• Published 25th Jun 2012
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The Sisters Doo - Ponky



Daring pays a visit to her sister in Ponyville. Due to buried grudges, things get out of hoof.

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16 - Show Some Manners

Chapter Sixteen
Show Some Manners

Daring pulled her wings in briefly to let a family of earth ponies pass her in the hall. Alone, she spread them until the tips nearly touched the opposite walls of the corridor. She sighed, stretching and rolling the muscles in her neck and back to relieve their unbearable soreness. “Sweet Celestia, I hate winning,” she said with a little chuckle. “Now where the heck is that cafeteria?”

Groping through the dusty corners of her memory, Daring managed to find the noisy room that offered every basic food on Equus. Eagerly, she filled her tray and moved to the closest table, many of which were empty by that late in the morning.

“Hey, Daring!” called a scratchy voice. The adventuress looked toward the noise and noticed a blue hoof waving vivaciously over the small crowd. “Over here!”

“Huh?” She flapped her wings for a better view and squinted her still-blurry eyes, but there was no mistaking that multi-colored mane. “Uh oh.” Gulping, she timidly waved back, catching her tray before it fell. Lowering herself into one of the chairs around the nearest table, she ducked her head and started to eat, hoping Rainbow wouldn’t make a scene. As much as she loved the attention, right then wasn’t the time: she was hung up, hung over, and hungry.

Rainbow Dash suddenly slammed into the seat at Daring’s side. The yellow mare yelped and lost her grip on an apple, watching it roll away.

Rainbow rubbed the back of her neck. “Whoops… sorry. Heheh….”

Daring shrugged. “Nyeh, it’s all right. They got plenty more where that came from.”

“I wonder how many of these came from Sweet Apple Acres,” Rainbow said, glancing at the apple station in the center of a far wall. “They seem to pump out a lot of fruit every year.”

Daring furrowed her brow. “Is that, uh… Flapjack’s place?”

Rainbow laughed. “Applejack. Close enough.”

Rolling her eyes, Daring said, “You’d think I could remember that one,” and took a big bite of another green apple.

A small smile came over Rainbow’s face and she shrugged. “Eh, at least you’re trying.”

Daring cast a sideways glance at her partner. “You seem… happy.”

Rainbow beamed. “I am happy!”

“Well, that’s great. But, I mean… you don’t seem… y’know… mad.”

“Aawww, it’s fine. You were drunker than I can ever relate to. I know you didn’t mean it.” In a painfully familiar manner, Rainbow thumped her hoof against the space between Daring Do’s wings.

“Aaaah-ha-ha-hooowww…” Daring whined, pushing herself away from Rainbow’s hoof. “Don’t do thaaat.”

Rainbow scrunched up her face and snickered. “You sore, Doctor Do?”

“Doctor?” Daring snorted. “Kid, that’s a name for the books alone. I’m not a doctor of anything. And yeah, I’m frickin’ sore as Tartarus.”

Rainbow cackled to the ceiling, clutching her diaphragm. “Oh, I bet you are! Nopony keeps up with Rainbow Dash and doesn’t feel the burn!”

“Not just keeps up,” Daring said with a wink.

Rainbow raised her hooves and stifled her giggles. “Well, I can’t say it was fair and square, but you’re right, Doc: you beat me.”

“What’s with this Doc stuff all o’ the sudden, kid?”

“What’s with calling me ‘kid’ when we both know you know my name?”

Daring smirked at that. “Oh, yeah. What was it again, uh… Thunder Clap? Prism Bash? Tender Hoof?”

“Hey!” Rainbow punched her partner playfully in the shoulder while they laughed.

“Do you even remember the crap you said?” Rainbow asked.

“Not all of it,” Daring answered. Her tail swished. “But… enough to know you should be mad.”

“Yeah, prob’ly.” Rainbow stole one of the carrots on top of Daring’s pile and chewed off the end of it with her back teeth. “I’m no good at staying mad at my friends.”

With raised eyebrows, Daring turned halfway and looked at the shine in Rainbow’s ruby eyes. She couldn’t think of anything to say, but the involuntary grin growing under her snout was more than enough for Rainbow Dash.

