Spike lay contentedly in the bathtub. He lazily raised a claw to pop a bubble floating in front of him, relishing in the simple pleasure of watching it burst. As he let his claw fall back into the warm water, Spike felt the spray of a small splash on his face. He savored the gentle touch of that splash for several minutes without moving a muscle. Only then did he reach out to yet another soapy sphere as it idly drifted by.
Spike leapt into the air as the explosion echoed throughout the castle. His landing sent waves careening over the side of the tub, leaving Spike in a half-drained bath of foamy mess. Shaking his head, Spike hopped out of the tub and grabbed a towel.
He wondered what the explosion had been. It had sounded like it had come from the direction of Twilight’s room, but he had expected her to be asleep by now. Perhaps she had stayed up late researching some complicated spell, and the blast had been caused by it going awry. Anyway, he would need to check to see if Twilight required any help fixing whatever damage she had just wreaked.
With a yawn, Spike started down the hall. Maybe when they were sorting out her room, he could ask Twilight to clean up the mess by the bathtub. He bet her magic could deal with all of that water a lot faster than he could.
As he strolled, Spike began to feel uneasy. Something about the castle did not feel quite right to him. Maybe it was the lack of subsequent explosions after that first one; Twilight’s failures usually compounded in spectacularly noisy ways. Maybe it was the book lying in the middle of the hall that he tripped over. Or maybe it was the spooky shadow Spike saw looming on the wall in front of him as he got back on his feet.
Startled, Spike whipped around. But all he saw was a perfectly still, perfectly empty hallway. Whatever had cast that shadow had disappeared as suddenly as it had come.
Nervous, Spike resumed his walk at a much more cautious pace. His eyes glanced this way and that, warily searching for anything suspicious or frightening. The faint glimmer of moonlight reflecting off the walls revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Spike began to relax. Perhaps he had just imagined the silhouette. It was not like the shadow had creepily twisted across the wall in a way that suggested it was alive or anything. Of course not. Spike was sure he had overreacted.
Then Spike felt a hoof lightly tap him on the shoulder.
“Ah!” Spike screamed. He sprinted forward, too terrified to look back and see who—or what—had touched him. Only when he reached the end of the hall did Spike turn around and survey the corridor behind him. Again, the hall appeared completely quiet and peaceful. There was no indication that anypony else had ever been there.
“Keep it together, Spike,” he quietly chastised himself. “You’re just freaking out again for no reason.” Still, he stayed frozen in place, not daring to move and risk stumbling into whatever it was that seemed to be haunting the castle.
Spike stood there for a minute, listening intently. All he could hear was the sharp hiss of his own short breaths, and the rapid thumping of his own frantic heartbeats. Nothing moved. Nothing jumped out at him. The castle remained completely inert.
“Hello?” Spike timidly called out. “Anypony there?”
He really should go check on Twilight.
Then a gentle draft of warm air brushed past the back of his neck. It was a gentle yet vibrant breeze, one filled with enough heat and moisture to feel almost alive. Almost like…a breath.
Somepony was breathing down his neck.
He ran as fast as he could, not caring where he was going. A shadow played on the wall ahead, indicating that the mysterious thing was chasing him. Sometimes it danced to the right; sometime it skipped to the left. Sometimes the shadow moved so suddenly that Spike was sure the thing responsible had teleported around him. He did not care. He just wanted to get away as fast as he could. All thought of checking on Twilight was forgotten as Spike fled from whatever terror was stalking him.
Somehow Spike found himself outside his own room. In a panic, he raced inside and slammed the door behind him. He jumped into bed, curled up into a ball, and pulled the blanket over himself, not daring to check if his pursuer would follow him.
There Spike waited for what seemed an eternity. Every instant he expected to hear somepony break down the door, or to see a shadow flit across his view. As seconds of dread stretched into minutes of uncertainty, Spike reached an important decision.
He was not leaving his bed until the morning. He would stay put exactly where he was.
After all, Twilight could easily take care of herself.
“PINKIE!” Rainbow Dash screamed.
Dash assessed the situation. Glass shards littered the room. A pained groan emanated from a box precariously tipped on its side. From a gaping hole in the wall protruded an imposingly festive piece of heavy artillery. And a sheepishly grinning pink pony sat in the center of it all, looking surprisingly remorseful for a perpetually excited bundle of fun.
“Heh, heh. Sorry, Dashie,” Pinkie Pie said. “I forgot I hid a party cannon there.”
“Never mind, Pinkie,” Dash replied. Now that the initial shock had worn off, Rainbow Dash immediately turned her attention to practical matters. She was not about to let something as ridiculous as an unexpected cannon barrage disrupt their master plan. “Ok, you need to go distract Spike. Do whatever you need to do to make sure he doesn’t realize what’s going on. I’ll take care of getting Twilight out of the castle.”
Pinkie saluted Rainbow Dash and somersaulted out of the room. Confident that Pinkie could handle the task of keeping Spike occupied, Dash flew toward the crate she had dropped in surprise. The impact had clearly woken the pony who had been sleeping inside, but Twilight had not yet tried to get out of the box.
Dash intended to keep it that way. She grabbed the crate beneath her, pressing the lid of the box against her so that her body kept it from opening. Then she took flight—box, princess, and all—and angled toward the door. She had to move quickly if she wanted to get away before anypony came to investigate the random explosion Twilight’s castle. Unfortunately, it was hard to maneuver while carrying an awkwardly large container and an awkwardly awake pony.
Dash thought she heard a faint, “What in Equestria?” come from beneath her, soon followed by the slight press of a hoof against the lid. Gripping her prize more tightly, Dash sped down a staircase. Another, more forceful push nearly caused her to drop the box, but Dash barely managed to hold on. She was not about to lose a contest of strength to an egghead.
Still, she needed some way of keeping Twilight contained so she could focus on flying. Taking a quick detour, Dash veered into the throne room. Even in the dark, the chandelier of hanging gems glistened slightly. Each strand of jewels displayed immeasurably valuable memories, tokens of the wonderful friendships Twilight had formed in Ponyville. Enshrined in this monument to Twilight’s previous home were dozens of sentimental ornaments arranged in wonderfully crafted strings of shimmering beauty.
Those strings could also be used as surprisingly durable rope.
Rainbow Dash quickly plucked a strand of gems off of the chandelier and used it to tie the box shut. That should hold Twilight Sparkle in for a little while. In the meantime, Dash could make it out of the castle.
As she exited the throne room, she heard the shrill scream of a terrified baby dragon. While wondering just what Pinkie was doing to distract Spike, Dash raced toward the front doors. As she soared down the entry hall, Rainbow Dash cut her speed and came in for a landing. Then, she calmly pushed the front door open, carried the crate outside, and deposited it neatly in the waiting cart. She put on the harness and led the cart away from the castle at a calmly professional pace.
It would look like she was just transporting a box of quills. Nopony would suspect a thing.
Awhile later, Dash arrived at the rendezvous point on the edge of the Everfree Forest. As far as she could tell, she had gotten away completely undetected. Giddy at the thought of successfully pulling off another prank, Dash waited for Pinkie Pie to arrive so they could celebrate their resounding success.
As the minutes dragged on, Dash turned her attention to the crate by her side. Twilight had been strangely quiet after her initial escape attempts had proven futile. Still, Rainbow Dash wondered at the lack of response from the kidnapped princess. Dash had expected Twilight to put all her efforts into freeing herself.
Curiosity getting the better of her, Dash loosed the cord tied around the box. Lifting the top slightly, she stole a quick peek in at her peculiarly quiet captive.
Twilight was just sitting there, contentedly reading a book.