The rolling hills on the outskirts of Ponyville slowly lit up with the light of the sun, and a peculiar grey figure slowly made its way across the tall swaying grass. The sun did not show itself over the mountains, even more, the horizon behind the mountains, the edge of the light of day just barely peaking onto Equestria’s landscape. Though the radiant glow of the sun only just appeared over the mountains, Ponyville seemed to shimmer in the light of the torches lit around the town. The town of ponies glistened with a sharp twinkle every now and then, the light rainfall that had come over Ponyville still having yet to dry. The clouds that had blocked out the nocturnal sky the night before slowly cleared out of the morning’s light, the pegasi in Ponyville awaking bright and early to clear the clouds they had set up the night before. However, Ponyville was not as peaceful as it seemed. In the darkest hours of the night before, a terrible discovery made Sweet Apple Acres sink into a depression.
Applebloom was the first to find that Applejack had gone missing from the house on Sweet Apple Acres, and soon enough, almost the whole guard system set around Ponyville knew. The next few hours were filled with bickering from an old cooky mare on the path to Sweet Apple Acres, the guard around Ponyville having to sit and listen to her. Yet, they felt as if they deserved it. Another mare had gone missing from Ponyville, and as the news spread throughout Ponyville through the night, Twilight Sparkle’s thoughts about her theory had been completed. She knew that whoever was taking the mares was going after the wielders of the Elements of Harmony, and she would rather give up her love for books than see the only remaining close friend she had disappear without a trace. With a few scolds from Twilight Sparkle herself and a lecture from Celestia, who had been called to Ponyville on the grounds of ponies being foalnapped, the guard around Ponyville was gone, only to be replaced by a more dedicated group: The Equestrian Military. Within a night, numerous small squads of Equestrian soldiers set up posts around the edges of Ponyville and a few posts within Ponyville, keeping a watchful eye out for any intruders. Armed with weaponry that had never been released to the citizens of Equestria due to possible hazards, the Equestrian Military roamed the streets in solid grey uniforms with a yellow and orange pendant shaped like the sun in their collars. Permission coming from Celestia herself, Shining Armor stayed in Ponyville for the time being, the responsibilities of rank of captain in the royal guard transferring to another high rank guard for the time being. With the capture of one single mare and the confirmation of a single idea, Ponyville was on full alert.
Augury crawled his way up the hills outside of Ponyville, coming to a stop on his stomach at the peak of one of the bigger hills. The changeling stared at Ponyville in the distance for a short amount of time, and his eyes became wide as he noticed the uniforms on the ponies staring at the outskirts o Ponyville.
“Equestrian Military? What in Equestria made them get involved with this!?” Augury questioned shockingly out loud. “I guess Chrysalis was right, for once. It looks like security has escalated more than I thought it would. But still, the military!? I know they think there’s a foalnapper on the loose, but I don’t think the military would get involved with that. Unless... the ponies figured out the pattern in the disappearances of the mares. If the military has gotten involved... I think they might have. Damn it, looks like I’m going to have to be more careful now. Well, here goes nothing. Wish me luck.” Augury scooted his way back down the side of the hill and changed his form as quickly as he could, a pale pink mare emerging from the dark blue flames. Serenity brushed her coat off and stood up from the hills, swallowed nervously, and began to walk towards Ponyville. Almost the instant Serenity had appeared, the Equestrian soldiers within Ponyville began to walk quickly along the outskirts of Ponyville, a large line of approximately twenty soldiers led by a white unicorn walking towards the pale pink mare walking over the hills. As Serenity came within yelling distance of Ponyville, the line of soldiers had made their way into the hills, the white unicorn at the head of the group of soldiers staring at Serenity angrily. Serenity continued to walk, however, the soldiers out in front of her standing almost twenty feet away from her.
“Halt!” The white unicorn shouted. Serenity jumped slightly and stopped in her tracks, feeling a small drop of sweat run down the side of her face. The white unicorn in front of the Equestrian soldiers slowly took off his helmet, letting his striped blue mane flow freely in the breeze rushing through the hills. Serenity looked past the soldier standing out in front of her, a large group of civilian ponies already gathered at the edge of Ponyville, watching the small situation in the hills visible from the town.
“You are trespassing on secured land of Equestria for the time being. Identify yourself.” Shining Armor said sternly. Serenity felt another drop of sweat run down her face as the unicorn soldiers behind Shining Armor withdrew swords slung around their bodies slightly, the blades just barely showing from their sheathes.
