The dawn shown bright as it cleared the horizon, shining the brilliant first light of day upon Sweet Apple Acres. The orchards were rich with green, the trees thick and brimming with bounties of shiny apples. Naturally, the first ponies to greet the new dawn were the members of the ever industrious Apple family. However, the lively enthusiasm of Applejack and Big Macintosh wasn't as apparent among anypony else, as the two would have hoped.
Applejack, always eager to start the day's work on a high note, greeted her older brother with an amiable, "Mornin', Big Mac! Grannie awake yet?"
With a tired shake of the head, the crimson stallion answered, "Nope."
Applejack loosed a quiet sigh, then smiled lightly. "Tha's alright. Grannie needs 'er rest anyway. Ah'll see if Applebloom's awake yet." She said, trotting over to the stairwell. "Although, ah'm purdy sure she'll still be a snoozin', what with the ruckus she an' 'er friends made las' night." Big Mac nodded his agreement, proceeding to the kitchen to begin preparing breakfast. Applejack peeked into Applebloom's room, only to find her prediction to be completely accurate. In the young filly's bed lay the trio of Cutie Mark Crusaders, all still and content to remain quietly sleeping, with the exception of one orange pegasus that would occasionally snort or mumble unintelligibly. Applejack chuckled at the sight, thinking it rather adorable, then silently shut the door and returned downstairs, entering the kitchen with a slight grin on her lips.
"We should give 'er a few more minutes. Fillies 'er age need their sleep, too." Applejack said, standing next to Big Mac as the two browsed the contents of the pantry.
Big Mac nodded once more, adding a completely necessary, "E'yup."
On the outskirts of Ponyville, mere wing beats away from the menacing Everfree Forest, lay a cozy little cottage that housed another pony who had been known for greeting the dawn at its first light. From out of the humble abode stepped a creamy yellow pegasus with a flowing pink mane and soft blue green eyes. Fluttershy yawned quietly, a twinkle in her eye as she smiled meekly, her faithful rabbit Angel joining her side. "Oh! Good morning, Angel." Fluttershy whispered to the furry little creature. "How did you sleep?" He answered by showing a sour expression and a shrug, then proceeded to bury his head in his paws as he rubbed the sleep from his little bunny eyes. Fluttershy, oblivious to Angel's typical ill tempered response, nodded, trotting out of her home as she said, "That's nice."
In the aerial city of Cloudsdale, the dawn bathed the structures of clouds in smooth sunlight, starting the bustle of pegasi as they fluttered and dashed about their business, joyful as can be. But, if there was anypony that knew how to ignore a picture perfect sunrise, it was Rainbow Dash, who lived nowhere near the "bright and early" pegasi of Cloudsdale. True, she admired the sun on the horizon as much as the next pony, but why get up that early for a few minutes of somewhat pretty scenery? Or anything, for that matter? Her secluded home in the skies above Ponyville was far too serene to simply cast off and abandon for the day. So, on she slept in her bed crafted of clouds, blissfully snoring away as she curled up tighter, instinctively pulling the sheet over her head to block out the gleam of sunshine as it poured into her room.
The first light of dawn was short lived, however, and the particularly beautiful sunrise rose onward, clearing the horizon and bringing the full light of day to the lovely little town of Ponyville. From the top floor bedroom of the Carousel Boutique rose a majestic white unicorn from her slumber, releasing a yawn as graceful as a yawn can possibly be. Removing her night mask and setting it aside, the purple-maned mare stretched and stepped out from her luxurious bed, quickly replacing the sheets and making neat the furrowed blankets. She hummed as her horn glowed, a blue aura rearranging and matting down the bed sheets. Satisfied, she began toward the bathroom, ready to begin her morning grooming. "Oh, I can just feel it. Today is going to be a marvelous day!" Rarity exclaimed, fully aware that not a single ear caught wind of her excitement.
As the first beams of sunshine crept into Ponyville's ligneous library, Twilight Sparkle practically leapt from her slumber, a grand smile on her face. She stepped onto the balcony, inhaling the morning air and sighing happily. She trotted back inside, shutting the doors behind her, and didn't bother to wake the peacefully sleeping Spike as she cantered down the stairs. She glanced to him with a gentle smile, saying, "A little extra sleep will do you some good. Besides, I'm not going to disrupt the peace on such a great morning!" Twilight pranced into the kitchen with energy in her hooves. She couldn't quite place what was so great about this morning, but something about it livened her mood and put a grin on her face.
