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Chapter 15 -10th. Day of the Third Month, Year 11 AE.

It has been a long time, O diary, since I have had so glorious a day.

I am like a pressed flower that has by some magic regained the vibrancy and fragrance of a bloom in the field upon being removed from betwixt the pages of the book that had been used to flatten it.

Morning arrived on dainty hooves and fluttering wings of snowy white, as darling Crimson and I found ourselves pounced and then pranced upon by my dearest Dawn Heart, to a merry refrain of "Wadybugs Awake!" and glad exhortations to "Wake up, Cwovuh! Wake up, Cwimson!"

Defending the sovereign territory of our bed from this winsome invader, I let out a battle cry like a diving pegasus warrior and with a mighty heave overturned the dear filly onto her back. Striking like a quaray eel, I threw off my covers and went in for the tickle, blowing a veritable bushel of raspberries into her tummy to much squealing and flailing of legs and wings. [1]

While the routed besieger of Castle Clover gasped and giggled in my grasp, I looked up to see Cookie standing in the doorway to our bedroom with a wry smile on her face. With a chuckle she said it was high time that Crimson and I had our turn being awakened in this fashion.

With the probing mien of a magistrate questioning a scofflaw brought before the bench I asked my dear friend if she had put Dawn up to this, calling for order in the court with another raspberry to the belly.  She merely laughed and beckoned me to come to the kitchen to help prepare breakfast.

I gave Dawn an earnest hug and bade her follow her co-conspirator to the kitchen while I performed my morning ablutions, telling the dear poppet I would be joining them shortly.

Arising, I gave my darling Crimson a peck on the cheek as he settled his head back upon the pillow for a few more leisurely moments abed, and then tarried a bit longer as he drew me into a less perfunctory kiss. Indeed, O diary, it had been far, far too long since I had had the time to be so wifely with my beloved. Far too long.

I threw open the shutters and gazed out the windows of our bedroom as I washed my face. Through the diamond shapes formed by the glazing I marked the long sought and finally realized blue diamond as it flickered dimly against the grey-white of a late winter sky. It seemed pale and ephemeral in the daylight, faded to near invisibility against a firmament lit by the stronger light of the sun.

Its true glory would always be at night, thought I, as I pondered it on this first day of its existence, but t'was meet, as the darkness by its very nature has more need for illumination. Those fearsome foes of pony kind who move against us in the shadows would see it and know we fear no longer.

Dawn once more intruded upon my woolgathering, having been sent by Cookie to hurry me along to the kitchen. I took the occasion to point out to her our newly wrought beacon in the sky above. Her rosy eyes lit up, as she stared up at it with a gasp of awe, her hooves upon the window sill.

Then she turned and hugged me. "I love her!" she said, before bounding from the room with a flutter of wings and rustle of little hooves on the dry reeds laying upon the floor. [2]

By the introspective light of a candle as I pen this days testament I must take a pause at this, O diary.

"I love her?"

"Her?"

Were I a simpleton I would pass that off as merely a giddy filly's careless misspeaking. Alas, the bliss of ignorance has always eluded me, and I do not rest easily in its comforting shadows.

Is this the inevitable result of this spell? Have we called forth a sister for our miracle child, who will alight among us in a decade's time? Or sooner? Or longer? There is much as yet unknown, that only time will tell in its fullness.

Welladay. Perhaps next time her excellency the Chancellor will be more easily dissuaded from demanding I hang a great purple horseshoe or something up among the lights of the heavens. Methinks I shan't press this issue for now with our nation's illustrious leaders. I shall take council with Cookie and Pansy, and otherwise we shall just have to wait and see.

Unconcerned by these possible omens from the mouths of babes, I hied myself to the kitchen and was soon swept up in the hustle and bustle of the household that I heretofore had been shut away from among my charts, tomes, and crystals.

I am an indifferent cook, having developed just enough skill to not starve or poison myself during my student years, but I had a marvelous time lending a hoof under Cookie's culinary command. Soon we all sat down to a hearty meal of wonderfully fluffy scrambled eggs, thick slices of rye toast spread with sweet honey-butter, and creamy porridge topped with more butter, spiced with nutmeg, and mixed in with raisins, crushed walnuts, and precious slices from our dwindling supply of the autumn's delectable harvest of apples.

While our breakfast was indeed celebratory, I also make note of it as the first time since breaking our all day fast on Hearth's Warming that I truly enjoyed a meal. Too often I had merely shoveled down a cold plateful of whatever Crimson or Cookie brought me in my cloistered study as I sat miserably poring thru my grimoires or rendering a parchment into a tangled, inky bird's nest of charts, glyphs, and equations.  

Excused from cleanup duty ("For today." said Cookie with a gimlet eye and a half smile), I went outside with the foals to play in the snow that had freshly fallen in the night sometime after we had all finally gone to bed. I don't think I have ever had so marvelous a time since I was a tiny filly in the snow covered courtyard of my family's house in the old lands. It was many years, O diary, before those of us who lived through the terrible, endless winter before the founding of our fair land could take any pleasure from the sight of snow falling.

We rolled up a snowpony of prodigious size with the help of Dawn's burgeoning magic. It truly was a sight to see when Powdermilk came outside to check on us. Oh how we laughed when we saw him gazing stolidly up at our hoofwork, looking like a miniature copy of it. Methinks I saw a smile and heard a chuckle from him as he escorted us back inside for mulled cider and a bite to eat for midday.

Pansy returned in time to join us, having gotten up before the dawn (And before dear Dawn as well.) to join Fletching for early cloud clearance duties over Fort Everfree and parts East.

As we made a meal of Cookie's incomparable rarebit (A dish we all have forgiven and learned to love again since the tribulations of moving to our new home. In Cookie's hooves it is a sublimely hearty and satisfying lunch.) talk fell to planning for Pansy's upcoming nuptials.

Pegasi, it seems, are rather informal in their wedding traditions, with the gathering and temporary hosting of a widely flung and extensive roster of friends and relations being the greatest logistical challenge to undertake. Apparently, blood feuds lasting for generations have resulted from a failure to invite every last conceivable acquaintance to bear witness and feast afterward.

Dear Pansy said something about not having to worry about her mother's side of the family in that regard, but didn't elaborate further. Here is another thing said in passing that strikes me oddly upon putting it down upon your pages, O diary. I shan't pry, but it does make me curious.

As I lent a hoof cleaning up that delectable meal, with minimal protest and much thinly veiled approval from Cookie regarding my day's granted respite from such chores, my inestimable earth pony friend and housemate asked a most flattering favor of me.

Since, said she, I was free of my burden of recreating the warming heart, and since, she hoped, I was not so thoroughly sick of books that I wanted to wall off my study and library and forget they even existed, perhaps I would see fit to undertake the instruction of her children in "unicorn book learning" as she half-jokingly put it.

Cookie went on to explain that while foals of her tribe are taught such basic letters and numbers as they need to function in the marketplace or go on to learn a trade, any further education must be painstakingly sought after on one's own time and at one's own expense. She hoped it wasn't too much to ask, since we were all living together out here on the frontier, that I might share some of the knowledge contained in my vast store of books and scrolls, and give her sons and daughters a "leg up" to use her phrase. [3]

Of course I told her I would be both honored and immensely pleased to do so. The look of genuine gratitude on her face when I agreed was all the reward I would need for such a labor of love.

Well I know what such a thing would mean for her daughters and sons, and for her. As I have often remarked in your pages, O diary, my dear friend has revealed to me much of the depth and breadth of her knowledge, but with the telling gaps and inconsistencies of the self-educated.

Again I marvel at how this remarkable mare has taught herself rhetoric, civil law, mathematics, philosophy, at least five languages, and has gained a passing familiarity with classical poetry and the history of all three tribes, all acquired by the sweat of her brow in the precious intervals when the steady cadence of earth pony life allowed.

To have a patient guide through these thickets of information, who can impart context and clarity, that is the value of being taught, and the sacred duty of the teacher. I shall endeavor to do my best, hopefully with more kindness than the old grump ever mustered in my time under his tutelage.

Thinking upon it, I see further benefits to this arrangement. Dawn Heart will be in need of education in "unicorn book learning", and will probably benefit greatly from learning alongside Cookie's children.

Thinking upon the old grump, I must consult with him when next he comes jingling among us regarding our wonder filly's magical instruction. I make no pretensions to being as qualified as he is when it comes to teaching so prodigious a pupil, but if there is any way I can be of assistance I would gladly stand ready to do so.

I spent the afternoon cleaning and organizing my study, carefully filing the notes from the crafting of the beacon spell in anticipation of their being bound into more suitable tomes. Books needed shelving, dust needed sweeping, puddles of wax needed to be scraped from my desk so that it might be recast into candles. It was a most productive and salutary endeavor, another step on my return to normalcy, rather like that first bath and brush down after spending long days abed recuperating from an illness.

Then back to the kitchen, where I was swept up into the hurly burly of preparing our supper along with Pansy, Powdermilk, Crimson, and Cookie's girls. As I have already noted, O diary, before I entered my lady Queen (then Princess) Platinum's service and became accustomed to the castle staff taking care of me, I found cooking a tedious chore at the best of times. How different it is when a kitchen full of happy, chatting ponies shares in the tasks together.

Tonight's repast was a fine pie of leeks, turnips, and carrots stewed in red wine and baked in a crust, served with fried oatwurst and pickled cabbage. I rather suspect that Cookie has studied alchemy as well, for how else but magic might she turn the shriveled, late winter contents of our root cellar and the dwindling stocks of our pantry into such culinary gold?

Afterward we saw the sun down with music and word games by candlelight, putting the children to bed in waves to ease their passage from wakefulness to sleep with minimal protest. First little Graham is laid in his cradle, then Dawn and Cookie's girls (the most chaotic of the bedtimes, especially if Ginger is in one of her moods, so Cookie informs me), then young Oatmeal, who by virtue of his age and general good behavior is allowed to stay up for an entire extra hour longer than his siblings.

I spoke more to the young lad tonight than I have since we all moved in, back when he assisted me most ably in setting up my study and library. He's a thoughtful young fellow, as I have noted before, prone to long pauses as he carefully chooses his words. We spoke of the prospect of my teaching him, and I asked him what subjects he was most interested in learning. He informed me, after the expected pause for thinking, that he was keenly interested in geography and natural philosophy. [4]

I do recall his fascination with my collection of atlases when we installed my books in their new repository. At his mother's prompting I brought out my folio of maps from the old lands, and taught him the names of countries we'd abandoned to the encroaching ice and snow in the great migration before it was time for him to go to bed.

And that brings me to the present moment, as I sit in the glow of the embers in the main hall with quill and journal, listening to Cookie and Pansy quietly chat while my beloved Crimson plays a calming air on his viol and Powdermilk sits quietly and bestirs himself to answer with a nod or a monosyllable to his wife's periodic entreaties to stir the fire. I find I am filled with a warm feeling of contentment, surrounded by dear friends and at peace.

Cookie has just declared it is time for us all to be retiring, informing me that my special dispensation to stay up as late as I wished had ended when the blue diamond ascended. With a wry smile she told me I would need the sleep if I was to be ready for the break of Dawn tomorrow.

Thus I shall close, O diary. I met my darling Crimson's eye shortly after Cookie's final rap of a hoof on the floor, and all I shall say is that while I may now be under orders to go to bed, I won't necessarily be going to sleep anytime soon.

Good night.  

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnote:

[1] Indeed, 'tis quite true that Princess Celestia of Equestria, Sol Equus Invictus, Grand Protectress of the Realm and Regent of the Sun, is
exceedingly ticklish, especially in the general area of her abdomen. I must commend my most dignified royal sibling on her bravery in allowing this chink in the royal armor, as it were, to be revealed. Especially now that she is tall enough for one of our subjects to reach this spot without even having to bend one's neck very far. I would gladly bestow a peerage upon the pony brave enough to try it. -P.L. [5]

Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote:

[2] And I still do, despite a marked tendency for excessive sass I'm seeing expressed in these extraneous hoofnotes, Woona. Are you
trying to give poor Twilight another conniption? -P.C. [6]

Translator's Hoofnotes:

[3] Universal education for young ponies of all types was established roughly fifty years after the Royal Pony Sisters' defeat of Discord, initially established as a Ministry of the Crown under Princess Celestia's auspice, with schoolmasters and schoolmarms trained in Canterlot and installed in schoolhouses across Equestria under the supervision of a Minister of Education.

It was at this time that the early precursors of the Pegasi Flight Schools were also founded. Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns was established much later, shortly after the beginning of Princess Luna's exile. The public school system as we know it now was reformed and organized into its current state roughly eighty years ago as of this writing.

Princess Celestia informs me that these initial forays into teaching all the foals of Equestria their "three R's", regardless of their social class or background, were very strongly influenced by her memories of learning at Lady Clover's hooves alongside Smart Cookie's children. Curricula and class sizes have changed, but the emphasis on group learning and a positive atmosphere of sharing knowledge guided by a patient, dedicated teacher is a tradition we have maintained. I have only to look at the wonderful work my friend Cheerilee does as Ponyville's schoolteacher to see Lady Clover's legacy still carrying our fair land into the future.

Hello, Cheerilee. I hope you enjoy this text and can use it to enhance your history classes. (Certain obnoxious interjections that I am still ignoring notwithstanding.) I bet you didn't realize the flowers that make up your cutie mark were perennials.

