The No-Prize, begun in 1964 by Stan Lee, was a faux award given out by Marvel Comics to those readers who spotted continuity errors in the comics and who then managed to invent particularly clever explanations as to why the errors were not truly errors at all. The term has come to mean any explanation which acceptably rationalizes blatant errors in continuity and logic in general.
"...If that's true, if what you are telling me is fact, then how did Equestria come into being? Discord! Chaos! I've seen it - well just the faintest hint of it, but even that shadow of Discord's true intentions rendered everything I could observe into a twisted demesne of nonsensical desultory derangement!" Princess Celestia was patiently listening to her favored student, knowing through long experience that soon the purple unicorn would run out of words. "It doesn't make sense! Absolute chaos reigned - who or what put that all into the shape of Equestria we know today, if not for you and your sister? Discord could change reality itself! He is, for all intents and purposes an Elder God, right out of Horse Pinto Lovecraft, and it would require a supreme being to establish a rational order upon the entirety of the cosmos he destroyed! It couldn't have just fixed itself!"
Twilight was panting now, a speck of drool tracing a shining line down from the edge of her muzzle, her eyes filled with baby tears just waiting a chance to grow up and trickle out into the world. She and Celestia had been talking for hours now. Twilight had told her princess of her adventures in exacting detail, and in turn, Celestia had described her own.
"My dearest student, my dear Twilight, I may not be the almighty Celestia you have known, but I care for you no less, and it grieves me to see you this way. I do not have every explanation to offer you. Those times after the fall of Discord are hazy for both me and my sister. That was a very long time ago, Twilight. I cannot tell you how Equestria derived from a universe of absolute disorder, any more than I can tell you how the Elements Of Harmony were used in that day to defeat Discord the first time, or why it is that we need you and your friends now. So much has been lost to the centuries, and my memory is not what it was." Celestia smiled softly at her student, now close to her by the fire in her royal chambers. The two lay on the soft woven mat before the grand fireplace, facing each other, almost nose to nose.
"You... your memory... isn't... what it was." Small tears ran down the little unicorn's muzzle. She felt so small now, like a foal who had lost her mother. "H-how... did you... break your horn?"
Celestia sighed. "When the Changelings attacked, I foolishly thought to challenge their queen myself, but I was not prepared for how much power she had accumulated. After my defeat..."
"You were defeated?" Twilight squeaked in disbelief at the very idea that Celestia could be overcome. Then she sagged, remembering that this Celestia was not the Celestia she knew. This was a shadow of her teacher, a shade as if from Tartarus itself, and this Celestia was not omnipotent. The Pony Book might not even exist in this world.
Celestia looked down at Twilight, pausing to allow her student to regain her composure, before she continued. "During the battle my horn was burned terribly by the queen's energies. It seemed as though I had escaped unscathed, but as time passed, it was noticed that cracks had appeared in my horn, and last night I found the tip had broken off." Celestia stretched out a golden-shod hoof and laid it gently on Twilight's smaller, purple hoof. "It is not such a tragedy, dear one, I assure you. It is my intent to have my horn tended to, to regain the point, and in time it will grow out again. For now, it is a reminder that I need my subjects as much, or more, than they need me."
Emotions raged within Twilight - grief, anger, frustration. She had spent a lifetime with her Celestia, a lifetime of solitary study, learning well the nature of her world, her princesses, of how magic worked, of how history had flowed, of the very creation of the universe. All of that was wrong here. The Pony Book. The story of the restoration of Equestria. But all of that was as nothing to the loss of one precious thing. Here, the Celestia she knew was gone. The Celestia of this realm was just as kind, just as loving, but she was incapable of defending her realm even against... "What were they again, these 'Changelings?' you called them?"
"Yes, Changelings." Celestia winced slightly as she used her broken horn to levitate the teapot beside them, where they lay by the fire. She poured fresh tea first into Twilight's cup, and then her own.