“So I guess Ditzy and I are on our own, huh?” the weathermare said with a mouth full of carrot. “Since you quit and all.”

“Quit?” Daring guffawed and flicked her hoof dismissively. “Pssshh. Did I say that? That was either the alcohol talking, or you’re just making stuff up.”

“Could be!” Rainbow laughed, spinning the last bite of carrot on the upturned flat of her hoof. “It’s not like I’m the Element of Honesty over here.”

Daring took her next bite with her teeth wrapped in a warm smile.

{-DD-}

A unicorn wearing the blue vest of an on-ship employee shocked a couple of levers with a beam of red magic. Immediately, four enormous ramps extended from the edge of the deck all the way down to the Stirropean harbor where several more unicorns secured them to the ends of docks.

Wide-eyed foals—mostly earth ponies—stared in awe at the compact cityscape starting at the very coast and stretching halfway to the orange horizon where the Sun was nearing its set. Dull reds and browns dominated the old, sturdy buildings and narrow streets of the blooming Chevallian port-town.

Rainbow Dash relished the inklings of wind that surged back and forth on the coastline and tossed her prismatic bangs around her ears. “Oh, boy… I’ve missed that.”

Daring snorted. “It’s been, like, one day, kid.”

“Yeah, well, a day without wind is like a day without the Sun!”

She hurried to another part of the deck to get a better view of the city. Daring shook her head at Rainbow’s words. “I know someone who’d be very happy to hear you say that,” she murmured to herself, following her partner’s lead.

Ditzy emerged from the wall of doors with two dozen other passengers chattering about how quick the trip was. She pushed past them and easily spotted Rainbow Dash at the base of the stairs that led to the upper deck.

“Rainbow!” she called out, trotting forward… and suddenly noticing her sister at the blue pony’s hip leaning over the banister to point out landmarks. Ditzy twitched, groaned, and continued her march.

“…and that’s the opera house, which I’ve never been to, but I hear it’s pretty special… oh! And see that tall thing over there on the hill? That’s an old basilica, Notre-Jument de la Garde, Our Mare of the Guard. It’s super cool and old and stuff. You’d like it. We should go there—”

“Ahem!” Ditzy coughed.

Daring spun around. “—after we find the foals, of course.” She narrowed her eyes at her sister and turned back to the city. “Yeah, kid, Mareseille is beautiful. Been around for thousands and thousands of years, way before Equestria was founded.”

“What’s that shiny thing on top of the… Noter Shumont day luh Gard?” Rainbow asked.

Daring laughed. “That’s a golden statue of Celestia. Biggest in the world, I’m pretty sure.”

“Celestia?” Rainbow blinked. “But isn’t she our princess?”

“Ponies all over Equus love Celestia, kid,” Daring explained. “Y’know how we say she ‘raises the Sun’? Well, it’s more like she ‘keeps it in orbit’. Sun shines everywhere, believe it or not.”

Rainbow pushed her jaw to one side. “But then… how did Nightmare Moon plan to keep the whole world in eternal night or whatever?”

“Not the whole world,” Ditzy said from behind them. “Nightmare Moon wanted her very own nation to rule over, free from what she saw as Celestia’s supremacy.”

“Huh?”

“She was pissed at her sister,” Daring explained. “Didn’t you read Daring Do and the Hollow of the Moon? I sorta philosophized about it in there.”

“Uh…” Rainbow pulled a timid smile. “I tend to skip the wordy parts that don’t have tons of action.”

“Hey, no worries. So do I!” Daring snickered. “Back when I was searching for the Moonstone—”

We were searching.”

“—rumored to be part of Nightmare Moon’s fortress built beneath the surface of the natural satellite—”

“Nice work, Rainbow Dash. You turned on her prose.”

“—I met with a stallion who had been studying Nightmare Moon’s banishment and prophesied return for more than half of his life. He believed that everything Luna did and everything she became was due to her jealousy toward Celestia.”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “Well, duh.”

“It might seem obvious now,” Daring admitted, “but at the time, Nightmare Moon was nothing more than an old mare’s tale.” Her eyes glazed over and she donned a distant smile. “That book saw a huge resurgence in sales when Nightmare Moon returned. Turns out most of my predictions about her disappearance were right on the money.”

Our predictions!” Ditzy snapped.

