well, you have to stop him.”

“What are you talking about?” Discord roars in insolent rage. “What revolt? What rebellion? Where is your evidence of all this?”

“The Queen says it’s inevitable,” R.D. tosses off. “It’s just a matter of time. There’s always the unexpected, so you may as well get busy now.”

“Advise Her Majesty that I’m all over it,” Discord announces to the room. “Tell her that I’ll ferret out this rascal, whose head is so full of this nonsense and show him who’s boss. Now be gone–before I make an example out of you.”

“As you wish, sir,” Rainbow Dash dispatches before she turns to walk out of the room. “Have a nice day.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Keys to the Griffon Kingdom

I promise this will be the last pony story I post.  Unless I change my mind. (All artwork by the exceedingly vivacious and talented Eugenia of Italy-- . Go check out her stuff--immediately!)

Rainbow Dash flies to the Canterlot castle at top speed; she knows both Princesses and all her friends are there, waiting for her and her report.

As she breaks through the lower cirrus stratus clouds, she recalls the conversation with Gilda that had precipitated this whole predicament, a few weeks ago:

“Glad to hear things are working out for you ponies,” Gilda had casually remarked that day as they both flew together after R.D. had regaled her old friend with tales of Princess Celestia’s triumphant return. “Wish I could say the same for us Griffons.”

And from there Gilda went on, detailing her country’s sad woes and hard times, all stemming from a power struggle after their king’s untimely recent demise—their king, who had also been Gilda’s father.

After Dash finishes her story, in the wake of the silence that envelopes the group, Celestia draws up. “All right,” she begins. “Here’s what we’re going to do: I will write a royal communiqué, asking for conveyance over their land. Rainbow Dash, you and another Pegasus will pose as ambassadors from Equestria. You two will learn all you can at court and we will assess then.”

“What’s a communiqué?” Carrot Top crossly queries the room.

“What’s a conveyance?” Pinkie Pie inquires at nearly the same time.

Celestia holds up a royal hoof for silence. “All a communiqué is is a letter—it’s a fancy letter from one head of state to another. Conveyance is a pass. All you’re asking for is safe passage for our Pony Army over their land.”

“What Pony Army?” is Luna’s petulant contribution to the proceedings. “We don’t have any kind of an Army.”

“Then you and Twilight will have to assemble one; coordinate with the Captain of the Guard and Doctor Whooves,” Celestia blithely tosses off. “This is our chance to expand our kingdom; the stake is large and we must gamble for it. Any questions? Yes Dash.”

R.D. lowers her hoof. “Who’s the other Pegasus that’s going with me?”

The Princess briefly glances around the circle and stops on the first pair of wings she spies. “Fluttershy.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Shy quietly responds.

“You will accompany Rainbow Dash on this diplomatic mission,” Celestia details. “We will monitor your progress from here. Good luck.”

“Thank you, Princess,” F.S. replies after exchanging looks with R.D.

“What’s up with Tia?” Twilight ventures to Luna as they regroup after the meeting is over.

The Dark Princess shrugs. “Don’t know—never seen her this aggressive. I thought the ponies lived in peace with the Griffons.”

“Guess not any more,” Twi observes with the same gesture. “So where are we going to get an army from?”

“I don’t know,” Luna admits. “The factory?”

“Then who’s going to work at the factory?” Twilight in turn demands.

“Twi, I don’t have all the answers,” the Princess snaps at her paramour. “Let’s just do what she said—get with your brother and the Doctor and see what they say.”

“All right,” T.S. capitulates. "Let's see if we can pry Shining Armor apart from Cadence for two minutes."

At the same time, Rarity commiserates with Fluttershy. “Why did the Princess choose me?” she asks the marshmallow white unicorn in obvious fright. “Why am I going with Dash?”

“Shy—calm down,” Rarity counsels her friend. “Take a deep breath. You’re making far too much out of this. The Princess chose you because you’re another Pegasus—that’s all. And she trusts you. All you’re doing is delivering a letter and looking around. No big deal.”

“Easy for you to say,” is F.S.’s exasperated counterpoint. “What if something happens? What if we need instructions on how to proceed?”

R.D. and A.J. exchange shrugs in their shared circle. “She has a point,” Apple Jack allows. “Maybe we should ask the Princess when she gives you the letter.”

“Good idea,” Dash agrees. “I’ll take care of it Shy—don’t worry.”

“All right,” a visibly relieved Fluttershy also concurs. “Thank you Rainbow.”

“No problem.”

When Celestia hands Dash the letter and R.D. repeats Shy’s concern, the Princess sighs a royal huff but nevertheless produces a device that she assures them will solve the problem. “I have only one of these, so who do I give it to?” She approaches Dash and assesses of her, “Your mane’s too short. Fluttershy—I guess you’re elected again. This will fit unseen in your ear and you’ll be able to hear me.”

“Thank you Your Highness,” is Shy’s heartfelt relief in gratitude after they test it and it works as advertised.

“Happy?” Rainbow Dash inquires of her counterpart once they’re out of earshot of the others.

“Yes,” Shy pronounces. “I’m ecstatic. When do we leave?”

“Right now,” R.D. barely gives utterance to before she takes off with Fluttershy in hot pursuit.

“Well, they’re on their way,” Twi observes from the castle balcony as she and Luna watch. “Think this is such a good idea?”

The Dark Princess lowers her eyes before she speaks. “Tia knows best.”

“Guess we’ll find out,” Twilight agrees.

When Dash and Shy arrive at the Griffon royal court, Celestia’s letter is cause for much amusement at the ponies’ expense:

“So Princess Celestia of Equestria craves a conveyance over our land for their Pony Army?” the Griffon King Claudius asks in high theater to his assembled audience. “What Pony Army? Maybe she’s gone soft in the head; delusions of grandeur and that sort of thing. Happens to the best of us. What does every Griffon think?”

As the crowd takes the bait and begins yelling catcalls and making general noises of derision, the ponies in the castle watch via the main viewing portal in increasing irritation. “They’re laughing at us!” Pinkie Pie observes in rising indignation and a sneer in her voice. “They’re not laughing with us—they’re laughing at us!”

Celestia swings her visage toward Luna and Twilight. “Well?” she very nearly bellows at them.

Twi lets Luna take this. “Well what Tia? How are we supposed to create an Army out of thin air?”

T.S. intervenes, embarrassed. “What Luna means Princess is that we haven’t decided yet which factory to draw most of the members of this proposed army from.”

“What difference does it make?” Celestia explodes in impatience. “We need an army, and we need an army now. We needed it yesterday. So pick one—how about ‘eenie meenie minie moe?’”

“That sounds good—O.K. we’ll do that,” Twilight hastily responds. “Come on Luna—let’s get that blueprint that my brother and the Doctor already worked out on the structure.”

After they leave, the Princess is still smoldering. “Which factory,” she repeats under her breath. “Which factory indeed. Whichever one isn’t producing as much revenue as the others—good garden party. Do I have to do everything around here?”

“No Your Highness,” Pinkie speaks up from her place. “That’s what you have all of us loyal subjects for.”

“Wonderful,” is the Princess’s dejected reply.

Luna reenters the chamber. “Tia, you’re not going to believe this but—”

“Hi Tia,” Discord announces after he bounces into the room.

“Discord!” the Princess exclaims in animated enthusiasm. “You have chosen the most propitious moment to return.”

The Master of All Chaos looks worried. “I have?” he tentatively inquires.

“Absolutely,” Celestia assures him, rising to appraise how he's changed. “How would you like to be the General of our new Pony Army?”

Discord regains something of his previous nature as he patently dismisses this out of hand. “Army, shmarmy. Why should I help you?”

“Because, my pet—we’re in kind of a jam at the moment,” Celestia purrs to him in response. “I’ll make it worth your while.”

The tall anthropomorphic figure nevertheless remains skeptical. “How?”

“I’ll let you design your own uniform--among other privileges, shall we say? Hmm? Ow--Pinkie Pie, stop throwing things at me! I told you before I don't like that.”

“Oh, I get to wear a uniform?” Discord incredulously inquires while also ignoring Pinkie and her antics merely to get her goat. “Well, that makes all the difference—why didn’t you say so to begin with?”

“Because I just thought of it,” Celestia confides as she pats Discord on the shoulder. "Now get going—we don’t have a whole lot of time to waste; Miss Rarity will assist you.”

"Yes, Your Highness," the marshmallow-white unicorn promptly responds.

“Boy—you sure are bossy today,” Discord observes even as Rarity is busy with her tape measure.

“Not just today—every day,” is Celestia's apt rejoinder even as she successfully sits on a still jealously raging and sputtering Pinkie Pie, who keeps repeating something about chocolate rain and how she wants some right now.

Back in Griffonland, Fluttershy turns to Rainbow Dash after the King’s audience participation ritual. “Well, what do we do now?”

Dash shrugs while momentarily grimacing. “I don’t know—we’re supposed to be looking around. To find out what we can find out.”

Gilda approaches both of them once all the other Griffons split after the King and Queen depart. “Hey, you guys aren’t leaving yet, are you?”

R.D. affects an indifferent attitude. “Well, we may have other jobs to do back home. Why?”

Gilda gestures. “There’s a play tonight; you two ought to stick around for at least that.”

Rainbow defers to Fluttershy on this score. “I guess one more day isn’t going to make much difference,” Shy allows at length. “What’s the play about?”

“It’s called The Mousetrap," Gilda replies as a parting shot. “You’ll like it—trust me.”

Once they’re alone again, R.D. asks the ambient air, “Well, Princess? What are our instructions?”

F.S. listens as Celestia’s voice intones in her ear, “The play. The play’s the thing—wherein Gilda will catch the conscience of the King.” Shy nods as she relates to Dash, “We’re staying.”

That evening, when the performance falls apart, Dash and Shy search through the crowd to find Gilda, to ask what’s happening. “Can’t talk now,” Gilda explains. “Gotta go.”

Dash turns to Shy. “Princess?” R.D. asks the incorporate air around them. “What do we do now?”

F.S. nods as she receives her instructions. “We’re hanging here,” Shy relates to Rainbow. “The Princess says something’s going on.”

“What about our Army?” R.D. follows up with. “What’s the latest on that?”

After F.S. gestures in the same manner as before, she expostulates, “An advanced guard is on its way—with General Discord.”

“General Discord?” Dash incredulously repeats.

“That’s what the Princess says.”

“Something is rotten in Griffonland,” Rainbow observes with her eyes widening. “The dice are rolling.”

“Then we need to get out of here,” Fluttershy, wide-eyed herself, expresses in panic.

“Shy—you need to hold it together,” R.D. warns the other. “We have our orders—this isn’t a vacation. We can’t just leave if we don’t like it.”

“I know,” Shy assures her more stable counterpart. “That doesn’t mean I can’t be scared.”

“You can be scared all you want—just don’t show it,” Rainbow Dash informs the other Pony ambassador. “You show it and we are dead.”

“I hope you don’t mean that literally.”

“We’re playing with the big kids now, Miss Fluttershy,” R.D. continues while shaking her head. “Now if you want me to do all the talking—that’s fine. You can be the strong and silent type. But if you show fear, you’re going to let the Princess down. Is that what you want?”

“No,” Shy snaps at Dash. “It isn’t. O.K. Dash—you win. Thanks for the talk.”

“No problem,” Rainbow responds. “That’s what friends are for.”

When Discord arrives with his Pony Honor Guard, he gives the Griffon King enough smart remarks for the King to take Princess Celestia’s letter seriously. Afterwards, Gilda advises Dash and Shy that there’s going to be a sword duel that will decide everything. So they stick around for that.

During the duel, a fight breaks out and in the pandemonium Dash is hurt. “Don’t worry about me,” R.D. advises Shy from the floor. “Just stay in the game.”

“Right,” Shy acknowledges.

Then suddenly Griffons are dying left and right, including the King, the Queen and tragically, horrifyingly Gilda, whose last words, as if straight out of some sudden glorious epiphany, are, "Fluttershy. She has my final vote. The rest is--silence." The Pony Army arrives just in time thereafter.

As all Griffon eyes turn to her, in as strong and clear a voice as she can muster, Fluttershy repeats as Celestia tells her, “Today I embrace my fortune. I have some rights of memory in this kingdom, which I will now exercise. Griffons, if you desire a strong and able leader, then crown me queen and I will rule this land as long as I live.”

The Griffon ambassador reluctantly replies after looking around at the assembled court, or rather what little’s left of it, and subsequently out the window to see what he perceives as a Pony Army of occupation, “Your Majesty, it shall be so.”

“What is this freaking horse hockey?” Pinkie Pie roars in honest astonishment as the assembled ponies view the proceedings from afar.

“She didn’t even want to go,” Rarity incredulously and histrionically contributes from her place. “And now she’s Queen of the Griffons for life?!”

"This isn't any kind of horse hockey, Pinkie Pie," Princess Celestia archly informs the pink-maned pony.  "This is history in the making."

“Go Shy!” Twilight Sparkle in contrast is shouting as loudly as she can while alternately gesturing for Luna to join her and pumping her fist in the air to punctuate her remarks. “Go Shy! Do it! Do it do it do it! Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Flut Ter Shy! Freaking do it girl! You are the Shy, you are the Shy, you are the Shy that we’ve been waiting for! Yes you are! Yes you are! Uh-huh, uh-huh.” Repeating over and over and over again.

Princess Luna picks it up as well. “Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Queen for life! Yes indeed! You go girl! Make us proud! Do it do it do it!”

As the crown descends on her dreamy flowing mane, Shy can hear all the ponies, even Celestia, join in the chants and cheers, as the jubilee spreads throughout the Griffon crowd. She smiles broadly in excitement and accomplishment, even as she wields her new sapphire-and-diamond studded scepter, the ancient paragon of royal Griffon power. She is fortune’s hostage, every pony’s heart’s desire; she is Queen Fluttershy, Monarch of the Griffons.

Dear Princess Celestia--

I've been thinking about what you said, that time we were alone, about us being intimate, and if you're still interested, I am too.

Your Faithless Student,

Twilight Sparkle

Twi wakes up while it's still dark out; she can hear her paramour softly breathing, not the deep rasping of nocturnal slumber indicating REM. She rolls over in bed and kisses her newest sweetheart on the cheek. "Tia," she whispers ever so softly in Princess Celestia's ear. "Are you awake?"

