Twilight was standing in a field that stretched out in all directions as far as she could see. The weather was pleasant enough; the sun shone gently over the earth and cool breeze blew across Twilight's face. Twilight strolled through the plains, enjoying the feeling of life that the earth seemed to radiate; she wondered if this was what earth ponies felt like all the time. Acting on an impulse, the purple unicorn began galloping lackadaisically over the field, giggling and laughing like a little filly. Eventually she came across a small, glowing blue flower. It was a very light blue, lighter than the Poison Joke that grew in the Everfree Forest.
Curious, Twilight trotted up to inspect it; at a closer look, she realized that the flower had a face, and appeared to be sleeping. Almost as if it sensed her approach, the flower woke up and focused its gaze on the unicorn that was now standing in front of it. Twilight gasped as she saw that the flower's eyes were empty black sockets. It smiled ghoulishly as its blue glow became brighter, then spread down through its stem and into the earth.
Immediately, Twilight felt the earth give out a ghastly groan, as if in pain. The blue spot in the ground grew slowly, but became quicker with each passing second. The soil, once touched by the blue glow, seemed to be assimilated by the insatiable blue tide. Twilight realized that there were trees and plants springing up all around her, as if she were suddenly in a forest. The blue wave swept over all of the plants, warping and distorting them into twisted mockeries of their old forms; where before there had been tall, proud oaks there were now glassy, gnarled blue trunks with waving, tentacle-like protrusions.
It seemed as though the very air itself was befouled by the blue, the poison, the... corruption. Finished with the flora, the inexorable decay loomed over Twilight, about to consume the petrified purple unicorn. She could hear whispers of unintelligible sounds calling to her, drawing her in. The blue tide of un-life engulfed her like a tidal wave, and she could feel its cold, wet grasp-
“AAAAAHHHHH!” screamed the sleeping unicorn mare. Her eyes snapped open and she leaped out of bed, panting heavily. Realizing that she had only been dreaming, Twilight took a few calming breaths. Her purple dragon assistant poked his head out from under a blanket that Twilight had thrown off in her haste.
“I'm glad you're up, Twi,” enthused Spike. “I noticed that you were talking in your sleep, and you were shaking like a leaf. It was kinda weird at first, just seeing you like that, but then you started saying 'Stay back' and 'Get away from me' so I figured I should probably wake you up pronto.” Spike smiled sheepishly as he gestured to an empty bucket. “You weren't waking up when I shook you, so I got a little carried away...”
Twilight's face wore a frown as she heard Spike's revelation and realized for the first time that she was dripping wet.
“Gee, thanks, Spike.”
“Aw, come on, Twilight, it was just a little water. Besides, I made breakfast! Oat waffles!”
Twilight smiled, shaking her head as she levitated a towel from her closet and hastily dried off. The unicorn stood up and went down the stairs to the breakfast table, where she hungrily began to devour the delicious waffles, Spike not far behind.
“Wow, Twilight, you're really hungry today. Was it something to do with the Princess' visit last night?”
Twilight almost choked on a mouthful of waffles.
“How did you know about the Princess' visit? I didn't see you awake when I went to bed.”
“I heard that really loud thing, but I figured it would be better if I just stayed in bed...” Spike said sheepishly. Twilight gave him a suspicious look as one of her eyebrows shot up.
“Are you sure that was the only reason you didn't get up?”
“Well... I might have been kinda scared of the magical explosion thing.”
Twilight laughed good-naturedly and playfully pushed her assistant with one of her forehooves, when there was a knock at the library door.
“I wonder who that could be?” Spike wondered out loud as he went to open the door. He opened it to find an orange earth pony waiting there. “Oh, hey, Applejack. What's up?” asked the dragon.
“Howdy, Spike. Is Twilight awake?”
“Yeah, she's eating breakfast right now. Do you want some? I made oat waffles,” Spike offered, then opened the door wider in invitation.
