• Published 20th Jul 2012
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The Conquering of Love - Littlecolt



Twilight finds she and her friends are trapped in their own minds and must escape.

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Crash Down Ch 5 - Turbulence

Book Five - Crash Down

Chapter Five: Turbulence

Pain. Like I’ve never felt before. What’s this warm feeling washing down my body?

Blood. I’m bleeding!

What happened? Daring?

“Daring… Why?”

Fluttershy is jumping at Daring… Wait!

Those green flames.

You were a changeling… all along?

Someone breaking down the door. Vision going dark, but my eyes are wide open…

“What’s going on in there? Let me in!”

Who?

“So, it was you! I should’ve guessed you weren’t hiding, you were disguised!”

Room spinning. What do I do? Two changelings now. Fluttershy is in trouble! I can’t!

“Yes! And now that Rainbow Dash is dead, there’s no one left to oppose us!”

Dead? I’m not dead! I can’t be!

Rainbow Dash gripped her chest with one hoof and slammed her other against the ground, a flash of white magic bursting out from the point of impact. She gritted her teeth and leaned forward, blood pouring out from her chest wound onto the floor.

“WHO ARE YOU CALLING DEAD!?”

“Dashie, calm down! You’re bleeding!” Fluttershy shouted.

Mulcibar turned and swung his hoof at Daring’s chest, smashing her against the wall. “Rainbow Dash! Only you can stop this, now!” he shouted and then glanced at Fluttershy over his shoulder. “Did you tell her? Does she know!?”

“I told her! Dashie, remember what I said? Just concentrate!”

Rainbow Dash coughed and slouched forward. “Daring! After everything we’ve been through, how could you?”

“She’s a changeling, Dash! Get a grip!” Mulcibar shouted. The color began to drain from the walls, and Mulcibar gave Daring another shove before pulling his hoof away from her. She fell to the ground, laughing between gasps for breath. “This is it! It’s now or never! If she doesn’t get ahold of the magic that’s balling up inside of her as she bleeds out, we’re finished!”

Fluttershy ran to Dash and pushed herself under one of her bloody forelegs. She stared up at Dash and shook her blood-soaked bangs away from her eyes. “Dashie, please! Just try to remember. None of this is real. That blood isn’t really your blood, and you’re not really dying. It’s all in your mind,” she said and then raised a hoof, rubbing it gently against Rainbow Dash’s cheek. “If I could bring you back to life, then I know you can do it.”

“What are you two on about? Not real? Hah! Like that sort of story can save her now!” Daring mocked from the ground as she grinned up at Dash and Fluttershy.

“Don’t listen to her,” Mulcibar urged, now staring at Dash as well. “Everyone says you’re a brave pony, that you always come through in a pinch. Fluttershy, there… I’ve only known her for a little while, but I’ve already heard plenty about you from her. If you want to come through like never before, now is the time! If you fall here and now, everyone is done for! Your friends will be plunged back into the depths of their own dreams, their memories erased! My sister and I, you don’t know us, but we’re… if you fall now, we’re goners! We’ll be put to death!”

Rainbow shook her head. “I don’t understand! What do I do?” she asked. Visions of her friends, gray and emotionless flashed in her mind. She closed her eyes and saw them all so clearly.

You failed us, Rainbow Dash, Twilight said, her image stopping to stare in disgust.

Equestria’s doomed, Applejack said, placing her hat over her chest.

I can’t believe we ever put our faith in you, Rarity snapped.

Am I supposed to say something? Pinkie asked and shrugged. Ummm… Boo, Dashie! You stink!

Wait! Dash protested. I didn’t mean to! I tried so hard!

And look where trying got you, Fluttershy’s voice came from behind Rainbow. She turned and saw the yellow pegasus standing and staring, tears running down her cheeks. I can’t believe I almost fell for a loser like you.

No, wait! Not you, too! Rainbow shouted, her voice shaking.

