Twilight greeted her friends at the door to the castle. "Thanks for coming, everypony," she said, and winced internally at how much like a politician she sounded. What a meaningless platitude. Of course they were going to come. Four times a year, for four years so far, they'd done this. It was a mandate from Princess Celestia, who'd passed down the sentence, and if they didn't do it, they'd be betraying a friend – admittedly, a friend who'd betrayed them first, but then, that was why they were doing this.

Rainbow Dash was, of course, the one to point out the platitude. "Like we weren't gonna show up just because we didn't feel like it?" she asked, grinning.

"I do believe that if any of us had preferred not to come, the thought of how upset Fluttershy would be with us would quickly change our mind," Rarity said, with a smile and a nod at Fluttershy.

"Um, but... yes, but I hope we're doing this because it's the right thing to do, not because you're afraid I'd be mad at you," Fluttershy said.

"Well, of course it's the right thing to do. Quite aside from the fact that Princess Celestia's terms were very clear, this particular celebration would be utterly ruined if we didn't do our sworn duty."

"And a ruined celebration would be the WORST THING EVER!" Pinkie said. "Even worse than all the other things you thought were the worst thing ever!"

"Yes, quite," Rarity said. "Pinkie... why don't you set down that cake somewhere?"

"Yeah, Pinkie, how's that thing even staying up?" Applejack said. "You don't wanna bring that into the garden and risk ruining it."

Pinkie had outdone herself this time. The cake was a 10-layer monstrosity with different icing, and presumably different flavors, on each of the ten layers. It was also in a pyramid shape, which would hardly be unusual for a 10-layer cake, except that it was upside down. Twilight couldn't detect any magic maintaining the thing from falling over, so how had Pinkie done it?

"Definitely not! I'll put it in the dining hall and then go meet you guys in the garden! I just have to put up some balloons first!"

Fluttershy said, "Oh, you don't need to do that, Pinkie... I think he'd prefer we do this quickly and not wait for balloons."

"Yes, but what kind of a welcome celebration is it without balloons? We can't do a full size party party because we have so much planning and preparation to do for the holiday celebration, but we can at least do balloons! I'll set them up super quick!"

"Fine," Twilight said. "Meet us in the garden." She walked through the castle, leading her friends, sans Pinkie, to a side door. There were, theoretically, servants who could have greeted them and brought them out to the garden, but that felt so very impersonal when it was her friends, and they were on Rainbow of Harmony business. She'd have been okay with having Spike greet them, but Spike had been in the dragon nation of Argent, far to the south, since shortly after Hearth's Warming.

"So where's he going this year? Anypony know?" Applejack asked.

Twilight shook her head. "He always decides after he has a chance to read the letters. I've been reading them to him, so he may have picked something, but obviously he hasn't been able to tell me yet."

"I hope it's not too far away this time," Fluttershy said. "Or not too many different places, at least. I feel terrible if he goes alone, but I just can't handle teleporting all over the place in one day."

"Pinkie'll be with him," Rainbow Dash said. "You don't need to worry about that."

"It's different," Fluttershy said softly.

"Yes, Rainbow, it's different," Rarity said. "Knowing that one's special somepony will be accompanied by a good friend is certainly better than thinking he'll be all alone, but it's no adequate compensation for not being able to go with him oneself."

Twilight pushed open the door to the garden with her telekinesis, and her friends filed through.

In the front of the castle, the manicured lawn gave way to neat, precise rows of beautiful flowers, sculpted topiaries, and abstract designs set with stone and gems, and those were the parts of the garden that anypony could access. They were a tourist attraction; every weekend dozens of ponies came to see the Friendship Gardens. This part of the garden, however, was sealed away, reserved for only those that Twilight knew and trusted. Her friends, their families, her family, the princesses, and occasionally individuals that her friends vouched for, such as Seabreeze the Breezie party leader, or a few of the Crystal Prep students that her alter ego had managed to make friends with only after leaving their school for Canterlot High. Not that many from the human world were allowed to come to Equestria in the first place, and not that they all handled the pony transformation well, but now that the portal could open more or less anytime and the magical leakage from Equestria had grown more intense, Twilight had thought it prudent to bring some humans over here and give them crash courses in magic. And if she hadn't brought travelers from another dimension to the garden, she'd never hear the end of it on the next holiday.

