[MLP:FiM] Starlight Glimmer and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


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Starlight Glimmer is content with running her little village just outside of Equestria's borders. Having built from the ground up with her own four hooves a town where everyone is Equal, Starlight is satisfied. Ponies wander in and they decide to stay. There's no reason for her to return to her homeland.

Then Tirek defeats Princess Twilight Sparkle, and an undercover changeling tells Starlight Glimmer she's the last hope to save Equestria from the mad centaur.

Character Tags: Starlight Glimmer, Lord Tirek, Changelings, Equal Town ponies (Double Diamond, Party Favor et al)

If I had known what was to await me that day, I would still have gotten out of bed. It just would have taken me a little longer to do so. Blankets are practically a magical artifact in themselves, did you know? As long as you have one over top of you, it provides warmth and comfort, but it also provides a feeling of security. While the world might be threatening, so long as you stay under a blanket, you aren’t having to deal with those threats. If I had the foresight, I probably would have dragged Double Diamond under the sheets with me the night before to have somepony else to snuggle.

OK, on second thought, maybe I would have stayed in bed all day.

I didn’t have precognition, however, and so it was that I was up shortly after sunrise.


My grooming session went quick. Water was scarce, along with a source of heat, but it was nothing a pinch of magic couldn’t resolve. Still, I was glad the plumbing system would be fully online within a few moons. Ideology was all well and good, but what really held ponies together was creature comforts. I couldn’t blame them.

“Good morning, Starlight Glimmer!” I was greeted as I exited my cottage. “Did you sleep well?”

“I did, thank you. Good morning to you as well,” I answered the blue-coated unicorn sitting just outside the cottage closest to mine, basking in the morning sun. Party Favor was a little of an oddball at times, but he was a genuinely affable pony.

I started to trot down the main street of my little village, only to stop as a cool breeze swept through. It carried with it the smell of honey and oats, a delightful scent that tickled my nose. Taking in a deep sniff, I let out a blissful sigh.

There weren’t many ponies out yet, not that it surprised me. Today was a day of rest, and so many chose to sleep in. Some ponies had occasionally mocked my vision for Equality by insisting that every little thing in this village had to be equal, and one of the examples they came up with was requiring everypony to awake at the same time and go to sleep at the same time. There had been some growing pains a year ago as we attempted to figure out what Equality should mean in practice, but even the most fundamentalist interpretations hadn’t gone that far.

Thanks to the dearth of ponies on the street, however, I chose to continue my conversation with Party Favor. “The train should be coming in today, correct?” I asked.

He nodded. “It is. I’ve already gathered a few volunteers to help carry the supplies back. It would be easier if we had a road built already, though,” he added with a grimace.

I lifted a hoof, and brought Party Favor in for a quick, comforting hug. “It’s alright,” I said. “One more season and I think we should be almost completely self-sufficient. Once the sewage system is done, we can start working on the nicer-to-have projects.” 

The need to even have a road was nuanced. If we had built the town next to the train station, it wouldn’t have been necessary. However, the train station was located at the edge of Equestria’s legal territory, and a small sign a few hundred meters out demarcated the precise location of Equestria’s borders. We had erred on the side of caution about the monarchs disapproving of the village and its founding, building it just outside the borders. In the event somepony decided to cut us off completely, it was my hope by then we wouldn’t need any more supplies.

Party Favor let out a sigh and a weak smile, and said, “Yes, that would be ni-”

Whatever he was about to say was cut off, as a loud, roaring sound suddenly swept the both of us off our hooves.

It took me several seconds to even understand what happened, as I found myself on the ground, dazed. I looked over to Party Favor, who had struggled to get up onto his hooves. He made it, only to walk around like he had gotten into the liquor stores overnight and indulged, before tripping and falling over again.

What was that sound? I thought to myself. Whatever it was, it had been loud enough to push me off my hooves from the vibration alone. “Testing, testing,” I said aloud, and frowned. I couldn’t hear a thing.

I looked around again, and saw doors and windows opening, as the rest of the town had clearly been awoken by the noise. It didn’t surprise me to see that there wasn’t a single pony in the bunch that appeared to be reacting calmly, but it was still a disappointment. I had hoped the Cutie Mark magic would help suppress the herd instinct of ponykind to panicking when in a disaster, but if anything, it seemed to have made it worse.

Unbeknownst to anypony else, I had never removed my Cutie Mark, being unable to inflict the magic on myself, so I still had my full ability to react under pressing circumstances. It was something I put to good use by catching a filly that fell from a second-floor window, before lowering her down.

This was bad. Whatever had created the sound, it had set off my village. I needed to get the village under control, but I was only one pony, and if I couldn’t hear anything, I doubted anypony else could. That just made it worse.

Well, start small, Starlight, I thought to myself, and quickly grabbed a blue-coated pegasus who was flailing about in my magical grip, locking her in place. Her eyes bulged in an even greater panic as she realised she couldn’t move. Slowly, carefully, keeping a good distance away from her, I walked around in a half-circle until I was in front of her line of sight, and then slowly closed in on her.

Night Glider recognised me, and when it became obvious that I was the one holding her in place, she finally relaxed. Upon seeing that she was no longer in a state to accidentally harm herself or others, I let her down, giving her freedom of movement again.

“Can you hear me, Night Glider?” I asked her.

The other mare could tell that I was speaking, but she obviously couldn’t hear either, as she pantomimed a motion with her hoof to her ear. I took in a deep breath, and hummed in thought. After a few seconds, I decided to play charades with her as well.

“You,” I pointed at her. Night Glider seemed to at least understand that.

“Up,” I said, raising my hoof to the sky. “Around,” I added, swirling my hoof to indicate I wanted her up in the air and flying around. “Sound,” I pointed my hoof at my own ear, hoping Night Glider had followed me so far. “Investigate,” I ended off by lifting my hoof up to my forehead and squinting my eyes, as if I was peering at something in the distance.

Night Glider seemed to understand what I wanted of her, as comprehension dawned on her face. Quickly, she took a one-two step before hopping off and gaining altitude, looking around to see what had caused the source of the sound.

I let out a sigh as I looked around at the rest of the panicking ponies. That warm bed back in my cottage seemed so inviting right now. “This is the pits,” I said aloud, then blinked. Had I heard something just now? I hoped that meant my hearing was beginning to come back, and if that was the case, hopefully other ponies would be getting theirs back too. On the other hoof, maybe it was just ‘sound in the absence of sound’, my brain tricking me into believing there was noise, much like the buzzing in my ears when attempting to sleep at night in total silence.

Casting those thoughts aside, I readied my horn, looking to pacify the village one pony at a time.


Ever since that first day that I found Double Diamond in the snow, with a torn fetlock after crashing into a tree from skiing, I hadn’t ever actually returned to Equestria. I had nursed Double Diamond back to health in what was then just my cottage, having become a hermit inside of Equestria’s borders to self-study magic. During his recovery, we had chatted, both about his life and my own. When Double Diamond was fully healed, he had decided to stay with me, taking a shine to my ideology of Equality. However, he went out and invited a few other ponies who he thought would fit in, and so it was that Our Town was founded, making the decision to move my small cottage outside of Equestria.

From there, ponies would wander in, either invited by current residents who knew others that were looking for a home, or ponies who chased rumours on the grapevine of a town where everypony was Equal. Many who came in assumed that I was the town’s leader because I was its founder, or because I was the only who could supposedly wield Meadowbrook’s Staff of Sameness.