Oh, trust me, I can tell you from experience, Gilda’s voice suddenly came from the side. Falling for that one is more trouble than it’s worth. High maintenance! Not to mention her terrible taste in friends!

Gilda, stop!

It’s too late, Dash! You’re done for!

That’s right! You failed! Twilight’s voice shouted again. You failed Equestria, you failed me, you failed all of us!

“No! Stop!” Rainbow Dash shouted, her eyes opening wide again, a blast of rainbow-colored light erupting from them. “I never meant for any of this to happen!”

“Rainbow Dash!” Fluttershy shouted as waves of magic poured out from Dash’s body, pushing her away. The beams of magic stopped firing from her eyes, but her body pulsated with more and more intense light and heat.

“She’s losing it!” Mulcibar shouted. “Run!”

“No! I won’t!” Fluttershy responded and leapt into the air, wings spread, tackling straight into Rainbow Dash. The two of them tumbled to the ground, Fluttershy’s hooves wrapped tightly around Dash. “Please, Dashie… Don’t leave me.”

Rainbow Dash clenched her teeth and snarled. No! I won’t leave you! I won’t leave any of you!

With a violent blast of magic, the room erupted in flames.

I won’t leave any of you!

The words rang in her head as she finally came to. Rainbow Dash found herself surrounded by burning flames. She pulled her wing around to her face to shield herself from the heat, and then gasped at the realization that it was her previously severed wing.

“What the hay? How did that happen?” she asked herself, turning and peeking through her feathers to try and find a way out of the blaze she was in the middle of. “Fluttershy! Where are you?”

“Dash!” a voice called to her from her right side.

“Fluttershy? Daring Do?” she asked, and then blinked in remembrance. She slowly lifted a hoof to her chest, feeling for the wound that she knew she had sustained, but it was gone. “Daring… why would you do that? Even if you were a changeling, after everything we’d been through…!”

“Come on, Rainbow Dash! Let’s get out of here!”

Rainbow shook her head and started to move toward the voice that called to her. “Gilda? Is that you?”

With a blink of her eyes, she found herself standing in a school restroom. Gilda was outside the window, reaching her claw back. “Yeah, doofus, who else would it be?”

Dash blinked and suddenly found herself back in that moment, back in her high school days in Cloudsdale. Gilda had been gone for almost a week. If she was honest with herself, Dash had to admit that a hope that Gilda would come back was one of the only reasons she was even going to school lately.

With a wide grin, she reached her hoof up and allowed herself to be pulled up and out of the window. She threw herself at Gilda, pulling her into a tight embrace, which the griffon quickly squirmed her way out of. “Get off, sheesh! Good to see you, too,” she said, and then quickly took to the sky. “Come on!”

Dash leapt after her without hesitation, never looking back. Gilda began to increase her speed, and Dash followed suit until the two of them were winding through the cloudy city like a pair of blurred lines, zipping through hairpin turns and crazy straightaways. Rainbow felt her heart racing, her adrenaline pumping, and her emotions soaring, as if nothing in the world could ever bring her down again. This was when she truly felt alive.

She began to gain on Gilda, eventually overtaking her. The griffon laughed and shouted out, “I let you do that, now check this out!”

In a burst of flying feathers, Gilda pulled her body into a tight, bullet-like shape and dove down. Her speed increased quickly, and she suddenly spread her wings and launched herself upward, shooting past Dash like a blazing comet. Rainbow couldn’t help but gasp, and then she followed suit, pulling off the same maneuver and catching up again.

After a long and twisting race, the two friends landed atop a cloud hill on Cloudsdale’s north side. Gilda panted heavily, and Dash wiped the sweat from her face.

“Just think, once we’re in the Wonderbolts, we’ll do this every day! And we’ll have a whole team that can compete at that level!”

Gilda laughed. “The Wonderbolts? You gotta be joking! You see any griffons on that team?”

“Hey, they wouldn’t care! With your speed and style, they’d have to let you in!”

