• 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 7: The Mentors

Pound Cake screamed as he woke up once more, thrashing and ripping the sheets from off his sweaty body.

“No!” he shouted. “Not again!”

He opened his eyes and realized that he was back in his bed in Spitfire’s house.

His door slammed open as Spitfire burst in. “Pound Cake? What’s up?”

“I’m having nightmares again,” said Pound Cake.

“More bad dreams about your parents?”

Pound Cake silently nodded.

“Well, I’m sorry, buddy,” said Spitfire. “Hey, why don’t you try to go back to sleep and we can talk about it in the morning?”

“What if the nightmares come back?”

“Well, I’ll sleep right here by your side,” said Spitfire. She got into bed next to Pound Cake and they fell asleep.

Thankfully, his nightmares did not return. He awoke and went to the kitchen, and found that Spitfire had fixed him toast and eggs for breakfast.

Like most of the meals that she had tried to make him, this one was badly burnt, but he appreciated that she was trying. He grabbed a knife in his hoof and scraped the burnt residue off of his toast.

“Heh, sorry about that,” said Spitfire.

“It’s okay. You know, you don’t even have to cook for me. I’ll just eat some cereal or something.”

“But I want to make sure that you have a good breakfast and don’t have to eat cereal every morning,” said Spitfire.

“Well, thanks,” said Pound.

“Now, let’s talk some more about your nightmares. What has your therapist told you about it?”

“She’s told me that I need to let go and move on. She said I can’t blame myself for their deaths: that it wasn’t my fault. But… I mean, how can I not blame myself?”

“I don’t know, Pound; you’ve never told me,” said Spitfire. Pound hadn’t been able to tell anypony what happened. There was too much guilt there.

“Well, my sister, Pumpkin, was taken by the Second Kingdom and put into a barn.”

“Yes, I know that part.”

“What you don’t know is that we tried to rescue her from them, and that I messed it all up,” said Pound.

“How did you mess it up?” asked Spitfire.

“Well, we were going to sneak Pumpkin Cake out in a barrel. My mother had gotten into the barn because we told them we were delivering pies. My dad had a rifle that he fired at the side of the barn to lure the guards away. But then, as I was up in the air, I heard a bunch of screaming. The other fillies and colts in the barn were making noise. One of the guards came back. I saw him lift up a rifle and point it inside the barn.”

“So he was about to shoot your mother?” Spitfire asked. “How can you blame yourself—”

“No, you don’t understand. He wasn’t about to shoot her. I dive-bombed down at him, and then right as I hit him, I heard him say ‘carry on then.’ I hit him, and it made him shoot Mommy.”

“Oh.”

“And then another guard came in, saw us, and then he shot her again, in the stomach, and it killed her.”

“Well…” said Spitfire.

“My mom told me to go back to the bakery, but I didn’t. I wanted to help, but I ruined the plan.”

Spitfire paused for a moment, looking off into space. Then, she looked back at Pound Cake.

“Pound,” Spitfire said gently, “your therapist is right. You need to move on. You don’t need to let their deaths hold you back or make you depressed.”

“Yeah,” said Pound.

“But, I disagree with her that it wasn’t your fault. It was your fault. If you had obeyed your mother’s orders, then she wouldn’t have died. The guard would have walked away without shooting her. Your rash decision caused her death.”

Pound blinked. Tears formed in his eyes as he realized that Spitfire was right. He finally acknowledged the truth he had hid from himself for so long..

Spitfire continued, “I say that not because I want you to beat yourself up over it, but because I want you to learn from it. I love you, Pound.”

Pound smiled. She had never told him that before.

“But part of love is honestly. I could sugar-coat it like your psychologist does, and lie to you and tell you that your recklessness was okay and had nothing to do with your mother’s death, but that won’t help you at all. Your mind knows that there’s a contradiction, and won’t accept lies. That’s why you’re still having night terrors.

“What will help you is to learn from your mistake and move on, don’t beat yourself up over it, and become a stronger pony for it.”

“But how can I do that?” asked Pound Cake.

