1. Published 26th Nov 2011
  2. 5,339 Views, 163 Comments

My Little Pony: Prime - Brony Tom


A sinister poison corrupts ponies and twists them into horrid mockeries of their old selves.

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Part 3

Princess Luna sat quietly at her desk, steeling herself in preparation for poring over the ancient book.  Celly seemed to be overly sensitive to her behavior since the meteor incident last night, so she'd had to be extra stealthy when she fetched this one from the archives.  It also didn't help that this was the only copy of the book that had ever been made, and that it was kept in the real archives, the secret one, not the one that the average pony had access to.

  Unable to force herself to begin the unpleasant task, she stood up and paced around her balcony, looking up at the infinite canvas of stars that she had crafted.  It never failed to calm her nerves, looking up at her beautiful creations.

If only other ponies could see what I see, could see how much of myself is up there.  If only they would look at my stars, stop and appreciate what I do... and appreciate me...

Driven by her melancholy, the Night Princess shuffled glumly back to her desk, where the book lay closed and foreboding.  On its plain, brown cover was an ornate image of an alicorn in flight, bolts of magic emanating from its horn.  She stroked a hoof over the image, took a deep breath, then opened the book.  

Immediately, a blast of magic whipped around her, obviously a defensive mechanism to stop an average pony from reading the book.  To Luna, however, the magic simply ruffled her mane and wing feathers like a strong breeze.  She steeled herself and began to read.

Alicorns: A study commissioned by Lord Everfree, the Last King of Equestria.

        Written by or with help from:

Arcana Sparkle

Magus Nexus

Brightshine, Royal Guard Captain

Lord Everfree and the Royal Family

         Contents:

1.  Introduction

2.  Innate Magic

3.  Horn

4.  Wings

5.  Immortality

6.  Ascending

7.  Reproduction

The night mare flipped all the way to the second-last chapter.

Chapter 6:  Ascension

Having established in the prior chapter the nature of the alicorns' immortality and their virtual invulnerability to physical harm, it stands to reason that an alicorn very well may live for a length of time inconceivable to the average pony.

However, though the alicorns are physically immune to the ravages of time, they are not immune to the mental wear of the years. While normal means of expiration may be closed to the alicorn, there is a method by which they may 'pass on' as the common vernacular would phrase it.

A method of ascending to the Shining Realms of Yore has been fully researched and recorded in the following pages along with a related description of planar shifting and manipulation.

Before continuing on, it should be noted that the process of ascension detailed within has been found to be irreversible by present means and appears to be as permanent as the normative process of dying

Princess Luna took out a scroll and began to copy the instructions.  Once finished, she shut the still-dusty book and hid it in her bookshelf amongst the many other books, inconspicuousness being its best camouflage until she could put it back in its rightful spot later.  Luna looked over the list, planning out how she would assemble the components.

At that moment, the enormity of what she was doing struck her.

Irreversible.  Leaving Celly... forever.  Equestria, my night, my subjects, forever.  Gone.  I'm abandoning them... abandoning my responsibility... again.  I'm leaving, and there's no turning back.

Why should you turn back?  It's not like anypony pays any attention to you.

The thought hung in the air, plain as day.  Luna didn't bother to dismiss the thoughts this time, nor to recognize the blatant self-conversational tone of them.  Tears of sadness, bitterness, and anger began to flow from her eyes once more, when her ears pricked at a quiet sound.  Intrigued and eager to forget her unhappy thoughts, the princess trotted out onto her balcony.  She could clearly tell now that it was somepony wishing on her stars; few ponies knew that Luna could actually hear such things.  Whenever she heard a wish, there was an accompanying feeling of warmth that came with it, depending on how strongly the wish was desired.

There was a strong feeling coming from this one.  Her interest piqued, she flew up off of the balcony, following the feeling.  Luna decided against magically speeding her flight, instead choosing to just fly at a leisurely pace to calm her emotions.  The princess looked out over her domain, the small points of warm light amongst the houses and buildings almost a match for the sky above; the feeling of just floating above it all was indescribably, powerfully relaxing.  By the time that she alighted in a large, grassy field just outside of Ponyville, Luna felt ready to take on anything.

