Little Lost Sheep

Granny Smith would not leave her room. She would not speak to her family.

Strangely, she would speak to Rainbow Dash.

“What the fuck?” demanded Dash.

Granny glowered, but she only muttered, “Used ta be better about cussin, girl.”

“Well, you fucked that one up for all of us, didn’t you?” announced Rainbow Dash. “Your family is really upset. OUR family, I should say. Or should I? How screwed up is your head, anyway? I’m dying to find out.”

Granny snorted, contemptuously, and didn’t deign to comment.

“Actually, there’s another thing,” said Dash, sitting in front of Granny and ruffling her wings tensely. “Why me? Maybe it’s just that you’re going to be a total bitch and want to curse out a pegasus? That would make a sick kind of sense if you’re a stupid bigot who only wants to hurt ponies that aren’t like you.”

“How likely do you think it is,” said Granny bitterly, “that ah am who you jes’ said?”

“Well, I don’t know!” yelled Dash. “You were doing so well! You were good with me and Applejack, you love Northern Spy… I don’t get it. And now you’re willing to talk to me, and you won’t talk to Applejack. That pisses me off.”

“That’s why,” said Granny Smith.

“What?”

“You’re angry,” said Granny. “O’course you’re angry. I kin understand that, girl. Go ahead and be angry, ‘cos I’m angry too, and we’ll be angry together. You might’s well be angry for all the good it will do, jes’ like me. I kin believe in that. Don’t give me some soppy pony cryin’ that don’t amount to nothin’, just be angry and cuss me out and be done with it, at least we’ll be honest that way.”

Dash glared. “Applejack is crying in our room and you’re talking about being honest?”

“She kin be honest in that way all she pleases. Don’t mean I want to see it.”

“But what is your problem?” yelled Dash. “You seemed fine with us, and all of a sudden Big Macintosh takes it up the ass a little and you’re all full of attitude. You know, in Weather Patrol we’ve talked about this? We call it the dyke waiver. I thought I’d spare your feelings by not mentioning it, but as long as you’re out there doing it maybe you should know what other ponies think of your behavior.”

“Oh, really?” snapped Granny. “And what, pray tell, is this dike waver? There ain’t even any water nearby less’n you go to the river.”

“It’s a word for lesbian,” grumbled Dash, “that’s not the point. Let me tell you, pegasi try to be patient with you earth ponies and your prejudiced attitudes about sex, but this one’s really special. It seems that if two girl ponies are gay with each other, as long as you don’t hear too much about them licking each other’s clitorises, earth ponies are surprisingly okay with that. Especially when a pegasus mare is involved! We can only assume you ponies think it’s cute or something. There’s also a part where you like turning to pegasi for your perversion needs, like we’re so oversexed that we don’t count and can’t be held responsible for fucking you guys every which way…”

“Mind that language,” said Granny.

“No, listen! You guys give it a pass when mares get together, what we call the dyke waiver. It makes it seem almost like you’re not bigots. But Celestia help you if two stallions get busy! You can stand it with the mares, you like it when there’s a pegasus, but you are shits to your own gay earth pony stallion couples and that is exactly why you’re flipping out. Honest, you say? Admit that’s what you’re doing. Come on!”

Granny tightened her lips. “All that tells me is, I been too dang lax already.” She snorted. “If I was honest, an’ I mean honest with myself, I woulda said I seen this comin’.”

“Now you don’t approve of me and Applejack? I don’t believe this.”

“I blame myself,” said the old mare. “An’ it’s too late, in case you’re wonderin’.”

“So,” tried Dash, “that means you hate Northern Spy now, right? Your own grandchild? Your flesh and blood, not that Applejack and Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh aren’t also your flesh and blood. That little foal who loves and adores you, you hate her now?”

“Kindly don’t be puttin’ words in my mouth,” said Granny. “I got too many of them in there already and don’t need yours. Seemed like I could get through some of my words on you, guess I was wrong about that as well…”

“Do you or don’t you hate Spy?” demanded Rainbow.

