• Published 19th Mar 2016
  • 5,432 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 7 - Alone

The Canterlot Historical Society

Re: Your recent appeal

Dear Rarity,

Thank you for submitting your appeal to the board of the Canterlot Historical Society. We have reviewed the documentation you provided and are in agreement that, due to extensive alterations to the property throughout its history, responsibility for the violation of our guidelines is not yours alone.

However, we were dismayed to learn how poorly the property has been treated by the community of Ponyville throughout its history. We feel we must concur with your findings that very little of the original structure remains, and that its value as an artifact of its times was likely limited to begin with. Consequently, we have determined that it has very little worth to the Society in terms of preserving the contexts and feelings of another era.

Furthermore, we have also reviewed your original proposal. You did not provide any of the aforementioned historical information in your initial documentation, nor did you detail your intentions in sufficient specificity to justify the extent of the renovations discovered by our inspection. Without question, any of this information would have affected our original decision to dispense these funds, and we take this as evidence that you have knowingly and willfully misled the Society and used these funds without regard for our time-honored values.

In light of this, we have elected to proceed with recalling our grant.

Please find enclosed the official terms for repayment. Be advised that should you fail to meet these terms, we will have no choice but to pursue court proceedings against you for acts of fraud.

Sincerely, Past Keeper—President, Canterlot Historical Society.

For a moment, Rarity just stood by the door, holding the letter that had been dropped through the mail slot. On the floor lay the thick envelope it had arrived in, still stuffed with pages of legal jargon that bled together into black streaks as she stared down at them. A slight trembling in her limbs began to escalate as her breathing deepened. Her teeth ground together as the thin lines of her lips went white from the pressure of her scowl, and she draw in a sharp, long breath as she took the letter back to the sewing table in the middle of the room. There, she let two more loud, heavy breaths pass before she slammed the paper onto the desk, her magic shaking it with the force of a fallen crate.

She stared off into the corner of the room, continuing to breath hard and heavy as the paper crinkled in a thousand different directions from the erratic, crushing pressure of her magical grip. The edges started to smolder, and several orange spots of fire blossomed across its surface a moment later. By the time Rarity looked back, the letter had been pulled into oblivion by the fire. The shriveled scraps crumbled apart while sparks writhed like fiery worms at their edges.

It did nothing to assuage her fury. She bared her teeth and clenched her eyes a moment before shifting her grip to the scissors on the table. With a broken, grating yell, she sent them flying across the room in a whirling silver-red arc, and they struck one of the vanity mirrors dead center. Rarity had an instantaneous glimpse of her furious, tear-lined eyes leaping out at her from the silver surface before black, jagged veins exploded over the mirror and dragged its fragments out of the frame to scatter over the table beneath it.

Rarity slumped as the scissors bounced away and clattered to the floor, her anger drowned by an oncoming tide of despair. The money had already been spent on the property, the interior renovations, and the materials she planned to use to produce the first stock of clothing. There was enough left to paint the exterior and perhaps apply some more decorative touches, but not enough to repay the Society and still open the shop with any merchandise to speak of.

I can't do this. One rattling sob after another forced its way through her throat, and she staggered over to the fainting couch where she collapsed and buried her face in her forelegs.

She stayed like that as long as she could stand it. Eventually, her chest ached and her breath came long and deep. There were no more tears left in her. She felt strangely empty. No one had been around to hear as the sounds of her lonely and embattled dreams echoed and sank into the fabric hanging all around her, where they were smothered into silence against the hard, dark walls hidden beneath.

Silence. As she lay there, she could barely even hear the sounds of her slow, passionless breaths. She had envisioned a lively shop filled with customers coming and going, and herself moving nonstop to keep clothes on the racks. Even though she had nearly gotten halfway there, she found she could barely remember what that vision had felt like; it seemed so far away, so completely unreachable, like a slender silhouette standing atop a remote hill in a painting. The pleats of decorative fabric swam and coalesced above her as she lay prone, almost like the shapeless folds of a pink, enormous throat that she could fall upwards off the couch into, and become lost in the silence forever.

