Chapter Eight - The Dream World


Sudden realization came. It all made sense. Every scrap of research before had addressed the wrong problem!


Twilight was lost in a crowd of huge ponies in Canterlot Square. The clock tower overlooking the plaza said it was a minute after six, but the moon was in the sky. It was still summer, so no matter whether it was morning or evening, the sun should have been out – unless Celestia had clocked out early or something. That happened only very rarely, but it wasn’t unheard of.

Confused, Twilight flapped her wings and flew over the crowd in the hope of determining something about what was going on. Unfortunately, she found nothing of interest, so she turned her flight toward the castle’s front gate. One did not simply fly into the castle without permission, and for some reason, the visual cues which would signify her as friendly had slipped her mind. She’d have to brush up on them later.

Two giant earth ponies guarded the gate. Despite their unusual size, it was business as usual as she approached. They, however, refused to let her pass. Of all the nerve! If they’d had orders from Celestia, perhaps because she wanted Twilight out of the castle during some delicate diplomatic negotiations that didn’t need a snarky archmage, that would be acceptable. But they didn’t!

Thus, heedless to their cries, Twilight glued them to the wall and proceeded forward. When she went to lift the portcullis – why was it down, anyway? – she accidentally put too much strength into her magic. The metal lattice crumpled into a wad where she’d grasped it and jammed in place. At least she had enough room to squeeze through.

She did make a mental note to come back and fix that later once she knew what was going on.

Every single guard Twilight passed as she walked the castle corridors, all of them giants, tried to stop her. They said she’d been kicked out to go find her own country to rule. But as that prospect was about as intriguing as gouging out her own eyes, she pressed on to the throne room while paying no mind to the speed bumps.

Taking a shortcut through the hopefully less guarded gardens, Twilight ran into Spike and Flurry playing some foals’ game. Somehow, although they both had the same body proportions as when she’d last seen them, they’d grown to her own size. Perhaps this was a chance to gain some answers from someone with some actual sense.

“Hey, Spike. Flurry.” Getting only a lukewarm hello in return, once she accepted that there would be a distinct lack of hugs, Twilight asked, “Do you know why the moon is in the sky?”

The two foals looked confused. Spike spoke first. “What is that, some kind of philosophical question? Where else would you put the moon?”

“No, that’s not – I meant why is it out right now?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Flurry asked. “And who are you, anyway?”

Unamused by the feigned lack of recognition, Twilight said, “Twilight Sparkle. Your aunt.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t know you were polymorphed.”

She wasn’t, but just to be sure, Twilight gave herself a once over. Her coat was the same color as usual. When she flicked her head, her mane tossed over her eyes. It felt a lot softer and smoother than usual, she would give them that, and she had sparkles like stars in it now, but the color scheme was normal. The cutie mark on her flank was correct, although her wings did look a little juvenile.

“Oh.” It hit Twilight now that she had wings. “That’s neat. I don’t often experiment with actual pegasus wings. It’s more efficient for me to use other means of flight.” She also, for whatever reason, had reverted to a much younger physical age. That was less amusing, but she shrugged and went with it. “I think I’ll see you two later. I’m going to go give these things a spin.”

Completely forgetting the moon mystery, Twilight left the castle behind with a veritable mob of guards seeing her out the door. As soon as she left, she leapt into the air. Her wings unfurled and lifted her up into the skies above the city.

After some time flying around, immersing herself in the unfamiliar feelings of chilly bursts of wind, thermals, turbulence, and the addicting sensation of airflow beneath her wings, Twilight found herself circling back down to the square where she’d gotten lost earlier. She didn’t have anything better to do right now nor anywhere else to go, so she found a cozy bench to lie down on and let her mind drift.

Some hazy time later, the clock tower called out another hour. Six times it cried before falling silent once more.

Wait, six?

Twilight looked up at the clock tower. It showed that it was a minute after six as the ringing of its bells had suggested. That couldn’t be right. Looking around at the ponies in the crowd, she noticed that none of them had any faces or cutie marks. They were just blotches of color giving off the impression of a pony more than taking the form of one. Thinking back, she couldn’t remember what any of the guards looked like either.

“Oh, I get it. I’m dreaming.” Twilight paused for a few seconds as that sunk in. “I’m dreaming! Ha! I did it! Hello, lucid dream.” Her moment of triumph, however, was cut short. “Now I just need to remember why that was so important.”

Eyes closed, Twilight sat up and rubbed her head with both of her forehooves, moving them in small circles.

“Think, Twilight. Think. I wanted to do something with a lucid dream. It sounded really interesting.”

She rose from the bench and set to pacing. Back and forth she went until she’d worn a groove into the pavement, but it was worth it in the end.

“Eureka! The dream world!” Sitting back down, Twilight put her jaw on a hoof. She knew her goal. Now she just needed to recall how to reach it. So, step one was to ‘calm thyself’. Step two was to…deny the dream? That sounds right. Step three was…no, this is step two and step two was step three. The real step two was to take control of the dream.

Leaping to her hooves, Twilight found a nice cozy spot underneath a tree where she could relax – at least in theory.

“This is so exciting!” Shaking her head, she said, “No, Twilight. There is no excitement. There is only calm. Peace. Serenity.”

Try as she might, no position, no chant, no anything could calm Twilight enough to make more than minor changes to the dream surrounding her. Disappointed, she collapsed onto her back and stared up at the star-filled sky. The real night was beautiful, something she’d never regretted using free time to study, but here in the dream, it was gorgeous. She could see nebulae and brilliant, blazing stars that shone brighter than any in the waking world. Glorious hues of reds and oranges filled the canvas with splashes of light blue and green interweaved.

Perhaps this was what the night sky looked like before Luna’s banishment. Celestia did her best, Twilight was sure, but could she compare to the Alicorn of the Night herself? Surely not.

Realizing that she’d settled down, lost in the stars, Twilight carefully kept her eagerness from building up once more. Instead, she directed her attention to the sky, making little adjustments which only marred perfection. Amusingly, the stars proved playful, moving on their own once she’d begun making changes. The two of them, herself and the stars, descended into a little game on a cosmic scale until the sky became unrecognizable from what it once was. New constellations filled it, and swirling space dust had formed into whirlpools of sparkling light.

With a deep sense of contentment, Twilight closed her eyes.

This is only a dream. An illusion. I want to go to the real realm of dreams. I want to venture inside my own magic to my own personal dreamscape.

Twilight felt a sudden jarring motion. Where once she’d lain peacefully on her back, now her body had repositioned itself to an angled form at the base of a soft, grassy hill. In front of her, a forest of moderately sized trees and ferns with huge leaves ringed the clearing. Trying to stare deeper into the foliage gave Twilight a headache, so she stopped. That had to be the edge of her dream world, as Luna’s book had put it. She could expand it further with effort, but for now, this was what she had to work with.

A feminine, “Oof,” one very far away from the sound of it, met Twilight’s ears, but she paid it no mind for the moment. For all she knew, it could have been her own. More importantly, she remembered everything! Everything that had been so hard to bring to mind in the dream came back to her in crystal clear clarity just as it did in real life.

And then she recalled that she’d left herself in Pinkie Pie’s care. And she’d possibly caused irreversible harm to her magic. And nopony would have any idea how to treat her beyond keeping her physical self hydrated and fed. And she had to hope either Lyra took the initiative to keep her identity hidden or Celestia found out and came to her rescue.

Well. I guess I’m not dead. That was a lower bar than Twilight really wanted to reach for, however. But this dreamscape of hers was supposed to exist inside herself – inside her magic. Nothing immediately leapt out to her as wrong or sickly. Perhaps she would be okay. Eventually. Hopefully before Nightmare Moon returned from banishment.

Decided that there was nothing for it but to wait out the consequences of her actions, Twilight rose to her hooves and investigated her surroundings. It was nice, she supposed, as far as nature went. She preferred her beauty in magic and math, but it could be worse. The initial form the dreamscape took was supposed to represent the pony it belonged to. While it came as no surprise that she was alone, she’d honestly expected something a little…actively hostile.

Glancing up, Twilight found nothing but the cloudless sky painted in a stunning gradient from pink to purple to orange extending below the forest canopy where the sun lingered out of sight below the edge of the world.

A facehoof promptly followed. If my dreamscape is based on a pun, I’m going to have some pointed words for…somepony.

Sighing, Twilight resolved to ascend the hill and get a better view of her entire domain. When she neared its crest, she discovered that she was, in fact, not alone. Luna as she appeared before Nightmare Moon, at least according to her impression of Celestia’s description, strode toward her from approximately the other side of the summit. Luna saw her, too, and raised a wing in greeting.

Something about this felt vaguely familiar, but Twilight paid the feeling no mind. She crossed the remaining distance between her and her actually much taller than expected guest, meeting at the hill’s peak, and spoke first. “All right, what are you doing here? I know I’ve been dreaming of you lately, but this is supposed to be my unspoiled canvas. I better not be subconsciously in love with you or something. We’ve never even met.”

Luna raised an eyebrow, an amused smile playing at her lips. “Not so, although this is the first we’ve had time to speak in peace.” A thoughtful hum emanated from her throat. “But I was so sure you were a unicorn. This does, however, explain much.”

“What are you talking about?”

Luna breathed in sharply. “Has my sister truly hidden this from you? It would be difficult. Exceedingly so. But…not impossible. You poor creature. Do you even know what you are?”

Taking a step back, Twilight instinctively spread her wings in preparation to flee. Not that there was anywhere to – Oh, I still have wings. And I’m still foal-sized. No wonder Luna is so tall. As she saw no need to correct a figment of her imagination, she said, “I believe I asked you a question first. What are you doing here?”

