by Sharp Quill

Chapter 3: 3. Strangers in a Strange Land

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

—plunging to her death. Twilight found herself high in the sky with nothing but water far, far below. Her heart pounded as panic set in. Hooves desperately flailed in response to sudden weightlessness. Some small part of her mind was trying to make itself heard above the roar of the air racing past her. Wings. Suddenly remembering she could fly, her wings shot out. The air howling past tried to rip them off but only succeeded in slowing her fall.

The alicorn struggled to level out, angling her wings. After what felt like minutes, but was probably only seconds, she was flying horizontally through the air. Flying magic works, she noted with relief. Calming down, Twilight looked around for Rainbow Dash and found her by her side. She sighed. No doubt she recovered instantly. She slowed down and came to a halt, hovering over what she could now see was an ocean.

“Did you forget you had wings or something?” the pegasus asked.

Twilight cringed. How embarrassing. “Surprisingly easy to do when you weren’t born with them,” she dryly responded.

“I was about to grab you.”

I really need to fly more, a lot more. It wasn’t as if Rainbow Dash hadn’t been willing to teach her. There were simply too many other things she’d rather be doing with her free time. Pushing that out of her mind for now, she looked around, taking her first good look at their new surroundings. A few miles away was a coastline, with brownish, low mountains that almost but not quite reached the ocean. The sky above them was solid cloud cover, thick enough to appear gray. Rainbow Dash was climbing towards them and Twilight decided to follow. They came to a stop just beneath them.

“I don’t know, Twilight,” the pegasus said, inspecting the underside of the cloud. “These seem different somehow. Can we even stand on them?”

“They are unusually low for clouds,” Twilight pointed out. “Looks more like an elevated fog bank. And they certainly aren’t being managed by pegasi.” But water mist was still water mist. “Only one way to find out.” She disappeared into the cloud with Rainbow Dash right behind her.

The cloud was surprisingly thick, but before long they were hovering above the cloud top. “Here goes nothing,” said Rainbow Dash as she attempted to perch on the cloud—successfully.

Twilight joined her. “At least our pegasus magic seems to work here.” The sun was low in the sky over the distant mountains, shining brightly. It didn’t really look or feel any different than Celestia’s sun. “I wonder how it moves across the sky without magic?”

“Maybe it doesn’t move.”

Twilight figured they’d find out one way or the other soon enough. Time to find out if unicorn magic works. She used it to take the magic probe out of a saddlebag. So far, so good. She took a reading as Rainbow Dash watched. “This isn’t good.”

“It doesn’t work here?”

“Oh, it’s working. It’s just that it’s obviously reading the magical field generated by the pill.” The field couldn’t have extended very far, but she realized she had another problem. “If I move the probe far enough way to measure the ambient field…”

“You levitation magic fails and it falls into the ocean below.”

“Right,” she confirmed. “I need to do something about that, maybe put it on a long pole.”

“So? Use your magic to extend the handle of the probe.”

Why didn’t I think of that? She cast a morphing spell as she idly wondered if there was something about this realm making her dumber and Rainbow Dash smarter—and nothing happened. She tried again. Nothing happened. She put the probe away. “I can’t,” she said. “I wonder if this is what Discord meant.” But how could such a simple spell fail to work? What rule of this realm could possibly forbid it? “Our ten minutes is about up. Don’t want to worry the others.”

“Sure, we can come right back anyway.” They invoked the return spell and found themselves back where they started, in Twilight’s private library within her castle.

“Where’s Discord?” His absence was the first thing Twilight noticed. She frowned as she realized her questions about the magical field generated by those pills will have to go unanswered. At least that dispenser was still here.

Fluttershy said, “He felt he was no longer needed so he left.”

Pinkie Pie excitedly added, “But he knew you loved books so he left one behind for you!”

Twilight wondered what that was about but decided she didn’t have time for it now.

Rainbow Dash recounted their trip to everypony, as Twilight tried again to extend the probe’s handle—successfully this time. She made the handle as long as possible and still have it fit in her saddlebag, allowing the head of the device to poke out.