Gilda sighed and turned her head away from Dash. “Look, Rainbow Dash… I don’t really know how to lead into this, so I’ll just say it. I came here today to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye?” Rainbow shouted, leaping to her hooves. “What do you mean ‘Goodbye’?”

“I’m just so sick of this place. I’ve been gone for the past week because I decided to disappear. I went down to Griffonstone, but that place is even more lame… and I gotta admit, I missed you.”

“So don’t go! Stay here in Cloudsdale!”

“No, Dash, I can’t. I can’t take being here anymore. You know how many griffons there are here? Not many, and I think you know why. For what it’s worth, at least you’ve always kept it real with me, ya know?”

Rainbow Dash felt like she was going to cry. She didn’t want Gilda to leave! It wasn’t fair! No one else could fly with her like Gilda could! “You can’t go! Where would you even go to?”

“Back to Griffondale. I’ll stay with my aunt and uncle there.”

Dash fell to her haunches, still trying desperately to hold back her tears. “You said you missed me, though. I missed you, too! I was worried!”

Gilda sighed and stood up. “Yeah, okay, but that’s unavoidable! Unless…”

Rainbow looked up at Gilda, her eyes wide and sparkling. “Unless?”

“Come with me.”

Dash almost couldn’t even comprehend those words. “Come with you? But… My dad, my home, what about them?”

Gilda groaned. “I do just fine without either of those things. Don’t be such a baby! Don’t you want to set out and see the world?”

“Yeah, but maybe not yet. I mean, I want to get into the Wonderbolts, and they operate from here in Cloudsdale, so…”

“Sheesh! You’re like a broken record, Dash! Wonderbolts this and Wonderbolts that! Get real! You’ll have your shot, but you need to broaden your horizons first, and your lame school isn’t helping you with that at all! Where’d we go on that last school trip? Some fancy Canterlot library? Talk about boring! The only good part was when you and me snuck away and—“

“Yeah, about that,” Rainbow interrupted. “I don’t know how I feel… about that, either…”

Gilda smirked. “Oh come on, you were way into it. You almost ripped a patch of feathers off my neck.”

Rainbow Dash could feel herself blushing and scoffed. “Whatever. That’s what I mean, though. I mean, you want me to run away with you… like that. Like that that, right?”

Rainbow turned her gaze back up at Gilda and saw her staring down at her, her own face flush with color, her claw extended down.

“Do you not want to?”

Dash shook her head and slapped a hoof against the side of it, jolting herself back out of her memories. The fire around her was still blazing, she could practically feel it singing her.

I shouldn’t have. I should have said no, but I went anyway. Ran away to a whole other country for more than a month. My dad was worried sick even though I wrote to him, and poor Fluttershy…

Rainbow Dash? Fluttershy’s voice echoed in her mind.

She probably thought I’d abandoned her. I might as well have…

You’re leaving? Why?

“It’s not forever. I’ll be coming back once I’m ready to join the Wonderbolts.”

“Was it something… I did?”

“No! No! I just… I just think I have to go find my own way, you know? But, I don’t know how… and I don’t want to leave you behind, you’re the only friend I’ve got except for Gilda.”

“Really?” Fluttershy asked with a blink. “But… It’s so sudden. Why now?”

Please say you want to come, too, Dash could hear herself chanting over and over inside her mind.

“But what about school? What would your father say?”

Of course… that.

Fluttershy sat almost motionless upon her bed, a look of shock plastered across her face as Dash stood by her bedroom window, her eyes locked onto the ground. Dodging the comment about her father, she replied. “I think you and I both know that nopony wants me to be there.”

“That’s not true. I want you…”

Dash raised her eyes slightly until she saw Fluttershy’s eyes, tears forming at their corners. She quickly looked back down at the ground. “Okay, so it’s just you.”