“A fair point. I’ve come to get to know the Archmage of Equestria. We will, after all, be working together for much longer than I expected very soon.”

Twilight blinked and then took a step back to better look up at Luna and take in her full appearance. “Wait. Are you professing to be the real Luna?”

“Who else would I be?” Luna sat to be at a more even height. “Unless there are other dream walking alicorns now?”

“But – but you’re banished!”

“For a grueling nine hundred and ninety-nine years, three seasons, five moons, one week, and a day now.” Underneath the bitterness, a vengeful fire lit Luna’s eyes as she rattled off the date without hesitation. She’d been counting, clearly, whether up or down. “I’ve been slipping my chains during my millennial respite as best as I can. It is not as easy as it once was, but I get by. I apologize for the sour influences I’ve had on your dreams lately. My attempts to bring you into your dreamscape were much less successful than your own. Congratulations, by the way. The first time is the hardest by far.”

Twilight fumbled for words and ultimately only managed a simple, “Thanks. Your book helped.”

Eyes now alight with delight, Luna beamed. “I’m surprised a copy still exists. And you’ve read it! What did you think?”

“It was good?” Twilight really, truly, desperately needed at least a few minutes alone to regroup. She’d not been prepared for this. “I got what I wanted out of it.”

“Excellent! I’m glad to have played some small part in your education.” For what it was worth, it seemed as though Luna genuinely meant that. “Now perhaps you might answer my own questions, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Just Twilight, please,” she replied automatically. Luna was, if not strictly speaking family, then close enough, and Celestia obviously wanted them to get along for reasons which extended beyond her resignation to her sister’s triumph. “How can I verify you’re really Luna?”

The question was met with an approving nod. After a little thought, Luna replied, “When we were young, relatively speaking, I used to refer to my sister as Tia. It originated from me teasing her over her insatiable love of tea, a luxury good in those first centuries with an exorbitant cost. When a pony wished to express discontent with government spending in our early years, it often involved allusions to her bathing in it. Jasmine in particular, her favorite at the time.”

That was easy enough to remember.

“Now then, Twilight, let’s discuss you. I’m dying to know what you are.”

As much as Twilight felt should just tell Luna that she was a unicorn in case this was the real one, the temptation to see what secrets she might lift from an unguarded alicorn in that very same instance proved overwhelming. She trusted Celestia, of course, but she also trusted Celestia to hide things if she – usually rightly so – thought them better left forgotten.

Hmm… We have an Alicorn of the Sun and an Alicorn of the Moon. Matching the celestial theme, Twilight said, “I’m the Alicorn of the Sky,” with confidence she hoped would lend her deception strength.

Luna’s eyebrows shot up. “Really?” She craned her neck to get a better view of Twilight’s cutie mark. “Ah, I see. As I am the Alicorn of the Night, no doubt. Curious. How does that work?”

As she had no idea what they were talking about anymore, Twilight plainly replied, “I don’t know.” Any other answer would only betray her own ignorance. “I’m new at this.”

“Understandable. It took my sister and I decades to fully come to terms with our existence, and you haven’t even three decades yet under your wing since you awoke, correct?”

Awoke? That was an odd verb choice. Nonetheless, Twilight nodded along.

“Perhaps there are a few ponies I can consult between now and when you next fall asleep to help you better understand yourself. I don’t expect much to come of it, but one never knows.”

It hit Twilight then that one of her basic assumptions about the threat Nightmare Moon – or Luna, it seemed – posed had been way off the mark. They weren’t dealing with a goddess who’d been isolated for a thousand years, left with nothing but her own mad ramblings. If this Luna were real, then she’d had all the company a pony needed to keep herself mentally stable. The world could take a collective sigh of cautious relief.

And then the other shoe dropped.

She’s had a thousand years to quietly organize ponies for her coup. And Celestia has been helping her along.

Twilight brought out the Royal Breathing Exercises to calm herself. The need for them had become alarmingly frequent lately, and she really didn’t like what that said about the direction her life was turning.

“What are you doing?”

“Calming myself!”

“Why?” A look of realization passed over Luna’s face. “Oh, I assume you–”


There were good ways to wake up and bad ways to awaken. Twilight personally liked to wake up half-buried in clouds and, although she typically avoided such indulgences since becoming a mare, with a member of the family to snuggle into or around. Waking up in pain and moaning, however, was decidedly not on her list of favorites. Lying in a hospital bed with that horrid yet iconic antiseptic stench in the air certainly did nothing to mitigate the experience.

Owwww, my horrrrnnnn.

Nothing and yet everything hurt. Her magic didn’t have nerve endings, but it somehow found a way to let Twilight know how unhappy it was with her. The general soreness became agony in her horn where her flesh and the arcane melded into one. When she tried to get out of bed, she barely had the strength to fail to lift a leg. She promptly abandoned that as a lost cause and decided to conserve her energy.

Still, she was alive. Twilight considered that a win. She could analyze what had gone wrong later.

So, judging by how sweaty I feel, I must be having fever dreams. Fantastic. I’m going to be sleeping in fits, aren’t I? And just when I had an alicorn ready to confess everything. Twilight weakly clicked her tongue.

Off in a corner of the room, Twilight spotted a large but neat pile of a random assortment of objects. It didn’t take her long to realize that they all belonged to her. Her bag of holding must have failed in her sleep, which made her wonder just how long she’d been out. Interestingly, she did notice that her coat was still butterscotch.

I wonder who refreshed my polymorph? Lyra was the obvious possibility, but Twilight hoped Celestia had already heard of her condition and stopped by. They needed to talk before she fell asleep again, and she didn’t know how long she would stay awake before drifting off again.

Leaning back into the pillow, Twilight tried calling out for a nurse. Her voice was weak, barely a whisper, but either a monitoring spell had been set up or fortune was on her side, for one appeared.

“Good afternoon, Index. I’m Nurse Redheart. How are you feeling?”

“Terrible.” Twilight, in no mood to play pretend, could rattle off a list of symptoms, but it might be faster to list what parts of her body didn’t want her flank on a platter.

“My sympathies. We unfortunately haven’t been able to do anything to help ease your pain. Without knowing what happened, we feared anything we gave you would make your condition worse.”

Twilight opened her mouth to tell Nurse Redheart not to worry because there was nothing to be done but then decided against it. It would only invite follow-up questions she didn’t want to answer. Ultimately, she simply feigned ignorance and said, “I don’t know. I can’t recall.”

“Does it have something to do with any of that, perhaps?” Nurse Redheart directed a rather pointed look at the pile of, to her, junk cluttering up her hospital.

Rather than muster the strength to offer a more thorough explanation, Twilight just shook her head a fraction of an inch.

“Then the best we can offer you is to let you ride out your symptoms here under observation.”

Twilight nodded her understanding. It was better than nothing. “How long?” Luna had, technically, given her the exact date if she cared to do some mental math, but she really didn’t right now. Plus there was that questionable existence thing to consider.

“It’s difficult to say, to be honest. Within the week, we hope, but we won’t know for sure for a couple more days.”

“No,” Twilight said. “How long out?”

“Oh. Pinkie brought you in just before midnight on the fourth. It’s the seventh now.”

A long, resigned sigh escaped Twilight. She’d already slept through two and a half days, and she was going to lose even more time before she got out of here. What a disaster this had become. The worst part was she had nopony to blame for it but herself. Would it really be so hard to just suck it up and socialize for the next five weeks?

Well, yes. There were valid, legitimate reasons Celestia hadn’t wanted her to come here, after all. And that was without considering all of the complications which had arisen.

“You’ve had some visitors.”

Twilight’s ears perked up at the mention of visitors. “Who?”

“Lyra Heartstrings, Bon Bon, Pinkie Pie, of course, and the Cakes, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle admitted separately–”

That deserved a chuckle as much as it did gratitude, both of which Twilight offered.

“–Rarity, Derpy Hooves, Cheerilee, Amethyst Star, and Mayor Mare are all of the locals. You’ve made a lot of friends in the short time you’ve been here.”

Psh, acquaintances at best.

“You also had someone from out of town stop by. A Sun Wisp, if I recall correctly.”

The last name made Twilight smile weakly. It was one of Celestia’s favorite fake identities. While that meant she could just lie around, wait, and try not to nod off, she much preferred proactive solutions to her problems. “Do you have anypony on call who can cast a flame sending spell?” she slowly asked.

Nurse Redheart’s hesitance was answer enough, but she still said, “I’m not sure. What does it do?”

“Never mind. Could you send for Ly – no, Sweetie Belle?” The seapony probably didn’t know any but the most basic of fire magics regardless, but Twilight would rather deal with an adorable little filly hungry for knowledge and quick to learn.

Although obviously hesitant to deliberately bring a Crusader into the hospital, Nurse Redheart acquiesced and promised to send somepony for Sweetie Belle. After providing Twilight with a glass of water should it be desired, she took her leave to return to her other duties.

With that, Twilight relaxed, forced herself not to close her eyes, which would inevitably put her to sleep, and turned inward to contemplate what had transpired between her and the Luna in her dreams. Even if that Luna turned out to be just a figment of the imagination, what she’d said might still have value.

So what did I learn?

Alicorns are ‘awakened’, whatever that means. It’s not particularly new information, but it does lend credence to the popular theory that alicorns aren’t born in the traditional sense. I can understand why Celestia doesn’t want to let that information loose. She gets enough worship as is without a non-biological birth of sorts muddying the waters. Or rebirth, rather. Celestia is too pony-like psychologically not to be one of us, and there’s zero evidence the Classical Era developed artificial life capable of effectively pretending to be a pony.

