• Published 19th Mar 2016
  • 5,451 Views, 186 Comments

Carousel - Thornquill

There is a part of Ponyville’s past its citizens forgot, a part that was left to rot... until Rarity encounters a dark power in Old Town Hall.

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Chapter 3 - Housewarming

Rarity fell into the old couch with a whooshing sigh. She closed her eyes and rubbed the back of her foreleg gently across them. Every limb seemed to breathe with her as she finally let her muscles relax, although she could feel an aching in her back and neck that she knew was going to hit her even harder tomorrow.

When she opened her eyes, she could barely see the dimly outlined boards in the ceiling above her. She couldn’t wait until she could get most of that covered up, but the house’s natural darkness was doing a decent enough job of it for the time being. Outside the tall front windows, the sun was just barely fighting through a suffocating barrier of clouds which seemed to be dragging it below the horizon so they could settle over the night sky in peace. And inside the Old Town Hall, Rarity was about to be the first pony in thirty years to call it home for the night.

Rarity had never been the most patient of ponies, and when Minny had put that final bit of possibility tantalizingly within her reach, Rarity hadn’t been able to get the hall out of her head. She had constantly been daydreaming ways she might be able to renovate it and turn it into the talk of the town. Often, she became so restless that she would start sketching concepts for the building instead of the dress designs she would fill it with.

Might fill it with,” she had corrected herself, but despite her determination to approach the idea carefully, deep down she already knew she had made up her mind. It wasn’t ideal, but when was anything ever quite ideal? She knew that it would take work, sometimes long nights’ worth of it, but she had never allowed that to intimidate her in the past.

The real kicker, however, had come a little over a week after she had visited Minny. It had been a rare beauty of a morning with unfiltered sunlight cascading through her bedroom window. Her mother had made green tea and Rarity’s favorite cranberry pastries for breakfast before she had even come downstairs. After breakfast, Rarity felt the first inklings of that little itch in her mind, the nagging urge to shut everything else out, and create. So she had taken her tea, gone to her bedroom, and warmed herself up to her work by going through the fashion magazines and periodicals she had bought in Manehatten, but hadn’t yet had the heart to look at.

And then, just as she had started to sketch, her mother had come in. “Oh, hello mother,” Rarity said, her pencil freezing in the middle of its arc. Her shoulders had tensed, causing her mind to derail from the page in front of her completely. “Is something the matter?”

“Oh no, nothing, I was just wondering if I could get you anything.”

“Oh, thank you, but no, I’m fine.” Rarity turned back to her desk.

“Alright then. ...Anything I can do for you today? Maybe spruce up for you in here a little bit?”

“Really, I’m fine mother, and the room doesn’t really need it. I’m just going to work on things for awhile.”

“Oh for sure, you go right ahead, sweetheart,” her mother had said, and Rarity had hoped that would be that. But her mother didn’t go away. She had lingered, moving a little farther into the room and looking around, like she was trying to find something just out of place just so she would have something to fix. Then she moved a little towards the door, stopped, and then come over to the desk.

“Whatcha working on?” she had asked, and then Rarity knew she would be getting no work done that morning. Her mother was in one of those moods where she just wanted to be in the same room as Rarity and have something to talk about. Rarity’s frustration was always tempered by sympathy in these events; she couldn’t blame her mother for just wanting to spend a little time together. Unfortunately, Cookie never seemed to grasp that this made it thoroughly impossible for Rarity to stay “in the zone.”

And after Rarity spent the morning indulging her mother in idle conversation, she realized she would be losing entire days’ worth of work every week this way for as long as she was still living under her parents’ roof—probably more as Sweetie Belle grew and became more and more demanding.

It was time to leave the nest. In fact, it was overdue. And there she was with the best chance in two years of unemployment sitting in front of her, and she was hesitating. No, it was time for her to stop waiting for some idyllic dream, roll up her sleeves, and seize what she had by the horn. The next day, she went back to see Minny.

The rest was history. There were countless papers to sign and ponies to negotiate with and details to log with various offices, but Minny had been a star at guiding Rarity through all of it.

“I’ve also found a few more grants to alleviate the startup costs,” she had said when Rarity told her of her decision. “Since the Old Town Hall is a something of a historic property, there are a number of financial incentives you can apply for that are designed to help carry historical landmarks forward.”

