Where We May Lead

by Shadowmane PX-41

First published

Now that the Pillars are back in Equestria, it's time for them to see what has become of Equestria since they were in limbo...

The six Pillars of Equestria have finally returned from a thousand year imprisonment in limbo. So, naturally, the first thing you would do as a legendary hero from a thousand years ago would be to see what's become of the realm.

Knowing that everything might come as a bit of a shock to them, Twilight and her friends each partner up with their respective Pillars, in the hopes that they may ease them back into Equestria and its customs...


"I still can't wrap my head 'round all this," said Applejack as she, her friends, and the Pillars of Equestria all gathered outside of the room. "Ya'll are just gonna up and take off again? We barely even got to know you!"

"I do agree that it was a bit of a shock to the system to know that you were all alive and well," added Rarity. "I mean, the ponies of this world have well and truly idolized you. And now you're just going to leave so soon?"

"Your concerns are all touching, ladies," said Starswirl the Bearded, "but I believe that it is for the best. A millenium has passed and this world has grown quite considerably. It would be in all of our best interests to see just what has become of our homes."

"Yes. Many things have transpired since we were trapped in limbo." Somnambula stepped forward. "Without a clear grasp of the current affairs, it might be difficult for us to settle back in to this new Equestria."

"But... that doesn't mean you're going to vanish for another thousand years, are you?" Fluttershy squeaked and brushed some hair out of her mane. "That would be pretty awful..."

"Nay. Besides, I need to see what has become of the Mighty Helm since my departure." Rockhoof took up his shovel and placed it delicately on his back. "My fellow kin might've met a terrible fate, or their morale might be in tatters. Either way, I need to know."

"The same goes for my battalion." Flash put his hoof to his chest. "I need to know that Equestria's still got some good pegasi left to defend it. I mean it has been a thousand years, after all."

"Oh, we've got you covered on good pegasi." Rainbow Dash cracked a smirk and wrapped her left wing around Flash's back. "Don't you worry about that."

"But if you really have to leave again, then we can't really stop you." Twilight ripped Rainbow away from Flash with her magic. "Plus, you have to cut the Pillars some slack, girls. They were trapped in limbo for a really long time. Equestria's gone through so many changes that it might become impossible for them to get acclimatized."

"Especially considering that Ponyville didn't really exist back then." Starlight trotted forward as well. "The new towns, their traditions, and all of their new foods might come as a bit of a culture shock for the six of them."

"Still, should we really just let 'em go that quickly?" Pinkie tilted her head. "I was gonna throw them all a super-big 'Welcome Back To Equestria And Thank You For Saving The World With Us' party too. There was gonna be a super-big cake and everything!"

"Pinkie, darling. I'm sure that we would all love a bit of R&R with the fabled Pillars of Equestria, but after a thousand years trying to hold the Pony of Shadows in limbo, the first thing they'd want to know is how the state of the world's been." Rarity brushed Pinkie's mane tenderly. "Although, I wouldn't mind getting to know a thing or two about beauty myself..." All she was met with was stares. "Uh... outside of the fashion world, that is."

"Still, it's your decision, everyone." Twilight unfurled her wings and stepped backwards. "You can feel free to leave whenever you want."

There was a long silence between both Main Six, and the Pillars of Equestria. It had been a thousand years since these ancient ponies from generations past had walked the world and so many changes had happened since then. Borders had been reshaped, negotiations made, and tyrannical villains felled or dethroned.

The world that Starswirl and his compatriots had come to know might have been reduced to ash and then reborn in whatever image the next generation may have left for them. As the six legendary ponies thought back on all of their experiences and all of the memories they had shared, a nimiety of thoughts ran through their heads. Their homes, families, and friends surely did not exist anymore; they were not so lucky to have lived over a thousand years like them. Now the Pillars needed to see what had been reborn out of the ashes of their world.

"Twilight." Starswirl finally broke the silence with a simple tap of his hoof. "How much of this new world do you and your friends know about? Outside of just a little map in your throne room?" He cocked a brow.

"Me and my friends are lucky to have traveled Equestria on a number of different visits." Twilight conjured up a journal with her Element of Magic emblazoned on to the front. "And together, we all shared our adventures with each other. From Las Pegasus, Manehatten, the Smoky Mountains, Everfree Forest, and even to the Crystal Empire."

"Hmm..." Starswirl furrowed his long, majestic, bushy beard for a good few seconds. "And, would you and your companions be willing to offer an escort?"

Twilight tried to say something, but she ended up choking on her own ecstasy and euphoria. All that she could do was smile and squeal. She was about to take Starswirl the Bearded: Her life-long idol, on a trip around Equestria! If there was any other synonym to describe happiness, it wouldn't even compare to what she was feeling right now.

"I'd be glad to!" Twilight leapt into the air and beamed from ear to ear. Seeing that all eyes were on her, she very quickly fidgeted and thrashed around, trying to collect herself as she slowly flapped back down to the ground. "I–I mean, yes. Yes, I'd be glad to, Starswirl."

"Wait, do you mean you're just gonna take all of the Pillars around Equestria right now?" Sunburst pushed his glasses close to his face. "It's a great honor to be able to show such beloved ponies around, but don't you think that all six of them might be a bit too much, Twilight?"

Twilight just blew a small raspberry out of the corner of her mouth. "Oh, it's fine, Sunburst. Besides, I've handled much harder things before."

"Yeah. Like the time she was freaking out about that little peanut butter stain on one of her books." Spike grinned.

"Can you blame me?! It was a priceless, one of a kind, hardback copy of Starswirl's astrological discoveries!" Twilight threw her forehooves down in front of her face. "If I didn't find a magical spell to clean the book in time, I would've ended up destroying the Anguis Invus constellation! One of his all-time favourite patterns! How would I even be able to face him if I'd let such a terrible thing happen?!" Once she calmed down, the corner of her eye caught Starswirl again. "Uh, no offense, right?"

"None taken," he said. "Besides, it was just a little document. The real stars are more intriguing than just words on paper."

"Your Sunburst friend does have a bit of a point though, Twilight." Stygian turned to face her. "The Pillars are all very resplendent ponies in their own rights. Taking up all six on a tour together would be a very hard task. You would have to devote every waking second to travel..."

"If I may raise a suggestion, Starswirl, Stygian?" Meadowbrook lifted her hoof into the air.

"What is it, Meadowbrook?" Starswirl asked.

"Well, I know that it might seem a tad strange, but what if we all split up?" She asked. "What I mean is, we could all take the ponies we trusted to keep the world safe to show us round. For example, I could take this one—" She walked up to Fluttershy and tapped her on the belly "—and then the other Pillars'd take their own chosen ones with 'em."

"Ah... I see!" Twilight stepped forward. "So what you want, Meadowbrook, is for each of the Spirits of Harmony to go with their respective Pillars of Light, is that it?"

"Exactly." She nodded.

"So that would mean that, logically, Applejack would travel with Rockhoof back to the Mighty Helm's homeland; Rarity would take Mistmane back to the east; Fluttershy would accompany Meadowbrook back home to her bayou; Rainbow Dash would lead Flash Magnus back to wherever he was based; Pinkie would go with Somnambula back to the south; and that just leaves me with Starswirl and Stygian..." Twilight pointed to each different pairing of ponies, who both gave their own respective physical responses. Salutes, waves, smiles, and the odd hat tip from Applejack.

"Wait. What about us?" asked Starlight. "What would me and Sunburst do while you're all going off on your big Equestria adventure together?"

"Well, if it's all the same with your mentor, Starlight, then you could feel free to travel with us." Starswirl gave Twilight a pat on the back and let her give off another squeak before continuing. "I feel like that there is a lot we could learn from the three of you. Both on friendship and on your own styles of magic."

"Starlight, you and Sunburst should definitely come with us! No doubts about it!" Twilight pulled the two of them into a very tight hug, brushing her cheeks against theirs. "Ooh! This is gonna be great! The five of us going around the world together! Just think about all the sights, the experiences, the RESEARCH!"

"Yep. There she goes..." Starlight just gave a weak chuckle.

"Is this... normal for your teacher, Starlight?" Starswirl trotted up and watched this bizarre new ritual happening before his eyes.

"Let's just say she's a little excited about taking you and Stygian around Equestria, Starswirl." Sunburst chuckled.

"That's putting it lightly," chimed Starlight.

Everyone just ended up sharing a laugh between each other as Twilight finally let go of Starlight and Sunburst. Their giggles, guffaws, and even snorts filled the hallways, if only for a brief moment.

"So, it's all settled then?" Mistmane walked forward. "We'll all travel with our own disciples?"

"Yes. Yes we shall." Starswirl tipped his hoof. "We shall all be accompanied by Twilight and her companions. You may feel free to let them know more about yourselves and your versions of Equestria, and they will have the same privileges themselves.

"It might be some time before we see each other again after today, but I just want to let all of you know that I am proud of all of you." A smile formed on Starswirl's face. "At face value, I took all of you for just simple ponies with great tales to tell. But now, after all of this and one thousand years of servitude to our home, I could not ask for a greater set of defenders for Equestria and its' denizens."

"Thank you, Starswirl..." Twilight felt tears beginning to form in her eyes. "I'm sure that we'll do all that we can to keep Equestria safe, even if me and my friends end up keeping a powerful evil trapped in limbo for a thousand years just like you did."

"I know that you will." Starswirl turned to Twilight and shook her hoof.

All Twilight could do was swoon over the hoofshake. Once she was free of his grip, she fell to the ground with a giant smile plastered onto her face. She didn't even want to move, so instead, Starlight ended up carrying her off in a telekinetic aura.

"Well, we'd better be going now." Starlight lead the way, with Twilight draped over her back. "Oh, and don't worry about Twilight. I'm sure she'll be back on her feet in no time."

"I don't think I've seen her fangirling this hard since she first met A.K. Yearling..." Spike followed the five unicorns out down the hallway.

"We'd better take off as well." Flash Magnus flapped his wings. "What do ya say, Rainbow Dash? Up for a little death-defying adventure with me?"

"Who wouldn't be?" Rainbow went airborne and rocketed out of the castle with Flash close to her side. "I'll race ya there!"

"I get to go on a super-duper incredible journey with Somnambula back to her home village!" Pinkie was practically galloping on the spot. "This. Is. Gonna. Be. AMAZING!"

Somnambula just ended up chuckling herself. "I don't think I've seen enthusiasm like that in ages, Pinkie Pie. I trust that you will be a good guide for my travels?"

"Oh, absotivelutely!" Pinkie Pie bobbled her head vigorously. "In fact, I'm a little bit curious to know about your home myself." She began walking, with Somnambula close behind her. "What did you make all of those houses out of? What's the food like? How bad was that nasty sphinx's breath?"

"Come. It is time we make haste." Rockhoof clopped down the carpet. "I trust you're well accustomed with raft travel, Applejack?"

"How could I not be?" She trotted close beside him. "If I didn't have rafting skills, I wouldn't even have found your shovel in the first place."

"True, true." He nodded.

"Well, dearie? Time waits for no mare." Mistmane walked away as well. "And definitely for us."

"Hear, hear." Rarity took her leave as well. "I really should make sure I have everything packed for my trip. You never know what could be waiting for you in eastern Equestria these days..."

Once everyone left, Meadowbrook and Fluttershy were all on their own. Together, the two of them turned away from the doors and made their way out of the castle.

"Y'know, I'm really looking forward to seeing my home after all this time," said Meadowbrook. "I know that Ma and Pa are probably long gone by now, but it'd be nice to see just how much changed aside that."

"Yeah. I'd like to see just how nicely your bayou actually is too, Meadowbrook." Fluttershy smiled once again. "The last times I was there, I had business with a rather angry mob of flashbees. I don't think I even got a chance to see just how the animals there all behaved..."

"Well, take it from me, you'll have plenty of time to figure it all out." Meadowbrook stroked Fluttershy's back. "Everything's back to normal now and I don't think we'll be called on to save the world anytime soon. Whatever peace we can have, we should enjoy it to the fullest."

"I think you and I are gonna get along just fine, Meadowbrook..." Fluttershy looked deep into her eyes as the two of them finally burst out into the daylight and out of Canterlot's castle.

Author's Notes:

So, for those of you who want to know how this story works, it's gonna be a little bit different to the other stories I do. In the sense that, there are gonna be different chapters for each of the different pairings. The chapters will be categorized as such:

*Pinkie and Somnambula
*Applejack and Rockhoof
*Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus
*Rarity and Mistmane
*Fluttershy and Meadowbrook
*The Five Unicorns (Twilight, Starlight, Sunburst, Starswirl, and Stygian)

If you liked this prologue, then feel free to spread the word, share it all with your friends and followers, and let them know that there's gonna be some adventures to be had with the Pillars of Equestria and their respective Spirits of Harmony.

I'll be seeing you all in the next chapter, whichever one that may be...

Rarity and Mistmane: Off to the East

Author's Notes:

So, I did this first chapter based entirely on a little bit of a roulette. I took all six of the pairings and put them into a randomized wheel, and this was the first one that got picked. For my next chapter, I'm going to be putting all five of the other Pillars and their Spirits of Harmony into the wheel and leaving Rarity and Mistmane out of it because, well, obvs.

If there are any big and influential chapters with a Spirit and Pillar, then I'll purposely leave them out of a roulette so I can properly focus on where their chapters will come in this tale. Like, if I wanted to have Starlight, Stygian, Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst go through the portal to the EQG world for a little bit, then I'd purposely decide to make sure they get their own chapters and their own dues. And also, it would be a little odd to have such a big arc but then immediately cut back to Pinkie and Somnambula or Fluttershy and Meadowbrook right in the middle of it.

But regardless, I hope that you enjoy this chapter and your day, and I'll be seeing you all in the next little chapter I decide to put out.

Rarity and Mistmane were climbing the fog-drenched mountains leading up to eastern Equestria. Flowers, moss, and many other wall-crawling foliage followed them on their trek up to the village; all of which captured their attention and distracted them from the howling wind and icy air that pursued them on their climb.

As the two mares got close to the gates of a village, a strange mixture of scents began to fill the air. Aromas of all sorts began to waft around their noses. Some seemed like they came from flowers, while others were warm and strong, as if they were coming from candles or some other form of hot apparatus.

Mistmane threw her hoof behind her, stopping Rarity in her tracks. "Do you smell that?"

"Why yes. Yes I do," said Rarity. "Normally, I have a decent sense of smell, but I just can't seem to put my hoof on whatever this one is meant to be..."

"The incense burners are giving off a calming scent. That must mean that the town is at peace." Mistmane continued trekking up the last few steps on the massive staircase. "You know, back in my day, it was somewhat of a tradition to burn different textures to show how you felt, and what your guests could make of you."

"Really?" Rarity lifted one of her eyebrows. "Could you give me a few examples?"

"Well I could, but the real sense of beauty comes in the form of surprise," said Mistmane. "It wouldn't have quite the impact it would have if I just told you everything here and now, would it?"

"Well..." Rarity tried to think of something to say, but words seemed to escape her.

"Beauty is a bit of an art form, really." Mistmane stopped in her tracks and lit up her horn, causing a cyan dragon to fly out and dance in the air beyond. "To the artist, beauty is simply a way of sharing your gifts with the world. Because no-one knows what to expect, it's up to the artist to capture that magnificence and show it off as best as they can. And the more effort they put into it..." She nimbly commanded her spirit dragon around the cliffs, cutting through the cloud veils like a hot knife through butter. It formed a flower, which her dragon shot straight up out of the center. "The more attention it garners."

"I see." Rarity watched as the clouds danced around and shifted back into one thick sheet smothering up the flower that Mistmane had made.

"We have arrived." Mistmane recollected her dragon and walked up to a giant gate at the end of the staircase. "Come on now, Rarity. It's not nice to keep anyone waiting."

"Indeed." Rarity nodded and galloped up the last few stairs. "As a fashion designer myself, I know how hard it can be to balance my clients."

Mistmane turned towards the giant red gates once Rarity stopped at the top. She cast a simple beam of light from her horn, pushing both of the massive doors straight open with little to no effort. She then proceeded to walk into the village, with Rarity following close behind her. Once both of the mares were in, the gates slowly closed behind them.

The village Mistmane and Rarity found themselves in was lined neatly with houses, but the front doors had no handles, nor did they have locks. Instead, the ponies came in and out by sliding the doors open with their hooves and unicorn magic. A street straight in front of the two of them was lined with stalls, with ponies selling off wares of all shapes and sizes.

By the walls of the village and around some of the houses and shrines, there were flowers, ponds, and lily pads aplenty; all of which were being tended to by many a pony. Lotuses shimmered elegantly on their buoyant platforms, the flowers were all neatly arranged and colour co-ordinated, and there were even some tiny fish with otherworldly designs swimming in the waters.

Off to the left of Rarity and Mistmane stood a massive palace, with another set of stairs leading up to a high wall. The upper levels of the fortress were visible, but the courtyard and front doors had been completely obscured by the wall that safeguarded it.

"Wow..." Rarity took a good long look at every inch of the village, smiling at everything. "I don't think I ever had the proper time to look around this place myself. It looks so much more majestic than I thought."

"Well, I'm glad you think so, Rarity." Mistmane cracked a smile herself and stepped across the cobblestone pathways. "Personally, I'm glad to see that this place hasn't changed a day since last I was here."

"The ponies living here might be a bit different than usual, though." Rarity lifted a hoof. "I'm not to sure that many of your old friends will have survived a thousand years."

"Hmm. That much is true..." Mistmane lowered her head and gazed solemnly at the ground. "A shame, really. But, everything has its' time; including ponies. Nobody here, not even the emperor or empress would have been able to stave off expiration like myself and the other Pillars."

"Best not to dwell on the past, Mistmane." Rarity gave Mistmane a gentle hug and brushed her mane down. "It all happened and it's long behind us now. Now that you and the other Pillars are back in Equestria, the future's what we've all got to look at now."

"Yes. The past is nothing more than a memory. Unable to be altered in any way, shape, or form." Mistmane looked back up into Rarity's eyes. "Though my family and friends might be long gone, I suppose that the only thing now would be to acquaint myself with their descendants." She turned back towards the shops on the street ahead. "After all, even beauty can wither away and vanish over time. But the path it leaves behind will be walked by many for years to come."

"I have a feeling that there's a lot I could learn from you about the ways of beauty, Mistmane." Rarity trotted alongside her as the two of them entered the market. "Maybe it would give me some more insight on how I should approach my dressmaking as well..."

"There will be time enough for all of that, Rarity." Mistmane nodded as the two of them went past the first sets of stalls. "First, I really do need to see how my house has held up all these years."

As Rarity walked through the town, she had noticed that with her and Mistmane's arrival, everything had become almost silent, as if everyone in the village had seen something remarkable. When she peaked at everyone's faces, her suspicions were confirmed, but everyone was gazing directly at her and Mistmane.

"By the stars..." said one of the shopkeepers. "It can't be..."

"Is that Mistmane?" another one whispered. "I thought for sure she had been lost to time!"

"Surely, this must be some strange hallucinogen from the day's incenses..." a third one added. "There's no way somepony that old could've lived for so long!"

"The ponies are in awe, Rarity," said Mistmane as Rarity's focus returned to her. "And I already know that it's not of some feat performing in the square."

"Well, how could they not be amazed by your appearance?" Rarity asked. "You have lived for over a thousand years, and the ponies here probably just imagined that you were a folktale from ages ago. The very fact that you're alive and well now is rumbling them to their very cores."

"Yes. But I thought for sure that they would be a bit more... swarming, was it?" Mistmane cocked her head to the side, then shook it, scoffing to herself. "No, that would never work. Amorous is more like it, yes."

"Strange that they're not showing it right now then..." Rarity just looked deeper into each of the eastern ponies' eyes, trying to make them out. "I mean, the other Pillars are equally revered, aren't they? I'm sure that Starswirl or Somnambula especially would be cornered by their townsfolk in a matter of seconds. But here, everyone's just holding back."

"Well, we should take this chance while we still have it. 'Strike while the iron is hot!' as Rockhoof once said." Mistmane turned a corner, leaving the market behind her. "Rarity? Are you coming?"

"Huh?" She was still concentrating on the ponies around her. Breaking out of her trance, Rarity quickly came back and followed after Mistmane. "Y-Yes. We should be on our way..."

Rarity and Mistmane finally arrived at a simple house with a pyramid-shaped roof and a large wall draping out around it. The white bricks complimented the dark blue shingles both on the roof and around the estate itself. A door made out of the same wood and paper frame stood in front of them, with two large urns sprouting flowers right next to it.

"So... do we just knock?" Rarity tilted her head to the side. "No doorbell either... How do you announce yourself?"

"We don't." Mistmane walked up to the doors and simply slid them open with her hoof. "In places like this, all you really can do is walk inside, provided that the doors haven't been locked or anything like that." She stepped inside and rubbed her hooves on a purple doormat.

"It doesn't really seem like the best method of security." Rarity gently pulled the doors back outwards, examining the paper linings and painted wooden frame. "But I do get what it's trying to emulate. For eastern Equestria, it's much more cultural than I had anticipated..." And she walked inside, closing the door behind her with her magic.

Once inside, Rarity and Mistmane could see another set of sliding doors. But these ones were already open, and showcased a bright garden with flowers, trimmed bushes, and smoothly flowing water features all around it. There were a couple of birdhouses hanging from the trees, with food hangers right next to them.

"I... I can't believe it..." Mistmane's jaw hung wide open as she stumbled forward towards the garden. "I didn't think that this garden would've lasted that long." She rubbed her eyes to make sure that it wasn't all a delusion from her time in limbo. "How did all of this survive?"

"Well... let's just say that I might have made a little trip up here to find you and the other Pillars' artefacts." Rarity stepped forward and beamed at the garden. "Regal, isn't it? A touch of modern-day with just enough localized plants to make it really feel like home."

"It seems that you and your friends went to great lengths to bring us all back." Mistmane took some deep breaths and gave Rarity a gentle smile. "For someone to go all the way from Ponyville all the way to my home and spruce it up like this; even if it was just for a tiny little relic, is a marvel indeed."

"Oh well, it wasn't anything too big." Rarity just batted a hoof and gave a little chuckle. "Just a little bit of home improvement. Nothing more, nothing less."

"Don't be so modest, Rarity. You restored something that didn't even belong to you for the sake of my family's descendants." Mistmane patted Rarity on the back. "If the fate of the world hadn't been at stake, I'm sure that they would've invited you for some tea."

"M... Mistmane?! Is that... really you?!"

Rarity and Mistmane turned towards a pony with a grey skin and a pink mane tied up into a bow. She had been carrying a trowel and watering can in her magic, but both tumbled to the ground as her jaw hung wide open.

"Yes. It's me." Mistmane stepped out onto the garden and approached the newcomer, who was still unable to say a word. "I know that this might come as a bit of a shock, but—"

"It's been over a thousand years, Mistmane." The mare walked towards both of them. "How have you survived this long?"

"Well, it'll take a lot more than a few hundred years to keep me down, let's just put it like that." Mistmane gave a little grin as she pulled the mare into a small hug. "It's been so long since I've seen one of my family since I left."

"Tell me about it," said the mare. "You must be a thousand years old by now! I don't even know how I'd be able to fit all of those candles onto a birthday cake, let alone one for the legendary Mistmane herself!"

"Well, I'm sure you could try." Mistmane broke out of the hug at last. "If I can live this long, then I'm sure that you can put all those candles on a simple cake."

The mare turned towards Rarity and her eyes widened again. "Did... you bring her back to us?"

"Yes. That's why I needed the flower from your garden." Rarity stepped down and approached Mistmane and the other mare. "It's a bit of a long story, but one I would be happy to tell you if you wanted, miss, uh..."

"Oh, where are my manners? I hadn't even introduced myself," said the mare. "My name is Tree Sprout. It's nice to meet you, miss..."

"Rarity," she replied. "I'm glad I could help you and your family. Uh, again."

"So, how have you been, Tree?" Mistmane asked, walking with her towards the house. "I trust that the family has been keeping well since I left?"

"Yes. We have gone through a number of generations, and your family tree's grown exponentially since you last left." Tree nodded as she led both Rarity and Mistmane inside. "I heard some good tales about your mother and father from my grandparents. Tales of how you were a bit of a rascal as a young one, I hear."

Mistmane just laughed. "Aren't all children?" She brushed her hooves on the mat once again. "But yes, I will admit that I was a bit of a little troublemaker as a young one."

"I never even thought about asking you of your childhood, Mistmane." Rarity was the last one back in the house. "Gosh, I'm sure that I'm going to be hearing a lot about you and your ways on this little adventure of ours..."

"Well, it's like I said. All in due time, my friend." Mistmane smiled at Rarity and lead her through the house. "Now, I believe a bit of some traditional eastern tea would be lovely. A great way to not only welcome me back but also show our guest a good time."

"Oh yes. I just had a delivery of teas today, as a matter of fact. Doejeeling and Earl Neigh, with a little bit of Camelmile for if we can't have a good night's sleep." Tree Sprout nodded. "I'm sure that miss Rarity would love a little taste."

"That sounds divine, Tree." Rarity nodded gracefully. "Lead the way."

"Here we go." Tree Sprout opened a door, which lead to a room with a floor pattern resembling four rectangles circling around a square in the center. There were cabinets by the walls with pictures either on or hanging around them. A table sat in the middle of the room, but the legs were significantly shorter than normal and there were cushions where there should normally be chairs or stools. "Take a seat and I'll put the kettle on."

Mistmane walked into the room and stepped around the table, sitting down on one of the cushions. She folded her legs as she looked up at Rarity, who was still gobsmacked at the sight of it all.

"Well, Rarity? Why don't you sit down?" Mistmane invited her in with a wave of her hoof. "You've had an awful long journey. And with the Pony of Shadows business you and your friends have been through, you deserve a bit of rest and relaxation."

"I'm just a little bit confused with all of this." Rarity slowly walked in and sat down, sliding her back hooves underneath the table. "How in the world did you ever manage to get comfortable in this state? With no backrest, it's easy to end up in a slump. And with the distance between me and the table, I feel lucky to be a unicorn. I don't know how a pegasus or earth pony would deal with all of this."

"Eastern Equestria works a lot differently to what you're used to." Mistmane stood upright and used her magic to gently move a flower to the side. "You'll get used to it eventually." She nodded and brushed a hoof on her horn. "But you are right. We are lucky to be unicorns."

As time passed, Rarity and Mistmane ended up looking at the room around them. Now, they could see all of the different knick-knacks and other trinkets as well as the photographs of Mistmane's family and their friends. As they shared their opinions on each different piece of furniture and every different memory captured in photography, they hardly even noticed Tree Sprout come back in with a kettle, some teabag boxes, and a pair of teacups.

"Well, Mistmane, I know that it's been a long time, but I feel like you deserve something a little special," said Tree Sprout as she made all the preparations. "What would you like, dear?"

"I think I'd like to try some of that Doejeeling you were talking about." Mistmane pointed to one of the boxes of teabags. "What about you, Rarity?"

"Oh! I hadn't even thought about that yet..." Rarity eyed up the boxes and read the labels carefully, mumbling to herself for a few seconds. "I think I'd like some of that Earl Neigh, please."

"Alright then." Tree Sprout put the Doejeeling teabag into Mistmane's cup and the Earl Neigh one into Rarity's. She then proceeded to pour them both some hot water and supply them with some tiny teaspoons. "Would you like some sugar with that? It comes all the way from farms."

"Oh yes. Two cubes, please." Mistmane nodded and plucked the sugar from the nearby container. "Wonderful."

"I'm fine as it is." Rarity shook her hoof and watched as Tree Sprout sat down and poured her own brew. "I always have a little bit of a rule with tea. I don't have anything with it until I've tried it properly." She lifted the teacup up and brought it to her lips and nursed it gently. "And I must say, it's not like any tea that I've ever tasted before..."

"You don't like it?" Tree Sprout asked.

"Oh, no, no, no. I'm just saying that I've never had this particular type of tea before." Rarity shook her head and took another sip. "But I must say, it's simply heavenly!"

"That's good to hear." Tree Sprout mixed in some of the sugar with her tea, watching as the cube broke up and disappeared underneath the light brown waters. "I don't get many visitors outside of this part of the world these days. So to have someone come all the way from central Equestria and say that they like my tea is a marvelous thing indeed."

"You're welcome." Rarity took another drink and put her cup down so that her stomach had time to process all this tea. "You know, the reason I came today was to re-integrate Mistmane back into her home. It has been an awful long time since she left to face the forces of evil, so I'm sure that a little check-up on the village wouldn't be too much harm, right?"

"It would be no trouble at all." Tree nodded and smiled. "Myself and the other townsponies would be glad to fill you in once you have the time."

"I just hope that the new emperor or empress is doing well." Mistmane looked deep into her drink, slowly stirring sugar into it. "If it is still the Spirit family that runs this village, then I look forward to meeting the mare or stallion on the throne. Sable was a good friend of mine, and I'm sure that she had many a good heir since my departure."

"Well, I'm sure you'll have all of your questions answered soon, Mistmane," said Tree. "But for now, we shouldn't leave our drinks to get cold. Cold tea is just as bad as a cold night with no heat."

"I agree." Rarity took her cup and gently clapped her front hooves together. "Bottoms up, everypony!" And with that, another gulp of Earl Neigh went down her throat. I wonder how my friends and the rest of the Pillars are getting along... she thought to herself as the drink landed in her belly.

Fluttershy and Meadowbrook: Back to the Bayou

Fluttershy and Meadowbrook trotted across the planks of the bayou. The moisture-filled air flowed all through their manes and gave them the sense that they were walking through a tiny, yet still noticeable, veil of water. The trees towered above them and the sun often had to break through the leaves and branches in order to reach them, but they still received plentiful batches of rays on their travels.

"So, I'm a little curious, Fluttershy," said Meadowbrook, breaking the silence. "How did you and your friends find out about me?"

"Twilight and Starlight learned about you, actually." Fluttershy's wings opened up. "This was back in the day when Starlight was a bit of a... different pony. She wasn't Pony-of-Shadows-level evil, but she still had a nasty plan back then."

"Oh? How so?" Meadowbrook lifted a brow. "She seemed like a very level-headed girl back in Canterlot. What do ya think changed her mind?"

"Starlight had a little trouble dealing with Cutie Marks as a filly," Fluttershy started. "When Sunburst got his Cutie Mark before her, he was whisked off to a magic school and Starlight never saw him again. When she got older, she tried getting rid of everyone's Cutie Marks so that they didn't end up as she did."

"But she must've gotten over it. She sure sounds nothing like the Starlight you, me, and the other Pillars of Equestria met back there." Meadowbrook's gaze turned to the ground. "A Cutie Mark's supposed to be a wonderful thing, to be enjoyed by both the pony who gets one and the friends they made. So I just don't get why one little filly who lost their friend over a Cutie Mark changed her heart like that..."

"Twilight often likes using the word 'over' to describe Starlight sometimes. Overenergetic, overreactive, overpowered, overthinking..." Fluttershy unfurled her wings and used each individual feather to list off the different titles. "To make it easier, Starlight's a bit of a character, to say the least."

"Maybe she just needs a bit more time to come out of her shell a little." Meadowbrook looked over towards a nearby stream and watched as a little snake crawled out of an egg. "This Starlight gal sounds like the kinda pony who doesn't like to take things the right way. It might not be pretty, but the right way is the only way. Or at least, that's what Starswirl and Somnambula taught me..."

"Oh, Starlight has come out quite a bit now." Fluttershy retracted her wings. "But she still has a few episodes here and there."

"Hmm. I suppose I should get to know this Starlight a little better. Same goes for the rest of your friends." Meadowbrook cocked a brow towards Fluttershy. "Why, I bet you've all got quite a hoofful of tales to tell..."

"Oh, we're not that special, Meadowbrook. Especially not when we're comparing ourselves to you and the other pillars." Fluttershy's cheeks flushed bright red. "I mean, you've done things nopony else would even have dreamed of doing! You've outrun dragons, healed massive outbreaks, sacrificed your own beauty to preserve everything else's... And all we've done is fight a bunch of bad guys with the Magic of Friendship."

