• Published 31st Mar 2018
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Waiting For You - Rainb0w Dashie



Rainbow Dash is plagued with visions and nightmares that beckon her back to a place long-forgotten by Equestrian History

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Chapter Nine: A Secret Place

Rainbow Dash and company arrived at the Las Pegasus junction in the early afternoon and took off flying into the northern sky, but barely made it past the Whitetail Woods as Twilight quickly became tired. Landing prematurely into the fringes of the Everfree Forest. They walked a short ways through the woods as Twilight’s energy recovered. Along they way they stumbled upon several bundles of vines, similar to the ones Rainbow Dash and Gilda had discovered the day before. Close to the vines were supply crates emblazoned with black wings and what looked to the the remains of an old campsite; Knocked over metal tent poles and a tin cookpot hung above a circle of stones from an old fire. Twilight used her magic to pull the vines apart and upon closer inspection found the skeletal remains of avian bones; beaked skulls attached to rib cages strapped inside golden breastplates bearing the same markings as the ones on the nearby crates.

Rainbow Dash mentioned they were the same symbols she saw in her dreams however Twilight was unable to find any mention of them in her encyclopedia. Opening the crates, they found a surplus of military supplies; golden helmets, sword belts, gauntlets, maces, axes, and several sheets of unfitted chain mail. She made a note of their location and the trio flew back up, only to land short once again as Twilight’s wings began to cramp.

They landed on the tracks this time, much to Rainbow Dash’s pleasure as it only took them about ten minutes to reach the boxcar. Much to the pegasi's chagrin however, the purple alicorn took a considerable amount of time inspecting the boxcar. Looking for any kind of identification numbers or reporting marks, but was only able to rub off a section of rust revealing the words “West Equestrian Railyard”. Twilight found this to be highly unusual as the only rail yards in Equestria were out of Canterlot or Manehattan, and again, she was unable to find any mention of it in her encyclopedia.

They went down the forest trial and through the opening Gilda had made, which was already regrown about three quarters of the way, and the three of them stood before the stone building.

“Well,” Rainbow Dash sighed. “This is it.”

“You know I really would’ve wanted to spend a little bit more time inspecting that boxcar.” Twilight readjusted her saddlebag to a more comfortable position. “I’m sure I could’ve found some kind of information on it.”

“You weren’t going to find anything.” Rainbow Dash grumbled. “You were looking in that stupid book of yours for almost a half hour and didn’t find anything.”

“I don’t understand why.” Twilight stated. “This book has an accumulative history of the last three hundred years.”

“Well you couldn’t find anything about those gryphon skeletons in the woods.” The pegasus reiterated. “You probably aren’t going to find anything about the railyard either.”

Not wanting to argue, Twilight changed the subject.

“So this is it?” Twilight said as she looked up at the crumbling edifice. “The construction looks almost preclassical, almost like the buildings in Canterlot.”

“Are you sure this is the same building from your dreams?” Spike questioned. “Seems really unlikely.” Twilight reproached him but he continued. “I’m just saying it seems a bit far-fetched to have a dream about a building and then find it the very next day. This isn’t a storybook.”

“I'm positive.” Rainbow Dash affirmed, moving closer to the building. “In my dream I was standing right here and somepony told me ‘this is a safe place’.”

“It does feel kinda homely.” Twilight remarked. “You know, despite the fact that the building is falling apart.”

“So… What’s the plan?” Spike asked.

“Well, it’s high noon.” Twilight looked up at the sky. “With all this ambient light we have right now I think it’s our best chance to explore the inside.”

Rainbow Dash agreed and they all stepped inside, walking past the rubble and bits of broken bookcase and stopped at the bottom of the stairs. No longer shrouded in the dim blackness from before, Rainbow Dash could see that both of the hallways appeared to wrap around the staircase and split off into separate sections of the building. She turned to ask which hallway they should go down only to see Twilight looking up at the large lunar tapestry.

“Wow you weren’t kidding.” Twilight admired. “That thing would look good in the my castle.”

“So what should we do?” Rainbow asked.

“Twilight looked at both of the hallways herself and thought for a moment.

”We could probably cover more ground if we split up.” Twilight said. “Since you already said you explored the upstairs and found nothing noteworthy, how about you go left and Spike and I will go right? We can meet back here in an hour. If you need help you can just yell for us and we can come find you.”

