Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, January 17, 2015

MLP:FIM: The Dark Stallion - Episode 08

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presents

The Dark Stallion

Episode 08: To The Grand Galloping Gala, Night Of Wonder!

**********

Last time on My Little Pony:

After much study and research, Xander finally discovered the location of the Amulet of Purity. At first, he refused the assistance of Twilight and the others, but later reluctantly accepted their help after they saved his life. Together, they scaled Union Tower, braving the trials of fire, ice, and water, until they reached the top. Through the magic of the Elements of Harmony, they uncovered and obtained the fabled amulet. The Shadow Clan later appeared to seize the amulet for themselves, but were defeated by the combined strength of our heroes. However, this does not appear to be the Shadow Clan’s last stand. Will the Shadow Clan strike again to claim the amulet and its hidden powers?

**********

Twilight Sparkle, with Spike riding on her back, rushed through the doors of Sugarcube Corner where the rest of her friends were hanging out.

“Girls, great news!”

The other ponies turned their attention to her.

Rarity finished taking a sip of her tea. “What is it, dear?”

“A letter from Princess Celestia," Twilight replied upon approaching them.

Spike pulled from behind his back a scroll with a royal seal upon it. He promptly unfurled it, and, with a clear of his throat, began to read.

“Hear ye, hear ye! The royal princesses Celestia and Luna of Equestria cordially extend an invitation to Twilight Sparkle and her friends to the Grand Galloping Gala, to be held in the capital city of Canterlot by week’s end.”

Most other ponies would have been flipping somersaults upon receiving such an announcement. Not so Twilight and her friends. They might as well have received an invitation to a dentist appointment.

Applejack scratched her chin. “Golly, has it been a year already?”

“Seems like the Grand Galloping Gala was only yesterday,” Pinkie Pie added.

Rarity groaned. “Don’t remind me. That was a disaster most of us would rather forget!”

****
Applejack pushed a cart with a giant five-layer apple cake into the middle of the ballroom.

“Okay, all you high class ponies,” she announced. “Here’s a high-balloon apple cake for all your hoity-toity taste buds!”

“Stage dive!” Pinkie Pie yelled as she leapt off the ballroom stage and into the cake, splattering it over everyone within distance.

~~~~

“Afraid to get dirty?” Rarity screamed at Prince Blueblood before shaking off all the cake frosting from her as a dog would shake off mud.

~~~~

Rainbow Dash zipped under the falling unicorn statue, catching it before it could crash onto the floor. The weight, however, forced her to lose balance and crash into a series of pillars, all which fell like a line of dominos.

~~~~

The doors to the ballroom burst open as a stampede of animals rushed in, Flutershy chasing after them.

“You’re going to LOVE ME!” she screamed.

~~~~

With the other ponies having recalled the events from the last Gala, the invitation sounded less like that for a dentist appointment and more like that for an a root canal.

“Are you sure that’s an invitation?” Rainbow Dash asked. “Or is it a restraining order?”

Twilight giggled. “Oh come on, girls. I know our first time wasn’t the most ideal, but who knows? Maybe this time will be better. Besides, Princess Celestia said herself that she invited us last time because she knew we would make it all the more exciting, and that’s probably why she invited us again this year too.”

“Let’s just hope we don’t make it too exciting this year,” Fluttershy replied.

Spike gave a large belch. From his dragon breath appeared a handful of tickets.

“Looks like we finally have the tickets,” he said. Upon counting them, he raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Um, all 12 of them?”

“12?” everyone else exclaimed.

“Are you sure she didn’t accidently send too many?” Twilight asked.

“Well I reckon it’s better than sending too little,” Applejack replied. “Remember last time when she sent only two?”

“Don’t remind me,” Twilight said with a groan.

Spike re-read the letter, this time noticing a post script.

“P.S.: New Gala standards now require all guests to bring along an escort.” He turned to Twilight. “What’s an escort?”

“Oh, it’s just a fancy way of saying a date,” Twilight replied nonchalantly before realizing what she had just said.

“A date?” She and the others exclaimed, their eyes wide in shock.

“You mean to tell me that every girl pony has to bring along a guy pony and visa-versey?” Applejack asked.

Pinkie Pie grinned. “If you swing that way, then yes.”

Applejack raised a stink eye. “Now what the hay is that supposed to mean?”