“It jes’ makes me sad,” said Granny. “An’ I ain’t got time for sad. I choose angry—so fuck you too.”

Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth. “Oh, no you don’t. That’s your weak point, huh? Can’t stand to feel sad?”

“Ah am all weak point. That’s th’ problem. Ain’t a thing I can do anymore and I’m past foolin’ myself about it. Y’all jes’ carry on as you will do. I’m done here.”

“I’m not,” said Dash. “No way. What’s it gonna take? I’m telling you here and now, you are going to rejoin your family and you’re gonna be happy about it…”

Granny banged her hoof on the floor, and Dash jumped.

“Happy?” said the old mare. “You want happy? I’ll tell you happy. Many years ago, I snuck behind th’ barn with a fine young stallion, Apple Bucket he were, and we got busy…”

“Right, incest is fine, it’s fag ponies you hate. Continue,” said Dash.

“Shut up. Jes’ because he had an appley name don’t mean nothin’. For yer information, us settlers was namin’ all the babies after apples from afore I was born, on account of we had a vision, which is pretty well lost now. An’ Apple Bucket put a foal into me, a good strong earth pony foal like they all was in them days, and around a year later I bore Applesauce, an’ I looked at her and she looked back an’ I knew, I jes’ knew, this one was gonna take it all the way, was gonna grab on and show the town what fer! An’ we were gonna make our earth pony town without no help from nopony especially them dang unicorns and fluttery pegasuses, and we were gonna be th’ rock on which ponydom was founded and th’ best town in all of Equestria. An’ it was out of love.”

Rainbow Dash’s eyes were narrowed. Carefully, she said, “Where is that love now?”

“We had too much,” said Granny Smith. “Or mebbe we had too much courage. My filly Applesauce included. Hell, she led th’ way. Nopony ever tole that girl what to do, m’self included. She kept up the old ways, she laughed off th’ unicorns what come by warning us there were griffin outposts nearby in the Everfree Forest. Ha! We took care o’ them all righty. Maybe that’s why Applesauce took one to bed—they like anythin’ that can fight, I reckon that’s how you ended up with one, ain’t it?”

“Sorta,” admitted Dash. “Gilda always seemed extra interested in ponies for some reason. And always mad, which put the other ponies off, but I could relate to her.”

“Where was this?” demanded Granny.

“Flight camp.”

“Oh,” said Granny, “then you mean pegasuses. Weren’t no ponies there—not PONY ponies.”

“What the hell is your problem? Are you trying to piss me off?”

“Ayep,” said Granny. “Or make ya think. Child, all y’all pegasuses and unicorns come from pony ponies, long ago. Every so often, an earth pony’s magic gits knotted up on itself, and she’ll pop out with a pegasus or unicorn or some sorta deformity…”

“We’re deformities?” yelled Dash.

“Earth ponies taught y’all how to fly. Taught th’ unicorns to focus their magic through them horns. We din’t know how well it’d work, but we loved you and we sought to help y’all live with them useless wings and horns and things, long long ago.” Granny sighed. “Guess we’re good at lovin’. But then, you know my granddaughter Applejack, so you’d a’ noticed that by now.”

“Let me get this straight,” said Rainbow Dash, trembling. “After all the pegasi, all the unicorns have done for you and this town and all of Equestria, you’re telling me you look on us with nothing but pity? For being deformed earth ponies? Really?”

“It would be easier to be charitable if y’all din’t puff yourself up to th’ skies every time we turn around!” snapped Granny. “Cloudsdale, Canterlot… Did you know there ain’t no earth ponies in the Fillydelphia town offices at all? We know it. Pegasuses for cops, unicorns runnin’ the place, there ain’t a thing an earth pony can do for that town that somethin’ fancier can’t do better an’ quicker. They don’t care, they jes’ want their streets swept on th’ fly from pegasus wings, and they want their buildings planned by unicorn fizzin’ minds and enchanted to glow at night without makin’ a simple fire.”

