A-Am I dead? Busby thought as he lie face down on a surprisingly soft surface. His mind was a blur of what had just occurred in the last 10 minutes. Finally, the memories of the chariot came back to him. Riding next to Waite, they were overlooking the Everfree forest, scanning for the mansion they hoped the princess might be holed up in. He then remembered Paita saying something about her wings, before the chariot nose-dived into the trees. At least that was the general memory. Busby didn't have the best one, especially upon waking up with a headache like his.
Busby's head wasn't the only thing that ached. Pain shot through his entire body, reminding him of the crash. He remembered thinking he was dead on impact... thankfully the pain reminded him this was not the case. As the stallion felt himself more and more coming to, he moaned in his anguish, hoping that nothing was broken. There was also the matter of the soft surface he was laying on. Rather than being cold and hard as the ground tended to be, it was warm and moved steadily.
Busby opened his eyes to see what he was lying on. He found himself staring into the face of a female moon guard. Paita had yet to regain consciousness herself. If it weren't for the steady rise and fall of her chest Busby felt against his own body, or the breaths of warm air on his face, he might have assumed she was gone. After a few seconds of staring at the mare's face, she started regaining her own consciousness. Before either of them had fully regained their heads, they found themselves staring into each others eyes. However the moment lasted but a few seconds, as Paita's soft eyes turned back into their normal hard glare.
"You've got 3 seconds to get off me rookie." She spat.
Busby simply smiled. "I was beginning to think you were enjoying this P-" he started before she brought her hoof around, hitting him along the side of the head. "Gah!" He yelled, falling onto his back to the side of the mare. "What was that for?!"
"Try that again Buster. Next time, I'm not going to be so merciful." She said scornfully, squinting her eyes in annoyance.
That was merciful? She hits like a damned buffalo! Busby thought, holding the side of his head.
Paita rolled over onto her front and got up. She groaned in pain, much like Busby did upon his awakening. As Busby took his eyes off of the mare, he began to examine the rest of his surroundings. In front of him, the first thing that caught his eye was the chariot. The main body of the chariot had dug into the ground from the crash while other decorative pieces had been ripped off. Busby noticed some pieces of gold glimmering in the moonlight in the trees. The reins the pegasi used to pull the chart where either ripped off or completely bent out of shape. In short, the chariot was a complete wreck, with not a single part completely intact.
At one of the two reins, there was Duarte, who was still attached to it. He looked to be alive, and regaining consciousness as well as he seemed to be trying to open his own eyes. On the inside, Black lay on top of Waite as Talon slinked over the edge of the chariot. Each of them made subtle movements indicating they were also still kicking. Busby sighed in relief, as dealing with dead ponies wasn't on his agenda for today.
Busby flipped over onto his own legs. He nearly collapsed as pain shot through his right foreleg. He hissed painfully, as he forced his leg straight. It didn't feel broken, but it still hurt like hay. The stallion figured he must have twisted a muscle or something. Lucky he had his armor or else the damage to his leg, along with the rest of his body, might have been far worse.
Busby limped over to Duarte as the stallion's eyes snapped open. Wide awake and alert, his eyes quickly scanned the area before stopping on Busby.
"And here, I thought I'd be the last one to wake up." Busby said.
"There's a first time for everything, I suppose, rookie." Duarte said.
Even though I figured out all of that back there, he still calls me a rookie, huh? Busby thought.
"Unhook me from this thing." Duarte asked. "It's too broken for me to do it myself."
Busby followed his superior's order by releasing the braces that bound Duarte to the chariot reins. The stallion leader gave another good look around the area. He looked up at the trees through where they'd crashed. Finally, he looked back at Busby. "Go wake them up. I'll be right back." he said before running off into the woods.
"Wait! I don't-" But before Busby could get the stallion to stop, he had disappeared into the woods. Never listen to the rookie. I really don't think it's a good idea for us to be separated now... There was something else that bugged Busby at this point. Though Duarte was a pegasus, he didn't fly off into the woods, or even over it, which would have probably have been quicker to do whatever he was up to. Busby considered asking Paita what was up with flying, but decided against it. He figured she wouldn't want to speak to him after that awkward awakening. Busby supposed he could wait until he got back...
Out of nowhere, a paranoid thought came to him... If he came back... Busby shook his head and went over to Black, Talon and Waite.
"Rise and Shine." Busby said.
"I hate shining." Black mumbled.
"Five more minutes mom..." Waite mumbled as well.
At least they were sleeping soundly. Wish I could say the same. Busby thought, being reminded of his aches. "C'mon, get up, or I'm going to have Duarte on my flank again."
"And why would we care exactly?" Black asked, finally waking up.
"Hey, get off of me!" Waite said to Black.
The two separated as they got out of the chariot. Black proceeded to wake Talon, who awoke with the same laziness as the others.
"Hey, where's Knighty?" Waite asked.
"Duarte? He went off into the woods to do... something, I don't know. He just ran off."
"Like he'd tell a rookie like me." Busby sighed looking off into the direction he’d run. "So what do we do now? You’re second in command of the platoon, right?" Busby figured from the freer spirit the stallion seemed to have around Duarte.
"I'm not the one to call the shots on that one. Even though I am, Black here's the highest ranking one here." Waite explained. "So, what's your shot Black?"
Black shrugged. "Duarte wouldn't run off for no reason and not come back to the same spot without saying something. Even to a rookie. It's best to just wait here until he comes back."
And so they did. Without some means of keeping time, and an unclear look at the movement of the moon, no pony was quite tell how much time had passed. It was as though time was standing still, even though it felt like an eternity as they waited for Duarte. While they waited, Busby did his best to keep out of the direct line of sight of Paita, who glared at him.
What? Is she angry at me all over a little embrace? Guess she doesn't like getting touched that much. Busby thought. He considered apologizing to the mare, but figured... or rather knew that would only make things worse. Though he couldn't see himself being best friends with the mare by the end of the night, he didn't want there to be bad blood between him and another fellow guard either on his first day. Sure, Moon guards weren't always completely friendly with each other, though Busby was getting an impression of hatred from the mare. Was it something he did? Or was it simply something in the mare that Busby would never understand...
After a while, Waite had enough waiting. "Where the hay is he? He's never gone this long."
"Maybe he got lost?" Busby considered.
Black shook his head. "Duarte’s been running guard missions all around. Especially in Everfree, I doubt he'd get lost so easily."
"Especially since he seemed to know where he was going." Paita mentioned.
"So what? Do you think something happened to him?" Busby asked.
"It's possible. And if Duarte had his sword on him-"
"Which he did." Paita added.
"-then he could have protected himself from anything that tried to attack him." Talon said, "... but he's a pegasus. How good can he be with a blade?"
"Duarte’s one of the best muzzle weapon fighters in his rank. Second to Shining who prefers it to using his own horn."
"Who?" Busby asked.
"That's not important. What is important is that Duarte can handle himself in a fight. If he were attacked, he'd be fine."
"Then what then? If he isn't lost, and he wasn't attacked then?" Waite asked. "It's not like he could have fallen anywhere. He can fly!"
"...no." Paita said. "Our wings aren't working right. That's why we fell into this mess. See?" Paita extended her wings, as they turned backwards in an awkward direction.
"What happened?" Busby asked.
"If I knew I would say so Buster. You’re not a smart stallion to not figure that out." Paita said coldly.
"So he could have fallen somewhere then?" Talon considered.
Waite shook his head. "I didn't see any cliffs or valleys for miles from where we were flying... maybe he's still busy."
"May-" Talon started to say, before a laugh cut through the air. It was a creepy laugh, lasting for only a moment, but enough to drive every pony silent. Even Paita's cold look was replaced with of minor fear.
"What the hay was that?!" Paita exclaimed.
Every pony remained silent for a few more moments, listening for any more laughter. There was none.
"Must have been one of the Everfree creatures." Waite said.
"I heard that some of them were dangerous." Talon said.
"They are." Black said. "Look, we can't wait around here any longer. We've got to move. Duarte or not. There's only one path, so if he does come back, he can just follow the trail."
"Do we even know where we're going?" Busby asked.
Every pony looked at each other. They knew their destination was the mansion that hopefully held the princesses... but no pony had seen it. Waite tried reassuring the group. "Look. Maybe it's not that far. Maybe it was just too dark for us to see it... at least we know we're going in the right direction of the thing."
"...maybe." Paita said coldly.
"Think about it. The only reason we're out here is because Buster here assumed some unrelated fillies-"
"Hold up! They're the sisters of the elements!"
"And even if they were? Who's to say that they are with the elements? Or even the princesses?"
Busby had to admit, his hypothesis was a bit sketchy, if not disjointed. "Well... I did say 'what if'. But I'm sure that the mansion must be in this direction, along with the fillies."
"Or, maybe they crashed somewhere like us, and didn't find the mansion along their path." Paita argued.
"Look! Both of you. We aren't going to get anything done bickering like school ponies." Waite said. "Maybe Paita's right and Bubbled bucked up. Maybe Bubble lucked up and is right. We won't find out if we don’t move."
Paita glared at Waite, then at Busby, then stormed off into the direction the path was stretching into. Talon and Black looked at each other before following the mare.
"I thought Black was supposed to keep her under control. She's really got some anger management issues. Especially towards me." Busby said.
"I'm sure she'll come around to you. Hey." Waite said. "Who knows, she might have a little crush on you."
"For my sake, I hope not." Busby sighed. "There's only so much pain my face can take."
"C'mon. They're leaving us." Waite said heading forward.
"Wait." Busby said. "I feel like we're forgetting something... oh yeah." Busby went back over to the chariot and took a box out of it. "If we're dealing with something crazy, we'd better remember to bring the Elements, right?"