Beyond that, Luna was fairly insistent that I be the alicorn of something. She accepted the sky as a broader characterization. Thus night is to moon as day is to sun as sky is to what?

Twilight’s head hurt too much for riddles. She’d tuck that away for later analysis. Luna had seemed confused over the answer to the riddle anyway even if she hadn’t deemed it outright impossible.

Now what do I already know?

Alicorns have a magical density and maximum magical output ludicrously in excess of what should be possible. I ran the numbers to determine if Celestia could mostly exist in a pocket dimension, but it just doesn’t scale. To make it big enough for her to inhabit, even if she first ran herself to magical exhaustion, she’d need to expend more magic than she generates.

Alicorns are immortal in the ageless and indestructible sense, although Celestia implied that the latter is theoretically not the case but true in practice. They’re unaffected by disease. They sleep, and they eat. To be honest, I suspect those are Celestia’s vices more than anything she actually needs. And to be fair, I could get by entirely without the latter myself if I wanted.

Only Luna can dreamwalk that I’m aware of, but alicorns in general have access to the three canonical Equestrian branches of magic. It seems likely that their magic is entirely untyped, enabling them use anything and everything from earth pony magic to draconic magic provided that they adopt the appropriate form to do so. But between the three pony tribes, there’s not much gained using any other type, so Celestia either doesn’t or hasn’t bothered to learn. If this isn’t just pure speculation, of course.

A knock came on the door. Nurse Redheart poked her head in and said, “Sweetie Belle has arrived.”

Huh. I forgot how small Ponyville is. “Send her–”

Sweetie Belle rushed past the nurse into the room, completely ignoring any noise ordinances. “You’re awake! I was so worried!”

Although she didn’t have the strength to cover her ears, Twilight did manage to angle them down before Nurse Redheart scolded Sweetie Belle for shouting. That managed to get an apology from her, but it utterly failed to put a stop to her ardor.

“Index, what happened to you?”

Oh, right. My cover. Twilight briefly contemplated how tired and sluggish she felt. Meh. Whatever. After assuring Nurse Redheart that she would be fine alone with the little ball of energy in the room, she said, “Just a little magical accident. I’ll be fine.”

“But you slept for two days straight!”

“I did, and I’ll be fine.”

“But–”

Twilight let out a patient sigh and tuned out Sweetie Belle. Was I ever like this with Celestia? As much as she didn’t want to admit it, she’d probably been worse. When the room was silent again, she once more reassured her guest that she would be fine. Then before any further protests could arise, she asked, “Could you do me a couple favors?”

With an eager bounce, Sweetie Belle readily agreed, her face bright and obviously happy to be of help.

“Thank you. When you leave, go through my pile of stuff.” Twilight made a little nod in its approximate direction. “Take the loose papers and notebooks. Hide them where they won’t be lost or found.” If anypony had wanted to riffle through them without permission, they’d already had two days to do so, but she could at least not make it an open invitation. Some of the documents in the heap were classified. “They’re enchanted, so don’t worry about damage. Try not to touch anything else. Some of it is dangerous.”

Sweetie Belle nodded her understanding.

“My other request will require more work. I’m not feeling up to spell casting. Do you know somepony who could help me with that?”

The squee that came in reply was answer enough.

“Well, I guess you’re willing to learn. This will be difficult, but you should be able to cast it – if not understand it – within the hour. Do you have the time?”

Once Sweetie Belle said that she did, they began the lesson. The lecture on the flame sending spell went smoothly. The core spellforms were simple enough, being a mere interconnected combination of lesser magics. Magic was easy when broken down into its basic components despite what everypony else said.

However, when the first hour rolled by, it truly sank in just how difficult it was to teach purely orally without magic. Twilight lacked the ability to demonstrate. She lacked the capacity to guide, correct, and nudge Sweetie Belle in the right direction as she had with the last spell she’d taught. The solution to this, as it became apparent, was to detour into the illusion school for a little cantrip that caused magic to emit visible light. Teaching that spell went far faster, and once Sweetie Belle had it mastered, Twilight proved far more capable of helping her learn the flame sending spell.

All told, it took Sweetie Belle a little over three hours to send a blank piece of paper across the room.

“Finally!” Twilight exclaimed. She regretted it immediately after as she descended into a coughing fit and then again when she caught the look on Sweetie Belle’s face.

“I apologize for taking–”

“Don’t,” Twilight managed between wheezes. “Not you. Me. Did well with useless teacher.” She wasn’t sure how genuine the cautious smile on Sweetie Belle’s face was, but she would take it. “Can you take dictation?”

“Uh-huh! One sec.” Sweetie Belle rushed out the door and came back a minute later with quill, ink, and parchment. “Ready!”

Not particularly wanting to deal with a hyperactive fanfilly and knowing that few ponies knew the, in hindsight, somewhat pretentious name she’d given Spike when she’d been far too young to be naming a potted plant, let alone a person, Twilight dictated, “Spykoran, please tell Sun Wisp I’m awake and need to speak with her.”

After Sweetie Belle finished writing, Twilight reluctantly parted with the destination key for Spike. She knew she was going to regret opening up a line of communication between Canterlot’s troublemakers and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, but with Luna potentially dreamwalking, who else could she fully trust but someone in the family?

Of course, Twilight could have Sweetie Belle send the letter to Celestia directly, but really? It was bad enough she already had the much prized archmage’s address from testing the flame sending spell. Even Twilight’s parents routed mail to her through Spike. Sweetie Belle didn’t need a direct line to the Princess of Equestria as well.

While Twilight debated the horrible implications of the information she’d freely given to Sweetie Belle in her feverish state, said filly burnt the letter to ashes and sent it off without any awareness of what she now had within her hooves. As the spell finished drawing its power from her, she lurched forward but caught herself before she fell.

“You okay?” Twilight asked.

Sweetie Belle nodded. “That was exhausting,” she said with heavy breath. “How far did I send it?”

“It should just be going to Canterlot.” After a few seconds, Twilight added, “Which is fairly far for somepony your age.” Or any age, really, but only because most unicorns never built up their magical capacity beyond what would comfortably get them through daily life. “Anyway, thank you for playing mailmare for me. I’ll return the favor when reality is my plaything again.”

Laughing, Sweetie Belle said, “No need. You already taught me so much and saved my life. I am in your debt far more than you are in mine.”

“As you wish.” Twilight was far from in the mood to argue trivialities. “Come back anytime, but for now, please gather my papers and skedaddle. I’ll have company soon, and we’ll need privacy.”

Puzzled, Sweetie Belle asked, “How?”

Celestia appeared in the room in a convergence of light. She’d taken on Sun Wisp’s appearance, a unicorn mare with a bronze coat, a yellow mane and tail, and a single solar wisp for a cutie mark. If somepony who knew anything about teleportation were in the room, her manner of arrival would have exposed her real identity. But as there was only a young, untested sorceress present, her disguise remained intact.

“Like that, I suppose,” Twilight said.

Celestia, although everything about her radiated concern and worry to those who knew her best, started with an easy question. “What’s like what?”

“My guest asked after the manner of your arrival.”

Following Twilight’s nod, Celestia’s gaze fell upon the room’s other occupant. “Oh. Hello, little one.”

After the initial shock wore off, Sweetie Belle stared wide eyed up at Celestia. “That. Was. So. Cool! Index, can you do that? Can you teach me?”

“Usually, yes,” Twilight replied. “But keep that to yourself. For now, why don’t you head out. You can come back later to finish what I asked of you.” Sure, she could just have Celestia hold on to her things for her, but Sweetie Belle looked so happy to help. She recalled those days fondly. They were so long ago, back before the tedium and familiarity had worn away her enthusiasm to assist her own mentor.

Celestia watched Sweetie Belle leave with a mischievous eye. Once they were alone, she teasingly said, “That is a cute little protégé you have there.” When Twilight didn’t immediately deny it, her smirk passed through surprise and eased into a more genuine expression of affection. “Is she?”

After a pregnant silence, Twilight replied, “Maybe.”

“I’m happy for you,” Celestia said, and for a moment, Twilight actually thought that would be the end of it. “But you do realize I must tease you incessantly for this once you recover.”

Twilight groaned.

“How many times have I had to listen to you complain when I ask you to give a guest lecture at my school?”

Grumbling, Twilight replied, “Not enough to make you stop asking.”

Celestia actually had the gall to say, “Of course not. It’s good for you.” Once she stopped laughing, her tone turned serious. “What happened to you?”

“Wards first.”

Although she rolled her eyes, Celestia put up all of the usual privacy spells necessary to keep eavesdroppers, both magical and mundane, from overhearing their conversation. “Too weak to do this yourself?” she asked. The reprimand in her tone did not go unnoticed, although Twilight did appreciate that Celestia automatically assumed the only thing that could actually put her in the hospital anymore was herself.

“Yes, in fact,” Twilight replied at her accustomed slow pace. “It’s very irritating. It took me hours longer than it should have like this to teach Sweetie Belle the flame sending spell. If I’d known that…” Well, Twilight probably still would have gone for the magic option, but the point was she could have just sent a pegasus courier or even had Pinkie Pie take the next train to Canterlot. “Never mind.”

“Twilight,” Celestia began solemnly as she found a seat beside the bed, “when I first got here, I performed an examination of my own. I had no idea what was wrong with you. My best guess is you somehow managed to contaminate your magic–”

If she could, Twilight would have facehoofed. Had she really made the magically equivalent mistake of not washing her hooves and instruments before surgery? Probably.