Pinkie thought for a moment, unsure herself. “Don’t know. I never understood what that meant either.”

“But wherever are we going to find colts at such short notice?” Rarity asked.

Rainbow Dash laughed, reclining back in self-confidence. “Well, that’s easy for me. I’ll just bring along Sky Wind.”

“Who do you think I should bring along?” Fluttershy asked. “I don’t know that many colts.”

“Of course you do,” Dash replied. “What about Ninja Star?”

Fluttershy blushed bright red. “Oh! Um, well, I never really thought about him that way—”

Rainbow elbowed her playfully. “Why wouldn’t you? You two have been growing close to each other ever since you started training with him."

Fluttershy blushed an even brighter shade of red.

“And, of course, Twilight here is going to invite her colt friend, Xander,” Dash announced.

Twilight felt a cold shock upon hearing that. “What? Xander’s not my colt friend.”

“Well, you are going to ask him, right?”

“Oh please! What makes you think I ever would?”

“Well, who else are you going to ask?”

Twilight hesitated for a moment as she thought. “Well—there’s—um—no—and there’s—uh—I could ask—no, wait—uh—”

The other ponies and Spike looked at Twilight intensely, knowing very well Twilight was going to ask Xander, regardless of whether or not she was willing to admit it.

Twilight groaned. “All right. I’ll ask him. But only because I can’t think of anypony else. I’m sure he’ll be able to come.”

****

“What do you mean you’re not able to come?!” Twilight exclaimed. She was inside Xander’s room as he was busy packing his belongings in a suitcase.

“Like I said,” Xander said, searching through his drawers and pulling out his clothes to pack. “I’m leaving first thing tomorrow morning on the next train out of town.”

“But—but—why leave?” Twilight asked.

“I’ve done all I needed to do here in Ponyville,” Xander replied. “I’ve finished my research and found the Amulet of Purity. There’s nothing left for me to do here.”

“But where are you going to go?” Twilight asked.

Xander shut his suitcase, thinking intensely. “I’m not sure myself. I can’t go home. There’s no home for me to go to.”

Twilight scoffed. “So you’re just going to leave without knowing where you’re even going?”

Xander picked up his suitcase and set it on the edge of his bed. “That’s the way I usually roll. Though this time, it seems like I have nothing left, aside for perhaps tracking down my father's killer.”

He took the Amulet from out of his pocket and inspected it. “I already found what I needed to find. I just never thought of what I would do after I found it. Heck, I don’t even know what it's good for. I would stay and conduct further research on the matter, but as far as I can tell, I already researched everything I could about it, what little there is. And so far, I have nothing.”

Twilight thought for a moment. Her eyes shot wide open as she thought of an idea. “That Amulet, it’s connected to the Elements of Harmony, correct?”

Xander pocketed the Amulet before turning to Twilight. “Of what we’ve seen so far, it is.”

“Perhaps Princess Celestia knows something about it,” Twilight asked.

Xander rested his chin upon his hoof, thinking. “That’s a possibility. But how am I supposed to have an audience with the highest pony in the land?”

Twilight chuckled. “Well, it just so happens that you’re looking at her most faithful student.”

Xander gasped. “You’ll make a connection for me to meet the Princess?”

Twilight pulled out her two Gala tickets. “She’ll be at the Gala later this week. I have the tickets right here.”

Xander became less enthused as he realized what Twilight was suggesting. “And you expect me to come with you?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes.”

“And you’re not going to introduce me to her in any other way?” Xander asked.

Twilight giggled mischievously. “Yes.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Well, I guess I’m going to the Gala then.”

Twilight squealed in glee.

****

The end of the week fast approached, and the ponies met outside Rarity’s Carousel Boutique. The six girls were pampered and prepped, dressed in the outfits they wore last year. Rarity was planning on making new dresses for them this year, but decided not to. Why improve on something that was already perfect to begin with?

As was expected, Twilight brought along Xander, Fluttershy brought along Ninja Star, and Rainbow Dash brought along Sky Wind. The three colts all wore suits that Rarity had made especially for them. Both Xander and Sky Wind wore traditional suits custom-tailored to their personalities, while Ninja Star wore something much more oriental.