What a spectacular fantastic wonderful wonderland of spectacles and fantasies! Thought Pinkie Pie as she bounced about her unusually fantastic, wonderful, and spectacular dream. Chocolate rivers! Gingerbread buildings! Cotton candy clouds! Ooh, and the trees grow cupcakes instead of apples! She jumped at an especially large and ripe white-frosted cupcake, fitting her mouth over it and swallowing it whole before touching down. She smacked her lips as she continued hopping along, now noticing five accompanying ponies bouncing alongside her. Alright! Even my friends are here! They never ever bounce like I do! Probably because I'm always full of sugar and sweets, and they just don't have the energy to- Suddenly, however, the dream Rainbow Dash disappeared, a small poof of black smoke briefly enveloping her before she ceased to exist. Pinkie gasped at the occurrence, halting and staring at the space that the rainbow pegasus had just occupied moments before. Her conjured friends copied her actions, all of them deeply confused and somewhat afraid.
"What happened?" Pinkie asked, glancing about the whimsical landscape. "Where'd she go?"
Dream Twilight took a step toward the site, seeming to scan the ground where Dream Dash had disappeared. "I don't know. Maybe she-"
In another sudden burst of black smoke, Dream Twilight ceased to exist as well, drawing a startled shriek from the quartet of friends.
"Okay, this is getting weird. I never have black smoke in my dreams! Why would-" Pinkie was cut off by three nearly simultaneous explosions, her three remaining friends consumed in plumes of dark smoke. Pinkie frantically scanned her surroundings, which, to her horror, were quickly being consumed by a similar haze. The trees, buildings, and even delightfully pink skies were all dyed black. Pinkie couldn't help but whimper a little when she saw everything around her quake and melt into a massive black plain. She now found herself in nothing but endless empty space, boundless darkness making the black ground feel all the more absolute. She nervously paced about, asking the empty space, "Hello? Anypony there?"
She shrunk as she was answered with a voluminous cackle, which seemed to resonate from all directions at once.
Shyly, she asked the menacing voice, "Who's there? What's so funny?" Her eyes darted about, unsure how to fight evil while she was dreaming.
She gasped weakly as she was answered by another, more malicious cackle, and the sudden appearance of a pair of golden eyes in the dark. The figure they belonged to stood only a few hoofsteps away from Pinkie, which caused her to apprehensively back away from them.
"H-hello...were you the pony with the scary laugh?" Pinkie asked, her voice quavering.
"Scary? I thought you enjoyed laughter, dearest Pinkie Pie." The voice, now clearly masculine, was richly alluring and dreadfully malevolent at the same time. "Perhaps I'm just a scary pony who also enjoys laughter?" His eyes seemed to ripple with eerie yellow light as he cackled once more, moving closer to the now trembling Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie, both mesmerized and terrified by the glow of the stranger's eyes, blinked at the light, only to scream as she opened her eyes once more. The stranger's muzzle was now pressed against her's, his eyes even brighter and more ghastly at this distance.
"But, you know just how to deal with terror and fright, don't you? Just laugh in the face of danger." He narrowed his eyes, saying in a mocking tone, "Ha. Ha," He began pushing her back a little with each exclamation, as if to punctuate his scornful laugh, "Ha! Ha! HA!" By now, Pinkie had been driven to the floor, forced into an awkward sitting position. She could feel tears forming at the corners of her eyes as she gazed into the evil golden disks that had frozen her in fear. Any further pushing, and she would be laying on the black ground, which wouldn't have been any less demeaning or frightening than this hunched sitting position she'd been forced into.
After the final mock laugh, the figure chuckled in amusement, the eyes burrowing deeper into the terrified Pinkie Pie. "Well? Aren't you going to laugh? Make the entire hopeless situation all better with a little carefree laughter?" His voice alone was enough to choke any high spirits out of the poor filly, but Pinkie Pie began to sniffle and quietly sob at his words. The shadowy stallion backed away, the eyes teeming with triumphant satisfaction. "What a shame. And here I thought the Element of Laughter would actually refrain from tears in my presence." The eyes seemed to once again ripple with light, then the figure suddenly pivoted and delivered a cruel kick to Pinkie's poor head. She was sent sprawling backward, her dream perception hazed and distorted, her pain now replacing her fear. She curled up on the black floor, sobbing pitifully, as the figure pranced away with another gruesome cackle.
