Chapter 1 - Surprise
Another hot sunny day, out past Fluttershy's, on the edge of the Everfree forest. Rainbow Dash had been there for half the day, at Cheerilee's request; What was that filly talking about? This teaching thing's easy-
"Okay - okay, kid, that's great! No! Don't look at me, just keep on- look out!"
Rainbow Dash rushed ahead and grabbed Scootaloo by the back leg; the filly jerked suddenly, saw the tree branch she had nearly just flown into and lost control, going limp. Slowly lowering to the ground, Rainbow Dash spoke again.
"You've gotta look where your going, pipsqueak! Could've done yourself some damage-"
"Uh- I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash, I'll do better next time-"
Scootaloo dropped the last few inches, barely managed to regain her balance when she hit the floor; then Rainbow Dash patted her on the head, steadying her.
"Aw, kid, you crack me up! You did fine, at least you got off the ground this time."
Scootaloo (nearly on the verge of tears) looked up, saw Rainbow Dash smiling, smiled back. She laughed nervously.
"Y-yeah, that was pretty good, I mean, thanks for-"
"Aw, don't mention it kid." - she glanced up at the sky - "Just, uh..."
She flew up into the air, trying to remember something. Scootaloo watched carefully, seeing her mentor's face drop.
"Aw, horseapples! I-" - she looked back at Scootaloo - "I've gotta go, kid. Keep practising those jumps. And don't forget our agreement, okay?"
And she was away, flying across Ponyville, rushing to the Sugarcube Corner. Watching her go with a grin so wide it threatened to split her face open, Scootaloo sat down and glanced at her flank (nothing...). So awesome
, she thought, then looked around for her scooter and made her way back to town.
"...but Apple Bloom, I'm booored
, Sweetie Belle, but it's hardly fair goin' off'n havin adventures'n maybe gettin' our cutie marks without Scootaloo around, now is it?"
Sweetie Belle snorted and rolled onto her side. Apple Bloom looked up from her drawing (of an apple tree).
"But it's such a nice day, and anyway Scootaloo's out having fun with Rainbow Dash, and she wouldn't mind
us having fun and I'm just SO. BORED!
"Well, ah'm having fun drawin' this tree-"
"Oh hey in there!" called Applejack, standing (from the sound of her voice) at the bottom of the ramp, outside the Cutie Mark Crusader clubhouse; "Did ah just hear rightly? Are ya bored up there?"
Apple Bloom recognised the tone in her sister's voice, panicked, reached across to stop her friend responding, half-whispered anxiously:
"Oh, no, Sweetie Belle, don't" - but she was already at the door.
"Oh yes, really bored Applejack!"
Apple Bloom rested her head in her hooves, thinking Aw shoot, ah was having such a nice, relaxin' day an' all
"Well then," called Applejack triumphantly; "how'd ya'll like to make yerselves useful'n help out down here? There's lots'a baskets'a apples need haulin' back to the storehouse!"
Rarity! How's it goin, huh? Huh?"
The pink Pony pranced around the boutique, peering into every nook and cranny, searching in her uniquely irritating way, filling the air with high-pitched noise.
"Huh? Hey, hey, Rarity, where is it? Hey, what'd you get-"
"Swee- I mean, Pinkie Pie, uhem." Rarity controlled her breathing, counting to ten in her head, looking up from her sewing; "Could you please-"
" Pinkie was suddenly right in front of Rarity, eyes almost touching; recoiling instinctively Rarity thought: how on Equestria does she do that..?
"Ah- Pinkie Pie, I am in the middle of a very
important order, so could you be ever
so kind and leave me to it, mmm?
Pinkie stared, unblinking, for several seconds; then raised an eyebrow and pulled back.
"You're coming to the party, though, right Rarity? Me and Spike have been planning this for, like, a month
Rarity raised her head, cleared her throat.
"Spike and I
"Whaa? You and Spike- two
Rarity hurriedly shook her head: "No, no-"
"Rarity, that's a great
idea! Oh, we'll have so much fun - is that why I had such trouble finding balloons!? Oh, how did Spike keep this a secret, I mean, he's such a little dragon I can hardly believe-"
As Pinkie Pie was nattering away (gaze darting around the room), Rarity massaged her forehead with her front hoof, trotted over to her friend's side and lowered her head.
"Pinkie!" - she began pushing the pink one towards the door - "I have not
planned another party,"
"I am very
busy, and I have sent Sweetie Belle over to Applejack's so that I have the time to finish
here in time
for your party."
