• Published 13th Sep 2014
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The Seventh Element - PaisleyPerson

Thestrals are thought extinct. But what will happen when one moves to Ponyville? Disguised as an earth pony, Acrylic does her best to fit in. Can she keep the secret, or will she expose her entire race?

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Chapter 37: Return of the Thestrals

Chapter 37
Return of the Thestrals

At first, the dark, silhouetted swarm of thestrals frightened Ponyville’s citizens, but when the Princesses came into view out in front, panicked screams turned to cheers. The previously imprisoned messengers and scouts had also been released. The Princesses swooped low at the edge of town to land. There wasn’t enough room for all the thestrals to land in the town, so most circled around the edges of Ponyville to find a landing spot just inside the Everfree. A few perched on the clouds, but fewer actually had the courage to come into town. Torchwood landed with me and the others in town.

“Bravo, ladies,” Discord congratulated. “A job well done. How ever did you save the day this time? Blast the beastie with your magic necklaces, I presume?”

“I’m no beastie, Discord,” I beamed. He started to smile, noting that my wings and cutie mark were back. But then he laid eyes on my element. His expression fell, un-amused.

“You mean I have another one of those things to worry about now?” he huffed, crossing his arms. “I don’t get it.” And so, we all briefly summarized the night’s events for him, taking turns telling the story. Celestia took it upon herself to explain the creation of the seventh element in terms he would understand. Just as she finished, she and Luna were called away by Mayor Ivory Scroll. Once they were gone, Discord was free to smile to himself.

“The Element of Forgiveness? I see. So you wouldn’t use your element against me, would you, Acrylic? After all, you’ve forgiven my attempt to rule Equestria, right?”

“I have, Discord.” I chose my words carefully. There was still a mischievous glint in his eyes. “But don’t force me to make that decision, okay?” Ironically, Fluttershy noticed my indecision, and stepped up to put her hoof down.

“But our friendship remains. And if you want to remain friends, you'll stop thinking whatever it is you're thinking and help us clean up.”

“Fine. But I don't do windows.” He vanished momentarily, and then returned in a maid’s uniform, sauntering off to Ponyville with a feather duster in his paw.

“There’s still one thing I don’t understand,” Twilight said, turning to Torchwood. “I get that Acrylic’s transformation made you angry enough to spark the ancient evil, but where’d those creepy crawlers come from?”

“You mean my beautiful saplings? I must admit, I’m rather disappointed in them as well.” We were rejoined by Discord. “Those seeds I planted should have sprouted up ages ago.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?!” Twilight screeched.

“Oh, why should I try to explain it when you can see for yourself?” Discord offered the white potion from before. In her frustration, Twilight didn’t hesitate to sip from it. She stared off into the distance, and her eyes turned white. Torchwood looked to me for answers. I only shrugged.

“Alicorn thing.” Discord still explained it for those of us who couldn’t watch the scene play before our eyes.

“I planted those seeds just before Celestia and Luna first turned me to stone to ensure my rein, but obviously things didn't go according to my original plan. My plunderseeds should have stolen the magic from the Tree of Harmony and captured Princess Celestia and Princess Luna thousands of moons ago.”

The residual effects didn’t last quite as long this time, and Twilight was soon shaking her head in recovery. She wasn’t too happy. “You do realize this is information we could have used HOURS ago?!”

“And rob you of a valuable lesson about being princess? What kind of friend do you think I am?” he snickered.

“That’s not the full version,” Torchwood spoke up. “Your plunderseeds would have sprouted sooner if it hadn’t been for our intervention. Thestrals have been renewing the magic barrier to the tree for decades. We just recently found a way to harness the weeds to obey our command, and unleashed them on the rest of Equestria.”

“That would explain a lot,” Discord sighed, crossing his arms in irritation. With nothing more to say, the draconequus teleported away.

“Attention, citizens of Ponyville!” the mayor called, attracting a rather large crowd. “It is my great pleasure to announce the return of the thestrals to Equestria! Her Highnesses, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have asked that we take on the great privilege of temporarily housing their personal guests.” Celestia took over from there to briefly explain the situation.

