(Friend's Notes: I'm sorry to say. We lost a lot of our notes, interviews, and record during the battle. As such we've had to construction a lot of things. And there shall be many gaps. We hope you understand. But the interviews that remains are truly worth exploring in our opinion.)
The group continued to run. "Rarity, are they still behind us?!" Pinkie asked the mare on her back.
"Some, yes," replied the annoyed unicorn, still being carried. She took advantaged of it to lift some rocks or vases off the wall and throw them, but there wasn't anything small enough to take them off guard with.
Rainbow wanted to turn around and do one of her tricks to throw the Changelings off, but she had a little orange, and very unhappy, filly to worry about.
It was a stampede, that was the was only right way to put it. The ponies fled like wild horses from the wedding hall as the changeling guards pursued.
Moon Dancer had fled in a completely different direction the moment she saw the herd coming. While she doubted the bugs bothered to tell their victims apart, she wasn't about to risk it, and for right now she was still useful as a bluff and had to milk it for all it was worth. She couldn't risk being seen fleeing by the bugs.
As civilian ponies broke off from the main group hoping to lose the bug-ponies, Cadence. getting further and further away from her true love, said, "Mr. Sparkle! You and Starlight go another way!"
"That's insane!" The unicorn snapped.
"The monsters are after me, and the Elements, they're ignoring the guests who are just running away! You're in more danger with us!"
"I'm not abandoning you!"
"You can do more good with Starlight than with us! Please! WHEN we get Twilight and Shining out of this I do NOT want to have to tell them their parents got hurt because of me!"
And the two were gone. Canterlot Castle was big.
"Let them go! Stay on the leaders!" said the changeling guard leading the pack, Hercules Beetle still turning the Angry Mother Lemon into lemonade.
"Where's Horse Solo when we need'em?!" Pinkie Pie exclaimed.
As they dashed passed a corridor, a white furred Earth Pony stepped out of the corridor and charged straight at the Changelings, surprising them.
"What the Tartarus is she doing?!" asked Rainbow.
"Don't stop, just run," a voice said.
Lyra blinked. "Cobweb?!"
Rainbow blinked, finding the SAME white Earth Pony running next to them. "But...how did...when did..."
"Wait for it..."
The Changelings kept trying to blast the incoming Earth Pony with energy beams...only for her to finally reach them and vanish into thin air.
Their compound-eyes widened as they found themselves surrounded on all sides by thunder clouds that had manifested around them out of nowhere. Lightning shot out, forming a spiderweb of electricity, leaving half a group of unconscious Changelings behind it. A few more stayed behind to check on their guardmates.
Rainbow blinked, hearing the lightning and seeing the flash. "Lightning?! You're an-"
The 'Earth Pony's' hat lifted up to reveal a hidden unicorn horn. "Undercover you could say. I'm looking for some friends of mine who are in danger. And to answer your question, I'm pretty good at traps. The illusion was pretty much a tripwire and diversion for the lightning strike."
Rainbow looked at the mare's Cutie Mark, a cobweb. 'Her special talent must be traps...that WAS a pretty classic pegasi trap.'
"How do we know this isn't a trap for US?!" Rainbow asked.
"Simple, if it was why was the trap BEHIND you when I was IN FRONT of you?"
"...I can't argue with that..."
"Then I recommend we find somewhere to regroup!"
"Any more surprises we can count on?!" Prince Blueblood of all ponies exclaimed, Arcane Spell on his back.
"Sorry! I barely had time for the one! And you have to admit, HALF The number of pursuers is still better than all of them!"
"Cherry Coke, you and your stallions are to escort the prince and miss Spell to safety while the rest of us draw the enemy's attention and wait for further orders!" Cadence ordered.
"SAFETY?! Where! You can't-"
"I can't order Shining's parents but I can order you!"
"We're not Harmony Guards."
"No, but my aunts are presently captured and rendered MIA during an enemy attack. Me and my cousin are currently the only royalty present. And you're currently the only nonbrainwashed nonchangeling Guards I know are still here! You're the only ones I can trust with the wounded!"
"She's gotta point, me and the lady hurt like this are kinda slowin'-"
"Shut up Banjo! If that's the case then why didn't you send us with the Sparkles?!"
"Because the Queen doesn't have a GRUDGE on them. She got her revenge on Starlight, but SOMEPONY needs to keep an eye on my cousin who threw a giant wrench in her works!"
"We're gonna run out of hallways sooner than later!" Pinkie Diane exclaimed. "And I don't have the time or a good enough animator to set up an endless hallway chase scene gag right now!"
"Anypony know any extra illusion magic?!"
"None that I can use like this darling!"
"I can give you a few extra seconds!" Twinkle Shine charged up her horn.
"Idiot! You can't use the same trick twice!" Bon Bon exclaimed, she and Moth still carrying the Alicorn princess.
"Who said the same trick!" Twinkle Shine flared the spell at the changelings . . . the resulting flash . . . sucked all the light from the space of the hallway for a few seconds. Twinkle Shine's horn darkened considerably, but she still ran with her friends, and considering she was carrying the exhausted Minuette at the same time, that was something.
Cobweb took her cue and created an illusion of Cherry Coke, his stallions, Blueblood and his girlfriend, six ponies all together, she wasn't looking where she was going.
"Cherry Coke, -NOW-, that's an order!"
"As usual. Nopony cares what I think on a matter." Blueblood whisper.
"You expect anything less?" Rarity hissed at him.
"No. I'm used to other ponies deciding my fate," Blueblood said. There wasn't time for anymore melodrama as the changeling guards got their bearings and saw the two identical herds break off from the stampede that was VERY MUCH literally running out of running room.
"What do we do?! Her Majesty won't be pleased if we let the interloper escape her wrath!" one of the Changelings exclaimed as the pursuing group briefly stopped at the crossroads.
The commanding Changeling growled (now the third, their leader unconscious from the lightning trap). "Half of you split up and chase them, the rest with me!"
"Your Highness," Silver Tongue, "Let me take the fillies and-AGH!" He stumbled, Applebloom had BITTEN HIM!
"Ya try and make us run off an' hide and Ah BUCKIN' SWEAR Ah'll chew yer moonsent leg off!"
Rarity nearly fainted at the language (the chaise longue tripping up the changelings more).
Fluttercruel noticed and finally put her vocabulary to good use to keep summoning the longue back in their pursuers' path.
Silver Tongue didn't have time for stupid fillies eager to die, but he saw the look in Applebloom's eyes. This filly had stared death in the face.
"I've had to abandon Sweetie! I'm not abandoning you all too!" yelled Scootaloo seriously. She reached over as Rainbow flew and grabbed a nearby vase, throwing it back and managing to lodge it on one of their pursuer's heads. "That's for taking Sweetie Belle you monsters!"
"...Dad, please apologize to mom for this!" yelled Silver Spoon, ripping off her dress and throwing it, causing it to hit a Changeling in the face and blind him, causing him to trip. "That's for Spike..."
Applebloom and Scootaloo did the same with their dress clothes, and more or less anything they could manage to grab while they fled.
For Rarity this was the icing on the cake to see her beautiful dresses she had put pieces of her soul into destroyed after Sweetie had been enscrolled by the witch. And she hadn't even suspected. What happened to her eye for detail?
