• Published 15th Sep 2018
  • 1,163 Views, 84 Comments

Fire & Rain: Applejack and the Queen of Knives - Limbo Theorem



The fate of the world hangs in the balance and its potential savior is a mysterious figure known only as The Queen of Knives. But who is she? That's what Applejack has to find out.

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For Want of a Nail

ONCE UPON A TIME:

Sunset ran. She ran all the while unable to outrun the accusations and jeers of those she thought of as friends. Accusations for things she didn’t – would never, could never – do, but was held to blame for, nonetheless.

“I thought you changed, Sunset? How could you do this to us?”
“Darling, I thought we were friends. I guess I was wrong on that account.”
“Not cool, Sunset. Totally not cool.”

It was amazing in that mere months after the incident with the Sirens, and having redeemed herself in the eyes of her fellow students, that this Anon-a-Miss would come around and destroy everything dear to her. Worse, even though she knew she was innocent, the evidence pointed only to her. It was a brilliant setup, and one she couldn’t get out of.

And now the final insult had come: despite Sunset’s writing to Princess Twilight for advice, her friends spurned her. Rarity had ignored her, Rainbow had yelled at her, Pinkie gave her the cold shoulder…

Fluttershy slapped me. Actually slapped me!

And now here she was, two days before Christmas break, standing in the snow and before the portal that led back to her home dimension, Sunset felt frozen tears on her face as she pulled the book out of her backpack and wrote a single line:

Twilight, I want to come home.

But no answer came, just as there had been no answer for the past two weeks, and Sunset sat there, crying in the snowfall, her tears forming an icy mask on her face. No matter how much she tried, how desperately she pled, there was no answer.

There’s just no place left for me in this world….

One step became two. Two became four. And eventually the footsteps vanished in the snowy, frozen night.


The next day, Applejack would find Sunset’s diary, half-buried in the snow. Reading through it, the blonde was wracked with grief. Though she had suspected Sunset may have been telling the truth, reading the journal definitely changed her mind about Sunset’s guilt. Yet there was no sign of the girl to apologize to.

The rest would follow a week later, when on Christmas Eve, the culprits – the younger sisters of Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Rarity – all confessed to being Anon-a-Miss and letting Sunset take the fall. They tearfully apologized, but the damage was beyond done. In the end, all three would be suspended from school for their actions.

But it paled beside the guilt of five older girls, writing in a beat-up diary, apologizing and pleading for Sunset to forgive them, to return, to make things right.

But no answer ever came.


ELEVEN YEARS AGO:

Walking onto the dais to receive her diploma, Rarity couldn’t help but look at the empty seat the students all agreed to dedicate to their lost companion. It was a cruel irony that having spent her first two years of high school terrorizing the student body, in the end Sunset became its victim.

Another irony surfaced in the girl’s mind as she briefly made eye contact with others in the crowd: despite having spent so long trying to break up their friendship with one another, it was now her absence that had finally caused it. The five had drifted apart over the past year or so, and were now barely more than strangers to one another. Not even Princess Twilight’s visit a month ago could undo the damage that had been done...the damage they’d done to themselves.

Once the ceremony was over, she left as soon as she could. Nothing tied her here anymore, and the sooner she got away from the chair that accused her with all its emptiness, the better.


SEVEN YEARS AGO:

Fluttershy walked down the street, a woman on a mission. Her fiancé had just proposed two days ago, and the chiffon-haired girl had, needless to say, accepted. And now here she was, taking an early look at bridal gowns. She giggled a bit at that; just years ago she’d told herself she never thought she’d be the marrying kind, but now? Of that there was no doubt – after all, she had landed herself the best guy in the world.

And now here she was, in the Shopping District of Cloudsdale, relaxing and just as giddy as could be. She wished some of her friends could join her for it, but they were all busy studying for the upcoming exams, something Fluttershy herself wasn’t having much issue with. And besides, right now she had earned a respite for herself, she thought, as she looked at the simple engagement ring now on her finger.

And now to do some shopping, she thought to herself.

On the first block, she walked past a store with a sports display, and there was a sight she hadn’t expected to see: Rainbow Dash, dressed in the uniform of the Canterlot Comets, endorsing a popular line of athletic gear. From what little Fluttershy knew, Rainbow had done well for herself, becoming the top striker in the Women’s National Soccer League. She had one of the highest-paying contracts in the business, and the brash tempestuous young woman already had a championship ring to her name.

Fluttershy moved on; there was no interest for her in this store, anyway.


She walked down the street a little further, until she passed one of those storefront comedy clubs, a place called DISCORD’s, complete with a (currently-off) neon sign depicting some sort of strange upright chimeraesque thing. The poster to the left of her, as well as the marquee, announced that for one night only, the world-famous comedienne and actress, Pinkie Pie, would be performing.

If Rainbow had done well for herself, Pinkie had done better. Her cable baking show BAKING WITH PINKIE had turned from a public-access cable show into a nationwide monster hit on HBO. She instantly translated that to fame on the standup circuit and a starring role in a recent movie that had garnered her an Academy Award nomination, a rare event for a comedy film.

Fluttershy moved on again. There was nothing here for her, either.


