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Cold Edge Anon (WIP)

By Uh-hmmm
Created: 17th December 2020 11:56:51 PM
Anon WIP

  1. > You get deathnoted right before the incest lesbian was going to rise like the break of dawn.
  2.  
  3. > Hisao eat your heart out.
  4.  
  5. > Wake up in a field of white.
  6.  
  7. > Slowly realise the sky is a little grayer, tons of snow falling down around you, almost no wind.
  8.  
  9. > Get to your hooves and-
  10.  
  11. > Look at your hooves blankly for three minutes.
  12.  
  13. > Blue with black markings that look like stylized claws.
  14.  
  15. “Wat.”
  16.  
  17. > Wish there was a mirror so you could see what the-
  18.  
  19. > Ice mirror coalesces out of the snow.
  20.  
  21. > Convenient.
  22.  
  23. > You are a blue unicorn with black tiger stripes and markings around hooves and face to suggest teeth and claws.
  24.  
  25. > All you need is wings to be a terrible, edgy furfag.
  26.  
  27. > Wait for it…
  28.  
  29. > Okay, good, no wings.
  30.  
  31. > You try to figure out if you are Frozone or Arthas.
  32.  
  33. > Channeling imaginary powers through horn, try making ice stairs.
  34.  
  35. “Making a stairway to heaven, awww yeaaahhhh”
  36.  
  37. > Trot up your stairs, make a podium.
  38.  
  39. > Look around, just a lot more snow.
  40.  
  41. > Next magic trick: Undead army
  42.  
  43. > The light from your horn enters your vision, blue black and white layers wiggling around.
  44.  
  45. > The field of snow suddenly bursts with ice tigers. You stumble back a bit, which is dangerous on a platform of ice.
  46.  
  47. > Recover, and watch your big cats.
  48.  
  49. > General sniffing, wandering around, licking themselves, laying down, etc. Cat things.
  50.  
  51. “Uh,”
  52.  
  53. > All their heads turn to you.
  54.  
  55. “Sup.”
  56.  
  57. > Still the center of attention.
  58.  
  59. “You can go back to what you were doing.”
  60.  
  61. > And back to feline indifference. Good.
  62.  
  63. > Part of the snowstorm darkens, then the snow under it turns a sooty grey.
  64.  
  65. > Out bursts a black unicorn in armor, wait you know this guy!
  66.  
  67. “King Sombrero!”
  68.  
  69. > The king growls,
  70.  
  71. “My name is Sombra! Who dares enter the lands of the Crystal Kingdom and raises their hoof in war?”
  72.  
  73. >Wait, wasn’t this guy banished or whatever?
  74.  
  75. “Wait, weren’t you banished or whatever?”
  76.  
  77. >Sombra keeps it together for about five seconds, then he’s bawling on your shoulder.
  78.  
  79. > You awkwardly pat the guy’s back. He starts blubbering about crystals, slaves, how glorious it would have been, etc.
  80.  
  81. > All of your ice cats are averting their eyes, trying to limit the second hand embarrassment.
  82.  
  83. > time for a pep talk
  84.  
  85. “Sombrero,”
  86.  
  87. “Sombra”
  88.  
  89. “Right, sorry, Samba, you can make crystals by yourself, right?”
  90.  
  91. > Slobro had removed himself from your shoulder, and nods in response to your question.
  92.  
  93. “Then why not make your own crystal kingdom, with blackjack and hookers?”
  94.  
  95. >Sombra frowns.
  96.  
  97. “What manner of monster be these blackjacks and hookers? Are perhaps blackjacks comely and obedient?”
  98.  
  99. > Eh, roll with it.
  100.  
  101. “No, blackjack is a cursed game, wherein the victims wager that the cards shall turn in their favor, but it is more off that the cards spell misfortune.”
  102.  
  103. > You have the habit of falling into the speech patterns of those you talk to. This is unfortunate when they have an accent and think you are mocking them.
  104.  
  105. “And lo, it is the hookers who art comely, and of brazen glances, yea, many a stallion and colt hath fallen under their beguilement, and forever after paid for the pleasure of their company.”
  106.  
  107. >Sombra’s face says: Not sure if want
  108.  
  109. “Even he who rules over such temptresses?”
  110.  
  111. > You shrug, however that works with ponies.
  112.  
  113. “Even so, should he lack self mastery.”
  114.  
  115. >Samebro slowly shakes his head.
  116.  
  117. “I shall take heed to thy counsel, but wisdom dictates I eschew the comely and curséd, for I shall not be ruled by my subjects.”
  118.  
  119. > With that, he turns and goes a way off into the storm, and stops when he is on the edge of visibility.
  120.  
  121. > A flare of black, and obsidian crystals abruptly jut from the ground, growing and branching into city walls, gates, and spindly and spiked towers and halls.
  122.  
  123. > The citadel shudders to a stop, immense and foreboding.
  124.  
  125. > You trot through the open gate, finding Zoomba panting heavily atop the tower of the keep.
  126.  
  127. “Welcome my cousin, to the Kingdom of the Shard!”
  128.  
  129. > Okay, not much of a kingdom yet, but whatever. You call back, saying,
  130.  
  131. “Very impressive, but do you not fear the discovery of such an edifice?”
  132.  
  133. > Bonzo grins winsomely.
  134.  
  135. “Mayhap ye could provide a shield of snow, by which all beneath seemeth naught but the fields which do compass this stronghold? I would offer thy choice of habitation therein, as well as a share of my increase.”
  136.  
  137. > Eh, why not. Assuming, of course, that you can.
  138.  
  139. > You trot up to the keep’s tower, and gaze out upon the prickly rooftops of the city.
  140.  
  141. > Note to self: do not fall.
  142.  
  143. > You focus your wishy powers and the snow around the city swirls up and blocks out the sky in a solid dome of white. Enough light filters through that is only seems very overcast in the city.
  144.  
  145. > You start picking out a tower near the edge of the city when Discord flies through your newly made camouflage.
  146.  
  147. >What now?
  148.  
  149. “What now?
  150.  
  151. >Discord curls around himself in the sky, grinning like a thing that he is.
  152.  
  153. “Another visitor to this happy little plane, how nice! Please leave the megalomania at the portal, I am the only one licensed to be absurdly powerful and equally full of himself.”
  154.  
  155. > Sombrero recovers somewhat, and was watching the goat lizard with wariness and resentment.
  156.  
  157. > You make an ice hand, and shake his claw politely.
  158.  
  159. “Nice to meet you, I am, uh, hmmm.”
  160.  
  161. >Did not think this through.
  162.  
  163. > Meanwhile Discord is peering closely at the hand, and mutters,
  164.  
  165. “Haven’t seen one of these in eons…”
  166.  
  167. > He shakes his head, then gets back to grinning, now showing much more interest.
  168.  
  169. “Interesting name Uh’hmmm, tell me, what is your purpose in port Royal?”
  170.  
  171. > You shrug.
  172.  
  173. “Living, for the most part. I take it you are the emigration office?”
  174.  
  175. “Oh no, I am merely observing, plotting, planning, potting, and panning. Speaking of which, do you have any?”
  176.  
  177. “Sorry, I am fresh out of pans, pots, plans, and the only plot I have is my backside.”
  178.  
  179. > Discord squints at you, then shrugs.
  180.  
  181. “Even so, I am afraid I must convey you and your friend to Celly. New kingdoms, diplomatic susceptibility, that sort of thing.”
  182.  
  183. > Space went wonky, and then you find yourself standing in a dim room, inside of a magic circle of some sort.
  184.  
  185. > You look up and find the Royal Sisters gazing at you with carefully blank expressions.
  186.  
  187. “Uh, hi.”
  188.  
  189. > Simba stamps his hoof petulantly, reminding you oddly of yellowquiet.
  190.  
  191. “Wherefore is my crime, that I am summoned thus? Or doth the Scion of Chaos speak soothe, that ye do now recognize my sovereignty o’er the Kingdom of the Shard?”
  192.  
  193. > Luna replies,
  194.  
  195. “Such is the purpose of this audience, to discern the intent of thy soul, and bring to pass the appointed judgment. Know we well what villainy thou hast wrought heretofore, yet mercy and reformation doth seem pervasive in this era.
  196.  
  197. Howbeit that thou may provide a vouchsafe for thy conduct, for it falleth upon thee to choose the cord which must bind thee to right-doing?”
  198.  
  199. > Gotta help a bro out.
  200.  
  201. “For what it is worth, your Majesties, he has already barred hookers and blackjack from his kingdom.”
  202.  
  203. > Celestia snickered into her hoof. Luna frowned, then held a whispered conference with her sister.
  204.  
  205. > Luna coughed, a blush almost invisible in the dim light.
  206.  
  207. ” Be that as it may, rather more is needful. Ye who he calls cousin, dost thou volunteer as sentinel?”
  208.  
  209. > You look at Sombro, his red eyes pleading with you.
  210.  
  211. > No seriously, he is giving you a puppy dog look and he is a villian and this show is weirdly forgiving with character design and wait > Celestia knows about hookers. That is, hookers exist. In ponyland.
  212.  
  213. >Your mind struggles to reconcile the two images, and comes up with Pinkie Pie in that dress from the cowboys and Indians episode.
  214.  
  215. > Still conflicted, you turn back to Luna and nod. Say what you like about Zombrero, but his kingdom is pretty fly.
  216.  
  217. > Luna flares out her wings.
  218.  
  219. “Prepare thyself, for now I visit thy dreaming mind, to know ye more fulsomely.”
  220.  
  221. > Wait, what?
  222.  
  223. > Imagining Pinkie Pie as a hooker was probably the worst thing to do right before the moon princess invades your mind.
  224.  
  225. > Well, probably not, but you are trying not to think of the other possibilities.
  226.  
  227. > You dream you are in your old room, and as a human too. Not too surprising, at least not to you.
  228.  
  229. > Luna, on the other hand, is slack jawed.
  230.  
  231. > You wave cheerily.
  232.  
  233. > Luna closes her mouth, then leaves the room. You follow her, because of reasons and plot.
  234.  
  235. > Outside, it is a labyrinth of a library, with books and screens and radios jam packed in the shelves, with Little Debbie type snacks tucked into the left over space.
  236.  
  237. > Luna browses at random, licking the occasional book.
  238.  
  239. > What.
  240.  
  241. > Out of the corner of your eye, you glimpse movement, and with the certainty of dream knowledge, it’s pink, purple, and wearing fishnets.
  242.  
  243. > Luna delves deeper into the shelves, the contents of the shelves gradually turning pinker the farther she goes.
  244.  
  245. > She stops at a wide screen TV playing, you guessed it, every episode of mlpfim at once.
  246.  
  247. > Luna taps the screen, and the episodes slide away, revealing your waifu in all her glory.
  248.  
  249. > There is not enough spaghetti in the world.
  250.  
  251. > Pinkie dream projection Pie chooses this moment to sidle up to Luna and seductively say,
  252.  
  253. “You gotta shaaaare.”
  254.  
  255. > Pinkie gets up on her hind legs and cups Luna’s face in her hooves.
  256.  
  257. “You gotta caaaare.”
  258.  
  259. > The dream ends right there and then.
  260.  
  261.  
  262.  
  263. > You are blushing.
  264.  
  265. > Luna is blushing and scowling.
  266.  
  267. > Celestia is still amused.
  268.  
  269. > Sombra owes you a lot of pasta.
  270.  
  271. > Luna coughs.
  272.  
  273. “Probationary King Sombra, thy companion shall be as the voice of Law in thy realm, even unto thee. Nevertheless, take heed that ye do not seek counsel in thy courting from him, for his mind is given to perversities and foolishness in such matters.”
  274.  
  275. > Ouch.
  276.  
  277. > Mumra nods, a little bewildered, but happy.
  278.  
  279. > We appear once more upon the highest tower in the Kingdom of the Shard.
  280.  
  281. > Discord chuckles.
  282.  
  283. “My my, what an interesting judgment. I guess that leaves me as his romantic advisor~.”
  284.  
  285. “Oh heck no. Sombra, trust me on this, keep doing your celibate monk king thing, it’s really working out for you.”
  286.  
  287. > Sombra frowns.
  288.  
  289. “As much as I would yield to thy counsel, I have been charged to give it no heed. Alas, as Princess Luna hath great insight as to thy aptitudes, I must conclude that I pursue courtship with ardor, for that be the antithesis of thy word.”
  290.  
  291. > Oh no. Can I save this?
  292.  
  293. “Here’s some more advice: Do not stalk the object of your affection. Be forthright in thy courtship.”
  294.  
  295. > Sombra smiled condescendingly.
  296.  
  297. “I must applaud thy cunning, but this ruse shall not be as a stumbling stone before me. Upon hearing my conviction to disregard thy romantic promptings, ye did conspire within thy heart to cause me to do that which is opposite to thy counsel. Know ye that I shall be forthright, for it seemeth to me good to do so, and the condemnation of the perverse is but the wisdom of the prudent.”
  298.  
  299. > Success!
  300.  
  301. > Discord glances at you, and you get the sense that this is the last plan of yours that will ever work out well.
  302.  
  303. > Sombino turns to Discord, weird kouhai sparkles in his eyes.
  304.  
  305. “Should it please thee, Unrest’s Eye, i would that ye instruct me in the place and manner of proper courtship, yea, as well as what to what habitation shouldst I go to pursue the most eligible of damsels.”
  306.  
  307. > oh dear.
  308.  
  309. > Discord grins.
  310.  
  311. “Why I would like nothing more. Come with me, I happen to know a very eligible mare…”
  312.  
  313. > Space goes willy and we are in a dark cave. As your eyes adjust, dim green light illuminates nooks and crevices, with black silhouettes flickering by.
  314.  
  315. > Thus it comes as no surprise when you get buried by drones.
  316.  
  317. > Though the frantic humping is rather disconcerting.
  318.  
  319. > The drones skitter away almost as quickly as they piled on. You shakily stand up and see cheesehoof bugbutt glaring at Discord.
  320.  
  321. “I can still smell the stink of the crowned fools on them! What do you think you are doing?”
  322.  
  323. > Discord pats Mamba’s back.
  324.  
  325. “Matchmaking, my dear Chryssy. See this powerful unicorn? Is he not fit? He has known no lover’s touch for thousands of years, and now the need has been awakened. Will you not taste him?”
  326.  
  327. > Chrysalis leans down and sniffs at What’s Wrong Brah? and hums in indecision.
  328.  
  329. > Meanwhile, the king is going from wide eyed and frightened to intrigued. He leans forward and kisses her on the lips.
  330.  
  331. > Bro got moxy
  332.  
  333. > Chrysalis backs up suddenly, a full green blush on her cheeks. Her eyes narrow.
  334.  
  335. > You have a hard time prying your eyes off the train wreck, but a drone is edging close to you, and it’s making you nervous.
  336.  
  337. > Chrysalis dives in for the kill and you politely turn away.
  338.  
  339. > Three drones chirrup at you, trying their darnedest to look cute and what is even with all these cute villains?
  340.  
  341. > Discord does his best Cheshire cat impression, which is to say, nearly spot on.
  342.  
  343. “What’s the hold up Uh’hmmm? If bugs aren’t your thing, I’m sure they can oblige your strange fetishes, even if you are a human.”
  344.  
  345. > The cat is out of the bag repeat the bag has left the cat
  346.  
  347. “Soooooo…. you know about that, huh?”
  348.  
  349. > A brave drone is leaning against your side, and it should probably bother you that you kinda like it.
  350.  
  351. > Discord pets a drone like a bond villain pets a cat that is out of the bag.
  352.  
  353. “Oh it’s not that hard to figure out. You really ought to be more careful with your long distance hoofshakes.”
  354.  
  355. > Another drone is leaning against your other side and you still haven’t figured out if and when to freak out about anything.
  356.  
  357. “Out of curiosity, Uh’hmmm, do you know how reproduction works on this plane? I assure you, there are no genitals involved.”
  358.  
  359. > WHAT.
  360.  
  361. > 1) You are getting the Talk from Discord
  362.  
  363. > 2) You check your spelunking equipment, it is not there.
  364.  
  365. > 3) You do not have spelunking equipment wtf
  366.  
  367. > 4) Who knows what sex is in this madhouse of a plane
  368.  
  369. > 5) That somebody is grinning at you and you really shouldn’t trust a word he says about reproduction.
  370.  
  371. > 6) Unless that’s what he wants you to think. Likewise, ad infinitum ad nauseum it’s turtles all the way down.
  372.  
  373. > You have two ways of finding out. You can trust what Discord says, or let the drones have their way with you.
  374.  
  375. > Either way, you are fucked.
  376.  
  377. > This calls for diplomacy and level headedness
  378.  
  379. “First things first. Am I having sex with these two right now?”
  380.  
  381. > Discord taps his chin.
  382.  
  383. “Shall I tell you? It would be very entertaining to watch you figure it out for yourself.”
  384.  
  385. > You glare at him, then turn to the drone on your right.
  386.  
  387. “Hey, can we take a break? I need to talk to this guy.”
  388.  
  389. > The drones chirrup sadly, but back off a bit. They settle down nearby, watching you with big pleading eyes.
  390.  
  391. > You sigh and turn back to Discord.
  392.  
  393. “Would you please tell me about how it works here? I’d hate to have to tell Fluttershy that you let me accidentally molest somepony.”
  394.  
  395. > Discord raised his eyebrows a foot above his head. Showoff.
  396.  
  397. “You’re really terrible at keeping secrets. Now I know that you know things you can’t know about ponies I know. If I was anypony else, I might be suspicious about you.”
  398.  
  399. > Eh, he probably knew it long before. You make a small gambit.
  400.  
  401. “Just tell me about ponyworld sex, Q.”
  402.  
  403. > For just a moment, Discord looked much less the goofy dragon-goat, and more like a powerful chimera from the dawn of time.
  404.  
  405. > Then he was back to his old self.
  406.  
  407. “Oh very well, but let’s make it a game.
  408.  
  409. Of these three, who do you think is the most physically attractive, Big Macintosh, Shining Armor, or Prince Blueblood?”
  410.  
  411. > Looks like you are amusing enough to survive.
  412.  
  413. “To your average mare, I’d say Macintosh.”
  414.  
  415. “Oh so close, it’s Shining Armor, but only while he’s awake. Let’s try again, Rarity without her magic, Rainbow Dash with her wings bound, or Applejack?”
  416.  
  417. > Interesting conditions, combined with the “while awake” proviso on bbbff…
  418.  
  419. “Applejack. It’d be Rarity with her magic, right?”
  420.  
  421. > Discord clapped in delight.
  422.  
  423. “Good guesses both! Now, for the last round, Cadence or an adult dragoness?”
  424.  
  425. > huh. While the obvious answer would be Cadence, the trick answer is the dragon. But what is the difference between the two, aside from species?
  426.  
  427. > Shining Armor with magic, Macintosh without…
  428.  
  429. “It has something to do with physical size, doesn’t it? Magic can fake it, wings factor in, it’s something about surface area? So the dragoness.”
  430.  
  431. > Discord poofed a blue ribbon into your mane. You pull it forward, but it’s pretty firmly attached. It reads, “#1 Sex Sleuth”
  432.  
  433. > You turn back to Discord.
  434.  
  435. “Very funny, now what is it about surface area?”
  436.  
  437. “Oh, you’re nearly there. What did the drones do to you when we first showed up?”
  438.  
  439. >…
  440.  
  441. “So sex is rubbing as much of yourself as you can on some pony?”
  442.  
  443. > You got a gold star on your shoulder. It reads,
  444.  
  445. “Dragon Fetishist”
  446.  
  447. > Discord continues,
  448.  
  449. “Well done again! I must say, most ponies would have picked Cadence, but those with truly open proclivities know that dragons are where it’s at.”
  450.  
  451. > Well, you are a human, so ponies, dragons, it’s pretty much just as far from normal women.
  452.  
  453. “So molesting is what exactly?”
  454.  
  455. “If you must know, rubbing with any part of your torso. But magic does a bit more than fake it, you could get somepony pregnant if you wrapped them up and back and forth. It requires a lot of finesse, but that is what makes Shining Armor so attractive.”
  456.  
  457. >Which means…
  458.  
  459. “I can’t even imagine what it’d be like with Celestia.”
  460.  
  461. > Discord falls back in a tragic pose.
  462.  
  463. “Alas, it is the dream of every colt and stallion, never to be realized.”
  464.  
  465. > Discord curled up again and grunted.
  466.  
  467. “Did you know she even turned me down? I, who am her equal, or perhaps greater in such arts, even I was rejected.”
  468.  
  469. > You pat the nearest coil of demigod.
  470.  
  471. “There there, I am sure there is a mare out there who isn’t instantly scared away by your mix and match physiology and sinister reputation.”
  472.  
  473. >Discord smirks and says,
  474.  
  475. “Thank you, but I believe you will have similar difficulties. It does not do to seem too much the predator when courting ponies.”
  476.  
  477. > Point taken. As the conversation ends, Sombruski trots over, mane tussled and eyes slightly unfocused.
  478.  
  479. > Chrysalis struts by, her hips swaying. As she passes Discord, she purrs,
  480.  
  481. “Be sure to bring him around again sometime.”
  482.  
  483. > Discord bows mockingly, and space goes chocolate factory and we are back in the citadel.
  484.  
  485. > Sombra blinks and his eyes refocus, then immediately start to droop.
  486.  
  487. “I, ah, thank thee for thine recommendation, First Chimera. For all the pleasantries of her company,”
  488.  
  489. “Which are legion.”
  490.  
  491. > Discord injerjexts. Sombra nods in acknowledgement.
  492.  
  493. “Which are legion, I fear I should become subject to her, she is even as a hooker, seductive and as wont to bind with flaxen cords. For mine own safety, I must continue to ply courtship elsewhere. Perhaps on the morrow, for I find the allure of my bedchamber most irresistible at this time. Gentlecolts, fare thee well.”
  494.  
  495. > With that he bows and trots off into the halls of the keep.
  496.  
  497. > As you turn to talk to Discord, your stomach growls.
  498.  
  499. “Ah, do you know where I could get some food? We’re kinda in the middle of a frozen wasteland.”
  500.  
  501. > You know it can only end in mischief, but he’s the only reliable transportation around.
  502.  
  503. > Discord circles you.
  504.  
  505. “Without bits… Shall we steal apples from Sweet Apple Acres?”
  506.  
  507. > You scowl at him.
  508.  
  509. “I’ll work for my food if need be, let’s not be criminals if we don’t have to.”
  510.  
  511. “Fine, fine, I know just the place.”
  512.  
  513. > Space goes oompa loompa and you touch down in front of Sugarcube Corner.
  514.  
  515. > To tell the truth, you are a little psyched to be in ponyville, but you are immediately distracted by general screams of terror.
  516.  
  517. > You look at Discord.
  518.  
  519. “This is your fault.”
  520.  
  521. “You think so, Uh’hmmm? Why don’t you try to get breakfast by yourself, then. I assure you, they accept labor as alternative payment.”
  522.  
  523. > With that, he blinks out of existence. You take a deep breath, then go through the doors.
  524.  
  525. “Welcome, what would you li- “
  526.  
  527. > Mr. Cake froze, then slowly backed into the kitchen. You turn and see the other customers similarly backing away.
  528.  
  529. “I come in peace?”
  530.  
  531. > And off they go. You honestly didn’t think you were that scary.
  532.  
  533. > Pinkie Pie trots through the still swinging door, balancing an empty platter on her nose.
  534.  
  535. “Mathilda says they were as lovely as always~! Isn’t that just great, Mr. and Mrs. Cake?”
  536.  
  537. > As the silence stretches on, she sets down the platter and opens her eyes.
  538.  
  539. “Mr. and Mrs. Cake?”
  540.  
  541. > You cough.
  542.  
  543. “They’re, ah, in the kitchen.”
  544.  
  545. > Pinkie’s eyes widen at the sight of you.
  546.  
  547. > You sit back on your haunches and raise your front hooves.
  548.  
  549. “It’s alright, I just want breakfast.”
  550.  
  551. > Wait crap that came out wrong.
  552.  
  553. > The next thing you know, you are on your back and Pinkie is standing over you a huge smile on her face.
  554.  
  555. “I can’t believe it! Somepony else from the old country! You gotta tell me all about the folds, and how entropy is doing and (you know how you can sometimes hear a high pitched ringing in your ears? Well, it’s like that, but a low pitched rumbling.) and how are you liking the new ‘bod?”
  556.  
  557. “Pinkie Pie?”
  558.  
  559. “Yeees~?”
  560.  
  561. “I’m not from the old country.”
  562.  
  563. > She backs away a little and sits down. She tilts her head as you get back on your hooves.
  564.  
  565. “But you died and are here!”
  566.  
  567. > how
  568.  
  569. “I used to be a human. Uh, that is, a hairless bipedal mammal thing.”
  570.  
  571. > Pinkie’s hair droops a little. You gotta say something else.
  572.  
  573. “If it’s any comfort, entropy is increasing where I come from.”
  574.  
  575. > She starts bouncing happily.
  576.  
  577. “I knew he could do it! Oh! How rude of me, let me guess your name.”
  578.  
  579. > That’s polite? She continues on, ignoring your confusion.
  580.  
  581. “Ticonderoga”
  582.  
  583. “No.”
  584.  
  585. “Bonder louse”
  586.  
  587. “Negatory.”
  588.  
  589. “Yonder House”
  590.  
  591. “Nope.”
  592.  
  593. “Wait I got this… Hannananananoni mouse”
  594.  
  595. “Weirdly close, but no.”
  596.  
  597. “It’s anonymous, right?”
  598.  
  599. > How did she
  600.  
  601. “How did you do that?”
  602.  
  603. > She gives you an odd look.
  604.  
  605. “Nominal resonance, duuh~. Isn’t that how you knew my name?”
  606.  
  607. > Well, how do you say this…
  608.  
  609. “From my plane, I could see certain portions of this plane’s time stream.”
  610.  
  611. “You saw me on TV?”
  612.  
  613. > Note to self, Pinkie Pie might be telepathic, be sure not to think about the hooker dream projection.
  614.  
  615. > Crap.
  616.  
  617.  
  618.  
  619. > Gotta change the subject, hard.
  620.  
  621. “So yeah, it’s weird, I feel…”
  622.  
  623. > Now that you think about it,
  624.  
  625. “Exposed. Not a whole lot covering what used to be, um, private.”
  626.  
  627. > Pinkie Pie nods vigorously.
  628.  
  629. “It’s like no one has heard of oral modesty! They just wag their tongues and you can see ev-ery-thing. I didn’t know where to put my eyes!”
  630.  
  631. > Apparently today’s topic is xenophilia.
  632.  
  633. “Pinkie, you are the most talkative pony I know. And what about when Twilight first came to town? She sure got an eyeful.”
  634.  
  635. > Pinkie Pie holds up her hoof.
  636.  
  637. “First of all, talking is necessary, since ponies aren’t usually telepathic. But with Twilight… I just got excited okay?”
  638.  
  639. “What was it about Twilight that was so exciting?”
  640.  
  641. “There was a new person to have a party with!”
  642.  
  643. “… So you showed her your lewd mouth?”
  644.  
  645. > Pinkie starts pacing, growing frustrated.
  646.  
  647. “A party means eating and talking and dancing! It is how everypony in the old country figured out who to uh, you know, with!”
  648.  
  649. > That certainly explains why she loves parties so much, it’s like mass speed dating…
  650.  
  651. >…
  652.  
  653. “You party-dated the entire town?”
  654.  
  655. >Pinkie grinned very wide.
  656.  
  657. “Yuppers.”
  658.  
  659. “And you work at a bakery, so you can watch ponies eat all day. I am impressed at how much you’ve incorporated voyeurism into your daily life.”
  660.  
  661. > Pinkie bounced over behind the counter, a serene smile on her face.
  662.  
  663. “I am not a voyeur, I am just enjoying the scenery. You said you wanted breakfast?”
  664.  
  665. “If I let you watch, is it free?”
  666.  
  667. “Silly a non-knee mouse, if I don’t get to watch, you don’t get to pay for it in labor.”
  668.  
  669. > Eh, whatever.
  670.  
  671. > You end up having several chocolate chip banana muffins, slowly revealing more and more of your mouth before you bite.
  672.  
  673. > What can you say? It’s fun to tease.
  674.  
  675. > At first, you help with putting the base coat of frosting on a cake, but a pattern of skulls is the only thing you seem to be able to do.
  676.  
  677. > You try frosting the cake without magic, and the same thing happens. The frosting comes off of the knife the shape of skulls.
  678.  
  679. > you are relegated to mixing ingredients, and that seems to work out until the first batch of muffins come out of the oven.
  680.  
  681. > The holes where the air bubbles escape form the faces of the damned.
  682.  
  683. > For fun, she has you bake a red velvet cake and frost it.
  684.  
  685. > Predictably, it looks like a horse skull in a pool of blood.
  686.  
  687. > Mr. and Mrs. Cake are whispering heatedly with Pinkie Pie. She trots over and pouts.
  688.  
  689. “Looks like spooky cooks time is over. Also, the Cakes say I should escort you to the edge of town and perform an exorcism, but don’t worry! I’m sure we could use your help again next Nightmare Night!”
  690.  
  691. > As you both canter out of the back of the store, screams of terror once again fill the air.
  692.  
  693. > You sigh.
  694.  
  695. “I probably should leave town…”
  696.  
  697. > Pinkie shakes her head vigorously.
  698.  
  699. “Nonono no anono! I’m sure one of my friends can help you be less bloodcurdling!”
  700.  
  701. > You are feeling conflicted. One one hoof, meeting the rest of the mane 6 awwww yeaahhh
  702.  
  703. > On the other hoof, scaring the living daylights out of the Mane 6, one of which is an op wizard, another is a supersonic jet, and yet another kicks trees for a living.
  704.  
  705. > There is pretty much no way you are not going to get hurt today.
  706.  
  707. > But then it doesn’t matter what you want, you are being dragged by a bouncing pink mare to the Carousel Boutique.
  708.  
  709. > Welp.
  710.  
  711. > Pinkie knocks on the door in a rhythm that makes you think of building snowmen.
  712.  
  713. “Oh Raaaaaariteeeeee, I have a challenge for youuuuuu!”
  714.  
  715. > The marshmallow opens the door absentmindedly, busy pinning together an elegant gown.
  716.  
  717. “I hope it is a little more practical than your hot air balloon dress, I don’t have time for such silly non-”
  718.  
  719. > She looks up from her work and freezes.
  720.  
  721. > You wave.
  722.  
  723. > Pinkie beams.
  724.  
  725. “Rarity, this is Anonymous! I challenge you to make him less scary!”
  726.  
  727. “Ah, Pinkie, might i have a word with you?”
  728.  
  729. “I don’t know if we could split a word, and I already ate, so you can have the word all to yourself!”
  730.  
  731. > Rarity keeps her eyes locked on you as she backs into her supply room.
  732.  
  733. “Pinkie Pie, I really must insist that you join me in this room because of reasons.”
  734.  
  735. “Okie Dokie Lokie!”
  736.  
  737. > Yep.
  738.  
  739. > Just gonna stand here, in this shop.
  740.  
  741. > It’s actually kind of nice to have some time to yourself.
  742.  
  743. > You walk around the room, browsing through dresses and suit coats and hats.
  744.  
  745. > Oh no a trilby
  746.  
  747. > Terrible choices activate
  748.  
  749. > You put on the hat and look at yourself in the mirror.
  750.  
  751. “M’lady”
  752.  
  753. > You say while tipping your hat.
  754.  
  755. > You have never felt dirtier in your life.
  756.  
  757. > You set the hat down like it is radioactive waste, and back away.
  758.  
  759. > Sharp claws dig into your hindquarters, and you yelp, bucking automatically.
  760.  
  761. “Opalescence!”
  762.  
  763. > You freeze, turning to look over your shoulder, to see Rarity’s concerned expression focused on your rump-wait no, the cat is now on your back.
  764.  
  765. > The dumb thing is just sitting there, licking itself.
  766.  
  767. “Get down from him at once, he might eat you!”
  768.  
  769. > Pinkie Pie appeared from behind Rarity.
  770.  
  771. “Nuh uh~, nony already ate, didn’t you boy, yes you did!”
  772.  
  773. “Pinkie Pie, I am most certainly not a dog. I assure you, Miss Rarity, I mean no harm to your cat.”
  774.  
  775. > Rarity looks unconvinced, but edges forward.
  776.  
  777. > You crane your neck to address the cat.
  778.  
  779. “Hey, you, off my back.”
  780.  
  781. > Opalescence glances up at you, then rolls back slightly to lick her nether regions.
  782.  
  783. “Okay, enough is enough.”
  784.  
  785. > You raise a thin coat of ice from your skin.
  786.  
  787. > The reaction is instantaneous. The cat scrambles and twists wildly, but finds no purchase.
  788.  
  789. > Just as she was about to fall to the floor, Rarity catches her with magic, bringing the cat close to nuzzle.
  790.  
  791. > Opalescence glares at you, clearly blaming you for the predicament she is in.
  792.  
  793. > Sorry, better you than me.
  794.  
  795. > A few moments later, the cat escapes into the store, and Rarity turns her undivided attention on you.
  796.  
  797. “… Why do have a blue ribbon in sex sleuthing?”
  798.  
  799. >…
  800.  
  801. “It’s Discord’s, he stuck it into my mane with gum. Do you have anything that could get that out?”
  802.  
  803. > Rarity shakes her head, a strange light filling her eyes.
  804.  
  805. “I am afraid we’ll have to cut it. Don’t worry, dear, I am a professional fashionista, your style is in safe hooves. This way~!”
  806.  
  807. > Rarity leads you to a barber chair. You sit down uneasily. You are pretty sure this is just Rarity setting aside all else in the pursuit of fashion, but the abrupt emotional shift catches you off guard.
  808.  
  809. > the hair cutting apron thing magics itself about your neck, and Rarity starts fussing with your hair.
  810.  
  811. “Dreadful, just dreadful, how ever did you get mixed up with that uncouth old pony?”
  812.  
  813. “I’m pretty sure the Princesses sent him to keep an eye on me and sombrero, ever since we founded the Kingdom of the Shard.”
  814.  
  815. > Rarity pauses in her snipping, then continues.
  816.  
  817. “Is that why you were trying on hats, Discord took yours?”
  818.  
  819. > If only you could be buried in spaghetti and be spared this pain.
  820.  
  821. “I… left sombrero at home, and thought I’d see how I looked with another hat.”
  822.  
  823. > Rarity hums in disapproval.
  824.  
  825. “I’m afraid most ponies cannot pull off wearing hats, most especially that trilby. I really ought to get rid of it.”
  826.  
  827. > She makes a few more snips in the back, then moves in front of you.
  828.  
  829. “Head down, please.”
  830.  
  831. > You obediently tilt your head down and
  832.  
  833. > Rarity’s head is about five inches from yours, getting closer as she snips and combs your mane.
  834.  
  835. > Finally she leans back a little, and puts her hoof under your chin.
  836.  
  837. > After a few tilts and finishing touches, she levitates a mirror in front of you.
  838.  
  839. > What was once a spiky mess of long hair and weaboo is now considerably shorter, and parted on the side.
  840.  
  841. “I like it, it looks much more manageable.”
  842.  
  843. > You spoke too soon.
  844.  
  845. > Your hair writhes and bunches up, eventually settling in a shape that reminds you of fire.
  846.  
  847. > Rarity sighs.
  848.  
  849. “How unfortunate. Still, there I more to a makeover than hair!”
  850.  
  851. > The apron unfastens, and you have to trot to keep up as Rarity returns to the main room.
  852.  
  853. > What follows is best left as a montage
  854.  
  855. > Frilly French maid
  856.  
  857. > Victorian Courtier
  858.  
  859. > Chippendale uniform
  860.  
  861. > a bow tie and a fez
  862.  
  863. > clown makeup
  864.  
  865. > That last one gives Rarity an idea.
  866.  
  867. > You wouldn’t think of it yourself, but full body dye jobs are very much a thing.
  868.  
  869. > You are now a brown pony, nothing special, with a white button down shirt vest thing with short sleeves.
  870.  
  871. > Somehow, you feel as if you should get in the robot, whatever that means.
  872.  
  873. > Pinkie Pie shakes Rarity’s hoof.
  874.  
  875. “If I didn’t know better, I would say he’s a boring pony! Oooohhh let’s try sequins next!”
  876.  
  877. “NOPE.”
  878.  
  879. > You cough.
  880.  
  881. “I mean, thank you very much, Miss Rarity. I feel like a new pony.”
  882.  
  883. > She chews on her lip.
  884.  
  885. “Anon, be sure to stay dry for the next hour or so, or else the dye will just run off. We wouldn’t want to start another mass hysteria.”
  886.  
  887. > You just know you’re going to get wet.
  888.  
  889. “I’ll do my best.”
  890.  
  891. > You brace yourself for screams of terror as you leave the shop, but none are forthcoming.
  892.  
  893. > Ponies do give you uneasy looks as they pass by, but you’ll take it.
  894.  
  895. > Pinkie Pie vibrates until she’s in front of you.
  896.  
  897. “So what do you want to do now, not-so-scary-at-anon-secretariat?”
  898.  
  899. “An awkward pause. I mean, let me think.”
  900.  
  901. > Because you don’t really have anything you need to be doing… although some bits would be nice.
  902.  
  903. “Where’s the nearest body of water?”
  904.  
  905.  
  906.  
  907. > An hour later, you stand before a sizable lake.
  908.  
  909. > It takes less effort to make ice from existing water, and you plan on making a fair amount if ice.
  910.  
  911. > You close your eyes and focus your wishy powers, slowly drawing the water vapor from the lake’s surface, building a basic wagon.
  912.  
  913. > You open your eyes and
  914.  
  915. “Wow, nony, that looks just like aunt Thuthu!”
  916.  
  917. > Batwings, octopus head, and the rest of the wagon makes your eyes slide away to look at something else, anything else.
  918.  
  919. “Hey Pinkie Pie? Mind standing back, like way back?”
  920.  
  921. “Okie Dokie!”
  922.  
  923. > Let’s try this again.
  924.  
  925. > You don’t have to split your concentration as much this time, the wagon is already mostly formed.
  926.  
  927. > When you open your eyes again, it looks like a Victorian stagecoach, albeit with skulls and cats ornamentation.
  928.  
  929. > It’s ice, most ponies probably won’t notice.
  930.  
  931. > You form a large, open top bin on top and fill it with snow.
  932.  
  933. “Get in the carriage, Pinkie, we got bits to make!”
  934.  
  935. > Even knowing her heritage, you are still surprised when she jumps out of the water.
  936.  
