by Lost_Marbles

Chapter 6 - Cooking with Fire

        Twilight carefully levitated the sheers off the tilted table in the tilted throne room with the tilted thrones and the tilted chandelier and inched them closer to the masked pony’s face sitting in front of her. She slid the scissors in between the fur and the melted plastic and snipped away  where the two bonded together to the coatless, tailless, maneless mare’s face. After many minutes of delicate trimming, the mask came free and revealed the mare’s purple face.

        “Berry Punch!”

        Berry gasped for air. “Oh sweet and sour Celestia, you have no idea how hard it was to breathe in that thing. The darn blast melted the breathing holes. Thanks for getting me out of there, Princess.” She thumped her chest and gulped down deep mouthfuls of air, then looked up at Twilight’s mane. “Jumping juniper berries, Twilight, what happened to you? Got caught in the blast as well?”

        “Who did this to you?” asked Twilight. “Do you know what caused the explosion? Everypony in Ponyville heard it. There were so many ponies burned coatless just like you! Ponies are panicking and locking themselves indoors. So many windows were busted and paintjobs peeled. The damage was extensive. It’ll cost a fortune to fix everything!”

        Berry’s eyes went wide and and her pupils darted madly about, possibly reliving the horrible event. “Well… you see, Princess--” she raised a hoof to scratch at the back of her neck where her mane had once been “--I was transporting some of my product through Main Street. I stopped to talk with Bonnie when all of the sudden her friend Lyra came by and started jabbering on about a cursed… thing-a-ma-gook.”

“A cursed what?”

“He’s this little green thing. A non-pony. Dressed head-to-hoof in purple, with a flippin’ huge hat, long flat feet, and a wild red mane. Lyra saw the thing-a-ma-gook and went pants-on-head mad, ranting and raving about curses and disasters. Other ponies nearby got worked up until everypony went bat-poop. And then--” Berry smiled sheepishly with a shrug “--my barrel exploded.”

“So you’re saying this ‘thing-a-ma-gook’ caused your barrel of alcohol to explode?”

“Aye,” she said with a nod.

“What kind of alcohol were you transporting?”

        “Oh, you know, just the usual stuff. Wine. Red. You know.”

        “Huh, really? So did you see the ‘thing-a-ma-gook’ cast a spell or--” A loud sonic boom cut Twilight short, and prismatic lights flooded in through the windows and blasted her in the eyes. She shielded herself with a wing.

        “Anyway--” Berry blurted with beads of sweat trickling down her forehead, “--Lyra said she saw that thing-a-ma-gook also cause the sewage pipe explosion in the farmers’ market, cursed Applejack to give him a discount, and we were next right before that huge clusterbuck and--”

        Twilight held up a hoof. “That’s enough, Berry, thank you.” She turned towards the door. “Spike!” He clawed his way through the hallway and up the slanted floor. “Have the royal guards search the town for a green… non-pony dressed in purple and bring him here. He might be behind today’s incidents.”

        He saluted. “Aye-aye!” he said before quickly covering his mouth. No fireball erupted around him. “Hey! The air is clearing up. I can finally speak again!” He rolled over and slid out the door and down the halls. His voice echoed throughout from the hallway. “Hey, guards, I’ve got orders from Twilight!”

        Twilight’s mind whizzed and whirled with all of the wild information that she had gathered -- Berry’s barrel would explain the intoxicating fumes that made everypony silly, but what about the farmers’ market? His presence wouldn’t be enough to logically pin him as the culprit, but he was present for both incidents. Could it have been a coincidence? What if there were more undocumented cases?

        Berry put on a big smile and backed away to the door. “Well, I’m glad to have been of service, Princess, I’ll be getting out of your mane now.”

        “Don’t go anywhere. I’ve still have some questions.”

        Twilight sat down at the tilted table in the center of the tilted room and magicked up some paper and a quill. I’ve got to find out what is going on and fast before anypony else gets hurt. There has to be some logical explanation for all of this. She dipped the quill in ink and wrote the first thing that came to mind: Applejack - discounts?


        The herd of hairless ponies flocked together and hobbled over to the hospital, and Applejack followed. Most were either too peeved, pained, or plastered to answer her questions, although a few could recollect seeing Woebegone before the disaster. Nothing helpful. If he had been in the area when the blast went off, he’d likely be with the group to get medical treatment for any burns, bumps, or bruises.