Nearly at the door, Pinkie stood aside; Rarity collapsed on her front, scrambled to get up with a semblance of dignity.
"So you've not planned another party!?"
. I have not planned another party. I am, as I said
, very busy
right now; but I shall be ready on time, in one hour."
Her horn glowed, the door swung open.
, leave me to
Pinkie blinked a few times. Her little mind is whirring away
, thought Rarity ...oh, that's too cruel-
Pinkie threw her forelegs up in the air:
"Well, why didn't you say so! I'll see you later, 'kay?"
And with that, she bounced away.
"Come on, Angel, or we'll be late for the party ..."
Fluttershy hovered nervously off the ground, looking around for the rabbit; oh, where has he run off to?
Please, we need to get going now
A rustling of leaves, and Angel emerged from the undergrowth. Fluttershy sighed with relief, then saw that he was dragging a gift-wrapped box behind him. She dropped to the ground, checked her saddlebags: empty!
"Oh, Angel, thank you, I'd quite forgotten! Oh, that would have been so embarrassing, turning up without a present!"
She carefully picked up the box in her mouth, placed it in the saddlebag and pecked a kiss on Angel's forehead; the rabbit looked embarrassed, started thumping his foot on the ground impatiently, crossed his forelegs.
"Oh! Yes. We should go now."
A sound from around the corner - a low-pitched growl - startled them both; Angel pressed his ears to his head, Fluttershy lowered herself to the ground. It was getting closer.
Scootaloo was buzzing along, going faster and faster; tight corner coming up, gotta-
world moving past in a blur, she grabbed a tree branch in her mouth, swung around, nearly pitched off balance, regained it and what's that-
Fluttershy went flying through the air, landed on her back. She shook her head and opened her eyes just in time to see Scootaloo land on her stomach, knocking the wind right out of her. There they stayed for a long moment, until Angel dragged Scootaloo off.
"Ugh, sorry about that, Fluttershy; I didn't see you there."
"Th-tha-" Fluttershy sputtered, catching her breath and getting up slowly, testing her limbs for damage; then she looked right up at the young filly: "Sch- Scootaloo, you should look where your going on that thing. Please."
"Y-yeah, I know - I mean, sorry-"
"Are you okay, though?"
Scootaloo flexed her legs and wings.
"Yeah, I'm fine! Uh-" - she looked at the crushed box on the floor - "...but that's not."
"What..? Oh no! Twilight's present!"
Fluttershy ripped apart the paper, hoping that the damage was somehow not as bad as it looked; but the purple rose was thoroughly crushed.
"Fluttershai!?" - it was Applejack calling from down the road, heading the same way, pulling a covered cart - "Scootaloo? What the hay - are you okay!? What happened?"
"It's my fault," cried Scootaloo plaintively; "I wasn't looking where I was going a-and, ah-"
"We're both okay, Applejack, but..."
Applejack cantered over to the scene of the crash and looked over Fluttershy's shoulder:
"Oh. That's yer present to Twilight, sugar?"
"Y-yes, I bred her a new kind of rose, you see the purple flower? But it - well."
"A rose? What a nice thought. But surely that ain't the only flower?"
Fluttershy looked up at Applejack, sniffing back tears and smiling weakly:
"Oh, you're right of course! But - I'll never
make it back home and then to Sugarcube Corner in time for the start of the party!"
Applejack raised an eyebrow and smiled triumphantly, then slowly turned to face Scootaloo, who was busy testing the wheels on her scooter.
"Hey, Scootaloo, that thing okay?"
"Well, it seems okay-"
"You were goin' pretty fast on that thing? Reckon' yeh could make it to Fluttershy's'n then on to Sugarcube Corner in about half an hour?"
"Oh yeah, easily! I can do it in ten!" Scootaloo righted the scooter and got on it, straightened her helmet and felt Applejack's hoof on her back.
"Now you just hold on a second, filly. Fluttershy: where exactly is this rosebush?"
"Oh, um, it's at the back of my garden, right next to the chicken run."
"Right. So, kid, y'just make sure y'pick the best rose, alright?"
Scootaloo flexed her wings, Applejack removed her hoof.
"Okay! I'll see you in a second!" - and she zoomed away. Applejack called after her:
"Make sure ya look where yer goin' this time!" - then she turned towards Fluttershy. Together, they started walking towards town.