  937. “Rawr! I just had the longest nap! Teeheehee!”
  938.  
  939. “… Just get in the car.”
  940.  
  941.  
  942.  
  943. > You park your wagon in a random spot in the village market.
  944.  
  945. > It’s only after you are done converting it into a stall that you realize your mistake.
  946.  
  947. > Pinkie is still nearby, chatting with a newly arriving salespony.
  948.  
  949. > Remember the skull and cat theme?
  950.  
  951. > Some skulls have tentacles coming out the eye sockets, or bat wings fused to the back.
  952.  
  953. > Luckily, your eyes can’t focus on whatever the cats have become, so no pony should be too bothered.
  954.  
  955. > You set out two rows of seven ice mugs with tentacle handles and prime the tap that leads up to the reservoir of melted snow that is the stall roof.
  956.  
  957. > You would have liked for your market debut to not include eldritch horror, but at this point, you just hope the water doesn’t induce nightmares.
  958.  
  959. > The letters of the sign over your stall read,
  960.  
  961. “Cold Water”
  962.  
  963. > And on a smaller placard,
  964.  
  965. 1 mug - 1 bit
  966.  
  967. 1 pitcher - 3 bits
  968.  
  969. 1 jug - 9 bits
  970.  
  971. Only melts on the inside”
  972.  
  973. > Which is a thing you found you could do on the way to market.
  974.  
  975. > Ponies have started gathering for lunchtime, but your stall is only getting the occasional uneasy glance.
  976.  
  977. > You hate public speaking.
  978.  
  979. “Get your cold water! Magic mugs, no need for ice cubes! Um, it’s cold! It’s water! It could be yours for one bit!”
  980.  
  981. > Maybe this was a terrible idea.
  982.  
  983. > Just then old Granny Smith comes hobbling out of the crowd.
  984.  
  985. > She peers sternly at your stall.
  986.  
  987. “Young buck, where’d you git the water?”
  988.  
  989. > You were actually ready for this.
  990.  
  991. “Condensed it from water vapor myself, ma’am. Purer than the melted snow.”
  992.  
  993. > She considers this, then focuses on the mugs.
  994.  
  995. “Magic yeh say? How magic?”
  996.  
  997. “Partially magic. The ice melts, but only on the inside. No need to add ice cubes, it stays chilled from the mug.”
  998.  
  999. “Sounds powerful.”
  1000.  
  1001. “I wouldn’t say that…”
  1002.  
  1003. “Beautiful, then.”
  1004.  
  1005. “I guess?”
  1006.  
  1007. “DANGEROUS!”
  1008.  
  1009. “NO.”
  1010.  
  1011. > At least, you hope not.
  1012.  
  1013. > Granny picks up a mug and examines it.
  1014.  
  1015. “Cold.”
  1016.  
  1017. “Yes, that is the idea.”
  1018.  
  1019. > Granny Smith sets it back down.
  1020.  
  1021. “How much fer just the mug?”
  1022.  
  1023. > You think about it.
  1024.  
  1025. “One bit for two mugs, though if you buy in bulk, and give me prior notice, I would be happy to offer a discount. Oh, and about these mugs, the enchantment lasts until the inside melts through to the outside, or if they get broken.”
  1026.  
  1027. > Granny nods decisively.
  1028.  
  1029. “Ah might take yoo up on that offer come a month from now.”
  1030.  
  1031. > She sets a bit down on the counter.
  1032.  
  1033. “One mug for testin’.”
  1034.  
  1035. > She meanders off, sipping from her purchase.
  1036.  
  1037. > After that, more customers come and go, spreading the word, and by lunchtime you have to refill the bin with magically generated snow.
  1038.  
  1039. > Between that and making all the mugs and pitchers from scratch, you are dead tired by three in the afternoon.
  1040.  
  1041. > A drop of water falls on your head.
  1042.  
  1043. > You look up.
  1044.  
  1045. > The entire roof of your stall is shot with cracks. There is no time to respond.
  1046.  
  1047. > SPLOOOSH
  1048.  
  1049. > The water runs brown out of your stall.
  1050.  
  1051. > Your first though is
  1052.  
  1053. ‘Why did it turn to poop?’
  1054.  
  1055. > Then
  1056.  
  1057. ‘I thought the dye had dried…’
  1058.  
  1059. > Straggling in at third is,
  1060.  
  1061. ‘Uh oh.’
  1062.  
  1063. > Which is accompanied by the panicked screams of ponies.
  1064.  
  1065. > Well, at least Pinkie is sticking around, even if she is rolling on the ground and giggling.
  1066.  
  1067. > You are pulled out of the haze of your surrender to fate’s winds by the sound of galloping.
  1068.  
  1069. > Looking up, you see Applejack, of all ponies, and she means business.
  1070.  
  1071. “Yer gonna pay for eatin’ that salespony!”
  1072.  
  1073. “I am that salespony!”
  1074.  
  1075. > You are the brute squad.
  1076.  
  1077. > Applejack is closing fast, and it’s now that you remember she is both the stubborn one and the most xenophobic.
  1078.  
  1079. > You try to salvage your situation.
  1080.  
  1081. “I was dyed brown tah look like him!”
  1082.  
  1083. > That came out wrong.
  1084.  
  1085. “No, wait, what ah meant was,-”
  1086.  
  1087. “Enough of yer lies! And stop mockin’ me”
  1088.  
  1089. > This is one of those times you hate how you imitate the people you talk to.
  1090.  
  1091. > Applejack dives at you, aiming for a flying tackle.
  1092.  
  1093. > You hastily fling up a shield of ice.
  1094.  
  1095. > It shatters, but your opponent is deflected.
  1096.  
  1097. > You turn to face her next charge, readying a much thicker shield.
  1098.  
  1099. > She charges again, leaping over you.
  1100.  
  1101. > You haven’t even begun to turn when she bucks you hard into your own shield.
  1102.  
  1103. > You don’t think you will be able to sit down for a while.
  1104.  
  1105. > She grimly walks to your prone body, pulling back a hoof to kick your head.
  1106.  
  1107. > Oh HELL no.
  1108.  
  1109. > Wishy powers activate!
  1110.  
  1111. > Ice flows from your shield and seizes Applejack’s limbs, piling on and on until only her torso and head are free of ice.
  1112.  
  1113. > You groan as you get to your hooves.
  1114.  
  1115. ” Dear Universe, was that really necessary? Did you have to kick my ass right before the sabbath? That wasn’t nice. “
  1116.  
  1117. > Applejack pauses in her struggles to break free.
  1118.  
  1119. “Yer donkey before the whose what now?”
  1120.  
  1121. > You ignore her, caught up in the film reference.
  1122.  
  1123. “It’s enough you pick on me. Bless me with macabre ice powers, a life of poverty, that’s all right. But what have you got against my rear? Really, sometimes I think, when things are too quiet up there, you say to yourself, ‘Let’s see, what kind of mischief can I play on my friend, Anonymous.’”
  1124.  
  1125.  
  1126.  
  1127. > Once again, hoofsteps echo in the empty marketplace.
  1128.  
  1129. > You hear the pony call out,
  1130.  
  1131. “Where is everypony? Oh I hope the water salespony isn’t gone.”
  1132.  
  1133. > Applejack yells,
  1134.  
  1135. “Twilight! Watch out, he’s dangerous!”
  1136.  
  1137. > The alicorn rounds the corner, levitating an empty ice mug. Her eyes widen, then narrow.
  1138.  
  1139. “Tigerkin.”
  1140.  
  1141. > So there is a thing that you actually are, aside from a cringingly edgey pony OC?
  1142.  
  1143. > Any hope of a peaceful resolution dies as Twilight’s eyes blaze with magic.
  1144.  
  1145. > You gather all the available ice and water around you, surrounding yourself in a globe of claws, jaws, skulls, and tentacles.
  1146.  
  1147. > Your vision takes on a navy hue as you dig deep for reserves you hope will be enough to keep you alive.
  1148.  
  1149. > You hear muffled voices in the background, but you are focused on the light building along Twilight’s horn.
  1150.  
  1151. > You dodge the first beam of kinetic energy, flowing around it with the aide of your ice.
  1152.  
  1153. > As you close the distance, the beams come faster and harder to avoid. You start losing ice mass.
  1154.  
  1155. > You just barely dodge a particularly large beam, and your air bubble is breached.
  1156.  
  1157. > You are blinded by a flash of light. That it when you remember that Twilight can teleport.
  1158.  
  1159. > Your over exposed eyes register a brief after image of Purple Smart before your body is rocked by the sudden appearance of the princess at close quarters, her hoof slamming into your head.
  1160.  
  1161. > You rear and lash out, but she teleports again, and this time you feel a wave of heat and an electric jolt from the edge of the displacement magic.
  1162.  
  1163. > She sweeps your hind legs, and as you fall you call the ice to you as spikes, stopping inches from your hide.
  1164.  
  1165. > Predictably, Twilight ported to a safe spot, and breathing deep, regular breaths.
  1166.  
  1167. > You are quite winded, and there is a ringing in your ears. There also seems to be a voice saying,
  1168.  
  1169. “Twilight! Anon! Helloooo~!”
  1170.  
  1171. > But you have no time for that. Ice seals itself to you, thickening as armor and claws on your legs, a tiger head framing your face, and huge sharp bat wings because you officially don’t care about being a furfag OC and you want to LIVE.
  1172.  
  1173. > Twilight raises the pavement slabs between you and her, a shimmering globe forming around her.
  1174.  
  1175. > You dash into the floating field of stone, jumping and flying and enjoying dodging rocks on some level that likes being a winged tiger pony unironically.
  1176.  
  1177. > Twilight soon gets better at rock throwing, and there are far too many close calls.
  1178.  
  1179. > At ten feet away, one of your wings shatters between two stones and you rapidly spiral down to the ground.
  1180.  
  1181. > You charge, your other wing quickly lost in the deluge of earthen missiles.
  1182.  
  1183. > Your claws rend Twilight’s shield, and you see a hint of fear in her resolute expression.
  1184.  
  1185. “I SAID STOP!”
  1186.  
  1187. > You recognize the rumbling that accompanies the high pitched yell.
  1188.  
  1189. > All your forward momentum is halted on the plane of a pink hoof, and you see Twilight’s magic rebound and separate into fractal spirals on Pinkie’s other hoof.
  1190.  
  1191. > For the slightest moment, you can see infinity in the curls of her mane, but then the moment is gone, and you and Twilight are just standing around awkwardly while Pinkie huffs in exasperation.
  1192.  
  1193. “Now that you guys are done being silly willy fillies, Twilight, this is my friend Anonymous. Anonymous, this is my friend Twilight.”
  1194.  
  1195. > You nod sheepishly.
  1196.  
  1197. “Nice to meet you, Twilight.”
  1198.  
  1199. “L-likewise?”
  1200.  
  1201. > Pinkie Pie beams at both of you.
  1202.  
  1203. “I can’t wait for you guys to become best friends!”
  1204.  
  1205. > You collect your hard won bits and everypony adjourns to the treebrary.
  1206.  
  1207. > Twilight is extra jumpy around you, and Applejack isn’t much better. You get the feeling that if Pinkie wasn’t coming along, you would have to be bound and drugged for them to feel safe.
  1208.  
  1209. > Which is appropriate, you are a tigerpony.
  1210.  
  1211. > You still can’t believe that is a thing.
  1212.  
  1213. > When everypony settles down, it turns out neither can Twilight.
  1214.  
  1215. “You just popped into existence, in the Frozen North, of all places.”
  1216.  
  1217. > That’s your story and your sticking to it.
  1218.  
  1219. “Eyup.”
  1220.  
  1221. > Applejack glances at you, then returns practicing rope tricks.
  1222.  
  1223. > You think that it’s probably her way of coping with stress, but it is rather distracting watching her hop and flex and stretch.
  1224.  
  1225. > You do have a question, though.
  1226.  
  1227. “So what are tigerkin?”
  1228.  
  1229. > Twilight gives you a flat look.
  1230.  
  1231. “What? I’m serious, I thought I was just some genetic oddity.”
  1232.  
  1233. > Twilight is slow to respond, continually trying to verify that you are not in fact, pulling her leg.
  1234.  
  1235. “Tigerkin are very rare, territorial ponies. Not much is known, except that they all have cannibalistic tendencies.”
  1236.  
  1237. > … Maybe the others were also humans in their past lives… Or just a race generated for a persecution sue.
  1238.  
  1239. > You shrug.
  1240.  
  1241. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”
  1242.  
  1243. > Twilight holds up one of your mugs. It’s gotten pretty thin, but the enchantment is still intact.
  1244.  
  1245. “How did you do this? Every anti-melting spell I know works on the whole object, not a select surface area.”
  1246.  
  1247. > You realize that she’s probably been studying that mug for a while now.
  1248.  
  1249. > Given that you think you saw her left eyelid twitch, this does not bode well for you.
  1250.  
  1251. “I just wish it, and it happens.”
  1252.  
  1253. > Especially because that is your truthful response.
  1254.  
  1255. > Okay, definitely scoring a 4.0 on the eyelid Richter scale.
  1256.  
  1257. “You just WISH IT and it HAPPENS?”
  1258.  
  1259. > You know you are going to regret this.
  1260.  
  1261. > If you could travel back in time, you are sure future you would stop you from saying this,
  1262.  
  1263. >… Well, crap, that was your cue.
  1264.  
  1265. “Isn’t that how magic works? I mean, aside from friendship.”
  1266.  
  1267. > Eyelid reading is at a 7.3, I repeat, 7.3!
  1268.  
  1269. > Applejack tries to placate her.
  1270.  
  1271. “Now Ah’m sure Anonymous is jist protectin’ trade secrets, same as I would do, ‘cept for the lyin’.”
  1272.  
  1273. > You shake your head.
  1274.  
  1275. “That’s how I do magic, wishing and imagining it happen.”
  1276.  
  1277. > Eyelid tectonics has plateaued at 8.5, achieving resonance with individual strands of hair!
  1278.  
  1279. “To the lab!”
  1280.  
  1281. > Twilight nearly runs to her basement. You and Applejack follow at a more sedate pace.
  1282.  
  1283. “Now why’d you have to go and say that for?”
  1284.  
  1285. > You shrug helplessly.
  1286.  
  1287. “It’s the truth.”
  1288.  
  1289. > Applejack shakes her head.
  1290.  
  1291. “I can’t rightly blame yeh fer that, but that’s sort a thing decent folk keep to themselves ‘round Twilight.”
  1292.  
  1293. > You let her go down the stairs first, pausing on the threshold.
  1294.  
  1295. “Say, where’s Pinkie Pie?”
  1296.  
  1297. > Applejack shrugs.
  1298.  
  1299. “Probably jus’ hidin’ in a potted plant.”
  1300.  
  1301. “Ah.”
  1302.  
  1303. > That would be Pinkie’s MO.
  1304.  
  1305. > You catch up with Applejack right before the entrance to the lab.
  1306.  
  1307. > You can’t quite place the expression on her face.
  1308.  
  1309. “Wishin’ and imagining? Swear on your life?”
  1310.  
  1311. “So swear I that is how I perform magic.”
  1312.  
  1313. > Applejack sighs.
  1314.  
  1315. “We may never get out of here.”
  1316.  
  1317.  
  1318.  
  1319. > Things have progressed down here since Twilight tried to analyze the precognitive abilities of a eldritch horror.
  1320.  
  1321. > For one thing, it’s larger and
  1322.  
  1323. > Is that a shark tank?
  1324.  
  1325. > Why is Applejack stationed at a wall full of levers?
  1326.  
  1327. > You know what, you are just going to look at the dubious array Purple Smart is setting up.
  1328.  
  1329. > A series of cables lead from the ceiling down to a metal cased machine, which reminds you of GLaDOS more than anything else.
  1330.  
  1331. > More wires dangle from that, leading down to a silver headband.
  1332.  
  1333. “This won’t upload my mind into a robot, right?”
  1334.  
  1335. > Twilight snaps a dreamcatcher attachment into place, and turns to you.
  1336.  
  1337. “Don’t be absurd. Now get over here and put this on.”
  1338.  
  1339. > You end up sitting in front of a wooden table with a feather, a gem, and a potted plant.
  1340.  
  1341. > You peer closely at the pot while starbutt gets her note taking supplies in order. The pot is too small for a pony to fit inside, but you are pretty sure Pinkie could pop out of any container, provided it was sufficiently comedic.
  1342.  
  1343. > Of course, now that you are suspecting the pot, she’ll pop out of somewhere else.
  1344.  
  1345. > Unless that’s what she wants you to think…
  1346.  
  1347. > Twilight clears her throat.
  1348.  
  1349. “We’ll start with some basic magic to get a baseline, then we’ll proceed from there. If you would levitate the feather?”
  1350.  
  1351. > You nod and focus on the feather, and imagine it floating.
  1352.  
  1353. > It rises, oddly stiff and not surrounded by any magic sparkly aura.
  1354.  
  1355. > Weird.
  1356.  
  1357. > Twilight touches it with her hoof, then gives you a stern look.
  1358.  
  1359. “Without cryokinesis, please. After all, this is to measure your baseline magical manipulation.”
  1360.  
  1361. “Er, right, let me try again.”
  1362.  
  1363. > The feather falls to the table, and you take a deep breath.
  1364.  
  1365. > You imagine the feather wreathed in a sparkly blue aura and slowly rising.
  1366.  
  1367. >Wishy powers go!
  1368.  
  1369. > A small flurry of snow surrounds the feather, blowing it slowly upward.
  1370.  
  1371. > Twilight gives an exasperated look with a hint of confusion.
  1372.  
  1373. “Stop playing with it, just levitate the feather!”
  1374.  
  1375. “I’m trying! It’s not like this body came with a manual!”
  1376.  
  1377. > You can see confusion overtaking exasperation, then converted to dawning horror.
  1378.  
  1379. “You are a fully grown unicorn with NO IDEA HOW TO CONTROL YOUR MAGIC!”
  1380.  
  1381. > Twilight freezes, hooves over her mouth.
  1382.  
  1383. > You feel obligated to defend your sweet sweet skills.
  1384.  
  1385. “Hey, what about all the ice stuff I do? I’m pretty in control of that.”
  1386.  
  1387. > Twilight pats your shoulder, glancing around at all her expensive, delicate equipment.
  1388.  
  1389. “Yeah, that, um haha! How about we talk about this elsewhere? Somewhere far away?”
  1390.  
  1391. > Applejack stops dozing off and asks,
  1392.  
  1393. “Everything alright, sugarcube?”
  1394.  
  1395. > Twilight lets out a nervous laugh.
  1396.  
  1397. “Haha, yeah, Anonymous and I just need to talk, in a quarry on the edge of town. See ya!”
  1398.  
  1399. > You used to think that if you could teleport at will, you would gain so much weight from not walking.
  1400.  
  1401. > As you go from sitting in a basement laboratory to a bright and barren rock quarry, the nausea that hits you disabuses you of your previous prediction.
  1402.  
  1403.  
  1404.  
  1405. > On the plus side, Twilight seems much calmer and less likely to accidentally fry you.
  1406.  
  1407. “Sooo, what do we need to talk about in a quarry? Are you going to teach me to levitate pebbles or something?”
  1408.  
  1409. > Twilight encases herself in a shield bubble before answering, which makes you rather nervous.
  1410.  
  1411. “It’s just a safety precaution. Normally, when a unicorn starts learning to control their magic, they don’t have enough power to do much damage if the get upset or lose control. You, however…”
  1412.  
  1413. “I might summon a glacier sort of thing?”
  1414.  
  1415. > Conceal don’t feel.
  1416.  
  1417. > Twilight nods.
  1418.  
  1419. “Or blast a hole through the ceiling. Now, first you have to learn to tap your mana pool. Concentrate on the feeling you got when you did accidental magic.”
  1420.  
  1421. > You stare at her.
  1422.  
  1423. > You never really felt anything weird when doing magic, just wanting something to happen and it happening.
  1424.  
  1425. “Like what exactly?”
  1426.  
  1427. > Twilight face hoofs.
  1428.  
  1429. “I forgot, you’re less than a day old. Okay here’s what you do. Just stroke your horn like so.”
  1430.  
  1431. > She starts running her hoof up and down her horn, a light blush on her cheeks.
  1432.  
  1433. > You no longer have the stuff that correlates to that imagery, but that doesn’t stop you from being aroused.
  1434.  
  1435. > Tentatively, you start stroking your own horn,
  1436.  
  1437. > L-lewd
  1438.  
  1439. > And you get a funny tingle down your spine.
  1440.  
  1441. > Purple Smart stops her hornsturbation, but the damage is done. A mare is watching you hornsturbate and you like it.
  1442.  
  1443. > The spinal tingle extends out, and you become very aware of your belly.
  1444.  
  1445. > You stroke faster and faster, and now you feel like you’re in free fall, that floating stomach feeling.
  1446.  
  1447. > Your breath hitches, and a large spark flies from your horn and lands on Twilight’s shield.
  1448.  
  1449. > You put your hoof down shakily, and you blush deeply.
  1450.  
  1451. “Sorry about that, it just sorta came out.”
  1452.  
  1453. > Twilight smiles.
  1454.  
  1455. “That’s what I was looking for. “
  1456.  
  1457. > Oh sweet Celestia
  1458.  
  1459. > Twilight continues,
  1460.  
  1461. “Now hold onto that feeling in your stomach, that’s your mana pool. Of course, it doesn’t have a physical location, but that’s how your mind interfaces with it. Now try calling on it to light up the tip of your horn, just bunch a bit of magic there.”
  1462.  
  1463. > You focus on the fading feeling in your stomach. It comes back, and you syphon a part of it up your spine, then to the tip of your horn.
  1464.  
  1465. > You can see the blue light on the ground, even though it is still the late afternoon.
  1466.  
  1467. > Success!
  1468.  
  1469. > Twilight squints at you.
  1470.  
  1471. “Good, you’ve got the idea, now dial it down.”
  1472.  
  1473. > It probably is rather bright…
  1474.  
  1475. > You syphon off some of the magic on your horn, stopping when Twilight’s eyes are fully open.
  1476.  
  1477. “Keep that level in mind, it’s bright enough to see by in the dark, but it won’t wake up the neighbors.”
  1478.  
  1479. “Will do. Haha, I can do magic!”
  1480.  
  1481. > Twilight gives you an odd look.
  1482.  
  1483. “But you already knew that?”
  1484.  
  1485. > You nod happily.
  1486.  
  1487. “This is nice, standard unicorn magic, though. That’s different from being an ice elementalist.”
  1488.  
  1489. > Twilight replies,
  1490.  
  1491. “If you say so. The next thing you need to learn is levitation. Choose a pebble.”
  1492.  
  1493. > You clear the ground in front of you and roll a small pebble into the middle.
  1494.  
  1495. > When you look back up, Twilight is behind a second shield.
  1496.  
  1497. “…Really?”
  1498.  
  1499. > Twilight nods.
  1500.  
  1501. “You will be at least partially focused on me, and you tend to err on the side of excess.”
  1502.  
  1503. > She actually sounds very calm, so it probably is just a precaution.
  1504.  
  1505. > She continues her lesson.
  1506.  
  1507. “The trick here is to surround the pebble as closely as possible, without clipping the edges.”
  1508.  
  1509. > …
  1510.  
  1511. “You mean to tell me, a botched levitation can cause dismemberment?”
  1512.  
  1513. > Twilight paused, considering her answer.
  1514.  
  1515. “Only if you are extremely incautious. Whatever is outside of your magic will experience inertia normally, which can cause stress fractures along the interface between the spelled and unspelled parts of whatever it is you’re levitating.”
  1516.  
  1517. > Okay, levitation is no longer nightmare fuel.
  1518.  
  1519. > You pull on your mana pool, encasing the pebble in a roughly spherical aura.
  1520.  
  1521. > Very cautiously, you will it to rise.
  1522.  
  1523. > Rather anticlimacticly, it does just that.
  1524.  
  1525. “Well done, Anonymous. Now for the last lesson, we’ll see how you react to magical detonations.”
  1526.  
  1527. > Wait, what?
  1528.  
  1529. “Wait, what?”
  1530.  
  1531. > Twilight perches on a low cloud, a third shield surrounding her.
  1532.  
  1533. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. I just want to know how you react to significantly large magical events.”
  1534.  
  1535. “Shouldn’t I have a shield too, just in case?”
  1536.  
  1537. > Twilight shakes her head.
  1538.  
  1539. “It would confound the results of the test. Real detonations are unexpected, so unless you spend your entire life in a shield, you need to know how you would react. In fact, you should also close your eyes.”
  1540.  
  1541. > And to think, not an hour ago, you were fighting for your life against this pony.
  1542.  
  1543. > Wait.
  1544.  
  1545. “You sure it’s not so that you can remove a dangerous cannibal without resistance?”
  1546.  
  1547. > Twilight looks somber.
  1548.  
  1549. “We may have gotten off on the wrong hoof, but I am a pretty good judge of character. I know you are no cannibal. The question is, do you trust me?”
  1550.  
  1551. > You stare at her for a long moment, then close your eyes.
  1552.  
  1553. “Any time you’re ready.”
  1554.  
  1555. “Bombs away!”
  1556.  
  1557. > Well, she sounds cheerful.
  1558.  
  1559. > You wait in tense silence.
  1560.  
  1561. > And wait
  1562.  
  1563. > Just when you start wondering if anything is going to happen, nothing does.
  1564.  
  1565. > Okay, this is getting ol-
  1566.  
  1567. > Sound and fury, literal anger assaults your ears. You open your eyes to a world of red.
  1568.  
  1569. > There is a deep thrumming in your chest that steals the words from your mouth.
  1570.  
  1571. > Fear courses through your veins and you summon a thick sphere of ice around yourself.
  1572.  
  1573. > The ice steams and melts from one direction, the direction your ears belatedly inform you where all this originated.
  1574.  
  1575. > You pull on your mana pool and levitate your bubble of safety to the height of the clouds.
  1576.  
  1577. > As abruptly as it came, the detonation faded.
  1578.  
  1579.  
  1580.  
  1581. “…What in the name of fiscal responsibility was that?”
  1582.  
  1583. > You would have yelled, but your voice is still recovering from the magic nuke.
  1584.  
  1585. > And she just smiles, as innocent and as cute as you please, like she didn’t just arrange a visit to the elemental plane of wtf.
  1586.  
  1587. “Interesting.”
  1588.  
  1589. > That’s all she says.
  1590.  
  1591. “No! You do not get to say ‘Interesting’ after dropping a magical bomb! You say, ‘wow, sorry, I had no idea it was that strong’ although that raises a whole host of other things about which I would be justifiably angry about!”
  1592.  
  1593. > Now she’s giggling!
  1594.  
  1595. > You feel you ought to do something suitably dramatic, but you don’t know where you are, and a magical princess pony has nukes at her disposal.
  1596.  
  1597. > You end up just sitting in your ice bubble as you descend to the ground.
  1598.  
  1599. > Twilight lands soon after, her laughter having run its course.
  1600.  
  1601. “I’m sorry, it’s just that that wasn’t a bomb. I cast a fear based illusion which you filled in quite nicely. And then you started throwing a tantrum, and it was just too much!”
  1602.  
  1603. “A tantrum? A tantrum! I-”
  1604.  
  1605. > There she goes again, giggling behind her hooves.
  1606.  
  1607. > You sigh.
  1608.  
  1609. “Did I at least pass the test?”
  1610.  
  1611. > She sobers up somewhat, though a smile still plays about her lips.
  1612.  
  1613. “You did quite well. I am no longer worried that you will react inappropriately when horribly surprised and -”
  1614.  
  1615. > She giggles again.
  1616.  
  1617. “-provoked.”
  1618.  
  1619. > If she wasn’t so cute…
  1620.  
  1621. > You resist the urge to sigh in exasperation.
  1622.  
  1623. “Can we go back now?”
  1624.  
  1625. “Of course; I still don’t know how your mugs work.”
  1626.  
  1627. > You are back in the lab, and on top of brief attack of nausea, you are hungry.
  1628.  
  1629. > You hear voices from above.
  1630.  
  1631. “Now ah don’t rightly know if it’ll be Anonymous or Twi that needs saving, on account of both of them bein’ more magic than sane. “
  1632.  
  1633. > You decide to nip this one in the bud, Purple smart right behind you.
  1634.  
  1635. > As you climb the stairs, you become distinctly conscious of how you are wiggling your butt in Twilight’s face.
  1636.  
  1637. > You emerge from the basement just as Rainbow Dash salutes, and Fluttershy and Rarity nod resolutely.
  1638.  
  1639. > You cough, startling them.
  1640.  
  1641. “We’re back.”
  1642.  
  1643. > Fear Princess pokes your flank and you take a few more startled steps into the room.
  1644.  
  1645. > She nods graciously to her friends.
  1646.  
  1647. “Thank you everypony for your concern, but it’s all sorted out now.”
  1648.  
  1649. > Rainbow swaggers up to you, a challenging gleam in her eye.
  1650.  
  1651. “So this is the tigerpony? He doesn’t look so tough, I bet I could take him.”
  1652.  
  1653. > Fluttershy whimpers and hides behind Rarity.
  1654.  
  1655. > You smile at Rainbow.
  1656.  
  1657. “You probably could.”
  1658.  
  1659. > She flies right up into your face.
  1660.  
  1661. “Is that a challenge?”
  1662.  
  1663. > You back up and shake your head.
  1664.  
  1665. “That was an obeisance.”
  1666.  
  1667. > At her blank look, you try again.
  1668.  
  1669. “It’s me saying you are better than me.”
  1670.  
  1671. > Rainbow squints at you suspiciously.
  1672.  
  1673. “As long as you remember that.”
  1674.  
  1675. > She struts back to friends to preen.
  1676.  
  1677. > You probably would be more irritated, but 1) you don’t actually want to fight anyone and 2) she’s cute.
  1678.  
  1679. > You know this makes you a beta, but you don’t care. You are in Equestria, everything else is just gravy.
  1680.  
  1681. > Your stomach growls, and Applejack throws a nervous glance your way.
  1682.  
  1683. > This does not escape Purple Smart’s notice.
  1684.  
  1685. “I’m feeling a little hungry myself. How about salad, everpony?”
  1686.  
  1687. > Fluttershy glances at you nervously.
  1688.  
  1689. “Th-that’s okay, I have to go feed the critters back home.”
  1690.  
  1691. > Rarity looks at the clock.
  1692.  
  1693. “I really should be going as well, I have several commissions I’d like to finish before sunset. “
  1694.  
  1695. > Rainbow Dash cricks her neck.
  1696.  
  1697. “Yeah, I could go for a snack after all the mad training I did.”
  1698.  
  1699. > She starts flexing, glaring at you significantly.
  1700.  
  1701. > You smile back.
  1702.  
  1703. > Applejack tips her hat.
  1704.  
  1705. “It’s work for me too, Twilight. Mighty kind offer, though.”
  1706.  
  1707. > The three ponies leave, and Twilight goes to the kitchen.
  1708.  
  1709. > You and Rainbow Dash sit at the table as three bowls of salad levitate over.
  1710.  
  1711. > No forks, no dressing, just lettuce, carrot slices, and cherry tomatoes.
  1712.  
  1713. > Rainbow immediately digs in, but Twilight is watching you out of the corner of her eye.
  1714.  
  1715. > You smile and nod at her, then take a bite of your salad.
  1716.  
  1717. > When you were a human, salad without dressing was unthinkable, and tomatoes and carrots were nuisances.
  1718.  
  1719. > As you chew, you are pleasantly surprised.
  1720.  
  1721. > Everything is sweeter; the bitterness of the lettuce is closer to the bitterness of dark chocolate, and the carrot slices taste like yams baked with marshmallows.
  1722.  
  1723. > You deliberately take a bite with a tomato in it.
  1724.  
  1725. > It’s the same tomato flavor, but far less acidic and incredibly sweeter.
  1726.  
  1727. > Maybe being a vegetarian won’t be so bad.
  1728.  
  1729. “This is really quite good, Twilight, thank you.”
  1730.  
  1731. > She smiles.
  1732.  
  1733. “Glad to hear it.”
  1734.  
  1735. > As you finish your salad, you hear a knocking at the door.
  1736.  
  1737. > Do you want to build a snowman?
  1738.  
  1739. > Twilight opens the door to find Discord doing his pretzel impression.
  1740.  
  1741. “Why hello, princess, is Anonymous around? Our mutual friend has awoken and we really must be going.”
  1742.  
  1743. > you are already walking to the door.
  1744.  
  1745. > Rainbow yells,
  1746.  
  1747. “Aha! I knew there was something fishy about you!”
  1748.  
  1749. > You look over your shoulder, finally getting tired of this.
  1750.  
  1751. “The princesses have appointed me to be the probationary officer to a king. If that’s suspicious, take it up with them. Let’s go, Discord.”
  1752.  
  1753. > Space goes Augustus Gloop and you are back in the snowy citadel.
  1754.  
  1755. > You feel oddly nostalgic, considering you only left this place eight or nine hours ago.
  1756.  
  1757. > You see that the snow around the Citadel has melted, right up to the edge of your camouflage. The ground is barren, but probably fertile.
  1758.  
  1759. > You extend the dome, unveiling more snowy ground that is already beginning to melt around the edges.
  1760.  
  1761. > Cassambra trots to you, looking well rested.
  1762.  
  1763. “I thank thee, Uh’hmmm. That indeed had been the next favor I would ask of thee.”
  1764.  
  1765. > Decembra stands next to you, surveying his little oasis.
  1766.  
  1767. “I have pondered, yea, even for decades what is needful, should the Crystal Kingdom be denied me. There is a cruel paradox; one must have foodstuffs sufficient to sustain a workforce, and one must have a workforce to create such an amount of foodstuffs.”
  1768.  
  1769. > You nod.
  1770.  
  1771. “Prithee, wherein did ye find a solution, for that be the trend of thy words?”
  1772.  
  1773. > Sombra gestured grandly at your big ice cats, still prowling around the citadel.
  1774.  
  1775. “Cousin, ye have a rare talent, to breathe life into the frozenborn. Mayhap, shouldst we combine our might, we may even give rise to servants of perfect durability and obedience. What say ye?”
  1776.  
  1777. > He’s talking about a veritable army of (ostensibly) farming golems.
  1778.  
  1779. > While he has grown on you, you are not sure that he could handle such power as of yet.
  1780.  
  1781. > Of course, farmer golems are only one solution.
  1782.  
  1783. “There be merit to thy idea; however, we must consider the aspects of our magic. Are not thy crystals born of hate and fear? Likewise, mine magic is wont to express itself in themes of death and felinity. I fear that shouldst the two combine, we do naught but usher in a great and terrible predator.”
  1784.  
  1785. > Xcombra is taken aback
  1786.  
  1787. “Verily I had not considered such an eventuality. Now that ye know of my dilemma, I implore thee to apply thy wondrous faculty to searching out a solution.”
  1788.  
  1789. > Well, if there’s someone who could randomly generate a metric ton of food…
  1790.  
  1791. “It seemeth to me, that thy petition hath gone awry; is there not one among us for whom reality itself doth bow in obeisance? Verily, let us consult Discord and perchance thy granaries be filled without planting and without labor.”
  1792.  
  1793. > Discord had settled on a nearby rooftop, and only a few crystal bridges later, you two come before him.
  1794.  
  1795. > Combra Commander nods respectfully.
  1796.  
  1797. “Prithee, Son of the Beginning, hear my plea. The land before thee be barren, both of beings and of crops. All I ask is that ye provide larder sufficient that the workers might last through the first harvest.”
  1798.  
  1799. > Discord rested his chin on his claw.
  1800.  
  1801. “Oh my, this is quite irregular. I’m afraid I am here only in an observational capacity, with some leeway regarding keeping you two alive, or not, should it be appropriate.”
  1802.  
  1803. > You raise your eyebrows.
  1804.  
  1805. “Were you given any instructions about helping or not helping the Kingdom of the Shard become self sufficient? “
  1806.  
  1807. > Discord tilted his head side to side.
  1808.  
  1809. “The Princesses wanted to see what you two would cook up, to spin a functioning kingdom out of nothing. If I have to tell them, ‘oh, they asked me to do it, so I did’ well, that would be no fun at all!
  1810.  
  1811. > You turn to Shwarmbra.
  1812.  
  1813. “Let us then attempt our fused golems, for verily, we are immortal so long as we are of interest.”
  1814.  
  1815. > Umbralla frowns.
  1816.  
  1817. “E’en that be the state of things, prudence doth suggest an alternate course. There layeth a dragonhold to the north, the mistress of which hath been my sole confidant these many years. Mayhap her hatchlings hath grown such that they may labor for wages of crystal, which ye perceive I doth have in abundance. Go ye, therefore, and seek her out. For mine own part, I shall prepare the gems by which we may acquire their labor.”
  1818.  
  1819. > Well, that sounds much better.
  1820.  
  1821. “What course shall I follow, to lead me through the snowstorms impenetrable?”
  1822.  
  1823. > Sombra pointed at one of the six spokes that ran through the outer ring of the citadel.
  1824.  
  1825. “The mountain which doth hold thy objective is straightway from that yonder gate; another boon I would ask thee. As ye do plot thy arrow-like course, clear the sky e’en as ye have here, that those who shall come to labor shall not founder in lone wilderness, nor ye upon thy return.”
  1826.  
  1827. “It shall be even as thou sayeth, o King. Frostborn, to me!”
  1828.  
  1829. > You dramatically levitate down to street level, surrounded by your horde of ice cats.
  1830.  
  1831. > No use taking chances
  1832.  
  1833. > You keep track of your path by the simple expedient of a line of aligned ice crystal, which serves as a handy radial point for the repulsion field you are setting up as you go.
  1834.  
  1835. > Your mind starts to drift, thinking about what you have gotten yourself into.
  1836.  
  1837. > Seriously, you are walking literally into a dragon’s den, to hire her kids.
  1838.  
  1839. > Wait.
  1840.  
  1841. > You check your shoulder.
  1842.  
  1843. > You sigh in relief, the “dragon fetishist” sticker is gone.
  1844.  
  1845. > Did it fall off when you got drenched in your own ice water?
  1846.  
  1847. > Eh, whatever, it’s gone.
  1848.  
  1849. > To conserve strength, you ride on one of the bigger ice cats.
  1850.  
  1851. > It’s a little uncomfortable, but your muscles need a break after a day like today. Or, since it is still going on, during a day like today.
  1852.  
  1853. > You hang your head in weariness. May you live in interesting times indeed.
  1854.  
  1855. > It’s an hour later, and you have lost track of which ice cats you named after which cat pokemon.
  1856.  
  1857. > There’s a black dot in the distance, and you feel a bit of hope that you are almost done with your trek.
