• Published 8th Sep 2012
  • 3,973 Views, 412 Comments

One Mare's Worth - Equestria Buck Yeah



When Rainbow Dash's speed during a new trick turns out to be too much for her own good, she comes to realize how important she really is when she finds herself in a war-torn version of her old home.

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Chapter 12

Rainbow Dash followed her orange friend to the eating area. Several very used, worn out tables stood in front of her in the center of the room. Aside from counter tops and a few cabinets, the only appliances that were found were a pair of refrigerators and a sink without a faucet. Beside the sink were several buckets filled with water, which Rainbow assumed were for cleaning the raw fruits and vegetables before eating them or maybe any plates the soldiers may use. A large garbage bin sat by the exit that led back into the hallway, not even a quarter of the way full.

The pegasus looked around the quarters, a little disappointed they didn't have a bit more to the place. Considering what she had been shown in every other room, she was half expecting it to be mistakable for an underground royal kitchen. She wondered for a moment where the drainpipe from the sink went, but figured that the ponies had a good idea of what they were doing when they built the compound. There were more important things to go over as it was.

"I'm guessing those generators you showed me on our tour keeps the refrigerators running. How come you guys don't have anything other than just this though?" Rainbow asked.

Applejack sorted through one of the oversized appliances as Rainbow asked her question, grabbing them some of the surprisingly juicy looking fruits inside. Taking a plate from one of the cabinets, she laid three tomatoes, a head of lettuce, four carrots, and a pair of celery stalks for them. The earth pony laid the plate on a nearby table and returned to the fridge for a pitcher of carrot juice, also setting it down. On her final trip, she carried a pair of cups from the cabinet. With everything set, she joined her blue friend, who had quickly snatched up one of the carrots, practically inhaling it.

"Our first and foremost concern is the war itself. Keepin' ourselves armed, stayin' in contact with one another, stuff like that. The food is actually a pretty easy part to it all. There's no real need to heat up anythin', 'n we drink pretty much nothin' but water or the juice of a few of the vegetables we're growin' in the garden. Beets, carrots, stuff like that," Applejack explained.

"Sounds like it can be a bit boring." The pegasus took a large bite from the lettuce head.

"Yeah, sometimes. Heh, Ah tell ya what, Ah'd give mah hat for a good ol' fashioned glass of apple cider these days. But, we do the basics to survive with the food. Ya might wanna chew, by the way," Applejack joked. "We're more concerned with survivin' out in the field more than anythin'."

"Makes sense, I guess."

The former farm pony nodded as she watched her friend tear into the grub. She helped herself to a piece of celery and lightly nibbled on it, not being terribly hungry herself. It wouldn't have mattered even if she was. Rainbow had torn into nearly everything on the plate in a matter of minutes.

"So, like Ah said before, ya can ask me whatever ya like about what's happened since ya left. If Ah know the answer, you'll hear it. Still as honest as ever, wouldn't ya know? Ah told ya about Rarity. What else would ya like to know?"

With that, Rainbow's voracious appetite grinded to a halt. She finished chewing on the tomato she was working on and swallowed hard. She bit her lip slightly and gazed nervously at the table. The one thing she needed to know was going to be the hardest thing to ask, so she figured she may as well get it out of the way.

Just as she was about to speak, a trio of ponies walked into the room. One was a rather large white stallion with a few brown spots and lazy brown mane, almost comparable in size to Big Mac, with a muscular flexed hoof for a cutie mark. Behind him entered a young light beige colt with a charcoal mane, maybe no older than his early teens, with a blank flank, and last came a grey coated mare, the same color as Commander Derpy, with a braided, silvery streaked mane and blue glasses. The spoon cutie mark the mare sported was almost instantly recognized by Rainbow Dash, despite never seeing this mare before, thanks to stories her biggest fan used to tell her.

"So what'd you two want to snack on?" the stallion asked his family.

