Apple Bloom just stared at Rainbow Dash, her eyes slightly hopeful; which only filled the pegasus with dread.
"No. No, no, tha-that's ridiculous. Ha ha ha ha ha," she replied nervously. "That was just a joke. I can't believe you all fell for it."
Rainbow Dash was a terrible liar.
"What?" Spike asked.
"But, Rainbow Dash, I thought-"
The conduit shoved her hoof in Fluttershy's mouth. "Yep, none of it was true," she replied.
Apple Bloom was quite observant. "You're lyin'. Why are you lyin'?"
"I'm not lying," she said, through a plastered smile.
The young filly stared in disbelief, before suddenly, and without warning, she bolted past everypony, and out the door.
"Apple Bloom!" Rainbow screamed.
"Wait!" Spike exclaimed, holding up a claw. "I'll go after her."
"You're not fast enough, Spike," Fluttershy explained. "Hop on."
Apple Bloom wasn't sure what she was doing, as her hooves moved through the streets of Ponyville, dodging anything that lay in her path.
Her mind was focused on other things. It focused on the words of Rainbow Dash, "those who could talk to the dead."
Talk to the dead...
Talk to the dead?
What did it mean?
Could Rainbow Dash really talk to the dead?
Part of Apple Bloom was in disbelief. The very idea that somepony could talk to the dead was ludicrous. But Rainbow's reaction made everything clear.
She wasn't going to let this opportunity slip past.
She ran past the storefronts, searching for a familiar face. Somepony she could trust. Somepony that would believe her.
Her eyes caught a glimpse. In the distance, she could see an orange pony, entering a building. Her legs sped up.
Rainbow Dash was panicking on the inside.
"Are you alright?" Rarity asked. "You seem flustered."
"I... I'm just... I... I'll be alright."
"I'll get you something to drink," the unicorn continued, trotting toward the kitchen.
Being left alone with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo only scared Rainbow more.
"So..." the young pegasus began. "This was the big secret?"
"Um... yep?" her friend explained.
Scootaloo grumbled slightly, before turning to her mentor. "So, Rainbow Dash. You can talk to the dead?"
"Um... kinda?" she responded sheepishly.
"Oh..." the filly replied, scratching her neck. "How?"
Rainbow froze. "I'm not sure... it... runs in the family."
"Oh... So your parents did it too?"
She suddenly got a lot more nervous. "Just my dad."
Scootaloo paused for a second, before responding, "That's pretty cool."
"Um... yeah, I guess it is."
"I mean... it's really cool," she continued, her enthusiasm slowly building. "Talking to the dead! It must be so much fun!"
"Well, I wouldn't say that."
"Scootaloo, please," Rarity said, trotting in with a glass of water. "You're making Rainbow Dash uncomfortable."
"No, no, it's alright," the medium responded.
"So, this is supposed to be a secret?" asked Scootaloo.
Rainbow responded with a simple, "yeah."
"Well, don't worry Rainbow Dash," she replied, saluting. "Your secret's safe with me."
Apple Bloom busted through the front door of Sugarcube Corner.
"Applejack!" she screamed.
An orange stallion turned to face her. It wasn't Applejack.
"Oh, hi, Apple Bloom," Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "What's up!?"
"Oh, um... uh..." Apple Bloom's fear was palpable. "I was just over at Carousel, with Scootaloo, we were spying, and... um... Rainbow said... She started talking about-"
"-Okay, you have your cupcake, Morning Dew!" she said to the bakery's sole customer, pushing him out the door. "You can leave now."
"But I haven't paid yet!" he declared.
"It's on the house, get out!" she screamed, slamming the door behind him, and sealing the lock.
The panic on Pinkie's face reverted to a smile, and she scooted up to the young filly.
"So," she began, coyly. "You were saying?"
"Uh, yeah," Apple Bloom replied nervously. "Rainbow, she... she said she could talk to the dead!"
Shock brushed across her face, to be quickly replaced by exasperation. "What?" she asked.
"She... she said she could talk to the dead! But when she found out me and Scootaloo overheard, she started to lie!" Tears started to brew in the earth pony's eyes. "Why would she do that?"
Pinkie leaned down. "Because it's a secret, Apple Bloom. Nopony's supposed to know. Did she mention that?"
"Then why in the name of Celestia were you gonna tell Applejack!?"
Apple Bloom was thrown back by the force. "What?"
"Nopony's supposed to know! Nopony! Do you understand!?"
She nodded, partly out of fear.
"Now, Pinkie Promise you'll never tell anypony about the Rainbows."
"Rainbow Dash and her powers. Promise you'll never tell anypony about any of it!"
"I... I promise!" she stammered.
Pinkie continued to stare her down.
