The Summer Sun Celebration always brings out the weirdos, and by Ponyville standards, that's saying something. Applejack wasn't sure how this stranger had gotten a permit for her stall, but there it was: a simple wooden desk, with a sign beside it, sitting off to the side of the market.
Time's Broken, Ask Me Anything. The Timetraveller is: In
The purple unicorn behind the desk was answering a question about how the Celebration would go. She told a tall tale, about how Princess Celestia's long lost sister, possessed by evil magic, was going to kidnap the Princess, and plunge the world into eternal night.
"...And at the end of their adventure, these six plucky young mares will defeat Nightmare Moon, with the help of some ancient magical artifacts. Freshly purged of her dark self, Princess Luna will return to Ponyville with her sister, and they join in the party." She finished with a smile. "Next question?"
Applejack's own sister was the one that answered, shouting across the market to her. "How much timber would a Timberwolf wolf, if a Timberwolf could wolf timber?"
"Now that, is an interesting question. You see, a Timberwolf can only eat so much wood before..." And she was off again. If nothing else, she was livening up the day. Most the town had the day off, to finish preparations for tomorrow's Celebration, so the market was a bit empty this morning. Applejack herself would be packing up her stall come late morning, for her family's reunion, as well as their part in the preparations.
After she made sure her family's anti-Timberwolf preparations were up to snuff. "...So by the time the Timberwolf has spawned a second offshoot, the first offshoot would be forty percent towards its own offshoot, bringing the combined Timberwolf pack's ability to wolf timber to..."
In fact, she might need to restock a few things. Maybe everypony she knows will be getting Timberwolf survival kits for Hearth's Warming. "...And at that point, the exponentially expanding pack will have moved beyond the forest, or rather, the former forest, and likely devour the town in less than an hour."
Magicking away the blackboard she had been using in her lecture, the unicorn turned back to her slightly fearful audience. "So, in the end, we're all very lucky that Timberwolves don't wolf as much timber as they can."
It all happened, just like she said it would. That Applejack and the mare, Twilight Sparkle, had been two of the six "plucky young mares" in her story had been a surprise. Not to Twilight, it seemed, but if she was telling the truth...
And so, at exactly eight in the morning, Twilight Sparkle sat down at her desk, and with a clack, she flipped the tag on her sign to In. Eventually, somepony worked up the courage to walk up to her, and asked the first question of the day...
Cupcake paused, glancing at her husband before looking awkwardly over her shoulder.
"I mean... I have... We've tried, I don't know if..."
After a moment, she blushed and leaned in. There was a bout of quick and furious whispering, the unicorn merely listening with her ears forward.
Then Twilight smiled. "...Twins."
"Yep. Not for a while, mind you, but sooner than you think."
"Oh..." Cupcake smiled broadly, fanning herself. "Oh, thank you. Did you hear that Carrot?"
"Yes, I... Twins?"
"Oh Great and Powerful Twilight Sparkle—"
"No." Twilight glared and waved her horn. "Next, please."
Snips and Snails stood their ground. The former cried, "But we just wanted to know the future!"
"You two are not to be trusted in the presence of any powerful unicorn. That includes me and, on occasion, one another. I have learned this the hard way." Her next words were a shout. "Next, please!"
Twilight had just flipped the sign at her booth from OUT to IN when Rainbow Dash dropped in. "Hey, Twilight... since we're all best buds now and everything, what with having saved the world from Nightmare Moon, I was wondering..."
"Yes, I know a lot of stuff about your future, Rainbow Dash," Twilight said. "Ask away."
"Well, the Cloudsdale Young Flyers' Competition is in a couple months," Dash continued, "and I was wondering..."
"Say no more," Twilight said. "I'll tell you this much. A young new flyer goes to Cloudsdale and really wows the judges."
"Really? Is she cool?"
"Everybody in Cloudsdale thinks so," Twilight said. "Beautiful, graceful, extremely talented."
"Of course," Rainbow Dash replied confidently.
"Her performance in the competition absolutely blows away everything that comes before it."
"Yeah? Yeah?" Rainbow Dash's tongue hung out as if she was next in line at the apple cider stand. "Tell me more!"
"And then she screws up right at the end, gets not just herself but the Wonderbolts as well in deep trouble... and then this filly who nobody expected much out of rescues them all and wins the competition."
Rainbow Dash's jaw hit the counter of Twilight's little booth with a thwack. "You mean... but I... but the future can be changed, right?" Rainbow Dash looked one very short step away from going to her knees and begging Twilight like Scrooge in the graveyard. "It doesn't have to play out that way again, does it?"
"You've got your answer, Dash," Twilight smiled. "What you do with it is your choice."
"Oh, man," Rainbow Dash moaned. "Ohmanohmanohman. I gotta get training. My routine has to be absolutely perfect. No screw-ups. No mistakes. One little slip and my career is over!" She blasted off in a blur of rainbow light.
Well, that should put her in the standard baseline mindset, Twilight thought. Now I just have to make sure Rarity wants to join us when we all go to Cloudsdale. Maybe the next time she asks a question...
