The Mane Six Discover Human Music

by Blissey1

The Devil?

At the edge of the west orchard near the border of the Everfree, Applejack sat in the grass, her entire body tensed as she gnawed on her hoof. Her gaze was locked straight ahead, and though sweat was rolling down her face, she dared not even blink.

The reason for her distress was readily apparent. Not ten feet in front of her stood a pillar of fire in the shape of an apple tree. The blazing conflagration showed no signs of spreading, but the sight of even a single one of her beloved apple trees engulfed in flames was almost too much for her to bear.

Her gaze was not locked on the tree itself, however, but on the butter-yellow pegasus hovering in the air right beside it. Despite being so close to the raging flames, Fluttershy showed no signs of fear. She instead had a very determined look on her face as she slowly circled the tree, staring intently into the fire as though searching for something.

The sweat building up upon her brow finally becoming too much for her to ignore, Applejack removed her hat and wiped her leg across her forehead. Then, instead of replacing her hat on her head, she began chewing on the rim of it in favor of her hoof.

Fluttershy suddenly let out an excited gasp. She darted perilously close to the fire and paused. She seemed to be saying something, but Applejack couldn't make it out over the roar of the fire. Then, with only a hint of trepidation on her face, Fluttershy dived into the inferno.

Applejack’s breath caught in her throat and she nearly bit right through the rim of her hat. She stood stock-still, not daring to even breathe as she waited for something to happen, for any sign that her friend hadn't just done the unthinkable.

A few tense seconds passed before a small wick of flame, standing taller than the fires around it, appeared at the very top of the tree-turned-inferno. Applejack's gaze followed it closely as it moved down the side of the ball of fire that was the canopy of her apple tree. It continued moving down onto the narrow pillar of flame that was the tree's trunk, and finally reached the grass at the base of the inferno, which despite the proximity to the fire, wasn't so much as even singed.

The tall wick of flame continued onto the grass and began moving towards the Everfree Forest, more fire trailing in its wake. Applejack's anxiety somehow managed to spike even greater for just a moment, until she realized that it wasn't spreading more fire behind it, it was actually drawing the fire from the tree along with it!

As she watched in growing relief, the fires receded from the tree, starting from the very top. Leaves and branches slowly became visible, somehow completely unharmed, still showing vibrant greens and healthy browns. The only color missing was red; the majority of the apples had vanished, and those that remained had been reduced down to only the cores.

Applejack placed her hat back upon her head and walked towards the tree, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. The last of the flames left the tree as she approached, joining the blazing trail now stretching all the way back to the Everfree. Not quite believing her eyes, she hesitantly placed a hoof upon the now fire-free tree trunk. Her shocked look slowly shifted to a relieved smile as she confirmed that it really was her tree and, aside from the loss of the apples, it was still perfectly alive and healthy.

Fluttershy gently landed beside her, and Applejack quickly rounded and embraced her in an appreciative hug, eliciting a startled squeak from the pegasus. “Fluttershy, you just saved the Apple family a whole heap of trouble!” She pulled back and glanced at the retreating trail of fire. “Granny Smith had told us stories about fire ants, but I always thought they were just tall tales! I didn't know those kinda critters actually existed!”

“Yes, they're quite real,” Fluttershy said as she too watched the fire ants return to the Everfree, “though this is the first time I've actually seen them. I'd only read about them before now.”

Applejack turned back to Fluttershy, a more serious look on her face. “I can't believe you just dived into that fire like that! You durn near gave me a heart attack! Those critters didn't hurt you none, did they?” she asked as she began circling her friend, looking close for any sign of injury.

“Oh no, I'm perfectly fine Applejack.” Fluttershy replied. “A Fire Ant's fire is magical, they can control what it does and doesn't burn. They only use it for self defense. I just had to tell them that I didn't mean any harm and only wanted to talk to their queen, and they let me through.”

Applejack finished her examination and, not finding so much as a single scorched hair, gave a harumph. “Still scared the bajeezus outta me.” She turned towards her tree. “And the tree? I don't see so much as a single burnt leaf on it!”

“They only came to your tree so they could eat the apples,” Fluttershy replied with a soft smile. “They're smart enough to know that if they burnt up the tree, then it wouldn't be able to grow any more apples! They said they really liked your apples.”

"They did, did they?" Applejack said, a frown coming over her face. She remained silent a few moments before continuing. “I suppose I oughta be flattered that even ants like our apples, but I hope that doesn’t mean they’ll be coming back.”