Apple Bloom lifted her hoof, and traced an 'X' on her chest before touching her eyelid. Sealing the pact.
Finally satisfied, Pinkie helped the young filly get back to her hooves. "Now, since that's taken care of. Who exactly did she tell?"
Suddenly, a knock came from one particular window, and a nervous pegasus, and the dragon standing on her back, peered through.
Water shot across a porcelain surface, taking with it small amounts of foodstuffs.
Rarity stared at the plate, as she contemplated Rainbow’s story.
Her best friend could talk to the dead, and it was a state secret.
Hoofsteps resonated behind the mare, breaking her out of her reverie.
She quickly glanced at the approaching pony, before turning back to her cleaning.
"Oh. Hello, Rainbow Dash," she said.
"... Heeeeeeeeeey... Rarity..." she replied nervously.
"Are you alright?" the unicorn asked aptly.
She opened her mouth to reply, but froze, unsure of herself. "No," she finally responded.
Rarity turned off the water, and turned toward her friend. "What?" she asked, in genuine confusion. "What's wrong?"
She started to rub her left foreleg. "It's Scootaloo. I didn't want her to know."
She looked past the medium, into the showroom beyond. "They left?"
"Yeah, they're on their way back to school."
She nodded. "Alright. So, why don't you trust Scootaloo?"
"It's not that, it's just... I didn't want her to know, I thought..." Rainbow found herself unsure. "I thought she might ask for a favour."
Rarity was confused. "What kind of favour?"
She leaned in close. "A 'summoning the dead' favour."
"But she's not."
"Maybe she's just waiting to ask."
Awkward silence descended.
"Rainbow," the unicorn eventually asked. "Can I ask a question?"
"Back at the citadel. You were... um... you were in bad shape."
She bit her lower lip. "Yeah?"
"I... just thought..." she was unsure of how to continue. But thankfully, she didn't need to.
"It was," she replied. "It was related."
Rarity was slightly shocked at the revelation, but continued. "How?"
Rainbow Dash shuffled her hooves, then looked her best friend in the eye, and said, "They really were dead. Every last one of them really was dead."
Knocking, knocking, more knocking.
A dragon's soul is fierce and strong;
It became unbearable.
With valiant pride, we'll right the wrongs;
The knocking wouldn't end. Wouldn't cease.
Blood will spill, as love will reign;
How far did it spread? Was she the last? Was that why they were knocking on her?
And all our foes will feel our pain;
When would it end?
A dragon's heart burns strong with will;
She wanted it to end.
A passion which no colt could kill;
She could feel their pain... their fear... their sorrow... their confusion... as they brushed against her mind.
The fields of sorrow, stained with red;
Did they know what was happening? Did they know what they were?
A land which all will fear to tread;
Did they know they died?
"Rainbow Dash," a voice came, miles away. "Are you okay, do you need anything?"
She needed nothing. She needed less than nothing. She needed them to go away.
"Can you get up?"
Rainbow nodded, and complied, still holding back the tide as she approached the stone she tried so hard to collect.
All she could do was recite her protective mantra, but it was merely a sandbag levee against a hurricane. Eventually, it would break.
A loud crash. She ignored it.
The fields of sorrow, stained with red; A land which all will fear to tread;
She looked up, and realized she was the only one with wings. The mare floated toward one of the upper windows.
As she got higher, she felt more and more disoriented, the spirits continuing to bombard her mind.
She leaned against the pane, and peered outside. Using what little mental power she had, she tried to analyse what she saw: Zombies flooding through a hole in the outer wall. "They got through one of the barricades," she said.
Just then, her wings failed her. It was only a brief second, but it was enough to break her concentration as she tried to right herself.
It was enough to let one in.
Somepony started looking through her eyes. Lost and confused.
A dragon's soul is fierce and strong; With valiant pride, we'll right the wrongs; Blood will spill, as love will reign; and all our foes will feel our pain;
It was gone, as quickly as it came.
Rainbow slowly drifted back down to her stone.
Hopefully, it would forget.
Rarity stared at her friend, amazed at what she had learned.
"They attacked you?" she asked.
"Well, I wouldn't put it that way," Rainbow explained. "They didn't know, they were scared."
She was still slightly confused. "But if they were really dead... how did they get better?"
"Yeeeah..." she replied, scratching the back of her neck. "I was afraid you'd ask that."
"RAINBOW DASH!!!" a voice cried from Rarity's showroom.
The duo trotted through the door frame, to find a very angry Pinkie Pie.
"Hey, Pinkie!" the conduit responded. "What's up!? Planning another party?"
"Yeah, it's called the Rainbow-Dash-is-an-Idiot Party!!!"
She found herself taken aback. "What!?"
"What the hay are you thinking!? This is a major national secret! How would your cousins feel if they knew you were telling everypony about the Rainbows!" she continued. "I mean, it's bad enough you refuse to dye your mane, now this!?"
