"Filly of Silver, whose mark is a spoon, I wish to speak to you ere this moon."
Spoonsilver looked around. Since she was (for once) a pony – though, somewhat irritatingly, a bat pony – it was obvious who Zecora was speaking to.
Well, more obvious than normal.
"Oh, hi, Zecora." Silver waved, flaring her wings and flapping up to bring their heads to the same height. "Do you have to do the rhyming thing all the time?"
Zecora considered that. Then cleared her throat. "Sliver Spoon, of course I do. How else can my words ring true?"
"Well... okay, then." Silver replied, and shrugged. "No matter. What was it you wanted?"
"I can brew and stew potions a plenty, but I fear my skills could atrophy. I feel that I might substantially broaden my way through your alchemy."
"Oh, yeah, sure." The thestral landed again, and frowned. "Mind if you help me with something while we're at it, though?
"A desire so small Isn't an issue at all."
"Right. Hang on, I'll make us a work room."
Silver clapped her hooves together, and then on the ground. With a creaking, rumbling craaaaash, three huge stone slabs heaved out of the Everfree soil forming three sides of a square. The one furthest away from the zebra and the thestral extended twice as high, then bent down into a roof.
Not to be outdone, Zecora gestured, and wood sprouted from the ground into an instant 'fourth wall', complete with windows and a door.
"Huh, yeah, that's pretty neat. Does it involve visualization?"
"Yes. Wood is just Earth and Water combined, but first I must shape it in my Eye of Mind."
"Cool." Silver nodded. "That'll help." She entered the workroom, Zecora following closely behind. "Okay, first things first. Have you heard of equivalent exchange?"
"One thing for another in equivalent amount is a core aspect of how nature keeps count."
"Another good start. But it's kind of more... literal, with Alkahestry or Alchemy that I know. Now, an alchemical formula is basically like a very complex equation. Let's see..."
Silver flipped a pen from her Pocket, frowned, formed a table, and began drawing on it. "The circle is pretty much defining where the equation begins or ends. This symbol represents oxygen, this one represents hydrogen, and this one's water. When this is completed and run, it decomposes the right hand side of the equation into the left hand side, and this component – here?" She pointed, and Zecora nodded thoughtfully. "That's an intent link, which directs where you want to form the excess hydrogen and oxygen. 's kind of like a catalyst – it makes it easier for this to happen than for it to stay the usual formula. And it costs energy, which comes from whoever's using the circle."
"It's like you made a cup to scoop some water up."
"Sort of, for this one at least. Or maybe if you had water in a plastic sheet, this would be like lifting one end of the sheet up so the water makes a new shape. The lifting is the effort." Silver made a few minor annotations, then powered the circle up. "Okay, so there's water decomposing into hydrogen and oxygen just outside. Now, as we both know, that means..."
She scraped a match along the floor, and threw it outside. There was a BANG.
"Thanks, heh." Silver scratched the back of her head, and adjusted her glasses. "Now, I tend to do it by chemistry, but there's several ways to do a transmutation. You can use the Four Classical Elements – you know, earth and air and fire and water – you can use the Five Elements instead – which breaks earth into metal and wood... basically, any system which has a categorized approach to reality. And within that categorized approach, you can't fundamentally alter which of the categories are involved."
"I believe I now begin to understand. Please restate the how so I can comprehend."
Silver pointed to the circle. "Right. So, this one uses chemistry. I can change how the atoms are arranged, but I can't make them out of nowhere, and making one kind into another involves a huge amount of effort."
Another was quickly sketched out, then powered up. "This one uses Earth, Air, Fire and Water. So I couldn't make an explosion with this one, because that would be getting fire from no-fire, but I could change a pile of soil into stone, because both of those are Earth-element even though soil is made mostly of organic matter by chemistry. That's Natural Providence. The other side of equivalent exchange is Conservation of Mass, which-"
"Neither matter nor energy can occur spontaneously."
Silver nodded. "That's it exactly." Then she picked the cup of tea up from the centre of her second circle. "Want to try some?"
Zecora took it, and sipped. "Good brew. Thank you."
"Right. Now, the other side of it is the Three Principles of Transmutation. Basically, what you do with both the circle and your mind. First, Comprehension – you have to understand the structure of where you're starting from. Then Deconstruction – simplifying the original form down. And Reconstruction is to build up the new form." Silver scribbled some equations on the wall. "All this is really pretty complicated, but I got used to it. You don't have to go down to the molecular level for everything, either... you get kinda a knack for how much you can simplify it."
Zecora examined the equations. "So I guide it along with a mental map, but what about when you simply clap?"
"That's using my body as the circle, basically. It's... complicated. The equations and stuff are enough, usually, don't worry."
"I understand. I still have much to learn. What do you want me to do in return?"
"Oh, right." Silver kicked her hooves. "Well... I'm getting pretty tired of the whole, different body shape every loop, thing. I mean, I can handle it, I'm usually able to get my body working properly. But... it's just not helping, really. Everyone else is the same shape from loop to loop, and they're comfortable with it. I don't know how I'm going to look... it's like puberty every five or six years."