[4] This chapter is quite full of foreshadowing, isn't it? Students of history should be well aware of the daring exploits of Captain Oatmeal Raisin-Cookie, one of the founders of the Equestrian Rangers and the determined leader of the explorers who mapped upper Equestria and parts north on hoof. One particular text I recommend is his memoir: "'Oatmeal, Are You Crazy?' Being an Account of My Adventures on the Northern Frontier and the New Lands I Discovered Despite the Neigh Sayers"

Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote:

[5] One would have to be a brave pony indeed, with a predilection for enclosed spaces in exotic locales. -P.C. [7]

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnotes:

[6] I'm merely attempting to provide a bit more context to this account, O sister beloved. You and I are living relics, after all. Like you, I have come to prefer emphasizing the "living" rather than the "relic" part of that. -P.L.

[7] I assure the readers it would be
well worth it, for the sake of historical scholarship alone. I warrant the sound my sister makes when properly raspberried in her midsection has not been heard for untold centures. Surely your inquiring mind wants to know, Twilight Sparkle. Perhaps the next time we have you over to dedicate a stained glass window or something you might have an opportunity. -P.L. [8]

Translator's Hoofnotes:

[8] Such an inquiry would hardly be relevant, or particularly informative, especially in the medium of print. I would like to assure my esteemed mentor and immortal sovereign that I would never, ever succumb to such a ludicrous impulse. Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye! [9]

[9] And just to be clear in case my prior hoofnote caused any undue confusion at an apparent contradiction of intent, I am still ignoring these intrusions into my hoofnotes. [10]

Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote:

[10] Not to worry, my dear student. Even if you attempted such an inquiry, I've learned some fairly effective blocking maneuvers with my wings over the years, and my reflexes are still pretty good for a multi-centinarian. Rest assured my royal undercarriage shall remain safely un-rasberried. -P.C. [11]

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnote:

[11] I know a challenge when I read one. We'll just see about that. -P.L. [12]

Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote:

[12] Bring it on, Princess Squawks Like a Plucked Phoenix When Goosed in the Brisket. -P.C. [13]

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnote:

[13] Verily, 'tis most assuredly ON! -P.L. [14]

Translator's Hoofnotes:

[14] Still ignoring them. Still ignoring them. Still ignoring them. Still ignoring them.

The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.


Chapter 14 -9th. Day of the Third Month, Year 11 AE.

We have done it.

The new beacon has risen in the skies of Equestria. Huzzah and glad tidings to all pony-kind. Long may our kingdom stand and prosper.

Do not mind the tears that stain your pages, O diary, they are naturally tears of triumphant joy, not of shame and regret.

And gratitude.

By all the powers, the price that I might have paid for this to come to pass would have been more than I could bear.

I have little doubt that even now our praises are being sung in the vaulted halls of Castle Canter, among the high colonnades of Cloudsdale, and atop the roofs of Mane Hat, and for their part Cookie and Pansy are well deserving of the accolades, but I would that my name be struck from the roll of honor.

I most certainly do not deserve to be known as "The Clever" for what I have done this day.

While glad I am that the cool blue light of the great diamond now shines among the stars, it will always be a reminder of this night to me. And so, O diary, I will write an account, blurred by my tears and jumbled in my weariness, so that the truth shall ne'er be forgotten. The wrong I have done, and the grace that I received despite it all, I shall carry with me to my final rest.

Once again I must begin by filling in the gaps in my reminisces caused by my extended dereliction of my chronicler's duties. The long months of the winter wore heavily upon me after the events of Hearth's Warming, and my days were marked with growing frustration. I was like a chained dog, constantly straining against my tether and barking at any who came near.

My careful study of the crystalline heart produced by our last failed effort produced little of relevance, as I have exhaustively detailed in my lab journals. Deciding it was a needless distraction, I had Cookie pack it away among the other Hearth's Warming decorations.

Would that other distractions would be so readily shut away, that was my attitude during those bleak months. I look back with chagrin and understand that in my obsession with completing my task I was becoming more and more distant, impatient, and irritable. The interruptions seemed constant, coming from all directions and at all times.

The occasional clamor of the children, particularly on days when it was too cold or wet for them to go outside, would scatter my thoughts like a stone cast among the fish in one of the reflecting pools in the gardens of Castle Canter. I would bear it for a time and try to ignore it, hunching over my desk with quill biting deeper and deeper into whatever parchment lay before me, until my intemperance would burst like a chestnut upon the fire and I would shriek like a harpy over my shoulder and slam my door. Often repeatedly for emphasis.

Cookie, bless her, took stern steps to ward my study from these outbursts, but at times she would become cross with me, comparing me to her sire, a who by her account was the sort of stallion who would come home from his day's labors to settle in like a brooding dragon in its lair, compelling all in the house to walk on tip-hooves and speak in hushed voices lest they rouse him in wrath from his rest. As the months wore on, she became more and more fed up with my peevishness, and now I shudder to think what might have happened between us had I the temerity to directly upbraid one of her foals.

The racket of the children scarce compared to the uproar when her excellency Commander Hurricane arrived, flush with our carefully composed letter regarding Pansy's pledged troth to Fletching crumpled in her pack. I found my pegasus friend's husband to be hiding beneath my desk shortly afterward, quietly pleading for asylum.

Having no patience for such tomfoolery I cast him out of my study, callously plugging my ears with sealing wax at all the subsequent screaming, shouting, and shaking of the very rafters as Hurricane got the drop upon him. He managed to slip out of her hammer lock and dive out a window, I was told, and led her on a frantic chase across the broad skies of Equestria. I did notice that Pansy was a more than a bit cooler in her attitude toward me afterward.

All was mercifully quiet after that, until Hurricane brought the poor stallion back some days later, trussed up and half out of his wits. I was thereafter compelled to attend a large, calamitously noisy celebration that started in the main hall and spread to the courtyard, the roof, and the clouds above when Hurricane declared Fletching "acceptable" and summoned all of her warriors to drink to Pansy's health and toast her upcoming union.

And if that weren't bad enough, during her stay, the Commander would frequently barge into my study and demand to be appraised of my progress on recreating our nation's beacon, spinning ominous tales of griffons, dragons, and other barbaric creatures massing on our borders to rumors that we ponies had lost our magic and were ripe for attack. Her final words to me before she returned to her troop formations on the northern border was to "snap it up". As though the pressure upon me was not already unbearable.

Most irritating to me of all, however, were visits from the old grump, who would turn up in my study without a sound save the clatter of his bells to peer over my withers at my work like he'd done in my bygone student days, leaving me fuming with naught but the clicking of his tongue or a wry shake of his head as he left.

Part of me wanted him to just give me the answers I was so painstakingly seeking, although he told me with a dismissive chuckle that he knew nothing of the spell I was researching when I snappishly demanded them from him. Part of me desperately wanted to see him sat upon by an immense, incontinent dragon, a desire that was received with just as many chuckles on the day I snarlingly made it known.

Since our brief meeting at Fort Everfree, he hadn't darkened the doors of Paradise Estate until shortly after the New Year was rung in. Then all of a sudden on one blustery day he showed up and somehow inserted himself into the household with all the brazen aplomb of a stray cat inviting itself inside a creamery. And even more infuriatingly they all took to him almost instantly, especially the children, who called him "Gaffer Jingles". Even Crimson declared to me that he was "An affable enough old fellow once one got to know him". It was many days before he saw ought but my back as we lay in our bed after he said that.

The one benefit to his being underhoof, that even I in my intemperate mood would admit, was that he had undertaken Dawn Heart's beginning tutelage in magic. They would walk among the sleeping trees of the orchard, or wander the forest, speaking of everything and nothing at all. Far and wide did they range, sometimes as far as Saddle Lake or Fort Everfree.

And thus were the seeds of my terrible mistake sown, as the dear, sweet poppet would intrude on my solitary toiling to proudly show and tell me what she'd learned. Now I would own that she had been making remarkable progress, for while the tricks she was learning were simple foal's lessons: levitating small objects, lighting and extinguishing candles, changing the color of a kerchief and the like, when one considered the vast power she was keeping under control without something exploding I should have been quite effusive indeed in praising her.

Instead I was at best cordial to her, but increasingly brusque as I would hustle the poor filly out of my study as soon as she'd gotten to the point, with hasty, wooden expressions of approval, followed by the door slamming shut and the bolts being thrown.

I think there was a festering jealousy underlying my thoughts, among other things, as I envied the old grump stewarding this precious child in my chosen calling rather than me. I would like to pretend that my affection for little Dawn kept me from being too harsh with her, but now I know it was but a flimsy veneer over the senseless poison that I had been accumulating in my heart.

It was early in the afternoon when poor Dawn came bounding into my study, disrupting my papers with her flapping wings and excitedly proclaiming that she was able to float more than one thing at the same time. Barely looking up from my work, I muttered something vaguely complimentary but pointed, both in tone and in the direction of the door.

Her enthusiasm undimmed, she began to pluck up random objects in the golden glow of her magic and cause them to float lazily about my little chamber. By chance I looked up to see her lift my confounded star-gazing glass from its bracket to join the books and bric-a-brac drifting like flotsam in the air.

Something inside me drew taut like a bowstring, and my temper flared. I shouted for her to put the accursed thing down with such vehemence that it startled her, and she let everything drop. The gazing glass, my gaudy treasure, the vain symbol of a lowborn candle maker's daughter risen to undeserved heights, fell to the floor with a sickening crunch, the casing burst and the lenses shattered.

I almost cannot go on, O diary, but in penance for my shame I feel I must. In my foolish heart 'twas like when my alchemy table was set alight in my clumsy youth. The hot rage filled me, boiling up and vomiting forth as a tirade that now leaves my insides feeling like the shards of blackened glass that were left behind.

I called her a little monster. I called her a freak of nature. I called her Nemesis. I accused her of ruining my life. I told her she was responsible for uprooting me from my home and casting me away from all I had known and out into the wilderness. I called her a curse on my days and a bane on the existence of all pony-kind who destroys everything she touches.

Then, may my hoof shrivel and blacken in the ice of an endless winter, I struck her across her sweet, innocent face.

It is etched in my minds eye, O diary, the blank look of stunned betrayal that washed over her bruised visage, then she turned with a sob and fled. Wretched fool me, still drunk with self-righteous anger, I slammed the door behind her and turned, muttering invectives under my breath as I set to cleaning up the mess in my study, scarce realizing what I had done, and scarcely taking notice of a noise like a peal of thunder that shook the house a few moments later.

As I knelt, contemplating the ruins of my oh-so-precious gazing glass, the study door exploded into flinders, bucked aside by Cookie. A whirlwind filled the room, tossing papers in all directions as Pansy charged in. With a growl like an enraged wolf she lifted me by my throat and shoved me hard into the wall, demanding to know what I had said and done to Dawn Heart.

I choked, O diary, not from my undeserved friend's iron grip, but on a surge of sick realization that rose from my wilting heart at the depth of the wrong I had just done. I broke down, and confessed all to them through a torrent of bitter tears that has not yet quite abated, begging them to take me to the poor filly so that I might plead for her forgiveness.

My blood chilled in my veins when Cookie informed me in a cold voice that they did not know where Dawn Heart was, as she had fled the house. I took to my heels and galloped to the courtyard, staring out past the twisted, smoking wreckage of the front gate in wide eyed horror at the empty fields and bare trees blowing in the wind of a gathering, late winter storm.

Edging into hysteria, I begged them to summon the stallions so that we might search for her, in turn pleading with fate to be kind as I declared she cannot have run very far.

My wretched heart sank further as Pansy gave a terse shake of her head, reminding me that she had been teaching Dawn to fly since convalescing from her broken wing. Cookie gave a well deserved twist of the knife at my incredulity, flatly stating that the poor filly could barely get me to acknowledge her achievements in magic over the past several months, thus it stood to reason her learning to fly escaped my notice.

Desperation seized me, as visions of a thousand terrible fates befalling the filly buzzed in my head like hornets, their stings all the sharper with the fear that I would never get the chance to tell her I was sorry.

Scarcely pausing to throw on a cloak, I lit my horn like a blazing torch and charged pell mell into the frigid rain, frantically calling Dawn's name at the top of my lungs. Dear Pansy took wing to try and catch me, but I flung her aside with a surge of thoughtless magic, and glad I am now that I did her no harm save a roll in the cold mud of the courtyard. I heard Cookie telling her to forget me and go instead to Fort Everfree to summon the yeomane warders while she roused the stallions.

I know not how long I stumbled aimlessly through the fields, shouting myself hoarse after my precious Dawn. Hours and hours, I should think, as the grey light behind the clouds began to fade and fill the cold air about me with a deepening gloom.

Ever more the fool I strayed into a marshy valley, the cold turf subsiding to frigid mud that clung to my weary legs and dragged me deeper with every laboring step. Undaunted in my frantic search, I pushed on, howling for Dawn as exhaustion numbed my body more insidiously than the cold. Unaware of my situation until it was too late, I suddenly found myself stuck fast.

O diary, how my heart guttered like a dying candle when a hissing voice bubbled up from the creeping mists, telling me that dawn would not be coming for me. I thrashed, frantically glancing about in the greenish light of my horn, going still but for my panicked, panting breaths as a terrible black thing, like a swaybacked, bony horse made of oily smoke and tar, rose up from the muck that I had sunk in up to my chest.

It slithered in a gyre around me, whispering dread rhymes to kill all hope and courage. The thing's words are burned into my memory, O diary, and I fear I shall hear them in my nightmares for the rest of my days. "Grindeylow, down, down ye go, drowned and gone where none will know. In too deep, who will weep? Evermore yer bones will sleep."

