• Published 26th Aug 2017
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To Perytonia - Cloudy Skies

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Rarity are tasked with establishing ties between Equestria and the strange people of Perytonia. Understanding and connecting with your own friends may yet be the bigger challenge. Updates every Tuesday and Saturday!

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Chapter 33

We went to Town Hall today, and I think Rainbow Dash noticed I lost my nerve on the way. She really, really wanted me to sign up for the Summer Sun Celebration, and she was very… loud about it, and then Applejack heard, and

Today has been disaster. I’m going to go to bed early.

Good night, Diary,


“Five bits on that butt-for-brains Koltares carrying… I’m gonna say two bowls of water on a small tray,” said Rainbow Dash, perking an ear at the still-distant steps echoing down the hall.

“Five on him carrying one this time,” said Rarity, stretching her neck languidly. “It’s plain he’s portioning up the food and water to make all these inane little trips just to keep an eye on us.”

“At least it means we get cold water all day,” said Fluttershy with a sigh. Her efforts to give their frequent visitor the benefit of the doubt were showing cracks. “I wouldn’t mind a little privacy, though.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” Dash grumped. The entire morning and the day so far had been marked by a dozen and a half visits. Instead of Velysra, it was Koltares every time, here with a few fruits, later with another bowl of water—always with openly suspicious looks at Rainbow Dash and the others, at the chains, the door, and everything else, as though he suspected the ponies would… well. Do what they planned to do, really. Escape. That got a grin out of Dash, despite the creepy stalker stag.

“Velysra?” said Fluttershy, the pegasus perking up and rising to stand.

And that was good for another smile. “Hey,” said Dash. “Didn’t think you’d come around any more.” Rainbow Dash didn’t know exactly how happy she was to see her, but it was a step up from Koltares any way you shook it.

“If everything quite alright?” asked Rarity, the unicorn stepping up to the bars, and now Rainbow Dash had to wonder, too. The doe stopped outside the doorway and peered over her own back, looking down the hall twice in each direction before she entered.

“What’s up?” Dash tried again.

“This seems excessive,” said Velysra in reply. She strode all the way up to the bars, confident, but clearly distracted. She stopped by the spot where Dash’s chain was tethered to one of the iron bars.

“That’s what we thought,” said Fluttershy with a sigh. “You didn’t know?”

“I was told, but hearing and knowing—let us say that I am surprised even now,” said Velysra, shaking her head. She looked over at the ponies as if she hadn’t noticed them before. “How are you?”

“In prison,” said Dash with a shrug.

“We’re holding up well enough,” said Rarity. “It’s safe to say that we preferred your visits to the alternative.”

“I’m sure Koltares is trying his best,” said Fluttershy, shuffling her wings. “But, um, he’s really nosey, and not nice at all. I’m sorry to say that, I know you like him.”

Dash raised a brow at the harsh words coming from Fluttershy, but Velysra did not protest. She nodded.

“My opinion of him is not what it was a few days ago, I will say this.” Again she glanced at the doorway. “Can I do anything for you?”

“Well—” Dash began.

“She’s not going to let us out, Rainbow, dear,” said Rarity with a deadpan stare.

Velysra smiled and shook her head. “I can not help you with locks or chains. I have been told to stay away, and only relieve Koltares when he absolutely must leave.”

“Because you’re starting to understand that your ‘Guide’ is bad news?” Dash asked, tilting her head.

The doe rolled her jaw and took a deep breath, letting it out again with painful slowness.

“We’ve talked to her,” said Fluttershy, scratching at one of her own forelegs. “I… we could probably tell you what she told us. I don’t think it matters any more.”

“She has told me what you will tell me, I think,” said Velysra, shaking her head. “She is not so stupid as to try to hide words from me when I am one of those few who can ask you myself—and I am not so dense as to believe all I hear.”

The three ponies all exchanged looks. Rarity and Fluttershy smiled at that, looking downright hopeful, but Dash wasn’t quite so sure herself.

“Does this mean you’re taking our side?” asked Rarity. “You know that Caldesseia doesn’t have a leg to stand on, so to speak, and you know our imprisonment is unjust—”

“I do not believe all I hear, from her, or from you,” said Velysra, her gaze hard for a moment. “I am sorry. I have known her all my life. You cannot both be correct in all things, and while I do not trust the other creatures she guests here in our home, I must trust that there is truth in some of what she says, too.”

“Of course,” said Dash. She closed her eyes and leaned forward until her head hit the bars with a muted thunk. She heard Fluttershy sigh.

“As a soothe-prong, however,” Velysra went on. “I object to your treatment. Is there anything I can do for you? Within reason, of course.”

“I think perhaps there is,” said Rarity, smiling brightly. “Would you mind fetching our bags?”

Velysra tilted her head, one brow arched.

“I don’t expect you to give us all our things,” Rarity said. “There’s just one thing I’d like from my bags, purely ornamental, you see. You can check for yourself, it’s honestly just a lump of rock, a statue with sentimental value.”

The doe remained rather skeptical, walking over to where the saddlebags lay. “I do not suppose you carry keys and crash-powder in your bags. A statue?”

“Yes, in the bags with the three diamonds—no, the other one, those are butterflies, dear—”

“Oh, um, actually, could you just open that one? The one with the butterflies? I don’t need anything from it, I just want to make sure everything is okay.”

Dash scratched an itch on her chest, watching with interest. She had no idea what Fluttershy was on about, but if Rarity could convince Velysra to give them the statue, that was good thinking. She had no intentions of ruining that plan.

“This?” Velysra asked, opening Fluttershy’s saddlebags. Some cloth, packed food, and the tips of the unwieldy antlers poked out. Fluttershy nodded and smiled her thanks.

“That’s all I wanted to know. Thank you,” said Fluttershy, letting out a sigh of relief.

“If I can ease your minds this simply, I do it with pleasure,” said Velysra, shaking her head slightly. She opened Rarity’s saddlebags and shifted some things around. “A statue, you say—it must be this?”

“That one exactly. It should help spruce up this prison. You should know, aesthetics are of prime importance to ponies. Why, I feel better already,” said Rarity, smiling wide.

“There is no harm, I expect,” Velysra said, taking exactly one step towards the bars before she stopped, the statue hovering in front of her. She froze, her eyes jumping from the statue to the ponies and back again.

“Is something wrong?” asked Fluttershy, licking her lips.

“Yes,” said Velysra. She turned the statue around so the ponies could see it—as if they hadn’t seen it before. Now that Rainbow Dash knew the link between Selyria and Luna, it was impossible to think of the statue as just a peryton. There was definitely a princess pony in there, Luna shining through with properly sized forelegs rather than dainty peryton ones. She had no idea how she didn’t see it sooner. Velysra apparently noticed right away. “I find this strange,” she added.

“And why might that be?” Rarity asked, clearing her throat. Subtle as nothing else.

“Because I do not understand it,” said the doe. “But even if I do not understand what I now see—how this image of Selyria wears your guise, or you hers—I care less about it than I care that Caldesseia did not see fit to take this.”

Rainbow Dash snorted. “What, why’d she want it? You guys aren’t exactly buddies with Selyria.”

“Exactly. Then, why would she not take or destroy this foul thing?” asked Velysra, frowning. “She looked through your bags, and she did not care?”

“Maybe she doesn’t care about the Aspects as much as you think she does,” suggested Fluttershy, seeking Velysra’s eyes.

“But of course, she would have told you to expect us to tell you that,” said Rarity with an affable smile. “She will have told you that we’ll say she doesn’t truly care about this quarrel about the Aspects. You can draw your own conclusions. May we still have it?”

Velysra shrugged. “I have told you before, I do not care about this madness of Aspects as much as some. I care about Caldesseia’s well-being. I think perhaps I must speak to her again, though she rapidly tires of all my visits.” She stepped up to the bars and put the little statue down on the other side without even looking at it any more. “I will bring you some food and water, then leave you to find Caldesseia. Koltares should be back tonight, and you will not see me again for a while. I am not allowed here anymore, not while he is present.” She gave a helpless shrug. “I hope this statue brings you comfort, even though I do not see how Selyria’s visage can be a good omen to anyone.”

Rainbow Dash stared at the unpainted yet intricate statue, a creature somewhere between an alicorn pony and a peryton rearing up on its clawed hindlegs. She didn’t know about omens, but she sure hoped it would do the trick.

“What are you going to do if you see her?” Fluttershy asked.

“I don’t know,” said Dash with a shrug. “I guess Princess Luna should have an idea. Send an airship to tell the Perytonians? Send the entire Royal Guard?”

“Getting word out is a good start regardless,” said Rarity, frowning at that last bit.

“Yep”, said Dash. The grey stone statue stood in front of her, between her and the wall. She couldn’t remember ever feeling the looming threat of performance anxiety when it came to sleeping. Then again, if she was the best at sleeping, why wouldn’t she treat it like a competition?

“Just remember, if it doesn’t work, that’s okay, too,” said Fluttershy, smiling at her in the faint light.

“And if it does work,” said Rarity, “do tell us all about it. I still don’t understand exactly how this works.”

“Me neither, really,” said Dash with a snort. “Ask Luna yourself, I guess.”

“I mean this whole… controlling your dreams thing,” said Rarity, shaking her head.

“Oh, that. I dunno how it doesn’t work. Or, it used to—ugh,” Dash rolled her eyes. “Can we just go back to trying to sleep?”

“Sorry,” whispered Fluttershy.

“Good night, you two,” said Rarity.

“Good night,” said Fluttershy.

“Night,” said Dash, closing her eyes.

