• 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 5: Princess Luna's Visit

Chapter 5
Princess Luna’s Visit

Luckily, I’d headed off just in time for my first wing spring of the day. I rushed back to the gallery as they began to force their way out, slamming the door behind me. This far out, there was nopony to see anyway, but better safe than sorry. I decided to let them hang out in the privacy of my home. My back had been feeling stiff where I kept them restrained. With a final stretch, I folded them and resumed my work around the house in an attempt to forget the questions raging through my head.

I began to arrange the empty glass bottles on a bookshelf I’d recently purchased. Applejack and Big Macintosh had been kind enough to find the time to make me a countertop to divide the front of the store from the back. The plain wood had been sanded down to a smooth finish at my request, as I wanted to paint it myself. I lifted the gate barring entry to the back and trotted behind it, looking out at the shop. It was coming together.

Empty shelves lined the left wall, filled with a few empty jars but no merchandise as of yet. A long table stretched across the adjoining wall, only to be stopped by the door. Another two tables were positioned in the middle of the floor to display merchandise. Scattered at various heights on the right wall were hooks, placed among the two windows providing the main light source. This was where I intended to sell a few paintings at a time. The tables could be piled with sketch books and drawing tablets, blank canvases and larger equipment. The shelves would house paint jars and brushes, or anything small enough to sit atop them. I had a little extra space in the bookshelf behind the counter to store empty jars and excess merchandise.

The room behind me would soon be the ideal workshop, flaunting windows stretching all the way to the floor. The glass wall curved to form a whole two sides of the rectangular room. A few easels stood proudly around it like sentries, while a large, angled work desk had been posted at the back of the room, almost right against the glass where the light was best. A long, stout side table accompanied it to house supplies I needed easy access to while I worked. There was plenty of room to hang paintings on the inner walls, and I could lean more against the glass to dry.

The right wall gave way to a brief hallway leading back into a restroom, small kitchen and laundry room. A short flight of steps led up to the very small upper level, leaving room for only a bedroom. This had been refurbished with a fresh bed, a side table with a clock and a tacky jar of flowers, an armchair I somehow managed to drag up the steps, and a wardrobe that was mostly empty. It housed only my beloved plaid beret and an old, raggedy cloak from back home. No, back with the thestrals. I had to keep reminding myself that this was home now.

A loud knocking on the door broke me from my thoughts. I dashed down the steps, almost forgetting to retract those dragon wings in my haste. It was a good thing I remembered- who else but Princess Luna stood in my doorway.

“Princess!” I almost screamed.

“We hope we are not intruding,” she bowed her head in greeting. I looked around her, though she was unaccompanied. I found it odd of her to refer to herself in the plural tense, but didn’t dare correct or even question her choice of grammar. Though she did not look threatening, there was something demanding in the loud tone of voice she used. “Something important must have taken thee away from the festivities so early.”

“No, not really...” I blushed, finding myself trembling in her presence. “I’m just... trying to whip this place into shape.”

“We see.” I backed away as Princess Luna entered my half-finished art store, taking in the barren shelves and empty surfaces.

“I only bought it a few weeks ago, you see, so it’s not fully operational as of yet,” I quickly stammered, scrambling to make the place look a little more presentable for royalty.

“We understand,” was all Luna said. I looked up from inventory when she did nothing more than look around.

“Can I help you?” I timidly asked.

“It’s just all so strange,” she sighed, voice suddenly quieting. “We have been gone a thousand years. Ponyville did not even exist when we were banished to the moon. We are unable to recognize anything.”

“Oh...” I muttered, still unsure what that had to do with her being here.

“Twilight Sparkle saw the signs. She knew of our return. But thou seems to have known as well.”

“Oh?” I squeaked this time, voice cracking.

“The mural on thy outer wall. Did thee paint it?” Her voice was loud, and even intimidating. I shrank back

“Yes,” the almost inaudible reply escaped my throat.

