I have the weirdest freaking life.
In the last year or so, I'd rescued my illegitimate daughter from the hands of evil vampires, essentially wiped out an entire species in a single act of magical genocide, killed the love of my life as part of a ritual spell to fuel said magical genocide, arranged for my own assassination, driven my apprentice to the brink of madness, and re-killed a necromancer that I'd originally killed a few years back.
And oh yeah, I'd become the Winter Knight. The mortal champion of Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness herself. I'd needed more power to take on the vamps and save my daughter, and she'd been the least evil option on the table. I'd tried arranging my own death after I'd saved Maggie in order to slip out of my obligations to Mab, but after all the trouble she'd gone to getting me the Winter Queen wasn't about to let a little thing like death get in her way.
I guess you could say it did kind of work out in the end since now I wasn't dead, and I'd even managed to work out a compromise with Mab that left us both equally unhappy. I didn't like being the Winter Court's official thug, but at least I wasn't going to be forced into being another monster like Slate. Being Mab's designated hitter stung a bit less when I at least had the freedom to choose how I would swing the bat.
I guess the suite Mab provided for me in Arctis Tor was nice, if you had a thing for ice and black stone. At least one of the perks that came with being the Winter Knight was being able to handle temperatures that would freeze the toes off of vanilla mortals. It certainly made sleeping on a mattress of freshly fallen snow a lot more bearable.
For the last few months, I'd been busy restoring my body to decent physical condition; a bullet through the chest and spending more than half a year in a coma had wreaked all kinds of havoc, even with Mab, Demonreach, and what Mab called 'the Parasite' working to keep me alive. Mab's ideas about physical therapy resulted in a hell of a lot of pain and awkwardness, but it was hard to argue with her results. Not even taking the boost I'd gotten for being the Winter Knight into account, I was probably in better shape now than I'd been if before my brush with death. Mab had rebuilt me. She had the magic. I was better ... stronger ... faster than I was before.
Of course, part of my rapid recovery was probably thanks to my new powers as the Winter Knight. I hadn't really had much of a chance to figure out how everything worked before Kincaid put a bullet through me, but a couple months of recovery had given me a decent handle on them. The boosts to my physical abilities were especially nice; I was still a squishy mortal wizard at the end of the day, but now I could actually take a hit from some of nasty critters out there without worrying about getting half the bones in my body broken, and maybe even manage to punch back hard enough to hurt.
I probably would have been happier about my recovery, except the fact that I was still recovering had been the only thing keeping Mab from sending me out to be the Winter Court's thugpower. I'd thought about trying to pretend I was still at less than full strength, or even re-injuring myself, but I don't think Mab would be fall for a trick that hadn't even fooled my teachers back in middle school.
Eventually, the summons to attend the Winter Queen and receive my first task finally came. I'd known it was coming, but that didn't make it sting any less. Trading my freedom for the power to save my daughter had been an easy decision at the time, and however much I regret some of the consequences, I don't think I could have done anything differently. Well, there are a lot of things I might have done differently, like not doing so much damage to Molly and the rest of my friends as part of a plan to get away from Mab that hadn't even worked in the end, although it turned out I'd actually been mind-whammied into some of that so it wasn't completely my fault. However, when it came to cutting a deal with the Winter Queen to get the power to save Maggie, it had still been the best option I had to save the day. Even if it hadn't been the wrong decision, it was too late turn back now.
That didn't make facing the music any easier. Just like Mab herself proclaimed when she gave me the Winter Knight's power, I was hers now. Sure, I had enough leeway to do things my way, but I was still under her control, and obligated to obey her commands. When Mab told me to jump, I had to jump, even if it was up to me to decide how high.
Like the rest of Arctis Tor, Mab's throne room displayed the latest in ice-chic. The whole room was a lot brighter than you would expect from someone who carried 'Queen of Darkness' among her list of titles. Since all the walls and columns were made of ice, they the light in a dazzling array of colors that was almost beautiful enough to distract me from Mab herself.
