"Y-y-y...." Sweetie stammered out.
"Hm? Something wrong Sweetie?" Twilight asked.
"Y-your... where did it go?" Sweetie asked, trying to bypass her shock.
"Huh? Where'd what-" Applejack asked, before seeing what the filly was talking about. "What the hay?"
"I'm sorry... but what are you two..." Fluttershy saw what the mare and filly were now talking about. "Twilight... your flank..."
"What about my flank? Is something on it?" Twilight looked over to her backside to see what the mares and filly were talking about. There wasn't anything on her flank... quite literally. Twilight's magic star cutie mark was gone, as though she never earned it to begin with. "M-my cutie mark! How?!"
"It's not just you. Applejack and Fluttershy's are missing too!" Sweetie said.
The two mares took a look at their own backsides. Applejack's apple cutie mark and Fluttershy's butterfly cutie mark are gone. They both look at each other in shock.
"How..." Fluttershy asked silently.
"Ah knew that box was trouble! Ah knew there was a catch!" Applejack exclaimed.
"Box?" Twilight asked.
"That box Sweetie got from a ghost named Madame... it gave her power to get us out of the paintings." Fluttershy said quietly, pointing over at the golden star box that lied on the floor.
Twilight went over to look at the small box and examine it. Inside was a see though crystal. It was the type of crystals used to encase magic spells and charms. Twilight had studied magical crystals at one point, and had heard of certain crystals that could hold different levels of magic for longer bursts... but had never seen one like one the box held.
"Well... this magic charm crystal explains how Sweetie was able to use so much power... but I've never heard of a spell that could remove cutie marks." Twilight said. "Applejack, I'm not sure if this box is the reason for our disappearing cutie marks at all."
"Well why in hay not?" Applejack asked, still steaming over her missing cutie mark.
"Simply because as far as I can tell, this is a magic crystal. Magic can't affect cutie marks. Trust me, I've tested it." Twilight said.
"Then what then?" Applejack asked, " 'cause ah certainly remember havin' an apple on my plot when ah walked in 'ere."
"I don't know. I honestly don't know." Twilight said. "All I know is that whatever took them away wasn't magic... or at least not this box."
"...now what? We don't have our talents anymore?" Fluttershy asked. She imagined herself not being able to tend to the animals anymore. Applejack imagined not being able to buck apples like she used to. Twilight shook her head.
"No. Talents can't be taken or given, no matter what." Twilight said. "...or at least not without consequences." Twilight recalled the Cutie Pox incident. "...but it's still impossible for our cutie marks to be just gone. They're somewhere, wither on our pony or somewhere else, I don't know. I'd need to investigate ourselves. Maybe run a few tests."
"Um... Twilight? Is there anything I can do to help?" Sweetie asked.
"Oh Sweetie... I couldn't ask you to do anything more than you're already forced to do." Twilight said softly.
"I can do it. Is there something? Anything? Maybe I could do it if I come across it or something?" Sweetie asked.
"...well, If you happen to find a book on cutie marks for me to reference to... or something written that I could look at regarding missing cutie marks, then that would be more than helpful... but only if you come across it. Don't go out of your way to do anything. Just catch Rainbow, and get back." Twilight closed her eyes, remembering following the filly with her mind, and how she had to run all over the mansion. "We don't want anything like earlier to happen."
"You're telling me..." Sweetie said.
Twilight magically opened the door, and let the filly out, back into the darkness. The mare closed the door back, as they all listened to her footsteps fade away.
"... ah ain't gonna forgive mahself fer lettin' that little filly back out in that mansion alone.’Specially with 4 hooves ah can stand on righ'." Applejack said, staring at the door.
"She'll be fine... she has to be." Twilight said as they all stared at the door together.
Sweetie moved through the dining hall and into the foyer. It was still lit as before.
"Huh..." Sweetie thought as she entered the room. It was the first time she'd really thought about it but, this was technically where it all started. Her entering the grand door that must have stretched up for three stories. And the meeting of the butler that she wasn't sure if he was or wasn't on her side. She had yet to hear from the butler, and somehow, she hoped it would stay that way. Friendly or not, the less ghosts, the better.
The filly wondered... what time was it? If Celestia and Luna were in here, being controlled by Specter, then the sun probably wouldn't rise. She wondered what time it was supposed to rise? And what would happen if it didn't? She just guessed it would throw some clocks off... which still brought her back to the question... what time was it? Something in Sweetie's gut told her time was very important now. She was sure it was past 12 o'clock, given she probably arrived around 9 or 10, and had been traveling around the mansion for maybe 3 or 4 hours, given she was asleep for maybe about 1 and a half hours. Sweetie wondered why she was so concerned about time all of a sudden... was she running out of it?
"Sweetie? Are you here?" a familiar friendly mare voice came from above.
"Madame?" Sweetie looked up to see floating down was the dressed yellow mare.
"Sweetie... glad to see you're still alive." Madame said.
"P-please don't." Sweetie said feeling a shiver down her spine.
"Hm? Something wrong?" Madame asked.
"It's just... the last pony who said that to me was trying to brainwash and kill me." Sweetie said.
"Oh, I apologize." the mare paused for a moment. "... but you did manage to catch her right? The Portrait of Magic?"
"Yeah." Sweetie sighed. "Three more to go."
"And I suppose my charm worked... like a charm?" Madame asked.
"A little too well. I hope I never have to have so much magic in me like that ever again..." Sweetie said.
"I'm quite surprised a little filly such as yourself has made it so far. Done so much..." Madame said. "... tell me. What drives you?"
"My what?" Sweetie asked.
"What makes you so determined to catch all of your friends." Madame asked.
"They're my friends. I think that's reason enough." Sweetie said.
"Friendship only goes so far my dear." Madame said.
If Twilight were here, she'd have a fit over what you just said. Sweetie thought.
"There's got to be something more. A much more powerful reason. Some pony, or something you’re looking for." Madame said.
Sweetie thought. Something more? Well... there was some pony she was particularly concerned about. "I... I guess my sister Rarity. I... I just need her to remind me of some stuff is all."