“So, wait… are you saying she wanted to raise the Sun?” Rainbow asked.

Several ponies stationed at the tops of the ramps nodded to their counterparts below and started to herd the hundreds of passengers on deck into a new country.

“She didn’t want anything to do with the Sun!” Daring yelled over the increased volume of the surrounding ponies. “That’s the whole point! She was sick of Celestia getting all the attention, but more than that, she hated her sister for acting like a, uhm…”

“Like an enemy,” Rainbow finished, taking slow steps with the flow of the crowd.

“Yeah, exactly!” Daring grinned. “See? You get it.” She turned to a random pony on her other side and elbowed them in the ribs, gesturing to Rainbow Dash with her other hoof. “Best partner ever!”

Rainbow snickered at the stallion’s confused expression, hiding a flattered blush with one of her own hooves. Ditzy grit her teeth and sort of rolled her eyes, but nopony would have guessed it.

“Hey, hold on!” Daring said, stopping in her tracks. “I gotta go thank Fancypants.”

Rainbow blinked. “Fancypants? You mean Rarity’s uppity friend in Canterlot?”

“You know Fancypants?” Ditzy asked.

“Sure, I’ve met him a few times.”

“Well, come on, then!” Daring encouraged, linking her foreleg with one of Rainbow’s and lifting them both into the air above the masses. “You can say hello!”

“He’s on the ship?”

“He’s the captain!”

“Hey, wait up!” Ditzy grumbled, flying behind the pair. She couldn’t believe how swimmingly they were suddenly getting along. What about the race? What about the insults? Had they already forgotten how different they were? Eyes and lips twitching, Ditzy trained one eye on their destination: the upper deck, where Captain Fancypants was watching his happy passengers depart.

“Ah, Miss Do!” he said as the yellow pegasus landed. “And Miss Doo! And… Miss Dash?”

“Hiya!” Rainbow said with a smirk.

Fancypants’ monocle popped out of place. “I say… were you the other pony involved in the race?”

“Yup, that was me!” Rainbow said, flipping her mane.

“I should have known,” Fancypants chuckled, wiping his monocle once on his jacket before setting it back in its place. “Though you’re not quite the Wonderbolts’ trainer, you’ve certainly a passion for flying fast.”

“Ha!” Rainbow wagged her eyebrows. “Rarity has been spending more time with Applejack since the wedding, just so you know.”

“I would hope so,” he said with a smirk of his own, turning to the clueless Sisters Doo. “Sorry about that. Private joke.”

“I just had to thank you before we left, Cap’n,” Daring said earnestly. “What you did for me… and said to me… well, it was really nice. I’m very sorry about your deck.”

“It’s quite all right, Miss Do,” he assured her, shaking her shoulder. “Thank you for being cooperative in the plans for its repair.”

Ditzy perked up. “You… paid the fine?”

“Fine!?” Rainbow yelped. “Oh, shoot! I should have helped out!”

“Nah, it’s no problem,” Daring said, adjusting her hat. “It was my fault and my responsibility—” She bit her lip. “—even if I didn’t see that right at first.”

Ditzy’s jaw dropped at the humble expression on Daring’s face, lowering even more at Fancypants’ approving nod.

“It was a pleasure to you meet both of you,” he said, “and to see you again, Miss Dash. Please take care in Haissan, whatever business you have there.”

“Wouldn’t dream of otherwise!” Rainbow said, saluting the captain. “Hey, by the way, does Rarity know you fly this thing?”

He tilted his head. “She is aware that I captain air vessels, yes.”

“But this one? Like, trans-oh-she-ant-tic, or whatever?”

Fancypants grinned. “Well, perhaps. I’ve never brought it up.”

“You should tell her,” Rainbow said, nodding suggestively. “She’d think it’s so awesome.”

Another sort of smile twitched at the corners of the captain’s mouth. “I shall certainly remember to address it.” He tipped his hat. “Thank you, Miss Dash.”

“It’s Rainbow Dash!” She dove over the edge of the upper deck and back into the dwindling crowd.

“Heehee! She’s awesome,” Daring said, quickly following suit.

Fancypants’ smiled at the diving pegasi, but his expression fell as soon as he noticed the tears building in Ditzy’s quivering eyes. “My dear Miss Doo, are you all right?”