This part of the garden, the sealed part, wasn't neat or precise at all. It was almost wild, carefully grown by Fluttershy, Zecora, and Fluttershy's friend Tree Hugger to resemble a hybrid of the Everfree, a rainforest, and more traditional pony gardens. Scootaloo brought rain to feed the wilder blooms and trees almost every single day, and Twilight had a magical lens over the garden to draw down more than its share of sunlight, to keep it tropically warm most of the time. The rainforest plants were sealed away in protective magical bubbles of slow-time during the winter, when Celestia simply didn't keep the sun out long enough to maintain the temperature they needed, but Winter Wrap-Up had been a week ago, so Twilight had released them and re-enabled the lens. It was thus quite warm in the sealed garden, far more so than on the cool spring day outside the walls.

Fluttershy flew ahead, obviously caught between her usual shyness and her eagerness. Rainbow was for once tactful enough to hold back and let Fluttershy be the first one to the center of the grove.

At the center of the garden, there was a large pond. Unlike the marble-encased, regularly shaped fountains of the main garden, the pond was irregular in shape and lined with multicolored glass, not ceramic tile. So the natural dirt was visible under the colored glass, but the water was clear, and the various creatures that swam in it were easy to see. Several fountains within the pond fired irregularly, at random intervals not timed in sync with each other, so that the turbulence of the pond was constantly changing in intensity and direction.

In the middle of the pond, there was a colorful granite pedestal, brown and black and pink and grey, with speckles of quartz within it, and on the pedestal there was a statue. The statue was a tall, chimerical being with a long draconic tail, a head something like a cross between a pony and a goat, and limbs and horns and wings drawn from multiple species. It was in a completely absurd pose, balanced on its tail and a goat leg, using a lion paw to pull a dragon leg up toward its mouth, with enough clearance that it had its long snake-like tongue wrapped around the bigger toe of the dragon leg. Its other upper limb, an eagle talon, was thrown up in the air with the first digit raised, a symbol that Twilight had been assured meant something like "We're number one", or possibly, "Taxi!"

To be honest, the statue was so precariously balanced that Twilight wasn't sure how it hadn't fallen over into the pond since Hearth's Warming. But that wouldn't last.

She took a deep breath, preparing herself – only to be interrupted by Pinkie racing through the garden. "I'm here! Hope you didn't get started without me!"

"Pinkie, we can't get started without you. It needs all six of us," Twilight said.

"I know, that's why I hoped you didn't! Because it wouldn't have worked and that would just have been a waste!"

"Can we do it now?" Fluttershy said, obviously anxious – she was bobbing up and down in the air in front of the statue, wings flapping and body more or less vertical, unable to maintain a consistent height.

"Yes." Twilight concentrated, drawing on her bonds with her friends, feeling the familiar connections activate between them and the powers of Harmony come to life. For a magical operation as simple as this, they didn't transform into their garish Rainbow Power forms; it was much more like it had been with the old Elements, except that the power came entirely from within them, not from amulets they wore.

She let the power build to the point where she needed it, then fired the releasing spell at the statue. The grayish-white stone crazed and cracked and finally shattered, leaving a precariously balanced living draconequus standing on the pedestal. As he shook wildly, his entire body wiggling like a noodle made of jello, Fluttershy crashed into him, forelegs going around his neck as she flung herself into an embrace around him. This overbalanced him, and he and Fluttershy both fell toward the pond, but in a flash of light, they disappeared and reappeared on land, vertical and levitating, mismatched arms wrapped just as tightly around Fluttershy as her forelegs were around him.

"Miss me?" Discord asked teasingly.

"Every single minute!" Fluttershy said, wrapping legs and wings around him as well and nuzzling her face against his neck. "I'm so glad you're out! I missed you so much!"

Discord plucked her off of his neck, holding her in front of him, and then drew her in and kissed her. While Twilight supposed she couldn't begrudge the two of them their quarterly reunion, the public display of affection was slightly more over-the-top than most ponies would engage in in public. Rarity coughed politely, and then Pinkie tugged on Discord's wing.

