• Published 22nd Dec 2011
  • 2,937 Views, 44 Comments

No Need for Rainbows - terrycloth

Rainbow Dash never did her sonic rainboom, and now Nightmare Moon has returned. Who will stop her?

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Chapter 6: Emotions

“Hey, Queenie!” shouted Rainbow Dash as the four of them entered the throne room. “More visitors.”

A flutter of black bats, disturbed by the noise, swirled around Applejack and Twilight Sparkle as they stood in the half-collapsed archway at one end of the crumbling throne room. The ceiling was basically gone, leaving the room open to the sky, the walls were covered in blackened and ruined murals, and the floor was covered with cracked grey tile whose pattern had faded from 1000 years of exposure to the elements. Nightmare Moon herself perched on the twisted, melted remains of some sort of multi-armed pedestal or fountain, reformed into something that could pass for a throne. In front of her, on the floor, was a small pile of candy and other sweets. She looked bored.

So did the pink pony dressed as a judge, who was chewing on her gavel and occasionally giving a puff of breath to brush the dangling curls of her powdered wig out of her eyes. On the other side of the dark queen was a unicorn spangled with so many jewels that she looked like a cloud of disembodied sparkles, who was the only animated thing in the room, as she turned her head towards the new arrivals.

Rarity saw Applejack, and narrowed her eyes. “I don’t suppose you can come back in a few hours? The Queen and I were in the middle of discussing the renovations.”

“We’re not going anywhere until we’ve had our say,” Applejack replied, lowering her head and raising one hoof, as if she was about to charge.

“You can go on discussing the renovations while they talk, Rarity” Pinkie said. “I don’t think Nightmare Moon’s been listening.”

“Thank you kindly,” Applejack said, deciding to take that as permission, since while Nightmare Moon had moved her head enough to meet their gaze with her creepy, crystalline eyes, she still hadn’t deigned to speak. “First, let me present your majesty with a gift,” she said as she trotted forwards. Twilight followed close behind, and floated a pie out of the earth pony’s saddlebags and up to the Queen, who grabbed it with her ‘mane’ and gave a sniff.

Apparently she liked what she smelled, because she devoured the pie in record time. By that time, Applejack had set out a few more treats in a line in front of her, and kept adding to the spread as the Queen sampled her offerings.

“Do you like them?” Applejack asked, as she was on her third tart.

“They’re… adequate,” Nightmare Moon replied, brushing a few crumbs off her chin.

“I should hope so,” Applejack said. “We take apples and carrots from Apple Family farms in Ponyville and Fillydelphia, oranges and bananas from the Orange Estates in the Marribean Isles, and fresh fruits, milk, eggs and grains from family farms all across Equestria, and combine them all in our central bakery in Manehattan into the best dang food in the world.”

“That’s actually their company motto. It’s on all their packaging” Pinkie Pie said. “So it *must* be true, or else we could prosecute them for false advertising.” She held up her gavel, and looked up at the Queen expectantly.

“That won’t be necessary,” Nightmare Moon said.

“Then you like them,” Applejack prompted.

The queen nodded curtly. “Yes, my little baker, I find your pastries quite adequate, even for a pony of my status. That was not meant as a criticism.”

“Then eat up,” Applejack said, happily. It didn’t take long for Nightmare Moon to finish off the rest. “I’m glad you liked them, your majesty,” Applejack said, then suddenly stomped on the ground with a loud ‘crack!’. “Because they were your LAST.”

Nightmare Moon reared back, her mane swirling into a tornado as her eyes flared wide with madness. “How do you intend to stop me, foal?”

Rainbow Dash flew down to interpose herself between Applejack and the Queen, and after a few seconds Fluttershy followed her, although the pink-maned pony looked more terrified than resolute. Applejack allowed herself to be herded back towards the door by the Shadowbolts. “I’ll let Twilight explain,” she said.

Twilight Sparkle forced herself to remain calm as the Queen turned her piercing gaze upon her. She was ready – she’d practiced this presentation half a dozen times back in Manehattan, and had had plenty of time to set up the easel with her charts and diagrams while Nightmare Moon was eating. But as she stared into the angry blue eyes of the Nightmare, so unlike a pony’s, it occurred to her that Equestria’s new leader might be truly mad, in which case she was wasting her time trying to make her see reason.