The other girls had brought along their escorts, too. Applejack invited her brother, Big Macintosh. This did not embarrass her one bit, considering that the invitation didn’t specify that their escorts couldn’t be related. Besides, it reminded her of the time Big Mac escorted her to prom.

Pinkie Pie brought along her pet alligator, Gummy, much to the protests of the other girls. Pinkie argued that the invitation didn’t specify that the escort had to be a pony. Besides, Pinkie Pie insisted that Gummy looked good in a Top Hat.

As for Rarity, though she had tried desperately to find a colt, she could not find a male escort at such short notice, forcing her to take Spike along with her, much to his enjoyment.

As they did last time, Twilight transformed an apple into a carriage to carry them to the Gala.

Xander circled the wagon, admiring Twilight’s handiwork. “An apple into a carriage? Novice, but impressive nonetheless, if I may say so."

His comments made Twilight blush.

“But it doesn’t appear big enough to carry us all. And besides, what’s going to pull it?”

With that, the six mares giggled in unison as they gazed at the colts. It seemed as though the answer was pretty obvious.

The next thing they knew, Xander, Sky Wind, Ninja Star, and Big Mac were pulling the wagon. Spike and Gummy sat up front holding the reins, while the mares rode inside chatting amongst themselves. Big Mac had no problem pulling the wagon for his sister. Neither did Ninja Star or Sky Wind if it meant pleasing Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash respectively. Xander, on the other hand, was less than enthused, grumbling and muttering under his breath as he pulled the carriage to Canterlot.

The sun had completely set once they arrived to the castle, which looked as beautiful as it did the previous gala. There, all the ponies were dressed in their finest evening attire as they unloaded from their wagons.

When they had finally parked their carriage and made their way to the entrance, everyone went their separate ways. Xander went with Twilight to find Princess Celestia, Sky Wind went with Rainbow Dash so she could introduce him to the Wonderbolts, and everyone else went off to do whatever.

****

In the main hall, Princess Celestia was standing with Luna atop the mezzanine as she did last year, greeting the guests as they approached. Twilight and Xander entered the hall. Twilight quickly galloped toward her mentor with Xander following behind her.

“Princess Celestia,” Twilight exclaimed.

The Princess smiled down upon her faithful student as she approached. “Twilight Sparkle. It’s such a pleasure to have my star pupil here at the Gala once more.” She then gazed at Xander. “And who is this fine young colt you have with you?”

“This is Xander, your majesty,” Twilight motioned to Xander. “He’s been eager to meet you tonight.”

Xander stepped forward and gave a gentle bow. “It is an honor, your majesty.”

“Xander, eh?” Celestia said. “I’ve heard much about you from the Headmaster of Gringhorn’s Magical Academy. It’s only fitting that his finest student would be dating mine.”

Both Xander and Twilight gasped and blushed.

“Umm, actually, your majesty, we’re not dating,” Twilight said, feeling slightly embarrassed. “He’s just my escort for tonight. And as I said, he’s been eager to meet you.”

Celestia gave a warm chuckle. “Well, I would love nothing more than to spend time with you two tonight. However, if you recall, Twilight, I will be mostly busy greeting the guests as they arrive. I do not wish for you to be bored like last time. So if you’d prefer, you and Xander may go off on your own for now, and when I am finished, I will meet up with you both later.”

“Actually, your majesty,” Xander said, slightly protesting, “I was meaning to—”

“We will be honored, your majesty,” Twilight interrupted as she took Xander by the hoof and dragged him down the stairs. “Come, Xander.”

“Hey, wait!” Xander protested.

“Have a good evening you two,” Celestia said as they left.

****

Rainbow Dash and Sky Wind were wandering the castle in search of the Wonderbolts.

“So you know the Wonderbolts?” Sky Wind asked.

“Are you kidding?” Rainbow Dash asked. “We go way back. I once saved their necks back at the Cloud Games, which I happened to win first place, by the way.”

“Did you see them last year?” Sky Wind asked.

“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash, “But it wasn’t what I had expected. But maybe this year will be much better.”

“Hey! Is that who I think it is?” a voice exclaimed from behind them.

The two turned to see Spitfire and Soarin’ approach them. Rainbow Dash nearly had a heart attack, giving off a slight squeal, as she saw her role models approach her.

“You’re that girl from last time,” Spitfire said. “The one who saved us, twice in a row. Rainbow Dash, isn’t it?”