“I can help you. I can teach you. You’ll get over your guilt by getting over what caused her death: your impulsiveness. You have a streak of rashness; I see it in you. Do you know how I see it?”

“How?” he asked.

“Because I’m just like you. I have a reckless streak myself. Why do you think I’m named Spitfire?”

“Because your mane looks like it’s on fire?” asked Pound.

“That’s part of it, and my name does have a double-meaning,” Spitfire chuckled, “but I’m also very short-tempered. I get excited easily. Back when I was your age, I’d mouth off to my teachers and end up in detention, just like you. I used to get into fights with ponies at school, just like you. I pulled crazy flight stunts that almost got me killed, just like you. But do you know what I did?”

“What?” asked Pound.

“I learned to control it. I learned discipline. In fact, I learned it so well that I’m now one of the greatest flyers in Equestria, the captain of the Wonderbolts, and a general in the Equestrian air force.”

“Wow.”

“Wow is right,” said Spitfire, smiling. “You said that you wanted to be a great flyer, and that you might want to join the Wonderbolts someday. Well, you may be a decent flyer. You’re good at keeping up with me when we fly around town. But most of the flight tricks and advanced techniques come with years of training and practice.

“You need discipline in order to train your wings and your body every day for years. You need discipline to fly as fast as I can, to maneuver in-between enemies and buildings at a hundred miles an hour. You also need discipline to follow orders, and more importantly, to know when the correct time is to strike during combat. If you want to be in the Wonderbolts, you have to follow orders.

“If you can’t follow orders, you can’t join. I kicked out a young mare named Lightning Dust years ago because she was like you are now: too rash and too reckless. You can be like her, or you can be like me. I’m not your real mother, so I won’t force you to do anything. But, if you want me to, I can teach you discipline, and I can teach you everything about flying that I know. I can make you into a stallion.”

Pound Cake said, “I want to be disciplined.”

Spitfire smiled. “Good. Then your first lesson starts immediately.”

She grabbed another piece of burnt toast out of the toaster and gave it to Pound.

“I’m not hungry,” said Pound.

“Eat it anyways. You need the energy for flying. At the end of the day, you’ll be exhausted.”

Pound grabbed the knife and started to scrape the burnt residue off of the toast, but Spitfire grabbed the knife back from him and placed it on the counter.

“No time for that. Eat it how it is. You think the Wonderbolts or the Equestrian Air Force serve tasty food all the time? Nope. Most of it’s just grade-D slop that not even hogs will eat.”

Pound forced the burnt toast down his throat.

“Good. Now, we’re going out into the yard. But first, I need to grab something.”

Spitfire dashed out of the kitchen, leaving Pound by himself. She returned a few moments later, carrying a giant cement block in her hooves.

Pound looked at her quizzically. “What’s that for?”

Spitfire grinned. “I’ll tell you when we get into the yard. Here, catch.”

Spitfire tossed the block to Pound, who tried to hold it in his hooves, but ended up dropping it.

“Wow. That’s heavy.”

“Yep. And you’re going to carry it right out into the center of the yard.”

Pound grabbed onto the block with all four of his hooves, and vigorously flapped his wings as he struggled to move forward. Spitfire opened the glass door in front of him, and he continued outside, slowly inching along. Finally, he was in the center of the yard. He set the cement block down on the clouds. Surprisingly, it didn’t fall through the clouds.

Spitfire glanced up from her stopwatch. “When I get through with you, you’ll be carrying that block from the kitchen and out here in five seconds.”

Pound’s jaw dropped in disbelief.

“Now, I want you to drop to the ground and give me twenty wing push-ups, and twenty hoof push-ups.”

“But that’s forty—”

“Did I stutter?”

Pound dropped to the ground and did as he was told. Several minutes later, he finished his last push-up, dropping back to the ground with a thud, exhausted.

“Now. I want you to fly up into the air until I tell you to stop.”

Pound picked himself up on the ground, and flapped his tired wings until he was a hundred meters off the ground. Spitfire flew up to join him.

“Now, you were wondering what that cement block is for?”

“Yes.”

“You will fly down and break it.”

