Butterscotch's Adventures in Equestria Part 6 starring Butterscotch Sundae, Princess Luna and a face from the past
At the final chime the doorknob stopped turning and then the door began to shudder, one, two, three times - and then it flew open with a crash and a blue-coated alicorn came galloping into the room. Her face was flushed and the whole of her body was glistening with sweat, and as soon as she was inside she slammed the door shut with her telekinetic magic and barred it.
Princess Luna?" I said.
"Wait," said Pinkie Pie, her eyes bugging out. "Esther is
Luna was still trying to catch her breath. "Of course
Esther, Pinkie Pie! But I was hoping that I'd find her here." She looked quickly around the room and then sighed in defeat. "She's not here either, is she?"
All the assembled ponies fell down on one hoof and bowed, and I quickly did the same, but Luna waved a forehoof impatiently and we all got up as one.
"So you've been looking for Esther too?" I asked, once again confused. What on earth, or rather Equestria, was going on here?
Luna slumped onto a chair that Rarity had brought up for her while all the ponies began to mutter to each other in bemusement. "Your friend Esther or rather her memory is one hard pony to get a hold of. I've been from one side of your dreamland to the other, but every time I thought I was getting close she was gone."
"My dreamland?" I blinked. Then I laughed. "Oh, you sound just like Pinkie Pie! She was trying to prank me into thinking all of this was a dream just a little earlier."
Luna was about to say something, but she just looked at my smiling face and then at the rest of the party that was already starting back up again after the strange mixture of surprise and disappointment.
Pinkie looked up at the clock. "I guess she's not coming," she said. "But that doesn't mean we can't have cake!" She handed me a knife. "Do the honours Connie!"
"It is a shame not to eat that delicious cake," agreed Luna. "In fact, I think I shall have a slice as well."
"It is delicious looking, isn't it?" I said, looking across at her. She was clearly exhausted. "I'm so sorry that you rushed to get here on time and Esther didn't even bother to show up!"
Luna smiled weakly. "She certainly is a hard girl to get a hold of."
"Hey Connie! The cake isn't going to cut itself," giggled Pinkie Pie, who was starting to eye it hungrily herself.
"Oh! Of course." I cut down into the cake and the delicious levels of icing and cream and sponge and ganache gave way, and I cut and cut again until there seemed to be enough slices for every pony at the party.
I wiped the sweat from my brow. "Wow, I had no idea that cake was so big!" I gasped.
"It has to be big, silly!" said Pinkie with a laugh. "Every pony in Ponyville is here after all!"
"Since the guest of honour isn't here," said Rarity. "Perhaps Connie can have the first slice?"
Luna nodded. "An excellent idea, Rarity!" And with that, she levitated a piece of the cake over to me and I snatched it from the air.
I held the firm but sticky slice in my hand and bit into it without any further ado. But as I bit it, I felt my teeth come up against something hard inside. "Wait, there's something in here!"
I pulled the something out, and found that it was a twelve-pointed star, about the size of a plum it was glowing with a soft, orange light and felt warm in my hand, gently pulsing like something that was alive.
I stared at it, uncomprehending.
"Oh, you've won, you've won!" cried Pinkie, leaping into the air. All the ponies standing around gasped in amazement and then started clapping their hooves.
"Hooray!" They all shouted as one. "Princess for the day! Princess for the day!"
"Oh congratulations, darling," said Rarity, her eyes sparkling enviously.
"Nice going Connie!" said Rainbow, slapping me on the back with a hoof.
"Lucky," said Fluttershy, smiling sweetly.
"Ah never win these things," said Applejack with some disappointment.
"You've got the same statistical chance as everypony else, Applejack," said Twilight.
"It sure as apples don't feel that way sometimes," sighed the earth pony.
Luna stepped over to me and took the tiara from her head and put it on mine.
I'm a princess now?" I asked, my heart fluttering. Every girl's dream was coming true for me well, even though this was all a dream.
But it wasn't a dream, was it? It was just another crazy day in Equestria!
"Of course you are," said Luna, the smile on her mouth gently teasing. "That's what it means when you find the star in your piece of cake." With a twinkle of her horn, she helped herself to what remained of my slice. "So what is your first command, Your Majesty?" she asked, her mouth full of crumbs and cream.
I tilted her tiara at a jaunty angle and jumped onto the table. "As your new Princess, I have only one command," I cried. "Pony must lick pony!"
Rarity looked at Applejack. "Did she just say...?"
pony must lick pony?" repeated Applejack, her brow furrowing. "Ah think she did."
"Oh, you know what that means, don't you?" cried Pinkie Pie. "FOOD FIGHT!"
The little pink pony jammed her hooves into the multi-tiered cream cake and took hold of two slices, one of which she gobbled up straight away, the second of which she sent flying in Twilight's direction.
"Oh no you don't!" chuckled Twilight, stopping the creamy projectile with her telekinetic magic.
But in vain for Rainbow had crept up behind her and stifling her sniggering she dumped the whole contents of a trifle bowl on top of the unicorn pony's head.
The effect was immediate. Twilight squealed and leaped away, her mane a mass of jello and cream, and the pegasus pursued her with hooves full of cupcakes which she periodically pegged in her direction.
"Oh, how beastly!" said Rarity, wiping a tiny fleck of cream that had got onto her coat.
"Aw, come on Rar'," said Applejack. "It's all in good fun!" And with that she shook up a bottle of sarsaparilla and levelled it at the white-coated unicorn.
"No!" cried Rarity in horror. "Darling, please reconsider your
Applejack just laughed and removing her hoof from the mouth of the bottle, a fountain of foam flew out the end and drenched Rarity before she could do more than turn away. After the fizzing and popping died down, all that was left of the fastidious pony was a unicorn-shaped mass of bubbles.
