• Published 26th Mar 2015
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The Road Home - Pen Stroke


Discord tosses Twilight and her family into an unexpected adventure while the rest of Twilight's friend get to work on the new crystal palace. All together, they'll do everything to ensure that Twilight and her family have a place to call home.

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Filly Scout Cookies

The Road Home

By Pen Stroke

Preread, Edited, and Reviewed By

Illustrious Q, BronyWriter, SaturnStar14, Applejack-fan

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Chapter 7

Filly Scout Cookies

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“I’m sorry girls! Can’t talk right now! Super duper friend emergency in town! It involves Fluttershy’s animals, a garden, power tools, a sculpture of Fluttershy, and Applejack’s temper. We all know none of those mix, and if I don’t insert some smiles into the situation stat, it will get seriously serious straight away!”

Neither Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, nor Twist had said a word to Pinkie Pie. Yes, they had been heading up to the castle to talk to her. Apple Bloom had even opened her mouth to hail Pinkie when they saw her galloping towards them down the road. But Pinkie’s strange intuition beat them to the punch, and the four fillies were left standing silent.

They watched Pinkie as she continued to gallop towards town. From where they stood, on the road that approached Night Stone Castle, they could see most of Ponyville along with the new palace. Yet, the palace looked very different from where they stood. The area behind the palace looked like it had been walled off, or rather dammed off, by beavers. They couldn’t see much else of what was going on, but Pinkie’s additional words left much to the imagination.

“Should we just turn around?” Apple Bloom asked. Her saddlebags shifted a little as she turned, the contents inside loose. She was also the only one in the group carrying a bag, for the things they had to carry were still very few in number. “I mean, we came up here to talk to Pinkie Pie, and there’s no Pinkie Pie up here.”

Sweetie Belle squinted and lifted a hoof to her brow, trying to keep track of Pinkie’s movements as she became little more than a pink dot parkouring across Ponyville. “Well, we don’t know how long she’ll be gone. We could just wait to see if she comes back.”

“I like that idea better than walking back to town,” Scootaloo said, drawing a nod of agreement from Twist before the four continued up the road. Once more the castle found itself playing the temporary shelter for hundreds of ponies. All of the out of town volunteers had been given beds to sleep on and food to eat to thank them for their effort, food and bedding that itself was donated. All of Equestria seemed particularly willing to give to the mares who defeated the magic stealing Tirek as well as Equestria’s newest princess.

“This place looks pretty plain considering Pinkie Pie’s in charge.” Sweetie Belle poked her head into the castle’s main hall, which was where everypony was sleeping on beds with hay mattresses and thick blankets to cover said hay. “Where’s all the streamers and balloons?”

“Applejack told me last night that Pinkie’s been running this all like a big camp out. So less balloons and streamers, more campfires, spooky stories, and s'mores,” Apple Bloom said.

Scootaloo made a deep, throaty laugh. “Hah, I bet the stories aren’t even that scary, but the s’mores sound delicious.”

“That reminds me, you girls should try my new brownie recipe. It’s a chocolate brownie on a graham cracker base with swirls of marshmallow. It’s super yummy,” Twist said, beaming in pride as she remembered how successful the particular recipe was.

“Can we stop talking about s’mores. All it’s doing is making me hungry, and we need to be focusing on getting a blue ribbon for the treasure book.”

“What’s all this about a blue ribbon?”

The four fillies turned to the unexpected voice, seeing a tall dark stranger leaning against a nearby corridor. At the moment his voice was dark, almost brooding with its intensity. The stranger was in a gray and white patterned poncho with a dark gray cowpony hat. Yet, the four fillies began to smile as the figure tilted his chin up, revealing a bright smile and gamboge colored coat.

“Cheese Sandwich!” the four fillies cheered, all of them easily remembering the grand party the stallion threw for Rainbow Dash, even if they didn’t get to see all of it because of their bedtimes. The four rushed up to him, broad smiles on their faces as they looked up at the stallion.

“What are you doing here?” Scootaloo asked.

