• Published 20th Aug 2013
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A Hairier Problem: Rise of the Furball - BlueBastard

Applejack is back to normal and one of the greatest threats in Equestria's history has finally been laid to rest. But if that's the case, then what's going on with Apple Bloom?

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Ch.19: Shattered Illusion

Rise of the Furball Chapter 19: “Shattered Illusion”

The sounds of battle raged outside the crystal walls forming Apple Bloom’s prison. The poor filly, trapped within, didn’t know what to make of the situation. Fair Vista had managed to deal a fatal blow to Raspberry Beryl, condemning the unicorn to either becoming a werewolf herself or outright death, but Apple Bloom didn’t know which had been the gem seller’s fate as almost immediately after she had been confined to this small space. The only clue to which condemnation was chosen for Razz was Heliodor, the phoenix oddly doing nothing but perching atop one of the walls and facing away from Apple Bloom.

“He…Heliodor?” called up the frightened lycanthrope, unsure of what was going through the bird’s mind. He in turn seemed to be surprised at being called for, proceeding to turn and look below at the entrapped Apple. “Is Miss Raspberry…is she gonna be alright?”

Almost disturbingly, the phoenix smiled and nodded his head to affirm his mistress was alright. Apple Bloom couldn’t help but wonder if the fiery avian even understood what he was implying with his answer, but both werewolf and phoenix got a nasty surprise when Fair Vista was sent slamming right into the wall Heliodor was perched atop.

“UNGH!” grunted the ghost, sliding down from her place on the wall and onto the ground. She tried to get back into a stance as fast as she could, but almost immediately a coil of black energy wrapped around her transparent hoof like a snake, dragging her back as it recoiled right towards the mulberry unicorn who had become the thing of Nightmare Moon’s Nightmares. A secondary beam of magic launched from her horn into the ground, another wall of dark crystal bursting up and right in the path of Fair Vista. This time, the impact was even rougher, the tractor beam letting go just before Vista’s body shattered the new wall, the shards making their points known as they did the impossible and cut into her ethereal body.

“Wha…” gasped Fair Vista, “What the hell are you?!”

“Haven’t you figured it out yet?” said Raspberry, taking careful steps closer to her enemy, “it should be fairly obvious.”

“Y-you’re… an alicorn?!”

“Oh for…Seriously?!” screamed Razz, letting loose a burst of energy right at the downed ghost. Fair Vista barely had time to get out of the way before the magic made contact, a single, razor-tipped crystal erupting from the ground. “I’m not exactly fond of this, but I at least would like some respect in it being called what it actually is! Which, in case you actually are that stupid, is dark magic. I don’t know who decided it was ‘alicorn magic’ but it pisses me off in so many ways that you wouldn’t believe!”

“But the only way you can even cast dark magic, if you’re not gifted with the power of an alicorn, is…” Vista’s eyes grew wide at the realization of the only other possibility.

“Now you understand what I am. This great power? It’s no gift. It’s a motherbucking curse. It’s driven me from every opportunity I’ve had to live a regular life, because of exactly what you probably just realized. But, if I can use my ability to rid the world of your foul taint, then no matter what happens at least I’ll have the knowledge I was a better pony than him.”

Despite the fact her coloration was already pretty washed out by virtue of being a ghost, Vista still managed to turn an even paler shade at the confirmation of what she feared. Of course, it was obvious, the only possible explanation for how this pony could not only wield power even the mighty alicorns feared, but also be able to harm her despite the fact she wasn’t really on the physical plane of existence. The undead werewolf could feel the sensation of fear rising within, as there was no question about it now. This was the same pony behind the barrier on that night of Apple Boom’s first change so long ago. Only this time, it was proven that dealing bloody, fatal attacks to the unicorn did nothing but piss her off.

