"Fluttershy!" A voice shouted from down the hall.
Apparently their argument had just ended, and they noticed their friend had gone.
"Ah swear, If she's done anythin' to poor Fluttershy, I'll-"
Applejack stopped mid sentence as she rounded the corner, seeing the Evil Pony with Fluttershy. Just sitting on a bench. Doin' nothin'.
Applejack then abashedly walked towards Fluttershy and Evil, her stetson held by a forehoof. "Howdy there, Ms. Evil. Fluttershy." She was uncomfortable.
"Ms. Evil?" Ms. Evil asked with a smirk.
"Applejack! That's so-- um... actually, I don't know if that is rude, or not..." Fluttershy nearly scolded.
"It's okay Fluttershy, I take it as a compliment."
Applejack was going to get this over with before it tormented her any longer. "Say, um... I don't know your real name, but I'd like to apologize."
Both Fluttershy and Evil were surprised by this. "Apologize for what?" Evil Pony asked.
"Well, when you an' Fluttershy went and disappeared, I assumed the worst of ya. I'd like to apologize for thinking badly of you."
Evil was snickering, covering her mouth with a grey hoof.
"Hey, what's so funny? I'm tryin' to say I'm sorry!" Applejack complained.
"It's just, -snrk- It's that you think I'm going to be upset -pfft- for calling me evil! I'm the Ambassador of Evil! I would hope I could live up to my title at least!" Evil then burst into laughter, and Fluttershy awkwardly smiled at the situation.
Applejack glared at the Evil Pony, putting her stetson back to its rightful place on her head. "Yeah, uh huh. Funny."
"Hey, don't be like that, Applejack. Garotte is a very nice pony!"
Applejack's trademark 'Are you serious, right now?' deadpan glare shifted to Fluttershy. "Yer serious. The Ambassador of Evil is a nice pony?"
"Yes." Fluttershy said with more force than was typical of her, amounting to a normal pony confirming their thoughts on a matter. For Fluttershy, however, this was a dramatic event.
Applejack's ears retreated in sympathy to her brain's shock. "Ahright, Fluttershy. I guess you'd be the one to know who's nice n' all; Element of Kindness..."
Garotte had recovered from her giggle-fit, and offered a hoof to Applejack. "Garotte Wire, Ambassador of Evil. Pleased to meet you!"
Applejack shook Garotte's hoof. "Can ah get you anything? I don't know what it's like bein' in a fancy palace all the time, but I'd figure the food is like them fancy restaurants that don't serve you nothin'."
Garotte nodded. "That sounds like a plan!" She looked to Fluttershy. "Would you like to go with us as well?"
"Um, thanks for the offer, but I need a while to relax. A lot has happened today and I'm worried about my animals at the cottage..."
"That's fine, sugarcube. Get your rest, and maybe you could go with Rarity to one o' them Spa's later?"
Fluttershy brightened at the idea. "Oh, that sounds wonderful! Thank you for the suggestion."
"You take care now!" Applejack called after her friend as she took flight. She then turned to Garotte, her previous suspicions about an Evil Pony coming back to mind, as Garotte looked to her innocently.
"So, what place do you recommend?" Garotte asked.
"Well, ah don't spend a whole lot o' time in Canterlot. I know somepony that would know, though. If she gives you any trouble 'bout what you're wearin', just know that she can't help it. That mare knows more about fashion than I do about apples, and that's sayin' alot."
"That would be... Rarity, correct?"
Her suspicion doubled. "How do y'all know 'bout Rarity?"
Garotte returned a friendly smile. "In-depth briefing about the potential Heroes that would come to stop our Evil-ness, of course!"
Applejack then facehoofed. She should've expected that, somehow.
"Why does everypony do that? Doesn't it hurt?"
"So..." Garotte began. She and Applejack were walking side by side down the cobblestone of Canterlot, in search of 'good eatin.' They were also unable to find where Rarity had run off to, and had given up the search and opted to find someplace on their own.
"Somethin' on yer mind?"
"What happened to the other four?"
"You mean Rainbow, Rarity, Twilight n' Pinkie Pie?"
"The Pink One was there?!"
Applejack nearly facehoofed again, but stopped herself short of a twitch. She didn't need that talk again. "Yeah, Pinkie was there. Why do y'all call her 'The Pink One', anyway?"
Applejack looked to see a very serious expression on Garotte. "You have no idea, do you?"
Blinking, Applejack figured that she was just messing with her. "Yeah, sure."
Garotte dropped the subject, as her attention was arrested by a uniquely decorated storefront. "No way! They have these in Manehattan!"