Rainbow Dash agreed and disappeared around the corner of the left hallway. Spike and Twilight took to the right and rounded the corner into shadows. The alicorn’s horn illuminated with a magical light and revealed a small cluster of rooms cloaked in shadow as this wing of the building faced away from the sun.

They stopped at the first room and pushed past the half-opened door and Twilight’s horn threw shadows across the wall and lit up what remained of a decrepit classroom. They walked around as Twilight’s hornlight scanned past what was once rows of desks that were now upturned and wrecked. Papers and writing supplies littered the floor and on the far wall hung a chalkboard with the words “Poetry Recitals Today” written in faded chalk.

Spike picked up a few of the papers off the floor and looked at them as Twilight walked to the front of the room and stopped by the teacher’s desk.

“Hey Twilight.” Spike called out. “Check these out.”

“What is it Spike?” Twilight turned around, shining her light in his face. Spike handed the papers to her and she shuffled through them with her magic. “It’s just a bunch of poems?”

“Yeah, but look at the dates on them.” Spike said. Twilight looked through them again.

“Whoa you’re right, Spike.” Twilight exclaimed. “These are over a thousand years old!”

“If they really are,” Spike said. “why haven’t they completely disintegrated by now? Doesn’t paper not last very long?”

“Modern paper doesn’t.” Twilight explained. “Our modern paper is made from wood pulp, which doesn’t last very long when exposed to air. But if the dates on these are correct they most paper back then was rag paper made of recycled linen, so the fibers were long, more flexible, and lasted much much longer.” She passed the poems back to Spike. “If you want, you could read more about it in the encyclopedia.”

“I’m not looking through that book again.” Spike huffed. “It’s heavy and hasn’t been very reliable today.”

“I know, it was just a joke.” Twilight giggled and turned to look at the chalkboard and playfully asked Spike if they should recite some poetry. Spike hesitated a response and Twilight walked to the center of the room, stood proper, and began to recite one of her favorite poems.

“Whose woods these are I think I know,

Her house is in the castle though.

She will not see me stopping here,

To watch her woods fill up with snow.

A little pony must think it queer,

To stop without a farmhouse near.

Between the woods and frozen lake,

The darkest evening of the year.”

“That was kinda fun!” Twilight laughed again. “You should recite a poem Spike.”

“Why?” He asked.

“I don't know.” Twilight shrugged. “Just feels like it’s something we’re supposed to do. Plus it wouldn’t hurt.”

“I’ll pass. I read comic books, not poetry.” Spike said, feeling a sudden movement of air as if somepony had just stormed past him. He turned and looked towards the door, a weird feeling growing in his chest. “On second thought, I guess I could read one.”

Spike took a poem from the stack he held in his claws and walked up to the center of the room. He looked at Twilight who was smiling at him, patiently waiting for him to start. He stammered through the first stanza of the poem, having no real sense of meter:

“We are snowflakes,

Drifting to the end.

We are snowflakes,

Drifting to the end.”

Twilight cheered for him anyway, clapping her hooves and asking him to continue.

Like leaves falling,

Off the trees of winter.

The sun goes down,

And you never came around.

The moon fades away,

And the stars are blowing up.

Like the leaves on the trees,

In the winter we die.”

“Huh, it’s actually pretty good. Kinda dark, but good… I like it.” Spike said, feeling another movement of air. “Do you feel that?” He asked.

“Feel what?”

“That wind.” Spike stated. “It feels like a breeze or something.”

“I don’t feel anything.” Twilight remarked. “It might be coming from outside since the doors are open, but it’s forecasted to be a pretty calm day today.”

Spike straightened out the poems in his hand made a comment that they should probably check the other rooms when a piece broke off in his claw and crumbled to dust. Feeling a sudden weight in his chest like he’d just broken something important he made a comment about it to Twilight.

“Well the papers are probably super brittle.” She explained. “They are a thousand years old after-all, so you can’t handle them like you would a normal piece of paper. You have to be gentle or else they’ll fall apart.”

Spike felt sorrowful for a moment, not really sure why, but got an idea and waddled over to Twilight and reached a claw into her saddlebag.

“What are you doing?” She asked as he pulled out a comic book.

“I want to keep these.” Spike explained. “They feel important, you know? But the paper is falling apart so I figure I could put them with one of my comics and keep them from getting damaged.” He opened the plastic sleeve of his comic and slid the poems between the comic and the cardboard backer and carefully slid the whole stack back into Twilight’s bag.

