My Little Pony: Friendship is Shining

by Hopeful_Ink_Hoof

First published

What if Shining Armor had been Celestia's Student

After reading a story to his little sister, Princess Celestia's student Shining Armor believes that the legendary Mare in The Moon is about to return. After disregarding his warning, the princess sends her student to a small town called Ponyville to look over preparations for The Summer Sun Celebration. There, he, his sister Twilight Sparkle, and young dragon companion Spike, meet some strange mares and odd fillies. How will he survive a town full of crazy ponies? And what will he do when it turns out he was right?

The story is inspired by the Twiley chapter of Crisis of Infinite Twilights written by Defender2222.

Now the first in what I'm calling The Shiny-verse

Telling Twiley a Story

Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria: there were two regal sisters who ruled together and created harmony for all the land. To do this, the eldest used her unicorn powers to raise the sun at dawn; the younger, brought out the moon to begin the night. Thus, the two sisters maintained balance for their kingdom and their subjects -- all the different types of ponies.

But as time went on, the younger sister became resentful. The ponies relished and played in the day her elder sister brought forth, but shunned and slept through her beautiful night. One fateful day, the younger unicorn refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn.

The elder sister tried to reason with her, but the bitterness in the young one's heart had transformed into a wicked mare of darkness: Nightmare Moon.

She vowed that she would shroud the land in eternal night. Reluctantly, the elder sister harnessed the most powerful magic known to ponydom: The Elements of Harmony. Using the magic of The Elements of Harmony, she defeated her younger sister and banished her permanently in the moon.

The elder sister took on responsibility for both sun and moon, and harmony has been maintained in Equestria for generations since.

"The end," a white unicorn with blue mane said. "Alright Twiley," he shut the book, "now it's time for good fillies to... Twiley?" He blinked in confusion, staring down at the empty bed. An aura of purple energy encompassed his horn and the book. Levitating it, he carried it with him as he hurried out of the room and into the main room. On his flank was a blue shield with six pointed burst of magic in the center.

Sure enough, there was his sister. The little purple unicorn filly with a bare flank was standing on a pile of books on her hind legs. One front leg was resting on a book shelf as the other poked at the books while she looked at the title.

"Twilight?" the stallion asked, "What are you doing?"

"I'm looking for 'Predictions and Prophecies.'" Pulling a book from the shelf and looking at it before tossing it aside. "I know I've heard of those... El-e-ments Of Harmony before." She pulled another book off the shelf and dropped it with the others.

"Twilight Sparkle!" the young stallion said, causing the filly to stop and look at him. "First of all: Spike has worked hard to keep this place organized." His horn glowing, he picked up several of the books she had pulled off and stuck them back into place. "I'm sure he would not appreciate you just tossing the books on the floor." He gave her a firm glare, watching the young unicorn shift and look ashamed. "And second:it's your bed time. You should be upstairs in bed and about to sleep. Not down here rifling through all the books."

"But Shining," Twilight began to whine.

"No buts," Shining Armor cut her off. "Now march your flank upstairs and go back to bed." His features softened as he gave her a small smile. "If it's that important to you, I'll find the book and have it waiting for you in the morning."

"Okay. Good night Shiny." Moving to her brother, she gave in him a kiss on the cheek then started heading back to her room. Shining Armor watches her go then turned back to the shelves. He began to look through the titles, trying to think of where the book might be.

Caught up in his search, he did not hear the steps coming down the stairs.

"Here it is," a raspy voice said, causing the stallion to jump. On top of a ladder stood a small purple dragon with a light green belly holding a book out.

"Spike?" Shining Armor blinked in confusion. "I thought that you had gone to bed already." Reaching out with his magic, he took a hold of the book.

"I had," the dragon replied as he began to climb back down, "but I heard you and Twilight so I came down to help you find the book."

"Thanks," the stallion said with a smile. It faded as his attention shifted from the baby dragon to the book. "Well, maybe I should take a look and see what this book says about The Elements of Harmony since it seems so important to her." Opening the book, he started flipping through the pages. Finally he stopped when he saw the name he wanted.

"See: Mare in the Moon?"

"Mare in the Moon?" Spike repeated. "But that's just an old pony's tale."

Shining Armor just gave a shrug before flipping to the correct section and starting to read:

"The Mare in the Moon: myth from olden pony times. A powerful pony who wanted to rule Equestria. Defeated by The Elements of Harmony and Imprisoned in the moon. Legend has it that on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape, and she will bring about nighttime eternal." He chewed his lip and rubbed his chin as he looked at the page. "You don't think..."

"Think what?" Spike asked when the stallion did not continue.

"Spike, take a note. To the princess." Shining waited as the dragon pulled out a piece of paper and a quill. "Dear Princess, while reading a story to my sister, I have come across something very interesting. The story of the mare in the moon may be about Nightmare Moon. If this is the case, then Equestria could be in great danger since she would be about to return and bring with her eternal night. Should this be the case, something must be done. Awaiting your response: your student, Shining Armor."

"Got it."

"Good. Now send it."


"Yes, now."

"I don't know, Shining," the dragon said with shrug. "Princess Celestia's a little busy getting ready for the Summer Sun Celebration. And it's like the day after tomorrow."

"I know," Shining Armor said. "In fact it's the thousandth year of the Summer Sun Celebration." Grabbing the book, he opened it again. "'On the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape and she will bring about nighttime eternal'" he re-read aloud. "That's means that she may be returning this Summer Sun Celebration. And if that's the case, the princess needs to know."

"But what if it's not?" Spike asked as he rolled the paper.

"Then we don't have to worry," the stallion replied. "And when Twilight reads the story tomorrow, we can tell her we already informed Princess Celestia on the matter. That way she won't be worrying about it and trying to get you to send one herself."

"Oh. Good point." Taking a deep breath, Spike held up the scroll. He then blew out a plume of green fire, causing the paper to burn. A glowing stream of smoke flew up from the dragon's claw and out through the window.

"It's on it's way," Spike proclaimed.

"Good. Let me know when you get a reply." Shining Armor started for the stairs. "I'm going to-"

Before he could finish, a loud belch from Spike got his attention. Stopping, Shining turned to look. Another plume of green flame burst from the dragon's mouth as this time a scroll appeared.

"...That..." he said slowly as he walked back down "was... surprisingly fast."

Spike picked up the arriving scroll, unfurled it and cleared his throat.

"My dearest most faithful student, Shining," he read, "You have always been a diligent stallion whom I could trust. But you simply must get yourself and your sister away from those dusty old books."


Destination: Ponyville

High in the skies above Equestria, a golden chariot flew as it was pulled by two white pegasus ponies dressed in golden armor. In the car stood three figures: Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle, and Spike. Shining Armor stood by near the middle, looking out at the sky ahead. His horn gave off a pale purple glow as he held onto Twilight who was looking over the edge at the passing ground below. Standing near the other side was Spike with a scroll in his claws.

"My Dear Shining," Spike read, "there is more to a young pony's life than studying and family. So I'm sending you to supervise preparations for The Summer Sun Celebration in this year's location: Ponyville. And I have an even more essential task for you to complete: make some friends."

"Make some friends?" Shining Armor repeated. "Helping supervise with preparations I can understand. It's a great opportunity to show her how responsible I can be and prove that I can handle responsibility. But making friends? What does that prove? Where would I even start trying to do such a thing?"

"Shiny," Twilight whined as she pushed away from the edge and turned to look at him. "What about Nightmare Moon? We need to stop her from returning and bringing eternal night."

"I know, I know." Shining rubbed his forehead just below his horn. If he were honest, he did not really believe the myth at this point. At the same time, Twilight seemed so certain and something was still bothering him about it that he could not forget about the idea completely.

"Would you two relax?" Spike said. "Supervising the set up should be pretty easy. Plus, the princess arranged it so we are all staying at the library."

"That's right!" Twilight squealed, almost bouncing in place (all of those on board were grateful that she did not as having the chariot rock so far above the ground would have been unnerving). "We can go over preparations as fast as we can. Then we can find some proof of Nightmare Moon's return."

"But then when would he make friends like the princess said?" Spike asked.

"We can do that after we know that Equestria is safe," Shining replied. "Besides, it's kind of hard to see the point of making friends here if we are just staying for the celebration. I doubt the fate of Equestria rests on it anyways. Everypony brace yourselves."

The chariot quickly descended into Ponyville. The three riders watched as the small town came closer, watching the passing of wooden buildings with straw roofs. Soon the chariot reached the street, the wheels hitting the road as they landed safely. The pair of pegasus ponies pulling the chariot reared up as they absorbed the energy of the landing.

"Alright," Shining said, "everypony off." He watched as Spike and Twilight stepped down from the car before doing so himself. "Thanks, guys," he called to the pair. The two gave a nod of acknowledgement before flying off again

After watching them go, Shining turned to find himself face to face with a pink pony with puffy pink mane and big blue eyes. The sight caught him off guard. He had not noticed the mare approaching and here she was right in front of him.

"Hello?" he said nervously. The pink pony leaped into the air, letting out a gasp of surprise. Before he could say or do anything else, she was gone.

"What was that?" Twilight asked, looking in the direction that the mare had run off in.

"I don't know," Shining responded. "Not something I've ever had happen to me before." He gave a shrug. "Oh well. We have work to do. That will probably be the most interesting thing to happen in this whole town today anyways. I doubt much happens around here." With that, he started walking. Twilight and Spike quickly fell in step behind him.

Excessively Appled

The three travelers walked down the road of Ponyville. Shining armor led the way, walking ahead of the others. Twilight cantered at his side, trying to keep up with her brother's longer stride. Spike trailed behind them slightly, not falling too far behind but not tryiing to keep pace with the two either. The dragon held a scroll of paper in one claw and a pencil in the other. It had been a scroll that they had picked up from the Mayor's office where it had been waiting for their arrival.

"Summer Sun Celebration: Official Overseer's Checklist," the dragon read as they left, "Number One: banquet preparations. Sweet Apple Acres."

After getting a map of Ponyville and asking for directions, the three soon found their way to a farm near the edge of town. The group stared at the farm as they approached, none of them having ever seen an actual one for real before in their lives. The ground was surrounded by a white wood fence, the road leading them to an open archway with a piece of wood hanging down that had a space in it shaped like an apple.

Beyond the fence stood a house that looked like it had been converted from a barn. It was bright red with white trim. It was almost mistaken for an actual barn, but the flower planters from the window sills and the additions made to the building such as the porch and a little fence of its own. Off to one side there were animals. There were chickens clucking around near coops, pigs snorting happily as they wallowed and ate, and cows standing around in pastures, munching grass with a few gossiping about the ponies they had seen and some of the other cows in other parts of the pasture. Off to another were some gardens with plants. Most were too small or young to be recognizable to the group from Canterlot. It was safe to guess they were probably something grown to be eaten though.

Most of all, there were apple trees. Hundreds, if not thousands, of apple trees. Entire hills were covered in them as far as the eye could see. Many of them were covered with the fruit. They grew small and large, in green, yellow, red, and mixes of the colors as well as shades in between.

"YEE-HAW!" a voice shouted, getting the group's attention. They watched as an orange mare in a cowboy hat ran toward one of the trees as fast as she could go. Shining Armor tensed as he watched, wondering if the mare was going to slam her head into the tree at full speed. Was that something they did? Run at trees and headbutt them?

Instead the mare skidded, turning around in front of the tree. Balancing on her front hooves, she raised her back ones. The three red apples on her flank shifted as she flexed her legs, lashing out to kick the tree trunk. With that single strike, dozens of apples fell from the tree, landing into the fruit baskets surrounding it.

Spike and Twilight stared, mouth hanging open in surprise. They had never seen an earth pony kick a tree like that before. Shining Armor also stared with his mouth open, but for different reasons.

He had never seen a mare like her before. She was taller than most of the mares he had met, and muscular. He knew unicorn stallions who were not as well toned as she. Her mane and tail were both long and bright blond, with both tied at the end with a small piece of red ribbon. The mare had big green eyes, with little white freckles dotting the outer edges of them.

"Well looks like we have a pony to ask," Spike said. Getting no response, he turned to look at Shining Armor curiously. "Shining?" Moving closer, the dragon waved his claw in front of the stallion's face. "Shining?"

"Is something wrong?" Twilight asked, turning to look at Spike and her brother. "He looks sick. Shiny!" The filly moved closer to her sibling. "Are you sick? Are you having an allergegic reaction? It's the apples, isn't it?" She grabbed at her brother, shaking him. "Are the apples killing you? Say something!"

"Ugh," Shining groaned as the shaking stopped. "Twiley, calm down. I'm not sick. Just..." He looked from his sister to the nearby earth mare "...caught off guard. That's all. Come on." Straightening up, he started walking toward the mare. Twilight and Spike looked at each other in confusion a moment, before shrugging and following after him.

"Good afternoon. My name is Shining Armor." Before he could even get another word out, the orange mare had his hoof in both of hers and was shaking it vigorously.

"Well howdy-do Mister Shining," she said with a southern twang. "A pleasure making your acquaintance. I'm Applejack. We here at Sweet Apple Acres sure do like making new friends."

Shining Armor stared at the mare shaking his hoof, not saying anything at the moment.

"So," Applejack let the hoof go, "what can I do ya for?" As she said this last part, she gave a wink.

Shining's front leg continued to shake, swaying up and down rapidly, until Twilight grabbed a hold of it and held it in place. Spike, meanwhile, chuckled at the stallion's situation. Shining blushed, giving a quick glare at the snickering dragon, before composing himself and turning his attention back to Applejack.

"Well," he explained, "I ... we.." he motioned to Spike and Twilight, "are here to see about The Summer Sun Celebration preparations, and the list says Sweet Apple Acres is in charge of food."

"We sure as sugar are," Applejack replied, puffing out her chest. "Would you care to sample some?"

Before Shining Armor could respond, the sound of a growl came from Twilight's stomach. As all eyes turned to the filly, she let out an embarrassed chuckle, her eyes shifting to look away from the others.

"Well..." the stallion said, "It has been a long trip, and we did walk here from across town. So I guess..." That was when he noticed that Applejack was no longer standing in front of him. A metallic ringing echoed from nearby, followed by the voice of Applejack shouting.

"Soup's on everypony!"

The sound of hooves reached their ears before the trio was caught up in a pony stampede, finding themselves pushed forward with the crowd whether they liked it or not. Before any of them could begin to process what happened, Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle, and Spike found themselves sitting at a covered table.

"Now," Applejack said with a grin, "why don't I introduce you to the Apple family." All around them were numerous ponies. With that, the mare began to list off names, nearly all of which had the word apple in them. The few that did not still had an apple related theme. As each pony was introduced, they appeared at the table and dropped off food. Before it was finished, there was so much to eat in front of them that none of them could even see the pony that was being introduced.

"And," Applejack finished up, shoving an apple into Shining's mouth, "Granny Smith."

Not far from them, an old green mare with a pie on her flank sat in a rocking chair, snoozing away as she swayed back and forth.

"Up and at'em Granny Smith. We've got guests." Applejack's call caused the elderly pony to snort awake. Saying something about soup and other things that were hard to catch, Granny Smith slowly made her way toward the others.

"Why," Applejack put a hoof on Shining's back, "I'd say, they're already part of the family."

Shining Armor swallowed the apple in his mouth and looked around.

"That's a lot of Apples," he turned to look at the table again, "and a lot of food. I'd say it's well handled. Let's go ahead and try some of it."

Stormy Rainbow

"Food's all taken care of," Spike said as he made a check mark on the list. "Next is weather."

"Please," Twilight groaned from her spot on her brother's back, "don't mention food. I think I'm going to be sick."

"I told you not to eat so much pie, Twiley," Shining responded glancing back at his sister as he walked.

"But it was sooooo gooood. It was like the best pie ever."

"Well maybe that will teach you to listen to me next time and not eat so much." Shining turned to look at Spike. "So what's the weather report say?"

"Hm." Spike looked up at the sky. "There's supposed to be a pegasus pony named Rainbow Dash clearing the clouds."