Rainbow Dash tried desperately to compose herself. “Yup, that’s me alright.”

Spitfire gazed at Sky Wind. “And I see you have a friend here.”

Sky Wind blushed as he gave a little wave. “Yeah, my name’s Sky Wind.”

“Sky Wind, Rainbow Dash, care to join us?” Spitfire asked.

Rainbow Dash nearly died as she nodded in response. The four walked off to the dining area. Dash clasped Sky Wind’s hoof in a short squeal.

****

Twilight made her way down one of the palace hallways with Xander in tow.

“You two seem to be in a hurry,” a voice from behind them said.

The two ponies turned to see a royal guard approaching them. At first, Twilight could not recognize him—that is, until he removed his helmet.

“Shining Armor,” she exclaimed in a gasp as she rushed forward to embrace her big brother.

The captain of the royal guard accepted and embraced his little sister in his arms. “Twily! It’s been so long. I hear you moved to Ponyville for some long distance education. I take it Celestia has been keeping you busy with your studies. That’s why you haven’t returned to Canterlot.”

Twilight broke her embrace and nodded. “Yes, and I take it Celestia has kept you busy guarding the castle, so you’ve been too busy to visit in Ponyville.”

Shining Armor responded with a nod and a laugh. “Yeah, the duty of a royal captain of the guard is never done. It’s even keeping me from enjoying the evening, which I was really hoping to spend with a special somepony—that is, if she was here tonight.”

He glanced over Twilight’s shoulder and noticed Xander, who had remained silent during their moment. “But I see you have a special somepony of your own here.”

Twilight shifted her gazed between her big brother and her escort. “Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Shining Armor, this is—”

“Xander,” Shining Armor finished.

Xander gave a salute. “Shining Armor, sir!”

Twilight blinked in confusion. “You two know each other?”

Shining Armor nodded. “From the academy. He was a freshmen during my senior year in Gringhorn’s. I was even a supervisor during some of his training and practice missions. He was one of the finest students I’ve seen at the academy.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “Oh, I really wouldn’t boast—”

“I hear you even graduated with top honors in your class. That is certainly something to boast about. I barely even passed by with a passing grade point average—yet here I am, captain of the royal guard. I’d figure that only the finest colt would be dating my little sister.”

Twilight and Xander both simultaneously blushed and replied with, “we’re not dating,” only to further blush when they realized they said the same thing.

“Anyway,” Twilight said, “I would really like to introduce you to my other friends.”

“And I would love to meet them,” Shining Armor interrupted, “but I’m afraid I have to return to my post. I normally make most of my rounds on the battlements. That’s why you missed me the first time around at the last Gala.”

Twilight then heard music beginning to play in the distance. “Well, I’ll leave you to your work then.”

She tugged Xander as they rushed away. “Hurry, the music is about to start.”

Shining Armor placed his helmet back onto his head and turned to leave. “I probably should have told her that we had received intelligence of a possible security threat tonight. But probably best not to spill the beans and worry her and the other guests. Not to worry. Every pony’s safe under my watch.”

****

Fluttershy and Ninja Star were walking hoof in hoof outside the palace in the light of the moon.

“Such a beautiful night tonight,” Ninja Star commented.

Fluttershy walked closely to him, laying her head ever so slightly against his shoulder. “It is, isn’t it? Whatever would you like to do on such a night?”

Ninja Star thought to himself for a moment. “I hear that the gardens are lovely this time of year.”

Fluttershy’s heart skipped a beat when she heard the word "gardens." Her eyes shot wide open as she felt a cold shock rush through her.

“It is said to have a dazzling array of flora and fauna.” Ninja Star continued. “I am certain it is a place you would love. Have you ever been there?”

Fluttershy said nothing as the awful memories from the last Gala flooded here mind—how she had slowly became infuriated as the animals avoided her, until she had completely lost her temper and chased them as a stampede into the palace.

“You’re—going to love me!”

She heard those words echo within her mind, bringing her great shame.

Ninja Star gazed at her as she stared at the ground with a slightly sad expression.

“Fluttershy-san?” He asked.

Fluttershy quickly realized she was still with him, and in a slightly cheerier mood, replied, “Not really, no.”

****

Twilight dragged Xander into the ballroom.

“This is ridiculous,” Xander moaned. “I’m supposed to meet with the Princess, not gallivant all over the Gala.”

