I'm kind of amazed I held out against writing for this for this long. This is a oneshot: I just had a scene/concept I wanted to put down since Priam has decided to be difficult.


"Still kind of weird, isn't it?" Spike said quietly, riding on Twilight's back.

Twilight turned her head to give him a look. "Kind of weird? What part of this isn't totally weird?"

A squee came from up ahead of them. "Look, Luna! This tree has marshmallow horseshoes, and blue moons!" A happy squark agreed as Luna rushed past Twilight and Spike, pulling the cart she'd managed to build out of… stuff.

When Twilight caught up, Celestia already had marshmallow fluff all over her nose, smiling brightly, and Philemena had gotten so much in her feathers that the phoenix looked like she was made out of blue flame. Luna was already standing with her forelegs crouched down as though she was about to jump, concentrating on moving them out of the tree and into the cart with her magic.

Twilight didn't have to ask if they were edible: Celestia wouldn't have pointed them out without trying them first. It bothered Twilight that Celestia kept putting herself in danger like that, but even though the two of them weren't any larger than Twilight and, from their proportions, were about the age of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, the two of them were more durable than she was. And she wasn't going to even suggest to her future mentor that she let her little sister take risks like this, much less the baby phoenix chick they'd found.

According to Luna, Discord didn't like phoenixes. Their cycle of immortality was too anti-entropic.

"You're moving them one at a time?" Spike asked Luna.

"This is hard," the little pony said, embarrassed. If she and her sister were supposed to be so powerful, powerful enough to stop Discord and save everyone, then why was Twilight so much better at magic than she was? It was disheartening. "I can raise the moon because it's my cutie mark: it's a lot to move, but everything else is harder to figure out."

So that was why Celestia had looked for something moon-shaped, Twilight realized but didn't say aloud, since Luna would be annoyed by her sister going out of her way for her. Luna needed the practice and insisted on doing this by herself, so even Twilight couldn't help.

The moon was over their heads as they foraged: Luna kept it up there as much as she could, Celestia helping by lowering the sun. Night meant it was easier for everypony to hide from Discord, but the moon made sure there was still enough light for them to see danger coming.

Celestia nuzzled Luna's face, streaking it with sky-blue marshmallow dust. "Do you want me to take the cart for awhile?"

Luna frowned obstinately. "No, you're our scout." Celestia's cutie mark meant she could see more clearly than anyone. Luna didn't want anyone to get hurt, especially not Celestia because Luna wasn't strong enough yet.

"Alright," Celestia said, smiling. "We'll go look for the next thing to harvest, won't we, Philamena?"

The bird nodded, then jumped down out of Celestia's hair to roll around on the ground, charring the soil black as it got into her feathers. When there was enough ash on her that it wouldn't fall out after a only a handful of wingbeats she took off, flying low under the trees. Celestia trotted after her, the bouncing gait once again reminding Twilight of Pinkie Pie.

It still made Twilight feel really touched, that Celestia trusted Twilight with her little sister. Both of them were the hope of everypony here and it burdened Luna, even though Celestia tried to shelter her from every danger she could, doing her best to cheer her up.

Of course, that backfired a bit, because Luna thought her sister not being serious at all meant Luna had to take things extra seriously. Twilight sometimes wanted to tell Luna what Celestia was really doing, but then she remembered how important secrets were to Pinkie Pie. Celestia hadn't asked Twilight to keep this a secret, because she didn't know that Twilight had seen right through her act, knowing the older Celestia, but Twilight knew that Celestia didn't want Luna to know, and it still wasn't right to tell a friend's secret like that.

Suddenly, a roar rang through the twisted forest, followed by Philemena's battle cry.

"Sis!" Luna yelled, taking off running so fast Twilight couldn't keep up, even though Luna was hampered by the cart.

"We're fine, but don't… Oh dear," Celestia said.

The crash made Twilight Sparkle finally teleport, only to see Luna lying on the ground, fainted.

A beast that looked something like a manticore, but like the parts had just been stacked together lay in the center of the clearing. The scent of burnt flesh made Twilight wrinkle up her nose and Celestia, the rosy-hued Princess of Dawn had blood on her horn, trickling down the right side of her face.