The Ponyvillians were surprised, were these the same fillies who had hide under a table paralyzed in terror when Nightmare Moon had returned?
The changelings were taken offguard as well, not having expected 'calves' to actually attack them, slowing them down a surprising amount.
The group came to the end of a hallway, which as most hallways in the castle were, lined with doors.
"I THOUGHT WE WERE HEADED FOR THE EXIT!" Lyra exclaimed, that was where they were supposed to meet with Moon Dancer.
"Looks like we'll have to fight..." said Rainbow with Scootaloo in her forelegs, uncharacteristically reluctant.
"Wait! I have an idea!" Pinkie said, checking a door and finding it unlocked. "Good! Everypony in here!"
"What?! That's just a-"
"Don't question it, Princess! Trust me!" Pinkie begged. "If you try to make sense of it this won't work!"
"Trust her, Pinkie can do some crazy stuff if we let her!" Rainbow stated.
Lyra, Bon Bon, and Moth nodded to the confused Minuette, Twinkle Shine, and Lemon Hearts. Silver Tongue nodded to Cadence, the glasses wearing stallion forgetting he wasn't in uniform. Scootaloo, Applebloom, and Silver Spoon just nodded.
Pinkie pulled the entire group into the room and slammed the door behind them.
The Changelings rushed the door and opened it...when Pinkie opened a door on the opposite side of the hall way. "Hey! We're over here!"
The bewildered Changelings looked in the room, finding nopony and quickly rushed after the Pink Party Pony...and emerged chasing her out of another door altogether, much to their confusion as they chased her into another room.
The next time they emerged without her and blinked, looking around for a moment before she ran out of one door, blew a razzberry at them, and hid in another room.
They stopped at the door the pony just entered and carefully opened it to find an empty room.
Pinkie opened a door next to them. "In here! You're good at this! That's closer than most get! I'll give you a hint! I'm definitely not in this room!"
The now annoyed and enraged pursers rushed in after her...just in time for Pinkie to emerge from a door on the opposite end of the hallway and barricade the door with a chair, a dresser, and finally an anchor that appeared to come from nowhere.
"Hey! How did she-"
"Sir, there's no windows in this room!"
As the Changelings tried to beat down the door, Pinkie rushed to a door on the end of the hallway closest to the crossroads and opened it, allowing the rest of the group to come falling out like a pack of sardines.
"But...we were in...there's no...we weren't even on this side of the..." a bewildered Cadence stammered, looking at the situation. "Where did she get an anchor?!"
"Hurry! I didn't have time to pull out heavier stuff from off camera and that won't hold them forever!"
"Scootaloo!" Rainbow chastised.
"She needed something heavier..." the filly defended as Pinkie quickly added the summoned longue to the barricade and picked the fainted Rarity back up.
The group wisely fled before the Changelings could finish breaking down the door.
"The stories are all true! Ponyville IS FULL of crazy ponies!" Lemon Hearts exclaimed.
"Hey!" Rarity, Rainbow, and other said glaring at Lemon Hearts.
"It's okay girls, it's true," Pinkie Diane said calmly. "Though I haven't been crazy since season two episode six!"
One Year Ago
The Day The World Was Unzipped
By Her Majesty! What is going on! The cattle have gone mad! The city has gone mad! The sky has gone mad! The other infiltrators have gone mad! WHAT IS GOING ON!?
Neither cattle nor changeling agents are responding coherently! Even cattle don't go insane for no reason, and changelings at the same time? There was no logic! There is no reason to any of this!
"Why should there be reason to anything?"
Sitting on top of my desk face to face, like he had teleported in was a royal changeling, only with the most gaudy horns, colors, and eyes that would make even the worst deviant look normal. He reminded me of a clown.
"W-who are you?!" Who was this royal changeling?! Where did he come from? Was there more of our kind after all? I dared to hope.
"Well Digger Wasp, I am from the near future! The heir of what remains of the changeling people! I have come to deliver onto you the truth!"
He grinned at me, it was the grin I had given to many cattle over the years in my youth when I shamefully took pleasure in manipulating these dumb animals, like that sick creature Kabuto Beetle.
"Why tell you? When I can show you?" My chair came to life and grappled me in place, and actually stretched my eyelids so I couldn't look away. A movie projector came out of nowhere along with a movie screen. The royal changeling took out a film reel and set it up to play.
A cattle newscaster began droning as the grainy black and white film began to play.
"Today is a glorious day for all of Ponykind everywhere! The last of the changeling menace has been exterminated."
The film showed grinned cattle guards, magically shrinking innocent changeling brood mothers and nymphs to the size of insects, and stomping them to death. Giant bombs of poison being dropped down on brave changeling guards not giving them even a chance to face their enemies. I saw changelings being dragged along with their wings and horn broken off the signs around their necks reading 'No insults to Alicorns!' Yet more were showcased in cages, garbage thrown at them between the bars by laughing cattle foals. Some changeling nymphs were stripped of their magic, forced into one meager, single shape, then brainwashed to hate their own people. And . . . no . . .
"NO! NO! NO!" Was the head of her Majesty, stuffed and mounted like a griffin hunting trophy, over the fireplace of Celestia, chatting casually and happily with the other two Alicorns.
The royal changeling wiped away my tears.
"Oh there there don't cry, save it for this next part!!!"
"And none of this would have been possible, if not for the failure of the changeling spy, Digger Wasp."
That can't be.
"Oh but it is," said the film's news caster. "Digger Wasp failed in his duty."
"I can't! I can't have failed the swarm!"
The film showed my sister Jewel Wasp being dragged along towards a public execution, or a lobotomization. She looked right at me. "YES YOU DID Digs! You failed! FAILED! FAILED!" The image changed to a mass grave of my people, all of them looking at me.
No . . . . no . . . no . . . I . . .
"You failed." Said the royal changeling happily, "No more changelings! And just think! You don't even know what you'll do! Maybe it'll be what you DON'T do! Maybe me showing you this is what caused it! Just think! Think! THINK! You just know it WILL HAPPEN! And you can't know WHAT caused it! Be happy! Cause you're the last who dies! You'll get to see it all! Byyyyyyyyyyye!"
I lay paralyzed, terrified to say, do, or think anything that might trigger the death of my people, I was that way for . . . I don't know . . . until the rainbow came and returned reason to my mind. I immediately took a month's vacation back to Zebrafrica . . . I . . . needed time with my own kind undisguised, and yes . . . maybe I did make sure Jewel Wasp wouldn't be here. Selfish. I know. But . . . that image . . . burned in my brain . . .
I began planning everything down to the second. Making sure I was aware of what I did every second.
Day Of The Invasion
"Sir are you alright?"
"I-I'm fine Honey Bee!" I told her.
"Well, do you have your speech memorized?"
"Of course I do."
"Let's get this movie started, yo!" Said Bullet Bee, still in the form of a royal guard, none of us were dumb enough to drop our disguises at a time like this.
I'll die before I let what That Thing showed me be my people's fate.
He counted down the moment to start his speech to the very second before beginning.