“You should have fled, Vista, instead of trying to take me out of the picture or I guess try to make me into a freak like you. It doesn’t work that way, not for me at least, and it certainly isn’t going to work for you as the fact you’re technically already dead means nothing to me. I haven’t even begun to use my magic in any meaningful way, I haven’t in a long, long time, but you’re rapidly becoming a reason for me wanting to change that.”

“N-no…stay back!” For the first time in forever, Vista truly found herself in a bad situation to the point she was retreating. A ghost, who by all rights shouldn’t be able to be forced into submission by any mortal being by physical means, was unable to overcome a pony who spent more time whimpering in a corner! To say Fair Vista’s mind was protesting this reality was an understatement.

“You’ve lost - that much was true the second you decided to go after Apple Bloom, but you’re welcome to keep trying to fight me until I inevitably scatter what’s left of your very essence into the winds. Running is also an option, but know that if you do run, and you don’t go back to whatever place in hell you came from but instead trouble anypony with your dumb werewolf business, I will hunt you down, I will drag you out of hell myself if need be, and I. Will. End. You. Got that?”

Fair Vista was sure she would have pissed herself, if not worse, had she still had bodily organs. As it was, she immediately put distance between her and the scariest pony alive, the faster the better as she didn’t know the true extent of the unicorn’s abilities. For all she could say, Fair Vista may have just gotten herself into a situation where she‘d be constantly on the run for the rest of her life.

Raspberry, on the other hand, merely glowered for a good few minutes until she could no longer sense any trace of the ghost. With a heavy sigh, she dropped her true aura, the mist disappearing from her eyes and horn, restoring her appearance to that of the gem merchant. The gem merchant who had sold Rarity a large, dark crystal which had somehow ruined everything.

“Why must it be this way…” said Razz in a hushed tone to herself, lamenting the loss of what might have been her last shot at true happiness. The waterworks almost started again had it not been for Heliodor’s cries, bringing the unicorn’s attention to the remaining crystal formations which kept Apple Bloom held within. The implication of what she’d done only then fully hit Raspberry like a ton of bricks.

Apple Bloom was a liability. There was no way Razz could spin a story such that the mysterious pony who had been wearing her red cloak had done all this dark magic. Not when it was the only way to explain how she’d survived having her jugular torn out, which had hurt like nopony would believe, but because of her association with dark magic, Raspberry was actually very, very hard to kill through conventional means. Sure, killing the filly would solve the problem outright, the blame could easily be pinned on that Fair Vista and the remaining traces of Raspberry’s dark magic could be pinned on a supposed phantom pony, the dark diamond forgery included. The fact it would remove the problem of lycanthropy altogether (or so she thought) was a bonus.

But I’m not going to stoop to that level…would I? wondered Raspberry. It was no guarantee that killing Apple Bloom would be a way to shift all the blame. Applejack was the Element of Honesty and even having sacrificed the actual element to the Tree of Harmony could most likely tell Raspberry had been lying. After all, Raspberry’s lie about her magic’s weakness was no good, not after an emergency teleportation. She also wouldn’t be able to sell her gems, as while she made sure that they visually were the exact same as any real precious stone, the truth was that they were still dark crystals and she’d need to stop using magic permanently. That option was totally out, as she’d only done that once before, as a filly, back when she was still under the abusive rule of her father, and in the end her backed up magic had been what had set her on this damned path in life in the first place.

Above all else, however, Raspberry knew it was simply a question of killing an innocent filly. One who also suffered a curse from the evils of dark magic, although somewhat in a different manner. As she looked up at Heliodor, Raspberry was unsure of which choice to make, for both would saddle upon her a permanent hardship she’d be forced to live with until her death. Ultimately, however, there was only one choice to make.

“I’m sorry, Helidor, but this is the only way…” said the unicorn, quickly turning and firing a bolt of magic into the prison. The phoenix didn’t understand as he lifted off just in time, the walls crumbling underneath, but when he realized what had just happened it was clear his mistress had just paid a heavy price.

