by Hiver

First published

Some choices you make are simple to figure out where they lead. Some... not so much.

After getting into a bargain with Discord and having the aspect of pegasus replaced with that of a thestral, Page is having some trouble with some of the things he discover with time and some choices made, may have unforeseen side effects.

Then again, all decisions have their effects on the world around you. Be it making a deal with chaos or choosing tea instead of coffee. Or sneaking up on a jumpy sun goddess. No matter what you choose to do, there are always going to be Repercussions.

AN// Big thanks to Sipioc for the awesome cover image!

Chapter 1

The bed shifted beneath me and I pulled the blanket tighter around myself with a grumble, squeezing my eyes closed tighter.

Don’t wanna.

“Go back to sleep, My Page,” Luna said gently and kissed my head, “I need to raise the moon.”

Mumbling in agreement, I flicked my ear and nuzzled closer to the pillow, curling up slightly and drifting off to sleep again. Way, way too early to get up.

I wasn’t sure how much longer I slept, but it couldn’t have been too long as when I opened my eyes again, I could still see a slight moonbeam through the curtains but it was quickly cut off by thick whirling snow and darkness.

That and a pair of green luminous eyes about a hoof from mine.

I startled back before I groaned, “Luna…”

“Yes Page?” she murmured and scooted close to my back, nuzzling at my neck as she slipped her forelegs around my barrel, pulling me back against her as she put the book she had been reading down with her magic.

“There is a bedbug in my room. She’s staring at me.”

Luna giggled and nuzzled at my mane, “Silly Page.”

Skitter rolled her eyes and jumped onto the bed, putting her forehooves on my chest, giving me a push, “Sir!”

I groaned before I scowled up at the Changeling Princess, “When did you get so pushy? I remember a much more patient lovebug that waited until her food was well and awake.”

She did a small bounce, poking me with both hooves as she glared down at me, “Sir!”

“Off!” I groaned as I rolled and she slipped, dropping onto the bed next to me before I stretched, vinching slightly at the ache and tug at my foreleg the motion gave me before I looked at Skitter, “I don’t know,” I admitted, “Yes, I found Changelings that’s likely other hives, but some are quite far away and I’m still trying to figure out their Queens or Princesses. Your species is wei-.”

Like a weird strange twisted and kind of wobbly or distorted, almost through a lens and strangely connected.

“But you found them?” Skitter asked quickly before she looked down with a small cringe, “...Sorry, sir.”

“...You’re excited, don’t worry about it,” I said and rubbed my eyes with a hoof as I stretched my wings with a yawn, “It’s just really early. Okay,” I continued and shifted my wings again, stretching them wide for a moment before folding them again, “I found three hives other than the Canterlot hive. One is beyond the Badlands. One seems to be somewhere in Griffon territory and one somewhere across the sea way further down the coast.”

Skitter slowly nodded, her wings doing a small buzzing sound, “That’s good. Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” I told her with a small sigh, “I’m still not sure it’s a good idea.”

“But unless we know more about them, we can’t know that. If we could just talk to them, show them that there is another way of doing things!”

“Which is why I agreed to this,” I said and struggled onto my hooves, frowning as my right hoof trembled against the bed before I forced it still.

Skitter frowned at me for a moment but scooted a bit to the side to give me room to jump off the bed.

“Hungry?” Luna asked with a smile, “There is a fruit bowl out in the main room. Oh, and the guards mentioned that Sunset were looking for you.”

I nodded and worked my right shoulder, lifting my hoof off the floor a couple of times, stretching my leg,, “You’re busy tonight?”

Luna nodded with a small sigh, jumping off the bed to give me a small soft kiss, “Sadly, yes. Nightcourt.”

I glanced to the dark window where I couldn’t see the moon as evidenced by the thick whirling snow and howling wind, “...You really think anypony will show tonight? I doubt anypony will mount the polar expedition required. Where would they even get the Yaks required?”

“Always a few,” Luna said and smiled, “But they still deserve for me to be there even if they are unable to come.”

“Have fun.”

Luna grinned and gave me a small nuzzle, “See you once I’m finished?”

“Of course.”

Luna trotted out and when the door closed behind her, Skitter was instantly at my side. I glanced at her and then rolled my eyes, “I’m fine,” I told her and lifted my right hoof again, shifting my shoulder once more, the twinge in it mostly gone by now.

Skitter frowned at me, “You’re not.”

Well, no tricking her, was there. Not when she could taste whenever I felt a small twinge of pain.

“Seriously, I’m fine. I’m almost fully healed, I think I just slept wrong,” I told her, “I’ll be fully recovered in another couple of weeks.”

Considering I got smacked by a Goddess, that was pretty good in my book!

Skitter frowned at me and I just smiled at her,

“Seriously, I’m almost back to normal,” I told her and gave her a quick hug with my wing, “I’m fine.”

Her wings buzzed softly but she nodded, “...Yes, sir.”

Giving her a smile, I let go and trotted out into the main room towards breakfast. I was getting seriously hungry and I could use some tea and then maybe have an apple or two. Or four. Oooh, wonder if they have mangos today...

“About time you get up,” A voice drifted over to me and I looked over towards the couch where Sunset was laying, a book floating before her, “It’s almost midnight, you lazy bat,” she teased with a smile.

Fern was deep asleep in his basket in the corner, the winter having made the Timberwolf sleepy… more than usual. Which made a bit of sense as he was a plant. Sunset was far from asleep though, looking at me from the couch.

“Don’t give me that, I was up late yesterday,” I said and trotted over to touch my horn to hers, “And I seem to remember you being there.”

She grinned and nodded, her horn against mine, “What did you think of the play though? Like it?”

“I did, was funny,” I agreed and then jumped onto the couch next to her and stole a kiss before I turned to gather fruit from the table.

Oooh, Cherries.

Chapter 2

Stomping my hooves, I kicked the snow off them as I entered the castle, fluttering my wings beneath the cloak to throw the snow off it the best I could. Stupid frozen water flakes!

Now, I get why snow was a good thing. It’s winter and all and it’s necessary and looks good and all, but did they have to make it howling snowstorms? Really?


I looked to the side before I smiled, “Tempest. You’re up late.”

The former commander of the Storm King's forces scraped her hoof against the stone floor as she nodded, “I was studying,” she admitted and tossed her mane back, “I… have a lot to catch up on.”

She had not exactly been able to use magic much for most of her life.

I nodded, “How’s it going?”

Tempest shook her head and stomped her hoof, “...Slowly.”

“Go get some sleep, there is another day tomorrow.”

“I know.”

I looked at her for a moment before I sighed, “Tempest, I know it’s frustrating,” I told her quietly, “But you’re trying to catch up on a lot of years of practice and learning in a couple of months. You have already come a long way.”

Her ears flicked back for a second before she nodded and looked to the side, “...I know.”

“So go get some rest.”

Tempest nodded and then bowed slightly, “Good night, Commander.”

“Good night, Tempest.”

I looked after her as she left before I sighed softly. She was working herself too hard. I think she was trying to make up for what she had done.

But if she’s been working herself to the bone for the last four months. She was up before the sun and it was not exactly the first time I had run into her hours after midnight. It was actually the rule more than the exception.

...And she had kept up with her physical training too.

If this keeps up, I’m going to have to start ordering her to cut down on her outright insane schedule. Maybe ask Sunset to talk to her?

...Or maybe not. While they were polite enough, Sunset didn’t like her. Maybe I’ll ask Crysa…

I paused at that thought and then quickly shook my head. No. No, bad idea!

Maybe Glimmer. According to Twilight, she really had turned her life around, so maybe introducing those two to each other would be a good idea. I might not personally like Starlight, but to be completely fair to her, I had not actually talked to her more than a couple of minutes since she was ‘reformed’.

Shaking my head slightly, I frowned. Maybe that was an idea… maybe sending her to Ponyville wasn’t a bad idea. Under the excuse of learning magic from Sparky, that might actually be a good idea.

Get her away from the city she attacked, get her out onto the countryside as well as getting her in contact with Sparky and get her talking about things with Glimmer…

Might work. Going to have to send a message to Sparky and see what she thinks about the idea.


As for right now, I wanted to go flying. But that just wasn’t going to happen in this kind of weather. While I still had some of the cold resistance of an Alicorn, it turned out most of it came from the pegasus part.

Thestrals, nowhere near as cold resistant as a pegasus. Which meant I wasn’t either.

So while I could handle the cold better than a random unicorn, I didn’t want to try flying around in this weather unless I absolutely had to.

I hate being cold! Fucking Discord!

I suddenly stopped, my nose twitching twice before I looked down at the floor. There was a grape sitting on the floor between my hooves. I frowned and picked the grape up. Grape? Why the fuck is there a grape sitting in the middle of the corridor?

Did one of the maids drop it or something.

I looked around. There is another one!

I trotted over and picked that one up too before I looked around the corner. Another grape a couple of meters away.

I raised an eyebrow at that.


Really now?


“Yes, sir?” my changeling guard answered from behind me.

“...You wouldn’t happen to know where Luna is right now, would you?” I asked as I brushed one of the grapes in my magic clean against my coat before popping it into my muzzle, each one getting the same treatment as I moved along.

“At the other end of the trail of grapes, I would say, sir.”

“That’s what I suspected. Because if there is a trap at the other end, I’m not sure what I would think about the villain’s sense of professionalism or their opinion of my intelligence.”

Amber trotted along next to me with a smile, “Well, to be fair, sir… it is working.”

“Quiet you.”

Chapter 3

The trail of grapes lead to one of the smaller private sitting rooms overlooking one of the small parks in the castle. One of surprisingly many actually, but it likely shouldn’t be.

Celestia liked them and it was she had remodeled the castle so many times, it was hardly a wonder that it was the way she liked it.

Poking my head inside revealed a roaring fireplace, the table, couch and chairs pushed to the side to make space for a blanket laid out before the fireplace.

On the blanket, was a Luna. More specifically, my Luna. She looked up from her book when I entered before she smiled and raised her wings,"You found me,” she said as she closed the book and floated it over to the table with her magic.

"I did," I said and smiled as I crossed over to nuzzle her, "...Can't say I'm overly flattered with the way you got me here though..."

"It worked, did it not?"

I stuck my tongue out at her before I settled down next to her, her long wing quickly shifting to lay across my back as she pulled me close, "How was court?" I asked after several long seconds of leaning against her.

"Quiet," she said and nuzzled at my ear, "There was a single supplicant that wanted to borrow money from the Crown to repair his farm. There was some damage during one of the autumn storms, apparently it ripped the roof straight off his barn."

"Not many dare out in weather like this."

"True," she agreed, "How was your practice?"

"Short," I admitted and gave her a small kiss, "Got cold, even with the spell on the cloak... and it snowed so hard I could barely see the targets away, so I figured I might as well give it up for now. But for a more interesting topic..."


"What is all this?" I asked and looked at her in question, leaning against her and nuzzling at her neck.

Luna smiled against my mane and pulled me a bit closer with her wing, "Just wanted some time with you and it seemed like just the right time for it. We’re both usually busy."

She more than me, but I had my own duties to tend to. They just were less public than hers.

"No arguments there," I agreed and nuzzled at her neck with a small sigh as I got comfortable.

We just stayed like that for a long moment, just enjoying the warmth and closeness before Luna finally spoke up again, "...I think you should change your sleeping pattern again and go back to half night and half day."

"Wuzzat?" I asked, almost half asleep as I blinked my eyes back open again.

"I love having you with me at night," she said and smiled down at me, leaning down to bump her nose against mine, "But it can't be that practical for you. And I know Sunset misses having you around when she’s actually awake too."

I shifted slightly, "I guess you're right," I admitted, "I have been thinking about it, it's just... you know, since this," I said and shifted my thestral wings, "It just feels so much more natural to be up at night. And I loved that it works better with your schedule too."

"I know," she said and nuzzled at my ear, "But the one you had before worked well..."

"Bit after noon until three or four at night?" I asked before I nodded before I groaned, "...That did work well, It's just going to be such a pain to twist things around back there again."

I didn't look forward to spending time out in the sun either... so bright. I'm not sure how Fluttershy did it, I think I might have to send her a letter and ask or maybe visit her dreams or something

"I'll miss waking up next to you though," I then admitted and looked up at her, "That was the best part of all this."

"I'll miss it too," Luna said softly and gave me a small kiss, "But I know you have things to do that's much easier during the day."

Like meeting with my publisher. Not to say that she 'wouldn't' be willing to put in the time to meet at two in the morning for as many Bits as I had drawn in for them, but it did make me feel bad about the entire thing.

Luna was right and in all honesty, I should have put a stop to it ages ago myself.

"I know, I know," I admitted and sighed, slipping out from beneath her wing so I could stretch my own, "...Which means I'm going to get up early today, aren't I? What time is it anyway?"

"Around four," Luna supplied as she watched me, one ear flicking slightly.

"I'll stay up another couple of hours then," I said and slipped back beneath her wing, nuzzling at her neck, "And I know just how to spend them."

"...Page, I don't have two hours, there are matters I have to-eeep!"

My wife didn't get much more done that night. I made personally sure of that. As revenge for making way too much sense.

Such a thing can’t go unpunished after all.

Chapter 4

"You look dead."

"Guhhhhh," I answered Swift Spear, glowering at the unicorn before going back to not trying to fall asleep muzzle first in my bowl of apple cubes, "Whu ya wan?" I grumbled.

"Oh. forgive me, your royal highness," Swift said with a grin and bowed deeply, his polished armour catching the sunshine of the midday sun, "it was not my intention to bother the royal consort of the Princess of the Night, but I have a message to deliver to you, My Lord."

I looked at him sourly, "Ponies without wings shouldn't be that annoying so close to a window,” I grumbled and suppressed another yawn as I picked up my second double strength cup of the strongest blend Silver Leaf sold.

Coffee could in theory be better, but that’d involve drinking coffee and as Equestria wasn’t actually on fire, there was no way I’d resort to such barbarism.

"Of course, sir," he said cheerfully and handed over a scroll before he frowned, "...Seriously though, there has to be an easier way to turn your sleep schedule around around than to just do it like that. That's rough, man."

I sighed and took the scroll in my magic, "Not really easier, just drags it out a lot longer," I grumbled, "At least like this it'll be over in a couple of days," before I unrolled the scroll and tried to blink my eyes clear enough to be able to read it.

“Princess Celestia, blah blah blah invite blah blah diplomatic blah blah Minotaur delegation, blah dinner, blah. Princess Sunshine, ruler of the pony country of ponies and cakes’' I read before letting the scroll roll back up again and dropping it onto the table as I tried to remember what I was doing at that time and drawing a complete blank, "Uhm… Amber?"

"Yes sir?" Amber asked, poking her head out from behind the curtains behind Swift. To Swifts credit, he didn't even twitch at her voice behind him.

"How's the... uhm..." I said and then frowned, "The... you know the... the thing that tracks times and meetings and such..."


"Yes... yes, the schedule for a couple of days from now? Just got an invitation from Sunshine to a diplomatic dinner with the minotaurs in two days. Am I clear then?"

"Yes, sir," Amber said with a smile, trotting over and refilling my tea, "I cleared the next few days of what little was planned."

"Oh. Uhm, thank you."

Amber was amazing.

She nodded and her wings buzzed slightly, "Queen Chrysalis does want to see you when you have time though."

I nodded and popped an apple cube into my mouth, "Did she say what it's ab-" I started to ask before my brain caught up a bit with my mouth, "...Forget I asked, she never does."

Amber smiled a bit in apology, her wings doing a small buzzing sound, "...Sorry, sir."

"Don't worry about it, she is who she is," I said and shook my head, suppressing another yawn, "I'll be free tomorrow evening, could you let her know?"

"Of course, sir."

Because there was no way I’d meet with Chrysalis while this groggy. That’d be like walking into a tiger cage while blindfolded and with a bleeding leg wound.

Smiling, I got up and moved up to Amber, giving her a quick hug with my wing, thinking about our friendship and of Luna and Sunset for a second before I let go. While I had to be careful not to overfeed her like I accidentally did Skitter, I didn't want her to go hungry either.

Giving her a smile, I returned to what passed for breakfast before I looked at Swift, "I'll write an answer to Celestia after breakfast. Want to hang around until then or are you busy?"

"Dude, I'm in the guard. I'm never busy," Swift said with a grin and dropped down to sit across from me, "Well, unless we are. Don't tell my boss, but a lot of it is looking busy rather than being busy or they might give you something to actually do"

I glanced down at my tea. Dark, dark golden brown.

Not strong enough. I need to try triple strength, maybe let it steep longer. Wonder if a spoon can stand up in that?

I then looked to Swift with a small frown, "Wait, you’re Nightguard. I’m Luna’s Consort and husband, wouldn’t that technically make me your boss?"

"What's your point?"

"...Never mind," I sighed and sipped my tea. Maybe I should have done this slower instead of just getting up after two hours of sleep.

At least I could put off whatever Chrysalis were going to-Gak!

Fern had somehow snuck up on me without me noticing and then tried to jump into my lap, knocking me off the bench and onto the floor, table, fruit bowl and tea all going flying as I went down beneath the playful wuffspirit.

“Fern! No! Down!” I yelped in surprise as I tried to push him away as that leaf tongue went across my face, “I’m awake! I’m awake!”


Chapter 5

After the freezing cold and sun bright air outside, the darkness and the warmth of the Changeling hive was almost comforting. Enough at least that I could see why changelings would prefer it to being in a more brightly lit and spacious pony style building at least, even if I'm not sure I'll ever really be comfortable with their preferred 'xenomorph hive' building style of dark resin and softly glowing balls of green hardened goop.

But it was warm and not too damn bright which made it alright in my book, at least at the moment.

The sound of my hooves echoed softly against the tunnel walls as I followed the changeling guide before me deeper and deeper into the hive as he brought me to Queen Chrysalis. Not in the throne room like usual, we were deeper into the converted mine now. Much deeper. Deeper than I had ever been before, actually.

We finally reached the end of the tunnel where a quartet of changeling drones were waiting by the sides of a gate. They were actually carrying spears and heavy resin armour, not something even the drones guarding the entrance to the hive did. They had not even used any of those when they attacked Canterlot.

"The Queen is inside," He said and gave me a small bow.

I nodded and looked at him, "Thank you, Thorax.... what's inside?"

"The Queen."

Well, ask a stupid question...

I gave him another nod before I walked towards the door, half expecting the guards to stop me, but instead they simply stepped to the side to allow me past, the closest one lighting his horn and pulling the door to the side, allowing me inside.

I wasn't sure what to expect really, but what I saw inside, was not it. It wasn't overly big as chambers went, just barely bigger than the tower Luna and I had as our private rooms. It was warm inside, almost hot and the air was very moist. It almost felt like I had walked into a rainforest or a greenhouse. There was no furniture, just... eggs. A dozen eggs, a big bigger than a hoof along one wall.

Chrysalis was in the middle of the chamber. She was laying on the ground, three white and fat larva on the ground between her forelegs, inching around and wiggling. She didn't even look up as the door closed behind me, her eyes focused on the larva before her.

I slowly crossed the chamber to her, "You asked to see me, Queen Chrysalis?" I asked as I looked down at the larva. They were kind of... ugly cute. While they were white and soft, that's where the maggot comparison ended. They had four little stumpy legs they barely used and a tiny little horn, but I could see changeling traits in their forms.

"You have never seen this place before, little predator," she answered, not even glancing in my direction.

Oh. It's going to be one of those meetings.

Suppressing the urge to roll my eyes, I sank down to lay on the floor opposite to her, "Can't say I have," I answered.

"This is the safest, most protected chamber of the hive," she answered quietly, "More than the throne room, the love reserves. Nobody but a changeling is allowed in here. Ever. Not even all changelings are allowed in here. Not even to feed the little ones."

One of the larvae started to inch in my direction and I eyed it curiously, "So why am I here?"

"So you could see what is at stake," she said and finally lifted her head to meet my eyes, "If this foolish idea of my daughter does not work out as she hoped."

"It's not a stupid idea, merly a dang-hey, stop that," I said, looking down at the larva starting to try to gnaw at the edge of my hoof, "I have been walking around on that all day," I told him and lit my horn, pulling him gently away before shifting slightly and extending my wing. The larva quickly started to gnaw uselessly at the tip of my wing again before I returned my attention to Chrysalis.

She had gone stock still, her eyes locked on me, her fangs half bared in a way that suddenly made me very aware that she considered me food. But I also refused to be intimidated and showing fear to her could very possibly be lethal, no matter how she was playing along.

So I raised an eyebrow at her instead, "Yes?"

Chrysalis blinked twice and then looked away, "...You do not understand changelings, not if you think it will be merely dangerous. For a Princess to approach another hive will be seen a weakness. A weakness that can be exploited to destroy or take the hive over... and their hunting grounds. Especially when we are now... working with the... ponies."

"I know changelings better than anypony else," I said and looked down at the larva. It had rolled onto its back, wiggling and trying to paw at my wing. Okay, that's actually pretty adorable. I shifted my wing a bit to give it something to wrestle with before I looked back to Chrysalis again only to find her watching me intently, "I know perfectly well how changelings think and act," I continued, meeting her gaze, "Which is why I haven't given Skitter the exact position of the other Hives. For this to even have a chance to work, it needs you to step up and back her up."

"It's foolishness!"

"The same foolishness that let your hive live where so many others had been defeated?" I asked, "The same foolishness that let you not only live, but flourish with ponies, not against them? To stop starvation? To stop the fighting? That foolishness?"

Chrysalis hissed at me and surged to her hooves, pacing around the chamber, "You were meant to talk my daughter out of it!"

"I'm not going to do anything of the sort," I told her firmly, "Do you know why?"

She just glared at me.

"Because she really is your daughter," I continued, glancing down at the larva wrestling with my wing tip, "And she has inherited your stubbornness... and it's not like she's wrong. Sooner or later the other hives will buck up and be discovered and unless they do like you did, they will fall."

"Let them! They're not my hive!"

"No," I agreed and looked at her again, "But they are changelings, just like you. Just like this one," I continued and glanced down at the larva again. His littermate had joined him and they were now both trying to claim ownership of my wing tip. I lit my horn and picked them both up, gathering the third one before holding them against my shoulder for a second, focusing on my love for Luna and Sunset. Of my friends.

Then I gently put all three of them down onto the floor, only to find Chrysalis watching me strangely again, "Oh, come off it," I told her, "You know you can trust me. If you didn't, you had never let me in here in the first place."

She hissed at me.

I bared my fangs and hissed back. I found that after my entire battificaton, I had gotten a pretty good hiss.

She blinked in surprise before she sighed and sank down by the larva again, gently gathering them close between her forelegs with her hoof, "What do you propose, my little predator?"

"Let things continue. Support Skitter, help her instead of trying to stop her."

Chrysalis hissed softly before leaning down to nuzzle at the closest larva before she answered me, "...Even if it had a chance of working, they would kill any messenger sent. I would have. They will. Even if they listen, it will be seen as a weakness. They will come for us."

"Not if handled right, figure out a plan," I told her, "And if they do come for you, I'm afraid they will find the entire matter a bit more difficult than they had anticipated."

She looked at me with a small frown, "How do you mean?"

"Allies work both ways," I told her as I met her eyes, "You stood beside Equestria when we were attacked. The might of Equestria would stand beside you if or when it's your turn."

"I do not want my daughter to get hurt. Or any of my children."

"Neither do I."

Chapter 6

While the outside of the castle was cold enough that even pegasi were starting to seriously bundle up, the inside of the Castle was comparably warm.

Sadly, comparily warm in this case just meant 'above freezing'. Even with magic, it simply wasn't worth trying to keep something this big and made from stone at full temperature. At least outside of key areas, such as living quarters, kitchens(Those mostly produced their own heat anyway), the throne room and a dozen other places such as that.

Pulling my cloak a bit tighter around myself, I passed the guard standing by the door, pushing it open and then letting it close behind me as I felt the warmth pressing in against me.

"Seriously, Sunshine. Would it kill you to bring that big ball of fire a bit closer?" I asked as I looked over at Celestia where she was sitting by the desk close to the window, a stack of papers three hooves tall sitting on it next to a steaming cup of tea.

"It's a part of winter, Page," Celestia answered with a smile, "And I try not to mess with the weather schedule, it's calculated by professionals for a reason. We were overdue for a really cold winter actually, it’s been decades since we had one this cold."

"Easy for you to say, you're not only have to actively try not to set things on fire, but you're an alicorn, you don't get cold," I said and swept my cloak off, dropping it over the back of a chair as I moved to claim a cup of steaming hot tea, "Not everypony else is as resistant."

Celestia frowned a bit at me and put her papers down before she rounded the desk to join me, "You're not?"

"Used to be," I admitted and shifted my wings before spreading my right one to show it off, "Before this, I was close to Luna when it came to that, not like you. Now, it's closer to a pegasus I think. Maybe a bit worse than those too to be honest, at least in the wing parts."

"I'm sorry."

"Eh," I said and shrugged my wings, sipping at my tea, "You know what? In the end, I think it may be coming out ahead. Not only did I get Tempest healed, but even this," I said and shifted my wings again, "is not all bad. While I may get cold easier, I also see waaay better in the dark and flying isn't really any worse now when I'm used to it and quieter at that. And I think my hearing is better too… and like you said, not like we get winters like this every year."

Celestia frowned slightly and her ears flicked, "...How's your shoulder."

"Only aches when somepony is feeling sorry for herself close to me. Ow."

Celestia smiled sadly and gave me a small nuzzle between the ears, "Page. Seriously?"

"Seriously, I'm good," I told her and sighed, giving her a nuzzle back, "Every week, I'm feeling better. Another couple of weeks and I'll be fully healed I think. Not bad for somepony getting hit by a sun wielded by a goddess."

"It wasn't a sun," Celestia said and shook her head, "You know what spell it was, it was just a variation of a standard kinetic strike."

"That also set things on fire," I said and grinned up at her, "I know. But can we call it a sun? It sounds way cooler and more impressive."

"Impressive?" Celestia asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah, I know how you like impressive things," I told her with a grin, "Big, warm, impressive things."

Princess Celestia, Princess of the Sun, the eldest of all alicorns, ruler of Equestria acted her age and stuck her tongue out at me.

Well, if she was acting like that, she was feeling better at least. She had been acting a bit strange since she hit me with her spe- sun. I think she was feeling guilty about it, despite it being completely my fault. Because, seriously? Sneaking up and doing a jumpscare on an alicorn just after an invasion? That's a clear darwin award winning move and it was nothing but luck and the skill of the doctors that made sure it wasn't. And Amber. Amber caught me enough to slow me down before I hit the ground in what really would have been terminal velocity. That bug deserved all love I could possibly give her and more.

Still, if she let me get that one in without returning fire, maybe she wasn't fully o-

"Then again," she said and shifted her wings innocently, "Maybe we should call it a sun. Make sure you have something big and impressive to talk about."

Did she just...

I raised an eyebrow at her, "I suppose you would be the expert of big and impressive, wouldn't you?"

She smiled and spread her wings, "Of course. What about you? Aren't you a bit small for an alicorn?"

I looked at her for a couple of seconds before I started to laugh. She joined me a second later before she moved up and slipped a wing and a foreleg around me in a hug. I hugged back for several long seconds before I smiled up at her, "I'm good, Sunshine. I promise."

It still didn’t feel the same, it was almost like she was forcing it. Not like the same… she still felt guilty.

But it was getting better I think.

I hugged her tighter and gave her neck a small nuzzle.

"I'm glad," she answered and sighed softly before letting go to look down at me, "So what can I help you with?"

"Oh, just curious about the dinner tomorrow with the minotaurs you invited me to, if there is anything I need to know? I have been a bit out of the loop for a couple of months."

Celestia shook her head, "Nothing specific really, it's just a welcome reception for their new ambassador to Equestria. The old one is retiring an..."


The sun was setting in the distance as I overlooked the lands beneath Canterlot. It was freezing cold, but a warming spell, a thick cloak and an unicorn beneath my left wing helped a lot against it.

Sunset pulled the cloak a bit tighter around us with her magic as she leaned against my sidet me, “So how was your day?” she asked.

“Mostly meetings, legion, still dealing with some of the Storm King’s ships. You?”

“Mostly the same actually,” she admitted, “Then practice with Tempest. Never met a unicorn that physically tough. Seriously, she’s ripped, it’s like trying to fight an earth pony!”

“Well, she did spend most of her life without really using her magic,” I said, “How’s that going for her.”

“...Better,” Sunset answered after a second of thought, “She’s having trouble with fine control and precision spells, but for anything she can just pour on the power on? She’s golden. I think she might actually be stronger than me.”

“There is something to be said for just pure power,” I admitted, running my wing softly along her back, ”Speaking of which, want to come to the diplomatic reception tomorrow?”

Sunset gave me a strange look, “What kind of segway is that? Anyway, that’s the minotaur one, right?”


“Sure. I’d appreciate a bit more time next time though, a day isn’t exactly a lot of warning.”

“It’s a reception, how much warning do you need?”

Sunset rolled her eyes before she stretched a bit, “Luna coming too?”

I shook my head, “Way too early for her for something that’s not critical.”

She nodded, “Sure, I’ll come. But why did you accept anyway, you hate those things? And it’s your first ‘public appearance’ since the entire bat thing?”

“...Yeah,” I admitted and sighed softly, “But I couldn’t really say no when Celestia invited me. She’s been feeling bad and if I don’t go, she’ll be the only alicorn there dealing with the ambulatory beef today.”

“No she wouldn’t,” Sunset said, suppressing a small grin, “We both know that if you declined, she’d invite Twilight instead if she really didn’t want to deal with them herself.”

I eyed her, “Maybe I should have declined then… I bet Twi would have wanted some Kitten cuddles after all that diplo-GAHHH!!”

I shied away from her and ripped my cloak off, shaking it as I shook myself to get the snow away from the back of my neck where Sunset had stuffed some with her magic.

Glowering at the giggling unicorn, I lit my own horn and gathered a hoofful of snow, quickie compressing it into a sphere and then launching it at her.

The powdery sphere exploded against her chest and she squeaked, “Hey!” and then quickly returned fire.

Chapter 7

“So what do you think of the entire matter?” The new ambassador asked as he turned to me. Soft music played in the background. A small plate of finger food floated before me in my magic and I looked up at the minotaur. His horns were a bit smaller than average, but that might simply be an illusion because he was also a head taller than any other minotaur I had seen and his coat was a grayish black.

“As you understand, I’m going to have to stand behind Equestria,” I told him with a smile, “And usually that implies agreeing with Princess Celestia and my wife.”

Ambassador Dorwall smiled at that, “More than understandable,” he agreed with a nod, “But surely you have some opinion about the region in question?”

A small patch of worthless grassland at the border between Equestria and the Minotaur Empire that’s been contested for hundreds of years.

“My personal opinion,” I told him, “Is that I really couldn’t care less about that worthless patch of grassland.”

He actually blinked in surprise before looking amused, “Really?”

“There is a reason I’m not much of an ambassador,” I told him with a smile, “I know it’s important to both Equestria and your nation, but personally I don’t really care. I would much prefer a peaceful resolution to the entire matter and I’m sure we’ll be able to find one. Because seriously, we both have more stretches of open grassland than we know what to do with, no use fighting over yet another patch.”

Picking up a cucumber thing from my plate, I popped it into my mouth.

“I would prefer the same,” He agreed. “But the Naravel region is a part of the Empire.”

I just shrugged my wings. Really didn’t much care either way, just that if they did start to cause trouble, I’ll help Celestia kick their tails up between their horns. I really rather wouldn’t need to, but I would if I had to.

“But,” he continued and smiled, “This is not the venue for this kind of conversation. My apologies, Prince Page. This was meant to be a welcome reception in my honor and here I go talking politics.”

“No worries at all, I assume that-”

A voice interrupted me from the door and the sound of a staff hitting the floor as the earth pony there spoke up, “Introducing Queen Chrysalis and Princess Skitter of the Changelings!”

Excuse me, but fucking what?

Both of them walked inside, side by side as the entire room turned to look towards them.

I mean, they were always invited as close allies to Equestria to these kinds of things but none of them had ever accepted before.

They both crossed the room, moving through the crowd to talk quietly to Celestia for a moment before I turned back to the minotaur, “If you would excuse me, Ambassador,” I said before making my way over towards Chrysalis and Skitter as they broke off from Celestia.

...Oh dear, I really would rather talk with Chrysalis than with the ambassador. That didn’t say much for his odds, now did it?

“Queen Chrysalis,” I said and spread my wings slightly, giving them a tiny bow, “Princess Skitter.”

“Prince Blank Page,” Chrysalis answered with a slight bow of her own, Skitter bowing deeper next to her.

“I can’t say I expected either of you,” I admitted, keeping my voice low.

Chrysalis looked down at me, “We were invited, my little predator,” she answered quietly, “So we are here… supporting our allies.”

“And by all right,” I admitted, “Just… unexpected.”

Chrysalis looked around before her eyes found the ambassador, “If you excuse me,” she said and moved past me, leaving me with Skitter.

I glanced after her before moving closer to Skitter, “...Should I be worried?”

“No, sir,” she said softly, “Mother decided that it is time that we are seen to publicly support our pony allies.”

Mhmm. What’s she up to?

I glanced after her for a second before I mentally shrugged. Whatever she was up to, I’m sure if it was something I needed to know, Skitter would let me know eventually… assuming she knew anyway.

“Want some introductions?” I asked, looking at Skitter after a second.

“I think I should catch up to Mother,” Skitter answered, seeming a bit reluctant.

“Better get going then,” I told her with a smile, “I’m here if you need to escape at some point. Just signal me or something.”

Skitter smiled and then quickly moved to follow her mother. I let her go and gave Celestia a nod before crossing the room again to find Sunset studying the food laid out for the reception,

“Find anything good?” I asked as I moved up next to her, “Because I sure did, you look amazing.”

Sunset actually blushed slightly, “I have used this dress before, you didn’t give me much warning, you know. Didn’t expect to see Chrysalis and Skitter here.”

“Don’t think anypony did,” I agreed and glanced in their direction, trying not to notice the slightly wary look some ponies shot at me when they thought I didn’t notice.

It was the first time I had been out in real public like this. It was to be expected.

Chapter 8

I didn’t get back to the tower until well after dark. Which was nice. What was less nice was going back inside and into our brightly lit quarters.

While the night vision was nice, going from dark to bright was less than nice.

Ignoring it, I crossed the room and gave Luna's wing a small nuzzle at where she was sitting by her desk, “Hey.”

She smiled and looked away from her papers, “Hey… did you enjoy the reception?”

“Ughhhhh…” I answered and leaned against her, “If I ever get such a brilliant idea again, tie me to the bed.”

“That sounds fun…” Luna mused.

I glanced up at her and shifted my wings, “...Keep that thought for later,” I told her and pulled back before I stretched again with a groan, “Something strange happened though.”

“Which sort of strange thing?” Luna asked, putting her current paper down to look at me again with a curious look.

“Chrysalis showed up. She brought Skitter along,” I said and slipped my cloak off, starting to remove my uniform, “They are both invited every time, but Chrysalis had never showed up before.”

Luna frowned and looked down at her desk for a moment before she looked to me again, “What do you think she is plotting?”

I folded the jacket and shook my head, “I’m… unsure. I think it might just be Chrysalis being Chrysalis, I think it has something to do with the other hives, but I don’t follow her logic at the moment.”

Not that it meant much, Chrysalis was squirrelly at the best of times and what more, she was a changeling, she didn’t really think like a pony.

What more, she was smart. Very, very smart. Smarter than me.

Luna nodded and jumped off her chair, “The other hives…” she said thoughtfully as she moved over to pour a pair of glasses of warm cider, “You have located all of them?”

I nodded, “Mostly,” I said and sighed, “But the next step is going to be tricky and is going to need Chrysalis to buy into the entire idea. And who knows how that’ll work out,” I admitted and took the glass in my magic when she offered it before taking a sip.

Oh, Luna, that’s good.

“You do know the Changelings better than anypony else, you understand them,” Luna admitted and sipped her own Cider and moved to jump onto the couch.

I moved to join her, jumping up to lay down next to her, leaning against her side with a small sigh, “As much anypony can,” I admitted and then sipped my cider, “I’ll talk to Skitter tomorrow, see what she knows. How was your day so far?”

Luna sighed softly, “Consisting mostly of paperwork,” she answered and rested her head against the top of mine, “...I think it may be multiplying.”

“Wouldn’t be surprised if it was,” I admitted and sighed, “I miss computers. Would make things so much easier.”

“I remember you telling me of those. Would they really make things simpler?”

“...Yes and no,” I admitted, “Moving all of this stuff digital? Would be an absolute nightmare and need the entire process rebuilt. And then everything to support that…” before I sighed, “...So yes, when everything was done, it really would. But that would be a process twenty years old and that’s after a hundred years of industrialization to support it unless we want to import everything through the mirror.”

And knowing what that process did to the human world, I wanted to bring that to Equestria about as much as I wanted a hole in the head. The majority of the pros already existed from magic and I bet we could get the rest with time. A sample would likely be enough to get Sparks wanting to build her own anyway.

“Barely seems worth it,” Luna said and slipped her wing over my back, pulling me closer.

“Well, there are pros,” I said and then rolled onto my back, looking up at her with a smile, “I do kind of miss late night gaming. I remember going to lan parties when I was younger.”

“‘Lan’ parties?” Luna asked, raising her eyebrows, “What is that?”

“Imagine a bunch of caffeinated teenagers staying up for three days, leading simulated armies, blowing each other up in a virtual world and just plain eating enough greasy food to feed a small equestrian army.”

Luna looked amused, one eyebrow stayed raised, “...Really? And that’s fun?”

“Was amazing fun,” I told her with a grin, “Kind of grew out of it after a bit,” I admitted before I frowned, “...Or maybe technology moved on. Before I ended up here, well, the internet was fast enough that you could play the same way while staying at home.”

Luna nodded, “The communication network you talked about?”

“Yeah. I miss the internet,” I sighed and ran my hoof along her wing, stroking her feathers, “It was just so convenient, so much fun. Imagine having any book you’d ever want, anytime you want, instantly.”

“That sounds c-convenient,” Luna said and I could feel her tremble softly as I teased her feathers.

I smirked at that, “I’ll show you whenever the mirror opens next,” I said and nuzzled in to nip softly along the side of her neck.


I pulled back and stretched a bit, looking up at her with a smirk, “Yeah, you’re right, I should let you get back to your paperwo-eep!”

Chapter 9

If there was something that had gotten worse after the attack on Canterlot and the kidnapping by the other hive, was that I had even less privacy than before. If I wasn't at the castle, I had at least one, usually more members of the Legion following me around. Thankfully usually out of armour. That's not even counting Amber shadowing me from... well, the shadows. Even if you didn't see her... maybe even especially if you didn't see her... the changeling was always there with a stubbornness that would make Skitter proud.

There were times I missed the time when I had just arrived, when I had just started to get to know my Sky, when I wrote a bit on the side while working in a bookstore for some Bits.

At least then I could go anywhere I wanted, anytime I wanted.

Now, I couldn't ditch Amber. Know your limits and all that, besides it would make me feel bad to do that to her, but the rest?

Illusion, a bit of sneaking around, a second Illusion and a bit of flying and I was out of the castle, wrapped in the illusion causing me to look like a blue coated pegasus with white mane and a star mark.

I knew how annoyed Amber would be at me about it, and I had apologized to her about it, but sometimes, just needing to step away was a thing.

There was just so much going on right now and I needed to clear my head.

Pushing the door to the tavern open, I entered the small establishment. A faint scent of smoke in the air from the fireplace and a faint mumbling of conversation. It wasn't one of my normal places and was actually in what for Canterlot passed as 'bad' parts of town. But considering it was Canterlot, that just meant less shiny.

Considering it was the middle of the afternoon, just a couple of hours after lunch, the place was far from packed. Maybe a dozen ponies in total, including staff.

Shaking the snow from my hooves, I moved over to the bar and ordered a big hot cider before taking it over to one of the corner tables where I settled down.

It was still freezing cold outside, but the hot drink and the warmth from the fireplace radiating through the room was exactly what I needed to warm up again and get my brain back in gear.

I had way too much to worry about right now even if not any of the things was outright critical, it was just all of them together.

There was Celestia, the entire thing with the Changelings, whatever the Minotaurs had been mumbling about with that contested area... then there was worrying about Midnight. I had not seen her for weeks since she left for Ponyville to talk with Sparky about something. I hoped she had come up with a way back home, but I didn't want for her to get her hopes up if it didn't pan out again.

I felt sorry for her and the other Spike, especially as I was the one she got into a fight with when she arrived... the fight that destroyed the scroll she needed to return. Oh, it was Discord's fault for bringing her here in the first place, but that didn't change that I still felt horrible about it.

I sipped my cider and sighed.

Then there was Celestia. She had been acting strange since she swatted me like a fly with her spe- sun. I could get why she was feeling guilty about it, but it had been my fault in the first place for startling her like that, especially at the time. Not that it likely helped that Sunset apparently didn't talk to her anymore because of it. I should talk to her about it.

Then... then there was Skitter and the entire twisting nest of trouble that was Changelings in general. Her idea about the other Hives was a good one, but how in the world would you go through with it when there was a chance they would indeed see it as weakness and attack?

Wonder if the Griffins are looking to hire any alicorns right now, that sounds like it would be a way easier job... and this with me just being Lunas Prince-Consort, I wasn't even an actual Prince.

They couldn't pay me to take one of their jobs.

...no, they just fluttered their eyelashes at me, showed off some feathers and I just volunteered to do it for free.

I'm such a dumbass.

I drained my glass with a sigh and put it back down before I leaned back against the wall behind me for a moment. Well, whatever was going on, it couldn't continue like it was.

I needed to talk to Celestia and Sunset, or rather, I needed to talk to Sunset first and then Celestia. Sunshine can handle the ambulatory burgers on her own, she had for a millennia after all, so I wasn't worried there. Then I needed to find someway to figure out exactly Chrysalis was up to... and somehow in the middle of all that, find some time to write to clear my head or I'm going to go cra-

"Excuse me, would you like a refill?"

I opened my eyes, looking up at the pegasus waitress across the table from me. Or rather... the image of the white pegasus with pink mane pulled into a side braid across from me overlaid on a white batpony with grey mane pulled into the same side braid. Her cutiemark in both forms was that of a half moon.

I blinked at her in surprise. I... I did not expect that.

At all.

Batponies were rare, the only other one I knew was Fluttershy! And I suppose her mom, but I didn't know her, just knew of her.

"Huh?" I asked smartly.

"I was wondering if you wanted a refill?" she asked and motioned towards my glass with a smile, "Five Bits."

"...Yes, thank you, yes," I said and then shook my head, "...Sorry, long day," I said and picked the bits from my satchel and slid them over to her with some extra, "Could I get a fruit bowl too?"

"Of course," she said with a smile as she scooped the bits into her apron, "Coming right out," before she turned and trotted back towards the bar.

I watched her go for a moment.

I needed to find out who that filly was.

Chapter 10

The Dreamrealm whirled around me as I searched it for a mind, a specific dream realm, a specific face locked in my mind as I sifted through the mirror portals all around.

Magic thrummed through me, flowing down through me into the not ground beneath me as I twisted the fabric of the not dream realm around me.

Finally I opened my eyes. A single shimmering slightly blue silvery portal floated before me.


Stepping forward, I touched my horn to the silvery surface and stepped through into the dream beyond it.

The dream shifted into existence around me, just kind of fading into reality, leaving me in a dark forest clearing next to a small lake with a jetty sticking out into it, a small rowboat tied to it at one point.

The moon shone down brightly from above, the stars shining like clear pinpricks high above.

I looked around, quickly identifying the occupant of the dream, it was the thestral mare that I saw in the tavern. She was at the end of the jetty, laying down, one hoof dangling down to just about brush against the surface of the lake.

The dream gave me the information I wanted. Her name was Moon Beam.

I hesitated for a moment about disturbing her, it just looked so peaceful… what more, this dream felt like it was a memory and not just something her brain had made up… but I felt like I really needed to talk to her.

Tapping my hoof against the ground, I felt the dream solidify around us. She didn’t react before her ears suddenly twitched as my hooves splashed slightly in the water of the lake.

Moon Beam quickly sat up and looked around, her eyes going wide and her wings spreading in surprise as she spotted me, “Y-you’re…”

“Blank Page,” I said and gave her a small bow, “I’m sorry for intruding, Miss Beam.”

She seemed a bit stunned and then blinked, looking around, “...This is a dream. You’re in my dream.”

“I am,” I agreed and smiled, spreading my wings and flying over to land on the jetty, “And a very nice one it is. Peaceful.”

“...It’s close to where I grew up,” she said quietly and then eyed me hesitantly, “...Are you really here?”

I shrugged my wings, “I am. But then again, that’s what a dream image would say, wouldn’t he?” I admitted with a smile, “If you like I can send a letter tomorrow?”

Her cat-like eyes widened and she quickly bowed, “I’m sorry, my Lord!”

I frowned at her, “What for?” I asked as I approached, “If anything, I’m the one that’s apologizing, I am intruding after all.”

She hesitated and got up again, “I… I mean… royalty…”

“Barely, royalty,” I corrected her with a smile, “I married into it, I’m not an actual Prince.”

Moon Beam frowned, “But…” and spread her left wing, glancing back at it before she squeaked and turned to run as she realized her illusion wasn’t active.

She galoped in place as I moved up next to her.

“Miss Beam,” I told her calmingly, “I know you know what I look like now. Would I, if anypony, be bothered by you being a thestral?”

“But, but, but...!”

She shied away a bit and I sighed, spreading my wings and shifting the light slightly, making the light glitter in my eyes.

Moon Beam was breathing heavily but stopped running, watching me with wide eyes, “L-Lord Page…”

I shook my head, “Just Page if you don’t mind? I never was much for titles.” before I sat down, “...It’s not right that you need to hide.”

Moon Beam hesitated and her ears flicked to the side before she sank down too, looking down and to the side, “Other ponies would… be afraid.”

“...Yeah,” I admitted and sighed, “I noticed ponies being nervous since… this,” I said and shifted my wings again, “That doesn't make it right.”

Moon Beam tensed slightly and then looked at me, “...That’s you, sir. Any normal po… any normal thestral would be driven out of town.”

I frowned at her, “I’m sure that’s not right. The Lunar Guard pegasi looks like thestrals while in uniform.”

“And everypony knows they aren’t really thestrals,” Moon Beam said quietly and brushed her hoof against the jetty, “And I know how mom reacted when she discovered dad was really a thestral… and me.”

“Moon Beam, I’m sorry…”

“Ponies hate us,” she said softly, “They are afraid of us and they hate us. I have friends, but if they really knew what I was, they wouldn’t be my friends anymore.”

I shook my head, “That’s not true.”

The look on her face told me that she didn’t believe me.

Chapter 11

“She was afraid,” I told Luna, “Afraid her friends would abandon her if they discovered what she really is.”

Luna hesitated and shifted her wings, her ears flicking once before she answered, “There…” she shook her head, “I don’t know. That’s how ponies reacted before I… left. That was one of the reasons my Guard is like it is with the pegasi disguises.”

I looked to her in surprise, “I can’t believe it would still be like that. It’s been a thousand years!”

Luna sighed, “I know.”

I frowned at her, “...No, I’m sorry, but I cant believe that’s true. Sure, ponies have been a bit hesitant since these,” I said and shifted my wings, “But I can’t believe they would literally shun a thestral out of town!”

Sunset shifted a bit on the bed next to me across from Luna. She frowned slightly as she watched me, “Page… I don’t know…”

I looked at her in surprise, “What?”

Sunset sighed softly, “Page… you know ponies are easily… startled by things they aren’t used to,” she admitted.

“There is a difference between being unsure about unknown beings and outright rejecting ones you know because they are different!”

I shook my head and got up, “I’ll prove it. Tomorrow I’ll disguise myself as a regular thestral and go out on town and have lunch.”

There was a scramble of hooves against the floor and Amber jumped into view landing next to the bed, her wings buzzing as she glared up at me, “No, sir!”

I blinked down at her, “What?”

“You’re not putting yourself into unnecessary danger!” she stated and stomped one hoof, “It was bad enough that you snuck out without guards yesterday!”

“That’s not the-”

“You did what!?” Luna exclaimed and quickly sat up, “Page! They are there for a reason! What i-”

“You can’t just ditch them!” Sunset said as she looked at me with a frown, “I know you don’t like it, but-”

“Enough!” I said loudly and stomped my hoof on the bed, the lack of a sound somewhat running the effect, as I spread my wings and I looked between all three of them, “I’m doing this.”

Neither Sunset nor Luna looked exactly happy about that idea but Amber looked outright rebellious.

I jumped off the bed and folded my wings again, “I need to know, and I need to know as soon as possible. Because if that’s true, it’s not right and needs to be fixed.”

Sunset shared a look with Luna before jumping off the bed and moving up to give me a small nuzzle, “Page… I didn’t say it shouldn’t change,” she said softly, “But I just don’t see how to make ponies accept somepony.”

