• Published 4th Jul 2022
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The Nail - Boltstrike58

In which Fizzlepop Berrytwist, the Element of Magic, must face her greatest challenge.

  • ...

Chapter Three: Home is Where the Heart is

The train ride back to Coronet Circle passed uneventfully. Fizz wore a Rarity-made coat to hide her wings and a hat to hide her stump of a horn, both things that would've given her away as Equestria's newest princess. She wasn't ashamed of her position, of course. She just preferred to go about her business without having ponies jumping all over her and asking for autographs. Fizz was no fool. She knew that, as a princess, she'd be expected to carry out royal duties, make public appearances, and things like that, but she wanted to be seen as a normal pony when possible.

Fizz sighed to herself as she recalled exactly where she was going. She wasn't worried about a bad reaction from her mother, of course. The two had never had a strained relationship, and Fizz knew Cherrybliss loved her. What worried Fizz was being recognized by other ponies in Coronet Circle. She hadn't been home since becoming Celestia's student for that exact reason. If Glitter Drops and Spring Rain were still there, they probably wouldn't be happy to see her.

The memories of her fillyhood were so vividly burned into Fizz's brain, she could recall them as if they'd occurred days ago. She recalled the days after the ursa attack, when her two best "friends" had flinched at the mere sight of her. Fizz didn't fully blame them for that, since they were just foals, and Fizz had been mutilated. But then they'd run away from her when her magic didn't work the same way anymore. It didn't take them long to find a replacement in their little group, and as far as Fizz knew, they'd carried out their goal of attending Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. She doubted they were happy when they'd found out the friend they'd abandoned had become the princess's star pupil. They probably thought Fizz was just a charity case or something.

Fizz was jolted from her thoughts as the train came to a complete stop. The conductor's voice came overhead, but she didn't hear it. She was too busy gathering what little she'd brought and cramming it back into her saddlebags. Making sure her hat didn't fall off, Fizz got off her seat and trotted to the door, dropping to the platform with a thump.

"No turning back now, I guess," she said to herself. She really needed to get out of that habit.

Fizz strolled out into the center of the small town, wings and broken horn fully visible, since she'd stuffed her disguise into her saddlebags. She'd debated the pros and cons of wearing it, and came to the conclusion that anypony would recognize her even with it. As much as she disliked the idea of being recognized, the idea of how ponies would respond if she tried to hide herself was worse.

The town square was empty. It wasn't usual, Coronet Circle was a small town, formed mostly of unicorns, though the occasional pegasus or earth pony lived there as well. Fizz was glad she didn't see anypony else, wanting to simply go to her mom's house, have a nice conversation, and go back to Ponyville.

"Hey, is that Fizz? Fizz, that you?!" came the call of a voice. A familiar voice.

Fizz had to bite her tongue in order to keep herself from groaning. She turned around very slowly, discovering exactly what she'd dreaded ever since she got here. Why did they have to stay in this town?

Glitter Drops and Spring Rain were both there, now adults, with Cutie Marks. They looked about the same as they did before, except larger. There was a third pony there, presumably the one they'd replaced Fizz with. She was a golden unicorn mare with a blond mane. Fizz swallowed, figuring she might as well get through this while she was here.

"Hey, girls," she said, giving a smile that she prayed was convincing. "I haven't seen you two in a while. How are you doing?"

"Oh, we're...good," replied Glitter Drops. She stumbled over her words, probably feeling some of the same awkwardness as Fizz did right now. "We heard about you becoming Princess Celestia's student and everything. And now you're...an alicorn."

Fizz stuck out one of her wings. "Yeah. Haven't really gotten used to these yet, but I'm working on it."

"So...you're a princess, too?" asked Spring Rain, her eyes glowing with what might've been awe.

"Yeah. The Princess of Friendship. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but—"

"Great, great. So anyway, we were wondering...would it be possible for you to put in a good word for us with Celestia?" asked the third mare. "We graduated from the school not too long ago, and we're looking for research jobs."

Fizz blinked a couple of times. "I'm sorry, what was your name?"

"Summer Skies," replied the unicorn.

Spring Rain took over. "Yeah, would you be able to help your friends out? I mean your real friends, not those ponies the princess assigned to hang out with you."

Fizz's jaw dropped, but she managed to compose herself. She'd expected that her old friends would be annoyed at her success, but not that they'd try to suck up to her like this.

"Yeah, we know you have to say they're your best friends to keep up appearances," said Glitter Drops, "but you grew up here. We're your real friends, and you'd do anything for us, right?"

It was an internal fight to stop Fizz from grinding her teeth in fury. Her horn stub sparked a couple of times, like it always did when she got angry. She took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, the way Applejack had taught her.