“Lyra!” chided Sandalwood, “For Celestia’s sake take that thing off already!”

With a barely audible sigh, Lyra complied and took the large shell-like head, revealing a mint colored unicorn’s noggin sticking out of what looked like a large, tailless monkey from the neck down. “You do realize this makes the costume look wrong if my head doesn’t match my body, right?”

“That’s why I suggested my idea for the human costumes, you’re the one who made a giant oversized suit.” Contrary to her flatmate, Sandalwood’s costume was composed of her wearing some kind of hooded sweater with a zipper along with a pair of blue denim pants, her lower hooves covered by a pair of boots but her forehooves were uncovered. In comparison, Lyra had constructed some sort of oversized mascot she was inside of that had working “hands” based off of minotaurs and a giant domed head with a flat face save for a slanted extrusion that was its ‘nose’, for according to her research, humans didn’t have muzzles, their noses and mouths instead being completely separate.

“Humans?” asked Silver, unsure of why she’d been left in the care of the two ponies in all of Ponyville who were certified psychos. Lyra was about to go into one of her canned speeches on how “the ignorance of ponies in regards to the significance of the presence of the human creature in Equestriani history” was terrible, but was silenced by Sandalwood raising a hoof.

“Not now, Lyra, we’ve got bigger problems at hoof.” Sandy then turned to look right at Silver, who was the only one present who was totally out of her costume, the pie laying at an angle a few feet from the door. “Look, Silver Spoon, this whole ‘werewolf’ business…everything you told the others is true, right?”

Silver nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“Oh-kay, um…how much do you know about werewolves?”

“Why do you want to…oh, you were there when that thing with Iron Will went down, weren’t you?”

Lyra rolled her eyes. “Yes, everybody remembers the Apples, the six friends, and Iron Will, but they couldn’t exactly have gotten there without us driving them in the Apple Truck and our Car. But more importantly, we know more than you do about werewolves, that’s for certain.”

“So Applejack was a werewolf?”

Sandalwood and Lyra blanched momentarily, the tan pony managing to recover her voice first. “Who…who told you-“

Silver took her turn to look exasperated. “Fair Vista. She sort of gave a summary of the event to me and Diamond from what she was able to piece together. Something about her significant other; Sable Loam, both she and him being immortal or something, and then the Apples somehow being responsible for her death, then later Applejack specifically for her involvement in how Sable Loam died.”

Sandalwood raised an eyebrow. “I know you’ve been saying her name a lot, but I don’t recall somepony named ‘Fair Vista’ having ever been involved with this.”

“Really? ‘Cause I do.” said Lyra, “Remember that photograph Celestia found in Sable Loam’s bag after Applejack nailed him through that gravestone? Apparently it was of Fair Vista from some point way back when. The princess also said that she knew she’d killed a werewolf ten years ago at the time, but she was mistaken in that it wasn’t Sable she killed. It was Vista.”

“Oh, yeah, and then Applejack mentioned that gravestone, according to what Sable had told her, was put there by him for…” Sandalwood’s eyes went wide, “…the same ghost Twilight and co. are going after.”

“I don’t know how Diamond got involved with this ‘Fair Vista’ ghost werewolf pony thing,” lied Silver, “other than she’s just had that burning need to expose Apple Bloom as a werewolf herself or something.”

“Oh Princesses Above, Applejack as a werewolf was bad enough. Apple Bloom would be a total nightmare!”

Silver frowned. “Oh, please, it wouldn’t be as bad as having to help Diamond and that ghost in their hairbrained attempts to flush out Apple Bloom. First it was the cats, then it was the garlic stuff in the schoolhouse-“

“Wait…” interrupted Sandalwood, “garlic stuff? Like, garlic scented stuff? From the spa?”

“Yeah, real nasty stuff too, but she had like gallons of the stuff and we poured it all over the place.”

“YOU DID WHAT WITH MY STOLEN SCENTS?!” shouted Sandalwood. Silver then realized that maybe letting that slip might not have been a good idea.