I slipped my wing around her back and pulled her close, nuzzling back and touching my horn against hers, “You did.”

“...I’m not a usual pony,” Sunset admitted, “For one thing, I spent years as a bipedal primate. Besides, I knew… I knew where it was from and for what.”

I frowned at her before Luna moved up to my other side, slipping a wing across both of our backs, giving me a nuzzle at my ear,

“I would like for nothing more than to let Thestrals be accepted,” she told me softly, “I have tried to do that before, with my guard. While the guard, as you say, is accepted… it’s not to say the same would happen to thestrals in public. I don’t know for sure how it is now, but I know how it was before I was detained.”

“It’s been a thousand years, My Sky,” I told her with a small sigh, nuzzling back, “If it hasn't changed, then it’s way past time that it does. Too many generations have been forced to live hidden from other ponies. If that’s what’s going on, it’s stopping. Now.”

“But you’re taking your guards,” Luna told me, “Promise me that.”

“Luna, I can’t do this if I’m followed around by two ponies everywhere I go!”

“What about another couple of Changelings?” Amber suggested as she moved around to face us, “I can talk to Princess Skitter.”

Sunset nodded, “That works for me.”

I sighed and shook my head but Luna nodded as well,

“That seems like a reasonable compromise, doesn’t it, Page?” Luna asked and looked at me, “...For us?”

Don’t look at me like that, I’m weak, okay?

“...Okay,” I agreed with a small sight, “I suppose that’s fair enough.”

Chapter 12

I went in for landing in the alley, double checking that the illusion was wrapped tightly around myself. It actually wasn't much of a disguise really. Altered my features slightly, hid my horn and changed my coat to be more of a darkish gray and my regular mark was replaced with a silvery ring. Same one I had when going on the 'secret' dates with Luna. Seemed fitting for a bat pony anyway. The rest was just minor cosmetic changes, like muzzle shape and such.

Check done, I stretched my wings for a second before I took a deep breath and folded them again before trotting out on the street, making sure my small satchel was in it's place.

I made my way down the cobblestone street at an easy trott, ignoring the looks I was getting. Or trying to at least.

Nopony was mobbing me, but it was a bit disconcerting all the same. Ponies were usually friendly creatures, but they didn't look at me like that. I had expected some uncertainty, they aren't used to bat ponies after all. At least not outside Luna's guard. But I got at least as many outright hostile looks as I got uncertain ones, but the most common one was surprise and then hurrying away.

That was... unsettling.

If it was always like this, I got why thestrals stayed hidden. Even if they aren't chased out of town, this kind of thing day in and day out...

I paused for a second and looked around before I crossed the street, waiting for a wagon to move past before I entered a bakery and approached the counter, "Hello," I said with a smile, doing my best not to show any fangs, "I'd like to order a set o-"

"You got any Bits?" the mare behind the counter interrupted me before I could finish. She was an earth pony with a goldenish coat and a darked brown mane.

I blinked at her in surprise, "Of course," I said and patted my satchel with a smile, "I'd like to order three cinnamon buns, please."

"Sure," she said and pulled three from the display and slid them into a paper bag, putting it on the counter, "That'll be six bits."

I dug the Bits from the satchel and put them on the counter. She took them and put them in the drawer before putting the bag on the counter for me to take as she stared at me.

Last I was here, she had been all smiles and chatting away. Even when I was an unknown unicorn, not an alicorn.

Taking the small bag, I slid it into my satchel and left the store, glancing back for a second by the door.

This was... bad. Not very scientific though, she was just one pony after all and there are people like that in pretty much any group. She likely wasn't used to bat ponies, that's all. Might just even been a bad day, who knows?

I really hope she was just having a bad day.

Taking a breath, I trotted down the street before searching up a small park I knew was there from before, or more specifically, the small park bench I knew was there. I had spent hours there in the past when writing or reading.

Finding it unoccupied, I jumped onto it and settled down to enjoy my cinnamon buns.

Or try to at least. It wasn't easy considering the looks I was drawing. A unicorn turned around and guided her foal back the way they came rather than walk past. That one hurt the most I think.

This was...

I never thought ponies could act like this. Especially since I was essentially just a pegasus, if different because of a curse thousands of years ago. Even then, bat ponies had not hunted ponies for blood for almost as long.

Was it ponies just being careful? It didn't feel like it. ...Did Changelings go through the same thing?

"Excuse me? Sir?"

I looked up to find a pair of solar guards approaching me, the now familiar double image of their armour illusion overlaid over them. In reality, the unicorn on the left had a blue coat while the pegasus on the right had more of a light pink.

"Yes?" I asked, putting my second bun down on the paper bag, "Can I help you, guardsman?"

The unicorn sighed slightly, "I'm going to need you to move along, we have gotten a report you are causing a public commotion."

I blinked at him, "Excuse me? I'm just having lunch. I'm not bothering anypony."

"Even so, I need you to move on, you are disturbing ponies."

I had expected better from a member of the guard. Any of the guards. Guardsman Silver Spear and Silent Cloud, and don't think I didn't recognize both of them, were likely to be having some rather unpleasant dreams tonight.

I took a slow deep breath, suppressing the sudden impulse of dropping the illusion and letting them know exactly what I was thinking about their actions.

I had to finish this experiment after all for it to be valid.

"Very well," I answered with a sigh, putting my remaining buns away and jumping off the bench to leave the park. When I'm done with lunch, I'm going to see if I can find a job for the day. They are always looking for ponies to carry cargo and things like that.

That didn't go as well.

Chapter 13

"I just don't know what to do about it," I admitted, rubbing my hoof against Ferns head. The timberwolf was laying next to me almost like a pile of branches, enjoying the attention.

Sunset was pressed up to my other side, cuddled up beneath my wing with her head against my neck. By the time I got back to the tower, I had been just about ready to kill somepony by defenestration. Sunset apparently recognized my mood instantly and spent the next hour calming me down to just beneath raging fury.

"I understand it didn't go well," Sunny asked and shifted to touch her horn against mine.

"It was... bad," I sighed and slid my horn against hers for a second before I shook my head, "You remember earth?"

"Yes?" Sunset asked with a frown, “Did spend some time there.”

"How's your human history?" I asked and then looked at her again, "Does, minority in the 1960s sound familiar?"

Sunset cringed, "We... covered some of it in history class and such," she said and frowned, "Really?"

"Well... nopony tried to lynch me," I said mildly and raised my eyebrows, "So that's good I suppose. And nopony outright refused to let me buy their stuff. But getting a job for the day? Nope, wasn't happening."

I think somepony might have actually thrown a bottle after me when I left. I didn’t see it though, just heard the crash. He might have dropped it.

"I'm sorry," Sunset said and sighed, "I had a feeling it could be bad, but still."

"Yeah. And I don't know what to do about it," I said with a frown, scraping my hood against Ferns barch, "Amber?"

"Yes, sir?" Amber asked and poked her head out from behind the closest armchair to look at us.

"...Does ponies treat changelings the same way?" I asked her with a frown.

Amber actually hesitated, "...Some are hesitant or angry if we are in our real forms," she admitted, "If we're as disguised we’re not persecuted… well, usually not. We’re not allowed to fully disguise in public."

"Because they don't realize you're a changeling."

"I don't know, sir."

I growled and bared my fangs.

That's just stupid. Changelings were our allies now! Had been for years! Sure, they had invaded Canterlot, but that was years ago now and ponies had to be used to Changelings by now. They didn't even have the excuse of being unused to bat ponies!

Sunset nuzzled at my neck and I sighed, pulling her closer with my wing, turning my head to nuzzle at her ear,

"I haven't seen you this angry since Tirek," she said quietly.

"I haven't been this angry since Tirek," I snarled softly and flicked my ears, my wings raising, "Nor as disappointed in ponies. I thought I left this kind of shit behind with my old species!"

Sunset nuzzled in beneath my chin, "Calm, Page. For me? Please?" she said softly.

I closed my eyes and took slow, deep breaths. She was right. While fear was the mind-killer, burning red fury was even worse at making you not think. While throwing ponies out of windows might make me feel better, it wouldn't be very constructive to the problem at hoof.

"...Thanks," I finally said and opened my eyes, looking to Sunset, "I'm sorry, Sunny."

She smiled a bit at me, "Don't worry about it, wingboy. I know it's infuriating, it's making me angry too, just hearing about it from you."

Stroking my wing along her back, I nodded, "Yeah, but I still shouldn't be taking it out on you. I'm sorry, none of it is your fault. It's just frustrating and I don't know what I can possibly do to fix it!"

Sunset rolled onto her back and looked up at me, "No ideas?"

"...None right now that doesn't involve ponies and windows," I grumbled and sighed, laying down to rest my head against her chest as she put her forelegs around me, "But I have to do something. I don't know how many thestrals there are, but I know of at least four and even one pony being treated like this is..."

I growled again and Sunset nuzzled at my ear and I settled down again, closing my eyes, trying my best not to hiss.

"We'll figure something out," Sunny said gently, nuzzling at my ear, "I promise we'll figure something out. I'll ask Twi for help, she'll be able to think of something."

If anyone could, it would be the Princess of Friendship, wouldn't it?

I nodded against her soft coat, "Okay,” as Fern set his head down across my back and I reached to rub his back with my wing.

Chapter 14

The sound of my hooves seemed to echo through the hallway as I made my way through the castle. It was afternoon... or early morning for me... and ponies were moving all over the place on their duties. Guards, castle admin staff, even a few maids could be seen.

I tried not to get in any of their way, but I didn't let any of them delay me from my destination.

Stopping by a pair of doors, I looked to the guards outside it, "is she in?"

"Princess Celestia is currently in a meeting, your Highness," Sergeant Clear Blade answered from the left of the door, "I believe it will be finished in a few hours."

"Hey, good news, change of schedule," I said and walked past them to push the doors open.

I really disliked doing that to them as both of them kind of twitched. Their orders were to not let anyone in, I knew that, but.. alicorn.

"...Sir," Clear Blade said and moved a bit to get in my way, "Princess Celestia is in a meeting with the representative of the tax service. I'm not to let anypony past..."

"I understand that, sergeant," I told him, "But this is something that potentially affects the lives and freedom of hundreds of ponies. Please stand aside, I am going through those doors. Guards or no guards."

He looked profoundly unhappy but didn't move, "I...I have my orders, sir," he said, "But I may ask Princess Celestia for clarification?"

My respect for him went up another couple of notches and I paused, giving him a nod, "Go."

He bowed briefly and then backed up and wrote a small note on a piece of paper before he knocked on the door and opened it a crack before slipping the note through where it was quickly grabbed by a yellow magical aura.

A few seconds later I heard Celestia's voice, "Let him in, Sergeant."

He opened the door and I moved past, giving him a nod on the way before I entered the room. I looked to the unicorn with stacks of papers laid out before him on Celestia's Desk, "Leave us."

Penny Pincher quickly turned to me, "Lord Page, I don't think you quite realize wha-" he started to say before he just kind of trailed off and swallowed before he quickly nodded, "I-I think it may be just about time to break for lunch," he said and then quickly bowed to Celestia, "W-with your permission, Princess?"

"We can continue later," she agreed and he quickly left the room. Almost fled.

Celestia quickly got up and rounded the desk as the door closed behind him, her horn flashing and the outline of the walls and doors quickly flashed, signalling a sound dampening spell, "Page, what's wrong?"

I scraped my hoof against the marble floor and shifted my wings before I looked to her, "Do you know how many bat ponies there are?"

Celestia blinked and then frowned slightly, "I don't. I know they are rare."

"I don't know either," I told her, "Could be a dozen left. A hundred. Couple of thousand. Nopony knows. Do you know why?"

She shifted her wings slightly as she frowned at me, "They can use their illusion to look like pegasi?"

"And almost every single one does," I said before I looked up at her, "Because if they don't, do you know how they are treated?"

Celestia actually flinched slightly before she sighed, "...Yes. I do."

I looked at her for a long moment, "Do you know what I did yesterday?"

Celestia nodded and slowly sank down to sit, "The same thing I did a hundred and eleven years ago."

I blinked at her in surprise, "What?"

She shook her head sadly and looked to me, "About a hundred and eleven years ago, it struck me that it was a very long time since I last saw an actual bat pony. So I did some research into the matter. I managed to find a few dozen and I talked to them. I then tried to go out in public after using a transformation spell to look like one. I... suspect my experience was similar to yours."

I stomped my hoof against the marble floor with an echoing crack, "So why didn't you do anything about it!?"

Celestia sighed sadly, "Do what, Page? There are already laws against discriminating against ponies based on their tribe... and yes, thestrals count as one. There aren't enough thestrals around to let ponies get used to seeing them every day, even with the Lunar guard. They are already protected under the law, same as everypony else."

I raised my wings, "But there has to be something!"

"What would you have me do, Page?" she said gently, "Order ponies to be kind? Do it by force? There is only so much even alicorns and princesses can do."

I looked at her for a long moment before I felt my ears droop and I sank down to sit as well, refolding my wings, "...I don't know..."

Celestia scooted a bit closer, slipping a foreleg around me along with a wing and I hugged back, leaning against her warmth.

What do we do?

Celestia gave my mane a small nuzzle, “You’re right, Page. It’s way past time that something is done. We’ll figure something out, I promise.”

“I know where we have to start,” I said against her coat, “The guard.”

Celestia tensed and then slowly shifted to look down at me, looking into my eyes, “What did they do?” she asked.

Last time I heard that tone from her, she threatened to burn the griffon ambassador alive.

I put my hoof on her chest with a small smile, “Relax, Sunshine. I just think we need to give them some clearer rules of conduct.”

Celestia frowned slightly before she nodded, “Very well.”

Chapter 15

'Most of you have read about me or heard about me. Some of you have read my books. My name is Blank Page and I need your help. Ponies are united in Equestria, Unicorns, Earth Ponies and Pegasi living in harmony under the protection of the Princesses, but they aren't the only ponies that exist. There is a fourth tribe. I am speaking about Thestrals, or as most call them, bat ponies.

I am part thestral myself. Where the princesses take on the aspect of a pegasus, I instead have that of a thestral. I am now reaching out to all the thestrals in Equestria, I want you to contact me. Send me a letter. You don't need to say where you are from or even your real name, I just want to hear from you, every one of you. I want to hear about your lives, your experiences. I know your lives are difficult and I want to help, but to do that, I need to know how I can help.

Some ponies have horns. Some have wings. Some are strong. Some see in the dark. All are ponies and it is important that you all remember that, no matter what. But that's not limited to ponies either, Equestria hosts a great number of other creatures, not just ponies, griffons, zebras, changelings and minotaurs as well as many others also live here. All which deserve your respect and the right to walk the streets without fear or shame.

The fact is, that some can't.

And that is against everything Equestria has stood for since the unification. Since the defeat of the Wendigos.

There are great dangers in this world, forces that might threaten us and the strongest ones are inside us. Every word said in spite, every glance of maliciousness, every action to hurt somepony... some creature... all of them cut both ways.

To hurt somepony else is to hurt yourself.

So I have only this to say to everypony that reads this: Be good to each other, have a good Hearth's Warming and remember what it's all about.

Prince-Consort Blank Page, Alicorn of Stories and Dreams'

"What the buck is this?" Sunset asked and dropped the newspaper on me.

"Not so loud," I groaned and rolled over. Luna barely stirred next to me at the movement, her wings relaxed against the bed, her mane slowly drifting around her, a dome of yellow magic covered her, presumably to not wake her while also allowing Sunset to yell at me freely.

That's good.

Shaking my head, I struggled up to sit, rubbing my eyes with a hoof as I blinked against the morning light. The way too early morning light leaking in through cracks of the curtain. Suppressing a yawn, I blinked down at the newspaper by my hooves, "That," I said and stretched my wings before jumping off the bed, "Is the open letter to the nation I sent to every major newspaper last night."

Sunset stared at me for a long second before rubbing her forehead with a hoof, "Page... was that really a good idea?"

"Yes," I told her and blinked, trying to keep my eyes open, "I mean, not my best piece of writing ever, but I hope it gets the idea across."

Sunset sighed and moved up to me, touching her horn to mine, "Page, that's not..." she started before she stopped and started over, "Don't you think that's risky?"

"Telling people to be good to each other?" I asked and smirked at her, "Dangerous, I know, but I don't expect to be crucified for it, if that's what you're asking."

She blinked at me, "Wha-" before she facehooved, "...So not what I meant. The thing about batponies."

"What about it?"

Sunset shifted around and lifted the paper up so I could see it, "The fact that they have been able to keep hidden so well has been a good thing for them. Even if they aren't exactly pointed out by this, it will make ponies more aware that they are-"

"Good," I said with a nod, looking to her, "The only way ponies will ever get used to seeing them is if they are actually seen. Ignorance is the bullshit that bigotry and fear thrives in, Sunset."

She hesitated slightly before she nodded, "...You're right," she admitted quietly, "I'm just worried... what if you're wrong?"

I had worried about the same thing before I sent the letters out to be published. But it needed to be done, I don't know how many thestrals there really were, but I had met two and knew of two more. Four were already too many that had to hide who they really were.

"I know," I told her and touched my horn to hers again, "But it had to be done, and it's the only way to get at least some idea about the population data," I admitted, "...You can't filter bat ponies from pegasi in the dreams, I tried. At least I didn’t find a way to do it yet. Even if only ten percent actually mail in, at least it gives me some idea. If I get two answers, there likely isn't very many. But if I get a hundred, there might be thousands in total."

"...Will give us at least some idea," Sunset agreed and flicked her ears, "...Sorry for waking you." she apologized and then gave me a small nuzzle.

I nuzzled back and then suppressed a small yawn, "It's fine. Well, I'm up, so might as well get going. Any answer from Sparky yet?"

"Not yet."

Chapter 16

I hate winter.

Sure, curling up by a fireplace with My Sky or Sunny was amazing. But pretty much everything else about it sucked. When it wasn't freezing cold and howling with wind and snowing, it was freezing cold and absolutely burning bright outside with the sun glaring down from above and reflecting from the sun, making it even worse.

I hate winter so much.

Amber seemed to be in agreement with my opinion. The changeling didn't look overly happy where she trotted along next to me, bundled up with a cloak, a scarf and a warm winter hat. Similar to what I was wearing myself and it was still chilly, even with a warming spell on each of us.

"Nice day today," Iron Shine said cheerfully, trotting along on my other side. She was one of the members of my Legion and the one that was assigned to follow me around outside the castle today. She was an earth pony with grey coat and platinum hair with an iron bar cutiemark. She was also half a hoof taller than me and easily outmassed me by at least fifty percent, all of which was muscles.

She made Applejack look scrawny, but she wasn't even that bulky either, it was all lean muscle. Just… a lot of it. Layers upon layer.

I was fairly sure it was out of politeness that she used doors rather than just walk through walls.

What was even more unfair was that other than a nice knitted red scarf, she looked completely unbothered by the temperature outside.

"...How can you not be freezing? It's like twenty below."

"Eh, this counts as spring weather home in Stalliongrad, sir," she said cheerfully, "So where are we off to today?"

"I was planning to see if I could find a few Hearth's Warming gifts," I told her, "So I was thinking to visit the usual jewelry store and maybe go past Rarity's and see what we can find for Sunset. I have Luna's ready already, but I also need something for Celestia and Twilight and Midnight. Midnight and Twilight are pretty easy, I have a couple of rare books on order. Sunshine is a bit more difficult."

I mean, seriously. Sunshine was as difficult to shop for as Luna. What do you get a woman that already has literally everything?

...I guess I could get her a spa gift card or something. Bet I would even get it for free just because they'd get Princess Celestia visit their establishment.

Assuming she'd even actually ever get the time to actually use the thing.

I might think I'm busy, but Celestia was even busier than Luna who was even busier than I was.

Maybe a democratic revolution would be appreciated so they could both retire?

Now that was tempting, the idea of getting six or so more hours of Luna time a day was... a nice one. But not like I'd ever have the time to go through with it and with my luck, I'd end up as Emperor instead.

...Then again, every Emperor needed a royal harem so...

Pushing that silly thought away, I grinned and shook my head, "Let's go somewhere we can get inside before we freeze solid. Maybe we should visit Silvers place, it is on the way and some spice tea sounds nice right about now. What do you two think?"

"Yes please," Amber agreed quickly.

I kicked a bit at the new snow on the street as we made our way towards Silvers Cafe when a pink pegasus suddenly landed in front of us. Iron Shine quickly stepped between us when the Pegasus looked at me, "Prince Page!" she said and then bowed deeply, her wings spread wide.

I could see through her illusion. She was a thestral, light grey, almost white coat with a silvery mane. Her dark cloud cutiemark was almost identical to her illusions and she was wearing a heavy dark blue winter coat with slits in it for her wings.

"It's alright, Shine," I said and moved past the larger Earth Pony, "and there is no need to bow," I told the Thestral.

She looked up, meeting my eyes before she stood up again as she pulled a scroll from her small Equestrian Postal Service Satchel, "But there is, My Prince," she said and handed the scroll over, "From me, my brother and my mother," she continued quieter with a small shy smile before she quickly backed away and spread her wings, taking to the skies.

I looked after her before looking down at the scroll in my hoof for almost half a second before Iron Shine snatched it from my hoof and quickly put it away in her satchel,

"It's not scanned for spells!" she said firmly.

"I can do that myself," I grumbled half heartedly before looking in the direction the bat pony had disappeared in for a long second before I shook my head, "...Come on, I'm starting to lose feeling in my hooves.”

Chapter 17

Seventy six.

Seventy six letters!

Three days and I had already received seventy six letters in total! That was more than I had ever expected to receive. Well, after filtering out the crazies and angry ponies anyway. But we’re not counting those, they didn’t reach me anyway, they were filtered out beforehoof.

Now I had the majority of it spread all around myself on the couch and the table, reading them and taking notes as I went. Sunset was long asleep in the bedroom and it was late at night, Luna’s pet rock shining in through the windows, the night air crystal clear.

Luna sighed from her place by her desk and let her head drop down to rest on the stack of papers before her, “I wish I could make my sister do these.”

I smiled and looked over to her, “Tax reports?”

“Funding requests,” she grumbled without lifting her head before she groaned and sighed again, “It needs to be done, but that does not make it anymore fun.”

“Be glad it’s only the major ones,” I said and gently put down a letter from a little filly from Manehattan. She wasn’t a batpony, but she sent me one anyway. She thought my wings looked cool. She made a drawing too.

I’m going to have to answer to that one especially, it was one of the rare ones with a return address on it.

It was one of the few ones that made me smile. The stories seemed to have similar enough themes. Not going in public without their illusions, afraid of what might happen if they did.

Some lived out of the villages, away from the cities. Almost like Fluttershy did. Kept away from other ponies.

It just made me... so sad.

They shouldn’t need to live like that just to not be shunned by other ponies. Driven away. It shouldn’t be like that, but how do I fix it?

“I know,” Luna sighed, “But that does not make it anymore enjoyable. How are things going for you, My Page?”

“Depressing,” I admitted, “They should not need to go through this.”

“I didn’t expect so many,” Luna admitted, “I thought they were almost gone in this time.”

“Seventy five,” I said and looked at the letters around me, “Even counting that I expected maybe ten percent to answer, that’s still less than a thousand thestrals. That may sound like a lot, unless you compare it to the pegasi population.”

Luna nodded and jumped off her seat by the desk and crossed over to me, “I… I’m not sure if it is wrong of me to wish for it to be all of them,” she admitted, “The thought of all these ponies… yet alone hundreds more to be forced to live like that is not a nice one.”

I sighed and gave her a small nuzzle, “I want the reverse,” I said and then smiled at her questioning look, “I want there to be thousands upon thousands of bats in hiding!”


“Because then there is a small chance for them to get normal lives,” I said and motioned towards the letters, “All of this… all of this can be made to go away, forced away. Knowledge is the poison of fear and ignorance. If there are many thousands of batponies, there is a chance that they can be common enough to get acceptance!”

“Did you think that would… work?” Luna asked uncertainly.

I nodded and gathered the letters up, moving them to the side to give Luna room to join me on the couch, “I do,” I said as she jumped up to lay down next to me, “It did for your guard. Nopony blink at eye at the sight of a pegasus in batpony armour. It’s when it’s clearly not in armour, but a real batpony that it’s a problem. That can be fixed with familiarity, but only if there are enough thestrals to reach the critical density needed for ponies to get used to them!”

At least that’s pretty much how I think it will work with ponies. With humans it would be a tossup, but ponies are generally nervous herd beings. When they get used to something, it’s usually no longer a problem

For crying out loud, ponies had stopped looking nervous when I walked around town with Fern on a lead! My wings were still drawing looks, but I had only been in public a legfull of times since my new... look.

Luna slipped her wing across my back, nuzzling softly at my mane, “I hope you’re right. I think you may be, but I don’t know. I tried.”

“I know, My Sky,” I said and turned my head to give her a small kiss, “I don’t know if this can ever be truly fixed… and mind this only works if there is enough and if they are all willing to stop hiding. I don’t know, maybe it’s not possible,” I admitted, “But it’s the only idea I have right now. I don’t know,” I repeated, “I sent Sparks a letter about it a few days ago to see if she has any ideas as Princess of Friendship and smartest pony I know, see what she comes up with. But I think she’s busy with other things right now.”

Luna nodded and nuzzled with a small sigh, “You should get some sleep, My Page.”

“...Yeah, it’s late,” I admitted and leaned against her, resting my head against her neck, “But I don’t want to. I want to stay here with you.”

Luna smiled softly and gave me a small kiss.

Chapter 18


I stopped halfway down the corridor to see Midnight galloping towards me, "Midnight? What's wrong?"

She almost slid to a half as she stopped with a grin, "Nothing's wrong! We think we got it!"

"You found a way to get back home?" I asked, looking at her in surprise.

Midnight nodded, "Yes! Twilight and I spent the last couple of weeks on the calculations and spell matrix equations, but we think we got it!"

"I would have thought you'd be halfway home already, what are you doing here?"

Midnight shifted her wings with a grin, "Packing."

D'oh. Of course.

"And, I wanted to invite everypony to come see me off," she said with a smile, "I was on my way to Princ- to Celestia when I ran into you. Do you and Luna want to come?"

"Of course we'll be there," I told her with a smile, "And Sunset too."

"Thanks," Midnight said and sighed softly, "...I'm going to miss this place."

"But home is better," I told her, "You have friends waiting for you back home."

"I know," Midnight said, "But I'll miss everypony here too. I think I found a way to send messages back and forth, but… without testing it, I can’t be sure if it will work."

I nodded, "You have been here for a while now... year and a half?"

"Almost," she agreed, "I wonder what happened at home while I was gone. Did Starlight win? What happened?" she asked and then shook her head, "I can't worry about that yet. I just have to fix it when we get back."

"Maybe asking Celestia for one of those alicorn sets of armour for you before you leave wouldn't be a bad idea," I said, "Just in case... When will you end up? I mean, you were in the middle of time travel when Discord snatched you from the timestream. Do you end up when you started, when it ended, in the middle?"

Midnight shrugged her wings, "According to the calculations, I should be dropped back at the start of the original spell, just before the scroll, me and spike was sucked into the vortex and then we'll go through it again. But... I wouldn't hurt to be prepared," she then admitted, "I'll ask when I meet Celestia."

"Doesn't hurt to be careful," I said and flicked my right ear.

Midnight nodded, "I have spent quite a bit of time talking with Starlight too," she said, "Try to find some way to talk her other self down. I have some ideas I think might work."

"That's good. But just to be sure..."

"Wear armor, I know," Midnight agreed, "And Twilight has taught me a bit more about how to defend myself if necessary."

"Always a good thing to know, just in case," I said with a smile, "So, where are you doing the spell thing?"

"At the library and the crystal map," she answered and shrugged her wings again, "only place it can be done, really. It uses the metamagical frequency of the maps-"

I held up my hoof, "You lost me at metamagical," I said, "I'm not bad at spells, but I'm nowhere near your or even Sunset’s level when it comes to theory. I can follow a spell casting diagram and that's pretty much all."

Midnight flicked her ears in question but nodded in acceptance, "...To be fair, that's about all you really need," she said, "But it's so much fun!"

I grinned, "I'll get into studying advanced magical theory the moment Sunshine extends the day to be forty eight hours instead of twenty four."


"Oh yeah," I sighed, "There is the batponies, dream patrols, whatever is going on with the 'lings this second, and then to try to make peace between Sunshine and Sunny, I think Sunny is still pissed Celestia blasted me off the tower... then getting ready for Hearth's Warming, and I have a gift for you to bring back home, by the way. and a million other things. Not to mention that my publisher is riding my tail about actually getting the draft finished on the new book."

Midnight actually cringed, "...And here I am, taking up even more of your time."

"Oh no," I told her and quickly shook my head with a smile, "There is always time for friends. I'll make time if nothing else."

She smiled and flicked her ears, “I know what that’s like,” she admitted with a small sigh, “From back home… and here I suppose.”

I nodded, “Sparky is the same.”

“Speaking of busy,” she said, “...I should likely go find Celestia and then get packing.”

“And I need to go find Sunset.”

...And raid the kitchens for mangoes, but let’s not tell anypony about that. I need to find out where they get their hooves on those too, it’s the middle of the winter!

Do they have hidden magical mango farms? Or are they imported? Or kept somehow in magical stasis?

Whatever it was, I needed to find out because a steady supply of mango was critical to the running of Equestria.


And not just because I liked to snack on them and because they have turned into my favorite fruit lately.

Not at all.

I glanced off towards the way Midnight left in. As glad as I was that she and her Spike is going home, I’ll miss her.

We had just started to become friends.

Chapter 19

The party was in full swing and I was already tired.

Because of strange sleep patterns I had just not slept because we would leave Canterlot just like four hours later than I usually go to bed, so I just went “buck it” and stayed up reading instead.

In retrospect, might not have been the best idea in the world.

On the bright side, it wouldn’t ruin my sleep pattern and a small nap like that would only make me more tired.

On the other hoof, fuuuuck.

Because of course there was a party, it was Ponyville and somepony was doing something, which meant Pinkie Pie knew about it, which meant party. A large banner was stretched across the library 'Goodbye Midnight and Spike!' written across it.

The library was packed to say the least. Celestia, Luna, Twilight, Midnight, Sunset, the Elements and a dozen other ponies I didn't know. The large stone table in the middle and the shelves didn't exactly help.

It was warm, it was loud and I would almost rather go outside into the biting cold snow, just to cool off a little. Maybe for a little bit.

I don't like parties. At most, I tolerate them. Okay, they aren't that bad when I know ponies there, but I never found them actually fun. Especially something like this because when this one was over, Twilight and Midnight would cast the spell and then Midnight would leave for home with her Spike.

Then I'll lose a friend. Sure, we weren't that close, she was always too busy doing research, but we had spent some time together and I will miss her.

At the same time I was happy for her, she'd get to go home to her world, to her friends again. She had worked for that for over a year now and finally gotten it right.

"Here," Sunset said as she moved up next to me, a glass floating in her magic.

"Thanks," I said and gave her a small nuzzle before sipping the cool drink, "How's the party?"

"Pinkie Party. Which always means that it's going to be a good one," Sunset said and then looked to me, "How are you doing?"

"Tired, it's early," I admitted, "And not really a party kind of pony. And as much as I'm glad she found a way back home, I am sad we'll never see her again."

Sunset nodded, "...Yeah, I know how you mean."

"Did you get that letter to the other you done?" I asked, sipping my drink again.

Sunset nodded, "Yep. Hope she listens to it, I think it will make her happy if she does."

"...You told her to ask Midnight out?"

"Maaaybe," Sunset said with a grin, "What, it worked out great for me!"

"True that," I agreed, "...And I may have sent a letter to her Luna too in the package of books to Midnight."

Sunset nodded and gave me a small nuzzle, "I'm going to go talk to Midnight."

I nodded, "I'll talk to her when things have calmed down a little."

Sunset moved off, shifting course and rounding the table on the other side from Celestia rather than brush past her. She was still pissed at her then. I don't know if I should talk to her about it or let them work it out themselves, but It couldn't keep going like that forever. After Sunset and Celestia made up after Sunset came back to Equestria, it had been good for both of them. Sunset being angry with Sunshine wasn't good for either of them and I know I hurt them.

Sunset blaming Celestia was hurting both of them. Almost as much as Celestia blaming herself. I just hated seeing it.

Celestia pretended not to notice as she kept talking with Twilight. But I caught her looking at Sunset before turning back to her conversation.

But you know what? No. I'm staying out of it and they can damn well solve it themselves. As much as I hate seeing it, they are both adults and I have too much on my plate already!

Speaking of which...

I looked around and quickly found the corner with Fluttershy in it. Sipping my drink, I moved around the library, moving past ponies and rounding the big stone table as I made my way over to her, "Hey. Having fun?"

Fluttershy twitched slightly and looked at me in surprise before she nodded with a small smile, "Y-yeah."

"Not much for parties either," I admitted to her, "Just wanted to thank you again for the flying lessons," I said, keeping my voice low, “It helped me a lot. If I tried to do that on my own, I likely still wouldn’t have figured it out.”

"That's a-alright," she said and smiled slightly, "It was fun."

"And painful," I agreed with a smile of my own, "But fun."

"...I didn't send you a letter. W-when you asked. In the paper. I-I didn't know if I should have," she said quietly, glancing around slightly in case anypony got close enough to overhear.

"I know," I told her quietly and shook my head, "Don't worry about it, it was mostly to see how many would. I’m trying to figure out how many of us there are."

She nodded and then looked to me curiously, "How... how many have..."

"Over eighty so far."

Her jaw dropped slightly in surprise.

Chapter 20

The party was long over and Twilight had herded most ponies out of here to get some room to work. Not that it wasn't still fairly crowded right now with five alicorns and a unicorn.

It wasn't the biggest building in the first place, but that many people shouldn't have made it look crowded... if it wasn't for the massive stone table in the middle of it, taking up space and as we gave them as much room as possibly as not to get in the way of their portal.

Midnight was dressed up fully in a silver and purple set of alicorn armour, a pair of saddle bags carried across her bag with her things and my gift of a pocket version of all my current books in it.

Her Spike was next to her, wearing a helmet and some chainmail. It wasn't as much use on him, because, well, dragon. But it was better than nothing

Midnight looked emotional as she looked at us across the table, "I'll miss you, all of you."

"We'll miss you too," Twilight answered, her ears drooping, "and I'll miss having a sister."

The hugging and well wishing was already over. I'm going to miss her, even if the time we had to actually hang out had been limited on both our sides. Her research and my... everything... made it difficult.

Midnight smiled sadly at her, "Me too," before she shook her head and took a deep breath, looking at us, "...Okay, everypony better step back when Twi and I cast the spell. Don't want anypony else going through with me and Spike, that would be bad."

To say the least. I backed well away with Sunset to the side of Celestia and Luna. I did not want to end up in yet another new world! Buck that.

Spike waved to his local counterpart, "Bye," and then climbed onto Midnight's back.

"Bye," Spike answered, peeking out from his place behind the librarians counter. Kid was smart and stayed way back.

"Ready?" Midnight asked, looking at Twilight.

"On three?" Twilight agreed with a nod.

"Three... two... one..."

I slipped my wing across Sunsets back as they counted down and she shifted nervously a bit closer as we watched.

For a couple of seconds nothing happened but their horns started to glow. Then a bright beam lashed out from their horns and met in the middle of the table. The entire thing started to glow brightly, crackling with energy before a new bream shot up into the air above it to form a bright dot that started to slowly grow and expand.

The two elements of magic poured on the power and even across the room I could feel the pure energy in the spell tug at my mane and tail. The just pure power the two mares could put out was jaw dropping.

It was at about that moment I realized that I might have ranked the alicorns wrong. Celestia wasn't the strongest one.

A moment later, I realized something was wrong. About at the same time as multiple thick and slimy grey tentacles lashed out from the portal and grabbed for anypony in range.

"Motherfu-" I started and threw up a spell shield as Sunset ducked out from beneath my wing,


But it was too late, the thickest tentacle lashed across the table and smacked Twilight across the barrel before she could react, sending her flying into a bookshelf with a heavy thunk and crack of what hopefully was broken shelves as books went flying. The spell instantly faltered and Midnight cried out in surprise, just barely able to teleport out of the way, bringing her Spike along as one of the tentacles tried to wrap around one of her legs.

But the hole in the air didn't collapse with the spell, the tentacles almost seemed to strain against the sides, forcing it wider and wider.

Dropping my shield, I cast a cutting spell against the closest tentacle, severing the tip, "Luna!"

"I am on it," Luna answered firmly, casting her own cutting spell towards another of the tentacles, cutting it in half with a spray of ichor. It instantly retreated through the portal and was replaced by a new one. But the portal kept growing.

"Midnight, get Twilight and the Spikes out of here," Celestia ordered and cut off a tentacle of her own, "We'll hold them back."

"Buck holding them back!" Sunset snarled and sent a jet of flame towards the center of the portal, "Blast them!"

A tentacle lashed towards me and I threw up a shield, letting it bounce off before I cut it off, "Sunny, more dots! It's working!"

And it was working, they didn't like her fire, not even a little bit. But it wasn't working anywhere near good enough. The hole was widening and more and more of the tentacles were forcing their way through despite her jets of flame. And I didn't want to know what kind of cthulhu looking motherfucker all those things were attached too.

"Celestia!" I yelled and ducked beneath a flying tentacle tip after Luna's spell blasted it into two, "Burn the fucker!"

"I can't! Not in the middle of a village!"

I hissed and sent a spear of ice up through the growing portal. It didn't seem to help, but it made me feel a bit better.

Midnight teleported back in with a flash of magic and I quickly rushed over to her, ducking beneath a flailing tentacle on the way "Midnight! Get everypony out of the town! Can you do it quickly!?"

She looked at me in surprise before she set her jaw and nodded, "...Give me a minute!" she said before she was gone in a flash again.

"...I'm not sure we have a minute," I said to empty air, looking towards the abomination trying to force its way into reality before I was forced to teleport behind the librarians counter to avoid being a second before I ducked back out and returned fire with cutting spells and spears of ice.

Chapter 21

"Celestia!" Luna yelled, "We can't hold it much longer!"

She was right. We could hurt it, sure. But for every tentacle we blasted apart or burned to a crisp or cut off, another... two or three others... took its place. Meanwhile, the hole in reality just got bigger and bigger. Big enough that at times you could glimpse... things through it. Eyes. Mostly eyes.

So many eyes. Nothing could possibly need that many eyes!

I slammed another spear of ice through the portal, aiming for the eyes whenever I could, but Luna was very much right. We couldn't keep this up. For every tentacle we cut off, three took it’s place.

I ducked beneath another tentacle, just barely shielding against a third one but then then it knocked me back several hoof steps across the wooden floor.

The monstrosity was getting bi-shit!

I ducked and spread my wings for balance, ducking and then lashing out with my magic, running a blade of magic along the tentacle swinging towards me, cutting along its length, ichor spraying through the air before a second blast from Luna cut it in half.

"Everypony! Get out of here!" Celestia yelled.

"If we leave, it'll overwhelm you!" Sunset yelled, her side against Celestias as she sent another jet of burning flame towards the closest tentacle and it retreated, bursting into flames.

I jumped over a low sweep, "Everypony! To me!" I yelled, casting another cutting spell straight across the room, not really aiming. I didn't need to, I couldn't miss by sending it into the mass of tentacles, "Get ready to shield!"

Sunset was the first one there, teleporting from Celestia to me, sending a piercing spell towards the mass the moment she landed. Luna dropped down from the air, wings spread next to me, "Sister! Do it!"

Celestia's horn were already burning with energy as she shot a firespell towards the closest mass of tentacles, but she nodded and spread her wings as her horn seemed to take on an entirely different kind of glow, her mane starting to shift from a ethereal rainbow effect shifting, turning brighter, more orange and yellow as the energy expanded, flowing through it towards the tips… something that started to look disturbingly like a flowing solar eruption,"Everypony! Close your eyes!" she yelled as the glow started to intensify.

The Goddess of the sun was about to come out to play.

Oh shit.

Almost in a panic I threw up the strongest shield bubble I knew, overlapping with Sunset’s and Luna’s. I closed my eyes and looked away, covering my face with one wing, the other I put over Sunsets.

The next second... it wasn't violent. There wasn’t really a loud explosion. I couldn’t even hear it really other than as a whump kind of sound.

I just felt a kind of full body pressure and a heat, almost like standing in the midsummer sun, or perhaps suddenly opening a forge was a better comparison, and things went bright but then it was silent again.

I slowly lowered my wing and opened my eyes, blinking the sunspots out of my eyes as I looked around. Luna had one wing around both me and Sunset as it to protect us, but our shield bubble had kept us safe.

The air was filled with smoke from burning wood and ash, but the portal was gone and so were the tentacles. It didn't take more than a second or two before I spotted Celestia. She was standing right where I last saw her, her white coat gray with ash as debris rained from the sky still, her spectral mane flowing in the bright sunshine.

Bright sunshine through the drifting smoke.

I blinked and looked around. The library was... gone. Just gone. The entire tree was missing, just the base of the walls and roots still stood, smoldering in place, small fires burning.

The only piece that remained was the small circle of floor inside our shield bubble. Ash and small burning pieces of shrapnel still rained down from the sky. The rest of the village seemed intact... ish. The closest houses looked a bit scorched and there were a couple of burning bushes, but none of them looked outright flattened.

Sunset suddenly dropped her shield bubble and struggled out from beneath my wing, "Twi!" she yelled.

Oh shit, Twilight!

"Go!" I told her, dropping my shield as well at the same time as Luna did, "I'll check on Celestia!"

I was worried about Twilight too, but I had to check that Celestia was okay too. Just because she was standing didn’t mean she was anywhere near okay right now.

I shared a look with Luna and we quickly made our way over to Celestia.

"Sister? Are you well?" Luna asked with a frown as we reached her.

Celestia flicked her ears and sighed, "...I'm fine," she said before she took a step back, her right hoof trembling slightly but she put it back down, "But look."

I turned in the direction she was looking in.

The stone table... It was broken in half and looked like it had half melted. Parts of it still glowed a soft red of molten rock..

Well, fuck.

Chapter 22

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I couldn't help!"

"There, there, you did exactly what you should have," I said gently, comforting the mildly hysterical changeling, "you helped evacuate the villagers, you did exactly what you should have."

"But I'm meant to protect you!" Amber protested, "I couldn't!"

"That's right," I said hugging her closer with one foreleg, "You couldn't, at best you might have gotten in the way," I told her firmly, "when it's something like that, you were completely right to stay away and get other ponies away."


"No more buts," I told her, "You did good, Amber. You did very good and if anyone, including Skitter or Chrysalis, gives you shit about it, tell me and I'll let them know exactly what I think about that."

She was outright trembling and I held her tighter, focusing on my love for Luna, for Sunset, for my friends. For everypony I knew.

She started to slowly relax so I slowly let go,

"Where is everypony gathered?"

"...Other side of the hill," Amber said quietly, "It seemed safest. Midnight said to take them there."

"Good filly," I told her with a smile, "Lead the way."

By the time we got to the top of the hill, the adrenaline had started to fade and the trek had felt about five thousand kilometers long. The thick snow on the ground didn’t exactly help either. Even worse, the ichor in my coat and mane had starten to harden despite my best attempts to get it off me.

Despite the large group of ponies gathered a couple of hundred meters beneath the other side of the top of the hill, I spotted Midnight, Sunset and Twilight almost instantly. A pair of alicorns kind of stand out and Sunny's colouration isn't exactly subtle either. What worried me more was the medical personnel gathered around Twilight.

I shared a look with Luna, but before we could run down the hill, Celestia beat us both to the punch and spread her wings, taking flight down to join them.

Quite honestly, I had no idea where she got the energy, but she clearly had the right idea so I followed her into the air to land close by but out of the medics way.

"I'm fine!" Twilight protested my infinite relief.

"You're not fine!" the doctor tending to her said before looking at Princess Celestia, "Princess Twilight has a broken leg, a strained wing and a concussion. We have set her leg, but she needs rest!"

"Twilight, please get some rest," Celestia told her.

"I'm. fi-"

"You're not fine!" Sunset said, putting her hoof down, "It's over. Get some rest."

Sparky looked at her before she sighed and lowered her head again, "...Fine."

Celestia then raised her head, "Everypony, the danger is over, but there are still fires burning in the village. Weather ponies, gather your clouds! Put out the flames!"

I had not even thought about that.

...Maybe I had gotten a bump to the head too and not noticed? Or I was simply completely exhausted. To be fair, it was more than possible it was both.

"Lay down," Luna murmured into my ear, "You look like you are about to fall asleep on your hooves."

I shook my head, "If I lay down, I may actually fall asleep. There is too much to do still. And the ground is snowy."

Luna just nodded, "I will assist the weather ponies with the snow, it will help but out what fires remain."

"I'll..." I started to say that I'd help, but maybe flying about wasn't the best idea right now when I felt dead on my hooves, "...I'll see if I can help too," I continued and as she took to the air, I moved over to Midnight, Sunset and Twilight. Celestia was already rallying ponies back to the village.

Midnight looked between us before her ears drooped, "...I am so sorry, everypony."

Twilight shook her head, "It's not your fault, I was sure it was going to work."

"It was noponies fault," I said as I joined them, "Something went wrong, it happened. It also happens that something goes wrong with high energy magic, it goes way wrong, way fast. Everypony lived, there was some property damage, but we'll all be fine."

Midnight shook her head, "No. It's my fault. I did this, if not for me being here we wouldn't be casting the spell and we-we... I wouldn't be stuck here and the table is broken and..." she trailed off and she burst into tears.

Sunset quickly pulled her into a hug as the rest of the elements galloped up the hill towards us.

I slowly sank down onto the blanket next to Twilight as I looked to Midnight before my legs folded beneath me, "Doesn't make it your fault," I told her firmly.

If anything, it's Discord's fault.

"Hey, Sparky," I then said, looking at Twilight, "...Not sure if you should with a concussion," I asked, shooting a questioning glance to the doctor hovering nearby, "But would you mind spelling this goop off me? I tried my best, but my best cleaning spells apparently aren't good enough."

The doctor nodded, "Some light magic is alright, but nothing straining."

Twilight flicked her ears in agreement and her horn lit up, a bright beam of light flowed across me and in its wake, none of the hardening ichor remained.

"Thanks," I said and struggled back up to sit, giving Midnight and Sunset a hug, "Look after Sparky," I whispered to them, "She hit her head, best keep an eye on her."

Best thing right now is to give Midnight something to do.

Getting a nod from Midnight, I pulled back and spread my wings, taking to the air to fly back towards Ponyville.

Tired or not, I had things to do.

Chapter 23

I awoke to the sound of birdsong and blinked against the light filtering in through the branches of the tree above me. The sun was rising above the horizon in the distance which put it straight into my eyes.

That's what I get for not checking the direction of the sun before going to sleep. Luna was nowhere to be seen, but after I dropped the thing I had been carrying twice, she hard ordered me to get some rest.

She had been right, of course.

No nopony was in sight, other than...

Celestia was standing at the top of the hill, her horn lit brightly, her wings half spread as she raised the sun.

Her coat shone in the bright light, even dusted with ash still, she looked… radiant.

I rubbed my eyes for a second against the light before struggling up to sit with a yawn, finding myself bundled up in a thick blanket, several stones set around me, glowing softly as they radiated heat. I felt better, like last night had been a long day instead of 'about to drop dead at any moment'. I remembered the blanket, but the stones were new.

Stretching my wings for a second, I got to my hooves as I folded the blanket and floated it up to hang on a low branch before I made my way over to Celestia, waiting for her horn to stop glowing before I moved up next to her, "Good morning," I said, looking out over Ponyville.

The village looked mostly like it always did. No fires.

But the center tree the library had been built into... it was just gone. And every single window in the village seemed to have been shattered. Most of the snow inside the village also seemed to be missing.

"Good morning, Page," Celestia said softly and folded her wings as she looked out over the village.

"How's it looking?" I asked, turning to look up at her.

"Twilight was the only pony that was hurt," Celestia answered my unspoken question, "Other than some panic, everypony else is okay."

"That's good."

Celestia took a deep breath before she nodded, "It is. It could have gone so much worse."

I frowned slightly at her, "Where is everypony?"

"Asleep," she said and gave me a small smile, "You weren't the first pony that fell asleep, and you were hardly the last. Everypony that needed too is given shelter at the Apple Family farm. Luna didn't want to wake you and I volunteered to stay and keep an eye on you, I needed to raise the sun anyway."

I blinked at her, "Have you slept yet?"

"Not until every single one of my little ponies are safe."

Save me from overly responsibility taking alicorns!

"...At least clean up a bit, you're covered with ash," I told her and brushed my wing along her side, "I mean, seriously. How did you even manage to avoid all that ichor?"

Celestia got a flash of amusement across her face for a second, "Because I didn't use any cutting spells."