"I am now," Tia responds in equal tones of amorous desire and royal testiness. "Don't tell me you're still in the mood."

"Luna's going to get back soon and we can't let her know," Twi explains in a rush.

"Twi, you needed worry your pretty little head about it," Tia tosses off after rolling over, looking up at the other, her dreamy flowing hair tousled against the crisp white linen of the royal embroidered pillow. "I've it all worked out; she'll never suspect a thing; let alone find out about us."

"How many other foals have you had up here and pulled this same stunt with?" Twi asks while smiling in the darkness, the thought of a successfully scheming Princess Molestia endlessly seducing young maid after young master bringing improper mirth to her blossoming imagination.

Here the normally glib and loquacious Princess who's never at a loss for words doesn't answer right away as the proverbial cat's got her talented tongue and it takes some time for Twi to realize how deeply her new lover is now in fact blushing. "Tia," she continues incredulously in a rush. "You can't have been a virgin, untouched, all these years--can you?"

"Some day, my sometime faithful student and now my one and only true and endless love, you'll understand how much work being a princess and running a country as diverse as Equestria is; Flutters is lucky. Griffonland is a piece of cake," Tia kindly elaborates while making a elegant flip of her hand, as apparently Discord doesn't count; not to the Princess, anyway.

"So you're not jealous of Shy being a Queen while you're only a Princess."

Tia strokes the other's golden lustrous hair as she patiently explains, "Twi, my sweetest darling, my mother was Queen; I could never take her place even though I now run the show. I honor her memory every day that passes that I don't have myself crowned just to satisfy my own vanity."

"And you're not jealous, of me and Luna?" Twi inquires in wonder, more in the tone however of dawning epiphany rather than an aggressive interrogative.

"No," Tia simply replies. "You make Luna happy, something I couldn't do, apparently." She sits up in bed quickly enough for her heart-rendingly beautiful ample pink-nippled breasts to sway and bounce in tandem toward the direction of her forward motion. "I sent my own sister to the moon; I banished her for a thousand years. How do you think that makes me feel?"

For an answer, Twi sits up in bed also, her smaller budding breast buds pressing against Tia's in their embrace. Twi can feel Tia's softness tip with desire and her own nipples reacting the same way, as both sets of her warm glistening lips part to reveal the deepest hollow of her frank but turgid desire. Twi reciprocates with her own slender graceful elegant hand inside Tia after the teacher prepares her student for the ultimate lesson in fulfillment: the best gut-screaming orgasm money can't buy.

Outside, flying into Canterlot air space, the full harvest moon's warm spring glow over her shoulder, Princess Luna, the Dark Empress of the Night, hears echoes of a sound roaring from the highest castle tower, a rapture she partly recognizes but mostly doesn't. "Oh well," she sighs to herself in resignation to the truth, that even the Darkness can be in love with the Light. "At least some ponies are enjoying the night."

Friday, November 4, 2011

A New Day in Equestria

Rainbow Dash knocks very softly on Twilight Sparkle’s abode. Though she is expected, the hour is late, and she doesn’t want to disturb any of Twi’s neighbors. Presently Twilight opens the door. “Hi Rainbow,” she greets her friend. “Thanks for coming.”

“Hi Twi,” R.D. returns the salutation while looking around for someone about waist high. “No problem. Where’s Spike?”

“I sent him on an errand,” Twilight quietly explains as she closes her entrance behind Dash. “The others are in here.”

“Hi gang,” R.D. says to the other assembled ponies once they reach the library.

“Hey Dash,” Apple Jack speaks up in her southwestern twang.

“Hi Rainbow,” Pinkie Pie contributes, waving. “Want something to drink?”

“Hello Rainbow Dash,” Rarity contributes from her lounge.

“Hi Dash,” Fluttershy softly enunciates with care.

“Hi y’all,” R.D. repeats in her nervousness. “Sure Pinkie—thanks. Whatever you’re having.”

Once Twilight and Pinkie are heading for the kitchen and out of the room, Rarity asks Dash, “So Twi tells us she’s already approached you.”

Rainbow Dash nods. “Yeah—a few days ago.”

Fluttershy and Apple Jack silently hang on her every word, with eyes wide as saucers, until A.J. clears her throat and inquires, “Feel like cluing us in, sugar cube?”

R.D. shrugs. “Celestia’s not going to be in charge anymore,” she simply throws out. “Luna is.”

“Only if all of you agree,” Twilight adds as she and Pinkie reenter the room and the latter hands Dash her drink. “If any of you say no, I’ve already told Luna this whole thing ends right here and now.”

“Oh wow,” Fluttershy interjects while lowering her gaze. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t beat around the bush about it.”

“No more Princess Celestia?” Pinkie Pie repeats after she sits down in their circle.

“Where would she go?” Rarity inquires, sitting back up herself. “What would she do?”

“Luna says,” Twilight explains at length after all eyes fall upon her. “That she wouldn’t be banished. She could even stay in the castle if she wanted; she just wouldn’t have any power. All that would reside with Luna. And us.”

Comprehension begins to set in on every pony’s visage; it’s been common knowledge for a few weeks that Twi and Luna have been spending a lot of time together. “So Luna would be in charge,” Rarity repeats from her place on her couch. “What would that make us, pray tell?”

“We would run everything outside of Canterlot,” Twi expostulates, meeting every pony’s eyes for emphasis. “Ponyville and the rest of Equestria. Luna would assume day-to-day command of the castle and the surrounding grounds; I would help her—on occasion.”

“So you’d be in the castle with Luna,” A.J. sums up while looking at R.D. “And all of us would be out here.”

Twi blinks before she answers. “Sometimes—yes I would,” she admits, realizing how bad this sounds. “And sometimes I would be here—working with y’all.” She pauses for a moment before she continues to lay out her plan. “Pinkie—you, Rarity and Apple Jack would work with all the small businesses as they make the transition from a day-based economy to a night-based one. Fluttershy—you’d be at the school with the new educational policy of indoctrinating the students to our way of thinking. Dash would continue coordinating with the Wonderbolts and the weather. And Spike would stay on as my assistant.”

“Does this mean I’d have to give up my own business?” Rarity buttonholes the purple unicorn.

T.S. shrugs as R.D. had. “Not necessarily—but you probably would need some pony to run it for you. Make no mistake ladies—what I’m suggesting here would be a lot of work. For all of us.”

“So Ah couldn’t work on my family’s farm anymore,” A.J. surmises at length. “Especially around harvest time.”

Twi shakes her head. “No—you’d probably have to hire some pony. To help you out.”

“Assuming Celestia relinquishes power without a fight,” F.S. now quietly offers as counterpoint. “What makes you think she’ll go along with all this—just hand everything over to Luna?”

“That is something we’d have to deal with,” Twilight admits in a level voice. “If the time comes.” She waits again prior to spelling out her terms. “I don’t want answers from any of you right now. I want all of you to think about it—at least overnight—before you decide.”

“Wow,” Pinkie breathes out while scanning every other pony’s countenance for other reactions. “Nothing like planning a party for a power grab.”

“It wouldn’t be a power grab,” T.S. disagrees. “It would be a new day for Equestria. We would help to usher in the night—in the form of the new Lunar Republic.”

“It’s also treason,” Apple Jack pronounces in contrast. “Of the highest order.”

Twi blinks before she honestly responds, “Yes, it is. If this blows up in our faces, we could be plunging ourselves and everything around us into civil war.”

“So I would get the school, huh?” Fluttershy quietly ruminates to herself in the silence that ensues as all take in that last ramification. “What if I needed help?”

T.S. shrugs once more. “Then either Pinkie or I would come to your aid,” she levelly replies.

“Or me,” Rarity volunteers. “If I wasn’t busy.”

“Let’s make sure I have this straight,” Rainbow Dash throws out for discussion. “Would Pinkie or Rarity need your permission before either one—or even me—were to help Fluttershy out, for example?”

“No,” Twilight immediately responds as she shakes her head. “It wouldn’t be that formal. But let’s say there was a strike by the—I don’t know—the garbage ponies and Luna told me to get on it. Then if I needed help, I might dragoon one or two or all of you to help me. And let’s just say Fluttershy needed help at the school at the same time; well, the garbage strike would have to take precedence over the school, until that was settled, type of thing. Then we would all do whatever we needed to at the school to get that on track. There would be priorities—dictated by Luna. Not by me.”

“It’s a lot to think about,” Rarity observes as she sips her drink.

“It sure is,” A.J. wholeheartedly agrees.

“Remember—if even one of you disagrees, the whole thing is off,” Twi emphasizes. “The elements of harmony are useless without all of us in accord.”

“I’d miss the Princess,” Fluttershy sadly admits.

T.S. blinks at this, holding back tears herself. “I would too. But nothing lasts forever, and if it is Luna’s time, then we could make that happen. We—the elements of harmony—could initiate the new era.” She waits again before she wraps up. “Well. Thank you all for coming and please—don’t breathe a word of this to any pony. I realize you’re probably going to be talking among yourselves but I ask you—be discreet.” She finally lowers her own gaze, drinking from her own glass.

High atop her castle, alone in her darkened viewing room, Princess Celestia permits herself the smallest of smiles as she listens and watches the aforementioned scene end. “So,” the Princess muses out loud. “Luna and Twilight think they can defeat me and usher in a new era—with the night eclipsing the dawn. Well—we shall see whose curtain is coming down upon whom.” And she visibly restrains herself from the requisite evil laugh tag.

Early the next morning, Rainbow Dash heads over to Apple Jack’s place to sound her out. “Apple Bloom needs more to do around here, that’s the bottom line,” A.J. sums up as she surveys the family farm. “She’s getting a bit too snarky for her own good, and more responsibility sounds to me like a good cure for that.”

R.D. nods in concordance. “Maybe I can prevail on Scootaloo to help out also,” the butch pegasus theorizes. “Come on—let’s go talk to your grandmother about the money situation. Maybe she can just hire some pony.”

Similarly, Pinkie Pie stops by Rarity’s shop and the two of them go out to canvass some local businesses that would be most affected by the proposed change. Fluttershy cruises the school to see what the deal is there, to talk to some teachers and study with the students.

Luna swings by Twi’s place. “Where’s Spike?” she asks at the door.

“Covering for Rarity,” T.S. explains to the Princess as the purple unicorn closes her entranceway and maneuvers Luna into a corner. “She and Pinkie are out and about.”

When they finally break their kiss, Luna breathes out, “I take it things went well last night.”

Twi nods as she nuzzles Luna’s shoulder. “Yeah,” she responds in a barely audible voice while gravitating lower down the Princess’s body. “They’re thinking about it.”

“And all I can think about is you,” Luna manages to enunciate as she reciprocates T.S.’s caresses and tenders of affection.

Afterwards Twilight volunteers, “I think they’re concerned about you and me; how all ponies would be equal but some ponies would be more equal than others.”

Luna considers this before she offers, “Want me to talk to them?”

Twi shakes her head. “Not right now—maybe later. Let me do this my way for the time being.”

Meanwhile, Princess Celestia strolls outside into her garden in the midmorning sun. “Ah, what a beautiful day,” she sings to herself as she luxuriantly stretches at her regal leisure, the royal gaze resting at last on her favorite large white statue of paranoid terror. “Oh Discord my pet—I thought it such a shame when you relapsed and Twilight and her friends sent you back here, encased once again in your eternal alchemy of granite and clay; now I see that it was all kismet. It’s high time for a little fun—just you and me.”

Rarity and Pinkie Pie return to the former’s shop a few hours later. “Well Spike,” the marshmallow-white unicorn begins. “How many orders did I miss while we were away?”

“Hardly any, Miss Rarity,” the purple and green baby dragon responds as he throws her the clipboard. “I wrote everything down.”

Pinkie Pie intercepts the flying cardboard sheath of papers with a deft swipe of her hoof. “Keep away!” she yells in triumph as she motions for Spike to go long.

“Give me that!” Rarity screeches at both of them in equally determined fashion. “You ruffians—that’s money!"

“Not yet, it isn’t,” Spike replies as Rarity backs him into a corner. “Give me a kiss first.”

“I’ll give you a slap!" Rarity asserts as she tries her best to block any passing angle back to Pinkie.

Who sees Rarity’s strategy and grabs her from behind. “O.K. Spike,” Pinkie roars above Rarity’s squeals of hostage terror and torture. “Go for it—she’s all yours.”

Spike allows himself a short peck on her cute little snout as he hands Rarity her precious clipboard. “Enough frivolity, fillies,” he casually pronounces as he bids them both good day. “I have more of Twilight’s evil bidding to accomplish elsewheres anyways.”

“The very idea,” Rarity is gassing on as she fixes her mane in the mirror while her front door slams in the purple baby dragon’s wake. “Thank you Spike!”

“You’re not welcome!” he thunders in response from outside.

When Fluttershy finishes up her day at the school, she cruises by Twilight’s place with wondrous tales of her day’s adventures. “I love it!” F.S. enthuses in conclusion. “And I already know who I want on my team—Octavia for the music and art students. And Doctor Whooves if I can convince him—for history and social science.”

“Sounds great Shy,” T.S. replies in equal emotion. “Have you talked to them yet?”

“Oh—yes. Maybe that’s a good idea,” Fluttershy responds when the light bulb clicks on over her head. “And Angel Bunny too—he can hang with the kindergartners.”

“Keep ‘em coming Shy—we need all the inspiration we can get,” Twilight confirms as she practically pushes her friend away from her. “Maybe I better see how Rarity and Pinkie did.”

“Just talked to Fluttershy,” she regales Rarity and Pinkie Pie at the former’s shop. “And she’s already putting her team together.”

“Team?” Rarity repeats, as does Pinkie a beat later. “Who said anything about a team? You never told us we could have a team if we wanted.”

“Better hurry girls,” Twi warns her partners in crime with an arched eyebrow. “If you wait too much longer, pretty soon all the good ponies will be taken—part of some other pony’s transition; you snooze, you lose.”

“Where’s Spike? I need him back this instant!” Rarity is gassing on, sputtering in full gear at the thought of being surpassed by one of her friends, especially Fluttershy. “I was just on my way to see Mayor Mare when you walked in Twilight. Pinkie and I need to hit the road. Come along Pinkie.”