"Aw, don't be modest, sugarplum." Meadowbrook patted Fluttershy on the back. "If it weren't for you and your friends, we may not have had an Equestria to come back to. If anything, you deserve much more praise than what you're already given."

"Well..." Fluttershy squatted down and let out a weak chuckle.

"Actually, hold that thought. We're here." Meadowbrook cantered across the rest of the planks into the clearing beyond. "Come on now, Fluttershy. Don't wanna keep the ponies waiting now, do we?"

"I suppose not," said Fluttershy as she kept up with Meadowbrook's pace.

The swamp-like bayou was surrounded by murky waters, with a few lily pads sitting quietly on the waters. The sounds of crickets and other forest creatures chirped and echoed through the trees and wooden planks. The houses around Fluttershy and Meadowbrook, despite looking structurally intact from the outside, had all been boarded up around the windows and doors, and there were no ponies sitting out on the porches either. If it weren't for the animals, the place might as well have been another part of the woods.

"Strange..." Meadowbrook took a few steps forward into the empty town. "Where is everypony? Did some sorta plague hit while I was gone?"

"I don't know either." Fluttershy gently flapped her wings, raising herself a few feet off the ground. She flew over to one of the houses and rapped on the door with her hooves. "Hello? Is anypony in there? Apart from you, Cat Tail?"

No response came from the house.

Fluttershy shrugged and tried another house. She knocked on the door, pushed her ear to it for any footsteps, and was greeted by silence. How could there not have been anyone home? She knew that the bayou wasn't the most hygenic of all of the places she had seen, but surely, it was still worth living in. As more and more houses were checked, it became clear that there was nobody home.

"No luck?" Meadowbrook finally broke the silence.

"Nope." Fluttershy shook her head. "Everyone's gone. And I don't even know where in Equestria they could be!" Suddenly, she heard a little crashing noise coming from the tree-shaped house in the distance. "Well... almost everyone."

"That came from my house!" Meadowbrook immediately darted off towards it. "I bet it's a raider trying to make off with some of my medicines!"

"Meadowbrook, wait!" Fluttershy flew after her. "I don't think you should really jump to any conclusions just yet!"

"It's been a thousand years since I was gone, Fluttershy. And so many more ponies have been born since." Meadowbrook leapt from the planks, landing hard on the ground by her front door. "I reckon that some mean ol' ponies took up residence in this here forest and are trying to make off with whatever's not nailed down!"

Fluttershy very quickly swooped down in front of Meadowbrook mere seconds before she ran into the door. Because neither of them could stop themselves, Meadowbrook ended up ramming Fluttershy into the house, bashing through the door and landing in a heap by a bookcase.

"Ouch..." Fluttershy rubbed her head.

"Sorry, Fluttershy." Meadowbrook climbed out of the two pony pile-up. "Are ya hurt? I didn't mean to do that. Honest." She started checking all of Fluttershy's limbs for any bruises or cuts. To her relief, there weren't any.

"I'm alright." Fluttershy stood back up and shook her body awake again. "It was just a little fall. Nothing to worry about."

"Well, alright then." Meadowbrook turned towards the stairs and immediately saw a pony's shadow coming down it. "I just wanna make sure you're not too hurt. You never know what to trust out here."

"Oh, I think I know what to trust, Meadowbrook." Fluttershy stepped closer to the shadow. "And I also think I know exactly who this pony is."

"Fluttershy? Is that you?"

The shadow finally disappeared to make way for a pony with a very chubby stature and a blonde beard hanging down from his chin. His mane was all braided and his Cutie Mark depicted a pair of cattails. Before he could even make it into the room, Fluttershy pulled him into a tight hug.

"Hello, Cat Tail!" Fluttershy smiled as she stared into his eyes. "So nice to see you again."

"Aw, Fluttershy." Cat Tail broke out of the hug and gave a big smile. "You always know how to warm my heart."

"Cat Tail?" Meadowbrook tilted her head at him. "So, you know this pony, Fluttershy?"

"Oh, yes." She nodded and let him walk off towards the kettle on the other side of the room. "When Zecora came down with a bad case of Swamp Fever, me and Twilight had to come all the way over here to find a cure. He was very kind to both of us."

"So ponies these days still get afflicted with Swamp Fever, huh?" Meadowbrook ran over to one of the books and plucked it off of the case, scrolling through the contents. "If it weren't for the fact that flashbees are the meanest little things on this planet, I would've started selling the cure myself."

"Yeah." Fluttershy rubbed her skin, thinking back to all of the times a flashbee struck her down. "Not even my Stare could stop them. And usually, the Stare works wonders on misbehaving animals."

"So, Fluttershy, what brings you here now?" Cat Tail took a drink of his tea. "Is another one of your friends sick?"

"Oh, no. Not this time, Cat Tail." She stepped forward.

"So it's a friendly visit, is it?" He grinned toothily. "Well, it's nice that you and your little friend came round to visit lil' old me. Not many ponies to talk to these days without making some big trip out of the place." He turned to Meadowbrook. "So, what's your name?"

"My name, sir, is." —She watched as he took another drink— "Meadowbrook."

Cat Tail was taken so off-guard with Meadowbrook revealing her name that he ended up spitting his drink out all over her and the floorboards. "Wh-what?! Meadowbrook? B-But that's impossible!"

"But it is." Fluttershy started cleaning up the tea from Meadowbrook's face with her feathers. "I know it was a bit of a shock to all of us as well, but this is her. The Mage Meadowbrook who came up with the cure for Swamp Fever and a bunch of other horrible diseases."

"B-B-B-But, I wasn't even born when you were still alive!" Cat Tail threw his front hooves in front of his face. "And just look at you! You don't look like you've aged a day from what I read about you!"

"Trust me, Cat Tail, it's a very long story." Fluttershy finished wiping down Meadowbrook's face and walked over to his side. "Let's just say that I kinda needed that mask for some big save-the-world thing. Me and my friends have a bit of a habit of doing that these days."

"The whole thing still seems like a load of hogwash to me..." Cat Tail slowly advanced on Meadowbrook. "I mean, you must be like, a thousand years old now! How is anypony that old supposed to look that young?"

"Mr. Cat Tail, let me explain before ya get your beard in a knot," said Meadowbrook. "When me and the other Pillars of Equestria found ourselves in limbo with the Pony of Shadows, time just stood dead in its' tracks. We didn't age, didn't move, didn't speak, and the next thing we knew, we were a thousand years into the future. Or maybe it's the present. I don't even know anymore. It's still very confusing." She ended up rubbing her forehead.

"Meadowbrook's mask, along with the other Pillars' artefacts opened a little bit of a portal to another world where the seven of them stayed for a really long time," Fluttershy added. "The only way to pull them back out was to find those things and gather them all together."

"Gosh, Fluttershy, you're cute and all, but neither of you are making any sense here." Cat Tail himself felt a migraine coming on. "Or maybe ya do and I'm just not seeing it. I was never really much of a magic kinda pony growing up."

"It's quite alright." Fluttershy's smile returned.

"So, Mr. Cat Tail," said Meadowbrook. "Do you think you could tell me what happened to the ponies here? I don't think we've seen anyone in this place other than you."

"Well, I could tell you..." Cat Tail turned away and looked out the window. "If I knew what happened myself."

"Huh?" Both Fluttershy and Meadowbrook chorused. "What do you mean?"

"Thing is, I came to this place and set down some roots while it was still abandoned." Cat Tail looked out at the waters of the bayou and how still they were. "I tried looking for other ponies around the place, but all of them packed up and left for who knows where. Not a single soul to be found. And let me tell ya, I'm not a fan of being alone. But I still manage to get by every now and again.

"Often at times, I go fishing or find myself some forest foods." He turned back to Fluttershy and Meadowbrook. "And when that doesn't work, only then do I go out and find something nice to eat in the market. And only then, I just see a few ponies; none of which come from my bayou."

"That sounds so sad..." Fluttershy felt her hair drape down in front of her face.

"Well, I appreciate your feelings, Fluttershy." Cat Tail brushed the pink hair out of her face. "But I don't think you and your friends need to worry about me. I'm living quite a peaceful life here. In fact, ever since you moved that hive of flashbees, I've been catching some real nice fish." He grinned. "Plus, now I'm getting to meet with the one and only Mage Meadowbrook, one of the greatest healers of all time! If anything, my life's on the up and up ever since you and your friends came into it."

"Well, we're mighty glad you think that way, Mr. Cat Tail." Meadowbrook gave another beam.

"Oh-ho-ho, please, Meadowbrook. Just Cat Tail will be fine." He chuckled. "I wasn't really one for fancy titles like Mr. or Mrs."

"Me neither!" Her own smile widened.

Meadowbrook, Cat Tail, and Fluttershy eventually walked up the stairs and found themselves in a bedroom with bookshelves aplenty. Having being fashioned out of a tree, there was a little hole on the ceiling for telling if it was night and day, but apart from that, it looked like an ordinary bedroom. Diagrams of ponies, sketches of ailments and the cures for them, and a variety of other books and knick-knacks lined the furniture around the place.

"Golly! This place really brings back memories..." Meadowbrook ran over to the bed and pressed down on the mattress with a hoof. "You know, I'll never forget the time my mama laid herself here when she had Swamp Fever. If I hadn't had that mask with me, she would've been a goner for sure!"

"I tried keeping this room as well-kept as possible once I moved in." Cat Tail picked up a book and blew some dust off of it. "But I reckon that you're a little more deserving of it than I am, Meadowbrook. I mean, it's your room, after all."

"Well, I have to thank you kindly again for taking good care of it." Meadowbrook stepped away from the bed and opened up some of the brighter books on the shelves. "I thought for sure that this place would've been a right mess without somepony's helping hooves."

"You're welcome, Meadowbrook." Cat Tail nodded and stepped outside. "If you two want me, I'll just be downstairs for a little while." He stopped halfway down the stairs. "Actually, Fluttershy? Do you and Meadowbrook want something to drink? I got some nice blitzberries from the forest today. They work right wonders for your tummy when blended..."

"Not really," said Fluttershy. "But thanks for the offer."

"What about you, Meadowbrook? You sure you don't want something nice to drink?" he asked. "You've been away for a real long time now and I'm sure that a drink'd be nice."

"Oh, I'll be fine, Cat Tail." Meadowbrook called as she took one of the diagrams from the wall. "I had a little drink on the way here."

"Well. Suit yourself." Cat Tail walked down the stairs and out of Fluttershy's sight. "Just give me a holler if ya need anything!"

Fluttershy shut the door and turned back to Meadowbrook, who was already scrolling through the diagram of a pony's anatomy.

"This Cat Tail's quite a clever little pony, ain't he?" Meadowbrook invited Fluttershy to come over with a wave of her hoof. "Look here! He's marked a lot of illnesses with the parts of the body that are afflicted... Rhinocerousitis, SWS, and much more! He's thought of everything."

"I'm sure that Cat Tail got all of that from reading your books." Fluttershy looked carefully at all of the diseases that had been scrawled down. "The house is full of them."

"I was never really much of a reader myself, but I loved finding cures for things and putting them down in a little diary of sorts." Meadowbrook giggled. "But sometimes, I'd get them muddled up with the stuff that happened at school... I ended up in a right pickle a number of times because I wrote my memories of a crush down where I should've put down how to cure whatever that poor soul came down with." She picked up another book. "Good thing I always kept some spares in case of that."

"It must've been really hard for you back in those days..." Fluttershy looked up to the little split in the roof. "Growing up, finding cures, and trying to balance a normal life while also working for the Pillars of Equestria. If I had all that responsibility, I would just scream."

"Oh, believe me, Fluttershy, it was a bit of a challenge." Meadowbrook pushed the papers away. "But knowing that I was doing my bit to help Equestria out was all worth it. Without me, who knows what might've happened to all those sick ponies?"

"They would've all been turned into trees without you making that brave little trip to the flashbee hive." Fluttershy tipped her hoof.

"Starswirl always used to tell me that everyone has their own role to play in Equestria." Meadowbrook put a hoof on Fluttershy's shoulders. "He said that everything happened for a reason, and that there was no such thing as coincidences and chance."

"So what's my role?" Fluttershy's brows raised ever so slightly. "What do I do in Equestria other than be the Spirit of Kindness?"

"Just do whatever comes naturally to you." Meadowbrook's hoof slid off. "If there's something that you really like doing, then keep at it and always work to improve your craft. For example, what do you like doing?"

"Well, I like taking care of a lot of animals." Fluttershy's hooves fell down besides her. "Whenever they're sick, in pain, or in trouble generally, I always do all that I can to solve their problems. I've been doing it ever since I got my Cutie Mark and I've met all sorts of weird, wild, and wonderful creatures in my life."

"Then keep on doing it. Always keep doing the things you love, get better at them, and you'll find your place in this world faster than you may think." Meadowbrook picked up yet another book and set it down beside her. "Apart from being one of the ponies trusted with the power of the Tree of Harmony, you would make a wonderful vet with enough practice. If there's one thing that's true in this world, it's that if you love something, then you'll only keep bettering yourself as time goes on. That's how I became a healer, and I know that deep down in my heart, you'll be a great vet someday."

"Thank you, Meadowbrook." Fluttershy felt a small tear come into her eyes. "That... means a lot coming from you."

"You're welcome, sugarcube." Meadowbrook pulled Fluttershy into a small hug. "Now, dry those eyes, will ya? How would you like to go on a little forage with me?"

"That sounds amazing!" Fluttershy's smile almost encompassed her entire face. "I've always wondered how you got all your other ingredients living in a place like this! I'd be glad to come."

"Great! Let me just get my mask and we'll be on our way!" And with not another word, Meadowbrook darted out of her room and off down the stairs, with Fluttershy following closely behind her.

Author's Notes:

I'm glad that you all enjoyed this chapter if indeed you did. I'm sorry if it seemed a little bit bland or bare. There's just nothing much you can do in an empty bayou with only three ponies in it. But regardless, I hope that it satisfied you all.

Now, I'm gonna be going away to Tenerife in a couple of days, so this might be the last chapter I put out before my flight. I'll be off for a week so that we can spend some Christmas time together before the big day (We literally come back the DAY before Christmas Eve).

But when I do get back, the next chapter will be a good one. Pinkie Pie and Somnambula. And I know that I'm gonna have a blast writing that one because, well, Egypt is my FAVOURITE HISTORICAL PERIOD OF ALL TIME. I love the lore, I love the gods, I love everything about Egypt, so I'm gonna have a lot of ideas when I do Pinkie and Somnambula's first chapter together...

But for now, I hope you enjoyed it and that you all have a nice day.

Pinkie and Somnambula: High Praise

Pinkie Pie and Somnambula strolled through the sands of southern Equestria with naught a road or signs to guide them. The winds were fairly still on their trek but their hooves constantly got swallowed up by the ground beneath them, rendering a simple trot into a slog across a barren wasteland.

“Y’know, I never really liked sand,” said Pinkie Pie. “Well, not the sand on beaches, because you can make all kinds of cool stuff with them like castles, your names, your Cutie Marks, diving boards, and so much more! But out here, in this kinda place, the sand can just go away for all I care!” she spluttered. “I mean, seriously, how did you and your people deal with this stuff?”

“The sand can be a hinderance to many. But it also serves as a slight method of protection.” Somnambula looked out into the expanses of the desert. “If a thief wants to escape judgement and move to another city, these dunes will stop them fairly quickly. As for attackers, they too will have trouble crossing them.”

“Attackers?” Pinkie Pie parroted.

“Southern Equestria is not like the place you and your compatriots are used to.” Somnambula shook her head. “Often at times, there are some who challenge the pharoahs of this corner of the world in a bid for power and influence. Civil unrest can spread very fast, thieves are always lying in wait, and there are some ponies who break off and form their own cults.” She opened up her wings and beat them forward, blasting a chunk of sand away. “But in the end, all of their insurgency will amount to nothing. I will make sure of it.”

“O...kay?” Pinkie tilted her head.

Somnambula noticed what she had done and took a moment to compose herself. “Sorry about that. After Stygian turned his back on us, my trust in other ponies has... slipped away a little. I still mean well for you and all of your friends, but I feel that saving my home should befall me and me alone.”

“Hey. Cheer up!” Pinkie’s smile returned as she pulled Somnambula close. “You won’t be able to save everyone with such a big frowny-wowny on your face.” She played with Somnambula’s cheeks, forcibly molding them so that she smiled. “Take my super-duper Pinkie Pie advice: Smile more and you can do anything!”

Once her cheeks were free again, Somnambula just walked forward. “I appreciate the thought, Pinkie, but smiles won’t stop the monsters of southern Equestria.”

“I know, I know.” Pinkie twisted her hoof. “You aren’t the Pillar of Happiness, after all. But it’s still a good idea.”

“So, you know the tales that you read about me and the other Pillars?” Somnambula asked.

“Yes. And I know how you beat that horrid sphinx with just your hope and a very good sense of hearing.” Pinkie grinned once again. “By the way, you never really answered my question. What did that sphinx’s breath smell like? I'm just dying to know.”

“If you must know, it smelt oddly like cat food,” said Somnambula. “But we’re getting off-topic. The point is that we’ve faced nothing but daunting trials before and during our time as the Pillars of Equestria. And now that we’re all back, I fear that everything will intensify from here on out.” Somnambula stopped Pinkie in her tracks and stared deep into her eyes. “I trust that you and your friends are prepared for any future threats to this world? If not, then...”

“Ah, don’t worry, Somnambula.” Pinkie Pie noogied her headress. “We’ve got the Magic of Friendship on our side. Plus, it’s like I said back at Ponehenge. All that stuff about the bad guys we faced? It’s all true.” She pulled a copy of her and her friends’ diary out of her mane and showed Somnambula the pages. “See?”

“Hmm...” Somnambula skimmed through the text, only stopping to read the important parts. Which, to her was all the parts that weren’t childish and immature like Pinkie Pie’s little jokes and quips about the issue or Rarity’s words on fashion. “Alright.” She slammed the book shut and cracked a tiny smile. “I will take your word for it. For now, at least...”

Finally, after their long battle against the sands, Pinkie and Somnambula arrived at a city with a pair of pyramids behind it. Straight away, they saw merchant ponies and other villagers all congregating in the stalls ahead, seeling and purchasing gems, urns, golden trinkets, and other items of interest.

“Civilisation.” Somnambula trotted across the last few specks of sand and entered the village. “Come, Pinkie Pie. Let us see just what has changed since we left.”

“Okie dokie lokie, Somnambie!” Pinkie bounced into the city.

“Somnambie?” Somnambula took a step back.

“Just a little nickname. It’s good to have one, y’know?” Pinkie smiled. “Twilight’s nickname is Twily, Applejack’s is Jackie, I call Rainbow Dash Dashie, the list goes on!”

“Hmm...” Somnambula’s smile got a bit wider. “Do you think I should give the other Pillars titles like that?”

“I would, but right now, I’m having a little bit of trouble doing that myself...” said Pinkie as they waltzed by the stalls. “I mean, I’ve got Rocky, Flashie, and Swirly going round in my head, but I think those are a bit on the nose. Plus, Twilight would get a little mad if I called Starswirl that...”

Somnambula just gave out a little giggle. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a pony as eccentric as you are, Pinkie Pie.”

“Aw, thanks!” She smiled wider. “I try.”

As Pinkie and Somnambulampassed through the village, the hustle and bustle of the merchants and their consumers had died down to mere whispers and gasps. Even ponies who were in the middle of collecting their items had stopped and turned to see what was happening.

“Is that...” A female pony jabbed a hoof.

“Somnambula?!” Another one finished her sentence for her.

“By the stars above, it is! It’s her!” Another pony called out.

“Our prayers have been answered!” A fourth one joined in.

And before Pinkie or Somnambula could say or do anything else, the two of them were quickly swarmed on by the townsfolk. Cheers and hollers were heard all around as the two of them were picked up and carried off down the streets.

“Wh-whoa!” Somnambula stumbled in the ponies’ lift. “What is this?”

“Looks like you’ve got yourself some fans.” Pinkie Pie smiled and rode the wave of ponies, laughing all the way as she did so. “You’re lucky. We never get this much praise for saving Ponyville!”

“Still, I did not think that ponies would remember me.” Somnambula tried to get even a glimpse of where she and Pinkie were going. “All I did was save one pharoah from a sphinx. Surely, such a tale would have been lost to time after a thousand years...”

“I don’t think you’re being remembered just for beating that big ol’ meanie.” Pinkie Pie saw a statue of Somnambula out of the corner of her eyes.

Pinkie and Somnambula were taken through many streets and off towards a large palace at the end of the town. The group of ponies brought both of them to a massive gate with hieroglyphics enscribed onto them. The guards saw the crowd approaching and readied a set of three-pronged spears, but the ponies stopped right in front of them before setting Somnambula and Pinkie down.

“What madness is this, citizens?” One of the guards asked the townsponies.

“Sorry to distress you, palace guards.” A male pony with a brown coat and black mane stepped forward. “But we just wanted to inform the pharaoh that Somnambula has finally returned.” And he stepped aside to reveal her and Pinkie Pie.

“Somnambula?” The second guard’s eyes bulged out so much that they almost popped out of his head. “As in the Goddess of Hope?”

“Goddess of Hope?” Both Pinkie and Somnambula chimed together.

“Allow me to explain, your holiness.” A female pony with light blue skin and white hair stepped forward. She had a pair of cats as her Cutie Mark and wore a bright green necklace. “Ever since you saved the pharoah of a thousand years past from that sphinx, you have inspired hope in all of us. Your past subjects, the ones in this day and age, and all the future ponies will look back upon you and think of you as a true goddess.”

“Hence the title, Goddess of Hope,” a third pony added. “You should feel honoured. It’s not very often that a simple pony such as yourself can join the ranks of Thoth, Geb, and Ptah...”

“Still, I don’t think that all that warrants me a place among such true legends...” Somnambula’s hoof brushed against the ground. “I mean, Thoth was a legend that far surpasses even that of the Pillars themselves, Geb was a pony who saved countless lives with his powers, and Ptah’ acts make mine and my compatriots’ acts look simple and plain.”

“Oh, don’t be so modest, Somnambula. You truly are deserving of the godddess status.” The female pony with the cat Cutie Mark chuckled. “I bet the schoolkids would love to see you in the flesh.”

“What is your name, miss?” Somnambula asked.

“My name is Bastet, your holiness.” She bowed before her. “I am a teacher at the local school.”

“But your Cutie Mark is to do with cats.” Pinkie Pie pointed towards it. “Unless, you teach a group of super-cats who have the power to talk to ponies!”

Bastet just laughed. “Not exactly, but you’re close. Yes, I do work with cats as well, but my main job focuses on teaching the fillies and colts of this fine city everything they need to know.” She turned back to the guards. “But we’re getting side-tracked here. I’m sure the pharoah will be quite surprised when he sees you.”

“Yes. He will be surprised.” One of the guard pushed the gates wide open and made an inviting gesture. “Come, Somnambula. Pharoah Oasis awaits.”

“I humbly request to bring my escort, Pinkie Pie along with me.” Somnambula pointed to Pinkie, who had been looking at Bastet’s Cutie Mark until her name had been called.

“Very well,” said the guard. “Step forth, Pinkie Pie.”

“Huh? Oh!” Pinkie snapped out of her gaze. “Coming!”

Pinkie and Somnambula walked through the giant gates into a large courtyard. Undisturbed water channels covered the slight gaps at each path, with flowers growing around the walls. There were also large torches in the centre of the court and some more hanging high on the walls.

At the other end of the courtyard stood a large palace, with giant pony statues with jackal heads standing guard over the place. They held large stone spears in their hands and were constantly gazing down on everything inside. Inbetween the two statues was a large entryway into the palace, with a smaller set of wooden doors in the frame. More guards stood watch at these doors than the ones outside, and this new line of defenders were more armoured than the others.

“Whoa...” Pinkie Pie’s breath was taken away by the sight. “This place is huge!” She darted over to one of the walls and tried to bounce up to the top of it. But no matter how hard she tried, her hooves didn’t even reach the top. “You’d have to be a super-bold pegasus to get in here without an invitation!”

“The pharoahs of southern Equestria have always had ponies trying to take the throne.” Somnambula walked forward. “It has been that way since the dawn of time, and it shall remain that way for years to come.”

“Yeah, but isn’t this kinda overdoing it?” Pinkie pulled out a ladder and placed it against the wall. She scaled it and tried to pull herself up to the top, but as she leapt off, she missed again and landed back on her tail. “I mean, Celestia doesn’t have walls this big...”

“Losing a pharoah in this part of the world is just as devastating as losing someone else’s life.” Somnambula approached the doors. “It has a massive impact that rocks the townsponies to their very cores. But they still move on, eventually.” She finally walked up to the doors and watched the guards stand aside. “This way. The pharoah awaits.”

Pinkie took the ladder and shoved it back in her mane before dashing back to Somnambula’s side. Together, the two of them opened the doors and revealed a staircase on the other side.

“Now, I will warn you right now that the pharoah is a very revered pony.” Somnambula trotted up the staircase first, with Pinkie behind her. “If you do anything that upsets them, then I can’t be held responsible for the consequences.”

“I’m sure I can behave for one pony.” Pinkie Pie nodded. “Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Suddenly, a muffled scream rang out just as Pinkie and Somnambula made it to the top of the stairs. It sounded feminine and distressed, as if someone was making it suffer. The noise sent shivers down both of the mares’ spines and made them shudder from head to toe.

“Does Celestia have torture rooms back in your kingdom?” Somnambula asked.

“No.” Pinkie hastily shook her head.

“That was the one thing I hoped we didn’t need anymore. But alas, even a thousand years later, there are still ponies who suffer barbaric tortures in the pharoah’s punishment chambers.” Somnambula frowned. “I just hope that they live to see the light of day again.”

“I’m sure they will.” Pinkie shook away her frown. “Sure, they may have done some bad stuff, but the fact that they’re still kicking means that they have a chance. I mean, just look at Princess Luna, or Discord, or even Starlight Glimmer!”

“Well, if you say so.” Somnambula grinned weakly.

The pharaoh's throne room was not like what Pinkie or Somnambula were expecting. There was a glass wall behind it with a pair of doors leading out towards a balcony behind the throne itself. The only sights that could bee seen from it were the pyramids in the distance and another vast desert.

As for the throne room itself, a pillar stood at each of the four corners with braziers burning brightly at each of the walls. A set of hieroglyphs ran all the way around the room, depicting a lot of different characters. From the door to the throne itselt was a long, indigo carpet with gold fabric lining the edges. There were tables and other pieces of furniture holding up bundles of papyrus paper. Nobody could actually see what was on the paper, but Somnambula figured that it was all important economical and political documents for the pharaoh to revise or sign. Pinkie Pie, on the other hand, thought that they were something else entirely.

The pharaoh stood up from his throne and stepped forward before Somnambula and Pinkie Pie, who very quickly bowed before him. His skin was aquamarine with his hair being a slightly darker shade of the same colour. He wore ceremonial armour with gems burned into it and a tall yellow crown on his head with a tiny cobra snake poking out of it. As for his Cutie Mark, it depicted an oasis shimmering in the midst of a roaring sandstorm.

"You may rise," said the Pharaoh calmly, prompting Pinkie and Somnambula to follow his order.

"Greetings, o pharaoh of this land." Somnambula gave the pharaoh a smile. "We have traveled all the way from Central Equestria to seek an audience with you."

"You need not seek permission here, almighty one." The pharaoh smiled and took his crown off, kneeling before the two of them in return. "If anything, it should be me asking an audience with you, Somnambula, the Optimist."

"Gee. It seems like everypony in this place loves you to bits, Somnambula." Pinkie looked down at the bowing pharaoh. "That big, nasty sphinx must've been more trouble than I thought..."

"Pinkie Pie, I keep telling you that it was just an ordinary sphinx." Somnambula turned towards Pinkie, seeming a little bit harassed. "Why does everypony keep treating me like a goddess for stopping one creature one time?"

"Well, I mean, I guess it could be the fact that other ponies in other parts of the globe think a little differently to the rest of the world and that you actually are a god, or..." Pinkie tossed away the globe she had been fiddling with. "It could be that you actually ARE a goddess now! Which, wouldn't be too surprising, seeing as how you're one of the Pillars of Equestria..."

"And I am quite proud to have that honor," she said. "But I think that being called a goddess is a little too much praise..."

"Oh, Somnambula. Your modesty never ceases to inspire us." The pharaoh chuckled and put his crown back on. "Whether you are one of the Pillars of Equestria or a goddess here in Southern Equestria, there is nopony here who doesn't worship you. You should be proud of all you have done for us."

"When you say everypony worships me, what do you mean by that?" Somnambula tilted her head. "I apologize if it sounds bizarre of me to say that. It has been a thousand years since I was last here..."

"From that one little tail of saving a former pharaoh, the ponies of Southern Equestria started to gain confidence." The pharaoh pointed towards the hieroglyphics on the walls. "When warriors went out to battle great monsters and ponies consumed by evil intent, they always took hoof-crafted trinkets made out of gems, in their devotion for you. Your will to believe against impossible odds struck deep with the ponies," he said. "Many more dreams were met, children did better in schools, and everyone had that much more confidence in themselves; both in the thousand years since your transcendence from this world and in this modern-day Southern Equestria." He finally walked back up to her. "In the end, the ponies decided to immortalize you, by creating shrines, statues, and certain prayers in churches entirely for you. And ever since, you became known as the Goddess of Hope: Somnambula, the Optimist."

"I..." Somnambula didn't know what to feel about any of this. Being the wise and benevolent pony she was, she didn't think that this many ponies would've appreciated her feats for centuries on end. To her, it seemed like she was still in the past as a local hero. "This is all so strange..."

"I know. Doing the limbo for a thousand years must be pretty draining..." Pinkie Pie patted Somnambula on her back. "Did you at least have a little bar to limbo under while holding back the Pony of Shadows for all that time?"

"I highly doubt that a place like that would have any actual limbo bars, Pinkie Pie." Somnambula tousled Pinkie's mane. "If anything, everything just happened in the blink of an eye. One second, we were sealing him away and the next, we were back at Ponehenge with you and all of your other friends. It was instantaneous."

"Well, whatever the reason you came back, it is good that you did, Somnambula." The pharaoh bowed once again. "Oh, but where are my manners? I haven't even introduced myself yet." He looked up at her. "I am pharaoh Glistening Oasis. My predecessor, Swift Blade, met a tragic end by venomous cobras and asps after attackers stormed the palace and hauled him away to the Tombs of Treachery. Since then, we have doubled the height of the walls, enlisted more guards into our ranks, and have ensured that nothing like this ever happens again."

"Mmm. How sad." Somnambula looked out towards the sands beyond the throne. "I just hope that, in his last rites, his body believed that somepony would have saved him from his fate..."

"His body was found, drained of all poisons, and then mummified," Glistening turned back to his guests. "If you want to see it, his sarcophagus was recently placed in the pyramids. But I must warn you, the place is heavily booby-trapped. It's to stop any thieves from pilfering his riches."

"I think I'll pass." Somnambula shook her head. "I only just came back from a dimensional prison with my compatriots and saved the world. I feel like I need a break from all of this heroism for a while."

"Suit yourself. I would not wish to step foot in such a dangerous place myself." Glistening sat back down on his throne.

"What the heck is a sarcophagus?" Pinkie tilted her head.

"You need not worry yourself with such things like that, Pinkie Pie," said Somnambula. "You are this generation's Element of Laughter. I would hate to do or tell you something that would diverge you from your destiny."

"Speaking of destiny..." Glistening Oasis rubbed his hooves together. "This part of the continent has been waiting for someone like you for a very long time, Somnambula. You have inspired ponies for a very long time now and I'm sure that, in return, you would like something from us."

"Oh, no. That's completely fine." She waved her front hooves. "You don't need to do anythi—"

"How you rescued pharaoh Ancient Texts shows your devotion to this part of the world, and the sacrifices you would be willing to make to keep the place safe," Glistening continued. "I know that this is very sudden for you, and I don't meant to impart anything that would give you too much stress, but I think you are quite fitting of a very special title." He walked over towards a cupboard and opened it up, revealing a black headband with a peculiar eye-shaped mark on it. "Somnambula. How would you like to be a Medjay?"