“What!?” Pound Cake said. “But that’s impossible! Not even an earth pony could break that block! I’d break every bone in my body before I—”

Spitfire dashed downward towards the cloud on which the block stood. Pound heard an incredible crack as the concrete block split right in two. A shockwave emanated from the block, pushing him back a bit in the air.

His jaw dropped as words escaped him. Spitfire dashed back up to Pound.

“When I get done with you,” she said, “you will break that block.”


Pumpkin Cake was ecstatic as she walked down the street towards Ponyville. She felt lighter than air. Her head was spinning. She had done it. She’d escaped from the ponies who had held her captive for the past six months.

And she didn’t have a clue where she would go.

Pumpkin Cake stopped in her tracks as she saw two unicorn soldiers off in the distance. She saw some bushes on the side of the path and jumped in them, concealing herself. The soldiers passed by without noticing her.

Relieved, she emerged from the bushes once more. She continued towards the town, but stopped. She saw hundreds of tents off in the distance, set up all around Ponyville. The town was crawling with Second Kingdom forces. If she went into town, she’d be spotted for sure.

Pumpkin glanced back away from the trail. She figured that her best bet would be to hide in the woods. Where she would go from there, she had no idea. Preferably to someplace not under Second Kingdom control.

Pumpkin continued in the woods for several hours until she became quite lost. The canopy of the trees blackened the sky, and she could hardly see in front of her. She shuddered to think what the forest would be like at night.

Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks as she noticed a blue flower on the path in front of her. Then, she recalled a story that Pinkie Pie had told her about a mischievous flower with blue leaves called poison joke which only grew in the Everfree Forest.

Pumpkin’s head jolted up. She was in the Everfree Forest, one of the most dangerous places in Equestria. She didn’t even realize how she had gotten there.

“Awoooo!”

Pumpkin Cake heard howling off in the distance. She continued walking, avoiding the poison joke, and looking for someplace to stay where she would be safe from the timberwolves.

“Awoooooooo!”

The howling became closer. Her mane stood on end. She jogged at a brisk pace, hoping that she would find a cave to hide in or a tree that looked like she could climb it. But all of the trees that she saw looked like their branches were too brittle, or were covered in fire ants, deadly spiders, or poison ivy.

“Awoooooooooooooo!”

The howling was so loud that it shook her bones. She turned around and discovered, to her horror, that she could see a timberwolf off in the distance, and it was coming towards her.

“Aaaaah!” This time, Pumpkin Cake did scream, not caring who heard it. She sprinted away, running through trees and vines and bushes to get away from the wolf.

She could hear the wolf tearing through the bushes and trees to get to her. For a moment, she thought that she might be doomed. However, she found that she could see a small hut off in the distance.

“Thank Celestia!” she exclaimed. She continued sprinting towards the cottage, navigating her way through trees and bushes as fast as she could. However, just as she was a few dozen meters away from the hut, she tripped and fell on a vine.

“Oof!” she grunted as she fell head first into the dirt. She stood to get back up, but noticed that the vine was now entangled around her body. The vine wrapped around her, constricting her as if it were an animal.

She could see the wolf closing in on her. Thinking quickly, she cast an intangibility spell on the vine and freed herself from it. However, in the time it took her to get back onto her hooves, the timberwolf had already arrived.

“Awooo!” the wolf cried, coming to a halt and swatting at Pumpkin Cake with a claw. She yelped in pain as it left a deep gash in her side.

She focused her horn on the wolf, trying to turn it intangible. Due to the wolf’s size, the spell worked for just a few moments before wearing off, but that was all the time she needed to run away and get a head start on the now incredibly confused wolf.

She made a mad dash towards the cottage, and the wolf, solid once again, regained his bearings and dashed after her.

Pumpkin’s horn powered up as she ran right through the wall of the hut. She quickly powered her horn down as the wolf slammed into the now-solid wall.

The timberwolf yelped in pain. Pumpkin Cake could hear scratching at the wall as the confused wolf tried to get through the wall in vain.

Pumpkin giggled, and then winced in pain from her scratch. Suddenly, she heard hoofsteps. She froze in place as she saw a shadow from around the corner.