"Oh, oh! Can we have- "

"Wait a minute," the pegasus piped up angrily, cutting off the youngster. "Aren't you one of those brats that would constantly belittle Scootaloo and her friends?"

The young colt looked up, perplexed at the accusation, "Mom? Why would she think I would pick on Scootaloo? She's really cool!"

Just as confused as her son, the grey mare stared vacantly at Rainbow for a moment before stroking the little one's mane. "Not you, sweetheart. Go sit down, I'll be with you and daddy in a minute," she said with a warm smile. The young colt trotted to a table on the opposite end of the room and plopped onto the ground, watching his mother with concern.

"Good afternoon, Sergeant."

"Lieutenant Spoon," Applejack saluted.

"I'm.. sorry, do I know you?" Silver Spoon asked the annoyed pegasus.

"Yeeeah, Scootaloo told me all about you. I recognize your cutie mark from what she told me. You're Silver Spoon! What's somepony like you doing here?"

"Excuse me, you're extremely out of line here!" she snapped. "Sergeant, if you don't control your 'friend', I'll have her detained." The large stallion had stopped his activities and turned to face the arguing group, ready to defend his wife if necessary.

Applejack wrapped a hoof around Rainbow and pulled her back aggressively. "Apologies, Lieutenant.. uh.. let me explain. Does the name Rainbow Dash mean anythin' to you? Perhaps Scootaloo's mentioned 'er before?"

Silver Spoon squinted at the irritated pegasus and gazed away, trying to recall her name.

"Hm.. vaguely," she mumbled. Her eyes widened slightly. "Wait a second, didn't she used to run a fan club for you or something a long time ago? I think she told me about that a couple times."

"Yes, ma'am, that's exactly right," Applejack nodded.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Well, ma'am, you remember what the Doctor and Commander Derpy told us about their TARDIS thing? How it could travel through time and such?"

"I do. Again, what's that have to do with anything?" Silver Spoon answered with increasing annoyance. "What, did she stow away and go for a joyride?"

Applejack rubbed her neck and avoided looking her superior in the eye, "Um.. no ma'am, but.. um.. Could Ah speak to you over here for a moment in private? Ah'll explain everything."

"That's a rather strange request, but alright."

The stallion marched past Rainbow Dash with suspicion while carrying a plate with a few bits of food for his family. He sat with his son, who was fiercely watching Silver Spoon and Applejack creep away and whisper to each other quietly so that nopony else would hear.

"Eat up, champ. Ya wanna get as big 'n strong as yer ol' man, eh?" the stallion said.

The young colt smiled and took hold of a carrot, munching on it happily. "Wha abot Mom?" he asked with a full mouth.

"Aw, don' ya worry 'bout 'er none, awlright?" He affectionately rubbed his son's mane.

Applejack and Silver Spoon discussed the predicament for a few minutes before the lieutenant turned and looked sympathetically at the light blue pegasus. A nasty scowl still adorned her face. The pair walked up to Rainbow, Silver Spoon first.

"Everythin' OK, hon?"

"No problems, Pip. It's all under control." She turned to the angry mare and frowned with slight regret. "Applejack told me about what happened, Rainbow Dash, and I'm truly sorry. I can't imagine what a.. I guess shock is a good word.. this all is."

Silver Spoon sighed heavily, digging up the past. "But, to respond to what you said earlier, yes, I used to pick on Scootaloo and her friends. It was a very long time ago. I was young and foalish. But now, they're some of my closest friends and allies, and I trust them with my life.

"Sergeant Applejack here has politely asked me to give you two some space. She said you have some things to talk about and she requested some privacy for you both. Even though I do outrank her, I trust Applejack completely. Always have. So, I'll respect her wishes. You should be thankful you mean so much to her that she can convince me to let you go with just a warning after speaking to me like that."

Rainbow's rage had subsided completely, replaced with remorse. She gazed at the dirt and shrank into herself. "I'm.. I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"There wasn't any way you could have. Just watch your step next time, alright?"

