It was hard to believe that thirteen years had passed, thirteen years since the great terrible that had happened not only in Peoplesville, but over all of Earthica.
Earthica was in a frozen state; frozen in time. No one could move, no one could speak, and no one aged—no one except the three that survived.
They couldn't explain why they had survived; they didn't even fully remember themselves what had happened. All that they knew was that their friends and family were frozen and that there was no way to break the spell.
The day had been as ordinary as any other. One of the survivors was holding a club meeting for the Winged that she admired so much; another was helping her sister and brother on their farm; and the last was trying her hardest not to annoy her sister while she worked on her latest fashions.
Without warning, the sun was blocked and the Elements of Harmony had been called upon to save all of Earthica. The princesses Celestia and Luna defeated, the fate of Earthica rest in the Element bearers hands.
Meeting in the town centre, they faced off with the terrible force with all their might; but it was in vain. Just when they thought they had won, in an attempt to save itself and still punish Earthica, the great power cast a curse across the land.
Time froze. Crystal barriers surrounded every human and froze them in their current states. The princesses' fates were unknown. And the powerful evil vanished without a trace.
Three young girls managed to survive. They went to the town square and saw their saviours trapped in time. They tried everything their young minds could think of to wake them up, break them from within the crystals' hold. The young Magik tried simple spells her sister had taught her, but all failed; the young Original tried using tools from her farm in order to set her family free, but none of them worked; and the young Winged just tried to keep it together.
Scared and alone, the young three slept many days and nights outside, under the stars, beside their trapped heroines. They stayed together, never straying one another's side for an instant; for all they knew, they were the last three humans conscious.
It wasn't until a week later that another survivor emerged. She came from within the Everfree Forest, confused and unscathed. She had had no idea of the great terrible force or the frozen status of the world. Putting her arms around the young three, she took them into her care and back to her hut in the forest.
Together, they looked through her books and spells, trying to find a cure, but nothing could be found. The world remained frozen in time, the force unknown and vanished, and the princesses missing.
Thirteen years had now passed, and although Earthica stood in a frozen state, the young three and their mentor continued to age and grow.
Back then they had called themselves The Creative-Mark Crusaders, the CMC; now they were just The Crusaders.
Thirteen years. Thirteen years had gone by since the terrible attack. Thirteen years of wondering why the CMC had survived and nobody else. Zecora had survived because she lived in the forest. The Everfree Forest was mysterious, with its own magic to protect it.
Their main theory that the CMC had survived was because at the time they didn't have their Creative-Marks yet, the tattoos that appeared on the inside of everyone's wrists and the nape of their necks. They were symbols of who you were and what your special talents were. Everyone naturally receives a Creative-Mark between the ages of 7-10, when they discover something special about themselves.
Sweetie Belle touched her Creative-Mark on the inside of her left wrist, as she walked through Peoplesville towards the town centre. She closed her eyes, and thought back to the day it had happened.
It happened a good few months after the curse had been cast. She had been the second of the CMC to get hers, Apple Bloom being the first. Sweetie Belle had gone down to the town centre to visit her frozen sister, something she did every day for the first five years of the curse. And since the curse had happened, for those first few months, every time Sweetie Belle went there and stood in front of Rarity, she cried. To make herself stop crying and feel better, she would sing. She would sing for herself and sing for Rarity. And eventually, three small musical notes appeared on her wrists and the back of her neck. She came to realize that she had a gift for singing, and that it was especially good at calming people down.
She had gotten use to all of the frozen people standing around the town. Eventually she and the CMC had decided to explore everyone's houses and see if there were any other survivors.
The mayor was standing just outside of Town Hall, her face frozen in terror; Cheerilee had been helping some kids after school and was frozen pointing at something on the board, the three students frozen at their desks; various other ponies were frozen doing their everyday errands, while others had noticed the terribleness that was happening and had horror written on their faces.
In the centre of town stood the bearers of the Elements. Twilight Sparkle was in the centre, the crown on her head, a defeated look on her face. Sweetie Belle figured she had just realized what was about to happen but didn't have time to do anything about it.
The rest if the bearers flanked Twilight in a semi-circle. Rarity was between Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. She stood there, an angry look on her face. Sweetie Belle stood in front of her and placed her hand up against the crystal that imprisoned her. It wasn't a thick layer and it was relatively in the shape of her sister. She stared hard into Rarity's eyes.
"Thirteen years ago today."
Sweetie Belle turned her head. Apple Bloom was sitting cross-legged in front of Applejack. She sighed and looked up at her. Applejack froze with her eyes squeezed shut, her arm out-stretched. Sweetie Belle knew Apple Bloom would be here. The two of them were always here on the anniversary date of the attack. Sometimes Scootaloo joined them, and sometimes she didn't. Today she didn't.
"I'm the same age as her now," Sweetie Belle said quietly looking back at Rarity. Apple Bloom laughed.
"Yeah, I remember that feeling; I'm older than Applejack now by two years," Apple Bloom said. She sighed and leaned back on her arms. "Next it'll be Big Mac, and eventually Granny Smith."
"You think you're going to live as long as Granny Smith?" Sweetie Belle said. Apple Bloom shrugged.
Sweetie Belle sat down in front of Rarity.
"What's Scoots up to?" she asked. Apple Bloom shrugged again.
"Dunno; probably at the cliff," she said.
Sweetie Belle looked up at Rarity again. They were the same age now. No more thirteen year gap. She could see so many similarities in their features now. It was almost like looking into a crystal mirror.
The two of them sat in silence, staring up at their older sisters, their idols. Sweetie Belle didn't want to think about how Apple Bloom must feel; she was now older than her older sister.
"What do you... what do you think it was? That attacked us all those years ago?" Apple Bloom asked quietly.
"I don't know. Probably would have helped if we had been in the town centre when it happened. All I remember is Rarity rushing out saying she needed to go," Sweetie Belle said.
"Yeah, same with AJ," Apple Bloom said. "Next thing I knew, Big Mac was frozen picking apples, and Granny Smith's rocking chair just stopped rocking."
"We could go to the library later, try and see if we can find anything," Sweetie Belle said.
Apple Bloom groaned.
"We've combed that library thoroughly. We haven't found anything on time freezing spells, or curses, or creatures that have any sort of magic like that. Even Zecora couldn't find anything," Apple Bloom said, lying flat on the ground now.
"I know... but it wouldn't hurt," Sweetie Belle said quietly. Apple Bloom sighed.
Sweetie Belle knew she would go to the library anyways. It was an unofficial tradition they always did on the anniversary. First, they went and visited their sisters, sometimes Apple Bloom also went to the farm, just as sometimes Sweetie Belle also went to check up on her parents; and then they always met at the library and would read through all of the books for the rest of the day.
Apple Bloom sighed again and stood up. She brushed some dirt off of her jeans.
"I'm going to go see Big Mac and Granny," she said. She looked at Applejack one more time and then turned away.
"Ok; see you at the library later, right?" Sweetie Belle said.
"Yeah, see you at the library..." Apple Bloom said.
Sweetie Belle watched Apple Bloom walk away. She then looked back at her sister and sighed. She missed her so much.
Stretching out at Rarity's feet, Sweetie Belle put her hands behind her head and stared up at the clouds and into the beautiful day.
Scootaloo sat on the edge of the cliff. The cliff looked over Peoplesville, the sun shining brightly over the little town. She sighed, staring down at the time, her arms propping her up behind her, her feet dangling over the edge.
It was thirteen years ago today that a terrible force overtook Earthica and set it into a frozen state. Nobody aged; nobody moved or breathed; they were all trapped in an indestructible crystal, frozen in time¬—all except she, Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom and Zecora.
Zecora had been protected by the magic of the Everfree Forest. The forest contained so many mystical properties, that Scootaloo hadn't been surprised when Zecora emerged thirteen years ago, too late to have witnessed the catastrophe. She took in Scootaloo and the CMC, and had been raising them for the past thirteen years. Now they were all grown up.
The girls had tried researching everything they could to try and free the all of the trapped people. Wouldn't it be super cool to have been the saviors of Earthica? They'd have a huge ceremony, and be awarded by the princesses and praised by everyone. Back when they were still kids, they figured that would be a sure way to earn their Creative-Marks. A hero Creative-Mark? No just everybody got a Mark like that!
But, although time kept everyone frozen, time kept moving forward. They aged; they gained their Marks, and the prospect of being heroes wasn't as important any more. They just wanted their family awake and well again. It pained them every day to see them frozen and be unable to help them.
Sweetie Belle still had the most hope. While both she and Apple Bloom completely idolized their sisters, Sweetie Belle practically visited Rarity every day. She researched every day, trying new magic spells, anything she thought would be helpful to free everyone.
Apple Bloom was less enthusiastic than Sweetie Belle. Scootaloo knew it was because she was now older than her older sister, Applejack, and in two years she would be the same age as Big McIntosh too. Apple Bloom was their food provider; she still farmed a small portion of Sweet Apple Acres. Sometimes Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo would help her out, but Scootaloo knew she liked to work the farm alone most days, and lose herself in her thoughts. Sometimes Scootaloo seriously worried about Apple Bloom.
Scootaloo herself felt useless. She felt like everyone else had a place in this ghost world, but her. Her wing twitched behind her as she moved her gaze from the town to the clouds.
Many times throughout the years, Sweetie Belle or Apple Bloom would pose a question relevant to the status of Cloudsdale; how were the Wingeds up there? Did they fall to the earth? Or did the crystal substance float on clouds? Could there be a possibility of someone alive and well up there, and just as alone as they were? Someone who was too afraid to come down to the surface and look for other survivors?
Every time one of them accidentally brought up Cloudsdale, Scootaloo would hang her head in shame. Sometimes she would just leave the room in frustration. She knew her friends didn't mean anything by it, it was merely an observation they brought up. Everyone of them was just as curious and eager as the other to find the cure to this terrible curse; who was to say the answer wasn't in Cloudsdale?
But they had no way to get up to Cloudsdale. As hard as they tried to find some sort of flying-machine to bring them to the cloud city, they always failed. And every time they failed, Scootaloo could feel the lead weight of her wings on her back. Her useless wings.
Out of all of the Winged in the world, why did she have to be the one with wings that didn't work? Why couldn't she fly? Sweetie Belle's magic worked no problem. Essentially, they were a team of one Magik and two Originals. Scootaloo's wings were useless. She couldn't fly. She wasn't sure if it was because they weren't capable of sustaining her body or they couldn't capture the air around them. It was a mystery.
It was the other mystery that the CMC—specifically Sweetie Belle—would try to solve. Sweetie Belle would try spells on Scootaloo, trying anything that she thought would help make her fly. Scootaloo had sustained many broken bones and bruises over the years.
