Luna stood outside her sister’s bedroom doors, pawing nervously at the ground with a hoof. “Tia, you sent for me?” she called, using a more familiar tone for her own family.
“Yes, come in,” Celestia’s regal voice came from the other side. Luna nudged the doors open and slipped inside. “Good morning, Luna.”
“Good morning. What did you wish to see me about?” Celestia’s room was darker than usual. All of the windows were blocked with heavy drapes. Celestia stood behind an old wooden desk, a grim frown on her face.
“I wanted to talk to you about Nightmare Night.”
Luna blinked in surprise. Nightmare Night? That had been months ago. Or maybe she wanted to prepare for next year. Still, it was much too early for that. “Oh?”
“I received complaints from many ponies about your actions. They said you flew around town terrorizing their children.”
“What? No, the citizens of Ponyville loved me. Why would they say such things?”
“They also claimed that you took the form of Nightmare Moon.”
“They complained about that? B-but the loved me! I only did it because they wished to be scared. Why would they do this to me?”
“So you were terrorizing them?”
“No! They wished for it. They...” Luna trailed off as Celestia slid a drawer open in her desk. Her horn glowed with a golden light and five necklaces floated into the air, followed by a jeweled tiara.
“Tia, what are you doing with the Elements of Harmony?” Luna asked, the first notes of panic creeping into her voice.
Celestia smiled at her, a mad glint in her eye. “I’m sorry Nightmare Moon. We can’t take any risks.”
“Sister, what are you saying?” Luna fell back in fear as the elements blazed with a blinding rainbow colored flash. Luna ducked her head as a deafening boom shook the mountain to its very core. The light converged into a beam and shot toward the younger princess.
Luna jerked awake and tipped precariously over the side of her bed. She flailed in vain as the bedding slipped and she fell heavily to the ground.
A few minutes passed as she caught her breath on the cold hardwood. “Just a dream,” she finally murmured. “Of course it was. Celestia wouldn’t do that to me.
Ponies screamed in terror as Spike tiptoed through downtown Ponyville. As carefully as he moved, at least one innocent vegetable cart splintered beneath his massive foot.
“Spike!” He looked down to see Twilight. She seemed like nothing more than a purple smudge on the road. He crouched down for a better view.
“Spike, what are you doing here?” Twilight’s voice, normally a soothing melody, was now strained with angry shouting.
Spike frowned. It should have been obvious. He came to see his friends.
“Spike, we told you already, you can’t come to Ponyville. You cause too much trouble.”
Spike frowned, looking at the trail of destruction he’d left during his afternoon stroll.
“Is that my Spikey Wikey?” He turned in the direction of the new voice. Rarity waved as she walked toward him. At least somepony was happy to see him.
“Oh Spike, it’s been much too long. We simply must catch up.” Rarity waved behind her and a white colt joined her out on the street. “Let me introduce you to my husband.”
Spike drew back in shock, tail driving through somepony’s front door.
“Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t invite you to the wedding, but we didn’t want the chapel destroyed. You understand, right?”
“Spike!” Twilight called up to him angrily. “You need to go now. You’re causing too much trouble.”
“What’s the big idea?” Pinkie Pie’s voice shouted behind him. He turned so see her looking out the window of the house he’d just damaged.
“Hey, move it!” Rainbow Dash shouted into his ear. “You’re blocking a major weather route.”
“Spike!” Twilight called again.
“Spike!” Pinkie Pie shouted.
“Spike, wake up!” Spike gasped and bolted upright.
“Gah!” Twilight stumbled backwards and tripped over a stray book, landing in the middle of the bedroom flat on her rump. She took a second to compose herself. “Good, you’re awake. I have to go into town today, and there’s a couple of chores I’d like you to do for me.”
“Thanks. First, I... wait, what?”
Spike jumped up and turned toward the door without another word.
He didn’t answer as he descended the stairs and made for the front door.
“Are you sure about this?” Gilda whispered under her breath as she walked toward Ponyville’s park. Her tail twitched nervously under the hostile stares being thrown in her direction. Apparently the ponies hadn’t forgotten her last visit.
