• Published 25th Oct 2020
  • 16,800 Views, 2,144 Comments

A Witch in Broad Daylight - Epsilon-Delta

Rainbow Dash sets out to defeat the legendary witch Twilight Sparkle and collect the five hundred million bit bounty on her head. The one thing she wasn't counting on was Twilight being less evil than she expected.

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It felt like autumn came early this year.

A chilling wind blew, a few leaves were already orange, a swarm of zombies had swept over the entire town and pumpkins were out on sale. Dash breathed in the crisp air as she passed a food merchant swatting a few zombies away from her pumpkins.

This was fall!

It was just chilly enough that Dash had to wear a scarf as she walked through town, the streets empty, everypony already barricaded up in their houses for tonight.

She had three hours till sunset, then three more until the lunar eclipse started and things went from chill to inferno. Realistically, that meant Dash only had until sundown to recruit ponies and still have time to go on her mission.

Dash skipped over a house with sandbags piled in front of the door. Did they think the zombies were somehow going to cause a flood? She just waded through the mass of undead to the next house, bashing one to the side with her bag.

Technically, the streets weren’t empty if you counted all the zombies. They even had this little zombie parade going on, she noticed, a hundred of them ‘chasing’ after Dash. Given their shambling nature, Dash moved at Mach speed in comparison. A casual stroll left the zombies in her dust, forming a long tail behind her.

Dash came up to the next door. This pony already had some Halloween decorations out. She knew what was up. Dash knocked repeatedly.

As she waited at the door, a zombie crept up behind her, making that droning noise. Did they think you couldn’t hear that or something? Dash sighed. When it got close, she bucked it with a hind leg, sending it tumbling into the bushes where it got stuck.

Dash knocked one more time. Finally, an annoyed mare opened the door.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“Hey! My name’s Rainbow Dash.” Dash pointed to herself. “I’m looking for ponies to go on an adventure with me! You gotta bring your own weapons and I can’t guarantee your safety but if we pull it off, we’ll have fame and fortune beyond your wildest dreams! Then everypony will love us and—"

“I don’t have time for whatever you’re selling,” the mare said. “I have to get ready for tonight.”

“Not if you come with me, you don’t!” Dash stopped the other mare from shutting her out by jabbing a wing in the way. “Listen, we have a once in a billion-year opportunity here! Literally. I’m pretty sure you’d have to wait a billion years for another chance at this. But we have to do it tonight when there’s a blood moon.”

“You’re going outside on a blood moon?” She cringed. “That's certain death! Didn’t you hear the warnings all over the radio?"

“Tch! Nothing is certain death!” Dash rolled her eyes. “Especially not when you got Rainbow Dash around.”


“That’s me.” Dash gave the toothy smile she’d practiced. “Rainbow Dash. Anyway, it’s more of a ninety-five percent chance of dying, not a hundred so—"

And then the mare closed the door in Dash’s face.

Another miss. She'd already begged nearly everypony else in town for help. Was she seriously going to have to do this alone?

She only had one last chance. The Slayer Association rejected her plenty of times before, but it wouldn’t hurt to try them once more. There’d be a ton of armed guards down there tonight, waiting for trouble. Surely at least one of them would be tempted by Dash’s offer.

She shoved another zombie out of her way and started towards HQ.

When Dash came up with this plan about a year ago, she had a clear vision in her mind of how tonight would go. The elite four would show up and lead an entire army out into the woods. If the world made sense, that was how it would have happened.

Dash sent out letter after letter to the SA, to the government, to the elite four themselves, and to every high-rank slayer but all she got back were those automated ‘thank you for your concern’ letters. She doubted any of them actually read her proposal! Whenever somepony did listen to her in person, they always shot her plan down as ‘dumb’.

That was how it went when you had no money, connections, or influence of any kind— your great idea just gets kicked to the side.

Everypony else had given up on defeating Twilight Sparkle a long time ago. Ponies tried for a hundred years to break the curse that protected her and failed. After that, it became common sense that breaking the curse was simply impossible.

No one questioned that wisdom anymore, it seemed. Even if Dash showed them that it was totally possible to be there on Friday the 13th and Halloween at the same time, they just acted like Dash was on the eighth.

In the end, Dash only managed to get enough money saved up to buy a musket, a camcorder, and some smoke bombs. She could hardly defeat Twilight Sparkle with just that, but at least she had something.

Dash would break the curse, get evidence that she saw Twilight, and get the crow out of there. They’d have to believe her once she had proof. Then everypony would have to eat their words and it’d be amazing!

HQ bustled compared to the rest of the town in terms of both living and dead. Before the building even came in sight, she could see a wall of undead ponies circling her destination, climbing all over one another.

Dash splayed her wings, getting ready to fly over them all. Except during lunar eclipses, undead pegasi couldn't get off the ground. The few that tried got a flap or two into the air before falling over.

But before Dash could take to the sky, she heard a familiar voice crying for help.

“Rainbow Dash!” Derpy called after her.

A large group of particularly aggressive zombies surrounded Derpy, pushing her up against a wall. Derpy clutched a box as if her life depended on keeping it safe.

“Rainbow Dash!” Derpy cried out again just before the group of zombies dog-piled onto her. “Help me!”