"WHAT?!" Both Pinkie and Somnambula stumbled backwards and fell onto their haunches.

"Do not fret. There is no time limit to this question." He clopped on the ground twice, which caused the guards to open the door back up. "If you need to think it over, feel free to do so. Report back to me when you have your answer."

All Pinkie and Somnambula could do was share a fret with each other as the question sunk into their minds. Their foreheads began to tighten up and sweat was running down Somnambula's forehead. The two of them eventually did stand back up and walk out of the throne room, but still, their brains were running a thousand miles a minute with the prospect.

Me? A Medjay? Somnambula watched as the guards shut the doors behind her and Pinkie after they exited the throne room. I don't even know what to think right now... I just return from a thousand years and I'm suddenly to be anointed as a defender of Southern Equestria? How much more has this world changed since I last left it?

Author's Notes:

Hello, everyone! I'm back. It only took me a couple of weeks to get this out. And the reason why it took this long was a multitude of reasons:

One: I went to Tenerife in the last days before Christmas and, if it wasn't apparent from my blogs, it was a bit of an odd little holiday.

Two: Christmas happened, and so we all had to open presents and share in the goodwill of the holidays. As you do.

And three: I've been engulfed in Assassin's Creed Origins since Christmas and I don't think I've stopped loving it. A game set in Egypt about an Egyptian man taking down an Egyptian pharaoh because he works for the Templars or some other shit with VERY HEAVY Egyptian theming and some usages of the egyptian language in place of some ordinary words just makes me ever so happy to be alive.

As for the next chapter, it's going to be Applejack and Rockhoof. Then the next will be Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus and the one after that will be Twilight, Starlight, Sunburst, Starswirl, and Stygian. If you're looking forward to those, then make sure to stick around, as I'm sure I'll get to them soon enough.

But for now, I hope that you all enjoy yourselves, have great days, and I'll be seeing you soon for the next chapters.

Applejack and Rockhoof: Cultural Gap

Applejack and Rockhoof soon found themselves on the shores of a quiet beach, with a series of small piers stretching out from it. Though it didn't look like much in itself, both of the earth ponies found it quite a comforting sight. They weren't big fans of flashy cities, large crowds, or any kind of modernization. Truly, this was a sight that pleased both of them.

"I still cannae believe how far this place has come since we left." Rockhoof stared out to a tiny speck of land in the distance.

"Yeah. And I ain't even seen half of it." Applejack trotted down to the beach towards the piers. "Normally 'cause I'm home with mah family or helping Twilight and the rest of her friends save Equestria." As she stopped on that thought, she turned towards Rockhoof, who clambered down onto the sands. "Actually, Rockhoof. You do know that it's been a thousand years since you were here, right?"

"Aye?" He turned his ears upward.

"Well, a heck of a lot happens in that time." Applejack rubbed the back of her head, unsure of how to approach Rockhoof with the truth. "Some ponies move on and others just stay behind. Heck, some of 'em even forget about you if—"

"Applejack, I know what you're about to say, and I already know how you're gonna break it down fer me." Rockhoof put one of his massive hooves over Applejack's muzzle. "It's great and all that ya care for me and my family, but Starswirl told me and the rest of the pillars before we sealed Stygian at Ponehenge that we'd never see any of our old friends and family again." His eyes formed a small tear, but it barely even left his eye. "The news hit us like boulders to the gut, and a few of us ended up crying like wee foals. But we all managed to pull through and let it all go."

"Ah'd hate to lose any of my family; even if it were to stop some big, bad monster from destroying Equestria." Applejack pulled her hat down over her face. "Just the idea of never seeing Big Mac, Applebloom, or Granny Smith again... it makes me feel sicker than a skunk with diarrhea."

"That's an... odd way to put it, Applejack." Rockhoof scratched his chin as the smell of the sea wafted around his nose. "Ah can tell yer not a normal Ponyville pony straight away."

"Well, I suppose you're a little right there." Applejack started walking forward towards the piers. "Most of the family hails from Appleoosa, out by Dodge Junction in the deserts. There's a ton more country ponies there, so I see where you're coming from with that."

"Well, I'm not sure I remember a place called Appleoosa, but from the way you describe it, it sounds much more like your kinda place than Ponyville." He stepped up to the first pier. "Not that it's bad to live there. You and your friends are quite heroic ponies, having saved the world countless times in our absence."

"I can't argue with that." Applejack shrugged and gave a coy smile. "Ah mean, not to brag, but when we've had to stop a night-obsessed alicorn, a chaos mongering draconequus, a queen of shape-shifting bug creatures, and a magic-hungry centaur, we kinda garnered a bit of a reputation for ourselves."

"True," said Rockhoof stoically as he felt the full effects of the wind in his hair. He trotted all the way to the end of the water and leaned his chest over the edge.

Applejack watched with interest as Rockhoof took himself more and more over the water's edge. She was convinced that he was going to overstretch and fall into the water, but it never came. She waited minutes upon minutes for a slip-up, but it just never came. Her eyes widened at the sight of her idol, one of the Pillars of Equestria, still holding steady over the waters.

"Applejack. Do you know why we're the Pillars of Equestria in the first place?" Rockhoof finally broke through the noise of the wind.

"Because of your tales of heroism and the virtues you told other ponies to look up to?" Applejack tilted her head to the side.

"Everyone has their own perceptions of us. Be we legendary heroes from a time long-past, campfire or bedtime stories parents tell their fillies and colts as a way to inspire confidence, or even just a really powerful group of ponies from all walks of life." Rockhoof's mane fluttered softly as he heard Applejack step closer. "And while those are all good answers, it's not how we would describe ourselves.

"The Pillars of Equestria. We chose that name because we are the foundations of life itself, and healthy ones at that." He turned back towards Applejack, coiling back onto the land. "Beauty, Hope, Healing, Bravery, Strength, and Sorcery. All six of these are traits of a true hero. It's not just one thing that a pony should look to in order to make themselves stronger. Instead, all of them are things everypony should take to heart and try to use to make themselves better." He took his shovel off of his back and pointed the tip down at the pier. "Mistmane, Somnambula, and even the other pillars might see it different ways, but I personally think that everypony could learn from all of us, not just from one of us. Even that Twilight Sparkle girl of yours could take some lessons from the other pillars, 'stead of gushing over Starswirl every second."

"I see..." Applejack took Rockhoof's explanation and started to reflect on everything she and her friends had done. Her mind raced through the memories that she and her friends had made over the years and then took what he had said into account. "Maybe I should tell that to the rest of my friends when we get back home. Heck, even I can learn a thing or to from the rest of the girls."

"Well, I'm sure you and your kin 'ave learned plenty already," Rockhoof said. "I see the Tree of Harmony chose some good ponies after all."

"Thank ya for that, Rockhoof." Applejack too grew a small tear, only she wasn't strong enough to hold it in as it dribbled down her cheeks.

"No problem," he smiled. "Now then, let's head on out and see just how my home's held up after all this time, shall we?"

"Sounds good to me." Applejack nodded. "But, uh, where are we gonna get one?"

"That's not a problem, Applejack." Rockhoof headed back off the pier towards a shack by the trees. Around that shack were a series of boats, some long and others short. "Unless you've never been sailing before, that is."

"Oh, I've been sailing, alright." Applejack followed after Rockhoof, stamping tiny craters in the sand with every step that she took.

"But I ain't never been sailing like this!" She found herself on a tiny raft with no sail, and a long oar. She watched as Rockhoof was in a similar-looking boat, but he was having no problems sailing out. "What in tarnation are ya doing?!"

"I'm sailing, aren't I?" Rockhoof paddled his way out, making a large watery gap between him and Applejack. "Isn't this how ponies sailed back in the day?"

"Yeah. Back in the day." Applejack groaned and tried her hardest to paddle through the water, only to end up spinning around on the spot. "Now, we got all kinds of fancy whatchamacallits like rudders and sails to help us out. Plus, they ain't all that unreliable like this stupid thing..." Applejack gritted her teeth and frantically paddled, but ended up turning herself around completely.

Rockhoof turned around and immediately came back for Applejack, alternating his strokes between sides. Left, right, left, right. This pattern continued until he finally caught up with Applejack and stabilized her ship.

"You can't sail?" Rockhoof offered his hooves to Applejack.

"Ah can sail. Just not like this!" Applejack threw her legs out, unintentionally throwing away the oar itself. "How in the hay were ya'll in the Mighty Helm able to do this kinda stuff without all the other parts?"

"Well, a lot has changed since the whole Pony of Shadows thing." Rockhoof laid himself down and fished the plank out for her. "And while it would be nice to see all the little changes Equestria's gone through, I prefer to keep the old ways."

"Well, that's fine, but some ponies are actually glad to have this stuff these days." Applejack clambered off of the raft and back on to the shores. "I'm just gonna get a real boat and head out. I'll see you at your island."

"Oh, come on, Applejack. Don't be a greenhorn." Rockhoof watched Applejack walk across the beach. "It's good for the muscles, sailing out like this."

"Yeah. But I'm not really one fer all them big feats of strength myself." Applejack glanced out at Rockhoof, looking at his technique especially. While she was a tad curious on how to do it, she still didn't want any more hassle on her part. "I mean, I am strong, don't get me wrong, but this is just a little bit out of my comfort zone."

"Strength is all about pushing yerself to the limit and breaking that comfort zone down into little tiny-bitesize pieces." Rockhoof skimmed across the shallow shores. "When you have no fear, no worries, and no problems, then you truly are a powerful pony. That's something I learned once I found my way into the Helm."

"Life ain't all about strength, though." Applejack took a boat and started to drag it out towards the beach. "Ya gotta have a little bit of honesty in there too. And I honestly can't raft like you do, Rockhoof, so I'm gonna do the only thing that's right and take a boat out to your island."

"Well, suit yourself, Applejack." Rockhoof turned around towards the sea and began sailing out for his home. "If you need anymore help, just give me a shout and I'll turn round. The Mighty Helm have a golden rule: Help those who can't help themselves."

As Applejack finally planted her boat in the water and lead it to the edge of one of the piers, she could immediately see Rockhoof a fair bit away from her, paddling away with no difficulty whatsoever. A few things rose up inside of her, mostly being jealousy at Rockhoof for doing something she couldn't, and then anger for the fact that he was able to do it easily. She almost missed her boat entirely, and quickly snapped out of her fantasies to leap into it, making a huge splash around her.

Applejack and Rockhoof finally made it to an island out in the middle of nowhere. They both tied their vessels to the single pier and climbed out of it, making their way back onto land.

"So, this is the state of my home..." Rockhoof trotted forward, seeing an excavation site beneath the volcano. He thought that he had wandered into a ghost town with how lifeless and hollow the place seemed. "Time worked a wicked spell here."

"You said it. I don't think the Mighty Helm have been here for centuries..." Applejack looked up to the tops of the cliffs, but found nothing but rocky walls in her way. "Let alone anypony else."

"So it would appear my home's the only one in tatters." Rockhoof walked forward, feeling pangs of sorrow well up in his belly as his face loosened up and a small puff of air flew out of his nose. With every hoofstep he took on the barren and forgotten island, he found nothing but silence and rocks.

"I'm terribly sorry, Rockhoof." Applejack came over and gave Rockhoof a small hug, patting his back tenderly. "I thought for sure the ponies would come here more often, had they known your shovel was here."

"It's quite alright, Applejack." Rockhoof turned away, the tears in his eyes now fully visible. "I'm... I'm fine." He choked on his own words.

"Rockhoof, I know that this is a bit of a harsh wake-up call for you, but you must've predicted this too." Applejack pulled him closer to her. "I can't do anything more than say that I'm sorry."

"My kin, my home, the Helm, it's all gone." Rockhoof patted the ground, feeling drained of all his energy. "Everything I've believed in is up in flames."

"There was nothing you could've done, Rockhoof," said Applejack. "You had to keep the Pony of Shadows in limbo for a thousand years. I'd say that's a much higher calling; keeping someone evil chained up like that instead of letting it run free and destroy your home."

"Aye. But that still doesn't ease the pain I feel." Rockhoof broke out of Applejack's hug and looked up at the dormant volcano. "What is the Pillar of Strength when he cannae defend his family and friends? I know there was an evil shadow pony involved in my disappearance, but I didnae think all this would've happened after that. I thought for sure that some of my greater ancestors or some newer batch of Mighty Helm recruits would've stayed behind." He walked up to the cliff and gave it a solid punch. "At least something, even a singular pony would've done. But no. All I'm met with after a thousand years is nothing! Nothing at all!"

Applejack watched as Rockhoof pummeled the wall in front of him into pieces. Every punch had a lot of force and weight behind it, and every one of them struck Applejack as well. As she and the rest of the girls had been freeing the Pillars and stopping Stygian from destroying the world, she hadn't thought about the truth when the pillars found out that everything about their old lives; including their homes, would be gone.

With one final punch, Rockhoof blasted a large hole into the wall, then turned back to face Applejack again. "Listen. I... My entire world's gone, Applejack," he said. "You, your friends, and the Pillars are all I have left."

"Rockhoof. Surely, there's a way we can fix this, right?" Applejack gave a big frown.

"Applejack. No matter what ye say to me now, whether it be fixing this town, restarting the Mighty Helm, or even opening some weird kinda spell that'll let me say goodbye ta everyone, it's not gonna work." He shoved his shovel into the dirt beneath him. "This massive cultural gap between my world and this one is like a chasm with no bridge. I can never get to the other side, so I've gotta do my best to protect what's important on the one I'm stuck on."

Applejack promptly gave Rockhoof a big buck on the face. "Wake up, Rockhoof! Quit your blubbering and moping for a few seconds and listen!" She held onto his cheeks as hard as she could. "Don't let yourself down just because of what's happened here. Whatever happened to the strong, brave, and dependable pony I used to tell Applebloom about?"

"Lass, I appreciate it, but d'ye really think this is—"

"Not just that. You're one of the Pillars of Equestria, for Celestia's sake! You yourself told me that you and the other Pillars had sucked all this up and moved on! So why are just caving in now?" She felt tension building up in her forehead, then gave a massive sigh to dispel it. "Look. Even though it looks like the place is a wreck, that's no reason to just give up like that! I'm sure that the other Pillars wouldn't have, and neither should you!"

"Applejack..." Rockhoof tried to speak, but Applejack held his muzzle closed.

"Now, you can just sit around moping about the place, or—" Applejack ripped the shovel out of the ground and started digging a ring around the pit, almost as the same speed he had done when he plowed the way for a lava diversion "—You can grow up and help me rebuild this place. It's your choice." She threw the tool back to his hooves.

As Rockhoof finally let the pain of loss melt away in Applejack's inferno of a glare, he felt his energy come back to him. Slowly but surely, he stood back up and picked up his shovel once again. He stared at Applejack's work, the open temple doors, and the rest of the island above him. With one final breath, he pushed his metal blade down into the earth.

"Applejack. You're one strong-hearted pony." Rockhoof slowly hobbled forward. "Even though me and the other Pillars accepted the fate of Equestria, when we see the damage for ourselves, we cannae help but feel like crying," he said. "But you? You're different. You understand our pain and are trying your hardest to see others through it. Here's me going on about being the Pillar of Strength, yet my own heart was weak at the sight of this."

"It's quite alright, Rockhoof." Applejack looked down at her own hooves. "I know I don't know much about the Helm or this village, but it seems like you must have had a lot of memories here. Even I'd cry if I saw one of my friends or family go away forever like this." She gave him another pat on the back. "But you've got me to help you out. I'm sure that, together, the two of us would be able to fix this place up and get ponies livin' here again."

"Are you sure about that?" Rockhoof was never a doubtful pony, but not even he was immune from insecurity and non-conviction. "I mean, I appreciate the effort and all, but we're just a couple of earth ponies. What can we do about this place?"

"You're forgetting two big things, Rockhoof." Applejack smirked and took the shovel back, digging her Cutie Mark and Rockhoof's side-by-side. "I'm Equestria's Element of Honesty, and you're the Pillar of Strength and the last surviving member of the Mighty Helm. Ponies would pay anything to live with a couple of living legends!"

"I suppose we do have that going for us..." He tipped his hoof forward.

"Trust me on this. Just the mere mention that you're alive and well is sure to get ponies running over here." Applejack puffed out her chest and came back over. "Plus, we might be a couple of earth ponies, but we're both strong, capable, and hard-working, so I'm sure that we could make all the houses and everything."

"Applejack. Are you sure that you're not setting your ambitions a little too high?" Rockhoof cocked a brow at the mare.

"I know that it ain't gonna be able to replace your family, friends, and other villagers, but it's a start." Applejack looked up into his eyes and took her hat off. "And if I've learned anything, it's that once you start something, you've gotta make sure you see it through 'til the end. So what do you say, big guy?" This time, it was Applejack's turn to hold her hoof out for Rockhoof. "You wanna help me rebuild your home, the Helm, and your life as we know it?"

Rockhoof hesitated at first, given the daunting scale of the job at hand and how time-consuming it would all be for him and Applejack to fix everything up. But after he had considered everything, including the end result and how it would break him out of this slump, he decided to shake her hoof in the end. "Alright then, Applejack. You've got yourself a deal..."

Author's Notes:

The way that I perceived Rockhoof in this chapter was very much playing on two key factors.

1: His strength, willpower, and determination.
2: His scottish accent. (I know he's more like a nordic pony, but scottish and nordic people are almost the same, really. Accent and all.)

Anyways. So now, AJ and Rockhoof's story will be about them trying to attract people to Rockhoof's island and try to rebuild everything. I'll try my hardest to make it interesting for all of you, but if I manage to screw up somewhere along the way, please let me know so that I can make it better for you.

The next chapter in this story is going to be Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus, so expect some daredevil-like stuff, some high-risk adventuring, and a lot of cocky, wily, and competitive talk. Then after that, it's gonna be Twilight, Starlight, Sunburst, Starswirl, and Stygian.

Until those come out, I hope that you've enjoyed this chapter, and I'll see you all in the next one...

Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus: The Epic Adventure of Awesomeness Begins

Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus soared through the skies of Equestria, the wind forcibly throwing their manes and tails backwards. Every so often, they would swoop down to the ground, then pull up inches away from the grass, blasting everything around them away like it was nothing. To most other pegasi, it was scary and seemed like a dangerous game. But for Flash and Rainbow, this was nothing more than fun. Awesome fun at that.

"So. How long have you heard about the Pillars, Dash?" Flash Magnus finally asked after the two of them pulled away one last time.

"Well, if I'm gonna be honest, Flash, you were the only Pillar I'd ever heard about. Heck, I didn't even know you were a Pillar of Equestria to begin with!" Rainbow Dash threw her forehooves downwards. "I was more interested in the super-awesome tale of how you fended off a horde of dragons with that shield of yours."

"Oh. That." Flash turned towards the shield on his back. "Y'know, Rainbow, I might've been brave, but dragons were pretty intimidating back then. You've gotta have some REAL guts to stand up to those things. And even then, most ponies who do never live to tell the tale."

"But you did! And that's what makes you the coolest Pillar of them all!" Rainbow could barely keep herself still for a second around Flash, and zipped around to his side. "One pegasus, all by himself, fending off lots of ferocious fire-breathing dragons so his battalion could make it home safely! The stakes were high, the danger totally real, the the chance for failure high as the sky itself!" She took a deep breath and played the whole thing out in her head, envisioning herself in that very same situation. "Even with the Sonic Rainboom, not even I would've been able to stop those guys from turning my friends into a pot roast!"

"Yeah. It almost feels like yesterday when I was able to stand up to those beasts..." Flash Magnus wasn't much of a bragger, but he did like to dwell on his heroic deeds from time to time. "Even now, I can still hear Torch's roar as fire came crashing down on that shield of mine."

"Torch?" Rainbow Dash lifted a brow. "You mean that big dragon who's Dragon Lord Ember's dad?"

"You know him?" Flash's eyes almost popped out of his head. "Did he try to threaten your land?!"

"No! No. Nothing like that." Rainbow Dash shook her hooves vigorously in front of her face. "It's just that Spike did this little thing in the Dragon Lands once. He told me all about Torch, Ember, and so much more when we went to get your shield back." She chuckled. "He was talking so much, it was almost a new world record or something..."

"Well, the Torch I remember isn't be like the one you and the rest of your friends know." Flash started flying off, with Dash close behind her. "He was vile, merciless, and powerful. He could tear up entire forests just by swooping over them! His flames could set fire to a lake! He could turn snowy mountains into just plain mountains in minutes!"

"Geez. That sounds a bit like he's overcompensating for something..." Rainbow Dash tipped her hooves.

"But unlike other dragons, he could back it all up. I distinctly remember the time he and his crew laid waste to Stratus..." Flash's head recoiled, as screams began to fill his mind. "All those friends of mine, screaming as dragons barreled through the clouds and blew the city to pieces."

"That sounds like dragons alright..." Rainbow Dash brought a hoof around her mouth. "But... aren't they supposed to attack only when someone steals their gems? Why'd they wanna torture ponies like that?"

"Dragons are a lot more mighty than you think, Rainbow Dash," said Flash, keeping his course. "Back then, there wasn't someone to keep them in check. So, they just did whatever they wanted; and that included hurting ponies and destroying the lands.

"Even with the shield my battalion gave me, those guys weren't ever gonna let up. In fact, when we were battling Stygian back then, I was sure that the dragons would've torched the place to cinders while we were gone." Flash took one look down at the rocky chasms beneath him, watching some creatures skitter about within it. "The fact that this place is still here must mean that the dragons either gave up or someone stopped them." He slowed down and took his helm off for a brief moment, revealing his mane. "It's good to be brave, Rainbow. But when you know that something's unavoidable, you can't help but feel a little worried about it."

"Tell me about it. I've had my fair share of shocks too." Rainbow also lowered her pace and let out a big sigh. "Sometimes, I've been known to do really stupid things because I thought it'd be awesome. But those just ended up backfiring on me in more ways than one."

"How come?" Flash tipped his hoof to her.

"I'd... rather not say." Rainbow winced and recoiled. "They're not really my best moments. In fact, just telling them to you might make you think less of me."

"Rainbow Dash, I'd never think any less of you or your friends." Flash came over and tenderly massaged Rainbow's shoulders. "You were chosen by our Tree of Harmony. Nothing you could say or do would ever make me think otherwise. Plus, you kinda rub off on me on a personal level."

"Personal?" Dash twisted her head around.

"Yeah. I mean you're brave, confident, and you never seem to shy away from danger. Not many ponies are like that, let alone normal pegasi." Flash grinned down on her. "I mean, I don't really know what you've done, so I can't judge you on your feats of heroism or anything like that, but I'd say that you've been working pretty hard to get where you are today, Rainbow Dash."

"Well, I am in the Wonderbolts; the coolest team of pegasi in Equestria." Rainbow began to blush heavily, and looked up at Flash like a kid would to their dad. "I could show you a few of the tricks I learned while we go on this epic adventure across Equestria if you want."

"I'd love to, Rainbow Dash, but first, I've really gotta see what's happened around here." Flash put his helmet back on. "You know what they say: A hero's work is never done; not even after they've come back from a thousand year prison."

"Then what are we waiting for just sitting around here?" Rainbow perked back up and buzzed her wings faster and faster. "Let's get going! See what there is to see!"

"Sure!" Flash blasted off, almost sending Rainbow spiraling out of control with his sudden burst of speed. "Let's go, Rainbow!"

As Rainbow took off after Flash, she noticed something about him almost immediately. Unlike most other pegasi, he was fast; almost as fast as her, even. But she was Rainbow Dash, the fastest, coolest, and most awesome flier in all of Equestria! And if Flash was as fast as her, then that was totally fine. It was great to have some competition to race against, especially considering that most of her friends weren't always up for a race—probably because she'd beat them hooves down.

Flash looked back at Rainbow Dash and watched as she tried her best to keep up with him. For being in limbo for a thousand years, he had been looking forward to stretching his wings and getting back in the skies again after so long. And now that he had her to keep him company, he felt even more at home in the air than he did with any of his former soldiers. Sure, she wasn't as steeled as he was and he couldn't tell what to make of her from a simple glance, but Flash knew that, deep down inside, Rainbow Dash had a lot of potential; waiting to be unleashed.

"So. This must be a pretty big thing for you, huh?" Flash called back to Rainbow Dash. "Getting to fly the skies with one of the most famous pegasi in the history of Equestria. Y'know, most ponies would only ever dream of this."

"I know! But I'm getting to live it!" Rainbow Dash was abuzz with excitement and adrenaline as she raced with Flash over the river beneath them. "I—no, we're the luckiest ponies in the world to have you and the other Pillars back. Twilight especially with Starswirl. She's got as much of his stuff as I do Wonderbolt stuff."

"Well... Starswirl's alright if you're a unicorn. But most of the time, he's all about the works of magic and all of his spells and all that stuff," said Flash. "But if you want action, thrills, and exhilaration, then I'm your guy!"

"And what a guy you are, Flash." Rainbow Dash nodded. "I couldn't have asked for a better guy to look up to as a kid. Even now, you're inspiring me to go farther."

"Oh, am I now?" He grinned. "Well, let's just see how far the two of us can go together, huh, Rainbow?"

"Yeah, Flash! Let's explore the world together, battle awesome monsters, and see some great sights that'll totally make the other girls jealous!" Rainbow felt so much vigor build inside of her that she thought she would explode.

"Alright! First stop, Iron Ore Outpost, right on the outskirts of the Dragon Lands!" Flash grinned and started to pick up speed again. "Let's get going!"

Rainbow and Flash jetted off again, drafting off of each other and constantly trying to overtake the other as they rocked the ground beneath them. With how fast the both of them were going, it was no surprise that the grass, plants, and even the water itself shook and shuddered beneath them, with the roaring noise of the air hitting the ears of all the animals and making them scurry away.

Flash and Rainbow raced long and hard together. In fact, they were racing to hard, that they barely even noticed the transition they made from grass lands to barren and lifeless rocky wastes. All they were concerned about was who would win their race first and whether or not they were getting rusty. But as smog began to fill the air and the skies grew darker, the two of them knew that their finish line was in sight and that they couldn't give up now.

"You're pretty good, Rainbow!" Flash called back as he tried to surge forward again.

"Thanks! I haven't had a good race like this in a long time!" Rainbow Dash beamed from ear to ear as the race began to reach its' climax. "Mostly because Fluttershy's not a big fan of racing and Twilight's been trying but still comes up pretty short."

"But we're not done yet! The outpost's just up ahead, by the looks of it." Flash lowered his brows and flapped his wings as fast as physically possible, feeling sweat begin to trickle down from his brow. "Last-ditch, girl! Go!"

As Rainbow Dash came to the end of the race, she started to get into formation for her trademarked Sonic Rainboom. She stuck behind Flash to get the speed she needed, beginning to bore a whole through the air itself. Once she was fast enough, she lightly pulled away from him and blasted forward, leaving a massive blast radius and streak of rainbow behind her as she shot past Flash at breakneck speeds, shooting right over the outpost and up into the air above, curving back as she made a rainbow arch.

Flash, being right next to Rainbow when the Sonic Rainboom had went off, did start to tumble out of control at the last moments and nearly crash into the ground below. His helmet flew straight off of his head in the ensuing chaos, clattering on the ground and was almost dented in the fall. Before his face could meet with a hard slab of earth, he flapped backwards and regained control of himself. He looked up and saw Rainbow's rainbow shine out through the dark and almost lifeless barrens of the Dragon Lands' outskirts, his mouth dropping wide open as Rainbow finished the arch and stopped right next to him.

"Looks like I won there, huh, Flash?" Rainbow puffed out her chest proudly as she came to a stop. "And you got to see one of the best things ever to happen to Equestria since sliced bread."

"Okay, I'll admit it." Flash closed his mouth and put his helmet back on again. "THAT was pretty cool what you did there, Rainbow. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it in my life!"

"Ya like it?" asked Rainbow. "I call it the Sonic Rainboom, and it's something that only I'm known to do." She folded her legs proudly.

"How much wingpower did you use for that move, Rainbow?" Flash was now the one who seemed giddy and childish in the face of a true legend. "You must be pretty exhausted after such a move like that!"

"Actually, Flash, I'm pretty fine as it is." Rainbow Dash let off a little chuckle. "I've been doing the Sonic Rainboom for such a long time now that I've never ran out of steam when using it."

"Really?" Flash leaned in. "You've gotta try and teach me that move some day, then. It'd be a nice little trick to have when me and the other Pillars are called to save the world."

"First things first, Flash. We've gotta see how this place has held up since you and the others went to limbo with Stygian." Rainbow Dash finally landed and recoiled her wings.

"Yeah." Flash took a deep breath and composed himself, exhaling heavily as he too stood on all fours again. "That sounds about right. Even if my old battalion's gone, we've gotta find out what's happened."

Iron Ore Outpost was not like what Flash had been expecting it to be. Whereas he would normally had been expecting ruins, he instead saw that the base was still fully functioning, with most of the brick towers and wall holding up. There was some decay to be found, but other than that, it all seemed structurally sound to him.

Inside the fort, however, it was an entirely different story. There were actually a few ponies inside, living peacefully together. Some were in small tents while others were in small houses. There were children, adults, and even a few foals surviving in this harsh location, unfazed by the thick air or lack of fertile land. Not even the ash and dirt on their clothes and faces were off-putting for them.

"Whoa..." Flash had to rub his eyes to make sure that he wasn't seeing any illusions. True enough, the village was still there after he had finished. "This is..."

"Strange." Rainbow stepped forward. "Why would there be a town like this right next to the Dragon Lands? Don't these ponies know the danger they're all in?"

"If they did, then they wouldn't have settled down here..." Flash took a few steps forward. "Still, it's nice to see that the place is still buzzing."

"Yeah. But why, though?" Rainbow followed after Flash. "At any moment, the dragons could take notice and wreck the place. Living all the way out here's pretty bold, I gotta say."

"Iron Ore Outpost used to be a simple little place where only me and my soldiers would dare to lay down roots." Flash turned to Rainbow. "When we banded together to push Torch and his dragons back to their home, this was the last little outpost we had outside of Equestria." He pointed out towards a distant river of lava, with a large wooden bridge hanging over it. "Once you went over that bridge, you were in their territory. And let's just say that dragons still aren't really fond of ponies in their land; even if those ponies happen to be friends of another dragon."

"Tell me about it." Rainbow nodded. "The dragons me and Spike dealt with weren't just gonna cough up your shield like that. We had to deal with them ourselves to get it."

"How large were they?" Flash lifted a brow. "Did you have to bust out that Sonic Rainboom of yours to get it?"

"Nah. Nothing like that." Rainbow brushed her hoof out to the side. "They were only teenage dragons. Not those big, bad, mindless monsters you've had to fight."

"Teenage... dragons?" Flash's curiosity piqued. For all the times he had been with his soldiers and with the very Pillars of Equestria themselves, he had only ever seen full-grown dragons.

"Yeah. They're much smaller. Kinda like the size of two ponies stacked on top of each other," Rainbow Dash put a hoof on top of her other hoof for emphasis. "Much more kid-like as well. They weren't all like, 'You dare to steal my gems, little ponies? Prepare to be burned alive!'." She let out a gruff roar that went well with the accent she was putting on.

Flash couldn't help but giggle at Rainbow's impression of a dragon. "That's pretty much them, alright. But I've still never heard of any dragon smaller than the ones I've seen." He turned back towards the village and took another look at the peaceful ponies in it. "Huh. Maybe they have changed since I left."

"I bet'cha they have." Rainbow nodded. "Now let's go and see why in the heck all these ponies are living out here in the middle of nowhere."

Flash and Rainbow walked into the town side by side, with so many questions filling their heads. How had such a single outpost evolved like this? Why didn't the dragons destroy the place at first sight? And why were all the ponies in this village thriving without a clean environment? Those and more swirled around through their minds as they finally passed through the gates and onto the first pathway of the new village. Truly, their adventure had begun.

