• Published 11th Jan 2019
  • 925 Views, 80 Comments

Little Fragments - Skijarama



When a young Rainbow Dash spotted a mysterious alicorn and unicorn from the future, history was changed.

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Orphan Rainbow: Orphan

Seven Days before the start of Little Glimpses…


Sky Dreamer’s Orphanage. It was a pleasant, four-story building in Cloudsdale alongside a calm but well-kept road. Like most of the architecture in the wandering cloud city, Sky Dreamer’s held a style reminiscent of ancient times, back when the old Pegasi tribes were warriors. Ridged columns lined the front of the building, holding up an extension of the sharp-angled roof that served as a protective canopy. There was a large and well-kept yard of artificial grass around the building, and a tall fence was in place to make sure nopony wandered off unsupervised.

It was maybe thirty minutes before lunch time, and several little fillies and colts could be seen running around in that yard, playing with each other under the watchful eye of Sky Dreamer herself. She was an elderly pegasus mare with pale blue fur and a mane that had long turned grey. Her kind green eyes wandered across the yard, and she gave a charmed smile at the antics of the fillies and colts that were under her care.

That smile faded when she saw two of the foals, a colt, and a filly, break away from the others. They tentatively approached a cyan pegasus filly with a prismatic mane and tail, who had been sitting all on her own and away from the other foals. Her head was tilted down, and if her eyes were open, she was staring hard at the fake grass beneath her hooves.

That filly was Rainbow Dash, the newest arrival at the orphanage. She had been here for a little under a month, now, and some serious concerns were steadily growing among the staff. When she had first arrived, she had barely spoken a word, and she often seemed to be lost in her own little world. Her eyes were often wide and unfocused, and the only indication that she had been paying attention to the adults was the swiveling of her ears.

Dreamer observed with a solemn frown as the filly came up to Rainbow’s side and said something to her. Rainbow slowly looked up at her, narrowed her eyes, then looked back down at the ground, saying something in response. The filly, in turn, looked helplessly over to her friend. The colt said something, putting on a big smile and offering up a ball that he and the filly had been playing with earlier.

Rainbow absently watched as the colt set the ball down in front of her. She stared at the ball, and then at the hopeful and expectant smiles of the foals before her. She then sighed, stood up, and started to walk away. The two foals looked at each other in disappointment and dejectedly dragged themselves back towards the rest of the group.

Dreamer let out a quiet sigh as she saw this. While Rainbow Dash had gotten somewhat better, this was still an all-too-common occurrence. Other foals would try to cheer her up, try to talk to her, try to be her friend. All of them, without fail, were pushed away, be it by silence, a turned back, or a strongly worded ‘leave me alone.’

Dreamer watched as Rainbow found another spot, sat down, and once again assumed her sulking position. Dreamer’s brow furrowed in dismay before she rose to her hooves and trotted slowly across the lawn towards Rainbow. The filly’s ears twitched at her approach, but she otherwise didn’t respond.

“Rainbow? Can I talk to you for a second?” she asked in as soft and gentle a voice as she could muster.

Rainbow grunted impatiently. “Hmph… fine, sure. Whatever.”

“I saw those two foals talking to you… what did they want, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“They wanted me to play with them. I said no.”

Dreamer sighed and sat down next to Rainbow against the wall, ignoring the curious glances some of the other foals shot them. “It might help you feel a little better if you take them up on that offer, sometime,” she suggested in quiet optimism.

“No. I’m fine,” was Rainbow’s short and clipped response, her shoulders hunching a bit.

Dreamer frowned. “But… aren’t you lonely like this? All of the other foals, laughing and enjoying themselves… surely you want to laugh like that, too?”

“I’m fine.

“Are you sure?”

Rainbow finally looked back up at Dreamer, an impatient scowl on her face. “Look, can you just leave me alone already?!” she snapped bitterly before shooting up to her hooves and stomping for the main building. She flicked the tip of her tail against Dreamer’s nose like a whip as she passed, drawing a deeply offended frown from the older mare.

“Rainbow Dash…!” Dreamer called after her before giving up. There was no use trying to call Rainbow out on it. Not right now, at least. As rude and unwarranted as that action was, Rainbow was still recovering from severe trauma and grief. More than friends or company, more than a roof over her head, she needed time to cope and come to terms with her situation.

That sentiment was little assurance, though, as Dreamer watched Rainbow disappear back into the confines of the orphanage, slamming the door behind her with an echoing crack.