It was hot, though. Too hot, and for the first time, Rainbow Dash noticed that the blanket underneath her itched at her belly. She shifted a little, trying to get comfortable, but there was just no way. She wanted a breeze blowing through the room, but the air was still, as though it, too, was chained and tethered.

Hot, uncomfortable, and clammy. Had it been this uncomfortable yesterday night, too? Maybe. Yesterday night, their plans for an escape didn’t ride on Dash having a dream, though. If only she could fall asleep. She had no idea how she could go to sleep like this: the cloud itched under her hooves, and the breeze blew her mane in her face. Oh well. It’d all feel better once Fluttershy punched through the center of the cloud.

“But, um, I can’t see,” said Fluttershy. She reached up to lift her blindfold slightly, peering over the rim of the cloud and squinting at the thundercloud down at ground level. From all the way up here, it was just a speck.

“Exactly,” said Rainbow Dash, grinning. “That’s the cool part. You dive until you get enough speed that you won’t have to think about punching through the storm cloud. The speed does it for you! And when you hear the thunder go off, that’s your cue to pull up! You don’t have to look. A blindfolded dive! How awesome is that?”

“And if I don’t hit the thundercloud?” asked Fluttershy.

“Well, I guess you crash really hard and hurt yourself a bunch,” said Dash, waving a hoof in dismissal. “It’ll be fine. All you have to do is not miss! Listen to the crowd, they’re crazy for you!”

And they were. All around them, the coliseum was packed to the brim, with hundreds of wild clouds pulled in by pegasi who couldn’t get spots in the stands. When Fluttershy put the blindfold back over her eyes, the roaring cheers blasted Dash’s ears, and she couldn’t help but laugh along. They would love it. They’d see Fluttershy like they’d never seen her before, and they would know how awesome she could be. How awesome she was.

“Oh, Rainbow Dash, I don’t know,” said Fluttershy. Her ears were flat to her head, and her wings pressed so hard against her body that the feathers were indistinct against her coat. Her tail drooped, and Rainbow Dash knew that behind the cloth of the blindfold, her pupils were reduced to pinpricks. Fluttershy scratched at one hindleg with the other.

Something was weird. It began as a strange taste in Dash’s mouth, but one blink later, the sunlight was too sharp, and the itching returned. Her smile faded, and now she wondered why she had smiled in the first place.

Dash looked around in bewilderment; at the thousands of pegasi she didn’t know who already cheered like they wanted their voices gone and; at the tiny cloud far below, the instrument of a stunt she’d cooked up during an idle moment this summer. A stunt she herself had never tried.

“Wait,” she said, frowning. She brought a hoof up to cover her eyes from the merciless sun. “This is all wrong. Wrong and stupid.” Fluttershy lay down now, hugging the cloud tight and still peering over its edge as though she could see through the blindfold, her blind eyes on the target, one long and daring dive beneath them. Fluttershy shook.

“If you really want me to try,” Fluttershy squeaked, clenching her eyes shut. She tried to spread her wings, and they trembled twice as much as her body. It was a miracle that her feathers didn’t fly off by themselves.

“But… I don’t?” said Dash. “What if I don’t?” she repeated. Why had she said all those things earlier? “I don’t want this at all. This is dumb! Let’s go home!”

“I guess I can try,” said Fluttershy. She swallowed and trained her sightless face on Rainbow Dash. Slowly, she stood. She spread her wings with painstaking effort, unfurling them a little, closing them half as much again, and then spreading them until they were on full display.

“How about no?” said Dash. She stepped in front of Fluttershy and put a hoof to her chest. “Jeez, just... calm down, okay? I don’t want you to do this, I didn’t ask—”

Fluttershy puffed out her cheeks and nodded. “You’re right. Even if I don’t want to, I really should try my best.”

“Fluttershy! Are you listening?!” Dash snapped. “I’m saying don’t do it! Stop!”

Fluttershy leapt. How she got past Rainbow Dash, Dash didn’t know, but one moment she smiled, the next she jumped off the cloud, tumbling, falling. Her wings shifted and flapped madly as she tried to control her fall.

The crowd cheered. Rainbow Dash didn’t think it was possible, but they were even louder now. Cheering for Fluttershy. This was what Rainbow Dash had wanted, wasn’t it? Could she pretend that she hadn’t wanted Fluttershy to jump? Could she honestly say that she hadn’t wanted to see it? Could she put a hoof to her chest and swear that this wasn’t her fault?

“You do know,” said Rarity. “You can be a little pushy.”

Rainbow Dash jumped after her, but she didn’t fly. She fell. She knew her wings were gone even before she leapt off the cloud, but what else could she do? She plummeted, faster than she’d ever fallen before, marvelling that she didn’t set off a cascade of sonic rainbooms in the process, but she couldn’t see Fluttershy any more. She tried to orientate herself, but when she looked to the horizon, she found that there was no such thing.

The sky and the ground, usually distinct, had become one, and without a point of reference, nothing made sense. Without anything to tell them apart, they were the same. She fell, and could she be sure she was Rainbow Dash? She was Fluttershy, and she fell screaming, having never wanted this.

And Rainbow Dash had no wings.

The bed itched, and the sun was in her eyes. Though a cool breeze blew through her cloud-home, she still felt awful.

Rainbow Dash opened her eyes. She thought they had been open. Or had she closed them twice, first? Whatever the case, she lay on her own bed, in her own bedroom. The faded Wonderbolts covers were rumpled, the nightstand drawer lay upended on the floor, and a hairband lay discarded at the edge of her carpet—the absurd little detail stuck out to her. Everything looked just the way it had the day she left for the train to Las Pegasus, except for a weird stone statue on her dresser by the door. She didn’t remember seeing it before, but then, she had tons of trophies and junk she didn’t think about much.

For a fleeting moment, she thought she really was back home. That now she was truly awake, back from a dream turned nightmare. She’d dreamt that she’d gone to a place called “Perytonia”, and now it was time to wake up. The entire day lay at her hooves. She’d just overslept.

Except everything was wrong. The sun was too sharp, and stabbed at her through the open window. The covers itched, and the bed poked at her with lumps that shouldn’t be there. It was her bedroom, Rainbow Dash’s bedroom for one pony, but the place felt desolate in a way nothing ever had before, as if emptiness could create an echo of feeling like a shout would create an echo of sound.

Rainbow Dash checked her sides, and found that her wings were where they were supposed to be. Her feathers were the same soft blue they had always been, but Fluttershy had fallen. Dash didn’t feel like spreading her wings. She didn’t feel like flying. She slipped off the bed and walked over to the nearest window, finding to her complete lack of surprise that there was nothing outside except open, empty sky. Usually, clear blue skies were the best possible view, but there was no ground, no horizon, no dividing line between above and below.

Idly, she wondered if Fluttershy had ever landed, but the fear had left her. She felt calm now, maybe because she was slowly coming around to the idea that this was a dream. Or, this, too, was a dream. There’d been more than one dream, but she didn’t know much about whatever existed outside the dream. This, too, she realised was normal. Strange, but normal. Just like the feeling of loneliness.

She lived here by herself. She always had, but right now, Fluttershy’s absence was the largest thing in the room.

She’d fallen. Why did Fluttershy jump? Or was the question “why did Fluttershy let Dash push her”? Why were they still friends? Were they still friends? She would never ask for fear that Fluttershy would say no—but what was the difference? Things had changed so much. Again she looked to the endless sky, the dizzying nothingness and everythingness blending together.

“Do not be alarmed,” said a familiar voice. Rainbow Dash went stiff, whirling around with her ears flat. Where the door to her hallway should be stood Princess Luna, darkening the entire section of the room. The dark-coated alicorn pony regarded her with apparent impassivity, but Dash had met her a few times in her dreams now. Though she couldn’t hear any apprehension in the Princess’ voice, Luna hadn’t made a fancy entrance, either. Maybe that meant something.

“You know, if you don’t want to ‘alarm’ ponies, sneaking up on them is pretty much the opposite of how you do it,” said Dash, letting out her breath again and smoothing out her mane. “And yeah. I know. Yadda yadda it’s a dream.”

Princess Luna walked to the centre of the room, her wings half-spread. Rainbow Dash waited and watched. It was soothing to watch the Princess move so unhurried, and the darkness she carried with her was balm to Dash’s eyes after the sharp sunlight.

“Seriously though,” said Dash, a little more quietly. “Just because you don’t say ‘boo’ or anything doesn’t—”

“We wondered,” said Luna, cutting her off. She turned on the spot, facing Rainbow Dash. “Before the last time we spoke, a scrap of paper materialised in sister’s study. It took us entirely too long to realise it was you who tried to use the dragonfire, but we received no letter with words of your location.”

“Yeah, I meant to tell you,” said Dash, flicking an ear. “I forgot. We dropped it.”

Luna raised a brow a smidge. “Those bottles were not made to break upon being dropped.”

“Dropped, rammed against a fortress in the middle of a storm, same thing,” said Dash, sticking out her tongue. “Listen—” she tried, but Luna went on.

“When we realised, sister and I discussed what to do. I spoke to her on the possibility of simply speaking through your dreams, but communicating with your friends would have been difficult. They would remember little upon waking without using more force than we wish, and you?” Luna paused, smiling at Rainbow Dash. It was an honest, sympathetic smile, the likes of which Rainbow Dash had seen in many ponies, but never before in Luna. “You,” said the Princess, “had important dreaming to do, and I was loath to interrupt.”

Rainbow Dash frowned. “What the hay does that mean? Important dreaming?”

