• Published 22nd Sep 2013
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Brother Against Sister - CartsBeforeHorses

Teenage Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake are fighting on opposite sides of a civil war in Equestria. Now completed.

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Chapter 3: Out of Danger

"Yes, you," said Trixie, pointing to Pumpkin Cake. “This will be less painful for you than for some of the others, as you don’t already have a cutie mark. You have yet to buy whatever lie your surrogates and so-called friends would’ve sold you about whatever your special talent would’ve supposedly been. Whatever they would have told you, it would not have been as grand as this. Step forward.”

Pumpkin gulped, but she walked forward, more terrified of what the consequences would be if she refused.

“What’s your name?”

“Pu-pumpkin C-c-cake,” she stammered.

“This will only hurt for a few moments, Pumpkin Cake.”

Pumpkin Cake took a deep breath. Trixie levitated the brand onto Pumpkin’s flank, where it made contact. Her flesh sizzled as the brand left its mark.

“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!” Pumpkin screamed. Tears of pain ran down her cheek as she bit down, nearly cracking her teeth. It was only a few seconds, but it felt like forever. The sick smell of burning fur and flesh invaded the air, making her gag.

“You’re such a trooper! Only one flank to go. Turn around, please.”

Pumpkin obeyed. Before she knew it, the other flank was searing under the hot iron of the brand. Again, she screamed. Finally, Trixie removed the brand.

“So brave! That deserves a round of applause. Give it up for Pumpkin Cake!"

Only a few ponies stomped their hooves.

“You can do better than that. Cheer for her!”

More of them this time, but still not everypony.

Trixie sighed. “Listen, she deserves accolades for that. She has the mark of knowledge, which is an achievement. Do you want us to be here all day, or shall we get the pain over with as soon as we can?”

This time, everypony stomped their hooves. Some even cheered.

“That’s the spirit! Pumpkin, you may go sit down.”

Trixie was wrong. Pumpkin’s pain had been far worse than the others, because she had gone through the branding knowing full well that at any moment, she could have just cast an intangibility spell on the brand to make it as harmless as the air.

In the dark of the Sugarcube Corner cellar, Pound Cake and his parents sat in shock after the soldiers left with Pumpkin Cake. Mrs. Cake was in tears, sobbing. Mr. Cake held her in his arms, rubbing her back consolingly.

Nopony said a word for a few minutes. Finally, Pound Cake said, “What did they do with her?”

Mrs. Cake sniffled. “I… I don’t know, son.”

They remained quiet for a few moments.

“Well… are we gonna go get her, or…” Pound started.

Neither of his parents answered him immediately. After some time, Mr. Cake asked, “Cup, honey, what do you think we should do?”

Mrs. Cake drew back and looked her husband in the eye. “We try to get her back, I mean…” she sniffed. “But I don’t know how we would! Those unicorns are armed to the teeth, and… I don’t want to lose either of you to them!”

“Well, we need to come up with a plan to rescue her, to get her out of danger,” said Mr. Cake, scratching his chin with his hoof. “I don’t want to run into this blind, though. We need to plan ahead carefully and take the time to know what we’re up against.”

“We don’t even know where they’ve taken her,” said Mrs. Cake, regaining her composure slightly as she rubbed her eyes to wipe some of the tears away. “They could be anywhere by now.”

“They wouldn’t have gone too far,” said Mr. Cake. “We just need to scope out the town somehow and find—”

“I’ll do it!” Pound interjected.

“You’ll do no such thing, young stallion!” Mrs. Cake said.

“But all I’ll do is just fly up in the air, find out where she is, and come back and tell you so you can figure out what to do,” Pound explained.

“Well, honey, it would be nice to not go into this blind, and to know where they’re keeping her. I doubt that they’ll shoot Pound for just flying around, as long as he doesn’t do anything suspicious. They didn’t seem to be shooting at civilians before,” Mr. Cake said.

“Well, what if they start? A few days ago, the Second Kingdom and Equestria were at peace. A fragile peace, but peace nonetheless. But then they launched a surprise invasion, killed dozens and dozens of the town guard, and kidnapped our daughter along with who knows how many other unicorn fillies and colts. Going from that to shooting a bunch of civilians in cold blood isn’t exactly too much of a stretch.”

“Well then,” Mr. Cake retorted, frowning, “why not just live in this cellar for the rest of our lives? If you’re so worried that they’ll just shoot a kid for flying around, or shoot us for walking around, then let’s just never leave!”