“But…”

“It would be nice,” said Granny Smith, “if we could still pity you poor souls. Y’all beat your plowshares into swords, and we’re resented when we cross you.”

Dash was speechless. She stammered, and Granny watched her coolly. Finally, Rainbow said, “I do not resent your granddaughter. Or anypony else in your family. I admit I resent the fuck out of you right now. So it’s all about earth ponies being taken over, you feel oppressed? Mind explaining why in Celestia’s name would you turn against your family, who are totally earth ponies? You’re supposed to be standing by them no matter what, not hurting their feelings and making them cry!”

“They won’t stand with what I believe in,” said Granny, “an’ I’m too old to change. Leave me alone, and I’ll leave them alone, and they can carry on however they like, long’s I don’t have to see it none.”

“Not good enough!” yelled Dash. “They’re used to having your support and affection! To turn away from them now…”

“No!” said Granny. “No, ma’am. I’m done. I was gonna carry on th’ Apple line. My grandma told me stories of the mares an’ stallions workin’ the farm. We founded Ponyville with Apples, our line stretched all over Equestria, and I thought I would be part of it. And look at me now! My baby is dead, crushed under a falling barn. Her children, my grandchildren, are crazy. They’ll git Apple Bloom as sure as shit, this whole town’s gone to th’ Diamond Dogs. It will dry up and blow away, no proper earth pony foals and the grown-up ponies get citified and run off to Fillydelphia and rut like animals in th’ streets with anything that got four legs. I cain’t watch. We used to be a community, girl. We were an earth pony community!”

“Aren’t you forgetting Northern Spy your great-granddaughter?” said Dash, fighting to stay reasonable, though her voice shook with suppressed rage. She could feel the anger that Granny’d said she identified with, but now it was walling her off, trying to force her to say things too close to the bone, things she normally wouldn’t say.

She wasn’t the only one with that problem.

“Born out of a pegasus and fed on magic milk from birth?” said Granny Smith, and spat on the floor. “Maybe she’ll end up dating a pig. Or a phoenix chick. We’re earth ponies! Well… I was an earth pony.”

“I like the ‘was’,” hissed Dash. “I could arrange that, maybe, if I kicked you hard enough.”

“Do it,” said Granny, and Dash sagged.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Granny’s eyes were dry but glittered a little too sharply. “It’s Big Macintosh, ya see. He’s a simple soul, like the ponies of old. He’s like a big colt, really. He was gonna carry on th’ old ways, he would never get misled or nothin’. He’d plow all day, eat his dinner, go to bed. I believed in him, girl. It was fine that he took his own sweet time about everythin’, ‘cos he ain’t too bright and I trusted him to carry on the earth pony way, when Applejack’s a lil’ bit too much like her mother, too wild, but Big Macint…”

Granny Smith blinked, and gulped, and it took her a moment to continue.

“If this town has swayed him too, everything’s lost,” she said, bleakly.

Rainbow Dash pulled herself together, trying to seize the opportunity, the moment of vulnerability. “I can’t let you be prejudiced! In case it escapes your attention, your family cares a great deal about you…”

Her voice quavered. Granny heard it, and tensed, freezing up, her jaw tight, refusing to go further with those feelings, and she glared through slitted eyes as she spoke.

“Not enough to listen to a dang word I say, ob’v’sly. You go fly like the birds now, girl. I done outlived my time and you will not make me love it. And don’t you go looking stubborn as if you think you’re gonna get around me. I bore Applesauce, girl, an’ maybe that was where it all started to go wrong. I brought true stubbornness into th’ world. If I wait good and hard, I can bring my own stubbornness right back out of it. Go on! Git!”

Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth, whirled and left, unable to get past the old lady’s rage with her own. It was a towering rage, though, and Dash sheltered in it, feeling about a thousand feet tall and murderous. Her hooves banged the old floor of the farmhouse as she left Granny’s room, hearing the door close behind her, stomping down the hall and downstairs as if her rage would shield her from everything and last forever.