With a feeling akin to escaping the depths of frigid water, Pinkie sprang out of from under the covers, gasping for air. She glanced about her room, relieved to find that she was safe and sound. Not to mention free of that evil stranger in the dark. With a sigh, Pinkie stepped down from her bed and solemnly walked to the door. Nightmares were so infrequent for the pink party pony that they always rattled her fiercely when she did experience them. Mumbling to herself, Pinkie whispered, "Just a dream, Pinkie. Just a dream."
Only a few steps out the door of the library, Twilight paused as Spike inhaled sharply. She looked back at him, seeing what was the matter. He crinkled his nose and gasped lightly, then lurched forward with a sneeze befitting a dragon (quite the analogy, ain't it?)
"Spike!" Twilight said crossly, giving an embarrassed smile to the pair of panting ponies that only barely stepped out of the way of Spike's flurry of flames. "Be careful where you sneeze!"
Spike rubbed at his nose, then clacked his claws together, innocently responding, "Sorry, Twilight. That one caught me off guard. Won't happen again."
Twilight's scornful expression softened as she gained an apologetic smile. "Don't be sorry. Just be careful, alright?"
He nodded, readjusting himself on the mare's back as she continued forward. Twilight trotted through Ponyville with lithe, airy steps, content to take as long as possible to accomplish everything on her schedule. On any normal day, Twilight Sparkle would have cursed herself for being lazy and inefficient, but today she felt too happy with the peace of lethargy to buckle down and give a serious effort. Today was probably the first day of her life that she actually felt up to doing nothing at all. However, no amount of inner peace would ever change the core Twilight. Even if she was willing to loosen her schedule and slack off on efficiency, Twilight would never forgive herself for disregarding a plan. So, on she trotted to the marketplace, ready for a grocery shopping session that would probably take hours longer than timely practical.
With a relaxed sigh, Rarity lowered herself onto the wooden bench within the sauna, nodding to Fluttershy as she asked, "Has your morning been as divine as mine?"
Fluttershy grinned cutely at Rarity, answering, "Oh, I wouldn't call it divine...but, it has been a really pleasant morning for me." She paused as another ladle of water hissed upon the coal beds, then continued, "All the animals have seemingly had a good morning, too."
Rarity raised an eyebrow, asking, "All of them? Even Angel?"
Fluttershy giggled, answering, "Yes, even Angel. He might have been a bit grumpier than the others, but he's a lot happier than he looks."
Rarity rolled her neck, smiling lightly. "That's good. I, for one, think today is an absolutely perfect day to relax and recuperate." She turned her gaze upward, her expression one of remembrance. "After all, there's been a great deal of excitement around Ponyville lately."
Fluttershy nodded, adding, "I'm glad we're getting a chance to relax. Everything that's been going on is just exhausting."
The two sat in silence as another ladle full of water drenched the coals, a plume of steam flooding the already steamy room. They shared a quick glance, then resumed gazing into space, smiling blissfully.
Back at the Apple home, Applejack stepped out the door, breathing in the fresh air with a contented sigh, then shouted back, "See ya', Big Mac! If Applebloom evr' wakes up, tell 'er to get to 'er chores!"
"E'yup!" Shouted back Big Mac, who was now sweeping the kitchen floor.
Applejack trotted over to the family apple cart, then hitched herself in and started for Ponyville. She found herself quietly humming a tune to herself. The song Twilight performed for Cadance and Shining Armor's reception had been stuck in her head ever since that exciting night, and today was too pleasant a day to travel without a good tune. So, the earth pony hummed as she pulled her cart in the best of spirits.
Meanwhile, in Applebloom's bedroom, the young earth pony awoke with a yawn and a stretch. She looked to her two friends and smiled, gently nudging Sweetie Belle with her hoof.
"Sweetie! Sweetie Belle!" She whispered, nudging her a bit more forcefully. "Wake up, Sweetie Belle!"
Sweetie groaned, putting a hoof to her head, mumbling, "What is it, Applebloom? Why can't I just sleep a little longer? We don't even have school today."
Applebloom rolled her eyes at her friend's annoyed response, but answered, "Ah just wanted to talk. Ah had this amazing dream las' night! Ah-"
Sweetie Belle put her hoof to Applebloom's shoulder, cutting her off, then opened one eye, its gaze fixed on the yellow earth pony. "Hold it. Let me wake up a little before you tell me."
Applebloom nodded, saying, "Oh, alright." She turned and hopped down from her bed, circling it as Sweetie Belle yawned and rubbed at her eyes.
Nudging Scootaloo, who was bundled tightly in her share of sheet, Applebloom said, "Scootaloo! Wake up, Scootaloo!"