"You're... you're that white mare's sister?" Madame said.
"You know her?" Sweetie asked.
"Unfortunately... I've had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting her earlier tonight... and so did my husband, though I'm sure he wouldn't call the encounter as so... unfortunate."
"You met Rarity at the party?" Sweetie asked.
"Yes. The mule was flirting with my dear Specter." Madame said. "... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult your sister. It’s just... I hate it when people try to flirt with my Specter. It's just an attachment I've developed with him over the years has caused me to get a little jealous of little things."
Sweetie realized something. Now she had Madame again. The mare knew things... important things, Sweetie wanted answers to. All of them stemming to one pony.
"Um... Madame?" Sweetie asked.
"There's something that's been tugging at me for a little bit. You said... Specter wasn't evil, the last time we talked... then who is he? What is he?" Sweetie asked.
"He's... he's a stallion who's made a lot of mistakes in his lifetime. That's all I can tell you now." Madame said.
"N-now? Why can't you tell me everything now? Where you're from? Who your family is? What is up with this mansion and all of the ghosts? Where-"
"I can't tell you all of those things. You have to find them out on your own." Madame said.
"Me? How am I supposed to figure this stuff out?" Sweetie asked.
"Did you pick up the journal I left in my second bedroom?" Madame asked.
Sweetie thought back to the hallway past the library... she did remember picking up a book before hiding from Applebloom. She reached back into her saddlebags to take out the book. She looked at its leather cover and spine, decorated with two yellow stripes.
"Is... is this yours?"
"Yes and no. It was Specter's originally... but he and I shared a journal as a bit of a trust exercise we kept on during our marriage. That we could write down our thoughts and trust the other wouldn't read them. Its how we were able to get closer... to trust each other... but we stopped it a little while back."
"Huh? Why?" Sweetie asked.
"There was... a bit of separation between us." The mare said. "In any case, that book holds any background history you'd want to know."
That could be helpful... Sweetie thought.
"...well, you wanted answers right? You'll find them in that book."
Sweetie opened up the book to the first page, and something that shocked the filly... was the date.
February 14th, 845 A.C
I met the most beautiful mare today. It was during the mansion's theater day... the play of Shakespony's Redneck& Junebug... a fitting play of two lovers... a perfect time to meet the love of my life. As I greeted each of our guests into my home, I must have met eyes with hundreds of mares and stallions as they entered and took their seats for the play... but there was one unicorn mare in particular that caught my eye... Her yellow coat, her reddish mane... and gorgeous deep yellow eyes. I couldn't take my eyes off of her as she walked by with that sweet smile on her face. Spiffy Butler, my most loyal pony-servant had to snap me out of the allure that was the yellow coated mare. I didn't even get to ask her name as she passed by. I simply had to meet this wonderful mare. I had Spiffy go out in search of her in the theater. I didn't care if her family was there. I simply had to find a way to sit with her. The entire time before the play was to begin... about 30 minutes I believe I was a mess. The mare had caused me to fall in love with her... just by a glance. It was maddening, the only thing I could think of was the yellow coated mare... and the things I wanted to do with her. The simple thought of being close to the mare... looking at her... or simply thinking of her was intoxicating. I had to meet her. I simply had to. Spiffy didn't show up, as the play was going to start. I moved into the theater, looking desperately for that yellow coat... so desperately I wasn't looking where I was going. I bumped head first with a pony... a mare, and by Celestia it was the mare I was looking for. We sat on the ground for a few moments, locked in each other's gaze. I wondered if she was on the same wave length as me. Did she think about me? Did she feel about me? Of course, we'd just met. The only physical contact we'd felt was with our heads colliding into each other. Spiffy snapped me out of the mare's hypnotic gaze, and picked us both up. He then ushered us both to our seats as the play began. I owned the mansion, and had seen the play hundreds of times. Even if this were my first time experiencing the play, I doubt I could have taken my eyes off of the young beautiful mare that sit right beside me, looking at the play in such amazement. I stared at her... honestly, I'm a bit ashamed. I must have crept her out when she finally noticed my study of her. She asked me why I was staring at her so intensely. I felt my face heat up at the sound of her angelic voice. I told her that she was just more interesting than the play. It must have gotten to the mare, as she blushed herself. She asked my name, and I told her. I asked what her's was, and she said it was Sunflower Maidem Daisy. She said people call her Madame, because of how her middle name sounded. I wondered what her cutie mark was, but resisted the urge to look at her flank and possibly offend the mare. I felt like I had to be careful. After all, what could a mare, think of me after I'd just hit her in the head, and basically stared her down? She didn't seem into money, or into meeting me. She just seemed interested in the show before I came along... but then we started talking. The play went on, as we talked about everyday things. Politics, economics, art... and even a little gossip on the ponies around Stabletown. I think I even made her chuckle in our conversation. Then something kind of slipped out. I asked if she had a colt friend. She blushed again, this time, seeming more embarrassed rather than flattered. I tried to take back the question, hoping to change any negative thoughts the mare had about me. Instead, she answered the question with a quiet "no". The mare was still responding to me, as she blushed, tugging at her dress nervously. Was I making her nervous? I then asked if she wanted to stay after the play, where we could maybe have some dinner together in the dining hall. I expected her to say no. I was almost certain she would say no... but she said "sure". She said she'd just let her parents know she would be headed home later that night. I hoped I wasn't making her seem like I was forcing her into anything. I wanted her to 'want' me as much as I wanted her... I hoped she would love me. The play ended, and ponies left... all except the two of us, who still sat together in the theater silently. I was sure Spiffy would be making preparations for our impromptu date... but neither of us moved to head to the dining hall on the other side of the mansion. She looked at me, and I looked at her. We stared at each other, this time, having no pony to interrupt us. I didn't notice as she leaned closer to me. Before I knew it, our lips were touching... I didn't think. I couldn't think. The ecstasy of the mare was over intoxicating. I loved that mare, and she loved me back... or at least that's what I think. We didn't exchange words for the rest of that night. She did however stay in my room. I don't know how I couldn't be, but I was the happiest stallion in the world. No amount of money could make me want to change the moments as she lie with me as I write these very words. Nothing...
