• Published 24th Jun 2012
  • 12,147 Views, 377 Comments

LOYALTY - Crowne Prince



Rainbow Dash and Soarin's friendship turns out to be one heck of a wild ride and a whole lot more.

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5 - The name didn't just make itself up

“You’re in a good mood.”

Soarin’ snapped out of his daydream and a retort leapt to his mind. “It’s easy to look that way when you’re next to the bad-tempered Wonderbolt.”

“Point for Soarin’,” Rapidfire called from his spot in the practice room. Today’s rotation had the three of them in light combat training. The Wonderbolts’ specialty was not combat, but all branches of the Equestrian Guard (no matter how tangentially related) had at least some proficiency in fighting or defense. Rapidfire demonstrated by pummeling a dummy with his forehooves. Soarin’ stood between the stallion and Spitfire, who had opted to work on flying in one spot. With 90 pounds strapped to her back.

Evidently this did nothing to inhibit her speech, though the weight was making her cringe. How long has she been up there?

Soarin’ realized he must’ve quit practicing and been standing there for a while, making him an easy target for commentary. I was… uh… He noticed the barbed wire and other obstacles around him. Oh. Right.

When they were finished, the three regrouped. “I notice you are back to doing the thing where you space out, Soarin’,” Rapidfire said.

“You know, you could always go visit her.” Spitfire nudged Soarin’. “She’ll never make the team if she doesn’t know how to fly in one.”

Rapidfire snorted. “Good luck teaching that one humility enough to do it.”

“Pfff,” Soarin’ waved Rapidfire away. “You’re just upset I told you she’d beat you at Battlecloud. And anyway,” Sorain’ rubbed the spot where Spitfire had nudged him, “it’s not what you think.”

Rapidfire raised an eyebrow. “Then what is it?”

“Something doesn’t add up. Rainbow Dash wants to be a Wonderbolt, but she doesn’t come to the Trials. We never took the time to ask why. It shouldn’t bother me, but-“

“So go ask her,” Spitfire interjected.

“H-huh?” Soarin’ stammered, as if it were a possibility he’d never considered.

“Soarin’ you silly foal,” Spitfire smiled, “you’re telling us you’ve been wondering about it the whole time and you never thought to just go and ask? She doesn’t bite, you know. Besides, you’ve got me wondering now, too.”

Rapidfire added, “You said yourself she’s your friend. Visiting shouldn’t be a problem.”

Soarin’ took a breath. “Okay then. I know what I’m doing over lunch.” Spitfire tapped her timer watch. “Which is… now, I guess.”

As Soarin’ headed for Ponyville, he heard Spitfire’s voice receding into the distance. “Don’t forget this time to make it back here for that ribbon cutting ceremony, or else Surprise will kick your”

- - -

Hmm. This is a problem. Soarin’ flapped slowly through Cloudsdale. Visiting a friend was a fine idea. Visiting a friend when you didn’t know where they lived was kinda dumb.

He wanted to get this over with so he could stop wondering, eat lunch, and rest his aching wings. I really should listen when doctors say "no heavy flying."

Soarin’ scoured the first few cloud buildings for signs of Rainbow Dash’s home. A blue and gold color scheme… lightning bolts… a cloud statue in the shape of a Wonderbolt… Nope, nothing. Maybe one of the locals knew.

“Hey there!” The gray pegasus he’d called turned. “You wouldn’t happen to know Rainbow Dash, would you?”

“Of course I do! Hehe. You must not be from around here.”

“Could you show me where she lives?”

“You won’t find her here. Her home is waaaaay over there.” The mare pointed towards Fillydelphia, but the sky was clear as far as he could see. “Oh no wait. I meant over there.” She flipped her hoof in the opposite direction. “I get East and West backwards sometimes.”

Soarin’ could see a cloud on the route to Ponyville. That must be it. “Thanks!”

“Hey, wait a minute. You sure look familiar.” The pegasus crossed her eyes.

That’s because I’ve been here so many times before.

“I’ve never been here before,” he said jovially. Sorry. I can’t afford to be held up right now or I won’t make it back in time. “You must be mistaking me for somepony else.”