“Thee has no reason to fear us, Acrylic,” Luna boomed.

“Sorry, it’s just...”

“Just?” she prompted.

“Can you not be so loud? I feel like you’re yelling at me.”

“Oh. Right.” Her voice softened tremendously, and I melted. “Times have changed, and we must adapt.”

“Of course,” I timidly nodded. “You were asking about the painting?”

“Yes.” She purposefully walked outside, strutting with such power and radiance that she demanded respect. I slunk behind her, slowly warming up to the moon princess. “It is a beautiful piece.” I felt my cheeks grow hot.

“Thank you.”

“How did you know of me? Did this Twilight tell you?”

“Oh, no. I haven’t known her that long. My mother would tell me stories. Everypony knew them back home.”

“And where is that?” I could have face-hoofed myself then and there, but I didn’t for my dignity’s sake.

“Way, way out. It’s a small settlement. Doesn’t even have a name.” My answer came out in one breath, and wasn’t at all believable. I mentally kicked myself.

“We see.” Her abrupt tone of voice told me she wasn’t buying it, but she continued to find herself lost in the brushstrokes of my mural. I looked at the ground, playing with a blade of grass as I waited to be addressed. “These ponies here. What are they?”

“That one is a hippocampus,” I tentatively reached out with my hoof, almost bumping Luna’s as she retracted her own. Breaking into a sweat, I narrowly avoided contact. “They’re legendary ponies that live in the ocean. A-and those are aponies, tiny ponies from myths who have butterfly wings and live in flowers. There’s a hippogryph...” my eyes widened as I realized I couldn’t shut my mouth, and proceeded to explain every detail of the work. “And this is a thestral.” I finally clapped a hoof over my mouth as I let the last bit slip.

“Thestral?” Luna had sat stock still in the grass up until now. Her eyes were wide in surprise, then narrowed slightly.

“Yes,” I croaked, trying to act like they were just another of my depicting fairytale creatures. “They’re part dragon, part pony.”

“We know what they are,” she almost growled, glaring at the ground. I trembled, seeing fiery hate burn at the mere mention of their name. “Thestrals are not merely from legend. They are as real as we are.” She stomped a hoof meaningfully. “They tried to attack Equestria by stealing the Elements of Harmony early in their development. We vanquished their evil alongside sister.” She looked on, chest puffed out, looking more regal than ever.

“Oh?” was all I could manage, shuddering again.

“Yes. That was before even the time of Discord, when the Tree of Harmony was a mere sapling.”

“Tree of Harmony?”

“The Elements grew on the Tree of Harmony like fruit. Its power was enough to keep the balance, but then the thestrals attacked it in an attempt to control the balance; to tip it in their favor. They were destroyed, but they caused enough damage to upset the balance, allowing Discord to take over. When the elements finally matured, we returned with sister to properly harness the elements and trap the tyrant forever in stone.” I looked down at the ground, wide eyed and shaking. So this was how we were remembered. We were listed among those who tried to destroy Equestria. I closed my eyes, salty tears stinging the corners. A liar would always be caught. How much time did I have until I too was locked in stone for an eternity? Until my friends thought of me like a criminal? Until the world saw who I really was?

“Though... the painting is still lovely,” Luna tried, noticing my distress.

“Th-thank you,” I haltingly spat, rising to my hooves. My fate was hanging in the balance, and she thought this was about a painting? “I really should get back to it.” I marched back into the shop, thundered up the stairs and buried my face in the sheets, body racked with sobs. Luna did not try to return or press further.


No one came to check up on me, and I was okay with that. Everyone naturally assumed I was sore about not getting an element, though I tried to assure them this was not so. Every time the subject was brought up, though, I felt myself becoming more envious, and my answers became snappy. It was a full week before the subject was dropped completely.

