The night after the appearance and disappearance of the purple time traveling Alicorn and frankly the most exciting night since the return of Nightmare Moon had been incredibly dull for Rainbow Dash. Not only had she not been able to find a single thing about Nightmare Moon’s first defeat, but word of when Her Majesty was in a bad mood spread rapidly and, as consequence, only a few desperate ponies had even shown up to court, much less do anything exciting.
So when the time came for meeting with her friends, Rainbow could only hope they’d had a better night than she had.
She walked into the break room with a slouch, her eyes scanning to make sure the room was empty before they came to a rest on her friend, “Hey Pinkie, how was yOWAHG!”
“Oh hi, Dashie!” Pinkie greeted enthusiastically, ignoring Rainbow’s cry and her wide-eyed stare, “You ready for our ‘book club’?”
“Pinkie! What the hay happened to your face?” In hindsight that might not have been the most tactful thing to say, but Rainbow had never been good at tact and seeing her friend hurt didn’t help it improve.
Pinkie’s smile faded and she touched a hoof to her face where a large bruise had recently formed. She met Dash’s panicked eyes with a lopsided grin, “Oh this? Well, you know when you were in here yesterday and spilled that cupcake?”
Rainbow nodded her head slowly and walked forward, her sudden shock seeping away to be replaced with concern.
“Well,” Pinkie continued, her voice wavering slightly, “I guess I didn’t clean it up that well because Charged Night was in here about midnight and he slipped on it an-and got angry.”
Rainbow grounded her teeth at the name, not even having the capacity to be that surprised. Charged Night was the captain of the Night Guard, a brave warrior, and loyal to Nightmare Moon to a point even she found creepy.
He was also the biggest jerk and bigot to ever exist.
As a natural born Thestral and not just a pegasus with illusions covering their wings, he automatically assumed that he was superior to every other ‘lesser race’ of pony. His loyalty and devotion to Nightmare Moon had made him fly through the guard ranks, but the worship he had for her sometimes got too intense even for their all powerful ruler. He was also intensely violent and, without any current outsources, tended to direct it to anything he could get away with hurting.
While abusing other members of the staff wasn’t technically allowed, no one was going to tattle on the captain of the guard.
Without a word Rainbow flew over the counter and started rummaging around in the small freezer, mumbling under her breath
“Dashie, stop, I’m fine,” Pinkie protested, watching Rainbow with worry, “You aren't supposed to be back here you know…”
Dash snorted as she withdrew her head from the freezer, an ice pack clamped firmly in her mouth, “Charged isn't supposed to hit you for no reason either, but it’s not like anyone’s going to stop us.” She hoofed the pack over to Pinkie and gave her a firm look, “Now keep that on your bruise as long as you can alright?”
Pinkie pouted but did as instructed, wincing when the pack made contact with her face, “It’s cold,” She protested.
Rainbow rolled her eyes and flew back over the counter, “That’s why it’s called an ice pack genius.” She let out a sigh and slumped in her seat, “I take it you didn’t get anything for our...ah...book club either?”
Pinkie sadly shook her head, “Sorry Dashie, but I was way too busy last night to even look for anything.”
Rainbow sighed and let her face drop into her hooves, “How things are going so far it’ll be a miracle if Rarity has any good news at all.”
“I HAVE GREAT NEWS!”
Sometimes there were downsides to having your senses and instincts honed for trouble and danger. In the sudden panic that followed the loud shout Rainbow’s wings worked on their own accord and launched her into the air. Her fight-or-flight response also headed nothing like the pesky fact that they were indoors with a low roof and accordingly slammed the Pegasus’ face into the ceiling.
“Oh dear,” Came a gentle sound from below.
Rainbow peeled herself from the ceiling and glared daggers at Rarity standing sheepishly in the doorway. That unicorn really was going to be the death of her.
“Wow Dashie, now we can be matching!”
Rainbow immediately touched her cheek and grimaced at the pain the action brought. Sure enough, a bruise probably was going to form there.
She shot Rarity a dirty look as she descended, “Yeah, Rarity, thanks. Maybe face injuries should be our new gang sign. It would certainly make a statement. You know, maybe you should have one too.”
Rarity laughed awkwardly and took a step back from the aggressive Pegasus, “Oh please darling, this was a very unfortunate accident, and I agree that I could have entered more proper, but I really do have a great news and I don’t think we should ruin this day with violence.”