As Apple Bloom opened her eyes, she saw the dark crystal walls had fallen away from her, such that the space she’d been confined to was free of any black shards. What was left of the walls continued to degrade into nothing, as if it was sand being blown by a stiff breeze. Raspberry Beryl stood not too far away, her head turned away from Apple Bloom. Heliodor perched silently on a part of the ruins, having nothing to say.

“M-Miss Beryl?” stammered Apple Bloom. While she hadn’t seen the fight, she’d easily heard it, and so was aware of everything Raspberry had said about her dark magic.

“You’re safe, now, Apple Bloom.” Replied the unicorn, opening her eyes but not turning to face the filly, “Fair Vista won’t trouble you again, or anypony else if she knows what’s good for her.”

“But…all this dark magic…was it really you?”

Razz didn’t immediately respond, instead opting to choose her next words carefully, for they would determine Apple Bloom’s further impression of her now that she knew enough about her. “You heard everything that ghost and I said, much less the fact that by all that is good and right in the world I should be dead or have been afflicted with lycanthropy, but I’m not as you can see. Please tell me the truth…are you scared of me?”

“That depends. Are you the same Raspberry Beryl who Ah know from Ponyville?”

“Huh? You mean like, personality wise? Then yes, I’m the same pony on the inside, I always have been!”

“Then mah own answer is that Ah am scared of you a little. But, Ah’ve had experience with dealin’ with ponies who everypony fears. Some time back, everypony was scared of Zecora, but they didn’t understand her. To this day she credits me as bein’ the reason she’s been able to become a part of town as if she’d been a pony all along.”

“I met Zecora…nice pony. But the ponies back in town only feared her because they didn’t know what she was. With me…everypony will know. Princess Twilight felt my aura, then after what Spike did…”

“What did Spike do?” inquired Apple Bloom.

“He…” started Razz, nervously, before she found a reason to smile. Never before had she found anypony who could possibly even understand her. Except…here was a filly, subject to her own dark curse, not even fully pony anymore, but was brave enough to listen to the pony who threw around dark crystals like snowballs. If there was anypony, anypony at all, who could help her finally fight the stigma of her curse. “Here, come with me, I’ll explain.”

“Uh, okay?”

Motioning with a quick gesture of her head, Raspberry began to lead Apple Bloom to someplace in the ruins. The young Apple didn’t know what to expect, but as had been the case with Zecora, she had a gut feeling that Raspberry wasn’t a bad pony.

“So…” started Apple Bloom, but was quickly hushed by Razz.

“Please, I know you have a lot of questions, but I’d rather get to our destination first before I can answer them.”

It was a short trek, the destination being one of the few full-standing homes within the ruins. Apple Bloom instinctively came to a halt even though Beryl and Helidor kept going to the entrance of the abode.

“Huh? Apple Bloom, it’s just in-oh, right, the barrier. One sec.”

The werewolf could only look on in morbid curiosity as Raspberry nonchalantly channeled dark powers through her horn, bolts of almost invisible light shooting out and making contact on something that Apple Bloom had only known was there by instinct. All around Beryl, a dome faded into visibility only for it to break apart, similar to how Shining Armor’s forcefield had been broken by Changelings back during the Royal Wedding incident, until there was nothing left and no sign it had been there at all.

“You can come over, now, Apple Bloom. That was the only defense I’d put up, it was a strong barrier that would keep out most pests and anypony who got near it, like you, would feel a gut inclination to move away. Unless you’re a ghost, in which case you just smack into a wall.”

“Ah guess that’s what happened with Fair Vista?”