Of course. You’re never going patch things up with Rainbow Dash if you don’t even talk to her.
“No, not that. That.” She tilted her head toward the orange filly walking beside her.
“It’s so cool you and Rainbow Dash went to flight camp together!” Scootaloo chatted happily. “I didn’t even know they let griffons into pony flight camps. Were there any other griffons?”
“No, just me,” Gilda answered with exaggerated frustration. The hint went unnoticed by Scootaloo, who kept up her constant stream of dialogue.
Rainbow Dash is teaching her to fly. Walking with her gives you a chance to talk.
“Look, there she is,” Scootaloo said, pointing to a familiar blue blur flying laps around the park.
“Great,” Gilda sighed. “Well, let’s get this over with.”
As the drew closer, Dash banked and touched down a few dozen yards ahead of them. She watched them approach, eyes narrowed at Gilda suspiciously.
“Hey Rainbow Dash!” Scootaloo chirped.
“Hey, Dash,” Gilda said.
“Hey Pipsqueak,” Dash answered. “How about you start today with two laps around the pond to warm up.”
“Okay!” Scootaloo nodded eagerly and started down the small hoofpath toward the east side of the park. After she was past Dash, she glanced back briefly and mouthed “Good luck” to Gilda.
“Remember to stretch first. Your wing muscles aren’t used to constant work.”
“Okay.” Scootaloo couldn’t help but smile as she reached the shore and spread her wings, running them through a series of simple stretches Dash had taught her. “Do you think it’ll work?”
That’s up to them, Discord said.
“I’m glad we get to help them. When you told me about the elements, I thought we’d have to find a bunch of really bad ponies and do all kinds of dangerous things.”
Yes, it feels good to help two ponies patch up an old friendship, doesn’t it?
“Who are you talking too?”
Scootaloo froze mid-stretch.
“Probably her imaginary friend, since she doesn’t have any real ones.” The familiar voices laughed together.
Scootaloo turned to them. “Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon. What are you doing out here? I thought witches hated the sun.”
“Psh, how long have you been waiting to use that one, Blank Flank?” Diamond Tiara asked.
Scootaloo rolled her eyes and went back to stretching.
“So what are you doing?” Silver Spoon asked.
“Warming up for my flying lessons with Rainbow Dash.” Scootaloo allowed herself a smug smile. “Yeah, the fastest pegasus in Equestria is teaching me to fly.”
She waited for their smiles to falter, being replaced with looks of shock and envy. Instead, they broke into laughter again.
“Wait, really?” Diamond Tiara sneered. “Flying lessons? Aren’t you too old for something like that?”
“Well, different ponies learn at different speeds,” Scootaloo said defensively.
“So you’re slow and a blank flank.”
“What? No, I’m not slow. I just haven’t learned yet.”
Diamond Tiara laughed again. “Come on Silver Spoon, we wouldn’t want to interrupt her lessons. Maybe she’ll get it by the time we graduate.”
Scootaloo’s wings drooped as she watched them go.
Oh, don’t listen to them, Scootaloo. It isn’t your fault. They couldn’t make it through half of what you have.
“Yeah... I guess you’re right.” Done with her stretches, Scootaloo took a deep breath and started flapping her wings in a steady rhythm, just like Dash taught her.
“What are you doing here, G?” Dash asked curtly.
“What? It’s a free country. Can’t a griffon take a walk through the park?”
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s all you were doing,” Dash spat back. “Seriously, what are you doing back in Ponyville? Haven’t you caused enough trouble already?”
Gilda clenched her beak, talons digging into the grass. “Fine. You want me gone, I’m gone.”
“Fine,” Dash snapped.
Dash spun away and stomped down the path toward the pond.
“Well that was a bust,” Gilda half growled.
Now, now. Don’t give up just yet. I have one last trick up my sleeve.
Yes. It’s a very complicated and dangerous plan, but it just might work.
“Well, what is it?”
Walk up to her and apologize. You called her lame the last time you met, remember? You insulted her and all of her friends.
“Hey, her friends deserved it. I’ve never met a bigger bunch of lame-Os in my life.”