"Were they very powerful?" Twilight hovered her cup in front of her muzzle and gently blew on it to cool the contents. She did not want to cast Snowfall's Blizzard, because while efficient, it might end in a block of ice and some embarrassed apologies.
"Not individually, no. They are an insectoid species, weak by themselves, but strong in great numbers when they swarm." Celestia sipped her tea. "They take the forms of others, and then feed off of the misdirected love that flows their way."
"Wait... earlier you said there were thousands of them, and that they broke Shining... my brother's... shield after they had been revealed, right? What did they hope to accomplish? If they replaced everypony, who would be left to love them? And if they had been discovered, why fight at all? They could not hope to fool anypony else, tactically they should have withdrawn immediately and sought some new feeding ground anywhere else!" Twilight set her cup down, to let the tea cool more.
"Perhaps they lacked your military brilliance, my clever student!" Celestia's soft laughter tinkled like bells inside Twilight's ears. For a moment, she could let herself believe that this was her Celestia, and that she was safe, and home in her own world once more.
"Again, none of this makes sense. You, YOU, were beaten by... bugs. It's hopeless, isn't it?." Twilight tried her tea once more. It was still fairly hot, but she could sip it, and it was green, and sweet, and tasted so familiar. This was still the tea she knew and loved, the tea she had taken with her mentor all the years of her foalhood.
"Perhaps you should tell me what you make of all of this, Twilight. I may not be the grand being you have described to me, but I have lived a very long time, and I have seen and learned many things. I may yet be able to help you." Celestia sipped her tea and smiled softly around the cup.
"Princess! I didn't mean... I never intended..." Twilight lowered her head and sighed. "I've come across things strange and wonderful both in this world, your world, I suppose. There were things that cannot hope to make sense, such as the mountain with its road of death, and the mean spirits of the ponies in the marketplace that I told you about. I'm glad I never saw the hydro... hydro-elec-tan..."
"Hydroelectric. Electricity is akin to the lightning that pegasai make when they stomp on a dark cloud. It is generated by the movement of water turning turbines inside the dam." Celestia smiled.
"If you want lightning, why not just have the pegasai make it?"
"The quantity required for modern industrial processing is far beyond anything that mere pegasai could produce." Celestia took another sip of her tea. Twilight just shook her head, remembering Starswirl's words 'Innovation demands excavation.' If the dam was as large as Celestia had described earlier, there must be vast swaths of this Equestria reduced to nightmarish craters in order to provide the raw resources needed for such massive projects, and the infrastructure required to permit their creation. Twilight decided to ignore this additional discrepancy and return to her summary.
"Anyway, there are things that simply cannot make sense, princess. But there are others that are... well, they are things I have hoped for, or wanted to see."
"How so, Twilight?" The princess had leaned forward slightly, her eyes intent.
"Well... I always wanted a brother. Secretly, I mean. You were wonderful to me, really, but sometimes I was... lonely. I know that it had to be that way, you must have been planning for the return of Nightmare Moon from before my mother was born, but... it was lonely..."
"That was your Celestia, Twilight. In my memory, in this world, you had your brother. You had friends and were constantly off and about with Cadence, or romping about with Shining Armor. You were quite the giggly little filly, in fact." The princess poured more tea for them both, her broken horn glowing softly.
Twilight thought about that. Whatever version of herself that lived on this world must be so much better adjusted than she. She envied herself. Her other self. "In this world, Rainbow Dash reads - can you imagine it? I always wanted one of my friends to share my love of books. And the Pinkie Pie of this world is not like mine - if anything, the Rarity of this world is more like the Pinkie I know... only in a kind of unpleasant way. She was annoyingly self-centered and selfish about attention. Pinkie was never like that in my world, even at her most rambunctious. Pinkie Pie here is silly, but in a quiet, soft way. I always wanted to see Pinkie settle down, so I could talk, really talk with her."