"Come on! We have all the stuff for Topsy-Turvy Day to figure out now that you're out and it's only in two days! You can do kissyface with Fluttershy later!"

"In a room," Rainbow Dash suggested, choking down laughter and somehow managing to make the simple phrase sound lewd.

Discord turned to Rainbow Dash. "Why, do you think Fluttershy and I have anything to be ashamed of? Look at this gorgeous pegasus. How can you say this beauty should be hidden away in a room? Fluttershy deserves to be kissed everywhere and at all times."

"Um, but she has a point," Fluttershy said. "We're not, um, don't you think it would be rude to be overly affectionate in public? There might be ponies who don't have special someponies and it would make them feel bad."

"If they're getting to walk around and breathe and see sunlight 364 days a year, then I really can't bring myself to feel overly sorry for them," Discord retorted.

"Discord, we have an EVENT to plan here!" Pinkie captured Discord's tail and started dragging him. "This is your day! I can't do it all myself!"

"Quite so," Rarity pointed out. "We need to know where you're planning to travel this year so the information can be put on the castle banners. Which, by the way, I'd like you to look over. I had Sweetie Belle and Pumpkin Cake 'help' with the design and I think you'll approve."

Discord sighed. "Yes, of course. Don't give me five minutes to get my bearings and just enjoy oxygen, no, we have to get to work right away."

"Yes, but where are you going to have time to eat your origami salad with ghost peppers and caramel chili popcorn if you don't come inside and eat? We have planning to do! And that means plan-time snacks to eat!"

"Did you say... origami salad?"

"Uh-huh! I folded all the papers myself! Some of them are actual lettuce I folded but most are paper!"

"There's some zap apples in it too, and some of those weird experimental apples you set me up with," Applejack said.

"Well, that changes things. Lead the way!"

I don't feel guilty about this, Twilight told herself. He deserved his sentence. Celestia and Luna and Cadance and I all agreed with it. He betrayed Equestria; we couldn't just give him a slap on the wrist. We could have sealed him for the next thousand years; all we did was ten years with four parole periods per year. He's getting off lightly considering all the damage he and Tirek did.

But it didn't sit as well with her as it had when she'd helped to determine the sentence. A year after Discord's re-imprisonment, Starlight Glimmer had destroyed Equestria multiple times by using time travel to try to prevent Twilight from making her friends. Starlight hadn't known that that was what she'd been doing, of course, and when it had been demonstrated to her how terrible the results of her actions were, she had been appropriately horrified and had given up. Twilight had talked with her friends and agreed to forgive Starlight, and now Starlight was Twilight's apprentice in friendship magic.

It was an entirely different situation. Starlight's intentions had been malicious, and had done great damage, but she hadn't had any way to know how much damage she was likely to do; she'd thought all she was doing was breaking up a friendship, or several. Discord had consciously chosen to disobey instructions that he had agreed to follow, betray ponies who had trusted him, and allow his ally to cause enormous harm to ponies, and he hadn't had serious second thoughts about it until Tirek had turned on him. Admittedly, he had done everything he could to mitigate the damage Tirek was doing – testimony from Muffins and from the Wonderbolts had demonstrated that he'd ensured that even when Tirek stole magic from pegasi in flight, Discord had made sure they went to ground easily. But they'd also heard him telling Tirek that the reason not to kill them was that dead ponies weren't any fun, and he had spent some time tormenting them after their magic was taken. And admittedly, he had tried to undo his mistake after it was done, risking his own life to try to free her friends from their cage, and then giving Twilight the amulet that he'd known would allow them to unlock the Rainbow Power, in full knowledge that it would give them the same power the Elements had, and couldn't be taken away as he had years ago. But since he'd believed Tirek had been planning to kill him, it was arguable how much credit he could be given for that; he could have been simply throwing in with the side that he knew didn't want him dead.