Trotting after the Ambassador, Applejack took note of the castle based decorations, painted in white. They entered into the store with a chime of bell to accompany the event, and Applejack nearly gagged at the smell.
Covering her mouth, she waded through several Griffons to reach Garotte.
"Can I get the double LOT with extra Bacon?"
The griffon behind the counter could only stare open mouthed at the grey unicorn before her.
"Yes, I eat bacon. Yes, I'm a pony. Yes, I know I can't digest bacon. Yes, I don't care. Bacon is delicious!" Garotte replied with practiced patience.
All of the Griffon's questions having been answered, she called out the order and gave the unicorn a small ticket with a number on it. Garotte turned to see a visibly sick Applejack covering her mouth with her stetson.
"Are you okay?"
"Are you crazy?" was Applejack's reply.
"No, I'm Garotte. Who are you?" she snickered.
"I'm sick, is what. What the hay is an L.O.T anyway?"
"Lettuce, Olives, Tomato."
"And the Bacon?"
"You know that's pig, right?"
Garotte gasped. "No! Say it isn't so!"
Applejack made a face. "Ya know, I think you might just be perfect for the Ambassador of Evil title y'all got."
Garotte giggled. "Why thank you, Applejack!" She then reached into her mane and pulled out several bits. "Treat yourself to something! They have a 'pony' menu as well." She winked.
Confused, but also thankful of Garotte's generosity, she accepted the bits if only to get out of the horrible store faster. "That's mighty kind of you, Ms. Evil." she smiled.
"Order Six-Sixty Six!" The griffon called, a tray with a single burger, hay fries and a strawberry smoothie held in her claw.
"Oh! That's me!"
Applejack watched Garotte run towards the counter, and couldn't help but feel as if something significant had just happened. She couldn't place the feeling, but she decided it would be simpler to just buy her food and get out of the store before she really got sick. She was about to speak up so that her voice could be heard through all the commotion, when the door chimed and everyfeather and pony went completely quiet. Turning around, she saw somepony she had never expected to see again.
Or should that be someling?
Queen Aze was standing in the middle of the doorway, looking around at everybeing inside of the store with blatant curiosity. Her face was as blank as ever, but her eyes darted around like a fly avoiding a swatter.
"Uh, Queen Aze?" Applejack intoned with a raised hoof to get the Queen's attention.
"Oh?" Aze looked down to see Applejack. "Hello, Apples!"
Applejack closed her eyes, quietly grumbling to herself. "Queen Aze, y'all are in the way." She pointed behind the oblivious queen to the frightened yet still hungry griffons behind her.
Aze looked to her rear, and startled an unfortunate griffon youth with her blank stare. "Oh! I apologize." Her voice was in complete opposition to her expressions. Her voice had always been cheerful and optimistic, almost filly-like. This was greatly offset by the fact that she never made any attempt at expression unless she was trying to get something or influence somepony. It made her more honest, in a way, and Applejack could respect that unintentional integrity.
Aze sidestepped and caused a few griffons to back away from her with confused unease, but she remained completely oblivious to her effects on everybeing present. Well, either she was oblivious, or she didn't show that she knew. She was a changeling, after all. They can sense what you're feelin'.
"So!" Queen Aze spoke up. "What does everybeing do in a place such as this?"
Garotte raised a hoof, her magic holding her OLT+B2 (Olives, Lettuce, Tomato Plus Double Bacon) out in front of her face to bite into. "You buy food here, Queen Aze!" she cheered. "Food like BACON!"
She then promptly bit half of the burger off in one bite, and began joyously chewing and making noises unsuitable for the young of any species.
Applejack was becoming rapidly self conscious; caught between the Ambassador of Evil and a changeling Queen. "Hey, how 'bout we all walk and talk outside?" She hopefully offered the two.
"That sounds like an idea..."
Aze's eyes then when completely dark, and she stood there like a living statue. Applejack always hated when Aze did that. It looked like a corpse had just been left standing there.
The Queen's eyes came back, and Aze cheerfully added to her previous comment. "I will join you for a date!"
If Applejack had been drinking, she would've spat it everywhere. "A what now?!"
If Aze was confused, the only indication was her change in tone. "You've offered to 'walk and talk' with Garotte and I. I had asked the hivemind for similar circumstances and found that a 'three-way date' would apply. Is this incorrect?"
Applejack's mouth refused to produce any words that could be associated with coherent thought and/or intelligence, but Garotte's own mouth was semi-free to make up for that fact.
"Mnyah, ish fine Kween Azhe!" She said with a mouthful of burger and now fries, jutting from her mouth. How did she even speak like that? Could she breathe?
"Excellent! Let us proceed with our 'Three way'!"
Applejack's hoof screamed to collide with her face, and there was nothing she could do to prevent the inevitable comment.