"Ponies of Canterlot, it pains us to inform you that Princess Luna and many of the royal guard had been replaced by evil shape shifters, known as changelings, Princess Celestia was severely injured in the ensuing battle, and a fake Cadence is running around with her brainwashed slaves. We are still in search of the true Princess Luna."
"I knew that starry mane of hers was suspicious!" One pony whispered, latching onto the lie that was much more comfortable than truth.
"But the invaders have been pushed away by the selfless efforts of Captain Shining Armor, though the effort weakened him greatly. Do not worry and trust your royal guards. And report this impostor Princess Cadence if you see her, do not worry, we suspect the creatures might be engaged in a sort of power struggles, which shall make repelling the remainder from our home easier. We shall drive away these monsters! Believe in your princesses, believe in Equestria!"
"You think that lie is actually going to last?" Celestia said flatly.
"It doesn't need to last for long."
"Long enough for what? I doubt it's anything that clever from the likes of you."
Chrysalis shocked the Alicorn through the cocoon. "I told you, to STOP trying to bait me like some amateur! You'll know it, once it's done."
Was worth a shot, Celestia thought.
Chrysalis gave a chuckle. "But I will say one thing: if you're hoping and praying the Guard will piece together things? I know they will. I know in a direct confrontation my changelings can't win (of course they don't know that, nor will they believe you if you tell them). I know this is a facade that will only last so long and the guard can and at present eventually will retake Canterlot from my Changelings...but who said I was planning to hold Canterlot like this forever? I'll hold it long enough for my needs, taking the city used to be my only goal, with nothing beyond that...now I've moved my own goalposts."
Celestia's blood ran cold as she realized she wasn't facing an invading army...but one psychopath playing her own people to get what she wanted. And try as she might, she couldn't piece together what.
"And that's all you get, run it over and over again in your head while I enjoy sitting on the throne and ruling the city I've wanted since I was a foal."
The Dash believes in acting instead of sitting around talking. But we had all a million questions for each other, but with there being so many of us, we couldn't risk sitting down for a chat in the middle of the castle crawling with monsters that had come out of bucking nowhere.. We barely took the time to introduce ourselves, mostly. It was super hectic!
There were seventeen of us, eighteen counting Fluttercruel. That was a lot of ponies. And if we didn't keep an eye on the Cutie Mark Crusaders, we could lock them in a trunk and they'd still find a way out and get themselves killed trying to help their enslaved friends. Besides, I had to keep an eye on my little filly.
There was that friend of Cadence's maidens, Moon Dancer, that made nineteen. Twinkle Shine said that the bugs will think she was one of their brainwashed slaves as long as she acted the part and the color-change on her eyes didn't fail (Twinkle seemed pretty confident in herself).
Lyra explained. "We were supposed to meet up with her at the front of the castle if she had to run! But we didn't count on . . . all this! She can't just wait there forever!"
Pinkie nodded. "Okay. Front of the castle. Pale blue earth pony with blond mane and happy moon and stars cutie mark right?"
"No!" Lyra, Bon Bon, Moth, Lemon Hearts, Twinkle Shine, and Minuette all said at the pink pony.
"Oh . . . right . . . eheh, was thinking of ANOTHER Moondancer I used to know! Really long story! Sorry!"
"White unicorn. Red mane. Crescent moon cutie mark!" Twinkle Shine snapped.
"Right right! Dashie! With me! Be back in a jiffy!" She grabbed her rainbow maned friend, me. Politely depositing Rarity FINALLY on the carpet, having calmed down.
"If I use my cheat codes anymore I'm likely to make irony bite us in the flank! So I need Rainbow Boom speed! Just let me give you some directions so you won't get lost!"
"Pinkie, I think you might just weight me down-"
"Please? Time isn't stopping for us!"
"Not until I recharge..." Minuette moaned, holding her head with aa hoof.
"Fine! Back in ten seconds flat!" The two zoomed off. Rainbow Dash was wrong. It was eleven seconds. They came back with Moon Dancer in tow. "Dang fake guards are everywhere."
And we still had a million questions to ask each other. We had not been next to any windows, so what Moon Dancer told us she had heard outside shocked us all.
"THEY SAID WHAT?!" Lyra shouted, getting a SHUSH! from everypony.
"That's crazy, it makes no sense!" Cobweb said.
"It makes perfect sense." Cadence whispered, "Sprinkle enough truth into a lie, and ponies will believe it has to all be truth."
"'Cause ponies are used ta thinkin' somethin' said's gotta be all hogwash or all truth."
We all looked at Applebloom. "Ah talked 'bout it with big sister."
"Oh." Was the unified response. Scoots and Silver Spoon hugged their friend who was sad mentioning her brainwashed big sister. AJ . . .
Silver Tongue spoke up, "At least this means they can't risk causing a major fight in public, otherwise they'll blow their cover and have all of Canterlot's ponies to deal with instead of some national heroes, wedding guests, and one princess."
"Not if they start brainwashing ponies en mass." Moon Dancer whispered, trembling in her knees. "Then their slaves won't care about the truth or not."
"Well then. We simply can't give'em time to do that!" Rainbow Dash said cracking her 'knuckles' (rather strange since she didn't have any). "Hey Cadence! Yer Harmony right? I bet ya can get the Elements ta work! Or fill in the gaps!"
"I . . . I don't know. I've never tried anything like that before." Cadence admitted.
"Darling, I think you're forgetting that we need ponies who are tried and true friends for the Elements to work, even if we had somepony to fill in for Honesty and Magic, AND the regalia for them," Rarity pointed out.
"If you've got a better idea, let me know! Celestia said get the Elements! And it's better we have'em than the bugs! Maybe us using the Elements will kick start it for Twilight and AJ and snap'em out of it!"
"What about Sweetie Belle and Spike?!" Applebloom asked.
"I'm sure once the witch is ka-put they'll snap out of it! That's how it always works!"
"Maybe we should ask why the monsters think Moon Dancer is one of their victims," Silver Tongue asked.
"Because I used to be."
"We can figure things out when we're -NOT- in the bucking open!" Fluttercruel hissed.
"Language!" Rarity snapped. No one challenged her.
Cobweb said, "If you were NOT going to hide somewhere, where would you hide?"
Cadence answered, "My room, because it's too obvious."
Cobweb nodded, "And that's exactly why we WILL hide there."
"Simple, it's SO obvious a hiding place they won't see it coming."
Rainbow tilted her head, "So it's a good hiding spot because they'll assume we're too smart to use it?"
Cobweb stood proud. "Exactly."
Moth crossed her forehooves. "NO! We need a hiding place that they won't look because they think we're stupid!"
Lyra put a hoof to her chin. "They DID think that we're cattle."
Cobweb sighed and put a hoof to her chin, "Good point. Then Cadence, what's the most secret place you know of in the castle?"
Cadence thought, "Easy. Not IN the castle. The good news is that the announcement was only about me. Which means the rest of you won't draw attention for a little bit until they finish pointing out whose who through the ranks, and by then we can probably piece together another disguise. Anypony have anything to hide my wings?"
Rarity sighed. There went another of her beautiful dresses. At least it was to a good cause. Moonsend it. And Cadence still looked fabulous, for a mare who looked like she had spend a month slaving for Diamond Dogs.