“Oh! My bad. I do that a lot, too.” The bubbly mare giggled lightheartedly at her mistake.

Soarin’ nodded his appreciation for the help. What a strange pegasus.

It’s rude, but I have to know… As the gray pegasus turned away, Soarin’ glanced at her flank.

Bubbles! He suppressed a gasp. The number of ponies with such a mark, well, there were not many.

Flustered, Soarin’ misjudged the distance to Rainbow Dash’s house. At first he’d thought it was closer because of its size, but as he approached he realized it was just plain big. Holy thunder. The place was a tower. She must be living here with some pegasus else. Sculpted cloud pillars held up three tiers of rooms. Rainbows poured out of ceilings and into reflection ponds.

Soarin’ blinked. How in the hay does that work?

“Rainbow Dash,” he called. “Are you here?” No response. He flew closer to the top of the tower, avoiding the rainbow streaming from its pinnacle.

“I’m over here,” her voice came from a bed of clouds. Soarin’ followed the general direction and found her shaping some stray puffs along the edges of a rainbow pool. He hovered at the edge of the area she was working, concerned if he landed he might disturb whatever was controlling the rainbows.

“Soarin! I knew it was your voice.” The mare’s eyes excitedly darted over and around him as she stepped toward the edge of the cloud platform. He was confused until he realized she was looking for some sign of a letter. She looked a little disappointed. “Oh. You’re not here about the Wonderbolts…”

A twinge of guilt pricked his conscience. I didn’t mean to get her hopes up.

“Yes and no,” he said. Now his friend looked optimistically perplexed. He flapped in place as he explained: “I want to talk about the Wonder Trial. Why-“

Sudden, extreme pain. His right wing would not move. He flailed, wide-eyed as he tumbled down. As fast as lightning (or faster; he couldn’t tell) Rainbow Dash reached over the edge and grabbed his hoof.

He really wished it had been a forehoof. Past the tips of his pinions he could see his front legs stretching toward the roiling green edge of the Everfree Forest.

He didn’t want to think about Rainbow Dash’s view at the moment.

She hauled him backwards onto the cloud. “You didn’t listen to the doctor’s orders, did ya?” Rainbow Dash was stifling a laugh, but as soon as he turned and their eyes met, she let it out. “Can you imagine? A Wonderbolt dangling from a cloud by his hind legs? Oh man, you’re so lucky no pony saw, but they sure missed out! And your wing will be stuck like that for a few hours, too.” Her voice cracked with amusement.

Soarin’s right wing jutted straight out; the left was neatly furled. The muscles in the stressed wing were taught. It took too much pain and strength to pull it back in.

He grinned apologetically. “Looks like I’ll be stuck here for a little while.”

“Hey, no prob. You sure are lucky I was home, though! Normally I’d be out practicing, but there was that whole thing about no heavy flying for three days.

Soarin’s blood ran cold. Oh no. It would take a few hours for the muscle tension to go away. The ribbon cutting was at five o’clock. There was no way he’d make it in time. Oh noooo. Surprise is going to kill me.

“Rainbow Dash, I have to go back. There’s a ribbon cutting for the Galloping Gallery in Canterlot. Surprise will destroy me if I don’t go. I keep missing all of the events she books me for. I mean, seriously missing. I haven’t been to one since the Gala!”

“Soarin’, you can’t be serious! You can’t fly now, remember?”

“You don’t understand! It’s my duty to go. You must know that. And if I don’t go to this event… Ooooh, I messed up so bad continuing with normal practice. I thought I could hold out a little longer than this.” Soarin’ groaned and sank to the cloud, wrapping his hooves over his head. “I’m supposed to help Surprise, not make things difficult for her.”

“Hey now, it can’t be that bad,” Rainbow Dash said, her voice inflecting the tiniest bit of uncertainty.

It can! “If I don’t’ show up, I’ll be suspended.”

Silence. There wasn’t anything she could do to help; he knew that. It was his own fault. He would remember not to skip out on so many social activities after he was reinstated.

After a moment Rainbow Dash said, “Soarin’, I have an idea, but if it works you are going to owe me BIG time.”