Her moon was at its fullest this night, casting a cool, silvery glow on the world below.  The gray-green grass rippled like an ocean, pushed hither and thither by a gentle, calming breeze.  A short distance away, the Princess could see a pony sitting on their haunches, staring up at the moon.  An unspoken, yet not-unheard wish hung on the pony's lips; a wish for a place to call home.  

Luna wanted so badly to run up to the mare and tell her that everything was okay, nopony had to be lonely.  What stopped her was the sudden and drastic shift in the mood she was feeling from the pony as the mystery mare put on a pair of sunglasses with magic.  It was as though a whole new pony stood before her, one that radiated hostility and indifference.  This strange pony began trotting towards the sleeping town of Ponyville, and Luna, disquieted, flew back to her room in silence.

This time, the flight was quick, the princess having used her magic to spirit herself away from that pony as a spring of thoughts and feelings bubbled in her subconscious.  Looking down over the once-friendly lights, they now seemed harsh and garish, blunting the silvery moonlight of her night, warding off her presence.  The Night Princess alighted with a soft thud on the balcony once more, and she trotted inside.  Upon entering, she stopped dead in her tracks as a certain object dominated her focus; a scrap of parchment with a list of items written upon it.

Luna stared at it indecisively, feelings of loneliness surging in her mind, but this time the melancholy was obscured by the vision of the pony that had wished so passionately on the moon.  She levitated the scroll in front of her, wanting desperately to crumple it up, toss it in the trash, and forget about it.  She wanted to move on, to go make friends with ponies, to share in their happiness.

The princess just could not summon up the willpower to destroy the list.  She scrunched up her face, little grunts of frustration escaping her lungs, but the parchment didn't budge an inch.  Luna felt her willpower deteriorating, as her emotions were simply too much for her to deal with right now.  What she needed was something to take her mind off of the matter; as if in answer, her stomach rumbled uneasily.  The Night Princess levitated the list to her desk and slipped it in a small, hidden drawer before trotting out of her room in search of nourishment and, perhaps, some company.

-----

In the dark of the night, illuminated only by the lonely light of the full moon, a blue pony clutching a wizard hat landed roughly on the ground.  After an entire day of practice, she was exhausted.

“Trixie is... quite ready to... make her glorious return to... Ponyville,” panted the blue magician after she placed her hat reverently on a hook.  Without thinking she levitated a small glass of neon-blue water to her lips and drank greedily.  It no longer burned to drink water laced with Phazon; she had become so accustomed to its bitter sting that the feeling barely registered in her mind.  In fact, she had dismissed her shielding spell earlier in the day, as it was now unnecessary.

Trixie flexed her back muscles for the sheer pleasure of feeling the responsiveness of her new pride and joy.  They were so beautiful, much more so than what that silly rainbow pegasus had.  She lifted her wings up to admire them, occasionally nuzzling them, enjoying the feel of the soft feathers on her face.  

Trixie flapped her wings again, an unstoppable feeling of delight seeming to flow from their presence.  She yawned and trotted to her cart, wings folded at her side.  Content in her thoughts of glory and payback, Trixie sank wearily to the ground and fell asleep.

-----

The door to the Ponyville Inn burst open.  The few patrons still awake at the bar raised a collective eyebrow in surprise at the mare that strode confidently towards the innkeeper's desk.  Her dark, stony gray form was weighed down by a large pack with all kinds of ropes and equipment in and around it. Her mane was a violent green with bright orange highlights, little spikes sticking out this way and that from the unruly mop.  Oddest of all were the large, dark sunglasses that she wore, despite the dim lighting of the room.

“I need a room for a few days,”  said the mare.  “Fifteen bits a night, take it or leave it.”

The collective eyebrow shot up even higher, if that were possible.

“I'm sorry miss, but the going rate is twenty-five for a night.”

The unicorn mare turned around and began trotting away.  The innkeeper's face twisted in a frown before he called after her.

