"Slaves?" Rarity asked, slightly perplexed.
"I... I don't understand. You can talk to the dead, and you were a slave?"
"Well, no, not me," she responded, slightly annoyed. "I wasn't a slave, my ancestors were."
The unicorn suddenly found herself lost in confusion. She started to walk away before quickly turning around and asking a simple question. "When?"
Rainbow put a hoof to her chin. "I think it was... eight... nine hundred years ago?"
"Nine hundred years ago there were slaves? How come I never heard about this before?"
"Why were they slaves?" Spike asked.
"How do you talk to the dead?" a squeaky voice inquired.
"Does it hurt?" A softer voice questioned.
Rainbow threw up her hooves. "Maybe I should start from the beginning."
"OOO!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed. "Story!" She sat down eagerly.
The medium took a deep breath, and began. "I..." she began. "I'm hungry."
An awkward silence descended briefly.
"Very well," Rarity stated. "We shall meet at Carousel for lunch. You can explain everything then. Come Sweetie Belle."
The young unicorn was incensed. "But, I wanna hear Rainbow Dash's story!" she cried.
"You can hear it at lunch, come."
"YAY!" Sweetie Belle quickly bounded after her sister.
As the others were left alone, Spike turned to the cyan pegasus. "So, you can talk to the dead?" he asked, awkwardly gripping his broom.
"Heh, yeah," she responded, rubbing the back of her head.
Fluttershy slowly approached her friend. "I'm really sorry Rainbow Dash," she said.
"Ah, forget it, Flutters. It had to happen sooner or later. And I'm sure they'll keep it quiet. No worries."
"You can't tell anyone," Rarity explained, as the two unicorns cantered down the boulevard.
"I know, I know!" Sweetie Belle shrieked. "You don't have to keep telling me!"
"Are you sure you understand? You can't let it slip, even accidentally. Not even to your friends."
"I won't!" she said, slowly getting more and more annoyed. "But how do you know Rainbow wasn't going to tell everypony anyway?"
"Let her tell them."
"Sweetie Belle!" A voice echoed from across the town square. Scootaloo waved her foreleg, attempting to catch her friend's attention.
"Scootaloo!" she screamed, galloping off. The filly then turned around, and while running backward, screamed, "Bye Rarity, see you at lunch!"
The designer waved farewell to her little sister.
As the young unicorn caught up with her friend, Scootaloo asked, "You're not having lunch with us?"
"Uh... no... um... no... sorry." She smiled. "Come on!" the unicorn said, leading the way toward the schoolhouse.
"Does the name, 'Silent Knight' ring a bell?" Fluttershy asked.
Rainbow's hoof went to her chin. "Nope."
She shook her head.
A soft smile appeared on her face. "Diamond Archer," she mused. "Oh, that was a year before I met your grandfather. Summer fling, you see. He had the brightest orange hair, and a brilliant blue coat. His eyes like pools of amber, and his face chiseled from marble. The most handsome stallion I've ever met."
Fluttershy smiled at the response.
"Or at least, that's what I wrote in my diary. He wasn't really a looker, but very sweet, and one hell of a kisser."
The two of them smiled and giggled.
The mares had been at this for several minutes. Fluttershy searched out a question, and Spring Orchard answered.
This was what she was summoned for, after all. So, the two of them found an isolated corner of the library, on a bench in front of a large bay window, and began their task.
But Spring Orchard wasn't about to allow the two pegasi to use her as a simple tool. She was going to get something out of it. She was going to have some fun.
"You seeing anypony, Fluttershy?" the spirit asked.
The young pegasus looked up from the book, as her face went red. "Hmm?" She asked, slightly confused.
"Any cute colts in your life?"
She remained silent.
"Oh, come on, I'm already dead, how long do I have to wait for great-grandfoals?"
Fluttershy got redder and redder.
Orchard suddenly started to laugh. "I'm only teasing, sweetheart," she said. "But, I guess that answers my question anyways."
She cowered slightly.
"Have you ever been with a colt?"
"Um... 'been with'?"
"Well..." she put a hoof to her chin. "Kissed."
"Oh... um... no."
Her eyes widened. "Really?"
"Is something wrong?"
"No, I'm just... surprised," Orchard explained. Suddenly regretting her words.
"Well," Spike said, approaching the mares. "That's all the cleaning done. What are you two doing?"
"Fluttershy was just quizzing me about my life. It's actually kinda fun," the medium's voice replied.
Spike stared at Rainbow Dash for several seconds before saying, "this is weird."
"You think it's weird? I just found out I'm dead!"
"Heh, yeah." He rubbed the back of his head, and continued. "You know, I gotta say, I'm a huge fan." A nervous smile emerged.