Waite nodded in agreement. With that, Busby started limping forward as Waite noticed immediately. "You alright Bubble?"
"Yeah... think I twisted my leg."
"Can you move any faster?"
"I'll keep up. I won't run anywhere, but I'll walk fast enough. Don't worry about me."
"Alright. Do you want me to carry the Elements then? If your leg isn't right, you'd better have less weight on you." Waite said as he continued to head forward.
"Here." Busby said walking up beside Waite and using his weak magic to levitate the box onto Waite's back.
"Let's get going." Waite said. "Threat or not, Black isn't afraid to leave us behind.”
With a nod, the two sun guards did their best to catch up to the Moon guards. They walked for a while, along the seemingly endless path that ran through the Everfree forest.
"Ground sure is dry for a storm like that huh?" Busby said, trying to create conversation in the silence.
"Yeah. Back in grade school, I remember being taught about how Everfree trees tend to suck up a lot of water when they’re dying."
"You think the trees are dying?" Busby asked. "They look fine to me."
"I didn't say they were. Just what I was told." Waite said. He thought for a moment. "Though, if a bunch of trees did die, I guess it'd be hard to tell right away. Give it a day or two and they'd start turning colors and eventually withering away... at least once they were out of water."
"Huh. that's kinda..." It wasn't long before Busby stopped again.
"Bubble?" Waite asked.
"Oh, what is it now? The rookie's scared again?"
I don't ever recall being any more scared than you were. Busby thought. "No... something's wrong here."
"What?" Talon asked.
"I... I'm not sure."
"We don't have time for this." Black argued.
"No, no. I think Bubble's on to something." Waite said, drawing his sword into his muzzle. It stuck out to the side as the handle was clenched in between his teeth. "We're being watched. I can feel it." he said through the handle.
"Watched? By what?" Talon asked, drawing his own sword. "By one of the Everfree creatures?"
"Never heard of any that were smart enough to hunt in this part of Everfree." Black argued, drawing his own sword. "We can't be watched."
"But there also aren't any creatures in Everfree that have an instinct to laugh at you." Paita said, drawing her sword. "Maybe it's another pony... or that thing that was laughing at us."
Why am I the only one without a weapon? Busby thought. Every guard pushed their flanks together, creating a perimeter around them, for anything that tried to attack them from any direction. It was an awkward circle, considering the Moon guards weren't used to creating perimeters, or any kind of formations with the Suns. None the less, they all kept vigilant to attack anything that tried to jump out at them. The only one who was different was Busby, standing in a much fearful manner, praying to Celestia nothing would try and attack his defenseless plot.
Out of nowhere, a pony jumped from the trees, and to his luck, at Busby. "BOO!" the blue spandexed pony yelled.
Busby screamed and jumped back, breaking the loose perimeter the five of them had created, knocking them all over like domino.
"For guards, you sure scare easily." Spitfire laughed, holding out a hoof to Busby. Still in somewhat of a daze, Busby took the hoof as Spitfire helped him up.
"That was awesome Spits." Soarin said, coming from behind, followed by Echo. Finally, Duarte came into sight.
"Spitfire, what was that?!" he said angrily.
She shrugged. "Just a little fun to lighten the mood."
Nearly scaring me to death is your idea of 'lightening the mood'? Busby thought.
"Now's not the time or the place." Duarte argued.
"Actually, considering how creepy this place is, it seems like the perfect place and time." Spitfire said.
"So that's where you went Knighty!" Waite smiled. Duarte glared at Waite, eliminating his grin. "I-I mean Duarte. I knew we were forgetting about something"
"You forgot about the Wonderbolts? You’re starting to sound like Buster over there." Paita said.
"I figured out where the Wonderbolts might have crashed." Duarte explained. "If I was right, they would have landed somewhere pretty far off... so, I went off to see if I could find them and guide them back to the chariot."
"So, what are you doing here now?" Black asked.
"I should ask you the same thing. I suppose that it was for the best, now that we're back together." Duarte sighed. "Once I found them, and got them back on their feet-"
"Actually, we were already up when you arrived." Soarin corrected.
"Right, right. Anyway, once we started heading back, Soarin here got a chill. Then Spitfire and Echo too. Finally, I started feeling cold, as we all started to hear laughter."
"Hey, we heard some laughing back at the chariot." Busby mentioned.
Duarte ignored Busby. "We tried to escape it... but every time we moved, and heard the laughter get louder, it got colder... near freezing actually."
"We even got some frost on our suits to prove it." Soarin said, showing the blue frost on his back. "It was real creepy. Even Echo said so, and she rarely talks."
Echo nodded in confirmation.
"The only way we were able to escape was in the moonlight... and even there it was cold as hay." Spitfire said. "Eventually, we got away from it... and happened to come across you. I took point to... let you know we were here."
"Stalking and scaring us?" Busby said. "You've got a funny method of taking point Spitfire."
"So what are you five up to?" Spitfire asked.
"Before you broke us up, we were headed in a blind direction to nowhere, thanks to Buster over there." Paita said.
"C'mon, give the guy a chance." Spitfire defended. "I'll bet you he's right."
Oh no, Spitfire. What are you getting me into? Busby thought.
"You're seriously betting he of all ponies is right? You’re talking about the pony that ignorantly let the princesses walk off to a mansion who-knows-where, and you’re going to pretend he could be right?"
Spitfire shrugged. "Sure. For every one wrong, there's another right. 100 bits if I'm right." She gave
"Ladies, we don't have the time to come up with bets in a time of-"
"Deal. If there's no mansion at the end of this trail, you owe me." Paita said. "It'd also be fun to see Buster's face when he's wrong."
She forgot to mention what Duarte would do to me too.
"And if he's right?" Spitfire asked.
"...what do you think Busby?" Spitfire asked.
"Huh?" Busby asked. "Uh... a hug-"
"Never." Paita said flatly.
"How about friendship then?" Busby asked. "Or at least some respect."
"Deal." Paita said. "Maybe I'll go out somewhere with that hundred bit's Ms. Spitfire."
"We'll see about that." Spitfire smirked.
"We're losing moonlight ponies! Let’s go." Duarte said, heading forward, along with every pony else except Spitfire and Busby who hung back.
"What the hay was that all about? She's probably going to hate me more." Busby said. "I'm sorry, but if you haven't noticed, I'm trying to stay off that crazy mare's enemy list."
"Don't worry. By the end of all of this, something tells me she'll be all over you." Spitfire said, heading forward.
"Wait, do you mean the Fancy Pants good kind of way or the Blueblood bad kind of way?" Busby called, limping as fast as he could to catch up to the group. As he did, he couldn't shake that same feeling that somewhere... some pony or something was still watching them...
Specter looked out of one of the mansion windows at the front of the mansion and the Everfree forest. He was alone for the moment... no ghost, griffon, or pony to see him now. He didn't grin, smile, or even smirk. Instead he looked out the window introspectively. It had been years... and now he was finally going to finish this little errand he'd been forced into... all he could think of was irony. That he was trading and fixing one sin by with another.
"Yo, Specter." Gilda said from behind. Specter didn't bother to look at the griffon.
"What is it Ms. Gilda?" Specter asked.
"I did what you asked with the mares. They're in the tea room. Tied up and all."
"Good, good." Specter said. "The fillies too?"
"Every pony except the dragon. Just like you said." Gilda said. "Look, is this gonna be much longer? I mean, I'm getting tired of waiting around here."
"Patience Ms. Gilda, we have all night." Specter said. "Or, morning, if you want to get technical."
"How much longer?" Gilda hissed.
"I'd watch my tone if I were you Ms. Gilda. I could always retract our little deal. We could always use another ghostly hand around here."
Gilda stood there, silently waiting for the stallion to say something. Finally he sighed. "Do you remember that little plan I told you about? The four part plan?"
"What of it?" Gilda asked.
"What of it?" Specter laughed. "This is the whole thing, griffon. This is part three. We're almost done. Once it's finished, you'll get your payment, along with your little bonus of the Rainbow mare."
"Fine. Just don't take long. When can we get this third part done?"
"Slow down, griffon." Specter said, finally looking back at Gilda. "We've still got the matter of our newest guests. Did you oversee our Princess Luna casting the spell?"
"...yeah. I watched her as she took that flying chariot out of the sky. The ponies flying alongside with it."
"Good. They shouldn't be able to fly for the rest of the night then." Specter said. "If that's true, then they should be in trapped along the path, until we're ready for them."
"Then what now?"
"Then they're coming of course. I'm going to head down to the dining hall to make the preparations. You wait with the mares for about 15 minutes before securing Luna and bringing Celestia in. To be sure, check for the signal. Before we can continue with our little plan..." Specter grinned. "It's time our newest member of our little team 'welcomed' our guarding guests. Wouldn't you agree?"
The guards walked for a while. They walked until finally, they came to a dead end. It was a rock faced edge, keeping the group from progressing any further.
"Well... what do you make of that." Waite said, scratching the back of his head.
Spitfire remained silent, as Paita laughed. "I told you the he was wrong. I guess that's what you get for trusting a rookie."
"...this isn't right." Soarin said.
"What?" Busby asked, turning to the stallion. "What are you talking about?"
"Well, think about it... I don't think any filly would be crazy enough to head off of the path of the Everfree forest, right?" Soarin asked.
"We're talking about three fillies, who supposedly flew an oversized paper airplane over a forest." Black said. "I think their sanity is a little out of the question."
"C'mon. No pony's gonna head blindly off of the path of the Everfree." Soarin argued.
"Then they headed back."
"That's where you’re wrong." Spitfire chimed in. "If they were headed back, either we would have seen them already, or they'd be back in Ponyville."
"So what? You think some pony just dropped this stone face on the path?"