"Tell me, Twilight, do you have any resentment, at all, towards Rarity?" Celestia's question was pointed.
"Um... what?" Twilight was taken aback. "Resentment? No! Of course not! I mean, she gets on my nerves sometimes, what with carrying that boulder for her, and how she was all like 'we'll be the best of friends' when I first met her, only because she found out I came from Canterlot, and all that craziness with her and Applejack at my first ever sleepover - it was my very first, because I never had any friends or anything and - never mind. But no. I greatly appreciate Rarity and I am glad she is my friend!"
"Twilight?" She had seen that look on her mentor's face before.
"Yeah, Ok. I guess... maybe just a little. But I'm still grateful that she's my friend!"
Celestia set her cup down. "I'm sure that is true. It is not my intent to cause you distress, but I think it is relevant to the situation you have found yourself in. Please try to answer me honestly now - do you have any such issues with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy?"
Twilight thought for a moment. Where was the princess going with this? "Um... well, Rainbow Dash always calls me an egghead. She's just being affectionate! Really! She doesn't mean it as an insult, not... as a real insult. Not the kind of insult that's supposed to hurt, exactly..."
"She's such a problem sometimes!" Twilight's face contorted with frustration. "I really needed her when we faced that dragon - it was a DRAGON! - and it was everything just to get her up the hill, and she just hid and refused to help, and we all got pretty beat up. In the end, though, she came through like a champ, Celestia! We couldn't have done it without her! Rainbow always underestimates Fluttershy. I keep reminding everypony that she has depths that... that.." Twilight was almost pleading, as if she were defending her friend from some imagined complaint by Celestia, and not herself. "I just wish that sometimes she would show a little more backbone, is all."
"Isn't that what she did, in the marketplace?" Celestia looked over her cup, which she held tightly to herself.
"Yes, I mean NO! She was mean and obnoxious and... I guess. I guess you could describe it that way. It was just too much. It was beyond reason." Twilight struggled for just the right words. "It was out of control!"
"Ah. I see. Out of control." Celestia smiled and looked deeply into Twilight's eyes.
"What? Have you figured out something?" Twilight knew that look on her mentor, she had seen it before many times.
"You have told me of many things this night, my student. You have told me of how my world differs from the world you knew, and also how it is similar. But most of all, you have told me how the changes you see relate to you. To your hopes, your wishes, and your frustrations... even your angers." Celestia took another sip, and set her cup down with finality.
"Both worlds, your Equestria and mine, are born from Primal Chaos, from the reign of Discord. Both are mutable, changeable. Magic is change, and Equestria is, if anything, a magical realm. It is only a matter of ability, and power." Twilight stared at her beloved friend. She did not like where this was going.
"Twilight, when you were first tested to join my school as a tiny foal, you lost control. It is no exaggeration to say, as I am certain that both I, and your Celestia, must have discussed with you, that your natural abilities are extraordinary. In my world, I was terrified of you, for - to be frank - your power surpassed my own in every way. It was everything I could do to restore you and save the world. I trust your almighty Celestia had an easier time of it. But for me, your foalhood loss of control was every bit the threat that Discord represented."
Hearing this hurt Twilight, somehow. To think that her princess was afraid... of her.
Celestia patted Twilight with her hoof. "The Twilight here, with her friends, fought the Changlings long after I was imprisoned and lost. I can only imagine what you could have done. I felt your power for the entire day, likely from the moment of your arrival here. It is how I found you, earlier, in the castle. It is palpable, Twilight, a level of magic I have not felt since Discord himself. Tell me again what happened during your exam in your world."