It came to a stop before me, and extended a pulpy tentacle from its forehead as it fixed my gaze with the milky white eyes of a corpse. This horrible appendage it stroked ever so gently down my cheek, leaving a chilling trace of slime like the path of a snail. It gave a mirthless chuckle, whispering that my fear was exquisite. I could not move. I could not even scream.

I was never so grateful to hear the jingling of bells.

Then came a booming laugh, that caused the fiendish thing to flinch like it had been whipped. "Bogworry! Go back to your slurry! You've come to the end of your luck! We've naught to fear, begone from here, flee back to the slime and the muck!"

The creature puffed itself up like an adder, lashing the tendril on its forehead as it hissed its defiance, only to let out a shrill shriek a moment later as it burst into an inferno of blue flames. It thrashed convulsively and dove beneath, leaving only a soggy hiss and a lingering, acrid curl of smoke to mark its passing. The blue fire remained, radiating calm and assurance from Starswirl's proud horn as he towered over me with a stern look on his face, his beard fluttering in the fitful breeze.

I fell weeping hysterically into his embrace, nearly knocking him onto his rump, as soon as he'd lifted me with his magic out of the mire and set me on my shaking hooves. With unaccustomed gentleness he rocked me and stroked my back. "There there, poppet. All will be made right."

I blubbered about poor Dawn Heart, bitter self-recriminations and apologies pouring from me with every ragged breath. The dear old grump smoothed my sodden mane, and told me not to fear. He had a strong suspicion as to where she was, assured me she was safe there, and said he would take me to her.

Then, laying a hoof alongside his snout, he gave me a knowing grin as his horn flared with a blinding white light, and I suddenly felt like I'd been yanked tail first upward through a chimney, tumbled about like dice in a cup, then unceremoniously dumped out onto my croup on the rounded stones of a gravelly riverbed with a loud snap of magical energy.

Blinking soot out of my eyes as the smell of smoke lingered in my nostrils, I cast about to find my bearings, and saw the stockade walls of Fort Everfree atop its promontory in the near distance. My jaw dropped in shock. What magecraft was this, that we had traveled so many miles in the barest blink of an eye? I looked up with awe at my old mentor, and he let out a chuckle and gave me a smug wink.

I struggled to my hooves as the old grump casually brushed his jingling cloak off with his tail. I realized we were standing at the mouth of a grotto in a cliff wall. A soft, pale glow was emanating from inside.

Cutting off my stammered questions with a toss of his head that waggled his tangled beard, and bade me follow him in, keeping still and silent until he said otherwise. Too worn out to argue, I did as he commanded, and fell into step behind him.

Inside all was quiet, save for the soft sound of a filly weeping. Starswirl held out a hoof and shushed me, stopping me short as I nearly bolted forward. There before us, dear, beautiful little Dawn Heart sat, her wings drooping and her head hung, in the gentle, radiant light of a crystalline sapling that glittered with iridescent colors, all the shades of the rainbow, at the tips of its delicate, diamond shaped leaves.

Now solemn, he approached her, his bells hushed and comforting with the steadiness of his gait. He spoke to her in low, gentle tones, too low for me to hear even in the silence that pervaded the air.

Dawn saw me, but I could not bear to meet her gaze as she rose to her hooves and cautiously approached me. The words stuck in my throat as I forced them out over bitter sobs. I was sorry I hurt her. I did not mean the terrible things I said. I was a horrible, wretched failure as a caretaker and as a pony. I begged her not to hate me. I begged her to forgive me.

And she did.

She kissed my dirty forehead and hugged me and told me she loved me. Forever. No matter what.

I never shall be worthy of such boundless love, O diary. But what else can I do but accept it as the gift that it is?

I love her. Forever. No matter what. [1]

It was some time before I was able to stand upon my hooves and see clearly, but when I finally did I looked about and noticed that the strange little tree was glowing brighter, and that tiny berries of red, purple, and pale pink had appeared on three of its branches. In a hushed voice, raw from my day's exertions I asked my old teacher these questions: What was this place? What was that mystical tree?

He turned to admire its gleaming loveliness. "This, my dear, is the reason I have been spending so much time loitering about the backwaters of Fort Everfree. You are only the second mortal pony to ever lay eyes upon it. I discovered it as a mere seedling when I wandered these new lands after the Founding, and have been both guarding and studying it ever since." (As I write this now, O diary, I must wonder at his reckoning of my being the second mortal pony to be here, in regards to what I am next about to write. What about Dawn? I know she is not a normal filly, but what might that mean?)

I went on to ask him how he knew Dawn would be here as she nestled in to my side with a wing over my withers. Said he. "I have often brought little Dawn Heart down here to see how the tree reacts to her presence. She likes it here, and from what I can tell it likes her. It is in some way attuned to her, although I am unclear how."

This my dear, forgiving poppet affirmed with a weary nod. As I looked her over with the mist of overwhelming emotion receding from my eyes, I saw that she was nearly as bedraggled as I, with grime dulling her pale coat and burrs and nettles tangled in her lank mane and ruffled plumage.

Starswirl smiled down upon her and lit his horn to lift her onto his back, then beckoned me to follow. "We ought to be heading back. Alas, we will have a bit of a walk ahead of us, my dear. I don't believe any one of us are up for another apportation spell." (I must press him more about this in the future.)

As we trudged through the receding drizzle on the road to Paradise Estate, the dear old grump spoke softly to me over the steady rhythm of hoof falls and jingles, keeping his voice low so as not to rouse a slumbering Dawn. "Have you ever wondered why I wear these bells, Clover?"

I admitted that I had, my curiosity perking my ears despite my bone-deep weariness. It was a question that like so many others usually brought only a brusque dismissal and a command to pay better attention to my studies. "Before this child appeared among us, I was the most powerful wielder of magic in all the lands. This is no vainglorious boast, merely an observed and quantifiable fact. I have worn these bells since my youth, because ponies feared me, and wanted advance warning when I approached."

After a few more jangling hoofbeats he continued. "I have always been an outsider. I do not know much of friendship, or of the closeness of family. That is my lot and I bear it. I strive for the greater destiny of all pony kind."

He leaned in and met my eyes with a bleak gaze, cold as distant stars. "That is not to be this child's fate. Never do anything like this ever again."

I swallowed hard and and nodded emphatically, and we went the rest of the way in silence, save for the warning rattle of his bells.

We were welcomed warmly and with great rejoicing by those keeping vigil for us at Paradise Estate. Captain Leaf was there, and took up his horn to blow the signal for "all is well", which soon echoed in response over the hills and vales. In straggling groups the searchers returned, gathering around the dear old grump by the fireside as mulled cider was brewed and tales were told.

Cookie bundled Dawn and I into a hot bath, and as I held her and combed the tangles from her silken mane I remembered the first bath we shared together mere months ago, recalling the lessons I had learned back then. Then we dried off, each had a bowl of Cookie's hearty vegetable chowder with fresh baked bread, and were put to bed.

But sleep eluded me, O diary, even as the house went quiet with the departure of the warders and the settling in of the husbands and children. I arose after having merely rested for a time, wrapped in my blanket, and wandered out into the gardens. The sky above had cleared of clouds, and now the stars twinkled in a velvet blue firmament, accompanying the pale glow of the moon.  

A gentle voice called out to me from above, and I turned to see dear Pansy perched upon the roof wrapped in her dark wool warrior's cloak. She fluttered down beside me, as the crunch of hoof steps in the snow behind us heralded the approach of darling Cookie, who came from the kitchen's back door wrapped in a shawl and kerchief. With wry smiles they both declared that they had been unable to get to sleep.

For a while, no words passed between us, only the closeness of three old friends who'd been tested once again. Presently, I whispered my apologies for the wrongs I had done, and once more I was blessed with the gift of forgiveness. The warmth of reconciliation rose within me, from my broken, mended heart, and I felt it rise up to my horn and blossom forth as a flickering flame.

Our eyes wide with wonder, I gathered my wits at Cookie and Pansy's urgent reminder of the wishes of our leaders, and concentrated on the shape and color of the brightening corona of light, bidding them to join me in doing so. As if in a lucid dream it shifted to a serene blue color, and assumed a four pointed shape, rising like a great kite above us until it gracefully took its destined place in the heavens, at home among the stars and companion to the moon.

More tears rolled down my face as my friends, my sisters by other mothers, rejoiced and embraced me.

We have done it.

My beloved compatriots have since gone to bed. I snuggled in beside my darling Crimson but to no effect, as the events of the day still roiled and rattled in my head.

So again I rose and found my way to my study, lit a taper, and strove to take down my account into your waiting pages. Now, O diary, I am all but empty, having poured it all upon you. I think at last I shall be able to sleep, and pray that my dreams are untroubled.

Until next I lift my quill, goodnight.

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnote:

[1] I must humbly apologize, Twilight Sparkle, to you and to the publisher for the droplets of moisture that spilled upon this portion of the manuscript. I accidentally spat out a mouthful of tea I was drinking due to some unexpected revelation that is not worth mentioning. That is absolutely what happened. -P.L. [2][3]

Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote:

[2] Of
course it was, my ever beloved sister. It is good to keep a hoofkerchief handy in case of just such an occurrence. -P.C.

Translator's Hoofnote:

[3] Don't worry about it, Princess Luna. I "spat out my tea" several times as I was translating it. No real harm done.


The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

Book of Days - Part 14
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Chapter 13 -30th. Day of the Twelfth Month, Year 10 AE.

O diary, my ever patient confidant, woe that the dust lay so thickly upon your cover now that I finally return with quill aglimmer.

Much has gone on in the long months since last I turned your pages to put thoughts to parchment. The lingering glow of late summer was burnished to autumnal gold by the ever busy hooves of our earth pony brethren, passing with rich harvest feasting and the thundering of hooves to shake the leaves from our as yet untamed orchard. With the typical industry of their tribe dear Cookie and her family laid in plentiful supplies, filling Paradise Estate's larders near to bursting. Then snug as mice we tucked in for winter's coming.

It was a far gentler draping of the white veil than those of us who lived through the Great Migration recall, O diary. Now the crisp air rings with the laughter of well-fed foals playing in the snow and the rustle of friendly pegasi wings marshaling the soft grey clouds overhead rather than the growling of empty stomachs and the joyless exultations of the windegos at pony-kind's muttered grudges.

For my part, I have spent much of the time shut up in my study, hard bent at my research, listening with suppressed yearning to the muffled sounds of daily life going on outside like echoes of a distant, partly remembered dream. I ruefully look back on the days of my fillyhood, when many was the time I would have given the tip of my horn for a chance to shut myself away from the hurly burly of my family's household with a book in my hooves. How different is solitude when it is forced upon one rather than sought. In frequent moments of weariness I thought that I would switch places with my younger self in an instant.

But I have my duty to my lady the Queen and her co-rulers, and to all of the pony tribes, and to our brave new-founded land, and thus I soldier on at the task of plumbing the mysteries of the Warming Heart and seeking a method to reproduce it. The work is slow and tedious, and I shan't dwell upon it in your patient pages, O diary, as I have emptied enough vessels of ink onto the parchment of my laboratory notebooks in detailing my painstaking progress, if indeed progress it can be called.

I have come very close to success on the eve of the Feast of Hearth's Warming, now but a few days past. One might almost call the date ironic were it not chosen specifically on the chance that by some vagary of magic making an attempt on the same day might increase our chances of making the thing come to pass. And that was not the only way in which we attempted to reproduce the circumstances of the first appearance of the Warming Heart.

Cookie, Pansy, and I fasted the whole day, a colossal undertaking in itself as we took a hoof in preparing the customary founding feast for the benefit of our respective families. (Or families to be. More on that later, O diary!) By dear Cookie's wan reasoning, spending a day cooking up such sumptuous fare for our loved ones while not touching a single bite surely equaled the hard months of near starvation on the seemingly endless road from the Old Lands to Equestria. We resolved to celebrate a second feast when a new beacon adorned the skies that night, or at the very least to gorge ourselves on the day's leftovers in consolation for a failure whilst drowning our sorrows in mulled cider and brandy. With this promise we kept our spirits up and tried to focus on making the best of the day for the foals' sake.

It was indeed the joy of the little ones that sustained us as the hungry hours dragged by. Our darling Dawn Heart was almost incandescent the entire day, as it was her first Hearth's Warming and every experience was new and wondrous for the dear filly. She helped Crimson, Powdermilk, and Fletcher locate and drag in a massive log for the hearth. (The latter handsome swain has become an ever more frequent guest here at our little manor house, even though dear Pansy's wing has long since completely healed. But once again, more on that later!) She capered with Cookie's children as they decorated the traditional earth pony Winter's Promise tree, its brightly painted wooden fruits and strings of cranberries signifying the return of bounty once the snows had been cleared in the spring. [1]

I shall never forget how caught up in the caroling she was. Our dear poppet is a great lover of all music, as I have oft attested before, but the Hearth Warming songs we have sung since the founding seemed to touch her especially deeply for some reason. She sat enraptured as we all raised our voices to the pleasing strains of darling Crimson's viol, joining in beautifully as she learned the words with much repetition.