Luna’s smile faded a little, and she walked over to the window where Rainbow Dash stood peering out at the empty sky beyond. There weren’t even any clouds. Just blue. “Do you mind if I change our scenery?” she asked, almost down to a regular speaking voice now. “I respect that this is of your making, but it is a little bright.”

“Knock yourself out,” said Dash, shrugging. The moment she’d spoken, Luna’s horn pulsed silver, and Dash yelped out in surprise when the world around them packed itself away, folding impossibly and disappearing. She nearly fell over, but realised just in time that the ground—of which there was none—was still solid. The next time she blinked, they stood in a darkened stone room.

Dark and simple stone contained a burning fireplace and windows beyond which a winter storm blew, and if there was a floor, all traces of it hid underneath carpets and pillows in muted colours. It all felt pleasantly cool, a temperature that came as a rare relief, though Dash did not know why, just like she couldn’t place why the stone walls bothered her.

“What I meant is what I said,” Luna continued, gesturing to a nearby table with a wing. She led the way, and sat on a mound of pillows, waiting until Dash did the same. “It is one thing to intrude upon a dream dreamt for pleasant nonsense or entertainment, inconsequential memories or repetition. Even less of an issue, I feel, to… visit the rare lucid dreamer whose mind is idle. It is another thing to disturb upon a pony who tries to process their private troubles before it is clear they need and wish my help.”

Rainbow Dash studiously avoided the Princess’ eyes, staring at the table instead. “Well, you’re here now, and I think we could all use your help,” she said.

Luna exhaled through her nose. “You are being willfully obtuse. I will say this: I have not peered into your dreams yet, and never would I without consent or obvious need, but I think you know you dream of unhappy things. We may leave it for now if you do not wish to speak of it.”

“Yeah, we have more important stuff to talk about,” said Dash, even though she didn’t know if that was strictly true. The dream she’d just had felt real. It felt now, much more so than the things that were not the dream—this fleeting sense of urgency she couldn’t explain, the vague idea that she needed to tell Luna something. “So, uh—”

Luna shook her head. “I am not done. I am explaining to you what has happened.”

“Right, okay,” said Dash, clearing her throat and tapping her forehooves against the pillows.

“The day came when in my curiosity, my desire to ensure the wellbeing of you three, and sister’s own concerns, were stronger than my own discretion,” said the Princess.

“Obviously. You’re here,” said Dash, tilting her head. “And that’s good, ‘cause—”

“This was days ago,” said Luna, her brow creased. “This time, it was I who sought you out. No more… whatever old magic it is that worked upon us before.” Her frown deepened and became a scowl. “But I could not find you.”

“Yeah?” Dash asked. Clearly Luna wasn’t going to listen until she was done talking, and besides, she suspected the ponies had issues finding themselves, so she sympathised—but Luna looked at her as though there was more meaning behind this. The Princess’ unblinking eyes bored into her. Forget all the creepy or weird peryton, Rainbow Dash had forgotten what it was like to have one of the royal sisters’ full attention. Her ears bent of their own accord, her heart beating a little faster.

“I should not be able to fail to find you, Rainbow Dash,” said Luna, her every word precise, as though this was Dash’s fault. Dash swallowed and nodded.

“Okay? I… I—heh, I don’t know what that means,” Dash admitted. She let out a helpless sound uncomfortably wedged somewhere between a snort and a laugh.

Princess Luna folded her wings and raised a hoof, the leg bent. For a moment, that was all she did, staring at her own hoof. “If the moon touches it, I see it,” she said. “If it is dreamt, I know it. I asked sister, and she agreed. We were both blind to you. I sought you out, and I could not find you. It was as though a great churning sea lay between us.”

“Uh, there is a sea between us,” said Dash, tilting her head. “Dunno if it’s ‘churning’, whatever that means.”

Luna sighed, giving her a flat look. “There are no seas of water in the realm of dreams, Rainbow Dash. This was different, but I think I may know why—yet tonight, as I drifted between the realms, guided by those who need me in their sleep, somehow I found you. It is as if though you are weighed down by an anchor. The disturbance is still here, but I have found you despite it. Even now, I sense that Fluttershy and Rarity are near you, your location worn into the fabric of dreams like a groove.”

“I think I know why that is,” said Rainbow Dash, trying to remember. The words, the explanation, it was all there, somewhere nearby, but she couldn’t reach it. She ground her teeth in rapidly mounting frustration. “I think we’re in trouble, actually—no, I know we are.”

Luna nodded slightly. “You may find that it is hard to separate the dream from your waking self, even moreso when you are… upset.”

“I’m not upset,” Dash said, though she knew it was a blank-faced lie. The harder she thought about the waking world stuff, the more the knowledge of what was wrong fled away from her. She traded one set of thoughts for another, forgetting whatever she just forgot, and remembering more and more of what she needed to remember. “We’re… stuck?”

The Princess rose to stand, walking around the table to stand over Rainbow Dash. The larger pony loomed, her expression severe.

“You are in true distress.”

“I think so, yeah,” said Dash, feeling a stab of apprehension. “Didn’t I use to be able to remember more of the other stuff? The awake stuff?”

“Like I said, it may be difficult when your dreams have a purpose,” said Luna. “Beyond that, you are an Element of Harmony who is also a lucid dreamer, and—if I may presume—a friend of the Princess of Dreams who visits. There are many factors, and the dreaming world is mercurial even at the best of times. Without the aid of the halls we trod the last few times we met, you have no help in bridging the gap between the sleeping and waking selves.”

“Can’t you help with that, since you’re the Princess of Dreams and all?” Dash asked. Help. The word stuck to her brain. She remembered that word. “I’m supposed to get help,” she said, scratching her head.

“Then we do what we must,” said Luna with a little sigh and a faint smile. “Celestia will be very disappointed if she learns of this. Let us keep it as our little secret.” With a complete lack of ceremony, her horn lit up in a shifting mass of blue and silver, and she leaned down to touch it to Dash’s forehead.

Rainbow Dash remembered everything. All at once, every thought and idea she’d had, all she knew mere hours ago returned. The memories didn’t rush back so much as they slapped the back of her head and were suddenly present again.

“We’re in prison,” Dash blurted. “We didn’t do anything—we got ambushed by a bunch of crazy peryton, and they got us all holed up in some cave! We tried sending for help but we have no idea if it’s gonna work, and we’re trying to get out but uhh—” she frowned as she thought. “I, uh. I dunno what else, but yeah, we could really use some help. I don’t know what you’ve got.”

Luna’s eyebrows rose, an open look of surprise on her face.

“Oh, and the whole dreaming thing!” Dash said, hopping up to stand on all fours. “That’s because of all the Selyrian statues.” She looked up and around, expecting to find some sign of a stone statue somewhere. “Thinking about it, they’ve always been around. Oh jeez, I get it now, Rarity’s right! Do you remember the first dreams? I thought the sky was weird, all stony, and that’s because the statues’ wings… I think the statues were always there. Am I supposed to remember the dreams I had like… a month ago? I—”

“Wait,” said Luna, her head jerking to the side.

“What?” said Dash, but Luna did not reply right away. Again her horn took on an odd sheen, a mixture of liquid silver and blues of all hues, and a moment later, she touched it to Dash’s forehead again, flashing impossibly bright without light at all, or eating the light without taking it away, un-bright and impossible. Dash’s eyes hurt though they had seen nothing. She felt cold, and her head throbbed as though she’d had too much ice cream.

What?” Dash repeated, clutching her head. “Ow! What the hay did you do that for?!”

“You are waking up. I have bought us more time,” Luna replied.

“I just went to bed!” Dash retorted. “That’s not fair!”

The Princess shook her head briskly, clear and careful speech eschewed, words coming fast. “Time is not as it may seem here. Morning comes, but you are not awakening, you are being woken up. I have slowed it down—or rather, sped up this dream. The pain you feel is the cost. Tell me where—no, I know where you are. You are in the mountains near Perytonia.”

Rainbow Dash blinked, still rubbing at her temples. “We think so, yeah. How do you—”

“The mountain range near the coast on that continent and its denizens are known to me. I do not know why or how you are there, but I understand—”

“‘Denizens?’ You know the peryton in the mountains?” Dash interjected.

“No, not they and not now, but focus!” Luna said, frowning. “We do not have much time. You say you speak to me through some statue? A relic of… what? Will you be able to do this again?”

“A statue of Selyria. That’s you! Uh, or the Aspect that’s you,” said Dash, her head spinning. “I don’t know if I can keep the statue. Most of them are super afraid of you. Of Selyria. Whatever. I guess I’ll try to hide the statue or something?”

“They are afraid of me. Of course,” said Luna. Her face fell, and she exhaled softly. A moment later, the walls around them shook ever so slightly. “We are running out of time. I have never heard of ‘Selyria’, but if you are beyond the mountains, then this may be the only chance we have to speak. If you are in distress, you must tell me what you need, now.”

“That’s—ugh, this hurts,” said Dash, grimacing. Her headache got worse by the second, and now the floor shook as well. “That’s easy. We need to get out of the prison.”

“I do not know where you are,” Luna said, her voice coming out a hiss. She began pacing near the table, impossibly unaffected by the way the walls and the floor moved. “I cannot free you from a prison I cannot see. I need details—no, details will not help. I need an area. I can send someone to start looking—”

Rainbow Dash clenched her eyes shut. Her head felt like it would split apart. “Forget that,” she managed to say, raising her voice against the building roar of the violent tremors. “That’ll take forever! You can do anything, right?”

Luna snorted. “I can do much, but I cannot act upon a place I do not know unless you wish me to level all mountains in the world at once!”