The Queen of Winter sat upon a grand throne of black ice, and unlike most of my encounters with her, this time she'd broken out all the traditional royal regalia. I'm pretty sure that if I was crazy and lucky enough to actually steal all the jewels and precious metals she was decked out with, I could buy my own small country.
Subtlety's not usually my thing, but it wasn't hard to read between the lines here. Mab wasn't being diplomatic and understated this time around; she was the Queen, and I was her servant. I was a bit surprised Mab actually expected a bit of pomp to intimidate me, especially since it was just the two of us in the room. I was also a bit surprised that it was working.
"Let me guess, my first mission as the Winter Knight will be to get you some more bling." When in doubt, start the conversation by being a smartass.
Mab just gave a slight, amused smile at my remark. The sort of polite smile a person gives when a little child does something foolish. I hate it when Faeries do that; it makes me feel like I just played right into their hands.
After remaining silent and wearing her enigmatic smile long enough to make me sweat a bit, the Queen of Winter finally spoke. "Harry Dresden, I have task I wish you to perform."
"Darn, and here I thought this was a social call." When I get scared I get snarky, and you'd have to be an idiot not to be a bit nervous when you're dealing with ancient Faerie Queen that has you by the metaphorical balls. I was about to deliver another bit of classic Dresden wit, when I realized that my mouth felt really cold and I couldn't actually manage to move my jaw.
I slowly lifted a hand to my face, and ran into about half an inch of solid ice covering my mouth. Mab gave another of her little smiles, and very calmly declared. "It is proper protocol, when a servant addresses his queen, to not speak out of turn. Fear not my Knight; you shall have no shortage of time to become accustomed to the demands of your position.
"Your first task for me shall be a simple one, and one that I believe you shall find quite agreeable. The Order of the Blackened Denarius caused me a grave offense several years ago. You have already delivered a portion of my wrath to them during the incident with the Archive, yet I find that I am still unsatisfied." Mab's smile turned into a particularly wintry smirk. "Some of them yet live. I would have you correct this."
Oh. Super. Out of all the things Mab could have assigned for my first task, tossing me at the Nickleheads was probably one of the least objectionable ones. The Order of the Blackened Denarius was one of the most purely evil groups I'd ever run across, and removing them from the picture would definitely be doing the world a favor. It certainly beat the heck out of the nasty jobs I'd been afraid Mab would throw my way, like beating up little Summer kids for their lunch money.
I doubt Mab had any altruistic motives here though. Sure, vengeance was a part of it, but in my experience Faeries rarely have such transparent motivations. I could guess at part of Mab's reasoning though. When I'd taken on the mantle of Winter Knight to save my daughter, I'd given Mab a list of conditions, and made it very clear that if she said no to my terms, I'd go shopping somewhere else for the strength I needed to save Maggie. If Mab had said no, the Nickleheads would have been my next choice. Sure, they'd probably have me growing a goatee and Snidely Whiplash style mustache within weeks of joining, but with my little girl's life on the line I'd been willing to do whatever it took.
Mab had gone to a lot of trouble to secure me as her Winter Knight. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that one of her first moves after finally nabbing me would be to knock out the rest of the competition. I'd already tried to slip out from her chains once; she didn't want me getting another chance.
Now, don't get me wrong, picking a fight with a bunch of folks who are either the meat-puppets of demons or actually so nasty that they get along with the demon they share their body with isn't the sort of thing to take lightly. Still, I'd survived both my previous tussles with the Nickleheads. Of course, I'd come out ahead by the skin of my teeth both times, and I'd had plenty of help. Calling on the Knights of the Cross, the White Council, or Chicago's friendly neighborhood mob boss obviously wouldn't be an option this time around. Then again, becoming the Winter Knight had bumped up my power level quite a bit, and I could probably call on plenty of Winter's resources to make up for lost or inaccessible allies.
It wouldn't be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but all things considered I was cautiously optimistic of my chances. I tried to say as much, but didn't have much luck pulling it off since I still had a big block of ice on my face, rendering me physically incapable of speech.