I suspect that the songs sung in the presence of the Warming Heart on its first day among us resonate on some deep level with Dawn Heart's being. Would that I could capture sound in your pages, O diary, to please the ears of future scholars who might read this account long after we are all gone. Alas, they shall never know the sweetness of her voice. [2]

Once the feasters had been sated and the table had been cleared and gifts retrieved from the stockings hung on the hearth's mantle[3] and the foals sent to bed, we three miserable mares, grumbling from both our mouths and our stomachs, repaired to the fenced gardens behind the house, now sleeping frozen beneath a glittering blanket of packed snow. There we shivered together, sheltered from the biting winter wind only by our cloaks and a makeshift shelter of stones and ice that I had bidden the stallions to build, representing the bleak cavern redoubt where pony kind weathered its darkest hour on that desperate night a decade ago.

Presently, Cookie entreated me to start working my magic before she lost all feeling in her posterior. At my other side a soft clearing of the throat and the scrape of a hoof pawing at the crusted snow indicated that even stoic Pansy's immense patience was wearing thin. So I began, sparking my horn to life as I instructed my faithful friends to concentrate on the mental image of the Warming Heart. As I have related in my laboratory journals, my task was to channel my magic and to focus on transforming the flaming pink heart into a blue diamond as it manifested.

We huddled together, our brows furrowed and our hooves interlocked, trying with all our power to will a blue diamond version of our nation's magical beacon into being. I felt some echo of the power of that first Warming Heart surge through us, but it was different in a way that I strain to describe. It was sort of cool and crystalline, reflective rather than radiant. As suddenly as I felt the sensation it dropped away, and we all gave a start as something landed at our hooves with a thud. I opened my eyes and stared in disbelief.

There, lying at the center of our little half circle, was a lump of pale blue crystal, about as large as a pony's head, and shaped like a faceted heart. [4]

Our shocked reverie was broken as Cookie burst into uproarious laughter, flopping back onto her back and kicking her hooves in the air. A scowl darkened my countenance as my ears levered back, but before I could say something intemperate, I felt Pansy's gentle hoof on my shoulder. "Well." Said she, in her ever-tactful way. "It was a really good try."

At that, my frustration and annoyance instantly evaporated as the absurdity of it all struck me. We had indeed produced a blue diamond version of the Warming Heart, although a bit more literally than our leaders had perhaps hoped. I started to giggle, then chortle, then chuckle, then with a peal of mirth I flopped onto my back next to Cookie, dragging Pansy down with us where we three madmares proceeded to roll about in the snow in a fit of uncontrollable hilarity.  

Eventually Cookie clambered to her haunches, shivering as she produced a stout flask from the folds of her cloak and proffered it to me, saying it was a bit cold outside to be doing this sort of thing. I brought out my little bottle and traded her, taking a swig and then passing it over to Pansy in exchange for her own secret vessel of spirits, observing that it was perhaps not a good idea to partake of strong drink on such empty stomachs. As one we resolved to go inside and break our Hearth's Warming fast, bearing the object with us as a pretty ornament to grace the tree. We placed it at the top, where it sparkled like the contents of my fair lady Queen Platinum's jewelry box.

The evening's final surprise came a bit later, as we gathered about with our stallions in the glow of the fire after plundering the larder for a much less grand but just as scrumptious reprise to the prior day's foregone feast. As we sat together afterward, talking softly of the day's festivities and our magical misadventure whilst admiring the way the light of the fire and candles reflected on our newly conjured decoration, I recall an almost palpable feeling of mutual affection suffusing the room.

All of a sudden, Fletcher rose from his place beside Pansy and turned to face her, then took a knee with visible shivers coursing through his wings. In a faltering voice that gained strength as he spoke, he asked her for her hoof in marriage, saying something poetic to the effect of his heart drifting like a cloud but feeling suddenly blown by an inner wind to pledge his troth to her.

With no sound but a gasp of breath Pansy leapt to her hooves and took the handsome stallion of her fancy into a passionate kiss, the sudden flaring of their wings wafting a warm breeze around the room from the rosy embers of the hearth. Not to be outdone, we married mares turned to our mates and tenderly kissed them as well, and after many toasts raised and well wishes for our newly affianced friends we all retired to the warmth of our beds.

In the ensuing days I have returned to my research, performing experiments on the crystal and cross referencing my notes. It occurred to me today, O diary, to bring you forth from your undeserved exile to make note of my personal impressions of this first failed experiment.

I'll close now, as Pansy has requested that Cookie and I help her craft a letter to her excellency the Commander breaking the news of her betrothal without resulting in the breaking, so to speak, of her betrothed. A challenge, to be sure, as Hurricane will surely hold any stallion with the temerity to woo her right-hoof mare to a punishingly high standard.

Xasteriá and good morrow for now, and hopefully, O diary, the dust shall not be so thick upon you when I return.


Translator's Hoofnotes:

[1] Astute readers will doubtless recognize the Pre-Equestrian origins of what we now know as the Hearth's Warming Tree. Time, fashion, and cultural iteration have changed the decorations that we hang on our holiday trees in modern times. I find it a fascinating study of how the three tribes distinct cultures have melded. The earth ponies' symbolic evergreen is now adorned with colored lights, glass spheres, and metallic gemstones from the unicorns, while the pegasi contributed tinsel, flocking, and stylized snowflakes. Some ponies still hew to the old ways, however. My dear friend Applejack's family decorates their tree in a fashion that would be quite familiar to the earth ponies of Lady Clover's era.

[2] Princess Celestia smiled at me when we were discussing this passage and declared that ponies hadn't invented irony yet. As is often the case I have difficulty telling if she was being facetious or not. [5]

[3] The tradition of stockings hung over the hearth and placing small presents therein on Hearth's Warming Eve originates among the unicorns. I find its mention here very interesting because we begin to see the early stages of cultural amalgamation, as all the members of Cookie, Clover, and Pansy's household contribute their tribes' unique ingredients to the this microcosm of the Equestrian melting pot.

As the least physically hardy of the three tribes (and as the inventors of knitting) the wearing of stockings under winter boots was quite common in the old monoceric kingdoms far back as the Paleo Pony Period. Naturally during the winter months these stockings would be hung over a warm fire to dry after their wearers came inside.

As a culture, the tribe of my birth is known, perhaps fairly, perhaps not, for a certain amount of ostentation. The hiding of small, heartfelt presents in pockets, under pillows, and eventually in these hanging stockings was a way to avoid extravagant shows of generosity in favor of just brightening somepony's day a little. Minor teleportation spells were often employed to secret sweets, money, or small gemstones without the recipient being any the wiser.

Suffice to say, around Hearth's Warming it further behooved a pony to check their socks before putting them on.

[4] One unforeseen trend that I have noticed while discussing the content of this manuscript with friends, mentors, and family is its capacity for causing princesses to give vent to recently swallowed beverages in the form of an aerosolized cloud. This was the unfortunate result of me informing my sister-in-law of the events detailed in this passage over chilled glasses of crystal berry punch.

Princess Cadance was quite as amazed as I was at discovering an eyewitness account of the origins of the Crystal Heart in the words of one of Equestria's founders. When we later pressed Princess Celestia about it, she merely smiled that inscrutable smile of hers and replied that it certainly
was interesting, but little more than trivia until the Crystal Empire resurfaced. Now that our sister kingdom to the north has returned, I believe this shall be a very interesting question to research further. [6]

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnote:

[5] Aye, and doubly ironic that after so many years there are ponies who yearn to
not hear her voice once in a while. -P.L. [7]

Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote:

[6] Most ironic indeed that you refer to the Crystal Empire as our
sister kingdom, my faithful student. -P.C.

[7] Especially when I get all gossipy and start talking at length about a certain baby sibling of mine when she {excised by royal order} -P.C. [8]

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnote:

[8] You
shut up about {excised by royal order}  -P.L. [9]

Translator's Mentor's Hoofnote:

[9] Whoopsie! You nearly gave it away
yourself that time, Woona. Now who doesn't know when to stop talking?-P.C. [10]

Translator's Co-Sovereign & Mentor's Sister's Hoofnote:

[10] AaaaAAAAaaaugh!!!!  -P.L.


The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

Book of Days - Part 13
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PART 2 - ADJUSTED FOCUS

Nurse Poultice held a pointer in her teeth and tapped it on a slightly faded eye chart, speaking to her patient through the sides of her mouth. "Hokay, read me the shmallesht line y'all can shee."

Twilight dutifully held the opaque paddle over her unscathed eye and peered across the test site infirmary's cramped exam room at the rows of letters. The relentless, colorful sparkles in her right eye were starting to give her a mild headache, but they seemed to settle down as she concentrated. "Um... 'Manufactured under Crown Charter by the Twenty Twenty Optometrical Supplies Company, Manehattan, Equestria.'"

The earth pony nurse blinked, then craned her neck to peer at a tiny line of text at the very bottom of the chart. After a moment she pulled out a pair of glasses and put them on, squinting as she pushed her snout against the paper, Her pointer clattered on the concrete floor as her jaw dropped open in shock. She turned and stared wide eyed over the top of her spectacles.

Twilight pawed nervously at the edge of the exam table. "Did... did I get it right?"

Before the medical pony could reply, the door slammed open and Rainbow Dash came soaring in with a breathless Rarity close on her heels. The colorful pegasus stopped in a tense hover at the lavender unicorn's eye level. "Twilight! Are you okay? What happened?"

Twilight gave a fond smile to her devoted friends. "I'm fine Dash, this isn't the first poke in the eye I've taken. It's just some spots and a little double... vision... " She trailed off as she squinted at their expectant faces.

Rarity took a slight step back at her business partner's intense scrutiny. "Um... Are you quite sure you're all right, darling?"

Twilight turned her attention Rainbow Dash with a cocked eyebrow. "Dash? What did you do to your mane?"

The stunt flyer drew herself up self consciously, her sandy voice coming out in a stammering torrent. "Do? To… to… my mane? What a totally weird question, Twilight. Hah hah. I don't do any... I... I mean, I didn't do anything to my mane except comb it of course 'cos I was gonna do this press conference thing. Why in the world would you ask such a personal and private question all of a sudden and totally out of the blue?"

Rarity's pristine alabaster features tweaked with the slightest of smirks as she cast Dash a knowing sidelong glance. Her face went blank with horror as Twilight turned her squinting gaze on her. "And there's something... off about your face, Rarity."

Faster than even a perfectly healthy pair of eyes could follow the pale unicorn was across the room with her hooves clenched on the edges of the wash up sink, peering intently at her reflection in the streaked mirror on the door of the medicine cabinet that hung over it. She wheeled and dropped back to all fours with an archly raised eyebrow. "Twilight, just what has gotten into you? What's this all about?"

The scholarly mare let out a soft growl of frustration and rubbed her eyes. "I can't... this... this double vision is making things really hard to look at straight."

She clenched her right eye shut and looked at them, her brow furrowing. "Huh... Now everything is normal."

Rarity gave a toss of her head, the scarf binding her mane hindering the complete effect she would have usually hoped for. "Normal? Darling, I'm fabulous!"

After a moment's thoughtful pause as the precision wheels began to turn in her head, Twilight closed her unaffected eye and opened the other one. Her brow furrowed. "Okay, that's really strange."

She proceeded to hold the optometrist's paddle up to her right eye, then her left, then her right, then her left, then her right.

Dash fidgeted with her fore hooves as a tense silence fell over the little room. "Ya wanna quit creepin' us out here, Twi?"

The unicorn scholar cocked her head. "Its... Well, to explain it simply if I look at Rarity with my... well for lack of a better term lets call it my 'good' eye, she looks how she normally does."

Rarity nodded matter-of-factly. "Fabulous. Of course."

Twilight pursed her lips. "But if I look at her through the eye that got zapped, again for lack of a better term, then it's like she's not wearing any makeup at all."

The pale fashionista drew in a sharp breath and spun away from her old friend's gaze, standing stiff necked and self conscious as she faced the opposite corner of the room with a thoroughly mortified expression. "Oh… how… unusual…"

Twilight cleared her throat and turned to Rainbow Dash, speaking gravely to the colorful pegasus. "And when I look at you with the zapped eye, your mane's getting kind of faded at the tips."

Dash drew herself up indignantly, nearly hitting her head on the low ceiling, then after a moment deflated and let out a sigh, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof as she drifted back downward. "Yeah yeah, okay. It's a dye job, all right?"

She gestured vaguely with her hooves at her chromatic forelock. "Nothing fancy, just keeping the colors bright and punchy like they are on the posters. You wouldn't believe the abuse my hair takes on the road doing all these shows and appearances, and well, y'know I got a public image to keep up and all. So..."

Rarity turned to her and spoke in a solicitous tone, her voice slightly muffled by a newly donned surgical mask. "Honestly, darling, whoever does your styling does excellent work. Nopony would ever notice... except yours truly, of course."

She cast a pointed glare through her designer goggles at Twilight. "And a lady never points out the flaws in another mare's makeup."

Dash crossed her fore hooves in front of her. "Well, nopony better go blabbing about it to the reporters out there, that's all I care about."

She looked down past her shoulder at the earth pony nurse who'd been watching the proceedings with a bemused look on her face. "Medical confidentiality, huh?"

Nurse Poultice looked up at her with a deadpan expression and gave a shrug. "Yer not my patient, hun."

Dash bristled. "Ya want me to go find a good, sturdy wall to slam into?"

The medical pony raised a propitiating hoof. "Okay, I'll keep quiet. No need t' git all loco on me now."

Twilight let out a sigh and plucked up her eye patch in a sparkle of purple magic. "Well, speaking of the press, we probably ought to get out there and give a statement. We'll investigate this phenomenon later under more controlled conditions."