        The hospital stood tall over a sea of groaning fleshy-pink ponies. Several royal guards waded through the flood, fished one or two out seemingly at random, and hauled their catch off toward Twilight’s tilted castle. Applejack herself had to gingerly tip-toe through the crowd to the front door. They all stunk something fierce. Something poked her in the gut.

“You got any aspirin?” asked a stallion pegasus who was laying on his side and holding his head between his hooves. His featherless wing was outstretched and rubbing against her belly. Without their proud plumage, the appendages looked like wrinkly, spindly monkey fingers with webbed joints that bent at unnatural angles. She gagged.

“Sorry, sugarcube. Don’t got any on me.”

He grumbled and rested his head back on the grass. She tried her best not to look at his monkey finger as it wormed against his side while she stepped over him and pushed through the front door. Naked ponies took up all the chairs and the floorspace in the waiting room. Still, nowhere did she see any green. She did see familiar shades of yellow and bubble-gum pink way back in the far corner.

        Pinkie lazily waved with one hoof while holding the other to her head and whispered loudly,  “Hey, cuz, you here to join our club?” The pony next to her shushed her.

        Applejack cupped an ear. “What?” All the naked ponies turned around and shushed her. She rolled her eyes went over to her friends, and that’s when she noticed that Pinkie was holding a bag of frozen peas to her head. She lifted it up and proudly showed off a large bump the size of a unicorn horn on her head.

        “Goodness gracious, Pinkie Pie! What happened to you?”


        Applejack glared at the crowd behind her and snorted. “What happened to you, Pinkie?” she whispered.

        “Tub to the head.”

        “Beg your pardon?” Applejack furrowed her brow, and a few seconds later she remembered the state of Sugarcube Corner’s kitchen. “I saw the damage, sugarcube. You’re not too bad off, are you?”

        “I’m a pea-brain,” said Pinkie with a giggle, but then winced. “Owowow ow. Hurts to joke.”

        “They gave her some pain medicine,” explained Fluttershy. “It’s been making her a bit drowsy and, well, goofier than usual.”

        Pinkie looked up towards Applejack, but not seemingly quite at her. “Heh, if I’m a pea-brain, then Fluttershy is a bone-head! Hahahooowowowow.”

        “Shhh!” shhh’ed everypony else in the room.

        “What in tarnations is she on about?”

        Fluttershy twiddled her front hooves and glanced at the floor. “Um, well, you see...” She lifted her sunhat slightly to reveal the bone lodged in her forehead.

        Shivers went down Applejack’s spine. “Land’s sake, girl!”


        Fluttershy promptly pulled the hat back down on her head. “The bone is stuck pretty good. The nurse said they’d prepare an x-ray for me, but it didn’t look too serious. However, they won’t be able to look until after they treat Rainbow.”

        “Rainbow’s here, too!? What happened to her?”

        “She’s a butthead!” said Pinkie and then laughed hysterically at her own joke.

        “Shhh!”  Spittle splattered on Applejack’s face.

        “Shhh yourself,” barked Applejack.

        “No! You shhh!”

        “Hey! Shhh, you!” shouted a stallion to the mare.

        The room devolved into a series of barks and shhh’s that didn’t end, like a bunch of deflating pink balloons. She had no time for this stupidity. “Pinkie Pie, did you happen to meet a little green fellow?”

        “Sure have!”

        Finally! “Where is he? Is he here with you?”

        Both of the girls shook their heads. “Nope. He should still be at Sugarcube Corner.”

        “But he wasn’t there! I need to find him and prove to him his curse isn’t real before it strikes again!” said Applejack as she motioned to the crowd behind her.

The crowd went dreadfully silent, and every eye was pinned to her with surprise and fear. One mare in the back uttered, “Did you say, ‘curse’?”

Applejack stared her down, but she couldn’t keep her glower when Pinkie spoke up behind her. “Yeah, there’s a poor guy who thinks he’s cursed with bad luck.”

“Bad luck? Bad luck? Look at us,” said a stallion as he motioned to the naked crowd around him. “Just how unlucky does he think he is?”

“Is he here with us?” asked another trembling pony with bulging eyes.

Pinkie shook her head. “No, you’d know if he was. He’s green and has a nifty hat.”

“That’s enough, Pinkie,” whispered Applejack through clenched teeth.

“I saw him!” shouted a pony in the corner. “I saw him before the explosion.”

“I did too!” shouted another. “And I saw him at the farmers’ market this morning. He unearthed a sewage pipe and blew it up!”