Aw... What a romantic little story... Sweetie thought. Still though, the date couldn't be right. It dated over 2000 years ago! Maybe it was a writing mistake. The next couple pages talked of dates Specter and Madame went on. Sweetie skimmed through the mushy stuff, knowing she could only take so much of it at a time. She eventually came across an entry that talked of their marriage several years later, followed by an intercourcial encounter. Sweetie didn't really understand the details... she was still a little filly after all. Still, something felt dirty about reading about ponies doing those... things with each other. This is followed by Madame getting pregnant with two foals... It's then Sweetie remembered the request Madame had made to catch her children, and their butler, Sweetie confirmed to be Spiffy... the book might really prove useful if she could learn a thing or two about them.
June 28th 847 A.C
It's been a couple months since my stomach started to grow. My joy was overwhelming when I first learned that I was going to have a child. More, with Specter. When I first met him over 2 years ago, I would have never thought he was the one I would love, let alone bear the child of. I remember our first dates. He wasn't cheap... yet he never tried to talk with his fortune, like I assume most rich ponies do. He's sweet... and he even appreciates my art. He's even given me an entire gallery to place all of my works in, and lets me decorate his... our mansion. I suppose it's ours now. He's called it ours since our marriage, even though legally it still belongs to him... he treats me like a princess, while treating me like a mare. I almost feel as though he's too good for me sometimes. Still though, I only wish he wouldn't hide things from me. I still don't know how he makes so much money. And his cutie mark is odd too... I'm getting off topic. I'm having foals. Twins, as the doctor predicted. A filly and a colt... Specter was just as surprised as I... I can't blame him. Neither of us were able to think about that kind of thing after that... magical night. Specter, although shocked, I could see the happiness on his face. That's around the time we decided to marry. I'm sure I wrote about that somewhere in this book... my parents weren't exactly happy with the thought though. I'm sure they were happy for me to be married to such a rich stallion, but I don't think getting pregnant before that pleased them as much. And they still didn't know much about Specter besides what I told them. They were just as curious and intimidated about his fortune as I. Of course, even though they did allow it, even if they didn't they couldn't stop me from marrying that stallion. Anyway, Specter and I have been discussing what to name our little foals... I would decide on the colt, and he on the filly. I came up with the name of Marbles for the colt. I thought it was a cute name, and Specter smiled, saying he liked it. He always said he liked something I came up with, wither it be literature, or art, or music... Specter came up with the name Candy. I liked it too. Candy and Marbles. I think it has a ring to it... Specter told me about the 'genetic disease' that went down his family. When I first heard about it from him, I became afraid for my foals. I hoped they wouldn't have to suffer any kind of mental deficiency, or deformity. I couldn't live with myself knowing that my foals would have to go through that kind of mental stress, much like my grandmother, who suffered from chronic dementia since she was a little filly... though my fears were relieved when I learned it was nothing of the sort. In fact, it's something I kind of think is crazy. He said that his family has an ongoing phobia disease... something where every member of his family is afraid of something... wither irrational or rational. I told him everyone's afraid of something, but Specter responded that it was a little deeper than simple fear. He didn't want to go any further than that. Was he keeping some kind of secret from me? I don't know, but he told me not to worry about it. I trusted Specter, so I perished the thought of my children being endangered by such a phobia disease. I knew Specter would tell me anything that I thought was important, if he didn't want to keep it a secret... and even when he did lie, it was always to keep me, or even that butler that he cares about so much, safe. I'm sure he feels the same for my... our foals. As I write these words, I can feel my young foals, moving around in my stomach, kicking, and eager to leave my womb... in fact, they are kicking rather hard, now that I- The entry stopped abruptly there.
Is... was she about to have the foals? Sweetie thought. Sweetie wasn't sure. She remembered stories Rarity told when she was in her mother's stomach. She kicked much in the same way Madame described. She could only assume...
Sweetie turned to the next page to find... nothing. It was gone! The rest of the pages of the journal were ripped out by some pony. Who could have done this and why? And even more, where were the other pages? Sweetie had a feeling she'd need them.
"Madame, where's the other-" Sweetie looked up to find the ghost mare had disappeared. "Right... leave me with more questions why don't you." Sweetie placed the book back into her bag. Well, time to get back to looking for Rainbow... now Fluttershy said she was on the seventh floor... oh Celestia... that sounds like a lot of stairs.
Sweetie took out her map to find that there was a stairwell at the top of the foyer staircase through the middle door. She headed up and came face to face with the door. She hesitated before opening the door. This time, she wasn't afraid of what would happen if she tried to open the door... but what would happen once she went through it. She headed through and started to walk up the grand staircase.
Once Sweetie made it up to the 3rd floor, something popped up in her mind. A memory... of Rarity.
"Oh No... that simply won't do." Rarity said to herself. "No, no, no! Sapphire would never wear that. Throw that design in the garbage..."
Sweetie walked into the mare's inspiration room, taking a bite out of a Sweetie Apple Surprise she'd just returned from Sugarcube corner with. It was in her muzzle, the hooves she walked on, covered in the caramel nectar from the apple.
"Heh Shish." Sweetie said through the apple covering her mouth.
"Not now Sweetie. Momma is very busy." Rarity said, not bothering to glance at the filly, completely focused on her dress design. Sweetie didn't quite process the importance Rarity saw.
"Chome on. Ish shavensh seen shoe slall dhay." She said, still licking the inside of the apple in her mouth.
"I said I don't have time Sweetie." finally Rarity glanced at the filly, with the sticky apple in her mouth, and caramel drenched hooves. She saw how they tracked into the room... it was a mess the filly had yet to notice. "And get that messy thing out of here!" She exclaimed annoyed. "Do you know how much work I'll have lost if you mess them up with that disgusting little apple of yours?!"