“Right!” said Dash. A large crack appeared in the far wall. The fireplace collapsed. “We just need you to buy us some time or keep their attention while we get out, we can handle the rest. They got some freaky ideas about you and Princess Celestia. Can you like… give them a sign or something? They’ll go crazy.”

“A sign,” Luna repeated, her snout frumpled. “You say they fear me, I do not relish this—but they hold you hostage?” A section of the wall fell away entirely.

“Yeah! They think we’re working with you to do really bad stuff, but I’m telling you, we’ve got this! We just need a distraction!” Dash yelled. Nearby, the floor split apart, colourful pillows falling through into a pitch black abyss. She meant to take off, to hover, but she couldn’t. Her wings were green, and they were bound in iron.

“I don’t know what I can do without doing too much again!” Luna repeated. Now she, too, had to shout to be heard. “This is why we sent you!”

“What?” Dash snapped “What do you mean again?!”

“But,” said Luna, her voice drowning out the roar of the darkness as it reached its crescendo, “if they threaten you, on my word, a distraction you shall have.”

“Cool! How about to… night?” Dash said, her voice trailing off as she saw only darkness. Luna had gone. She blinked, and realised she had it all wrong. It wasn’t dark. Her eyes had been closed. At her side, Rarity and Fluttershy stirred, and on the other side of the bars, Koltares stood a safe distance away, the small stone statue in his magical grip.

“Where did you get this vile thing?” he asked, scowling with disgust as he turned it around, over and over, but he shook his head before Dash count mount a reply. “Don’t answer. Don’t talk. I can imagine. I will take this to the Guide. Someone will answer for this, but now is the Sunup Dance. I will return with water later.”

“What is going on?” Rarity asked, covering her mouth with a hoof as he yawned.

“Was that Koltares?” Fluttershy asked, blinking heavily while the stag’s tail-feathers disappeared around the corner.

“Yeah,” said Dash. “Who else?” The sunlight that spilled in through the shafts was sharp morning light. She got up, the chains rustling as they dragged along the floor. She stopped herself before she pushed and strained against them. And know that you’re never alone, she muttered to herself, trying to think of the song from yesterday to calm herself. The last thing she needed was to sprain her wings for no gain at all.

“Well?” said Rarity, slowly rising to stand, yawning again. She made for the last remaining bowl of water they had, taking a diplomatic two sips before she stepped aside.

“They took the statue,” said Fluttershy, frowning deeply

“It’s fine,” said Dash, waving a foreleg. “I got in touch with Princess Luna.” Even as she said it, even recalling all the confusion and the chaos around the dream with all the unpleasantness and the unanswered questions, she couldn’t help but grin. The mission was a success. Kind of.

“Oh, you did?” asked Fluttershy, breaking into a smile. “That’s wonderful news!”

“If you’re sure this wasn’t just a normal dream,” said Rarity, dipping her head in a nod.

“Nah, she’ll help,” Dash said. “I mean, I didn’t really get a chance to ask about getting home,” she admitted, her smile fading a touch. “But I guess we can deal with that later.”

Fluttershy and Rarity both nodded. “I think getting out of here is our primary concern,” said Rarity while Fluttershy turned to look over her own shoulder, apparently distracted by something.

“Twi’s gonna lose her mind,” said Dash, chuckling. “If this isn’t awesome planning, I don’t know what is. Anyway, yeah, I told her we needed a distraction or something, just like we said—”

Now Rarity turned as well, both she and Fluttershy staring at the light spilling from the shafts.

“—so we can bust out of here without them coming running, and okay, we didn’t… we, uh,” said Dash, her words faltering, fading along with the light from the shafts. At first she’d thought it was just a cloud passing in front of the sun, but now everything fell into shadow. “We, um, didn’t really talk about when we needed a distraction, ‘cause we were in a rush,” Dash finished with a sinking feeling.

The sunlight disappeared. Swallowed, as though somepony held a hoof in front of a tiny lamp, plunging their cell into near complete darkness, Fluttershy and Rarity reduced to outlines and the barest hint of light reflected in their eyes.

“And,” Dash went on, her ears wilting, “and we kinda still don’t know exactly how to get out, ‘cause we were still working on that, or waiting on that. So… that’s a problem.”

Fluttershy’s eyes were the size of dinner plates, staring, unblinking. Drifting in through the shafts or down the hall—she couldn’t tell—Dash heard faint yelling and screaming.

“You do realise,” said Rarity, her voice brittle, “we won’t get a second chance at this. Whatever is going on out there right now, they must realise it has to do with us. And they took the statue.”

Rainbow Dash swallowed.

“So, um... Is… your magic back?” asked Fluttershy, pawing at the stone floor. “Because… because I think we have to hurry. Probably. Hurry very badly, really.”

Rarity’s horn sputtered in response. The unicorn moved over to the bars with haste, and those innocent few steps, quickened by budding panic, set Rainbow Dash’s heart racing. Finally, the urgency of the situation hit her. In the sporadic light offered by sparks and random flashes of magic, Dash saw the unicorn’s teeth clenched, and she heard a hiss of pain. Once, a faint outline of blue started to form around one of the bags, but Rarity sighed and slumped a second later.

“Nn—ugh, no, I’m sorry. My magic really is recovering faster, but magical range does not come easy. I have a little—I can make light and such, but I can’t reach!”

“Okay, what do we do?” asked Fluttershy. A simple enough question. “What do we do?” she asked again, louder.

“Rainbow Dash, the door!” said Rarity.

“I can’t reach it,” said Dash. She moved as quickly as she could towards the metal door, yanking at the chain that tethered the iron links around her body to the bars. When she turned around, she could just barely touch the last vertical bar before the door-frame with an outstretched hindleg.

“Maybe you can try your magic again?” Fluttershy asked.

“It’s no use!” Rarity said. “Magic, yes, range no! Can you try the door?”

“I—I don’t know, I don’t think I’m strong enough to kick down an iron door—”

“We have to try something,” Rarity retorted. “It’s that, or give up and pretend we have nothing to do with this!”

Fluttershy licked her lips as though genuinely considering that option. The momentum and the flailing panic in the room halted. Rarity’s muzzle hung open, her brow knit in thought.

No!” said Rainbow Dash, growling, and the force of that word set all eyes on her.

Sure, she’d had some bad dreams lately, and yeah, her relationship with Fluttershy was a little confusing and brittle at the moment, but Rarity was right: there would be no second chance. This was it. Now or never.

If that meant yelling, arguing and barking orders, if that meant shoving, pushing and kicking, then so be it. Whether she was any good at it didn’t matter: she was in chains, trapped, and she didn’t have anything else to offer, and Rarity and Fluttershy were Rarity and Fluttershy. Maybe that meant a lot more to Rainbow Dash than it did to them, but so be it. They were so much more than they thought, and if Dash had to be her absolute best or worst, her most disastrous or amazing to kick them into gear, then she would.

“Try again!” said Dash. She backed up and took aim for the lock securing her chain to the bars. She kicked out as hard as she could, wincing at the impact. The lock rattled uselessly. Rarity stared at her, as did Fluttershy.

“Come on! Try your magic!” Rainbow Dash said, aiming for another kick.

“I did try—”

“Then try again!” Dash interrupted her. “We only get one shot at this!”

Rarity rolled her eyes and her horn sputtered again. Dash’s kick did nothing. The lock and the chains were too loose, dangling in place.

“Fluttershy, can you hold the lock?” Dash asked. “Any animals around? Metal-eating termites?”

“No,” said Fluttershy, shaking her head quickly as she trotted over. “Um, I don’t know how… maybe if I hold it like this?”

“No, I’ll just hit you,” said Dash, growling in frustration. “This won’t work—”

“And this isn’t working either,” Rarity cried from the other side of the cell. “It’s useless!”

“No it’s not!” Dash shot back. “Try something else!”

“Do you want me to knit a way out of here!?” Rarity hissed.

“Try a different spell, maybe?” Fluttershy asked, still fiddling with the lock. It wasn’t about strength, Dash just couldn’t get a good shot at it, and Fluttershy couldn’t find a good angle either.

“I don’t have any other spells that can help, I’ve told you!” Rarity sighed and leaned against the bars.

“No, no, that’s it!” said Dash. She put her hindleg back down, giving up on the impossible lock. “Forget unicorn magic. Do the peryton spell!”

Fluttershy nodded quickly. “The peryton didn’t seem to be hurt by the magical stones. Maybe that helps? But we really do need to hurry,” she said, glancing up at the ceiling. Still all was dark, but it had also gone eerily quiet outside of their increasingly frantic quips.

“Body magic? I fail to see how that’ll help us,” Rarity said, frowning. “And besides, I’ve never successfully managed to cast that spell on myself, remember? I can’t—”

“You can! If you can’t cast it on yourself, then cast it on someone else!” Dash said, pawing at the ground. “C’mon, just try it on me and I’ll kick—”

“—open the door you can’t reach?” Rarity finished for her.

“Fluttershy, then!” Dash groaned, waving a leg in the air. “It doesn’t matter! Come on, hurry. Just use the body magic spell on Fluttershy, and she can kick the door open!”

“Again, I have never managed to cast it!” Rarity retorted.

“Um, and I don’t know if I can kick down that door, even with some spell,” said Fluttershy, licking her lips. “I’m not very good at … I mean, we don’t know...”

Rarity hesitated, shifting her stance a little, and Fluttershy shied away, backing up a step, glancing between Rarity and Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash’s breath came faster and faster, and in her friends’ eyes she saw the same panic that bubbled in her chest.

They just didn’t have time for this. And her friends were dead wrong.