“No, that's okay, Spike, I jus' had a question for Twilight,” Applejack said as she trotted in. She headed back to where Twilight was munching on her third helping of waffles.
“G'mornin', Twi. I had a question I thought you might be able to answer.”
“Okay, whah ish ih?” Twilight said with a mouthful of waffle. She swallowed sheepishly. “Sorry AJ, I'm pretty hungry after last night.”
Applejack looked surprised after Twilight mentioned the previous night. “Well, sugarcube, that's just it; I was up a bit late las' night, and I couldn' help but notice a real big light-beam thing, and, well, I figured since you're the most magical pony in town, ya might know somethin' 'bout it.”
Twilight's mind raced as she thought back to the previous evening.
The Princess didn't tell me I had to keep it a secret... but I don't know if I should tell her the truth. The Princess might not want word going around about this kind of thing. Would she care?
“So, Applejack. Do you remember how Pinkie's Pinkie Sense told her something really big was going to fall yesterday? Well... Pinkie was right,” said the purple unicorn carefully.
Applejack raised her eyebrows in confusion. “Uh, Twi? There wern't nothin' that fell, not to my knowledge.”
“You're correct, nothing actually fell. That's what the light beam did; it stopped what was falling from falling.”
The orange pony slowly seemed to comprehend what Twilight was getting at. Still curious, she pressed on.
“So, Twi, what was it that was fallin'?”
Feeling slightly more nervous now that her friend was asking for specifics, Twilight thought for a moment about her response. She started to speak-
Any lighter objects, like cups and silverware, rattled slightly from the sound of a Sonic Rainboom.
Simultaneously, upstairs in Twilight's bedroom was the sound of several crashes and much destruction.
Twilight and Appljack looked back at each other for a moment before rushing up the stairs and into Twilight's bedroom, where they gasped in shock.
Inside was a pile of broken glass, wood splinters from the damaged windowframe, and ponies. Two ponies, actually, a bright red pegasus colt and a bight blue pegasus filly, the red pony curled protectively around the blue one. Twilight and Applejack gasped as they recognized-
“Dash!” shouted the two friends simultaneously.
Right on cue, the blue pony groaned and sat up, accidentally cutting her hoof on one of the glass shards; after a split second, her eyes shot open in shock and she leaped into the air, her wings flapping out of sync.
“OW OW OW OW!” screamed Rainbow Dash. She lurched crazily through the room until she landed on Twilight's bed with a muffled whump. Twilight and Applejack ran over to the bed.
“Rainbow, are you okay? What happened?” asked Twilight.
“I dunno, Twi. I was practicing tricks with Flare- OHMYGOSH!” Dash suddenly forgot her pain as she leaped off of the bed and to the side of the red pony. “Flare! Flare, are you alright? Say something-”
The red pegasus coughed, and a few speckles of red appeared on the floor, his breath coming in big gasps.
“Oh, Celestia, my head...” moaned the colt as he looked around. “And my wings... and everything, it hurts.” A small pool of red was beginning to form underneath his body, quite a bit darker than his fur. He tried to say something else, but instead coughed bitterly again, spattering the floor with more blood before his eyes closed again and he became limp. Rainbow Dash's breath caught in her throat.
Twilight gently pushed the blue pegasus out of the way. “He's not dead, Dash, just unconscious,” Twilight said. She barely avoided voicing her next thought: But that could change if we don't do something quick. Grimacing, Twilight used her telekinesis to lift the pony into the air and onto her bed, where the three ponies could clearly see his chest rising and falling almost imperceptibly. The purple unicorn began to magically examine his injuries, which consisted mostly of jagged glass cuts- some of which still had the glass shards in them- and blunt trauma. One particularly large laceration was right on the base of the colt's left wing, cutting all the way to the bone, almost severing the wing completely; it was the source of much of the bleeding.
“He's badly hurt, especially his left wing! We need to get him to the hospital now!” Twilight said gravely. “AJ, are you up to carrying him?”