“Twenty bits?”

The stony-faced mare paused at the door, considering the offer.

“Deal.”  The mare turned and trotted back to the counter, pulled out a small bag of bits and dumped them out on the wood surface, waited impatiently for her room assignment, then strutted up the stairs towards her lodging.

-----

Firework awoke slowly, his consciousness lazily collecting itself.  As he opened his eyes, the colt could only observe with blurry vision the plain white walls that surrounded him.  He tried flexing his wings, but felt them bound to his side.  Looking down, he saw the bandages wrapped around his midriff, binding his wings.  He let a groan slip from his lungs.

“Flare, you really need to stop crashing into buildings,” he told himself.

The colt tried to lift himself up, but his whole body screamed in pain and exhaustion.  He sank back down, growling in frustration.  Mixed with the growl was the barest hint of a fearful whinny.  It was just like Flight School; nowhere to go, unable to move or run or, if need be, fight.  He was helpless, and he hated it.

No time for self-pity, I need to act!  he thought.  Then again, on the other hoof, I can get better faster if I just rest...

He tried to think of something to remedy his helplessness, but his body's cry for rest overpowered his still-sluggish mind.  As slowly as he had woken, he drifted back to an uncomfortable, restless sleep.

-----

Princess Celestia gazed dully at the ponies assembled before her.  They had been talking about the dam project for hours now, and still hadn't come to an agreement.  It took all her concentration to keep herself from resting her head on a hoof.  At last deciding that she had had enough, she cleared her throat and stood up.

“Gentleponies, I think we have failed to get anywhere in this meeting today.  Perhaps we can settle the matter at a later time, when we all have clearer minds,” suggested the Princess forcefully.  The politicians took the hint and filed out, leaving the room empty.  Celestia sighed and trotted out of the conference room.  She was exhausted after a full day of meetings, none of which had actually amounted to anything of importance being accomplished.  The Day Princess unconsciously found herself drifting towards to her room, in need of a few moments of solitude.  She trotted the short distance to her room and opened the door, relief washing over her like a flood.  

Unfortunately, several guardsponies came galloping through the halls directly for her, led by Shining Armor.  Wearily lamenting the disturbance, she acknowledged the captain.

“Yes, Captain?  What is it?”

“Princess, we just received terrible news; a band of changelings attacked and looted a trade caravan traveling from Cloudsdale to Hoofington!”

Celestia scowled, a rare occurrence.  

I just can't have a moment to myself, can I?  Can I?  HM?!

“Princess Celestia?  Is everything alright?”

Celestia realized suddenly that she was crushing one of the doorknobs to her bedroom with her magic.  Sighing, she released her hold on it, and the smoking scrap of metal clanged to the floor.

“Yes, Captain, I am fine.  Tell me, what happened exactly?”

“Well, we don't know all of the details, Your Highness, but from what we know the pirates attacked without warning from the air and stole all of the goods; six ponies were injured, but fortunately none killed.”

“The changelings?”  mused Celestia to herself.  “We've had a peace treaty since we kicked them out of Canterlot, why break the peace now?”  After a moment of thought, she continued.  “Captain, assemble the Defense Council and raise the national threat level to DISHARMONY, class 2.”

“Yes, Princess,”  acknowledged the Captain.  He bowed hastily, then trotted off, already shouting orders left and right to the nearby assembled guardsponies.

To the guards now spread protectively around her, she commanded them to wait for a minute outside the door as she prepared herself for the meeting of the Council.  Celestia trotted in, shut the door, and fell back on her haunches wearily, her rippling mane beginning to droop.  She absentmindedly levitated her hairbrush and began brushing her mane, the fatigue in her body and mind oozing out into the room like a noxious gas.  She wanted so desperately to just hide in her room and not have to deal with any more crises.

Why can't the country just keep out of trouble?  What are we, some kind of trouble-magnet?  I'm tired of having to deal with gargantuan, nation-threatening problems.  For that matter, I'm sick of all of the silly little squabbles, too.