Shining Armor followed Spike's gaze and looked up at the sky. It was partially overcast with multiple clouds floating above Ponyville.

"So where is she?" he asked. "There are a lot of-"

A rainbow colored streak flew through the air, hitting Shining Armor. Twilight let out a squeal of surprise as she suddenly found herself levitating without any assistance a split-second before gravity reasserted itself and pulled her to the ground.

Approximately three feet from where he had been standing, Shining Armor now laid in a puddle of mud. On top of him laid a cyan pegasus with a rainbow colored mane and tail. Her wings shifted slightly as she moved to get up. Her violet eyes flicked down to see the unicorn she had hit. The mare let out a nervous chuckle.

"Uh... 'scuse me?" Flapping her wings, she lifted herself up in the air and looked around. "Let me help you." Flying off, she came back with a dark storm cloud.

Shining Armor let out a groan as he moved to push himself back up onto his hooves. Before he could fully figure out what was going on, the pegasus began to bounce up and down on the cloud, causing it to release the moisture within as rain. It did was the mud off him, but it soaked him all the way through. Luckily his mane was on the short side, so it would dry quickly.

His attention was drawn away from the pegasus by a familiar sound. From where Shining Armor had been standing, Twilight Sparkle now laid sprawled on the ground, moving to sit up. The filly let out a whimper as her purple eyes filled with tears that started to roll down her cheek.

Shining Armor's blue eyes narrowed into slits. His jaw tensed, lips pulling back to bare his teeth. An aura of purple energy burst around his horn. Turning to face the pegasus, he unleashed a blast of magical energy. Before she even had time to react, the shot slammed through the cloud, causing it to dissipate, and hit the pegasus, wrapping her up in a glowing bubble.

Recognizing the look, Spike made sure to be a safe distance from all the ponies for the moment.

"HEY!" the pegasus yelled. "What's the big idea?" She slammed her hooves against the shield holding her, glaring at the unicorn that now held her.

"'The big idea?!'" Shining Armor snarled back. "The big idea is this." Yanking the bubble shield, he dragged the captured pegasus over to where Twilight sat, sniffling and wiping at her face. "Hitting me is one thing, but my sister -- who is just a filly -- is another. Now," he plopped the pegasus mare on the ground in front of Twilight, "apologize!" He released her from the shield bubble, but his horn continued to glow so he was ready to put her back in one should she try to get away.

For her part, the pegasus mare look properly ashamed and embarrassed. Her ears drooped backwards as she sat there, head held low. She stared down at the ground, looking at her hooves as she shuffled them on the ground more than at the teary-eyed filly sitting in front of her.

"Hey, kid," she started.

"Twilight," Shining interrupted.

"Twilight," the pegasus repeated, "I'm... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hit your brother or hurt anypony. It was an accident. I'll try to be more careful next time."

"Promise?" Twilight asked, looking up at the mare.

"Yeah. I promise."

"Okay." The filly gave a small smile. "Apology accepted."

"Great!" With a smile and a flap of her wings, the pegasus took to the air. "Glad that's over with."

"Wait!" Shining called out. The pegasus stopped, dropping from the air to the ground as she did not want to get trapped in a bubble again.

"Before you go," he continued, "can you tell us where to find Rainbow Dash?"

The pegasus smirked and puffed her chest out.

"You're looking at her," she said, pointing at herself. "Rainbow Dash, the best flyer in Ponyville. Well..." she glanced down at Twilight, "most of the time anyways."

"I'm Shining Armor," Shining explained. "That's my sister, Twilight Sparkle and over there is Spike. I'm here on behalf of Princess Celestia to oversee the set up for the celebration. According to my list, you're supposed to be in charge of clearing the sky."

"Is that all?" Rainbow Dash asked. "Pff. That's a snap. I'll have it done in a jiffy."

"Yeah, right," Twilight suddenly blurted out.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Look at all those clouds," Twilight said, motioning at the sky. "It'll probably take you the rest of the day to clear them all."

"The rest of the day?" Dash let out a snort. "Kid, please. I could clear them all in ten seconds flat."

Twilight's eyes narrowed.

"Oh yeah?"


"Alright. How 'bout I time you?"

"You're on."

"Ready?" As soon as Twilight said it, Rainbow Dash crouched down low, wings spread wide.



Before the word had finished leaving Twilight's mouth, Rainbow Dash was off like a shot. A rainbow contrail marked the path of the pegasus as she shot from cloud to cloud. Before one was finished dissipating from the impact, she was already flying off to the next to strike. Pretty quickly, the sky was completely clear. Just perfect blue without even the smallest cloud left to be seen.

"How was that?" Dash asked as she landed in front of the purple unicorn filly.

Twilight Sparkle, Spike, and Shining Armor all stood there, staring up at the sky with their mouths hanging open. At Rainbow Dash's question, they looked from the now clear sky to her. A second later, Twilight looked down at her hooves.

"I... I don't know," she admitted. "It all happened so fast that I forgot to keep track of the time." This got a chuckle from the pegasus.

"Don't worry about it." she said. "I told you I'd take care of it and I did. I'd never leave Ponyville hanging. You know, you're a pretty fun kid."

Rainbow Dash suddenly flew up and over to Shining Armor, tossing a foreleg around his neck.

"And your brother here," she gave the stallion a noogie, "not the lamest in the world. I can't wait to hang out some more." With that she was off like a shot.

"She's amazing," Spike exclaimed as he watched her go.

"Yeah," Twilight nodded, "But still not as amazing as Shiny."

For his part, Shining Armor said nothing. Instead, he brushed his mane back down with his hoof.

A Rarity in Ponyville

"Decorations," Spike read off the list as they entered the town hall.

From the ceiling hung banners of differing colors. Some depicted stylized ponies while others held images of flowers or other summer related icons. From the front of the balcony sat a large bouquet of summer flowers. Great lengths of fabric expanded out from the bouquet, following along the banister encircling the upper most floor of the great round room. The pattern was mimicked at the middle floor, but with the flowers put off to the sides slightly more, alternating the rhythm of the decor.

"Beautiful..." Spike said, the words coming out in an almost breathless whisper.

"The decorations do look pretty good," Shining Armor agreed.

"That's one less thing we have to worry about," Twilight stated, "and one step closer to getting to the library."

"Not the decor," Spike said, "her." The young dragon pointed, causing the two unicorns with him to look in that direction.

Standing on the red carpet near a curtained entryway stood a white unicorn mare. Her tail and mane were of a royal purple color, with the mane ending in curls at the tip and tail curling like a delicate corkscrew. With her back turned to the group, it was easy to see the three lozenge cut diamonds adorning her flank. Shifting, her horn glowed a pale blue color as she used her magic to lift and look at various ribbons, discarding one after the other with a simple "no."

"How are my spines?" the dragon asked, patting the side's of his head. "Are they straight?"

"Somepony has a cruuush," Twilight said, her voice taking a musical lilt to it.

"No I don't!" Spike responded automatically, the purple of his face taking on a brighter, redder tone to it.

After letting out a chuckle, Shining Armor left the two as they began to bicker at each other while he walked up to the mare.

"Good afternoon."

"Just a moment please," the mare stated, "I'm 'in the zone' as it were." Several more of the ribbons before she finally stopped.

"Ah, yes." With her magic, she started tying a shining red ribbon around one of the wooden supports. "Shining is always the right choice, is it not? Why Rarity, you are a talent." She turned, fluttering her long lashes above her blue eyes. "Now then, how can I help you-oooh my."

Rarity stopped as she looked at the unicorn stallion standing before her. His coat was a lovely white color. The mane, tail, and hooves were all a deep shade of blue, with a lighter shade streaking through this mane and tail. The mane was short with a slightly unkempt look, although more in an intentional look than sheer laziness. There was also a slight unshorn style to his fetlocks. On his flank was a blue shield with a pink six point burst of magic in the center and three stars above.

"I don't believe I have seen you before," she finally said, taking a step closer. "As I was saying, how may I help such a handsome stallion as yourself."

Shining Armor's own face heated up as he stumbled to try and get a coherent thought out. He was not exactly used to having mares call him handsome. It probably did not help he spent most of his time studying, or with his sister when she was visiting.

"Uh," he finally managed to say, "I... I'm just here to check and see how they decorations are going."

"Well as you can see," Rarity held up a hoof, motioning to the room around her, "they are coming along quite well. So, you are here for The Summer Sun Celebration?" She tilted her head, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, yes. I-"

"Then you must have a wonderful outfit to wear for the event. I would love to see it."

"Actually, no. I-"

"WHAT?!" the unicorn mare gasped in horror as if she had been personally insulted. "A handsome young stallion such as yourself is planning to attend a celebration with the princess, and you don't have a proper outfit?"

"Well I-"

"Oh this simply will not do," Rarity stated with a sniff. "Come along, darling."

Before he could register what was happening, Shining Armor found himself being forcefully pushed by Rarity. He found this more and more confusing as it continued. The mare was not using any magic, he could tell that much, but he could not stop her. He was a full grown stallion, and she did not look like a very strong pony to him. In point, she reminded him of porcelain, something so delicate it would break easily. All the same, here she was pushing him without seeming to be strained by the effort. Spike and Twilight quickly followed

Next thing he knew, he was in front of a mirror, be treated like a mannequin. Rarity had him standing there as she placed him in outfit after outfit, often rejecting them as soon as they were on.

"Too military,"

"Too old fashioned."

"Too retro."

"Too formal."

"Too casual."

"Too traditional."

As this was all going on, the pair of adults were watched. Spike watched Rarity closely, taking in every movement of the mare with hearts in his eyes. Twilight watched as her brother was put in outfit after outfit. She could not help but laugh at some of the outfits and how he looked like he was being tortured. As she watched, a thought occurred to her. Maybe she could get Rarity to help her see what Shiny looked like in make-up. Between the two of them, he had to have very little chance of resisting.

"Go on, darling," Rarity said as she wrapped a tape measure around Shining Armor's neck, "you were telling me where you were from." Her horn glowed as she held up a pad of paper and pencil, quickly writing down measurements and notes.

"Well," Shining Armor said, trying not to move as he was measured, "We were sent from Canterlot to-"

"Canterlot?" Rarity squealed excitedly. She then began to speak rapidly. "Oh, I am so envious. The glamour. The sophistication. I have always dreamed of living there. I can't wait to hear all about it." She moved closer to Shining Armor, pressing her neck to his. "We are going to be the best of friends you and I."

"F... Friends?" Shining Armor blinked in surprise and confusion.

"Yes, friends," Rarity repeated. "Well, to start at least. We'll see where things go from there." She a slight wink, smiling at the stallion.

"Excuse me," he said as he pulled away, "but we still have work to finish."

"Oh, of course," Rarity said with a smile. "You go ahead darling and I will see you and your dear friends at a later time. I still have a few things to finish up myself." She gave him a gentle pat before turning and heading out of the main room.

Shining Armor watched her go, trying to figure out what all happened. Once she was out of sight, he started for the door, stopping only to go back and pick up Spike in order to carry him out since he was not moving on his own.

A Shy Meeting

"Wasn't she wonderful?" Spike sighed from his spot on Shining Armors back. It had been five minutes since they had left Rarity behind, and the dragon had not said a word since, seeming to still be focused on the sophisticated mare they had just met.

"I had no idea you liked older mares, Spike," Shining Armor said with a grin, "or maybe it's the cutie mark. I know how much you like gemstones." He started to laugh to himself. He considered teasing the dragon about wanting to nibble Rarity's gems, or at least lick them, but figured it was too inappropriate from Spike and Twilight's age.

"He's blushing!" Twilight squealed out from beside her brother.

"No I'm not!" Spike yelled. "Shut up."

"Okay, okay," Shining said with a chuckle. "So what's next on the list, Romeo?"

Spike let out a snort and grabbed the sheet of paper.

"Let's see," he whispered as he read, "food, weather, decoration... Ah." Clearing his throat he spoke up. "We have one left. Music."

"Great," Twilight said as she sped up to get ahead of her brother. "That means once we're done, we can go to the library and-" she stopped as Shining Armor stopped moving, lifting a hoof and placing it on the filly's muzzle. The three of them listened for a moment.


The three of them could hear birds singing. It was not like normal bird songs either. It sounded like multiple species all singing the same song at the same time.

Following the sound, the group found their way to a tree filled with birds of all different sizes and colors. The birds filled the branches as they all sang the same song at the same time. Although it sounded like one of them was off-key.

"Oh my," a creamy yellow pegasus with pink mane said gently. "Um, stop please everyone." Flapping her wings gently, she flew up to one of the birds.

"Excuse me sir. I mean no offense, but your rhythm is just a teeny tiny bit off." She moved back to her spot as she got a nod. "Now follow me, please. A-one. A-two. A-one, two, three."

"Excuse me?" Shining Armor said, getting a yelp of surprise from the mare and causing the birds to fly away. "Sorry. I was just here to check on the music."

The pegasus landed in front of Shining Armor, but did said nothing. Her blue eyes would occasionally glance at him from around the edge of her pink mane, but she looked more at her foreleg as she rubbed one hoof back and forth in the dirt.

Shining Armor smiled at the mare, but started to feel awkward as she continued to say nothing and occasionally glance at her from the corner of her eye.

"So, what's your name?" he asked.

"Uhm... I'm..." the rest of her answer was spoken so gently he heard nothing. He could only tell when she stopped talking because her lips stopped moving.

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

The mare responded again. But again, she spoke softly that Shining Armor had no idea what she could have possibly said.

He looked at her a moment. Was she always like this? She seemed so scared, like something bad was going to happen at any moment. Was she abused? Did some mean pony hit and insult her until her self-esteem was shattered, leaving this poor mare barely able to deal with other ponies socially?

Shining Armor closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was jumping to conclusions with no real basis. He had to stop now before he got himself too upset over nothing. Being ready to beat up a hypothetical pony for hypothetically abusing a mare was not going to be of any use. Instead he relaxed and put on a friendly little smile again.

"How about we start over and I introduce myself? I'm Shining Armor. This is my sister, Twilight Spar-"

The mare let out a gasp and ran past Shining Armor, knocking him around as she went over to Twilight.

"Oh my," the mare said in a clear voice. "What happened to your leg?"

"My leg?" Twilight asked. Looking at it, she noticed that there was a red spot. "Oh, that? I scraped it when I fell off Shiny's back."

"Oh," the mare responded, "Well, we should get it cleaned and put a band-aid on it before it gets infected."

"I-i-i-infected?" Twilight's eyes went wide as she froze, staring off into space.

"Oh no," Shining groaned, rubbing at his forehead. He knew that look. Right now, his little sister's brain was sifting through the statement and possibilities, coming up with what would be a very bad -- if not the worst possible -- scenario of what would be the final result.

Twilight let out a gasping sob.

"I don't want to lose my legs and spend the rest of my life being pushed around in wheelchair!" she shrieked.

"Twilight," Shining Armor said gently, "you are not going to end up in a wheelchair the rest of your life."

"That's right," the mare agreed, "at most they would just have to remove the infected leg so you would still have three."

The statement got gasp and look of horror from Shining Armor.

"I mean," the mare said, "uhm... it's probably not going to be infected so you don't have to worry about any of that. But.. uh... just to be safe, we should get it cleaned and bandaged. My cottage isn't far from here and I have everything to take care of it."

"Can we, Shiny?" Twilight asked, looking at her brother.

"I don't see a reason not to," Shining said. It would also help keep Twilight calm instead of panicking about having her legs be amputated because of a scrape.

Before he even realized it, the yellow pegasus had taken a hold of Twilight and started flying off. Fortunately, she was only a few inches above the ground and not flying very fast. In point, Twilight Sparkle could actually set her hooves down and touch the ground, and Shining Armor and Spike managed to keep up with the mare and filly with ease.