“Stupid…” Rainbow spat angrily under her breath while glaring out at the afternoon sky from a third story window. The other foals had been recalled a short time ago for lunch, but for the time being, Rainbow opted to ignore the call of food. Her face was marred by a scowl of intense malcontent.

The image of those two foals and Sky Dreamer attempting to talk to her earlier resurfaced in her mind, and she felt her coat bristle with frustration. “Why don’t they get it? I’m fine,” she seethed angrily, pressing her forehead against the glass. “I don’t need their help. I don’t need their pity. I definitely don’t need to be here!”

It had been this way ever since she had gotten to this stupid orphanage. The grown-ups kept trying to shelter her and coddle her like she was some kind of helpless little baby when she was more than capable of looking out for herself. The rules were strict and often nonsensical. The curfews were far earlier than Rainbow could ever like. Plus there were all of these other fillies and colts who kept trying to be her friends when she kept trying to tell them that she just wanted to be left alone.

“Stupid…” Rainbow repeated with a grunt before shoving herself back from the window and flopping down onto her bed to look up at the ceiling. She stayed that way for a long time, letting herself calm down by swimming in her own thoughts.

...Had it really been almost a month? It felt like a lot longer to her. Every day was a drag, and every morning she found it hard to get out of bed. The routine had engraved itself into her mind by sheer repetition, and the monotony only made her hate it all the more. It was such a routine at this point that she almost couldn’t remember what life was like before the orphanage, sometimes.

Almost.

Sometimes, she wished she didn’t remember.

But in that moment, she did remember. She remembered how things had been before, how happy she had been, and the things she had once had. A small, nostalgic smile appeared on her face as she thought back on her favorite foods, her time spent playing with Fluttershy and Gilda at the flight school, of her ability to effortlessly impress her fellow students with her flying skills.

Her smile began to fade as her thoughts turned to darker things. She tried to stymie the flow but was unable to. She remembered the smiling faces of her parents, two faces that she would never see again. She remembered their proud cheers and extreme support, and how much she would miss it. She remembered the unicorn and alicorn she had seen during the race. She remembered the incident in Baltimare…

She felt tears in her eyes. Her muscles tensed of their own accord, and she quickly shot up to her haunches and started taking deep breaths to try and calm herself down. She wasn’t going to cry; not again. Strong ponies didn’t cry, and she needed to be strong right now. But the more she told herself that, the harder it was to keep it in.

Her thoughts were interrupted when a gentle knocking came to the door before it opened, revealing a young mare, one of the staff, stepping in. She visibly relaxed upon seeing Rainbow Dash there. “Oh, good. There you are,” she said while striding further into the room.

Rainbow quickly looked away to hide the tears in her eyes. “W-what do you want?” she asked, unable to entirely keep the tremble out of her voice.

The mare frowned in concern but chose not to prod. “You didn’t come to lunch…” she said softly before coming up to the side of Rainbow’s bed and letting a platter that Rainbow hadn’t noticed slide off of her back and onto the blankets. It had a pretty boring assortment of foods. A plain muffin, a bundle of salad leaves, an apple, and a cube of jello. “Dreamer asked me to bring this to you. You need to keep yourself fed, you know.”

Rainbow didn’t bother looking and gave a slow nod. “...Fine. Thanks. C-can you go away, please?” she managed to mumble out, still looking away.

The mare watched Rainbow for a few more seconds before backing away and silently heading for the door. She paused in the frame and gazed back at Rainbow one more time, looking like she wanted to say something. Ultimately, she chose to hold her peace, and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

As soon as the mare’s hoofsteps faded away and the silence was restored, Rainbow sagged and let out a heavy sigh. Her eyes fell on the meal, and the audible growling of her stomach informed her of her need for sustenance. Begrudgingly, she set about eating the meal with slow movements and small bites. It tasted just as bland as it always did…


That night, well after dinner had been served and all of the foals were put to bed, Rainbow was the only one still awake in her dorm. Approximately eleven other fillies around her age were sleeping soundly in their beds, snoring softly and murmuring to themselves. Rainbow ignored all of them, sitting upright in her bed by the window and looking out at the city, and the star-filled night sky.

She could run away.

She hated it here. Why would she stay? It would be easy. She could push open this window and fly as far away as she wanted. She was fast enough that by the time any of the staff realized she was gone, it would be too late to find her. She could go wherever she wanted. That only really left the question of what she would do once she was out there.

