“Hello? A-Anypony?” Sweetie Belle squeaked as she hesitantly paced her way through the forest. The sun had dimmed as it sunk lower beneath the horizon, and soon it would be pitch-black. Summoning her still-developing magic, Sweetie Belle made her horn glow with a feeble light, but it did little to reassure her as she continued her search for Twilight, who had gone to look for Celestia.
She knew it wasn’t the best idea to go out alone--that much was clear to her from the beginning. However, she hadn’t thought much of it at the time; Twilight and Celestia were only supposed to be a few minutes’ walk away. Something in Sweetie Belle’s mind clicked as the sun’s light began to fade, though, telling her that something was terribly wrong.
Sweetie Belle was lost.
Horribly, horribly lost. All of the trees looked the same. Any landmark that could have distinguished her section of the forest from the others was masked by the dark of the approaching night. Sweetie Belle, as she became more and more frantic to find somepony familiar and get back to the campsite, quickened her casual amble to a trot and eventually to a canter. The chill of the night kept her cool, but it didn’t quell her panic.
Her panic was what made her yelp when she saw a pony masked in an unnatural fog approach her, and it was also what made her dive into the nearest thorn bush.
The figure seemed equally surprised. It glanced around, looking for the source of the noise.
Sweetie Belle was silent until the creature approached her, its piercing white eyes seemingly glaring at her. She tried to make herself as small as possible, but the figure raised what looked like a hoof and swatted the air in front of its face, blowing Sweetie Belle out of the bush and sending her tumbling across the leaves.
“Who are y-you?” Sweetie Belle coughed.
The pony paused. Its features were undefined and impossible to see through the fog. “My name is Indicina.”
Sweetie Belle scratched her head. Indicina?
Indicina took an oddly long pause. The unnatural fog cloud that surrounded her glowed faintly with a pure white light. “You should go. The forest isn’t safe for you.”
Sweetie Belle simply sat there, unsure of what to do. Because of the way she had landed, it would have taken her a moment or two to run far enough away from Indicina to get out of danger, and she was too exhausted to pick up so sudden a gallop, anyway.
There was a brief burst of air, and a path was illuminated, though not very brightly. “That path leads to your safety,” Indicina stated simply. “You may take it, or you may not. But... be careful, Sweetie Belle. I...” She sounded like she was going to say more, but she simply repeated, “Just be careful.” Then she vanished, though the fog cloud lingered for a moment or two, shedding its ghostly light on the towering trees, before dissipating as well.
How does she know my name? Sweetie Belle thought. She examined her options, and, in the end, her fear of being forever lost in the wilderness overpowered her fear of this new adversary. If I stay out here, I could be eaten, or worse...
She hesitantly pulled herself up, flinching as she felt a thorn on her flank. Blood was slowly dripping down her cutie mark, tinting the image of the bandages red. She hesitantly pulled it out, thinking, Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to run right for a thorn bush.
Sweetie Belle stepped on the path. The light that powered it had no source; the ground itself appeared to be glowing. She travelled down it, examining herself for any more cuts along the way. I would sing to myself, but I’m so sleepy already; I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay awake if I try. I don’t want to pass out in the middle of nowhere.
The path led to a patch of the forest lit up by sunlight despite the pressing darkness. It was warm, colorful, but most of all, soft. Too exhausted to continue, Sweetie Belle passed out on a patch of moss.
“There she is!” Olly exclaimed, rushing over to the unconscious Sweetie Belle.
She was snoozing in a peculiar part of the forest--one that was lit up gold, a light shining through the blackest night. The trees were several meters taller than those surrounding, and the undergrowth was a bright green mat along the ground. Vines were heavily laden with fruits and berries, and birds could be heard chirping from high above. A pleasant mist flowed through the air, and the plants were vibrant.
“A Dimple,” Twilight breathed, stroking a leaf that was a brilliant green and covered in dewdrops. “I never thought I’d live to see one.”
“Fill me in. What is it?” Olly asked, rolling Sweetie Belle over and brushing off some fallen leaves. She grunted and began to wake up.
“It’s a pocket of positive energy. It kind of functions like a volcanic hot spot, but instead of volcanos, plants and animals thrive. This is a really tiny one, though. It probably formed hundreds of years ago, and then dwindled down over time,” Twilight explained. “They give off strong magical signals...” she paused, furrowing her brow.
“What is it?” Olly asked.
“Something... Something seems really familiar. I’m not sure what, but...” she trailed off, smiling absently. She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet aroma of honey, nature, and home. “I feel like I’m giving myself a hug. Don’t you feel it, Olly?”
Olly sniffed a flower, and sneezed as pollen invaded his nose. “Um... no, I don’t really feel all that different.”
“Wh-Where am I?” Sweetie Belle asked groggily.
“Among friends,” Olly stated. He slung Sweetie Belle over his back and asked, “Tally ho?”
Twilight, though still unsure, nodded and headed back to camp.
It was a half hour’s journey, and when they made it back, Olly set Sweetie Belle down on her cot. The poor teen was completely spent from her time out in the forest.