“No! The teachers and other students wonder where you’ve gone off to, too. Like on the school trip when you even talked Gilda into coming and then the two of you raced the carriage there, and then didn’t even stick around for anything. Miss Quill was looking everywhere.”

Rainbow sighed. “Look, maybe I’m a little bit distractible—“

“You didn’t use to be like this. We used to have fun together. Now all we do is this. I sit here and worry about you, and you sit there and just tell me it’s okay. Well, it’s not okay! Okay!” Fluttershy shouted, but quickly caught her rising tone and hunched down on the bed with a slight squeaking sound. “I don’t want you to leave,” she then said, much more quietly.

Maybe it was how she suddenly grew a backbone and yelled at me for a second, there. Maybe it was the fact that she was right, that I shouldn’t leave. Maybe it was the way the teachers were always getting on my case for the littlest things at school. I don’t know exactly, probably just everything together, but I snapped… on her…

“I’m not like you, Fluttershy! I can’t just sit quietly in the back of the room by myself and slide through life doing everything everyone else wants me to do! What are you going to do after you graduate? Just nod your head and do whatever your parents tell you to do next? Well I’m not! My dad even said I could do anything I wanted, and this is it! So if you can’t accept it, then maybe we weren’t such great friends after all!”

I jumped out the window, slamming it after me. I couldn’t stand it. I knew I couldn’t possibly see her face after that. At the time, I thought I could probably never look at her again.

Rainbow Dash flew through the sky as the sun set, bound for her home, tears streaming from her face and dissolving into the wind.

“Rainbow Dash!” A masculine voice shouted. Dash stopped in mid-flight and turned, once again finding herself in the void, among the flames. The heat was beginning to become unbearable, but she saw a blue door just in the distance. Leaping into the air, she spread her wings and dove through a wall of fire, landing right at the doorway. A small plaque hung on the door, emblazoned with her cutie mark. She pushed the door open and found herself in her own bedroom back at her dad’s house in Cloudsdale. Instinctively, she walked over to the bed and flopped down upon it, the familiar feeling offering her instant comfort. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

How long has it been since I’ve been here?

“Dash?”

Is that… dad?

“Dash, I talked to your principal today. She says you’ve been skipping classes.”

Dash buried her face in her pillow and sighed, daring not to respond to her father, who was leaning against her doorframe. She assumed he had an upset look on his face, given his tone of voice, stern yet calm.

She heard him approach her bed and sit down beside her on it. “Has something been bothering you? Ever since the last school trip, you’ve been acting strange.”

“I’m not strange,” Dash managed to mumble through the pillow.

Rainbow Blaze shook his head and placed a hoof on his daughter’s back. “I didn’t say you were strange, I said you’ve been acting strange. You never skipped classes before. What’s going on? You can tell me, I promise I won’t get mad or anything.”

Dash remained silent as images of Fluttershy and Gilda flashed through her mind. I’m gonna leave this place for a while, run off back to Griffondale. You should come with me, Dash! This place is just holding us back, anyway, Gilda’s voice echoed in her ears.

“When I was your age, I went through a phase like this, too. I guess it makes sense, like father like daughter, right?” Blaze said, trying his best to comfort Dash.

“Somehow, I don’t think you went through this,” Dash replied and shook her head with zero vigor.

“Well, I’ll never know unless you tell me. I mean, I didn’t like school much, either. Heck, I dropped out, but that was a mistake. I just… I just don’t want you making the same mistake I did.”

You’re leaving? Fluttershy’s voice twinkled in Dash’s mind now. Why? Was it something… I did?

No! No! Dash recalled herself replying hastily. I just… I just think I have to go find my own way, you know? But… I don’t know how… and I don’t want to leave you behind, you’re the only friend I’ve got except for Gilda.

But what about school? What would your father say?

“Dash?” her father’s voice broke her stream of memories. “I’ll be in the other room, okay? Whenever you’re ready to talk, just come see me. I love you, squirt.”