***

As Rainbow Dash turned the corner, the hallway opened up into a long corridor that seemed to have been built to accommodate a larger amount of back and forth hoof-traffic. The corridor was broad and straight like a canal that cuts through a town. It almost reminded her of the hallways at the Junior Speedsters Flight Camp, except the paint had peeled off the walls long ago.

A row of pictures lined both sides of the corridor just like in the entrance hallway, and just the same almost all of the them were broken and empty. Those that had pictures still in their frames were faded to the point where only vague shapes and outlines remained stained onto the paper. Rainbow Dash stopped in front a painting with a bronze plaque hung below it, the words ‘The promise of a bright future” were carved onto its surface. The picture however only displayed ambiguous forms, like coffee stains on parchment, and looked almost like a group of ponies standing at attendance for a school photo; the distinct shape of an adult alicorn stood center frame.

She kept walking, and soon the corridor opened up even further into a large cafeteria. Stepping inside she felt a wave of familiarity and deja vu wash over her. The cafeteria was in a complete state of disarray, just like every single other room she had entered thus far. Despite the crumbling stone walls, despite the rubble strewn floors, and even despite the collapsed lunch tables, there was no doubt in her mind that this was the the same cafeteria from her dreams.

She looked up towards the ceiling and saw the same clerestory windows, saw the same afternoon sunlight pouring in, and felt the same overwhelming desire to go outside. To leave. To escape. However, when she looked back down she saw no foals sat with lunch trays nor did she see Princess Luna stranding before her. At the end of the room though, she could see a single door set against the back wall. She instinctively went towards it, feeling like she had repeated these actions before and walked passed rows and rows of lunchtables.

She swallowed hard and raised a hoof to the latch.

“If you leave this place we will no longer be able to protect you.” A voice echoed through the pegasi's mind. “You are free to leave but we guarantee you will die without us.”

Rainbow Dash sucked in a lungful of stale air, closed her eyes, and pushed open the door. She heard birds, and felt a rush of warm, sweet-smelling air. She waited, and when she was sure certain doom hadn’t come she opened her eyes to the afternoon light.

There was a small garden outside. Stone benches, overgrown shrubbery, and unkempt flower beds that, once neatly manicured, had grown tall and shaggy with vines and weeds. She stepped outside and walked through what was once a small hedge maze that came to a center with a tall statue whose stone wings could be seen over the tops of the wild hedges. Reaching the center of the maze, Rainbow Dash came upon the cracked stone sculpture of what used to be a young Princess Luna surrounded by foals, similar to the one she saw outside the St Hoofsburg Gate, except the statue seemed to have succumbed to the slow ravages of time.

Several pairs of trunkless hooves stood on the pedestal around the princess, eroded from years of rain and unable to bear the weight of their stone bodies that fell around the base of the statue. Near then, half sunk in the dirt, a shattered visage of Princess Luna lay.

And on the pedestal hung a bronze plaque whose words read “Our dear mother and her children of the night”

Looking around, the pegasus felt an overpowering sense of peace. Despite the fact the the garden had been left to grow wild, it was a very serene setting. The birds were singing, the sun seemed bright, the air was clear. A light wind rustled the trees and ruffled her feathers, and she felt the desire to sit on one of the stone benches, as if somepony had called over to her. But no other ponies remained, round the decay of that wrecked statue and its wild overgrown garden.

Around them, boundless and dense, the Everfree Forest stretched far away.

***

“It’s not going to work.” Spike said.

“It is going to work.” Twilight retorted, her face twisted up with concentration. “I know how to pick a lock.”

The twosome were standing in front of the last door at the end of the hallway. A thick oaken-wood door with ‘Administration’ written on the wire glass window. Spike stood off to the side as Twilight struggled in vain to magically pick the door’s lock.

“That lock’s probably a thousand years old.” Spike pointed out. “There’s no way it’s going to be like the locks we have today.”

“That’s why it shouldn't be this hard to pick.” Twilight seethed. “Hold on... I think I got it!” She said with an influx of magic, followed by a hearty chunk. “See Spike, I told you it was going to work….” The alicorn attempted to open the door but the handle wouldn’t budge. The lock was jammed. “Oh buck it.”

With a flash of purple magic the lock exploded, a dull thud could be heard inside the room as the tumbler shot against the wall, and moments later the door creaked open.