Centime, who had his sleeping bag nestled up against Scootaloo’s, rolled over onto his back and looked up at Olly, asking, “Where were you?”
“Oof!” Olly complained, stretching his backbone. “She is definitely not underweight!” When he caught an annoyed look from Rarity, he added, “And by that, I mean she’s perfectly healthy! No weight problems for her at all, no sir. Ma’am. S’mam.”
“Where was she?” Rarity asked, turning her attention to Twilight.
“In a Dimple,” Twilight said, and she restated her explanation to Olly. “It felt oddly familiar, though, and I’m not sure why.”
“Well, do you know how Sweetie got there?” Celestia asked.
“We could always wake her up and ask,” Olly suggested, pointing to the snoring teen.
“But she’s exhausted!” Rarity protested. “I’ll have a full talk with her including a punishment tomorrow morning, but we musn’t interrupt her beauty sleep.”
“I could always accelerate her sleep cycle. My powers are regenerating, and it’s a simple spell,” Twilight offered. “If Sweetie saw something, we should know it right away.”
Rarity paused. “Alright, Twilight, if you’re sure it will work. But I’ll talk to her first!”
Twilight nodded. She pointed a hoof at Sweetie Belle and chanted, “Esto nunc requievit.”
Sweetie Belle snapped awake. “Wha?” She rubbed her eyes furiously.
After Sweetie Belle had calmed down, Rarity unleashed all of her pent-up scolding on her. After a tongue-lashing that, from Sweetie Belle’s perspective, seemed much longer than necessary, she finished by asking, “What did you think you were doing, going all out on your own to look for Twilight?”
“I-I don’t know,” Sweetie Belle admitted, still trying to process her sister’s flood of disapproval. “I...”
“Don’t be so rough with her, Rarity,” Dash said from the other side of camp. “I mean, she’s safe, right?”
“No harm no foul,” Olly nodded.
Rarity pursed her lips. “Well, fine. But by the time we get home, I will have thought up a severe punishment for you going off on your own!” she declared. She shook her head and tucked herself into her sleeping bag, motioning for Sweetie to do the same. “I’m too tired to think of a fitting consequence, anyway.”
“That was fast,” Olly observed, stretching out on his sleeping bag. “Ahh... I’m beat. Wake me up after a couple forevers.” And with that, he was asleep. The campfire was beginning to dim.
“What did you find out there, anyway?” Centime asked.
“A Dimple. It’s a region of powerful positive energy,” Twilight explained. “It’s a really beautiful place.”
“Oh, um, I was talking to Sweetie Belle,” Centime corrected, turning to the white unicorn. “What’d you see out there?”
“I... I’m not sure,” Sweetie Belle said, her brow furrowing. “I remember meeting somepony, but... I just don’t know. I remember everything before and after meeting them, but nothing in-between.”
“That’s odd. I’m going to have to make a note about that,” Twilight said. She curled up in her sleeping bag. “Good night, everypony.”
“Actually, Twilight... I wanted to ask you something,” Scootaloo said. She reached a hoof into her saddlebags and stroked the cool, smooth surface of the black diamond. “I don’t really think I’m up for carrying this thing. At least, not while I’m sleeping.”
“Were you having nightmares?” Twilight asked, propping herself up on her pillow to look at Scootaloo.
“Well... yeah. Like where I saw my own body lying in a ditch, and I was having a conversation I couldn’t control with this weirdo alicorn. There was another time when you were there, Twilight, and we were climbing lilypads until a giant eye ate me, but that wasn’t as bad as the first one. Then there was me getting sick, and everything else... I just don’t think I can do it,” Scootaloo admitted.
Twilight nodded. So Scootaloo was in my dream. “Let me try.”
Scootaloo lifted the gem out of her saddlebags and put it on the ground between her and Twilight. Sweetie Belle and Centime both eyed it with differing levels of fear. Twilight attempted to pick it up, but when her hoof got too close, a spark leapt from it and zapped her.
“Ow!” she yelped. She sighed, shaking her head. “The antimagic is still too strong. I can’t carry it, not even if I put it in my saddlebags.”
“Can I try?” Sweetie Belle asked. Without waiting for an answer, she touched the gem. Although the spark wasn’t nearly as powerful as it had been with Twilight, it still prickled up her arm and made her shudder. She flinched backward and sucked on the singed area of her hoof.
“Let me,” Centime said. He tentatively poked the gem, then rolled it over. Nothing happened. “See, I can carry it!”
Twilight pursed her lips. “I’m not sure if that’s safe for you, Centime.”
“Twilight, it’s not even safe for me,” Scootaloo argued. “If Cent wants to carry it, he can. We’ll see if it’s causing the nightmares or not. I’ll take it back if it’s too much for him to handle, okay? But right now I really need to get these creepy dreams out of my head.”
Twilight got out a spare bag and strapped it to Centime, and it fit, although it was a little big. He gingerly placed the black diamond inside.
Twilight bit her lip, still unsure, but she finally said, “Okay, I think that’ll be alright. But if you change your mind, Centime, be sure to let us know.”