“Um… about that…” Fluttershy started, her smile fading as she seemed to shrink back into herself, “in order to convince them to leave, I uh… kinda told them that… you’d leave them a bushel of apples at the edge of the Everfree every other week…”

Applejack turned a shocked look towards the pegasus. “You what?”

Fluttershy shrunk down a bit more, her face now entirely hidden behind her mane. “I’m sorry, Applejack, but that was the only way I could convince them to leave…”

Applejack let out an exasperated sigh and brought up a hoof to rub her forehead. “I suppose that’s a small price to pay for guaranteeing they stay outta the orchard…” She turned a critical glare back towards the treeline of the Everfree and remained silent a few moments as her frown slowly turned thoughtful. “…Hey, Fluttershy?”

“Yes?...” the pegasus said as she slowly looked back up to Applejack.

“I’m just taking a shot in the dark here, but I’m guessing that timberwolves and fire ants don't get along too well.”

“Oh!” Fluttershy immediately perked back up, a smile returning to her face. “Yes, you’re absolutely right! Timberwolves hate fire ants with a passion. They won’t go anywhere near them!”

The corner of Applejack’s mouth curled upwards into a smirk. “Hmm. If those critters can keep those durned timberwolves away from the farm, then maybe this ain’t such a bad deal afterall…”

“I think that might work!” Fluttershy said with a nod of her head. “If you leave them a bushel of apples every week, then they're sure to stay in this part of the Everfree. And that would be sure to keep timberwolves away!”

Applejack's smirk grew into a full grin. “Sounds good to me! Heck, I might just give them two bushels of apples!”

“I'm sure they would love that!” Fluttershy happily replied. She turned back to the tree line and thought she could still see the slight glow of a fire amongst the trees. “They really are such fascinating creatures.”

They both sat in silence a few moments while looking towards the Everfree. Fluttershy then furtively looked about before turning towards her friend. “Applejack? Do you... Do you think that those aliens have amazing creatures like that on their own planet?”

Applejack grinned back at the pegasus. “Sugarcube, I'm sure they've got all sorts of crazy critters that we couldn't even begin to imagine!” She turned away from the Everfree. “C'mon, let's head back to the house and get something to eat! You deserve as much after what you've done for us!”

Fluttershy didn't want to impose so, but she knew that trying to turn down Apple family hospitality was a futile effort. She simply nodded and fell into step behind her friend as they made their way back.

Fluttershy came to a soft landing just outside the library. She knocked quietly on the door and had to wait only a few moments before the door opened, a familiar purple alicorn on the other side. “Fluttershy! There you are! Please, come in!”

Fluttershy stepped inside and was greeted by the faces of all of her friends seated around the table with Twilight’s radio on it. As she had feared, she was the last one to arrive. “I'm sorry to keep you waiting, everypony. I was about ready to leave when Angel got into a fight with Barry.”

Rainbow shot Fluttershy a disbelieving look. “Again?”

“It's no problem at all, dear,” Rarity replied with a dismissive wave of her hoof. “Applejack has been regaling us with your harrowing experience with those fire ants yesterday.”

“It sounds like it was super-spectacularly awesome!” Pinkie said.

“Though I gotta admit,” Spike added, “I’m having trouble picturing you diving into a fire.”

Fluttershy blushed and shrank back behind her mane slightly, but her smile showed she was still enjoying the praise. “Oh, It was really nothing. It's no different from dealing with any of my other animal friends.”

Applejack grinned back at her. “Fluttershy, maybe for you that was just business as usual, but it was a whole lot more important for us. Granny Smith told us horror stories of those things burning down entire orchards!”

“I really wish I could have been there,” Twilight said, “just so I could see the fire ants for myself! They're such fascinating creatures! Did you know,” she continued, looking excitedly to to rest of her friends, “that the control they have over their magical fire far surpasses even the most accomplished of unicorn spell casters? It still isn't fully understood how they do it! There's actually this one study where—”

“Hey, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash cut in, “I'm sure this study was super amazing and all, but we didn't come here for a lecture on fire ants. We came to listen to some crazy alien music.”

Twilight stared at Dash for just a moment, then grinned sheepishly. “Right, of course! Now, since we’re down to only Pinkie Pie and Applejack who haven’t picked a song yet, Spike and I decided that we would just flip a bit to see who gets to go this time!”

Pinkie Pie and Applejack stood on each side of Spike as he pulled out a bit. “Sun or Moon, call it while it’s in the air!” he said, then flicked the coin up into the air.

“Sun! No, Moon! MOON!” Pinkie shouted, her eyes glued to the coin flying through the air.

Spike caught the bit and slapped it down against his other hand. Pinkie leaned in closer as he slowly lifted his hand to see what it was. “Sun!”