“Why are they so… happy?” she choked. Fancypants took a step closer to hear her quiet words. “I try so hard to do the right thing, and... Daring is just so... so mean, and Rainbow Dash… she keeps… I don’t know, forgetting or something! One minute they’re fighting, and now they’re best friends, and… they’re acting like—”

“Sisters?” Fancypants offered.

Ditzy tilted her head forward, staring down at the blue and yellow pegasi laughing and chatting on the main deck. Her golden eyes flashed and suddenly focused for only a couple of seconds.

“I can’t pretend to know your history, Miss Doo,” Fancypants said, draping a comforting foreleg just behind Ditzy’s green collar, “but I can assure you, as a stallion with a sibling of my own, that family relationships are not only the most difficult, but also the most important… and the most rewarding.”

Blinking away tears, she looked up into his gentle smile.

“I promise you that things will improve with time and effort,” he said, never breaking contact with her momentarily steady right eye. “You are a delightful, sensible pony, Miss Doo. Your sister is remarkably different, though she, too, has her set of charms. I only implore that you do not give up on her… or Miss Dash, for that matter. From what Rarity has told me, that rascal of a pony is enough to handle on her own. I do not envy your position.”

The bubbly tone in his voice lifted Ditzy’s spirits. She giggled behind a lifted hoof. “Thanks, Mister Pants. Er, I mean…!”

He tapped her snout. “That will do just fine,” he said with a nod. “Now, you’d better catch up with your company.”

She swiveled her neck to see Rainbow and Daring approaching the top of the nearest ramp. With a little squeak, she smiled a final “thank you” to the debonair stallion and swooped down to complete the adventuring trio.

“You okay, Ditzy?” Rainbow asked, squinting at her reddened eyes.

The mailmare sniffed once and forced a smile. “I will be,” she said, and they started their descent.

{-DD-}

Rainbow’s hooves were the first to hit Stirropean ground.

“Gah, this is so awesome!” she said, bouncing between her front and back hooves. “We’re in a totally different country! Across the freaking ocean!”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty great. Cool your jets,” Daring said, grinning as she yanked her partner’s tail.

Rainbow grimaced and pulled away, sticking out her tongue. “Gosh, when did you turn into Applejack?”

“Huh?”

“Stay focused, girls,” Ditzy said as the group drifted farther from the dock and its droves of noisy travelers. “Who knows how long the foalnappers have been here? They might be in Haissan already.”

Rainbow’s face paled and she straightened into a serious position. “Ah, horseapples, you’re right. We better get going!” She hovered and glanced in all direction. “Uhhm… which way to Haissan?”

“It’s another long trip, kid,” Daring said, pointing east. “We’re on the coast, and it’s in the dead center of Stirrope, all the way through Cheval and Germaney.”

Rainbow dropped to the cobblestone and groaned. “How long is that gonna take?”

“It doesn’t matter, because—” Ditzy started.

“Back in our hay day, Ditzy and I flew there in, like, six hours.” Daring looked to the sky and tongued one corner of her mouth, flicking her sore wings nostalgically. “Do you remember that, Ditz?”

The mailmare snorted. “It was more like eight hours.”

“No way! We were lightning fast back then.”

“I could still do it.”

“I beat the Best Young Flier!”

Rainbow yelled, “How long is it gonna take us?”

The feuding sisters realized they were nose to nose and backed away quickly; Daring pretended to calculate on her hooves.

“Prob’ly, like, a day,” she guessed.

“I told you, it doesn’t matter how long it would take for us to get to Haissan, because we’re—”

“Rainbow Dash?”

The mare in question whirled around. A large, dark-feathered griffon had stopped between the trio and the emptying streets of Mareseilles. His beak curled into a smile. “I thought that was you.”

“Hi, Filo!” she said. “Where are you going?”

“Back home to Aquila.”

Ditzy gasped and stepped forward to speak.

Rainbow didn’t notice. “How are you getting there?”

He popped the joints of his massive wings. “It’s not far. Just a few hours north if you don’t stop along the way.”

Rainbow tilted her head to the side. “Really? Well, that’s pretty close. No wonder there’ve been so many conflicts between ponies and griffons.”