A series of soft knocks came from the door and broke the stillness in her mind. She blinked and turned her head slightly, looking at the cracked window just barely aglow with dingy light. She wondered what would happen if she just ignored it. Would the pony outside just open the door, come into her home, take what they wanted, and leave? It seemed little different than what had happened with every visitor prior. At this point, Rarity had the odd notion that it would be better for that to happen than for somepony to enter who wouldn’t leave at all.

But as the soft knocking repeated itself, she decided whoever was out there was determined to make sure she wasn’t allowed to marinate in her misery. With a forlorn sigh, she rolled off the couch and approach the door without bothering to check her appearance. As she unlocked and opened the door, she felt nothing at all upon seeing Fluttershy on the other side, and she couldn’t summon the energy to fake a smile.

“Hello Rarity... oh my,” Fluttershy said, her smile dying as she looked at Rarity. “Um... Is something wrong? You look upset...”

“I couldn’t even begin to tell you,” Rarity said impassively.

“Oh no... can I help? I mean, I have lots of time, if you want to talk about it... it’s really no trouble.”

“I don’t see what good that would do,” Rarity said, a nasty edge creeping into her voice. “It’s not exactly likely to change anything, is it? And I don’t see how, if I can’t figure a way out of this, how you’d be able to when I’ve been trying for days.”

Fluttershy shrank back a little, but her eyes never wavered from Rarity’s. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean I could fix things... but maybe you’d feel better if you just got it out. Sometimes that can help you find another way to deal with things.”

“Fluttershy—” Rarity started, but caught herself. Her frustration melted into guilt as she looked into her friend’s kind eyes, pleading with her to be let in, to help. Her body sagged as she let out a long breath. “Fine, just... fine...”

“Why don’t you lie down?” Fluttershy offered as she stepped inside. “I can make some tea, if you have any.”

“In the kitchen,” Rarity said, heading back to the couch.

“I won’t be a moment,” Fluttershy said, her smile so warm it actually seemed to brighten the room just a little. As she headed towards the rear alcove, she paused, lifting her head a little and sniffing. “Mmm, that smells wonderful. Did you bring in some cut evergreen?”

“I’m sorry?” Rarity asked.

“It smells like fresh pine,” Fluttershy said, taking a deeper sniff. “I sometimes buy dried boughs to freshen up my cottage. Having so many animals around can get a bit overpowering, you know?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t smell anything.” Rarity sank wearily back down onto the couch. Why did I think this would help?

Fluttershy looked at her in slight confusion, but shrugged and continued back to the kitchen. Rarity heard her looking through cabinets and setting things out, the muffled sounds of metal and porcelain filtering out into the showroom. “Um, Rarity? Do you have any matches for the stove?”

“In the first drawer to the left,” Rarity called back sleepily. She heard the faint hiss as the gas was turned on, followed almost immediately by the soft woomph as the flame caught. As Rarity closed her eyes, she thought she caught a whiff of the smell Fluttershy had noticed. There was indeed a hint of pine to it, but there was something beneath it, something... bitter. Rarity wrinkled her nose and waved a hoof, and the smell was gone.

“So how many designs have you finished?” Fluttershy’s voice echoed out.

Rarity scowled. Of all questions to start with... “Well, I’ve really been quite busy just getting this place decorated. I haven’t had much energy to work on stock yet.”

“Sorry, what was that?” Fluttershy called.

“I said, I’ve been too busy!” Rarity snapped.

“Oh... well, I’m sure getting a shop like this started takes a lot of work. But you really do need to make sure you stay rested. You’ll get everything done, I’m sure.”

As if you know how much I have left to do, Rarity thought bitterly. The conversation lapsed back into silence, and Rarity relaxed, letting her mind drift off again.

“What have ponies said about the new decor?” Fluttershy’s voice broke in again.

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” Rarity grumbled. She could almost feel the heat from the letter burning away again, doing nothing to erase its bureaucratic tripe from her mind. Fluttershy stepped into the showroom, carrying two cups of tea in her wings. The cups seemed to upset her balance, and she walked with a slight sway, almost a covert stagger, to keep them from falling. She didn’t look at Rarity, but kept her gaze stiffly fixed on something in the far corner of the showroom. She set one of the cups on the sofa, and sat down on the floor next to it holding her own. She stared over the top of it, scrutinizing the sofa Rarity laid on. Rarity frowned a little in puzzlement.