"Yes, ma'am," Rainbow said with a hushed tone. "Curious though, what happened to your little friend, what's-her-name?"

"Diamond Tiara?"

"Yeah."

The grey mare looked regretfully at the dirt. "Let's just say that some ponies never learned how to grow up."

She turned to her family, sweetness returning to her voice. "Boys? Applejack and her friend need some time alone, so we're going to go eat inside, OK? Rapid Fire, why don't you tell us what you and your friends did today?"

"OK, mom!"

Silver Spoon let Pip and their son take the lead out of the mess hall. She turned back and looked sorrowfully at Rainbow one last time before following them.

Rainbow listened for the hoofsteps in the gravel to fade out of earshot before slowly turning and facing Applejack, who sat down across from her. "There are kids here?" she whispered, a touch of horror in her voice.

"Mhm. There's a nursery deeper in the base 'n a play room for the younger foals near it. We really don't have much of a choice since we have to hide. Can't exactly be raisin' a family out in the middle of a war zone."

"But Spike said relationships were discouraged," Rainbow recollected.

"Discouraged, yes. Forbidden, no," Applejack explained. "They were discouraged out on the battlefield, not at home. Derpy's not stupid. She knows if we don't have another generation ready to fight if we're still at war, then we lose, as horrible as that sounds. Though, it doesn't hurt that all but a few of the prisoners we've taken over the years have joined us. Kept our numbers up. Most of 'em never wanted to fight in the first place but were too scared to say that ta the Princess, for obvious reasons."

"I gotta know. How does Silver Spoon outrank you? You're an Element of Harmony for pony's sake!"

A small smirk found her lips. "She was always a gifted strategist, 'n a decent fighter. Ah was always just a decent fighter, nothin' more really."

"Why'd you ask her to leave anyway?"

Applejack looked away from her friend, second thoughts popping up in her mind. Unfortunately for her in a way, her honesty reared its head as it always did.

"Ah have a feeling you're gonna ask a question that Ah'm.. not really sure Ah wanna answer. But Ah'm gonna anyway. It'd only be fair for ya ta know."

"Know what?"

The former farm pony calmly stared into her ruby eyes. "What's the biggest question eatin' at ya right now?"

Applejack's instincts were correct. Rainbow saw how uneasy her friend was about answering what she wanted to know, and maybe it would have been best if the question was never asked. But, the pegasus went ahead anyway.

"What happened with Celestia? Why are we at war with her?"

The inevitable was in the air. The orange mare sighed and closed her eyes, silently wishing those words never happened.

-----

It had been about four years since any of Rainbow's friends had seen her. The first several days were the worst. The waiting. The fearing. The imagining. The tears. Where she went and why were mysteries to everypony, including Celestia. Her friends thought they could get some grain of sage-like wisdom from the ancient pony, some insight as to what may be going on. She always did seem to have an answer to everything. Unfortunately, this is one time where all her knowledge left them without an answer.

As time went on, much of the happiness among the group started to slowly fade. Even though they were six individual ponies, after a while, it felt like a piece of them had died. Sure, Rainbow was brash, impulsive, hot-headed and a bit tactless with her words at times, but she was still their friend. The Element of Loyalty. She'd never let them down or leave them hanging. She reminded them of that all the time, and they felt at ease and comforted by this undeniable fact, no matter how many times they heard it.

Twilight sat in her library peacefully that early evening, flipping through one of her favorite Daring Do novels. She had been studying a lot about ancient Equestrian dialects recently for no other reason than she could and felt like taking a break. Strangely, she had found herself drawn to the adventure series a lot more than she did in the past.

Spike was finishing cleaning up the dishes and pans used for dinner when suddenly, he felt something racing up from the pit of his stomach. Out fired a letter from the Princess in a burst of green flame. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary for the pair.

Unfortunately, many of the letters that Twilight had received from the Princess had seemed rather cold and distant, even though they were just words on a piece of paper. Her friends had spoken similarly when they visited each other from time to time after sending her friendship letters. They noticed the change in tone from the Princess soon after she defeated Discord after he returned yet again, aware of their distinct lack of Rainbow Dash, and had gotten worse over time.