“Too late for that,” Rainbow mumbled but she stopped her stalk like approach and settled back into her seat, “Pinkie, can you get me an ice pack and a root beer on Rarity?”
“But sodas are free here silly.” Pinkie giggled, already rummaging around in the freezer.
“Than get me two.” Rainbow declared, shooting Rarity a good-natured, if not slightly predatory, smile.
Rarity didn’t buy her smile and sat down two seats away from Rainbow, casting her a weary look.
“So what great news do you have Rarity?” Pinkie asked, placing to sodas in front of Rainbow and one in front of the Unicorn, “Did you get a new outfit? Or did you finally try that new makeup you wanted? Or did Celestia return and has now defeated Nightmare with candy and is letting everyone have free cake for life?”
“I…” Rarity hesitated, her attention shifting to Pinkie in confusion, “I what? No, darling, it isn’t anything that drastic. I just...I’m sorry, dear, but now I’m concerned; how did you get that bruise?”
Pinkie shrugged as she placed an ice pack into Dash’s hoof, “Charged Night got mad at me yesternight.”
Rarity scowled, “Oh, I should have guessed. That brute thinks that just because he’s a suck up to
The Princess he can get away with tormenting any pony he wishes.”
“He’s never hurt you, has he, Rarity?” Pinkie asked with concern.
Rarity huffed, “I would say not. Oh, he tried once but I don’t think he was expecting my left hook.”
Pinkie gasped and Rainbow Dash snorted into her root beer with a laugh, “You fought him off? Oh man, I wish I could have seen his face!”
“But didn’t he tell Moony?” Pinkie breathed.
Rarity smiled, “Oh he tried to, of course, but our dear princess’ reply was very curt.” Rarity raised her nose into the air and gave a near perfect impression of Nightmare Moon, “Why are you whining about it to me?”
Rainbow let out a loud laugh and pounded the counter with her hoof.
Pinkie giggled uncontrollably and rocked back and forth with glee, “She didn’t!”
“She did!” Rarity said, joining in on the laughter, “Oh, he had the most dumbfounded face on as he finally realized how embarrassing it was that The Captain of the Guard got shown up by a servant.”
The laughter turned into a roar as the three mares struggled to contain their mirth. Eventually, Rainbow was the first to find her breath. “I gotta hand it to ya Rarity, I was peeved before, but that really is some great news!”
“Oh no, no, no, darling.” Rarity waved a hoof dismissively as she took a drink of her soda, “That happened near the beginning of my employment here. My news is something completely different.”
“Really?” Pinkie gasped, “What other super cool stuff do you have?”
“Oh nothing,” Rarity said, “It’s just that I found the book I was talking about yesternight.”
Rainbow perked up at that, “You found the book about Nightmare’s defeat?”
Rarity nodded and a confident smile appeared on her lips, “I did indeed, I knew I had read the legend of the mare and the moon somewhere and it just took a bit of searching to find it.” With a flourish, she lit her horn and pulled out a hardcover book from her saddle bags. The book had the title ‘The Mare in the Moon and Other Legends Made Right’ sprawled across it in golden letters and a picture of Nightmare Moon bathed in light as the cover, “The edited version of course, but it should serve our purpose.”
Rainbow snatched the book out of the air, flipped to the first page, and started reading out loud, “‘Once in the magical land of Equestria two sisters ruled over the land in harmony. One was the beautiful princess of the night and the other the wicked queen of the day.’” Rainbow stuck out her tongue, “Oh bleh, I feel sorry for whoever had to write this.”
Rarity’s magic gently tugged the book back out of Rainbow’s hooves, “Why I’m sure the rest of the story is fascinating it’s really this part we’re interested in.” She flipped a few pages in and cleared her throat, “‘Then, the elder used the forces of The Elements of Harmony to lock the poor night princess in the moon, tainting its pristine surface and ruling Equestria with crushing days for a thousand years to come.’”
Rainbow snorted, “Who’s ever going to believe that Celestia was the evil sister?”
“Especially when she beat Moony with something called ‘Harmony’.” Pinkie said excitedly, leaning over the counter, “Does it say anything more about them, Rarity?”
Rarity flipped through the rest of the book and shook her head, “I’m afraid not. It seems the rest of the book is just retellings of other stories with Nightmare being the hero.”
“So that’s it?” Rainbow cried, “The only info we have is that they're called Elements of Harmony and Celestia used them to banish Nightmare Moon once? Ugh, that’s practically useless. It doesn’t even say anything about another Alicorn.”