"Really?" She said. "Well... that's nice. You know, I didn't think my books would appeal to dragons... considering..." She trailed off, mostly due to embarrassment.
"Well, most of the dragons I've met weren't that nice either," he explained. "So, I don't really take it personally."
"Spike's not like most dragons." Fluttershy explained, grabbing him in a tight embrace. "He's such a sweetheart."
"Tanks," came his muffled reply.
"Well," Orchard replied. "Isn't that nice."
As the dragon squirmed out of Fluttershy's forelegs, he asked a simple question. "So... what's it like?"
She raised an eyebrow, curiously.
"I mean... being dead."
The writer was suddenly taken aback. "Um... well... it's... strange." She looked at the bottom of Rainbow's hoof. "Everything feels a bit different." She unfurled her host's wings, and looked at them. "Never had wings before. Kinda wanna take 'em out for a spin."
"Well," Fluttershy responded. "We could... if you want."
Orchard smiled. "Maybe later. I wanted to see what my publishers did to Daring," she said, placing a hoof on the pile of books next to her.
"Okay, well, um... I guess I'm done with these questions." She closed the book and slid it into her saddlebag.
"Aw, really?" Orchard replied with a smile.
"Well, I can't really think of any more-"
"Relax, Fluttershy," she responded, taking a book off her pile. "You know, it's incredible how much you take after your father."
As Rainbow's eyes turned to the book before her, Fluttershy trotted away, with Spike.
"So, what do you think?" the dragon asked.
"Well, she answered all the questions correctly," the mare explained. "That's definitely my grandmother."
They looked back at the medium, and noticed her frowning at the pages.
"This is really weird," he mused. "I just met Spring Orchard, found out Rainbow Dash can talk to the dead, and she's just reading like it's all normal."
"Well, it is to her," Fluttershy rebutted.
"That just makes it weirder." He looked back at the medium once again. "I wonder how Twilight's gonna react."
"But... Rainbow said it's a secret."
"Oh, but I thought... nevermind."
"What is it?"
"Well, I mean, she tells you the day after we find out Shining Armor..." He suddenly started to choke up. "The day after he died. I thought there was a connection."
"Well, there was," the pegasus explained. "I'm just not too sure it's a good idea."
Rainbow's hoof hit her face as she sighed in exasperation.
"Come on, tell us!" Scootaloo cried.
"I can't!" Sweetie Belle rebutted. "I mean, there's nothing to tell!"
The morning recess was normally a time for fun and frolic for the foals at Ponyville Elementary. Instead, on this day, two ponies were too busy with suspicions and accusations, to play their normal game of ball-toss.
"Oh, sure, you really expect us to believe that!?" the pegasus responded.
"I'm just having lunch with my sister! Can't I have lunch with my sister!?" She cried, hoping it would be enough to disperse their paranoia.
"But... we always have lunch together," Apple Bloom interjected, a tone of disappointment in her voice.
"I know, it's just... I can't today."
"Alright, fine," Scootaloo said. "We'll just have fun without you."
"Okay!" Sweetie Belle replied, with more joy than her friend expected.
"What!? No! You're supposed to be upset!"
"But I'm not."
"Alright alright," Apple Bloom said, stepping between the two. "Stop it, both of you. Let's just go back to the game. Come on!"
She tossed the ball in the air, and it came down on the head of a grumpy orange pegasus, who barely reacted.
After several awkward seconds of staring at Sweetie Belle, she very suddenly smiled, and said, "Okay!" Before trotting away to collect the ball.
She tossed it toward her unicorn friend, who bounced it toward Apple Bloom, who in turn, bounce it back to Scootaloo.
But the awkward tone hung in the air, as Scootaloo thought, it's not over yet.
Ponyville was not a well-structured town. On the surface, and to the average visitor, it would seem pretty simple. A hoofful of major streets one could use to access every point in town. But the truth was, the bulk of the hamlet consisted of a maze of back streets that not even the most experienced local would traverse.
These streets tended to be quiet and barren, which made them the perfect paths for two pegasi and one dragon, as they made their way to Carousel Boutique for lunch. Primarily because they could talk about things that weren't meant for public ears.
"So, what did she think?" Spike asked the young medium.
"She hated it," Rainbow explained. "She thought they messed Daring up, especially in the later books."
"Let me guess," he continued. "Diamond White."
"Yeah, that just pissed her off. Daring's supposed to be this independent spirit! Giving her a shoehorned love interest like that just screwed everything up!"
Spike scoffed. "Too bad she can't tell them off personally," the dragon explained. "... could she?" he asked with a smile.
"Sorry Spike, it's just not worth it."
"But... given her fame, I could pull some strings, get her writing again."
"Oh, yeah. That'd be awesome!" she mused with a smile.
Suddenly, Carousel Boutique came into view, and as they fell into a more populated area, their conversation ceased.