Dash sighed and trotted over to her former classmate. How could you be dumb enough to get cornered by zombies during the day?

She found Derpy lying on the floor, yelping as the zombies tried to get at the box. The undead pinned her to the ground, trying to pry her forelegs and wings open, but they made no attempt to harm Derpy directly.

“They’re after my muffins!” Derpy slammed the box shut. “No! Bad zombies! Go get your own snacks! You gotta hurry or they’ll all get squished or eaten!”

This was the reason why that old griffon empire collapsed but Equestria was fine when the whole ‘zombie apocalypse’ thing started.

Ponies didn’t eat meat, so neither did pony zombies.

The griffons got devoured by the undead while the ponies just experienced a moderate famine from zombies eating crops. Today, the shambling undead were more pests than anything else.

“Don’t worry.” Dash reached into her bag with no real hurry. “I got ya covered.”

Dash took out one of her jars of spider honey. She made sure to have loads of these for tonight. These days, you could store them in jars or vials that made it so the smell couldn’t get out. But the second you opened it—

The lid popped off, and every zombie in Dash’s line of sight stopped and slowly switched their attention. All of them looked at her slack-jawed, drooling at the smell.

The ones around Derpy gave up on the muffins to go after what their rotted-out brains saw as the better snack. Plenty from the crowd around HQ broke rank to shamble after Dash too.

With fifty zombies in tow, Dash walked backward to a manhole leading to the sewers and dropped the jar inside. When they finally got there, the zombies were more than happy to jump down into the sewers after it. They ended up clogging the hole as they all tried to throw themselves into the abyss.

“Thanks, Rainbow Dash!” Derpy tackled Dash with a hug from the side.

“Dang it, Derpy!” Dash pushed her off. “You gotta go wash off after that. Now I need to get clean too. Filthy freaking zombies.”

“Oops. Sorry.” Derpy looked to the side, another zombie already coming for her muffins. “Maybe we should go back inside.”

The two of them flew over what remained of the horde.

A wall just a little too high for a zombie to breach surrounded HQ, keeping them at bay. As a secondary defense, they set up a spiked pit and a line of jars filled with spider honey just beyond that. The massive supply of the stuff was why half the swarm was lured here.

Just after that waited a group of about thirty armed guards getting ready for when the heat turned on. Every so often, a pegasus zombie would flap her way up onto the wall only to get her head blown off by a musket. They had several much larger cannons standing by, waiting for a real threat to emerge.

Even during the eclipse, when the zombies became dramatically more aggressive, closing your windows and doors would be enough to stop them almost every time. But a chance that something much worse would awaken always hung over nights like this. That was what all of this was in preparation for.

Another dozen or so ponies stationed themselves inside HQ itself. These weren’t militia, but professional slayers hired by the SA, like Dash. As always, wanted posters and mission listings covered the walls so completely that Dash didn't even know what color they were underneath.

Monsters to fight, mysteries to uncover, and cursed objects to destroy were never in short supply. The SA had a reward listed for all of them. Going after these marks as a slayer wasn’t the safest job in the world but nothing paid better or gave you more prestige.

On the far side of the wall, behind the counter, hung the portraits of the elite four— the ponies with the highest monster-slaying records. They were the richest, most powerful, and famous ponies in the world.

Anypony on the planet could tell you the names of everyone who’d been part of the elite four during their lifetime. These were the ponies everypony aspired to be!

And the strongest among them was Starlight Glimmer. In all of history, Starlight stood alone as the only pony to have ever defeated a witch in single combat.

That was exactly who Dash wanted to be!

But for now, those guys were all too high and mighty to listen to a noob like Rainbow Dash, still stuck at Rank D.

Dash scanned the group of slayers, surprised to see a pony she’d never met before with an A-rank badge. She was another pegasus with dark grey fur and a deep blue mane. She busied herself with loading a series of muskets, no doubt her preferred weapon.

Rank A was pretty darn good! She flew right over to the other mare.

“Hey!” Dash fluttered over and landed next to her. “I have a once-in-a-lifetime lead for you! You know about Twilight Sparkle, right?”

“Huh?” The mare looked up from her work, stopping to stare at Dash. “Uh— yeah?”

“Well the main problem with reaching her is that it has to be both Friday the 13th and Halloween, right? No doubt you think it’s impossible but that’s just 'cause you’re not the amazing Rainbow Dash. Oh. Rainbow Dash is me, by the way.”

The mare scratched her head as Derpy took her seat behind the counter.

“You’re still trying with this?” Derpy asked with a roll of her eyes.

“I’m a little curious where she’s going,” the A-rank said.

“Great!” Dash took out two pieces of paper, two different calendars. “So see, on the solar calendar right now it’s Friday the 13th, but a lot of ponies forget that there’s an older, lunar calendar we don’t use anymore! Since lunar calendars are based on full moons, holidays aren’t always in the same season and Halloween floats around the year.”

Dash moved the two calendars on top of one another so that the squares for the dates of Friday the 13th and Halloween overlapped.

“And guess what?! This year, on the lunar calendar, Halloween is today! And it’s a blood moon!” Dash threw her papers to the side. “Is that brilliant or what?! The chances of this happening are like one in a hundred billion or something. I dunno. I’m too lazy to calculate it but it’s gotta be so crazy rare that we have to go test it out before we lose our chance forever!”

