• Published 25th Jul 2012
  • 7,866 Views, 279 Comments

Random Elements - Stryke



An alternate Mane Cast cross over into the normal Equestia, things go down hill from there.

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Chapter 9

"What are we going to do?" Trixie said frantically. Pinkamena looked horribly pale and was bleeding all over the library floor and Trixie just knew that somehow this was going to end up being seen as all her fault.

"Don't you know any healing magic?” asked Sparks. “You are a magician, aren't you?"

"No! Trixie might know a few things, but healing spells are beyond me." Trixie said, with a definite note of panic creeping into her voice. "How about you?"

Sparks shook her head. "Um, well I'm sure Twilight wouldn't mind if we used her curtains given that there's a pony in need..."

Soon Pinkamena had been competently, if somewhat over enthusiastically, bandaged and Sparks was sitting by her side, brushing the business-mare’s new curls back into her usual straight-cut style.

Once she’d gotten her wits back Pinkamena actually looked somewhat contented as Sparks magically ran a brush through her hair. “Well done for finding her, Trixie,” she said, nodding towards Sparks. “I think I searched nearly all over Equestria looking for her.”

“Oh, it was nothing." Trixie dropped the smug act as she was genuinely concerned. “So, what happened to you then?” she asked.

“I was checking out some of the natural caves in the Ghastly Gorge. Since when have there been feral griffons living out there? Quarray Eels I’d expected, griffons not so much.”

Trixie admitted that she had no idea. It was not as if she was anymore local really than Sparks and Pinkamena were. Least as far as Ponyville was concerned anyway. She’d never even heard of griffons going feral though. Sure there were always rumours—usually from the more inbred out-of-the-way towns that she’d visited—where some friend of a cousin twice removed had heard of one that totally et somepony’s sheep. But they were only rumours, weren’t they? Trixie thought.

“Only griffon I know of living around here is Gilda,” said Sparks. “But she’s really nice and not feral at all! She’s the weather team captain in my Ponyville and occasionally comes into the library to see how I am and have a chat. Only pony that does that is Mrs. Cake and that’s because I pay her for food.”

“I’d assumed the caves away from the nesting sites would be abandoned and so a possible good place for Sparks to hide,” Pinkamena explained. “So the last thing I expected was to have two claws wrapped around my neck and an angry griffon in my face.”

Pinkamena closed her eyes and shuddered. The sight of those predatory eyes locked with hers was going to stick with her for a good long while. The griffon had been so fast too. Pinkamena had only just got her bearings before she’d been seized without warning.

“It was horrible, Trixie. She was such a sight. Old faded purple dye smeared all over her face and long dried blood staining her beak. I think she must have been there all alone for a long time.” Pinkamena went quiet for a bit, before beginning to talk again. “At one point she stopped clawing at me and just hugged me while she had a bit of a cry.” Now that had been awkward, Pinkamena reflected. She’d even tried patting the griffon gently while making soothing noises, as the griffon had sobbed horribly. Pinkamena had tried to ignore the pain as the griffon had squeezed her in the hope it would calm her down. It hadn’t lasted long though before the griffon had snapped again and flung her against the cave wall. Which fortunately for Pinkamena had just been the opportunity she’d needed to escape.

“Weird,” Trixie said, not feeling there was much else she could say.

Sparks was wondering about the purple dye, but shook her head dismissing the thought. There was no chance whatsoever that could be the Gilda of this reality. After all, she was the most kind and gentle creature that Sparks had ever met.

“Definitely,” agreed Pinkamena. “Even weirder, was that she was yelling that I’d taken her Dashie away from her. I don’t even know a Dashie.”

“Hang on, you don’t think that could have been the Rainbow Dash here do you? With your mane messed up like that maybe that griffon thought you were your double,” Trixie suggested.

Pinkamena considered this. “But what could they have done to upset her so much that she did this to me?” she said, gesturing to the improvised bandages now covering her many wounds. “I only just got out of there in one piece that griffon was in such a frenzy.”