She could hear her dad walking toward the door to leave. She suddenly turned her head, revealing her tear-moistened face. “Dad?” she said quietly. Her father stopped, but did not turn his head to look at her. “What would you do if you had to choose between two friends?”

Rainbow Blaze once again leaned on the door frame, still facing out into the hallway. The room was silent for a moment as he quietly contemplated the question.

“I guess I’d try and make the two of them friends, too,” he finally concluded.

Dash sighed. “I’m not really sure if that’s an option. To be honest, I don’t even think they’ve ever met except in passing.”

“You’ll never know unless you try.”

“I just… I don’t think that would work out,” Rainbow repeated.

Rainbow Blaze sighed again. “Well, I’ll think about it some more, and you do the same. I want you up bright and early tomorrow for school, you hear?”

Dash’s dad walked out of the room and slowly closed the door. As the door was nearly closed completely, Dash wiped a tear from her cheek.

“And I think I have a crush on…” she started saying quietly, but trailed off. The door stopped moving and creaked back open slightly.

“What was that?” Rainbow Blaze asked, his voice still as calm and soothing as ever.

“Nothing. Good night, dad.”

“Good night, squirt.”

The door closed and Dash was left with her thoughts. I think I have a crush… on both of them. She buried her face in her pillow again and slammed her right hoof into the side of it. There’s something wrong with me. Right? I can’t… can’t be…

Filly fooler!

No! Well, maybe. I dunno, just shut up!

The other kids at school were no help on that subject, especially three particularly boneheaded jocks that had been giving pretty much every other kid trouble since they were foals. How these doofuses managed to get to the tenth grade was beyond me, but there they were, taunting me openly in the hallway. I guess they just couldn’t handle having a girl that pretty much kicked their butt at every test of athletics ever, so they had to get their kicks in somehow.

“Hey Rainbow Crash, I realized something earlier.”

Billy. This little twerp…

“What is it, Billy? Did you finally realize your face looks like a donkey’s... ass…?” Dash asked as she turned from her locker and was met by one of the three bozos, Billy, but he was wearing a fancy suit jacket and had actually combed his mane. She immediately went into defense mode, backing up against her open locker. “What the heck are you wearing?”

“No, Dash. I realized how beautiful you are. Please, would you meet me behind the gym after school?” he asked, and then pulled a bouquet of flowers from his inside jacket pocket.

Dash’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. “What… the… actual…”

“Please, Dash! Don’t say no!” he pleaded. “Come on!”

Dash shook her head. “Billy, look, you’ve never been anything but a total jerk to me, so what the heck makes you think I want anything to do with you? Let alone you, like… bringing me flowers and acting all creepy like this.”

Billy dropped to his knees and reached his hooves out to grab Dash’s foreleg. “Please, don’t be like that! Why not?”

Dash pulled her leg up in reaction. “Don’t touch me, creep! What’s your problem?”

“Oh, I get it. Yeah, that’s what I realized earlier,” he said, his tone dropping. He turned his eyes up and grinned. “It’s because I’m a colt, isn’t it?”

Dash frowned and grinded her teeth. “Get out of here before I put a crater in your face!”

“You’re a dirty little filly fooler, ain’t ya, Dash?”

“Shut up!” she shouted, slamming her locker closed and starting to walk away. Billy’s two other friends rolled out from around the corner and stopped her.

“You got a point there, Billy. I mean, she acts just like one of the colts, and she only ever hangs out with her little filly-crush Fluttershy.”

“Yeah, or worse, getting her jungle fever on with that griffon!”

Dash pushed her hoof into one of their shoulders. “You can talk about me all you want, but don’t bring my friends into it!”

“Girlfriends,” he said with a snort in response. Dash shoved him to the ground and stomped around the corner, stopping in her tracks. Fluttershy was standing not three feet away from her, her eyes wide and tearing up a bit.