“Well, I heard Pinkie Pie was rounding up ponies for positively ponirific project, and I wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was about. What about you four? What brings you to Ponyville?”

“We live here,” Twist answered.

Cheese tossed his head back, causing his hat to fall onto the back of his neck. His now freed curly brown mane poofed up, and the head of a rubber chicken stuck out at a weird angle. “Whoops, don’t mind Boneless Two, he’s just not feeling very talkative right now,” Cheese said as he tucked the chicken back into the depths of his curly mane. “He’s taking the loss of Boneless One pretty hard.”

Scootaloo leaned in and whispered quietly to Apple Bloom. “Who’s Boneless One?”

“The rubber chicken that turned into Pinkie’s key for the box thing,” Apple Bloom replied back in an equally quiet whisper. Scootaloo made an O shape with her mouth, and nodded in understanding while Apple Bloom turned her attention back to Cheese Sandwich. “Cheese Sandwich, we were going to ask Pinkie Pie this, but maybe you can help. We’re looking for a first prize blue ribbon for a tug of war competition.”

“And a kazoo,” Twist added.

Cheese rubbed his chin. “An interesting combination for a request, but you fillies are in luck. As a properly stocked party planner, I’ve got plenty of ribbons in hundreds of colors. Just tell me the kind of tug of war game you’re going to be running, and I’ll’ recommend the perfect prize ribbon. And should I assume the kazoo is to signal the tuggers to tug.”

“We need them to replace a ribbon and kazoo that our friend lost,” Scootaloo said. She flipped open a flap on Apple Bloom’s saddlebags and then withdrew a blue ribbon. “We were all on the same team, so we brought one of our own ribbons.”

Cheese took the ribbon, tossing it around his hooves a few times as he inspected it with a discern eye. “A number five style blue ribbon from Ribbon Reverie’s Ribbons, one of the largest suppliers in Equestria. It was made in the Manehatten factory, a mail-in order from the looks of it. Yes, the design identifying this as a tug-of-war ribbon is one of the stock designs from the company. It’s a quality ribbon. I prefer to get my prize ribbons from the Perfect Prize Company, but Ribbon Reverie’s Ribbons do good work too.”

“Do you have a spare one?” Apple Bloom asked.

“I don’t, but let me ask you. How soon do you need this ribbon?”

The four fillies glanced at one another, truthfully unsure of their timeline. Sweetie Belle then answered by saying, “We probably need it before the palace is done, because that’s when Nyx should be coming back to town.”

“That’s not enough time to order one, but a party pony always knows what to do in a pinch,” Cheese said with a bright smile. “Here’s what ya do. Order the replacement ribbon, and then give your friend one of your ribbons. That way, you can give her the complete present when she comes back, and one of you gets the brand new replacement ribbon in a week or two.”

Apple Bloom slipped her own ribbon back into her saddlebags. “Okay, that works for the ribbon, but what about Nyx’s kazoo?”

“That, my little ponies, is something I can provide,” said Cheese Sandwich. “Just tell me what color you need, and I’ll get you one of the highest quality kazoos to be found in all of Equestria.”

“What color was Nyx’s kazoo?” Sweetie Belle asked.

The group stood in silent contemplation for a few moments before Twist raised a hoof. “Oh! I think it was red!”

Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo nodded in agreement, and then all four looked to Cheese Sandwich. The stallion had pulled his hat back onto his head, and his smile had fallen back into a grim, desperado frown. “Alright, meet me back here at sunset, and I’ll have your merchandise.”

“We’re not supposed to stay out that late unless we’re with somepony,” Apple Bloom said.

Cheese’s smile returned to his face. “Oh, yeah, silly me. How about an hour from now, at four o’clock? That work?”

Once more, the four fillies nodded their heads in unison. Cheese returned the nod and once more returned to his dark demeanor as he walked away, heading deeper into Night Stone castle. “Then I’ll see you at four.”

“He’s a strange one,” Apple Bloom said as the four fillies turned to leave, their task at the castle done for the time being. “Still, what’s next on the list?”