Twilight believed Discord had been absolutely sincere when he'd given her the amulet as a token of his friendship. The fact that he'd consented to his sentence, and four years later was still enduring it, despite the fact that his parole days gave him the freedom to break loose and run for it if he wanted to, told her that he'd been sincere about his remorse, and still was. But ponies had been hurt. Some had even been killed – indirectly, because the lack of magic had taken away many unicorn surgeons' ability to operate, and scheduled life-saving surgeries hadn't happened, or because they'd tried to go about their daily routines without magic and had had fatal accidents as a result. Of course the death toll would have been a lot worse if Discord had taken Tirek to Cloudsdale or Las Pegasus, neither of which had existed in Tirek's day, and since Discord knew where both of those places were it was obvious he'd been deliberately avoiding them, and claiming to Tirek that they'd gotten "all the magic in Equestria" when they hadn't done any such thing... but the fact that Discord had tried to mitigate the harm being done didn't change the fact that he'd known it was harmful and he should have known it would be impossible to have zero fatalities from such extensive magic loss. Starlight Glimmer had killed many, many more ponies, but all in alternate timelines that had ceased to exist, so far as Twilight knew, as soon as the timeline had been restored. None of those dead ponies were dead anymore. Whereas the few ponies who'd lost their lives to Tirek's rampage had stayed dead.

No. The sentence was fair. They'd even given him a formal acknowledgement of the importance of chaos in creating this holiday, and the fact that he was being punished and that there was a celebration he was the sponsor of, the way Luna was of Nightmare Night and Celestia was of the Summer Sun Celebration, was allowing ponies to develop much greater sympathy for him than they would have if he hadn't been sentenced to ten years in stone. So why did she feel so bad about it?

Inside, Pinkie handed out savory potato daffodil pie to ponies, and origami salad to Discord, and presented her massive upside-down cake. "If you want to eat it right now that would be okay, I could bake another one for Ponyville's Topsy Turvy Day celebration!"

Discord waved a paw. "Naah, I'm not that obsessed with cake. Just don't let Celestia see it before the celebration." He grinned.

"Oh, I baked another one for Canterlot, but Rainbow is going to ship it there overnight after Princess Celestia goes to bed, and Princess Luna will take charge of it and make sure it makes it to the celebration okay," Pinkie said, smiling. Twilight rolled her eyes. Yes, Celestia liked cake, but not enough to ruin a celebration by eating the cake ahead of time. Pinkie was just being ridiculous, but then, that was Pinkie's job.

"So where do you think you're gonna go this time?" Applejack asked.

"Well, let's see. Twilight, be a dear and bring me the letters and offerings, please?"

"They're all right there in the box." She levitated a large box, in bright, clashing jester colors, over to him.

Discord started pulling out scrolls. Several of the scrolls were magically bound to offerings – plushies of Discord or imaginary chimeras even more mixed-up than he was, bags of candy, candles, bottles of alcohol, oversized hoof-made snowflakes enchanted not to melt, fabric with fractal designs, and lots and lots of hoof-drawn cartoons. Twilight had tried, the first year, to track which offering belonged to which scroll by numbering the scrolls and writing down the offering's description in a notebook next to the number. Discord had ignored the notebook completely and decided to make up connections between letters and offerings. Since then Twilight had magically bound them together.

"Well, here's a colt in Vanhoover who sends me a very nice picture of me, and asks me to come to Vanhoover because it's too boring to be endured," Discord said. "I'll definitely have to take that one under consideration. On the other hand, here's a mare in Ponypsie who sent homemade jellybeans." He took one. "Eh, but she gets points off for having purple actually be grape flavored."

"Cloudsdale?" Rainbow asked. "C'mon, you never go to Cloudsdale."

"Who wants me to go to Cloudsdale?"

"Aside from me?"

"You live in Ponyville. I'm not supposed to go somewhere unless I'm invited by an actual resident."

"Um, this filly invited you to Cloudsdale," Fluttershy said.

"And what was her offering?"

"I'm... not sure. It was made of cloud?" The wispy thing had not received any pegasus magical reinforcement in months, so enough of it had evaporated that it was impossible to tell what it used to be.

"Very avant-garde. Next?"

"You do have a formal invitation from Princess Celestia to go to Canterlot," Rarity said.

"Tempting, but what did she offer?"

"No offerings. Just the invitation."

Discord rolled his eyes. "Oh, as if she's too important to give an offering to chaos just because she's the ruler of this country. Chaos doesn't care what your rank is. No Canterlot this year."