As they went, Fluttershy (turns out that was the mare's name), started talking to Twilight. More accurately, Fluttershy introduced herself, then had Twilight start talking about herself. The yellow pegasus listened as the unicorn filly talked, only responding enough to keep the conversation going. Despite saying little, she actually responded with excited enthusiasm. So much so, the Shining Armor had a hard time believing it was the same mare talking as earlier.

Soon they reached what at first look like a steep hill. Getting closer, Shining Armor realized it was actually a house, although the top half of it was covered in grass. There was a small creek that the path bridged before leading up to the hill to the door.

What was more interesting was the area close to the house. There were homes for other animals all around it. There were dozens of birdhouses, but there were also openings to burrows and dens all around. Almost any small animal could find a place to make its home.

Fluttershy quickly went inside with Twilight, and Shining Armor and Spike followed quickly. The stallion stopped as soon as he stepped across the threshold. The first thing he noticed was a rabbit. In the middle of the living room, standing in the middle of the rug, was a white rabbit. It stood upright on its hind legs, arms crossed across its chest. Its beady black eyes narrowed to slits as it stared at the stallion with a scowl (Shining Armor did not even know it was even possible for a rabbit to scowl).

Slowly, Shining Armor moved further into the cottage, making sure to give plenty of space to the glaring rabbit. As he did, the unicorn stallion noticed that there were other animals as well. He saw squirrels, ferrets, and even some hedgehogs. There were also what looked like beds and hidey-holes for even more animals.

"Alright," Fluttershy said from another room, "This won't take long or hurt one bit."

As Shining Armor reached the doorway, he turned to look back at the rabbit one last time. It continued to stand where it was, its soulless black eyes watching. The rabbit uncrossed its arms, pointing at its eyes then at Shining Armor. The stallion resisted the urge to gulp in fear as he turned away, feeling vulnerable to attack as he took his eyes off the rabbit.

Shining stepped into what turned out to be Fluttershy's kitchen. There, the pegasus mare had just sprayed something on the scraped spot of Twilight's leg and was setting it back into a first aid kit. Fluttershy then pulled out two adhesive bandages -- pink with flowers -- and stuck them on the minor injury.

"There you go," she said with a smile, "All taken care of. And... uhm... don't be too mad at Rainbow Dash, please? I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you."

"You know Rainbow Dash?" Shining Armor asked, getting the attention of the mare and the filly. "It's hard to believe. I can't see you having anything in common." He looked around the kitchen as he considered the last statement himself.

"She's actually my best friend," Fluttershy explained, "and I know she can be... uh..."

Reckless? he thought. Arrogant? Egotistical? Hot-headed?

"Excitable," the mare finally decided, "but she is a very caring pony who will do anything to help or protect somepony that she cares for. I'm sure you'd like her if you give her the chance."

Do anything to protect somepony. He turned away from Fluttershy to look at Twilight. The filly was looking at the table, watching a squirrel that was standing on it with some nuts on a plate.

"I guess I can understand that," he said aloud, "and she did apologize... Even if I had to make her at first." He turned back to Fluttershy. "Thank you for taking care of my sister's knee, but we need to get going."

"You're welcome," Fluttershy replied with a smile, "and you can come visit me again anytime." She suddenly looked down, hiding behind her mane. "I mean, that is, if you want to, of course."

"Come on, Twiley." Using his magic, Shining Armor lifted Twilight from her seat and set her on his back beside Spike. Carrying the two of them, he walked back through the living room and toward the front door. Once again, he kept his eyes on the rabbit in the middle of the rug and made sure to give it plenty of space. He would never want to admit out loud, but he sincerely believed that the thing was dangerous and could kick his flank.

Twilight Shipper

"Miss Fluttershy is so amazing," Twilight Sparkle said after they had left the cottage and been walking for over ten minutes. More accurately, Shining Armor was walking while Spike and Twilight rode on his back.

"Oh?" Shining said, looking at his sister of his shoulder a moment.

"Yeah," the filly almost shouted with excitement. "She is so nice, and gentle. And did you see all those animals?" She let out a gasp as an idea suddenly came to her. Jumping off her brother's back, she ran to stand in front of him, stopping him from walking. "You should marry her!"

"Marry her? I just met her. Shouldn't we -- I don't know -- date for a while first?"

"No," Twilight said, pointing at her brother. "You need to marry her. If you wait, somepony else is going to get to her first and I will miss out on having the best big sister ever. Now we just need to give you two a nickname." She rubbed her chin as she started to think.

"Nickname?" Shining Armor moved, poking at his sister. "What are you talking about?"

"All popular couples have nicknames now," Twilight explained, "I read it in one of mom's magazines. Now let's see... Flutter Armor? No... Shining Flutter? No... Shining Shy? I like the alliteration on that one. Ooh. That's it: Fluttershining!" She grinned, hopping up and down slightly with excitement.

"Okay, Cupid, that's enough romance novels and gossip magazines for you." Using his magic, Shining Armor got Twilight moving again as they continued to walk along the town street.

"But what about Fluttershy?" Twilight whined. She tried to dig her hooves into the dirt as she slid along it.

"Why don't you marry her?"

"Maybe I will. Then we can live in a big house with lots of books and rooms for just her animals, and we can have cake and ice cream for dinner every night, and have lots and lots of foals of our own." Head held high in air, Twilight tossed her mane and resumed walking on her own.

"Lots and lots of foals?" Shining asked, trying to hold back the laughter. "From the same filly who nearly passed out from a panic attack when the neighbors brought over their brand new baby?"

"That was different!" Twilight shouted, turning to look at her brother. The young filly's face had turned a bright crimson instead of its normal purple. With a huff, she turned back and continued walking.

Shining said nothing more, continuing to stifle his laugh. Spike on his back was more open, letting out a deep chuckle at her reaction. Quickly, the stallion followed after his little sister, continuing for the Ponyville Library. Once they arrived, Twilight opened the door and stepped inside, followed quickly by the others as they entered the dark building.

"Okay, you two get ready for bed," Shining said.

"But I'm not tired," Spike responded

"Neither am I," Twilight added.

"I know," Shining replied, "but if you take a nap and get some sleep now, you two will be wide awake and ready for The Summer Sun Celebration."

"What are you going to do?" Spike asked as he moved to slide off Shining Armor's back.

"I still need to do research about Nightmare Moon," the stallion answered. "Now, where's the light?"

With a click, the lights came on, revealing the entirety of the library's main room. Surrounding the trio were dozens of ponies. It almost seemed like all of Ponyville were in the library.

"SURPRISE!" they all shouted.

Perky Pink Party Pony

A pink pony with a poofy pink mane suddenly popped out in front of the three with a big smile on her face. Something about her seemed familiar, but Shining Armor could not quite place it.

"Surprise!" the pink pony squealed. "Hi. I'm Pinkie Pie and I threw this party just for you. Were you surprise? Were you, were you? Huh-huh-huh?" As she spoke, Pinkie Pie bounced up and down. At one point, she actually bounced up into the air and over Shining Armor.

"Very," Shining responded, looking at all the faces surrounding.

"But libraries are supposed to be quiet," Twilight stated. Her ears pinned back against her head and face scrunched up as she narrowed her eyes at Pinkie Pie.

"That's silly, filly," Pinkie said, "What kind of welcome party would this be if it were quiet? I mean duh! Booorring!" Her face was incredibly animated, shifting with every word more than any other pony Shining had ever seen. Even those big blue eyes of hers seemed very expressive.

She also talked very fast. Shining Armor was able to catch most of what she said, but it all seemed to be coming from her at once. He barely had time to process what she had said before she had continued. He managed to get the main idea of it all, luckily. Pinkie Pie was the pony who gasped and ran off when they first arrived, which she did because she realized they were new to Ponyville. So she decided to throw them a party to make new friends, and invited every pony in town.

Somehow, during the conversation, Shining Armor had ended up beside a table full of refreshments. Also at some point, Pinkie Pie was joined by Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rarity.

"And now you have lots and lots of friends!" Pinkie Pie concluded, grinning proudly.

A lot of question went through Shining Armor's mind: How did you know where we were staying? How did you arrange all this so fast? How in Equestria did you convince everpony in Ponyville to show up?

"Thank you?" he said instead, looking around.

"Aww." Pinkie Pie moved forward, giving Shining Armor a hug. "You're welcome Shiney hiney."

"...Please don't call me that..."

"Too late. The author likes it as is going to keep using it." After giving him one last grin, Pinkie Pie seemed to suddenly disappear from next to him and reappear next to some other ponies.

"Is... Is she always like that?" Shining Armor asked, turning to the pony closest to him.

"Pinkie Pie?" Rainbow Dash asked before shaking her head. "Nah." A big grin formed on her mouth. "Sometimes she can be weird."

"Now don't you worry sugarcube," Applejack added. "Pinkie might seem a bit odd, but she's a good pony who just wants to make as many ponies happy as possible. Ah'm sure you'll like her once ya get to know her, and I know you ain't gonna find a friend that'll do more to try and make ya happy."

"Did she really get everpony in Ponyville to show up?" he asked, looking around. There were a lot of ponies here. It did not seem very plausible that every pony in town should be able to fit in the library.

"Well," Rarity interjected "I wouldn't go so far as to say that they all showed up. There are those who wish to spend it with their families, and others who still have to prepare for the celebration after all. However, I am quite certain that Pinkie would extend the offer to all of them just the same."

Shining Armor felt a little trapped. He had been hoping to to have some peace and quiet before the celebration. Now he had dozens, maybe even hundreds, of ponies around. Kicking them out was not an option, unfortunately. That would be rude, and if his mother found out, she would tear him a new one.

He let out a sigh.

"Let me get these two in bed for a while," he said, "and then I'll be right back."

"Shiney, can I have a cupcake?" Twilight asked, looking up at the concessions on the table.

"You both can," the stallion answered, taking two off the table to give one to Twilight and the other to Spike. Twilight took hers and started eating it right away. Spike caught his as well, but did not really seem to notice it. Once more, the young dragon was caught up in the sight of the white mare with deep purple mane.

After waiting ten minutes, Shining started leading the two upstairs.

"Come on. You two get ready for bed and get some sleep. I'll wake you up in time for the sunrise."

"But what about The Elements of Harmony?" Twilight whispered once they were away from the crowd.

"I can't look it up right now, Twiley." Shining looked back at the other ponies. "I guess we'll just have to hope that Princess Celestia's right and it is just an old mare's tale."

Once again, Twilight's ears pinned back as she scrunched up her face and narrowed her eyes. She looked at her brother like that a moment before letting out a sigh.

"Okay." She turned and started up the steps. "Night Shiney."

Shining Armor watched her go, and chewed his lip. She was willing to trust his judgement and believe in him. Now if only he felt as confident about this whole thing as she did. Hopefully, everything would work.

That was when he noticed Spike was still behind him. With a small snort of frustration, the stallion levitated the love-sick dragon up the stairs, causing Spike to regain his senses as Rarity disappeared from his sight. That was when he noticed the cupcake and tossed the whole thing in his mouth.

"Night Shining," the dragon said as he now continued at his own volition.

"Night you two," Shining Armor shouted up the stairs before adding more softly "sweet dreams." With the two headed off to bed, the stallion turned back to play host to all the ponies in the library.

Summer Sun Celebration

The rest of the party was not too bad. It was a bit uncomfortable for Shining Armor as he seemed to be dragged into dancing with some of the single young mares in town. The oddest was a group of three he later found out most referred to as "the flower trio." The strangest event for the whole night was when a pony accidentally drank a bottle of hot sauce that was hidden among the concession. Turned out the hot sauce had been brought by Pinkie Pie in case anypony wanted to add some to their cupcakes.

As it got later, some of the ponies started to leave early. Among them was Fluttershy, who had to go collect her birds and have them get prepared for their performance. Shortly after, Shining Armor went upstairs to wake Spike and Twilight while many of the other ponies started to leave. Once the two youths were up and moving (although Shining suspected they were not fully awake) the three of them joined the others in heading to the town hall to watch the sun rise.

In the town hall, a great many ponies waited for the event to start. Every level of the three story tall building was nearly filled, plus there were numerous pegasus floating in the air above. All attention was on the third story balcony where the princess was supposed to appear before raising the sun. Well, almost all attention.

"Isn't this exciting?" Pinkie Pie asked, seeming to appear out of nowhere once again and end up with her muzzle an inch from Shining Armor's. The hyperactive mare then started talking about how excited she was. It seemed to him like she was happy to see him after not doing so in a long time. Except they had walked together to the town hall.

Although that was not entirely accurate. He and several others walked, some of the pegasi flew, and Pinkie Pie did not so much walk as... hop? No, that did not seem correct. It was more like she bounced the way a ball would or something. It was almost as if Pinkie Pie was incapable of moving like a normal pony.

Before Shining Armor could say anything, the sound of birds singing filled the air. A spotlight illuminated the balcony of the princess before turning to point down at a stage on the main floor. Standing there was a brown earth pony with gray mane wearing glasses and an ascot.

"Fillies and Gentlecolts," the mare spoke in a voice that carried all the way through the entire room, "As mayor of Ponyville, it is my great pleasure to announce the beginning of The Summer Sun Celebration." She paused to allow for the roaring of the excited crowd before continuing.

"In just a few moments, our town will witness the magic of the sunrise and celebrate this, the longest day of the year. And now, it is my great honor to introduce to you the ruler of our land, the very pony who gives us the sun and the moon each and every day. The good, the wise, the bringer of harmony to all of Equestria: Princess Celestia!"

The birds started singing once again. Up on the balcony, Rarity pulled the rope to open the curtains. The spotlight shined, revealing...


Shining Armor turned his head to look out the window and at the moon. His eyes went wide at the sight. As long as he could remember -- probably for a thousand years -- there had been a shadow on the moon in the shape of a unicorn's head. Now, that shadow was gone.

"This can't be good."

A Nightmare Arrival

As the initial shock began to wear off, the ponies gathered began whispering among themselves. What was going on? Where was Princess Celestia?

"Remain calm everypony," the mayor stated. "There must be a reasonable explanation."

"Ooh, ooh," Pinkie squealed, "I love guessing games. Is she hiding?"

Up on the balcony, Rarity came toward the banister after looking around.

"She's gone."

This announcement caused a collective gasp from most of the ponies.

"Ooh, she's good," Pinkie announced, now making Shining Armor seriously question the mare's grasp on reality. The pink pony suddenly let out a shocked cry, followed by another round of gasps and drawing the stallion's attention back to the balcony.

A strange blue cloud full of twinkling star-like sparkles of light started to appear. The strange cloud grew larger, swelling and shifting as it twisted and roiled. Then it suddenly dispersed.

Standing where the cloud had been was a figure. It had to be twice as tall as the average pony, and looked to be a mare. She had both a unicorn's horn and pegasus wings, which she flapped and spread out wide. The form was a midnight black in color, with dark blue on a chest plate and helmet she wore. Her flank was the color of the night sky. It and her chest plate were both marked by a glowing blue crescent moon. She had no visible mane or tail. Instead, the cloud of shimmering blue made an ethereal version. Strangest of all were her eyes. They were a deep teal in color, with a lighter shade where the white should have been. Instead of round pupils like a normal pony, she had vertical slits similar to a cat. The appearance made them look draconic.

"Oh, my beloved subjects," the black mare said. Her voice was deep for a female, but soft and velvety. In a different situation, it would be powerfully charismatic. "It's been so long since I've seen your precious little sun-loving faces." The way she emphasized the s in sun sounded like a snake's hiss and the f of faces like she was spitting venom.

"What did you do with our princess?" Rainbow Dash shouted. Her lowered brows and bared teeth made it look like she was snarling at the intruder. The rainbow-maned pegasus tried to take off and attack the black alicorn, only to be stopped by Applejack holding tightly to the multicolored tail.

The black mare in blue armor let out a chuckle that turned into a rolling, seductive laugh.

"Why? Am I not royal enough for you? Don't you know who I am?"

"Ooh, ooh," Pinkie squealed, "more guessing games. Uhm... Hokey Smoke. How 'bout... Queen Meanie? No. Black Beauty Black Beauty." She finally stopped talking as an apple was shoved into her mouth.