Dash’s enthusiasm dipped as the mare raised a skeptical eyebrow, clearly not sold on this.

“I dunno.” She rubbed the back of her head. “This is iffy at best. It’s a lot of chances stacked on top of one another and even if we did find Twilight what would we do? Die? I’m not going to go up against the craziest monster in history like that on so short notice. Sorry.”

Dash grumbled as her last real chance at an ally turned her back.

“Maybe you should try getting to rank C before doing anything this intense,” Derpy suggested, putting on her own rank C pin.

Even though they both started the job at the same time, Derpy was already way ahead of Dash in the agency. Heck, Derpy surpassed Dash in every way. Derpy had a house, a boyfriend, popularity, and a bank account that wasn’t a negative number. What the heck was Derpy doing right?

Back in high school Dash thought maybe she could at least surpass Derpy of all fillies. But no, Derpy was simply better than Dash in every conceivable way.

But all of that changed tonight! Tonight, Dash would finally prove herself! She just knew it!

Dash went to the wall on the left to take one last look at her target before meeting it in person. On this side of the wall loomed a list of all the S-ranked targets— the most dangerous monsters and artifacts in the world with the highest bounties.

At the top of the S-rank list stood the tarrasque, the monster that destroyed most of Canterlot, with a bounty of ten million bits for its demise. There were slightly more doable tasks on the list like finding any volume of The Book of Shadows (a million) or learning the unfinished business of the Crater Cemetery ghost (five hundred thousand).

One target went far above all of that, literally placed higher on the wall. The one and only monster that obtained the infamous distinction of ‘rank X’— the witch Twilight Sparkle with a five hundred million bit bounty on her head. Even the reward for information about her was potentially in the millions.

If Dash’s plan worked, if she found Twilight Sparkle and got a recording of her, she’d become a millionaire overnight, not to mention get promoted to near the top of the slayer list! Dash would be famous and loved by all!

Dash flew up to be eye level with the painting of Twilight Sparkle, the only authentic image of what the unicorn looked like. Twilight simply sat there in her little witch hat like she didn’t know what she did.

“Just tell me this, Derpy!” Dash landed in front of the counter. “How can you not be tempted by millions of bits?”

“I feel like I already got enough money.” Derpy shrugged, then got that dreamy look she got every time she thought of Soarin. “Sides, my cutie Soarin is already kind of rich! Money’s not worth risking my life for, you know.”

Dash knew it was wrong, but whenever she saw a pony that happy, she got a little irked. How the heck did Derpy bag Soarin? He was like, the stallion every mare in a hundred miles wanted.

“Yeah, well I have negative thirty bits because of freaking bank fees.” Dash pointed to the mints on the counter. “I can’t even afford these free mints over here!”

“Well if you want to get paid, you can try doing your job for once instead of spending all your time on these crazy plans,” Derpy suggested, gesturing to the group of armed guards. “You are technically supposed to be part of the emergency response task force thingy. It pays a lot better than marching into certain death.”

“You have to be willing to march into certain death if you ever want to make it anywhere in life,” said Dash.

“Really? Because statistically speaking, I think you gotta have rich parents to make it anywhere in life,” said Derpy.

“Well yeah, but baring that—“

“I mean, you’ve been doing these crazy plans ever since we were in high school, and none of them ever seem to work out. Like when you bit on a live wire to try and awaken your psychic powers?”

“Thousands of ponies do the exact same thing every year!” Dash shot back. “If that jerk paramedic got there fifteen minutes later, I probably would have been near-death enough for it to work.”

“Or that time you vowed to become the Summoner Knights world champion?” Derpy reminded her.

“I am technically the world champion,” said Dash. “So maybe nopony else shows up to the tournaments, and I always win by default. Still counts!”

“Or that time you blew up the septic tank trying to get Soarin’s attention?”

“I did technically get him to notice me!” Dash crossed her forelegs. “And hey! You know you two wouldn’t be engaged if it weren’t for that stunt so you’re welcome.”

“Huh?” Derpy blinked, thinking that one over. “Oh, hey! You’re right! I totally owe you a muffin!”

Derpy slid a muffin across the counter to Dash.

“Yeah!” Dash jealously snatched the baked good up. “You do!”

“I’m just saying maybe you should accept being below average,” said Derpy. “The average pony is below average, you know.”

“All of my plans technically work!” Dash slammed her hoof on the counter. “And by crow, I'll get this one on a technicality too!"

She wasn’t going to give up that easily!

“Come on!” Dash turned instead to the group of slayers that made up the emergency response task force. “How about instead of responding to emergencies like a bunch of nerds, we go out and destroy the root of these problems in the first place?! Twilight’s the one responsible for the curse of undeath to begin with! Without her, there’d be no zombies! I know at least one of you guys wants to get Twilight on a technicality!”

Half of them weren't even looking at her by the end of the speech. The few who did met her with frowns at best. They weren’t cool at all, were they?!

“Look, we’re stationed here and that's where we're staying,” one of them told Dash flatly. “Nopony is going out on your fool’s errand.”

“Fine! More fame and glory for me!” Dash marched towards the door.