She had then given Rarity some very inexpertly-designed informational booklets. “This one’s from the Canterlot Historical Society. They work to help keep properties from being lost to new development. And this one’s actually local, the Rich Historical Relevancy Grant.” Minny had rolled her eyes at that. “It’s one of Filthy Rich’s pet projects. Something about making sure old fogies obsessed with the past don’t bog down the local economy by keeping businesses out of useful buildings.”

“But won’t treating it as a historical property limit what I can do with it?” Rarity asked. She couldn’t imagine trying to run a lively design firm out of something that looked like a ghastly relic from another era. If it had been a competently-built and well-preserved example of the Gilded Age, maybe, but as it was...

“Oh, you won’t have to worry too much about that, dear,” Minny said. “It hasn’t exactly stayed untouched over the years. Far from it, really. I doubt Rich will care one way or another, and so long as you pitch it to the Canterlot Historical Society that you’re restoring it to its original beauty, I think you’ll be fine. Mayor Mare will give you an endorsement for them too, I’m sure of it.”

And to Rarity’s surprise, she had received both grants, giving her more than she had estimated to get started with. And so, a week later, her parents had helped her move in. She didn’t have much in the way of furnishings, having been constrained by the limits of her small bedroom at home, so she would need to find ways to make the huge place feel like home, and ultimately like an established business. But for now, everypony who had helped her had gone for the day and left her alone in her new home.

Home. She was home. This was home now. And despite its current disheveled state, Rarity couldn’t help but feel excited at the prospect.

* * *

Rarity tapped the steaming cup in front of her idly. The table she sat at was littered with rough sketches, most of them accentuated by vibrant grease-pen markings in almost every color combination imaginable. Pursing her lips, she shook her head and shuffled them back into a stack, then laid them on the chair beside her. She glanced up at the cafe’s clock. It wasn’t like Fluttershy to be late, but she was running almost ten minutes behind.

I doubt it’s anything to worry about, she thought, taking another drink from her cooling tea. Probably something came up with the animals. I hope she can still make it, though. Rarity was itching to bounce her ideas off somepony, and if she had to wait another day or two mulling over options by herself, she thought she would drive herself mad.

Just then, the door swung open and two ponies trotted inside, hurriedly shutting it against the icy draft that had followed them in. Rarity looked up and smiled when she noticed that one of them was Fluttershy, and she waved until she caught her friend’s attention. The other mare looked over as well and followed Fluttershy as she started to make her way over to Rarity.

She had an orange coat and pale yellow hair, and Rarity recognized her as the apple farmer who normally ran one of the stalls in the marketplace. Rarity recalled trying to make small talk with her on the rare occasions she had purchased produce for her parents, but the farmer had always seemed to be of a rather brusque disposition and not much for casual chatter. As she and Fluttershy came up to the table, Rarity realized with an anxious pang that she couldn’t recall the mare’s name.

“Hello Rarity,” Fluttershy said. “How are you today?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been better,” Rarity replied with a wide smile. “I think it’s finally gotten a little warmer out there too, don’t you think?”

“Warmer? Shoot, I swear old Hoarfrost is making it colder every darn day,” the other mare said with a shake of her head. Unlike Fluttershy, who wore a pale green scarf and matching earmuffs Rarity had given her last year, the farmer wore only a battered stetson hat.

Another potential customer, Rarity sang in her mind. She had a brief vision of a rustic-styled gown in green and brown—not her usual work, but it might suit the mare—before discarding it and refocusing on the conversation.

“I’m Applejack, by the way. I think I know you from around town, don’t I?” she continued, sticking an unshod hoof towards Rarity. Remnants of the gray slush that coated the road dripped from it, and Rarity carefully hooked her own around the clean part of Applejack’s ankle.

“Rarity,” she replied, feeling a surge of relief that she didn’t have to pretend to remember Applejack’s name. “Yes, my family’s frequented your apple stall for years, though I haven’t often accompanied them.”

“Much obliged to hear that all the same.” Applejack tipped her head with a wide grin.

“I took the liberty of ordering your usual, Fluttershy. Won’t you sit down, Applejack?” Rarity invited, gesturing towards the table. “I’m sure we could find another chair if you’d like to join us.”

“Thank you kindly, but I’d best be on my way. I was just heading back home from Fluttershy’s.”

“Applejack was visiting one of my collies who just had the cutest litter of puppies,” Fluttershy said. “She’s thinking of adopting one for the farm.”