“There’s a mountain range that separates our territory from theirs,” he said, taking a few steps closer to the group. “It isn’t hard to fly over, but it does a good job at keeping us separate.” He smirked. “Usually.”

“Well, at least there are no wars going on right now,” Rainbow said with a weak chuckle.

He nodded and sat on his haunches, swishing his lion tail behind his angular head. “And you? Are these the ponies taking you to Haissan?”

“Ohhhh, okay,” Daring sighed. “So you two met on the ship. That’s good to know. I was all like ‘Whaaa?’ for a second there,” she said, waving her hooves wildly.

Rainbow laughed. “Filo, this is Daring.” She made a face as if to ask how much of her story he remembered. “Daring Do.”

He dropped his head in a firm nod. “Ah, yes. The funny friend of yours. Good to meet you.”

Daring beamed at the back of Rainbow Dash’s head even while addressing the griffon. “Yeah, dude, you too!”

“And this is Ditzy,” Rainbow said, rotating her upper body to look at the impatient mailmare. “Her sister.”

“A pleasure,” the griffon said.

“Yeah, yeah, listen: you said you were going to Aquila?”

“Ditzy!” Daring scolded, reaching over to slap her sister’s outstretched hoof. “Show some manners, huh?”

Her angry eyes swirled in their sockets while Rainbow smiled sheepishly.

“Heheh… so, yep. We’re all goin’ to Haissan.”

“I wish you safety and the best of luck,” Filo said with a little bow. “Now, if you’ll excuse me—” He bent into an impressive crouch and spread his enormous wings. “—I must be off.”

“We’re coming with you!” Ditzy said.

All eyes darted to her wonky pair.

“Huh?” Daring’s voice cracked.

“We’re going with him to the mountains of Aquila,” Ditzy repeated, lifting her head higher.

“Why the heck would we do that?” Rainbow asked. She stole a quick glance at the griffon before trotting closer to Ditzy and whispering, “The foals might be in Haissan already. You said so yourself! We don’t have time for detours.”

“Believe me, this will be the fastest way,” Ditzy whispered back.

Daring used her wings to hop into the quiet circle, wincing at the tightness in her muscles, and stuck her head between her partner’s and her sister’s. “What are we hissing about over here?”

“Ditzy says the fastest way to Haissan is by going north to the griffon mountains.”

“That’s stupid,” Daring said matter-of-factly, poking a hoof under Ditzy’s chin. “Are you feeling okay?”

Ditzy swatted the hoof away. “There are things I know about this place, Daring,” she said, flexing her lower eyelids, “that you were never around to learn.”

Daring’s jaw clenched. “Oh, like the size of Alula’s mattress? Lemme guess, king sized.”

“Daring!” Rainbow and Ditzy said together, pounding her on the crown of her helmet. In a fit of surprise, both mares snorted back laughter to maintain the moment’s seriousness, but by the time Daring yanked the headgear from her flattened mane, the Ponyvilleans were wheezing with laughter.

“I’m sorry… am I free to go now?” Filo asked.

“Uh, no! No, sorry,” Ditzy stammered, breaking away from her little group to approach the worried griffon. She cleared her throat. “Uh, we’d actually like to come with you to the borders of griffon territory.”

He frowned. “Why? Isn’t Haissan your destination?”

“Uh, yes.” Ditzy nodded. “Yes, it is, but… there’s a very important mountain we need to visit first.”

“An important… mountain?” the griffon repeated.

“What are you talking about, Ditzy?” Daring asked, sauntering up to her sister’s side and brushing off the top of her pith helmet.

“It’s… literally impossible to explain,” Ditzy said. “But just trust me, this is the right way to go.”

“Why didn’t you tell us this earlier?” Rainbow asked, appearing at the mailmare’s other side.

“Because you would have wanted an explanation,” Ditzy said, “and I don’t have one. You’ll just have to believe me.”

Daring and Rainbow shared an unsure glance behind Ditzy’s head. The griffon shrugged his wings and said, “If you’re going to follow me to the border, that’s fine, but I’m going all the way in one flight. My visa doesn’t allow for any pit stops in Chevallian villages.”

“No problem,” Ditzy said quickly.

