The group stood in a silent circle around Discord's statue. Scootaloo looked at each in turn, thinking they weren't nearly as intimidating as she'd thought. Gilda could be a little scary when she lost her temper, but Spike at least was a friend, and the other three were just annoying.
Five of them had been given a necklace to wear while the sixth, Trixie, had been given a tiara. Unlike the Elements of Harmony, they were cut like normal gems, each a different size and color. Scootaloo’s was a small circular emerald. She noticed Spike holding his own ruby, staring at it hungrily.
"Now then," Crystal Ball whispered, "the guards shouldn't be back for a while, but we still need to hurry."
"Where are the guards?" Spike asked. As far as Scootaloo knew, he wasn't aware of Crystal Ball's real identity, but he still mistrusted her.
"Inside the castle. I made them believe Celestia had come to guard the statue herself," she answered with an irritated glance at Spike. "Now, as I was saying, we should hurry before anypony sees us. Trixie—"
"The Great and Powerful—"
"Interrupt me again and The Great and Powerful Trixie will be eating her own hat. Understood?" Crystal Ball hissed. Trixie stepped back fearfully, nodding weakly. "Trixie is our sixth element. The spell is set up so that she activates the rest. When they light up, don't fight them, just let the magic take its course." She nodded at Trixie to begin.
The Great and Powerful Trixie bowed her head as her horn began to glow. A moment later the gem on her tiara began glowing, and Scootaloo felt a tingle run across her coat as her own gem reacted.
A wave of emotion washed over her and she ducked her head as the light flared brighter. She saw Rainbow Dash in her mind, looking down at her with a smug smile. A second passed and their positions were reversed with Scootaloo looking down at a hurt and confused Dash.
The light flew up from her necklace, meeting with the power of the other elements, each a dark, grey tinted color of the rainbow. The light writhed and twisted high in the air for a long moment before coming down on top of Discord's statue.
Scootaloo fell back as a wall of noise coursed through her, shaking her to the bone. She rolled, covering her eyes as the power kicked up a cloud of dust. After several confused seconds, the light and noise drew back into the center of the circle, leaving her to lie on the ground, head spinning and ears ringing.
She twisted to look back at the others. Standing between them on a pile of broken stone was Discord.
Minutes later, Discord was sitting in the darkest corner of Canterlot castle. Almost everypony was on the train back to Ponyville. Chrysalis had her own job to do, and Scootaloo...
“You can count on us princess. I promise, we won’t let Discord get free!”
“If that’s not the perfect cue,” Discord said, “nothing is.” He smiled as everypony turned to him in shock. Three, two, one...
"Discord!" Celestia shouted, horn humming dangerously with golden power.
"Celestia, oh how wonderful to see you again," Discord gushed, flying closer to the small group with a warm smile. "How have you been this past year?"
"Discord, what have you done with the elements?" she demanded.
"The elements? Oh, I haven't done anything with them. I mean really, the same plan twice in a row? Do I seem so boring?" Discord rolled his eyes.
"Yeah right, hand 'em over!" Rainbow Dash bent low and pawed at the ground, ready to charge the draconequus.
"I really didn't take them. Promise. Cross my heart, hope to fly," Discord fluttered his arms for a moment before pulling a cupcake out of nowhere, "stick a cupcake in my eye."
"Well, I guess that's settled then," Pinkie Pie said with a satisfied nod.
"Pinkie!" Five voices shouted in unison.
Discord laughed and snapped his fingers. With a flash, he was at the head of the room. "I will tell you though, the one who took the elements is one of your dear and trusted friends."
"You're lying!" Dash snapped at once. "Our friends wouldn't do anything like that."
"Oh Rainbow Dash, always so loyal." Discord was suddenly crouched next to her, leaning an arm across Dash's back. "And so ready to jump to conclusions. I didn't mean poor little Scootaloo."
"Scootaloo?" Twilight asked, casting a confused glance at Rainbow.
"Yes, Scootaloo," Discord said, standing on Twilight’s other side with another flash. "She's one of the ponies who freed me."
"He's lying," Dash insisted again, her voice hardly more than a whisper.
"Oh you ponies, so easy to use. I thought to myself, in all of Equestria, who would be the easiest to manipulate? Who could I use to arrange my escape once again? Obviously the best answer would be ponies far away from the elements of harmony, but where's the fun in that?" Discord choked up, doubled over with laughter. "It was just so easy. The ponies you care about most, your "best friends" freed me." He wiped a tear of laughter from his eye. “Oh, the tragic irony of it all.”
"We aren't falling for your tricks again," Twilight said. "Our friends wouldn't do any of that, and you can't make us fight amongst each other any more."
Discord smiled again. "We'll see about that. There's a pretty easy way to check. Just go ask her yourself. She's still out there in the statue garden."
Dash glanced toward the door uncertainly.
"You see, she finally seems to have come to her senses. Too late of course. She's taking it very hard."
"Taking what hard?" Rainbow demanded.
"Being the Element of Betrayal. It was easy to justify at first, after all she did feel betrayed. But now..." Discord shook his head. "Well, I should be off. Chaos won't cause itself." With a final flash he was gone.
Rainbow Dash acted first, galloping toward the doors at full speed. The others were right behind her.
Scootaloo sat quietly in the garden, barely visible in the dim moonlight. Her eyes were red, but she'd stopped crying by the time Dash found her.
"Scootaloo?" Dash asked softly, edging closer. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm so sorry," Scootaloo said.
Dash's head dropped as the last hope that Discord had been lying faded.
"He just left me here," Scootaloo continued shakily. "I thought he was my friend, but as I soon as I stopped listening he left me."
"Why would you listen to him at all?" Rainbow asked. She heard the others catch up behind her, but they didn't speak.
"I didn't at first. But he was so nice, and he promised to help me stay with my friends, to stay out of the orphanage."
"Orphanage?" Twilight whispered.
Scootaloo's head hung lower. "I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought he was my friend. But after he was free..." She trailed off and nodded back with her head. Dash glanced down and froze, staring at a spot of color on Scootaloo's flank.
It took her a moment to make it out in the moonlight. A heart, but made of pink fire. She recognized it from the play she'd been a part of several months back. The heart from Hearth's Warming Eve. The fire of friendship.
The heart on Scootaloo's flank was split in two by a jagged crack.
"I'm so sorry," Scootaloo whispered again.
Dash turned back to the group. "Princess?"
"Yes, Rainbow Dash?" Princess Celestia asked in a neutral voice.
"I know this looks bad, but every one of us were tricked by Discord. It's... well, we did stuff we never thought we'd do."
The princess looked back at Scootaloo and nodded. "I will take that into consideration. For now though, I'll have to ask that she stay here until we get the whole story. Meanwhile, Twilight, you and your friends should start searching for the Elements of Harmony. You have the help of any unicorns employed at the castle, of course."
Twilight nodded and nudged her friends to follow, leaving the princess alone with Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo.
"So what happens now?" Scootaloo asks.
"Now you'll come with me," Princess Celestia said. She smiled warmly at the scared filly. "And don't worry too much. You aren't the first pony Discord's managed to trick. Things will work out."
Scootaloo nodded and followed behind the princess, a dejected and defeated look on her face.
I told you, Discord whispered to Scootaloo, A helpless filly manipulated by the big bad Discord. They'd eat it up in a heartbeat. Scootaloo nodded silently as they made their way to the castle.