by Huk

Chapter 2 - Sub Rosa

Train to the Crystal Empire - current time

*sigh* That was the last night I slept with a peaceful mind…” Pinkie’s face saddened, and her mane deflated slightly - she was almost in her ‘Saddie Pie’ state now. “Oh, what I would give for all this to only be a nightmare...” suddenly her eyes went wide as it hit her, “wait, perhaps it is! Let me try something!”

With that, Pinkie put her notepad away for a moment and tried different techniques to wake herself up - unfortunately pinching didn’t work, and pounding her head against the wall only brought the surprised looks of fellow passengers. After letting an audible sigh of disappointment, she picked up her journal and started to write again. “Nope - this is not a dream Mr. diary; unfortunately, this is super-duper real… I guess I better get back to writing down the story… where was I? Ah yes, the next day…”

Ponyville - a few days earlier

Pinkie woke up in her comfy bed after a peaceful night, and at the moment it was business as usual. She quickly took her morning bath, went down to light the stoves and then started to prepare the dough. Cakes were usually up, about two hours later - that was their deal, Pinkie was responsible for the morning batch of baked goods, and early ‘rush hour’ - while they would take over during the good part of the day, giving Pinkie the opportunity to get out for a while. The arrangement was working pretty well for all of them - especially after Pound and Pumpkin were born.

It was about 9 AM when Mrs. Cake was ready to relieve her. “Thank you, dearie - I will take over from here,” she said with a gentle smile and quickly stood behind the counter. “Pinkie, there is something else I need you to do - have you seen the chocolate cakes in the back? Princess Twilight ordered those - would you be kind enough to deliver them to her castle?”

Pinkie’s eyes widened with excitement - she was more than eager to take a trip to her friend. “Okie-dokie! You can count on me!” with that, she quickly packed the cakes to the delivery cart and went towards Twilight’s home.


At this hour, Ponyville was typically crowded with ponies doing their usual business, chatting or just relaxing outdoor - and this day was no different. When she was happily trotting through the market, however, one unusual thing caught her eye... “Hmm, Applejack didn’t open her stand yet? Odd… oh well, you gotta delivery to do Pinkie, remember? No more distractions!” she said to herself, made a solemn face and continued towards her destination. Some time later she arrived at Twilight’s castle.

She knocked on the door and waited a minute, but no one came. “Oh, silly me! I completely forgot - Spike has gone on vacation with the CMC… oh well, I guess Twilight won’t mind if I let myself in - she is probably busy studying.”

Pinkie opened the castle’s door and went inside, pulling the delivery cart with her. A few minutes later she unpacked the cargo in Twilight’s kitchen and was ready to leave when she heard a noise coming from the ‘map room’ - someone was definitely talking...

“-she said we must be sure, remember?!” Twilight was arguing with Applejack over something when Pinkie dashed into the room. “Hey, girls! Having party without me?!” she screamed with a smile, startling the five ponies sitting around the Cutie Map.

Suddenly, everyone was staring at her with wide eyes and the chamber went completely silent. “Um, guys I was just joking - is something wrong?”

After a moment, Twilight answered with a nervous chuckle. “No Pinkie, everything is fine… We just didn’t expect you here… today… at this time - don’t tell me you came to invite us to another party?”

“Nopey-dopey! I delivered the cakes you ordered, silly!”  Pinkie responded happily, but her smile started to fade when she noticed that everypony was still looking at her with weird expressions in their eyes. “I tried to knock, but nobody came - so I let myself in… I’m super sorry if I upset you guys.”

“That’s OK, everything's fine... it’s just emm…” Twilight paused for a moment, nervously glancing at the rest of mane six. “Remember that time when we organized that surprise party for you? When we had to… avoid you the whole day? Well, you see...”

“Not another word! I understand where this is going - you guys are the best! Although…” she struck a thinking pose, “I don’t recall my birthday or anything coming up soon-”

“We can’t tell you the occasion - it is a surprise!” Rainbow Dash interrupted, with an enormous unnatural grin.