It was just about closing time for Twilight's stall. As questions were few and far between, she often spent most her day sitting at her desk reading.
As she placed her bookmark, and began to turn to flip her sign to Out, an unAwake Lyra ran up to her stall. "Are- Are you still open?" She panted. "I have... a question."
"Why are you out of breath? You know I've been here all day, and would have been back tomorrow." Tilting her head to the side, Twilight thought for a second. "In fact, weren't you in the market this afternoon? I remember seeing you."
"Bonnie's been blocking me from coming to you. Doesn't want me to ask. She's back home, cooking dinner. Out of breath, because I have to run everywhere, to get what we forgot earlier, and still ask you my question." As she spoke, Lyra gestured to her saddlebag, presumably containing what they'd forgotten.
"Forgot something, eh? How... convenient." Twilight pulled a jug and cup from where they were hidden, under the desk, and poured Lyra some water.
"Heh, figures the know-it-all time traveller would see through that." Lyra gulped down her drink. "Anyway, my question. Are they real? Well? Don't give me that look, you've seen the future, you know what I'm asking about. Are they real?"
Blinking, Twilight considered how to answer. While standard Lyra variants were almost always obsessed with either humans or seaponies, outliers did occur. Still, that risk was small, and being vague had worked so far. "Yes."
"They are real? Really real?" Lyra looked at her with wide-eyed wonder, before asking in a hushed voice. "Do I meet one? Do I- Can I ever become one?"
"Yes, they're really real. To the others, in order, sooner than you'd think, and no, you can't become one." The mint mare deflated somewhat at that last one, before pepping up again.
"I meet one? Or have met one? Is it somepony I know? Omigosh, I gotta go tell Bon Bon!" With that, the mare shot off down the street.
"Why do I get the feeling she wasn't asking about humans?" Twilight asked herself, as she once again reached for her sign.
The next morning saw Twilight being stared down across her desk, by a mildly irritated looking Bon Bon. "You told her Changelings were real."
"Well, to be fair, they are." Coughing into her hoof, Twilight leaned across her desk. "Keep a secret for me? She never actually said the word Changeling, I thought she was asking about seaponies."
"Ah, I see." Bon Bon fidgeted, glancing around. "So... Changelings are real, eh? Do you happen to know any? Or is it just something you find out at some point?"
Bingo. Twilight thought. "Bit of both, actually. Not bad folks, if you can convince them you're not a threat."
"Right. That's good." Bon Bon nodded. "Uh, since I'm here, me and some family have a... thing, that we'll be doing in Canterlot next year, and I was wondering...?"
"Ends horribly, tell her to use diplomacy." Twilight replied, with a sad headshake.
"Ah, right. Thanks." Bon Bon winced, before awkwardly walking away.
Filthy Rich walked up to Twilight's stall. "I was wondering-"
"I never paid attention to the stock exchange," Twilight interrupted. "I'm a time traveler, not omniscient."
"Ah. No, actually, I was wondering... Well. My daughter's friend recently earned her cutie mark, and my daughter has been down recently, so if you know any way I can cheer her up...?"
Twilight pondered that for a moment. She could just tell the truth, or... "Well, why not introduce her to the youngest Apple girl? Maybe they can form a club and, I don't know, crusade for their cutie marks." She leaned in. "Spin it as a business investment, more ponies joining means a larger network of friends. Diamond loves pretending to be a grown-up."
Mane tousled and eyes barely open enough to navigate the stairs, Twilight Sparkle stumbled out of her bedroom and down to the front door of the tree library. "All right, all right, I'm coming," she mumbled, raising her hoof to turn the doorknob.
On the other side of the door stood a market stall- specifically, her market stall. Standing on the other side of it was Princess Luna.
Baseline Twilight Sparkle would have come wide awake, bowed deeply, and put aside all thoughts of sleep whatever... but that Sparkle was in another castle.
"Hi, Luna. Come back inna morning." Twilight shut the door and got three steps back towards her bed before the pounding on the door resumed with gusto.
Now wide awake and very exasperated, Twilight opened the door again. "Princess Luna, it's three A. M.!"
Luna's horn flared with magic, and the little hanging sign on Twilight's booth flipped over from Out to: The Time Traveler is In.
"Fine," Twilight sighed. "What's your question?"
The resulting blast of sound threatened to carry Twilight back up the stairs to her bedroom.
"WE WISH THY ADVICE ON HOW OUR SUBJECTS SHALL BEST RECEIVE US! FORSOOTH, OUR RECOVERY FROM THE FOULNESS OF NIGHTMARE MOON PROCEEDS APACE, AND WE SEEK GREATER INVOLVEMENT IN-"
Twilight managed to reach a hoof up to silence Luna's Canterlot Voice. A moment later she floated up a replacement sign and hung it on the peg: The Time Traveler Is Not Deaf.
"The first thing you have to learn," Twilight said, "is nobody uses the Royal Canterlot Voice anymore. If you need to be heard, we have this invention called a 'loudspeaker.' But we use neither one at three in the bucking morning."