“Don’t ask me,” Trixie said shaking her head. “Trixie just threw a performance once in this lousy town. Certainly not long enough to find out about if some filly-fooling interspecies love triangle was going on.”

Sparks blushed and tried to hide her face under her bangs.

Pinkamena laughed and then winced in pain as she felt her sides ache at the sudden unexpected movement. She was about to sling a suitably barbed comment at Trixie for making her hurt like that and then she stopped. I just laughed. Her eyes widened. I never laugh. I’ve got to get back to the Equestria I know. This world is making me crazy...

~~~

“I could so gallop back to Ponyville.”

"Ah know.”

Appletini’s eyes were struggling to focus on her double sitting across from her. "Just because I go to fancy parties doesn't mean I'm any less of an Earth pony y'know."

"Ah know." Applejack went back to gazing into her ale. She was half-hoping it might contain the answers to why her double was getting so worked up by this. Though if she had to guess, she did wonder if Appletini might be feeling a bit guilty for neglecting her roots. If she didn't find some way to take her mind of this Appletini probably wasn’t far from challenging her to hoof-wrastle... and that would just be embarrassing for everypony concerned. Along with probably getting them thrown out of the pub.

She wasn't the best at small talk—hay, not even a ribboner really—but Applejack figured it was worth a shot. “So you seeing anypony at the moment?” Applejack mentally face-hooved. Smooth, Applejack, smooth.

Ignoring the bluntness of the question, Appletini replied, “Been seeing Blooey for the last couple of months. He’s fun and treats me like a lady.”

Seeing Applejack’s blank look, Appletini said, "Surprised you've not heard of him. Before his banishment he was a real big deal in Canterlot."

Applejack's brow furrowed. "Fancy Pants?" She hazarded as a guess. He'd seemed to be a real gent of a stallion at Twilight's birthday party.

Appletini laughed lightly. "Hah, I should be so lucky. "

Giving up on her double ever guessing, she said, “Blueblood. His name’s Blueblood.”

Prince Blueblood?!”

“Oh, so you do know him... Why are you looking at me like that?”

Applejack actually let out a low dangerous growl. “He’s scum, Appletini. He spat out good down-home Apple family cooking. Worse he disrespected my friend.”

Appletini ground her teeth in frustration. She'd had to deal with the reaction before and the last pony she wanted to hear this lecture from was herself. “Look, I know he used to have some problems, but he’s a changed stallion since he lost his title.”

“Well that ain’t happened here. Not that it wasn’t more than deserved after that Grand Galloping Gala.”

“Well he did and I like him. I might even love him, though he really doesn’t need to know that yet,” Appletini said, with a wistful smile.

“So how’d he lose his title then?” asked Applejack, who couldn’t help but being interested. She was also working very hard to banish the deeply unpleasant mental image of her and that dandy fop to the very recesses of the back of her mind.

“Nightmare Moon, how else?” said Applejack. “She was less than impressed by the standards of the nobility after her exile. She seemed to take two members of the old royal unicorn lineage being still around especially personally. Blooey just lost his holdings, his servants and his title. His sister Princess Mi Amore Cadenza on the other hoof...” Appletini shuddered.

“Cadance, I’ve met her. She’s nice.”

Appletini took another drink. She was going to need it. “Everypony says that. Last thing she deserved was to have her wing implants destroyed in front of the entire Canterlot court.”

“Wait... implants? I thought she was like Princess Celestia an' Luna.”

Her double shook her head sadly. “So did a lot of ponies. Story came out afterwards that she got them implanted when she was young. Bit of a spoiled brat back then apparently. Y’know the kind of parents who were wrapped round her little hooves who’d get her anything she wanted. Even, as it turns out, illegal magical cosmetic surgery so she could look like a proper princess. Still given how she grew up she really didn’t deserve such brutal treatment. Sure Nightmare Moon healed her afterwards, but believe me, I think it left a bigger impression on everypony than what the Shadowbolts did to Stalliongrad.”

Applejack grimaced. The thought of a sweet pony like Cadance being brutalised like that made her blood boil. “Why’d that make a difference anyway? Nightmare Moon never exactly made a secret of being a monster here.”