“NOOOOOOOOO!” Pinkie shouted as she stood up and threw her forehooves up into the air, then slowly tipped backwards and fell flat on her back.

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “If it’s that big a deal for you Pinkie, then I’ll gladly give you my turn…”

In the blink of an eye, Pinkie was back on her hooves with her usual smile. “Nah, it’s fine. This way I just know that I’ll be sure to get my turn next time!”

“You sure, Pinkie?”

“Yes I’m sure!” Pinkie replied, then gave Applejack an insistent push towards Twilight’s radio. “Now go on, pick us out a song already!”

“All right, all right!” Applejack replied with a good natured chuckle. She walked up to the table with the radio and sat down in front of it, rubbed her hooves together, then began fiddling with the dials.

There was nothing but static for a few moments, the only interruption a small 'pop' as Twilight's notepad and quill magically appeared before her. Then all at once the room was filled with the sound of vigorous fiddling. Applejack's eyes lit up. “Hey, now this is my kinda tune!”

“Yeah, it ain’t bad!” Dash added.

They all listened quietly to the fiddling, and it was only a short time before the lyrics began and Twilight’s ears perked up. “The devil?...” she quietly said to herself. Then her head shot up to stare at the Subspace Transceiver in shock. “STEALING SOULS!?”

Rarity let out a gasp and there was a quiet “Oh my…” from Fluttershy.

“I can’t believe this!” Twilight said. “How—”

“Shhhhhh!” She was cut off by Pinkie, who had suddenly appeared in front of her. “Less talky, more listeny!”

Twilight grimaced and went back to scribbling in her notepad.

Spike scowled as they continued listening “I’m not liking this ‘devil’ character at all.”

Rarity’s eyes widened a moment later. “Goodness, talk about high stakes gambling…”

“He wouldn’t…” Applejack said.

A huge grin popped up on Rainbow’s face. “He would! Ha, this Johnny is my kind of alien!”

They fell back to listening for a short time, until Fluttershy looked towards Rainbow Dash. “You wouldn’t really bet your soul on something, would you, Rainbow?” Fluttershy asked.

“If that something was flying, then yeah, there’s a good chance I would, because I know that I’m the best flyer in Equestria!” Rainbow replied.

“For a golden fiddle, though?...” Twilight said to nopony in particular.

Nopony had anything else to say as the song continued, until a shudder rippled through Applejack. “That ain’t a sound a fiddle should make…”

“Wait, now he has an entire band joining him? Isn’t that cheating?” Spike asked.

“I dunno, but it sounds pretty awesome!” Rainbow Dash said, bobbing her head to the music.

“Yeah, I like it!” Pinkie added.

“It’s not bad… but I don’t actually hear any fid-gwaah!” A shiver shot through Applejack’s body as the fiddling began, her tail shooting out straight behind her. Her friends gave her an odd look as she kept her teeth clenched through the whole thing, then let out a breath when it finally ended. “That ain't like any fiddle playing I ever heard… and I don’t like it!”

“Well, then lets just see if you like Johnny better, hmm?” Rarity replied.

Applejack turned back to the radio with an anxious look, but her face quickly brightened up. “Hey, now this is more like it!”

“I also like this one a lot better,” Fluttershy said.

“I can’t understand half of what they’re saying, though…” Twilight said regretfully.

Applejack started bobbing her head and tapping her hooves on the ground, her friends keeping silent to let her enjoy the fiddling. “Now that’s how it’s done!” she said as it ended.

“And it seems like the Devil agrees with you!” Twilight added.

“Oh, thanks goodness he kept his word,” Rarity said, letting out a small sigh. “I feared he might renege on their deal if he lost and take his soul anyway.”

Rainbow’s grin grew even wider. “And then he dares him to come back and try again? This Johnny is the coolest alien ever!”

Applejack let out a “Yeehaw!” as Johnny started fiddling again, and this time actually began dancing, rearing up into the air, spinning around, and even kicking out behind herself at least once. Her friends gave her space to enjoy herself, and she was panting slightly when the song finally ended. “Now that was some grade A fiddling if I ever heard it!”

“The music was alright, but it was the story that I really liked! Johnny was awesome!” Rainbow said.

“I'm not so sure about 'awesome',” Rarity replied. “Either very brave or very foolish, to take a bet with his very soul on the line.”

“The fact that there was any mention of soul stealing at all I find to be very disturbing,” Twilight said.

“Umm... You can't actually have your soul taken from you, can you?” Fluttershy asked.

