Rainbow Dash, the most skilled, and reluctant, unit in Nightmare Moon’s personal bodyguards, trudged through the halls of Her Majesty's castle with angry stomps. Her armored hooves made an echoing clang as she marched. Her breath came in bursts and her eyes glared at the floor, unhindered, as she had misplaced her helmet somewhere. Anger was an easy emotion to feel, much easier than all the others that tried to bubble to the surface. Rainbow passed doors and hallways without a glance towards them, a specific goal in her mind. Without so much as a change in her scowl of an expression, she halted by a plain white door and slammed it open.
A startled squeak greeted her entrance, and Rainbow’s stern expression softened a fraction. “It’s just me, Pinkie. Don’t worry.”
A pink head popped up from behind the counter in the guard’s break room. The whole room looked more like a bar in structure than a mess hall for a tyrant’s bodyguards, with one long counter stretching across the middle and bar stools symmetrically lining it. Nothing else decorated the plain gray walls and floor except for the pink pigtailed Earth Pony, clad in a simple midnight blue apron, and the stunning aroma of food wafting from behind her.
“Dashie!” Pinkie exclaimed, a large grin overtaking her face as she futilely tried to match Rainbow’s glare, “You scared me, silly filly. Don’t come barging in here like the castle’s on fire.” Her expression became comically worried. “The castle isn’t on fire, is it?”
Rainbow wanted to laugh, but all that came out was a frustrated snort. “No Pinkie, the castle isn’t on fire. I’ve just had a rough day.”
Nopony else was in the break room. It was only ever crowded during meal times, when ponies decided that the assorted treats served here dominated the bland ‘regulated’ food the guards were given, and in the middle of the night when servants and guards alike decided to drown their troubles in beer and whisky.
Besides those times, most ponies tended to avoid the break room and its lone attendant, making it a perfect place to speak freely without the chance of being overheard.
Pinkie gave Rainbow a sympathetic look and slid a glittering cupcake across the counter. “Did Moony get mad that you let the time traveling Alicorn get away?”
Rainbow started backwards in the middle of sitting down, clumsily dropping the cupcake and almost following it to the floor.
“Oops,” Pinkie giggled, “Let me get you another one there.”
“How… How did you know about the Alicorn?”
“Rarity told me, silly.” Pinkie slid Rainbow another cupcake and nimbly leapt over the counter to wipe up the spilt one. “She said when you got back from the woods the Alicorn was gone and Moony was looking really mad so she got out of there fast and didn’t see what happened to you but that there was a bit of shouting and flashing lights and sounds that weren’t quite explosions.”
“You shouldn’t call her Moony, Pinkie,” Rainbow commented, nibbling on her cupcake, “It’s not safe.”
“Yeah, I know,” Pinkie pouted, standing up from the floor and climbing back to her side of the counter, “but Nightmare Moon is such a mouth full, you know?”
“Yeah, I know,” Rainbow mumbled, her eyes on the counter. The conversation was making her fresh bruises sting and her mind wander to memories she forgot she had.
“So what’s bugging you?”
The voice right next to Rainbow’s ear caused her illusion shrouded wings to snap open in shock. “Gah, Pinkie!” She complained, playfully shoving the Earth Pony from where she now perched on a stool next to Dash, “Stop doing that, would you?”
“You haven’t answered yet~” Pinkie sing-songed with a victorious smirk on her face.
“Yeah, yeah, Nightmare did get mad OK?” Rainbow silently wondered when exactly her scowl had morphed into a smile. “She yelled for a while and then we all got tossed around a little.” She winced as she rolled her shoulder. “Right, maybe a lot, but it’s nothing your cooking can’t cure.” She flashed a genuine grin at Pinkie but was met with a suspicious frown.
“But that’s not what’s bugging you. What’s really on your mind Dash-Dash?”
Rainbow’s smiled dropped as she nibbled on her cupcake. “Nothing… I just… You’ll think it’s crazy.”
Her statement was met with a snort. “Rainbow, remember who you’re talking to here.”
Rainbow didn’t look up. “You aren’t crazy, Pinkie.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m not inclined to believe it. So spill the beans and I’ll see if beans are a necessary remedy.”
Rainbow’s lips tugged up again. “I don’t think so Pinkie. ‘Cause, see, well, I think I knew that purple Alicorn.”