Sweetie's eyes went wide at the sudden outburst, as she sat her on her flank. She threw the remaining apple up in the air, and managed to catch it in her mouth, proceeding to swallow it. It was a little trick Applebloom had taught her back at the clubhouse to dispose of an apple quickly. She looked at Rarity.
"I... I'm sorry." Sweetie seemed to be on the verge of tears. Rarity sighed. She used her telekinetic magic to put down the pencil she used to draw her design. She walked over to the filly to embrace her.
"Oh Sweetie. I didn't mean to snap at you like that. I'm just running out of time to finish these designs up, and I simply can't afford to mess up you see." Rarity smiled at the filly. "Just... just let me finish ok? I just need to work right now."
"C...can I watch?" Sweetie asked, sniffling. Rarity hesitated before answering. She knew the filly had a history whenever she 'watched' the mare as she worked... but then again, it wasn't as if she could say no to those green heart melting eyes.
"Of course my dear." Rarity's smile faded. "Just... just watch though. Nothing more."
Sweetie nodded. At least she'd get to spend some more time with the mare she looked up to not only as a sister, or a best friend, but a virtual mother, and role model...
Sweetie came out of her memory, seeing herself on the 5th floor. She wasn't quite as fond of that memory, and how it ended. It seemed to only give evidence to the claims of the ghosts... Sweetie tried to think of a different memory as she climbed. Something happier. Something like her friends and their en devours to gain their cutie marks.
"Cutie Mark Crusaders Cat Rescue Squad YAY!" the three fillies cheered.
"Meow." Opalescence said at the top of the tall tree.
"Thanks guys for helping me though," Sweetie said, "Rarity would have my horn if anything happened to that cat."
"Don't sweat it Sweetie. We're in this together." Scootaloo said. "Besides, ponies do this all the time. This is a perfect chance to test out our cutie marks."
"Yeah." Applebloom said, looking up at the cat in the tree. "Only thing ah can' figur' out 's how that cat got up there, on 'he farm. Ain't that Rarity's cat? Ain't she supposed ta be back at the Boutique?"
"Yeah, but... I kinda chased her out." Sweetie admitted.
"Why?" Scootaloo asked.
"Well... you see that little crayon in her mouth?" Sweetie asked.
"You chased her out for a crayon?" Scootaloo asked.
"No... I was borrowing Rarity's special design drawing crayon to map out some ideas I had for getting our cutie marks and she snatched it out of my hoof... I don't know what it is with Opal and anything I have... she just likes messing with me. Anyway, I chased her here and..." Sweetie glances at Winona, who is barking furiously at the cat in the tree. "You guys saw the rest."
"Go on Winona. Git!" Applebloom told the brown sheepdog. Winona's ears went down, upset she had displeased one of her masters, and left, forgetting about the cat.
"Now the only thing is... how are we going to get that dumb cat down?" Sweetie said, looking back up in the tall dead tree.
"Yeah... it's too hig' to climb." Applebloom said.
"And I can't really fly yet, so that's not an option..." Scootaloo said.
"... ah got an idea..." Applebloom said, leaving the two fillies. "Be ri' back." She ran off the farm.
Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo waited for their friend to return for a little while. Finally, Scootaloo picked up a rock off of the ground and chucked it at the cat. The cat narrowly dodged the rock she was assaulted with, and hissed at Scootaloo.
"What are you doing?!" Sweetie said, stopping the orange filly from throwing another rock. "I want her down, not dead!"
The orange filly shrugged, still liking her original plan. She threw a second rock. Sweetie knocked her hoof down.
"Stop it you Dodo!" Sweetie said annoyed.
"Ahm back." Applebloom called before Scootaloo could respond to Sweetie. She was followed close behind her, a baby dragon.
Scootaloo sighed. "Look Applebloom, I know you like Spike and all, but what's he got to do with this."
Spike wasn't listening as he looked up into the tree at the love of his life's cat. "Huh? What's Opal doing up there?"
Applebloom went a crimson red. "A-ah don't know what yer talkin' bout." her blush faded. "'sides, ah got an idea usin' this 'im."
Spike was still examining Rarity's pussy cat. "What's that thing in her mouth?"
Sweetie Belle was puzzled. "What could you use Spike for anyway? He's barely older than any of us."
"Well, list'n 'ere. Mah sis's gonna want this 'ere tree down ri'? It's dead and ain't no good fer apple buckin. So ah thought, kill two birds 't one stone."
"What are you three up to?" Spike said, finally turning his attention onto the three fillies.
"Well, what ah wanted ta do was set this 'ere tree on fire."
"WHAT?!" Sweetie exclaimed.
"I'm liking this idea." Scootaloo said smiling.
"I'm not! I just said I didn't want to kill Rarity's cat." Sweetie argued
"Sweetie's right! Why would you want to turn roast that cold cat into a hot dog?" Spike asked.
"Hold on and list'n. Ah figured that if we set th' tree up on fire, the cat'd try an jump down. Then, we'd catch 'em!" Applebloom said, "and the tree'll burn so me and mah sis don't gotta worry 'bout cuttin' it down later! It's perfect."
"I dunno, sounds kind of risky." Spike said.
"And that cat's too stubborn to get out of that tree, even if it's falling down around her!" Sweetie said.
"It's pure logic. It'll work." Applebloom assured.
"...alright." Sweetie gave in.
"I still don't like it. I don't even think I can even light raw bark." Spike said.
"C'mon Spike. Please try?" Applebloom pleaded, with her large orange eyes.
Spike sighed. "Whatever..." Spike got close to the tree, and blew his green flame on it. The small flame traveled around the tree, licking its base, but not igniting. As he ran out of breath, he looked to see that he had only left a few small burn marks on the tree.
"Try again." Scootaloo said to the dragon.
Spike took another deep breath, and blew harder with his green flame, this time, a little larger than before, but nothing abnormal for a baby dragon. This time, when he ran out of breath, the base of the tree glowed red with heat. Spike took one more deep breath to blow on the tree. The tree ignited with a green flame.
"Success!" Spike exclaimed.
The four children took a few steps back from the smoking tree. They all looked up at the cat sniffed the air, noticing the smoke. Fearfully, she dropped the crayon it held in its mouth, falling to the ground, breaking it into little pieces.