"I don't know. All I know is that this doesn't make sense." Soarin said.
"Maybe one of the Everfree creatures got them then." Paita shrugged. "Or maybe that laughing thing, I don't know. All I know is that you," Paita said, pointing at Busby. "Are an idiot, and you," Paita said, pointing to Spitfire, "Owe me some bits."
"Look. All of you." Duarte said. "We need to head back. At least try and find our way back to Ponyville. Hopefully we can make up for lost time by the Rookie's second mistake tonight."
Back to square one I suppose. Busby thought sadly.
"Now let’s..." Duarte trailed off as he turned away from the rock face in its opposite direction. Every pony turned to see what had stopped him... the path had changed. For behind them was no longer the path of which they came... no, that had disappeared. It was replaced with a new path, which led to a gate. Behind that gate was a graveyard, dead trees and a great big manor, looming over all of them.
"...you were saying about that bet Paita?" Spitfire said, snapping out of her stupor at the mansion.
"What the hay is going on here?!" Paita exclaimed.
"This is... strange." Waite said.
"One second, we're walking in a dark creepy looking wood... and a whole mansion manages to sneak up behind us." Black said.
"Hey! That rock face is gone!" Talon said, looking back. As he'd said, the rock face had disappeared, showing a new path, likely leading way they supposedly came.
"Ok seriously, what the hay is this. This isn't natural." Talon said.
"...it's just as I feared." Duarte said.
"What? What is it?" Black asked.
"We're dealing with a real threat here. I'm no magician or magical expert, but some kind of spell just took us to this mansion, I'm sure of it." Spitfire concluded.
"A strong one too. One that's almost... god like." Duarte said.
Oh no. A god? Someone like Nightmare or Discord? Is that what we're really dealing with?! Is this for real?! Busby exclaimed in his own mind. Fear and panic filled his eyes, at the realization of the danger they could all be in. Apart of him wanted to run off in the opposite direction of the mansion...
As every pony's tension rose, Echo was the only one to proceed forward. She opened the gate and motioned for everyone to join her.
"She's right. There's no time to waste panicking here in front of this mansion. The princesses could be in grave danger." Duarte said. "Come on." Duarte charged forward, taking point, closely followed by Echo and the rest of the ponies.
"This is insanity. Do we even have any idea how to fight a god? Let alone anything that can manipulate reality like that." Busby said.
Waite shook his head. "You know guards are mostly trained to defend against stuff like raids or attempts at overthrowing. We haven't got a clue... but you know what we do have?" Waite motioned his head to the box on his back. "If at least the mares are in there, we can use the Elements to fight whatever. They've already used it... what, twice to defeat an alicorn and a draconquus. All we need to do is give it to them."
"But who knows what's between us and them! Who knows if they're even..." Busby trailed off. He knew the worst thing to do at this point was think negatively. He was sure it was even making his leg hurt worse with the extra stress.
"We've got three of the best fliers and 6 highly trained guards on our side. We'll be fine getting to them." Waite reassured.
I'm not entirely sure about that 'highly trained' part though. I barely remember half of my training.
"Sheesh. Creepy forest, and now a creepy mansion. Who the hay puts grave stones in front of a house." Spitfire asked.
"It's not that bad. It kind of reminds me of Nightmare Night actually." Talon mentioned.
"Hey, maybe whoever owns this place is trying to set up for Nightmare Night." Busby tried to say positively.
"Yeah, and that reality shift back there was a big scare for some rigged haunted mansion." Paita said sarcastically. "Please. No pony's going to try and set up for Nightmare Night so many months in advance. It's just stupid."
"She's right dude." Soarin said. "Really, we're just dealing with some messed up Goth pony who likes to live in creepy mansions and dig corpses out of the ground." Soarin pointed over to the holes in front of the grave stones. "I'd hate to see what's in this place."
"Hope any pony's in there. All the windows are black. In a mansion so big, you'd expect them to forget to turn off a light somewhere." Black said.
It wasn't long before the group reached the door. "...Every pony prepare yourselves for anything. We don't know what we're dealing with so stay as alert as possible."
"I really don't want to know what's behind that door." Busby mumbled. In the silence, Duarte heard.
"Well, you’re about to find out rookie." he said as he proceeded to knock on the door.
"Look at it this way Bubble." Waite said. "If there is something godlike behind there, you'll have one hay of a story to tell about your first day on the job."
"If I can tell it. I don't even have a weapon."
"You'll be fine. Who knows? Maybe you will luck out and won't need it." Waite said, preparing to unsheathe his sword to whatever came from the door. Though he tried to keep a relaxed demeanor, it was easy to tell he was as nervous and scared as every pony else. Even Paita's knees shook a little.
Knock knock knock
There was no answer. Duarte looked back at the prepared guards, nervous to attempt another knock.
Bang! bang! bang!
Duarte hit the door as hard as he could, making sure that whoever was inside heard him.
"Duarte?" Waite asked. "You know there's a door bell over there, right?"
The stallion looked over at the door bell. As he went to reach it, he stopped. He then put his ear to the door... he heard hoof steps coming toward it.
"Some pony’s coming." Duarte said. "Get ready." Duarte unsheathed his own sword, preparing to attack, or defend from whatever opened the door.
The hoof steps stopped. The door creaked open, allowing a small bit of light outside.
Where the hay is that light coming from? Busby thought.
Finally, after seconds that felt like minutes to the anxious guards, a pony popped her head out from the crack in the door, peaking at the guards. Seeing their sharp objects, ready to swing at her, she yelped in fear and retreated back into the mansion before any pony could get a good look at her.
"Wait!" Busby called to the pony.
"Put your weapons down! It's just a little filly." Duarte ordered. The guards did as they were ordered.
The guards waited outside of the door. Just when they thought they'd scared the filly off for good, she poked her head back out, only half way this time.
"A-are you g-going to hurt me?" she asked apprehensively.
"What? What makes you think we'd want to do that little filly?" Duarte asked kindly.
Gee, I don't know. Maybe because of the sword you were about to decapitate her with a few seconds ago?
Busby examined the little filly. She had a puffy mulberry mane, and a white coat. Her eyes were green, sweet, yet fearful at the same time. On top of her head was a beaten up rancher's hat... What was a filly doing with such a dirty looking piece of head wear on her head?
"Don't worry." Busby assured. "We're not here to hurt you. We're the good guys."
"A-are they good ponies too?" the filly asked.
Busby looked back at the Moon guards. "Yeah. Well... most of them are." Paita glared at Busby.
"...I'm not supposed to let strangers in." the filly said.
"You can trust us." Waite said.
The filly was still hesitant. "Hey, would you mind telling us your name?" Spitfire asked.
Spitfire chuckled kindly. "Yes you."
"My... my name's Sweetie Belle." she said shyly.
"What a... wait a second." Busby said.
"W-what? Is there something wrong?"
"Your that filly who released Discord, right?" Busby said.
The filly's head sunk further back into the mansion, fear in her eyes. "W-what are you talking about that mean dragon snake thing for?"
"Actually, it was a draconquus." Busby corrected.
"Dracumkuis?" Sweetie tried.
Isn't that cute. She can't even pronounce it. Busby thought.
"You’re not helping Bubble." Waite said.
Sweetie giggled. "That's a funny name."
Oh yeah? And your name sounds like something my grand mare would call me.
"Actually, my name's Busby." Busby corrected. "Ignore Waite here, or whatever the mean bat lady in the back says."
Paita rushed up to hit Busby. "H-hold up Paita! You don't want to hit me in front of her, it'll be a bad- GAH!" the stallion said as the face, square in the muzzle. "In the same spot too why?!"
"You ponies are weird..." Sweetie said. She opened the door a little wider, seeming to feel a bit more comfortable with the visitors.
"Anyway, call me Paita, filly." Paita said. Sweetie stared at the mare for a few seconds. "What?"
"Huh? Nothing, nothing." Sweetie said, snapping out of her trance.
"Then quit staring at me for Celestia's sake." Paita said crossing her eyes.
Sweetie stood back from the mare, fearfully. As one of the guards was about to speak for the mare, she regained herself. "Sorry little filly. I get like that when I'm around idiotic stallions like him." Paita said, motioning her head over to Busby.
"Are my ears playing tricks, or did Paita just say sorry- DAH!" Busby said as Paita gave him another swing at the muzzle, knocking him down to the ground, causing him to clutch his muzzle, groan and roll in pain.
"I-is he gonna be alright?" Sweetie asked concerned.
"He'll be fine. Dumb ponies don't feel pain."
"Anyway, I'm Black." Black said, stepping forward. "And this is-"
"Talon." Talon said, giving a short wave.
"And I'm-" Spitfire started. She was interrupted by Sweetie.
"You’re Ms. Spitfire! Rainbow talks about you all the time!" Sweetie exclaimed. "S-sorry. I didn't mean to-"
"It's fine." Spitfire smiled. "It's always nice to see non-pegasi taking interest in the Wonderbolts."
"Does she talk about me?" Soarin asked.
Sweetie thought. "Sometimes... but she really likes to talk about Ms. Spitfire or Ms. Echo."
"Figures." Echo said, as Spitfire rolled her eyes smiling. Soarin looked somewhat disappointed though.
"What's wrong?" Sweetie asked.
"Nothing." Spitfire chuckled. "Guess some pony figured he isn't going to get any mares tonight."
"...I don't get it." Sweetie said.
"And finally," Duarte interrupted. "My name is Duarte. Leader of my platoon of Sun guards... and more recently the Moons too, since he's not doing his job."
"You’re doing fine. You've got this all covered." Black waved off.
"In any case, We're looking for some pony."
"The princesses?" Sweetie guessed.