Sitting out on the balcony under the post-meridian sun, Twilight was reading through Old Magics of the World
quite thoroughly. As the name suggests, it was quite an old book (a copy of a copy of a copy of the original); she was sure that she had glimpsed a book with a similar title on one of her occasional visits to princess Celestia's private library. How an edition had come to be in Ponyville was a bit of a mystery.
The chapter she was currently reading related to communicating over large distances: a magic the the princess had hinted at a few times during private tutorials, and that which let Spike act as a convenient post-box. That's a thought - maybe I should try -
"Spike!" - she looked up from her book, waited for a little while.
"Spike?" - she called again, stood up, stretched her legs. Twilight walked inside. Everything looked normal; no books out of place, all the beds made. But there was a deathly silence in the library. Twilight felt an odd chill go through her as she walked down the ramp, to the lower level; to the door.Now where could he have gone..?
Twilight looked around, puzzling for a moment, and then: Of course! He'll be off bothering Rarity.
Spike thought, smelling the delicious odour emanating from the kitchen; she may be a bit crazy, but Pinkie sure can cook those things.
He eyed the cakes set out on the table, tried to distract himself by looking at the decorations. Lots of balloons and streamers (this is Pinkie Pie, after all
); but also wall hangings. Dark purple (bordering-on-black) silk with shimmering white diamonds inlaid in the forms of constellations; Rarity's
really outdone herself this time.
He caught sight of himself in one of the mirrors distributed around the room, starting flexing his arms.
"Ooo, Spike," he said in a high-pitched parody of Rarity's voice; "Ooo, you're so wonderful Spike, would you like to come with me to th-"
The door slammed open; "Heya Spike!" shouted Pinkie Pie: "Who ya talking to?"
"Uh, er-" He spun around, clasped his hands behind his back, tried not to blush; "Uh, that is- uh, no-one."
Pinkie looked around, didn't see anything. She chewed on her lower lip, gazed up a the ceiling. Spike took a hesitant step towards her; she looked at him, leapt closer, conspiratorially stage-whispered:
-ike - did ya deliver that message for me?"
"Oh yeah, it's a great idea inviting-"
Pinkie licked one of her front hoofs, put it up in the air:
"Rainbow Dash is here!"
And with that, she bounced away. Spike looked at the delicious cake on the main table, felt his stomach rumble - there's so much, I'm sure they wouldn't miss just a little bit-
!" called in Pinkie Pie, head poking through the door; "Ain't ya gonna come outside and say 'hi'?"
"...yeah, okay. I'm coming."
Reluctantly, Spike walked to the door and took one last, hungry look at the assorted treats as it swung shut behind him. He turned to face Rainbow Dash, was about to speak, but felt a familiar convulsion run though his body. She raised a concerned eyebrow.
"Uh... Spike, are you alright?"
"Hey, yeah, Spike, you look kinda funny-"
"Mm-m-b-" - and then he belched loudly, shooting out a jet of green smoke which swirled around and concentrated to a point; then a scroll bearing a horseshoe seal popped into existence. Spike grabbed it before it hit the ground.
"It's a letter from the princess," mumbled Spike, unspooling the paper.
"What does it say?"
A surprise party for Twilight Sparkle sounds like an excellent idea. I have deposited a certain rare book in the Ponyville library to keep her distracted- huh. So that's
where that book came from!"
"Wow!" shouted Pinkie; "That's a pretty weird letter-"
"He's not finished, Pinkie. What does the rest say, Spike?"
"Uhh... to keep her distracted, though I am sure she will have read it from cover to cover by now.
As per your invitation, I have decided that I shall attend in person. I shall also be bringing my sister, Luna, with me. We will be travelling alone, and do not want any fuss whatsoever. See you soon."
"...an' ah was runnin' low on time, so ah got Apple Bloom'n Sweetie Belle to drag th'apples back to the storehouse!" - Applejack and Fluttershy were walking around the edge of the centre of Ponyville, nearly at Sugarcube corner; "Haha
, the look
on that little filly's face when ah told her-"
"Um. Do you mean the look on Apple Bloom's face, or..?"
"Nah, she's used ta helpin' out. I meant the look on Sweetie Belle's face when ah asked her to help out - ah could see that she didn't want
to, but she's just too dern polite ta turn me down!"
"Oh, Applejack, isn't that a little bit, um. Mean?"
Applejack stopped and looked askance at Fluttershy.