“Fluttershy?” she asked, passing her gaze over her friend again. Something seemed different about her. “Are you... doing something differently with your mane?”

“No. Why do you ask?” Fluttershy asked, looking down at her tea and taking a sip. It was very dark in the dim light, almost black.

“It looks... well, to be perfectly frank, it looks a little greasy, darling,” Rarity said, picking up her cup. She was suddenly glad of a chance to criticize something for a change. “If you’ve changed brands, I’d really recommend changing back.”

Fluttershy didn’t respond for a moment. Then, “You need to get your dresses done if you’re going to make any money with this place.”

Rarity blinked at her, her mouth opening a little in annoyed confusion. “Yes, well—”

“If anypony buys them, that is,” Fluttershy interrupted, blowing on her tea before taking another sip. “Ponies in this town don’t exactly have well-developed tastes. Then again,” she turned away and looked around the room, “I’m really not sure who you’re trying to appeal to. Isn’t this a little gaudy?”

Rarity’s mouth opened in shock. “If it’s not to your taste, you don’t have to stay,” she bit out.

“Well, it’s not like your designs ever impressed anypony before,” Fluttershy replied, taking a longer sip of tea. “Even after all the work you put into those old designs just to suck up to those other designers, they still didn’t like them. If you can’t even make cheap clothes to please somepony else, how will your original ideas get any attention? If you even have original ideas,” she ended, quirking a callous sneer at the edge of her mouth as she stared at her cup. It was almost empty.

Rarity’s vision seemed to flood with red. “Is this your idea of helping? Coming here and insulting me? If you have a better solution, I’d be delighted to hear it, since you suddenly seem to know so much about fashion!” She looked away, fearing that if she looked at her friend a moment longer, she might slap her. She gripped the mug in an angry aura, jerked it to her lips, and drank.

She gagged. The tea was thick, viscous, and oily. Her stomach revolted against the noxious, bitter, musty taste that coated her tongue. She jerked her head away from the cup, desperate to find some water to wash away the taste, and saw Fluttershy sitting right beside her. Fluttershy was looking at Rarity with a tiny, placid smile fixed on her face. Her teal irises were barely perceptible under the vast circles of thick blackness that bloomed from the center of her eyes.

“Just give up,” Fluttershy said, her voice ever so slightly muffled, as if she was speaking through a thin curtain of still water. The blackness in her eyes seemed to bleed outward, and the last traces of color vanished as Fluttershy’s smile broadened, her teeth a solid wall of matte white. Rarity shoved herself back against the couch, gasping to scream but choking on the rancid taste still filling her mouth. She dropped the mug and kicked it to the floor where it shattered. She felt something cold and wet, and she looked down to see thick, black liquid coating her rear hoof, sticking to it like glue.

“Rarity?” Fluttershy asked, her voice puzzled. Rarity turned away, biting her foreleg and dragging her tongue across her fur to try and purge the taste. She didn’t want to look at Fluttershy. She couldn’t comprehend what she had seen. She heard hoofsteps approaching from behind her, and she whirled around, eyes wide and staring.

“Stay away!” she snapped, twitching a hoof back in preparation to strike. Fluttershy was now standing several paces from where she had been sitting. She was looking at Rarity with a frightened expression, her clear, teal eyes shrinking in surprise as she backed away another few steps.

“Rarity?” she asked again. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

Rarity sprang up, advancing on Fluttershy with a scowl. Fluttershy’s voice fell away with a stutter, and she cowered back as Rarity drew up to her. Rarity barely had to presence of mind to notice that Fluttershy had picked the mugs of tea back up and was holding them in her wings.

