• Published 23rd Nov 2013
  • 4,148 Views, 190 Comments

A Kingdom Divided - Samey90



For many years, Elements of Harmony were responsible for keeping peace in Equestria. But sometimes, magic of friendship is not enough...

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9. Applejack

Let us cultivate our garden.
Voltaire, Candide


A projectile hit the wooden target, obliterating it, and sending a torrent of splinters in all the directions. Applejack climbed out of the trench and smiled upon seeing the results.

“Thank ya, Pinkie,” she said when the pink mare’s head appeared in the hatch of the tank. “Ah guess we’ll be able to deploy them soon. Now drive it back to the magazine.”

Pinkie saluted and closed the hatch. The engine roared and soon Applejack stayed alone in a cloud of fumes.

She sighed and trotted to the changing room – a small lean-to next to the hangar with some old, battered blimps. She had a hard time convincing Pinkie to not take one of them for a spin – they had no engines and weapons anyway and were used only by pegasi as target airships.

She took off her uniform, folded it and put it in her locker. She then took her hat and saddlebags and left the proving ground.

A letter in her saddlebags wasn’t very heavy, but she felt as if it was made of lead. Near the gate, she met a group of soldiers, coming back from the training.

“Howdy, sis.”

“Hi Big Mac,” she said, looking at him absent-mindedly, barely noticing her cousin Braeburn, also wearing a Sun Army uniform. Their rifles were hanging from their backs, next to the saddlebags with some spare magazines.

“Are ya okay?” he asked. “Ah’m really sorry for little Apple Bloom… Ah’ve already told Big Mac that if we get the bastard who did it…”

“Ah won’t let y’all go to the frontline!” Applejack exclaimed. “Y’all are volunteers and ya should stay here, in Canterlot.”

“Tell that to our commander…” said Big Macintosh, pointing at the white unicorn, walking around the field. “He’s a rich kid who was given a Major’s uniform and thinks he’s gonna defeat Luna himself.”

“But he at least was a Royal Guard before the war! And y’all only enlisted a few days ago.”

“It doesn’t matter, Ah’m pretty good with guns, ya know,” said Braeburn.

“Eeyup.”

Applejack rolled her eyes.

“By the way, have y’all heard the news?” Braeburn asked. “Do ya remember that dippy pegasus, aunt Apple Seed’s ex-husband? Babs’ father?”

“Eeyup.”

“Can y’all believe he’s in the Moon Army?” Braeburn waved his gun. “Ah’d want to meet him… Ah’d be like ‘Hello, uncle…’” He pointed the barrel at the nearby wall. “To think that Granny liked him at first…”

He paused, seeing that his cousins exchanged worried looks.

“What’s going on?” Braeburn asked.

“It’s about Granny Smith,” said Applejack.

***

Applejack finished gathering her belongings and put them on the cart. There wasn’t much of it – she knew that she’d get her own room in the Princess Celestia’s palace, so she only needed a few things. She looked at the apple trees and sighed, wondering how much time would pass before she’d see them again. She went back to the house and saw Granny Smith sitting at the kitchen table.

“We’ll be ready to go soon,” Applejack said.

“Ah’m not going.”

Applejack stopped in her tracks and sat next to her grandmother.

“Ya can’t stay here! The Moon Army can walk out of the forest at any time.”

“Here’s mah place. Ah wouldn’t feel good in Canterlot. And somepony has to take care of Apple Bloom…”

“Ah need to talk to her too.” Applejack shook her head. Her sister had refused to go to Canterlot with her, opting to stay with Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, at least till the foals would be evacuated from Ponyville.

“She won’t change her mind. She’s as stubborn as ya…”

“What? Ah’m not stubborn, Granny!”

“Then why are ya keep tellin’ me that Ah should go to Canterlot?”

Applejack sighed.

“Ah guess it runs in the family…”

“Eeyup,” Big Macintosh agreed, entering the kitchen. At first Applejack didn’t notice Fluttershy walking behind him, and was surprised when she whispered her name.