Duarte raised an eye brow. "Actually, yes. How did you figure."
"I-I just guessed. You’re the royal guard, right? Aren't you supposed to be protecting them?"
"...sounds as logical as anything else, I suppose." Duarte said.
"What are you doing here Sweetie?" Waite asked. "Shouldn't you be home or something?"
Sweetie shook her head. "Me and my friends decided to stay with my sister and her friends and the princesses here tonight, with the princesses, since we couldn't really leave during the storm."
"Why did you come here, I mean." Waite asked. Busby finally got up onto his for hooves.
"O-oh. I came here with my sis."
A light bulb went off in Busby's head. "...wait a second. You’re lying."
"O-oh, I am?" Sweetie said. Busby thought he imagined it, but he could have sworn he saw the filly twitch once.
"Yeah, you didn't follow your sister. You took a paper plane here."
"I did? Oh yeah! I did! Me and my friends crashed..." she thought for a moment, reaching back into her memory. She seemed to be straining for a second... as though she were trying to force her way to the memory. "And... I woke up, ran away from a scary laughing monster, and made it to the mansion here to meet my sister and friends. Been here all night."
"Why'd you lie like that?" Busby asked.
"I'm sorry. I guess I made a mistake. I-It won't happen again.
Both Paita and Busby saw this as somewhat suspicious... of course neither consulted each other on the issue of Sweetie's mistake.
"As I was saying Sweetie, we've come for the Princesses. May we come in."
Sweetie thought for a moment. "Mr. Specter... he doesn't really like surprise visitors."
"This is important. We must know that the Princesses are safe." Duarte said. "You can trust us. I'm sure you host... what was it, Specter? I'm sure he wouldn't mind us coming in on such important business. We won't be long, if he truly can't keep us."
"Really hoping he can. It's a long walk back to Ponyville." Waite said. "We'd be lucky to make it there by late morning."
"Ok... I guess you can come in." Sweetie said, widening the door enough to let the guards inside.
A few guards walked in. After a moment, even Paita walked in, keeping an eye on the shy little filly. Only Busby remained outside for the moment.
"Is there something wrong, Mr. Busby?"
"...nothing. Do you mind if I ask you something?" Busby asked. The stallion was somewhat surprised that Duarte didn't ask about this. "Have you experienced any weird... reality shifts lately?"
Sweetie stared down the stallion, as though she were trying to read his mind. Finally, she shook her head. "Nope. It's been really peaceful in the mansion. Nothing bad happens in here."
"...ok." Busby smiled. He knew it was strange, but something inside of him screamed 'bad' about the mansion he was walking into, as Sweetie closed the doors of the mansion with a slam...
The inside of the mansion was much more welcoming than the front. As they moved through the foyer, and examined the art and decor, it seemed like the guards had taken a step back in time. It was a drastic change from the old broken looking mansion they'd seen from outside. It almost seemed unnatural...
Though no guard really paid it any mind, but mainly focused on following the filly.
"Mr. Specter said to bring any pony that came to the dining hall." Sweetie explained as they walked.
"Did he now? What is he doing down there at such a late hour. Better yet, what are you doing here at such a late hour young filly?" Duarte asked.
"Me?" Sweetie thought for a moment. "I was... asleep before you guys showed up. I had the room closest to the door... I think I was the only one to hear it. Up there." Sweetie pointed up the staircase to the left door.
"And this 'Specter'?" Black asked.
Sweetie giggled. "The mares really got him tired after our party. He's probably still asleep."
"Ah. So you’re the only one awake then?" Waite asked.
Sweetie nodded. "I can get him for you when your all sat down and relaxed." Sweetie offered.
"That'll be fine." Duarte smiled.
Busby stared up at the staircase. He wasn't sure why, but something was screaming at him that what the filly was saying was wrong. That she was lying... he wasn't sure however where the idea came from. It was a paranoid gut feeling and nothing more. At least that's what he kept trying to convince himself ever since the moment the reality shift happened. Something was-
Suddenly, pain shot through Busby's leg, harder than before, as he took his next step. He collapsed by the fountain at the center of the foyer. Every pony looked back at the stallions, who lie on the ground at the back of the pack. Concerned, Sweetie rushed over to Busby.
"Mr. Bubble!" she asked.
"I told you, it's Busby." he groaned through the pain. His face was level with the ground... but as it was, he noticed something. The ground wasn't quite level. No, there were bumps in the ground. Mounds of something Busby couldn't quite identify...
"C'mon you." Waite said, helping Busby up. He leaned against the fountain to keep the weight off of his leg.
"What happened? A-are you ok?" Sweetie asked.
"Yeah... I'm fine. We just had a bad crash in the woods and I kind of twisted something." Busby explained.
"That’s putting it a little lightly, don't you think Bubble?" Waite asked. "Are you sure you’re going to be able to walk on that thing by yourself?"
"I think so." Busby said. "You guys go on ahead. I'll catch up with you all." He said, waving his free hoof for them to move to wherever.
"Ok, Mr. Bub... Busby." Sweetie said. "We're going to be in that dining hall through that door. Okay?"
"Thanks." Busby smiled. At least some pony got my name right…
The filly smiled back before turning back around to lead the other guards and Wonderbolts through the door. Busby's smile faded as his eyes drifted to the left door, and then the three other doors at the top of the stairs. There was something foreboding about the doors... Busby wondered
What could be behind those doors that make my stomach turn so badly...?
Applebloom's head hurt. It was dark where she was... dark and frightening. She moaned in pain, trying to force herself to open her eyes, even though she knew she'd likely not be able to see anything once she did. All she knew was that she was in a dark room... and she was tied to another pony about her size... why in the hay was she tied up like an Appoloosa Aero Hog...
It wasn't long however before she remembered what had just happened, where she was, and who was with her... they were ambushed. All of them, ambushed by waves of inescapable ghosts. Did... did that mean she was dead? No, that wouldn't explain why she was tied up. She was trapped though, that was all that was certain.
"Hey..." Applebloom called weakly into the darkness. "Any pony in 'ere?"
Applebloom heard the pony she was tied to groan as well. "Wha... what the hay... where am I? What going on?" Scootaloo said. Applebloom felt it around the rope tied to her torso and hooves, as Scootaloo thrashed around to release herself from bondage.
"It ain't no use Scoots. We're trapped."
"Applebloom? What happened?" Scootaloo asked.
"Them ghosts happened. Remember? After Pinkie lost Sweets?" Applebloom reminded.
"Sweetie..." Scootaloo said. "Sweetie! You in here?!"
Rather than a reply from their friend, there was more groaning from some ponies in the darkness.
"Ugh... my head." Rainbow said.
"Rainbow?" Scootaloo called.
"Scootaloo? Where are ya?"
"Over here!" Scootaloo yelled.
"Where here!" Rainbow asked.
"Here!" Scootaloo called.
"Ah don't think tha's gonna help much. Are ya'll tied up lik' us?" Applejack called.
"Yeah sis! Can ya git out?" Applebloom asked.
"Ahm tied down good!" Applejack responded.
"Same here!" Twilight called.
"Me too!" Pinkie called.
"Wait a sec, where's Fluttershy?" Rainbow asked.
"I-I'm here..." she said shyly.
"Now, is tha' everyone?" Applejack asked.
"Wait, where's Spike?" Twilight asked.
"Spike, ya in here?" Applebloom asked. There was no response.
"He must still be with Sweetie after they ran off." Scootaloo said.
"Ran off? What are you talking about?" Rainbow asked. "You left the safe room? What were you thinking?!"
"Sorry Dash." Scootaloo said.
"Now don't be hard on th' filly. Wouldn'ta done 'erself much good stayin' anyway." Applejack explained. "Why, after Pinkie left with 'em, Specter pulled a fast one on us n' shut down th' entire safe room!"
"Shut it down?" Twilight asked.
"Yeah. That humming nose stopped and the room went dark before..." Fluttershy trailed off, reluctant to remember the horror and fear she felt in those couple of seconds.
"Hay, if it wasn't fo' mah injuries, we'dah done better stickin' tagether." Applejack said.
"Not like it would have done much good anyway. We were ambushed by-"
"Gilda!" Rainbow said angrily. "That rotten feather brain trapped us and threw a bunch of ghosts at us! I can't believe we fell for it too!"
"We got trapped by a bunch of ghosts too Dashie." Pinkie explained. "Right after Sweetie ran off."
"Why? Why would they... especially Spike, run off like that?" Twilight asked.
Pinkie shook her head in the darkness. "I was just telling her about something I remembered and she just... ran off. I tried to stop her but..." the sadness and guilt was evident in her voice. Even in the darkness, they could feel her face tearing up again.
"...I'm sure she's fine." Rainbow consoled. "She's turned into a real tough filly. Her and Spike's probably planning some daring rescue somewhere in the mansion."
"I sure hope so..." Twilight said.
"Me too." Applebloom agreed.
"Don't you worry. They're not." came a third voice. It wasn't the voice of a pony, however, it was one of a pony. It was-
"Gilda! Where are you?!" Rainbow exclaimed.
The candles in the room lit up to reveal the details of their entrapment. Though the two fillies were tied to each other, each of the mares themselves were tied down firmly to one of the tea tables of. There was nothing really worth mentioning about the room besides the small shrived vegetation that grew though the floor, the generic portraits along the wall, and the large grandfather clock which said 4:13 on it. Against the wall was Gilda, who tossed Sweetie's flashlight up in the air, and caught it again. By the exit to the right of her lay Spike, fast asleep and hugging the GCD and Sweetie's saddlebags to his chest.
"Nice to see you too Rainbow." she grinned. "It's been too long."
"What the hay are you doing?!"