“Been years since we had a good herder around,” Applejack agreed. “Poor old Brandy was the best pup you could ask for, but she lost the heart for it after... well, it’s been awhile, is what I mean to say. Besides, I figure it’d be good for AB to have another energetic young critter to run around with.”

“AB?” Rarity asked confusedly.

“Apple Bloom, my baby sister.”

“Oh, you have a little sister?” Rarity asked. “What a coincidence, I have as well. Her name’s Sweetie Belle. You wouldn’t believe the pair of lungs she’s been endowed with. I actually just moved out to get a little more peace and quiet.”

“Yeah, they sure can raise a ruckus when they’re that age,” Applejack said with a chuckle. “Where’d you move to?”

“The Old Town Hall. I’m planning on turning it into a fashion outlet of sorts.”

“Town Hall?” Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow in confusion. “You mean in the center of the market?”

“No, the smaller building down at the end of South Market Street,” Fluttershy explained. “That used to be the town hall until they built the new one.”

“Oh, that place! Is that what that used to be? Hayseed and Granny always called it the old gallery.”

“Old gallery?” Rarity asked curiously. “Whatever for?”

“Don’t know. Hayseed does some maintenance work for us on the farm, and he mentioned he took care of that place for the town for awhile. He was always threatening to quit and move away over it, so I was right glad to hear someone else had taken it on. I guess that’s you.”

“Quit? Why would he say that?”

“He just didn’t like it. I assumed it wasn’t much of a good job, being paid for by the town and all. But you gotta make ends meet somehow.” Applejack shrugged. “So, you’re turning it into a clothing store? I just might pay a visit myself. We got whole closets full of old stuff what needs fixing and replacing, and little AB’s going to be growing through outfits like nopony’s business.”

“I’d be delighted,” Rarity said, beaming.

“I’ll look forward to it then,” Applejack said, nodding. “Well, I’d better get back. It was real good to meet you, Rarity.” Turning to Fluttershy, she said, “You let me know when those little pups are ready to head out on their own, alright?”

“Of course,” Fluttershy answered with a soft smile. “See you later, Applejack.”

“Well, she seems quite pleasant,” Rarity said after Applejack had left the cafe.

“Oh yes, she’s very nice,” Fluttershy replied, sitting down opposite Rarity. “I’ve been helping her family with their animals ever since I moved to Ponyville. I hope you can help with their clothes once you open. She’s not really into fashion, but they’ve been having a hard time of it these past few years.”

“Oh, I’m certain we can work something out,” Rarity said, tossing a strand of her mane back. “Any local patronage will be a tremendous help getting started. I’m going to have a lot of expenses to recover in the next few years.”

Noticing Rarity’s sudden frown, Fluttershy asked, “Is everything ok, Rarity?”

“Oh, yes of course, darling. It’s just so much to think about. I have to try not to worry about the future too much, or it starts to get to me. This really is quite the risky endeavor, and I don’t think I could bear to face my parents if this doesn’t work out. They’ve done so much already.”

“I’m sure it will all be fine,” Fluttershy said with total sincerity. A waiter walked up and placed a fresh cup in front of Fluttershy, who thanked him and sniffed the earthy-smelling tea with relish. “So, you said you wanted my opinion on something?”

“A few things, actually,” Rarity said, pulling out a list that was heavily marked with dozens of lines scrawled in careless cursive, and almost as many frustrated scratches obliterating them. “I just can’t settle on a name,” she grumbled, nursing the half-empty cup. “You should let me know if any of those give you any ideas, but to be honest, I don’t think I’m happy with any of them. I thought of ‘Rare Designs,’ but it seems a bit uninspired. ‘The Art of the Dress’ is a bit too long, and I can’t imagine making anything catchy out of it for marketing materials. ‘Ponyville Couture,’ too plain, ‘The Threaded Gem,’ too kitschy...”

She tossed her quill aside, leaned back with a stretch, and sighed. “Honestly, I’d like to reference the design of the building and its Gilded Age origins somehow, but I really can’t think of anything. When you think of those times, you think of spring gaiety, embellishment, high society with a dash of outdoorsy sportsmanship...” She looked back at Fluttershy, who was looking at her attentively, but hadn’t said anything. “I’m so sorry, I’m boring you already, aren’t I?”

“No, not at all,” Fluttershy said sincerely.

“What do you think then?”