The crowd rumbled back to life quickly and grew into a roar of hearsay and suppositions, and every pony fearfully boasted their claims louder than the last.

“He busted all of my windows!”

“He got crap all over my carrots!”

“He made my brain explode!”

One unicorn mare held aloft in glowing magic a dirty lyre with broken cords and shouted “He ruined my lyre!” before pointing it at Applejack, “And he cursed Applejack! I saw it myself. He walked over to her stand and it fell apart, but that wasn’t enough, he didn’t leave until he cursed her into giving him a discount!”

“He did no such thing, and you know it! You were right beside me,” said Applejack. “Stop saying such hogwash.”

“You did give him a discount, didn’t you?”

“Listen, the guy had the bits and was willing to pay. I accidentally gave him bad produce, more than once, so I figured the courteous thing to do was--”

        “So you admit it?” boasted the unicorn.

        “What!? No! I mean, I did what I thought was best by--”

        The unicorn flailed her forelegs up and stirred up the crowd. “You see!? She did. That goblin has cursed her. How ‘unlucky’ it was that she had so much bad produce that she was forced to give a discount.”

        The crowd roared in agreement. The “Yea’s” and “Hear-Hear’s” quickly morphed into hostile calls for justice and retribution. The ferocity of their words fueled the fire in their bellies. Nopony seemed to hear the one sane voice in the crowd. “Lyra, what are you doing!? Applejack gave me a discount before back when her little sister had--” but it was too late. The ponies were drunk on emotion and followed their leader out the door.

“Let’s take back our town and put an end to this curse! Protect our homes! Protect our families!”

        “Take back Ponyville! Take back Ponyville!” the mob chanted as they flooded out the hospital entrance, leaving Applejack, her friends, and one naked earth mare in an empty waiting room.

        “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into her,” said the mare before running out the door.

        Applejack turned back to her friends, who were left speechless by what happened. “Gals, I’ve got to get going before somepony gets hurt,” she said before rushing out the door.


        Rarity was unclean. She had shampooed and scrubbed and soaped every inch of her body, but the smell remained. This was the worst thing. The worst possible thing that could have happened to her. The mane on the top of her head had been sheared by a flying knife, and then the septic tank had exploded all over her. “I’ll never be clean again!” she wailed in the shower.

        There was a knock on the bathroom door. “Rarity,” called Sweetie Belle. “You’re taking forever. Scootaloo’s here, and we’ve already started cooking without you.”

        She groaned in frustration. No, Rarity. She’s been looking forward to this for a whole week. She’d be devastated if you break your promise. She sighed and turned off the water. “I’ll be out in a moment, dear, and then we can start cooking. Now turn off the stove!”

        “Fine,” said Sweetie Belle with a breath of dissatisfaction in her voice. Rarity could hear her hooves clip-clop away from the door and down the stairs. She lifted up a leg and took a whiff. The sour stink of sewage was still faintly soaked in her fur, but it was nowhere near as horrid as it was when she had come running back from the market. She hoped that nopony recognized her as she desperately rushed home to jump into the shower and focused on scrubbing off the layers of filth. A loud boom from indiscriminate origins didn’t faze her as she continued to scrub. “Sweetie Belle, stop that racket,” she said as she rinsed for the twelfth time. She stepped out of the tub, spritzed herself with some extra perfume, and threw on a small but fanciable hat before heading down the stairs.

        “Rarity! Applebloom’s here,” called Sweetie Belle.

        “Coming, coming.”

        Before she could reach the kitchen, there was a knock on the front door. She answered it. A royal pegasus guard with broad, sturdy shoulders, and a smooth, solid chin stood on her welcome mat. His practiced posture radiated with power and confidence. His intelligent blue eyes beheld her with a quiet gaze that commanded her knees to tremble. She was so happy she had the hat. “Hello, how may I be of assistance?” said Rarity with a sensual smile.

        He spoke with a strong, calm voice. “Good evening, miss. We are looking for a creature that is somewhere in Ponyville.”

        “Oh my! Is it serious?”

        The guard nodded. “I’m afraid it is. Have you seen a two-legged creature with green skin and a long red mane in purple clothes?”

        Rarity shook her head. “I believe I saw him at the market this morning; but whatever for?”

        “He is the suspect of several devastating instances that have left many ponies in need of medical care. He has been deemed to be very dangerous. If you see him, do not approach and immediately contact the guards.”