Rainbow was in shock. She'd never seen this side of Pinkie before. One of anger, righteous anger!
"And I assume you told Rarity as well; since apparently, you can't keep your snout shut!"
"I... I'm sorry, I had to-"
"No you didn't! There's never a reason! You're just lucky I stopped Apple Bloom from letting it leak! She was planning to tell Applejack! Applejack!!!"
"Hey," Rainbow replied, starting to enrage, herself. "I trust Applejack."
"That's not the point!"
"Then what is!?"
"It doesn't matter who you trust, this is bigger than that!"
"Wait," Rarity interjected. "How do you know?" she asked, pointing at Pinkie Pie.
"What?" the earth pony replied.
"The way you speak, you seem to have learned of this long ago."
She suddenly got nervous, but it just as quickly went away. "He had a very good reason to tell me," she explained confidently, before turning back to the medium. "What's your reason?"
Rainbow leaned in close. "I'm gonna help Twilight say goodbye to her brother, so her last words to him aren't, 'you're an ass.'"
Pinkie paused to process the information. "Okay... but... is that a reason to tell all our friends?"
She paused briefly. "I had to tell Fluttershy so she could help me convince Twilight. The others... okay it got a bit out-of-hoof, and I probably didn't have to, but I wanted to!"
"Including Apple Bloom?"
They stared at each other... until Pinkie blinked. "No one else will know," she said with a smile. "Everything's good. I'm sure of it."
"So, you're not mad?"
The earth pony shook her head. "In fact, I'm gonna help you! I'll plan the Summoning-Shining-Armor party! I'll even bring those silverbread cupcakes he loved so much."
"Yeah, I really didn't like those."
"Too bad, you're gonna eat them anyway!"
The schoolyard at Ponyville Elementary was always well-populated by foals at this time of day, as they neared the end of their lunch break. Most were playing and socializing, their last chance before it was time to return to their studies.
But this day, far away from most others, huddling against a secluded edge of the school building, two young foals took advantage of the time remaining, by discussing something they weren't even supposed to know about.
"So, you saw it happen!?" Scootaloo whispered enthusiastically.
Sweetie Belle nodded. "Mmmhm. She summoned Fluttershy's grandmother. Spike said she died 20 years ago."
"How would Spike know?"
"Apparently she's famous. She wrote Daring Do."
She nodded again.
"Cool!" she looked around the area, watching for spies, before continuing. "So, what was it like?"
"It was a bit weird. She didn't act like Rainbow Dash. But it was pretty cool. I met a dead pony."
The pegasus smiled.
Suddenly, their attention was caught by a moping earth pony entering their field of view.
"Hey, Apple Bloom," Scootaloo said. "What was with the panic mode back there?"
"I... I just..." she replied.
"Hey, don't worry, she had a very good reason to keep it a secret. It's fine. I'm not worried."
Apple Bloom looked up. And without missing a beat said, "Why didn't she ever tell us?"
Scoolaloo was confused. "Because it was a secret? And it was made a secret because ponies exploited them?"
"Yeah, but... why didn't she trust us?"
"Well... I don't know. I mean, I won't tell anypony, so there's no worry. And... wait... did you...?"
"Well, I told Pinkie Pie, but she already knew."
"I... I don't know, but she made me promise not to tell anypony."
"And you'd better not!" Scootaloo replied, pointing an accusatory hoof at her friend.
"I... I won't, but... I just." Apple Bloom bowed her head, as her legs slowly began to collapse beneath her. "I never met my parents."
She raised an eyebrow. "Neither have I, so?"
"Well, I want to!" she cried. Suddenly realizing how loud she was, the earth pony lowered her voice. "I want to meet my parents."
"But, Apple Bloom, they're dead," Sweetie Belle explained. "Oh, wait..."
Scootaloo approached her friend. "How's about this: after school, we'll meet up with Rainbow Dash, and ask her to summon your parents. She'd never say 'no' to a friend, or a friend of a friend."
"OOO! We can go together!" the unicorn cried. "See it all happen, live! This is gonna be so much fun!"
The two ponies trotted away from Carousel Boutique. An awkward silence had descended between them.
"So..." Rainbow Dash said, in an attempt to break it. "Do you really think I'm an idiot?" ... and failing.
Pinkie turned to look at her. "No, I... I guess I overreacted. You're not an idiot, you just care too much," she explained, rubbing the mare's head.
As Rainbow straightened her mane, another thought hit her. "Hey, about Apple Bloom..."
Pinkie turned her head again.
"You know, don't you?"
She hesitated for just a second. "Yeah... You know, you'll probably have to tell her."
Rainbow looked up at the sky above. "I hope not," she replied.