Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Twilight,” Spike commented from his spot on the alicorn’s back.
Twilight Sparkle rolled her eyes. “But it’ll save us approximately thirteen to fifteen minutes of travel time with a margin of error of up to two minutes, due to slowing down to reason with you about which direction to take.”
“I already told you; I mapped it all out before we left, and everything points to that path over there being the right one. We’re not even in a hurry, so what’s wrong with taking the scenic route across the other side of the hill?”
“You know, Spike, not everything needs to be preplanned,” Rainbow Dash commented from above. Her head and legs swung loosely with every flap of her wings as she hovered overhead. “Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut—” she lost some altitude as her belly growled “—and my gut is telling me that if Twilight thinks this is the way to go, then it’s the way to go! If it just happens to turn out to be the fastest route and we get to eat sooner, then so be it.”
“Exactly!” Twilight smiled, a little smugness showing on her face. “I’m glad someone gets it.”
“It don’t matter which way we go, as long as it’s safe and we don’t just stand about,” Applejack said as she anxiously shifted her weight from one side to another.
Spike leaned forward. “Twilight, I still think we should—”
“Ugh, you’re getting heavy, Spike.” She stood up on her hind legs and stretched her forelegs out.
Spike lost his grip and tumbled to the ground. “Ouch!”
“The road to the next town is just beyond the final bend. You can probably almost see it.
“Did I tell you that the town is famous for its extensive book collection?” Twilight trotted forward, leaving Spike behind.
“Yes, you did mention that.” He curled up his map. “Several times, in fact.”
“You can ride with me, Spike.” Rarity nodded to her back.
“But of course, Spikey-wikey.”
His smile widened as he mounted Rarity.
“You will catch any dirt that happens to fall from the cliff, won’t you?”
He retrieved an umbrella, which was sticking out from Rarity’s saddle bag, and opened it. “I’ve got you covered.”
Fluttershy glanced in all directions as she stepped on the path before Rarity. “It’s awfully narrow, though.” A pebble rolled down the hill and bumped into her hoof. She flinched and whimpered softly, but continued walking with small steps while biting on her lower lip.
Pinkie Pie bounced backward, smiling at her. “Oh, don’t be such a silly-willy,” she said in her usual singsong voice. “There’s more than enough room for one and a half ponies to walk side-by-side!” Her bouncing paused. She raised a hoof to her muzzle. “Hmm, but how are we going to halve ourselves? That might be a problem. Twilight!” She turned around and bounced forward on the path. “We have a problem!”
“A problem?!” Twilight stopped and turned her head with a look of momentary panic that subsided into sobered concern. “Is it a real problem this time, Pinkie?” She raised her eyebrows.
“What?” Pinkie stood up on her hind legs. “Of course it is!” She crossed her forehooves on Twilight’s flank and leaned most of her weight on it. “We don’t have enough half-sized ponies in our group.”
“Uh-huh.” Twilight rolled her eyes. “I’ll get right on that. Don’t worry about a thing, Pinkie; I’ll handle everything.” She pressed forward on the bumpy path.
Pinkie dropped on all four legs and looked back. “What about my wiggly tail, can I at least worry about that?”
Twilight noticed a pebble fall from the wall onto the ground beside her and facehoofed. “No, Pinkie, just stay on the path, and you’ll be fine. This solid igneous rock formation is as stable as time itself.” To emphasize her point, she kicked the fallen pebble to the rocky wall. “See?”
She continued trotting as she magically opened her saddlebag and floated out a book titled, Running a Kingdom 101, by Sombra. Opening it in the middle, she was immediately entranced by the content and didn’t pay any attention to the section of the wall which was hit by the pebble, collapsing behind her.
Debris poured in front of Pinkie Pie, covering half of the path’s width. “Actually, it’s sedimentary…”
“I said I’ll handle it!” Twilight raised her voice without lifting her face from the book.
Pinkie shrugged her shoulders. “Okie dokie lokie! I trust ya.” She bounced backwards to babble at the others.
Spreading friendship seemed like the easiest of tasks. Most ponies in neighboring towns were getting along just fine even without Twilight’s interference; they just needed a nudge in the right direction and a good example to step up to the next level of friendship.
With her friends escorting her, there was an ample amount of good examples. Whenever there was a mission, they would drop whatever they were doing just to join her on the quest. She was very grateful for that.
As she reached a widening of the path, she noticed a lack of Pinkie-babble in the background. Perking up her ears, she heard cracking of rocks behind her and was reassured by it. They must have been right behind her. She continued reading a chapter about establishing authority.
Getting bumped on her flank made Twilight wonder if it had started to rain. She looked over her back and saw a pebble fell beside her.
Her friends were further away than she had thought. They’ve only just stepped onto the plain under the overhang.
“Come on, girls, quit your lollygagging, and pick up the—ouch, my eye!” She bowed her head and cleared a sandy grain from her eye with a foreleg.
An ominous sound of thunder broke over them. Twilight heard all of her friends’ voices at once, Pinkie screamed the loudest.
“What’s going on?” Twilight looked up with the half-closed good eye.
A rock, twice her size, was heading straight for her.
She stood frozen for a moment as she watched the rock approaching in slow motion.
Her mind stopped; instincts took over. Magic burst forth from her horn, enveloping her body. Just before the impact, the fields connected in a flash of light, teleporting her to the safety of her inner dimension.
Floating motionless in the black emptiness of her subspace, she slowly exhaled.
There were no sounds anymore. No rumbling, thundering, or screaming. There was a perfect silence in the darkness. The only light emanated from her spherical entry portal.
Whew, that was close, she thought as she looked from below the looming orb and gazed through it to the time-slice of reality. The rock was fixated in place just above her. Almost too close.
I’ll just exit this netherworld to where my friends are and cast a magic shell around us. That should protect all of us from any remaining debris that may break from the cliff.
She floated around the orb, looking through it, to get a sense of direction, so she could form an exit portal in her subspace on the right coordinates, matching the location near her friends in the reality. I should form another connection to real world right about—
She caught a glimpse of a boulder in the orb. It hovered just above her friends in the static state of reality.
Good grief, it’s going to fall on them! I should have paid more attention. I should have noticed the big boulder over my friends. They trusted me… Stop it, Twilight! Focus!
If I teleport back, there won’t be enough time for me to cast a shield spell around us. Blasting a stream of magic at the boulder would be faster, but still not fast enough. All I have is an instant. I can’t even charge my horn in that timeframe. If only it would be possible to affect reality without entering it.
Knowing that was a theoretical impossibility, she clenched her teeth.
Don’t panic, Twilight, you’ve handled much tougher situations than this before. It’s just a silly boulder in a static state of reality. You’ve got all the time you want to find a solution. You’ve fixed every problem you came across thus far, so there really shouldn’t be any reason to worry about this one. Think! You can save your friends, somehow…