It wasn't as if she had never tried to learn to fly. She had first been enrolled in flight school, the school up in Cloudsdale. Like any Winged, she was born in Cloudsdale. Both her parents were Winged. And although she could walk on the clouds, she couldn't fly. It was concern about her safety that her parents decided to move to Peoplesville and live safely on the ground, because if Scootaloo ever fell from Cloudsdale, she wouldn't be able to save herself.
Scootaloo knew at this very moment Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were in the town centre visiting their sisters. Sometimes Scootaloo came with them to visit Rainbow Dash, her idol. Rainbow Dash was the coolest Winged she had ever known—even cooler than the Wonderbolts in Scootaloo's opinion. She'd give anything to fly beside Rainbow Dash—hell, she'd give anything just to hover a few feet in the air beside Rainbow Dash.
Today, on this anniversary, Scootaloo didn't feel like disrupting the family atmosphere that Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom needed. Sometimes she just felt like a third wheel while the two of them looked up at their sisters and swapped family stories. It was just another thing that made Scootaloo feel left out.
Scootaloo hated that it was such a beautiful day outside. It was as though the creature that had done this to them, wherever it was, was laughing at them. Laughing because there was nothing they could do, because they were powerless. Because they had no clue where to start looking for the cure, and had been running around in circles for the past thirteen years.
Apple Bloom hit the punching bag as hard and as fast as she could. She didn't stop when her arms got tired or when her hands ached. She would switch it up and kick at it every now and then too. Anything to get the frustration and hurt out.
"Thirteen years!" she screamed, hitting the bag. It swung back and forth as she hit.
It was Big McIntosh's bag. Apple Bloom had long gotten over her feelings of guilt of going into her siblings' rooms and using their stuff. She liked to come up to Big Mac's room twice or so a week to work out her frustration. Today was an extra day. Today was the anniversary of the terribleness.
Thirteen years had gone by and nothing had changed in Earthica, except for Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo and Zecora. They all aged steadily while the rest of the world stayed in a frozen state.
Apple Bloom had never thought it would have lasted this long. She would hope and dream each year after the incident first happened, that any day now the rest of the world would wake up. Then her sister and her friends would go and figure out what had caused the sleeping spell, and would seek it out and destroy it with the Elements of Harmony. The princesses would be found, and the world would return back to normal.
But after six or seven years, Apple Bloom began to doubt it was ever going to happen. Still, she tried to be optimistic. She thought several times that one day Zecora was going to whip out the anecdote and say "Gotcha!" and explain how the whole thing had been a test for the CMC to get their Creative-Marks, and then time would be restored back to what it was before. That the whole thing had been a simulation and she was still a ten-year old little girl.
But her Creative-Mark had nothing to do with saving the world or sleeping spells. She had received her Mark before her friends. When food began to grow scarce at Zecora's and they were all tired of eating the strange herbs that grew in the Everfree Forest, Apple Bloom said she would go to the farm and see if the plants and apples were still growing.
When she saw that they were, she gathered some food and brought it back to Zecora's. She then said she would keep harvesting some of the apple trees—she was too small to do it all on her own, and she told her friends it was something she wanted to do without their help—and start a small garden full of the other fruits and vegetables they grew on the farm as well. It was just as the small seedlings were beginning to grow one day, that Apple Bloom had looked down at her wrist, and her Creative-Mark was there. It was a small apple flower bud.
It was around the eight and nine year mark that Apple Bloom really began to get anxious about time. She would cry herself to sleep and have horrifyingly vivid nightmares. She was certain at this point that they would never wake up the world. And each day, she began to realize that she grew closer and closer to Applejack's age. Her older sister was going to become her younger sister. And Apple Bloom wasn't sure why, but the thought terrified her to the very core. That day had passed two years ago. She wanted to be left alone on that birthday, and cried by herself in her old farmhouse.
Now, at two years later from then, she was in between Applejack's age and Big Mac's. She punched the bag harder, causing it to swing violently. Big Mac had been a good fifteen years older than her. And now he was only two.
Apple Bloom sighed and collapsed on Big Mac's bed. For a solid number of years, she had kept the house tidy, getting it ready for when her family awakened; but over the past couple of years she had slacked. A small puft of dust flew in the air as she made contact with the bed. She sneezed.
She tried to hide the fact that the aging bothered her immensely. She was pretty sure she had Sweetie Belle fooled—but then again, Sweetie Belle was so gung ho on figuring out a way to wake up her sister, that everything else pretty much went by unnoticed. She was always practicing magic in her room at Zecora's, and consulting with Zecora on spells and herbs she could use. If she wasn't at Zecora's, she was either in front of Rarity or at the library.
Apple Bloom knew that Scootaloo knew though. Scootaloo was always giving Apple Bloom odd looks, like she expected Apple Bloom to suddenly explode. Scootaloo never asked her about it though. Scootaloo was the type of person who wouldn't press you for information. If you wanted to talk about it, she'd be there and listen when you were ready.
Apple Bloom sighed again and slowly got off the bed. She left Big Mac's room and passed by Applejack's. She rarely went into Applejack's. She felt bad enough that she was now wearing her sister's clothes. It was just too painful.
Before she left the farm to meet the others at the library, she visited her brother and Granny Smith one last time. Big Mac was frozen out in the orchard, hand reaching up to pick an apple that had long since expired and was now gone. His face was calm, a slight smile poking out of the corner of his mouth. He and Fluttershy had just gone out on a date the night before the incident.
Granny Smith was sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch, looking out to Big Mac. She had a stern look on her face. Apple Bloom knew it was because at the time, Apple Bloom had been fooling around and trying to juggle some apples instead of working.
Apple Bloom walked up to Granny Smith and put her hand up to the thin layer of crystal that imprisoned her.
"Bye Granny. I'll see you later," she said softly. She bent down and kissed the crystal, and then turned and walked away.
Scootaloo was already at the library with Sweetie Belle by the time Apple Bloom had arrived. Scootaloo was lazily flipping through a book, obviously not really reading it. Sweetie Belle was surrounded by a pile of books and was staring intently into the one in her hand. Apple Bloom sometimes joked and said that Sweetie Belle had turned into Twilight Sparkle's sister instead of Rarity's. Sweetie Belle never laughed.
"Hey," Scootaloo said. She threw the book behind her and stretched back, as Apple Bloom walked into the library. "How's the family?"
"Frozen as always," Apple Bloom muttered. "Where were you this morning?"
"The cliff," Scootaloo said.
Scootaloo frequently visited the cliff that looked over Peoplesville. Apple Bloom sometimes worried that Scootaloo was going to throw herself off of the cliff in an attempt to fly, but so far it hadn't happened.
Apple Bloom nodded. She wandered over and began to scan the books on the shelves. Scootaloo sighed and picked a random book off the top of Sweetie Belle's pile.
After a few minutes of silence, Sweetie Belle slowly put down the book she was reading.
"You know... I'm thinking maybe we should go to Central City, see if we can find anything there," Sweetie Belle said slowly. Central City was their capital, and where the princesses had lived.
Apple Bloom groaned and Scootaloo slumped back and put the book over her face.
"We already went to Central City, Sweetie Belle. There's nothing there. Everyone's just as frozen," Scootaloo said, her voice muffled from the book.
"Yeah, we went there like what, once? And that was at least four years ago," Sweetie Belle said. She stood up. "Maybe the answer isn't in Peoplesville, maybe it's in Central City."
"Sweetie Belle, it'd be a waste of time! There's nothing there! There's no cure anywhere! We've traveled across Earthica and haven't found anything. The only place we haven't searched is Cloudsdale, and that's because there's no way to get up there," Apple Bloom said.
"Gee, thanks," Scootaloo said, as she sat up.
"I didn't say it was your fault that we can't get up there," Apple Bloom snapped.
"You didn't have to," Scootaloo snapped back.
"Come on guys, let's not fight. We can look for an air balloon again, and we can go up there together. Didn't Pinkie Pie have a hot air ba—"
"Oh forget it Sweetie Belle, we've looked for the damn air balloon and it's missing," Apple Bloom said.
"Maybe there will be one in Central City," Sweetie Belle said.
"No, there won't be one in Central City. There won't be anything in Central City except for a bunch of stupid frozen people!" Apple Bloom shouted.
"You don't know that until we look! Maybe in one of the storage rooms in the palace they have a balloon or some other sort of flying machine," Sweetie Belle said.
Apple Bloom threw her hands in the air and shook her head.
"Sweetie Belle, you don't get it! There is no cure! Get that in your head. We, plus Zecora, are the last four people alive in this world. If there was a cure to wake up everyone, we would have found it by now. There's no cure, and no hope, so stop it! Just stop it!" Apple Bloom shouted. A look of hurt flashed across Sweetie Belle's face.
"You don't have to yell at her," Scootaloo said, as she stood off of the floor, "She's just trying to stay positive."
"Well she can stop shoving her optimism down our throats. You said it long ago Scootaloo, there's no hope in finding a cure," Apple Bloom said. Sweetie Belle turned towards Scootaloo.
"Do you really think so Scoots?" Sweetie Belle asked softly.
Scootaloo looked from Apple Bloom to Sweetie Belle. She opened and closed her mouth a few times. She then just closed her eyes and sighed, and didn't answer.
"Just give up, Sweetie Belle," Apple Bloom said quietly, "Rarity's never waking up."
Tears began to brim in Sweetie Belle's eyes. She stood quickly from the floor and began gathering up random books into her arms.
"Well... well, I don't care what you guys think or say. I'm going to Central City," she said hotly, tears spilling down her cheeks, "And don't bother thanking me once I wake up everybody."
Sweetie Belle stormed out of the library.
"It's a waste of time Sweetie!" Apple Bloom shouted after her, as Sweetie Belle walked quickly away from the library and towards the forest.
Scootaloo roughly pushed past Apple Bloom, causing her to stumble.
"Hey! What was that for," Apple Bloom snapped.
"Just let her do what she wants, Apple Bloom. She won't give up on finding a cure, so just let her do her thing and support her in doing it," Scootaloo said.
"It's a waste of time Scoots, and you know it," Apple Bloom said.
"Doesn't matter. She's our friend," Scootaloo said. She then turned on her heel and began to storm off also.
"Where are you going? What's your problem?" Apple Bloom said.
"I don't need my best friend reminding me that I'm useless and can't fly. I already think about it on a daily basis on my own," Scootaloo snapped.
"Oh please Scootaloo, you know I didn't mean it like that, so stop being so sensitive about it," Apple Bloom said.