        “Oh dear!” Rarity flinched with fright and held a hoof to her chest. She flicked her tail and pressed herself against that strong chest while looking up from under her fluttering lashes. “It’s so nice to have such strong, dependable guards like yourself for our protection. Couldn’t you stay here and protect me and my boutique?” She topped it off with a little hip wiggle.

        The guard didn’t even blink. “I’d have to ask my wife first. Good day, miss,” he said with a slight nod before taking off into the sky.

        She hated to see him leave, but she loved watching him go. “Just my luck,” she said before shutting the door behind her and went into the kitchen, and that’s when she saw it. The back door of the boutique to the kitchen was wide open, and and three fillies were standing just inside of it, surrounding a two-legged creature. She yelped in fright. All eyes fell upon her, and her heart went cold. The red-maned creature looked up at her with frightfully sunken eyes from under his monstrous hat and waved at her with his sickly, baby-spittle green skin, soaked to the bone. The rags that hung off his turnip-shaped body were held together with a messy purple patchwork of stitches. The soaked rags dripped on her once pristine kitchen floor. The mud caked on the soles of his lanky, unkempt feet trailed behind him and splattered everywhere with each step. Opalescence was beside him, getting her muddy claws tangled up in loose threads hanging from his sleeve. A murderous thundercloud hung over his head and looked like it would blow up at any moment. He was horrible. Sweetie Belle and her friends were within his reach, and at any moment he could snatch them up and force Rarity to do his bidding -- let him hide here until dark and smuggle him out of Ponyville under the cover of night, or even worse, use her exalted status to get close to others like Filthy Rich, Princess Celestia, Luna, or Twilight. She would not let him! Her muscles tightened as she prepared to pounce, hoof first into that thin, frail smile of his and knock out his yellow teeth.

        But with guards combing the streets for him, that might be what he was expecting, or perhaps he didn’t know that she knew. Or maybe he knew that she knew that he knew. She couldn’t know. A subtler approach would be more effective. She let out her held breath and loosened her stance before calmly returning his smile with hers. “Why hello, dear, I wasn’t expecting Apple Bloom to bring a friend. Who might you be?”

        “I’m Woebegone. Very nice to meet you, miss,” he said with a tip of the hat, revealing his bald spot.

        Her stomach squirmed. She briefly looked away and saw the counter covered with pots, pans, boxes of ingredients, and a several bottles of oils and ingredients next to a pot of bubbling water. An open bag of flour sat on the kitchen table. She’d love to throw it in his face. “Very nice to meet you, Mr. Woebegone, I’m Rarity.” She looked down at the fillies. “Apple Bloom, I didn’t know you had a ‘plus one’.”

        “Well, I saw him wandering ‘round the road to Sweet Apple Acres, and turns out, he’s lookin’ for my sis,” said Apple Bloom. “So, I figured that since she’s in town, I’d bring him here and ask you if you knew where she was. Y’all wouldn’t happen to know where she is, right? She wasn’t at the market.”

        Rarity quickly looked out the kitchen window to a terrifyingly empty street and back to Apple Bloom. “You haven’t seen her? Or any pony?”

        She shook her head. “Nnnope. Notta one on the whole way here.”

        Scootaloo scratched her chin. “Hey, yeah, I noticed that too. I didn’t see anypony either. Is there a parade or something?”

        “I don’t know, but it stinks out there,” said Sweetie Belle.

Rarity discreetly sniffed herself before changing the topic to something more pressing than smells. “Woebegone, why are you looking for Applejack?”

“Because she knows a pony who’s very good with magic.”

It has begun! “Oh, is that right, darling? Girls, I need to show you something. If you’ll follow me...” She backed up to the open kitchen door and escorted the three confused fillies out while keeping Woebegone in the corner of her eye. “This won’t take more than a second,” she said to the red-maned creature before shutting the door calmly on his confused face. She As soon as the door clicked into place, Rarity grabbed her fainting couch from its corner and jammed it against the door, then her sewing machine, and then piled on mannequin after mannequin after mannequin. Opalescence could take care of herself.

“What the hay, Rarity?” squeaked Sweetie Belle.

“Yeah, what was that for?” said Apple Bloom.

“Girls, hush!” Rarity whispered. “That Woebegone fellow is bad news. I need you to go out, get the guards, and send them here!”

The fillies were taken aback by her commands. “How could you?” chastised Sweetie Belle with a very condescending tone, like a mother to a filly who should know better.