“Wait!” Derpy stood up. “You’re not really going out there alone, are you?”

Dash hesitated with her hoof on the door. This was going to be insanely dangerous. But what other choice did she have? Remain a worthless loser forever?

If it came down to it, she'd go it alone.

Without another word, Dash opened the door and left.

Two hours until midnight. The eclipse was imminent.

Dash stood on a lonely, poorly maintained road that led off to places unknown. Twilight Lake lay just a mile to the south, feeding into the stream that Twilight's house supposedly stood near. At 10:05 on the dot, she’d bolt straight to the lake and continue west as fast as possible.

Out this far, Dash would be away from the main zombie swell. For now, only a single undead lingered on the far horizon. Dash had to be wary for that would change soon. The second the blood moon began, zombies could come bubbling up out of the ground.

That lone zombie could be an alarm, of sorts, alerting her to the official start of the blood moon.

Dark clouds rolled in overhead, threatening a rainstorm soon. A crow landed near the road and cawed loudly a few times.

Bad luck.

Witches liked transforming into crows and so they were considered a horrible omen. 'Never harm a crow,' they'd say, 'because you never know which one is a witch.'

It hopped forward and cawed even louder as if taunting or maybe warning her. Dash stood steadfast, heeding the saying.

Thankfully, the worst-case scenario averted itself when the crow went flying off to the east, down the road. With the noisy bird gone, the woods became eerily silent. Not even the crickets made a noise as all the animals prepared for danger.

It’d be a lie if Dash said she wasn’t a little bit nervous, the harsh wind only half responsible for the chill in her bones. With nopony around, she could admit as much to herself.

In the distance, the lone zombie looked straight up at the moon. Just as the first sliver of a shadow appeared, the zombie twitched. It cocked its head back like its neck had just broken and screamed.

This was it! The eclipse officially began. Dash had a little under two hours to find Twilight’s house before it ended.

The zombie turned and charged at Dash. For the next two hours, zombies were howling maniacs that would tear a pony to shreds. She could easily escape from the lone zombie, but just then the ground cracked and shifted around her.

Several undead hooves tore up from below in every direction, upturning the earth and even parts of the road as they clawed their way to the surface.

That sounded about right. Maybe it was good to get the crow’s bad luck out of the way.

She threw a jar of spider honey onto the road and took to the air. The zombies pounced on it, ripping a few of their own numbers to pieces in the process of getting at it. They finished the contents off in seconds before turning back to Dash.

The ones that couldn’t fly ran and jumped in a fruitless attempt to reach her. The pegasi, of which Dash counted five, were the ones to be worried about. If she could lose them, nothing would stop her from making a beeline for the lake.

After a few seconds of flight, Dash found the fastest among them. She spun around and fired her musket when it got close, sending it falling. She threw another jar after the fallen zombie. Its fellow pegasi darting down after the honey.

That gave her just enough time to reload. Only four left! This wouldn’t take long!

The wail of the town’s siren came from the distance, ringing out three times, followed by the sound of cannons heavy enough for Dash to hear even down here. Three alarms meant something huge!

Sounded like they weren’t doing much better back there.

Worse things than enraged zombies prowled the world on the night of the eclipse. With the world awash of dark magic, Dash couldn't possibly guess what sort of monster attacked the town. Maybe Dash should be thankful this was all she had to deal with.


Dash got ready to fire another round, but the attackers suddenly lost interest in her. Instead, they ran further down the road, blood-lusting at something else just out of sight.

A great deal of commotion came from that way. Dash saw the body of a zombie come hurtling off from that direction and slam against a tree, falling limp to the ground.

So something dangerous waited to the east and the west. That sounded about right for a blood moon. This was the reason they told you to just hide for two hours.

Tempting as it was to investigate, Dash decided to take the lucky break and run for it.

One last pegasus zombie glided towards her from the north. Dash got her musket ready. She'd take it out, then the path would be clear.

As it got closer, Dash realized it wasn’t a zombie at all. That A-rank pony from town was flying at her! The pegasus dripped with the spider honey, leaving Dash impressed she could even stay airborne with such sticky wings. She flew in an erratic, panicked manner.

The A-rank stopped suddenly near Dash.

“Wait.” The A-rank tried to catch her breath. “You’re— oh, come on!”

“What? I was just leaving! Yeesh!”

“No! I was trying to lure it away from everypony else! I was hoping—!”

A disgusting, blood-curdling noise filled the sky from the direction as the other pegasus. A guttural roar, like a dragon choking to death on its own phlegm, rose behind her.

A second later, Dash realized she'd guessed right.

Dash felt the wind from its beating wings just slightly before it rose high enough for her to see a massive silhouette. A zombie dragon charged straight towards them!

The monster glistened a pale white in the moon, with a few purple gashes where scales had fallen off. Its wings were already mostly bone, with just a thin membrane between the bones remaining. A gaping hole tore into where its heart should be and from it oozed a stream of purple slime.

That thing could eat both ponies with one bite if it got much closer.

“Listen, we can’t possibly fight that thing! We have to—“

Her words were cut short by the dragon unleashing a torrent of purple gas in their direction. Dash narrowly flew out of the way, but the other pony, sticky and tired from flying, had less luck. Simply being grazed by the stream made her pass out, hurtling to the ground.

