• 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 4: Ancient Ruins

Chapter 4
The Ancient Ruins

“There it is! The ancient ruins that contain the Elements of Harmony! We made it!”

“Twilight! Wait for us!” Applejack called as the purple unicorn charged off. I sped to a gallop to catch up.

“We’re almost there! WHOA!” Just as she turned back to call to us, she failed to notice that the bridge was in fact broken, and practically ran off the side. She struggled to push herself back, but the speedy Rainbow Dash was there to pull her back up.

“What is it with you and falling off of cliffs today?” she teased, spitting Twi’s tail out of her mouth. Rarity and I silently giggled at the jeer.

“Now what?” Pinkie Pie burst.

“Duh,” Rainbow called, flying over the precipice and showing off her wings.

“Oh yeah!” Pinkie happily cheered as Rainbow dove beneath the fog forming in the chasm to retrieve the other end of the rope bridge.

“Way to go, Rainbow!” I cheered, high-hoofing Applejack when Rarity gestured that she didn’t want to get her hooves dirty. I noticed shame-facedly that my hooves were still covered in grime from my dip in the lake, and tried wiping off the muck in the dewy grass while we waited for Rainbow. I suddenly noticed that we should be crossing by now, and though there were still a few specks of dirt clinging to my ankles, joined the others to see what the holdup was.

“Rainbow, what’s taking so long?” Twilight called, peering with the rest of us out into the ever thickening fog. I only got a glimpse of three mysterious pegasi speaking with her at the other end before the fog became impassibly white. “Oh, no!” she gasped. “Don’t listen to them!” Twilight called, voice muffled in the white.

“Why? Who are they?” I inquired.

“Well... I don’t know...” Twilight admitted.

“But they can’t be good, whoever they are. Did you see those uniforms?” Rarity shuddered at the disgrace to fashion.

“Anypony from the Everfree is bad news,” Applejack agreed. My ears flattened, and I shrank back.

“Are you okay, Acrylic?”

“F-fine,” I stuttered, shivering to cover up my shame.

“You get cold easily, don’t you?” Pinkie Pie chirped.

“Yeah,” I blushed. I wasn’t lying. The dragon-blood in me required a hot environment. A gust of fresh air brought me out of it, and I looked over to see Rainbow clearing the fog with a few flaps of her feathered wings. We all cheered for her.

“Great job, Rainbow!”

“See? I’d never leave my friends hanging!” Twilight again took her place at the front as we crossed the rickety rope bridge, and I brought up the rear. Fluttershy took a few tentative steps out over it, but noticing how creaky the old thing was, hovered above it so it wouldn’t crack under her weight. I longed to join her and Rainbow in the air, but I fought back the urge. Applejack’s words kept ringing in my ears. ‘Anypony from the Everfree is bad news.’ Was that really what they thought of us? Even after all these years?

Twilight fell back in sheer awe of the castle. I joined her, soaking in its ancient beauty.

“Whoa,” Applejack gasped, taking in the overgrown ballroom. “Well, come on, Twilight. Isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for?”

“The Elements of Harmony! We’ve found them! Careful, careful!” she barked as Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy began moving them from the pedestals to the floor before us.

“One, two, three, four... there’s only five,” Pinkie counted.

“Yeah, where’s the sixth?” Rainbow demanded.

“The book said that when the five are present, a spark will cause the sixth to be revealed.”

“What in the hay is that supposed to mean?” AJ furrowed her brow.

“I’m not sure, but I have an idea. Stand back; I don’t know what will happen.”

“Come on, y’all. She needs to concentrate.” Applejack led the way out, providing a quiet work environment for Twilight. I had just gotten settled on a stone outside to pick the rest of the dirt off of me when a squeal brought us careening back.

“TWILIGHT!” Rainbow was fastest, and led the way as we charged back.

“The Elements!” The stone spheres had been raised up in a swirling blue vortex, obviously not caused by Twilight’s magic. She jumped into the swirling void just before it vanished.

“Where’d she go?”

“What happened?