She turned to the nurse with an expectant look in her eye. "I presume otherwise I've got a clean bill of health, Nurse Poultice?"

The earth pony gave a nod. "Yer good t' go. Just try not t' strain yer eye too much. I'd say keep th' patch on fer a couple days. And if'n ya git a headache then lie down someplace dark with a warm, wet cloth over yer face."

Twilight trotted up to her and shook her hoof. "Will do. Thanks, Nurse."

The Appleloosan mare gave her a warm smile. "Jest doin' m'job, ma'am. I'd say y'all come back anytime but seein' as to why most ponies come here I'd just as soon wish y'all the opposite."

The lavender unicorn gave her a nod as her friends trooped out the door. "Well, lets just say I'll see you around."

***

Flashbulbs strobed with a clatter of camera shutters as Twilight and Rarity entered the press room and took their places at the podium. Pip, Apple Bloom, and the Flim Flam brothers were already there, all looking a bit frazzled from delaying the onslaught of questions from the raucous herd of reporters before Harmony Aeronautics' principals could join them.

Rainbow Dash semi-surreptitiously joined Spitfire at the back of the audience, stopping only to sign a couple of autographs before taking her seat near to where Trixie stood with her sound recording equipment on her back, murmuring direction to her pegasus camerapony while Featherweight filmed the proceedings with a normal lens on the Lulamoon Studios movie camera.

After they'd settled in Rarity took command of the press conference, having removed scarf, goggles, and surgical mask (and secured a Pinkie Pie Promise that Twilight wouldn't look at her with her magically affected eye) so that she could scintillate properly. She gave a bob of her horn to a unicorn mare with fine jewelry accenting her sharp appearance.

The reporter stood with a notepad hovering in her pink magic. "Rue Moor-Mills, Canterlot Chronicle, with a question for the executrixes of Harmony Aeronautics. Do you consider todays test a success, considering the terrible explosion shortly after the test subject achieved rainboom velocity?"

Flim Flim Flam cleared his throat and gave a nod to his brother and their employers. "If I might answer that one Doctor Sparkle, Madame Chairpony."

He adjusted his glasses and levitated a small blackboard with a diagram of the rocket cart drawn on it out from behind the table. "The explosion was due to an unforeseen fault in the design of the testing apparatus, not in the overall theory of the Destiny Drive." He floated a piece of chalk over and drew arrows under the leading edge of the rail cart's platform. "We simply didn't anticipate that air flow at that high rate of speed would cause the cart's surface to act as a sort of air foil, lifting it into the air. It is, after all, faster than anypony has ever gone on land. The sudden drop in air pressure caused the fuel tanks to rupture at roughly three thousand hooves up, by our estimation."

At this Flam chimed in. "Indeed. All those problematic peccadillos aside, we're quite pleased that the drive itself performed as expected, even at the cost of having to rebuild it from scratch."

Apple Bloom cleared her throat and gave the two unicorns a sidelong glare even as a smile brightened her pale yellow face. "And since th' safety precautions kicked in jest fine, no harm no foul."

She hooked her hoof in Pip's under the table and gave it a squeeze as Rarity gave the nod to another reporter, a slightly shabby looking pegasus with a curly blonde mane.

The pegasus ruffled his wings as he stood. "Goldenrod, Equestria Inquirer. On the subject of ponies being harmed, I'd like to ask Doctor Sparkle about that eye patch. Is there any truth to the rumors that have been flying around that your eye got put out during the experiment?"

Before Twilight could answer an indignant bellow came from the back row. "LIES! Lies and farcical fabrications! And anyway you can't blame the Spectacular Trixie for this!" The azure showmare jabbed a hoof toward the podium. "It was Twilight Sparkle's stupid fault for looking at a rainbow blast through the Spectacular Trixie's bombastically brilliant Reel to Real lens!"

Rarity huffed and tapped a hoof on the table for order as Twilight leaned toward her microphone with a conciliatory smile on her face. "I'm all right, fillies and gentlecolts of the press. My eye is still here. If you'll promise not to take any flash pictures for a minute I can show you. It's still a little light sensitive." A murmur of assent came from the press ponies as the cameras' clicking momentarily stilled.

With a nod she lifted up her eye patch and looked out over the crowd of reporters. After a moment her brow furrowed, and she pursed her lips as she closed her left eye and stared at them with her right.

A fierce expression settled on her face as she reared up with her hooves on the table, craning her neck with her ears canted back aggressively. "I don't believe it..."

Rarity pawed at the tabletop as she spoke tentatively to her friend and partner. "T-twilight? What's wrong?"

The lavender unicorn looked as if she were ready to leap over the table. With a quivering hoof and a snarl she pointed at MacGuffin from the Los Pegasus Times. "THERE!"

She turned her gaze on Jewelers Glass from Mariety Magazine. "And THERE!"

And then again she pointed furiously at Goldenrod, climbing up on the table with her ears perked and her tail hiked. "And THERE! I can SEE them! EVIL! Pure and simple from the pits of Tartarus. There are CHANGELINGS among us!"

Her horn flared with crackling purple magic and fired a blast at MacGuffin, exploding his chair in a burst of sparkling splinters as he leapt into the air with an uncanny burst of speed.

A shocked hush fell over the room, the only sound a deep, droning buzz as the lanky, frizzy maned unicorn hovered in midair with no sign of what was keeping him up. In a burst of sour green sorcery the red maned roan was gone and a black shelled insectoid equine dressed in a the reporter's powder blue jacket and thick glasses floated in his place, its tattered wings thrumming as murmurs of panic about to break loose rose from the crowd.

Its luminous blue eyes narrowed in a scowl of inequine rage as it spat back with a glob of viscous green matter that thudded into the curtains behind the Harmony Aeronautics delegation, narrowly missing Twilight as she dropped to the tabletop.

Pip thrust out his chin and clambered up on the table before Apple Bloom could stop him, making a daring leap toward the hovering changeling drone."Here now you blighter! Stop I say!"

Jewelers Glass exploded in a burst of sour green flame and in her place another chitinous gargoyle leapt into his path with mandibles unfurled, baring serrated rows of razor sharp fangs. Pip's eyes went wide a moment before he vanished in a spiraling flare of brighter green fire suffused with golden sparkles.

The elegantly dressed changeling had only a split second to blink in bewilderment as Apple Bloom exploded through the dissipating smoke cloud with a flying karate kick to the palps that sent the creature tumbling rump over thorax into a row of vacated folding chairs. "Hiiiiiii KEEBA!"

The changeling that had been posing as MacGuffin rose up to the rafters of the quonset hut and bellowed in a strangely modulated, rattling voice. "Spawn Zirconia! Spawn Pyrite! Cheese it! We've been made!"

A sandy voice responded from among the stampede of panicked reporters. "Not so fast, bugly!" A cyan blur trailing a streak of rainbow knocked the changeling drone from the air in a flying tackle.

Spitfire struggled against the press of fleeing press ponies, kicking and shoving and trying to restore order. "Calm down, everypony! Remain calm, please! CALM DOWN OR SO HELP ME I'll BUCK ALL YOUR RUMPS FROM HERE TO CLOUDSDALE!"

Twilight got back to her hooves and shouted at Dash and Apple Bloom, who struggled with the black shelled equine travesties as clouds of kicked up dust obscured the general chaos. "Hold them! I'll restrain them with my magic! Look out for the third one!"

Trixie stood perched on a chair, shouting up at Featherweight, who hovered beside her avidly filming the fracas from several hooves off the ground. "Keep filming! Keep filming! Keep AWK!"

She cut off with a squawk as a blonde, curly maned pegasus sidled up next to her and burst into a sickly green wreath of sorcery, revealing a third changeling who grabbed her by the mane and yanked her in close. She winced, startled and disoriented, as it loosed a thundering, buzzing shout, its jaws unfolding like a megaphone. "EVERYPONY FREEZE!"

The tumult died down to a low murmur as all eyes turned to the monstrous insectoid. With a lopsided grin on its fanged face it addressed the crowd of ponies. "Everypony back off or the loudmouth here gets it!"

To emphasize its points a wicked array of curved blades popped from the holes in its fore hoof, which it held up against Trixie's throat. It called to the drone that had stopped in mid-tussle with Rainbow Dash. "Spawn Megarump, lets go!"

The tall, scrawny changeling scowled and hissed at its swarm mate. "That's Mac Grump, you numbshell!"

Without even glancing in her direction it cold cocked Dash across the face with a perforated hoof, sending her slumping to the floor with little honking geese orbiting her head. The changeling muttered to itself in annoyance as it dusted off and made for the doorway.

Apple Bloom winced as the changeling she was holding down burst into poisonous green flames beneath her hooves. Her eyes went wide as she beheld Pip's handsome visage smiling up at her, a greenish sparkle playing across his teeth. "Kiss me, darling!"

Before she could reply the image of her fiancé shrugged loose from her grasp and knobbed her hard in the forehead with a vicious head butt. She flopped insensate on her back with tiny wedding bells jangling around her ears. The changeling reverted to its hideous appearance and snickered over its shoulder as it took wing and fell into formation behind its comrades.

The third changeling took up Trixie in a headlock and lifted off with a grunt, dangling her by her neck with its jagged blades still trained on her face. She screamed across the room as they backed out the door. "NO! LET ME GO YOU FREAKS! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT TWILIGHT SPARKLE!"

Twilight paused and turned to Flim and Flam, who'd been staring dumbfounded as all Tartarus broke loose in the press room. She jabbed her hoof at the two mares sprawled insensate on the floor. "You two! Help Dash and Apple Bloom!"

She turned to her business partner as her horn lit up with a corona of magic. "Come on, Rarity! We gotta stop them!"

Without a second thought the alabaster unicorn climbed up on the table next to her and took her hoof. "Ready when you are, darling."

With a mutual nod they vanished from the press room in a spherical burst of white light.

They materialized outside, as wind whipped sand blew around them and the press ponies who'd gotten free of the jam up at the doors scattered in every direction.

They looked around, squinting as grit stung their eyes, then froze and looked up in horror as a ululating shriek sounded above them. A moment later Trixie dropped out of the sky and landed on them with a crunch, sending them to the ground in a tangle of flailing hooves and splintered recording equipment.

Pip came galloping up, his black jumpsuit still smoldering and a look of annoyance on his face as he set to helping them to their hooves. "Dreadfully sorry, ladies. Bally P.A.E.R.S. took me out of the action for a bit."

Twilight snarled skyward at the trio of tatter winged silhouettes as she charged her horn for another blast of magic. "Stop right there you monsters!"

Overhead the changelings hovered, their luminous blue eyes narrowed expectantly. Spawn Mac Grump nodded to its swarm mates, and they flew over the top of the small Royal Blue Airship tethered over the landing pad. While its companions slashed at the ropes with their sickle-like horns, Spawn Pyrite darted along the side of the airship's envelope, slashing it open with its bladed appendage. Gouts of liberated lifting gas sent the balloon lurching sideways and down in the direction of the three unicorns and the gallant young earth pony who was assisting them.

Twilight, Rarity, Trixie, and Pip's ears laid black and their eyes went wide as the collapsing airship blotted out the yellow sky above them. The spotted stallion had only a second to intone half a curse before he vanished yet again in a spiral of bright green flame. "Oh bugg..."

A heavy blanket of silver painted canvas settled over the trio of unicorn mares, pinning them solidly to the ground. The changelings wheeled in the air and sped off over the salt flats as fast as their buzzing wings could carry them.

The wind whistled in the ensuing silence, save for Pip's distant, angrily raised voice echoing over the complex from the direction of the control bunker. "Aargh! I hate P.A.E.R.S! P.A.E.R.S is sodding rubbish!"

A muffled voice sounded from underneath the deflated gas bag. "Rarity? Trixie? Are you all right?"

Another muffled voice replied. "I'll live, darling, but I might need a couple weeks at the spa."

A third voice grumbled. "You're paying for that hornecorder, Sparkle."

The heavy duty cloth rustled as a hoof was slapped to a forehead.  



The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

Movie Magic - Part 2
A My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fan Fiction.

This story is set three years after the events described in Earth & Sky -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…

Twilight recovers from her ocular event and realizes that much more meets her eye than normal. But there's something lurking beneath the surface of the press pool.

To be continued...
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PART 1 - PAN & SCAN

The screen flickers to life as the lights go down and an expectant hush falls over the audience.

A jaunty fanfare plays, as a topographic map of continental Equestria fades into view. Multicolored fireworks burst and flicker across the skies over the verdant kingdom, resolving into the smiling visage of a cobalt blue unicorn mare with a pale blue mane and a gleam in her amethyst colored eyes. Her horn sparkles as the words appear over her in pleasing cursive writing. "The Spectacular Trixie Presents A Lulamoon Studios Production!"

With a convivial wink she fades out, replaced by the image of a handsome stallion in a Harmony Flight Harness carrying a movie camera rig and peering through the viewfinder as he traverses the map from one side to the other. Trailing behind him, a glamorous pegasus mare with flowing blonde hair and a sash emblazoned with the word 'veritas' tows a fluttering banner that proclaims: "Eye on Equestria! All the news the nation needs now!"

The scene shifts to a broad expanse of whitish tan desert, extending to the horizon beneath a rippling blanket of heat waves under an intense yellow sky. A brash, feminine voice begins to speak. "The Salt Block Flats of San Palomino, a whole lot of nothing in the middle of nowhere, but there's something brewing here that will soon be the center of attention everywhere that's anywhere."