“Twice, actually, although I didn’t know it was her the first time. She ran off before I could get a good look at her, but seeing as how there aren’t any other pony poltergeists haunting around here…”

Apple Bloom giggled, before being struck into silence as she entered the doorway. While externally there was no suggestion it was anything other than just another ruin, internally was a different story. It was nothing less than gorgeous crystals, the full spectrum represented in a tasteful balance such that it was one big, glistening rainbow. Such a setting, from the luxuriously inviting queen-sized bed carved from a deep blue sapphire stock, to the rather homey looking kitchenette made up of various shades of warm colors and would have been a great place to start the day for anypony. While her knowledge of the world was rather limited beyond Ponyville and a small portion of Canterlot, there was no doubt in Apple Bloom’s mind that what she was gazing upon was the stuff of legends. Great rulers could spend the entire treasury of their government and still not achieve something this beautiful.

“Quite a sight, isn’t it?” asked Beryl, who was laying on a bright emerald sofa, “the majority of comforts that can’t be created with crystal, like bedding or these pillows, I bought in Ponyville. Everything else was made entirely by me and me alone. Well, okay, I had some help from Mr. Gumpy Bird over there.” While Heliodor, perched upon a custom birdstand that was accented to perfectly compliment his plumage of green and gold, proceeded to make a big do over being shortchanged in credit, it was clear most of the work had been done by Beryl. The degree of craftponyship was too fine for any phoenix to accomplish. “Unfortunately, most ponies would condemn all of this, because it’s actually nothing but a mere illusion.”

“Illusion?” asked Apple Bloom, confused. She couldn’t believe such a place, which was so welcoming and calming that the filly hadn’t noticed herself shift unconsciously back to her regular pony self, could have been fake.

“All the crystal here…they’re all dark crystals. I weave the colors into them when I form them into their shapes with my magic, so the end result looks like the same thing that would be unearthed from the ground. Even up close, since despite what you’d think of dark magic being the only way to form them, on the physical level they form the exact same as regular precious stones.”

“So, you can make forgeries of gems?” Apple Bloom wasn’t quite seeing the point…until she remembered what it was that Beryl did for a living. “Wait…are you sayin’ all those gems you sell in town…they’re fake?!

“Every last one, including the thousands of crystals over the course of my life,” sadly confirmed Beryl. “I know it’s wrong, that I’m selling forgeries, but I only ever sold them on account of the beauty and being relatively low cost compared to the real deal. Perhaps it’s shallow of me to think this, but just like how ponies only see me as an evil presence because of my dark magic, I exploit them in how they only see the beauty of my wares and assume it’s the real deal. The gems I sold never had any lingering traces of my magic, they were perfectly safe, or at least I thought they were. Then Sweetie Belle broke off that giant diamond Rarity had ordered for that damn crown, which Spike ate and, through however dragons can eat those things, broke my enchantments and managed to pump more magic into them.”

“Well, that’s interesting to know,” came the husky voice of Lightning Dust, much to the shock of Apple Bloom, Heliodor, and Raspberry. The older werewolf, still in her wolven form, walked slowly into the house. “Nice place, a bit tacky for me in all honesty, but more importantly I’m here to stop whatever evil you’re planning to do with Apple Bloom. I don’t know where that damn ghost bitch went, but-“

“Ah don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, Dust,” said Apple Bloom, “but while Ah thank you for the help earlier and wantin’ to rescue me again, Ah’m not in danger anymore.”

LD was taken aback. “You’re joking…right? I mean, I heard everything she just said. Dark magic, countless instances of selling forgeries, clearly you’re not being serious about not being in danger or she’s got you under some kinda mind control spell.”

“Oh, Ah’m serious alright…” growled Apple Bloom, immediately assuming wolf form, “…Ah’m as serious as a heart attack!” When about a minute passed with the two older ponies and the phoenix just giving strange looks at the filly, Apple Bloom just facehoofed/pawed, “come on, Ah head AJ say it once and then say somethin’ about not usin’ that phrase around Granny, so Ah’ve been tryin’ to find a good time to say it and that just seemed like a good moment.

“Uh, for the record…” piped up Razz, nervously, “if she was under my control, which she’s not, I wouldn’t have made her say something that corny.”