“What?”

“Twilight?” Everypony started babbling at once.

“Everypony, calm down,” I tried, Applejack stomping a hoof in emphasis.

“Acrylic’s right, y’all, we won’t find her sittin’ ‘round down here.”

“Well, what do you suggest we do, Applejack?” Rarity demanded.

“I... uh...” struck at a loss for words, Applejack bashfully hid her face with the trusty leather stetson. Ponies resumed running around in panicked circles. “Twilight, where are you?” Applejack pleaded to the open air.

“Look!” Rarity called, positioned at a crumbling window lacking its glass cover. A tower off in the near distance was glowing, shining with magic like a beacon.

“There!”

“Well, what are we waiting for, y’all? Twilight needs our help.”

“YEAH!” Pinkie exclaimed in a battle cry, charging ahead. I was determined not to be found at the back this time, but again ended up forced into the rear as everypony fell into a single file line up the stairwell.

It was a long climb up, and the ascension seemed to take an eon. Pinkie Pie and Applejack were in front, and began calling for Twilight as soon as they saw the top of the steps. The rest of us followed suit.

“Twilight?”

“Don’t worry Twilight; we’re here!”

“We’re coming, Twilight!” We found her facing off with Nightmare Moon, Elements shattered to crystalline chips.

“You think you can destroy the Elements of Harmony just like that?” Twilight whipped around, having found new energy in our arrival. “Well, you’re wrong, because the spirits of the Elements are right here!” The shards at Nightmare Moon’s hooves began to rattle, glow, and finally hover in the air around her.

“What?” she gasped.

“Applejack, who reassured me when I was in doubt, represents the spirit of Honesty!” A few of the crystals flew through the air and began spinning around the orange earth pony. She gasped with glee as Twilight went on.

“Fluttershy, who tamed the manticore with her compassion, represents the spirit of Kindness!” At first, the pale yellow pegasus shied away from the crystals encircling her, but accepted them as Applejack had.

“Pinkie Pie, who banished fear by giggling in the face of danger, represents the spirit of Laughter!” Pinkie eagerly bounced as she received her batch of crystals.

“Rarity, who calmed a sorrowful serpent with a meaningful gift, represents the spirit of Generosity.” I found myself beaming as Rarity received her crystals. I furrowed my brow when I remembered that there were only six elements, but seven of us. Who would go without one? Twilight wasn’t bothered by this as she went on.

“And Rainbow Dash, who would not abandon her friends for her own heart’s desire represents the spirit of Loyalty!” Rainbow’s chest puffed with pride.

“The spirits of these five ponies got us through every challenge you threw at us!” I took a step back, not wanting to bask in their glory.

“You still don’t have the sixth Element,” Nightmare Moon reminded, suspiciously eyeing the two of us remaining ponies, wondering who would wield the sixth element. “The spark didn’t work.”

“Oh, but it did,” Twilight smiled. “A different kind of spark. I felt it the very moment I realized how happy I was to hear you, to see you, how much I cared about you. The spark ignited inside me when I realized that you all... are my friends!” In a flash of light, a sixth Element appeared over Twilight’s head, faintly resembling the shape of her six-pointed star cutie mark. “You see, Nightmare Moon, when those Elements are ignited by the... the spark, that resides in the heart of us all, it creates the sixth Element: the Element of... Magic!”

The lights were so bright I could barely see. I did notice, however, that the glowing crystals were all converging on my friends’ chests, forming beautiful amulets. Well, all but Twilight’s. That stone sphere, still intact, descended on her head, forming an intricate crown. The power of the Elements lifted them all up until they were hovering above the floor without so much as a wing beat. The light became blinding, and I retreated to a dark corner to shield my eyes. I just caught a glimpse of a twirling rainbow linking the Elements before shooting out to wash over Nightmare Moon.