Serenity swallowed nervously. “My- my name is Serenity. I m-moved here to Ponyville a few days ago.” Serenity said slowly.
Shining Armor squinted his eyes suspiciously. “Where are you coming from right now?”
“Uh... Trottingham. My carriage dropped me off a while back in the hills.”
“Then you should know that Ponyville is locked down for the time being. The Equestrian Military sent out messages to the other towns that there is a threat on Ponyville, and the town is off limits to any outsiders for now.”
Serenity grew tense as the soldiers behind Shining Armor withdrew their swords even further. “I... uh... well-”
“Wait!” A familiar voice called out from Ponyville.
Shining Armor quickly turned his head to face the owner of the voice. “Twilight! Get back, you’re not safe out here!” Shining Armor demanded.
Twilight kept quiet as she ran across the hills outside of Ponyville, forcing her way between two of the soldiers in the line behind Shining Armor as she came close. “She’s not the foalnapper! I know who she is, she wouldn’t do this!” Twilight pleaded as she slid to a stop at her brother’s side.
Shining Armor quickly glanced at Serenity, the pale pink mare shaking slightly. “How do you know this? How can you be sure?”
“Have I ever lied to you? Trust me, Shining, I know she can’t be the foalnapper. Please, just let me handle her.”
Shining Armor recollected his thoughts for a second, letting out a small sigh as he made up his mind. “Alright. You are sure that this isn’t the foalnapper?”
Twilight turned her head to Serenity and smiled. “I know she isn’t.”
Shining Armor quickly put his helmet back on. “Then do what you will. Just, be careful, sis.”
Twilight quickly hugged her brother and walked over to Serenity, the pale pink mare sighing with relief as she heard the soldiers sheath their swords completely.
Twilight smiled as she came face to face with Serenity. “Are you alright? They didn’t hurt you or anything?” Twilight asked.
“No, I’m fine. They just asked me a few questions.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that. My brother can get a little protective of me when it comes to danger.”
Serenity looked past Twilight, watching as Shining Armor and the group of soldiers made their way back to Ponyville. “The white unicorn? He’s your brother?”
“Shining Armor, mhmm. He’s here helping out with the guard duty in Ponyville. Honestly, I think he’s just here to make sure I’m safe. But, anyways, come on back to Ponyville.” Twilight motioned her hoof for Serenity to follow as she began to walk back to Ponyville, the pale pink mare following beside her. The group that had gathered at the edge of Ponyville had dispersed abruptly as the group of soldiers entered back into the town’s boundaries, the ponies continuing their day.
“So, what happened while I was gone? Somepony else disappear?” Serenity asked.
“Yeah... Applejack. Just last night, too. I should have known that the foalnapper was going after us, but I didn’t have enough evidence. I was too late... and now Applejack is gone because of me.”
“Hey, come on, it’s not your fault. You were uncertain about something and there wasn’t enough to go off of, there’s no blame on you.”
“I guess... but I still feel awful. I just feel like this could have been stopped sooner.”
“Don’t worry Twilight, I’m sure the Equestrian military will put up a good watch around Ponyville.” Serenity, only trying to comfort Twilight, had a feeling that what she was saying would be true.
“I hope they do. I’m still angry at the old watch around Ponyville.”
“What happened to the ponies that were put around Ponyville before?”
“I don’t know, Celestia dealt with them. It’s amazing how in just one night Celestia can replace one guard watch with a larger and, probably, more efficient guard.”
Serenity and Twilight stopped walking at the edge of Ponyville, the sounds of the town of ponies barely making their way to Twilight and Serenity’s ears. “What made her do that?”
Twilight scratched the back of her head. “Well, right now, it’s more of large suspicion than a known fact, but with Applejack’s capture last night, I feel as if it’s what is actually happening.”
“I think that whoever this foalnapper is, they’re going after the Elements of Harmony. More so, the wielders.”
Serenity suddenly felt her body go tense. “R- Really? What, uh, what would make you think that?”
“It’s not that hard to figure out. First Rarity, then Pinkie and Fluttershy, and now Applejack! My four friends and four of the Spirits of Harmony... gone. Celestia thinks I’m right, too, but the military seems to think of it as a joke. All they care about is being able to use their new weaponry, they don’t care about the ponies they’re going to protect.”
Serenity felt her legs shaking slightly, but quickly held them steady. “New... weaponry? What would that be?”
“I’m not sure, but from speculation around Ponyville lately, I think it might be some sort of ‘magic synthesizer’.”