Zecora nodded silently.
"Anyway, I had this plan to use Human Transmutation – well, Pony Transmutation. It's dangerous, yeah, but there's the loops – and Edward didn't break his universe open when he did it, so..." Silver shrugged. "It's worth a try. It just takes way more power than I've got or can handle. So... I wanted you to help me make a Philosopher's Stone."
Seeing the expression on Zecora's face, she waved her hooves. "Nothing like that! No, not using anypony else – just storing energy from me. Hopefully I can get enough from that to... well."
Zecora shook her head. "Silver, that is not what was confusing. I need to know which one I'll be making. I can craft ten different rocks of renown/And all of them are Philosopher's Stone."
"...oh, okay. Probably 'none of the above...'" Silver said, frowning. "And that last line was a bit of a stretch."
The Zebra looked like she was contemplating sticking her tongue out.
82.2 (Zetrein and misterq)
Pinkie sat in front of her TV, watching yet another report of a pastry abduction. It was so sad, all those baked goods being stolen, just to force ponies to eat the horrible alien snack cakes.
Then the strangest thing happened. Her TV went black, then switched to a backlit dragon wearing a dark suit. Come to think of it, he looked like an older Spike.
"Hello, Commander." He spoke, in a deep, serious voice. Pinkie couldn't help but feel he was addressing her directly.
"In light of the recent extraterrestrial incursion, this Council of Princesses has convened to approve the activation of the X-Cake Project."
On one hoof, Pinkie was sitting straighter, listening intently to Old-Spike-In-A-Suit. On the other, she was thinking about how the Princess could appearantly spy on ponies through their TVs.
"You have been chosen to lead this Initiative. To oversee our first, and last, line of defense. Your efforts will have considerable influence on this planet's baked goods. We urge you to keep that in mind as you proceed."
In particular, she was thinking about all the things she had ever done while watching TV. She really hoped the Princess hadn't seen that.
"Good luck, Commander."
Right, enough embarrassed panicking, time to take back the baked goods market!
"We, will be watching." The screen went to black, before cutting back into the news' weather forecast.
"Wait, TV-Spike! You forgot to tell me where to go!" Pinkie implored her TV. Raindrops kept talking, unable to hear her as she talked about rain on thursday.
Then Pinkie's doorbell rang.
Thanks to her new X-Cake introduction guide, meeting kit, and recipe book; Pinkie knew that it was up to her to gather the right ponies to help take back Equestria's baked goods from the horrible alien treats. Fortunately, she knew every pony in Ponyville.
But how to choose the very best ponies was the question. She needed the elite, the ponies whose skills and special talent could mean the difference between tasty victory and bitter defeat.
In the end, the pink pony party planner ended up tossing a massive amount of paper squares into the air and picking out the names that landed in her mane.
"Thank you all for coming," Pinkie exclaimed as the last of the invited ponies entered Sugarcube Corner. She slammed the door shut and turned around to the startled ponies, "The super important thing I'm about to tell you will totally rock your world."
"I thought this was an organizational party?" Bon-bon questioned.
"I was told there'd be punch," Berry Punch said.
"It is, and there is punch! But first, I have to tell you all what happened," Pinkie took a deep breath, "Yesterday, my TV talked to me - and has possibly been spying on me in secret all along! Then, the TV dragon told me that I was chosen!"
All the assembled ponies looked at each other in confusion. Applejack cautiously spoke up, "Pinkie Pie? Have you stopped taking your meds recently?"
"That's silly, AJ," Pinkie snorted, "I never take my meds. Of course I may have to start now that my TV made me the commander of a new super secret organization. X-Cake's mission is to fight the awful aliens that are stealing our good pastries and replacing them with horrible alien snacks. After a lengthy selection process, I have chosen all of you."
The party guests looked at each other again. Pinkie just smiled and stared at them. Applejack spoke up, "You've chosen us for what, exactly?"
"To fight the alien menace, of course!" Pinkie was interrupted by a beeping noise. She raced over to an inconspicuous cupcake on the display shelf and pushed its sprinkles in a preset pattern. Suddenly, a map of Equestria lowered from the roof. A red dot was blinking near Ponyville. Pinkie Pie gasped, "Oh no! An alien UFO, an unidentified flying oreo, is approaching!"
"Noooo! It's after my secret muffin depot!" a frantic Derpy danced in place.
Pinkie pulled a candle on a nearby birthday cake and a section of the wall opened. The pink pony pointed at the new doorway, "Every pony! To the candy-copters! Derpy, you man the milk mortars. Twist, put on that uniform that looks suspiciously like a red and white target. It's mission time!"
As Pinkie raced through the opening, the other ponies also cautiously entered; mostly due to their confusion and herd instincts.
80.1 continued (Dalxein)
"Say Ditzy, Just what does your cutie mark mean anyway?"
Ditzy glanced up from her delivery list, "Huh? You really want to know?"
"Sure, why not?"