“Well after the sun going down permanently and Princess Celestia’s disappearance there were a lot of scared ponies out there,” Appletini said. “But then everything kept growing despite the constant night and Nightmare Moon seemed like she might be actually be reasonable. Especially as she pretty much continued the old rule aside from a few minor alterations. Sure there was Stalliongrad, but some ponies thought that by peaceful protest and debate she might be convinced to maybe bring back the sun for one day a week say at least. After Cadance though, everypony forgot the foolish idea about her being reasonable and attempted to get on with their lives as normally as possible without the sun.”

“So everypony just gave up then?”

Appletini frowned. "Well you could say that I suppose. That front page photo of two small piles of dust, vaguely in the shape of wings, did tend to stick rather prominently in the mind.”

An awkward silence descended over the table. It was getting on in the evening and the pub was beginning to empty out. A pegasus stallion trotted over to try his luck and promptly beat a hasty retreat after feeling the full force of a double dose of the Apple family death glare.

In an attempt to change the subject, Applejack asked, "So ain't you worried about all them fancy events you're missing bein' stuck here?"

Appletini blinked a couple of times as she thought about it. "Nothing I'll be really missed at thankfully. I had planned to show my face tonight at the White Sock society meeting, but it's not like I'm a real member. More of an associate really."

"The who?"

"Oh, Manehattanite ponies with more money than sense are obsessed with all kinds of secret societies, conspiracies and other passing fads.” Appletini said airily. “There's the Discordians, the Cultists for the Second Coming of the Mag'ne, the Sect of the Horned Rat just to name a few and far too many others." Appletini grinned. "And I'm a member of most of them. Always good to know what's going on behind closed doors in high society in my line of work. Plus its useful knowledge if I need to do a little leg twisting if I need to secure a venue for a charity auction, say."

Applejack's eyes widened. "How the hay do ya keep all that straight?

"It's not too bad if you're organised. Course there was that one time I gave the Freemason secret hoofshake to a New Solar Republican." Appletini winced at the recollection. "Now that was awkward."

"So, what's wit' the White Socks then?"

Appletini waved her tankard dismissively. "Singular, but I shouldn't tell you. You're not going to like it. Hay, I know you're not going to like it, as I don't like it myself."

"Aw, shoot. Now ya gotta tell me."

Appletini sighed. "They eat meat."

"They what?!"

Seeing her double's absolutely appalled expression, Appletini quickly added, "it's all ethically sourced! Part of the thrill for them is paying the exorbitant sums to the griffons to make sure it’s only from animals that have passed away from natural causes."

Applejack looked and felt like she was going to throw up. "And you've..."

"Fish, once," Appletini said, turning slightly green.

Applejack sat quietly for a bit mulling this over in her head. "Hang on. If this was happenin' tonight for you... Then it's also goin' on here now as well." She looked liked she was moments from getting up to go buck some ideas of proper pony behavior into some heads.

“It could well be,” Appletini admitted.

“Where?” Applejack snarled out the single word, her eyes burning with rage.

“It’s not going to help getting mad about this,” said Appletini, trying to calm her other self down. “Even if it was happening here too, and there’s no guarantee of that, then they really dislike uninvited guests who shouldn’t even know that they exist. They don’t just hire griffons to procure the meat, but bodyguards too.”

“Ah could take a griffon,” Applejack said, putting her forehooves down onto the table hard.

Appletini sighed. “I’m sure you could, but several of them and armed with crossbows? Anyway we could get there and the house could be empty for all you and I know.”

Applejack settled down back into her seat with a huff. “Ah don’t like it. It’s just not right.”

“No, it’s not. Not right at all. Anyway as I said it might not even be happening in this Manehattan.”

“Why not? It’s ain’t like the lack of that sonic rainboom would make a bunch of ponies into meat-eating freaks.”

“Y’know I’ve been thinking about that,” said Appletini carefully. “It’s nice to think that some single event is the key to the differences, but I’m really not so sure. You and I while similar some ways are very different ponies in the way we approach life. I really do think that even if I had seen some rainbow pointing back to the farm as a filly.” She took a deep breath. I still don’t think I’d have gone back,” Appletini said quickly, her eyes darting.

“Ah know, sugarcube,” said Applejack. “Y’all don’t need to be nervous that I’m goin’ to judge you poorly for it. You’re a good pony from what I can reckon and that’s all I need to know.” She grinned. “Your dreadful taste in stallions on the other hoof...”

Appletini laughed and the two tapped their drinks together.