That’s beside the point. You can deal with her bad taste in friends later, but only if you keep her from walking away.
Gilda tore two long furrows into the grass in frustration and ran after her friend. “Dash, wait up.”
Rainbow stomped a hoof and came to a stop, not bothering to turn back. “What do you want?”
“Look, I...” Gilda faltered.
Oh, work with me here! Two words, three syllables.
Dash’s ears perked up in surprise. “What?”
“I’m sorry. I said some pretty uncool things the last time I was here, and I shouldn’t have.”
Dash turned toward her, face awash with confusion, and maybe a touch of happiness. “Really?”
“Oh. Wow, G, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you apologize to anypony.”
“Yeah, well don’t get used to it,” Gilda said, turning her head down in embarrassment.
A faint smile touched the corners of Dash’s mouth. “Look, I’ve got this lesson, but maybe we can meet up for lunch tomorrow?”
“Uh, yeah. Sounds good.”
“Alright. Well, I guess I’ll catch you later, G.”
Gilda watched her friend fly off, her own face threatening to break into a smile.
You know, I’m not usually the type to say I told you so, but I told you so.
“Yeah, yeah. So, I guess I have to help you with your lame spell. When are we doing it?”
If everything goes well, tomorrow, in Canterlot at sunrise.
Gilda nodded and then took off. A short flight later she landed near the lake beside Dash and Scootaloo. “Uh, hey guys.”
“Hi Gilda,” Scootaloo chirped.
“Hey,” Dash said curiously.
“I didn’t mean to butt in, but I noticed the pipsqueak ducking her head when she starts picking up speed.”
“Really?” Dash asked.
“Yeah. I wasn’t sure if you’d notice up close.”
“Is that bad?” Scootaloo asked, face falling at the criticism.
“It makes a curve that traps air and increases drag,” Rainbow answered. “But don’t worry, it’s easy to correct if you know to watch out for it. Nice catch G.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Gilda spread her wings to take off. “I’ll catch you later.”
“Actually, do you want to stick around?” Dash asked.
Gilda did smile that time. “Eh, I guess I could spare a few minutes. Celestia help anypony you teach by yourself.”
“Oh really? You didn’t seem to mind when I tutored you through flight camp,” Dash teased.
“Oh whatever. I totally could have aced those tests on my own.
The two friends broke into laughter. After a few moments Dash caught her breath and turned her attention back to her student, an indomitable smile on her face.
“Are you a complete moron, Discord?” Chrysalis hissed, pacing back and forth inside Carousel Boutique.
Oh Chrysie, no need for name calling.
“All the work you’ve put into finding these ponies, and you ruin it!” The changeling queen bucked out with a hind leg in fury, knocking a mannequin to the floor.
Oh don’t be so dramatic. Nothing’s ruined.
“You took our Element of Anger and helped her patch things over with her best friend. You said yourself they’re still joking and laughing in the park with the Scootaloo. We might as well use the annoying pink one at this point.”
You’ve clearly never seen Pinkie Pie angry. It’s shocking how quickly that one pony can go from one extreme to the other.
Sorry. Look, a few hours of happiness isn’t going to change her. She’s still plenty angry with everything else in Equestria, if we can win her support with this, it’s more than worth it.
“It still seems like an unnecessary risk. Couldn’t you have promised to help her after we free you?”
Our elements are a huge advantage. I don’t want to give it up after only one spell. It’s better to give them what they want now.
Chrysalis finally stopped pacing. “Fine. But what of Scootaloo? She was the first to help you, but that isn’t enough. She’ll have to willingly put on the Element of Betrayal to free you.”
Yes, I’ve been aware of that since the beginning, but thank you for pointing it out yet again.
“Hmph, I was simply saying I don’t think she’s ready to go that far. The others don’t need to know what they’re doing, or even what element they represent, but betrayal implies knowledge of your actions.”
Just leave that to me. Scootaloo will accept her place as the Element of Betrayal without any problems.
Chrysalis let out a hard sigh, but slowly nodded her head in agreement.. “Then let’s get started.” She stepped up to a table with 6 differently colored gemstones, each “borrowed” from Rarity’s own supplies.