Even dodging it completely, Dash didn’t feel much better. Her head spun, and she too spiraled downwards. She managed to keep just enough focus to tumble into a landing.

The dragon landed soon after, shaking the earth with its enormous weight.

Dash certainly agreed she couldn’t fight it! But she couldn’t run, either! All she managed to do was cough her lungs up.

“What in tarnation was that?!” an unfamiliar voice asked. “Son of a—!”

Dash recovered just enough to see another pony emerge from where those zombies ran off before. She had a yellow mane and wore a silvery cloak. Dash's vision blurred too badly to make out more than that.

She threw something big at the dragon, maybe a chunk of gravel from the road, which astoundingly managed to make it flinch! How strong was this pony?

The newcomer looked up at the monster, then down at Dash. She stepped back when she noticed the pegasus as if Dash were as much a concern as the dragon.

“Applejack?” A red hulk of a pony wearing a similar outfit came out of the darkness next, stopping in his tracks when he saw the undead monstrosity.

“We need the big gun for this fella,” said Applejack. "Lure it back!”

Applejack watched Dash as the pegasus got back onto her feet, coughing. Applejack frowned, hesitant to help.

“Hey! If you wanna live you need to follow us!” Applejack turned and ran.

The red one gave Dash a similarly suspicious look before following her.

The dragon let out another guttural roar and ran at Dash, mouth open ready to swallow her whole. The adrenalin kicked in and Dash rushed after the others.

It wasn’t long before she saw where they were going. A light shone through the woods just a little bit ahead. A caravan of wagons circled the area, surrounded by a wall of burning flares.

Dash quickly overtook the other two and jumped over the circle of fire, landing in the camp.

“Quick!” Applejack yelled, coming inside a moment later. “We got a big one! Fire Bertha right now!”

Dash turned to see that this group did, in fact, have a large cannon. Two more ponies in the same silvery robes aimed it, waiting for the dragon to get closer before firing.

Dash covered her ears just in time to be deafened by the blast. The ground shook and the place lit up clear as day for a moment. The enchanted cannonball that shot out blazed with a white-hot light as it flew at the gigantic zombie.

A direct hit!

The blazing shot tore straight through its target's head and came out the other side. The force flipped the dragon over in midair, landing on its back with a thud that nearly knocked a few ponies over. The monster just narrowly missed crushing half the caravan.

All the ponies cheered as it fell. Dash felt more relief than joy, plopping down with a sigh.

Still, she couldn’t help but feel uneasy. They'd hit it with a fire wrath cannon. They had one of those back in town too. Why didn’t they shoot the dragon with that one?

Maybe they missed too many times? It looked dead now, so maybe she was just being paranoid.

“Well that sure was bad luck,” said Applejack. “Though I guess it is Friday the 13th.”

Right! So she got the bad luck of the crow and Friday the 13th out of the way. Hopefully, Dash was good now.

Dash gave this odd settlement a more proper look. About twenty carriages made up the whole of it, bigger than she had expected. A ring of fire surrounded its entirety, enough to keep out any lesser threat. Not that they’d need it.

It looked like they’d killed every zombie in a one mile radius. Trees were knocked down all over the place from the fight.

Just as Dash got up and brushed herself off, she found two guns pointed right at her. She looked both ways to see more muskets in every direction. Applejack stood between the two closest gunmares, giving Dash a serious look.

“Seriously?” Dash groaned. “Three in a row?! How unlucky am I?!”

“What are you doing out here during the blood moon?” Applejack asked.

“Whoa! I ain’t looking for trouble!” Dash put her hooves up. “Or I guess I am, just not with you ponies. I got somepony else I’m after. But speaking of that— why are you all out here? This isn’t exactly a good time for a campout.”

“We’re nomads. We were trying to get to the next town over, the one you just came from, but uh, well we got stuck out here.”

Stuck?” Dash raised her eyebrow. Even if that happened, a sane pony would have just left their junk out here for the night rather than risk their life for it.

The other ponies in the caravan were out now, circling Dash, giving her harsh looks like they just might be getting ready to pounce on her or something.

She realized they all had the same silvery cloak, and she began to get just a little bit more unnerved. She may very well be surrounded by one of those cults, if not something worse. These ponies had slaughtered a whole mess of undead without a scratch or guns. Dash just now remembered she hadn’t heard a single gunshot from this direction.

No, now was the time to play dumb. She didn't have long enough to deal with anything but Twilight tonight.

“Oh, 'cause of all the potholes on this road!” Dash hit her head, pretending it was obvious. “Duh! Yeah, that one wheel looks like it’s lodged right in there. I guess that more wagons means more problems, huh?”

“Right.” Applejack nodded without taking her eyes off the intruder. “We got stuck because of the potholes."

Applejack saw right through Dash’s act, she knew. Yet Dash felt as though they made a silent agreement to just not talk about whatever was really going on here.

Though she got a nod from Applejack, a few of the others were less forgiving of the intruder.

“She’s got one of those badges.” A stallion came close, narrowing his eyes at it. “I think we should insist she stay the night.”

Okay! ‘Insist you stay the night’ meant ‘murder’. Dash splayed her wings and backed up.