And T.S. is hustling both ponies out the door, assuring Rarity that she’ll watch the shop for her till Spike shows up and that she’s calling him now, et cetera and blah blah blah.

Once on the street, Pinkie is about to follow Rarity down the avenue but she is stopped by a business she hadn’t noticed before: Trixie’s Magic Emporium/Gala Grand Opening Soon. “Hey Rarity—look. A new shop,” she observes, but by now she’s talking to herself, as Rarity is, headed the other way.

Pinkie Pie bounces across the street and enters the storefront. “Hi,” some pony who’s wearing a blue wizard’s hat greets her from behind a sea of cardboard boxes. “We’re not open yet.”

“Hi,” Pinkie returns the salutation from her end. “I know—I’m not here to buy anything. I’m the welcoming committee.”

“Hello there,” the same blue pony addresses Pinkie again. “Thanks for the welcome and in return, welcome to my shop. I’m the great and powerful Trixie. Are you also here to help?”

Pinkie blinks, as the question catches her unawares. “Sure. I’m Pinkamena Diane Pie, but everyone calls me Pinkie. Do you need any help?” is her eventual rejoinder.

“You saw the sign, didn’t you?” Trixie inquires, finally coming into full view.

Pinkie surveys the front store window and observes a Help Wanted notice that had previously escaped her perusal. “Oh yeah—the sign. Guess you need help unpacking all these boxes, huh?”

As an answer, Trixie takes a few moments to gaze upon all the merchandise that awaits her. “You could say that,” she eventually allows. “Say—haven’t we met before?”

“Don’t think so,” is Pinkie’s automatic reply without even considering the possibility. “So—where should I start?”

A few hours later, after Pinkie leaves, a familiar form emerges from the shadows in the rear of the shop. “Well?”

Trixie closes her eyes and deeply bows. “Pinkie’s hooked, Your Highness. She’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Excellent,” Princess Celestia replies with relish.

Rainbow Dash and Apple Jack both swing by Rarity’s shop the same evening. “We were looking for Rarity and Pinkie,” Dash explains to T.S., surveying the establishment. “But I guess you’ll do.”

A.J. continues. “Both of us talked to the owner of the green grocer and actually his brother needs a job—just something not indoors, so we got to horse-trading and it turns out he’s actually expanding with the bakery and they can use a lot more fresh fruits—not just apples, but that’s a start. He has no problem with staying open later, if the traffic warrants, so he’s on board, I reckon. And the owner’s brother, we’re going to start him tomorrow on the farm and see how he works out.”

“Great,” Twilight enthuses, bubbling with good news of her own. “Fluttershy’s so excited about the school—she’s asking Octavia, Doctor Whooves and I think she also said something about Zecora for a cooking class—you know, home ec and all that. And Rarity and Pinkie are out talking to the mayor right now.”

R.D. nods in agreement. “Sounds like it’s all coming together.”

Indeed, as the days progress, other pieces of the plan fall in place, so much so that Twilight’s overall good mood, irreversible forward slant and boundless sense of rosy optimism are all the more rudely shattered by the arrival of a missive from the Princess: for her to appear before Her Royal Highness, alone.

Twi walks down the long marble hallway, her hoofsteps echoing at every clop. She knows there must be guards and centurions beyond what is visible but their apparent absence only heightens her trepidation.

Tentatively, she knocks on the door to the Royal Chamber; she’s been here only once before and never alone. She raps again, more loudly this time, when there is no answer.

The high oak double doors creak as they simultaneously open. “Come in Twilight,” Princess Celestia’s monarchic voice both purrs and commands her.

“Good morning Your Highness,” Twilight levelly greets her leader. “I came as soon as I received your summons.”

“Good morning. You can relax,” the Princess intones. “We’re alone here. Come forward.”

Twilight advances and slowly her eyes begin to adjust to the shadows; the Princess’s regal form finally manifests itself out of the dark. “What can I do for you?” is Twilight’s eventual query.

“Sit,” the Princess simply replies as she indicates a chair in front of her royal lounge. “Be comfortable.”

After T.S. settles in, again after waiting so long for Celestia to make herself clear, finally she inquires, “How are you?”

“I’m well, Twilight,” the royal answer returns at length. “How’s everything with you?”

“About the same,” Twi responds. “Same old thing.”

“Yes,” the Princess drawls out. “I know. Same old, same old. I suppose what I meant was, are you happy with your life, Twilight Sparkle? Do you like the things that Equestria is showing you?”

She knows, Twilight adroitly deduces from this attempt at poetry. Somehow she’s ascertained what we’re up to. “I like it well enough, Your Highness. But you know lately I’ve begun to give serious consideration to my future and my friends’ future here in Equestria. Where things are going.”

“Where are things going, Twilight?”

T.S. sets her jaw. “Relentlessly forward,” is her reasoned judgment.

“Good answer, my faithful student,” Princess Celestia mirthlessly chortles as her ghastly bad humor pulls the rug out from underneath any semblance of their normal cordial banter.

“Thanks,” Twilight herself drolly retorts.

“You’re entirely welcome.”

Twilight draws up in her own impatience. “Princess, what can I do for you?”

“You can tell me why you’re so unhappy, for one,” Celestia nearly roars in purple rage at what she perceives as the other’s insolence. “You can explain to me why, if something was bothering you, you didn’t simply come to me with your concerns. You may attempt, if you are able, to justify your OUTRIGHT TREASON BEHIND MY BACK!"

Twi takes a breath before she ventures, “It isn’t treason to suggest that your time may be past, Your Highness.”

“I am the Princess!" Celestia explodes, still red-faced in hysteria. “I will decide what is treason and what is not!”

Twilight Sparkle sighs. “Are you finished now?” she lightly inquires of her Princess. “Are you all done? Do you feel better?”

“Twilight, I realize I never told you this, but I had big plans for you,” Celestia now admits in a more conversational tone. “Here, in this castle, with me.”

“Uh-huh,” T.S. eventually responds. “How generous of you.”

Celestia takes a different tack. “How are you and Luna getting along these days?”

Twilight lifts her head to address this subject. “Is that what this is all about? You being jealous?”

“If you and I were intimate, would that endear you more to my cause?”

Twilight’s had her fill of this for one day; she rises to leave. “Princess, y'know, maybe I’d just better go.”

“Not yet. I have something to show you first. Two things, actually.” A curtain withdraws along a nearby wall to reveal a portal. “This is my viewing screen; from here, Equestria comes to me.”

Twilight watches with undisturbed concentration as the scene changes from her meeting with her friends the other night, to Rarity speaking to Mayor Mare, to Fluttershy at the school, to Rainbow Dash and Apple Jack together, while Celestia narrates, “I can see and hear anything, past or present—any pony or ponies within my realm. Whether comedy, drama or tragedy, high or low estate, treason or loyalty—it’s all at my disposal.”

“I’ve seen enough; you can shut it off now,” Twi demurs after a while.

Presently the scene shifts to that of Twilight and Luna in the throes of unrestrained rapture. “But what about your first embrace with my sister? How tender, how passionate were your cries! How many tears you shed, how many confessions you made!” the Princess catalogs in histrionic detail.

T.S. is nonplussed as well as entirely embarrassed. “It wasn't like that and you know it,” she manages to articulate. "Invading your own sister's privacy."

“What’s the matter, Twilight—don’t you like to watch?” is Celestia’s snarky answer to the accusation.

“No,” Twi immediately replies. “That would be you.”

The viewing portal image freezes and the sound stops. The Princess also rises from her lounge, still smoldering in volcanic rage. “Walk me out; I won’t take any more of your precious time.”

Twilight doesn’t say anything nor does she make eye contact with the older alicorn as they descend together. Once down in the garden, Celestia draws up. “I’m making a speech this Saturday at dusk to all of Equestria; you and your friends are all invited. Luna will be there also; I’ll announce that I’m taking an indefinite leave of absence. Until or unless I return, Luna will rule in my stead.”

Twilight is staring at the empty marble pedestal that once held a large statue. “Where’s—?”

“Discord?” the Princess finishes for her. “Oh, he’s around here somewhere.”

On cue, the tall anthropomorphic bundle of joy appears from behind some bushes. “Hi Twilight—bye Twilight,” he greets and dismisses the startled purple unicorn in staccato fashion.

“Yes ta-ta my dear; we have much to plan,” the Princess segues. “Discord will be accompanying me on my extended vacation—one that I’ve earned, over the years. Anything interesting happens, I’ll send you a postcard. Now run along.”

Once T.S. makes a hasty exit, Discord complains, “So you’re just going to hand over everything to Luna without a fight? What kind of an evil plan is that?”

The Princess dismisses this with a wave of her royal hoof and laughs a syllable. “Oh my pet—your most recent era in stone has made you so myopic. I assure you—we’ll have plenty of time for dirty tricks here later. First though I want them both to fall on their faces of their own accord; thinking it's so easy to run the show. Only then will their humiliation be complete.  But in the meanwhile, the entire universe is at our beck and call; let’s explore it! For instance, I’ve spotted a little slice of heaven where you and I can have the most uproarious fun; it’s the third satellite in a solar system called Sol. The planet is named Earth.”

Discord is all ears. “Do tell!” he mirthfully encourages her to dish.

“Well, it has all sorts of opportunities for both of us; there’s this one area they call the Middle East; lots of interesting goings on and hilarity afoot. So we’ll start there and make our way.”

Discord rubs his paws in evil glee. “Sounds delightful!” he wholeheartedly concurs.

As expected, Twilight relates this unanticipated turn of events to her friends and Luna with substantial apprehension; after all, if Discord is loose, can trouble be far behind?

This and more they discuss at their next strategy meeting:

Rainbow Dash is the least concerned of the bunch. “What the hay—we beat him before; we can lick him again.” She hits on her drink while she waits for some pony to contradict her.

“That was Discord by himself--not Discord with Celestia,” Rarity points out in characteristically histrionic manner. “And how do we know she’ll keep her word, about peacefully giving up? It could all be a ruse, you know. We’d be all together. If she were planning something nefarious, it would be the perfect opportunity.”

Luna takes this. “What do you suggest, Rarity? Not attend? How would that look if on the other hand she’s—how does the phrase go—on the level?”

Twilight attempts to mediate. “Both of you raise valid points; I still say all we can do is prepare for either outcome. I hate to admit it, but I think the Princess has successfully boxed us in.”

“If she does turn on us, we could be in big trouble,” Apple Jack observes from her place in the circle. “Her and Discord both—that would be one battle royal for sure.”

Fluttershy nods in accord. “You guys can count on me, if the time comes,” she declares in resolve, as she’s learned from her time at the school that if she doesn’t speak up, she’ll be called upon. “What do you think, Pinkie?”

Pinkie glances up from her drink. “I think if we’re going to do this, then let’s do it. If she’s bluffing, then let’s call her bluff. If she’s serious and she tries to pull a fast one on us, then it’ll be up to all of us to support you and Twilight, Luna.”

Luna nods from her position in the circle. “I appreciate every pony’s loyalty and I swear by all that is holy in Equestria I won’t let any of you down,” is her heartfelt vow.

“How’s everything going at the magic shop?” Twilight follows up with Pinkie after she nods in accord with Luna’s sentiments.

“Simply fabulous,” Pinkie relates. “The great and powerful Trixie still thinks we can open on Sunday; I guess it depends on if we get all of our Pony Express shipments soon.”

“Think we should approach G&P Trixie?” Rainbow Dash throws out for discussion.

“About joining us?” Twi clarifies, shifting in her place.

“Perhaps later,” Luna now speaks up once she drags on her drink. “This wouldn’t be the best time to bring some new pony on board.”

“Speaking of which,” Twilight segues. “What’s the latest on Doctor Whooves, Fluttershy?”

“He still wants to see what happens on Saturday,” Shy relates. “He says that if there’s any violence, he won’t be a party to either side.”

“But he’s cool if Celestia peacefully abdicates,” Twi elaborates and then continues when she sees others not comprehending that last word. “You know; steps aside. As she says she will.”

F.S. nods. “Then he’s on board.”

T.S. turns to Luna. “A time lord could be useful,” she offers. “In the future, I mean.”

The Dark Princess concurs. “Yes, the back door approach works well with some personalities. The school first and then perhaps with us. Good work Fluttershy.”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” Shy respectfully replies.

“How’s everything on your farm, A.J.?” Twilight continues.

“Not too shabby,” Apple Jack drawls out, next to R.D. in their circle. “New pony’s working out; gets along well with Big Mac.”

“Glad to hear it,” is Luna’s comment.

“Good news all around,” Rarity supplies after she takes a sip herself. “I’ve got Spike almost trained; he’s been spending so much time at my shop, helping me out.”

“Yeah,” A.J. continues. “Apple Bloom and Scootaloo on the other hand aren’t the happiest of campers, but give them time; every pony takes to hard work in a different way.”

“Maybe Sweetie Belle might round out their group,” Pinkie postulates, referring to the last of the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

Rainbow Dash considers this and why it hadn’t previously occurred to her. “Yeah, it’s a thought. You know how misery loves company.”

“What about Carrot Top?” F.S. speculates.

Twilight ruminates after hitting on her own glass, “Yeah, she’s a little older, but not as old as us. I don’t know as she’d want to get her hooves dirty, though.”

“Why don’t you approach her, Shy?” Luna suggests. “At the school.”

“Sure,” F.S. affably agrees. “I can sound her out.”

“Sounds like a deal,” Apple Jack volunteers after glancing at R.D. for her opinion.

“And I’ll talk to Sweetie Belle,” Pinkie concludes.

“Excellent,” Luna and Twilight both agree.

The day after the next, Carrot Top arrives at A.J.’s farm to find the CMC together. “Hey y’all,” C.T. greets them amiably enough.

“What are you doing here?” Scootaloo bluntly inquires, dispensing with the pleasantries.

“Danged if I know,” Carrot Top readily concedes. “Fluttershy asked me to come over and check up on you guys; make sure you weren’t goofing off.”

Apple Bloom volunteers, “We’re supposed to be getting a berry greenhouse together; blueberries, strawberries, raspberries—all that kind of stuff for the pies the grocer in town is going to be selling along with our apples. All hydroponics—no messy or dirty soil. And no icky pests.”

