Weeks passed as Discord gathered his strength. His magic pooled together at his core, growing brighter every day. To think, he'd almost extinguished it creating a few bowls of food. Still, if it helped in the long run, it was worth it.
He'd finally realized why he'd kept his magic. A warmth spread through his body as he thought back to the revelation. It was such a simple mistake, but they would pay for making it.
It was simply Twilight Sparkle's inexperience. The Elements of Harmony were powerful, sure, but more than that, they were symbols. She had wielded their magic like she would any other spell, she hit him with nothing but brute strength. She didn't know how to unlock the elements’ full power, and because of that, they could be beaten.
It was time he put more thought into creating elements of his own.
Scootaloo froze, her heart beating a violent rhythm against her ribs. She took a deep breath before saying, “I thought I'd imagined you.”
And the food?
Scootaloo dropped the blanket she'd been folding and glanced nervously at the stack of dishes. The Crusaders had been using them for sleepovers and lunches in the clubhouse, supposedly donated by Scootaloo’s parents.
“Then where'd you go? The last time you said anything was before Winter Wrap Up.”
I used more magic than I'd intended. I've been resting. A touch of sadness entered Discord's voice. I don't think I'll be able to help you in this state.
Scootaloo nodded sadly and reached for her blanket. She drew her hoof back as her head snapped up. “Oh no. There is no way I'm going to help free you again!”
Oh Scootaloo, don't worry your little head about something like that. You couldn't help me even if I asked you to.
“I, uh, I couldn't? But I thought last time—”
Last time the seal had already been weakened. I'm locked up tight again, with no chance of parole for the next thousand years.
“Oh. Uh, okay then,” Scootaloo said, shoulders relaxing a bit. “So if you can't help me, and you can't get free, why are you talking to me?”
Scootaloo, I thought we were friends.
“Well, we aren't,” Scootaloo said without much force. Still, she couldn’t help but remember Twilight’s words, “Everypony everywhere has a special magical connection with her friends, maybe even before she's met them.”
So what's the plan for today?
“Why do you care?”
Oh come on, Scootaloo. Do you have any idea how boring it is, being trapped in stone? Your friends are always getting into trouble and stirring up chaos. How could I not care?
“We don't stir up chaos!” Scootaloo scowled at the wall, wings coming up in an aggressive pose.
Bah, why should that offend you? Is there anything wrong with a bit of chaos to break up an otherwise boring day?
“But we don't—”
Oh you don't? What about the stampede at Fluttershy's cottage?
“That was an acci—”
How about the paint explosion? There are still a dozen ponies walking around with orange manes.
“Well yeah, but that's all small stuff. We never gave pigs wings or turned the roads into soap!” Her wings dropped a fraction of an inch. “At least not recently.”
Hahaha, oh Scootaloo, I don't mean my kind of chaos. That takes years to perfect. Your friends have their own way of spreading chaos, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Why, what kind of pony would actually be happy if everything was neat, ordered, and predictable?
“Well, Rarity and Twilight, for starters,” Scootaloo said, her wings dropping to their usual position.
And would you want to live in a world run by Rarity?
Scootaloo shivered at the thought. She finished cleaning the clubhouse and went out to her scooter. “We're going to try to find our cutie marks. Applebloom wants to try gardening, and Sweetie Belle found an old ice cream maker in Rarity's attic. After that, I'm gonna see if they want to try white water rafting.”
Sounds delightful. Have fun. And if you do find your cutie mark... Discord hesitated a moment. Well, I just hope it's a good one.
“What do you mean, a good one?”
Well, I just wouldn't want you stuck with a boring cutie mark. It's such an important thing, and everypony expects you to make a job out of it. Could you imagine finding out your special talent is cutting hair? You'd be expected to take care of everypony's manes for the rest of your life. Or worse, you could end up like your classmate, Diamond Tiara. Your special talent is wearing a fancy hat? Uh, gag! Might as well have a neon sign that says “vain” taped to your flank.
“Uh, yeah, I guess,” Scootaloo said, frowning slightly.
But I'm sure whatever you're stuck doing for the rest of your life will be worth it. Have fun.
“Ah'm telling ya, the salt wasn't supposed ta go in the ice cream,” Applebloom said, lifting her head from the floor to shoot Scootaloo a miserable glare. The three fillies sat under the shade of a large tree in the park near their school.
“But then why did we need it at all? I still think the old piece of junk is broken.”
“It wasn't that bad,” Sweetie Belle mumbled. “Maybe we should try again.”
“No!” Applebloom and Scootaloo jumped as one.
“Uh, ah mean, it's Scootaloo's turn,” Applebloom chuckled. “Ya said we should try rafting, right?”
Scootaloo nodded enthusiastically, and then frowned. For the twentieth time today, a seed of doubt crept up in the back of her mind. Is that really what you want to do for the rest of your life? “Um, actually girls, I think I'm going to head home. I'm really tired.”
“Aww,” her friends whined together.
“Well, ah guess we'll see ya tomorrow then.”
“Yeah, I'll come up with some more ideas today,” Scootaloo said over her shoulder as she trotted away.
“Sounds good. Uh, Scootaloo, that's the way make to mah house. Don't you live that way?” Applebloom asked, nodding her head over her shoulder.
“Huh, oh right! Haha, uh, that's just how tired I am.” Scootaloo reversed directions.
“So what are we going to do?” Sweetie Belle asked.
“Well, ah guess we should head back to the clubhouse and come up with some ideas of our own.”
Scootaloo groaned to herself. If they were going to the clubhouse, she had a few hours to kill. But where could she go and not risk meeting back up with the Crusaders?
How about the library?