Applejack said, “Reckon ya made the right call to take only Rainbow Dash with you.”

Rarity added, “Imagine, our unicorn magic not working properly.”

“It’s better than not working at all, trust me.” Twilight walked over to the dispenser. “Ready to go back?” Rainbow Dash nodded. Twilight dispensed two more pills. “We’ll return to the exact spot we left.” Addressing everypony else, she said, “This time I expect we’ll be there a few hours.” They both swallowed their pills. The taste definitely needs improvement.

Both ponies were once again on top of that cloud. Rainbow Dash went airborne and looked around a bit, not that there was much to see here, while Twilight got down to business with her magic probe.

How far did the pill’s magic field extend? The devil was always in the details. Slowly, she moved the probe away from her. Once it got far enough away, the probe’s head would no longer be supported by her magic and will try to fall, creating a torque she will sense. And that’s exactly what happened when it was about two feet in front of her eyes.

She moved the probe around her body, looking for the boundary on all sides. The boundary appeared to form a bubble around her that loosely followed her form. A bubble is likely what it is; something needs to keep the magical field from spreading out to infinity. But it had to have a limited lifespan, otherwise Discord could have used it to encase The Mirror. Probably one of the reasons the pill’s magic supply couldn’t last very long.

She repositioned it so that its head was in front of her eyes just outside the bubble. Good, I can still read the display. No magic was registering. Not so good. She brought it back inside so that she could increase its sensitivity by turning a knob, then out again for another reading. Still nothing. She repeated several more times until, finally, something registered—extremely weak, almost undetectable, but definitely there. They had their work cut out for them.

“Rainbow Dash!” she shouted. “I got something!” As the pegasus swiftly returned to her side, Twilight noted that her rainbow contrail vanished a few feet behind her tail, right at the boundary of her bubble.

“It’s detecting magic, but it’s extremely weak,” she told her. “Let’s go to the coast over there for another reading.” The tops of the low mountains were poking above the clouds.

“Lead the way!”

Twilight first dived through the clouds so they could see the shoreline. It took only a few minutes to cross the miles of water separating them from land. The mountains abutting the shore were sparsely covered with vegetation, suggesting limited rainfall. Looking down she saw a road hugging the coast with tiny, shiny objects of some sort moving along it. Considering their altitude, they sure must be moving fast.

“Let’s go down.” Twilight started her descent to the road. Along the way, they crossed paths with some birds. They seemed much like the birds of home; they even flew the same way. Most birds do not use flying magic, she remembered. If only Fluttershy were here to talk to them—if she could talk to them. But they could walk on clouds, so who could say?

They were now low enough to make out the moving objects. Twilight recognized them. She pointed out one of the cars to Rainbow Dash and headed towards it. As fast as it was going, it was nothing for pegasi. They came up along one side of it and Twilight looked inside. She saw two of those bipedal creatures (people, humans), similar to but not quite the same as what she saw—and became—in that mirror realm. One of them was clearly operating the car. Neither of them noticed their presence.

Rainbow Dash was mystified. “How’s this thing moving? Nothing is pulling or pushing it! You sure there’s no magic?”

“It’s called a ‘car.’ I saw them in the mirror realm. I’m not sure how it works, but it doesn’t use magic. Look at the occupants inside.”

The pegasus lowered her head and looked through the window. “Whoa! Is that what you were?”

“Yep. Not quite like this, but then they’re not reflections of ponies.” Twilight wanted to take another reading. Pointing, she said, “Let’s land on that beach up ahead.”

It was a small beach but they had it all to themselves. If humans frequented beaches, they apparently preferred to do so when it was warmer and sunnier. Twilight got out the probe and took another reading. “It’s definitely stronger, though still very weak.” She put the probe away, as she said, “We should continue in the same direction.”

Rainbow Dash was at the water’s edge, staring off into the distance, as small, incoming waves lapped at her hooves. Twilight joined her as an incoming breeze ruffled their manes. The water was cold, though not unbearably so.

“How long would it take to fly to the other side?”

Twilight had no answer to give her. “We should get going.”