“Sounds like a lot of work to me,” Sweetie Belle dejectedly contributes, indicating the clear plastic materials, housing supports and other supplies that are still on the ground before the group.

“All part of the new regime. The New Lunar Republic,” C.T. confirms in dismay. “Now I don’t like this whole thing any better than you ponies do, but it has to get done and the sooner we start, the sooner we can all leave. Come on; help me with the frames to begin with.”

Later that same day in the magic shop, Pinkie calls out to Trixie, “Hey boss; watch me—I think I have it now.”

Trixie steps from around some cardboard boxes in time to see Pinkie Pie juggling three balls in the air while attempting to pull something out of a top hat; whatever’s inside resists emerging and in her clumsiness all three balls fall to the floor.

“Guess I need more practice, huh?” Pinkie ventures as she kneels to scoop up the balls from where they’ve scattered.

“Yeah,” Trixie responds while returning to her previous project. “Keep working on that.”

That Saturday, every pony gathers at the castle to hear Princess Celestia deliver her speech:

“Citizens of Equestria,” she begins from her tower balcony above the hushed crowd. “I address you today on the verge of a great change. As most of you know, I have ruled this land for over a thousand years, and most if not all have prospered under my stewardship, but nothing is forever. If history has taught us only one thing, it’s that change is the only constant in the universe. And those that don’t learn from history are destined—no, condemned to repeat it. There is nothing that I love more than Equestria and my place in it, but the winds of change sweep through our land. Whether this change is for the good or the bad does not nor should not concern us today but is simply for us to recognize. Nothing is forever; things change is the world’s sad secret.

“But it need not always be sad, for if change is confronted with the proper attitude, then reason can prevail over chaos and entropy. The past is merely prologue; only fools live for yesterday. The future is where promise lies. So tonight, I give you—I offer you my formal proclamation: that I am taking an indefinite leave of absence as ruler of Equestria, effective immediately, until or unless I return, and in my stead, I present my sister, Princess Luna. Obey her as you would me. Fillies and gentlecolts, denizens of Canterlot and all of Equestria, I give you your new ruler: Princess Luna, Empress of the Night.”

The cheers are stupendous and Luna waves to the crowd even as the sun winks out along the horizon, the new leader waiting for the roars to diminish before she addresses every pony.

From down in the crowd, over the tumult, Apple Jack interjects, “Listen to that.”

Twilight meets her friend’s eyes in recognition and response. “I know,” she replies. “Sounds good so far.”

“My royal subjects,” Luna finally intones after the applause eventually dies down, which serves to only rekindle it again. “MY FELLOW EQUESTRIANS!” she corrects herself above their clamor, to even greater volume in response. “The day is over. But the night has only just begun.”

And from there she elaborates in soaring rhetoric on her new economic plan, with the night eclipsing the day, the moon lording over the sun and all the rest of it. Initially, the new directives are met with enthusiasm but of course as time slogs on, there are inherent difficulties in the inevitable backlash:

Twilight looks up from her place in the circle, the bags heavy under her eyes as she concludes, “I guess where I’m going with this is that the only way we can continue to subsidize the night and its necessary additional expenditures of energy are the proposed new factories, outside of Ponyville.” She sets aside her notes as she awaits what she knows will be the storm of protest to that last analysis.

Fluttershy lets her group leader have it with both barrels. “And what of all the wildlife in and around those areas?” she inquires not only of Twilight but of all the ponies in attendance. “My educational initiatives will be the laughingstock of the school if we are shown to be hypocritical on those fronts.”

Twi sets down her drink to address F.S.’s valid concerns, one at a time. “O.K. Shy,” she concedes. “Maybe I was a little too hasty there. Rainbow, where are we with the photovoltaic cells initiative?”

R.D. in turn rummages through her own paperwork. “We are currently at—forty-two per cent of all structures in Ponyville retrofitted with sodium wafers. From those that are in place right now, the latest readings are forty watts per day per structure.”

“And how much are we currently expending, above last year?” T.S. follows up with.

“Well over a hundred,” is Rainbow Dash’s eventual response after the consultation of much further paperwork. “And that’s with the new austerity program. And it raining only at night.”

“Which no pony likes,” Rarity contributes from her place, referring to the former much-maligned austerity program, her own eye bags no more attractive than any other pony’s in attendance.

“Is it my turn yet?” Pinkie Pie inquires of no pony in particular, trying to wedge a word in edgewise. “Because I can tell you the merchants' association isn’t too thrilled with us either; I’ve got a whole list of complaints from our last meeting.”

Both Luna and Twilight wave Pinkie off. “We’ll get to it, Pinkie,” Luna wearily promises the pink-maned pony. “But first we need to address this factory question. Which I don’t see as we have any choice in the matter.”

Twi shrugs and ventures, “Maybe you should make your case then.”

The Princess draws up to begin, “Well, let me state for the record that I too underestimated the extent to which we all depend on the sun for energy, and how expensive it is to replace that free source. Having said that, however, the factories are the perfect solution to our problems; we manufacture the toys that we ourselves create the demand for. It’s a win-win situation all around. This not only brings us badly needed new revenue streams but also opens up new markets for us to trade with further. Also any of these businesses that can’t survive or make the transition to the new era—they will provide us with the labor force for these factories. So every pony will have a choice. And Fluttershy—before you say another word on this subject, I understand your concerns with the school; believe me, I am the last pony that wishes to appear in the role of a hypocrite. That is why we are rolling out the new factories deal with the new conservation initiative in conjunction with the school; the students themselves will help us move the affected wildlife. This will placate every pony.”

“What new school initiative?” Twilight crossly queries Luna while all the other ponies in the room express similar sentiments. “You never said anything about this to me.”

“I am telling you now,” is Luna’s arched response to Twilight’s question and accusation. “I am telling all of you right now about it—before I announce it to the general public.”

“How considerate of you,” Apple Jack dejectedly mutters from her place in the circle while simultaneously rolling her eyes heavenward and throwing her pencil down.

“Uh-oh,” Rarity murmurs to herself under her breath, of Twi and Luna. “Looks like there may be trouble in paradise.”

“When are the students supposed to find the time for this?” Fluttershy questions any pony that will listen in retort while, in fact, all are engaged in speaking themselves around her. “We already have them working after school.”

“All right, ALL RIGHT,” Twi breaks in as she raises her voice to restore if not order then at least general civility to the proceedings. “Every pony—quiet down.”

“This is great,” Discord enthuses to Celestia from his front-row seat as he munches on some popcorn. “This is the perfect time to reenter the fray.”

Celestia waves a disdainful hoof in front of the viewer to disagree. “Are you kidding me? This is only the beginning; if you want chaos, I’ve got chaos for you. You just wait.”

This sets Discord off as nothing else could. “I want, I want!” he exclaims in gleeful anticipation, jumping up and down on the Princess’s lounge and spilling most of his popcorn over both of them. “I live for chaos!”

Celestia flashes her bedroom eyes at him while she shares his anticipation. “But of course you do,” she growls in kindred evil response even as she munches on a stray kernel.

Later on in the week the CMC along with Carrot Top gather as they do every day after school at A.J.’s farm:

“Boy, this just keeps getting better and better,” Scootaloo complains to no pony in particular as they enter the greenhouse structure.

“Yeah,” Sweetie Belle picks it up, dragging as well. “I thought just doing this was bad enough. Now we have to help clear away for where the factory’s going to be.”

“We’re lucky they can afford only one of those,” Apple Bloom contributes from her end. “I heard they wanted to build three.”

“Hey guys—looks like we got our first strawberry,” Carrot Top cheerfully observes, rather than add to the others’ weeping and wailing.

“Thrillsville,” Scootaloo sarcastically comments from the blueberry plants.

“Whoop-de-doo,” Sweetie Belle agrees from the raspberries.

Busy in her own work area, Apple Bloom doesn’t even deign to answer.

Well, I tried, C.T. thinks before she pops the lone red ripe sweet succulent fruit into her mouth. Delicious.

High above Ponyville, in Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash arrives in time for her night shift. “Hi Soarin’,” she greets her opposite number.

“Hey Dash—thank Celestia you’re here,” R.D.’s day shift counterpart returns the salutation.

“Yeah, here I be; bigger than life and twice as ugly,” Rainbow confirms, glancing around. “Anything happening?”

“Not a whole lot,” Soarin’ allows as he prepares to leave. “Had another griffon test our air space earlier; nothing after that but some thunderstorms I chased away over yonder.” He indicates to the east.

“Was it Gilda?” Dash inquires of the intruder.

“Hard to say,” is the uninterested lackadaisical response. “Didn’t get close enough for a proper ID; pretty much like the other times. Well I’m out of here. Happy trails.”

R.D. salutes back before the other Wonderbolt cruises. “See ya.”

When Soarin’ fades from view, Rainbow Dash surveys the darkening sky. She realizes she’s lucky she’s friends with Twilight; if she’d been any other pegasus, she’d be exclusively on night duty till she was no longer low pony on the totem pole. As it is, with her being in charge of the photovoltaic initiative, she pulls overnights on a rotating basis, the same as any other Wonderbolt. Well, in the absence of any other more pressing options, she still has to round up all the storm clouds that were earlier banished. She flies off into the east.

As R.D. is gathering all the weather that is currently banned during the day, she happens to see something or someone streaking across the sky to the north. She sets the clouds aside to investigate.

As Dash approaches whatever or whoever it is, the object changes course enough times to establish that it’s alive. Finally she catches up to her old friend.

“Hey Gilda,” Rainbow Dash yells over the rush of air between them.

“Hi Rainbow,” Gilda returns the greeting in a similar fashion.

“You know you’re not supposed to be in our airspace,” R.D. cautions the other.

“Really?” Gilda asks with feigned innocence. “I didn’t know.”

“Well,” Dash continues. “Now you do.”

“Guess so,” Gilda readily agrees.

“So take off,” Rainbow follows up with.

“No, you take off,” is Gilda’s clever rejoinder.

“This is my beat,” R.D. responds.

“This is my beat too.”

“Say what?”

“I have my orders.”

“Yeah, and who gave them?”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

“Quit playing games Gilda—I’m totally serious. Princess Luna has closed this airspace to all those except ponies.”

“I don’t take orders from Princess Luna.”

“Well, I do—so vamoose.”

“Ta-ta Rainbow. I’ll be back.”

“And I’ll be here.” But by now Gilda has streaked away in the opposite direction.

R.D. discusses this with Twi the next time she runs into the purple unicorn. “She was probably just yanking you.”

Rainbow Dash considers the likelihood of this possibility. “Yeah, probably. But she did say she was under orders; I was thinking maybe Celestia’s up to something. Just thought I’d let you know.”

“Appreciate it,” Twi relates as she nods. “I’ll bounce it off Luna when I see her.”

When she does, the Dark Princess doesn’t react well. “No,” she thunders from her high-backed ancestral throne. “The integrity of our airspace must be maintained at all costs. Commend Rainbow Dash for her valiant work with that griffon and have her alert you to any future sightings.”

Twi looks down. “O.K. Your Empress—if that’s your order. I’ll tell Dash.” And she turns to leave, not wanting to remain even one second beyond what is necessary.

“Twilight—wait,” Luna responds in a much softer tone as she rises from her seat and advances toward the other. “Wait. Don't go yet. I want to talk to you." She closes her eyes in pain before she draws up. "This isn’t the way I want things to be—I mean between you and me. I don’t know what’s happened between us but I know I don’t like it.”

T.S. finally meets the Princess’s insistent gaze even as the latter moves even closer to the former. “Luna, why did you close the airspace to begin with? For what conceivable reason? We’re not at war with anyone; at least, not yet. Why give the Wonderbolts one more thing to do on top of everything else?”

“I thought it was necessary,” Luna admits with tears welling up in her eyes. “With Tia acting all weird and Discord on the loose, I thought it the prudent thing to do. Don't yell at me.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Twilight exclaims in an honest rush of emotion as she takes Luna in her arms and they embrace for the first time in a while.

“I just wanted to do a good job,” the Princess confesses as Twi holds her. “I didn’t want Tia to think I couldn’t handle it. I just want every pony to be happy.”

“Luna,” Twilight replies. “Tia had a thousand years to learn the ropes; you’ve been ruler for only a few months. Of course there are going to be bumps in the road—anything new is always difficult to get used to.”

“Twilight,” the Princess segues as she sniffs aloud, the tears still streaming down her cheeks. “What do you think we should do about the airspace? I don’t trust my own judgment anymore.”

“Well,” T.S. begins as she thinks. “Why don’t we leave the policy the way it is for right now, but have Dash engage Gilda if and when she returns. That way, if Tia is up to something sneaky, maybe Dash can draw it out of her—Gilda, I mean.”

“That sounds good,” Luna decides, finally wiping away her tears at last. “You know, I never could have done this if it hadn’t been for you.”

“Luna, you have been doing a great job,” T.S. advises her Princess in honest sincerity. “The new factory will be opening in a few days and if it’s successful, then we can go back to Pony Bank and ask them for an even bigger loan to expand. But downtown is happening—the ponies are enjoying the night. And that was your goal all along. The austerity program won’t be forever; that’s what most ponies are complaining about, anyway.”

“Thank you Twilight,” the Princess expresses her own heartfelt feelings aloud. “For everything.”

“Boring,” Discord pronounces from his place on Celestia’s couch in front of her viewing screen as he spitefully throws popcorn toward the image. “Let’s watch the two of them have rough angry sex again—that was such a treat.”

“Discord,” Celestia snaps at him, not unmoved by the scene they’ve just witnessed. “Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?”

“Constantly,” Discord relates as he begins poking the Princess. “But I never pay any attention to idle gossip—there’s too much fun to be had in the meantime; you were the one who wanted me 'reformed.'”

“Keep your paws to YOURSELF,” Celestia intones in imitation of how her sister, as Nightmare Moon, sometimes would enunciate her proclamations even as she pokes Discord in return. “Or face a royal SPANKING.”

“Promises, promises,” Discord jubilantly sings as their poking game degenerates into a wrestling match.