Author's Notes:

Alright. There's only one more pillar pair to break in, and then the cycle will begin all over again. Twilight, Starlight, Starswirl, Stygian, and Sunburst are all gonna get their moment in the spotlight in the next chapter, so expect a lot of talk on magic, Twilight's fangasming, and many more.

And if you especially enjoyed the FlashDash in this chapter, then please feel free to let me know with a comment or two. The comments really help me out when I'm writing with characters that I've never written before, so some constructive feedback on all of the Pillars would be nice, as it can teach me how to improve and change them in certain areas and make them even more enjoyable to watch as they travel the world they once vanished from for a thousand years.

See you in the next chapter, all!

The Five Unicorns: The Sorceror's Homecoming

Twilight, Starlight, Starswirl, Stygian, and Sunburst were all climbing the mountain of Canterlot, already a good distance away from the sprawling haven of a city beneath them. The winds pounded against them and their coats as they climbed the treacherous path up and around the spiraling mountain.

Starswirl, in his age, had been quite apprehensive in the past. When the fate of the world is at stake and you're always in danger of being attacked by a new force wanting to plague the world, it's natural that you would have a sixth sense to danger and a lack of trust with other ponies. But now that Twilight had opened up his eyes and finished his fight for him, he was starting to heavily reconsider all that he had been in the past, and whether or not he was still useful in this new modern-day Equestria.

As for Sunburst and Starlight, the daunting task of climbing the mountain was beginning to get to them. More and more, they felt the air around them grow colder and their vertigo start to kick in as the ledges got more and more thin. Sunburst nearly spiraled off the edge entirely if Starlight hadn't caught onto him.

"I didn't think one of the most powerful unicorns in history lived somewhere so..." Sunburst took a quick glance out at the path, seeing no end in sight. "Treacherous."

"It can be a bit hard to take in the first time." Starswirl pushed his own mane out of his face as the winds played around with it. "But it is all worth it when you feel like no bothersome intruders would follow you."

"Starswirl's the strongest pillar of them all. It would only make sense that someone like him lives somewhere safe." Twilight was using her wings for the majority of the climb, so she wasn't afraid of falling. But, even as she looked down, she could see why the others were. "Even if his house is right on top of Canterlot's mountain, almost a mile above the actual city itself."

"But why do you think he chose to settle there at all?" Starlight asked, lifting a brow. "Sure, he's a powerful unicorn and your idol, Twilight, but a fall from this height would still get him a date with his maker..."

"I don't know much about it, but I did find some parts of his books and manuscripts that said he stayed up there for a specific purpose. Though, I'm not quite sure what that purpose actually is..." Twilight tried looking up to the top of the mountain, but still couldn't make anything out. "Well, whatever it was, it must have been important."

"Time will have done a considerable amount to my old home; or whatever remains of it at all. Even though there's no threat to Equestria at the moment, it still doesn't hurt to check every now and again." Starswirl eventually lead the group to a small cave in the mountain, using his own horn to illuminate the darkness within. "In here, everyone."

As the five horned ponies all entered the cave and hid themselves away from the violent and cold winds of the outside world, they eventually came to a large door with seven massive runes in a hexagonal formation on it. There were slight hints of jade, topaz, and cobalt on the door, but no actual handles or knobs in sight. Though there were spider webs and other cave-dwelling creatures inside, none of it had marked their territory on or around the door itself.

"Whoa..." Twilight looked up at the large door and stared at the runes on display, before seeing another set of them around the door itself. "I don't think anypony's ever seen these runes before! Well... apart from you, Starswirl."

"Before I became the Pony of Shadows, Starswirl once brought me up here to have a chat on bringing the Pillars together." Stygian walked up towards the door. "I watched as he both created and used these runes to open and seal this door. We were the only two ponies in the world who ever laid eyes on this door."

"And now, Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst, you shall be the next." Starswirl closed his eyes and channeled his magical energies into the door itself, igniting the gems and characters on it. Small tremors burst through the cave, causing tiny plumes of dust and chippings to fall from the ceiling, but the cave remained fairly intact. "After a whole millennium, these doors finally open again..."

The massive slabs finally sunk into the sides of the cave, opening up a whole new section to the ponies. Blinding light met them first before they finally readjusted to a miraculous sight.

Starswirl's house was nothing like any of the other ponies had been expecting. A large globe sat in the center of the room with a couch, fireplace, and number of chairs behind it. A giant fireplace sitting at the back of the room with a large circular carpet underneath the living room furniture. A whole library of books trailed off to the left of the entrance, with even more obscured by the doorway. A small kitchen was tucked underneath a wooden staircase on the right, and above said starircase laid a bed with a lamp and a desk, all protected by a thin banister stretching around it. There were even more runes scattered around the roof and walls of the room, with a large multi-coloured crystal of all different colours hanging from it, rooted deeply into the stone like one giant, well-refined stalactite.

"Oh... my... Goodness!" Twilight's eyes bulged out so much that they very nearly popped out of their sockets. She let out a large, giddy fangirl scream as she shot herself into the place straight away. "Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh! I'm actually in Starswirl the Bearded's ACTUAL HOUSE!"

"Incredible..." Starlight's reaction was much more controlled than Twilight's as she drank everything in. "I've never seen anything like this!"

"The stuff in here must be ancient!" Sunburst jogged into the room. "Like this chair! Over a thousand years and this fabric and woodwork has still held up even today! Though, I wouldn't really recommend trying it out just to prove it. But still! It's like an exhibit in a history museum!"

"I'm glad that you all like it." Starswirl nodded as he entered his home at long last. "It might be a bit dusty here and there, and most of these books are all likely outdated, but it's still nice to know that you feel welcome here."

"Outdated? Are you kidding me?" Twilight giddily picked Starswirl up and lifted him off the ground. "These books belong to or were written by you especially! This is a treasure trove of timeless texts! I feel like this is a dream that I'm never gonna wake up from!" Without another word, she darted off to the library to start reading.

"Is that a globe of old Equestria?" Sunburst scampered towards it, running on the spot as he eyed up every single piece of it. "It is! Look at all that unmarked land, Starlight! I bet that practically every corner of Equestria's yet to be added to it!"

"Well, of course. I mean, it has been a thousand years since we were last here. Who knows how many new settlements and cities sprang up in that time? Why, the whole globe itself could do with a rework!"

"True, true. But such a thing could take some time, given how hard it would be to purchase an updated globe of Equestria, or even where we'd find it or how much it'd cost." Starlight twisted her hoof. "Then, there's the whole issue of carrying the thing all the way up here and putting it somewhere Starswirl would like, which, given this place wouldn't be all that—"

"As much as I appreciate the offer, ladies, I can handle the refurbishments myself." Starswirl smiled and stepped towards the globe. "That, and I've been a bit out of practice. Might as well keep up with the times."

"Are you sure about that? It's an awful lot of work, Starswirl." Stygian's eyes were focused on the globe, mainly, the blank areas that had yet to be updated. "Not that I'm doubting your abilities, it's just that, you've barely even seen the new Equestria since Twilight and her friends pulled us all out of limbo."

"True, but Twilight was gracious enough to show me a map of the place. Or, moreso, the areas that are still a part of it." Starswirl ignited his horn once more. "For the time being, that'll be all I need."

Starswirl shot a white beam up at the crystal, causing it glow and shine brightly. Every single piece of the giant jewel shot illuminated, enrapturing the room in a bedazzling light show. Even Twilight pulled her head out of the books in the library and poked her head back in to see what was going on. She was just in time to witness the large crystal shoot a tiny, yet powerful laser of energy down at the globe, causing it to shimmer with magic. A quick flash of light engulfed the room, and when everyone's eyes readjusted, the globe's map now highlighted every part of Equestria, while the areas beyond it still lay blank.

"There we go. Everything on Twilight's map all accounted for." Starswirl looked at his new and improved globe, tapping his hoof on Canterlot and the mountain they were on. "Now... all of this new land. Where to start? That truly is the question that boggles the mind."

"So, Starswirl..." Starlight slowly trotted forward and felt butterflies in her stomach begin to surface."What kind of limits would you say you have?" She crossed her front hooves.

"Limits are just an excuse to restrict a pony's power, my dear Starlight." He pulled his eyes from the globe of Equestria and turned to face her. "In truth, if a pony does not believe in limits, then everyone in Equestria would be nigh unstoppable in the arcane arts."

"Oh. Really?" Starlight was very proud of her magical prowess and the achievements she had made over the years, but now she was beginning to wonder if she could take it another step further. "I... kinda figured that there was a certain level of power we all had."

"And there is. Discovering how strong you really are is the hard part, though, as you and Twilight have been growing each and every day since you first met." Starswirl nodded. "Even I, for as ancient and aged as I am, still have a lot to learn; and a lot more that I have yet to show the ponies of this world."

"I'm sure you'll fit right back into Equestria, Starswirl." Twilight came over and nodded. "Just as soon as all of the major fanboys and fangirls stop mobbing you like a celebrity, that is..."

Sunburst quickly stood in front of her. "What Twilight means to say is that there's a lot of ponies that admire your work, Starswirl. In the streets, they might surround you and ask for an autograph, and you might not get a whole lot of time to learn yourself when they keep on bugging you."

"Oh, trust me, Starswirl's used to popularity at this point." Stygian nodded gently. "Whenever the Pillars battled a great evil, there were songs, feasts, and many more all in their name. Eventually, it just became one of their traditions, if you can call it that."

"I remember the days when bards used to play some of the most enchanting melodies." Starswirl stroked his beard as he began to reminisce on his past. "Flash Magnus and Rockhoof would try to see how many ponies he could out-drink, Meadowbrook, Somnambula and Mistmane would spend their time inspiring ponies, and I would just sit there, listening to the wondrous sounds of an old Equestrian lute for minutes on end..." He let out a small sigh. "But now the world has changed. And as with all things, we have to change along with it; just as you and your friends have since you took up the Elements of Harmony."

"There are so many tales I have to tell you, and that I'd love to hear back." Twilight's tail began to swish back and forth. "All that work I read on you and told my friends about, I'd pay anything to see your side of the story and your views on it all."

"I think we could gather that from all of that squealing you did back in Canterlot Castle..." Stygian mumbled under his breath.

"Before we just jump ahead to the whole 'Starswirl is great and we could spend forever listening to his tales' thing, I'd actually like to know a little more about this place." Starlight gently levitated Twilight away and looked up towards the crystal. "How did you find this place? And more importantly, how'd you make it your home?"

"Well... it's not really an interesting tale, but I suppose I could spare some words." He strolled towards an armchair and sat himself down on it, using a quick spell that curled around the worn wood and restored all of the decaying wood to normal. "It was long before I even became a Pillar in the first place."

Twilight was already sitting before him, her legs crossed and a big grin on her face like she was a filly in school listening to a story time story. Starlight and Sunburst followed her, but Stygian remained where he was and started to examine the globe for himself.

"Before Celestia and Luna were even born, I once pondered to myself about the mountain Canterlot was situated on, and what more we could do to improve it." Starswirl laid down his forehooves on the armchair arms. "Most other ponies didn't dare to climb above the city, but I decided to break that trend and make the ascent; if only out of sheer curiosity on what lied on top.

"As you witnessed before you, it was a long and arduous climb at that. I would have met a gruesome and grizzled end myself if not for my talent at magic. For you see, the mountain was much more dangerous that it was a thousand years ago, and much more icy than it is today." He let a tiny wisp shoot out of his horn that flew into the fireplace and made the flames burn hotter. "Many other ponies would have suffered from a terrible fate, and even pegasi were at risk in those harsh conditions. The mere fact that I made it there alive was a miracle; and by the skin of my teeth, no less.

"I made it into the cave and saw two blank slabs, which you saw as the doors for my humble abode. Brute force wouldn't even crack the rocks, and teams would have had trouble if they to move them together. So, my only resort left was magic." He pointed towards the doors, which had the same design on the inside as they did on the outside. "Those runes you see on the walls? I created them, in the hopes that it would pry the door open. And, as luck would have it, they did. Though, you have to take into account that I was much less powerful and a whole lot younger back in those days."

"So, those runes are yours?" Sunburst adjusted his glasses as he took a second look at the characters scrawled into the circles. "They've held up very well for all those years."

"Runes are not like your average unicorn magic. With the right caster, mental state, and conditions, runes can last far longer than the ponies who created them can." Starswirl looked at the ones in his home itself. "For instance, the ones inside this cave I also made, but they had far less power than those on the doors. I only planted them there because the cave nearly collapsed on me upon entry; and even then, I almost ended up failing at casting them in the panic."

"Interesting..." Twilight couldn't take her eyes off of Starswirl, nor could she filter out anything of what she was saying. She always had admired him, and now she was learning straight from him. "Can... I learn runes, Starswirl?"

"Anypony can, but it is a lot harder to do than just casting unicorn and alicorn magic. Even Earth Ponies and Pegasi can make their own runes, but the process is a little different, and they have to fill out even harsher criteria to do so." Starswirl nodded. "As it stands, you and that white unicorn, Rarity, have the best chance at becoming runic users like I am. The others can try, yes, but they'll get frustrated and struggle with it. Some of them might probably quit altogether."

"What about that crystal above us?" Starlight asked. "Was that there in the cave when you found it, or did you magic it up?"

"It actually was there in the cave, Starlight." Starswirl smiled. "In fact, I called it the All-Seeing Eye of Canterlot. Most likely for the fact that it has the power to allow anyone to see all of the affairs of the world."

"All the affairs?" Twilight twisted her neck towards the crystal. "So... you can see—"

"Anything and everything. All around the world. At any time." He said. "If children are learning in a far away city, I can see that. Thugs and brutes stealing from others? I can see that. I can even see beyond the borders of Equestria; though that might need a little re-calibration in this new Equestria you live in."

"Whoa..." Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst all stood in awe of the crystal once again. At first, they had just passed it off for a really pretty looking centerpiece in an already awe-inspiring pony's home, but now, they were even more blown away than ever before. They had the power to see anything and everything wherever and whenever it was happening.

"So, why didn't you tell anyone about this place? And the All-Seeing Eye of Canterlot?" Twilight stood up. "If we had known about it, we could've been much more protected from evil like this, and you could've stopped Stygian long before he turned into the Pony of Shadows."

"The climb up here, like I said, was VERY dangerous back in those times. Even the other Pillars had trouble ascending it." Starswirl clambered off of the chair. "So, I decided to take it upon myself to make it my home, and seclude myself within it, keeping a watchful eye over the world."

"And, what about Clover the Clever? Did he know about this place too?" Sunburst felt a smile grow on his face as well.

"Of course. In fact, it was one of his seven trials." Starswirl walked off towards the doors. "The manuscripts dictate that Clover himself climbed all the way up this mountain in an attempt to find spiritual power and inner peace with himself. He managed to succeed, in a way, but he was so worn out that he could not even make the trip back down again."

"So, it was said that Clover did eventually make it to the top and get that power, but really, you just helped him down?" Twilight asked.

"Not exactly. In his catatonic state, I gave him a powerful aura; one that would last even if he left this world through one means or another." Starswirl put his hoof on the door. "I knew that destiny would choose him for greatness and legendary feats like my own, so I gave some of my magical power to him and took him in as my apprentice when we next met in our lives. From there, he was able to take on the rest of his trials, and he became immortalized in the eyes of the people."

"I see, I see..." Twilight was doing a very good job of holding herself together. So many new truths and holes were being filled out in what she thought of the relationship between Starswirl and Clover that she was getting so close to exploding with joy again.

"If you want, I could tell you more. But first, I think that you could all do with something to eat." Starswirl went back towards the fireplace. "You four have been through an awful lot, and you probably want to rest a spell. Between bringing me and the other Pillars back, saving Stygian from the darkness, and hearing of all of my epic feats, you've barely had any time to yourselves."

The others were about to argue with him, but, as if on cue, all of their stomachs began to rumble. Twilight and Starlight just gave weak chuckles and blushed, while Sunburst and Stygian started their walk towards Starswirl's kitchen.

"Come. Take a seat and rest on your laurels, everyone." Starswirl began the process of gathering natural water from the spring and placing it into a makeshift kettle, before putting it onto a small rune that burst into flames. "I haven't had company in over a thousand years, after all..."

Author's Notes:

So, with Starswirl and the others' chapter, we've come full circle. Now, how this is gonna work, you guys, is that I'm probably gonna be deciding which characters get the next chapter mostly on a combination of wheel decide and on you guys' choices. If the process repeats itself normally, then we would have Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and then Twilight again, but if you guys aren't a fan of that cycle, then I can always mix it up a little. It's good to break free from the cycle every now and again and mix things up a little.

And as I have said before, if there are different arcs for characters that I create, then I will be spending a number of chapter updates focusing on those arcs in particular. For instance, if Starswirl wants to see the Equestria Girls world, I'll be spending a couple of updates on that, or if Rarity and Mistmane want to retrieve this special flower from the Eastern Equestria mountains, then I'll be giving them their dues. And so on and so forth with the other pillars if I feel they need an arc all of their own.

But for now, I hope that you have all enjoyed this chapter and I hope that I have managed to impress you with this Starswirl chapter. If you think anyone's a bit off here in this chapter, then please feel free to let me know and I'll see what I can do about that in the future. Or just leave me a comment in general, let me know what you think about this chapter and the story as a whole.

Have a fantastic day, everyone, and I'll be seeing you all very soon for the very next chapter update, whenever that may be.

Rarity and Mistmane: Timeless Beauty

"I simply cannot believe just how much I can learn from you, Mistmane." Rarity was in the garden with Tree Sprout and Mistmane, eyeing up all the work that she had done, as Mistmane added more of her own personal touch to it all with her magic. What had already been seen as breathtaking and majestic, was transcending even that and turning it into something beyond words. "Even after a thousand years, your work still seems effortless. Why, I might even go as far as saying it makes my work look dull and tacky." She winced internally as those words left her mouth.

"Oh, Rarity. Don't act so modest." Mistmane chuckled to herself as another ribbon-like stream of magic slipped from her horn and spiraled around some more shrubs and flowers. "I'm sure that there is some stuff that I could learn from you as well. Beauty shouldn't be taught by just one pony, after all."

"But you seem like the most fit one to teach us." Rarity's eyes were almost fixated on the work Mistmane was doing, rather than that of the elderly pillar herself. "I mean, not for the title of Pillar of Beauty, but for the sacrifices you made over a thousand years ago; putting down your own beauty to safeguard the rest of the world's beauty." She finally ripped her head from the foliage. "I'm not sure than any of us could part with our own elements like that."

"Mistmane never really was one to keep beauty all to herself." Tree Sprout nodded as she trimmed the weeds around the flowers, before dumping them in a nearby compost maker. "I remember when she was a filly in school, she kept on giving away flowers to every child she found; even the mean ones."

"I still remember their faces lighting up as the flowers enraptured them. Up until it was time for their next lessons, the plants commanded their full attention." Mistmane gave her horn a break as she turned back to Rarity and Tree. "Looking back on it now, it really makes you wonder just how quickly time flies."

"Especially when you end up in a timeless plain of existence for a thousand years," added Rarity. "You and the others haven't aged a day since you locked the Pony of Shadows away. I'd ask your age, but I wouldn't really wouldn't want to know the answer anyway..."

"And I can see why." Mistmane looked down at her wrinkle-coated skin, feeling a sense of fragility seep into her mind. "How many ponies do you know who lived past the age of one-thousand?"

"Not a whole lot, really." Rarity shook her head. "Which is a miracle that we were able to rescue you and the others."

"I can only imagine how awkward it must be for some of the other Pillars." Mistmane chuckled and went back to transforming the garden. "Flash, Somnambula, even Meadowbrook have missed a whole lot."

"I can only imagine that Pinkie Pie is rapidly planning six-thousand missed birthday parties as we speak." Rarity went over ot Tree and helped out with the weeding, taking up some garden scissors and a small trowel. "Though I personally find that it would be a bit easier to just have one of her mega-super-duper-jumbo-sized-Pinkie-Pie-weapons-grade parties. Like with Rainbow Dash's birthaversary, for instance."

"Birthaversary?" Tree Sprout and Mistmane chimed together.

"It's Rainbow Dash's birthday, but it's also the anniversary of when she moved to Ponyville." Rarity held out both of her front hooves for emphasis, them squished them together, rubbing them together. "So, it became a birthaversary. It's a portmanteau of the words."

"I see." Mistmane stroked her chin. Spending a millennium in limbo had worked a great number on her, and there were many things that she had missed in her absence. "So, if somepony were to have a cuteceañera on their birthday, would it count as a cutecebirthday? Or maybe a birthceañera?"

"I suppose." Rarity had never heard of either of those terms herself, so she just had to take it at face value. "But really, I prefer portmanteaus when they actually sound easy to pronounce, like brunch or motel."

"What is a motel?" asked Mistmane, oblivious to it all.

"I would rather not say. The last few motels I stayed at were nightmarish. I was half-considering giving them my own little makeover the last time I stayed there." She pouted to herself, as the memories began to seep back into her mind of spiders on her pillow, bland and colourless walls, and a breakfast that was well-below the price of admission.

The three unicorns spent the rest of their time in the garden sprucing it up whatever way they could. As Rarity and Tree Sprout trimmed some of the hedges and grass sculptures, Mistmane was conjuring up water lilies and making them bloom on creation; with the sunlight streaking down onto the leaves and water around it. For such a long and arduous task, the three of them didn't pay the pain in their bones or the dirt and leaves in their manes any mind. They were lost in their work, almost brainwashed into it with their intense concentration.

In the end, Rarity, Tree Sprout, and Mistmane all finished with the garden and looked down at their work, watching as the bedazzling light show of perfectly colour-coordinated flowers, well-kept hedges, and reflections from the rippling water features all came together in one perfect kaleidoscope of beauty. None of them could take their eyes off of it for a single second; especially not Rarity.

For a long time, Rarity had always found her true calling in dressmaking and sharing her creations with the world. And while she always found a way to admire the work she put into her craft and the smiles her clients would always give her, she never really thought that there could be anything she thought was even more creative, stylish, and rewarding than garden work. Now that she saw what she, Mistmane, and Tree Sprout could do together, an entirely new seed began to bloom in her mind; one that she could choose to grow however she wanted.

"Phew." Rarity wiped some sweat off of her forehead. "What an arduous task we've had."

"True. But it was all worth it in the end," said Mistmane, feeling the aches in her bones and horn begin to surface at last. "The best rewards come from struggles, I find."

"Tell me about it."

Everyone turned towards the gates and saw a new pony enter. She had a grey coat and a white mane that had blue, indigo, and violet streaks bursting out in three directions, creating two separate sections of her fringe, bordered off by the ends of the colourful trails. Her tail was the same, but the colours seemed to form a swirling pattern, as if they were dancing around towards the end of it. She bore the traditional Eastern Equestria horn and eyes, with a Cutie Mark that showed a firework detonating high in the skies.

"Hello there." Rarity trotted down to the newcomer. "My name is Rarity. This is Tree Sprout and Mistmane." She pointed to the others behind her. "Who might you be?"

"My name is Plentiful Celebration." She bowed before Rarity, putting her hooves together as she did so. "I was just taken in by the elegant glow of your garden."

"Oh, well, this isn't my garden, but I'm happy to take some responsibility for the renovation work." Rarity walked back in, leading Plentiful to Mistmane and Tree Sprout. "I was just visiting this village and I just could not pass up an opportunity to spruce it all up."

"Ah. I see." Plentiful also found herself under the spell of the flowers. "I myself am only sixteen years old, so I still have a lot to learn about beauty."

"Well, if you would like to stay, I'm sure we can teach you." Rarity patted Plentiful's back. "Although, I'm learning as well. Mistmane here is a wonderful teacher, I think you'll find."

"So you are the fabled Mistmane from old?" Plentiful approached the aged pillar. "I'm quite awestruck. Even if it looks like I don't show it much. My parents never really found any awe in anything, so it sort of rubbed off on me."

"Tell me, Plentiful." Mistmane approached the teenage pony. "How much do the ponies here know about me, after all this time has passed?"

"About you, Mistmane? A whole lot. In fact, in the horticulture classes at schools, you are the first pony that the teachers talk about." Plentiful smiled. "I've heard so much about you and your journey. From when you first started sharing your beauty with others, to your duel with Empress Sable, and even a few of your travels beyond." Her tail began to swish back and forth. "The only thing I don't know is why you vanished, and how you came back to us after so much time passed."

"She doesn't know about the Pillars of Equestria?" Rarity asked, whispering into Mistmane's ears.

"No. Maybe we should let her know." Mistmane whispered back. "But would she be able to handle it all?"

"Probably not." Rarity shook her head.

"Well, regardless of the method you came back, it's nice to know that you have." Plentiful still had a wide smile on her face. "Tonight, we should have a whole celebration in honour of your return. Flower arrangements basking under the light of our paper lanterns, traditional food served and shaped in ways befitting you and your craft, and a fireworks show that we hope proves to be as beautiful as the lineage you left."

"That sounds like a wonderful idea." Mistmane's own smile grew. "I have missed the old Eastern Equestria celebrations we used to have."

"Eastern Equestria celebrations?" Rarity asked Tree Sprout next.

"You know how your Equestria always has a New Year celebration?" Tree Sprout lifted a brow. "Well, we have something similar, but it's slightly different than usual."

"I think I can tell..." Rarity had seen all of the lanterns and people on her way into the village, but didn't think those were for celebratory purposes.

"And that's only one of them." Tree Sprout nodded. "There are also the Dim Sum feasts at the end of each month, the Festival of Prosperity at the height of the mountains, and even the Day of Giving; which some would argue is similar to your Hearth's Warming if it were celebrated with parades and parties on the day, but I digress."

"Perhaps I should partake in one of these festivals during my time here. See it all for myself." Rarity turned back towards Mistmane and Plentiful. "When is the next festival here in your village, Plentiful?"

"Not counting Mistmane's grand return, the next one would be the ABC; Aurora Borealis Concert." Plentiful reached into her saddlebags and pulled out a small flyer for the event. "In which ponies would be dazzled under the magical lights in the night sky while folk instruments play a mixture of time-honoured songs, as well as a few fan-requested ones."

"Interesting." Rarity took the flyer for herself, examining each and every page. "Hmm, I must say, the paper lanterns do look quite divine. Can anypony make these lanterns? Or does it just have to be the ponies here in Eastern Equestria?"

"Well, I don't think there's anything against outsiders making their own paper lanterns." Mistmane pondered, thinking back to the last time she tried to make one. "So, why not, Rarity?"

"Alright. But what kind of materials would I need to make this lantern?" Rarity materialized a notepad and pencil out of thin air, writing down important notes. "What colours do you think would look great in the night sky? How far apart should I make the paper so that it doesn't catch fire? When should I actually release this lantern? And, more importantly, how does it fly from just being a singular candle in a box?" She was practically turning into Twilight at this point. "I mean, it could be possible that the candles themselves are enchanted, but I like to believe that they just burn really strong and that generates the lift it needs."

"Oh, Rarity." Mistmane used her own magic to put the notepad and pencil away. "There's no need to over-complicate the details. As I always used to say; there's beauty in simplicity."

"I know, I know. But I'm completely new to this part of Equestria. I mean, I only came here once to fix this garden and get back your artifact." Rarity stretched her arm out to the luscious, life-filled garden they had made together. "I don't know a thing about the ponies here, your traditions, or anything like that. I just don't want to make a complete fool of myself when I celebrate with you."

"Well, you needn't worry about that." Mistmane wrapped a hoof around Rarity's shoulders. "I'm sure that we could all help you do it the right way. That, and it's nice to share the traditions of one part of Equestria with another. Why, I bet the rest of your friends would love to see some of your own hand-crafted paper lanterns when you make it back home."

"They would probably wonder what in the name of Celestia they are, but I would be happy to educate them." She turned back towards Mistmane and lit up her own horn. "But more to the point, Mistmane, we should be getting ready for your own celebrations first," she said. "You've been through an awful lot involving Stygian, and you probably want some good, old-fashioned R&R. It's the very least you deserve for all that you've done for this world."

"That much is true." Mistmane walked down towards the center of the garden. "I think I've stretched these old bones quite long enough."

"So, how should we prepare for this celebration, Plentiful?" Rarity asked, turning back to the visitor.

"Well, first, I should let the town prepare," said Plentiful. "They probably already know that you're back, seeing as how many of the ponies in town are talking about you now, but some proper groundwork should be made before sundown." She started to walk towards the gate. "You should prepare yourself for tonight, Mistmane. The Emperor is going to make you the greatest guest of honour in history. See if you can make yourself even more beautiful for the night."

"That won't be a problem." Mistmane nodded to Plentiful as she walked off. "Rarity? You are a tailor, correct?"

"Yes?" Rarity could already tell where this was going and was quickly taking some mental notes.

"I could use something fancy for the night of the celebration." She started to head back towards the house, with Tree Sprout in tow. "Do you think that you could make me something that captures the purest form of beauty? That's what these ponies see me as, after all."

"Oh, I am already on it, Mistmane." Rarity got the pad and pencil out and quickly started writing some ideas down. "Something that's just the right amount of elegant and befitting for a timeless legend's grand return, but not too over the top so that it looks like a mess. Just point me towards the nearest material store and I shall see what I can do."

"An idea that quickly?" Mistmane cocked a brow at Rarity's hastily, yet perfectly written notes.

"As someone who owns three separate boutiques across Central Equestria, I've become a pony who can create designs on the spot like it's nothing, darling." Rarity was still writing while talking to Mistmane. "It becomes a real help for when my friends urgently need a dress for an event, when we go to a black-tie party in Canterlot, or for when some big event happens in Ponyville. Needless to say—" She pulled a folding curtain across from the wall, and just as quickly put it back, immediately dressed up in a kimono "—I always come prepared."

"Well, that's wonderful to hear, dear." Mistmane wandered towards the living room and levitated a piece of paper off of the nearby coffee table. She dusted it off with a hoof and handed it over to her. "Here is the map of this village, as well as the shops nearby. You can use this to find the materials for my dress."

"Thank you ever so much, Mistmane." Rarity rolled up the map and put it in her bags. "I promise that I won't be long. Not for finding the fabrics I need, nor for making you a truly elegant dress that transcends beauty. Just the way you would love it."

"That's good to hear." Mistmane smiled and patted Rarity's back. "Now, run along, Rarity. The ponies here tend to work fast too when it comes to celebrations."

"I won't let you down." She gave a confident salute, then ran off towards the front door, using her magic to slide the doors open and shut as she charged off on her way.

Finally, as Rarity left, Mistmane and Tree Sprout were finally all alone. Together, the two of them sat down in the living room and folded their legs, smiling at each other.

"After all this time, why did you decide to come back, Mistmane?" Tree asked, tilting her head. "You must be ancient. After a thousand years of living like that, you make me look as young and spry as a baby."

"Well, I'm not one to boast." Mistmane idly lifted a hoof. "Time can wither down our bodies, but beauty is a thing that cannot be snuffed out."

"Still, it doesn't make sense..." Tree Sprout fiddled with her hooves. "Ponies here never usually live past a hundred, let alone a thousand like you!" She threw a hoof out to Mistmane. "Tell me. What's your secret? Special rituals by night? Endless prayers to the gods and goddesses of our land? Potions from the black market?"

"None of those three." Mistmane just laughed. "I suppose you could say that I have friends in high places. If you want, I would be happy to tell you all about it."

"Well..." Tree Sprout twisted her hoof in circles. "I suppose we've got plenty of time. You most of all, having lived this long." She leaned in, her eyes sparkling like diamond. "Tell me the story, Mistmane. How did you do it? How did you stave off death for this long?"

Fluttershy and Meadowbrook: Horticulture Horses

Fluttershy and Meadowbrook trotted along the swampy paths of the bayou; the ground between them squelching with each step. It gave the illusion that the ground was strong and firm, but also weak and malleable at the same time. Neither pony minded the feel, though. Fluttershy’s wings kept her from exerting too much force on the ground, while Meadowbrook had grown accustomed to the swamp, having lived there herself.

As the both of them trudged through the unstable ground, they came up to a large overgrowth, with grassy walls coating the path ahead. With how thick it all looked, it seemed like only a pegasus could see past it unless the grass was cut down or pushed aside.