It was probably the only room in the entire building that was untouched by time. Untouched by the elements for a thousand years, as it was the only room not reduced to rubble. Dust swirled up from the sudden rush of air and directly in front of them stood a large wooden desk covered with stacks of written correspondence. Twilight walked around and sifted through a few of the letters.

“What are they? Spike said, stepping over the ejected lock tumbler.

“It looks like letters to and from a rail-yard.” Twilight said, shuffling through the letters. “The West Equestrian railyard, like the name on that box car outside.”

Spike walked around the desk to get a better look, but it scarcely made a difference as the desk was almost as tall as he was. “Does it say anything about the rail yard?” he said, his head peaking up.

“No, they just seem to be notices of train arrivals and shipment sizes. Twilight began to read aloud. “ 9 PM, two parcels. 2:30 AM, 4 parcels. 8:30 PM, 8 parcels.” She handed them to off to spike as she read each one.

“Why is ‘parcel’ written like that in each one?” Spike asked.

“I’m not sure.” Twilight said. “But this last one here says there was supposed to be one more delivery after that last one. Says down here that ‘I fear we may have been discovered so I’m not going going to stop. I will just detach the cargo as we near the drop zone’. What do you think that means?”

“I guess that explains why there’s just a box car with no engine.” Spike wondered aloud. “But discovered by who?”

“And what were they delivering?” Twilight wondered as well.

The alicorn turned around to see a large map of western Equestria hanging on the wall. Any text that had been written had faded but the general shape remained, as well as several pins placed in different locations connecting back to the building’s location on the map with little pieces of string. As she searched the back wall her eyes fell upon a small filing cabinet behind the desk.

“Jackpot!” Twilight said as she began to fiddle with the cabinet’s lock.

Spike looked around as Twilight attempted to pick another ancient lock. He had a weird feeling about this place. He wasn’t afraid or anything, there had just been a pressure building in his chest ever since they entered the classroom. It was hard for him to breathe, and ever since they entered this administration office he’d been feeling shivers down his scales; like he wasn't supposed to be in that room.

He looked down at the shipping invoices he held in his claws and re-read them. Trying to distract himself from his lingering sense of dread when he heard Twilight grunt as she exploded another lock, followed by the sounds of Twilight tossing a stack of folders down onto the desk.

“Spike look at this.” Twilight motioned him over. “They look like records of some sort.” She said as she held up profiles of several foals with their pictures paperclipped onto them. She began to read them aloud and pass them to Spike again.

“Ivy Charm, brother of Caramel Whiskers. Father drafted.” She pulled out another profile “Caramel Pie, only child, parents abandoned after fleeing town.” She pulled out another. “Rain Chaser, brother of Sandy Shores, arrived with sister after attack on St Hoofsburg.”

“St Hoofsburg? Where is-” Spike began to ask but Twilight had already pulled out her encyclopedia and was leafing through it.

“I don’t know why I brought this thing.” Twilight snorted after a few moments of searching. “It hasn’t turned up a single entry on anything we’ve tried to look up. So much for an accumulative history of the last three hundred years.” Twilight looked up as if something had just dawned on her. “Wait a minute… Of course!”

“What?” Spike asked confused.

Spike what were the dates on those files?” Twilight asked. The dragon looked through a couple and read off some dates. “And what were the dates on those shipping invoices?” Spike told her a few of those as well. “Uh huh” The alicorn said, satisfied. “Do you want to know why we haven’t been able to find any information in this book?” She said holding up the encyclopedia.

“Why?” Spike asked.

“Because all those dates are almost a thousand years ago. I don't know why I didn’t think of that before.”

“That does make sense.” Spike said sheepishly, slightly embarrassed he didn’t think of it either; especially after pointing out the dates on the poems earlier.

“And do you know what was happening during those dates?” Twilight continued. Spike shook his head. “The Great Gryphon War. Of course we weren't going to find any information about anything, because recorded Equestrian history didn’t start till a hundred years after the war.”

“So.. what do you think then?” Spike looked up at Twilight. “About all this?” he motioned around.”

“If I were give an educated guess.” Twilight said looking at the map behind her. “Given that the gryphons were seizing Equestrian settlements during the war, I think somepony built this place during the conflict; but what I’m wondering is why?” Twilight began to pace as she thought out loud. “Maybe they were smuggling weapons? That would explain the train shipments and why the correspondence seems to be written in code. But that wouldn’t explain the sheer size of this place. That wouldn’t explain these records.”