I won’t deny that that may have helped, but if it were just those two things, I would have stepped aside. It wasn’t that, though, that resulted in me becoming the leader.

Rather, it was that I was an excellent administrator.

In Equestria, when ponies pioneered new places, it could take them years to get entirely on their hooves, having to constantly rely on supplies from more settled areas throughout all that time. Our Town was founded at the base of a mountain range, where the wild wintry weather was still untamed, and where the local soil was on the low side of desirable. The town had doubled in population every six months for nearly two years, a growth rate that meant we were always catching up. Despite all that, we had never truly been panicking, thanks to my skills at logistics and planning.

It wasn’t just long-term administration, however, that I was good at. I was also good at the very short-term, such as knocking sense into ponies who were in a panic from an unexpected sound boom.

“Is there any broken glass around?” I asked the ponies who I currently had gathered around me. My sense of hearing wasn’t fully restored, but I could hear now. Once I had pacified my villagers, I had sent those who had foals away, telling them to calm down and reassure their fillies and colts. That still left me with a good number of ponies to do reconnaissance with.

“No, none that we could find, Starlight Glimmer,” Double Diamond said. The white-coated Earth pony was practically my trusted lieutenant, who I could rely on to carry out any of my orders faithfully and unerringly. The other ponies had sensed this over time, and delegated their reports to him as a result. “We’ve already checked inside most of the homes, as well as the cave.”

“Good then, I didn’t fancy having to get replacement windows,” I stated. I didn’t actually know if breaking glass with a loud noise alone was something that could happen or not, but it was better to be safe than sorry. “We’ll have to check later to make sure none of the underground pipes were damaged. Night Glider, what did you see?”

“There was black smoke in the distance, coming from the direction of Manehatten,” Night Glider said, before frowning. “So maybe something exploded?”

“A fertiliser plant, maybe?” Double Diamond asked.

“Possibly. It wouldn’t be the first time,” Night Glider conceded. “It had to have been a really powerful explosion, however, for us to hear it all the way out here.”

Another stallion spoke up. “We’re getting supplies in today, aren’t we?” Asked an Earth pony named Red Durum, one of the ponies who had helped set up our farms. He was a little young to yet be considered an adult, especially given he had yet to receive his Cutie Mark. It was that defining feature that helped me remember him, given his tame red coat, brown mane and brown eyes were rather unmemorable. “Maybe they’ll be able to tell us what happened.”

That was a good point. “We’re supposed to, but whatever explosion occurred in Manehatten, we might not be getting supplies in today,” I said, a little worried. It wouldn’t be the be-all end-all if we didn’t get a delivery in today, but it would be a nuisance. We were supposed to get a batch of seeds that I wanted planted to harvest right before the first snow hit.

“Doubtful,” said Party Favor. “We were knocked off our hooves. Trains are sensitive pieces of equipment that have to stay on the tracks, and if the force of the explosion knocked train cars off a rail, it would delay things considerably. Even if they switched to horsepower instead of engines, the train would still be several hours late.”

Huh, I thought to myself. It’s easy to forget he’s one of the engineers around here sometimes. But what Party Favor said made logical sense. “Well, in that event, I think we’re going to have to change our plans for today. Perhaps you can take one or two other ponies with you just in case the train does arrive, and send off a signal in the event it does, and the rest of us will come to help you.”

By ‘the rest of us’, I was of course excluding myself. I had no problem with doing grunt work, but Double Diamond, bless his chivalrous heart, had always found a way to keep me back in the village. I still found work to do each time, but it had lead to the weird situation that I technically hadn’t set hoof back in Equestria for nearly two years. There was no mental hang-ups about stepping past that small sign that indicated the border, I just...hadn’t.

Party Favor knew this as well, but he didn’t acknowledge it either. “That sounds alright,” he said. “If the train doesn’t show up, though, what then?”

I bit my lip. I had an idea, I just didn’t like it. “Then I’ll ask one of the pegasi to see if they can fly down to the nearest train station and find out when we should expect our supplies.” I didn’t like it, because that would mean somepony having to leave the village for the better part of a day at a minimum. Perhaps I was being a little overbearing and maternalistic, but ponies came here because they wanted to escape something, and found the society we had built attractive. Going back out into the larger world, where others would no doubt question and find fault with the Equal Cutie Mark...it stressed me out to no end. “If it takes too long, then several of us may have to go and retrieve the supplies, wherever they’re held up at.” Maybe that would be better. At least then, there would be strength in numbers.

“Very well, Starlight Glimmer,” Party Favor said, giving me a quick nod of the head before turning around, selecting a couple of ponies to take with him.

I let out yet another sigh, before finding the pony I was looking for. “Sugar Belle.”

“Wha-?!” Said pony jumped a few inches in the air, before nervously turning back to face me. “Yes, Starlight Glimmer?” Sugar Belle asked.

I smiled a little at Sugar Belle’s antics. “Put some hot water on and open up your cafe, please. I suspect that very shortly a lot of ponies are going to want some hot chocolate and tea to calm down.”

Sugar Belle still trembled a little, but the purple unicorn was quick to heed my request. “Y-yes, Starlight Glimmer!” Sugar Belle said, teeth still slightly chattering before she galloped away into her cottage.

I rolled my eyes. Perhaps I would have to have a few sessions of counseling with her in the future. She was simply far too skittish.


The train never came.

I scowled as I wrote it down both in the notes for the town and my personal journal. A delay in getting the crop seeds wouldn’t necessarily hurt us, but it would be a nuisance. The pegasi and what few unicorns who knew any weather magic would have to ward off winter conditions around the farm for however long it took the crops to grow. Alternatively, we would have to import food from Equestria for the winter, and while we weren’t anywhere close to running low on money, it would set back my goal for self-sufficiency by several months.

Which meant that I would have to also find a pegasus in the morning to fly down the train tracks to the nearest station and find out what was going on. Whatever it was, it seemed to have troubled the Princesses as well, since the raising and lowering of the sun and moon tonight was very wonky, unlike the normally smooth movements I was used to seeing.

Until then, I would have to review my paperwork and figure out how to work around this, before finally calling it a night and going to bed.

I smirked at the thought as I took a sip of hot chocolate, which managed to soothe my frazzled nerves. Perhaps I would have to convince Double Diamond to come in and be my bedwarmer for tonight.

Knock knock!

The sudden knock startled me out of my reverie, and I could feel my cheeks slightly warm at the daydream that had just been cut short. “Come in,” I called out to whomever it was. With luck, maybe it was the pony I had just daydreamed about.

I was disappointed as it wasn’t. Instead, Red Durum, the Earth pony farmer just slightly too young to have gotten his Cutie Mark yet walked in. “Is there anypony else around?” He asked.

He looked far too serious for my liking, making me frown. “No, there isn’t,” I said slowly. “What brings you this late, Red Durum?”

“Good,” he responded, seeming to ignore my question even as he turned to face me. “Night Glider assumed what happened in Manehatten was an explosion. She’s right, and so is Double Diamond about it being a fertiliser plant. They just don’t know who caused it.”

I blinked several times rapidly as I suddenly lost control of the conversation. What had he just implied? That somebody had caused an explosion in Manehatten?