“As in I’ve seen her before. I’ve met her before.”
“What? You’ve met a time traveling Alicorn before and you didn’t tell me about it?”
Rainbow really did laugh this time. “I didn’t realize it before now. It was only for a couple of minutes and I didn’t know she was a time traveler.”
“Alright, fine.” Pinkie had an exaggerated glare on her face. “But if you have any other cool friends like that you’ve gotta introduce me.”
Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Yeah, whatever, if I meet another Alicorn you’ll be the first one to know.”
There was a happy silence for a few moments that Rainbow was more than willing to spend munching on her cupcake before Pinkie’s voice broke it.
“So, what about that is bugging you?”
Rainbow sighed and put her treat down. “Besides you pestering me? A lot.” She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I met the Alicorn when I was, what, nine? I had just finished standing up to a couple of these bullies for Fluttershy when-”
“Fluttershy, the pony that Moony promised not to hurt if you would be a loyal soldier for her, Fluttershy?” Pinkie asked innocently.
Rainbow leveled a glare at her. “Yes, that Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie.”
Rainbow rolled her eyes. “So anyway, I defended Fluttershy from these bullies and then we started to race to prove that I, obviously, was a better flyer than them. In the middle of the race, we all spotted this epic battle going on between that Alicorn and this other purple Unicorn. So, of course, us nine-year-old foals decided that that was way cooler than any dumb race so we all stopped to watch.” Rainbow paused to take a shuddering breath and run her hooves across her face. “And when the Alicorn saw us she became scared. Like, really really scared. I didn’t realize it then, but ‘till this day I’ve never seen a pony so scared. She turned to us and said we had to go finish the race, but we didn’t listen to her, of course. We were kids, what do you expect us to have done?”
“And why is that bugging you so badly?”
Rainbow gritted her teeth. “Because of how scared she was! A time traveling Alicorn was terrified that I didn’t finish a dumb race as a kid. And then when I was in the woods with her, she said that in the time she came from, her and her friends saved the world from Nightmare Moon and now I can’t… I can’t stop thinking that maybe if I had finished that race then things would have turned out like that and that somehow… somehow all of this is my fault.” Was it moist in here? Why did her face feel wet?
“Dashie, that’s ridiculous, how can this be your fault?”
“I don’t know!” Rainbow cried, throwing her hooves in the air, “But I feel like it is! It’s my fault Fluttershy’s under constant threat. It’s my fault you can’t bake a bad cake without being smacked around. It’s my fault I have to do all of Nightmare’s dirty work. It’s my fault everyone has to! Everything is my fault!”
“What all is Rainbow’s fault?” Came a sophisticated voice from the doorway, “I hope it’s your mane because that buzzcut looks simply dreadful on you.”
Pinkie leaned out of her seat to wave enthusiastically at the newcomer while Rainbow rolled her eyes yet again. “Yeah, nice to see you too Rarity.”
“Well, it is nice to see you.” Rarity said, delicately taking a seat next to the Pegasus, making sure not a piece of her outfit touched the chair, “I got quite worried for a few moments when you all came back empty-hooved.” She eyed Rainbow’s half eaten cupcake before letting out a deep sigh. “Pinkie, darling, would you be a dear and fetch me a coffee, please?”
“Sure thing Rare-Bare,” Pinkie said before leaping over the counter once again, “Dashie was just saying how she thinks the world going kaplooie is all her fault.”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “And how did you work that crushing weight onto yourself?”
Rainbow groaned, “Short version: I met the Alicorn before. She asked me to do something that seemed important. I didn’t. In the forest she said she beat Nightmare Moon with her friends. Obviously, things are different. Can’t help feeling like the important thing I didn’t do caused it.”
There was silence as Rarity stared at her with a mix of emotions crossing her face before it was broken by Pinkie placing a mug of coffee in Rarity’s hooves. “She forgot to mention she was nine when this happened and that the ‘important thing’ was finishing a race.” She hummed in thought as she placed a straw in Rarity’s mug. “I don’t even think it was a competitive race or anything.”
“Darling…” Rarity sighed, taking a sip of her coffee, ignoring the straw, “I understand you feel guilty about many things that aren’t your fault, I do too, to be honest, but saying Nightmare Moon’s return is all on you is ridiculous!”
“I know, I said it sounded crazy, but I just feel like…”
“Like?” Rarity prodded.