  1858.  
  1859. > As you travel, though, it becomes apparent that the dot is off to the side of your path.
  1860.  
  1861. > as you get closer, you can see it is actually two dots.
  1862.  
  1863. > In fact, it looks like two lines.
  1864.  
  1865. > You get to the point where it is perpendicular to your path, and you stop.
  1866.  
  1867. > It might just be a pony out there, provided it has a white coat of fur
  1868.  
  1869. > You look at the trail you are blazing, then at the black splotches.
  1870.  
  1871. > You make a tall spire of glowing blue ice, then set out towards the only bit of variance in this snowy wasteland.
  1872.  
  1873. > Every once in a while, you make another glowing spire, with the one before clearly visible.
  1874.  
  1875. > The splotches resolve into, yes, a pony.
  1876.  
  1877. > She’s an earth pony, but slender and elegant.
  1878.  
  1879. > Her strait black mane brushes the snowy ground, and her tail splays out behind her as she sits in the snow.
  1880.  
  1881. > There is something about this that should worry you, but you can’t put your hoof on what.
  1882.  
  1883. > As you draw near, she opens her eyes, her big grey eyes, and a shiver of fear goes down your spine.
  1884.  
  1885. > She exhales, a drawn out, feminine sigh.
  1886.  
  1887. > You stop, feeling stiff and
  1888.  
  1889. > Oh hell, a yuki onna.
  1890.  
  1891. > You inhale, pushing your own ice from skin level outward and regain your mobility.
  1892.  
  1893. > You glare at her.
  1894.  
  1895. “That is quite enough of that. I have had a long day, and it is still far from over. So I will take it as a kindness if you would just go somewhere else, and not haunt my road, or I shall have to deal with you permanently. Understood?”
  1896.  
  1897. > She blinks slowly, then smiles.
  1898.  
  1899. > Aaand that’s it. That’s all she does.
  1900.  
  1901. > You start walking back to the road, looking over your shoulder from time to time.
  1902.  
  1903. > She’s right where you left her.
  1904.  
  1905. > About 40 yards away, you stop looking.
  1906.  
  1907. > At 50 yards, you feel something brush your shoulder, and
  1908.  
  1909. > Dang it, there she is, happily walking alongside you.
  1910.  
  1911. > You have passed the point of caring. You don’t know if she honestly likes following you around, or if she is a mindless seduction death spirit thing.
  1912.  
  1913. > You just get back to the road you were making and keep going.
  1914.  
  1915. > At least she isn’t actively trying to freeze you.
  1916.  
  1917. > You tend not to have a problem with solitude, but that is usually because you have music or games or some such to occupy your time.
  1918.  
  1919. > Out here in the snowy wasteland, you have neither. However, you do have company.
  1920.  
  1921. > You turn to the snowpone as you trot.
  1922.  
  1923. “Let’s start again. It is nice to meet you, my name is Anonymous.”
  1924.  
  1925. > She nods pleasantly, still smiling gently.
  1926.  
  1927. > You wait for her reply, but none is forthcoming.
  1928.  
  1929. > Finally, you ask,
  1930.  
  1931. “And what might yours be?”
  1932.  
  1933. > Her voice is low and soft.
  1934.  
  1935. “Frozen Hart.”
  1936.  
  1937. > Well, she can talk.
  1938.  
  1939. >Also, note to self: Do not sing that song to her.
  1940.  
  1941. “And what brings you out to this new road?”
  1942.  
  1943. “Following you.”
  1944.  
  1945. > You had noticed that.
  1946.  
  1947. “Any particular reason why?”
  1948.  
  1949. “You didn’t die.”
  1950.  
  1951. > That’s not ominous at all. /sarcasm
  1952.  
  1953. “So are you making sure I die?”
  1954.  
  1955. > She shakes her head.
  1956.  
  1957. “The opposite.”
  1958.  
  1959. > That’s good to know.
  1960.  
  1961. > As you continue onward, a vast shadow looms out of the blizzard.
  1962.  
  1963. > Looks like you’ve reached your destination.
  1964.  
  1965. > Details start to stand out as you get closer.
  1966.  
  1967. > Immense stone columns
  1968.  
  1969. > A truly staggering amount of stairs
  1970.  
  1971. > In due time, you and your retinue enter the cave mouth plaza.
  1972.  
  1973. > You follow the main cavern, and as you go deeper, it gets noticeable warmer.
  1974.  
  1975. > The walls are covered in ledges and tunnel mouths. From time to time, you see golden eyes glimmer in the dark.
  1976.  
  1977. > This is actually a good thing; it means that there are probably enough dragons for what Sandra has in mind.
  1978.  
  1979. > You round a corner and find yourself in the throne/hoard room.
  1980.  
  1981. > Atop the standard pile of treasure reclines a formidable white dragoness.
  1982.  
  1983. > Crowding every ledge and hole in the wall are much smaller dragons of every make, model, and color.
  1984.  
  1985. > Showtime.
  1986.  
  1987. > You bow low, and are pleased to note that your retinue does as well.
  1988.  
  1989. “I bear unto you salutations from Sombra, Sovereign of the Kingdom of the Shard.”
  1990.  
  1991. > The dragoness nods slightly.
  1992.  
  1993. “Let’s cut this short, emissary. What does the old fool want and why should I care?”
  1994.  
  1995. > You get the feeling that you may have come at a bad time.
  1996.  
  1997. > Nevertheless, you have your mission.
  1998.  
  1999. “He wants to hire your hatchlings as farmers. He will be paying in gems of his own creation.”
  2000.  
  2001. > The dragoness considers this.
  2002.  
  2003. “How many does he need?”
  2004.  
  2005. > You cough, suddenly embarrassed.
  2006.  
  2007. “He, ah, didn’t say.”
  2008.  
  2009. > She lets out a bark of laughter.
  2010.  
  2011. “Such an old fool. Tell him this, I shall require fifty gems per worker, but he must feed and house them for the duration of their hiring. I can spare up to two hundred hatchlings. These are my terms. You are dismissed.”
  2012.  
  2013. > You bow once more, and leave.
  2014.  
  2015.  
  2016.  
  2017. > You stop at the foot of the steps, and sigh in relief.
  2018.  
  2019. “That went well.”
  2020.  
  2021. > Frozen Hart nods.
  2022.  
  2023. > You look at your road, a clear tunnel though the wind and snow.
  2024.  
  2025. > Now that it’s made, it’s time to travel in style.
  2026.  
  2027. > You wish for a carriage, with cat harnesses.
  2028.  
  2029. > It’s easy with all this snow around, and within seconds you and Frozen Hart climb in a stately Victorian cab.
  2030.  
  2031. > As you set off, you continue your conversation with Frozen Hart.
  2032.  
  2033. “So how long are you planning on following me around?”
  2034.  
  2035. “Forever.”
  2036.  
  2037. > Okay…
  2038.  
  2039. “So what do you want to do now? It’ll be about an hour until we get to the Kingdom of the Shard.”
  2040.  
  2041. > She gives you a sultry look.
  2042.  
  2043. “I have often thought of what I would do, if a stallion should live.”
  2044.  
  2045.  
  2046.  
  2047. > When you arrive at the citadel, you stumble out of the carriage, flushed and disheveled.
  2048.  
  2049. > Sombra waits in the courtyard, concern plain in his voice.
  2050.  
  2051. “Cousin! What hath befallen you? Were you so poorly received?”
  2052.  
  2053. > You smooth your mane, and Frozen Hart strolls smugly to your side.
  2054.  
  2055. “King Sombra, may I present my traveling companion, Frozen Hart.”
  2056.  
  2057. > She nods regally. Sombra raises his eyebrows at you, but returns the nod.
  2058.  
  2059. “Welcome to the Kingdom of the Shard. Pardon me, but Anonymous and I have some business to discuss.”
  2060.  
  2061. > He draws you aside, and speaks to you in a low tone,
  2062.  
  2063. “Knowest thou the nature of the creature that thou nameth companion?”
  2064.  
  2065. “Trouble thyself not for my sake; there is harmony betwixt her nature and my aspect. In regards to others, it seemeth to me prudent that our lodging be outside the gates, that thy future citizens be not troubled with her presence.”
  2066.  
  2067. > Seadra nods solemnly.
  2068.  
  2069. “It shall be even as thou sayest. Let us speak of other things; was Polychromasia receptive to thy offer?”
  2070.  
  2071. “Yea, and here are her terms: Fifty gems per hatchling, that though provideth room and board. She may spare up to two hundred hatchlings.”
  2072.  
  2073. > Mothra sighs.
  2074.  
  2075. “It shall be a labor all around, but the terms are acceptable. “
  2076.  
  2077. > You yawn.
  2078.  
  2079. “If that be all, cousin, I would see to my lodgings and retire.”
  2080.  
  2081. “Rest well, for I do not doubt I shall require thy excellent aid on the morrow.”
  2082.  
  2083. > You and the snowpone decide to settle to the west of the city, where the least amount of traffic will pass.
  2084.  
  2085. > Together, you raise a stately mansion, with sliding doors, solitary courtyards, and a veranda around the outside.
  2086.  
  2087. > As you enter your master bedroom, you realize a major flaw in crystalline construction.
  2088.  
  2089. “We’ll have to get a mattress, or at least some pillows.”
  2090.  
  2091. > Frozen Hart smiles at you.
  2092.  
  2093. “I can be your pillow.”
  2094.  
  2095. > Can’t argue with that.
  2096.  
  2097. > Soon enough, you fall asleep, your head resting on her side.
  2098.  
  2099. > You wake up, momentarily disoriented by everything.
  2100.  
  2101. > Part of you was just rolling with everything because you thought you might be dreaming.
  2102.  
  2103. > The rest of you rolled with everything because that’s your modus operandi.
  2104.  
  2105. > Now, as you slowly get to your hooves, you start to wonder at the wisdom of helping a powermad unicorn fashion a kingdom out of magic and traded favors.
  2106.  
  2107. > Thing is, it’s not like he’s unlikable. In fact, he’s killed fewer people than the pony you were using for a pillow.
  2108.  
  2109. > That is an absurd sentence.
  2110.  
  2111. > Point still stands, it’s better to be steering than braking on this crazy train.
  2112.  
  2113. > You step out onto a balcony in your ice mansion, and appreciate the view.
  2114.  
  2115. > You built on the line between the snow buffer and the meltfields. The sharp division pleases you on a deep, aesthetic level.
  2116.  
  2117. > Oh hey, it’s Hombre, time for work.
  2118.  
  2119. > The unicorn calls up to you,
  2120.  
  2121. “I hope the morning finds thee well, cousin. Hast thou broken thy fast?”
  2122.  
  2123. > You resist the urge to reply with elaborate sarcasm.
  2124.  
  2125. “Nay, Tombrarine, I hath not, for this land is yet barren.”
  2126.  
  2127. > You only belatedly realize that you actually called him by the wrong name.
  2128.  
  2129. > For his part, he merely looks irritated.
  2130.  
  2131. “I admonish thee, though our acquaintance hath not surpassed a day by altogether too much, e’en so, ye shouldst recall that mine appellation is Sombra. If ye are unsure, do not hesitate to refer unto me as thy cousin, as I hath done unto thee. At times and places private, I shall provide my name upon thy asking. “
  2132.  
  2133. > You get the feeling that you are not the first to receive this speech.
  2134.  
  2135. “Forgive me, Sombra. I believe thou didst mention morning repast?”
  2136.  
  2137. > Sombra nods.
  2138.  
  2139. “It hath risen to my notice that ye are not as I, preserved from the ravages of hunger.”
  2140.  
  2141. > Are… are you dealing with some kind of lich?
  2142.  
  2143. “Thy words do incite mine curiosity. How didst thou perform such an transmutation , yea and survive?”
  2144.  
  2145. > Jimbob just sits there, silent for a good five minutes.
  2146.  
  2147. “I hath not the faintest clue.”
  2148.  
  2149. > And this is the would-be king.
  2150.  
  2151. > You facehoof.
  2152.  
  2153. “As thou wast saying?”
  2154.  
  2155. > Lombre coughs.
  2156.  
  2157. “Indeed, my purpose in speaking unto thee at this time is to shew unto thee where the crops are, that thou mayest supervise the planting thereof.”
  2158.  
  2159. > You are lead to a nearby cave, where you find a sizable stash of crystal fruit.
  2160.  
  2161. > While you eat your fill, you start to wonder about some things.
  2162.  
  2163. “From whence did ye obtain such a larder?”
  2164.  
  2165. “At times and at seasons, I did plunder the convoys of the usurper.”
  2166.  
  2167. > …
  2168.  
  2169. “Which thing ye shall no longer do, having been recognized as a fellow sovereign.”
  2170.  
  2171. > You say firmly.
  2172.  
  2173. “Which thing I shall no longer do, having been recognized as a fellow sovereign.”
  2174.  
  2175. > Bombra repeats dutifully. You continue your questioning.
  2176.  
  2177. “If thou hast had these for many a year, then why hath ye not sown, nor harvested? There hath been time sufficient for substantial increase.”
  2178.  
  2179. > Sombriana Jones Sr. stares at you like the Nazis have the grail diary.
  2180.  
  2181. “Such labor is beneath the dignity of nobility such as thyself and myself. Hence my desire for summoned help, or failing that, an enslaved workforce.”
  2182.  
  2183. > Oh yeah, this guy is still kinda villainous.
  2184.  
  2185. “Heed my words, Sombra, for this purpose was I set over you. Thou shalt not esteem thyself a master, for thou hast not yet earned thy leadership. Yea, and to earn thy leadership, thou must persuade free ponies to follow thee, without coercion, nor falsehoods, nor careful omission. Let thine enemies fear thee, but ye must strive to rule such that thy subjects love thee.”
  2186.  
  2187. > Gombrabunta looks at you uncertainly.
  2188.  
  2189. “Why dost thou deny thy station? Our prowess is unmatched save it be by alicorns and demiurges. E’en as they rule over us, and obtain tribute by our labor, so shall I deal with mine own subjects.”
  2190.  
  2191. “I do not argue the practice of taxation, Cousin. Rather, that ye divide ponydom into classes, that a task be beneath thee, yet suitable for another. A task that is beneath thee shouldst only be equal to the mindless, the machine, the golem. Let e’ry pony, every dragon, every thinking being be alike in dignity.”
  2192.  
  2193. > Claponbra scowls.
  2194.  
  2195. “Is thy meaning that I must live as a servant, ere I rule? How many menial tasks must I accomplish before ye think me worthy of the throne I have wrought of my will alone?”
  2196.  
  2197. > You shake your head.
  2198.  
  2199. “It mattereth not what nor how many task ye do perform, only that ye are willing to labor alongside any of thy subjects. Dost thou acknowledge Celestia’s supremacy?”
  2200.  
  2201. “… Yea, for her will and power are unmatched by any one pony in the realm.”
  2202.  
  2203. “Thou also spoke of following the pattern of her rule. Know ye this, Celestia doth not differentiate betwixt ruler and servant; she doth consider herself both at once, for to rule is to serve, and to serve all is to rule all.”
  2204.  
  2205. > Thumbralina isn’t buying it.
  2206.  
  2207. “Think upon it, Sombra. “
  2208.  
  2209. > He walks out of the cave, a troubled look on his face.
  2210.  
  2211. > He stops outside the cave, and looks at his citadel in the distance.
  2212.  
  2213.  
  2214.  
  2215. > You join him, and he says,
  2216.  
  2217. “Think ye not that I doubt thou, but I wish to speak with the Sun’s Warden, for thy words do run contrary to the way of ruling, such as I know it.”
  2218.  
  2219. > That’s better than you expected, actually.
  2220.  
  2221. “That is easily arranged. Discord, wilt thou convey us unto the palace?”
  2222.  
  2223. > The old goat-dragon stepped out from behind a rock.
  2224.  
  2225. “Really, Anonymous, I should charge for my transport services. It’s always ” Discord, I want a kingdom, Discord, know any hot mares, Discord I’m hungry. It’s enough to drive a pony mad.”
  2226.  
  2227. “Would you rather watch us take a long carriage ride to Canterlot?”
  2228.  
  2229. > Discord rolls his eyes.
  2230.  
  2231. “Of course not, but a little acknowledgement every now and then would be nice.”
  2232.  
  2233. > VonBrown glances as you, then bows graciously towards Discord.
  2234.  
  2235. “I thank thee in advance for thy most excellent transportation, yea, I believe I o speak for Anonymous as well that we count thee as a brother, bound under the same master, alike in station.”
  2236.  
  2237. > You hesitate, then bow as well.
  2238.  
  2239. > Discord clutches his chest.
  2240.  
  2241. “What feeling is this? Why is love filling my being? Could it be the warmth of brotherhood?”
  2242.  
  2243. > A light begins to shine from between his claws. Simultaneously, another light from your forehead, and another from the front right shin of Qwopbro.
  2244.  
  2245. > Discord continues his overdramatic ramblings.
  2246.  
  2247. “Anonymous, who pointed out how boring watching a carriage would be, is the element of… Reason!”
  2248.  
  2249. > The light on your forehead flashes, and leaves behind a silver circlet with a stylized amethyst eye in the middle.
  2250.  
  2251. “Sombra, who got it on with the bug queen, is the element of… Suggestibility!”
  2252.  
  2253. > The light on Zero Suit Sombrus flashes, leaving behind a stylized quartz bottle on an anklet.
  2254.  
  2255. “Those elements are ignited by the spark that is within us all, the element of Impulsiveness!”
  2256.  
  2257. > Discord opens his paw/claw and reveals a tattoo of a brohoof with an explosion behind it. The fire is composed of rubies embedded in his skin.
  2258.  
  2259. “Come, brothers! There is one in Canterlot who needs our help!”
  2260.  
  2261. > You glimpse Dobro’s startled expression before space goes Violet Beauregarde.
  2262.  
  2263. > You appear in someone’s richly decorated bedchamber.
  2264.  
  2265. “Hwhat is the meaning of this?”
  2266.  
  2267. > You recognize that stuck up voice. You turn around and see Prince Blueblood lying in bed, a breakfast tray on his lap.
  2268.  
  2269. > Discord strikes a sailor moon pose.
  2270.  
  2271. “Fear not, Prince Blueblood, I will heal you with the power of brotherhood!”
  2272.  
  2273. > The elements of Brotherhood fire a multicolored beam at Blueblood’s head.
  2274.  
  2275. > When it fades, nothing seems to have changed. Then Blueblood weeps.
  2276.  
  2277. “Oh Celestia, why did I drive Rarity away? She was so desirable!”
  2278.  
  2279. > You walk over and pat his shoulder gingerly.
  2280.  
  2281. “I’m sure you can find somepony else just as attractive.”
  2282.  
  2283. > Sombra pats his other shoulder.
  2284.  
  2285. “Verily, I knoweth a mare who may look exactly like unto the one of which ye have spoken.”
  2286.  
  2287. > You look at Kahnbra as if to say,
  2288.  
  2289. ‘The bug queen? Really?’
  2290.  
  2291. > He nods as if to say,
  2292.  
  2293. ‘Forsooth.’
  2294.  
  2295. > The prince clasps Yomombra’s hoof and ferverently asks,
  2296.  
  2297. “Where can I find her?”
  2298.  
  2299. > Everlasting Sombrappers gestures towards Discord.
  2300.  
  2301. > Just as Blueblood turns to face Discord, the draconequus grabbed his hoof and they wink out of existence.
  2302.  
  2303. > You blink, and see Pawnbroker is similarly startled.
  2304.  
  2305. > You recover first.
  2306.  
  2307. “Well, are we not in Canterlot? Let us then seek a royal audience.”
  2308.  
  2309. > Wombrabread nods, and you both leave Blueblood’s bedchamber.
  2310.  
  2311. > As you walk the corridors of the palace, you start to suspect that this wasn’t the wisest course, as servants flee from the sight of two obviously evil unicorns.
  2312.  
  2313. > Also, neither one of you have any idea where you are going.
  2314.  
  2315. > Finally, you throw open a random door and pounce on the first pony you see.
  2316.  
  2317. > It’s just your luck that it’s a maid making up one of the beds in a guestroom.
  2318.  
  2319. > Romcom stares at you in surprise.
  2320.  
  2321. “L-lewd!”
  2322.  
  2323. > You sigh, which elicits a shiver from the maid.
  2324.  
  2325. “Sorry to bother you ma’am, but could you show us where Celestia is?”
  2326.  
  2327. > That… might have been worded better.
  2328.  
  2329. > The maid glares at you resolutely from between your hooves.
  2330.  
  2331. “I will never betray the princess!”
  2332.  
  2333. > You slowly back off, letting her up.
  2334.  
  2335. “Look, I’m the liaison to the Kingdom of the Shard, and I need to arrange an audience between royalty. Could you please help me?”
  2336.  
  2337. > The maid slowly gets back on her hooves, clearly still spooked.
  2338.  
  2339. “It doesn’t matter what you do to me, I’ll never talk!”
  2340.  
  2341. > … This is getting you nowhere fast. By now, the word has probably spread that this wing of the palace has been invaded by evil sorcerers.
  2342.  
  2343. > You turn to Sandra.
  2344.  
  2345. “Notice how loyal she is? You wouldn’t get this kind of response if Celestia ruled with fear and power.”
  2346.  
  2347. > He nods thoughtfully.
  2348.  
  2349. “Tell me, maid. Hath Celestia joined the servantry in their tasks?”
  2350.  
  2351. > The maid looks back and forth between the two of you, puzzlement edging in around the fear.
  2352.  
  2353. “She, ah, she occasionally dresses up as a maid and cleans an entire room, top to bottom. Why do you ask?”
  2354.  
  2355. > You would like to see that, one day.
  2356.  
  2357. > Jusomji replies,
  2358.  
  2359. “I wish to learn the way of ruling. Very well, lend unto me a maid’s uniform, and teach me the way of cleaning. It seems I shall not achieve my other purpose this day, but this much shall I do.”
  2360.  
  2361. > The maid blushes and stutters.
  2362.  
  2363. “Y-you w-want my uniform?”
  2364.  
  2365. > Crombra looks at her oddly.
  2366.  
  2367. “Not thine in particular; merely one like unto it.”
  2368.  
  2369. > Ecchi averted.
  2370.  
  2371. > You hang back as the maid leads the king to the closet where such things are kept.
  2372.  
  2373. > You suspect that a little good cop bad cop dynamic is going on, the maid is even chatting amicably with Silverbutt.
  2374.  
  2375. > And it turns out he was serious about wearing a maid uniform. Weird.
  2376.  
  2377. > You continue to follow behind as they return to the room she was cleaning.
  2378.  
  2379. > It is surprisingly cute watching her correct Yomibra as he makes the bed.
  2380.  
  2381. > You hang out in the hall, which is why you see Celestia approach, wreathed in power and banked fury.
  2382.  
  2383. > You hold up a hoof in a shooshing gesture.
  2384.  
  2385. > She sees you, and some fury abates. She creeps along stealthily, and looks into the room.
  2386.  
  2387. > The grim Fomdango is wiping down the windows, while the maid dusts the furniture.
  2388.  
  2389. > Celestia looks at you inquiringly, but you can see a hint of a smile.
  2390.  
  2391. > You whisper,
  2392.  
  2393. “He’s doing research on being a good ruler.”
  2394.  
  2395. > Celestia turns back to find both ponies looking at her.
  2396.  
  2397. > She coughs.
  2398.  
  2399. “I take it you are the intruders?”
  2400.  
  2401. > bedonkadombra gently puts down the cleaning rag.
  2402.  
  2403. “I came seeking thy audience. Alas, much hath interfered, such that I am even as thou seest.”
  2404.  
  2405. “Very well, ye shall have thy audience. Follow me.”
  2406.  
  2407. > Long Johnbra nods politely to the maid as he leaves, and you follow shortly behind.
  2408.  
  2409. > You all come to a large chamber with a balcony overlooking the Canterlot gardens.
  2410.  
  2411. > Celestia indicates for you to wait outside, and closes the door behind Gamebro.
  2412.  
  2413. > You sit down and smile. He was still wearing the maid uniform.
  2414.  
  2415. > You spend a fair amount of time in front of that door.
  2416.  
  2417. > Sometimes, a servant or guard would pass, and give you a wide berth.
  2418.  
  2419. > Whenever there wasn’t anyone around, you tapped and clopped out short rhythms that you rather quickly lost track of.
  2420.  
  2421. > You are just starting your second drawing attempt in frost when Pompombrabra emerges, a new pep in his step, and a palpable sense of purpose.
  2422.  
  2423. > You fall in next to him.
  2424.  
  2425. “Pardon mine inquiry, but how did thy audience go?”
  2426.  
  2427. > He leads you to the nearby flying chariot hangar.
  2428.  
  2429. “They shall weep, brother Anonymous.”
  2430.  
  2431. > That doesn’t sound good.
  2432.  
  2433. “Who, exactly shall weep, and what for?”
  2434.  
  2435. > You join him on one of the chariots, and he nods to the team of pegasus hitched to it.
  2436.  
  2437. “My future subjects shall weep at the sight of what I have wrought for their benefit.”
  2438.  
  2439. > Well, that sounds a little better.
  2440.  
  2441. > You decide not to bother him, as he looks rather focused and intense right now.
  2442.  
  2443. > When at last the chariot arrives over the citadel, El Chupasombra signals for the chariot to stop.
  2444.  
  2445. > It is a rare, cloudless day in the Frozen North.
  2446.  
  2447. > Black crystal rises from the towers, culminating in a small pedestal, which he steps onto.
  2448.  
  2449. > The Som Bress monster motions for you to join him.
  2450.  
  2451. > You gingerly step onto the platform; it’s a little crowded, but you stand a solid three feet from the edge.
  2452.  
  2453. > Som Brannery dismisses the chariot with a regal nod.
  2454.  
  2455. > Once they are away, you ask him,
  2456.  
  2457. “So what now?”
  2458.  
  2459. “Now, my brother, join me in laying the foundations of the kingdom.”
  2460.  
  2461. > He touches the tip of his horn to yours and the first thing you think is,
  2462.  
  2463. ‘This is so gay.’
  2464.  
  2465. > Then you literally see what he is thinking, and you grin.
  2466.  
  2467. > You hear his answering thought.
  2468.  
  2469. ‘Forsooth.’
  2470.  
  2471. > You call upon all your wishy power, and no small amount of your magic, while he does the same.
  2472.  
  2473. > Your shadows on the platform expand and flow down the crystal, smoothing the unevenness of Sockbra’s previous workings.
  2474.  
  2475. > The shadows spread throughout the city, smoothing and expanding in fractals.
  2476.  
  2477. > They reach the gates and surge forward, six geometrically perfect lanes lined with smoky blue crystals.
  2478.  
  2479. > Miles away, those lanes fracture into smaller forts, some of which look like skulls from where you stand, others like sleeping cats.
  2480.  
  2481. > Filaments of crystal extend from the boundaries, thawing out acres of snowy ground.
  2482.  
  2483. > Your platform expands into a panoramic observation room, panes of ice nearly invisibly thin.
  2484.  
  2485. > A spiral staircase descends from your hooves down to the (previously) tallest tower.
  2486.  
  2487. > By the end of it, both of you collapse, panting heavily.
  2488.  
  2489. ‘That was so fabulous. And gay.’
  2490.  
  2491.  
  2492.  
  2493. > You just lay there, too worn out to even attempt to move.
  2494.  
  2495. > The temperature in the room starts to drop.
  2496.  
  2497. “Wherefore art thou doing this, Anon? Art thou perhaps overheated by thy exertion?”
  2498.  
  2499. > You muster the effort to look at Som Brade, only to see that he is as puzzled as you.
  2500.  
  2501. “Nay, Sombra, ‘tis not I who doth usher in this unnatural cold.”
  2502.  
  2503. > He staggers to his hooves.
  2504.  
  2505. “Then whence cometh this breath of winter?”
  2506.  
  2507. > You sit up. That turn of phrase jogged your memory.
  2508.  
  2509. > Thus you feel more dread than surprise when Frozen Hart climbs out of the stairwell.
  2510.  
  2511. > A thin veil of fog drifts down from her body, jagged with her anger.
  2512.  
  2513. “You left me.”
  2514.  
  2515. > You briefly consider making a reasonable excuse, but in your experience, that is precisely not what women want in this situation.
  2516.  
  2517. “I’m very sorry, is there any way I can make it up to you?”
  2518.  
  2519. > Her fog smooths out somewhat, but she is still irked.
  2520.  
  2521. “Take my brand.”
  2522.  
  2523. > You are about to ask her what that is, when you see a hint of vulnerability in her eyes.
  2524.  
  2525. > You think you can guess. You bow your head.
  2526.  
  2527. “As you wish.”
  2528.  
  2529. > She moves to your side and presses her forehead to your shoulder.
  2530.  
  2531. > Warmth blooms in that small contact.
  2532.  
  2533. > Your leg shudders involuntarily as what feels like cat claws scratch into your shoulder.
  2534.  
  2535. > Frozen Hart pulls away, blushing.
  2536.  
  2537. > The pain and warmth lingers, a white tracery of stag horns like a split snowflake standing out against your blue coat.
  2538.  
  2539. > Gondola pats your withers.
  2540.  
  2541. “Congratulations, my brother! May thy happy union last until the sun doth gutter out and the moon reunite with mother earth.”
  2542.  
  2543. > Yeah, that was about what you expected.
  2544.  
  2545.  
  2546.  
  2547. “Thanks.”
  2548.  
  2549. > You turn to Frozen.
  2550.  
  2551. “I’m going downstairs, care to join me?”
  2552.  
  2553. > She smiles happily.
  2554.  
  2555. “Always.”
  2556.  
  2557.  
  2558.  
  2559. > Some time later, the three of you are looking over the barren fields.
  2560.  
  2561. “Prithee, brother Sombra. How doth one sow and cultivate thy crystal crop?”
  2562.  
  2563. > Hondurbras nods.
  2564.  
  2565. “Verily thy question is apt.”
  2566.  
  2567. > …
  2568.  
  2569. > Oh no.
  2570.  
  2571. “Thou hath not a clew.”
  2572.  
  2573. > King Kombra smiles sheepishly.
  2574.  
  2575. “Time and again, I am awed by thy keen insight. Nevertheless, I have faith that ye shall fashion a solution.”
  2576.  
  2577. > You get the feeling that he did not spend all that much time actually planning out this whole founding a kingdom thing.
  2578.  
  2579. > You sigh and think on the problem.
  2580.  
  2581. > Who would know about growing crystal food?
  2582.  
  2583. > The citizens of the Crystal Empire probably wouldn’t be in much of a hurry to help out their former oppressor.
  2584.  
  2585. > Maybe Applejack? You aren’t sure she did much more that gather fruit in that one episode.
  2586.  
  2587. > Still, at least some of the principles should be the same, even what you are working with are plant/rock fusions.
  2588.  
  2589. > Wait. Rock farming. While you wonder how that can even be a thing, a name comes to mind.
  2590.  
  2591. “It seemeth to me that what is needed is a rock farmer, brother.”
  2592.  
  2593. > Farmbra looks surprised.
  2594.  
  2595. “Hath that profession still its practitioners? Forsooth, ‘twas a dying craft at the time of mine regnancy.”
  2596.  
  2597. > It’s your turn to be surprised. Just what in Celestia’s sweet plot is rock farming?
  2598.  
  2599.  
  2600.  
  2601. “I know that there be at least one family who doth persevere.”
  2602.  
  2603. > You clear your throat.
  2604.  
  2605. “What say thee, brother Discord? Shouldst thou bring us to the Pie family rock farm, ‘twould be most welcome.”
  2606.  
  2607. > Discord spins himself out of thin air.
  2608.  
  2609. “Oh that was much better! We’ll make you a true gentlecolt in no time.”
  2610.  
  2611. > Space goes Veruca Salt, and you find yourself in a barren, rocky field. Or perhaps, a bountiful rocky field.
  2612.  
  2613. > You follow Intercombra to the door of the Pie family home, upon which he knocks.
  2614.  
  2615. > The door is opened by Cloudy Quartz, who silently ushers everyone in.
  2616.  
  2617. > Igneous Rock looks up from where he is polishing his sediment collection.
  2618.  
  2619. “Welcome to the Pie rock farm. We sell rocks, and rock accessories. What would you like?”
  2620.  
  2621. > CD Rombra nods in greeting.
  2622.  
  2623. “I am King Sombra, and I require a rock farming adept to consult upon the cultivation of crystal flora.”
  2624.  
  2625. > Igneous scratches his chin.
  2626.  
  2627. “Sounds like you need my daughter. She just got her rocktorate in rock science.”
  2628.  
  2629. > Igneous nods to his wife, who then climbs the stairs to the second floor.
  2630.  
  2631. “While we wait, can I interest you in some marble? We have had a fine crop of sylacauga, as well as yule.”
  2632.  
  2633. > Salaambra shakes his head.
  2634.  
  2635. “I am quite self sufficient in matters of masonry.”
  2636.  
  2637. > Silence falls, and five minutes later, Maud Pie arrives in her usual smock.
  2638.  
  2639. > Igneous makes the introductions.
  2640.  
  2641. “Maud, this here is King Sombra, he could use your help growing crystal plants.”
  2642.  
  2643. > She blinks, and turns to the king.
  2644.  
  2645. “Yes.”
  2646.  
  2647. > Sombrad the Sailor smiles.
  2648.  
  2649. “If thou wilt gather thy tools, we shall travel to the site of our difficulties.”
  2650.  
  2651. > Maud disappears back up the stairs.
  2652.  
  2653. > Hiho Silbra murmurs,
  2654.  
  2655. “Such a prompt mare.”
  2656.  
  2657.  
  2658.  
  2659. > Fluttershombra, is this your fetish?
  2660.  
  2661. > You are spared having to make a reply by Maud’s return.
  2662.  
  2663. > Her saddlebags packed, you all leave the house and walk to where Discord is pretending to be a boulder.
  2664.  
  2665. > On the way, Yo Tombien says to Maud,
  2666.  
  2667. “And how shall we remunerate thyself for thy services?”
  2668.  
  2669. “Samples.”
  2670.  
  2671. > He pauses, waiting for more, but then replies,
  2672.  
  2673. “That is most reasonable, madame rocktor.”
  2674.  
  2675. > You tap Discord’s hide, and he uncurls.
  2676.  
  2677. > He takes one look at the newest addition to the group and gives you a knowing look.
  2678.  
  2679. > Space goes Mike Teavee and you’re on the outskirts of the fields around the citadel.
  2680.  
  2681. > The Som Branger leaves to obtain a selection of seeds and berries.
  2682.  
  2683. > While he is gone, Maud looks at the hybrid ice/shadow crystal walls of the citadel.
  2684.  
  2685. “Who made those rocks.”
  2686.  
  2687. > It almost doesn’t sound like a question, but you answer readily enough.
  2688.  
  2689. “Sombra and I.”
  2690.  
  2691. > Her eyes glance at your brand, and returns to her usual impassivity.
  2692.  
  2693. > Som Bralleck returns and sets the seeds and berries before Maud.
  2694.  
  2695. > She lays down on the ground, examining the crystals closely.
  2696.  
  2697. > The Rocktor holds a berry up to the light, and nods in satisfaction.
  2698.  
  2699. “I have read about these. It was in Rockwarts, a History.”
  2700.  
  2701. > She digs a shallow hole in the ground, then drops the berry in.
  2702.  
  2703. > After filling it with dirt, she motions for Sweet Home Alasombra to approach.
  2704.  
  2705. > She lays down on the ground again, and he does the same after a moment of hesitation.
  2706.  
  2707. “For it to grow, you must talk to this berry like a lover.”
  2708.  
  2709. > He lays there slack jawed for a moment.
  2710.  
  2711. “Surely thou doth jest.”
  2712.  
  2713. > She just stares at him from across the patch of dirt.
  2714.  
  2715. > He takes a deep breath.
  2716.  
  2717. “How oft hath I dreamed of thee, of thy breath and thy song. I bid thee rise, and share my day and every day henceforth.”
  2718.  
  2719. > He pauses.
  2720.  
  2721. “Was that sufficient?”
  2722.  
  2723. > Maud sniffs at the loose earth.
  2724.  
  2725. “It appears the book was wrong. Collected good data, though.”
  2726.  
  2727. > Som Brancisco doesn’t know what to say to that.
  2728.  
  2729. > Maud motions for you and Frozen Hart to join them.
  2730.  
  2731. > When you both settle down, Maud says,
  2732.  
  2733. “Now kiss.”
  2734.  
  2735. > You blush hard. Som Briego averts his eyes, and Frozen obeys immediately.
  2736.  
  2737. > It’s still embarrassing to kiss in front of other ponies, but you can’t deny how nice kissing is.
  2738.  
  2739. > Frozen pulls back, and a small shoot rises from the ground.
  2740.  
  2741. > Maud blinks in satisfaction.
  2742.  
  2743. “Affection initiates germination.”
  2744.  
  2745. > This sinks in.
  2746.  
  2747. > You feel a certain amount of dread, but it has to be asked.
  2748.  
  2749. “Someone has to kiss around every planted seed?”
  2750.  
  2751. > Maud looks at you, then Frozen, and nods.
  2752.  
  2753. “Ideally, you would use the Crystal Heart, but this will do as a stopgap measure.”
  2754.  
  2755. > Welp.jpg
  2756.  
  2757. > You frown.
  2758.  
  2759. “It still seems really inefficient.”
  2760.  
  2761. > Frozen looks at you with hooded eyes.
  2762.  
  2763. “I see nothing wrong with it. “
  2764.  
  2765. “It just seems like the growth would be so staggered across the fields that harvest would be impractical on a large scale.”
  2766.  
  2767. > Sharkbra rubs his chin.
  2768.  
  2769. “If it were possible, many couples would expedite the process. There may be difficulty in hiring couples to cooperate in this venture.”
  2770.  
  2771. > Maud blinks.
  2772.  
  2773. “I offer my services in that regard.”
  2774.  
  2775. > Does she mean…
  2776.  
  2777. > Frozen gives her a curious glance.
  2778.  
  2779. “With which one, or will you provide your own stallion?”
  2780.  
  2781. > Maud looks at you for a long moment, then at Peeping Tombra for a similar time.
  2782.  
  2783. “Either one is fine.”
  2784.  
  2785. > sweatragman.png
  2786.  
  2787. > Obi Som kenobra clears his throat, blushing slightly.
  2788.  
  2789. “Do ye then intend to reside here until the planting is complete?”
  2790.  
  2791. > Maud nods.
  2792.  
  2793. “There is much to research here.”
  2794.  
  2795. > She stands up.
  2796.  