Then again, maybe she wasn’t. Twilight forced herself to smile, and flipped from the cover sheet to the first of her diagrams, that showed a simplified flow-chart of Apples and Oranges’ supply lines. “As Applejack said, our company uses *fresh* ingredients, which naturally limits our ability to maintain a reserve of raw materials in case of a supply-chain incident. Certain staples can be preserved through magical and nonmagical means without compromising quality, but the core of our business consists of fresh fruits and vegetables…”

Once she’d started, it all just flowed. Twilight didn’t even need to glance at her notes as she moved easily from point to point – from Apples and Oranges’ supply problem, coming at the worst possible time as they’d been preparing to step up production to deal with the sudden spike in demand for comfort food as ponies tried to cope with the uncertainty of a new ruler. The replies they’d gotten from the farmers, when they set out to find the source of the delay. Twilight’s own research into plant growth and life cycle, confirming the blight as a global problem when she looked for signs of the same problem the farmers were experiencing in decorative and wild growth.

“What it all comes down to, your majesty, is that the plants of Equestria are not equipped to deal with the onset of eternal night. The gradual drop in temperature, combined with the sudden change in light levels, is killing them all. If things continue as they are, there will never be another harvest, and as we’ve already exhausted our supply of raw materials, and have no way to acquire more fresh produce since it *doesn’t exist*, our factory is shut down. You can’t have another pie because it doesn’t exist.”

Nightmare Moon stared at her, the only motion the slow swirling of her mane and tail. Twilight gave a wider grin, as she waited for a reaction.

Rarity broke the silence with a peal of laughter. “I should have known – the only thing that would get Applejack to take a break from her obsessive bit-collecting is the prospect of going bankrupt.”

Applejack whinnied, and stomped at the ground. “Some of us don’t have the luxury of waving our horns around and conjuring up bits from the ground. Some of us have to *build* our business instead of deciding how much of our capital we’re planning to throw away this month, pretending we’re princesses.”

“If you wanted bits from the ground, you should have stayed on the farm, silly,” Pinkie Pie said. “That’s how farms work!”

“Actually,” Twilight said, “most farms in Equestria barely break even –“ she stopped, and shook her head to clear it. “And this is completely missing the point!”

“The point that you want the Queen to raise the sun,” Rainbow Dash said, rolling her eyes. “Just like everypony else in Equestria.”

“The point is that the only reason everypony in Equestria isn’t running around in a mad panic is that they don’t understand how *bad* this is!” Twilight replied to the pegasus. She turned on Rarity. “Bankrupt? Really? That’s what you think this is about? The abrupt end of farming as a food source and you think we’re worried that we’re going to go *bankrupt*?” She turned back to Nightmare Moon. “Maybe you have a plan. Maybe you’re planning to fly overhead and rain down cotton candy, or magically make the plants grow by moonlight. Maybe you don’t have to raise the sun. But you need to do *something*!”

Twilight suddenly realized that Nightmare Moon was still staring at her, with an unreadable expression in her horrible dragon eyes. Her challenging posture melted, and her eyes went wide as she squeaked, “Please?” don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me!

Nightmare Moon took a deep breath, and stood up straighter. “No,” she said, the word seeming to echo off the open sky above her. She turned her head to look at Applejack. “Your pies will be missed.”

“That won’t be the only thing,” Applejack said, darkly. “The food we’ve stored will run out in a matter of months, and ask your Shadowbolts how hard the pegasi are already having to work to hold back the cold. Before a year is past you’ll be alone in a snow-covered wasteland.” She glanced at Rarity and added, “But maybe you’ll have a gem-encrusted palace to rule from.”

“Maybe she *likes* it lonely and cold,” Pinkie Pie suggested. “I mean, she’s from the moon.”

“Be quiet, all of you!” Nightmare Moon snarled, spreading her wings and rising into the air. If her previous proclamation had seemed unnaturally loud, what followed made it sound like a whisper. “Every word that squirms from your sun-loving faces disgusts me! *This* is what I’m meant to rule? A bunch of squabbling foals who expect me to wait on their every need? A thousand years of sunlight was a *crutch*, that Celestia provided so that you’d stay her adoring and loving subjects! Well, the sun is *gone*, and you little ponies had best find some way to live with the eternal night, or I will replace you with creatures that can!”

“Bats?” Pinkie Pie suggested, tilting her head. “No, wait, bats eat fruit. Or is that only fruit bats?”

“GET OUT!” Nightmare Moon bellowed, and dissolved into a tornado of blue mist that swirled around the throne room, sweeping up everypony in a dizzying whirlwind and dumping them roughly in a pile outside the ruined castle.

The doors slammed shut.