Twilight looked down. Her quick mind had already guessed the answer to all of this, and it was not pretty. "I tried very hard to hatch Spike's egg... the egg that would be Spike one day, I mean... and nothing worked. But then there was this loud explosion - I later learned it was Rainbow Dash, doing her very first Sonic Rainboom - and it startled me. I was already terrified, and... something in me just... broke." Twilight shifted her hooves nervously. "I don't remember what happened next, but you've told me... the other you told me... and others who saw, too... Spike apparently grew to enormous size and age, blasting the top off the entire building. My parents were transformed into potted plants, beams of energy were ripping around the testing room, converting and changing and twisting up everything and it was just growing and getting larger and I couldn't stop, I couldn't stop and... and..."
"And I came and between us, we made it stop, didn't we?" Celestia had her fetlock draped over Twilight's now, her head close, almost cheek to cheek. "And it got all better, didn't it?"
"I could have destroyed the world, Celestia."
"Yes. But you didn't. You didn't want to destroy the world. All you've ever wanted was to do good. That is why I spar... took you under my wing. You needed help. You just needed to learn to control your own power." Celestia nuzzled her student. Twilight gratefully accepted the gentle reassurance.
"Tell me, if a being were powerful enough to transform living ponies into plants and objects, twist and bend space and time enough to grow a dragon egg into a mature adult, and had such power that the world itself could have been recreated if she had not been stopped, what would happen if she had a moment, just a moment, where her mind drifted, where she fell out of her usual routine, and some of that power was... released?" Celestia was pressing her cheek to Twilight's now, a firm, loving comfort.
"Princess..." The tears were beginning to flow now, down Twilight's cheeks. It was as she had feared. Not that. Please not that.
"It could happen to anypony, Twilight. Nopony can be vigilant with their thoughts every second of every day. At least... no mortal pony. Maybe your Celestia, the one you knew, the one you described. But to demand that of yourself would be unreasonable... and impossible." Twilight was bawling now, and the Celestia of this new world held her tight, so tight, until her crying exhausted itself, until she once again fell quiet.
"Did I break the world forever, or just travel to some parallel world? Can... can I get... back?" Twilight sniffled, a last sob escaped her muzzle.
"I don't know, Twilight. I do not have such answers. I'm sorry." Hearing Celestia, even a variation on Celestia, apologize to her, like an ordinary pony... it was so difficult.
Twilight looked at the fire, burning warmly in the large, carved stone fireplace. "The vanishing hill, the inconsistencies... all the confused, broken parts of this reality... I did that, didn't I? Because I don't have the experience or the concentration to shape an entire world without grave mistakes. You shouldn't say you're sorry. I failed you. I wrecked everything, didn't I?" Twilight pulled back and stared into the eyes of the Celestia of this world.
"Twilight... maybe there are flaws to this world... my world... but I cannot see them. This is the only world I know. I am aware of Pale Mare Road, I have stood on it. I have even saved ponies from the cliff's edge there. It makes sense to me, and likely to everypony else here. When you describe how... dangerous and... ridiculous it is, I can almost see your point, just for a moment... and then what you have shown me fades. I am the product of my world, I believe I am limited to seeing it as normal, because for me, it is." Twilight seemed ready to cry again at this. "What I am trying to say is that... for me, the world is not broken at all. The world is fine. The world is perfect to me, and just as it should be. What I really see is a dear friend who is in great pain."
"What should I do, Celestia? I don't know what to do." Twilight hung her head. "You should have turned me to stone, right after that exam. Put me in your garden. Maybe... Maybe you should do that right now." Twilight stared hard into Celestia's eyes, trying to be brave.
"I didn't do that back then, and I won't do it now, and the reason has never changed." Celestia gave her student a nuzzle "You are a good pony who just happens to have extraordinary gifts. I believe now, as I did then, that you merely need to learn how to use them properly."
"Then how do I fix this? I want... I want to go home. I want what I knew, what I loved... back." The words seemed to hurt Celestia slightly, and Twilight regretted putting things that way.
"I understand." Celestia gave Twilight a reassuring touch with her hoof. "But it may not be possible. You may have to learn to live with the world as it is now. But... if your world still exists, if you did not change the world but instead only split off an alternate splay, then perhaps you may find your way back by controlling the way you think about things."