"This mare promises 1200 cupcakes if you go to Dodge City this year!"

"If she really wanted me there she'd have mailed the 1200 cupcakes already."

Pinkie glared at him. "And have them all go stale before you could eat them? That would be sacrilege! Of course she can't give them to you until you get there if they're going to be fresh and warm and mmm..."

"When you get your own holiday you can have your own 1200 cupcakes," Discord said.

"This is my holiday! Just because it's yours too doesn't mean that a holiday about fun and unexpectedosity isn't mine as well!"

"Yes, but you lay claim to all the holidays because you're a party planner."

"But especially this one!"

Topsy-Turvy Day had been officially declared for shortly after Winter Wrap-Up as part of the judgement Celestia had pronounced on Discord. For his crimes, he'd been sentenced to stone; for his actions in mitigating the crimes of Tirek despite participating in them, he'd been sentenced to only ten years, with parole periods of 3 days each on four holidays; for his assistance in unlocking the Rainbow of Harmony, allowing Tirek to be defeated, Celestia had declared that there should be a holiday celebrating the bright side of what Discord represented – chaos, as expressed through fun, frivolity, pranks, and a day of reversing most of the social rules. Obviously, laws against stealing, violence and destructive vandalism had to remain in place, but in other cases reversals were the order of the day. In schools, children were expected to put together lessons to teach their teachers, if school didn't let out completely. Celestia and Luna would appoint foals to be Princess or Prince for the day, and go mingle with the population in disguise; Discord was supposed to handle the sun and the moon, with the understanding that if he did anything too completely ridiculous they would take it back from him and he wasn't allowed to extend the day/night cycle any longer than 28 hours. Nobles were encouraged to put on disguises and mingle as well, and working class, unemployed, elderly, or disabled ponies, ponies with very low incomes, were invited to the palace to be nobles for the day.

The date itself wasn't one Twilight recognized, though it seemed to have meaning to Celestia and Discord. The rituals, however, were not unheard of. The date was very close to the Crystal Faire, which was a spring celebration, and in books Twilight had found in the Crystal Empire, she'd learned that a day of trickery, unrule and fun was a common springtime celebration in countries in Neighropa, where coincidentally they hadn't been tormented by the spirit of chaos for a near millennium. It was possible that such a celebration had existed in Equestria itself, pre-Discord, or at least in the Crystal Empire at some point long before the division of the three tribes and the coming of the windigos. Maredi Gras, in Prance and in Equestria's Neigh Orleans, seemed to be a callback to such a celebration, but most of Equestria didn't celebrate Maredi Gras, and besides it usually took place before Winter Wrap-Up.

Ponies were never reluctant to add a new celebration to the calendar, and had adopted it whole-heartedly. Discord's status – a prisoner in stone, with a holiday he presided over, who was seen on other major holidays – made him mysterious. Ponies who had considered him a nuisance or a terror shifted slowly, and foals who'd never met Discord rapidly developed an opinion of him that seemed downright positive. He was the Trickster, tamed; imprisoned for his crimes and remorseful for them, but still the spirit of chaos, still there to bring change and unrule and turn the world upside down... in expected, controlled ways, and then to leave and return to his prison when the festivities were done. Ponies had started sending him offerings, asking for luck – apparently Discord was the closest thing Equestria had to a deity of luck, and while ponies might call on Princess Celestia as a goddess of benevolence, everypony knew that Celestia wasn't really a goddess and probably really couldn't help you much, even though she'd want to, unless you could actually make it to court and ask her. Discord, on the other hand... Discord might actually hear you if you called out to him, though whether or not he'd choose to do anything helpful was iffy. Twilight was fairly sure Discord couldn't actually do much of anything when he was in stone, but she also believed he could actually sense when ponies focused their minds on him and called out to him, and she knew that he had helped at least a few who'd sent him offerings, during his parole days. Probably he'd played annoying pranks on a few others. Maybe even annoying pranks that turned out to be helpful.