She let out a small, amused sigh as the ridiculous notion of her joining a circus entered her mind. She could totally do it, she knew. She was fast and acrobatic enough. She could do stunts for a crowd. It’d be a good stepping stone to honing her skills for joining the Wonderbolts some day.

Her smile faded, though. Already, even her young mind could make out several flaws with that plan. First, she would have to find a circus to try and join, and that was likely easier said than done. She didn’t have any idea where to look, and a little rainbow-maned filly asking for directions to the nearest traveling circus would raise some ears.

She had developed a reputation, after all. If word spread that she was looking for a circus, then somepony would probably find her and eventually return her to the orphanage. Rainbow’s face turned bitter as she thought back on a family that had come to interview her only a week after she came here.

Apparently, they had heard about her situation after news of the... ‘incident’ spread. They had wanted to at least make the offer of giving her a good home. She hadn’t been receptive to the idea at all, and they had eventually agreed she wouldn't be a good fit in their home. Too aggressive, too cold…

“Can they really blame me?” Rainbow snarled to herself mentally, her shoulders hunching up. “I’m only a little filly who had to watch her parents die in front of her. I could have saved them, I know I could have, if I had just been a bit faster, I could have pushed them out of the way! If I wasn’t so distracted by that stupid alicorn, maybe my mom and dad would still be here! If...”

“Rainbow?”

Rainbow realized she had quietly started crying when another filly’s voice cut through the air from her left. She looked over and saw another pegasus, this one with a buttery yellow coat and a bright brown mane and tail. Her eyes were a striking gold color, and she had a cutie mark depicting a few sticks of butter in a ceramic mixing bowl. Her name was Butter Blend and was the only other filly in this orphanage that Rainbow knew the name of, if only because they slept next to each other.

“Are you okay?” Butter asked softly, sliding out of her bed and moving closer to Rainbow’s side.

“I’m f-fine,” Rainbow lied in a quivering voice, looking out the window and wiping her hooves over her eyes. “It’s nothing. Leave me alone.”

Butter gingerly placed one of her hooves on the edge of the bed, her eyes boring into the back of Rainbow’s mane. “...Are you sure? If you wanna talk, we’re all here for you. I mean, we’re all orphans, aren’t we? We all understand how you feel-”

“No, you don’t,” Rainbow spat, turning to glare at Butter. “Your parents left you here because they weren’t able to care for you properly, right?”

Butter flinched back, her ears drooping. “Uh… y-yeah… they said they couldn’t give me a good home, so…”

“Well, that’s good for you. Your parents love you and are still out there, somewhere. Alive. Mine…” she stopped and bit her tongue, doing her best to hold back tears. She wasn’t successful, and a few slipped out. She shook her head wildly and looked back out the window to hide her face. “J-just leave m-me alone…”

Butter, taking the hint, slowly withdrew her hoof. “Alright… but even if we don’t understand… you can talk to us, okay?”

“W-Whatever.”

Butter gave a slow nod, then returned to her own bed. She watched Rainbow for a long while, able to tell by the shaking of her shoulders and her shallow, ragged breaths that she was crying. It was that sight that Butter fell asleep to that night.


“Rainbow Dash?” Sky Dreamer called from the entrance to the cafeteria, drawing Rainbow’s attention away from her breakfast cereal. The room was packed with dozens of foals of various ages, all talking to one another about the day ahead. Some were drawing on bits of parchment while they ate, and a few others had pulled out some building blocks and were assembling what looked like a big colorful cube.

Rainbow finished off her cereal, slurping down the milk quite noisily before hopping down and trotting over to Dreamer. She had at least some energy today, to her relief. Maybe crying herself to sleep last night had done her some good. Either way, she approached the headmare of the orphanage and gave her an impatient look. “What is it, Sky?” she asked bluntly.

Dreamer, not missing a beat, gave Rainbow a small smile. “There’s a filly here to visit you. She says she’s your friend,” she said, and that immediately got Rainbow's complete attention. Her eyes widened and her ears perked up. Seeing this, Dreamer’s smile grew, and she nodded towards the door behind her. “She and her father are waiting for you in the lobby. Put away your dishes and you can go see them-”

Rainbow turned around and broke into a sprint for the table where she had been sitting. She took the bowl in her mouth, delivered it to the counter that separated the kitchen from the rest of the room, and then shot by Dreamer and out into the hallway beyond. In her excitement, she had started flying about halfway through, which drew an annoyed grimace out of Dreamer. “Rainbow! No flying- oh, what’s the use…?” she tried to call but gave up when she realized that Rainbow had already vanished down the hall.