“I don’t know what you think you’re playing at,” Rarity said, her voice low and cold. “I don’t know if you think this is funny or if you’re just being idiotic, but if you think you can come into my home and, and...” she glanced down at the mugs, “...try to poison me with that swill,” she exclaimed, reaching out and smacking one of the cups to the floor. Fluttershy was so shocked, she jerked back and dropped the other mug beside it. They clattered to the ground and spilled steaming, golden tea onto the floor, where it quickly soaked and darkened the light carpet. Rarity worked her mouth for minute, trying to find more words to throw at her.

“I... I...”

“Just shut up!” Rarity yelled. “Just... how dare you! What in Tartarus is wrong with you! I... I thought you were my friend!”

“I... I didn’t—” Fluttershy protested weakly. “I am your friend, Rarity. I’m sorry, I don’t know—”

“That’s how you treat your friends?” Rarity exclaimed. Her mind was reeling with confusion and anger, and her vision had narrowed into a dark tunnel focused only on the pony in front of her, an aphotic channel pulling her emotions out and spewing them forth uncontrollably. “Just get out. Get out of here. Go on!” she waved a hoof violently, and Fluttershy all but flew to the door.

“And don’t come back without a hay of an apology!” Rarity screamed after her. Fluttershy didn’t bother to shut the door after herself, and Rarity slammed it shut with her magic.

She stood there, breathing hard and clenching her jaw as she seethed with rage. She could feel the pangs of another headache threatening to set in. She growled and rubbed a hoof over her eyes; they were hurting as if she hadn’t slept in days. When she looked up, the room seemed unnaturally large and empty. Her anger bled away into it as if it were a vacuum, and her tears threatened to return with double the intensity.

“What the hay was that about?” Rarity demanded aloud in a quivering voice, trying to bring back the anger and the indignant justification she had felt. “Why would she say those things? I thought she was my friend.”

The pain in her head swelled. She winced and started to walk to the kitchen. A proper cup of tea might help to head it off before it got so bad that she ended up wasting another day.

A soft splish and a sudden, cold wetness on her hind hoof made her jump and look down. Her hoof, which was otherwise clean, had landed in the puddle by the two mugs Fluttershy had dropped.

Two mugs, she thought slowly. She turned, frowning as she looked at the fainting couch. There was no broken mug. Stepping closer, she patted the upholstery and the carpet all around it. There was no dampness, no cold stain.

Another pulse from her headache squeezed her head. The memory of the taste from the mug Fluttershy had given her stung her mouth, and she felt suddenly sick. As she sat down, she replayed the terrible things Fluttershy had said, the way her eyes had looked so flat and horribly lifeless. But that memory faded away as she recalled how Fluttershy’s true, teal eyes had looked up at her in confusion, fear, and crushing hurt.

Fluttershy had been crying. Almost as soon as Rarity had opened her mouth, she had started to cry, and by the time Rarity had chased her out into the cold, she’d barely been containing terrified sobs.

I... I don’t remember, Rarity thought breathlessly as she tried to put the events back together. I know she was crying now, but... I don’t remember seeing it then. I didn’t see it. How could I not have seen it?

Back in the kitchen, Fluttershy’s soft giggle echoed out into the showroom. Rarity jerked her head around, staring. The showroom grew darker and darker the farther it got from the front windows, and by the time the dim light of the kitchen illuminated its door in a stark, blue-white rectangle, it was surrounded almost totally by darkness. Fluttershy laughed again, softly and happily, and Rarity saw her walk across the doorway, a dim shadow silhouetted by the pale light. She was only there for a moment before she was gone again, but the long curls of her mane and tail were unmistakable.

“Fluttershy?” Rarity cried out, relief washing over her. Her mind rebelled at the absurdity of what she was seeing and hearing, but as she rushed to the kitchen, she had already started to rationalize everything.

I fell asleep, she thought, her guilt evaporating to be replaced with sweet relief. I only dreamed I said those terrible things. I didn’t really yell at Fluttershy. She’s ok.

Rarity skidded into the kitchen and looked around for her friend. She saw nothing. The kitchen was empty. Rarity was alone.

She sat down hard on the cold floor. “...Fluttershy?”

Nothing answered her. On the counter, she saw her tea canisters sitting out and the kettle left on the extinguished stove, a little steam still rising from the unused water inside. Fluttershy had been here. But she was gone now.