  2797. “I’m going to get my things.”
  2798.  
  2799. > She walks off, and taps on the air, which resolves into a startled Discord.
  2800.  
  2801. > She speaks a few words, and they disappear.
  2802.  
  2803. > Insombria turns to you, a little wide around the eyes.
  2804.  
  2805. “Hath thou ever seen such a maiden? Such forwardness, yet admirable composure, yea and her command be irresistible to malekind!”
  2806.  
  2807. > You glance at Frozen Hart, who is looking at you testily.
  2808.  
  2809. “Such qualities are rare; thus it behooves us to appreciate our good fortune should we find them.”
  2810.  
  2811. > You entwine one of your hooves with the snowpone’s, to her satisfaction.
  2812.  
  2813. > +1 to diplomacy
  2814.  
  2815. > Once Maud returns, you all go on a tour of the capitol city of the Kingdom of the Shard, which is actually pretty boring once you get uses to the skull and cat motif.
  2816.  
  2817. > Maud seems… Interested? Bored? Well, she isn’t objecting.
  2818.  
  2819. > You follow along, getting used to the background awareness you have of all this crystal you helped make.
  2820.  
  2821. > When it was small things, like carriages or mugs, it was not enough to really intrude on your conscious mind.
  2822.  
  2823. > Now, you have the entire kingdom, capitol and satellite towns in the back of your mind.
  2824.  
  2825. > On the plus side, you can’t get lost here.
  2826.  
  2827. > On the other hand, when your mind would normally wander, now it examines the limited input of all that crystal for aberrations.
  2828.  
  2829. > That might come in handy later, but for now, it’s irritating.
  2830.  
  2831. > Maud decides on a room overlooking the south field and road, and goes about putting all her things away.
  2832.  
  2833. > You figure this will take a while, and go to see if you can’t get a teleport to Ponyville to get some groceries.
  2834.  
  2835. > You find Discord in a small courtyards staring moodily into a fire that apparently doesn’t need fuel.
  2836.  
  2837. “You alright there?”
  2838.  
  2839. > He walks through the fire, then resumes his previous position, none the worse for wear.
  2840.  
  2841. “You know how I was trapped in stone for a thousand years?”
  2842.  
  2843. “…Yes?”
  2844.  
  2845. > Discord turns to you, a haunted look in his eyes.
  2846.  
  2847. “She can smell that.”
  2848.  
  2849. > You aren’t sure you want to know.
  2850.  
  2851. > Well, maybe a little.
  2852.  
  2853. “That’s bad?”
  2854.  
  2855. > Discord shudders.
  2856.  
  2857. “She is nearly a living embodiment of stone, and [i] she has my scent![/i]
  2858.  
  2859. > Okay, you can see how that could be scary. That, and you’re pretty sure Maud was a golem in her past life.
  2860.  
  2861. “How does a trip to Ponyville sound, then? It’ll be nice and far away.”
  2862.  
  2863. > Discord inhales deeply, then nods.
  2864.  
  2865. > Space goes Charlie Bucket and you are in the treebrary again.
  2866.  
  2867.  
  2868.  
  2869. “Waaah!”
  2870.  
  2871. > You hear the this of books falling behind you.
  2872.  
  2873. > You and Frozen turn to see Spike sprawled on the ground, a handful of books scattered around him.
  2874.  
  2875. > Well, let’s get introductions/screams out of the way.
  2876.  
  2877. “Hello, I am Anonymous and this is Frozen Hart, we’re just picking up my bits, and then we’ll be going grocery shopping.”
  2878.  
  2879. > Spike warily gets back to his feet.
  2880.  
  2881. “Y-you’re the tigerpony Twilight was talking about!”
  2882.  
  2883. “Got it in one! Now, if you’ll excise me, I’ll be getting those bits I was talking about.”
  2884.  
  2885. > As you trot over to where you left your bits, you see that your strategy worked.
  2886.  
  2887. > Spike is picking up the books while keeping a cautious eye on you.
  2888.  
  2889. > You levitate the ice jar of money onto your back, and nod as you pass by him again.
  2890.  
  2891. > He waves bemusedly as you and Frozen go out the front door.
  2892.  
  2893. > You are once again greeted by screams, why do you always forget about how ponies react to you?
  2894.  
  2895. > This’ll make grocery shopping difficult.
  2896.  
  2897. > Unless you can send Frozen in your place?
  2898.  
  2899. > You turn to her, about to suggest just that, then you stop.
  2900.  
  2901. > It seems that she isn’t handling the summer heat all that well.
  2902.  
  2903. > You search the sky for a nearby cloud, snag it, then bring it over what you guess is now your wife.
  2904.  
  2905. > With some prodding, the cloud begins to snow, and Frozen perks up almost immediately.
  2906.  
  2907. “So that’s why you didn’t come down from the north to feed on all this warmth!”
  2908.  
  2909. > She tilts her head at you.
  2910.  
  2911. “I do not feed.”
  2912.  
  2913. “Then… why did you try to freeze me when we first met?”
  2914.  
  2915. “It is uncomfortable to have warm things around. I thought you were a warm thing.”
  2916.  
  2917. > You know, you’re not sure what your body temperature is.
  2918.  
  2919. > Cold, you guess. Funny how no one mentioned it before.
  2920.  
  2921. > Although, if one pony in a snowstorm is warm enough to make her uncomfortable, what about now?
  2922.  
  2923. “Are you really uncomfortable now? Should I get Discord to take you back up north?”
  2924.  
  2925. > She shakes her head.
  2926.  
  2927. “It is bearable with you. Always.”
  2928.  
  2929. > You are touched by her devotion, and wrap her in a hug.
  2930.  
  2931. > She gingerly hugs you back, still unused to spontaneous acts of affection after hundreds of years of only being able to touch frozen ponies.
  2932.  
  2933. > After a bit, you pull back, and resume the stroll to the market.
  2934.  
  2935. > You wonder…
  2936.  
  2937. “Why is warmth uncomfortable to you anyhow?”
  2938.  
  2939. > She looks at you with her fathomless grey eyes and says,
  2940.  
  2941. “I remember a void, with no light, no warmth, no land nor sea nor sky. Just vast emptiness, space and space within space all empty, pockets and folds and lines of nothing. That is my source.”
  2942.  
  2943. > Sometimes you forget that this place has reincarnated eldritch horrors, but then things like this come up and make you momentarily give up on making sense of the greater cosmos.
  2944.  
  2945. “I see.”
  2946.  
  2947. > She shakes her head.
  2948.  
  2949. “You don’t. But you will.”
  2950.  
  2951.  
  2952.  
  2953. > Is this like… meeting her parents? Only, you know, eldritch horror style?
  2954.  
  2955. > You decide not to pursue the topic, in case you get an answer.
  2956.  
  2957. > Instead, you turn your mind to your current problem, which is how to buy groceries from ponies that run away at the sight of you.
  2958.  
  2959. > You don’t much like the idea of full body dye again; you suspect it is inherently doomed to failure. Maybe a disguise? That seems flawed too.
  2960.  
  2961. > If only there was someone with free time, who wasn’t scared of you.
  2962.  
  2963. > … You glance at Frozen. You hope they’ll get along.
  2964.  
  2965. > As you cause a minor riot on the way to Sugarcube Corner, you start seriously thinking about getting a robe, or at least a blanket.
  2966.  
  2967. > The inside is predictably deserted hah, and desserted. You call out,
  2968.  
  2969. “Hello, I’m looking for Pinkie Pie. Is she here?”
  2970.  
  2971. > A shaky voice responds from behind the counter.
  2972.  
  2973. “Sh-she’s not here, she’s a-at F-f-fluttershy’s. Don’t eat me!”
  2974.  
  2975. > You… aren’t sure where that is.
  2976.  
  2977. “Could you give me directions? I don’t know where that is.”
  2978.  
  2979. > The voice behind the counter starts hyperventilating.
  2980.  
  2981. > You sigh.
  2982.  
  2983. “Right then, I’ll just be going.”
  2984.  
  2985. > You step back out into the now empty streets.
  2986.  
  2987. > Fluttershy’s cottage is near the Everfree, right?
  2988.  
  2989. > You look around, but it’s too far away to be seen.
  2990.  
  2991. > Just then a voice cries out,
  2992.  
  2993. “And just what are you doing with that cloud?”
  2994.  
  2995. > You look up and it’s the unfriendly neighborhood Fastblue.
  2996.  
  2997. “It’s for my wife. She isn’t used to the lower elevation.”
  2998.  
  2999. “Your wife?”
  3000.  
  3001. > Rainbow Dash drops down to the ground.
  3002.  
  3003. > She sees Frozen, and becomes about 20% less hostile.
  3004.  
  3005. “Rainbow Dash, this is Frozen Hart. Frozen Hart, Rainbow Dash.”
  3006.  
  3007. > Frozen nods.
  3008.  
  3009. > Fastblue nods back uncertainly.
  3010.  
  3011. “Nice to meet you. Um, Tigerpony, what are you doing back in Ponyville? I thought you were doing kingdom stuff with Discord or whatever.”
  3012.  
  3013. “Oh, I’m still doing that. I just came to pick up some groceries so Maud and the others will have something to eat.”
  3014.  
  3015. “Oh, Maud’s there? Sounds like snoozeville, count me out.”
  3016.  
  3017. > Were you going to go otherwise?
  3018.  
  3019. “Right. Say, could you point us towards Fluttershy’s cottage? We sorta need Pinkie to do the actual shopping.”
  3020.  
  3021. “Cuz you’re too lazy?”
  3022.  
  3023. > That sounded like somewhere between an insult and a tease. Looks like she’s slowly coming around.
  3024.  
  3025. > You gesture at the empty street.
  3026.  
  3027. “No, because everypony is terrified of me.”
  3028.  
  3029. “Oh yeah. Tell you what, I’ll take you to Fluttershy’s myself. Never fear, your friendly neighborhood tour guide is here!”
  3030.  
  3031. > She drops to the ground and starts walking.
  3032.  
  3033. > You chuckle and follow.
  3034.  
  3035. > The three of you reach the edge of town fairly quickly. From now on, it’s just one long dirt road.
  3036.  
  3037. > Rainbow drops back to walk by Frozen.
  3038.  
  3039. “So… you and him, huh?”
  3040.  
  3041. > The snowpone nods.
  3042.  
  3043. > Rainbow walks in silence for a bit, then says,
  3044.  
  3045. “Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not one of those nosy mares who love to gossip. I’m only asking cuz he’s a fr-a pretty weird looking stallion. How long have you guys been married?”
  3046.  
  3047. > Frozen pretends to count, then says,
  3048.  
  3049. “A few hours.”
  3050.  
  3051. > Rainbow glances at you, then continues.
  3052.  
  3053. “Congratulations, I guess. And how long did you two date?”
  3054.  
  3055. > Frozen smiles brightly.
  3056.  
  3057. “Twenty four hours.”
  3058.  
  3059. > Rainbow Dash stops dead in her tracks, slack-jawed.
  3060.  
  3061. > You and Frozen keep walking, you can see the Everfree on the horizon.
  3062.  
  3063. > Dash catches up quickly and leads you to the side of the road.
  3064.  
  3065. > She smiles briefly at Frozen, then scowls at you.
  3066.  
  3067. “Are you kidding me? She’s too young and impressionable to take this seriously. You should be ashamed of yourself, rushing in like this!”
  3068.  
  3069. > You hold up a hoof to signal ‘hold on’
  3070.  
  3071. “First of all, she’s older than me.”
  3072.  
  3073. “Okay…”
  3074.  
  3075. “Second, I’ve known her for half of my life on Equestria.”
  3076.  
  3077. “I guess that’s not so bad.”
  3078.  
  3079. “And third, she was the one who proposed to me.”
  3080.  
  3081. > Rainbow smiled a bit at that.
  3082.  
  3083. > Then a thought occurred to her.
  3084.  
  3085. “How long exactly have you two known each other?”
  3086.  
  3087. > You can’t resist.
  3088.  
  3089. “One day and a few hours.”
  3090.  
  3091. > Rainbow glares at you in confusion, which turns to angry realization.
  3092.  
  3093. “So Twilight wasn’t just using a figure of speech when she said you just came out of nowhere!”
  3094.  
  3095. > She narrows her eyes at you.
  3096.  
  3097. “Just how old is she?”
  3098.  
  3099. > You open your mouth to respond, but then you realize that you don’t actually know.
  3100.  
  3101. > You turn towards your wife.
  3102.  
  3103. “Frozen, Rainbow Dash wants to know how old you are.”
  3104.  
  3105. > Frozen raises her head haughtily.
  3106.  
  3107. “Old enough for that question to be insulting.”
  3108.  
  3109. > You turn back to Rainbow.
  3110.  
  3111. “Well there you go, you just insulted my wife.”
  3112.  
  3113. > She just rolls her eyes and sighs in exasperation.
  3114.  
  3115. “Fine, fine, you two weirdos are clearly made for each other.”
  3116.  
  3117. > Fluttershy’s cottage comes into view, covered in confetti, with a banner out from saying,
  3118.  
  3119. “Happy Birthday Angel!!!”
  3120.  
  3121. > On a table outside, the rabbit in question is devouring the second of the three cake slices that were put before him.
  3122.  
  3123. > There is a whole warren of rabbits crowding the rest of the seating, and Pinkie Pie is working double time to keep everyone’s plate full.
  3124.  
  3125. > Fluttershy starts to wave at Rainbow Dash, then freezes at the sight of you.
  3126.  
  3127. > A panicked squeak escapes her mouth, and she runs inside in a flash.
  3128.  
  3129. > As one the rabbits turn to you, murder in their eyes.
  3130.  
  3131. > You sigh.
  3132.  
  3133. > The rabbits charge, and you encase yourself and Frozen in a thick ice bubble and levitate about nine feet off the ground, just to be safe.
  3134.  
  3135. > The rabbits mill about below you, and one will occasionally try to jump up to get at your bubble, and miss by at least a few feet.
  3136.  
  3137. > You look at Rainbow Dash, who has settled down in a cloud to watch.
  3138.  
  3139. > She props up her head with a hoof, and just looks straight back.
  3140.  
  3141. > Pinkie Pie is serruptitiously taking bites out of the remains of the birthday cake.
  3142.  
  3143. > You sigh again, and pluck Angel out of the throng.
  3144.  
  3145. “Look buddy, just chill.”
  3146.  
  3147. > Frozen looks at you hopefully, but you shake your head at her.
  3148.  
  3149. “Figuratively. Alright, here’s the deal. I’m here to talk to Pinkie Pie.”
  3150.  
  3151. > She stops, about to take a bite out of the cake, and grins sheepishly.
  3152.  
  3153. > You continue.
  3154.  
  3155. “I can wait until after the party. I have no intentions towards Fluttershy, ill or otherwise. Okay?”
  3156.  
  3157. > The bunny is nonplussed, but nods.
  3158.  
  3159. > You set him down, and the bunnies return to the table.
  3160.  
  3161. > Crisis passed, you descend to the ground and dismiss your bubble.
  3162.  
  3163. > Pinkie sidles up next to you.
  3164.  
  3165. “Hey there anony-noony-nanny, what do you say we move on before the crowd turns on us?”
  3166.  
  3167. > You sneak away and stop a little ways away from the road.
  3168.  
  3169. > Pinkie starts bouncing in place immediately.
  3170.  
  3171. “So so so! Tell me about your new marefriend here!”
  3172.  
  3173. “Actually, -”
  3174.  
  3175. > Pinkie sees the brand and her eyes get wide.
  3176.  
  3177. “SHE’S YOUR WIFE! Ooh, do I get to do the wedding party? That’s why you came to me, isn’t it? Oh gosh, I love wedding parties!”
  3178.  
  3179. > You silence her with your hoof on her snout, which makes a noise like a dog toy squeak.
  3180.  
  3181. “No wedding party. I was hoping to hire you to buy groceries for us, since the town is terrified of me.”
  3182.  
  3183. > Pinkie shakes off your hoof, and scratches her chin.
  3184.  
  3185. “I don’t know~, I didn’t even get to throw you guys a single party.”
  3186.  
  3187. > Time to play your trump card.
  3188.  
  3189. “Before I forget, Pinkie, this is Frozen Hart. I’m pretty sure she’s from the old country.”
  3190.  
  3191. > Pinkie settles down quite a bit. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that she was nervous.
  3192.  
  3193. > Frozen smiles politely.
  3194.  
  3195. > Pinkie brings a hoof over her mouth and says,
  3196.  
  3197. “Greetings, starwanderer. Um, may our purposes run parallel.”
  3198.  
  3199. > Frozen covers her own mouth and replies,
  3200.  
  3201. “Well met voidsleeper. We shall be as the double helix.”
  3202.  
  3203. > Pinkie relaxes somewhat, and begins rumbling in the old language.
  3204.  
  3205. > You expect Frozen to add to the rumbling, but you notice that the intensity of the rumbling varies, never rising above a certain threshold, but sometimes dropping to a near whisper.
  3206.  
  3207. > Frozen glances at you, and you get a minor headache. At once, unfamiliar voices sound in your mind.
  3208.  
  3209. soulmark, and may become aCsOcReRnUdPaTnEtD in time
  3210.  
  3211. @That’s great! He’s so funny, it’ll be nice to have him fWoIrTeHvUeSr!@
  3212.  
  3213. I have noticed that quality as well.
  3214.  
  3215. @hey, he isn’t looking so wHeAlLlE, how about we speak lPoRcOaFlAlNyE?@
  3216.  
  3217. Agreed
  3218.  
  3219. > That headache had grown in intensity, and only dropped off a little once they stopped communing.
  3220.  
  3221. > Frozen places her forehead on yours and a cooling, soothing sensation flows through your mind.
  3222.  
  3223. > She pulls away. You smile at her gratefully.
  3224.  
  3225. “Thanks. I take it I was starting to see?”
  3226.  
  3227. > Frozen shugs.
  3228.  
  3229. “Like a plant grows to the sun.”
  3230.  
  3231. > That… sorta makes sense.
  3232.  
  3233. “Alright. Did I hear you guys right, that we are now speaking… locally?”
  3234.  
  3235. > Pinkie shakes her head.
  3236.  
  3237. “Not quite, nonykins! But it’s pretty good for a newbie!”
  3238.  
  3239. > Right. As interesting as all this is, it’s time to get back on topic.
  3240.  
  3241. “So will you help us with the groceries?”
  3242.  
  3243. > Pinkie bows slightly at Frozen.
  3244.  
  3245. “I will be as a tendon to a bone!”
  3246.  
  3247. > … You’re pretty sure that’s a yes.
  3248.  
  3249. > You transfer the ice jar to Pinkie, and she trots of merrily into town.
  3250.  
  3251.  
  3252.  
  3253. > You turn to Frozen.
  3254.  
  3255. “So what shall we do in the meantime?”
  3256.  
  3257. > She gives you a sultry look.
  3258.  
  3259. > You glare at her.
  3260.  
  3261. “This is neither the time or the place for that.”
  3262.  
  3263. > She huffs in disappointment.
  3264.  
  3265. “Fine, be that way.”
  3266.  
  3267. > You sit down on the grass, and after a moment, so does the snowpone.
  3268.  
  3269. > It’s kinda relaxing, just sitting there, nothing to do, nothing to say.
  3270.  
  3271. > Ten minutes go by like that, as you slowly transition to lying down.
  3272.  
  3273. > Once you do, your wife cuddles up beside you.
  3274.  
  3275. > You feel mildly obligated to talk.
  3276.  
  3277. “You know, in my previous life, it was customary to date for a while before getting married.”
  3278.  
  3279. > Frozen hums in contemplation.
  3280.  
  3281. “Is all that really necessary?”
  3282.  
  3283. “It helps people figure out if they want to stay with the other person for the rest of their lives.”
  3284.  
  3285. > Frozen Hart uncuddles a little, and looks at you with her fathomless grey eyes.
  3286.  
  3287. “I was never in any doubt. Are you?”
  3288.  
  3289. > To be honest,
  3290.  
  3291. “A little. I don’t know you that well, but what I do know, I like and would be willing to live with for the rest of my life.”
  3292.  
  3293. “…Even if you live longer than normal?”
  3294.  
  3295. > You press your cheek to hers and hold her close.
  3296.  
  3297. “Even if we outlive the stars.”
  3298.  
  3299. > Frozen leans into you happily.
  3300.  
  3301. “Good, because that is likely.”
  3302.  
  3303. > You stay like that for a long while.
  3304.  
  3305. > Then Pinkie plops down on you other side.
  3306.  
  3307. “Whatcha doin~?”
  3308.  
  3309. > You twitch in surprise.
  3310.  
  3311. “HEY, uh hey there Pinkie. Just chillin’ like only we can. And how are you and my groceries?”
  3312.  
  3313. > Pinkie flops over onto her back, spread eagle.
  3314.  
  3315. “I’m bushed, and right behind you.”
  3316.  
  3317. > You look over your shoulder and see a wagon full of fruits and vegetables and bags of flour and jugs of milk.
  3318.  
  3319. > You also see Pinkie Pie, but you refuse to be startled by her antics a second time, even if there is no reasonable way for her to get there that quickly.
  3320.  
  3321. > You get up slowly.
  3322.  
  3323. “Well, I guess all that’s left is to get Discord and teleport back home. Thanks for your help, Pinkie Pie.”
  3324.  
  3325. “Ummmm…”
  3326.  
  3327. > Is there something wrong with Discord? That would be really inconvenient.
  3328.  
  3329. “Yes, Pinkie?”
  3330.  
  3331. “CanImaybecomewithyouguys,it’sbeenalongtimesinceI’veseenMaudand-”
  3332.  
  3333. > You hold up a hoof.
  3334.  
  3335. “I’m fine with it, but we’ll have to ask Discord, since he can be a capricious bas-ah, fellow.”
  3336.  
  3337. > You suddenly feel a new presence behind you.
  3338.  
  3339. “Such cruel words, for you to describe your intra-dimensional ferryman.”
  3340.  
  3341. > You turn to face Discord.
  3342.  
  3343. “True, though.”
  3344.  
  3345. > Discord pouts.
  3346.  
  3347. “You can be so mean. Anyways, I’d be happy to bring little miss Pie along, it’s no great effort for someone as powerful, magnificent, and very dependable and consistent as myself.”
  3348.  
  3349. > You roll your eyes as space goes Grandpa J-
  3350.  
  3351. > You are in a black void, quite devoid of anything but you and Discord.
  3352.  
  3353. “I see she marked you.”
  3354.  
  3355. > You sigh. Yet another meddling amateur marriage councilor.
  3356.  
  3357. “Everybody’s making a fuss.”
  3358.  
  3359. “Hmmm, yes, they are. I, however, am different. I actually know what I’m talking about.”
  3360.  
  3361. > He just might at that.
  3362.  
  3363. “Very well, what did you want to say?”
  3364.  
  3365. “You will begin to see things, hear things, smell and touch and taste and so on. Don’t touch anything unless you are quite sure you know it is safe. It is rude to touch things, it assumes an unwarranted familiarity.”
  3366.  
  3367. > Makes sense, though…
  3368.  
  3369. “What about Pinkie Pie? She’s very touchy feely.”
  3370.  
  3371. > Discord draws in close.
  3372.  
  3373. “So you’ve noticed how much of a deviant she is. I would advise you not to take social cues from her, except to a small extent, and only in pony society.”
  3374.  
  3375. “Sounds good. Anything else?”
  3376.  
  3377. > Discord suddenly looks a few millennia older, and not in a feeble and aging sort of way.
  3378.  
  3379. “I shall be quite interested in your development.”
  3380.  
  3381. > -oe, and you are in what you have designated as the kitchen of the citadel.
  3382.  
  3383. “I am not a deviant!”
  3384.  
  3385. > Discord curls up smugly on the ceiling.
  3386.  
  3387. “Oh but you are! You work in a bakery, I am hard pressed to think of a racier establishment.”
  3388.  
  3389. > Pinkie primly turns away.
  3390.  
  3391. “I’m going to find Maud, who will obviously agree with me.”
  3392.  
  3393. > You focus on the input from the crystals.
  3394.  
  3395. “She’s in the observation room of the central tower with Sombra.”
  3396.  
  3397. > Pinkie beams at you.
  3398.  
  3399. “Thank you! See, he doesn’t think I’m a deviant.”
  3400.  
  3401. > You shake your head.
  3402.  
  3403. “Sorry, but you are. You really are.”
  3404.  
  3405. > Pinkie leaves in a huff.
  3406.  
  3407. > You look at your groceries.
  3408.  
  3409. “Welp, these aren’t going to put themselves away.”
  3410.  
  3411. > You and Frozen make quick work of it, and soon the wagon is empty of all but your money jar.
  3412.  
  3413. > You are pleased to note that it is only half empty.
  3414.  
  3415. “We should hire her to do all our shopping.”
  3416.  
  3417. > Frozen smirks.
  3418.  
  3419. “Even if she is a deviant?”
  3420.  
  3421. > You nod, mock seriously.
  3422.  
  3423. “Even so.”
  3424.  
  3425. > Your stomach chooses that moment to growl.
  3426.  
  3427. > You realize, you haven’t had lunch, and it is now mid afternoon mid afternoon.
  3428.  
  3429. “Welp, time to undo some of that work.”
  3430.  
  3431. > You take a load of bread, and some blue daisies out of the flower basket.
  3432.  
  3433. > Frozen watches you closely the entire time.
  3434.  
  3435. > As you make your sandwich, you idly wonder how flowers can even come close to filling the same function as deli meat.
  3436.  
  3437. > You take a bite out of the sandwich, and your eyes widen in surprise.
  3438.  
  3439. > You are marginally aware of Frozen blushing, but you are currently dealing with the fact that pony sugar sensitivity makes nearly anything dessert.
  3440.  
  3441. > Your sandwich, for instance, tastes like pound cake with poppy seeds.
  3442.  
  3443. > You’re pretty sure the daisies are providing the slightly bitter flavor.
  3444.  
  3445. > It’s then you notice your wife looking at your mouth hungrily.
  3446.  
  3447. > You offer her your sandwich.
  3448.  
  3449. “Want some?”
  3450.  
  3451. > She shakes her head, still oddly blushing.
  3452.  
  3453. > Mares.
  3454.  
  3455. > As you open up to take another bite, something clicks in your mind.
  3456.  
  3457. > You lift your tongue slightly and…
  3458.  
  3459. > Frozen’s eyes widen, the blush still vivid on her cheeks.
  3460.  
  3461. > You bite down.
  3462.  
  3463. > She breathes a little shallowly, then calms down.
  3464.  
  3465. > You swallow, and look at your sandwich with new appreciation for a second time.
  3466.  
  3467. > You eat the rest of the sandwich slowly, putting on quite a show.
  3468.  
  3469. > As you swallow the last bite, Frozen pounces on you.
  3470.  
  3471. > Before you know it, you are dragged into the food closet.
  3472.  
  3473. > She stares at you intensely.
  3474.  
  3475. “You know exactly what you just did, and now you are going to pay the consequences.”
  3476.  
  3477.  
  3478.  
  3479. > A while later, both of you exit the closet.
  3480.  
  3481. > You hear voices coming down the hall, and make some effort to smooth out your tousled mane.
  3482.  
  3483. “-and this is the kitchen, shouldst thou be troubled by thy stomach.”
  3484.  
  3485. > Maud enters, followed by Top Sombramen.
  3486.  
  3487. > Don Juan sees you, and the relief is palpable.
  3488.  
  3489. “If thou wilt pardon me, Rocktor Pie, I have certain matters to discuss with mine brother.”
  3490.  
  3491. > What is going on here?
  3492.  
  3493. > Som With The Wind draws you aside, then gives a significant look towards Frozen, who is shamelessly eavesdropping.
  3494.  
  3495. > You shrug at her.
  3496.  
  3497. “I’ll see what he wants. If you would see to Maud in the meantime?”
  3498.  
  3499. > Frozen walks over to the rocktor, and stares at her.
  3500.  
  3501. > As you turn back to Ali Bombra, you see Maud return that stare. Who knows what tensions lay behind those faces.
  3502.  
  3503. > Ay Casombra whispers at you.
  3504.  
  3505. “Brother, this maiden doth drive me to the brink of madness. Her comely face may as well be composed of her beloved stones for what it betrays of her heart’s waters!”
  3506.  
  3507. > You set a hoof on his shoulder, steadying him.
  3508.  
  3509. “Be this any other mare, I would advise thee resort to subtlety and shadowed offers. Yet yon pony be less given to delicacies than thy average maiden. Verily I say unto thee, ask her such things as doth trouble thy mind, for she shall offer truth unadorned.”
  3510.  
  3511. > Candelombra looks unconvinced.
  3512.  
  3513. “Much as I would heed thy council, The Moon Princess’s warning doth still ring in my ears caution.”
  3514.  
  3515. > You raise your eyebrows.
  3516.  
  3517. “Thou hast such designs on this mare?”
  3518.  
  3519. > Somberdome’s cheeks redden.
  3520.  
  3521. “Mayhap, in the fullness of time, though I wish to not be overeager in my advances.”
  3522.  
  3523. > You nod in understanding.
  3524.  
  3525. “And thus thy reluctance to air thy concerns.”
  3526.  
  3527. “E’en so.”
  3528.  
  3529. “It seemeth me there be but one course.”
  3530.  
  3531. “And that be….”
  3532.  
  3533. > You call across the room.
  3534.  
  3535. “Fair Rocktor Pie, wouldst thou be offended shouldst the king inquire as to thine emotional being?”
  3536.  
  3537. > Erasom stares at you in stricken panic.
  3538.  
  3539. > Maud replies flatly,
  3540.  
  3541. “No.”
  3542.  
  3543. > Problem solved.
  3544.  
  3545.  
  3546.  
  3547. > You nudge the king closer to the marefolk.
  3548.  
  3549. > Once in comfortable talking distance, he takes a breath and
  3550.  
  3551. > Lets it out.
  3552.  
  3553. > Cmonbro gives you a panicked look.
  3554.  
  3555. > You whisper to him,
  3556.  
  3557. “//Was there anything you saw which was interesting today?”
  3558.  
  3559. > He looks at you in confusion, the realization strikes.
  3560.  
  3561. > Atombra clears his throat.
  3562.  
  3563. “Rocktor Pie, howbeit something thou hast observed today, if it hath piqued thine interest, wilt thou relay it unto me, that I might supply more like unto it?”
  3564.  
  3565. > Maud blinks.
  3566.  
  3567. “You want to know what I found interesting today.”
  3568.  
  3569. > Pongbra nods hesitantly.
  3570.  
  3571. > Maud sits down on the floor.
  3572.  
  3573. “This may take a while. On the farm, the limestone in the western field had taken in more calcium than usual, probably because of the rain we had been having. Then three ponies and a draconequus appeared. That was you. When we traveled to your kingdom, I smelled rock on Discord. It was old, thaumic rock with harmonious strata. Did you know that he had been covered in rocks for a thousand years.”
  3574.  
  3575. > Was
  3576.  
  3577. > Was that a blush?
  3578.  
  3579. > Maud continued in her odd, semi-seductive near-monotone.
  3580.  
  3581. “Then I saw the crystal fruit. It once was normal fruit, but a high concentration of thaumic radiation had converted biological processes and structures into geological ones, with some overlap. Your lover speech was stimulating, but undirected enough as to not trigger a reaction. Then I saw a near-optimum demonstration of stimulation, which I must study for more accurate emulation.”
  3582.  
  3583. > Wait, does she mean what you think she means?
  3584.  
  3585. > And she keeps going, Gomubra did not know what he unleashed.
  3586.  
  3587. “Then you gave me a tour of the largest thaumic rock structure known to pony. The rock has two alternating strata of unknown aspects, as well as two growth patterns that alternate in such a way as to form any shape, albeit with a minute sinusoidal waveform surface. I request samples of the rocks, both the combined and uncombined for further study, as per our agreement.”
  3588.  
  3589. > She waits patiently, apparently done with her report.
  3590.  
  3591. > Wombrat hesitates, then says,
  3592.  
  3593. “Of course. Brother Anonymous, wilt thou join me in fulfilling my obligation?”
  3594.  
  3595. > You come to stand next to him, and suggest,
  3596.  
  3597. “Let’s make the separate rocks first. One growth node, and half a pound of material sound good?”
  3598.  
  3599. > Maud nods, and you both use your wishy powers.
  3600.  
  3601. > Yours comes out as an irregular snowflake, with holes that resemble a death’s head.
  3602.  
  3603. > Rockbra’s comes out as a spiky ball of hexagonal crystals.
  3604.  
  3605. > The rocks are placed on a nearby table, and you gingerly tilt your horn toward Downbro.
  3606.  
  3607. > It feels gay, and having two mares watch with keen interest makes it simultaneously more and less uncomfortable.
  3608.  
  3609. > Your horns touch, and you quickly produce a third rock, which resembles the head of a housecat, albeit with a ton of spikes and jagged edges instead of fur.
  3610.  
  3611. > Maud takes the three rocks, and stuffs them into a pocket of her smock.
  3612.  
  3613. > She then turns to her other pocket and says,
  3614.  
  3615. “Hush you, they are just samples.”
  3616.  
  3617. > Talkbra turns to you, uncertain of his choice as an object of his affections.
  3618.  
  3619. > You whisper to him,
  3620.  
  3621. “She’s talking to her pet rock.”
  3622.  
  3623. > Maud looks at you suddenly.
  3624.  
  3625. “Have you met Boulder before.”
  3626.  
  3627. > You aren’t sure about that look in her eyes.
  3628.  
  3629. “Ah, no, it was clear from the way you were talking to …him?”
  3630.  
  3631. > Maud gazes at you for a long moment, then says,
  3632.  
  3633. “I see you’ve dealt with rocks before. You know how jealous they can be.”
  3634.  
  3635. > Her gaze flickers towards Frozen, then she turns to the king.
  3636.  
  3637. “I will retire now. I have much research to do.”
  3638.  
  3639. > And with that, she walks away.
  3640.  
  3641.  
  3642.  
  3643. > Trombone looks at you mournfully.
  3644.  
  3645. “I fear ‘twas not meant to be. Ere long, ye shall likely brand thy other shoulder.”
  3646.  
  3647. > What.
  3648.  
  3649. “That is a thing?”
  3650.  
  3651. > Som Briddle looks at you like you are easily confused by spoons.
  3652.  
  3653. “Thus it has been, since time immemorial. Until a stallion is double branded, he cannot be entrusted with the escort of unattached ladies. Surely thy wife wilt confirm this, if thou needest further proof.”
  3654.  
  3655. > You turn to Frozen.
  3656.  
  3657. “This is an actual thing?”
  3658.  
  3659. > She looks at you for a long time.
  3660.  
  3661. “I cannot deny it.”
  3662.  
  3663. > That is some undertones if ever you heard any.
  3664.  
  3665. > You turn back to Sombrelone.
  3666.  
  3667. “That may be a thing, but I have no such intentions on Maud. Don’t worry, I am backing you 100% in your courtship.”
  3668.  
  3669. > He looks a bit happier.
  3670.  
  3671. “Then what dost thou suggest I do to win her affections?”
  3672.  
  3673. “Learn about rocks. Try to make interesting crystals, try to imitate other kinds of rocks with crystals. Listen to her poetry, check her pockets when playing hide and seek, but above all, be genuine in your expressions of affection.”
  3674.  
  3675. > Som Braun’s looks a little overwhelmed, and slightly suspicious.
  3676.  
  3677. “I do not doubt thy advice, but at times it doth border on the oddly specific. Upon what experience do ye base thy counsel?”
  3678.  
  3679. > Crap. Think of something.
  3680.  
  3681. “I am somewhat acquainted with her sister, and am not wholely unobservant.”
  3682.  
  3683. > The Sombrissar accepts this grudgingly.
  3684.  
  3685. “Then I too shall retire, to consider all that ye have related unto me, as well as weighty matters of the state. Rest well this night, brother. On the morrow, we shall be engaged in a great work.”
  3686.  
  3687. > And off he goes.
  3688.  
  3689. > Looks like you have some time to yourself.
  3690.  
  3691. “You had better not have any designs on Maud.”
  3692.  
  3693. > You turn back to Frozen.
  3694.  
  3695. “It is as I have said.”
  3696.  
  3697. > She starts walking out of the kitchen, pausing at the threshold. You catch up quickly.
  3698.  
  3699. > She continues.
  3700.  
  3701. “You are mine. I have claimed you body and soul, and will only accept another Aeternal as a herdmate.”
  3702.  
  3703. > Fair enough, but,
  3704.  
  3705. “Just so we’re clear, I am not marrying Pinkie Pie.”
  3706.  
  3707. > Frozen gives you an odd look.
  3708.  
  3709. “Where did you get that idea?”
  3710.  
  3711. “You let me in on that one conversation, and you have her fairly well in hoof. It seemed like somepony you wouldn’t mind, because you are already the dominant one.”
  3712.  
  3713. > Frozen nuzzles your neck fondly.
  3714.  
  3715. “Oh beloved, I am always the dominant one.”
  3716.  
  3717. > Sleep comes much later.
  3718.  
  3719. > Dreaming again, you note.
  3720.  
  3721. > You are in your old room, on your old bed, under your new wife.
  3722.  
  3723. “Say, dear, would you mind getting off of me? Not that I don’t enjoy this, but I probably should report to Luna.”
  3724.  
  3725. > Frozen gets more comfortable.
  3726.  
  3727. “I told you, beloved. I am always the dominant one. Always.”
  3728.  
  3729. > Time passes enjoyably, then someone knocks on the door.
  3730.  
  3731. > Frozen calls out in her soft voice,
  3732.  
  3733. “Come in.”
  3734.  
  3735. > Luna opens the door, takes one look at you and Frozen, then shuts it.
  3736.  
  3737. > She then speaks, muffled by the door.
  3738.  
  3739. “We would appreciate it of thou wouldst compose thyself more modestly for our audience, Anonymous.”
  3740.  
  3741. > You are about to reply when Frozen puts a hoof on your mouth.
  3742.  
  3743. “Princess Luna, surely thou hast seen many such scenes as this. Wilt thou not enter, and conduct thy business?”
  3744.  
  3745. > There is a long pause.
  3746.  
  3747. “Knowest thou not that I am the ruler of Dreaming?”
  3748.  
  3749. “My beloved is but single branded. I knoweth of the excesses of royalty.”
  3750.  
  3751. > The door opens suddenly, revealing an angry Luna.
  3752.  
  3753. “I do not care for thy implications, Schneegeist. Thy husband hath obligations to Equestria, and no brazen display shall impede their observance!”
  3754.  
  3755. > Frozen takes her hoof off of your mouth.
  3756.  