“Of course I am, sugarcube!” acknowledged the farm pony. She moved to pick up the colt, but when she did, Dash butted in.
“We've gotta get him there quick, AJ! I'm the fastest pony alive, I should take him!”
“Rainbow, you ain't in no condition to be carryin' anypony anywhere,” protested Applejack. “I'll get him.”
During this brief exchange, Twilight had been monitoring the colt's condition, and what she saw was not good. She sighed and spoke up.
“Um, girls? I don't think we have time to get him to the hospital.”
“Wha- but- Twi, you have to do something!" Dash sputtered. "Use a healing spell, or- or, I don't know, something! You have to!”
“I don't know any healing spells powerful enough for these kinds of injuries! I never thought I'd have to do anything like this!”
“Then- then make one up! You're good at magic, Twi! You're the best!”
Twilight frowned, thinking; precious seconds ticked by. She huffed, then concentrated on her magic, letting it flow into her horn. There she knitted it into a field of spell energy just like a basic, cuts-and-bruises healing spell on steroids, and released it like a net onto the helpless pegasus. The magic sank into the colt's flesh, seeking out his wounds and slowly closing them up. The blood that had spilled out of his body came oozing back, flowing into the wounds as they healed. All across his body, shimmering purple fields appeared around his cuts and bruises, so bright that they gave the room an eerie purple glow.
After about a minute, Twilight collapsed to the ground, panting heavily. The exhaustion from the previous night's adventure had not yet fully worn off, and the current spell was incredibly taxing. She could hear Applejack and Rainbow Dash talking to her, asking her if she was okay, but they sounded far-off; everything except the spell seemed fuzzy.
I don't... have much magic... left. I can't just... let them down... I have to keep pushing... my magic. I can't let them down... Twilight felt herself fading into darkness. I can't...
A small wooden cart rolled through the twilight underneath the dense canopy of the Everfree forest, pulled by a blue unicorn in a starry cape. The unicorn stopped, an angry look on her face as she pulled out a map and examined it. After a few frustrated minutes, she scowled and stuffed the map back into her saddlebag.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie is never lost! Trixie is sure there's a town around here somewhere,” muttered Trixie to herself. She resumed pulling the cart, much smaller than her old one, but a cart nonetheless. Trixie was about to start grumbling about how it was all Twilight Sparkle's fault, when she sensed a-
The unicorn raised her eyebrows and looked around for the source of the faint energy spike she had just felt.
She felt it again, a good distance away and off to her left. Her curiosity aroused, she started walking off towards the pulsing energy source. As she homed in on the pulse, its strength became stronger the closer she came. Soon Trixie was wading through a swamp, so she unhitched herself from her cart.
“This swamp will rue the day it stood between the Great and Powerful Trixie and her goal,” grumbled the unicorn. She stomped her hoof to emphasize the point, but she felt her hoof slosh through an even more gooey substance. Trixie looked down in surprise to find that her hoof had splattered into a pile of a strange, glowing blue ooze. Before she had time to comprehend, her hoof began tingling violently, then stinging in pain. She quickly withdrew her hoof, using her magic to scrape the ooze off of her smarting hoof.
Turning back to the ooze, she examined it with her magic. This was it. This blue material was the source of the energy spikes, and it was quite powerful. A devious smile spread across Trixie's lips.
This is exactly what I need to get back at that blasted unicorn, Twilight Sparkle. After she humiliated me like that my reputation has been ruined! I'll show her that no pony humiliates the Great and Powerful Trixie and gets away with it!
Trixie plodded further into the swamp, looking for any more of the stuff; when she stepped through a particularly dense cluster of trees she gasped in a mixture of awe and discomfort as her whole body began tingling.
Spread before her was an entire lake of the blue substance.
“Twilight! Don't push yerself too hard, sugarcube!” admonished Applejack as she steadied the struggling unicorn with her hoof. Her friend slumped into her hooves, out cold from the energy drain. Applejack sighed, then lifted her friend into a comfortable position on some blankets. She grabbed Spike, who was still paralyzed from the sight of the blood, and placed him next to Twilight.