The mailmare leaned in conspiratorially, glancing back and forth before whispering in the unicorn's ear. "...I'm watching you."
As the pegasus went back to her work, Twilight pondered the words. "What does that even mea-" She stopped when she noticed the orbs on Ditzy's flank swirl around, revealing themselves to be eyeballs of various size and eye color. The mare in question was already back to work sorting her pack and comparing its contents to her list.
After a few moments of her staring contest with the eyes, Twilight muttered; "Maybe I should stop asking..."
"How are you handling the strain?" Zecora asked Silver. "I do not wish to cause you pain."
"Fine, actually," the raven replied tersely, then winced. "Okay, maybe not as fine as all that. But I can cope."
Zecora looked from her to the glowing crystal soaking up life force, then nodded. "You know your ability and limits better than me."
"Besides," Silver added with a cawing laugh, "It's not as if it'll be fatal if I get it wrong..."
The zebra gave her a sharp look. "This is not a joke, for you should not croak."
"Yeah, guess not." Silverbeak flapped up to her perch in their work room. (The third workroom, as it happened. One had been lost to a loop reset, the other to tree sap.
"Since I'm not going anywhere fast, let's see what you've come up with for Alchemical circles."
Zecora indicated her approval of the idea, and brought out several sheets of paper.
"These two are intended to freeze or thaw any of my brew. Heat is taken from the potion, Then moves with downward motion to a depth of two hundred feet. The temp is is determined-" she pointed, "here or here, and the array will match it to the display."
Silver crouched over, reading closely. "Yeah, looks good. What's that symbol there?"
"It performs latent heat diffusion for melting or crystallization."
"Right, good. Can you show me?"
Zecora rummaged in her pocket for a moment, and retrieved four potions. "Alcohol, Medicinal. Drink, fruit juice. It is apple. Potion of strength. Raises mettle. And something made using nettle."
"Medicinal alcohol?" Silver asked, blinking.
"Berry Punch, she swears by such a notion, As the alcoholic healing potion."
"Unless she's had a few already, in which case she swears at it." Silver giggled. "Okay, sorry, that was mean. Right, let's see this in action."
The four potions went into the circle. A hoof laid on the centre of the diagram, and they flash-froze. One of the bottles broke.
"Oh my dear sweet tree of spruce..." Zecora picked it up, stuck a clean spatula into it, and licked cautiously. "Ah, I see. The frozen juice has swollen right through the top. It's an instant lollipop."
"Cool," Silver said, then winced. "Okay, I didn't even mean that one."
Zecora shrugged. Then put one of the intact bottles into the other circle and activated that one.
The suddenly liquid potion didn't even slosh.
"Where'd the energy come from?" Silver checked, flapping one wing experimentally and hissing quietly at the strain.
"I drew it from underground," the budding alchemist replied, "at the same depth I had found."
"Right, right. You know, it's possible to use tectonic plates as an energy source?" Zecora blinked, and Silver continued. "Yeah, it's a bit brute-force, but the forces involved with plate tectonics are so huge you really can't significantly affect them – so draw away."
"Using such a force /As a power source? That's more than we need, but would work indeed."
"Anyway, yeah, looks like you're doing fine. I'm probably going to just... rest for a bit, until I get used to the drain," Silver apologized. "Feel free to ask me for feedback, though."
"This is such an awesome amount of help you've given," Silverleaf said quietly.
"Think nothing of my act, for it was my pleasure," Zecora assured the silver squirrel. "What you taught is, in fact, Knowledge I will treasure."
"Yeah, well, it's all worth it." Silverleaf rummaged in her bushy tail, and pulled out the Philosopher's Stone. It pulsed like a coal ember with internal fire, and occasional showers of silver sparks cascaded from it.
"Did you draw the circle?" Silver asked.
"Yes, I have done the deed. Of drawing thrice around. It should work for your need, For thrice, no error I found." Zecora gave her a quick look. "The choice is yours. No less, no more."
"And it's one I want to take," Silver replied, placing the Philosopher's Stone on one anchor point of the circle. "I've had some interesting times as... well, every kind of animal you can think of... but it's time for that to come to an end. I want to be a filly again. I want to know what I'm going to look like in five years' time."
She sighed. "I want my cutie mark back, too."
Zecora winced, then tried to smile warmly. "It's your choice today, and you have made it." She shook her head, and composed herself. "I will power up the array. You will need to direct it."
"Sure. Okay, I've done this before... sort of..." Silver muttered, running into the other anchor point. "Here goes."
The Zebraican pressed both hooves to the circle.
There was a flash of stippled silver light-
And the clearing was empty.
Princess Rainbow Dash, Lady of the Sky and Patron Alicorn of all things Fast, burst into the Wonderbolt training academy's cafeteria shortly before her multi-mach tailwind scattered everything light and not bolted down.
"OH MY GOSH!" She bellowed into the room, rushing over to the wing commander. "Spitfire! I've finally found you, my long-lost lovechild!"
The mare gave the alicorn a deadpan stare before stating "I'm older than you are."