A few days after the factory opens, Fluttershy arranges for a couple of guest speakers in a special event at the school:

“I am the great and powerful Trixie,” the proprietor of the new magic shop introduces herself before the assembled foals.

“And I am the equally immodest and amazing Pinkie Pie,” her assistant continues from the other side of the stage. “Hey Trixie—watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothing up my sleeve—presto!” And she extracts not a bunny but a fanciful bouquet from her chopine.

“Is this a magic act or a stand-up comedy act, Pinkie Pie?” Trixie inquires aloud as a sprinkling of the students in attendance twitter.

“It’s both!” Pinkie Pie exclaims much to the delight of the audience as she successfully juggles three balls in the air. “Are you going to talk all day or are you going to perform some magic already?”

About an hour later, they wrap it up. “And so students—remember: Trixie’s Magic Emporium, for all of your magic needs. Right Pinkie Pie?”

“Right, Trixie!” Pinkie enthusiastically confirms in return. “We’ll see all of you ponies real soon. Bye-bye!”

In another month:

“Apple Jack, what’s the latest on the factory?” Twi kicks off the ponies’ latest strategy meeting with.

“Well,” A.J. drawls out. “Ah keep expecting Discord to show up any time now; so far, hide nor hair though. We’ll see—tomorrow is a brand new day; et cetera et cetera.”

“Yeah,” Pinkie picks it up. “Where is he? I’d expected something by now. Unless Fluttershy's hiding him.”

"I am not!" F.S. lashes back at the other with uncharacteristic hostility and volume as she slaps her hand palm down on the table in front of her to punctuate that last word. "No pony was sadder than me when Dizzy relapsed into the excitement junkie he always was and always will be, but that doesn't mean I'd have any truck with him until he learned to behave himself again. Let's search your place, now that you mention it, Miss Pinkamena Diane Pie; been getting all the chocolate rain you could eat lately, honey?"

Luna rolls her eyes heavenward to convey that she's not inclined to hear any more of this jealousy or intrigue, so Twilight simply cans the whole affair before Pinkie can sass back by pointing out, "Shy's right; Discord was just too good at his work for him not to return to it at some point, but I'm sure she would tell us if she's seen him around. What else on the factory, A.J.?”

“We got out almost a thousand units since we opened,” Apple Jack recites after shrugging in a what-the-hay manner; T.S. practically lives at the factory, as she does, so she should know what the score is. “Every pony’s pulling together—we’re getting better and better organized.”

“Rarity, how are sales going?” Twi continues as she nods.

The marshmallow-white unicorn flips through some paperwork before she replies, “Have only preliminary numbers so far, but every pony I’ve talked to is excited. I’d say things are looking good; guarded optimism and all that.”

“Carrot Top?” Twilight segues next. “How are the berries doing?”

“Nice and big and juicy; just the way I like them,” C.T. confirms in accord. “And the kids are coming along too—have to use psychology with them, but slowly and surely, they’re getting the hang of it.”

“And the bakery?” Luna prompts when T.S. makes a hoof gesture, as if to say, Go on.

“I’m sorry,” Carrot Top apologizes as she hoof-palms her face. “The bakery says they’re selling like hotcakes; every pony loves fresh pies, I guess. Can’t keep them in stock.”

“It’s O.K.,” Twilight assures the younger pony. “You’re still new. No problems.”

“All right—NOW it has to be time,” Discord is exclaiming, all but beside himself with incredulity as he and Celestia view the aforementioned scene. “This is honestly too much. I feel like I’m getting diabetes here.”

“You’re right, Discord my sweet,” the Princess decides with resolve. “It is time. But you on the other hand have two choices—either stick with the Palestinians or my garden again. Which shall it be?”

“Oh, are we parting now, with such sweet sorrow, my darling Celestia?” Discord croons to her in animated imitation of real emotion. “With flights of pegasi to wing me on my merry way?”

“Yes—as the great Twilight Sparkle once observed: nothing is forever,” the Princess rejoins her paramour. “Change is the only constant. So which shall it be?”

“Well I don’t honestly think I’ll ever finish with the Palestinians—they are so much fun,” Discord rambles on. “But I’ll be back Tia—rest assured you haven’t seen the last of me. Yet.”

“Go play in your garden,” Celestia archly instructs her erstwhile companion. “And allow me to prepare for your triumphant return.”

“Your wish is my command, O Exalted One,” is Discord’s farewell utterance. “Ciao.”

The following Saturday morning, bright and early, all the ponies of the kingdom gather at the palace:

“My fellow citizens,” Luna begins, again on the same balcony as before. “A new day has dawned for Equestria. For on this glorious morning, I join you in welcoming my sister back to the royal castle and to this fair land. Ponies of Canterlot—I give you Princess Celestia: ruler of our nation.”

“Thank you Princess Luna,” Celestia graciously responds as Luna physically and symbolically steps aside. “But I will humbly accept this position on one condition and one condition only, so I ask you now, with all these ponies as witnesses: will you lead Equestria with me, by my side as equal and co-leader?”

“My sister,” Luna replies with tears of happiness in her eyes, even as the hushed crowd awaits her answer. “Tia, I would be honored.”

“My fellow citizens,” Celestia continues while Luna takes a moment to compose herself. “The new initiatives of the last few months will remain in place, as all pegasi, unicorns and Earth ponies of our land work together, to make our Equestria the paradise that it has been destined to be. Today the day joins with the night as we celebrate the best of both worlds.”

“I never thought I’d see it,” Scootaloo ruefully surmises as she shakes her head, trying to make herself heard to Apple Bloom above the roar of the crowd. “Grown-ups, learning how to play nice together and get along.”

A.B. agrees. “It has been a while coming,” she sagely observes at length.

Dear Princess Celestia

This is a confession: I love you, more than I can say. But my heart belongs to Luna. If you try to come between us, neither of you will ever see me again. I am completely and totally serious.

Your Faithful Student,

Twilight Sparkle

Twilight knocks on the same two wooden oak double doors as when she had previously been summoned before Celestia. The entranceway yields without any pause.

“Come in Twilight,” the Princess of the Light entreats in casual easy fashion. “The Doctor’s already here.”

“Thank you. Hi Doctor Whooves,” Twi responds and greets the aforementioned time lord.

“Hello Twilight,” the Doctor returns. “Nice to see you again. I talk to Fluttershy all the time, but hardly you at all.”

“I know,” T.S. commiserates in sympathy. “The factory’s keeping me pretty busy these days.”

“Twi, would you like something to drink?” Luna inquires.

“Sure sweets,” Twilight answers the Dark Princess. “The usual.”

“Well,” Celestia draws up. “What would every pony say to a nice round of Monopoly?”

“Sounds good to me,” the Doctor replies.

“O.K., fine,” Twi agrees.

“Tia always wins,” Luna confides as they sit down to play. “That’s why she likes this game.”

“We’ll see about that,” the Doctor predicts as he winks at Twilight, who smiles herself at the prospect of friendly and spirited competition.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ten Little Ponies

Scootaloo looks up from her hiding place in the dark, her eyes wide with fright and genuine horror. Since she stowed away on the hydrofoil two days ago, she’s been almost caught twice by the same purser; it appears the third time’s going to be the charm.

“’Ten little Indians, travelling to dine,’” the white-uniformed purser sings to himself as he catalogs the inventory of the ship’s stores. “’One choked his little self and then there were nine.’”

Oh noes, Scootaloo thinks as the purser rummages closer and closer to where she’s concealed herself. Confound that Spike! I wish he’d never gotten me into this.

Her mind reels back to the beginning of this mess as she imagines all manner of nasty punishments the crew has for stowaways. It had all started when Rainbow Dash read her Pony Express letter:

“Holy Celestia!” R.D. exclaimed as she ripped the envelope to shreds in her haste. “I’ve been invited too!”

“Invited to what?” Scoot asked her mentor, pawing at the fragments on the ground for a return address.

"The Fashion Show, squirt,” R.D. spat out, barely pausing to explain. “I have to tell the others.”

Scoot had gotten the rest from Spike after R.D. had taken off on her. “It’s this super-big-deal invitation-only event,” he related in the library as he packed Twilight Sparkle’s suitcases. “Some of Rarity’s designs got picked up by this hipster fashionista and she gets an all-expenses-paid trip to Manehatten along with nine of her closest friends. Only guess who isn’t going.”

“Me and you,” Scoot adroitly deduced as she watched Spike practically throw T.S.’s things around with more than moderate disdain. “What a bummer. I wanna go too.”

“Exactly what I was hoping to hear,” Spike tossed off with his usual evil grin. “I have a plan.”

Spike’s plan had been simple enough—although it required a certain amount of audacity to actually pull it off. When the baby dragon had gotten cold feet at the last minute, that left Scoot by herself on a one-way ticket to walking the plank.

Now Scoot holds her breath as the purser moves closer and closer to her hiding spot.

“Hello—what’s this?” the purser asks as he sets his clipboard aside to move several cartons of fresh vegetables to reveal the small pony’s erstwhile hiding place. “What are you doing there?”

“Keeping the mice company?” Scoot replies with a silly grin on her face, hoping the make the stern-looking man in the white uniform smile.

“Excuse me Captain,” the purser blusters as he drags a very reluctant Scootaloo onto the bridge, “but look what I found hiding in the galley.”

“Just what we need,” the Captain sighs as he engages the intercom to Twilight’s cabin. “Another pony.”

A few minutes later, as they leave the bridge together, Scoot sheepishly murmurs to Twi, “Thanks for not turning me in.”

Twilight Sparkle gives Scoot a sideways glance that doesn’t exactly register warmth in the younger pony’s eyes. “You’re lucky we’re so close to the island. If you’d been found earlier, I’d have ratted you out for the stowaway that you are. As it is, if I’d told the Captain back there the truth, we’d all probably be heading back to Equestria right now.” The island she’s referring to is where the event is being held—in the middle of the ocean with very tight security; not Manehatten, as Spike had said. There had been a last minute change of plans.

“So where am I going to stay?” Scoot asks as they clop their way down the metal stairs.

“Oh no,” Rainbow Dash aggressively asserts at her door after Twi explains her plan. “I’m not taking the kid.”

“You have to,” T.S. counters in equally determined fashion. “You’re her mentor.”

“What’s wrong with your cabin?” R.D. tries one last time.

“It’s full of books, that’s what’s wrong with it,” T.S. explains in no uncertain terms. “Now I’m not asking you—I’m telling you. She rooms with you. End of discussion.”

“I don’t deserve this, but I don’t feel like arguing any more,” R.D. finally capitulates as she grudgingly swings the door to her cabin open, seeing that T.S. isn’t backing down. “You owe me, big time.”

“Later gators,” Twi sings as she prances off down the corridor.

A few hours later, at dinner, Scoot could see at least one reason why R.D. had been so reluctant to take her on—the ponies had paired up, as they say, leaving her as the proverbial fifth wheel. Apple Jack was sitting with Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie was with Rarity, Fluttershy with Octavia, and Doctor Whooves with Zecora at the long rectangular table. This left Twilight with Luna as the most simultaneously ill-at-ease but most watched and eavesdropped on couple.

“I still don’t see how this is going to work,” Rarity is gassing, almost beside herself with stress. “The designer Versailles was quite specific that there be ten ponies on board—no more and no less—and now we have eleven." She glares at Scoot, who tries without much success to hide under her napkin.

“I realize that Rarity, and I’m not trying to make excuses for what she and Spike did,” T.S. tries to placate and keep her own temper in check. “But I really didn’t see any other choice. The Captain was furious. I was afraid he was gonna take us all back.”

“What’s this about Spike?” A.J. nasally interjects in her southwest twang above the din that erupts after Twi’s last comment, the former attempting to both catch up and simmer Rarity down. “Did that thieving little varmint stow away too?”

“No, Spike’s not here,” Fluttershy attempts to explain to any pony who can hear her with only limited comprehension. “But all this was his idea, and he chickened out at the last minute.”

“I don’t see the problem at all,” Doctor Whooves declares. “Just leave Scootaloo on the hydrofoil and we’ll take her back on Monday when they pick us up.”

“Unfortunately, Twi made that impossible this afternoon,” Luna dispassionately comments in the hushed silence that follows any utterance from her.

“No no no,” Pinkie Pie is offering to any pony who’ll listen while trying to eat her dinner. “We’ll make Scootaloo my assistant. That way she can still come and not get counted.”

“Ten little ponies, floating up toward heaven,” Zecora ad-libs to herself in gaiety and mirth. “Then one more stowed away and now there are eleven.”

“How is that going accomplish anything?” Rainbow Dash is petulantly asking Pinkie from across the table. “Any way you slice the little foal, it’s still one too many.”

“How’s your chicken?” Octavia inquires of Fluttershy while indicating the other’s plate, pointedly ignoring the conversation. “I’ll trade you some of my fish.”

“We’ll have the Doctor teleport to the island ahead of us,” is Pinkie’s brilliant rejoinder. “That way, we can still be ten when they count us getting off the hydrofoil.”

“I didn’t bring the TARDIS,” the Doctor casually informs the gathering, resuming eating himself. “I didn’t think I was going to need it.” He shoots Scoot another guilt-inducing gaze, as if she needed one.

“All I know is,” Rarity sums up before returning to graze on what remains on her plate as well. “If you mess this up, Scootaloo, it’s off to the glue factory with your mangy hide.”

“Ulp,” Scoot manages to swallow as she considers her complicity in this ill-conceived adventure.

A little while later, during dessert, Twi looks up to notice Fluttershy’s turning many shades of red while coughing. “Shy, are you O.K.?”

F.S. manages to shake her head no while hacking and snorting in the most histrionic and flamboyant manner.

“She’s choking!" Octavia almost shouts. “Doctor, do something, please!"

Doctor Whooves rises from his chair and advances toward Fluttershy. He’s preparing to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her when the pink-maned pegasus manages to swallow what had been giving her fits. “Can you breathe now?” the Doctor asks her at length.

“I think so,” she coughs out while settling back down. “Thank you for your concern. Thank you all.”

“Come on kid—let’s hit the hay,” R.D. informs Scoot a little later.

“Goodnight guys,” Rarity says in parting as her way of apologizing for being harsh earlier.

“’Night, fillies,” Pinkie contributes, still working on her third chocolate mousse.