The view focuses on a large pile of sand and sandbags, circling around it until it settles on a set of railroad tracks laid in a straight line across the packed earth. It pans along the tracks, pulling back as a set of low blockhouses built of concrete and braced with more sandbags roll past.

The  rails finally terminate at a solidly buttressed concrete block wall painted with a purple and gold emblem depicting a pony rising on butterfly wings over a six pointed pink star, a blue diamond, and a red apple.  "Here in this endless open air oven, the unique horns at Harmony Aeronautics Incorporated are at it again, cooking up a new application of magical technology that will wow the world. Today, a new land speed record will be set, and in a single brave bound the barriers of the believable will be ppfffttt... Gah! pffft pffft It's in my pffft... my mouth... ppfffft... again! CUT!"

***

A gust of wind picked up a cloud of dust and salt granules, causing the scrawny pegasus camera pony to recoil from the billowing blast, clenching his eyelids and averting the delicate lenses of his camera from the scouring onslaught. His fearless leader held onto her purple, star spangled beret with a hoof as she spat out the stinging mouthful of grit. "Yuck. pffft... The Spectacular Trixie can't stand the... pfft... taste of this location. Why did they have to pick this disgusting, dusty... pffft... dump to do Sparkle's stupid stunt?"

Featherweight adjusted the bandanna shielding his muzzle and gave a shrug. "Dunno, boss. I guess it's 'cos they didn't want to set off a ground level rainboom anyplace where it could knock anything down, y'know?"

The azure unicorn rolled her eyes behind her goggles and levitated a bakalite cone off of her horn, coiling up the wires leading from it to the boxy contraption on her back and hanging the cone on its waiting bracket, then flipping all the switches running along the side in a shimmer of blue-white magic. "Well, the Spectacular Trixie's gotten enough grit in her teeth for one afternoon. Lets wrap on the establishing shots for now. We'll shoot some more after all the dust settles, if it ever does."

The pegasus hastened to clap protective caps over his camera's lenses. He nodded toward the recording device his employer carried. "I hope ya didn't get any sand on the cylinder, or yer voiceover's gonna sound like y'were chewin' it by the spoonful."

Trixie huffed. "We'll cut a new track back in the studio. Now just flutter along and get set up in the bunker while the Spectacular Trixie goes and gets the new lens rig out of the wagon."

Featherweight nodded toward a small complex of low adobe buildings in the distance. "Don't ya wanna catch any footage of the interviews? I heard the Wonderbolts just got here."

The azure unicorn gave another roll of her eyes with enough emphasis to cause her horn to trace a little figure eight in the air. "Pfft. Please. We've got enough press footage from their promo reels to cut together a three part trilogy of feature length films composed of nothing but 'Uhh's', 'Duh's' and 'Hi Mom!'s."

She drew herself up imperiously. "We're filmmakers, not paparazzi. Let the news hounds bark after unscripted banalities to stain the pages of half-bit tabloids."

With a grand flourish she reared and jabbed a hoof dramatically in the air. "We are hoof crafting a historical record that will burn itself onto the retinas of ponykind for WHOA!"

Overbalanced by the recording device on her back, Trixie began to topple backwards, but was stopped with a deftly placed hoof and shoved back forward by her companion, who had worked with the flamboyant unicorn long enough to keep his eye roll out of her sight.  "Careful there, boss."

She lashed her tail and raised her snout in the air to reclaim a bit of dignity. "Anyway, I'm still not talking to Perry for agreeing to go thru with this while we're right in the middle of shooting another serial. I need that gorgeous mug of his up on the screen, not potentially smeared across a half mile of salt crusted desert."

Featherweight shrugged. "A.B. seems fine with all the safety precautions Doc Sparkle set up, and if she ain't worried then I don't think anypony needs t' be. And just think of how they'll flock to the theaters when we've got the first earth pony to ever pull off a sonic rainboom as our headliner."

She tapped a hoof on the packed salt sand and cast him a glare. "How is the Spectacular Trixie supposed to get any grousing done if you're just gonna hover there and be sensible at her? Didn't I tell you to go get set up in the bunker?"

The skinny young pegasus gave a nod and fluttered away. "You got it, S.T."

He paused a few yards off and gave his employer a wave as he cradled his camera in the other hoof. "Try not to monologue too much when yer bringin' out that lens rig, okay boss? Ya don't wanna throw the calibration outta whack."

Trixie stomped a hoof in irritation and flicked her horn at the low buildings flanking the track. "I'll whack you if you don't get a move on!"

She let out a long, irritated breath as he turned and hurried off, leaving only a little cloud of dust rising from the desert in his wake.

The Spectacular Trixie glared out over the wide, drab vista all around her, and spat out a few more loose grains of salt. "Pfft."

***

The wind rustled a rack full of Harmony Harnesses, each one's canvas wings emblazoned with the masthead of a different Equestrian news service or metropolitan paper. The silver cylinder of a light duty excursion class airship cast a long hazy shadow on the ground as it rocked gently between its mooring towers, which flew the flapping, rattling flags of the Royal Blue Airship Line.

Inside the adjoining quonset hut, a gaggle of pony reporters leaned eagerly forward with cameras and notepads at the ready, clamoring for the attention of a row of well known ponies who sat at a long table decorated with Equestrian flags and the Harmony Aeronautics logo.

At the center, naturally, was Rarity, looking resplendent in a gleaming white jacket with a colorful scarf binding her hair against the desert wind and a set of jewel encrusted designer goggles raised up beneath her horn. To her left were the delegation from the Wonderbolts, Rainbow Dash and Spitfire, both clad in their medal festooned Royal Air Cavalry dress blues. To her right sat Pip and Apple Bloom, the former wearing a clinging black jumpsuit crisscrossed with a network of rune inscribed ribbons converging at several points on small vials of greenish powder, his marefriend and associate dressed in more traditional denim coveralls with a set of dark goggles pushed up over her customary pink bandanna and an extra bandanna hanging down around her neck, ready to be pulled up over her muzzle in the blowing sand outside.

With queenly aplomb, Rarity gave the nod to one of the clamoring reporters, an earnest looking mare in a fairly well put together ensemble. The earth pony stood as the others settled down to let her speak. "Jewelers Glass, Mariety Magazine, with a question for Mister Grand. Are you..."

She cut off as the handsome stallion held up a hoof to politely interject, a winning smile spreading across his chiseled features that gleamed as an onslaught of flashbulbs went off. "Please, my dear. 'Perry Grand' is just a stage name the publicist ponies at Lulamoon Studios came up with. Looks better on a movie poster, or so they tell me."

He nodded toward Rarity and Apple Bloom, who he gave a sidelong wink. "While I'm on the clock for Harmony Aeronautics just 'Pip' will more than suffice. Terribly sorry to have interrupted. Do please continue."

A couple of the other mares around her fanned themselves with their notepads as the journalist resumed her questioning. "Um... Okay, 'Pip'. What film fans want to know is, are you at all concerned with the risk you're undertaking, especially considering that you're currently in the middle of filming 'Commando Pony Versus The Brombys of the Stratosphere'?"

The spotted stallion gave a casual shrug. "Risk is a part of both my jobs. As you all know I insist on doing all my own stunts for the movies I appear in, and if I come a cropper on set it would be just the same as on the test range."

At his side, Apple Bloom's smile became a bit strained, but she brightened up as Pip turned and gave her another nod. " As always I just have to trust in the keen expertise, consummate professionalism, and breathtaking inventive brilliance of my friends and co-workers to keep me out of trouble."

He stood and turned to show off the tight garment he was wearing, flexing his flanks with a flick of his tightly wrapped tail. The room strobed with flashbulbs, and two mares and a stallion in the audience of reporters keeled over. "A fine case in point are these unusual togs I'm done up in today. This is the Peril Actuated Extraction and Retrieval Suit, or the P.A.E.R.S. for short. It uses an ingenious re-purposing of dragon fire based translocation to whisk me out of a jam should things go all 'pear shaped' as it were."

The audience chuckled at his joke as he turned and shared another smile with Apple Bloom, who winked back and blew him a kiss. Rarity smiled vivaciously and gave the nod to another raised hoof. A grizzled blue-grey pegasus stood to address the platform. "Weathervane, Cloudsdale Sentinel, with a question for Rainbow Dash. What do you think about an earth pony performing your signature stunt?"

The rainbow maned pegasus gave the crowd an affable smile and a nod to Pip. "Well, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so in general I think it's pretty awesome. Plus now when I tell the all the kids who come to our shows that if they practice hard enough they can grow up to be just like good ol' Rainbow Dash, it's twenty percent truer."

The crowd murmured their approval. After a couple of beats a look of alarm washed across her cyan blue face, and she hastily leaned forward to add on to her statement. "Uh... That... that being said, make sure to include this message from me to all the kids out there: Don't... uh... don't try what Pip here is gonna do at home, okay? Hospitals are no fun to hang out in at all, and I'd rather sign an autograph book than a cast any day of the mrmph..."

She cut off as Rarity's manicured hoof covered her muzzle. The pale unicorn gave a strained smile to the reporters. "Next question, please?"

A lanky unicorn stallion with thick glasses and a slightly frizzy red mane stood up. "MacGuffin, Los Pegasus Times, a question for Major Spitfire. Do you foresee any military applications for this artificial rainboom technology?"

The blaze yellow pegasus was distracted by glaring in annoyance at her star flyer, and blinked to attention at the sound of her name and a nudge in the ribs from Dash. "Uh... What?"

Before the reporter could repeat his question Pip cleared his throat and stood, casting a glance over at Rarity as Apple Bloom hastily got to her hooves as well. "I hate to interrupt again, and I quite apologize, Madame Chairpony, but we're approaching H Hour and Miss Apple and I must be toddling off to the test site to get ready. If you'll excuse us, please?"

The alabaster unicorn gave her two young employees a magnanimous bob of her horn. "Of course darlings. Best of luck to you, Pip dear. Clear skies, eh?"

Dash called out as well. "Yeah, Clear skies, kid! Try not to break anything besides the sound barrier, okay?"

He threw them a jaunty salute, then gave a bow to the assembly of reporters as they got to their hooves and applauded. His smile gleamed with a final twinkle as he headed out the door with Apple Bloom in tow. The young mare looked back at the rainbow maned pegasus with a crease in her pale yellow brow before she trotted out of view.

When the stomping of hooves died down Rarity tapped her hoof on the table for order and nodded to the reporter who'd spoken last. "Would the gentlecolt from the Times please repeat his question?"

***

Several cooling fans were blowing at full capacity in the ready room as Apple Bloom helped Pip don a heavily padded, quilted body suit, followed by a fully enclosed suit of enchanted steel plate armor with articulated, hydraulically locking leg joints and piston actuated clamp mechanisms on the hoof plates, as well as several heavy duty attachment points on the withers and croup of the back plates.

The red headed mare gave him a smile over her shoulder that didn't quite reach her eyes as she laid her hooves on a conical faced helmet. "I'm gonna be mighty glad ta git ya outta this tin can when all this is over n' done with."

Her grin turned saucy as her eyes gleamed. "'Til then, do y'all got any last minute requests 'fore I hang th' control array offa yer kisser?" Her emphasis on the final word made it clear what she was hoping for.

He gave her a glittering smile, edged a bit with nervousness as sweat began to run down his forehead from beneath his padded hood. "Er... yes, as a matter of fact I've a couple of things to run past you."

With that he lumbered off over to a locker marked with his flag and mountain cutie mark, pulling it open and rummaging around in the satchel that sat inside beneath his hanging canvas Harmony Aeronautics flight jacket and his trilby hat with two sky blue feathers poking out of the brim.

He came out with a roll of white fabric in his hooves, which he presented to her. "Since I'm sallying forth all kitted up like one of the knights destrier of old, I thought it would be appropriate to be carrying an appropriate token from my lady most fair out on the field of honor."

Apple Bloom raised her eyebrow and unfurled the span of silk, revealing a red apple in the center with her name embroidered on either side in cursive script. She blushed and let out a chuckle as he inclined his head to allow her to reach up and tie the headband across his brow. She leaned in and planted a tender kiss on his lips. "Y'all make me proud now, sweetheart."

A look somewhere between thoughtful and panicked passed across the young stallion's handsome face, and he skittishly cleared his throat and took a step toward her. "I... I'd like to make you much more than that, my darling..."

He carefully lowered himself onto his haunches, and produced a small jewelry box, which he popped open and proffered to her. Inside a gold chain earring with two diamond crusted cutie mark charms, his flag and mountain and her apple and hammer, glinted on the dark velvet cushion.

He cleared his throat a second time, then embarked with a halting voice that only grew in warmth and sincerity. "I... I know it's not... ahem... not traditional for the stallion to propose to the mare, and I was going to do this after... well... after this whole test sequence was over but I thought about it and decided I ought to do it right now. Just in case, you know..."

He met her dumbfounded gaze. "Apple Bloom, you are by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Would you make me the luckiest stallion in Equestria and consent to becoming my wife?"

A silence fell between them as she stared, her amber irises shrinking around tiny pupils as she looked down at the engagement earring, then up at him, then down, then up, then down, then up. "Wh... whut? Yer... yer proposing t' me? Now? Right now? Right before we strap a high explosive n' rainbow powered rocket t' yer back and shoot ya down a railroad track? This is when ya decide to do this?"