Those poor ponies, they might have just lost everything.  And here I sit, brushing my mane, doing nothing to help them.  I'm just going to go to another frivolous meeting where we'll talk about some important issue or another, and we might get something done if we're lucky.  Fantastic.

The thought echoed through the Day Princess' mind as she forced herself down to the council room, false calmness plastered on her face.

-----

Those two bumbling colts were here again, banging on her door.  Did they have nothing better to do in the middle of the Celestia-dammed night?  She grumbled, got out of bed, and poked her head out the window of the cart.

“Trixie thought she said the Great and Powerful Trixie did not want to be disturbed!” she grouched.  They started spouting more hot air.  “What is so important that you cannot wait until morning to disturb Trixie?”

As if in answer, a titanic roar ripped through the peaceful night air.  Trixie felt her insides turn into cold, heavy granite.  From the woods outside Ponyville a massive, bear-like beast emerged, spreading destruction in its path.  Trixie screamed, terror bubbling up from the recesses of her mind, her body fleeing before her mind had time to think.  Behind her, she heard the sound of snapping wood and knew that her cart was gone.  One of the imbeciles started saying something, but Trixie wasn't really paying attention... at first.

“It took a lot of trouble to get that thing here,” said one of the colts.

The showpony's mind just about exploded.

“Wait, you brought this thing here?  Are you out of your little pony minds?”  Trixie demanded incredulously.  

A blue haze came over her vision, blocking and distorting her vision; time seemed to suspend itself.  Suddenly Trixie found herself trying to stop the Ursa with her tricks.  Nothing worked; that blue fog blurred everything, subtly altering the way that her mind saw the events unfolding.  The beast was about to wreak havoc on the town when she showed up from out of nowhere.  The purple unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, ran into the path of the Ursa and used her magic to subdue the creature by force.  Trixie sat on her haunches watching, both in rage and awe.  It was quite skillful, what the librarian did, Trixie had to give her credit for that, but under the circumstances Twilight's victory was bad.  Twilight had just stolen every last ounce of Trixie's thunder; how was anypony supposed to be able to top that?  Trixie made her living on appearances, and now what did she have?  Nothing!

Trixie's vision had a bluish tint to it, only getting hazier with her increasing rage.  As she watched Twilight at work, the purple unicorn seemed to take on monstrous qualities; her teeth lengthened into small fangs, her eyes had a malicious sparkle, her hooves began to split and grow claws.  Trixie blinked, angrily trying to push her way out of the mind-fog.

Think, Trixie, think!  You can save face, you can still pull a draw out of this match!  Trixie thought.  She listened as Twilight's lackeys began congratulating the purple unicorn-creature.  Ugh!  That praise should be Trixie's!  The anger of the showpony approached the limit of her endurance, thickening the blue haze until it was like being underwater.

“That wasn't an Ursa Major, that was a baby, an Ursa Minor,” pointed out that foal, Twilight.  The blue fog condensed around Trixie, and something in her snapped.  She remembered shouting something, then running somewhere, just before hearing the final nail in the coffin.

“Just let her go.  Maybe someday she'll learn her lesson about how to actually use magic,” taunted the purple Twilight-monster snidely.

Tears flowed out of the fleeing mare's eyes, staining the path out of Ponyville with ultimate loss and hatred.  Trixie made a silent vow; One day I will return.  One day I will show them all.  One day Twilight Sparkle will be nothing.

Trixie woke up, cold sweat beading across her body.  She realized that she had been dreaming, that same dream again, but something was different; the showmare couldn't put a hoof on it.  Unfazed, Trixie smiled as she felt the nearness of the fulfillment of her vow.

Tomorrow I take my revenge.

-----

Rainbow Dash blearily noted that somepony knocked on her door.  She grumbled incoherently from her cloud bed and looked out the window.  The sun had just barely risen over the horizon, casting its soft morning glow over the land.

It's not even noon yet!  Who the hay is here to see me?

“Who is it?” shouted the blue mare out her window sleepily.