Rainbow, who was weaving and ducking the volleys of popcorn that Twilight was firing at her like a machine gun, almost tripped over in laughter at the sight as she flew past.
Rarity shook herself like a dog, and stood there, shivering, her mane wet and glistening, having lost of all its body under the onslaught of the fizzy liquid. Then she turned to Applejack, who was chuckling, and snarled "Oh, IT. IS. ON!"
The earth pony leaped behind a table of snacks, but it was a costly mistake. Rarity used her magic to levitate the whole table to one side, taking everything with it except for a huge bowl of punch, which overturned and loosed a tsunami of red liquid all over Applejack.
"Oh horse-apples!" she swore.
"One should never mess with a unicorn," said Rarity, her face fierce.
The food fight had broken out everywhere now, and ponies were throwing cream cakes and cupcakes and carrot cakes and meringues and tortes and brulees and trifles and custard and mousse and French-onion dip and potato chips and punch and whatever else they could get a hold of at each other.
I was the only one immune from the massacre of innocent snacks, protected as I was by a shield of Princessly invulnerability. So I looked on, laughing, as Luna and Pinkie sized off on one another. Pinkie had a custard pie in each forehoof, while Luna was levitating a huge three-tiered cake beside her.
Pinkie fired first, but the two pies went awry, one striking Rainbow Dash by accident as she flew past, coated in muffin batter, the other grazing Luna's wing and striking my shield, exploding in a starburst of custard and cream and crispy crust.
Luna, triumphant, flew the cake over the cowering and smiling Pinkie's head but a second before she could drop it, she was demolished by a barrage of brownies that came out of left field, thrown by another laughing and snorting Pinkie Pie!
"Pinkie!" I cried. "That's cheating!"
"Aww!" The little pink pony looked ashamed for about a split second. And then she was off again, chucking forelegs-full of the brownies at any pony unlucky enough to get in her way.
The fight continued. Derpy was zig-zagging in the air, a difficult target for her enemies, and any snack that came too close to her was snatched out of the air and devoured by the hungry pegasus. Applejack and Rarity, who had both somehow been totally covered in chocolate ganache, were wrestling on the floor to the excited clapping and whooping of Rainbow Dash.
Meanwhile one of the Pinkies I'm not sure if it was the dream Pinkie or the real one leaped out from behind a table, her forelegs full of new ammunition about a dozen key-lime pies, tottering in a tower. But she'd bitten off more than she could chew. First one pie and then another threatened to fall off, and it was all that she could do to juggle them with dropping them.
"Oh why can't I hold all these key-lime pies?" she lamented, slumping to the ground. The pies hung in the air for a second and then one after the other they fell on top of her head until not a single speck of her pink coat could longer be seen.
Suddenly I spotted Fluttershy cowering to one side of the room, and I beckoned to her. The poor thing looked terrified!
"Fluttershy, this way!" I cried.
but it's too dangerous," she replied, eeping as a doughnut came spinning over her head to hit the wall behind her and explode in a cloud of sprinkles.
"I'll protect you," I said. "You just have to move!"
She nodded, and after a minute of prevaricating, she at last built up the courage to move. She closed her eyes and squealing she flew across the room towards me.
She of course became a perfect target for everypony's snacks, but with flashes of telekinetic energy I deflected every high-calorie missile sent her way.
The pegasus finally made it behind me, and she lay there, exhausted with fear, her blue eyes looking up at me with relief and gratitude.
"Oh thank you Connie!" she squeaked.
I smiled down at her as I stroked my hand through her gorgeous pink mane. "I couldn't let you get covered in cream, Fluttershy," I said. "I think my heart would break."
Soon the war was over. A few final, errant snacks flew overhead, but largely everypony was coated in cream and jam and jello and mousse and ganache and butter and
Pinkie looked across at Rainbow. The pegasus wings looked as if they'd been dipped in chocolate while her multi-coloured mane was full of globs of cream and sprinkles. She licked her lips and slowly moved forward.
"Uh, Pinkie Pie?" said Rainbow nervously. "Why are you looking at me like tha- hey!"
She was unable to finish her sentence as Pinkie was already licking her mane, and the sweeps of the little pink pony's tongue caused Rainbow to burst into bouts of unrestrainable laughter that threw her onto the floor.
Applejack looked at Rarity, who was in the middle of trying to get ganache out of her mane with a comb, muttering in annoyance.
"Ya don't need no comb, Rarity," said Applejack with a grin. "Let me help yer out!"
Rarity's eyes went wide and she stepped back but not before Applejack was on top of her, licking the ganache from her cheeks.
And soon pony was, in fact, licking pony, from one side of Sugarcube Corner to another. Pinkie was the greatest trouble maker, and I couldn't help but laugh until my stomach hurt as I watched her pursue a jello-ified Twilight through the crowd of sticky licking and laughing ticklish, ponies. I surveyed the scene, rubbing my hands together, well pleased with how things had turned out.
Suddenly I felt somepony coming behind me, and I turned to see Luna approaching, a mischievous smile on her beautiful face.
"Oh Princess Connnnnnnie!" she said in a sing-song voice, "I think there's a little something on your face as well."
"My face?" I said, bringing a hand to my cheek. "But I was protected by my shield. Nothing could have
I didn't finish the sentence as the custard tart that Luna had been keeping behind her back flew with unerring accuracy smack into my face. It disintegrated, leaving my face a destroyed scene of gloppy custard and smashed pie crust.
"Luuuuuuna!" I cried in surprise and humiliation. "Why?"
"Oh come now," said Luna with a wink. "You must admit you were getting a little too big for your socks."
"Okay, okay," I replied. "Maybe I did take things a bit too far." I closed my eyes as I tried to wipe some of the sticky custard out of them, and when I opened them again my mouth fell open. Luna's face was now right next to mine, so close I could smell the vanilla sarsaparilla on her breath.