We fell back into the normal routine of life. Of course, life is never ‘normal.’ We had a good deal of excitement packed into the month to follow. I’d been busy stockpiling enough inventory to open my store, which Pinkie Pie had already dubbed ‘Acrylic’s ArtLife.’ I was finally warming up to Twilight, though a few shreds of jealousy still remained. I’d tried to weed out most of it, but the roots had grown too deep to be completely removed. I was always polite, but it prevented us from really bonding. So when Twilight appeared in town one day with two Grand Galloping Gala tickets, I just knew it wasn’t going to be me accompanying her.

I was purchasing a fresh arrangement of flowers for my bedroom, and another two baskets of those with intense colorings I could dry and grind down to a pigment for paint. I already had starch to use as a binder, but my next stop was to pick up linseed oil. I found that it produced a better texture. I was wondering whether I should use citrus thinner or turpentine as a solvent in the next batch when Pinkie squealed so loudly behind me I jumped, my wings almost sprouting then and there.

“AH!!! Bats! Bats on my face! HELP! Get ‘em off, get ‘em off! Wait! These aren’t... tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala?! It's the most amazing incredible tremendous super-fun wonderful terrifically humongous party in all of Equestria! I've always always always wanted to go!” With that, Pinkie began bouncing around, dancing and interacting with imaginary characters from her imagination. Carnival music played to her vocals, and I again looked around to find the source of the music.

“Oh the Grand Galloping Gala is the best place for me,

“Oh the Grand Galloping Gala is the best place for me!

“Hip hip,

“Hooray!

“It's the best place for me,

“For Pinkieeeee!

“With decorations like streamers and fairy-lights and pinwheels and piñatas and pin-cushions. With goodies like sugar cubes and sugar canes and sundaes and sun-beams and sarsaparilla. And I get to play my favorite-est of favorite fantabulous games like Pin the Tail on the Pony!

“Oh the Grand Galloping Gala is the best place for me,

“Oh the Grand Galloping Gala is the best place for me!

“‘Cause it's the most galarrific superly-terrific gala ever

“In the whole galaxy

“Wheee!!”

Her musical ended, but she continued bouncing.

“Oh thank you, Twilight, it's the most wonderful-est gift ever!”

“Um, actually...” Spike retrieved the tickets, just in time to catch Rarity’s eye as she walked by.

“Are these what I think they are?”

“Um...”

“Yes! Twilight’s taking me to the Grand Galloping Gala in Canterlot!”

“The gala? I design ensembles for the gala every year, but I've never had the opportunity to attend. Oh, the society, the culture, the glamour! It's where I truly belong, and where I'm destined to meet him.”

“Him! ...Who?” Pinkie Pie asked, head cocked.

“Him. I would stroll through the gala, and everyone would wonder, ‘who is that mysterious mare?’ They would never guess that I was just a simple pony from little old Ponyville. Why, I would cause such a sensation that I would be invited for an audience with Princess Celestia herself, and the princess would be so taken with the style and elegance that she would introduce me to him, her nephew: the most handsome, eligible unicorn stallion in Canterlot. Our eyes would meet; our hearts would melt. Our courtship would be magnificent. He would ask for my hoof in marriage, and of course I would say, ‘Yes!’ We would have a royal wedding, befitting a princess, which is what I would become upon marrying him, the stallion of my dreams. Twilight, I simply cannot believe you would invite Pinkie Pie so she can... party, and prevent me from meeting my true love. How could you? Hmph!” I rolled my eyes, sliding the coins across the booth countertop to pay for the flowers before joining them.

“Hey!” Spike exclaimed, a little white rabbit whisking by and taking the tickets.

“Oh, Angel, these are perfect!” A familiar voice sounded, telling me I didn’t have to chase down the rabbit after all. I now recognized the bunny as Fluttershy’s pet, whom she had introduced me to at the first chance she got. The rabbit wasn’t nearly as pleasant as his owner, so we didn’t get along very well.

“Listen, guys. I haven’t decided who to give the tickets to yet,” Twilight voiced.