They took off and headed inland, leaving the ocean behind, following what appeared to be a river valley, though no water was currently flowing. After a mile the vegetation started to get thicker, with numerous small trees. Occasionally they saw a well-maintained dirt trail. To keep going in a reasonably straight line they eventually had to climb over a thousand feet.

After about ten miles, they encountered a valley where the trees were much larger, some over two hundred feet tall. There were also buildings, roads, cars, and plenty of people walking about. Twilight decided it was as good a spot as any to take another reading. They landed on the roof of a building.

First things first. Twilight got out the probe and took a reading. “We’re definitely going in the right direction. Still have ways to go though.”

“Why do you think the trees are so much bigger here?” asked Rainbow Dash. “Can’t be a coincidence these buildings are here. Could it be a farm of some sort?”

Twilight looked around. “Doesn’t look like a farm. I don’t see any fruit on these trees.” She walked over to the edge of the roof and looked down. “And these humans don’t seem to be working a farm.” They didn’t appear to be doing anything other than to walk around for no discernible reason.

Now that she saw a large number of them, Twilight noted patterns about their appearance that differentiated them from the mirror realm inhabitants. Most obvious was skin and hair color. The clothing seemed different too, in the sense that almost none bore anything that looked like a cutie mark. On the one hoof, without magic there shouldn’t be any cutie marks; but on the other hoof, the mirror realm people had them on their clothing despite the lack of magic. Come to think of it, that doesn’t really make sense, but then it was just a reflection of Equestria according to Discord.

Rainbow Dash had joined her. “They’re just walking around the trees on those dirt paths.” The paths were roped off from the trees. For some reason they weren’t allowed to get too close to the trees. “Let’s see where they’re going.”

“Wait a minute.” There were voices from the people below. Twilight tried to focus on one of the conversations, her ears swiveling to best extract it from the background noise. They were speaking Equestrian! Rainbow Dash obviously heard it too, her mouth agape. The two ponies looked at each other in disbelief.

“Am I imagining things?”

“No, I hear it too,” the alicorn assured her. The implications were mind-boggling. There’s no way this is a coincidence, but how is it possible? “Okay, let’s follow one of the paths.”

They took wing and flew over a path, high enough to avoid the humans. There didn’t seem to be much point to it. It was just a forest of really big trees. All the humans seemed to be doing was admiring the trees, but why?

“There’s a sign in front of that really big tree,” Rainbow Dash said, pointing it out. There were humans currently standing in front of it, so they hovered at a safe distance waiting for them to leave. Once they did, they landed in front of it.

Twilight gazed at the sign, making out letters, numbers, and words that were all too familiar. They can write Equestrian too? The sign stated that the tree was the “father of the forest,” 16 feet 10 inches in diameter and 250 feet high.

“I guess this is the biggest tree here?” said Rainbow Dash, as more humans approached. They went airborne before the humans could walk into them.

Twilight had many questions that lacked answers. “Do they come here just to visit these trees?” They circled the tree, spiraling higher and higher, examining it from all angles. “It certainly is a magnificent tree. I’m not sure if this species exists in Equestria.”

They hovered once they reached the top of the tree. Twilight wondered why the trees were so much bigger in this valley than the others. So many mysteries; if only they could ask the humans below. But even if they could turn off their invisibility—can we?—who knows how they’d react? “Let’s be on our way.”

The mountain range continued for another fifteen miles or so. An enormous valley opened up in front of them, jam-packed with civilization. The clouds did not penetrate this far inland; the sun was shining, clearly higher than it was earlier. They now knew it was late morning, that they had been heading east (presumably), and that in this realm the sun actually did rise without magic—somehow.

Far to the north they could see a large body of water surrounded by civilization on both sides as far as they could see. It was so much larger than any Equestrian city, including Manehattan. There was even a modest collection of skyscrapers, though nothing as tall as in Manehattan.

Twilight selected a building on which to land and take another reading. Like all the buildings here it was surrounded by paved roads on which cars travelled. Twilight observed how the cars took turns crossing an intersection. Somehow they knew when to go through without stopping and when they needed to stop. She regretted not having had the opportunity to be in a car in the mirror realm. They landed and she took another reading. “It’s still getting stronger.”