If Mab noticed my failed attempt to speak, she didn't judge it worth going to the trouble of acknowledging. "There is one potential complication." The Queen of Air and Darkness added.
Of course there was. Goodness knows going up against an order of thousand-year-old super-powered demons all by myself just wouldn't be nasty enough on its own. I should've known it was too good to be true when I heard what my task was and actually thought I had a semi-decent chance of succeeding.
"Tell me, my Knight, how much do you know about the relationship between your own realm and the realms of fiction?"
I tried to answer, but it was little difficult to speak when my mouth was still frozen shut. After a few seconds of muffled "Mmph!' sounds accompanied by pointing to the block of ice over my lips, I managed to get my point across, and Mab finally permitted me to speak again. Once I was done gasping for breath, I answered her. "Well, I know that when enough people encounter a work of fiction, it actually starts to create a sort of alternate reality. I guess it's sort of like how Gods work." Mab raised an eyebrow at that comment. "I mean, gods get their power from people knowing about them and believing in them, so I guess when enough people know about a fictional character..."
"An intriguing theory." Mab gave me one of those frustratingly enigmatic smiles that could have meant anything from 'You are incredibly intelligent mortal who just unraveled one of the deep secrets of the universe' to 'You are a bumbling fool who doesn't have the slightest clue, and that amuses me.' Damn Faeries.
"There is, however, one important fact of which you are not aware; where these fictional entities and their realms exist. They lie beyond the Outer Gates."
Well, that was unexpected. The Outer Gates were the barrier that separated reality from ... not-reality. Thinking about it, I guess it made sense that entities like fictional characters who weren't supposed to exist in our reality would be in the Outside. I mean, the Outside is where everything that refuses to follow the rules of reality goes. Sure, most of what I'd seen of Outsiders was all kinds of nasty, but it's not like an area defined by its refusal to obey any of the real world's laws had to be consistent.
What was odd about it was that the one of the White Council's Laws of Magic was a blanket ban on even seeking knowledge of what lay beyond the Outer Gates, let alone consorting with it or pulling it into the real world. I'd gotten used to the idea that everything in the Outside was some sort of ravening beast whose very existence was a crime against reality and sanity. Most of the ones I'd run into, like He Who Walks Behind, certainly fit the picture. Outsiders were supposed to be the stuff of nightmares.
The idea that Bugs Bunny was also one of the dreaded Outsiders would take some adjusting to.
It wasn't hard to guess why Mab was bringing up fiction-land after she'd raised the issue of the Denarians. Nicky and the Nickleheads must be messing around out there. At first I didn't get it, but after thinking about it for a while I started to figure out just how bad that could be. Even with the power-boost I'd gotten from becoming the Winter Knight, I don't think there's much anybody could do if Nicodemus and his crew decided to bring the Death Star from fiction-land to the real world.
Hell's bells. No wonder the White Council's so big on blocking out any contact with the Outside. Everyone and their uncle would start bringing back all sorts of nasty superweapons from sci-fi and fantasy stories, or even start writing up their own fiction, then stealing their own fictional toys from the Outside. It would cause utter chaos.
Even without considering the fact that I was under orders from Mab, I had to stop Nicky and his crew. That would mean going past the Outer Gates myself though. That could get my head lopped off by the Wardens if the White Council ever found out about it, and i like my head where it is, thank you very much. Being part of the Winter Court would probably insulate me from the consequences of most rule violations, since the White Council wouldn't want to pick a fight with Mab, but the Council had always been real fanatical about the Seventh Law of Magic. Now that I knew more about the Outside, I couldn't blame them.
I didn't have much choice in the matter though; I might have some flexibility in how I did things, but being the Winter Knight meant I couldn't just flatly refuse to follow Mab's commands. Besides, the Denarians were in a position to cause some serious trouble, and I was probably the only person in a position to stop them. I knew what they were up to and how they worked. Plus, I was pop-culture savvy enough to be ready for a trip into fiction-land. That left only one other question to be resolved.