"It's okay Connie," she said. "I think everypony had a good time. And anyway, it gives me an excuse to do something I've wanted to do for a long time now!"
She leaned over, pursed her lips and brought her mouth against mine, and if felt like-
-I was dreaming.
I was dreaming?!
I looked around myself. Sugarcube Corner had not seemed to have changed since the previous minute, but I could feel myself changing, and it was a bizarre situation to have yourself be the one thing you're not sure of. "Wait. Wait.
wait." I stopped saying 'wait' since I realised I must sound like an idiot, and I turned to Luna. "All of this is a dream?"
Luna nodded, looking suddenly uncharacteristically sheepish. "Oh, I do hope you're not too embarrassed Connie," she said. "This has been a little bit of a prank at your expense I fear. I was planning on making you lucid as soon as we arrived in your dreams, but when I found out how interesting your dreams were, I decided to leave you unconscious to see just where things would end up!" She giggled and slapped me on the arm. "You know, you have a very vivid imagination, Connie Hayden. 'Pony must lick pony?'" She sighed. "For a moment there, during the food fight, I got so swept up in your dream that I almost forgot it was one!"
As if in a tidal wave, the series of dreams that I'd had all came flooding in over me and I suddenly blushed crimson. "I'm sorry I dreamed we were married," I said to Luna, lowering my gaze in shame.
But the Princess's bell-like laugh rang out clear. "Oh, never mind that! It was nice to be able to share a little moment of time like that with you." She lifted a hand to my cheek. "Anyway, I was flattered."
I blushed. Her touch reminded me of how those pale, soft arms had felt around my neck, and I could still feel them there as a ghostly tingling sensation.
Then Luna's face became suddenly troubled. "It was a difficult thing to find you though. It was like your dreams didn't want you to take control of them. Something very strange is going on. But I have no doubt that when we meet Esther some of our questions will be answered."
Esther! It was all flowing back now, my real memories so strange and alien in the reality of this dreamworld. It was the memory of Esther who we'd come here to find, but every time we'd tried to meet with her in my dream
Luna nodded. "The memory refused to be found, and things changed so to you were distracted from looking for her."
"Does... does that usually happen?" I asked. I was, after all, a mere amateur in the magic of dreams, while before me was the very Princess in charge of them! Well, Equestrian dreams anyway.
Luna looked troubled. "Well, in cases of traumatic memories, yes. But you never mentioned anything about something bad happening. Maybe your subconscious doesn't want to find her for some other reason?"
I cocked my head. "That's probably it. I think
well, I think maybe I'm feeling a bit embarrassed about our
I mean, us" I couldn't say relationship. Had we even really had a relationship after all?
"Well," said Luna. "You're lucid dreaming right now, so you have control over things in this world."
"I do?" I blinked.
"You do," she replied. "And of course, as Princess for a Day, you have ultimate authority well, until you wake up for real, that is. Until then, go peanuts!"
I knew that Luna meant 'nuts', but I decided it would be far too rude to alert her to the mistake, so I just asked,"So I can do anything I want? Like, turn sarsaparilla into whiskey?" I took up a glass and with a little concentration the black, fizzy contents quickly lost their darkness, becoming that golden brown colour that I love so much.
I lifted the glass to my nose, sniffed it, then took a sip.
"Good?" asked Luna.
I nodded. "It's Laphroaig single malt exactly what I wanted to drink." I took a deeper drink and shivered. But this was no time for getting liquored up, so I put the glass back down on the table - after I had another quick drink, of course..
"Perhaps it's worth a try making Esther appear to us, then," I suggested.
"It could work," said Luna doubtfully.
I raised a hand.
The ponies looked on in awe as I began to sweep my hands about me like I was trying to be a ghost. "Esther, Esther! Come forth at my bidding. Connie Hayden, Mistress of Magic and outrageous ham demands it!"
The walls shook, the floor rumbled and the blinds flew up and down as if under the wilful hand of an angry poltergeist while the ponies all shied back in alarm, but try as I could, Esther refused to appear.
Luna frowned, but she was clearly not surprised. "Well, that's that then. We're dealing with a memory that doesn't want to be found so we'll have to find her the old fashioned way."
"Shank's pony?" I asked, slapping a leg.
Luna stared at me, her eyes twinkling. "Oh, I do miss you humans and your strange words! "
"Well, I do know where she lives," I said. "And I have a great idea about how to get there."
I closed my eyes. If I was really Princess for a day, I could do whatever I wanted, be whatever I wanted, right? Although I had no real idea how to do it, I put my imagination to work and began to concentrate.
I felt the centre of my forehead grow warm, and then itchy, and then my head suddenly felt a degree heavier.
I heard Twilight gasp nearby. "Connie, you're growing a horn!"
My eyes flashed open, and I raised my hands to my forehead. I had! There, in the centre of my forehead, was a horn it felt soft and velvety to the touch, and alive, like it was channelling electricity along its length.
"That was surprisingly easy," I said. But I wasn't finished yet. With my new-grown horn, things seemed to get easier, and with a flash and glow of purple light that sprang up before my eyes, I was quickly surrounded in an aura of magical energy.
Suddenly I felt as if heavy weights had been attached to my hands, and I fell forward onto all fours. My fingers were fusing together and curling into fists, but then they flattened out at the end where my knuckles had been.
The same things happened to my hind legs for hind legs they were now, rather than just plain-old human 'legs'. I felt my toes fuse together and smooth out into round hooves but that was not the strangest thing of all. My tummy and butt began to swell, as if I was being filled with air, and my body took on the consistency of a marshmallow. My chongsam melted into me, its colour changing my usually pale skin to a creamy yellow which spread all over me as if I'd been dipped in dye, and now instead of skin I found myself covered in a light, soft down just like any other Equestrian pony.