Cadence's wings hidden, her horn glowed and her colors inverted, having managed to recharge a bit from the strong bonds around her. "The rest of you act like zombies, and say a prayer."
"Pray? To who?" Silver Spoon asked.
Cadence's on stage performance and that of the others got them out of the castle, with Moon Dancer actually adding credence to the illusion since she was known by now as one of Chrysalis' property. Ironically, they exited through the front door so as not to draw attention (since if they were going through a side door they would have clearly been trying NOT to be seen and draw attention). While when entering their destination, they broke up and enters from side doors to keep from drawing attention when those in the know began asking where they were.
"A church?" Twinkle Shine asked her princess. There wasn't any clergy present.
"It'll do for now. I lost track of how long I was in that cave listening to Chrysalis' taunts."
"Likes the sound of her own voice?" Lemon Hearts asked.
"I think it's more she liked seeing me MORE miserable. What this place stands for is so low on her perceptions of value that it doesn't even exist in her mind." Cadence shuddered at the idea of Auntie now having to endure that witch's sadistic voice.
"Cave?" Half the ponies present asked.
"I . . . think we all have some note comparing to do." Rarity said first.
"YOU do that!" Rainbow Dash said, "We're going to go get the elements and end this mess hard and fast! Princess! You're an Alicorn, so you can open that fancy lock of Celestia's that she keeps the Elements in right? She wouldn't have told us to go get'em if we didn't have a way in!"
"That is . . . surprising logical for you Rainbow Dash," Rarity said.
"I've never tried it before but-" Cadence didn't get a chance to really answer, as Rainbow Dash took her, and moving at the speed of lighting, blasted away again. Leaving Scootaloo feeling indignant. They were back in a few minutes. She had a couple bruises from where some changeling guards had been lying in wait for her. Thankfully a partially recharged Cadence being there hadn't been part of their logistics. They didn't have the Elements with them, and Dash wasn't happy.
"WE WASTED WAY TOO MUCH TIME TALKING! The Elements are gone! The bugs stole 'em! The door was wide open!" Rainbow Dash cursed.
A look of horror formed on Moon Dancer's face. "No . . . they weren't . . . I'd bet my horn . . . they were . . . they were taken from there before the fight even started."
"YOU DON'T KNOW THAT!"
Moon Dancer shuddered, "But I know Her Majesty . . . she . . . all that time . . . with her in my head . . . she never plays a game unless she's already rigged it so she can't lose."
"Come on! Who could have- . . . oh no." Rainbow Dash thought in horror.
Before the wedding
"Now on my dear. You can copy all spells you lay eyes on. You've seen Celestia open this door yes? . . . Just insert your horn, and give the Elements to me, your owner." Chrysalis hissed in Twilight's ear.
"Oh my. Are you trying to disappoint me Twilight? Are you trying to hurt me again? Do you want to fail at this? Bad pony. Very very bad pony."
"I-I-" A single tear came, then a bloody lot more. Twilight Sparkle's entire body shook. Chrysalis' horn glowed more. Then the fog cleared from Twilight's mind and she grinned. "Of course your Majesty! Anything to be of help!" She inserted her horn, repeated the Alicorn level spell, drained her magic completely, and fell to the floor in a heap, leaving the Elements naked for the taking.
Chrysalis grunted in annoyance as she fed some love back into the purple unicorn to get her back on her feet (she wasn't carrying her). "Thank you my dear."
"Y-you're w-welcome your Majesty. It's my pleasure to serves you." Twilight nuzzled the impostor Cadence.
"TRIXIE! SHE MUST HAVE DONE IT!" Fluttercruel said, "Chrysalis must have grabbed her and turned her into one of her zombies and had her do it while we were all distracted!"
"That makes sense," Rarity agreed.
"Great, we have TWO Elements of Magic to worry about," Rainbow Dash grumbled.
"TWO Elements of Magic?!" Was the rest of the herd's response.
"Maybe we should exchange notes now," Cadence said deadpan.
"If I may begin," Cobweb said, getting their attention. "You keep speaking about how you need a complete set to use the Elements, right?"
"So doesn't that likely mean, at the very least, the Queen can't use them either because she only has two out of six?"
"Why would she WANT to use them herself? To turn herself into a statue?" Pinkie Diane asked.
"I have to agree with Pinkie Pie, it's fairly clear she took them simply so we couldn't use them against her. Discord did the same thing," Rarity said. "So please dear, stick the speaking of the Elements to those of us with experience please."
"True," said Cobweb. "But she's already used love for evil once, hasn't she? Isn't that how you said she DID all this in the first place? So wouldn't it be naive to assume she couldn't again?"
Rarity quoted, "'Just because you can do fire magic doesn't mean you can control lava' love and the Elements might be similar but they are not the same. We can't go insane on what ifs and paranoid manias right now Miss. That's what she wants I guess from that speech they gave. We have to focus on helping our friends and finding out where she hid the Elements. Otherwise, we might begin to have the paranoid fantasy YOU are a deep cover spy."
Rainbow Dash said, "Hey that's my line!"
"Your line was supposed to be 'Look Scootaloo I saved Sweetie Belle!'" Scootaloo said. Making the pegasus gasp.
"NOTE EXCHANGE! NOW!" Cadence said . . . then blushed whens he realized she had used the Royal Canterlot Voice.
"...Fine, you want to focus on helping your friends?" asked Cobweb. "Then perhaps we can finally get some notes the mare who already escaped the trap they're currently in?" she asked, pointing to Moon Dancer. "You've already unlocked your shackles, correct? Please be kind enough to share the key?"
Everypony blinked, looking back to Lyra's group. Specifically the mare who had already said she used to be one of their victims.
'Appears out of nowhere, helps us out of the blue, suddenly tries to take change and direct the discussion and keeps trying to be right about EVERYTHING . . .' Pinkie Pie thought.
Pinkie had that bazooka shaped suit case next to her again marked 'Open Only In Case Of Mare-y Sue' and a small hoof held device with an antenna and needle gauge labeled 'Mare-y Sue Detector' with a price tag still on it that made strange noises as she pointed it at Cobweb. Whatever it was indicating, it didn't give Pinkie Pie a definitive reading and she grumbled about getting her money back. She stood eyeball to eyeball with Cobweb. "I've got my eye on you."
Cobweb blinked. "Uh...Okay..."
"Hey, Pinkie why didn't you just blast big ugly with that?" Rainbow Dash asked, looking at the weapon. "You insisted on dragging it all the way here! Or...however you got it here..."
"It only works on Marey Sues!"
For some reason Cadence shuddered at that.
"Wait a second, you think-"
"Chrysalis seems a lot like one to me..." Rainbow interrupted Cobweb.
"Celestia actually won the beam struggle and had to lose because of tricks, she can't be! Villain Sues ALWAYS beat the Princesses no problem! And Cadence managed to get out of the mines thanks to Blueblood and we escaped! A Villain Sue would NEVER let that happen! If she were a Sue we'd have all attacked her one by one and got our flanks kicked and/or been broken emotionally in about three words! It's basic Sueology!"
"Now wait a second, you considered doing what to me with a what?!" Cobweb asked, blinking.