“ohmygoodnesswhathappened?!” said a yellow pegasus as she flew in the window. “I saw you two falling and then-”
When she turned around, she saw that Rainbow Dash had already hoisted the injured colt onto her back in a firepony's carry, limping down the stairs.
“EEP!” squeaked Fluttershy at first sight of the blood, instantly recoiling. Just by looking at the condition the colt was in, she knew that he needed medical attention right away; swallowing her fear and doubts, she alighted on the ground and spoke.
“Rainbow, Flare needs to be tended to right now! Bring him back and set him on Twilight's bed, I'll get started right away!” asserted Fluttershy in a rare moment of boldness. She whipped around the room, gathering up impromptu medical supplies. Surprised by her friend's uncharacteristic, commanding behavior, Rainbow Dash complied silently. Fluttershy tore a blanket to shreds with Applejack's help and started to wrap the red pony's injuries.
After what seemed an interminable amount of time, but in reality only a few minutes, Fluttershy had covered Flare in makeshift bandages. She stepped back, inspecting her handiwork with a critical eye.
“Okay, I'm done. Applejack, you should take him down to the clinic now; I'll stay and take care of Twilight.”
“Got it, sugarcube,” replied the earth pony. She quickly trotted over to the red pony; Dash started to protest, but stumbled and nearly fell; fortunately she was caught by the cowpony just in time. Scowling, Dash let Applejack pick up the unconscious pony, who groaned at the jostling.
“I'm still coming with you,” she muttered defiantly, then winced as a jolt of pain shot through her body from the cuts and bruises adorning her battered body. She flew along as fast as she could behind Applejack, who was trying to balance speed with steadiness, to prevent further injury. Dash could feel her body groaning under the stress and injury, but she ignored the pain as best she could; with her wings still not flapping in tandem, she couldn't fly very quickly.
Rainbow noticed out of the corner of her eyes that the ponies she passed looked at her strangely, and for the first time it occurred to her that she must look pretty awful after that flyover and then the crash through the window. She shook her head, clearing away the thought, and landed in front of the Ponyville hospital; the hospital was quite small, more like a clinic. The blue pegasus burst through the doors, and an involuntary yelp of pain escaped her lips.
“Rainbow Dash!” said one of the surprised pony nurses. “You look terrible! We should get you fixed up right away-”
“I don't have time for that!” blurted the rainbow-maned pegasus as she struggled through the reception area and into the plain, white halls of the building. She felt incredibly dizzy, and found it difficult to stay balanced as she walked. One of the nurses trotted after her, an insistent look on her face. Dash ignored her, rounding a corner and noticing Applejack sitting in front of one of the doors. Applejack tried to smile when she saw Dash, but all that she managed was a grimace. Dash felt her stomach drop when she saw that, but she couldn't resist; she opened the adjacent door, and the blood drained from her face. Lying on the bed in the room was the red colt, the normally pristine white sheets around him stained a darker red. Standing over him was Nurse Redheart, who was too focused on her operations to notice Dash's intrusion. Dash felt the other nurse pony gently pull her from the room. She didn't resist.
Princess Celestia sighed as she took a bite of a delicious carrot cake. Only her two personal guards were in the large dining hall with her, which only increased the feeling of loneliness. Normally there would be swarms of attendants and servants rushing through the hall, but on an impulse she had given them all the day off. The opulent red and gold decorations and fancy flourishes seemed almost sad at the desolation, as though they were meant to be viewed and enjoyed with others.
Of course, the real reason that she had let them all go was not so much out of generosity, but more of a public relations ploy, to try and dispel the rumors that had popped up overnight about the huge magical explosion in the sky. More than a few ponies had panicked and started spreading rumors that Nightmare Moon had returned, and that the explosion was from a battle between Celestia and the mare of darkness. She had hoped that the rising of the sun would quell the stories, but some still clung to the idea. By sending all of her staff home with a partial truth, she hoped that they would be more effective than any speech she could make.