"Oh no." Sweetie thought. Opal wasn't trying to get down, but was more frozen with fear. Sweetie knew that if she fell from that height without any precision, she wouldn't get back up. Then, Sweetie's fears were realized. As the fire traveled up the tree, much faster than any of the fillies, or the dragon could anticipate, it started to burn the limb of the tree Opal was perched on. The branch cracked, and before any of the fillies could do anything, the cat fell, likely to her doom.
Then, out of nowhere, Applejack came out of nowhere, catching the cat before it could hit the ground. She was followed by Big Macintosh, and a couple more of the farm workers, holding buckets of water in their muzzles. They tossed them on the tree, extinguishing the green flame. The cat remained frozen as it lied in the mare's hooves.
"What in the hay were you four doin'?" Applejack exclaimed angrily.
"Um... Oh! I think that's Twi calling me. See ya!" Spike said before fleeing the scene.
"You three." Applejack said angrily, before any of the three fillies could come up with excuses to escape punishment. "Farmhouse... now."
Sweetie was brought out of her memory as she arrived on the 7th floor. Maybe that wasn't the best memory to recall. Now Sweetie just depressed, and more like she messed things up, by getting her friends into trouble, and breaking Rarity's design tool. She also missed her friends even more, and the adventures they would go on in order to obtain their cutie marks.
"I'll get you back somehow..." Sweetie said to herself.
Sweetie moved through the door, and into a new hallway, identical to the other ones she'd been through, though with different pieces of artwork. So... Madame made these? She's really good. Sweetie went over to examine one of the paintings with her flashlight, having a new appreciation for her ghost friend's artwork. It was a town. It looked luxurious, and beautiful. Not quite like Canterlot, but definitely a step above Ponyville. The town seemed to be much more diverse in community than Ponyville. The landscape painting was filled with ponies of all kinds. Unicorns, Pegasi, and Earth ponies alike... but there were also a considerable number of griffons and zebra as well. She even noticed a buffalo in the background. In the painting, she could see Specter, much younger than the one Sweetie had become acquainted with. He smiled through the painting, possibly at Madame, who was painting it. Besides him were two twins... chances were they were Marbles and Candy. They looked around with their yellow eyes, much more interested in everything going on around them, rather than the painter, as foals tended to be. Sweetie looked off in the corner to some text that was written out in cursive. It said Stabletown...
"So this is your home, huh Madame?" Sweetie said to the painting. Something seemed odd about it. Sweetie knew the mansion had an old look to it, but when she looked at the edges of the canvas inside of the frame... they seemed to be browned... as if they'd aged for a very long time. Maybe it was because it was a part of the mansion and aged along with the rest of it...
Sweetie took out her map and checked to see where she needed to go next. According to the map, she was in a hallway, where if she headed left, she would head over a walkway over the dining area she'd just been through. If she kept that way, and went through the hallway the opposite end connected to, she would find her way to the outdoor eating area, and most likely, Rainbow Dash's ghost. She stuffed the map back into her bag, and headed to the dining hall area.
Moving down the hall, she felt the gut feeling again. The same one she felt as she entered the stairwell to her current location. Her instinct was warning her of something... but given there was no other way she saw to the dining area, she could only keep moving forward. It wasn't like she was feeling cold anyway, so it couldn't be a ghost. Maybe it was just her paranoia acting up again.
Sweetie came to the door, and pushed through it. The weight caused it to close behind her. Sweetie didn't bother to check if it was locked, afraid she would find it actually was. She shined her light around. Candles were across the walls, to her right. On her left, was a banister that kept any pony from falling down to the dining hall below. Also past the banister was a weak, yet luxurious looking chandelier.
"So what are you? Fire proof now?" a voice said from the other side of the dining hall. Sweetie remembered seeing there was a second path on the map, on the left side of the dining room... and something in her gut was telling her that some pony was also on that side. "Because I could have sworn the last time I saw you, you were baking like... what do call that think Pinkie made... Sweetie Apple Surprise?
"Spike? Spike is that you?" Sweetie called out.
"And you can form sentences again. Isn't that just wonderful." Spike said.
Sweetie was afraid of the fire-breathing dragon, but then remembered. He was still a baby dragon. Unless he found his way over to her side, she would be fine.
"What do you want Spike?" Sweetie called. She knew she wasn't speaking to Spike, but she didn't know what else to call him. Still... something felt like she should have known what to call him.
"Nothing but to see you burn in every way possible." He said. Sweetie could feel him grinning at her through the darkness. He laughed. "Hey... you ever finish reading that Exerpony book?"
Sweetie remained silent. Spike simply laughed.
"Probably not, knowing a scardy pony like you." Spike said. "... I remember that day you know. That day you came to the library, wining about how Rarity didn't love you."
Sweetie didn't say a word, fearing to feed the argument she anticipated he would make about her sister.
"She lied to you, you know. Twilight?" Spike said. "I'm with Twi all the time, especially when her and Rare get together. Now, I'm not going to stand up here and lie to you Sweetie. I've got the ear of a dragon. I heard everything that came out of Twi's mouth, and I'm telling you that she was lying."
Sweetie bit her lip. Why didn't she just leave? Did a part of her want to hear what the dragon had to say? Sweetie didn't know. It was like she was anchored to the spot.
"Of course she'd lie. You two were in a public library, and I doubt she'd want you to start bawling your little eyes out right then and there. No, I doubt she'd just drop it on you... but I know Twilight. She'll tell a lie every once and a while, and you can tell. You were able to tell too. Remember how she paused? Remember how she hesitated?"
"She said that I meant the world to her." Sweetie blurted out.
"True, but she also side stepped the question when you asked how many good things Rare said about you. Don't deny it. I'm using cold hard facts. I don't have anything that I know that tells me that Rarity hates you... but I do know she doesn't love you. She lied, Sweetie. Twilight-"
"Shut up!" Sweetie yelled at the baby dragon through the darkness. "You're just a big liar! I don't care if you've got one or two of Spike's memories. That's not true! You're not Spike! You're just a liar."
