Twilight Sparkle turned towards the door to see Spike standing there, breathing a bit heavily, as if he had just been running. She walked over to her draconic friend and put a hoof on his shoulder, getting him to look her in the eyes before saying, ”What’s going on Spike, who needs my help?” While she was talking, Twilight used her magic to get a cup of water for the purple dragon.
Spike downed the contents of the glass, and then took a deep breath before replying, “I was on my way back from unloading the order of materials over at the Carousel Boutique for Rarity, when I passed the school and Cheerilee called me over.”
“So something bad happened at the school?”
“What do you mean ‘I guess’?”
“Well,” at this point, Spike was blushing a little, and he wouldn’t quite meet his friend’s gaze, “I don’t actually know what’s going on.”
The dragon in question backed a few paces away from the irritated unicorn in question with his hands raised in surrender, “I’m sorry Twi, but Cheerilee looked pretty freaked when she flagged me down; she told me that I needed to get you as quickly as possible.”
Twilight Sparkle sighed in defeat, “Well, we had better go and see what the problem is, and then see what we can do to help.”
The two left the library at a trot, with Spike jogging alongside Twilight Sparkle. With the growth spurts that he had gone through over the past several years, Spike had grown too tall to ride on his friend’s back. He was now, in fact, on eye to a pony of average height and had developed a pair of wings. His wings were still a bit too small for Spike to do much more than hover a couple of inches off of the ground. Because of his self-consciousness about their size, the purple dragon often hid his wings under a vest that Rarity made for him.
‘Even my little Spike is growing up,’ Twilight Sparkle thought with a sigh. She didn’t have long to dwell on this though, because as soon as they were in sight of the front of the school, Twilight was tackled to the ground by a frazzled Cheerilee.
“Oh, thank Celestia that you’re here!” the magenta earth pony exclaimed as she began to push the unicorn that she had nearly body slammed towards the school.
“What’s the matter?” Twilight asked as she began walking in the direction that Cheerilee was shoving.
“It’s easier if I show you rather than try and explain.” Cheerilee led Spike and Twilight Sparkle around the school to the back where the playground was to where a crowd had gathered. Not everyony in the crowd was a student, so it was impossible to see what the problem was at first. When she had finally gotten through the crowd of spectators, she immediately understood Cheerilee’s concern. In the middle of the mass of ponies were two in mid-fight. One colt was a cobalt blue unicorn with a short, spiky spring green, turquoise tipped mane and tail. The other colt was a bright yellow Pegasus with a messy orchid colored mane and tail.
The oddness of the scene wasn't in the fact that the two colts were fighting (scuffles between young ponies were common enough), but the strangeness of the situation was in the stillness of the two foals. It appeared as though the arguing colts had been frozen mid-fight, with the young pegasus hovering above the unicorn as his opponent looked up at him, glaring and possibly shouting. As Twilight examined the foal that hung suspended in mid air, she heard a voice over the constant murmur of the rest of the crowd. “This is why I said that it would be easier see than to explain.”
The lavender unicorn turned away from her examination to see a worried Cheerilee making her way over to where she stood. “Do you know what this is or how this happened?”
Twilight look expectantly at the school teacher, but the other mare woefully shook her head. “There was a filly that had gotten stuck in the crook of a tree that I had to help out, so I didn’t see what happened.”
“Hey Twilight, check this out,” Spike called from the other side of the circle of ponies.
Twilight turned away from Cheerilee and walked over to the other side of the frozen colts to see what her assistant had found. The gangly purple dragon stepped away from his place next to the immobile vibrant blue unicorn to reveal a light grey foal huddled beneath the frozen colt. Twilight Sparkle couldn’t tell whether the little unicorn was a filly or a colt because the young pony’s face was hidden by a mass of spring green and pink hair.
“Are you all right?” Twilight asked, fearing that this foal was another victim of the mysterious freeze.
“It’s my fault, all my fault,” the responding muffle of despair designated the pale grey unicorn as a filly.
“What’s your fault?” the amethyst mare asked gently as she walked forward and knelt down so that the two of them were on the same level.
“It’s my fault, I killed them!” the filly wailed in anguish. The pre-dawn colored filly threw her forelegs around the waist of the unicorn she had been hiding under and buried her face into his side.
Twilight Sparkle had to stop herself from snorting or giggling, lest she traumatize the foal any further. She took a calming breath before saying, “They’re not dead.”
This statement shocked the filly into looking up, revealing a pair of wide green eyes, rimmed red from crying. “Th-they’re not?” the hope laced into the little pony’s shaky voice made Twilight's heart ache a little in sympathy.
“No they are not,” Twilight confirmed. “Listen.” She gently laid a hoof on the un-moving, azure colt’s chest, “he’s still breathing, and you can feel his heartbeat.”