“You haven’t?” Pinkie and Rarity both exclaimed in unison.

“Um, excuse me, Twilight? I would just like to ask, I mean, if it would be alright...”

“You? You want to go to the gala?” Rarity sounded shocked at Fluttershy, who painfully noticed this and shrank back.

“Oh, no. I mean, yes, or, actually, kind of. You see, it's not so much The Grand Galloping Gala as it is the wondrous private gated garden that surrounds the dance. The flowers are said to be the most beautiful and fragrant in all of Equestria. For the night of the gala, and that night alone, would they all be in bloom... and that's just the flora! Don't get me started on the fauna. There's loons and toucans and bitterns, oh my! Hummingbirds that can really hum, and buzzards that can really buzz. White-blue jays, and red jays, and green jays, pink jays and pink flamingos!”

“Gee, Fluttershy... that sounds... beautiful.”

“Let me guess. You want the extra ticket too,” Twilight’s flat voice sounded, turning to me, looking frustrated.

“Now wait just a minute!” Rainbow Dash swooped in from the roof of a building we currently stood under.

“Rainbow Dash! Were you following me?”

“No! I mean, yes. I mean, maybe. Look, it doesn’t matter. I couldn’t risk a goody four-shoes like you giving that ticket away to just anypony.”

“Wait just another minute!”

“Applejack! Were you following me too?”

“No. I was followin’ this one to make sure she didn’t try any funny business. Still tryin’ to take my ticket!”

“Your ticket?!”

“But Twilight’s taking me!”

“No, me!”

“But Twilight said-” As they argued over who would get the extra ticket, Twilight sunk to the ground and tried to bury her face under those long bangs of hers. My eyes narrowed. I reared back, coming down hard to send an earth shattering CRUNCH through everypony’s ears.

“STOP!” I neighed, leaving impressions where my hooves had smashed the ground.

“Thank you,” Twilight sighed, getting over her shock. I nodded, cheeks hot as all other eyes were still on me. My hooves shuffled as I attempted to fill the hoof prints back in with dirt.

“I just don’t get why you’re all going gaga over tickets,” I bashfully shrugged.

“Tickets? TICKETS? These are no ordinary tickets, Acrylic. These are Grand Galloping Gala tickets. It’s only the most prestigious event of the year!” I still shrugged. I’d never heard of the event, secluded as I was with the thestrals.

“Girls, there’s no use in arguing.

“But Twilight-” Rarity tried.

“Enough!” Twilight boomed. “This is my decision, and I’m gonna make it on my own! And I certainly can’t think with all this noise.” Her stomach growled rather loudly. “Not to mention hunger! Now go. Shoo!” Everypony else grumbled, but I felt my lips curling into a smile as I trotted off. That was certainly one way to handle it. Twilight was growing on me. “And don’t worry! I’ll figure this out,” Twilight called after them.

I finished my errands and walked back with Rarity, as our shops were almost neighboring. She kept going on and on about the gala and what a great event it was. She was so sure that Celestia’s nephew, Prince Blue Blood, was her one true love, and kept ranting that Twilight was trying to keep them apart. I only rolled my eyes. These scenarios she posed were highly hypothetical, and what’s more- she’d never even met the guy! I had nothing against finding that very special somepony, but honestly, this was a bit melodramatic.

My thoughts began to drift as I tuned Rarity out. Could I ever find a very special somepony? Rarity was rubbing off on me, and I envisioned myself in a grand ballroom at the Grand Galloping Gala. Perhaps I could bring a sketchbook, and capture my evening with good old fashioned pencil and paper. As I looked up for the next one, he’d be standing there, my perfect stallion.

I shook myself out of it. I could never find love. I was a thestral. Nopony liked thestrals but other thestrals, and I had never met one that wasn’t full of hate and contempt for Celestia and her subjects. I didn’t want to be any part of that. Perhaps I was just meant to be alone.