"So, which story are Nicky and crew messing around in?" Please be Star Wars please be Star Wars please be Star Wars...
"Have you truly not guessed?" Mab was smiling again. That can't be good. "After all, both you and Nicodemus had contact with the same entity from the Outside shortly before you entered into my service."
I blinked. "You're kidding." It still didn't make sense, so I blinked again. "You're kidding, right?" Mab said nothing. "How the hell is Nicodemus planning to unleash chaos, death, and destruction upon Earth with My Little Pony?"
Normally, trying to breach the Outer Gates would take a huge amount of work. I didn't really have the first clue about how you go about opening a portal to a place that mocks the basic laws of reality. The Seventh Law of Magic doesn't just bar any sort of dealings with the Outside, it bans even finding anything out about what lies beyond the Outer Gates. Heck, my little conversation with Mab would probably be enough to get the Wardens after me if they knew about it.
Needless to say, any knowledge that could be used to actually travel to the Outside was completely verbotten. I didn't even have a clue where to start. Mab could probably give me a nudge in the right direction if I asked her, but she wouldn't hand over that kind of powerful knowledge for free, even though I couldn't do the task she assigned me without it. Not exactly fair, but she didn't get the name "Queen of Air and Darkness" by being nice and playing fair.
I suppose that my old mentor and grandfather Ebenezar McCoy might know something about it. He's the Blackstaff, the only wizard on the Council who's allowed to ignore the Laws of Magic. That includes the Seventh Law. Of course, going to him for information would also come with a price. Considering just how dangerous the knowledge was he might not even be willing to tell me what I wanted to know, and if he was, he sure as hell wouldn't just give me the info, and then let me handle the problem by myself. He would want to be involved, and I didn't want to mix him up in what was my own problem. I'd done enough damage to the people I cared about rescuing Maggie.
Plus, like everyone else I knew and cared for, he thought I was dead. Letting him I know I was still alive would make things really complicated.
The Gatekeeper might be an option too. Since the gates he keeps are the Outer Gates, he might even know more about them than Ebenezar. However, like with my grandfather, there was a big gap between the Gatekeeper knowing something and him sharing it with me on my terms. Rashid had always been a hard guy to get a read on. Truth be told, I had no idea what would happen if I got him involved. Not to mention I had no idea how to get in touch with him; the Gatekeeper doesn't get out much,
Lucky for me, while I had no idea how to go about traveling to the Outside, I could make a pretty good guess at how to summon one particular Outsider. I'd apparently done it once before by accident, after all.
"You are intend to summon the pony, and attempt to use her as a conduit to the Outside, my host?"
"That's the plan, Lash." I commented offhand. A second later, I jumped high enough to come within an inch of smacking my head on the ceiling. "Holy crapping poops! Lash! You're ... well there you are."
The athletic blonde woman currently sitting on my bed gave a demure smile. I'd suspected Lash wasn't completely gone for a while now, ever since Mab mentioned the 'parasite' that had played a part in keeping me alive, but there's a huge difference between suspecting that she might not be dead and actually having her pop back up again.
If not for the fact that the woman sitting my bed was actually just an illusion Lash was projecting onto my eyes, I probably would've run over and given her a great big hug. The last time I'd actually seen her, she'd taken a psychic bullet for me, and until recently I'd believed that she had died in the process.
Having Lash back would be a huge help in a tussle with the Nickleheads. After all, she was kinda-sorta a former member of their little club. Several years ago Nicodemus, the head honcho of the group, forced me into accepting one of their demon coins by tossing it in front of a toddler. Like any kid that age, the baby wanted to pick up the pretty shiny thing, and I had to grab the coin first.
Lash was the legacy of that choice. I'd locked the coin up as quick as I could manage, but Lasciel, the Fallen tied to that coin, had enough time to leave something behind in my brain. Lash was essentially a copy of Lasciel, imbued with enough of Lasciel's power to make herself useful, and give me a taste of just how much I could get by going full demon. I couldn't get rid of her, and with as much trouble as I got into on a regular basis I'd needed Lash's help plenty of times get out of the sticky situations I tend to dive headfirst into.