“You want me to help you fly over?” Fluttershy offered a hoof to Meadowbrook. “Who knows what kind of creatures could be on the other side of that grass? Maybe something poisonous or deadly...”

“You’re awfully kind, Fluttershy, but I think I’ll be fine.” Meadowbrook was still smiling as she lowered Fluttershy’s offered hoof. “Starswirl and the others were such sweethearts when it came to protecting ourselves. If there is something deadly through here, they should be worried about us. Not the other way around.”

“You’re not... worried about them?” Fluttershy lifted a brow. “Not even if there were flashbees through here?”

“Flashbee stings do hurt, don’t get me wrong. But I came up with a number of potions, tonics, and cure-alls back before I met the Pillars of Equestria.” Meadowbrook patted the mask atop her head. “That, and when you live on a bayou full of nasty critters, you tend to learn a thing or two about how they behave.”

“I guess.” Fluttershy nodded meekly, but knew deep down in her heart that it was true. Considering that she had talked down dragons before, she shouldn’t really have even had doubts in the first place. “But it’s still prety dark in there. And we’d have no sense of direction with how big this grass is...” She gave it a gentle brush.

“It’s completely fine, Fluttershy.” Meadowbrook pressed on, walking through the hedgy wall that stood between her. “I’ve been down this path dozens of times. Why, I know it like the back of my hoof now.”

“But I’ve never been this deep into the bayou before.” Fluttershy flitted above the grass, her hooves just barely brushing against the tips of the long and all-consuming grass. “There could be all sorts of mean animals out here.”

“If there’s any dangerous creature here, I’ll let you know how to handle it.” Meadowbrook was completely invisible, save for the long blades of grass that shifted as she moved through them. “But I don’t think that’ll be necessary. Not many creatures ever come to the Glittering Garden Glade anyway.”

“Glittering Garden Glade?” Fluttershy asked, trying to find Meadowbrook in the towering shrubbery. Or, at least, the mask atop her head. “What’s that?”

“It’s only the most wonderful place in this swamp, Fluttershy. All kinds of plantlife grows there, from nighthowlers to swamp fever plants.” Meadowbrook finally made the effort to step down on a huge clump of grass, revealing herself to the winged mare. “It’s so far deep into this place that not many other ponies dared to enter. But they’re all missing out on quite a treat. The plants here aren’t something you see every day, with some plants native to other parts of the world growing as well. It’s like a botanist’s dream to come here!”

“So... did you come here often before you met Starswirl and the other pillars?” Fluttershy tilted her head to the side.

“Oh, yes. Dozens of times, actually.” Meadowbrook nodded. “I was able to cure a heck of a lot of sicknesses with the plants here. Silverblooms for the trots, Hyper Hydrangeas for lethargy, I was even able to come up for an alternate cure for the white blight when that ran rampant across Equestria.”

“White blight? Isn’t that the terrible disease that almost wiped out ponykind?” Fluttershy asked, recalling her study session of diseases when she tried to save Zecora. “I heard that, if it wasn’t for you and the potion, ponies might not have even existed today!”

“The ponies back then called it the Elixir of Evermore. Though, I don’t really think medicines should have some big fancy-schmancy name.” Meadowbrook shook her head, assaulting even more of the colossal grass with her mask as she did so. “Naming it doesn’t really do a whole lot. At least, for me it didn’t.”

“Well, Equestria’s changed a whole lot since the Pony of Shadows incident.” Fluttershy pushed her front hooves together. “So many new cities, new ponies, and big events went down while you were gone. It’s almost like the Equestria you knew is gone forever.”

“Well, we know all about that.” Meadowbrook took the mask off and held it to her chest. “Ma and Pa and all the other ponies I called family are gone now. I’m sure that all the other pillars must be devastated too. Especially Rockhoof. The Mighty Helm was his own family, and that’s probably disappeared too.”

"I can imagine..." Fluttershy looked up into the sky, the thoughts of all the Pillars' loved ones still hanging heavy on her. She hadn't really been one to cope with loss; especially after she had been tasked with caring for Philomena. But the fact that almost nobody from Old Equestria was still alive today was unavoidable; and she could feel the heartache from Meadowbrook and the others a mile off. "I can't tell you just how sorry I am for all your losses."

"You're very kind, Fluttershy." Meadowbrook nodded. "I suppose that's why your Element of Harmony was kindness."

Fluttershy just smiled, and moved forward, deeper and deeper into the swamp.

"Aha! Here we are!" Meadowbrook galloped forward and burst through one final wall of grassy blades, landing in a small, yet cozy clearing. Nothing but the sound of gently rippling water could be heard; even if that water was heavily muffled and drowned out by how deep the two ponies were into the maze of flora and water. "Fluttershy? You might wanna check this out."

Fluttershy flapped down into the clearing and landed by Meadowbrook's side. She looked out towards the center of the clearing, and saw a variety of flowers of all shapes and sizes. There were small ponds with aquatic flowers drifting silently on the surface, and ground-based flowers growing in formations around the clearing. All had various patterns, shades of colour, and even unique stalk shapes and thicknesses.

"What is this place?" Fluttershy lifted a brow.

"This, Fluttershy, is the Glittering Garden Glade." Meadowbrook stepped forward towards the first cluster of flowers in her path and patted their leaves, sniffing the aromas shortly after. "Lots of different plants grow here that are used to make medicines, remedies, and cures for all sorts of nasty diseases. And if there's any new plants that can fix ponies up, a good gardener makes the trip out here so they can plant more of the flower and keep the species alive.

"That's good to hear." Fluttershy brushed her hoof against some of the flowers, making sure not to bend them too much and snap the stalks. "So, um, why are we here, actually?"

"Right before I left, I wanted to see if there was an alternate cure to a sickness I'd already cured a long time ago, but wanted to revise for this newer Equestria I'm in," she said. "Times might have changed, and ponies might have some immunity to the stuff by now, but I just need to make sure that there's another way to fix them up for those who can't afford a good vaccine."

"I see." Fluttershy watched as Meadowbrook knelt down and held one of the petals of one of the flowers up into the sunlight. "And what sickness are you working on an alternate cure for?"

"Why, the dreaded swamp fever of course." She said, looking out to the very plants in the aquatic section that caused the sickness. "I've always been meaning to find another cure for that. Flashbees are incredibly violent, and some ponies can't even make the cure in time because of those nasty things." One look at the trees was all of the emphasis she and Fluttershy needed before a chill ran up both of their spines. "All I need is a plant that can block the scents and toxins of the swamp fever flower, as well as act as a counter for the symptoms as a whole. But the right concentration could be hard to come by without the right mixture of flowers. So, we're just gonna take a couple plants from this grove that can counteract smells and toxins that can seep into the pores. Then, it's back to the house so we can make our own potions."

"Are there any specific names of flowers that we should be looking for? Or is it just the ones that stop swamp fever from getting into our systems?" Fluttershy asked as Meadowbrook was already picking flowers from the glade.

"Well, we're gonna need a little bit of Nightguard, some Silver Ears, Teller's Bells, and some Skywings specifically for the actual scent of the swamp fever flowers themselves, but as for some skin-guarding flowers, we could do with some Metal Sunshine, Morning Gold, Afternoon Dusk, Magic Swallow, and some Stone Stem Sapphire." She put the flowers into her mask and put it down on the ground, using it as a bucket. "If you need any help with the flowers, I'll be glad to point them out to you."

"Oh, okay." Fluttershy looked down at some of the flowers, with each and every one of them painting a number of mixed signals. Even after Meadowbrook had listed off nine specific breeds of flower for her to find, she still had absolutely zero idea what to pick up; especially given that flower names weren't even coloured after themselves or stayed true to their characteristics most of the time, and were just titles given to make them seem special.

Fluttershy picked up one flower, before taking a look at Meadowbrook and how swiftly she was picking the flowers. She was even humming a little tune to herself as she tossed the flowers into the mask and went back for some more. All Fluttershy had in her hoof was one little flower, and it didn't even vaguely resemble anything Meadowbrook was picking.

"Maybe I'll just let you pick all the flowers, Meadowbrook." Fluttershy put the flower back into the ground and coated the bottom with soil. "Not that I don't want to do work, but I'm not really much of a flower pony myself. I'm more into animals myself. Plus, I don't really know what half of those flowers even look like without your help."

"Trust me, Fluttershy. I understand perfectly." Meadowbrook walked over to Fluttershy and patted the back of her mane tenderly. "I don't want you to do anything that you don't feel comfortable with. I get it if you don't wanna pick the flowers with me."

"Oh, I do. I really do." She nodded quickly. "I really do like you and all the stuff you've done. And I'm loving hanging out with you. But forgive me if I really don't know what I'm doing or what I'm supposed to be collecting."

"It's no trouble at all, Fluttershy." Meadowbrook pulled her in close for a sideways hug. "Y'know, most of the Pillars don't even know the flowers I pick either. Heck, aside from me, only Starswirl himself knows for sure, and that's just because he's the leader of the Pillars of Equestria." She let out a little chuckle. "I can't even begin to tell you the number of times Flash Magnus got me the wrong flowers and I had to give him a picture for next time."

"Oh, I can imagine." Fluttershy gave a small grin as she watched Meadowbrook pick up another few flowers.

"But anyway, I think that these should be enough." Meadowbrook finally returned to the mask, which had been stuffed full of the flowers she plucked from the earth and laid meticulously so as not to break them. "Let's head on back to the house. It's time for me to break out my old mortar and pestle. Let's just hope I haven't gone rusty in a millennium..."

"Would you like me to help you with the mask?" Fluttershy trotted up towards it. "It looks like you haven't got anything to carry that with. And if you try putting it on your head, it's just gonna dump all of the flowers over your head."

"Oh, that'd be just as sweet as honey, Fluttershy." Meadowbrook hoofed the mask over to her and gave her a tender pat on the back. "Y'know, not many ponies would wanna do all this for a swamp-dwelling doctor like myself. You're such a sweetheart, through and through."

"Thanks." Fluttershy cheeks flushed a bright shade of red as she looked into Meadowbrook's eyes. "I just do what I can to help. No matter who it is or whatever problems they might have."

"You know the way back to the house, right, Fluttershy?" Meadowbrook took one visual sweep of the glade and saw the massive grassy walls that surrounded them. "I mean, this place might've turned us both around a fair bit. I can find my way home fine, but... can you?"

"I just have to follow you back out the way you came in and just fly forward from there. Easy-peasy." Fluttershy opened her wings and took to the skies, graciously lifting the flower-filled mask up with her. "You lead the way back to the swamp, Meadowbrook. I'll get the flowers back for you."

"Alright. Let's head back home." Meadowbrook left the flowers behind her, and pushed on through the tangled mess of greenery, shoving it out of her way and stumbling the overgrowth, with Fluttershy hovering above her the whole way.

Eventually, Fluttershy and Meadowbrook arrived back at Cat Tail's house, with Fluttershy flapping in with the mask—though it might as well have been downgraded to a flashy-looking bucket with how many flowers were in it—and setting it down on the table nearby.

"Fluttershy. Meadowbrook. You're home sooner than I thought!" Cat Tail came over and gave them both a gentle pat. "You want some lemonade? You must've been working pretty hard out there at the Glittering Garden Glade."

"That's mighty kind of you, Cat Tail, but we don't want the flowers to wilt before we can properly crush them." Meadowbrook nodded. "But we'll take the drinks all the same. If you could just leave 'em right here, that'd be delightful."

"Sure thing." Cat Tail set two glasses of lemonade down. One at Fluttershy's seat, and the other one at Meadowbrook's "It's just how your family used to blend it, Meadowbrook. Not too sweet, but not too sour either."

"It's a pretty complex recipe, Cat Tail." Meadowbrook took the glass up in one of her hooves. "Ma and Pa had to make extra special care not to overuse any of the ingredients, otherwise, they'd taint the drink."

"I know. That's why I dug out the recipe especially." Cat Tail rubbed the back of his tail. "Since you're back in our world, Meadowbrook, I thought it'd be nice if you had a little taste of home. Just to help you get settled back into this crazy new Equestria."

"Actually, Cat Tail, can you do one itsy bitsy, teensy-weensy favour for me?" Meadowbrook looked down at the drink again.

"Sure. Anything for you, Meadowbrook." He nodded.

"Do you might happen to know where my old cauldron is? I kinda need it for the little experiments I'm gonna be cooking up with these flowers." She rubbed the side of her mask, tenderly, making sure that it didn't fall off of the seat and spill the contents. "And don't worry about the weight. Me and Fluttershy can help if it's a little bit too daunting for you."

"Oh. Well, I know where the cauldron is, but I don't really know why you'd want to use it again..." He went off to another part of the room. "I mean, Equestrian medicine has advanced quite a whole lot in the past thousand years or so..."

"We're trying to make an alternative cure for swamp fever. Since flashbees are so aggressive, that is." Fluttershy took a small sip of the lemonade, licking her lips as it trickled down her throat and into her belly. "Ooh! This lemonade's actually really good!"

"Just a little something cooked up down here." Cat Tail chuckled to himself. "I'm glad that you like it, Fluttershy. Means the world to know that there are still some ponies left in this world who like something made in swamps like these."

"Ma and Pa always did have good taste." Meadowbrook smiled and took a small sip of her lemonade, feeling a flood of memories resurface as her drink dove down her digestive tract. "Especially when it came to lemonade. How Cat Tail was able to recreate their recipe like that, I may never know. Not that it's a bad thing or anything, just that it's really, really good. I haven't had a good lemonade like that since I left home to join the Pillars of Equestria."

"Hmm. There really is no place like home." Fluttershy smiled and took another drink of the lemonade, almost forgetting entirely about the flowers in the mask beside her.

Both Fluttershy and Meadowbrook passed the time with sips of lemonade, letting the rest of the world and its' problems melt away with the heartwarming drinks. The way that the lemon juice had been balanced out with just the right amount of sugar, nullifying the sour taste entirely yet still keeping the zing that homemade lemonade was known for, it was as if a drink from heaven had tumbled down and landed before them. They were so enraptured with the drink, that they didn't even notice Cat Tail walking back into the living room with a large, dusty cauldron with a few spiderwebs hanging from the edges.

"Well..." Cat Tail grunted as he pushed the heavy cauldron across the ground towards the table. "Here it is, Meadowbrook. Still sturdy after all this time. I hope you put it to good use."

"Thank you kindly, Cat Tail." Meadowbrook winked and blew him a kiss, stepping away from the table and taking the mask with her. "Now, Fluttershy? Can you fly up to my room and find my mortar and pestle? It shouldn't be too hard to find. Look for a tiny bowl with a little rounded stone cylinder in it."

"Right away!" Fluttershy shot off out of the seat and dashed up the stairs, leaving Meadowbrook with the rest of her drink and the flowers in her mask.

"You sure that there's another cure for swamp fever, Meadowbrook?" Cat Tail asked, looking as she picked the mask up and set the flowers down on the table. "The last time Fluttershy came to try and fix her friend, Zecora, she nearly ended up turning into a tree herself!"

"Which is why I don't want anypony cutting it that close ever again." Meadowbrook nodded and lowered her brows. "Just think, Cat Tail. If I were able to find another way to fix swamp fever, then we could finally have a way to vaccinate everypony without them having to get their friends to risk life and limb for it."

"I hope you know what you're doing, Meadowbrook..." Cat Tail watched as Fluttershy came back down with the stone mortar and pestle in her hooves. "And good luck in doing it." He smiled and headed off. "If you need me, just holler. I'd be happy to oblige."

"I'm sure I will." Meadowbrook took the mortar and pestle from Fluttershy and set up the first flowers as Cat Tail walked off. "Now, Fluttershy, let me show you how we used to make medicine back in the old days..."

Pinkie Pie and Somnambula: Medjay

“Me? A Medjay?” Somnambula was still hyperventilating over the thought of her new title. “But I just got back from Limbo! How am I supposed to be eased back into Equestria when the pharaoh is anointing me as his Medjay?”“Uh, what’s a Medjay?” Pinkie asked, tilting her head to the side slightly.

Somnambula took a deep breath, rubbed her temples slightly, then looked into Pinkie’s eyes. “You know how Equestria has their police ponies, who handle all of the crime in the nation and maintain order?”

“Yeah. I know ‘em.” Pinkie nodded. “Once you get past their super-stuffy outsides, they’re just sweet and cuddly on the inside!” Pinkie instantly pulled Somnambula into a tight hug. “Only, not so much when it’s you they’re after...”

“Yes. Well.” Somnambula writhed out of Pinkie’s hug, not wanting her lungs to be crushed again. “A Medjay is very similar to an Equestrian police officer, but much more than that. They are all of Southern Equestria’s order. They help villagers when they have general problems to solve, combat great threats and villainous groups who wish chaos upon the ponies, and are the right-hoof mares and stallions of the pharaoh themself.”

“Oh, so, they’re like super-duper cops!” Pinkie’s smile grew wider. “They sound really important.”

“Yes.” Somnambula nodded, then looked down at her hooves. “And now, the pharaoh wants to turn me into one. And if I accept, I’ll be even more busy than ever before. I may never have time to return to the other Pillars of Equestria.”

“Oh, is Southern Equestria actually a crime-ridden cesspit of chaos and despair, where ponies are stolen from and mugged and never go to bed with any luxuries because of evil mercenaries and fear on the streets?” Pinkie asked, oblivious to how dark and horrific she was sounding. “Nah. It probably just needs some brighter decorations. That’s all.” She shrugged.

“If Southern Equestria had a problem like that, then we would call on you and your friends in a heartbeat. After all, you have quite a penchant for dispatching threats to Equestria.” She reached into Pinkie’s mane and pulled out the journal she and her friends had kept. “If this is any indication, I’m sure that we are all in good hooves if a new evil would ever arise...”

“Yeah. We’re pretty famous.” Pinkie flashed a grin as she took back the book and stuffed it into her mane.

“Even so, the thought of being Medjay is a bit too much to bear at the moment.” Somnambula’s pupils shrunk slightly as she rubbed her forehead. “It is a massive responsibility to bear. I’m basically foalsitting the entire region in your terms. I might not be ready for it yet.”

“Aw, c’mon. Foalsitting’s not really that bad, once you get down to it. Plus, if you can multitask like me, it’s as easy as counting off all your favourite types of ice cream in a triple-scoop stack.” Pinkie licked her lips. “Butter brickle cheesy flipple, super sensational sweet berries, and tangy-tastic lemon!”

“Well, thank you for the vote of confidence, Pinkie Pie.” Somnambula took a deep breath and looked out the window. “And I can’t decide right now. If you don’t mind, I think I shall at least take a look at the world I left before I decide on such a massive, life-changing decision like this.”

“Suit yourself, then.” Pinkie watched as she started to walk out of the palace. “But are you sure you don’t wanna take the job right away? I mean, being a super-police pony seems like a great job. Plus, you get to fight evil on a regular basis and right the wrongs of a tyranny-swept Southern Equestria!” Pinkie threw her forehooves up. “Meanwhile, we only fight it whenever it comes around. We’ll probably get super-jealous of you and all your fun adventures and ask if we can come along too. Speaking of which, can I come with you?”

"It would have to depend on the job, Pinkie. I wouldn't want to put you or any of your friends in any major danger." Somnambula went down the corridor and started to trot down the stairs. "Usually, a Medjay can get involved in high-profile and dangerous quests, like defeating the leader of a criminalist organization or evil cult, or fighting ferocious monsters in the deserts and beyond. And trust me; the sphinx you were read about is not the most dangerous creature out here. There are much, MUCH worse things to be worried about."

"Like what? I'm pretty sure that we've got all the pony power we need to whoop any meanie-bo-beanie monsters right on their tushies." Pinkie pulled out a cupcake and cocked it like a weapon, pointing the frosty top out to the walls. "I was specially trained in the arts of tae-kwon-dough, judough, and kung fun. My arsenal of super sugary treats are ready and waiting to deliver justice on any and all things that would dare to upset everypony. Bring it on, monsters! Pinkamena Diane Pie is ready for you!"

Somnambula looked at Pinkie Pie, seeing a big flame appear over her, with a similar one lighting up in her eyes. "May Celestia have mercy on all the souls who dare to cross this young mare..."

The village of Somnambula was lively on that day. Ponies were standing by their stalls, hustling and bartering with the ponies who came round, trying to prove that their merchandise was worth the price. Some stands sold jewels, others were selling incense, and there were some that held on to some items that seemed to come from outside of Southern Equestria. The other villagers were either purchasing from the stalls, chatting to each other by the fountain in the plaza, and the fillies and colts were playing board and ball games by the building walls.

Once the ponies saw Somnambula, all of the attention focused on her. But this time, instead of mobbing her and lifting her against her will, they were instead praising her from afar, telling her that she was a legend among ponies and deserved all the fame and fortune in the world. Most of the time, she didn't pay attention, but she did blush and grin slightly at some of their compliments and kind words.

"I still cannot believe that the ponies revered me this much since I defeated the sphinx and left to aid Starswirl and his compatriots." Somnambula looked into the eyes of the ponies that were watching her, almost as if she were a mirror for all of them. "Such a mere task isn't much in my eyes; especially considering the dark road that Stygian took, nearly thrusting upon us an eternity of despair and torment."

"Wasn't really as much despair and torment as it was another Nightmare Moon situation," said Pinkie Pie. "She was the evil version of Princess Luna. Just so you know."

"There is an evil version of everyone, Pinkie Pie. It comes as no surprise that even the princesses themselves have a darker half." Somnambula looked up to the sky, putting one of her hooves up to shield herself from the light of the searing sun in the distance. "Every being I have ever known has had something like it. Light and darkness cannot function without the other to keep it in balance. That is why new evils are always spawning, just when we think the world is truly in a state of peace and tranquillity. Even Twilight Sparkle herself; the supposed leader of your inner circle must have some malefic abhorrent self, waiting to unleash its' power."

"Yeah. But even so, it's totally up to them whether or not they become evil. I mean, when did you ever see a guy become evil because some bub wanted to hijack them for some sick and twisted games?" Pinkie rolled her eyes. "Heck, even Stygian chose to be a bad guy. And that was just because of a little friendship issue."

"In hindsight, we ourselves are not as level-headed as you and your friends can be." Somnambula shook her head, slightly shifting the headdress on her mane. "We jumped to conclusions too quickly and paid the price for it."

"We all make mistakes. Trust me. Applejack does it all the time, and she's supposed to be the one who's got it all under control," said Pinkie.

"There is no such thing as mistakes. Ponies will always have a reason as to why they tread their dark paths."

Pinkie and Somnambula turned to see a group of five ponies standing before them. Some had horns while the others had wings, but they all came in a variety of different colours. One was a purple unicorn with a black mane; the second was light-blue Pegasus with a topaz mane with white stripes; a third was dark green and had brown hair and wings, the fourth one was a silver unicorn with a golden manestyle, and the fifth was gold and also had black hair, along with a majestic set of wings.

"Ponies are often known for disguising their motives with innocence and pleas for mercy, but in the end, all of them are judged all the same." The purple unicorn with black hair stepped forward. "And we, the pharaoh's newest elite, will make sure that all of the wicked evildoers of this world answer for their crimes."

"Who are you?" Somnambula tilted a head at the newcomers. "I don't think I have ever seen ponies like you here before."

"The answer to why we are newcomers is simpler, Somnambula. It is because you are a millennial. And one who has staved off death in a most peculiar manner worth exploring." The silver unicorn approached as well. "The world you know has been torn down and burned to ash over a thousand years. It is only natural that there are nothing but new faces to greet you upon your return."

"We are a new unit of Medjay ponies chosen by the pharaoh. Known collectively as the Order." The gold pony with massive wings stepped forward. "My name is Isis. Leader of the Order."

"I am he who is known as Anubis." Said the purple pony with black hair. "My arcane arts shall grant evil a swift passage to the afterlife." His horn crackled with power, but he casted no spell.

"My name is Nekhbet." The other Pegasus unfurled her wings. "Like a vulture, I ensure that my prey has no chance to slip away; even when they can move no longer."

"You may call me Sobek," the green pegasus said as he showed his gaping jaws. "The rivers of Southern Equestria have always been my home, and I utilize them to my fullest when carrying out my orders."

"And I, Osiris, am the brother of Isis, and a potent magic user myself." He chuckled as he used his own horn to cast a projection of another horn onto Isis's head, making it look like she had become an alicorn. "Though it looks real, it only persists so long as I will it. Otherwise, she has no magical power of her own."

"Brother, I wish you didn't have to keep doing that." Isis wiped the horn away with a wave of her hoof. "I am well-versed in using my own magical runes for that. There really is no need to make me look like one of the royals of Central Equestria now, is there?"

"True, but there may come a time when the enemy starts to counter your runic magic." Osiris lifted his hoof. "And when the day comes, it never helps to have a little insurance. After all, it is better to have and not need, than to need and not have."

"Ooh! So the five of you are all super-police ponies?" Pinkie zipped up to the five newcomers, making them step backwards quickly. "Well, you're in luck, because Somnambula just got the offer from mister pharaoh guy himself to become a Medjay too! And if she says yes, then all of you can go on adventures together, just like me, my friends, and all of her new friends!"

"Pinkie Pie." Somnambula used her wing to cover Pinkie's mouth, then dragged her backwards to give the other ponies some breathing room. "I apologize for her... erratic nature. She is from Central Equestria. Discipline and severity are almost non-existent there. Especially when Princess Twilight and her friends are enforcing friendship."

"I see." Anubis looked up and down at Pinkie, examining her from mane to tail. "Well, Somnambula, she seems harmless. But there's no use in leaving stones unturned." He closed his eyes and crackled his horn, firing a small beam of purple light at Pinkie's chest.

All Pinkie could do was giggle as the beam penetrated her body and struck at her heart, conjuring a screen with characters similar to the one in the pharaoh's chamber on the side. On the middle of the screen was a beating heart, being weighed on scales. Above the heart was a white beam, and below it was a black one. The scales wobbled and shook slightly before the one with Pinkie's heart on it started to lift, higher and higher until it hit the white beam above. Then, the magic disappeared.

"It seems that she is pure of heart. And because of that, there should be no more suspicions that she will betray you." Anubis bowed and stood back upright. "Before you ask, what you just witnessed was my magic. I have the unique power to weigh a pony's heart, and determine whether or not they are good or evil because of it. Because her heart ascended to the heavens, that means that she is a good pony; and one who could never become evil under any feasible circumstances."

"The power to weigh a pony's heart?" Somnambula parroted, then watched as Anubis returned to his colleagues' sides. "I must admit, I have never heard of that kind of magic before."

"I think it's super neat-o! And it was super-duper tickly as well!" Pinkie giggled, wiggling her arms to show the emphasis. "I felt like my hooves were turning into snakes for a second."

"Anubis crafted this spell with the help of my brother, Osiris." Isis stepped up. "With it, he became a valuable asset to the protection of Southern Equestria, and the pharaoh immediately welcomed him as a Medjay. With his power, he can see evil coming before it ever arrives, and dispatch the threat with little resistance."

"By dispatch, you mean—"

"Deliver them to the pharaoh. They handle the rest from there." Nehkbet unravelled her wings and flitted forward. "We ourselves only act when the pharaoh wills it. It is rare for a Medjay to be judge, jury, and executioner without the orders."

"Interesting." Somnambula stepped forward. "It has been quite a while since I was back in this part of the world. Maybe the rules have changed..."

"I assure you, the old ways are but a thing of the past now." Sobek nodded and prowled forward, almost like a crocodile would. "In this modern day and age, the new Medjay ponies are given more control than ever. And more often than not, they are responsible for ending wars, solving terrorist problems, and dealing with any and all kinds of messes, no matter how big or small they may be."

"And I could be a part of this new legion of Medjays..." Somnambula thought longer and harder about the pharaoh's offer, nearly losing herself to those thoughts along the way. She didn't even notice the ball that bounced off of her head and back to the fillies and colts playing with it.

"Oh. Sorry about that, miss," said a colt.

"Huh?" She snapped out of her train of thought and picked the ball up. "Oh, it is no problem. Now you all go off and play again." She gently tossed the ball back to them, and they ran off giddily with it before she returned to her mindscape.

After the Pony of Shadows incident, is it my destiny to become a Medjay? She scratched her chin as the rest of the noise around her was muffled out. To act as a permanent guardian for my people? What would Starswirl and his followers think of the decision? And is it really the right one? To break away from the allegiance of the six most powerful ponies in the world for the sake of one part of it?

"It seems like you are busy for the time being. We shall leave you to your pondering, Somnambula, the Optimist." Sobek turned back to his fellows and they all began to walk off. "We shall meet again in due time, though. And when we do, the decision you choose whether or not to pledge yourself to this continent will have been made."

"Medjay or not, you could become a beacon of hope for everyone again, Somnambula. No longer a legend that vanished into the pages of mystery," said Isis. "But it is all up to you. Far be it for the five of us to twist your hoof and make the decision for you. It's not in our will to provoke or decide the fate of a goddess, after all."

Somnambula didn't even say goodbye to them or wave them off in response, still buried deep within her own little world, debating the pros and cons of being a Medjay and siding with the order and the pharaoh. Though she was known for her hope and undying faith in her cause, even now, she was beginning to sweat bullets and couldn't think of a clear-cut decision.

"Uh, Somnambula?" Pinkie waved a hoof in front of her face. "Hello? Equestria to Somnambula? Are you in there? Don't make me have to get the tickle fingers out. They've been itching for a good tickling ever since I last babysat the Cake Twins..."

"I assure you, Pinkie Pie. This is a colossal matter to think about." Somnambula finally broke out and brushed Pinkie's hoof away. "I cannot just jump to conclusions on the spot. It might even be days, or even weeks before I decide on an answer. And no matter what I choose, I have an important part to play in the fate of the world. Medjay of Southern Equestria, or Pillar of Hope. Both of which are equally vital to the infrastructure and protection of this realm."

"Maybe you just need to take a breather and see more of the sights." Pinkie slid back behind her and slipped her hoof around her shoulders. "There's still plenty of Somnambula left to see, so why don't we just do it?"

"True. I still have a lot to observe here in this town." She nodded. "In fact, I have not even been to my actual home yet. Maybe we should head over there right now, to see whether or not it is still standing..."

"Then let's head on over there right now! After all, what better way to feel at home than to actually be at home?" Pinkie smiled. "Last one there's a rotten egg!" And she scurried off down the road, leaving nothing but dust in her wake. It wasn't long that she came back, poking her head out of one of the corners at the end of the path. "Uh, where is your house, anyway?"

All Somnambula could do was smile at Pinkie's antics, and used her wing to motion her to follow. "Come with me, Pinkie. I'll show you." And with not another word, she trotted along the other way, leaving Pinkie to dart back to her side and walk almost like she was glued to her.

Author's Notes:

If any of you are wondering about the Order I introduced in this chapter, let me explain each of the gods below:

Anubis: Egyptian God of the Dead. With the head of a jackal, he waits for the spirits of the dead, and weighs their hearts on his scales before sending them off to the afterlife. There, he accounts for EVERYTHING in that human's life, both good and bad.

Sobek: Egyptian God of the Nile. With the head of a crocodile, Sobek is often worshipped to ensure good fertility of both crops and people. He is also called the Lord of Faiyum and is considered to control water itself.

Nehkbet: Egyptian Goddess of Vultures. She is what she says she is. Where she goes, vultures usually follow. And we all know what vultures are capable of.

Osiris: Egyptian God of the Dead and Ruler of the Afterlife: In addition to those titles, he is also considered the Egyptian God of Resurrection and Fertility, though those titles are lesser known. He has had a hand in a lot of Egyptian magic, is the brother and consort of Isis, and the father of Horus.

Isis: The Egyptian Goddess of Magic and Life: Also believed to be the Egyptian Goddess of Maternity, Isis is a kind-hearted spirit, with the power to heal many ailments and restore people to peak condition. She is also gifted in magic, thanks to the help of her brother, Osiris, as well as many other Egyptian gods.

If you think that they are portrayed well, then that is good. And if you think that they are not, then please let me know how I can improve on them in future Pinkie and Somnambula chapters.

For now, have a good night, and I'll be seeing you all again soon...