When Twilight removed her hoof, Luna opened her mouth. "WE UNDER-" The hoof went right back for a few seconds, then withdrew just far enough for Luna to be able to work her jaw. The whisper was loud enough to be heard half a block away. "We understand. 'Tis not Our desire to awaken all Our subjects-"
"TOO LATE!" a couple dozen ponies shouted from their bedroom windows.
"Riiight," Twilight Sparkle sighed. "Anyway, speech lessons. Fast. First. And often. I can recommend a pony of this town to teach you, but I'll have to introduce you. Once you can talk more like a normal pony, then will be the right time to make your public debut in modern Equestria."
"'Tis sooth counsel thou givest me, Twilight Sparkle. But when shall We make this debut?"
"Did you know that we have a holiday all about you?"
Luna blinked. "Really? Do tell."
"Well, not really about you," Twilight Sparkle said, "so much as Nightmare Moon. It's a night we use to celebrate scary things and play pranks on one another."
"Pranks?" Luna's voice was suddenly quite normal. "I haven't played a good prank on anypony since we took care of Discord! Did you know I had a bunch of silly traps and things installed in our castle? You should have seen Princess Platinum's face when I sent her down the trapdoor that led out to this big mud puddle outside! It was-"
"Yeah, well," Twilight said quickly, "come back then, be a little bit frightening and playful- but not too much- and things should go well. Just be patient and remember- Nightmare Night is a night when it's okay to be frightened. It's not personal. Remember that, and everything will work out in the end."
"Couldn't you- er- Couldst thou not givest Us a hint?"
Twilight sighed again. "Only one: be prepared for all the candy even an alicorn could possibly eat!"
"We shall begin Our diet at once in anticipation of this sugary feast!"
"Yeah, yeah. Now good NIGHT, Princess Luna!"
The library door slammed shut. It slammed again ten seconds later, just after Twilight reopened it to shout, "And put my stall back where you found it!"
"Can you tell me if Minty Fine... I mean, do she and I ever...?"
Twilight sighed, sipping her coffee and silently cursing the princess of the night. "Look, I'm tired, I haven't opened my stall yet, I don't even know you-"
"But-but-but I came here all the way from Vanhoover! I mean, you know everything about the future-"
"No I don't." The unicorn turned to the strange green pegasus. "I know a lot about how Ponyville's future should be, because I happen to live here. Just because time is broken does not mean I'm omniscient."
"I thought... I mean..." Sorrow filled the stallion's eyes. "I... I guess I'll just go."
Twilight watched him shuffle away... before giving a long groan. "Uuuugh. Look, whoever you are, just because I don't know your particular future doesn't mean I can't give you advice. You want to start dating this... Minty, right?"
"Then just do it," Twilight suggested. "Dates are all about finding out about each other. Ask her out to somewhere she would like, and maybe let her return the favor, alternate a few times, get to know one another."
"You... really think that would work?"
"I have no clue. It might, it might not. But you'll never know if you waste your time talking to a sleep-deprived unicorn." Twilight tried to give him a reassuring smile, but the effect was marred by the bags under her eyes. "Now get back on the train... you!"
Twilight flipped the sign on her stall and cleared her throat. "All right, before I take any questions today, I need to get something out of the way. This morning, I received six tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala. However-"
"THE GRAND GALLOPING GALA?" The crowd erupted into noise, drowning out Twilight's words and rendering it impossible to catch more than snatches of what any one pony was saying.
"I've always wanted to go to the Gala, ever since that one time at band camp-"
"-and I'll squeeze them and snuggle them-"
"-then before she greets me back I'll walk away and she'll be so confused-"
"-gets a little lonely, all these empty rooms, just watching the hours tick by-"
"-and then the world will finally know the truth about Ch-"
A large explosion went off directly above the stall, shocking everypony in the crowd into silence, save one. "...and then I said, 'But why wouldn't I join a blurt-out-your-least-realistic-dreams-of-what-would-happen-if-you-got-invited-to-Equestria's-biggest-party-party?' Oh, sorry Twilight! Go ahead!"
Twilight sighed. "Thank you, Pinkie. As I was saying: The Grand Galloping Gala, at least this year's one, hardly ever goes well. Thus far, nopony from Ponyville has managed to go there without the reason they wanted to attend backfiring horribly on them unless they knew beforehoof what they were getting into or didn't have any expectations about it to begin with. The average Gala ends with at least one extremely dramatic breakup, statuary collapsing, a menagerie stampeding through the dining hall whilst the band plays unfitting music, all the festivities dead and cake, everywhere."
The crowd looked uneasy at this. Twilight brushed some soot off her stall and continued. "Now, I'm expected to attend this Gala almost every time it happens, which means I know more about what to expect and how to enjoy it than anypony except Princess Celestia...and in all likelihood I am going to be stuck sitting in the entrance hall greeting guests all night, but I'll also get to spend time with at least one friend from Canterlot in the process, and I usually get to hang out with more once all the guests have finally arrived. Plus, if we're lucky, we can get a smaller, more private get-together going later on which always results in a much better night for everyone involved." She absently blew out a small flame in her mane. "So, anypony who wants to go should bear in mind that while it's not all it's cracked up to be, you can still have a good time at the Gala, especially if a friend is going with you. The tickets will go to whoever I think is most likely to enjoy the experience, and I won't be giving out any of the tickets for at least a week, so make sure you've thought long and hard about just why you want to go before you apply to get one."
