“Huh?” was all Fluttershy could manage as she stepped into her house. There was no sign of Twilight or the robed ponies anywhere, but the thing that really shocked her was the condition of her home. It was spotless, nothing at all like the wreck she had come home to earlier.
“But, but but I…” Fluttershy turned to face all her friends. “They were here I know I didn’t just dream it!”
Meanwhile, Twilight was hurrying two cloaked ponies inside her home. She slammed the door shut and looked at them intently.
“Alright, you guys have five minutes to explain yourselves. Who are you, what is Umbra, and what do you mean your friend is in danger?”
“Captain, we really shouldn’t be doing this” Riposte protested. “Technically, I am authorized to use deadly force against you to ensure our secrets stay hidden!”
“If you’re going to kill me Riposte, make it quick. Otherwise we have to move quickly if we are going to rescue Stone and I can’t have any more of these trepidations”
Twilight backed away, fearing that there might be some sort of conflict brewing. All she had been told so far is that they were some kind of secret agents working for Princess Luna, and that one of their friends was in trouble. She almost didn’t trust them, but there was something desperate in the hooded one’s voice when he spoke. She knew that she would do anything to save one of her friends, so Twilight was willing to maybe overlook some of what’s happened so far, provided that Spike really was just stunned like they said. In reality, she was a little afraid of the strange ponies, and she had every right to be. To her great relief, when faced with that challenge from the hooded pony, ‘Riposte’ just sighed and shook his head smiling.
“Good” said Quin. “Allow me to properly introduce myself. My name is Quin, and this” he said motioning with a hoof “is Riposte. We were on a mission when-“
“Wait a minute” Twilight interrupted. “How can I trust you if I don’t even know what you look like? Why don’t you take those robes off?”
Riposte quickly spoke up.
“I’m sorry miss, I will of course remove my robe but for Quin… it is very important for the captain to ensure his appearance is-“
“Riposte” said Quin, putting a hoof on Riposte’s shoulder. “I’m going to ask a lot of her, her request isn’t unreasonable. Howerever” he said, looking at Twilight. “I will only reveal my appearance to you after you agree to help us. Is that acceptable?”
Twilight was a bit taken aback and confused by his odd terms, but she agreed nonetheless. Quin spent the next few minutes, filling her in on everything that happened in the caves. He described Razorsparks; how she was a tall, thin pegasus with a grey coat, a spiky grey and blonde streaked mane, and a similarly colored long bladelike tail. Her cute mark was a thundercloud and her eyes were a brilliant gold hue. Then he described Crush—a huge, brown earth pony with a slight grey coloration around the mouth. He had brown eyes and an auburn mane and tail of average lengths, though a bit thicker than most ponies. Twilight’s jaw dropped a little when he said his measurements; who wouldn’t be surprised to hear that any pony was 6’8 and 1500 pounds? He told her about the strange magic eating creatures of the everfree forest underground and about how Stone had been stung by one of them. He explained that they were on a mission to map out the ruins, which the higher ups believed could hold some very important history from the dark ages. Finally, he explained why they had to be so secretive, and that what they were now doing violated everything they stood for.
“I know I may lose my place in Umbra if word ever gets out that I told you, but it’s not unheard of for Umbra members to request help from civilians in times of crisis, though it was unheard of to reveal so many secrets when doing so. I’ve already crossed the line in telling you all this but…I can’t just leave Crush down there, and I think some of the higher ups may have my back on this.”
“Why do you have to be all secretive?” Twilight asked. “Wouldn’t be easier for you all if you could freely ask for help?”
“Umbra was founded under the principles that in order to avoid chaos, it was best that as few ponies as possible knew when a crisis was at hand. If possible, the best case situation would be that your memory of your encounter with us be erased, though I fear than for a pony as magically gifted as you that may not be possible unless you yourself assisted in the spell. There is one more thing…”
“Yes?” asked Twilight, her mind reeling in its attempt to absorb all this.
“You cannot tell anyone what I’ve told you, not even Princess Celestia.”
“Why? There’s no way the princess doesn’t know about you.”
“She does know, this is true. However it is imperative that Celestia not stay informed on the day to day workings of Umbra, especially not renegade missions like this. Such a thing would disrupt the balance of power between the two sisters, and the last time that happened the world was nearly plunged into eternal darkness. I know it may be tempting to contact her, if only to verify the existence of Umbra but I assure you-“
“Don’t worry” said Twilight. “I trust you.”
“As I was saying it is of the utmost importance that….wait, you what?” Quin struggled to keep his gaze on the ground and not look the pony before him in the eyes like she was crazy. “You trust us, already?”
“I do, should I not?” responded Twilight.
“No…I mean, that’s good that you trust us, I just anticipated a lot more…mistrust, initially.”
“If there’s anything I’ve learned as Celestia’s pupil” began Twilight. “It’s that there are more kinds of magic in this world than what comes out of our horns. Somehow I just…I just know that I can trust you Quin” she said with a smile.
Twilight Sparkle wondered Quin. There is something about you…that disturbs me. Just how far ahead are you?
“Yes…well thank you Twilight. With your help I have a plan to rescue Stone. I’ve worked it so that you are in as little danger as possible, but what I’m asking you to do won’t exactly be safe either. I hate asking so much of someone I barely know.” Quin shuffled his forelegs uncomfortably.