Red Durum continued, “A monster locked away in Tartarus over a thousand years ago recently escaped. His name is Tirek, and he has the power to steal magic away from ponies. And he’s done just that, stealing the magic of nearly all the unicorns, pegasi and Earth ponies in Equestria, including the Princesses. He even tricked Discord, the Lord of Chaos, and stole his magic as well.”

What?” I asked, stunned, even as I rose to my hooves. “Wha-bu-”

The other pony continued talking, mowing over my objections. “I don’t know why Tirek ignored us. My best guess is that whatever removal of a pony’s Cutie Mark does, it does something to a pony’s magic as well. Maybe to his senses, there was only a single pony with magic all the way up in the mountain range, and it was too far away and too few ponies for him to bother with.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense? How do you even know all of-urk.” My throat clenched shut as I suddenly realised what he said.

That, as far as Tirek's senses told him, there was only a single pony with magic up in the mountain range. Where a pony with magic meant a pony with a Cutie Mark.

Red Durum knew.

The shock must have shown on my face, as Red Durum said, “No, I haven’t told anypony, nor do I intend to. I was undercover here on order of my Queen, who I’ve been communicating with for the last few hours. We’ve been analysing Tirek’s power and all our options, and we’ve come to a troubling conclusion. My Queen is unable to attack Tirek with his capacity to steal magic, only defend. But we think there’s a magic that can stop him.”

Wait? Did he say his Queen?

“Are you...a Changeling?” I asked, as the pieces finally clicked in place. Some ponies thought the Changelings had some sort of hive mind link, able to communicate across long distances, and their ruler had called herself a Queen in the Canterlot invasion a few years ago. It would also explain why Red Durum had never gotten a Cutie Mark, even though he was on the cusp of adulthood: perhaps he suspected the Cutie Mark removal magic wouldn’t have worked on him if he had faked a Cutie Mark.

He nodded, as he closed his eyes, and then reopened them. His brown eyes had shifted to blue.

My heart sank, not because he had confirmed my suspicions about his being a Changeling. It was because I knew what he was about to say next.

“Starlight Glimmer...you may be the only pony left who can save Equestria from Tirek.”


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“You can’t be serious,” I said as I got up from my desk, quickly pacing around to face Red Durum. That probably wasn’t his real name, but I had more important things to worry about, if what he had mentioned was the truth. But that’s just it, the devil on my shoulder whispered into my ear. How do you know he’s telling the truth? He’s a changeling, as he just admitted. He must be using you for another changeling plot. My body went along with my personal devil. “Another thousand-year-old threat to Equestria comes back from the dead, and I have to face it? That’s ludicrous!” I scoffed.

“From Tartarus, actually, not from the dead,” Red Durum droned. “Nightmare Moon, Discord and the Crystal Empire all come back from being sealed away after a thousand years, and it offends you to suggest that a fourth tyrant will have returned in that time span?”

I recoiled as surely as if I had been smacked in the jaw by his hoof.

“Lord Tirek is able to smell magic,” Red Durum carried on, bulldozing me over before I could voice any further objections. “Somehow, whatever it is you do with the Staff of Sameness stops him from smelling it. We’re working based purely on guesswork right now, but we think his sense of magic is like our sense of emotions.” He narrowed his eyes, looking at at me. Those creepy, solid-blue eyes disgusted me. “It’s been difficult for me to feed here, because of your Unmarking spell. I can tell you still have your Mark, however, because it’s no problem to feed off you. Ah, just like that, the revulsion you felt when I said that.” I felt like he was mocking me. “Your disgust tastes terrible, but the potency of it is still magnitudes above what everypony else has, even the fillies and colts who haven’t yet found their Cutie Mark and then been subsequently Unmarked.”

My stomach roiled, but I held my gut tight. I would not be squeamish, not in front of this person, whether he thought of himself as a pony or as a changeling. No, perhaps I should be happy? Even a changeling had decided to live in our village, no matter that he was doing it to spy on us.

But he still hadn’t explained enough. “Fine,” I grudgingly admitted. “Let’s say you’re right, and we are the only ones who have not been targeted by Tirek yet. How would we even still stand a chance against what sounds like another dark god from beyond? I’m just a unicorn, you know. I’m not a Princess. I don’t have the power to lift a sun or a moon into the sky, and from what you’ve said, he must have sucked magic out of four of them. And what’s to stop him from doing the same to me?”

Red Durum grimaced. I hated that look, because I could tell exactly what kind of frown it was. It wasn’t the frown of being at a loss on how to proceed. It was a frown of knowing exactly what to say, except what he needed to say was so horrifying it didn’t bear talking about unless it was absolutely necessary.

Red Durum sighed, and then he said, “What do you know about the way changelings can take love and other emotions from ponies?”

I racked my brains for a few seconds, before I blurted out, “Nothing. Practically nothing. I’ve been living here for several years, you know, studying and practicing magic. What little of news I’ve heard comes either from the newspapers we get, a few days outdated, or from the ponies who come into town from time to time.”

“Curses,” said Red Durum. He took a deep breath, then exhaled. Perhaps it was good that he stayed untransformed, barring his now solid-blue eyes. It was easy for me to understand how a pony felt, such as the way Red Durum was emoting now with his sagging shoulders. It would be difficult for me to empathise with him if it was difficult for me to read his changeling biology.

“Changelings can feed off of residual emotion in the air,” Red Durum said. “Residual emotion is leaked all the time by ponies as they walk around, though the stronger and more positive the emotion, the better. It’s why changelings are responsible for the funding and production of many romance movies,” he chuckled.

What. My blank blanked out at that, not even able to form it as an actual question.

Red Durum was unaware of how he had given me a temporary brain malfunction, and continued. “However, we can also forcibly extract emotion from a pony. It’s not desirable. After all, it leaves our victim weak, and they can tell something has been done to them, which usually blows our cover. But Tirek, what he’s done is an order of magnitude worse than that. He forcibly rips away all the magic from a pony. Pegasi can no longer fly, Earth ponies can no longer truly feel the earth under their hooves, and unicorns can no longer cast any magic. In a sense, it’s like he made them Equal beyond your wildest dreams.”

“That’s not equal,” I whispered.

Red Durum snorted. “Of course it is. It’s just that you knew where to draw the line.”

I winced, remembering some of the wilder ideas that we had to toss out, but he was right. Still, I wasn’t quite ready to believe him. “How do I know this isn’t some set-up, then?” I asked, biting my tongue in between lines. I hated this. Red Durum was a changeling, a being who could feed on love, and I had no idea what the full scope of his abilities were. He stated he could sense my emotions, and that could mean anything from peripheral knowledge of my mood to outright being able to read my mind. “Maybe the Princesses are still around, and you’re just bluffing me to do something stupid to provide a distraction for another changeling invasion? Somepony could have just had an accident in Manehatten.”

The other pony, I still couldn’t help but think of him as a pony, just looked at me for several seconds. Then his nose twitched, before he wrinkled it. Was he contemplating something, or holding back his frustration? Suddenly, I wasn’t quite so sure of my talent in reading ponies. Or was it just Red Durum who I was unsure of, and I could still understand other ponies easily?

Then he closed his eyes. When he opened them back up, they were brown again, with white sclera and black pupils. “Have you looked outside yet?”

“Not since the moon was raised,” I said, moving over to my windowsill, curtains laying heavily over top. “Why, what should I be looking at?” I asked, using magic to open the curtains. It took a few seconds for me to understand what I was looking at. When I did, it felt like I had just been sucker-punched, as I forcibly exhaled all the spare breath in my body. “Oh. Oh.