“No, we’ll leave,” she said. “But—”

“But what? But then we’ll live in fear for the rest of our lives? We’ll spend the rest of our lives lying awake at night wondering what would’ve happened if we had tried to rescue her? Wondering if maybe, just maybe, we could’ve gotten her back and escaped from Ponyville as a family? Yes, maybe I end up shot and killed. But at least I tried.”

Pound looked his mother in the eyes and nodded.

Mrs. Cake sighed, “Well, not that there’s any use arguing the point anyway. You’ve made up your mind. Just promise me that you’ll be safe, Pound.”

“He knows what to do,” said Carrot. “Don’t you, Pound? Just fly around the town, get a pegasus’ eye view, and find out where they took Pumpkin and the other foals that we heard Trixie mention. Then we’ll go from there.”

“I’d imagine they took any unicorn with earth pony parents, since that was who Trixie mentioned,” said Mrs. Cake. “For a town like Ponyville, where all types of ponies live together, that would probably be at least a few dozen. So just look for a large group of fillies and colts. But for Luna’s sake, be safe and keep your head down! Try not to look suspicious. If a soldier yells a command at you, just do whatever he tells you. It’s not worth you getting shot, and then us losing you and Pumpkin. Understand?”

“Yes,” Pound said.

“Now, if they do start shooting at you, I want you to fly as high up as you can so that they have less chance of hitting you.”

“Yes, mom.”

“Good, dearie. Alright, now I feel more comfortable letting him do this,” said Mrs. Cake. “Granted, I’m not completely okay with it, since it’s dangerous, but I guess you’re right that it would be dangerous anyway. And we do need a plan for getting Pumpkin back.”

Mr. Cake nodded. “Now, let’s do something that we would have to do anyway. Let’s leave the cellar. I’ll just grab that barrel with my gun in it, and we’ll go.”

He walked over to the barrel and heaved it onto his back.

“Wait a minute,” said Mrs. Cake, “Is anything else in there besides the gun?”

“No, why?” Mr. Cake asked.

“Because what if they search it? Then they’ll find the gun. Here…”

Mrs. Cake went over to a sack of flour, ripped it open with her teeth, and poured it into the barrel. She then got another sack and emptied it as well. The flour was just enough to conceal the rifle.

“Great, now I’ll have to clean all the flour out of my gun,” Mr. Cake groaned.

“At least you’ll still have a gun,” Mrs. Cake responded. “All three of us walking out of this cellar with just one barrel is suspicious, though. Pound and I will grab other barrels of flour as well, that way we can say that we all came down here to get flour.”

The three of them each grabbed a barrel, and then they headed up the steps, out of the cellar, and into the sunlight. They squinted their eyes as they adjusted to the light. They walked around to the front of the house, carrying the barrels on their backs. However, a unicorn soldier in the street saw them, and he raised his gun towards them.

“Halt! What’s in those barrels?”

“Just some flour. We run this bakery,” said Mr. Cake, pointing to Sugarcube Corner.

“Flour? Likely story. For all I know they’re full of weapons or bullets, or makeshift bombs,” the soldier said. “Put them on the ground.”

The Cakes put the three barrels on the ground. The unicorn soldier lifted the lids off of each barrel with his magic. Seeing nothing but flour, he put the lids back.

“Very well, then. Carry on. Oh, and kid. Do you fly?”

“Yes,” Pound responded.

“Figures. Well, just stay out of the way of our airplanes if you don’t want to get torn up by a propeller. We’ve had some accidents with pegasi civilians before.”

“Oh, thanks,” said Pound Cake.

“Mmhmm,” the soldier muttered, walking away.

The Cakes continued into the bakery, where they put down their barrels.

“Well, he was… nice?” said Mr. Cake. “They can’t all be evil, I suppose.”

“Yes, and now at least we know Pound won’t be shot down out of the sky,” said Mrs. Cake.

“Okay, I’ll go scope out the town,” said Pound Cake.

“Be safe, whatever you do,” warned Mrs. Cake, pointing at Pound.

“I know you can do this, son. Be brave,” Mr. Cake encouraged, patting him on the back.

“You bet,” said Pound, opening the door as he took off into the air.

Pound Cake soared in the air above Ponyville, looking for any sign of his sister or the other unicorn children. From a few hundred meters in the air where he was, he could see many streets and rooftops below.