My face was the final part to change, and it was by far the freakiest part of a freaky process. I felt my nose flatten, my cheeks stretch and my mouth widen as my face elongated into a muzzle, and my ears slid up and became pointed and I marvelled at how mobile they'd come by swivelling them back and forth. My hair lengthened and stretched down my now-naked back, and last of all I felt the area above my buttocks start to itch as a tail grew out of it, and there was a sudden "pouf" as it bristled and puffed out into a long, luxurious tail coloured like a caramel swirl!
Luna clapped her hands. "Oh, you look so adorable as a unicorn, Connie!"
But I wasn't quite finished yet. With a final knitting of my now horsey-brows and a burst of magical energy, twin wings sprang out from my back, splaying out and bursting into feathers and I gave them a few experimental flaps. I now had an extra set of limbs to play with!
"Niiiice!" said Rainbow, trotting about me and checking out the new addition to my body. "Excellent choice, Connie. Wings are totally awesome!"
"Wings are rather fun," said Luna cautiously. "But they take a little getting used to."
"It's okay," I said. "I'll just dream that I know how to use them." I lay down beside her. "Jump on my back!"
"A pony ride?" gasped Luna. "For me?"
I nodded. "You look exhausted, so the least I can do is offer you a lift!"
I looked at the front door. It was far too small to get through in my new alicorn shape, so I turned to Pinkie Pie. "I'm going to do something pretty drastic, Pinkie but don't worry! I promise I'll fix it straight away afterwards.
"Okie dokie lokie!" said the little pink pony, unconcerned.
I glanced up at the ceiling of Sugarcube Corner and with a thought, it split from the rest of the building and lifted straight up into the air with a shuddering rumble while the assembled ponies looked on in awe and fright.
"Sorry," I said. "That was a little noisier than I expected." I looked up at Luna. "Ready, Princess?"
She nodded, taking hold of my mane in her forehooves. "Ready!"
I began to sweep my wings up and down and it took only a few moments for me to lift off into the air. I hovered there over the party, wind pushing the ponies back and setting in motion a miniature snack tornado of cake crumbs and potato chips.
I took us higher and then with a nod of my head I replaced the roof of Sugarcube Corner, and as soon I had, the front doors crashed open and all the ponies raced out to wave goodbye to me and Princess Luna.
"Good luck Connie!" cried Pinkie Pie. "I hope you find that sneaky memory!"
"Go give that Esther a butt-kicking from me!" said Rainbow Dash.
Pinkie turned to her, scandalised. "Dashie, what a thing to say!"
"Aw, c'mon Pinkie Pie!" grinned the pegasus. "She totally deserves it for being such a sneak."
But by now we were too far away to hear what the two ponies were saying, and with every flap of my wings, the little buildings of Ponyville grew smaller and smaller, and soon we were high in the sky and flying over the Everfree Forest.
"Do you know where we're going?" asked Luna.
I nodded. "She'll be waiting for me in the place she feels safest her apartment."
Beneath us dream-Equestria stretched from horizon to horizon, an exquisite Lilliputian patchwork of fields and forest and plains and desert and little towns that slipped away as soon as they appeared, so fast were we flying. Soon we were flying across the great, undifferentiated landscape of my dreamland the great fields of giant red-faced poppies, the polar seas filled with leaping narwhals, the painted deserts of purple and russet and ochre, the perfumed jungles one after another we passed them all by.
After a while Luna said she felt as if she was strong enough to fly on her own again, and with great sweeps of her wings she detached herself from my back and we flew together over the rapidly changing landscape.
Great wisps of cloud arced over the land against the endless blue of an eternal spring sky and exhilarated by my new-found ability to fly I soared and dipped and twirled and spiralled here and there, while Luna kept up with me with difficulty, laughing as she did.
"Connie! Wait up! I'm still exhausted from all that fighting."
I slowed down and came back beside here, rubbing my head in embarrassment. "Oh, sorry Luna."
Luna chuckled. "Well, it is your dream after all. I'll let you show me up this time."
And at last on the horizon we saw the skyline of my home city Sydney, but of course it was the dream Sydney and not the real one I had left. The great Harbour Bridge was far larger than the real one, a giant edifice that stretched over the impossibly blue and glittering waters of the harbour itself. We flew over it so close that we could have stretched our hooves down a little to touch it.
"Your home city is very beautiful, Connie," said Luna beside me.
"Well, it is the dream version of it," I said. "So I guess it's missing a few of the rough edges the real one has. There isn't any rubbish in the harbour for one thing. And there are none of those guys dressed like the Statue of Liberty or wearing a donkey suit and demanding your money around Circular Quay."
We flew low over the colonial-period sandstone buildings of the Rocks and then along the longest street of inner Sydney George Street. As we flew, I noticed that not only had the buskers been missing, but there weren't any people or ponies at all. The streets below were deserted. The eerie stillness, I have to admit, perturbed me quite a bit.
But there at last was our goal the Four Stars hotel. It was there that Esther had taken me that night an eternity ago. It was a tall building in the real world, but here it stretched up into the sky as if it was a mighty, glittering column holding up the heavens, almost bending in upon itself as it did.
Turning to Luna I said, "Esther lives in the penthouse at the top, so my guess is that we'll find here there."
"Then let's pay her a visit," said Luna. "I have many questions I wish to ask her."
Leaving the streets behind, we flew up at an angle which should have taken us directly towards the top the building, but when we came alongside the sparkling steel and glass it became obvious that the skyscraper was growing exponentially taller no matter how high we flew. It was as if the penthouse was fleeing away from us, drawing away into infinity.
For a long time the rows of glittering windows slipped past us as we flew straight up parallel with the side of the building, but no matter how far we flew we seemed to be getting nowhere.
At last Luna indicated we should stop, and I did, hovering in the air with mighty flaps of my wings beside her.