"Right now? Just chilling until the old stallion finishes what he's doing." she said lazily. "You don't have any idea how boring it's gotten around here."
"No, I mean what is all of this?!" Rainbow said angrily. Unable to keep still at the sight of the griffon, she struggled to free herself from her bonds as she talked. No progress to do so was made. "Why the hay are you trying to kill us? What the hay are you working with Specter for?"
Gilda shrugged. "What's it to you?"
"Everything!" Rainbow argued. "Look, I know your aren't Ms. Delightful, but last I checked, I would have never seen you trying to murder little fillies!"
"Oh, c'mon Dash." Gilda rolled her eyes. "Murder's such a stupid way to put it. I prefer the term... transformation into ghostlyhood... or whatever Specter called it, I dunno."
"I don't care what you, or that insane stallion call it." Rainbow said. "When I get out of here, I'm gonna-"
"What? Beat me up? Pfft, please. Even with your cutie mark, I'd probably kick your flank. And since you don't and you’re a little... tied up at the moment, we both know that's not gonna happen."
Rainbow sighed. Though she couldn't be sure if her fighting ability, toughness and speed had been lost with her cutie mark, she wasn't going to do anything to her tied up like this. Rainbow looked over at Pinkie, who gave her a look. Though Pinkie could fight, it was also a last resort. The face Pinkie gave Rainbow was one that told her to calm down, and try to reason with the griffon. After all, at one point, the two were friends... right?
"Look, Gilda." Rainbow sighed. "I don't know how your tied up into all of this, but you've got to listen. Specter's trying to do something bad."
"Oh really? Like what?" Gilda said. It was one of those tones of voice that said she'd play along, but she couldn't give one.
"He... might be trying to resurrect Discord." Twilight blurted out.
"Who the hay's Discord." she asked.
"You’re not serious are you?" Rainbow asked.
"Discord? God of Chaos? Bringer of Despair? The guy who nearly turned all of Ponyville into a giant mushroom trip?"
"I don't know anything about your dumb old town. I don’t live anywhere near it anyway." Gilda responded.
"Of course you wouldn't know." Twilight mumbled. "You could read the newspaper for that… emphasis on read."
"Well, he's bad news. And if you keep helping Specter-"
"He'll be on our side." Gilda said, cutting Rainbow off.
"Damn. IF you're right, Specter's gonna have a god on his side. Three gods on his side. On my side. And if he's as bad a dude as you're talking about... Hay, we could probably take over the whole country with them all. And for a whole eternity too..."
"What was that last part?" Pinkie asked.
"None of your business you pink pain." Gilda said.
"Ya don't know nothin 'bout 'im griffon." Applejack said.
"Yeah..." Fluttershy tried to help. She didn't dare speak to the griffon at the same volume as her friends, afraid of what she might say to her. "Y-you can't control him. He does things to you s-so... so he con-t-trol's y-"
"Oh shut up Fluttercry." Gilda ordered. Fluttershy looked down at the ground, away from the griffon.
"Hey!" Rainbow said angrily.
"Specter's had it all planned out so far. I bet he's got some crazy plan to take control of him. Besides, we managed to take control of that Princess whatserface."
"...Luna?" Pinkie confirmed.
Gilda nodded. "Not only have we got her spirit under wraps, we've turned her into my own little temporary lap dog."
"Temporary?" Rainbow asked.
Gilda grinned. "You'll figure it out soon enough."
"A-and lap dog? What do you mean by that?" Twilight asked.
"Simple. Not only have we got her to attack Sweetie, but we've also got control of her magic."
"How? You can't just... control an alicorn like that."
Gilda shrugged. "Some voodoo Specter's got, I dunno. But what I do know is magic is ours. We even got her to take down a guard's chariot that was flying here half an hour ago."
"A guard's chariot?" Pinkie asked. "That means someone's coming to rescue us!"
"I wouldn't count on it." both Rainbow and Gilda said at the same time.
"Rainbow?" Applejack asked.
"Go on Dash, tell 'em." Gilda said.
Rainbow sighed. "Well... I'ma be honest. Royal guards aren't worth the armor they're dressed with."
"Aw come on Dashie. You don't know that. How do you know they won't find us and save us?"
"C'mon, when is the last time you've seen a royal guard fight?" Rainbow asked. "They just try to scare you with that stone faced thing. I bet they can't fight for nothing."
"I wouldn't call them un-combat worthy Rainbow... but against the ghosts, they won't last very long." Twilight said sadly. "But they're probably smart enough to run from them. They might have a chance."
"They're not that smart. They aren't gonna last 10 seconds against a ghost, let alone, a mansion of them."
"Took the words right out of my mouth Rainbow." Gilda said. "As we speak, your guards are getting let right into a trap by Sweetie and Specter."
"S-sweetie?" Scootaloo shuddered.
Gilda gave one last grin. "Oh yeah, she's playing on a whole different team now, filly."
Sweetie had finally finished seating the guards. They all sat at the end of the grand table, by the kitchen door.
"Um... You can take your armor off you know. Isn't it a little... heavy?" she asked, touching Waite's armor curiously.
"Us guards are used to it." Waite explained. "We're much more comfortable keeping it on."
"If you insist." Sweetie smiled. "I just wanted to make sure you were as at home as possible."
"That's very kind of you little filly." Duarte smiled back. "But we're fine. Just get us our host. We'd like to have a word with him."
"O-of course!" Sweetie said. "I'll be right back." She ran through one of the doors that led to the kitchen.
"Cute kid." Spitfire commented.
"Yeah... Kind of weird she went in there though." Black said. "You'd think that lead to the kitchen."
"Maybe there's some kind of short cut through there." Waite considered.
"Or maybe she's doing something besides fetching Specter for us." Paita said. "I'm telling you. I don't trust this mansion one bit. I got a bad feeling about it."
"I never thought saw you to be the paranoid type Paita." Talon said.
"She's probably just as creeped out as I am by the mansion." Soarin suggested. "Am I right?"
"Yeah, I guess it is kind of creepy..." Paita agreed. "Mansions always did that to me since I was a filly... bit of a phobia of mine."
"But you do have a point. Something's going on around here, and if it has anything to do with the mansion, I'd also find it peculiar the filly hasn't noticed anything out of the ordinary." Duarte said.
"Well, if there's anyone who'd know better, it's Specter. It's his mansion, right?" Spitfire asked.
Duarte nodded in agreement. With that, the guards and Wonderbolts waited. They waited a good 10 minutes before finally, some pony came back through the kitchen. Not Sweetie though... instead, it was a green coated stallion with a red mane.
"You must be Specter." Duarte said, getting up to greet the stallion.
Specter smiled and motioned for him to remain seated. "That I am. Specter Yield, owner of this little mansion I have.
"Calling this mansion little is kind of undermining, don't you think?" Waite asked.
Specter chuckled. "With claustrophobia like mine, there's no such thing as too big." He took a seat at the end of the table on the same side as the guards.
"Where's Sweetie?" Spitfire asked. "Didn't she go to get you?"
"Ah, yes, Ms. Belle. Once she woke me up, I asked her to make us something to eat." he smiled. "I never like to let my guests go hungry."
"She can cook?"
"Oh yes Ms. Spitfire. She is a filly of many talents. And a kind heart to boot."
"What? How do you-"
"Know your name?" Specter asked. "Simply because you and your Wonderbolts are all Ms. Dash wanted to talk about. Spitfire, Soarin and Echo, if I'm right. I can still hear her excited voice echoing in my head for every time she mentioned you earlier tonight." Specter turned to the guards. "And you must be the highly trained, sophisticated, and skilled Canterlot Royal Guard, am I correct?"
Every one of the guards nodded.
"I thought so. Ms. Sparkle and the princesses mentioned you frequently." Specter said. "Not... specifically, of course. Would you mind introducing yourselves?"
Each of the guards did as Specter asked.
"Well, it's a pleasure meeting you all." Specter smiled.
"Likewise, Yield." Waite nodded.
"Now that introductions are out of the way, I wanted to-" Duarte started. Before he could finish, Sweetie came back through the door, balancing three food trays, at least twice her size, on her back. On top of that, was a large wine glass, bobbing from side to side as she walked.
"Dinner is served." She said happily as she walked over.
"Whoa! How are you balancing all of that on your back?" Soarin asked.
"I'm stronger than I look Mr. Soarin" Sweetie chirped as she walked. Once she was close enough to the table, she bucked the food onto the table in front of the ponies with extreme professionalism. Though no other pony gave the swift action a second thought, Paita couldn't help but find it peculiar such a small filly could have such precision and strength.
"Ah, another fantastic meal from our little filly guest." Specter smiled. "Well done Ms. Belle."
Sweetie simply smiled in return. With that, she took a seat next to Paita. For some reason though... Paita couldn't help but get a strange chill as the filly sat next to her.
"Now please... help yourselves." Specter said.
Paita looked at Sweetie, then back at Specter, then at the foods of salads, steamed vegetables and cooked fruits on the large dishes.
"Is this... good?" she asked apprehensively.
"It's not poisoned." Sweetie said smiling. "I promise."
Waite was the first to dive into the dish, followed by the rest of the guards...
Busby limped up the staircase to the doors of the second floor. It was painful, and in all honesty, he wasn't sure why he was going through so much effort to make it to the top. In hind sight, it didn't seem worth it. He was never one to leave his comfort zone, when he didn't have to. Though he couldn't help that something important was behind one of the three doors at the top of the staircase. The mystery was maddening to the stallion. He had to do a little of his own exploring before heading back down to the dining hall. Maybe he'd find something in the process?
Busby stood in front of the right most door, and stared at it. A chill went down his spine as he did. A sudden fear tried to keep him from reaching for the knob, but in calling it irrational, he resisted the urge to go back down to the first floor. Besides, the last thing he needed was to put more weight on his leg, traveling on more stairs.