“A catalyst of some sort, made from some sort of magic source. It holds the power to manipulate magic, even if you are not a unicorn. I spoke with one of the soldiers earlier, and he said that the military wasn’t issuing out to the public because of safety issues, with magic being accessible to everypony, and all.”
“Really? What would... these magic synthesizers look like?”
“The soldier I talked to showed me, but he didn’t demonstrate it. It’s on the tip of the handle of the swords they have. It looks like a unicorn horn, but I think that’s just for design or something.”
“Yeah, I just wish the military would act like there’s an actual issue going on. They’ve just been walking around Ponyville doing nothing. Celestia sent a group of soldiers to look after Rainbow Dash, but I think Rainbow just went to her house. There was supposed to be a group looking after me, but Shining Armor is going to be sticking with me at the library, so he just told the soldiers to go watch the rest of town.”
“He seems to be a bit protective.”
“Well, I don’t think its being protective, just making sure himself that I’m safe himself.”
“So... being protective.”
“Well- I-... I don’t know. He’s my brother, what would you expect?”
Serenity shook her head. “Nothing. But, it was nice talking to you, Twilight. I have to go deal with some things at the Ponyville hotel, so I got to run. See ya.”
“Okay. See you later, Serenity.” Twilight waved as the pale pink mare began to walk away, Serenity waving back to the lavender unicorn behind her.
Serenity let out a sigh as she got far enough from Twilight, coming to a stop and putting a hoof up to her face as she turned the corner around a building. “This might be a little harder than I thought. Security is even tighter than it looked like from the hills. Hopefully Twilight was right about Rainbow losing the group of soldiers, I’m going to need any help I can get in trying to capture her.” Serenity muttered to herself.
“Excuse me, miss, are you alright? You’ve been standing there holding your face for a little while.” A deep voice spoke.
Serenity slid her hoof off of her face and quickly turned around, her eyes becoming wide at who was standing behind her. “Oh! Uh, Frost! What are- what are you doing here?”
Frost smiled weakly. “I live here. You’re in front of my house.”
Serenity laughed nervously and rubbed the back of her neck. “Oh, uh, right. Sorry about that.”
“It’s fine. Are you doing okay? You seem to be a having a little dilemma right outside of my window.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m good.” Serenity squinted at Frost for a small moment. “Wait a second, ‘for a while’? How long have you been watching me here?”
Frost quickly sunk his head down into his shoulders and his face became slightly red, the icy blue stallion adverting his eyes to the rest of Ponyville. “I- uh- well, you see- I was just... making sure that you were... okay! I didn’t want to budge into your thoughts or anything... so I just stood back in my... house for a little bit... yeah.”
Serenity stared at Frost with wide eyes. “Oh dear Celestia, no. Does... does he... like Serenity?” Serenity thought to herself.
Frost turned his eyes back to Serenity, the stallion becoming even more uncomfortable with the expression on the pale pink mare’s face. “I- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare. I just didn’t want to get in the way of anything, you see.” Frost explained.
Serenity snapped back from her thoughts as Frost spoke. “Oh, right. Uh, thank you Frost, for worrying about me, but I have to deal with some things at the hotel and... do some shopping afterwords.”
Frost quickly perked up in his stature. “Would you... like some help with carrying your groceries? I’m free for the day, so I can help you with anything that you need.”
“Listen, Frost, I’m fine. Thank you for the offer though.” Serenity began to walk further into Ponyville.
“Serenity! Are- are you sure you don’t need help?” Frost called out, stretching a hoof out lightly towards the mare walking away from him
“I’m sure, Frost.” Serenity called out, turning her head to her side. “I’ll see you around!”
Frost’s ears fell limp against his head as Serenity quickly ran off into Ponyville, the small smile that he had on his face curving into a frown. “Dang. ‘Making sure you are okay?’ By staring at her from inside your house!? Frost, you idiot! I should...” Frost continued to mumble to himself as he walked slowly back to his house, slamming the door behind him gently as he walked into his home.
Serenity let out a sigh as she watched the door of Frost’s house close, the pale pink mare walking away from the building she peaked around. “Thank Celestia that’s over. Damn it! I might need a new form now. Frost isn’t going to be leaving Serenity alone for a while. Maybe I can stick with Serenity for a little longer. At least until Twilight is captured.” Serenity stopped in her tracks in the Ponyville town square and looked up towards the sky. A bolt of rainbow shot across the blue abyss above Equestria, the last of the clouds that had been above Ponyville clearing as Rainbow Dash finished up her work.