Applejack and Rockhoof: Rebuilding

"So, the first thing we need to do to restore the Mighty Helm is to get some buildings set up." Applejack had a drawing board set down with some sketches scribbled on it, mainly showing Rockhoof and the island that they were on. "Without somewhere to live and co-ordinate, they ain't gonna stand a chance if danger shows itself."

"True, but the issue of finding materials on an island like this still stands." Rockhoof looked around the island, not a single tree caught his eyes. "We might need to make it back to the mainland, chop some trees down there, and deliver them to the island if necessary."

"Then there's the issue of trying to get everyone to come back to the island, let alone make it habitable for 'em." Applejack lifted her head from the plans laid out on the table to see how barren and lifeless the island was. Apart from the two of them, the place was practically deserted, and all that remained was an archaeological site and the temple where she found Rockhoof's shove.

"True, this island saw many a hardship in the time I spent in it. Such things like storms, rising tides, and many more. However, those were all back in the days when the Mighty Helm was properly established," Rockhoof paced back and forth, reminiscing of the time he spent in the past. "Now that a millennia passed, it's slightly understandable why the island has faced all this wear and tear. And yet, at the same time, it's also quite sad to see the old homestead reduced to this."

"Hey, hey. If it makes you feel any better, my barn's been torn down quite a few times in recent years." Applejack walked over and patted Rockhoof's back tenderly, looking into his eyes with a smile.

"But your generation has all the tools to rebuild. Not to mention, it's just a single house; nothin' compared to the titanic mass of rock and earth that was once my home." Rockhoof pulled Applejack's hoof off of his back and set it down slowly. "Unless there are magic spells that can repair this much damage, I fear that we might be grasping at straws here, Applejack."

"Well, there ain't no harm in trying now, is there?" Still retaining her smile, Applejack rolled her plans up and slipped them under her hat. "After all, it's better to do something and get nothing out of it than to do absolutely nothing at all."

"That's... an odd way to think about it." He cocked a brow and watched as Applejack took away the table and place it out of their way.

"Well, it's somethin' ah always tell myself whenever apple pickin' starts to feel repetitive and the like." Applejack placed the table down by the shoreline. "When you work on an apple farm for all your life, you start to get a thing for the labour part of it if you really invest into it."

"I always believed that hard work should merit reward in one form or another; no matter how small or huge the task at hand was." Rockhoof rapped the ground repeatedly with his rigid hoofs, leaving small holes in the ground. "There's no point in working hard unless there is some form of benefit for one pony or another..."

"Sometimes, the work is its' own reward, in a sense. Ah wouldn't have given myself such a darn good workout if I hadn't been working at my family's farm for so long." She felt her hooves, pressing against the muscle mass built up in them. "Y'know, some ponies might say that I've been doing the same exact thing over and over again, and that it's a tad insane, but I actually kinda like staying on routine. That way, there's no surprises, no slacking off, and a perfect little pattern I get to follow day in, day out."

"Interesting. And you never feel the need to change the routine up, or at least make it interesting?" Rockhoof rubbed his chin.

"If I did, it wouldn't be that perfect rhythm I find myself enjoying now, would it?" She tilted her head. "If you like what you're doing, why would you ever want things to be different?"

"Hmm... True that. But even with that same routine, me and the Mighty Helm were no strangers to adventure and voyages across the many seas of Equestria." Rockhoof turned to the sea, watching as the waves smashed against the cliffs and rocks, drenching them repeatedly. "When there were no dangers to our land, we would often seek out danger and quash it before it had a chance to spread." He gripped his shovel tightly.

"Well, maybe in Starswirl's time, but whenever evil rears its' ugly head, it usually comes to us half of the time." Applejack brushed her chest. "It always comes down to the magic of friendship in the end, and as long as we have it, there ain't no evil that we can't beat."

"Well, you have that right. It was able to banish the Pony of Shadows after all our other attempts to stop it failed." Rockhoof's smile returned as he patted Applejack in the chest. "Clearly, there is a lot about this new Equestria that we need to learn about as quickly as possible."

"Yeah." Applejack leaned back against one of the cliff walls and pressed a hidden switch that sank into it. The wall behind her opened up to reveal a cave leading down into the ground below. She stumbled and twisted her body to witness the opening of the secret passage, with Rockhoof quickly running to her side. "And from the looks of it, I've got a heck of a lot to learn about the old Equestria..."

"A hidden passageway, nestled deep in my homeland..." Rockhoof's mouth opened wide at the sight, and he took a few steps forward, completely unsure of where it would lead us. "Applejack? Do you mind joining me on this little adventure?"

"Ah... guess?" Applejack just looked at him, lifting her shoulders up. "Maybe? I don't know where we're gonna end up, though."

"That's just the thrill of the adventure, Applejack. You never know where your travels will take you, and the journey itself could be fraught with danger or wonder." He started to walk off into the cave. "But if we just sit back, loaf, and let lethargy take over, then what are we really getting out of anything?"

"Nothing. We get nothing from doing nothing." Applejack shook her head and followed after. "But I'm still not on board with this whole idea of just blindly venturing into unknown territory like this."

"But there's always something to be gained out of our ventures, even if they're small ones. And besides—" He pointed back to the entryway, which began to close itself, slamming against the roof and echoing throughout the now pitch-black cave "—There's no way back outside, so we have to keep on going."

Applejack shuddered at the sudden disappearance of the light, and held her hooves out in front of her face to try and see where she was going and whether there were any walls in her path. Though, it was made exponentially harder for her to move, as she had to take intervals to feel her surroundings out. Coupling that with the fact that the cave itself sloped down deeper and deeper into the abyss, and soon, she had absolutely no idea where she was going.

Rockhoof, on the other hand, was walking down the slope and into the darkness, letting the echoes of his hoofsteps be his map. He listened out carefully for it all, how each noise bounced off of the hollow cave and swirled around him and Applejack's heads. Then, when he felt a break, or a place where the noise had not been reflected, he took it upon himself to walk down that path, occasionally holding onto Applejack and leading her the right way.

"This isn't your first time in a cave, I guess." Applejack idly remarked as she evaded another wall.

"When I was at the front of the Mighty Helm's team, we were once tasked with finding our way in and out of a cave, to retrieve some ancient treasure that'd fetch a pretty penny in the market," he said. "But the second we went inside, our torches were blown out by the winds, and it was far too damp to make and sustain a new fire.

"So, my colleague, Firm Hoof, took it upon herself to use the sounds we made as her own torch, using them to fill out the blanks in her mind and navigate the lightless network of tunnels. Shortly after, the rest of us chased, and lo and behold, she lead us straight to our prize," his voice grew gradually, to the point where he was booming the last words. He cleared his throat. "Though, to be completely honest, getting out again was the hard part, because we were also carrying our reward, and we didn't want to lose it before we delivered it home."

"Firm Hoof?" Applejack lifted a brow, not that anyone would see it.

"She was one of the best ponies in my division. Whereas I was the bulk of the group's strength and fortitude, she was more into charging headlong into battle and leaving nought of her enemies, or the monsters of this world. She also made some fantastic ale and grub, but that's beside the point." He let out another doleful sigh and put his hoof to his chest. "Just thinking about her brings me back to the days before I met Starswirl, when we would sail the seas and act as a bulwark of strength and protection for the ponies of Equestria."

"You still can be, soon as we get out of this cave and re-establish the Mighty Helm, that is." Applejack patted his back softly. "I always believe that there ain't no end for anything, so long as you got ponies who can carry on the traditions of the old. Least, that's what Granny Smith taught me."

"Your Granny Smith sounds like a wise old pony, Applejack. She must've had quite a life..." Rockhoof, in the distance, saw a faint speck of light, illuminating the rest of the path. "I would very much like to meet her once all the other Pillars have settled down and re-acquainted themselves to this new Equestria."

"I'm sure that all the other Pillars would want to meet our families and friends... just as long as they don't freak out over the fact that six living legends, thought to be long gone, are standin' right in front of 'em." Applejack's face was finally blessed with the flicker of light as she finally stepped out of the shadows.

"Not to mention that those very same ponies are coming down with... what was it again?" He asked, holding his hoof out while lifting his eyes.

"Culture shock. It's what happens when you ain't been around long enough to see how much the world changed." Applejack nodded. "Say you live in a cave in the mountains for years on years, and you see this bright, shiny new home where your old one was. Seein' all those new ponies playing their new games with their new toys, buying foods you haven't seen before, or just doing stuff out of the ordinary entirely. That's what they'll all be going through."

"Interesting. And how they'll adapt will be all up to them. Whether they take it nicely, or run around stark raving mad with their loincloths on their heads at everything, I cannae say for sure." He turned another corner, and threw his hoof out to the side to stop Applejack from going further. "Anyway, we're here."

What stood before the two earth ponies was a giant stone door, with glowing runes at each side of it. Some of them vaguely resembled letters of the alphabet, while others had been drawn as if they were entirely new characters. The slab that they surrounded looked like it blended into the wall, and not much of the frame could be seen through the crags, but the two massive torches standing by the door illuminated them plain as day, while also warming Applejack and Rockhoof at the same time. At the very center of the door was a jumbled up picture, that looked like the pieces revolved to form something else. But at the moment, it was a bunch of irregular lines with no rhyme or reason.

"A door?" Rockhoof approached it, feeling sandwiched by the humid air of the fires by his side. "But what does it mean? And how in the world did it get here in the first place?" He reached up for the massive mark on the door and pressed it, feeling it sink into the rest of the door like a button.

A rumble filled the cave, causing small pebbles and dust to tumble from the roof of it down onto the backs and heads of Applejack and Rockhoof. The runes' lights began to shine much more vigorously, as they bathed the room in a warm, amber and topaz glow. The central piece of the door itself began to revolve and spin, causing the lines to take a new formation. Tumblers and mechanisms spun to life as the piece transformed into what looked like a picture of a helm.

"By all the stars in the sky..." Rockhoof felt a realization dawn on him as the doors began to open; the emblem emblazoned on it causing memories to resurface. "Can it be? Is it possible?" And with not another word, he ran into the door, leaving Applejack behind as she pursued him in.

Once the light had died down and both ponies readjusted themselves to their new surroundings, they were met with something that could have come straight out of a museum. They stood in what looked to be the heart of a mine, though with a lot less mining and a lot more ponies doing whatever they wanted instead. With a series of wooden, hoof-made structures. A titanic brazier stood in the middle, its' fires roaring vigorously as it spread embers around that dissipated as quickly as they came into being.

The very same logo that both ponies had seen on the door was everywhere in the mine: It was scrawled on flag garlands and large pieces of paper around the camp, along with it being marked on the armour and Viking-like attire of all of the ponies scattered around, most of which adorned helms themselves as they performed their duties. Forging gear on anvils, practicing their gear, flying through the tunnels at breakneck speeds, or trying to expand the place.

"What... is all this?" Applejack was the first of the two to ask as she walked towards the brazier, catching looks from the ponies around her.

"Either I'm suffering some kind of delusion after a leap forward to the next millennium, or this is the Mighty Helm..." Rockhoof's mouth stayed agape the whole time as he went to towards a large tent at the back. "I'd recognize that insignia anywhere, and I sure know a Mighty Helm pony when I see it."

"Want me to pinch you, just to make sure?" asked Applejack.

Then, silence befell the room, nothing more than the crackles of the flames could be heard as every pony in the mine turned towards Applejack and Rockhoof, seemingly unable to take their eyes off of the both of them as they stood in awe.

"Is this really happening?" one pony whispered.

"Have all of our prayers been a beckoning for his return?" said the next.

"THE Rockhoof, one the Mighty Helm's greatest heroes, here in the flesh?!" the next one was a bit louder than her peers.

The attention even managed to reach the central tent, and a large pony with a silver coat, pale magenta rugged mane and tail, and a large pointy helmet coupled with her Mighty Helm attire stepped out. Her cutie mark was almost identical to that of Rockhoof's, albeit with the triangles more coalesced and clumped together than his. At her first glimpse of him, she hobbled down the stairs, almost as if she had lost the strength in her own legs after seeing him. In the end, she finally came to his face, brushed it tenderly, and examined the Cutie Mark on his own rump.

"Are you... Rockhoof, the Almighty?" She asked, her voice laced with a very thick accent as she took a look at his shovel next.

"Almighty? I don't know about that, but Rockhoof is my name, miss," he replied, looking into her eyes.

"The Rockhoof, the Almighty? As in, one of the great gods of the Mighty Helm?" She asked, beginning to find more resolve in her voice as a smile crossed her face. "The one who stopped the volcano from painting our island with lava a thousand years ago?"

"God?!" Applejack lurched backwards and lifted her front hoof up, as the other ponies began to clamour around them.

"The volcano act? Yes, that was me. Though, I've no idea where the god part comes into play. I just did my duty as a member of the Mighty Helm." He held out his shovel, the steel reflecting the light from the fires all around the room.

"It's really him!" The lead mare pranced on the spot, immediately overwhelmed and giddy just thinking about meeting him at long last. "The very legend who fended off a volcano's fire with his own hooves and shovel! Rockhoof, the Almighty has heard our prayers and devotion, and has finally returned to lead us to prominence!" She threw her hoof skyward. "Glory be to him! Glory be to the Mighty Helm!"

"Glory be to him! Glory be to the Mighty Helm!" The other ponies all chimed in harmony, before charging towards the two ponies, cheering and hollering as they lifted Rockhoof up and carried him around the mine, singing sounds that sounded like shanties more than anything, their accents on full display as they slurred the lyrics.

All this time, I thought that they had all gone away, when in reality, they were all here, right under our noses, waiting for my return... Rockhoof couldn't do anything more than smile and bask in the adoration of his "followers" as they hauled him around the place proudly. I truly am a proud pony, for having created a legacy along with my fellows. I can only imagine the praise that Starswirl, Somnambula, Flash Magnus, Mistmane, and Meadowbrook are feeling right now...

Meanwhile, Applejack was just left in the dust, seemingly abandoned as all of the other Mighty Helm ponies took Rockhoof with them. Unable to muster up any words, she just took off her hat, held her mouth open, and just sat down before closing it up with her hoof.

"What... the hay just happened?" She asked herself before getting back on her feet and following the crowd of Mighty Helm ponies around the mine. "How are the Mighty Helm still around, and why aren't they up there instead of down here, in this dusty old place? And more importantly, what's all this nonsense about Rockhoof being some kinda god? All he did was hold off the Pony of Shadows for a thousand years and stop a volcano from coating the island..." She just rolled her eyes and watched him revel in the adoration of his followers. "Well, I'm happy for him whatever happens, but I just don't get all the sudden high praise he's gettin'. I'd better stay with him a bit, so it doesn't go to his head. Fame can do some funny old things to you, after all..."

Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus: Iron Ore Outpost

Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus set hoof inside Iron Ore Outpost, the giant walls standing proudly around them, as if they were in a giant pen, surrounded by other ponies and buildings. The sheer size of the structure and how it dwarfed the two of them gave them an abnormal feeling. Despite their bravery, the both of them felt their cores rattle as they took their first quiet steps forward.

Taking the time to look around, they could see that the ponies were all wearing what looked like rags. Rags coated with thick clumps of ash and dust, with a few rips and holes here and there. Despite how gnarled and mangled their clothes were, the ponies were still working hard, playing with their children, or shopping for goods at the market. Though the land they stood on was rough and uneven, and faint residues of ash and smoke filled the air, they were all carrying on; as if none of it fazed them in the slightest.

“Well... This was not what I was expecting...” Flash was the first to break the silence between the two of them. “It was just a little door to a bunker a thousand years ago.”

“Well, a thousand years ago is a thousand years ago. Times change, Flash.” Rainbow Dash was more focused on looking around than looking into his eyes. “The generation you came from is long gone. Here in the new Equestria, there’s gonna be a lot of places, ponies, and stuff you’ll never have seen before. And, heck, lots of other ponies are gonna be stunned just from looking at you and the other Pillars. You’re like, the most FAMOUS ponies of all time!”

“Famous? Well... I don’t like to brag much.” Flash gave a lame chuckle as he rubbed the back of his head. “Let’s just say that a lot of ponies knew me back when my batalion was still around.”

“Well, yeah. You fended off ENORMOUS dragons with nothing more than a shield. And it wasn’t even a massive one either. That alone should get ponies talking.” Rainbow Dash playfully slapped Flash’s stomach. “I mean, I’ve done a ton of awesome things in the past, but not even I’ve been able to stop dragons like you have. You should be proud of yourself, Flash.”

“Don’t go comparing feats of heroism, Rainbow Dash. Heck, not even half of the stuff I’ve done compares to what you and your friends were able to do.” He said, slapping her back. “All this stuff about monsters and beasts you battled with nothing but friendship? A whole new world beyond our own? Things that I can only assume are new in this new Equestria. It makes me seem like I’ve gone rusty.”

“Rusty? Doubt it. You’re a great pegasus, Flash. Much faster than some of the other ones I’ve seen flying around Ponyville and Cloudsdale that is." Rainbow Dash just pushed her chest out with pride. "If you could, you could easily whoop the Wonderbolts at both speed and toughness. You did it to those dragons, so I'd say you can handle anything."

"Focus, Rainbow Dash. I know that you're in awe of me, as I am of you and your friends. But pride goes before the fall. And that's why I always put the mission over that." Flash nodded, and pulled his helm off, revealing the rest of his mane to her. "First things first. We should ask around and see what's become of this place. As well as any interesting leads we could look into. After all, the Dragonlands are always full of adventure and action, so I say that it's the perfect stomping ground for me."

"Right. Got it." Rainbow nodded her head as she started to search for the nearest townspony she could find, only for one to walk up to her and examine both her and Flash. "Excuse me, miss? Can you tell us a bit about your... town? Village? I'm sorry, I'm having trouble finding the right word for it."

"It's no town. It's a lifeline for ponies like us, lost and stuck in this cruel world," said the mare, her voice hoarse and raspy. She reached for a small capsule and opened the cap, taking a vigorous drink of water from it. Coughing and clearing her throat, she spoke again. This time, in a much less scratchy voice. "Sorry about that. There's no water springs here in the Dragonlands. There's the sea, but that's far too salty for us to drink and enjoy. And the nearest supply of water is miles away from this place."

"We want to get more water, but the trips are so long." A little filly with a pink coat and yellow bangs waddled out from behind the mare. Her cutie mark hidden behind her cloak. "And often, when ponies try to come back, they get attacked by monsters and lose all the water they gathered."

"So your town's running low on water, is it, little one?" Flash approached the filly and knelt down to her size. "Well, I'm sure that we could find a solution to that. Who runs this place?"

"Yeah. We wanna talk to 'em so we can see about fixing up the water here." Rainbow Dash showed herself to the child. "Nopony should have to have a water shortage; especially not in the Dragonlands." She shuddered, already thinking about the harsh lava flows and volcanoes that plagued this area of the world.

"If you're looking for the mayor, she's currently in her office, handling a lot of papers and requests." The mare pointed towards a much larger building to the rest. Though it was constructed through misaligned bricks and mortar, it was still structurally sound, and had a solid roof of thick metal. "Her name is Twinkling Sky."

"Twinkling Sky. Got it." Flash gave them a quick nod and turned towards the place. "Thank you for your help." And he trotted away, with Rainbow Dash in tow.

"We'll make sure you get some clean water in your bellies pretty soon, everypony," Rainbow said back to the mare and her child. "Don't you worry about it."

Both Rainbow and Flash walked into the building and approached a receptionist pony handling documents. She had silver eyes and a bright blue coat with pink and yellow hair. Though the papers on her stack were small, she was writing at a slow pace. She had to check and recheck the words at regular intervals to make sure that she was working on the right paper and not accidentally making the mistake of having a gardener be put on out of town duties. The sweat on her forehead was minimal, despite the amount of time she was spending focusing on the papers alone.

"Uh... Hi." Rainbow waved at the mare. "We're looking for mayor Twinkling Sky. We're new to the place and we wanna know a bit more about it. As well as do a little bit of work for her too."

"If you're looking for a job on the mayoral team, I'm sorry to say that all the slots have been taken." The mare rolled her eyes upwards and briefly slid her paperwork away, speaking in a monotone voice. "And at the moment, the mayor's been swamped with her own problems ever since she arrived."

"That's why we're here." Flash put his hoof on the counter. "We were going to assist the mayor with a water run that she and her crew were working on, since we heard reports of how it's been running on droplets. That, and I do kinda wanna see how this place grew since the last time I was here." He put his helm back on, getting the mare's eyes to widen almost immediately. "Flash Magnus. Pillar of Bravery, soldier of the Royal Legion. At your service."

"It... It's you!" The mare immediately threw all her work to the side and leapt on to the counter. Her tail wagged back and forth as she looked down at the living legend before her. "I... I can't believe you're alive and well! The Flash Magnus, who held off a horde of dragons with nothing more than a below-average-size shield!"

"Below average?" Flash tilted his head.

"Oh, I've told ALL of your stories to my little ones, and they told all their friends at school, and then they went around to tell everyone else in the village, and now, practically EVERYTHING has been devoted to you!" Her voice was barely recognisable anymore due to the spike in pitch. "The fields, the police, the houses, it's all for you. Still, I can't believe you're actually alive, after a thousand years!" She slipped off of the table and stood on the tips of her hooves as she beamed in his face. "What's your secret? How did you managed to stay alive for so long?"

Both Rainbow and Flash shared glances at each other as they looked into the fangirl mare's eyes. Even in the most barren, inhospitable, and harsh climates, there were still ponies that respected and revered the Pillars of Equestria and their heroic deeds. And though only they knew the real story, they felt like that the both of them would have to share it soon with the rest of the world.

Taking some deep breaths, the receptionist stood back upright. "Okay, I usually don't do this, and it would get me totally fired on other occasions, but just because it's you and you alone, Flash, I'm willing to make an exception." She started to walk down a corridor, making a motion with her hooves for the two pegasi to follow her. "I'm taking you straight to Twinkling Sky. No ifs, ands, or buts about it!"

"Wow. Look at you, getting all the special treatment." Rainbow snickered and jabbed at his shoulder with her own. "Looks like being a part of thousand year-old history gets you everything these days. Meanwhile, just look at me and my friends. All we do is save the world, and then nopony ever thinks that we're special ever again." Rainbow just crossed her arms as she flitted across the corridors. "Even Rarity and Pinkie Pie should be living cushy lives given how many times we've stuck our necks out for the world. But nope! Even after we save the world, everypony just carries on like it never even happened..."

"Maybe you just need to give it another thousand years." Flash just chuckled at Rainbow's mini-rant. "Or try doing something like what we did with the Pony of Shadows and hold whatever new bad guy comes your way in Limbo for that long."

"Yeah." Rainbow's tension was immediately dispelled and replaced with small giggles of her own. "Or maybe we need to have another Tirek-scale fight. That'll get ponies talking again."

"Tirek-scale?" Flash Magnus cocked a brow at Rainbow's comment. "What do you mean by that?"

"Trust me, Flash. You don't wanna know. Tirek makes the Pony of Shadows look like something out of a silly kid's book." Rainbow shuddered, thinking back to the time when he went on his ramapage, siphoning everypony of their strength to feed his own. "Not in how creepy or menacing he looked as a villain, but just for the sheer power. Like, seriously, if he got a hold of you and the other Pillars, not even we'd have been able to beat him. Magic box or no magic box."

All three ponies stepped into the mayor's office, greeted by very familiar sights. More and more paperwork littered a single desk, with a pony frantically typing away at a typewriter. Pounding out word after word with her hooves, often making mistakes in her haste, which lead to the paper being scrapped and replaced with a new one. It was much more papers than what the receptionist had on her plate, but it was also being backed up by the lack of free space Twinkling had on her own desk.

As for Twinkling herself, she was a white unicorn with purple, swirly hair and a cutie mark representing a night sky with many stars shimmering in it. A pair of thin-rimmed glasses lay on her muzzle, and there was much more sweat dribbling down off of her head and body.

"Excuse me? Mayor Twinkling?" Said the receptionist as she took a few steps forward. "I've got some visitors for you. Some ponies that I know you won't say no to."

"Silver Crystal, I don't care how many protesters I get today, I'm still not going to put their requests through until I'm done with all my... other—" Her voice trailed and faded when she saw Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus standing before her. Her jaw immediately dropped straight onto her desk and she had to physically move it back up to the rest of her head with a hoof. "Is... that... FLASH MAGNUS?!"

"Yes. Yes it is." Silver's smile was just as wide as Twinkling Sky's was. "Look. No silly ponies in cosplay either. He's the real deal." She had to pull and tug at his face, hair, and the rest of his body to prove that he was real.

"Sweet... Celestia... in the skies above." Twinkling pulled herself away from her work and trotted around her desk. She walked up to Flash and placed a hoof on his chest, rubbing it up to his neck and then to his nose. "It's really you. The heroic pony from the Royal Legion who fended off the dragon horde with nothing more than a shield."

"I know! Isn't it amazing?!" Silver's fangirl form returned, as she galloped on the spot, letting out a squeal. "After a thousand years, he's back from wherever he was, back to save us all!"

"Is this how... everyone's going to react to me now?" Flash asked, laying his hooves on the two mares. "Because if it is, then I'm sure that I could get used to it. Given time, that is."

Both of the mare swooned and collapsed to the ground, leaving a bewildered Rainbow Dash to just stare at the both of them as they woozily stood back up and walked Flash to the windows.

"Anyway. I wanted to talk to you, Twinkling Sky." Flash took his helm off and gave it to her. "I heard that your ponies were having trouble getting clean water back to the village, and that there's no proper water springs here in the Dragonlands. Is there anything that me and Rainbow Dash here can do to help?"

"Rainbow Dash? Hey, aren't you that kid who recently joined the Wonderbolts as a full-time flier?" Silver turned towards Rainbow, lifting a brow at her.

"You didn't notice me until now?" Rainbow deadpanned, almost peeved that she had been thrown to the wayside in favour of Flash. "I mean, given how my mane and tail is nothing but rainbows, I thought you'd confused me for somepony else for a moment."

"So not only do we have a legendary hero from a millennium ago coming back to our modern day and age, but we also have a Wonderbolt joining us? This is going to work wonders for us and the townsponies!" Twinkling came over and patted Rainbow on her back. "Ooh, they said that things weren't going to get any better, but now I beg to differ with them. Soon, Iron Ore Outpost will become the greatest—even though it's the first—place to live out here in the Dragonlands!"

"Yeah. An old-timey hero and a modern-day superstar pegasus! The town's going to get so much attention now thanks to your help. Both inside and out!" Silver was jumping around the room, unable to contain herself any longer. "We'll quickly turn this place around and get everypony super-happy, they won't even notice all of the other problems this place has!"

"Problems?" Flash asked, lifting a brow, before frisking all the documents that were left on the table. "I guess you mean this, right?" He placed a hoof at the top of the stack.

"Yeah. The town's been through some... rough times since I became mayor. But, now that's all in the past. With you and Rainbow Dash here, we'll make this whole stack of ink and tedium go away. Forever!" Twinkling's tail was now shaking at the idea of the both of them helping out.

Rainbow Dash and Flash were thinking the exact same thing as they gave each other one last stare. What in the hay happened to this place? And what did we get into this time?

The Five Unicorns: What Was Once Home

Twilight, Starlight, Sunburst, Starswirl, and Stygian were all working together in the library of the cave house, re-organising all of the books and putting them right back in an alphabetised order. While Starswirl and Stygian were focused on the work, Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst were deeply reading the books instead, only putting them back once they had finished, before quickly plucking more off the shelves.

"Y'know, a part of me wishes that I'd lived in Old Equestria." Twilight pulled her head from yet another hypnotic read, the smile on her face growing larger and larger by the second. "Did you know that they called Yakyakistan Icefloe Mountain before it was discovered that yaks inhabited it?"

"Because of how cold it is up there, right? I always thought that there was treasure at the top of those mountains until yaks lived there," said Starlight, as she pulled her head from her own book. "You think there still is and they just haven't found it yet?"

"I would imagine there would be. After all, one never really knows everything about the world." Stygian stepped forward, putting his hoof around Starlight's back. "Even after spending all our time as the Pillars and the Pony of Shadows, I would imagine that there's many things we've yet to discover."

"Especially now that you're in the new millennium of Equestria." Sunburst readjusted his glasses, pushing them closer to his eyes. "After being held in Limbo for a thousand years, I can see you and the Pillars finding so much in this new world. It'll definitely keep you busy."

"Indeed. Those places we saw were nothing like we remember from our time." Starswirl lowered his head. "I would imagine that many of the maps and books I have are out of date now. Maybe I should make my way to the nearest library once we finish getting our bearings."

"You know, I can hand you some of my books, Starswirl." Twilight fluttered her eyelids as her dopey smile grew even wider. Stars even began to appear in her eyes as she clasped her hooves together. "In fact, I would do anything for you..."

"That... sounds like something devious." Stygian lifted a brow at Twilight and cantered over to her. "Something that someone with a hidden motive would say to try and worm their way into the hearts of others."

"What? Me? Devious? Nah!" Twilight just blew a raspberry with her mouth and snorted. "I'd never be devious and under-hoofed to the greatest of Equestria's legends! He's Starswirl the Bearded!"

"Twilight. No need to address me by a full title, you know." He just took his hat off and set it down on a nearby table. "I might be revered by ponies in your time, but I still am not worthy of such titles and adoration. If anything, me and the pillars should be worshipping you, not you and the rest of Equestria doing so for us." He gave Twilight a smile and tousled her mane, causing her to let out a massive squeal as she grew a cartoonishly-large smile.

"Easy, Twilight." Starlight came over and gave Twilight a few strokes on the back, her hooves getting whacked by Twilight's swishing tail, which could have doubled as a polishing wipe with how much it was brushing against her.

"You will have to excuse her. She's become a fanatic of your works, Starswirl." Sunburst trotted to Twilight's side and watched as her grin started to grow smaller and smaller again. "An over-fanatic, if you can call her that."

"Well, fanaticism isn't exactly a bad thing now. It just shows how much one is devoted to the cause at hand. Even if the same rule can be applied to monsters, villains, and whatever dark forces they wreak." He stared towards the All-Seeing-Eye of Canterlot, wondering when it would alert him next, if at all. "Just remember to curb yourself, Twilight Sparkle. Complacency can be a deadly thing when it overwhelms you."

"Oh, I know. It's just a once-in-a-lifetime chance that I get to meet the pony that not only chronicled the most powerful magic in the whole of Equestria, but left such a fantastic lineage that every pony across the planet was wondering where in the heck he went!" Twilight threw her hooves out. "So many people have been trying to put two and two together, and we're finally the ones to have cracked the seal. This is as rare as seeing the Breezies migrate on Friday the 13th with the planets aligned and with a blue moon on a leap year!"

"That... sounds very specific, don't you think, Twilight?" Starlight tilted her head at the analogy.

"Well, do you have anything rarer than that, Starlight?" Twilight shot her a glance.

"Not really, no." She shook her head and slunked back slightly.

"Well, all this praise and acknowledgement aside, I think I should see exactly what this new world has to offer." Shifting his gaze back to the Eye, he watched as it burst into light and spread out across the room, creating a kaleidoscope of colours and stars, that danced around like they were being emanated from a disco ball. As it did so, different towns and villages appeared on the map, though none of them linked up with anything Twilight had ever seen before. "After all, I can't imagine that, after a thousand years, such places like Trottenheim or Gjallopdor are around these days."

"Gjallopdor? I haven't heard of that name in ages..." Sunburst squinted and rubbed his eyes briefly, before reaching out for the mark on the map. "That was a powerful place for budding young unicorns to learn some of the most powerful spells. That was until it was ravaged by the Occult Ones back in 465 AC."

"AC?" Starswirl was the one to have his bushy eyebrows elevated this time.

"After Celestia. Anything before that was BC; Before Celestia. Basically, the students that you trained and raised into princesses. Anything before their ascension to royalty was BC, and everything after was AC." Sunburst pointed out, idly raising his hoof proudly. "But I'm being sidetracked. It seems like Gjallopdor never really recovered after the Occult Ones laid waste to it." He took a moment to clutch his chest and trace the floor with his hoof. "Such a shame, really. All those spells, gone. Along with the hearts and minds of the ponies who casted them..."