Sweetie Belle was bursting with excitement and anxiety as she ran across Ponyville. All morning her mind had speculated.
Rainbow could talk to the dead. Her ancestors were slaves. What did all this mean!?
Did she use the power of the stars? Did some ancient alicorn grant them abilities? Were they shunned and outcast by others out of fear and jealousy? What really happened?
Thankfully her patience was about to pay off. As approached her sister's store, where Rainbow Dash would tell them everything.
She ran at the fastest speed her legs could carry her. But unfortunately, it wasn't fast enough, and she did not notice the two ponies managing to keep pace, several metres behind, out of sight, on a scooter.
"Scootaloo," Apple Bloom shouted, over the buzzing of her friend's wings. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"She's hiding something from us," the driver explained. "We're gonna find out what it is?"
"Maybe she has a good reason," the earth pony explained.
"There is no good reason to keep secrets from friends. Rainbow Dash would never keep a secret from her friends!"
In the small kitchen at Carousel Boutique, two pots sat, heated by small gas flames, and each being stirred by giant spoons encased in magic.
Rarity loved cooking, it was one of the top three things she loved to do, next to makeovers and sewing. So she took every opportunity she could find to make food for her friends. Unfortunately, her food stores were running low that day, so she fell back to her favourite cooking technique called: whatever's left in the fridge.
She managed to find some pasta; and ingredients to make an improvised sauce, which appeared to come along quite well, if a little off-colour. She wasn't exactly sure why it was purple. But as she poured a small amount onto a spoon, and ate it; she knew it tasted good, at least.
"Rarity?" A voice came from behind her.
Turning around, the unicorn saw three of her closest friends enter the kitchen. Spike; Fluttershy; and Rainbow Dash, the mare of the hour.
"Oh," she exclaimed. "I did not hear you come in!"
"Really?" Rainbow asked. "Because that bell's pretty loud."
As if on cue, the door chime in the front room rang, and almost instantly, a young filly appeared in front of Spike and the three mares.
"Are we ready!? Are we gonna eat!? Is Rainbow gonna tell us a story!? Huh!? Huh!? Huh!?" the new arrival exclaimed, continually hopping up and down.
"Heh, yeah," the conduit responded, rubbing her neck. "I guess so."
"Are you alright Rainbow Dash?" Rarity asked, slightly concerned. "You seem nervous."
"Well..." she explained. "I kinda am. It's not exactly a happy story."
"Well then," she continued, carrying one of the pots over to her kitchen sink, and dumping out the water. "We should eat first. You do not want to stress yourself out on an empty stomach." The unicorn then levitated the pot of pasta back to her stove, and dumped the contents in the pot of sauce, before stirring her concoction together.
Rainbow trotted over to the stove, and looked at the preparation. "Why is it purple?" she asked.
Scootaloo's infiltration was going smoothly. Upon realizing the front door would likely be booby-trapped, she searched for alternate entrances, and carried her best friend to one of the second floor windows, after opening it with a strip of metal she pried off her wagon.
"Was it really necessary to destroy the wagon, Scootaloo?" Apple Bloom asked.
The pegasus quickly hushed her accomplice, and crawled down the stairs ahead of her, silently, and covertly. She also hoped to earn a cutie mark out of this.
They approached the door leading to the main kitchen, where they could hear eating, and drinking, and one familiar voice.
"Okay, it is pretty darn good," Rainbow Dash said.
"I told you," her friend replied with a laugh.
"Rarity's a great chef!" Sweetie Belle cried. "I hope to be just like her!"
"Sweetie Belle, please," her sister replied, in an embarrassed tone.
The two fillies ducked under a large and ornate dress, displayed on one of the shop's many ponykins. So they could maintain cover and overhear the conversation.
Now more than ever, Scootaloo wanted to hear everything. Why exactly were Rainbow Dash and Sweetie Belle having lunch with Rarity? And why wasn't she invited!?
She had to know. And very soon, she would.
As the five of them enjoyed their meal, Sweetie Belle's impatience kept building. But she didn't want to be rude. So instead, she ate her lunch as quickly as she could, burying her face in the plate and licking it clean.
Everyone turned to look at her, face covered in purple sauce.
"So," Rarity said, casually wiping the mess off her sister's face. "Would you like seconds, Sweetie Belle."
"No, I'm good!" the filly replied. She turned her gaze to Rainbow Dash, who was taken aback.
The conduit looked around the table, and down at her plate. Then, with a smile, emulated the filly's technique.
A few seconds later, she wiped her face with a cloth, and released a deep sigh. "That was great Rarity, I never knew you could cook like that!"
"Um... thank you," the unicorn replied.
"So, are you gonna tell us the story?" her younger sister asked.