"You know, you should really get that looked at. It could be a medical problem." Garotte said, her mouth free of foodstuffs.
"I would hope that your action causes no injury, Apples." Aze had also said at the same time as Garotte.
The two then shared a knowing glance, and stood on either side of the exit archway for Applejack to regain control of her body and guide them out.
Something wasn't sitting right with Applejack. She knew that Queen Aze was strange, but why was she in Canterlot? Didn't she have queen things to be doing?
"Queen Aze?" Applejack politely asked.
"Yes! I'm here!" Aze jolted. The three of them had been walking as a group, and she seemed very distracted.
"What're you doin' in Canterlot, If you don't mind my askin'?" Applejack was looking upwards towards Aze, who stood at about Princess Luna's height. Her eyes would flicker from time to time, like a candle trying to fight the wind.
"Seeking aid." Was her condensed reply.
"Um, Queen Aze?" Garotte chimed in. "Neither of us are able to access your hivemind, so we have no idea what that would include. Would you mind explaining what you're seeking aid for? Perhaps the Forces of Evil could help!" Garotte grinned at Applejack; the both of them to Queen Aze's sides and slightly behind her.
"Oh! My apologies. There is an orange, magic based fire that is sweeping across the White Tail Woods. We have no way of dealing with such a thing, and I was looking around for Twilight Sparkle, seeing as how the Solar Diarch is busy."
"Ya mean Princess Celestia?"
"Yes, that one."
Applejack didn't know if Aze actually had a hard time remembering everypony's name, or if she just didn't think it was that important of a thing.
"How would Twilight be able to assist, Queen Aze?" Garotte asked.
"I had consulted with the few of my hive that are experienced in pony magics, and they recommended a second opinion from a more experienced source."
"Second opinion on what?"
"Fleeing the forest before it burns down on top of us."
Both Garotte and Applejack stopped at that, exchanging worried looks. Aze, of course, was completely oblivious to this, and continued onward. This forced the two of them to quietly canter forward to make it appear as if they had never left her side.
"Well, I'm sure that Twilight'll come up with somethin'. She's really good with magic; being Celestia's star pupil n' all."
"Do you know where I would find Twilight Sparkle?" Aze asked.
"Just look for someplace with enough books to become a fire hazard." Garotte grumbled.
"You ain't a fan of Libraries?"
"I'm not a fan of dusty old scrolls and books full of things that ponies have gone over countless times."
"This 'Library'... Does it bury lies?" Aze asked.
Applejack and Garotte shared a look.
Aze looked at them expectantly. Or blankly. It was Aze; Who knows?!
"I'm pretty sure it buries a whole lot of things, but it's mainly for knowledge." Garotte said finally, to diffuse the moment of awkwardness.
"This would make sense. Twilight knows many things, and should be found in a place where her knowledge could be shared."
"Oh, you don't talk in libraries. It's against the rules, cause it makes it hard for ponies to concentrate on reading."
Aze blinked. "The purpose of the Library is knowledge, yes?"
"Yet one cannot share their knowledge unless they have written it?"
"What if one were unable to write, or what if they had no other means of passing their knowledge?"
"They could always tell somepony else what they thought."
"But wouldn't they be more likely to listen at a library?"
This like of discussion continued for several minutes as the group made their way to the Royal Library. Aze had been shushed several times, but completely ignored the ponies shushing her.
"Garotte, Apples... why are the ponies hissing at me?" Aze asked, looking at the ponies that were grumpily continuing to shush her.
"They ain't hissin', they're shushin." Applejack whispered, and was promptly shushed.
"Well if they wish for me to be quiet, then they should say so. If they want to hiss at me, then I can provide ample challenge." Aze declared, challenging the nearest pony with a death stare that was all the more amplified by her otherwise blank expression, and the intensification of her glowing magenta eyes against the candle-lit library. The target of her ire then decided she had better things to do with her time, and made hasty retreat from the Changeling Queen.
Thankfully before things could get even more out of hoof, Twilight Sparkle herself was informed of the disturbance and sent forward by the chief librarian to confront the Queen, Ambassador and farmer.
"What are you three doing!?" She quietly hissed.
Queen Aze then loudly hissed in reply, startling Twilight and causing her to screech to a halt. Confused, she looked to Garotte and Applejack for some clue, and they could only shrug.
"Queen Aze?" Twilight asked softly.
"Yes, Sparkle?" Aze replied loudly. For a library.
"Would you mind whispering? You're not supposed to be loud in a library."