"If I were here, the All-Seeing Eye would have told me of their plot straight away. But, sadly, the Pony of Shadows had me and my compatriots in quite a bind," Starswirl said with a hint of regret in his voice.

"I never really knew about that before..." Twilight spread her wings and flew up to the mark on the map, giving it a gentle tap. All that she really touched was stardust, as the place vanished from sight and contorted back once she landed again. "And now, all that stands in its' place is the Crystal Empire; right underneath Yakyakistan..."

"Y'think your brother and sister-in-law know about this, Twilight?" Starlight asked, her hooves slightly beginning to shiver, both from the cold and from the idea that there were more powerful spells than the ones that she had always grown up with.

"No, I don't think so. In fact, I've never even heard of Gjallopdor before today. I didn't realise that it was such a powerful nation!" Twilight shook her head. "To think, one of the grandest empires in Equestria used to be a powder keg, full of ponies learning spells that could've completely rewritten all the rules!"

"I wouldn't exactly call it a powder keg, Twilight. Gjallopdor was a powerful place in its' own right, but even it had its' own laws and rules to adhere to." Starswirl was just enraptured by the map itself. "The Occult Ones attacked it because of the rules it set, and were ultimately destroyed when they tried to create a ritual but lacked the magical strength needed to pull it off themselves."

"Well, when you consider that ponies were taught for many years at Gjallopdor before they were even allowed to practise their spells, it should come across as an unspoken rule not to meddle with their magical powers." Stygian tipped a hoof. "But I do agree that they weren't prepared for what they tried to tamper with. And now, I highly doubt they exist on this world either..."

"That is to be expected, is it not?" Starswirl lit his horn and cast a bolt at the center of the map, causing everything to retract and form a singular globe of golden water. "Anyways, we shouldn't really dawdle on the matter now, seeing as how a thousand years have passed. Twilight? Do you have a map of this new Equestria? I wish to insert its' contents into the All-Seeing Eye of Canterlot as soon as possible."

"Oh! Of course! I'll be right back." She lit up her horn and teleported out, only to return a few moments later, carrying a copy of the map in her aura. She promptly tumbled to the ground, map still held delicately by her horn's magic.

"Twilight!" Sunburst caught her before her head smacked against the earthen ground. "Are you okay? What happened?"

"Hoo..." Twilight breathed heavily, letting out another cough. "I haven't teleported that far in a LONG TIME. And even then, I had at least three other levels of magic inside me..." Twilight got back up to her feet, but hobbled towards Starlight with jagged and shaky legs. She collapsed again, but with all of her strength, she managed to bring the map over to Starswirl. "There you go. The finest Equestria in the whole of map. I mean the finest... ah, forget it."

"Thank you, Twilight." Starswirl watched as the other ponies laid her down on a large armchair, then turned back to watch him pull off yet another of his incredibly long and ever-growing list of feats.

Starswirl closed his eyes, illuminated his horn, and placed the very tip of it on the center of the map. Casting a bolt at the Eye, golden energy flowed down from the stream, down through his body, and onto the map itself. Within seconds, characters and images from the map began to fly off of the paper and dance in the air, swirling around and enveloping the entire room in another spectacle of blinding lights and colours.

When the map itself had been left empty, everything that he had pulled from it stopped before all being sucked into the globe of light, one by one until it created a single star before them. One that then detonated, shining light into every corner of Starswirl's house. When the light dissipated and disappeared and everyone opened their eyes, the dots had all been given new colours, new titles and even included pictures of each individual location as well.

"Whoa..." They all chorused in harmony with each other, watching as the new map spun before them, showcasing all of its' new contents. They barely even noticed Starswirl, as he pulled a golden stream out of the air and put it down on the empty parchment, filling it with the old map of Equestria.

"I know, I know. But before you ask what kind of magic this is, it is only my own." He said, crossing through the web-like infrastructure of his new map to the resting Twilight. "I seek not grandeur or acknowledgement. All that I seek is order, and that everything in this world is set right. And, I always firmly agree that fanaticism should be rewarded, in any real case of the word. So long as they are fanatics for a good cause, that is." He rolled the map up and gave it to Twilight. "There you are, my dear. So that you never forget the world of old."

"Thank you... Starswirl." Twilight cuddled the map tightly, making sure not to rip the edges or crease it as she rubbed it against herself.

"Not a problem at all, Twilight." He said, putting his hat back on. "Now. If the eye ever finds a monster or brute in this modern time, it will give me its' exact location and where it is headed next, so that we may intercept it before it can enact its' heinous plan. It has been a long time since Equestria has had such a defence like this, so I feel that we should remain on the utmost of guards. For they say that the strongest of defence is also the most opposed."

"Even the most protected cities are not ignored by powerful foes and fiends. In fact, I feel that we should keep this eye a secret, everypony." Stygian addressed the other unicorns, while they were still playfully batting about with the parts of the map. They immediately snapped out of their games and trances before turning their attentions to him. "Now, what me and Starswirl have shown you is not for the mortal world. Are you any good at keeping secrets?"

"Absolutely." Starlight gave them all a nod. "I've been keeping some secrets ever since I was a kid, and still to this day, not even Sunburst knows. And we practically know everything about each other now."

"Oh, I'm sure that I know more secrets than you, Starlight." Sunburst chuckle to himself, bringing a hoof to his mouth. Plus, I've actually been working on a spell that allows you to store and retrieve someone's subconscious memories, but I still can't figure out how to get the magical wavelengths just right on it. It's a very complicated coalescence of arcane energy..." He rolled his eyes and rubbed his horn. "Either way, I'm certain that I can keep the All-Seeing Eye of Canterlot under wraps from the public, Starswirl. You have my word."

"Twilight? Have you recovered yet?" Stygian watched as Twilight tossed and turned, feeling her reach out and try to grab onto something. She toppled over and landed back on her feet, the Olde Equestria map tumbling to her side as she fell from the chair.

"Y-yeah. I'm starting to." Twilight stood back up slowly, creaking the bones in her legs as she looked back at her gift. She curled it up and hid it in her mane. "But anyways, I'm sure that I can keep hiding the All-Seeing Eye too. I mean, me and my friends are great at keeping secrets, right?" Her eyes shifted across all of the unicorns, only for her to get nothing but silence out of it. "Guess it's just me then. And yes, Starswirl, I will keep your secrets."

"Very good." Starswirl watched the map fade back into a single globe above their heads. "Now, I feel like we should sit down for a bit and have some lunch. "All this time stuck in Limbo holding the Pony of Shadows really works up an appetite, wouldn't you agree?" And as if on cue, his stomach rumbled to show his point.

"Sure. I can run down to the city to get some food. Be right back." Starlight teleported out, but unlike Twilight, didn't immediately return with goods in hand. Thus, the other four were left to their own devices.

"Maybe I could help you with trying to cook, Starswirl. I don't mean to brag, but I did take up a culinary school for a few years after I flunked out of my wizarding classes." Sunburst lead the way towards the kitchen in Starswirl's house. "Oh, and trust me, there's bound to be some delicacies in this newer world that'll make your taste buds tingle with delight."

"What about you, Twilight?" Stygian asked, as the both of them stood alone in a large rotunda-like room. "What are you going to do?"

"Well, I'm quite curious to see what this old Equestria was like. And, I've got a great source of information right here." Twilight took a plethora of books off of the shelf and took them and her map back to the chair. "I hope you don't mind, Stygian, but I might be a while. I'm pretty sure that Olde Equestria's got a TON of tales to tell!" She quickly jumped back into the seat, causing it to lurch with her landing as she cracked open the first book and started scrolling through the pages.

"Oh, not at all, Twilight. Actually, do you mind if I assist you?" He started to trot over to her side. "After all, who better to learn OIde Equestria from than a pony who is actually from Olde Equestria?"

"I'd like that very much, Stygian." She flashed him a gentle smile as he stood by her side. Together, the two of them began their journey into the wonderful world of their world's past...

Author's Notes:

So. Now that Season 8 finally decided to bring our lord and saviour Gandalf, and the rest of his little crew back, I suppose that this fanfic's going to have even less credibility now, huh? Given that now the Pillars are still out and about, roaming freely across the lands, that should be reason enough for me to pack in and call it a day, right?


See, while I do enjoy the fact that they're sticking to the shreds of continuity here and there, I'm still devoted to this story and to all six of the Pillars together. It's not very often that I continue a story even after the canon has debunked the fact that it could never exist, but here's the one time I'll make an exception, as I love writing about the Pillars so much and I love everything about them, and I ain't stopping for NOTHING.

Explanation over. Now, please have some Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst having a magical fangirl/boy chapter with Starswirl and Stygian.

The Five Unicorns: The Other Side

Author's Notes:

Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the first little focused arc for this story. I know that it took me a while to get it all set up, but now we're here and ready to jump straight on into this. And I figured, why not have this first arc be a pretty major one at that. I won't exactly tell you what it is. You'll just have to read on and find out for yourself. But regardless, let's jump right on into this.

Starswirl and Stygian were back in Twilight's castle, following Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst down one of the many corridors. All lined with crystal walls and columns, with carpet that spanned the length of every passage, leaving gaps between the fabric and the doors. For Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst, it was something that they were all too familiar with. They had been in and out of the castle more times than they could count. Starswirl had only been the place a few times, as did Stygian. But the two of them were already enraptured by the architecture.

"So tell me, Twilight. What was it that you wanted to show me again?" Starswirl asked as he watched Twilight approach a large door with green tiles on the front.

"Well, I know that you were quite a pioneer in magic, Starswirl. But... let's just say that I've made a few discoveries of my own." Twilight opened up the door, leading the rest of her company inside. "I know that I'm never gonna be able to compete with anything that you've done in your life, but I like to say that this was one of my bigger discoveries. In fact, I've been meaning to show you it ever since we pulled you and the other pillars out of Limbo.

"So, in other words, a few or so hours?" Stygian cocked a brow. "I mean, if it's one of your biggest projects, I would have imagined that it must've taken a long time to perfect, let alone be ready for us to take a look at."

"You could say that. But really, it wasn't my original idea." She blushed and fiddled with her front hooves. "I just made some adjustments to the original design and kept in my castle ever since. But I still like to think that the work I did benefitted a certain friend on the other side."

"Other side? Well, now I'm really confused, Twilight Sparkle. Are you saying that you've found a way to commune with the afterlife; with creatures long since past their time on the mortal coil?" Starswirl asked, rubbing his bearded chin with a hoof.

"What? No. Nothing like that." Twilight just casually beat the air with her hoof. "If I did, I'd have asked my great great great great great great great grandfather how he and his family lived. Then I would have meticulously written every detail down into a book then send it off to mom and dad back in Canterlot."

"No, Starswirl. What Twilight's done is much different. Trust me, I speak from experience." Starlight gave Starswirl a wink as she lead him into the room along with Stygian.

"Experience? Well, now this I must see if your friend Starlight has had some dealings with it..." Starswirl walked into the room hastily and soon found himself staring at the portal to the human world, complete with the mechanical frame attached to the horseshoe-shaped mirror that held the glass in place. A book sat on a ledge above the portal, the front visible for every pony inside.

"What I've done here is taken the base extract of an interdimensional gateway between two worlds on a polar spectrum to one another, created a breach between those two worlds and used this as the beachhead for ponies to travel back and forth through," Twilight said, as she stood by the portal and posed as if she were giving a lecture in a classroom. "Upon traversal through the metaphysical gateway between Equestria and this new world, the body takes on a new shape that contorts and conforms to this new world's laws, retaining a permanent shape until re-entry back into this plane of existence."

Starlight just stood there and blinked for a few seconds, before shaking her head, turning to Starswirl and Stygian, saying, "In English, Twilight's managed to create a portal between Equestria and a whole new world, where ponies aren't the dominant species and instead it's got these things called humans. Or at least, that's how Sunset always called them..."

"The portal was always around in the days of old, but there was a strict time limiter that kept it from being properly used to its' full potential." Sunburst pushed his glasses close to his eyes as he approached the portal as well. "You see, it was channelled by raw lunar magic that only came to fruition every thirty moons. Or two and a half years for those who don't count things by moon. When the time was right, the portal would be open for three days and no more. After the third day, it would seal off for another thirty moons."

"I know. It wasn't a very good system in hindsight; especially when I had my crown stolen." Twilight looked to the ceiling, a sigh slipping out of her mouth. "It feels like forever since that day, when Sunset Shimmer pillaged me, ran off to that other world and challenged me."

"This Sunset Shimmer sounds like she seeks power, having tried to take your crown; your Element of Harmony." Starswirl lowered his brows. "At this point in time, is she still a nuisance in this new world or Equestria?"

"No. It's been a while since she's spent a full day back here in Equestria. Not out of shame or exile, but rather because she likes living in this new world. Still, one must wonder how her family feels having not seen her in ages. How do they think she's holding it down all on her own in that new world?" Twilight put her hoof on the portal, her chest warming up as she imagined putting it on Sunset's heart. "I guess, when you really think about it, this is both a blessing and a curse to ponies who want to move. The good side is that they get to see a new world for themselves, whereas the bad side being whether they want to stay, abandoning Equestria, abandoning everything that they knew and loved."

"Well, in any case, I'm sure that she's doing what her heart wants her to do." Starlight wrapped a hoof around Twilight's back, brushing her tenderly. "If she's happy in this new world, then who are we to say that she's not allowed to stay or come back? She can always pop back over to Equestria any time she wants."

"I know, Starlight. But she's done so much in this new world that it's her home away from home. She's become so complacent and happy with the stuff she's seen and done that it would be harder to convince her to come back home. Yet at the same time, I'll bet that she misses the place very much." Twilight looked into Starlight's eyes, feeling a lump in her throat. "The curse of having two worlds to choose between is that it's hard to nail down just one when both are equally tempting. A world of ponies and a world of humans, both with their upsides and downsides. When you think about it, nopony or rather nobody can choose one without feeling bad for the other."

"An interesting talk on the prospect of duality, Twilight. With that sort of philosophy, you really have piqued my interest. Perhaps a little visit to this new world is in order, perhaps?" Starswirl spoke, bringing both of the unicorns out of each other's embraces. "If it causes the mind to think, then it definitely warrants further investigation."

"I agree. If there are such things as other worlds, tempting enough so that ponies would want to stay in them, I wouldn't mind getting a little glimpse of this place that Sunset Shimmer calls home as well." Stygian stepped forward, hoof close to the edge of the portal's base.

"If you must go through, I just need to let you know to remember the exact spot that you came out. If you don't find your way back to the gateway that you came out of, you could potentially be stuck in that other world without another portal to lead you home." Twilight put her hoof on Starswirl's back. Knowing that he had thrust himself and his peers out of Equestria once, she didn't want to let him become lost for another millennium or so. "The portal's position is always anchored by the base it's held in. This stays here, the other gateway stays there. If you can't find the exit and entrance points, the risk is that you become trapped in this new world."

"I'm well aware with the idea of portal travel, Twilight. It is not a rare prospect in this world." He took her hoof off of his back, letting it flop back down to her side. "Still, I have never known a portal to take somepony out of Equestria entirely... I would advise you to stay on your guard, but as you and your peers have done this before, perhaps the rule only applies to myself and Stygian."

"I must admit, this all quite exhilarating. If this portal does indeed lead to a new world, we should document as much as we could, Starswirl. Just imagine how much of a benefit it would be to the ponies of this world interested in visiting it." Stygian watched as Starswirl stood by his side, locking gazes with his old companion.

"True, but we must also take into account whether or not ponies would be interested in this new world, as well as the consequences that would befall them or the inhabitants there." Starswirl nodded. "For now, we should at least survey the area, see what there is to see, then return with our findings intact. Then, whether or not we create this book idea of yours is down to us and us alone."

Together, both of the Old Equestrians walked through the portal, bathed in a white veil as they fazed out of Equestria through the glass. It didn't take long for Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst to follow through, before the five of them all fell through the dimensional corridor of light. Their bodies contorted and changed, before they tumbled through one last radiant burst, blinding them all as they collided on the ground at last.

Twilight, Starlight, Sunburst, Stygian, and Starswirl all collapsed in one giant heap at the base of Canterlot High. All of them transformed from pony to human, they each got up, opening their eyes for the first time as they found control of their bodies once again. One by one, they pushed themselves off of the ground and tried standing up. Or rather, Twilight and Starlight stood up properly. As for the other three, they were more standing on their knees than anything else.

Sunburst's goatee and glasses remained, but instead of his usual cape, he was now dressed in a sweater that bore the same colours and patterns of his suit, with his cutie mark draped by the left-hand side of his zip. He wore a plain cream-coloured pair of slacks with brown shoes.

Starswirl and Stygian's clothes were much more different. Starswirl's hat and cape were the same, just re-shaped and resized to fit his new physique. He also now wore two curly purple shoes on his feet. Stygian wore a short brown cape and shirt, with a cummerbund running from his waist to his arms. Underneath that was a pair of green trousers tucked in at medieval shoes that now adorned his feet.

Twilight and Starlight had the same clothes that they had always worn since they had been here. Twilight with her blue shirt with a purple skirt bearing her cutie mark across it. Starlight reclaimed her pink beanie and ripped trousers with a black vest over her green shirt, with her Cutie Mark in the center of it.

"Well, welcome to..." Twilight lifted a finger, but then steadily lowered it as a thought ravaged her mind. "Actually... what was this world actually called again? I don't think I ever remember getting a name for it. All I know is Canterlot High and that's it outside of houses."

"I'm sure that we can ask Sunset and her friends for some information the next time we see them, Twilight," Starlight replied, before breaking in her legs with a run around the entrance to CHS. "Oh, it feels so good to be back on two legs again! I know pony legs are good and all, but there's just something great about having this bit of extra agility. The slender body, the longer legs—" She performed a backflip, landing on her feet with ease "—the acrobatic dynamics. It's just so satisfying, don't you think?"

"Wh-whoa!" Sunburst finally took a long look at his body, twisting, turning, examining every corner of himself. "These are... definitely new. What in the name of Celestia ARE these things?" He asked, looking at his fingers and how he wriggled them around.

"Those are called hands. And the things poking out of them are fingers." Twilight walked over to Sunburst, pulling him up onto two legs. "The humans here use those to hold things, push and pull things, and do lots of other stuff with them. Just like how unicorns use magic to lift everything, humans use these instead."

"Interesting..." Sunburst looked at his new limbs. "And why is it that we need only two hooves to stand up? What do we do about the other two?" His eyes were focused on his arms, mainly how long they were and slender by comparison to his old pony legs.

"Those are arms. They make it so you can reach things with your hands better." Twilight held on of Sunburst's new arms and pulled it out wide, showing him just much reach he had. "Trust me. I was just as confused as you were the first time I came here, but Sunset and her friends got me up to speed pretty quickly."

"I see." Starswirl used his hands to push himself off of his knees, standing tall above the others. He wobbled for a bit, trying to accommodate for his new proportions, but soon managed to find his balance. "I've also noticed that my horn has vanished, as has the rest of yours. These humans do not have magic, I must assume."

"The only way anyone can have any form of magic in this world is if they somehow bring an Equestrian artefact into this world and use it here. Other than that, yeah, this place is pretty much a dead zone for magic users." Twilight came over to Starswirl, giving him a nod as she looked up at his new form. "What do you think of it all, Stygian?"

"I'm a bit taken aback first of all. This body feels a tad lighter than my old pony body. Maybe it's either the gravitational pull of this world or rather of my own weight, but I feel like there's less resistance for me whenever I move." Stygian stood up so quickly that he ended up falling onto his new bottom. He wasn't grounded for long, as Twilight was quick to stand him up again. "Perhaps this Sunset Shimmer is used to it by now, having spent so much time here, after all..."

"I'm willing to bet that she is. After all, she wouldn't have stayed if she didn't find it good." Starlight came back over. Her little workout had come to an end, yet she was still running on the spot. "Speaking of good, have you tried running in these new bodies, everyone? It's great!"

"If you say it is, Starlight. For now, I think we should try and look around for a bit more, maybe even find Sunset and the others if we're lucky." Twilight put her hands on Starlight's shoulders, calming her down in an instant.

"Before we do move on, Twilight. What is this establishment before us?" Starswirl asked, looking out towards CHS and all of its' features. "It looks very akin to Canterlot's library back home. Do you suppose that this is a replica, or a library of equal measure to ours?"

"It's not a library, Starswirl. But you're not far off in terms of it being a place for learning. It's known as Canterlot High. A school for people in their teenage years." Twilight lifted her finger. "I was only here for two major visits. The first one being for the whole Sunset stealing my crown business, then another incident involving the Dazzlings."

Before any of them could respond, the bell rang, and a sea of smiling students swarmed out of the doors with backpacks on their backs and gear in hand, ready to head home and curl up on their sofas, beds, chairs, and other various furniture. Among them were Sunset Shimmer, and the humanised counterparts of the Main Six close by them, all wearing their casual clothes as well as their seven geodes around their necks.

It didn't take long for anyone to notice Twilight, Starlight, Stygian, Starswirl, and Sunburst at the doors, before they all came over, surrounding them in an instant. The five unicorns were soon cornered with their backs to the portal, with Sunset and the Rainbooms still at the door, trying to take in the whole situation.

"No. Way. Are you Starswirl the Bearded?" A female student asked, looking into Starswirl's eyes.

"Well, to answer your question, miss, yes I am." Starswirl refound his composure as he looked into the eyes of the student who had questioned him.

"THE Starswirl the Bearded? The famous philosopher who read the stars and determined the constellations of other worlds?" Another student, male, asked him next. "I thought you'd died a thousand years ago!"

"You're alive, though! A living legend walking among us! Oh, I've TOTALLY gotta share this on SnapGap!" Another female student reached into her pocket, whipped out a phone, slid next to Starswirl, wrapped an arm around his shoulders, then pointed the phone's camera at them both before taking the picture, flash engulfing their vision for a split second. "I bet you can't steal this status. Legendary historical figure actually alive. Hashtag, Living History." She pounded those exact words into her phone, with a number icon replacing where she said hashtag.

As soon as the student skittered out of Starswirl's reach, the other students came rushing in with their phones. Every single one of them took a photo of themselves with Starswirl, making an assortment of faces as they all typed in their comments, before pushing some buttons on the screen, sharing their images online, all with the same message at the end. "#LivingHistory" was seen at the end of every single post that they made.

All the while, Twilight, Starlight, Stygian, and Sunburst were so taken off-guard with the sudden surge of students snapping shots with their cameras that they couldn't even bring themselves to stop them or make any attempt to disperse the crowd. Luckily, they didn't need to, as Sunset and her friends came down from the stairs.

Rainbow Dash broke through the crowd, standing with the newcomers, pushing her hands out. "Alright, everyone. Break it up. If you've got your photos, then that's great and all. But I think we need to give these guys and gals some space," she said, pushing the others back slightly. "As cool as it is to see some old guy from history come back with his friends, we don't wanna overwhelm them. It'll totally mess up their style if you do." As she spoke, the students indeed left the area, still talking about Starswirl and the others as they shared their messages around their phones. "That's right, have a nice day, everyone. See ya back here tomorrow, a'ight?"

"Rainbow Dash? Is that... you?" Starswirl asked, putting his hand on the shoulder of the teenager, grabbing her attention immediately. "And Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack too? I thought you were showing the other Pillars around Equestria..."

"Pillars? What are you talking about, mister? Unless we're talking about super-tall ice cream pillars, then I'd definitely be taking them around Equestria showing them a good time." Pinkie Pie grinned as she stepped up to Starswirl and company.

"In fact, who are you all?" Fluttershy asked, looking at the group. "Oh, not you, Twilight and Starlight. We know who you are. We were just talking to these other three."

"This is most bizarre." Stygian walked forward. "Here we are, taking our first steps onto this new world, then we get surrounded by these humans armed with these weird slabs of magic, taking what could only be described as camera shots of us. And another thing, how come there are now TWO versions of Twilight Sparkle and her friends now?" He tipped his hand at the two Twilights, and the rest of the humanised Main Six.

"We can explain, but I think both of us have pretty long stories to tell about what in the hay's going on here." Sunset walked forward through her friends so as to get a closer look at the five Equestrians. "But for now, all you need to know is that I'm Sunset Shimmer and these are my friends. And you are?"

"Sunburst, Stygian, and I am Starswirl the Bearded," he said, pointing out his companions, who just shook her head, with him being the last to offer his greeting. "And yes. I can agree with you on that. We all have a lot of explaining to do..."

The Five Unicorns: It's a Long Story

Everyone found themselves gathered at a coffee shop, seated around a large, round table. The human Main Six sat with smoothies, while everyone from Equestria sat without—minus Starlight, who also held a beverage in her hands and was sipping it with contentment. Sunset sat with Twilight, Starlight, and their company as she also came from Equestria deep down. All of them had a lot of questions that they wanted answers to. The humans about how it was possible for a figure from their history to be walking among them, Sunset as to what had been going on in Equestria as of late, and Starswirl and Stygian about the world that they now walked among. The silence among the twelve was deafening, to say the least. Had it not been for the other patrons of the shop with their beverages and conversations, the entire place would have been dead in terms of sound.

It was soon brought to an end by Sunset, who said, "Okay. First things first, I think we need to get the introductions out of the way first, just so that it's clear as to what's going on and what we're dealing with." She gave everyone on the table a once-over with her eyes. "I think the obvious ones are out of the way. Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Twilight."

"And Twilight! Don't forget that there's two of them!" Pinkie shot her arm up, pointing at both Twilight and Sci-Twi. "A Twilight Sparkle here and a Twilight Sparkle there. Twilight, Twilight. At least, I think both of their last names are Sparkle. Who knows? Ours could be called Twilight Twinkle or something like that. Hoo boy, this is gonna be awkward..."

"It doesn't have to be, y'know. You could just give each other some nicknames so you don't get the two of them confused." Starlight spoke, putting her drink down. Her lips were still showing signs of the drink, which she quickly licked off. "If there are two Twilights, we have to find out what makes this one different from the original. Like how our Twilight is a magical alicorn princess, so to speak."

"So, what does make this Twilight Sparkle special, might I ask?" Stygian asked, looking into the eyes of Sci-Twi with his hands placed together. "What do you like doing most of all in this world?"

"Well... I guess if anything my main hobby is science. I've always found an affinity for making machines and other kinds of high-tech stuff." Sci-Twi danced her fingers across the table, making them pirouette and stretch elegantly like ballet dancer legs. "Do you... have science in your world, other me?"

"Oh yeah. There's science in Equestria. It's not all magic and fantasy stuff like you'd think it is." Twilight nodded, pressing her fingertips together. "In fact, I used to dabble in some science stuff before I became an alicorn back home."

"So, how does the nickname Sci-Twi sound, other Twilight?" Starlight asked, leaning over the table towards Sci-Twi. "I mean, it's a play on science fiction and it's got the start of your name in it too. I'd say it separates you and Twilight Sparkle pretty well."

"I guess..." Sci-Twi repeated the name over and over again in her head, trying to make it sound as comfortable as possible without taking away from her actual name. In the end, she ended up smiling as she recited the name once more. "Sci-Twi. I like that. Sure, you can call me that if you want. Now, what should I call you three?"

"Well, first, we have Sunburst. He was my old friend from when I was a filly." Starlight wrapped her arm around Sunburst's shoulders, pulling him close while knocking his glasses slightly. "He can be a bit of a nerd at times, but deep down, he's really a relaxed kind of guy when you get to know him."

"Relaxed being relative. Right now, my mind is running a million miles a minute. This new world is pretty interesting already, looking at all of you." Sunburst spoke to the Rainbooms. "Perfect replications of Twilight Sparkle and her friends; of the Spirits of Harmony who preceded the Pillars of Equestria. It's definitely worth talking about in any sense of the word. Does that mean that your world also had Pillars?"

"Pillars? As in stone pillars?" Applejack cocked a brow, taking another sip of her drink. "Don't think we've ever had some fancy schmancy pillars in those days, if that's what you're asking. We did have some different cultures, though, if that's what you're asking."

"In Equestria, there are six Pillars of Virtue, embodied by six legendary ponies. I am one of them. I am the Pillar of Sorcery, Starswirl the Bearded," he said, placing his hand out on the table. "Though, in this world, it seems that I am revered for other such reasons. Being a philosopher who spent his time with constellations. If that crowd that we greeted us was any indication."

"Yes, it is. But the Starswirl of this world was ancient. Over a thousand years ago kind of ancient. In fact, the Starswirl here died in the 8th century, peacefully in bed at old age." Rarity could not take her eyes off of Starswirl the entire time. It was like a ghost of the past had returned from the afterlife, living among her and her friends. "I simply must ask what the world you used to know is like if it is true that you are over a millennium old..."

"I could spare you some details if you have, say, a few dozen days to spare, Miss Rarity?" Starswirl replied.

At those words, Rarity couldn't help but retract her hand, returning idly to her drink. "On second thought, I suppose it's best if I don't listen to it right now. I've still got a lot of work to do at my establishment, preparing myself and my friends for the upcoming Summer Sun Party at CHS."

"Anyway, back on the topic of the Pillars of Equestria. Starswirl leads the Pillars, being the Pillar of Sorcery." Stygian took over the conversation, spreading his arm out. "The other five are Beauty, Healing, Hope, Strength, and Bravery. Those being governed by Mistmane, Meadowbrook, Somnambula, Rockhoof, and Flash Magnus, in that order. And I am just the humble pony who brought them together. Stygian, at your service." He bowed before the group of humans.

"I see. I remember all of those names myself." Sci-Twi pushed her glasses to her face. "Again, all famous in our world's history, but all who passed away. If they're alive in Equestria, I really should give it a visit sometime. I mean, that being said, we're already talking to someone right now who's a living legend. I'm trying to reserve my inner fangirl, but I just can't! Who wouldn't want to talk with someone from the past?!" She put her elbows together and put on the biggest smile that she could.

"She takes after you pretty well, don't ya think, Twilight?" Starlight chuckled as she playfully elbowed Twilight.

Twilight just rolled her eyes. "I do not get that geeky. Do I?"

"Oh, you should've seen her when we brought the Pillars back from Limbo, she was squealing like a school filly with how excited she was to be meeting with Starswirl and the others." Starlight winked to the Rainbooms. "Trust me, girls. She's pretty much a perfect duplicate of your Twilight outside of the princess stuff."

The Rainbooms just shared a chuckle with each other as they looked at the unamused Twilight, scrunching up her cheeks and folding her arms. Having being degraded to the butt of a joke wasn't what she had expected at all.

"The Pillars of Equestria just got out of Limbo quite recently, after Twilight ended up freeing them by use of some of their old stuff, so we're trying to help them adjust to Equestria as it is now." Starlight took another drink of her smoothie. "The versions of you are working with the other pillars right now. Pinkie with Somnambula, Rarity with Mistmane, Fluttershy with Meadowbrook, Applejack with Rockhoof, and Rainbow Dash with Flash Magnus."

"Unless this Flash Magnus guy is as awesome as I am, I'm not sure why my pony self would wanna hang with him." Rainbow Dash flexed her fingers outward.

"How does staring down the barrel of an entire fire-breathing dragon race with nothing more than a shield to protect himself sound for awesome, Rainbow Dash?" Stygian questioned, awaiting her reaction. Sure enough, a smile formed with each word he spouted, until Rainbow couldn't help but fist-pump to herself.

"As much as I would like to recap the tales of my fellow pillars to the lot of you, I'm more interested in this world, its' dealings and your stories in general." Starswirl nodded, putting his hands together. "If you are indeed the mirror counterparts of Twilight Sparkle and the Spirits of Harmony, I've no doubt that you've all inherited the Magic of Friendship as she and her friends have, correct?"

"Oh, we've got the Magic of Friendship for sure, mister Starswirl. Twilight here taught us everything about it." Pinkie pointed towards the Equestrian Twilight. "And I know that it was this one because the Twilight who lives here never went to CHS a day in her life until after the Friendship Games happened, and this world's Twilight wears glasses all the time while this one never needed glasses in her entire life. Well, except if she went through some kind of magic eye surgery thingy in Equestria, that is. Did you ever have eye surgery done, Twilight? Because you look pretty good without the glasses on."