The moon was as bright as always tonight. For the last few years, it had looked a little odd, being a near-uniform bright white colour, after the Mare in the Moon had disappeared. Before, I thought the figure was just the coincidental arrangement of several lunar maria, only to learn otherwise after Nightmare Moon had appeared.

Now, however, the Mare in the Moon had reappeared.

It looked a little different, though. The horn was shorter, the ‘eye’ was a little more rounded, and the shape itself almost seemed to be tinted purple. But there was no doubt that somepony had just been sealed in the moon again.

“You see now?” Red Durum asked, walking up beside me. “Tirek has defeated all four Princesses. I don’t know what he did with the other three, but the last one he banished into the moon.”

I sucked in a deep breath, then exhaled loudly. I took in another deep breath. Then I started laughing.

Red Durum stood impassively beside me even as my laughter descended into a fit of hysteria. Somehow, his mere presence stopped me from truly falling into the pit of despair that awaited me. At one point, my body tried to convulse with more laughter, only to choke as I was short on breath. I sat down on my haunches, beating my chest with a hoof to get control over myself. I was better than the ponies I had to soothe this morning. I would get over this on my own.

Slowly, I regained control of myself, forcing my rapid breathing away for a longer, calmer pattern of inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. I wiped the tears from my muzzle, and looked up at Red Durum. “Even if you have a spell to stop Tirek from stealing my magic, that still doesn’t change the fact that he’s overwhelmingly powerful. You just said yourself he stole the magic of four princesses, as well as Discord. How could I even hope to match him?”

Red Durum closed his eyes. “You won’t like it.”

“Try me,” I said, defiant.

He told me.

He was right. I didn’t like it.

“Gi-give me a few minutes,” I said. Finally able to stand up again, I used it to achieve the momentous task of walking around to my desk and sitting in my chair instead. I put my journal and notes away, and held my head up in my hooves. I needed a plan.

I was hardly a tactician or a strategist, or even a grand manipulator. I had raw wit, but I didn’t have the experience to go with it. I had only a few tools, and the aid of a single changeling, who had a mental link to other changelings. I had to face up against a madbeast who had become a virtual dark god by stealing the magic of others. But I had fooled this entire village of ponies for two straight years into believing that I had truly removed my Cutie Mark. Deep down, there was a part of me that I didn’t like. It was a part that had gotten me through two years without the village falling apart. It was a part that was going to have take front stage to avert this crisis that affected all of Equestria, and by proxy my village.

The Staff of Sameness leaned against the wall behind me. Good. I was going to need it. Thankfully, from how Red Durum had talked, it seemed he hadn’t clued in that the Staff was fake, and it was my own spell that did all the work. I didn’t think it really made a difference at this point since he knew I still had my Cutie Mark. However, it made me feel more secure that I still had a secret he didn’t know, and that was good enough.

I looked back up at Red Durum, staring him in his brown eyes. “You and I need to go over a few details to keep our story straight. After that, I want you to fetch Double Diamond and...hmm...Night Glider.” The pegasus mare was probably the second pony I would go with after Double Diamond for helping me in a tough situation.

He saluted me, falling into line as surely as if he were any other pony of Our Town, each who looked up to me as the leader who held them together. Perhaps he truly was one of my ponies. “Yes, Starlight Glimmer.”


“Starlight, what’s going on?” Double Diamond asked as he came into my office slash bedroom. “The Mare in the Moon is back. Did you get a message or something?”

Red Durum had worked quick after I told him the story to stick to, retrieving both Double Diamond and Night Glider. The latter pony fidgeted as she came in. Night Glider was nowhere near as used to being in here as Double Diamond was, and it showed.

“Sort of,” I said, still sitting down at my desk. “The Princesses have been defeated.”

“What?!” Night Glider cried out, her nervousness in my room overcome by pure shock. “No, how can that be?!”

“An evil monster named Tirek, who was formerly imprisoned in Tartarus, before he broke out,” Red Durum spoke up, and Night Glider and Double Diamond both spun around to face him. “The explosion in Manehatten this morning was his doing.”

“Another one?” Double Diamond asked. “Well, surely the group that defeated Nightmare Moon and Discord can stop him?”

Red Durum shook his head. “They’ve been all stripped out of their magic. That’s what Tirek can do. He’s a centaur monster locked away in Tartarus for stealing magic from others in the past. From what I understand, Tirek took...decisive measures to ensure they’ve been separated from one another, too, so they can’t rally and defeat him with some unforeseen power. It’s not just the Princesses Tirek ripped their power from, though. Tirek went around to every single town and village in Equestria, wherever he could find magic. He stole magic from nearly all the unicorns, Earth ponies and pegasi in Equestria. All the ponies of Cloudsdale have now been grounded, no longer able to live on the clouds. We’re the only ones left with any magic.”

“We’re the only ones?” Night Glider asked, finally getting control of herself. “But how can that be? We still have our magic, don’t we? Oh,” she uttered, looking at her flank as she clued in. “It’s because of these, isn’t it?”

“That’s our best guess,” Red Durum said. “That the Unmarking does something to you, which makes us a blind spot in Tirek’s senses. Perhaps he relies on the Cutie Mark magic to find more ponies, which would explain why the fillies and colts who haven’t gotten their Cutie Mark and been subsequently Unmarked haven’t lured him in yet, either.”

“Then this is a disaster,” said Double Diamond.. “If what you say is true, it’s only a matter of time before he stumbles upon us. Eventually, one of the foals will get their Cutie Marks. Even if we Unmark her or him, in the worst-case scenario, Tirek might realise there are ponies here and come after us.”

I found myself surprised, but let out a small grin. Of all the ponies affected by the Unmarking, Double Diamond was the most cool-minded, rational one. Perhaps it was because he was the one who sparked the Founding of Our Town that he was able to keep his assertiveness and independence, even after being Equalised. Whatever the case, it was a good thing he didn’t descend into a panic, as I imagined many ponies would at learning of the current events.

He made a good point, even though he didn’t realise it wasn’t quite true. Tirek must have been aware that there were ponies up here: he just didn’t care, because there was only one pony who had kept her Cutie Mark.

But then, perhaps that might change. Now that Tirek had defeated all four Princesses, he might begin to target all those lone hermits such as me as well, time and effort spent to hunt down a single pony be damned. It would be a surprise there was more than one pony up here, but if he had conquered an entire nation, a single village with a hundred odd ponies wouldn’t be his end.

We had to take the fight to Tirek, before he took the fight to us.

“But wait,” Double Diamond trailed off. I could practically see the gears turning in his head as he looked between myself, Red Durum, and the moon, and he finally asked the question that we had been dreading. “How do you know about all of this? None of us have left the town since then, and there’s no way anybody could have delivered a message by teleportation magic if all the ponies in Equestria have lost their magic.”

I sighed. “You may as well tell them, Red.”

Two sets of inquisitive eyes flickered over to Red Durum, and for the first time he actually looked apprehensive. I took it for a good sign. Even past the barely-restrained panic at the thought of facing Tirek, I still worried about relations between ponies in my village. Red Durum actually seemed to care about the opinions of his fellow villagers. If even a changeling was accepted into our village, a changeling who was openly known as a changeling, then we had hit a major trotstone.

“I...am...a...a changeling,” Red said, finally getting the words out.

Night Glider reacted quickly, her jitters setting her off. Everypony in the room could see her hoof as she moved in for the attack.