The last time Pinkie saw somepony smiling like that was when the Cutie Map sent them to the Starlight's Village, but perhaps Rainbow was just nervous. Pinkie grinned herself and started hopping around. “Uuu! Surprise parties are the best! I can’t wait!”

“We are glad you approve, darling - oh and by the way, could you drop by my boutique later today? I am working on a fabulous dress, and could use your help.”

“Okie-dokie-lokie! I’ll drop by after work!” Pinkie suddenly stopped bouncing as an alarmed expression filled her face. “Speaking of which - I need to get back to Sugarcube Corner, my shift is not over yet - see you guys later!”


Later that day, Pinkie visited Carousel Boutique - as promised. Rarity was indeed working on some new fancy dress (isn't she always?), and Pinkie was a ‘perfect model’ for it - at least that’s what Rarity said. In reality, the dress looked too big, and its color was contrasting with her fur - but perhaps that was the point… only Rarity knew. Soon they started talking to pass the time.

“Darling, do you remember when Big Mac was injured, and Applejack tried to harvest all those apples by herself?” Rarity asked while making some adjustments to the dress.

“Yes, indeedy! She was acting pretty strange back then - I guess exhaustion will do that.”

“Oh yes, it certainly will… the worst part was when she brought those apple pies she had cooked on the farm, and half of Ponyville landed in the hospital!”

“Oh, silly! Your memory must be playing tricks on you,” Pinkie responded, trying to keep as still as possible since Rarity now measured the dress on her, “it wasn't the apple pies, it was muffins! And AJ hadn't brought them from the farm - she helped me cook them at the Sugarcube Corner.”

“You certain about that darling? I could swear it were apple pies…”

“Aww... one hundred percent certain - I landed in the hospital myself that day, so I would know... Why did you mention that anyway?”

“Oh, no reason, just recalling some old times - after all, we have gone through a lot together haven't we?" Rarity smiled and using her magic gently took the dress of Pinkie. "That year when Twilight arrived was especially 'busy' wouldn't you say? First Nightmare Moon, then parasprite invasion, then that braggart Trixie... not to mention that bully Gilda! I never told you this - but I really appreciated all those pranks you set up for her at the party - it was hilarious!”

Pinkie tilted her head, and confused expression filled her face. “I didn’t prank Gilda - it was Rainbow Dash, remember?" she noticed some sweat on Rarity's forehead. "Are you feeling OK?”

Rarity wiped her hoof across her face and inhaled deeply. “To be honest darling - I am a bit tired… last week I had to work overtime to fill all my orders, again."

"I guess, that explains it - you really should get some rest," Pinkie said, her voice uncharacteristically serious.

"Perhaps you are right... I should just go and lie down for a while… I think we are done here anyway-”

Before she could finish, Pinkie hugged her tightly. “Aw... I hope you get better soon!”

An awkward silence filled the air - but only for a moment. “Em… thank you darling, I really appreciate it…” Rarity returned the hug, but there was something in her voice, that made Pinkie Sense tingle - but before she could say anything, Rarity added. “Oh and by the way - Rainbow Dash wanted me to tell you to meet her too if you have the time.”

Whatever was on Pinkie’s mind a moment ago was wiped clean in an instance, and a huge grin appeared on her face. “Okie-dokie-lokie! For Dashie, I’ll make the time! Thanks, Rarity!”

A second later Pinkie stormed out of the boutique, towards the location where Rainbow could be found at this time of the day.


“La-la-la-la-la-la-la,” Pinkie hummed, hopping through the center of Ponyville while looking up - today, the sky was cloudless - which made her job a lot easier. A few minutes later she found her target - a single cloud floating in the air… with a rainbow tail hanging from it. Dash was taking another of her day naps… again - to allow such prank chance go to waste would be a crime.