It lasted right up until she walked back into the dining room where the family huddled. Big Macintosh looked every bit the overgrown baby Granny had said he was. Apple Bloom sat some distance from the other two, obviously not willing to approach Big Macintosh. They wouldn’t look at each other, but their eyes pleaded with her.

But what turned Rainbow Dash’s fire to cold miserable rain was the sight of her beloved Applejack, stepping forward, lower lip quivering, eyes filled with yearning, desperate to be told that it was going to be okay.

Rainbow just stood there, frozen. For all her righteous anger, she wasn’t able to tell Applejack a single reassuring thing.

“Uh,” said Applejack. “Um… ya settle her down, a little?”

Rainbow’s legs trembled. Her face twisted—and the next thing she knew, she was bawling her eyes out, and Applejack was holding her tightly.

“Not so much, huh?” sighed Applejack. Apple Bloom glowered, and trotted off to the living room.

“I’m sorry!” sobbed Rainbow, shaking. “I don’t know what else I can do! She’s really stubborn!” She saw Big Macintosh sulking, and her heart sank further, and she tried to fold her wings tightly to hide them, feeling every bit the monstrosity Granny suggested she was.

“But what do she even want from us, Dashie?”

“She wants this to be an earth pony town,” sniffled Dash, and Applejack’s eyes widened.

“But this ain’t just a earth pony town! It’s Ponyville, it’s a pony town! That’s why it’s called Ponyville!”

“Yeah, well,” said Dash, “apparently pegasi and unicorns aren’t ponies after all. Oops.”

Applejack squished her in a fiercer hug. “Don’t be talkin’ that way! We will jes’ have to try somethin’ else.” Her eyes gazed bleakly into space. “Maybe we can sneak Granny some salt? Maybe if she gits real drunk or somethin’…”

“Maybe I should have bucked her in the head like she wanted,” said Dash bitterly.

Applejack shuddered—Rainbow felt it, could tell her words had shaken the country pony, and instantly regretted saying them.

“How am ah gonna fix this,” said Applejack softly. She’d begun to tremble, and couldn’t stop. “How am ah gonna fix this, how am ah gonna fix this.” She glanced at Big Macintosh, but he only gazed back mutely, as always looking to her for the answer. “How am ah…”

“A pegasus is here!” called Apple Bloom, from the living room.

Rainbow tensed. “If it’s Fluttershy, tell her she’s too late!” she said, and Big Macintosh jolted, a wounded look in his eye.

“Ain’t Fluttershy or I’d ‘a said Fluttershy, wouldn’t I?” called Apple Bloom. “It’s Miss Derpy! You know, th’ mail-mare? She wants to talk to Rainbow Dash. If you’re not too busy being not any help at all!”

Applejack’s and Dash’s heads shot bolt upright, and they stared at each other.

“Oh sweet Celestia, what could she want?” stammered Dash.

Applejack’s stricken gaze turned to a weary, bleak one. “Is that what y’call a hypothetical question?”

Dash winced. “Yeah, it kind of is. What am I even supposed to tell her? Twilight doesn’t want her, that was abundantly obvious.”

Applejack hugged again. “Do what ya can. Sometimes helpin’ another pony gives you kind of a lift.” She didn’t mention that she’d been in need of help and compassion herself, for there was no point—again she’d ended up giving the support, with none for her.

“Do you really think so?”

“I know it,” said Applejack, pulling together every shred of spirit she had to offer, and putting it into the conviction in her voice. It felt like overstraining her beleaguered soul, but Dash brightened a little.

They joined Apple Bloom in the living room, along with a curiously… toasted Derpy Hooves, who cried, “Hello, Rainbow Dash!”

“Hi, Derpy,” said Rainbow, sniffing the air curiously. “Hm. That’s weird, I didn’t realize there was such a big storm around.”

“I’m sorry for interrupting a nice family dinner,” said Derpy. “How come your eyes are wet, Rainbow Dash? Are you sad?”