A bloom of fiery red washed outward from her cheeks as she bared her teeth in a snarl and clamped her hooves around his throat. Her voice was a throaty growl as she started to vigorously shake him. "YOU SLACK JAWED KUMQUAT PICKIN' ADDLE BRAINED IDJIT! HOW COULD YA DO THIS T' ME!?"

***

The south bunker hummed with a low murmur of activity, as rows of unicorns sat at switchboards with their horns linked into a cleverly conceived and constructed communications grid that kept them in touch with a network of observation posts spread out along the test track and at each point of the compass around the Harmony Aeronautics test site.

A cadre of unicorns in flight harnesses circled high above in the clear blue sky with state of the art portable crystal radio sets on their backs and highly trained pegasi at their wing, observing wind and weather conditions and sending up to the minute data back to the nerve center below.

At one end of the viewport, Featherweight made minute adjustments to his camera tripod with a portable spirit level and took light readings with an enchanted gemstone mounted in a brass watch casing. The camera's lens assembly had been removed and set aside in a carrying case as the the boxy device awaited its replacement with a protective cap over the aperture.

Doctor Twilight Sparkle adjusted her reading glasses and looked over a blackboard full of equations in the muted sunlight streaming in between the steel slats of the bunker's long, horizontal observation port as Professor Flam Flim Flam stood at her side chewing anxiously on his mustache and awaiting her final judgment. His bespectacled younger brother, Flim Flim Flam, pored over a scrolling ticker tape and annotated it with a highlighter pen held in the green sparkles of his magic. All three unicorns wore lab coats emblazoned with Harmony Aeronautics patches, with face masks and goggles at the ready should they need to go outside.

The lavender mare gave a nod of satisfaction. "Well, gentlecolts, everything seems to be in order here. I look forward to witnessing conclusive proof of your theories today."

The two brothers swelled with pride as they grinned at one another and shook hooves.

Her horn glimmered with purple sparkles as she levitated her glasses off, folded them, and tucked them into a pocket on her lab coat. She stepped up to look out on the harshly lit expanse of desert outside. "Now all we need is for our test pony to take the stage and..."

Everypony in the bunker's heads whipped around as a sputtering pop and twinkle of magic and a flare of green flame spiraled in the air over a thick mattress laid out in a specially designated back corner marked off with black and yellow emergency tape. It spun in on itself and exploded in a puff of white smoke and sparkles, and a spotted earth pony stallion in a smoldering black jumpsuit tumbled out of thin air and landed with a thud before the startled bunker staff's eyes.

With a cough and a shiver Pip shook his head to clear it. He met Twilight's gaze with a tremulous grin. "Um... I'm pleased to report that the P.A.E.R.S. works exactly as expected, Doctor Sparkle."

She blinked at him incredulously. "Pip!? What... what happened?"

Before the young stallion could formulate an answer the door to the bunker crashed open, bucked aside by a pair of pale yellow hooves wearing size five horseshoes. All heads whipped in that direction as Apple Bloom came stomping in snorting steam out of her nostrils, her amber eyes flaring like hot coals.

They all watched in silence as she crossed the control room, the soles of her work boots echoing like a snare drum cadence off the reinforced concrete. She reached out a hoof and hooked it on Pip's lapel, dragging him up to a half seated position with their snout's almost touching as her gaze bored into his. "I got just one thing t' say to you, Peregrine Squeak."

Her eyes became large and liquid as a soft blush bloomed on her face. "Yes! I'll marry ya."

With that she pulled him into a long, deep, passionate kiss, as everyone in the bunker looked on, dumbfounded.

Apple Bloom's brow furrowed as they parted, the little floating hearts around their heads drifting over to orbit Pip as a tiny black storm cloud appeared over her apple red forelock. She sighed in a weary voice. "That is if'n I don't come down with th' colic from havin' t' worry 'bout my consarned fiancé gittin' blown t' smithereens instead of just my dumb ol' coltfriend now."

She grabbed him by the collar and dragged his limp, sprawling form behind her as she made her way back to the door. The young mare paused and cast a brusque glance at Twillight and the Flim Flam brothers as she passed. "Sorry for th' delay. Gotta take shmoopy bear here n' git him suited up again. I promise t' fix th' door later."

The lavender unicorn could only nod slowly in response. "All right, Apple Bloom. Congratulations."

The younger mare stopped, her expression softening to a warm smile. "Thanks, Twilight."

The lavender unicorn turned a gimlet eyed glare on the young stallion lolling on the floor in new fiancée's iron grasp. "And Pip?"

He replied in a besotted, loopy tone of voice. "Yes, Docter Sparkle?"

She let out a small sigh. "You really need to work on your timing."

He gave a wobbly nod of agreement. "Yes, Doctor Sparkle."

Apple Bloom pursed her lips and stared hard at the lanky unicorns standing behind her employer. "And as fer you two, if'n anythin' bad happens t' my colt here 'cos y'all screwed somethin' up, just know that no amount o' powdered dragon fire is gonna keep me from trackin' ya down and stompin' y'all into hospital welcome mats. Y'unnerstan?"

Flam swallowed hard and nodded frantically. "In... indubitably, my dear Miss Apple."

Flim lashed his tail nervously and pushed up his glasses. "D-do let us know where you'll be setting up your gift registry."

She gave them a terse nod of satisfaction, then dragged her twitterpated husband-to-be out the door.

Twilight rubbed her temple with a hoof as Flim turned to Flam and spoke in a tentative voice. "Methinks, brother, it would further behoove us to re-check your equations one more time."

As they bent their red and white maned heads to pore over the blackboard the bunker door opened with another sharp crack, causing Flam to drag a crazy, jagged line across his figures with a tooth clenching screech of chalk on slate.

All heads turned to behold the Spectacular Trixie standing confindently in the doorway with an oblong carrying case bearing her cutie mark hovering after her. "Behold! Cinema's greatest genius, arriving with an awe inspiring advance in camera lens technology! The Spectacular Trixie has come to both make history and bear witness to it as well in her own inimitable fashion!"

Flam snapped his chalk in half and wheeled on her with his green eyes flaring. "Confound it, you megaphone mouthed mush minded mountebank of a mare, will you kindly keep your cacophonous clamoring down so that actual intellects can work in peace?"

The azure mare snorted and tossed her head, meeting his gaze with an imperious glare of her own. "The Spectacular Trixie will be glad to temper her tone if any should happen to show up. 'Til then feel free to shove that chalk in your ears, you simpering second-string snake-oil salespony."

Flim eyed them both over his glasses with an arch expression as he twirled his highlighter and spoke up in a voice dripping with sarcasm. "You two are just so ineffably cute when you flirt."

Flam and Trixie both grimaced in disgust and gave each other the cold shoulder, the mustachioed stallion wheeling to resume his calculations while the brash mare turned to greet Twilight with a terse nod. "Hello, Sparkle. How long 'til you put my studio's biggest star in mortal jeopardy?"

The lavender scholar flicked an ear and met her former rival with a deadpan expression. "Not long now, Lulamoon. Is that the new lens assembly you've been going on about?"

A smug smile spread across the azure unicorn's face as she brought the case around and unlocked it. Nestled in the red velvet padding was a brass cylinder roughly the length and thickness of a pony's cannon and hoof with sapphire, emerald, and ruby lenses at one end and a flawlessly clear diamond lens at the other.

Her grin widened as she preened over her newest invention. "Indeed it is. Behold! Reel To Real, the next bold advance in Trixiecolor cinematography. Any footage shot through this baby is so lush and sharp you'd almost think you're in the picture yourself. It looks more real than real, it's Reel To Real!"

Twilight's horn sparked to life as she cast the Gem Finding spell she'd learned from Rarity so long ago. An array of gemstone mirrors and prisms was revealed hazily through the cylinder's casing. "Hmm. Yes, very clever indeed. I can see that HEY!"

She recoiled as Trixie snapped the case shut and snatched it away behind her in her blue white magic. "Ut! This is proprietary and patent pending, Sparkle! Keep your spells off!"

The lavender mare rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Lulamoon. I signed every N.D.A. and trade secret compact you shoved under my quill. Not to mention the fact that I happen to be close friends with the Elements of Loyalty and Honesty and hope to always remain so. I think you can trust me not to swipe your ideas."

Her former rival snorted and replied with a surfeit of simmering sass. "Well, unless you're prepared to fork over enough bits to impress your close friend and business partner the Element of Generosity you ain't gettin' to poke your overcharged howitzer of a horn into the Spectacular Trixie's business, Miss Elephant of Magic."

Twilight let out a huff of exasperation and flicked the aforementioned horn toward the corner where Featherweight waited with the camera. "Just go hook it up and try to keep your voice down so that everypony else can concentrate, okay?"

The azure showmare hiked her tail as she sashayed across the control room. "Fine. The Spectacular Trixie had better be impressed when she sees this show you're gonna put on.."

The lavender scholar called after her. "The Exceedingly Patient Doctor Sparkle had better be impressed when she sees your footage."

Turning away as Trixie set to work installing her lens assembly with Featherweight's help, Twilight closed her eyes and brought her hoof to her chest, inhaling deeply, then stretched it out in front of her as she exhaled, centering herself with the trick that her sister-in-law Princess Cadance taught her so long ago on a hectic visit to the Crystal Empire.

A rustle of paper beside her caused her to crack an eyelid in a sidelong glance at Flim, who stood with a clipboard hovering in his magic and an eager grin on his face. "Only a few more items on the checklist, Doctor Sparkle. All the data has been collated and re-checked, and we're ready to go when you say so."

Twilight glanced out the view port and saw Apple Bloom making her way across the salt flats with a tool kit balanced on her back and her head swaddled in pink bandannas and dark goggles. Trundling along behind her a pair of earth pony drafters pulled the heavily armored form of Pip, who stood atop a rail cart with the hooves of his boots locked solidly in place.

Behind him, another Harmony Aeronautics staffer pushed another cart carrying a brass and stainless steel contraption composed of two fuel tanks with tubes running into a sort of carburetor and then out again into an array of cone shaped jet thrusters.

She turned and gave a nod to Flim as she sparked her horn to life and set her own facemask and goggles in place. "Excellent. Lets go and get Pip hooked up to the Destiny Drive."

He bobbed his horn in return. "You got it, Chief."

With that Twilight trotted out the door with the lanky stallion at her heels.

***

The dust laden wind whipped fitfully around the small knot of ponies as bolts were tightened and valves and actuators tested. Twilight stood with her checklist and a quill hovering in her magic, scrutinizing the track, cart, armor encased test pony, and rocket drive with a hypercritical eye.

She began to run down the final row of unchecked boxes. "All right. Phlogiston feed?"

Pip extended his tongue and flicked a lever in the cone shaped muzzle of his helmet, causing a small gout of lurid green flame to puff out of the central jet cone. Twilight nodded. "Check!"

She moved on to the next box. "Rainbow injection?"

Another tongue switch flipped, and a burst of multicolored mist sprayed out of a nozzle on the carburetor. Twilight scratched her quill on the page as Flim closed the test valve with a wrench. "Check!"

She turned her attention to the wheels of the cart, now resting on the tracks with wooden chocks holding it in place. Scrutinizing the pistons and heavy duty rubber pads poised above the wheels, she called out to her companions. "Brakes?"

Pip clenched down on the bar between his back teeth. A staggered hiss sounded as the brake pads pushed against the wheels. Twilight pursed her lips beneath her dust mask. "Hmm. A little hesitation there. Apple Bloom, tweak the pressure on those pneumatics."

The young mare nodded and leaned down with a socket wrench puckering the bandanna on her face. Twilight moved on. "Thruster Alignment?"

Flim checked each cone with a protractor and plum bob, and gave his employer the nod. She nodded back and checked the box. "Check!"

She called out the next step. "Throttle control?"

Pip stuck out his tongue and tapped the central button in his helmet's control array. A brief burst of phlogiston flame from all the rocket cones caused the cart to rock forward against the chocks before it settled back again after the thrust cut off.

Twilight put down another mark. "Check! How are those brakes looking?"

This time all the pistons pushed on the break pads in unison. "Check!"

The quill moved to the next box. "Emergency chutes?"

Flim checked pneumatic pressure on a small gauge, tugged on a couple of straps, and nodded to her. "Check!"

Twilight gave a final bob of her horn to Apple Bloom and Flim, and then reared up with her front hoof on the cart platform and tapped the side of Pip's helmet. "How's our test pony doing?"

A muffled but jaunty response came from inside the armored face cone. Twilight pursed her lips and nodded. "Okay, I'll call that a check." She levitated her quill and clipboard over to Flim, the purple sparkles shifting to green as he took them from her.

Twilight levitated a stopwatch out of the pocket of her lab coat and held it up beside a similar timepiece built into the side of Pip's helmet. She turned the dials on both with her sparkling purple magic. "Okay, synchronizing timers. Just like we rehearsed, there will be a three minute countdown, then the first bell will ring, signaling you to fire the thrusters, after thirty seconds the second bell will ring, then kick in the rainbow juice and brace for the rainboom. If the rainboom doesn't happen before the third bell, hit the brakes. If the rainboom does happen, hit the brakes immediately and await retrieval. Okay?"

The helmeted head ponderously nodded in understanding. As Twilight nodded in return and stepped down, Apple Bloom bounded forward, pulled down the bandana over her face, and craned her neck up to plant a kiss on the side of Pip's nose cone. "That's... pfft... fer luck. Y'all better come back in one piece or you'll be in trouble, mister!"