"You can never be too careful, especially when there are so many writers interested in a universe."
"That doesn't make any-"
"Girls!" Rarity exclaimed. "Shut up so we can find out how to get Sweetie Belle, Twilight, Applejack, and Spikey-Wikey back or I'll use these curtains to put ALL THREE OF YOU in makeshift but still fabulous corsets!"
The three mares shut up and turned attention to Moon Dancer.
"But churches don't have curtains," Lyra said.
Moondancer recounted what had happened to her. 'Cadence' speaking with her. Wanting her brainwashed so Moondancer could playact as a 'character witness' for questions about Minuette, Twinkle Shine, and indeed, Lyra's strange behavior once they were brainwashed into Chrysalis' willing slaves.
"What!" The two hoof maidens and de facto hoof maiden gasped out loud.
"She was going . . . she was going to . . ." Minuette looked terrified.
Twinkle Shine looked sick, "Lyra I . . . we would have never-"
Lyra looked to be in a state of shock.
"But Her Majesty changed her mind . . . she said you three had 'proven yourselves worthless' and she could find better bridesmaids."
"HUH!? But I've never even met that fake Cadence! That doesn't make any sense!" Lyra snapped.
"And who has the right to call Lyra worthless!" Bon Bon hissed. Moth nodded as well.
"She never bothered to say any answer around me, and I just...couldn't ask." Moon Dancer apologized. Instead, Moon Dancer was to be used as bait in case Doctor Hooves showed up (which most of the listeners even more confused) since the Doctor knew Amethyst Star who was a friend of Moon Dancer's (which delighted the personal trivia laden Pinkie Pie who embraced Moon Dancer as a 'friend-of-a-friend-friend!').
"Yes yes!" Rarity said, "Now, please already how was the curse broken!? How do I save Sweetie Belle?!"
"I . . . I don't know-"
"WHAT?!" Rarity nearly shrieked.
"I felt like I was constantly drowning, like I was made of ice in a summer sea, I was slowly melting away into nothing. Her Majesty had . . . a-all but abandoned me. I was barely of use to her anymore. Then Minuette and Twinkle Shine hugged me and touched my horn with theirs. . . . And I was free. I could breath. I was free."
"So...a hug freed you?" asked Cadence, blinking.
"Sounds too easy..." Rainbow admitted. "I WANT it to be easy, but it sounds a bit...too easy..."
"I'm not complaining about easy..." Pinkie replied. "We're in a fantasy story."
Moth looked conflicted.
"...It was their love that freed Moondancer," I said. "And..." Should I? Should I say it? I know the truth...but to tell it, I'd need to tell how I know it...what I am...
But it might be the only chance of us making it out of here alive...maybe if we free the others Chrysalis will lose enough cogs that she decides Canterlot is more trouble than it's worth...or at least we might be able to free Shining and lower this shield to run...
A changeling must protect her swarm...and they're my swarm...
"...It's the only thing that can break Chrysalis' spell, defeating her, if it was possible at all, won't break her spell. True love, regardless of what kind, as long as it's purest and truest, is the only thing that can..."
All eyes were on me...There was no turning back now. "Sis...how do you know that?"
I sighed. "Bon Bon...I'm sorry...There aren't words to describe how sorry I am...just know I..." I didn't even have to fight my gag reflex anymore. I'd conditioned myself to it, like you condition to anything. I still felt sick 'throwing up' love to a non-changeling, but...I'm used to it. It's how we feed our young after all. "I love you..."
"What are you sorry about? I love you too..."
"...I'm sorry because...I'm not your sister...you never had a sister...and in a couple seconds, I don't think you'll love me at all anymore..." I said sadly.
I finally shed my disguise. It'd been so long since I'd shed it. I can't remember the last time I WILLINGLY shed it. Huh? I noticed my flames weren't green anymore...they were white. No...colorless...
I don't know if anypony noticed the tears running down my face right before I changed.
"M-Moth?" Bon Bon asked, I heard the heartbreak in her tone as much as tasted it.
"What?! She's one of those things!" Rainbow Dash yelled, flying straight at me. I expected this, I don't blame her.
I closed my eyes, expecting to be hit...
"Stop! Stand down, now!"
I blinked, opening my eyes to see a pink wing between me and the rightfully enraged Pegasus.
"Princess?! What are you doing?!"
Cadence lowered her wing, allowing me to see her give Rainbow a look that made even the hot headed pegasus be still.
"I want to hear her out."
"With all due respect, Princess," Rarity said. "She's the ENEMY!"
"No, Rarity, she's a Changeling, but that doesn't AUTOMATICALLY mean she's the enemy, it means she's a member of the enemy's SPECIES."
"You...you're standing up for me?" I asked, blinking. "Why? Queen Chrysalis has...they have...this makes no sense!"
"I'm standing up for you because it's my JOB as a dignitary and a Princess to NOT judge somepony based on their race, appearance, or species," Cadence explained. "And...me and Minny know from experience that members of an enemy species CAN realize the error of their ways."
"But know this, you'd better not abuse my mercy and trust," Cadence said with a tone that made me gulp and nod.
Cadence looked to the others. "I know a buck named Reznov who when he was young was a devoted Hooviet soldier until he realized the Hooviet's 'greater good' was a load of horseapples. He spent from that moment to the Empire's collapse as a double agent undermining their evil, and is now an ambassador helping Roedinia develop peaceful relations with the world. And he's not the ONLY former Hooviet I knew who saw the error of their ways...And during the Griffin Wars there WERE Griffins who realized 'it's wrong to use sapient beings as a food source' and defected to our side."
I gave a gasp at that.
"And there are Diamond Dogs in the GUARD despite how many are mercenaries. There's one in my guard. The delusion that EVERY member of an enemy group or species that has a large number of members who are enemies is evil, that's the mentality racists and genocidal maniacs use. Moth helped the others save us from Chrysalis and claims she has intel we desperately need. We're hearing her out and that is FINAL."
I didn't say it then, but I had another reason...I could sense it. This Changeling had BONDS to Bon Bon and Lyra. REAL bonds, not fabricated ones like Chrysalis had to Shining and the others. She wasn't faking it. I'd never once felt there WASN'T a real sisterly bond between her and Bon Bon...I had good reason to believe she cared about them.
"But how do we know she's not just going to brainwash us?" asked Rainbow, giving me suspicious look. I don't blame her.
"I can't...Queen Chrysalis' brainwashing is exceptional even by Changeling Queen standards and even she needs to be 'let in' by her target to use it properly, my mind magic is more or less just like the anticoagulant in a Mosquito's bite, it just makes it so I can drain more love..."
"And why should I believe you?"
"Yes we...we don't have Applejack hear to be our lie detector."
"Wait, I have an idea," said Pinkie, coming over to me. "Pinkie Promise me you won't brainwash us, tell the enemy about our plans, or otherwise backstab us. And that you'll tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
"Uh...what exactly will that do?" asked Minuette.