“Hey, I want to see Princess Celestia as much as you do,” Twilight said. “But she’s busy right now. So let’s just enjoy the evening while we can.”

Just then, the orchestra began to play, and all the ponies gathered in the ballroom began coupling with their dance partners.

“Oh! We’re just in time for the next dance,” Twilight exclaimed, dragging Xander to the center of the ballroom floor.

“Dance?” Xander asked. “But I have two left back hooves.”

Twilight stopped when they reached the middle of the floor and turned to him. “Just follow my lead.”

She took Xander by the hoof and placed his other hoof on her waist. The music began, and the two started waltzing to the rhythm. Needless to say, Xander started out clumsily, stumbling occasionally over himself and Twilight. But as the song progressed, Xander soon got the hang out of dancing, as he and Twilight danced in perfect rhythm. Now and then, the two would mess up, even bumping into another couple, but neither cared. At that moment, it felt as if the two had the ballroom to themselves. The two felt close to each other, even if they didn’t want to admit it.

The song ended, and everyone bowed and curtseyed to their dance partner, Twilight and Xander included.

“Bravo!” a voice called out. “You two were amazing.”

The two turned to see Princess Celestia approach them.

“Princess,” they both exclaimed.

“I believe the last of the guests have arrived,” Celestia said. “Now you two had something you wanted to share with me?”

*****

The gardens were alive with its many plant and animal life. A nightingale sang in the moonlight. A hummingbird zipped from flower to flower collecting nectar. The squirrels scampered through the treetops. Several flamingos sat in the coolness of the pond. The rabbits bounced amidst the diverse flora. So many more animals gathered within the gardens enjoying themselves.

That is, until Fluttershy arrived.

She and Ninja Star entered the garden. Fluttershy felt uneasy re-entering it, but Ninja Star, with this being his first time there, took in the sights and sound in delight.

Just then, one of the rabbits noticed Fluttershy. A mental image of her angry and disheveled face flashed through its mind. “You’re—going—to love me!”

It screamed a high-pitch cry, alerting the other animals. When they noticed Fluttershy, they became frantic in panic, crying and rushing as far away from her as possible. The birds retreated to the trees; the animals, to the recluses of the fauna.

Ninja Star stood confused. He looked down to Fluttershy, who was beginning to tear up, her gaze lower to the ground than before.

“Fluttershy-san?” He asked. “Whatever is the matter?”

Fluttershy broke out crying as she buried her face in her hooves. She quickly retreated to a nearby rock. Ninja Star pursued her.

“Oh, Ninja Star-kun,” she cried. “I had been so horrible to these animals—so very, very horrible.”

Ninja Star raised his eyebrows. “Horrible? You? How so?”

Fluttershy began choking back her sobs. “I wanted to be friends with them so badly at the last Gala, but they kept running away from me. I became so impatient with them that I ended up lashing out at them in anger, chasing them, trying to trap them, and then—”

She couldn’t finish. She could only continue sobbing. Her tears flowed from her face and out of her hoofs like an overflowing fountain. Ninja Star knelt down next to her and wrapped his arms around her. Fluttershy clung to his shoulder, watering them with her tears.

“I’m such a horrible filly,” she cried.

“You are no such thing,” Ninja Star said. “I have seen you these past few weeks. You are a kind soul towards animals. These animals simply need to take the time to know you, to truly see what a kind filly you really are.”

Fluttershy looked up, wiping away her tears. “I appreciate you trying to cheer me up, Ninja Star-kun, but I just don’t think—”

Before she could finish, she heard a melody singing from above. She and Ninja Star turned their gaze upward to see a fiery light like a comet flying from the highest tower of the castle into the garden below. It circled the garden several times, singing its enchanting song, before landing in front of the two. Upon closer inspection, they recognized it to be a tall, eagle-like bird of fiery, golden plumage.

“A phoenix,” Ninja Star gasped.

“Philomena!” Fluttershy gasped.

Philomena leapt from the ground and hovered toward Fluttershy who extended her arm, upon which Philomena perched.

“You know this bird?” Ninja Star asked.

Fluttershy giggled as Philomena nuzzled her head against her face, the warmth drying away her tears. “I met her back when Princess Celestia visited Ponyville. She was in her molting phase, back then. I thought she was sick, and I decided to take care of her, but then she turned to ashes and was reborn into her phoenix form.”