“It doesn’t matter!” Dash snapped. “We’re out of time, and yes, yes you can, you can do it, both of you! Rarity, you always do your best work when you’re doing stuff for others, because you’re amazing like that, and I’m telling you, you can do this! Khyrast said that there was nothing stopping you except yourself, so just try. We need your best if we’re gonna make it out!”

Rarity took a deep breath, and stood a little straighter. Rainbow Dash rounded on Fluttershy, who backed up another step, her ears flat against her head. Dash tried to lower her voice a touch, to speak a little softer, but it came out a yell anyway.

“And Fluttershy, you always come through when we need you. Always! I need your wings right now—and your hooves. I need you to step up. We both do. You can help! You can make a difference!”

Fluttershy swallowed loudly enough to almost echo in the deafening silence that followed. She gave a nod, a tiny, tiny nod, but that would have to do. Rainbow Dash nodded back at her and nudged her towards Rarity.

“I can’t do anything from here. Come on, come on!” said Dash.

Rarity wasted no more time. She took two quick breaths and closed her eyes, holding out a foreleg, gesturing for Fluttershy to step close, and the pegasus did, letting Rarity hook a leg around her neck.

“Okay, let’s see,” Rarity murmured, while Rainbow Dash held her breath. “Let’s just… pretend I’m going to share a light spell, or use my own coat-brushing magic—”

The unicorn’s horn took on a light unlike her usual glow. The entire horn all the way down to her forehead shimmered with a wilder light than Dash was used to. Though it was faint, it reminded Dash of naked, flickering flames where Rarity’s usual light was the glow of a lantern.

Fluttershy nervously glanced over at Rainbow Dash. Dash said nothing. Her heart raced as she waited. This was their only shot. This had to work. No, this would work. Because Rarity was amazing. Because Fluttershy was awesome. She didn’t have room in her mind for doubt now.

“Alright… I have something,” said Rarity in a low whisper. A soft glow enveloped her hooves, winking in and out of existence at random. “Mm no, not for me,” she continued, her eyes clenched tightly shut. “If I just do this—”

Fluttershy blinked. Her hooves started glowing a faint but steady blue.

“That won’t do,” Rarity murmured. She bared her teeth and her horn glowed brighter, as though somepony had tossed kindling on the bonfire. “Come now, Rarity. Is that all you have? You can do much better.”

“Um,” said Fluttershy.

Rainbow Dash cleared her throat as softly as she could. Should she say something? Should she interrupt?

“You can do much, much more, Rarity, dear,” the unicorn growled. The room lit up, first with a soft glow like moonlight, but rapidly heading towards bright daylight, and none of it came from the dead and dark air-shafts. The light around Fluttershy’s hooves grew as Rarity’s horn thrummed with light. Now it enveloped Fluttershy’s wings as well.

“Yo! Rarity! I think that’s enough!” Dash called. “Easy!”

Rarity’s eyes popped open, and she sucked in breath loudly. The light from her horn disappeared in an instant. She held a hoof to her head.

“Ack!” said Rarity. “I am alright! I am alright—and I don’t think I wish to repeat that, but… oh. Well, that’s quite something,” said the unicorn, stepping back, away from Fluttershy.

Where the bright light from Rarity’s horn had disappeared, the glow around Fluttershy’s hooves and wings remained. Not nearly as bright, but sheathed in a blue luminescence that glittered and gave the room an easy light. Fluttershy herself stood stock still, staring at her forelegs.

“It doesn’t match your coat at all,” said Rarity, her brow furrowed. “It’s the wrong shade. It needs much more green, closer to turquoise.”

“We’re not trying to be fashionable, we’re trying to escape,” said Dash, frowning at her.

“Yes, yes,” said Rarity. “But surely there must be a way to make it more opaque. The see-through does you no favours either—I appreciate the sequins, or glitter, if you prefer, but—”

“Fluttershy! You feeling okay?” Dash asked.

“I… think so?” said Fluttershy, raising a foreleg off the ground, waving it back and forth. The light left trails in its wake. “It feels a little strange, to be honest, but I think I’m fine.”

“Okay, cool,” said Dash, nodding briskly, “because we’re kinda still on the clock, remember! Can you get the door?”

“I’ll try,” said Fluttershy, all but galloping the few strides over to the door, pausing in front to stare at it.

“Just turn around and buck it as hard as you can, come on!” said Dash. She moved as close as the chain would let her.

“I… okay,” Fluttershy repeated. She turned her back to the door and kicked out with her hindlegs. Her legs moved absurdly fast, a blur as they impacted against the metal door with a loud crash that echoed down the hall. The door remained. Fluttershy gasped.

“If they didn’t know what we were doing before, anyone nearby can’t have missed that,” said Rarity, grimacing. “Let’s hurry now, dear.”

“I… I didn’t mean to kick so hard,” Fluttershy said, her eyes wide.

“Well, that’s kinda the point,” Dash retorted. “Go again! Harder!”

And so Fluttershy did. She kicked out, hitting the bars on the next kick, then the door again, each kick loud, each kick fast, but the door not budging.

“Come on Fluttershy! I can kick that hard without any magic or whatever. You gotta kick as hard as you can!” Dash said.

“I am!” said Fluttershy, her breathing laboured. Rarity stood next to the door, glancing at the portal leading out of the room every few seconds, and Dash was starting to feel nervous now, too. Any moment, they could be out of time.

“You’re not!” Dash retorted. “I know you can do better than that! Take a running start, just like Applejack does!”

“But what if—”

“You’re not gonna miss,” Dash said, staring straight at her. “You’re not gonna miss, you’re not gonna fall, and you’re gonna give it your all. You can take this door down. Trust me. You’re gonna kick it down and save our butts!”

Fluttershy backed up as much as she could. She’d barely get twice her length’s worth of run-up.

“And put your wings into it!” Dash added. “Remember what I did way back in Las Pegasus? Do a run-up, wings for speed, spin around and kick! Try that! You’re gonna need every last bit!”

Fluttershy didn’t use words. Her protest came in the form of a look that said but. But it’s too hard. But I don’t know how to do that. But everything. Dash didn’t quarrel, she just held Fluttershy’s gaze, waiting. Fluttershy spread her wings, strange, sparkling blue light-trails in each feather’s wake.

“Alright!” said Dash. “You—”

Fluttershy slammed against the door. Before Rainbow Dash could even finish her sentence, a yellow-blue blur rocketed ahead, one single wing-beat, a twist around, and the trail of a hoof swinging around. The metal door slammed open with enough force to throw it halfway off its hinges, the roar the the crash hurting Dash’s ears. Rarity yelped and backed away, a reaction so absurdly delayed that she seemed like she jumped in fright from the desultory creak of metal while the broken door settled halfway through a return swing, never to be shut again.

Rainbow Dash didn’t even bother fighting her laughter. She had goosebumps all over and her heart fluttered—until she realised she didn’t know what came next. The electric sensation that built up, coursing through her entire body, the jittery feeling from her friends’ successes—from her girlfriend kicking flank—everything reached a sudden and full stop.

“Okay, uh, so,” said Dash. She was still in chains. They didn’t know where the keys were, and they didn’t know where they themselves were, either. What now?

“Okay! Okay… so, let’s find Rainbow Dash’s keys,” said Fluttershy, quickly stepping out of the cell.

Rarity nodded briskly. “We’ll have to do that next. While we do that, Rainbow Dash, dear—can you make sure that we have all our things?” The two of them had all their saddlebags and the ohron within easy reach of Rainbow Dash before Dash could even react.

While Fluttershy’s ears bespoke her nervousness, she didn’t waste another second on fear. She barely acknowledged what she’d done, and both she and Rarity held their heads high. The door was down, and now they moved of their own accord, given momentum. Rolling. Flying.

“Swiftly now,” said Rarity, trotting over to the doorway. “We’ll be back in a moment, dear. Hopefully with the keys.”

“You’ll be okay, won’t you?” asked Fluttershy, nibbling on her lower lip, pausing by the exit.

“Just hurry,” said Dash, grinning. Just like that, the goosebumps were back. Fluttershy smiled and nodded quickly, disappearing out the door with Rarity, the two of them as amazing as Dash knew they could be, leaving Rainbow Dash grinning like an idiot, her body warm all over. She shook her head and nosed open the first saddlebag, trying to focus on the task in front of her.

Saddlebag full of clothing? Check. Sigil? Check. That one’s probably important.

Even in the darkness, it only took her a few minutes to make sure everything was there, right down to the old harness from their broken cart. By that point, she wondered if Rarity and Fluttershy shouldn’t have been back yet. Still no sounds from outside. She shouldn’t be surprised, of course—they couldn’t usually hear anything, but now, without her friends, the quiet seemed eerie, and sitting inside a cell when the door was open felt really dumb. She shrugged and opened the next set of saddlebags.

Weird antlers, weirder candy, jewellery and Fluttershy’s book, nothing was missing except the statue Koltares carried off—they’d even left the shessa-bread, which seemed no worse off. It surprised Dash until she realised they’d only been in here for a few days. Three days? It felt like forever. No more, anyway. She only had one bag left to check, one of her own. Yep, there was the rest of the water, some of Rarity’s dresses—and something else.

Dash squinted, pushing aside the winter scarves that had occupied the bottom of her saddlebags for most of the journey. Something lay beneath, and when Rainbow Dash saw it, she wondered if she hadn’t always known.

She’d packed her bags—or thrown the contents of her nightstand drawer into them, really—so long ago it seemed part of a different reality, but she’d never checked to see what actually went into them. Despite, part of her definitely always knew.

