“Light a fire under it, Rainbow!” I yelled. We were already five minutes late to meet the rest of the group. My hooves were making a loud clonking sound each hard hit I made on the gray cobblestone path I was galloping on.
“I could beat you by hours. I just want to keep it fair,” Rainbow Dash yelled back. We were huffing and puffing, and just about played out. We had just dropped off the jugs at the storage area, and didn’t waste a minute until we started towards the castle. RD and I decided we wanted a rematch for The Running of the Leaves. Rainbow Dash was galloping just a tail's length behind me, if I slowed down just a bit she would be right next to me, but I knew I had this in the bag.
“C’mon RD, ya don’t wanna be beat by an old cowpony.” I taunted. I knew she would get angry. I was trying to get her riled up.
Rainbow Dash was breathing heavily now, almost to the brink of fainting, “Oh you are just so funny.”
The streets were bustling, and some ponies looked at us with curious expressions. Some of the more uptight ponies gave us looks of disgust. We made it to the front door of the castle. I stopped at the first step.
“I win,” I let out one last puff of air before collapsing to the ground. Rainbow Dash did the same without uttering a word. The guards noticed us and took a second to respond to two mares fainted on the front steps of the castle. They ran up to us like the outstanding gentlestallions they were. They both wore the same standard issue guard armor. One was white with blue hair. The one who started talking to us had the same blue mane and tail, but his coat was more of a light gray.
“Are, uh… are you ladies okay? Do you need help?” The gray guard stallion asked. We were completely dragged out on the ground, huffing and puffing after each small phrase.
“Ha-ha, get a… load of… this clown, Applejack.” Rainbow Dash gave off a small wheeze that I think was supposed to be a laugh.
“What a… gentlestallion. Could ya… could ya do me a favor… and help out mah friend here… Ah think she needs a doctor.” I joked.
“What!? No, no… Help out my friend here first. Can’t you… tell she used to… to be a lady,” Rainbow joked back.
“That was years ago. Ah could… beat’cha any day, anywhere,” I regained my breath and stood up. My hooves were aching something fierce, but I was able to stand.
“It's only because of that head start,” Rainbow Dash rebutted, also regaining her own breath and standing up. The guard ponies were now looking at each other, as if they had just seen a rooster lay an egg.
“Ahm sorry guys, just a bit of fun between friends,” I told them.
“What a… I mean I hope you lovely ‘ladies’ enjoy your time in Canterlot,” He ended with a smile and started walking away. His friend was already almost back at his post. I expected Rainbow Dash to take offense or respond sarcastically, but this time she put a small twist on her usual response.
“Well, actually,” she flipped her hair up and batted her eyelashes at the guards, maybe overdoing it a bit, “If you could help two lost mares out, we need to find the library.” She gave a bit of a begging face at the guard.
“Oh um, well –the guard was obviously embarrassed– hehe, I-I-I’m sorry but the castle library is not open to the public."
Rainbow Dash answered back, “Oh, but an intelligent young stallion like you should know we’re the Elements of Harmony.”
“Oh-Oh of course, right this way,” he insisted. I turned towards Rainbow Dash and we both tried our hardest not to burst out laughing. Rainbow Dash was about ready to collapse on the floor again, but this time from laughter. She found a way to keep walking.
He started to open the huge double doors to the castle, before finishing he turned towards his buddy on the left, “Hey Blue Blade, can you cover me until I get back?”
“Sure, sure, nothing happens during this shift anyway,” he said. With that, our escort opened the doors and motioned us to follow. I was kind of glad Rainbow asked him to help. I hadn’t realized I was clueless on where to find the library Twi wanted us to meet in.
We walked up the main set of stairs, then veered off to the right, and took the first hallway on the left after we made it up the stairs. The guard opened up the iron bars to the library and opened the door.
“There you are, now if you'll excuse me ladies” He walked away and when we couldn’t see him anymore, we burst out in laughter.