There were several buildings smoldering, and several which had completely burned. In one house, a pony was sifting through charred wood and remains, digging through to try to find anything salvageable. Despite the carnage, the fight had not been entirely one-sided. There was a makeshift medical tent set up in the middle of the town, and scores of unicorns were being treated for bullet wounds.

Pound continued flying over the city, in shock at how different it appeared now. The streets and skies were nearly deserted. Those few ponies who were outside scurried about nervously, glancing over their shoulders from time to time.

Unicorn soldiers walked from house to house, knocking on doors. He noticed that most of them were simply knocking, entering the house, and then leaving a few minutes later. He figured they were conducting random searches as they had been with his parents.

He flew along, not seeing anything of note, until he saw a group of soldiers carrying a unicorn colt in their magic as they had done with his sister.

Of course, I just need to follow them!

Pound ascended a few hundred more meters into the air until he was well above sight of the unicorns. He didn’t want them to think he was following them. He sat on a nearby cloud, as if taking a rest, and observed these soldiers. They were small specks, about the size of ants at his height, but he could still just barely make them out.

They were headed in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres, and reached it in about ten minutes. A half dozen unicorn troops were stationed on the outside of the barn, all holding their rifles at the ready.

He dashed back to Sugarcube Corner, opened the door, and told his parents.

“Hey, they’re taking all the unicorn children to Sweet Apple Acres."

“Thanks, son,” said Mr. Cake, who was busy cleaning flour out of his hunting rifle. “Now, here’s what I need you to do. Your mother has come up with a plan for the three of us to rescue your sister, and it won’t put our lives in danger. Now, listen carefully, and I’ll tell you what to do.”

A few hours later, Pound Cake emerged from the bakery along with his mother and father. His father carried a cart in tow, and on the cart was a large barrel. The family walked down the street of town, chatting with each other and trying to appear inconspicuous as a normal family would.

Pound Cake and his parents eyed the soldiers who walked around the town. None of them seemed to pay his parents any mind, until one of them stopped them and asked to search the barrel. Finding only apple pies, he let them walk on their way. The Cakes walked in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres, cart in tow.

As soon as they were far enough outside of town to where there was nopony around, Mr. Cake unhitched himself from the cart. He bent down, reached under the cart, and retrieved the rifle which he had placed atop the axles of the wheels. He then ran into the thick grove of trees where nopony could see him.

“Oh, don’t forget this,” said Mrs. Cake. He turned around as she reached into the barrel and got the pie on the top, handing it to Mr. Cake.

“Thanks,” he said, retrieving it. He ran into the trees and removed the pie crust. This particular pie was a decoy, and was actually full of bullets for his rifle. Mr. Cake hurried through the trees towards the Apple Family barn. Mrs. Cake took the cart, and she and her son continued down the path for a while longer until they reached the fence indicating the Sweet Apple Acres property line. A unicorn soldier stood guard on the path.

“Halt!” the guard said, holding up his hoof. “What business do you two have here?”

“My son and I just need to deliver this order of pies to the Apple Family, and then we’ll be on our way,” said Mrs. Cake, smiling at him.

The guard shook his head. “This farm is no longer their property; it’s been siezed, and they’ve been kicked out. You won’t find them here.”

“Oh no!” cried Mrs. Cake. “Now what will we do with all of these dozens of pies? The Apple Family needed them for their family reunion!”

“I don’t know,” said the guard, shrugging.

“Great, now they’ll just go to waste,” she lamented. “Are you sure that you don’t want them, dearie?” She reached into the barrel, grabbed a pie, and offered it to the guard. The guard’s eyes widened as he took a whiff of the delicious, sweet-smelling apple pie.

“Hmm… well, I haven’t eaten all day…” he said, licking his lips.

“Here you go,” said Mrs. Cake, giving the guard the pie. He wolfed it down in less than a minute.

“Mmmmm! That’s good stuff,” he said. “Alright, just head down to the barn; you’ll find a bunch of unicorn fillies and colts. Just give the pies to them, and I’m sure they’ll eat them up. But there’s armed guards, so don’t try any funny business, or Sergeant Bolt Action will have you shot.”

Mrs. Cake and Pound continued through the wooden gate. Mr. Cake, who was hidden in the trees, saw this exchange and took it as a sign to continue. He walked through the orchard, crouching to remain concealed. When he was right next to barn, he climbed a nearby apple tree and used the leaves for cover.