"Nonsense!" The princess rebuked, gathering the pegasus up in a tangle of limbs tentatively labelled a hug. "If I'd known Ricardo would take you and raise you as a speedster I would've wanted to be there in your life!"
"This is nonsense," Spitfire groaned.
"If only I'd known sooner! Luckily in my digging I managed to discover the sordid history of the Wonderbolts!"
"Oh no." The commander whined, knowing the over-the-top princess was going to go off on a spiel of more nonsense, but not wanting to step on her royal authority trying to stop her. Sometimes being a military mare sucked.
"I know about your affair with Applejack, Soarin! How did you enjoy her pie!?" She pointed accusingly, not relinquishing her hold on Spits.
"It was actually quite good," he replied, knowing his princess' tendancies toward drama and playing along with a grin. The rest of the 'bolts had taken on a similar stance of good-natured chuckling or smiling at their boss' predicament.
"Put me doooown..." Spitfire pleaded, trying her best to keep her temper and not blow up at a frickin' princess.
"And did you know..." She paused dramatically before she pointed over to the trainees. "That Snowflake and Bulk Biceps are actually the same pony!?"
The beefy pegasus himself gasped in shock.
Spits had had enough. "That's a secret to nopony!"
Sometimes it was nice being a Princess.
Nopony would step in your way, they wouldn't ask you to fix what ain't broke unless you asked for it like Celestia did with her 'councils' and 'nobles', and unless you went really off the wall, they'd never bat an eye or question what you're up to. Especially if you act like you were always a little nuts in the first place.
Today was not one of those days.
"Princess, princess why!?"
"Cloudsdale shouldn't be raining cupcake hail! Princess!"
"So much chocolate milk. So much."
"Am I doin' this right?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll get the hang of it eventually. Chaos isn't as easy to sow as everyone thinks," Discord preened.
Apparently asking to become his apprentice could curb most of his chaotic outbursts while he channels his attention into building up a new immortal agent of all things odd and wacky.
"Oooh, the kittens are a nice touch," he remarked as the clouds started raining tiny felines upward while the chocolate and cupcakes continued to adhere to gravity.
"What is this?" Celestia asked. And rightly so, since the legal document in the grip of her magic was so much gibberish with legal jargon haphazardly sprinkled throughout.
"A requisition for my own celestial body to govern." The rainbow princess replied. "Being Princess of the Sky is nice and all, but most of it is your sunny sky or Luna's night sky and I can't help but feel like all I get are the clouds in between. You even vetoed my despotic rule over major weather systems!"
"To be fair..." The Sun Mare said with a hesitant cringe. "You do use words like 'despotic' to describe it, and when allowed those powers, utilized them to cause blizzards in summer, thunderstorms on school days, caused hurricanes and thunderheads to form so you could make 'a cooler obstacle course' and also conquered the seaponies. Let's not even get started on what you did under Discord's tutelage, either."
"All of those were incredibly awesome. The seapony thing less so because they're frikkin' nuts," Rainbow mused, falling back into memory before she reasserted her point. "But the rest of it was gold."
"And don't talk about me like I'm not here Celerestria," Discord sniped from where he floated above them. The princess in question indeed looking a bit more like a stringy green stalk-based timberwolf.
"Oh stop it," The Diarch muttered, changing herself back. "My point is that power and responsibility go hand in hand. A princess has duties, and you should show that you can handle what duties you have before you ask for more."
"You say that like I have any duties outside babysitting Discord," Dash countered.
Celestia smiled. "And when he goes a day without turning me into something, we'll talk about new ones."
82.4 (Vulpine Fury)
"Been a while since I started a loop this way..." Twilight said, planting her hooves into the thick loam of the park. The same old book stood on an earth-pony stand, and a turn-stick within easy reach. She gathered up her things, letting her loop memories fill her in on her situation. She was "Nightshade" this time, her parents not having expected her to be an earth pony, and her cutie mark was a floral version of her usual one.
She began her mad dash to the same library turret she always had. She almost stopped when she heard Twinkleshine's voice. "Shouldn't we invite Nightshade? Moondancer wanted to give her an invitation..."
"Why should we, only the social elite are going to be there..." Twilight-Nightshade didn't recognize the voice, but she definitely recognized the tone from all the times she'd tried to help Rarity get into Canterlot Society through the loops – especially the more political loops.
"I guess you're right," Twinkleshine sighed in defeat. "She's too good a mare to deserve the sort of teasing we're going to get."
80.1 continued (Dalxein)
Berry Punch whistled merrily as she made her way to Mac's bar to unload a new batch of her creations from her pocket for the start of a new loop, when she was barrelled over by a grey and yellow missile. Rolling end over end, the momentary tussle ended with her pinned to the dirt by a smiling Derpy Hooves. "Playdate!" The mailmare shouted.
"I... what?" Berry asked, perplexed, and momentarily wondering if the pegasus was unusually forward and fancied mares this loop.
"Ruby and Dinky!" The pagasus cheered.