“Oh my, oh my gosh, that was bucking hilarious, ha-haa,” Rainbow Dash was gasping for breath she was laughing so hard.
“That was sure a bang-up job, Rainbow. I couldn’t tell you from Rarity. Didn’t know you had it in you.”
“To be honest, I didn’t either,” She let out one last chuckle and we walked into the library, thoroughly late for Twilight’s meeting. This was my second time in two days.
Rainbow Dash walked in first and paid no mind to anything except what was straight in front of her. I looked around and was admittedly amazed at the library. In the middle of the library there was a golden hourglass with black sand inside. It was taller than me but the lever to flip it was low enough for me to grab.
Around it were four tables that could hold, I’d say six ponies each. Everything else was just dark wooden bookshelves filled with books, books, and more books. This library easily had more books than a single pony could read in a lifetime.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” somepony said behind me.
“Wha–” I looked behind me and stopped when I saw a wavy tri-colored mane. “Oh Princess Celestia!” I started to bow.
“No need, Applejack. We aren’t in public, just treat me as a… a friend” She cocked her head and smirked, before letting out a small laugh. She walked past me into the middle of the room. I followed her, and after a bit, I could see past the bookshelves. All of my friends were sitting at a table hunched over what looked like a map and a folder.
When they saw Princess Celestia, they all got out of their seats and started to bow just as I did. I knew Celestia was always the laid back kind of princess, but it was even more so when not in public.
“No need for that, just continue where you left off. I would like to know about this ‘Sanctuary’.” Everyone sat back down. Rarity, Pinkie, and Rainbow sat on one side. Fluttershy and Twilight sat on the other side. I sat next to Twilight and Celestia walked up to the end of the table.
Twilight leaned over to me and whispered, “What the hay took you so long, it's been more than half an hour. You’re lucky Celestia was as late as you were.”
“Stop being such a croaker, Twi. Celestia wouldn’t a mind none,” I whispered back.
Rarity started to speak, “So who should present first?”
“I only came here to learn more about Sanctuary. I trust all of you will deal with the problem proper, but it’s my duty to know what gets put in the Directory. So I humbly suggest Twilight presents her findings first and foremost,” Celestia suggested.
“Of course,” Twilight started, “The rest of you do not know the situation, since I brought it to Celestia first, and she asked me to share it here. So I will brief you. I was in the directory and stumbled upon a file for a town called ‘Sanctuary’. It had an official royal seal, but was not magic infused. The seal is the hard thing to come by, infusing it with magic shouldn’t be too hard if you have a unicorn halfway proficient in magic.”
If they didn’t have unicorns helping them, it means we were dealing with Earth Ponies or Pegasi. I know how stubborn and foolhardy both of those could be.
“So are you suggesting that the culprit isn’t a unicorn?” Rarity asked.
“That’s what I am implying, but this alone isn’t enough to go off of. Who knows if it's even just one pony either?” Twilight answered.
“Please continue Princess Twilight,” Princess Celestia urged.
“Alright, so I chipped of the fraudulent seal, which by the way said ‘Approved’ on it, and underneath that seal was another seal that said ‘Denied’. This seal was magic infused, which means it was the original.”
“Somepony went through a lot of trouble to make their shantytown official, but what’s the point?” Rainbow Dash said.
“Let me see the file,” Princess Celestia asked.
“Of course,” Twilight said as she slid the folder over to Celestia. Celestia proceeded to open the folder with her magic, and looked at its contents. I wondered what she was trying to find. I didn’t have the chance to look it over, so I could only assume that it was some fancy mumbo jumbo that I probably wouldn’t get anyway.
“Interesting, why have I not seen this until now?” Princess Celestia asked, obviously very puzzled.
“What is it?” Twilight asked. She leaned closer to Celestia, as if that would make her answer faster.