"Sensitive like Sweetie Belle is about finding a cure? Stop being so negative and grumpy just because you're older than Applejack. If you're soooo sure that there's no cure, then you don't have to worry about facing the day that she wakes up and you're an old maid," Scootaloo said.
She turned her back on Apple Bloom again and began walking in the same direction as Sweetie Belle. Apple Bloom shrieked in frustration and threw the book in her hand after Scootaloo. She then punched the wall and collapsed beside it, willing herself not to cry.
The next day, early in the morning, Sweetie Belle finished packing some things. Zecora had convinced her to wait until the next morning to leave for Central City, for it would be a full day's walk on foot to get there.
Sweetie Belle had spent the night packing some things and ignoring her friends. Zecora had attempted to resolve the issue during dinner, but to no avail. In the middle of the meal, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom started arguing again, and Apple Bloom had stormed out of the hut. Sweetie Belle had sat quietly ignoring both of them.
She slung her backpack on her back, complete with a sleeping bag, some books and plenty of supplies. She waiting in the small living room of Zecora's hut, as Zecora made her one last meal. Scootaloo and Apple Bloom sat in the living room with her, on opposite sides. Nobody said anything.
"Here you are, Sweetie Belle; heat it up with a warming spell," Zecora said, handing Sweetie Belle a container full of soup.
"Thank you Zecora, I will," she said, giving her a hug. Zecora smiled at Sweetie Belle, and pushed a strand of her greying hair behind her ear.
"Go and be safe my dear; we will be waiting here," Zecora said.
Sweetie Belle nodded and hugged Zecora one last time. She then turned to face her friends. Apple Bloom stared at her with her arms crossed, and looked away when Sweetie Belle tried to look her in the eyes. Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes and turned towards Scootaloo. Scootaloo sighed and stood from the couch.
"At least borrow my scooter; you'll get there faster," Scootaloo said.
Sweetie Belle was taken back. Scootaloo never let anyone touch her scooter.
"Really? You'd let me borrow it?" Sweetie Belle asked, shocked. Scootaloo seemed to hesitate for a minute, and then exhaled loudly and nodded.
"Just because I don't want to come, doesn't mean I don't want to help," she mumbled.
Scootaloo led Sweetie Belle around the back of the hut. Chained to a particularly thick root coming out and diving back into the ground, was Scootaloo's scooter. She took her keys out of her pocket and unchained the scooter.
"I won't move as fast as you can on it," Sweetie Belle said.
"That's because you don't have wings to propel you," Scootaloo said.
Sweetie Belle brushed her fingers over the handlebars of the scooter. It was a bit small, since Scootaloo had received it as a gift when she was a child, but Scootaloo had made some modifications to make the handlebars higher, so that she could use it as an adult as well.
"Just... take care of her," Scootaloo said, as she looked at the scooter with a look of longing. Sweetie Belle smiled and pulled her Winged friend into a big hug. Scootaloo resisted for a minute, but then hugged her back.
"Give Apple Bloom time, she'll come around. This is hard for her, harder than I think we realize at times," Scootaloo said quietly. "Just because we've given up, doesn't mean you have to. I'll help you in whatever ways I can, but... I don't want to leave Apple Bloom alone."
"I know," Sweetie Belle said, as she pulled out of the hug. "Thanks Scoots."
"Go out there and find a cure," Scootaloo said, punching Sweetie Belle lightly on the arm.
Sweetie Belle picked up Scootaloo's helmet and strapped it to her head. She pushed a stubborn strand of pink hair out of the way and smiled at Scootaloo one last time. Then she pushed off into the forest, leaving her friend and the hut behind.
The journey to Central City was long, but peaceful. Sweetie Belle stopped midway and had the soup that Zecora had provided for her. She rested in a meadow and stared up at the bright, sunny sky. She practiced a few spells and browsed through some books, before she packed up and continued on her way. The scooter definitely made the trip a bit shorter.
Sweetie Belle slowed as she entered Central City. She jumped off the scooter and walked it, as she gazed in awe at the city. Even in its frozen state, Central City was a marvel to look at. Sweetie Belle had visited it once as a child, a special family trip. She remembered the trip fondly, because she was surprised that Rarity had agreed to come. It was a genuine, full family trip. Her parents, her and her sister.
Passing by some of the shops, memories of the trip continued to flow through her mind. The people here in Central City knew of the danger that was happening. Many of them were frozen with looks of horror or concern. There were several people gathered at the train station, bags in hands or beside them, as they waited to board the train. The train was actually at the station, people frozen inside, some half-stepping off onto the platform. An attendant had a whistle stuck in his mouth.
Sweetie Belle took her time as she walked up to the palace. The sun was setting in the sky, and the summer night air was sweet on her skin. She parked the scooter outside of the palace, and carefully locked it up. She would feel terrible if something were to happen to it.
Taking a deep breath, Sweetie Belle opened the door and stepped inside the palace. It was eerie and odd. She had been here before with Scootaloo and Apple Bloom, but being here on her own was different. The main odd thing about the palace, was that it was completely empty.
There were no frozen people in the palace. No guards standing around, no cooks sleeping in the kitchen. It was like, as the princesses disappeared, their helpers and servants did too. It was possible that the guards were all called away to help fight the evil force, but then they'd be seen on the streets below, outside of the palace. The CMC had searched high and low, but found no frozen person inside of the palace.
Sweetie Belle wandered the corridors, not sure where she should start. She had been so sure on coming here, but now that she was here, it seemed almost too daunting and impossible a task.
Doesn't matter. I'll search this whole palace, bottom to top, 100%, and not leave until I've done so. Maybe I'll start from the top and work my way down.
Nodding to herself, Sweetie Belle began to climb the stairs. She stopped when she reached the third floor. She glanced up the stairs—she still had at least three more floors to go—but then looked down the hall. It was dark, and silent at the moment... but she thought she had heard something as she climbed the stairs. She hesitated.
She slowly turned her head away and went up another step, when she heard it again. A rustling noise, like someone was moving something across one of the floors of the rooms.
But that couldn't be possible. Only the CMC and Zecora were conscious, nobody else; or was someone? Wasn't this what Sweetie Belle had been hoping for? Some sort of answer?
What if it's just a bird...
Even if it was a bird, she'd be excited. It seemed that all of the animals had fallen asleep as well, or simply disappeared, since the incident.
Sweetie Belle turned away from the stairs and started down the hall. She stopped and closed her eyes. A sensing spell would easily determine from which room the noise was coming from. The crystal on her forehead glowed a soft pink as she performed the spell. The third room on the right.
Sweetie Belle cautiously approached the room. Part of her was excited, while the other part was terrified at what she could possibly find. What if it was the creature who had performed the sleeping spell? What if it put her to sleep as well? How long would it take before Scootaloo and Apple Bloom came to find her?
She held her breath as she slowly turned the doorknob. She poked her head around the door. It was hard to see inside, but the moon shone through the window, providing some light. The window was open, the curtains blowing in the slight breeze. A table had been pushed across the room, a number of chairs in a circle on the other side. A wardrobe was also flipped over and up against a wall.
Sweetie Belle cautiously entered the room. She glanced towards the window. Maybe whatever or whoever had been in here, had gone out through the window. She walked over to the window and looked out. There was no way a person could have scaled the wall and climbed up here. There were no vines alongside the wall or any sort of grips.
"Maybe it was just a bird," Sweetie Belle sighed. She slumped against the window sill and looked up at the moon.
Suddenly something stirred behind her. Sweetie Belle felt a chill run up her spine.
"R-Rarity?" a male voice behind her asked.
Sweetie Belle slowly turned around. Climbing out of the flipped over wardrobe was a young man, maybe around Sweetie Belle's age or a year or two older. His face seemed to shimmer in the moonlight as he came closer, and he had messy, and sort of spiky green hair. He looked almost familiar.
"N-no," Sweetie Belle said, subconsciously playing with a strand of her pink-purple hair, "It's Sweetie Belle."
"Sweetie Belle... you're alive? You're not frozen?" he asked.
Sweetie Belle shook her head, the answer to his question obvious. He stood in front of her, and cocked his head to the side, as though waiting for her to answer. When she didn't, he spoke again.
"Don't you recognize me?" he asked. Sweetie Belle shook her head again.
"Sweetie Belle, it's me; it's Spike."
"S-Spike? You're alive!" Sweetie Belle said, utterly shocked. Spike gave her an awkward smile and wave.
As shocked as she was, the more she openly stared at Spike, the less it surprised her that he was alive. Spike was a species that everyone called a Drache, which was dragon in another language. They were named so, because they resembled the mythical beasts in both appearance and temperament, and they were rumoured to live with dragons in the towering mountains just beyond Earthica's border.
Draches had shiny, scales that covered their entire bodies, except for their faces. Some Draches had wings, and some didn't. Spike had a long purple tail, with green spikes at the end. Most Draches could breathe fire. They were creatures that did not socialize well with people, and they were easily attracted to shiny things, especially jewels. Because of this, they were stereotyped as excellent thieves.
But Spike had been raised by Twilight Sparkle his entire life. Hatched from an egg, just like real dragons were, Twilight Sparkle had raised him as her assistant, and he didn't seem to carry any of the stereotypical traits of Draches (except for that one time on his last birthday—or at least the last birthday Sweetie Belle had seen him, the one before the incident).
Maybe the sleeping spell doesn't work on Draches...
"How come you're not frozen?" Spike asked. He moved beside Sweetie Belle and sat up on the window sill. His scales shimmered more in the moonlight, outlining his face.
"I don't know, it's a mystery. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo weren't frozen either, and Zecora was protected from within the forest. We think it might have something to do with us not having our Creative-Marks at the time of the curse, but we haven't found anybody else, so it's unconfirmed," Sweetie Belle said slowly. "What about you? Why aren't you frozen?"
"Wow, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are free too eh? And Zecora? Zecora doesn't surprise me, I mean, she's always full of surprises, you know?" Spike said at a rapid pace. "I'm not 100% sure why I wasn't frozen, it just... didn't happen. It's most likely because I'm a Drache, but I can't confirm that."
"Why not?" Sweetie Belle asked.
Spike shrugged. "Same reason you can't confirm it's because you didn't have your Creative-Mark. There's no proof. I haven't come across any other Draches in Earthica, not even any frozen ones. Either I was coincidentally the only one in Earthica at the time, or I just haven't searched far enough."
"What about in the mountains where the Draches and dragons live? Have you tried to go there and see if they're frozen too?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Yup," Spike said, as he nodded, "but I can't get there. I traveled all over Earthica, looking for some sort of cure, but whenever I tried to cross the Earthica borders, I would bounce back. I think the sleeping curse has entrapped Earthica only, and it's put a case around it. I've tried all over to leave, just to see if I could, but to no avail."