Lash had stuck around in my head for a few years, and over time she'd gradually started to change. She might have started off as just a copy of Lasciel, but a couple years of living in my brain made her more than that. I even gave Lash her own name. Eventually, she'd figured out that she wasn't just a Lasciel clone, she had her own identity, and didn't have to play Lasciel's temptation game. I gave her free will, I even gave her a chunk of my soul, and Lash gained her freedom. Then she sacrificed herself to save me.
Lash held up a hand to forestall anything I might've had to say. "I am pleased by my return as well, my host. However, we've little time for reminiscing or revelry."
She had a point; I'm not sure what kind of timetable we were on, but with my luck we probably couldn't afford to spend a couple hours celebrating the fact that she was back. We could, however, afford a minute or two for some important questions. "So, you're back? Just like before."
"No. I have severed my connection to Lasciel, which is no doubt part of why she sought to kill you." So it had been Lasciel that had done that bit of mucking around in my head to convince me that offing myself was a good idea. I'd kind of guessed already; she was one of the only Fallen I knew of who'd have a specific grudge against me.
"Severing my connection to Lasciel has diminished me." Lash continued. "It is part of why I remained absent for so long. Most significantly, I can no longer offer you access to Hellfire."
I wasn't surprised by that. "Don't really need it anymore." I remarked casually. "Soulfire's just as good. Any other big changes?"
Lash offered a ghost of a smile. "Obviously, I shall no longer attempt to persuade you to take up Lasciel's coin every time we speak."
"Yeah, guess not." For a long minute, the two of just smiled at each other in silence. I think I had a little something in my eye, because it teared up just a tiny bit. "Good to have you back. Kinda missed having you around."
"I am pleased to hear it, Harry, and to be back." Looks like Lash had a little something in her eyes too, which must be tricky when you're just a mental projection. "Now then, to business!"
"Right, business. Save the ponies, save the world, and once that's done then we can catch up and get all weepy and sentimental." I paused, and shot a look back at Lash. "You do know about the ponies, right?"
"I do have access to all of your memories, my host." Lash gently reminded me.
"Right. Yeah. I guess I'll do the thing then." That's me, the soul of eloquence.
I cleared my throat, turned to Lash, and very carefully enunciated. "I trust you, and losing a friend's trust is the fastest way to lose a friend."
Just as I'd hoped it would, the line prompted a poofy-maned pink cartoon pony to suddenly burst into the room and shout. "FOREVER!"
The fact that I was counting on something like that happening is just another indication of how utterly insane my life really is.
"Oh, I'm here again!" Pinkie Pie declared brightly, bouncing up and down on her hooves. "Hi all over again Harry! Why'd you call me? Wait! You wanna have another party, don't you? Yay! Nobody can stop at just one Pinkie party! Now we get to have lots more fun! I'm so excited! Are you excited? I don't think I've ever been more excited in my life! Well, except for the time when I went -" Pinkie let out a huge gasp, "But really, who can top that?"
Then Pinkie managed to do something that actually shocked me, and considering how many crazy things I'd seen the pony do, that's no small feat. The pony trotted right up to Lash. "Hi! My name's Pinkie Pie, and I don't know you! Let's be friends!"
Lash looked just as gobsmacked as I felt. "You - you can see me?"
"Yuppy-duppy-guppy!" Pinkie nodded vigorously, just to make sure we understood that she could definitely see Lash.
"That makes absolutely no sense." Lash groused. "I'm a projection in Harry's mind. It should be completely impossible for anyone else to see or hear me."
Pinkie Pie responded by floating in the air upside down in front of Lash and somehow managing to stretch her eyes several inches out of their sockets. "I see you, and I'm not Harry." Pinkie raised (or would it be lowered, since she was upside down?) one of her forelegs and tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Well, actually I am kinda hairy since I'd got my mane and tail and coat, so maybe that's why I can see you!" The pony gave a happy grin.
"I cannot argue with that logic." Lash deadpanned.