“Should we also?” Luna quietly inquires of Twi.

“I think I’ll go for a stroll on deck,” T.S. informs the Princess as well as the assembled ponies. “See y’all later.”

The next day when they land, Rarity is the first off the ship; she’s also the first back on. “There’s no one here!” she complains to the Captain and any pony that will listen. “I know the event isn’t till Saturday and today’s only Friday but still—the house is empty!”

“I’m sorry that’s the case,” is his indifferent reply. “Would you like to go back with us then? To the mainland?”

Rarity consults with Twilight. “Let’s look around a little more,” she suggests. “Captain, can you give us one hour?”

He checks his watch. “One hour then—and we’re leaving,” he tersely responds.

The ponies investigate the big house and find plenty of food and drink in the kitchen. Also, they find a game room and the electricity is on, so they decide maybe the designer was delayed and will be along shortly. The hydrofoil sets sail for the mainland with promises to return on Monday.

Scoot asks Rainbow Dash while standing on the beach, watching the ship take off, “Is this really a good idea?”

R.D. scoffs at the younger pony’s trepidation. “Are you kidding?” is her reply. “This is a great idea! We are having one blow-out of a party this weekend.”

“Yaay,” Scoot responds with more apprehension than enthusiasm.

Twilight Sparkle organizes the herd in the kitchen; Zecora is in charge of cooking while Pinkie handles the other party details. The Doctor helps Octavia, who spends most of the day practicing while every other pony is dragooned for manual labor.

“How many balloons are we blowing up?” Scootaloo wearily asks after several hours with the helium tanks.

“You’d have to ask Miss Pinkamena Diane Pie on that one,” Apple Jack's resigned sigh resonates across the high-ceiling dining room. “She said not to stop until she said so.”

“I think her exact words were, ‘There’s no such thing as too many balloons, especially at a par-tay!'" Rainbow Dash relates in commiseration, plainly indicating that she also is reaching her threshold of tolerance.

Twilight emerges from the kitchen a little while later and sees the helium brigade and ascertains their dilemma. “Pinkie dahling—I think that’s quite enough with the balloons,” she informs the other filly.

“Are you sure, Twi?” Pinkie immediately inquires. “Because—you know—you can never have too many balloons for a par—˝

“I’m sure,” T.S. confirms while cutting the other off. “Besides, we need more help in the kitchen.”

“Why aren’t you helping?” A.J. pointed queries T.S. while being corralled.

“I am," Twi tosses off, clearly annoyed with the suggestion she was sitting around when she’s asking other ponies to work. “I just came out here to get y’all.”

A little while later, Rarity consults with Twilight. “What do you think? We’re about ready on all fronts.”

“Let’s run with it then,” Rarity decides with resolve. “If Versailles arrives in the middle, so be it.”

“The sun is setting, the natives are restless,” Zecora contributes. “All those for a bash, we’ve got the bestest.”

Scoot giggles at this, beginning to relax while the stowaway stigma finally begins to fade.

Octavia makes a graceful entrance with The Doctor, showing off her new Little Black Dress for the occasion. “Thank you,” she addresses the assembled ponies after the applause dies down while cradling her cello. “This is one of my favorites and I hope it’s one of yours.”

As the evening wears on, after Octavia runs through most of her repertoire, Twi ventures to Luna, “Wonder what happened to Rarity’s designer.”

Luna considers this for a moment before she observes, “I don’t know, but he sure is missing a great party. Even a Princess such as myself is impressed.”

T.S. takes a similar amount of time before she offers, “I know—it’s a little too good. Where did all this stuff come from, if not the designer?”

Pinkie, overhearing this exchange, barges in with, “Oh would you lighten up already? Let’s not look a Greek horse in the mouth.”

“Or something like that,” Luna dares to crack, although wary of criticizing Pinkie too obviously.

“Doctor!” Pinkie exclaims with noticeable volume. “Wherever did you learn to play the piano?”

“I’m a time lord,” the good Doctor sniffs with substantial aplomb. “I do many things well.”

“I’m sure that you do,” Fluttershy contributes, joining their circle as well. “I was wondering if I might borrow you, Doctor Whooves, for just a minute.”

“Of course,” he graciously responds.

“Well. What are we to make of that?” Rarity inquires of all after F.S. and the Doctor take their leave of the group.

“Oh Rarity,” T.S. dismisses with a wave of her hoof. “You’re such a gossip.”

“Speaking of gossip,” Pinkie Pie segues. “Would you look at the way Octavia is shoveling it? We’re going to need a hand truck to start getting her around.”

“Pinkie, please,” Luna scolds the other. “She has been performing all evening, unlike some pony I could name.”

“Yeah and now she’s choking!" Apple Jack observes. “Sweet Celestia—let’s help her!”

It’s true; Octavia is now seriously red in the face, coughing and gagging, as every other pony comes to her aid.

“Where’s the Doctor?” Rainbow Dash asks above the pandemonium. “Some pony find Doctor Whooves!”

“I saw him leave with Fluttershy a little while ago,” Scootaloo supplies.

“Which way?” R.D. demands of the foal.

“I don’t know,” Scoot admits after a blink. “Maybe toward the kitchen.”

By the time Dash returns with the Doctor, it’s too late. “I’m sorry,” he states to the hushed crowd after checking her vitals, feeling her temperature and, finally, gently closing the eyes. “There’s nothing I can do.”

“Oh Octavia,” Pinkie softly sobs, beside herself with grief.

“She’s—dead?” Rarity demands of Twi, who’s trying to deal with the enormity of the situation herself. “She’s dead?!"

“Rarity—cool it, willya?” T.S. snaps back at the other unicorn, now meeting the other’s eyes. “There’s no sense in freaking out here.”

“Oh mah stars,” Apple Jack interjects under her breath as she stares at Octavia’s lifeless form.

Luna blinks a few times herself in disbelief before she pronounces, “We need to report this.”

While she and the other ponies are consumed in the search for a telephone, Twi approaches the Doctor again once they are alone with Octavia’s body. “I—I know what you said before, but surely a time lord such as yourself—˝

“Twilight,” the Doctor interrupts her. “How many worlds in all my travels, all my journeys, do you suppose I’ve been to?”

“A lot,” Twi admits.

“And how many deaths do you suppose I’ve witnessed?” he follows up with.

“A lot,” T.S. repeats, beginning to get the gist of where this is going.

He nods again before he continues. “And how many friends and relatives do you suppose have asked me to do them a favor by bringing a loved one back?”

Twi gestures as well. “I guess that’s another ‘no,’ huh?”

Doctor Whooves snorts. “I wouldn’t be doing any pony, least of all Octavia, any favors by interfering with the local time stream at this juncture. Besides,” he segues, his voice going lower. “It may not have been an accident.”

Before T.S. can inquire specifics, the herd returns. “There are no telephones in this entire house,” Rarity announces to Twi and the Doctor. “No radio, no nothing.”

“And the hydrofoil’s not due back till Monday,” Pinkie wails in emphasis.

“Three days from now,” R.D. repeats. “Well that settles it,” she continues. “I’m flying for the coast.”

“Rainbow, that’s over two hundred miles away, over open ocean,” Twilight protests. “What if you get tired?”

R.D. shrugs before she answers, “I’ll rest on a cloud.”

“Suppose there aren’t any clouds,” Luna now speaks up, not happy with the idea either. “Then what’re ya gonna do?”

Apple Jack places a hoof on R.D.’s shoulder. “Please don’t do it,” she quietly entreats the other. “I don’t want you to.”

“Don’t want you to what?” Fluttershy inquires, rejoining the group at last. “What’s going on?”

“Maybe we should all hit the hay,” Twilight collectively suggests when no other pony ventures anything else after all bring a stunned F.S. up to speed.

As the sleeping arrangements are being negotiated and nailed down, Scoot wanders back into the kitchen to find Zecora. “How did the rest of that song go, that you were teaching me earlier?”

“’Nine little Indian boys, stayed up very late,’” Zecora sings to her. “’One overslept himself and then there were eight.’ That reminds me—I must catch the Doctor before he creeps. With all this excitement I know I’ll need something from him to help me with the sleeps.”

“That was the same song the porter on the ship was singing when he found me,” Scoot recalls after the older pony departs. “I wonder what’s going on.”

A.J. sticks her head inside the kitchen. “Scoot—let’s hoof it,” she calls out in her twang. “Bedtime—now.”

R.D. is up early the next day at dawn. She stops by F.S.’s room to invite her to come with. There’s no response so she heads out alone.

When she returns, Twi has some bad news. “You’re not going to believe this,” she begins, her eyes red from tears. “But Zecora’s dead now too.”

“Zecora?” Rainbow Dash incredulously repeats. “How? What happened?”

“The Doctor’s not too sure,” T.S. relates in hushed tones as the other ponies gather in small groups to assess the latest developments. “He gave her a sedative last night—to help her sleep—and he said she might have taken too much. It might have been an overdose.”

“Or what?” R.D. asks back, sensing from T.S.’s tone she has at least some suspicions she’s not voicing. “Zecora was so careful about things like that—when she cooked, she always followed the recipe to the letter.”

“I know,” Twilight immediately responds with vigor. “That’s what I was thinking. Don’t say anything to any pony, but last night the Doctor said that what happened to Octavia may not have been an accident.”

“Really? Wow,” Rainbow Dash exhales in wonder. “I just did a flyover of the entire island and there’s nothing here except this house. No other ponies, no nothing. We’re all alone here.”

“Just like in that movie,” Twi makes the connection.

“What movie?” Rarity asks, having overheard while joining them.

“It’s an old mystery called 'And Then There Were None.' A group of ten strangers are invited to an island and get killed off—one by one,” T.S. uneasily explains.

“Scoot was singing some song last night in our room that she said was important,” R.D. contributes. “Something about ten little Indians.”

“That’s the song they used in the movie,” T.S. confirms. “’Ten little Indians, all travelling to dine; one choked his little self and then there were nine.’”

“Oh no,” Pinkie Pie, having come over with Rarity, exclaims, her eyes widening. “That’s what happened to Octavia last night.”

“So is that why we were all invited here?” Rarity asks in genuine apprehension. “Because some evil pony wants to kill us?”

“Some evil pony or one of us that's flipped out,” R.D. offers with great hesitation. “I was just telling Twi—I checked out the island this morning and there’s no pony here but us.”

“O.K. you guys—let’s cool it with the baseless speculation, all right, shall we?” T.S. decides to mediate. “Why don’t we have breakfast and maybe--I don't know--divine intervention will--intervene.”

So all scavenge the kitchen and sit down at the long dining room table to eat. Once clean-up is finished, Apple Jack announces, “I don’t know about any other pony, but I’d like a swim, to clear my head. I’m going down to the beach for a little bit.”

“Scoot, why don’t you tag along,” T.S. suggests. When the Doctor joins them, she inquires of him, “Well?”

The Doctor sighs while deciding on breakfast. “I really can’t tell what happened with Zecora, other than she died in her sleep. We need an autopsy, is the bottom line.”

“Maybe it is just a coincidence,” Rarity contributes, as the guilt for this trip begins to build in her.

“Who would want to hurt us?” Pinkie throws out for discussion.

“I think,” the Doctor surmises at length. “That we need to keep track of where every pony is at all times. And the sooner, the better.”

“Why?” Twilight asks with apprehension now in her voice.

The Doctor levels his gaze at her. “Just to be safe. Where are the others?”

“Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy went out to fly around—survey the island again,” T.S. catalogs. “A.J. and Scoot are down at the beach. I don’t know where Luna is.”

“You two stay here together and wait,” the Doctor advises Rarity and Pinkie. “Twi and I will go outside to collect any pony we can find.”

“O.K.,” Pinkie and Rarity both reply.

Once outside, Twi scans the heavens. “Well, I see Fluttershy,” she observes at length while waving to the aforementioned pegasus. “I wonder where Dash is.”

The Doctor takes his time, glancing about also, before he replies, “I don’t know, but I hope she’s all right.”

“Huh,” Twilight says to herself. “I guess she didn’t see me. She’s heading for the other side of the island.”

“Hmm,” the Doctor rejoins. “There’s Scootaloo—but I don’t see Apple Jack.”

T.S. observes Scoot in the surf as the Doctor had. She waves to her as they make their way down to the water. “Where’s A.J.?”

“I don’t know,” Scoot relates. “We got separated by the tide. By the waves.”

Twilight Sparkle turns to see Doctor Whooves galloping down the beach in the opposite direction into the midmorning sun. “Come on,” she suggests to Scoot.

The Doctor disappears behind some rocks that jut out into the churning surf. T.S. takes the high ground rather than venture out into the forbidding ocean. Scoot follows as best she can.

Twilight stops when she comes around the other side to see the Doctor dragging Apple Jack out of the water. “You stay here,” T.S. advises the younger pony.

“Oh no,” Scoot whispers under her breath as she watches T.S. carefully walk down to where the Doctor has lain A.J. down.

Twilight approaches the Doctor in time to see him remove a kitchen knife from Apple Jack’s spine. She can see from the look on his face the situation. She returns to Scootaloo. “Let’s go back to the house.”

Rainbow Dash is the first to confront her once there. “Where’s Apple Jack?”

“Down on the beach,” Twi quietly replies, in contrast to how loud R.D. is. “The Doctor is with her. He’s doing all he can. For her.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Dash demands of Twilight, now segueing to Scoot. “Weren’t you swimming with her?”

“I was at first,” Scoot tries to explain. “But it was really rough. The waves took her further up—away from me.”

“Rainbow,” Twilight addresses the other pony. “Apple Jack was stabbed. In the back.”

“Oh no,” Pinkie wails, closing her eyes.

“This can’t be happening,” Rarity incredulously declares.

“Rainbow,” Twilight resumes. “Where’s Fluttershy?”

“I’m here,” F.S. announces in her small voice, coming out of the shadows.

“Didn’t you see me—outside the house, waving to you?” Twilight asks her.

“No I didn’t,” F.S. replies in the same way. “I was scanning the ground and trying to find Rainbow Dash—we were supposed to be flying in formation.”

“That’s right,” R.D. confirms. “But we got separated, somehow. Are you saying A.J. is dead?”

“Yes,” Twilight simply answers. “Murdered, the same way Octavia and Zecora were.”