  3757. “We are in agreement. Give thy report, beloved, for there are things I desire of thee afterward.”
  3758.  
  3759. > Luna looks like she wants to say something, but decides against it.
  3760.  
  3761. > You shrug helplessly.
  3762.  
  3763. “As Celestia may have told you, Sombra had learned some humility. He also secured the services of a rock specialist, and I do believe he will start planting his first crop tomorrow.”
  3764.  
  3765. > Luna nods abruptly, then leaves.
  3766.  
  3767. > You raise your eyebrows at Frozen.
  3768.  
  3769. “What was that all about?”
  3770.  
  3771. > She smiles smugly.
  3772.  
  3773. “Marking territory.”
  3774.  
  3775. > You sigh.
  3776.  
  3777. “Was there something you wanted to show me, or am I to spend the entire dream pinned to my bed?”
  3778.  
  3779. > Frozen gets up leisurely.
  3780.  
  3781. “I do have one or two things of interest.”
  3782.  
  3783. > You follow her into the library of your mind. A thought occurs to you.
  3784.  
  3785. “If these are my memories, why doesn’t Luna just lick the recent books?”
  3786.  
  3787. > Unless she just wants to talk to you? You’re not sure how you feel about that.
  3788.  
  3789. > Frozen points upward.
  3790.  
  3791. > Pages slowly float down from the ceiling, sorting themselves by section, you think.
  3792.  
  3793. “Your recent memories.”
  3794.  
  3795. > What would happen if you thought of one of your recent memories?
  3796.  
  3797. > Certain activities come to mind, and one of the many pages glows a pale blue on its descent into… yes, the porn section.
  3798.  
  3799. > … There is something you have to check.
  3800.  
  3801.  
  3802.  
  3803. > You set off towards the porn section, Frozen bemusedly trailing behind.
  3804.  
  3805. > You aren’t totally surprised at what you find, but it still is disturbing.
  3806.  
  3807. “She was spying on my sexytimes!”
  3808.  
  3809. > Frozen pats your shoulder comfortingly.
  3810.  
  3811. “You forget my nature. She may have been checking that I wasn’t corrupting you while rutting.”
  3812.  
  3813. > She’s taking this surprisingly well, considering how she reacted to Maud.
  3814.  
  3815. “You… don’t mind Luna spying on us?”
  3816.  
  3817. > Frozen nods.
  3818.  
  3819. “She is acceptable, and it was done with good reason. Now come, I truly have something to show you.”
  3820.  
  3821. > You follow her up several staircases and across a walkway over a vat of ink.
  3822.  
  3823. > As you go higher, a distinct arboreal theme emerges, and soon a trapdoor opens out onto a forested roof.
  3824.  
  3825. > She leads you to the edge, and you rest your forehooves on the crenelations.
  3826.  
  3827. > Beyond the grounds of the library is a sheer drop off. Far below, lights and shadows roil and congregate, parting way only for indistinct grey giants.
  3828.  
  3829. “This is your subconscious mind. There is a vast potential there, and in time I will show you how to tap it. For now, look up.”
  3830.  
  3831. > You do so, and see the night sky, full of stars.
  3832.  
  3833. > Then you see the stars move, and lines in the voids between, and at once the sky resolves into a writhing mass of tentacle, claw, bone, eye, maw, and endless fractals to mark the boundaries.
  3834.  
  3835. “Those are they who dwell outside, and are kept from interfering.”
  3836.  
  3837. > A star falls, a small beacon surrounded by a writhing mass.
  3838.  
  3839. > One of the grey giants in your subconscious plucks it out of the air and eats it.
  3840.  
  3841. > You turn to Frozen, worried.
  3842.  
  3843. “And what just happened?”
  3844.  
  3845. “An elder dropped some inspiration for you. This is not the source of all ideas you have, but a good number of the strange ones begin like this, and rise as your mind digests them.”
  3846.  
  3847. > This… This is a little too much.
  3848.  
  3849. “Can we go inside, now?”
  3850.  
  3851. > Frozen stares at you questioningly, but nods.
  3852.  
  3853. > You feel better after closing the trapdoor.
  3854.  
  3855. “That was intense.”
  3856.  
  3857. > Frozen’s eyes widen in understanding, and she hugs you reassuringly.
  3858.  
  3859. “Know that you will always be safe, as long as I am with you.”
  3860.  
  3861. > You hold onto her, rocking gently.
  3862.  
  3863. > In time, you wake up.
  3864.  
  3865. > You wake up blearily, then stop.
  3866.  
  3867. > You are back in your ice mansion and
  3868.  
  3869. > Yes, that is your wife happily pillowing your head.
  3870.  
  3871. > You roll over and hug Frozen, resting your head on her neck as she mumbles something contentedly.
  3872.  
  3873. > The horror of the dream is fading.
  3874.  
  3875. > You take a deep breath, and exhale. Moving seems to help.
  3876.  
  3877. > You nudge Frozen Hart and say,
  3878.  
  3879. “Wake up, beloved.”
  3880.  
  3881. > She slowly opens her eyes and looks at you anxiously.
  3882.  
  3883. “Have you… recovered?”
  3884.  
  3885. > You kiss her forehead.
  3886.  
  3887. “Somewhat. It is less frightening on this side of dreaming.”
  3888.  
  3889. > She gets to her hooves.
  3890.  
  3891.  
  3892.  
  3893.  
  3894.  
  3895. “Shall we be off, then? I am somewhat anxious to begin helping out.”
  3896.  
  3897. > Running interference against Maud?
  3898.  
  3899. > Oh, that’s right.
  3900.  
  3901. “Just so you know, there will be a fair bit of work before agricultural makeouts.”
  3902.  
  3903. > Frozen nods.
  3904.  
  3905. “I’ll be watching with interest.”
  3906.  
  3907. > Her gaze shifts to your barrel and she bites her lower lip.
  3908.  
  3909. > Dat waifu
  3910.  
  3911. “Fair enough. Let’s rustle up some jimmies. Er, grub.”
  3912.  
  3913. > Frozen gives you an odd look.
  3914.  
  3915. “Sprinkle maggots?”
  3916.  
  3917. > You facehoof.
  3918.  
  3919. “Food. Let’s get some food.”
  3920.  
  3921.  
  3922.  
  3923. > As you approach the kitchen, you hear overly cheerful humming.
  3924.  
  3925. > Oh yeah, Pinkie Pie is still here, isn’t she?
  3926.  
  3927. > Inside, you see several trays of muffins on the counters, and the cook herself painstakingly frosting a cake.
  3928.  
  3929. “Good morning, Pinkie Pie. Mind if I have a muffin?”
  3930.  
  3931. > She finishes the last rosette.
  3932.  
  3933. “Morning, Nonny! Help yourself!”
  3934.  
  3935. > She proceeds to eat the entire cake in one gulp.
  3936.  
  3937. > Maybe it’s your last dream, or because you are seeing it in person, but you can actually see space bend and waver.
  3938.  
  3939. > You catch a glimpse of something vast and dark, pulsating and undulating in a way that reminds you of an anthill, or maybe a snake pit.
  3940.  
  3941. > Then Pinkie swallows, and winks at you.
  3942.  
  3943. “Like what you see?”
  3944.  
  3945. > Your face pales.
  3946.  
  3947. “I’m. I’m just going to eat one of these muffins, thanks.”
  3948.  
  3949. > You deliberately do not face Pinkie as you eat.
  3950.  
  3951. > You hear some whispering behind you, and
  3952.  
  3953. “Aw, you sure? Even on the side?”
  3954.  
  3955. > You give Pinkie a flat look over your shoulder and shake your head.
  3956.  
  3957. > She pouts, but doesn’t look too heartbroken.
  3958.  
  3959. > You go back to eating breakfast.
  3960.  
  3961. > You are just brushing off the crumbs from around your mouth when Maud enters, wearing pajamas, bed head untamed, and holding an irregularly shaped rock.
  3962.  
  3963. > She takes one look at you, then turns around and leaves.
  3964.  
  3965. > Pinkie giggles.
  3966.  
  3967. “Oh Maud, always a late riser.”
  3968.  
  3969. > Well, she did go to college.
  3970.  
  3971. > Moments later Solmgers walks in and looks around in confusion.
  3972.  
  3973. “Methought all had assembled in this place? Wherefore art the good Rocktor?”
  3974.  
  3975. > That’s odd, he also made this place, so it should be as simple as listening to the citadel inpu-
  3976.  
  3977. > Maud slowly shucks her shirt, a light blush on her cheeks.
  3978.  
  3979. > -t. Okay, that’s a good reason to use mundane methods.
  3980.  
  3981. > Pinkie giggles into her hoof.
  3982.  
  3983. “Oh~, she’s making sure she looks her best for her first day!”
  3984.  
  3985. > Green Eggs and Som turns to her.
  3986.  
  3987. “Ah, forgive mine rudeness. I wish thee a merry repast, Miss Pie, Miss Hart, my brother. How doth Celestia’s orb find thee?”
  3988.  
  3989. > You glance at Frozen.
  3990.  
  3991. “It finds me well, and eager to go forth.”
  3992.  
  3993. > Frozen considers this, and says,
  3994.  
  3995. “By radiation.”
  3996.  
  3997. > Pinkie licks her lips.
  3998.  
  3999. “Full of cake!”
  4000.  
  4001. > It says something, that this passes for normal in your new life.
  4002.  
  4003.  
  4004.  
  4005. > Yumbra nods decisively.
  4006.  
  4007. “It is good to hear. Now, I shall begin dispensing thy tasks. Anonymous, I would that ye go forth as mine emissary to the Dragonhold. This day we begin the labor of planting.”
  4008.  
  4009. > You bow slightly.
  4010.  
  4011. > Cream Soda turns to Pinkie.
  4012.  
  4013. “Thou… Ah, thou shalt watch over the laborers, seeing that they do follow thy sister’s instruction.”
  4014.  
  4015. > He continues.
  4016.  
  4017. “As for myself, I shall be laying up stock unto the dragons, that they have somewhat to eat. Betimes I and Rocktor Pie shall be…”
  4018.  
  4019. > Maud walks in, wearing her usual dress, as well as Rarity’s dishrag scarf.
  4020.  
  4021. > She blinks at you, then Somnambula, and looks at the back of her hoof.
  4022.  
  4023. > She looks back up, and does a little head toss, her mane swinging around a little like what you see in shampoo commercials.
  4024.  
  4025. > Viet Som’s mouth opens and closes for a bit, and you continue on in his stead.
  4026.  
  4027. “Thou and she shall be raining affection upon the parched seeds. If thou wilt show me to the dragons’ wages, I would begin my task.”
  4028.  
  4029. > The Belgian Somgo blinks, then shakes his head.
  4030.  
  4031. “Of course, brother. Let us hence.”
  4032.  
  4033. > he leads you to one of the storerooms along the main roads of the citadel.
  4034.  
  4035. >As you walk, you ask,
  4036.  
  4037. “Brother, how many hirelings shalt thou require of the dragoness?”
  4038.  
  4039. “The full ten score dragonlings. A quadruple portion for the capitol, and single portions for the villages round about.”
  4040.  
  4041. > Let’s see here, two hundred by fifty is… ten thousand gems. Which is a lot.
  4042.  
  4043. > But how much is that? 2 in. by 2 in. by 4 in….. Or 1/6x1/6x1/3 for feet cubed…
  4044.  
  4045. > So 10000/( 4x27)
  4046.  
  4047. > 2500/27
  4048.  
  4049. > You round it out to about100 cubic feet of gems.
  4050.  
  4051. > Which is like, somewhat more than a cube with three feet per side.
  4052.  
  4053. > It’s still a lot, but it isn’t as mind blowingly huge as it seemed at first.
  4054.  
  4055. > Now if only you could sell those gems to dealers across the country…
  4056.  
  4057. > Although, gems are only valuable because of scarcity. These would be fairly common of you sold too many of them.
  4058.  
  4059. > In fact, they probably aren’t worth too much, precut gems are literally a few feet from the surface in places.
  4060.  
  4061. > Seriously, what is with the abundance of gemstones? Some kind of thaumic field that encourages their growth?
  4062.  
  4063. > In fact, there are the elements of harmony, and yours and Sombritalin’s wishy magic, and maybe windagoes.
  4064.  
  4065. > So there probably is some connection between magic and crystals.
  4066.  
  4067. > Sombravioli pokes you.
  4068.  
  4069. “Oh brother, where art thou? We have arrived, and thou art unresponsive for some time.”
  4070.  
  4071. “We thought you was a toad. I mean, thinking about natural crystals and magic and things.”
  4072.  
  4073. > Sombrocolli puts a hoof on your shoulder out of concern.
  4074.  
  4075. “Art thou truly well? My purposes may be postponed until thy recovery, for thou art dear to me, yea and central to my vision’s realization.”
  4076.  
  4077. > You are actually a little touched.
  4078.  
  4079. “Thanks, brother, but I am equal to my task. “
  4080.  
  4081. >A purple beam shoots out of your element of brotherhood, and strikes the wall.
  4082.  
  4083. > There is now an intense picture of you and Somgeria clasping hooves with an explosion in the background.
  4084.  
  4085. > Discord, you magnificent bastard.
  4086.  
  4087. > Somea is clearly inspired.
  4088.  
  4089. “The strength of the brotherhood stands as a testament to thy resolve! Let it stand, and inspire all who come after. I bid thee farewell, brother Anonymous, and good fortune.”
  4090.  
  4091. > You clasp hooves and
  4092.  
  4093. > A white beam shoots from his element right into your face.
  4094.  
  4095. > You suddenly feel like you could do anything!
  4096.  
  4097. “Farewell, Brother Sombra! May fate smile upon thy pursuit of the maiden!”
  4098.  
  4099. > You turn, dramatically wishing an icy cape into existence for the sole purpose of swishing about.
  4100.  
  4101. > Ice gathers in great sweeping motions around the pile of gems.
  4102.  
  4103. > You ascend some freshly made stairs, Frozen at your side, as you will a grandiose carriage into existence.
  4104.  
  4105. > The gems collect in the back, and you step lightly onto the roof.
  4106.  
  4107. > The stairs sweep away to form a giant ice tiger, hitched to the front.
  4108.  
  4109. > You pose dramatically.
  4110.  
  4111. “By the power of iceskull! Blizzard Blizzard Cats Hooooooo!”
  4112.  
  4113. > The carriage lurches into motion, speeding down the street and out the northern gate.
  4114.  
  4115. > Frozen bumps you with her shoulder.
  4116.  
  4117. “Beloved, you are drunk. Let me drive.”
  4118.  
  4119. > You smile fondly.
  4120.  
  4121. “As you wish.”
  4122.  
  4123. > You form a seat and set back, admiring your wife’s choice plot.
  4124.  
  4125. > As she steps up, the carriage takes on more aerodynamic curves, and the rooftop is enclosed in a thin ovaloid shell of ice.
  4126.  
  4127. > The tiger’s limbs grow longer, and its mouth seals shut.
  4128.  
  4129. > You can see a wavy distortion in the air around the carriage, and you get the idea that someone is in a hurry to get this done.
  4130.  
  4131.  
  4132.  
  4133. > In no time at all, the carriage is bouncing up the steps to the Dragonhold main cavern.
  4134.  
  4135. > As you venture into the warmer inner caves, you feel the effects of Dawnbro’s beam wear off.
  4136.  
  4137. > Polychromasia is just as you had left her, which brings an odd sense of nostalgia, despite it only being a couple days since you list saw her.
  4138.  
  4139. > She doesn’t look any more patient, so you get right to business.
  4140.  
  4141. “Good morning. Sombra would like to hire two hundred of your hatchlings. I bring ten thousand gems in payment.”
  4142.  
  4143. > You coax the pile out of the carriage, setting it before the white dragoness on a wide dish of ice.
  4144.  
  4145. > She brings her head down and sniffs the pile, then delicately licks one gem into her mouth.
  4146.  
  4147. > She pulls back and taps her claws idly on the stone floor.
  4148.  
  4149. “Does he think I would not notice what he is doing?”
  4150.  
  4151. > Crap. Did he accidentally poison the gems or something?
  4152.  
  4153. > She continues.
  4154.  
  4155. “My mines are quite extensive, ambassador. It’s true that I don’t bother much with the surface, but I am far from ignorant of what goes on there.”
  4156.  
  4157. > She licks up another gem. At least they’re not poisoned.
  4158.  
  4159. “I’ll get to the point. You have expanded onto land that is directly above my mines. Tell your king that his sovereignty extends five feet down and no more.”
  4160.  
  4161. > You bow low.
  4162.  
  4163. “I shall do as you say.”
  4164.  
  4165. > Polychromasia nods absently, still tapping her claws.
  4166.  
  4167. > You wait.
  4168.  
  4169. > She stops tapping.
  4170.  
  4171. “Tell him this as well. Let us have a pact of mutual defense. As our kingdoms are right on top of each other, any invasions would be quite inconvenient for the both of us.”
  4172.  
  4173. > She licks up another gem, and you get the feeling that they are more appetizing than natural gems.
  4174.  
  4175. “Now, for those hatchlings.”
  4176.  
  4177. > A thought occurs to you.
  4178.  
  4179. “Before you call them, if there are any in romantic relations, those would be preferable.”
  4180.  
  4181. > She gives you an startled look.
  4182.  
  4183. “Trying for a foursome, are you?”
  4184.  
  4185. > What.
  4186.  
  4187. “No, it’s for the farming. The seeds require certain conditions to grow, such as are provided by romantic couples.”
  4188.  
  4189. > The dragoness shrugs.
  4190.  
  4191. “Whatever pulls your wagon. Oh, and congratulations on the branding, it’s nice to see the old ways being upheld.”
  4192.  
  4193. > Old ways? Come to think of it, you’re pretty sure Mr. Cake wasn’t branded…
  4194.  
  4195. > You glance at Frozen, who smiles back.
  4196.  
  4197. > You turn back to Polychromasia, who chose that moment to let out a long shriek.
  4198.  
  4199. > You cover your ears, but you can feel the very stone under your feet resonate with that voice.
  4200.  
  4201. > Then the dragoness settles back down on her pile of treasure.
  4202.  
  4203. > Echoes of scales on stone rise up from the tunnel mouths, soon followed by a host of dragonlings pouring out into the main cavern.
  4204.  
  4205. “Children, I have a new task for you. The Candy King requires farmers. In particular, romantic couples for unspecified reasons, whom I do not doubt shall receive extra gems for their services.”
  4206.  
  4207. > She glances at you meaningfully, and you nod, wishing she had worded that better.
  4208.  
  4209. > Polychromasia continues,
  4210.  
  4211. “They shall take the first two hundred volunteers, with preference for couples.”
  4212.  
  4213. > There is a great deal of murmuring, as well as generalized blushing.
  4214.  
  4215. > The hatchlings approach you, and you separate them by romantic status, keeping careful tally.
  4216.  
  4217. > You can see many dragons holding intense, hushed conversations.
  4218.  
  4219. > There is a fair amount of slapping and storming off to the single dragons group.
  4220.  
  4221. > It’s rather uncomfortable, how you and Frozen are getting a lot of speculative glances, so you decide to say something.
  4222.  
  4223. “Let’s get something straight here. The seeds you will be planting react to affection. Couples will be required to kiss in order to start the seeds growing. That is all.”
  4224.  
  4225. > The is a small murmur of disappointment, but it is quickly covered by renewed conversation among the formerly disinclined.
  4226.  
  4227. > In the end, you end up with seventy six coupled dragons and one hundred twenty four single dragons.
  4228.  
  4229.  
  4230.  
  4231. > You have to admit, it is rather gratifying to drive down a road with two hundred dragons walking and flying behind you.
  4232.  
  4233. > Two slender dragonettes, a green and a black, swoop down to land on the carriage roof.
  4234.  
  4235. > The green nudges the black dragon.
  4236.  
  4237. > She nervously smooths back her spines and says,
  4238.  
  4239. “So… were you interested in foursomes? Because Emerald and I are quite-”
  4240.  
  4241. > You hold up a hoof.
  4242.  
  4243. “Ladies, I am happily married.”
  4244.  
  4245. > Emerald blinks.
  4246.  
  4247. “So?”
  4248.  
  4249. > The one who you are guessing is named Onyx head slaps her with her wing.
  4250.  
  4251. “So we should be asking his wife, obviously. Mrs. Ice pony, would you be interested in having a foursome with us and your husband?”
  4252.  
  4253. > Frozen walks around them in a slow circle.
  4254.  
  4255. > When she returns to your side she says,
  4256.  
  4257. “What is your life expectancy?”
  4258.  
  4259. > They glance at each other.
  4260.  
  4261. “Forever?”
  4262.  
  4263. > Come to think of it, that one dragon was telling a one hundred year nap, so they have to live pretty long.
  4264.  
  4265. > Frozen rubs her chin.
  4266.  
  4267. “Get back to me at nightfall, and I’ll let you know what I decide.”
  4268.  
  4269. > They glance at each other again and giggle.
  4270.  
  4271. > They take off before you can say anything, so you just end up looking at Frozen and feeling conflicted.
  4272.  
  4273. “Um, Frozen? I appreciate what you’re doing, but I don’t think I can do this. It would be one thing if I was single, but I am married to you, and casual sex with others just feels disrespectful.”
  4274.  
  4275. > Frozen Hart tilts her head at you.
  4276.  
  4277. “How about committed sex with others?”
  4278.  
  4279. > What.
  4280.  
  4281. “Frozen, I come from a monogamous culture. I’m not saying that I don’t like female attention from others, but I don’t feel comfortable seeking it out. I guess what I’m saying is, if you want to have a foursome with two dragon ladies, then we can do that. Just, don’t do it because you think that’s what I want.”
  4282.  
  4283. “But you do want it. You said so.”
  4284.  
  4285. > You rub your eyes tiredly.
  4286.  
  4287. > It is too early in the morning to be making these moral distinctions, but it’ll only get more complicated if you don’t.
  4288.  
  4289. “I just don’t want our relationship to only revolve around me.”
  4290.  
  4291. > Frozen considers this.
  4292.  
  4293. “We’ll invite them to dinner.”
  4294.  
  4295. > You think back to what Pinkie once told you.
  4296.  
  4297. “To watch them eat?”
  4298.  
  4299. > Frozen actually blushes.
  4300.  
  4301. “Yes.”
  4302.  
  4303. > You shrug.
  4304.  
  4305. “Fair enough.”
  4306.  
  4307. > With all these dragons, it’s taking a while to get back.
  4308.  
  4309. > You pass the time trying to make small things out of ice.
  4310.  
  4311. > One full dinner setting later, you notice something.
  4312.  
  4313. “Where are all the skulls and cats?”
  4314.  
  4315. > You look around at the carriage.
  4316.  
  4317. “Where, the heck, are all the skulls and cats?”
  4318.  
  4319. > Frozen pats your hoof.
  4320.  
  4321. “It’s just my overlay, beloved.”
  4322.  
  4323. “But there’s nothi-oh.”
  4324.  
  4325. > She did say her source was the emptiest patch of space.
  4326.  
  4327. “So wait, how can you manipulate ice if you are void aligned?”
  4328.  
  4329. “Suction.”
  4330.  
  4331. > That… explains very little. That would mean she can manipulate nearly anything, although you get the feeling that there would be a lot of frost damage and decompression effects.
  4332.  
  4333. > Which would be minimal on ice. Fair enough.
  4334.  
  4335.  
  4336.  
  4337. > Your procession finds Neonbra waiting at the North Gate.
  4338.  
  4339. “Welcome, Children of the Dragonhold! Follow me to the amphitheater!”
  4340.  
  4341. > You end up taking a seat in that back. It’s not like you haven’t seen what’s going to happen.
  4342.  
  4343. > Maud has set up a few blackboards, and a variety of seeds.
  4344.  
  4345. > As expected, the lecture itself is rather boring, even if you do learn a bit about the different crops.
  4346.  
  4347. > When it is time for the practical demonstration, Tongbra blushes furiously.
  4348.  
  4349. > There arises a surprised murmuring at both the kiss and the effect it had on the seed.
  4350.  
  4351. > Maud, of course, has no reaction, and continues with her lecture.
  4352.  
  4353. > Pinkie Pie is introduced as overseer and she is wearing a 40k Commissar’s hat.
  4354.  
  4355. > That raises the worrying question of if the hat is fan work, or authentic.
  4356.  
  4357. > You are already in one fictional universe, and it makes you very nervous that you might be neighboring the Imperium of Man, let alone the gods of chaos.
  4358.  
  4359. > The other option is that Pinkie has somehow gotten ahold of 40k material, and may kill a dragon if it steps too far out of line.
  4360.  
  4361. > You lean over to whisper to Frozen.
  4362.  
  4363. “By chance, are you familiar with the names ‘Nurgle, Khorne, Tzeench, or Slaanesh?”
  4364.  
  4365. “No.”
  4366.  
  4367. > Well, you’re pretty sure Pinkie won’t kill anyone, so you decide to just accept that she is an incomprehensible cosmic horror.
  4368.  
  4369. > The dragons are divided, twenty to each of the six outlying villages, and eighty to the capitol.
  4370.  
  4371. > The actual work in the fields is fairly easy; the dragons are naturally good at digging, and kissing is rather pleasant.
  4372.  
  4373. > By mid afternoon, about half of the seeds had between planted and germinated.
  4374.  
  4375. > Similarly, you are now fairly desensitized to kissing in public.
  4376.  
  4377. > So much dragon tongue.
  4378.  
  4379. > At least now you have some idea why Frozen would be interested in a foursome.
  4380.  
  4381. > You break for lunch, and then it’s back to the kissing fields.
  4382.  
  4383. > An hour later, you think kissing has lost all of it’s eroticism for you.
  4384.  
  4385. > Then Frozen starts slipping in some tongue and everything is new again.
  4386.  
  4387. > Jimbra ends the workday at sixish, and you go to find Onyx and Emerald for dinner.
  4388.  
  4389. > When they see you two approaching, they smile and flare their wings a little.
  4390.  
  4391. > Emerald says,
  4392.  
  4393. “Come for a little dessert with your dinner?”
  4394.  
  4395. > You lead them to an empty spot in the dining hall.
  4396.  
  4397. “Not quite, just thought we’d get to know you first. I’m Anonymous, and this is my wife, Frozen Hart.”
  4398.  
  4399. > You wish an ice table into existence, and set your food on it. The dragonettes follow suit, and introduce themselves.
  4400.  
  4401. “This is Emerald, and my name is Andesite.”
  4402.  
  4403. > Welp, guess she wasn’t named Onyx after all.
  4404.  
  4405. “Nice to meet you. What do you think of the job so far?”
  4406.  
  4407. > Andesite picks a gem up and pops it into her mouth.
  4408.  
  4409. > Emerald answers,
  4410.  
  4411. “Pretty good. It’s not every day that you get paid to kiss your girlfriend. Although, I have to say, my tongue is fairly worn out.”
  4412.  
  4413. > There are nods of agreement from everyone at the table.
  4414.  
  4415. > You take a bite of your lasagna, courtesy of Pinkie Pie.
  4416.  
  4417. > Andesite turns to Frozen.
  4418.  
  4419. “So how long have you two been married?”
  4420.  
  4421. “A few days.”
  4422.  
  4423. > Andesite looks surprised.
  4424.  
  4425. “And you are already getting into kinky stuff? You guys must have been having sex everyday for months while you were dating.”
  4426.  
  4427. > Frozen shakes her head.
  4428.  
  4429. “We only started dating recently. I have just had a lot of time to… think about things.”
  4430.  
  4431.  
  4432.  
  4433. > Emerald looks to you, chin on her palm.
  4434.  
  4435. “So how did you two meet? Was it romantic?”
  4436.  
  4437. > Well,
  4438.  
  4439. “I was laying down the road from the north gate, and I saw a beautiful mare in the snow in the middle of a blizzard. So of course, I go to see if she needed any help.”
  4440.  
  4441. > Frozen puts a hoof fondly on yours.
  4442.  
  4443. “So I tried to freeze him.”
  4444.  
  4445. > Andesite hid a smile behind her claws.
  4446.  
  4447. “Oh no!”
  4448.  
  4449. > You shake your head good naturedly.
  4450.  
  4451. “Oh yes. As you might guess, it didn’t work. I figured out that she was a yuki uma, and told her in no uncertain terms to stay away.”
  4452.  
  4453. > The dragonettes look at Frozen with some apprehension.
  4454.  
  4455. “You’re a heat-thief?”
  4456.  
  4457. > Frozen smiles demurely.
  4458.  
  4459. “I’m retired.”
  4460.  
  4461. > You clear your throat.
  4462.  
  4463. “Anyways, you can guess how well that worked. I hadn’t gotten more than fifty yards away when she appeared out of nowhere and brushed up against me flirtatiously. She’s been with me ever since, and I couldn’t be happier.”
  4464.  
  4465. “Awwww!”
  4466.  
  4467. > Just goes to show, it doesn’t matter who you are, sappy romance will overcome the stigma of marrying a monster.
  4468.  
  4469. > Of course, these are dragons you are talking to, so the distinction is fuzzy.
  4470.  
  4471. > You wrap a leg around Frozen’s shoulders.
  4472.  
  4473. “So what about you two, how’d you get together?”
  4474.  
  4475. > Emerald glances at Andesite.
  4476.  
  4477. > She smiles at her, then starts talking.
  4478.  
  4479. “We had neighboring tunnels in the mine. We didn’t talk much, but we we didn’t rub each other the wrong way either. One day, the rock we were digging through started warming up. Turns out, we had hit a river of magma. “
  4480.  
  4481. > Emerald shakes her head.
  4482.  
  4483. “We really should have reported it.”
  4484.  
  4485. > Andesite shrugs.
  4486.  
  4487. “We were young and selfish. Do you have any idea how nice it is to bathe in magma no one else has been in? Probably not, since you’re ponies. Just take my word for it, it’s glorious. So we agree not to tell anyone, and carefully breach the surrounding rock. It took a full week, but we had a magma pool to ourselves. Our productivity fell pretty far. We just didn’t want to leave that pool.”
  4488.  
  4489. > Emerald picks up the story.
  4490.  
  4491. “We got to talking, and had a fair bit in common. It didn’t hurt that mining does wonders for a dragon’s physique.”
  4492.  
  4493. > Andesite grins at her.
  4494.  
  4495. “Pervert.”
  4496.  
  4497. > Emerald sticks her tongue out at her.
  4498.  
  4499. “Anyways, we get a visit from our supervisor just as I was getting into the pool. She was pretty angry, but Andesite talked her down. We got moved to another set of tunnels, but we still got the finder’s commission for setting up the magma pool.”
  4500.  
  4501. > Andesite ruffles Emerald’s spines.
  4502.  
  4503. “Because you were so cute she couldn’t bring herself to punish you.”
  4504.  
  4505. > Emerald bats her claw away.
  4506.  
  4507. “Because our supervisor is a just and fair-minded person. “
  4508.  
  4509. > Andesite smirks.
  4510.  
  4511. “Only to you. She’s a real pain to everydragon else.”
  4512.  
  4513. > Emerald smooths back her spines primly.
  4514.  
  4515. “I just bring out the best in people.”
  4516.  
  4517. > The black dragonette holds her claw fondly.
  4518.  
  4519. “That you do, that you do.”
  4520.  
  4521. > ohIknowexacltywhyIhavethisfeel.png
  4522.  
  4523. > Frozen rests her head on your neck.
  4524.  
  4525. “They pass.”
  4526.  
  4527. > You hum in agreement.
  4528.  
  4529.  
  4530.  
  4531. > On your way to the ice mansion, your heart is beating rather fast.
  4532.  
  4533. > To distract yourself, you ask Andesite a question.
  4534.  
  4535. “Not that I’m complaining, but what is it you are attracted to in ponies? It seems kinda unusual for a dragon.”
  4536.  
  4537. > She looks at you out of the corner of her eye and smirks.
  4538.  
  4539. “Feeling insecure?”
  4540.  
  4541. “No, I-”
  4542.  
  4543. > She bumps into you playfully.
  4544.  
  4545. “Relax, it’s a joke. To answer your question… how soft you all look. Although, that’s less true with you, tiger. That aspect of you has it’s appeal as well.”
  4546.  
  4547. > You nod slowly.
  4548.  
  4549. “I can see how that could be.”
  4550.  
  4551. > Andesite brushes her wing along your side.
  4552.  
  4553. “And you? Why are you open to a foursome with two hot dragonettes?”
  4554.  
  4555. > You cast an eye along her lithe form.
  4556.  
  4557. “Mining does wonders for a dragon’s physique. It certainly helps that I’ve always admired the power and elegance of dragon kind.”
  4558.  
  4559. > Andesite brings a wing up to hide her face behind, looking at you over the edge coyly.
  4560.  
  4561. “Flatterer.”
  4562.  
  4563. > You grin.
  4564.  
  4565. “Only to the pretty ones.”
  4566.  
  4567. > That earns you another playful bump that sends you stumbling for a few feet.
  4568.  
  4569. > Frozen speaks up from behind you.
  4570.  
  4571. “Careful, young miss. I intend to hang on to that one for a long time. The only scratches on it should be mine.”
  4572.  
  4573. > Andesite rolls her eyes.
  4574.  
  4575. “Sure thing ma’am. Although, I’m pretty sure I’m older than you.”
  4576.  
  4577. > Emerald taps the dragon’s tail.
  4578.  
  4579. “Not this one, dearest. She remembers the cursing of the Crystal Empire.”
  4580.  
  4581. > Andesite settles down considerably.
  4582.  
  4583. “No kidding?”
  4584.  
  4585. > Frozen blinks, and when she opens her eyes, it is not the grey of shadows or slate, but of witnessing untold centuries.
  4586.  
  4587. > She blinks again, then smiles gently.
  4588.  
  4589. “I have a good memory.”
  4590.  
  4591. > When you get to the mansion, Emerald tactfully suggests that everyone should take a shower after a long day of work.
  4592.  
  4593. > For you and Frozen, it’s meltwater. The dragons conveniently have their own water heaters built in.
  4594.  
  4595. > While you srub Frozen’s back, you ask her,
  4596.  
  4597. “How you feelin’, beloved?”
  4598.  
  4599. > She arches her back into your watery ministrations.
  4600.  
  4601. “Tended to.”
  4602.  
  4603. > A few minutes later, it’s your turn.
  4604.  
  4605. > Oh, that does feel good.
  4606.  
  4607. > Your wife pauses.
  4608.  
  4609. “And how do you feel?”
  4610.  
  4611. > You shrug.
  4612.  
  4613. “Nervous and excited. Never been in this sort of situation before.”
  4614.  
  4615. > You feel her mane descend to drape around your neck. She bestows a kiss on your horn.
  4616.  
  4617. “You’ll do well, I am sure of it.”
  4618.  
  4619.  
  4620.  
  4621. > Scrubbed and thoroughly awake, you meet the dragonettes in your bedchamber.
  4622.  
  4623. > Frozen makes eye contact with Andesite, and pounces.
  4624.  
  4625. > The black dragon is pinned on her back, tail lashing back and forth.
  4626.  
  4627. > Frozen is trying to go in for a deep kiss, but Andesite is more interested in being the one on top, and is putting up a good struggle.
  4628.  
  4629. > You look at Emerald, who is laying on her belly, wings fully open.
  4630.  
  4631. > She winks at you over her shoulder.
  4632.  
  4633. > It’s going to be an interesting night.
  4634.  
  4635.  
  4636.  
  4637. > You find yourself in dreaming again, and are a little disappointed the dragons aren’t here with you.
  4638.  
  4639. > Frozen nuzzles you, and suddenly you don’t mind.
  4640.  
  4641. > Then you realize. You’re dreaming.
  4642.  
  4643. “Let’s go track down Luna. I have a bone to pick with her.”
  4644.  
  4645. > Frozen holds up a hoof.
  4646.  
  4647. “On one condition.”
  4648.  
  4649. “Yes?”
  4650.  
  4651. > Her pupils become huge, and the pout is opening your hnnnggg folder.
  4652.  
  4653. “Piggyback ride?”
  4654.  
  4655. > You sigh in mock reluctance.
  4656.  
  4657. “Very well.”
  4658.  
  4659. > You crouch, and accept the weight of a mare on your back.
  4660.  
  4661. > If you were a pony, this would basically be walking around while having sex.
  4662.  
  4663. > Since you are a human, it’s walking around while carrying an aroused pony.
  4664.  
  4665. > You set off, only paying a little attention to the cute little gasps and moans your wife is making.
  4666.  
  4667. > You have a pervert to catch.
  4668.  
  4669. > As you expected, the porn section is occupied by moonbutt.
  4670.  
  4671. > You clear your throat just as she sticks out her tongue to lick another book, a hoof between her nethers.
  4672.  
  4673. > Something about that strikes you as odd, but you ignore it.
  4674.  
  4675. “Having fun spying on me and my wife?”
  4676.  
  4677. > Luna draws herself up, trying to regain some dignity.
  4678.  
  4679. “Anonymous, thou hast found us during our customary random inspection. ‘Tis good, for the time hath come for thy report.”
  4680.  
  4681. “Luna, you’ve viewed memories in this section before, and we both know what’s stored here. What do you have to say for yourself?”
  4682.  
  4683. > You set Frozen down so you can be properly indignant.
  4684.  
  4685. > You ignore her small protest.
  4686.  
  4687. > Luna tries to keep a haughty expression on her face, but a blush is building, and she just ends up looking at the ground.
  4688.  
  4689. “I apologize for the intrusion; ‘twas not my original intent. E’en as thy betrothed hath said, I sought to undue mental domination such as is common to certain creatures.”
  4690.  
  4691. “I… I cannot blame you for that. Afterward, though? This can’t all be me and Frozen going at it.”
  4692.  
  4693. > Luna looks you in the eyes.
  4694.  
  4695. “Thou wast alien to this world. Should I not have learned of thy ways in this most delicate of subjects?”
  4696.  
  4697. “Fair enough. What is with the licking, though? “
  4698.  
  4699. > You reach out to touch the book she had licked before.
  4700.  
  4701. “It seems like an odd way of going abo-”
  4702.  
  4703. > Your fingers make contact with the spine, and in a flash, you remember reading a certain Applejack pastebin.
  4704.  
  4705. > Except, the emotional aspect is missing, because you know you were very aroused by somethi-
  4706.  
  4707. > Luna’s hoof was between her nethers.
  4708.  
  4709. > Now you know what was odd about that.
  4710.  
  4711. “But you don’t even have the equipment to clop with!”
  4712.  
  4713. > Luna looks away in embarrassment.
  4714.  
  4715. “‘Twas strange, but not unpleasant imagery. Thy state at the time did bridge the gap betwixt mine own urges and thy lewd memories.”