Applejack didn’t accept that plan, giving the stallion a shove.

“No. We can’t—” Applejack rolled her eyes. “We don’t have enough room for her, alright?”

“Yeah.” Dash sidestepped away. “Love to but not enough room! Nothing you can do about not having enough room! Also, I think I hit my head and got a concussion— you know the kind that gives you amnesia when you wake up the next day? Hehe! Gonna go get that looked at.”

Dash turned to leave but got blocked but the stallion and two other ponies.

“I said no.” Applejack moved next to Dash. At least one pony here was on her side. Maybe.

For a moment, it looked like another fight would break out, Applejack staring the other strangers down.

“What are you all fighting over some green neck slayer for?” An ironically green old lady came out of one of the carts to scold the lot of them. “Can’t you see we got a much bigger problem none of you are dealing with?”

They stood down as soon as she spoke. The old lady had to be their leader.

“Granny!” Applejack ran after her as ‘Granny’ moved towards the slain giant. “What? You mean this? I think we got that one.”

“That thing ain’t dead!” Granny shook her head. “I've seen ones this big before. An ancient dragon like that won't be killed so easy. It'll recover faster to one of them psycho zombies than a normal type. Why I say we got till about the end of this sentence before—“

The dragon lifted its head, looking at the ponies at an odd angle. The cannon left a clear mark. Its right eye was gone, purple ooze dripping from the hole.

“Ah, heck I’m losing my touch.” Granny spat. “Ten years ago I woulda finished saying it in time.”

The ponies all fired their muskets, but the monster barely flinched. The dragon took its time climbing back to its feet, mildly annoyed at best.

“If that cannon didn’t take it down then—" Applejack glanced at Rainbow Dash and held out on saying the rest of that. “Well, you think we got something that could?”

“Like heck, we don’t! We ain’t got nothing that can stop it,” her granny noted. “Only way to kill it would be to burn it all the way down to the bone.”

“But aren’t dragons nearly immune to fire?” Dash asked.

“Yep.” Granny nodded. “Ain’t nopony ever managed to get close.”

“Then it’s invincible?!” Applejack asked.

“Far as we’re concerned, yes.” Granny nodded. “But a big undead like that? Can’t come out unless it’s a blood moon. Soon as this here eclipse is done, it’ll seep back into the earth. Just gotta stall it out. I’ve seen this before. You put honey on its nose, and it’ll chase its tail around for hours.”

The dragon got up. It flapped its wings and took to the sky, turning around in the air. It looped back, intending to hit the camp with more miasma.

“But hey, if we do defeat it, we’ll be legendary heroes?” Dash asked Granny.

“I don’t think it's quite that big a deal, kid. You get one every couple of years and—"

“Alright!” Dash flapped her wings, ready to leave. “Then you guys can take care of the dragon! I got someplace else I need to be!”

This time, Applejack blocked her when Dash tried to leave.

“Hey—!” Dash started to complain.

“Listen! You’re the only pegasus here,” said Applejack.

“I am?” Dash looked around. Now that she mentioned it, the rest were all earth ponies.

“Just carry me up!” Applejack pointed at their approaching doom. “I can— I’m good at throwing things. I know I can hit its nose with one of these bottles. If you do this for us, I promise you we’ll let you leave unharmed.”

Dash really didn’t want a dragon or a group of whatever these weirdos were following her around tonight. If they could finish this relatively quick, it'd be worth it.

Dash nodded.

Dash grabbed Applejack and lifted her into the air, climbing up higher than the dragon as it flew towards the caravan. The dragon got close, getting ready to use its breath!

“I’m pulling it!” Applejack called out.

Applejack broke one of her jars and covered her hair with it.

It drew the dragon's attention immediately, making it turn to fire at the two of them instead. More prepared for the attack now, Dash managed to get further away from the stream of purple miasma.

She didn’t pass out, so that was something!

The dragon chased after them, but that was probably a good thing. They’d need to take it far away or it might kill somepony simply by chasing its tail.

Even carrying Applejack, Dash could outspeed her pursuer. They got far out into the forest before Dash decided it was safe to make their stand. She looped around in the air, then darted back at the dragon.

This time, it looked like the dragon wanted to swallow them whole, opening its mouth wide to receive them.

Applejack threw the jar hard. Her aim was great! It shattered on the dragon’s muzzle. It snapped its jaw tight, then swerved to one side, Dash managing to pull up just enough to avoid getting hit.

According to plan, the dragon spiraled around in circles, taking to the air. Completely disinterested in anything beyond its nose, the monster spiraled off in a northwards direction, hopefully never to be seen again. At least they brought it far away from civilization.

Dash dove to the ground, not landing until she had a good distance between them and the threat. Applejack jumped out of her grip just before Dash landed.

Dash looked over at Applejack, but she shrank away with her cloak drawn up around her high, hiding something from Dash.

“Man, that was awesome!” Dash pumped her hoof out at Applejack. “I can’t believe we actually got rid of that thing.”

“Sorry about before.” Applejack turned around, lowering her hood. “You’re free to go so long as you promise to keep quiet."

“I legit don’t even know what I’m keeping my mouth shut about,” Dash admitted. There were too many possibilities here. “Sides, I got bigger fish to fry.”