Twilight had closed her booth for the day and retreated into the relative privacy of the Library's main room.
An eerily familiar magical disturbance began to form near the base of the stairs to her loft. Loose papers and other objects began to flutter about, then the magenta-bordered white orb formed before emitting a blinding flash.
Another Twilight Sparkle had joined her in the room.
Disheveled mane, check. Eyepatch, check. Bandage on head, check. Scar on cheek, check. Tattered black body suit, check.
The battered and singed Time Traveler booth was an interesting touch, along with the "The Timetraveler is: Not Kidding" sign.
"Oh no," groaned the un-displaced unicorn. "What could possibly have made you think using that spell was a good idea?"
"Six words," her counterpart replied. "Cutie Mark Crusader Underworld Beast Trainers."
There was a brief pause as one Twilight let the other think through the implications.
"What about Fluttershy?"
"We told her about Tornado Day. She and Dash were off in her meadow working on her wingpower training."
Another thoughtful pause.
"Do I want to know about the get-up?"
"In addition to the CMC's antics, a really convoluted chain of events involving a Pinkie Promise, a missing watermelon, and Time Turner's overdue books account."
And then the spell expired, leaving Twilight alone to ponder the future.
Scootaloo got up from the outdoor cafe table where she had been having dinner with her friends, pulled out what looked like a large candy cane from her pocket space, and stabbed it into the ground in one fluid motion. The peppermint pylon activated with an electric humming noise.
"Ha! Try and get us now, you stupid non-corporeal bag of wind!" the purple-haired girl shook her fist at the sky, "I triple pony dare you, you leftover remnant of an awkward burp!"
"Uh, Scoots?" Apple Bloom cautiously approached her friend, "Are you sure it's a good idea to taunt, er.. the death?"
"You don't understand. I've been preparing for another stupid Final Destination loop ever since that thing happened to me in the last one."
"With the oak tree and the helicopter and the bowl of yogurt?" Sweetie Belle piped in.
"Yes. That," Scootaloo deadpanned, "Well, I got one of Pinkie's video game pylons active. So even if it gets me, I'll just happily respawn as long as the pylon remains on."
With a slow whining noise, the peppermint pylon turned itself off for no reason.
Scootaloo was suddenly next to the powered-down device, frantically trying to turn it on. It was a rather difficult task as the only interface consisted of a large red candy-like button - which was quickly being pressed over and over.
Another electric humming noise caused the sport-oriented member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders to whip her head to the side. There, she saw Sweetie Belle with another working peppermint pylon.
"Apparently, we had the same idea," Sweetie Belle smiled, "Great minds think alike, I suppose."
"Er sorry to interrupt, girls, but did Pinkie ever say what would happen if two of those pylons were activated next to one another, or in a place where luck and chance are at the whim of malicious entities?" Apple Bloom questioned while pointing to the pylons. Scootaloo's pylon was now working again. That would have been fantastic except that wild bolts of eldritch magical energy were now playing across both candy looking artifacts, zapping between hers and Sweetie Belle's devices like a demented Jacob's ladder.
"Ahh! Do something, Apple Bloom!" Sweetie Belle cried out to her friend.
"Well, I'd like to. There's just three little problems. One, these things are magical artifacts; which I've never studied too much. Two, they are made of enchanted candy; which I have never worked with. And thirdly, they were crafted by Pinkie Pie... who is Pinkie Pie, and everything that entails. I believe that the challenges posed by these little old facts are all self evident," Apple Bloom watched cautiously as the pylon's noise reached a crescendo. She just hoped they all wouldn't end up in Eiken again.
Then suddenly and without warning, the two pylons flashed like strobe lights and plummeted downwards through the concrete and beyond.
The three girls looked down at the holes.
"How deep do you think...?" Sweetie Belle started to ask.
"Deep. Very, very deep," Apple Bloom answered after looking down one of the holes.
"Do you think that anyone would notice?" Scootaloo asked.
"Well, they are pretty deep in there," the youngest Apple family member thought for a moment, "Unless Pinkie only made them operate at a tiny fraction of their full potential power, I don't think we'll need to worry about them doing anything to the surroundings anytime soon."
The next day, Apple Bloom slammed the daily newspaper down on the table. She stared at her friends before asking, "Did Pinkie, perchance, mention anything about how those peppermint pylons are powered?"
"Well," Sweetie Belle spoke up, "I did ask her, but you know how Pinkie can get. She went on a rambling tangent of an explanation. I think she mentioned something about transfiguration spells and sugar and anti-sugar or something like that."
Apple Bloom stared at her friend and sighed, "Fantastic. They're powered by a near endless supply of antimatter. That, along with that harmonic resonance or whatever happened yesterday would probably explain today's newspaper."