"I didn't think it looked this tall from a distance!" I said with chagrin.
Luna smiled ruefully. "This is an old dreamland trick no matter how far or fast we fly, we'll never reach the top of it. I'm afraid somepony is having a laugh at our expense."
"So what can we do?" I asked.
"There's nothing else but to fly back down and see if we can get in through the front door," she replied. "Your Esther seems to be playing hard to get."
The trip back down took no time at all, and as we touched hoof on the street and furled our wings to our sides, the front doors of the hotel straight away slid open to admit us.
I turned to Luna, nervous. "So it's a trap?"
"Oh, undoubtedly!" she said with a flippant grin. "But we have no other choice."
The elevator trip up was an eternity, but finally the door opened.
Esther's penthouse was just as opulent as I remembered it the huge flat-screen television, the minimalist furniture except for that incongruous baby grand piano in the far corner. And standing there, with her back to us, looking out through the wide windows at the Harbour that lay glittering in the eternal spring sunshine of my dreamland, was the lady herself, my girlfriend, the mysterious character known as Esther. Or at least, my dream-memory of her.
Dressed in her short black skirt with its burgundy blouse, she turned to face us, and when I saw her face again I gasped. She really was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever laid eyes on, and here in the dreamland her features were even more ethereal, her hair so dark and black that it was as if there was a tear into deep space, her green eyes containing the iciness not of an arctic glaciers but interstellar space.
Her blood-red lips twisted up into a smile. "Welcome home, Connie." She looked me up and down and the smile deepened and darkened. "Or perhaps I should call you 'Butterscotch' now?"
I opened my mouth, flapping it like a koi-carp, but no words were able to escape. But Esther had already turned her attention from me and was staring at Luna, her expression a maelstrom of different emotions.
And then she fell on one knee, her green eyes thrown down onto the floor.
I looked at Luna in surprised confusion, and the expression on her face was even more enigmatic if that was possible. Her teal eyes were wide, her lips pursed, her ears back in what I thought might be
"So you are Esther," said the Princess of the Moon simply.
Esther raised her face and while her eyes glittered with love, her lips subtly twisted into a mocking smile. "I am, my mistress. Please forgive my current form, but I've become somewhat used to it."
My mouth dropped open. "Wait, you know Princess Luna?"
Neither responded to my question. Esther was back on her feet now and Luna approached her tentatively and sniffed at her with her muzzle, but then she stumbled back as if she'd been struck.
"You - you're no dream," she cried. "Or a memory. You're real."
"I told you I had returned, my mistress," continued Esther. "And not as a memory, but as myself." At last she turned again to me, and the mockery on her lips became undisguised. "And I have you to thank for it, Connie you and your desperate desire to visit Equestria have left the way open for my return. Consider your oath to me fulfilled!"
"Who... who are you, Esther?" I whispered, my ears turning back in alarm. "I mean, really?"
Esther ignored me. All of her attention was focused on Luna, and her eyes sparkled as she gazed at her. "I have come to rescue you, my mistress," she said. "For too long you have been separated from your true form. You have grown weak and helpless, trapped within the gilded cage of your sister's
" Her lips curled up in revulsion. "
"Celestia did not trap me," said Luna simply. "She freed me."
"NO!" screamed Esther, and the walls of the apartment shook as if a jet had roared past us. "It is I and my three sisters who freed you, freed you to wreak our vengeance on that tyrant! For was it not written at the time of our imprisonment that 'The stars shall aid your escape'?" She whispered. "And yet you betrayed us."
Luna looked about. "So the others are here as well?"
"The others?" Esther stepped forward. "After a thousand and one years of service they are consigned to the appellation of 'others'? The ones you once deemed to honour as your Hoofmaidens? The ones who showed you nothing but unerring loyalty, even during that interminable thousand year imprisonment?"
"I assume they are still wandering the universe in exile," said Luna. "Otherwise they would be here as well."
"I am merely the first to return," said Esther. "I suppose you could term me the first of your prodigal children. But soon the others will find their way back, now that I have returned to Equestria very soon. And then we may continue where we left off, exacting our vengeance on Celestia and wresting control of this world which is rightfully ours!"
"It's too late," said Luna, her face stern. "Celestia and I are reconciled. It is not like the old times were." Then her expression softened. "But come with us back to Canterlot. Celestia will surely pardon you as she did me."
"I require no pardon," hissed Esther. "Merely payment for the wrongs done to me. Imprisoned for a thousand years in the sky! Scattered to the edges of the multiverse and forced to wander through a thousand worlds until I found one with a link to my home. To think it would be found in that awful wasteland of a place called Earth."
"Hey," I protested, annoyed at the offhand slur at the expense of my home. "Look, admittedly Earth is pretty bad in places, but it's really not all that bad."
Esther looked at me and the look was one that you'd expect of a house-proud lady when viewing the presence of a cockroach on their recently cleaned kitchen bench-top. "You're still here?" she muttered. "How tiresome."
"I'm breaking up with you, Esther," I said fiercely. "When I fell in love with you I had no idea you were a villain from an alternate universe."
"A pity," said Esther with a sigh. "You make a most adorable pony. And I must admit that the sex was quite satisfactory."
satisfactory? "Well-" I began, but then I stopped. I mean, what are you supposed to say to that? I kept a hurt silence and stared down at my forehooves.
"I must thank you for opening the way, however, Connie Hayden," said Esther. "It would have been impossible for me to enter Equestria on my own without Celestia noticing me, but hiding within your dreams circumvented that." She laughed. "Oh, and what unexpected efficiency! I was expecting it to take far longer than this for you to encounter Princess Luna, which is why I had to send you all on a little wild-pony chase to give me time to prepare for your arrival."
"Wait," I said. "So
this is all my fault?"
Esther smiled, and it was a smile like a knife-cut across her face. "You can't really be held responsible," she said. "You are just a human and were, after all, merely a pawn."