“Just ignore those guys,” Dash said, regaining her composure and walking past Fluttershy. “They’re just mad because I whipped their sorry flanks yesterday in hoofball. Three on one and they couldn’t even touch me!”

Yeah, they didn’t make it easy to go to school, and the teachers didn’t help either, or the principal...

“Miss Dash, we’re worried about your grades lately. Is there something bothering you?”

Dash stared across the desk at the pompous looking pony that was talking to her, glasses halfway down her snout and her hair pulled up into a bun. This wasn't her first trip to Mrs. Spring Feather's office, and she knew it wouldn't be her last.

“Nah, I’m cool.”

“That’s just it, Miss Dash. We think you’re a little too cool, if you know what I mean.”

Dash grinned. “Yeah, some ponies do say that about me.”

“I mean you’re going to have to repeat a grade if you don’t get your act together! I’ve already spoken to your father. We’re both thinking that maybe you should take a day off to have some time to get your head straightened out at home, and then come back and get to work.”

“You’re suspending me?”

“It’s just for a day, Rainbow Dash. After this, we’ll be enrolling you in some make-up classes so you can hopefully stay with your class, with your friends.”

So yeah, you could say nothing seemed like it was going my way. Looking back, I should have taken that talk as a wake up call, but I just… kept doing what I had been doing. Dad wasn’t really happy about it, but he always stayed calm, just like always. Cool under fire… wish I’d inherited that from him.

And then, the morning after that talk with my dad about my friends, I ran away. I don’t even know what I was running away from, but there I was, going as fast as I could, Gilda by my side. She was like my wingmate. I knew I could count on her to keep up with me, no matter how crazy and fast I went. To be honest, sometimes it felt like I was the one trying to keep up with her. She was, at times, more mysterious to me than my own inner feelings.

“Smell that fresh forest air!” Gilda said as she and Rainbow Dash stepped off the airship they had flown to Avenport in. Dash plopped down onto solid ground, dropping several stuffed suitcases around her, and Gilda reactively jumped. “Hey, careful with those!”

“Did you have to pack so much? Never knew you were so… girly. Do you even own this much clothing?”

Gilda waved her hand in the air. “Yeah, yeah, everyone’s got a secret, now come on. Check this place out!”




“Dash?” Gilda questioned after a minute, noting her companion’s silence.

“Sorry,” Dash responded. “I just can’t believe a place like this actually exists! I can already see a lot of spots with great potential for racing! You were definitely right, Gilda. I did need to get away from Cloudsdale!”

“I told you!” Gilda laughed. “Trust me, you’re gonna love it here. Hey, there’s the Roost, now!”

Upon arriving at the Roost, Gilda turned to Dash and held out her free claw. “Dash, hand me that metal suitcase.”

Dash handed over the heavy metallic case and peeked over the top of it. “You need a key or something from in there to get in?”

Gilda smirked. “Nah, it’s just after four, so I might need protection.”

“Protection?”

Gilda dropped the rest of the bags she was carrying, turned the doorknob, and pushed the door open. She entered slowly, holding the suitcase in front of her. “Hey! Uncle G!”

“You’ll never take me alive!” a rough voice shouted from inside, followed by four loud gunshots. Gilda ducked, jerking the suitcase upward, the bullets lodging themselves into its surface.

“Chill out, uncle, it’s me!”

“Pipe down!” another voice came from inside, followed by the sound of glass shattering.

Rainbow Dash slowly backed away from the door, ducking down close to the ground. Were those gunshots? I’ve only ever heard about guns, never seen one before, let alone heard one being fired! She stared up at Gilda, who was angrily shaking her fist into the doorway. What kind of crazy place have you taken us, Gilda?

A second later, Gilda turned back to Dash and tossed the bullet-riddled suitcase on the ground. It popped open, revealing that it was just full of thick planks of wood. “Okay, it’s safe now.”

Dash stared at the suitcase for a moment, then back up to Gilda. “Safe? You packed a suitcase of wood just to block bullets and you’re telling me it’s safe?”