C'mon Busby. Don't be a scardycolt. Busby coached himself. It's just a door, right. Just a door...
Busby opened the door, revealing the dark hallway.
Just a door leading to a creepy hallway. Busby thought. Taking a deep breath, he headed through into the hallway. Once he was through, the door closed behind him with a slam. Busby jumped, as he whirled around to see himself stuck inside. When Busby tried to open the door, it wouldn't budge. What the hay is this?! The rookie guard was trapped in the hallway. Ok, calm down... looks like the only way is forward. Here we go...
With every ounce of the little bravery and courage he had, Busby began limping down the dark hallway. He found himself humming to himself... he didn't know the tune, or where it came from. He just started humming it subconsciously... maybe it was some tune that he heard the guards humming earlier that night? Though, he couldn't remember for the life of him who.
The hallway was dimly lit by moonlight coming from an unidentifiable area. Maybe if he kept traveling down the hallway, he'd locate some kind of window? The stallion figured that would be his newest goal... in the dark hallway, something told him that light was extremely important... or maybe it was the sheer desire to have some type of 'nightlight' in the hallway. And what better nightlight than a giant orb in the sky?
After a while, Busby saw fit to check out the many doors in the hallway as he walked. Most of which turned out to be some kind of bedroom, and occasionally a bathroom or a closet. All of which however... were empty. No pony to be found. In a mansion so big and quiet, Busby didn't expect every single room to be filled with a pony, however he did find it rather strange that he'd yet to find any pony. Between the number of ponies needed to take care of the mansion, and the guests of the housewarming, including the Mane 6 & Princesses, he'd expect there to find someone... instead, the mansion had an abandoned, empty look to it, with dusty sheets covering every piece of furniture he'd seen so far.
First a weird reality shift, then a locked door... and now this giant mansion doesn't even have any ponies? This isn't good... where is every pony? Busby thought. Suddenly a chill went down his spine as he heard something laugh. It immediately reminded him of the monster they'd heard in the woods. Busby stopped cold and gulped. He turned around to find himself face to face with a red glowing pony with an extremely long tongue.
Busby screamed as he found strength he didn't even know he had to start running away. With a high pitched laugh, the red glowing ghost pony gave chase to the scared guard stallion...
"Now then..." Specter asked, once every pony had finished their meal. "What can I do for you fine ponies this fine morning." He put his hooved together on the table, and looked at the guards and Wonderbolts with a certain attentiveness to his face.
"We wanted to ask you a few things. Regarding the safety of our beloved princesses... and this mansion in general." Duarte said.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Your mansion... is there anything special about it?"
"Besides the simple fact it's my home, no." Specter said. "Is there something you found peculiar about it."
"Yeah actually." Paita said annoyed. "Your mansion just threw us in front of it!"
"I beg your pardon ma’am?" Specter asked. "What are you talking about?"
"Paita. Calm yourself." Black said. "But as she said, the mansion did have some weird reality shift that put us right at your door step. Do you know anything about it?"
Specter closed his eyes for a moment, deep in thought. "There's nothing that the mansion does that can do that but... OH! It must have been Ms. Luna."
"T-the Princess?" Talon asked.
Specter smiled. "She is quite the prankster that mare. And she certainly knows how to use it for such grand pranks... maybe she happened to see you heading up, and decided to have a little fun with you?"
"That does sound like her..." Talon said.
The other guards nodded in agreement, except for Paita, who simply stared suspiciously at Specter.
"That leads me to the second question: the princesses." Duarte said.
Specter raised an eyebrow. "What about them? Has something come up that desires their attention?"
"Not exactly. We came to... well... are they alright?" Waite asked.
Specter seemed shocked. "B-but of course!" He looked up to the sturdy looking balcony over the dining hall. "If I'm right, they should be safe and sound up in their rooms. I’d believed ponies such as yourself would have known about her being here. Didn’t she receive an invitation?"
Duarte shook his head. "If they did, I wasn’t aware of it. In either case, I would imagine the princesses would be up by now. The sun is to be up in just a few hours."
"Perhaps, but I don't know anything about the princess's sleeping habits." he smiled. "Who knows? As you said, they could be up and about as we speak."
"Can we see them then?" Spitfire asked.
"I'm not keeping you from doing so, am I?" Specter smiled. "You can head through the kitchen to get to them."
"...you’re not serious, are you?" Black asked. "The kitchen you said?"
"I don't believe you." Paita said flatly.
"Huh?" Sweetie asked. "Why? I got Mr. Specter though there."
Specter nodded. "There's a staircase that leads up to the next floor through there. From there, Celestia's and Luna's room is just across the hallway."
"Why would you need something like that?" Waite asked.
Specter shrugged. "I wouldn't know. I didn't design it."
"This is stupid. There's no staircase through there." Paita said. "What's really in there."
"My, Ms. Paita. I'm starting to get the impression you don't trust me." Specter said smugly.
"Like hay I don't trust you! I don't trust this whole place!" Paita said sitting up in her chair. Agitated suspicion was blazing in her eyes.
"Paita. Shush." Duarte commanded.
"None of us." Paita said. "None of us are going in there, until you tell us what the hay is really up here."
"I wasn't aware you were the leader of your little unit. Hm?" Specter said, glancing over to Duarte.
"Paita, control yourself already. Mr. Specter hasn't given us any reason to distrust him."
Paita laughed. "Are you kidding me? This guy's been sending bad signals the second we met him! And now he's trying to make us believe that everything that just happened was just a prank by the princess! This guy's beyond untrustworthy. For all we know, he's trying to throw us into some kind of trap!"
Echo got up, and every pony watched as he headed into the kitchen.
Specter chuckled. "Well, Paita... it seems that some pony thinks otherwise."
"I can't believe she just walked in there like that..." Paita said.
"Of course she did! She's calm enough to realize there's nothing to be worried about. Honestly, you're just being paranoid."
Paita put both hooves on the table and extended her numb wings. "Say that again to my face."
"Luna Paita! Calm down!" Talon insisted.
"Please Ms. Paita. You wouldn't hurt an old stallion, would you?"
"I'm not biased to it." Paita said, sinking back into her seat.
Specter shook his head. "...I'm sorry. That was impolite of me to call you such a thing as 'paranoid'. I'm sure my mansion can be quite... menacing at times, but I assure you. There's nothing in here for you to worry about. Nothing at all."
They waited for a while... it wasn't long however, before the other guards began joining in Paita's suspicion. In the silence that took over the dining hall, they soon realized how they hadn't heard anything from Echo.
"Where'd she go?" Waite asked.
"Yeah, it's been 20 minutes already." Talon agreed.
"Maybe she's still headed there." Sweetie considered. "Mr. Specter's mansion is kind of big."
"Bull! That's bull and you know it!" Paita said glaring at the filly.
"Hate to admit it, but Paita's right." Spitfire said, looking at the door with her own suspicion. "If the princess's room is as close as you claim... she'd be back by now."
"Well, maybe she's just speaking with the princesses?" Sweetie said. Sweetie found herself staring at Paita again. This time, in her paranoia, she didn't hold back. Paita got up and lifted the filly out of her chair by her shoulder blades.
"YOU! You know what's in there. Stop lying to us!" Paita yelled at the filly.
"Hey! Let go of me!" Sweetie cried.
"Ms. Paita!" Specter commanded, sitting up in the chair. "Let go of that filly this instant!"
"Yeah Paita! She didn't do anything." Spitfire said.
"Are you serious?! This filly's probably in on whatever he's planning!" Paita said, glaring at Sweetie. She was the only one in the room, who didn't see a scared little pony... but something much more sinister.
"Put her down now." Soarin commanded. He and Spitfire got up, prepared to take Sweetie from her grip by force.
After glancing at every guard who looked at her in the same glaring manner as the two Wonderbolts, she finally dropped the filly to the ground. Sweetie scrambled up, tears running down her face, before she ran fearfully into the kitchen.
"Kid! Wait!" Spitfire called, running after Sweetie. Spitfire and Soarin ran for Sweetie, into the kitchen... time passed and neither of them came back.
Paita gave a nervous laugh. "See?! Now they're gone too!"
"Oh hush you." Specter said harshly. "They're probably chasing the little filly you were so unnecessarily cruel too!"
"Shut up you!" Paita said, drawing her sword to her muzzle. Quickly, before any guard could legitimately react, she circled around to Specter and put it to her neck.
"Whoa!" Talon said, drawing his own sword, along with the rest of the guard.
"Paita! Sheath your sword this instant!" Duarte commanded.
"I'd listen to your superior Ms. Paita." Specter said, seemingly indifferent to her advance. The eyes he gave her were almost as though it didn't matter to him if the angry mare decapitated him then and there.
"Don't even try to tell me what to do, Yield." Paita said angrily.
He smiled smugly. "You wouldn't want to go to jail for the murder of a stallion because of your paranoia, only supported by the fact that his mansion was a little ugly, now would you?"
Paita didn't respond.
Specter gently pushed the sword away from his neck and got down from his chair. "If you really believe that I'm some kind of evil stallion, then you have no more business here."
"Hey wait!" Waite called.
Specter didn't say anything. He simply waved to the guards as he walked back through the kitchen, the door shutting behind him.
Every guard looked at each other, before getting up and heading to the kitchen door.
"You’re not seriously following him are you? It's probably a-"
"Paita." Duarte said firmly. Somehow, it was enough to shut the mare up. "I'm not sure what has triggered your behavior for tonight. You act as though there is something wrong here, when besides that reality shift outside, nothing has happened out of the ordinary."