Finally, two blocks past that, she found the place she was looking for, a bridal store recommended by a friend who had gotten married to her beau last year. Fluttershy went in, mainly to just window shop for the moment, but the sales clerk was insistent; a few moments later, the chiffon-haired woman found herself in a gorgeous dress she absolutely loved, an off-the-shoulder number embroidered with the design of small birds that she just found absolutely adorable.

And then she saw the tag. It wasn’t the cost that bothered her; her parents were covering that and they told her to find something she loved. No, it was the designer label that bothered her.

“Excuse me,” Fluttershy asked, holding her frown in check, “but is this a Rarity original?”

The sales clerk smiled beatifically. “Why, buttons and bodkins! Of course it is! Everything in this boutique is a Rarity original! She’s just simply the best designer in the fashion business, so when she was asked to design some wedding gowns, she threw herself into the spirit of things!” The clerk prattled on for a few more minutes, squeeing about Rarity in a way that bordered on unhealthy.

Fluttershy’s smile fell, but turned away in a manner that prevented the clerk from seeing. “I see,” was all she said.


She left the store empty-handed, making a mental note to take a day trip to Cirrusburg next weekend. She could bring some friends along and maybe find something to her tastes.

Something that wouldn’t turn her wedding into a half-baked reminder of the past and its pain.


FIVE YEARS AGO:

“Okay, class,” Fluttershy said as she looked at her students. She had been teaching here at Canterlot High School for two years now and in some ways, it felt like she never left. “Are you ready for today’s pop quiz?”

In a sense she couldn’t: she’d inherited the Journal (the word always capitalized in her mind) and with it, the all-but-dead hope that someday a response would come within its pages.

Her students groaned, but that was to be expected; nobody liked science classes, and as one of the science teachers at the school, she was tasked with guiding the new future – the students – on, just as those before her had done so.

As she passed out the notes, she grinned; at least she could count on her classes being popular with the boys because of the hot teacher. She blushed a little recalling what one of her colleagues had said was graffito in the boys’ restroom, but it made her feel good to know that even in her mid-twenties, she was still attractive.

Her phone chimed and she gave a soft grin. “Okay, I need to take a call,” she told them, “but I’ll be just right outside the door, so no cheating, okay? I’ll know.” She gave them all the briefest bit of what her friends had once called The Stare, then stepped out.

She answered the phone, putting it to her ear. “Hi, Flash,” she said, a soft smile coming to her lips. If anything good had come of Sunset’s disappearance, Fluttershy’s relationship and marriage to Flash Sentry had been it. Of course, it had also helped that they knew each other from high school, attended the same university and had attended a few of the same classes during their freshman year, but still….

“Hi hon,” he said over the line. “We still on for tonight?”

“Let’s see: you, me, dinner, dancing, and a three-day weekend out of town with lots of fooling around? Sounds like a plan,” she laughed. “I’m just glad you were able to get the whole weekend off.”

“Yeah, well, color me surprised as well,” he told her. “Fortunately, it’s a slow enough day here at work, so the lieutenant didn’t have much of a problem with me taking off for a few. Besides, it gives the rookies something to do.” Flash had become a police officer with the Canterlot PD, and was, to her pride, one of the best on the force, with a bright future. Truth be told, it had surprised her that he’d decided to go into law enforcement for a career given his love of music, but when he admitted he did it so that no girl would ever have to suffer like Sunset had once done, she could hardly argue with him on that.

The grin on her face began wide. “Well, hope you’re strong enough to deal with a weekend with me, Officer, because I’m going to make sure you go back to work completely tired on Tuesday.”

She could practically see the grin on his face. “Just as long as nothing happ—”


BOOM


The sound rattled the building and she heard the shattering of glass in the distance. She suddenly felt herself knocked off her feet, and before she knew it, she was on the ground.

“What was that?” Flash asked.

“I don’t know,” she told him, getting back to her feet. “Earthquake?”

“Earthquakes don’t happen in this part of the country,” he began, but then in the distance, she could hear sirens wail – the Civil Defense system going live. “I’ve got to get off the phone. Something’s going on,” he told her.

“I love you,” she said to him.

“I love you too, Flutters. Stay safe.”

Fluttershy didn’t waste his time and instead hung up immediately; whatever it was, it sounded like a bomb had gone off and that meant something was seriously wrong. She then walked out of her office, in order to see what was wrong.

She walked across the corridor just as she heard the screams outside, likely from the students in PE class. Rushing out the door, she joined Vice Principal Cheerilee and Derpy Hooves, the literature teacher, as they looked into the sky. In the distance the Cloudstack, the famed skyscraper that was emblematic of the city, crumbled and fell to Earth. Fluttershy bit off a scream as she knew what it meant.

“What’s going on?” she asked Derpy.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” her colleague responded, as the sky suddenly turned black.

As they looked up, the sun had suddenly been eclipsed by what looked like a burning hole, an angry wound in the atmosphere. And soon after, inky, unnatural shapes boiled out of that maw: unnatural, inhuman creatures, all tentacles and teeth – things that looked like nothing they’d seen before except in Lovecraftian nightmares.

Things from another dimension.

Things, Fluttershy was sure, were not from Equestria.

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