"Oooohhh." Berry nodded, rolling the other mare off of her and dusting herself off. "You want to set up a playdate for our girls?"
An excited nod.
"Well, alright." Berry said. This hadn't happened before in the loops, but maybe it would be a good idea in the long run? Playdates sounded like a good idea, especially if she could convince Derpy to babysit when the bar was busy... "How does tomorrow sound?"
Her reply was a bright grin and a squeak she normally attributed to Rainbow Dash.
"Yeh can't just wash away all the farmland with yer typhoons and monsoons an' all them other '-oons' yeh crazy cloud-brain! Then we don' have enough food to go around an' everypony starts to starve!" Applejack yelled.
"Psh, you're taking this all out of proportion." Rainbow Dash replied as she lounged upon her rainbow cloud. "You think I don't know we grow like twice as much food as we actually need? De-smogging the air around all those industrial factories that're popping up, that's what we need!"
"So yer just gonna wash it away with rain an' let all that rainwater flood rivers an' ruin crops an' farmers' livelihoods just to wash the problem out to sea?" The Princess of the Earth asked, incredulous. "What about the seaponies? You just gonna let them toxins kill them?"
"They'll be fine, and I thought you hated them anyway." The rainbow mare waved the questions away.
"Ah don' wanna see 'em die!" She replied, sickened with her friend's nonchalance.
"And they won't." Rainbow scoffed. "Geez."
"Seems we ain't gonna resolve this with words." AJ muttered darkly.
Rainbow glared down at her 'friend' "I guess not."
"Then ah guess this means war."
Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Magic, sighed as she strode through the battlefield.
The once-beautiful landscape was torn and rent, covered in mud and custard, sprinkled with hot dogs and fish fingers of all things. She glanced about, spying thirty-two wheels of cheese, several upturned trees of various fruits which were scattered across the landscape, and a single rubber chicken.
She clucked her tongue and continued on.
Lying in pools of custard and fruit mush were her two friends, exhausted from their battle.
"This was about the environmental problems wasn't it?" Twilight asked.
"You know I just got done installing the thaumic conversion regulators that will negate the output of pollutants, right?"
They shook their heads.
"Of course not. What have we learned?"
"Talk to Twilight before declarin' war?"
"Use more lightning?"
Dash grunted in pain when Applejack kicked her.
"Yeah, yeah... don't fight with friends, even when you're not fighting seriously." Rainbow amended.
"Good." Twilight nodded. "We can even make it a Friendship Report to Celestia. I'll expect one from each of you, including a version for Looping Celestia next time she's Awake."
82.5 (Masterweaver )
Elusive and Spines glanced around the library, awkwardly avoiding each other's gaze. Dusk Shine rolled his eyes. "Oh come on, you two, you knew this was inevitable."
"Yes, well..." Elusive coughed. "I'm just... trying to get myself in the right headspace, darling."
"This is going to take some... getting used to," Spines added. "Especially since, ah... since, well..."
Dusk sighed. "If you two have to experiment, do it at the boutique."
Some minutes later, the dragon and unicorn were back at Elusive's shop.
"...it's not actually a boutique," Elusive muttered, looking around. "More of a fitter's, really."
Spines followed his gaze. "Yeah, more suits than dresses – though I see there's still a few of those."
"Well, of course."
The silence stretched out for a minute or so. It really was very awkward.
"This, er, isn't your first time as-" Spines ventured.
"No, I've been Elusive before," the unicorn replied. "Several times, actually. It was an interesting challenge, adapting to doing mainly male clothing. Have you been, er, Spines before?"
"Spines or Barb," Spines replied. "Either name seems to come up. But... it's never been this confusing before."
"I know what you mean. Or, I think I do, anyway." Elusive rubbed his forehead. "It was just something funny, before. But now, it's..."
"It's something we've never really thought about, because we've never been together in one of these loops," Spines completed. "And... yeah, it is weird."
The awkward silence returned.
"So, er..." Spines tried. "Does this mean you've got a brother?"
"Yes – from what I remember, that means they're going to form the Cavaliers," Elusive replied. "Not sure why Crusaders isn't just as good a name for colts to use."
The silence returned for a three-in-a-row.
Elusive suddenly blinked, then held in a snort of laughter.
"What?" Spines asked.
"I just thought... does this make me your husband?"
Both of them considered that.
"That sounds weird," Spines answered. "But so does calling me the husband..."
"Okay, I think I know how to handle this." Elusive built up a spell on his horn. "I assume Gleaming Shield is Awake?"
Spines took a moment to parse that. "Oh – yeah, ...Dusk said that she was. Wait, are we-"
There was a white flash.
"Honestly, I'm surprised it took you two this long to run into the problem," Prince Bolero said with a smile.
Gleaming Shield shrugged. "We've ended up like this quite often, actually. Though there's been the occasional time just one of us was genderswapped, too..." she tossed her head. "I'm lucky, at least I have just one name like this. You've only had the same one twice in a row... what, once?"