So the sleeping curse was only set across Earthica, and had put a protective bubble around it. Interesting. I wonder if that means that the creature is still trapped in Earthica then. Maybe its spell backfired in a way that trapped it here too.
"Why didn't you ever come to Peoplesville?" Sweetie Belle asked, "It's been thirteen years and I'm just seeing you now?"
"I did go to Peoplesville. I was in Central City when the curse hit, but as soon as I saw the people being crystallized, I traveled to Peoplesville as fast as I could. And when I saw Twilight..." Spike said. He trailed off and looked out the window.
"How come you moved back to Central City?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"It's too painful to see," Spike said quietly, "Twilight Sparkle... and Rarity..."
Sweetie Belle looked away at the mention of her sister. Spike was right; it was painful to see them trapped like that.
"Twilight's like my big sister, you know? She's raised me, essentially saved me, from the life of a typical Drache. Staying in Peoplesville, knowing that I can't free her... It was too much. So I moved back to Central City and have been going through the princesses' library to try and find something. I'm a slower reader than Twilight is, so it's taken me a lot of time," Spike said.
"That's why I came here. Have you found anything?" Sweetie Belle asked. Spike shook his head. "You know, the three of us, me, Apple Bloom and Scoots came to Central City once. It's weird we didn't see you."
"Yeah, that is weird. Probably just bad timing. You probably came when I went to go visit Twilight. Sometimes I go back to Peoplesville and visit, but not often," Spike said.
The two stood there in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Sweetie Belle yawned.
"Tired?" Spike asked.
"Yeah. Maybe I'll set up camp," she said. She took the backpack off and pulled out the sleeping bag tucked underneath it.
"What are you doing?" Spike asked, as Sweetie Belle began to unroll the sleeping bag.
"Going to sleep," she said.
"In a sleeping bag? There are plenty of beds in the palace," Spike said. He jumped off of the windowsill.
"It's bad enough I have to wear Rarity's clothes. I'd feel weird sleeping in some poor, frozen person's bed," Sweetie Belle said.
Spike laughed, and pulled Sweetie Belle up.
"There are a ton of guest rooms in the palace. Since they're for guests, they don't belong to a specific person, and therefore you can't feel guilty about it. Right?" he said.
"Right..." Sweetie Belle said slowly.
"Trust me, you'll have a better sleep in a bed than in a sleeping bag. Then we can set off and find a cure for the curse in the morning!" Spike said.
Sweetie Belle smiled. "You'll help me?"
"Of course," Spike said. "It's been thirteen long, lonely years, for all of us. I'm ready for civilization to start up again."
"Me too," Sweetie Belle said quietly, as Spike led her down a hallway, chattering away about what he'd been up to the past thirteen years. "Me too."
Scootaloo had secretly followed Sweetie Belle until she had left Peoplesville. A part of her had secretly hoped that her friend really wasn't going to Central City by herself, but Scootaloo had watched as Sweetie Belle grew smaller and smaller in the distance, whizzing away on her scooter.
Scootaloo sighed and wandered around town. Apple Bloom had stormed by her earlier and slammed the door to the library shut. Scootaloo wasn't sure what she was doing in there, since she had made such a commotion the day before about how the search for a cure was pointless.
Not sure what to do with her day, Scootaloo took her time wandering through the frozen town. She stayed for a while in front of the six Element bearers. She stopped in front of each of them for a while, and stayed the longest in front of Rainbow Dash.
Rainbow Dash looked the angriest of them all. Her rainbow hair was wild and untamed, almost covering her eyes. Her fists were clenched tightly, and her wings were slightly ruffled. Scootaloo often wondered if those who had been frozen with their eyes open could see her and the other CMCs when they came by to visit. Wondered if they were staring out at them, envious of their ability to move and speak.
Scootaloo turned away from the downfallen heroines, and slowly began to walk towards the library. She shoved her hands in her pockets and kicked a stone as she walked. Part of her was now regretting not going with Sweetie Belle to Central City. From that though, she figured if she couldn't help one friend, then she'd go and figure out what the other one was up to and try to reconcile with her.
She glanced and frozen people here and there, on her way to the library. She stopped and stared at Sugarcube Corner on her way. Maybe she'd go in and try and find Pinkie Pie's mysterious hot-air balloon again, and find a way to go to Cloudsdale.
Maybe I can convince Apple Bloom to look with me, Scootaloo thought, about to take another step forward. She stopped though and glanced back at the bakery. Something caught her eye.
Mrs. Cake was frozen half-opening the door to leave Sugarcube Corner. Her face was turned away from the street, as she probably yelled good-bye one last time to Mr. Cake. Scootaloo tilted her head to the side and stared at the woman—no, not at the woman directly, but inside the bakery just past her head. She swore she had just seen a shadow move. She hesitated and waited to see if it would happen again. It did.
Scootaloo quietly approached the bakery and peered inside the window. Mr. Cake was behind the counter, his eyes closed, waving good-bye to his wife. Everything looked like it had always been. The CMC had emptied out much of the bakery, bringing cakes and muffins and other treats to Zecora's, where Zecora froze them in her underground cellar. They didn't want the food to go bad.
Just then, there was a soft crashing noise from inside the bakery. Scootaloo moved to the door and carefully pried Mrs. Cake's hand off of it and pushed it open. The CMC had previously used the back entrance.
Scootaloo stepped inside. The smell of sweets had always lingered in the air. Dust littered the ground. Scootaloo could hear what sounded like a rolling bowl on the floor coming from the kitchen in the back. She took a step forward and sneezed, dust swirling around her.
More sounds emerged from the back kitchen. Scootaloo quickly covered her nose and ran towards the kitchen. She swiftly kicked the door open and it hit the wall behind it with a loud bang.
Someone had just been there. Sure enough, there was a metal bowl lying still on the floor, and a knocked over sack of flour. Various utensils were scattered along the floor as well. The various things on the floor made fresh marks in the dust. What was puzzled Scootaloo was that there were no footsteps in the kitchen, save for the ones she was making behind her.
She slowly walked around the kitchen, taking in the scene. The pantry door was open, various baking supplies poking out. Scootaloo wondered how much of it was still good. As she went over to inspect the ingredients in the pantry, there was a soft click behind her.
Scootaloo whipped around. The kitchen door was now closed. She jumped across the kitchen and threw open the door, just in time to see a shadow whiz up the stairs. Scootaloo chased after it. She was still perplexed by the fact that the only sets of footprints on the stairs were her own.
When she reached the top of the stairs, Scootaloo stopped. The hallway was dark, the curtains over the windows closed. Still no footprints could be seen on the floor. The shadow had disappeared. She walked slowly down the hall, listening for any signs of movement or voices. Something caught her eye.
On the wall near the end of the hallway, was two streaks of flour. The streaks resembled fingers, as though someone had briefly brushed the wall and then just... disappeared. Something then brushed Scootaloo in the face. She took a step back, slightly alarmed, but then noticed the dangling string with a ball at the end. It danced from the ceiling as though it had just been pulled. Looking up, Scootaloo saw a door attached to that string. A door that lead to the attic.
Scootaloo pulled on the string. The door open and a ladder appeared. Scootaloo held her breath as she climbed up the rungs.
The attic surprised her. It wasn't at all what she thought it would be. It was bright and airy, two big windows on either end. At first she thought she was in Pinkie's room, but then she remembered Pinkie Pie's room had an official staircase leading up to it, no secret doors. There was a small table pushed against one wall, with two chairs, one of which was overturned. A small sofa sat in front of the one of the windows, a standing lamp beside it and a nearly empty bookcase against the wall. There was a curtained off area towards the other window. The curtains moved in the slight summer breeze, and Scootaloo could make out a garbled silhouette on the other side.
She approached the curtain and hesitated. She then pulled it back quickly, not sure what to expect to find behind it, but surprised at what she had.
Huddled up together in between two small cots, were two young teenagers. Teenagers might be pushing it too much. Scootaloo could almost call them tweens.
One of them, the boy, a Winged, had fresh flour stains on his shirt and wings. The other was a Magik, a girl.
Scootaloo's jaw dropped. She couldn't believe who she had just found.
Apple Bloom skimmed through books furiously. Sweetie Belle was off to find the cure eh? Well, not if she found it first! And maybe she'd find a time-reversing spell too, and then everything could go back to normal. A small part of her brain kept reminding her that she'd need Sweetie Belle and her magic to perform the spell. But Apple Bloom ignored that part of the brain. It was missing the point.
When the door burst open and Scootaloo stood there, panting, with a crazed look on her face, Apple Bloom sighed.
"What's the problem now Scootaloo? Don't tell me you've come here to try and convince me to go to Central City. If you want to go so bad, you should have gone with Sweetie Belle when she left an hour ago," Apple Bloom said. She looked back down at her book.
"Twins," Scootaloo said.
"What?" Apple Bloom said. She looked up at her friend again and tossed the book to the side. "Scootaloo, for the last time, your boobs are fine, they're a good size. What does it matter anyways, there are no guys conscious, and you hate talking about that girly stuff anyways. You always say you don't care about your looks anyw—
"No, Cakes," Scootaloo said.
"Scootaloo, what in hell are you trying to—"
Scootaloo moved out of the doorway and pushed two young people inside. They looked around shyly and slightly terrified. Apple Bloom nearly fell over.
Pound and Pumpkin Cake.
"Y-you guys are alive?" Apple Bloom stuttered.
The CMC had thought of the twins a few weeks after the curse had been set. Guessing that the reason they had survived the curse because of their lack of Creative-Marks, they tried to compile a list of other people they knew in Peoplesville who hadn't received their marks yet. The twins were on that list.
When they went to Sugarcube Corner to search for them, however, they couldn't be found. The girls eventually just came to the conclusion and thought the worse—that since the twins were babies, they had probably died from the lack of parental care. Their search in finding other kids who survived hadn't gone well either.
"Yes," Pumpkin Cake finally answered. She nervously tucked a strand of her red hair behind her ear. "We've survived."
"How?" Scootaloo asked.
The twins and Scootaloo walked into the library. Scootaloo sat on the floor, Apple Bloom beside her, while the twins nervously hovered in front of them. Pound Cake flew up and sat on top of one of the book cases. Pumpkin Cake nervously fidgeted under the bookcase, and avoided eye contact with Scootaloo and Apple Bloom.
"At first, in our younger years, it was because of my magic," Pumpkin said slowly. "Pound Cake and I were slightly mischievous babies. I was always sneaking us extra snacks and bottles with my magic. As we grew up, we slowly began to realize that something was wrong. Our parents were frozen and never woke up. Pinkie Pie was frozen out in the streets. We thought we were the last two people in the world."