"And that's not enough?" Paita asked. "He's-"
"Quiet Rookie." Black said harshly. Paita shut up again. The terminology of 'rookie' visually stung her. "This is your first field mission, isn't it?"
Paita didn't answer. It was true, she'd been accepted into her guarding unit barely over a month ago. Since guards rarely saw any action, thanks to the princesses, and general calmness between nearby towns, this was truly her first mission… just like Busby.
"Act like it then." Black said.
"I... Something's wrong with this mansion and-"
"Hey, if there is? Then we've got to deal with it either way, right?" Waite said. "We'd might as well find out. If I didn't value my life, I'd pounce on the fact you're scared."
"Scared?" Paita laughed. "I don't get scared."
"Then let's face what your paranoia is talking about then." Talon said, heading for the door.
"I'm NOT paranoid." She said flatly.
As the rest of the guards headed through the door, Paita stayed still. She wasn't completely sure why though... Maybe a part of her was scared. Or at the very least, nervous.
She shook her head. She wasn't nervous or scared. Not like Busby was, anyway... right?
As the door closed, the mare headed through the door... but she didn't find herself in a kitchen as she walked though. Instead, she was in a dark hallway, dimly moonlit by a window at its end.
"This doesn't look like a kitchen..." she said to herself. Suddenly, the light of the dining hall behind her went out. When she whirled around, she found not the table where her and her fellow guards had previously sat, but a simple bedroom. Though she wasn't sure what was going on, she was sure she was right now. This wasn't either of the princess's doing. Something was seriously messed up about the mansion she was likely trapped in now...
"What the hay?" Waite said, looking around at the new area he was in.
"This doesn't feel kitchen." Talon said.
"Oh, you’re right. It isn't a kitchen." Sweetie said, from somewhere the other side of the large dark room. "My bad."
"Sweetie? Sweetie Belle, is that you?" Black asked, calling out to the filly.
"Yuh huh! I'm over here!" Sweetie said. "But, really, it's not that important where I am. Especially not anymore."
"What are you talking about young filly?" Duarte called. "And why is it so dark in here?"
"Oh, the darkness? See, that's the thing. We don't really like light too much." Sweetie explained.
"What?" Talon asked.
"I mean, the moonlight's tolerable, and even some light sunlight is bearable, but let me tell ya, we hate it all the same." Sweetie said. Her eyes showed up in the darkness... though, they weren't green like normal. Instead, they were now a sickly yellow color.
"S-sweetie Belle?" Black called.
"But now... in the basement, where we've been getting ready for the main event... now this is some good darkness."
"Basement? What are you talking about? We can't-"
"Oh, believe me, Royal Guard... anything is possible in here." Sweetie said. Her voice changed a little bit. Her normal voice was there... yet it was twisted, and mixed with the voice of another. Something of a fancy Canterlot accent.
The sound of opening doors filled the room. Red K-9 ghosts began creeping out the stacks of cages that revealed themselves in their eerie glow. Sweetie's yellow glowing eyes were starting to get closer to the group of guards.
"Duarte. You think this would be a good time to retreat?" Black suggested. "There are a lot of those... things!"
Duarte turned around... but not to find a door. Instead, he saw a mirror, balancing on its side. When he touched it to see if it opened like some kind of door, it simply fell over and shattered into pieces. The way they'd come was nonexistent now. The ghost dogs barked and laughed at the guards in their fear.
"What the hay is this?!" Duarte said, turning back to the ghosts that were getting closer to them. "Guards! To arms! We're going to have to fight our way out of this!"
Sweetie laughed. "Oh, I can assure you... there's no point, Mr. Duarte. Goodbye."
The tens of K-9 ghosts then charged at the guards, who began swinging violently at the ghosts they couldn't even touch. There was some screaming that echoed throughout the kennel basement trap... but it was only minutes before the entire basement went silent.
Gilda opened her eyes after a while of waiting in the tea room. Every few minutes, she'd check the clock to see if it was time. The clock now said 4:30am... that was probably the time Specter had mentioned to her. For conformation, she turned back on the flashlight she had in her hands. Once she did, she saw how it flickered briefly before going solid. Chances were, that was the signal Specter had mentioned. It was time to get started.
The griffon got up from the wall she'd waited against and headed for the door, where Spike lay. Rainbow looked up at Gilda.
"What are you up to?" Rainbow asked.
"Getting your lazy dragon thing to wake up."
"He's not a thing." Twilight spat.
"Hey. Get up." Gilda said, lightly kicking Spike to the side.
Spike moaned. "Five more minutes Twi. I don't want to go to school..."
"Ugh... what was it that butler said to say... oh yeah. Sweetie want's you."
Spike grumbled. "Sweetie? What is it?" he opened his eyes, causing both Twilight and Applebloom to gasp. They were dilated and empty... it was almost like the Spike she knew wasn't there.
"Spike? Spike?!" Twilight called.
"Sweetie said not to listen to her." Gilda said calmly. "Sweetie says she loves you. She doesn't"
"I love you too Sweetie..." Spike mumbled in a monotone.
"Spik' what the hay's wrong with ya? Spike?!" Applebloom tried.
"Don't listen to her either. Don’t listen to any other pony besides Sweetie. You hate them. You hate her. Just as much as you love Sweetie."
"I love Sweetie, and only Sweetie... I love you Sweetie..." Spike mumbled.
"Do you want to make Sweetie really happy?" Gilda asked.
"I want to make Sweetie happy..." Spike mumbled.
"Keep an eye on them. Don't listen or talk to them. Then Sweetie will be here."
"Sweetie will be here... don't talk... eyes..." Spike mumbled.
"And why don't you give that to Sweetie for a gift? She's probably like that." Gilda said, pointing to the GCD Spike was still holding.
"I'll give it to her... as confession to my love."
"Whatever floats your boat dragon. Just keep it on you till Sweetie gets here." Gilda said. "I think that takes care of that."
"What the hay'd you do to him?!" Twilight asked.
Gilda shrugged. "I dunno. Ask Spiffy when he gets around here."
"And what about you?" Rainbow asked. "Where are you going?"
Gilda grinned. "To get the only reason you're all are still alive to begin with."
With that, she exited the room, leaving Spike to stare at all of his friends, blankly as they yell at him, trying to get him to snap out of his Sweetie triggered trance...
Once Sweetie was out of the kennel, she exited the burnt theater and started to make her way back to the foyer. A smile of satisfaction was on her face... though, she couldn't help but think something was out of place. She'd gotten all of the guards... right? Of course, she did. They all found their way through the door, into the kennel... though there was that nagging feeling she couldn't shake. She supposed it would be relieved once she reached the tea room after the rendezvous with Specter.
Sweetie found her way to the dressing room, and picked a random door to take. Once she opened it, she found it lead to the foyer. Expecting such, it didn't appear to be any surprise to her. Once she entered the once again, abandoned looking foyer, the door disappeared behind her.
"Master Yield?" Sweetie called.
"I'm here." Specter said, revealing himself from behind the fountain. "I imagine things went well?"
Sweetie chuckled. "I haven't had that much fun since my first days of ghost hood. It's fine scaring one little filly over and over again, but it's much more rewarding to scare multiple grown stallions. Guards, no less."
"I'm glad you had fun." Specter said. "Are they in route?"
"They're being taken to the tea room as we speak." Sweetie said. "By the Wonderbolts."
"Good, good." Specter said. "Once they're there, and Gilda's fetched her, we can run the exercise to break Celestia's will. Then her power will be ours."
Sweetie didn't say anything. She wouldn't say anything to insult her old friend's logic... though with just one look into her yellow eyes, he knew what was wrong with what he'd said.
"Come, my dear friend. Let's head over there now." Specter said. "I've got a few things I wanted to speak with you about."
"Of course, Master." Sweetie said, following Specter through the door to the right of the staircase.
"...I... noticed you didn't eat anything, Master Yield." Sweetie said.
Specter shook his head. "No... that impact to the head must have destroyed those nerves. Reminds me of how fragile my body is nowadays." Specter explained. He chuckled. "I think the part of my brain that controlled my apatite caved in as a result. You on the other hand, ate several plates!"
Sweetie smiled. "What can I say? The filly was starving, and I can't move around very well in a hungry body. I'm surprised how she managed to get so far with nothing more than a few pieces of candy and an apple slice."
"I suppose the filly simply has that incredible will power."
"... Spiffy." Specter said.
"Hm?" Sweetie said.
"The filly... she's still in there, correct?"
"Naturally." Sweetie said.
"But do you have control over her?" Specter asked.
"Well... no, of course I don't. I wasn't gifted with the same power as you..." Sweetie said. "But Sweetie isn't getting out, I can assure you. I have her completely under my spell. Between her hypnotized spirit, and the chains I have her under, she isn't escaping."
"But she has an incredible amount of will power. Especially when sub-consciously reminded of Ms. Rarity." Specter said. "You witnessed it when she went up against the Portrait of Kindness. Or during the mind dives. She managed to resisted or break free when even vaguely reminded of her sister. And even more, there's the Elements' cutie marks stuck to her spirit."
"She can't escape..." Sweetie said calmly. "Even if she did break out of the dark realm I've imprisoned her in... I've got a new world she has no chance of escape. And with a mind like her's she'd barely last 20 minutes before succumbing to it’s charms. After all, no pony has ever escaped possession by themselves, or with sheer willpower. Especially from me."
"Except me." Specter said.
"And I'll never understand how..." Sweetie said.
"If you’re careless, you just might find out tonight then." Specter said.