However, Dust wasn’t paying attention to Raspberry’s words, she was too busy gawking at the fact Apple Bloom actually was a werewolf. “B-but I’m supposed to be the only one still alive, unless…”

“No, mah sis didn’t bite me when she was a werewolf, Ah don’t know how Ah’ve become the same thing she’d been turned into thanks to Sable Loam, all that business was supposed to have been settled last year. She never told anypony on the farm about you, though.”

Lightning shrugged, “I’ve only been around town for a couple of weeks, trying to keep a low profile since most ponies probably still remember the crap I started the last time I came to town. I’m just glad Rainbow’s letting me crash at her place instead of me needing to hide at-“

“The Traveler’s Retreat!” interrupted Razz, recognition in her eyes, “You were in the process of moving out of one of the rooms that one night a while back.”

“Wait, how would you know that exactly?” growled Dust, baring her teeth.

“Because the Retreat is where I normally live,” answered the unicorn, a tinge of regret in her tone as she avoided eye contact with the two wolves, instead opting to survey her crystal coven, “as nice as this place is, a life in this kind of luxury isn’t what I want. I only come out here to make the gems I sold in town.” She gestured to a partially obscured back room where, through the doorway, part of what looked like a makeshift blast furnace and a worktable, both made of dark crystal, visible to the werewolves. “I never thought anything would come of it, but I’d stayed there so long that Ascot and Cashmere, bless them, opened their home and hearts to me and gave me both their private guest room and even a job; an actual stable job. But of course it was foolish to me to think it would last.”

“Is it because of the dark magic thing?” asked Apple Bloom, “I’m sure if you just used regular magic-“

“But that’s just it!” snapped Razz, turning to face the filly directly, but her mannerisms were of desperation instead of anger, “I want to be able to use regular magic, all I’ve ever wanted to be was just a regular old unicorn! It’s just that I am incapable of doing anything with magic that doesn’t use dark magic, because…because dark magic is my special talent!”

“But your cutie mark doesn’t say that,” pointed out Dust, using a foreleg to gesture to the baby blue heart gem with the three-color gem spread around it.

“It’s not my real cutie mark.” Answered the unicorn, on the verge of tears, having finally been able to open up about her troubles. “Just like how I make fake gems by weaving in illusion spells when I create them, my magic is powerful enough to make it seem different. In truth, my cutie mark-“ She stopped mid-sentence when the noise of an approaching crowd of ponies began to grow from the outside. “They’re here…” she whimpered, her horn charging up an emergency teleport spell such that she could make an escape.

“What are you doing?!” demanded Apple Bloom, having figured out what Raspberry was going to do, “Why are you running?”

“Because if they catch me, I’m going to be put to trial and most certainly executed for dark sorcery!” answered a tearful Razz. Heliodor nodded to the filly, confirming his opinion was the same as his companion’s before fluttering over to land on her back. “If not for my magic constantly breaking one of the highest laws of Equestria, then certainly because my magic nearly killed one of the closest ponies to Princess Twilight! It’s the only-“

Razz did not expect Lighting to move like, well, lightning. In one swift motion, she’d launched from a standstill and swatted at the unicorn’s horn, causing the spell to be canceled.

“No, it’s not the only way. Sure, you have dark magic violations too numerous to count, but if it truly is the only kind of magic you can perform, then you had to do what you did to survive, right?”


“And all you’ve done with your magic, as far as I can tell, is make little cheap rocks that look pretty. Oh, and save the life of the younger sister of an Element of Harmony. Considering that I once nearly killed five of them because I was too self-absorbed for my own good, I think I’m in a position to say I’ve done way worse than you.”

“Besides,” added Apple Bloom, “you said nopony ever listened to you before about any of this. Well, you have two ponies who have, now, and if what you said about Spike was true, then you didn’t do anything wrong or even be responsible for that.”