“What’s that!” Twilight became aware of a distant noise as Rainbow Dash pointed at what resembled a gigantic bird. It was descending towards where those tall buildings were, moving quite fast even by pegasi standards, and it was getting louder and louder.

“Is it made of metal?” asked Twilight. It looked shiny. “I think that’s a machine.”

“No magic, huh? It’s not even moving its wings.”

“Just one more mystery, I guess.” Maybe it was gliding in to a landing, but what’s causing that dreadful noise? Twilight folded her ears to muffle it, but the humans around them were simply ignoring it. “Let’s stay focused,” she verbally reminded herself. “We can explore this realm once we take care of the hole.”

They continued flying east across the valley, amazed at the sheer number of buildings, cars and people. Their passage went unnoticed, as expected, even when they flew near the ground to get a good look at the inhabitants and buildings. A metal bird flew noisily overhead every few minutes, almost always on the same path.

Every so often, they landed on top of a building to take another reading. In time, the magical field started getting weaker. They first back tracked, then tried going north. They were rewarded with stronger readings.

They flew past the spot where the metal birds were landing, staying a safe distance away. The machines landed at high speed on wheels before slowing to a crawl. Others were accelerating to take off, always heading north. How they accelerated was a complete mystery, though it certainly involved a lot of noise, as was how they left the ground and rapidly climbed without ever moving their wings. However it was done, humans presumably traveled great distances this way.

With ever more frequent changes in direction, they closed in on the hole. Once the magical field strength got high enough, she decided it was time to use the flow meter. She got it out of her saddlebag and set it down on the roof they had landed on. “Stand back,” she told Rainbow Dash. It had to stay outside of their bubbles. That made it hard to read the meters, but the compass-like needle was large enough to see clearly from several feet away. It was pointing away from a large, two-story apartment complex. After the device was put away, the two flew off in the indicated direction.

Hovering in front of building, Twilight once again used her magic probe. “We’re definitely getting close.” So close, they almost didn’t need their bubbles anymore. The flow meter couldn’t point up or down—I need to fix that—so she relied on the probe to determine where on the wall the field strength was at a maximum. That was in front of a second floor window. It was quite large, being sized for humans. The two ponies hovered in front of it, looking in through the open curtains. It was an office of some sort, currently unoccupied.

“It appears to be inside.” Twilight put away the probe. “I’ll teleport us in.”

Once inside they looked around. Twilight examined a desk, way too big for a pony, with a mechanically elaborate chair that was clearly designed for humans. On the desk Twilight recognized a computer, having used one in the mirror realm. Could they be made in Equestria? Would they even work in Equestria? They were rather useful.

“No. Way.”

Twilight was startled out of her train of thought. She turned and saw Rainbow Dash hovering in front of a bookshelf (books!) looking at—that’s not possible. She flew up to join the pegasus and get a closer look. There was no mistake. It was a doll of a gray pegasus, wings flared, with a blonde mane and tail. The eyes and cutie mark were unmistakable. Derpy.

“No. Way.”

They both turned to the source of that exclamation to discover it came from a female human standing in the doorway. She was staring at them in disbelief, mouth hanging open, a hand fidgeting behind her head.

Twilight briefly stopped flapping her wings. “You can see us?”

After a second or two, the female weakly replied, “And hear you, T-Twilight.”

What happened to their invisibility! How long have they been visible? What trick did Discord pull on them? Wait. “You know my name?

For some reason the human didn’t know how to answer that simple question. Twilight tried to interpret her body language. Assuming there was any similarity to pony body language, and her experiences in the mirror realm showed that there should be, she would have to conclude that the human was shocked at seeing them—and obviously not because she had no idea what they were.

“Might as well,” the human said, seemingly granting herself permission to tentatively accept the reality of what she was seeing. “Yes, I know your name, Princess Twilight Sparkle.” She paused for a second, scrutinizing the lavender pony. “Yep, alicorn, definitely princess.” Looking at the pegasus, she said, “Yours too, Rainbow Dash.”