I chased her out, Rarity thought numbly. I really said those things. I... I don’t...

Her thoughts were broken as soft crying reached her ears. Her ears swiveled and her eyes shrank as a chill ran over her skin. The sound was coming from the showroom, and it was growing louder. Before she could even think of why the sound caused her such dread, a series of knocks on the front door set her heart pounding.

“Fluttershy?” she asked, now more in fearful confusion than curiosity. She didn’t know what she would say if Fluttershy had come back. She didn’t know if she would demand an explanation or beg for forgiveness. She wasn’t even sure whether she thought she had done anything to be forgiven for or not. The soft cries continued, and she stepped hesitantly out into the showroom.

In the window, she saw the face of a pony pressed against it, peering in and spotting her the instant she stepped out of the kitchen. The pony waved enthusiastically at her before pulling back from the window and disappearing.

Mother, Rarity thought, a sense of numbness returning to her. It didn’t look like the blows were going to stop coming anytime soon. She passed her sewing table, which was littered with unfinished sketches and the pieces she had barely started on. The sight twisted her face into a confusion of disgust and shame, and she turned away. As she reached the door, she could hear Sweetie Belle giving short, baleful cries just outside.

Why does she have to haul that foal around every blasted place she goes? She opened the door and tried to smile, but knew she had failed as her mother’s own expression flipped from jovial to concerned the moment she looked up from Sweetie Belle.

“Rarity, sweetheart, what’s wrong? You look awful,” she exclaimed.

“I’m fine, mother,” Rarity lied, not caring how much energy she put into the façade. “Can I help you with something?”

“I just thought I’d drop by for a visit.” Her mother's frown grew stronger. “Sweetheart, really, I can tell something’s the matter. Can I come in?”

The ashes of Rarity’s temper flared with fresh heat and she straightened up. If her mother got a hoof in the door, there would be no getting rid of her for hours. And with a headache setting in, a screaming child invading the house was the absolute last thing Rarity needed.

“Now’s really not a good time, mother. I have too much work to do.”

“I think you’re working too hard,” her mother countered. “Why don’t we go someplace? I don’t think Sweetie Belle likes it here; it’s so dark.”

“Sweetie Belle doesn’t like it?” Rarity asked incredulously. “Well, if precious Sweetie Belle doesn’t like it, why do you feel the need to drag her over here every few days? It’s not like I can work with all that endless screaming! Getting away from her was essentially why I moved out!”

Rarity blinked, and her ears flattened in shame as she saw her mother’s shocked expression. It was Fluttershy happening all over again, and it hadn’t even been twenty minutes. “Mother, I... look, I’m sorry,” she said, feeling her anger bleed away again. “Today’s just... it’s not a good day. Maybe some other time, ok? I’m really not in the mood.”


“Please, mother,” Rarity pleaded. Her mother stood there for several seconds, her eyes fixed on Rarity as if she were trying to find some kind of hidden poison in her daughter’s eyes and draw it out through sheer will before it could do any more harm. The only sound was Sweetie Belle’s staccato whines, which had grown a little more subdued as they’d talked.

“Alright,” she said finally. “But please, Rarity... you know you can talk to us about anything. Your father and I will always be here to help you.”

“I know. Thank you mother.”

“Before you go,” her mother said, speaking quickly before Rarity could shut the door, “I wanted to ask if you’d be willing to look after Sweetie Belle next Thursday? Your father has a bowling match, and I promised the Cakes I’d help out with their first Hearth’s Warming sale.”

Rarity barely heard the words. She was so tired she was afraid she would blink and fall over right there on the doorstep. “Yes, fine, whatever. Goodbye, mother.”

When the door was shut, she slumped against it and slowly slid to a prone position on the floor. Her mother didn’t leave for several minutes. Rarity could hear Sweetie Belle continuing to fuss and cry as her mother stood outside, though Rarity couldn’t be bothered to guess what she was doing. Finally, she heard her mother’s hoofsteps as she turned and walked down the path, and as Sweetie Belle’s crying faded, the shop finally sank into a thick, tense silence.

She had finally been left alone.