And with that, they all snuggled up in their sleeping bags and faded into the world of dreams.
Scootaloo woke up in the dead of night, yet she was strangely rested--probably because of the sleep she had gotten while she was sick. Yawning, she noticed that Celestia wasn’t up yet, so it must have been extremely early in the morning.
She tossed the cover off of her sleeping bag and let the chilly air refresh her, gazing through the canopy at the starlit sky. I feel really good... except for this nagging feeling that something is wrong. But what is it?
Scootaloo stretched and stood up. She looked at each of her friends in turn and let her thoughts drift, having nothing better to do. Absently, she noticed that Centime was missing.
Centime was missing.
The thought made her do a double-take, and she hastily took role. Her original assessment was correct; Centime was, indeed, missing. Not again... she moaned to herself. She examined the ground for hoofprints, but she had to kneel, because the moonlight wasn’t enough to discern tracks.
“Taking off?” Olly asked, startling Scootlaoo.
“Centime’s missing again,” Scootaloo explained. “Can you let the others know I’m leaving?”
“Can do,” Olly said. “I’ll send a search party if you’re not back by dawn. In the meantime, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Wait, you’re just letting me go?” Scootaloo asked.
“Well, I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that if Discord wanted us dead, they’d have done it already,” Olly said, scratching the back of his neck. “Don’t go wandering too far, though. I’m serious. If you’re not back in five minutes, I’m waking up the others. Dawn is when I call in the Royal Guard.”
Scootaloo nodded and continued looking for traces of Centime. Eventually, she found some tracks leading down a particularly lit section of forest, and she followed them.
She walked for a few minutes, checking for hoofprints every so often on the soft ground, until she heard somepony ask, “Going somewhere?”
Scootaloo jumped, looking up to see the almost invisible figure of Hate lying on a high tree branch. Startled, she retorted, “Wh-What’s it to you?”
Hate laughed. “Nothin’, Scoot, nothin’ at all. Might wanna turn around, though. Only bad things’ll be where you’re going.”
“And leave Centime?” Scootaloo asked angrily. “Fat chance.”
Hate’s expression darkened. “Look, I’m serious. You’re falling into a trap, Scootaloo. And an obvious one, at that.”
“I can take care of myself,” Scootaloo growled. “Get lost.”
“I’m trying to help you out,” Hate argued. “Seriously, if you keep following Centime, you’re going to play right into Deception’s hooves. She’s using you.”
“You want me to just leave him behind?” Scootaloo asked.
Hate snorted. “Yeah, yeah, I know the feeling. But you’ll be better off, trust me. And hey, I shouldn’t even be telling you any of this. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Whatever,” Scootaloo said, rolling her eyes. “I’ll be fine.”
Hate didn’t answer; she had already warped away in a puff of smoke.
Scootaloo walked for a little while more, starting to get worried. Maybe Cent’s gone for good this time. But... why would he just leave me like that? I thought we were friends. Did somepony take him? Or maybe what Hate said was true, and he’s really Deception... She shook her head. No. If Centime was Deception, I would know it.
Eventually, she came across a peculiar patch of forest. Trees towered overhead, and light seemed to emanate from them, forming a brilliant, sunlit grove. Strawberry vines and blueberry bushes were bursting with brightly colored fruit, and birds were chirping despite the fact it was nighttime. The air was warm and humid, almost like a sauna.
Centime was resting in the central part of the patch by a small pool, nibbling on a strawberry. His eyes lit up upon seeing Scootaloo.
“Scootaloo!” he chirped, bounding up to greet her. “This... This place, it’s so pretty!”
Scootaloo was angry at first, but her negative emotions melted away in the presence of the oasis. “Why did you come out here all on your own?”
Centime glanced at his hooves. “Well, uh, because... It’s hard to explain.”
“We have time, right?” Scootaloo asked, sitting down.
“Because... This place feels like Mom,” Centime managed. “I thought I heard Mom call for me, but I guess it was just this place instead. Didn’t you feel somepony important call you here?”
Scootaloo didn’t remember anything like that, other than the fact that she had been the first one to notice Centime was missing and the first one to go after him. “Okay... I guess that makes sense. Kinda,” she added as Centime nestled up beside her.
They sat there for a while, admiring the beauty of the forest. Fireflies lit up the already bright surroundings even more, and grasshoppers and crickets serving as the orchestra. Scootaloo took a sip of the pond water, and found it sweet and refreshing.
“Don’t you wish it could just stay like this?” Centime asked, rolling onto his back.
“...Yeah, Centime. I really do,” Scootaloo nodded. “But... It’s kinda boring, really.”
“Huh?” Centime asked.
“Well, there’s nothing to do,” Scootaloo explained. “I’ve always wanted to go places, and see things. Adventuring with my friends and living in Ponyville on my own made me realize just how dumb it was to stay in one place, no matter how nice it was. I like being scared sometimes. I like going on adventures. A life where you don’t ever take risks, even the big ones, isn’t really living...” She trailed off, searching for the right words. “It’s... It’s surviving.”