"They were just wasting time otherwise, and besides it'll do her good fer Sweetie Belle t'do an honest day's work instead'a runnin' around playin' cowponies'n buffaloes fer a change! Ah swear, ah think Rarity spoils that filly something rotten."
Fluttershy was almost lost for words: "I-if you don't mind me saying so, Applejack, I think you're being a little bit uncharita-"
"Hey, is that... Twilight?"
"What..?" - Fluttershy turned on the spot, saw the purple unicorn heading towards them - "Oh, no, what - what should we do!?"
can't talk to her, or she'll wonder what's in the cart!" - Applejack started to hurry off as fast as she could, hid behind a house; "You go distract her, ah'll go round the long way."
"What!? No. I-" - Angel tapped her rear left leg, pointed to Twilight, who had just noticed them. Fluttershy looked in the right direction just in time to see Twilight speed up from a trot to a canter.
"U-oh, uh, hi Twilight."
"I don't suppose you've seen Spike around anywhere?"
"Um. Ah, I - I mean: no."
Twilight eyed her friend warily; "Uh... are you okay, Fluttershy?"
"N-no - yes! I mean, uh, nothing's wrong." - She backed away, head lowered; then forced a smile onto her face.
"Oookay... well, I'm on my way to Rarity's. See you around-"
"Ooo! Twilight!" - it was Pinkie Pie, bouncing towards them - "Am I glad to see you
! You've gotta come quick - it's Spike, he-"
"What!?" - Panic rising in her voice, eyes widened, Twilight took a step towards Pinkie Pie - "Is there something wrong with Spike!?"
"Yeah, he's, err ... really sick! Come on, we gotta get to the Sugar-" - Twilight broke into a gallop, heading towards the Sugarcube Corner; surprised, Pinkie had to scrabble to catch up. Angel followed a moment later and, as soon as she noticed this, Fluttershy glided along after him.
Twilight barged her way through the door; the inside of the Sugarcube Corner was black.
"Spike!" - She created a ball of light to search the place; what is all this?
- walls completely covered in hangings that looked very much like the night sky, and there was Spike standing with Rarity and Rainbow Dash, and he looked completely fine; "Hey, what's going on-"
From in front and behind her came the cry: "Happy birthday, Twilight!"
"Oh, Twi," laughed Spike; "don't tell me you forgot your birthday again
"Haha!" - Rainbow Dash looped the loop overhead and landed close by; "Typical egghead Twilight, I bet your head was buried in a book the whole day!"
"But- but Pinkie said-"
"Oh," Pinkie half-sang as she pranced next to Twilight; "I had to tell you that, to get you here without your guessing the surprise! And it worked!"
Twilight walked towards Spike, concern still written all over her face.
? What does it look like?"
"Spike, why did you wander off like that? Without even telling me you were going? I was worried
all the way here, and then Pinkie Pie said-"
"Chill out, Twilight," said Rainbow Dash, half laughing; "Pinkie does this kind of thing all the time
"No offence, Rainbow Dash," snapped Twilight; "but you wouldn't understand. Rarity, how would you like it if Pinkie Pie told you Sweetie Belle was ill to get you to a party?"
Clearly amused, Rarity raised a hoof and smirked; "Why darling
, she has
done exactly that before."
"But- I-" Twilight sputtered; Pinkie Pie entered her field of vision from a corner, eyes wide.
"Aw, I'm sorry if I worried you Twilight, but me and Spike have been planning this for ages
, and it was supposed to be a surprise and - well, SURPRISE!" - she smiled widely, eyes closed, and party music started playing from the gramaphone on the central table. Twilight felt her anger subsiding. She glanced up at the wall hangings; they were certainly impressive, even if the effect was diminished somewhat by the pink and purple balloons scattered around the room.
"Wait. Pinkie Pie, did you do all this?"
"Well, I organised it and got the balloons and the streamers and baked the cake and the cupcakes, but Spike and Rarity put together the ... uh ... well, I don't know what you'd call it, but it's great!"
"Yes," murmured Twilight, fully taken in by the effect of the light playing on the diamonds; "it's ... beautiful."
"Isn't it just
, though?" - Rarity took a few steps forward - "It took me simply ages
, darling, but I think the effect was well worth the effort!"