“Sanctuary was the one who requested a new Railway be installed. It says, ‘to ensure efficient access to Sanctuary products and services,” Celestia read.
“It also says here,” Princess Celestia said, “Sanctuary requested… 10,000 tons of raw metal, copper wiring, and some other things to be delivered ‘to begin construction on their side’.”
“What?” Twilight interceded, “That’s a lot of metal. What could they possibly need with all of that?”
Rarity interceded, “Wasn't that suspicious Princess?”
“Not at all, thousands of materials are moved around Equestria every day, it was nothing out of the ordinary.”
“I ordered one hundred pounds of confetti just the other day!” Pinkie announced with a wide grin that covered her entire face, and I thought I heard the sound of a rubber ducky being squeezed.
The entire room just gazed at her with confused looks on their faces. I decided this would be one of those times were I follow rule number one: don’t question Pinkie.
Princess Celestia was the first to regain herself, “Well, hmm, I think I have all that I need. I believe the ‘Saving Equestria’ part is more your area of expertise Princess Twilight. I will make sure to keep things in check here in Canterlot.” She smiled, took the file, and turned around, closing the door behind her as she walked out. Strange, I could have sworn that the guard had closed that door. I squinted my eyes at the door, then quickly shook the feeling off.
“Okay, that was all I have to say. Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy did you find anything useful?” Twilight asked. I was still trying to piece together what was going on here. This was a lot to take in all at once. Farm work is so much simpler.
“Um, yes we did find some things Twilight,” answered Fluttershy.
“Although it may not help us right this moment,” Rarity warned.
“That’s alright. What do you got?” Twilight asked. My leg started to sting like I had stepped on a pitchfork. It must have been from all that carrying heavy water jugs while running. Blast it all.
“Is something wrong Applejack?” Twilight asked.
“Not ‘til you drew attention to it,” I responded.
“Sorry, only trying to help.”
“Nah, ahm sorry, don’t mind it. Rares, what’cha got for us?”
“Well thank you for asking Applejack. We have found out that the coastal part of San Palomino is actually partially tropical,” Rarity explained.
“That’s how the ponies are able to survive down there independently,” Twilight pieced together.
“Precisely, we have also found out that—”
“That they might be escaped criminals!” Pinkie Pie interrupted with big eyes.
“Yes, we did not spend our entire time in the library, I ‘persuaded’ a guard to tell us if there was anything suspicious recently. He said that he had been moved from the prison shift because there was a mass jailbreak that the Royal Guard has kept secret as to not panic the populace,” Rarity said.
“Smart. Do Celestia and Luna know?” Twilight asked.
“I would assume so, but I didn’t ask them personally, no." Rarity answered.
“Um, Rarity, I…” Fluttershy stammered off.
“I’m sorry honey, could you repeat that?” Rarity asked.
“You’re forgetting something. Not all of the prisoners escaped. Only specific cells were opened.”
I was genuinely curious, I bet all the unicorn cells stayed closed, “Well which ones were they?”
Rarity answered, “Only the cells containing Earth Ponies were opened,” she said. Surprising, so Earth Ponies had been the cause all this trouble, for the Cutie Map’s distress. I wasn't sure to feel pride or shame.
“What?! Why only Earth Ponies?” Twilight was desperate for an answer.
“That’s all I got out of the guard. I doubt he knew any more though.”
“Well Princess, can we get going now? I've had my quota of stuck-up ponies for this week,” Rainbow asked.
“Yes, I believe it's time to head out. I'll arrange an escort for our things. Let's head for the train. Appleloosa is as close as we are going to get. We hoof it from there.”
“Yes, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said standing on her two back hooves and saluting. Twilight rolled up the map and stuffed it her saddlebag. Everypony started walking out. First Pinkie bounced along, next Twilight, then Rarity with her strut, and finally Fluttershy. Rainbow stopped me before I started towards the door, however.
“Hey, not that mine is, but is your body aching?”
“In which ways?”