I reacted quicker.

“Night Glider!” I scolded her, as I held her in my magical grip for the second time that day.

The pegasus had enough control over her own body that she could turn her head around, and she practically hissed as she face me. “But he’s a changeling, Starlight Glimmer! He just admitted it! Who knows what he’s done with the real Red Durum?” She narrowed her eyes, as Night Glider seemed to think of something else. “Or are you a changeling as well?”

“That’s enough,” I said. I chanced a look at Double Diamond. The white-coated Earth pony was on guard, his full body tensed and coiled up to strike at once if he saw something he didn’t like, but he was still restraining himself. Had I more time to plan, perhaps I could have eased the two into finding out Red Durum was a changeling. I didn’t have time, however, and so I would need to strong-hoof these two if they showed any dissent. The accusation from Night Glider rankled. Even if I could understand why she would think I was a changeling, it still hurt that she didn't trust me. “Red Durum is Red Durum. Er,” I stuttered, realising how that tautology sounded. “That is, there was no Red Durum the pony, this is a form he developed on his own. That’s why he never had a Cutie Mark, either. I don’t know how the Staff of Sameness would have reacted to him, and he’s said as much that he faked being Markless for that same reason.”

“Hmm,” Double Diamond hummed, copying one of my own mannerisms as he looked between me, Night Glider, and Red Durum. Looking back to the changeling-cum-pony, he asked, “So you’re the one who get the message, then?”

“I am,” Red Durum confirmed. “Changelings are able to telepathically send messages over long distances to one another.”

“Does it rely on magic?” Double Diamond continued.

Red Durum seemed to realise where he was going with the questions, and nodded, before saying, “Whatever it is Tirek does, he can’t sense changelings. We’ve lost a few of our undercover scouts simply because they were in towns he ransacked, but otherwise we’ve been able to stay out of his way.”

“And how do we know this isn’t some plot by the changelings, then?” Double Diamond asked, continuing to press on. Beside him, Night Glider seemed to calm down, watching the back and forth between the changeling and the pony. Taking a risk, I let go of my grip on her. The conversation seemed to be covering the same things I had went over with Red Durum, but it would be good for Night Glider and Double Diamond to understand the situation as well.

“If it were, do you think we’d even bother with plotting?” Red Durum snapped back, frustration clear on his face. He pointed one hoof at the window to the moon up in the sky. “If our Queen could do that, then there’d be no need to continue skulking about.”

“Yes, and saying things like that makes us less likely to trust you,” Night Glider retorted. “Hey, speaking of your Queen, is she going to fight Tirek?”

“N-no!” Red Durum shouted, suddenly turning rigid. “She can’t!”

I turned to face him at that declaration. Night Glider had asked a good question. I frowned. I hadn’t thought of that, and it was something I should have. “Why not?” I asked.

Red Durum still shuddered, as if Night Glider’s question was more than just offensive, but an outright existential threat. “It’s our biology,” he explained. “Changelings are able to absorb emotions from others, both residual emotion and active emotions.” I doubt he even realised that most of what he was saying was jargon that completely flew over Night Glider’s head. “We convert it to magic for our own use. The problem is that it’s a two-way thing. Though we’re able to absorb energy easily, other creatures could just as easily absorb energy from us, and we’re far more susceptible to it than ponies would be. We just haven’t had to deal with any being that could do such a thing since Star Swirl banished something called the Sirens. Tirek might not be able to find us, but if we went to fight him, it’d be like offering ourselves up on a food platter.”

I bit my lip. Again, I couldn’t really tell if Red Durum was stating the truth or not, but at this point it was irrelevant. The changelings either wouldn’t or couldn’t fight Tirek, but in either case they weren’t fighting him, full stop. That left it up to us...to me.

Double Diamond seemed to have come to the same conclusion. “So that leaves it up to us to fight him? OK, so what were you thinking? That somehow the Staff of Sameness does something to us that will stop him from stealing our magic as well? And then what? Tirek still has the power of every Princess. There’s no way I could fight him.”

“Actually, there is a way,” I said, lifting the Staff of Sameness up from its spot on the wall behind me.

“What? What is it?” Night Glider asked. “This is preposterous. I can’t see any method we have to defeat somepony who’s stolen the magic of everypony in Equestria.”

Not ‘somepony’, ‘someone’, I corrected her in my head. If this worked, and we won against Tirek, Red Durum might continue to live in the village. If that happened, we would have to adjust our terminology.

Then I scoffed at myself. Why am I thinking about this at a time like this? Get yourself together, Starlight Glimmer. “Actually, there is a way, at least, we think,” I said. I gulped, as I finally got up from my sitting position at the desk, and walked around to the front.

Double Diamond and Night Glider both spotted it immediately. Simultaneously, their eyes widened and their jaws dropped. Double Diamond recovered first. With a hint of trepidation in his voice, he asked, “Starlight...why...why would you-?” He cut himself off, unable to even finish the question.

There, on my thighs, was my true Cutie Mark: a star with two streams like comet tails coming off of it. I no longer bore an Equal Cutie Mark. Double Diamond and Night Glider didn’t know that I had just washed off my fur, but the effect was the same. The two staggered, as if me ‘gaining’ my Cutie Mark again was a more horrifying revelation than that of a mad godbeast taking over Equestria and banishing the Princesses.

Perhaps it was.

“I, I have to,” I stuttered, feeling revulsion again. “There’s something about Cutie Marks that is both vital and yet antithetical to Tirek’s magic. When he steals a pony’s magic, their Cutie Mark disappears, yet he can’t sense a filly without a Cutie Mark. Cutie Marks are a weakness, yet they’re the only weapon left that can stop him. We, we, I, I have to-” I couldn’t even complete the sentence, quickly galloping over to my wastebucket. I dry heaved, having already gotten any traces of food and drink out of my system when originally hearing what I had to do from Red Durum.

“To stand a chance of winning against Tirek, Starlight Glimmer must consume every last Cutie Mark in the Cutie Mark Vault,” Red Durum finished for me.

I was wrong. There was still a little bit of stomach acid left in me that threatened to exit out my throat, burning away at my very being.


Well-Known Member
The Cutie Vault was buried inside a cave up in the mountain range. During the day, the light of the sun easily reached into the cave enough to illuminate the chamber where the vault had been built. During the night, things changed.

Very few realised it, but Cutie Marks, removed from their ponies, glowed in the dark.

It’s not as creepy as it sounds, though. The light they give off is actually rather soothing, and the many colours and shapes a Cutie Mark comes in makes it a sight that’s honestly haunting in its beauty.

It was this view that the four of us walked into. It was good that the moon was at our backs the whole time. I don’t think I could look at the moon for very long without feeling uncomfortable, now that I knew the outline of the Mare in the Moon wasn’t from lunar maria, but rather from a Princess being banished into the moon.

“How many Cutie Marks are there, exactly?” Red Durum asked, looking around at the vault.

“Roughly about a hundred,” I said. It had been a while since I had gone over the records and counted exactly how many Unmarked ponies there were. Fillies and colts who had yet to receive their Cutie Mark obviously could not have had a Mark up on here. I did a quick scan and an estimate, and came up to around a hundred again.

“A hundred...Cutie Marks, against a monster that’s absorbed the magic of millions?" Night Glider asked. “How does that even begin to come close to a fair match-up?”