"I have a running gag where I can sense if somepony is about to break a Pinkie Promise so I can pop out of nowhere and scream FOREVER because breaking a promise is the best way to lose somepony's trust and then lose them as a friend FOREVER! So if she Pinkie Promises about it, then I'll know if she's about to break it." 'In the original timeline where we got Applejack back from Dodge Junction, she managed to 'exact words' cheat out of it, yeah, I can use that, but they don't need to know that.'
Minuette just stared in confusion. But everybody in Ponyville knew how serious a Pinkie Promise was...
"She's right...we have no idea how she does it..." Fluttershy admitted. "But she does..."
"Alright," I said, taking a deep breath. "I Pinkie Promise that I won't brainwash you, betray you, or backstab you in any way, including ways I might think are in your best interests but actually aren't. And I Pinkie Promise that everything I'm about to tell you is the one hundred percent honest truth. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my ey-ow!" I did the motions and poked myself in the eye a little. I'm not used to my eyes being in their compound state and sticking out this far, since I'd been a pony all this time.
"There," Pinkie said, jumping back to her position.
I didn't look at Bon Bon and Lyra the entire time...how could I?
Cadence nodded. "Alright...I guess...Moth, you were saying?"
I took a deep breath. "...Changeling mind control is MEANT to be used for feeding. Drones can only use it to make the target passive and...more willing to give love...or implant fake memories to insert ourselves into a position...but those memories normally only last long term if the target WANTS them to be true."
I heard Bon Bon try to speak but be unable to. I don't look at her. I can't...
"A Queen's mind control is considerably stronger. Queen Chrysalis' is even stronger still. She's a Deviant."
"What do you mean?" Cadence asked me.
"A mutant. You notice her eyes? Most Changelings have compound eyes, like mine, even queens. Chrysalis' aren't normal. She's more powerful than a normal Queen is in all respects. Noling knows why. The fact even her brainwashing has our magic's universal weaknesses actually surprises me...Changeling mind magic has one major flaw: if anyone knows the target is brainwashed and shows them genuine love, be it ANY kind of love, the spell breaks. That's because our brainwashing ISN'T biologically a weapon, it's a feeding tool. This is like a gag reflex. When more love is fed into the spell, it reflexively breaks to protect the Changeling from overflow. That's how Moondancer was freed...And it's how your friends can be as well."
Rarity nodded. "So...to free our friends, we need to show them love?"
"Yes, but close range in needed when it comes to Chrysalis' spell. Just telling them 'I love you' won't be enough. You have to show it."
"In that case, the best course of action would probably be to get Applebloom to Applejack and Rarity to Sweetie Belle," said Cobweb. "Sisterly love and all."
"You have sisters?" Rarity asked.
"Yes, I have a rather large family..."
I cringed hearing that. With a name like 'Cobweb' was she another runaway like me?
"Also...If you want to avoid getting brainwashed yourself, keep your mental defenses up. If somepony asks 'will you do anything for me', say no unless you're POSITIVE beyond ANY shadow of a doubt they're who they say they are," I warned. "Changeling mind magic, especially the stronger kind, requires us to be 'let in'. So DON'T let them in. Chrysalis must have fooled your friends into doing it. The exception is . . . what was done to Moondancer. The awkward way she was acting when Lyra and the rest of us arrived was because Her Majesty had brute forced it, the spell was forcefully keeping the doors open. If . . . if the spell had been left on her, her mind would have eroded until she had the awareness of a vegetable. There's a balance between 'usefulness' and 'freewill' when Her Majesty forces it like that."
They all gulped and nodded. Scootaloo shuddered for some reason.
"Please, don't talk about it." Moondancer whimpered. Lemonheart hugged her silently from behind, the look on her face screaming, 'What kind of horseapples have I gotten myself into?'
"So Pinkie, we can trust her?" Rainbow asked, seriously.
Pinkie nodded. "Yep. She kept her Pinkie Promise. She's telling the truth."
"Alright! Finally we're getting somewhere!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed, then turned to me. "One thing though...Why are you helping us?"
"..."You know how in that manega Penumbra Magical Filly Madoka the Incubators consider one of their kind who develops emotions mentally ill? By Changeling standards, I'm that. I developed compassion for 'cattle' and saw what monsters we really are...Chrysalis' hive isn't my home anymore...Lyra and Bon Bon are...were my hive...and even if they hate me now...I want to keep them safe..."
Pinkie nodded, confirming I hadn't broken my promise...and there was silence for a moment.
"...So, what now?" Rarity asked.
"We have a lot to take in, we've spent the last few hours running nonstop for our lives," Cadence said thoughtfully. "We need to rest or we'll be too tired to do anything...and we clearly have a lot between us to talk about. Ten minute rest and catching each other up on what's happened, then we go find a way to free Twilight and the others and kick Queen Chrysalis' flank."
"No buts. That's an ORDER from your PRINCESS. We're resting and filling one another in on what's happening for the next ten minutes."
"Alright. Fine your highness, you got it." Rainbow Dash trotted up to Moth, "But first, I gotta ask. So when you and your friends all crashed the wedding back there, you already knew all this, that when we were right there next to our friends that all we needed to do was show how much we cared about 'em, and bang, they're themselves again? While you guys had the witch blinded by that flash spell?"
"Yes. I did."
Rainbow Dash unfolded one of her wings that could cut through dragon scales so fast in Moth's face it threw her into a pew from the force. She landed on her plot, her wings crumbled behind her.
"YOU BUCKING IDIOT! WHY DIDN'T YOU BUCKING SAY ANYTHING?! They were all right there! We could have cleaned up this stupid mess by now!" Rainbow Dash roared, the others were shocked.
"I . . . I'm s-sorry, I-I was worried, I thought the guards would kill me if I said anything!"
"You mean the guards that were every which way confused and trying to get the crowd back under control!?"
"I thought you wouldn't hear me!"
"In that time when you guys had everypony's attention?! I am not an idiot!" Rainbow stamped her hoof. "You were a bucking coward!" Rainbow Dash propped her up and punched her in the face.
"Save some for me!" Applebloom hissed as the filly pounced and used her tiny earth pony strength to buck the changeling in the knee, making her gasp in pain. Changeling hide didn't protect as well against blunt impacts, even from fillies. "AH COULD'VE SAVED SPIKE RIGHT THERE!"
Then Silver Spoon stopped pretending she was a little lady and bucked the other knee, making her father look at his child in alarm. "Sweetie Belle wouldn't be with that witch if you had SAID SOMETHING!"
Moth became aware that Scootaloo was making near animal noises at her having lost the power to form words for the moment, and was bending one of Moth's sensitive wings the wrong way. The Changeling whimpered at the pain.
Fluttercruel stopped Fluttershy from intervening. 'A lesson must be learned mother,' She thought coldly.
Cobweb merely stood there, she did nothing to help, but she did absolutely nothing to stop it either. She merely looked, almost with a look of satisfaction on her face.
