The last few days had been rough, I had been making sure to carefully ration my apple supply, but even so, it wasn’t going to last forever. It had been a couple of days since the incident in town, my wrist was still aching, but aside from that I had recovered from the brief encounter with the filly.
I had stuck around the cave I was sheltering in, not venturing too far into the surrounding woods, and being very cautious to stay away from Ponyville. I couldn’t risk being caught again. I knew that eventually, I’d have to make arrangements to attain more food. And it was starting to look like it would be sooner rather than later.
I still had no idea about the recent events in the town, I had chosen to ignore the shot I had at it, and boy did it cost me… Now all I have is a busted hand, and barely enough food to last me another day.
I gave a heavy sigh, there was no avoiding it, I had to head back into Ponyville, tonight. So long as I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and made sure to keep my eyes peeled, I should be able to get through the fiasco without any incidents.
The day progressed quite slowly, I wanted to wait until it was at least late-afternoon before I went into the town. But impatience and anxiety made that difficult, and sometime around midday, I decided that I would make my move now. Lifting myself off the ground, I started to tread along the path toward Ponyville.
The last few days had been pretty clear, thankfully. I had grown sick and tired of storms ever since my first night. Although I made sure to keep in mind that the weather here was controlled and I wouldn’t get much notice if they went and decided that a hurricane would be nice this time of year…
As I approached the town, I used the same tactic I had two days ago, sneaking into the alleyways through the small gaps between houses. If I ever had a chance, I’d have to thank whoever planned out the town for making it so stealth-friendly. Once making it into the dark stretch, I followed it in the direction of the marketplace.
While walking, I began to recognize the dimly lit area I was in, recalling where I had lost my footing and fallen in plain sight of the strange filly, rummaging through boxes and idle bags. I glanced across the ground, using the poor lighting as best I could, hoping to find any of the loose apples that I had dropped. Nothing…
Eventually, I moved on in the direction of the marketplace. As I neared however, I began to notice an odd lack of sound… Was today some holiday I didn’t know about? My instincts told me to get a closer look.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by a completely empty marketplace. It had looked like it was cleared out in a hurry though, stalls remained partially stocked, and the dirt roads were covered with hoofprints and tracks… What the heck had happened… I looked across the wide variance of objects and rations available from many different stalls. My common sense taking a brief leave of absence, I started to walk out into the open, hoping to take some of the food for myself.
Before I could get too far into the open, I realised just what a risk I was taking, and instinctively backed up to assess the situation further. After a couple of minutes of weighing up my options, I decided to go for one of the closest stalls, making sure to check every direction before heading out.
My caution turned out to be justified, as in the distance, by the town hall, a large crowd appeared to be gathered in front of a stage and podium, where the mayor of the town looked to be speaking.
“Huh… There’s a way to get the news, if I ever saw one…” I quietly muttered to myself, opting to forget the stalls and head toward the gathering, sticking to the walls, and avoiding any route where I’d be subjected to being spotted.
After a few moments of ducking and weaving through the street, I managed to slip back into the alleys, this time much closer to the meeting, where I’d be within earshot of the speaker…
“Thank you for attending, everypony.” The voice of Mayor Mare reached my ears.
I remained still, my mind processing what I had heard. “You’re fucking kidding me…” I said with a heavy sigh. “What a waste of time.”
As the crowd dispersed, I began to hear the sounds of the town returning to its natural state. Still at a loss for words, I held still in the alley, hoping that nopony would venture down it. Slowly, the activity happening only a few feet from me began to die down. I let out a soft sigh of both relief and frustration. So close, yet so damn far…
“I don’t see why you’re getting so worked up about it,” Came a familiar voice, “It’s only a few apples.” I poked my head around the corner of my hiding spot, to see a group of six walking past… The six. They were discussing a topic I had recognised from a couple of days ago, and it looked as if Twilight had the floor.
“It’s not the apples that ah’m worried about, Twi.” Applejack retorted. “There’s a no-good thief runnin’ through Ponyville, and soon it won’t just be apples dissapearin’.”
“Yeah!” Pinkie Pie shouted, “Today it’s the apples, and tomorrow it’s the apple pie!”
“Pinkie, ah’m being serious.”
“So was I.” The pink pony chimed.
Twilight sighed, continuing to press her argument. The conversation started to become less audible as the group moved out of earshot. I wanted to hear more, but leaving the alley was way too big of a risk.
I quickly considered my options, moving back into the streets was out of the question… I had a decent idea of what turns I’d have to take if I was to try following them from the alleys… It was worth a shot.
Trying to make up for the time I had already lost, I started to navigate through the dark stretches of buildings and junk, moving as fast as I could without making copious amounts of noise or drawing any attention. And after a few twists and turns, I found myself close to the group once more, their conversation continuing.
“… And that’s how we catch them!” Pinkie Pie shouted eccentrically.
“Where would we even get the cage from!?” Twilight responded drastically, “Besides, don’t you think that would be a little obvious?”
I couldn’t help but smile at the conversation, as serious as it should be, it seemed to have taken an absurd turn. To think, all of this because I snagged one too many apples… I guess leaving the stalls earlier was for the best, I’d just have to find some other way to get sustenance.
The two continued back and forth about the issue, it was like listening to rationality and irrationality square off in a battle of logic…
“So, Rainbow Dash… What was Mayor Mare saying about the week’s weather?” Rarity piped up, interrupting the two.
“Oh, yeah. Well we gotta set up a few things, but in a couple of days, the weather’s gonna get a little crazy.” The cyan Pegasus responded.
The conversation started to trail off once more, it seemed like they were headed back to the marketplace. “I’ve heard this much, why quit eavesdropping now.” I quietly muttered as I started making my way through the alleyways once more.
After another moment of navigating, I began to approach the marketplace, noticing the crowd’s hushed and confused stance from a distance. Amidst them, I spotted the group I was looking for, blank expressions spread across their faces.
As I moved closer, I noticed that a couple of the scarcely stocked stalls had been totally cleaned out, the hushed crowd looking on in confusion as the owners recounted any product that remained.
“Huh, Looks like I’m not the only thief in Ponyville…”
“That does it!” Applejack breaks the silence, “If there’s a thief on the loose, we’re just gonna have to go out and catch ‘em!” The crowd began to cheer and gesture in agreement.
Okay, that was my cue to get out of here before things got ugly. I started to make my way back down the alleyway and toward my planned exit point. Hopefully with all the attention at the marketplace, I’d have time to get back to the cave without being caught.
As I made my way through the alleyways, I started to wonder about what had happened with the stalls. I had opted to leave the stuff alone after I saw the gathering at town hall… Yet another costly mistake caused by my curiosity. But if I hadn’t stolen them, who could have… I couldn’t imagine anypony in town to be a thief.
I was close to my exit point, only a few more turns and should be able to get out the same way I got in. As I rounded a corner however, I stopped, noticing that dead ahead of me, taking something from a medium-sized sack was that filly from the other night.
Man, déjà vu… I seem to be having all the luck today.
Before I made a move to hide, an unmistakable crunch sounded. There’s no way that was any of the food I had dropped the other night, she couldn’t have rationed a couple of apples this long… Slowly, my mind put the pieces together.
“The filly stole the apples?” I near-whispered to myself, forgetting my proximity to the young pony before me.
Hearing my muttering, the filly immediately gave a jump and turned to face me, a slight squeak escaping her throat as she realised that she was facing down the person who she had stolen from a few nights ago.
In the late afternoon light, I could make out a few of the filly’s key features. Her coat was an orange colour, she had a short purple mane and tail, not to mention her distinct lack of a cutie mark.
Wait a second… Scootaloo?!