Applejack stared out at the landscape that had called itself her home for over three years. She had dealt with Manehatten, but she could not call it her home. The rising sun cast light on ponies running to and fro, doing dozens of meaningless tasks, she thought bitterly. She turned to look at a mirror hanging in her room, finally sick and tired of her mane done up, fed up with measly city pony meals and how the city ponies treated her. She had stayed because she had believed her destiny to be here, and the allure of a cutie mark had kept the filly there for some time. But spending nearly four years here and not even coming close to what she was meant to do, Applejack knew there was only one thing left for her to do.
“Applejack, dear, are you coming down? Our guests are here and would love to hear your latest stories!” called Aunt Orange a little too happily.
“I’m finished with this city pony show.” Applejack grumbled. Shaking her mane out to her preferred longer state, the mare charged for the window and jumped, not even wanting to go downstairs.
A white mare with a mangled purple mane lay in a ditch, staring up at the sky. The unicorn had thought she had discovered who she was a few short years ago, but it had turned out to be a dud. The implacable rock had shattered her confidence, and the effect carried on to her dresses, which had once been elegant for a filly, became mediocre, and soon plain bad. Rarity had given up on her dreams, and had tried her hoof at dozens of tasks, her ineptness and depression combining to make her fail almost anything she tried.
“Rarity!?” came a shrill voice from above the unicorn’s head. “What are you doing in a ditch!?”
“Sweetie?” Rarity mumbled.
“Obviously! Mom and Dad have been looking all over for you. They got so anxious when you never answered any letters!”
“Letters?” Rarity asked, still dazed and motionless.
“Augh, you don’t remember anything!” Sweetie Belle yelled, causing her sister to wince. “I’m just going to get Mom and Dad and tell them to leave you here, if that’s what you want.” Sweetie Belle said before running off. Rarity paid the little filly no mind. Nothing good had happened for her in the past year, so this was nothing new. The unicorn tried to turn to block the sun from her eyes when a light blue aura surrounded her horn.
“Dumb horn.” Rarity groaned. “You didn’t do any good last time.” The magic faded before picking up again, growing enough to drag Rarity from the ditch and though the streets of Ponyville, still lying down, oblivious to the ponies she was knocking over and the things tearing through her mane and fur.
“When you’re finished alphabetizing those books, you can go to the back room and tidy that up too. You let a few colts get in there when you weren’t paying attention and there are books everywhere.” Ms. Atter continued piling demands on the tired purple unicorn. The librarian continued for several seconds before realizing Twilight’s attention had drifted and stomped her hoof.
“Twilight! Pay attention!” the elderly tan pony growled.
“Yes, yes, alphabetize colts and tidy attention everywhere, boil a rag and recalibrate the windows.” Twilight blurted before realizing what she had said.
“Twilight Sparkle! I know you are better than this. Do not fall behind on your duties, or I’m afraid you won’t be able to stay here much longer.”
Like that matters, Twilight thought. I’ve been working here for two years and haven’t heard so much as a compliment, let alone a cutie mark, she continued bitterly, not realizing she was allowing her magic to work on its own. After the failure at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, Twilight had been a bit of a wreck. Not wanting their little filly to grow up in a city that would everyday remind her of her failures, they moved to the quiet city of Ponyville and hoped it would help her. To some extent, it had. After a few years she had recouped enough to find work at the local library, although secretly the unicorn hated working for the oppressive Kyur Atter, she knew she had to make it up to her parents for her past failures.
“TWILIGHT SPARKLE!” came an enraged voice from several feet above her. She had been so deep in thought that she had let her magic control itself, and in its emotional control it had picked up Ms. Atter, several books and countless other objects in the library.
“Hehehe…” Twilight chuckled nervously, slowly allowing everything in her magical grip to the ground.
“Get out of my library you ignorant mare!” Ms. Atter yelled, not caring who heard her. She hadn’t needed to even say the words though, for the purple unicorn was already charging out of the tree library.
A quiet yellow Pegasus walked down the fluffy roads of Cloudsdale, opting to walk rather than fly like most of the other ponies. She was seen as an oddity in the clouds, but Fluttershy had preferred being an oddity talked about behind her back than ponies laughing at her for her lackluster flying.
She had done what might be called training with another pony named Rainbow Dash a few years ago, but the blue Pegasus had grown tired of the slow life in Cloudsdale, and somtime last year had left on a quest to discover who she was. Fluttershy resisted looking back at her own ‘blank flank’ as she continued down the road. The other ponies in the sky had become accustomed to the shy pony, but there was no reason to bring attention to herself.
The yellow pony slowed as she reached the large marketplace that hid in Cloudsale. Most ponies didn’t know the place existed, but many things that loved at the ground level were created in these booths and shops. Fluttershy walked through the sprawling market, losing many of her items to a faster Pegasus.
“Oh…that’s okay, I didn’t really need it.” Fluttershy muttered as another item on her list was snatched up by a flying pony. She turned to look for her next stop when she noticed a blue pony with a shock of rainbow hair walking down through the streets, her head hung low.
“Rainbow Dash?” Fluttershy said with more confidence. The blue pony may not have been able to help her fly better, but having a friend had helped Fluttershy break out of her shell, something she had barely done for the past year. Rainbow looked up at the sound of her name, trying to find the source. A familiar yellow pony trotted to her side, and Rainbow smiled at the first friendly face in days.
“Hey, Fluttershy.” she said distractedly. “How’ve you been doing?”
“About the same as before you left.” Fluttershy said with a smile, “But now you’re back. It’s been…different without a friend.” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice. “Oh, um, how did things go for you?”
Rainbow sighed. She’d been dreading this since she returned, but guessed it would be fine telling Fluttershy. It’s not like she would tell anypony…
“Not so hot. Well, hot in some ways,” she said with a small smile, pointing to a patch of burnt fur. “but nothing…helpful.”
“We need to do something about that, Rainbow.” Fluttershy said worriedly.
“Nah, it’s been there for a week, it isn’t going to hurt me anymore than it already has.” Fluttershy smiled and moved her head slightly, unnerving Rainbow. She knew she couldn’t hide it much longer. She decided there wasn’t any point.
“So, I uh… didn’t find it.” she said sadly, lowering her wings to reveal an unbroken blue coat.
“It’s okay, Rainbow Dash.” Fluttershy practically whispered, half wanting to be quiet for her friend, half for herself. “I, uh, didn’t have any luck either.” she said as her head dropped.
“But you’re Fluttershy!” Rainbow protested. “I was cool and fast and…and…” she trailed off. “Sorry.” She finally mumbled.
“Maybe we should go to my house, if you don’t mind, that is…”
“Lead the way.”
“Pinkamena, are you ready?” called an older brown pony. A pink mare with a downcast face and straight mane approached her father. “Good, now get in the back. We can’t have all those rocks falling all over the place.”
The pink pony climbed into the back of a covered wagon as her father walked to the front. It was a long and bumpy road towards the markets where the Pie family tried to sell their rocks, and somepony had to sit in the back and make sure they didn’t fall off the wagon or break on the way there.
After a few moments on the road, Pinkamena worked up the nerve to ask a question, something usually frowned upon in the dreary household.
“Where are we going?” Pinkamena asked, trying to be heard over the wheels and through the covered wagon.
“Place called Ponyville” her father grunted. “We usually do pretty well there.