"First of all," she began, "those five are my best friends. It's not a publicity stunt. Second, we haven't spoken to each other in years, so what made you think I considered any of you my best friends? Especially after you ditched me when my horn broke. Sure, we were just kids, and maybe you didn't know how to support me, but you still abandoned me when I needed you. That's not what a friend does. Third, this blatant attempt to piggyback on my new status pisses me off." She pointed at Summer Skies. "I don't know you, so I'm willing to be a little lenient with you. But as for you two, you'd better stay away from me if you know what's good for you."

As she spoke, the three mares' jaws dropped further and further. Their eyes widened, and they looked genuinely shocked. Of course, that had been the effect Fizz was going for. Satisfied, she turned on her hoof and stomped away.

As she went, the three mares managed to regain some composure.

"So what? We're not good enough for you now that you're a princess?!" snapped Glitter Drops.

"Didn't say that," Fizz called over her shoulder, not even bothering to turn her head.

"Well, fine! You know Princess Celestia only took you on because she felt sorry for you, right?! You don't deserve those wings!"

There it was. Exactly what Fizz had been expecting. She kept going as the others continued to yell insults after her. They eventually stopped, probably because they realized it wasn't affecting her. She had a more important destination, anyway.

Fizz soon reached her fillyhood home, which looked exactly the same as it had before. The same pale white fence, the same plain brown walls, even the door was still painted blue. Here, the butterflies in her stomach began to flutter once again, but she shut them down quickly this time. Unlike with the other mares, she'd at least seen her mother since the day she'd tried to run away.

Tensing her body, Fizz raised one hoof and knocked on the door. There was silence for a few seconds, before she heard the clopping of hooves on hardwood floors and the jiggling of the lock, before the door finally opened.

"For the last time, I'm not interested in—" Cherrybliss began, only to freeze as she noticed who exactly was standing on her doorstep. She looked exactly the same as she always did. The same bright pink mane, though it was straight, unlike Pinkie's. The same blue coat, and the same deep green eyes.

"Hey, mom," said Fizz, putting on her most sincere smile. "Can I come in?"

"Of course you can, Fizzlepop," replied Cherrybliss, after she'd recovered. She stepped aside, allowing Fizz access to the house.

Fizz trotted in, and was immediately bombarded with a familiar swarm of sight, sounds, and smells. She remembered how the floor creaked before it actually did, the scent of the casserole that Cherrybliss was making yet again, and a small stain on the floor where she'd dropped the jam when she'd been practicing levitation. It was all the same, even though Fizz hadn't stepped into this house in years.

"Can I get you anything, dear? Water, soda?" asked Cherrybliss.

"Just some water would be nice," replied Fizz. "Do you mind if I sit down?"

"Absolutely not. Go ahead."

Fizz settled down into one of the old chairs set around the living room. The furniture hadn't been updated in this place since Fizz was a child, but she didn't care. She liked the older style, and it felt comforting to be reminded of her fillyhood. Cherrybliss came back into the room, levitating a glass of water.

"Here," she said, as she passed the glass over to Fizz. Fizz created her magic hand and grabbed it, pulling it towards her. She took a long sip. "I'm surprised to see you drop by. I thought you'd be busy with princess duties and things like that. Plus, I thought you didn't want anypony to see you around here anymore."

"I decided it was time to face my fears," replied Fizz. "As for the whole princess business, I don't exactly rule my own kingdom yet or anything, so I've still got some free time." She set her glass down on one of the coffee tables, making sure to slip a coaster under it. "To be honest, that's kind of the reason I'm here."

"I see," said Cherrybliss. Fizz was fairly certain that was a lie, but she didn't call it out. "So how's life been treating you, sweetie? I barely got the chance to talk to you at your coronation."

"Guess I can't really complain. I've been learning to fly, we haven't had any big Equestria-ending threats recently, and I've been spending time with my friends." She shuddered. "I suppose I should thank Celestia again for sending me to Ponyville in the first place. It was the first time in my life anypony treated me as a real friend."

Cherrybliss frowned. "Glitter Drops and Spring Rain give you a hard time when you got here?"

"How'd you know?"

Cherrybliss facehoofed. "Let's just say, ever since they got back from school, they've been saying some pretty rotten things about you. Garbage like the idea that you conned your way into becoming a princess. They're just jealous, of course, and few ponies take them seriously, but it still infuriates me."

Fizz groaned again. "They tried to get me to let them into Celestia's inner circle. They really do have no shame. How did I ever consider them friends?"

"It's not like you knew who they'd grow up to be. You were just a foal, anyway."

"Fair enough. Anyways, like I said, I came here because I wanted to talk to you about the whole princess thing."

Cherrybliss looked confused. "What do you mean?" she asked.