“Thank goodness!” the gray filly threw her forelegs back around the frozen unicorn as she cried joyously. A full minute passed with her ear laid against the azure colt’s back, and then she pressed an ear up to the yellow colt’s stomach for another minute. After she had reassured herself of the two boys' well being, the filly looked up at Twilight Sparkle, scrutinizing her for a moment before asking, “Are you here to help?”
“I’m going to do the best I can to do just that. My name is Twilight Sparkle, by the way.”
“Okay, my name is Wishing Star,” the little unicorn replied.
“Well Wishing Star, can you tell me who did this?”
Wishing Star murmured something that Twilight Sparkle couldn't quite hear.
“I’m sorry, but I didn't quite hear that,” Twilight replied as politely as she could. “Can you please repeat what you just said?”
“Did this,” the filly gestured to the two frozen ponies.
“Oh. How? ”
“I don’t know,” Wishing Star looked tearfully away.
“Well, can you at least tell me what happened right before… this?” Twilight Sparkle gestured to the scene beside them, avoiding any words involving 'freeze' or 'statue'.
“Are you sure you can’t tell me anything? The more I know, the easier it will be to help your friends…”
“They’re my brothers!”
“What?” It was too late though, before Twilight could ask for any clarification, the dove gray filly had buried her face in the mane of the brother that was still on the ground and refused to say anything else.
“Excuse me, Miss Twilight?” The pale purple mare in question turned to look at the white hoof on her shoulder, then at the sky blue foreleg attached to the hoof, and then at the colt that they belonged to.
“Yes?!” Twilight Sparkle snapped. She hadn't meant to sound as harsh as she did, but she had just, with increasing futility, been trying to get Wishing Star to talk to her again. She took a deep breath, and then replied, “I’m sorry, what do you need?”
The young pony looked a lot less taken aback than she had thought he would, given his age and the current situation. The colt was a unicorn with a coat the color of the summer sky with white hooves and calm, plum colored eyes. His mane was short and spiky, his tail a bit longer; his bright green, yellow, and pink hair surprisingly well kept for his age. The young unicorn nodded in understanding, and then continued on as if nothing untoward had happened. “I’m sorry that I have to interrupt you Miss Sparkle, but I think that I can help,” he explained.
“All right, well, not to be rude, but who are you and how do you think that you can help?”
“My name is Bright Knight, and I’m a friend of Wishing Star’s, and them too,” he pointed to the two statue-like brothers. “Me and the rest of our friends…”
“That is the rest of our friends and I,” Twilight Sparkle corrected.
“Okay then, the rest of our friends and I,” Bright Knight amended, while gesturing to a chartreuse earth filly and a lilac pegasus filly, “we were here when this all happened.”
“That could be helpful, but I’ve been trying to probe and sense this spell with my own magic since I got here, but I’ve only been able to glean scant amounts of information. Now if I could look up some information in the notes and books at the library concerning the type of spell this may be, and get a letter to the Princess, she may know about this kind of magic. It does seem to be a rather arcane form of magic. Unless I can do that, I’m not sure how helpful any of us can be.”
Twilight Sparkle turned away from the turquoise colt and looked around for Cheerilee. When she located the school teacher clearing the area of the bystanders with Spike’s help, she called out, “Hey, Cheerilee!” When she had the magenta mare’s attention, Twilight Sparkle continued, “Would it be alright if I took Wishing Star and the frozen colts to the library?”
“Do you think that will help?” Cheerilee asked as she trotted over, leaving Spike to herd the students back into the school by himself.
“If I can look at the notes in some books concerning this type of spell, maybe send a letter to Princess Celestia…”
"Shouldn't we make sure that Lucky Star and Shooting Star can be moved before we start making any further plans?” Twilight Sparkle turned to see who had interrupted her train of thought, and her gaze fell upon the little tea green filly that Bright Knight had gestured to earlier. This filly, the pegasus, and Bright Knight were the only students left in the yard now besides the two frozen ones and their crying sister. The two fillies appeared to be examining the immobile brothers. The tea green filly who had spoken had a thick, wavy mane and tail colored in alternating stripes of grass and forest green, with dark honey colored eyes; she was prodding the pegasus colt, not even looking at the adults.
“Tea Leaf!” Bright Knight admonished, “don’t be rude!” The sky blue unicorn had been trying to comfort the hysterical Wishing Star, and had finally absorbed what his friend had said in the following silence.
The wavy maned filly huffed in annoyance and retorted, “How are supposed to help our friends if we ignore these basic problems?” When she turned to glare at her friend, Twilight Sparkle saw that the spunky little pony already had her cutie mark: a stoppered clay jar with a large leaf resting in front of it.
Twilight interrupted the stare-down that had commenced between the two foals by commenting, “That actually is a good point; we can’t do anything for these boys at the library if they cannot be moved from this spot. Now Lucky and Shooting…?” Twilight Sparkle let her question trail off, hoping that the filly would elaborate.