“Relax, that’s just how Uncle Gerulf gets when he’s had a little too much to drink. Aunt Frida’s got it covered.”

“I ain’t had too much to drink!” the rough voice yelled out the door again. “Yer not the boss a’me!”

“Don’t mind him. Come on in!” the other voice beckoned. Gilda and Dash gathered Gilda’s luggage back up and slowly managed to get it all inside. To the left of the entryway was a regal wooden bar, fully stocked. A single griffon sat at the bar, an empty glass in front of him and broken glass all around him. He turned his head to look at Gilda and rubbed his palm against the crown of his skull.

“Ah yes, Gilda my girl, how ya’ve grown,” he managed to say.

The other griffon, who was behind the bar, leaned against it and smiled. “So, introduce us to your pony friend.”

“Uh, yeah. This is Dash… uh, Rainbow Dash. She’s from Cloudsdale.”

Dash smiled and bowed her head. “Nice to meet you…?” she said, still wondering what had just happened.

“Hah! Polite one, ain’t she? Never thought we’d see ya back here again after yer da moved ta Griffonstone. So ya been hangin’ around pegasi, eh? Always knew ya were a little odd.”

Frida, as quick as a bullet, slapped her claw against the back of Gerulf’s head. “Be good, now! You’ll have to forgive him, Miss Dash, he’s got no control o’ that tongue of his once he’s got some liquor in him.”

“I didn’t mean nothin’ by it! Some of my best friends are pegasi!”

“Like who?”

“Oh come on, you know, from the docks… That stocky fella.”

“He’s a donkey, Ger! Ya can’t even tell a donkey from a pony!”

“Oh, shove off! Leave me in peace, ya witch.”

“Uh, yeah, so…” Gilda finally interrupted. “You have any rooms free? We could use a couple.”

“What? Ya ain’t sharin’ one?” Gerulf asked with a wink, which was quickly followed by another slap from Frida.

“Yes, dearie, just head on up, any of the doors that are ajar.”

“Thanks, auntie… uncle…” Gilda said, and then motioned for Dash to follow her quickly. The two of them moved to the back of the bar area and up the stairs as quickly as they could.

“Your family’s a little weird,” Dash whispered with a chuckle. “Funny, too!”

“Yeah, barrel of laughs,” Gilda groaned. “Seriously, though, just wait til uncle Gerulf isn’t drinking, he’s actually a really cool dude. He’s been quite the influence on me.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Gerulf has run his own businesses since he was a gryphlet. Started really young, and he’s got a lifetime of connections. People who owe him favors, ya know?”

“What kind of favors?”

“The kind that get stuff done. Oh, hey, here’s a room,” Gilda said and then pushed her way into a vacant room. The interior was sparse. A simple bed, a table, and a chair were the only furnishings. Gilda stacked her luggage in the corner, leaving Dash with only her small saddle bag. “So yeah, thanks for the help. Guess we better find you your room, now, unless you wanna…”

“Yeah,” Dash replied nervously, rubbing a hoof against the back of her head. “Maybe there will be an empty room next door.”

“Hah, yeah, here’s hoping!” Gilda said, her voice wavering slightly. The two of them exited, turned to the left, and found that the next room over was, indeed, vacant.

Dash opened the door and grinned. “Oh wow, Gilda, you got shorted! Check out that bed!” she shouted, and then ran across the room, flopping down on the rather large bed at the other end.

“Aw, dude, no fair! I say we rock-paper-scissors for it!” Gilda shouted, holding out her fist.

Dash laughed and stuck her hoof up in the air. “All I got it rock!” she said with a giggle.

Gilda responded by leaping onto the bed and tackling Dash, pressing her down against the soft surface of the comforter. After a second of squirming, Dash found her eyes locked with Gilda’s.

“Hey… thanks for coming with me,” Gilda said, turning her gaze to the side. “I’m glad I can always count on you to have my back.”