Without Rainbow's Element, and with the knowledge that Spike simply wasn't a proper substitute, Celestia was forced to stand up to the monster as she did thousands of years ago. She specifically, and almost angrily, instructed Luna to stay behind in case something happened to her when he made his return. At least, that's what the Princess of the Night had told Twilight and her friends during one of their royal visits. Even though Celestia's treatment of her sister wounded the younger sibling deeply, the sun and moon did still needed to be raised each day.

Despite the fact that Celestia and Luna were indeed not tied to the power of the Elements anymore, Celestia was somehow able to overcome the Spirit of Chaos. She never said specifically how, either by letter or in person, but it was obvious that she was telling the truth, what with the lack of chaotic insanity he would bring with him.

Less than a year later, another ancient evil awoke from an eon's long slumber in the frigid north. Some of the Princess' old scrolls and texts waxed prophetic, speaking of an inevitable apocalypse. When she was aware of the blackness seaping toward Equestria, all she could do to respond was snort in annoyance.

With a wave of her magic, she took hold of a particular tome from her royal library and rode for the north, alone, into the heart of the madness. A few days later, she returned looking no worse for wear and had angrily tossed the old book onto the floor in front of the shelf it was supposed to sit on, not caring if the spine broke or pages tore thanks to its age. When Luna had asked if she was alright upon seeing her actions, she offered an indignant response that it was a pathetic attempt at an 'inevitable apocalypse'. A rather irritated sneer never seemed to leave her face after that, even up to the present day.

Twilight unfurled Celestia's letter. It said that the Princess requested their presence, sans Spike, in Canterlot to discuss some things. The letter didn't go into any detail and left the unicorn wondering exactly what could be on the Princess' mind. A royal chariot arrived about twenty minutes later. Soon after, the other Elements showed up at the library as requested per their own notices. A few minutes later, they were away.

When they arrived in the throne room, they found Celestia sitting on her golden chair. The only guards in the room were her two top stallions that she kept near her at almost all times. Her head was slung as low as her posture. Her normally beautiful, singular, windblown mane was withered and torn like the sail of a forgotten ship drifting aimlessly in the open sea. Her white coat had lost a touch of its pristine luster and the faintest bit of grey could be seen in even the brightest of lights. Long dried-out tears flowed from her bloodshot eyes, staining her cheeks, as she stared vacantly at the floor in the middle of the room.

The girls were weary of what they saw and kept their distance, slowly approaching the unmoving princess. Their hoofsteps echoed loudly in the large, empty hall.

"Princess? Y-You wanted to see us?" Twilight nervously asked.

The royal mare blinked. It was the first response to anything in almost an hour.

The Elements looked at each other. "Princess Celes- "

"Do you know how long I've been ruler of this land, Twilight Sparkle?" she asked, not moving a muscle.

Her faithful student shook her head in response.

"It's been many.. many centuries." She looked up slowly, her thoughts drifting. "It's been so long, I.. I can barely remember some of the earliest ones anymore. I've seen small towns prosper into towering cities. I've watched the world undergo violent changes only to leave a peaceful calm that would last for an age. I saw ponies fight amongst each other time and time again over petty, nonsensical things that ultimately meant nothing in their lives."

"Um.. Princess? You're.. kinda scaring us," Twilight said. The others fearfully nodded in agreement.

Without acknowledging them, Celestia continued, unconsciously scanning over the room as she spoke. "Whenever disharmony reared its ugly head, I did everything I could to get involved and fix things, especially after Luna and I dealt with Discord. I did not want to see my subjects suffer, after all.

"After peace had been established, every day.. every single day.. I had to set aside my life and take care of their needs, so many being utterly insignificant. It boggled my mind that every other pony seemed to want me to deal with such trivialities they could easily take care of themselves. Even if I had much more important things to do, things that would actually help to keep Equestria safe from harm, I had to assure some fool that I wasn't going to be taking their home away from them or something.