Daring shot her a disbelieving look. “What? Uh, actually, there’s a big problem. I’m sore as heck, Ditz! I can barely fly!”

“Hopefully you’ll think about that next time you want to get drunk and race a pony half your age.”

“She’s not half my age!”

Filo snorted in amusement and took off without another word into the late evening sky. Ditzy followed him, breathing evenly between heavy pumps of her wings.

Daring whimpered and looked to Rainbow Dash. “Well… we better get goin’.” She gulped and prepped for takeoff with a painful spread of her feathered appendages. “Hey, how old are you, anyway?”

“Twenty one.”

Daring blinked. “Ah, ponyfeathers.” Donning a scowl, she flapped past the pain and ascended after Filo. Rainbow Dash laughed under her breath and rocketed straight up into the air, flying lazy circles around her suffering partner.

{-DD-}

“There it is. Do you see it, Rainbow?”

The blue pony followed Ditzy’s hoof to a dark, jagged mountain on the blurry horizon. It stood out like a lame hoof from the marble-based mountain range along Aquila’s border, nearly twice as tall and infinitely more black.

“Are you kidding me?” Daring squeaked, struggling to flap her twitching wings. “That thing looks super evil!”

“Griffons do not approach that mountain,” Filo called down, flying above the ponies. “There is dangerous magic around it.”

“Dangerous magic!?” Daring yelped. Growling, she turned her head as far toward her sister as her tight neck would allow. “You trying to kill us off, Ditz?”

“Come on, Daring,” Rainbow said, rolling in the air to whisper over her partner’s ear. “Give her a chance, will ya? If Twilight’s taught me anything about magic, it’s that it can be really helpful. Maybe Ditzy knows something in that mountain that’ll help us find the foals.”

Daring crossed her forelegs, but said no more. Rainbow winked at Ditzy who smiled gratefully.

“Thank you for your guidance, Filo,” Ditzy yelled up to the griffon. “We can find our way from here.”

“Are you sure, ponies?” he asked, swooping closer. “I would hate for you to fall victim to the Dark Mountain.”

“I know its secrets,” Ditzy assured him. “Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine.”

With a nod to her and a smile at Rainbow Dash, the griffon put all his strength into his wings and took off for a southern dip in the mountain range. Ditzy led their flapping trio north toward the pointy peak of obsidian stone.

Rainbow maneuvered around the sisters to coast at Ditzy’s left. “What did you mean about its secrets?” she asked. “When have you been here?”

“I’ll tell the story soon,” Ditzy promised, staring ahead, “and hopefully I’ll have some help with the details.”

“If that’s a request to me, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Daring grumbled.

“It wasn’t.”

Rainbow and Daring exchanged a curious glance. With a shrug, the yellow pony went back to maintaining her altitude on trembling wings. Rainbow looked down at the greyish landscape far below, marked with dozens of tiny villages—maybe a third the size of Ponyville—between weatherworn hills and lake-filled valleys.

“This place is beautiful,” she found herself saying to no one. “My friends would love it.”

Ditzy smiled at her. “I’m glad you’re thinking of your friends back home, Rainbow,” she said. “Your real friends.”

Rainbow wasn’t listening; she pulled her wings in for a hundred foot dive, weaving between wispy clouds barely visible in the twilight. The vapor swirled in her wake and twinkled in emerging starlight.

Ditzy glanced over her shoulder. “We’d better hurry, girls,” she said, noticing the tip of the Moon on the horizon behind them. “I can’t see well in the dark.”

“You pronounced ‘at all’ wrong,” Daring teased, grunting. “Gaah, I don’t know if I can do this! My back is killing me!”

“Oh, please, you little—”

“You can do it, Daring!” Rainbow said, rising from her dive to loop around her partner. “It’s not much farther now! Just pretend you’re racing me!”

“Ha! Yeah, right,” Daring said, reaching out a hoof in an attempt to slap one of Rainbow’s wings. The speedster darted away without a problem.

“You sure you’re the same mare who beat the Best Young Flier, Daring?” Rainbow asked, barreling below her partner for just long enough to poke her in the belly.

Daring wheezed and lost her balance, fumbling in the air for a moment. “Aw, come on! Quit it, kid, I’m serious!”