“Th…that’s true…” sniffed Razz, looking up at the pegasus and earth ponies before her.

“Caw, caw!” cawed Heliodor, placing himself next to his mistress such that he could rub his head against her cheeks.

“You’re right Heelee, maybe it is time to stop running…but…but will you two really stand up for me?”

“Ah don’t know about Dust, but you saved mah life, and Ah know you’re a good pony just as much as anypony else. Something as silly as law won’t stop me from bein’ on your side.”

“Besides, now that I think about it…” added Dust, hoof/pawstroking her chin, “if you are skilled with dark magic, like King whats-hisname-“

“Sober?” suggested Apple Bloom.

“Uh, yeah, King Sober, then maybe you can help me out, since I’m still kind of on the clock with this werewolf thing and you might be the only one who can stop it.”

By this point, the noise of ponies on the outside implied maybe only a minute or two until they arrived. “Dust, can…can you not mention the fact Ah’m a werewolf?” asked Apple Bloom, shifting back to her regular form.

“Why?” inquired back Dust, also assuming regular form.

“Because if Ah can reveal mah little ‘hairy problem’ at a better time, it would help support your point and in turn help Razz.”

“Oh, I get you. Alright.”

Any further conversation was cut off by the arrival of the mane six. They were all a mixed bag of emotions, namely various states of irritation, but Twilight was clearly doing her best not to explode. It would be very unprincess like of her. It was Applejack, however, who acted first.

“Bloomie!” she exclaimed, dashing forward and tackling the filly in a big hug, “Ah was so worried.”

“Ah’m fine, AJ, Ah had some good protectors who came to my aid.”

“I’d say more than that, Lightning also led us straight to Raspberry Beryl, too!” added Rainbow, who soared in and took a position behind the mulberry unicorn.

“Actually, Rainbow…” interrupted Dust, “I wasn’t exactly all that helpful. The ghost had already been driven off by the time I got here. If anypony deserves praise for saving Apple Bloom, it’s Raspberry.”

“No offense, Dust,” said Twilight, striding into the room at last, “but this unicorn…she can’t be trusted. Not after what she did to Spike, and certainly not after the discovery she’s been involved with dark magic practices.”

“But if what she says is true, then she didn’t have anything to do with that! It was an accident!” argued Apple Bloom. From there, things quickly devolved into a multi-sided group argument and eventually became too much for the distraught pony caught in the middle.

“ENOUGH!” shouted Razz, all voices silenced and eyes looking at her. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, a glance at Heliodor whose nodding gave her strength, Beryl looked at the alicorn in front of her to say what needed to be said. “There is a lot that I will need to explain, this much I know. It’s true that I am guilty of practicing dark magic and of selling forgeries of precious gems, but if I was every bit of the pony you think I am just because I am a dark magic user but not an alicorn, then do you think I would have stayed here and allowed you and your friends to corner me in this place? That I would have chosen to save the life of a young filly over vanishing into the forest to escape capture, and then remained here because she told me that she believes that even after all this, the princesses would take mercy on me?”

“She’s tellin’ the truth, Twi,” said Applejack. “Ah know, Ah know, the whole ‘no dark magic’ thing and all, but considerin’ how you’ve saved Equestria twice because you used dark magic yourself, plus the fact it’s pretty obvious she’s the only reason mah sister was saved from Fair Vista’s ghost, there’s more goin’ on with Raspberry here than she’s let on. It’s only fair we give her a fair chance.”

“But, Applejack…”

“I am in agreement with her, too.” Said Rarity, who hadn’t said anything before due to being enraptured by the beautiful crystal work around her. “No pony with an evil heart would choose to hide in a place this lovely. Plus, I simply refuse to believe the Raspberry Beryl I knew, the timid gem monger who was such a joy to have around, was nothing but a fabricated persona.”

“I’m sorry, girls!” exclaimed Twilight, “but even as a Princess, I can’t override the founding laws of Equestria! I have to have her arrested and she must stand trial!”