“Well…” Twilight started, then paused as she realized all eyes in the room were on her. She took a deep breath before continuing. “Yes, you can.”

There were scattered gasps and a “Seriously!?” from Rainbow Dash.

“It’s extremely complicated, very dark magics,” Twilight continued, a grim look on her face.

“Woah… What’s it like without a soul? Wouldn’t you die?” Spike asked.

Twilight shook her head. “No, having your soul taken doesn't kill you, though you'd probably wish it did. You lose almost all willpower to do anything, or to even care about anything. Even worse, a pony’s soul is inextricably tied to their magic. If you lose one, you lose the other. So that would mean no more spellcasting,” she said looking at Rarity, “no more flying,” her gaze moved to Rainbow Dash, “not even any enhanced strength and endurance,” she finished as her gaze fell upon Applejack.

The mood in the room had turned quite morose, to the point that Pinkie’s mane was even drooping slightly. “Oh my…” Fluttershy mumbled, the only noise in the room.

Twilight’s grim expression turned into a grin. “Aww, buck up, girls! This is something we’re never going to have to worry about! The last recorded use of such magics was well over a thousand years ago. Nopony knows how to casts such spells anymore, and hardly anypony even knows they exist. Even I can’t even begin to understand how it was done. I never thought I’d say this, but this is one piece of arcane knowledge that I’m glad has been lost to the ages!”

Her friends did indeed perk back up at the news. “Well, that is a relief,” Rarity said. “Though I have to wonder what kind of creature this Devil is to do such a terrible thing as taking one’s soul…”

“Well, Johnny called him a ‘son of a bitch’, so presumably he’s some kind of canine or canine hybrid,” Twilight said. She paused just a moment. “Though it’s kind of odd to call someone the son of their mother…”

“Whatever he is, I don’t like him!” Pinkie shouted, a surprising amount of anger in her voice. “Trying to do such a terrible thing to someone… He’s the worst!”

“Well he ain’t all bad,” Applejack said, to the surprise of the rest of her friends. “He kept his word, didn’t he? Like Rarity said, when he lost, he could have just taken Johnny’s soul anyway, but he didn’t! I’ll agree with ya, Pinkie, on not liking him, especially with the way he played that fiddle…” she shuddered. “But he could be a lot worse.”

“Honestly, he kinda reminds me of Discord,” Spike said.

“Oh, but Discord would never do something like that,” Fluttershy replied.

“Actually, Fluttershy…” Twilight said, “what Discord did the first time we confronted him, when he… corrupted all of us… that was also magic affecting the soul. Our souls. In fact, it’s possible that soul stealing magics may not be quite as forgotten as I had hoped…”

Fluttershy looked with dismay at the darkening expressions on her friends faces. “But… but Twilight! Girls! You have to believe me, he wouldn’t do anything like that! Not anymore! I know he’s done some terrible things in the past, but If we really, truly are going to try to become friends with him, then we have to give him the benefit of the doubt!”

Twilight let out a sigh. “Yes, you’re absolutely right, Fluttershy. Friendship is a two way street, after all. We shouldn’t be assuming such things about him without any evidence.”

“You gotta admit, though,” Spike said, “that offering a prize like a golden fiddle is totally something Discord would do.”

“Yes, the golden fiddle… I didn’t really get that part,” Twilight said. “What kind of a reward would that be? I can’t imagine it would play very well, and it would be extremely heavy. Unless he only meant gold plated? but even then-”

Rainbow Dash groaned and put a hoof to her forehead. “Twilight, how usable it is doesn’t matter! That isn’t the kind of reward that you use, it’s the kind of reward that you show off to others!”

Applejack nodded. “Yep! That’s the kinda thing that you put up above the fireplace mantle and show it to folks that come visiting.”

“And then you’ve got an excuse to tell them the super awesome story of how you beat the Devil in a fiddle-off!” Pinkie Pie added.

“What they’re trying to say, dear, is that it’s a conversation piece,” Rarity concluded.

Twilight slowly nodded her head. “I see… I wasn’t thinking about it from that angle, but you’re right, ponies would definitely ask about that kind of thing.”

“I know I would!” Spike said, then immediately broke into a yawn.

Applejack chuckled. “I think Spike’s got the right idea! I gotta work the fields tomorrow morning, so it’s about time I be heading back so I can hit the hay.”

Twilight glanced up at the clock on the wall. “Hmm, it is getting late, isn’t it? Well, alright then. Next time, I hope to have the recording gems ready for use. I’ll see you all then!”

Twilight went to hold the door open for them as they all said their goodbyes and departed, then Spike and herself went upstairs to get some rest of their own.