Poor Luna had taken it very seriously, and in a storm of tears and frustration she had locked herself in her room, not coming out or speaking to anypony since. Celestia had tried to get her to open the door, but all she got in response were muffled sobs. The Day Princess was beginning to be concerned that the rumors might become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Celestia finished her cake and stood up, stretching fruitlessly, trying to shake the fatigue from her body. She noticed her guards take up flanking positions behind her as she walked out of the large hall; a smile appeared on her face. They had refused to leave her unprotected, despite her assurances that she could handle herself quite well, being more than one thousand years old as well as the goddess of the sun.
The smile quickly vanished as she arrived at her destination; the door to Luna's bedroom. She knocked gently.
“Luna? You've been in there since midnight. Can I come in?”
Celestia took the silence as an invitation and opened the door. She wasn't surprised when she saw her beloved sister fast asleep at her desk, slumped over a thick tome. Celestia gently levitated her sister out of the uncomfortable desk and onto the midnight blue bed that was at the opposite end of the room. Luna started squirming in her sleep, so Celestia nuzzled her affectionately; the dark blue alicorn was calm after that. Celestia smiled sadly and trotted back out the door, closing it quietly behind her.
Twilight woke up with a throbbing headache.
“Ugh...” she groaned.
“Twilight! You're okay! I was so worried,” Spike said as he wrapped Twilight in a hug.
“Thanks, Spike,” the purple unicorn said as she nuzzled him. Twilight stood up, stretching, a thoughtful look on her face. There was something she wanted to remember, but she couldn't place it. She sifted through her recent memories, images appearing in her mind's eye: there was Princess Celestia unleashing a great beam of energy... a large, open field... something about the field sparked her attention. She slowly pulled out what she had realized was a dream, bit by bit into her memory.
Another pony entered the room quietly, carrying two glasses of water and disrupting her train of thought.
“Oh, Twilight, you're awake. I'm so glad you're feeling better; you looked so tired when you were sleeping,” said Fluttershy, concern on her face. “Have you been taking care of yourself, Twilight? Are you getting enough sleep? Eating enough?”
“What? Yes, Fluttershy, I have. I was just tired from having to do two really powerful spells in a few hours.”
“Oh, okay.” The yellow pegasus refrained from inquiring about the other spell. “Um... would you like to go see Rainbow and Applejack? They're at the hospital with Flare.”
Twilight's brain churned as she thought about the question she was about to ask.
“Are they okay? Rainbow Dash and Flare, I mean?”
“Rainbow Dash is fine, but Flare was in pretty bad shape when they left for the clinic. I had to patch him up, and I don't know how he's been since Applejack took him to Nurse Redheart for treatment.”
“I think we should go visit them, then,” suggested Twilight, uneasiness tingeing her voice. She started the long walk through Ponyville, Fluttershy and Spike not far behind.
Luna waited until she was sure Celestia was gone, then opened her eyes, which were puffy and red from crying. It had been a risky gamble, faking sleep, but when Celestia had knocked, she didn't have time to hide the ancient books that she had been reading. She had quickly slipped a roll of parchment over the tome to partially cover it up, then pretended to be asleep. After all, if Celestia knew that she had been reading about Ascending...
Luna held back a fresh wave of tears.
If the ponies don't care enough about me that they just assume I would stab Equestria in the back, then they wouldn't care if I just left. They wouldn't care... No one cares... Luna began travelling down the ancient, familiar path of thought, but stopped abruptly. Wait, wait, what am I thinking? Of course my subjects care about me! Celly cares about me! It's just that I've only been back for a year or two, that's it... that, and- and Celly takes all the attention- Luna clenched her teeth, struggling to avoid blowing something up out of frustration.