Scootaloo wasn’t sure if Centime understood, but she put the thought aside when he asked, “Where would you go?”
“I dunno... Someplace nopony’s ever been before,” Scootaloo mused. “Someplace that hasn’t ever been explored before, like a deserted island, or the top of a mountain. Then ponies would remember me as the pony that discovered it. Forever, too. That’s what I want to do once all this is over.”
Centime paused for a moment, putting his forehooves in his lap. “I’ve... I’ve always wanted to go to the beach.”
Scootaloo waited for him to say more, but when he didn’t, she asked, “...And? That’s it?”
Centime nodded. “Dad said that’s where he’d take me. Once we-... Once-...” He shook his head. “I-I can’t remember. It’s all blurry. But Dad said that he’d take me to the biggest beach in all Equestria, and we’d build the biggest sandcastle in the whole world. It’d be so big, we could all live in it. Him, me, and mom, once we... once we found her.” He wiped away the tears welling up in his eyes. “The bad ponies took him away, a-and I never saw him again. I don’t think he knew where mom was, either. He didn’t believe me wh-when I told him. He was too mad.” His voice was choked with sadness.
Scootaloo hugged Centime close, stroking his mane. Please don’t cry, Centime...
“Sc-Scootaloo?” Centime asked, burying his head in her pelt.
“Yeah?” Scootaloo asked.
“...Thanks,” he finally said.
“For what?” Scootaloo asked.
“You... You’ve been really nice to me all this time, even when I ran away. You’ve been... like a sister, I guess,” he managed, blushing slightly.
Scootaloo laughed and gave him a noogie. “Aww, you’re cute.”
“Am not!” he protested, but he was smiling nonetheless. He contentedly rubbed up against Scootaloo until he was comfortable, and fell asleep.
Scootaloo was suddenly aware of just how exhausted she was. Before sleep claimed her, though, she gazed at Centime and thought, You’ve been like a little brother, too.
Scootaloo was on a wide, grassy plain.
Her heart was racing, and her breaths came in short gasps. A shimmering, dark indigo sword hung at her side, suspended in midair by forces even more ancient than magic itself. It was ornate and finely sharpened, though its most recent use had left blood on the blade and the hilt. A crimson alicorn stallion lay limply at the edge of the battlefield, his purple mane having lost its luster moments ago.
A portal of light formed nearby, and a pure white alicorn with a flowing, rainbow mane stepped out. He stared at Scootaloo with bright purple eyes, smiling slightly. “Elie, all right! Fight, fight, fight!”
Scootaloo stared at him, her sword at the ready. Her limbs were burning with exhaustion, but she adopted a battle stance.
The smile vanished from the stallion’s face. “You really don’t remember... It’s me. Y’know, Verba,” he said. He, too, had a weapon--thick metal boots attached to his hooves that each looked like they could extended into a lance at a moment’s notice.
“‘...Verba?’” Scootaloo asked, staring at him.
“Talk about blank with a capital ‘B,’” Verba muttered. “Jeez, Louise, even Loyalty isn’t gonna crack this one.” He raised a hoof into the air, and a long, sharp lance extended from it--one that could slice as well as pierce. It glimmered slightly, emitting an odd, metallic hum.
“Wait a sec,” Scootaloo said. “Tell me what’s going on!”
“This dream is her creation, right?” Verba asked, looking around. “Which means we don’t have time for a Q&Neigh. You’re coming with me, conscious or not. Then you’ll hear the story.” He extended his wings and took to the air, his other three lances slowly becoming visible.
Thunder boomed, and a pulse of wind shot through the plains. The sky grew darker.
“Uh-oh,” Verba muttered, glancing around nervously.
Scootaloo looked at her shining, reflective, bloodstained sword. She gritted her teeth, turned, raised her back hooves, and bucked it aside. “What’s going on?!” she exclaimed.
She felt an odd power stroke her, though, and she gasped as the sword reappeared at her side.
“Element of Deception. Elie. The chosen one of the Divide,” Verba said. He crossed his meter-long lances in front of his face, readying his first lunge.
Scootaloo glared at him. “Okay, fine!” she seethed. “You asked for it!”
“Scootaloo? Wake up, Scoot,” Dash prodded.
“Huh? What?” Scootaloo mumbled, shaking herself awake. “What’s going on?”
“We found you and Centime unconscious out in the forest,” Fluttershy explained. “Are you feeling alright?”
Scootaloo looked around. The others were all looking at her, concerned. The golden flora had vanished without a trace, and she was now lying in a completely ordinary portion of the forest next to a puddle of mud. Centime was nearby, fidgeting as Rarity cleaned out his mane.
“I feel okay,” Scootaloo began, “but where’d the magical golden forest go? It’s all... brownish.”
“Magical forest?” Dash asked, scratching her head. “What’re you talking about?”
“What’d it look like?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“It was this really bright, sunlit patch right out in the middle of the forest,” Scootaloo explained. “I found Centime sitting next to this pool of water. I tasted the water, and it was really sweet, like sugar.”