"And yet, not once did anypony ever ask if there was anything I needed. And I'm not referring to frivolous novelties or what I wanted to eat. Despite wanting peace for the land and its citizens, I was not allowed to have peace of my own." She sneered angrily, looking back at the floor in front of her.

"Luna was still young when our parents died. Well, young for an alicorn. I had to add taking care of her and overseeing her studies as another part of my unending daily routine. Yet, in spite of everything, I still somehow managed to put on a smile for the populace, to give them the impression that nothing was troubling me. They say that the ones who smile the most also have suffered the most, yes? If only they knew."

"Princess.. I.. "

"Once my sister was old enough, I let her learn on her own. Experience life how she wanted without my guidance. I felt that I had educated her enough to keep her from harm, whether by her own hoof or from something else. But, I still had to clean up one mess after another for centuries. To be honest, I'm.. surprised she was able to deal with Discord so well with me after we discovered the Elements of Harmony."

The girls looked at each other with curiosity and unease. The coldness they had felt in the many letters they had received from the Princess paled in comparison to the tone in her actual voice.

"Your highness," Applejack spoke up, "well.. are y'all feelin' alright? You seem kind of.. um.. not right. Is everythin' OK?"

Still ignoring their concern, she stood up as regally as her worn body allowed her to and turned her attention solely at them. "I was absolutely overjoyed once I learned what the Elements of Harmony were meant to do. To maintain peace and balance over Equestria. They were unlike any power I had discovered up until that time. But, I knew that if my sister and I were to wield them, even equally, my duties would still not ultimately change.

"I came up with a brilliant idea one day. If I could find six strong, diligent, loyal ponies who embodied the spirits of the Elements, perhaps I could ask them to help me keep the peace and alleviate my burden."

Celestia looked intently at her most faithful subject. "Did you know that I have had over a hundred students before you, Twilight?"

The unicorn blinked in surprise. "N-No, Princess. I.. don't understand why you felt the need to tell me this. I'm not angry with that or anything. It makes sense that you'd want your wisdom to be passed down to other ponies other than just you and Princess Luna."

"With each new student I took under my wing, I saw hope. I saw the possibility that I may have found a pony who could fulfill the roles I wished for them and their friends to take. And yet, with every student I tried to guide, I failed. Every last one. The number of failures continued to increase until it reached its zenith with Nightmare Moon. After banishing my sister, I finally realized how much I had failed Luna, myself, and Equestria.

"I had given up trying to find a student whom I could rely on until I found you. When you had come of age and I sent you to Ponyville, I was happier than I had been in millennia when your friends were granted the Elements' gifts. You were even able to restore Luna to her former glory and helped bring peace to her once again. I began to believe that my own personal nightmare was finally over."

The Princess looked away and sneered, "However, despite my jubilation, the doubts that crept into my mind over the centuries appeared to prove themselves correct again as time went on. Despite you all wielding the Elements, I still had to fix every major problem Equestria had."

Celestia's tone suddenly took a noticeably angry turn. "If I had not sent your friendship letters back to you, Twilight Sparkle, Discord would have won! If I had not undone the spell you cast on your doll, Ponyville, and who knows what else, would have torn itself apart! And instead of coming to me with your concerns about the fake Princess Cadance in the first place, your overzealous actions almost led to not only Canterlot falling to the Changelings, but to me being killed as well! To top it all off, you failed to retrieve the Elements when we needed them the most! We were all lucky Princess Cadance's love for your brother, the captain of my Royal Guard, was strong enough to give him the power needed to cast them out of the city!"

"But Princess, we've always done everything we could to- "

"Be silent!" she yelled with the Royal Canterlot Voice, slamming a hoof into the marble, causing it to crack. Even her guards jumped at her sudden action, turning to watch her in silent terror. Her pupils disappeared behind a fiery yellow glow, like that of the very sun she moved.