Right before Topsy Turvy Day, the number of offerings generally increased considerably, as ponies wrote Discord to ask him to come to their towns for the celebration. The first year, he'd turned Canterlot Palace into a giant bouncy house and added dozens of slides to the edge of the city... slides that went all the way down the mountain, and a ski lift where ponies squeezed into a cloth tube, got strapped in, and were then carried back up to Canterlot at the speed of pegasus flight. For ponies without wings, it had been the most exhilarating and terrifying experience most of them had ever encountered. The second year, he'd altered gravity so that ponies could walk up the sides of buildings in Manehattan, and then made many of the buildings slippery, allowing ponies to skate up and down the building sides – which, since winter had just been wrapped up, was welcome to skaters who had thought they'd have to put their skates away for the rest of the year. The third year, he'd made giant crabs rise out of Horseshoe Bay in Baltimare, and they'd tossed bags of avocado sushi to ponies and carried foals on rides, and any pony who chose to go swimming in the still-chilly waters of the bay had found they could breathe under water for no particularly good reason. Discord had played his share of pranks on the population as well, but ponies were a lot more comfortable with Discord's pranks when they knew he'd revert everything at the end of the day and he was providing spectacular entertainments. Pinkie had accompanied him on all three trips to provide food and decorations for the festivities... which, since he'd made brief stops at numerous other cities to make sure that things were proceeding as chaotically as he'd prefer, meant that she'd ended up feeding cakes and pastries to nearly twenty cities over the course of the three years the holiday had existed. Fluttershy couldn't handle the multiple teleports, and had stayed behind in the main city for the celebration, the one Discord was spending most of his time and effort on, with the rest of them.

Discord stood up suddenly. "You know what I haven't done yet?"

"Cloudsdale?" Rainbow said.

"That too, but who needs to bring thrill rides to pegasi? Besides, after your little performance of chaos in trying to destroy the Weather Factory to stop winter, I feel as if the competition is stiff." Rainbow reddened slightly, probably not quite sure how to take that. "No. It's a terrible oversight, though. I actually haven't done Ponyville itself yet!"

"Ponyville? REALLY?" Pinkie leaped onto Discord's lap. "Pinch me, I gotta be dreaming!" Discord obliged her. "Ow! Not so hard next time."

"But now you know you're not dreaming, right?" Discord said.

"Oh, that would be nice," Fluttershy said. "No traveling this time."

"Are you sure it's a good idea, though?" Twilight asked.

Rainbow stared at her as if she'd grown three heads. "Of course it's a good idea. Hel-lo! Giant amusement park thrill rides! Ponyville! Tell me there's a downside here!"

"The downside is that Ponyville was the main place Discord attacked, the day he broke free several years ago, when we had to fight him." Twilight frowned. "A lot of property damage got done that day, and a lot of ponies suffered. Then there was all the time Discord was spending his free time here, making a nuisance of himself. Do you think Ponyville is really ready for 'fun' chaos after only a few years?"

"I did just as much damage to Canterlot, and they were the first ones I went to," Discord said. "I really do think that if there's a resident princess, how she takes it is going to have a large effect on how ponies respond." His tone was just a little arch.

"Besides, we've been doing as much fun chaos as I could crank up every year, and ponies love it!" Pinkie said.

"I'm sure it'll be fine, Twilight," Applejack said. "Anyway, it oughta drum up plenty of business."

"Oh no it won't," Discord said.

Applejack glared at him. "What do you mean by that? We sell food at Topsy Turvy festivities every year. If you're going to try to cut us out—"

"Heaven forfend! But it's Topsy Turvy day. So you earth pony vendors aren't allowed to sell your own products. You all have to sell somepony else's."

Applejack blinked. "That don't make a darned lick of sense."

"Hello, did you remember what day it was?"

Twilight seized on it. "Actually, that could really work out! Think about it, Applejack. What would promote cooperation between ponies who are normally somewhat rivals, competing with each other in business, better than having to work with each other and depend on each other to get their goods sold? Nopony would be willing to do a lackluster job selling their fellow pony's product, because the other vendors can see how they're performing and could retaliate, so everypony's going to want to be on top of their game and sell a friend's product as hard as they can."

"Well... I guess if you put it like that..."

"See, even Twilight approves of my idea!" Discord said cheerfully.

Rarity scowled. "Well, I won't actually be selling anything per se, but I might be taking orders. Am I required to cooperate with some other pony to do that as well?"