“We need to find Rarity. If I’m going to make Nyx a new crusader cape, we have to ask her to make a little more of that special golden silk of hers,” Sweetie Belle answered.

~~~

“I am so sorry. I couldn’t imagine they’d do all this.”

Fluttershy had returned from her cottage, saddlebags laden with all kinds of seeds for the garden. She had been gone longer than she expected, over three hours, and in that time her animals had gone a little overboard. It was hard to understand how it all came to be. Yet, from Applejack, Rarity, and Angel, she had been able to discern at least the gist of what had happened.

Under Angel’s command, her friendly animals had invaded the construction site. They chased off the ponies, stole tools, and confiscated building supplies. Then, when the mice returned with the stolen property line paperwork from city hall, they began tearing up the back yard trying to construct the animals’ vision of a perfect garden for themselves. Something that didn’t align with Rarity’s designs or Applejack’s work schedule.

The whole situation would have probably broken down into a fight if not for Pinkie Pie. She arrived just in time to keep tempers from boiling over until Fluttershy could return to see what chaos her animals had wrought.

“I’ve told all my animal friends to go home, and I promise you Angel is going to be grounded for a week for taking this so far.”

Angel, who had been standing next to Fluttershy like a punished child, tapped on her hoof. When she turned to look, Angel was giving her one of the cutest, pleading faces she had ever seen from the small bunny. Fluttershy’s face began to shift from firm to saddened, like ice melting away. Those big bunny eyes, his cute little nose, and he just looked so sorry. How could she stay angry at that? Maybe grounding was too extreme. They did have good intentions, they just got carried away and—

The sound of Applejack clearing her throat caught Fluttershy’s attention. She looked to her friends, seeing Rarity and Applejack staring her down with stern expectation. She put on a big smile, and chuckled a little before looking back down at Angel. She spoke with a scolding voice, though her heart wasn’t in it. “Now go on home, and I expect to find you in your little rabbit house. You are grounded for a week, mister.”

Though he kicked the ground in protest, Angel did as he was told and began bouncing back towards the cottage. Fluttershy watched him for a few moments, then looked back to Rarity and Applejack. “Again, I’m so sorry girls. I know I kind of encouraged this, but I just thought we’d plant some pretty flowers and hang some small bird houses. I didn’t know they would go so overboard.”

“Well, I suppose there is no reason dwelling on it now,” Rarity said as she looked to the mess left behind by the animals. “But I’m afraid we can’t just leave this mess like it is either. We’ve either got to try and put things back the way they were or do a proper garden.”

Applejack turned her head sharply, looking at Rarity like the word “insanity” had just been stamped on her horn. “And where exactly do ya expect us to find the time for that? We already lost half a day because of this! The day shift volunteers will be heading up to the castle for dinner by the time we even get everything put back the way it was.”

“I can appreciate that,” Rarity argued. “At the same time, we can’t leave this mess the way it is. It’s an unsightly, half-finished disaster. Frankly, I’d even say it would be easier to finish a proper garden then to try and undo what has been done.”

“Oh, of course you’d say that. You’ve been wanting a garden since this whole thing started.” Applejack snapped her jaw shut, as if trying to prevent the escape of more antagonistic words. She then turned and began stomping off, huffing and puffing like a boiler that was ready to blow.

“Uh... Applejack, where are you going?” Fluttershy asked as gently as she could.

“To buck some apple trees before I end up bucking somepony in the head!”

“But what about the palace?”

“The night shift forepony knows what he needs to have everypony do,” Applejack shouted back, continuing to stomp away. Fluttershy and Rarity glanced at one another, and reached a silent agreement. After the animal-induced headache Applejack had endured that afternoon, letting her blow off some steam would be the best course of action.

“Well then, I suppose we had better start figuring out what we want to do with the castle gardens,” Rarity said. She gave her head a little toss, motioning for Fluttershy to follow her back to the design tent. “Tell me, do you recall if any of our volunteers have experience with exterior landscaping?”

“I think there were a couple,” Fluttershy answered.

“Good, be a dear and find Rainbow Dash. She’s been flying back and forth attending to errands with a few other pegasi. Have her go ask Pinkie Pie which of our volunteers have that experience, then have Rainbow Dash tell them all to come to the design tent.”

“But wasn’t Pinkie Pie just down here, trying to keep Applejack from chasing off my animals?” Fluttershy asked.

Rarity nodded as she and Fluttershy passed into the shade of the design tent. “She was, but I haven’t seen her in a while. I can only assume she’s gone back to Night Stone Castle.”

With that, Rarity and Fluttershy’s conversation grew muffled, but a certain pink pony had heard all she needed to. Pinkie Pie opened the front door of the crystal palace wider, poking her head out with a wide smile. “Phase 2 of Operation Knight Kitchen is a go. Just have to wait for the next shift to arrive, and with some proper baked bribery, that party-quality kitchen will be ready to go by morning!”