"We mostly stayed in the bakery, because we were afraid that whatever froze everybody was going to come back for us," Pound Cake said. "I would fly down to the kitchen to get supplies or snacks, and I always flew because then it wouldn't make footprints in the dust."
"We set up base in the attic and watched over the town from there," Pumpkin Cake continued.
"Didn't you ever see us visiting our relatives and friends?" Apple Bloom asked. Pumpkin Cake nodded shyly.
"We don't know who you are though," she said quietly, "So we were afraid to approach you. For all we knew, you were a bunch of bad people who cursed Earthica. We thought maybe you visited the six in the town centre so much, because you liked to gloat over them, like they're special or something."
"No, we've been looking for a cure the past thirteen years," Apple Bloom said. "I'm Applejack's sister. That's why I visit her so much."
"And Sweetie Belle—our third friend—she is Rarity's sister. Rarity and Applejack are two of Pinkie's dear friends. They're holders the Elements of Harmony too," Scootaloo explained.
"What are the Elements of Harmony?" Pound Cake asked. Scootaloo face-palmed and Apple Bloom sighed.
"You guys are what, twelve, thirteen?" Apple Bloom asked.
"We'll be thirteen in a month or so," Pumpkin Cake said.
"The Elements of Harmony is a force that keeps the world at peace. It can imprison darkness and evil. It essentially keeps harmony," Apple Bloom said, not quite sure how to better explain it.
"Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie are representatives of the Elements of Harmony, and that is why they wield the power. So yes, they are special, but we don't visit them to gloat over them. They're dear friends and family to us—and we need to find a way to wake them up," Scootaloo said, "because if whatever froze everyone comes back or is still out there, only the Elements of Harmony can defeat it."
"How can you be so sure? If these Elements could defeat whatever did this, why is everyone frozen? Wouldn't their power have worked the first time?" Pound Cake asked.
Apple Bloom open and closed her mouth. She turned and gave Scootaloo a look. For some odd reason, that was a thought that hadn't occurred to her before. Pound Cake was right.
"We should be trying to identify what kind of creature did this and how we can defeat it without the Elements," Apple Bloom said. Scootaloo sighed.
"You don't know what did this?" Pumpkin Cake asked.
"No, we don't. We've been searching, but haven't been able to find anything. We've searched nearly every book, looking for something, anything that has to do with a sleeping curse and what kind of force or creature could be behind it," Apple Bloom explained. "Our friend Sweetie Belle went to Central City to see if she could find something there."
"What's Central City?" Pound Cake asked.
"It's the capital of Earthica," Scootaloo said.
"How did you three survive?" Pumpkin Cake asked.
"We're not sure; it's still a mystery. But we think it had something to do with us not having our Creative-Marks at the time," Apple Bloom explained, "which would also account for why you two weren't put to sleep either. We have another friend, an older woman named Zecora, who survived as well. But that's because she lives in the Everfree Forest, which has magical properties that can't be recorded or explained."
"Well..." Pumpkin Cake said slowly. She stepped away from the bookcase she had been leaning on and turned towards the books. "Why don't Pound Cake and I help you search through the books. A pair of fresh eyes might help find something you may have overlooked."
"That would be extreeeemely helpful," Scootaloo said.
"Ok, let's get started then. This pile of books on the floor here were ones that Sweetie Belle had pulled aside to look at. Maybe you and Pound Cake can look through these, and Scootaloo and I will start to sweep the shelves for others that might be helpful," Apple Bloom said.
"Ok," Pumpkin Cake said, eager to help. She took a book off of the pile.
"You know, I just have to ask; how did you guys learn to talk? I mean, you were just babies when you were frozen, and you haven't had any contact except for with each other the past thirteen years. I'm just surprised you didn't make up your own language, and instead know English," Apple Bloom said.
"Oh, we developed our own twin language, but that was when our parents were still alive," Pumpkin Cake said, "But I can understand where your curiosity comes from. It was a hard process, but... and now this is going to sound strange, but I could remember a lot of things from when Pinkie Pie would babysit us. We both remembered how to say her name, but I would also just remember some of the random chitchat she would say. I think it had to do with my magic, being able to replay things over in my mind. Pound Cake couldn't remember as much as I could, but he was more agile than I was. I guess depending on the kind of person you are, you have different strengths and weaknesses as a child growing up."
"Pumpkin Cake would remember phrases that Pinkie would say, and then she would take a book and try to fit the words that Pinkie said, onto the words on the page. That's essentially how she did it. And then she taught me," Pound Cake said.
"That's remarkable," Apple Bloom said.
"What kind of human is your other friend?" Pumpkin Cake asked.
"She's a Magik like you; I'm sure she'd love to show you some spells when she comes back," Apple Bloom said.
"Yeah, that'd be nice. I'm good at really simple stuff, but without having any guidance or even spell books, I only have absolute basic magic skills," Pumpkin Cake said.
"And maybe you and I could fly together sometime Scootaloo! I'm sure you have some sweet moves," Pound Cake said, still sitting on top of the bookcase.
Apple Bloom glanced towards Scootaloo. Scootaloo was avoiding her eye and staring fixatedly at a spot on the bookshelf. She cleared her voice and quietly spoke.
"Actually Pound Cake, I can't fly."
"Oh..." he said softly. He paused for a second. "Why not?"
"We're not sure. It's another mystery," Apple Bloom said.
"Well, maybe we'll find some books that can solve that too!" Pumpkin Cake said. She looked at Scootaloo optimistically. Scootaloo gave her a small smile. Apple Bloom could tell it was fake.
"Come down here and help me look through these books Pound Cake," Pumpkin Cake said.
"Sure, one sec; you guys know that there's a small bookshelf built into the wall up here?" he said.
"What?" Apple Bloom said.
She dropped the book she was holding and tried to move backwards, so that she could see the top of the bookshelf Pound Cake was sitting on.
"We can't see that far up," Scootaloo said, as she stood beside Apple Bloom.
"Yeah, there's only about twenty or so books up here; they're all really dusty," Pound Cake said.
They heard him blow the dust off and he sneezed.
"What are the titles? Anything that might be useful?" Apple Bloom asked.
"I don't see anything about creatures or curses up here... but there's one about flying! You might want to look at it Scootaloo, maybe there are some answers in here for you," he said. "Hold on a sec, it's stuck."
"Maybe they're packed too tightly together in the shelf; try taking one off of the end to make more room," Apple Bloom suggested.
"Ok," Pound Cake said.
Suddenly, the ground began to rumble. The floor beneath Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and Pumpkin Cake began to shake. The centre of the room began to vibrate and the floor began to move.
"Watch out!" Scootaloo said, as she pulled Pumpkin Cake closer to the edge, away from the centre.
The ground beneath them rumbled and turned. After a few minutes, all went still.
"Pound Cake... what did you do?" Pumpkin Cake whispered.
"I-I just took the end book out of the case, like you said," he whispered, his eyes peering over top of the bookshelf he was on.
There, in the centre of the room, the ground had turned and twisted away to reveal a set of spiraling stairs that lead down into the darkness beneath the library.
"What the hell...?" Scootaloo whispered.
The four of them had gathered around the edge of the mysterious hole. They peered into the darkness, the steps descending into blackness.
"Pumpkin, you think you can send a light ball down there?" Apple Bloom asked.
Pumpkin Cake nodded. She closed her eyes for a minute and concentrated. The crystal on her forehead glowed and a small ball of light appeared. Her crystal still glowing, Pumpkin Cake sent the small ball of light down into the darkness.
The ball followed the line of the spiral stairs. After quite a few steps, the bottom appeared.
"It looks like there's a door down there," Scootaloo said, squinting slightly.
"Let's go down," Pound Cake said quickly, his eyes lighting up with adventure.
"Ok; but let's go down together. Don't fly ahead," Apple Bloom said.
Scootaloo took the lead, the twins between her and Apple Bloom taking up the rear. The door was covered in dust. Pumpkin Cake sneezed.
"What do you think's in there?" Apple Bloom asked.
"Only one way to find out..." Scootaloo said.
She tugged on the handle. The door didn't move. She pulled on it harder. Still didn't move. She tried until her hands hurt. Then Apple Bloom took a turn, then Pound Cake and then Pumpkin Cake. Pumpkin even tried some spells, but nothing worked.
Scootaloo knelt down and looked through the keyhole.
"See anythin'?" Apple Bloom asked.
Scootaloo shook her head. "It's too dark; Pumpkin, can you send the light ball in there?"
Pumpkin nodded. She magically pushed the ball through the key hole. Scootaloo put her eye back up against the keyhole.
"What do you see Scoots?" Apple Bloom asked.
"It's hard to tell, but I think I see some books!" she said. She stood. "Maybe there will be some answers in there as to what put on the curse."
"How are we going to get in though? The door is stuck or locked or something," Pound Cake said.
"I'm sure Zecora has something we can use to pry it open," Apple Bloom said. "Come on; we'll go home and introduce you guys to Zecora. We'll come back tomorrow with some supplies."
They made their way back up the stairs and exited the library. The sun was high in the air and it was another beautiful day. Apple Bloom and the twins chatted as they walked through the town. The twins decided that they wanted to pick up some stuff from their house before they went to Zecora's.
"It just make sense if we all stick together and you two stay with us at Zecora's," Apple Bloom explained.
Scootaloo waited outside of Sugarcube Corner while Apple Bloom helped the twins gather some things. She stretched her wings and yawned. She thought it was later in the day, but apparently all of the commotion with the twins hadn't taken up as much time as she originally thought.
Scootaloo kept glancing over towards the centre of town. She could make out the six Element bearers. She wished there was something she could to do help them, anything that would at least give them a clue or step forwards as to what to do. What if they never awakened?
Suddenly, Scootaloo's wing twitched. She turned her head slightly, sure she saw something dart by. She glanced towards a nearby alley. Was that a silhouette lurking in there? Or was she just imagining things?
"For the last time Pumpkin Cake, don't worry, Zecora will be more than happy to look after you two," Apple Bloom said. She stepped outside of the sweet shop, the twins behind her.
"I just don't want us to be a burden is all. We've survived this long on our own, we'll be fine—"
"Shhh!" Scootaloo said sharply. She listened again, her eyes never leaving the alley. She was positive she saw something move in the shadows, something human sized.
Apple Bloom waited a heartbeat before whispering, "What is it Scootaloo?"
"I thought I saw someone," Scootaloo said slowly.
"What do you mean, you think you saw someone...?" Apple Bloom asked slowly, "The only people conscious are us and Zecora."
"Yeah, that's what we thought for the past thirteen years too, and now look," Scootaloo said, gesturing towards the twins. She then looked back towards the alley. "I'm certain I saw something move."