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle craned their necks to look at the print.
There on the front page, in a truly gigantic font, was the headline: 'DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY!'
"Apparently, all sapient deaths not caused by natural causes results in a respawn," Apple Bloom summarized, "Everywhere. Across the entire planet. What are we going to do about this, girls?"
"I have an idea," Scootaloo said with a nod.
Then she stood up and seamlessly continued her previous day's rant against death.
Applejack, presently wandering through ancient China, stopped at the top of a pass and surveyed the next valley. She raised a hand to block out the evening sun. Looks kind of swampy. Oh well, a little mud in my sandals won't stop me.
She was only a little way down when a bit of sudden movement caught her eye - someone had fallen into one of the pools. Another moment's watching, and Applejack realized that the person's response to this situation was panic instead of simply getting out of the water. Applejack took one step of a running start before realizing that she was far too slow in this form. A burst of magic, and she had transformed full Alicorn. She leapt into the air and sped towards the pool.
Before she was a quarter of the way there, she had levitated a girl out and to safety.
When Applejack landed next to her, the girl bowed.
"Aww, git up."
"Most illustrious being..."
"Not hearing it. Git up. Where I'm from, I'm a farmer."
The girl did look up briefly, and continued, "O magical farmer who saved my life..."
"All right, you're welcome."
She finally raised her head and left it up. "Why did you come down and save me?"
"Cause I was walking down the path on my way to nowhere in particular, and just saw you drownin' there? It's not that complicated."
"May I travel with you?"
Hmm. Do I need to deal with a worshipper? "No."
The girl did not insist. Applejack nodded and continued on. On the far end of the valley, Applejack settled down to camp.
And in the morning, looking back from the other side, she immediately recognized it: Jusenkyo. Ah, not a generic ancient China loop. Pre-Ranma. That explains why I didn't get any other pings - he'll wake up in a few centuries. Aaaand I just rescued the girl the cursed spring imprinted on. Hmm. I could control what he transforms into if I... umm. No, not doing that. Murder as the setup for a joke?
While she was grazing, though, the idea would not let her go.
Ranma Woke. He had just thrown his father into the pool outside the Tendo family home. Ah, this start. Always the same. I'll be splashed myself in...
The water hit, and he was an orange alicorn.
In moments, he processed surprise, pleasure at the novelty, recognition, and gratitude. A quick reference to his loop memories... She probably got an Eiken for this. I'll have to make it up to her. And tell her you don't actually need to completely drown.
111.4 (Zetrein, continuation of 109.5)
Two guards patrolled along the exterior pathways of Canterlot Castle. The wise old earth pony sergeant was lecturing the young private with him on what he felt was proper Guard conduct, the things they don't teach kids these days.
Or he would, if the young pegasus would pay attention. "Private Doo! Have you heard a single word I've said these past few minutes?"
"Yessir! The Single File Line is a perfectly valid formation, Sergeant Red, sir!" She snapped to attention, her left eye leaving the butterfly it had been tracking. The sergeant caught that wayward eye, however.
"Then why are you watching the local creepy crawlies?" Red stopped at a crossroads in the path, and turned to face Pvt. Doo. "You are a Private in Her Majesty's Royal Guard, you need to be attentive-"
"Do you hear that?" Pvt. Doo interrupted him. "It sounds like screaming."
"Gall darn it, Private, you interrupted me again! How many times do I have to tell you not to interrupt me!" Seeing Ditzy snap to attention, Red continued. "As I was saying, you need to be alert! Observant! Attentive! Ready to act on a moment's notice! And under no circumstances should you ever-"
While he had been speaking, the screaming Ditzy Doo heard had been getting closer. Even still, it was a surprise when, amidst the sound of a screaming mare and squeaking wheels, Sergeant Red vanished from in front of her in a clattering bang and a blur of brown.
With the sergeant's spear clattering to the ground, Ditzy let out an uneasy call. "Mister Sergeant? Are- Are you still there? Sarge?"
Meanwhile, the sergeant, along with two fillies and a teenage mare, were rapidly leaving Pvt. Doo in the dust. As he admired the tall wheelbase, which allowed him to cling to the front of the go kart without dragging on the pavement, Sergeant Red took stock of the ponies involved in this incident.
"Sorry Mister Guard! I didn't mean to hit you, but the brakes aren't working!" Currently at the wheel, and trying to see around his head, was Equestria's Darling Filly, Princess Twilight Sparkle. Currently at the age of twelve, her special talents were Magic, and being the Cutest Princess.
"You know, we're tall enough, that if you let go, you'd probably be fine!" Ah yes, Smarty Pants. Alleged age of ten, ward of the royal family, special talents include a perfect memory, and being smarter than you.
"I wanna get off! I changed my mind! Make it stop!" And finally, cowering in the back of the go kart, was Princess Mi Amore 'Cadance' Cadenza. The sixteen year old alicorn was the envy of all teenage fillies, and the reason the color pink and stable relationships were in style.