“Tirek is a centaur. I don’t believe I mentioned that before, but just so you are aware. From what we understand, he absorbs the raw magic of others, but is incredibly wasteful. Princess Twilight Sparkle took on the magic of all four Alicorn Princesses, and was able to match up against Tirek, even after he stole the magic of every other pony in Equestria, and the Spirit of Chaos, Discord, as well,” Red Durum answered. “Even though centaurs are related to ponies, they are further apart than ponies are to zebras and donkeys. We as changelings can trace our common biological line to equines, and for us, taking emotion off of those three species is more fruitful than gryphons or minotaurs. We believe that it is again the same concept here: Tirek is absorbing unlike magic, and so it is an inefficient process.”

Red Durum paused for a second. He added, “Also, he is just taking the raw magic of others. He does not seem to be able to take the talents of others. It was he who raised the moon and lowered the sun just now, but it was clumsy.”

“That’s a good thing,” I said. “Someone with that many talents would be talented at virtually everything, unless he was destroyed from the inside out by Cutie Pox first.” Left unspoken was the worry that I might be destroyed by Cutie Pox in this mad scheme of ours.

“Why did you ask us to come up here, anyways, Starlight Glimmer?” Night Glider asked.

“No offense to Red, but you’re still not fully trustworthy,” I said.

“None taken.”

I breathed a sigh of relief at that, and carried on. “But it’s more than just that. I’m not sure this plan will actually work, and so I wanted more than one pony, person, to be on-hoof here in the case something did go wrong. And, well...I don’t have time, I don’t think, to talk to every pony in town. But before I try anything, I, I,” I stuttered, tripping over my words. Double Diamond and Night Glider had been horrified at what Red Durum had said. I knew they were still disgusted. We had settled into a state of mutual agreement to leave the actual plan unsaid, but now it was time to force it out into the open again. “I wanted to get permission from at least a few ponies to absorb his and her Cutie Marks.”

There was silence again, my words lingering in the stale air of the Cutie Vault. Nobody seemed to want to break the silence first. How could they, when the subject matter was still something so antithetical to all common decency? Those who had come to the village gave up their Cutie Mark, a part of their personal identity, to fit in with one another and follow an ideology we hoped would help us find a place in this world. Letting another pony ‘digest’ your Cutie Mark, however, was a hoofstep beyond the pale.

Double Diamond was the one who chose to break the silence.

“When you first found me two years ago, having torn my fetlock, I listened to you and your life’s story as I recovered. It wasn’t from some romance cliche where I fell in love with my caretaker that I found genuine interest in your ideals, Starlight. I honestly, truly believed you had something, and that was why I joined you. I haven’t regretted it to this day. I feel like I’ve been betrayed, seeing those marks on your thighs, even as I rationally understand that there’s a good reason for it.”

I knew Double Diamond was leading up to something. Regardless, his last line left me heartbroken. What would he say if he knew that I never removed my Cutie Mark in the first place, and that I’ve been faking it for these last two years? If I got out of this, I would have to think of something to make certain he never found out.

“But these are trying times. You are the one here who has been studying magic since her fillyhood. Magic is your special talent, and you gave that up to join in our revolution. If anypony here can win against this Tirek, it’ll be you.”

Night Glider took her chance to speak. “I still think this is still a terrible idea, Starlight Glimmer,” she admitted. “But I don’t see any other way to win, if the deck is as truly stacked against us as Red Durum claims it is. A monster who’s stolen the magic of the rest of Equestria, who survived imprisonment in Tartarus, and, oh yes, he can steal magic? Brrr,” she said, shivering. ”Do what has to be done, Starlight Glimmer. That’s all I can ask of you. Don’t worry, I know what you’re feeling. You feel like you would be a monster to take everypony else’s Cutie Mark, right? Take mine, take Double Diamond’s first. Know that at least we gave you our permission.”

“I know I’m not a pony, not really,” Red Durum spoke again at last. “But I truly did enjoy living in your village, and I hope you’ll let me continue to live here again if this situation can be resolved without more bloodshed.”

“I would be glad to continue having you live here,” I spoke up quickly. “However, there will need to be some precautions taken. Some ponies here lived through the Canterlot invasion, , and we’ll still need to figure out what exactly you can and can’t do, and who should know that you’re a changeling. But I think you can continue living here.”

“I have no problem,” Double Diamond said.

Night Glider was still a little bit skittish, but she nodded as well. “You haven’t caused any problems, so far. Just...just, give me a little bit of time, alright?”

Red Durum exhaled, before hanging his head down low . He let out a soft laugh that was almost a chuckle. “Thank you, heh,” he said, looking back up with a smile. “I’m glad for that. But, I might not be a pony, and I don’t have any Cutie Mark that I can let you absorb. But changelings don’t just change, we hide. It’s a crucial part of our racial identity. I’ve given you that part of my identity to carry around now, the knowledge that I’m a changeling. I don’t know whether you can win or not, Starlight, but I trust you to try your best.”

I wrinkled my snout. My best. Somehow, it had been decided that I was the one to face Tirek. But was I truly capable of fighting a godbeast? I didn’t think so.

The changeling among us seemed to notice my apprehension and doubts, and Red Durum continued, “It is alright, Starlight. You either win, or you do not. Feeling doubts will not change the situation.”

Night Glider just brought her hoof up to her forehead. “The first thing I’m going to do with you, Red, is teach you how to make better motivational speeches."

“Enough,” Double Diamond said, and he turned to me. “Starlight, I know you must be feeling nervous. Would you like me to come along with you?”

I shook my head, even as I bit the inside of my cheek. It would be nice to have somepony along, but I had read enough genre fiction to know how something like this would go. Having someone who was of only average strength would be a liability as I tried to protect him from any fallout from a magical attack. That would simply not do.

“No,” I said, lifting the Staff of Sameness into the air with my magic. “L-let’s do this.” Using my magic again, I opened one of the doors of the vault. Poking inside with the Staff of Sameness, I dragged out a Cutie Mark. The Mark was that of three six-sided snowflakes, each flake being a uniform solid blue colour.

“Go for it,” said Double Diamond, the former owner of that Cutie Mark.

I swallowed.

Using the Staff of Sameness was visually tricky. The Staff of Sameness was actually useless, but nopony except for me knew that. However, I had to keep up the illusion that it was in fact what did the Unmarking, and so I used a minor cantrip to continue giving it a blue glow.

With the Staff of Sameness, I dragged Double Diamond’s Cutie Mark up to me. I didn’t even know how I was supposed to go about this. Should I press it up against my current Cutie Mark, or should I try something else?

I shrugged caution to the wind. Opening wide, I stuffed it in my mouth. The Mark had no texture and no taste, but my body instinctively swallowed it anyways.

The Staff of Sameness dropped to the ground, just as I bent onto my front knees. The sensation of the Mark being absorbed into my body...it felt strange. A sudden chill swept through my body. I felt as if winter had come early and I had been stuck outside, buried in a pile of snow.

“Starlight, are you alright?” Red Durum asked as he moved around to sit in front of me.

I barely nodded, before the next sensation hit. I felt full, stuffed, bloated, as if I had ate, and ate, and ate until I could eat no more, got up and walked around, came back and ate some more, then drank and drank until I was bursting. It was an intensely uncomfortable sensation that trotted a fine line between extreme discomfort and outright pain, and I could feel my eyes watering, even as my teeth shook in my jaw.