Fluttershy looked around at the lobby of the orphanage with an uneasy look on her face. It was a spacious room with a high ceiling to facilitate limited airborne play time. All along the bright-blue walls were drawings made by various foals who called this place their home, and each one had a photo of the foal who drew it taped right next to it, signed with their name. It was, all in all, a very welcoming first impression.

The atmosphere was slightly tainted by the presence of a desk off to the right side of the main entrance, where a tired mare sat and went over many sheets of parchment. Her presence added that very slight clinical edge to the room, and that was ultimately what put Fluttershy into such unrest.

She was sitting down on a cushioned bench along the wall directly across from the desk, with her father sitting next to her. She stole a glance at a large clock that hung from the wall across from the door, looking at the time. Almost 11:30 AM.

One of the doors off to the sides swung open, and Rainbow Dash came shooting in, hovering in mid-air and looking around with eager excitement. “Fluttershy?!” she called out, prompting the timid yellow filly to perk up and wave.

“Over here, Rainbow Dash!”

Rainbow looked, saw her, and quickly flew over. Her forelegs wrapped around Fluttershy and lifted her into the air, giving her a tight squeeze and drawing a startled squeak out of her. “Flutters! oh, I am so happy to see you!” Rainbow practically cheered, unaware of the increasingly blue hue of her best friend’s face.

Fluttershy’s father gave a weak chuckle before reaching up and gently tugging on Rainbow’s tail with his hoof. “Uh, Rainbow Dash, it’s lovely to see you, too,” he said in a gentle voice of his own before nodding at Fluttershy. “But, uh…”

Rainbow looked, then let out a gasp when she realized she was strangling Fluttershy. She quickly dropped down and set Fluttershy back onto the bench before releasing her. “Sorry, sorry!”

As soon as Rainbow let her go, Fluttershy gasped in a lungful of sweet, life-giving air. She spent a few moments catching her breath, then offered Rainbow a smile of her own. “Hello, Rainbow. It’s, um, good to see you, too. Sorry, it’s been so long since we visited you. Did we, um, come at a good time?”

“It’s always a good time if you ask me!” Rainbow said emphatically before shooting an irked look at the mare behind the counter. “But some ponies have to make the rules suck.”

“I just work here,” the mare behind the counter deadpanned.

“Whatever,” Rainbow dismissed her with a wave of her hoof before looking back at Fluttershy excitedly. “So, how long can you stay around? I’ve been going out of my mind here!”

“We’ve got about an hour,” Mr. Shy answered softly. “Fluttershy has a dentist appointment later that we need to go to, so she can’t eat anything while she’s here.”

“Ah, I gotcha,” Rainbow gave a nod before finally coming to a landing on the bench next to Fluttershy. “So, what are we gonna do?”

“Well, uh… do you have any board games here?” Fluttershy asked inquisitively. “Maybe we could play one of those?”

Rainbow hummed in thought, then gave a nod. “Sure. There are a few playrooms with board games here. Follow me!” she gestured for the two to follow her, and she led them out of the lobby and back out into the hall, where Sky Dreamer was only just catching up, ready to oversee the unfolding visitation.


The playrooms of Sky Dancer Orphanage were uniform in design, meaning that if somepony saw one, they had seen them all. Each one was fairly spacious, with several tables of varying sizes and designs to accommodate various age groups, from the truly small and young to early teenagers. There were areas sectioned off in two of the corners for playing with toys and using building blocks. Shelves lined the walls, stocked with either board games, basic drawing supplies, or books for foals.

It was at one of the middle-sized tables that the occupants of this playroom were seated, playing a board game that they used to play at the visitor’s home during easier times. They had been here for fifty minutes, now, and had played two rounds. There had been chatter, jokes, laughs, and general friendly interaction. It was the first time that Sky Dreamer had seen Rainbow look even remotely cheerful in all her time here.

“Ha, I win again!” Rainbow proudly announced while slapping down her cards on the board before her. Fluttershy sat across from her and gave Rainbow a smile.

“Oh, congratulations,” she cheered in her traditionally soft voice before setting down her own hoof full of cards. “But, uh, I don’t think we have enough time for another round, do we?”

“She’s right,” Mr. Shy said apologetically from the side, glancing down at a watch just above his left forehoof. “We’ve only got ten more minutes before we have to leave for the appointment. We should probably start getting ready to go, actually.”