The large black mare moved, looming over Fluttershy, who cringed, and causing the birds to fly away.

"Does my crown no longer count now that I've been imprisoned for a thousand years?"

The black mare moved from the cowering pegasus to Rarity, rubbing the unicorn's chin with the ethereal mane.

"Did you not recall the legend? Did you not see the signs?"

"I did," Twilight spoke up, nearly shouting, "and I know who you are. You're the mare in the moon. Nightmare Moon." This announcement brought another round of grasps from the gathered ponies.

"Well well well," Nightmare Moon said, "Somepony who remembers me. And a filly no less. Then you also know why I'm here."

"You're here to..." Twilight's courage started to falter " to..." She was unable to say more. Her body crouched down, her legs shaking at the knees slightly. A shriek escaped the filly as she was encompassed in Nightmare Moon's ethereal blue magic.

"Perhaps I should take you with me," the black alicorn said as she lifted Twilight up toward her. "A chance to be a herald and my personal student. The first to serve me and to receive the best of it."

Twilight said nothing. Instead she pulled herself as small and tight as she could. The filly trembled with fear, lip quivering and tears started leaking from her eyes.

A bubble of pink energy burst out from around Twilight, dispersing the magic of Nightmare Moon and pulling the filly free and levitating her away from the wicked mare.

"What?" Nightmare Moon cried out in shock. "Who dares?"

"I don't care who you are!" Shining Armor shouted as he stepped forward. "You do not touch my sister!" His horn glowed with magic as he levitated Twilight away from Nightmare Moon as set her down by Applejack.

"Insolent foal!" Nightmare Moon snarled, showing her fangs at the stallion. "You dare to think you have the power to defeat me? Or that you know what is best for your sister? I could give her opportunities you could never even dream of. The chance to be something great in her own right. Not something that can never measure up to you. Not a pony that is forever stuck in my sister's shadow!"

"Your sister?" Shining Armor repeated, thrown off by the statement.

Nightmare Moon look like she had been slapped. The snarl of anger vanished as she snapped her head back, eyes growing wide. For a second, Shining thought they looked different. The mare closed her eyes, giving her head a shake as she brought a hoof up to the side of it. Whatever happened passed and the look of a predator returned as she glared at them all.

"Keep your sister," she stated, "It matters not." Her voice grew louder. "Remember this day, ponies! For it shall be your last! From this moment forward, the night will last... Forever!" Once again she began to chuckle, and once again it turned into a full, rolling laugh. As she did, the ethereal blue energy grew above her, stretching all the way up to the ceiling. From it came flashes of lightning and booms of thunder.

"Seize her!" the mayor ordered. "Only she knows where the princess is." At the order, three pegasus guards took to the air, flying directly toward Nightmare Moon.

"Stand back you foals!" Nightmare Moon shouted. Her eyes glowed the color of moon light as lightning flashed between her and the guards, stopping them where they hovered before knocking them back. Laughing, the mare turned into the ethereal blue cloud and shot toward the door. The ponies moved out of her way as she made her escape.

"Come back here!" Rainbow Dash shouted as she got free of Applejack and chased the cloud outside. She stopped as she watched it escaped, floating in mid-air. The pegasus let out a growl of frustration as she watched Nightmare Moon escape. Another shout drew her attention back to the town hall.

"Twilight!" Shining Armor called out as he watched his sister run out the doors. Using his magic, he grabbed Spike and chased after the fleeing filly. Catching up, the two of them continued to run as fast as they could back to the library.

The Quest Begins

As they reached the library, Spike had recovered enough to regain consciousness. As soon as they entered, Twilight headed to one of the shelves to start pulling books off them, looking at the titles, and tossing them aside.

"Twilight," Shining Armor called out as he ducked to avoid a book. "You're making a mess."

"But Nightmare Moon is real," Twilight replied, "and how can we stop her without The Elements of Harmony?" She continued to search through the books, looking for the right one.

"And just what are The Elements of Harmony?" Rainbow Dash asked as she seemed to appear out of nowhere and look at the two unicorns and the dragon. "And how did you know about, Nightmare Moon, huh?" She let out a yipe as Applejack gave her tail a yank.

"Slow down, Sally," the orange farm mare said once she had the pegasus's attention.

"But they know something about this."

"It seems they do," Applejack said, "and I'm sure Shining Armor will tell us about it if we just ask." She turned her attention to the unicorn stallion. "Won't ya?" Behind her also stood Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie.

Shining Armor looked at the five mares, all their attention on him. His mind worked quickly, not to try and figure out whether or not to tell him -- there was no question in him about that -- but the best way to explain it to them. Taking a deep breath, he moved back them and headed toward one of the shelves.

"Not too long ago," he explained, "I read the story to Nightmare Moon as a bed time story to Twiley. According the the legend, the only thing that can stop her are The Elements of Harmony." His horn glowed as he reached onto a shelf and pulled out a book titled The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide.

"How did you find it?" Twilight asked, looking at the book and her brother in awe.

"Reference books," he said, pointing at the shelf, "letter E. It's kind of easy if you keep things organized and try to use that system to search instead of just grabbing random books and tossing them aside."

The comment got his sister to look at the small mess she had made with the books, then back at him and give a small, embarrassed smile. Shining Armor smiled back, then turned his attention to the book. Opening it, he started to read.

"There are six Elements of Harmony, but only five are known: kindness, laughter, generosity, honesty and loyalty. The sixth is a complete mystery. It is said that the last known location of the five elements was in the ancient castle of The Royal Pony Sisters. It is located in what is now The Everfree Forest."

"The Everfree Forest?" The five mares repeated, a note of shock and disbelief in their voices.

"That place is dangerous," Fluttershy said, her voice barely audible.

"And weird," Rainbow Dash added.

"It doesn't matter," Twilight said loudly, puffing out her chest. "We'll go into the forest, get the elements, and kick Nightmare Moon's flank all the way back to the moon. We will help save the princess an all of Equestria. We-"

"You're not going."


"I said 'you're not going,'" Shining Armor repeated, looking down at his sister. "It's too dangerous, and you can't even use your magic yet. I can't have you go with me and risk you being hurt." He gave her a smirk. "Besides, someone will have to lead the freedom fighters if this doesn't work."

When Shining Armor had first told her she was not going, Twilight had plopped onto her flank and stared at him with her jaw dropped open. As continued to talk, she wanted to argue, but could find no good one. Instead she looked down, ears pulled back and tears starting to fill her eyes. At the statement of leading the rebellion, she took straightened her back and puffed out her chest, giving him a salute.

"You can count on me."

Shining smiled and saluted back.

"Applejack? Could you take Twilight and Spike to your farm? If I'm not back in..." he looked out at the dark night sky (did he just see a part of it move?) "about two days at best guess, make sure they get back to my parents in Canterlot?"

"Well, Ah could take 'em to the farm," Applejack responded, "but somepony else'll have to make sure they get to yer folks since I'm coming with ya."

"What?" Shining Armor asked, blinking in surprise.

"I said 'I'm coming with you.'"

"Me too."

"As am I."

"Ooh. Ooh. Me too. Me too."

"I'll come too... uhm.... if you don't mind too much..."

"Look," Shining Armor said, "I appreciate the offer, but I can't ask any of you to go with me."

"You ain't asking, Sugarcube," the orange mare responded, "and we ain't simply offering either. I'll admit I'm a mite scared, but we ain't letting a friend go in them woods alone."

"You might need help darling," Rarity spoke up, "and you are not the only one with family."

"Besides," Rainbow Dash added, "Ponyville is our home, and Celestia is our Princess too. If there is any chance to protect it and save her, we need to take it."

"I don't think any of us could possibly ask you to do something for us we wouldn't do ourselves," Fluttershy said.

Pinkie Pie moved over to Shining Armor and put an arm around his neck.

"We're with you all the way, Shiney-hiney."

Shining Armor was tempted to again ask her not to call him that. Instead, he looked at her, and the others. Here before him stood five mares that were putting their trust in him. They were willing to go with him into a dangerous forest in search of a mythical artifact to face a creature that is powerful and quite angry after being trapped for a thousand years. And why? Because they were his friends. After less than a day, he was their friend and they were willing to trust him so much, they would put their lines on the lines.

Everypony in this town is crazy! he thought.


Shining Armor had never had friends before. Not really at least. He either spent time with his family, especially his little sister, or was busy being Princess Celestia's student. Now he suddenly had five friends, and in what was Equestria's darkest day, they were willing to have faith in and trust him. It was... kind of touching...

"Shiney?" Twilight asked. "Are you crying?"

"No," Shining said quickly. Reaching up with a hoof, he wiped at his face and found he actually was. "It's... It's liquid pride. I just can't hold it all in. That's all." He turned to look away from everypony, taking a deep breath and wiping again.

Twilight rolled her eyes, but did not argue. No one else said anything.

"Okay," Shining said after collecting himself. "Here's the plan. Applejack and I will take Twilight and Spike to Sweet Apple Acres. Everypony else go get what you think you might need and say your good-byes. We'll all meet back together at the edge of The Everfree Forest and then go in together."

After a quick round of acknowledgement, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash all left the library and headed for their homes.

"Are you sure about this?" Spike asked Shining as he moved to stand next to the stallion. "You're talking about leading a bunch of ponies into a big scary forest. Wouldn't it be better to wait for guardponies or something?"

"I don't know if we have time to wait, Spike," Shining responded. "Nightmare Moon is out there doing something, and we don't know what happened to Celestia."

He shifted, looking from the dragon to the book. Shining Armor felt something in the back of his mind. There was something that was bothering him. Something that Nightmare Moon said. What was it?

"You ready to go, Twi?" Applejack asked, causing Shining Armor to come back to the moment.

"Just let me grab Miss Smarty Pants," Twilight answered before turning to head up the stairs. Shining watched her go and hoped this was not the last time he would see his sister.

Sister! My sister!

So Long Sweet Apples

"Ah'm goin' too."

"No, ya ain't."

"Applejack, Ah'm goin' and there ain't nothin' you-"

"Ah dare you to finish that sentence!"

Big Macintosh opened his mouth, paused as he looked at his sister, then closed it. Applejack glared at her brother before looking away and letting out a small sigh.

"I know you're concerned for me," the mare said, "and I appreciate it, Mac." Turning she looked at the portion of her family that was collected and talking. "But we don't know if this is going to work. If things go wrong, the farm's gonna need ya."

"F'r what?" Big Macintosh asked. "Apple trees need sunlight A.J. If we have eternal night, can't make anything grow." He took a step closer. "And what about Apple Bloom? How's she gonna react if she loses her sister?"

"Probably better than if she lost both her sister and her brother." Applejack looked at her brother again as she said it. "As for the farm... worse comes, Bloom and Granny are gonna need ya to help move somewhere safer. Now I gotta get some things before we head out." With that, she headed for the stairs.

In the kitchen and dining room, Twilight Sparkle, Apple Bloom, and Spike sat at the table. Granny Smith stood at the stove, spatula in hoof as she made apple pancakes. When Applejack had arrived with Shining Armor, Spike, and Twilight Sparkle in tow, the elderly matriarch had insisted on giving the "young'uns" some breakfast. Nothing Shining Armor could say or do seemed to dissuade the elderly Apple. Instead, Shining Armor found himself standing nearby, waiting for the last of the batch to be put on a plate so he could carry it to the table and the waiting mouths.

"Now don't you worry about them two," Granny Smith said, waving her spatula at Shining Armor. "We'll take right good care of 'em like they were our own kin. Make sure they're taken care of 'til you return or they get back to yer folks." She flipped the pancake. "You look out for yourself and them girls while you're out there. Lotta dangers in the Everfree, and I'm sure yer and their families'll want you and them back as much as we do Applejack..." the old mare smirked "...Who's single, by the way."

"What?" Shining said, feeling his face start to heat up. "Why would you say something like that?" He shifted his hooves, turning his head to look around the room.

"My sight might not be what it used to," Granny Smith responded, "but I ain't blind." She let out a chuckle. "I'm just giving you a little tease. Don't worry yourself. Though I reckon she could do worse." Reaching down with her spatula, she easily slipped the pancake from the pan and onto the plate. "There you go. Take that over to the young'uns and I'll start another set f'r you'n Applejack."

"That's really not necessary, ma'am," Shining said as he levitated the plate.

"Nonsense," the elderly mare said with a wave. "Wouldn't be right to send you out on a dangerous situation on an empty stomach."

Shining Armor opened his mouth, then closed it again. Instead he did as he was supposed to and took the plate to set it down on the table. As soon as it was, the two fillies and the young dragon all started digging into the fresh pile of fluffy breakfast food.

"Now while you're here," he said, "I want you on your best behavior. Got it?"

"Alright," Twilight said as she reached for the syrup.

"If it means they keep feeding me like this," Spike said after taking a bite, "I'll do whatever they want." He took another forkful and shoved it into his mouth.

"'Scuse me," Big Macintosh said from the doorway, "Can I speak with ya f'r a minute?"

"Sure?" Shining Armor responded, blinking. "Spike, Twilight, I'll be right back." With that he followed after the large red stallion.

"So, what do you wanna do after this?" Apple Bloom asked around a mouthful of pancake.

Twilight shifted in her seat, looking around for a second. Only the four of them were in the dining room. Spike was distracted by his breakfast and Granny Smith was working at the stove. Leaning close to Apple Bloom, Twilight brought her ear close to the farm filly's ear.

"Can you keep a secret?" she asked.

Apple Bloom glanced over at her grandmother, then gave Twilight a quick nod, moving a hoof across her mouth in zipping motion.

"I'm not staying," Twilight whispered. "First chance I get, I'm sneaking out of here and going with Shiny and the others."

"How?" Apple Bloom asked.

"What're you two fillies schemin' 'bout?" Granny Smith suddenly asked, turning to look over her shoulder at the two.

"Nothing," both responded at the same time.

"I was just askin' Twilight what she wanted to do after breakfast," Apple Bloom added. Both put on their best innocent faces as Granny Smith narrowed her eyes at them. The pair let out a sigh when she finally looked away, and returned their attention to their food.

Cube Corner Conversations

"What do you think, Gummy: chocolate with strawberry frosting, or strawberry with chocolate frosting?" Pinkie Pie held two cupcakes out to a little gator that stood on her bed. The gator just stared at her, not even blinking.

"Well we could take a dozen of both," the mare replied, "but it would mean that I would have leave behind the extra gooey cream cookie fudge brownies." She let out an annoyed sigh. "There's just too many sweets to decide."

"Pinkie?" a voice called from the door, getting her attention.

Standing in the doorway was an gold coated unicorn with a thick, shaggy orange mane and tail tied off with powder blue ribbons.

"What is it, Pumpkin?" Pinkie asked, setting the cupcakes aside and moving toward the filly.

"Is it true?" the filly asked. "Mom and Dad said you're going to The Everfree Forest. Are you?"

"A friend thinks that we can find a way to stop that moon meanie from scary poor innocent ponies," the pink pony explained. "And if it works, then everything will be okey-dokey-lokey again."

"You'll be back, right?"

The grin vanished from Pinkie Pie's face as she looked at the filly. The orange foal was crouching slightly, pulling herself tight. There were signs of tears filling the corners of her big blue eyes.

Pinkie Pie smiled. Not her constant wide and goofy grin that she had a tendency to wear almost at all times, but a genuine, genial, comforting smile. Reaching out, she pulled Pumpkin into a hug and wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes.

"Hey, don't worry," she said in a more subdued tone. "I'll be fine, really. Just you wait and see. You'll be baking and partying with your Aunt Pinkie Pie again in no time."

"Pinkie Promise?"

"Cross my heart and hope to fly. Stick a cupcake in my eye." Pinkie pulled out a cupcake (chocolate with strawberry frosting), but instead of sticking it in her eye, she stuck it into Pumpkin's mouth. Grabbing it with her hoof, the filly took a bite before pulling the rest of it away.