"Says the filly who called me Spike herself. Such a fickle one..." Spike said. "Tell me Sweetie. Do you remember anything that tells what Rarity really thinks of you?"
"I don't have time for this." Sweetie said. Sweetie started to move down to the opposite side of the room. Suddenly, Sweetie noticed something out of the corner of her eye. It was two blue lights that came on from the opposite side of the dining hall. Were they the dragon's new possessed eyes? Sweetie felt like she'd seen those eyes earlier...
Out of the darkness, there came a large orb of green light... coming straight for the filly. Sweetie jumped forward, dodging the fireball as it hit the path behind her, igniting it into a giant flame, blocking Sweetie's way back. How did Spike do that? Sweetie didn't know the dragon could let out so much fire! He had the breath of an adult dragon... maybe even stronger than that. Sweetie then remembered how Applebloom was able to jump out of the cage, higher than a normal filly should have been able too. Scootaloo, although she was definitely stronger than the filly originally, shouldn't have been able to move that stone slab so effortlessly. Did that also mean that Spike's breath was made stronger as well?
Sweetie knew better than to just stand there and watch as Spike tried again to hit her. Sweetie ran for the opposite side of the dining hall. Spike fired another green ball at her, hitting the path behind her with its green flame. It was breaking up the path behind her, as she heard pieces of the path fall down to the bottom of the dining hall.
"No point in running Sweets." Spike said. "I can see you..."
Sweetie couldn't tell from the darkness ahead of her, but she figured she was about half way across the dining hall. Then, out of nowhere, a fireball hit the path ahead of Sweetie. Knocking her back enough to cause her to drop the flashlight in her muzzle.
"Get up Sweetie. Get up!" Sweetie coached herself. She looked in front of her to see that she couldn't get through that way. She looked behind her to see her back path up in flames. She was trapped... or so she thought. The way Sweetie's flashlight fell, it pointed out into the darkness of the center of the dining hall. It illuminated the frail chandelier. It was Sweetie's only chance to escape before the segment of the path fell to the dining hall. Sweetie grabbed her flashlight, and stuck it back in her muzzle, tasting the soot and dirt from the burning pathway. It almost made her spit the flashlight back out, but she held it firmly with her teeth.
Sweetie put her flank against the wall, feeling the pathway become less and less level. She listened to how it crackled under her very feet. She didn't have much time. Sweetie ran for the banister, and perched on top of it for a second before jumping for the chandelier. She reached out for it with her hooves, grabbing its edge. Spike laughed on the other side in amusement as she climbed on top. The filly heard as the segment of path fell down to the first floor.
Ok, now what? Sweetie thought as she got on the chandelier. She could feel it coming out of the ceiling due to the added weight and stress. She saw another chandelier in jumping distance. If she could get to it...
Sweetie got back as far as the chandelier would let her and made a running jump for the next one before it fell out of the wall, and onto the dining table seven stories below her. She hit the second chandelier perfectly, but this time, with too much momentum. As the dragon tried to shoot the filly, she just jumped to the next chandelier, trying to slow herself down. She continued to jump, and narrowly dodge fireballs, the momentum she had keeping her jumps long. Finally, after traveling along 5 chandeliers, she was able to stop by grabbing the edge of one. She jumped back over to the path she was originally on, and ran for the exit. She was almost there. Spike aimed for the top of the doorway, aiming to destroy the filly's exit. She rolled through, just as wood and debris fell around it, blocking it off.
Sweetie's heart beat fast, after the near death situation. Adrenaline wanted to make her keep running, but she regained control of her little filly legs and brain to stop, and assess the situation. She took a deep breath, and went into her bag to check her map. She checked the map in order to figure out if Spike could still follow her. According to it, the paths in the dining hall all branched off from the dining hall. They wouldn't meet up for a few rooms. Where they met was at another hallway that led to the outdoor eating area. Sweetie would probably confront the baby dragon again, but if she moved fast, maybe she could avoid seeing him before she caught Rainbow Dash.
Sweetie saw no time to lose. She headed down the hallway, to the outdoor hallway, preparing her for whatever Specter, or the mansion was going to throw at her next.
Sweetie managed to beat the dragon to her destination... or at least that's what she thought. As she entered the hallway, where she started to hear rain echoing down it, she didn't see hind or claw of the possessed dragon. Something didn't seem right about that, considering everyone of the possessed ponies, or in Spike's case dragon was better, faster, stronger, and more agile than her. Then again, the same thing happened with Applebloom, who seemed to disappear along Sweetie's path as she escaped the basement. Maybe they had an alternate method of travel?
Sweetie could hear thunder and rain outside. It sounded a little less harsh than before. The storm seemed to let up a little, so she assumed she would be able to venture outside with fewer problems than she had in the courtyard. She moved forward, eventually meeting a sliding glass window. She slid it open, rain immediately hitting her face. Still, the storm, as Sweetie had previously deduced, had become much more bearable. Sweetie went out, the sliding door closing behind her.
Of course, of course. Sweetie thought as she heard it close behind her. Sweetie shined her light around, the rain limiting its shining strength. She didn't see anything out there. No Rainbow Dash, or any ghost to speak of. Rain hit the filly's coat, drenching her, causing her fluffy mane to fall down. The filly shivered... was she shivering because of the rain, or because there were ghosts nearby? Sweetie figured it to be best to look around the eating area.
The area was filled with tables and chairs, as she expected. Some of them had umbrellas, which Sweetie took a moment to take shelter under every few minutes to rest. Lightning flashed, revealing the eating area for a split second. To the right side of the eating area, against a wall, Sweetie noticed something... there were statues over there. But not just any statues... they were the ones of griffons Sweetie remembered seeing on her way into the mansion along its brick pathway. What in the hay were they doing here? She got from under the umbrella to investigate.
Sweetie found her way over, seeing that there was a flap at the top of the wall, shielding the statues from the rain. Sweetie touched each one, trying to find any indication any ghost, or pony may have transported them here. As she did, her hoof came across something. It wasn't cold, rough and hard... warm, feathery and soft... that wasn't a statue.