Twilight found the presence of mind to start a checklist of mysteries to solve. (1) How could she possibly know this much about us, anything about us? That was quickly followed by (2) Given that she does, why does she act like she’s seeing the impossible? Speaking of names… “May I ask what your name is?” she asked politely.

The female—woman, she recalled—in front of her again seemed torn between possible answers. Twilight used those seconds to study her further. Compared to the other women she had observed so far, this one appeared to be average in height and build, with light skin tone and brownish hair that was long enough to reach past the shoulders. There was no hint of anything resembling a cutie mark on her clothing. (3) Do they have cutie marks at all? Lacking magic, it was unlikely, but maybe there was a non-magical equivalent.

The sudden sound of running water jolted the woman to a decision. “Fair enough, I suppose,” she said in a hurry. “My name’s Meg. I’ll be back in a second.” She quickly left the room.

“What just happened?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“Wish I knew,” Twilight shrugged. One thing seemed certain: this ‘Meg’ was going to return with another human. And there was still the hole to find, apparently somewhere in their home. They needed to get past the introductions and get their assistance. It should help if they already knew who they were. Could the magical field somehow have given them knowledge of the ponies? Absurd as that sounded, what other explanation was there?

Twilight’s musings were interrupted by approaching voices. “Just tell me what you see…” Meg’s voice insisted. This time a man appeared in the doorway. Upon seeing them, he, too, stood there in wide-eyed disbelief. “Well?”

“D-do I have t-to?” he stammered.


Again, Twilight wondered how they could simultaneously know who they were yet refuse to believe their senses.

The human male sighed in resignation. “I see Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash hovering in our office.” He turned away from them. “This can’t be happening.”

This seemed as good an opportunity as any to address her checklist items. “Why can’t this be happening?”

“Great,” the man said. “You also sound like Twilight.”

(1a) How could they possibly know what we sound like? She noticed that her fellow pony was too stunned herself to say anything. Just as well; this situation called for her diplomatic training. How would Celestia handle this?

His apparent mate slipped past him to enter the room, holding—oh, great, as if it weren’t weird enough already—a Pinkie Pie doll. “Because you are fictional characters created for the purpose of selling dolls like this to little girls,” she declared, as if that would be sufficient to banish them from reality.

Rainbow Dash broke out in laughter. Pointing a hoof to her chest, she proclaimed, “I’m too awesome to be fictional!”

Twilight face-hoofed. Not what Celestia would do. She became aware of what she was doing. She wouldn’t face-hoof either. The newest princess stopped face-hoofing and put on her best diplomatic face. “For now, could you accept that we are happening and hold a conversation with us?” She looked at them expectantly.

Meg sighed. “Why not.” She leaned back against a wall. “We can’t both be crazy,” she muttered.

Her mate also entered the room and stood beside her. Twilight noted he was several inches taller, had short black hair with slightly darker skin, and was also average looking, based on her limited experience with humans. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” the man said. I need to get his name. “I mean, it’s a fantasy-come-true to actually meet you, but why are you trespassing in our home?”

(4)—no, make that (1b)—a fantasy-come-true to meet us?

She didn’t like being accused of trespassing, not that she could blame them for feeling that way. Of course, they should never have been aware they were there in the first place, but, well… she will deal with Discord later.

So she explained to them, as they attentively listened, that magic was pouring out of her realm into theirs and that the exit point was somewhere in their home. They were there to find the precise location of the hole and, somehow, plug it. Any assistance they could offer would be appreciated. Would they want anything in return? So long as it was within reason…

“Wow… sounds like a two-part season finale.”

“Whaa?” (4) What’s a season finale? (4a) Why would it have parts?

“I guess it’s my turn now.” The man walked over to the desk, after first motioning the ponies to move out of his way. He sat down, woke up the computer and started typing with those hands and also moving—what was that?—oh, right, a mouse. He turned the monitor so the ponies would have an unobstructed view.