“But I don’t get it—who would do that?” Rainbow Dash in a rush continues, at least partly in the haze of shock, reverting to repeating herself. “I’m telling you, there’s no pony on this island.”

“No pony but us, you mean,” Twilight points out, reminding her of Dash's previous suspicions.

“What are you saying?” Rarity in turn buttonholes the purple unicorn.

“This is all happening just the way it did in the movie,” Twilight elaborates uneasily, not wanting to explain but seeing no alternative. “First one was choked, second was overdosed and third one was stabbed.”

“What about the next one?” Scoot hesitantly inquires. “The fourth one?”

“’Seven little Indian boys, chopping up some sticks,’” Twi recites as the others listen in rapt silence. “’One chopped himself in half and then there were six.’”

“Wonderful,” Luna dejectedly comments, joining them as well.

“Luna,” R.D. warily begins. “Where have you been?”

“I was in my room,” the Princess explains at length, not appreciating R.D.'s tone and manner at all. “I didn’t sleep well last night and I thought I might have a short nap after breakfast. But I didn’t.”

Rainbow Dash and Twilight briefly exchange glances. “So you’ve been alone this whole time,” Twilight elaborates.

“Yes,” Luna simply confirms. “Why? What’s going on?”

Scoot feels compelled to answer as the royal gaze has fallen upon her. “Apple Jack’s dead.”

Luna mutely closes her eyes in pain, her hoof coming up to her head.

R.D. now decides to turn on Scootaloo. “Twi told you to stay with her.”

“I did,” Scoot defends herself as best she can. “B—but then the waves pushed us apart.”

“Come on Rainbow,” Twilight is cajoling the other. “She’s just a little kid.”

“Who isn’t supposed to even be here,” Dash aggressively counters.

“O.K.—that’s enough,” Twilight announces with stark finality. “This is just what happened in the movie—all of a sudden every stranger started accusing each other and every pony was suddenly suspicious of every other pony.”

“At the same time,” the Doctor continues, coming out of the shadows himself. “I advise every pony to stay with the others. Or at least in small groups. That way, if something bad is happening, if one of us is responsible, then there’s safety in numbers.”

“That’s right,” Twilight agrees. “From now on—no pony is alone with any other pony. We stay in groups—if not all together.”

“You mean—one of us is the murderer?” Pinkie blurts out what the others don’t dare even broach.

“Sure looks that way,” the Doctor eventually confirms.

A little while later, Luna catches Twilight’s eyes and gestures with a small over-there jab of her head. When they reach a more secluded corner of the dining room, Twilight begins with, “Luna, I don’t suspect you—but that doesn’t mean others won’t.”

Luna nods to show she sees that the whole Nightmare Moon episode casts her in an unfavorable light here. “I understand Twilight—and I appreciate your support. I just wanted to say that I don’t suspect you either.”

“Then who do you think it is?” Twilight queries the Princess.

Luna waits until Rarity wanders over before continuing. “Whom would you least suspect?” she asks as an answer.

“I hate to say this,” Rarity begins in hushed tones, blinking between very nearly every word. “But Rainbow Dash is pretty upset right now.”

“But A.J. was her favorite,” Twilight protests in equal vehemence.

“Which would be the perfect cover—if she wanted to throw us off the track,” Luna speculates.

From the other side of the room, R.D. asks Pinkie and Fluttershy, “Why do they keep looking over here?”

“Probably talking about us,” F.S. ventures, looking at Pinkie Pie though and not R.D. “Probably discussing who they suspect.”

“Hey—do you guys think anything is going on with Luna and Twilight?” Pinkie throws out for discussion.

“It’s possible,” R.D. comments, her eyes averted. “They have been spending a lot of time together.”

“And why is the Doctor talking so much with Scootaloo?” F.S. continues, her voice a little more insistent now. “What do you think, Pinkie?”

“I don’t know,” Pinkie initially whines. “I wish we were back in Equestria and this whole thing never happened—that’s what I think.”

“Let’s go downstairs to the game room,” Rainbow suddenly suggests. “Get our minds off of all this.”

Twilight, seeing the others leaving, asks, “Hey—where y’all going?”

“Game room,” Pinkie responds. “Wanta come?”

“Sure,” Twi answers after quickly glancing at Luna and Rarity for their reaction.

“Come on Scoot—let’s join them,” the Doctor prompts the stowaway.

So they spend a few hours playing air hockey, shooting pool and some Monopoly.

At one point, Twi advises the Doctor, “We’re going back upstairs—for some lunch.”

The Doctor nods. “Stay together,” he responds, glancing around the board at the group of Scoot, Rarity and Luna to see if they’re hungry also.

“Bring us something too,” Scoot entreats.

“We will,” Rainbow Dash asserts as she, Twi, Pinkie and Fluttershy depart.

Upstairs, the four ponies ransack the kitchen, searching for anything they may have previously overlooked. Downstairs, the Doctor inquires of Scoot, “How about—I trade you my Boardwalk for your Illinois Avenue?”

“But that would give you a monopoly,” Scoot protests.

“Don’t do it Scoot,” Rarity advises the foal. “It’s not a fair trade.”

“Ask him for Marvin Gardens as well,” Luna kibitzes in turn.

“Let Scoot make up her own mind,” the Doctor archly replies to both of the older fillies. “Let her make her own mistakes.”

“If he gets a monopoly out of the deal Scootaloo then it’s only fair that you get one also,” Rarity continues, unable or unwilling to take a hint.

“So who did you say you suspect Doctor? Whom?” Luna asks, correcting her own grammar lapse, to change the subject and possibly save Rarity from herself.

The Doctor doesn’t meet the Princess’s eyes. “I’d rather not say right now,” he eventually demurs.

“Then you do suspect some pony,” Rarity challenges him.

“What are y’all talking about?” Scoot queries them in a small voice.

Luna looks Scoot in the face. “Which one of us is the murderer,” she simply states.

“Do you think it’s me?” Rarity dares address the others.

“You were the impetus for this entire trip,” the Doctor points out, finally glancing up from his pile, as he's the banker for this round.

“Yes I was,” Rarity admits in honest embarrassment. “But I’d never hurt any pony—let alone plan anything elaborate or deceitful.”

“But none of us would,” Scoot exclaims in emphasis.

“Under normal circumstances—no,” the Doctor quietly expostulates, keeping his eyes down again, ostensibly reviewing his properties and money after straightening out the bank's stash. “But any pony can be pushed—over the edge. Any pony is capable of anything—given the proper provocation.”

“What’s ‘provocation?’” Scoot asks.

“Instigation,” the Doctor clarifies after thinking for a while. “Motive. Reason for doing something.”

“Why would any of us resort to murder?” Luna contributes to the discussion.

“Jealousy,” the Doctor illustrates when no other answers are forthcoming. “Revenge. Love. Anger.” He finally looks up at every other pony. “So which among us is the most passionate—in any regard? For any reason?”

Upstairs, Pinkie Pie volunteers, “If we can just find some yeast, we can make oodles of cupcakes. I know Rarity would like that.”

“I think we all would,” Twilight confirms, still looking herself.

“Guys—I need a bathroom break,” Fluttershy announces.

R.D. sighs before she admits, “I do too. I’ll go with.”

“Doctor Whooves said no two ponies are to be left alone,” T.S. warns, glancing back from the pantry that she’s been perusing.

“Fine,” Pinkie interjects, bouncing down from the cabinets where she’s been foraging. “I’ll go too.”

“But that would leave me all by myself,” Twi continues to whine.

“I’m sorry to be such a bother,” F.S. confesses, blushing.

“Then let’s all go,” Rainbow Dash announces a solution to placate every pony.

Downstairs, the Doctor sniffs, “What are they doing up there? I’ve never heard of lunch taking this long.”

“Maybe—Pinkie is baking something from scratch,” Scoot suggests, catching herself from a verbal slip. “I almost said Apple Jack.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Rarity sadly admits.

“I wonder who’s going to make dinner tonight,” Luna casually ventures while scanning the board. “Connecticut with a hotel Doctor—that’s six hundred please.”

“Darn,” Doctor Whooves mutters, counting his money once more. “I was hoping you weren’t going to notice.”

“Celestia used to try the same trick, whenever we played,” the Princess reminisces with a smile.

Rarity inquires of Scoot, “Scootaloo, what’s your problem?”

The younger pony contorts herself in a different way. “I hafta go to the bathroom.”

Rarity blinks. “So go.”

“He said not to go anywhere alone,” Scoot responds, referring to Doctor Whooves.

Rarity stands. “Fine. I’ll go with you.”

Luna blanches in mock horror. “But that would leave me alone with—The Doctor," she dramatically intones.

“Then let’s all go,” the Doctor announces in resigned dread as he rises also.

The group finds the downstairs bathroom locked. After both Scoot and Rarity try the door, the Doctor does also, observing, “That’s odd.”

“Well,” Luna suggests. “Let’s go back upstairs.”

They do and Doctor Whooves waits outside while the other ponies enter. He can hear muffled comments, such as the light’s not working, before screams erupt. He opens the door to see Luna, Scoot, Rarity and Fluttershy all staring into an open stall. He ushers the group aside and is stopped by the sight of Rainbow Dash with a small hatchet stuck in the back of her head; from the amount of blood on the floor, it appears to have happened about five minutes ago. “Go back into the dining room,” he tells the shaking fillies. “I’ll join you in a minute.”

The ponies sit around the long dining room table as the Doctor separately interviews them, one by one. After Luna finishes, when Twilight returns, Scoot asks her, “How does the next little Indian get it?”

“Bee sting,” T.S. simply replies as Fluttershy leaves for her turn.

“It was Pinkie,” F.S. sobs to the Doctor as soon as they are alone. “I could hear them struggling in the stall next to mine.”

The Doctor leans back, taking this in. He hadn’t noticed any blood smears that would have indicated a fracas where he had found R.D. “Why do you think she would do it?” he mildly inquires.

“I don’t know, but it was her,” F.S. continues to cry through her speech. “I thought for a minute Dash might be stronger—fight back—but in the end, I guess it didn’t happen.”

“Wow,” the Doctor exhales. “I never expected Pinkie to snap like this.”

“Neither did I,” F.S. agrees, still uncontrollably sobbing. “Doctor, I need your help. We have to stop her before she kills again.”

The Doctor meets Fluttershy’s gaze. “Well, what did you have in mind?”

Out in the dining room, Luna ventures to Twilight, “I wonder why he hasn’t interviewed Scoot?”

“I don’t know,” Twi evenly replies. “Maybe his suspicions are elsewhere.”

“We need to all stay together, from now on,” is his anticlimactic announcement when he finishes.

“Surely you have some idea of who’s behind all this,” Luna accuses after she finds his advice entirely lame.

“Even if I did, what possible good would it do to voice those suspicions?” is the Doctor’s indifferent rejoinder.

“I’m scared,” Scoot whines from her chair, which is far too large for her. “I want to go home.”

“I think we all feel that way, Scootaloo,” Pinkie empathizes.

“But it doesn’t look like any pony’s going anywhere before Monday morning,” Twi unenthusiastically summarizes in her turn. “And this is only Saturday afternoon.”

“So what are we to do,” Rarity queries in advanced histrionics as the implications of the situation begin to seep into her consciousness. “Stare at each other till the hydrofoil arrives a day and a half from now?”

“Six little pony girls playing with a hive,” Twi sings in the silence that resonates throughout the house after Rarity’s last pronouncement. “A bumblebee stung one of them and then there were five.”

“Six pony girls and one colt,” Pinkie dares clarify.

“So,” Luna eventually interjects. “Who wants to help me plan this evening’s festivities?”

“Watch out for a bee,” the Doctor finally contributes while considering Fluttershy’s wide-eyed countenance that is speaking volumes in contrast to her lack of participation in this discussion.

Collectively, they manage to scrape dinner together a few hours later, although there is not much conversation, despite Scoot’s occasional attempts to engage the older ponies. All is going relatively well until the lights go out.

In the dark there is enormous confusion until Twilight finds a candle. Then they discover Pinkie Pie and Rarity, dead in their chairs with needle marks in each of their necks.

“Fluttershy, where were you just now?” Luna calmly inquires of the other after the Doctor finishes checking the vitals of each newly deceased pony.

“I don’t know,” she manages to exhale between sobs. “I could hear Pinkie screaming and I rushed over to her—but—some pony was in my way. Doctor, what happened to Rarity?”

"I'm not sure," he offers at length, still examining the bodies and injection wounds. "There was a lot of yelling in the dark."

“What—what happened to the power?” Scoot asks in dread, clearly not enjoying this latest turn of events.

“I don’t know,” the Doctor indifferently repeats. “I suppose someone ought to check the breaker box. Or the generator.”

“Fluttershy,” Twilight addresses her friend in the semi-darkness. “What’s all over your hoof?”

“Nothing. I—I must have spilled something when I tripped,” she stammers as she hurriedly tries to clean herself up. “In the dark. Just now.”

“Twilight, maybe you ought to see Fluttershy to her room,” Luna suggests as she stands, though more in the tone of a command. “Let’s go check the electricity, Doctor. You too, Scootaloo; come along with us.”

Twilight walks with Fluttershy down the hallway to her abode. “Why do you suppose the Princess ordered me to my room?” F.S. chatters away in the shadows.

“I don’t know as I’d call it an order,” Twi responds at length, keeping her distance from F.S. but attempting not to be completely obvious about it. “I think she’s just concerned about your safety. At this point.”

“Will you stay with me?” is her final question at her door.

“I’ll be back,” is Twi’s eventual answer as she slowly retreats. “I have to talk to the others first. Just—stay safe. For right now.”

Twilight Sparkle hears Fluttershy’s whimpers escalate to full-scale wailing when the latter realizes the lock's turned from the outside. T.S. hurries back to the others as the candle almost winks out several times.

“Well?” the Doctor queries T.S. upon her return.

“I locked her in her room,” Twi grimly replies. “If it is her, she’s not going anywhere until the hydrofoil returns Monday morning. What about the electricity?”

“It was shorted out,” Luna speaks up when the Doctor is not forthcoming on this score.

“Looks like some pony did it on purpose,” Scoot adds, her eyes moving back and forth to each shadowy visage.