"What the heck?" The griffon said, surprising the filly back into the rain, nearly giving her a heart attack. She sounded tough, and adult. Sweetie wondered if this was who Fluttershy was talking about.
"G-gilda?" Sweetie asked as she shined her light on the griffon's face. Her eyes were golden... they didn't have the possessed look about them. Sweetie wasn't prepared to let her guard down none the less. She was already fooled by Applebloom and Scootaloo, and wasn't going to let herself get caught off guard again.
The griffon paused for a moment. "What do you want pipsqueak?" She seemed to be incredibly uninterested in the filly's appearance.
"I-I'm not Pipsqueak. I'm Sweetie Belle." Sweetie said.
"Like I care, what do you want?" Gilda asked. "I'm kind of busy here."
"W-well..." Sweetie wasn't sure if it was the best idea to ask the griffon such a question. Gilda intimidated the filly, and had a bad feeling that she wasn't on her side, but she didn't see herself having any other choice. Gilda was the only lead Sweetie had. Sweetie moved back under the flap. "I-I'm looking for a mare... her name's Rainbow Dash. Do you know her?"
"'course I know her." Gilda said. "She's mine."
"...your what?" Sweetie asked.
"Mine. My property. My ghost. What, do I have to explain it to you?" Gilda said.
Sweetie backed off, back into the rain. She came back, closer. She came back, trying to get her to tell her what she wanted to know, with her big green eyes. She even added some tears. They had no effect on the griffon.
"What, you're crying? What a pacifier and a bottle with that?" Gilda laughed at the filly.
"You're a bully." Sweetie said flatly.
"Whatever kid... say, what did you say your name was?" Gilda asked.
"S-sweetie Belle." Sweetie said shakily. Something didn't feel right. Gilda grinned at the filly.
"Oh really... yeah, you know what, I think I will tell you where Rainbow is." she said.
"Really?" Sweetie lit up. Had she finally gotten to the griffon? "Where? Where?"
"Not here." Gilda said.
"She's not even in the mansion. Now use that little brain in your head and guess where she is." Gilda said.
Sweetie thought. Where would the mare be? Think. Pinkie obviously wanted to catch Rainbow for a reason. She must have been keeping her from playing her 'game'... Sweetie wondered if she was doing something that kept her from doing that? Something that kept her from setting it up, and playing... Twilight was her mental powers, and Rainbow... what if it was the storm? Did that mean...
"...up?" Sweetie said.
"I guess you’re smarter than you look filly." Gilda said. "Yeah, she's in the clouds, making this awesome storm you’re standing in. And I should know awesome. After all, I am."
"S-she's making the storm? Why?" Sweetie asked.
"Why do you think?" Gilda asked. "To keep little losers like you away from the mansion until everything's all finished."
"Finished? What are you-" Sweetie asked.
"And don't think I don't know what you and that pink dweeb are up to." Gilda said.
"W-what?" Sweetie asked.
"You're not catching that mare. Not until you grow some wings." Gilda said.
Sweetie was discouraged. If Rainbow was indeed up above the clouds, she wouldn't have a chance at catching her. She tried to figure out... could she lure the mare down? Sweetie was brought out of thought as she was kicked in the head by Gilda, knocking her further into the rain. Sweetie could feel the blood from her nose and mouth draining out of her nose and mouth, mixing with the water of the rain as she got back up. She was in a daze, but she heard Gilda laughing at the filly's pain.
"Now that that's out of the way, let's get this over with. I gotta get back up there. She's slacking off." Gilda said. "I don't like you pipsqueak, and neither does Specter. So I decided it was time we took you out of the picture. All right, GET HER!"
Sweetie looked up at the Gilda, and the statues she was around. There were about 5 of them. The statues eyes glowed with the same golden tint as the griffon. They started to move, erecting their wings. She heard, as they moved, the sound of stone against stone.
No way... Sweetie thought. This did not look good in the slightest. Sweetie shined her light on the statues. As she feared, they didn't affect them. They grinned with their stony beaks, before one flew at the filly. Sweetie dodged to the right, falling to her side, still getting herself together after the blow to the head. She scrambled up, seeing the stone griffon come back around for another round. She dodged it again, this time with a little more focus. As it flew past her again, Sweetie ran in the direction it came from, away from Gilda and the other statues.
"Come back! What are you? Chicken?" Gilda taunted through the rain. Sweetie's heart was beating fast. She couldn't beat the statues, and she didn't have any of the GCD Spectral Throwback to attack with. All she had was her brain. Was there any way she could fight back the griffons? Sweetie remembered how they flew at her. That was how they seemed to be attacking. Maybe she could use that to her advantage...
Sweetie ran until she came to the opposite wall. She heard a whooshing sound, indicating that the stone griffon was making her third swoop. Sweetie planted her flank against the wall, waiting for it to come... she saw its glowing golden eyes through the rain. Now.
Sweetie dodged to the side, her flank still against the wall. She heard as the griffon collided with the wall. On impact, the griffon's head was broken apart, obliterating it. Sweetie got a second idea. If she could get the griffon to collide with the wall, maybe she could get it to collide with other things?
Sweetie heard the flapping of the stone wings coming at her. She moved forward, moving to the side, dodging the wing of the griffon. She got in front of the glass sliding door, she didn't even need to check to figure it was locked. She stood there, waiting for the griffon to swoop back and fly at her. She waved her flashlight in her mouth, in an attempt to attract the as she anticipated, the griffon flew at the filly. She dodged, as she listened to the sound of glass breaking, and stone smashing. Now she had her exit again, in case she had to make a quick getaway. She went back over to the wall, ready to lure the remaining three statues into the wall.
Though this time, they didn't come. Instead, she heard steps. Sounds of stone against floor, as they walked towards Sweetie, their eyes glowing through the darkness. They had figured out Sweetie's plan, and were now aiming to corner her as a team. Now, Sweetie's flank was against the wall out of fear. Now what was she to do? She didn't have anything to fight back with now... did she? The GCD didn't have any ghosts inside for her to fight with... but she did just catch another portrait ghost: Twilight. Every time she caught a Portrait of Harmony, she remembered getting a new upgrade on her GCD. With Applejack, it was the Spectral Throwback, and with Fluttershy, it was the Dual Capture... what about Twilight?