“Oh, it’s not completely useless.” Rarity waved her hoof dismissively, “While there isn’t much information here at least now we have a good place to start.”
“That’s all we had last time too,” Rainbow mumbled.
“But now that we know what they’re called we’re a step closer to finding your Alicorn friend,” Pinkie supplied, grinning so excitedly at Rainbow that the Pegasus had no choice but to return it.
“I guess it’s better than nothing. Heh, maybe we’ll find out what they look like or something tomorrow.”
“Actually darlings, I was thinking we should stretch out these meetings to fewer than every night.”
“What?” Pinkie cried, leaping onto the counter to place her hooves on Rarity’s shoulders, “But you’re the only ponies that are nice to me and I was really looking forward to seeing you both all the time!”
Rarity gave her a sympathetic look and patted the Earth Pony’s mane, “I know darling, and I enjoy seeing you, but we need to keep this low profile and us just ‘randomly’ coming here at the same time every night will raise some brows.”
“As much as I hate to say it Pinks,” Rainbow spoke up, “I’ve gotta agree with Rarity on this one. Coming here every night will get ponies suspicious and if they seriously start thinking something’s up they can change our schedules so we won’t be able to meet at all.” She nodded her head at Rarity and took another swig of her soda, “Spacing them out would be a whole lot safer. Once a week should be enough time in between.”
Rarity smiled, “I think once a week is a perfect time.” She turned back to Pinkie, who had since let go of her but was now pouting with her forehooves crossed in front of her chest, and sighed, “That doesn’t mean we won’t visit you, darling, it just won’t be at the same time or for this reason.”
Rainbow playfully punched Pinkie in the shoulder, “Besides, you’ll need a day or two to think of a prank for me right?”
Pinkie instantly lite up, “You’ll let me pull a prank on you?”
Rainbow shrugged, “Sure, as long as it’s nothing too bad. I could alway use a laugh.”
Pinkie nodded rapidly, “OK, I can wait ‘till next week then. I’ll come up with a great prank!”
“Great, now if you’ll excuse me,” Rainbow stood up and stretched, removing the ice pack she had held to her face, “I’ve got to make up a story as for why I have this new beauty mark.”
Rarity pursed her lips, “I suppose an apology isn’t enough to redeem myself, is it?”
Rainbow chuckled, “Not on your life. In fact, I might just prank you next week.”
Rarity glared, “If you ruin my mane I will end you.”
Rainbow grinned, “Sounds like a challenge. I’ll be looking forward to it now. And you Pinkie,” She thrust a hoof at the Earth Pony who was now taking advantage of Rainbow’s forgotten soda, “Stay safe will ya?”
Pinkie nodded rapidly and saluted as Rainbow exited the room.
“I FOUND IT!” Rainbow shouted, bursting open the door. She was later than usual and relished the thought of giving Rarity a taste of her own medicine and watch her shoot sparks or whatever it was Unicorns did when they were scared.
Instead of an epic explosion, Rainbow was only greeted by Pinkie Pie’s excited waving and Rarity’s green face glaring daggers.
Well that was certainly unexpected.
Rainbow quickly assessed the situation; Rarity’s mane, face, and shoulders were lime green, but the rest of her was practically untouched. A bucket with what looked like green paint dripping down its side sat behind Pinkie in the sink and Rainbow could see a couple flakes of emerald on the ground.
Rainbow snickered and pointed a hoof at her friends, “No no, don’t tell me. Pinkie set up a prank for me and you got hit with it? That’s it isn’t it? Oh my gosh, that’s rich. Here I totally forgot all about it and you just walked into it anyway!” She punctured her last sentence with a full on laugh and made her way over to the counter.
“Why are you late?” Rarity seethed, her icy glare growing colder as Rainbow chuckled.
“Oh, Shadow Cover got held up for something or another.” Rainbow shrugged, “It’s not like I missed anything important.” She giggled as she gently touched Rarity’s nose, surprised to find her hoof come away clean, “Does that stuff wash out?”
“Of course it washes out, Dashie,” Pinkie said, “It was a prank for you and I know you have to be spic and span when you go out guarding.” She turned to Rarity as her expression suddenly morphed to concerned, “You really aren’t mad at me, Rarity?”