"Pinkie... I'm scared." She looked down at the floor and sniffed. "I tried to laugh it away like you taught us, but when I look outside and see how dark it is, I get scared again. I can't be brave like Pound, and I can't just laugh it off like you. I don't know what to do."

"Silly filly. You don't need to be like me or your brother. Nopony wants that. Just be you, aaaand the best you that you can be." Pinkie let the filly go and moved to get up. "I have two very important jobs for you while I'm gone. Okay?"

"What are they?'

"First," Pinkie Pie picked up the gator and held it out, "I need you to take care of Gummy while I'm gone. You know how he gets when I'm away for a few hours."

Pumpkin took the gator, but did not say anything. As far as she had seen, Gummy acted the exact same way when Pinkie was gone as he did now. Basically, he did nothing. Sure, occasionally he would attack something and chew on it, but most of the time he just stood there. As far as she could remember, Pumpkin had never even seen the gator blink.

"Second," Pinkie Pie continued, "I want you to plan my big, fun, super exciting heroic return party for me. Then when I return, we can have a big celebration and be happy as the sun shines in the sky again. Can you do that for me?"

"Yeah," Pumpkin replied with a smile. "It might not be a Pinkie Pie Party, but it will be the best Pumpkin Cake Party you've ever seen."

"Glad to hear it." Pinkie Pie stuck a dozen strawberry cupcakes with chocolate frosting into her saddlebags. "Well it's time for me to get going. Take good care of your parents and I'll see you when I get back." With that, she bounced out of the room.

"I hope so," Pumpkin whispered to herself, holding Gummy close to her chest.

Boutique Bonding

Rarity packed several large beach towels into her bag. It was possible that in the forest, they would possible get wet or cold. In either case, the towels would be useful to either help dry off or use as a blanket if necessary. They were neither her newest nor her best quality towels. After all, she did not wish to risk getting them filthy or ruined.

Packed up, the mare decided to get properly attired for the occasion. She put on boots to keep her hooves from getting too dirty, wrapped a scarf around her neck, and set a hat on her head. She considered sunglasses for a moment, but since it was dark out, they would be redundant.

As she was getting ready to leave, something caught her eye. The light was on in her sister's room. Moving in, she reached up to flip the switch and turn it off. As soon as she did, a small squeak reached her ears.

"Sweetie Belle?"

From beneath the bed popped out the head of a white unicorn filly. She had a tightly curled mane that was split in two pastel colors: lavender and pink. She looked up at Rarity with large green eyes.

"Sweetie Belle," Rarity said as she moved closer, "What are you doing here?" Using her magic, she took a hold of the small filly and pulled her out from under the bed to set her on it.

"After all that happened, I got scared," the filly explained. "The boutique was closer than home, so i ran here. Can I stay here with you?" She shifted her head and opened her eyes as wide as she could, trying to be as cute and pitiful as she could.

"Normally I would," Rarity replied, "but I'm not going to be here. Some friends and I shall be heading into The Everfree Forest in hopes of finding an artifact to help us."

"What?" Sweetie Belle shrieked. "You were going to go into The Everfree Forest and not tell anypony?"

"Calm down Sweetie," the older unicorn responded. "Now I can understand where you are coming from, but that is simply not the case. I would like to say explain what is going on, but I am in a bit of a time limit. Now come on. I'll take you home so that mother and father will not be worrying about you at least."

"But what about you?" Sweetie Belle asked as she jumped off the bed to chase her sister. "You're talking about going into a big scary forest full of monsters all alone."

"I shall not be alone, dearie. I shall have my friends going with me. Besides, I am a mare who is capable of taking care of herself. I will be fine."

"I still don't like it," Sweetie grumbled. "Why do you have to go? Isn't there somepony else who could instead?"

"Perhaps," Rarity said after a moment, "but what would happen if those same ponies were to decide to do nothing in the hopes that somepony else would?" She turned to look at her sister, letting the question sink in.

Sweetie Belle looked at Rarity, then away. It was not the look of a pony that was shamed or embarrassed, but one of consideration. The filly was thinking about what she was just told. She looked down at the floor as she walked, letting her sister's words work their way through her mind and trying to come up with an answer.

"I still don't like it," she finally stated.

"And I can understand that," Rarity responded. Reaching out a hoof, she placed around her shoulder. "I know you're worried and I appreciate it, but you and mom and dad are important to me. I have to do something to try and keep you safe, and right now, this seems like the best chance." She gave her sister a kiss on the forehead. "Now, let's get you home."

Rainbow Worries

Rainbow Dash entered her cloud mansion and quickly made her way toward her room. Entering, she stopped and looked at The Wonderbolts poster on her wall. Straightening up, she puffed out her chest and gave the poster a salute.

I'll make you proud! she thought as she stood there. Finishing her salute, she continued further into her room, heading toward the bed.

On the nightstand was one of her sets of goggles. Really it was the only thing she felt she needed to take with her. It was all she used during her training and stunt practice anyways. Rainbow reached out to grab her goggles.

And grabbed the picture frame instead.

In the photograph was a young Rainbow Dash, and a stallion. The stallion was a darker shade of blue with gold colored eyes. Filly Rainbow Dash stood on his back, standing upright with her forelegs on his head. She was grinning widely as she held a pennant with The Wonderbolts insignia on it.

"Hey, Dad," the full grown mare said to the photograph. "How are you? I know, I know. Silly question. I still miss you and mom, but I'm okay.

"Some friends and I are about to go on a dangerous mission. I don't know if we'll make it, but we have to try. All of Equestria may be at stake. I can't stay and do nothing any more than you could. I have to do something. Heh, just like you, huh?

"...I don't want to admit it, but I'm scared. This isn't like a stunt where I might get hurt but can get better with practice. It's the most dangerous thing I've ever done, and considering some of what I've done, that's saying a lot. I honestly don't know if I can do it. I may not make it back. I promise you, though, I will do everything I can to help and come back safe and sound.

"I promise I'll make you proud, Dad." She gave the picture a hug. "I love you."

Setting the picture down, she sniffed and wiped at her eyes.

"Okay, Rainbow, pull yourself together. Wouldn't be cool to let anyone seeing you crying like a filly."

Wiping again, Rainbow took a slow, deep breath to collect herself. Once her eyes were dry and she was collected, Rainbow Dash grabbed her goggles and headed back out. After all, she had a world to save.

Rabbit Rapport

Fluttershy finished the letter, signing it, and stuck it in the envelope. She wrote a name on the outside and stuck it on the kitchen table. With that done, she grabbed two first-aid kits she had and put them in her saddlebags. Finished, she turned and started toward the door. The yellow pegasus was doing her best to get going before she thought about what she was doing. After all, this was a very dangerous thing she was doing. If she stopped to think about it, it was very unlikely that she would have the courage to go through with it.

Standing in front of the door was the same white rabbit that Shining Armor had met earlier. This time its gaze was narrowed at Fluttershy as she approached. His arms were crossed over her chest as he glared at her, one of the large back feet rapidly tapping on the floor.

"Excuse me, Angel," Fluttershy said, "but I need to get going."

Angel Bunny straightened up and narrowed his eyes at her more, but otherwise did not move.

"Come on Angel," she said again. "Please? My friends are waiting and I really need to get going."

The rabbit stomped his foot hard and did not pick it back up. He give a quick hard shake of his head and stayed exactly where he was. Next thing he knew, he was picked up by Fluttershy, who cradled him in her arms close to his chest.

"Now I understand what you're trying to do, and I appreciate it, but I have to go. If not then there will be no sun which means it will get cold and a lot of poor animals will be uncomfortable. Plus no sun means no food and it won't be long before we have friends who will start to go hungry because nothing will grow."

Fluttershy set Angel down and turned toward the door again. After three steps, she felt a yank on her tail. Looking behind her, she found that the rabbit was holding onto the end and trying to pull her back with all his strength.

"Angel, please don't make this harder than it already is. Now there is plenty for you and the others to eat, and I left a letter for Pound Cake just in case. You'll be okay." With that, Fluttershy gave the rabbit a gentle kiss on the forehead then turned and headed for the door again. This time she managed to open it and leave.

Angel Bunny hopped to the door and looked out at the leaving mare, one paw holding onto it. His ears went limp, falling back from their normally upright position. With a deep sigh, he pushed the door shut.

The Not So Great Escape

Twilight Sparkle moved toward the stairs and started down them slowly. She reached out with a hoof, checking each one before settling her weight on it to make sure they did not squeak. Ears perked, she listened as hard as she could for any sound coming from down stairs that was close to her. Lowering her head, she peaked through the railing and scanned the room. Not seeing anypony in sight, she continued her way down the steps.

It had been about ten minutes since Applejack and Shining Armor had left Sweet Apple Acres and headed out to meet with the others before going into The Everfree Forest. This would hopefully mean that nopony would expect her to try and escape now. That way she would be able to sneak out. If she ran, she would be able to catch up with the others about halfway across town. Then she could follow them and go into The Everfree Forest. Once there, she figured Shining Armor would have to let her come with them.

Stepping off the last stair, she quickly walked toward the door.

"Where ya headed?" a deep voice asked.

Jumping and letting out a squeak of surprise, Twilight turned to find the source. There at the doorway stood Big Macintosh. He moved forward, stepping into the room. The large stallion's face looked down at the filly calmly.

"I...I was just going outside," Twilight said, "to.. to get some air. Maybe walk around the farmhouse to work off some of the nervous energy." She smiled, trying to look at him innocently.

"All things considered," Macintosh replied as he moved between Twilight and the door, "ah reckon it best if ya stay inside where it's safe. Now why don't ya head back upstairs 'n keep Apple Bloom and Spike company."

Twilight let out a sigh and turned around. Ears pinned back against her head, she walked back up the stairs and returned to Apple Bloom's room.

"What happened?" Apple Bloom asked.

The yellow earth filly sat on the floor in the middle of the room, a coloring book and box of crayons on front of her. She had set the crayon down as she heard the door opened. Near her, Spike laid curled up on the edge of the rug. After they had finished breakfast and gone upstairs, the young dragon had decided to go back to sleep. This was convenient since it meant Twilight did not either have to let him know or try to get past him as well.

"Your brother caught me," Twilight replied as she headed for the bed. "I need to borrow one of your sheets." Taking a hold of one of them with her teeth, she began pulling it off the bed.

"What f'r?" Apple Bloom asked, getting up and moving toward her friend.

"So I can use it for a rope." Pulling it off the bed, the unicorn filly gave it a quick shake. "Could you help me twist it into a rope?" She then took one corner into her mouth and started trying to twist it.

Apple Bloom watched her in confusion a moment, and considered what to do. She had been asked to keep a secret before Twilight had shared the plan. That meant that Apple Bloom could not tell without betraying her friend's trust, which she figured was enough to keep her out of trouble when others found out. So as long as she did nothing and kept her mouth shut, she was fine. Now she was being asked to actively help in the escape plan. That actually involved her more than she would like.

Moving to the other end of the sheet, Apple Bloom grabbed the opposite corner and started twisting it as well. At first, it seemed to be pointless. After Twilight helped her by telling her to twist the opposite direction, the two of them soon had the sheet looking like a rope.

Twilight went to the window and pushed it open. Taking the sheet, she tied one end into a knot then climbed out the window. The filly draped the impromptu rope over the sill.

"Okay," Twilight said, "Now close the window. The frame and knot should be enough to hold me while I climb down."

"Good luck," Apple Bloom said, then did as she was told.

Twilight picked up the sheet and gave it a firm yank, check on it. Satisfied, she tossed the other end over the edge of the roof. Carefully, she moved to the edge and gripped the sheet tightly. Taking a deep breath, she started climbing down.

That was when she discovered a problem with her plan: the rope was too short. She was dangling from the end of it just below the overhang. It was too far a drop to make without hurting herself as far as she could tell, and there was no way she was going to be able to climb back up.

"Ah, saddle sores," the stuck filly grumbled as she dangled there.

"Need help?" a voice asked, causing Twilight to tense and her eyes to go wide.

There standing on the porch was Big Macintosh. A lantern was held in one hoof, held up to let his face be seen. He looked at Twilight, the slightest hint of his lips being upturned at the ends on his face.

"Do you have, like, a sixth sense or something?" Twilight asked, scowling at the large red stallion.

"Eyup," he replied with a full smile. "'S'called bein' a big brother. Don't think Applejack didn't try 'n sneak out a time or two when she was yer age?" He moved closer to the dangling filly. "Now, do you want help down?"

Twilight continued to try and scowl at Macintosh. After a few seconds, she let out a sigh, her face turning to one of resignation.

"Yes please," she finally said.

Setting the lantern down, Macintosh moved closer to Twilight. Reaching up with his mouth, he took a hold of the filly by the tail. Slowly, the stallion pulled the filly off the end of the rope. After letting her hang upside down from his mouth for a moment, he finally set her down on her hooves. With that done, he walked behind her as they went back into the farmhouse.

"How far did she make it?" Granny Smith asked from her rocking chair.

"Danglin' from the roof," Macintosh replied.

"Rope too short?"


"You knew too?" Twilight asked, eyes going wide and ears flopping.

"Child," Granny Smith said as she reached out to ruffle Twilight's mane, "You don't get to raise such a big and close family as ours without learning a thing or two, like when a foal is trying to scheme something. I knew what you were planning before you even told Apple Bloom."

"You heard that?" Twilight mentally scolded herself. She should have known better than to assume that the old mare was hard of hearing.

"Naw." Granny gave a wave of her hoof. "Well, I didn't hear your actual words. I did realize you were whisperin' somethin' to Bloom though, and considerin' what happened, it was easy to guess what about.

"Now I know you want to go after yer brother and help, but he asked us to keep an eye on you and make sure you stay safe. Can't rightly let you run off after him then, can we. 'Sides, how do you think he'd feel if something were to happen to you because you went after him."

Twilight looked down at her hooves for a moment, ears drooping. She slid one hoof back and forth against the wood of the floor.

"Shiny is my best friend as well as my big brother," she finally said. "I can't let him go out there alone."

"Now from what I understand," Granny Smith responded, "He ain't alone. He has five of the bravest mares in Ponyville going with him, including our own Applejack. Now, Shining's yer kin, and you have every right to be worried for him. Nopony is gonna take that away from you." Reaching out with a hoof, she placed it under Twilight's chin and lifted the filly's face for them to look at each other.

"But you need to have faith in him," the elderly mare continued. "You need to be strong and believe that he will be okay and return safe and sound."

"What if he doesn't?" Twilight asked.

"Then you'll need to be there for your parents. Now that's enough of that. Why don't you just go on back upstairs and play with Apple Bloom. You might not've noticed, but she looks up to her sister near as much as you do your brother. She may not be showin' it, but she's probably just as scared of you, if not more so."

Twilight looked at Granny Smith a moment, then gave a nod. Turning away from the two, she headed back up the stairs and to Apple Bloom's room. When Twilight opened the door, the yellow filly turned to look at her curiously.

"That din't work neither, huh?"

"No." Twilight walked over to the window. "Your brother was waiting for me again. From what your grandmother said, I don't think any plan is going to work." She pushed the window up slightly and took the end of the sheet. Moving backwards, she pulled back inside.

"So what're you gonna do now?" Apple Bloom asked, getting up from her spot to walk over to her friend.

"Let me introduce you to Miss Smarty Pants," the purple filly replied, "then you can tell me stories about Applejack, and I'll tell you stories about Shiny."

Apple Bloom grinned at the idea. It was such a big smile, Twilight imagined it was what her new friend would look like when she got just want she wanted for Hearth's Warming.

Into The Everfree

Shining Armor stood before the entrance to The Everfree Forest. Rarity and Pinkie Pie stood (and in Pinkie's case, the term is used very loosely) to one side of him, Applejack and Fluttershy on the other, and Rainbow Dash floated somewhere above.

"Alright," Shining said, turning to face the five of them best he could, "This is the last chance to turn around. This is not a certain thing and pretty dangerous. Nopony will blame you. So if you don't think you can do this, you can just go home and be with your families."