“Do you think they found another Dimple?” Twilight asked Celestia.
“Maybe, but it’s also possible that Scootaloo might have been drawn into an illusion by the Elements of Discord,” Celestia said.
“Heph, Tfilight!” Pinkie said, her voice muffled by the leaf she held in her mouth as she hopped up to Twilight. It was almost covered in mud, but some gold could be seen beneath the mucky surface. “Whapth’s thif?”
Twilight pulled the leaf from Pinkie’s mouth with telekinesis and examined it. Hmm... It’s authentic. It even has the faint magical aura. “This is strange, Celestia. Ponies can’t just summon Dimples wherever they want. I don’t think they just pop in and out of existence like they’ve been doing, either.”
Celestia bit her lip. “I have an idea of what it might be, but I’m not sure.”
“Well, don’t leave us in the dark,” Olly said, walking up to the two friends. The others started to gather, as well.
“It might have something to do with a spell I showed Twilight earlier. It’s designed to take the soul from a pony and destroy it. That way, we could permanently get rid of Discord,” Celestia explained. “I was thinking that Deception may have relayed the spell to somepony like Arrogance. It could be manipulated to contain a pony’s soul instead of destroying it outright, and souls contain immeasurable amounts of energy. That energy could be used to create a small Dimple, if you had enough.”
“Why would you ever want to use such a spell, darling?” Rarity asked.
“I hope it never comes to that, but if it does, we need to have an extra trick up our sleeves,” Twilight argued. “Still, if Celestia’s right, and Deception really did steal the spell and manipulate it, then we have a real problem on our hooves.”
“Maybe...” Fluttershy trailed off, “but... Well, I was thinking, and...”
“What’s up?” Dash asked.
Fluttershy anxiously drew a circle on the ground with her hoof. “Maybe... we should try to turn the Elements of Discord to our side, instead of fighting them?”
“You’re joking,” Celestia scoffed.
“Y-You’re right, it really isn’t that good of an idea,” Fluttershy said quickly.
“Celestia, don’t be mean,” Twilight chided. She turned to Fluttershy and asked, “That’s a good idea, Fluttershy, but how would we pull it off?”
“My mother always said we should use our words,” Fluttershy began, “maybe we should try reasoning with them.”
“They don’t listen to reason. We’ve tried that,” Celestia said. “Besides, the Elements of Discord have killed too many ponies to be forgiven for it. We need to finish them off, and this spell is the way to do it.”
“Um... Not to be r-rude, Celestia, but... they seem to think we’ve killed ponies, too,” Fluttershy argued.
“Not as many as them. They’ll stop at nothing until we’re all dead; why should we treat them any differently?” Celestia asked.
“Because maybe then we can end this war peacefully,” Twilight said. “At the very least, we can try. Hate didn’t seem to want to kill Pinkie when she offered to be his friend. Maybe their emotions go deeper than we’re seeing.”
“And yet, Guilt still beat Pinkie into the ground,” Olly interjected. “Face it, Twilight; the Elements of Discord want to do us in. We can try reason, sure; I just don’t think we should commit to it. It’s a lost cause as it is, so why prolong the inevitable?”
“Olly’s right; we’re probably going to end up fighting,” Dash admitted, “and I definitely don’t want to be friends with a low-life like Hate.”
“Well, duh!” Pinkie exclaimed, sticking out her tongue. “He’s gross! But even though he’s a meanie demeanie-pants, I’d rather have him at all my parties than try to fight him. Even if he chases away all my party guests, at least I don’t have to risk losing any more than I have to.”
“There’s no point in living if you don’t enjoy your life. I know that first-hoof,” Celestia argued. “Pinkie, if Hate is welcomed into Equestria openly, there’s no telling what consequences there’ll be.”
“Wait just a doggone second. Didn’t Hate drop that ‘dirty’ illusion once Celestia killed Arrogance?” Applejack asked. “After that, he’s been a pure gentlecolt each time we saw him. That aside, sure, maybe he’s our enemy, but if he’s been tellin’ anythin’ near the truth, which Ah know he has, then he has every reason ta dislike us.”
“This is getting nowhere!” Scootaloo complained. “Let’s just get to Ponyville and get home! I’m tired of hearing you all whine about this!” She stomped to the center of the group. “The Elements of Discord destroyed my home and my life, and they’ve done the same to thousands of different ponies! Like it or not, I’m getting my revenge, and don’t you try and stop me!” She stormed off.
“You’re going West. North is that way,” Twilight corrected, pointing to her left. Scootaloo glanced at her and stormed off in the direction she pointed.
“I’ve never seen her this mad,” Centime remarked, unsure whether to follow Scootaloo or not. He absently rubbed his saddlebags, feeling for the gem to make sure it was still there.
“Me, neither. Guess it’s just that time of month,” Olly grinned, gingerly following Scootaloo.
Rarity groaned inwardly, but follow the others as they resumed their journey.
Scootaloo’s thoughts began to wander as the others caught up to her. I miss being in the Cutie Mark Crusaders. I’ve always wondered what Apple Bloom’s cutie mark would have been. Probably something about apples. Everypony in her family has a cutie mark related to ‘em, but... I guess I’ll never really know.