After hiding in one of the bedrooms for Celestia knew how long, Busby was finally feeling brave enough to venture back out into the hallway. The ghost that was chasing him earlier was likely gone by now. The laughter was gone and the intensity of the chill had left a while ago. Still, it took some true willpower for the stallion to force himself out from under the bed he'd stuffed himself and over to the door. As he got back onto his leg, the consequence of his panicked run became evident. The pressure he'd put on his leg the entire run, and was suppressed by the adrenaline rush, stung him, and made walking near impossible. The only thing that managed to numb the pain somewhat was his own racing mind.
W-what the hay was that thing? A ghost? Busby thought. This must be one of those haunted mansions I read about! B-but I thought they only fiction! They aren't real! Ghosts aren't real!
Once Busby reached the door, he put his ear to the door he'd slammed shut on during his escape. He didn't hear anything outside... it was clear. Busby clenched his teeth together to stop them from chattering nervously, and shakily put his hoof to the door knob. He turned the knob and opened the door, and entered the hallway.
O-ok... that window... m-maybe I can get out through there? Busby thought optimistically, looking out at the end of the hallway. There, he saw the window, and the only light source of the hallway. With his objective set, he set forth to head to the window. As he did, he nervously looked around, expecting some ghost to pop out at him to scare him, grab him, or do some other unspeakable act. He'd already felt the lash of the licker ghost he'd encountered, and wasn't looking forward to a second one... or something worse.
Thankfully, nothing jumped out at the stallion. He made it to the window safe and sound... but something was terribly wrong. As he looked out the window, it didn't look like he was 2 stories up... it looked more like he was about 7 or 8 stories up, as the trees on the ground looked incredibly minuscule. It didn't make sense, he'd only gone up one flight of stairs. How in the hay did he get so high without realizing? Though one thing was for sure, unless he had an extremely long rope, he wasn't going anywhere through there... at least not without wings, or breaking his neck.
Busby put his head to the window in disappointment. Hay of a first day. I thought guards didn't see any action? Ghosts... haunted mansions... traps... what's next?
Suddenly, something in Busby's gut told him to duck suddenly. He wasn't sure if it was an instinct, the paranoia, or the sound of slicing air at his right ear. He just ducked, barely dodging a swinging sword. "Gah! What the-" Busby swung around to find Paita, armed with her sword.
"Busby?" Paita said through her sword.
"Luna Paita! You almost took my head off!"
"Hmph." she said looking off to the side. "It's not like anything's in there anyway."
"Paita, listen. Something's seriously wrong with this mansion. It's-"
"A giant trap of nonsensical, dark hallways?"
"...I was going to say haunted by ghosts, but that's a little new."
"Ghosts?" Paita said raising an eyebrow. "You sure that brain damage of yours isn't making you see things? There's-"
"No such thing, I know, I know." Busby said shaking his head. "But they're here, and they're dangerous as hay." Busby looked at the sword in her muzzle. "And I doubt swinging that thing at every living thing you see is going to help survive them."
"I'll be the judge of that." Paita said, crossing her eyes. "Besides. I thought you were that Specter character."
A guard in golden armor looks like that old stallion? Yeah, I'm not sure if I'm the one with brain damage lady. Busby thought. "What happened to every pony else?"
"... I don't know." Paita said, looking down. "I... I think they might be dead."
D-dead? Busby thought. "Y-you’re not serious, are you?"
Paita shook her head, regaining her composure. "I'm not sure. They followed Specter somewhere, and I haven't seen them since. I was only lucky enough not to have been taken wherever they were..."
"Paita, look." Busby said. "I'm going to be honest. You don't like me, and I can accept that. But if we're going to survive and stop whatever the hay is going on here, we need to work together."
Paita scoffed. "Me? Work with you? Ha! I can brave this mansion on my own."
"No you can't." Busby said. "Those things... you can't touch them. Especially not with a blade like yours. At least, I doubt it. The only way we're going to have any chance at survival is if we watch each other's backs."
"Hmph." Paita said, looking away from Busby.
"You said you'd at least try and respect me if I was right about the mansion. So pay up. Just have my back until we get out of here. You watch my flank, I'll watch yours."
Paita raised an eyebrow. "... If I catch you actually staring at my-"
"It was a figure of speech." Busby said. "Ok... so what do you think the next course of action should be?"
"... something tells me this is a job for the elements. Whenever things stir up like this in Equestria, those artifacts always seem to be somewhat important."
"So we need to find them then?" Busby asked.
Paita nodded. "Do you know where they might be?"
"Hm... the last pony I gave it to was... uh oh."
"Let me guess. One of your guards?"
"Yeah. Waite." Busby said sheepishly. "Said I didn't need the extra pressure on my leg."
Paita rolled her eyes. "Great. We've lost the elements."
"Hold your horses, I don't think it's totally lost." Busby said. "I mean... dead or not, Waite's got to be somewhere. If he is, he'll have the elements... at least he'll be a lead to them anyway."
"Alright. We'd better get looking for them." Paita said.
"But first, we've got to figure out how to get off of this floor." Busby said. "... you can't fly yet, can you?"
Paita looked at her wings and extended them awkwardly. "No. They're still not working right."
"Then I guess our only option is to wander the floor until we find the exit. Maybe some kind of staircase" Busby sighed. "You ready?"
"More than I'll ever be Buster." Paita sighed back. With that, the two nervous guards began walking through the maze like hallway...
Specter stopped in front of his study. Sweetie did the same.
"Master Yield?" Sweetie asked. "Is there something the matter?"
Specter didn't look back at Sweetie, but merely stared at the door to his study. "No... nothing's the matter."
"Are you sure? You do seem troubled."
"Maybe a bit... but not for reasons you aren't already aware of in any case."
"... is there anything I can do for you?"
"No, Spiffy. Nothing you can do for me now... I just need some time in my study is all. Alone." Specter explained. "I will join you later once the gears have begun turning. I'll need to be present for once we have broken Celestia's willpower. Besides... it's been a while since I've observed a good torturing."
"Only this time, you'll be on the other side of the spectrum hm?" Sweetie asked.
"Hopefully." Specter said. "...but, there's one thing I want to ask of you."
"But of course." Sweetie said.
"I want you to... do you remember that little yellow filly? The friend of the orange one and Sweetie?"
"Yes, I believe her name is Applebloom. What about her?" Sweetie asked.
"Especially her... if she appears to be any type of problem... I want you to finish her."
"M-master Yield?" Sweetie asked. "I never knew you to deliberately ask for me to... end a life."
"Why? You act as though you're beyond that."
"No, no. Of course I can but... is there any reason in particular? I-If I may be so curious to ask." Sweetie said.
"... the rules have changed." Specter said. "Because Ms. Applebloom... of every pony she's come face to face has had some of the most mental impact on the filly... she must be the one. The same rules apply for every pony else of course... but especially her."
Sweetie wanted to investigate further on Specter's strange request, though she wasn't used to delving deeper than needed into the issues of Specter's plans. He always had a reason... and Sweetie knew it was more complicated than the simple rules of the game...
Sweetie nodded. "Of course. If it comes to it, it shall be done." Sweetie said.
Specter entered his study, leaving the filly to head to the tea room.
If it comes to it... Applebloom will die...
Mmmm.... my head... Sweetie thought.
Do not worry little filly. You're safe here...
I... I am? Sweetie asked.
Of course... I would never lie to you.
In the darkness, the voice was comforting to the filly. It was pleasant, calm, and hypnotic. Could it have been Rarity? Was that why she had the instinct to trust it so? She couldn't think straight. The only thing she could think about was how serene the voice sounded. Sweetie believed the voice... but something told her she shouldn't have.
Shh... you can trust me. Just trust me, and every pony will be fine... just relax...
Something sparked in Sweetie. Her friends... Rarity... weren't they in danger? Yeah! They were! Why was she lying in darkness when her friends were in trouble?!
Sweetie Belle... shh... it was all a dream. Your friends are safe... it's fine... relax...
Was the voice right? Was it all just a dream? Just a big nightmare? No... no, no no no no. It wasn't a dream. It was too vivid to be a dream. It wasn't a dream... it wasn't even as pleasant as a nightmare. It was real.
"Stop..." Sweetie mumbled.
Sleep Sweetie Belle... Sleep...
"Stop... no... Rarity..." Sweetie said again.
It's fine... relax...
"Stop... Stop! STOP!" Sweetie yelled. Becoming more conscious of herself and her surroundings she started trashing around. She was chained down to something.
It's fine... relax Sweetie...
Something got on top of Sweetie. It hugged around her abdomen. Sweetie looked up, to find it was Rarity, smiling sweetly. Sweetie, however wasn't naive enough to see it as the loving sister she knew. She saw in her eyes death...
"You’re NOT MY SISTER!"
It's fine Sweetie Belle... it's just a dream...
Dream... Sweetie thought.
"No! You WON'T TRICK ME AGAIN!" Sweetie said, trashing even more violently to get free of the mare and her bonds.
It's a dream... it can't be real. Sweetie thought.
"It's not! I won't believe it!" Sweetie yelled.
It was as though Sweetie was having a battle with herself. One part of her knew that the world she was in wasn't real, and another wanted to truly believe the dark fantasy she was in.
It's fine... relax... it's fine... relax...
"NOOO!" Sweetie yelled. The cutie marks on her body started to glow white, and suddenly, there was a giant explosion of light, throwing Rarity off of the filly and destroying her bonds. She was free.
Sweetie scrambled up and ran through the darkness. She saw a light at the end of the dark tunnel she was in. She was almost there... almost there...
Finally, the filly broke light and hit dirt.
"Oof!" Sweetie said as her mouth was suddenly filled with dirt. "Mmm..." she groaned getting up on her feet... though once she looked up, she found herself not in the mansion or Ponyville... but it was definitely somewhere familiar. Something about the trail she stood on that felt like she lived there, yet it felt completely foreign.
Where am I?