“This is Zecora all over again, isn’t it?” said Apple Bloom. Rarity flinched as if kicked in the nose.

Woebegone’s voice called out from behind the barricaded door. “Hello? Your cat is on the counter. I’m not sure if you’re okay with that, or…”

Apple Bloom! That isn’t true!”

The clanking of pots and pans rang out from the kitchen. “She’s knocking stuff over!” called out Woebegone with a warble of worry in his voice. “No, miss kitty, that’s not--” Opalescence hissed. “--Ow! She scratched me.” China smashed against the kitchen floor. It sounded expensive.

“Uh-huh, sure it is,” said Apple Bloom, “and why is he dangerous?”

“Because he, uh, he… he did this!” Rarity pulled off her hat.

The girls looked at her in disbelief before bursting with laughter.

Pffft! Yeah right,” said Scootaloo.

Rarity audibly ground her teeth together. She tried to be nice, but this browbeating from her sister and her friends was breaking her generous patience. “A guard came by earlier and informed me of a town-wide search for a two-legged, red-maned green creature that is a wanted suspect. There is a potential criminal in my home. Now you three will do as you’re told and you will--”

Fire! Fire!” screamed out Woebegone.

Rarity jumped away from the door behind her and gasped. Black smoke seeped through the small open space of the doorframe. She cried out in terror as she ripped apart the barricade and violently threw the door open. Opalescence, covered in cooking oil and flour, ran past her and tracked oily kitty paw prints in her store, up the stairs and into her bedroom where she would undoubtedly would lay her paws on everything in the room before hiding between her bed sheets.

Many of the pots and pans had been knocked off the counters beside the many, many fragments of what remained of Rarity’s fine china. Paw prints covered everything, even Woebegone, who had scratch on his cheek with a single trickle of blood, but that didn’t seem to bother him one bit as he nervously danced around her kitchen. The roof was black with smoke from a fire on the stove, fueled by a toppled bottle of oil.

My kitchen!

“On it!” she heard a trio of voices behind her before the fillies ran in front of her.

“No!” Rarity magically snatched the three by their tales. “You’re not going anywhere but--”

She was interrupted by Woebegone, who grabbed her by the fur around her neck and shook her, freeing the three from her magical grasp. “Fire extinguisher! Do you have a fire extinguisher!?”

        She shoved Woebegone off of her and he fell back on the kitchen table, which buckled under his weight and catapulted the bag of flour into her face. She wiped her eyes but couldn’t remove the blinding powder. She tried to reach out for a rag but couldn’t find one. She jumped back out into the shop and rubbed her face against the carpet, leaving behind a smear of flour, makeup, and fake lashes.

        “Sweetie Belle, hold it still. Apple Bloom, give me a boost!” said Scootaloo over the chaos behind her.

        Rarity turned back toward the kitchen and saw Scootaloo jumping off of Apple Bloom’s back and onto Woebegone’s cloud, held in place by Sweetie’s magic. She buzzed her wings and centered the cloud directly over the fire. Then she reared up her front hooves.


        Scootaloo slammed the cloud, unleashing a torrent of rain that splashed against the fire. Flaming oil spilled over everything around the stove, turning a quarter of the kitchen into an inferno.

        “Uh-oh,” said the three girls.

        “Out! Everypony out, now!” screamed Rarity as she scooped up the fillies and threw them outside. She turned around to go back inside to deal with the fire, but Woebegone had stolen her fire extinguisher in his shaky hands, which he found by emptying the cupboards and her refrigerator, leaving all their contents smashed, shattered, and splattered against the floor. He fumbled about with the device. She lashed out and ripped the fire extinguisher from his shaky hands, but his finger got caught and a jet stream of foam blasted her in the face and knocked her on her tush. Woebegone loudly muttered an apology as he went back to fighting the fire. She spat out the disgusting foam that got in her mouth before shaking off the rest. When she could finally see again, a quarter of her kitchen was black and smoking.

        Then a familiar, angelic voice with a rustic twang came from behind her, “Rarity! Y’all okay? I saw the smoke and-- Woebegone! Where in blazes have you been? Come on, we’ve gotta go! Everypony’s got manure on their hooves, and they think it’s yours. We’ve gotta get!” Applejack jerked Woebegone onto her back and then rushed out the burnt kitchen without even giving her so much as a comforting hug. 

What in Equestria just happened?