Soarin’ uncovered his head. “I can live with that. But… what’s your plan?” She’s crazier than Spitfire if she thinks she can carry me all the way there!

“…”

“WHAT?” he shouted in disbelief.

“Whoa! Clam down, geez. You act like you didn’t even hear what I just said.”

“I heard you wrong. You just said you’ll go in my place," he hesitated before adding in a small voice, "as me.”

“That is what I said,” Rainbow Dash asserted. “There is just the teensy little detail of convincing Twilight to do a spell like that.”

Soarin’ was shaking his head at the sheer absurdity of the whole thing. All he could manage to say was, “She can do that?” This was far beyond the magic he knew of.

“Soarin’, there’s nothing this unicorn doesn’t know. So, what do you think?”

“I think that’s craziest, weirdest, most horse-faced thing I’ve heard of in a long time.” He stood. “Let’s do it.”

After some arranging of wings and tails, Soarin’ found himself in the familiar situation of being carried by Rainbow Dash.

“You’re cool with me carrying you?” she asked.

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“You’re much heavier when I’m not going mach speed.”

“Oh is that how that works?”

“I have no idea. Prepare for take off!” Soarin’ was glad he was prepared, because she didn’t give him any time to make adjustments. He held on uselessly to Rainbow Dash as she picked her way towards wherever Twilight lived. Judging from the flight path, this was… a giant tree? You’re not in Canterlot anymore.

Rainbow Dash huffed under the extra weight. “There is one minor flaw in my plan. I mean, besides Twilight. How am I supposed to act so the other Wonderbolts don’t get suspicious?”

“As dumb as possible,” he said. He felt Rainbow Dash laughing.

“Nice one, Soarin’.”

She paused. “Wait, are you being serious?”

“No way!” he laughed, nudging her with a hoof for teasing him. They were getting closer to the ground. How did you teach a pony to impersonate you in a few minutes?

“I’ll skip the usual stuff; you probably already know it,” he began. “Spitfire won’t be there, but stay away from Rapidfire. He knows me best, I think, and he’s the most likely to notice if something is off. Don’t be too friendly with Lightning Streak; he and I got in a fight last week and we haven’t sorted it out yet. Surprise will be too busy to talk much. Just do whatever she says and you’ll be good. Act friendly with everypony else. Keep it high-energy, and be polite to the guests. Oh, and brag about how awesome you are to anypony outside the Wonderbolts.” Rainbow Dash snickered at that as they landed in front of the big tree.

Numerous ponies watched them curiously. Rainbow Dash waved them off. “Nothing to see here. I’m just helping this pegasus. Keep moving.” The onlookers lost interest and went back to their daily tasks. Soarin’ and Rainbow Dash entered the tree, which turned out to be a library.

Soarin’ recalled the purple unicorn was Twilight Sparkle. If he doubted Rainbow Dash at all when she said Twilight could do anything, he didn’t now. The unicorn was tending to a fearfully long parchment that hung from the second floor balcony. Almost as soon as they were through the door she started talking.

“Rainbow, what was all the commotion outside? I thought – oh!” She took Soarin’ in and a bemused smile crossed her face. He became conscious of the fact his one wing stuck straight out while the other was closed.

“I’m used to seeing a one-winged Rainbow Dash running around, so this is a bit different.” The unicorn’s focus switched back to her friend. “I’ll take it the two of you aren’t here for books. Or maybe…”

Rainbow Dash put on an air of firm urgency. “Twilight, I need a spell to make me look like Soarin’. Only for a few hours. Please?”

Twilight didn’t even begin to take Rainbow Dash seriously. “Rainbow, if this is another one of your pranks-“

“No! This isn’t about me, it’s about him.” Rainbow Dash jabbed a hoof in his direction. “And it’s for a letter to the Princess.”

The Princess!

“Rainbow Dash, I can hardly believe you’re asking me about this. It must be illegal! Let me think.”

She didn’t get the chance, because Rainbow’s response was too quick. “No, Twilight, don’t think, just do it.”

Twilight growled in exasperation.

Rainbow Dash cut her off again. “I knew it. There isn’t a spell for that after all. You couldn’t do it even if it is for a lesson in friendship!”