Bolero nodded ruefully. "I've been called Coda, Cody, Temporus, Canto, Authentic, and some others I've lost track of."
"What matters is, though, we still love each other." Gleaming smiled. "That's a good place to start from, I think."
"Yeah, it sounds like it." Spines nodded. "Thanks. Yeah, that does put my mind at rest."
"Mine as well," Elusive added. "It's not precisely a common problem, is it?"
"Ranma has it all the time, if I remember rightly..." Bolero mused. "But, then, his life isn't exactly a model of domestic bliss."
"Well, that's encouraging," Spines remarked, as they rematerialized in Elusive's shop.
"Indeed." Elusive paused. "Perhaps... idea! I wonder if we should take the opportunity for me to court you?"
"...we are married," Spines replied slowly.
"No, I mean for the benefit of the locals," Elusive clarified, and Spines nodded in understanding. Then the unicorn got a mischevious gleam in his eye. "In fact, on that note, I really must design you a dress, darling."
Spines can be forgiven for getting a slightly hunted look in her eyes.
"Yes, Twilight?" Fluttershy replied politely.
"Well... why are we all wolves?"
Fluttershy cocked her head on one side.
"That doesn't help," Twilight informed her.
"I'm afraid I can't help much, Twilight." Fluttershy pawed the ground. "I mean, I don't know why we're wolves. But I do know how wolves work. Would you like help with that?"
A multicoloured wolf shot past at a bounding run, laughing. "This is so awesome!"
"Rainbow Dash!" Fluttershy barked. "Come back here so I can give you the talk!"
She paused. "If that's alright, anyway."
A chastened Dash padded back towards them, tail down. "Sorry, Flutters."
"No, it's okay, you were enthusiastic, it happens sometimes," Fluttershy reassured her. As more canines – one with a gleaming alabaster coat, another pink and with a tail that looked like it was going to wag off – approached, she rummaged in her pocket. "Here. Let's have a nice meal and then we can talk about this."
Twilight turned slightly green under her purple fur. "Fluttershy... that's, well... meat."
"So?" Fluttershy asked, puzzled. "It's ethically sourced."
"Well..." Twilight groped for words.
"Oh, I see!" Fluttershy blushed. "Sorry, I wasn't thinking. You're not used to it. I am sorry – here, have some soy steak instead."
"I... see. Thank you, then." Twilight eyed the soy steak, still feeling a little nervous.
Pinkie had no such qualms, making a wolf-line for the original haunch. "Hey, Fluttershy? Can I cook it with a honey glaze? Can I can I can I?"
"Um... okay," Fluttershy said, nodding. "That would be nice."
"Cutie mark crusaders-"
Diamond Tiara held up a large paw. "Point of order!"
The other wolf pups looked round at her. "What?"
"We don't have cutie marks, and can't get them as wolves," Diamond stated simply.
After a moment of pondering, Scootaloo raised a paw herself. "Propose that we temporarily call ourself the Ponyville-"
"Wolfville," Sweetie interjected helpfully.
"Yes, thank you, Wolfville Junior Pack."
"Well, it's better than nothin'," Applebloom admitted. "All in favour?"
Paws went up.
"Motion carried. Wolfville Junior Pack tail chasers go!"
The meeting adjourned. Shortly afterwards, a tree collapsed as five frantically tail-chasing wolf puppies collided with it one at a time in quick succession.
Fortunately, the barn it landed on was due for demolition anyway.
"How in the name of the moon did you manage to get your fur this badly matted on day one?" Rarity asked, as Sweetie stood in the bath with warm water pouring down on her.
"Tree sap," Sweetie deadpanned. "Good thing this place treats fur shampoo research like Equestria does mane styling..."
Trixie finally had her chance to launch her most ambitious plan yet.
She would return to Ponyville, and really show that Twilight Sparkle what a true artist did with magic. It had taken so long to plan, and even longer to prepare, but finally this was the time.
"Attention, Ponyville!" Trixie shouted, entering the main square. "It is I, the Great and Powerful Trixie! Hark well, Twilight Sparkle!"
Twilight ran out of the library doors. "Trixie! What are you doing back here?"
"What is Trixie doing back here?" Trixie repeated. "This!"
She slammed a hoof on the floor, horn blazing, and a wooden stage appeared. Again, and her cape swirled with starlight. A third time, and several hundred identical Trixie copies galloped into the square from both directions, forming six lines facing Twilight and the rest of Ponyville.
Then Trixie cleared her throat.
"The costumes, the scenery, the makeup, the props
The audience that lifts you when you're down..."
"You were right, that was hilarious," Chrysalis said later that evening.
Trixie nodded, stretching out luxuriously on the huge bed inside her travel wagon. "I've been planning this for ages, but never really got a loop with a stealth Anchor until now – and it's less funny doing this kind of thing when Twilight's looping."
Chrysalis grinned, then stepped into the jacuzzi. "The hive still thinks you're weird, by the way. But I think Pinkie's practically begging that they help her with some heartsongs..."