Zecora rounded the corner, and her eyes widened in shock as she saw Pumpkin Cake.

“Pumpkin Cake, my dear. How in Equestria did you get in here? All of my doors are locked, and I did not hear you knock. My windows are still closed, yet you are here as if you are a ghost.”

“Oh, hi, Zecora. I didn’t know you lived in this hut,” said Pumpkin Cake. She knew Zecora from having seen her around Ponyville. The two of them had talked a few times before.

“Uh, let me take a rest for a minute, and then I’ll tell you everything,” said Pumpkin Cake. Zecora nodded, and they both sat down in her living room. Zecora fixed a pot of tea, and they both drank. After about ten minutes or so, Pumpkin spoke.

“To answer you, how I got in here: I can walk through walls. There was a timberwolf chasing me, so I just came in here by turning the wall intangible.”

“Is that so? How is it I didn’t know?”

“I don’t really go around telling ponies about my intangibility spell. I hardly ever use it, either. Especially now that the Second Kingdom is around. If they knew I had this power, they might try to get me to use it to help them. So could you please keep it a secret?”

Zecora nodded. “Yes. As a secret, it is wise to bear. From what I hear, your spell is rare.”

“That’s what Twilight told me. You know, it’s funny. I never had much use for the spell before the Second Kingdom came. I mostly just used it to play hide and seek with Pound. But today, after I escaped from them, I’ve been using it like crazy.”

“Speaking of your brother Pound. When I come into town, why do I not see him around?”

Pumpkin blushed. “Well, he left Ponyville… I could have gone with him, but I didn’t. Both of our parents died. I was worried about who would take care of us. I was worried I’d be killed, or that he would. I guess I was too scared.”

Zecora raised an eyebrow. “Scared, with a power like the one you have? Being scared would be plain mad! Nothing on this entire earth could hurt you; with your spell it would pass right through.”

“Well, it has limits.”

“Tell me,” Zecora said.

“Well, I can use it on anything… but myself. So I can still be shot, or scratched.”

She showed Zecora the scratch. Zecora grabbed a bandage and applied it to the scratch. Thankfully, it was just a surface scratch, and would heal quickly.

Pumpkin continued, “Also, it doesn’t work for very long on big things, like the timberwolf. I could only use it on him for maybe five seconds.”

“I see,” Zecora replied.

“So really, the power’s not as useful as you’d guess,” said Pumpkin.

Zecora laughed. Pumpkin raised her eyebrow.

“You talk down your power, which is not wise to do. Your power has only one limit: you. Like all things, it must be trained. Then you will be less afraid.”

“So, you mean that if I wanted to, if I really practiced, I could do things like turn myself intangible just like I do everything else? That I could make my spell last longer on large things like wolves or other ponies?”

“That, and very much more. You have no idea what you have in store.”

Pumpkin’s eyes lit up. “Can you teach me?”

Zecora chuckled. “I thought you’d never ask! Let us train; and we start with a simple task.”

Zecora motioned for Pumpkin Cake to follow her. Zecora walked off to a different room of the cottage. She opened a door, and motioned for Pumpkin to walk in. The room was mostly barren, with only a few pieces of furniture. It was large and circular, about eight meters in diameter. There was a stool in the middle of the room, which Zecora motioned towards. Pumpkin sat down in the stool as Zecora reached into a cupboard and grabbed a bottle with her hoof. The bottle was several liters in size, and filled with a blue liquid.

“Now, in this room here, you will face your fear,” said Zecora.

“Face my fear? What do you mean?”

Zecora walked around the room, splashed the liquid everywhere around the room besides on Pumpkin Cake, then walked over to the door. She walked out, closing it.

“Zecora? What am I supposed to be—”

Suddenly, the entire room burst into flames. A ring of fire erupted all around the room, engulfing everything except for the center where Pumpkin Cake sat.

“Zecora! Zecora!” she cried out.

There was no answer. Meanwhile, the flames continued to lap at the walls and floor of the room. Pumpkin gulped. If she didn’t do something, she’d burn alive!