“Well, you’re wrong about that. I know exactly where the spell is.” A green book slid from one of the shelves and floated next to Twilight. “It’s in a book by the author of Supernaturals: Natural remedies and cure-alls that are simply super. I had them delivered here after I realized my mistake. Isn’t that neat?” she said happily.

“So cast the spell. We’re running out of time!” And they were.

“No.”

Soarin’ mustered the most kind, endearing expression he could. He took a single step forward and said, “Please.”

“Both of you? Now this is getting ridiculous.”

Soarin’ pushed his silent plea. Rainbow Dash pouted with heartbreaking eyes.

Twilight’s ears flopped down. “Fine,” she grudgingly conceded. “You’re helping me reshelf books next time, Rainbow.” The green book left Twilight’s side and slapped itself unceremoniously onto a podium. Pages flipped as the unicorn sidled around Rainbow Dash, who had driven her into a corner.

“This spell is significantly more difficult than when Rarity asked to find a flight spell for ponies without wings. At this rate, Applejack better not storm in here and ask for magic.” The pages stopped turning when Twilight stamped her hoof firmly on a page. “Well, here goes nothing.”

Twilight’s horn glowed pink, then tart green. Soarin’ couldn’t remember ever seeing a unicorn’s aura change color like that before. Suddenly, he felt a weird tug along his coat. A thin line scanned across him from the tip of his nose to his tail. The sensation of the form-fitting magic band was rather unpleasant.

While he watched, the line started at Rainbow Dash’s tail and slowly passed over her, leaving an exact replica of Soarin’s appearance in its wake. This would’ve been fine, except it made the sound of a rusty horseshoe scraping against steel as it did so. Soarin’ clopped his hooves over his ears. Rainbow Dash wasn’t so lucky as to be able to move her legs. Her ears strained forward and she made a horrible face at the high-pitched screeching.

Pinkie Pie barged into the library with a platter of sugary cupcakes just as the spell ended. “Twilight! I suddenly felt like you really needed these, so I hurry-hurried and made them for you. Quick, eat one!” She trotted past Soarin’ with the platter. “Hi Soarin!” She trotted past Soarin’ again. “Hi Soarin!”

Twilight opened her mouth to say something, but Pinkie Pie used the opportunity to push a cupcake into the unicorn’s maw. “Hmm, that’s funny,” the earth pony said, still with one hoof against Twilight’s mouth. She counted with her other hoof. “One, two Soarin’s. That’s a whole extra Soarin’! Oh, Soarin’, I didn’t know you had a twin brother!”

“He doesn’t,” said Rainbow Dash.

“Rainbow Dash, is that you?” Pinkie Pie said excitedly. Rainbow Dash was holding her hooves over her (his…?) pale blue muzzle. Her voice had not changed.

Soarin’ couldn’t help but laugh at the baffled expression Rainbow Dash managed to make with his features. That, on top of the sound of her voice coming from himself… it was too much.

“Your voice will catch up in a few minutes,” Twilight stated between cupcakes.

Magic like that must take up a lot of energy. How did Pinkie Pie know to bring those cupcakes? Weird.

“Guys, I reeeeally want to find out what’s going on here, but I promised Mr. and Mrs. Cake I’d finish up a pastry order. Promise to tell me about it later, okie-dokie?” After swiping the tray out from underneath the remaining cupcake, the plucky pink party pony pranced past the two stallions. “Bye Soarin’! Bye Soarin’ Dash!”

The proclaimed Soarin’ Dash stared in bewilderment at his hooves and tested his wings. “This feels way different, but I think I can manage. Don’t I need a uniform or something?”

Soarin’ hadn’t thought of that. And I’m not wearing one. “Yeah. We’re supposed to wear the Wonderbolt uniform to the event. You’re going to have to get one from my suite at Headquarters. I can draw a map for you.” On cue, a scroll tipped out of one of the shelves. It unfurled and Twilight’s magic tore a piece off the end. She directed the paper and a pencil to Soarin’.