Spike looked down at the records he held in his claws and looked through them again in a vain attempt to find something to help Twilight think.

“Hey.” He said, holding up a particular record. “This pony kinda looks like Rainbow Dash!”

Twilight looked over, breaking her concentration. “I don’t see it.” she said.

“He totally does.” Spike said reaching into Twilight’s saddlebag and pulling out some pastels he had brought. He colored in a rainbow mane on the colt and showed it to Twilight again.

“Oh wow, I guess he does.” Twilight said, bemused. “He even has that cocky grin Rainbow Dash has.” She looked closer at the file. “Hmmm. Rain Chaser? He even has a similar name. You think this was maybe Rainbow Dash in a past life?” Twilight teased.

“Rain chaser?” Spike questioned, never actually looking at the foal’s name. “Hey they wrote that poem I read in the other room."

“Couldn’t be a past life then.” Twilight chuckled. “Dash isn’t very big on writing poetry.”

“You know, a lot of these foals look kinda familiar actually.” Spike flipped through the files and pulled out Sandy Shores. “See, this one looks like fluttershy, and look, this one kinda looks like you.”

“Alright, now you’re just pulling my hoof.” Twilight said. “Just because the file says purple unicorn with purple hair doesn’t mean we look alike.”

They both laughed and Twilight went back to pacing the room. “All jokes aside,” She said. “I just can’t quite put my hoof on this place.”

“Maybe it’s-” Spike attempted to respond when he thought he saw somepony run past the door. He quickly went to the door and looked out into the empty hall, seeing nothing.

“Equestrian rail yard.” He heard Twilight talking out loud again. ‘Pre-classical era construction. Great Gryphon war.” Spike could almost see the gears turning in her head. “Spike, I think this was an orphanage, or maybe some kind of hospital, but one nopony was supposed to know about. A secret place.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Just look at these files.” Twilight said taking the records from Spike’s claws with her magic. “Half of them were victims of the Great Gryphon War, and others were taken in shortly before. And they all arrived late into night at the same times. 2:30 AM. 9 PM. 10:25 PM. Almost as if to make sure nopony saw them.”

“I don’t follow.” Spike scratched his head.

“Look at the shipping invoices.” Twilight instructed. “They have the same delivery dates and times as the admittance date of all these foals. The West Equestrian Railyard wasn’t smuggling weapons, they were smuggling foals! Victims of the war. That’s why all the correspondence sounds so cryptic. If they were to be intercepted somepony would just assume they were normal deliveries and wouldn’t give them a second thought.”

“I don’t know,” Spike said. “Sounds a little far-fetched. Even if it were true, who would go through all that trouble? Who would build a place like this and fill it with foals?”

“It makes perfect sense.” Twilight mused. “Especially considering those poems we found in the other room. Somepony was caring for those foals, educating them, nurturing them. But like you said, who would do something like that?”

“I don’t know.” Spike said.

“I don’t know either” Twilight paused. “And I’m not saying that’s a hundred percent what happened. It just seems to be the most plausible explanation.”

“Do you think we should maybe see if Rainbow Dash has found anything?” Spike suggested. “Maybe see what she thinks of all this? And besides, it’s getting kinda cold in here.”

“Yeah, good idea Spike,” Twilight said, collecting her encyclopedia, the letters, and the foal records; placing them all into her saddlebag. “I could go for some sunlight anyway, warm up my wings!”

***

Rainbow Dash was exploring the rest of the cafeteria wing of the building. She explored the cafeteria, kitchen, bathrooms, and connecting hallways and found nothing of real interest aside from some scratch marks on the refrigerators and kitchen cabinetry; like some kind of animal had tried to claw its way in. She found another wing towards the the back which looked to be another set of bedrooms but debris from a collapsed ceiling had completely blocked off access to it.

“I hope Spike and Twilight are having better luck than I am,” Rainbow Dash grumbled to herself. “cause I ain’t finding a thing.”

She heard what sounded like a shuffling of hooves, as if somempony had just run up behind her, and looked over her shoulder only to see an empty hallway.

“Twilight?” She called out, thinking it might've been her friends coming to check up on her. “Spike?”