Rarity got between mob and the changeling, making them stop least they hurt their friend. Rarity 'dusted off' the fillies, magically pulling them away from the changeling. "Now now dears," Rarity said, gently pushing them back. "Please, don't hurt her like that, HURT HER LIKE THIS!" Out of nowhere Rarity dropped kicked Moth in the head, then elbow her in the back, smashing Moth into the floor, leaving the Changeling dazed. "Get up you coward! I know I didn't cripple you!" When she didn't get up fast enough Rarity's forced her up ruthlessly, Rarity snarled in her face, her eyes the picture of blood-red fury, "WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO PUT THEM ALL IN DANGER JUST TO SAVE YOUR OWN HIDE? WHAT?! S-Sweetie Belle! There's no telling what that witch will do to her! Twilight! Applejack! Spike! And maybe Trixie?! If I had known I could have hugged her, or told her how much I loved her with a verse! And DON'T YOU DARE SAY your queen would have seen it coming and cut me off!"
"I...I've been told all my life that Queens are invincible...It's all I know...what else am I supposed to think?"
"Princess Celestia BEAT HER in that spell duel, she was SURPRISED! You SAW that. She is NOT some perfect beast! She'd been weakened when you arrived! YOUR cowardice is why Sweetie Belle is in the hooves of that monster! Why her mind has that witch's tendrils inside it, like a cancer! Who KNOWS what kind of damage that'll cause her! Who knows what that witch will use her for! And she had to 'let her in'?! SHE'LL THINK IT WAS ALL HE FAULT whenever she feeds those monsters with our family's song! YOU COWARD!!!"
"...You're right..." the Changeling muttered, looking down. "...I am a coward...I've been running ever since I saw the truth...running from my own kind...looking up at the sky in fear...always running...I could have ended this years ago just by going to Celestia and telling her exactly what was happening but I was afraid she'd kill me...I'm a coward...I've always been a coward...do whatever you want to me...I deserve it..."
Rarity looked her in the eyes. The Changeling didn't fight, didn't struggle.
Rarity dropped her. "You were a fool to think Celestia would kill you for revealing an unknown enemy to her sight."
Bon Bon and Fluttershy came to the changeling's side in an instant.
"Dashie," Pinkie Pie looked at her friend her eyes large and sad.
"Sorry Pinkie Pie. Not now."
Pinkie then joined in helping the changeling in whatever way she could. Minuette, being the closest thing present to a medic, joined in as well, hippocratic oath or not.
"Silver Spoon," her father said evenly.
"Yes father," Silver Spoon said with a face as kind as steel. It wasn't like the sadistic glee she had worn when she had supported Diamond Tiara in her bullying, this was darker.
"You are not to hurt another defenseless pony like that."
"She's not a-"
"This isn't a discussion young lady. You are not to hurt another defenseless ANYTHING like that, are we clear?"
"...Yes father." Silver Spoon said without emotion.
"Rarity! How can you do that?! She was brave enough to tell us now!" Fluttershy said.
"YES! That's the point! If she had been braver jus a tiny bit sooner she might have saved Canterlot already! And don't you dare compare her to yourself Fluttershy. I will not let you!"
Rarity looked back to Moth for a second. "You're ALSO a fool if you think that we would have killed you for FINALLY stopping running and being brave for the first time in your life. This isn't no deed going unrewarded, Moth, be proud you stopped running, that was a good deed. Just remember, actions have consequences. Your reward is a CHANCE to make up for what you've done. But we're not just going to say 'I forgive you' and forget this."
"...I don't deserve forgiveness..."
"...You have so much to learn about ponies. We don't put a price on forgiveness. We just give it in OUR time."
"...So do you forgive me?"
"No...not here and now...but the only one here who I'll never forgive is that psychopathic witch of a queen. Ask me again when Sweetie Belle is safe..."
Fluttercruel took control and put a hoof on Rarity's shoulder and gave a 'let us handle this from here' look.
Fluttershy retook control and looked to Moth as she set about making sure her wing was okay. "...I forgive you, Moth...But..."
Fluttercruel took control. "We're not forgetting this, not yet. Don't think Rarity and the others are wrong to feel how they do right now...You WERE a coward. A dirty rotten stinking coward, and their loved ones were the ones who paid for it..."
Moth looked down in guilt.
"...But you did finally stand up and do the right thing...that's a lot better than some cowards ever have," Fluttershy continued.
"It's everyone's RIGHT to forgive when they bucking want to, so if we forgive you now, that's OUR right, if they don't? That's THEIR right. If you want them to forgive you, then keep being brave, got it? Help us get the buck out of this mess and save the day. Be a coward again and you'll never stop BEING a coward. You weren't punished for being brave, you were punished for WHEN you chose to be brave. So keep being brave and maybe we'll all be friends when this is over with, got it?"
Moth stared at the Flutters in complete shock, unsure of WHAT to say to that.
The Changeling nodded slowly.
Fluttershy gave a warm smile. "Good. Now lean forwards a little so I can see your wing completely."
There was no one there to tell Applebloom she had been wrong somehow. Sweetie Belle and Applejack were now zombie-slaves so was Spike, who the CMC had come to see as a voice of reason, and her cousins were all who knew where in Canterlot now? She felt that same sickening feeling of being alone she had in Sunnytown, but there was almost a cruel comfort of familiarity to it now.
Rainbow Dash saw the look of hate on Scootaloo's face. 'No. I'm not letting that happen.'
"Scootaloo, I'm, you shouldn't, what I did just now was . . . man this isn't-. Look, I'm royally clo-... really REALLY mad too! But, fillies like you shouldn't have that kind of feeling in them, they only get bigger as they get older, believe me."
"Shut up! Why didn't you save Sweetie Belle?! You're the fastest pegasus in the world! You can do anything! WHY THE BUCK DIDN'T YOU SAVE HER!" Tears were in Scootaloo's eyes.
Rainbow Dash nearly stumbled back from the look Scootaloo gave her.
"I was trying to save her but you pulled me away! You left her there and made ME leave her too!" the filly screamed. "...You made me leave her...again..."
Rainbow blinked. The filly's anger had turned to loathing...self-loathing.
"...You should've rescued her instead..."
Rainbow Dash gave a sigh. "Scoots...look...this isn't my thing, I'm not the deep one...but...I saved you because...you were the one I COULD save right then..."
"Being loyal means you sacrifice for your friends instead you making them sacrifice for you! You taught me that!"
"I don't think that's what I-"
"I was giving you a perfect distraction! You should have let the witch zap me and save Sweetie Belle! The witch is making her feed the monsters by singing right?! You should have saved her!!! I was doing something for her! You're the only pony who'd miss me! You were being selfish! How's that loyalty?!"
"Scootaloo, I would have saved Applejack if I hadn't had to bucking save you!" Rainbow yelled back...and instantly regretted it when she saw the filly's eyes in reaction. "...Sorry...It's just...This isn't easy on me...it's reminding me way too much of Discord's sick games...I didn't mean to yell at you, it's just..."
" . . . then maybe you should have."
"...If I did, I don't think I'd have been ABLE to forgive myself," Rainbow Dash muttered. "Look...I'm NOT the mare who's USED to this so forgive me if I'm blunt, but how do you think Sweetie would feel once Rarity snapped her out of it if I HAD saved her by throwing you under the carriage? If I TRADED her best friend for HER?"
"And ya don't think Ah would have cared if ya got hurt?!" Applebloom stepped into the discussion.
"This isn't about you Applebloom!" Scootaloo said and looked back at Rainbow Dash ignoring the other crusader. "I would have been alright, she was trying to zap me, not turn me into a zombie."