Twilight saw a drawing of a crowd of ponies in front of the snow-covered Town Hall, with Mayor Mare up front addressing them. They were all caricatures, with oversized heads, shortened barrels and ludicrously large eyes, but nonetheless she could identify many of the ponies. Oddly enough, they were all wearing the winter wrap-up uniforms from a few years back—her first winter wrap-up in Ponyville if she wasn’t mistaken. But where are all the stallions?

“This is sort of like a movie,” he explained, “though technically it’s called a cartoon. I’m about to play my favorite musical number.”

Musical number? No music was played during winter wrap-up activities, nor has a bridleway musical ever been written about it—as if those Manehattanites could care enough about a small rural town to write one. This should be interesting. Rainbow Dash looked skeptical, but Twilight was somewhat aware of what these computers could do.

Twilight heard a click and everything in the drawing started to move; there was also sound. The mayor started her motivational speech, then there was a cut to the crowd and she saw herself jumping high trying to catch the mayor’s attention. Wait. What?! She watched as she saw herself worrying about which team to join, and there was Rainbow Dash and Applejack leading their respective teams. That happened. Maybe some of the details were off, but nothing important.

The screen went dark. A spotlight revealed Rainbow Dash, who started to sing. Three months of winter—Me, singing? I can’t sing!”

A few seconds later, Twilight had the same reaction. “Me neither!”

“Besides, nopony breaks out into song like that in real life.”

“Season 4, episode 8, Rarity Takes Manehattan,” the man said reflexively.

Rainbow Dash gave him a blank stare. “Say what now?”

He paused the video. “You said something like that in that episode, after you got tickets to the Bridleway show Hinny of the Hills and right before Rarity broke out in song.”

The pegasus was silent for a few seconds. “I remember the tickets and saying something like that,” she said, “but Rarity did not sing. I mean, she can sing, she’s in the Ponytones, but not then. That’s absurd. Right, Twilight?”

“That’s how I remember it.” This was surreal. She then realized that the ponies in the cartoon sounded exactly like them. That takes care of (1) and (1a). (1b) also, now that I think about it. Oh, and (2) as well. She felt like she was forgetting something… oh right. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t get your name.”

“Steve, and this is my wife, Meg,” he replied. Twilight gave back a practiced smile. “Getting back to this, are you saying winter wrap-up isn’t real?”

Rainbow Dash reacted as if someone just claimed rainbow waterfalls didn’t exist. “Of course it’s real! The southern birds don’t fly back all by themselves! But we don’t make a musical out of it!” Getting that out of her system, she reconsidered. “Though I have to admit it was a catchy tune and I was awesome singing it—even if it never happened.”

“I’m sorry if that sounded like a stupid question,” he explained, “but we don’t know how much these cartoons reflect your reality. You can hardly blame us for taking advantage of this opportunity.”

Twilight could hardly fault them. “I wouldn’t mind finding out either, for obvious reasons.”

Steve resumed the video. They came to the part where Applejack was singing about farming. Rainbow Dash found something else to jump on. “Everyone ain’t a word.”

The remainder of the musical played without interruption. In a following scene, Twilight offered to help Rainbow Dash clear out the clouds The pegasus flapped her wings to point out that the unicorn lacked them. “Sorry, Twilight,” said the onscreen Rainbow Dash, then off she flew.

The two friends looked at each other. That did happen, and Twilight knew that the next scene, in which she attempted to help Rarity make bird nests, also (embarrassingly) happened. “That’s enough.” It was a lot to take in. It was also a distraction from their mission, though perhaps a necessary one. “Apart from the musical, it’s disturbingly accurate.”

“There’s one more scene I want your opinion on.” Steve turned the screen back to himself, typed and clicked some more, then turned the screen back to the ponies.

They watched as Twilight rewrote the unfinished masterpiece of Star Swirl the Bearded, then cast it. Beams of light erupted from the Elements of Harmony and converged on Twilight, who vanished to the shock of the others. The present Twilight’s eyes went wide as she watched her encounter with Princess Celestia in the starry realm. Being told it was time for her to fulfill her destiny. Her transformation into an alicorn. Celestia informing everypony she was now a princess. “STOP!”

Never had she shared what happened up there, not even with her friends, nor did they expect her to. It was a deeply personal memory. Shock was turning to anger. How could they possibly have this? What else did they have? What do I tell Princess Celestia?