“That’s okay, Derpy, no concern of yours…”

“Yep,” said Applejack quickly. Rainbow looked at her and saw that her legs were still trembling, her attitude still desperately tense. She continued, “Ain’t nothin’ going on here to concern you, we are all jes’ fine. Right?”

Apple Bloom pouted, and nodded. “Sure we are.”

Rainbow Dash could tell when Applejack was in a ‘save face’ mode, and she rallied, wiping her eyes with the back of a hoof rapidly. “Right! So what can I do ya for, Derpster? But first, maybe we should go deal with that thunderhead?”

Derpy blinked puzzledly.

“You know,” explained Rainbow Dash, “the big thunder cloud? Like, when a pegasus flies somewhere and there’s a thunder cloud SOOOO big that it hits her with lightning when she’s just minding her own business? It’s nice of you not to mind it but part of our job in Weather Patrol is to break that stuff up before it gets out of hoof.”

“Oh!” squeaked Derpy, and bounced. “Vagina zaps! That is kind of what I wanted to talk to you about, Rainbow Dash!”

Rainbow’s jaw dropped. “Vagina what?” she said, while Apple Bloom rolled her eyes at still more pony sex business and trotted to her room in a huff.

“I think I need to have sex with Dusk Shine, I mean Twilight Sparkle, because vagina zaps aren’t enough for me anymore! I do them and do them and do them,” said Derpy, “but I still want more.”

“Vag…” began Dash, and gasped. “No! Derpy, that’s bad for you! I know it gives you a big jolt and it doesn’t seem like it hurts you. I’ve even got off on the ol’ coochie charger myself, I’m not judging you. But it’s not okay to go doing that a lot, it will mess with your nervous system and make it twitchy and… oh.”

Rainbow trailed off, looking dismayed. Applejack said, “What she been doing with herself, honey? Ah don’t understand.”

Rainbow glanced at her earth pony mate. “You wouldn’t be able to do it. Actually, you’d really hate it. I’m almost afraid to tell you.”

Applejack bridled. “Oh yeah?”

“She’s been kicking thunderclouds. Derpy’s ‘vagina zaps’ mean that she’s getting struck by lightning bolts, on purpose, while flying. That’s why she smells a little crispy. The jolt can get us pegasuses off if we’re extra horny. How many times, Derpy? How many times did you do it today?”

“T… tw…” stammered Derpy, while Applejack paled, for she was frightened of thunderstorms and couldn’t imagine getting struck by lightning as a sexual thrill.

“Twice?” demanded Dash. “In one day? Not good, Derpy!”

Derpy Hooves blushed, shaking her head, backing away from the irate Dash. “Tw… t…”

“Twilight?” guessed Dash. “You hope Twilight will help you not need to do that anymore?”

Derpy scraped the floor with a forehoof, blushing brightly.

“…twelve.”

Applejack whimpered, staring at Derpy in horror. Rainbow Dash’s jaw dropped, and then she’d rushed forward and was hugging Derpy with fierce determination. Derpy beamed, then squawked “Ow!” for Dash had clocked her on the head with a hoof, only to continue hugging.

“We’re gonna get you help, Derpy,” swore Dash. “We’re gonna get you LAID properly if it’s the last thing I do. Even if Twilight isn’t exactly a big wing fan—but you have to stop with the zaps!” She blinked. “Speaking of laid, we’ve still got Gilda on ice in my place, right? Applejack, I know it’s asking a lot but I need to be focussing on Derpy right now. She needs a pegasus wingmare to guide her through this. Do you think you could help out Gilda again, say tomorrow?”

Applejack nodded. “I reckon!”

Dash turned back to Derpy.

“You—come with me.”


“We’re actually quite busy right at the moment, Rainbow,” said Twilight, tending not to look at Rainbow’s gray companion.