~~~

Fluttershy touched down lightly just outside of the cottage. It’d been just been where that helpful pegasus had described, right on the edge of the Everfree forest. Lights were shining in the windows much to her relief. Good, she’s home.

She trotted over the small bridge, taking everything in to try to build a picture of her double before they met. Though all the little birdhouses all over the place were especially confusing. Shrugging that off, Fluttershy raised a hoof and tapped on the front door.

Not hearing any response, she knocked again, this time a little harder. Straining her ears she could just about hear someone moving around inside.

Eventually the top half of the front door opened. “Sorry to keep you waiting, but Mr. Mousey... Oh, it’s you.” She squeaked and disappeared beneath the top of the door.

“Mind if I come in?” Fluttershy asked, trying to keep her voice as neutral as possible. This was not a promising start.

“Um, I suppose that would be okay.” The door opened revealing her double cowering on the floor.

Fluttershy’s breath caught in her throat as she looked down at her other self. She was beautiful. Sure Fluttershy knew she could look pretty decent if she put some effort into it, but her double was on a whole other level. Then again she remembered how aggravating that effort could be when she’d been posing for those Shadowbolt propaganda posters. Photo Finish had proven to be absolutely impossible to completely satisfy with her appearance no matter what they’d tried. Fluttershy had ended up having her locked up in the dungeons on the basis of being utterly insufferable and ordered the photographer’s assistants to take the shots instead.

This other self though—who she decided to mentally dub ‘Shy from the way she was actually trembling just from being looked at—radiated an effortless innocence that could stop any pony in their tracks. It was like looking at the mare that she’d always wanted to be, but had never known that it was even a possibility.

Recovering her composure, Fluttershy trotted in and had a look around. Birdhouses continued to be a major theme in the decoration, along with what Fluttershy guessed were animal runs. She could just about make out the sounds of many little voices all breathing in and out.

“So... you like animals then?” Fluttershy asked, rubbing her neck as she took in the whole room. Animals definitely did seem to be the major theme.

“Oh my yes!” ‘Shy got up, seemingly more confident that she was standing on stronger ground. “I just love them all so much. I’ve had a special connection with all my furry and feathered friends ever since I was just a filly.”

Fluttershy checked out the three butterflies on ‘Shy’s flank in stark contrast to the winged skull on her own. “You got your cutie mark when you were a filly?” she said slowly, feeling a vein in her forehead start to throb.

“Second year of flight camp. Well it was the first year again as I had to retake it.” Fluttershy raised an eyebrow at that. She’d struggled at first sure, but she’d definitely never been held back like some pathetic lead-wing.

‘Shy then told Fluttershy all about the story of how she’d got her cutie mark. How Rainbow Dash had come to her defence when she was being bullied, leading to the race that knocked her off the cloud and sent her plummeting towards the ground. Fluttershy had come close to putting a hoof through the nearest wall when she heard that part. Hearing about being so weak was bad, but hearing that nopony bothered to actually try to catch her was so much worse. The revelation that she’d been saved, not by some camp instructor, but by a bunch of stupid butterflies of all things didn’t exactly improve her mood.