I wonder how different my life would be if Saphira was still here. It wasn’t right that she died just to protect her father... And in vain, too. I know it wasn’t Applejack’s fault, but it still makes me angry... Somehow, that should have been stopped. I wish somepony had seen it coming. I wonder where she is now. Maybe... Maybe, by the end of this war, I’ll find out.
“Okay, now we should be getting near the Miner’s Ditch soon. After that, we go through the Everfree Forest into Ponyville,” Twilight stated, placing her map back into her saddlebags. They had journeyed out of the forest and were now approaching a peculiar rock formation; a mesa surrounded by woodlands with a jagged crease running down the side.
“A Miner’s Ditch?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Uh, Twi?” Applejack asked as she felt a few raindrops glance off her snout.
“There was a gold rush before either of us were born,” Twilight began. “Ponies from all over Equestria were looking for enormous wealth right where we’re standing. When a large vein of gold was spotted, everypony rushed to the side of the mesa. Then, the ground just caved out from under them. Most geologists believe an ancient landslide had covered up an even more ancient ravine, making it look like the ground was safe. The excessive digging probably weakened the foundation, causing the collapse.”
“A lot of good ponies were lost,” Celestia affirmed. “Even Arrogance organized a day of mourning on their behalf.”
“That’s interestin’ an’ all, but shouldn’t we be gettin’ someplace dry?” Applejack asked, her mane starting to dampen.
“Can’t Dash just, um, clear the sky?” Twilight asked, looking upward. The rain clouds colored the sky a dark gray, and the ground was nearing saturation as raindrops continued to fall over the landscape.
“I can try,” Dash said, taking to the air. A bolt of lightning struck almost as soon as she lifted off the ground, though, and she paused. She felt an electric charge on her left wing, which slightly ruffled her feathers. “Um... I can totally clear this rain and all, but I’m just not sure it’s the best idea.”
Twilight sighed. “I can make a cave at the edge of the mesa. We’d have to cross the Ditch first, though.”
“That shouldn’t be too difficult,” Rarity said, bundling her mane under her sunhat, “but we have to hurry before we’re chilled to the bone.”
Centime shivered. “What’re we waiting for? C’mon!” He galloped in front of the others, his saddlebag bouncing back and forth at his side. Since the forest had thinned out, there were nothing but flat plains all the way to the mesa.
Celestia cautiously watched for signs of Discord. Out here, I feel... I’m not sure. Exposed? But I always feel that way. So what makes this different?
Applejack was also on edge as she followed Pinkie’s bright shape through the thickening rain. Something bad’s going to happen. I’m not sure what and I’m not sure when, but this entire situation’s making my mane stand on end.
They made it to the mesa at a gallop, and although it had only been a minute or two, they were rather fatigued.
Olly glanced into the Ditch, then suddenly stepped back. “Maybe it’s a memory, maybe it’s not, but I am definitely scared of heights right now!”
Pinkie peered over the edge as well. “Wow... It goes on forever and ever, and...” She squinted. “...ever and ever and ever and ever!” Her forehooves slipped on the slick stone and she fell forward, twisting at the last second to grab the ledge with her foreleg. She yelled in panic.
Olly caught her and dragged her back to the surface. She wrapped around his neck tightly, clearly frightened.
“Hey--!” he yelped, trying to steady himself and eventually falling onto his back.
Pinkie let go of him and shook herself off, water droplets flying everywhere. “Th-...Thanks,” she managed.
“Just be careful,” he said. He looked at the others, who were tense from Pinkie’s near-fatality. “Okay, so what now? I don’t think we should jump; the ground’s too slick.”
“I could try t-transmutation, but this cold will r-ruin my concentr-tration,” Twilight said, gritting her teeth to keep them from chattering. “Could you wa-warm us up, Celestia?”
Celestia didn’t answer. She was staring at the top of the mesa. Why am I seeing a little green light...?
“Celestia...?” Twilight repeated, walking up and nudging the goddess.
Lightning struck directly on Celestia’s forehead, and an explosion resounded through the area as magic tried to force its way through her skull. It didn’t succeed, but it had enough force to knock her off balance.
“Celestia!” Dash gasped. She saw a little green dot squared on Olly’s forehead and shoved him aside just before a loud crackling noise was heard. Neon lightning struck where Olly had been standing, and it triggered a massive explosion. It threw most of the group backward, but Olly and Dash were lost in the blast.
The attack had ripped open a hole in the ground, and a tremor vibrated through the valley. The blast was acidic, and the hole it had created started to widen. A wall of green toxins started to hiss and fizzle around any other possible escape routes, forming a semicircle around the valley. Sweetie Belle tripped over herself and slipped into the hole, yelling as she fell. Rarity leapt out to grab her, but she lost her traction and went down as well.