“Just tell me what I have to do, I think I’ll be able to handle it” said Twilight. She looked like the picture of confidence, but deep down she was scared. These creatures Quin described sounded like walking nightmares! She tried her best to look tough though, for Quin’s sake. She didn’t know why, but something about him intrigued her. Maybe it was his extensive knowledge of magic, she wasn’t quite sure. All she knew was that he had gone from her enemy to a friend in need faster than she ever could have anticipated. Well maybe not a friend, not yet anyways, but there was still something about him, something that made her feel connected to his plight in some way.
After Quin filled her in on the details of his plan, Twilight was feeling even less sure of herself. It sounded dangerous, but above all extremely difficult for her. Why should she risk so much for a pony she just met? It was crazy, and not Pinkie Pie crazy but really flippin Screwball crazy. Suddenly she remembered.
“Hey, you’ve told me the whole plan now, it’s time to take your hood off.”
“That wasn’t the deal. The deal was that first you agreed to help, then I would reveal myself, remember?”
Drat, he was right, but Twilight still didn’t know if she wanted to commit to this!
“Well” she started. Suddenly the door to the library burst open and a rainbow bullet hurtled straight towards Quin. Quin was stunned by the incredible speed of the surprise attack, but Riposte’s quick reflexes kicked in and the crimson maned unicorn was barely able to push his captain out of the way. His horn flashed red, and suddenly a shield of floating needles surrounded the Umbra agents.
“Woah!” yelled dash as she swiftly pulled up to avoid the magical defense.
“Hold it right there you brigands!” Yelled Rarity as she galloped into the room between Twilight and the agents. She was quickly followed by Applejack and Pinkie Pie, and even Fluttershy stood boldly alongside them. Spike was panting by the time he caught up, but quickly caught a second wind and rushed to Twilight’s defense.
“Y’all aren’t welcome here no more” declared Applejack. “Ya best be headin’ out now, or there’s gonna be a heap a trouble!”
“Girl’s you don’t understand, they aren’t are enemies!”
“Consarn it, they musta gotten Twi with their fancy hypno magic.”
“Enough with the spells and let’s settle this hoof to hoof!” shouted Rainbow dash as she circled Riposte’s barricade.”
“Twilight, you must let us handle this!” countered Rarity. “You vile villains better leave here this minute!”
“Captain, what’s the plan?” muttered Riposte.
“Riposte, set up a magic ward for yourself, execution of tactic Zeta in four seconds”
“GIRLS!” yelled Twilight. “STOP!” Suddenly a bright flash exploded from Twilight’s horn. Quin instinctively cast a magic ward just in time before the wave exploded throught the room. Dash dropped out of the air, and all Twilight’s other friends collapsed to the ground, devoid of all energy, too exhausted to move.
“I’m so sorry girls, but you just have to listen!” Before Twilight could say anymore a pink flash burst forth from Quin’s horn, then everything went dark.
Twilight blinked several times, trying to shake the drowsiness off.
“Twilight… I’m so sorry” said Quin, casting a pink glow over her with his horn. It tingled her skin wherever the light covered. Twilight then shot up, realizing she had been on her back as this was going on.
“What the hay are you doing!?” she shouted as she began to blush.
“I’m so sorry miss Sparkle, I was merely resuscitating you after you blacked out” said Quin.
“Blacked out…why was I blacked out?”
“Again… sorry. I had to knock out the room after your friends stumbled upon us”
Twilight looked around, and spotted her friends huddled up in the corner of the room, sleeping soundly, despite Pinkie Pie’s snoring.
“Why did you have to do that?” she asked angrily. “I had it under control!”
“Did you? What were you going to tell them? What could you possibly have said that would make them understand? I’m sorry Twilight, I didn’t see any other option.”
Twilight was still mad, but she did see his point. How could she have convinced them that Quin and Riposte weren’t attacking her, and in fact needed help themselves, without her friends getting suspicious of who they were? And what if her friends did find out who they were? She could just see it now: Pinkie Pie’s ‘Welcome to Ponyville Secret Agents’ party.
“Well, you could have at least given me a chance!” said one very flustered Twilight Sparkle. “And what about my friends?”
“They are fine” said Quin. “But they won’t remember the last day or so. Sorry to ask even more of you, but you might have to think of a cover story for that too. They should wake up around this time tomorrow so I guess you’ll have to explain away two days…”
Quin’s mind was racing, trying to come up with ways to say all this without it sounded so terrible, but to no avail. If she was on the fence about helping them before, she surely wouldn’t help now.
“I can completely understand if this changes things but…” Quin dropped down to his belly and put his fore hooves over hers. “Please twilight Sparkle I’m begging you!”
Both Riposte and Twilight were stunned seeing the dark and mysterious Umbra agent resort to flat out begging. Riposte even looked away in spite of himself, unable to bear the sight of his distinguished companion stooping so low.
Twilight looked at her peacefully sleeping friends and ran her hoof down her face in exasperation. I suppose I could just blame it all on a spell gone wrong she mused. She looked down at the hooded pony groveling at her feet.
“Um, it’s alright just please get up” she said uncomfortably. “You really are desperate to save your friend aren’t you?”
Quin stood up.
“I would do anything” he said sternly.
Twilight looked around desperately, as if she could find someone else to help the unicorns before her. Finally she hung her head in acceptance.
“Alright…it’s not like I have anyone else to hang out with for the next twenty four hours” she mumbled.