“–something I have never in my entire life seen before. How did this happen?”

“How am I doing now?”

Celestia leveled a glare at Twilight which said she would have answers. Nonetheless, she performed the necessary medical spells. “Your readings are far more normal. Not fully, mind, but considerably better than the last time I checked.”

Twilight breathed out a sigh of relief. Experiment successful, I guess. I’ll need to determine exactly what went wrong and if I achieved the intended effect, but I’ll count being alive and not crippled as a win right now.

“So? When your brother eventually escapes my niece’s hooves and starts pounding on my door again for answers, what am I going to tell him?”

“Oh.” Twilight, contrite, sunk into herself. “I worried a lot of ponies, didn’t I? I’m sorry.” Although the repentance expressed was genuine, it utterly failed in its secondary goal of deflecting Celestia’s inquiries.

“Nice try, but who do you think taught that to you? Now tell me what foolish, reckless experiment you got caught up in this time.”

Twilight clicked her tongue. She’d need to bring out the siege spells. “It was just a minor magical mishap, Tia.”

Like magic, Celestia froze in place with a gasp no louder than a mouse, and Twilight swore under her breath. That confirmed it. The Luna in her dreamscape had been the real one.

“Please do not call me that.”

By Celestia’s tone, Twilight knew such was not a request. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew it was insensitive to make light of this, but she still felt the addling touch of her fever and wanted for a distraction. “I don’t know. It’s an awfully cute nickname. Did you really used to bathe in Jasmine tea?”

“What? Of course no–” As the memories came back to her, a light pink dusted Celestia’s cheeks. “Where did you even hear such a story? I thought I eradicated all traces of it.”

If Twilight hadn’t been sure before, she was now. “Your sister mentioned it to me.”

What!” Celestia shrieked far and away too loudly for a hospital. It was only by the grace of the privacy wards she’d erected that a nurse hadn’t come to escort her out.

“Volume,” Twilight whispered, ears pinned to her head.

Still seething, Celestia apologized and asked, “Did my sister do this to you?”

“No, no,” Twilight said. “She’s still banished, just dreamwalking. Judging by her mental state, she has been the whole time.” If she had the energy for it, she’d probably descend back into a panic as she had before she’d awoken.

A few moments passed in stunned silence.

“Please say that again.”

“Hmm? Oh, Luna is mentally stable.” Or she at least could act the part. “And identifying as Luna.”

The dreadful sound of mucus in a runny nose made Twilight shudder. Nonetheless, she made what token effort she could to pull Celestia into a comforting hug. Then with a sobbing alicorn in disguise more on top of her than in her arms, she elaborated on what she’d already said.

“I only met her briefly before my dream collapsed. She may be different in person. It may have been an act. I don’t know for sure what her intentions are for you, but…”

“That’s enough,” Celestia said. “It’s enough. Thank you.”

They lay together like that for an indeterminate length of time until Celestia’s tears finally petered out to little sniffles. Despite her breakdown, or perhaps because of it, she looked more vibrant than Twilight had ever seen her. How long had she been holding that in? A century? Two? A millennium?

“Am I secretly an alicorn?”

Celestia laughed freely with clearly no idea how to respond or even where that question had come from. For Twilight, that was an objective accomplished. When she settled down, she replied, “You would know if you were. Trust me. What makes you ask?”

“I was in my dream before I managed to break into my personal dreamscape. It stuck for whatever reason. Then when I bumped into Luna, she made an assumption or two, and I rolled with it.”

That managed to get Celestia laughing again. “If only I could see the look on her face when she realizes. Oh, when we were young, Lulu and I would play so many pranks on each other. I miss that so much.”

Twilight looked at Celestia in surprise. “You? A prankster?” She knew Celestia had her moments of mischief, but she still had a hard time picturing it.

“What would eternity be without a few laughs?” Celestia asked. It was, to be fair, a good point. Then she hummed thoughtfully. “I suspect I know why you were an alicorn in your dreamscape, but you should ask Luna. She’s the expert. She will return, right?”

As one short and only moderately successful attempt at communication would no doubt not satisfy Luna, Twilight said, “Probably. Any message you’d like me to pass along?”

Celestia ruminated on the matter for the longest time. Ultimately, however, she replied, “No. When we speak, I’d like it to be in person.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ve waited nearly a thousand years,” Celestia said. “I can wait a little longer.”

Twilight nodded her acceptance. She could understand the sentiment, although perhaps she could convince Luna to go talk with Celestia. If they could resolve their differences in a dream, perhaps with gratuitous levels of violence involved, then maybe this family drama could have a happy ending. It was worth a shot. Not that she wouldn’t blast Luna with the Elements of Harmony anyway if she could. Better safe than sorry and all that.

“Oh. I found a bearer for Honesty.”

“Truly? How are things between you two?”

“Abysmal.”

Celestia managed a weak chuckle before finally removing herself from the bed. “I did attempt to dissuade you.”

“That’s not fair. It’s that seapony I wrote you about.” Twilight sighed. “I gave her a visa, but we’re going to need to naturalize her now that she has Honesty. Take care of that for me?” She played up her symptoms and forced a few coughs.

With a roll of her eyes, Celestia promised to do so.

“Great.” Then as fast as she could, too fast for Celestia to interject, Twilight said, “Her name is Lyra Heartstrings. She lives with Sweetie Drops, the head of the Anti-Monster Division of the EIS. She’s one of Aquestria’s previous masters of waters. Faked her own death and everything. Huuuuge scandal if it gets out.”

“What? Twilight, I don’t–”

“You promised!”

Celestia pushed a long, heavy breath out her nose. “You tricked me.”

Twilight just stuck her tongue out.

“Fine. I’ll make the necessary arrangements.” Under her breath, Celestia muttered, “What a mess.”

Not my problem anymore, Twilight thought with perhaps too wide a smile. “Have you been refreshing my polymorph for me?”

Nodding, Celestia added, “I’ll continue to do so until you recover.”

After giving her thanks, Twilight asked if anything interesting had happened during her coma. Other than an upcoming movie night with Chrysalis of all people, Celestia only had regular status updates on their plans to relay. She did, however, recall one other piece of news after she finished her report.

“Cadance came to me with a wonderful idea several moons ago that somewhat casts shame on me for my biases: a school for gifted pegasi.”

Twilight blinked. “Huh. Now that you mention it…”

“I know exactly what you mean. I said as much to her. She has most of the initial plans worked out now. I just came from a meeting with her, actually.”

“What about one for earth ponies?” Equestria didn’t have the population to support a dedicated school for dragons, deer, and the like, but after having Pinkie Pie shoved in her face, Twilight saw the undeniable need for one where earth ponies were concerned.

Celestia offered a helpless shrug. “The idea arose, but we have a lack of direction. Moreover, your discovery of Pinkie Pie puts any curricula we might consider in doubt. At the same time, however, earth ponies clearly have much overlooked potential. We must correct that.”

“Agreed. Thank you for coming so quickly, but I should let you get back to Cadance.”

“Of course.” Celestia rose to her hooves and dissolved into light.

Inwardly, Twilight did a little dance at pulling a successful distraction and being let off the hook.

And then Celestia returned with a smirk. “But before I leave, perhaps you could finally tell me how you ended up in the hospital, hmm?”

Twilight groaned. “Fine. I developed a new medical procedure and used myself as a guinea pig.”

This, rather predictably, resulted in a long scolding.


In a quiet corner of Canterlot Castle, Spike sat idly chatting with Flurry. Cadance had brought them here on a detour into town for a ‘brief’ chat with Princess Celestia about a new school for gifted pegasi like the one they already had for unicorns. A while ago, Spike had coughed up a weird scroll. He’d not recognized the writer’s penmareship, but there were only a handful of ponies who knew his full name, so he’d done as asked and relayed the message to Princess Celestia, who had immediately excused herself with the promise to return shortly.

It might have been a good idea to ask what an immortal alicorn considered ‘shortly’. Since her departure, the three of them – Spike, Flurry, and Cadance – hadn’t heard a word from her and had resigned themselves to a long wait. Cadance went to work further refining her plans, taking the occasional break to enjoy her tea. Meanwhile, Spike and Flurry had reluctantly entertained each other instead of heading down to the kitchens for a snack which would ‘spoil their dinner’.

But finally – finally! – Princess Celestia reappeared in an implosion of light. She came without warning as she always did when moving about in haste, but everypony in the family had long grown used to it. “My apologies for the absence. If I had known Twilight would hold me up for so long, I would have asked you to come back later.”

Spike put a claw to his lips and quietly moved Flurry further into the background. Whenever somepony brought up his mother over the last couple days, the adults always got a worried look but refused to say anything but platitudes. But if Princess Celestia had forgotten they were here, she might let something slip.

Cadance dismissed the apology with a wave of her hoof and instead leapt straight to the heart of the matter. “How is Twi doing?”

“Better than I expected, to be honest, but sometimes I question where I went wrong with her. The ideas she gets into her head when nopony is around to ground her.” Princess Celestia shook her head as she poured herself a new cup of tea.

“It’s nothing you did, Auntie. Trust me. She was like that long before you got to her.” After taking a sip from her own cup, Cadance asked, “So what did she do this time?”

“While unforthcoming about the details, she admitted to performing surgery on herself.”

Cadance nearly choked in time with Spike and Flurry’s dual gasps. “That mare. Nothing but an overgrown foal, I swear. Has she at least made any friends while playing mad scientist?”