"You always were the most devious of my Hoofmaidens, Eclipse," said Luna. "I cannot begrudge the simplicity and brilliance of your plan."
"Eclipse?" I repeated.
My now ex-girlfriend nodded. "My true name," she said. "An even older name than that I assumed during that wonderful year of our rule over Equestria: Mare Crisium, the Mare of Crises." She turned to Luna. "How long I've ached to hear it again from your lips, my mistress Nightmare Moon."
Luna staggered back as if she'd been slapped. "That- do not use that name! I am no longer Nightmare Moon!"
"Nightmare Moon is not merely your past," said Eclipse with a laugh. "But also your present and your future! She will always be part of you. All that remains is for her to once again be woken from her sleep."
Luna shook her head. "I will never return to being that creature. I'm Luna now I'll never embrace that horrible anger again."
"You have little choice, Mistress," and with that Eclipse closed her eyes. "But I tire of these explanations and of this form, attractive though it may be. I think it is time at last for me to put aside these trappings of my old life in exile
And with that she touched a slender hand to her forehead and a star burst into life there, a point of incandescent brightness that shone like a hole had been stabbed into a universe of pure light. And as I watched, open mouthed, a horn sprouted from her head, similar to when I had undergone my transformation, and two great wings of snow-white feathers sprang from her back and unfurled, making her resemble nothing less than some fallen angel.
But this form was not to remain stable for long. Her face grew elongated, and her human ears lengthened and slid back, turning into the large, pointed ears of an Equestrian pony. Her clothes melted away as her skin turned to coat, but her body retained that beautiful pale colour which had reminded me of alabaster and that I had loved so much. Soon her hands and feet became hooves and she reared on her hind legs, her unicorn horn still glowing with a blinding light, laughing in unrestrained joy.
"Oh, it is so good to be back!" she cried, and then she fell onto all four hooves and levelled her flashing green eyes at Luna and I. "And now that we are all alicorns here together I suppose we can dispense with all these other trappings of my previous home."
With that, she raised her horn, stabbing it into the air, and light, blinding and red, sprayed from its centre like a starburst, blasting the walls of the apartment and shattering the furniture and everything else which I had remembered from her apartment in a flameless explosion that left us totally unharmed. Then, as the broken remains of the walls crumbled away, a mighty wind blew up scouring us and stripping the spring clouds from the sky until it was a single, acid blue from horizon to horizon.
"Ah!" cried Eclipse in joy, arching her slender neck as she looked up into the sky. "Freedom! Such unrestrained freedom." She turned towards Luna. "And soon you will once again enjoy the freedom that you had in times of old, my mistress."
Then she turned to me. "But first some old threads must be tied up, I fear. Did you know, my dear Connie, that now I have the control of your dream, if you die here you shall never wake back up in the real world? Think of it as Sleeping Beauty, but with no Prince to ever come to your rescue!" She stabbed her horn and a beam of vicious red light jetted out straight at me but at the last moment it was deflected, sliding over an blue, glowing barrier that had leaped into existence around me.
I saw that Luna was the one maintaining it, the barrier formed from magical light that was spilling from the tip of her horn. "I won't let you harm her," she cried over the noise of the wind that was rapidly rising to an almost cyclonic intensity.
"You cannot protect both her and yourself, my mistress!" smiled Eclipse. With a flap of one great wing, the wind intensified and in a heartbeat Luna was slammed sideways against the remnants of one of the walls of the penthouse.
She cried out in pain, and the light from her horn dimmed away. Around me, the barrier winked out and Eclipse struck.
The beam of light slammed against me and I was thrown backwards, feeling as though a telegraph pole had collided with me. I was winded and blacked out for a moment, and as my vision cleared I scrambled to my feet my feet, for my hooves were gone. Just like that my alicorn form had been stripped from me and I was a human again, barely able to stand.
Eclipse chuckled. "You know, Connie, I really do think you looked better as a pony. But now this is goodbye. Goodbye!" She drew back both her wings and with a mighty sweep of them I was thrown off my feet and sent spinning through the air to crash onto a pile of broken furniture and shredded clothes and other debris that had become stuck at the corner of the penthouse where a sliver of wall had remained intact.
And I would have slid straight off the side of the building if I hadn't been able to grasp the shredded fragments of a towel that had fortuitously been trapped beneath the broken frame of what I recognised as the antique wardrobe that had once been in Esther's room.
I held on for dear life, and if Eclipse had noticed me there, no doubt she would have simply been able to knock me falling to my death with at the slightest of movements of her wings, but luckily for me Luna had recovered herself and taken to the skies, and Eclipse leaped into the air after her.
I was struggling to climb the towel back up to the rooftop, one burning hand lifted painfully after the other, when I was blown against the side of the building as the two alicorns swept past me, dislodging the air around them like aerial freight-trains. It was Eclipse in pursuit of Luna, peppering the air with blasts of red energy that scored against the side of the skyscraper and smashed window after window.
The towel, under the impact of the two alicorns' battle, was knocked free from under the wardrobe, and screaming, I fell but only about a foot, as two pink-coated forelegs sprang out from above and grabbed my hands.
"Pinkie!" I shouted in surprise and relief.
"Connie! Thank Celestia I got here in time!" The little pink pony was hanging by her hind-legs from one end of Esther's bed which was teetering precariously over the shattered side of the building. She'd had to stretch herself out to catch me and was drawn out like a long piece of rubbery chewing gum.
"Thanks to you, Pinkie Pie," I replied. I looked down at the swirling ground far below me, and then, nauseous, back up at Pinkie. "Hey, do you think you could pull me up now. I've had enough!"
"Okie dokie lokie!" she said, and puffing and panting she soon drew me back up over the precipice and I collapsed breathlessly into her forelegs.