“It’s fine. After all, you said this was for the both of us, right? To expand our horizons,” Dash responded, allowing her forelegs to fall limp. She suddenly felt Gilda’s talons gently digging into the flesh of her flank, slowly working their way down past her cutie mark. She let out an uncontrollable gasp of air.

“Yeah,” Gilda replied, her breathing becoming more intense. “It’s gonna be awesome.”

Dash closed her eyes and bit her lower lip, but then felt the sensation of flames washing over her. She opened her eyes and found herself alone in that room in the Roost, lying on the bed as fire raged all around her again. She sighed and shook her head.

The first week away from home seemed like a dream. Gilda and I were getting along better than ever before, and she seemed so much happier. Exploring the city was like an adventure. There were so many things to see and do, so many courses to mentally set up for racing and training. Gerulf and Frida were a cool pair, as well. Sometimes I would see Gerulf giving Gilda some strange looks when she wasn’t paying attention, though, and it wasn’t long before I found out why.

I guess he’d gotten word from some of his connections in town, which is why he knew from the very first night. Not the first night we were there, but from the first night that Gilda went out and wouldn’t tell me where she’d gone off to.

Halfway through the second week there, and I was already starting to get homesick. I had a picture of Fluttershy, and I found myself looking at it more and more. I’d come home from doing what I’d been doing since the second or third day there, running deliveries for Gerulf and Frida, and I’d just want to lie in bed and stare at it. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of it when Gilda and I were… together, and I’d feel my heart sink and my head fill with the awful things I’d said to her before I ran away.

Thank Celestia I didn’t have a picture of my dad. What would he have even thought if he’d seen me like this?

It wouldn’t be long until I’d see him again, though. One night late that week, Gilda seemed a little bit more on edge, like she was nervous about something. We were hanging out in my room, which is honestly where we usually were, anyway. Her luggage pretty much was her room’s only occupant.

Gilda sat on the floor and leaned against Dash’s bed, turning her head toward her friend. Dash lying with her legs hanging off the edge of the bed, just staring at the far wall. “Hey, Dash… I got something I need to tell you… and a favor to ask.”

Dash turned to Gilda and nodded her head. “Sure, what’s up?”

“You know I’ve been… going out and doing some stuff at night, right?”

“Yeah, I just… I didn’t want to pry or anything. Like you said before, everyone’s got their secrets.”

“Exactly!” Gilda said, seeming to cheer up. She turned and put her claw on Dash’s shoulder. “Look, you’re one of the only ones in this world that I can trust. I need you to promise me you’ll keep what I’m about to tell you, about to show you, under wraps. You can’t tell anyone, got it?”

Dash sat up and leaned away from Gilda nervously, raising one eyebrow. “Okay, sure, but you’ve got me a little freaked out here.”

“Trust me, Dash, this is our big ticket up and outta here.”

“But, we just got here.”

Gilda stood up and walked toward the door. “Come to my room, Dash. You’ll see.”

Rainbow Dash nervously followed Gilda down the hall and to her room next door. The two of them entered and then Gilda closed and locked the door behind them. Dash could feel her anxiety rising a bit as Gilda grabbed one of her many suitcases and placed it on the table. She opened it up, slid a piece of cloth to the side, and then looked up at Rainbow.

“You know what this is?”

I knew what it was. I’d seen it plenty before. The colorful flower buds and accompanying little vials of swirling, rainbow-colored liquid were unmistakable. Ponium, a kind of opium that was grown on the ground around Cloudsdale. It can only grow in areas where the rainbow falls flow down from the weather factory. Banned by Celestia, but almost impossible to wipe out since it naturally occurs, it’s a by-product of modern weather control techniques… one that was illegal in Equestria and the Griffon Kingdom alike.

One that had taken my mother away from me.

Author's Note:

Time for a trip down memory lane, and... oh, hey there, Dark tag! No, I didn't forget about you! :pinkiecrazy:

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