And finally there was him, Staff Sergeant Rhode Island Red, forty year veteran of Her Majesty's Royal Guard, and entirely too old for this crap. In three days, he was going to retire, and go raise chickens. Far, far away from things like this.
Ultimately though, the decision of how to handle this situation was taken out of his hooves, when Smarty Pants pointed somewhere behind him and shouted. "Ramp!"
As his eyes widened in fear, Sergeant Red decided to take his chances with the pavement, and let go of the kart.
Celestia had grown used to Twilight and Smarty getting into things, over the past year. The energetic filly often dragged Twilight out to play, sometimes literally pulling her from her books. Personally she felt it was good for Twilight, having such a close friend so early in her life. Celestia just wished that she didn't have to clean up after them so often.
Case in point, the two soaking wet fillies, a shivering Cadance, whose coltfriend was trying to talk her out of the deathgrip she had on a nearby tree, and the go kart slowly sinking in the pond.
She pointedly did not look back at the trail they had left behind them, leading across half the noble district, all the way up to where it had begun in the palace gardens. The two fillies were the reason most the nobles had summer homes now; they didn't want to be around when they weren't distracted by school work.
Sighing the forlorn sigh of a single parent, Celestia turned to the most likely culprit. "Dare I ask what you were doing this time?"
"Well," Smarty replied, "I can tell you what we weren't doing, and that was reenacting this awesome scene from Barons of Disaster! There's this scene, ya see, and they..." As Smarty described the epic chase scene they had been trying to play out, Twilight was shaking the water out of her helmet.
By the time Cadance was finally coaxed off the tree, Smarty had gotten to the part of her tale where their plan went wrong. "So I figure that the guard we ran over meant we bled off more speed than we'd planned on in the flat part, and that meant we didn't have enough speed to clear the pond, even though we did the barrel roll perfectly. Cady did great with that!" Smarty beamed at her cousin.
Turning her attention to her niece, Celestia raised an eyebrow. "And how did they talk you into this? While I let you indulge Smarty's love of action movies, I mainly do it because I know you'll rein them in. So why this?"
Blushing, Cadance rubbed her foreleg with her hoof. "If I helped them, they promised to be nice to Shiny for a month."
As the two fillies tried their best to look like they weren't sticking their tongues out at Shining Armor while everypony's backs were turned, Celestia simply decided she'd heard enough. Walking to the water, she set about fishing out her daughters' kart, speaking as she did so. "You two get no dessert tonight, and I'll let you have the kart back next week." Sounds of dismay came from the fillies. "Cadance also gets no dessert tonight, for helping you."
"And as for you, young stallion," Celestia turned to look Shining Armor in the eyes. "I fully expect to see you for dinner next friday."
Twilight looked out over the town of Ponyville and sighed.
Everything had been covered in a thin layer of highly magic, heat, and impact resistant... rubberized gel? It seemed to heed known fluid dynamics models about as well as Pinkie did the laws of motion. Her only explanation for what had transpired came when the Crusaders sullenly trudged their way toward her.
"Alright." She half-huffed. It was mostly another sigh. "What happened?"
"Well..." Apple Bloom started, hesitant.
Scootaloo stepped forward. "We were trying to figure out how to bake Gummi Blocks to make a Gummi Ship. You know, like Sora's?" At the anchor's nod, she continued. "But then the containment vat for the unfinished solution failed, and... Yeah, we're really sorry, Twilight."
"On the plus side..." Sweetie Belle cut in, "I think it'll start to dissolve if we can find the right harmonic frequency! Or at least get it to stop being so hard to pry up..."
Twilight nodded and started her rummage for sonic amplifiers in her pocket, offhandedly commenting- "At least this doesn't have anything to do with tree sap."
She didn't see them wince. "Well if you want to get technical..." Bloom didn't finish, as Twilight was already conking her head against a rather large amplifier.
(Part 1 of ?)
Ember awoke with a blink. Immediately, she knew something was off. She was still in her dragon body, that much she could assure herself on, at least. However, for once she hadn't awoken in her room. Scanning her surroundings, wherever she was, she concluded that it definitely wasn't the Dragon Realms.
Though the town she was in still had the bright and cheery charm of the realms, the houses around her were made of wood instead of Artisan-grade marble. Off in the distance, she could see rolling green fields not unlike the Artisans, but something about the nearby forest unnerved her greatly. The striking detail, however, was the population of miniature horses of all different colors of the rainbow.
Despite the rather saccharine look of this place, Ember gulped as she shuddered slightly. She'd known this would eventually happen, and was grateful that it was some place that didn't look too dangerous, but this was the first loop that she wasn't with her family.
'Okay, Ember. Calm down. Remember what the other Spyro taught you,' she thought, trying her best to come off as unassuming to the beings around her. 'Check your 'in-loop memories' before anything else.'
Proceeding to do so, she frowned slightly and wished she hadn't. From what they told her, she was a dragon that had come to live with the ponies in Ponyville because she just didn't fit in with her society. The dragons of this realm were a rather rowdy bunch. Her early life wasn't one of pleasure, having been teased and poked by the others because of her gentle nature. Her scales being bright pink hadn't helped matters much, either.