"Oh come on, I'm not that heavy!" I said, and Pinkie giggled. "So wait, you're the real Pinkie?"
The little pink pony nodded up and down. "Yup! I left dream Pinkie is back at the party she's trying to get everypony to play pin the tail on the pony at the moment."
Far above us the alicorn's battle continued unabated. Beams of magical energy speared from Eclipse's horn and Luna dived and soared out of their path but her defensive flying was clearly taking its toll. The beams were arcing nearer, ever nearer to her, and it was clearly just a matter of time until one hit home.
"Oh Pinkie, how can we help her?" I cried. "She's getting destroyed out there!"
Pinkie smiled courageously. "If there's one thing you can rely on, it's that Princess Luna always has a prank up her sleeve!"
I felt heartened by the conviction in the little pony's voice, and as if taking energy from Pinkie's faith in her, Luna proved it true. She came sweeping past the shattered penthouse with Eclipse in pursuit, and Pinkie and I ducked behind the jumbled wreckage so that we wouldn't be seen. We scrambled to the edge of the rooftop and looked out just in time to see that it had just been a bluff - Luna had doubled back around the corner of the sky-scraper and collided head-on with her pursuer.
The two alicorns smashed into the side of the building, and the resounding impact led to a shattering of the windows which sprayed out glittering fragments of glass across the sky. Pinkie and I held onto each other as the floor beneath us shuddered and swayed, but we were thrown onto our stomachs by a second colossal collision as Luna and Eclipse, in a chaotic jumble of flailing wings and hooves, rolled over onto the top of the building.
Stuck together now, the two alicorns, covered in shattered mortar and with splintered fragments of glass glittering in their manes and feathers, jousted, horn to horn, magical energy coursing throughout their whole bodies like liquid fire.
Pinkie and I looked on in awe. We'd never seen the raw power of alicorns displayed before it would have been astounding and horrifying from a great distance, but here, mere feet from us, it was like being trapped in the centre of a cataclysm.
"I think Luna's winning!" Pinkie cried over the sound of the battle.
"I think your right, Pinkie!" I shouted back but we had spoken far too soon.
Luna, already debilitated by her adventures in my dreamworld and slowed by the exhaustion of the battle against a rested and confident foe, was at last thrown backwards by Eclipse's great white wings and was still struggling to her hooves when a pulsing light of livid magical energy swamped her.
Under the barrage of the dark red fire, Luna cried out in pain and terror, and as I watched, helpless, the mature form of her alicorn self was stripped away until all that was left was the little pony that I remembered from the last time she was bereft of her magical power.
Luna slumped, semi-conscious to the floor, and Eclipse stood before her, exultant in triumph.
"It is over!" cried Eclipse. "Soon all vestiges of your sister's influence shall be cleansed from you and my true mistress will be restored, ready to remind Equestria what it truly means to be ruled!"
"Never!" cried Luna. Her voice was more fragile, more boyish now, but within it still remained a core of iron, the regal and imperious will of a Princess of Equestria. She rose onto her hooves once again and stared back at Eclipse. "I'd rather die first than harm my friends."
Eclipse smirked. "Once you are Nightmare Moon again, my mistress, you won't care a jot for all these so-called 'friends' of which you speak."
I turned to Pinkie in horror. "Pinkie, is there anything we can do?"
Pinkie's face was serious. "I don't think there's any way we can beat that big meanie by ourselves," she said. "But maybe we can buy Princess Luna some time."
Eclipse levelled her horn at Luna's heart. "Now fare thee well, 'sister' of Celestia."
Pinkie and I moved as one. I knew there was nothing that a mere human could do in the face of Eclipse's elemental power, but I had to do something!
We scrambled to the side of the courageous little alicorn and helped steady her as she struggled to stay on her hooves.
"Luna will never change back into Queen Meanie!" cried Pinkie.
"Yeah!" I added. "Back off, you big bully!" Well, it had sounded more impressive in my head.
"You are still here?" hissed Eclipse, her green eyes directed towards me aflame with hatred. They flicked across to consider Pinkie and a wide, humourless smile split the dark alicorn's face. "And you brought your little pink friend as well! What an adorable picture of friendship."
By now Pinkie and I had helped Luna step back to the jumble of debris we had been hiding behind, but a spear of red energy scoured the floor right before us and we stopped dead in our tracks.
"No farther," said Eclipse. "You have delayed the inevitable by a few seconds, but now with the three of you together I shall be able to remove all my problems at the same time." She grinned. "What pleasing efficiency!"
"You know, Eclipse, " said Pinkie. "You might be a prankster, but you're not very funny."
Eclipse sneered. "The real joke is that such a frivolous soul of yours ever existed in the first place!" She levelled her horn at Pinkie. "But that is a mistake that I will soon rectify."
Pinkie stood her ground. "You big meanie-pants always act so snooty when you think you're about to win," she said, as sternly as I had ever heard the little pink pony speak before. "But you forgot one thing!"
"And what is that?" sneered Eclipse.
"Never try to out-prank a prankster!" And with that Pinkie pulled something from behind the shattered wall. It was a mirror, the dream-version of the body-length mirror from Esther's apartment, the same one that I'd looked into after showering all those days ago.
Pinkie grabbed Luna's hoof and my hand and straight away leaped into the mirror's face, which turned molten silver to accept us, and as we passed through we could hear Eclipse's voice, as loud as a volcanic eruption, shattering the dreamworld in her rage.
"No!" she screamed. "Nooooooooo!"
Red magical light enveloped us and for a moment I felt a hideous burning, and I feared we were a second too late. But then the red light and heat vanished and we found ourselves in the mirror world.
Around us the reflections and images of a thousand thousand worlds were a shifting kaleidoscope of colour, a series of slivers of images that moved about us, but there was one direction where only a single image was apparent that of an endless blue sky over a shattered rooftop. It was the dreamworld which I'd just been rescued from, and it was rapidly dissolving away.