There’s was no answer, only the unmistakable feeling that she wasn’t the only one there. She walked back into the cafeteria, only to find out she was still the only pony in the room. Perhaps the emptiness was getting to her again, she wondered to herself. This building was almost as bleak and empty as Twilight’s castle after all. The only difference being Twilight’s castle wasn’t bedecked with debris and faded photographs. But there was still an overall emptiness. An emptiness created by the absence of who or whatever used to roam these halls. It was in every room, every hallway, every destroyed piece of furniture, and it filled Rainbow Dash with a gloomy heaviness that soaked into her bones.

Returning to where she was, she turned a corner into another hallway when she began to hear hoofsteps above her. She followed them, going from hallway to hallway, stopping in a few rooms before walking back out as if Twilight and Spike were upstairs searching for her.

“Twilight!” She called out. “I’m downstairs!”

The hoofsteps then led her to a staircase, leading upstairs. She went to walk up them but got immediate goosebumps as her hoof touched the first stair, and looked up. It sounded like somepony was at the top of the stairs waiting for her.

“Twilight?” She called out again. “If this is a joke it isn’t funny.” She heard more sounds, as if somepony had just walked away and she quickly ascended the stairs. As she climbed higher, the air got colder, and as she reached the top landing and walked through the connecting hallway she found herself at the top of the main staircase that she and Gilda had climbed the day prior but had been too dark to see.

The hallway was dark. All the doors that had previously been opened were shut, except for the one at the end of the hall. Rainbow Dash felt a gush of wind push her forward, so she slowly began to walk towards the room.

She called out to Twilight again, asking if she were in the room, but still received no response. As she drew closer, she could see a small toy in the middle of the room that she was sure wasn’t there before; and as she got three or four rooms away she could see that it was a stuffed Princess Luna doll; and she could almost swear that she saw the toy moving. As she drew closer, still she trained her eyes on the toy, not sure if it was her eyes playing tricks on her or not. Thinking it was some kind of anxiousness from being inside the empty building when she then saw the toy begin to bob up and down, prancing across the rug as if somepony were playing with it.

Finally she reached the doorway, and inside, the room was the coldest she had ever felt. Like somepony had left the window open on a frigid winter’s night. The toy wasn’t moving anymore. She stepped into the room, and when she reached the rug in the center of the room she reached out to examine it.

Something soft brushed against Rainbow Dash. Something plush like fur yet firm like skin. It was supple and soft, and felt like a body. But before Rainbow Dash could get a sense for what was touching her, before she could form an image in her mind, it began to rapidly fade into into existence and take form before her very eyes.

Rainbow Dash could see a hoof touching hers. She froze. Although she he didn’t feel fear, she couldn’t move either. She watched as the hoof began to take shape. Becoming more solid, and soon there was a body with hooves, wings, and a head, looking almost skeletal at first. However, a faint blue coat began to fade in and soon Rainbow Dash was looking at a small foal with brilliant red eyes and a blue coat that she could see the furniture and wallpaper through.

“Rainbow Dash, you came back!” The apparition said. “I knew you were gonna come back!”

Rainbow Dash was at a loss for words. Her mind was going a mile a minute trying to process what she had just witnessed. Finally, after some time, she spoke, “How do you know my name?”

“I’ve known your name for a long time. You’re awesome!” The spectre beamed. “I wanted to tell the others about you but they didn’t want to come back.”

“The others?”

“The others foals. Oh, and my name’s Rain Chaser by the way. I know you didn’t ask but that’s me!”

Rainbow Dash was in shock, still trying to comprehend what was happening and could only ask simple questions.

“Where are the others?”

“They got tired of waiting for mother to come back, they all went away to the bright place but not me!” Rain Chaser shook his head. “Heck no at all. I know mother will come back and she’ll be so proud of me for waiting!”

“Who is your mother?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Princess Luna of course!” Rain Chaser said with shining eyes. “Well, she’s not my real mother, she rescued me and my sister when our real mother got hurt by a nasty gryphon.” His tone soured. “I was going to appear to you yesterday but I got scared because your mean gryphon friend was with you.”

Suddenly, like the last puzzle piece falling into place, everything made sense to Rainbow Dash. The train, the building, the poem, the gryphons in the field...

She looked up at the skeletons on the bed.

So is that… you?” She asked, sobering up.

“Yeah…” Rain Chaser said sadly. “Me and my sister. We were waiting for mother to come back but it was so cold. We both fell asleep and when I woke up she was gone. I tried looking for her but I didn’t want to leave the building. I had to wait for mother to come back.”