At the very bottom of her saddlebags, next to a calcified sandwich, a crumpled, dirty bandana and a broken-off quill with a tiny feather lay a thick, bright blue tailband. The tailband Fluttershy had given to her the week before the Summer Sun Celebration that brought the six friends together. A potent reminder of yet another disaster, another day where Dash had acted like an ass and hurt Fluttershy. Fluttershy’d probably made it for her as an apology, like she could apologise for Rainbow Dash mucking up. Because Fluttershy did that sort of stuff.

Dash put the scarves back on top. She heard hoofsteps galloping hard. No time for this anyway. She knew there’d be hay to pay for this later, but right now? Escaping. Not thinking. Pushing. Neither thinking about the consequences, nor about how good it felt to see Fluttershy pushing herself to the limit. She strapped the saddlebags shut just as Rarity rounded the corner, flagging. The unicorn came to a dead stop and leaned forward, catching her breath.

“What—where’s Fluttershy?” Dash asked, up on all fours in a second, heart hammering in her chest.

“She’ll be here,” said Rarity. “She’ll be here in a moment, she’s—she’s fine,” the unicorn said, hurrying into the cell and speaking between breaths. “We can’t find the keys. Koltares—Koltares must have them, but there’s no one anywhere inside this place. We looked everywhere.”

“Okay?” Dash asked, blinking, trying to calm down. “Okay. That’s good, isn’t it?”

“Yes and no,” said Rarity, shaking her head. “It’s not good if we want to get you free. Fluttershy had a plan, but she told us to see if we can manage without it. Are all our things there? The sigil? My jewellery and the masks?”

Rainbow Dash nodded quickly. “Yeah, it’s all there. Just missing the statue. Did you find it?”

“I didn’t see it, but we weren’t really looking for it,” Rarity admitted, opening her saddlebags. She fished out a small metal pin, frowned critically at it, and picked up a larger one.

“Right. That stinks,” said Dash. “We need it if we’re gonna get in touch with Luna up here.”

Rarity arched a brow, trotting over to Rainbow Dash and seizing the lock in her magical grip. She stuck the pin in and started twisting, rooting around as though it were a key. “How come?” she finally asked.

“I dunno,” Dash admitted. It was hard trying to keep still. No keys. “She said something about not being able to find us in our dreams, which is weird. This place is apparently really freaky.”

“I can attest as to that,” Rarity murmured. “Let’s see if we can’t get you free so you can appreciate the veracity of that particular fact for yourself.”

“The what?” Dash asked.

“We stuck our heads outside. It’s very, very ‘freaky’,” Rarity repeated, growling at the lock. She let out a cry of frustration when her pin snapped, levitating over her saddlebags to find another, slightly larger one.

“Hey, so, I believe you now,” said Dash, smilight slightly.

Rarity said nothing, staring intently at the lock. Again the pin broke.

Dash snickered. “No way you’ve escaped jail before if you can’t pick a lock.”

Rarity stared at her, blank-faced for a moment before she let out a burst of laughter uncomfortably close to Dash’s face. The unicorn covered her muzzle with a hoof and giggled. “I’m sorry,” she said, turning her snout up. “But I’ll have you know I am sure I could pick this lock if I had a bigger pin. You’re certainly taking this well, anyhow.”

Rainbow Dash shrugged and breathed deep. “Yeah, well, you don’t have to be Pinkie Pie to realise it’s better to laugh than, uh, well. Whatever else.”

“Mm, I don’t know that I find this situation particularly funny, though,” said Rarity, sighing. She let go of the lock. “I can’t do anything about this. If whatever Fluttershy’s planning doesn’t work, maybe it’s time we start considering what we’ll do if we can’t—”

No,” Dash snapped. “Don’t even say it. Give it one more try, and if this doesn’t work, you two get out of here.”

“Mm, no, that’s not going to happen,” Rarity replied breezily, holding up a few more pins, none of them half as large as the one she’d just broken. “You’re wasting your breath. Neither Fluttershy nor I are going anywhere.”

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes for a second. She didn’t know whether she was grateful or angry, but she knew she Rarity was right. She knew that these stupid peryton were right too: nothing would make the ponies split up. Leaving a friend behind just wasn’t going to happen. When she again looked, Rarity stared at the doorway with ears perked, and now Dash heard it too.

Hoofsteps, but only two of them—a half-set like peryton hooves. Was that a peryton? Dash tensed up. Had they finally run out of time? There were no claw noises in between the hooves. What the hay made that particular noise? Those two legs sure were moving fast.

Neither of them had time to speculate or worry. Mere moments later, a particularly dark and angry cloud squeezed through the doorway, followed by Fluttershy who pushed it along with her magically glowing forelegs. The cloud rumbled ominously, and Fluttershy wiped her brow, the pegasus soaked with both rain and sweat, breathing hard.

“What in the name of all things good is this for?” asked Rarity.

Rainbow Dash blinked. She would’ve settled for the first word of that sentence.

“Lightning,” said Fluttershy, leaning against the wall to catch her breath, but she was moving again a second later, shoving the cloud through the shattered doorway of their cell.

“Lightning,” Rainbow Dash repeated.

“Yes,” said Fluttershy, nodding once. “A lightning bolt should take the lock off.”

Rarity gasped. “That sounds dangerous, dear!”

“It is,” said Fluttershy—because it was. “It’s very dangerous. Can you hold the lock?”

“It’s more than just dangerous, it’s crazy,” said Dash, nodding matter-of-factly, but more than being afraid or worried, she wanted to laugh. Laugh not because it was ridiculous, but because it was amazing. If she didn’t zap Dash’s wings off or set her on fire, it could work. “Where the hay did you get all these clouds? Did you pack this one yourself?”

Fluttershy nodded quickly. “I grabbed all the clouds I could see nearby. I was lucky. There were some low clouds right outside, but we have to hurry! I think they might have seen me, and I don’t know if I did everything right—”

“Close up the side there,” said Dash, pointing. “Take it closer, I’ll help. We just need to poke a small hole in the bottom. Rarity! Is your magic back at all?” She flung open her saddlebags, grabbing their winter scarves and some other cloth-stuff. “Can you get these under the chains to protect my wings? Oh, and if they catch fire, can you… make them not be on fire?”

Setting everything up took less than a minute. Fluttershy more than pulled her weight and helped as she and Dash packed the cloud even tighter, making it the tiniest, angriest cloud Dash had ever seen. The pitch-black little thing was barely bigger than Dash herself, and so heavy it started to leak, needing a push to stay aloft even before it began to rain. It didn’t rumble, it roared.

Rainbow Dash poked at the bottom of the cloud. Just a tiny poke to give the energy a way out. Immediately it started pouring out water. Rarity held the padlock as far away from Dash’s body as she could. She had to stand right next to Rainbow Dash, her horn sputtering and crackling with the effort of even that. The unicorn’s face was set in a perpetual wince.

“Hit it!” said Dash. They’d been out of time for a long while now. She swore she could hear sounds down the hall—but then, she’d told herself that many times now already.

Fluttershy took a deep breath. She hovered with perfect precision inside the cell, her wings leaving trails of light whenever they flapped. Now she hesitated.

“Fluttershy, come on!” said Rainbow Dash. She’d set this in motion, she’d given them all a great big shove, and she refused to believe that Fluttershy would choose this moment to falter.

“I know, I know, I just, um,” Fluttershy hung in the air, reluctant, given a moment to think. “I don’t want to hurt you if this goes wrong, but—”

“I need you,” said Dash, locking eyes with her.

That did the trick. No words could have more effectively kicked Fluttershy back into action, and Fluttershy herself kicked, too. Her hindleg struck out, connecting with the cloud.

Everything went white, searing Dash’s eyes, and then everything turned black, blotting out all in existence. All sound disappeared, stolen away not by any one noise, but by a pain in Dash’s ears, a great ringing and throbbing in her skull. Her side felt uncomfortably hot, and then a great weight fell away. Even before she could see again, she knew what this meant. Rainbow Dash spread her wings, feeling her primaries meet at the top, her feathers forming a halo around her body.

The absurdity and the awesomeness, the wonder and the madness of Fluttershy’s plan, and of everything Fluttershy and Rarity had pulled off so far all magnified the sheer pleasure of spreading her wings. For a dazed few seconds, her friends and her wings were all that was real, and in that moment, nothing could be better. Vaguely, she noticed Rarity stomping to put some fire out while also re-packing her saddlebags, a lighter, more familiar weight settling on Dash’s back a second later. Somepony slung an ohron about her neck. Fluttershy waved and pointed, her muzzle moving, but no sound came out.

The thundercloud scattered, spent. Dash kicked the chains for good measure, the chain between her body and the bars now useless, now only attached to the links around her body which fell away. She stepped away from all the iron chains and bars, past the broken door. In strange, ear-pounding silence, she followed her friends at a swift canter. With their hoof-steps muffled, they might as well have been floating. The simple stone hallway seemed absurd after so many days of seeing nothing but their little room. Unpolished stone and a single torch. A key on a hook, just like Rarity had suspected—unneeded now.

On their left, they passed another room just like theirs, but this one was no prison. In their neighbouring room were stacks upon stacks of barrels and crates of some bright type of wood. An open barrel by the doorway showed their contents: dried fruit. They’d been imprisoned in a storage house of some kind. Next room, same thing. Food.

Finally they left the hallway behind, entering a room with furniture that looked out of place. Two simple cots rested alongside a wall, and a table, a desk, and various other knick-knacks were scattered more than arranged. Opposite of where they entered waited a doorless opening through which spilled an odd, muted light that was neither daylight nor moonlight, but Rainbow Dash could see sky. The outside. And in that opening, two peryton who seemed just as surprised to see them.