Spitfire and Soarin' exchanged glances.
"What do we do now, boss?" Soarin' asked.
"I... honestly don't know," Spitfire admitted. "I mean... can you even do it like that?"
"There's no rule against it," the hopeful pegasus pointed out. "I checked. Twice."
"It was impressive," Soarin' mused.
"...all right, then." Spitfire nodded. "Let me congratulate you on getting into the Wonderbolts, miss Scootaloo."
The orange filly jumped for joy, her cloud-board trembling under the impacts. "Yay!"
In the audience, Dash brushed away a tear. "Proud of you, squirt."
"...and here they are," the host said with a smile. "The lovely ladies who've become an internet sensation for their expert magic tricks. Leah Clearwater and Beatrix Lulamoon!"
Leah walked in first, smiled, and sat down on the left hand couch. Beatrix followed her two paces behind, and slouched onto the other side of the same couch.
"So, you two have taken the internet by storm," the host began. "Simple magic tricks, flawlessly done, and recorded very professionally."
"It's all about presentation," Beatrix said importantly. "I pull the tricks off, Leah has the whole Injun Mystic thing going on-"
"Watch it, paleface," Leah interjected with a glower.
Beatrix waved it off. "Yeah, yeah. But she has a few tricks of her own."
"Well, I'm sure everyone's waiting to see them," the host allowed, to applause. "But let's get into how you met, first..."
"How long do we have left?" Beatrix asked, cutting across a discussion of whether playing on stereotypical views of native Americans was appropriate.
"Well..." the host glanced at his watch ostentatiously. "We have about ten minutes before the film at eleven."
"Right, let's get started." Beatrix frowned, tapping her fingers. "Can I have a deck of cards?"
One was duly passed over to be unwrapped.
"Okay, pick a card. Any card. I mean, literally, any card. Not just in the deck. And, of course, don't tell me what it is."
"...sure," the host replied, after a moment. He beamed for the cameras. "Well, this should be good!"
"Don't you know it." Beatrix threw the cards into the air, and picked one from the shower of pieces. "Is this your card?"
The host examined the ace of spades. "No."
Beatrix smiled, and peeled off the sides of the card. Inside was a foil-backed Charizard trading card.
"...how did you do that?" he asked, gaping, as he took the mint-condition card.
"You've got a twenty year old son, which means he was about the right age for the Pokemon card craze," Leah replied with a smirk. "I provided one from my own personal collection..."
"That's amazing. I suppose it really is all about knowing your audience. Ladies and gentlemen, Beatrix Lulamoon!"
The crowd applauded, some of them on their feet and whistling.
"And now, for our last act, I will make a wolf disappear," Beatrix continued.
"But... we don't have a wolf," the host said, confused.
Beatrix grinned, and shook out her arms. "Nothing up my right sleeve, nothing up my left sleeve – except this little bracelet, of course-"
Leah emitted a rumbling purr.
At that point, the host, the camera crew and the audience noticed that she'd turned into about a tonne of lupine predator.
Before the shock wore off, Trixie snapped her fingers. And both she and Leah vanished.
"That's going to take them years to figure out," Leah said, in tones of deep satisfaction. "I loved the sleeves thing."
"Trixie tries," Trixie replied. "Should we do a video where you're just randomly a talking wolf?"
"Sure. Keep 'em guessing."
"You were absolutely right princess, the whole prophecy thing was bunk." Twilight shook her head. "Besides, that's nothing to this old scroll I found in Ponyville library..."
She unrolled an ancient scroll that crackled as it unfurled and started reading.
" 'When the three tribes do fight a great battle upon the plains to the south of Mount Canter, then shall the great lord of chaos return. Blah blah, chocolate rain, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!' Pfftt! What a load of mumbo-jumbo. As if modern ponies would start a war with each other."
"Hey, Ah wanted that last cream scone!" "Uh huh, well I saw it first!" "But I wanted it too..." Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were by the desert table, arguing. As their voices got higher, there was the sound of a distant cracking, and a voice calling out, "Freeee at last! Time for some chaos!"
"Twilight, you must retrieve the Elements of harmony at once!" Celestia said. "If Discord is free, they are the only thing that will stop him."
"But the Elements are just part of that old legend, and we've seen how accurate that was." Twilight shook her head.
Celestia looked exasperated."Twilight, the Elements exist. I was the one who used them to imprison my sister in the moon!"
Twilight frowned. "But that's only anecdotal evidence. You always taught me that claims unsupported by references or citations were a poor source of data, especially when the events happened so long ago. I mean, what sort of scholar would I be if I blindly accepted everything any-pony tried to make me believe? Right girls?"
The trio looked up from their own conversation where they'd been ignoring Twilight. "Whatever you say, sugar-cube!" "Oh absolutely darling." "Uh, yeah, what she said."
Twilight was on edge. Not for any particular reason, the loop had gone fairly baseline with little deviation except for Cheese Sandwich not existing this loop. No, throughout the whole loop Twilight noticed something strange: Pinkie Pie and Discord would sometimes stop what they were doing and gaze off as if expecting something. When questioned they said they were "Waiting for something to happen". It was probably nothing, but that scared Twilight even more.