I flicked my ears and scraped my hoof against the snow covered grass, "I suppose that's fair enough," I admitted, "But still. Get some rest, everypony is safe."

She shook her head, her mane flowing freely, completely ignoring the light wind from the west, "I'm fine, Page," she said and spread her wings before she sighed, "...There is a reason I don't cast spells with my talent behind them… fire… it doesn't like being controlled,," she continued and looked down towards the village.

"Hard to just open a walnut when all you have is a sledgehammer, but this time a sledgehammer was exactly what we needed," I agreed before I smiled up at her, "...Speaking of which, I am really thankful you didn't hit me with that particular little ray of sunshine. Because, damn."

Celestia actually cringed slightly and I quickly shook my head,

"None of that!" I told her, "Enough is enough, Celestia!"

"Just because you don't blame me doesn't mean I don't blame myself," she said and looked to me, "Just like I blame myself for this. I destroyed Midnight's best chance to get back home."

"No, you bucking didn't!"

She took half a step back at my tone, "Page.."

"No!" I snarled and stepped forward, putting my hoof to poke her chest, "Don't you fucking dare turning 'Saving Equestria from eldrish tentacle horrors from beyond time' to 'failed to protect magical artifact'! You saved Equestria! Nopony died! Nopony else could have done what you did and I am not going to have anypony say anything else, you included! The fact that you managed to even keep the rest of the village from burning down is nothing short of amazing!"

Celestia's ears flicked back, "Page, I-"

"No! Don't you fucking dare! I have seen you do this for six months and I'm not taking it anymore!"

She spread her wings and took a deep breath, "...That's not fair."

"And I don't give a buck. Now get your multichromatic tail down beneath that tree and take a nap!"

Celestia looked like she would protest for about half a second before she folded her wings, "...I suppose I should get some rest," she finally admitted.

Chapter 24

Ponies were busy all across the village making repairs and replacing windows where possible, boarding them up where there were no more windows available.

"Everypony seems to be taking this in stride," I said and looked to Midnight as she walked next to me, "I would have expected more panic to be honest. There was a massive explosion that blew up their library and center square!"

She shrugged her wings slightly, "They're used to it. Ponyville is at the edge of the Everfree forest, monster attacks aren't common, but they aren't rare either. While they are usually driven off, property damage isn't rare."


That made sense. Was worrying, but made some sense. Also a difference between humans and ponies. Humans would never have stood for that and would have burned the Everfree to the ground years ago, hunting the monsters to extinction.

Humans didn’t take not being on top of the food chain well.

"So, everypony keeps some material at hoof to make repairs," She said and stopped, using her magic to lift a stack of planks onto the second story of a building, getting a wave of thanks by the earth pony boarding up a window.

"...How's Sparks?"

Midnight shrugged her wings again, "On enforced bedrest at the Apple Farm until the doctors clear her. Sunset is keeping an eye on her."

"Oh, I know how that is," I admitted and rubbed my foreleg, "So… how are you holding up?"

Midnight glanced over towards the remains of the stone table in the middle of the square where the library once was before her ears drooped and she shook her head, "...I actually thought I was going home," she answered quietly.

"It's not the end of that," I told her, "There mi-"

"No Page," she said and shook her head, looking at me, "It is. Don't you get it? The table is ruined! It was the only part that still remained as a link and now it's gone!"

"...I'm sorry. I'm sure you'll think of something."

Midnight shook her head, "Magic... doesn't work like that," she said before she sighed, "I was so sure it would work. We both were. I don't know what happened."

"Neither do I," I said, "But I'm glad we were all there."

"Me too."

"...How's Twi taking it?" I asked after another couple of minutes of walking, "I haven't been to the farm yet."

"Not that great," Midnight said, "She's blaming herself."

"Pot, Kettle."

That actually drew a smile from the purple alicorn, "Very funny," she said and then sighed, "I'm not sure it has really sunk in yet that the library is gone. I knew it took awhile for me when mine blew up."

"Oh yeah. Tirek blew it up in your timeline."

"Mmm," she nodded and sighed, "Yeah."

"So... what now?"

She shrugged her wings, "I don't know," she admitted with another small sigh, "I just don't know. I'm going to stay with Twi for a bit at least and make sure she's okay."

"You know that we're all here for you need it," I told her seriously, "Both of you, Twi and the Spikes."

Midnight looked amused, "The Spikes?"

"Well, your Spike changes his name everytime he comes up with a cool one, so..."

She giggled, "...I'll tell him to pick one and stick with it."

I looked around, "You know, as hot as Celestia is, I doubt she actually vaporized the entire library. There has to be some of Sparky's things that survived, even if it was thrown halfway across Equestria. Most of her private things were at the top level and the top floor was mostly behind the portal after all, that had to have taken a smaller amount of the blast. Any ideas on how to find that?"

Midnight blinked at me before she bounced, her wings doing a flap, "Page! You're a genius!"

"True,” I agreed with a nod.

That earned me an eye roll before she continued, "I know a spell that might help. Come on, let's see if we can find something!"

Chapter 25

The Apple farm was more or less like I remembered it from the one time I visited it in the past. Okay, that's not quite true, it was now covered in what seemed like a meter of thick snow with paths shoveled back and forth between the buildings.

I had to admit, it was a very comfortable and lived in looking picture.

"Come on," Midnight said, trotting along next to me, carrying the box in her magic, "I'm sure Twi will be glad to know at least some things survived."

I just nodded and quickly moved along with her. I wanted to at least check in on Sparks before I headed back to Canterlot. Luna and Celestia had left already, but I wanted to help Midnight find as much as we could before I followed them.

And find things we had, even if I was equally sure that we had missed so much more. But we had managed to find some things. Some clothes(scorched), some books(scorched and soggy), some personal items(soggy).

Midnight led the way inside and I paused to magic the snow and water off my hooves before following her inside only to find myself almost muzzle to muzzle with Grandma Apple.

She regarded me for a long moment. She looked me up and down before leaning a bit to the side to look at my wings for a second before she looked to me again, "Ya a bat now, eh?"

"...Not anymore than Twilight is a pegasus," I said a bit warily. Because I knew how old people, especially old country people, could be.

"Ah," she said and nodded, "Ye must be hungry after all that running around. Ye want some apples?"

I blinked at her in surprise, "I... uhm, a little?" I admitted, "But it doesn't need to be fruit, I can eat normal food."

"But ye like apples?"


"Come on, let's get ya some food!"

"But I..." I started before I flicked my ears, "That's not nece-"

"Nonsense! Come along!"

Knowing better than to argue, I made the mistake of following her into the kitchen. That's where Sunset found me about an hour later.

She trotted in through the door, coming down from upstairs before suppressing a giggle as she spotted me, "Having fun?"

"Guhhh..." I answered smartly, leaned back against the chair, the plate before me finally clean and not being refilled. Granny Smith was happily moving around the kitchen. She wasn't fast, but she was persistent.

"Want me to roll you upstairs to say hi to Twi?" Sunset teased with a grin.

"...I planned to, but I got sidetracked," I said and rolled off the chair and onto my hooves, "...Thank you, Granny Smith. That was delicious."

"You're very welcome. Now, off you go!"

I gave her a bow, making her chuckle and whip a kitchen towel in my direction before I retreated with Sunset.

"Applejack’s cooking is just as good," Sunset said and stuck her tongue out at me, "Just in case you're looking for another mare?"

"Half a year in and I'd be woken up in the morning by Celestia trying to raise me instead of the sun! We'd be the same size!"

Sunset snort-giggled and gave me a nuzzle, "Silly colt. Wanna see Twi before you head back to Canterlot?"

"Yeah," I agreed, "You sticking around?"

Sunset nodded and led the way up the stairs, "For a while, a week or so," she said, "Then I think we'll both head to Canterlot for Hearth's Warming."

I nodded and followed her into the Guestroom. The very crowded guestroom. All the elements were there, so was Midnight and the two Spikes. Twilight looked a bit embarrassed about it all from where she was on the bed.

"Page!" she said, quickly looking up when I entered, "Tell them I'm fine!"

"You're not fine, the doctor said so," I told her, "Just relax for a couple of days, you got a nasty smack to the head."

She groaned, "But there is so much to do!"

"And I'll handle it," Midnight said from next to her on the bed, "I want something to... keep me distracted anyway," she admitted, getting a sympathetic look from Twilight.

"And we'll help out!" Rainbow Dash said with a firm nod she then added to the general agreement in the room, "Don't worry about it!"

Sunset smiled at her, "Told you. Just relax and get better, okay?"

Twilight relaxed against the bed with a groan.

I better get that final draft ready as soon as I get back to Canterlot and send it to her to have a look at. I know she loved not only getting to read things first, but also then find the errors. That'll cheer her up and keep her busy.

Chapter 26

Returning home to Canterlot was an experience. Somehow, it felt like I both just left and like I had been gone for months. I had left Fern with Silver Leaf before we left for Ponyville, she loved any excuse to plantsit the big bundle of leaf. I considered going to pick him up, but pushed that up for tomorrow.

She liked having him there for a bit and it was late afternoon by the time I got to Canterlot anyway. He might as well stay one more night at her place and get spoiled.

Well, whatever else this little trip did, it also shot my sleeping schedule to pieces. I usually got up three hours ago, now I have been awake since like eight and if I went to sleep when it got dark, it would ruin things even worse. I needed to stay up until at least three or four.

Letting the door close behind me as I entered the castle, I rubbed my eyes with one hoof. It was still way too bright outside, I should get a hat or pair of sungl-

...I'm an idiot. Why didn't I think of sunglasses? Because they never really registered for me as I couldn't even wear them before I came to Equestria! I wore normal glasses then and couldn't wear sunglasses?

I have only been in Equestria for... of for fuck sake, I'm such a moron.

I suppressed a groan. I have suffered with bright lights during the day for six months and I just now think of getting sunglasses!? No wonder I thought sneaking up on Sunshine was a good idea, I'm a fricking ido-

"Lord Page?"

I was pulled out of my self assessment by a familiar voice and I blinked, looking around before I spotted Grey Velvet, Celestia's main assistant/personal planner/secretary, "Velvet, good to see you," I said with a smile, "Been a while?"

She bowed slightly before she nodded, "Busy busy."

"Yeah, I know. Pretty similar here," I admitted, "How's the cat?"

She got a kitten a few months or so, or so I heard.

"She's adorable!" Velvet said with a happy smile, "Settling in nicely," before she looked at me, "I heard there was some unpleasantness in Ponyville?"

"Yeah, you can say that again," I admitted, "There was some hostile calamari. So, what can I help you with?"

She glanced down at the clipboard she carried in one hoof, "Oh! Yes, I have some papers for you to sign and some invitations I need you to answer?"

I'm not a Prince. Not really, I'm a Prince-Consort. But apparently paperwork kept finding me anyway even if my only official duties day to day was to stand next to Luna and look pretty.

Maybe it's for the best, I wasn't that good at that either, so I might as well sign some papers instead.

"..Papers yes," I said, "invitations, no."

Apparently that was the wrong answer as Grey Velvet got a expression on her face that I recognized well from that time when Celestia tricked me into filling in for her for a couple of weeks, "Lord Page, while some of these invitations aren't that important, some are traditional that-"

I sighed and rubbed my eyes again, "You know what?" I said, cutting her off, "You pick. If you think it's important and Luna is already going to be there, sign me up for it, okay?"

Velvet paused and frowned slightly at me, "...Are you alright, sir?"

"I'm fine, it's just too early and too bright," I sighed before I looked at her again, "Seriously, you know better than I do what I can skip and what I really shouldn't without it reflecting badly at Luna and her sister."

She nodded slowly and glanced down at her clipboard, "...I suppose, the only one I really wouldn't recommend skipping if the Hearth's Warming play. It is tradition for all the princesses to attend. It is in the evening too, so it would be dark out."

"Velvet, have I ever told you how amazing and underpaid you are?"

She smiled, blushing slightly, "A few times."

"If it wasn't for the fact that Equestria would be chaos a week later, I'd try to hire you to handle my things instead of Celestias," I told her, "But I'm not sure that would be fair to everypony else. Or you. You'd be bored stiff with how little you'd have to worry about comparingly."

She beamed at me and made a note at her clipboard, "I'll just sign you up for the Hearth's Warming play then," she said, "...There is a reception at the griffon embassy two days before, would you like to attend that one as well? It's in the evening."

Here, fishy, fishy, fishy...

"Sounds good to me,” I said before I smiled at her.

I definitely need to get her something nice and expensive for Hearts Warming.

Chapter 27

Thirty four more letters from Thestrals had been waiting for me when I returned to Canterlot, all of them along the same lines.

Keeps the illusion up at all times in public, most of them hiding it from their friends too. Afraid to be discovered.

More than a hundred ponies had answered so far. I didn’t know how much further that number would grow, but I suspected it would. Maybe not by a lot, most ponies that would write to me would likely have done so by now.

Was it one percent that wrote to me? Ten? Half? All?

It didn’t matter, it was way too many in any case.

But what could I possibly do about it? Celestia was right, just ordering ponies to accept thestrals wouldn’t work.

A sound of frustration reached my ears and I looked over to Tempest where she was practicing, “Don’t worry,” I told her, “You’ll get it.”

“Yes, sir,” she answered before she lit her horn again and continued slowly and carefully picking up grapes one after another, moving it from one bowl to another.




Tempest gritted her teeth but continued.

She had power to spare, she might actually be stronger than Sunset thaum to thaum. But not having needed to use her magic normally since she was a little filly had played hell with her control.

I watched for another couple of seconds before I returned to my notes. What do we do? What do we do?

Did I even have the right to decide something? Just because I ended up with wings and then had them changed by Discord by all beings? Did that somehow give me the right to decide the fate of hundreds of ponies?

Of course not.

But things couldn’t just remain like they were either. What do we do? I needed better numbers, but so far it didn’t look like the ‘assimilation’ idea would work. Even if it was only ten percent like I guesstimated that mailed to me so far, that’s still a population of only a thousand ponies. Among how many millions?

It wasn’t enough. Not by a longshot. That’s barely the population of a small vill-.

I frowned at the notepad. Would that work? Start a village and invite every batpony in Equestria to move there? I wasn’t poor, but I couldn’t afford to build an entire village, it would need to be sponsored by crown money.

Buildings built, infrastructure put into place.

It likely wouldn’t help with pony reactions, but at least everypony would be able to live without hiding themselves.

But would ponies even want to move there? Move away from where they grew up?

Even if they did, was it even the right move? Setting up an area where specific people were allowed to live had some really bad connotations to history back on Earth.

No. Have to be something else.

I sighed and closed the notebook, dropping my quill back into my satchel after cleaning it and closing my ink. I’m not cut out for this kind of political social stuff.

Give me a pen, some paper and somewhere to write and I’m happy. Preferably close to Luna and Sunset.

I’m just not cut out for this.

Even if the village idea worked, it wouldn’t last. Like Luna said, there was less and less even a thousand years ago, in five hundred years they might be completely gone. The curse was fading.

Which objectively was a good thing, no more ponies that needed to hide, be forced to keep hidden. But it still felt wrong. It wasn’t a curse, not anymore, not since it was changed from blood to fruit. For thousands of years ponies had lived, born and died as themselves.

Thestrals were a people. A tribe almost. A small one maybe, but one that was slowly fading away. The curse might be messing reproduction as many thestrals had pegasi foals or at least a majority of pegasi foals.

Maybe if it is stabilized for real…

Was that even possible? Everypony would have to be volunteers of course, but if that was possible, it opened up possibilities that didn’t exist before.

I would need to run the possibility of that past Sparks or Midnight later and without giving away that Fluttershy was a batpony.


Tempest sighed miserably and I looked over to her,

“How about we stop here tonight?” I asked, “I’m getting hungry and then it’s about time for Luna to raise the moon.”

She shook her head, “I would like to keep practicing for a bit longer if you don’t mind, sir?”

“Go for it. I’m going to go raid the kitchens.”

Chapter 28

The wind howled outside in a snowstorm that brought visibility down to something like three hooves, but that was alright with me as I was sitting in a comfortable armchair close to a crackling fireplace while sipping a big cup of steaming hot tea.

Luna was laying across the chair across from mine, a book floating before her. She looked relaxed. I liked that, usually she was thinking of something or working on something.

Getting her to take an night off was rare… and I hadn’t managed it today either, but I did help her with the paperwork to get her half a night off.

...Which sadly meant that we only got a couple of hours before I needed to go to bed and get to work.

But it was worth it to give her some time off.

Finishing my tea, I slipped off the chair and put the cup on the table, crossing over to her. She looked up from her book,

“Going to bed?” She asked.

I nodded and moved in to give her a small kiss, “Yeah, getting to that time,” I agreed, “Somepony needs to make sure that the Nightmare population stays low.”

Luna smiled and nodded, giving me a small nuzzle, “I’ll join you in a bit for a sweep of the foals dreams.”

We had mostly split it up like that. Luna liked to help ponies and she really enjoyed helping foals, so we had split it up. She did foals dreams and I handled the adults.

It worked well, let her spend more time on each one that needed her and I hunted Nightmares. Foals rarely generated a Nightmare, they mostly came from adult ponies… but they sure loved to eat the dreams of foals.

I knocked them down before they got strong enough to do so and if they somehow got past me, they had to deal with Luna.

Those poor, poor bastards.

I nodded, “Good night, My Sky,” I said and then headed into the bedroom.

“Good Night, My Page. And good hunting.”

I winked at her and then trotted inside and jumped onto the bed. This was the worst thing with our staggered sleep schedules. When Sunset was here, she was deep asleep long before I went to bed. Luna went to bed at least five hours after me.

I really missed going to sleep or waking up with her. Or with Sunset. It was all staggered, but sadly it was the best compromise we had come up with.

Just because it was the best didn’t mean I liked it though.

Settling down, I closed my eyes and shifted my wings, getting comfortable before I sighed and cast a quick sleeping spell, sending me off to the dream realm. If I didn’t, my brain would just keep whirling and thinking about all the problems I had to handle until I finally fell asleep an hour later.

I didn’t have time for that.

The dream realm formed around me, sparkling stars all around as I took a deep breath and spread my wings, stretching for a second.

Okay then, let’s get to work.

I filtered through the dreams, sending all the nice and neutral ones away leaving me with the bad ones. The dark whirling portals appeared before me.

Hundreds. Thousands.

Oh well, let’s get to work.

At least I had a quick way of doing it, I didn’t need to enter every dream to look, just touch my horn to it and check before canceling the bad dream and sending the now clear silvery portal on it’s way, it’s occupant now dreaming peacefully.

Even so, luckily dream speed was dream speed or I’d still be at it for days.

But dreams moved at their own speed and-

I paused and blinked as the next portal appeared before me. Midnight. Her dream portal was a dark, dark silvery shimmer, almost whirling.

Not a sign of a Nightmare, but… she was having a bad dream. A bad, bad dream. Of the wake up screaming kind.

I couldn’t just cancel it and leave it at that. She had been through enough already, I wanted to help her if I could.

So I touched my horn to her dreamportal and stepped through the pitch black and whirling silvery surface.

Chapter 29

I arrived in Canterlot.

Or what had once been Canterlot. The place was in ruins, the sun and moon were both in the sky, splitting it in half.

In the distance, the castle was burning.

“Where were you!?”

I turned quickly towards the voice. Midnight was in a circle of her friends. No… not only her friends. Hundreds of ponies, most I didn’t recognize.

It was Rarity that had spoken.

Midnight looked around, “I-I…”

“The princesses are dead and where were you!? Why didn’t you stop them!? We needed you!”

I couldn’t tell who said that, it was a pony to the back.

“I-I was-”

“Why did you abandon us?” Fluttershy asked her, “We needed you. When the Storm King came, we… we needed you. When the-”

They all started to yell, to demand and Midnight disappeared out of view as they pressed in on her from all directions.

Enough of this!

I stomped my hoof. A wall of light radiated away from the impact and where it passed, buildings returned to their whole state, the sky turning a clear blue and birds started to sing.

The angry ponies disappeared, leaving empty streets.

Midnight were laying on the cobblestone street, curled up and sobbing. I made my way over towards her.

She twitched at the sound of my hoofsteps against the stone and she looked up towards me, blinking in surprise, “...Page…” she said in surprise.

She looked… horrible. Her eyes red and tears stained down her cheeks.

“It’s not real,” I told her as I folded my wings, sitting down next to her.

She sniffled and shook her head, “But…”

“None of that,” I said, “It’s not real. Just your planet sized brain gathering what you know and turning it into a ‘what if’ with a good amount of self doubt and self blame. It is not what happened and it’s not what’s going to happen. And it’s not your fault, no matter what.”

Midnight slowly shook her head, slowly struggling up to sit before rubbing her eyes with her hoof, shaking her head, “...But it is my fault. If I had stopped her the first time, if we had caught Starlight back in her village, if I-”

I shook my head, “Stop that. Nopony is perfect, nopony can do everything. And nopony can see the future… I think.”

That earned me a look from her, “...You think?”

I nodded, “Yeah… never seen any evidence that it wasn’t possible, or then again, I haven’t seen proof that it wasn’t either. At least not definite. Then again, time travel clearly is, so… who knows?”

Midnight slowly nodded, looking thoughtful for a second before she looked to the side and it felt like the dream wanted to shift and I let it.

The elements appeared standing to the side. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Applejack, Rarity and Pinkie Pie. Other ponies. A pair I recognized as Twilight's parents. Cadance was there. Shining Armor. Luna and Celestia. A dozen ponies I didn’t recognize.

Midnight looked to them for a long moment, her ears and wings drooping, “...I’m never going to see them again,” she said and shook her head, “...The ones from my world, I mean.”

“I don’t buy that,” I told her firmly, “You and Twilight are the smartest ponies I ever met. Followed by possibly Chrysalis or Celestia.”

Midnight looked to me in surprise, “Chrysalis?”

“Bug is crazy bright,” I said seriously, “She just doesn't think like a pony. But I don’t buy it that you’re stuck here permanently, I just don’t. If necessary, you’re capable of making a brand new spell to send you back.”

Midnight looked at me sadly for a long moment before she slowly shook her head, “...Page, it’s not that…” she said before she scraped her hoof against the stone of the street, “It’s not sending me somewhere that’s the problem. We can… it’s actually not that difficult. It’s what the portal we… it’s what the portal we made should have done. The difficult thing is to find the right timeline. Without some way to point out where I’m from, there are literally infinite possibilities.”


Midnight nodded and glanced towards the group of ponies again, “The table was the only part that still remained, the only part that could be used to locate where I was from.”

“You and Spike remain, can’t you aim by… I don’t know, reading the quantum reality you’re from?”

I mean, it worked in Star Trek.

Midnight blinked at me and thought for a second, I could almost see the calculations going on behind her eyes before she finally shook her head, “...No, not sure what you mean by quantum reality, but no.” she said, “If we did it just after we arrived, maybe we could have used one of us to read what timeline we were from. But we've been here for well over a year now, too much of this timeline is in us now.”

“...Food, air and water!”

Midnight nodded sadly with a small sigh, “Exactly. By the start we didn’t have the spell and by the time we did, it was too late for that option. All we had was the table and now we don’t have that… and we don’t know what went wrong with the spell either,” and then she glanced at the dream images of her friends, “So no, Page. W-we’re never going home again,” she said, her voice starting to shake.

I moved up and pulled her into a hug, holding her close and she started to sob against my neck. I stroked her mane while I wished I could fix reality as easily as I could fix dreams.

Discord, you have so much to answer for.

Chapter 30

I found Celestia at the top of one of the towers just before Sunset. Pushing the door open, I trotted up the last of the ice and snow covered steps onto the top of the tower.

I paused at the top and Celestia glanced back at me as I shaded my eyes against the bright sunshine., moving around into her shadow.

“One moment, Page,” she said and turned back towards the sun, looking at it without flinching.

I, on the other hoof, kept my eyes well away from her little ball of fun. It was bright enough just being out during the day, looking straight at it… no thank you.

Celestia's horn lit up with her golden sunlight and she raised her head high before starting to slowly, slowly lower her head and horn and the Sun started to set, moving with her horn.

This was something I had only seen a couple of times. Seeing Luna raise the moon wasn’t exactly uncommon, I watched that almost every evening.

But seeing Celestia do it was rare.

The sun started to dip beneath the horizon and it got darker, the stars starting to show above as she lowered it lower and lower.

The last red light slowly started to die down from beyond the horizon and Celestia sighed, the light started to flicker out from around her horn and she raised her head, stretching her wings again before she turned her head to look at me, “Page.”

“Sunshine,” I said, “Done lowering your big ball of fire?”

Celestia nodded, “Done checking out my rear?”

“You,” I said and moved up next to her as I tried not to blush, “are feeling better.”

“Not hearing denials,” Celestia teased before she nodded with a small sigh, “...You’re right. I was blaming myself for what happened.”

“‘Was’?” I asked, looking up to her.

Celestia shifted her wings a bit uncomfortably, “...Still am,” she admitted with a small smile, “At least a little. But I think that’s not what you came to find me about.”

I shook my head, “...No, it wasn’t,” I admitted and pulled my cloak a bit tighter around myself with my magic, it’s warming spell struggling against the biting cold wind. Celestia didn’t look bothered at all, she wasn’ even wearing anything but her regalia. Which was so unfair because I was pretty sure that even before the entire bat thing I would have found it cold right now.

Seriously, by far the coldest winter since I ended up in Equestria.

Celestia frowned, “Cold?”

I nodded, “It’s freezing. I’m not as resistant as most alicorns and even before this entire thing I would have found it on the chilly side today.”

Celestia moved a bit closer, putting her wing across me, “How’s that?”

A warmth radiated from her and her wing, it was like laying next to a fireplace! I blinked at her, “...Seriously, what’s your metabolism like?” I asked as I shifted closer to her side, resting my head against her warm shoulder.

She grinned and shook her head, “What did you want to talk to me about, Page?”

I shrugged my wings a bit and sighed, “...Thestrals. Do you know how many letters I have gotten so far?”

Celestia shook her head.

“One hundred and fifty three as of today,” I told her seriously, “One hundred and fifty three thestrals that had the time, inclination and opportunity to write to me. Some even sent me who they were.”

Celestia looked thoughtful, “...I had no idea there were so many left.”

I shook my head, “Sunshine, that’s only the ones that could, wanted to and dared to send me a letter so far and have gotten them here through the postal service so far. I don’t know exactly how it’s with ponies, but I know how few that would do that if it was humans. Sparks could likely give a better estimation, but my guess is somewhere between ten and twenty percent at most have answered. At absolute most. I actually think the number is way lower than that considering how shy about revealing themselves they are.”

She shifted next to me, “Over a thousand thestrals…”

“Yeah,” I agreed, “And I don’t know what to do to help them. I have some ideas… the idea of just telling them to unmask to let ponies get used to them won’t work with just a thousand thestrals.”

She slowly nodded, “What can I do to help?”

“That depends on everything else,” I said and smiled at her, “First, I need information. To be able to help, I first need to know how. I need everything you have and know about thestrals and the older the better. Do we have a copy of the original curse? The modification? Who made either?”

Celestia smiled, “My sister and I are old, but not that old. Thestrals existed when we were young.”

“I know the story, Luna told it to me a good while ago, before the wing thing even,” I said, “But I need as much as you have.”

“Well,” she said and flicked one ear, “We don’t have either curse or who cast either of them, that’s lost to history as far as I know. I don’t actually know how much we have on this at all,” she admitted with a small thoughtful frown and then looked to me again, “If we’re lucky, there might be some of what you are looking for in the oldest archives or at least something to point you in the right directions. They are usually locked down and only specific ponies are allowed in because everything there is so old and fragile. I’ll give you access.”

“Thanks Sunshine.”

Chapter 31

Moving through the entrance of the Hive, shaking the snow off my cloak, “So… where is she?” I asked, looking to Thorax.

“The Queen and Princess is waiting in the throneroom, sir,” he said, “Would you like me to escort you?”

“Thank you,” I told him.

Not like I didn’t know the way by now, but he had his task from his Queen. I moved to follow him, shifting my wings beneath the cloak.

Chrysalis had summoned me when I woke up this morning. It better be fucking important, but it very likely was if Skitter was there as well.

The throneroom was like I remembered it. Throne, big containers of love… gel. Chrysalis were lounging on the throne like usual while Skitter was sitting on the short and flat stairs heading up to the throne.

What was really rare though was that they weren’t glaring at each other. Instead both of them turned to look at me as I entered.

I froze for a split second before I continued. It just can’t be a good thing if they aren’t fighting about something.

I gave them a small bow, spreading my wings, “Queen Chrysalis, Princess Skitter.”

Skitter looked like she was about to say something before she closed her mouth again. Chrysalis instead moved off the throne, heading down the steps, “Page,” she said, “I have decided to contact one of the other hives.”

I blinked at her in surprise, “You did?”

Chrysalis nodded as she stopped before me, “I have. The one in the Griffon territory.”

Skitter spoke up from where she was waiting, “if you can point out where it is.”

I shifted my wings before I sighed, “Yeah, I know where it is. I’ll get a map drawn up. Mind I can only give the general area of where most Changelings are, not the actual position of the entrance of the hive.”

“You will go with them,” Chrysalis said as she looked down to me, “To ensure that it’s clear that the effort is supported by the ponies.”

I slowly started to nod as she spoke before I answered, “No.”

Whatever she had expected, that wasn’t that, “...What?”

“No,” I said again, looking up at her, “I have way too much to do already to go galloping off to the griffons to play diplomacy with another hive. I’m already dealing with finding a way to get thestrals accepted among ponies, improve the acceptance of Changelings, see what I can do to help Midnight get back home, keep my wife and marefriend happy, actually finish my book at some bloody point and then everything else that’s happening! So no, Queen Chrysalis. I’m not going to gallop off to the next continent just because you suddenly managed to pull the stick out of your arse about this!”

Chrysalis' wings buzzed in annoyance as she glared down at me, “It was your idea!”

“Yes, but your timing sucks!” I said and glared up at her, “So either you wait or you find some other way of handling it!”

Chrysalis hissed something beneath her breath before she nodded, “Very well,” she finally said, moving past me, brushing her side against mine as she did, “I suppose the danger of the expedition went up significantly, I hope the dro-”

I didn’t let her go any further. Lightning my horn, I slashed a bar of force towards her hooves.

She didn’t expect that. She didn’t expect that at all.

It hit her like a sweeping kick, her hooves going out from beneath her and she faceplanted hard onto the resin floor of the throne room.

I turned around quickly and as she rolled to get her hooves back beneath herself, I planted my hoof on her chest, pushing her back down hard against the floor, “Do not try to guilt me into going, Chrysalis. I won’t stand for it and I know that you know that I care for your Changelings. And I know that you do too,” I snarled to her, “I won’t stand for it, especially when I know you wouldn’t do that.”

She looked up at me, her eyes wide in surprise before they slowly went back to normal, “...It seems like I underestimated you, Zeezzkekeezzkzk.” she said. The last word being something in ancient changeling I didn’t catch.

I knew a few words and a couple of phrases… well, understood them at least. A pony larynx just wasn’t made to speak ancient changeling beyond certain words and my accent was according to Skitter, horrible.

But I doubt it was particularly polite from the way Skitters eyes widened.

I stepped back, putting my hoof back onto the floor, “I’m your ally, Chrysalis. Not your subordinate. I’ll go with the delegation, but not now. Especially not into griffon territory, this will need to be planned and official for it to work right.”

Chrysalis rolled onto her hooves and got back up, “Very well,” she said with a small buzz of her wings, “Daughter?”

“...Yes, My Queen?”

“Organize it with the ponies,” she said before she smirked and leaned in to whisper, “I win this time, My Little Predator,” into my ear before she moved past me out of the chamber.

I blinked blankly at the throne for a second before I facehooved. I just agreed to go to the other hive when something else major fell off my plate, didn’t I?

Which had been her plan the entire time as Skitter's original idea had been for the changelings to handle it on their own.

I finally dropped my hoof back onto the floor and looked at Skitter, “Sometimes I really dislike your mother, other times I’m too impressed to be even mad. That was amazing.”

Skitter shifted a bit uncomfortably.

Chapter 32

I took a thirty minute look around the archives and then gave it up as a bad idea and left. Everything in there was written in old languages I couldn’t read!

Considering some were five thousand years old, I’m not entirely sure what I expected. Fucking, damn it.

Sure, I could likely ask Luna or Celestia for help in translating or asking one of them to teach me, but with what time?

If I thought I was busy… didn’t even get close to those two. Right now I am worried about a small subset of one tribe. They worried about everypony else.

So that was a complete no-go.

Then there was Twilight and Midnight. I was fairly sure they could read it too, if less… natively than Luna or Celestia.

But see above.


And… I didn’t want to impose on either of them right now. Things were tough enough for both of them as is at the moment. I didn’t want to be the one to heap more onto their backs.

But I did know another pony that might be able to help.

Hence why I was out in the cold again.

Amber was nowhere in sight, but Iron Shine trotted along next to me, the earth pony looking completely unbothered by the cold which was completely not fair.

At least she was larger than me and also worked like a windbreak.

I’m starting to think thestrals were naturally a tropical species or something. Shaking that thought out of my head, I headed up the path to the small house and knocked on the door.

Waiting for a long moment I then knocked again.

There was another little while before the door unlocked and opened a small crack, “Yes?”

“Good afternoon, Moon Dancer,” I said with a smile, “Do you have a minute?”

“Oh! Lord Page!” she said and opened the door before she blinked and frowned slightly, “...Do you look different?”

I grinned, “It’s… yeah. Thestral, not pegasus.”

Moon Dancer looked at me with interest, “...Fascinating.”

“Mhmm,” I agreed and flicked my ears, “Do you mind if we come inside? This is Iron Shine by the way, she’s my guard.”

“Oh! Of course!” Moon Dancer said and scooted back.

Moving inside, I slipped my cloak off and folded it up. Her home was… pretty much what I expected. Comfortable, lived in and completely stock full with books, stacks of paper and scrolls and half finished projects all over the place.

Moon Dancer looked thoughtful for a moment as she closed the door, “Could I get you some tea?” she asked after a moment.

“That would be wonderful, thank you.”

She nodded and left for the kitchen and I stretched my wings before sitting down by the gently crackling fireplace.

Iron Shine moved to stand close to me, but at a distance where she wasn’t crowding me, just kind of scanning the room.

Five minutes later Moon Dancer returned, carrying a tray of cups and a teakettle. A moment later we all had a cup of steaming hot tea each and she looked at me.

I smiled at her, “I’m sure you’re curious why I’m here,” I asked.

Moon Dancer nodded, “Yes.”

“I have a research project if you are interested,” I said and blew softly on my cup of tea, “I know you’ve done some projects for Luna.”

She slowly nodded, “What’s the project?” she asked as she looked at my ears.

Not overly surprised, they were bigger than most ponies and a bit fluffy. I flicked one of them and her eyes moved with it.

Now that’s funny!

“Batponies,” I said with a smile and spread my left wing, “As you noticed, I have some personal incentive in figuring out exactly how it works.”

Moon Dancer slowly nodded again, looking lost in thought, “What is it that you want to know?”

“In short,” I explained, “I want to know where they come from, everything about the spell that originally created them from Pegasi, absolutely everything you can find.”

“I haven’t run into very much at all,” Moon Dancer said, “The books barely men-”

“For this project you’d have full access to the royal libraries in addition to the ancient archives,” I reassured her, “How’s your ancient languages? Old Ponish, ancient equestrian… whatever the languages of the old tribes where…”

“Earth ponies is the source of old ponish,” Moon Dancer explained, smoothly going into a classroom lecture tone, “It takes some effort, but if you know one you can read the other. Ancient pegasi had their own language but didn’t have that much for writing things down permanently as it was too much weight. They used materials that tended to get destroyed with time. The most reliable records from that time are from unicorn records because they tended to record everything. Did you know that unicorns were the first ones to invent writing?”

“I can honestly say I didn’t,” I said with a smile, “Well? Want the job? The pay would b-”


“...You need to work a bit on the entire work interview thing,” I said with a grin, “I didn’t even get to the pay. But very well, I’ll get the details to you and the access you need to. If there is anything else you find that you need, assistants or anything, just let me know and I’ll make sure you get it.”

Moon Dancer nodded, “Do we have a timeframe?”

“No. But while accurate is better than faster, as fast as possible would be good,” I said, “As the result of this might affect the life of thestrals all across Equestria.”

She slowly nodded, eyes already far away.

Chapter 33

With the research part of it handled, at least that part of research, I actually didn’t actually get any more time for other things, as it was a new thing, not an old task.

Shifting my wings I read through the page for the fifth time before I put it to the side and went on for the next one. Book almost done.

Well, done enough to send to Sparks at least for an edit.

That’d free some more time out of my schedule for a bit. Which considering there is only a week left until Hearth's Warming and some more free time for a bit would be so very nice.

...Of course, Luna won’t get that much more time over so there was a limit on how much it will help, but-

“Hey,” Sunset said and jumped onto the couch next to me.

I twitched in surprise and looked at her, not having even noticed that she arrived, “Oh. hey! When did you get to Canterlot?”

Sunset smiled and touched her horn against mine, “Just now. We all came to Canterlot for the holidays.”

I slipped my wing across her back, “How’s Sparks and Midnight?”

Sunset looked thoughtful for a second and sighed softly, “I think they are doing a little better. Twi at least is mostly frustrated from her cast. She has nightmares sometimes.”

“I catch them whenever I can.”

She nodded and gave me a nuzzle before continuing, “Midnight… I think she’s depressed.”

“Can’t really blame her for that…”

Sunset nodded with a small sigh, “I know. I just hate seeing her like that. They are going to stay with their… Twi’s… parents for the holidays. I hope it helps, but… I don’t know.”

I pulled her a bit tighter with my wing and she leaned against me, resting her head against my neck, “I wish there was something I could do.”

“Me too,” she admitted and sighed softly.

We stayed like that for a long moment before I nuzzled at her ear, “...I have an invitation to the griffon embassy for a reception in three days. Want to come?”

Sunset nodded, “Sure,” and then looked thoughtful, “...Should we invite Midnight to go with us?”

“Want to get her mind on something else?”

She nodded again, “She’s like Twi, the moment she gets her brain really working on something she stops worrying. If she doesn't, she has a tendency to panic or worry herself in circles. I don’t know if she would even want to go right now, but I figure we could at least try?”

“Ask her, I’ll inform the griffons if she says yes,” I said and frowned, “Okay, this sucks. I haven’t seen you in weeks and we’re all mopey. I’m sorry.”

Sunset shook her head and then smiled at me, “It’s been that kind of a year, wingboy.”

“It has, hasn’t it?” I sighed and pulled her closer, “Can only hope that next year is better.”

Sunset stretched and slipped out from beneath my wing to jump down onto the floor, “Come on, I want to go practice.”

“But it’s cold outside,” I protested.

I didn’t whine, stallions don’t whine.

Sunset flicked her tail and looked at me, “And I haven’t done it in weeks! Besides, it’s not like fights would only ever find us on a nice spring day.”

Oh damn it. She had a point… and I had been lazy about it for weeks. Mostly because of the weather to be honest, not because of the time restraints.

“...Okay…” I sighed and gathered my papers up with my magic before putting them in order and jumping off the couch, “Fine.”

Sunset smirked and gave me a look hot enough to melt ice, “Besides, we can always warm up after.”

Now that was a perk.

I eyed her, “Oh really?” I said with a grin, “After only two weeks with Sparks, you want s-

Sunset rolled her eyes and headed towards the door, interrupting me with a smack across the muzzle with her tail tip, “Just come on.”

I grinned and quickly moved to trot along next to her, “So, what do you wanna do?”

Sunset shrugged a bit, “Field two? It’s usually empty this time of day,” she suggested.

“It’s also covered with three hooves of snow…”

She grinned, “And?”

I glowered at her, “Race you there!” and then I teleported out of the tower before she could answer and spread my wings against the freezing wind and quickly winged it towards the guard training field across the castle.

Sunset may be better at non-line of sight teleporting and might be able to make it there before me, but it was tricky unless you knew exactly both where you were and where you were going.

I cheated however. I knew where I was and I knew there was only air to where I was teleporting… okay, barring the random pegasus or something which is why I didn’t do it regularly.

Besides, if I got there first, I could set up an ambush!

Chapter 34

The band played softly in the background and I could tell that the entire event was ‘ponified’. Vegetarian food, if with a griffon twist laid out on a large table to one side. There were a couple of fish dishes however.

Likely mostly for my benefit.

Sunset rolled her eyes as I moved over to her and Midnight, my plate covered with pieces of fruit and smoked salmon. I had tried a small piece to make sure I could still eat it about half an hour ago and it was just as delicious as I remembered it being.

“What?” I asked her with a toothy grin.

“Carnivore. Just so you know, no kisses today.”

“...Kinda worth it,” I told her and popped a piece of cold smoked salmon into my mouth and it almost melted on my tongue.

Oh fuck yes. I’m emigrating.

Midnight watched with interest before she looked to Sunset, “...You know, I’d think you would be used to it because of you...,” she said and then paused and glanced around at the ponies and griffons through the room, “you know.”

Sunset shook her head, “No thank you. I stayed away from that there too, I just told everyone I was vegetarian.”

“Not even curious?” I asked and offered her my plate.

Sunset glowered at me as a small piece of salmon lifted in a purple/pink cloud of magic and floated over to Midnight who promptly ate it.

Midnight looked thoughtful and chewed as Sunset gaped slightly at her.

“What?” Midnight asked, “I was… there… too for about a week back where I was from. I was curious and not like it’s from anything thinking over there. Fish here is perfectly okay, it’s a cultural thing for ponies, not biological.”

“Mostly,” I told her, “Just don’t have too much or your stomach won’t be happy with you.”

“And you like it?” Sunset asked in surprise.

Midnight shrugged her wings, “Well… didn’t say that. It’s not exactly a favorite, let’s just say. But my time there pretty much cured me of the ‘eww’ reaction most ponies have.”

Sunset shook her head and flicked her ears, “Nooo thank you. I’m perfectly happy with keeping that,” she said and stole a piece of fruit from my plate.

I pulled my plate back and looked between them, causing Sunset to grin and nibble at her apple slice before moving over to the table to get her own plate.

I looked to Midnight, “So… how much of that was to mess with Sunset?”

Midnight blushed slightly, “...Most,” she admitted and did a small full body shiver, “I didn’t lie, but what I didn’t say is that after I tried it, I went vegetarian.”


She shrugged her wings a bit and sighed, “She’s just been so… she means well. But she’s been hovering over Twi and me since… you know what.”

“She’s worried, can’t blame her for that.”

“I know, I know,” Midnight said, “and she’s my friend and I really do appreciate it. But she just keeps avoiding the subject and… I don’t know.”

“Talk to her.”

“I know, but she means well and…” Midnight sighed and flicked her ears, “Okay, I will. You’re right that I should.”

I nodded and ate another piece of salmon. Midnight shook her head,

“You actually like that?”

“Grew up with it. My tastebuds aren’t that different now and I get it maybe twice a year. I’m going to have as much as they let me.”

“...Didn’t you say that it upset your stomach if you had too much?”

I nodded and had another piece happily, “Yep. What’s your point?”

Midnight grinned and shook her head, moving over to fill her own plate, avoiding the fish. I grinned and adjusted the cloak of my uniform with a flick of my magic as I looked around before making my way over to Ambassador Asbolus.

“Ambassador,” I said In greeting, giving him a small courteous bow.

He bowed back, “Your Highness.”

“Please,” I said with a smile, moving my plate a bit, “Anyone that feeds me fish can call me by name.”

He chuckled at that, “I see that my predecessor's notes weren't exaggerated.”

Neither of us made notice of the idiot that was between him and his actual predecessor. Not sure it even counted if you had the job for like three hours.

I smiled at him and ate a piece of Salmon.

“Lord Page, I must ask,” he continued as he watched me, “Your changes…”

“Not really changes,” I said and shrugged my wings, “Some alicorns take after pegasi and some take after thestrals it seems. Just figured things would be complicated enough with an alicorn stallion without also tossing thestral into the mix. But keeping up the illusion got bothersome,” I explained, going with the cover story we had set up. Because Discord being able to get to even an Alicorn like this would just cause unnecessary panic.

More panic anyway.

He slowly nodded, “I see. I must say, that does explain some things,” he said and glanced down at my plate.

I smiled and ate some more salmon, “This is good, by the way. I must ask for your source.”

“A small group of griffons that set up a fisher village in the south of Equestria, the Embassy purchases all our fish from them for freshness” he said, “I’ll make sure the information gets delivered.”

“Thank you,” I said and then shifted my wings. Well, it couldn't hurt to ask, “When i visited your country before, I was on a hunt. The prey animal there… would it be possible…”

The Ambassador looked thoughtful, “Perhaps,” he said slowly, “I would need to make some inquiries.”

That was a good segue for some seed planting too. Better get working on the entire Changeling thing.

I nodded, “That would be most appreciated. I did enjoy my time visiting your country, but there wasn’t much time to see it. Perhaps in the future it could be arranged for me to tour your country, learn more about your culture?”

“But of course, Prince Page!”

Chapter 35

I slowly stretched and blinked my eyes open to see nothing but stars. Scooting back, I sat up and rubbed my eyes sleepily as I pulled out from beneath Lunas flowing mane.

Yawning a bit, I jumped off the bed, spreading my wings for a silent glide out of the silence bubble to stop my hooves from making a sound against the floor. Just because I was getting up, I didn’t want to wake Luna, especially as she’d be getting up early today as it was. Just another three hours or so so I wanted her to get as much as she could.

Because today was Hearth’s Warming and we needed to go watch that stupid play again. Seriously, it was the same every year!

Well, tradition was tradition.

The outer room was empty, but I wasn’t surprised. Sunset was going to spend the day with Sparks and Midnight before they joined Celestia after the play and then she’d join me and Luna.

Coincidentally allowing her to completely skip attending the play.

Funny that.

I made my way over to the tray on the table and picked up a tea and a plate of fruit(mango!) before moving over to look out the window.

The weather team was on the ball today, it was a slight white cloud cover and it was snowing cherrily.

It was actually looking to be a pretty nice day today.

I happily chewed on a piece of fruit. With just a little bit of luck, today is going to turn into a nice and relaxing day for once.

There was a knock on the door.

I glared at my tea for a second. Oh fuck you, universe.

Sighing, I looked towards the door, “Enter.”

The door opened slightly and a guard poked her head inside, “Sir,” she said, “One Miss Moon Dancer is waiting to see you. She says she has found something you might find interesting regarding something called ‘Project Bruce’?”

That’s what I had named the thestral research project. I’m a nerd, so sue me. Sunset had facehooved when she found out.

“Oh, please let her in.”

The guard nodded and ducked back out, a moment later the door opened and Moon Dancer walked inside, a stack of papers held in her magic.

She looked a bit nervous but also excited which I took as good news.

“Moon Dancer,” I said with a smile, “Can I get you anything? Tea? Fruit?”

She blinked at me in surprise as she folded up her cloak, “Oh! Uhm… I could use some tea?”

I nodded and moved over to the table, pouring her a cup, “Considering it’s the middle of Hearth’s Warming, I can only assume you have found something important.”

Moon Dancer blinked at me in surprise, “It is?”

“Yes, happy Hearth’s Warming, Moon Dancer,” I said and floated the cup over to her for her magic to grab.

“...Happy Hearth’s Warming, sir,” she said and sipped her tea.

I smiled at her, “You found something?”

“Ah, yes,” she said and put the cup on the table before promptly forgetting it existed, “I have been able to locate several facts regarding Thestrals that I believe you were interested in.”

“Go on.”

She adjusted her glasses and glanced down at her notes, “It doesn't seem like the original spell nor the spell used to modify the curse are known, possibly they were lost to time or just hidden in the first place. At least there are no details about either at all in the ancient archives.”

I blinked at her, “...You went through all of them already?”

Moon Dancer nodded, “Yes. While a lot of it was spellbooks simply because that’s the majority of what unicorns wrote down at that time, none contained anything relevant. What was more useful was the scrolls of lore and ancient maps.”

I slowly nodded, “What did you find?”

“Several things,” Moon Dancer said and then shuffled through her papers before she floated a paper over to me which had a sketch of a much older map on it. The dimensions were off quite a bit, but I could still make out the continent Equestria was located on.

There were symbols on it and lines drawn, none of which told me pretty much of anything.

“Okay,” I finally said and nodded, “What am I looking at? This is… pegasus script, right?”

Moon Dancer nodded, “It is, well, a variation,” she agreed, “At the time, they made the vast majority of maps. It’s actually interesting, despite that Unicorns were the primary scholars at the time, maps was one of the major trade sources between the two tribes not including weather. Other sources incl-”

“Moon Dancer,” I said, gently interrupting her before she really got up to steam, “What about this map?”

“Oh!” she said and moved up next to me, moving up next to me and lighting up her horn to shine a small light on the drawing at a sigil close to the south end of the map, “This sigil, recognize it?”

I shook my head, “Never seen it before.”