There was a loud hissing noise before a ball of crackling green energy exploded at the top of the mesa. A floodgate appeared to have opened, and water mixed with mud formed a speedy sludge that rushed toward the group. Twilight tried to raise a protective barrier, but her concentration was ruined as the green dot that signaled an impending attack darted toward her. She tried to avoid it, but it struck anyway, hitting her deftly in the hip. The explosion knocked her toward the Ditch, and she slid toward it, howling in pain and barely able to stay conscious.
Scootaloo saw the dot then approach Centime, but the barrage of falling rocks was blocking her path to him. Instinct taking over, she slid over, under, and around them, her special talent allowing her to retain her balance. She slid into Centime, praying that she wasn’t too late. She wasn’t, but the rushing air from the missed lightning bolt caught her wing, jerking it out of place. Centime desperately grasped the edge of the Ditch with his forelegs.
Her head slightly blurry, Scootaloo picked herself up and limped over to Centime, yelling, “Hold on!” She grabbed his forehooves just as he slipped. Her mind blanked, her only instinct to hold on to him despite the splitting pain in her broken, electrocuted wing.
Pinkie was hurriedly trying to move a rock that had pinned Fluttershy down in the initial explosion. Applejack saw Twilight and Scootaloo clinging to life at the side of the Ditch and paused, trying to decide which one to save. Twilight had regained some sense, but it wasn’t quite enough, and she was hanging over the edge for dear life. Applejack shook away her indecision and went for Twilight first, trying to pull her out of the pit, or at least keep her from falling.
It was a much harder task than she had anticipated, though. Twilight was barely able to grasp Applejack’s hooves, and her weight was dragging Applejack downward. At this rate... Applejack thought, her hooves slippery, I might not be able to save Scoot either! she thought, glancing at the orange pegasus. Hold on!
Scootaloo was rapidly losing her grip on Centime’s hooves. The rain was making their hooves too slippery. To add to Scooatloo’s panic, she realized that she was sliding over the edge, as well, and, as if fate were mocking them, the roar of the mudslide grew louder as it drew closer. “Just--! Just hold on, Centime!”
Centime saw Scootaloo’s wing and how she was losing her grip on the edge. His eyes widened, and his breathing accelerated. “Y-You can’t hold on for much longer!” He glanced back at his dangling limbs, stifling panic as he saw the wall of mud approaching above them.
“I can try!” she yelled, closing her eyes and concentrating all her energy into her forehooves. The mudslide was only a few moments away.
Applejack finally made it out of the pit, dragging the injured Twilight to safety. She turned to assist Scootaloo, but sensed somepony behind her. She turned around and gasped, seeing none other than Hate standing next to the unconscious Pinkie and Fluttershy. Their bodies were both coursing with dark energy, most likely due to Hate’s influence.
“Heh,” she grinned. “Wish you’d seen this one coming, huh?”
Applejack was torn. She glanced at Scootaloo, then back to Hate, and asked, “Whaddaya want?”
“To show you something,” she said. Her form shifted and warped until she was an exact version of Apple Bloom. “Ah might as well dress fer the occasion, right, sis?”
“Y-You can shift, too?” Applejack asked in shock.
“Applejack! Help me!” Scootaloo yelled.
Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. “Can’t ya connect the dots? Or do Ah have to explain it all out for you, like the simpleton ya are? Fine, then.” Her form warped and twisted again, growing taller and masculine until she had transformed into Lorey. “You’re quite the crude representation of the powers of Honesty.”
Applejack’s fury heightened. “You callin’ me a fool?”
“It’d be wrong of me to lie,” Deception said innocently, only increasing Applejack’s agitation.
Applejack turned to help Scootaloo, but froze as Deception took a step, as well. “Let me save them!” she barked.
Deception laughed. “It’s your choice. I’m just bluffing. Of course, you don’t really know that, do you?”
“Then Ah guess Ah’m gonna have ta deal with you first!” Applejack growled, rushing at Deception. They skirmished, but Deception simply avoided all of her attacks.
“Applejack...” Scootaloo grunted. She was losing her grip.
“Scootaloo...” Centime trailed off. He recovered some resolve. “Let me go! You can’t keep this up!”
“Shut up!” Scootaloo yelled. It would only be seconds before she slid into the Ditch, but she didn’t care. The mudslide was only seconds away.
“...It’s either save me, or save yourself, Scootaloo...” Centime mumbled. He looked up at her with a fiery determination. “And I’m not going to let you make that choice!”
Scootaloo was horrified as Centime’s grip on her began to weaken. “Centime, don’t! Please...!”
Centime smiled slightly. “I... I finally get so see Mom again... just like the bad pony said.” His grip went slack, and he fell.
The pit began to glow with a bright purple energy. Just as Centime escaped Scootaloo’s view, he began to rocket upward on a massive wave of violet light. His terrified scream became garbled as he flew upward on the explosive wave, and Scootaloo was blown back from the pit, as well.
“NO!” Scootaloo screamed.
The light was almost blinding, and steam began to rise off of the stone. The mudslide collided with the energy and turned to plaster before breaking apart. The entire mesa began to shake, and loose boulders were sent skyward, dissolving to dust. The force was so intense, a crack formed directly down the center of the mesa.