She approached quietly from below and took her megaphone (one of many stashed all over Ponyville - ‘just in case’), inhaled deeply - taking in as much air as her lungs could handle - and then... “STAMPEDE! Stampede, Rainbow! Get out of the way, get out of the way!”

“Whaa..?!” Rainbow fell from her cloud onto the ground below with a loud thud. She looked around nervously only to notice pink blur rolling on the ground, laughing. “Hey! Not funny Pinkie! I could get hurt from the fall you know!”

“Oh don’t be silly Dashie! I’ve seen you fall from much higher without any damage,” Pinkie bounced towards her grumpy friend, “you are just maddie because I tricked you!”

Rainbow glanced at the grinning Pinkie and gently smiled back - that was a good prank, even if she didn’t want to admit it. “OK, OK you got me there - I guess Rarity sent you here, huh?”

“Yup! So what can I do for you Dashie?”

“Well… as you know - Scootaloo’s birthday is coming up soon-”

Pinkie interrupted, tilting her head. “Um Dashie, Scoot’s birthday is in about two months - or 55 days 8 hours and 27 minutes, to be super-duper exact…”

“I know that! But for what I’m planning, we will need the time!”

For the next half an hour, Pinkie and Rainbow discussed the plan - Dashie’s idea was pretty original: she wanted to show Scootaloo the best adventures she and the rest of mane six had so far while saving Equestria. Pinkie liked that - it would require a lot of work of course, but it wouldn’t be a simple ‘party’ but rather a ‘paaartay’ - something the little filly would not forget for the rest of her life…

However, the more they talked about it, the more Pinkie noticed that Rainbow had a rather garbled memory of certain events - for example:

- She insisted that she didn’t do any tornado trick, during the parasprite invasion - even though Pinkie clearly remembered how she lost a brand new pair of cymbals when Dash pulled that stunt  

- She also didn’t remember jousting with Fluttershy during Sombra crisis - insisting it was Applejack

- Neither the time when Gilda and Pinkie worked together to save her during their visit to Griffonstone

“Dashie, you sure you are feeling, all right? Don’t get me wrong but your memory seems teensy-weensy worse than usual…” Pinkie said with a hint of concern. “You didn't hit your head or something during one of your super-duper stunts, did you?”

Rainbow struck a thinking pose. “I don't recall... unless I crashed so hard that I don't even remember the crash itself, ha ha!" she laughed hard, but it sounded rather... artificial. "In reality, last few days were a little rough, and I could use some R&R... anyway, I think we are all set - this will be the party Scoot won’t soon forget!”

Pinkie nodded in agreement and started to walk back to Sugarcube Corner - but the fact that two of her friends had a garbled memory of certain events, was still on her mind. Rarity she could understand, after all, she was know to work her flank off every time she got one of those 'important orders' from Canterlot - but Dashie? She wasn't exactly known for being a hard worker - heck, even today, Pinkie found her napping on the cloud...

After a few minutes of walking, her pondering was interrupted when she entered the bakery to start her afternoon shift...

Train to the Crystal Empire - current time

“Why? Why didn’t you trust your intuition? Perhaps if you would have acted sooner…” Pinkie asked herself, as a tear fell from her eye. “You knew something was wrong - but you did nothing! Why did you wait?!”

She put her journal down and, with teary eyes, started to stare outside the window. Green forests were gone - replaced by endless mountain peaks, covered in sparkling white snow - the train was getting closer to the Crystal Empire, and her time was running out.

*sigh* I just hope, Princess Cadance can help, she is my last shot,” Pinkie mumbled, grabbing her journal again. “Mr. diary - I… I just want my friends back… oh, but I didn’t write how I lost them yet, did I? Well…”

Ponyville - a few days earlier

Next day started as usual - early wake-up call, backing and morning ‘rush hour.' The only difference was - there was some light rain during the night. When her morning shift was over, Pinkie went outside to stretch her hooves. As luck would have it, she noticed Fluttershy nearby, dragging a cart full of pet food behind her - normally this would not be a problem, but because of the rain, the way to her cottage was muddy, and cartwheels were sinking, making it hard to pull.