Sweetie looked at her GCD nozzle, and sure enough, there was a new icon on there. It was an icon that depicted a snowflake. Sweetie switched to it.
"Elemental Capture A activated." the GCD said.
She pointed her GCD at the statues, and hit the button. Instead of firing something at them, it started to suck up the rain. After a few seconds, the GCD said something.
"Ghost Capture Device Water Containment at 100 percent."
What does that mean?! I just vacuumed rain?! Sweetie thought. That's not helpful!
It's then Sweetie noticed that the snowflake, unlike the other icons, it had two settings: up and down. Right now, the switch was facing down. What if she switched it up? The filly did that as the griffons closed in on her, still grinning. Sweetie pointed the GCD at the center griffon, which was closest to her. When she hit the button, a cold blast of mist came from the GCD. It was so big and wide, it hit all three griffons. They all slowed to a stop, covered in frost and ice. Sweetie pushed them over, as they fell, breaking into tiny pieces as they hit the ground.
Sweetie heard a caw in the darkness. Suddenly, out of the darkness came Gilda. She was much faster than the statues. So fast, it took Sweetie a moment to realize that she was being held by the neck of the griffon. She sighed.
"If you want something done right, you've gotta do it yourself." she said, gripping the filly's neck, causing her to drop her flashlight. Sweetie's air was cut off. She was choking. Sweetie struggles to free herself from the claws of the griffon. Gilda took the filly over to the banister that looked over the forest. Lightning flashed as she held her over the edge, as Sweetie looked at the final face she would ever likely see again. The face of a griffon that wanted her dead. She didn't seem possessed... but she wanted her dead. Why? What the hay was happening? Who was this griffon? What did she have to do with any of this? What was it she meant by 'finished'? Sweetie would never know...
"What the hay do you think you're doing?!" said a familiar voice. Because Sweetie was being held by the griffon, she couldn't confirm.
"What am I doing? What are you doing?" Gilda responded. "Get back up there and fix that storm!"
"Are you trying to kill her?" the anonymous mare said.
"No, I'm just trying to show her the view." Gilda said sarcastically. "Of course I'm trying to kill her!"
"We're supposed to be ghostifying. Not killing them!" the mare argued.
"You were up in the sky all this time, you didn't get the memo. Forget about turning them into ghosts, we've got plenty of those now. It's either possession, or death. This loser's been catching ghosts, so she's a special case. Specter wants her dead now." Gilda said.
"That doesn't sound cool." the mare said.
"You're a ghost. It doesn't matter what you think is cool." Gilda said. "Now let me do this."
The griffon lessened her grip on the filly's neck. She could breathe, but she was now slipping through it.
"Hold on!" the mare said. Sweetie saw a cyan glowing hoof move past her, and push the griffon in the chest. It was so fast, if it were any closer, it might have been considered an attack. She dropped Sweetie, just inside of the eating area. She lied there, catching her breath. She looked up to see it was in fact, who she thought it was that saved her: Rainbow Dash... why?
"How do I know you're not lying? Just like you did with Scootaloo?" Rainbow asked. "What is it? You've got a fetish for killing fillies?"
"I'm just doing my job." Gilda said bitterly.
"How could I know that? Like you said, I was working with the storm all this time." Rainbow argued. "If you get in trouble, we'll both get in trouble, and I'll end up dead, like that Madame chick."
Aren't you already dead? Sweetie thought, as she slipped further away from the griffon. and was something supposed to happen to Madame?
Gilda groaned. "You're just as uncool as that... where'd she go?" Gilda asked, looking for the filly she could have sworn she just dropped. She looked over to the side, into darkness, before feeling her body got consumed in a biting cold. She screeched in pain from the intense frostbite. Rainbow simply watched, either still trying to comprehend that her master, as Gilda had put it, was freezing to death; or that she simply wanted to see her master freeze. Gilda was frozen on the spot... but it didn't seem like she was dead quite yet. Her eyes darted around, trying every part of her body to see if anything else wasn't encased frozen in ice.
"Ghost Capture Device Water Containment empty." the GCD said.
"You little brat! I'll kill you!" Gilda yelled at the filly.
Sweetie got up from her location and took her hoof off of the nozzle button. Suddenly, in front of her flashed the mare she was supposed to be hunting. Rainbow scared the filly back onto her flank to sit back in a puddle of rain. The mare stared at the filly with empty eyes.
"R-rainbow Dash?" Sweetie asked. She didn't receive an answer. The ghost mare seemed to be deep in thought. Sweetie wondered what was going on in Rainbow's ghostly head... then she remembered she could find out. She remembered that Twilight, earlier that night said something about using the camera to be able to hear a ghost's thoughts. If there was a better time to try it out, it was now. Sweetie, still keeping her eyes on the ghost mare who stared blankly at her, reached into her bag to take out her camera. She snapped a shot of Rainbow.
C'mon Sweetie! Run! she heard the mare think. It was definitely the real Rainbow Dash. Was she using her own will to keep her ghostly self from attacking her?
Stop fighting it. She can't escape. Its useless. Sweetie then heard another Rainbow Dash. It sounded much more ghost like, and intimidating. Even if she did run, we'd catch her, and kill her all the same. Tell ya what. If you give me back full control, I'll make it quick and painless. That's what I'm best at. Quick.
Run, damn it! Run!
Sweetie listened to the ghost mare, but instead of running away, she ran for her flashlight. She pointed it at the mare, expecting to hear a ding. Instead, her light bounced off of the mare, in several directions in the form of colors of the rainbow. The flashlight didn't affect her.
NO! Rainbow yelled in Sweetie's head.
Sweetie's eyes widened as the ghost mare flew at Sweetie such an incredible velocity; she didn't have time to dodge as she flew right through her little body...