“I believe so. Just one or two for now – low hanging fruit, as she would say – but perhaps they will help open her up to the magic of friendship.” Princess Celestia took her first sip of tea and let out a pleased hum. “You can ask her directly for the details. In the meanwhile, we were discussing your intended faculty for the initial experimental phase. The Wonderbolts take in many of Equestria’s most talented pegasi. Have you looked through their ranks, past and present, for potential professors?”

“Yes, actually. There’s a few decent picks amongst them, but I’m hesitant to pull them into a school for foals. I don’t want to start up a military academy.”

Princess Celestia conceded the point. “Do you have anypony else in mind?”

“I have a roster I’d like your assistance with narrowing down. I’m worried about overrepresenting the weather industry. It’s the number one employer of pegasi by a wide margin, which makes it difficult to avoid, but this is specifically supposed to be about expanding opportunities. I have a similar concern for the postal service. In all honesty, I think our culture is too focused on public service. Where are our doctors ready to advance our knowledge of medicine? Where are our great scholars whose name everypony knows? When a pony sees a pegasus, they think weather, military, mail. Usually in that order. I know I’m not one to talk. A princess born to unicorns, raised in Canterlot in the lap of luxury and free to indulge in writing as a hobby? What do I know about being a pegasus?”

Some light laughter met the rhetorical question. “I have heard exactly that from all three tribes myself many times over. I do agree, however. And education is usually the first place to effect change.”

“Yeah. Sorry for getting on my soap box there. Anyway, there’s one mare that I really want to get ahold of before the Wonderbolts finally get her.”

Princess Celestia raised an eyebrow.

“They keep sending her invitations to join. She’s a huge fan and ostensibly wants to be one. By all rights, she should leap at every opportunity, but she keeps turning them down. I peeked at her file while visiting the Wonderbolts’ compound, which is what put me onto her trail in the first place. The only reason she ever gives is just that she ‘can’t right now’.”

“Hmm… She has talent, then, I take it?”

Cadance scoffed. “She’s the Twilight Sparkle of pegasi.”

“Very high praise. Who is she?”

After a bit of shuffling around of papers, Cadance presented something to Princess Celestia. “Rainbow Dash. She’s the one who performed the sonic rainboom all those years ago.”

“Oh yes, I recall that. Twilight told me it happened almost immediately after she hatched Spike.”

Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. It was a bit of a minor detail in what was the story of Spike’s own birth, Twilight’s cutie mark, and the reason Princess Celestia had taken Twilight on as a student. It certainly didn’t help that he’d been too young to remember witnessing it himself.

“It’s not really about that at all,” Cadance said. “She excels in every branch of pegasus magic and has practically invented new ones. She’s a genius.” Rather morosely, she added, “And a jock.”

“Ah, there’s the rub. Not a fan of school?”

Cadance snorted, which was all the answer anyone needed.

“Teaching would be a hard sell, then, especially against the alternative. Do you perchance know why she keeps turning the Wonderbolts down?”

“No, but she lives in Ponyville. I’m hoping Twi can tell me.”

“Unlikely, but…” Princess Celestia sipped from her tea with a thoughtful expression. “Twilight told me there are changelings in Ponyville. They may know more.”

Before Cadance could reply, Spike felt a surge of magic grow within him. A few moments later, he coughed up another scroll with a flash of bright green flame.

“More mail? Is it from Twi again?”

Spike picked up the letter. Unlike the last, which had been barely more than a note, this one had an elegant bow sealing it shut. Upon opening it, he recognized the same tidy script as before, but it was addressed specifically to him from the sender. He quickly scanned to the bottom and checked the name. Who is Sweetie Belle? It wasn’t one of the names Twilight used.

“No, Aunt Cadance. It’s for me, though, so I’m–”

“We’re,” Flurry corrected.

“So we’re going to go read it somewhere else.”

After promising not to wander off too far, Spike and Flurry left the meeting room. Upon finding the chamber across the corridor vacant, they commandeered it for their own purposes and huddled together conspiratorially.

“So who’s it from?”

“Somepony name Sweetie Belle,” Spike replied. “Ever heard of her?”

“Nope. Just start reading.”

With a nod, Spike returned to the top of the page and read aloud, “‘Dear Spykoran, I considered whether or not I should send this letter, but I just could not resist. Anypony who knows Index must be just as amazing as she is.’”

“Index? That’s one of your mom’s disguises, isn’t it?”

Spike hummed an affirmative. “‘My name is Sweetie Belle. I live in Ponyville just south of Canterlot at the border of the Everfree Forest. For lack of a better term, you could call me a student of magic. A few days ago, Index saved my life and has taught me so much ever since, including the flame sending spell (which is exhausting).’”

“Is it really?” Flurry asked. “You send mail all the time.”

“The species makes all the difference. Dragons use it all the time to send things to their hoard.” Dragonfire could burn most anything, after all, which made the flame sending spell incredibly useful. “Mom described the unicorn version as…‘like trying to send a message in a bottle to somewhere upstream’. I think I got that right.”

“Huh. Neat.” Flurry poked the letter with a hoof. “Go on.”

“Right. Uh… Aha! ‘I really want to get to know her better, but it seems like she has a lot of stuff to do besides just overseeing the Summer Sun Celebration. Whenever somepony sees her in town, she’s always busy. Worse, she ended up in the hospital!’”

Spike could have guessed that from what he’d overheard earlier, but it was nice to finally have somepony tell him outright. At least he knew Twilight was already on the path to recovery.

“‘So I guess the real reason I sent this letter is to see if there is any way I can help her, but my original intention was that it might be fun to be pen pals. Sweetie Belle. P.S. I can only cast the flame sending spell at most once every hour or so. I also have no idea how to send letters back to me.’”

“She brings up a good point. Can you send a response?”

“Well, I could always have Mom pass a letter along,” Spike said, rubbing his jaw thoughtfully, “but so long as nopony else sends me anything before then, I think I can manage it.

“Excellent!” Flurry hopped into the air and fluttered about the room. “This sounds like tons of fun. Found a quill! What should we say?”

“Hey! This is addressed to the amazing Spykoran.”

“Oh, come on! Parchment! Ooh, and ink!” Flurry returned with all three in tow, spreading them out onto the floor. “She doesn’t even know who you are. It might as well be addressed to me.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Spike said with a wave of his hand. “I was just kidding.” Picking up the quill, he set to writing. Dear Sweetie Belle, you don’t have to worry about Mom–

“Don’t write that!” Flurry hissed.

“What? Why not?”

“Because she knows Aunt Twilight as Index. You know, in disguise. Don’t blow her cover.”

Spike crumpled his first attempt and tossed it into the trash from across the room. “Ha! Who’s awesome!” Ignoring Flurry’s insinuation that it was a lucky shot, he grabbed a fresh sheet of parchment and tried again. Dear Sweetie Belle, you don’t have to worry about Index; she does weird stuff all the time.

“Ooh, nice use of semicolon.”

“I know. It’ll make us look super sophisticated.”

“Uh, hello? I’m a princess, and you’re the archmage’s colt.” Flurry pushed their Canterlot accent to absurd levels and said, “We’re sophisticated by definition, my good sir.”

With an eye roll, Spike continued writing. If you want her attention, just ask for it. If she didn’t like you, you would know it. If she can’t make time, you’ll know that too. But being pen pals sounds like fun. There he stopped writing and twiddled the quill between his claws. “How old do you think she is?”

Flurry shrugged her wings. “Some parts kind of read like something my grandparents or Aunt Celestia would write, but some sound more like somepony our age. We could go bother Incog for a quick background check. Or Esp. I think I saw him wandering around somewhere nearby.”

“Or,” Spike began with the much more sensible option, “we could just ask her.”

“Ask her?” Flurry said as if the very concept were foreign to her. “Where would the fun in that be? Let’s just wrap this up so we don’t miss the chance to send it. Then we can go investigating.”

“She’ll have to send another one before I can send another back.”

“So be it! Your princess has spoken.”

Spike rolled his eyes again and added a little warning to their letter. Until you figure out what your mailing address is, we have to latch onto the residual magic from letters you send us. We can only do that once per and only if nopony else sends us something, so we’ll end this here.

Spike lifted quill from parchment and turned to Flurry. “Seem fine?”

“Yep. Go ahead and sign it for me too.”

Spike and Flurry.


The folds of the dress stretched and contorted as a dozen needles and threads passed through in tiny, rapid movements. The fashionista extraordinaire controlling them paid them barely any mind. But even one of such talents as her soon found herself with nothing but a ball of fabric held together by the occasional miss-stitch.

“Oh, ponyfeathers,” Rarity muttered. “That is the fourth time since this morning.”

With a resigned sigh, Rarity threw her latest failure onto the pile with the three others. Even if she fixed it, who would want it? Even if somepony wanted it, could she bare to sell such a hideous, inferior product? What point was there to these lesser dresses when she could sew such splendor as to bring even the most jaded pony to tears?

Rarity summoned her fainting couch from upstairs and, once it arrived, collapsed onto her back to stare up at the ceiling. Inspiration burned within her like a wildfire, untamed and eager to be fed. It was a curse to be plagued so by ideas she could not as yet bring into reality.

Cursed with brilliance! Visions beyond achievement! Of all the worst things that could happen, this is the. Worst. Possible. Thing!

Using her connections in the fashion industry, Rarity had made a few quiet inquiries into thaumic thread only to discover that the archmage had a gift for understatement. Extremely expensive didn’t even begin to cover its price. If she at least knew how to make it herself, she could begin experimenting, but nopony who could would teach her. That left the archmage as her only supplier – the currently bedridden archmage. She felt awful for the poor dear, of course, but Rarity did wish she would hurry up and get back onto her hooves.