Ninja Star smiled. “In my home country, the Phoenix is a sign of good luck. This is a very rare bird. Celestia is fortunate to have her as a pet, and you are fortunate to have her as a friend.”

Philomena gave a small coo. Fluttershy and Ninja Star noticed the other animals peering at them from a distance.

“Looks like the animals are beginning to take interest in you now that they see that you’re friends with Philomena,” Ninja Star said.

Philomena then began to sing her enchanting melody once more, a melody which Fluttershy and Ninja Star quickly recognized.

“That song,” Ninja Star said. “I remember it from when I was little.”

“Same here.” Fluttershy added.

Ninja Star produced a reed flute from his sleeve and began to play along with Philomena. The two melodies intertwined, creating a harmony that wafted through the night air in the garden as a perfume, luring the animals from their hiding places.

As Fluttershy saw the animals approach, her heart began to well up inside of her. Her tears of sorrow became tears of joy as from her bosom sprang a song—a song which she started to sing.

As she sang and the others played, the animals began drawing nearer and nearer. When their song had finished, they looked around and saw that they were surrounded by a variety of wildlife—birds, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, turtles, and even a deer.

Fluttershy looked to her feet and saw a rabbit slowly but carefully approach her. It slightly cowered, not knowing what would occur if he approached any further.

“Everyone, I’m so sorry for the way I acted last year,” Fluttershy said. “Can you all forgive me?”

The rabbit leapt into her lap and began brushing against her.

“I think that is a yes,” Ninja Star replied.

Fluttershy giggled as she began to stroke the bunny and admire the animals around her.

******

Twilight and Xander stood within the throne room before Princess Celestia and Luna.

“Now, Twilight, what was it you wanted to speak with us about?” Princess Celestia addressed her faithful student.

Twilight bowed before gesturing to Xander. “My princesses, Xander here has something he wants to share with you two.”

Xander took two steps forward and bowed. “Your majesties, my father was a renowned archeologist who dedicated his life in search of a rare artifact. After his death, I dedicated my own to fulfilling his legacy and finding that artifact. After much traveling and research, I have finally uncovered it.”

From his pocket he produced the amulet. Both Celestia and Luna’s eyes lit up upon seeing it.

“I present to you the Amulet of Purity. I am ashamed to admit that, despite my research into it, I am very ignorant of its power and potential, as very little is written about it. I know it is an artifact of great power, but what that power is, I do not know. Twilight here said that you two may know.”

Celestia and Luna looked at each other before looking back at Xander.

“It has been a long time since we last saw that amulet,” Luna said.

“Indeed,” Celestia nodded. “The Amulet of Purity did contain great power, one that was passed through the lineage of sovereigns in Equestria up until Luna and I, when we both decided it was best to transfer that power to the six Elements of Harmony, lest it fall into the wrong hands.”

Xander looked at the Amulet and raised one eyebrow. “So, in other words, this Amulet is powerless? It’s useless?”

Celestia shook her head. “Not quite. It can retain its power once more if we were to transfer it back from the Elements; but as I had stated, we transferred that power to the Elements in the first place to protect it from falling into the wrong hands and being used for evil intent. But yes, as it is, it is powerless.”

Xander sighed with an exasperated expression on his face, looking down at the amulet.

“Do not despair,” Luna said. “You are free to keep it for your own. Consider it a reward for your hard work and dedication finding it.”

“Hmm,” Xander hummed as he closed his eyes and smirked. “I appreciate the honor, your majesties, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even search for it to obtain its power, whatever it may have been. I don’t even care about keeping it. I merely wanted to finish what my father started. And now that I have, well, there really is no need for it.”

He used his magic to levitate the amulet over to Twilight and hang it around her neck. “Here, I think it looks better on you than me.”

He turned to the Princesses and bowed once more. “Pardon me, your majesties, but I believe my time here is finished. I’ve done all that I needed to do here. Good evening.”

He turned to leave out the door.

Twilight gasped. “Xander?” He did not respond. “Xander.” He walked out the door. “Xander!”

She turned to the princesses and bowed. “Beg your pardons, your majesties.”

She quickly raced after Xander, calling out after him.