“Hi, Fluttershy!” Pinkie shouted with a smile, causing the timid pegasus to jump a little.

“Oh… um… hi Pinkie,” Fluttershy responded quietly - even more than usual, “is there anything I can do for you?”

“Nope! But it seems you could use a hoof pulling that cart huh? I’m right, right?!”

“Oh… I… think I manage-”

“Oh, don’t be a silly filly! I can see you are struggling to pull that thing but have no fear! Auntie Pinkie Pie is here!” Without waiting for approval, Pinkie quickly attached herself to the cart - even if Fluttershy wanted to protest, it was too late now. Together they quickly pulled the wagon out of the mud and started moving towards the cottage.

Pinkie noticed her companion was unusually quiet - sure, the pegasus was one of those less talkative in their group, but still - Pinkie felt something was off. “So Fluttershy, how is it going?” she asked, trying to start a conversation.

“Oh, fine I guess - nothing special… Last week was actually pretty relaxing.”

“How so?”

“Well, you see - Rarity was finally able to get some time off-”

Pinkie suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, causing Fluttershy to trip and almost fall down. “Um sorry Fluttershy, I… stepped on something. You were saying you spent some time with Rarity, right?”

Fortunately, Fluttershy continued talking like if nothing happened. “Yes, we went to the spa a few times - hadn’t been there in months.”

“I see… what about Dashie - have you seen her during the last few days?”

“Oh yes! The day before you got back, I invited her to one of my animal picnics; she came with Tank, and we had some fun!" suddenly Fluttershy's face tensed and her voice started to tremble. "W-Why do you ask?”

Pinkie glanced at the yellow pegasus and noticed sweat running from her forehead. "Aw... no reason - I was just curious what Dashie was doing when I was gone."

Upon hearing her words, Fluttershy’s face relaxed almost as if some burden was lifted from her heart. A few minutes later they finally arrived at her cottage and Pinkie quickly unstrapped herself from the cart. “Okie-dokie-lokie! I need to get going - see you around!”

Fluttershy nodded in agreement and Pinkie was off… or at least that’s what she wanted her to believe... In reality, she decided to observe her friends, starting with the yellow pegasus - as it turned out she didn’t have to wait for long. Only a few minutes after she said goodbye, Fluttershy flew out of her cottage in the direction of Twilight’s castle…


Following the yellow pegasus, she led her to the ‘map room’ again - looking through a crack in the door she saw Twilight, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash - what they talked about, chilled her to the bone.

“So she probably suspects something - great, just great!” Twilight covered her head with her hooves. “We have no choice - we will have to bring her in today-”

“But we’re not sure yet!” Rainbow interrupted. “And if that’s really her-”

Twilight hit the table with her hoof. “Enough! We got orders - we are running out of time! And since she knows - there is no way we are gonna get anything out of her now, I don’t see any other way."

Pinkie heard enough - she knew something was terribly wrong, and that her friends - if that were her friends - were lying to her on purpose. Moreover, they said, they were ordered to bring her somewhere, and the thought struck her: what if Crystalis was behind this?! What if these were really changelings in disguise, and she was the last element bearer they didn’t catch yet? She needed to tell Celestia right away, but her options were no good - since Spike was on vacation, sending an instant letter was not possible, and using Equestria mail would take a few days... and ‘Twilight’ specifically said they were to bring her to somewhere today - her last resort was the train.

Pinkie quickly sneaked out of the castle and went to Sugarcube Corner to gather her things - she informed the Cakes that she will need a few days off - but decided not to tell them where she was going. Then she bought the ticket and boarded the train to Canterlot - if anyone was able to fix this, it was the Princess.