The five mares looked back and forth between at each other, and then at the stallion. Without saying anything, they started moving forward, past Shining Armor and into The Everfree Forest. The stallion watched them go, then took a deep breath and followed.

The group of six walked through the woods for a while. None knew how long exactly since none had a watch and there was no sun to keep track of the time. Most of it had been in silence.

"Something on your mind, Sugar cube?" Applejack asked, getting Shining Armor's attention. "Seems to me you been a might quiet since we left the farm."

"Huh?" Shining Armor blinked, looking at her a moment. "Oh. I was just thinking about something Nightmare Moon said. You ever feel jealous of your brother?"

"Big Mac? Can't say I ever have."

"What about Apple Bloom?" he continued. "You ever worry she might be jealous of you?"

"Not that I know of, and I hope she'd talk to me if she did. Now what's this 'bout?"

"You were there when Nightmare Moon first appeared," Shining responded. "Did you hear what she said I pulled Twilight away?"

"You mean about lettin' your sister be her own pony?" Applejack asked.

"You mean that weird rant?" Rainbow Dash added.

"Yes," Shining replied. "More specifically at the end when she talked about living in the shadow of her sister."

"Is that significant?" Rarity asked, moving to catch up with the others. "After all, the story does say it was jealousy which made her Nightmare Moon, does it not?"

"Yes," he answered, "but the story makes it sound like she was jealous that ponies slept through her nights and not enjoyed the beauty of it. The way she said it, sounded like she was actually jealous of her sister. Like she felt she was always being compared to her sister."

Before the conversation could go any further, a howling sound echoed through the woods.

"What was that?" Shining asked, looking around.

"Sounds like a Timber Wolf," Applejack replied. "Reckon we should move a little faster just in case they're nearby."

"You seem worried," Fluttershy said. "Is there a problem?"

"Depends on how many of 'em there are." Applejack looked around as she continued to walk. "If there's just one or two of 'em we should be fine. The varmints have a tendency to travel in packs though."

Taking the farm mare's lead, the other ponies sped up, keeping pace with her. Time and again, some of them looked around to check for signs of the creature that they had heard.

As they tried to make their getaway, a massive creature jumped out to block the path in front of them. It towered over them, standing twice as tall as even Shining Armor. The creature had the basic shape of a wolf, if on a grander scale, and the entirety of it was made of wood and leaves. It looked at the group of ponies with glowing green eyes, the muzzle open to expose large wooden fangs.

"Stand back," Applejack said as she started to walk forward. Reaching into her saddlebag, pulling out a length of rope.

"Applejack?" Shining shouted after her. "What are you doing?"

"No time to explain," Applejack replied. "Just trust me and be ready to run."

Pulling the rope out all the way, she held one end while the other ended in a large loop. Adjusting her grip with her teeth, she began to twirl the lasso, letting the end take to the air. Applejack's front legs spread wide as she lowered her chest. The mare's eyes narrowed as she watched the Timber Wolf from beneath the brim of her hat.

The Timber Wolf stopped growling, tilting its head to one side as it looked down at the pony in front of it. It sniffed at the air then let out a snort. This was followed by a growl as it bared it fangs once more, moving its head closer toward the pony. When the pony continued to stand there, the Timber Wolf lunged forward, snapping its jaws.

As the creature lunged, Applejack jumped back. As soon as she landed, she flicked her neck to send the lasso flying. The loop of rope landed on the wolf's muzzle. With a hard yank, the mare pulled it tight, tying the creature's mouth shut. With a snarl, it reared back, jerking its head up and trying to free its mouth.

Applejack held onto the other end of the rope as tight as she could. Watching the Timber Wolf, she jumped off the ground as it reared back and yanked the rope. With the energy of her jump combined with the creature's pull, the mare was able to get up over the wolf's head and onto its back. Adjusting her grip on the rope, Applejack pulled hard, causing the head to snap back and the Timber Wolf to rear up and buck. With it thrown off balance, the mare jumped down and slipped under the creature. Fast as she could, she ran back and between its hind legs. Taking a hard turn left, she wrapped the rope around one of the legs. Applejack then went back under the Timber Wolf and back to get the other as well.

With a hard yank, the rope pulled tight and sent The Timber Wolf spinning. With a yelp of surprise, the creature hit the ground, and immediately fell apart into a pile of wood.

"Come on, ya'll," Applejack shouted. "We only got a few minutes before it pulls itself back together." Pulling the rope back and coiling it around her neck in one swift motion, she started running. As soon as she did, the others started chasing after her as fast as they could go.

Honest Doubt

"That was pretty amazing," Shining Armor said once had gotten well past the remnants of the Timber Wolf. "Where did learn to do something like that?"

"Thanks," Applejack said with a smile. "The ropin' and ridin' are from years of doing the rodeo. As for the Timber Wolf, they've come 'round the farm from time to time. Usually just one or two and we're able to run them off.

"Impressive." Shining looked at her a moment then around at the others. The smile disappeared quickly as he studied the other four ponies that was traveling with them.

"Maybe you should take charge and lead the group."

The statement made Applejack stop. Her smile disappeared as she looked at the stallion, eyes shifting as she raised one of her eyebrows. The look made Shining Armor slow his pace, but he did not stop. The orange mare moved to catch up with him, but continued to look at him.

"It's just..." he shifted as he thought a moment. "I've spent most of my life reading books, studying, working out stuff on paper, and -- once in a great while -- play with my sister when she comes to visit me. I'm more at home in a library with full shelves than out here. I don't think I should be out here, much less leading others.

"But you? You just took out down a wolf made out of wood nearly four times your size with nothing but a rope. You have lived in Ponyville your whole life and have family there. You've lived there your whole life, and they," he motioned toward the other four, "probably know you really well. Plus I've heard you and your brother. He may be the oldest and work the farm, but it sounded like you run it. All that and having a big family? Makes it sound to me like you would be perfect for leading everyone."

"I'm going to say is the honest truth," Applejack responded. "Everything you said? It's true, and what you're saying makes sense. That ain't going to change anything. You realized what was going on and this was your idea. We all basically volunteered to go with ya, which means we're following yer lead."

"Please don't remind me," Shining Armor groaned, rubbing at his head.

"Listen to me," Applejack continued. "We all know the danger and we are here. You have been doing fine under the circumstances. Several times you have shown that you actually have what it takes to lead. Besides, and this is the most important of all, so I want you to listen carefully."

Before Shining Armor could realize what was going on, Applejack had wrapped her front legs around his neck. The stallion stopped walking, basically freezing in place and staring at the farm pony.

"You gave us hope," she finished. "The chance to save our families and do something other than sit around and do nothing. Even if this don't work, you at least gave us hope and the opportunity to try and do something. At least for that, I'm sure we're all grateful."

Smiling, Shining hugged her back. The hug suddenly ended. Applejack then gave Shining Armor a gentle hit on the shoulder, only sending him sliding a foot across the dirt.

"Okay, that's enough jawin'," she said as she started walking again. "C'mon, we still have some elements to find." She turned to smirk at him. "That is, if it's alright with you, Captain." With that, she continued on her way.

"Captain?" Shining Armor repeated before shaking his head. "Who in their right mind could possibly think of me as a captain?... Captain Shining Armor... Heh." with a laugh at the idea, he moved to continue with the other ponies.

"Do you hear that?" Fluttershy asked. Before any other pony could respond, the yellow pegasus took off in a rush. The other five chased after her, hearing what sounded like a roar.

Reaching the edge of a clearing, the group of five saw Fluttershy. Not far from her was a creature that looked like a lion. It had great leathery wings spread out from its back and a massive scorpion tail curling up above its head. It stood with one leg raised, and bared its fangs at the approaching pegasus.

"It's okay," Fluttershy said as she approached, her voice barely audible. "I'm not going to hurt you, and you don't want to hurt me either, right?" She continued to approach the creature slowly.

Shining Armor stepped forward to try and get help. Before he got too far, Rainbow Dash pulled him back and placed a hoof over his mouth, signalling him to keep quiet.

The creature watched the approaching pegasus, teeth still bared and letting out a slight growl. It did not lunge to attack her, but it did not attempt to retreat or escape either. As she got closer, it crouched and growled louder, but otherwise did not move. When Fluttershy reached the creature, she gently pressed her muzzle against its paw. As the mare came in contact, the growling stopped. The creature held the paw out to Fluttershy, revealing the large thorn stuck in the pad.

"Oh you poor, poor little baby," the mare said as she saw the thorn. "Now this might hurt for just a second." Leaning forward, she took the thorn in her mouth and pulled. The creature let out a roar of pain.

Then it started licking at Fluttershy and purring. The pegasus let out a giggle as she was groomed.

"Aw, you're just a little old baby kitty, aren't you?" she asked. "Yes you are. Yes you are." She gently pulled away. "Now let me wrap it up to make sure it stays clean." Reaching into her saddlebag, she pulled out an adhesive bandage and placed it over the spot. Finished she walked over to join the others.

"How did you know about the thorn?" Shining Armor asked as Fluttershy returned to them.

"I didn't," she responded as she walked past him. "Sometimes, we just need to be shown a little kindness."

Shining Armor watched as she continued on, the others joining him. The stallion turned back, looking at the creature in the clearing that was now curling up and grooming itself. It was amazing. Meek and shy little Fluttershy had just stood up to a manticore without blinking and won. All because of how kind and gentle she was.

If Twilight heard about that, Shining would never hear the end of it about how he should marry the pegasus mare.

Dark and Spooky Woods

With the Manticore now behind them, the six ponies continued traveling. Most of the group had become a little more relaxed now that they were actually in the forest, feeling more confident that they could handle whatever they came across. None of them were actually aware of the change consciously. They had relaxed and become more comfortable without realizing it.

Shining Armor moved to walk next to Rainbow Dash. He looked up at the pegasus as she flew slightly above him. Clearing his throat slightly, he got her attention.

"So," he said slowly, "you knew that Fluttershy could do that?"

"Course I did," Dash said with a smirk. "Fluttershy may be have a hard time talking to other ponies and is ready to jump at the sound of a twig snapping, but she knows how to handle animals."

"I guess that explains how she's able to get along with you then." Shining gave a smirk of his own as he looked at her.

"Oh, ha ha." Rainbow rolled her eyes. "Seriously though. I've seen her calm down bucking bears. Then there's Angel."

"Angel?" Shining asked.

"'Angel Bunny,'" Rainbow Dash moved her hooves to make quotation marks as she spoke. "The pet rabbit Fluttershy takes care of."

"I think I know who you're talking about. When Twilight and I went to her cottage, there was a rabbit that glared at me the whole time."

"That's him. The thing thinks he could take on a platoon of guards on his own or something. Not a fuzzball I'd ever want to cross. But I've seen him actually listen to Fluttershy. I figure, if she can face down bears and take care of that crazy rabbit, then she knows how to deal with animals. And if she believes she can handle a... a..."


"Right. If she thinks she can handle one of those, who am I to argue?"

Shining Armor gave a nod and let his pace slow down to something more casual. It was kind of a strange thing to see, this shy and skittish mare standing up to a massive creature without flinching in the slightest. He continued to walk, looking around at the others.

"Eww," Rarity groaned. "My eyes need a rest from all this icky muck."

As they six of them continued to walk, the canopy of the forest grew thicker. After another minute, no moon light made it through, leaving the group in absolute darkness.

"I didn't mean that literally," Rarity responded as she and the others were unable to see anything.

"Everypony hold on," Shining Armor said, listening as the others stopped. "Just give me a moment. I think I can give us some light." Closing his eyes, the unicorn stallion began to concentrate. Drawing on his magic, he began to focus it into his horn. Feeling the energy collect, he shifted it to turn into glowing white light.

A scream filled the air. Shining Armor opened his eyes.

And found himself staring at the gaping maw of something with sharp teeth.

Letting out a yelp (although if anyone had noticed it, they would have called it a shriek like a little filly), the stallion took a large leap backwards, landing is such a way as to make sure his flank was protected from attack by the ground. His eyes glanced around, taking in sight of the others and noticing they were surrounded by what looked like trees with teeth. Letting the light fade away, he adjusted his magic to set up a shield bubble around him and the others.

Or so he thought. As he looked around, Shining Armor only counted four others.

"Pinkie Pie?" he called out. "Where's Pinkie Pie?" He and the others started looking around. And that was when they heard...


Following the sound, the rest of the group found the pink pony on the outside of the shield. Not only was she standing right next to one of the strange tree creatures and laughing, but she was actually making faces at it.

"Pinkie!" Shining called out as he dropped the shield, "What are you doing? Get over here."

"Oh, don't be such a silly filly Shiny hiney," Pinkie Pie called back. "Don't you see..."

The sound of a string instrument began to fill the air. It was difficult to say what exactly, but the notes had a high tone and the song had a quick, upbeat tempo. As the others watch, Pinkie Pie began to bounce up and down to the mysterious music.

Then she started to sing.

At first the others all stood there, staring in disbelief and seeming unable to comprehend what was happening right in front of them. Here they were in dark and spooky woods, surrounded by what looked like trees with mad faces and sharp teeth, and here before them was Pinkie Pie just singing and smiling away like nothing was wrong.

What was even stranger: it seemed to be working. Before their very eyes, Pinkie laughed at one of the trees and the face on it just seemed to vanish.

Strangest of all, it turned out it was infectious. At first the other five watched as they listened to Pinkie Pie singing her song. Without realizing it, they each started moving to the rhythm and beat of the music. Next they began to laugh as well. It started small, with giggles and snickers. Quickly it grew into chuckles then into full blow laughter. Soon all six of them were lying on the ground, laughing as hard as they could while all the faces vanished from the trees. They all stayed like that for probably ten minutes before stopping enough to get moving again.

A River Serpent Remorse

After most of the laughter had passed and the group had caught their breath, the group began to get back up on their hooves. The moment had not only helped them get past the strange trees -- all of which now looked like perfectly normal trees -- but the laughter had helped to release a lot of the tension that the group had been feeling. The Everfree Forest was really seeming to be far less scary than they had believed.

"I can't believe that worked," Shining Armor said as he helped Pinkie up to her hooves. "I've heard of laughing in the face of danger, but I never thought I would see a pony literally do so."

"Don't worry, Shiny-hiney," the pink pony said as she gave him a hug, "you just trust your aunt Pinkie Pie." With that she bounced off.

"Pinkie Pie," Rainbow Dash said with a chuckle as she started to walk, "you're so random." The others soon were up and walking as well. There were still chuckles and grins as they went.

Shining Armor found himself smiling as well as he walked. As they continued, his pace went slightly slower than the others, letting them get ahead. The smile faded as his mind worked. He had just seen three of the five ponies that he was traveling with deal with the forest without much effort. Applejack had taken down a Timber Wolf with a lasso, Fluttershy had helped a manticore by befriending it, and now Pinkie Pie had made what looked like monstrous trees just vanish by laughing. It seemed like the ponies from Ponyville knew how to handle whatever this place was able to throw at them.

So why are you here? a small voice in the back of his head asked. These mares grew up nearby and seem to know what they are doing. You are just a bookworm from Canterlot.

"Shining," a voice called out, making him jump slightly. "Come on."

Giving his head a hard shake, he sprinted to catch up with the others and continue on their way.

It's not too late, the voice continued. You can still turn back and let them go on without you. It's clear that they'll be fine without you. What could you possibly have that they need?


Catching up, he looked around at them. It was what Applejack had said earlier. Even if this did turn out to be a waste of time, he had at least given them hope. The opportunity to try and do something other than sit around waiting and expecting somepony else to help fix things. He had given them the chance to at least try.

Besides, how would he explain to Twiley that he had just left five ponies alone in the forest without him? How would she think of him? He was the filly's hero and she looked up to him. She would probably never look at him the same if he abandoned them. And how would he ever look at himself?