From upstairs came a crackling sound, almost as if something were burning.

“Sweetie Belle! Are you playing with fire again?”

“No, Rarity! Just a spell that Index taught me!”

Oh my, Sweetie Belle won’t be able to contain herself when she finally knows who Index really is.

Figuring that Archmage Twilight wouldn’t teach Sweetie Belle anything too dangerous, Rarity pushed the sound she’d heard from her mind. It had obviously done her no good to contemplate her work, however, so she instead imagined all the ways her and her sister’s lives would be changing if all went well.

With the weight of the archmage herself on Rarity’s side, she could finally convince her parents that Sweetie Belle needed a proper education. They would move to Canterlot, likely taking up residence in her boutique there. With the bulk of her clientele no longer needing to travel to her, her business would boom. Sweetie Belle, already having the archmage’s attention, would have the world as her oyster.

Oh, and when the world saw the robes she made for the archmage, ponies would throw the funding required at her to make greater and greater works of art. It was a dream which had all but come true already. It was amazing how much could change over the course of an afternoon.

From the stairwell came the soft sound of hoofsteps descending. Soon, Sweetie Belle appeared at their base and asked, “Hey, Rarity? Does the name Flurry mean anything to you? It sounds familiar. Like a pony you may have mentioned hearing something about?”

“Sweetie Belle, darling, Princess Flurry Heart is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza’s only child. Her father is Archmage Twilight’s brother, Prince Consort Shining Armor.”

“O-oh. I see. And, uh, who is Spike?”

“Spykoran, no? That would be Archmage Twilight Sparkle’s adopted dragon. He and Princess Flurry Heart are as thick as thieves from what I hear.” Unable to resist a little teasing, Rarity added, “Of course, the archmage does tend to keep her family away from the press, which would explain why a fanfilly like you needed a little reminder.”

“Yes, well, thank you for your assistance,” Sweetie Belle said, vacillating between indignity and gratitude.

As Sweetie Belle turned to head back up to her room, Rarity said, “What brought this up? Have you stumbled upon something I should know about?”

“N-no.” It was almost painful how obvious Sweetie Belle was about it. “I just read something in the newspaper that mentioned them.”

Rarity tapped her hoof to her jaw and summoned her reading glasses to her. “Curious. I do not recall any such article. Perhaps you could show me? I would hate to be behind on the latest news.”

“Err… No need. Really, it was just a small piece.”

“Oh, I do not believe that at all. Nothing is ever small to you where it concerns the archmage.”

Sweetie Belle took a step back and tripped over a stair. Under Rarity’s knowing look, she made a full retreat up the stairs in a hasty scramble. Of course, there was nowhere to run, for there was but one staircase in the boutique.

Elegantly rising to her hooves, Rarity walked upstairs in pursuit of her little sister. At the top, she found the door to Sweetie Belle’s room was closed and locked, not that it could stop her. Fumbling blindly with her magic, she eventually found the locking mechanism on the other side of the door. With a light click, it came undone.

Inside, Sweetie Belle’s room was as it normally was. While a few stacks of books on magic had escaped their shelves and lay scattered about the floor, it was otherwise well organized. Noticeably absent, however, was the filly Rarity had expected to find. But then a light breeze fluttered the curtains. The window was thrown wide open, and when she approached to see outside, she spotted her sister galloping away through town with a piece of parchment suspended in the air alongside her.

“Sweetie Belle! I know where you live! You cannot hide a secret from me for long!”


Twilight awoke in the midst of her breathing exercises standing exactly where she had been when her dream had fallen apart. She’d not expected her dreamscape to preserve state to that extent, but in hindsight, perhaps she should have. Everything she did in here was permanent and enduring, according to Luna’s book, forever written into her magic until deliberately erased. She had such ideas for this world. Persistent memory that nopony except possibly Luna knew how to touch! She could archive everything she knew, secure in the knowledge that only one other pony could ever even potentially tamper with it. Granted, she would prefer both zero and not this particular one, but she would take what she could get.

While Luna was not nearby as she had been upon their last meeting, Twilight didn’t recall breaking into her dream world as she had before. That meant, unless she’d drastically misunderstood something, she could expect to find Luna wandering about somewhere.

But speaking of alicorns, Twilight stretched a few muscles she only rarely had in reality. “Yep, still an alicorn.” Glancing down at her body proportions, she added, “And still tiny.” She noticed that her mane still had the ethereal, sparkling appearance as well.

“You lied.”

Twilight shrieked in surprise. Her wings instinctively carried her into the air at full force, but once her heart caught up with her, she fluttered back to the ground. Slowly, she turned in place and found a waiting Luna glaring down at her using every last inch of the height difference between them to full effect.

Thinking fast, Twilight said, “I prefer to think of it as roleplaying. Am I not, in fact, the Alicorn of the Sky at the moment?”

Luna was not amused.

“Celestia thought it was funny.”

“I’m sure she did,” Luna drawled, “Another one over on ole Luna. She doesn’t mind being the subject of every joke. Mirth is her Element.”

Good going, Twilight. We struck a nerve with the vengeful alicorn. What now? When no better idea occurred, she fell back on what she knew. “Laughter is actually the translation that most closely follows the evolution of Ponish.”

“Oh, so you know about the Elements of Harmony. She even told you about me. I had heard you were her new favored tool, but this is surprising. My sister did always like to hold her cards very close to the chest.”

Twilight gulped as Luna stalked a circle around her with a keen, observing eye. “We’re not lovers.”

“Indeed? Hmm, perhaps if my sister had a taste for mares, then.”

“No. Not likely.” Twilight actually found the image that put into her head somewhat revolting beyond her general disinclination toward sex. She quickly pushed it away and asked, “Why are you here?” It seemed foolish to expose Luna’s continued ability to dreamwalk to her so close to the solstice, which made her wonder what she was being distracted from.

Luna made herself comfortable lying on the grass. Once she’d settled in, she replied, “As I told you upon our last meeting, I’m here to get to know my future archmage.” To Twilight’s disbelieving look, she added, “Do recall to whom Honesty belonged.”

With a stomp of her hoof and a snort, Twilight glared at Luna. “That’s awfully presumptive.”

Luna shrugged her wings with far too casual an air. “I think you have a deep enough sense of responsibility to stay on without my sister to tie you down.”

“You know very well that’s not what I meant.”

“Of course I do!” Luna snapped, rising to her hooves with a flowing grace that made Twilight take an uneasy step back. “Do not think I have forgotten Loyalty either, Twilight Sparkle.” She took a step forward only to be met with another step back. “I have rejoiced upon its peaks and suffered in its depths. I know firsthoof the lengths a pony will traverse for those they hold dear.” Wings spread wide to their fullest extent, a nimbus of raw power surrounding her, she came one step closer to glare down upon the miniature alicorn beneath her. “Just as I know that the Elements are broken. I felt my connection to them abruptly sever as my sister misused them. What will she do without their power when I stand before her once more but beg for the kindness and generosity she never showed me?”

In all her years with Celestia, Twilight had forgotten how utterly terrifying alicorns could be.

But then Luna breathed in, deep and slow, and as she exhaled, the vengeful physical goddess seemingly left with her breath. “My apologies, Twilight. After all these years… What expression is it you use these days? Cabin fever?”

Hesitantly and with caution, Twilight said, “Stir-crazy?”

“Yes! That’s it exactly.”

“Understandable,” Twilight allowed. Even she felt the need to leave her tower every so often. “At the risk of…” She faked a cough in place of what had been going to say. “Have you considered visiting a therapist?” As tempted as she was to also suggest attending counseling with Celestia as well, she kept that one to herself for now.

Contrary to expectations, Luna serenely replied, “I have, in fact, gone through many sessions.”

Stunned, Twilight only managed a weak, “What?”

“Oh yes. With a kirin, actually. They’ve developed anger management to an art. It took me years of searching for someone appropriate who was willing to call me out when I was in the wrong, of course, but it’s not like I didn’t have the time.”

Those last words were bitter, but they all sounded sincere to Twilight’s ear. “What about eternal night?”

Luna groaned and averted her eyes. If it wouldn’t have been contrary to everything Twilight expected, she would have sworn Luna blushed. “Can we pretend I never said anything about that?” When Twilight only stared blankly at her, she continued, “Look, I was furious at the time. And monologuing. I couldn’t unsay it once it slipped out, and everypony just went with it. It was the same with Nightmare Moon.”

Twilight blinked.

“What? Were you expecting something more like…” A sinister chuckle filled the air. “Enjoy your remaining days, little pony, for they will be your last. Upon my return, the night will last forever!” Luna spread her wings and reared dramatically to the crash of thunder.

Weakly, Twilight nodded.

“Please,” chided Luna as she fell back onto all four hooves. “Even the most stubborn pony would have to admit eternal night is a bad idea after, I don’t know, a week, tops.”

Then all at once, the truth hit Twilight. “Oh, I get it. You’re not real. This is me dreaming about my dreamscape, not you admitting your evil plan was stupid.”

A very poorly concealed snicker came from the dream Luna. Twilight paid the figment of her imagination no mind and laid down to stare up at the sky. The stars weren’t out, but this exercise had done the trick last time to get her into her dream world, so she figured she could make it work again.

Still pretending not to be laughing, Dream Luna asked, “What are you doing?”

“Shush. I’m trying to calm myself and slip into my dreamscape.”