Dash checked her clock. Had all that seriously happened in twenty minutes?!

She needed to bolt but decided she could spare one more minute in this place. She might as well give her sales pitch one final go. Applejack could hold her own.

“Hey! You seem pretty tough!” Dash ran up to Applejack. “I got a proposition for you! I have the most amazing idea in history that will make all of us rich and famous. Whatever you’re doing totally isn’t worth it compared to this. But we gotta go out to Twilight Lake now before the eclipse ends!”

“What?! You’re going running through the forest on a night like this? Are you on the eighth or something?” Applejack recoiled at the recklessness of that idea. “The blood moon is drawing out all kinds of nasty critters like that one! Did you not just see that zombie dragon? It’s still out there.”

“You think I’m afraid of something so pathetic?” Dash rolled her eyes and laughed, pretending to be less scared than she actually was. “That thing’s gotta be like rank S at best, probably only A. Even if you killed a zombie dragon that’s not gonna propel you to legendary status. But you know what will?”

“Stuff you should have nothing to do with if you can help it,” said Applejack.

“No! Twilight Sparkle! The only rank X monster!”

Applejack cocked her head as she tried to decide how mad Dash was.

“Just hear me out!” Dash stopped her. “Today is Friday the 13th, right?”

“Yeah? But—“

“But on the old lunar calendar, it’s also Halloween! Every condition for breaking the curse is met! We can find Twilight’s house and break it forever."

“That’s the dumbest idea I ever heard.” Applejack shook her head and started back.

“Why does everypony say that?” Dash threw out her wings in exasperation. “This is brilliant! And it’ll be a billion years before everything lines up again. This is our only chance to try it in our entire lives! We gotta go!”

“I don’t gotta nothing. I ain’t risking my life for a chance to— well what are you even gonna do if you did find her? You’d likely just stir up a whole heck of trouble nopony needs. If Twilight wants to hide under a rock, I say let her!”

“I know this is dangerous, but this is our big chance to be somepony! We can actually accomplish something in our lives. The reward for finding her is millions of bits!”

“I already feel like I’ve accomplished plenty, thanks.” Applejack turned her back on Dash and started towards the caravan. “Some things are just more important to me than money or fame. Being there for my family is one of them.”

“What?” Dash stood there, stunned, as Applejack left her.

“Just go back to town and stay safe,” Applejack said. "I'm sure your family wants you back."

"Assuming I have one," Dash muttered under her breath.

Then Dash was alone with only the dark forest to keep her company.

The wind picked up.

Dash merely shook her head and returned to her mission. Maybe Dash just didn’t have as much to risk. In Dash’s mind, if there was a ninety percent chance of dying and a one percent chance of pulling it then it was worth it! It’d all be worth it! They’d see.

The storm cloud finally lived up to its potential and blanketed the forest in a gentle rain.

Without running into anything too crazy, Dash managed to get to Twilight Lake. A lazy river flowed southwest from the lake. Somewhere along its length, Dash would find Twilight's house.

Ponies in town always said this was the slowest moving river in the world. You could walk faster than the water flowed at any section. At the slowest parts, the water appeared completely still. The river was so narrow it may have actually been a stream. Dash had no idea how to tell these things apart.

Dash trotted alongside this deathly silent stream but didn’t dare get too close on a night like tonight. Any number of horrible creatures might hide in those black depths waiting to pull her inside.

Then again, the same could be said for creatures lurking out in the woods to her side. Dash wasn’t too scared, maybe just a little, but it would have been nice to have had somepony with her to steady her nerves. Stupid Applejack. Also, that entire stupid town. Everyone was stupid!

“A-hick! I already dun gots me a sense of worth! I gots muh family and all muh durn zen ideals, I do!” Dash glowered. “Easy for you to bucking say. Privileged freaking—”

Dash heard something behind her, a sound between a sigh and a snore, and swung around as fast as she could. Nothing but absolute darkness stood behind her as far as she could see. Maybe Dash only heard the wind.

After that, Dash walked faster, kept her wings slightly splayed, ready for takeoff. She had five miles of this to get through! Nopony knew exactly where along the river Twilight’s house was.

The rain got heavier, enough to make Dash wish she’d found Twilight’s house just to get out of it.

She got through the first mile without seeing any signs of Twilight. She figured her odds of finding the house would increase with each mile. The next one should be a one in four chance.

Another disturbing noise interrupted Dash's math, something like a gag coming from across the river. Dash slowly turned to her left and there she saw it, sitting on the other side of the river.

“Are you kidding me?!” Dash growled under her breath.

It was the same exact dragon as before! It even still had that wound in its face!

Right now, the dragon chewed on something, but it was too far away to tell what. It stopped to look at Dash before it swallowed whatever it caught.

Why did it land?

The rain slowed, and Dash realized the answer. The storm washed the honey off its muzzle! It would attack her again!

For now, it didn't make a move, just carefully watched her. Dash ever so slowly crept forward, keeping her eyes on the monster. The dragon zombie watched carefully but didn’t make any sudden moves. Only a couple hundred feet stood between the two. Maybe this would work if Dash moved slowly enough.

She walked in front of it, then slightly past it, and kept walking till it was behind her. Nothing yet.