“Aww…” Fluttershy protested quietly before giving a sad nod and looking up at Rainbow again. “I’m sorry, Rainbow, but we can come to see you again next week, hopefully,” she said before standing up and looking over at her father.

“Oh… right…” Rainbow mumbled dejectedly, her ears falling flat against her head. She looked down at her hooves, listening as Fluttershy made her way back over to her father, who was now starting to talk with Dreamer about scheduling another visit.

She didn’t want them to go, yet. She hadn’t been in this good of a mood since the last time they visited just over two weeks ago. Really, right now, Fluttershy and her family were the only ones she could feel comfortable around. She knew them so well, after all. Hay, even Zephyr Breeze was better company than the staff and foals here. At least he knew her.

She didn’t want them to go… or, more accurately, she didn’t want to be away from them. She trusted them…

An idea sprang into Rainbow’s mind, and without taking any time to truly study it, she stood upright and looked up at Fluttershy and her father with pleading eyes. “Mr. Shy, wait!” she called out to him, drawing the attention of all of the other ponies.

Fluttershy’s face became worried. “Rainbow? Are you okay?” she asked.

Rainbow shuffled out from her side of the table and slowly trotted up to Mr. Shy. She found it difficult to meet his gaze, no matter how hard she tried. “Um… Mr. Shy… um… I was wondering...”

“What is it, Rainbow? I’m listening,” Mr. Shy said in a kind and reassuring tone while lowering himself down to be at Rainbow’s eye level. Rainbow took a deep breath, then looked into his eyes, albeit timidly.

“Could I, uhm… could you maybe take me with you?”

Off to the side, Dreamer suddenly perked up, her eyes shimmering with hope and anticipation. Fluttershy gasped in surprise, her hooves flying up to her mouth, while her father’s eyes went wide in surprise, and his jaw fell open. After a moment of stunned silence, he cleared his throat and spoke. “Uhm… are you asking me to… adopt you?”

Rainbow looked down. “I guess I am…” she admitted while scuffing one of her hooves on the floor.

Mr. Shy frowned and slowly shifted so he was sitting on his haunches. He looked down at Rainbow for several minutes as he thought the question over. “Why us, if you don’t mind me asking?” he finally managed to question.

Rainbow looked over at Fluttershy, then up at him again. “Because… because I know you guys. And you know me. Fluttershy’s my best friend, and… and I know I’d be happier with you guys than anypony else who comes trotting along talking about sympathy and loving homes,” she explained, her voice gaining a noticeably bitter tone as she went on. “They don’t know me, and I don’t know them. Any affection they show me when interviewing me is just… it’s… With you guys, I know it’s genuine. I can’t think of another place where I’d be happy right now…

“So please. If you can take me out of here, if you can take me with you, then, please… I don’t wanna be here anymore,” Rainbow finished before looking down at the ground and waiting for the reply.

There were several moments of silence before Mr. Shy let out a quiet sigh, then looked over at Fluttershy with an apology in his eyes. He then looked up at Dreamer. “Uh, miss Dreamer? Would you mind leaving us alone for a little bit? So we can talk freely?”

Dreamer frowned a the request. “In most cases, a part of the orphanage staff is supposed to supervise and oversee all visitations, but…” her eyes fell on Rainbow, and a small, hopeful smile formed on her face. “I think this counts more like an interview at this point, doesn’t it?”

As she said this, Dreamer backed away and opened the door. Mr. Shy gave her a wide smile. “Thank you very much,” he called after her.

She smiled. “Think nothing of it…” she said and closed the door behind her, much to the relief of everypony present. While she had been quiet and respectful the whole time they had been visiting, her presence had nonetheless been noticed, and it had put a very slight strain on everypony. With her now gone, Mr. Shy let out a much louder sigh.

“You know, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy actually made that same suggestion to her mother and I a few days ago,” he admitted slowly, reaching up one hoof to scratch the side of his head.

“She did?” Rainbow asked in surprise, looking over at Fluttershy with wide eyes.

Fluttershy gave a slow, hesitant nod. “Um… uh, yes… should I not have?”

“No, no, you’re great!” Rainbow dismissed her with a happy smile before looking up at Mr. Shy in anticipation. ”So, you can do it, right? You can adopt me?”