Tea Leaf, after she had given her opponent a raspberry of victory, turned to the lavender mare and explained, “Lucky Star and Shooting Star,” the filly pointed to first the pegasus and then the unicorn, “that’s their names.”
Twilight Sparkle nodded, and then began to think of the problem at hand: could the colts be moved? And even if they could be moved, how was she going to move them?
“I’m going to check on the other students. Twilight, will you be alright with the foals here?” Cheerilee had a worried tone in her voice, but she was still slowly walking towards the school.
“We’ll behave, Miss Cheerilee,” Bright Knight promised from his place beside Shooting Star and Wishing Star.
“I know I can count on you, Bright Knight,” the school teacher said with a softening in her gaze. When she looked at Twilight Sparkle, the unicorn nodded her own agreement. Cheerilee walked towards the door, and then into the school.
The only ponies that were left in the yard now were Twilight Sparkle, Wishing Star, Bright Knight, Tea Leaf, the lilac pegasus, and the statue stiff Star brothers. All of the ponies that weren't either frozen, comforting a friend, or being comforted, sat or stood around the problem contemplating solutions for it. After eight solid minutes of silent though, the stillness was broken by a shriek of frustration.
“Uhg!” everypony turned their head to face the direction of the scream. The noise had come from the pegasus filly that had stayed in the yard as one of Wishing Star’s supportive friends. The young pegasus had a lilac body; her mane and tail were short, choppy, and hot pink. Her powder blue eyes were currently sparkling with annoyance as she glared around at everypony. “What are we doing just sitting here?” she demanded. This was the first time that the winged filly had said anything since Twilight Sparkle’s arrival, and she was definitely the loudest of the four foals that the mare magician had met that morning.
“We’re trying to find a way to figure out if Lucky Star and Shooting Star can be moved,” Tea Leaf explained with great patience to the pale purple pegasus, “we just went over this, Compass Rose.”
“If Lucky and S.S. need to be moved, then we gotta move them! If we have to find out if they can be moved at all, then we need to try!” At these words, Compass Rose launched herself up into the air, fluttered over to Lucky Star, and pushed the yellow pegasus.
To everypony’s surprise, when the lilac filly collided with Lucky Star, he began to tip sideways. The hot pink haired pegasus shot to the other side of the slanting friend and began to try and stop the colt’s imminent crash. From where Twilight Sparkle was standing, she could see that it was not only Lucky Star that was in danger of falling; Bright Knight was also holding Shooting Star to prevent himself and Wishing Star from being crushed. It seemed to Twilight that the two brothers were not only held by the same spell, but were also connected because of that spell. This could mean…
“Whoa, what happened here?” Twilight Sparkle was interrupted by Spike; he had come outside right as Bright Knight and Compass Rose were trying to get the brothers back into an upright position. The purple dragon immediately ran over to help the foals. Just as the dragon and the two little ponies had gotten the frozen colts back into their original position, there was a shout that shocked Spike into almost knocking the statue-like figures over again.
“Compass Rose!” Cheerilee came stomping across the yard, scolding the filly as she went, “You could have caused some serious damage to those two boys, young lady!” The teacher glared down at the lilac filly expectantly.
“Sorry, Ms. Cheerilee,” Compass Rose murmured, looking away shamefaced as she descended to the ground in a dejected plop, “I just wanted to help.” The young pegasus looked as though she was about to burst into tears.
Before anypony could say or do anything else, Twilight Sparkle walked over to where the pale purple filly sat beneath the yellow pegasus that she had nearly toppled, and placed a hoof on her shoulder. When baby blue eyes met violet ones, Twilight Sparkle tried to smile as reassuringly as possible as she said softly, “You did help.”
“Yes, you followed your instincts, and did what you thought was the best thing to do to help your friends.”
“So, you’re not mad?”
Twilight Sparkle slowly shook her head and smiled again as she replied, “No, I’m not, but you need to be more careful in the future. Instincts are a good thing to have, but you need to have some discernment to balance it out.”
Compass Rose cocked her head to the side in utter confusion, paused for a moment, then said with the utmost eloquence, “Huh?”
“I’ll explain it to you sometime,” Twilight giggled as she fluffed the filly’s mane, “but trust me; I've made bigger messes than this when I was looking after my friends' best interests. At least now we know that the boys can be moved. How are your other students by the way? “Twilight Sparkle addressed Cheerilee, letting the magenta earth pony know that she was neither being ignored nor forgotten.
“They’re fine now; they were pretty freaked out when I got into the classroom, but after I got them all to sit down and color pictures, everypony started to calm down,” the teacher replied. She then sighed, “With all the craziness of this morning, that’s probably all that I’m going to be able to get them to do today.”