The moment passed. I may have lacked grace, but I was able to push myself up onto my hooves. That unsettling feeling of a bulging stomach passed, but I kept my eyes closed. I took notice of my breathing. My mouth was hanging wide open, panting in deep breaths. It wasn’t too rapid, however, and I slowly resumed a normal breathing pattern.

I could feel the magic in the cavern better than I had ever before. I felt like I needed to go outside, feel the snow crunching underneath my hooves, and bask in the cool night air. Was this Double Diamond’s talent, relating to his love for all things wintry? Was it a gift, or was it a curse, seeking to push my hoof, much like how the Cutie Pox I had once read up on could drive its victim to insanity?

I didn’t feel like myself anymore.

No matter. This was the only way. Taking my time would help me to assimilate each Cutie Mark one at a time, and hopefully avoid any complications. But I could not take forever. It was not just that Tirek might turn to outright killing ponies and destroying everything in his path, if he hadn’t already. It was that with every Cutie Mark I took in, I might become more and more a shining star in the distance, attracting his attention. I could feel it. My body was practically humming with power, far more than I had ever possessed in my life, and that was with just one extra Cutie Mark.

I opened my eyes. “I’m alright, I’m alright. A little disoriented, but otherwise fine. I don’t feel bad or anything. Let’s give it a minute to see if anything else happens, and then we’ll move on to Night Glider’s Mark.” 

I narrowed my eyes. I had to do this quickly, before I caught Tirek’s attention.


It got easier after the first Cutie Mark.

Oh Zacherle, I wish it hadn’t.

“How’s about now, Starlight?” Double Diamond asked. It was a question he had repeated after the first few Cutie Marks, and then stopped asking until now. The only thing that had changed was that I now had taken in the very last Cutie Mark in the Vault.

I trembled. My very being practically thrummed. “I had no idea a pony was capable of holding this much power,” I whispered. I felt as if taking a single step forward would bring the cave down upon us, my hoof capable of causing earthquakes with a mere tap against the ground. I grit my teeth, forcing the pure magic in my body to still, to consolidate in on itself and be calm.

“You’re not trembling as hard as you were before,” Red Durum observed. “I could feel the magic coming off of you. It felt like air currents, only warmer and more pleasant. Oh, yes,” he shivered in ecstasy. “Like love, only purer than that. Whatever you did just now though has tempered it. I can still feel the magic, but it’s as if it’s been tamed.”

“So, what now?” Night Glider asked. “You go and fight Tirek?”

“No, not yet,” I said, looking over at Red Durum. “Red, I realised something earlier when I was absorbing their Cutie Marks. We can’t stay here and wait for you to teach me anything.”

“Huh? Why not?” He asked.

I frowned. It was a good thing I had brought in Double Diamond and Night Glider. Each one of us had missed vital pieces of information throughout the night, and each of us had covered for one another’s deficiencies in planning. Such as was currently the case. “Tirek didn’t come here because nopony had a Cutie Mark active, correct? There might only be one pony now, but that one pony has a hundred Cutie Marks combined. Whatever sense of magical detection that Tirek has, won’t he tell that there’s something going on here?”

Red looked dumbstruck for several seconds, before he then flicked out his tongue. He reacted quickly. “Starlight! We have to go, now! Before Tirek comes and finds us!”

Did he just-no, save that for later
, I thought. No doubt he had tasted my emotions, and found them like a roaring furnace compared to a mere heater prior. I spared a few seconds, however, turning around to face Double Diamond and Night Glider. “I don’t know if I’ll be ever coming back,” I quickly told them, before hoofing the Staff of Sameness to Night Glider. “If I do, we’ll have to set up a new protocol with the Staff of Sameness and the Cutie Vault. It was too easy to absorb those Cutie Marks. Far too easy.” I shuddered.

“Come back,” Double Diamond said.

I rolled my eyes, despite the situation. “Oh, Diamond,” I said in a lightly teasing voice. “Even now, you can’t say a romantic line to save your life.” I leaned forward and gave him a brief, chaste kiss. I broke the kiss, but didn’t move away, peering into his stunned eyes. “Take care,” I whispered before finally breaking away. I delighted in the goofy smile on his face for a second, before turning around to depart the cave. Just in time, because Red Durum looked like he was about to have a meltdown if I had delayed one second longer.


We made good pace that first hour after we left the village.

At first, I thought we would have to walk. Red had wings, being a changeling, but I didn’t. However, in a eureka moment, shortly after getting out of the village, I cast a spell to levitate myself.

“Self-levitation? Unicorns can actually do that?” Red Durum asked, gobsmacked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Or at least, I don’t think any other unicorn can.” I looked at the ground with trepidation. I was powerful enough now that I could ignore the laws of gravity, but what if my magic gave out on me in mid-air? If I hit the ground with enough force, would I go splat, or did the absorption of the Cutie Marks give me so much magical strength that I was protected from even that?

I brushed those thoughts aside. In other circumstances, they would be meaningful. However, the more power I possessed, the less actual value I seemed to place on my life. It was worrisome: the pure magic that filled me was magnitudes above anything I had ever operated with in my life. Even the magical surges I had experienced as a filly were still a drop in the pool to what I had now. 

“Red, I can’t really trust you given who and what you are,” I said as we flew. “But I need you, now more than ever.”

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“This is something entirely uncharted, what I’m doing right now,” I explained. “It could be that maybe the magic will get the better of me, and I go insane, or something. I need you to be able to tell if I’m losing it, and if I am, direct me at Tirek and not at anything else.”

“I can do that, I suppose,” he said hesitatingly. It was clear that Red had been thrown into the frying pan as well. He didn’t seem equipped one bit to help a pony absorb the magic of a hundred other ponies and then go off and fight a super-charged magical tyrant from a thousand years ago. I was certain that he would have been floundering if not for the fact he was still receiving telepathic messages from his Queen.

“Also, drop the disguise.”

It was that request of mine that actually made him balk. “No,” he said quietly.

I rolled my eyes. I didn’t have time to put up with this now. Thankfully for both of our sanities, I came up with a solution that would still work for both of us. “Then change into a pegasus,” I told him. “We can at least move quicker if we’re going over the ground instead of running along the ground.”

“Oh, ok, I see. Yeah, I can do that,” Red said. It was a little fascinating, honestly, to see him transform, even if it was a little bit of a letdown. All that happened was Red was briefly enveloped in a cloak of green fire, and when it dispersed, he now had wings. He hadn’t changed one bit of the rest of his identity. I would have thought he might have to revert to a changeling form first, but it appeared that that was not the case.

We didn’t share words after that, moving away from Our Town towards the train station, and then we continued on past the train station. The air was cool on our coats, and the moonlight, which I could now see had the slightest tint of purple I swore wasn’t there before, illuminated the vast landscape before us. However, the absolute quiet that permeated the world at large was disconcerting. I was thankful I had Red Durum next to me. Even his moderate breathing made for a helpful distraction.

Then I stopped.

“What are you doing, Starlight?” Red Durum asked. He had briefly flown past me before halting his momentum, then turning around to come back.

“You’re still connected to your hive, right?” I asked.

He wrinkled his snout, apparently unwilling to concede too much information, but then nodded.

“Good, good,” I said. “Tell me, does your hive know where Tirek is right now?” I asked.

“He went to Vanhoover, on the West Coast,” Red Durum slowly said, uncertain as to why I wanted to know, but trusting I had a reason.