"Tell me! How? What do I have to do?" Twilight was desperate for any scrap of hope.
"If the world I inhabit is a fractional world, a shard split off from the reality you came from, and if it is true that you fell into this world through a careless thought, then perhaps through careful selection, you can differentiate one world from the other." Celestia sat up on her haunches, towering above where Twilight lay, and stretched her back. "If you have naturally begun to shift between such worlds, as another expression of your rare and special talents, then you may find yourself doing so again. Such shifts may happen without your conscious control, brought on by your own moods. You may need to learn to recognize which Equestria is which, and find the strength to walk in both worlds with confidence, as best you can. At least until you have mastered your world-shifting ability enough to finally choose which realm you would stake claim to."
Twilight pondered this. "So... you're saying that... it may have been a natural and reasonable expectation that something like this would happen... and that I basically..." Twilight sat up herself "...have to learn to live with it, and eventually to control it."
"Yes, exactly, my very best student." When Celestia was proud, it was literally like the sun coming out. Or at least is was for Twilight's original Celestia. But this Celestia had her charms too - for one thing, she was more approachable. Even calling herself a 'princess', there was no doubt that Twilight's Celestia was a goddess, and that the gulf between them was as vast as Luna's starlit night. This Celestia, vulnerable and infinitely closer in so many ways, felt more like a close friend in ways that warmed Twilight's heart. "When I have said that a talent for magic such as you possess comes along only once every five hundred years, I have not exaggerated. I suspect that even to your more... deific... Celestia, you must truly be a marvel, and, truth be told, a caution as well.
In any case, you have two Equestrias now, Twilight, whatever you ultimately discover about this. The Equestria you remember, and this one, if nothing else. And perhaps this Equestria is not as rich, or splendid, or logical as the one you knew, but it exists, and you exist, and things move on." Celestia leaned closer "Perhaps you will find your way home, perhaps this will become your home. Maybe you will even dance between the two Equestrian realms enjoying each for what they offer. I know that you can sort through this, that you can organize this. Because that is what you do."
Twilight began to smile, for the first time since she arrived in this strange, broken cosmos. Organization. If there was one thing in all possible worlds she was good at, it was organization. "I shall resolve to catalog the differences and keep them straight in my mind, Celestia. I cannot accept that my world, my original world, is gone forever. So I choose to assume that there are two parallel Equestrias, one a little looser... around the logic... than the other, but - also with some compensations as well."
With that, Twilight Sparkle did something she would never have done, could not have even considered doing, with her immortal, omnipotent, goddess Celestia. She threw herself at the Celestia in front of her and wrapped her forelegs tight around her. She placed her head close to Celestia's shimmering withers and nuzzled her like the mother she had always been to her.
This Celestia was not startled, and returned the warm and tender embrace. Twilight felt as if she were floating forever, in a sea of purest joy. This world was not logical. It could never make sense the way her true world, her original world had. But in this world, she could hold her beloved Celestia close, as she would a normal, ordinary, flesh and blood pony. Twilight could not help her tears. She had wanted to be able to do this, this one thing, more than any other wish. More than a calm Pinkie Pie. More than a friend who shared the love of reading. More than seeing Fluttershy be strong. More than anything ever.
The impossible gulf between her and this fragile, injured Celestia was absent.
The day had been maddening, troubling, disturbing. She had wanted to make sense of it all, and with Celestia's council, after a fashion, she had. But more importantly, most importantly of all, she had gotten her dearest wish.
"So, Twilight Sparkle," Celestia straightened up, after their embrace had ended "will you be staying here, or off to find your mysterious street, and your way home?"
"I don't know if I can find that street ever again..." Twilight wiped her eyes with a fetlock "... but I will keep an eye out for it, as the days progress. And if I do find it, I will make sure that I map the location, so that I may forever know each of my beautiful Celestias, and be able to spend time with them both." At that, Celestia, this world's Celestia smiled warmly, and gave her favorite student a tiny kiss on the nose.