“It’s not on any of the translation guides, it’s a really, really old one. But I could trace it’s meaning back to be a combination of the sigils meaning ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Bat’,” she said, looking at me with excitement, “I think it’s warning ponies away from the area!”

“You think that’s where Thestrals were originally from?” I asked with a small frown.

Moon Dancer nodded, “Exactly!”

I glanced down at the map, “That… would put it in the middle of the Southern Jungles,” I said slowly as I slowly nodded.

That made sense. That would explain the entire not liking cold thing, especially if they were still there when the curse modification was done or the original curse was cast. Fruit bats were tropical. Then again, so were most vampire bats.

...Good thing too or I’d be snacking at bugs right now. Ew.

“But does that help?” I finally asked, looking at her, “It’s not really where the thestrals come from that we need to know, we need to find out about the unicorns that cast the spell.”

Moon Dancer beamed at me, “Yes! But that’s the brilliant thing! If the unicorns didn’t live close by, why would they bother!? Modifying a curse like that is not a minor feat!”

That… that was a very, very good point. Without having a very good reason, such as living next to them, why would they bother casting a spell like that?

“You think there might be something to find down there?” I asked her, “After all this time?”

Moon Dancer nodded, “I do!”

Chapter 36

I glanced to Celestia to where she was sitting on the other side of Luna from me. She looked like usual, keeping up the small smile she always had in public.

But I knew her better than that. Celestia was bored stiff.

Well, serve her right, she’s the one that started this tradition in the first place!

“Well?” I whispered to Luna.

“It’s possible,” Luna whispered back, looking thoughtful, “But that was before both mine and my sister's time so I can’t be certain. But Moon Dancer is a good researcher, if she thinks that’s what’s likely…”

“That’s what I’m thinking too,” I agreed, “I’m thinking about an archeology expedition with a full research team.”

Luna frowned slightly and then nodded, “...Perhaps. But it has been so long…”

“The odds aren't great,” I admitted and brushed my wing against her side, “But… there is a chance at least. But... ”

Luna nodded and gave me a small nuzzle, “But?”

I sighed, “It would require crown money. I’m rich, I’m not ‘hire a fleet of airships and crew to scour the jungle for clues for years’ rich.”

Luna looked amused and shifted her ears, “We’ll discuss it later,” and then turned her attention back to the play.

She was right, this wasn’t the place.


“Even only one airship will be expensive,” Sunset said with a thoughtful frown, looking between two floating papers before her.

“Yeah,” I sighed, facing her on the couch, “Rent for the ship, fuel, supplies, crew and expedition pay, equipment and everything else that’s required. Even one airship… that turns out to be a good, good pile of bits a month. Now, I have bits, but that would drain me way faster than some ponies would think possible.”

There was a difference between ‘rich’ and ‘Rich’ and the line had to be drawn somewhere.

Apparently that line was your own personal airship. I guess some things are the same between Earth and Equestria.

“If you buy one, not rent?” Sunset suggested.

“Oh yes, great idea,” I told her with a sigh, “Have you checked how much one of those actually cost?”

“Getting the favor of the Prince-Consort and Princess of the Night should lower the price a bit,” Sunset suggested.

“...Well, likely,” I admitted, “But it’d still wipe out everything I own and I’d still likely need a loan or something. And before you ask, I don’t want to use that much crown money on a hunch. A well researched hunch, but still just a guess.”

Sunset frowned, “What about one of the royal airships?” she asked and looked over a Luna.

Luna shook her head, “They are not set up for that sort of duty.”

I nodded, “She’s right, they are mostly luxury transports with a bit of cargohold. We’d need something more similar to a troop transport or s-”

I paused and then quickly turned to look at a smirking Luna.

“...Really?” I asked her.

Luna shifted her wings a bit smuggly, “I was looking to see how long it would take you,” she said innocently.

I glowered at her and then sighed, “How long?”

“Just a couple of days,” Luna admitted after a second, “I signed off on the report a little while ago and it’s ready for inspection.”

Sunset frowned and looked between us, “...What are you two up to?”

“Would you rather know or get surprised?” I asked her with a grin.

Sunset gave me a look that I recognized well. It said ‘I know where you’re ticklish’ and I quickly relented,

“Do you remember when the Storm King attacked Canterlot?”

Sunset raised an eyebrow, “No, I completely forgot about that. What does that ha-” she started and then her eyes went wide as she got what I was getting at, “Oh!”

Luna nodded with a smile, “Exactly. The refit of the first of the captured ships just finished a couple of days ago.”

My ears perked up and I smiled, showing a lot of fang, “Did it get the name?”

Luna smirked, “It got the name.”

Chapter 37

“...Maybe it should have been bigger,” I said as I stopped at the gantry overlooking the airship hangar constructed at the edge of the Canterlot plateau, down around the ship and on platforms around her, ponies were still working hard on getting it ready.

The large airship floated in the hangar. She didn’t have her original colours, instead she had been painted in the traditional Equestrian colours of… sadly white and pink. At the front where the Storm King’s symbol used to be was now the royal Equestria sigil.

Across the side of the hull of the airship was the name written in big golden letters.

‘HMS Storm King’s Mistake’

Tempest made a small choking sound next to me as she stared at her former flagship and I turned to look at her,

“...Too much?” I asked with a smile.

Tempest looked at it for a long moment and then shook her head like chasing off a fly before she shook her head and sighed, “No.”

I leaned in a bit, “I’m not a big fan of the paint scheme either,” I admitted, “But it’s traditional… and I think it might even be law when it comes to navy vessels.”

Tempest scraped her hoof against the gantry, nodding but declining further comment.

Sunset walked up next to me, “‘Storm King’s Mistake?’” she asked with a frown, “Your idea?”


Sunset sighed, raising an eyebrow at me, “That’s going to cause some friction.”

“Eh, buck him,” I said and shrugged my wings, “She’s not a diplomatic ship, she’s a warship and a troop transport. Besides, Luna blocked my other suggestions.”

Sunset eyed me and then shrugged, “...Well, if Luna thought it was okay.”

“Oh, she was all for it”

Well, after some… convincing anyway.

“Now, let’s have a look inside, shall we?” I said and turned towards the gangway.

With that, we made our way down and around to the ramp to the ship and into the main entry/hold. It was actually kind of spacy.

Tempest looked around and frowned, “It looks… the same.”

“It is mostly the same,” I said, “Some systems have been replaced, there has been a lot of repainting and as I understand it, all the furniture has been replaced to suit ponies. And a million other smaller changes. But the ship itself? Almost the same. Or so I’m told.”

Tempest slowly nodded, flicking her tail as she frowned slightly. She then shook her head again and started to make her way through the ship, leaving Sunset and myself to bring up the rear.

“So this is what you’ll send the expedition with?” Sunset asked softly as she walked next to me.

“...Yes,” I said and shifted my wings as we climbed up a set of stairs onto the bridge, “Except I’m not sending anypony.”

Sunset looked to me, “You’re not? But wh-” she started to ask before her eyes widened in surprise before she glared at me, “No!”

“Yes,” I said with a smile, “I’m going too.”

“Page, that-” Sunset started to say before she took a deep breath, her ears flicking as she scraped one hoof against the metal floor before she sighed, “... It’s a good idea.”

I blinked at her, “It is?”

I had really expected more push back about it from her and Luna. There was still Luna of course, but if I had Sunset backing me up, it would help a lot.

Sunset nodded, “I think so,” she said and frowned, “I...I was against it, but on second thought… I think it’s a good idea.”

“That was a quick change of mind.”

She sighed softly and moved up to touch her horn against mine, “Okay, yeah. I’m a bit old fashioned sometimes.”

“More than Luna which is impressive.”

That got me a small glare and Sunset then sighed and shook her head, “But it’s not really going to be anymore dangerous than Canterlot, is it? You’ll have a full Warship with you, filled with the rest of the expedition and a full load of the Legion.”

I knew better than to argue that point so I just nodded, “Yeah,” and then nuzzled softly, “You’re not coming?”

Sunset looked unhappy but shook her head, “I can’t leave Twi right now with everything that’s going on.”

“...Yeah, I can see that,” I agreed, “I thought about inviting Twi or Midnight, but they have enough to deal with right now.”

“Actually,” Sunset said, looking thoughtful, “I think inviting Midnight might not be a bad idea. Right now, she’s… she’s not doing well.”

“She looked normal yesterday during Hearth’s Warming.”

Sunset sighed, “And when we got back to Twi’s parents place, she locked herself in the guestroom. I could hear her crying but she wouldn’t want any company.”

“It was Hearth’s Warming, Sunny,” I told her quietly, “The worst possible day for her I think.”

“And how many nightmares have you handled for her?” Sunset asked with a raised eyebrow.

Almost every night since it happened. Not all intense enough to even be remembered in the morning, but they were always there.

“I think something that could distract her, even a little, would be good,“ Sunset told me, clearly reading my expression.

“Well, you know Sparks better than anypony, and I guess that applies to Midnight too,” I admitted, “If you really think it will make her feel better…”

Sunset shook her head and leaned against me, “I’m not sure anything can. But maybe it can distract her a bit.”

“I’ll ask.”

Chapter 38

Midnight looked at me, “An expedition?”

I nodded, “I’m putting one together to the southern jungles. The objective is to find out the origin of the thestrals,” I said and spread one wing to show it off, “I’m putting together the team right now and… well… I need an organizer.”

That much was true. No way I could handle that myself and the best organizer I knew, Grey Velvet, was busy handling the rest of Equestrias demands on Celestia. But I wasn’t about to say that to Midnight.

Midnight shifted her wings, looking out through the castle window for a long moment, “I don’t know how useful I would be, Page.”

“Well, I thought I would offer,” I told her and sighed, “To be honest, I… need somepony with your skills for it. I don’t have the skills needed to organize a hundred ponies and get the entire thing working like it should with supplies and equipment and everything. Quite frankly it’s like herding cats and I know myself well enough to know that I can’t do it. Sure, I can tell them what to do, but keeping track of it all and such…”

Midnight blinked at me, “That many ponies?”

“Actually more,” I admitted, “The airship can house about hundred and seventy ponies in relative comfort. I’m not sure we’ll need that many so a lot will likely be used as supply storage and to give ponies a bit more room to move about. I don’t know how many we need yet, but the crew alone is going to end up with almost sixty ponies in a three shift rotation. Then there are the guards that need to come, that’s at least another ten ponies, likely more. There’s me, and Amber and Tempest are coming as well. Moon Dancer is the head researcher. Then there is the rest of the team members. We’ll need archaeologists, biologists, thaumatologists, their equipment. Then there are various other support staff like pegasus air scouts and I don’t know how many more.”

I sighed and flicked my ears, looking at her, “...Help…”

Midnight put her hoof over her muzzle, looking like she was trying not to giggle.

“Oh yes, laugh at me,” I grumbled and sighed, “Seriously, I need help. And if Friendship didn’t warrant an alicorn, you would totally be the alicorn of organizing.”

Midnight gave up on hiding it and grinned at me, “You do need help.”

“...Told you.”

She shook her head, “I’m just not sure I’m the pony for it. I have a lot on my mind right now.”

“I know,” I said and shook my head, “But this could help you take your mind off things.”

Midnight shifted her wings and put her hoof on the small table, looking at her cup of tea for a long moment, “...Okay,” she finally said, “I’ll come.”

“You’re hired.”

She looked amused, “I am?”

“Yep,” I agreed with a nod, “Nopony else is doing this for free, why would you?” I asked and shrugged my wings, “you get bits, the same as everypony else.”

Midnight shook her head and then blinked, “...Wait, I have a job?”


“I never had a job before…”

I blinked at her, “What, really? Even discounting the Princess thing, weren’t you a librarian?”

She shrugged her wings, “Well… yes, but… no. I got my stipend from the crown and I got to live in the Ponyville library in return for running it as nopony else wanted to, but…”

I smiled at her, “Welcome to the working class, Princess Midnight.”

Midnight shot me a look and then sipped her tea, “So, when do we leave?”

“As soon as we’re ready,” I said, “Not like ‘it’s winter’ is going to matter that far down south. I’ll make sure you’ll get everything you need when it comes to the paperwork and such. I’ll put you in contact with Moon Dancer too, she’ll likely have a list of what personnel we need on the research side ready by now.”

Midnight looked at me and then sighed, “You really do need help.”

“...What did I do wrong?”

“You can’t just put a schedule ‘as soon as we’re ready’ or you’ll never get everything done,” Midnight said and shook her head, “I’ll look over the details and set an estimated departure date. Which airship are we taking?”

“The Storm King’s Mistake. It’s the captured airship that landed in Canterlot during the invasion. It’s been refitted for pony use.”

Midnight raised her eyebrow at the name but she slowly nodded and pulled out a notebook, scribbling a note down. She nibbled at the tip of her pen for a second before she started to scribble down notes.

I let her work and sipped at my tea, looking out into the heavy snowfall outside the window. Buck you, weather! Soon I’ll be out of your reach, snow! Warm weather, here we come!

“Are you making a note of ponies we need?” I asked, looking over to Midnight.

She nodded, “Support staff,” she agreed and made another note.

“Do you think we’ll need an animal handler?” I asked, flicking one ear as I put on a thoughtful look, “Just occurred to me that it could be useful.”

Midnight frowned at her notepad, “...Maybe. The jungles are almost like the Everfree Forest, aren’t they. The best one I know of is Fluttershy, but I don’t know if she’d be willing to leave her animals for this long, it might take months to find anything.”

I nodded, “Doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Besides, I think this was one that she might have some personal interest in. But I couldn’t just say that or it would expose her.

Chapter 39

I was so, so, so insanely glad that I managed to talk Midnight into taking the job and not just because she needed it.

Because even with Midnight doing the organizing and scheduling for the entire thing I was still stuck with a stack of paperwork taller than I was.

I know it was because I checked!

Okay, so some of them were just a thick pack of papers that needed a couple of signatures, but still.

“I swear, there wasn’t this much when I covered for you for a couple of weeks!” I complained to Celestia.

“Well, then there was mostly routine,” Celestia said with a smile, “This is a whole other matter.”

“That it is,” I said as we overlooked the hangar. Beneath ponies were very busy, loading cargo and equipment, “And I still can’t believe we’re this far along already.”

Two weeks.

Two weeks and everything is already set to be ready for takeoff in less than a week. Whomever said that bureaucracy moved slowly had never set Midnight Sparkle in charge of bulldozing through it.

For that, I’ll put up with the constant checklists.

“Are you sure of this, Page?” Celestia asked after a moment more.

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking up at her.

“What if you don’t find anything? Or worse;” she asked and shifted her wings as she looked down to me, “Page, the time when this entire thing started, it was a savage time. Before even Lunas and my birth. Tribe against Tribe, clan against clan.”

“Sounds a lot like where I’m from, well, sometimes anyway,” I said and shrugged my wings, “Don’t worry about it, Sunshine. Even if we don’t find what we’re looking for… well, we tried at least. And I feel like I have to do this.”

Celestia smiled slightly, “I almost wished I could come,” she admitted, “It’s been a long time since I did something like this.”

I raised my eyebrow at her, “Did they even have airships back then?”

“We barely had anything that qualified as ships of any sort,” Celestia admitted with a smile, “Not anything like today at least, definitely no airships. But to go on an expedition like this… it has been so long.”

“Well, who’s to tell you that you can’t come along, Sunshine,” I told her with a smile, “You’re a Princess after all.”

Celestia sighed softly and looked down at the airship for a long moment before she shook her head, “No… no. As tempting as it is, it wouldn’t be right of me. I can’t just leave my ponies like that. Especially when if anypony should go, it would be Luna and not me.”

“I asked her last night,” I said and shook my head, “She also wanted to go but couldn’t leave either. You two are too responsible for your own good.”

Celestia shook her head and gave my ear a small nuzzle, “And you would do differently?”

I sighed and then shook my head, “...No. No I wouldn’t. Which is why I'm doing everything I can not to put myself in that kind of position!”

She smiled at me gently, “Can’t avoid it forever, Page.”

“No, but I can try!” I said before I grinned at her for a second before I sighed softly and nodded, “And I know. I’m an alicorn, I can’t really stay away from responsibility, can I? Ponies look up to us even if we try to avoid it.”

Celestia shook her head again, “No Page,” she said and then looked down towards the bustling activity below by the ship, “But to me it looks like you’re already there. Nopony else is making you do this. You are doing this because you care about ponies, to defend thestrals and to find a way to keep them safe.”

Sighing softly, I put my hoof on the railing and flicked my ears, “...They need somepony to. I still don’t know if I’d ever go as far as to thank Discord for this,” I said and stretched my wings, “But he did reveal something very important. Something all of us had overlooked before now. Something nopony else can do.”

“I know what you mean,” Celestia admitted, “You think you have him figured out and then he goes and does something like this.”

“Chaos spirit is chaotic, news at eleven,” I grumbled and folded my wings again, “But I can give credit where credit is due. This time, he did a good thing… in a stupid way. He could just have told us.”

But that would have made ponies question where he got it from and that might have caused trouble for Fluttershy. Which from his point of view was completely unacceptable on every level.

Too bad she had declined to come, saying that she couldn’t be away for that long.

Celestia flicked one ear, looking thoughtful for a moment before she sighed and shrugged her wings, “Always difficult to tell with him,” she admitted before she looked at me and smirked, “...But I can’t imagine that my sister was unhappy with the final result. I can see why she’d like it.”

Clearing my throat, I flicked my ears, “She… uhm…”

“Can’t blame her there,” Celestia continued, smiling her polite smile as she turned back to look down towards the loading ship to keep anypony from guessing the line of conversation, “There is a exotic charm to your new look.”

I worked not to blush as I tried not to react too strongly for the same reason, “You… uhm… discuss that?”

“We are sisters.”

Oh dear.

Chapter 40

Everything was ready.

Tomorrow we’ll leave for the jungles to the south. Far to the south… and neither Luna nor Sunset would be coming along.

I’d be away from them for… months. This will suck.

I pulled my cloak a bit tighter around myself as I headed outside onto the courtyard. The sky was already cleared, the weather for tomorrow had been scheduled to be clear for the launch and the weather teams had already removed every cloud within ten kilometers of Canterlot.

The stars shone like small beacons of light far above and I stopped for a second, looking up towards them, Luna’s moon shining just above the wall of the courtyard.

I should have named the airship the Enterprise because we’re about to do something that was basically impossible back on Earth.

To go explore a basically unknown area of land. The maps of the jungles in the southern part of Equestria basically said ‘jungle’ and then that just continued until you got south of them to the Zebra lands.

Nopony knew if anypony or any creature lived there. It was as wild as the Everfree Forest.

You couldn’t do that anymore on earth, couldn’t find anyplace anywhere near as wild. Wherever you went, somepo… somebody had already been there before. And likely dropped a snickers wrapper, a coke can, and drew a penis on a rock.

Humans gonna human.

Just exploration like that was something that was from a bygone era but even then there were people living there already.

But that sense of exploration, that didn’t exist on the world I was from. It was something from the past and from scifi series.

I looked up towards the stars and couldn’t help but smile.

To boldly go where no man has gone before, to explore new worlds and new civilizations.

There was a goal with this expedition, but that was what we were doing. The jungles were big enough that you could hide a civilization or two in there. In all honesty I didn’t expect to find anything but possibly ruins, but…

It wasn’t impossible.

It wasn’t something I ever expected to experience to be honest. I had been born too late and too early for anything of the sort, but now. Maybe I should write it down in a journal, that was a thing explorers did, right?

Bet it’d be a best seller too.

Now I really would go boldly where nopony had gone before… or at least for a very long time.

And if I find a fucking coke can there, I’m just done and I’m moving to the moon, be it by magic or by rocket. I’m sure Luna can arrange it if she really tries.

Flicking my ears in amusement at that thought and pulled my cloak a bit tighter around myself as I looked towards the lit up windows of our tower.

Speaking of invading the moon…

Grinning, I started towards the tower again before I paused, one hoof off the frozen ground as I frowned. Did I really have everything packed away and ready?

Not like I’d be able to just pop out and find another notebook or something if I had forgotten to bring enough.

Not notebooks specifically at least, I had an entire box of those, but what if I forgot to bring ink or pens or mango or…

Maybe I should go through the checklist Midnight had given me one more time just to make sure I didn-

Oh Celestia, she’s infectious!

I took a slow deep breath and shook my head. I had everything and if I didn’t have it, Midnight had it stocked and ready.

Even if she by some miracle missed something, then we would still be traveling over villages for the next few weeks on our way south.

It’ll be fine.

I started moving again, giving the guards standing by the bottom of the tower a nod. They were wearing heavy winter cloaks over their armour to help keep them warm. I wanted one, but they were heavy and thick and not really practical when you went in and out like I did.

“Evening,” I said and gave them a nod.

“Good evening, sir,” Silent Knight to the left said and lit his horn, opening the door for me to allow me past.

I trotted past them and up the spiral staircase. The cold inside was chilly but no longer freezing and I knew that our quarters would be nice and warm.

I pushed the door open and entered before I froze.

Luna smiled at me from before the fireplace, “Good evening, My Page,” she said and shifted slightly, stretching out as she lifted one wing, the light of the fireplace playing across her coat and feathers, her mane shimmering with stars and firelight.

“We’d figured we’d give you a goodbye you’re not going to forget,” Sunset added from next to her, poking her head around Luna's wing and smiled teasingly as she rested her chin against Luna's side, her hoof resting on the alicorns cutie mark, “How are we doing so far?”

I would have answered, but I seemed to have swallowed my tongue at the moment.

Author's Notes:

Posted early because early morning tomorrow

Chapter 41

Day 1

The expedition was a lot more involved in getting going than I ever imagined and I would have failed completely without Midnight Sparkles assistance. The entire operation was far beyond anything I had experience with in the past and I was ever so thankful for her experiences and skills.

So I decided to make myself useful in some way and record the expedition for posterity because of its potential effects on the long term conditions in Equestria.

The day started when I arrived by the airship this morning as it was getting ready to leave to find one of my friends already there waiting for me, he was going to join us as it turned out as he was still attached to the Dream Legion and was joining as part of the guard compliment we were bringing along.

After some quick and friendly banter, we boarded the sh…


“Morning Swift,” I said and paused as I spotted him outside the ramp, “Didn’t expect you here.”

He saluted quickly and then shrugged, “Didn’t you hear? I’m coming along. Still attached to the Legion and command thought it was best to send me along.”

I nodded and yawned, “...Sounds good to me. Sorry, long night.”

“Yeah, I had the same kind of night,” Swift agreed with a smirk.

I grinned briefly as we started up the ramp before I frowned, “Minuette okay with you leaving for a couple of months like this?”

Swift shrugged, “Wouldn’t say okay as much as, understand how things are in the Guard,” he admitted, “I’ll miss her, but I have my duty.”

I nodded and flicked my right ear.

“Commander,” Tempest said, waiting at the top of the ramp, “Everypony is ready.”

“Thank you, Tempest,” I said, giving her a nod, “Your quarters okay? They rebuilt everything like that to fit ponies better.”

“They are fine, sir,” she said with a nod, “The Captain is waiting on the bridge.”

“Let’s not keep him waiting then.”

To be fair, I was a bit late, I wanted a quick talk with Celestia before we left and it dragged out a little more than I had planned so we were a bit behind.

Tempest nodded and moved to lead the way through the passage through the ship, up a pair of metal stairs, by the time we reached the top, she fell back to a hoofstep to my left while Swift moved along in the same position to my right.

Classic by the book guard position.

Tempest had been studying more than magic it seems.

The airship was big, but not that big or it wouldn’t be able to fly at all so it didn’t take long to make our way up to the bridge.

Everypony was ready to go.

Captain Jetstream turned to me when we entered. Despite his name being extremely pegasus, he was an older earth pony, his mane starting to go grey and were cut short, a captain's hat resting on his head. He was an experienced airship captain, having been in Equestrias(admittedly small) airfleet for his entire life.

“We’re ready to cast off, Lord Page,” he said with a nod as a greeting.

The pegasus mare by the wheel looked over to us when we entered and quickly saluted.

I nodded to them both and then turned to Captain Jetstream, “Your ship, your show, Captain. As soon as everypony is onboard, take us out.”

Captain Jetstream blinked at me in slight surprise before he slowly nodded, “Yes, sir.”

With that, I turned and left the bridge to leave them to it. They didn’t need us looking over their shoulders as they worked.

We made our way down to the hold where it had been set up as part cargobay for supplies and part workspace for the expedition.

That’s where I found Midnight and Moon Dancer by a desk covered by a big map. From the volume of their voices and the way the rest of the team were avoiding that half of the hold, they were having a bit of a disagreement.

“So…” I asked as I stopped to look at them, “I take it we’re not quite sure of our final destination yet?”

Moon Dancer blinked at me in surprise as they both turned to me and Midnight shook her head with a smile,

“Oh, no,” she said and tapped her hoof on the map, “Moon Dancers estimated position is a very good starting place for our search.”

I frowned, “So… what’s the argument about?”

Midnight shook her hoof, “Oh, we were just discussing the theory of metathaumical flow in relation to leylines. For a spell like this it’s clearly necessary for the casting site to be by a leyline.”

Moon Dancer shook her head, “It’s not!” she said, “You can use a lot of unicorns instead, redirect the flow temporarily, use a magical cistern, or even pony sacrifice to power the spell!”

Midnight rounded to her again, “All of which adds difficulty, unnecessary steps or is evil!”

Moon Dancer put her hoof onto the table, leaning forward, “Turning ponies into blood drinking monsters! I don’t think ‘it’s evil’ would stop them!”

Midnight's wings spread in protest, “It still added unnecessary steps and for something that complex in the first place, why do it that way if there is a leyline with easily accessible power!?”

“There might not be an easily accessible leyline!”

I made my escape before they pulled me into the argument. They’ll figure it out, they were both among the smartest and most educated ponies I knew.

Chapter 42

The dreamscape stretched out infinitely in all directions and I just sat there for a moment, looking at the drifting lights through it. They could easily get a pony lost in here, but I just found them pretty.

A night of hunting Nightmares had been fairly productive, I had found a couple of them and absorbed their magic and energy. It didn’t last long, but that last one had been especially big and I felt like I had chugged an energy drink or two.

It was still earning morning and if I let myself actually fade into dreamless sleep right now I’d just wake up and then be unable to fall asleep again without sleeping spells which would suck.

I thought for a second about visiting Sunset or Luna, but… nopony else on the ship could visit their loved ones. It felt wrong of me doing it when they couldn’t.

Yes, it was stupid, but…

...I wouldn’t be able to keep from it indefinitely, I knew that, but still. But that left the question of what to do now…

I could still go visit somepony, who would I visit…

Haven’t visited Cadance for a while. Then again, her dreams usually had some bit of pink hue to them, some a lot more than others, and as such to be avoided at all cost.

I did not want to know what she was into.

...Okay, maybe a little curious considering how many of those kinds of dreams she had, but I wanted to be able to look at her without blushing more than I wanted to know.

Besides, it would be wrong. That too.

The dream portals shifted around and brought hers up before me. A calm silvery blue, not a hint of pink on it.

Getting up, I touched my horn to the silvery surface and stepped into the dream only to find myself in a park.

Looking around, I could see the Crystal Castle in the distance and buildings outside of the park, but otherwise there was no sign of anypony else.

I moved along the path and quickly spotted Cadance. She was playing in a small sandbox with Flurry Heart.

I considered just leaving her to it for a moment, not really wanting to interrupt but then I tapped my hoof against the ground and the dream solidified around us.

Cadance quickly looked up, her wings lifting in surprise as she realized the feeling before she turned her head and spotted me.

“Page!” she said with a smile before quickly giving Flurry’s mane a quick kiss, “Make mommy a nice castle, love,” she said before she got up and approached me.

“Cadance,” I said with a smile, “Just thought I would check in and see how you were doing.”

She nodded and then frowned, “...I heard of everything that had happened. Did my letter catch Midnight in time before you left?”

“I don’t know, Sorry.”

She nodded, “How is she and Twi doing?” she asked with a small worried look.

“It differs,” I admitted, “Sparks seems to be doing pretty okay, but it was harder on Midnight. One of the reasons why I asked her for help with the expedition, to get her mind off things for a bit. Seems to be working, the rate of nightmares is down from before.”

Not gone however. But I suppose that would be too much to hope for.

Cadance nodded and stretched her wings with a thoughtful look on her face, “I think she need somepony to hold at night.”

I raised an eyebrow at her, “I know you’re the alicorn of love, but not everything is about getting ponies laid.”

“Not what I said,” Cadance said with a smile, “But you’d be surprised on how good of a way to get rid of stress it is.”

“Mhmm,” I said, giving her a wary look, “Don’t you have better things to do?”

Cadance grinned, “Oh, relax Page. It’s not you I have in mind for her. She’s more into mares anyway, about seventy percent or so. It’s not an exact science.”

“You have met her… what, twice? How can you possibly know what?”

Cadance simply shot me an amused look and I sighed as I facehooved,

“...Right. But that doesn't mean you’re always right.”

“No, but I have known Twilight literally her entire life and they aren’t that different, they like the same things.” Cadence said and shifted her wings, “Besides, weren’t I right about you and Sunset?”

“...Yes…” I admitted and shifted my wings. She had been right when everypony… okay, just Sunny and I missed it.

“Then again, not like it was difficult, even Aunty Celestia could see that,” Cadance said, getting a thoughtful look on her face for a second as she looked at me.

I glowered at her for a second before I sighed, “What do you have in mind?”

Cadance happily flapped her wings with a smile, “Okay, this is what I want you to do…” she said and went on to give me my instructions.

Why did I visit her again?

I really should have learned to stay away from her by now.

Cadance is nothing but pink trouble.

Chapter 43

Day 3

I’m writing this from my cabin onboard the Storm King’s Mistake. I think I made a mistake with this entire expedition.

Midnight is handling the organizing. Moon Dancer did the research. The crew and Captain handle the ship. Lieutenant Moonglow leads the guard garrison.

I have literally nothing to do.

I didn’t expect this to happen, but I’m basically a passenger at this point of the journey, even if I suspect that once we reach our destination I’m going to have a lot more to do-


I looked up from my journal at the knock on my door. My actual cabin was small and contained basically a narrow bed, a small desk and a chest for my belongings. It was likely a good thing that Luna or Sunset came along because not even Sunset would have fit on that bed with me, yet alone Luna. Then again, I actually had private quarters, something far from everypony else did.

But what I did have was a porthole window showing the landscape of Equestria passing by beneath us beneath the clouds.


The door opened and Tempest entered, “You wanted to see me, Commander?” she asked and stopped before my desk.

“Ah, yes,” I agreed and put my pen down, “I was mostly curious about how your magic practice has been going, not easy to do onboard.”

Tempest's ears twitched and then she shook her head, “I have been working on my telekinesis spells. But otherwise… it has been difficult,” she admitted.

I nodded, “I figured. Luckily, I also have a solution.”


“Now when we’re underway, Midnight is way less busy than she was before we left and she’s a literal alicorn of magic,” I said, “What do you think?”

Tempest nodded, “I will ask her, sir.”

“Oh, she’ll love it,” I said and then looked at her for a long moment, “How are you doing, Tempest? Being back on board and all.”

Tempest scraped her hoof against the deck and looked to the side, her ears flicking back for a second before she shook her head, “I’m fine, sir.”

I regarded her for a moment before I nodded, “It’s just… I’d feel weird about it. I mean, it’s your former flagship.”

Tempest sighed and then finally nodded, “...It is. Weird. There are a lot of memories, but everything is different. It just reminds me of things at times. But I’m fine, sir.”

“If there is anything I can do, just let me know, okay?”

Tempest actually flinched.

I frowned at her, “Tempest?”

She sank down to sit on the deck, “...You have just done so much for me already, sir. You gave me my horn back, you got...you got turned into what you are now to do it. For me.”

I got up from the desk and sighed, moving over to her, “Tempest, I made you a promise. Yes, the entire deal might not have been what I was expecting from Discord, but it’s not bad. You know where I am really from by now. First I’m a pony, then an alicorn, then a different kind of alicorn. That’s all,” I told the tall mare before I spread my left wing and looked at it, “Besides, it’s far from bad, just different. Sure, I don’t handle cold as easily as before and moving clouds around is more difficult, but my wings are way quieter, I can see in the dark and my hearing is better, and seriously, how often did I do cloud work?”

“That’s not the point.”

“No, the point is that it pointed out the difficulties of possibly thousands of ponies to me,” I told her seriously, putting my hoof on her chest, “That’s what it did. That’s why we are right here, right now. To help them and make their lives better. If not for all this, it might have taken longer for me to find it, maybe a lot longer.”

Tempest looked uncertain, “I don’t…” before she sighed, “That’s not what I mean to happen. It was an accident and it ended up good.”

I let my hoof drop back onto the floor, “Eh… that’s the thing with choices,” I said and shrugged my wings, “You very rarely know what the result is going to be from your actions or choices. You can guess the most likely result, yes, but knowing it? That’s beyond anypony… unless maybe if we end up with an alicorn of time at some point I suppose.”

I quickly glanced around for possible time travelers. Because that timing was way too good for anypony like that to pass up.

Tempest sighed softly but she finally nodded, “...You’re right, Commander. But what I di-”

“Is why we are here and why you are a Warmage,” I told her, “For the betterment of Equestria. You didn’t run away, you didn’t leave. You wanted to make up for everything that has happened and you are doing that right now.”

Tempest scraped her hoof against the deck and then took a slow deep breath before she nodded firmly, “Yes, sir.”

“Besides,” I said with a smile, flashing my fangs, “I kinda like parts of it.”

I hope you know what you are doing Cadance.

Chapter 44

The wind tugged at my mane and I stood with my eyes closed, enjoying the not freezing wind. I half spread my wings, feeling the flow of the wind across them.

It wasn’t freezing.

It wasn’t exactly warm yet, but it wasn’t cold. When I woke up this morning, the land beneath had been clear of snow. It was amazing and I just had to get out on the deck to feel it.

We had been steadily moved south since we left Canterlot and it was starting to get really noticeable.

Celestias sun was high in the sky and the balloon put me in the shade so it wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t freezing cold either. It felt almost like a spring day.

A sound from behind, an opening hatch caused my right ear to flick back towards it and I opened my eyes and folded my wings before looking back to see Moon Dancer exit onto the deck. The wind tugged at her mane and she looked around a bit uncertainly before making her way over towards me, her horn lit up and keeping a firm grasp on her glasses with her magic.

“Yes Moon Dancer?”

She shook her head and spoke up loudly over the rush of the wind, “We think we have narrowed things down a little!”

I lit my horn and threw up a half sphere shield over us, forcing the wind away, “You found more evidence?”

Moon Dancer let go of her glasses and nodded, “Yes, Princess Midnight and I managed to locate several references about ‘night demons’ I had previously missed. They all indicated that they came from the southern jungles.”

“But we knew that already?”

“Yes, but these references were from much further west. Unless it was way more common and affected several tribes of pegasi, it’s way too far away from the easternmost parts. Their original living place must have been somewhere between the old spots.”

I slowly nodded, “That makes sense. Well… unless they were nomadic.”

Moon Dancer frowned and nodded, “That’s always a possibility. Sadly a strong one: a lot of pegasi tribes during those times were at least semi-nomadic. But not all. It was mostly the stationary ones that got into more serious conflicts with other groups such as unicorns or earth ponies. The nomadic tribes usually just raided and moved on.”

“I see. And like you said before, why bother using something like this one somepony that raid you and then moves on.”

Moon Dancer nodded, “Indeed.”

“Good work in finding it,” I said, “Have you told the Captain?”

“Midnight is doing it now,” Moon Dancer said and lit up her horn again, grabbing her glasses and I took that as a signal to drop the shield.

She smiled and then retreated back towards the hatch.

I turned and looked out over the landscape below us. If they could actually narrow the search down it might save us months of work.

But something kept bothering me.

Thestrals now were the kidfriendly tame fruit eating curse modification version, not the rip your throat out and suck your blood kind. But the first one would have been nightmares compared to the pegasi it was originally cast on.

Sure, curse your enemies, that could be useful, but why in the world would they curse their enemies in a way that makes them more dangerous?

‘I curse you to fly silently, see and hear better in the dark and drink blood!’

Then again… predators didn’t stick together in large groups, especially larger predators such as thestrals of that time would have been.

It might have worked for a bit, but lack of food would soon drive the group appart or even cause infighting and…

Yeah, maybe it wasn’t such a bad plan in the first place. One or two blood sucking thestrals might be more dangerous than two pegasi, but compared to fifty pegasi raiders?

Not so much. So maybe that’s what they were thinking which in all honesty was some Xanatos level plan.

Or maybe Chrysalis, thinking about it. That was just the kind of batshit crazy plan she would have come up with.

Shaking my head, I pushed those thoughts from my head and looked out at the landscape below before I half spread my wings, feeling the wind against the magic of my wings.

I spread them wider, feeling the pressure on my hooves get lighter and lighter.

I wanted to fly.

But actually taking off now would be a baaaad idea and likely result with alicorn in the propellers.

Now, I was pretty tough, as surviving being hit by a sun showed, but I was pretty sure ending up in one of those would rip me into tiny little pieces of ex-pony.

But I wasn’t about to ask the Captain to stop this thing for a bit just so I could have a fly around. I might technically be nobility, but I’d be damned if I’ll ever end up being that kind of nobility.

...Besides, I had a strong feeling that as soon as we arrived I’d get to fly around enough that it made my wings ache.

Chapter 45

Day 7

We are over grassland now. We passed over which according to the map may be one of the last villages in Equestria this morning and now we are over the grassland bordering the edge of the jungle.

We’ll likely reach it sometime tomorrow but then we are another day or two of flight away from the area Moon Dancer, Midnight and their team pointed out as a good starting point for our search for the origin of the thestrals.

Moon Dancer has some ideas about how to narrow things down more, but I’m not overly convinced how useful it will be…


I spread my wing as wide as I could as Moon Dancer ran a measuring tape along every bone I had in it while making measurements on a notepad.

“How exactly is this going to help?” I asked as I turned my head to look at her.

“Don’t move, please,” she answered and measured along the rear edge of my wing, mumbling measurements to herself, her pen scribbling calculations on her notepad.

Well, when she got like that you just had to wait for her to get out of it. I took the time to look around the workshop set up in the cargohold of the ship. One entire corner, the one Moon Dancer and I were currently occupying held several maps and stacks of scrolls and books on several shelves set up around a table with a large map on it.

The rest of the workshop had several worktables as well as storage areas. Right now they were mostly empty other than a couple of ponies working away at their workbenches.

What exactly they were doing already as we haven’t even gotten there yet was beyond me, but nothing wrong with getting your tools ready beforehand.

What I was carefully not paying attention to however was Tempest and Midnight at the other end of the workshop. They were sitting close to each other and Midnight was in the middle of explaining something about what they were reading in the book laid out before them.

Tempest were watching her closely and nodding along before asking a question. Midnight shifted her wings and nodded before she answered, shifting a bit closer and pointed out something in the book.

You know what? I think Cadance might actually know what she’s doing.

“Moon Dancer?” I asked as I turned back to her, folding my wing again, “How will this help?”

Moon Dancer looked at me in surprise like she had forgotten I was there, “How’s your glide ratio? Better or worse than when you had feathered wings?”

I blinked at her, “About the same as before from what I noticed.”

She nodded and went back to her notepad.

Oh for…

I sighed and just moved over to look at the map of the area we were heading to. Not that it was especially useful, it was basically a blank roll of paper with coordinate lines on it. Oh, it had a mountain to one side, but other than that?

Just blank.

Never thought I’d miss satellites as much as I did right now. Just eight days from Canterlot and we were in basically uncharted territory.

...Okay, that wasn’t fair. One, we were flying day and night faster than a pegasus could cruise. We’d actually covered a good amount of actual distance. Two, the area we were going to was honestly dangerous and filled with deadly predators.

So… far away from the center of Equestria combined with dangerous environments didn’t exactly encourage exploration.

Humans might be attracted by that kind of thing but ponies? Not so much.

Speaking of danger, I should go check on the guard detachment and see how they were doing. I had a feeling that we might need them when we arrive and… well, maybe twenty guards was a bit low.

Or maybe that’s just my paranoia.

Moon Dancer moved over to look at the map next to me and I looked to her,

“So, what was that entire ‘measure the wings’ thing?”

“To see if thestral flight capabilities matched pegasi,” she said and looked at the map, “It seems like they are.”

“I could have told you that. But I’m not the best example, I’m no more a pegasi than Midnight over there is a pegasus. Besides, I think my wings are a bit bigger than average.”

“You are,” Midnight confirmed, “As an alicorn you are approximately six percent bigger than the average male pegasus over all. But I can scale that and it doesn't matter that much as the rest of you are scaled to it.”

I’m still growing. I knew that much too, I had caught up to Midnight and Sparks just before my batification. Nopony had no idea how big I would end up.

Celestia, Luna and Cadence seemed somewhat static like they were now. Would I end up as big as one of them? Considering I seem to be passing Sparks and Midnight, I suspected I’d be bigger than them at least. Or maybe I just grew faster for some reason.

What in the world would I do if I ended up with Celestia's stature?

“Does it help?” I asked, flicking my ear, “That seems… imprecise.”

“No,” Moon Dancer admitted with a sign, “Even if you think that a raiding party from a pegasus tribe might not like to wander more than a day or two from their homes, a pegasi can travel impressive distances in a day, even carrying potential plunder. I had hoped your flight capabilities would have been significantly worse.”

“I guess we just have to do it the hard way then.”

Chapter 46

“Sir,” Moonglow said and saluted as I joined her out on the deck of the airship. Despite her name, she wasn’t either a hidden batpony or a unicorn, she was pure pegasus and with a white coat and silvery mane, a moon and sword cutiemark.

“Lieutenant Moonglow,” I said with a smile and looked out over the grasslands beneath, “How’s things?”

She put her hoof down on the deck again, “We’re doing well, sir,” she said and shifted her wings across her form fitting armour, “The girls are a bit restless, but we make do.”

“Space is at a bit of a premium onboard, sadly,” I said, “Sorry.”

Moonglow shook her head, “We’re making due, sir,” she said again with a smile, “We’re doing a lot of exercise, but it’s hard for the earth ponies.”

I nodded. They were so much stronger than being constrained like this made it difficult for them to work.

“Well, we should be there in a couple of days… the first spot at least,” I said, “It’s going to be a dangerous area.”

Moonglow nodded, “Yes, sir. The briefing of possible creatures was worrying, but we’ll set up a perimeter and a full guard rotation with shifts to keep the camp safe with fortifications.”

“Let me know if I can help with lifting or something,” I told her, “I do have a horn and not a lot of other duties.”

She smiled and nodded, “Will do, sir,” before she looked out towards the landscape, “We have slowed down.”

I nodded, “I noticed and asked earlier. Apparently the weather scouts reported back that there is a storm ahead. We have slowed down to either let it pass by before us or find a way around.”

Moonglow frowned, “We should have been informed. Every pegasus in the Legion has a valid weather licence.”

“I’ll talk to the Captain,” I said, “Cooperation will be important for this expedition to go smoothly. But he might already have plenty of scouts, that’s why he has weather scouts after all.”

Weather may be carefully managed further into Equestria. This far out? Towns had their own weather teams, yes, but they only managed weather in the area around the towns and farms. Plenty of feral clouds around.

“Yes, sir,” Moonglow said and flicked her ears. She sniffed the air and looked towards the way we were going, her wings half spreading and she spread her primary feathers wide, “...The wind and pressure is shifting.”

“You can sense the storm?” I asked. I didn’t feel anything. I suppose feathers really were better for some things.

Moonglow nodded, “I was a weatherpony before I joined, sir,” she said, “Rain specialist. The storm is heading this way and if I can feel it before I see it, it’s going to be a big one. If we’re going to avoid it, we should likely start moving soon.”

“I’m sure the Captain knows what he is doing,” I said and then turned as the hatch opened for a crewpony to approach us.

The earth pony saluted, “My Lord,” he said, “The Captain sent me to inform you that it may be a good idea to return to your quarters, we are about to get some turbulence in a few hours.”

“Thank you,” I said and nodded to him. He saluted again before quickly returning the way he came and I looked to Moonglow, “Seems like avoiding the storm isn’t possible.”

Moonglow nodded, “It’s not visible yet, but if the wind isn’t lying, it’s going to be a big one. He might have found out that it’s too wide for us to avoid. If that’s the case, we should try to get as high as we can and try to get above it.”

A moment later the large propellers started to turn faster and we started to pick up speed, raising higher through the air.

Moonglow nodded, “...I’d listen to him, sir,” she said, “I’ll go tell the troops to get ready and secure our equipment. With your permission?”

I nodded, “Go ahead.”

Moonglow saluted and then turned and trotted back inside. I half spread my wings and tried to feel what she had.

I just felt wind. Maybe there was something I did lose when I got non-feathery parts. Or maybe it was the lack of experience and the fact that I knew about as much about weather work as I did about panda breeding.

Oh well.

Not like I ever planned that as a career and nobody could possibly know how to do everything. Shrugging my wings I refolded them again and looked towards the horizon. The sun was slowly setting in the distance and I raised my wing against the glare.

Celestia is lowering her sun somewhere in Canterlot right now. Soon Luna would raise her moon.

I miss my Luna. I miss Sunset.

It’s only been a bit over a week but I still missed them.

Pushing that thought from my head, I turned and headed inside. Better head down and help secure the workshop in case it got bumpy and then make sure that my stuff was strapped down.

Chapter 47

Day 8

It was a dark and stormy night. You know, i have written many books but I don’t think I have ever used that one before. But this time it’s fitting.

We reached the stormfront just after nightfall and the Captain had taken us as high as the airship would go. We’re above the clouds, but the winds are still heavy and we’re experiencing a lot of turbulence. Luckily we had plenty of warning from the weather scouts, it gave us plenty of warning to secure our belongings for a bumpy ride.

That didn’t mean that we were’t buffeted by it however and-


A tendril of cloud drifted past outside my cabin window and lightning flashed through the dark cloudlayer beneath us, lighting the clouds.

I glanced up from my journal as there was a loud rumble, the ship actually shaking slightly at that one. That was a big one.

So, so glad this ship was held up by magic floaty stuff instead of hydrogen.

Because that would have been bad. Explosively so.

Not that I was very happy about it in any case, but it’s not like there was a lot we could do about it anyway. We had maybe thirty pegasus onboard that could work clouds. Not enough to affect a storm of this size.

There was another rumble and the ship shifted beneath me slightly before straightening again and I quickly caught my inkwell with my magic before it slipped off the table, putting a cork in it before putting it away.

“You okay, Amber?”

“I’m fine, sir,” a voice answered, drifting out from beneath my bunk. I could just about see a pair of luminous eyes from the darkness there when I leaned down to peer in beneath it. Even with my eyes I could barely make her out in the pitch black darkness compared to the rest of my small cabin.

“You sure?”

“...Don’t like this, sir.”

I nodded, “I know. Don’t worry, we’ll be okay.”

“...Yes, sir...”

Changelings didn’t like open spaces in general and were the most comfortable in cramped underground spaces. Amber didn’t like this. Like, at all.

Moving, dangerous, waaaay above ground, constricted rooms and way too many things that could go wrong and absolutely nothing she could do about it.

Basically a nightmare scenario for her and at the first thunderclash, she had retreated to beneath my bunk.

The ship shuddered beneath my hooves again and Amber kind of twitched in the darkness, her eyes retreating a bit further back into the darkness. She had to be pressed hard against the wall behind her at this rate or possibly having clawed her way halfway through it.

I frowned slightly, “You sure, Amber?”

“I-I’m fine, sir.”

There really wasn’t anything I could do to help either, instead I laid down on the floor just outside the bunk, “We’re not going to be passing anywhere close to the old Jungle Hive,” I commented, “That was much further east from here. Not even sure it’s the same stretch of jungle.”

“It was,” Amber agreed after a moment.

I shifted my wings, “Is that’s part of what worries you?” I asked her.

Amber shook her head, “...No, sir.”

“There really is no danger, Amber. We’re safe.”

“We’re in a metal box in the sky above a zzzeeetazz,” Amber answered, slipping into old changeling for the last word.

That was one that I knew. It meant basically, ‘sky ripping storm’ or possibly ‘hive killing sky’ depending on context.

“...Okay, fair assessment,” I admitted and shifted my wings, “But this ship is well built and Captain Jetstream and his crew know what they are doing.”

“Don’t trust them.”

I frowned at her, “Why’s that?”

“Don’t know them, not of The Hive.”

I flicked my ear, “A lot of ponies aren’t. The other ponies onboard aren't either. Is Midnight or Moon Dancer? The Guard?”

“No. Don’t trust them. But they belong to you.”

“Amber, I’m not ‘of the hive’ either.”

Her eyes blinked at me once in the darkness, “Yes you are.”