This seemed to be too much, as Dream Luna broke into outright laughter.

“Ha ha,” Twilight said flatly. “Laugh it up. But when you return to my subconscious, we’ll see who’s laughing then.”

Once she got it all out of her system, Dream Luna said, “I’ll come back in a little while to see how that works out for you,” and then took flight for who knew where.


Sweetie Belle felt the literal weight of guilt upon her. Her saddlebags burned into her side. She shouldn’t have done it, but how could she not have? It’d called to her. It wanted her. She wanted it. She knew she should confess, and apologize, and hope that was enough not to disappoint Index too much, but…she just couldn’t.

But regardless of her treachery, Sweetie Belle was determined to do what she could. She sent up the Cutie Mark Crusader emergency signal with a little magic spell and waited at the ruins of their clubhouse for the others to arrive. Surprisingly, Scootaloo showed up first with Apple Bloom following a couple minutes later despite living only a short walk away.

“My relatives,” Apple Bloom offered by way of explanation for her tardiness. “Don’t ask.”

The subject was immediately dropped, and Scootaloo picked up the thread of conversation. “So what’s up with the signal? Did we leave something dangerous out?”

All three ignored the silent, “Again,” missing from that question.

Opening the overstuffed and not incriminating side of her saddlebags, Sweetie Belle flashed the pile of papers she’d taken from Index’s pile of miscellaneous stuff. “I need someplace to hide these where I can find them later. I was hoping we could bury them somewhere in the orchard?”

“Wouldn’t that ruin them?” Scootaloo asked, to which Sweetie Belle replied that they were enchanted.

The pair then turned to Apple Bloom. She shrugged and said, “I guess.” After she made a stealthy trip into the barn to retrieve some shovels, they left to find a quiet corner of Sweet Apple Acres where they could dig unnoticed and undisturbed.

“So what are all these anyway?” Scootaloo bumped her wing against the bulging saddlebag to make clear just what ‘these’ referred to.

“No idea,” Sweetie Belle replied. “Index asked me to hide them while she recovers. ‘Do not read’ was implied.” But she really, really wanted to.

“And the other thing?” Apple Bloom asked. It need not be said that the very round bulge on the other side of Sweetie Belle’s saddlebags in no way evoked images of more paper.

“Uh, nothing. No. It stays. It’s, uh, just a pretty rock I picked up and thought Rarity might like.”

Rather skeptically, Apple Bloom drawled, “Uh-huh.”

“You know, you’re a worse liar than Applejack,” Scootaloo added. “What’s in the bag?”

With some careful prevaricating, Sweetie Belle managed to put her friends off from any further questions until they finished their primary task. She unloaded the pile of papers, parchments, and notebooks and divided them into three equal stacks. They each took one and dispersed to find a good spot to bury them. She found a particularly twisted tree near the zap apple grove that stuck out in her mind and dug where the grass had already been trampled into dirt. Hopefully, her changes to the area would go unnoticed.

Task done, Sweetie Belle returned to the clubhouse, such as it was right now, to await the return of the rest of the Crusaders. Apple Bloom arrived first this time and, not to her surprise, immediately inquired about the mysterious ‘rock’ which had come into her possession. Scootaloo managed to sneak up on her and filched it from her bag before she could react.

“What the… It is just a rock.”

Sweetie Belle stole the sphere back with her magic, yanking it out of Scootaloo’s grasp. She caught herself just before she wrapped her arms around it, held it tight to her chest, and never let it go.

“Hmm, I don’t know,” Apple Bloom said. She drew closer to get a better look at the sphere. “There’s something inside it.”

“Really? Scootaloo now, too, crowded closer.

“A gem, looks like.”

Surprised, Scootaloo said, “You stole a gem?”

“No.”

When she got a better look despite Sweetie Belle’s best efforts, Scootaloo added, “A pretty big one, too. That thing must be worth a lot.”

Sweetie Belle used her magic to pick up and move both of her friends a respectful and safe few steps away and shoved the sphere back into her saddlebags as she did so. They protested, but she said, “Be careful. Index said some of her things could be dangerous.”

“Ya stole it from her?” Apple Bloom asked incredulously.

“No.” But she had. Sweetie Belle could lie and twist the truth all she wanted, but she knew what had really happened. “I’m just…keeping it safe for her.”

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo turned to each other, neither believing the excuse judging by the look on their faces.

“Okay, so why are ya ‘keeping it safe’ for her?”

“I…” More than once already, Sweetie Belle had asked herself that very same question. There had been two other spheres in the pile just like it, but the one she had in her bag had just called to her. She’d had to take it. With no better explanation than ‘just because’ in mind, she pulled Spike and Flurry’s letter from a little side pocket of her saddlebags. “I have two new pen pals for us you will not believe.”

Apple Bloom arched her eyebrows. “If Index comes around asking for that sphere, I’m not gonna lie.”

“Same,” Scootaloo added.

Although she wilted at the proclamations, Sweetie Belle accepted them. It was more than fair of them. They wouldn’t tell on her, but they wouldn’t lie either. She couldn’t ask for more than that.

“Now who are these pen pals?” Scootaloo asked.

“Well,” Sweetie Belle began. Rarity always said it was important to build up to the big reveal. “Earlier today, Index taught me a spell for sending letters. She asked me to send one to Canterlot for her. After I returned home, I decided to send a follow up letter myself to whoever was on the other end. I got this in response.” She held the letter up for her friends to read. When they got to the end, they had more or less the same initial reaction she’d had.

“Who are Spike and Flurry?”

Sweetie Belle stood a little straighter and puffed her chest out. “My thoughts exactly, but the names did sound familiar, so I asked Rarity.”

After a suitably dramatic pause, Scootaloo spoke up. “Well? Don’t keep us in suspense.”

“Prepare yourselves, girls. Flurry is Princess Flurry Heart, and Spike is Archmage Twilight’s adopted dragon.” Sweetie Belle couldn’t stop herself from emitting a little squeal of excitement.

Apple Bloom’s mouth hung open. Scootaloo’s eyes were as wide as Sweetie Belle had ever seen them.

“Whoa,” was all Scootaloo managed.

“I know, right?” Sweetie Belle danced excitedly on the tips of her hooves. “But there’s more! The letter I sent for Index to Spike had him deliver a message to a mare named Sun Wisp. Then not even five minutes later, she teleported straight into Index’s room from Canterlot! When I sat down to think about it later, it hit me. Girls, I think that may have been the archmage or Princess Celestia! I can hardly believe it myself, but who else could–”

Apple Bloom put a hoof on Sweetie Belle’s shoulder. “Take a deep breath and slow down. Yer gonna keel over if ya don’t.”

“Ah. Right. Air.” No ordinary pony could channel Pinkie Pie and hope to survive the experience. “Thanks, Apple Bloom.”

“No problem. But, uh… Well, secret messages? The archmage and the princess directly involved? Index is in the hospital, too. This sounds dangerous. And she’s in real deep. Are ya sure we shouldn’t just, ya know, sit this one out? I mean, with our track record and all…”

That made far too much sense for Sweetie Belle’s tastes. She finally had a teacher. She might have met her idol! She couldn’t give it all up now just because of a little mortal danger. She didn’t think she could handle that. If she hadn’t already ruined everything by stealing the sphere.

“Writing a few letters never hurt anypony,” Scootaloo said. “I mean, if Index really is a secret agent, that’s totally awesome. But I don’t think we’ll get caught up in whatever she’s doing.”

“Well, all right,” Apple Bloom agreed. “It would be fun.”

“Perfect! We should send another letter properly introducing all of us.”

They all shared a look and nodded. “Cutie Mark Crusaders, pen pals! Yay!”


An hour had passed since Luna left. Probably. It was hard to tell time in the dream world. The clock Twilight had conjured into existence most certainly had not ticked at the rate of one tick per second. She would need to ask if Luna had a timepiece she could set her own clock by. She imagined so. Time keeping was important, and with Luna’s presumed pre-banishment ability to slip in and out of dreams at will, she would have been able to sync it accurately.

Regardless, Twilight had managed to achieve the state of mind necessary to move from a lucid dream into her dreamscape, and her repeated failures to actually do so had frustrated her into accepting she’d been there from the beginning. But it hadn’t been time wasted. In Luna’s absence, she’d begun construction on her ultimate fantasy fortress of knowledge using everything she’d learned from reading Entering the Dream Realm.

Twilight first recalled that the base rules of her dream were, in some approximate sense, the laws she thought reality obeyed. That would not do. Even were she an engineer, she had plans in mind which wouldn’t like to be constrained by ordinary space. So she made a few changes here and there. The idea of connectivity was always more important than continuity anyway.

And so, on the summit of her little forest glade, Twilight erected a great tower, perfectly centered and perfectly round. It was her dream. If she desired a perfect circle, then infinite precision she would have.

The first floor she made into a pleasant foyer with a wooden door at the northern end and a portal frame resting against the southern wall. Having watched Luna depart through the edge of her dream, Twilight had performed some mathematical gymnastics to wrap her dreamscape around itself so that its edges existed solely inside that empty portal. Her guests, if they could be called that, would enter and depart like civilized ponies through the designated area, not as they pleased all willy-nilly.

In the second floor, Twilight conjured a magical pantry and dining room where a pony could indulge as she pleased just by opening a cupboard. She had, of course, removed the need for such things, but she knew at some point she would want to indulge in, at the very least, a consequence-free ice cream binge.