"Could it be Zecora?" Pumpkin Cake asked. Scootaloo shook her head.
"Zecora wouldn't hide in the shadows from us; she's like our adoptive mother," Scootaloo said.
"Could it be your friend then?" Pound Cake asked.
"No, Sweetie Belle left for Central City this mornin'," Apple Bloom said.
"Wait—which one's Sweetie Belle? The one with the pink and purple hair?" Pound Cake asked.
"Yes, that's her. She's the Magik of our group," Apple Bloom said.
"Well..." Pumpkin Cake said, slowly, "Then what if it's your other friend?"
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked at each other.
"Um, I just said that Zecora wouldn't be hiding from us in the shadows," Scootaloo said.
"No, not her; the other Original. The one with the purple and white hair?" Pumpkin Cake said.
Apple Bloom's face turned to confusion and Scootaloo turned on the twins.
"What? What the hell are you guys talking about?" Scootaloo asked, her words tumbling out quickly, "Are you two trying to tell me that there's another survivor in town we don't know about?"
Pumpkin Cake took a step back slightly. She looked to her brother for help.
"Well... we never actually saw her with you guys; but she looks the same age as you," Pound Cake explained.
"At first, we thought she was the same person as your Magik friend, because their hair colors are sort of similar; but then we noticed that one had a crystal in her forehead and the other didn't. Then we began to suspect she was a different person, who just looked similar from afar," Pumpkin Cake said quietly.
"Wha... what!?" Scootaloo exclaimed, the only intelligible thing she could manage. "How can there be another survivor our age? We were the only three in school without our Creative Marks..."
"She visits the school a lot," Pumpkin Cake piped in.
Just then, the shadow moved again.
"There she goes!" Apple Bloom yelled.
Scootaloo was already running after the figure. The mystery silhouette clung to the shadows, a wisp of purple hair here, a flash of a pink outfit there. Just as Pumpkin Cake had mentioned, the figure was heading in the direction of their old school house.
As Scootaloo approached the school house, the figure had disappeared. Scootaloo slowed, and Apple Bloom and the twins caught up to her.
"Where... did... she go?" Apple Bloom asked, out of breath.
"I'm not sure; but I know she's still around," Scootaloo said quietly.
"I don't understand; how could we not have known there was another survivor? I mean, one our age? Can you think of anyone else who didn't have their Creative Mark at the time of the curse?" Apple Bloom asked.
"I don't know. We've swept the town over and over. How could we have overlooked someone?" Scootaloo asked. "And why would they keep coming to the school? Class was over when the curse hit. The only kids left at the school are those who were hanging around or getting extra help from Cheerilee."
"Ok; let's just take a few minutes and look around. Look around really hard; we've obviously overlooked somethin'," Apple Bloom said. She turned to the twins. "Let us know if you see the person."
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo slowly began to approach the school house. Scootaloo held her breath as she swiftly opened the door. But nobody alive was inside.
"Same old scene; Cheerliee helping Ditzy, Berry Pinch and Alula," Scootaloo said.
"Let's just take a good look around," Apple Bloom said.
Scootaloo nodded and headed to one side of the room, while Apple Bloom went to the other. She scanned the books and desks, the floor, the windows, looking for anything that was amiss. She glanced over to Apple Bloom, who was doing the same on her end of the classroom. When they met in the middle, Apple Bloom shook her head.
"I don't see anything different," she said.
"Me neither," Scootaloo said.
"There are some frozen kids outside; maybe there's a clue there?" Apple Bloom suggested.
Scootaloo shrugged, doubting the possibility, and followed Apple Bloom outside.
"We haven't seen her," Pumpkin Cake said, "Pound Cake is getting an aerial view."
Apple Bloom sighed. She glanced around the school grounds, and as always, she lingered on the sight of Twist. Scootaloo knew that Twist had been one of Apple Bloom's good friends. She knew it just added to Apple Bloom's hatred of growing older, as one of her best friends was still 10 years old.
Twist was near the fence surrounding the school property. She was smiling and holding out some candy for Snips and Snails. A few feet away was Silver Spoon, laughing at something.
"I guess we'll just have to stake out the town, search everyone's houses again or somethin'," Apple Bloom said with a heavy sigh.
"Hold on a second," Scootaloo said, her eyes still fixed on Silver Spoon.
She walked over and stared down at the silvery haired girl, glasses scrunched up on her nose, her face stuck in a laugh.
"What is it Scootaloo?" Apple Bloom asked.
"Doesn't she look... weird?" Scootaloo said. Apple Bloom tilted her head to the side.
"Weird how?" Apple Bloom asked. The twins gathered around Silver Spoon as well.
"It looks like she's laughing with someone. Look at the way her face is turned slightly to the side, like someone was beside her. And her hand is sort of reaching out in the same direction, as though her hand was on someone's shoulder," Scootaloo said.
"I think you're reading into this too much," Apple Bloom said, "She's just laughing."
"By herself?" Scootaloo asked, as she looked at Apple Bloom. "It doesn't make any sense Apple Bloom."
"Well, what are you thinkin' then Scootaloo? Just spit it out," Apple Bloom said, impatient apparent in her voice.
"We've seen all of our classmates frozen somewhere in town right? All of them, except one. One that Sweetie Belle mentioned was missing, like seven years ago, when we did a big analysis and checklist of the town. We overlooked the twins, assuming they were dead," Scootaloo said, "and we assumed someone else had been on vacation at the time of the curse, because her parents aren't anywhere to be found in Peoplesville, and neither is she."
"I can't remember who Sweetie Belle noticed was missin'," Apple Bloom said.
"Who's the one person who's always side-by-side with Silver Spoon? Who would, say, come and visit her at the school here? Who she would be standing beside and laughing with in this scenario, if she were frozen along with her?" Scootaloo asked.
Scootaloo jumped, and Apple Bloom's mouth hung open. Scootaloo turned around, and her guess had been right. She didn't know how it was possible, but somehow, standing behind her, with a frustrated look on her face, was Diamond Tiara.
Three survivors?! They found three survivors in one day, after thirteen years of the curse. Apple Bloom was just speechless. Her mind couldn't even begin to comprehend what was going on.
"Diamond Tiara?" Scootaloo said, her mouth hung open, "How is that even possible? You got your Creative Mark when you were a kid!"
Diamond Tiara sighed and rolled her eyes slightly. She then took another deep breath and sighed again. She hesitated before she spoke.
"That one was a fake," she finally said. "I didn't get my Creative Mark until a few months after the curse hit."
"What!?" Apple Bloom shouted. "You made fun of us, for all that time, bullied us, because we didn't have our Creative Marks, and the whole time you had a fake one painted on your wrist?"
"I know, I know," Diamond Tiara said, though her voice wasn't at all as apologetic as it should have been, "I'm surprised my real Creative Mark didn't come sooner. You see, my special talent is—"
"Being a spoiled brat?" Apple Bloom asked.
"A bitch?" Scootaloo offered.
"Ugh, no! My talent is a—"
"A queen bee? Drama queen? Goody-two-shoes rich kid? Daddy's little princess?" Apple Bloom said, "Just jump in any time I get it right."
"You know what? This is exactly the reason why I've been hiding from you guys all these years," Diamond Tiara said, "I knew you'd just resent and resent, and go on and on about how terrible I was to you as kids."
"Should have just stayed hidden," Scootaloo said, as she crossed her arms.
"We went to your creative-ceanera and everything!" Apple Bloom said.
"It was all fake, ok? Not even my parents knew I had faked my Creative Mark. My special talent is art. That's why it looked so convincing to everyone," Diamond Tiara snapped.
She thrust out her hand and pulled up her pink sleeve, revealing a paint brush and pencil, crossing over each other to make an X.
"This is my real Creative Mark," she said. She glared at Apple Bloom slightly.
"We thought you were on vacation with your parents," Scootaloo said.
"I decided to stay home and stayed at Silver Spoon's house. We were heading back to her house when the curse hit," Diamond Tiara said, "One minute we were laughing over Twist's stupid attempt to sell candy, and the next thing I knew, Silver Spoon wasn't talking any more. She was frozen, and so was everyone else around me.
"With my parents out of town, I was alone. I spent the first few nights alone in my house, but the damn mansion is so big, that it began to creep me out—"
"Oh no," Scootaloo said, "not a mansion that's too big."
"Shut up," Diamond Tiara said, "I then traveled to my parents vacation condo in Central City."
"You went all the way to Central City by yourself? When you were only 10?" Apple Bloom asked.
"Yes," Diamond Tiara responded, "and when I came back, I saw that you three were still alive. I then figured it was because none of us had our Creative Marks. I thought about reaching out, but never did."
"Well then, there's really no point in you reaching out to us now," Apple Bloom said. She turned on her hell, "Come on Scootaloo, twins. Let's go home to Zecora."
Scootaloo turned and began to follow Apple Bloom. The twins began to follow uncertainly.
"That's it? You finally see that I'm alive, and you just leave me here?" Diamond Tiara said.
"Maybe if you had come clean earlier—like when the curse was first enacted—we'd be friends by now. But you missed your chance. You'd be of no help to us anyways," Apple Bloom said, as she continued to walk away. Diamond Tiara ran slightly to catch up.
"I've been on my own, completely alone, for thirteen years. Yes, I should have come clean, but the more time went by, the more I thought it would be too awkward for me to suddenly approach you. Please, don't leave me alone," Diamond Tiara said.
Something in her voice made Apple Bloom stop and look at her. Diamond Tiara's voice had cracked and there was genuine sadness in her eyes.
"Oh come on Apple Bloom, don't buy into her drama routine. She'll just make fun of you later," Scootaloo said.
"Silver Spoon is—was—my only friend. That's why I came back to Peoplesville in the first place, to visit her. You're lucky that your best friends weren't frozen, that you've had the chance to grow up together," Diamond Tiara said. "Please, take me with you. I promise I'll help in whatever it is you guys keep doing at the library."
"So you've been spying on us too?" Scootaloo snapped. She turned around and stood beside Apple Bloom. "Come on Apple Bloom, she's not worth our time."
Scootaloo turned to walk away again. Apple Bloom didn't follow. She continued to stare hard at Diamond Tiara. Finally, she sighed.
"Ok Diamond Tiara, you can stay with us. But you have to help us figure out a way to unfreeze everyone," Apple Bloom said.
"What! Apple Bloom, come on. Don't you remember how she used to torment us?" Scootaloo said.
"Yes, but... any extra pair of eyes might help us see something we didn't before. We just found three other survivors in one day, when we've been searchin' for thirteen years. Maybe she'll find somethin' we've overlooked," Apple Bloom said. She paused for a second. "It's what Sweetie Belle would want too. And I owe her, for what I did and said yesterday."