Serenity sighed lightly. “Right. I’m going to have to get Rainbow before I head for Twilight. Well, Rainbow Dash, looks like Twilight is going to be paying a short visit to your house later tonight. Hopefully the military doesn’t notice...” Serenity tilted her head back towards the ground, beginning her aimless journey through Ponyville as she waited for nightfall. Rainbow Dash would have to get some sleep at some point.
“But- Miss Dash! We were told to keep with you! Where are you going!?” A soldier shouted as she ran along the dusk roads of Ponyville, following a rainbow maned pegasus as she flew through the air slowly.
“Uh... take the night off! I’ll be fine!” Rainbow Dash yelled.
“Rainbow Dash! It’s not safe!” The soldier continued to shout, but her pleads were only followed by a whistle of air as Rainbow shot across the sky. Realizing it was useless as Rainbow flew out of sight, the soldier slowly came to a stop in the middle of the Ponyville streets. “Oh... what’s the use. She’s not going to stop.”
Rainbow let out a small sigh as she felt the relief of not being followed around constantly soak into her. Despite the danger that lurked around Ponyville with a foalnapper on the loose, Rainbow figured that whoever it was would be no match for the fastest pegasus in Equestria. That is, if they could even reach her home in the clouds. With the majority of the Equestrian military being unicorns and earth ponies, most of the pegasi units would have to be reserved in case of other emergencies around Equestria, so Rainbow Dash’s house was out of the question for protection from the inside. Even if the ten pegasi units stationed in Ponyville wanted to keep a safe eye on Rainbow Dash in her home, they would be abandoning their post in the sky above central Ponyville.
The rainbow maned pegasus flying above Ponyville smiled as she saw her home in the clouds enter her line of sight. The structure of clouds floating above the ground seemed safe from Rainbow’s perspective, no sign of anypony in or outside of her home. In the distance, Ponyville slowly illuminated with small and large spotlights along the roads, most of them originating from the library. Rainbow shook her head at the sight and slowly slowed herself down as she came close to her home. Returning to her house in the sky just before night wasn’t a foreign feeling to Rainbow Dash lately. The disappearance of her friends had taken its toll on the usually boastful pegasus, and the only things that seemed to bring her comfort were spending time with her friends, that weren’t gone, and flying aimlessly with nothing but her thoughts. Rainbow had felt herself lose part of what she used to be, and with Twilight always trying to coax the rainbow maned pegasus to try and set her mind off of what was happening, Rainbow Dash only felt more isolated.
Rainbow sneered at no one in particular and kicked open the cloud that made the door to her room. “What does she know?” Rainbow spat as she trotted over to her bed. “She doesn’t know what I feel...” The pale blue pegasus let out a frustrated sigh and rolled onto her bed, staring up at the ceiling of her bedroom.
“On the contrary, Rainbow Dash, I know what you’re going through.” A subtle mare’s voice spoke. Rainbow quickly sat up in her bed and snapped her gaze into a dark corner of her room.
Rainbow sighed with slight relief as she identified who the mare was, letting her wings rest at her sides again. “Twilight? What... uh, what are you doing up here, in my house?” Rainbow asked as the lavender unicorn stepped out of the darkness within the corner.
Twilight Sparkle stopped at the hoof of Rainbow’s bed, Rainbow Dash sitting upright. Twilight’s face had a remorseful tint to it. “I figured that it would be a nice change to spend some time with my friend, you know, before we’re gone.” Twilight spoke softly.
Rainbow lifted a hoof up to her head and scratched it lightly. “What are you talking about? Before we’re gone?”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Come on, Twilight, you know the military has an eye on Ponyville. Besides, out of the all of the ponies, I would expect you to have a little faith in Shining Armor. He’s your brother after all. He came here to protect you, remember?”
Twilight adverted her eyes to the ground and rubbed her left leg with her hoof. “I know, but I can’t help thinking that something is going to happen soon. You know...” Twilight shyly turned her eyes to Rainbow Dash.
The pale blue pegasus smiled lightly and patted Twilight on the head. “Don’t worry, Twilight, they aren’t going to get me without a fight.”
Twilight Sparkle smiled weakly and pushed Rainbow’s hoof off of her head. “I guess you’re right. There’s really no one-” Twilight cut her sentence off short as she heard the sound of hoofsteps land on the clouds outside of Rainbow’s bedroom. Rainbow leaned her head outwards to see who had come to her home, but soon found her eye’s opening with shock as the pegasus that had landed on the clouds walked into her bedroom.