“Well, it shouldn’t take you all that long,” wheedled Dash. “Be a sport. Heck, she’s kind of saving herself for you, it might feel awfully good, and then you can go and do whatever it is you’re so busy with. Think of it as a coffee break only instead of coffee it’s pegasus pussy?”

Twilight’s ears went back. “Ah. That again? Seriously?”

“Why, do you have a problem with pegasus pussy?” countered Dash. “I know we never spent much time playing. Now you have me wondering, do you just not like pegasi for some reason?”

“I’m working!” snapped Twilight, flicking her tail.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to be called Dusk Shine,” offered Derpy, “because maybe you don’t want to be called Dusk Shine, but is it okay if I’m thinking it?”

Twilight made a frustrated noise. “Why me?” she lamented, to the empty air.

Derpy seemed totally undaunted. “Because I saw you having sex with your nice marefriend and the penis you make looks like it would feel good…”

“Oh!” exclaimed Twilight. “It’s that, is it? Well, I can make all this very simple.” She turned to face Derpy Hooves, though meeting her eyes was disconcerting—Derpy’s gaze went all the more sideways when she was confronted. “So, you watched me using the magic bit, Miss Hooves?”

“Yes, on your pretty marefriend. Though I think I am pretty too. My mama told me I am a pretty pony, and…”

Twilight cut her off. “Well, do you know where that particular bit is right now?”

Derpy blinked, unable to answer. Rainbow Dash’s gaze darkened. “She can’t see it, genius, how’s she supposed to tell you that? Where is it, then?”

Twilight gave them a tight grin. “It’s gone. That bit isn’t there anymore. Poof!”

“Trixie thinks it was more a kaboom, really,” suggested Trixie Lulamoon. She’d seemed pleased at Derpy calling her pretty and nice, but showed no sign of encouraging her further.

Dash laid her ears back. “What do you mean, kaboom? I’ve seen them go off in a shower of sparks. I thought these ones didn’t blow up. Though, uh, something I tried to do once made mine blow up. But I wouldn’t call that a kaboom, more like a fizzy sparkler!”

“This was more of a kaboom,” said Trixie firmly. “It nearly set Girl’s mane on fire. Girl! Was it not an impressive kaboom? Come over here and speak!”

Rarity was standing to the side, looking tense, but lifted her head when called. Rainbow glanced at her and did a double-take: her unnatural standing position wasn’t an accident. They’d tied her hind legs together, and something was balanced on her pristine alabaster rump, high on her croup. It seemed an innocuous lump of vegetable matter, but Rarity glanced back at it with alarm, and then began to approach them with extreme trepidation, taking steps with her forelegs and then inching her tied rear hooves forward with tiny, nervous hops.

Derpy gasped. “Oh, my! Let me help you, Miss Rarity.” She darted forward, flapping agitatedly, peering at Rarity’s hind legs, and then blinked at the object balancing on Rarity’s croup. “What’s that?”

“Don’t…” began Rarity, but Derpy had already seized it in her teeth, by way of transferring it to the floor. It did reach the floor, but more abruptly than she intended. The gray pegasus squeaked and spat it out, crying, “Hot! hot!”

“What are you guys doing?” demanded Rainbow Dash. “Easy, Derpy. What is it?”

“Ginger root,” said Rarity, “and that does not count, surely, Mistress! Please, don’t count that, I implore you!”

Trixie glowered. “You should be able to handle the situation! Very well.”

“Ginger root?” said Dash. “But what are you doing? How is it kinky to balance a ginger root on your croup?”

“If I allowed it to drop to the floor,” said Rarity, “Mistress would shove it up my…”

“…for two hours!” proclaimed Trixie.

Rarity’s eyes flew wide, and her ears laid back hard. “But Mistress, you said one hour! You did!”

“Penalty for allowing the gray pegasus to remove it,” replied Trixie. “Don’t you dare to object, you filthy beast.”

This upset Derpy, who still champed her teeth like her mouth was sore. She turned on Trixie in dismay, arguing, “Miss Rarity isn’t filthy! She is a nice pony, and why would you put a thing like that up her butt? Or any place? That would hurt really bad, I think!”