“How long have you been waiting here?” Rainbow Dash asked, looking back down at the spectre. “Don’t you get ever lonely being here all by yourself?”

“It’s been a long time...” Rain Chaser looked pensive. “But I don’t get lonely.” He picked up the Luna doll. “I’ve got my toys, and this doll my sister gave me, so it’s not so bad. As long as I wait here and play with my toys like I’m supposed to, dear mother will return.”

Rainbow Dash knelt down by Rain Chaser.

“Look kiddo,” She said. “I’ve got some bad news. I don’t think your mother, er, Princess Luna is coming back.”

“What do you mean not coming back? She has to come back!” He threw the toy to the ground. “Where did she go?”

“She did something bad, she hurt a lot of ponies and had to go away.” Rainbow Dash paused, thinking back to her and her friend’s encounter with Nightmare Moon. “For a long time.”

“She would never hurt anypony. She told us herself!” Rain Chaser shouted, tears forming in his eyes. "She said we were her children and she said she'd never let anypony hurt us." Rain Chaser was scowling at Rainbow Dash, but it quickly began to falter as he started to sob quietly. “Why didn’t she come back for us?”

Rainbow Dash instinctively put her hooves around him, cradling him. He put his hooves around her as well and cried softly into her coat.

“Come on little guy, don’t cry.” The pegasus said. “That’s so unrainbow.”

“I just want her to come back.” Rain Chaser cried. “I miss her. I’ve missed her every day.”

“And I’m sure she missed you too.” Rainbow Dash said, having flashbacks to similar conversations she’d had with Scootaloo about her parents. “But kiddo you have to understand that she’s not coming back. She can’t.”

“Why not?” He asked, a lilt in his voice.

“She left over a thousand years ago, she got imprisoned on the moon.” Rainbow Dash said. “Even if she wanted to come back, she couldn’t because you… wouldn’t have been alive anymore.”

Rain Chaser didn’t take that well. He clung to Rainbow Dash like a vice, tightly squeezing her despite his ethereal form, and cried with all his might.

Rainbow Dash knew this foal needed to move on, to cross over, but she was starting to doubt her strategy. She didn't want to upset the foal, but with a thousand years of repressed sadness and longing there would be no way Rain Chaser would listen rationally.

Rainbow Dash sat in the middle of the rug, doing her best to console Rain Chaser, when suddenly she had an idea.

“Hey,” She said. “If I could somehow bring Luna here, would that make you feel better?”

Rain Chaser was sobbing too hard to speak a response, but nodded into her coat.

“You’ll have to promise me you’ll stop crying.”

“I'll try.” Rain Chaser said trying to suppress his crying but hiccupped in its wake.

“You’ll do more than try.” Rainbow said with a smile, playfully hitting the foal on the shoulder. “You will!”

The foal giggle a bit. “How are you going to bring momma back?”

Rainbow Dash was about to respond but Rain Chaser looked up at the door and suddenly disappeared. Moments later, Twilight and Spike came into the room.

“Rainbow are you okay?” Twilight said. “We heard shouting and crying up here.”

“Yeah we were looking for you in the cafeteria. When” Spike was about to say when he noticed the skeletons in the bed. “Ooooh.”

“Ooh, those must be the skeletons you told us about.” Twilight chirped.

“Yeah.” Rainbow said sheepishly as she rose to her hooves.

“Anyway Rainbow,” Twilight said. “Have you discovered anything?” We think we might have an idea about what’s going on here.”

“Yeah so do I.” Rainbow said. “Hey, could I borrow a quill and a scroll?”

“Uhh, I guess you can?” Twilight said as she levitated them out of her bag and over to Dash. The pegasus quickly scribbled a message onto the scroll before rolling it up and giving it to Spike. “Can you send this to Princess Luna please?”

“Yeah I guess I can.” Spike said suspiciously before teleporting the scroll away with his dragon breath. “But why?”

Rainbow Dash was about to answer when Spike almost immediately burped out a response scroll from Princess Luna.

“What does it say?” Twilight asked as Rainbow read its contents.

“Luna said she wants us to meet her at the castle immediately.” Rainbow Dash rolled the scroll back up. “Can your teleport spell take us that far?”

“It didn’t before when I was just a unicorn.” Twilight stated. “But now that I’m an alicorn I could teleport us all the way across the continent and back.”

“Perfect.” Rainbow Dash said. “Let’s not waste any time them.”