These thoughts were torn from my mind when I realized that Rarity was now plotting a scheme to convince Twilight to give her the ticket.

“It’s perfect! All I have to do is convince Twilight that she looks absolutely smashing in the dress I’ve made for her. When she sees how fabulous the two of us will look in our matching outfits, she’ll have to choose me!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I stopped her. “You’re forgetting that these are Twilight’s tickets. You heard her. She’s going to make the decision by herself.”

“Well, well. Aren’t you a party pooper? Are you trying to keep me from my prince, too?”

“What? No, no, Rarity! Look, I respect that you really want to get together with this guy, but let’s face it: you’ve really never met him.”

“But I know it in my heart that we’re destined to rule together!” She huffed angrily and trotted off. “Though I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tears stung at my eyes as I looked back at her, horrified. My curved ears flattened so much that I felt their tips touching my neck. Rarity realized the weight of her words.

“Oh, no, dear, I didn’t mean it like that,” Rarity tried, offering a consoling hoof. I pulled away.

“Forget it.”

“Oh, my.” I left her by herself in the road as I hurried home. She was right, and I knew it, but coming from her, my closest friend, the words stung.

I was so sore with her that I hung my hat up in the closet for the rest of the day. Somehow, I felt like I was getting back at her by not wearing it. Before going back downstairs, I emptied my saddlebags and replaced the dead flowers in my beside vase with fresh ones. That done, I trotted out the door around the back where I had been drying flowers. I took down the last batch and hung up the new ones. Depositing these on the countertop inside, I hustled back up the steps when I realized I was missing my mother’s old mortar and pestle. It was a family heirloom, and had intricate thestral carvings at the base. While it was more decorative than I needed, it was perfectly adequate to allow me to start grinding the dried petals to pigment.

It was almost evening when a sudden flash of light resonated from the center of my shop, and I reared in fright. Oh. It was just Twilight and Spike. Wait. Twilight and Spike.

“O-o-oh, warn me the next time you’re gonna do that,” Spike woozily bumbled. They had landed on the center table, which he promptly fell off of.

“I didn’t even know it was gonna happen. Now- Oh, Acrylic.” I was staring blankly at them from behind the counter. “Thank goodness! Sorry to drop in on you like this, but now everypony in Ponyville wants my extra ticket, and since you’re the only pony who wasn’t interested in going to the gala, this is the only safe place I knew to go and... wait, you didn’t want the ticket too, do you? I never actually got a straight answer from you.”

“Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it,” I finally answered. She groaned.

“Ooh, not you too! I just can’t decide!”

“Let me finish,” I interrupted. “I would like to go- I’ve never really heard much about it, but the way everypony keeps talking it up makes it sound amazing. But, I don’t expect you to give me your one ticket either. After all, that’s what best friends do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m just facing the facts. We aren’t as close as some ponies. I respect you and you respect me, but I wouldn’t expect you to choose me above everypony else wanting the ticket.

“Oh, I see,” Twilight angrily snorted, jumping off the table. I was caught off guard by her sudden mood swing. “You’re trying to guilt me into giving you the ticket, aren’t you? Well, I really don’t appreciate it, especially not now. Come on, Spike.” She marched to the door, levitating the baby dragon onto her back. She turned from the doorway. “And for what it’s worth, you are one of my closest friends.” She bolted away, leaving me wide eyed inside.

My heart pounded in my chest, and tears pricked at my eyes. Did she really think of me as one of her closest friends? I’d never really been close to anypony before. Rarity and I spent a lot of time together, sure, but there were times when I thought she just kept me around because I’d put up with her gossip. And when I was together with the rest of them, I couldn’t help but feel like I was going unnoticed in the background. But Twilight… she was my friend.

“TWILIGHT!” I threw the door aside and gazed out into the night. She’d already disappeared, probably headed for the library. My jaw was set in determination. I turned back only long enough to retrieve my hat. Then I went after her. After all, she was my friend, and I had to make things right.