“Well, these are... nice,” Fluttershy said hesitantly. “But I agree, they don’t seem to quite fit you. I’m not sure I have any ideas, though.”

“Not a problem,” Rarity said, sweeping the list away and into the stack on the chair beside her. “I know something will come to me. Instead, you should tell me what you think of these color schemes. I’ve got it narrowed down to five or six, but I need an objective eye. Tell me how you think these would look at the end of the road leading to the marketplace.”

Fluttershy looked over the papers in front of her, holding up each one and squinting at it before laying it aside. “I think I like this one the best,” she finally said, tapping one with a color scheme of pale blues, purples, and pinks accented with gold. Rarity smiled.

“You know, I rather think that’s the best as well,” she said, sweeping the page up with satisfaction. “It just sings of cultured frivolity, does it not? Oh I cannot wait to get the interior done, you have no idea how dreary it is inside...”

* * *

Rarity trotted happily out of the cafe and into the marketplace. After the stress of moving and all the paperwork that came with it, she had hardly realized how much she had needed to get out and talk with somepony. As she passed the brightly clashing hues of the stalls, she amused herself with imagining different, perfectly-tailored outfits for each pony she passed.

Then she turned down the south road, and her trot slowed to a reluctant walk. Her house sat at the end of the gentle incline, its sharp lines and dark windows looking almost malignant in contrast to the lively scene she was leaving behind. It looked more like a military watchtower than anything, daring more than inviting ponies to approach it on the street. Rarity shuddered, but threw the feeling off. There was no more room for intimidation. She had taken the plunge. She had to make it work, and she could not allow the threat of failure and its consequences to slow her down anymore.

She believed that was the source of her trepidation until she came to the doorstep and laid a hoof on the frosty latch. But the moment she touched the cold metal, she was struck with the oddest sensation that she had forgotten to knock, as if she stood on the doorstep of a particularly unfriendly neighbor and was about to commit the unthinkably rude act of just waltzing in without permission.

Well, it is a new house, Rarity rationalized. It would simply take time to get used to thinking of this as “coming home.” She huffed and tried to lift the latch.

It was locked. Rarity frowned and jostled it firmly. The lock rattled, but refused to move. Rarity’s jaw dropped slightly in an angry, confused frown. She hadn’t meant to lock the door before leaving for the cafe. This was Ponyville, after all. There was hardly any threat of burglary during the daylight hours, and like her parents and neighbors, she usually indulged in the admittedly questionable habit of leaving doors unlocked when she went out. That was just the kind of town they lived in, and everypony viewed it as a sign that it was still the small, safe place they had been raised in, and not some busy, poorly-run city.

And yet, as she felt in the small pockets of the coat she wore, her confusion mounted as she grew increasingly certain that she didn’t have her key with her. Her mind launched into questions as to how she could have managed to lock the door from the outside without the key. It has to be the old lock on the latch. It must have gotten stuck or something when I shut the door. That had to be it. The lock had somehow managed to become engaged when she left, locking her out automatically.

That, however, meant that her best bet for getting back inside was through the back. She would have to wade through the unplowed and very, very deep drifts surrounding the walls. She gave the door a frustrated kick, growled, and turned away just before she heard a faint, almost imperceptible snick, followed by the groan of the door.

She turned back and stared at the entrance to her home. The door had swung inward a few inches, just enough to see inside—or for somepony to look out, she thought before suppressing the idea.

“...Well, what is the point of locking you at all if you’re just going to open on your own?” she demanded. The door, apparently, wasn’t inclined to answer. She strode inside and contemptuously kicked it shut.

As she stepped farther inside, she shivered as she felt strangely enveloped by the place. The air felt thick and heavy, almost oily. The huge, horrible curtains seemed to strangle whatever light came in even when they were as open as Rarity could get them. “They’ll be the first to go,” she grumbled to herself as she laid her coat across the couch. She trotted into the kitchen, the only room in the house where she could get good light to work by without lighting the lamps. Sitting at the table, she pulled a stack of pamphlets, catalogs, and ordering forms towards her and started going through them.

As the afternoon wore on into evening, however, the dimness inside began to intensify. She still wanted to get a few things accomplished before turning in for the night, so she decided it was a good time to try lighting the lamps. She stood up from the table with a groan and stretched her stiff muscles. She had gone to bed so early the previous night that she hadn’t bothered with the lights, but lighting the countless fixtures around her shop would be a routine she would need to get used to as quickly as possible.