“So he’s not in Canterlot, that’s even better” I said. “Canterlot is the centre of the Equestrian landmass. However, from Vanhoover, if he wanted to get to the East Coast, he first has to get back to Canterlot, and then travel past that.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Red Durum said, admitting to the logic but still not seeing my point.

“Red Durum, do you trust me?”

He shook his head. “Not really.”

“But do you think I’m really the only one with a chance to stop Tirek?”

The changeling-cum-Earth pony-cum Pegasus nodded this time. “What are you trying to get at here?” He asked.

“I’m doped up on so much magic now that going back to like I was before makes me pained just thinking about it,” I admitted. “However, I think I still have enough control that I can teleport, bringing someone with me. And with the amount of magic that I have now, I believe I can teleport across the entire continent.”

Red’s green eyes showed visible shock now.

“Red, this is important to know. Did Tirek ever teleport?”

He tilted his head over, ear pointed to the side, almost as if he was receiving a radio broadcast. Given what he was, he probably was receiving a broadcast of the telepathic kind. After several seconds, he tilted his head back and said, “No, he did not. What are you thinking, Starlight?”

“I’m thinking that if I cast any magic of any sort that’s even slightly powerful, Tirek will follow it,” I said. “So what we’ll do is give him a couple of decoy targets. First, teleport to Canterlot. Then, teleport from Canterlot to somewhere in the deep south. Tirek will think there’s a powerful magical burst here, and another powerful magical burst in Canterlot. He’ll investigate in Canterlot first, before coming up here, all while you and I are on the other end of Equestria. That should give us some time for you to teach me the principles of your emotion-stealing magic.”

“I think you’re playing a dangerous game,” Red warned me, before sighing. “However, in the circumstances, that’s a better plan than any I’ve thought of so far. Just give me a warning before you teleport, OK?”

I nodded, then moved forward. I had to contain my disgust at touching him, and felt the need to explain my disgust. “Sorry. I just, I’m a little uncomfortable still. You’ll have to give me some time to get used to the idea.”

“That’s alright,” Red said, but he clearly had felt my disgust, shifting slightly as I held him in my hooves.

“Here goes,” I announced.

Teleportation was an odd spell. Many unicorns claimed it to be the most difficult spell a magician could master. In actuality, that was so far from the truth it could have made me cry. Teleportation was merely the last spell many unicorns bothered to master. In their minds, they thought ‘I can now move from place to place through no effort but for casting a spell, why should I bother learning anything more?’. The amount of potential that had been wasted by that lazy attitude was horrifying, not to mention the amount of unicorns who didn’t even bother trying, thinking that because their ‘special talent’ was mundane, they didn’t even need to bother.

My unicorns in Our Town weren’t like that, couldn’t be like that. No longer held down by such a false dichotomy as their Cutie Marks, they could learn whatever they set their minds and hearts to, just like the pegasi and Earth ponies.

I assigned myself and my side-along passenger a destination, set in a couple of safeguards to make sure the magic would not backfire on me, and then cast.


In my youth, I once had a spell of a few weeks where I decided to be a daredevil. It ended when I took on a dare to eat a gallon of ice cream in under fifteen minutes, which was definitely not a smart idea. In that time period, however, I sought out some cheap thrills. One of the things I did was to hire a pegasus to carry me up several hundred feet. He then divebombed towards the earth, with me still in his grip, before turning around at the last possible moment. It wasn’t something I cared to do twice, but that memory of being weightless, as the ground reached up to swallow me, was something that had always stuck with me.

Perhaps it was because that was exactly what teleportation felt like.

This time, however, the effect of the spell was several times greater than I had ever felt it, and even though I landed on my hooves, I wobbled around where I stood, my body feeling like it was already sprawled out across the grass and confused that it wasn’t. Not for the first time, I was glad that I barely had anything to eat that day.

“Urg, I don’t feel so good,” said a soft voice from aside me.

I went and comforted Red, whose disorientation was showing in his face. He was a changeling, but I knew all too well what the spell effects felt like not to comfort him. In the meantime, I looked around me at what was supposed to be Canterlot.

The lights were still on, but they were dimmer than normal, with some lights not on at all, and other lights still as bright as I recalled them being the last time I had visited Canterlot, many years ago. Perhaps some of the lights were operating on electricity that wasn’t magically generated? That was the best guess I could make. It wasn’t as if I was going to stand around and investigate.

I had chosen the garden maze in the Castle grounds. I knew that it was shut off to tourists at night so, barring them having changed the hours since I was last here, it should have been otherwise abandoned with nopony to witness us. Thankfully, it appeared that plan had gone off without a hitch.

“Are you OK, Red?” I asked the pegasus. “If you need it, I can give you a few minutes.”

“Yes, please,” he said, sitting down and taking some breaths. My analytical mind seized upon this. Was he being affected so poorly because he wasn’t used to teleporting? Or perhaps it was something about his changeling anatomy that didn’t work well with pony magic? Or maybe my magic was so overwhelmingly powerful that, even as it was perhaps a few times stronger in its effect to me, it was many, many times stronger for him?

I shook my head. I didn’t have time for that. I was going to have to learn a spell after the next time we hopped.

Red Durum cycled through a breathing exercise that I didn’t recognise, even after having taught several of them to my ponies in Our Town, and at last was able to stand up again on his own four hooves. “I’m good to go again,” he said.

“Alright,” I said, wrapping him up close to me again. Letting my magic go free, I cast my teleportation spell again.


It was noticeably darker out in the second spot we landed, touching down on the shortgrass of the Equestrian southeast then the soft, trimmed lawn grass of the Royal Sisters’ garden area. That was to be expected, given we were no longer in the metropolitan centre of Equestria. Dodge Junction to the south was only a fraction the size of Canterlot, with a fraction of the artificial lighting.

Red was quicker to recover this time, perhaps getting slightly used to teleportation after the first ordeal. It still took him a few minutes, but he finally managed to get up. “Where are we?” He asked, examining his surroundings.

“Dodge Junction, famous for its vast cherry orchards,” I explained, swinging my upper limbs around me and motioning to the many cherry trees. “Close to the Badlands, where rumour has it is where the changelings live.”

Red gave me an odd look, before saying, “I can neither confirm nor deny that rumour.”

I snarled. “I don’t care right now!” I shouted, before a sudden migraine overtook me. “Look, I don’t care about that. I just took us across the continent in long-jump teleportation spells that are supposed to be impossible for that length of distance. I’m a little short-tempered right now, so bear with me. Tell your hive to keep an eye on Tirek, make sure he doesn’t suddenly have teleportation skills of his own and shows up here, or that he somehow decides to change course and come our way. Right now, I have a spell to learn, don’t I?”

“Yes, you do,” Red agreed, seemingly perturbed by my outburst. I suppose he may have been thinking back to what I said earlier, about my needing him to watch out for me undergoing any odd personality shifts that may have been fuelled by my intake of power. The last thing I needed was to defeat Tirek, only to fall to my own megalomania.

“We’re putting a lot of trust in you, Starlight Glimmer, telling you about the first principles of how this spell works,” he said. “We think you can reverse-engineer it, and hope you don’t turn it back on us later. So now, please listen carefully.”

I sat down on my haunches. I hoped this wasn’t going to end up being one long, long night.


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EDIT: Wow I dun goofed posting in the wrong topic


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EDIT: Well I dun goofed posting in the wrong topic, part 2