Ditzy giggled and shook her head. “How on Equus did you ever keep up with Rainbow Dash?”

Daring was silent for a moment. She dropped her head and pulled off her hat, twirling it on the end of one hoof. “I…” She took a deep breath, looking away from Ditzy’s interested squint. “I cheated.”

Rainbow appeared directly above her. “Whoa, what?”

Daring growled and kicked her hind hooves. “I cheated!” she yelled.

Ditzy banked closer. “What? How?”

She let out a raspy sigh and dangled her legs helplessly. “Well… y’know that stallion I was making out with in the bar, Rainbow?”

“Yeah,” she answered with a grimace. Ditzy shuddered.

“He was a salesman,” Daring explained, “taking his product over to Stirrope for the first time. It’s this… I dunno, some kind of potion, I guess. He called it an ‘energy drink’ and named it Manticore or something rad like that. Anyway… it tasted nasty, but I bought some, loaded it with vodka, and chugged way too much.” She shrugged. “Revved me up. Made me feel twenty again.”

Rainbow’s mouth was wide open. “So… it was just some drink? You can’t actually fly as fast as me?”

Daring frowned. “Yeah, I just said that. No need to rub it in.”

Ditzy cackled. “More like every need to rub it in! You’re a cheater!”

“You totally cheated!” Rainbow screeched, beaming. “Ha haaa! I am faster than Daring Do!”

She took off, rotating forward like a torpedo before throwing her wings open and backflipping twice.

“Is it really that surprising?” Daring asked, blowing a lock of her bangs out of her face and replacing her helmet. “You’re faster than everypony in the frickin’ world, kid!”

“Haaaa ha ha ha!”

Rainbow’s laughter and impromptu stunts were enough to distract the Sisters Doo from the unexpected chunks of rock hurtling toward them. One of Ditzy’s eyes drifted just in time.

“Aaack! Rainbow, look out!” she gasped, narrowly diving below a sharp, black boulder.

“Holy Smooze!” Daring swore, avoiding a cluster of much smaller rocks by the breadth of a few tailhairs. “What was that?”

Rainbow swept her body to the left of one boulder and slammed her front hooves into another, thrusting its cracked surface to the distant ground. “I hope that doesn’t hit any Chevallians!”

“Ditzy!” Daring said, forcing her wings to carry her to her sister’s side. “Did those come from the mountain? Did something throw them at us?”

The mailmare gulped. “I-I don’t know! I can’t see very well, remember? It’s already pitch black!”

“Well, you said you know the mountain’s creepy secrets. Anything about cannonballs of shattered stone we should know about?”

Ditzy bit her lip. “Well… there are some freak avalanches, but… we’re not that close yet, are we?”

“Ow!” Rainbow said, slamming into the side of the mountain. Daring closed her wings in fright and plowed into a ledge of black gravel. Ditzy—gasping—smacked her front leg into a protruding slab of ebon granite. It spun her out of control and she landed on a pile of cake-sized rocks.

“Where in Tartarus did this thing come from!?” Daring yelled, kicking the gravel every which way as she scrambled to her hooves. “We were just, like, two miles away!”

“Filo wasn’t kidding about dangerous magic,” Rainbow groaned, shaking out dust from her mane. “Where’s Ditzy?”

“Right here,” the mailmare whimpered into the dark, poking her right leg tenderly. “I think I broke my hoof.”

What?” Rainbow leapt into the air, confused by the inky blackness of the mountain, almost indistinguishable from the expansive night sky. She noticed Ditzy’s blonde mane and green shirt behind a natural column, flying around it to examine the injury. “Oh, shoot! That looks bad!”

Too sore to open her wings, Daring found a way around the back of the column, joining the other pegasi below the mountain’s peak. “Is it cracked?”

“Looks like it,” Rainbow hissed, holding Ditzy’s damaged hoof between her own. “Might be a broken bone in there, too,”

Ditzy tried to laugh. “It’s all right, Rainbow. I’ve had a lot worse.”

“Oh, this is just great,” Daring said, kicking at a flat part of the mountain. “Thanks a lot, you big, dumb rock! Now we have a pony who can’t walk, a pony who can’t fly, and pony who lost her helmet.”