~~~

Discord sat back in a chair, his hind legs up on the game table while he used his tail to adjust and reposition the pieces. He was sipping at a cup of what a bystander might mistake as hot chocolate, but the boiling stew within was as hot as lava. Any normal cup would have melted, and the marshmallows were nothing but charred, burnt specks. It was just the thing for him to enjoy before turning in for the night. After all, his little adventurers were all starting to nod off, and he wasn’t going to be so cruel as to send the hordes after them in their sleep.

Yes, he was being a kind and benevolent master of the world. After all, the goal wasn’t to put them through soul hardening trials and tribulations. At least, that was not a primary goal. All he was doing was buying time, and one did not need to bring the world to the brink of destruction to do that. A perfect example was the bad encounter roll Twilight’s party had received. For a roll like that, he should have dropped one gigantic, unstoppable monster on their heads. Instead, he sliced up the danger into smaller pieces.

It made the threat much more bite sized.

Stretching and scratching, Discord let his eyes wander from his gameboard to the horizon. Ponies would call the view from the mountain top spectacular, especially earth ponies. A view from the heavens that let them keep their hooves on solid terra firma. For Discord, however, he couldn’t help but see the showboating work of one particular princess.

“I see you’re hamming it up with the sunset again, Celestia, with all those reds, oranges, and blues. Why don’t you mix it up for once and throw in some—”

Discord was cut off by something he honestly didn’t expect: a knock at a door. He sat up from the chair that had grown next to the game table, craning his neck. He hadn’t even noticed his little seedling had grown a door, yet there it was. At the bottom of a long staircase was a large pair of extra-tall double doors. The knock came again, proving to Discord he hadn’t just imagined it.

“Well, isn’t this delightfully unexpected?” Discord downed the remainder of his hot lava with burnt marshmallows, then ate the cup as well before approaching the staircase. He took a seat on the banister, then used his tail to make a small snap. In an instant, the banister began to move, carrying him downward in a smooth, almost regal manner before coming to a slow, smooth stop at the bottom.

“Thank you good man, have a tip.” Discord tossed a bit at the banister, one it caught with and ate with a previously nonexistent mouth. The banister gave a small, grateful burp while Discord himself placed a claw on the door and opened it just enough for to stick his head out.

Two ponies were standing on the recently grown doorstep. One was a little filly, pink like a rose with a pair of rectangular glasses. She was wearing a green Filly Scout's hat and sash. Next to her was a very large stallion, in height and gut, with bark brown coat and a saw for a cutie mark. He was carrying saddlebags laden with numerous boxes.

“Hello?” Discord said, rolling the word slowly in his mouth.

The little filly retreated behind the older stallion. “G-grandpa... is that?”

“Yes, but don’t vorry.” The stallion gave her a little nudge. “Just do as you practiced on the vay here.”

The little filly nodded, then cleared her throat and looked Discord in the eye. “Hello sir, I am Pink Rose of Manehatten Filly Scout troop number twenty-three. I came to sell cookies in Lumberton with my grandfather, and we heard from a pegasus about your new home. What better way is there to celebrate a newly... um... grown home than delicious Filly Scout Cookies?”

Discord opened the door a little further, leaning his back against the frame as he crossed his paw and claw. “You came all the way out here to sell cookies?”