Mr. Shy frowned and chewed nervously on his lip. He suddenly found it extremely difficult to look into Rainbow’s eyes, and the mood in the room began to plummet. Rainbow took note, and her posture began to sag. “What’s wrong?”

Mr. Shy closed his eyes, nodded to himself, then looked back down at Rainbow in deep sympathy. “Rainbow Dash… my wife and I talked about it long and hard when Fluttershy presented the idea to us. we were all so touched by the sincerity of her request, and she’s not wrong about how close our families are. We would love to adopt you...”

“So you’ll do it?” Rainbow asked with a small bounce, her energy coming right back. She paused when she saw how Mr. Shy hesitated.

Then, her heart felt as if it had been shattered into a million pieces when he shook his head in denial.

“I’m so sorry, Rainbow, but… we can’t.”

Rainbow blinked. She stood perfectly still for a few seconds, trying to wrap her mind around what she had just heard. She licked her suddenly dry lips and spoke in a quivering voice. “W-why not?”

Mr. Shy looked away guiltily, his own ears drooping. “The truth is… as much as we would love to take you in, we’re afraid that we just can’t supply for a third foal… Fluttershy and Zephyr, our two wonderful foals, are as much as we can handle. If we took you in, well… We wouldn’t be able to provide a good and comfortable life for you for long. And that’s not to mention that Zephyr… well…” Mr. Shy closed his eyes. “He means well, but we know that you don’t exactly like him…”

“Hey, I can take it!” Rainbow protested desperately, taking a step forward. “Please, just… th-this place has trial runs or something! They sometimes let orphans stay with families for a few days to see if they’d be a good fit! We could do that! Just to see, you know? Please!”

Mr. Shy frowned down at Rainbow sadly. “Rainbow Dash, please. It’s not about whether or not you’d really get along with all of us. We know you would. It’s because we can’t provide for Fluttershy, Zephyr, and you. We just don’t have enough... Bringing you in would mean having to sacrifice the stability and happiness of our two other foals, and… I can’t do that. We can’t do that. Not to our little foals.”

“I’m so, so, so sorry, Rainbow…” Fluttershy piped up from the side when she noticed the way Rainbow’s eyes were starting to shimmer. “I tried really hard to convince them…”

“And I’m sorry, too, Rainbow…” Mr. Shy continued sadly. He gingerly reached out and pulled Rainbow into a hug, one which the pegasus did not return just yet. “If we could adopt you, we would. We’d take good care of you for Windy and Bow, and we’d make sure you’d grow up into a mare who would make them so, so proud. But we can’t...”

At the mentioning of her parents' names, Rainbow lost whatever restraint she had left. She screwed her eyes shut and began to openly sob into Mr. Shy’s chest, finally returning his hug. He held her close, letting her work it out of her system. Fluttershy joined them without delay, wrapping her own forelegs around Rainbow from behind and giving her reassuring squeezes.

After a short time, Rainbow began to speak through her cries. “It’s not f-fair…” she whimpered, burying herself deeper into the hug. “I d-don’t wanna stay h-here… I wanna go home…”

“I know, Rainbow, I know,” Mr. Shy whispered down to her while patting the top of her head with one hoof. “Somepony else will come along, someday, and soon. I promise…”

Rainbow sniffled. “N-no they won’t… I don’t wanna be with anypony else… I want my mom and dad…”

There was nothing else Mr. Shy or his daughter could say, so they chose to remain quiet, holding onto Rainbow and comforting her as best as they were able as she let out her sorrows.


Several days later, a white-furred pony stared at the orphanage ahead of him in confusion. Why had they come here? It didn’t make any sense, unless some crime had been committed and they were here to investigate and pronounce judgement. He turned and looked up at the tall pony in the chariot that he was hooked up to. “With all due respect, your majesty… are you sure this is the right place?” he asked skeptically.

The regal mare nodded her head at him before rising from her cushioned seat in the chariot and hopping down to the cloudy street, landing with a surreal and graceful elegance that could only come with centuries of practice. “I am quite sure, Stalwart. I’ll be going in alone. Both of you, please remain here.”

“But, your majesty…” Stalwart tried again, but a single glance cut him off. He looked helplessly at his fellow guard, who was also hooked up to the chariot, but got no support or advice. In defeat, he gave a low bow of his head. “My apologies, Princess Celestia. We shall do as you command.”

The alicorn of the sun gave a nod and an understanding smile before gazing back at the orphanage. She set her jaw, put on a gentle smile, and then stepped through the gates of the outer wall.

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