“So, all you had to do to get your cutie mark was to come down to the ground, and that’s it?”

“Well it wasn’t just that,” ‘Shy said, glancing at the kitchen wondering if she should be offering her guest some tea. “After the sonic rainboom I realised I could communicate with all the birds and animals to help calm them down after the nasty shock. That was when I realised what my special talent was and I got my cutie mark. I’ve lived in Ponyville ever since... Um, are you feeling okay? Can I get you anything?”

Fluttershy’s head drooped as the goggles around her neck suddenly felt terribly heavy. Flexing a wing the feathers formed a blade which she slashed through the nearest birdhouse and breaking it in two. Three very surprised starlings flew out and disappeared up into the ceiling.

“Oh, goodness...” her double breathed quietly.

Fluttershy shook her wings out and flashed her double a wicked knife-slash grin. “Y’know I really did think this might be a good opportunity to learn something about myself. Really begin to grow emotionally as a pony with this chance to meet another version of myself and see what I might have become. I mean I don’t like to complain, but do you know how hard it is going your whole life without a cutie mark? Not know who you are meant to be?” She absent-mindedly smashed another birdhouse. The now homeless family of robins took refuge under the relative safety of ‘Shy’s wings.

“Then I meet Nightmare Moon and finally I think this is it,” Fluttershy said, as she paced about the room. “Something worthwhile to bring my life some kind of meaning and it’s given me wealth and power that other ponies can only dream of... So, tell me please, why am I not happy?”

‘Shy was frozen in fear and could only watch as another version of herself rampaged around the room. Her feathered friends were in danger, but it was another her that was doing it.

Fluttershy was momentarily distracted from her rage by the unexpected sight of a small white bunny hopping towards her. She bent down to take a closer look at the bunny giving her an impressively dirty look, despite being on such a cute-fuzzy face. Without warning the little bunny smacked her hard across her mouth with his paw, causing Fluttershy to reel back in shock at the unexpected blow. Still giving her an angry glare the bunny pointed sharply towards the door.

“Angel bunny!” ‘Shy squeaked, reaching out with a forehoof desperately.

Fluttershy bent down, picking the squirming rabbit by the scruff of her neck, spun round and tossed him out the still open door with a fair amount of force. She was rewarded by the sound of a splash as he hit the water in the stream outside. He’d survive, not that she imagined that he was going to enjoy the experience very much.

“Can’t believe you keep such a rude pet like that around,” Fluttershy said. “C’mon your friend owns a library. The word ‘self-respect’, look it up.”

‘Shy stayed huddled down, whispering words of assurance to the birds that had taken refuge under her wings.

“Seriously though,” Fluttershy said, picking up from where she’d left off. “The things I’ve done in my time that you could never even imagine having the nerve to do! I burned a whole town to the ground. I wrestled a manticore into submission single-hoofed. And I personally drove the spear into the eye of the red dragon on top of the jagged mountain. Sure he burnt three of my Shadowbolts to a crisp, but...” she trailed off. Something was wrong, but Fluttershy couldn’t quite put a hoof on why. Her double seemed to be mumbling something to herself as her back stiffened.

“You might have killed that dragon.” Suddenly Fluttershy realised what was missing as the room fell eerily silent. All those tiny voices were holding their breath in apprehension at what was going to happen next.

“But I made him cry.”

Captain Fluttershy Posey looked into the two steely eyes burning into her own as they became her entire world. Reflected there was her own utter disappointment in what she could have been and what she had become. Every bad decision, all the actions that she could have taken to choose a better way, but had failed every time. Unbidden a single tear dripped down her face as her knees began to buckle. Unable to look away, unable to close her eyes, or even just to shield them to somehow hide away from the remorseless judgement. Fluttershy began to wail in anguish as she was held in ‘Shy’s stare.

Authors Note: The Cultists for the Second Coming of the Mag'ne were inspired by the wonderful G1 crossover The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds fic by RK_Striker_JK_5.