Celestia bent to nuzzle her sister, but then thought better of it. "She still can't stand the sight of blood," she explained to Twilight. "Could you put her in the cart while Philamena and I get washed up."

"Right," Spike said, jumping down quickly to unbuckle the collar Luna had invented to distribute the weight so she didn't strangle herself if she ran while pulling the cart.

When Celestia returned, she and Philamena each had one end of several long vines in their mouths. "Well," said Celestia, with determined cheer, "Now we have something for Glinda and her kittens, too." Glinda the Griffin had tried to insist on hunting for herself, but Celestia just didn't like the thought of a new mother putting herself in danger like that.

Twilight wondered how many other new mothers had been lost, leaving behind more orphans for the little herd of ponies Pomme d'Amor watched over with kind eyes for them and an iron kick ready for any of Discord's monsters that tried to hurt her poor little ones.

"Are you sure you can pull the cart back, Twilight?" Spike asked as Celestia and Philamena started to wrap the vines around the body, making a rough harness for Celestia to pull it back to camp with the ease of practice.

Twilight remembered the disaster that happened when she tried to push the snowplow during Winter Wrap-up, but, "A mare's got to do what a mare's got to do." Before, she would have said a pony, but she wasn't among her friends, a bunch of ponies her own age, right now. She was the oldest pony-Person, she corrected herself, remembering Spike and Philamena-here, so she had to do more than just pulling her own weight.

That didn't mean she didn't use her magic, of course. In hindsight, she was sure it had gone wrong that time because she was trying to cheat. Even if she wanted to help, she shouldn't have just tried to fit in, she should have looked for a way for her to use her other talents from the beginning, contributed by being herself.

Keeping track of the food stores and when they would run out had already helped a lot. That made Twilight more than a little sad. It felt like she'd done so little so far. Not just to repay what her mentor had done for her, but also because these people needed help.

Well, they'd succeeded, right? And she must have found some way to help, if Celestia remembered her fondly enough to take her in as soon as she saw her. To know that all it would take to let her throw off Discord's spell was reminding her of the power of friendship, those precious bonds with the people who would never turn on her of their own free will.

Just like Twilight wasn't going to give up on beating Discord and getting home, not when she had two groups of friends and family now that needed her. "Spike, what are you doing?"

"I can walk," the little dragon protested.

She frowned. "I know that."

"Sorry, Twilight, but I mean, you're already carrying so much weight."

"Spike, don't worry about that." Looking after him was never going to be a burden. "And I'll just feel better if I know you're there, alright?"

Spike puffed out his chest, offended. "I can take care of myself."

"I know, Spike, but please?" For her?

He huffed but said, "Well, alright." He was just climbing up on her back for the ride home because he didn't want Twilight to worry, not because he wasn't strong enough to protect himself and her.

…And definitely not because this twisted place was terrifying and he wanted his mommy. Of course not.


The Elements:

Celestia –Laughter. She's like a more restrained Pinkie Pie in the series, and as a filly she's got the pink mane and all. Trying to brighten up a rather grimdark situation. Just because you're in a rock farm/wasteland doesn't mean you have to be miserable.

Luna – Generosity: it's her gift not being appreciated that makes her unhappy.

Twilight- Magic, of course.

Philamena – Loyalty, both because she's stuck with Celestia all this time and because she's a Rainbow Dash-level jerk on occasion.

Pomme d'Amor– Kindness. Celestia and Luna's mother figure. 'Pomme' means apple, but the name as a whole means love apple/tomato. Originally an earth pony, she was turned into an alicorn by Discord to mock the idea that Celestia and Luna could possibly threaten him, which was originally a depower for her because, as an earth pony, she didn't know any magic and turning her into an alicorn made her lose a lot of her muscle and earth pony butt-kicking power. Kindness can also be called 'Charity,' meaning the power of kindness is a form of the power of love, which allows her to be reincarnated and reunited with her true love.

Dux Patronus-Honesty. Name means 'War Leader Protector.' A pegasus, he's the resistance leader and star-crossed lover of Pomme d'Amor, because being near her would put her in danger. Hit Celestia and Luna over the head and sent them to Pomme's refugee camp to keep them safe until they were old enough to fight Discord without just being killed: prophesized alicorns or not, he's not letting little fillies get hurt on his watch.