If nothing else, she could at least take solace in that her in loop parents had more or less been the same as her usual ones in that they had tried to protect and comfort her as much as they could. But, regardless, the damage had made its mark and Ember had become known as 'the wimpy pony lover' to her own kind the day she finally couldn't take it anymore and moved to a much nicer crowd.
She shook her head, pushing those memories as far back as she could before they could leave permanent trauma. Focusing on more recent events, she let out a sigh of relief. Though the crowd she was in was a bit wary of having a dragon among them—she could still feel a few of them giving her uneasy looks—they were much more accepting of her than her own kind. The fact that her early loop trauma had left her rather timid had helped. She sighed. At least that meant this loop wouldn't be nothing but torture.
However, the thing that unnerved her the most was that she had no in-loop memories of Spyro, nor of Sparx, Hunter, the other Spyro and his Sparx, or Cynder. From this, she could assume that none of them were here in this loop. Which meant, for the first time in her looping life, she was completely on her own.
Once again, despite her saccharine surroundings, she hunkered down and shivered, her blue eyes darting from left to right.
'Alright, Ember. Just stay calm. At least you're in a peaceful place. Best thing you can do is just go along with what your pre-awake self did and ride the loop out.'
With that thought in mind, she continued what her pre-awake self had been doing and continued her grocery shopping.
Ember walked along the path in an almost trance-like state, her mind focusing on more recent in-loop memories. Apparently, when it came to carrying over from her normal loops, she still liked to volunteer in childcare. Since there was no apparent daycare, though, this meant she spent most of her time helping out at the local schoolhouse. Understandably, considering the dragons of this world, most of the parents were rather apprehensive about a dragon being around their young. But the school teacher, Cheerilee, didn't seem to mind too much.
Her in-loop memories told her that Cheerilee was responsible for most of the town warming up to the pink dragoness, having seen the gentle nature in her that most wouldn't catch at a glance. Of course, her helping her out in teaching draconian history, a rare history not many ponies knew much about, probably helped, but that was a minor detail.
Currently, her in-loop memories told her that tonight was the Summer Sun Celebration, and as a result, school was closed for the holiday. Her in-loop self had planned to spend the day just keeping to herself. She wasn't even planning to attend the celebration. Ember frowned. She couldn't believe how reclusive her in-loop self was, but at the same time she couldn't exactly blame her, either. At the very least, she could try to be a bit sociable now that she was awake. How to go about it, though, considering her species didn't exactly have the cleanest track record, was going to be a thing.
"All I'm saying, Twi, is that having accessories is one thing. Walking around looking like you lost a fight with a jewellery store clerk is something completely different!"
Ember blinked before turning around. She was instantly met with quite possibly the oddest sight she had seen from this loop so far. Walking along the path was a lavender unicorn. Given what she had seen so far, that wouldn't be any different from the norm, but the fact that said unicorn was dressed up from head to heels with golden chains, a pair of over-sized shades, golden braces on her teeth, and an oversized cloak hanging around her neck was more than enough to raise some heads. Ember had no idea how the huge cloak didn't snap the unicorn's neck.
The unicorn looked down at the young purple dragon next to her with a grin, possibly blinding a few beings with those impossibly shiny braces.
"Ah am tellin' ya, Shpike! Theesh whill be tha new styl of tha futura."
The young dragon blinked before shaking his head. "You realize I can't even understand you with those ridiculous things in your mouth, right?" he said, crossing his arms. "Seriously, what's up with you lately? You've been acting weird ever since you read that book this..." Spike trailed off when he noticed the eavesdropper on the conversation.
The unicorn raised an eyebrow as the drake's mouth hung open. Following his train of sight, her eyes fell upon the pink dragoness. She blinked, though it was quickly followed by a friendly smile. "O', hhello. Fhe'llow loopa?"
Ember blinked. The unicorn glanced down at herself and then promptly blushed as she rubbed the back of her neck.
"O', shorri'," she said, before her horn began to glow. In a flash of light, all the outlandish things she was wearing disappeared. She gave a smile. "Again, sorry about that. I didn't realize we had an outside looper this loop."
She bowed before looking back at Ember. "You must be new to the loops. I've never seen you before, so that's a pretty good clue. I'm Twilight Sparkle, the local loop anchor, by the way. You can call me Twilight, though."
Ember paused for a few seconds. Quickly remembering her manners, she was quick to bow too. "Nice to meet you. I'm Ember. Just Ember, though."
"Well, nice to meet you, Ember," Twilight said before she raised a hoof towards the surrounding town. "Let me be the first one to welcome you to Equestria. We're a sanctuary loop, which means you can unwind and relax here. Just don't do anything too disruptive, though, as we can and will send you to the moon if you cause too much trouble."
Ember jumped slightly, quickly raising her paws in front of her as her eyes went wide. "Oh, you don't have to worry about that! I rarely ever do pranks in my home loop, and I don't generally like causing trouble, so..."
"Don't worry, we don't mean stuff like pranks and that," Twilight said, scratching the back of her head as she gave an embarrassed smile. "We mean stuff like destroying towns, seriously harming other loopers, assisting bad guys, that sort of stuff."