Twilight squeezed her eyes shut. “Rainbow, would you please remove your pegasus friend and yourself? We’re working, and I already explained that we don’t have that bit anymore. It did actually explode, and it’s gone.”

“That’s why we had to make a few more, and study them,” explained Trixie, but she shut up quickly at a fierce glare from Twilight.

“Seems like you’re mixing work with pleasure!” complained Rainbow Dash.

“But this is sad,” fretted Derpy. “Miss Rarity’s legs don’t look comfortable and how can they be getting pleasure from that unless they’re mean and cruel ponies…”

Rarity looked stricken. “Oh, heavens. Derpy, darling, it is rather difficult to explain to you, but I assure you I am perfectly safe, though appearances and conditions may suggest otherwise.”

“Is she going to keep coming around here and bugging me?” demanded Twilight. “Thanks, Trixie, for tipping them off that we’re re-creating the bit. I ought to stuff that ginger up YOUR butt.”

Trixie smirked. “Mmm. The burn. And one takes on such a spirited posture—Trixie suspects Mistress just wants to see that.”

“Which one is Mistress?” asked Derpy. “Trixie was Mistress but now Trixie’s calling Twilight Mistress! But if Twilight likes being called things maybe that’s good because when she makes the bit again, she might let me call her Dusk Shine…”

Dash face-hooved. “This is a weird situation for you to walk into, Derpy, and that’s me saying it. We’re not going to give up, guys! My friend Derpy needs some attention and it shouldn’t be so much trouble. Have a heart, Twilight, she wants you because me and Applejack scare her. You know how well hung Applejack is, and me since having Spy. Why is this so difficult when the three of you are in and out of each other’s vaginas all day long?”

“This is all because your friend needs a stallion and has fixated on me for having a small penis?” demanded Twilight.

Rainbow Dash nodded emphatically. “I think she’s a virgin. Unless you count lightning bolts—and she’s got to stay away from those. Maybe once she’s had you, we can coax her to try other ponies? She’s kind of stubborn sometimes though. Come on, at least let us start her off right, with something she wants?”

Twilight’s head was high. Rarity’s ears went back, looking at how commanding and dominant her Mistress’s Mistress was, and glanced with concern at Derpy. Twilight’s attitude was condescending, even contemptuous, and on the one hoof it seemed unkind to behave that way toward a mentally challenged pegasus pony, while on the other hoof that attitude seemed only to be making Derpy more submissive and compliant—and Rarity’s nose told her that this submissiveness wasn’t just a matter of going away obediently. It was making Derpy more horny by the second, just looking at her ‘Dusk Shine’ being so stallion-ish.

“Rarity!” snapped Twilight, and Rarity twitched so hard she’d have dropped the ginger lump if it were still balanced on her croup.

“Yes, Mistress?” she said, as a shadow moved outside.

“Take this pegasus away and do a total make-over. Make her pretty and then take her to Fillydelphia and find her a stallion with a small penis that’s not me! That’s your new punishment, combined with the increase of the ginger threat to two hours. We can get back into the hoof-tying and balancing punishment when you return!”

Rarity stared at Twilight in shock. “She is wall-eyed and clumsy, darling, and her mane is singed and disheveled. Fillydelphia is a very sophisticated town! How can you expect me to do this? And so suddenly!”

“Girl!” snapped Trixie. “Does Trixie need to teach you chain of command again? With a whip, or the ginger lump? Trixie is not sure she heard you correctly!”

Facing both Twilight and Trixie’s dominant stares, Rarity caved.

“Yes, Mistress. Can Girl bring the bit you’ve just re-made in case she finds a mare who would make a suitable partner for Miss Derpy?”

Rainbow’s jaw dropped. “You said the bit was gone! So you’ve already re-made one of them and you were hiding it?”

Twilight’s expression was filled with exasperation. “I said THAT bit was gone. Thanks, Rarity. Yes, take it, now that you’ve told them that and blown my cover completely…”

“You guys are something else,” grumbled Rainbow Dash. “How many more do you intend to make?”