His train of thought was derailed as he ended up walking into Pinkie Pie's plush pink posterior. He let out a grunt as the ponies behind him ran into him, knocking the air from his lungs. Gasping to catch his breath, he moved to look around Pinkie and see what had made her stop.

In front of them was a river, and it looked to be very turbulent. The water rose and fell, sloshing and swirling. It looked like rapids and it was hard tell where any rocks might be.

"How are we gonna cross this?" Pinkie Pie asked, watching the turbulent tides of the river.

Before anyone could respond, the sound of crying reached the ears of the ponies. It seemed to be coming from upstream. Following the sound, the traveled up. Pushing past some bushes, the six of them looked around.

A great purple scaled tail lashed up and down. Each time the tail struck the water, there would be turning and roiling, causing the dangerous turmoil they had seen earlier. Following the tail up, the six of them looked at a massive serpentine form in the river. The entire length of the body oscillated, rising out of and falling into the water with the entirety of it ending in the slapping tail. The crying and wailing seemed to be coming from the great serpent himself. His hands were on his head as he cried out, looking down at the water.

"Excuse me," Shining called out to the serpent. "Why are you crying?"

"Well I was just sitting here," the serpent explained, "minding my own business, when this tacky little cloud of purple smoke just whiffed past me, and tore half of my beloved mustache clean off." Leaning in close, he pointed at the end of the mustache that was now gone. "And now, I look simply horrid." With that, the serpent threw itself backwards into the river, causing a large wave that splashed the six ponies.

"Oh give me a break," Rainbow Dash said, almost growling.

"That's what all the fuss is about?" Applejack asked.

"Why of course it is!" Rarity said as she stepped between the two before continuing toward the serpent. "How can you be so insensitive. Oh, just look at him. The lovely luminescent scales."

"I know," the serpent said with a sniff.

"Your expertly quaffed mane."

"I know. I know."

"Your fabulous manicure."

"It's so true."

"All ruined without your beautiful mustache."

"It's true, I'm hideous," the great serpent cried out covering his head.

"I simply cannot let this crime against fabulosity go uncorrected," Rarity said as she narrowed her eyes. Reaching out, she grabbed one of the serpent's scales and pulled it off. Holding the scale like a dagger, she made two quick slashing motions.

One cut off the other half of the mustache, causing the serpent to faint.

The other cut off Rarity's tail hair. Tossing the scale aside, her horn began to glow as she picked up the two sets of hair. Separating the hairs each into to separate groups, she then combined half the regal purple hair from her tail with half the orange hair from the mustache remains. Equally divided and the two colors combined, the unicorn mare used her magic to reattach the hairs to the remnants of the serpent's mustache.

"My mustache!" he squealed happily. "How wonderful!"

"You look smashing," Rarity told him.

"Oh, Rarity," Fluttershy said, "your beautiful tail."

"It's fine my dear," Rarity responded. "Short tails are in this season. Besides, it'll grow back."

"So would the mustache," Rainbow Dash said in a low voice.

"We can cross now," Shining Armor called out to the others as he started walking toward the water. "Let's go."

As he started to cross, the stallion felt something moving beneath his hooves. Before he could figure out what was going on, Shining found himself standing on the serpent's back about five feet above the water.

"Allow me," the serpent said before sticking its head under water. The creature's back now created a series of arches that would allow the ponies to cross without getting wet. Shining started jumping from one to the next, quickly followed by the others. The six of them made it across to the other side without any further problems.

The Castle at Last

With the serpent and the river behind them, the six continued their journey. The walked deeper into the forest, working their way closer to the heart of The Everfree. As they walk, the trees began to clear away, letting them see more of what was ahead.

"There it is," Shining Armor called out. "The remains of the castle of The Royal Pony Sisters." Excited at the site of the castle and the prospect of being near the end of the quest, Shining started to run at the castle. His tail flicking with excitement, he headed toward the bridge supports, running as fast he could.

As he went, a part of him realized something was wrong. Reaching the supports, he realized that the bridge had fallen. Shining dug his hooves into the dirt, trying to stop. Although able to slow down, it was not enough for him to completely stop in time. Shining Armor's forelegs went over the edge as he started to fall.

Had somepony not grabbed his tail, he probably would have. Instead he found himself dangling halfway. Feeling his tail being yanked in an attempt to pull him back, the stallion shifted to try and get his hooves on the portion of the bridge dangling beneath him. Getting into the slats as best he could, he began to push himself up and back, until that and the pulling was enough to get him back on solid ground.

"Didn't anypony ever tell you to watch where you're going?" Rainbow Dash asked, and Shining could just hear the amusement in her voice. Getting back up, he and the others walked toward the edge of the cliff, looking down at it. A thick fog filled the crevice, preventing them from seeing how far it was to the bottom. The six at them stared at the foggy chasm between them and the castle.

"What do we do now?" Pinkie Pie asked.

"Duh," Dash replied giving her wings a quick flutter. She then took off, rising up in the sky before turning to dive down into the chasm and out of sight.

Gliding down with ease, she followed the bridge until she found the end. Grabbing the ropes in her mouth, the rainbow maned pegasus flew back up and took the side she had with her to the other end of the crevice. Pulling the rope tight, she got ready to tie it off.

"Rainbow," a voice seemed to call out on the wind.

"Who's there?" Dash called out, dropping the rope she was holding between her teeth. She glanced around to look for who was talking, but all she saw was fog.

"Rainbow," the voice repeated.

"I ain't scared of you" Rainbow Dash shouted out as she reared up on her hind legs to kick at the air. "Show yourself!"

"We've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the best flyer in Equestria."


"Why, you of course."

"Really?" Dash asked, her voice getting high pitched as she started smiling again. "I mean, oh yeah. Me! Hey, uh, you wouldn't mind telling The Wonderbolts that, would ya? 'Cause, I've been trying to get into that group for, like, ever."

"No Rainbow Dash," the voice said. "We want you to join us."

The sound of hooves echoed from out of the fog as three figures rapidly approached. Coming to a stop, three ponies now stood there. All three looked practically the same. A trio of pegasi, with dark blue manes and tails. They each wore a black and purple jumpsuit with yellow trim styled to look like lightning. On the flanks where their cutie marks would be, the outfit had a grinning skull with a wing protruding from it. The three wore goggles, their eyes covered by smokey yellow lenses.

"The Shadowbolts," the one in the middle said as they came to a stop. "We are the greatest aerial team in The Everfree Forest, and soon we will be the greatest in all of Equestria.

"But first," she moved closer to Rainbow Dash, getting face to face, "we need a captain."

Rainbow Dash could not stop herself from grinning at the idea. Not only was she being offered the opportunity to be part of an aerial stunt team, but to be their captain and help them achieve fame all across the land. She might even be able to make it as big as -- or even bigger than -- The Wonderbolts.

"The most magnificient," The Shadowbolt continued, "swiftest, bravest flyer in all the land."

"Yes," Dash said excitedly. "It's all true."

"We need," leaning forward, The Shadowbolt whispered in Rainbow Dash's ear "you!"

"Woo-hoo!" the cyan pegasus squealed as she shot up into the air. "Sign me up. Just let me tie this bridge real quick, and then we have a deal."

"NO!" The Shadowbolt shot toward Rainbow Dash, blocking her from grabbing the rope. "It's them or us!"

"Rainbow!" Shining Armor called out. "What's taking so long?"

Shifting, he moved to try and get a better look. A shiver went up along his spine as he saw that Dash was not alone, but talking to three figures dressed in dark colored outfits. Before he or the others could say or do anything, the fog grew thicker, blocking Rainbow Dash and the other pegasi from their view.

"Well?" The Shadowbolt asked now that their were no other distractions in their conversation.

Rainbow Dash shifted, staring at the ground with her ears drooping. Here she was being offered what sounded like the opportunity of her life time. She would get to travel Equestria, showing off her flying skills and performing aerial stunts for thousands of ponies. Not only would she get to be famous, she would get to be the leader of her own flight team. All she had to do was give up searching for The Elements of Harmony and abandon her friends when they needed her help.

"You," Rainbow Dash said, getting a grin from The Shadowbolt leader. "Thank you, for the offer I mean. But I'm afraid I have to say no."

The Shadowbolts stared at her with their jaws hanging open as she grabbed the rope and tied it back around the support pillar of the bridge. With that, Dash took away, leaving the trio behind in her rainbow contrail. Her wings flapped as she flew across the gorge to the other side, her wings clearing away the fog to let the bridge be seen. With her friends cheering, Rainbow Dash landed, standing on her hind legs with wings spread wide behind her.

"Good job, Rainbow," Shining Armor said as he started leading the others across the bridge and to the other side.

"See?" Rainbow said as she flew beside Shining Armor, "I'd never leave my friends hanging."

Shining could not stop himself from smiling. He and Dash may had started off on the wrong hoof, but he could see that it was true. She was not as bad as he thought, and certainly somepony you could rely on.

The Elements Found

The six ponies stepped into the castle that no pony has been in for possibly a thousand years. The air smelled fresher than expected. There was a slight hint of age, but there was no strong scent of dust or mildew.

Shining Armor considered reaching out with his magic and checking to see if any spells or protective wards were still in place. Before he could, the six of them stop as the sight before them caught their attention. There in front of them was a pedestal as tall as Big Macintosh with the diameter being the length of three or four of them. On top of the pedestal was a column ending in a massive stone sphere about as large as they were. From the column protruded five arms, each holding a smaller sphere.

"Woah," Rainbow Dash said as they six of them stared at the thing.

"Is this what ya've been looking for?" Applejack asked

"The Elements of Harmony," Shining Armor whispered as he moved closer to it. "We did it. We found them!"

Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy flew up to grab the stones, lifting them up and carrying them down to where the others stood.

"One," Pinkie counted as they were set down, "two, three, four.... There's only five."

"Where's the sixth?" Rainbow Dash asked as Fluttershy brought the last one down.

Shining Armor moved toward the stones, standing in the middle of the ring they now created.

"The book said: when the five are present, a spark will cause the sixth element to be revealed."

"What in the hey is that supposed to mean?" Applejack asked, looking at the five orbs again.

"I'm not sure," Shining admitted, "but I have an idea. Stand back. I don't know what will happen." Closing his eyes, he began to concentrate. Focusing on his horn, the unicorn stallion started to draw on his magic.

"C'mon now y'all," Applejack whispered, "he needs to concentrate." With her in the lead, the five mares slipped out of the castle.

Eyes closed tight, Shining Armor continued to draw and collect his magic. So caught up was he in this, that he did not notice the dark blue mist that appeared and started to circle around him and The Elements of Harmony. The mist lifted the stones as it continued to swirl, moving faster and faster until creating a massive whirlwind, with the stallion trapped in the middle.

Shining Armor opened his eyes and let out a gasp just before the blue whirlwind collapsed in on itself and disappeared, taking him and The Elements with it.

Shining Nightmare Showdown

Shining Armor found himself lying on the floor, coughing as wherever he ended up, he had been teleported to in a puff of purple smoke. Able to breathe again, he opened his eyes. It looked like he was still in the old castle, although it was probably a different part of it.

What was certain was that he was now in trouble.

Standing before him on an elevated platform was Nightmare Moon. She chuckled as she looked down at him, the stones floating around her. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked, making the shadows dance around the already dark form.

"Nightmare Moon," Shining Armor said as he pushed himself up. "Listen to me." He took a step forward. "It doesn't have to be like this."

"What?" the black alicorn said. "What in Equestria are you talking about?"

"You don't have to do this," Shining continued. "You still have a chance to set things right."

Nightmare Moon's eyes went wide as she took a single step back.

"You haven't hurt anypony as far as I know, and the night may have lasted longer than it should, but no harm has been done by that either. This can all end peacefully if you let Celestia go and allow the sun to rise again."

"You're kidding, right?" Nightmare Moon asked, narrowing her gaze at the unicorn before her. "You think that just like that everything goes back to the way it was before? A wave of my hoof and like that, your life goes on? Do you honestly think the other ponies will forgive me so quickly?"

"Your sister would."

Once again, Nightmare Moon took a step back, looking as if she had just been slapped. The winds around her quieted, The Elements landing gently on the ground around her.

"I may not know what happened between the two of you," Shining said, "but I am a big brother so I know this. Even after all that's happened, even after being apart for so long, your sister still loves you. If she's still alive, I'm sure she would forgive you for what happened so long ago and be happy to see you again. The two of you could make up for lost time."

As he spoke, tears started to well up in the black alicorn's eyes. As they started to flow, glistening lines formed along her cheeks. Where the tears ran, the blackness seemed to peel away and reveal a dark blue underneath. For a moment, just a fraction of a second, Shining Armor thought he had seen her eyes change shape and color.

As quickly as it seemed to happen, it was gone. The tears stopped and the blue lines vanished. The teal draconic eyes stared at him once more. Nightmare Moon stood at her full height again, staring down at the stallion.

"You are a foal," she said in a booming voice. "It is far too late for such a thing. Events have been set in motion, and I must see them through to the end."

"So be it," Shining said as he closed his eyes, and his horn began to glow again.

"What?" Nightmare Moon cried out in surprise.

Shining Armor had been hoping that he could reach Nightmare Moon and put an end to this all peacefully. After all, it was what Princess Celestia would have wanted. At the same time, he had kept walking forward as he spoke. Now he stood right in front of her, and The Elements of Harmony.

The unicorn's horn glowed brightly as he drew as much magic as quickly as he could. Not even letting it collect, he started pushing it out toward the stones in the hope of activating them.

A bolt of lightning struck him in the chest, sending him flying backwards.

For a moment, it seemed to be working. Nightmare Moon let out a cry of terror as The Elements glowed with Shining Armor's magic as energy crackled around the five stones, moving from one to the other.

Then it disappeared, leaving the stone spheres as they were and Nightmare Moon unaffected. Looking at them, the alicorn burst into laughter. Rearing up on her hind legs, she slammed her front hooves down on the ground hard. The entire room seemed to shake for a second, and The Elements of Harmony shattered.

"You little foal," Nightmare Moon snarled. "Thinking you could defeat me! Now you shall never see your princess... or your sun. The night will last... Forever!" She spread her wings wide, laughing as her magic swirled around her.

Shining Armor stared with his ears drooping and his jaw hanging slack. He had been so busy trying to find The Elements, he now realized he had not even thought of what would happen if he failed. Now it was over. Their best chance of defeating Nightmare Moon had shattered before his eyes. Their greatest hope of saving Equestria and Princess Celestia was gone.

Now what do I do?

He heard his name being called from behind him. Five familiar voices reached his ear. Five voices that were getting louder as they got closer. Five voices that were calling out to him and telling him they were coming to help. Five voices that brought great joy to his heart, even in this dark time.

My friends.

At that moment there were two sparks. One was a spark of hope in his heart. The other was the spark of realization in his mind.

"You're wrong," he said as he turned to Nightmare Moon. "You can't destroy The Elements of Harmony. Because The Elements live on in everypony. The Elements of Harmony are right here!" He motioned at the five ponies that joined him to face the black alicorn.

At her feet, the shards started to shake and glow. They rose from the ground, floating in mid-air and glowing with powerful magic.

"What?" Nightmare Moon asked, her eyes darting from one shard to the other.

"Each of these ponies has shown courage and strength," Shining Armor continued. "By working together and trusting each other, they... We ... were able to overcome every challenge The Everfree Forest set before us. They've all shown the spirit of The Elements, and some more than others.

"Applejack, who reassured me when I was in doubt, and believed in me when I didn't, represents the element of Honesty."

Several of the shards flew forward, circling around the orange earth pony.

"Fluttershy, who tamed the manticore with her compassion, who helped it when it was hurt, represents Kindness.

"Pinkie Pie, who banished fear by giggling in the face of danger, and got us all to do the same, represents Laughter.

"Rarity, who calmed a hysterical serpent with a meaningful gift, sacrificing her own tail in the process, represents Generosity.

"And Rainbow Dash, who could not abandon her friends for her own heart's desire, who will always have your back, represents Loyalty."