Scootaloo flinched. “Don't sneak up on me like that.”
Discord chuckled softly. Even if the Crusaders go back out to play, they probably won't go the library. It's a public place, plenty of comfy seats, and Twilight might even make you some tea.
It was as good a place as any, so Scootaloo turned down Mane Street.
So any luck?
“No. I thought Sweetie Belle got a gardening cutie mark, but it was just dirt.”
Discord laughed again as Scootaloo reached Twilight's home and knocked on the worn wooden door.
The door swung open and Twilight stepped out. “Hello? Oh, hi Scootaloo! What brings you here?”
“I was hoping to use the library. I—” Scootaloo found herself spinning through the room, wrapped in a cocoon of purple magic.
“Haha, I knew you'd be here sooner or later!” Twilight cheered, a smile threatening to escape the borders of her face. “As soon as Rainbow Dash started coming regularly, I just knew you'd have to come see for yourself.”
“Ahhhh, Twiiiliight stooooop!” Scootaloo froze in place, fighting to keep her salty ice cream from coming back up.
“Hehe, uh, sorry,” Twilight said, setting Scootaloo back to her feet. “I guess I got carried away.”
Scootaloo wavered for a moment, but managed to keep her hooves beneath her.
“So, you're here to check out the Daring Do books then?” Twilight asked. Without waiting for an answer she pulled a book from a nearby shelf and floated it in front of Scootaloo.
“Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone?”
“Dash read the whole thing in two days. I'm sure you'll love it.” Twilight beamed at her.
“Wait, Rainbow Dash reads?” Scootaloo asked, looking up from the book in confusion.
“Oh, you mean, you didn't know?” Twilight asked. Her smile faltered.
“No. But, uh, if Rainbow Dash likes them, then they can't be bad. I guess I could give it a try.”
Twilight's smile widened again. “Do you want me to check it out for you, then?”
“Actually, mind if I hang out and read for a while?”
“Oh, not at all. Ooh, I'll make us some tea!”
The sun was beginning to set when Scootaloo made it back to the clubhouse. She had the first three Daring Do books tucked into her saddlebags and walked with the sluggish movements of a full belly. She hadn't realized how late it was getting until Twilight invited her to stay for dinner.
I always did like those books.
“They're really good,” Scootaloo agreed as she arrived at the clubhouse. “I didn't know reading could actually be interesting.”
Maybe you should get your friends to read them too. One of you could get a reading cutie mark.
Scootaloo scowled at the book she'd sat down with for a moment before tossing it aside.
Is something wrong Scootaloo?
“No,” she lied.
Oh, Scootaloo, you can talk to me. Who am I going to tell?
The sun slowly crept down the walls of the clubhouse, leaving the young filly in ever increasing darkness. Finally, Scootaloo started talking. “We always do everything together when we try to get our cutie marks. But, what are the chances of all of us having the same special talent? Eventually we'll find something that one of us enjoys, and they'll get their cutie mark.”
Isn't that the point? That's what the Crusaders are all about.
“Yeah, and as soon as it happens, we won't be the Cutie Mark Crusaders anymore. One of us won't have any reason to keep crusading, and it just won't be the same with two of us.”
Maybe you'll get lucky and be the one with the cutie mark.
Scootaloo shook her head. “Then I'd be the one left out. Hay, they might even be mad at me for getting my cutie mark without them.”
Discord let out a sad sigh. It's such a tragedy. It always is.
“Then you agree with me?” Scootaloo asked, blinking back tears.
When you've lived as long as I have, you see it a thousand times. It's heartbreaking really. Ponies say I drive friends apart, but I have nothing on time.
It happens. Ponies grow older. They notice their differences. They find new friends with common interests. It might not be so bad if your special talent wasn't stamped on your flank for the world to see.
Scootaloo looked back at her own flank. Getting their cutie marks would mean the end of their crusading, but could it really be more than that? Would it be a sign telling her friends that they all had different interests?
It's just so frustrating, seeing ponies driven apart by a simple mark. If I were in Celestia's position, I'd do away with cutie marks for good.
“Wait, what?” Scootaloo’s head jerked up in shock. “You could do that?”
Of course. That's the beauty of chaos. Nothing is set in stone. You can be anypony, do anything. It wouldn't matter what's on your flank. All that would matter is what's in your heart.
Scootaloo stared at her forehooves. “But that can't happen now that you're imprisoned.”
Discord sighed again. No. Just talking to you is as much as I can do for now.
They sat in silence for the rest of the night, until Scootaloo finally fell asleep. She had her nightmare again. She was older than Rainbow Dash. She still lived in the clubhouse, still wore her Crusader's cape, and still searched every day for what made her special. Every time she got close, a voice would whisper, “Is this what you really want?” Her friends watched her, laughing and calling her a blank flank.
Sweetie Belle walked home for the night, singing a soft lullaby to herself. She didn't sing often, in case somepony heard and started laughing, but she was alone now. At least, she thought so.
“Hello Sweetie Belle.”
Her eyes snapped open as Fluttershy landed in front of her. “Oh, hi Fluttershy.”
“What were you singing?”
“Uh,” Sweetie Belle giggled nervously. “You heard that? It was just something I made up.”
“Well, it sounded lovely.”
“It... it did?” Sweetie Belle asked.
Fluttershy nodded. “Well, I'll see you later.”
“Ok, bye then.”
As Fluttershy turned to walk away, the hair on the back of her neck stood up. She hardly noticed the whispered voice in her ear. She really does have a lovely singing voice. It may even be her special talent. Oh, if only somepony would teach her.
She really does have a lovely voice, Fluttershy thought. If only...
“Oh, Sweetie Belle! I just thought of something!”