The Unicorn sighed and shook her head, “I’m not mad at you, Pinkie. It was intended for Rainbow Dash and she’s the one that showed up late. In all honesty, I should only be mad at her since she was the one who told you to pull a prank in the first place.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rainbow said with a roll of her eyes, “You can get me back for indirectly pranking you later. Right now we have to talk about my latest discovery.” Before the other two could speak she extracted a book from beneath her armor and plopped it onto the table, “Boom, ‘The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide’ ready for use.”
The two friends gasped, “Oh darling, that’s wonderful! Wherever did you find it?”
“The library in Ponyville. It was in one of those ‘for sale’ bins and when I saw this baby I bought it on the spot.”
“Didja read it yet?” Pinkie asked, “Does it give us all the secrets?”
Rainbow’s smile shrank, “Uh, sort of. It does tell all about them like how many there are, that each has to have a pony representing it and that the ponies using it have to be friends, but uh...it also says that the last place they were seen was in the Everfree Forest, in the Castle of the Two Sisters.”
Silence fell as the two took in Rainbow’s words and eventually was broken by Pinkie, “But, that’s here isn’t it?”
Rarity let out a long breath, “So Nightmare Moon already has them in her possession. We should have known if there was a weapon that could defeat her she would want to have it destroyed.”
“Well, the book said they can’t really be destroyed,” Rainbow muttered, “But if Nightmare has them then this is totally a dead end either way.”
A heavy silence overcame the room once more as it seemed like the last flame of hope had been thoroughly blown out.
“Well, I found a couple books,” Pinkie said after a few long moments, “There not about The Elements but I tried to find out as much as possible about time travel.” She pulled three books from under the counter and set them gently on the top. “I don’t know if they’ll help but, I was thinking, maybe it could lead us to the Alicorn?”
The first book was thin and worn with had a bearded stallion on the front and the title ‘Starswirl’s Complete Notes on Time Theory’. The second was the ‘Daring Do and the Twists of Time’ book, number seventeen in the series. The last was a plain black book with small star-like objects decorating its cover. The title, ‘Time Theory and What it Could Mean’, was written on the top in plain bolded letters.
Rarity and Rainbow’ stared at the bottom of the last book where the author’s name was neatly printed. Like most books, the author’s name was punctuated with a small picture of their cutie mark and the six-pointed star next to the name seemed to captivate the two friends.
“Th-that’s…” Rarity breathed, not daring to look away.
“Her cutie mark!” Rainbow snatched the last book off the table and instantly opened the back cover.
A picture of a grumpy looking unicorn with thick glasses and a striped mane sat at the top of the cover flap. Her cutie mark was enlarged and in the bottom corner of the picture and a short bio about the author extended underneath.
“It’s her!” Rarity and Rainbow said as one, staring at the black and white photo.
Pinkie looked between them in confusion, “Her? Her who?”
Rainbow looked up at her with an almost crazed grin, “Oh Pinkie, you little weirdo, only you would manage to grab the exact book written by our Alicorn Princess.”
It took a moment, but soon Pinkie’s face matched the two in uncontained joy, “You mean that’s her? That’s really her? We found the lost time Alicorn?”
“‘Twilight Sparkle,” Rarity read out loud, pointing a hoof at the book, “‘is a unicorn scholar currently living in Canterlot. She is known to spend long days studying magical theory and other sciences even though’, and they quote, ‘none of these theories have any real practical use’.”
Rainbow pumped a hoof, “Yes! We have a name and a location for the Alicorn! Let’s hit the nearest train to Canterlot.”
“Darling, I doubt we can all go.” Rarity chided gently.
“Wha?” Dash blinked, “What do you mean we can’t all go? Give me one good reason we can’t hop a train to Canterlot right now.”
Rarity frowned at her, “Well for one, Pinkie isn’t even allowed to leave the castle at all, especially not on such a short notice, and for another, if we showed up at a pony’s door with a royal guard their first thought would be that they were going to be arrested. That also goes double if she’s an Alicorn in disguise.”
Rainbow opened her mouth, closed it, then gave an angry huff, “Fine. You can just go by yourself then. We’ll just stay here and do more dumb research.”
“Come on Dashie,” Pinkie said, “Research is fun! Besides, now I can prank you properly without risk of hitting Rarity.”
“Fine,” Dash mumbled, “But you better give us every detail when you get back.”
“Of course darling,” Rarity agreed, “I won’t leave you two out of anything our dear Alicorn has to say.” She paused and glance down at her green neck, “But, perhaps I should wait until I’m more presentable to see her.”