One turned and yelled something over his back—or so Dash assumed. She couldn’t hear him. The other pointed to the ponies. Maybe she said something, too. It didn’t matter. Dash didn’t recognise either of the peryton, and she had her wings back. It was Dash’s turn.

Rainbow Dash soared towards them, upsetting the flimsy desk in the center of the room with the sheer force of her passing. The peryton barely had time to react before Dash arrested her movement half a stride in front of them. She braked hard, bringing the wind under her wings full-force against them. Her feathers were eager to do something, to do anything, and so the third wingbeat Rainbow Dash had taken in days sent the peryton tumbling out the door with a blast of air. Dash waved Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash on.

“Let’s go!” she shouted, but she could barely hear herself. Rarity and Fluttershy put their heads down and galloped for the door, and Dash paused only to make sure her saddlebags would stay well out of the way of her wings before she stepped outside.

Perhaps it was only owing to their captivity that the light didn’t scare Rainbow Dash. After being stuck in a cave where the difference between day and night was vague at best, the muted sunlight was merely weird. High in the sky, the sun hung just past its zenith, nearly perfectly covered by a blackened orb. The moon blotted out the sun, and only a thin circle of light escaped its cover, a luminescence that seemed to belong to neither moon nor sun. Dash couldn’t tell whether it was light or dark out, but what light there was fell upon a strange scene.

They stood at the top of a small hill, and all around was a forest the like of which Rainbow Dash had never seen. Broad-leafed and dark trees with tall, segmented trunks that should never carry the weight of their crowns, humongous ferns and a staggering variety of colours and shapes all blended together and covered the world. To their sides, and in the distance, everywhere around them were the cliff-faces of mountains. When she looked at the gray rock, she could see nothing else, and it was a wonder that the sun and the moon could find them here at all. They stood at the foot of, and amongst the giant mountains of the Bow, all steeped in a light that was not light, a darkness that was not dark.

Everything was jungle, and everything was mountains. The sheer scale of it confused Dash at first. She thought they’d come from a cave dug into a mountaintop, but the storehouse was set in a pebble of a rock. The little stony thing jutted out from the top of the hill like the stones stuck in the Perytonian roads. Compared to the nearest mountain walls, it didn’t even register.

They weren’t even in the jungle, either. Down a dark soil path studded with logs in place of steps were sturdy wooden houses half-hidden by the canopy of the jungle, all shadowed by great leaves. From what she could see, their little hill stood in the middle of the Morrowsworn village. She could kick a rock and hit one of the wooden houses built between the trees, all sturdy, some small and some large, and a few of them painted with muted colours made darker still in the twilight. The two peryton she’d blasted out the door ran down the path as fast as they could, heading for a clearing a small ways off, past the nearest buildings.

A clearing. With all the rock and jungle around, Dash had a hard time believing a truly clear space could exist even as she looked at it, but there it was. A plaza of sorts, dominated by a large stone orb on a pedestal. It seemed that the entire Morrowsworn village was in attendance. Rainbow Dash couldn’t see a single peryton anywhere else.

Rainbow Dash couldn’t tell exactly what was going on. Rather than gather around the orb at its center, the peryton crowd made two large groups, surrounding, shouting, arguing and pointing at someone in their midsts. In the center of one of the groups, Dash caught the golden glint of something about the neck of a familiar stocky peryton. Caldesseia. In the other group, three tall, two-legged birds with long necks and longer legs were surrounded. More peryton yelled, pointing at the sky and the faint ring of colourless light stuck at the top of the sky.

“We should probably go,” said Fluttershy. Both her and Rarity’s eyes were on the same chaos.

“Absolutely, but where?” asked Rarity.

“Right,” said Dash, her right foreleg sticking out towards what her snout told her was something west-ish. It didn’t matter. Jungle everywhere. They just had to get away. “We’re going to the right, because—”

“You’re going nowhere!”

She hadn’t even finished her sentence, didn’t even get a chance to explain how going to the right always worked out before Koltares came running along a small path circling the craggy rock that topped their hill. Behind him were five other peryton, and Dash recognised most of them as peryton who’d guarded them when they were taken out of the cell for relief.

“If before I had doubts, I have none now,” Koltares declared. The other peryton slowly spread out, circling around them in the meager tree-less space around the entrance. “You are a menace. I will see you back inside—Atrys, be on guard for this one!”

“Really?” Dash asked taking a step forward. “You really wanna do this?”

“I have no more cause to fear you,” Koltares retorted. He didn’t step up to match Dash, but he stood his ground, gesturing to the sky. “I see now what you are. You bring the darkness. The guide was right in what she first said, but she has been too lax, too kind!”

Dash grinned. “I don’t care if you ‘fear’ me or not. If you think I’m all you have to worry about, you’re dead wrong. C’mon, back me up here, guys!” She glanced over at Rarity and Fluttershy, the former of which frowned, the latter with her ears drooping.

“Rainbow Dash is quite right. Thank you for your hospitality, truly, but we don’t wish to avail ourselves of it any more,” said Rarity, her eyes half-lidded with dismissal.

“It would be very nice if you could let us go, really,” said Fluttershy, shaking her head. “We’re going to leave anyway. I don’t think we’re going back in there no matter how nicely you ask, I’m sorry.”

Dash sighed. “Yeah, okay, we’re gonna have to work on the delivery, team, but we’re outta here anyway. Move.”

Koltares didn’t move. He spread his wings, still neither backing away nor moving any closer, he and the others forming a loose pen around them. One of them was in the air, flying in great big circles, and now Dash understood why they didn’t move in. Down by the plaza, a huge number of peryton were taking wing, flying towards them and closing fast with great big strokes of their powerful wings. Distant shouts became not-so-distant shouts.

“They’re playing for time!” Dash said, unfurling her own wings with a rustle and a snap. “No time for talking, we’re going now.”

“How—” Rarity began to say, but she spoke to an empty space that no longer contained Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash shot towards the nearest peryton, banking right at the last moment. She flapped her wings frantically, turning tight circles until the wind followed and obeyed, setting off a twister. With a kick, she sent the tiny tornado—with its screaming peryton passenger—down the path. Another peryton flew towards her with forelegs outstretched, and Dash hovered in place, pretending not to notice until the last minute.

She packed her wings and let herself fall for a half-second, ducking under and dropping closer to the ground, out of reach, forcing the clumsy peryton to make a long turn to come around again. She was too busy congratulating herself with the clever move to notice the peryton below her with antlers glowing. One of Dash’s wings seized up, grabbed in a sheath of magic. She nearly lost her saddlebags as she overbalanced, but before Dash fell, the glow scattered and Rainbow Dash was free again.

“Don’t touch her, you scoundrel,” Rarity snarled, her horn not only glowing, but crackling menacingly, a singularly bright point in the unreal twilight, and a second later, Fluttershy zoomed past Dash, Rarity’s magic upon her body leaving glittering trails like star-stuff in her wake. She swooped around the nearby trees, and the peryton chasing her lost his nerve, crash-landing softly into some ferns.

“Hey, watch out!” Dash called. Already the peryton who’d tried her magic on Dash advanced on Rarity instead. Rainbow Dash soared over her head, dragging as much air with her as she could, sending the peryton sprawling. She landed at Rarity’s side at the same time as Fluttershy returned to her side as well.

“Awesome work, guys!” Rainbow Dash shouted, grinning. Dash could’ve never done this alone. And she didn’t have to. She knew that, but every so often she needed to be reminded, learn that anew. Rarity’s horn lit up, scattering another attempt at magic from an encroaching peryton.

“Don’t waste my time,” said Rarity with a huff. “Your magic is woefully inelegant, you should know.”

“So, um, speaking of time, we’re all out,” said Fluttershy, pointing down the road, and Dash saw what she meant right away. By Dash’s own count they should’ve already dealt with all the peryton, but the first reinforcements had already arrived, and more came running up the path or soaring in from above by the second.

“Okay, enough fooling around,” Dash said. “Follow me!”

There were too many peryton in the air to fly over the cordon. Dozens of wings passed by overhead, dark shapes against the twilit sky. If there was no way out, they’d just have to make one, and the path Koltares and his cronies had followed was the least guarded by far. Only Koltares himself blocked their way now, his wings spread and his stance wide. Even now, another three ran to support him. Their window was closing, and fast. They’d have to be faster. No stopping. No breaking. No thinking. Going. Doing!

Rainbow Dash didn’t look back to see if the others followed. She knew they would. She ran, then took to the air flying as low as she could, ducking when an airborne peryton nearly clipped her. She put herself on a collision course with the grumpy stag, flying straight towards him. “Hey, Koltares! Let’s play chicken!” she shouted.

Koltares’ antlers glowed in response. They barely had time to brighten, magic still forming when a flash of light from Rarity somewhere behind Rainbow Dash signalled the end of that tactic. His antlers went dead and his eyes narrowed, his grimace sourer than ever. Rainbow Dash sped up. Closer and closer, faster and faster. He’d have to move or get a hoof to the chest. Dash grit her teeth, flipping mid-air to soar hindleg-first. Don’t make me do this. Don’t make—oh snap, don’t do that either!

Rainbow Dash arrested her momentum, whipping up wind as she braked. Koltares presented his antlers. His large, pointy, all too sharp and hurty antlers. Dash barely managed to stop in time, Koltares lowering his head further and digging his claws in to weather the blast of wind.