“I am aware of that,” said Razz, “but if Apple Bloom is willing to believe in me, then I’m willing to believe in her, and so I submit myself for arrest, Princess, but on four conditions.”

“And what would those be?” warily asked Twilight.

“While I don’t doubt your intentions, I want you to promise me that no matter what happens, I am given a fair trial, for I know having the stigma of being a dark magic user will put a bias against me. I want you to promise me that while I am incarcerated, Heliodor is given the utmost care and treatment, but most of all is unharmed and not subject to the charges laid upon me. He is the closest thing I’ve ever had to family for most of my life.

“I also don’t want any of this to trouble Ascot and Cashmere, or the Traveler’s Retreat. They never knew about my dark magic during my time there, whatever I may be convicted of they are not associated with, my only regret being that they may never want to see my face again after this.

“Finally…I want Apple Bloom and Lightning Dust to be at my trial.”

The ponies still dressed in halloween costumes all displayed shock at that request. “Why them?” asked Fluttershy.

“Because they were willing to listen, when nopony else would. They were the ones who told me to stop running and give myself up such that I may be tried. I’ve…always been afraid of crowds, of attention. The reason is obvious, but in all other cases there’s never been any friendly faces among the crowds. They told me they’d be willing to stand by me, to support me, and even if they can’t testify in my favor, two friendly faces that I can look to among the crowd would mean so much to me.”

Twilight looked hard into Raspberry’s eyes. Ever since the revelation she’d been tricked by Sable Loam with his disguise as the crystal pony ‘Intellectual Pursuit’, she’d taught herself to look for any telltale signs that would indicate dishonesty. But, try as she might, it was clear Raspberry was honest in her words as Applejack had already confirmed. Usually, from what Twilight knew, lawbreakers who surrendered to the Crown kept their requests to be frivolous luxuries like a golden-plated toilet or four-poster beds. Raspberry had only asked for the guarantee of a truly fair trial, moral support from two ponies, and for three other individuals to not be associated with her crimes. In fact, they weren’t really even conditions, they were pleas that were more in the interest in protecting others than the one requesting them. No pony who had even a shred of evil intention within their hearts would do such a thing.

“Raspberry Beryl, as instructed by my position as a Princess of Equestria, I accept your surrender and you will be incarcerated until the time as such for you to be tried,” began Twilight, letter-perfect in her declaration of authority, “however, due to the severity of your crimes by your own admission, your trial will be directly judged by Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Princess Cadence, and myself, as opposed to a normal judgment by jury.” Twilight noted how Raspberry’s heart plummeting was evident in the rapid increase of her breathing and nervous twitching, to which the princess gave a comforting smile and put a hoof on the other unicorn’s shoulder. “Personally, I think you stand a better shot if it’s just the Princesses doing the judging. Your conditions, which by themselves are good evidence of your character, have my guarantee that they will be followed. I will do all in my power as Princess to ensure the safety of those close to you, that there will be no bias against you in a fair trial, and as for the two ponies you wish to be there…” Twilight glanced at Apple Bloom, then Lightning Dust, before resuming her gaze at Razz, “…I doubt that even as a Princess I could stop them from attending no matter how hard I tried.”

“Thank you, Princess,” said Raspberry, a small smile coming to her lips. She knew that the trial would still be a grueling experience, that no matter what Twilight could do the three older princesses would still be biased against her due to all the dark magic charges. And without Heliodor, who she hadn’t asked to be with her when she stood trial as she knew no pets were allowed on the stand, she would be going at it alone. But even if she had to be truly alone for the first time in her life in what seemed like forever, she could finally be open about the truth.

Well, almost the whole truth. If she could get away with only her dark magic being known, that was fine by her. But her true cutie mark…nopony could know, for its implications were far worse than even what her dark magic implied.

Author's Note:

Merry Generic Winter Holiday!