The human stopped the video.

Rainbow Dash looked at her friend, surprised at the anger on her face. She cautiously asked, “Did that actually happen? Apart from the singing…”

Trying hard to keep her voice level, Twilight replied, “Even the singing. Celestia wanted to show me how much it meant to her.”

“I had no idea this would upset you, please believe me.” He, too, saw the anger on her face, and it was starting to scare him.

Twilight struggled to get her emotions under control. She told herself that these two humans were not responsible for this; don’t take it out on them. They could even be of help. It wouldn’t hurt to have locals aiding them. Remember why they were here. What would Celestia do?

She said, finally, “You are not to blame.” Looking into their eyes, she added, “Having said that, you must understand we do not live our lives for your entertainment.”

Meg glanced at the doll she was holding, looking as if she was about to say something, but she remained silent.

“Now, if you don’t mind, we have a mission to accomplish.” Twilight got the magic flow meter out of her saddlebag. Steve and Meg stared at the lavender glow of her horn and the glow surrounding the manipulated object. Surely they’ve seen this countless times in that cartoon? But then they’re seeing something right in front of them that’s supposed to be impossible in their realm.

Twilight switched it on, set it on the floor, and stepped back. As she waited for the measurements to settle, she collected her thoughts. She should not have nearly lost control like that. The humans were actually becoming scared of what she might do to them, and she was willing to bet they knew what an alicorn could do. Her mentor would not approve. She had to do better.

It was pointing towards the window. In the opposite direction was Meg. Probably on the other side of the wall. Twilight put the flow meter back, took out the magic probe and looked for the boundary of her bubble. That’s odd, I can’t seem to find it. She examined the readings more closely. So that’s why we’re visible: the bubble’s gone. She didn’t notice because of all the magic from the hole. Discord had some explaining to do. At least she didn’t have to worry about conserving her magic.

Twilight followed the probe as she moved it towards Meg, following the increasing gradient. The humans had been watching quietly, fascinated, but eventually Meg noticed where the probe was heading. Somewhat nervously, she asked, “May I ask what you’re doing?”

The alicorn put her measurements on hold. “Of course you may,” she assured her. Here was an opportunity to repair any damage. She took a deep breath. “I apologize for nearly losing it a few minutes ago, but… well… the implications of what you showed us were… troubling.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Meg quickly said. “We didn’t think about how you’d react. It could have been handled better.”

Twilight had no reply to that. It wasn’t clear how one would sugar-coat the fact that the most private moments of her life were considered entertainment here. But it wasn’t productive to dwell on it right now. Answering Meg’s question, she said, “I’m measuring the strength of the magical field looking for the hole. It seems to be near you.”

Meg was still holding the Pinkie Pie doll. What are the odds? Silly question. The probe moved close to the doll as Meg held it away from her body. Twilight moved the probe all around it, from top to bottom, front to back, side to side. All around it, the field was many times normal strength. With resignation, she said, “The doll is the exit point.”

Rainbow Dash flew to the doll, hovering for a close view. “She’s not even here and she’s still being Pinkie Pie!”

“Our doll?” Meg said, staring at the pegasus hovering so close to her. “How is that possible?”

Twilight thought: you mean you didn’t watch my scientific investigation of Pinkie Sense? What she said was: “I haven’t a clue. The more important question is how to stop the flow of magic.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” asked Meg.

Was there anything they could do to help? Twilight put the magic probe away as she pondered that. Hold on to the doll, obviously. Where else would she take it? She couldn’t bring it back to Equestria; the hole would almost certainly stay behind and become unanchored, freely floating about. What if it went deep underground? She couldn’t simply destroy the doll for the same reason. Even teleporting with the doll may be unwise. Any information they could provide about this realm would be useful too.

Well, she thought, I guess I’m stuck with them for a while. But how far could she trust them? And what would they want in return?

“I’d appreciate any help you can offer, but I do have a few conditions.” They patiently waited for her to continue. “First, you will not mention our presence to anypo—anyone else.” They nodded agreement, though Rainbow Dash shot her a mystified look upon hearing “anyone.”