“I am aware that many of you will not be comfortable with allowing strangers into your homes,” she continued. “I will assure you that while this would be appreciated, it will not be necessary. I propose to construct a temporary camp on the edges of your town until a more permanent solution is brought forward. However, any who are willing to open their homes to these ponies should sign up to be paired with as many thestrals as they are capable of holding. Please see the mayor to do so. Any and all thestrals not placed in a home should see me in one hour. Thank you for your cooperation.” While they hadn’t actually been left with a choice, excited chattering rippled through the crowds. I was shocked yet delighted at the huge swarm of volunteers soon encircling the mayor.

“I wonder what’s become of Art Life?” I speculated aloud.

“The mayor didn’t think you were coming back,” Fluttershy timidly said, “so it defaulted back to the realtor. Somepony called Graphite Sketch bought it.”

“Graphite?” I couldn’t believe my ears. My first instinct was to become frustrated. He had tried awfully hard to make my life miserable. Torchwood’s, too. I stopped myself and took a deep breath. He had every right to purchase the place, if it had been put up for sale.

“Come on, Acrylic. You’ll stay with me for now,” Rarity called, splitting from the clusters. She paused in thought. “Your... snake... is welcome to join us, too.” I knew she wasn’t too fond of the reptiles, so this was a big sacrifice on her part.

“Wait,” I called. Garble and Blaze were still off to the side. I moved over to them, first. “Are you sure you won’t stay here in Ponyville?”

“Nah,” Garble shrugged. “Not my thing.”

“I’ll miss you.” I could finally give them a proper sendoff. We seemed to have mutually agreed that Blaze would go back with Garble. At least, until he spoke up.

“Do I have to go too, then?”

“I told you that you could make up your own mind,” I slowly recalled, exchanging glances with Garble. Blaze nodded.

“I think I want to stay.”

“You do?!” I would be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked to hear this decision. I had taken care of him for a year, but surely that hadn’t been enough to pry him from his brother? Garble almost looked hurt, but I could tell that he’d been expecting to hear such an answer.

“Can I?” Blaze asked again. I turned to Garble once more, who glumly nodded consent.

“If you’re sure, of course you can stay.” Instead of hugging me, Blaze turned around and clung to his brother.

“I’m sorry,” he sniffed. “But they don’t like me there.”

“Whatever,” Garble mumbled, doing his best not to cry in front of everypony.

“We can still visit him, right?” Blaze looked to me.

“As often as you like,” I promised. Garble seemed to perk up a little at this proposition, as though he hadn’t realized there was such a possibility. “The Summer Sun Celebration is tomorrow, so maybe we could swing by Wednesday?”

“Sure,” Garble casually shrugged. I could tell he was actually thrilled.

“See you then,” Blaze beamed.

“Yeah. Bring Heckley too, would ya?”

“Sure thing, Garble.” We all watched and waved as the red dragon took off, heading back for the dragon craters.

“You don’t mind Blaze staying with us, too?” I turned to Rarity.

“It would be my pleasure to have all three of you,” she assured.

“What about Torchwood?”

“I think Mrs. Cake is out of town for a dessert contest today,” Pinkie remembered. “I’ll go see if Mr. Cake wants a guy’s night out!” Twilight levitated her element off of her as she happily bounced away, dragging Torchwood behind her. I laughed as he helplessly looked back at me.

“See you tomorrow!” I called.

“I have to go, too,” Twilight excused, removing all of our elements and giving them over to Spike. “I have to go put our name down on the list.”

“I’ll go with you,” Fluttershy offered. “Our cottage has room for a few more ponies to stay over.”

“We’ve got plenty o’ space at Sweet Apple Acres,” Applejack said, “and the family loves company. I might as well go see if Big Mac hasn’t put our name down yet.”

“I guess I wouldn’t mind having company tonight either,” Rainbow decided. “As long as they don’t snore.”

“If you get a choice, ask for Tanzanite Miner,” I suggested, recalling my only friend from Blade Wing Four. “You two would get along fine.”

I began to turn after Rarity when a booming voice cut me off.