"Where is Sweetie Belle?" Diamond Tiara asked.
"She went to Central City to try and find more answers," Apple Bloom said.
"This is ridiculous. Do you really think Diamond Tiara is going to help us down in that dusty room beneath the library?" Scootaloo asked.
"I'm right here, Scootaloo, I can hear you," Diamond Tiara said, "I don't talk about me like I'm not here. And what room beneath the library?"
"We discovered a room beneath the library. We were going to get some rest, and introduce the twins to Zecora and go back and see what was in the room tomorrow," Apple Bloom said.
Diamond Tiara looked over the twins. "You're the Cakes' twins right?"
The twins nodded.
"And just how did you two survive? Weren't you like, babies, when this whole curse thing went down?" Diamond Tiara asked.
Apple Bloom sighed.
"Come on; they can explain it along the way."
The next morning, Sweetie Belle lay in bed for a long time. She hadn't been able to sleep very well the night previous. She had tossed and turned, and woke up countless of times. Now, she lay in the soft, giant guest bed in the palace and stared up at the ceiling.
Spike was alive. He'd been here the whole time. Sweetie Belle began to wonder how many other survivors there were in Earthica, wandering about, that Sweetie Belle and her friends didn't know about. Were they going to be surprised when they found out about Spike!
Eventually, Sweetie Belle slowly sat up and got out of bed. She walked over to the window and threw open the curtains. The sun poured in, greeting her with another beautiful day. Sometimes, she wished the sun wouldn't ever shine again. She didn't think it was fitting that she and the CMC have such beautiful weather, while this terrible curse was going on. In Sweetie Belle's mind, it should rain every day, to fit the atmosphere of the curse.
As she got dressed, she stared at herself in the mirror. Ever since Spike had mistaken her for Rarity yesterday, she couldn't help but point out all of the similarities between her and her sister. They could have been twins, especially now that Sweetie Belle was the same age as her. If Sweetie Belle dyed her hair a darker shade of purple and put in blue colored contacts, she could pass off as Rarity no problem.
She pulled her pink and purple hair into a ponytail and stretched. She gathered her things and packed them into her bag, and left the room.
Sweetie Belle followed the smell of breakfast down throughout the palace and into the great dining hall. Spike sat at one end of the long table, a small feast in front of him.
"Oh hey! You're awake," Spike said, greeting her with a smile. His smile faltered for a second. "Do you know how much you look like Rarity?"
Sweetie Belle blushed slightly and fidgeted with the end of her ponytail. She clumsily dropped her bag to the floor and sat down at the table.
"We are sisters you know," she said finally, "So, naturally, we're going to have a lot of similar traits. Same genes and what not."
"Genes? Now you're sounding like Twilight," Spike said.
"I've been doing a lot of research. I want to find a way to break the curse and wake up everyone," Sweetie Belle said, as she reached for a piece of toast. "Where did you get all of this food?"
"Palace cellar. They have a special reserve that's under a protection spell, so it never ages and goes bad, just in case of weird and dire situations—like this one," Spike said. "What have you been living off of in Peoplesville?"
"Mostly fruits and vegetables. Apple Bloom's been keeping a small garden on her farm, and there are some other herbs and weird foods we eat from the Everfree Forest. One of Zecora's hobbies is actually making bread... but as for meat, well... All of the animals seem to have disappeared," Sweetie Belle said.
"Yeah, tell me about it. That's something I totally noticed too," Spike said, "and as a Drache, it's not good to miss out on too much meat in your diet."
"But you were raised by Twilight, who's a vegetarian," Sweetie Belle said. She took a bite into her toast.
"I know, I'm a vegetarian too. I'm just sayin', if there were any other Draches out there, they might be hungry enough to eat a person," Spike said. As he said that, Sweetie Belle couldn't help but look at his slightly edgier and sharper teeth.
"Well, let's hope you were right in thinking there are not other Draches but you in the land," Sweetie Belle said, suddenly not so hungry any more.
"Hey, what's with the bag?" Spike asked, as he noticed her backpack on the floor, "Are you leaving? I thought we were going to look through the libraries again."
"I know, and we will. But you said you've searched through them pretty thoroughly, right?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Yeah... a habit that I guess I picked up from Twilight," Spike said. He snorted, "Who knew?"
"Well, I trust your search, and if you came up with nothing, then there's no point in doing it all over again and wasting more time," Sweetie Belle said.
"I thought you wanted to search the palace upside down, 100%?" Spike asked.
"True, that's what I said, but Scootaloo, Apple Bloom and I already did that once. But there was one place we never searched, and that's where I want to go," Sweetie Belle said. "Spike... have you ever searched the labyrinth?"
"The labyrinth? No, I haven't. I doubt there's going to be any books in there that might have some answers," Spike said, laughing.
"Don't be ridiculous, of course there aren't any books in the labyrinth. But I'm thinking, the labyrinth sort of has different magical properties, like the Everfree Forest does. It might have some clues or answers. It's the one place we never looked when we first came to Central City, so it has to be where the answers are," Sweetie Belle said, "Plus, it'd be a great place to hide."
"Who'd be hiding in the labyrinth?" Spike asked.
"Whatever creature put the curse on Earthica," Sweetie Belle answered. She stood up and walked over to the window and looked down on the labyrinth. "We have to check it out."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa; you want to go up against whatever put the curse on Earthica? Are you crazy? The Elements of Harmony couldn't even defeat that thing," Spike said.
"But if we find out what it is, we can potentially figure out how to wake up everybody else," Sweetie Belle said, "Come on Spike, don't you want to talk to Twilight again? My sister?"
"No, I do, of course I do; but what if whatever it is, freezes us too?" Spike asked.
"Apple Bloom and Scootaloo would come looking for me, if I didn't come home," Sweetie Belle said, "And I'm sure they'd figure out to look for me in the labyrinth. Besides, you probably wouldn't be frozen, because it didn't work on you the first time, and all you've done is grown up. The hypothesis behind everyone else being frozen, is having their Creative-Marks, which I have mine now."
"Hypothesis? Definitely sounding too much like Twilight," Spike said.
"Listen Spike," Sweetie Belle said, as she turned her gaze away from the window, "You know I'm going in there with or without you. If you come and I get frozen, the least you can do is go back to Peoplesville and let the others know what happened."
Spike sighed. He stood from the table.
"I never said I wasn't going with you—I just said you were crazy, is all," Spike said. He walked over and stood beside her. They looked out the window. "How far do you want to go in?"
"We're going to the centre," Sweetie Belle said.
Just as she spoke her words, the clouds shifted and the sun disappeared. The labyrinth's centre was plunged into dark shadows, and it suddenly began to rain.
When the five of them had arrived at Zecora's hut the night before, Zecora had been in shock. The aging lady asked many questions of the newcomers, and particularly scolded Diamond Tiara. Zecora fussed over the twins, and then told Apple Bloom to start cooking more dinner for their new housemates.
There had been some new room arrangements. Ever since Zecora had taken in the CMC, she had expanded the size of her hut, so that everyone at least had their own small room. Now the hut was crowded more than ever. Apple Bloom moved her things into Scootaloo's room, and the twins took over her room. Diamond Tiara settled into Sweetie Belle's room for the time being. Apple Bloom was sure that Sweetie Belle was going to be just thrilled to be bunking with Diamond Tiara.
Diamond Tiara had bitched and complained for most of the night. It had started as they began to enter the Everfree Forest. She complained about her shoes getting dirty, about leaves falling into her hair, and numerous other things that Apple Bloom had blocked out.
"If you're going to keep complaining on and on and on the whole time, then just do us a favor and go back to your big dumb mansion and stay there," Scootaloo had said, "You were the one who wanted to come with us, so why don't you shut up, and be grateful that Apple Bloom decided to take you in, instead of letting me punch you in the face."
That had shut Diamond Tiara up for a little bit, but not forever.
The next morning, after breakfast, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Diamond Tiara went back to the library. Zecora insisted that the twins stay with her, and she began to home school them, something which the twins had never heard of before.
"So, just what exactly are we trying to find?" Diamond Tiara asked, as Apple Bloom opened the door to the library.
"We're tryin' to find anything that will help us unfreeze everybody," Apple Bloom explained, "Or anything that will tell us just what kind of creature did this."
"So, you basically have absolutely zero ideas and are starting from scratch?" Diamond Tiara said, "What have you been doing the past thirteen years?"
"Hey, don't flippin' start, ok?" Scootaloo snapped, "We've been coming to the library for the past thirteen years, trying to figure out just how to save Earthica. What have you been doing the past thirteen years? Hiding in your big mansion?"
"Hey, just because I—"
"Will you two please stop bickerin'? We need to work together, ok?" Apple Bloom said. Scootaloo opened her mouth to argue, but Apple Bloom just gave her a stern look. Diamond Tiara crossed her arms and huffed loudly.
"Good. Now come on. Everyone get out their flashlight and follow me," Apple Bloom said.
She cautiously led them down the stairs and to the door. Just for good measure, she tried to open it again, but it still didn't move.
"Get out the crowbar, Scoots," Apple Bloom said.
Scootaloo passed her flashlight to Apple Bloom and took the crowbar out from her bag. She wedged it between the door and the wall and began to push hard. The door creaked and moaned. Scootaloo grunted as she tried harder, the door creaking louder. Finally there was a loud snap, and the door budged open slightly. Scootaloo turned the handle, and the door opened.
It creaked loudly and swung open heavy, hitting the wall with a loud thud. Dust swirled in the air, causing the three young women all to sneeze. Once it settled, Apple Bloom handed Scootaloo back her flashlight, and led the group into the room.
It was a circular room, and about as big as the one above it. Shelves upon shelves lined the walls, all full of dusty books. There were also numerous tables cramped into the rooms, all of which had odd trinkets on them.
"I wish we could see better," Apple Bloom said, as she stepped into the room.
Suddenly, the room came to light. Apple Bloom jumped, slightly startled. She turned around to see Diamond Tiara's hand hovering above a light switch. She looked just as surprised that it worked.
"What is all this..." Scootaloo said, voicing the exact same thing Apple Bloom had been thinking.
The room was bigger than Apple Bloom had initially thought. On the tables were various vials and containers, filled with different objects and liquids. Most of them were connected with tubes, and now, with the power turned on, currents of electricity could be seen moving in the tubes.
"It looks like some sort of laboratory," Diamond Tiara said.
"Do you guys think Twilight knew about this place?" Apple Bloom whispered. She wasn't entire surely why she was whispering. It just seemed appropriate.