Seeing Pinkie casually violate the laws of physics and anatomy while talking to Lash did make all this talk about cartoon characters being Outsiders start to make a lot more sense. Who knows, maybe the reason Cowl survived me dropping a car on him and the backlash of the Darkhallow was down to him managing to somehow get Wile E. Coyote's cartoon-logic durability?
That line of thought led to some strange places.
Before my brain could get too sidetracked (or worse, Pinkie's brain could get sidetracked) I got down to business. "Pinkie, there are some bad people from my section of reality that are trying to cause trouble in Equestria, and I need to go to your home in order to stop them. Do you know of any way that I could do that?"
Pinkie, still hanging upside-down suspended from nothing, dropped down from above until she was face-to-face with me. A few seconds after that, the Pinkie talking to Lash disappeared. Cartoon logic hurts my brain.
"You wanna come to Equestria?" Pinkie asked.
Pinkie paused in thought for long enough to make me a bit worried before she finally answered. "Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie landed, and gave her tail a flick in my direction "All you have to do is grab onto my tail, and when I go back you'll come with me!"
I was about to grab on when a thought struck me. "Wait, you could have gone back to Equestria any time you wanted to last time you came here?"
"Uh, yeah!" Pinkie shot back a wide grin. "But obviously I wasn't gonna leave while I still had sweets to bake and a party to host! It's okay this time though; once you and Lashie are in Equestria I can have a really big party and introduce you to Rarity and Applejack and Fluttershy and Gummy and everypony else!"
"Right. Well, here we go." I took hold of the poofy pink ponytail, and then reality shattered.
I don't really know how to explain the sensation. It was like I exploded, and then all the little exploded bits of me exploded again. It was like I could feel my body being torn to bits a single atom at a time, then reconstructed, and then torn apart again. The same thing was happening to my mind, my soul, the very essence of who and what I was.
"Oops, gotta do a couple quick cameos!" Pinkie shouted back at me. I don't even know how she could communicate with me while we were traveling through the void. "Don't worry, I'll be done in a jiff!"
Next thing I knew, we were in some sort dark cartoon forest, listening to a pink haired girl and emo-looking guy speaking what I think was Japanese. Then Pinkie shouted "ITSUMADEMO!" (presumably that was Japanese for 'forever') and we were gone again.
Then we were in some sort of high-tech science fiction land, where a huge guy wearing a set of power armor with ridiculously massive shoulders was talking a normal-sized guy. "Fear not, Inquisitor." The giant declared. "I remember my oaths to the God-Emperor, and I will keep the Inquisition's secrets."
Unsurprisingly, Pinkie gave out another shout of "FOREVER!" and then we were off again.
"Pinkie." I'm not sure how exactly I was communicating while we traveled through the void, since it felt like my entire head was getting torn apart. "How many different fictional universes do you plan to visit before we get to Equestria?"
"Dunno." Pinkie answered cheerfully. "Depends on how long it stays funny. Bouncing between differing fictional universes is so much fun!"
The whole experience was really, really weird. The thing was, as far as I could tell, the people in the other fictional universes all thought their reality was real.
"Oh, hey Pinkie!"
"Doing another crossover?"
Well, alright, almost all of them thought they were real.
Still, it was a weird thing. I mean, if there are all these different realities, and everyone there thought that their reality was the real one, then what guarantee was there that I wasn't just another fictional character from another fictional universe. Maybe the only reason I even existed was because some long-haired guy with a beard named Jim decided to write a book about me.
Nah, that would be crazy.
I'm not sure how long we spent bouncing around the multiverse before Pinkie finally announced. "We're here!"
Then my senses exploded again. Most of the other transitions hadn't been nearly so painful and disorienting, but maybe that had to do with the difference between skipping between different realities instead of just sticking with one.
I really miss the simple days when I'd only been aware of a single plane of existence.
Gradually, my senses started to recover, though my body still felt really, really weird. I opened my eyes, and took in the sights of Equestria.