I smiled at her, “Thank you,” I said and shifted my wings, “Come on, let’s see if we can’t find someth-”

There was a crashing sound of ripping metal and I suddenly found myself slightly airborne for a split second before sliding sideways across the floor to smash into the legs of the table as alarms started to blare.

Chapter 48

What in the fuck!

I rolled with the slide, putting my hooves against the legs of the table to stop myself from hitting it with my back.

Alarms blared as Amber scrambled out from beneath my bunk, “Are we crashing!?” she asked, eyes wide.

The ship rocked beneath us and then tipped back to level. I rolled onto my hooves but stayed down, “...I don’t think so. But something just went horribly wrong.”

The ship didn’t seem like it wanted to throw me across the room again and I very carefully got onto my hooves again, wings half spread for balance just in case.

“I don’t like this!” Amber said and her eyes darted around the room.

“Not a huge fan either,” I admitted over the sound of the blaring alarm, keeping on my hooves when the ship rocked slightly by using my wings, “Let’s find out what happened.”

I moved over and slid the door open, exiting my cabin. No smoke in the air and it didn’t feel like we were falling. But I also didn’t hear the engines anymore.

That’s… bad.

An engineering pony came galloping the corridor and I quickly got out of her way. As much as I wanted to ask the earth pony what happened, she likely had way more important things to do than informing me.

She passed us at a full gallop towards the rear of the ship, tools clanking in her tool belt at every step.

But I needed to know what was going on. I glanced back at Amber, “Come on, let’s go to the bridge.”

Amber nodded, her eyes wide and her side firmly pressed against the wall of the corridor, her legs slightly bent.

I shifted and touched my wing to her side, “Come on.”

She nodded again and then started to move.

It didn’t take us long to get to the bridge but after dodging another five ponies galloping through the corridors on their way to their stations or duties.

The door to the bridge was already open and I entered, looking around.

“No power, Captain!” The unicorn by the wheel called back to the Captain, keeping a firm grip of the wheel with his hooves while working one of the levers with his magic, “Engines not responding.”

A earth pony galloped past me and Amber directly to Captain Jetstream, “Captain! Report from the engine room.”

“Well, speak up!” Jetstream said, barely sparing amber and myself a glance.

“Port engine is gone, we had a direct hit! The mana capacitor is cracked and it brought down the starboard engine with it. Engineer Sparkgap thinks she can get it working again, but it’ll take days to fix the capacitor.”

Jetstream nodded, “Can we siphon power from the lift system?”

The earth pony nodded, “Yes, but only for a couple of minutes before we start to lose altitude. Ten, fifteen at most.”

“Captain!” The helms pony said, “It’s getting mighty tricky keeping her into the wind without power!”

Jetstream stomped his hoof on the deck before he nodded once, turning back to the messenger, “Tell Sparkgap to get us hooked up for cross power transfer. If we start to drift, we might hit a mountain or get pulled into an airstream that can rip us apart. We have to land.”

The messenger nodded and saluted before turning and galloping out from the bridge.

Jetstream spared us a glance now, “Lord Page, this might be a rough landing, we’re well over the jungle by now, we have had a strong headwind. If you want to make yourself useful, alert Princess Midnight and the rest of the passengers.”

I nodded, “That we can do. Midnight might have some ideas on how to keep us going.”

“Find her.”

I nodded again and looked to Amber, “We have to move fast. Think you can keep up?”

She pulled herself up straight and gave me a firm nod, “Yes sir!”

I shot her a smile and then I galopped out of the bridge. We had to find Midnight, if nothing else she would be able to teleport everypony down to the ground safely if it looks like we’re about to crash. Moon Dancer too, she might have some good ideas about what we could do.

If you’re on a crashing airship, make sure to do it with the smartest ponies you can onboard to help figure out a way out of it.

I was only a couple of meters away from the bridge when I literally ran into Midnight and we went into a pile on the deck.

“Page!” Midnight exclaimed as we unentangled ourselves, “What’s going on!?”

“Engines took a hit!” I said, “One engine gone, one down with the mana capacitor damaged. Engineer is going to cross feed from the lift system!”

Midnight's eyes widened before she looked determined, “I’ll help,” she said and disappeared in a flash of a teleport.

I am so envious of that filly’s skill at teleporting.

Chapter 49



The word came from all through the airship as each crewmember repeated it loudly when they heard it.

I lit my horn and wrapped myself and the five closest changelings and ponies into my shield as I held on tightly.

Shield wouldn’t do much for the impact itself, but it would help with potential flying debris.

Amber had one foreleg around me, her other three legs planted firmly on the floor as she held on tightly.

I wrapped her tightly in one wing for extra support.

The ship suddenly rocked slightly and there was the sound of impact over the howling wind outside.


Something hit metal and there was a crashing and ripping sound and the ship kind of vibrated beneath our hooves, tilting slightly before it suddenly jerked with the sound of impact.

Another impact rang through the ship, something scraped across the hull in a horribly screeching sound followed by another impact and then another and then…

It was over.

I slowly raised my head without lowering the shield, “...That’s it?” I asked, “We don’t seem to be moving much.”

Another bang, but this one much softer and was more you could hear it more than feel it.

There was a whine and then a bang from the rear of the ship, the sound of the rear hatch banging open.

I dropped the shield and looked to Tempest and Amber as the three crew members quickly galloped off to where they were going before the brace order came, “Come on, let’s check it out!”

Amber looked like she wanted to protest, but still nodded and let go of me.

We headed for the hatch at a bit more sedate pace. Whatever was happening was clearly mostly over.

The exit of the ship was filled with ponies passing lines along and being lowered out by unicorn crewmembers, pegasi jumping out and flying back in to get more equipment or tools, clearly fighting against the howling wind outside.

“What’s going on?” I asked the closest unicorn.

He looked to me for a moment, “We need to tie down, My Lord, or the storm is going to crack us open against the forest.

“Anything we can do to help?”

He shook his head, “You’re not trained, sir.”

“Fair enough, we’ll stay out of your way.”

He looked to me in slight surprise as he kept preparing a set of rope with his magic before he gave me a nod and trotted over to the edge to hand it over to one of the pegasi.

I took a breath and then shook my head and looked to the other two, “Come on, let’s get going. We shouldn’t be in the way.”

Tempest shook her head, “This is something I ‘am’ trained for, Commander,” she said and crossed the chamber to the earth pony that was clearly in charge.

“Well, we useless ones should at least get out of the way,” I told Amber, “But there is something we can do.”

It was the middle of the night, it was raining hard and when it’s over, everypony was going to be freezing and starving.

I’m going to the galley.


It took a bit of work to figure out how to use the magic powered burner and a some more to figure out where everything was and how to lock the large pot down to it.

Then it was simply the task of locating all the ingredients and getting to work.

I’m hardly the best chef in the world, but there is only so much you could buck up making soup.

“What in Celestia's name are you doing in my galle-” an angry voice asked as I added some more pepper before it broke off as I looked over to the speaker and the earth pony cleared his throat, “I mean, may I ask what you’re doing, Lord Page?”

“The one thing I can actually do to help,” I said and turned the heat down a little, “My apologies for borrowing your equipment, Biscuit, but we’re going to have a lot of hungry ponies soon.”

He nodded, “Which is why I’m here. Now, out of my kitchen!” he said and trotted over.

I obediently got out of his way and he sniffed the soup before picking up a spoon and trying some.

Biscuit frowned and then looked to me, “Is that goulash?”

“Ish,” I said, “Goulashish. It has a lot of the same things in it, but it’s a soup not a stew. Need another hour to get ready.”

Biscuit nodded and looked at the puttering pot, “Very well,” he said and then looked at Amber and me again, “That’s going to need time to work and we’re going to need some bread and something else as well. I have dough rising for tomorrow, we can use that a bit early. I get to work with that. Changeling, how are you with a knife?”

“I can use a knife,” Amber said and eyed him warily.

“There is a barrel of carrots in the storage room, get five pounds, peel and grate. Lord Page,” he then continued and turned to me, “Same deal, twice as many potatoes.”

I saluted him.

Let’s get some ponies fed!

Chapter 50

The next morning the storm had dissipated and I stood with Moon Dancer, Midnight and Tempest in a small group, looking up at the ship.

“Well,” I said and shifted my wings, “That could have been a lot worse.”

The ship looked mostly intact, ignoring some buckles in the lower hull where it had… convinced… some trees to get out of the way. One engine nacelle was outright blown in half, but the other one looked somewhat intact. The propeller was missing which considering we went through a forest before stopping wasn’t surprising, but the rest looked okay.

Even the windows of the bridge were intact.

“Could have been,” Midnight said and sank down to sit, “Thank Celestia nopony died.”

“Anypony get hurt?” I asked.

She nodded, “One engineer has a broken rear leg and a pegasus broke two ribs and had her wing dislocated while trying to tie the ship down,” she said, “But it could have been worse. A lot worse.”

I just nodded and sighed in agreement and slowly looked around the clearing around the ship. The guard was in full process of fortifying the area around the ship, using the trees cut down around the ship after the forest.

The sound of splitting trees and digging filled the air as a thick wooden barricade was being quickly erected in a circle around the ship.

As I watched, a thick tree came crashing down.

Which considering the thick jungles all around was something I approved of. Because who knew what lurked out in that thick vegetation?

I fully approved of their wariness.

What I found slightly more annoying was the way that Tempest stuck within three hooves of me at all times, her eyes constantly scanning the forest around the clearing.

I already had Amber doing that from hiding somewhere, I didn’t need a third shadow!

She wasn’t even a member of my Guard.

But considering the possible danger of the jungle, I didn’t complain too hard about it.

I turned to Midnight, “...So… how long would it take to fix you think?”

Midnight shrugged, “Don’t know yet. I talked to Sparkgap, she thinks we can get it up and running again. But we need a new propeller for the engine that’s still there. We also need to fix the mana capacitor for the engines or best we’d be able to do it short hops.”

“And everything else that’s broken,” Captain Jetstream said as he approached us, giving Midnight a slight bow, “Your Highness,” he continued, “While those were the major items, we’ve taken more damage than that. The landing put a lot of strain on the lifting magic as well, it was not made to have power pulled from it like that. We’re going to get it seen too before we’re going anywhere to make sure we don’t have a leak.”

Midnight nodded, “We’re going to be stuck here for weeks,” she said and ears drooped slightly before she straightened again, “We’d better get to it then, Captain.”

Jetstream grinned briefly, “I think you may be a bit pessimistic about our timeframe, your highness. I have the best engineering team in Equestria.”

“And outside, considering we are in the jungle now,” I mused, “We’re no longer in Equestria.”

He chuckled and nodded, “Right you are,” he said and then looked to Midnight, “With your permission, Princess?”

Midnight motioned for him and he retreated and headed back to a group of his engineers pointing towards different parts of the ship.

I looked up at the ship for a moment, stretching my wings, “Well… we better go be useful instead of standing here like a bunch of… nobles. I’ll go help build the fortifications, I can at least help with the heavy lifting or digging.”

With that, I headed over towards the group of ponies sticking split thick wooden quarters of three or so pony lengths of tree trunks into the ground to form a barricade.

Moonglow was overseeing the work and I moved up to her, “So, what can I do to help?” I asked her.

She glanced at me and shook her head, “That’s not necessary, sir.”

“No it’s not, you’re doing a good job and making amazing progress,” before I moved a bit closer, “But I’m feeling a bit useless here. I can’t help fix the ship, but I can help with heavy lifting.”

Moonglow smiled and then gave me a nod as she shifted her wings, “Very well, sir. We could use somepony to help with the splitting of the trunks. How’s your cutting spells?”

“Good enough for that,” I confirmed, “Tempest?”

“...I’ll help lift,” she said and then continued quietly, “I can’t hardly break a tree while picking it up.”

“Not with that attitude you can’t!” I told her with a grin and Tempest actually chuckled.

I smiled and stretched my wings for a second, “Come on, let’s go do something useful.”

Chapter 51

The moon shone far above among the twinkling stars and the air was filled with the sound of the jungle outside the camp.

The airship was visible mostly as a pitch black silhouette against the stars behind it. The camp had been set up at one side of it, tents stretched up as Captain Jetstream had set the ship as off limits for everypony that didn’t absolutely need to be onboard until the full inspection of the lifting thingamajig had been completed.

It was still gas, but it wasn’t a lifting gas, it did something to air and it sounded at Midnight's explanation like it reversed gravity on the air or something.

To be completely honest, I didn’t quite follow her explanation, what i got out of it was that thing do thing to air that make it lift.

All I knew was that they wanted to be sure nothing would break and have the ship roll over and explode before they let more ponies than necessary onboard.

Something howled out in the darkness and everypony in the camp jerked up slightly, ears turning in all all directions.

I tried not to roll my eyes.

Ponies could really be such nervous herd animals sometimes. That wasn’t even close. I yawned and looked around the camp. The tents were gathered in groups around the crackling fires and ponies were gathered in groups around the fires other than the guards patrolling the edges of the camp.

We got almost half the walls installed during the day and quite frankly, my horn hurt from cutting tree trunks into quarters all day.

I had never practiced magic like that in the past, casting such a high power spell all day really did take it out of you.

I now understood fully why they normally used saws instead of just hiring a unicorn for the job even if it took longer.

I reached up to touch my horn with a small cringe before I sighed and dropped my hoof again.

“Smarts?” Midnight asked from across the fire from me, glancing up from the crate she had put laid out a map and a couple of books on.

“Yeah,” I admitted, “Not used to casting like that.”

I had spent all day casting cutting spells strong enough to split tree trunks. I was not used to casting like that, it was exhausting.

She nodded, “I know how that feels, done that more than once myself,” she said and shrugged her wings, “Well… I confirmed Captain Jetstreams estimation of our position.”

“Far off course?” Tempest asked from next to her.

Midnight shook her head, “We did drift quite a bit,” she said, “But we’re only a day of our estimated course and about a day and a half of flight out from where we planned to start.”

“But that was only an estimate,” Moon Dancer told her from the right, “We’re already in the search area so as soon as the camp is secure, we can send out the scouts.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” I asked, “I mean, the ship’s not moving for… what, two weeks? We’ll need that much to do a grid search of this area anyway, won’t we?”

Midnight smiled and nodded, “It is,” she said and sighed, “While I’d prefer a bit of a gentler way of getting here, at least we’re in the right place.”

I slowly got up, “I’m going to stretch my legs a bit,” I said and when Tempest moved to get up, I motioned for her to lay back down, “Relax, I’ll stay inside the perimeter.”

Like Amber wouldn’t tackle me as soon as I crossed that invisible line anyway. Or at least look at me disapprovingly.

Tempest looked at me and then sank down again.

I smiled at them and then I turned and walked away from the light of the fire. The night was cooler than the day, but nowhere near cold which suited me just fine.

The air was filled with scents and sounds and sadly insects.

Luckily at least one of us has planned for this(Midnight) and thought ahead to bring enough bug repellant potion for everypony as part of the expedition supplies.

So at least the buggies weren’t interested in me, they just buzzed around annoyingly, making me flick my tail in their general direction when they got close.

Now away from the fire, my eyes easily adapted to the darkness and I could see clearly. I sniffed the air as I slowed slightly. I could smell so much of the forest, even if my ability to smell wasn’t that much better than a normal pony.

Something was decomposing in the distance. Something was giving of a sickly sweet smell too. I could still smell the moisture from the rain last night, but now the sky was clear as far as we could see.

“Best stay inside the perimeter,” Swift said as he walked up to me from the side, “Predators hunt during the night.”

I shook my head and looked at him, “They mostly come out at night. Mostly.”

“Yeah, which is why we’re doing eight hour shifts,” he agreed and blinked at me, “...Your eyes are kinda glowing.”

“It’s the nightvision. Thestrals see a lot better than other ponies at night. Most night predators have the same thing.”

“Like a cat?”

“Like a cat,” I agreed and nodded, looking towards the edge of the cleared area and the jungle there, “Swift, have a look towards the edge. What do you see?”

He turned his head to look in that direction, “Dark jungle.”

“Don’t turn your back to it,” I told him casually, “Because I’m seeing five sets of eyes reflecting light.”

Swift froze and I could see him swallow, “Big?”

“No, smaller than a pony but not by much. Might be wolves. But let’s not tempt them more than we need to, shall we?” I said before I half closed my eyes to protect from the glare before I lit my horn and sent a flare of light in their general direction before detonating it in a small thunderclap of sound.

The eyes instantly disappeared and there was a sound of breaking branches and rustling leaves.

That’ll make them keep their heads down for a bit.

Chapter 52

Day 11

I don’t know if you ever slept in a tent or not, you might have been living in a city all your life, but let me tell you that all those adventure books… well, they skip over some things and make it sound a bit more glamorous than it actually is.

Oh, a nice warm night and all you have to deal with is a bit hard of a place to sleep which can be fixed easily enough.

Not so nice when it’s absolutely pouring down outside because you have set your tent up somewhere with feral weather. Even if you set everything up right and don’t have things pool into the tent, everything just gets kind of a bit moist, just from the moisture in the air.

Then there is the sound. Oh, the sound of the rain is calming. The wind and trees and everything else? Not so much.

Then add animal sounds or as your mind thinks up in the middle of the night, horrible pony eating monsters…


I pushed my bleary eyes open and yawned wildly as I glared up at the sun lit canvas of my tent. Oh now you decide to leave? Just in time for Celestia to make things hot and bothered?

Stupid feral stormclouds. I miss the tame variety.

Groaning, I rolled over and flicked my wings until I got my blanket off myself. I was already spoiled by ponies having control over weather normally.

Struggling up to sit, my ears brushed across the still wet canvas and sending a shudder down my spine.

I quickly ducked and glared up at my tent.

Tenting sucks so hard.

I hissed at it and then moved to crawl out of the tent, careful to use my magic to open the tent so I wouldn’t have to touch the stupid wet thi-GAHH!

I opened the tent flap and got a facefull of sunlight.

Clamping my eyes shut until I got used to the light, I squinted and slowly exited the tent.

Only to put my hoof into a puddle.


One of those days, huh?

Shaking my hoof to get the worst of the water off it, I made my way over to the closest fire and sank down on a somewhat dry spot.

“Not a morning pony, are you, sir?” Moonglow asked cheerfully. I forgave her for it though as it came accompanied by her pouring me a cup of tea, handing it over to my magic field.

“Not even before I become... “ I started and then suppressed a yawn and sniffed at my tea, “...naturally nocturnal.”

Moonglow nodded, “Princess Midnight thought it was best to let you sleep.”

“Anything happen?”

“Not much,” Moonglow admitted, “The Airscouts had been sent out but other than that we’d just resumed construction of the barricade and the repair of the ship.”

“Give me five minutes to wake up and I’ll go help,” I said and sipped my tea.

Damn it, my horn still hurt from yesterday. Not bad, but it was an ache that seemed to pulse with my heartbeat.

But then again, it was good practice and nopony else was slacking off, so why should I just because I had a headache.

Moonglow shook her head, “Don’t worry about it, sir,” she said with a smile as she poured hot tea into several large thermos flasks, “We got it well in hoof,” and then moved to carry them over towards the construction team.

I sipped my tea and looked over towards the ship. It looked pretty okay actually from this angle. It was still floating just as high as it did when we landed two days ago.

Well, for some degree of landing at least.

So the floaty thing was likely okay but I couldn’t exactly blame Captain Jetstream for being careful and wanted it checked out before finding out after everypony is onboard and have something burst just to have the ship fall down, roll over and explode, killing everypony.

But the moment I could move out of a tent… well, I’m doing that. Come on, there has to be a better way of doing it than sleeping on a ground on a thin pad with a blanket.

I glanced back at my tail, shifting it a bit. It was much more prehensile now than it was before… and bats sleep upside down…

...Nah, that’d just be silly.

But maybe I can improvise a hammock or something.

I finished my tea and stood up, yawning and stretching my wings and back before I shook my head and started towards the construction site, pausing to reach up to touch my aching horn for a second.

Ow. Well, it’ll be fine, I’m sure it’ll calm down when I get into it.

That’s for later though, let’s split some trees in half!

Author's Notes:

Tomorrows part a bit early as I plan to sleep in tomorrow!

Chapter 53

A pair of pegasi beat their wings hard, holding the quarter of the trunk segment steady as a pair of earth pony on a scaffold took turns hammering it’s pointed end further and further into the ground with heavy thunks.

Everypony was watching the big wooden hammers slamming into it again and again until it got level with the ones next to it for a pair of unicorns to bind it into place.

“And we’re done!” Moonglow exclaimed, raising one hoof into the air.

There was a general cheer going through the work part and I grinned, holding my hoof up for the pegasus next to me.

Dee Dee, as she wanted to be called as she claimed not to like her actual name, grinned back and tapped her own hoof against mine. She was a dark yellow pegasus and she had her black and gray mane pulled back in a ponytail to keep it out of her eyes. She was wearing a shirt with a bunch of pockets which almost felt like something I should look into for myself.

I miss having pockets sometimes. I should get something with pockets!

She had been the spotter for my spells all day today as well as yesterday.

Letting my breath out, I sank down to sit on the ground, reaching up to touch my horn again before quickly pulling it away.


Two days of casting a heavy cutting spell and my horn just ached constantly now, not just in time with my heartbeat as this morning.

“You okay?” she asked with a small frown, shifting her wings.

“Is my horn glowing?” I asked in turn, “Because it feels like it should be glowing. And possibly smoking”

Dee Dee grinned, “Well, you managed to keep casting for longer than any of the unicorns, so I’d say you earned yourself some rest,” she said and nodded towards where the fires had been started to get set up again.

The sky was already starting to go dark above, we had been at it all day.

“You know what?” I asked her, “That sounds like a great idea.”


The fires crackled in the darkness and somepony had found a guitar somewhere and were playing by one of the other fires.

There was a bit of a feeling of celebration in the air. The barricades were set up around the entire camp.

It had been a long day of hard work but we got it all done. The guards were still patrolling, but with the walls up everypony could relax slightly.

I glanced to the side and then quickly returned my attention to my current journal entry with today's details. Midnight was giving Tempest another magic lesson in the light from the fireplace and the light from Midnight's horn.

They were laying awfully close to each other, obviously to make it possible for Tempest to see what Midnight was pointing out in the book.

Obviously the only reason.

Damn Cadance, you scary.

I better stay on her good side because seriously, that was almost Chrysalis level of manipulation.

Her danger level in my mind was now about level with Luna and below Sunshine only because I was pretty sure Celestia was just as sneaky when she wanted to be and could set things on fire with her mind.

Still, she seemed to use her powers for… good? Goodish at least.

Midnight seemed happier at least and Tempest seemed happier so I wasn’t about to complain as long as she didn’t try to set me up with anypony else.

Sighing, I put my pen down and touched the base of my horn again. The throbbing pain had gone down to a dull ache by now but it’d likely be a couple of days before it was back to normal again.

Luckily using something as simple as telekinesis didn’t seem to bother it overly much, at least it didn’t hurt more than usual, but I didn’t dare try any other spells at the moment.

So glad that I didn’t need to do that again tomorrow.

Stretching my wings for a moment I rolled my neck before I yawned and closed the book, putting my pen and ink away in my satchel. Well, at least getting some sleep tonight won’t be a problem, achy horn or not. I’m exhausted.

Finish my tea and then sleep I think, I may sneak over to see if Sunset was asleep. I was fully aware that I had decided to not do this because it wasn’t fair to everypony else in the expedition, but after today, I needed some Sunny time I think.

Besides, I should likely report back what had happened. They couldn’t do anything about it really, but I knew that if I didn’t at least let Luna and Sunset know about it, I’d be in serious trouble when I got back home again.

And I wanted to see them both so badly right now.

Reaching for my tea, I then paused and looked down at my cup.

The dark surface suddenly rippled from the edges and in.

I frowned at it.

That’s odd.

Then it happened again and my eyes went wide as something clicked in my tired mind, “Alarm!” I yelled and surged onto my hooves as my wings raised high, “All guards to their sta-”

An earsplitting roar filled the air followed by a crashing and snapping sound as something absolutely massive just completely ignored the barricade we had spent so much time to build and charged into the camp.

Chapter 54

I would have been glad if what came at us had been a t-rex. Buck, I could handle a t-rex. This was not a t-rex.

It looked somewhat like a rex at the head. If it only had one of them.

Instead it had two and instead of the little piddly arms, it had a pair of massive wings folded along its sides.

It was still bipedal, it’s tail covered with what looked almost like razor blades almost as big as a pony.

I shied back and dumped as much magic into my horn as I could in an instinctive reaction to just blast the thing with my strongest cutting spell I could possibly cast.

I took aim at the neck of it’s left head as it charged towards u-.

Next thing I knew, I was on the ground struggling to stay conscious as a spear of pain exploded like a spear of molten metal passing through my horn and further straight through my head, in too much pain to even scream.

I had to fight just to stay conscious, getting back up was out of the question no matter how much I commanded my legs to do it. Unable to even breath, to even think. So intense was the pain that the edge of my vision started to grow dark.

A beam of purple power erupted from my right.

It hit the thing in it’s chest and splashed against it. The only effect it had was to cause it to shift course directly towards us instead after a slight stumble.

Oh, so it’s magic resistant. Enough so that the Princess of Magic couldn’t casually blast it at least.

Well, isn’t that just fucking swell.


My body didn’t want to move.

Another roar shook the world.


I managed to kind of flop in place.

There was a sudden bright flash of white and purple and then I was suddenly falling in darkness.

I screamed, somehow managing to get my breath back before I crashed through a couple of branches with heavy impacts. Something hit me and everything turned to stars and then darkness.

Not sure how long that lasted. For a long time or an instant there was nothing but silent darkness.

I slowly opened my eyes as I started to return to reality.

I quickly regretted that fact as my everything hurt. My horn was killing me, feeling like it was on fire, and my head hurt like a bad, bad hangover.

The rest of me didn’t feel much better. I felt like I had fallen out of a tree.

What was worse, I was looking up at the teeth filled muzzle of some sort of lizard thing filled with big sharp teeth. It was nosing at me.

Somehow, I’m still not sure how, I managed to resist the urge to blast the thing with my horn and instead I bared my teeth and hissed at it, kicking out.

The thing jerked back and ran for it, crashing away through the underbrush.

My everything strongly protested the movement and I collapsed back against the ground, gasping for breath and trying not to pass out again.

I forced my eyes back open and looked up at the green leaves of the tree above me. What in the fu… wait…

It’s light. The Sun is up.



I surged to my hooves and quickly regretted doing so as my head protested the treatment with a very strongly worded letter.

I leaned against the tree for a long moment, gasping for air and trying not to throw up as I fought about the darkness creeping in from the edges of my vision as it felt like somepony rammed a glowing hot iron rod into my head through my horn, trying not to throw up.

Ok. Let’s review.

Rexosaurus attacked camp.

Resisted Midnights zappy thing.

Midnight… teleported me out of there? Teleported everypony out of there? Or just me?

No way for me to know, but either way that had to have been almost an instinctual reaction for her, no way she’d be able to just pick a safe location for everypony. She must have just teleported me or everypony just away from the camp.

Which while not exactly safe, did sound better to me than being rexy food.

Now, the question was… did she drop us all in more or less the same spot or did she just teleport ponies at random?

The fact that I woke up having a ‘whatever it was’ thinking about eating me instead of Amber hissing at anything that got anywhere close to me indicated that Midnight had just shotgunned us all across the countryside.

I pushed carefully away from the tree and looked myself over. I had some scratches, but everything seemed to move right if twinge a bit, so nothing outright broken.

I slowly glanced up at my horn and then reached up to feel it.

It looked intact, but I almost slapped my hoof away as soon as I touched it when it caused a spear of pain to stab through my head and I almost threw up as it drove me off my hooves.


Note to self. Don’t touch that. And Absolutely No Magic. Not sure if broken somehow or just horribly overstrained, but until I have a doctor look at it, I’m essentially a batpony, if one with earth pony strength.

I needed to find the others. But just walking around calling out names seemed like a horribly bad idea if things like that rexosaurus wandered around the jungle and I was fairly sure that it was far from the only horrible pony eating thing here.

WIth my magic out of service, meeting one of those seemed to be a baaad idea unless you counted falling over unconscious in front of a predator a good thing.



I can’t worry about the others right now, they could take care of themselves. I just needed to find the group.

I could alert Luna to send help, she’d be asleep at this time, but falling asleep right now seemed like a bad move and without my sleep spell, it would take too long anyway. Especially with my head reminding me that it was in horrible pain at every heartbeat.

That has to wait until tonight or if I find somepony to watch my back.

Okay. Find everypony else. To do that, I had to find out where I was.

I glanced up at the tree next to me as I slowly struggled back onto my hooves.

Yeah, that’ll work.

Chapter 55

Before starting my climb, I took a moment to test my wings low to the ground to make sure that I wouldn’t pass out with the effort.

When it seemed like it worked and I didn’t black out, I flew up as far as I could before the branches got too thick and after that it was a mix of climbing and flapping over to a different thick branch as I made myself up through the thick crown of the tree.

It took me a while as it got pretty thick at times, but soon I reached the highest branches and could look out across the sea of green of the jungle.

I couldn’t see shit, nothing but green in all directions all the way to the horizon.

Well, buck that.

I moved a bit further out on the branch. I just needed a better vantage point to see the landing spot. I mean, it was a white and pink airship with a big golden royal seal in front, it couldn’t exactly hide!

I spread my wings and took to the air, working my way up into the air into a spiral, working my way up higher and higher into the air as I scanned the forest and the horizon as my head throbbed from the effort, my horn feeling like it was mildly on fire.

Nothing but a green mat of jungle stretching out in every direction.

“Seriously!? How far did you bucking teleport me!?” I yelled as I scanned the horizon once more.

I knew the general direction of Equestria because of the movement of Celestia’s sun, but my exact position was completely beyond me. Who knows which direction the camp was in?

I flew a bit higher and then gave it up as a bad idea and just started to circle back down again. If Midnight really teleported me randomly, I’m likely lucky to be on the right continent. But I had no idea which direction back to the camp.

What to do, I needed a plan.

Back to the camp and airship at least. But how would I do that, especially with my horn out of order at the moment?

I went in for landing again in my tree before setting down to think. Rescue flares were out of the question because casting one might actually outright kill me right now. Or explode my horn or something equally not nice.

I needed to find a safe spot where I could sleep and call for help. It’ll take a rescue expedition from Canterlot to get here at least a week, possibly more.

Luna could guide them to me, and…


I quickly raised my wings in triumph! I could find ponies in the dream realm! That’d give me the position of everypony! It’ll give me everypony's position and if I had been the only pony teleported out, it’d give me a clump of them for the position of the camp!

Then again, if I had been the only teleport, I imagine Midnight would have been more careful with the placement.

Okay. So I had a general plan. I just needed to find a safe spot for tonight and I couldn’t just stay in this tree. Besides, it’s going to start to rain sooner or later and I really didn’t want to be without cover then.

Yeah, it was safe now, but who knew what things roamed the tree crowns in this place? Jaguars were a thing on earth and they really didn’t mind climbing trees.

Without my magic, I really didn’t want to fuck with any predators.

...Wait… no magic? My horn hurt.

“Discord!” I yelled, “Discord, get your scaly tail out here! You owe me, you chimeric pile of parts!”

No reaction other than scaring some birds away from the next tree over.

Oh well, it had been a long shot anyway. I suppose even he had a range limit on his hearing… and not like I was actually his favorite pony in the first place so he might not show even if he did hear me.

I glanced down and then started to climb back down.

Flying would let me cover more distance, but without knowing what direction to move it wouldn’t help me and the jungle was too thick for me to be able to see anything useful on the ground as I did.

Which meant going down into the predator-filled underbrush or at least far down enough to fly between the lower branches like some sort of big tree squirrel.

Well, the squirrel thing sounded a lot more attractive than sneaking around playing tag with invisible velociraptors or whatever bullshit existed down among the bushes, if I could pull it off at least.

Turns out, there was a good reason ponies didn’t expand into the jungle and a lot of those reasons had big teeth.

I slid down the trunk to the lowest branch and looked around.

So… which direction to go? No downhill, no uphill, nothing but bucking trees and the sound of the jungle all around.

I sighed and leaned against the tree trunk. Amber would have to be absolutely apocalyptically worried right now. Poor ‘ling, if I could just let her know I was okay.

The brush rustled below and I froze pressing closer to the tree trunk as I stared down into the dimness of the jungle beneath the thick tree crowns.

Suddenly a pony pushed through into sight, ducking beneath a low branch.

“Hey! Dee Dee!” I called out as I recognized the pegasus.

The pegasus jumped and almost fell over in surprise, her wings beating in shock before looking around before finally looking up and spotting me, “Lord Page!”

Chapter 56

I spread my wings and took to the air, gliding down to her, “Have you seen the rest?”

Dee Dee shook her head, “Not since Princess Midnight teleported everypony out of the camp,” she said and shifted her wings, “I hid in a tree to get away from the predators during the night.”

I nodded, “Good idea.”

“What happened to you?” she asked and frowned, “I saw you go down when it attacked.”

I grimaced, “...Well… yeah. I overworked my horn during the day and then tried to push one of my strongest spells through it to cast at the Rexosaurus. My horn strongly objected and still feels like somepony kicked it. Several times. And then set it on fire.”

“So… no magic?”

“Sadly, yeah,” I admitted and shifted my wings, “Wings and hooves only, I’m afraid. Have you even seen any sign of anypony else? Tracks or anything at all?”

Dee Dee shook her head, “Not so far, you’re the first one I found. But I can only assume everypony will try to make their way back to the camp… or whatever remains of it.”

I nodded, “You think the thing took it’s anger out on the ship?”

She shrugged her wings, “No way to know,” she admitted.

“Yeah…” I said and shifted my wings, “You have an idea on how to get us back there? I have no idea where it is.”

The pegasus nodded with a smirk motioning with a wing towards her compass point cutiemark, “Definitely. Buuut…” she continued, “We’d need to wait for the stars to come out.”

“Same for me,” I said, “I can find everypony, but they and I need to be asleep for it and most will try to sleep at night. But with you here to watch my back, I can call for help from back home.”

Dee Dee looked at me in surprise and then nodded, “Even if the airship is still intact… yes, that would be good, wouldn’t it?”

Yeah, no kidding.

“Come on, let’s get into a tree.”

We flew back up to my tree and I found a spot between two thick branches where it looked like I wouldn’t fall off, “Okay, I’m going to take a nap. If something tries to eat us, poke me.”

Dee Dee nodded and settled down to wait as I closed my eyes.

My worry for everypony else and the pain throbbing through my head meant that actually falling asleep took a while.

But in the end, I slipped off into the dream realm and I was surrounded by darkness and the sparkles drifting through the not-air.

I instantly shifted over to Luna’s dream portal and touched my horn through it, stepping into her dream.

It revealed Luna laying on soft grass by the edge of a cool lake by the base of a snow covered mountain.

She looked up as soon as I entered, “Pag-” she started before she saw my expression and she quickly got to her hooves, “What happened?”

I moved up to cuddle against her, “Luna…” I said and took in the scent of her coat before I looked up to her and I told her everything that had happened.

Luna held me close and listened before she looked down to me with determination, “We’re coming for you.”

I nodded, “I’ll update you when I can,” I said and then shifted my wings, “You know where I am and most ponies should be somewhere in the general area, geologically at least. But I should likely wake up now before something sneaks up on Dee Dee and me.”

Luna nodded and then pulled me into a deep kiss before she rested her forehead against mine, “Stay safe, My Page.”

“I will, My Sky” I said and exited the dream. I didn’t leave the dreamscape instantly though, instead I did a shuffling of what little dream portals there were active and sorted them according to distance from me physically to see if anypony else was asleep close by.

Nopony was.

Well, that wasn’t that big of a surprise, I’ll try again tonight after dark so I pushed to wake up.

I quickly regretted it as it caused my headache and the throbbing of my horn to return unpleasantly and with a vengeance.

Oh buck, can I go unconscious again please?

Wait, why am I…

I quickly opened my eyes and almost panicked when I found myself looking at the forest upside down and slightly swinging.

But I wasn’t falling.

I blinked and looked around only to find Dee Dee looking at me from a nearby branch. I blinked again and looked up only to find me hanging from my tail, my tail wrapped around the branch I had been laying on.

What in the world…

I then looked to the dark yellow pegasus in surprise, “...What in Equestria…”

She shrugged her wings, “Don’t ask me, you’re the bat-pony. You slipped off the branch soon after going asleep, but your tail did that and you seemed okay, so…”

I looked at my tail again. It has never done that before…

...Then again, I never tried sleeping in a tree before either and it was more mobile than before all of this.

Now, how in Equestria do I get out of this? I couldn’t just let go, I was fifteen meters off the ground!

Yes I could, why wouldn’t I be able to? I had wings!

Unwrapping my tail from the branch, I dropped and quickly spread my wings and pulled up before smacking into the ground. I winged around a tree trunk and flew up to land on the same branch as Dee Dee again, “They are on their way,” I told her.

She nodded, “Good. We should find some water, some food and some cover. We’ll likely be fine for a couple of days without food, but in this heat we’ll dehydrate in a day or two. And I don’t know about you, but I would rather not be out in the open when the next rainstorm hit.”

“Good point,” I admitted, “But, well… we’re not going to find where we are before nightfall anyway, so we might as well get going and find some water. If we navigate by the stars, we should be able to get back to the camp by morning so helter isn’t that required.”

She shook her head quickly as she got up, “No way. We’re not traveling by night through a jungle, that’s just begging to have something jump you, break your leg down a hole or fly into a branch. We’ll hunker down for the night, find out our location and then move tomorrow towards the camp.”

I flicked my ears and nodded. She made sense. I might be able to see in the dark, but she couldn’t.

“Done this before?”

“Once or twice,” she said with a slight grin, “Come on, let’s find something to drink.”

Chapter 57

A branch came slashing towards my face.

Good news, I managed just in time to stop myself from grabbing it with magic.

Bad news, I also didn’t manage to get out of the way and it smacked me across the face and what’s worse, my horn.

I stumbled and choked out a sound of pain as I felt on the verge of passing out.

“Oh buck!” Dee Dee cursed and quickly ducked back to press her side against mine to keep me from falling, “I’m so sorry!”

“I’m fine,” I choked out, “At least I didn’t try catching it.”

“I’m so sorry! I usually do this alone!”

“I’ll be fine,” I said calmly and squeezed my eyes shut for a long moment, definitely not trying to avoid crying, “...I should have watched where I was going anyway.”

Dee Dee frowned, “Let’s rest for a bit,” she said, “We can spare twenty minutes.”

“I’m fine.”

“If we need to fly, I can’t have you pass out on me. We’re resting for twenty minutes.”

“...Yes, ma’am…” I agreed and sank down onto the ground. If I could just be rid of this accursed headache it wouldn’t be anywhere near as horrible. Also, would make it less likely for me to throw up. Because I was on the brink of it right now.

“Any idea where we’re going yet?” I asked once I dared to open my eyes again to look at her.

The pegasus nodded, “I think so, the ground is going down. If we’re lucky, we’ll find a stream or at least somewhere we can dig up some water.”

“...Sounds good.”

I raised my head and sniffed the air. It just smelled like jungle, something I had gotten progressively more used to since we arrived and especially since we… left the camp.

I slowly turned my ears, “I’m not hearing a stream,” I said after several long minutes and listening.

“Your hearing is better than a pegasus?” Dee Dee asked as she watched me.

“A bit,” I said.

“Well, keep an ear out, any warning we get to something tracking us would be good.”

I glanced around, “You think something might be?”

Dee Dee shrugged her wings, “We’re in the jungle and of the right size for a lot of things to consider dinner… and you’re a lot less ‘all powerful alicorn’ than usual.”

“Alicorns aren’t all powerful,” I said and glanced at her, “We’re simply stronger in a specific way according to our talents. Well, other than having the usual gifts of the other tribes.”

She frowned at me, “Really?”

“Really. Especially me. Sure I’m at the upper range of unicorns normally, but in the real world I’m only about as strong as Cadence. The rest come with experience and the ability to match any of the tribes,” I explained, rubbing my head just beneath my horn.

“So, you’re... Alicorn of Stories, right?”

I chanced a nod, “Yeah. Which so far mostly translates to giving moderately good speeches and being decent at dream magic.”

“And bat wings.”

“And bat wings,” I said and got back onto my hooves, “Let’s get moving.”

Dee Dee nodded, “Still, keep an ear out and get ready to use those earth pony strength legs in case you need to buck something in the nose.”

“Yep. All ready.”

Assuming I could do a movement like that without passing out, that is. I really needed to step up my non magical combat. I should ask Tempest for lessons.

I followed Dee Dee through the jungle, this time a lot more careful to avoid any more sudden branches. To be fair, Dee was a lot more careful in turn with keeping them from slapping in my direction, making sure to keep them to the side with her wing until I ducked under them.

We slowly made our way slightly down the slight downhill before Dee suddenly stopped suddenly enough that I almost ran into her, “What?” I whispered, my ears quickly turning.

“Look at this,” Dee Dee said and shifted to the side to let me look at what she had spotted and motioned what she had put her hoof on.

It was a flat stone at a bit of an angle with wavy lines engraved across the surface of it.

“This is…” I said and then looked at her.

Dee nodded, “Construction,” she confirmed and looked around for a second, “...Come on, this way.”

I moved to follow her but kept my head and ears on a swivel.

It only took a couple of minutes until we found a collapsed structure. Dee gave it a once over before she led the way along and we stepped into a slight clearing that brought us to a break in the tree cover.

Before us was a massive temple built in plateaus, to me it almost looked Aztec… or similar at least in it’s construction. It towered before us, well over thirty meters tall.

“That’s amazing,” I said and looked up towards it.

“I think we found our cover for tonight,” Dee said and spread her wings, “This is an amazing find, this is the first temple ever found this far south!”

“...You sure about that being a good idea?” I asked and finally looked away from the temple to turn to her, “Are these things usually trapped? Or is that just in adventure books?”

“Can be,” she admitted with a sudden smile, “But that’s deeper in, we’d stay by the entrance or by the upper chamber, those are usually clear.”

I eyed her for a second, “You know an awful lot about these things.”

“Hey, I’m an archaeologist,” she said with a smile, “I have seen similar structures before. Now, this thing is a bit different from any I have ever seen before, it has more layers for one thing, but any traps that are out in the open would have malfunctioned by now anyway, going by the style on this thing, I’m estimating… six… six and half thousand years from the style. I mean, look at the weathering on the steps alone, this thing is old. As in, likely pre-celestial.”

I slowly nodded, “So this might be part of what we’re looking for.”

Dee frowned and glanced up against it, “...Maybe. Doesn't look like it’s unicorn-made though. But we can check it out later, we need to find some water and preferably some food.”

“...Yeah, let’s keep going.”

“This is a good sign though,” she said and smiled at me, “If ponies lived here once, that means there is likely to be water somewhere around here. Let’s see if we can find it.”

Chapter 58

The small stream glittered in the sunlight filtering down from the leaves far above, splashing happily and clearly among the trees. I scanned the forest around us, my ears constantly turning as I listened for any sign of movement as I sniffed the air.

Dee slowly bent down to sniff at the stream before she nodded and stood up to glance back at me, “It smells clean and fresh,” she said, “Get something to drink and I’ll keep watch.”

“You drink, I’m already watching,” I said and scanned the forest, trying to look in all directions at once.

“I’m not drinking first when there is a thirsty stallion with me,” Dee said and stepped back from the water, “Drink.”

I shifted my wings and glanced at her, “That’s a bit old fashioned of you.”

“It’s how I was raised, so sue me,” Dee said, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of ‘those’ kinds of mares, but I do have some manners.”

Whatever, not like we actually had time to argue about it so I moved up and slowly leaned in to sniff at the water.

She was right, it did smell clean so I chanced a small mouthful. The taste of clean and cool water reminded me of exactly how thirsty I really was.

I quickly drank my fill before I shifted slightly to dip my horn into it for a moment. The cold felt nice for about two seconds but then the burning pain returned and I pulled back. Not like I couldn’t risk more than a moment anyway so I quickly stepped back and looked around, “Your turn.”

Dee nodded and moved to lean in and drink as I stood guard.

She finally stood back up and stretched her wings for a moment as she lifted her head, “We should see if we can find something to eat,” she said and turned to me.

I nodded, “I saw some fruit back there, but they were up in a tree.”

Dee nodded and then unbuttoned her shirt, quickly wiggling out of it before she turned it around and with a pair of knots she turned it into a satchel and tossed it over her neck to carry before she smiled at me, “You throw them down, I gather them. Drop them off by the temple and then gather some dry firewood?”

“Sounds like a plan.”


I moved slowly towards the base of the temple, my wings around a bunch of fairly dry wood holding them on my body at each side. Dee was carrying the same and had also hung the ‘satchel’ around my neck and along my side when she loaded both of us.

Why waste half a trip after all.

I paused at the bottom of the stairs, looking up towards the temple, frowning slightly up at the structure.

“What’s wrong?” Dee asked as she moved up next to me.

“I’m not sure,” I admitted, “It’s… I don’t know. This place is so ancient. Do we have the right to climb it like this? What if we damage it?”

“It’s been here for longer than Princess Celestia, I think it’ll survive us too,” Dee said and then frowned in thought, “...Well, me at least. You’re an alicorn after all.”

I sniffed the air and flicked my ears, “...It still feels strange.”

“Strange as in dangerous?” she asked, “Do you feel something? Because the alternative is risking setting up camp in the open and I really don’t want to without a reason.”

She had a good point there.

“No,” I admitted, “Just a bit hesitant against possibly harming something this ancient I think.”

“Normally I would be right there with you,” Dee admitted and flicked her ears, “But this is a kind of special situation.”

I nodded and put my hoof on the first step of the temple and started up them, careful to test each step to make sure it was solid, I didn’t want to trip while carrying all of this stuff.

Dee followed me up the stairs. When we finally reached the top and the dark doorway into what seemed to be a monolithically constructed building taking up most of the top of the temple.

I paused and peered into the darkness, Wishing that I could risk lighting my horn.

Dee moved up next to me and then moved to drop her collected wood to the side, “I’ll give it a look.”

“I’m the one with good night vision,” I told her and dropped my wood as well, shrugging the ‘satchel’ off and put it down, “I’ll check it out.”

Dee shifted her wings before she sighed and nodded, “...Okay. But be careful, there might be traps.”

“You said there wouldn’t be.”

“I might be wrong! I’m not willing to risk losing a leg on a ‘I’m pretty sure’!”

...Good point there, I really rather be safe rather than sorry and get a spear thucked at me by some ancient mechanism.

I closed my eyes for a long moment, letting them adjust a bit to the darkness before I opened them and stepped in through the doorway, carefully listening and testing each step for moving stone pressure plates.

The inside of the structure wasn’t very big. Maybe four meters in each direction, the middle made up by a large stone table.

No, not a table, a stone altar. A stone altar with small channels cut into the surface. I followed them with my eyes and stepped to the side, the channels also being on the floor and heading towards the door.

So if you poured something on the table, it would drip into the channels and then run outside down the stairs.

I glanced at the altar again. That design was for one thing and one thing only.

Ponies had died here. Possibly a lot of ponies.

I took a slow breath and moved forward to look behind the altar. It was just empty, just more floor and wall.

“Looks clear, I think we’re good,” I said, glancing back towards Dee as I sat down and rubbed my head just next to my horn, “Do we have enough wood?”

She nodded, “We should, but we should gather some more just in case. We won’t need a big fire, just something outside the opening for some warmth and to keep the predators at bay.”

“Let’s err a bit on the side of caution there,” I agreed.

Chapter 59

The moon was rising in the distance and a small fire was happily crackling before the doorway of the stone structure.

I used my fang to pierce the thick hide of the red fruit before putting it between my hooves to pull it fully open to reveal the sweet tasting insides and passing it over to Dee, “Here.”

“Thanks,” she said and discarded her already empty one to the side, pulling the new one close as I opened a new one for myself as well.

Not sure what they were, but neither of us had seemed to have a bad reaction to them after we tried them a couple of hours ago, so we figured they were safe enough to eat. They tasted sweet and a bit like sugary grapes.

“How’s your horn feeling?” Dee asked and raised her head from her fruit, ears flicking towards the forest at the sound of a howl far in the distance.

“Aches badly,” I admitted and glanced up at it, “I don’t think there is anything permanently broken, but it doesn't feel better than this morning either. I think my magic is out of commission until I get somepony to look at it.”

Or at least I really, really, really hope so because if the pain is permanent, I’m going looking for an Ursa to break it off.

Dee nodded and glanced up against the moon, “Think you can find everypony?”

“As long as they are asleep,” I reassured her, “And Midnight knows that and she’ll know I’ll try to make contact. If she’s in a place where she safely can, she’ll be asleep. Speaking of which,” I said and pushed my fruit away, “I think it may be late enough to give it a try.”

Dee nodded, “I take the first guard,” she said and shifted a bit to look out towards the forest below.

“I’ll tell you when I know anything,” I said and scooted a bit further from the fire, doing my best to get comfortable on the cool stone and putting my head down on my hooves.