"Yeah, sure. It's why we're here."
As the others continued eating, Rainbow took a deep breath and began her tale.
"During the early days," she explained. "People saw us as cursed. Our connection to the other side freaked them out. They didn't want to know us, or look at us."
"Why?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"I don't know, ponies were superstitious back then. They probably thought if we were connected to death, we could cause it."
She awkwardly fiddled with the cloth in her hooves.
"Eventually, that stuff sorta faded. Then, some ponies saw us as tools. The wealthy would lose a family member, and then we would be used to channel them, so they wouldn't be lost."
"So, they tried to make good use of your talents," Rarity said. "It doesn't seem so bad."
Rainbow gave an emotionless glance to the unicorn before continuing.
"For some, they found it quite enjoyable. Reconnecting ponies with their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, siblings, allies, friends..."
A slight silence hung in the air.
Suddenly, everypony froze, and with a full mouth Rarity asked, "are you saying...?"
Rainbow nodded solemnly.
The unicorn looked down at her plate. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"One Rainbow... her name was Twilight Moon, she was... um... she worked for some duke in southern Marizona. Every night, she was tasked with summoning his dead wife and..."
"Wait," Sweetie Belle interjected. "Are you saying that she was summoned so they could..." she bumped her hooves together in a solid rhythm.
Rainbow was slightly surprised that an innocent young foal would know such innuendo. But then remembered that she was friends with Scootaloo.
The medium nodded again.
"That's horrible!!!" the filly replied.
"It was... i... it was horrible. I met her... shared some of her memories. She killed herself one morning, after... Eventually she couldn't take it."
"Maybe we shouldn't have eaten during this," Spike replied, pushing his dish away.
Fluttershy followed suit.
"Yeeeah, probably should have waited 'til you were done," Rainbow replied sheepishly.
"So, why didn't we ever hear about this before now?" the dragon asked.
"Well, Twilight's death happened about nine hundred years ago, and news of it spread like the pony pox, particularly in Rainbow circles. It's pretty easy for us to spread this kind of stuff. And thanks to that..."
Rainbow paused for a brief second, and took a sip of water.
"Sorry," she said. "Anyway, thanks to that, the story made it to Canterlot, and..."
"Princess Celestia," Rarity said, in realization.
"It was all her. She found out about Twilight Moon's story, and decided to begin a new campaign, to prevent it from happening again."
"By making everypony forget Rainbows ever existed. To make them forget what we could do."
"She magically wiped it from everyone's minds?"
"No!" Rainbow said, incensed. "I mean, not quite. It's actually kinda complicated. There were various spells, and tricks... OOO!" She raised a hoof up in the air, dramatically. "I do remember one thing. That was when the weather service started making rainbows, real rainbows. It was a distraction, to make ponies think of that instead of, 'those who could talk to the dead.'"
A sudden shuffle was heard from the main showroom, along with whispered voices and hushes.
Everyone's eyes snapped in the same direction.
"Is your story over?" Spike asked.
"Pretty much," Dash replied. "Except that there are no spells anymore, so if anypony finds out..."
The entire group started walking over to investigate.
Upon arriving, all noise had ceased. But Rainbow would not give up so easily.
"I think somepony's here," she said.
"What was your first clue?" Spike asked rhetorically.
Everyone began scanning the area, looking for anything that might be amiss.
Eventually, one pair of dragon eyes, saw a pair of extra hooves beneath a large ponykin. He cleared his throat, and pointed in the direction of the anomaly.
All five approached the ponykin, and quickly surrounded it, before Rarity quickly and violently pulled the dress off, likely tearing it in the process.
But that was a minor concern. Because suddenly they could all see, huddled beneath the now-bare structure, two familiar young foals, crouched one atop another, with sheepish and apologetic grins directed at Rainbow Dash.
Rainbow's eyes suddenly and drastically widened. Fluttershy could see the panic and fear in her face. She was genuinely scared, but the pegasus did not know why. The medium did not react like this when Rarity and Sweetie Belle found out. Why was this different?
"Hi," Scootaloo said, staring up at her mentor.
"Hey, Scootaloo," she said, failing to cover up her internal panic. "What're ya doin'?"
"Oh, we're just spyin'!" the filly replied casually.
"I can see that," Rainbow responded. "How much did you hear?"
Her eyes briefly darted around, as if the answer would be written on a wall. "Very little?" she eventually replied.
"Oh, really? Okay."
It was then that the smile on Scootaloo's face turned to panic, as she looked down, as if she suddenly noticed her companion.
Apple Bloom's breathing was erratic and she was trembling. Eventually, words came out, and she asked a simple question. "R-R-Rainbow Dash? C-can you rrrrreally talk to the dead?"
A part of Rainbow Dash died. "Shit," she replied.