“Like, maybe, I was supposed to be her friend.” Rainbow wiped a hoof across her stinging eyes. “The Alicorn said she and her friends stopped Nightmare and I can’t help thinking that if I finished my race I would have been one of those friends and… Who am I kidding? This still sounds crazy.”
“Not at all. In fact, I completely understand you.”
Rainbow snorted at the Unicorn. “You do? Really?”
“Yes,” Rarity said, her eyes lost in the swirling mist of the coffee, “Before you all showed up she said to me, well more implied really, that we were friends in a different time. I thought she was crazy, of course, but if you feel it too then maybe…”
“It could be real,” Rainbow finished for her.
Rarity smiled. “Yes, that exactly.”
“Maybe you could go find her?”
Both Rainbow and Rarity looked up, startled, at the Earth Pony.
“How the heck would we do that, Pinks?”
Pinkie shrugged. “Well, you said she came from a different time so our time’s her is probably still out there just waiting to become friends with you.” She poked a hoof on Rainbow’s armored chest. “And you said you’d introduce me to any more cool friends so everyone wins!”
“But darling, how would we find her?” Rarity asked, “Even if she does exist here, what you’re suggesting is next to impossible, heavens, we don’t even know her name.”
Pinkie shrugged again. “Her cutie mark? I dunno. Maybe if you find out how Moony got defeated it could lead to her.”
Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “Uh, but Nightmare Moon didn’t get defeated Pinkie. That’s why we’re, ya know, in her castle?”
Pinkie rolled her eyes and tapped Rainbow on the nose. “Not this time silly, last time before she was imprisoned the first time. That time.”
Rarity gasped, “You mean the time long before known time where Princess Celestia took her time in sealing our current ruler for a very long time?”
Pinkie nodded and clapped her hooves. “Yes, exactly! That time!”
Rainbow glared at the two. “You mind saying that in Eques and not Pinkiess?”
Rarity took a sip of her coffee. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“We’re talking about the time…” Pinkie’s voice caught as Dash turned her glare back to her. “Uh, I mean when Nightmare Moon got sealed in the moon a thousand years ago by Celestia. However that happened is probably the same as how the Time Alicorn did it in her time.” Pinkie frowned, “Aw dang, I did it again didn’t I?”
Rainbow frowned. “But didn’t Celestia just use her super goddess powers to seal her away?”
“No,” Rarity shook her head. “I read about it once, she used some tools of order or something of the like to banish her.”
Rainbow finished off her cupcake and smacked her lips, “I guess that’s as good a place to start as any. If you read about it then we can probably find the book somewhere in the castle.” She shrugged and stood up, “If nothing else it’ll give us something new to do for a while.”
Pinkie snatched Rainbow’s discarded wrapper and gave her a hopeful grin. “Same time tomorrow, Dashie? We can compare notes over scones!”
Rainbow smiled back at her. “Sounds good. Just make sure no one's here then, 'kay?”
“'Kay!” Pinkie nodded rapidly and turned her bright gaze to Rarity, “What about you, Rare? Can you come here again?”
Rarity hummed as she sipped at her coffee, “Well I suppose if there's the promise of fresh scones I can find something to contribute to our little book club.”
“Oh yeah,” Rainbow said, rubbing her neck, “I guess we should call this something different than what it actually is, huh? If we get too far this could count as treason.”
“We could call it the Daring Do Book Club!”
Rainbow flushed, “What? No! Why would we do…”
“Oh please, darling,” Rarity interrupted, “everyone one knows about your ‘secret’ hobby. In fact, I think calling our meetings something like ‘A Daring Meeting’ would point ponies in that direction and away from our real purpose. Marvelous idea, Pinkie.”
“But… I… No… But…”
“It’s settled,” Rarity declared, pushing her empty mug towards Pinkie and standing up, “we’ll meet here tomorrow at the same time to discuss any daring discoveries we’ve made.” She smirked at Rainbow’s glare. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have tapestries to change. Again.”
Rainbow watched the door swing shut behind the purple tail with annoyance. That pony would be the death of her. Or at least her small social life.
“Soooo,” Pinkie leaned across the gray counter, snapping Rainbow out of her thoughts, and gave her a wide grin. “are you gonna add the Time Alicorn to your Daring Do fanfics now?”
“Shut up Pinkie Pie.”