“Second, you will not say anything about the magic flowing out of that doll, or about the significance of that doll in general.” They nodded to that too.

“Third, you will keep an eye out for anything unusual. Your home now has a strong magical field, something that’s not supposed to exist in this realm. I don’t know if anything unusual will happen, but any observations would be useful data.”

“You mean like talking cartoon ponies suddenly showing up?” Steve deadpanned.

Touché. “Uh, sure…” But then the hidden assumption behind that statement dawned on the alicorn. Wait, ponies don’t talk here? She quickly shook her head to clear that thought. Never mind, later…Finally, you will Pinkie Promise to these three conditions.” They ought to know what that means; their reaction should be most informative.

“If we don’t?” asked Meg quietly.

“I’ll take possession of the doll and move it elsewhere,” Twilight flatly stated. “You shall have no further involvement.” The list of conditions was perfectly reasonable, in Twilight’s opinion, so their hesitation was evidence that they did know what a Pinkie Promise was and took it seriously.

The two humans looked at each other, came to an unspoken agreement, then started in unison. “Cross my hear—”

Twilight interrupted them. “Not to me, to Pinkie Pie herself.”

“You mean this doll?” asked Meg dubiously.

Rainbow Dash flew over to Twilight and gave her the are-you-crazy look. Twilight ignored her; she’ll explain later.

“When I come back, I’ll have Pinkie Pie with me. You do know the consequences of breaking a Pinkie Promise?”

They nodded. Meg spoke for both of them. “Okay, we’ll do it.”

Rainbow Dash looked at them and rolled her eyes. Twilight couldn’t help but notice that the humans were amused by her antics, though they tried to hide it. They expect this sort of behavior from Rainbow Dash. She followed that line of thought to its logical conclusion: They know what to expect from me.

“I think we’re about done here. Before we leave, would you mind if I take a look at your books and possibly borrow one or two? I’d like to learn more about this realm. It may help in figuring out a solution.”

“Loan a book to Princess Twilight Sparkle?” he said tongue-in-cheek. “It would be an honor! I know just the one.” Steve picked out a book and handed it to her. Twilight accepted it with her magic as she grimaced ever so slightly. At least they weren’t bowing to her, even in jest. The book was too big to fit in her saddlebag; it was human-sized like everything else here.

Meg hesitantly asked, “May I ask a favor in return?”

“I’m listening.” So long as it’s within reason…

“Could you bring Derpy here for us to meet?” Twilight didn’t expect that!

Rainbow Dash snorted. “That featherbrain?” She flew over to the doll and stared at it. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s nice and all, but, really?”

Meg didn’t seem surprised by that reaction. “You may be surprised how popular she is over here.”

Popular? This realm is full of surprises. What to do? Twilight couldn’t just say “yes” and if necessary force Derpy to come. Even if she was willing, was it the right thing to do? But it didn’t seem constructive to just flat out refuse either. Twilight decided to give a non-answer for now. “I can’t make any promises, but I’ll consider it.”

Rainbow Dash gave her another are-you-crazy look.

“So Daring Do is out of the question?”

Twilight’s mouth hung open, too flabbergasted to respond, but Rainbow Dash, thank Celestia, was not. “Daring Do doesn’t like meeting her fans—and leave it at that.”

Thank Luna too, they seemed to accept that at face value, as if they knew what that tomb raiding, treasure hunting pegasus was like. For hay’s sake, they seemed to know she wasn’t just a fictional character. That wasn’t common knowledge and “A. K. Yearling” wanted it that way. More of those cartoons? Whatever, I’ve had enough for one day. “We’ll be back here tomorrow, same time. Okay?”

Meg and Steve briefly consulted with each other. “Works for us.”

Twilight laid the book on her back and held it there magically, then she looked at Rainbow Dash. She’s had enough too. “Let’s go.” They both clicked their rear hooves three times, and thought, there’s no place like home.

Next Chapter: 4. Realities Estimated time remaining: 11 Hours, 10 Minutes
Return to Story Description


Login with