“Thanks,” he said, taking the pencil in his mouth and pinning the paper down. “HQ is in the mountains by Canterlot today, about 15 minutes east if you’re flying at a good clip. You’ll spot it from the sky. When you get there, go through the north entrance.” Soarin’ hashed some lines out on the paper.

“Here’s the entrance. Go down this hall, turn left and walk along the outer circle. Then turn right at the second doorway. Enter the double doors,” Soarin’ drew two squares for the doors, “and skip the first cross-hallway.” He drew a line intersecting the main path. “Turn right when you get to the second hallway. You’ll know my door when you see it. It’s got an S on it. The suits are in the closet.”

Soarin’ hooved his diagram over to his counterpart. “After that, go to the Galloping Gallery. Do you know your way around Canterlot?”

Soarin’ Dash shook his head. “Not really.”

“Me neither. At least, not on the ground. The Gallery is on Mane Street, fairly close to the Gardens where the Grand Galloping Gala is held. You’re going to be a little late to the opening ceremony, so a crowd of ponies standing outside is a good indication you’re at the right place.” Soarin’ guided his friend out the door as he spoke. There wasn’t any time to think about what had just happened. “Remember to be nice to the guests, try to avoid gossip because it’s usually a trap, and remember to brag. And don’t get caught!”

“Yeah, I think I learned my lesson about getting caught a while ago,” Rainbow Dash’s voice put flatly.

“Don’t,” they both said in unison.

The mirrored images looked at each other across the library door threshold. Twilight called, “You have five hours Rainbow!”

Soarin’ Dash glanced over his shoulder as he prepared to leave. “You know Soarin’, this is not how I imagined I’d become a Wonderbolt.”

His doppelganger grinned at him, and then raced off toward Canterlot.

Soarin’ turned back to the library. “What did she mean about a letter to the Princess?”

Twilight yawned. “Princess Celestia sent me here to study friendship magic. I report my findings to her by letter, and sometimes my friends do, too. I actually learn faster when I talk to them about my ideas and find out what they’ve learned.” More to herself than to him, she continued, “Hmm. That might be a lesson there.” A quill flew from the inkwell on the podium and up to the second story. Soft scratching accented the air.

Twilight yawned largely again. “I’m sorry Soarin’, but that spell really took a lot out of me. Can I leave you in charge of the library without you destroying anything? Spike should be back soon, and he can help you.”

“You want to leave me in charge of this place?” Soarin’ looked at his injured wing and then back to Twilight. “I guess I can give it a shot.” His friendly smile and drooped ears said he wasn’t particularly good at this sort of thing, but he was willing to try. “Wait! What should I do if someone wants to borrow a book?”

Twilight waved a hoof drowsily in the air as she made her way up the stairs. “Oh, just… write their name and the book down… somewhere…”

He was on his own now. I really hope this Spike pony shows up soon.

Soarin’ killed time by figuring out which types of books were where. Nothing was labeled, so he started reading titles.

Anthology of Neoclassical and Liberal Thought
Comprehending the Shelf Life of Tetrahydridoboron(1+)
Floccinaucinihilipilification
Practical Pre-Development Finance
Technical Applications of Supplementary Component Magic

First shelf is "complicated stuff". What’s next? He turned to something hopefully more understandable.

The Fourth Wall

Give me a break. What good is a building with only three walls? He snorted and went to the next line of books.

The Beginnings of Equestria Daily
Celestia’s Reign, 1000 Year Edition
Ponyville’s Founding Families
Predictions and Prophesies
Tartarus
True Gargoyles
Wonder Wing and Thunder Bolt

Okay, so we’ve got history. Soarin’ noticed a number of books he thought would be better placed in a mythology or fiction category. Twilight doesn’t seem like the type to mix things up. Everything else is arranged by genre and author. Well, either she’s crazy or some of this stuff is actually true!

He didn’t care to think about option B. Gargoyles? No thanks.

Let’s see… what is this? Weather? No, that can’t be right…

Altitudes of Fire
Hay Is Better
Ship It or Shut Up
Warm June Nights

He pulled out a book from the group titled Luna: Princess of the Night and skimmed a few lines.

Oh. Romance.

I wonder if Luna knows ponies write about her like this?