****

“Get out! You two managed to stop a tornado?” Spitfire asked with a laugh. She was sitting with Dash and the others at a small table. She took a sip from her wineglass while her Wonderbolts companion was chowing down on a pie. Rainbow Dash and Sky Wind both sat opposite to them with glasses of pink lemonade.

“That we did!” Rainbow Dash boasted. “It was just a matter of circling it at a speed faster than itself.”

Spitfire took another sip of her wine. “I have to hand it to you, I’m quite impressed. First you perform a Sonic Rainboom, then you help the Ponyville pegasi siphon water from the reservoir, and now you stop a tornado.”

Rainbow Dash looked to Sky Wind and placed her arm around his shoulder. “I couldn’t have done it without Sky Wind here. Without him, I couldn’t have reached the speed nearly fast enough to slow it down.”

“We could definitely use flyers like you on our team,” Spitfire replied. She looked towards her partner. “Am I right, Soarin?”

Soarin’ picked his face from out of his pie, filling and crust dripping from his chin. “Mm-Hmm!” was all he could say before returning to his pie.

Dash covered her mouth with her hoof to hide her squeal of joy, blushing madly. “You—you really mean that?”

“Absolutely,” Spitfire said, raising her glass. “I know a future Wonderbolt when I see her. You’re a prime candidate for the Wonderbolt Academy.”

Rainbow Dash raised her hoof over her face to hide her blush.

Spitfire looked over to Sky Wind sipping on his lemonade.

“So how long have you and your coltfriend been dating,” she asked.

Upon hearing that, Sky Wind took a spittake in the opposite direction and began choking.

Dash began patting him on the back. “Um, actually, he’s not my coltfriend. He’s just some pony I’m trying to help with getting his memory back.”

Soarin’ had finished his pie and began licking the remains around him lips. “But he is a colt, and he is your friend, right?”

Spitfire simply facehoofed.

******

Xander walked across the palace’s patio, past one of its many fountains, heading towards the gateway. He nearly reached it when he noticed someone behind him.

“So that’s it? You’re just going to up and leave?”

He turned to see Twilight standing in the open doorway, leaning against its ivory frame, the light from within pouring onto the dark patio.

“You’re not even going to stay for the Gala?” she asked in a voice wavering between frustrated and hurt. “Not even going to say goodbye to any pony?”

Xander gazed at the ground. “I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for. As far as I’m concerned, I’m done here. There's no point in staying. I don’t really care for parties or goodbyes.”

“And where were you planning to go?” Twilight asked, slowly walking towards him.

“I don’t even know myself.” Xander said, shrugging his shoulders. “I’ve always been a wanderer, traveling from town to town. I would say I was heading home, but as I said, there's no home for me to head back to.”

“What about Ponyville?” Twilight asked, stopping in her tracks.

“Ponyville isn’t my home,” Xander replied.

“Of course it is,” Twilight said. “Home is where your friends are.”

Xander raised his head and looked towards Twilight. He gave a snicker. “And you still think we’re friends?”

“Well—of course we are,” Twilight said. “What else would we be?”

Xander turned his back towards Twilight and gazed at the ground.

“You know very well I don’t need friends,” he said. “I’m perfectly fine on my own.”

“That’s just stupid,” Twilight retorted. “Everyone needs friends. And that’s why you need to stay in Ponyville with us. You said yourself you have nowhere else to go. You’ve been meandering all your life. Isn’t it about time you settled down for once?”

Xander turned back to face Twilight. They stood silently gazing at one another for a brief moment before he walked towards the fountain and sat upon its edge, gazing into the water at his reflection.

“Twilight, what exactly do you see in a colt like me?” Xander asked.

Twilight walked beside him and gazed into her own reflection. “Well, in a lot of ways,” she turned her eyes to Xander. “You remind me of myself.”

Xander glanced at Twilight, his one eyebrow raised. “How so?”

“I used to be just like you, always keeping to myself, trying to study and improve my magic,” she said. “I wanted nothing more than to impress my mentor, Princess Celestia, and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of that, especially friends. I thought I could do it all on my own. I even thought I could defeat Nightmare Moon by myself. But Celestia insisted that I had something more important to do.”

“What was that?” Xander asked.

“Make friends,” Twilight replied.

Xander looked at her in disbelief.