She looked up at the ceiling and the four chandeliers hung at regular intervals throughout the room. They were larger versions of the one that decorated the room—her room—upstairs. It bothered her that there weren’t five or six like there ought to have been; everypony knew that proper Gilded Age architecture abhorred anything occurring in counts of four, as it evoked squares and broke the art nouveau theme present throughout. Whoever had tried to mimic it when building the Old Town Hall had been a poor student though, with all the square doors and windows that were more reminiscent of the Victorneighn period than anything else. It was something Rarity intended to correct as soon as possible.

Disregarding the flicker of annoyance, she focused on the fragile, dust-grimed chains concealed in the chandelier’s foggy crystals and tugged on them with her magic. They squeaked like startled mice as they lowered an inch or so, pulling down thin, skeletal levers and raising similar chains fixed to the opposite ends of the lever. Rarity arced her ears toward the nearest chandelier, and heard the faintest hiss of gas slithering through the delicate brass veins concealed amid the intricately decorated limbs.

Rarity sighed in relief. She had been assured her home would be reconnected to the Ponyville Gasworks by her move-in date, but one could never be sure with public services, and she dreaded the idea of spending any amount of time without so simple a modern convenience as light.

With a dry rasp, a flame snapped to life at the tip of the long match Rarity held in her magic, and she lit several others before gently floating them towards the frosted glass globes at the end of the chandelier limbs. She could have used magic to light the lamps directly, but she was far more comfortable with levitation than any other form of magic, and this was already far easier than lowering the chandeliers one by one and lighting them as an Earth Pony would have had to do. Dozens of loud pops accompanied bright flashes within the glass as the flames caught, and Rarity moved the matches down the lines until golden light filled the room.

Unfortunately, the naked flames of the old lamps illuminated the ceiling far more than the floor, and the room was left in woefully dim light even when the sconces around the walls were lit. The center of the room was practically left in shadow, far from the walls and chandeliers as it was. The flames flickered and swayed behind their cold glass shields, making the light flow and intertwine with the shadows they cast in a slightly dizzying display.

Still, it was light, and it would do for now. Rarity repeated the process in the kitchen and upstairs bedroom, where she would be doing most of her work that night before going to bed. As she lit the final lamp in her room, she looked out through the open windows and wondered what Ponyville was thinking as the Old Town Hall came to life for the first time in decades. The village had been happy to forget about the old, dark husk of a house, but now it was suddenly alive and casting its fiery light out of the windows and over the rooftops, as it to proclaim, “I’m still here.”

Even now, Rarity could see she had generated a little interest. The few ponies who were passing by on their way home slowed down or paused at the end of the walk that led to her door, tilting their heads curiously. If they had company, they would converse and gesture towards the old hall before moving on. Rarity didn’t mind. Let a little curiosity settle in, she mused. Word will spread from Minny and the others I’ve talked to. Let them nibble on rumors for a little while, and then I’ll draw them in with a spring sales floor they’ve never seen the like of.

She giggled to herself a little, imagining the coming transformation and the reaction of the town. It would be magnificent.

...It will have to be.

The streets grew quieter, and the last of the evening stragglers seemed to have found their way home as the twilight darkened into the obscurity of night. Rarity shook her head, realizing she had been daydreaming again.

“Really Rarity, you’re not going to get anything done if you can’t stay focused just a little longer,” she scolded herself. She was about to close the heavy curtains when a shadow moved at the end of the lane in the deserted marketplace. She paused, curious, as a pony walked into view and came to a stop among the closed stalls. She could just barely see it in the light that bled into the street from nearby windows. It turned its head back and forth with long pauses between the movements, as if it was looking for a familiar landmark but wasn’t finding it.

Then it turned towards her, and although she couldn’t possibly see its eyes at this distance, she thought she could imagine them settling on the bright windows of her home—on the smaller, second-story panes that shone out like little lighthouses—and on her, standing in the open with the light revealing her.

The flames in the lamps shuddered with an audible flutter, either caught in a draft the globes hadn’t quite protected them from, or briefly choked by a hiccup in the gas supply. The light dimmed and spasmed briefly before the flames returned to a stable burn. Rarity shivered with them. She didn’t know why, but she did not like the idea of that pony looking at her. It was still standing there, looking down the road, looking at her—No, at the house, not at me, she told herself.

It turned its body and started walking down the street, its chin slightly upturned as if keeping its focus on the upper windows.