"It's... it looks real
. Well, accurate; is that-"
"Yeah, Twi; you remember you were asking for that book - The Rudiments of the Night Sky
? Well, I lent it to Rarity, and-"
Rarity coughed (so gracefully
, thought Spike, his throat feeling like it had swelled, unable to speak), walked towards Twilight; she levitated a perfectly gift-wrapped box trailing behind her: "That is the first
part of my gift. In this box is the second
part which, I am sure you will agree, compliments the first quite
The box landed precisely in front of Twilight. The purple unicorn began unwrapping, hesitant at the fear of ruining Rarity's finely-made wrappings, but with a thrill of excitement running through her body. Finally she saw what was there: a perfectly formed diamond, nearly as large as her head, connected to a fine golden chain.
"It's ... lovely, of course, Rarity. But what is it?"
"Oh, it's something special
. I cut it in a very
specific way, so that - well. You'll see, if you let me move it-" - she levitated the gem, dangling from its chain, into the centre of the room; "Pinkie Pie, could you please
turn the light off? Spike, be a dear and close the door
The room was plunged into darkness once more.
"Now, Twilight, if you create a ball of white light; and float it up into the centre
of the diamond
Floating there, the diamond cast a full spectrum of light in an off-centre circle around the room. Rarity started it rotating; each colour of light reflected in a different way on the diamonds; one moment each of the little stars was chalky blue, then green, then yellow; cycling through the whole spectrum. Everypony was gazing up in amazement, and so didn't register the flash of white light in one corner of the room.
"Well now," spoke princess Celestia, drawing gasps out of everypony; "that is
Rarity dropped the stone with a start; it fell to the ground with a satisfying thud. Twilight's globe-light fizzled out and Pinkie Pie switched on the light. All turned to face Celestia, and lowered their heads in a bow.
"Princess Celestia! I had no idea-" -Twilight spotted a dark blue, slightly smaller pony next to her mentor- "A-and princess Luna! It's such a- a- I mean, it's great to see you both, I wasn't expecting-"
"Oh, I shouldn't want to miss this birthday party of yours, Twilight Sparkle. And please, my little ponies; I would rather if you would not bow to me today. I am, after all, not here on official business. Say hello, Luna."
Everypony stood up. Luna spoke, in an almost-whisper, not catching anypony's eye: "Hello."
There was an awkward silence, broken by the door slamming open and Applejack walking in.
"Phew-ie! Ah tell you hwut, it was not easy sneakin' in 'round the long way trailin' that cart behind me, but- oh, Twilight ... ah see y'all started the party without-" - she stopped, wide-eyed, as she spotted Celestia; "Uh. Um, p-princess! Ah didn't know you'd be, uh!" - she remembered to bow - "Gracing us with yer presence here, today!"
"Please, Applejack, don't bow to me today. This is Twilight Sparkle's birthday party, and I'm only here to wish her well. Now, what's next?"
It was, of course, Pinkie Pie who was the first to get over her shyness towards the princess and speak.
, we were just giving Twilight her presents (my personal favourite part of the whole thing) - I was going to go next, but if you want to, you just go on ahead!"
"Well," the princess said softly; "I suppose we have two gifts for you, my student. There is this-" an sturdy wooden box popped into existance, covered in ornate gold leaf. Everypony crowded around to get a closer look at the royal gift; it had some strange writing on the top, along with what looked like a stylised double-headed eagle.
"Open the box, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight nodded, concentrated momentarily; and the lid swang open. Inside were a pair of strangely-shaped sticks, made of a material Twilight didn't recognise. One end of each stick was quite thick, but rapidly tapired off. There were two strange straight protuberances on one side; the other end was a tube about as wide as the base of a pony's tail. Twilight attempted to levitate one, but found a force holding it down.
"Be very careful with these, for they are possibly the most dangerous things you have seen. You should leave them alone for now."
Twilight stopped trying to move the stick, turned to face Celestia.
"What are they?"
"Weapons. The ones who made them call them lasguns
Rarity made a polite coughing sound.
"Your majesty, I hope you don't mind me saying so, but we have no need
for any weapons in Ponyville. Especially
ones so - and I hope you will forgive my bluntness - crude. How could such misshapen things be a threat to anypony?"
Celestia's smile lessened slightly. Quietly, she spoke: "I am very much afriad you will find out soon. Rarity, these weapons were not made to be used by ponies ... but enough of that. I don't want to darken your day. - she looked back at her sister, who nodded imperceptibly; "Now, on to our second gift, the most valuable thing there is: knowledge. If it is acceptable to you, Twilight, my sister would like to stay with you for a while, to further your magical training."