  4716.  
  4717. > Apparently, you have given Luna a penetration fetish, with the help of the based write and drawfags of mlp.
  4718.  
  4719. > Wait.
  4720.  
  4721. “So how did you like zombie Rarity?”
  4722.  
  4723. > Luna leans in and whispers,
  4724.  
  4725. “What the actual rut is wrong with humans?”
  4726.  
  4727. > You gaze significantly at the licked book spines.
  4728.  
  4729. “Nothing that is not present to some degree in ponykind.”
  4730.  
  4731. > You whisper back.
  4732.  
  4733. > Well, as fun as this was, you continue at a normal volume,
  4734.  
  4735. “As for my report, the hatchlings are farming quite well, and most of the crystal crops has been planted. They stay in the nearest crystal settlement.”
  4736.  
  4737. > Luna drew back, and nodded along.
  4738.  
  4739. > You continue.
  4740.  
  4741. “In fact, I suspect at least some of the dragons will want to stay on as citizens. Seems that mining can get tiresome after a few decades.”
  4742.  
  4743. > That surprises her. But not too much.
  4744.  
  4745. “We thank thee for thy report, Anonymous. We shall leave thee to thy companion in dreaming.”
  4746.  
  4747. > She walks away, and
  4748.  
  4749. > Is she sashaying her hips?
  4750.  
  4751. > Right before she turns the corner, her tail twitches to the side, revealing what you have come to know as the standard, featureless pony groin.
  4752.  
  4753. > Doesn’t matter, you don’t need Rarity’s spell to find diamond.
  4754.  
  4755. > Frozen pokes you in the side.
  4756.  
  4757. “You okay?”
  4758.  
  4759. > You come out of your daze.
  4760.  
  4761. “Yeah, just thinking about things. And plot.”
  4762.  
  4763. > Your wife gives you a measuring look.
  4764.  
  4765. “Would you be up to practicing with your subconscious?”
  4766.  
  4767. > You remember last night, but the shock has faded.
  4768.  
  4769. “I think I’ll be okay, as long as I don’t look at the sky.”
  4770.  
  4771. > Frozen nods, and leads you to the far edge of the library.
  4772.  
  4773. > The door opens onto a small courtyard, the outward wall having crumbled off the edge of a cliff that you have no intention going near.
  4774.  
  4775. > Now that you’re closer, the roiling sea of lights and shadows is more distinct.
  4776.  
  4777. > You can see edges and silhouettes, teasing at vague memories.
  4778.  
  4779. > Frozen points towards a small tooth of ice, steady in the tumult.
  4780.  
  4781. “Call to it, Anon. It is your affinity for ice, and it shall be of great use to you in your CaOsRcReUnPsTiIoOnN.”
  4782.  
  4783. > That’s quite an accent she has.
  4784.  
  4785. > Whatever. Wishy powers, come to me!
  4786.  
  4787. > The tooth of ice thickens and extends towards you.
  4788.  
  4789. > You are reminded of the water tentacle from The Abyss.
  4790.  
  4791. > As if to spite you, the tip forms your pony face, and hovers in front of you.
  4792.  
  4793. > You just stand there for a few moments.
  4794.  
  4795. > Finally you say,
  4796.  
  4797. “What, am I supposed to make out with it or something?”
  4798.  
  4799. > Frozen looks on intently.
  4800.  
  4801. “Yes.”
  4802.  
  4803. “Seriously?”
  4804.  
  4805. “Yes.”
  4806.  
  4807. “Not just because it’s sexy for you, but as some weird soul cultivation dealy?”
  4808.  
  4809. “Yes.”
  4810.  
  4811. > You take a final look at your waifu, then brace yourself.
  4812.  
  4813. ‘This is so gay’
  4814.  
  4815. > You kiss the ice tentacle face, nice and chaste.
  4816.  
  4817. > It really shouldn’t surprise you that it forces it’s way into your mouth, swirling around your tongue, pouring down your throat.
  4818.  
  4819. > You would be choking or gagging, if you weren’t also being overwhelmed with memories.
  4820.  
  4821.  
  4822.  
  4823. > /*
  4824.  
  4825. Your mouth hurts.
  4826.  
  4827. Something cool parts your lips, and you rub your sore gums on it, glad for some relief.
  4828.  
  4829. > */
  4830.  
  4831. > /*
  4832.  
  4833. Your foot still stings from the ants. How you hate them. You don’t know where the idea came from, but you bring an ice cube to the sidewalk.
  4834.  
  4835. They stop when you touch it to them.
  4836.  
  4837. > */
  4838.  
  4839. > /*
  4840.  
  4841. It’s your first winter with snow.
  4842.  
  4843. It’s also the first of many in which you take a snowball to the ear.
  4844.  
  4845. You like the little igloo you hollowed out of a pile of snow.
  4846.  
  4847. > */
  4848.  
  4849. > /*
  4850.  
  4851. Wow, you sure have eaten a lot of snow in your life.
  4852.  
  4853. > */
  4854.  
  4855. > /*
  4856.  
  4857. It’s just a cold, strong wind, blowing almost ceaselessly across the parking lot. While others complain and shiver, you just accept it.
  4858.  
  4859. It doesn’t bother you if you don’t let it.
  4860.  
  4861. > */
  4862.  
  4863. > /*
  4864.  
  4865. You haven’t slipped on ice for a long time. You are careful how and where you step, and you catch yourself when you feel your foot shift unexpectedly.
  4866.  
  4867. > */
  4868.  
  4869. > /*
  4870.  
  4871. You rest in a field of snow. You don’t particularly feel like moving, just watching the sky. It’s very quiet.
  4872.  
  4873. > */
  4874.  
  4875. > /*
  4876.  
  4877. This movie is appealing, and the songs are good so far. Then she ruffles her hand through her hair and you have never hnnnnggggged so hard in your life.
  4878.  
  4879. Then she’s wearing a tight ice dress and
  4880.  
  4881. Dose hips.
  4882.  
  4883. Hnnnnnngggghhhhhhhisao-out
  4884.  
  4885. > */
  4886.  
  4887.  
  4888.  
  4889. > When you regain control of your body, the ice is nowhere to be seen.
  4890.  
  4891. > You shakily look at Frozen.
  4892.  
  4893. “What now?”
  4894.  
  4895. “Expand your ice into your subconscious. Make a viewing place.”
  4896.  
  4897. > You wish ice out, anchoring it to the walls of the courtyard.
  4898.  
  4899. > You will it down into the sea of shadows and lights, extending like blown glass.
  4900.  
  4901. > You walk down the new stairs into a large, transparent sphere of ice.
  4902.  
  4903. > You recognize what you see.
  4904.  
  4905. > It’s one of your old dreams, the one with the pińata tunnel, and the life-size pińata elephant, and that sink on the wall.
  4906.  
  4907. > You extend the ice, and walk safely up to the sink.
  4908.  
  4909. > Yup, there are those smiling marshmallows, saying goodbye as they swirl down the drain.
  4910.  
  4911. > You blame that old Willy Wonka movie.
  4912.  
  4913. > You turn to Frozen.
  4914.  
  4915. “While this is nice, what is the point of this?”
  4916.  
  4917. “Your power grows as you harvest useful things from dreams. Creatures, tools, places with special properties. Study them, and learn to recreate them.”
  4918.  
  4919. > Oh, this is going to be fun.
  4920.  
  4921. > You are reminded of when you would play minecraft, how you would build glass pane complexes below and above the water.
  4922.  
  4923. > After a few hours of dream trawling, you have three specimens. You forgot how many dreams are mostly social.
  4924.  
  4925. > Each of them has to be kept above your subconscious, which is to say, in your conscious mind.
  4926.  
  4927. > As such, they are contained in ice bubbles that are linked by tunnel to their respective dreams, as well as an elevated tube that leads back the library of your mind.
  4928.  
  4929. > The first is a rectangular pit, torn from a concrete foot traffic tunnel.
  4930.  
  4931. > It’s a little larger than a shoebox, and it’s filled with healing water, according to the dream.
  4932.  
  4933. > It also disintegrated a small beholder, so probably holy water as well.
  4934.  
  4935. > At this point, you don’t know the first thing about studying dream objects, so you’re just oddity-collecting.
  4936.  
  4937. > The second bubble has a stick with spiders bagged up in their own web.
  4938.  
  4939. > Considering the one who bagged them was a storyteller, you suspect some weaving metaphor is key.
  4940.  
  4941. > Or you could just use it as a bag of spiders. That’s pretty frightening.
  4942.  
  4943. > Third is a red crystal, for the lack of a better term, axe.
  4944.  
  4945. > It looks like someone took a ruffled potato chip, deep fried it in grimdark, then attached a handle to it.
  4946.  
  4947. > To be fair, the person who used it was a crazy barbarian who grappled a psychic witch and cast a spell which removed both of them from existence.
  4948.  
  4949. > The axe itself was used to carve weaponry out of ice.
  4950.  
  4951. > Not in the whittling style of carving, no you swung it into ice and out would pop ice daggers, or swords, or throwing axes.
  4952.  
  4953. > You’re not sure if you will get someone else to use it, or if you can generalize some of its principles and mass produce other things out of ice.
  4954.  
  4955. > Finally, the dream world fades to black, and you open your eyes.
  4956.  
  4957. > You notice that Frozen is on pillow duty once again, and doing a fine job.
  4958.  
  4959. > The dragons are nice and warm, and their wings make an excellent blanket.
  4960.  
  4961. > You revise your earlier note to yourself; do not get a mattress, get more females to sleep with/on.
  4962.  
  4963. > The dragons begin to stir, which feels quite pleasant as they stretch and flex while still pressed up against your body.
  4964.  
  4965. > Their eyes open, and they look at each other in sleepy confusion.
  4966.  
  4967. > Then they look at you, and grin.
  4968.  
  4969. > Andesite rubs her head against yours.
  4970.  
  4971. “That was wonderful, just wonderful.”
  4972.  
  4973. > Emerald hums in agreement, her head laying on your chest.
  4974.  
  4975. “Thank you, ladies. Believe me, the feeling is mutual.”
  4976.  
  4977. > You use a little magic to squeeze the firm dragon flanks.
  4978.  
  4979. > Their eyes open wide, then go half-lidded.
  4980.  
  4981. > Emerald lets out a heated breath.
  4982.  
  4983. “Does that mean you are ready for round two?”
  4984.  
  4985. > You grin.
  4986.  
  4987.  
  4988.  
  4989. > Much later, you all go to the dining hall for some much needed breakfast.
  4990.  
  4991. > The dragons still have more farming to do, but since the bulk of the sowing is done, you go see if Wongbra has any else for you to do.
  4992.  
  4993. > Citadel input has him in the observation room.
  4994.  
  4995. > On your way, you see shadows flicker.
  4996.  
  4997. > Not even out of the corner of your eye, like proper horror cliches should, no.
  4998.  
  4999. > Just casually sliding across the ground.
  5000.  
  5001. ‘Monsters these days, no respect for tradition.’
  5002.  
  5003. > You try to avoid stepping on them, but you know you trod on a few on your way to the central tower.
  5004.  
  5005. > Prombra is keeping a watch on all the labor, but something is preoccupying him.
  5006.  
  5007. > You step hesitantly into the room.
  5008.  
  5009. “Any particular reason there’s a shadow infestation?”
  5010.  
  5011. > He turns to you.
  5012.  
  5013. “Ah, I had been wondering when they would arrive. Wilt thou stand in my place and watch o’er the dragonlings?”
  5014.  
  5015. “Sure. What task have ye laid for thyself?”
  5016.  
  5017. > You step into the center of the chamber as Kilombrater takes the stairs.
  5018.  
  5019. “‘Tis no great thing. Merely opening a demon gate.”
  5020.  
  5021. > He had descended a full flight of stairs before you overcome your shock.
  5022.  
  5023. > Thinking quickly, you yell into the crystal, trusting it to carry your voice to Humbra.
  5024.  
  5025. “Just so we’re clear, actual demons won’t be set free upon the this plane of existence?”
  5026.  
  5027. > He stops, considering both what you said and how you said it.
  5028.  
  5029. > He calls back,
  5030.  
  5031. “Worry ye not, I shall set it to open upon the shadow world alone.”
  5032.  
  5033. “Oh, the shadow world. Not full of monsters and malevolence, I take it?”
  5034.  
  5035. > King Fogbra smiles.
  5036.  
  5037. “No more than ye or I.”
  5038.  
  5039. “Know ye that I love thee, yea even unto the extent of no homo, yet are we not two deadly, powerful, and negotiably sane ponies? Hence I find little solace in thy words.”
  5040.  
  5041. > Germbra walks out onto the city streets.
  5042.  
  5043. “Knoweth thou the kingdom of Tambelon?”
  5044.  
  5045. “Nay.”
  5046.  
  5047. > He sets off towards the Northeast Gate, ignoring the shadows that give him a wide berth.
  5048.  
  5049. “Twas once an evil sorcerer, who sought to rule with an iron hoof. He did imprison many in the world of shadows, in the Kingdom of Tambelon. In time, heroes arose and saved many. They rang a bell of ancient origin, and did banish the world of shadows and it’s kingdom.”
  5050.  
  5051. > You keep an eye on all the dragons in the field, partly out of a sense of duty, and partly because mining does wonders for a dragonettes physique.
  5052.  
  5053. > You follow the story with the rest of your attention.
  5054.  
  5055. “I’m sensing a ‘however’.”
  5056.  
  5057. “Indeed, however, he did reign for a long time ere he was vanquished, and deep were his dungeons. I wandered long in mine own banishment, holding to the lightrealm, drifting in the shadow world.”
  5058.  
  5059. > The gate opens, Storbry continues.
  5060.  
  5061. “So it was that I had found the descendants of the prisoners, who had waxed numerous and ascendant in the dark kingdom. They would not have me as their king then. And so I had forgotten them, as so did their long lost kin.”
  5062.  
  5063. > Tiny Tombra paused by the road, and began summoning great slabs of black crystal.
  5064.  
  5065. > He set them in a rough doorframe, four slabs by five.
  5066.  
  5067. > A black, green, and purple bolt shoots from his horn to the doorframe, and a rippling purple portal springs into existence, bounded by the crystals.
  5068.  
  5069. > Tombrastone continues.
  5070.  
  5071. “Since thy coming, I hath communed with them in their lost state, and they hath accepted mine offer of citizenship.”
  5072.  
  5073. > Through the portal came creatures that may have been ponies once.
  5074.  
  5075. > There were long legged ponies, their coats ranging from purple to black, their eyes glowing white slits.
  5076.  
  5077. > Indolent, pale pink pegasus, coasting on similarly colored clouds of what you suspect is not water vapor.
  5078.  
  5079. > You are not entirely sure if they are fused to the clouds or not, but your horror movie intuition says yes.
  5080.  
  5081. > They make small cries of wonderment, which remind you uncomfortably of infants.
  5082.  
  5083. > And lastly, vaguely equine forms of smoke and fire, with attendant yellow-orange rods floating in a loose ring around them.
  5084.  
  5085. > The air shimmers around them, but you can make out their faces relatively well, and they are sniffing at the air curiously.
  5086.  
  5087. > Sometimes, you hate reality.
  5088.  
  5089. > Just when you think the procession of horrors couldn’t get much worse, you are proven, reality goes out of it’s way to personally spit in your drink.
  5090.  
  5091. > A light pink mass burgeons out of the portal, marred by blue veins. It’s like Picasso tried to paint a tree with skin and blood vessels.
  5092.  
  5093. > It just keeps coming, dropping thick tendrils when it can no longer hover under the power of its levitation.
  5094.  
  5095. > At last, a gigantic pony head comes through, easily as large as a full grown stallion.
  5096.  
  5097. > It dangles from the barn sized cloudflesh, blissfully unburdened by the rest of what you would call a body.
  5098.  
  5099. > Cthomblu bows low, and the monstrous head dips in response.
  5100.  
  5101. > Shombroth speaks in the Royal Canterlot Voice,
  5102.  
  5103. “WE WELCOME THEE, HEIRS OF TAMBELON. THY NIGHT HATH ENDED AND THY DAY DAWNETH. DRINK DEEP THY FREEDOM, AND MAKE THY HOME WHERE THOU WILT.”
  5104.  
  5105. > The shadowkin ponies dispersed, often in triads of each type.
  5106.  
  5107. > What you guess is their king stays by the gate, cloudflesh rippling softly, as if blown by a current flowing from the gate.
  5108.  
  5109. “Thou hast changed much, Shard King.”
  5110.  
  5111. > Sostbur inclines his head graciously.
  5112.  
  5113. “High praise indeed, as it doth come from the First Unbound. What think ye of mine haven?”
  5114.  
  5115. > The First Unbound lurched into motion, drifting over the ground, tendrils silently padding along.
  5116.  
  5117. > He brought his head to the edge of his cloud, and snuffed deeply of the Northeast gate.
  5118.  
  5119. “It is quite delectable. But it is not wholely of shadow crystal?”
  5120.  
  5121. > He sniffed more delicately.
  5122.  
  5123. “Ah. Greetings, He Who Peers Through Ice. It is good that thou keepest watch, for I do fear my peghast children may partake too deeply of thy magnificent edifice.”
  5124.  
  5125. > Your blood runs cold. You’re not sure you want to know how he knew about you.
  5126.  
  5127. > You have just enough presence of mind to reply.
  5128.  
  5129. “Greetings, First Unbound. I take it that the peghasts eat crystals?”
  5130.  
  5131. > The head shakes, setting off disquieting undulations in the cloudflesh.
  5132.  
  5133. “Nay, but we do feed upon proximal thaumic sources and currents. As King Sombra’s kingdom is composed entirely of summoned crystal, it is fair game to our tastes. Be ye not troubled, however. The striders doth tend to ambient magic, and even now are cultivating thy walls and currents to bear the burden of feeding.”
  5134.  
  5135. > Your attention turns towards the citadel again, and you see what he means.
  5136.  
  5137. > The eerily long-limbed ponies are teasing the crystal into lotus-like nodes.
  5138.  
  5139. > You can feel magic pouring in, reinforcing and piling up.
  5140.  
  5141. > It’s then that you notice another pattern. Wherever the fiery ponies go, the nodes receive a slow surge of magic.
  5142.  
  5143. > You think you are getting a sense of the food chain in the shadow world.
  5144.  
  5145. > As you bring your attention back to the First Unbound, you reconsider what you think that unseen current was.
  5146.  
  5147. > A lot of the fire ponies passed through that gate.
  5148.  
  5149. “And by what name are the fire ponies known, they that lead currents?”
  5150.  
  5151. “So thou noticed that particular quality! They are the beacorns, who sacrificed much to sustain their brothers and sisters in exile.”
  5152.  
  5153. > The rest of the morning passed more or less uneventfully, as the shadowkin settled into what buildings as were not the dwelling places of the dragons.
  5154.  
  5155. > The First Unbound remained outside, refusing any shelter.
  5156.  
  5157. > It turns out, he was once a pegasus prisoner, and the first to adapt to a thaumic diet.
  5158.  
  5159. > The shadow world had nothing much in the way of food, and those that survived the banishment had adapted to feed on the relatively abundant magic.
  5160.  
  5161. > Even so, the First had spent too long imprisoned to be comfortable in any enclosure.
  5162.  
  5163.  
  5164.  
  5165. > You return to your dragon monitoring.
  5166.  
  5167. > Frozen stands by the panoramic window, idly watching the shadowkin wander the city.
  5168.  
  5169. > If anyone could make sense of this development…
  5170.  
  5171. “So what do you make of this?”
  5172.  
  5173. > She turns to you.
  5174.  
  5175. “The shadow plane has a higher thaumic potential.”
  5176.  
  5177. > You check the nodes by the Northeast gate and yes, consistently higher intake.
  5178.  
  5179. > Hmmm.
  5180.  
  5181. “Will the magic in the shadow plane equalize anytime soon?”
  5182.  
  5183. > Frozen shakes her head.
  5184.  
  5185. “A single opening of this size will take millennia to syphon enough for the planes to equalize.”
  5186.  
  5187. > Meaning the Kingdom of the Shard is going to be considerably more magical than most other places, assuming the gate remains open.
  5188.  
  5189. > It’s… troubling. Sombra now has access to a lot of magic, as well as an army of horrors who are accustomed to that level of magic.
  5190.  
  5191. > He’s been making good progress, though.
  5192.  
  5193. > You’re pretty sure he couldn’t persuade a nation of former prisoners to a shadowmancer to join him like he was.
  5194.  
  5195. > You groan.
  5196.  
  5197. > He’s unicorn moses.
  5198.  
  5199. > Here’s hoping Celestia doesn’t go all Pharaoh on him.
  5200.  
  5201. > Actually, that’s your job, if he gets out of hand.
  5202.  
  5203. > Welp.
  5204.  
  5205. > You pass the time tracking the currents made by the beacorns.
  5206.  
  5207. > After some initial muddiness, they settle into a torus through the city, occasionally going inside or outside, but always returning to the main stream.
  5208.  
  5209. > It’s considerate of them; they actually walk the full circle rather than run against the current.
  5210.  
  5211. > Eventually, you notice a bright spot lingering at the tower base.
  5212.  
  5213. > You focus and find a shadowkin trio while Seanbra climbs the stairs.
  5214.  
  5215. > Something about his grin quiets some of your fears, and stokes others.
  5216.  
  5217. > When he reaches the room, he is keeping a innocently cheerful expression on his face.
  5218.  
  5219. “I knowest thou hast reservations, yea even dinner plans about our new arrivals, but fear not!”
  5220.  
  5221. > Was that a pun? Okay, something is up.
  5222.  
  5223. > Or you are rubbing off on him.
  5224.  
  5225. > Bonbonbra continues.
  5226.  
  5227. “The three tribes hath selected liaisons who shall dwell nigh unto thee, in the interest of mutual understanding.”
  5228.  
  5229. > Nigh unto-
  5230.  
  5231. “As in living with me?”
  5232.  
  5233. > He nods.
  5234.  
  5235. “Hath thou not many rooms in thy mansion? Whilst we doth speak on this matter, what thinkest thou of extending a wing or two to act as a foreign embassy?”
  5236.  
  5237. > It’s your house!
  5238.  
  5239. “It’s my house! Built with these hooves!”
  5240.  
  5241. > You shake your hooves in the air like a milkman shouting about tradition.
  5242.  
  5243. “Pfffffha hahahaha!”
  5244.  
  5245. > Dang it, Skeletonbra is laughing at you!
  5246.  
  5247. > You point at your element of brotherhood.
  5248.  
  5249. “Is this any way to treat thy brother?”
  5250.  
  5251. > He sobers up enough to reply.
  5252.  
  5253. “Art thou not mistaken? Inviting strange guests into each other’s residences, is this not an ancient tradition among brothers?”
  5254.  
  5255. > He’s got you there.
  5256.  
  5257. > On one hand, you are already Equestria’s diplomatic emissary.
  5258.  
  5259. > On the other hand, it’s your house. Why can’t he just make his own wing?
  5260.  
  5261. > On the magic horn, it’s better that Crownbra doesn’t have unlimited surveillance on the embassy.
  5262.  
  5263. > Look at my brothers face. He’s having fun. It’s sensible.
  5264.  
  5265. > Look at my brother’s eyes, so hopeful.
  5266.  
  5267. “Well, children, when shall we have the wedding?”
  5268.  
  5269. > Frozen stumbles.
  5270.  
  5271. > Charmbra’s eyes widen.
  5272.  
  5273. “I had not thought thee agreeable to that most ancient of arrangements betwixt foreign powers! Thy enthusiasm becomes thee, brother!”
  5274.  
  5275. > Frozen glares at you.
  5276.  
  5277. > You put a restraining hoof on Tawnbra’s shoulder.
  5278.  
  5279. “It was a joke, I’m not getting married at the drop of a hat.”
  5280.  
  5281. > You pause, and honestly compels you to add,
  5282.  
  5283. “Again. Not that it didn’t turn out great, but that’s a rare thing.”
  5284.  
  5285. > Frozen looks mollified.
  5286.  
  5287. > The king just looks confused.
  5288.  
  5289. “So do ye consent to live with the liaisons? We may converse on the other matter at a later date.”
  5290.  
  5291. > You sigh.
  5292.  
  5293. “I do. Let’s get this train wreck started.”
  5294.  
  5295.  
  5296.  
  5297. > The three of you go down to meet them.
  5298.  
  5299. > You clear the last staircase and get a good look at your new roommates.
  5300.  
  5301. > The peghast mare grins at you from atop her cloudflesh, her hooves smooshing her cheeks.
  5302.  
  5303. > The beacorn bows her head solemnly.
  5304.  
  5305. > She is young enough to still be mostly on fire, with a few hints of smoke in her mane.
  5306.  
  5307. > The strider stands stock still, looking away shyly.
  5308.  
  5309. > She’s easily a head taller, though most of it is legs.
  5310.  
  5311. > Her coat is almost black, but with a deep purple sheen.
  5312.  
  5313. > You wonder if you should be concerned that the universe is pushing potential waifus at you in increasing amounts.
  5314.  
  5315. > What’s next, a set of four succubi?
  5316.  
  5317. > Well, that might be alright.
  5318.  
  5319. > Yenbra gestures to the strider.
  5320.  
  5321. “Lord High Pouncelor Anonymous, I introduce to you the Lady Abyssal Priestess Ngee Chi, of the Returning Gaze clan.”
  5322.  
  5323. > You bow to her, and she bends her knees, in what you guess is a horse curtsy.
  5324.  
  5325. > The king continues.
  5326.  
  5327. “And this is the Lady Coronal Enchantress Nore Ihi, of the Knowing Pyre clan.”
  5328.  
  5329. > The beacorn scratches a line in the ground, then steps over it.
  5330.  
  5331. > You hesitantly do the same.
  5332.  
  5333. > The flames on Nore’s cheeks darken, and you suspect you just implied something intimate.
  5334.  
  5335. > Hornbra coughs, then continues with a grin, that bastard.
  5336.  
  5337. “And finally, Captain Zenith Sweeper Xylalon Dero, Fifty-sixth Branch Unbound.”
  5338.  
  5339. > She rolls onto her back and sinks into her cloudflesh.
  5340.  
  5341. > You glance nervously at Gownbra, who nods towards the peghast.
  5342.  
  5343. > You look and see her emerge from the lowest point, and walk to you, tendrils trailing from her wing bones in the place of feathers, leading back to the cloudflesh.
  5344.  
  5345. > She holds out a hoof.
  5346.  
  5347. “Nice to meet ya.”
  5348.  
  5349. > You shake it, glad for even a hint of normalcy at this point.
  5350.  
  5351. “Likewise.”
  5352.  
  5353. > Everyone just sorta stands around awkwardly.
  5354.  
  5355. > This is one of the downsides to power-based monarchs. Sometimes, they can’t into socializing.
  5356.  
  5357. > Unfortunately, you are somewhat in the same boat.
  5358.  
  5359. > Worse, everyone is looking at you.
  5360.  
  5361. “So… I’m going to eat lunch, then we’ll get you gals settled in. Sounds good?”
  5362.  
  5363. > You get a chorus of affirmatives.
  5364.  
  5365. > Lunch itself is somewhat awkward.
  5366.  
  5367. > Of the six, you are the only who has to eat.
  5368.  
  5369. > You spend most of the meal self-consciously chewing on your food, while everyone watches you.
  5370.  
  5371. > You’re honestly torn on whether or not to risk whatever it is that grants whatever form of immortality that skips the stomach.
  5372.  
  5373. > It sounds really convenient, but you just know there’s some hidden cost.
  5374.  
  5375. > You catch a glimpse of your two favorite dragons and excuse yourself from the table.
  5376.  
  5377. > Just as you get out of earshot, you hear Xylalon say,
  5378.  
  5379. “Did you see the size of his barrel?”
  5380.  
  5381. > You join Emerald and Andesite as they finish their last gems.
  5382.  
  5383. “Good afternoon. How you ladies holding up?”
  5384.  
  5385. > Andesite stretches like a cat.
  5386.  
  5387. “Nothing we can’t handle. Everyone’s a little spooked about the visitors, though. What’s with all the flowers?”
  5388.  
  5389. “They’re for absorbing surplus magic. And, sorry to say, the new ponies aren’t visitors. They’re immigrants.”
  5390.  
  5391. > Emerald frowns.
  5392.  
  5393. “Where will they be staying, exactly?”
  5394.  
  5395. “In houses and such, same as you. They tend to be a little more further in than the dragon dwellings, so there shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If you do have a problem with them, please let me know. I have liaisons from each race living with me, so it should get sorted out pretty quick.”
  5396.  
  5397. > Andesite and Emerald look at each other.
  5398.  
  5399. > Just then, Somber Alert trots over blushing furiously.
  5400.  
  5401. “Thy betrothed is possessed of a indelicate tongue, brother.”
  5402.  
  5403. > Andesite’s eyes brighten.
  5404.  
  5405. “Oh? How so?”
  5406.  
  5407. > Elbris notices the dragons for the first time, and chooses his words carefully.
  5408.  
  5409. “She, ah, waxeth eloquent upon her husband’s features and prowess. In fullsome and unwelcome detail.”
  5410.  
  5411. > Emerald nods sympathetically.
  5412.  
  5413. “She does like to brag.”
  5414.  
  5415. > Sourbra shakes his head
  5416.  
  5417. “‘Tis not a matter of boasting, but of decorum. Such marital matters ought to be kept betwixt the performers.”
  5418.  
  5419. > He sighs.
  5420.  
  5421. “Verily, it doth cause me to reconsider my purposing of thy estate. Should a visiting dignitary hear tell of such things…”
  5422.  
  5423. > Andesite inquires,
  5424.  
  5425. “Dignitary? And what’s this about your sweet nest, Anonymous?”
  5426.  
  5427. > Welp.
  5428.  
  5429. “We’re thinking about my home being the foreign embassy. The shadowkin liaisons are already going to be living there, and it is pretty close to neutral ground. It’s still a good idea, even if I didn’t like it at first. If you are worried about Frozen, don’t be. She can be discreet when she wants to be In fact, I suspect this was in retaliation for dumping three mares on me without prior notice.”
  5430.  
  5431. > Sombrium chews on this.
  5432.  
  5433. > Emerald timidly taps his shoulder.
  5434.  
  5435. > He gives her a polite look, still conflicted.
  5436.  
  5437. > Emerald breathes deep, then says,
  5438.  
  5439. “We volunteer as tribute. I mean, as liaisons for the Dragonhold. We have proven that we can coexist with ponykind, and we hold no small station among our kin.”
  5440.  
  5441. > You look at Andesite in surprise.
  5442.  
  5443. “Just how high up are you two?”
  5444.  
  5445. > She wiggles a claw in a so-so gesture.
  5446.  
  5447. “Nightshift dodecashaft co-managers. We’re basically a few steps below the executive overseeing this little enterprise.”
  5448.  
  5449. > Sombrago frowns.
  5450.  
  5451. “Wilt not thy absence be noted, upon the release of this workforce?”
  5452.  
  5453. > Andesite shakes her head.
  5454.  
  5455. “There are dragons a plenty with the qualifications to do our jobs. We’re just the best at it.”
  5456.  
  5457. > He tilts his head to the side, thinking.
  5458.  
  5459. “Very well. I am inclined to accept thy offer. What proof of interspecies harmony was this, that ye spoke of?”
  5460.  
  5461. > Emerald blushes, and glances at you.
  5462.  
  5463. > Andesite just grins.
  5464.  
  5465. > Soa’umbra facehooves.
  5466.  
  5467. “Brother, methinks thy element was given in haste. Clearly thy aspect of brotherhood is being unreasonably fortunate in matters of affection.”
  5468.  
  5469. > He sighs in resignation.
  5470.  
  5471. “Thy offer is accepted, lady managers. Wilt thou join us in designating thy nation’s haven within mine kingdom?”
  5472.  
  5473. > They bow solemnly, though with smiles tugging at the corners of their lips.
  5474.  
  5475. > The four of you join the other group, with full introductions all around.
  5476.  
  5477. > Everyone’s polite, but you can’t help but notice some tension between the dragons and the shadowkin.
  5478.  
  5479. > You are beginning to appreciate just what Tenchi went through.
  5480.  
  5481. > It’s not just normal girl jealousy, but also geopolitical ramifications, as well as massive property damage.
  5482.  
  5483. > On your way back home, you realize that Wawasumbra and Discord are those two guys.
  5484.  
  5485. > Of course, one is a king with burgeoning political power, and the other is an elemental of chaos.
  5486.  
  5487. > Yep. That’s your two best guy friends.
  5488.  
  5489. > …
  5490.  
  5491. > Your life is so messed up.
  5492.  
  5493.  
  5494.  
  5495. > Case in point.
  5496.  
  5497. > Nore Ihi raps her fiery hoof firmly on the textured ice floor.
  5498.  
  5499. “It is proper that the permanent citizenry be given more prominent representation and habitation.”
  5500.  
  5501. > Sounds reasonable. But then she says,
  5502.  
  5503. “So I should be in the room directly across the Lord High Pouncelor’s.”
  5504.  
  5505. > Ngee Chi glances at her with glowing violet eyes.
  5506.  
  5507. “You mean we, don’t you?”
  5508.  
  5509. > Xylalon Dero isn’t particularly happy, having to contract her cloudflesh just to fit in the hall.
  5510.  
  5511. “Ladies, I want prime access to that barrel just as much as you, but it’s really not practical. Look at me! I can barely squeeze in here!”
  5512.  
  5513. > Andesite lets out some smoke through her nostrils.
  5514.  
  5515. “Exactly. It’s the dragons who should get prime access. We were here first, and we will have naturalized citizens of our own once this job is over.”
  5516.  
  5517. > Nore Ihi glares at her.
  5518.  
  5519. “You’ve had your fun, now it’s our turn.”
  5520.  
  5521. > Emerald puts a restraining claw on Andesite’s shoulder.
  5522.  
  5523. “Aren’t we forgetting something? This is not yours nor our decision to make.”
  5524.  
  5525. > The girls stop arguing, and look at you expectantly.
  5526.  
  5527. > Wait. They aren’t looking at you.
  5528.  
  5529. > Frozen steps forward.
  5530.  
  5531. “You forget yourselves, ladies. This is not dragon nor shadowkin land. We are in the Equestrian embassy. Prime accommodations are reserved for the princesses, should they visit.”
  5532.  
  5533. > The girls go silent at that. They are confident about being able to deal with each other, but against the princesses…
  5534.  
  5535. > Your wife nods at their understanding.
  5536.  
  5537. “As such, you will have to have adjacent complexes suited to your individual needs and natures. It would not do for beings such as yourselves to live in such pedestrian environs.”
  5538.  
  5539. > Nore Ihi bows formally.
  5540.  
  5541. “It shall be as you say.”
  5542.  
  5543. > Frozen sniffs haughtily.
  5544.  
  5545. “Of course it will. Beloved, if you would be so kind as to house these poor, impressionable maidens?”
  5546.  
  5547. “Of course. Emerald, Ngee Chi, it looks like you get houses today.”
  5548.  
  5549. > Frozen bats at you playfully, while the two you mentioned blush.
  5550.  
  5551. > You give in.
  5552.  
  5553. “Oh alright, houses for everyone.”
  5554.  
  5555.  
  5556.  
  5557. > As you jot down the specifics for the dragon embassy, citadel input informs you that Maud is coming this way.
  5558.  
  5559. > You get an idea.
  5560.  
  5561. “Brother king, art thou able to conjure armor for thyself, or mayhap another?”
  5562.  
  5563. “Yea, ‘tis no great labor. Doth thou anticipate such danger in thy construction?”
  5564.  
  5565. > You hold back a smile.
  5566.  
  5567. “It merely seemeth unto me prudent, that ye protect thyself and the esteemed Rocktor. I shall tend to the others myself.”
  5568.  
  5569. > He looks at you in confusion.
  5570.  
  5571. > You jerk your head to the approaching mare.
  5572.  
  5573. > You turn back to the dragons and hold up your hoof, conjuring a small replica on it.
  5574.  
  5575. “This about what you wanted?”
  5576.  
  5577. > They peer inside, turning it this way and that.
  5578.  
  5579. > Emerald taps the main atrium.
  5580.  
  5581. “This will be roofed in, right?”
  5582.  
  5583. > You nod.
  5584.  
  5585. > Andesite rubs her chin.
  5586.  
  5587. “And how difficult will it be to modify, once you erect the real thing?”
  5588.  
  5589. > You shrug.
  5590.  
  5591. “Shouldn’t be too hard, depending what you have in mind.”
  5592.  
  5593. > They nod at each other.
  5594.  
  5595. > Andesite turns to you.
  5596.  
  5597. “Make it so.”
  5598.  
  5599. > It takes more willpower than it really should to not say “number one.”
  5600.  
  5601. > You start by calling up a half-dome shelter for everyone.
  5602.  
  5603. > ELOmbra fills Maud in on the situation, black crystal flowing from his horn and over his usual plate-mail.
  5604.  
  5605. > Maud blushes slightly at his offer to do the same for her, but gives the affirmative.
  5606.  
  5607. > That blush deepens as her armor flows around her, perhaps following her every curve a little too well.
  5608.  
  5609. > The girls look expectantly at you.
  5610.  
  5611. > You grin, and do the same for them.
  5612.  
  5613. > Frozen bears it with a faint smile.
  5614.  
  5615. > The dragons snort some steam, flexing their wings in what you are beginning to recognize as excitement of some sort.
  5616.  
  5617. > Nore Ihi’s armor anchors on the floating rods and stays a fair distance from her skin, such is her heat.
  5618.  
  5619. > She sniffs impatiently.
  5620.  
  5621. > Ngee Chi teleports at the first contact, and after a few more false starts, opts for a smaller, personal dome.
  5622.  
  5623. > Her embarrassed blush is worth the trouble.
  5624.  
  5625. > Xylalon lets out little cries and moans, saying things like,
  5626.  
  5627. “Careful where you put that, big guy!”
  5628.  
  5629. “G-gently, please.”
  5630.  
  5631. “Nnnn, yeah~, right there.”
  5632.  
  5633. > By the time she’s done, everyone is rather flustered.
  5634.  
  5635. > She grins shamelessly.
  5636.  
  5637. > You cough.
  5638.  
  5639. “Yes, well, I’ll begin now.”
  5640.  
  5641. > You focus your wishy powers on a spot within the cleared field by your mansion.
  5642.  
  5643. > You whip up a spiraling wind of snow, mostly for show.
  5644.  
  5645. > From the center, ice surges and halts in waves, building up a shallow bowl.
  5646.  