"Not... necessarily. My vision's been pretty good since fillyhood." Twilight blinked on the spot in response to Pinkie's answer.

"Anyway, when I tried to steal Twilight's crown; her Element of Harmony, she chased me down into this world, rallied her friends and the school together and won it against me in the Fall Formal; a competition in this school that people vote on." Sunset started, putting her cup down on the table as she put her elbows down on it. "She managed to win because of the idea of friendship, while I was a cold-hearted pony thinking of no-one but myself. After that, she and these girls showed me another way, and I've never been happier since." She pulled the rest of the Rainbooms in close, who all just grinned as they gave their bodies to Sunset.

"The Magic of Friendship is a powerful kind of magic when used correctly. A similar example to reformation came in the form of our recent battle with the Pony of Shadows; a dark entity who bonded itself to Stygian's being after we wrongfully cast him out." Starswirl stared into Sunset's eyes, feeling a warm feeling building up in his mind. It had been a long time since he had spoken to someone he hadn't known about a topic that they both enjoyed. "While our original plan was to cast out the Shadow, it would have taken Stygian with him if not for Twilight's bold act of courage and kindness. She was able to talk down the darkness within Stygian, freeing himself from its' clutches. The pieces that were once fractured between us all are now being picked back up, all thanks to her."

Twilight Sparkle couldn't help but shed a tear of pride as she saw Starswirl giving her a grin. As her smile grew and grew, Sci-Twi began to ponder more and more. A neverending list of accomplishments from her pony counterpart. Needless to say, she felt a sensation that all of her accomplishments were for nought in the eyes of her other self.

"After her little visit here for the Fall Formal, there was only one other encounter that your Twilight had in our world. And I think we all know what that one was, don't we, girls?" Sunset asked, causing small shivers to run up the spines of the other Rainbooms. To them, the air got colder, as the memories and songs played out in their minds once more.

"Just thinking about them makes me nervous. They nearly tore down everything that we'd worked so hard to make for ourselves..." Fluttershy's fingers shivered, nearly spilling her drink as she put it down on the table.

"If I see those jerks again, I'm gonna pound them hard for what they did to the students of CHS..." Rainbow punched her fist and ground the knuckles into her palm.

"I'm confused. Whatever do you mean, them?" Stygian lifted his hand off of the table.

"After Twilight left and everyone was starting to embrace the Magic of Friendships. Three new students came to Canterlot High. We thought that it was just for an education, but they had different motives altogether." Sunset's tone of voice lowered as her fingers slid through the cracks between them. "Adagio Dazzle, Aria Blaze, and Sonata Dusk. Otherwise known as the Dazzlings."

"Do you remember when you and the other Pillars had to fight three sirens together? Ending with you all banishing them to another dimension?" Twilight asked, tugging at Starswirl's cape.

"Yes. I remember them quite well. Had it not been for our actions, our world would have become a wasteland, ravaged by endless war and conflict, while they just sat back and drank from the spoils of conflicts not of their own." Starswirl too felt the air grow acrid, festering with negativity.

"Turns out, where you sent them was right here. They were turned from hippocampuses into humans but still had their powers to make people fight, while they just sucked up all of the hatred for themselves. Our friends essentially had to clean up your mess by beating them at their own game," Twilight continued. "They made a music showcase into a tournament called a Battle of the Bands, their songs making everyone fall in love with them while spiting everyone else to the point of violence and sabotage. We had to sing a really powerful song in order to break the spell that they had put on everyone."

"A song imbued with the Magic of Friendship, I presume." He turned to the others, feeling like a great weight had been taken off of his body. His smile returned as he spoke. "For a second, I was worried that I would have had to take matters into my own hooves and stomp out an evil in this world sent over from ours. But if it is true that you have erased Adagio Dazzle, Aria Blaze, and Sonata Dusk from the mortal coil, then I guess there is no need to worry. All is as it should be."

"Well... not exactly erased, so to speak. They're still alive and well." Rainbow Dash pointed her fingers out and wobbled her hand. "They're just—"

"They're ALIVE?!" Starswirl yelled boisterously and slammed the table with his hand, attracting the attention of everyone else in the building. The silence returned, though not as long as it did before. Only now, the silence was on Starswirl's reaction rather than the thoughts of the company present. "No, no, no, no, no. This will not stand! An evil like that who feeds off of negativity is too far gone. Even if the Magic of Friendship defeated them, they LIVE for evil thoughts. Abhorrent monsters like that should never have had existed in the first place. One must shudder to think of the horror that would spawn such beasts..."

"Starswirl, don't you think you're flying off of the handle a bit?" Stygian lifted his hand to Starswirl, only for it to be lightly swatted away.

"Stygian. Whereas you were trapped within the Pony of Shadows, these three Sirens were born and raised with the power to siphon negative emotions, using it for their own gain and nothing more." Starswirl shot a glare down to Stygian, who recoiled as he did so. "In Equestrian Mythology, it's even stated that Sirens must feed off of the emotions cast into their heartstone at all times. Failure to do so leads them to starve; not just in the physical way like most creatures do. They fed off of hatred and openly used that to hurt other people. Those are the kind of Sirens that hold no place in this world or any other."

"I get that they were evil and all, but that seems a little bit harsh if you ask me. And I know harsh." Sunset Shimmer leaned across the table, looking into Starswirl's eyes with a stare of her own. "After all, we haven't seen them in our world since, and they've not been doing anyone else any trouble. In fact, those heartstones that you called them were destroyed after we sang them down with our song. So any kind of magic that they did have is gone. Kaput. Disappeared. In more fantasy terms, Gandalf, we've turned them into mortals."

"Gandalf? What is a Gandalf?" Starswirl asked, his eyes widening slightly at the name he had been given.

"Ugh! Never mind." Sunset groaned, slapping her forehead. "What we're trying to say is that the Sirens didn't technically die, but we did destroy all of their magic permanently. No chance that they're ever gonna come back from this one. I don't think we've even had to think about them since until now. So thanks for the reminder on just how evil they were, Starswirl."

"Well, in any case, I cannot just let them roam this city freely. Someone needs to make sure that they don't find some way back to our world so that they can recuperate and find a way to restore their heartstones." Starswirl stood up from the table, looming over all of the teenagers like a giant. "The last thing either of our worlds want is a trio of temptresses turning friendships into feuds, do we?"

As soon as he stopped talking, the bell to the shop rang, and through it walked three figures that all of the Rainbooms knew all too well. Draped in their glitzy clothes, armed with their oversized hairdos and hair accessories, with a bare black choker around their necks were the Dazzlings in all of their reviled glory. Adagio Dazzle, Aria Blaze, and Sonata Dusk. Starswirl didn't recognize them at first, but the Rainbooms were immediately up in arms, launching themselves off of the table as they all grit their teeth unanimously. That just left Starlight, Stygian, and Sunburst with Twilight, still trying to curb her temper.

"There they are, Starswirl. Those are the sirens themselves. Adagio, Aria, and Sonata." Sunset's tone of voice went sour, fires building in her body as she thought back once more to the events of the Battle of the bands. "Hey, Dazzlings! Do you remember who this is?!" She screamed as loud as she could, immediately grabbing the attention of the three mortal sirens.

"Look, I'm not having a good day as it is, so if we could just not... do... this..." Adagio's words just melted away as soon as she locked gazes with Starswirl the Bearded once more. One look at the cape, the hat, and the long, luscious beard and it all came back to her. Memories of her ravaging Equestria, causing harm for other ponies, only ot be thwarted by a pony identical to him in stature. Her vision distorted, turning to coffee shop into a purple landscape of nothingness, with Starswirl the Bearded growing larger and larger by the second, to the point where he was all to be seen for miles on end. Her nightmare-scape vanished as soon as she tumbled onto her haunches, mouth hanging agape as she skittered backwards in shock at the sight of Starswirl.

"Sweet mother of... It's him!" Aria also tumbled at the sight of the wizard staring him down. Any sense of toughness exerting from her turned into goo as she tumbled onto her rear end. "I thought we were rid of that poncy wizard the moment he banished us!"

"I thought we'd never have to see you again, that we'd have been happier without having to look at you and your friends' faces again, beardy!" Sonata's fists burst open as she locked gazes with Starswirl. "Look, I know that we've had our mistakes in the past and we may or may not have had something to do with making everyone angry at everyone, but we had a good enough reason, alright?"

"SAVE YOUR EXCUSES, MONSTERS. I WILL SEND YOU BACK TO WHATEVER DEPTHS OF THE ABYSS THAT YOU CRAWLED OUT OF." Starswirl boomed loudly, his voice running through the sirens' hairs, causing them to flow as if they were caught in a wind tunnel. "YOUR CRIMES AGAINST EQUESTRIA AND THIS WORLD ARE NOT TO BE TOLERATED."

"Look, Starswirl, we can talk about this. I... I... I know that you're easy to please. Look, how about we just... uhh..." Adagio hastily tried to find some form of an excuse to worm her way out of a conflict, but she knew that it wasn't going to happen. "Girls, BAIL!" As fast as she could, she dashed through the kitchen and out of the back door, earning yells from Mr and Mrs Cake.

It didn't take long for Aria and Sonata to nod and run after Adagio as well, showing no regard for the workers as they pushed and pulled them to the ground, clearing their path.

"GET BACK HERE!" Starswirl immediately ran after the sirens, barrelling through the kitchen as fast as he could. "Twilight! Stygian! Take your friends and make sure that they can't get away!"

"Uh, okay!" Twilight, put on the spot got up so quickly that she nearly ended up falling over her chair in the process. "Come on, everyone. We've gotta move. Fast!"

Everyone ran in such a hurry that the drinks nearly fell over in the ensuing rush. If it wasn't for Pinkie Pie hastily snatching every single drink up and downing them all at once, it would have left a massive mess all over the table. The slender cups emptied, she hurried off with her friends in pursuit of the Dazzlings.

The Five Unicorns: An Old Foe

The Dazzlings dashed down the damp, dirty alleyway as fast as they could, with the Rainbooms and Equestrians hot on their heels. Sweat trickled down their faces from a combination of fear and adrenaline as their hands trembled, breathing grew heavy and momentum climbing.

Starswirl led the charge, skidding on the balls of his newfound feet as he swung around the corner that his targets had run down. With memories of his battle with them still lingering, he couldn’t afford to take any chances. One way or another, the Dazzlings would fall today.

A quick-thinking Adagio tried to leave debris in her wake, pulling down wooden boards and moving dumpsters into the path, yet each of these obstacles was hastily cleared by her pursuers. Usually, she would have handled things in a calm and reserved scenario but this was far from calm and reserved for her. Now with no magic; no powers she couldn’t afford to be blasted into another world along with her kin.

Starlight, in all the thrill of the chase had been thinking to herself. She had no dealings with the sirens, yet she didn’t see them as a threat to her or to anyone else. And if what Starswirl said about heartstones were true, could she really have seen the Dazzlings as evil? As creatures who fed off of anger and hatred with a sadistic pleasure to boot? Whether or not their testimonies would confirm it, Starlight couldn’t be sure about it yet.

Sunset, on the other hand, was usually able to find the good in everyone; despite how hard it was to see through them and what they had done. When it came to the Dazzlings, however, she could feel nothing but unbridled fury for them. Animosity for them turning CHS into a psychological war-zone. Animosity for taking advantage of everyone with no regard for their safety or wellbeing. Animosity at them in general for their crimes against friendship and harmony. For her, the peaceful approach had gone right out of the window. The Dazzlings needed to be properly stopped before they brought anyone any more harm.

“Give yourselves up and we promise you a merciful judgement.” Starswirl lowered his brows. “Though knowing your behaviours, you will refuse, thinking that feeding is the only way laid down by your own warped laws.”

“Gee, you know?!” Aria deadpanned as she sent more blocking objects into the path.

“Just stop Dazzlings. There’s no point in all of this. You’re not getting away from us.” Sunset burst out of the alleyway after the Dazzlings, bathed in the light of the open town.

“Oh yeah? What makes you so sure about that?” Sonata semi-teased, not even trying to look back at the others.

Sunset nodded to Rainbow Dash, who reached for the geode around her neck, giving it a tight squeeze. With a burst of light, she grew pony ears, wings, and hair extensions. She darted towards the Dazzlings, leaving a rainbow contrail behind her. Rainbow ran rings around the three sirens, trapping them in a vortex of blinding, disorienting, majestic light. She only stopped when they all fell onto their rear ends.

That’s what makes me so sure,” said Sunset as the others caught up and snared the sitting siren sisters in a circle formation.

“It has been over a thousand years, sirens. Since your banishment, I thought that our worlds would have known peace. However, that is simply not the case.” Starswirl looked down at the sirens with a glare that could pierce the heavens. “With heartstones fuelled by anger, there is no such thing as peace. You bring anger; live off of anger. With you around, any pretence of happiness vanishes.”

“Yeah. We live off of this stuff. If we don't, we die. Sue us, Starswirl the Merciless.” Adagio grumbled, turning away from the bearded aggressor.

“I’d watch your tone if I were you, ladies. We dealt with you once before and we can sure as heck do it again...” Twilight pressed her face against Adagio’s and gave her a death-stare. “Being evil for the sake of evil is never the right thing.”

“And who made you a Lawful Good, may I ask? For all we know, you’re just a ditzy clone of glasses-girl over here.” Aria flicked Twilight’s nose, causing her to take some steps backwards. “Magic or no magic, I’m not going to be lectured on which ways are right or wrong because quite honestly, we think your way of friendship and magic is completely wrong, just like you believe our way or siphoning emotions is wrong.”

“Well, whatever you choose to believe, you still have quite a nasty reputation going for you, given how you attacked my kind back home in Equestria, then continued your heinous actions on the people of this world.” Stygian crossed his arms as well. “Twilight Sparkle might be the Princess of Friendship and the worthy successor to Starswirl the Bearded, but even she has her limits, you three. Don’t push them.”

“What is she going to do? Honestly? We’re trapped here whether or not you like it, our heartstones got destroyed because of her, and there’s no way to get back to Equestria whether or not we wanted to.” Adagio muttered. “And before you mention Tartarus, don’t even bother. I’m pretty sure that place is full with all of the mess your little quote-unquote ‘princess’ has had to clean up with her goody-two-shoes vibes.”

“Let’s face facts here, guys and gals. You hate us, we hate you, so let’s just agree to hate each other and call it a day, right?” Sonata shrugged slightly, hands propped against the ground. “There’s an old saying, y’know. Treat others the way you want to be treated. You didn’t really treat us well when we first came to CHS and showed off, so we’re not going to treat you well. Just need to get that out of the way.”

That was the exact sentence that prompted Starlight to look into the situation with a clearer head, just when everyone else seemed to bear their fangs out for the sirens. They weren’t exactly bad people, just dealt a really bad hand and warped by others’ opinions of them for being who they were.

“Ah reckon we should spritz ‘em with the Magic of Friendship one more time. See if they turn to dust or something...” Applejack snarled, punching her fist. “They said it themselves, they hate us because we hate them. Ah see no reason to not knock ‘em upside the head.”

“I normally wouldn’t be one to engage in physical harm to a person, but in the case of these... abhorrent monsters, I’m sure that the world would be much better off.” Rarity made a claw out of her hands. “They enjoyed being evil, whether it was to stay alive or not. I cannot condone that kind of behaviour in any situation.”

The others slowly stomped in on the sirens, while Starlight hung back with Sunburst, Stygian, and Sci-Twi. Eventually, when the others got close enough, Starlight leapt into the fray giving the three Dazzlings a hug before pushing the others away, knocking them all onto their backs.

“That’s far enough, everyone. Step away from the sirens,” she spoke with a voice akin to that of a cold dagger, piercing everyone’s hearts.

“St-Starlight? What are you doing?” Twilight was the first to speak, pushing herself up from the smooth ground.

“Just because these girls had a bad reputation doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give them a chance. Look, whatever happened in the past is the past. What matters and will always matter is the here and now.” Starlight stood the Dazzlings back up, brushing any dust off of their bodies. “Sure, they fed off of bad vibes, but who’s to say that isn’t a bad thing? You can’t just expect to be all sunshine and rainbows about everything, Princess Twilight who-remembers-clearly-that-I-ran-a-cult-and-wasn’t-too-happy-about-that-at-all Sparkle.”

“A cult leader? You?” Aria’s ears pricked up at the last sentence. “Bet that was an interesting day on the throne, wasn’t it, your majesty?”

“Uh, it’s actually ‘your highness’, Aria. Your majesty refers to a king or queen, but your highness refers to a prince, princess, or anyone else with a high rank in royalty.” Sonata interjected with a raised finger, before sticking her tongue out at Aria.

“Oh sure. Believe the girl who tried to make the biggest taco ever, only to cover the whole kitchen in bean sauce.” Aria rolled her eyes.

“I made one mistake, Aria, ONE!” Sonata threw her arms behind her, launching her face into Aria.

“And one is all you need, really.” Aria pushed Sonata back with two fingers, before returning her gaze to the others.

“ANYWAY. I think you girls gave the Dazzlings a really bad start here. Sure, they weren’t exactly the best of friends to you and your friends here, but ponies are ponies. Not all of them are going to as cheery, sunny, rainbow-magic-worshipping as the rest of you and you need to accept that, not just decide that friendship is law.” Starlight’s arms returned to constrict the Dazzlings. She pulled them in close while giving the others a shifty eye, like an animal protecting its’ harvest. “I’m going to completely admit that evil is never the right thing, but when you did supposedly win, you never even gave them a chance.”

“Because they’re the biggest sociopaths this planet’s ever known, Starlight!” Rainbow Dash spluttered, arms jolting out in multiple directions. “And before anyone questions me, I know what a sociopath is. Yeah, I listen in class. Sometimes.”

“Are you sure you’re not confusing it with psychopath, Dashie?” Pinkie lifted one of her brows.

“Girls. Do you even hear yourselves now? You’re starting to sound less and less like the Twilight Sparkle and her friends of my world with every passing second!” Starlight glared at both Rainbow and Pinkie, causing them both to jump. “Would the Twilight and her friends of Equestria ever say or think that?”

Technically, they’re not the same as the ponies from our world. If there are a few differences here and there, it’s to be expected, really.” Sunburst stepped in, pushing his glasses closer to his face. “Though, I do have to agree on the factor that they’re starting to stray from what their pony selves are like...”

“It’s nothing to do with us being related to pony doubles of ourselves. It’s because the sirens were so mean and nasty that they didn’t even bother to stick around when their whole plan fell into ruins.” Fluttershy lifted her finger next, then hastily lowered it once all eyes were on her.

“And did it ever occur to you that you might have wanted to find them again? To see how they had fallen and offer them another way?” Starlight asked. “Could it be that, oh, I don’t know, now that they have no more heartstones they’re no longer a threat?”

“Uh... no?” Fluttershy’s whole body descended on the spot.

“Well, now’s the time to try that whole thing again. They’re not going anywhere, they have no magic, and they’re not evil if what they do was the only way to stay alive. Whatever you perceive as evil is really just a matter of opinion, kinda like everything else in a way.” Starlight released her hold on the Dazzlings, yet still stood close by them. “While you think what they did is evil, they think that what they did was the only way to move forward. What they might see as good, you might see as not so good. Opinions do not make people who they are. What people do is what make them who they are. You girls tried to let your opinions paint the bleakest of pictures for the sirens, not even taking into account their own thoughts and feelings on the situation.”

The Rainbooms tried to find some kind of counter-argument to make against Starlight, but whatever they thought of had already been addressed and anything new that came to mind they were unsure of, as they thought she would shoot it down with her own words the moment they presented it. Unable to fight back verbally, they all ended up slumping their shoulders and letting their heads hang, eyes dropping to the ground.

“Look. It isn’t too late to change all of this. And I’m talking to both you and to the Dazzlings.” Starlight turned back to Adagio, Aria, and Sonata. “What you’ve said and done, it doesn’t have to be everything that defines who you are or what you do. And, on the subject of feeding off of emotions, I think it’s fine within reason. If there’s some way that we can control that and make it so you don’t fly off of the handle, then I’m sure that we can find a place for you.”

“Question. How much did Twilight drill the idea of the Magic of Friendship into your head? Not asking to tease her, just morbidly curious.” Adagio pointed her middle finger skyward.

“Oh, let’s just say that the student has become the master. Heck, more often than not, I’m having to wrangle Twilight into making the right decisions.” Starlight smirked, making duck lips toward Princess Twilight. She could immediately see Twilight scrunching her face up in response.

The Dazzlings took some time to let the words sink in, most of all Adagio. She thought especially hard about her powers and whether or not she had been born down a dark path with a bad series of events. Her heartstone and the stones of her sisters could take in negative energy, but was it her place to truly be evil just because she could only take bad feelings from people? And what of Aria and Sonata? Had they been raised incorrectly as well, or influenced by her own selfish and heartless actions? Were they corrupted because they were led blindly by her? Adagio tried to find answers in these, never noticing Starlight push the Rainbooms next to her.

“All that it takes are two words. I’m sorry. That’s all you need to say to each other in order to start building a bond. Sure, you don’t need to be the best of friends, but you can at least bury the hatchet with each other.” Starlight took the Rainbooms’ hands and locked them into the Dazzlings’ hands so quickly that none of the others could intervene or stop her.

Both the Rainbooms and Dazzlings couldn't bring themselves to say anything for moments on end. With how Starlight had set them up and with everything already said and done in the past, would a simple apology be enough to bridge the colossal gap between them all. Given how much of a contrast between them there was, it was clear that a real friendship either wouldn't work or would take a really long time to properly forge. Aria and Applejack could only blush while the others just gave Starlight a few glares.

"I... must admit, Starlight. You are quite... impulsive in this kind of matter," Sunburst remarked as Starlight walked back over to his side. "Given how wide the divide was between these ponies—uh, people, I feel that you might have set them up with some rather sudden parameters."

"Well... you can't really blame me for trying now, can you?" Starlight just wrapped her arm around Sunburst's shoulders, pulling him in close. "That, and, given the whole situation, I think both the Dazzlings and the Rainbooms got a bit off the handle. The Dazzlings for letting themselves get carried away with their magic, and the Rainbooms for not treating them with kindness rather than cruelty."

"Starlight, I don't think that I need to tell you again that the sirens nearly ended up destroying all of Equestria as we know it. Befriending them is a task that would take monumental amounts of time, effort, and maybe even spell power if such a thing was necessary." Starswirl stomped over to Starlight, laying a hand on her shoulder with more weight on it than normal. "If those three go back to their evil and callous ways, do not say that we didn't warn you."

"True that, Starswirl. However, I can't help but think about this whole thing myself. If it is true that the sirens were who they were because they had no choice, then we can't really hold that they're evil to them and declare it as the truth. What would you do if you had nothing but magic that could cause other ponies harm, but still had your wise, more mature mindset?" Stygian put his hands together, pushing the fingers back and forth as he waited for the outcome of Starlight's social experiment. "Would you, having all of your powers use that to hurt others or would you use it to do what you must to have survived?"

"You know, I can't help but feel that there is some truth behind what you're saying. But I'm still trying to think about what kind of horrific things that these three did to Canterlot High. I know that it was well before I went there, seeing as how these phenomena only happened here and there..." Sci-Twi turned toward Starswirl and Stygian. "That being said, the Friendship Games brought out the worst in me and in my school, so in a way, you could say that we all do what we do, whether we're driven by curiosity or because it's the only way forward. Or in some cases, both."

The silence hung in the air for the longest time as the Rainbooms tried to muster up an apology to the Dazzlings but still heard the reverberations of their songs rising from the deepest corners of their memories. After all, the Dazzlings had magical singing powers that could influence others. If such a creature like that was to ever find its' way back to the path of evil, would it still be worth trying to turn them to the side of friendship?

The Dazzlings had their own thoughts on the situation. Given how much that they had done and all of the creatures that they had affected with their songs, was it really too late for them to take a walk on the other side? A side where their powers could be used to benefit people rather than cause rifts? And if that were the case, what of their heartstones? Of their hunger? Would they be able to survive without having to eat negativity off of others to do so, or would their hunger pangs catch right back up to them again without their stones?

"Hey, so... I think I should be the one to break up the silence." Adagio stepped forward and took a deep breath, "We both have a lot of beef with each other. You've not really got the best of feelings for us because we've tried to turn your school into a warzone and we didn't really have a lot of kindness to give to you after the way you destroyed our heartstones. But... when you think about it, we're both alike, aren't we?"

"I don't... really know what you mean by that." Sunset cocked a brow, tilting her head.

"Yeah, considering we're all mostly magical human girls with a pony girl from another world and you're a bunch of giant, coloured sea-horsies with the power to sing people into submission." Pinkie tipped her hand. "The species difference is pretty big when you put it like that." She stretched her arms as wide as they would go. "Like, REALLY BIG."

"No, no, no. Nothing like that." Adagio waved her hands so viciously that they were almost like warfans with how much they had blurred with the speed. "What I mean is that none of us are perfect. We've both got something that we've got that's gonna be detrimental to what we believe in. You with how you treated us, yet you advocate for the Magic of Friendship; and us with how we were pretty much... everything without knowing who we really were."

"Adagio... are you sorry for what you've done?" Sunset asked, taking another step closer to the golden-haired siren.

"Well, I am. Whether or not you are is another story. But if you're willing to accept the fact that you've made a mistake in leaving us out there, then we can look over the fact that we're mortals." Adagio pointed a finger to Sunset's heart like a dagger.

Twilight Sparkle took a deep sigh, then stood with Sunset, holding her hand tenderly. Twilight looked into Sunset's eyes, then winked at her, prompting her to wink back in response. "I can't exactly promise that friendship can bring back your powers or mend the damage that we caused to you, but so long as we can both accept the flaws and move on, then I'm sure that we take the first step to a better relationship with each other. If you want to accept us, then we'll accept you."

"What do you think about this, girls?" Adagio asked Sonata and Aria, who were still standing there blinking without having said a word or moved a muscle "Accepting the Magic of Friendship so as to avoid a harsh life on the streets, scrounging for scraps?"

"Adagio, I was hoping that I didn't want to have to just accept a friendship so easily, but at this point, what do we really have to lose?" Aria shrugged, taking steps up towards Twilight and Sunset. "We practically had nothing to begin with, so this is a win-win scenario for us."

"Eh, I didn't care either way. I mean, the hating everything kinda deal is kinda ironic, isn't it? The hatemongers hating everything around them doesn't really work with our backgrounds if you know what I mean. Unless you wanted to convert the Dazzlings into a grungy, underground screamo band with a taste for heavy metal"—As she spoke, Pinkie and Starlight pushed her from her spot next to the other Dazzlings, before taking their own spaces again—"But then we'd have to make Aria the leader since she's got practically every screamo tactic in the book. Then there's the whole process of trying to get Adagio to lower her standards to make her believe that screamo's the best way to go. Am I talking too much? I probably am. But, now that it's all been said and done, I suppose that friendship isn't exactly a bad way to go about this kinda stuff either."

"Well, I guess if they're willing to change, then I guess we can too." Applejack took off her hat for a brief instance, then slipped it back on her head. "Just as long as they don't go causing more trouble. Ah'd hate to have to wrangle 'em up again after such a nice scene like this."

"Same here. As long as they're willing to play nice for a change, then I suppose I can end this feud between us and them as well. Plus, I would hate to have to waste some elegant fabrics by drenching them with sweat in another chase scene like this." Rarity put her elbow on top of her arm, lifting the back of her hand onto her chin.

"Guess I'm down for it too. Just if they don't become uncool and evil again." Rainbow Dash simply nodded.

"I suppose if you girls are going to forgive them, then so can I. If the Magic of Friendship really is going to reach them, then they need everyone that they can get to show them the right ways." Fluttershy joined Twilight and Sunset, holding their hands.

"I mean, I was gonna totally throw a party one or two ways. A 'Yay For Catching The Sirens Again' party of a 'Yay For Reforming The Sirens' party. Guess now I know which one to set up." Pinkie eagerly grinned from ear to ear as she completed the group.

"Then I guess it's settled. From this day on, the Dazzlings and the Rainbooms are friends." Sunset held her hand out to Adagio, which she took and shook, as did all of the others until a large clump of ten hands were all joined together in one large, rounded pile.

All that Starswirl and Stygian could do was watch as the Dazzlings and the Rainbooms, having finally settled everything between them started to talk, letting a large, group conversation run its' course. Sunburst stood in awe as Starlight proudly put her hand on her heart, leaving Sci-Twi standing there, letting the wind run through her hair.

"You and your friends never cease to amaze, Twilight Sparkle... I thought for sure that there would be no reasoning with the sirens. But once again, you have proved this old pony wrong." Starswirl chuckled to himself, folding his arms as he watched the ten teenagers talk tirelessly to each other. "I am proud to have planted that Tree of Harmony, to have passed the torch onto you and your fellow Spirits of Harmony."

"See. The whole everything can be solved with a conversation thing goes for any creature, whether it's a pony or a siren." Starlight's voice cut in once Starswirl had finished. "No matter how stubborn they are or whatever past they might have had."

With Starswirl caught by those words, he took a few steps forward, grabbing the attention of all of the girls once more. Their talk fell silent for an instance as he cleared his throat.

"It would seem that I owe all of you some apologies. I fear that I might have acted a bit rash in banishing the three of you here, Adagio Dazzle, Aria Blaze, and Sonata Dusk," he said, voice smoothening out as his arms fell. "In my haste to safeguard Equestria from dark magic, I never contemplated the reason why you did it outside of the natural order given to you. Perhaps, if I had known, I would have conversed with the other Pillars and Stygian to find you a place in the world where you could freely feed off of power without having to cause a mess for everything around you."

"Well, I guess it can't be helped, really. I mean, three creatures that aren't ponies causing havoc for your kind. It's only natural really that you'd take every measure needed to keep us out of your hair." Aria rolled her eyes. "So I can see why ya did it, but I'm still a bit peeved that you didn' think about our side of the story."

"A mistake I intend to rectify right here and now. So, with Twilight's permission, I grant you asylum in this world. It is no longer considered a banishment prison, but rather a place that you can choose to freely come and go whenever you please," said Starswirl. "If you wish to return to Equestria, I will take you three to a portal that will allow you passage back home. Or, you can choose to stay here, within the company of the doubles of Twilight Sparkle and her friends. I am sure that they will be able to teach you all that you need to know to redeem yourselves."

"Well, we were going to stay anyway, but now that you mention Equestria..." Adagio put a finger to her chin, but then found it was quickly lowered by Sonata, who just shook her head at her.

"When you think about it, everyone in Equestria's gonna want to hunt us down again if they see we haven't changed. I think it's better to stay here so that we can learn how to behave first, then go home when we've been trained enough." Sonata continued to hold Adagio's hand down as she gazed into her eyes. "Isn't it better to do this first, Dagi?"

"I... well." Adagio's thought of going home was quickly diminished when Sonata made her case. For all of her random babblings, at times, Sonata could be as smart as her or Aria. "I suppose, when you think about it like that, Sonata, you do have a point."

"Wait, she does?" Aria's eyes widened. "Well, that's a new one."

"In answer to your question, Starswirl, we're gonna stay here for a while, learn the Magic of Friendship with these girls. Then, when all's said and done and we all learn how to be as good as they are, then we might want to come back home, depending on whether or not Equestria's changed over the past... however many years it's been since we were thrown out of it."

"Very well then. In that case, I might as well stay for a while myself. After all, I am quite curious to see exactly what this world is, what more it has to offer and to see what you have been doing with yourselves ever since the fateful day when we duelled." He turned to the horizon, looking out as the sun's rays of light grazed him and the town beyond.

"Oh, trust me, Starswirl. There's so much that we need to catch up on, in more ways than one. "Adagio slithered up to him, coiling her fingers around his shoulders. "If you've got some time to space, I'm sure that we can fill in the blanks and give you and all of your friends the grand tour... Just buckle up. Because it's gonna be a LONG DAY."

"Or a long couple of days, depending on how you wanna look at it." Sonata poked the air with her finger.

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