Scootaloo stirred a bit, quietly mumbling, "Don't...no...."
Applebloom chuckled, nudging her friend once more. "C'mon, Scootaloo! You can't sleep forev'r."
Scootaloo groaned, tensing up. "Please....no...."
Sweetie Belle had now more fully woken up, and was now sitting up, giving the distraught Scootaloo a perplexed look. "I think she's still asleep. She sounds more scared than tired."
Applebloom glanced to Sweetie Belle, then gave Scootaloo a similar look. She prodded her once more, drawing a shiver from the pegasus. "Ya think she's havin' a nightmare, 'r somethin'?"
Sweetie Belle frowned, putting her lips to Scootaloo's ear as she whispered, "Scootaloo? Scootalooooo?"
Scootaloo jolted suddenly, jerking her head and promptly smacking Sweetie Belle's poor snout. The startled unicorn withdrew with a pained shriek, putting her hooves to her nose, indignantly mumbling, "That hurt, Scootaloo..."
Scootaloo frantically shook her head, her face contorted with fear. "No! Please, don't!"
Applebloom shook her head, muttering, "For Celestia's sake..." She cleared her throat, then drew in a sharp breath before shouting, "Scootaloo! Wake up!"
Scootaloo shot up with a scream, breathing heavily as she glanced between a concerned Applebloom and Sweetie Belle, who was still holding a hoof to her nose as she raised an eyebrow at Scootaloo.
Applebloom put a hoof to Scootaloo's side, gently asking, "Scoots, you okay? Ya' sounded awful frightened of-"
Scootaloo swatted away Applebloom's hoof, causing the stunned filly to gasp. She hastily removed the sheet, then strode forward on the bed, hopping to the ground, a few rapid wing beats softening her landing.
Sweetie Belle dropped her hooves, frowning at Scootaloo as she walked to the door. "Scootaloo! That was really rude! Applebloom was just asking what-"
The orange pegasus starkly interrupted with, "She should mind her own business!"
Sweetie's Belle frown turned to a scowl as she hurriedly moved in front of Scootaloo, the somewhat confused Applebloom at her side. "Now wait just a minute! You don't get to just push around and yell at your friends!"
Scootaloo returned Sweetie's scowl, blinking as she glanced between her and Applebloom, who was now scorning Scootaloo with a look of her own. Scootaloo turned her glare back to Sweetie Belle as she whispered, "Move."
Sweetie lowered her head slightly, narrowing her eyes as she responded, "No."
Scootaloo's bloodshot eyes narrowed as well as she hissed, "Move...."
Sweetie smirked slightly, saying in a mocking tone, "Make me."
Scootaloo roared as she shot at Sweetie, only to be shoved back by Applebloom, who had quickly moved between the two with outstretched hooves.
"Y'all got apples fer brains?" She shouted, casting each of them a quick look of disappointment. "Ah know you two. Ah know that both y'all won't let no pony tell ya what fer. But listen here when I tell ya that y'all have no good reason fer fightin'." She turned to Scootaloo, her expression softening. "Scoots, ah know it's none o' mah business, but I have t' ask. What's eatin' ya?"
Scootaloo pawed the floor, gazing down with an embarrassed expression. "It's....I....I don't want to talk about it..."
Applebloom nodded, respectfully saying, "Very well. You're free t' go, thanks fer comin'."
Scootaloo looked up, an unusual apologetic look on her face. "Thanks for having me, Applebloom....and sorry about your nose, Sweetie Belle."
Sweetie Belle waved a dismissive hoof at the apology, but put a ginger hoof to her nose nonetheless. Scootaloo walked through the door, glancing back ruefully, then dashed down the hall. Sweetie Belle sighed as the pegasus took off, smiling at Applebloom. "Thanks, Applebloom. I didn't mean to start up a fight with her."
Applebloom watched Scootaloo as she left, then put a hoof to her chin, asking, "What ya' reckon she's so upset o'er?"
Sweetie shrugged, answering, "Don't know. I've never seen anypony get that riled up by a bad dream. No telling what it could have been about."
Applebloom furrowed her brow, walking out into the hall. "Yeah, ah guess." She seemed to think for a moment longer, then shook her head, a tired smile on her lips. "Well, ah'm famished. Let's get somethin' t' eat!"
Sweetie Belle nodded, her smile broadening as she followed behind Applebloom, her mood now a bit cheerier with the promise of food in her belly.