“Wh-where are these thoughts coming from?” she whispered out loud. “I'm not lonely! Celly promised I would never be lonely! She promised...” Luna trailed off. She looked out the window at the bustling city of Canterlot below. So many ponies traveling about their daily business, oblivious to the Princess of the Night. Luna couldn't restrain herself anymore, and started crying again. She staggered onto her over-sized bed and collapsed, her body screaming for rest, but none coming. Luna buried her face in her pillow and screamed.
Twilight stood in front of the hospital, not knowing what to expect inside. Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the doors. Inside the cozy little white-walled lobby were a few nurse ponies behind a counter and a few other ponies sitting in the chairs scattered around the rest of the room, among them Applejack and a moderately-bandaged Rainbow Dash. When they saw her walk in, they jumped up to meet her.
“There you are, Twi. Good to see you up and about; that was one hay of a spell you did back there,” said Applejack with a hint of pride in her voice. “From what Nurse Redheart told us, you jus' saved that colt's life, and you definitely saved his wings. He would'a never been able to fly again without such a powerful healing spell so quickly.”
Twilight breathed a sigh of relief; it felt like a lead weight in her chest had vanished. As soon as it was gone, though, a burgeoning question took its place.
“So, Rainbow Dash, um... how did you two end up crashing through the window, anyway?” inquired the purple unicorn.
Dash trotted over to a group of chairs and sat down, with the other three next to her.
“So, it was like this...”
Rainbow Dash was walking through Cloudsdale, looking for the building where she could sign up for the Wonderbolt Audition. As soon as she had seen the poster in the center of Ponyville, she had asked the Mayor for a few days' vacation, which she had gotten. Now, she was here, about to finally perform for the Wonderbolts!
Rainbow Dash could see herself swooping and soaring like rainbow lightning, looping around and doing such crazy stunts that even the Wonderbolt judges were going wild, just like the rest of the crowd. She finished her tricks with one last triple-backflip-720º-corkscrew-Immelman and landed perfectly in front of the panel of judges, who immediately walked over and offered her a uniform. Taking the uniform, Rainbow Dash did a celebratory, giddy leap, and whipped the uniform on-
Rainbow shook her head as she got her bearing, realizing that she had walked into a cloud wall.
Next to her was a fiery red colt rolling on the ground laughing. Rainbow huffed, at which point he snapped to his feet, still smirking. Rainbow was surprised, since he was only as tall as she was; normally, colts were taller than her.
“There's a wall there!” said the colt with a cocky grin.
“Yeah, what about it?” Dash said defensively. “You got a problem with that?”
“No, it's just that you walked into it. Most ponies don't do that,” laughed the red pony. “Are you here to sign up for the Wonderbolt Audition?”
“You bet I am! And I'm gonna fly circles around you, shorty!”
Now it was the colt's turn to be riled.
“Just because I'm small doesn't mean I can't fly like a pro!” he snapped back. “Being small means that I'm more aerodynamic!” The colt was about to continue, when he suddenly smiled as he recognized his new rival. “Wait a sec, you're Rainbow Dash, aren't you? I recognize you from the Best Young Flier's Competition.” He held out his hoof. “My name's Firework Flare. Nice to meet you, Rainbow Dash.”
Dash smirked and shook his hoof.
“So why didn't I see you at the Competition? Too scared?”
“Me? I had a sprained wing from doing too many awesome tricks!”
The two pegasi walked into the building, trading words.
“Oh yeah? Maybe you should show me some of those awesome moves, so I know you're not bluffing!” challenged Dash.
“You're on! You and me, we'll have a pre-Audition competition, to see who has the better tricks! Where do you wanna meet?”
“We can start at my cloud-house. All of Ponyville will decide who's better!”
By this time, the two had reached the sign-in desk, where a mint-green pegasus pony in a blue uniform was reclining in a cushy cloud chair. He sat up as the two ponies approached.
“Hello! Are you two here to sign up for the Wonderbolts audition?”
“Heck yeah!” said Rainbow Dash. “Wouldn't miss it!”