“I would say none,” came a stern voice.

Princess Celestia was looking in the door, and did not look pleased. “Twilight, I regret this very much, but I must instruct you to turn in all the magic bits. You’ve never satisfactorily demonstrated the provenance of their power source, and I’ve been told they are now exploding with dangerous force. I’m sorry, but play-time is over. Please begin by relinquishing yours, and we will go from there.”

Twilight looked up at her, aghast. “No! I mean, let me explain!”

“It’s for your own protection, Twilight, and the safety of the other ponies.”

“Mine doesn’t explode, even a little!” protested Rainbow Dash, backing away anxiously.

Twilight Sparkle gritted her teeth. “Lyra told you that, didn’t she?”

Princess Celestia frowned. “Though it is futile to conceal my source, I would have you honor my wish that you not resent her for it. They are only concerned for your well-being.”

Trixie snorted, her eyes furious, and Twilight took a deep breath and spoke in a barely controlled voice. “Did she tell you we were clamping it in a vise, to nearly the yield point of the base metal?”

That rocked Celestia, who replied, “No, Twilight, she did not.” She considered this, and added, “Still, I don’t see how that changes things appreciably. You must see that these things have brought disorder and distress to Ponyville. We can talk about how you may continue to study them under controlled conditions, in Canterlot. First we will gather the artifacts, and I command you to cease their manufacture, if for no other reason than this: to gather multiple powerful magic artifacts poses dangers of which you may be unaware. The more of these you make, the greater the potential risk, Twilight.”

Twilight Sparkle was glaring. “It’s our risk to run.”

“But if you do not know all possible outcomes?”

“You never know all possible outcomes, unless you’re not really doing science,” said Twilight. “What if I say no? What if I just refuse?” Behind her, Trixie bared her teeth in satisfaction.

Princess Celestia’s face twisted in woe. “Please do not defy me, Twilight. I assume I can take steps to gather the other magic bits? My sister was also defiant, but I have confiscated her bit and if I do not trust a full alicorn Princess with the things, you cannot expect me to trust them to simple mortal ponies.”

“Uh, yeah,” said Rainbow Dash, going pale. “Mine’s totally fine, Applejack’s that is, I guess you could come get it at Sweet Apple Acres. Unless we lost it, maybe we forgot where it is, that counts as confiscating it, right? We can search Sweet Apple Acres. It certainly wouldn’t be at my cloud place, I don’t even stay there anymore. Uh, come on, Derpy! We have to go, uh, search Sweet Apple Acres. You can also search Fluttershy’s, I know Twilight gave her a magic bit, and I’m sure they don’t use theirs!”

Princess Celestia didn’t notice Dash’s, and Derpy’s, hasty and flapping departure. Her gaze was locked with Twilight’s, and Twilight Sparkle was not backing down.

“Mine goes last,” said Twilight, finally.

“Twilight, I wish you would let me remove yours first, since I am already here…”

“No!” snapped Twilight. “Mine goes last. You have to pick up all the other ones first, and then come back for it. Do you know why, Princess?”

“Why, Twilight?”

“I’m gonna solve the power source issue before you even get back here for it,” said Twilight Sparkle, flatly. “And then you’re going to give them all back—and apologize.”

Celestia’s jaw dropped, and then her gaze dropped. She’d gone red in the face, and could no longer look at her once-student.

“I think I’d better go visit Fluttershy,” she said, “whom I don’t believe would object to me trying to protect her!”

She departed, then, striding out of Twilight’s front door and taking to the air with a storm of powerful alicorn wings, bound for Fluttershy’s cottage.

Twilight sagged, and Trixie embraced her, squealing in glee. “You were wonderful, Mistress! Wonderful! We showed her!”

“Trixie.”

“Yes, Mistress?”

“Make coffee, lots of it. I’m not sure I’m going to get to sleep for a while…”