Mrs. Cake and her son walked down the path and up to the front door of the barn. There were now a dozen guards stationed at various posts around the barn. When they tried to enter, one of the guards stopped them.

“Pie delivery for a bunch of hungry fillies and colts,” said Mrs. Cake.

The guard raised his eyebrow. “We didn’t order any pies. You’ll have to go back.”

“Sergeant Bolt Action sent us,” said Pound Cake, taking a gamble.

“Oh, did he? Alright, come on in.”

Mrs. Cake entered the barn. Once they were out of earshot, Mrs. Cake scolded, “Pound. That was incredibly risky. What if he had been the sergeant, or had called up the sergeant and found you were lying?”

“Well, he didn’t.” Pound shrugged.

“Just stick to the plan from now on, okay?”

They continued further into the dimly-lit barn, seeing dozens of unicorn fillies and colts on the ground. They all had the gear brands on their flanks. Some of them were still sobbing from the pain. Pound and his mother winced at the sight. They did not see Pumpkin in the crowd, because it was too dark.

Trixie stood and glanced at the two Cakes.

“You two? What are you doing here?” she demanded. “As I recall, I took a unicorn from you, a unicorn whom you as an earth pony had no right to raise, so you’d better not be here to ask for her back.”

“Oh, no, dearie, we’re just here to deliver some pies,” said Mrs. Cake, opening the barrel and pulling a pie out.

Trixie eyed them suspiciously.

“The ones that Sergeant Bolt Action ordered us to make?” Pound Cake added.

“Sergeant Bolt Action?” asked Trixie, “Well…”

Mrs. Cake’s heart jumped in her chest.

Trixie finished, “Glad to see that you two are obedient to your unicorn superiors.”

Trixie turned to the children, “You all have been so brave. I thought that you deserved a treat, so here are some apple pies for you.”

The children, who had not eaten in hours, stood up and formed a line to receive their pies. Mrs. Cake eyed Pumpkin standing near the end of the line. The two Cakes quickly emptied out the barrel, but there were twenty or so children who had yet to receive the pies.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t bring enough,” Trixie sighed. “I see eighteen children who didn’t get one.”

“Huh, that’s funny. Pound, did you forget them?”

“Oops,” said Pound, blushing, “I think I left the other barrel back at the bakery. I can just fly back to the bakery and get them.” Pound headed for the front door of the barn.

Trixie sighed. “Stupid dirt ponies,” she grumbled.

Pound left the barn and flew two hundred meters straight up into the air and waved his hooves. His father, upon seeing this, took it as a signal and fired his rifle, taking a few potshots at the side of the barn.

Meanwhile, back in the barn, Trixie heard the gunfire. She ran outside to investigate, leaving just one guard in the barn.

Mr. Cake took a more deliberate shot this time, and he hit his mark. A unicorn guard fell down, a shot straight through his chest.

One of the guards yelled, “We’re under fire! We’ve taken a casualty! All units respond!”

The last guard from the barn ran outside to assist. This left no guards inside of the barn.

“Pumpkin!” Mrs. Cake cried out.

“Mommy!” cried Pumpkin Cake, and she ran over to her mother, giving her a hug, “What are you doing here?”

“There’s no time to explain, Pumpkin. Here.” Mrs. Cake picked up her daughter and set her inside the barrel, putting the lid back on.

She turned around to exit the barn, but a colt from the crowd said, “No fair! Why didn’t my parents come to rescue me?”

“Shh. They’ll be here soon, dearies,” said Mrs. Cake. “I have to go; our family needs to escape.”

“No fair!” another yelled.

Soon, several fillies and colts began screaming and crying. One of the guards from outside ran back in upon hearing the commotion, and discovered that Mrs. Cake was still there. He stood outside the door, drew his rifle, and pointed it at her. The children, upon seeing the guard, quieted down.

“What’s all the commotion? he demanded, eyes narrowed.

Pound Cake glanced down from the air where he still hovered and saw the guard had his rifle drawn and pointed into the barn. Scared that his mother was in trouble, he dive bombed straight towards the barn door and the guard.

“They’re just scared from the gunfire,” said Mrs. Cake.

Pound was closing in on his target.

“Ah, I see. Carry on then,” said the guard in the split second right before Pound Cake delivered a flying kick to his back, knocking him to the ground. In the guard’s confusion, he fired a bullet from his rifle.

“AAH!” Mrs. Cake screamed, hit with a bullet in her leg.

She fell where she stood.

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