Unfazed by the blue pegasus' antics, the deskpony slid a large binder across the table, opened to a spreadsheet filled with names.
“Just write your team name in the first blank, then your team members in the slots next to it. After that, you'll be all set,” explained the colt.
“What?! When did this become a team tryout?” demanded Dash incredulously.
“What, you didn't know about it? It was on the poster, right here.” The pony pulled out a promotional poster, then gestured to some not-so-fine print, just below the heroic image of the Wonderbolts in flight.
“That's dumb,” huffed Rainbow. “Now I have to find some teammates!”
Rainbow Dash looked to her left, where she saw Flare simmering quietly.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Just dandy.” he said flatly.
“Maybe we could be on a team together, then.” Dash smiled patronizingly.
“Fine.” Flare ground his teeth. “What should our team name be?”
“Hm... Oh, I know! Our team name will be 'Double Rainboom'!”
Without waiting for an answer, the blue pegasus picked up the pencil and wrote 'Double Rainboom' in an empty slot. Next to it, she wrote her own name, then offered the pencil to Flare. He grudgingly took it and signed in the adjacent slot. Dash smiled and slid the notebook back across the table to the blue-suited colt. She turned to say something to Flare, but he was gone, a trail of smoke leading out the door. Rainbow Dash's eyebrow shot up in curiosity before blasted out the door after him.
“Hey! Flare!” shouted somepony behind him. Firework flipped around and saw Rainbow Dash quickly gaining on him. He smiled, his frustration slipping to the back of his mind.
“Finally caught up, eh?”
“I'll catch up to you whenever I feel like it!” huffed Dash as she poured on speed.
“Not if I have anything to say about it!”
The two pegasi dived straight down in their quest for speed. The ground was coming up fast, and with a start the red pony realized that his pursuer was right next to him, flying backwards. He scowled.
“You're pretty fast, you know! I almost had to try to catch up to you,” condescended Dash.
Flare just huffed.
“You didn't forget about our competition, did you?” asked Rainbow. “I'd hate to win by default.”
The red pegasus rolled his eyes and pulled out of the steep dive, now racing along little more than a foot above the ground in the large, grassy fields around the cloud city. The trail of smoke that he left behind lit the tips of some of the grass stalks on fire. He didn't notice that they were just as quickly snuffed out by a streak of rainbow lazily following behind him.
After flying for what felt like hours, Firework used the remaining momentum from the dive to begin climbing back up to the clouds, where he slowed down and alighted on one. He flopped down, silent. His ears perked lazily as he heard a soft whump of somepony landing on the cloud as well. He didn't bother to face Rainbow Dash. For a few moments there was an almost amiable quiet. The colt waited a few moments before saying anything. Rainbow Dash regarded him for a while.
“You still up for that contest?”
The red pony smirked and stretched his wings.
The two pegasi stood in front of Rainbow Dash's house, preparing to take off. Fluttershy stood off to the side with a black and white checkered flag.
“Ready... set... go!” she said, and waved the flag.
The two ponies were gone in a flash, two parallel trails of smoke and rainbow marking their progress. Rainbow Dash went into the first phase of her routine, gathering five large clouds and spinning them into tight balls, which she proceeded to juggle; she flew in a sphere pattern, hitting the balls in different directions, and never letting them escape her formation.
Flare's first trick was to gather several clouds, then turn them as black as smoke and whip them into a tornado. He waited until the pressure had built to a satisfactory level, then released several small sparks into the maelstrom, which flew around like little fireflies in a jar.
Rainbow Dash grinned; she relished the challenge of a practiced flier like herself. She popped her five clouds and sped into the second phase of her routine; incredible feats of agility. First she spiraled through a quadruple Immelman, then immediately began an ascending figure-eight spiral, performing barrel-rolls along the entire path. At the height of it, she looked around for her adversary; she noted that he was currently in a very steep dive, trailing smoke and small fireworks that danced around playfully, artfully. She spun back into her routine, a dizzying set of loops and twists. During most of this part of her trick, Dash was able to observe Firework as he plummeted downward, soon flaring his wings to break out of the dive with a bright flourish. Then, as he hit the point with the most G's, she saw his right wing give out.