“What’s going on, Fluttershy?” she asked. She saw that Fluttershy was already wearing her uniform – a bit different than the ones wore by the soldiers, a simple shirt with a camouflage pattern. It was a bit too big; Applejack immediately imagined what Rarity would say if she saw this.

“Umm… Twilight says that we have to go,” Fluttershy replied. “I’m going to meet Dr. Stable soon, we’re going to stay in the forest in case of any battle.” She leaned closer to Applejack and whispered, “I’m so afraid…”

“Don’t worry,” Applejack said, walking outside with her and Big Macintosh, “everything will be all right…”

***

“Don’t worry, AJ, Granny is strong. She’ll be okay,” said Braeburn. “’Sides, who’d want to attack a farm?”

“Yes, but they already attacked the convoy with foals… And a hospital...” Applejack stared at the pavement blankly, covering her face with the brim of her hat. “Ah have to go to the palace,” she said eventually.

“Hi, Applejack!” She heard somepony next to her. She rose her head and saw a minty green unicorn mare sporting a uniform similar to the one Big Macintosh was wearing. She was carrying a pair of saddlebags with a radio in one of them, and a gun in the other. Unlike Big Mac’s and Braeburn’s weapons, it wasn’t an assault rifle, but rather a submachine gun with a wooden stock and a drum magazine.

“Lyra? What are ya doing here?”

“The Signal Corps were looking for ponies who can maintain the radio. You know, I used to work in EBC Radio… I wanted to do something so I enlisted.”

“Are ya crazy? Ah can understand Big Mac, but ya can’t even shoot…”

“I’m learning...” said Lyra quietly, lowering her gaze. Applejack knew why. According to the specification she’d received, the submachine gun Lyra had could fire about nine hundred rounds per minute, which meant emptying 71-bullets magazine in less than 5 seconds. Applejack could hardly imagine Lyra firing even one bullet at another pony, not to mention seventy one.

“Don’t worry, AJ, we’ll take care of her,” said Braeburn. “She’ll never be in a direct fight.”

“And who’ll take care of y’all? Lyra, did ya think of Bon Bon?”

“Bonnie’s okay with that…” Lyra muttered, her cheeks red. “She understands my decision.”

“Well, Ah don’t think so! Ya shouldn’t leave yer loved ones… Ever…”

A tear ran down Applejack’s face. Lyra trotted to her and hugged her tightly. The gun rattled in her saddlebags when she took a step backwards, surprised by her own audacity.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I promise we’ll find the ponies who killed Apple Bloom…”

“No,” Applejack replied. “Don’t put yerself in danger trying to find ‘em. Besides, the crystal ponies will arrive here soon… Yer detachment won’t even leave Canterlot, Ah hope.”

Lyra said nothing, turning her gaze away. Applejack decided that it was time for her to go.

“See ya later. Take care of yerself,” she said and trotted away.

Walking through the streets of Canterlot, she suddenly saw a burned-down remains of some large building, and several ponies searching through them, while a team of fireponies was pouring water on the still-smoking planks.

Applejack suddenly felt her vision darkening. She felt that she had to sit down or she’d collapse. Thoughts about the napalm bombs and Apple Bloom overwhelmed her. She took a few deep breaths before getting up.

“What in tarnation is going on here?” she asked one of the ponies watching the debris with an expression of pure despair.

“My warehouse!” he shouted, pointing at the ruins. “Damned pegasi!”

“There was an air raid?” she asked. Despite her initial thoughts, she didn’t believe it’d be possible. Luna’s air force was trying to aim rather at the factories and mines on Canterlot outskirts, the only load they were dropping on the town being the propaganda leaflets.

But they killed Apple Bloom and all those foals. And then they killed Fluttershy… a nasty voice in her head reminded her.

“No! The pegasi clear the sky only above their airport, and the weather here goes crazy! Lightning hit it out of the blue, and burned all my food supplies! How are we going to survive now, when Luna’s forces captured Ponyville and–”

“What?” Applejack exclaimed. “Ponyville got captured?”