Under Discord’s gaze, Rose began looking down at her tiny hooves as if they were the most interesting things in the world. She tried to look back up at him a few times, opening her mouth a little as if to form a word. But the second she made eye contact, she’d look straight back at the ground. This continued for a good ten seconds before her grandfather stepped in.

He was really not what Discord thought of when he imagined a grandfather. Instead, he was a stallion in the middle of his life. Likely, he was a father who had a child young who, in turn, had a child of his or her own at an equally young age. “Yes sir. Ya see, I love this daughter of my daughter so much. She’s my little Spring Rose. So, vhen my daughter asked if I could help vith cookie sales, how vas I to say no? She’s sold to just about everypony in Lumberton.”

“But I’m still behind Golden Shoe,” Rose managed to say, some strength returning to her voice as she exchanged staring at her hooves for looking at her grandfather. “She’s going to sell the most cookies again this year and get a new scooter, and she doesn’t even really want it. She’s got a new scooter last month. She just doesn’t want the rest of us to have it.”

“Ah, do not fear my Spring Rose. She vill not vin.”

“I thought her name was Pink Rose,” Discord said, smiling like he was watching a comedic routine.

“Grandpa Jack always gives little ponies like me nicknames.”

“Jack... as in Lumber Jack, the pony who has that lovely little tree and log emporium in Canterlot every winter?” Discord asked, his body suddenly bursting with pine branches as he stood up straight, looking truly like a tall tree to the two ponies.

“Ah, you’ve heard of me. Vell, I guess that vould make sense. You friends vith Twilight Sparkle, no? Her family is one of my best customers. Night Light has very good eye for fire color. Still, Discord, how ‘bout some cookies? They are delicious. Ve have all the kinds. Ve have the Mint Mountains. Ve have the Laugherdoodles. Ve have the Two-Steps. They good for anything! Tell him, Spring Rose.”

“Oh... uh...,” Rose stumbled a moment, then took in a deep breath and tried to mimic her grandfather’s sale savvy. She was now able to meet Discord’s eyes, as if her grandfather was emitting an aura of infectious courage. “Yes, they are good with milk, and great for parties. Everypony loves Filly Scout Cookies!”

“It is true!”

Discord shook off the pine branches, which fell to the floor and scampered away like lobsters on the ocean floor. The fallen branches also revealed Discord was now wearing a sleek, pinstripe suit. He flipped a coin over and over in his claw while holding a toothpick dainty in his teeth.

“You come to me on this, the day of somepony’s daughter’s wedding, with such a request. Me, who can manifest cookies of grander quality with a thought. You come to me, and speak to me as if I’m like some other pony. That... takes spine. So much spine you probably have some vertebrae extra rolling around in yer back. So let me make you an offer you can’t refuse. I have a party I need to go to, a big one, in Ponyville. I’ll need enough cookies to sink a small boat. I imagine that such a large cookie order would help you with your... Shoe problem, but in return, I need a favor.”

“Vhat is favor?” Lumber Jack asked, his boisterous salespony bravado retracting into an uneasy caution.