“Here,” Dee said and her shirt slid over in a bundle to me.

“...Thanks,” I admitted and bundled it up, putting my head down on the soft fabric. I may have some pride, but there are limits to what I might complain about.

I closed my eyes and tried my best to relax, feeling the slight wind from the doorway bringing along the warmth from the fire, the scent of smoke and jungle. The cool stone beneath me.

I did my best to ignore the sacrificial altar a meter and a half from my left, but it still took awhile for me to finally drift off to sleep but in the end I found myself in the dream realm once more.

Shifting the dreams around, I found that Luna was awake still, likely organizing our rescue, especially as Celestia and Twilight were all awake too. Sunset too.

But Midnight was asleep.

I quickly rearranged the dream portals by physical position from me. Some were alone, but most were gathered in small groups of two or three, hopefully with some still awake and keeping watch.

Midnight was with the biggest group some fifteen kilometers almost directly north of our position. Fifteen kilometers!?

Seriously!? Sure, we walked all day, but we hardly moved very fast and couldn’t have gone that far.

She teleported us over a dozen kilometers!?

Damn, Midnight. I could do maybe a hundred meters and that’s if it was open air and I had time to focus on it. I so have the wrong cutiemark. Can I switch for hers?

I stepped up to her dream portal and touched my horn to it, walking through into a nightmare of running through a dark jungle.

I didn’t bother with anything fancy, I just tapped my hoof and canceled it, replacing it with a bright forest clearing.

Midnight skidded to a halt and she looked at me in surprise before she relaxed, “Thank Celestia! You’re alright!”

I nodded, “I’m fine,” I said and moved up to give her a quick hug, “What happened?”

Midnight shook her head and hugged back tightly for a long moment before she sat down and sighed, “When the… thing..”

“I call it a rexosaurus.”

She shook her head, “When the rexosaurus resisted my spell and when you collapsed,” she explained, “I...I just needed to get everypony out, nothing we had could touch it. So I… I panicked and just teleported everypony away.”

I nodded, “I figured something like that,” I admitted, “You’re at the campsite now?”

Midnight nodded, “I teleported back this morning and checked. It’s gone, but I couldn’t find everypony. Are they…”

“I’m detecting just over a hundred asleep,” I said gently, “I don’t know about the rest. Moon Dancer? Amber?”

“Moon Dancer was still awake when I went to sleep,” Midnight explained, “Tempest is fine too.”

“I know,” I agreed, not mentioning I noticed that Tempest's position had been very close to Midnight, “And Amber? Swift?”

Midnight shook her head, “I couldn’t find her to teleport out but I found her at the camp when we returned. She’s been buzzing from worry, she’ll be so glad to know you’re alright. I don’t know about Swift, I haven’t seen him. You’re alone?”

I stretched my wings and sighed, “I’m with one of the expedition pegasi, Dee Dee. We have taken cover for the night at some temple ruins we found almost fifteen kilometers south of you. We’ll be able to fly back to camp tomorrow now when we know where it is relative to us.”

She nodded and her ears drooped, “A hundred ponies… almost thirty ponies unaccounted for…”

I hugged her again, “I’m sure they are okay,” I told her.

Midnight shook her head, “In this jungle? I...I…” she started before she sighed, “No, Page. I bucked up and this time it’s not just me and Spike. I may have gotten ponies killed with that spell.”

“You did your best, nopony can ever ask more. And if anypony bucked up, it’s me. I wanted this expedition, I pushed for it.”

“But I organized it, I put it together,” Midnight said, shaking her head as she looked at me, “And I bucked up big with my spell. If I had put everypony together instead of spreading out, everypony would still be safe!”

“Midnight,” I said and shook my head, “What you did was amazing all on its own. You teleported almost a hundred and forty ponies out of there in seconds with no warning. Nopony could have possibly done better.”

“I don’t seem to do anything but buck up lately,” Midnight said and shook her head, “...I’m glad you’re safe. Can you tell the others how they get back?”

“Of course,” I said, “But you can’t blame yourself for anything that’s happened, it’s not your fa-”

Midnight shook her head and turned away, the dream dissolving.

I woke up with a jerk, blinking in the darkness and the flickering light of the small fire. What the… I didn’t know Midnight knew enough dream magic to force a wakeup like that!? I mean, I could have stopped it easily, but I didn’t expect her to even try!

Dee looked over to me, “Did you find them?”

“Yeah,” I said and took a deep breath, “I’ll contact the other groups and direct them how to get towards the basecamp,” I told her, “How long was I out?”

“Maybe an hour. It’s been quiet so far. You should go back to sleep.”

I nodded in agreement and put my head back down again, closing my eyes. Let’s see how many I can find, one from each group should be enough.

Chapter 60

I opened my eyes and raised my head, blinking as I looked around, my ears twitching. Dee was where I spotted her last by the fire. The pile of wood next to her was a bit smaller than before.

Stretching my wings and back, I got onto my hooves and moved up next to her and she turned to look at me, “Welcome back,” she said with a small smile, “Did you find everypony?”

I sank to lay down, pulling one of the remaining fruits over to me as I sighed and shook my head, “No. If my count is right, I still have seventeen ponies unaccounted for. I talked with one of each group and told them which direction to go to get back to camp, but… some are still missing.”

Like Swift.

He was one of my oldest friends and if I had gotten him killed, I wasn’t sure what I’d do. But he was a member of the royal guard and a skilled unicorn. He likely just wasn’t asleep.

I hope.

Oh, Luna. What would say to Minuette if something happened to him.

Dee nodded and sighed softly, “I hope they’re okay.”

“Me too,” I said and glanced up to Luna’s moon, “I talked to Luna too. They are still getting one of the airships loaded for a rescue operation. Apparently she had talked to Midnight and the airship looks like it might be saved but they need materials and… well, it’ll only delay things half a day. We should survive that long on our own.”

“How long do they think it’ll take?” Dee asked and shifted her wings with a frown.

“It’s going to be slower than the ‘Mistake’,” I said and then shook my head with a small wry smile, “And wasn’t that a fitting name. Either way, they think at least a week and a half, assuming they don’t run into any more feral weather on the way.”

She nodded, “I figured out where we are too. I’ll be able to find my way back to the temple later and how to get to the old camp from here. We can fly as soon as the sun rises.”

“Go get some rest, I’ll wake you at sunrise.”

Dee nodded and got up, stretching before retreating back to sink down onto the patch of floor I had vacated, bundling her shirt up again and resting her head on it.

I looked at her for a second before I turned my eyes back towards the dark forest below the temple. I scooted a bit further from the fire to improve my nightvision a little before using my hooves to pull the fruit into two halves and leaning down to dig in. But I kept my eyes scanning, my ears turning.

I wonder… was this how ancient ponies lived?

Huddled in a shelter, a fire keeping the predators away? Maybe unicorns had it a little easier, but back then… was there even any real spells? Or just lifting?

Was there even shelters even half as good as this one?

Finishing the other side of the fruit, I pushed the shell into the small fire before frowning at a long somewhat straight branch and a sharp looking rock. Dee had been working on a spear.

Or at least a sharpened stick.

I pulled them over to me and frowned at it. How in the world do I do this without magic? Maybe if I…

I carefully took the sharp rock between my teeth and shifted it around before I held the sharpish stick between my hooves and leaned down to work it. It was slow, awkward and I dropped the rock a gazillion times but I did make progress.

Not having magic to pick stuff up with sucks.

Dee thought that this place was built by somepony other than unicorns and I was completely ready to lean on her expertise in such things. It was a million times more impressive building this place without magic.

Especially in this place filled with predators.

I worked the stone against the wood again. To build an actual civilization out here, to build a temple like that, even if it seems to be set up for pony sacrifice was all kinds of impr-

I froze at a sudden slight movement at the edge of the forest at the base of the temple. I stayed as still as I could, only my ears moving as I peered down into the darkness.

There was movement down there, I could have sworn there was something down th-

There. Something moved again.

A shape slowly moved out from beneath the trees and it lifted it’s head, sniffing the air. It wasn’t a rexosaurus, it was a lot smaller, maybe twice the size of a pony. It had an elongated body with a long tail and bipedal gait, it’s arms ending with what looked like hoof sized claws.

It looked like somepony had taken a utahraptor and added more claws, like it even needed them.

That thing was a pony eater.

“Dee,” I hissed, “Dee, wake up.”

No movement from behind me.

I very slowly put the rock down from my mouth and then slid it across the stones with my hoof over to bump against her. The sound of stone against stone felt like it filled the entire world, but the thing down there didn’t react.

It just kept sniffing the air.

“What is it?” Dee hissed from behind me.

“Predator,” I hissed back but didn’t dare move or it might spot me.

I felt the spear move and I lifted myself a bit to allow her to slowly pull it out from beneath me. As much as I disliked giving up our only weapon, she was used to using things without magic, I wasn’t.

The thing sniffed the ground and then started to slowly make its way up the stairs.

Oh, buck, it wasn’t just hunting in general.

It was tracking us.

Chapter 61

I slowly scooted backwards, trying to keep quiet and as low as possible so it didn’t spot me as I slowly backed into the cover of the temple structure, shifting to the right side of the opening.

Dee was against the wall on the other side of the opening, holding the spear closely.

“We should fly away,” I hissed to her, “We can make it to the camp from here. We’d have to fly in the dark so no landing until we get there, but we can do it.”

She hesitated and then nodded, “How close is it?” she hissed quietly.

I chanced a glance around the corner before I froze. It was already up the stairs and barely three pony lengths away. It seemed hesitant with the fire but not afraid.

I slowly pulled back and looked across the opening at Dee with wide eyes, quickly shaking my head. That was way closer than I thought it could had gotten that quickly. If it was that fast, it could catch one of us if we tried to fly now!

I tried my best to keep quiet and to keep my breathing under control. Maybe the fire would confuse it’s scent and if it didn’t hear or see us, it’d go away.

Dee kept stock still across from me as we listened to the sound of claws against the stones outside. It was moving around and I could hear it breathing heavily, sniffing at the air.

We’re not here. Go away. Go find somepony else to eat.

My pulse pounded in my ears, seemingly loud enough for it to hear as I did my best to breathe quietly while reading myself to punch the thing in the nose if it tried to enter.

A sound came from outside, claws scraping against stone. It was just outside now… and on our side of the small fire.

A snout poked in through the opening from inside, sniffing the air before it hissed.

Dee yelled and stepped forward, stabbing her spear towards it. I quickly joined in and reared up, punching towards its nose as I let out my best shriek, spreading my wings wide.

The raptoroid took the spear just beneath the neck and shrieked, snapping towards Dee only to get a noseful of hooves from me and it reared back, stepping back and retreating a few steps before it turned back and hissed at us.

I hissed right back, spreading my wings wide and high as I barred my fangs at it before dipping back and picking up a burning branch in my teeth, “Begone!” I commanded it loudly around the branch as I stepped forward.

Dee moved up next to me, jabbing towards it with her spear, “Find something else to eat! We’re not food!” she shouted.

The raptoroid didn’t seem very impressed, it simply backed another couple of steps back and hissed, slowly pacing back and forth as it watched us.

“Do we have enough room to fly?” I asked and waved my burning branch again, hissing at it.

“Depends on how fast it is!” Dee answered and then yelled and jabbed her spear in it’s direction as it seemed to try walking in our direction again.

We couldn’t do this all night and sooner or later it’d get smart about it and figure out how to take us.

I needed to risk some magic. Even if I passed out, if I managed to blast the thing first, it’d be worth it.

I swung my branch again and then flicked my ears.

What was that buzzing sou-

A dark buzzing shape hit the raptoroid in the side like a pony sized wrecking ball, knocking it off its feet and off the stairs, sending them both rolling all the way down to the next plateau.

The shape hissed and snarled as she savagely attacked the creature, biting it’s neck and throat again and again, her hooves clawing slamming down at it.


I took to the skies and beat my wings hard, flying down towards them.

The raptoroid seemed to regain a bit of it’s composure and twisted to snap towards Amber with it’s razor sharp teeth.

That’s when I hit it straight in the snout with my rear hooves , kicking out as hard as I could as I pulled up from the dive to add to the momentum.

It felt like I tried to kick a solid brick wall, but the raptoroid tumbled backwards in a spray of teeth and a scream.

I landed hard on my back, suddenly completely lacking in any forward momentum, knocking the air from my lungs just in time to see the predator falling backwards off the side of the temple as my horn protested my actions quite sternly as I struggled to get my breath back.

The next thing I saw was changeling as Amber crouched over me, her wings buzzing as she turned and hissed in the direction where the toothy bastard had fallen down.

“...Thanks, Amber,” I managed to choke out as I reached up to pat her side, “You can get off me now.”

What I got back in return was a mix of hisses, growls and ancient changeling. Amber was absolutely pissed, worried and afraid.

I stroked her foreleg and then carefully gathered her into a hug, focusing on my love for Luna and Sunset, as well as my friendship for her specifically.

I glanced over her shoulder at Dee as she looked down at us, motioning with a hoof towards the edge where the predator had fallen down.

Dee nodded and took to the sky, flying a circle and before she landed at the plateau next to use she gave me a nod, “It’s gone.”

I stroked Ambers back gently, “Did you fly the entire way here?” I asked her softly. Lings were nowhere as much distance flyers as ponies. Fifteen kilometers was a serious distance for a changeling, especially if she did it in a single leg.

Amber managed a small nod and pressed closer and I could feel her trembling against me.

I kept petting her, “I’m fine,” I told her quietly, “You’re fine and I’m fine. But we need to get up, okay? And get inside behind the fire if we want to be sure to stay like that. Do you think you can get up for me, Amber?”

She froze for a second before she nodded, “Y-yes sir,” and then she slowly climbed to her hooves.

But she never moved away from my side, staying close to me as if stuck with glue.

Chapter 62

I glanced back towards Amber to check that she was still keeping up.

We had left the temple as the sun rose into the sky. Amber did a good job keeping up, but changelings just weren’t long distance flyers.

I had made sure we stopped twice to let her recover. We weren’t in enough of a hurry that another half an hour was going to be a problem.

Having Amber push herself hard enough to fall from the sky would be. The fact that she managed as fast as she did in the first place was absolutely amazing.

But she seemed to be keeping up.

We kept close to the trees, but not too close. None of us wanted to risk anything jumping out of the trees and snatching one of us.

But neither of us especially thought that flying too high was a good idea either just in case there was anything flying that hunted these skies.

So lowish and fast was the ticket.

“There!” Dee yelled and pointed forward, “I can see the camp!”


We swept across the camp, looking down at the ponies below and the guards patrolling the perimeter, the breach in the wall had already been repaired but you could still see where the thing had broken through.

Apparently the airship had been it’s next object of attention when it couldn’t find any ponies to nom down on.

It had a massive rip along the side and the balloon collapsed over the superstructure, almost hiding the ship beneath the sagging, but not completely covering it, the rigidity of the supports keeping it from falling down completely.

I followed Dee, circling once around the camp before I spotted a purple pony with wings below next to a darker purple unicorn and went in for a landing.

I beat my wings hard and my hooves touched the ground with a small groan, my wings burning slightly from the long flight.

I barely managed to set down before Midnight pulled me into a tight hug.

Sighing, I hugged her back for a long moment before I let go, “Glad to see you too,” I said with a smile before I cringed and rubbed my forehead next to my horn.

Getting my heartbeat up didn’t seem to agitate it thankfully, but it still hurt all the time.

Midnight nodded and then frowned at me, “What’s wrong?”

“Think I strained it or something when I tried to cast at the rexosaurus,” I sighed, “Hurts.”

“Let me have a look,” Midnight said and moved closer.

“It’s fine,” I said and shook my head, “We have more import-”


I turned my head to look at Amber in surprise and the changeling had an expression on her face that I very much recognized from Skitter.

One that said ‘behave or I’ll literally tie you down and make you’.

I swallowed and then nodded, “Okay.”

Midnight moved up and frowned at my horn, “Hurts when you cast magic?” she asked, touching my forehead with her hoof as I sat down.

“Almost knock me out at even a small spell,” I admitted, “feels like getting a glowing red iron rod through my head. That can’t be good.”

Midnight frowned and touched the tip of my horn and I instantly felt my eyes tear up as I managed to choke out,

“Midnight, Midnight! Off! Off!! Off!!!”

She quickly snatched her hoof away, “Sorry!” she said with a small cringe before her own horn lit up and she ran the light across mine.

Thankfully i couldn’t feel anything from it other than the constant pulsing from my own horn protesting the treatment so far.

Midnight finally nodded, “...It’s a… well, the layponys term is magic overstrain, but quite a severe one. I have had it before, if a much milder version. The worse it is, the longer it lasts, but I never read about one that lasts more than a month.”

“A month!?” I choked out, “It’ll hurt like this for a month!?”

She shook her head, “Likely not, the actual pain will likely fade in a few days to a week. But here’s the bad news,” she said and frowned at me in concern, “...Any magic before it’s fully healed and you’ll be right back to where you started and have to start over.”

No magic for a month.

“No magic for a month,” I sighed.

“Or until you have an actual expert look at it and make sure it’s safe,” Midnight told me seriously, “we have some pain potion in the ships sickbay, it’ll help.”

“Maybe later,” I told her, “I’ll live. We have more important things than having me zonked out right now. I was thinking during the flight back here. We should leave this place and move everypony and as much equipment as we can to the temple we found.”

Midnight looked at me like I was crazy.

Chapter 63

The rain poured down heavily outside the ‘command’ tent. It didn’t have walls, just the roofing set up and the rain was almost like a solid curtain of water as it flowed down from it.

Captain Jetstream slowly scraped his hood on the ground across the box that had been set up a table for us before he sighed, “As much as I dislike leaving the ship behind, I think Lord Page may have a point, Princess Midnight. This is not a defensible position.”

“I have some ideas if that thing comes back,” Tempest said, “But I think so too. We should find a better position… but can everypony really fit in the temple?”

I shifted my wings, “I don’t think that’s much of a problem,” I said and then smiled, “I brought an expert!” and motioned towards Dee with my wing.

She flicked her ears and took half a step back before she stepped forward, “I managed to investigate parts of the interior of the main structure without entering too deeply and it seems intact, so assuming we can clear it of any possible traps, it should have room for everypony, especially at the lowest level, if in rather cramped quarters.”

“And nothing says we need to be inside it normally. We can set up the tents on the plateaus of the temple,” I said, “only to retreat inside in case of an attack. We can also set up the same defenses as we have here around the base of the temple.”

Midnight looked uncertain, her wings shifting as she looked around the table, “...What do you think, Moon Dancer?”

Moon Dancer looked hesitant, “I… I think it’s dangerous to stay here.”

Midnight sighed and then looked to me, “What of the missing ponies?”

I felt my ears droop before I sighed, “Nine ponies are still unaccounted for,” I said, “I have been dipping into the dream realm every hour since we got back to camp with Moon Dancers help for a sleep spell. No sign of any of them, but that doesn't mean much. If they sleep in naps or slept during the part of tonight where I was awake I might have missed them.”

I really hoped so.

Swift was among the missing ponies.

“We could send out some scouting parties,” Moon Dancer suggested, “The odds to find somepony isn’t great in this kind of vegetation, but there is still a chance.”

Midnight nodded, “...And we could leave a couple of pegasi here if they get back here.”

Moon Dancer raised her hoof, “How would we get there? It’s fifteen kilometers of jungle between here and there.”

That was a good point.

I looked at Midnight, “Could you teleport us?”

She quickly shook her head, “No. Not with other ponies and with that kind of precision. I may have managed everypony before, but… there was no precision in it. I just scattered everypony and...” she said and drew a deep breath, “...hoped that nopony ended up inside something else.”


Oh Celestia. That’s what she thought might have happened to the nine. She thinks she killed nine ponies.

Tempest moved up and put her hood on Midnight's shoulder.

Midnight glanced back at her and then shook her head, suddenly looking just incredibly tired, “It… wouldn’t be a good idea,” she finally finished.


He might really be…

Oh Celestia, what will I tell Minuette?

I closed my eyes for a second. Later. I had to… later. But right now we needed to get over a hundred ponies to something approaching safety.

I opened my eyes again and scraped my hoof against the ground before I looked over at Dee. She shifted back slightly, “Yes?”

“How long would it take to get everypony out there through the jungle?”

Dee frowned slightly and looked down at her hooves before she looked to me again, “...Two days if we’re lucky.”

“Fifteen kilometers in two days? We made better time than that when we looked for water,” I argued.

“We both have wings,” Dee said and shook her head, “We could fly over the worst patches. We wouldn’t be able to do that.”

“We’ll have Earth Ponies to move the heaviest equipment and unicorns to clear the way through the thickest underbrush,” I said and shook my head.

“Which is the only reason it will go as quickly as two days,” Dee said and spread her wings, “You wanted me here for my expertise. If you’re not going to listen to it, why am I here?”

I flicked my ears back and glared at her for a split second before I sighed and shook my head, “...Sorry. You’re right,” I said and then turned to the rest, “It might be the best chance we have to keep everypony safe.”

Captain Jetstream nodded, “We should move as quickly as we can.”

“Yeah,” I said and then looked to Midnight, “Midnight, how quickly can w…” I started before I trailed off when I found her just looking down at her hooves.

“Midnight?” I asked again.

No reaction.

Tempest touched her side again, causing Midnight to look to her and then to me,

“..Sorry, you said something, Page?”

I nodded, “Midnight, I need you to organize everypony to get ready to move at first light. Lists and inventory of all essential equipment. Nothing we don’t need, but we don’t want to leave anything we need behind either,” I said, “You’re the only one that could do something like that at such short notice.”

Midnight looked at me for a long moment before she nodded, “We’ll get it done,” she said.

She didn’t sound very enthusiastic.

I turned to the second pegasus in the room, “Moonglow?”

Moonglow nodded, “I’ll organize the Legion for convoy escort and inventory the weapons,” she said quickly and saluted, “We’ll be ready, sir.”

Chapter 64

I stared up at the tent above my bedroll and tried to fall asleep. The heavy rain against it helped. The thought of nine ponies, one of which being one of my oldest friends being missing, presumed dead… didn’t.

I got them into this.

It wasn’t even over yet. It would take rescue a week and a half to get there and now we would bring everypony through a two day dangerous march through the predator infested jungle.

The worst thing was that it seemed like the best way to get everypony through this.

...Or at least as many as physically possible.

I just wanted to help the thestrals. Where did we go wrong?

Rolling over, I closed my eyes.

My horn throbbed like it was on fire and it just… wouldn’t… stop. I clenched my teeth and felt like punching something.

But I still had a job to do, I could whine or cry or yell or punch a tree or something when everypony was safe.

Until then, everypony was relying on me and if they saw me not being able to handle it, they would panic, morale would completely shatter.

I’d need to talk privately to Midnight about that tomorrow.

Might be my expedition, but she was still a Princess. I understood how she felt and.. I felt the same.

But ponies needed us to keep it together right now. Now more than ever.

Right now, my job was to go asleep while everypony was getting everything ready, to do a final sweep for one of the missing ponies.

If I could just go asleep, that is.

Maybe I should just ask Moon Dancer for help with the sleeping spell again.

Rolling onto my side, I sighed.

I did finally fall asleep after a long while, drifting off into the dream realm. The sparkling void around me shifted like usual and I sighed, taking a slow breath and feeling my wings droop as I finally relaxed as my horn felt like normal.

The pain didn’t cross over into this realm, thank Luna.

If I don't have to be awake, I’ll stay asleep until it’s over. I was already dreading having to wake up again. Finally I furled my wings and got up, looking around.

Ponies were asleep all around me. Unless they were completely necessary for the preparations, everypony had been told to get as much rest as they could.

They’d need it.

I looked around. Almost a hundred ponies were asleep right now and I could see a lot of dark portals of nightmares.

I wasn’t exactly surprised by that, I would certainly have been having one right now if I couldn’t do this.

Sighing softly, I started to move among the dreams, touching portal after portal, sending their occupants into dreamless sleep, to better get them as much rest as possible for tomorrow.

Turning, I oversaw the dreams of the expedition before I sighed again and turned to scan the dreamscape for any of the missing ponies.

It has been two days now. If they were out there, I’d have spotted them by now so I didn’t have much hope.


I sank down onto the not-ground and then slammed my hoof down against it..

Damn it!

I rested my head against my hooves. Nine ponies.

Sighing. I opened my eyes to look straight at a portal shimmering in the distance. I stared at it for a second before I even realized what I was looking at before my eyes went wide and I surged to my hooves, taking a quick step across the kilometers of distance to the portal.

It was one of the ponies.

It wasn’t Swift, but… we might be able to save somepony else!

I quickly touched my horn to it and stepped through it to reveal a dream that was of a quickly darkening a forest that was hedging towards turning into a nightmare.

I quickly put a stop to that and stomped my hoof, turning the dream into a bright white room instead, leaving me with a unicorn mare.

I had seen her around before, she was one of the ship's crew I think. She had a gray coat with light blue, almost white, mane and her cutiemark being that of a balloon.

Rising High looked around in surprise before she spotted me. She quickly surged to her hooves to bow, “Lord Page!”

“Rising High,” I said and moved up to her, “Are you safe?”

“I think so, sir,” she said and stood up again, “We’re in a small cave and set up a small fire.”

“We?” I asked, “There’s more with you?”

Rising High nodded, “Two more,” she said, “My brother, Turning Crank and one of the guards, Swift Spear.”

Relief rushed through me and I nodded, “Are any of you hurt?”

“The stallions both are,” Rising said, “Swift Spear has two broken legs and my brother twisted his hoof in a hole. We don’t think it’s broken, but he can’t put any weight on it. Something has been hunting us for days, but I think we’re in a safe spot now.”

“Stay where you are,” I told her seriously, “I know your relative location right now. I’ll wake up as soon as I leave your dream and send a group of pegasi to get you as soon as I do. Do you know the spell for sending up a flare?”

Rising nodded, “It’s one of the standard unicorn spells for emergencies. We all have to learn them.”

“Send one up every couple of minutes and they’ll find you. Stay safe, Rising. We’re coming for you.”

I sent us both awake and I snapped my eyes open, instantly rolling onto my hooves and galloping out of the tent into the rain towards the light of the command tent.


She wheeled around to look at me in surprise, “Sir?”

“I found three,” I told her, “Get me some pegasi.”

Her eyes widened and she quickly nodded and galloped off into the rain. I did my best to shake the worst of the water off myself, stretching my wings for a second before I looked out into the rain filled night outside the tent.

Three ponies.

Three of nine.

Not all.

Not enough. But for those three ponies… for those three ponies it was everything.

And everything was the least we could do for them.

Chapter 65

“You,” I said and looked down at the pony on the stretcher, “Are an idiot. Why didn’t you go asleep so I could locate you? You know I can do that!”

Swift Spear looked up at me, “I’m injured, don’t you have anything better to do than stand berating an injured pony, My Lord?”

“Yes, maybe I could be writing down what I’d tell Minuette when you get your stupid hide killed,” I told him.

Swift flinched slightly before he sighed, “...I tried,” he answered, “But we never stopped moving and it’s hard to sleep when being carried around with broken legs.”

I nodded and looked down at his splinted legs, both fore and rear leg on his left side, “How are you doing?”

“A lot better now when I have actual pain potions,” he admitted, “and when not feeling my bones grind together while carried through the jungle while hunted by something. I… have had better times.”

“Did you see what was hunting you?”

“Yeah,” Swift said and let his head lay back down, “Some sort of bipedal lizard with lots of claws.”

“Sounds like what I called a raptoroid. Nasty customer.”

“Yeah. So glad that is over with. So what’s the plan now? I’m rather tired of being hunted while carried around in a jungle.”

I smiled at him, “We’re going to carry you through the jungle to avoid things that’s hunting us.”

He stared at me for a moment before he sighed and let his head drop back down, “...At least I’ll have a stretcher and pain potions this time around.. Everypony got back to camp then?”

I shook my head, “No. Six ponies are still unaccounted for. We have some pegasi search parties out, but…” I trailed off.

Swift nodded, “Yeah,” he said with a small sigh.

I flicked my ears and glanced towards the glow at the horizon, “Get what sleep you can, okay? We’re moving soon after sunrise.”

His eyes were already slipping closed and I backed away and moved over to Rising High, “You doing okay?”

She nodded, “Just tired, sir.”

“Get some sleep,” I told her with a smile, “You did awesome keeping them alive through this. Just get on a stretcher with the other injured, we can carry one more pony.”

“I’m fine, sir.”

She looked like she’d fall on her muzzle at any moment.

“That wasn’t a suggestion, we’re going to be moving as quickly as she can and we need everypony as alert as possible and you’re about to pass out,” I told her seriously, “Go to sleep.”

“...yes sir,” she said and stumbled over towards a free stretcher the medic had already laid out next to her brother.

I flicked my ears and then moved over to the command tent, “How are we looking?” I asked Moon Dancer as I walked up next to her where she was standing by the box/table, going through a list of some sort.

“We’re on schedule,” she said and put her pen down and looked at me, “Tempest forced Midnight to get a couple of hours of sleep and I took over. As soon as everypony is awake again and we have the tents packed, we will be ready to move.”

I nodded, “Sounds good,” I agreed and sighed softly, “good,” I repeated, rubbing my eyes with my hoof for a second.

Moon Dancer looked towards the dark trees around the camp, “...Do you really think we can do this?” she asked quietly after a moment before she turned to me again and adjusted her glasses, “I’m not a nature pony.”

“Neither am I,” I admitted, “If it wasn’t for Dee, I’d likely still be wandering around the jungle trying not to get eaten. But luckily neither of us will need to be, that’s what we have experts for.”

Well, no, as soon as I could safely fall asleep I’d locate the camp and make my way here. But this was about making Moon Dancer feel better, not facts.

She slowly nodded, “I guess you’re right,” she said and then lifted the stack in her magic, “Want to double check?”

I shook my head, “if you and Midnight missed something, I’m not going to catch it either. I’m going to do something useful and go pack up my tent.”

With that I left her to it and headed towards my tent.

I didn’t have a lot to get packed, but I did have to do it without magic which made it a massive pain in the arse.

Reaching into it I pulled out my satchel and put it to the side before also pulling out the bedroll and rolled it up, struggling to get the bands tied around it to keep it closed.

Seriously, how did pegasi and earth ponies do this full time and when will this motherbucking headache go away! Go! Away! You’re not even really in my head!!

I stopped and took a deep breath, closing my eyes for a second.

Just another couple of days. Midnight said another couple of days.

I sighed and got back to work.

Chapter 66

“Oh yes,” I said and looked up with a small sigh, “Rain forest. It’s in the name.”

I didn’t manage more than to finish saying that before the occasional drop turned into an outright biblical downpour.

This place seemed to have two weather modes.

Hot and humid or raining.

I flicked my wings to get the worst water off them which lasted about half a second before they were soaked again.

“You sure this is the way?” I then asked, looking to Dee where she was standing on a fallen tree trunk.

“Which of us has a compass cutie mark?” she asked in turn.

I raised my hoof in surrender, “Okay, okay,” I said and flicked my ears before tilting them to try to stop rain from pouring straight into them as I glanced back towards the caravan of ponies following along behind, quickly shaking my head to try to get some of the water out of my mane. It didn’t exactly help.

Midnight and Tempest were next and Midnight in particular looked absolutely miserable right now.

I couldn’t blame her with everything going on and the rain was just… the last drop I suppose.

Not that anypony looked particularly happy after a day’s worth of trekking through deep jungle, but at least we had not run into any predators yet.

“How are we looking for distance?” I asked and jumped onto the fallen trunk and then down on the ground again next to her, “Think we’ll get there tomorrow?”

“...I don’t know,” Dee admitted and shook some water off her wings before touching her soaking wet shirt, “We’re a bit less than half way and we’ve done okay, it depends on the jungle. But I think we might do it assuming it doesn't get a lot worse… might be close though.”

“Two hours until Sunset,” I said, “We should start looking for somewhere to camp.”

Dee nodded and pointed forward, “There is a rise in the jungle over there, been heading towards it for thirty minutes. We’ll get there in ten minutes or so. You can’t see it from here, but can from the air. The scout said there is an almost vertical cliff we can make use of as one side of our defenses.”

“Good thinking,” I said and looked back as Midnight split the tree trunk in three parts with two flares of magic before tossing the middle part to the side to open up to allow everypony past without needing to climb over it.

“Okay everypony,” I called out, raising my voice loud enough for everypony to hear despite the rain, “We’re almost at tonight's camp site. If you see any relatively dry wood, pick it up. We’ll need it for the fires.”


“Oh, now you stop?” I said and glanced up towards the sky as we reached the camp site as it stopped raining.

The camp site looked about as good as we could expect, a solid cliff face on one side and the guards were building what would be a half circle of fires around the outer edge of the site.

Might not stop a rexosaurus if it finds us again, but it’d keep the smaller ones from getting too brave combined with our guards.

We hoped.

Then again, even if the smaller ones were magic resistant too, nothing that small could resist something as magically powerful as Midnight. Or hell, even Tempest.

Her control might be generally crap, but that unicorn outputs some serious wattage.

I pushed my hoof down on the tent peg firmly, double checking that it stayed put for a second before I looked around.

No individual tents this time.

We had just strung a big patch of material salvaged from the airship between the trees to keep the rain of everypony as well as it could, while keeping everypony in one easily defended place.

I checked the two closest lines with my hoof before I nodded and flapped my wings a couple of times before shaking myself to get rid of the worst of the water.

It didn’t help much.

I shook my wings again and then then walked in beneath the shelter, keeping my wings raised to make it at least a little easier to dry off.

“You know,” I said as I crossed over to Moon Dancer as she twisted her mane in her magic, working the water out of it, “I think I have had enough rain to last me a year.”

Moon Dancer smiled slightly and ran her magic over her coat, brushing some water of herself before she nodded, “I know what you mean,” she said and then put her glasses back on, her magic pulling her mane back and tying it back with her hairband, “But it could have been worse.”

“How could it have been worse?”

“Well… thestrals could have come from the North and that could have been a snowstorm…”

I shuddered at the very idea.

Chapter 67

Putting my spear on the ground next to me, I laid out my bedroll before settling down on it with a sigh, letting my head drop.

I had picked a spot in the outskirts of the covered area so it wasn't as crowded, but also gave me better light from the fires. Night Vision or not, writing in the dark of night, especially in the shadow of the 'tent' blocking out even the moonlight was a pain to see what you were doing.

Pulling my book out from my satchel, I set it down and flipped it to the right page before I looked around, ears turning.

Only the wind and the sound of the jungle could be hard over the constant subdurned murmure of ponies talking quietly between themselves. Nothing had attacked us yet, which was a good thing. The smaller things might even avoid us because of how much sound over a hundred ponies made when moving through the jungle.

I looked at my pen and ink.

Now for the difficult part, writing without magic.

I had done it before, I had technically learned mouthwriting before I learned to first control my horn, but I had not touched it since. I mean, why would I?

Uncorking the ink, I dipped the pen and started to carefully write.

It was slow, tedious and a bit messy, but it worked.

I could take my time, I wasn't exactly in a hurry here.

"Hey," a voice said and a bowl of steaming hot stew was set down next to my book. I blinked at it in surprise and then looked up to spot Dee standing there, a spear held beneath one wing, "Thought you were a bit too distracted to figure that food's done."

"Oh," I said and smiled at her, "Thanks.... I didn't even notice."

"I figured," she said and then frowned at me as she sat down, "You have a bit of..." she said and touched her hoof to her cheek.

I just sighed, "Yeah, I figure," I admitted, "Trying to get to writing down what happened during these few days for the book, but I'm not exactly well practiced in mouthwriting."

"Unicorns," she commented with a slight eye roll.

"Well... yeah," I admitted, "The horn just makes it so much easier."

"No it doesn't, you just need to put in the practice," she said and put her spear down, "Scoot over."

I blinked at her in surprise and did like she said, "What are you up to?"

"You talk, I'll write," she said and pulled the book, pen and ink over in front of her.

"You don't need to do that."

"What else am I going to do? I think I can fit it into my busy schedule. Besides," she said and then peered down onto the scribbles on the page before her, "I'm assuming you want to actually be able to read this later?"

I grumbled and pulled my stew closer, sniffing at it. Tomatoes and potatoes and a lot of things I couldn't really identify but it smelled amazing. Is that basil?

"So?" Dee asked, shifting her wings after I risked the first chew from the hot stew.

"I was at..." I said and then nodded as I trailed off for a moment as I thought, closing my eyes as I pictured the scene in my mind, "The brush was thick with the sounds of exotic animals and scents all around us as my new companion and I made our way through the equally thick and exotic underbrush. The heat of the burning sun above was..."


Dee put the pen down and eyed through the latest page she had written, "It reads almost like one of those old travel journals," she said, "More than a modern adventure book anyway."

I nodded, "That's what I'm going for," I said and leaned a bit closer to look, "Mind, this is just a first draft, I'm going to add details and explanations and more... depth so to speak later. It's not meant to be an accurate representation of what happened, it's meant to be entertaining, to draw the reader into the world of the- okay, wow, that's not fair."

Dee blinked at me, "What's not fair?"

"How is your mouthwriting better than my hornwriting? I'm a writer, it's what I do!"

She grinned, "That's the result of endless hours of field reports and thesis writing. You get your writings printed in the end for the reader, mine get thrown out unless it's... you know, readable."

I decided to be the adult pony and stick my tongue out at her before closing the book, "Stil... thanks for the help with this. I'd still be working on the first three pages otherwise."

"No problem," she said and then leaned a bit forward as I put the book away in my satchel, "What do you have more in that thing?"

"Hmm?" I asked and then peered into my satchel, "Nothing much. An apple, some writing supplies, the journal and an adventure book."

Dee nodded, "What kind of book?" she asked with an ear flick.

"Daring Do and the Crystal Chalice," I said and pulled it out, "Have you read it? I think it's the latest one."

She grinned briefly and then shook her head, "I wouldn't say that, but I may have flipped through it before. Not really into reading those kinds of adventure books, too much like work to me."

"Yeah, I guess I could see that," I admitted and flicked one ear in thought, "I guess the inaccuracies would drive you up the walls too..."

It sure did back on earth with movie 'hackers' and how they always were portrayed like some sort of wizards in dark hoodies in a dark basement somewhere rather than somebody sitting around watching tv and eating pizza while his script worked through passwords.

"That too," she admitted and pulled the book over to herself before we both froze and quickly looked up along with a hundred other ponies, ears turning in all directions as there was a howl somewhere far away in the distance.

A few moments passed before we relaxed again and she opened it to the first page, "Share?"

"...Yeah, okay," I agreed and she shifted the book a bit so it was more equal between us.

She might have been the faster and neater writer than I was, but I was by far the faster reader.

I wasn't even sure when we started to read out loud instead of stopping and waiting to turn pages, but we took turns.

I did the narration parts and male characters and she did Daring and the female characters.

By the end, we had drawn a bit of an audience listening in on us.

Chapter 68

The attack came just before dawn.

One moment I was sleeping peacefully, then ponies screaming and a roar pulled me back into the real world as those sounds bypassed my brain completely, grabbed my adrenal glands and just squeezed.

I was on my hooves before I was even aware that I was awake.

Two... things were in the camp. They looked like a mix of wolf and lizard with a gazillion teeth, their tiger patterned skin shimmering slightly in the flicker of the fires.

Oh, and they were about five times the size of a pony.

As I watched, a guard flew at one of them, spear in hoof. She jammed the spear into it's side and it roared, twisting like a serpent and it's tail hit her with a bone crushing impact I could hear from where I was and she went flying out of sight.

The closest monstrosity snarled and then charged towards a fallen unicorn. He looked unconscious.

Celestia, I hope he was unconscious.

I moved.

Jumping over Dee even as she was waking up, I snatched my spear up and threw myself into the air to land between the thing and the fallen stallion. Letting out a hiss that would have made a changeling proud, I spread my wings wide and planted one end of the spear into the ground, stomping my hoof down on it as I leaned the other towards the charging predator.

It did something I never would have expected.

It skidded to a halt, but it wasn’t fast enough and my speartip slammed into its chest from the impact. It let loose a ear piercing roar and backed away, clawing at it's chest before it managed to grab the spear with it's jaws and rip it free.

I bared my teeth at it and hissed, spreading my wings wider.

If it attacked, I'd have little choice but to try a spell. It might work or it might knock me out before it did.

Then Amber hit it from the side.

Her spear pierced it's hide but she didn't stop. Her shape blurred into something with a lot of legs and claws and she swarmed up it's side, clawing and biting and stinging as she went.

The monstrosity went nuts, turning and snapping for her.

I ducked beneath the sweeping arch of it's tail and dove for my spear. Energy crackled like lightning across the other end of the camp and part of my brain not busy with staying alive idly noted that somepony must have woken up Tempest.

Another two members of the legion charged the beast as I snatched my spear up in one hoof as I came out of my roll. The unicorns kept their distance out of tail swipe or claw range, but their swords came in on sweeping arches towards it, slashing and stabbing.

"Focus on it's legs!" I yelled and jabbed towards the closest eye.

Then the thing was suddenly covered in a purple glow and yanked off its feet. Amber scrambled for purchase, but the energy field seemed to be impervious and she slipped down the side, falling towards the ground.

Green fire rippled across her and her wings buzzed as she landed between me and the beast, snarling at it.

The monster was lifted into the air and I turned to watch Midnight stride through the camp, the other predator floating in her magic above her, soon to be joined by it's friend.

Midnight looked...

Imagine in your mind the goddess of magic. The creator and controller of one of the elemental forces of the universe. Beautiful and terrible in all its power. It could create wonderful playful illusions and bury continents in clouds of burning ash.

Now imagine said goddess being absolutely furious.

That was Midnight right now.

Her steps were steady and slow and her face was calm in a way I never seen on a pony before. But her eyes... her eyes glowed with the colour of her magic. Not a lot, but enough to pick out against the darkness of the camp. Her horn glowed a bright purple, almost too brightly to look directly at after the darkness of the night and lit everything around her up in a sphere of light that almost seemed to sizzle the grass as she moved past it. And her mane was moving, shifting slowly like in a slight breeze.

"Page," she said as she got close.

Her fury wasn't directed at me. It still chilled me to the core. It almost didn't sound like Midnight at all. It was like liquid nitrogen and burning fire both at once.

"Princess," I said and leaned a bit against my spear, suppressing a sudden instinctual need to bow to her the way everypony else was right now, "Thanks for the save."

She blinked at me and then looked up, almost like she had forgotten the two monsters floating there. She then sighed, "At least they weren't magic resistant this time," she said and then the things were just... gone. There was a flash of light and then they were no longer there.


Note to self, no pissing off Midnight or Twilight.

The almost physical crackle around her faded away, as did the light in her eyes.

Now she mostly looked tired.

Then she set her jaw and looked around, raising her voice, "Everypony, see to the injured! Guards, return to the perimeter in case there are more!"

"One fell outside the camp," I said and turned to look towards the forest, remembering where the pegasus had gone flying, "She's going to need help."

A deep hiss from Amber made me pause as she got in my way, "Let somepony else handle it, sir," she said firmly, "There may still be more. And you need to lay do-"

"Amber, I-"

"No, she's right," Midnight said and stepped up next to me, "You told me we had a responsibility to these ponies," she said quietly, "And you're right. They depend on us and you are injured."

"I'm fine, my horn barely even hurts right now."

Well, not more than yesterday anyway.

"That's not what I'm talking about."

I blinked at her and then looked down at myself. The entire length of my right foreleg was covered with blood from a cut on my shoulder.

When did that happen?

"Let's get you patched up, sir," one of the guards said as she collected her sword with her magic and dug through one of her pouches to pull out some medical supplies.

"I...yeah, okay," I admitted and sat down. Now when I was aware of it, my entire leg was hurting.

"Wouldn't be a good look if I let the boss bleed to death on our first real outing, wouldn't it, sir?" the unicorn... Dark Glow. Her name was Dark Glow... said with a smile as she started to swab my shoulder clean with quick steady motions.

"Might cost you a raise if that happened, yes," I admitted and tried not to flinch at the stinging sensation.

Chapter 69

"How bad is it?" Dee asked as she made her way over to me, my satchel slung over her neck

"Not too bad," I said and sighed, "Could have been a lot worse. Nopony died at least. But we have," I said and glanced down on the scroll with the report on it, "Four ponies with broken legs, one broken wing. Six ponies with lacerations. Ten ponies with various other serious injuries, such as broken ribs or concussions. There is... a lot of overlap. But the medics don't think anypony is in risk of dying from it, thank Luna, but it will slow us down and make us more vulnerable."

Dee frowned and nodded, "I meant your shoulder."

I glanced down at it, "Oh, that. I think I just sliced it on a rock or something, I don't remember being that close to claw or tooth. They cleaned it and put a pressure bandage on it and gave me something against infection, but then she had more critical cases in hoof with my bleeding dealt with. But it's nothing serious, I've had worse."

"Can you walk on it?" she asked as she sat down.

I glowered at her, "I haven't tried yet. Whenever I try to get up, Amber push me back down."

"The medic said you should rest and try not to move too much, sir" Amber said from next to me, "I'm just making sure."

"As he should," Dee said and nodded to the changeling before patting the satchel, "I think I'll carry this thing today. I put your bedroll and tent in the pile of supplies for ponies to divide to carry."

"I can carry my own stuff," I said and glowered at her.

"Why don't you come up here and say that to my face?" Dee asked with a smirk, “You can’t even carry yourself right now.”.

I hissed at her before I just gave up, "...Whatever," I grumbled and flicked my ears, "But we should get going soon. Ponies and those things bled here, blood attract predators. We should move before something worse shows up."

Dee nodded in agreement, her smile gone, "We should," she agreed, "I'm on my way to talk to Princess Midnight. Do you want me to send some ponies with a stretcher?" she asked and looked at Amber instead of me.

"No, you should not," I protested, "I'm good as soon as I'm allowed to stand," I then added and glanced at Amber, “I still have three working legs and two wings!”

Amber buzzed her wings and looked at me for a second before she finally shook her head, "...Won't be needed."

Dee nodded, "Just making sure," she said and moved on.

I glared after her for a second before I sighed and scraped the ground with one hoof in a circle, "I bruised my shoulder, I didn't lose a limb. Seriously, everypony making a fuss,” I grumbled.

A lot of ponies got worse than me. I could see the medics working from here and I could smell blood on the wind. Which was bad considering predators.

Over a week until rescue gets here. We had to get to the temple today or this might happen again tonight.

Or worse.

I started to get up and Amber surged to her hooves.

I shook my head, "I need to talk to Midnight," I told her seriously, "There has to be a way to speed this up."

Amber buzzed her wings, glancing around before she nodded, "Hoof off the ground," she ordered and moved around to my injured side, leaning against me to take some weight while avoiding my shoulder.

"I slashed my shoulder, I didn’t break my leg," I grumbled to her, but accepted her assistance, putting my wing over her back for support.

Which admittedly made it a lot faster to walk over to where Midnight was talking with Dee and Captain Jetstream. At least it was faster than trying to argue a changeling out of something.

I walked up next to Dee, "We need to get there today. With time to at least get things ready for tonight," I said, "We can't stay in the open like this."

"I still can't teleport this many ponies safely," Midnight said, "Not even in groups. Not that far."

"You teleported those monsters," Dee said.

"I didn't particularly care where they ended up," Midnight answered, her ears drooping for a split second before she shook her head, "If anypony has any ideas, I'm all ears."


Definitely never making her mad at me.

"How many can you teleport that far, Princess? In a group?" Jetstream asked.

"Safely..." she said and shifted her wings, "One or two. But even I need to rest after a couple of those."

"That'd take all day," Jetstream said with a sigh.

"And split the party," I agreed, "Never split the party."

"Might still speed things up," Dee said, "Get some of us there so we can start to prepare, clear the interior for traps and such. The injured that will have trouble moving at full speed and a couple of guards to keep them safe."

I thought about that for a second and then shook my head, "You can't be in two places at once," I said and looked to Dee, "We'd need you for navigation and for the traps."

"I or one of my navigators can get us there," Jetstream said, "Miss Dee showed me the location relative to where we were last night. It's almost a straight line from here anyway."

"And one of the unicorns at the temple can send up a flare every twenty minutes or so, just have a pegasus circling above the caravan to spot it when we get close enough," Midnight agreed, slowly nodding, "That... could work."

"It would still be splitting the party," I said, "Harder to defend both groups."

Tempest moved up stand next to Midnight. She looked thoughtful before she flicked her ears and nodded, "But one group would be in a defensible position and get it ready for the rest and the others would be able to move much quicker."

Midnight nodded and looked at her before she turned to me, "Page?"

I forced myself to pause and think it over. If we could move at full speed without the wounded, if the wounded could be behind thick stone walls...

"...Okay," I admitted, "It should work. I just don't like splitting resources like that, but we need to get to the temple before dark no matter what. We can't risk another night like this."

"Agreed," Captain Jetstream said and stomped his hoof, "So it's decided. How much can you move at once?"