Rarity backed away to the side of the window, not wanting to be noticed as she watched, but still curious to see what the pony was up to. There was something disquieting about the way it walked. She couldn’t put her hoof on it, but it moved in just such a way that it gave the impression of a slight full-body limp, as if something in its proportions or musculature hadn’t lined up quite right, and its gait couldn’t help but betray the imperfection. Every now and then, it seemed to stumble a little, or it would pause and shiver violently before continuing on. As it got closer, Rarity thought she could understand why: despite it being the beginning of an early winter night and the temperature dropping well below freezing, she began to see that the poor creature below wasn’t wearing a scrap of clothing. She let out a little gasp and put her hoof to her mouth, pity welling up in her heart.

What in Equestria are they thinking? Oh my, I have several coats tucked away in the boxes downstairs, I should—

The pony came to a stop at the end of the street, standing in the shadow of the last house across the way from the Old Town Hall. Its gaze had deviated to the lower level, and its head rocked slowly one way and then the other as it examined the house, as if puzzled by something. Now that it was so close, Rarity thought it was an Earth Pony, pink in color, though the darkness made it hard to tell for sure.

Pinkie Pie? Rarity thought, her brow furrowing in confusion. What’s she doing here? Something from Minny, maybe?

As if sensing her inquiry, the pony raised its head again, and this time, Rarity had no doubt that it was looking right at her through the window. Rarity stepped back in front of the window. It felt like she was stepping into a cold draft that was slipping through the room. She waved, trying to smile, but it felt wooden and phony. What was it about the pony’s stare that was making her breath shudder a little as it passed her throat?

The pony didn’t wave back. It simply stood there, staring, and Rarity started to feel scared. She couldn’t make out the pony’s face, but the feeling she got was like when she had been a filly and been caught by her mother mangling the new curtains, and having no doubt after merely glimpsing her mother’s face that she was the object of a terrible rage. This was worse, though. This was what it would have felt like if there hadn’t been any motherly love or affection tempering the anger: an unbridled, unreasonable wrath.

Rarity drew back quickly from the window, her breath coming hard and fast. Her legs shook a little, and she had to firmly tell herself to calm down, measuring each new breath with increasing deliberateness. She shook her head and grimaced with the ridiculousness of what she had just felt. Pinkie hadn’t been able to see her, that was all—she just hadn’t noticed her wave. She would go down and ask why Pinkie had come, and maybe share a cup of tea before sending her on her way.

Or, Rarity thought, recalling the boundless energy of the Assistant Realtor as she stepped into the dimly-lit hall, it might be best if I say I’m too tired to find where the tea things are packed tonight. She trotted down the stairs, the little flames in their globes swishing back and forth like restless tails as she passed.

But when she stepped into the main room, she froze. The front door was standing wide open, and the dark street was visible just beyond it. For a moment, she stared at it, feeling the cold wind from outside as it rolled into the room and threatened to extinguish the lamps. The flames were dancing and shuddering as if in agony from the frigid air.

Rarity blinked, then glanced around. There was no one in the room, so she strode forward and onto the doorstep, looking around with quick, stern glances. She expected to see Pinkie Pie standing somewhere nearby, her bright smile dispelling the unfriendly shadows as she bounded forward to greet Rarity. In that moment, Rarity didn’t think she would be annoyed by it in the slightest.

But Pinkie, or whoever the other pony had been, had gone, and the streets were completely empty.

Rarity looked down each road again, just to be sure. She couldn’t quite see all the way to the market now that she was on the ground level, but the road was undeniably devoid of stray ponies whose business had carried them out late in the evening. Her breath sent up clouds of mist in front of her, and she shivered with the cold. She had the uncomfortable notion that the other pony had noticed the open door and come in while she was on the stairs. It might be somewhere behind her right then. She took a long, shuddering breath, stepped back inside, and turned as she shut the door.

The empty room greeted her. The light from the lamps became still once again as the breeze stopped. Rarity tugged firmly on the old door, rattling it to be sure the latch had fallen in place, and locked it with a decisive nod. Then she sighed.

The hay with unpacking, she thought. It can wait until tomorrow. Her eyes were weak with fatigue, and it was obvious she was too distracted now for any more heavy labor that day. But before she put out the lamps and plunged her home into shadow, she couldn’t stop herself from going into every single room and closet, even down into the basement, to be sure that nopony but her was inside.