“No! NOOOOOO!” she wailed, the Elements destroying her once and for all. The surge of power rippled to my wings, and I felt them shooting out of my back. Horrified, I gave two powerful flaps that brought me to my feet before the grinding of bones told me that they were shrinking back down to stubs. Heart still racing, I looked over, expecting the horrified expressions of my friends. Instead, I found them all collapsed, possibly unconscious on the floor. Another alicorn lay where Nightmare Moon used to be, and I recoiled. Princess Luna? Even more shocking was the presence of another, even more powerful white alicorn, Princess Celestia. She gave me a queer look, and I tried to shrink back into the shadows, but ran out of space. Had she seen my wings? Would I be destroyed as Nightmare Moon had been? Luckily, she was distracted as the group of six recovered on the floor.

“Oh, my head,” Rainbow whined, giving it a firm rub.

“Everypony okay?” Applejack voiced.

“Oh, thank goodness!” Rarity exclaimed, now flaunting a long, curly tail even more perfectly formed than the last.

“Why Rarity, it’s so lovely,” Fluttershy quietly put in.

“I know! I’ll never part with it again!” After waving it around, she cradled it like one would a foal.

“No, your necklace,” Fluttershy clarified. “It looks just like your cutie mark!”

“So does yours!” Rarity put in after noticing that everypony but me wore one.

“Look at mine! Look at mine!” Pinkie chimed, bouncing around to flaunt it about.

“Oh, yeah!” Rainbow grinned, falling in love with the red lightning bolt across her chest.

“Gee, Twilight. I thought you were just spouting a lot of hooey, but I reckon we really do represent the Elements of Friendship.”

“Indeed you do,” Celestia said from the window, glowing with light as she raised the sun to emphasize her appearance. Everypony fell to their knees in her presence, and dumbstruck and frightened as I was, I did the same in my dark corner.

“Princess Celestia!” Twilight gasped, the only one not kneeling. Rather, she trotted right up to her mentor and received an affectionate nuzzle.

“Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student! I knew you could do it!”

“But... you told me it was all an old pony tale.”

“I told you that you needed to make some friends,” Celestia corrected. “Nothing more. I saw the signs of Nightmare Moon’s return, and knew it was you who had the magic to defeat her, but you could not unleash it until you had let true friendship into your heart. Now if only another will as well.” For a moment, I feared she spoke of me, until she did in fact turn to the crumpled alicorn on the ground. “Princess Luna!”

The young mare woke up and gasped in the older one’s presence, and feared the worst. “It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this.” She knelt to the blue one’s level. “It is time to put our differences behind us. We were meant to rule together, little sister.”

“SISTER?” everypony else burst. Not me. I was too petrified to comprehend her words, let alone react.

“Will you accept my friendship?” The girls leaned in close to hear her answer, but Pinkie Pie leaned too close and fell over with a light whumph.

“I’m sooo sorry! I missed you so much, big sister,” Luna teared, taking Celestia up on her offer of a tender hug.

“I missed you too,” Celestia joined in the tears. A loud blowing could be heard as Pinkie bawled her eyes out at the reunion. The river of salty tears instantly stopped and she perked up.

“Hey, you know what this calls for? A PARTY!”

“Are you all right, sugar cube?” I nearly jumped out of my skin when Applejack jabbed me in the side.

“Fine, fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine? I guess we should be heading back,” I quickly excused, getting to lead the way down the steps this time. I tried to keep away from the rest of the group, but soon found Rarity trying to cling to me like glue.

“Are you sure you’re alright with this?” she asked, joining me at the fringe of our train.

“Alright with what?”

“Well, you’re the only one of us who didn’t get an element,” Rarity timidly pointed out, hoping not to insult or rub salt in fresh wounds.

“I don’t need an element so long as I have friends,” I assured. Then my ears flattened. I didn’t represent any element of friendship. “I can still have friends, though, right?”

“Why of course, darling!” Rarity said so loudly she attracted all eyes once again. I pressed low to the ground under the Princesses’ gaze. I was still receiving suspicious looks from Celestia, and wondered if she suspected anything. Twilight saved me when she demanded the royals’ attention once more, going on and on about what she’d learned. I slunk along behind with Rarity. “Whatever is the matter? If it isn’t the Elements, or lack of one that’s eating at you, then what is?” Rarity demanded.