Midnight hesitated for a second, "I'd need to fly there first to get a lock," she said, "Dee?"

"I'll guide you."

Midnight nodded, "Assuming the distance I think it is, two ponies or a pony and a hundred kilos. Maybe a bit more if it's nothing that'll break from falling a few meters. We should leave at once while everypony here gets organized. Tempest, find Moon Dancer, she has the lists of what's critical to bring at the first couple of teleports. Page?"


"Lay down before you start to bleed again."

"...Yes Ma'am."

Chapter 70

I stumbled slightly as the teleport deposited me onto the second terrace of the temple. In all honesty, it was likely from the change of environment than anything else. Midnights teleport had been smooth, relatively speaking.

...Smoother than when I did it thirty meters in line of sight to be honest.

She had dropped us across kilometers of jungle. Even if she didn't want to do more than two ponies with precision like this, that's impressive.

"You okay?" I asked her as her wings drooped slightly.

Midnight nodded, "I'm fine," she answered and took a slow deep breath, raising her head again and gave me a weak smile, "Just glad we didn't try to move everypony like this. Teleporting is exhausting."

"Speaking of which," I said and flicked one ear as I looked to the pile of supplies she brought along with me, "What happened to you after you scattered us across the jungle?"

"I passed out for something like twelve hours," Midnight admitted and scraped her hoof against the ground, "Even without precision, teleporting takes a lot of power."

I nodded and looked at the wounded laid out along the level of the temple, ponies tending to them, "How far can you go? Ponyville to Canterlot?"

Midnight frowned and then shrugged her wings, "Not in one jump," she explained, "And I wouldn't do it with passengers. But I have done that before. It's just such a pain that I rather take the train or fly."

I could definitely see that.

Teleporting line of sight across a training ground wasn't that difficult and I think most unicorns that put in the practice could do it. Most just didn't bother learning it.

Because how useful is being able to teleport thirty meters if you couldn't even chain it?

It took a lot of effort to get good at it and if you didn't have the hornpower to back it up, it wasn't worth it.

"One more trip?" I asked her.

She nodded, "Two more guards," she said, "Then that's everypony and we can get moving."

"Take a couple of minutes," I told her seriously, "You're tired."

Midnight nodded, "Five minutes, then I'm good. It's only three more trips."

I had wanted to stay with the group that was trekking through the jungle, they might need me. But it would have been stupid to try with a injured leg. I couldn't cast, I could barely walk and like this I definitely couldn't fight.

I was completely useless to the group right now so the best I could do was to try to stay out of their way.

...As much as it pained me to think. I wanted to help, damn it!

"You want some water?" I asked her, "I could get some."

Midnight shook her head, "I'm good, I'll get something when I get back to camp. Just need a couple of minutes of rest."

I nodded and moved away from her as I moved towards the entrance of this level of the temple. The tents weren't here yet, they weren't critical to set up so the injured were out in the sun right now which made it important to clear the inside for potential traps so we could get them properly into the shade.

This was somewhere my eyes could at least help. I may be slow and my magic was currently not working unless I wanted to try to knock myself out, but I could still see, damn it!

Dee exited the shadows and smiled when she spotted me, "Page! There you are. You got to see this!"

"What did you find?" I asked as I limped up to her.

"Something you have to see, come on!" she said and turned, leaning the way into the dark temple. I followed her inside, somepony had put torches every couple of meters and it wasn't far inside.

The first chamber was mostly empty and kinda small, maybe four meters a side. Other than some pots, it was empty but the walls were carved into some sort of image I couldn't make out as the colours were gone, only the shapes remained.

She led me through that into what looked to be the main chamber on this level and it seemed like it took up most of the pyramid all the way to the top. It was pyramid shaped and contained a pyramid in the middle too, but only as a dias for some sort of altar.

On the altar was a pyramid of pony skulls stacked. Mostly unicorns going by the horn, but some without and could have been earth ponies or pegasi, I couldn't tell. But there were a lot of them there, the altar was wider and longer than a pony and it was almost covered with them, six layers tall. If there was nothing but skulls there...

Over it all towered a massive statue, it's wings spread.

It was a thestral, the statue towering over the chamber and the altar, the wings seemingly encompassing the room. It's body was made from an almost obsidian-like black stone and rubies shimmered as the eyes where the light from the torches hit it. It was inlaid with silver, the fangs, trails along the ears and wings. The spiral of it's horn.

I looked up at the alicorn thestral statue for a long moment before I slowly sat down. I looked at it and then down to the pyramid of skulls.

"Dee?" I finally said as I scanned the chamber. We weren't the only ones in here, some ponies were still looking for traps, "I think that maybe we should look to house everypony at the lower level instead."

She slowly nodded, "That might be a good idea," she agreed.

"And Dee?" I then said as I looked up at the statue.

"Yes, Lord Page?"

"I think the history we have learned about thestrals so far may have been... distorted... with time."

She was silent for a long moment before I felt her hoof on my shoulder, "I think so too.”

Chapter 71

The level below the one with the skulls destined for the throne didn't have nearly as much headroom. But there was enough for even taller ponies to move around even if perhaps Luna would need to duck not to hit her horn.

What more, it seemed to have been set up for living space once. Now it was full of scuttling things and debri however. What remained was some urns and tools, any wood and fabric long since rotted away.

It must have been the living quarters for the priests or whomever ran this... monstrocity.

Now, it was more of an above ground cellar with creepy crawlies in it.

"Well, don't seem to be anything dangerous in here," I finally said as we reached the last of the small chambers, "Just not very pleasant."

"Not too bad," Dee said and looked around, "It's mostly for emergencies anyway, ponies won't be staying in here. But as soon as the main group arrives we have ponies to throw at the problem to clean it out."

I nodded and touched a large urn with the hoof of my hurt leg and peered inside. Nothing much there, it was empty.

Then again, with it being open and this place having been here for this long, what did I expect?

It was impressive as hell that it was even still standing.

I turned away and started back towards the exit through the small maze of rooms, "...What do you think of this place?" I finally asked.

Dee shifted her wings, moving along next to me on three legs, holding a touch with her left forehoof, "I think this was an important place to the ponies that inhabited these lands in the past," she said, "likely their main ritual site, a place of power. Going by the statue... we might have found the place we were looking for."

"More or less," I said and shook my head, "The story says the thestrals were pegasi that was cursed to look like they... like we do. But this doesn't match that in my mind."

Dee shook her head, "It doesn't track for me either," she admitted, "Where do we go from 'curse' to 'alicorn statue'? And pony sacrifice?"

I nodded, thinking about the statue on the level above us, "She almost looked like she encompassed the room," I said, "looming over the skulls. They were an offering to her."


I blinked at her, "Him?"

Dee nodded, "I think so," she said, "Did you look at the proportions of the wings and the neck? And the shape of the jawbone? Unless the sculptor made some mistakes, that's a he."

I stopped at that and frowned as I raised my wings.

A thestral unicorn stallion overlooking a pile of pony skulls in a temple set up for pony sacrifice. In a region we were investigating for thestral origins. I didn't like this. I didn't like this at all.

What if this just made things worse? What if ponies learning about this put three and three together, got five and decided that thestrals were all monsters out to...

I wanted to help, but I could have made things impossibly worse.

I slowly sank down to sit with a sigh. Damn it. What did I do wrong here? What does everything I touch turn into roadapples? Was it some sort of karmic balance for my happiness with Luna and Sunset or was it just me being too crap to do anything major right?

We should just leave this place to the jungle and return home when the rescue team gets here.

...Assuming any of us are still alive by then. What if the rexosaurus found the other group? What if they were all...

"Hey?" Dee asked as she moved up next to me, touching my back with her wing, "Are you okay?"

"No," I answered quietly, "I'm not sure I am. Everything about this entire expedition had gone wrong and possibly made things worse for just the ponies I tried to help. Ponies has already died."

Dee shook her head and frowned up at me, "They have. But they all knew what they were doing was dangerous, but they wanted to come anyway."

"Unless they were ordered. Or it was their job. Or if they didn't realize how dangerous it was. I didn't."

"I'm not sure anypony did," Dee admitted, "None of us knew things like that roamed these jungles. Not even I did and I had worked here before, if not as far south."

I stomped my hoof in frustration, trying not to flinch when I did it with my injured leg, "I just..." I said and then I sighed, "I should just go back and write adventure books instead. I think that would just be better for everypony involved."


I almost fell over from surprise as Dee smacked me over the back of my head with her wing, just barely missing brushing my horn,

"Don't you dare!" she said firmly, rounding on me, "You searched the truth for those ponies. Do you have any idea how important that is? Thestrals had no idea this place even existed, no idea what happened here, no idea what their heritage really is! We don't know, but we have somewhere to start digging! Somewhere to start looking to find their history, their past!"

"It wouldn't help anypony if they found out about this, if anything it could further dama-"

"Don't give me that!" Dee almost snarled at me, tossing the torch to the side to poke me firmly in the chest, almost driving me back a hoof, "The history of this place is important! It could mean Thestrals aren't a group of cursed pegasi! What if they were their own ancient tribe to begin with!?"

I flicked my ear and looked down at her, "But the precep-"

"I don't give a crap! I found enough proof to know that the Princesses hide some of our uglier history. Well, not this time!" Dee said firmly, stomping her hoof against the stone floor with a slight echo, "Don't you understand what this could be!?"

"...Apparently not."

"No, you don't," she said and her wings raised as she poked me again for emphasis, "You’re not thinking, you're too busy feeling sorry for yourself! This could be the origin, the homeland of a fifth pony tribe! A real one! It could be a rallying cry for all thestrals, something to encourage, something to give them a heritage to unite them!"

I blinked down at her in surprise for a long moment before I sighed and shook my head, "...No," I finally said, "That doesn't make sense, I'm sorry Dee. Pegasi get pegasi, but also unicorn and earth pony children, there has been so much cross breeding between the tribes. Same for unicorns and earth ponies. Thestrals mostly get pegasus children. I don't have the numbers exactly, but it's something like one foal in three from a thestral is a thestral... or become one. That doesn't track with them being a fifth tribe, that looks like a blood curse to me."

Dee nodded, "Yes it does," she agreed and looked up at me, shadows from the fallen torch playing across her, "What if it has nothing to do with them being thestrals?"

I looked down at her for a long moment as it clicked. What if it has nothing to do with them being thestrals. What if it was separate.

What if thestrals were natural and everything else...


Oh shit.

Chapter 72

I looked up at the sound of wings and the first thing I saw was a pegasus flying down from the air to land on the lower terrace of the pyramid. Only a minute or two later, the main group exited through the trees at the base of the large structure, Captain Jetstream and Midnight taking up the lead.

I glanced towards the sun and then smiled as I got up. They made it with hours to spare.

Midnight had the right idea with splitting us up like this, they made a lot better time without the injured.

Spreading my wings, I took to the air and glided down to meet them, my hooves touching the ground only a couple of meters ahead of Midnight and I folded my wings again, "Any difficulties?" I asked her.

She shook her head, "Not really. There was a pack of wolves, but they didn't seem too interested after discovering some of us could shoot fire at them," she added with a smile, "We're here. We made it."

I nodded, "You were right," I said, "It was a good idea."

Midnight smiled slightly, "Your worries weren't exactly unwarranted."

"No, but you were right," I repeated and then looked up towards the pyramid, "The idea is that the tents are set up on the lower terrace, it'll bring them into a defensible position. We'll keep a constant guard tonight and tomorrow we can start installing barricades. Should be faster than last time."

"Smaller circle," Midnight agreed.

"In the event of an attack, everypony retreat into the lower level interior," I continued, "It's behind heavier stone than the upper one and while it need's a good cleaning, it will be a defensible position."

Midnight frowned, "Not the upper level?"

I shook my head, "No. It would not be a... suitable location to keep ponies calm. In fact, I think we should restrict access to it and the top level to anypony not a member of the research staff."

Midnight scraped a hoof against the ground in thought, "What did you find?"

"I'll show you, if you like."

She quickly nodded and looked at Jetstream, "Can you get everypony to get everything ready?"

"We'll get the camp set up, don't worry, Princess," he confirmed with a nod.

Midnight nodded and looked at me.

I smiled at her excitement before I spread my wings, "Come on. I'm not climbing those stairs with my shoulder," I said and took to the air. It still tugged a bit at the wound, but it was also over a lot faster. I soon landed on the second level, Midnight setting down a second after I did.

"How's the horn?" she asked as she folded her wings and started to walk inside with me.

"...Better," I admitted, "Not good, but it's down to aching instead of feeling like it's on fire."

I let her drift ahead a little which considering I was going on three legs wasn't difficult as I kept my eyes on her for her reaction.

Midnight stopped as she entered the main chamber, her jaw dropping as she slowly turned her head, taking it all in.

"That's... a thestral alicorn..." she slowly said as she sank down to sit, looking at the statue and the altar.

"Predating the birth of Celestia," I said, "Assuming that Dee’s estimation of the age of this place to be six thousand years is correct, that statue is at least a thousand years older. There were alicorns before the sisters."

Midnight looked at the pyramid of skulls and then swallowed, looking away to me, "What happened to them?"

I looked at the pyramid, "Well... this place is set up for pony sacrifice, so my guess would be a sharp stone bla-"

"Not them!" Midnight said and shook her head, "If there were alicorns before Celestia, I wonder what happened to them? We don't die of old age."

"Off the hoof guess?" I asked and glanced back towards the glow of the setting sun outside the corridor to the chamber, "A rexosaurus. Or a blade somewhere unpleasant. We're long lived, not invulnerable, Midnight. Even back when Celestia and Luna united Equestria, it was a violent time. When this place was built it was a time of pony against pony against griffon against minotaur against everything else this world could throw at them. A lot of things can happen in a thousand years, even to one of us. Accidents, assassination... war."

Midnight's ears drooped slightly and she sighed, "...It can, can't it?" she answered softly, her wings slowly shifting, "There could have been many."

"There could have," I agreed, "But... I doubt it."

"How come?"

"If there were scores of alicorns across the ages, there would have been more traces of us," I said and stretched my wings for a second, looking up at the statue, "Like that thing. Say what you will of alicorns, we don't blend in well among other ponies. How much have you grown since you got your wings?"

She blinked at me and then nodded, "Half a hoof," she admitted, "And I see what you mean."

"I'm at almost a hoof," I told her, "And just hoping I don't end up as Celestia or I'll spend my hopefully very long life ducking in doorways or banging my horn against things."

Midnight put her hoof against her muzzle, hiding a grin before she shook her head, "...You're likely right though, we likely were always rare. But this means there used to be more. And a natural one with thestral wings t-" she started and then trailed off and her eyes found mine, "a natural thestral alicorn. But that would mean that-"

"Unless he also got caught in the curse," I warned her, "We just don't have enough evidence one way or another. As for this place, finding yourself drinking blood would be a long jump to starting to sacrifice ponies. Would have kept them together until the prey pool got too small. We just don't know yet."

Midnight looked slightly queasy as the idea before she nodded, "You're right, we shouldn't jump to conclusions."

I shook my head and looked up at the statue again.

Who are you?

What were you?

Tell me.

"But," Midnight continued and stood up again, "What we should be doing is going out and helping to set things up. It'll be dark soon."

"Yeeep," I agreed and stretched my wings for a second before moving to limp after her, shooting a final glance back towards the statue.

You will tell me your secrets.

You can't hide them from me.

Chapter 73

The sound of rain against stone filled the chamber at the top of the pyramid. I didn't bother with a torch, even with it being in the middle of a rainstorm with the sun down, I still saw well enough to move around, especially in the slight light filtering in from lamps in the camp below.

I was sitting close to the entrance, listening to the heavy rainfall outside as I stared at the altar in the middle of the chamber.

The one an unknown number of beings had been sacrificed on.

Why? For power? Belief?

To do such a thing to another thinking being... I had trouble understanding the mindset of somepony like that. From the skulls below, it wasn't even non-ponies... and if the statue was anything to go off, he had been like I was now. Assuming that's really what Discord did and not just copying the effects.

But I don't think that was it, Discord wasn't one to just do the lazy copy thing.

I was the same as the thing that did this... or was I?

I ate fruit, not blood. Was that what this was? An actual vampony? A vampony that came to this place and took over, spreading his curse to the rest of the pegasi? To be worshipped like a blood god?

Skulls for the throne indeed.

A glow from outside drew my attention and Moon Dancer stopped outside, a bubble of magic around her, keeping the water away, "Lord Page?" she asked, peering into the darkness.

"I'm here," I said and moved out where she could see me.

"Oh!" she said and nodded, taking half a step back before she smiled, "Princess Midnight told me to come get you. We found something in the main chamber."

"What? We searched the place pretty thoroughly," I said and moved out into the bubble of her magic, trying not to limp. My shoulder ached but it didn't bleed, so fuck it. It can heal on its own time.

Moon Dancer led down the stairs, "The carvings on the walls," she explained, "It's not just patterns, it's images. You just can't see them as the paint is gone. Midnight has a spell that makes them stand out... and you should see them."

Now that I really wanted to see.

We moved down the stairs to the entrance and I followed her inside. She canceled the field over us and instead her horn glowed like a light and we moved through the short tunnel into the main chamber. It was lit up by the light of torches burning in the corners, set into ready made sconces. Midnight was talking with Dee close to the pyramid of skulls and I moved over to them.

"Page!" Midnight said with a smile, "We found something. It's amazing!"

"So I heard. Show me?"

Midnight nodded and stepped up, her eyes half closing as she focused before her horn lip up in a bright glow and beams shot out from it in all directions. They played across the rock walls of the chamber and where they touched, they left lines of lights following the contours of the rock like small lines of glowing purple neon.

I felt my jaw drop as the inside of the chamber was revealed. Every crack between the stones stood out, yes, but what’s more, the entire inside was carved into images from floor to ceiling.

"Over here," Dee said and touched my shoulder before pointing towards the side.

I looked over and then slowly approached. It showed a landscape of ponies with batwings among trees with small huts. It showed fighting against other ponies, being driven back.

"I think it may be part of the history," Dee explained quietly, "It starts here and then goes all the way around the chamber."

I nodded and kept moving. The next image showed a larger thestral arriving. One with a horn. Light shone out from him, seemingly radiating from his horn as he drove the invaders off.

The next image they were all bowing before him, offering up gifts.

Another image, this one once more of battle. It seemed more even now, equally as many on each side. I continued along the wall to the next image. One displaying the thestral lord sitting on a throne, overlooking bowing subjects... thestrals... with one hoof extended, pointing towards half a pyramid behind them.

They were building this place.

The next one was... gory. A dead pony on the altar at the top of the pyramid, streams of blood running down the sides. But there were thestrals standing on the levels of the pyramid and they were surrounded by some sort of glow.

The next image was one of the thestrals overrunning their enemies, the unicorns were on the ground, thestrals standing above them.


I stopped walking and looked around and then up at the statue. Thestrals... wasn't a curse. They... we... were an actual pony tribe. It wasn't a curse at all, it was a fucking super soldier program!

Fuck me...

I shook my head, feeling my fangs with my tongue before I looked to Midnight, "But why did we start to crave fruit? Why the low reproductive rate?"

"We don't know," Midnight admitted as her spell faded away, "But my working theory is that it was a curse cast by one of their enemies. It's possible that the low reproductive rate or suppression of thestral traits was intended or an unintended consequence from an interaction of the blood magic, but I don't know. I need to study it more."

I took a slow breath and nodded, "Let me know if you need to examine me or something. I'm fairly certain Discord used the entire package on me, everything else has matched so far."

Midnight nodded, "I'll let you know," she said with a small smile.

"Okay," I agreed and looked at the wall behind me for a second before starting out of the chamber again. Better let the experts get on with things.

I stopped though and turned to look up at the statue.

You. You did this.

You were like me. You were like Celestia, like Luna, Like Midnight and Twilight. You could have been so, so much better than you were. You could have brought prosperity, formed Equestria or something like it over a thousand years early.

But what did you do with your power? Your knowledge? Your abilities?

You turned ponies into monsters to drive away everypony else.

Fuck you, you fucking failure of an alicorn.

I looked up into the statue's ruby eyes and barred my fangs, hissing at it. I'll undo your work. I'll make sure thestrals are accepted among everypony else, as common as pegasi, unicorns or earth ponies!

You will have failed!

Then I'll find a time spell and go back to your death to show you. Just to make sure that you know about it!

I gave the statue another hiss and then turned and left.

Chapter 74

"Ready below?" I called out.

"Ready!" a voice answered.

I gave the pink pegasus across from me a nod, "Wanna bet at least one of them is too close despite our warning?"

Darling Feather rolled her eyes, "After the last three times, Lord Page? No bet."

Then we started to shake the tree, jumping up and down on the thick branches as we pushed and pulled on the main trunk. The tree creaked and moved, branches hitting branches and leaves against leaves. Then the sound we were waiting for and there started to be thumps from below as the heavy elongated orange fruits started to fall from the tree onto the large piece of airship hull canvas below.

Once a cover from rain, now it was for gathering fruit. You can do plenty with a big piece of fabric.

At least my leg felt a lot better after a day of rest and healing.

I wasn't sure what the fruits were called. They were the size of small watermelons however and about as thick shelled, but they were elongated like aubergines and tasted a bit like sour and sweet strawberries.

But there were a lot of them. While we did have enough food to last until we were rescued, it was a lot nicer to eat something fresh rather than canned or dried foodstuffs, even if the cook did an amazing job.

We kept moving until the thumps had slowed down and Darling held on to the trunk until the tree stopped moving, "Enough for a few days I think?" she asked, brushing her mane out of her eyes.

"Should be," I agreed and let go as well, "Let's see how much we caught."

Darling nodded and took to her wings, flying down from the tree.

I laid down on the branch, let my tail wrap around it before I slipped off it to hang from my tail. Something I never thought to even try before, but something I found surprisingly comfortable. I could apparently even sleep like this as shown by me not falling to my death when I was stuck in the jungle with Dee. Maybe I should try it sometimes when we get back to Canterlot, I bet Luna would find it hilarious. We could get a perch and everything.

Speaking of which, I should give her another situation report.

"Lord Page?" a voice called out from below, "We're ready to head back?"

"Go on, I'll come in a bit," I called back to them.

I could hear them move out below and I slowly turned, "Amber?"

"Yes, sir?" she asked from behind me and I swung around to look at her.

She was also upside down, standing on the bottom of a branch as she looked at me. I smiled at the sight, "I'm going to take a nap and talk to Luna, let them know how we are doing. Wake me if anything happens?"

Amber shifted a bit uncertainly, "Shouldn't we head back first?"

"We haven't seen any arboreal predators yet," I said, "and you're here to keep an eye out. Besides, I won’t be asleep for long."

"Very well, sir."

I gave her a nod and then pulled my legs a bit tighter, my wings a bit around me and got comfortable as I closed my eyes. Considering I had been awake yesterday and most of last night helping setting things up and then unable to sleep because my mind just kept whirling around what we discovered... or thought we discovered anyway, I was pretty tired today and sleep found me pretty easily.

It was only a couple of minutes before I found myself in the drifting lights of the dream realm.

I did the now familiar scan around to see if I found any ponies sleeping away from where the camp was. I could tell because it had a dozen ponies asleep right now. Some of the injured and the ones that stood guard last night.

But other than them... nothing until Equestria.

I took a slow breath and sighed, shaking my head before the dream realm shifted around me and I found myself standing next to Luna.

She blinked and turned to me before she smiled and moved up to hug me tight, both forelegs and wings going around me as she sat down. I hugged back just as tight, leaning against her. Her warmth, her scent, her very being here... it all made me feel a thousand times better.

I didn't want to let go. So I didn't.

Luna nuzzled softly between my ears, "How are things going?" she finally asked.

"All the survivors are still safe," I said against her warm coat, "The researchers are busy and so is everypony else. We just finished gathering some fresh dinner for everypony and I figured I'd let you know we're alright."

Luna nodded, "Have they found out anything more?" she asked.

I let her know what we discovered last night when I finally did fall asleep.

"Don't know," I admitted, "They were fully at it again this morning, but I joined one of the teams gathering food. I would be more useful there than being in their way. I don't have the education to be useful and without my horn, all I could do it write things down for them and my mouthwriting is awful."

"I think you're selling yourself a bit short, My Page," Luna said and shifted to look into my eyes.

"...Maybe," I admitted, "But Moon Dancer and Midnight were talking theories of blood magic this morning and I got maybe one word in three. I'm not dumb, but I don't have their theoretical background."

Luna nodded, "Admittedly, neither do I," she said and touched her horn against mine, "How's your horn?"

"Much better," I said and smiled a bit up at her, "It's down to a dull ache. If the timeline Midnight laid out is correct, and because it's Midnight I think it is, I should be back to normal in two or three weeks. But I'm not touching magic until I have seen an expert, no way I'm risking going back to zero on this."

"I have had it a time or two myself," Luna agreed, "But I think I managed to avoid getting it as bad as you described. My horn hurt, yes, but..."

"Mine felt like it was on fire," I agreed, "Not in a hurry to repeat the experience," I said and cuddled against her, "That said, My Sky... maybe I should take some classes when we get back. I can't follow what Moon Dancer and Midnight were theorizing about, but I want to be able to. Maybe not take classes as I don't think that fits anyponys schedule, but maybe a tutor or something."

"I think that sounds like an excellent idea," Luna agreed with a smile.

"One with a big club that can get things through into my thick skull."

That got a small smile from her and me a small kiss, "Silly Page."

I winked at her and then slowly pulled back, "How's Sunset doing?"

"Worried," Luna said, "Twilight is surprisingly calm though, she usually has a tendency to worry," she continued and shifted her wings, "I suspect she's forcing it to help keep her marefriend from getting even more panicked."

I flicked my ears, "Let Sunny know that I'll see her tonight?" I asked before I quickly blinked and turned my head to the side as I felt something poke me firmly, "Amber wants me to wake up, I have to go."

I opened my eyes, looking directly into Ambers. She held a hoof up to her lips and pointed down towards the jungle ground beneath us.

I looked down towards the ground, not seeing anything but the green of the jungle, but I could hear movements. Rustling branches, heavy footsteps. A deep intake of air.

We stayed still. Very. Very. Still.

I just listened, ready to fly at a moment's notice.

Thump.... Thump.... ThumpCrack....Thump.

Slowly it became less audible as it moved away. Luckily, not towards the camp, but to the west. The camp was to the north from where we were right now.

"Did you see it?" I whispered to Amber.

She shook her head, "No," she answered equally quietly.

"We better let everypony know that there is something big in the jungle," I whispered and then pulled myself back up onto the branch and started to climb higher. I didn't really feel like traveling back beneath the canopy of the jungle right now.

Chapter 75

I circled above the pyramid as Amber and I reached it. It was amazing how much progress they had made in just the time we had been getting the fruit harvest.

The barricade was only a dozen segments from being finished and things looked much more organized already. It didn't just have the line of quarter cut trunks this time, it also had a line of them with the pointy end at a forty five degree angle outwards. They had moved the medical tent to the lower level to make it faster to move the injured inside and the cooking tent had been moved up to take its place.

The other tents had been moved around a bit into straight lines instead of just jumbled up like before.

Pones had been really busy.

Spotting Moon Glow, I circled lower and went down to land close by before trotting over to her, "Moon Glow."

"Sir," she said, putting her helmet down. She was out of her armour and it was laid out on the stone next to her as she cleaned it.

"Amber and I spotted something big in the jungle," I said without preamble.

That got her full attention instantly, "Where and what?"

"By where we collected the fruit, maybe a kilometer from the camp," I told her, "We didn't see it, just hear it beneath the tree but it sounded big. It wasn't heading this way directly however, it headed towards the west. We don't even know there was a rexosaurus, just that it was big."

Moon Glow sighed and looked towards the jungle beyond the barricade, "...How many massive predators does this jungle need?"

I sat down on the stone, shifting my wings in a shrug, "To be fair, we don't actually know that it was a predator, we didn't see it. Could just as easily have been a big herbivore."

She raised an eyebrow at me, "Really?"

I nodded, "I mean, the rexasaurus does need to eat something when there are no ponies around."

"Good point," Moon Glow admitted and sighed, "Just another week, sir."

"Just another week," I agreed. We just needed to hold out for another week.

"Kind of wish Captain Armor was here right now," Moon Glow admitted, "One of those shields of his would be really useful."

"No kidding," I agreed before I frowned, "I wonder if Midnight can put something like that up?"

Moon Glow shook her head, "I already asked. She can, but she can't put it up for as long and she was far from convinced it would even help if the rexasaurus was magic immune."

I nodded, "Well, that would have been too easy, wouldn't it?"

She nodded and started to assemble her armour again, "Yes, sir. Well, we'll be as ready as we can. We can only hope that if something like that comes for us, one of the scouts spot it with time to give us some warning."

"Nopony can do anything more," I agreed and moved down the stairs of the pyramid, moving beneath the tent for the injured.

I looked across them for a second before making my way along the ones that were awake, checking how they were doing and if they needed anything. It was the least I could do, I was the reason they were even here.

Then I reached Swift where he was reading a book. I looked down at him for a second, "You look like shit."

"So. Bored," he sighed and let the book drop onto the stone next to his sleeping roll, "It will be weeks before I can move around again under my own power. Doc says a month until I'm on my hooves again."

I nodded and then flicked one ear, smirking as I lowered my voice, "Well... it's not all bad."

"How is me breaking my legs a good thing?" he asked, looking up at me.

I grinned, "Well, we'll be back home in two weeks. That leaves two weeks of being attended to by your marefriend."

Swift blinked and then chuckled, "Okay, maybe not all bad," he admitted before he sighed, "Doesn't really help now though."

"Maybe not, but it does give you something to look forward to," I said and stood back up, "Besides... right now, boring is good. Boring is safe."

"Well, you're right about that," Swift agreed and glanced towards the jungle, "Perhaps boring isn't that bad."

"Not all bad anyway," I said, "Just relax, we'll be out of here before you know it."

With that, I moved to climb the stairs to the second level again and enter the dark of the pyramid. The large center chamber was lit up by torches still, my eyes quickly adapting to the dim light on my way down the hallway to where the research team had set up. Several tables had been assembled and books and scrolls stacked up. Midnight must have done some extra trips back to the airship to get the things because I know we didn't bring any of that on the trek here.

I wish I could teleport like she could.

Right now Midnight and Moon Dancer were arguing about something across one of the tables and as I watched, Midnight stabbed her hoof towards something on a large rolled out map. Moon Dancer shook her head and said something back, causing Midnights wings to raise in annoyance.

"So..." I said as I moved up Dee where she was sketching the chamber, "They have been at this for a bit I take it?"

Dee put her pen down and nodded, "Half an hour or so," she said and shrugged her wings, "Something about ley lines and magic flow. There seems to be some disagreement if it's a natural ley line or if the temple itself diverted a natural one here."

"...Does that matter?" I asked, blinking down at her.

Dee sighed, "You're asking the wrong pony," she said and shook her head before taking the pen in her muzzle again and going back to sketching the statue.

Chapter 76

"Daring Do looked around the chamber, her eyes playing across the masonry as the light of her last torch flickered in the darkness," I read out loud, "The slight rumbling from distance thunder sounding loud enough to be audible even in the underground chamber."

"There has to be a way out of here, there always are," Dee read next to me, "The ancient ponies that built this place always had trap doors hidden in structures like this, I just need to find it!"

"But even as she looked, she knew," I continued, "That she only had so much time. If the torch went out, if the rain got here first. This chamber could become her to-"

I broke off and my ears turned as I looked up past the group gathered around us to listen.

Everypony else turned to listen too at the sound of snapping branches coming from the forest outside the barricade.

"Guards! At the ready!" Moon Glow commanded as she flew down from the upper level, spear held in one hoof, "In positions! Everypony knows what to do, get into the shelters!"

Everypony sprang into action, but it wasn't in panic. Everypony knew what to do and hurried into the shelter of the lower level of the pyramid. I got to my hooves, Amber somehow seeming to materialize next to me, "You should too, sir."

"I'm staying," I told her in a tone that said I wasn't asking, "They might need my eyes."

Amber made a small buzzing sound but didn't argue.

Dee looked at me and gave me a nod. I nodded back and then she took to the skies, circling high up into the night. Her task was to be one of the 'eyes in the sky'.

That's when I saw it. The rexosaurus slammed into the barricade, one head turning to grip one of the spears sticking outwards in it's yaws and rip it out of the ground. Then it started to batter it's way through.

"Fire!" Moon Glow yelled and her unicorns shot the first of their spears towards the closest head. They peppered across it's thick skin, some bouncing off, some sticking.

The monstrosity seemed to care about as much as I would about a mosquito bite.

It opened it's jaw, showing rows of needle-like teeth as thick as my foreleg before it roared loud enough to make my lungs vibrate in my chest.

It pressed it's wings against the barricade and the thick wood snapped like matchsticks and it was through. A second volley of spears stabbed towards it.

"Aim at the eyes!" Moon Glow yelled and the pegasi took to the air, swooping above it to distract it as the unicorns threw again.

"Clear the area," a voice said and I looked to my left only to see Midnight step up to me.

She looked like she had when those two things attacked out camp during the journey here. Her mane moved to a wind that only affected her.

I nodded and looked down towards Moon Glow, "Clear the area!" I yelled to her, "Heavy hitter, coming through!"

She spared a quick glance towards me and Midnight before she yelled orders for her pegasi to pull back almost in a slight panic.

As soon as they did, Midnight's horn lit up brightly and a dozen of the barricade quarter trunks lifted into the air before spinning around, their pointed ends aimed towards the rexosaurus.

Now, I could say that she threw them at it, but that would have been a bit of an understatement.

There was a woh-smack sound and the rexosaurus roared. The massive spears didn't accelerate towards it, they just kind of disappeared from where they had been and then reappeared halfway through the monstrosity, buried a pony length into the thickly packed ground through its entire body in a dozen separate places.

The thing was tough. But nothing is that though.

The monster managed a final sound before it collapsed against the thick spears running through its body.

Midnights mane settled down and the glow from her horn faded away as the rexosarus collapsed with a final wheezing sound. She looked at it for a long moment before she spread her wings and glided down to stand before it.

I spread my wings and followed her down, looking up at the dead beast.

"You did it," I said quietly as the scent of fresh blood filled the air, making it taste like copper.

"Then why don't I feel any better," Midnight asked just as quietly, "I think I'm-" she said and then quickly closed her eyes, looking like she was going to throw up.

"Because you're a good pony," Tempest told her as she joined us, moving up to Midnight's other side, pressing her side against her.

Midnight took a deep breath, trying to calm down. But it just made her turn green and she quickly looked around in slight panic before she disappeared into a flash of light.

I looked to Tempest, "She really does deserve better than this," I told her quietly.

Tempest nodded, "I'll go check on her, Commander," she said and then went looking for the other alicorn.

I shifted my weight and my hoof made a slight squish sound so I looked down, finding that one of my hooves was in a pool of blood and dirt, turning it into a kind of nasty looking mud.

Quickly taking a step back, I dried my hoof on the grass before looking up at the monster.

Wonder if Luna let me bring one of the skulls with us when we go back home. It would look so awesome on the wall of the living room.

Then I tilted my head in thought, looking at it for a long moment, "Amber?" I then asked.

"Yes, sir?" she asked as she stepped up next to me.

"The one that attacked the airship camp... you were there and watched the entire attack, right?"

Amber nodded, "I wasn't teleported out, I hid."

"Yeah, so you got a better look than anypony else. Correct me if I'm wrong, because I was more than a bit distracted at the time, but didn't it have longer horns?"

Amber looked at the dead rexosaurus before she nodded, "It did. There's more of them."

"There's more of them," I agreed with a sigh, rubbing my eyes with my hoof, "Fucking awesome."

Chapter 77

The dream realm shimmered around me and I took a deep breath, stretching my wings for a long moment, rolling my neck slightly before I sighed and moved up to Sunnys dream portal.

I touched my horn to it and then stepped through the blue silvery portal with dark streaks moving through it and the dream faded in around me, leaving me in... a classroom? Not one I recognized.

It was full with little colts and fillies, one especially that I recognized. Sunset was sitting by one of the desks, frantically going through her bag,

"No! No! No! It has to be here! I know I did it!" tiny little filly Sunset whimpered as she worked through her seemingly bottomless bag.

She was absolutely adorable.

I grinned and debated leaving it for a moment but then I decided to save her from the 'nightmare' and stomped my hoof against the wooden floor, causing the dream to solidify around us.

Sunset blinked and looked up and around before she jumped off her chair, "Page!" she exclaimed before she stopped and looked down at herself.

"You're adorable," I told her seriously.

Her glare could have turned me into atoms, "Fix this!"

I grinned at her and then tapped my hoof again and she grew to her actual age. She looked herself over and then she shook her head and trotted over to nuzzle me, "Are you okay?"

"Of course I am," I said and nuzzled back before resting my horn against hers as I looked into her eyes.

Sunset looked up at me for a long moment before she sighed softly, "No you're not."

"...No, I'm not," I admitted softly, "Ponies have died. But to make it more likely that everypony else to get back home safely, I have to pretend to be."

Sunset frowned slightly, reaching up to stroke my mane with her hoof as she sighed softly, "You shouldn't need to do that."

"Maybe not," I answered and sat down, pulling her close to nuzzle at her ear and mane, "The same way that Midnight shouldn't need to kill monsters. Or any of the other ponies risking their lives for this. But we all do what we have to for as many as possible to get through this... and if all I can do to help is to look confident and calm, then it's what I'm going to do."

Sunset shook her head but leaned against me, nuzzling against my neck for a second before she pulled back and looked at me, "How is your horn? And your shoulder?"

I smiled a bit at her, "My horn is fine, it's down to a small ache. I can easily ignore it."

"And your shoulder?" Sunset asked, "Luna said you cut it."

"It's fine," I reassured her, "Barely broke the skin and ‘cut’ is pushing it in the first place. I scratched it on a rock."

Sunset gave me a disbelieving look, "Oh yeah?"

I shifted slightly, "...Okay, so it was a bit worse than that, but it stopped bleeding quickly, the medic says that it's healing nicely and I can put weight on my leg again. Seriously, I'm fine. If I could risk using magic, I'd be back at a hundred percent."

"Anything else?"

"A rexosaurus attacked the camp just after dark," I said and then held my hoof up to stop her next question, "Everypony is fine... or unhurt anyway. Midnight... objected to it attacking our camp again. Violently."

Sunset frowned slightly, glancing down at the floor, "...How's she doing? I know what Twi would think about having to do something like that."

"I think that that mare needs a lot of time away from things when we get back," I told her, "She's trying to hide it, but she's taking things hard. We do what we can, but I think Tempest is better for her than anypony else right now."

She nodded and sighed, "We're five days out."

"We'll do what we can," I reassured her and smiled, "We're fine."

Sunset shook her head slightly before she looked up at me, "Can you show me what you found?"

I nodded and moved up next to her, "Here," I said and put my hoof over her eyes for a second as I shifted the dream around us to the main chamber of the pyramid, lit up by flickering torches.

Lowering my hoof, I let her see it.

Sunset gasped and stepped forward, her jaw dropping as she slowly turned before she gaped up at the statue, "Wow."

"Yeah," I agreed as I moved up next to her, "Not only that," I added and tapped my hoof against the floor, letting my subconscious fill in the details as lines of light traced out the images onto the walls that told the story of this place.

Sunset slowly turned, "This is... amazing."

"Yeah," I agreed, looking up at the statue for a second, "that's one word for it."

Sunset looked at me and then she moved to nuzzle me beneath my chin, "Hey. None that happened is your fault."

"Maybe not," I admitted and sighed, giving her a small kiss, "But that doesn't mean I'm not responsible. It was my expedition after all."

Then I smiled slightly at her, "Come on, I'll show you around."

Chapter 78

The leaves of the jungle slowly swayed with the slight breeze as I overlooked it from the upper branches of an especially tall tree. Seriously, these things were massive, they made redwood look small.

The sun burned brightly above, but being in the shade helped and gave me time to think.

Three more days before the rescue ship would arrive. Since the rexosaurus attack, we had been unbothered by the local wildlife. Maybe we were in its territory and it would take time before the others noticed this area was empty now and borders would shift around.

But for the moment, we seemed safe.

Thank Celestia that nopony else was hurt during the attack.

I scraped my hoof against the branch I was laying on, following the slight pattern in the barch with the edge of my hoof. This was where batponies really came from. No wonder the forest felt nice to be in, assuming you could discount the things wanting to eat us, of course.

We knew what happened more or less. Some sort of blood magic to make thestrals stronger, faster. Blood drinkers. That much we knew at least from the carvings in the walls.

But then what? Why did batponies change?

It wasn't the blood magic... and Midnight now knowing what to look for, had verified it in me. Say what you want about Discord, but he don't fuck around. He didn't just make me look like a thestral, he made me one where I had once been a pegasus.

But if it was still just as active as back then, then the question was, 'what happened?'

Midnight suspected a second spell, a curse laid above the blood magic. Maybe an attempt to turn everypony back to the way they were before. Maybe an attempt to just remove the blood drinking.

Maybe an outright attack to try to drive thestrals extinct.

Did it really matter?

I sighed and shifted my wings, extending one to look at it for a long moment. Not really. If batponies were to be accepted, we needed to tear it all down. Curse, blood magic. All of it.

If somepony could break through all of it, it'd be Midnight or Sparks. With them working together, it wouldn't stand a chance.

But then what? Breaking the magic was only a small part of it, the easy part even.

Changing ponies was not something that was as easily done.

...Well, unless you used blood magic apparently.

Smiling slightly at that, I shook my head and stood up on the branch, stretching for a second before I glanced behind me at where the temple rose up out of the jungle, just barely cresting between the trees.

But we could do it. Thestrals built that thing in this monster infested hellhole before they were turned into blood drinking super ponies.

If they could do that, they could turn public opinion. We just needed to strip away the magic shackles around our necks first.

"See anything?" I asked Silver Light as I looked to the side to where the Pegasus was sitting in full armour. The only way Moon Glow would allow me this far away from the rest of the group.

The white coated pegasus shook her head, her pink and braided mane shifting as she did, "No, sir. Too much green."

I looked over to the temple again just as a flare rose high into the air and exploded in bright red sparkles. The once an hour flare that was being sent up just in case any of our missing ponies saw it.

I wasn't exactly hopeful considering it's been over a week and I hadn't spotted any of them in the dream realm, but I wasn't about to order them to stop. Hope is a powerful thing.

Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.

"Well, we might as well fly back then," I said and stretched my wings, "It was a longshot anyway."

Had hoped we would be able to track the larger predators by the movements of the trees, but I guess the world doesn't work on Jurassic Park logic.

Silver Light smiled and shrugged her wings, picking up her spear from where she leaned it against the tree trunk, "Could have worked."

"Actually, might still," I said and frowned out over the forest, "Might just not be any close enough to spot. But it's likelier that they simply move without bumping into every tree in sight. Don't become the apex predator of a place like this by being clumsy."

With that, I spread my wings and took to the air, flying back towards the temple, flying higher as I scanned the horizon in all directions.

Spotting what I was looking for, I looked over at Silver Light and gave her a wave before pointing with my hoof.

She glanced over and then nodded, "Going to rain soon," she shouted to me over the wind, "Been feeling like it for an hour or so."

That was something I didn't have and don't think I ever had.

Then again, might just be a matter of education, every pegasus in the legion, and the guard for that matter, was required to at least hold a basic weather license.

I had thought about getting one just because it seemed interesting a couple of times, but with what time? Unless I could bribe Celestia, there was only so many hours in a day.

We flew across the pyramid and I scanned the ground, the defenses were repaired and the remains of the rexosaurus was long gone and Midnight wouldn't let me keep a skull so she threw the entire thing off into the forest when it's magic resistance faded away.

Likely good thing, no way Luna would let me keep it at home anyway.

Spotting Dee, I circled down to land next to her, "Hey. How's the drawing going?"

She put her pen down and showed me her notebook, showing the structure of the pyramid, "Mapping it," she said in explanation, "We have spent most of the morning measuring every surface."

"Better get that done soon," I warned her, "Rains coming."

"I can tell," she agreed with a nod, "I'm mostly done with the exterior anyway."

...Maybe taking the time for one of those weather courses wasn't that bad of an idea after all.

Chapter 79

The rain poured down outside. Like always here, it seemed to go from sunny to cloudy to waterfall in about thirty seconds so the moment things got dark, I retreated to the closest cover there was.

Which sadly, was the chamber of skulls.

I was hardly the only pony in there of course. Midnight and Moon Dancer were having another conversation about something. Tempest stood next to Midnight, looking slightly confused.

Don't blame her there, I been caught in their magibabble a time or two, I had the same reaction.

Other ponies were here too, a couple of archeologists were studying the pile of skulls, the rest likely still working their way through the lower level.

Dee was off in a corner by a torch, scribbling something in her notebook.

...Oh damn it, I forgot my satchel in my tent. Could I risk dashing out to get it?

I looked back out through the hallway to the outside, an almost solid wall of water outside the entrance.

Nope, fuck that. I'd drown before I reached it.

"Escaping the rain?" Dee asked with a smile as she crossed the room over to me.

"Yeeep," I agreed and shook my head, "I'm starting to get really sick of this jungle. I mean, barring the predators and rains it’s kinda nice, but..."

She grinned and flicked her ears, "Not the only one," she admitted, "And I'm used to them."

I nodded and then frowned, lowering my voice, "Hey... I'm sorry for before."

Dee looked at me in surprise, "For what?"

"For when you talked some sense into me over there," I said and motioned towards the hallway outside with my wing, "You shouldn't have needed to do that. It's my expedition, I should have kept it together instead of..." I trailed off and shook my head, "I'm sorry."

Dee rolled her eyes, muttering something beneath her breath before she shook her head, "You just had a rather emotional surprise," she then said, "I'd be surprised if you didn't freak a bit. And that's after we lost six ponies to the jungle."

"And I shouldn't have put any of that on you."

Now she looked annoyed, "And you didn't."

"But I'm trying to-"

"Stop talking," Dee said and I snapped my mouth closed and she moved a bit closer,

"You're the leader of this expedition," she said quietly, "But that doesn't mean it all has to rest on your wings. Things have happened, bad things. Everypony needs somepony to talk to sometimes and everypony needs friends. We're friends, right?"

I nodded.

"Sometimes it helps to talk things over with a friend," Dee said, looking up at me, moving a bit closer, "Even just go get to vent or get a new and different perspective of things."

I nodded again, swallowing. We were almost close enough to touch.

"If I told you something I was having trouble with, would that be me 'heaping' that problem onto you?" she asked.

I shook my head.

"So why would it be the reverse?"

"...It wouldn't," I admitted with a small sigh.

Dee nodded and put her hoof against my chest, "We're friends, we can talk about things."

I nodded, "Yeah. Sorry."

She rolled her eyes again and dropped her hoof.

I grinned, "So," I asked, "Does that mean if I ask what your actual name is, you'll tell me?"

Dee smirked, "Nooope," and trotted past me towards the outside, "Oh, look. It's stopped raining."

I glanced at her for a second before I followed her outside. The sun was starting to break through the clouds already and I took a deep breath from the clear air.

"...Might not be overly fond of rain," I admitted, "But I like the scent when it's over."

"Me too," Dee agreed and looked up towards the sky, "...I'm tired of a bedroll, I should be able to catch a stray bit of cloud before it's completely gone. Want one?"

I really, really liked that idea.

"Show me how?" I asked.

She nodded, "Come on, we need to hurry before they dissipate!" and then she took to the air.

I quickly followed her into the sky.

Chapter 80

Stupid... stupid... stupid fruit!

I turned the purple fruit in my hooves. We had discovered them yesterday and while they looked like giant purple grapes, they tasted like nothing else and were absolutely delicious.

But the shell was thick, strong and just stretchy enough to make it a pain in the tail to get through!

I glared at it and then tried with my fangs again. Open, damn it!

"Sir! Sir!"

I looked up to see a pegasus quickly swoop down from the air towards the temple, she was one of the scout patrols.

"Sir! The airship! The Airship!" she exclaimed as she landed just before me, "They're here!"

I surged to my hooves, the fruit forgotten, "Where? How far?"

Light Shimmer pointed with her hoof, "That way, fifteen minutes of flying."

I nodded as I looked around at the ponies all paying very close attention to us, "Okay!" I said loudly, "Our ride home is almost here, you all know what to do. Get to it!"

As everypony burst into motion and the unicorns started to send up flares high into the sky, I looked to Light and gave her a nod, "Good job spotting them."

She grinned, "Airship, not exactly hard to spot. I'll head out and guide them in."

I gave her a nod and she took back to the sky once more.

They were here. We'd get everypony else home safely.

I felt relief rush through my body for a second before I shook it off and took to the skies, flying up on top of the highest point of the pyramid. No relaxing yet, not until everypony is on the airship and outside the jungle again. Who knows if we'll run into more feral weather and crash again.

And wouldn't that just be fucking awesome.