Twilight Sparkle shook her head at the thought of a school day with no learning. “I’ll do my best to undo whatever spell has been cast and help with Wishing Star’s magic so that you don’t have to worry about this sort of thing happening again.” She then turned towards her assistant and called, “Spike, did you see Big Mac with Applejack at the apple cart this morning?”
“Yeah, he was just getting there with a whole cart full of apples when I was on my way back from Rarity’s place,” Spike replied as he took an emerald out of a pocket in his vest and chewed pensively.
“Do you think that he could still be there?”
“Maybe, why do you ask?”
“I’m going to see if he is still there. If he is, I’m going to ask him to get these foals to the library,” She waved a hoof in the general direction of the motionless colts.
“I know Big Macintosh; he’s the big stallion that did the hay rides on Nightmare Night! I can fly over and get him for you if you like,” Compass Rose offered, stretching her wings as if preparing for a speedy take off.
“Thank you for the offer,” Twilight Sparkle said quickly, halting the filly before she took off, “but Big Mac is a good friend of mine, and I think it would be impolite if I didn't ask him for a favor personally.”
“Okay...” Compass Rose said reluctantly. She folded her wings and scuffed the ground in disappointment.
“So you’re going to the market?” Tea Leaf had come to stand beside Compass Rose as she asked her question.
“Only long enough to get transportation for the boys.”
“And then you’ll be back?”
“Of course, I made a promise. Do you think that you can watch over Wishing Star and her brothers for me?”
“Of course I can.”
“Well then, I should be off. Come on Spike, we need to get to the Apple family stall before Big Mac leaves,” Twilight Sparkle called over her shoulder as she began to gallop towards the market square.
“Right behind you Twi!” and Spike followed after his friend.
* * *
As Spike and Twilight Sparkle made their way through the town market area, they located the Apple Family Stall and quickly made their way towards it. As they approached, they could see Applejack doing business with a customer while Big Macintosh was unloading the last basket of apples off of his cart.
When the pony in front of Applejack had paid for his apples and was leaving, the orange mare saw her old friends; she walked around the stall to embrace each of them. “Howdy Twilight, howdy Spike,” she said as she pulled away with a smile. “Ah didn't think that ah’d see you here.”
Twilight Sparkle smiled at her friend and replied, “I’m happy to see you too AJ, but to be honest with you, I need to talk to Big Macintosh.”
Applejack nodded, and then yelled over her shoulder, “Don’t you go scamperin’ off jest yet Mac, Twilight here needs ta talk to ya!” The large red stallion stopped harnessing himself to his wagon and looked over at the lavender unicorn expectantly.
Twilight Sparkle smiled over at the workhorse, “Good morning Big Mac, is Fluttershy doing well with the pregnancy?”
“Eeyup,” Big Mac replied in his usual way.
“The baby is due at any time now, Fluttershy is stayin’ at home, and we’re havin’ Apple Bloom take care of ‘er.” Twilight chuckled at Applejack’s response to the question she had asked Big Mac. Even after all of these years, the large red stallion was a pony of few words, and was more than happy to let his sister do most of the talking.
“Well,” Twilight Sparkle winked at Spike and Applejack before walking over to stand in front of her quiet friend and said, “Do you think that I could borrow the services of yourself and your cart before you scamper off to be with your lady love?”
The red stallion smiled sappily at the thought of his wife as he replied, “Eeyup.”
“Splendid, can you take us to the school now?”
“Eeyup,” Big Mac replied, he then continued hooking his self into the cart harness.
“What’s goin’ on at the school?” Applejack directed her question to Twilight, since Spike was busy pulling himself into the cart.
“It’s actually a pretty long story. Can I come over later today to visit Fluttershy and tell you all about it?”
“Of course you can, sugar cube. In fact, why don’t the two of ya come over for dinner tonight, and you can tell us the whole story.”
“I would like that very much, AJ.” Twilight Sparkle hugged her friend, and then turned towards the cart. “Spike, can you get started on a letter to Princess Celestia?”
“Can do,” Spike said as he pulled a roll of parchment and a quill from an inner pocket of his vest. He began to put pen to paper, but paused. “Uh Twilight, what am I writing?”
“Describe the situation and I’ll fill you in on the things that I gleaned using my magic. With those observations given, the Princess may know what kind of spell was cast,” Twilight explained as she attempted climbed into the back of the cart.
“What does that… ya know what, never mind,” Applejack huffed as she came up behind her unicorn friend and boosted her into the wagon. “I’m sure that the two of you gonna are have one humdinger of a story to tell when ya come over fer supper tonight.”
“I’m sure that we will,” Twilight replied warmly.
“See you tonight, AJ!” Spike called from his spot in the front of the cart.
Big Macintosh then set off towards the school, and Twilight Sparkle began to dictate a letter for Spike to send to Princess Celestia.