His ears swiveled to pick up the sound of voices coming towards the library. “But we already tried readin’,” one of them whined.

A second, more brash voice asserted, “We’re not going to read, we’re going to study.”

“Study? That doesn’t sound like you Scootaloo,” the third speaker said.

“I’m going to study flying, duh.”

“Oh.”

Three young fillies paraded into the library. Soarin’ nosed his book back into place. “Hello! Can I help you find something?” I think that’s what I’m supposed to say.

“No thanks, we’re just lookin,” the pale yellow filly said. “But if you don mind me askin, who are you? Ah’ve never seen you in Ponyville before.”

“Name’s Soarin’,” he said enthusiastically.

“What happened to your wing?” A spunky filly popped up behind the first before he could say anything else.

“Oh this? I strained it from flying too hard. Twilight is letting me stay here for a few hours until it’s better.”

The yellow filly looked slightly confused. “Can’t she just heal it for ya?”

“Healing doesn’t work that way, Applebloom! Rarity told me that when I pricked myself with a needle one time.”

The orange pegasus edged in to try and get the last word. “Yeah, otherwise why would we have doctors and hospitals and stuff?”

“Ah guess I had’n thought of that,” said the filly called Applebloom. “Maybe I’ll get a doctor cutie mark!” She twisted her head around and stared at the her unmarked flank. Nothing happened. “Shoot.”

“Let’s start reading,” the unicorn chimed in impatiently. “Maybe if we read about our special talents, we’ll get our cutie marks!”

Two of the little ponies immediately started pulling books from the shelves. Soarin’ knew he wasn’t going to be able to reshelf fast enough to keep up. I hope Twilight likes organizing things.

Scootaloo hadn’t moved. “I want to read about something really cool so I get an awesome cutie mark. Like… fire!” She pointed at a red book titled FIRE in the romance section.

Soarin’ thought fast. “Ugh, that book is so boring. The books on flying are way cooler.”

“Sweet! I’ll try those then.” She trotted to the shelf and joined her friends in disemboweling the library.

Soarin’ was surprised at how insightful Twilight was. The books about flying were where colts and fillies who couldn’t fly yet could reach them. He barely had time to think about this though, because he was trying to keep up with the destructive force of the girls. How did young ponies always manage to outdo adults?

That was when the dragon showed up. Soarin’ froze. It was a baby dragon, but still! It had its claws held to its head in surprise. “Oh no. I can’t let Twilight see this!”

“Hi Spike!” Applebloom waved from a heap of books. That’s Spike? You’d think Twilight would have mentioned he was a dragon, sheesh. Scare me half to flight like that.

Spike waved back before he spotted Soarin’. “Hey, who are you? What happened to Twilight?”

“That’s Soarin,’” Scootaloo said absentmindedly, tossing a book over her shoulder without looking up from her reading material. “He’s helping Twilight until his wing gets better.”

Spike turned to Soarin’. “It looks more like you’re the one who needs help.” It was entertaining to watch the little dragon thump over to him on short hind legs. “I dunno why Twilight didn’t warn you about these three. We have to get rid of them before they do any more damage.” He rubbed his chin and then snapped his claws. “I’ve got it.”

“Hey Sweetie Belle,” Spike called. “I just thought of something. What if your special talent is helping other ponies find theirs? That could be why none of you have your marks yet.”

The commotion amongst the book piles stopped and three colorful heads popped out.

“Whoa. I never thought of that,” said Scootaloo.

Applebloom urged, “We better hurry. What if some pony doesn’t have their cutie mark yet because of us?”

“And that’s why we don’t have our cutie marks!” Scootaloo finished. “Let’s go!”

The three scrambled out of the library. “Bye! Sorry about the mess!”

Spike wiped his brow. “Whew. That should keep them busy for a long time. We better fix this mess before Twilight shows up or she’ll make us take all the books out and reorganize them. Believe me, I know.”

Soarin’ did the best he could to put the books back in categorical, alphabetical order. His mind wandered back to the disastrous end of the last Galloping Gala. Soarin' the librarian casually shelves books while one of the most terrifying ponies Canterlot has ever known roams free.