“You mean Fluttershy?” Twilight incredulously demands of the others. “I don’t see how she could knock out the lights—unless she had help.”

All eyes now gravitate to the Doctor. “What’re y’all looking at me for?” he inquires of his silent accusers.

“I don’t know, Doctor,” Luna surmises at her leisure. “I don’t know what to think at this point.”

“Do you guys think Fluttershy did this?” Scoot throws out for general discussion.

“Certainly looks that way,” Twi observes as she peruses the deceased forms of Rarity, then Pinkie Pie and the obvious syringe on the table. “Two at once, this time. I wonder what the hurry was.”

A few hours later, Luna decides to call it a night. When Twilight rises to check on Fluttershy, the Doctor announces he’ll do it.

“Can—can I sleep with you tonight, Twilight?” Scoot manages to enunciate, her eyes still wide with fright.

Twi blinks at the double-entendre that she’s sure Scoot didn’t intend. Before she can respond, however, a gunshot rings out through the house.

“Come on,” T.S. entreats Scootaloo after Luna takes off in the direction of the sound.

The three of them race down the same darkened hallway Twi had escorted F.S. several hours previously. They arrive at the door Twilight had locked even as the Doctor is turning the same deadbolt. “It’s Fluttershy,” he announces to the group. “And it’s pretty ugly; she was shot through the back of the head at close range. I don’t think you want to see it.”

“Self-inflicted?” Luna immediately wants to know.

The Doctor shakes his head. “I don’t see how,” he pronounces with visible unease.

“What does that mean?” Scoot demands of the assembled adults.

Twi looks down to meet the younger pony’s eyes. “It means she couldn’t have done it herself. Some pony had to have shot her. Wonder where the gun came from.”

“How could that be?” Scoot continues with the obvious, ignoring Twi’s last comment. “All of us were together when it happened.”

“All of us—except one,” Luna corrects.

“Maybe the gun came from somewhere in the house; there are plenty of rooms,” the Doctor conjectures as to T.S.’s previous query. “Twilight—may I see you privately please for a moment?”

Twi blinks. “Of course,” she quietly replies.

After both walk down the hall out of earshot but not out of sight, the Doctor appears to ask T.S. a question which she responds to in the affirmative. After another brief exchange, they part company and Twi returns to Scoot and Luna. “He’s turning in for the night,” she explains to the others. “I think we should do the same.”

“All right,” Luna sighs through her nose. “Goodnight, you two. See you in the morning.”

“Goodnight,” Twi and Scoot both bid the Princess who then takes her leave of them.

“What did the Doctor ask you?” Scoot queries T.S. on their way to her room.

“He just asked me a favor,” is Twi’s faraway answer—so forlorn in tone that Scoot doesn’t delve into specifics.

The next morning, Twilight Sparkle awakes to find sunshine streaming into the open window and Scoot gone. She surveys the outdoors through the luminous aperture. “What a beautiful day,” she pronounces under her breath. “Maybe it was all a horrible dream, and all my friends will happily greet me in the dining room for breakfast.”

Scoot bursts into the room to shatter her reverie. “Fluttershy’s gone,” she announces in a panic to Twi. “She’s not in her room.”

Twi shrugs in contrast to Scoot’s terrified tone. “Maybe the Doctor moved her body. He did say it was a mess.”

“I don’t think so,” Scoot warily retorts. “You better come look.”

So both inspect Fluttershy’s room. Not only is F.S. not present, Twi also fails to find any blood or gore she might associate with how the Doctor had previously characterized the death.

“Was this door open when you found it?” Twi presently inquires.

“Uh-huh,” Scoot asserts, nodding. “The door was closed but it wasn’t locked. I knocked first but there wasn’t any answer.”

“O.K.,” is Twilight’s considered eventual conclusion. “Let’s go have breakfast and find Luna.”

The aforementioned Princess is waiting for them in the dining room. “Good morning all.”

“Good morning,” Twilight returns after Scoot does the same. “How did you sleep?”

“Better,” Luna admits between bites of what’s on her plate. “How about you?”

“Not bad, considering,” T.S. continues while heading for the kitchen while indicating her young charge. “This one talks in her sleep. When she doesn’t snore.”

“Like fun I do,” Scoot loudly protests in her own defense. Once removed from the dining room, in a more circumspect tone she inquires, “Why didn’t you say anything about Fluttershy?”

Twi shakes her head while surveying the choices for nourishment. “Let’s see if Luna mentions it first.”

The Doctor soon joins them. There is only casual conversation as they eat; nothing specific or unusual. Once they finish, Twi stands and announces, “Well, if any pony needs me—I’ll be in the library.”

Scoot watches as the Doctor waves and Luna nods simultaneously in acknowledgement. “Well Scootaloo?” the Doctor draws up after Twi’s gone. “What are your plans for today?”

“I don’t know,” Scoot nervously admits while glancing between both older ponies. “Staying alive might be a cool idea.”

Luna snorts at this while the Doctor nods agreeably. “But Scootaloo my dear,” the Princess purrs in her best Nightmare Moon intonation. “Suppose we had other arrangements in store for you?”

“You guys aren’t funny,” Scoot asserts above their shrieks of maniacal laughter. “Quit fooling around. I’m telling Twilight—you guys—this isn’t—Twilight!"

“Twilight can’t help you any more, poor Scootaloo,” the Doctor contributes in his own ominous delivery. “You’re all alone here—at our virtual mercy—or lack thereof.”

“Would you like to accompany me to the moon, little Scootaloo?” Luna dramatically continues in high theater. “For another thousand years?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” is Scoot’s immediate reply. “No—no thank you, Your Highness. I’m sorry I—I must decline your entirely generous offer, but no. No way.” And she runs out the way Twilight went, desperate to find Twi and remove herself from the others' presence.

“Oh sweet Celestia,” T.S. blurts out after listening to Scoot’s highly embellished account of what transpired in the dining room subsequent to her departure. “They’re just teasing you.” She continues reading her book without once taking her eyes off the page.

“How do you know?” Scoot now demands, not appreciating the so-called adults’ expression of levity and bemusement at her expense.

“It’s not so much that I know, Scoot,” Twi explains while still enthralled in the rapture of her story. “It’s that I simply can’t care any longer. If we weren’t all crazy we would go insane.”

The Doctor appears at the entranceway. “Knock knock,” he emphasizes as he raps on the doorframe. “Sorry to interrupt, but may I borrow Scootaloo for a bit?”

“She’s all yours,” Twi declares with an impatient flip of her hoof, again her gaze never leaving her tome. “I leave her in your inestimable care.”

“Come along little Scootaloo,” the Doctor chortles as he walks with her down the hall.

“Are you going to eat me?” Scoot carefully inquires after she finds her previously absent voice.

“Nothing so prosaic,” is the Doctor’s dismissive and pithy rejoinder. “Not today anyway—but possibly tomorrow. Today I have a special assignment, which you alone can accomplish; who knows--you may even get your cutie mark out of it.”

“Oh boy—finally,” Scoot enthusiastically declares. “An adventure.”

A few hours later, Twilight looks up from her book. The sun is setting on the other side of the island, engulfing the house in reflected golden umbra and penumbra. She can hear the wind whistling through the trees outside and the churning ocean surf far beyond. Occasionally a seagull caws in counterpoint to the otherwise idyllic rhythms.

She wanders down the hallway, past the many rooms, in silence. In the kitchen, she finds Luna making what she can of dinner.

“Hello,” Twi greets the solitary Princess.

“Hello Twilight,” Luna returns. “I was just going to look for you.”

“Hmm,” T.S. ruminates. “Where are the Doctor and Scoot?”

“It seems they’ve gone,” Luna relates at length, taking her sweet time to answer. “Looks like it’s just you and me now.”

“I see,” Twilight Sparkle replies, the light slowly dawning in her eyes. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

“Nope—it’s all done,” Luna responds in stark finality. “Let’s eat.”

“Mm, this is good,” Twi enthuses appreciatively as she consumes the Princess’s handiwork. “I won’t ask what’s in it.”

“That would be wise,” Luna pontificates from her self-styled throne over candlelight. “Simply indulge yourself and ask no unnecessary questions.”

After they finish eating, the Princess draws up. “Well, Twilight? Shall we retire to a more secluded and intimate setting?”

Twilight sets down her utensils to address the question. “So this is how it ends, huh Luna?”

“This is how it ends, Miss Twilight Sparkle,” Luna echoes in turn, rounding the table at the far end. “My sister’s faithful student—now all mine. For the taking.”

“Was this your plan all along?” T.S. dares elicit elaboration as Luna approaches her.

“No—actually it wasn’t,” the Princess of the Moon admits while sitting down in the chair next to Twi. “But I like this just fine anyway, thank you very much.”

“Luna—I know I’m not the killer. And I simply can’t believe that you are. But this—after what’s happened—˝ She stops. “I’m sorry. I can’t. Not like this.”

“Don’t be so quick to say no to me,” Luna responds, nuzzling Twi’s neck. “Not until you realize what I have to offer.” She kisses Twi’s shoulder, and proceeds to bestow more kisses. “Just relax and hear me out—that’s all I ask. Believe me—I have far more in mind than simply one night together in paradise.”

Oh no, Twilight’s rationality cajoles her conscience while her body tells her otherwise. I need to stop this. I need to stop it now.

“Just relax Twi,” the Dark Princess continues, her voice barely audible as she gravitates lower and lower down Twilight’s torso. “Lean back. Let me do all the work. Give in to pleasure. Give in to indulgence. Don’t fight me. Just let it happen. You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Oh Twilight, imagine what it would be like—you and me, ruling Equestria side by side. We don’t need Celestia—I don’t need Celestia. Who cares about the day, when the night holds so much promise? What good is the light, but to anticipate the dark? Give in to me, dearest darling Twilight. Let me take you. I know how. Celestia instructed me, and now I can pass it on. You like that—don’t you? See how wet you are with desire. Oh yes. Don’t resist me—just relax. Tonight can be just the beginning. With you by my side, together we can bring a new chapter to our land. A new day for Equestria--and a new meaning for the night. Starting tonight. No more waiting. No more dreaming about it, what it would be like. Twi, I've wanted you for so long. Words cannot express. That's why I want to show you that I can make you happy. Beyond your wildest dreams. We can do this. Together. Right here and right now. There's nothing that can stop us anymore. Nothing and no pony.”

I want to, Twilight admits to herself as she feels herself responding more and more to Luna’s touch, and not just the sex, but that's part of it. Luna has awakened not only Twi's sensuality but her ambitions as well as her sense of intrigue.  It would be so easy—to give in, as the Princess suggests. To allow herself to be swept away in her swelling tide of emotion and rapture, complicity and danger. She could always regroup in the morning. They are all alone—and no one would ever know. No one—that is, except her. “Luna—wait,” Twilight finally says, opening her eyes against the crashing tsunami of pleasure she’s currently engulfed in and releasing herself from Luna’s embrace. “I can’t. I’m sorry but—this isn’t right.”

“Fine,” the Dark Princess simply declares, simultaneously extricating her many tentacles from Twi and rising to walk toward the open window, realizing that force isn't the way to go with Twilight. “See you back home.” And with that—she is gone—into the night.

In the morning, Twilight Sparkle awakes to find Doctor Whooves at the foot of her bed. “Well—good morning to you.”

“Good morning,” the Doctor cheerfully repeats. “Where’s Luna?”

Twi gestures out the window. “She left—last night. I guess she could leave any time, but she chose to stay.”

“Just as well,” is the Doctor’s clipped comment. “Makes it easier for me.”

“What did you do with Scoot?” T.S. simply inquires.

The Doctor gestures somewhere far away. “Oh, she’s back in Ponyville. Which is our next destination.”

“Real time or—?”

The Doctor nods. “We have to go back a few weeks—to set things right. You see, your friend Fluttershy was harboring a secret crush on your other friend Rarity—and when she started spending so much time with Pinkie Pie—˝

Twilight nods, finally in understanding. “She engineered this whole thing after she snapped—which we now have to prevent. By the way, what happened to Fluttershy after she was supposedly shot?”

“She was trying to persuade me Pinkie was behind all this—but I wasn’t buying it. It didn’t fit and she couldn’t give me any motivation for why Pinkie Pie would do it. But at the time, I decided to play along with her, just to see what would happen. So yeah—I helped stage her ‘death’ and then after Rarity was accidently killed, I guess she figured there was no point in sticking around, so she took off.”

T.S. nods in accord. “I kind of figured as much, but I didn’t want to say anything in front of Scoot.”

“I can see what Celestia said about you was true,” the Doctor muses on while directing Twi to his police telephone booth, which last night he had Twi give Spike the message to bring to him. “You are a most apt pupil.”

“Well,” Twi gravely concludes. “I do have the best teacher.”

A few weeks before, Twilight Sparkle awakes before dawn; she has a lot to do today so she wants to start early.

Before she heads for the library, she sees a note on her dresser. It’s in her own handwriting and it reads:

Dear Twilight,

This is a letter I’m writing you from the future. When Fluttershy comes by today, don’t tell her you’re busy. Make time for her and go with her over to Rarity’s. Have fun.


Great, Twi thinks. On top of all the things I have to do today, now I have one more.

Spike barges in on her later on. “Twilight—Fluttershy’s downstairs.”

Twi snaps her book shut without any hesitation. “O.K. Spike—I’ll take care of it.”

“I told her you were studying and probably didn’t want to go out, but then I thought I’d rattle your cage anyway,” the baby dragon, her number one assistant, drones on.

“Nonsense,” Twilight gaily sings as she hurries by Spike. “You should know by now I always make time for my friends.”

Dear Princess Celestia

Wowwhat a week! Rarity's fashion show was the greatest ever; sorry you couldn't make itPinkie hosted the most awesome party afterwards. And we found out that Fluttershy is allergic to catsat least Rarity's cat, that is. We all learned—the hard way—that attention to detail makes life easier for every pony. Apple Jack's bumper crop is nearly harvested and Rainbow Dash might have made it after all into the Wonderbolts; we may hear soon. Meanwhile, the CMC are still waiting on their cutie marks; some things never change. Well, that's all for now.

Your Faithful Student,

Twilight Sparkle

P.S. Luna says hi.