“I’ll just need you be at a certain place at a certain time. Please, come in, and I’ll tell you all the details.”

~~~

“Flash, it’s getting too dark to see anything. We’re stopping to make camp.”

Flash Sentry glanced down at the locomotive that had been chugging its way across the Rainbow Range. They had stopped at Lumberton the previous evening to get some information about the area, a detailed map, and to wait out the night. When the sunrise came, they began their search in earnest, slowly making their way across the Rainbow Range as they looked for any sign of their missing royals.

So far, their search had turned up next to nothing. From the sky, all Flash could see were the train tracks directly below and the trees of the Rainbow Range extending over the landscape like a heavy green blanket. They had spotted a few trails of smoke, and he investigated each one in hopes that it was the royal family camping in the woods. But no, the camps either belonged to hikers or a group of wood cutters. The princesses they looked for always seemed to be at another campsite.

Still, despite his desire to keep on searching, Lapis Lance was right. It was getting too dark to see. The greens of the forest were becoming an inky black as the sun finished setting. The moon would soon step out from the horizon and begin its waltz amongst the stars, and while beautiful, it would not provide enough light to continue their search.

So Flash descended, circling as he glided down to the locomotive his squad had been lent for their search. Ardent, Lapis Lance, and Gem Shield were slowing the engine, letting the boiler vent its steam. The beast of pistons and pipes began to slow, eventually coming to a rest near a slightly open glade where the quartet could easily make camp.

“Gem and I will get a fire going,” Ardent said as the two ponies disembarked from the locomotive, stepping onto the soft grass just as Flash landed. Lapis stepped off the train a few moments later, carrying a carefully rolled map of the Rainbow Range. He spread it out on the ground, and began to trace his hoof before tapping at a point along the tracks.

“Looks like we’re about halfway through the mountains,” Lapis said. “I thought we’d make better time, but we were running the train at such a slow pace. We probably could have covered the same distance walking if we wanted to.”

“The slow pace is a good thing.” Flash Sentry gave the edge of the map a kick, making it roll back up into a tube. “We want to be sure we don’t miss the princesses, and once we’re on our way back we can open her up and make some better time. Besides, if we find them, I doubt the princesses will want to walk back to the Crystal Empire.”

Lapis nodded, picking up the rolled map and depositing it back on the locomotive. He then began to walk towards the front of the engine. “I suppose you’re right. Now come and help me inspect the engine while we wait for Gem and Ardent to make the fi—”

Flash had been looking at the locomotive itself when Lapis’s voice ended abruptly. He turned to see what had happened to his comrade, but Flash saw no trace. Like the volunteer in a magician's show performance, Lapis had vanished. Guard training kicking in, Flash quickly put himself on guard and began to cautiously approach the last place he had seen Lapis. In his head he was running through all the possibilities. They could be under attack from bandits, or perhaps a carnivorous magical creature native to the mountains.

Or it was a hole, from which he could hear the muffled cursing of a familiar voice.

Flash landed on the edge of the deep hole that was almost entirely hidden by the shadow of the train in the slowly growing light of Luna’s moon. He couldn’t see anything in the depths, but a moaning and cursing voice continued. “Lapis, you down there?”

“What hit me?” Lapis shouted back, his words mixing with the echoes of body shuffling against the dirt to stand up.

“Gravity,” Flash answered back, wishing now they had a unicorn with them. Still, he retreated to the train for just a few moments before returning with some glowing crystals from their supply bags. He tapped the two crystals together, causing them to glow even brighter as their magnetic magic activated. He then dropped them into the hole, letting them tumble down to provide Lapis with light.

“Ow!”

And, unintentionally, a new dent in his helmet.

“Sorry,” Flash shouted down into the hole, now illuminated from the bottom by the two crystals. He could see Lapis standing on his four hooves, rubbing the spot on his helmet where the crystals had hit. The yelp of pain had been more reactive than a sign of any real damage done, but now that there was light, the pair began to properly inspect the unexpected hole.

“This looks like a Diamond Dog tunnel,” Flash said, recognizing some of the telltale claw marks from his training.

“They’ve been known to live in the Rainbow Range,” Lapis confirmed. He picked up the two gems, balancing them in one hoof as he closely inspected the walls and the tunnel that branched off from where he landed. “I see a lot of connecting tunnels down here. It looks like it was a whole pack.”

“You don’t think this could—”

“Flash, Lapis, we found a fire pit!”

Gem and Ardent came jogging up, Ardent carrying a mostly burnt stick in his mouth. He quickly spat it to the ground. “Somepony was staying here recently, in the last few nights. And there are no signs of dirt or water being poured on the pit, meaning it was likely smothered magically.”

Flash nodded, a bit of fire in his eyes as he took to his wings. He dove into the hole, flying all the way down and grabbing up Lapis. He then flew back to the top, depositing his comrade outside the hole before landing himself. “Get more light crystals from the train. We may have just found our princesses’ campsite.”

Author's Note:

If you notice typos, please PM them to me instead of leaving them in the comments.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day, weekend, and week.