At this, Ember gave a slight sigh before she smiled. "Well, that you definitely don't have to worry about with me."
"Well, that's good to hear," Twilight said, giving a more genuine smile. "In that case, enjoy your stay here in Equestria! As said, you're free to do whatever you like so long as it's nothing extreme." She sat down. "Anything in particular you want to do?"
Ember paused before she too sat down. "Well, I've never really been to this universe before, and this is my first time being in a loop without someone from my universe being there with me, so I was wondering if..." Ember said, glancing downward as she scratched the back of her neck. "If you could introduce me to some of the other awake loopers here?"
"Sure!" Twilight said, giving a smile. "Surprisingly, though, despite how many loopers there are in this world, there aren't that many who are awake at the moment." With that, Twilight got up and turned around. "Come on. I was just about to meet the others as per usual in my baseline, anyway."
Ember gave a smile as she got up and began to follow Twilight. She paused, however, as she glanced down. The small purple dragon who was with Twilight was looking up at her with eyes wide and jaw dropped. Ember glanced away awkwardly, scratching the back of her neck.
"Huh? Oh!" the baby dragon exclaimed, a luminescent blush on his face as he glanced downward. "I-I'm Spike! Nice to meet you!" he blurted out without thinking before looking over to Twilight. "Uh, Twilight! Wait up!"
Twilight glanced back to see her currently unawake assistant rushing over to her with a blush on his face. She giggled. 'Looks like Rarity has some competition this loop.'
Ember let out a slight chuckle before she was quick to catch up to them. With that, the group of three led by Twilight began their tour of the town. As she walked, Twilight raised an eyebrow and turned to Ember.
"Hey, Ember? Now that I think about it, have we ever met before?"
"I don't think so. Why?"
"I'm not sure... I don't know why, but your voice sounds oddly familiar to me..."
"Alright," Fluttershy said, looking along the latest improvement of her songbird chorus. She was going to be performing at Twilight's ascension this loop, and she felt she really had a winner with this concept. "From the top!"
The half-dozen orioles began to sing. Led by the purple one, they started with a succession of individual notes which blended together into a harmonious arrangement.
Then the nightjar cut across them, singing a counterpoint. This threatened to overwhelm the music completely.
The orioles rallied, piping up one by one, and then reprising their original theme, with a sunbird joining in at the crescendo, and the nightjar abandoned her counterpoint and wove in with the original arrangement to close out the first movement.
The second movement had Discord himself participating – as a bizarre mix of secretary bird and Hoopoe. Fluttershy had instructed the birds carefully, and they one by one joined his bizarre chorus before the purple oriole reversed the process.
The third movement involved a cuckoo, twenty grasshoppers, and a pair of lovebirds. (The choreography had been a challenge.)
And, finally, there was the fourth movement.
"Um... it's very nice so far," Twilight allowed. "But what's that kingfisher doing?"
Fluttershy passed her a bird-spotter's guide with one page bookmarked, and waved her hooves for the fourth movement to start.
CAW, went the Sombre Kingfisher.
Twilight barely avoided faceplanting into the book.
"Well, that's that," Loki said, with a satisfied smile.
His eldest son looked up. "How so?"
"Oh, just checking on the results of a couple of fused loops. Took a lot of energy, but it was entirely worth it." He pointed. "Here, one from your loop with a certain Anchor who got his start with your lot. Here, three of mine to Pern. And here, one of your lupine brother's Anchors and that place which Hel dotes on."
Sleipnir nodded. "I understand the last two. But the other one?"
Loki winked. "Give me a few secrets."
"What about Jorm? Are you involving him in this?"
"Oh..." Loki shrugged. "I had certain plans. Well, his code is usually involved with Pern anyway... but, anyway, I made him known to a certain research project, project 3325."
"...I have no idea what that's supposed to imply, Dad," Sleipnir informed him. "As usual."
The door banged open, and Jormugandr slithered in. "DAD!"
"But I'm about to," Sleipnir added, more positively.
"Why did you give that lot my résumé?" Jormugandr asked, pleadingly. "You know as well as I do that the 'Jormugandr solution' is just assigning me to fix all the chaos caused by time travel until I work out a code fix pattern!"
Loki smirked. "Well, you did say you were bored."
"Once! Fifteen hundred iterations ago!" Jormugandr brought his tail around, and nibbled on it nervously. "Rrrgh... I'm going to be fixing anomalies until I eat myself, I swear."
"...nope, still no idea of the specifics," Sleipnir announced.
Loki clapped him on a shoulder. "Learning's half the fun."
111.1: Franchise edition?
111.2: Not just cheating Death, but turning on the cheat CODES for Death.
111.3: The supreme sacrifice. (Spring of drowned altruist?)
111.4: Twily and Smarts.
111.5: Powered by similes. Like this one.
111.6: Part one of multiple.
111.7: Dramatic reenactment.
111.8: Plans within plans. (Loki's a big softy really.) The middle one is HTTYD Loops stuff.