  5647. > Rooms rise, ledges jut, balconies abound, and the winds intensify.
  5648.  
  5649. > You let some shards of ice get whipped away and shatter on your shelter.
  5650.  
  5651. > The building rises, a honeycomb of halls, rooms, and balconies overlooking a center atrium, deep and empty, awaiting it’s proper hoard.
  5652.  
  5653. > High walls surround the embassy, topped with sharp spikes.
  5654.  
  5655. > You let the winds die down, and reveal your creation.
  5656.  
  5657. > You don’t bother guessing why Pinkie has her tongue stuck to it.
  5658.  
  5659. “It’th good!”
  5660.  
  5661. > You facehoof, eliciting general giggles.
  5662.  
  5663. > The dragonettes saunter off to check out their new digs.
  5664.  
  5665. > Emerald calls over her shoulder,
  5666.  
  5667. “Thanks, ‘Non! We’ll pay you back later!”
  5668.  
  5669. > Andesite runs a wingtip slowly down her flank.
  5670.  
  5671. “We’re not rich, but we’ll work something out.”
  5672.  
  5673. > You wave. You just wave.
  5674.  
  5675.  
  5676.  
  5677. > Turning to the other delegation, you say,
  5678.  
  5679. “So what sort of things do you gals need?”
  5680.  
  5681. > Sombra and Maud head off to help Pinkie with her tongue.
  5682.  
  5683. > Xylalon Dero drapes her hooves on the side of her cloudflesh, her ice armor letting out a dull clink.
  5684.  
  5685. “Big open spaces, and really wide windows. And you know, drapes for when we want to have some hanky panky.”
  5686.  
  5687. > You turn to Nore.
  5688.  
  5689. “Is she always like this?”
  5690.  
  5691. > The beacorn nods despondently.
  5692.  
  5693. “It is in their nature to be puffed up in some way or another.”
  5694.  
  5695. > Xylalon flicks back her chin-length mane vainly.
  5696.  
  5697. “What can I say? If you got it, you flaunt it.”
  5698.  
  5699. > Ngee Chi taps your shoulder.
  5700.  
  5701. “Wide open spaces are convenient for a lot of things. Also, I would prefer shutters to drapes. The fewer things that can move suddenly, the better.”
  5702.  
  5703. > Nore Ihi adds,
  5704.  
  5705. “And it would be best to cover load bearing sections in stone. I do not have much confidence in your ice’s ability to withstand my fire.”
  5706.  
  5707. > a few models and some discussion latter, you are ready.
  5708.  
  5709. > The girls are once again behind your shelter, but you are at ground zero.
  5710.  
  5711. > It’s the stone. You wish you could get Somthro Tull to help, or even a contingent of dragons would be nice.
  5712.  
  5713. > Unfortunately, involving the king would defeat the purpose of making the embassy, and it would take too much time and effort to involve the dragons.
  5714.  
  5715. > So instead, here you are, making your ice percolate into the ground.
  5716.  
  5717. > It’s not so bad; there’s a fair amount of permafrost that you can just skip through.
  5718.  
  5719. > Finally, you have surrounded enough slabs and boulders for your purposes, and you give it a heave.
  5720.  
  5721. > The ground surges up about a foot, but no more.
  5722.  
  5723. “Huh, this usually doesn’t happen.”
  5724.  
  5725. > Frozen comes trotting up.
  5726.  
  5727. “Need a hoof, beloved?”
  5728.  
  5729. “What can-”
  5730.  
  5731. > Suction, right.
  5732.  
  5733. “- actually, yes, I could definitely use your help.”
  5734.  
  5735. > She comes beside you, and leans heavily into your brand.
  5736.  
  5737. > You take a deep breath.
  5738.  
  5739. “On the count of three. One, two, three!”
  5740.  
  5741. > Stones and dirt rise like a slow motion explosion.
  5742.  
  5743. > It takes all of your concentration, but you guide the building materials in a loose ring around the site.
  5744.  
  5745. > You let the dirt fall back into the hole.
  5746.  
  5747. > This time, the raising of the building is much slower, having to match irregular stones into a structurally sound jigsaw.
  5748.  
  5749. > There are a number of partial collapses, but eventually you get the hang of it, and building speeds up somewhat.
  5750.  
  5751. > The building itself is like a sectioned off parking garage, with a concentric ramp climbing all the way to the top.
  5752.  
  5753. > It extends a fair ways below ground level, with minimal amounts of ice holding everything together at those levels.
  5754.  
  5755. > Beacorns can be such a pain.
  5756.  
  5757. > When you asked Nore why she wanted it that way, all she would say is,
  5758.  
  5759. “It is fire’s fate to be surrounded by darkness.”
  5760.  
  5761. > The way she said it, it sounded more like dogma than a platitude.
  5762.  
  5763. > Whatever.
  5764.  
  5765. > As you near the end, you feel the drain of whipping two large buildings out of nothing.
  5766.  
  5767. > When you let the snowy wind settle, the girls are suitably pleased.
  5768.  
  5769. > They pass you on their way to inspect their new home.
  5770.  
  5771. > Ngee Chi bows low.
  5772.  
  5773. “My last waking thought shall be of thee.”
  5774.  
  5775. > You nod uncertainly.
  5776.  
  5777. “Ah, you’re welcome?”
  5778.  
  5779. > She gives you a mild smile and moves on.
  5780.  
  5781. > Nore Ihi pauses.
  5782.  
  5783. “I shall reserve my thanks until I have seen for myself the quality of your construction.”
  5784.  
  5785. > And moves on, leaving steaming hoofprints in the frosty ground.
  5786.  
  5787. > Xylalon floats on by, and winks at you.
  5788.  
  5789. “You’re welcome in my quarters anytime.”
  5790.  
  5791. > You give her a blank look.
  5792.  
  5793. > She sticks out her tongue, and continues on.
  5794.  
  5795. > You turn to your wife.
  5796.  
  5797. “Let’s take a break. I don’t about you, but that took a lot out of me.”
  5798.  
  5799. > She smiles tolerantly, and leads you to your home.
  5800.  
  5801. > You give your regards to Slotbra, and he leaves, the Pie sisters in tow and deep in conversation.
  5802.  
  5803. > When you finally reach the master bedroom, you barely manage to wait for your wife to lay down before you surrender to your weariness.
  5804.  
  5805. > You fall asleep to gentle humming.
  5806.  
  5807. > You open your eyes in dreaming, and find yourself surprisingly alone.
  5808.  
  5809. > You suppose Frozen is still awake.
  5810.  
  5811. > It fills you with a certain ennui; you don’t want to go dream mining without her.
  5812.  
  5813. > Part of the fun was showing her the odd stories your sleeping mind made up.
  5814.  
  5815. > Now, you end up wandering the shelves, eating the snacks tucked in the odd gaps between books and the shelf above.
  5816.  
  5817. > They taste just like you remember, and you don’t get full.
  5818.  
  5819. > If you were bulimic, this would be paradise. As is, it’s an inadequate, if pleasant distraction.
  5820.  
  5821. > Luna finds you on top of a bookcase, moodily looking out over your own mind.
  5822.  
  5823. “Where art thy companion? Did ye provide some insult to drive her away?”
  5824.  
  5825. > You might be mistaken, but she sounded a little hopeful.
  5826.  
  5827. “Nah, she’s still awake. Speaking of which, shouldn’t you be asleep right now? It’s still early afternoon.”
  5828.  
  5829. > Luna sits down by you, wings kept carefully to her self.
  5830.  
  5831. “Discord did notify me of thy slumber, which cometh at a fortuitous time. Mine sister would invite thee to dine with us, and shouldst thou accept, it may be supper next, rather than the morrow’s.”
  5832.  
  5833. > Wait.
  5834.  
  5835. “Discord knows when I fell asleep? He’s been watching me and- “
  5836.  
  5837. > Irrational hatred rises up, and the ambient temperature drops considerably.
  5838.  
  5839. > Luna flares her wings in alarm.
  5840.  
  5841. “Calm thyself! He hath sworn a binding oath, not to intrude upon thy intimacies!”
  5842.  
  5843. > Well, that is a little better.
  5844.  
  5845. > You take deep, calming breaths.
  5846.  
  5847. > Luna continues in a softer tone,
  5848.  
  5849. “Forsooth, ‘twas not necessary. He is fond of thee, and would not truly disrespect thee thusly.”
  5850.  
  5851. “Oh.”
  5852.  
  5853. > That’s… nice, you suppose.
  5854.  
  5855. > Luna idly kicks her hooves.
  5856.  
  5857. > Eventually she says in an even softer tone,
  5858.  
  5859. “He is not the only one who is fond of thee.”
  5860.  
  5861. > Well, crap. Gotta treat this delicately.
  5862.  
  5863. “That’s good to hear.”
  5864.  
  5865. > Luna stands abruptly.
  5866.  
  5867. “So! Wilt thou dine at Canterlot this night?”
  5868.  
  5869. > Assuming it actually is from Celestia, it’d be terribly rude to refuse.
  5870.  
  5871. “I’d be honored.”
  5872.  
  5873. > Luna smiles, then turns and walks away, a slight sway to her hips.
  5874.  
  5875. > That’s nice, but,
  5876.  
  5877. “What of my report? Today has been pretty tumultuous.”
  5878.  
  5879. > The moon princess pauses and looks over her shoulder.
  5880.  
  5881. “Thou mayest relate it unto my sister and I this evening. Until then.”
  5882.  
  5883. > And she vanishes.
  5884.  
  5885. > You look around your library, suddenly itching to do something.
  5886.  
  5887. “Let’s see about that healing water.”
  5888.  
  5889. > You furbish the healing water research bubble with equipment from a dream of your highschool chemistry lab.
  5890.  
  5891. > Your first idea is boiling the water and seeing if what’s left behind has healing properties.
  5892.  
  5893. > While you wait for the crucible to boil the sample, you go down and retrieve more water from the original dream.
  5894.  
  5895. > Upon your return, you check the crucible, only to find it completely empty.
  5896.  
  5897. > Welp.
  5898.  
  5899. > You try comparing the weight to that of normal water, but it’s somehow lighter.
  5900.  
  5901. > Maybe if you were to see it in action?
  5902.  
  5903. > It takes some searching, but you find a dream with injured people.
  5904.  
  5905. > It’s faint, but you notice some twinkling as it works its magic.
  5906.  
  5907. > You go to that one dream where you were fighting a fat village chief.
  5908.  
  5909. > This time, you cut him up pretty good.
  5910.  
  5911. > The healing water veritably gleams, and you catch a glimpse of something very large, and very bright.
  5912.  
  5913. > Moreover, you know how you saw it. It’s just like Pinkie’s mouth; space bent and tunneled to a different location entirely.
  5914.  
  5915. > That would be why it didn’t weigh as much as normal water. It was only partially on the scale, partially elsewhere.
  5916.  
  5917. > As you return to the research bubble, the dream fades to black.
  5918.  
  5919.  
  5920.  
  5921. > You open your eyes, and find Frozen stroking your face.
  5922.  
  5923. “Have a good nap?”
  5924.  
  5925. > You smile wryly.
  5926.  
  5927. “You could say that. I got invited to a dinner with the princesses. How long was I out?”
  5928.  
  5929. > You get to your hooves cautiously. You’re not sure how much you’ve recovered.
  5930.  
  5931. > Frozen waits for you to get steady before replying.
  5932.  
  5933. “Only three hours. Will you accept her?”
  5934.  
  5935. > There’s no need to specify.
  5936.  
  5937. “I honestly don’t know. What little contact we’ve had has been …complicated. That’s why I do want to go to this dinner. It’ll give me a chance to know her better, in a more normal setting.”
  5938.  
  5939. > It still weirds you out a little than your wife can calmly talk about… dalliances? Mistresses? Subordinates?
  5940.  
  5941. > You continue.
  5942.  
  5943. “If you don’t mind me asking, how do you feel about her?”
  5944.  
  5945. > Frozen closes her eyes. After a bit, she smiles gently.
  5946.  
  5947. “She’s nostalgic.”
  5948.  
  5949. > …You weren’t expecting that.
  5950.  
  5951. > Then she opens her eyes, and her smile turns sinister.
  5952.  
  5953. “And it’s fun to put her in her place.”
  5954.  
  5955. > That sounds more like it. Although, now you worry about how all this will turn out.
  5956.  
  5957. > Eh, you’ll cross that bridge when it’s on fire.
  5958.  
  5959. > You stretch, and find yourself pleasantly tired, like after a good workout.
  5960.  
  5961. > By your estimate, you have about two hours before dinner.
  5962.  
  5963. > Might as well check on the girls.
  5964.  
  5965. > Your embassy input is a little clearer than your citadel input, and easier to ignore when in between thoughts.
  5966.  
  5967. > Let’s see here…
  5968.  
  5969. > Xylalon is floating at the top, looking out over the city.
  5970.  
  5971. > Nore is meditating in the basement, her heat rods orbiting in a fixed circle.
  5972.  
  5973. > And Ngee is teleporting from room to room, leaving little glowing sparks of purple drifting where she was, then blinking out.
  5974.  
  5975. > As one, their heads turn, and you get the distinct impression that they are looking at you.
  5976.  
  5977. > Xylalon winks, and you go check on the dragonettes.
  5978.  
  5979. > They aren’t in the embassy.
  5980.  
  5981. > Widening your search, you find them breaking up a fight between some of the younger dragons and a few beacorns.
  5982.  
  5983. > You return your focus to the here and now.
  5984.  
  5985. “Say, Frozen?”
  5986.  
  5987. “Hm?”
  5988.  
  5989. “How do you bend space? Like for oral modesty, or wormholes or whatever.”
  5990.  
  5991. > Frozen frowns.
  5992.  
  5993. “Holes for worms?”
  5994.  
  5995. “Err, fast travel? Rift hopping? Stargates? SG1?”
  5996.  
  5997. > Her expression clears.
  5998.  
  5999. “Ah, portals. I don’t think you’re ready yet. For instance, do you notice any seams in here?”
  6000.  
  6001. > You look around the master bedroom, but it looks normal.
  6002.  
  6003. “Would this be like lines in the air, or what exactly?”
  6004.  
  6005. > Frozen takes a step to the side.
  6006.  
  6007. “It would look like light bending along an irregular curvature in the fabric of reality. It’s what we leave behind when we go places, and is a good starting point for beginners.”
  6008.  
  6009. > You nod in understanding.
  6010.  
  6011. “Makes sense. But no, I don’t see any.”
  6012.  
  6013. > Frozen gives you a brief smile.
  6014.  
  6015. “I wouldn’t expect you to this early in your growth.”
  6016.  
  6017. > Looks like you’ll have to shelve your healing water research, for the time being.
  6018.  
  6019. > Frozen walks in a slow circle around you.
  6020.  
  6021. > You hold still, but track her with your eyes.
  6022.  
  6023. “See something you like?”
  6024.  
  6025. > Frozen smiles at that.
  6026.  
  6027. “Of course. But I was more thinking about what you should wear tonight.”
  6028.  
  6029. “Wear? Well, it is with the princesses, so I probably should be a little fancier. Any ideas?”
  6030.  
  6031. > She puts her hooves on your chest and pushes you upright.
  6032.  
  6033. > You wobble slightly. You’ve only been a pony for four or five days, and you are already much more comfortable as a quadruped.
  6034.  
  6035. > Frozen rubs her chin with one hoof, and idly traces lines down your chest with her other.
  6036.  
  6037. > It’s nice.
  6038.  
  6039. > Then she starts humming.
  6040.  
  6041. > A deep rumbling soon accompanies her, and you look around for Pinkie Pie, but she’s not here.
  6042.  
  6043. > You make eye contact with Frozen and-
  6044.  
  6045. It’s hard to put into words. I have seen it, though.
  6046.  
  6047. > You happily note that you aren’t getting a headache.
  6048.  
  6049. > You try to respond in kind, humming and modulating.
  6050.  
  6051. ?Oh hey, this isn’t so hBuArDt.?
  6052.  
  6053. > Frozen covers her mouth as she laughs.
  6054.  
  6055. Soulmate, your accent is terrible.
  6056.  
  6057. > You pout.
  6058.  
  6059. ?Cut me some slack, I’m still getting used to biharmonic cIoNmTmRuUnSiIcOaNtion.?
  6060.  
  6061. > Frozen nods.
  6062.  
  6063. Better, but not pEeXrIfLeEcDt. But we can practice later. This is what I wanted you to FsEeAeR.
  6064.  
  6065. > The closest thing to what she says next is a tongue click, although not with her current tongue, nor her current hard palate and jaw.
  6066.  
  6067. > Abruptly, you stopping hearing humming and rumbling, and start seeing.
  6068.  
  6069. > It’s a small encampment of about six small tents and one big one.
  6070.  
  6071. > The view drifts at head height, poking into a small tent.
  6072.  
  6073. > A pony stands frozen, lantern still lit and hanging from his hoof.
  6074.  
  6075. > The viewpoint continues to the main tent.
  6076.  
  6077. > This pony is an officer, his young face holding a certain resolute expression.
  6078.  
  6079. > You feel as though he earned his rank, even though he is quite handsome in his black military jacket and white gloves.
  6080.  
  6081. > You reach out a white hoof and brush his grey fur.
  6082.  
  6083. > It snaps under your touch, and you sigh.
  6084.  
  6085. > They always look so nice, but they never last.
  6086.  
  6087. > What little light there is flares, and you are backing to being you at the sound of a second tongue click.
  6088.  
  6089. ?I… rFeOmReGmIbVeEr. You think I should try to make the jacket??
  6090.  
  6091. > She nods, her eyes watery.
  6092.  
  6093. And the gloves.
  6094.  
  6095. > You embrace her, and she clings to you.
  6096.  
  6097. > She sheds tears onto your shoulder, and you stroke her hair.
  6098.  
  6099. “It’s alright, I’m here, I won’t leave you.”
  6100.  
  6101. > She tightens her hug, and nuzzles into your neck.
  6102.  
  6103. > She whispers,
  6104.  
  6105. “I know.”
  6106.  
  6107. > You lean your head on her neck, and rock her gently.
  6108.  
  6109. > You could stay like this forever.
  6110.  
  6111. > Eventually, she dries her eyes, and lets go.
  6112.  
  6113. > You remember doing something like this when you were magic-drunk, so it shouldn’t be hard to do it sober.
  6114.  
  6115. > Henshin! Icy wardrobe go!
  6116.  
  6117. > Ice sprouts and weaves around you, loosely imitating the jacket in Frozen’s memory, then shrinking down to conform to your skin.
  6118.  
  6119. > The gloves come soon after, although you feel like calling them socks would be just as accurate.
  6120.  
  6121. > As might be expected, the jacket isn’t black, but white like the driven snow, or maybe heavily textured ice.
  6122.  
  6123. “How do I look?”
  6124.  
  6125. > Frozen does her walk around, and smacks your butt.
  6126.  
  6127. “Hey!”
  6128.  
  6129. > When you can see her again, she’s smirking.
  6130.  
  6131. “Looks good. It’s a shame I won’t get to muss it up. Discord is knocking.”
  6132.  
  6133. > You check, and yes, there he is, politely knocking on the door. Will wonders never cease?
  6134.  
  6135. > You give your wife a peck on the lips, but she grabs your head and gives you some tongue.
  6136.  
  6137. > When she breaks off, you are breathing heavily, and a little flushed.
  6138.  
  6139. > She walks away, and hits you with her tail.
  6140.  
  6141. “Have fun with the princesses.”
  6142.  
  6143. > You bit your lower lip.
  6144.  
  6145. > Dat waifu.
  6146.  
  6147. “As you wish.”
  6148.  
  6149. > With that, you go to the front door.
  6150.  
  6151. > Discord whisks you away almost immediately, with space going Vermicious Knids.
  6152.  
  6153. > You end up in a fancy waiting room, and Discord motions to the door.
  6154.  
  6155. “They’re waiting inside, you lucky bastard.”
  6156.  
  6157. > Does that mean what you think it means?
  6158.  
  6159. > You open the door, your heart beating rapidly.
  6160.  
  6161. > The room is dimly lit by candles, and the princesses are seated at a relatively small dining table, maybe six feet in diameter.
  6162.  
  6163. > Celestia notices you first.
  6164.  
  6165. “Ah, Anonymous, do come in. And thank you, Discord, for your exemplary service.”
  6166.  
  6167. > You sit down at the table, about equidistant from both princesses.
  6168.  
  6169. > You are surprised to note that you recognize most of the food at the table.
  6170.  
  6171. > Pizza, lasagna, egg rolls, biscuits and gravy, and some other comfort food.
  6172.  
  6173. > You send a questioning glance Luna’s way.
  6174.  
  6175. > She nods, then tilts her head towards Celestia.
  6176.  
  6177. > You turn to her, and she says,
  6178.  
  6179. “Let’s begin. How are you liking being a pony, Anonymous?”
  6180.  
  6181. “Ah…”
  6182.  
  6183. > The princesses start loading food onto their plates, and you do the same.
  6184.  
  6185. “It’s very nice. I’ve met so many good friends in the short time I’ve been here.”
  6186.  
  6187. > Celestia smiles.
  6188.  
  6189. “And some that are more than friends, or so I hear. Would you like to give that relationship report?”
  6190.  
  6191. > Sweatman.jpg
  6192.  
  6193. > She’s still smiling.
  6194.  
  6195. > Luna is not meeting your eyes.
  6196.  
  6197. > You… You’re going to do this.
  6198.  
  6199. “Dear Princess Celestia,”
  6200.  
  6201. > You pause, and she nods pleasantly.
  6202.  
  6203. > You continue, a blush rising.
  6204.  
  6205. “Today I learned how to talk to my wife in her native language, and found out a little more about her. As ever, I am in awe of Frozen Hart, and mystified and delighted by how she likes to set me up with other females.
  6206.  
  6207. Your faithful parole officer,
  6208.  
  6209. Anonymous.”
  6210.  
  6211. > Celestia chuckles.
  6212.  
  6213. “Females, Anonymous? Why did you not say mares?”
  6214.  
  6215. “Well, you have to include dragons.”
  6216.  
  6217. > Amusement glitters in her eyes.
  6218.  
  6219. “Of course, how could I forget about the dragons?
  6220.  
  6221. > You take advantage of a lull in the conversation to eat.
  6222.  
  6223. > Oh how you’ve missed this food.
  6224.  
  6225. > Celestia idly swishes her glass of wine, or maybe juice.
  6226.  
  6227. ” You may have noticed some others who were not always ponies. Have you wondered why that is?”
  6228.  
  6229. > You pause, swallowing a mouthful of food.
  6230.  
  6231. “I hadn’t really given it much thought. I just assumed it’s some sort of reincarnation thing.”
  6232.  
  6233. “It’s a little more precise than that. This is indeed an afterlife of sorts, for those who never found their purpose in their previous one.”
  6234.  
  6235. > Ouch.
  6236.  
  6237. > But true enough.
  6238.  
  6239. > Something in your expression must have betrayed your thoughts.
  6240.  
  6241. > Luna speaks for the first time
  6242.  
  6243. “Think it not a judgment upon thee, fair Anonymous. A bee doth find it’s purpose in it’s first flower, and a cat in its first hunt. For such as thee, thy time rudderless is necessary, that ye may find thy destined shore.”
  6244.  
  6245. “Thanks, Luna, that does put it in a better light.”
  6246.  
  6247. > She smiles, and looks down at her plate.
  6248.  
  6249. > Come to think of it,
  6250.  
  6251. > You check your flank.
  6252.  
  6253. > It’s blank, which is only a little surprising.
  6254.  
  6255. > Celestia clears her throat.
  6256.  
  6257. “It is rather odd, that you should take a brand, before earning a mark of your own. Do you know the significance of your branding?”
  6258.  
  6259. > You stop staring at your butt, and turn back to the conversation.
  6260.  
  6261. “Marriage for time and eternity, unless I miss my guess.”
  6262.  
  6263. > Celestia wiggles her head in a “not quite” sort of gesture.
  6264.  
  6265. “It is that, but it is also a mark on your soul, an empathic link between two lovers. It is said to increase the enjoyment of mutual activities. It has fallen into disuse, because the death of one can be very trying. A part of the soul, left open to the coldness of the grave.”
  6266.  
  6267. > Interesting. That would explain why Frozen is concerned about life expectancy.
  6268.  
  6269. > …
  6270.  
  6271. “How many brands can a stallion accept?”
  6272.  
  6273. > Celestia’s eyebrows rise, but it is Luna who answers.
  6274.  
  6275. “The tradition is two, but there is no upper limit that we know of.”
  6276.  
  6277. > Celestia gives you a knowing smile.
  6278.  
  6279. “I’ve heard Discord’s reports on your companions. How do you feel about being surrounded by mares, and dragons decades or even centuries older than you?”
  6280.  
  6281. “Frankly, your majesty? It’s kinda hot.”
  6282.  
  6283. > This sets off both princesses giggling behind their hooves.
  6284.  
  6285. > They recover soon enough, and Celestia takes a sip of her juice.
  6286.  
  6287. > She stands up, and says,
  6288.  
  6289. “That was a most entertaining meal, Anonymous. We’ll have to do it again sometime. “
  6290.  
  6291. > You stand up as well, but she gestures for you to remain seated.
  6292.  
  6293. “I have some duties to take care of, but do stay. My little sister has been dying to have you to herself.”
  6294.  
  6295. “Celestia! Thou promised!”
  6296.  
  6297. > Luna protests.
  6298.  
  6299. > Celestia ruffles her sister’s mane.
  6300.  
  6301. “It’s just a tease, dearest. Farewell, Anonymous, Sister.”
  6302.  
  6303. > Then she teleports away.
  6304.  
  6305. > Luna is left scowling, red with anger and embarrassment.
  6306.  
  6307.  
  6308.  
  6309. > You eat in silence for a bit.
  6310.  
  6311. > She attacks her lasagna fiercely, taking out some of her anger on her food.
  6312.  
  6313. > When she is done, she wipes her lips with a napkin, and gazes shyly up at you.
  6314.  
  6315. “Thou knowest how I feel about thee. What is thy response?”
  6316.  
  6317. > She is too dang cute, but you have to take this seriously.
  6318.  
  6319. “I honestly don’t know.”
  6320.  
  6321. > Luna looks crestfallen.
  6322.  
  6323. > You try to elaborate.
  6324.  
  6325. “Not just about my feelings for you, but about your feelings for me. Is it just a sex thing? I know you’ve spent a lot of time in that section of my memories, and goodness knows that’s a powerful subject.”
  6326.  
  6327. > Luna shakes her head.
  6328.  
  6329. > You wait.
  6330.  
  6331. “E’en in the depths of thy perversion, thy heart was filled with loneliness. Thou hast spent years in the shadow of thy sibling, and wast oft a watcher of others. For all that ye do treasure thy solitude, thou yearnest for company, for warm touches. These few days hath been the most joyful of thy memory.”
  6332.  
  6333. > She looks at you, vulnerable, yet proud.
  6334.  
  6335. “I had thought to join thee, for thou hast what we both hath wanted for too long.”
  6336.  
  6337. > You stand up, and she does as well, hesitantly.
  6338.  
  6339. > You walk to her side, and sit down.
  6340.  
  6341. > She does as well, and you sense a bit of relief in her uncertainty.
  6342.  
  6343. > You drape a leg across her withers, and lean towards her, so that your faces are cheek to cheek.
  6344.  
  6345. > She slowly unfurls a wing across your back, which soon becomes pleasantly warm.
  6346.  
  6347. > You sit like that for a little while, while you try to compose your answer.
  6348.  
  6349. > You sigh.
  6350.  
  6351. “You know, it’s going to get complicated fast. “
  6352.  
  6353. > You feel her cheek heat up.
  6354.  
  6355. “Thou wilt find that immortals oft create their own problems, that the years pass by in pleasant variety.”
  6356.  
  6357. “As long as you know what you are getting into, I can hardly complain. About Frozen, though, “
  6358.  
  6359. > You feel her tense up beside you.
  6360.  
  6361. “She very supportive of you. “
  6362.  
  6363. > She relaxes.
  6364.  
  6365. > You wonder how long that will last.
  6366.  
  6367. “But she will still insist on being at the top of the hierarchy.”
  6368.  
  6369. > Luna stands abruptly.
  6370.  
  6371. “But we are the Princess of the Night!”
  6372.  
  6373. > You raise your eyebrows at her.
  6374.  
  6375. “This has nothing to do with social status, and everything to do with romantic prominence. She is my first wife, and I love her dearly. If she didn’t approve of our courtship, I would respect that.”
  6376.  
  6377. > Luna turns around, and looks over her shoulder at you.
  6378.  
  6379. “E’en if thou couldst praise the moon at will? Thou wouldst deny me?”
  6380.  
  6381. > Dat RUMP.
  6382.  
  6383. > Nevertheless,
  6384.  
  6385. “Such are the excesses of royalty, I see.”
  6386.  
  6387. > Luna sits down on the opposite side of the table, scowling.
  6388.  
  6389. “Thou hast evaded mine question, and had thy mockery. It falleth to thee, now, to persuade me to be thy… “
  6390.  
  6391. > She blushes, and tries again.
  6392.  
  6393. “Thy…”
  6394.  
  6395. > That was softer.
  6396.  
  6397. > She takes a steadying breath, then lets loose in the Royal Canterlot Voice.
  6398.  
  6399. “THY MAREFRIEND!”
  6400.  
  6401. > Her eyes widen, and dart around, checking for listeners.
  6402.  
  6403. > Meanwhile, you wait for your ears to stop ringing.
  6404.  
  6405. > After a moment, she seems satisfied that she wasn’t overheard, and gives you her best regal gaze.
  6406.  
  6407. “Thou mayest begin.”
  6408.  
  6409. > Welp.
  6410.  
  6411. > First of all, do you really want this?
  6412.  
  6413. > Another crazy, immortal mare literally inhabiting your dreams?
  6414.  
  6415. > …
  6416.  
  6417. > More than unusual?
  6418.  
  6419. > Who are you kidding, if you could turn down attractive females, you wouldn’t have married Frozen.
  6420.  
  6421. > How to woo Luna…
  6422.  
  6423. > You check the layout of the table.
  6424.  
  6425. > Enough food has been eaten, and the dishes cleared away for you plan to work.
  6426.  
  6427. > You put your hooves on the table’s edge.
  6428.  
  6429. “When you were but ink and light to me, I imagined I would comfort you in your lonely nights.”
  6430.  
  6431. > You step up onto the table.
  6432.  
  6433. “In time, my crush on you faded. The fantasy was lacking, I didn’t know you well enough to imagine us together in any real sense.”
  6434.  
  6435. > You take a few small steps, avoiding platters and cups by peripheral vision.
  6436.  
  6437. “I have come to know you, Luna, in a small way. You are proud, beautiful, perverted and kind.”
  6438.  
  6439. > You stand now before her.
  6440.  
  6441. > Luna’s head is tilted back to maintain eye contact, and she is smiling faintly.
  6442.  
  6443. > You bow your head low, a bare few centimeters over her plate, and close your eyes.
  6444.  
  6445. “I would very much like to know you better, dear Luna, if you will let me.”
  6446.  
  6447. > You wait.
  6448.  
  6449. > You can sense her breathe ghosting across your face, sweet and warm.
  6450.  
  6451. > She plants a kiss on your forehead.
  6452.  
  6453. “Thy argument is passable, Anonymous.
  6454.  
  6455. However, get off the table, ‘tis unsanitary.”
  6456.  
  6457. > You obey with a chuckle.
  6458.  
  6459. > You finish the meal in companionable silence, enjoying each other’s proximity.
  6460.  
  6461. > Luna leads you to her tower.
  6462.  
  6463. > By the time you reach the top, you are rather winded.
  6464.  
  6465. > The sun has fully set, and together you gaze upon the first stars of the night.
  6466.  
  6467. > Truth be told, you were nervous about stargazing again.
  6468.  
  6469. > But this…
  6470.  
  6471. “It’s beautiful.”
  6472.  
  6473. > More than that, it’s peaceful.
  6474.  
  6475. > You can just sit on the stone, and let time slip by.
  6476.  
  6477. > No crazy and naive king, no capricious bastard.
  6478.  
  6479. > No sex-obsessed wife, no kinky dragons.
  6480.  
  6481. > No trio of mostly horror inducing, yet somehow also boner inducing ponies.
  6482.  
  6483. > Just peace, quiet, moonbutt and you.
  6484.  
  6485. > It’s been so long since you had a good look at the unmarred night sky.
  6486.  
  6487. > You widen your eyes, wishing to take it all in, trying to impress it clearly on your memory.
  6488.  
  6489. > Such a perfect starfield, unlike the one in your dre-
  6490.  
  6491. > Did
  6492.  
  6493. > Did you see some of the night bend?
  6494.  
  6495. > You close your eyes tightly, willing away the memories, the images.
  6496.  
  6497. > You take deep breaths.
  6498.  
  6499. “Anonymous, art thou unwell?”
  6500.  
  6501. > You look at her automatically, a fragile smile on your lips.
  6502.  
  6503. “I was reminded of a nightmare I had once.”
  6504.  
  6505. > Luna frowns.
  6506.  
  6507. “Shouldst thou find thyself in it again, be ye not slow in calling unto me. It is my duty as Princess of the Night to aid mine subjects in their extremity.”
  6508.  
  6509. > Your smile becomes more genuine.
  6510.  
  6511. “I may just take you up on that sometime.”
  6512.  
  6513. > You take a final deep breath. This is something you should know.
  6514.  
  6515. > You look once more at the night sky.
  6516.  
  6517. > It’s still beautiful, and blessedly free from anomalies.
  6518.  
  6519.  
  6520.  
  6521. > It’s late when Discord takes you back home.
  6522.  
  6523. > You thank him absent mindedly as a thought strikes you.
  6524.  
  6525. > You never gave your report. Celestia didn’t ask for it, and though Luna may have been excusably distracted, it still seems fishy.
  6526.  
  6527. > Well, if you’re right, then it’s one less thing to do. If not, you will be dreaming fairly soon.
  6528.  
  6529. > You find Frozen in the master bedroom, combing her hair.
  6530.  
  6531. > She sees you in the reflection on the wall.
  6532.  
  6533. “How did it go?”
  6534.  
  6535. “Well enough. You’ll be seeing more of Luna in the future”
  6536.  
  6537. > You draw close and hold out a hoof.
  6538.  
  6539. “May I?”
  6540.  
  6541. > She hands over the comb.
  6542.  
  6543. > As you gently run it through her mane, she closes her eyes in contentment.
  6544.  
  6545. “Good, I was hoping to play with her some more.”
  6546.  
  6547. >You trace the underside of her jaw with your other hoof.
  6548.  
  6549. “Do be gentle, I am somewhat fond of her.”
  6550.  
  6551. > Frozen hums in amusement.
  6552.  
  6553. “So sentimental.”
  6554.  
  6555. “That’s what you like about me.”
  6556.  
  6557. “It’s pleasant, from time to time.”
  6558.  
  6559. > She leans forward and rests her cheek on the wall.
  6560.  
  6561. > You continue combing her hair, enjoying the quiet time.
  6562.  
  6563. > Perhaps she and Luna can get along.
  6564.  
  6565. > You can’t help but wonder what it’d be like to comb that starry mane.
  6566.  
  6567. > You put it on your to do list.
  6568.  
  6569. “And how was your evening, dear?”
  6570.  
  6571. > Frozen wiggles her head a little.
  6572.  
  6573. “I didn’t go out, because you weren’t with me. Other than that, it was nice.”
  6574.  
  6575. > You pause.
  6576.  
  6577. “Um, I don’t mind if you go out without me.”
  6578.  
  6579. > Frozen opens her eyes and looks at you with a flat expression.
  6580.  
  6581. “You don’t mind if I freeze nearby ponies and dragons?”
  6582.  
  6583. > If one leads to the other…
  6584.  
  6585. “You can only control yourself around me?”
  6586.  
  6587. > You resume combing, and she closes her eyes and replies.
  6588.  
  6589. “It’s easier to think around you.”
  6590.  
  6591. > That…
  6592.  
  6593. > Suddenly, her clingy-ness makes more sense.
  6594.  
  6595. > Her sudden marriage proposal as well.
  6596.  
  6597. > If you could only think rationally around one person, after centuries of lower order thought…
  6598.  
  6599. > You don’t know what you wouldn’t do to keep that person around.
  6600.  
  6601. > You hug Frozen from behind, blinking back tears.
  6602.  
  6603. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.”
  6604.  
  6605. > She pats your hoof comfortingly.
  6606.  
  6607. “It’s better while I’m in this house that we built. It smells of you.”
  6608.  
  6609. > You shakily return to combing her mane.
  6610.  
  6611. “That’s-I’m glad.”
  6612.  
  6613. > Her smile is reflected in the mirror-like wall.
  6614.  
  6615. “Now the tail, please.”
  6616.  
  6617.  
  6618.  
  6619. > You awake in dreaming, and promptly do nothing.
  6620.  
  6621. > Luna has her turn, it’s Frozen time now.
  6622.  
  6623. > For her part, she is happy top cuddle pretty much indefinitely.
  6624.  
  6625. > Nearly half an hour passes in this manner, before someone politely knocks on your door.
  6626.  
  6627. > You don’t move, but call out,
  6628.  
  6629. “Come in.”
  6630.  
  6631. > Luna opens the door. Time to test your theory, you suppose.
  6632.  
  6633. > Then Celestia walks through, and things get complicated.
  6634.  
  6635. > For one, Frozen gets up and bows her head.
  6636.  
  6637. > You follow suit after a moment of hesitation.
  6638.  
  6639. > Celestia speaks.
  6640.  
  6641. “Raise your heads, my little ponies.”
  6642.  
  6643. > You look up to see Celestia perform a short bow.
  6644.  
  6645. “Anonymous, may I have your permission to peruse your memories?”
  6646.  
  6647. “I, um. Sure? But isn’t that what Luna was doing?”
  6648.  
  6649. > Celestia smiles, a strange light twinkling in her eyes.
  6650.  
  6651. “Indeed. But there were some things I just had to see for myself.”
  6652.  
  6653. >…
  6654.  
  6655. “Just so we’re clear, you are here for something other than the porn, right?”
  6656.  
  6657. > Celestia becomes a bit more dignified.
  6658.  
  6659. “Once you get to my age, Anonymous, you will find such things to be quite prosaic. I assure you, my interests lie elsewhere.”
  6660.  
  6661. > You shrug.
  6662.  
  6663. “Have fun storming the castle, then.”
  6664.  
  6665. > She performs another short bow, then walks out.
  6666.  
  6667. >…
  6668.  
  6669. > The centuries have been kind.
  6670.  
  6671. > You turn to Luna.