“Yes, I just got a message from my cousin… Hey, where are you going?”

***

Applejack stormed the door of the throne hall, stopping dead in her tracks, when she saw Princess Celestia sitting on her throne, discussing with Twilight and Spike over a large map of Equestria.

“H-how…” she panted, not even bothering to bow before the Princess.

“Air support, artillery…” said Twilight grimly, looking at a bat pony statue standing on a spot labelled “Ponyville”. “They have a clear road to Canterlot now…”

“How about your brother, Twilight?” Princess Celestia asked. When Applejack looked at her, she saw some wrinkles around her eyes that weren’t there before. Her mane was also different, hanging miserably instead of flowing. Applejack never considered Celestia being “old”, but now she just couldn’t repress that thought.

“His ship should arrive tomorrow, but I’m afraid we don’t have so much time. We’ll have to send the volunteers to fight–”

“Wait!” Applejack exclaimed. “Ah have an idea. There are lots of storm clouds from the Everfree nopony cares about,” she said, recalling the burned warehouse. “How about gathering ‘em above the roads and causing a big storm?”

“That… that might actually work…” Twilight looked at her, her eyes wide.

“The infantry would still get through, but at least we would stop the artillery…” said Celestia.

“Yeah, they’d get stuck in swamp, and we’d bomb them!” Spike exclaimed. “You should really help us with strategy more, AJ…”

“Yeah, maybe…” Applejack smiled faintly. “Ah haveta go…” She turned back and headed to the door leading to their chambers.

“Twilight, if you will excuse me for a moment,” said Celestia, following Applejack. “Send a message to Rainbow Dash and Spitfire, we will need their help.”

“Something worries you, my little pony,” she said to Applejack when the door closed behind them.

“Well, Ah’m not the only one, Princess.”

“True words,” Celestia stated. “I know how it feels to lose a sister. And now, I am losing her again.”

“But at least she’s alive!” Applejack banged her hoof against the tiles. “And ya knew that she might come back one day. Ah don’t even have a body to mourn… They… they found some bones, probably Fluttershy’s… but those fillies had no chance…” she sobbed, dropping her hat on the floor.

“I did not know that there would be ponies able to reform her,” said Celestia. “And now, without Fluttershy…” She embraced Applejack with her wing. “I really wish I could talk to Luna now, but all I see in my dreams is death and suffering of my subjects… Luna sends them to all of us, but I am able to repel them… Only to see them myself.”

“Ah… Ah’m sorry, your Highness,” Applejack said, seeing that Princess Celestia herself was about to cry in her arm. Celestia suddenly realised what she was doing and released her from her grasp.

“I think I will go back to Twilight…” she said. “Take care, Applejack.”

When she disappeared, Applejack shrugged and continued to go upstairs to her room. When she was walking next to Rarity’s chamber she noticed that the door was open, and she smelled something strange in the air.

“What the hay are ya doin’, sugarcube?” she asked, entering the room and seeing her friend sitting on a bed sheet lying on the floor with her eyes closed, breathing deeply. Several joss sticks were surrounding her, filling the chamber with an unusual, yet refreshing scent.

“I’m trying to empty my mind,” said Rarity calmly, and took another deep breath, inhaling air for exactly ten seconds, holding it in her lungs for a while, and then exhaling it for another ten seconds.

“Well, Ah have cider if ya want…” Applejack felt that she could use some mind-emptying too.

Rarity opened her eyes, piercing her with her gaze.

“Well, darling, while a glass of cider would be enjoyable, I’d rather stick to meditation. It really works!”

Applejack put her hoof on Rarity’s forehead unsurely. It wasn’t hotter than it should be, so fever was out of question.

“Really, I’m okay, darling,” said the unicorn. “I think I’m starting to slowly accept what fate brings to us…”

“Ah don’t think so.” Applejack sighed.

“You should try it too,” Rarity stood up, leaving her some place on a sheet. “I almost don’t want to kill Dash anymore…”

“What? Why’d ya want to kill Dash in the first place?”