The third floor should have waited. So many other rooms needed construction which were higher priority, if lower utility, than her grand library. Yet Twilight went ahead and set to work, designing shelves, tables, chairs, everything a good library needed short of the books which, in all likelihood, she’d either have to write herself or beg Luna to provide copies of from other dreamers. Neither option really appealed, but such was life.

But still, books or no, Twilight proceeded with construction. Before she could decide on an indexing system and set up a librarian’s desk to automatically retrieve and shelve books, she first needed to choose a fractal. Her library would be infinite in size. It would self-generate. But the question was how? She was partial to the Lévy C curve, but perhaps something three dimensional would be better. There was always the Mandelbulb.

Twilight frowned when she heard the echo of hoofsteps in her tower. She quickly fixed that and soundproofed her library. Then on second thought, she made it so that sound couldn’t travel between floors of the tower at all. But then that would create some weird boundary conditions in the stairwell.

Ugh, whatever. I can deal with it later.

The door to the library swung open. Luna came through it with two pints of something frothing floating alongside her. “Huzzah! I have found the cidery!”

Twilight facehoofed. Of course you did. Knowing where this was headed, she removed the ability to become intoxicated from her dreamscape. It might or might not have an effect on guests, but it would let her keep her own wits about her if – when, really – pressured to drink. Indeed, Luna levitated a pint over to her soon after. She accepted it in her own magic and said, “Welcome back.”

“Am I?”

“I suppose,” Twilight replied. Celestia would want her to give Luna a chance.

“Wonderful! Have you ever had Apple family cider?”

“Only the unfermented variety.” Twilight brought the overflowing pint in her magic to eye level and inspected it warily. After taking a cautious sip, she got more or less what she expected from a fizzy drink made of fermented apples. She couldn’t deny that it was good, but it would be better without the alcohol. “Have you been prowling around the Apple family’s dreams, or are they just that old?”

After Luna finished guzzling half her pint, she left out a refreshed, “Ah!” and then magicked her muzzle clean. “Hmm, I believe I still have a few barrels of their cider preserved from the founding of Equestria.”

“No way.”

“’Tis true! If the stasis spells have held up.” Luna gazed into her cider with a pensive expression, but the moment soon passed. “Ah well. There’s always memories.” She held her pint up expectantly.

With a resigned sigh, Twilight knocked hers against Luna’s. Drink spilled all over her nice, new floor. She then reared her head back for what could only be described as a swig. Alcoholic or no, it was still Apple cider.

“It’ll be nice to come home to something familiar,” Luna said aloud to nopony. “I keep in touch with the culture, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve felt involved.”

Twilight buried her sympathy in another drink.

“Heh. I didn’t realize before, but these walls are made of ivory, are they not? Very amusing.”

Slowly, Twilight allowed a smile to grow on her face. “I’m glad somepony appreciates my subtle sense of humor, even if it’s only you. Celestia is usually too busy to notice, and my brother thinks they’re inappropriate. Speaking of…”

With but a thought, the library floor was clean once more. Twilight then relocated the two of them downstairs to the dining hall where food and drink belonged. She eyed the walls carefully before selecting the best location to add another offshoot to the floor. Past it, she quickly threw together an appropriately disreputable tavern and populated it with background ponies, music, and surly barmares. It wasn’t her best work, but it would do in a pinch. After all, if she was going to drink with the sort of enemy, she was going to do it in style.

“Come on.” Twilight gestured for Luna to follow her inside with a hoof. “I made us a table.”

Greatly amused, judging by the smiling laughter, Luna hurried after Twilight and shut the door behind her. They took the small, round table Twilight had specifically instructed the background ponies to stay away from. They sat on opposite sides, the fully grown alicorn snagging a lower chair and the miniature one reluctantly sizing up another. Luna flagged down a barmare for a fresh pint and seemed delighted when it responded to the request.

“Very impressive work. This is truly only your second time here?”

“I’m the Archmage of Equestria,” Twilight plainly stated. “Even if I were sleeping with Celestia” – something which felt even weirder to hear when she said it – “she doesn’t give that title out lightly. Magic and mathematics are my bread and butter.”

“Of course, but to see is to believe.”

That was fair enough, Twilight supposed.

“Now I have a query. Why do you persist as a tiny alicorn? Thy ruse is up.”

“There was no ruse,” Twilight protested. “I showed up like this, and you made assumptions all on your own.”

Luna sulked on her end of the table. “My sister has taught you well. But my question remains. Surely you at least wish to size yourself up?”

Dealing with the height difference to her normal size was getting a little annoying. Twilight had known she’d want all of her lost stature back sooner or later, so she’d been careful not to make anything filly-sized. But she’d delayed the change for a reason. “Celestia said I should ask you why I’m like this. I figured it’d be better to wait.”

Luna hummed into her cider. “And you would believe what I tell you?”

“I don’t see what reason you’d have to lie.” Twilight shrugged. “What are you gonna do? Try to convince me it means I’m meant to be your slave?”

“Oh? Remembering a nightmare, are you?”

Twilight paled beneath her coat. She did remember that nightmare, and she also remembered what secret it revealed. “You saw that?”

“Indeed I did. I must say, your subconscious has some very creative ideas about me. Perhaps once we’ve gotten to know each other better.” That smirk on Luna’s face was infuriating. “For now, I’m far more interested in what research you’re engaged in whose destruction actually shattered your dream.”

Twilight buried her muzzle in her drink and didn’t say a word – no hints, no clever word games, no anything. She was only recently considering telling Celestia. If Luna won their sibling squabble and found out before it was too late that she not only took it seriously but had made progress – she didn’t want to even contemplate the scenario.

“But that can wait, too. Your question has an answer you may dislike. Are you sure you wish to hear it?”

“Of course.” Any change of topic would be an improvement. Besides, Twilight had never been one to avoid facing hard truths.

Luna nodded in approval. “In one’s dreamscape, a pony by default takes on the appearance which she most deeply identifies with. This is usually not precisely as we are in reality. We so rarely see ourselves exactly as we are. This often manifests as a little difference in height, a more or perhaps less manageable mane, straighter teeth, so on and so forth.

“Then there are ponies who experience high levels of body dysphoria. It could be an earth pony who wishes to be a mage. A stallion who longs to be a mare. A griffon who desires to be a pony. I will, of course, not name names, but it’s more common than you might expect. The more deeply ingrained cases tend to lead to varying levels of self-destructive behavior, but sometimes the subjects channel that negative energy to productive ends.”

After a drink to wet her mouth, Luna continued with her psychoanalysis. “You are difficult to place. From the short time we’ve known each other, I can tell this isn’t your first experience with wings. Magically, few can rival you, let alone claim to be your better. When you speak, I imagine you’re used to being obeyed. It’s no stretch to say you have a taste of what life is like as an alicorn. But at the same time, you know you’re not one. When you compare yourself to my sister, you come up, shall we say, short.”

“Hence my size. Ha ha. Very funny.” Twilight sighed. “But you’re probably right. There are times I feel like a discount alicorn.” She took a sip of her drink and then, holding her mug close, mumbled, “Channel it into productive ends, eh?”

“Many ponies have wasted their lives chasing that dream. It would serve you well not to dwell upon such thoughts.”

Twilight couldn’t tell if that was a warning or honest advice. Every sensible sorceress dreamed of becoming an alicorn at one point or another, so she imagined Luna had repeated those same words to many a unicorn. Regardless, the slip of her tongue had served its purpose, so she changed the subject. “What now? You’re here to get to know me, and I’m guessing you’re going to keep showing up no matter what I do or say, so what’s the plan?”

“Well, we could just talk.” Luna leaned forward with an eager smile. “Or we could do something more interesting.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow to suggest Luna continue.

“You actually couldn’t have chosen a better setting. I would like to invite you on an adventure.”

It took a few seconds for Twilight’s brain to process that she’d just been invited to join a quest in a seedy tavern by a dark, suspicious figure. “Oh, you have to be kidding me! You play Ogres and Oubliettes?”

“You’re familiar?”

“My brother and son drag me into games from time to time.” It always turned into a massive time sink, but Twilight certainly understood the appeal. And it was an enjoyable way to spend time with family while encouraging the development of Spike’s creativity and imagination.

Luna tapped her forehooves together merrily. “I’ve been a huge fan ever since I found somepony who knew the rules well enough to reproduce a copy of the source books for me. Of course, we do things a little differently in my group. I’ve had decades to build up campaigns in my own dreamscape.”

That was clue enough for Twilight to know where this was going. She facehoofed. “You want to take me LARPing? Like with foam swords, costumes, and everything?”

“Of course not. This is the realm of dreams. No pain and such, but everything is real. We play by the rules, which you’ll be bound to in that part of my dreamscape, with a few quality of life allowances. And I’m the GM for our current campaign, so you get to be the hero fighting my unquestionable evil as you wish. A win-win.”

“You’re serious?” Twilight said more than asked. She still had trouble wrapping her mind around this course of events.

“Completely.”

Head buried in her hooves, Twilight fully conceded to the madness that had infected her life lately. “Fine.” It won. What was the point of resisting anymore? “Just go put a copy of the source material you’re using in my library.” The least she could get out of this was a few initial books to line her shelves. “I’ll start thinking of what character I want to make.”

“Excellent. I’ll return shortly and then go see if all of my group is asleep yet. When you’re done reviewing, we can get you set up with the character creator.” As Luna rose to leave, she added, “Oh, also you won’t have dream magic once you leave your own dreamscape, and regular pony magic doesn’t work in the O&O area of mine. If you don’t want to go as an alicorn filly–”

“You know what?” interjected a very frustrated Twilight. “I do. Just go get me a rulebook.”