Rainbow blinked. “Like, two days ago!”

“That was a nice helmet!” Daring wailed, dropping her own protected head against the obsidian wall. “Thanks a lot, Ditz. Now we’re stranded on an evil mountain a billion miles from Haissan.”

“Geez, Daring,” Rainbow said, smirking. “Is it that time of month or something?”

Daring shot her a look. “What, you don’t think this situation sucks?”

“I don’t think Ditzy’s plan is done,” Rainbow said, helping the grey mare to her three good hooves, “is it, cap’n?”

Ditzy smiled gratefully and sniffed. “No, it isn’t. We’ll be fine. Rainbow, would you mind flying out a ways and seeing how high up the mountain we are?”

“You got it,” Rainbow said with a salute. She flung herself into the night just as the Moon broke free from the world’s edge, providing enough light for Rainbow to make a good judgment. Once she was a dozen good pumps of her wings away from the towering crag, she spun around and squinted. Two little dots of yellow and green stood out of the blackness nine-tenths of the way to the top.

“Whoa,” she said, diving back to the Sisters to report. “We’re really close to the peak!” she said when she could see the whites of Ditzy’s eyes.

The mailmare blinked. “Oh, really?” She looked up the side of the incredibly steep mountain. “All right, then. We gotta go down.”

Daring tilted her head. “Why down?”

“That’s where the cave is,” Ditzy said, hobbling forward. “It shouldn’t be far. We’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Rainbow landed between the other mares. “Cave? I didn’t see a cave…”

Ditzy smiled. “No, I don’t imagine you would’ve.”

With a snort, Daring followed her sister, wincing with every step. Tail twitching, Rainbow finished the line of three as they inched their way down the mountain and toward its northernmost face.

True to her word, Ditzy stopped the train mere minutes into their trek. “Here it is,” she said, jerking her head at a horizontal, crescent-shaped gap in the rock, barely wide enough for a pony to squeeze through the widest point.

Daring raised an eyebrow. “That looks like the grinning mouth of a mountain monster eager to peel the flesh from our bones.”

“Thanks for that lovely visual, Daring,” Ditzy said with a sweet smile. “Why don’t you go first?”

Daring stepped back. “Uh… I delegate my partner.”

Rainbow grinned. “Deal!” Launching from her hind legs, Rainbow Dash dove through the crack and followed its bumpy tunnel deep into the mountain.

“Rainbow, wait!” Ditzy called out behind her, but the speedster didn’t listen. Her crackly laughter echoed in the narrow path, just wide enough for her to keep flapping. The tunnel curved left, right, up, down, challenging Rainbow’s attention in the dimness. And then—very suddenly—it opened into an enormous chamber filled with bronze light. Pencil-thin stalactites of glimmering copper oozed from the ceiling; their counterparts on the ground were thick and conical, tipped with the color of molten gold.

“What the hay…” Rainbow murmured, looking all around the bright, spherical chamber. Her words were echoed by the stir of movement at the bottom of the sphere. She gasped and lifted her hooves into a defensive position, scanning her eyes over the portly stalagmites as she hovered.

“My word,” a deep, gravelly voice shook the walls of the chamber. “I haven’t seen a mane like that for centuries.”

Rainbow grit her teeth and draped her hooves over her head. “Yeah, well, you can’t have it!”

After a moment of silence, the disembodied voice started to laugh. “What—haa haa!—wh-what do you think I would want with your mane, child?”

Rainbow scrunched up her nose. “I dunno… you might eat it or something. I don’t even know what you are!”

The copper-colored stone at the lowest curve of the sphere buckled and inflated like some kind of clay. Rainbow watched with wide eyes as the liquid rock formed into a tall, equine shape, complete with enormous, regal wings and a spiraling horn. A pair of clear grey eyes opened below the magical spire and focused on Rainbow’s pinprick pupils.

“I am Piedra,” he said in a voice that rumbled the cavern. “Welcome to my home.”

Rainbow couldn’t speak, staring at the pony that continued to take form amidst the cones of glowing bronze.

As soon as a mouth appeared below his narrow snout, the alicorn offered her a calming smile. “There is no need to be afraid of me, child. I assume my old friend Ditzy sent you?”

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