“Oh, so she didn’t tell you either…” Rarity’s voice started to quiver. She took another deep breath, but with no results. “Our dear friend, Rainbow ‘I don’t want you to suffer’ Dash told her hare-brained wingpony to drop the fucking shrapnel bombs on the place the foals from Ponyville were hiding!”

Applejack felt as if the chamber suddenly collapsed on her head. Her saddlebags suddenly became heavier again, depriving her of breath and crushing her ribs.

“Are ya sure?”

“She told me,” Rarity said flatly, wiping her eyes with the sheet. “And then I met Derpy’s daughter… I… I just couldn’t look in that poor kid’s eyes… They all are d-dead or hurt because Dash...” She bursted into sobs.

“What’s wrong with y’all today…” Applejack muttered, patting Rarity’s head. “Shh, it’s okay, sugarcube…”

She noticed that the sky started to grow darker, the sun and the moon obscured by a large patch of dark, stormy clouds. She looked through the window, hoping to see a rainbow-coloured trail around them, but the pegasi were too far to be visible.

“Will you stay with me?” asked Rarity, tossing the joss sticks aside. Applejack froze. She didn’t want to lie to her friend, and that meant either revealing her plan to her or…

“Of course, sugarcube,” she said, looking through the window once more, this time watching the garden below them. She dropped her saddlebags on the floor. “Ah have some work to do anyway, so if ya can’t sleep, just tell me.”

She opened one of her saddlebags, and took the envelope out of it. She needed only to write a few more words, and had a hard time explaining to herself that she didn’t just lie.

In fact, she had some work to do.

While she was writing, Rarity washed the pitiful remains of her make-up off and put rollers in her mane. Applejack barely heard her “goodnight”, and responded only with some muttering. She waited some time until Rarity finally stopped tossing and turning in her bed and put her letter back in the envelope which she placed on unicorn’s nightstand, hoping that her friends would understand.

After a short pondering she decided to go back to her room – she didn’t want to traumatise Rarity further by making her think that she could stop her. Of course, she didn’t also want her to suddenly wake up, and (she smiled at that thought) upset the apple cart. It was her decision, and nopony was able to change it. She checked for guards in the corridor, and seeing that there were none, she carefully closed the door behind her and headed to her chamber.

Back in it, she opened the window, propping it carefully with a plant pot – even though the storm was far from Canterlot, there was strong wind blowing, and she didn’t want the window to suddenly close. She put her saddlebags on the floor, opened one, and quickly found what she was looking for. She examined it, looking for any rips – trusting the damaged rope with her weight could leave her paralysed, something she wouldn’t wish anypony. Finding that the rope was intact, she smiled, and began tying a knot on her bed’s leg.

***

Rarity slowly opened her eyes. The distant roaring of the thunderstorm and the fact that her room was darker than it used to be since she moved there helped her in falling asleep. Or maybe it was the presence of Applejack that fought the nightmares. She lifted her head, looking around the room groggily.

“Applejack?” she called, but nopony answered. When she was trying to get her bearings, she saw an envelope on her nightstand. She remembered that Applejack had been writing a letter before she’d fallen asleep, but she had no idea why she’d left it in her room. Yawning, Rarity levitated the envelope to her eyes and saw her name, along with Twilight’s, Pinkie’s and Rainbow Dash’s written on it with Applejack’s messy hoofwriting.

Frantically, she tore the envelope open, and levitated a letter from it.

My dear friends,

I’m really sorry to leave you but…

The letter fell out of Rarity’s magic grasp. She jumped out of her bed and rushed to Applejack’s room. It was very similar to hers, but now it was littered with pieces of parchment, scattered by the wind. The window was open, and Applejack’s bed was empty. When Rarity trotted closer to examine it, she noticed the rope tied to one of its legs. It was hanging over the windowsill, its other end somewhere outside the castle.

“Applejack?” she shouted, looking through the window. “Applejack!”

Author's Note:

Sorry for the long delay – editing the previous chapters took a while. I guess the updates should be more frequent now. I don't want to leave AJ hanging, after all...