When it was over and Scootaloo’s eyes had finally readjusted, the first thing she saw was a tuft of blond hair, tinged purple by the blast. The black diamond was lying next to it, along with a few straps of charred saddlebag strips. A strange warmth was emanating from the gem, but she paid it no heed.
Deception grinned evilly before vanishing, and Applejack, the only Element left conscious, was shocked beyond belief as she stared at the blast. But Scootaloo didn’t care about that.
Scootaloo’s throat tightened. Not... Not like this...
Applejack slowly walked up to Scootaloo and put a hoof on her shoulder. “Ah... Ah’m so sorry, Scootaloo.”
Scootaloo was trembling with rage, and didn’t turn to face Applejack. “You could have saved him,” she muttered under her breath. “You could’ve saved him, but you wasted--all--your time.”
“Ah know,” Applejack said, stifling her tears. “It’s mah fault, ain’t it?”
Scootaloo paused. ...It is your fault. It’s all your fault. What am I supposed do to now...? He was... He was my friend...
Apple Bloom... Saphira... They were my friends, too. I guess it’s only a matter of time before the same thing happens to Sweetie Belle... to Twilight, and the others... to me. Because of this war. She turned to glare at Twilight and Celestia. Because of the war that you started, everypony I love is going to die. Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized this, and her anger began to grow.
Memories, thoughts, and emotions flew through Scootaloo’s mind too fast for her to process them. Her teeth were gritted, and she ground the enamel in fury. “None of you were there for Apple Bloom until it was too late... You weren’t there for Centime until it was too late...” She turned and glowered at Applejack. “And you killed Saphira with your own hooves. Deception or not, you’re the one that killed her!”
“Ah know,” Applejack nodded, wiping her eyes. “An’ Ah’ll never be more sorry fer anythin’ else in mah life.”
“I’m through with this,” Scootaloo seethed, strands of her mane falling over her face. Something hardened in her heart, and her rage skyrocketed. “Everypony I love has died because of this stupid, useless WAR!” And I can’t do anything about it, unless-...! Unless I...
Scootaloo slowly turned her head. She undid her saddlebags and threw them to the ground, staring at the gem lying next to Centime’s only remains. “I’m sick of this.”
Applejack looked up at Scootaloo. “Huh?”
Scootaloo glared at the gem. “Sick of all of this!”
Applejack’s eyes widened as she realized Scootaloo’s intentions. “Scootaloo, you take one step toward that thing an’ Ah’ll-”
“You’ll what?” Scootaloo interrupted. “Kill me?”
Applejack brushed some of her sopping wet mane aside. She pointed at the gem. “That ain’t the answer! It’ll only cause more pain, fer all a us!”
“But maybe it will finally end it,” Scootaloo stated. “I’m through, Applejack. There’s nothing you can do to stop me!” She took a confident step toward the gem, which was now crackling with energy.
“You just watch me!” Applejack yelled, rushing at Scootaloo. Scootaloo attempted to crush the gem, but Applejack swatted her aside before she was able.
Scootaloo’s vision was blurry, both from Applejack’s blow to her head and from her tears. “Apple Bloom... Saphira... Centime...” she mumbled.
The gem began to glow with a bright, yellow-green light. Scootaloo shakily stood up, though Applejack prevented access to the black diamond she was looking at. Throwing her head to the sky, and with rain mixing with her tears, Scootaloo screamed, “Apple Bloom! Saphira! Centime!”
A crack developed along the side of the diamond, making a high-pitched tone akin to a steaming teakettle. Applejack turned around in response to the noise, but her blood ran cold as she saw the gem start to split apart.
The long crack around the gem split open, and a black mass of energy rushed out from within. Scootaloo’s heart nearly stopped as she realized what she had just done.
Applejack was crippled by a sudden migraine. She fell to her knees, grunting with pain.
Scootaloo closed her eyes and let the tears flow down little rivulets on her cheeks as the dark mass started to take shape. “Apple Bloom... Saphira... Centime...”
The mass formed into the body of an alicorn mare, though it wavered slightly and was comprised solely of shadow. Scootaloo spread her wings, took a breath, and then said a single word: “Justice.”
They think they’re heroes, but all they’re doing is giving Discord excuses to murder, Scootaloo thought. They think they’re justified, but they don’t even think about what it’s costing Equestria. They use their strength to bully as much as they do to protect. This has to stop. The bleeding has to stop.
“Thank you... I have waited a long time for this, Scootaloo,” Vengeance said, her body now completed.
Scootaloo didn’t face her. She was still staring at the ground, at that little bit of Centime’s mane. She picked it up. It was her only memory of him. “...Let’s go.”
When Applejack once again came to her senses, Scootaloo had vanished, as had Vengeance.
Applejack’s throat was dry, but her eyes weren’t. “...Scootaloo...” She looked toward the sky. The rain had abruptly ceased. “What’ve ya done...?”
[Note]: I do not own anything in this story that already belongs to someone else.
This story takes place BEFORE season two, but AFTER season one.
Please let me know if a link doesn’t work.