“I know,” Twilight continued, “I felt the same way. I didn’t see the point in making friends, but Celestia sent me to Ponyville to do just that. It was there I met Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy. They were eager to make friends with me, even when I didn’t want to make friends with them. But it was a good thing I did. They helped me find the Elements of Harmony and defeat Nightmare Moon. It was then that I learned the importance of friendship, and we’ve all been the best of friends ever since, being there for each other when we needed help, especially when we couldn’t help ourselves.”

The two stared into the fountain at their own reflection, then to each other’s.

“You really think I would do better in Ponyville with friends?” Xander asked.

Twilight looked at him. “I don’t think that, I know that.”

Before they could say another word, fireworks began exploding in the night sky above. The two looked up to watch the array of colors and lights flashing above them. Xander briefly glanced at Twilight. He soon realized under the flashing lights how lovely she looked in her gala outfit. On second thought, he simply realized that she looked lovely period.

Twilight then noticed Xander staring at her, and glanced back at him into his dark blue eyes. She had also realized how charming he had looked.

The two were soon trapped within each other’s eyes, the night around them melting away. They were soon drawn towards one another like magnets, their faces inching towards each other. Their eyes closed, and their lips nearly touched when the fireworks disappeared and the night sky darkened.

They ceased their moment together and shot their gaze upward to see dark clouds circling the castle. Twilight gasped.

******

“Wasn’t it supposed to be clear night, tonight?” Spitfire asked.

She, Soarin, Rainbow Dash, and Sky Wind gazed through the glass ceiling at the dark clouds gathering.

“What are those weather pegasi doing?”

Rainbow Dash shook her head. “I don’t think this is the weather pegasi.”

******

Thunder and lightning roared from above, forcing Fluttershy to whimper and cling to Ninja Star. They were both sheltered by Philomena and her wings. The animals moved in close to them for safety and comfort.

******

Wherever they were, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Spike, along with the other Gala guests, stopped what they were doing to look at the dark sky forming above them.

******

Shining Armor and the other guards stopped within their tracks upon the palace’s battlements as they gazed into the sky.

One guard turned to Shining Armor. “Sir, what make you of this unexpected weather?”

Shining Armor drew his sword. “I believe this is the security threat we were waiting for.”

******

Celestia and Luna peered through the throne room windows as the dark clouds circled and the lightning and thunder crashed.

“Methinks this is a dark omen, my sister,” Luna said.

Celestia nodded. “Very dark indeed.”

******

Another round of lighting and thunder crashed, and the lights within the castle dimmed, forcing screams and cries from the guests within. Panic ensued when several puffs of purple smoke exploded in the ballroom and castle, revealing shadow ninja. A giant black cloud exploded in the middle of the ballroom, and in its place appeared the Shadow Mare. She laughed as she witnessed the guests around her scampering here and there in panic.

“Tonight, Equestria as you know it falls!” she announced.

*******

Twilight: Oh no! Of all the times the Shadow Clan could attack, why did they have to choose the Gala?!

Xander: They’re after the amulet. Quick, hurry to the princesses and make sure they and the amulet are safe.

Dash: Great! Here I am chilling with the Wonderbolts, and the Shadow Clan has to come along and ruin the moment!

Sky Wind: Don’t worry, Dash! I’ll help you defeat them.

Swoosh: What’s the matter, Sky Wind? Forget your mission?

Sky Wind: What do you mean? And how do you know my name?

Twilight: Next time, “The Gala Crashed! Princesses In Peril!”

Shadow Mare: Sky Wind, my dear, it’s time that you remember who you are.

*******


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and characters © Hasbro and Lauren Faust
Xander © Me
Skywind © ex626AKAKeon
Ninja Star © ninjaninjanoob23

Voice Credits

Twilight Sparkle .......................Tara Strong
Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy................Andrea Libman
Applejack, Rainbow Dash.........Ashleigh Ball
Rarity, Princess Luna................Tabitha St. Germain
Princess Celestia......................Nicole Oliver
Spike........................................Cathy Weseluck
Xander......................................Vic Mignogna
Sky Wind...................................Antony Del Rio
Ninja Star..................................Dave Wittenberg
Squish.......................................Samuel Vincent
Swoosh.....................................Derek Stephen Prince
Slash.........................................Roger Labon Jackson
Shadow Mare............................Susanne Blakeslee
Dark Stallion.............................Ron Perlman