But she should put that on hold, because right now she had to organize a band for Rainbow's Birthday Anniversary. All positions had been filled except for drummer. With each prospective musician lined up she was ready to choose the bes-
Please tell me that isn't-
Yup, it is
Twilight beheld something she thought she would never see in her home loop: A Dune Sandworm. And for some reason it was wearing a... Stethoscope? Well never mind that, Twilight had a town to save
"Okay, that should do it"
It had taken a bit but Twilight and Fluttershy were able to determine that a large amount of sand (Go figure) had been lodged in the worm's throat. They eventually cured this through water, and copious amounts of confetti. Fluttershy was of course the first to approach the worm.
"So what's your name big guy?"
Twilight expected a huge roar with Fluttershy meekly saying it's name to the rest of the group. She did not expect the worm to clear it's throat and get a drum set.
"They call me Doctor Worm
Good morning how are you? I'm Doctor Worm
I'm interested in things
I'm not a real Doctor but I
AM A REAL WORM
I AM AN ACTUAL WORM
I LIVE LIKE A WORM AND
I like to play the drums-
And Twilight found her drummer.
Zecora looked around.
Everything was white, with faint patterns of stripes that disappeared as soon as she looked at them.
She was standing on... nothing. Solid nothing.
Nervously, she moved her hoof, and tapped the surface. It made contact, but no sound at all.
Thirty endless seconds passed in silence, as she tried to make head or tail of what was going on.
Then, with a visible shudder, the nothingness dimmed. It gained definite – if faint – patterns, stripes of pink and purple on an indigo background.
"Hi," Twilight said brightly.
Zecora whirled, mouth agape. "What the-"
Princess Twilight Sparkle stood there, behind where she'd originally appeared. She was in full regalia, complete with her Element gleaming on her brow, and had a smile on her lips.
Then she giggled.
"Sorry, Zecora," she said, subsiding. "But that's the first time I've ever heard you fluff a rhyme."
The zebraican shaman shook her head. "This is fairly overwhelming. To... on nothing be standing."
"Yeah, I imagine you are," Twilight allowed, smiling wistfully. "I remember..."
After a moment's silence, she shrugged her wings. "Anyway. Welcome to the alicorn club."
Zecora blinked. "Could that you please for me reprise?"
"Welcome to the alicorn club," Twilight repeated. "You constructed an alchemical circle with the intent of breaking Silver Spoon down into her fundamental components and reconstructing her differently, if I've got this right, and you did it successfully – and in the presence of a powerful, if recently created, artefact. Well done, you've got wings and a horn."
"I have horn and wing?" Zecora looked back along her body, and saw the dappled wings resting against her side. As she watched, they twitched involuntarily. "...I see your meaning. This is still seeming/ To be me dreaming. Some time is a must/ For me to adjust."
"Take as long as you want," Twilight replied. "Now, as I understand things, you're technically supposed to have a severe penalty taken for undertaking Pony Transmutation. But you did it for Silver, so it'll probably work out – selflessness tends to."
"It was partly Silver, so what about her?"
"I don't think she'll be having much trouble."
Silver Spoon stared down at the cupcake.
"Don't like it?" Discord asked, munching on his own. "Oh, do you want a coffee cup cake, rather than a tea cup cake?"
He snapped his claws, producing a dinner service made entirely from silver. "The spoons are edible – I propose a toast! As in they taste like it. Oh, this is going to be so much fun, having another draconequus around!"
Discord leaned in. "I like the squirrel tail, by the way. Very stylish."
"...can't I just shapeshift into a pony?" Silver asked.
Discord's face fell. Then he picked it up again. "That's boring."
"Well," Silver added, frowning. "Technically I am now a shapeshifter. And silver is a malleable metal, so..."
"Oh, whatever." Discord stomped off, producing occasional squeaky noises. "By the way," he added, as he approached the wildly swirling boundary of the astral space, "if you can't smell anything, that's because the Pony Transmutation removed your sense of smell as the penalty. You'll get it back next loop."
Discord threw a fish at her. "Pity you didn't have a sense of humour it could have taken instead! I swear, these young draconequui, no respect..." he muttered, opening a door and leaving that way.
After taking a minute to compose herself, Silver folded herself into the form of a normal filly and trotted for that same door – through which she could see Mac's bar.
She still had wings and a horn, though.
82.1: Combo! (And yes, I did do that to Silver. Quicksilver?) Thanks go to Conceptualist for the rhymes.
82.2: Defending the world from extrasolar treats.
82.3: Oh, the ways to troll with royal authority.
82.4: Doesn't sound all that fun.
82.5: On a Cross and Arrow.
82.6: Fluttershy's the expert here.
82.7: There's no business, like show business, like no business I know...
82.8: X-treme Scoots.
82.9: Leah rather likes live chat shows. They offer such opportunities.
82.10: They Might Be Giant Worms.