"It looks like it hasn't been used in a long time. Look at how dusty everything is," Scootaloo said, as she dragged a finger across a table.
"Where do we even start?" Diamond Tiara asked, her quarrel with Scootaloo obviously forgotten.
"I say we each take a bookshelf, on opposite ends of the room, and work our way around clockwise," Apple Bloom said. "Pull out anythin' you think might be useful, anythin' at all."
"Wouldn't it be weird if we found the answer down here? After all these years, the answer was right beneath us and we never knew?" Scootaloo said.
"We never would've known if Pound Cake hadn't been able to fly up to that bookshelf, and seen those secret books up there," Apple Bloom said.
Scootaloo looked away as Apple Bloom mentioned flying. Apple Bloom reached out and touched her arm.
"I didn't mean it like that," Apple Bloom said. Scootaloo moved away and began to search a shelf.
"I know," she said quietly.
Apple Bloom sighed and moved across the room. Diamond Tiara did the same, but made a face immediately as she reached out to touch a dusty book. Apple Bloom scanned the room and took a deep breath. They were in for a long day.
Sweetie Belle and Spike stood at the entrance to the labyrinth. Sporadic drops of rain began to fall from the sky and thunder rolled in the distance.
"Let's get this search over with," Spike murmured. Sweetie Belle gazed uneasily at the dark clouds above them. She nodded and they entered the maze.
The hedges were tall and slightly overgrown. Sweetie Belle was actually surprised that there was any path at all. Her arms and legs got scratched here and there lightly, as they made their way through the maze. They picked directions at random, neither of them having ever been in the labyrinth before.
"Another dead end," Spike said with a sigh. Sweetie Belle groaned slightly. This was about their seventh dead end. For all she knew, they kept running into the same one. They had been walking around for hours. The rain had stopped, but the thunder still rolled in the distance, a flash of lightning here and there.
"Maybe we should try and head back so we're not lost in here all night," Spike said, as he began to turn around.
Sweetie Belle sighed and started to turn as well, but then stopped. There seemed something off about the dead end.
"Hold on a sec, Spike," she said. She walked closer to the dead end. "I think this may have actually been part of the path."
"The brambles are thinner here—and I think I see something on the other side," Sweetie Belle said.
She began to push through the bush without waiting for Spike's reply. Her arms were scratched all over and a small line of blood appeared on her cheek. But she pushed through to the other side and her heart began to race.
"Whoa," Spike said, as he almost bumped into Sweetie Belle, who had abruptly stopped on the other side. Spike brushed some random twigs off of his shirt, his hard scaly skin untouched by their prickles. "Why'd you stop?"
"We're... at the centre..." Sweetie Belle said. She took a few steps forward and stopped.
The centre of the maze was circular, various other overgrown pathways leading to it. In the centre was a trickling fountain, though it was mostly dried up and a pathetic stream wilted from the top. But it wasn't the fountain that Sweetie Belle was looking at. It was on the other side of it.
"What...?" Spike whispered, finally clueing in to what Sweetie Belle was looking at.
Sweetie Belle took hasty steps forward, walking widely around the fountain. Her breath caught in her chest. Standing on the other side of the fountain, frozen in stone, were two sisters.
The first sister, the elder, had a controlled look of annoyance on her face. Her crown stood straight on her head, and her wings were ruffled and slightly spread behind her. There was a crystal on her forehead. Her flowing white dress was now gray, trapped flowing behind her in stone. Her mouth was slightly opened, as though she was saying something at the time, and one of her arms was raised, fingers pointing at something, something that had been on the other side of the fountain from her, where Sweetie Belle now stood.
The second sister, the younger, was ever so slightly shorter than her sister and was standing beside her. With a crystal in her forehead, her tiara sat neatly on her head, but her facial expression was that of anger. Her jaw was clenched, teeth slightly barred and her eyes were set in a glare. Both of her fists were clenched and her wings were widely spread behind her. Her feet were positioned as though she were about to attack.
Mixes, people who were both Magiks and Winged, were an uncommon occurrence. These two, however, were the two most well known and famous Mixes in Earthica. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.
Sweetie Belle approached them cautiously. She hesitantly reached out and put her hand lightly on Celestia's arm. Cold stone.
"They're completely rock," Spike whispered, as he carefully inspected Luna. He turned to Sweetie Belle, "How long do you think they've been here?"
"Probably just before the sleeping curse hit," Sweetie Belle said quietly, "I think the princesses were deemed missing when the curse hit Earthica. They were hit first, with a different spell."
"You think it's the same creature who did the sleeping curse, that turned the princesses to stone?" Spike asked.
"It has to be," Sweetie Belle said, "I mean, what else could have ha—"
Without warning, the ground began to shake violently. Sweetie Belle staggered back, nearly knocking Princess Celestia over. She carefully kept the princess balanced, afraid if she knocked her over the princess would shatter. Spike held onto Luna. Thunder roared and lightning flashed. The ground before them began to break up.
"What's going on!?" Sweetie Belle asked.
Suddenly, there was a great roar, a terrible wail. The ground before them crumbled, the fountain tumbling into a hole. The shaking stopped. Another horrific shriek filled the air. The giant silhouette of a beast, awoken from its sleep, began to rise out of the hole.
"It's the monster," Sweetie Belle whispered, barely audible to herself.
Its piercing purple eye fell on Sweetie Belle. A scream escaped from her lips, as she stared into the eye of the beast.
Unbeknownst to Sweetie Belle, just as she had entered the maze, her friends back at home began searching the books in the underground laboratory for clues as to how to cure the sleeping curse.
The hours were long and tedious. Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and Diamond Tiara each searched through book after book after book, but nothing was to be found.
Unsure of what the time was, Apple Bloom sighed and put back another useless book. Diamond Tiara groaned.
"I didn't realize this little chore was going to take all day," she whined, tossing another book on the floor.
"What did you expect? We haven't explored this room before," Apple Bloom said, "And we need to search thoroughly. Without Sweetie Belle's magic, it will take longer."
"I dunno... I'm starting to think maybe we should call it a day," Scootaloo said, stretching her wings and arms, "We have been down here a long time, and we haven't found anything yet."
"Alright... let me just check this last book. Why don't y'all pack a few and we'll look at them back home?" Apple Bloom suggested. Diamond Tiara groaned louder, but began to stuff her bag full of random books. Scootaloo did the same.
Apple Bloom flipped through the book in her hand, skimming the pages. Another likely dud. But then something stood out.
"Hold on a second... I think I've found something!" Apple Bloom said, her heart beginning to beat rapidly, "This book describes a spell, an ageless spell that encases its victims into crystal. Apparently some dark Magik three thousand years ago became so obsessed with some princess, that when she denied his advances, he trapped her in crystal so that he could look at her all the time, and so that she wouldn't age. She would live inside the crystal forever, frozen in time."
"That sounds like what's happened to everyone else!" Scootaloo said. She jumped to Apple Bloom's side and began to peer over her shoulder at the page.
"Does it say something about a cure?" Diamond Tiara asked, as she hesitantly joined Apple Bloom and Scootaloo.
"The dark Magik was eventually turned into some sort of mythical beast and banished forever, by another male Magik. The good Magik traded his life to create a counter spell that would awake the princess. He was apparently her intended hand in marriage and loved her deeply," Apple Bloom said, "The spell's right here. He set it so that anyone, Magik or not, could use the counter spell, so that no one would have to go through the pain he did, of seeing his beloved forever trapped in an ageless crystal."
"Oh my God... we've finally done it. We've done it! We've found the cure!" Scootaloo said, punching the air. "Come on! What are you waiting for? Let's go up there and use the spell! Let's wake up your sister and everyone else!"
Apple Bloom couldn't help but smile. She held the book close to her chest as she ran up the stairs, Scootaloo in the lead, Diamond Tiara behind her. They raced out to the town centre, the main 6 trapped in their crystal forms.
Apple Bloom stood in front of the main 6, positioning herself closest to Applejack, her hands shaking as she opened the book again. She took one last look at her sister, crystalized in fear, and began to read the spell. Apple Bloom stumbled over the words, but once she began to say them, she found she couldn't stop. Even though she knew she was butchering the pronunciation, there was something about the words that just almost automatically spilled from her mouth. The setting sun was almost gone, an orange glow over the town, dark clouds approaching from the distance.
When she was done, Apple Bloom looked up at her sister. Applejack didn't move. The crystal was still around her, her eyes were still shut and she was still as she had been the past thirteen years. Apple Bloom held her breath.
"M-Maybe try it again?" Scootaloo whispered, "Maybe you didn't—"
Suddenly, there was the loud echoing of a series monstrous roars in the distance. Apple Bloom and the others turned their heads in the direction of the sound, the direction of Central City.
"What was that?" Diamond Tiara asked, her voice shaky.
All of a sudden, as another roar began to wail, there was a loud snap sound and a flash of light. Apple Bloom shielded her eyes slightly.
"It was the monster."
As the light faded away, two silhouettes appeared. Apple Bloom recognized Sweetie Belle immediately, but the male she wasn't sure. There was something familiar about him.
"Oh my God... Spike, is that you?" Scootaloo said, "—wait, did you say monster?"
"It just suddenly woke up," Spike said, "Sweetie Belle screamed and grabbed my hand and suddenly, we were transported here."
"I didn't know you could do that kind of magic, Sweetie Belle," Scootaloo said.
"N-Neither did I," Sweetie Belle said, still shaking.
"The monster... it woke up? Just now?" Apple Bloom whispered. She glanced down at the book. The dark Magik had been turned into a mythical beast...
"Yes," Sweetie Belle said, "And that's not all. We found the princesses. They've been turned to stone and are in the labyrinth."
"I think it was me... I woke up the monster with the counter spell," Sweetie Belle whispered.
"Yes, you did," said a voice behind her.
A chill ran up Apple Bloom's spine. The hairs on the back of her neck began to stand on end. Even though she hadn't heard that voice in thirteen years, she knew it right away. She would recognize any voice of the main 6, the Element bearers.
Slowly, Apple Bloom turned around. Behind her, standing slightly in front of the other Element bearers, all of whom were slowly looking around, confused as to what had happened and where they were, slowly moving their limbs around, was Twilight Sparkle. She was looking directly at Apple Bloom.
"You've re-awakened the karkadann," Twilight said, as she stepped forward.
"T-T-The what?" Apple Bloom stuttered, in complete shock.
"The monster," Applejack said quietly.
Apple Bloom dropped the book at the sound of her sister's voice. The monster roared again the distance, accompanied by thunder.
After thirteen years, they had finally done it. They had awoken up Earthica, and the main 6. They had started time once again. And now, because of it, they had a monster to defeat.
To be continued...