It was not going to be easy, dealing with two realities - or, if it ultimately proved so, one somewhat damaged reality - but Twilight had resolved to make the best of it. Twilight blushed, the echo of Celestia's tender kiss still felt upon her nose, reminding her that however her sense of logic and reason had been insulted, there were at least... compensations.
Equestria Prime is defined as being a pseudo-Medieval/Renaissance fantasy world with some elements of Victorian steampunk technology. Electricity does not exist, but magic does. There is no large-scale mining or industrial blight. The world is self-consistent, the characters have personalities that grow and develop over time. Celestia and Luna have a divine, or at least demigodly status, and are capable of stellar and planetary manipulation at will. They are apparently immortal, and may not even be entirely physical - certainly they can become energy, transform into objects, become multiple independent entities with independent wills and possess many other god-level abilities. The focus of Equestria prime stories is on character growth and development as the various characters learn from the consequences of their actions within the context of their society. The world appears to have geographic consistency, and places and events can be mapped within the viewer's mind.
Episodes that take place within Equestria Prime:
Friendship is Magic, part 1
Friendship is Magic, part 2
The Ticket Master
Amy Keating Rogers & Lauren Faust
Amy Keating Rogers
Griffon the Brush Off
Look Before You Sleep
Amy Keating Rogers
Swarm of the Century
M. A. Larson
Winter Wrap Up
Call of the Cutie
Fall Weather Friends
Amy Keating Rogers
Suited For Success
M. A. Larson
The Show Stoppers
A Dog and Pony Show
Amy Keating Rogers
A Bird in the Hoof
The Cutie Mark Chronicles
M. A. Larson
Owl's Well That Ends Well
Party of One
The Best Night Ever
Amy Keating Rogers
The Return of Harmony Part 1
M. A. Larson
The Return of Harmony Part 2
M. A. Larson
M. A. Larson
May the Best Pet Win!
Sweet and Elite
Secret of My Excess
M. A. Larson
Family Appreciation Day
The Last Roundup
Amy Keating Rogers
The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000
M. A. Larson
A Friend in Deed
Amy Keating Rogers
It's About Time
M. A. Larson
M. A. Larson
Interstice Episodes are defined as being capable of existing within either Equestria Prime or Equestria Beta. Elements of these episodes could be construed to indicate either story cosmos, or inconsistencies within an episode - that otherwise could be considered Prime - appear out of place or milieu.
Episodes that take place within the Interstice between the two universes:
Feeling Pinkie Keen
Green Isn't Your Color
Over a Barrel
The Cutie Pox
Amy Keating Rogers
Hearth's Warming Eve
Equestria Beta is defined as being an alternate universe version of Equestria Prime. In the Beta universe, human-like, relatively modern technology exists with all that such technology implies. Steel girder construction and hydroelectric dams implying strip-mining and open-pit industrial blight. Electrical devices that could not be powered by magic are clearly seen. There is evidence of advanced technology not driven by steampunk means, and tropes within the story reflect the modern, human world. The focus of the stories is about comedy and action, with little to no character development and often direct refutation of events and character growth established in the Equestria Prime cosmos. Celestia and Luna are mortal ponies who may, or may not actually manipulate the sun and moon. They are virtually unable to defend themselves or their realm, and must depend on others for that task. They may be charlatans with little real power. The world itself is inconsistent and cannot be properly mapped in the viewer's mind - places and locations can exist merely to serve as a stage for a gag or joke.
Episodes that take place within Equestria Beta:
The Mysterious Mare Do Well
Read It and Weep
Hearts and Hooves Day
Putting Your Hoof Down
Merriwether Williams; story by Charlotte Fullerton
MMMystery on the Friendship Express
Amy Keating Rogers
A Canterlot Wedding - Part 1
A Canterlot Wedding - Part 2