Discord waved a paw. "No, no, taking orders isn't the same thing. Though I do expect you to take your orders wearing as many different colors as you can possibly manage, and if you don't have enough colors I'll costume you."

Rarity glared at him. "You costume me, and I will demand the right to costume you. I have a lovely draconequus-sized white tuxedo with a white tie, a white shirt and a white waistcoat in my back room still, you know."

"Then just make sure you're wearing at least ten different colors and neither of us will have to wear costumes we don't want."

"You present me with a challenge." Rarity's eyes narrowed. "But I'm up to it. Just wait. I will create something tasteful and aesthetic using ten colors! And none of them will clash in the slightest!"

"Oh, come now, not even one little clash?"

"No. You laid down the challenge, and you know me... you knew full well what you were getting into."

"Oh my gosh but if it's in Ponyville we've got so much to do!" Pinkie wailed.

"You mean you've got so much to do," Discord said. "I just need to put some thought into what I want to do this year. And for me to do that, I need to relax. And to do that, I need a bath, and a backrub. That position, ooh. Don't ever let me strike a pose like that before getting stoned again."

"Why don't I take you home," Fluttershy said. "We can get you your bath, and I'll give you a backrub, and once you feel refreshed enough you can come back and brainstorm with Pinkie."

"If this is going to be in Ponyville I need to tell the mayor what to expect," Twilight said.

"Tell her to expect the unexpected, what else?" He turned to Fluttershy. "That sounds like a wonderful idea, my dear. Pinkie, dearest? I don't care how important the revelations of marvelous party plans that occur to you in the next few hours seem to be. Don't come visit. I'll come see you when I'm ready." He and Fluttershy vanished.

Pinkie pouted slightly. "He's being kinda mean about it."

Rainbow giggled. "Come on, Pinkie, you gotta know what he and Flutters are really doing. Backrub, my shiny rainbow cutie mark."

"There's no need to be crude," Rarity sniffed. "Fluttershy is entitled to... relations with her special somepony, or somedraconequus as it may be, when he is on parole. It's not a matter worth humor, or paying special recognition. Any of us would do the same if we were in a committed relationship with a stallion who can only be available twelve days a year."

"He's still being kind of a grumpypuss about it," Pinkie said. "He could just have said 'Don't interrupt please.'"

"Expectin' Discord to remember to be polite all the time is still a bit much to ask," Applejack said. She got up. "Well, if he's puttin' some weird rule on us food vendors that we gotta sell each other's stuff, I better talk to Carrot Top and some of the other ponies about how we're gonna divvy this up. The Cakes count, I'd imagine."

"Ooh yeah! I gotta go tell the Cakes what's going on!"

Twilight stood as well. "Yes, and I'd better brief Mayor Mare on what very little we know about what's going to be going on."

"And I need to tell the weather team that it's Ponyville this year, so we want the sky cloudless. Let Discord handle the weather if he wants to. Though I am totally gonna kick him if he rains out the event. I don't care if it's apple cider, I don't want it coming down from clouds all day." Rainbow sighed. "We're gonna need to be on call in case he does do something weird to the weather, aren't we."

"I'm sure Discord would prefer that Ponyville of all places remember his visit on his holiday as a time of fun and cheer, not rain," Twilight said.

"And I have a dress to make. That will somehow manage to not be tacky and clashing, Despite needing to have ten different colors on the same dress."

"All right, sounds like we all know what we're doing. Let's get to it, girls," Twilight said, and the five of them broke up to go to their various errands.

For updates and notes about my work, visit my Livejournal at alara-r dot livejournal dot com, or my Tumblr at alarajrogers dot tumblr dot com. (Fanfiction dot net strips links, so I have to write it out like that.)

Support my writing and see sneak previews, incompletes, outlines and working notes! Maybe even vote on what I write next, or get me to write you a fic. See my P^a^t^r^e^o^n account at www dot p^a^t^r^e^o^n dot com slash alarajrogers. (Apparently ff dot net has taken to blocking that word, so I have to put in weird characters. Argh.)

I've also got some short fiction for sale at A^m^a^z^o^n; search on my name. And a blog about all the things I do badly at alarajrogers dot wordpress dot com.