“Spitfire!” came the reply.  “Now will you hurry up and open the door?”

The gears in Rainbow Dash's mind spun lazily, trying to gain traction against the mind-fog of sleepiness.  All at once, it clicked.

“Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh, S-Spitfire?!  Here!  Here?  Spitfire!  Coming!” blurted Dash.  She raced down the cloud stairs and wrenched open the front door, quite spectacularly; her mane was even more wild than normal, she was completely disheveled, and she was standing sheepishly in front of her childhood idol.

Spitfire just frowned.

“You'd better shape up, Miss Rainbow.  No Wonderbolt would be caught dead in such a state,” scolded the professional flier, half-serious and half-joking.  Stung, Dash slumped down, her nervous smile replaced with a nervous grimace.  Seeing the effects of her words, Spitfire breathed deeply and focused.

“I'm sorry, Rainbow.  I shouldn't have said that; no Wonderbolt should ridicule her fans, either,” Spitfire admonished herself.  “I'm a little on edge after I heard about the accident the other day.  I just wanted to make sure that nopony got hurt.”  

Spitfire cares enough about me to check up on me after an accident?  Awesome!

“I'm fine, thanks,”  said the blue pony proudly.  “Flare got a little more banged up, but he's okay.”

“Did he, now?”  muttered Spitfire with concern lacing her voice.  “You know where he is?  I wanna see him.”

“Sure thing, Spitfire!  I can take you to the Ponyville Clinic right now, if you want.”  Rainbow Dash mussed her mane with a hoof, then shook her head, restoring her rainbow to its normal level of chaos.  “Ready if you are.”

The orange stuntpony flapped her wings impatiently.

“I've been ready.”

Rainbow Dash, needing no further encouragement, zipped out the door and to the clinic, Spitfire right behind her.

-----

Applejack was up early that morning, bucking some apples to sell in Ponyville.  

Buck.  Rustle.  Thudthudthudthudthud.  

The sounds were a rhythmic tune almost equivalent to music in the ears of the mare.  The music of apples, as sweet as the fruit itself, was much more than just the sounds; Applejack could feel the apple trees, feel them growing and blooming and dropping their fruit.  

Buck.  Rustle.  ThudthudthudthudthudthudTHUDTHUD.

“Wha-?”  wondered AJ as she turned to face the tree that had interrupted the rhythm.  Lying around the base of the tree was a larger pile of apples than normal, and many of the apples were extra large and shiny.  The tree in question was taller and thicker than she remembered.

“Winston?  You been growin' while I wasn't lookin'?  You sure got a lot o' apples there, old boy.”  The farmpony spoke to the tree as she inspected the apples.  Almost half were slightly larger than normal, and their skin was a brighter, smoother red.  Curious, Applejack picked one up and sniffed it.  It smelled like... an apple.  Gingerly, she took a bite.  It tasted like... an apple, but with a subtle difference; there was just a little something there, something she couldn't put a hoof on.  To any normal pony, these apples would be completely normal, but to an experienced apple farmer, there was definitely something off about them.

Applejack gathered up a basket of the strange apples and hopped over the nearby stream, taking a quicker path back to the farmhouse.

“Big Mac?  You there?  I need ya to come 'ere for a sec,” called out the orange mare when she reached the barn.  The familiar figure of her brother appeared from around the back, the same old steady look on his face.

“Whatch'ya need, AJ?”

“Tell me what ya think o' these, Mac,” said Applejack, gesturing to the basket.  Big Mac picked one up, examined it carefully, then bit into it.  As he chewed, his expression remained constant, a thoughtful look only entering just barely into his eyes.

“Not bad.  One o' Winston's?  He doin' okay?”  

“Yeah, Mac, he's okay, jus' a bit taller.  Well, I guess I'm gonna go get the cart ready to head into Ponyville, unless you got somethin' 'gainst that?”

“Nope.”  And with that, Big Mac trotted off again.

Applejack gathered up all of the apples she had bucked, piling them onto the cart.  Even as she trotted into town, a small, niggling doubt lingered in the back of her mind.