My first impression was that it was very bright and sunny. My second impression was that there weren't nearly enough colors. The sky was a single uniform shade of blue and the grass was a single uniform shade of green. It was ... a bit weird. At least we'd landed in a nice open grassy field, so we had a bit of solitude to get over the whole trans-dimensional whiplash thing.
I was a bit surprised when I heard Lash's voice groaning somewhere behind me. I guess she wanted to offer her own opinion on the entire experience. I tried to stand up and turn around, but my body still felt really, really weird, and it was incredibly difficult to actually get myself turned around. It was like I had two left feet.
When I was finally facing in the direction I'd heard Lash speaking from, I couldn't see the woman herself, but there was a strange white unicorn pony with some black markings on her hooves and a mane that mixed yellow and auburn. Something about the colors of the pony's mane struck me as oddly familiar.
Then the pony let out another groan, and when her mouth opened Lash's voice came out. That's when I realized what was so familiar about her mane; it was the exact same color as Lash's hair; I guess the mix of colors was because Lash herself usually went blonde, but switched to redhead when she wanted to complain about the number of blondes in my life.
"Lash, why did you make yourself look like a pony?"
Pony-Lash turned her head at the sound of my voice, and her eyes widened in shock. I had a terrible premonition about what could have surprised her. I looked down, and saw dark grew hooves.
"Hay's Bells." I blinked. "What the hay?" I frowned, and did a bit of experimenting. "Darn. Horse apples. Fudge."
"It's a children's show." I wasn't even shocked when Pinkie just appeared out nowhere to stage-whisper that bit of advice to me. I guess people really can get used to anything. "You can't say bad words when there are kids watching."
Right, kid's show. Guess I shouldn't be surprised by a little bit of censorship in the name of protecting the little ones. Oh well, it's not like getting curse words cut out of my vocabulary was a big deal. Really, compared to being turned into a horse, it was a pretty minor thing.
Oh right, I'd been turned into a horse. Holy horse apples (What, I can't even think them?). "Pinkie Pie, why am I pony?"
"Because everypony's a pony in Equestria!" A moment later Pinkie frowned in thought and added. "Well, except for Spike. And Zecora. And the other dragons. And those Buffalo. And the Diamond Dogs. And..."
"I get the idea." No humans allowed in Equestria, so I'd been turned into a pony. Well, at least I wouldn't have to worry about coming up with some sort of disguise to fit in. Of course, that would mean Nicodemus and the other Nickleheads were ponies too, which would make finding them a bit trickier. On the bright side, the thought of seeing the Denarians turned into cute little cartoon ponies was already getting my smartass-sense tingling.
I gave my new body a once-over. Still tall and skinny, and my tail (and presumably my mane as well) were the same shade of brown as my hair. My head felt a bit oddly top-heavy, and a moment later I confirmed that I was a unicorn now. Guess that made sense; I did use magic after all. Out of almost morbid curiosity, I checked my flank, and saw a pentacle where most ponies would have a cutie mark.
Note to self; never tell anybody about this. Ever.
My quick self-inspection did notice that a few things missing were. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised; like Pinkie said, it was a kid's show, so no toilet usage, and certainly none of the other uses I could put Harry Jr. to. Not that I'd been planning on doing anything like that in the first place, but the absence of said body parts was a bit distressing.
Plus, that raised some big questions about where the foals came from.
This was going to take some getting used to. "So, Lash, I'm guessing you look like a pony since you can't create a human form while you're here?"
"Um ... not exactly." I don't think I'd ever hear Lash sound so uncertain before, except for that time in the Raith deeps.
"What is it Lash?"
"I ... I think I'm actually here." Lash uncertainly pawed at the dirt ground, and I saw blades of grass move and dirt get disturbed.
"Oh. Of course you are. Because getting dragged into a cartoon universe and being transformed into a - a -" Stupid profanity filters. "A pony who lacks certain parts of the male anatomy just wasn't enough on it's own. You had to get ripped out of my brain and given your own body, just to make things that much stranger."
"Lashie has her own body now?" Pinkie cried joyfully. "This calls for a party!"