Then Dash heard that guttural, puking noise.

She turned around to see it spraying its miasma breath down at the river! Already fish and some tentacle thing went belly up in the water. The cloud moved towards Dash fast!

No choice anymore! Dash got up and retreated into the woods!

The dragon didn’t like that. It charged after her, trampling down and snapping trees. Thankfully, because of the thick trees, it couldn’t move through the woods nearly as fast as Dash could. She could totally lose that stupid thing.

The dragon soared above her, unable to muscle straight through the trees.

All Dash really needed to worry about was that breath weapon. For now, she darted into some bushes and looked up, hoping maybe it lost track of her. Hiding from it was really her only option.

But as Dash snuck into the bushes, she noticed something nearby, another light in the woods.

This one came from a window. A house? No, the light shone through a hole in a tree. Even closer, she realized it was both a tree and a home, a building carved into its wide trunk.

A clearing surrounded the treehouse too, the grass broken only by a patch of pumpkins. Somepony had to live here!

Then Dash saw another pony standing down by the water!

The dragon landed on Dash’s side of the river, right next to this new pony! The pony was far too chill about this, casually turning her head to the beast, making no attempt to run away at all.

Dash couldn’t just leave somepony to die like that! She emerged from the bushes ready to rush in there, grab that idiot, and fly away as fast as she could.

The dragon roared at the mystery pony, inches away from her. She glanced up at the beast looming over her with no real concern. She simply gave the monster a sharp whack on its muzzle.

And the dragon exploded!

Fire consumed it as all its scales, flesh, and purple goo burst outwards. It burned too fast for it to leave even a little mess. All the fleshy parts of the zombie simply vaporized, leaving nothing but smoke and bones behind.

In a flash, the zombie dragon was reduced to a skeleton dragon. The now-silent beast clattered and tried to take a step forward but only managed to collapse in a heap.

The pony gently blew at the skeletal remains. In a matter of seconds, the bones rotted black and cracked, then they crumbled to dust and blew away.

Dash could only stand in place and stare at such an incredible display of power. Her mind couldn't comprehend what she'd just seen.

That certainly solved one problem. But who the heck was this?! One of the elite four?!

Even through the dark, Dash could see they wore a witch’s hat with little bells hanging from strings around the edges. The bells rang slightly as she walked back towards her house.

This had to be a witch! Nothing else could have defeated a monster that strong so easily.

Given where she was...

What if that was Twilight Sparkle herself?!

Dash ducked back down under the brush, holding her breath. Thankfully she wasn’t spotted, and the witch simply left as casually as though she’d blown a mosquito off her leg.

If only Dash had gotten this on camera! She needed some way of proving this was Twilight! But if Twilight could instantly destroy something so tough, then Dash had no chance at all if it came down to a fight!

Dash needed to be as careful as possible now. A normal witch was more dangerous than a hundred zombie dragons. Twilight herself would be worse than all the other witches combined on top of that.

She waited in the bushes quietly for the witch to go back inside.

That was another thing! There weren’t supposed to be any houses along the lazy river. This was totally her! Probably.

Maybe-Twilight took one of the pumpkins from her patch and finally went into the house. Only then did Dash dare to rise.

That patch consisted of a few huge pumpkins strangled by a sea of vines. Dash flew on top of one that was easily twice her size, then silently glided across the rest of the garden to a window.

Now she got a much better look at her witch, a lavender unicorn sitting in front of a cauldron in the center of the room.

Whatever cooked in that cauldron smoked worse than a dying dragon. A heavy plume of white fog bubbled up out of it and down to the floor so that it covered the whole ground.

Everything hanging on her walls screamed 'witch'. Jars containing eyeballs, claws from various lizards, insects of every kind, and mysterious white powders filled her shelves.

But none of that proved this was a witch. There was one artifact, something every witch always kept with them, that Dash kept an eye out for.

It wasn’t long before she took it out.

After thinking for a moment, the unicorn levitated to her side a black book with a large purple star, Twilight’s cutie mark, printed on the cover. A spellbook!

Just like a witch, she didn’t read it, merely held it aside, and flipped the pages a few times before putting it away. That was exactly how witches used those books! They never actually read them.

Dash had to record this!

Slowly, as though it were rigged to explode if shaken, Dash took out her camcorder and hit the record button, putting the lens up towards the window. If this was Twilight, she’d have the same star cutie mark on her flank. Dash just had to keep recording until this witch stood up. She had to stand up eventually, right?

Still, even a ‘normal’ witch was insanely dangerous. Dash needed an escape route before things went south.

Dash looked up at the sky. The storm clouds were gone now. Flying too high meant being easily spotted, which would result in Dash becoming toast.

Instead, she’d dart into the trees behind her, then make a hard left before moving just below the branches as fast as she could. She scoped out a large tree that would be easy to hide behind at a moment’s notice.

She needed to get those smoke bombs ready too. Dash took out a few, then went back to looking through her camera.

The cauldron continued to bubble away, but Twilight was nowhere to be seen.

Where the heck did Maybelight go?!

Did it matter? Dash had a recording! But then again, that was no help as she was in the middle of the woods, a mile away from a VCR.

The front door creaked open ever so slowly.

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