I didn't need to wait long before I spotted a spot approaching on the horizon, slowly growing to the shape of an Equestrian airship. Bit slower, but fatter than the one that took us here. And a bit smaller.

Things on the way back would be... let's call it cozy. That sounds a lot better than 'get your hoof out of my face' cramped.

But it was better than staying here!

Besides... not like everypony had to go on the airship the entire way either, just back to a town that got rail service. Might be slower, but as cramped as it'll be, I bet a ton of ponies rather take that route if given a choice.

The airship slowed as it got closer, turning to come up parallel to the pyramid as Light Shimmer guided them in. As they came to a halt, it started to slowly lower down and a hatch opened in the bottom as the propellers stopped turning.

A quad of pegasi emerged, carrying ropes that they flew up and attached, letting them fall down to the ponies below and they started to pull the airship down and into position just beside the second level of the pyramid.

I watched as they worked before I spread my wings and glided down to land next to Midnight where the ramp would be lowered to.

Moments later the door opened and the ramp extended, glowing from unicorn magic as it was laid into place.

Then I saw them.

Luna and Sunset.

They were the first ones out and I stepped forward to meet them by the bottom of the ramp, "My Sky," I said, looking up at Luna.

She smiled and moved in to nuzzle softly, "My Page," she answered as she moved closer. I nuzzled against her neck, feeling her warmth against me for a long moment before I stepped back, smiling up at her.

There was only so much public affection we could show, as much as I'd like to-

My train of thought was abruptly derailed as Sunset grabbed me and pulled me into a kiss that made my brain just completely lock up.

"Don't do that to us again," Sunset breathed as she finally broke the kiss, looking into my eyes.

I managed a small nod, far from certain I'd be able to form words at the moment.

Luna smiled and nuzzled at my ear before she herded Sunset and me out of the way so ponies could disembark the airship without having a pair of alicorns taking up all the room.

"So," I started, clearing my throat, "Welcome to the monster infested jungle. I'd show you around, but something would try to eat us so I think we'll skip the tour for today. Breakfast is served at seven and there is no room service. If you find a monster beneath your bed, ask them to kindly leave."

Luna looked to Sunset, "You broke him."

"I did not," Sunset protested with a grin, "He's always that silly."

I glowered at them. No sense of humour.

Luna smiled before she shook her head, "Buck it," and pulled me into a kiss that if I had any, would have curled my feathers.

Chapter 81

The fire crackled happily, sparks shooting up into the night.

It had been decided that we were to stay one more night to allow everypony to get ready and the researchers to finish documenting everything they could.

Now when we knew this place was here and it's exact location, there would be more expeditions but nopony wanted to leave the job half finished.

The moon shined high above and I pulled Sunset a bit closer with my wing, giving her ear a small nuzzle, "It's fine, I promise."

"You said it was just a scratch," she said and poked at my bandage again, "Then what's this?"

"To keep it clean," I reassured her, "Seriously, it's fine. Even my horn had stopped hurting by now."

Something roared far in the distance and our ears perked up, Sunset looking out towards the darkness outside the barricades and then shivered slightly, "This place is..."

"Like the Everfree," I agreed, "Everything is wild and ponies are very much on the menu."

Sunset nodded and looked over to the next fire where Midnight and Sparks were conversing quietly, "...How's she doing?"

"Midnight?" I asked, "She's... it's difficult for her. Everything she has gone through, I just want to give her a hug and tell her everything will be okay, but..."

"It might not," Sunset agreed quietly with a small sigh as she leaned against my side, "I think spending time with Twi might be a good idea. We talked during the journey."


Sunset nodded, "Twi's moving back to Canterlot, at least for a while. She's thinking of getting a small place."

"That's good right?" I asked, resting my horn against hers, "She'll be much closer to you then."

Sunset smiled slightly, "That's one of the pros," she admitted, "She's not that happy about leaving her friends behind though."

"That always sucks."

She nodded, "Yeah... anyway, we were talking and she's going to ask Midnight if she and her Spike want to move in with Twi and her Spike."

I blinked and then smirks, "Two Spikes and two Twilights beneath one roof? I fear for Canterlot."

Sunset elbowed me slightly with a grin, "Be nice."

I grinned at her and shook my head before I gave her a small nuzzle, "I think you're right," I finally said, "I think it might be good for her... hell, both of them. Finally they have somepony as smart as they are to talk to."

"Mmm," Sunset agreed and shifted slightly to lean against my side as she looked over towards her marefriend, "I have an education in advanced magical theory, I can usually follow her, but there are times she loses me too," she admitted.

"I don't," I said with a smile, "She definitely loses me quickly."

Sunset shifted to look at me, pulling away from her side, "You know what? You should."

"Should what?"

"Get one," Sunset said with a smile, "Maybe not specifically advanced magical theory, but there are tons of things you'd find useful even without going that deep into it."

"Oh yeah," I agreed as I nodded, "I'll just go get a PhD in my copious amounts of free time. I'll sneak it in between handling the 'lings and trying to find a way for Batponies to be accepted in general pony society."

Sunset rolled her eyes and shifted up against my side again, resting her head against my neck, "I'm not saying 'do it now', wingboy. You're immortal, you'll find time sooner or later."

"Yes, because that's the way things are trending for me," I said dryly, giving her ear tip a small nip, "More free time."

Her ear flicked and she turned to stick her tongue out at me, "You know what I mean!"

"Yeah, yeah," I sighed and glanced up towards the stars above.

The sound of hooves made me glance back just in time to spot Luna before she settled by my other side, spreading her wing across both of us as she gave me a quick nuzzle.

"Hey," I said and nuzzled back, "Done playing with your pet rock?"

"Hush you," Luna said with a smile.

Sunset giggled and then shifted, "Okay, one of you two, wing off. It's way too hot for both of you to be doing that!"

I shifted my wing off her back and then looked over as Dee exited from the interior of the pyramid carrying a touch in one hoof, "All done?" I asked her.

Dee nodded, "Last drawing done," she agreed with a smile, patting her bag with her wing.

Sparks looked up from where she was by the other fire, "Daring!? I didn't know you were here!"

I looked at her and then back to Dee in confusion. Dee Dee. Daring. Daring Doo.

I felt my jaw slowly drop.

Dee... Daring sighed, "Why did she have to go yelling my name," she said and shook her head.

Chapter 82

"You're Daring Do!?" I asked, keeping my voice down in the flame lit skull chamber.

"You get why I don't publish my papers under my real name, right?" Dee... Daring... asked as she stretched her wings, scraping a hoof against the stone beneath her, "I publish my archaeology papers under Dee Dee. It makes things so much easier."

"I..." I started before I sighed, "I guess I get that much. Are you named for her or..."

Daring sighed and shook her head, "I'm 'that' Daring Do," she admitted, "And I have nopony but myself to blame. I wrote them."

"You're Yearling too!?"

Daring had an expression as if she went through this every time. Which she likely did.

"...Sorry, kind of a lot to wrap my head around," I admitted, "To find out that somebody you have read about is a real person, is kinda... wait... did those things really happen?"

Daring shrugged and sat down, facing me, "Yes and no. They're works of fiction, not biographies. The general outline, sure. But it's written for entertainment."

I slowly shook my head, "You have saved Equestria. I mean, that should be acknowledged, you should have a window or something."

She cringed slightly, "Please don't? I like things the way they are."

I could more than understand that sentiment, "...And you can actually walk around in public without being recognized."

"Yeah," she admitted, "Maybe writing those books wasn't the best idea, but I was a student for the first one and I needed the Bits. It just kind of escalated from there."

"To say the least."

She rolled her eyes, "Yeah. So what now."

"What?" I asked and then shook my head, "Name or no name, we're still friends, aren't we?" I asked and held my hoof out for her.

She bumped hers against it, "I would have told you eventually," she said, "I just wanted to wait until we got out of here in case things got awkward."

I grinned, "So... going to write a book about this one?"

"You're already doing that," she said with a shrug, "Seems a bit impolite to just shoulder in on that. Besides, keeping track on so many characters would be a pain."

"Not that easy," I agreed before I smirked at her, "So... in 'Kingdom' there was that scene with the daughter of the chief of the..."

Daring groaned, "Ugh, don't remind me. I thought I'd try spicing the book up, see if it sold better. In reality he had a son and he was an idiot."

"Seems to have worked, it was your best selling book," I commented with a grin.

"And it was too embarrassing," she sighed, "Especially when I realized, after publication, that my parents read all my books."

I couldn't help but laugh, quickly ducking out of the way as she swatted at me with her wing, "Hey! Violence against your Prince! The peasants are revolting!"

"Oh please, like I haven't heard that joke before," she said and grinned, "So, I don't make a big deal about your royal highness and you don't about me being 'in a book'?"

"Deal," I agreed and we bumped hooves again, "So, what's your plans after we get back?"

Daring sighed, "About six months of postings to archaeology journals, paper writing and the final draft on my next book."

"Which explains your mouth writing," I said, nodding.

"Which explains my mouth writing," she agreed before she grinned, "But don't explain your horn writing."

"Oh be quiet," I grumbled before I looked to her again, "So... any chance of an early copy?"



"On a more serious note," I said and stepped a bit closer, "Next time if there is a threat to Equestria, call in somepony. You don't need to handle it on your own. It's what the guard are for."

Daring sighed, "I would absolutely love to be able to do that, but not that easy when I'm a week's flight from the closest guard outpost and the time limit is 'right now' or the bad guy gets away with the dangerous thing."

...Which was a very good point. I still thought in human terms sometimes. Equestria didn't have the kind of rapid response humans could muster even into remote areas.

"...Yeah, that's fair," I admitted, "But even then, when we get back I'll get you something that'll allow you to pull on the resources of the guard if necessary."

Daring nodded, "Thank you," she admitted, "But that kind of thing has only happened once or twice, usually it's just somepony trying to steal some expensive artifact or it's dangerous just for the general area."

"And next time it might not be."

"Fair enough," she agreed and shook her head, "Oh Luna, if this was a book, now I’m definitely going to need it next time, won't I?"

"Yeeep. Don't introduce a sword in the first act if it's not used before the end," I agreed cheerfully, "Sadly, reality is nowhere near as ordered as fiction has to be."

"Yeah, fiction has to make sense," Daring agreed.

I grinned, "Come on, let's find something to eat."

"And you want to go back to your wife and marefriend," Daring teased.

When she's right, she's right.

Chapter 83

I watched the temple slowly recede into the distance in the middle of the sea of green that was the jungle as the sun slowly rose at the horizon.

Nopony wanted to stay longer than absolutely necessary, so... we left as soon as it got bright enough for the others to see to load the airship.

Shifting my wings, I sighed softly, the wind tugging at my mane as I put my hoof against the railing on the platform on top of the 'balloon'.

So much had happened since we left Canterlot. Ponies had gotten hurt. Ponies had died.

But we had learned things.

Sadly none of which made me any happier than ponies getting hurt. There had been a thestral alicorn in the past. A male even.

He had been a monster that turned the thestrals into more monsters.

According to Midnight, the curse on us was overlaid over the actual blood magic and it suppressed a lot of the things the blood magic did, such as the blood drinking.

She didn't know if it was the curse, the blood magic or a combination of the two that caused thestrals to have a majority of non thestral foals, but something was doing it.

I tried to help and all I did was potentially make things worse.

Somepony moved up next to me and I looked at Amber in surprise, "Amber?" I asked before I smiled slightly, "I'm tasting rather bad, aren't it?"

"...Kinda bitter, sir," she admitted.

"I'm sorry," I sighed against the sound of the wind as the propellers started to slowly turn faster, "We should go back inside. How's everypony feeling?"

Amber looked thoughtful, "Kind of... melancholy."

I slowly nodded.

That made a lot of sense. They made it through, but it had been difficult, painful and dangerous. But they also made it, together. Not only did we make it, but we achieved our objective.

Didn't mean it didn't suck, but... still.

"No talk about throwing the bat into the propellers yet?"

Amber glared at me and I raised a hoof,

"Sorry, sorry," I said in surrender and then shook my head, "I'm just a bit down right now.”

“You should go to your mates, you taste better with them close by.”

I smiled slightly and sighed, “I would, wouldn’t I?” I asked and shook my head, “I just feel like being in a bad mood for a while. You can go back inside, I’ll be a while. Nothing is going to jump me here.”

Amber looked at me like I was stupid before she sat down and looked out over the horizon.


I shook my head slightly and flicked my ears, looking out over the jungle below as the wind tugged at my coat, wings and mane.

What do we do now?

...No. All of this was on me. All of it. From Midnights nightly nightmares to the ones of the rest of the group to the ponies hurt and the ponies died. The lost equipment and the destroyed airship.

I got everypony into this and I have to…

...fix it. There was no fixing it. Ponies have died.

I closed my eyes for a second. Fu-OW!

I looked at Amber in surprise as she pulled away, looking at me smugly as I put hoof on my neck, “You bit me!”

“You needed it.”

“I don’t need my blood rushing with changeling venom!” I snarled and spread my wings in protest, already feeling the effects, the wind almost pulling me off the platform as it hit my wings.

“Yes you do!” Amber argued and glared at me, “You need something to pull you out of this so you can do something constructive. Those kinds of emotions are not good for the hive!”

“Not everything is about the bucking hive!”

“It is!” Amber said and rounded to me, glaring, “Not just the Changeling hive, but your hive, the hive of the fearful bat ones!”

I took a step back and looked at her in surprise, struggling to stay angry. It was difficult when it started to feel like I hit puberty again in the middle of a stripclub.


“How does tasting awful help the bat ones?” Amber asked over the wind, her wings buzzing, “It’s bad for your hive! Stop it!”

“I-” I started and then closed my eyes, taking a long slow breath, “It’s not that simple, Amber. There is no fixing this.”

“All things die. Never a way to fix it. The hive still needs work done,” Amber said, shifting slightly, “No way to fix dead drones. Help the ones alive. Zakzzzkkezzz!”

“...I don’t know that word,” I said, breathing deeply.

“It doesn't have a pony translation. My life for the hive. My life mattered. My life helped others.”

I opened my eyes to look at her for a long moment, “Make their lives matter.”

“Their lives already did matter,” Amber said, “That’s my point. They are part of why we have what we have now, know what we know. Don’t waste it.”

I stared at her and then shook my head, “I’m not having this conversation while on ‘ling Venom.”

“And you’re still clearer than you were a minute ago!”

Taking a deep breath, I shook my head, “Lings,” I said and rubbed my forehead with my hoof as I looked away from her inviting looking… curves.

Amber looked at me stubbornly, “I’m still right.”

“Maybe,” I admitted, “But you have a bucking way of going to make a point,” I grumbled, “I’m going inside.”

“I didn’t, you know;” Amber said as I turned to walk away.

I paused and looked back at her, “What?”

“No venom,” she claritied, “I just bit you.”

“Did you bucking placebo me!?”

“Feel better now?”

I just shook my head and trotted inside.

Chapter 84

I groaned and slowly stretched my wings, blinking my eyes blearily open. Ugh.

I felt… tired. Sleepy.

Stirring, I raised my head and tried to blink my eyes clear. Sunset was sleeping next to me, snoring slightly.

She looked awfully cute like that.

I shook my head and carefully scooted out of the small bed, looking out the window outside. It was late morning, almost noon.

Wow, that’s…

Okay, that’s later than I thought.

Quietly I left the quarters and silently closed the door behind me, “Amber?” I asked and turned around to look at the changeling, “Never do that again.”

The Changeling looked at me stubbornly, “It worked.”

I bared my fangs and hissed at her, but she stood her ground, just giving a slight buzz from her wings.

There was no way that had ‘only’ been placebo.

“Feel better now?” Amber asked after a second as she sat down, watching me.

I stared at her for a long moment before I sighed and shook my head. Changelings.

The worst thing was that she was right.

I was feeling better.

No, the worst thing was that she knew exactly how I felt, “Amber… just… don’t do it again.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, her wings doing another slight buzz.

I sighed and shook my head, “So, you seemed to have all the answers,” I said, looking to her, “What do you think I should do?”

“I’m not a Queen,” Amber said, looking back at me.

Which was admittedly very fair. It’s not how changelings worked.

I took a slow breath, nodding, “I need to talk to Luna,” I slowly said before I looked to Amber again, finding her missing.

Shaking my head, I moved off in search of my wife.

Which turned out to be more difficult than expected. Yes, the airship wasn’t that big, but it was packed with ponies.

“Good Morning,” Luna said with a smile as I found her and Twilight in the cargo bay next by a collection of items that had been gathered from the temple. Mostly pots and some tools. Luckily the statue had been way too big to bring out.

Personally I had been in favor of a big hammer, but De-Daring, Twilight, Midnight and Moon Dancer had all stared at me like I stabbed somepony when I suggested it, so I let it drop.

“Morning,” I said and moved up to give her a nuzzle.

“Sleep well?” Luna asked playfully and nuzzled back.

I cleared my throat and looked between Luna and Twilight. Twilight looked amused, blushing slightly while Luna smiled at me.

“Be nice,” I sighed and then looked to Twilight, “...Sorry.”

Twilight shook her head, “Don’t be. Our Kitten has been worried sick since she found out your airship went down, about time somepony got her to relax,” she said and smiled, “She’s still asleep?”

I nodded, “Yeah,” I agreed, “We were… up late.”

Luna nodded and nuzzled at my ear with a small smirk, “You’re thinking about something?”

Sighing, I nodded and shifted closer to her, “Want to figure out what to do now. Any ideas about the entire curse thing?” I asked Twilight.

Twilight shook her head, “Not yet, but we’ll figure it out. Midnight and I will keep working on it, but we need more data. The more batponies we can study, the better. We need to correlate the data we gathered from you with other thestrals. You seem to have the real deal, but we need to be certain.”

“I’ll see if I can find some volunteers,” I told her, “But most are understandably hesitant about revealing themselves.”

“The more the better,” Twilight said seriously, “The more data we can gather, the easier it will be to break the curse. And to figure out the underlying blood magic.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I told her, “Some might be willing to help.”

Twilight nodded and then frowned, “...Is Sunset really still asleep?”

“Was when I left,” I said and shrugged my wings, “She was so cute I didn’t have the heart to wake her,” I admitted.

And I needed to yell at Amber, but that’s beside the point.

Sparks shook her head, “I better go wake her or she’ll never fall asleep tonight,” she said with a smile.

“Have fun,” I said and Sparks blushed as she quickly retreated.

Chapter 85

“Do you think there is enough time still to tell the captain of this thing to turn around?” I asked Luna as I looked out of the small window of the cabin.

When I woke up this morning, I had looked out the window and found the ground below covered with white.

“I don’t think anypony else would approve of that,” Luna commented and looked between a pair of papers before putting them down and smiling at me, “Winter is almost half way over anyway.”

I grumbled and gave her a small nuzzle, “Yay.”

Luna giggled and nuzzled at my ear, “How's your horn?”

“It’s fine,” I said and sighed, “Haven’t hurt for almost a week.”

“So what did the doctor say?”

“That he’ll examine me again in a week and to avoid using any magic until he gives me the go ahead,” I said and flicked my ears, “Which is something I one hundred percent is going to follow. I have no intention of relapsing back to the beginning again.”


If I end up against a rexosaurus with a strained horn again and I’ll rather try to buck it in the face. Because I’m fairly sure that getting a leg bitten off would hurt less.

Luna nodded and smiled, “It’ll pass. I have felt that myself once or twice, if not as badly as it hit you.”

I nodded and then stretched my wings, “I’m going to stretch my legs a bit.”

“Going up top?” Luna teased and I shuddered at the very thought as I trotted out of the room.

No… thank you.


Buck that so hard. At least the inside of the airship was nice and warm despite the metal walls. Nothing could be cold with this many ponies in it.

I made my way along the ship, “How’s things?” I asked as I reached Swift where he was laying, a book floating before him, two legs in actual casts now instead of just splinted.

Swift Spear glanced up and grinned, “I’m good, just bored out of my skull. Just looking forward to getting back home.”

“Missing Minuette?” I asked.

He nodded, “...Yeah. Kind of looking forward to a couple of weeks of recovering.”

I smiled, “Yeah, understand that,” I said before I frowned, “Uhm… I shouldn't come to visit for a while, should I?”

“May be safest to stay away for a couple of days to give her time to calm down a little,” Swift agreed, “Minuette can have a temper.”

“Figured,” I agreed, “I’ll let you get back to your book. I’ll offer to get you a drink or something, but I think the doctor might pin my ears back.”

“Take you up on that when we get back,” He said with a grin and picked his book back up.

I gave him a small wave and headed out, talking briefly with each of the injured on my way out. Stepping back out into the corridor, I stretched my wings and set my jaw.


...Amber had a point. Everypony that got hurt, everypony that died…

It’s up to us to make it worth it. Up to me.

I’ll make it worth it, I’ll get thestrals accepted as another tribe if it kills me.

I took a slow and deep breath and then shook my head. Midnight and Sparks could figure out how to break the curse, reverse the blood magic…

Before everything else, we needed to restore all thestrals to the way they… the way we should be.

To undo all of the evil that ‘that fucker’ did.

Might have thought that he was helping, was keeping them safe, but what he did was force them to undergo thousands upon thousands of years of prosecution and fear.

I’m going to fix it. I’m going to restore things the way they were meant to be if it meant talking Sparks into sending me back in time and punching the fucker in the teeth before he could do anything.

I sighed and shook my head. No. No, that’s stupid. You don’t buck around with time, I have read too many stories about it going wrong.


No, it wouldn’t work. But we’ll find a way to fix this. To improve the lives of thestrals everywhere.

And if ponies after everything else don’t change their minds.…

...I just have to do it for them...

Chapter 86


“I…” I said and pulled my cloak closer around myself as I stepped down the gangway from the airship, “I am starting to really dislike this city.”

I swear, it was even colder now than when we left.

Sunset smiled at me, “Just relax, okay? It’s going to be fine.”

“...Sorry,” I said and gave her a small nuzzle, “Cold makes me grumpy.”

“No, you don’t say?” Sunset asked with a smile, “And you working yourself up for the last three days haven’t exactly helped, I bet.”

I shook my head and smiled at her, “So, what’s the plan?”

“I’m going to go houseshopping with Twi and Midnight,” she said, “You?”

I sighed, “Should go say hi to Celestia as soon as possible. She deserves to hear everything from me.”

Sunset frowned, “I thought you were doing that tomorrow. You want me to come along? I totally can, not like Twi and Midnight don’t have the brainpower to handle picking a house on their own.”

“No, Luna is coming,” I said and shook my head, smiling at her, “Better you go along with Sparky and Midnight or they’ll end up living in a lab or library or something.”

Sunset grinned and bumped her side against mine, giving the side of my neck a nuzzle, “They aren’t that bad,” she said, “But… you’re not exactly wrong either,” she said and then looked away towards the ‘twins’ as they moved down the ramp, “See you tonight, right?”

“Not going to stay with Sparks tonight?”

She shook her head, “She’s heading back to Ponyville tonight to pick her things up. Even if we don’t find anything today, she’s moving back to Canterlot. Either a castle guestroom or staying at her parents place, she’s not sure yet.”

I nodded and touched my horn to hers, “Have fun, okay.”

Sunset grinned and winked before trotting over to the Sparkles. I looked back as Luna trotted down the ramp towards me,

“Ready to go?” I asked her.

Luna smiled and shook her head, giving my ear a nuzzle, “Relax, My Page. It’s nothing like that.”

“I know,” I sighed and flicked my ears.

Luna gave me a hug with her wing and guided me in for a kiss, “Page. Things go wrong,” she said quietly, “It happens. To everypony. And nopony knows that better than my sister… or me.”

I looked up at her and then nodded, “...Okay, let’s go.”

We moved inside, making our way through the castle, “Tomorrow,” I said, “I’m going to visit the families of the ponies that… died. They deserve for me to tell them in person.”

“No, Page,” Luna said and frowned down at me, “Page, that’s a bad idea.”

I blinked up at her in surprise, “What do you mean a bad idea? It’s the least I can possibly do!”

She stopped and moved around to face me, “Page… in the past… and sadly possibly in the future… I have lead forces. Had to order ponies to their death. Had ponies die for me, for my sister, for Equestria. As horrible as it is, if we were to meet with the families of every single pony that died for Equestria, we would be doing nothing else. We have a process for this for a good reason.”

I shook my head, my ears going back, “...It’s not the guard, Luna,” I said, “I understand if it’s like that, but it’s just six ponies.”

“And they are more important than the guards that have died for Equestria?”

I cringed and took a step back, “That’s not…” I started before I took a deep breath, swallowing and shook my head, “It’s just… it feels wrong!”

Luna nodded and moved up to nuzzle softly, “It is wrong,” she said quietly, “...But that’s how things are. The way they have to be.”

I gritted my teeth, scraping my hoof against the marble floor, hissing softly and shook my head, “...No. No, Luna. I am going to go to each and everyone of them. I did this, they deserve to hear it from me.”

“You didn’t do this,” Luna told me firmly, “You hear me? You didn’t do this.”

“Maybe not,” I said and looked up at her, “But I am responsible. Come on, let’s to find Sunshine,” I said and moved past her.

Luna moved to follow.

It didn’t take long. Just follow the guards really.

I knocked on the door and moved in past the guards. Celestia looked up from behind her desk,

“Page!” she exclaimed and got up, “You’re back!”

I nodded and trotted inside, slipping my cloak off, “We’re back,” I agreed and forced a smile, “I have a lot to tell you.”

“Later,” Celestia said and rounded the desk and then she pulled me into a tight hug, forelegs and wings going around me and pulling me close as she sat down.

I sighed and hugged back, leaning against her warmth as her soft and warm wings folded around me.

“I’m just glad you’re back safe,” she murmured softly, giving me a nuzzle between my ears, “I… we… were so worried.”

“I’m fine,” I sighed and nuzzled against her chest, “Missed you too, Sunshine.”

She hugged me tighter for a second with her wings and forelegs.

Celestia finally let go and I stepped back, dropping down on all four hooves again as I smiled up at her.

Sunshine gave the best hugs, she was so warm. Impossibly, she actually made me feel better.

She always did somehow.

“How about you go get some rest,” Luna asked and moved up next to me, giving my ear a nuzzle with a smile, “It’s been a long day for everypony and I’m sure we can talk about everything that has happened later.”

Celestia nodded, “It can wait.”

“...Okay,” I admitted, “I am pretty tired. I feel like I should go through my notes and such first anyway so I can give a full report.”

“Relax,” Celestia said with a smile, “You don’t report to me or anypony else. I just want to hear how things went. We can do that tomorrow or when you have time.”

I shot her a thankful smile and then looked at Luna, “Coming?”

Luna gave my ear a small nuzzle, “In a bit. I do have some things to discuss with my sister first, I’ll join you in a little bit?”


Chapter 87

I stared down at the papers laid out before me on the couch but I didn't see them. It had been three hours since I came back from visiting the families of those lost ponies.

I had fought Tirek. Confronted Discord. Faced down Changelings and spent time in a jungle filled with predators.

But that... that had been the hardest thing I had ever done.

What's worse was... none of them. None of them...

I would have prefered if they yelled at me. Blamed me. None of them did. Or... rather, they did, I could see it in their eyes when they looked at me, but none of them dared to say it.

Because alicorn. Because... thestral.

The door opened and Luna walked into our quarters. She looked agitated, her mane moving a bit faster than usual. But she took one look at me and moved across the room to slip up onto the couch next to me. She didn't say a word, she simply put her wing over my back, hugging me to her side as she rested her head against the top of mine.

I leaned against her, pressed against her neck and my tears stained her coat.

Neither of us said anything for what felt like hours. Could have been hours. Could have been minutes.

"I understand why it's not normally done," I finally said against her coat before pulling back to look up at her, my voice sounding strange even to my ears, "But if-"

I broke off and closed my eyes for a second, taking a deep breath before I continued, "...When. When it happens next time, I'm doing the same thing again. It's the very least I can do."

Luna frowned slightly, but she just nodded and sighed softly, "It's up to you, Page."

"It is up to me," I said seriously and then shook my head, "There will be a memorial at the castle in a week. Give everypony some time to recover first. I have been working on my speech, but..." I continued, motioned towards the blank paper.

Luna nodded, her horn lighting and an amber bottle and a couple of glasses floated over to it. She filled both of them with a good amount before putting one down before me, "Drink."

I drank.

It burned slightly, but was good stuff. Putting the glass back down, I sighed and leaned against her side, closing my eyes for a second.

"Sunset or myself would have come with you," Luna said gently.

"I know," I said and then shook my head, "But it was something I needed to do on my own."

Luna just nodded against my mane.

I sighed softly and wiped my eyes with my hoof before I looked up to her, "...You're up early."

"Things haven't been standing still while you were away," she explained, "We are still dealing with negotiations with the minotaur delegation."

"So that's why you looked annoyed when you walked in," I said and frowned, "What did they do?"

Luna smiled slightly and shook her head, "Oh, nothing. Negotiations are going well, it's my sister that's annoying me. She's being an idiot."

"Idiot isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Sunshine," I said and looked to her in concern, "What's going on?"

Luna shook her head and gave me a small kiss, "It's nothing, just a sister's thing. You have a sister, I'm sure you know what it's like."

Somep-one I'll never see again.

I nodded though, "Yeah. Yeah I do. You love them, but sometimes you just wanted to smack them or something."

"Mhmm," Luna agreed and gave my ear a nuzzle, "Sadly, I'm fairly sure it wouldn't help in this case. She has a very thick skull and is frustratingly stubborn."

"Tried it a couple of times, huh?" I teased.

"...We were foals once too," Luna agreed with a small smile, "Well, even disregarding that entire rebellion thing."

"Yes, disregarding that. Anything I can help with?"

Luna smiled and flicked her ears, "No. Not in this case, I think she just has to come to the realisation on her own."

I nodded, "Yeah, okay. Just let me know if there is anything I can do."

"Well, I can think of a couple of things that could help, but not now. I promise though," Luna agreed, "You'll be the first to know. Now... you have been up all day, shouldn't you get some sleep?"

I glanced down at the empty papers before me. I wanted to at least get a first draft done, but... maybe starting on it fresh tomorrow would help.

"Is Sunset sleeping here tonight?" Luna asked after a moment, glancing towards the door, "She's usually here by now."

I shook my head, "She's with Sparks. She offered, but I said I wouldn't be very good company anyway. Better she spent the evening having fun."

Luna sighed and nuzzled at my ear, "You, My Page... are a very noble and very dumb pony."

Well, she was half right. We all know which half.

Chapter 88

I looked around the living room. Wooden floor, stone walls, a fireplace blazing away merrily in the corner as it snowed outside the window. Not very furnished yet, but... nice.

"This is a very nice place," I said and turned to Sparks and Midnight, "How did you manage to get it so quickly?"

Sparks smiled, "I was already looking before the expedition. I had it down to three possibilities, but I wanted Midnights and Sunsets input before picking."

Midnight nodded and looked around, "I liked this one the best," she said, "It's solid, well insulated and has plenty of room. Spike and Claw can both have their own bedrooms if they like."

She was looking better from when I saw her last. I think getting back helped a lot.

"He's finally picked a name then?"

"For now anyway," Midnight said and sighed, "I suggested some others, but he thought they sounded too 'pony'. I'll check again in a couple of months. But this will be good, I think. Not needing to share a bedroom with me or Twi."

Sunset smiled and moved closer to my side as she whispered into my ear, "And all the bedrooms are at the corners of the house and have thick walls."

I glanced at her and couldn't help but grin as I gave her a small nuzzle before looking around again, "This place can't have been cheap."

Sparks shook her head as she sat down, "It wasn't. And... technically..."

"Technically we didn't buy it," Midnight admitted, "Princess Celestia did. We're renting it from the crown at a rate of one bit a month for the next hundred years."

"Ah," I agreed and nodded.

Twilight quickly got up and facehooved, "Oh! I'm sorry, you're our first guest! I should have offered you something to drink. Would you like some tea?"

"That'd be nice, thank you," I admitted with a smile and Sparks quickly trotted into the kitchen.

Midnight moved over to me, "Page, I heard about the memorial next week," she said quietly, "Would it be possible for me to... say a few words?"

I nodded, "Of course," I told her seriously, "Grey Velvet is organizing the schedule, I'll let her know about it."

Midnight nodded and forced a small smile, "Thanks," and then quickly looked up as there was a bang of wood against stone outside, "They are here already!? Buck it, they weren't meant to be here with the furniture until this afternoon! I'll go help them carry it inside."

"I'll come," Sunset said and stood up.

Midnight shook her head, "It's fine, Sunset. It's just a couple of beds, we can handle it," she said before she smiled, "Besides, you're a guest."

Sunset stuck her tongue out at the alicorn, "Barely. I'll spend as much time here as I'll do in Pages tower. You know I'm going to basically live here, right?"

Midnight grinned, "Why did you think I picked this place? It has the bedrooms spread out!"

"I thought that was because of Tempest," Sunset countered with a smirk.

Midnight turned slightly red at the cheeks, "We-we're not..."


"...I'll go help carry things inside," Midnight said and quickly retreated, "You two, stay."

"Not like I wouldn't be mostly in the way anyway," I admitted and put my wing around Sunny.

She frowned slightly and looked at me, "What did the doctor say about your horn?"

I shrugged, "Another couple of days until my next checkup. I mean, it feels fine, but I'm not taking any risks with this. Until he says it's alright, I'm a thestral not an alicorn," I said and then frowned slightly, glancing towards the door outside, "...How's she doing? Really?"

Sunset shook her head, "Difficult to say," she whispered back, "I think she's doing a bit better, but... it's hard on her. Both the expedition and being stuck here."

I nodded, "It's good that she's found somepony thought. Having somepony to love... it helps a lot," I said and turned my head, giving Sunset a small kiss.

"...I so wish my camera had survived," Sparks said as she exited the kitchen with a tray of cups and a teapot.

I looked over at her in surprise, "Huh?"

She grinned, "It's just... you two are so cute together," she said and moved to put the tray down on the floor before us before moving around to give Sunset a small kiss.

Sunset blushed but grinned, "You should see him and Luna, they're adorable. Big bad alicorn of the night, warrior princess of equestria and the terrifying dream lord of shadows... they look like a colt and filly on their first date."

"I know where you're ticklish," I grumbled as the mares giggled, "And I bet I can guess some spots on you too, Sparks."

Sunset grinned, "Oooh, can I watch?"

Sparks blushed and I rolled my eyes before the door suddenly opened in a flurry of snowflakes and freezing cold as Midnight backed inside, a bed floating along with her.

"Somepony, get the doors," she said as she slowly maneuvered the big piece of furniture inside.

"I'll help!" Sparks said and quickly got to her hooves.

Sunset looked at them for a moment before she facehooved, "Hey! Sparkle twins!"

They both looked at her.

"You can teleport things!"

Midnight blinked, "Oh!"

Then they both disappeared in flashes of light, the bed going along with them.

Sunset quickly lit her horn and pushed the door closed, "I love her, but sometimes I don't know where she keep that massive brain of hers," she said and settled down next to me again, reaching up with her hoof to brush rapidly melting snowflakes from my coat, "Midnight is the same too."

"High int, low wiz?" I suggested teasingly as the warmth started to return to the room.

Sunset rolled her eyes, "Nerd. I used to steal lunch money from people like you."

"Yeah, I be-" I started before I blinked and then grinned at her.

"...What?" she asked with a hesitant look.

"Me... Sparks... your type is nerdy ponies! I thought it was alicorns, but clearly not!"

"I- I'm... that's not it at all!!"

"Sunny likes nerds, Sunny li-gak!"

Chapter 89

Doctor Steady Beat ran the beam of magic along my horn, watching on concentration before he nodded, "Everything seems good," he said.

"Good as in going well or good as in... good?" I asked and glanced up at my horn.

"Good as in, try picking something up," He said with a smile, "Careful, at the first hint of strain, cut the magic."

I eyed him warily for a second before my horn rippled with magic and I picked up my long empty teacup, "It feels normal," I said as I slowly brought the teacup over to me, moving it in a circle as I glanced up at my horn with a smile, "It feels normal."

Steady Beat nodded, "Good. But don't go straining it anytime soon. Nothing more strenuous than telekinesis, light spells and such. Absolutely no teleporting or other strenuous spells for at least another month."

"Sure thing, doc," I said and set the cup back down, "I'll keep magic to a minimum, but being able to use it at all is going to be so awesome. Thank you."

"I didn't do anything, no cure for it," He said and shrugged, packing up his notes into his bag, "Nothing to do but wait and not make it worse. I'll be back in another three weeks and we'll give things a final look. Sounds good, your highness?"

"It does. Thank you, once more."

Steady Beat gave me a bow and then moved to leave the tower.

I couldn't help but smile and pick the teacup up again, giving it another whirl around the room before I put it back down. Yes!

I had almost been worried I wouldn't be able to use magic ever again.

Tempest. To go through that when she was so young. That poor filly.

I glanced back at my wing, spreading it wide. Worth it.

Absolutely worth it.

Especially with everything else I learned since. I glanced at the window at the sun outside and then frowned in thought. Speaking of bat ponies...

Getting comfortable on the couch, I closed my eyes and used the very familiar spell to instantly fall asleep, finding myself in the dream realm.

Moon Beam.

It was mid morning so the amount of ponies still asleep was way lower, but she seemed to work the evening shift at that bar so...

Her portal appeared before me, silvery and pink, rippled running through it.

Oh. I see.

Uhm, better not bother her right now then. I'll try again tonight instead, walking straight into that seemed like a bad plan. Instead I stepped back and did a sweep of the dream portals until I found one that was dark and stormy.

That one was infested by a Nightmare.

Touching my horn to it, I stepped through, wrapping the fabric of the dream around myself and finding myself an earth pony running along the street, one of many ponies that were screaming in fear as a swarm of changelings descended upon them.

I could see the owner of the dream, a mare... no... barely a mare. She was in her teens, all ungainly legs.

The changelings were upon her, dark webbing tying her legs as she was dragged towards a waiting and very demonic looking Queen Chrysalis. Slobbering tongue, big sharp tongue, long jagged horn and larger than Princess Celestia.

This Nightmare has to be fairly new, it didn't even try to hide. It had just wrapped itself into the form of Queen Chrysalis and fed upon the filly as the dream constantly dragged her closer to it.

I threw off the cloak of the earth pony and spread my wings as I stomped down with my hoof before spreading my wings and sending myself to between the filly and the Nightmare in a single flap, "No more of this, Nightmare," I said and started to walk towards it.

"What!?" the fake Queen exclaimed and images of horrible things started to form around her.

I took another step, putting my hoof down firmly and the images just collapsed, "I know the real Chrysalis," I told it, "You're nothing but a pale imitation."

Then I blasted it into little glowing fragments of magic that quickly sublimated and I absorbed what magic it had gathered from it's victims.

Not a lot there. I had been right, it had been new.

Been a while since I ran into a strong and old one. With some hope, Luna and I had eradicated the worst ones by now.

I turned towards the filly behind me and sent out a wave through the dream, panicked ponies disappearing in sparkles, changelings going poof and a rainbow forming across the sky as the sun shone brighter above, "There is no need to be afraid, Emerald Gem," I told her with a smile as the net covering her disintegrated into nothing.

"W-wha..." she started to say, the green unicorn struggling to her hooves and looking around, her mouth gaping.

I gave her a small bow, wings half spread, "I'm Blank Page. I was patrolling the dreams this morning and came upon yours. I banished the Nightmare from them and it won't trouble you again."

She took half a step back, "But... but my mom said...your wings showed that..."

I spread my left wing and looked at it before I shrugged, "They're just wings. different from a pegasus, yes, but still just wings, Emerald."

Emerald nodded hesitantly.

Smiling at her, I looked around, "I need to continue my rounds of the dreams. What kind of dreams would you.." I started before I frowned at her, "Wait, it's late morning. Shouldn't you be in school by now?"

Emerald shifted uncomfortably, "I'm home with the flu," she grumbled.

"Ah. Then, I think some dreamless sleep would be best," I told her, "And get better soon."

With that, I collapsed the dream into dreamless sleep and slipped out into the dream realm to give her the best possible rest.

I took a deep breath and looked around. Okay, one Nightmare down. Let's see if we can find another one.

Chapter 90

The dream portal passed before me as I stepped into Moon Beam dream and I moved from the sparkling blue dream realm and onto a street in the middle of Canterlot.

The sun shining above, ponies moving all around. Faceless, shapeless.

Like they can be in dreams when the focus of the dreamer is somewhere else.

I quickly located the dreaming thestral. She was in a small park to one side, sitting beneath an apple tree, filled with apples bigger than she was as she gazed up at it, eyes wide.

I grinned at the sight and moved over to her, using a twist of magic to solidify the dream as I got closer.

Moon Beam blinked and looked around, spotting me as I gave her a small bow,

"My apologies for disturbing you, Miss Beam."

She gaped at me, "Y-you're real!" and then surged to her hooves before bowing deeply, "Your Highness! I'm sorry!"

"What for?" I asked with a frown.

"Last time! I-I didn't think it was really..."

"Easy there," I told her with a smile, "When you see somepony in a dream, the natural reaction is to think they're a dream too. You'd be surprised how common that is."

Moon Beam glanced up at me and then shifted her wings, "I-I heard of the... expedition, your highness."

"Please, just Page," I said and then nodded, "Yes. And that's actually what I wanted to talk to you about."

Moon Beam raised her wings in interest, "Did you find anything?" she asked cautiously.

"We did," I said and then explained to her what we had found. All of it. The alicorn, the blood magic, the curse.

She looked at me for a long moment after that before she looked down at her hoof, "...so we really are monsters..."

"No... no Moon Beam, that's not it at all," I told her gently, moving up to put my hoof on her shoulder, "Don't you see? That's exactly what we were not! Before everything, before the blood magic, before the curse... we were already thestrals. We were never pegasi. All we need to do to return to what we were meant to be, is to break the magic over us."

Moon Beam shook her head, taking half a step back, "No... nonono!"

"Moon Beam..."

She sniffed, "I thought it could be over!" she exclaimed, looking up at me with tear filled eyes, "I thought... I thought that I'd be able to go out without being afraid! I thought you could do that!"

"And you will be able to," I told her firmly, "I promise you that much, Moon Beam. No matter what, I will make that happen."

She shook her head and spread her wings, "You can't! You can't change ponies! I just want... I just want to be normal!"

I stepped forward and pulled her into a hug as I sat down. She struggled for a second before collapsing against me and starting to cry.

I just held her, stroking her mane.

Moon Beam was one mare, one of possibly thousands.

I set my jaw. I'd make things better for them. They have suffered enough by far.

"It'll be alright," I whispered softly to her, "I promise you, it will be alright. I'll figure something out."

She sniffed and her ears twitched before she tensed and she quickly backed away, "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

"Nothing to be sorry about," I told her gently, "Just relax, Moon Beam. You're always safe in your dreams, even during the worst nightmare, it can't hurt you."

"B-but... I... you..."

I smiled at her and shook my head before lighting my horn and picking one of the massive apples, lowering it to the ground, "These are pretty fun," I told her, "Kinda wish we had these in the real world."

She nodded a bit but still seemed uncertain, but she moved up to it, "Y-yeah."

I split it in half with my magic, sliding one half to her before I tried a nibble. It was just about the best apple I had ever eaten, perfect and juicy and sweet with just the right level of tartness. It was the ultimate apple.

"...Your Highn-"

"Page,” I said before I sighed, “...or sir if you absolutely have to.”

"...Sir," she said and then shifted her ears, "Why tell me all of this?"

"Because you deserve to know," I said, "And eventually I intend for everypony to know. But... you're a thestral and you're in Canterlot. There are others, but I thought I should ask you first."

"Ask me what?"

"To break the magic, Princesses Twilight and Midnight need somepony to study the magic on. Several someponies if possible. They have looked at me, but I'm an alicorn. They need actual thestrals to figure out if they have it right."

Moon Beam tensed up at the idea of somepony knowing who she really was and I held my hoof up,

"You wouldn't need to tell them your name and you can come without your illusion. If you like, you can tape over your cutiemark and even wear a mask. But I trust both of those ponies with my life. You can trust them too."

Moon Beam hesitated for a long moment, gazing down at her apple half, "...Would... would it really help?"

"It would," I said gently, "Possibly every single thestral. Finding out more about how it works is the first step to breaking it. The first step to turning us back into a real tribe again."

Moon Beam looked at me and then she took a deep breath, "I...I'll think about it."

"That's all I can ask."

Chapter 91

A surprising amount of ponies had shown up at the memorial service. The expedition members, their families, the families of the dead. Some nobility that thought showing up would look good on them.

Luna, Celestia, Midnight, Twilight.

"That was really good," I said quietly to Midnight as ponies started to drift into groups a couple of minutes after her speech.

"So was yours," she answered, forcing a sad smile, "Thanks for letting me do it. I'm not much for public speaking, but..."

"Neither am I," I admitted, "But sometimes it's worth it."

I had pledged that all the income from my new book was going to go to the families of the ones that died during the expedition. It wasn't much, but it was all I could do. I couldn't bring them back, but I could do as much anyway.

Midnight glanced around and then stepped closer, "Last night we got a visitor," she whispered, "A batpony knocked on our door, she said you sent her. Wouldn't give her name and she had her cutiemark taped over."

"How did it go?" I whispered back.

"We took all the readings," Midnight whispered, "They match what we got from you when we subtract the unicorn and alicorn magic resonances. Mostly."

I blinked at her, "Mostly?"

She nodded, "Twi thinks it's just a male/female difference. We need to scan another stallion to be sure, but I think she might be right. We still need a few more examples to be certain."

"I'll see what I can do," I whispered to her and then stepped back, looking over as Tempest moved to join us, "If you two ladies excuse me, I just saw somepony," I said and gave them a small bow, wings half spread before I made my way across the room to the food table where Dee was balancing a plate on her wing while scanning the selection.

"Going by Dee right now?" I asked as I slid up next to her.

She glanced at me and then nodded, "Please."

"So, what have you been doing since we arrived?" I asked as I took a plate, putting some apple slices on it, floating it in my magic.

"To be honest, mostly sleeping," Dee admitted and then eyed me, "Your horn is better.”

"Doc says light magic use is okay," I agreed with a nod, "I'm doing as he says, I do not want to live through that again."

Daring nodded slightly before she glanced around, "...you got a minute?"

"Sure," I agreed.

She glanced around and then motioned towards a side door and I followed her, letting it close behind us as we stepped into the corridor.

"What's up?" I asked.

Dee shifted, "Just..." she started before she shook her head, "I hear things, okay? Apparently there is some petition going around among the nobles and some of the more prominent families."

I raised an eyebrow, "A petition?"

"Demanding that you're not allowed any sort of official power," Dee said seriously, "I only heard about it from somepony on the Equestrian education board. I haven't seen it, but it used this expedition, your use of 'dark magic' and the dangers of other creatures as examples."

"Do you know what they intend to do with it?" I asked with a frown.

"Apparently the plan is to present it to Princess Celestia during a day court hearing," Dee said and shifted her wings, “to put political pressure on her.”

I nodded, "Did they say when?"

"I don't know."

"Okay," I agreed and stretched my wings in thought, "Better get to work replacing the throne and the hangings tomorrow then just to be sure. Nothing much to do about the windows, but maybe if we cover them with foam or something. Maybe wool, that’s somewhat resistant."

Dee blinked at me, "Page?"

"I just think it would be a terrible waste of a historical artifact if it melts when Celestia hears them," I told her, "Because I'm fairly sure if they present something like that, she'll melt the general surroundings."

She shook her head, "Page, this is serious! While their actual power isn't much, but with the nobles united they have forced things through in the past!"

I shook my head, "I already knew there would be some kind of counter push," I told her seriously, "And if they want it aimed at me, go for it. See how well that goes for them.”

Dee looked worried, "But.."

"No, I'm actually serious here," I said, "If they present Sunsh-Celestia with that cold, she's going to melt something, possibly the petitioner. I need to talk to her about it in private first."

"But what if they... force it through?" Dee asked, sounding worried.

"Oh no, I get less official duties," I said and rolled my eyes, "Whatever shall I do."

"Page, I'm just worried it-"

I stepped forward and touched her with my wing, "Relax, Dee. Worst come to worst... say I lose all official mandates?"


"Oh no. I only still have the ear of four of the Princesses, married to one of them, close friends to the rest... and I just got a bunch of free time to use anyway I like. For example, helping thestrals."

She looked uncertain, scraping her hoof against the floor, "I just think it could be bad."

"It can be," I agreed, "But I'll talk with Celestia and we can get ahead of it. Don't worry about it."

She sighed softly, "...Just be careful, okay? Let me know if there is anything I can do."

"I will. Thanks for the warning."

"Least I could do," She said with a small smile, "...We should get back before somepony notices we're gone."

I just nodded in agreement.

As soon as this is over, I need to talk to Celestia.

“Hey, Dee?” I said, looking at her with a smile, “Really. Thanks for telling me.”

She smiled back, “You’re welcome. Just thought you should know.”

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