This is the seventh story in The Journey of Graves. Special thanks go to MrBackpack, my spectacular editor, who did so much to help me craft this story.
The series begins with the first story: When the Man Comes Around.
IMPORTANT: If you haven't read the series, please head back to the beginning and check it out. While each story stands on its own, the character and relationship developments will build on each other as the series progresses.
And so, the saga continues...
Return to the Gala
Applejack almost never got mad. Sure, she’d often get annoyed, irritated, aggravated and frustrated – particularly with Applebloom – but rarely mad. That’s why a deathly pale Pinkie Pie was understandably surprised to see her friend stomping up to the Ponyville library with a definitively angry look plastered onto her oddly shiny face.
“Whoa, what’s got you all frowny?” the chipper girl chirped, white puffs of flour billowing out with every word.
“Frowny? Oh, I’m more’n frowny, lemme tell yah,” the miffed cowgirl glowered. “There I was, gatherin’ up a whole heap o’ eggs so Granny Smith could make her world-famous apple custard, when Twilight pops up outta nowhere, gives me some sorta nonsense about a disaster, and pops off again.”
“That’s it?” Pinkie Pie frowned in confusion. “That doesn’t sound too bad.” Surely, her ever level-headed friend wouldn’t have gotten upset over just that.
“It wouldn’t have been,” Applejack answered with a wry grin, “ ‘cept she did it right in the middle of the chicken coop. Just as I was climbin’ down them rickety ol’ steps.”
“Oooooohhhhh." As Pinkie Pie's powdery face lit with understanding, the freckled farmer's grimace only grew more morose.
“Spooked the chickens, an’ they sent me topplin’ right over. But the worst part is...” and here, a tear actually trickled down her poultry plastered face, “not only did I end up with egg on mah face, Granny can’t make the custard till tomorrow. Tomorrow!”
“Wow, what a coincidence!” Pinkie Pie giggled. “Twilight did the same thing to me, only I was getting down a bag of flour from the top shelf. Come to think of it, why do we keep flour on the top shelf anyway? Hmmm... Anywho, do you think that Twilight has a grudge against baked goods or something?”
“Hardly,” came a familiarly raspy voice from above. Looking up, the pair saw Rainbow Dash drifting down, the runework frame on her back humming as the iridescent spell wings came to a shimmering stop.
“Hi Dashie!” Pinkie Pie beamed. “Were you about to bake something too?”
“I wish,” the cyan-clad flyer snorted. “If I were, then Twilight wouldn’t have interrupted the most epic nap of all time. Seriously, I was sleeping so hard, I was sleeping in my sleep.”
“How do you manage that?” Applejack asked in confusion.
“Uh, I was napping and dreaming of napping at the same time?” Rainbow Dash smirked. “Tch, duh.”
“Well then, it seems like we all have a reason to pay Twilight a visit, don’t we?” another voice called out, this one light and musical. The small gathering in front of the library door turned to spot Rarity and Fluttershy approaching to join them. Both were sopping wet.
“Whoa, what happened to you two?” Rainbow Dash snorted with unabashed amusement. Rarity smiled serenely in reply, the slight tightness at the corners of her mouth the only indication that she was actually seething with barely suppressed wrath.
“Let’s just say that Opalescence likes her baths about as much as you like ribbons and lace, dear Rainbow Dash,” the seamstress replied through her strained smile, “and even less so when startled by abrupt magical hubbub.”
“So, I reckon we’re all here for the same reason then?” Applejack intoned. The knowing glances her friends gave her were answer clear enough: Twilight had gathered them here because she felt something disastrous was about to happen.
“Well, let’s find out what’s going on,” Rainbow Dash sighed as she raised her hand to pound on the entryway. “But so help me, if it’s another panic attack about a late homework assignment or something, I’m gonna–”
The door suddenly swung open. From the other side, a nervous Twilight peeked out and spotted the other girls.
“Oh good, you’re here,” she sighed as a wash of relief crossed her face. “Come in quick, I have some really important news that you all have got to hear.”
“Are you alright, Twilight?” Fluttershy asked through the veil of her dripping pink hair. “You seemed rather upset when you… dropped in earlier.”
“Upset? No, not upset,” the studious librarian said as she immediately began pacing back and forth. “But worried? Yes, I’m definitely worried. And I mean really, really worried. Why, this is probably going to be as bad as the time where–”
“Whoa, settle down there, sugar cube,” Applejack said reassuringly, her irritation at lost custard long forgotten in light of her friend’s seemingly genuine concerns. “Now, why don’t you jess relax an' tell us what’s got you all hot 'n bothered?”
Taking a deep breath, Twilight breathed out slowly and pulled out a roll of parchment from inside her sweater vest. Unrolling it with great trepidation, the young scholar reached in and held up its content, a small handful of paper slips that glittered with golden gild.
“No,” Rarity breathed.
“There’s no way…” Rainbow Dash sputtered.
“Are those really...?” Pinkie Pie gasped.
“Yup,” Twilight nodded. “Seven more tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala.”
“…Um, excuse me, Twilight,” Fluttershy whispered after several moments of silence, “but are you sure you didn’t… you know… get those by mistake?”
“Yeah, seriously,” Rainbow Dash nodded vehemently. “I mean, between trashing the ballroom, starting a stampede, and generally getting on the bad side of every singly important person between here and Las Pegasus, it’s not like we’re very high on the VIP list.”
“I wish,” Twilight sighed glumly, “but no. Those tickets were definitely meant for us.” Raising the sheaf of parchment, she morosely began to read the message it contained.