"You're wrong, Scootaloo, this IS about her," Rainbow Dash replied. "You're worried about Sweetie, why aren't you worried about your OTHER friend too? Especially since HER sister is in the same position as Sweetie is. So tell me, what's the difference?"
"Then why aren't you helping Rarity?!"
"Because she's got two friends besides me and they're better at this stuff than me. But who does Applebloom have?"
Silver's head lifted at that as well.
"Don't you dare turn this all around on me! I was gonna do what I had to, ta help Sweetie, but you just didn't want me to!"
"How would you feel if Applebloom had done what you PLANNED to do to let me save Applejack? How would you be treating me for not saving HER right now?"
Applebloom startled. Silver Spoon hugged her.
Scootaloo was struck speechless. "She . . . it . . .It would have been her choice! I . . . I . . . . I would have respected it!"
Rainbow narrowed her eyes, not looking amused.
"And what if I HAD saved her, Scootaloo? Would you be angry for me saving your friend?"
"Of course not!!!" The filly snarled.
"You mean if I had abandoned you after I promised to take care of you?! For your parents? You wouldn't be upset that I had?!"
"There's-there's-there's-there's no way I would! Sweetie's in danger! You were right there! Why couldn't you save us both-oh-oh-oh-ooooth!" The filly said fitting. "You're the fastest pegasus in the world!!!"
"You think I didn't WANT to?" Rainbow Dash asked. "But here's the thing, Scootaloo: I didn't mean THAT friend. I meant if Applebloom had tried what you did. What if I'd grabbed her to keep the queen of mean from hurting her? Would you be furious with me for saving Applebloom?"
Scootaloo looked as if she had been struck dumb by the question. It sent a chill through Applebloom herself. " . . . Applejack would never forgive me if did that ta mahself to save 'er."
"WHAT DOES IT MATTER if she forgave you or not?! She'd be safe right?!" Scootaloo snapped right at Applebloom.
"Because Ah'd be betraying the trust she has in me ta look after mahself!"
"ENOUGH!" The ponies startled. It was Lemon Hearts, the ponies realized they had forgotten she was even there. Lemon Hearts hugged the orange filly. "E-enough moonsent!" Lemon Hearts fought back tears. "You're just fillies! You shouldn't be talking about these things! You shouldn't have to go through these things! What the buck are you even DOING HERE-?!"
Applebloom heard herself sniffle. "We're here cause, real monsters don't care if yer a filly."
"Real monsters Applebloom, don't wait for the clowns to exit stage right." Applebloom was surprised when Pinkie Pie of all ponies put a hoof on her shoulder.
"Look, I agree with...with..." Rainbow started, then blinked. "Who are you exactly?"
"Lemon Hearts...Moondancer and I are both friends with Amethyst Star from Ponyville, heard of her?"
"Sparkler, her name in Ponyville is Sparkler," Moondancer spoke up.
"Oh yeah, Derpy's...Derpy's kid..." Rainbow said, the truth Applejack forced her to see flashing in her mind. She pushed it back...for now. "Kids shouldn't have to go through this kinda stuff anyway...I guess between Nightmare Moon, Discord, Nightmare Whisper, and this, you keep getting drawn into stuff like this...and probably if we tried to put you somewhere you'd probably end up in Chrysalis' throne room SOMEHOW, even if we locked you in a box in the basement..."
"Oh great, MORE weirdness magnets..." muttered Minuette patching up Moth.
"But...that doesn't mean it isn't my responsibility to handle this...Scoots...now we know love can free Sweetie Belle, right? But we didn't know that when you did what you did, right?"
"...Right...because of her-"
"No, Scoots. We already gave her a punishment, she's sorry for it. We don't have to forgive her, but now is NOT the time for grudges on ponies we already gave theirs for it and who want to change for the better, save the grudges for that witch," Rainbow replied quickly...then blinked at the fact it'd come out of her own mouth.
"But my point is, if we'd known it then we could've saved them BOTH and I'd probably have rainboomed Chrysalis through the window to give you and Applebloom a CHANCE to do it if we'd known it then, but we didn't. The fact is, ALL I saw was the filly I'm the guardian of about to get brainwashed by the big baddie! I had to choose between disabling Applejack and getting her out of there, not knowing WHAT I'd do after that or protecting you. I had to choose between somepony I didn't know how to save at the time or saving the filly I'm responsible for. I won't lie and say I balanced the books, it was a lot of instinct, but...thinking about it, it was the smartest thing I could have done then...and now that I saved you, maybe you'll have a CHANCE to save Sweetie."
Scootaloo blinked. "W-What?"
"Remember the Day of Discord? What would have happened if you'd run headlong into Ponyville to save your friends and got zapped too? Would you have been ABLE to help them later on?"
Lemon Hearts gently released her hug on Scootaloo.
"Rainbow darling, don't give the filly ideas that are going to put her in danger!" Rarity said sternly.
"Rarity, since when have they ever needed ideas TO get in danger?"
"That doesn't mean you should encourage them!" Rarity said back.
Silver Tongue put a protective hug around his daughter, the message clear.
"Look, I wasn't saying 'run up and punch that maniac in the face', I meant 'hug Sweetie and Spike and snap 'em out of it!'" Rainbow replied.
"Look..." Applebloom said seriously. "Yah always say what we COULD do if we ever got serious," she said. "Well we're serious now! If we can make a time machine that goes sideways through time on accident, then just think of what we could do on purpose!"
"...Time machine?" Minuette asked.
Silver Spoon nodded. "Yes...it involved an abandoned railroad track, a minecart, and a flux capacitor..." she muttered sheepishly. "...By the way, Miss Pinkie Pie, a pony called Minty said 'hi.'"
Pinkie blinked, then gave a small smile. "Thanks..."
"...I say we let them help," Minuette stated.
Rarity said, "Well you're not in charge-"
"But I am, and I say we let them help," Princess Cadence said with a tone of royal authority she detested having to use. Silver Tongue wasn't the only one to recognize the look in Applebloom's eyes, this filly had seen things fillies weren't meant to see long before today. "You say they'll try to help whether we let them or not? I've dealt with enough foals to know you're right. Then . . . then let them help where we can make sure they don't do anything foolish," the Princess of Harmony said choosing the lesser of two evil.
The ponies couldn't bring themselves to argue with her.
"If we try to shoo the clowns away when monsters come, you can bet, the monsters will simply follow them, instead of risking themselves against those who can defend themselves," Minuette whispered.
Rarity whispered to herself kneeling in front of the alter, not looking at anypony, "We don't GET to 'shoo out the clowns' when Tartarus hits. We don't get to say to the silly ones that they get to exit stage left when it's time for drama or darkness. We try our hardest to protect our foals from the world. But we always ultimately fail." Rarity shivered.
Applebloom said nuzzling the mare in the side, "Don't worry Miss Rarity, we'll save Sweetie Belle, and Spike, and Miss Twilight and . . . and we'll save mah big sister too!" Applebloom whimpered, everything finally catching up her, and she began to cry. Rarity held the small filly, she cried too.
The ponies finally took the time to share each other's stories to get a better picture of what had happened and what was going on.