Are you sure you have enough power?
“Yes, the white filly’s love for her sister is quite strong, and I’ve been going out to feed on others every day. I might not be able to overpower the Elements of Harmony, but if your spell works, countering them should not be impossible.”
Scootaloo strolled through Ponyville after her flying lessons, muscles aching and a bright smile on her face. The weather ponies had outdone themselves today: a perfect balance between cheery sunshine and fluffy white clouds offering shade to the ponies below.
“Huh? Oh, hi Spike,” she said as the dragon caught up to her. “Uh, you don’t look so good.”
Spike had faint circles under his eyes and his green spines seemed faded with a light grey tint. He waved his hand dismissively. “I’ve just been thinking a lot.”
Scootaloo winced as she remembered the last time they’d spoken. “You’re here to try and talk some sense into me again? Convince me that Discord is really evil?”
“Well, not exactly.”
Scootaloo stopped in her tracks, looking skeptically at Spike.
“I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days. So much that I’ve been having dreams about it. Even if I act like a pony and never go all crazy with greed again, I’m going to grow up eventually. In a couple of years, I won’t be able to get through the library door. I’ve met other dragons and didn’t like them, but I’m not always going to be able to fit in with ponies.”
Scootaloo, filled with sympathy, reached out and pulled the little dragon into a hug. “I’m sorry Spike, I never really thought of it like that.”
“Yeah. Neither did I. I just don’t know what to do. I want to take Discord up on his offer. He told me he could help if I helped free him. But I know if I did that everypony else would be in trouble. I mean, what if he beat Celestia and took over?”
Scootaloo pulled back and gave Spike a playful swat on the back of the head.
“Ah, hey! What was that for?”
“Spike, do you really think I’d help Discord if he was going to take over Equestria?” Scootaloo laughed and started walking again.
“What do you mean?” Spike asked as he followed.
“Discord doesn’t want to face the Elements of Harmony. He’ll just end up trapped in stone again. Once he repays everypony that helped him, he’s leaving Equestria.”
“Really? Do you actually believe him?” Spike stared at his claws thoughtfully. If Scootaloo was right, it would make everything so much easier. But Discord could be lying.
“Of course. He’s already been turned to stone twice. Would you want to risk a third time?”
“I guess not.”
It would solve everything, Discord whispered slowly and softly, a near silent hiss indistinguishable from Spike’s own thoughts.. If he just dissapeared, nopony would have to worry about him.
Spike slowed to a stop as he thought about it. With Discord’s help, I could have everything that I want. He could help me with Rarity. He could help me stay in Ponyville. And then he would leave. It’s a win-win for me.
Scootaloo distracted herself with a nearby flower, giving Spike time to think. Facing away from him, she didn’t see his spines grow a slightly paler shade of grey. “Okay, Scootaloo. If you’re sure he’s just going to leave, I’ll help.”
Five down, one to go, Discord thought to himself.
Rainbow Dash split from Gilda shortly after noon, having her duties as a weather-pony to attend to. As she walked toward town hall, somepony called her name.
“Rainbow!” Dash glanced up to see Twilight trotting toward her, a scroll hanging in the air by her side. “Glad I finally found you.”
“Hey Twilight. Got a couple jobs to do. Mind if we walk while we talk?” Twilight nodded and matched Rainbow’s pace. “Is that it?”
“Yeah, the response from the orphanage.” She floated it over and Dash took it. “I can’t tell you how tempting it was to take a peek.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. Like I said, it’s probably nothing.” She unfurled the scroll. “I’m sure it is, and then I can tell you and we’ll just laugh at...”
Twilight turned as he friend trailed off. “Rainbow?”
This is bad, Discord whispered.
“Uh, Rainbow Dash? What’s wrong?”
Oh Celestia, this is worse that I thought. I have to go. I...
“I have to go to Cloudsdale.”
“What?” Twilight asked. “Now? But what about your jobs?”
“Those can wait, this is important.” Without another word Dash shot into the sky, leaving nothing but a rainbow trail and a very confused unicorn.