The pain in his right wing was awful. It was in the same spot as before, right at the base of the wing. His bad wing clamped itself rigidly against his body, ignoring his commands to unfurl it. He was able to keep himself from spinning completely out of control by manipulating the lift from his other wing, but he was still speeding towards the ground, and he couldn't do anything about it. He ground his teeth, trying with all his might to pull out of the dive, but his left wing just couldn't do it alone.
Hoover Dam! Not now! Why did my wing have to act up now?
Firework forced his eyes to stay open as the ground neared. He steeled himself for an impact, and felt one- a soft object hit him from the side, and he felt himself being carried by another pegasus. He looked around and saw the giant rainbow spreading across the sky, but oddly enough couldn't hear the explosion his mind was telling him should be there.
“You just saved me,” Flare blurted, surprised.
“Not yet I haven't!” Dash shouted. She had noticed Flare falling while she was at the height of her second trick, and so she had had to muster every ounce of speed she had to reach him in time. She had succeeded, in fact gathering enough speed to pull off a Sonic Rainboom; the giant ring of rainbow light exploded over Ponyville, surprising the inhabitants.
Such a steep angle made it more difficult to pull out of the dive in time, but Rainbow Dash succeeded, leveling out their flight just a few feet above one of the streets of Ponyville. For a second or two, Dash swerved crazily around, trying to keep her balance, avoid the shocked ponies milling around in a panic, and gain altitude all at once. She pulled up some, just in time for a window to appear directly in her path. With but a moment to spare before the impact, the blue filly wrapped herself like a shield around her rival and twisted around so that she was in front and would take the brunt of the hit.
To her surprise, she felt Flare roll the two of them through another half-rotation, until Flare was in front of her once more.
Trixie's cart sat unsupervised right next to the first pool of the blue gel. The mare herself was by the lake, practicing manipulating the energy that the stuff radiated. She was surrounded by a blue field that crackled and sputtered from the energy that the blue material put off; she had gotten tired of the constant tingling and stinging, so she had crafted a magical shield around her. Trixie had decided to call the blue stuff 'Phazon'; partially because she thought it was a cool name, and partially because Trixie could feel that the name just kind of... fit. Almost like the goo had already been named, and Trixie had simply stumbled upon it.
The blue unicorn was pleased at how easy it was to absorb and manipulate the energy of the Phazon; within a few hours she had been able to take some of its energy into her horn as her own. When she had first 'tasted' the Phazon's energy, it was simultaneously burning hot and freezing cold, and overall very uncomfortable to have in her magical reserves. However, she had built up a tolerance for the discomfort over the time she had been practicing.
Currently, the showmare was occupied layering a solid piece of Phazon with magical protection, to keep its true nature hidden. Once finished, she magically shaped it into the octahedral form of the gem clasp on her cloak; satisfied at the similarity, she removed the old gem and replaced it with the new crystal.
“Twilight Sparkle!” Trixie called jubilantly out to no one in particular. “You won't even know what hit you!”
Trixie felt a sudden spasm in her back muscles and grimaced.
That's the third time this afternoon! thought Trixie to herself.
Sighing, Trixie looked at her back, expecting nothing but getting the shock of her life; sprouting out of her back, one on each side, were two little nubs about the size of her hooves. Feathered nubs.
There are many streams and rivers that flow out of the Everfree Forest. Out of them all, there is one that flows past a lake and out the forest, ending its long flow inside an apple farm. A bluish material had been spreading steadily out from the lake, closer and closer to the stream. As the sun sank below the horizon, a few particles began leaking into the water, then a trickle. Miniscule specks of glowing light began drifting downstream, imperceptibly growing larger as they bobbed along.