She frantically looked around for an exit. For anything. But she was surrounded. Flames engulfed the floor everywhere around her.

Pumpkin Cake focused her intangibility spell on a small part of the floor, trying to create a path between herself and the doorway, but then she realized that if she walked on it, she’d fall right through the floor and into the ground. She powered her horn down.

The smell of smoke assaulted her nose as she realized that, if she didn’t burn, she’d suffocate. A wave of terror overcame her.

“Zecora! Help me!” she cried out. Once again, there was no answer.

Pumpkin looked up at the ceiling, and towards the doorway. Maybe if she levitated herself over the flames, she could reach the doorway.

Her horn powered up as a blue field of telekinetic magic surrounded her, and she lifted a few centimeters off the ground. However, she struggled under her own weight, as telekinesis of heavy objects was never her strong suit. If she weighed less, or was still a foal, she could have done it. Her horn ached and cried out in pain from the magical strain. She turned off the levitation spell and fell to the ground once more.

Her heart pounded in her chest as she felt the walls closing in. She’d burn to death. She’d die in horrible agony. Unless… unless she could turn herself intangible and walk through the flames. She had never done it before, but maybe she could do it now that her life depended on it.

But what if I can never turn back? What if I’m stuck like that forever? What if it hurts? What if it kills me? What if I fall through the floor? What if—

She stopped herself. The timberwolf had lived and seemed just fine. Any fate her intangibility spell could bring would be better than death.

Pumpkin stood up and approached the flame, the heat warming her coat.

“Here goes…” she said.

She powered up her horn once more, except this time, she directed the spell inward. It might not work. It never had worked before. Why should it work now, even when—

The fire’s heat disappeared. The pain from her scratch disappeared. The feel of the floor beneath her hooves disappeared. Every single tactile sensation disappeared. Even the sensation of gravity disappeared; she felt entirely weightless.

Pumpkin Cake gazed down at her body. She was glowing cyan. It had worked.

She took a step forward. It was a bit awkward, as she had no physical feedback to know that her muscles were moving. But, she could still see it.

She placed her hoof onto the ground where the fire was. She had no idea why she didn’t fall right through the floor, but wasn’t about to start questioning that. She continued through the fire until she reached the door, then she walked through the door itself.

Pumpkin Cake looked behind herself, then let out a laugh. What had she been so worried about, anyway? She hadn’t died; here she was as alive as ever. She hadn’t fallen through the floor; somehow she was able to traverse it. Being intangible hadn’t hurt; in fact the absence of all physical sensation felt rather pleasant. Every one of her fears had been completely unfounded.

She noticed that she was still intangible, and in fact had been casting the spell for nearly a minute without even thinking about it. Surely her horn would be protesting by now. Then, she remembered that there were no touch sensations while she was like this. She’d better turn back, lest she overwork herself.

She turned off the spell. A sharp pain shot through her forehead and horn, and through her side where the scratch was, as she phased back into existence.

I guess I shouldn’t do that for too long, or else I’ll pay for it later, she thought, rubbing her head with her hoof.

She looked up as Zecora walked down the hallway towards her.

“Zecora! I did it! I used the spell on myself and made it through the fire… and… are you crazy? I could have been burned alive! What were you thinking setting that room on fire?”

Zecora chuckled. “The flames were just a clever ruse. They never could have actually hurt you.”

She opened the door to the room and walked in. She walked straight into the fire, and then stomped it out with her hoof. Her mane didn’t catch on fire despite her being right inside of it. Soon, she had put out the entire room.

“Wait, so the fire wasn’t real?”

“It looks like fire, makes smoke, and gets hot. Can it burn you or my house? It can not.”

“So it’s just like real fire in all but the burn?”

Zecora nodded.

“But why did you do that?”

“You see your power as a thing to fear. I knew that you would be brave if you thought your death was near.”

“Well, it worked,” said Pumpkin Cake, shuddering at her near-death experience. “So, what else do you have to teach me?”

“Many things, Pumpkin Cake. But before we do so, let’s take a break.”

Pumpkin nodded her head in agreement.

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