The terrible fire in her eyes retreated once her subjects stop shaking in horror. She squinted at them menacingly. "Have you noticed something interesting over the last few years? Ever since your Element of Loyalty so fittingly abandoned you, Equestria has been in constant peril. Peril that I've had to deal with, again!

"Do you know how I got rid of Discord when he returned this time? I bound him with the same spell I used to bind my sister when I banished her to the moon. Only this time, I banished him to the center of the sun. That way, he too can feel the unending anguish and pain that I've had to deal with for so long!

"Perhaps you were aware of the darkness that began to spread out from the northern lands last year? Of course you were. If the Elements were together, they could have easily sealed it away once and for all, but I had to take several days away from my duties to deal with the situation! Would you like me to go into more detail about how you and your friends have failed me like so many others before you?!"

"No," Twilight barely whispered. Their eyes began to water as the alicorn tore into them.

"Perhaps if Rainbow Dash hadn't wised up and left this obviously hopeless situation, this could have all been avoided. But what's done is done. We haven't seen her in years and there's no reason to believe she will ever be back. I realize now that if there is to be peace in Equestria, I must change my approach." She magically grabbed onto one of her guard's spears and held it close. With a thought, the five friend's bodies were pinned to the floor by a faint yellow glow. They struggled to move, but found it hopeless.

The burning fire in Celestia's eyes came forth as she took a step toward the remaining Elements. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown, Twilight, and my neck is very, very tired. I believe I'll start this new approach by getting rid of my last, and worst, failure before I usher in a new era of peace," she said with an eery calm as she lifted the spear over her head.

"Enough of this!" a voice yelled from the entrance, the doors now burst open. Princess Luna stood before them.

"Luna! Please! Help us!" Twilight pleaded.

The spear fell to the floor and the girls were released from the magical grip. The dark-coated princess magicked the doors closed and approached her sister. Celestia eyes calmed and she watched in confusion as Luna came close and lifted a worried hoof to her white cheek.

"I heard everything through the door. Sister, what are you doing? This isn't you! You're not well! Please, just.. stop this!"

"I'm doing this for the peace and security of Equestria!"

"This isn't a peaceful way to resolve something! You know this! I know you've been through a lot over your long life, Tia. Take some time away for yourself and clear your mind, away from any royal duties. It'll help you so much, I promise. I'm more than capable to handle whatever responsibilities you'd wish to ask of me. I could watch over Equestria for you while you're away."

Celestia took an unconscious step away from her younger sister, a look of horror in her eyes.

"I can't believe what I'm hearing. You're trying to usurp me again!" Her guards quickly looked at each other in surprise when the accusation came out.

"What?! No, sister, I would never! You're not in the right state of mind! Please just listen to me!"

"Your words are poison!" She lifted Luna into the air, her limbs spread out. "It seems a thousand years of banishment and the Elements of Harmony were not enough to purge you of your evil intentions! You must be dealt with once and for all!"

Luna's eyes shrank at Celestia's words. "Sister, please! Stop!"

The Sun Goddess lunged forward, driving her horn into the young alicorn's chest, piercing her heart. The Elements tried to scream, but the enormous shock froze their lungs. Luna's body was released and it fell limply to the floor. With the last of her strength rapidly leaving her, she looked up at her older sibling and whispered.

"I love you, Tia."

Her head fell, and she was gone.

"Celestia! What have you done?!" Twilight screamed.

"You side with the traitor?! I truly am right to get rid of you!"

Celestia's loyal guards looked on in horror as she magically lifted the spear again, still furious and ready to finish the job she began. She stopped in front of the girls and readied herself for the first of five strikes. She took aim at her most trusted student.

Twilight clenched her teeth and her horn sparked with power. A purple glow surrounded herself and her companions, blinking them out of the room just before the spear came crashing down, snapping off the tip and cracking the marble tile where they just stood.

The Princess' eyes burst into golden flames for the third time.

"Find them! Find them!"

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