  6672.  
  6673. “So what brought this on?”
  6674.  
  6675.  
  6676.  
  6677. >>before
  6678.  
  6679.  
  6680.  
  6681. > Celestia yawns in her nest of cushions.
  6682.  
  6683. > Luna closes the door behind her, happily trotting to her own pillow fort.
  6684.  
  6685. > Celestia smiles tolerantly and lovingly.
  6686.  
  6687. “He said yes?”
  6688.  
  6689. > Luna kicks a pillow out of the way.
  6690.  
  6691. “He hath made it clear that his prime loyalty doth lay with she who branded him.”
  6692.  
  6693. > She settles down in her fort, taking comfort in the warm and soft confines.
  6694.  
  6695. “E’en so, he hath expressed his ardor in a pleasing manner. Didst thou know, in times past, he did pine or me from afar?”
  6696.  
  6697. “How flattering!”
  6698.  
  6699. > There was a hint of something unsaid in that comment.
  6700.  
  6701. > Luna sighs.
  6702.  
  6703. “What is it, sister?”
  6704.  
  6705. > Celestia shrugs.
  6706.  
  6707. “It can’t have been too long ago, he’s only known you for a few days.”
  6708.  
  6709. > Luna shakes her head firmly.
  6710.  
  6711. “‘Twas longer, I am certain!”
  6712.  
  6713. > Celestia raises her eyebrows.
  6714.  
  6715. “What, did he receive visions of you when he was in his home dimension?”
  6716.  
  6717. > Luna opens her mouth to reply, then closes it.
  6718.  
  6719. > Celestia perks up.
  6720.  
  6721. “Something like that? This could be serious.”
  6722.  
  6723. > Luna averts her eyes.
  6724.  
  6725. “Twas but a drama.”
  6726.  
  6727. > Celestia’s pupils dilate.
  6728.  
  6729. “How long is the play?”
  6730.  
  6731. > Luna sinks down into her cushions.
  6732.  
  6733. > She wishes she could take it all back, but she couldn’t deny Celestia this.
  6734.  
  6735. “Somewhat more than thirty hours.”
  6736.  
  6737. > Celestia’s face goes slack.
  6738.  
  6739. “How do they perform so long? Who can see it all?”
  6740.  
  6741. > Words fail Luna as she struggles to describe what she saw.
  6742.  
  6743. > In the meantime, Celestia gives Luna a sly look.
  6744.  
  6745. “That’s why you’re interested in him. Such stamina!”
  6746.  
  6747. “Cease thy supposition! There are not actors, but moving illustrations!”
  6748.  
  6749. > Celestia’s face falls in disappointment, but rekindled interest brings her back up.
  6750.  
  6751. “I think I should see this.”
  6752.  
  6753. “Sister-”
  6754.  
  6755. “I insist.”
  6756.  
  6757.  
  6758.  
  6759. >>now
  6760.  
  6761.  
  6762.  
  6763. “So Celestia is watching the show now.”
  6764.  
  6765. > Luna nods.
  6766.  
  6767. > That’s not so bad.
  6768.  
  6769. “Verily, and such content such as is adjacent.”
  6770.  
  6771. > Oh no.
  6772.  
  6773. “mlp?”
  6774.  
  6775. > Luna nods.
  6776.  
  6777. “Yea, and pastebins.”
  6778.  
  6779. > Well, crap. She may not start out in the porn, but that won’t last forever.
  6780.  
  6781. > No use fretting, it’s not like you can stop her.
  6782.  
  6783. > If you’re being completely honest with yourself, you don’t want to stop her.
  6784.  
  6785. > Hmm. Over thirty hours…
  6786.  
  6787. “How many episodes have you seen? You’ve done enough extra reading that you couldn’t have seen them all.”
  6788.  
  6789. > Luna shakes her head.
  6790.  
  6791. “Time doth pass but softly in dreaming.”
  6792.  
  6793. >
  6794.  
  6795.  
  6796.  
  6797. “We need to go deeper.”
  6798.  
  6799. > Luna looks at you skeptically.
  6800.  
  6801. “Lo, we are already dreaming.”
  6802.  
  6803. > You wave a hand vaguely.
  6804.  
  6805. “It’s a joke.”
  6806.  
  6807. > Actually,
  6808.  
  6809. “When you get a chance, look up the movie Inception. I think you’ll find it interesting.”
  6810.  
  6811. > Luna gazes at you speculatively.
  6812.  
  6813. “Mayhap thou wilt watch it with us?”
  6814.  
  6815. > A dream movie and a dream pony?
  6816.  
  6817. “It would be my pleasure.”
  6818.  
  6819. > Luna lifts a hoof uncertainly.
  6820.  
  6821. “Hast thou plans for this dreaming time?”
  6822.  
  6823. > You look at Frozen questioningly, and say,
  6824.  
  6825. “I personally don’t. Dear?”
  6826.  
  6827. > Frozen feigns indecision.
  6828.  
  6829. “Hmmm, did I have any plans…”
  6830.  
  6831. > Luna takes a deep breath.
  6832.  
  6833. “Wouldst thou care to join us?”
  6834.  
  6835. > Frozen stares at her in surprise.
  6836.  
  6837. “Okay. Yes, I would.”
  6838.  
  6839. > The top spins, wobbles, and the credits roll.
  6840.  
  6841. > Frozen rubs her chin.
  6842.  
  6843. “I think it would have been more interesting from Saito’s perspective.”
  6844.  
  6845. > Huh.
  6846.  
  6847. > Luna disagrees.
  6848.  
  6849. “Twas good as it was, for Cobb was the very crux of the criminal enterprise.”
  6850.  
  6851. > She sighs.
  6852.  
  6853. “If only dreams were so malleable.”
  6854.  
  6855. > That piques your interest.
  6856.  
  6857. “Really? Aren’t real dreams more unstable?”
  6858.  
  6859. > Luna frowns.
  6860.  
  6861. “Less… consistent, but more resilient. E’en shouldst thou dream lucid, it is wont to revert to subconscious control.”
  6862.  
  6863. > You glance around at your library.
  6864.  
  6865. “Where does this place fit in? It’s pretty stable.”
  6866.  
  6867. > Frozen is the one to answer.
  6868.  
  6869. “We are within an astral plane local to your mind.”
  6870.  
  6871. > That-okay, that makes sense.
  6872.  
  6873. “Makes as much sense as anything. So, do they all look like this, or is a library specific to me?”
  6874.  
  6875. > Frozen looks to Luna.
  6876.  
  6877. > The Princess clears her throat.
  6878.  
  6879. “Libraries are common, as are houses. Not a few go so far as to have their villages as memory archive.”
  6880.  
  6881. > Well, much of Equestria is rural.
  6882.  
  6883. “So what is yours like, Luna?”
  6884.  
  6885. > She reddens.
  6886.  
  6887. > Too intimate a question?
  6888.  
  6889. “If it’s not too personal, that is.”
  6890.  
  6891. > Luna shakes her head.
  6892.  
  6893. “I hath ne’er shown it to another.”
  6894.  
  6895. > Oh my.
  6896.  
  6897. “Do… do you want to show it to me?”
  6898.  
  6899. > Luna looks down and scuffs the ground.
  6900.  
  6901. > You wait.
  6902.  
  6903. > Eventually, she glances at you nervously.
  6904.  
  6905. “Methinks thou must become further acquainted with me ere thou goeth to that place.”
  6906.  
  6907. “That sounds good. It is a rather private place, after all.”
  6908.  
  6909. > Frozen smiles.
  6910.  
  6911. “By that logic, you’re quite the exhibitionist.”
  6912.  
  6913. > You shrug.
  6914.  
  6915. “What can I say, I can’t say no to a pretty lady.”
  6916.  
  6917. > Frozen nods stoically.
  6918.  
  6919. “Useful information. Do you mind if I lick your memories of being lonely?”
  6920.  
  6921. > What.
  6922.  
  6923. “I- … Go ahead?”
  6924.  
  6925. > She nods and walks off.
  6926.  
  6927. > You stare at where she was.
  6928.  
  6929. “I do believe that mare is setting us up.”
  6930.  
  6931. > Luna draws closer.
  6932.  
  6933. “Ah, twould be churlish to waste her efforts.”
  6934.  
  6935. > You nod cautiously.
  6936.  
  6937. “What do you have in mind?”
  6938.  
  6939. > She ruffles her wings.
  6940.  
  6941. “Perhaps… A kiss?”
  6942.  
  6943. You grin.
  6944.  
  6945. “I’d like that.”
  6946.  
  6947. > She closes her eyes and stretches out her head towards you.
  6948.  
  6949. > It still throws you that she only comes up to chest height, but now it’s convenient.
  6950.  
  6951. > You lift up her chin and close the distance.
  6952.  
  6953. > You press your lips to hers, savoring the light stimulation.
  6954.  
  6955. > She surges upward, twisting and prodding at your mouth.
  6956.  
  6957. > Her hooves hook onto your shoulders as you return her passion as best you can.
  6958.  
  6959. > She lets out a little moan as you accept her tongue.
  6960.  
  6961. > You cup the back of her head, relishing the silky feel of her flowing mane.
  6962.  
  6963. > Your other hand strokes her long neck, and you’re rewarded with a low hum of pleasure.
  6964.  
  6965. > Eventually, both you part lips, breathing heavily.
  6966.  
  6967. > She gazes at you with eyes half-lidded.
  6968.  
  6969. “Know ye this, I shall require this favor thee from time to time.”
  6970.  
  6971. > She brings one hoof from off your shoulder and trails it down your chest.
  6972.  
  6973. “We cannot deny thy form is strange, but it is not unpleasant.”
  6974.  
  6975. > She stops at your belly, suddenly shy.
  6976.  
  6977. > She glances down.
  6978.  
  6979. “And perhaps another time I may examine the peculiarities of thy species?”
  6980.  
  6981. > You grin and slide your hand from her neck to the small of her back and pull her close.
  6982.  
  6983. “Far be it from me to hinder the advances of science.”
  6984.  
  6985. > She bops you playfully on your chest with her hoof.
  6986.  
  6987. “Thou art incorrigible.”
  6988.  
  6989. > You seize her flanks and lift.
  6990.  
  6991. > She lets out a startled eep, and flaps her wings to regain balance.
  6992.  
  6993. > You look up at the flustered alicorn in satisfaction, her pelvis pressed against your chest.
  6994.  
  6995. “You wouldn’t have me any other way.”
  6996.  
  6997. > She squishes your cheeks with her hooves.
  6998.  
  6999. “Thou hast had thy fun, now put me down!”
  7000.  
  7001. > You reply as best you can.
  7002.  
  7003. “As you wiss.”
  7004.  
  7005. > You set her down carefully, and she ruffles her wings again.
  7006.  
  7007. “Methinks ‘tis time to check upon my sister, it would not do to leave her alone too long.”
  7008.  
  7009. > You like how Luna doesn’t say for whom it would be problematic.
  7010.  
  7011.  
  7012.  
  7013. > When the two of you find Celestia, she is watching the end of Dragonshy.
  7014.  
  7015. > She catches sight of you and stands up.
  7016.  
  7017. “Anonymous, there is a shocking lack of princesses so far.”
  7018.  
  7019. > Agreed.
  7020.  
  7021. “It’ll get a little better as the series goes on, but don’t expect too much. The problems of princesses tend not to fit the format too well.”
  7022.  
  7023. > She sighs.
  7024.  
  7025. “I suppose.”
  7026.  
  7027. > She turns to Luna.
  7028.  
  7029. “Have you asked him about it yet?”
  7030.  
  7031. “Ah!”
  7032.  
  7033. > Luna ruffles her wings nervously.
  7034.  
  7035. “We were distracted.”
  7036.  
  7037. > Your new marefriend gazes at you soberly.
  7038.  
  7039. “There hath been a series of induced nightmares in Ponyville. We require thy assistance in apprehending the cause.”
  7040.  
  7041. > You are confused.
  7042.  
  7043. “I’ll be glad to help, but I’m not sure how much use I’ll be with dream magic.”
  7044.  
  7045. “Thy aid shall be more in the nature of winnowing possibilities. Thou might remember thy entrepreneurial venture in water supply?”
  7046.  
  7047. > Well, crap, it very well could be something in the water you sold.
  7048.  
  7049. “Ah, please consider me at your service.”
  7050.  
  7051. > Luna nods.
  7052.  
  7053. “We shall.”
  7054.  
  7055. >…
  7056.  
  7057. > The ensuing silence is broken by Celestia.
  7058.  
  7059. “Shall we watch the next episode?”
  7060.  
  7061.  
  7062.  
  7063. > About halfway through, Luna pulls you aside and your vision is filled with blue light.
  7064.  
  7065. > You wake up with the sky still very dark out.
  7066.  
  7067. > Space goes glass elevator, and you find yourself at the bedside of a blue pony with a two-toned mane.
  7068.  
  7069. > Luna appears shortly after, and places one hoof on Colgate’s horn, and the other on yours.
  7070.  
  7071. > You suppress most of your thoughts about dual hoofjobs.
  7072.  
  7073. > After a moment, Luna shakes her head, and Colgate groans in her sleep.
  7074.  
  7075. > The Princess teleports you and herself to the street, a troubled expression on her face.
  7076.  
  7077. “The seed is exceedingly subtle, and hath a similar flavor, but it is not of thy making.”
  7078.  
  7079. > Considering what you are, that’s pretty worrying.
  7080.  
  7081. “If it’s similar to me, is there something I can do?”
  7082.  
  7083. > She shakes her head.
  7084.  
  7085. “Better that ye return to thy home and sleep. Thy presence doth muddy the currents.”
  7086.  
  7087. > You bow, and take a golden ticket back home.
  7088.  
  7089. > By the time you lay your head on Frozen’s side, your eyes are very heavy.
  7090.  
  7091.  
  7092.  
  7093. > For once, you truly dream.
  7094.  
  7095. > It starts out normally enough, with you walking into a vast dining hall full of ponies.
  7096.  
  7097. “H-hello.”
  7098.  
  7099. > The ponies look at you blankly, then resume their conversations.
  7100.  
  7101. > You walk carefully into the crowd, looking for familiar faces.
  7102.  
  7103. > Despite your best efforts, you occasionally bump into a pony, and they sneer at you.
  7104.  
  7105. > You feel a flood of relief as you spot Frozen.
  7106.  
  7107. > You shoulder past two stallions, ignoring their reactions.
  7108.  
  7109. “Oh Frozen, am I glad to see you!”
  7110.  
  7111. > She gazes at you coolly.
  7112.  
  7113. “I no longer need you. Go away, you sicken me.”
  7114.  
  7115. “I-”
  7116.  
  7117. > The ponies make an aisle, leading back to the door.
  7118.  
  7119. > You slowly back away, recognizing more and more ponies and dragons, each with their faces twisted in disgust.
  7120.  
  7121. > You turn and run out the door, then slump against the wall.
  7122.  
  7123. > Pinkie Pie pokes her head out into the corridor and winks at you.
  7124.  
  7125. “Like what you see?”
  7126.  
  7127. > Her mouth opens, and stretches, and becomes your world.
  7128.  
  7129. > It is a world of writhing darkness and putrid sweetness.
  7130.  
  7131.  
  7132.  
  7133. > You wake up, heart hammering like mad.
  7134.  
  7135. > It’s still dark out; you might have gotten an hour of sleep.
  7136.  
  7137. > As your breathing becomes more regular, you find a heavy weight on your chest.
  7138.  
  7139. > Your eyes clear, and report that a mature, midnight blue mare is perched on your chest.
  7140.  
  7141. > Her black mane is streaked with silver, and gathered in a loose ponytail, resting on her right shoulder.
  7142.  
  7143. > Her eyes glow a dim crimson.
  7144.  
  7145. “Thanks for the meal.”
  7146.  
  7147. > You blink and she’s gone.
  7148.  
  7149. > You feel at your neck, which is nicely devoid of bleeding holes.
  7150.  
  7151. > Well, one mystery solved.
  7152.  
  7153. > You stay up awhile, trying to sense the flavor of her magic on you, but you just don’t have the skill.
  7154.  
  7155. > Eventually, you succumb to your weariness, and fall into a dreamless sleep, reassured by the loving softness of Frozen’s presence.
  7156.  
  7157.  
  7158.  
  7159. > Morning.
  7160.  
  7161. “Can you sense anypony’s magic on me?”
  7162.  
  7163. > Frozen looks at you oddly.
  7164.  
  7165. > It’s not the first thing you said to her this morning, but it is odd coming after the usual greetings and endearments.
  7166.  
  7167. > She sniffs you.
  7168.  
  7169. “Mine, and that filly.”
  7170.  
  7171. “Filly?”
  7172.  
  7173. > She strikes a regal pose.
  7174.  
  7175. > She means Luna?
  7176.  
  7177. “So, no nightmare inducing mares who might be ascendant?”
  7178.  
  7179. > Frozen’s jaw drops.
  7180.  
  7181. > You would relish this new expression of hers, but the implications are a higher priority.
  7182.  
  7183. “Someone you know?”
  7184.  
  7185. > Frozen’s gaze roves over your body.
  7186.  
  7187. “She didn’t… do anything?”
  7188.  
  7189. “Aside from sit on my chest and give me a nightmare, no. Though there were similar incidents with different ponies in Ponyville.”
  7190.  
  7191. > She sighs.
  7192.  
  7193. “What is she thinking?”
  7194.  
  7195. > You sidle up beside your wife, and bump shoulders.
  7196.  
  7197. “She was eating, I guess. So who are we talking about again?”
  7198.  
  7199. > Frozen rubs her eyes.
  7200.  
  7201. “My mother, I think.”
  7202.  
  7203. > …
  7204.  
  7205. > She did have to come from somewhere.
  7206.  
  7207. “Dark blue, and a black mane starting to go grey?”
  7208.  
  7209. “That’s her.”
  7210.  
  7211. > Frozen stomps on the ground for a bit.
  7212.  
  7213. “I was right there! And she feeds on you, and doesn’t even say hello!”
  7214.  
  7215. > In-laws.
  7216.  
  7217. > Although, you are including an empty patch of space in that category.
  7218.  
  7219. > How does that even work?
  7220.  
  7221. “Shall we track her down? She must have left some trace.”
  7222.  
  7223. > Frozen is dubious at the prospect, but agrees.
  7224.  
  7225. > Apparently, she’s gotten pretty subtle, after spending millennia feeding on bad dreams.
  7226.  
  7227. > Frozen starts sniffing the air, meandering towards the door.
  7228.  
  7229. > While you follow her, you ask,
  7230.  
  7231. “So how does the whole dreams as food thing work?”
  7232.  
  7233. > She makes her way slowly to the entrance of the mansion.
  7234.  
  7235. “This isn’t like her at all. It should have blown away by the time we were awake. To answer your question, the two traits an ascendant should have are immortality and power. There are many paths, but changing your diet is very common. It must be something that would be abundant throughout your development, if possible.”
  7236.  
  7237. “So she will keep causing bad dreams, and at an increased rate as she grows?”
  7238.  
  7239. > Frozen shakes her head.
  7240.  
  7241. “She feeds on fear.”
  7242.  
  7243. “My nightmare didn’t get any less scary, especially towards the end.”
  7244.  
  7245. > Your wife’s hoof disappears in thin air.
  7246.  
  7247. “It’s radiant fear, not conducted fear. Enough explanation, let’s go.”
  7248.  
  7249. > Space is churned by a chocolate waterfall, and you end up in a slightly familiar bedroom.
  7250.  
  7251. > Colgate yelps and yanks the blankets up around herself.
  7252.  
  7253. > Thinking quickly, you manifest a badge out of ice.
  7254.  
  7255. “Sorry ma’am, Dimensional Police coming through.”
  7256.  
  7257. > You flash the badge, then turn back to Frozen.
  7258.  
  7259. “Please continue, officer Hart.”
  7260.  
  7261. > She nods, and inhales deeply.
  7262.  
  7263. > Meanwhile, Colgate has settled down somewhat.
  7264.  
  7265. “Who are you two looking for?”
  7266.  
  7267. “The one who gave you a nightmare last night.”
  7268.  
  7269. > Her eyes go wide.
  7270.  
  7271. “You’re psychic…”
  7272.  
  7273. > She gasps, and a blush comes to her cheeks.
  7274.  
  7275. “Sorry officer, I couldn’t help but imagine your… barrel. It won’t happen again!”
  7276.  
  7277. > You open your mouth, and she whimpers.
  7278.  
  7279. > Before you can gather your senses, she speaks.
  7280.  
  7281. “Sorry, it just sorta happened. Again.”
  7282.  
  7283. > Frozen pats her gently on the shoulder.
  7284.  
  7285. “Don’t worry, it happens to everyone.”
  7286.  
  7287. > You look down at your chest.
  7288.  
  7289. > It’s not that impressive, is it?
  7290.  
  7291. > You run a hoof across it, trying to get a sense of scale relative to other ponies.
  7292.  
  7293. > Frozen and Colgate blush prettily, at which point you decide it is time to get back to business.
  7294.  
  7295. “So, do you have the trail?”
  7296.  
  7297. > Your wife nods, and walks out of the room.
  7298.  
  7299. > You nod at Colgate, and follow Frozen.
  7300.  
  7301. > Just as your flank crosses the threshold, you hear Colgate whisper,
  7302.  
  7303. “I’m not normally this frisky, I swear!”
  7304.  
  7305. > You stop.
  7306.  
  7307. “I’m not really psychic, you know.”
  7308.  
  7309. > Colgate nods.
  7310.  
  7311. “I understand.”
  7312.  
  7313. > Then she winks.
  7314.  
  7315. “Something to remember me by.”
  7316.  
  7317. > And just stares at you.
  7318.  
  7319. > After a moment, you just smile and move on.
  7320.  
  7321. > You find Frozen outside the house, and are greeted by the usual chorus of panicked screams.
  7322.  
  7323. > You aren’t sure why you keep forgetting about that.
  7324.  
  7325. > Blue smoke rises like a haze from the streets, coalescing in front of you.
  7326.  
  7327. > Finally, it turns into the mare from last night.
  7328.  
  7329. “Ara Ara, what a fine meal! I really must thank your husband, he has such a delicious effect on the ponies here.”
  7330.  
  7331. > Frozen grits her teeth, but keeps a level tone.
  7332.  
  7333. “Mother, what are you doing here?”
  7334.  
  7335. > The nightmare comes closer.
  7336.  
  7337. “If you think about it, my dear, it should be obvious. I may not have to feed again for four months!”
  7338.  
  7339. > Frozen eyes the barren streets.
  7340.  
  7341. “I take it the surges of fear marked by Anon’s arrival in town drew your attention.”
  7342.  
  7343. > Her mom nods happily.
  7344.  
  7345. “Well done, well done. Mind if I tag along with you two? I’m on the run from a sca~ry lady.”
  7346.  
  7347. > Frozen facehooves.
  7348.  
  7349. “Really, Mother? Again?”
  7350.  
  7351. > The other mare runs a hoof down the ponytail draped on her shoulder.
  7352.  
  7353. “What a sad world this is, that a daughter would turn away her dear, sweet mother in her time of need.”
  7354.  
  7355. > Frozen waits until her mother gets rather antsy before replying.
  7356.  
  7357. “Fine, follow me.”
  7358.  
  7359. > On your way to a handy seam, the older mare falls in alongside you.
  7360.  
  7361. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Mara, your mother-in-law. Please take good care of me.”
  7362.  
  7363.  
  7364.  
  7365. > You end up giving Mara a tour of your mansion.
  7366.  
  7367. > She makes appreciative noises, often commenting that it really looks much better during the day.
  7368.  
  7369. > At the end of the tour, she turns to you and asks sweetly,
  7370.  
  7371. “And where are the cleaning supplies?”
  7372.  
  7373. “Cleaning supplies?”
  7374.  
  7375. > She nods.
  7376.  
  7377. “I can hardly expect to stay with you two for free. I’m pretty confident in my cleaning abilities, including laundry and organization.”
  7378.  
  7379. > You glance at Frozen, who just blinks.
  7380.  
  7381. “Ah, we don’t really have anything to clean.”
  7382.  
  7383. > Mara looks uneasy.
  7384.  
  7385. “Clothes?”
  7386.  
  7387. “I make them if I need them. Like so.”
  7388.  
  7389. > You spin a tie out of ice.
  7390.  
  7391. > Mara frowns.
  7392.  
  7393. “The same with personal items?”
  7394.  
  7395. > You shrug.
  7396.  
  7397. “I haven’t been here that long, and ice does most of what I want it to.”
  7398.  
  7399. > Mara turns to Frozen.
  7400.  
  7401. “Birds of a feather, I see.”
  7402.  
  7403. > Frozen smiles.
  7404.  
  7405. > Mara returns her attention to you.
  7406.  
  7407. “I am a stellar cook.”
  7408.  
  7409. > She gets nervous.
  7410.  
  7411. “Anonymous, you do eat, right?”
  7412.  
  7413. > It’s your turn to be uncertain.
  7414.  
  7415. “We’re talking normal pony food, not actually cooking stars?”
  7416.  
  7417. > She laughs gently behind her hoof.
  7418.  
  7419. “Stars can’t be cooked, Anon. I shall be your live-in chef, if that is acceptable.”
  7420.  
  7421. “Ah, sure?”
  7422.  
  7423. > It’s not like she’ll cost much to have around, having already been fed for four months.
  7424.  
  7425. > Just then, your stomach growls.
  7426.  
  7427. > Mara beams.
  7428.  
  7429. “Duty calls.”
  7430.  
  7431. > Then her face falls.
  7432.  
  7433. “Where was the kitchen again?”
  7434.  
  7435.  
  7436.  
  7437. > As you enter your entrance hall, space warps and you catch a glimpse of Discord waving at you.
  7438.  
  7439. > You wave back, and Luna appears, slightly disoriented.
  7440.  
  7441. > She calls out in her Royal Canterlot Voice,
  7442.  
  7443. “I HAVE TRACED THE PATH OF THE MONSTER TO THY HOME, ANONYMOUS! BEWARE LEST THOU BE PREYED UPON!”
  7444.  
  7445. > Mara is offended.
  7446.  
  7447. “The Monster!?”
  7448.  
  7449. > You take a few steps forward.
  7450.  
  7451. “A little late, Luna. But it’s fine now, she’s my chef.”
  7452.  
  7453. > Luna focuses on you.
  7454.  
  7455. “Ah, Anonymous, thou art safe, we are glad. Come, let us track down the monster and bring it to justice!”
  7456.  
  7457. > Mara looks at you pleadingly.
  7458.  
  7459. “You don’t think I’m a monster, do you?”
  7460.  
  7461. > You pat her hoof comfortingly.
  7462.  
  7463. “No more than I am, which is to say, slightly monstrous, but in a good way.
  7464.  
  7465. > Luna notices her for the first time.
  7466.  
  7467. “Thou hast yet another mare in thy herd, Anonymous? How many til thou art sated?”
  7468.  
  7469. > Your mother-in-law looks at you with wide eyes.
  7470.  
  7471. “I’m in your herd?”
  7472.  
  7473. > This is all happening too fast.
  7474.  
  7475. “I don’t think so? At least, not yet.”
  7476.  
  7477. > Frozen gazes at you primly.
  7478.  
  7479. “Not yet?”
  7480.  
  7481. > There are too many mares.
  7482.  
  7483. > Or not enough.
  7484.  
  7485. “Look, you are the only confirmed member of my herd, I still haven’t decided on anyone else.”
  7486.  
  7487. > Frozen becomes, if possible, more unreadable.
  7488.  
  7489. “I do not like this uncertainty on whether or not you wish to be intimate with my mother.”
  7490.  
  7491. > Dang it, how are you supposed to take that?
  7492.  
  7493. > Luna’s nostrils flare, catching the scent of her prey.
  7494.  
  7495. “I am yet unconfirmed, and thou art considering this monster as a mate?”
  7496.  
  7497. > Mara hides behind you.
  7498.  
  7499. > Frozen glares at Luna.
  7500.  
  7501. “That is my mother, Princess.”
  7502.  
  7503. > Luna is at a temporary loss for words.
  7504.  
  7505. > Now is your chance.
  7506.  
  7507. “Luna, Mara here has agreed to be my personal chef. That panic in the streets was my fault, but now she won’t cause another nightmare for about four months.”
  7508.  
  7509. > And breathe.
  7510.  
  7511. > Luna is unsatisfied, but less upset.
  7512.  
  7513. > She addresses Mara directly.
  7514.  
  7515. “Do we have thy oath that thou shalt not trouble the dreams of mine ponies for four months?”
  7516.  
  7517. > Mara stands a little straighter.
  7518.  
  7519. “Upon my tongue, I do swear as thou sayest.”
  7520.  
  7521. > Luna nods, and turns to you.
  7522.  
  7523. “Thus shall I leave her under thy watch, parole officer Anonymous. Now, if thou wilt excuse us, it is past time that I retire.”
  7524.  
  7525. > She strides out of the mansion, and into the spacial disruptions that lead back to Ponyville.
  7526.  
  7527. > Mara gazes at you timidly.
  7528.  
  7529. “You really think I could be in your herd?”
  7530.  
  7531. > Oh yes, this didn’t stop being a thing.
  7532.  
  7533. “Look, you’re an attractive enough mare, and I can’t deny you are intriguing, and Frozen, help me out here!”
  7534.  
  7535. > Your wife watches you neutrally.
  7536.  
  7537. “It is your choice. Far be it from me to meddle with the desires of your heart.”
  7538.  
  7539. > She pauses.
  7540.  
  7541. “Or your libido.”
  7542.  
  7543. > You are pretty sure she’s teasing you now.
  7544.  
  7545. “So you wouldn’t mind if I got intimate with your mom?”
  7546.  
  7547. > Mara fans herself with her hooves.
  7548.  
  7549. “Ara ara, what a bold young stallion!”
  7550.  
  7551. > Frozen blinks.
  7552.  
  7553. “Even if you were to do so in front of me, I would not have the right to protest.”
  7554.  
  7555. > Mara is looking at you expectantly.
  7556.  
  7557. > No way are you going to test that.
  7558.  
  7559. > …
  7560.  
  7561. > …
  7562.  
  7563. > Not yet, at least.
  7564.  
  7565. “Let me think on this, and actually get to know her first.”
  7566.  
  7567. > Frozen nods.
  7568.  
  7569. “Prudent.”
  7570.  
  7571. > Mara nuzzles your shoulder.
  7572.  
  7573. “Thank you, Anonymous, for defending me from your jealous marefriend. You are a good colt.”
  7574.  
  7575. > What can you say?
  7576.  
  7577. “You are welcome, Mara.”
  7578.  
  7579. > Then your stomach growls, and she giggles.
  7580.  
  7581. “Shall we continue? I can hardly wait to make breakfast for you, when it may win me a place in your herd.”
  7582.  
  7583. “… Let’s just go.”
  7584.  
  7585.  
  7586.  
  7587. > You open the door, only to find the shadowkin liaisons.
  7588.  
  7589. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say the world is out to keep me from having breakfast!”
  7590.  
  7591. > They are somewhat taken aback at your outburst.
  7592.  
  7593. > Nore Ihi cautiously steps forward, leaving behind a steaming hoofprint.
  7594.  
  7595. “Have we offended you, Lord?”
  7596.  
  7597. > Oh yeah, you are a lord. You had honestly forgotten.
  7598.  
  7599. “No, it’s fine, but if you wish to speak with me, you will have to do so at a walk.”
  7600.  
  7601. > You set off, accidentally brushing one of the glowing rods floating around her.
  7602.  
  7603. > It’s pleasantly warm, like hot bath.
  7604.  
  7605. > Nore blushes, in her fire horse sort of way.
  7606.  
  7607. > Soon enough, you are trailed by five hot mares, and feeling pretty alpha.
  7608.  
  7609. > Ngee Chi teleports to your side.
  7610.  
  7611. “If this is part of your routine, do you wish to see the shadowkin equivalent?”
  7612.  
  7613. > Well,
  7614.  
  7615. “It’s just breakfast, and you guys don’t eat, so…”
  7616.  
  7617. > Nore catches up.
  7618.  
  7619. “We could perform the traditional feeding ceremony, if it pleases you.”
  7620.  
  7621. > That sounds interesting, but
  7622.  
  7623. “Once we get to the kitchen. I’m pretty hungry.”
  7624.  
  7625. > You make it there without further incident.
  7626.  
  7627. > As Mara goes about breakfast, the shadowkin take advantage of the lull.
  7628.  
  7629. > You sit down at the table to watch the show
  7630.  
  7631. > Ngee rises up on her hind legs, towering a good six feet above you.
  7632.  
  7633. > Nore begins circling her, with precise hoofsteps in a measured rhythm.
  7634.  
  7635. > After a few orbits, you realize that she is stepping exactly in her previous hoofprints.
  7636.  
  7637. > Ngee sweeps her long forehooves, teasing at the current, shifting it into the visible spectrum.
  7638.  
  7639. > The torus of magic grows higher, Ngee weaving cords into an interlocking pattern.
  7640.  
  7641. > At last, it stands stable and twelve feet high, a shimmering cone of red and purple magic.
  7642.  
  7643. > Ngee teleports out, and Nore steps into the center, her six glowing rods keeping the structure spinning.
  7644.  
  7645. > As Xylalon slowly pushes into the side, the magic splinters and is pulled into the pores of her cloudflesh.
  7646.  
  7647. > Nore slowly backs away, keeping it as stable as she can.
  7648.  
  7649. > Finally, Xylalon floats in the center, the cone collapsing into her from above.
  7650.  
  7651. > She grins, the ritual done.
  7652.  
  7653. “Pretty wild, huh?”
  7654.  
  7655. > You have to agree.
  7656.  
  7657. “Unlike anything I have ever seen. I have to ask, how did the tradition get started?”
  7658.  
  7659. > Xylalon nods wisely.
  7660.  
  7661. “I’ll tell you. I don’t know.”
  7662.  
  7663. > Nore kicks her cloudflesh, ignoring the small cry of protest.
  7664.  
  7665. > She turns to you.
  7666.  
  7667. “It’s a tradition. Because of our traditions, everypony knows who they are, and what roles they are expected to play.”
  7668.  
  7669. > Fair enough.
  7670.  
  7671.  
  7672.  
  7673. > The sound of sizzling builds slowly, and you eye the French toast cooking on the stove
  7674.  
  7675. “Smells good, Mara.”
  7676.  
  7677. > Come to think of it, eating isn’t so bad, no need to give it up if you don’t have to
  7678.  
  7679. > Maybe you’ll develop photosynthesis or something when you ascend
  7680.  
  7681. > Your mother in law smiles, a hoof going to her cheek
  7682.  
  7683. > “Thank you, Anonymous. You are such a sweet young colt.”
  7684.  
  7685. > Frozen rolls her eyes
  7686.  
  7687. > Seriously, does she not care about her mom flirting with you?
  7688.  
  7689. > Although, if herding is a thing, then as long as incest doesn’t happen, maybe widows normally go to their daughter’s herd?
  7690.  
  7691. > Xylalon drifts into your field of vision
  7692.  
  7693. > “Hey, we actually have a favor to ask. While this whole snowflake layout is cool and all, heh, it would be more convenient if there were more concentric rings in the inner districts. Could you or King Sombra do that?”
  7694.  
  7695. > You check on the layout through the citadel input
  7696.  
  7697. > You get the sense that most beacorns don’t like to go too far inward, judging by the flow of the currents
  7698.  
  7699. > Looking at the buildings themselves, the alleys and streets are probably a bit too steeply angled for the circumspect pathing the shadowkin seem to favor > Could you reorganize the buildings and streets?
  7700.  
  7701. > Maybe, but you may have a better idea
  7702.  
  7703. “How about a concentric series of elevated walkways?”
  7704.  
  7705. > Nore Ihi dips her head
  7706.  
  7707. > “We approve of this solution, provided there are sufficient access points.”
  7708.  
  7709. > Right
  7710.  
  7711. > You tap on the floor, seeking out Sombra
  7712.  
  7713. > It seems he’s overlooking the fields, holding hooves with Maud
  7714.  
  7715. > Awww
  7716.  
  7717. “I’ll talk to Sombra about it later. He’s a bit preoccupied right now.”
  7718.  
  7719. > Nore tilts her head, then shrugs
  7720.  
  7721. > “We thank you, Lord, for you consideration.”
  7722.  
  7723. “Glad I can help.”
  7724.  
  7725. > Ngee Chi clears her throat
  7726.  
  7727. > “Ah, we should be off, we have a negotiation with the draconian executive council. By your leave, Lord Anonymous.”
  7728.  
  7729. > You nod
  7730.  
  7731. “Good luck.”
  7732.  
  7733. > The liaisons depart with a few more murmured pleasantries
  7734.  
  7735. > …
  7736.  
  7737. > You may never get used to being a Lord, you think
  7738.  
  7739. > A plate slides in front of you, three steaming slices of French toast covered in syrup
  7740.  
  7741. > You look at Mara in surprise
  7742.  
  7743. “That was quick, thanks.”
  7744.  
  7745. > She beams at you
  7746.  
  7747. > “You are quite welcome, Anonymous.”
  7748.  
  7749. > Didn’t you read somewhere, that using a person’s name a lot when talking to them is some sort of charm tactic?
  7750.  
  7751. > Which probably isn’t too surprising, given she is actively aiming for a spot in your herd
  7752.  
  7753. > Well, no more delays
  7754.  
  7755. > Your magic cuts the French toast into bite size pieces, levitating one to your mouth
  7756.  
  7757. > Feels weird not using silverware, but magic is clearly superior
  7758.  
  7759. > You chew on the piece, the richness of the egg perfectly sealed in the bread, the sweet maple syrup offsetting the savory toast perfectly > You hum in pleasure, to Mara’s obvious delight
  7760.  
  7761. > Frozen sniffs at your food
  7762.  
  7763. > “May I? It has been a long time since I have tasted mother’s cooking.”
  7764.  
  7765. > You swallow
  7766.  
  7767. “Feel free. It’s pretty good food.”
  7768.  
  7769. > She smiles at you, then dips her head to the plate, her supple tongue deftly scooping up a piece
  7770.  
  7771. > You suddenly feel a little hot under the collar
  7772.  
  7773. > You want to see that again, when you dream, and put that tongue to work
  7774.  
  7775. > Frozen just closes her eyes in contentment as she chews
  7776.  
  7777. > Cute
  7778.  
  7779. > Your stomach growls
  7780.  
  7781. > Oh yeah, you’re hungry
  7782.  
  7783. > You go to town on the French toast, Frozen stealing a bite here or there
  7784.  
  7785. > All the while, Mara fondly looks on

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