"Oh!" She said even louder. "I had not known that I was supposed to be quiet in a library, as I am from a foreign land that has no libraries! How confusing it must be for you, knowing all of this! It would be awkward if someling were to come here, and NOT KNOW WHAT ALL THE SHUSHING MEANT." She shouted towards everypony in the library, scowling at them.
The ponies that had become increasingly agitated were instead mortified that they had not considered this, and bashfully disappeared from sight to avoid the wrath of the changeling.
"Now then." Aze said with a barely audible whisper. "I have been searching for you, Twilight Sparkle."
"Do you need help with something?"
"My hive is burning down to the underground; nothing too big." She waved dismissively with a hoof.
"It's what?!" Twilight yelled.
"Shh!" Aze hissed.
Garotte was sent into a silent giggle fit; Applejack facehoofed, and Twilight glared at Queen Aze.
"You did that on purpose."
"What do you mean, Twilight?" Aze whispered innocently.
Twilight growled in annoyance, but Applejack was already tired of the Queen's antics and spoke for her. "There's some kinda magic fire that's burning her hive out of their hole."
Both Twilight and Garotte winced at the... less than diplomatic wording that Applejack had chosen, but Aze didn't seem to notice.
"Do... you know what's causing it?" Twilight replied, trying to steer the conversation towards something productive.
"No. All we know is that it is an orange flame, based in magic. Water has no effect, and those that we have consulted have never seen anything of it's likeness before. Thus far, it has burned around our hive, but I worry that my hive will not have time to relocate should the flames turn inward on us."
"They're avoiding your hive?"
"So it would seem, though I cannot afford to place trust in magical flames with a will of their own. I will need to know if I must evacuate from our home, or if you are able to provide a counter-spell."
"I should go with you. I'll need to see this spell in person to have any clue of how it works."
"Very well. You shall accompany Goose and I to our hive. I must ask that you Pinkie Promise to not reveal its location, or I must blindfold you."
Skeptical that Aze would actually do that, and then remembering that she gave everypony in Canterlot a house on a whim, she decided to go with the Pinkie Promise instead.
"I Pinkie Promise to never tell anybeing the location of your hive, unless it is in imminent danger and revealing its location would save it. Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." Twilight replied with the appropriate motions and incantation.
"Unique choice of wording, Sparkle." Aze said in a lower, almost threatening tone. "Well, let us away!" she said loudly, and was nearly shushed. One look from the Queen, however, and the would-be shusher promptly ducked behind a couch. After this minor incident, The two left the Library with hurried pace, as time was of crucial importance.
"Think she'll fix it?" Garotte asked.
"Most likely. She's really good with all that magic nonsense, bein' the Element of Magic." Applejack replied.
"Should we meet another of your friends, in the meantime?"
"Well, I would, but Rainbow Dash went to go stare at some Wonderbolts that were in town. Fluttershy and Rarity are off having a Spa visit, and you've met Twilight and I. That just leaves 'The Pink One'.' Applejack air quoted with hooves, sitting on the floor so she wouldn't fall over.
Garotte shuddered. "I think we can save her for last."
Garotte was suddenly unnerved. There was this feeling like she was being watched by some unseen predator, skulking just out of view. Looking around frantically and causing Applejack to question what she was doing, Garotte wheeled around into the face of death itself.
Sitting behind her, grinning wider than her face should allow and with eyes wide as frying pans, sat The Pink One.
"Aaaaah!" Garotte shrieked, leaping a full pony height into the air; her mane and tail becoming even more frazzled as if electrocuted from shock. The moment her hooves landed on the tile floor, she rolled away from The Pink One behind a beanbag chair, and peeked over to where she was.
Where she used to be...
"Hi!" Pinkie Pie chirped in her ear, causing Garotte to flip out once again and fall on her back in a mad scramble to get away. "My name's Pinkie Pie!" The Pink One cheerfully announced, slowly walking towards her and still smiling.
"Get her away from me!" Garotte cried to Applejack, whom was completely caught off guard and also confused beyond belief at the entire scene. Garotte was close to Applejack, having crawled away from Pinkie, and reached out with a hoof towards her. "Help me!"
Applejack could only look down at the Ambassador of Evil in disbelief, as Pinkie Pie giggled and grabbed hold of Garotte's tail, dragging her away.
"We're gonna get to know each other really well, Miss Evil Pony!" Pinkie said, as Garotte screamed 'Nooooo!' before a door was slammed. Applejack couldn't remember if that door had even been there in the first place, but it was already too late for Garotte when Applejack's mind finally caught up with what had happened.
Applejack looked around, finding nopony left in the now dark library; Pinkie's entrance having simultaneously spooked what few ponies remained, and blew out the candles lightning it as well.
"Anypony?" Applejack called out.
She could swear that somepony shushed her.
"What just happened?"