We didn't stay to watch it, but carrying the exhausted and wounded Luna between us, Pinkie and I hurried through the splintered and ever-shifting planes of light our own bodies elongating and refracting and reflecting and sometimes splintering to reassemble soon afterwards. I had little idea of which direction up and down were, or even if they really existed in this strange almost-place, but luckily Pinkie knew where we were going.
Soon the shifting planes of colour changed into a single white light that surrounded us, and under it our true forms reappeared. Then Pinkie suddenly disappeared, and after her Luna, and for a moment I panicked that I'd been abandoned in this weird universe on my own - but a second later I was pulled through into natural light once more, and I found we were back Luna's room in her castle on the moon.
There on the rug was Luna and myself. Here in the real world the alicorn had also been stripped of her powers and she was curled up with me nestled in the crook made by her legs. My arms were draped over her neck.
"Sorry," I said, turning to Luna with a blush on my face. "I kinda like clinging to people when I'm sleeping."
Luna smiled weakly. "Oh, it's no problem," she said, her voice barely above whisper.
But then something suddenly occurred to me and I turned to Pinkie. "Wait a second! If we're over there, lying on the rug, but also here which of us is the real us?"
Pinkie started to giggle. "Oh, neither of course, you silly filly! This is still all a dream!" And with that the little pink pony began to dissolve away just as the dreamworld had earlier, and I leaped up, suddenly awake, straight into the cotton-candy embrace of Pinkie Pie the real-life one, not her dream-self or the one that I'd created in my dreams.
"Welcome back!" she laughed. "I'm soooo super glad you didn't get lost in all that crazy mirror-dreamy stuff."
"I feel like part of my brain did," I replied, still not understanding exactly what had happened.
Both of us quickly woke Luna and helped the groggy alicorn to her feet. My dream had not been wrong here, in the real world, she had been stripped of her magical power and was the same, smaller filly-ish Luna who had remained after the banishment of Nightmare Moon.
"Thank you both," she said, her voice strained with exhaustion but happy. "I am eternally in your debt. For a second there I feared Eclipse was unstoppable."
"So she really was your High Priestess?" I asked as we helped her against a bolster cushion. "I didn't just dream it?"
Luna nodded. "She was one of my four Hoofmaidens, back long ago before Celestia and I had our falling out," she explained. "But in time they grew arrogant and hungry for prestige and power, and I with them, and when I became Nightmare Moon they took on the role of my Priestesses, aiding me in the terrorizing of all of Equestria."
"But what happened to her?" I asked. It was an awful lot of information to process in one go. "Did we really beat her?"
"Well, now that you're awake, Eclipse is trapped inside of you," said Luna. "It will be a simple task for my sister to remove her." She grinned. "Just try to stay awake until we get to Canterlot!"
"Ooh ooh ooh! I'll go make some coffee!" cried Pinkie. "How do you like, it Connie? Black? White? Pink? Five sugars or si-"
She was interrupted by a sudden, inexplicable rumbling and the sound of rising winds from all around us. The ponies and I turned as one towards the huge mirror that our dream-selves had leaped out of, for the gilded frame was stuttering back and forth as if it was alive, and the mirrored face no longer reflected our own forms, but was emitting a pure white light. And all the while, the screaming of winds grew louder and louder.
"Uh oh," said Pinkie.
Then the face of the mirror shattered, spraying the room with tiny fragments of silver sparkling with faceted rainbows, and with it came an instantaneous gale of hurricane winds that blew Pinkie, Luna and I against the far wall of the room. The light in the mirror now dominated the room as an orb of resplendent light that shone incandescent, almost too bright too look at, and at its centre was the silhouette of an alicorn, its great wings outspread. And from it emanated laughter, the deep-voiced feminine laughter that I knew came from the one called Esther and Eclipse and Mare Crisium, Priestess of Nightmare Moon.
And then with a flash and a scream of cyclonic, interstellar winds it was gone. Luna, Pinkie and I all struggled onto our hooves and feet and ran across to the window and there, silent and malevolent and glaring like an angry eye, the shining star that was Eclipse rose into the moon's black sky and, arcing like a great comet, streaked away in the direction of the great, gorgeous blue orb of Equestria.
We had no time to mull over what had just happened as the door to Luna's room flew open and within a heartbeat the room was full of guards, who surrounded the Princess and hustled Pinkie and I away. But after a few words from the Princess, they parted to allow us to return to her side just as the other Twilight and her friends and the other party guests came galloping in.
We were quickly surrounded and everypony started asking questions all at once. I left Pinkie and Luna to do the explaining, since I was still confused about everything that had happened. But I couldn't slip away, since Soarin was beside in a moment, a look of concern on the Wonderbolt's handsome face.
"Are you OK Connie?" he asked. "We all heard this weird rumbling sound, just like the castle was about to collapse or something!"
"I'm fine, Soarin," I replied. "But I've got to admit that that was the least satisfying sleep I've ever had." I patted him on the head. "But you're such a dear to be concerned about me."
Twilight brought a hoof to her chin. The brainy little pony was quickly assimilating all the information she'd learned from Luna. "Wait, so Mare Crisium is an alicorn? But I thought that only Princesses were able to attain that level of magical ability!"
Luna nodded. "Eclipse was not an alicorn when last we met," she said. "She has clearly grown in power during her time in exile."
"So what in the hay should we do now?" said Applejack. "With an evil alicorn on the loose, who knows what mischief she'll perpetrate!"
All eyes turned to Luna.
"There's no time to lose," she said. She turned to her butler, who was in the middle of fussying about her like a mother hen. "Sterling Silver, summon the bearers of my chariot and bring me my armour. We leave for Canterlot at once. My sister must be warned!"