-----

“Friends, Romanes, Countryponies, lend me your ears,” said Fluttershy gently.  “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.  The evil that ponies do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.  So let it be with Caesar.”

William Shakesmare was one of Fluttershy's favorite poets, and she often read some of his plays to her animals while they recuperated.  Currently, there were three baby birds that had been knocked out of their nests and been badly injured.  Fluttershy knew that a truly spectacular rendition was in order to take their minds off of it, and only her personal favorite work would suffice.  So, she had gotten out her well-worn copy of Jewelius Caesar and began weaving the tale.  She enjoyed the feeling of pretending to be great ponies of legend, to leave her own shy self behind for just a little while.  With a gentle passion she read to the small, enraptured birds, her quiet but firm voice moving the words from abstraction to reality in the minds of the young ones.

“O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and ponies have lost their reason. Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, and I must pause till it come back to me.”  Fluttershy paused for dramatic effect, the birds leaning forwards expectantly.  Before she had the chance to resume, however, a horrific cacophony of squawks and flaps erupted outside the cottage.

Fluttershy eeped and almost raced under a chair before she paused; her animals were not getting hurt on her watch!  The yellow mare marched indignantly out into her front lawn, where she immediately saw the problem; a blue pony wearing a wizard hat and a starry cape was trotting past her cottage, and all of the chickens were panicking, crowding the farthest side of her chicken coop from the stranger.  Fluttershy gasped as she recognized the pony.

“T-Trixie?  W-what are you doing here?”  stammered the yellow pegasus.

Trixie turned around and faced the other mare.  Fluttershy noticed a few things different about the showpony; she was taller and bulkier, her horn was longer, and her eyes let off a faint blue glow.

“The Great and Powerful Trixie is here to show Ponyville that she, not that foal, Twilight Sparkle, is the most magical pony in Equestria,” boasted the blue mare, adding a blinding flash of blue fireworks for effect.  “Now, come along!  Trixie's show will be starting soon!”

A blue glow encompassed the quivering yellow pegasus, and she floated into the air with a squeak.  She flailed her hooves and wings about, a reflexive but fruitless attempt to keep her balance.  Trixie strutted towards Ponyville, the blue bubble hovering close behind.

-----

Two pegasi walked into the Ponyville clinic; the few ponies in the waiting room gaped at the sight of Spitfire and Rainbow Dash together.  Oblivious to the attention they were attracting, the two continued through the building towards Flare's room.

A small knot began to form in Rainbow's stomach as she approached the room he was in.

That should be me in there.  I was supposed to take the force of the impact, but he... he took it.  

The door was in front of them now.  Both mares held back their concern as Spitfire eased open the door.  Laying on the bed was a red pony struggling to chew through the bandages that locked his wings in place.  He was so preoccupied with trying to reach his head around to get at the white wrapping that he didn't notice the two pegasi enter the room.  Something about the situation just struck Rainbow Dash as ridiculously funny, and she couldn't help but giggle.  He glanced up guiltily, then smiled when he saw who it was.

“What's so funny?” asked Flare, a mock glare on his face.

“Sorry, you just...  you looked so silly trying to get those bandages off, I couldn't help but laugh,”  snickered Dash.

“Gee, thanks,”  said the red pony sarcastically.  He looked over at Spitfire as she gave him a look that said Explain yourself.  He grinned mischievously.  “It's good to see you too, Spitty.  Anything new?”

Spitfire wasn't taking the bait.

“Flare, don't give me that.  What did you do this time?”  demanded the Wonderbolt.

“I pulled a little too sharply out of a dive, that's all.  Rainbow was there and she took care of it,” Flare said, shifting his eyes evasively.

“Wait a sec,” Rainbow interrupted.  “'Spitty'?  How do you know Spitfire?  Are you...”  Dash's stomach knotted as she anticipated the next few words.

“Oh, uh, we- er, grew up together.  Same neighborhood in Cloudsdale.  Silly me, how could I forget to mention that?”  Flare laughed, a hint of nervousness creeping into his voice.

