“Ya really don't look good, Scootaloo,” the Applebloom said for the dozenth time.
“I told you, I'm fine.” Scootaloo paced back and forth, glancing out the clubhouse windows as she passed each one. “Sweetie Belle isn't usually this late, is she?”
“Yeah, it's not like her.” Applebloom watched her friend cross the room. “Are ya still feeling sick from the ice cream? Mah tummy ached all night.”
“Uh, yeah, that's it. You don't think something happened, do you?”
“Will ya quit yer pacing already? It's making me dizzy. I'm sure everything's fine; she's just running late.”
Scootaloo stopped mid pace. “You're right. I don't know what's worrying me so much.” It wasn’t like Sweetie Belle was leaving town. She was just running late.
They're heads jerked toward the door as it burst open. Sweetie Belle slid to a stop in front of them, head held high.
“Oh, there you are Sweetie Belle, we were—”
“Sweetie Belle!” Applebloom shouted. “Ya got yer cutie mark!”
Scootaloo stopped mid sentence. Her eyes traced a path down Sweetie Belle's side and to her flank. The mark was simple, a trio of three black musical notes against her white coat.
It's not the end of the world, she assured herself. They could still crusade together. Sweetie Belle would help her friends, and then they'd all have cutie marks.
She did promise after all, Discord whispered to her. She said the three of you would always be the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Go ahead, congratulate her. This is what you’ve all been working toward.
“That's so cool!” Scootaloo finally managed. “I always knew you were good at singing, but who thought it'd be your special talent?”
“How'd it happen?” Applebloom asked.
“I was walking home yesterday,” the unicorn answered. “I was singing to myself and Fluttershy came along and heard me. She told me I was really good, and that she wanted to help me get better. I was walking home to tell my parents, thinking about how much fun it'd be to have singing lessons, and then it just happened.”
“That's so awesome!” Scootaloo cheered. “Maybe we'll get ours today too. Let's get started.”
“Uh...” Sweetie Belle dropped her gaze to the floor. “Actually, my first lesson is today. I just wanted to come tell you two.”
“Oh,” Scootaloo said, struggling to keep her smile in place.
“That's fine, Sweetie Belle. Ah hope you have fun,” Applebloom said.
“You too. I guess I gotta go now,” Sweetie Belle said before hopping out the door, and practically skipping away.
And there she goes. That didn’t take long, did it? I guess the promise wasn’t worth much, was it?
“So, ya wanna get started, Scootaloo?” Applebloom asked.
“Actually, I think I really am sick,” Scootaloo said weakly.
“Ah told you. It's the ice cream.”
“Yeah. I'm, uh, just going to go home and go to bed.”
“Well alright then. I'll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, totally.” Scootaloo's voice broke on the last word as she disappeared through the door.
Wind whipped past the young filly as she galloped through Ponyville, weaving through and occasionally knocking over the townsponies. Her breath came out ragged and her hooves fell like lead bars, but she kept running.
Finally she found herself at the outskirts of town, just outside the Everfree Forest. She dropped under the shade of a large tree, covered her head with her hooves, and cried.
It had happened. One of her friends had gotten their cutie mark, and no longer had time to crusade. The Cutie Mark Crusaders were down a member, and she was down a friend. How long would it take before they stopped talking altogether?
It was just like Discord had predicted. Scootaloo didn't even like singing. As far as she knew, neither did Applebloom. Eventually, Sweetie Belle would find new, more musical friends.
Now, now, it isn't entirely hopeless. You could practice, maybe if you get good enough you'll start to like it.
Scootaloo shook her head. “I tried before. The lyrics I wrote were terrible. Everyone thought my singing was a joke.”
I'm sure you weren't that bad.
“I'm serious, they gave us the comedy award.”
Oh, ouch. Well, you've still got Applebloom.
“Yeah, for now. But she's sure to get her cutie mark soon. She's great at building stuff; she's smart; she's got everything at the farm to try; she can make zap apple jam and mix potions. Something'll stick. And then I'll be the only one left.”
Oh Scootaloo, I'm sure you've got just as many talents, don't you? Maybe your cutie mark has something to do with you wings?
“I...” Scootaloo sobbed harder. “I can't even fly. I never had anypony to teach me.”
Awww. You know, Scootaloo, I know how to fly. Maybe I could teach you.
Scootaloo didn't answer, but her crying slowed and she began to wipe her eyes. “Neither of my friends can fly though. It'd just drive us farther apart. I- I just wish cutie marks didn't matter. Like what you said yesterday. You're right, they're stupid.”
She pushed herself up and stomped her front hooves. “All of Equestria is stupid. You're right about cutie marks, you're right about the weather. You're right about harmony. It's just a bunch of stupid old ponies who don't want Equestria to change!” She threw herself back to the ground.
“It’s just not fair.” She slammed her hoof into the ground, eyes tearing up again. “It’s not fair. I wish you could do something to help me.”
Scootaloo waited, but Discord didn't finish. “Well what?”
There might be a way.
Scootaloo sat up again. Her heartbeat began picking up speed. Talking was one thing, but if there really was a way to help Discord...
No. He'd try to overthrow Celestia again. He might hurt somepony if it meant he'd stay free.
Well, not to fix everything. I can't beat the Elements of Harmony, or Celestia. If I got free, I'd have to run and never return to Equestria. But before I left, I might be able to help you save your friendship.
“You could? And then you'd leave? You wouldn't fight Celestia?”
Of course not, Scootaloo. As much as I'd miss you, I just couldn't take the risk. This is all just in theory, though. I couldn't possibly ask you for help. If anyone found out, you'd be called a traitor.
“I could do it secretly. If it keeps the Crusaders together, I don't care what people call me.”
Well, the task isn't pleasant. I wouldn't consider it, if I could think of another way.
“What is it?”
The Elements of Harmony symbolize the connections between ponies. I'm sure you know each one represents something about friendship.
To counter the spell, we don't need a lot of magic, we need a symbol of our own that we can channel a spell through. Elements of Disharmony, if you will.
“Elements of Disharmony? That doesn't sound very...” She trailed off, looking for the right word.
Discord and harmony exist in everypony. Just look at the wielders of the elements. Rarity, the Element of Generosity, is known for her love of fine things. Pinkie Pie without her friends is one of the most depressing things I've ever seen, and I heard the commotion Fluttershy caused at last year's Grand Galloping Gala. Disharmony itself is not a bad thing, it's simply pony nature.
But you are right in thinking that the elements will be unpleasant, as will their wielders. We would need ponies who don't just have the traits of disharmony, but embody them. Even if we do find six ponies like that, we'll still need to find a unicorn powerful enough to cast the necessary spells.
But, if we can manage that, it may be possible to free me. Then I can help you and be on my way.
Scootaloo didn't answer for a long time. Discord had only been kind and understanding, but everypony feared him. Freeing him would cause a lot of trouble.
But what if it was the only way to save her friendship?
The sun was beginning to set when she finally stood back up, head bent low in a defeated exhaustion.“I just don’t know,” she said, more to herself than Discord.