“Acrylic Storm?” I slowly pivoted into the face of the moon princess.

“Princess Luna, your Highness!” I exclaimed, dropping to my knees with everypony else.

“Rise,” she demanded. Slowly and respectfully, we all did so.

“Princess Luna, I didn’t get a chance to say how glad I was that you were safe,” Twilight greeted.

“Thank you, Princess Twilight Sparkle,” Luna nodded. “It is good to be back.”

“What brings ya back down this way, your Highness? Didn’t Princess Celestia already take off?”

“That she did, Applejack, and I shall be joining her soon. However, first I seek a word with Acrylic, in private, please.”

“Me?” My heart dropped.

“We’ll leave you to it then,” Twilight confusedly consented, leading the rest of them away. Blaze, too, hung back with our hostess Rarity. I reluctantly trotted after Luna out into the peaceful countryside. Admittedly, it was rather difficult to find a vacant area with so many new faces around. At last, we came to stop in Ponyville Park, which the thestrals hadn’t found to be a landing ground just yet.

“I believe apologies are in order,” Luna prompted. I gulped.

“Of course, your Highness. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for impeding on Equestrian territory. But you must understand, all I wanted was to find friends. I just wanted to feel like I belonged to something bigger. To be loved.” Luna gave me a sad smile.

“Nightmare Moon wanted nothing more.”

“Your Highness?”

“Long ago, I too felt betrayed by my own sister. I know what it is like to be cast out. That is why I of all ponies should have understood your circumstances. Instead, I was blinded by my eagerness to right the wrongs I committed in the past. I should have sympathized with your situation, but instead, we tried to respond to a nonexistent threat by snuffing them out altogether. For this, I offer our sincerest apologies. I know I speak for Celestia too when I say that we are sorry.”

“Indeed, you do.”

“Your Highness!” I exclaimed. The silhouetted form of none other than Princess Celestia herself appeared on the distant horizon, slowly and regally making her way towards us. I fell to the ground in a bow to acknowledge her. Luna, on the other hoof, greeted her sister with a warm smile.

“Rise,” Celestia kindly commanded. I obediently returned to my hooves.

“I thought you had returned home, Sister,” Luna commented.

“How could I put my mind at ease without personally apologizing for our wrongdoing?” the sun princess countered, turning to me once more. “Words cannot express the shame and remorse I have felt since the day I passed my sentence upon you. I thought I was protecting my subjects from a danger that in actuality did not exist. Today’s events have proved just how wrong I was. It was not just the creation of the seventh element that negates my former reasoning; your actions have spoken for themselves. It took great courage to stand up against Torchwood in that state, especially considering your personal relationship with him. It was even more courageous to put your life on the line for Twilight. I don’t know what could have come over me to make me do the things I have done. Please, can you ever forgive me?” She dipped into a bow so low and respectful that I felt uncomfortable.

“Why… of course, your Highness! I already have!” Luna smiled an understanding smile, and knelt down with her sister.

“Thank you, Acrylic. You carry your new title as the Element of Forgiveness well.” My eyes watered as I dropped to the ground with them.

“Thank you, Your Highnesses. You have no idea how much that means to me.”

“Actually,” Luna interjected as we all rose, “I think I do.”

“Rest assured that I shall do everything in my power to ensure this never happens again,” Celestia promised.

“And Acrylic, Sister and I both owe you a great debt. Feel free to come by the castle anytime, lest you need anything at all. Canterlot Palace shall always be open to you.”

Rarity and I were starting off for her home, Heckley curled around my neck. Blaze was trailing along beside me, but a fifth voice piped up. “Hi! I’m Spike. You’re Blaze, right? We haven’t actually got a chance to talk, but I know your brother. He might’ve told you about me. I can’t tell you how cool it is to have another dragon living in Ponyville! And one my own age! Funny how that works out, huh?” He’d returned from replacing the elements in record time to finally get a chance to meet his fellow dragon.

“Uh...” Spike had been talking so fast that Blaze hadn’t been able to get a word in edgewise. This pause, too, was brief.

“Anyway, stick with me. I’ve got lots to teach you about being a pony!”