A suspicious glance on her face, Spitfire trotted up right next to the bed and stared at Flare relentlessly, her stern face inches away from his.  He looked back, his expression all innocence.  After a few interminable seconds, the Wonderbolt acquiesced and hugged Firework affectionately.  Unnoticed by the other two, Rainbow's face reddened a bit.

“Well, I can't baby you any more, you're a big colt now.  And I need to get back to practice for our next show, so I guess I'll see you two later,” said the orange mare.  As she was turning to go, she smiled knowingly at Rainbow Dash.  “See you!  And keep me posted!”  she called as she trotted out the clinic.

Dash wasn't sure what to make of Spitfire's smile.  Then again, she wasn't sure what to make of the whole episode.  She whirled on Flare.

“What.  What?  Just happened?”  babbled Rainbow.  Then, more coherently, “Why didn't you tell me you knew Spitfire personally?”

The red pony frowned and looked away.

“If I had told you that when we first met, would you have treated me differently?”

“No!  Heh heh, of course not!”  Dash blurted quickly, avoiding the truth.  “Why would you think that?”

“Past experience,” grumbled Flare, a dour look gracing his expression.  He noticed in his rival's eyes the look that one gets just before they are about to ask a question.

“So, Dash,”  Flare said hastily, “would you mind helping me get these bandages off?  My wings are itching like crazy and I can't scratch them with it covering them up.”  Seeing the mare's questioning glance, he added “The nurse said I could take them off later today anyway.  We'll just get rid of it a bit early.”

“Well, I know I hate it when my wings get scratchy...  and being grounded sucks, so...”  mused Rainbow.  “Here, lemme just get-”  the blue mare planted her forehooves on the bed and gripped the bandage in her mouth; with a quick jerk, she tore it off, eliciting a yelp from Flare.  She smiled sheepishly and deposited the bandages in the wastebasket in the corner of the room.

Flare stood up and stretched his wings, scratching them vigorously one at a time with his hindhooves; a look of satisfaction crossed his face, despite the slight pain that came with the scratching.  He hopped off the bed and started trotting towards the door.

“Thanks, Dash.  Got anything to do?  I don't wanna just sit around in a hospital all day; maybe you could show me around-”

“No, you're not going anywhere,” interrupted Rainbow as she moved in front of him, barring him from going any further.  “I saw all those cuts.  As much fun as it would be beating you in another contest, it wouldn't be any fun winning against an injured pony, so you'd better get better ASAP; I don't wanna wait that long.”  As an afterthought, Dash added  “And we kinda need to practice our team's routine, too.  I'll grab some paper and we can sketch it out while you rest.”

-----

Applejack had just finished setting up her apple stand when the slate-gray mare appeared out from behind a small crowd of ponies.  She trotted up to the stand like she owned it, her large sunglasses obscuring her eyes and most of her expression.  The mare scanned the stand, looking it up and down; the way that the stranger was scrutinizing her wares made Applejack uncomfortable.

“Can I help ya, Ma'am?”  asked AJ in a guarded tone.

“How much for an apple?”  inquired the stone-gray pony casually.  The tone of her voice was just arrogant enough to irk the farmpony.

“Three bits,” grumbled Applejack.  This pony was getting under her skin already.

“I'll give you two,”  stated the mare, as though she made the rules.

The orange pony ground her teeth, trying not to slap her customer.  

Somepony really needs to buck some manners into this smug little-

“So, are you going to take it or leave it?” demanded the mare.

Applejack's eye twitched.

“Get away from my stand,”  ordered the farmer coldly.  The stranger shrugged, then started to turn around, when several shouts and a few crashes sounded from the far edge of Ponyville.  Without a second thought for her stand, Applejack rushed off to see if anypony needed help.

With nopony looking, the gray mare reached down and snatched an apple from the stand, dropping one lonely bit in its place. The apple was a paragon of it’s kind, extra red and shiny and quite large for an apple. She trotted off towards the disturbance, munching lazily on the apple, hoping for a show to liven up the day.