A muted chuckle and another slow nod came in response. The young mare leaned down and gripped the ropes leading from the chocks in her teeth, pulling them free from in front of the rail cart's wheels and tossing them aside.

Twilight drew herself up and raised her solemn voice over the whistling of the wind. "Celestia and Luna speed you on your way, Pip. Activating timers... NOW!"

With a flick of her horn the watches were activated. Inside his armored shell, the heroic young earth pony braced himself as the others galloped back to the bunker.

***
The unicorn watching the main clock called out the time into a nearby microphone, the announcement echoing across the salt flats from the pole mounted loudspeakers scattered at intervals around the test site. "T Minus twenty seconds."

Twilight jostled against Trixie at the crowded viewport of the control bunker, squinting her eyes against the hazy glare of the desert outside. Pip's bulky outline stood like a lonely monument on the platform of the rail cart, isolated in the vastness of the flat, sun bleached landscape.

The lavender mare turned at a growl of annoyance from the azure unicorn at her side. "Sorry,Trixie. Are you filming right now?"

The flashy showmare pursed her lips as she continued peering through the augmented camera's viewfinder. "No, Sparkle. I've got it hooked up to a switch that activates when somepony asks a stupid question. It just started rolling."

Before a mildly miffed Twilight could reply, the loudspeaker overhead activated again. "T Minus ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. First bell."

The clear tone of a chime rang across the complex, and was answered by a flaring of green flame from the rocket thrusters attached to Pip's withers, pushing the cart along the track with a sudden burst of speed.

Twilight levitated her stopwatch, half of her attention on the seconds ticking by as she watched the rapidly receding spark of lurid green burn its way across the salt crusted earth. At her side Trixie rotated the camera, keeping the hurtling cart and its passenger in the shot with a look of concentration etched on her face.

Everypony's ears perked up at the sound of the announcer's voice. "Second bell in five, four, three, two, oh WOW!"

A coruscating blast of rainbow colors exploded outward in a hemispherical ring as the cart leapt forward, suddenly tripling its speed. Seconds later a booming roar echoed across the salt flats.

Twilight began to hop in place on her hooves. "Yes yes yes yes yes! We have rainboom! WE HAVE RAINBOOM, EVERYPONY!"

A cheer went up from the staff in the bunker, accompanied by the scattered clopping of hooves on the concrete. Over the murmur of the wind outside a similar, if not even more enthusiastic commotion could be heard from the observation bunker across the way.

Trixie grunted in rapt annoyance. "Impressive, I'm having trouble keeping him in view... I hope this... uh oh."

Twilight's head snapped around, as Apple Bloom seemed to pop out of thin air right next to them. "Uh oh? What's uh oh? I don't like uh oh!"

Trixie bit her lip as her ears laid back. "Is he supposed to be popping a wheelie?"

As soon as she said it there were three mares furiously jostling to look thru the camera viewfinder.

Naturally, Apple Bloom won out over the two unicorns with her earth pony strength, clutching the camera box with her fore hooves as she stared at the tiny dot in the distance trailing a flashing corona of rainbow behind it. "I don't see him! I... No! Sweet Celestia's flamin' feedbag, he just went airborne! He's gotta be twenty hooves up and climbin'!"

Trixie bawled in her ear, her eyes wide and frantic. "For the love of Luna, whatever you do keep that camera rolling!"

A burst of green flames lit up the bunker interior, causing many heads to whip around as Pip dropped out of a spiral of sparkles onto the designated crash pad, his black body suit tattered and smoking.

Apple Bloom wheeled, letting go of the camera with a cry on her lips. "Honey Boo!"

She was across the room smothering her fiancé's soot blackened face with heartfelt kisses a split second before Twilight desperately caught the discarded camera in the purple glow of her magic, all while Trixie looked on, frozen in horror with her face a much paler shade of blue.

Twilight brought the viewfinder to her right eye, tilting the bulky camera with its custom lens toward the sky as she zeroed in on the rising speck of the test armor, the blast of sparkling rainbows trailing from its jets fading to a bright, almost incandescent white as it gained speed.

Suddenly it exploded with a blinding flash as bright as the sun, sending rings of burning color and a scattering of debris in all directions. Twilight let out a strangled cry and jerked violently backwards, clutching at her eye with her hooves as the coruscating light blasted through the array of gemstone lenses and seared her retina.  

Trixie hurled herself at the floor with hooves outstretched, catching her precious camera just before it hit. She wrapped herself around the boxy device in a possessive hug and glared at her fellow unicorn. "HEY! Watch the equipment, butterhorn!"

Twilight ignored her, just laying on her back and squinting at the ceiling with her unscathed eye with tears of pain dampening the cup of her fore hoof.

Presently she heard Flim's voice beside her. "Are you okay?"

Pip answered shakily from across the room. "I'm quite all right!"

Apple Bloom's archly relieved voice chimed in. "Nopony asked you, punkin'." The young stallion's reply was muffled under another deep kiss.

Flim craned his neck into Twilight's uncovered field of view. "Doctor Sparkle?"

The prostrate unicorn let out a sigh, and spoke in a measured voice. "Mister Flim Flam, if you would be so kind as to go to my desk and look in the top drawer, you'll find an eye patch that I keep there for just such an emergency. And then I think it would further behoove us if Mister Squeak and I were taken to the infirmary at this juncture."

He cocked an eyebrow and looked over toward her desk with a note of incredulity in his voice. "You keep an eye patch for... eye patch emergencies?"

The lavender unicorn replied with a slight edge creeping into her voice as her tail twitched beneath her. "Yes. It pays to be prepared for every possible contingency."

Flim cocked his head, then shrugged as he turned to trot away. "I guess that's why you're the mare in charge, Doctor Sparkle. I'll be back in a jiffy."

Twilight let her good eye roll closed as she listened to his hooves recede against the general backdrop of urgent chatter around the bunker.

Even with her hooves clamped over her stinging, throbbing eye, she could see something resembling her cutie mark in multicolored sparkles floating in the darkness above her.



The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

Movie Magic - Part 1
A My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fan Fiction.

This story is set three years after the events described in Earth & Sky -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…

Our story opens on a stretch of parched plains in the San Palomino desert, as Harmony Aeronautics prepares to break the land speed record, and Lulamoon Studios prepares to record it all for posterity.

Part 2 -> warrenhutch.deviantart.com/art…
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WarrenHutch
Warren Hutch
United States
Hey
My nom de plume is Warren Hutch, and I'm mostly a lurker around here. My main repository of artwork is on FurAffinity, since most of the stuff is pertinent to that particular slice of web country.

Still, I've got a couple things that might interest the folks around here that I'll post from time to time. I'm much obliged if you want to stop by and check 'em out.

Current Residence: Boston, MA
Favourite genre of music: Ska, Funk, Surf Rock, Electronica, Hip Hop, Chap Hop, Nerdcore
Personal Quote: "Good is relative, Better is Absolute"
Interests
The advent of the Sisters, Princess Cadance, and the Royal Family of the Unicorns.

After watching the recent Season 2 finale, I've been mulling over some ideas in terms of the nature the Princesses that we've seen in canon. This is a ramble based on my own headcanon, so take it with a grain of salt. I'm sure genuine canon will blow several holes in this eventually.

I'll start with my belief that Celestia and Luna as immortal demigoddesses were not born in the conventional sense of having two parents, but manifested rather like Aphrodite from the sea foam, or any number of other mythic deities who sprang fully formed from the elements.

In this case, I believe that both Sisters were born from the fiery heart that manifested in the sky when the three pony tribes came together to found Equestria. If I were to flesh out the story I'd posit that Celestia, the eldest, was born when the morning sun rose on the longest day, making the Summer Sun Celebration also her "birthday". After her arrival, I imagine the heart would be much reduced in size, softly glowing and only visible at night, until during a full moon on the longest night, Princess Luna, the younger sister, came into the world. Both Princesses, in addition to being granted power over the sun and moon, also represent aspects of all three pony types, as they were born from the harmony of the tribes.

(On a side note, the flaming heart seen over Canterlot at the end of "Hearths Warming Eve" in my mind is a traditional firework or illusion cast by unicorns to commemorate the original manifestation of friendship between the tribes.)

I imagine that shortly after the Sisters were born, they were adopted as honorary members of the hereditary royalty of the unicorns, making them the "daughters" of the unicorn monarch (perhaps of Queen Platinum, after she succeeded to her father's throne). This would make them adopted sisters to the monarch's children, and aunts in turn to their children, so on and so on through generations until everypony with any connection to the unicorn royalty would be considered the Princesses' nieces and nephews. Technically, Prince Blueblood or Princess Cadance would be great great great great(to the nth degree) nephew or niece, but since there's only so much space on a scroll or so much breath in a herald's lungs, they just say "niece" or "nephew".

This idea further explains why as rulers of Equestria the Sisters stayed with the title of Princess rather than assume the mantle of Queen, as they are adopted members of the royal family rather than blood relations. There may even be a nominal King or Queen of the unicorns still, but true power has been in the Princesses' hooves for a long time and it would at most be a ceremonial position like most modern day kings and queens on earth.

I'm not entirely certain how the Sisters' battle with Discord features into this. I might well imagine that the Sisters were alive before the villainous chaos spirit's arrival on the scene. Perhaps without the flaming heart to remind the ponies their divisions and quarrels would have given him more and more power until he took over, eventually forcing the Princesses' into a conflict with him, until such time as they used the Elements of Harmony to defeat him and took back control of the day and night.

Now regarding Princess Cadance, I believe that she isn't an alicorn so much as she is a winged unicorn. I imagine that shortly after the founding of Equestria, there was a fair bit of intermarrying to cement political and social ties between the three tribes of ponies, and thus pegasi nobility would marry into the unicorn royal family. Eventually, hybrid ponies with both wings and horns would arise, perhaps exclusively to Canterlot royalty. (Which is a damn sight better than Hemophilia as a sign of royal breeding.)

Crossbreeds with earth ponies would be a lot less easy to spot, as in the case of Pound and Pumpkin cake where having unicorns or pegasi in the bloodline could result in a typical looking specimen of any of the three types, even though technically they would be hybrids. I also imagine that perhaps cementing ties between ruling families wasn't as important with the earth ponies as they seemed to be operating in a more egalitarian mode, with an elected chancellor instead of a hereditary ruler.

Perhaps winged unicorns pop up among pegasi populations as well, but I see it as being much less common if not nonexistent due to the logistical difficulties of a ground bound pony marrying into a pegasi family. A lot depends on when the cloud walking spell Twilight cast in "Sonic Rainboom" was invented, but even if it dates back to pre-Equestrian times (which I doubt, due to the conflict between the tribes), it would also mean that the earth pony or unicorn bride or groom would be essentially a prisoner in their home in a pegasi community.

Further evidence, in my mind, that Cadance is a unicorn with wings rather than an alicorn is that she's mortal. She's seen to have aged from being a teenager when she was babysitting Twilight. I presume she's capable of bearing children to Shining Armor, and I also presume she will grow old and eventually pass on with him. (Of course, these are purely assumptions, but there is no canon support for the idea that Celestia or Luna ever married or produced offspring, so it's essentially a very open area to interpretation.)

An immortal would probably avoid marriage to not have to go through their beloved fading away before their eyes while they stay the same. Even if Cadance was a recently born immortal, I'd presume that as benevolent members of the royal family Celestia and Luna would gently nudge her away from bringing that sort of heartbreak onto herself.

Also, her magical ability to create love between ponies seems more on par with a typical unicorn's special magical talent, like Rarity's gem finding or Shining Armor's shield spell. (Whereas Twilight, as a magical prodigy capable of duplicating other unicorns' unique abilities, is a bit more a-typical.) This, and the fact that she has a normal mane rather than the flowing, etherial mane that marks the power of the royal Sisters, points to her more natural origins.

And so that's how I think Cadance fits in to the world of Equestria, as a mortal scion of the unicorn royal family, a descendent of pegasi nobles and unicorn kings and queens, honorary niece to the Sisters as are all the nobility of Canterlot, and future mother of Shining Armor's children and Twilight Sparkle's nieces and nephews.

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:iconstavner:
stavner Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2015  Student Writer
Happy birthday!
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:iconccb-18:
CCB-18 Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I've tried to view your FA gallery, but for some reason the website seems to be down. Got any ideas why?
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:iconimascrabblefreak:
imascrabblefreak Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'm so happy to find more of your pony art here, as I absolutely adore all of your covers on fimfiction. Do you perchance do commissions?

~Super Trampoline
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014
Thanks! Glad you like it!

I'm afraid I'm not taking commissions at the moment, but I'm flattered that you'd ask. :)
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014
Greetings, WH.  Do you remember a TV show known as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch?  Well, the reason in asking is because I have a fictional character in a fanfiction I'm writing who sounds exactly like one of Sabrina's Aunts, Hilda (played by Caroline Rhea).  The only problem is, I don't know how precisely how to precise describe her voice verbally.  So, if you don't mind me asking, how would you generally describe Caroline Rhea's voice? 
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014
I'm sorry, I can't really help you. I've never watched a single episode of that particular show.
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014
It's alright.  Thank you anyway though.
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014
Greetings, WH.  If it's not too much to ask, how's Movie Magic coming along?
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:iconwarrenhutch:
WarrenHutch Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014
It's coming along at its own pace. Other things have been occupying me as of late, so I can't really say more than that. :)
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2014
Also, I've observed that Movie Magic hasn't made any headlines on Equestria Daily for some reason.
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