Rainbow Dash looked up from her coat as she walked through the doorway, running her hoof through her mane and whipping off the last tuft of clouds sticking to her. The rainbow maned pegasus smiled as she saw Twilight sitting in front of her bed. “Hey Twilight. What are you doing here? And who’s your friend-” Rainbow Dash came to a stop in mid-step as she recognized the pegasus sitting on her bed, a storm of confusion striking into her head. The Rainbow Dash on Twilight’s bed stared at her double silently, and the Rainbow Dash standing on the floor only returned the silent gaze.
The Rainbow Dash on Twilight’s bed quickly pointed her hoof out in front of Twilight and shouted. “Twilight, get her! It’s- it’s an impostor! That’s the foalnapper!”
Twilight growled suddenly and leapt up onto her hooves, charging a spell within her horn as she charged at the Rainbow Dash standing away from her.
The Rainbow Dash standing quickly lifted her front hooves up in the air and leaned backwards. “Wait, Twilight! I’m not-” Rainbow finished her sentence with a puff of air as Twilight tackled her, the lavender unicorn trapping Rainbow’s wings and legs under her hooves.
Twilight stared at her capture angrily. “You’re not taking either of us! Let’s get rid of that disguise!” Twilight yelled. The spell in Twilight’s horn burst out into a purple beam as wide as Rainbow Dash, running down the rainbow maned pegasus from head to hoof. Twilight smiled as she tilted her head up from Rainbow’s hooves, but got a different result than she had originally expected. The same Rainbow Dash stared up at Twilight with a weak frown, the lavender unicorn gasping as she realized what was happening.
“Fool!” A stallion’s voice rung from behind Twilight, followed by the sound of galloping shortly after. As quickly as she could, Twilight whipped herself around, but only found a dark grey leg intercept her neck. The grey stallion carried the lavender unicorn with him over to the wall of Rainbow Dash’s room and slammed Twilight into the wall, Twilight feeling the air in her lungs rush away almost instantly. The stallion let go of Twilight and she fell to the floor, gasping for air as she reached for Rainbow Dash, who was still dazed by the spell Twilight had used on her. Though her vision was blurry from the impact, Twilight could see a dark figure slowly walk over to Rainbow Dash, followed by a ray of dark blue light shooting from the figure’s head to Rainbow’s. The pegasus on the floor quickly fell limp and the dark figure turned his head towards Twilight. The dark figure reached down to Twilight and picked her up with his front hooves, pushing her against the wall upright with her legs trapped under his. To dazed to even see clearly, Twilight couldn’t cast a magic bullet if she wanted to.
The dark figure spoke in a relaxed voice, as if trying to comfort himself. “You don’t have to worry about Rainbow Dash, Twilight. She’s going to be fine. If all goes well, for me, you’ll be with her soon enough, along with your other friends. Please, just make this easy for yourself, don’t resist when I come for you.” The dark figure turned his head to his right, and through her muffled hearing, Twilight could hear the sound of multiple hoof steps running on the path below Rainbow’s house, along with multiple voices yelling hurriedly.
The dark figure turned his head back to Twilight and muttered to himself. “I’m not going to be able to get away quick enough with two mares. Looks like she’s going to have to stay here.”
Twilight’s vision slowly cleared and the dazed feeling in her was wiped away. The lavender unicorn fixed her eyes on the dark figure in front of her, and she froze with fear at the sight of what was holding her. “A... a... changeling?” Twilight whispered to herself.
Augury’s horn glowed with a dark blue aura. “Sh, don’t talk. Just go to sleep. It’s bad enough that I lost control on Rainbow’s form. Hopefully they won’t believe you, they’ll just think you’re delusional from the spell.” The spell in Augury’s horn released and rushed to Twilight’s head in a beam. The spell slowly faded and Twilight was left in Augury’s hooves, her eyes closed and her mind drifted off into sleep.
“There.” Augury said quietly, and walked quickly over to Rainbow Dash, who still remained in slumber. Augury picked Rainbow up and held her on his back with magic, the changeling quickly spreading his wings and dashing through the clouds that made the roof of Rainbow Dash’s house. Augury used the dark of the late dusk sky to cover his movements, the group of soldiers below Rainbow’s house none the wiser as they contemplated how to get into the house of clouds. The changeling in the sky stopped himself a few hundred feet above Ponyville, watching as the soldiers deeper into the town quickly ran to the outskirts of Ponyville where Rainbow’s home resided.
Augury sighed lightly and adjusted Rainbow Dash on his back. “One more to go. You’ll be free soon, Quil. Nothing is going to stop me from making sure you get out of that cocoon... nothing.”