Like with Applejack, each time Shining Armor spoke of one of his friends attributes and the proof of what Element they signified, shards of the broken stones floated from where they were to the specific pony, floating in a spinning circle around her.

"You still don't have the sixth element," Nightmare Moon said, her voice hinting at panic. "The spark didn't work."

"But it did," Shining replied. "I realized it when I heard the five of you coming. When I knew you were coming to help me. Most of all, I felt it when I realized how happy I was to hear you, to see you, how much I cared about you. Because I realized that you all.."

He turned to face the black alicorn standing before him.

"Are my friends."

From above them, a white light appeared, its glow filling the room. Another orb appeared, floating near the ceiling and slowly coming closer to the six ponies. It stopped three inches above Shining Armor's head.

"You see Nightmare Moon. When the five elements are ignited by the spark of friendship, the connections and bonds we make with each other, it creates the sixth element. The element of Magic."

The glow from the orb grew brighter, it's light encompassing the six ponies. Each of the mares glowed with a different color as the shards encompassed their necks, creating a necklace in a burst of mystical energy. The sixth orb burst apart and headed toward Shining Armor, encompassing his head in a helmet.

From the bond between the six ponies and the elements they now wore, energy flowed between them. It was like nothing any of them had ever felt before. The glow around them grew brighter, the energy becoming stronger. It then burst from the pony, flying up into the air above them. The magic shifted and coalesced, turning into a rainbow and heading straight for Nightmare Moon.

The dark alicorn could only scream as the bright magical energy encompassed her.

A New Day

The six ponies woke up groaning. The last thing any of them remembered was a bright white light engulfing them.

"Oh," Rainbow Dash groaned, "my head."

"Everypony alright?" Applejack asked, looking at the others.

"Oh thank goodness!" Rarity shouted as she got back on her hooves. A large grin spread across her mouth as she looked at her tail. It had miraculously grown back.

"Oh Rarity," Fluttershy said, "it's so lovely."

"I know!" The white unicorn mare gave her tail a shake. "I'll never part with it again." Shifting, she nuzzled her cheek against the soft deep purple hair.

"No," the yellow pegasus replied, "you're necklace. It looks just like your cutie mark."

Rarity looked down, noticing that she in fact did have a necklace. It was a gold band and setting that held a purple jewel in the shape of a lozenge cut diamond. Looking from it to her flank, Rarity noticed that it was quite similar as her friend had said. Her eyes then noticed the necklace around Fluttershy's neck.

"Why, so does yours."

"Look at mine, look at mine!" Pinkie Pie shouted excitedly as she bounced toward the others.

Shining Armor shifted, trying to look at the helmet he wore. Unfortunately, wearing it made it difficult to make out most of the details. He could tell that it looked to be made out of some sort of gold-colored metal, same as the necklaces. What he could not see what that on his forehead, below his horn was a jewel. It was a pink gemstone in the shape of a six pointed star, similar to the one that made up his cutie mark.

"Gee, Shining," Applejack said, "I thought you were just spouting a lot of hooey. But I reckon, we really do represent The Elements of Harmony."

"Indeed you do," an ethereal feminine voice said, drawing the attention of the six ponies.

Through a window, they could see the sun rising between some distant hills. It rose at a rapid rate, growing brighter as it did. The yellow light turned into a blinding white color, as an orb of light entered the room. From it emerged a white alicorn. Her great white wings were spread out behind her as she looked at the six of them. Her mane and tail were the pastel colors of the sunrise, shifting and waving with ethereal magic and energy.

At the sight now before them, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack each bowed down.

"Princess Celestia," Shining Armor called out excitedly. He trotted toward her with a grin, pressing his body against her.

"Shining Armor," the princess replied. "My faithful student." Leaning down, she rubbed her chin against his back. "I knew you could do it."

"You... you did?" He looked up at her, blinking.

"Indeed. You just needed to let true friendship into your heart. Now if only another will as well."

"Princess Luna!" Celestia called out.

Where Nightmare Moon had once stood, there now lay the shattered remnants of her armor, and an alicorn who gasped out at the name. She was smaller than Celestia or Nightmare Moon, maybe about half the size. Her coat was a dark blue, with a lighter tinted mane and tail. Her flank had a black cloud with a white crescent moon as a cutie mark. Her eyes opened wide as she stared at the approaching form of the white alicorn.

"It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this," Celestia said as she approached. "It's time to put our differences behind us. We were meant to rule together little sister."

"Sister?" Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash asked in surprise.

"Will you accept my friendship?" the princess asked, looking down at her sibling.

"I'm so sorry!" Luna cried as she rushed to Celestia. "I missed you so much, big sister." She nuzzled against her sister's neck, tears running from her eyes.

"I've missed you too," Celestia replied, her own eyes starting to tear up.

The moment was interrupted by the sound of Pinkie Pie bursting into tears.

"HEY!" the pink pony shouted as she suddenly perked up. "You know what this calls for?"


Ponyville Princess Party

"Twilight!" Spike shouted. "Apple Bloom! Wake up!"

The two fillies each let out a groan and shifted to get comfortable again. The two had played and talked for hours, having fun until they were exhausted. The pair of them then fell asleep lying next to each other with Miss Smartypants between them.

"Just a little longer," Twilight mumbled as she shifted.

"Get up!" Spike continued. "This is important. The sun's up."

"What?" Apple Bloom shouted.. Getting up the yellow filly ran for the window and looked out.

"He's right!" she turned to look at her friend. "Do ya know what this means?"

"It means they did it," Twilight replied as she got up. "Come on. We have to go find them." With that, she ran out of the room with Apple Bloom right behind her.

"Hey!" Spike called out as he started after them. "Wait for me!" The three of them quickly ran outside the farmhouse and headed to find their siblings.

At Fluttershy's cottage, Angel stood at the window, the shades pulled wide. As the light of day reached him, he let out a small sigh of relief. Jumping from the window, he ran from the living room and into the kitchen.

As soon as she had seen that the sun was rising, Sweetie Belle bolted from her house. As she went, she ran past an orange pegasus filly with a maroon mane and tail riding a scooter. The pegasus watched the unicorn before turning to chase after her.

"Sweetie Belle? Where are you going?"

"To check on my sister," Sweetie Belle replied. "She and her friends went into The Everfree Forest to see if they could stop Nightmare Moon. I need to know if she made it out okay, Scootaloo."

"Get on," Scootaloo said. "I'll give you a ride."

Sweetie Belle stopped and looked at her friend. Smiling, she moved to stand on the back of the scooter and held onto her friend. There was a buzzing sound as the pegasus began to flap her wings. Crouching low, the two of them began to ride through the streets of Ponyville at a rapid speed.

"Mom! Dad!" Pumpkin Cake shouted as she ran down the stairs and into the kitchen. "Pinkie Pie's back! And she's with Princess Celestia! We have to throw them a party." Running past her parents, she grabbed a box marked "Pinkie Pie's Emergency Party Box: For Party Emergencies" and ran outside.

Most of the ponies around Ponyville were coming out of their homes and watching. A royal chariot rolled through the streets pulled by four pegasus pony guards. On the chariot stood Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, watching the excited ponies as they rode into town. The six ponies walked behind it, following the princesses as they paraded through the town. Reaching the town square, the short parade came to a stop.

Twilight Sparkle and Spike came bursting out of the crowd. Before knowing what was going on, Shining Armor was knocked down as he was tackled by a pair of purple streaks and found himself in the middle of a hug. Grinning, Shining hugged Spike against him with one hoof while tussling Twilight's mane with the other.

Applejack turned at the sound of her name being shouted. From the crowd came the Apple Family, being led by Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh. Seeing them, the orange mare ran to meet them, pressing in close to them. Apple Bloom pressed up against Applejack with a smile as Big Macintosh set a hoof on her shoulder.

Rarity turned to see a rapidly approaching scooter with to fillies riding it right toward her. It suddenly stopped, turning to the side as Sweetie Belle jumped off and ran forward. The young filly stopped short of running into her sister, looking up with a smile. Smiling back, Rarity took a step forward and pressed her chin against the top of her sister's head.

Scootaloo watched as a bunch of pegasi flew past her, gathering around a cyan pegasus with rainbow colored mane. Getting off her scooter, she walked over the crowd, looking at them and realizing most of them were the weather team. Standing in the middle of it was Rainbow Dash, telling them about their trip through The Everfree Forest.

Fluttershy stepped back, making sure she was clear of the large crowds. She was glad that all her friends were with loved ones and happy, but she did not feel like being caught up in one of the large groups. From the corner of her eye, she caught some movement. Turning, she watched a cream colored pegasus colt with chocolate brown hair trotting toward her. On his head, holding onto the ears, stood a white rabbit. Seeing Angel, Fluttershy took off to fly toward the two. Opening her forelegs wide, she caught the rabbit as he jumped from the pegasus's head and into her waiting hug.

Pinkie Pie appeared in front of Pumpkin Cake, grinning at the filly. Smiling back, the young unicorn set the party box down in front of pink pony. Leaning forward, Pinkie Pie took a single edge of the string wrapped around the box between her teeth and gave it a yank. The box burst open, releasing confetti, streamers, and balloons. Dozens of cupcakes also emerged, covered in a thick layer of frosting.

Celestia and Luna stepped down from the chariot, looking at the ponies surrounding them. Several bowed to the princesses. Seeing this caused Luna to shift, looking away with her ears drooping. Before she realized what was going on, two pegasus foals flew up with a wreath of flowers and put it over her head. She watched in shock as it slid past, resting around her neck. She could not help but smile as she looked at from it to her sister, tears filling her eyes again.

The celebration lasted for hours. Ponies had fun, celebrating the return of Princess Celestia and welcoming with open hooves Princess Luna. They talked and ate, even play games. Off to one side Shining Armor watched it all happening. As the time passed, his grin shifted into a smile, until that too faded away.

"Is there something troubling you, my student?" Princess Celestia asked as she approached Shining Armor.

"Yes Princess." He turned to look around. "But, it really doesn't seem like the time or place to talk about it."

"Very well," Celestia replied. "Come with me." Turning to the crowd, she said "excuse us a moment please." With that she began to walk. Shining Armor looked back at the partying ponies, then began to follow after her.

The two walked in silence for a while, making their way to the library. Using her magic, Celestia opened the door and led the way inside. Once the pair were inside and the door shut, the princess turned to face her student.

"Now, what is on your mind?"

"First," Shining Armor said, "you knew Nightmare Moon was returning?"

"Yes," Celestia replied. "I saw the signs before your sent me your letter."

"So, why didn't you tell me?"

"Shining, if I had told you that the fate of Equestria relied on you making friends with five ponies and seeking out The Elements of Harmony, what would you have done?" The Princess sat down, looking at her student at eye level as she asked.

Shining Armor rubbed his chin as he considered the question.

"I guess..." he said slowly, "I guess I would have recruited five ponies to help me in the quest."

"And would you have thought of these ponies as friends?"


"I told you to make friends because that is what you needed to do," Celestia said as she reached out to nuzzle her student. "By making friends, true friends, and opening your heart, you not only unlocked The Elements of Harmony, but power that was buried deep inside you."

"But why me?" Shining Armor asked, shifting. "You could have chosen any pony in Equestria to be your student? What made you think I could do it?"

"Shining Armor," Celestia said gently, "When I took you as my personal student, it was because I saw a very powerful young pony who cared for others. I believed that you would be the one to succeed. And any doubt was allayed when I first saw you with your sister."


"Yes. When I saw you with her, I saw how much you cared for your sister. How much you wanted to protect her."

"Like you and Luna?"

"In a way. I have also seen that part of you grow. You have a desire to protect not only her, but most ponies you meet. You just needed some friends to help you reach that more."

Celestia looked away from Shining Armor, her eyes on looking at the window but her gaze somewhere far away.

"Perhaps," she said gently, "if things had gone differently with my previous student, you might have become a part of the royal guard, and possibly worked your way up to Captain."

"I doubt I'm guard material," Shining said with a smile, "much less capable of reaching the rank of Captain." He shifted his legs, ear twitching. "So... what happens now?"

"What do you want?"

The question made Shining Armor pause. He had not actually considered that, which seemed kind of silly. Princess Celestia taught him much, but also kept trying to encourage him to be independent. She may not have allowed him to do whatever he pleased, but she did take his opinion in consideration.

So what did he want?

"I want to stay in Ponyville," he finally said. "I've just made friends, real friends, for the first time in my life. I really don't want to have to leave them already."

"Very well." Princess Celestia stood up and cleared her throat.

"Shining Armor," she proclaimed, "I, Princess Celestia, hereby decree that you shall take on a new mission for Equestria. You must continue to study the magic of friendship and the value of pony interaction. You shall report to me your findings, from your new home in Ponyville."

"Thank you, Princess," Shining Armor said as he gave a bow.

"You are welcome, my student," Celestia replied. "Now if you will excuse, I have a sister I have not seen in a long time that I wish to catch up with."


The party had ended and the many of the ponies had worn themselves out. Most stayed to say one goodbye to the princesses.

"Now, promise you'll behave for Princess Celestia and Princess Luna until mom and dad pick you up?" Shining Armor asked, looking down at his sister.

"I promise," Twilight responded with a nod. "Are you really staying here?"

"Yeah. I have friends here now and I feel like this is where I belong." Shining reached out and placed a hoof around his sister's shoulder. "I may be further away, but I still love you Twiley. You can still always come to visit me. I mean you have a friend here too with Apple Bloom, don't you."

"Yeah!" the young filly shouted excitedly. "When can I come back?"

"Well I need to get settled in first. You also need to talk to mom and dad about it. Maybe in a week or two. Do you have everything?"

"Yes." Opening her saddlebag, she showed him the stuffed figure sitting in it. "Miss Smarty Pants and I are ready to go."

Moving closer, Shining Armor hugged the young filly and gave her mane one last ruffle, causing a giggle.

"Thank you for taking her with you," he said, turning to the princesses.

"It is my pleasure," Celestia said with a smile. "And it may do Luna some good to speak to a filly about some of what she has missed."

Twilight smiled and gave her brother one last hug, squeezing him tight. Letting him go, she then ran to the chariot and jumped in. Standing between the two princesses, the young filly waved a hoof excitedly.

"What about you Spike?" Shining asked as he waved at his sister. "Last chance to change your mind. Just say the word and you can go back to Canterlot as well."

"No way," the dragon responded. "I'm your assistant, remember? I go where you go. So if you're staying here, I'm staying here."

"Just thought I'd give you the chance." Shining Armor continued to wave as the chariot took off. Soon the pegasi pulling it flew up and away until the ponies could no longer be seen. The stallion stopped waving, but continued to watch until the entire chariot was nothing but a speck heading toward Canterlot. Turning, he found that the five mares, his friends, were standing there as well.

"So y're really staying, huh?" Applejack asked, moving forward.

"Yeah, I am," Shining replied. "You all are my friends now and I don't want to leave you behind already."

"Oh that's wonderful," Fluttershy said with a smile.

"Indeed," Rarity agreed. "It is nice to have a new friend around Ponyville. Although I shall miss the opportunity of having an excuse to visit Canterlot more often." She turned to look at the city built on the edge of the mountain longingly.

"It might be a little cool to have you around," Rainbow Dash said as she shifted her hooves.

"Ooh! Ooh!" Pinkie Pie shouted from Shining Armor's back. "Do you know what this means?"

"A party?" Shining guessed, looking up at her.

"Exactly! I think you're going to fit into Ponyville just fine Shiny-Hiney."

Shining Armor's horn lit up as he took a hold of the pink party pony. Gently, he lifted her off his back and set her down.

"How about one small housewarming party," he said. "In a couple days after I'm settled into the library."

"Okay!" Pinkie shouted as she hopped up and down. "Oh. I have to go. Got work to do. See you all later." With that she bounced off.

"That is one random pony," Rainbow Dash said as they watched the pink pony head to Sugarcube Corner.

"Maybe," Shining responded, "but I bet without her, Ponyville would get pretty boring, pretty fast."

Return to Story Description

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