“But I’m not a pony,” Blaze protested. Spike’s expression turned flat as though he suddenly found his newfound friend uninteresting.

“Come on, pal. It’s a figure of speech.”

“But I’m not a pony,” Blaze repeated.

“Alright, alright,” Spike sighed. He perked up, and I could practically see the light bulb going off over his head. “But I can still teach you how to be an assistant! You are Acrylic’s new assistant, aren’t you?”

“Uh... sure.”

“Great! I can teach you everything you need to know. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m kind of a pro at it myself. I’m Twilight’s Number One Assistant!”

“Princess Twilight’s assistant?” Blaze’s eyes suddenly gleamed with respect.

“Yeah! Except, she doesn’t like to be called ‘Princess.’ Hey, I’m sure she’s going to want to straighten up the library before we have company. Come on! I can start teaching you what it takes to become Acrylic’s Number One Assistant.” Blaze turned to me.

“Can I?”

“Sure!” I agreed. “Spike, can you show him back to the boutique when you’re done? He’s never been.”

“You got it!” he saluted. “In fact, I can show him all around Ponyville!” Then he took Blaze by the wrist and dragged him back to the library. Rarity and I exchanged smiles before continuing on our way.

Even after the sun and moon had returned to their proper places in the sky, it was only noon. Rarity suggested that I go to catch up with some old friends, but I was too exhausted from the day’s events. Rarity understood, and led me right to the boutique.

It was good to be back in the familiar shop. Sweetie Belle was at their parents’ house this weekend, but would be back soon enough, I was told. Until then, I was welcome to her room. I made a quick trip up there to familiarize myself with the area, but then returned to help Rarity fix lunch.

I almost accidentally knocked a mannequin over on my trip down, but caught it in time with my wing. I noticed that Rarity stiffened at the gesture, watching from the kitchen. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“You flinch every time I move my wings,” I pointed out. She stayed guiltily silent. “Do you want me to retract them?”

“You mean make yourself look like an earth pony again? No, that won’t be necessary, but I appreciate the gesture. Like you said, they’re only wings. I’m going to have to get used to them at some point or another.”

“You’re positive that you’re alright with me staying here? I don’t want you uncomfortable in your own home,” I repeated.

“It’s my pleasure to have you here!” she exclaimed. “I just need time to get used to seeing you with those.”

“If you say so.” Despite her reassurances, I caught her staring at me the whole time we prepared DLT sandwiches (daisy, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, to be exact). It didn’t help at all when Opalescence spotted Heckley and tried to find out if he was a play toy. I had to shield him with my wings, and Rarity yanked her cat back. She turned to apologize, but found herself lost to the leathery appendages again. I finally made up my mind. “I’ll be back,” I promised.

“Where are you going?”

“Wing retractions aren’t the prettiest things to watch. I’ll go outside to do it.” (At the time, I wasn’t aware that the hideous process of wing retracting had been altered to a more bearable method by the elements’ transformation.)

“How am I supposed to get used to your wings if I can’t see them?” she argued. I stopped. She did have a point. “I’ve got it!” she exclaimed. She dashed to her work room.

“What have you got?” I exchanged glances with Heckley before hurrying after her.

“A way for me to get used to you thestrals,” she simply answered, levitating her sketchpad and pencil from a cluttered desk. I caught a glimpse of the forming image over her shoulder. It was the typical pony base she used when she was designing a new dress, but she added wings to this one. Dragon wings.

“You know, designing a thestral dress isn’t going to be easy. Dragon wings aren’t as flexible as pegasi wings. They won’t fit through those little slits you usually add. And they’re a lot bigger. You’ll need a larger gap, and some pretty sturdy material, if you don’t want the fabric to sag.”

“I do love a challenge,” she answered, engrossed in her work. “I intend to begin a whole line of thestral designs! It’s sure to help me get over this paranoia I seem to be experiencing. Oh, Acrylic, would you please model for me?”

“If you recall, I’m not much of a model... but I know of some thestral girls really into that kind of thing.”

“Well, that would be fine... but it sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?” I suddenly understood. She wanted to get used to my wings.

“One dress,” I promised.