“I’m just... not used to being in the presence of real princesses,” I breathed.

“Oh, I know they’re royalty, dear, but you’re acting like... well... guilty. Being around royalty is even more reason to walk with your head high. Come now, dear, flaunt that beautiful smile of yours. That’s it.” In truth, I had only managed a smirk after noticing Pinkie trying to impress the sisters with her acrobatic antics in the background. I felt ridiculous trying to trot with Rarity’s natural grace, and resumed my position slinking along in the back.

While I had been truthful to Rarity when I said that I didn’t mind not representing an element, I couldn’t help but feel slightly dejected, even cast to the side. I felt like the six would share an understanding I would never know, even though they had only known Twilight for a short time. That day, a small seed of jealousy was planted in the pit of my stomach. I should have uprooted it then and there. Instead, it began to grow and fester.

With the daylight pouring through even the thickest boughs of the Everfree canopies, the way home was swift, especially with the two princesses in the lead. All obstacles we had faced before were avoided with a pulse of Celestia’s magic. Pinkie Pie dashed ahead of us, and in record time, had the town back in the festive spirit we’d started out in. Spike smothered Twilight with hugs, and the young fillies crowned Luna with a flower wreath. I was already feeling more comfortable, and allowed myself to become lost in the sea of faces gathered around. The Elements of Harmony received special commendation, but I was not needed for this honor. Rarity whispered something to Celestia just as I was pulling away. She must have been dying with excitement; talking to the most important pony in Equestria!

“I have just been reminded that another pony requires a special mention. Would Acrylic please come forward?” My heart stopped, and all eyes turned to me. I winced, but even hiding under my hat, I could feel the crowd splitting to form a path for me. Reluctantly, ears down, I crept to the front and knelt before the Princesses. “Thank you, Acrylic, for your bravery and courage in assisting your friends to take a stand against Nightmare Moon. Equestria will remember you.” The crowd erupted with cheers, and even I felt a small smile flicker onto my lips as I gazed up at my superiors. They both smiled back, and I didn’t detect so much as a hint of suspicion on their faces. Just then, my friends tackled me, and I found myself sitting at the bottom of a dog pile, still blushing with embarrassment.

Twilight was standing off to the side, watching the festivities unfold. Celestia finally noticed. “Why so glum, my faithful student? Are you not happy that your quest is complete, and that you can return to your studies in Canterlot?”

“That’s just it. Just when I learn how wonderful it is to have friends, I have to leave them.” The Princess, kind as she was, took immediate action.

“Spike, take a note, please.” A scroll and quill protruded from nowhere, and the baby dragon was ready. “I, Princess Celestia, hereby decree that the unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, shall take on a new mission for Equestria. She must continue to study the magic of friendship. She must report to me her findings from her new home in Ponyville.” Another dog pile ensued, but this time, I wasn’t at the bottom of it. When Twilight broke free, she bounded up to her mentor in thanks.

“Oh, thank you, Princess! I’ll study harder than ever before!”

“Isn't this exciting? Are you excited cause I'm excited I've never been so excited, well, except for the time that I went” her lungs inflated once more, “but I mean really...” My laughter drowned them out.

It was great that Twilight was staying; that was, in fact, what was making me so giddy. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be pushed to the side. Would a newcomer make me less interesting? I shook my head, banishing such thoughts. Friends didn’t abandon each other. But could I ever be a real friend? I didn’t represent any of the elements. Could I really belong? The thoughts were foolish, but to me, relevant. I knew my thestral side would be exposed soon. Would I still be their friend? Would I be cast out like Nightmare Moon? Though what she had tried to do was wrong, I could relate to her. She wanted love, but she tried to force her way in. Isn’t that what I had done? Was I any different from Nightmare Moon? The questions boiled furiously in my head as I headed home early from the festivities. What I didn’t notice was Princess Luna eyeing me from afar.