“To my most faithful student, Twilight Sparkle,
As you’re probably well aware, the next Grand Galloping Gala is coming up very soon, and while I know it’s short notice, I was wondering if you and your friends would like to attend this year. Your last visit made the whole evening so much more fun, everything now seems twice as dull since you haven’t been coming back. I’d hate to be a bother, but your presence here would be so greatly appreciated. I look forward to a favorable response.
P.S. Luna shares the feeling. She hasn’t been this excited since the gladiatorial matches that last occurred some fifteen hundred years ago.”
“So, yer tellin’ me that the Princess wants us to come and cause a heap o’ ruckus at her fancy shindig?” Applejack asked, scratching her blonde head in understandable confusion.
“Exactly,” Twilight wailed. “What are we supposed to do? I mean, I know the Princess said she wants us to come, but what if she’s just being polite and inviting us again to avoid hurting our feelings? Maybe she’s saying she wants us to come while expecting us to say no and showing up will actually be a problem. But what if I’m wrong and she really does want us to go and we don’t show up? We might end up seriously hurting her feelings instead!”
Applejack looked at Fluttershy, who glances over at Pinkie Pie, who turned to Rainbow Dash, who thought for a moment, then simply shrugged.
“Eh, what the hay. Let’s go.”
“…Wait, seriously?” Twilight gaped. “Just like that?”
“Yeah, why not?” Rainbow Dash grinned. "The Princess sent us an invite, and no way am I ever gonna pass up a chance to see the Wonderbolts!”
“But… that didn’t work out last time,” Twilight pointed out. “They were so busy talking to all the fancy party guests, they didn’t have time for you.”
“Psh, that’s just a teensy setback,” the colorful flyer dismissed with a flippant wave of the hand. “It’s not like I’m gonna give up just ‘cause it didn’t work out one measly time. I mean, if I did, I’d never have gotten the Buccaneer Blitz, the Super-Speed Strut, or… heck, any of my moves.”
“Actually, I sort of feel the same way,” Fluttershy smiled meekly. “I mean, I know I couldn’t make friends with the animals last time, but maybe if I tried again, it’ll work out better. That is, I hope it does…” she trailed off softly.
“So… you guys really don’t mind going again?” Twilight asked, her previous disconcertion melting away in light of her friends’ enthusiasm.
“Not really,” Applejack grinned reassuringly. “Land sakes, last time I was so caught up tryin’ to make a few bits, I never got the chance to actually let mah hair down an' enjoy the party.”
“And where there’s a party, there’s Pinkie Pie!” the curly haired girl beamed ecstatically. “So it didn’t end up like we thought it’d be; doesn’t mean we can’t still have a good time, right?”
Twilight’s nervous tension evaporated as she finally cracked a smile: she should have known better than to worry about such things with her friends around.
“Alright then,” she finished with a calming sigh. “I’ll write to the Princess and let her know we’ll be coming. Er, we will all be going, right, Rarity?”
The girls turned to the violet-haired seamstress who up until now, had been oddly quiet. Very oddly quiet. After all, if anyone should have a vocal opinion about a fancy ball, it should definitely have been her.
“But of course,” she replied, eyes wide and sounding as surprised as if Twilight had just asked whether water was still wet. “Why would you even need to ask?”
“Maybe ‘cause you were starin’ off inta space like a poleaxed mule?” Applejack smirked.
“I most certainly was not,” Rarity replied, positively bristling with indignation at the comparison. “I may have been a bit... distracted, but only because I was getting a head start designing new dresses for each of you.”
“New dresses?” Rainbow Dash snorted. “Why can’t we just wear the old ones?”
“Wear the old ones?” Rarity gasped in dismay. From the sound of it, the notion was about as disturbed as if her flyer friend had suggested going to the Gala naked. Actually, maybe even more so. “Showing up to an event like the Gala in something you’ve worn before would be utterly scandalous! No no no no no, that simply will not do!”
“But it’s only a week away,” Twilight pointed out. “You’re actually going to make another six amazing, stunning, original dresses in that much time?” Rarity just chuckled.
“Oh please, you make it sound as if it’s going to be hard," Rarity laughed. "I’ve worked with tighter deadlines before, and as long as I don’t get too many 'revision requests'," she added with a knowing smile to her friends, "it should be an utter breeze.” The other girls couldn’t help but sheepishly grin as they recalled their previous, spiritedly misguided attempts at designing their own dresses.
“So... we’re all in agreement then?” Twilight asked once more. “We’re all fine with going to the Grand Galloping Gala one more time?”
“Well duh!” Pinkie Pie cheered. “A party’s a party, and this is still one of the most specialest, most fantastical parties ever! Besides, it’s not like this entire invitation is an elaborate plot by Princess Celestia to get us back to Canterlot so she can lock us up in the dungeon all night and possibly more as a lesson for messing up her fancy party, right?”
“...Right?” the bubbly baker repeated. Her friends made no reply. The Princess wouldn’t do something like that. I mean, sure she had an odd sense of humor, but even she wouldn’t go that far.
... Would she?
“Well ah course that ain't gonna happen,” Applejack answered bracingly. “Why, we’re gonna show up tah this fancy hooplah and have ourselves a grand ol' time.”
“Great!” the pink one beamed. “Well I don't know about you guys, but I’m off to go and get ready: parties like these need ‘special’ treatment.”
The exuberant chatterbox bounded off and was quickly followed by the girls who, despite their friend’s eerily probable prediction, began to eagerly chat away about the various preparations and plans they each had for the upcoming event. All of them except Rarity, who left without another word.