When Dash tried to move around him, Koltares shifted to match. When she went left, so did he. She tried to run past him on the right or get around him, he moved to follow, and his reinforcements closed fast. One of them leaped a fallen log, their steps thundering on approach, and Koltares denied them passage. They were down to seconds, with no way through—until another shape hammered into the peryton stag from the side.

Fluttershy was reduced to a green blur, Rarity’s magic and her own coat blending together. Only the trail from her wings described the impossible turn she’d made, absurdly sharp to avoid the peryton above and suddenly come zooming in from the side. Koltares tumbled talons over head, rolling away from Fluttershy who hovered where he had stood a second ago, rubbing her sparkling forehooves together and wincing—probably on his behalf more than her own. Rainbow Dash wasted no time, pointing past the fallen peryton, raising her voice.

“Keep going!” Dash shouted. She didn’t have time to explain, and she didn’t need to. Fluttershy would know what to do. Dash turned on the three peryton who finally came to Koltares’ aid, and before they could get in the way, Rainbow Dash whipped up a small, quick and dirty twister, kicking it off towards them.

Fluttershy soared past Dash, flying low with Rarity on her back, but Dash stayed put for a moment longer. One of the peryton dodged the twister, running over to Koltares who was beginning to get up. Rainbow Dash growled. Behind them came more peryton, five for every one already dazed and fallen. It seemed the whole village closed in on them, but Koltares and this one lone peryton were close enough that they could be a problem.

“Go,” said Velysra, planting a talon on Koltares’ antlers before he could get up, pinning the stag to the ground.

Or not. Rainbow Dash briefly locked eyes with their erstwhile jailer, but she had no idea what went on beyond those small, dark eyes—or any idea what was going on in general now, really. Only now did she notice that not all the approaching peryton were in a mad dash after them. Some slowed down. Some held back others. Some pointed to the sky and stared at the ponies with open mouths.

Go now,” Velysra repeated, shouting over the growing din of yelling, fighting, and Koltares’ strained grunts as he tried to stand.

And so Rainbow Dash went. Her wings spread anew, she soared off and away without a backwards look. The path near the rock face circled a quarter of the way around, then dove down the hill, and Rainbow Dash set off after Fluttershy.

She didn’t check to see if they were being followed. She couldn’t spare the quarter of a second it’d take. Either she’d gotten rusty from her time chained up, or Fluttershy had gotten faster. Rainbow Dash worked her wings hard as she chased a faint trail of blue down a dark soil path. The ohron slapped against her chest every now and then, the strap too loose.

The path flattened out. Buildings passed by on either side in a blur. Plants, walls, stalls, wider roads—everything zoomed past and below, blurred by tears brought on by the sheer speed, but still she only caught glimpses of Fluttershy ahead. The other pegasus’ flight was graceful and meticulous to Dash’s own frenzied wingbeats, but still carried her along with amazing speed as they flew low above empty streets.

They passed through a large, open gate and tall wooden palisades. Out of the town. Town or village? It couldn’t be very large. Now, Dash caught up bit by bit, chasing Fluttershy’s passenger rather than Fluttershy herself. Rarity’s faint and flickering horn-glow acted as the guiding light through a jungle suddenly darker and denser than the Khosta at its worst, and in shadow as though it were night. Darker, denser, and nothing like it.

Rainbow Dash dodged thick vines and punched through broad, soft leaves that hung like clothes out to dry, roots awkwardly far off the ground, branches precipitously low, trading places and mingling to the point where they couldn’t be told apart. Where Fluttershy picked her path deliberately, Dash folded her wings to shoot through narrow openings if she saw a chance. Finally, Dash drew level with her. The light changed, suddenly a little less dark. Maybe the sun was back. This deep in the jungle, in the haste of it all, Dash couldn’t tell for sure, but she thought she saw sunlight. Rarity kept her horn lit anyway, and Dash was glad of it.

No signs of pursuit, but they kept going. None of them spoke for the longest time. At some point, they were no longer fleeing, they were simply flying, and Rainbow Dash didn’t want to say anything. Time stretched, morphed, like a ball of rubber bands stepped upon. Finally they came to a small river, and it made sense to stop: it was the first thing that had happened in however long they’d been flying, the only thing that felt real enough to serve as a marker. Fluttershy sailed over the slow-flowing, gently clucking waters, overgrown and rife with some form of lily pads, and Dash landed next to her. The two pegasi touched down by the water, kicking up moist soil as they came to a stop.

Rainbow Dash had barely landed before she hovered up again, punching the air.

“Take that, you hay-brains,” she shouted, turning back to the river and sticking out her tongue. She grinned wide, relishing the sweet ache from her wings, the way her legs protested even when she landed.

“Darling, to use Velysra’s own words, we fought bakers and toymakers,” Rarity retorted, sliding off Fluttershy’s back. She stretched out her legs and tapped her own horn, frowning at it as though it had misbehaved. “I’d hardly call that a great victory.”

“Yeah? Well, I—” Dash said, her words hitching. She sighed. “You gotta take the fun out of everything, don’t you?” She shook her head, loosening her saddlebags a little. They were uncomfortably tight on her body, and she was pretty sure she’d clipped a branch at some point. “Hey, Flutter—whoa, Fluttershy!”

The other pegasus had stood still ever since they landed, her head hanging low, and Dash figured she was just tired, but now she swayed with her eyes closed. Rainbow Dash trotted over to her just in time to catch her as she fell. The yellow mare toppled onto her side as the last vestiges of the magic sheathing her body fell away, and Rainbow Dash lay down to catch her, softening her fall.

“Darling! Are you okay?” Rarity cried, rushing over to sit at Fluttershy’s side. She had one of their water-bags out in a flash, holding it with her still unsteady magic. Rainbow Dash gently let Fluttershy down to the ground and reached out to hold a hoof to her side, leaning in close.

“I’m fine, I’m sorry,” Fluttershy croaked. “I didn’t mean to worry you, I’m just a little tired.” She drank as best as she could when Rarity held the water-bag to her muzzle, most of the water spilling onto the ground.

“A little tired?” Dash asked, incredulous. “You fell over!”

“Okay, very tired,” said Fluttershy, forcing a smile, pushing the water away.

“And no wonder,” said Rarity, scowling. “You’ve absolutely over-exerted yourself. You flew like a phoenix, dear, I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“You did,” said Dash, frowning at that. “You flew like crazy, with Rarity on your back, and nearly all of our stuff, too! What the hay gives?” She knew Fluttershy could fly, but she hadn’t—or rather, shouldn’t—expect Fluttershy to fly like that. She simply hadn’t considered it in the heat of the moment. “Was that your magic?” she asked, turning to Rarity.

“Well, I imagine some of it was,” said Rarity, her scowl fading, morphing into concern. “I—I never knew… It was supposed to strengthen the body, but I never expected it to be quite so drastic!”

“It’s not your fault,” said Fluttershy, shaking her head with a little more energy. “And I’m fine, honest. I just feel tired. Like I really want a nap. And… maybe some food. Do you think I could have—”

“I’m on it,” said Dash, working the straps of Fluttershy’s saddlebags before she could even finish the sentence. She tugged Fluttershy’s bags off her body, gently rubbing her side with one hoof while she dug out some of their shessa-bread with the other.

“Well, I still feel awful,” Rarity muttered. “I suspect I may have overdone it.”

“Forgive you for what? For helping us save our butts?” Dash asked, snorting. Now that she was sure Fluttershy was going to be okay, she couldn’t get quite so worked up about it. She broke off some bread and put it on the ground in front of Fluttershy, grinning. “You were awesome. Both of you. If anyone’s to blame, it’s Khyrast. He should’ve told you about this!”

“Do you know, I think I agree,” Rarity said with nod. “That is simply not acceptable. This could’ve been dangerous.”

Fluttershy chewed and swallowed, frowning at Rarity and Rainbow Dash both. She spread her one free wing experimentally and closed it again “I don’t think that’s fair. I’m fine, and he never told you it could be used on others. Or what he thought it would do to a non-peryton. He was very nice in teaching you that spell—but, um… I think I’d be okay with not doing that again anytime soon.”

“Absolutely agreed on that, at least,” Rarity muttered.

“I hear you,” Dash agreed with a snort. She put her own saddlebags next to Fluttershy’s, and helped Rarity out of hers, the three sitting close together while Fluttershy ate and drank, sharing the water and refilling the bag in the river to drink again.

“At least the sun is back,” said Rarity at length. Over the river, the canopy broke and gave a clear view of the sky. The sun shone as bright as ever, and now that the adrenaline left her body, Dash felt the heat settle over her in full. Again. Hotter and wetter than ever. She’d probably started dripping the moment they began flying, but only now did she notice.

“I’m so happy I could melt,” said Dash, deadpan. At least the sun was normal. She hadn’t been sure earlier, but now she had decided: whatever the weird peryton here seemed to think, the freaky twilight wasn’t scary.

“You know, I don’t think escaping while the sun and the moon went all strange helps us look like we’re good ponies,” Fluttershy mused out loud. She still hadn’t moved since she lay down, resting on her side.

“I don’t care about our case. They can think whatever they want,” Dash said, her snout frumpled. “I care about getting out of here.”

Which meant doing stupid stuff. Which meant doing reckless, scary and dangerous stuff, and pushing themselves to the limit, apparently. Rainbow Dash simply didn’t have the luxury of thinking about how much of a disaster this was, right now—of thinking about good it felt to not think about that.

Dash reached out to touch Fluttershy’s withers while she dug around her own saddlebags to see if she could find something edible there, carefully avoiding looking at the tailband that lay at the bottom. Fluttershy smiled back at her with all the brightness in the world, nuzzling her hoof despite her tiredness.