This oddly pleasant morning seems to be putting a bright and shining smile on just about everypony's face, as if to match the radiance of dawn. It can't be explained, but today is just a day to love life and be happy. No reason to question bliss, right? Reasoned a light magenta unicorn that stood atop a hill, her horn held to the sky and crackling with an electric blue aura. Waves of magical energy pulsed from its tip, dissipating quickly as they shot from the horn.
She held the spell for a moment longer, until an impatient unicorn of faded lavender stomped his hoof, shouting up at her, "We need only relax the residents! There's no need to send them all into euphoria!"
The magenta unicorn halted her spell, sighing and dropping her head. It was exhausting to cover such a radius with an Emotion Spell, but she still had enough vigor left to shout back, "Calm yourself, Opulent. Wouldn't want to blow another blood vessel, would you?"
The stallion growled, shouting back at her, "You know such a thing is a flaw of my heredity!"
The magenta unicorn raised her head, glancing to the already fuming stallion with a wry smile. "What? Your short temper? Yeah, I knew that."
The now red-faced stallion snorted, his horn glowing with a glimmering verdant aura, then inhaled shakily, exhaling to calm himself. The emerald aura surrounded the mare atop the hill as she was yanked off her hooves and began hovering back toward a tall, luxurious carriage that awaited their return.
With a significant lack of gentleness, Opulent Majesty set the magenta mare on her seat within the vehicle, muttering under his breath, "If it wouldn't provoke a fuss out of Silver, I'd skewer her!" He trotted back to the open carriage door, stepping inside hurriedly and slamming it with a quick motion of magic. He took his seat, shooting the magenta unicorn a fiery golden glare, then tapped a hoof against the carriage wall behind him, sending the group down the bumpy road once more.
Another unicorn stallion, his coat a lustrous gray, grinned at Opulent, saying, "Now, Opulent Majesty, you must learn to be patient. Patsy Craft needed generous time in order to properly execute her spell. Was it really right to rush her like that?"
Opulent Majesty glanced spitefully to Patsy Craft, the magenta mare tossing about her medium length electric blue mane with a flick of the head. Opulent blinked, scowling, and turned his attention back to the silver stallion. He sighed, horn now glowing, his monocle hovering before him as he rubbed his eyes with his hooves. "Silver, you must understand that time is money. And I don't appreciate wasting either." He lowered his hooves, a previously pocketed handkerchief, now surrounded by his emerald aura, moving to meet and polish the eyepiece.
"Oh, Opulent Majesty, you think so much like your father!" Silver Gleam chimed, earning him a cross look from the golden eyed unicorn. "So impatient, always working to keep up a schedule! After last year's banquet, I can honestly say I feel like I've known him all my life."
Opulent rolled his eyes, saying in a slightly annoyed tone, "He's thirty-six years your senior, Silver. It's one thing that your own father is so chummy with... him." He seemed to utter the concluding word with a touch of venom. "But, it's a little odd for you to be socializing and becoming friendly with anyone that much older than you." He replaced the handkerchief and monocle, glancing back to Patsy Craft, who sat gazing out of the open window tiredly.
Silver waved a dismissive hoof, still smiling warmly. "Nonsense! Age is irrelevant to friendship!" Opulent Majesty absently blew away a tuft of mane that had fallen to his face, then cleared his throat and turned to his own window, shouting, "Pick up the pace! I'd like to arrive before nightfall!" The carriage picked up speed at his command, Opulent's sour expression becoming neutral. "....better." He said, more to himself than the pair of earth ponies that towed their carriage.
Patsy Craft, still lazily scanning the horizon, quietly said, "Just because those two aren't going to disobey you doesn't mean you need to work them harder. Can't you just enjoy the view and relax a little?"
Opulent Majesty glanced inquisitively to the two mares to his right; Patsy, and one of a cerulean coat and aqua blue mane. The latter had her hooves perched on the window seal, her mane dancing in the wind as she gazed down the road, an excited beam on her usually meek and innocent face. Opulent turned his gaze back to his own window, his expression now sour again. "No. I enjoy nothing while on the job. And I don't relax. Ever." The rhythm of trembles that Opulent had accustomed himself to was suddenly broken as the four were given a brief second of unexpected airtime. Silver and Patsy giggled at the sudden shock, the cerulean pony didn't seem to notice as she kept her focus on the road ahead, and Opulent groaned at the sudden start. I knew I should have come alone. I don't care what strength we have as a team. These imbeciles will clearly get in the way of me, the only one who seems to be taking this mission seriously! He kept his thoughts to himself, however, as their carriage rolled on toward Ponyville, the last stop on their lengthy and arduous journey.