Fizz spread out her new wings. "See, Celestia didn't give me a warning or any indication that I could get these. It just sort of happened when I completed that old Star Swirl spell. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. It's just that I haven't fully figured out the ramifications of these wings yet. Celestia hasn't even told me what my role as the Princess of Friendship even means. I mean, yeah, I get that friendship is important and all. Without friendship, we wouldn't have the Elements of Harmony. But I don't understand what being the princess of it is supposed to mean."

Cherrybliss placed a hoof on her chin, looking thoughtful. "Princess Celestia didn't tell you what your new duties would be?"

"Not really. She said I had a part to play, and even she wasn't sure about the specifics. Luna probably knows even less, considering the whole thousand years in the moon thing." Fizz sighed, placing her face in her forehooves. "I love Celestia to death and everything, but she can be frustratingly vague sometimes."

"I suppose," replied Cherrybliss. "Not a day goes by that I don't thank her for being there when you ran away. I know you, you wouldn't have turned around. The things that could've happened to you..."

Fizz winced. Sure, she'd been totally set on abandoning everything she'd ever known that day, but after Celestia had brought her home, seeing the tears in her mom's eyes, her resolution had wavered. She long since apologized to Cherrybliss many times for her actions that day, but it was one of those things you never thought you'd fully make up for. She loved her mother dearly, and the thought that she'd hurt Cherrybliss left a heavy burden on her shoulders.

"I'm sorry I ran away, Mom," she said, for what had to be the thirtieth time.

"Like I told you, I forgive you, sweetie," insisted Cherrybliss. "You were just a filly. Besides, if you hadn't run away, you might not have met Celestia, and you might've had a hard time getting out of that rut you fell into when you lost your horn."

"Fair enough," replied Fizz. "Still, I'm not sure what I'm gonna do with the whole princess thing. Do I go around Equestria solving problems in everypony's friendships? Do I bring friendship to the friendless? At this point, I just don't know what I'm supposed to do."

Cherrybliss placed a soft hoof on her daughter's shoulder. "I wish I could just give you the answers you're looking for, honey," she said. "Though I'm sure you're aware I can't. What I do know is you were a kind-hearted filly who grew into a kind-hearted mare, and Princess Celestia couldn't have chosen a better pony to be the Princess of Friendship. I'm sure you'll figure out what you need to do in time."

Fizz smiled. As much as she loved Celestia, as well as her five best friends, there was just something about her mother's love that the solar alicorn couldn't compete against. Even if Cherrybliss couldn't solve her problems, it felt amazing just to be heard. She felt some of the weight on her back lift off.

"What about your friends?" Cherrybliss continued. "Do they have any idea about your role as a princess?"

"The thing about them is they all have different ideas about what being a princess means," said Fizz. "Rarity's all about the glamor, Fluttershy talks about being a friend to all your subjects, Applejack thinks it's about the work of running a country, Rainbow asked me how it feels to be the most awesome pony in Equestria, and Pinkie...well, let's just say that she would keep everypony's spirits up if she were a princess, and leave it at that. Not that any of their theories are bad, but I don't know if they're accurate."

Cherrybliss smiled. "Like I said, you're a smart mare. Even if it takes you a little bit of time, you'll find your purpose in due time. Besides, you have good friends to support and help you all the way."

"Yeah, you're probably right," replied Fizz. She looked over to the mantlepiece, looking over the old photos. "Have you heard from Dad recently?"

"No. I think the last time he ever spoke to me was right after you moved to Canterlot," said Cherrybliss. "I suppose we should count ourselves lucky he's not also trying to cash in on your new princess status."

"Yeah. I'm honestly surprised he hasn't done that. Or tried to get some of the allowance Celestia gives me." Fizz sighed to herself. "What is up with him, anyway?"

"Last I heard, he was working as a bartender in Manehattan to make ends meet," said Cherrybliss. "You know him leaving had nothing to do with you, right? He was just..."

"Don't worry, Mom. I barely remember Dad anyway, but I know he...wasn't really equipped to raise a foal. That doesn't justify him ditching you, of course. I think we're better off without him, though."

"Maybe you're right," replied Cherrybliss. "I just wish you'd had more support after you lost your horn."

"You did the best you could, Mom. It wasn't your fault I tried to run off. I just felt like my dreams were dead and I'd never belong among other ponies again. That had nothing to do with you."

Cherrbliss sighed. "Well, it's in the past," she said. "Do you want to stay for dinner? I could make it your favorite."

"No thank you," replied Fizz. "Celestia has us working on a case right now, and I don't want to leave the others to do it alone. I should probably get back to Ponyville."

"Alright. I understand." Cherrybliss got to her hooves, giving Fizz a long hug with one leg. "Make sure you take care of yourself, okay sweetie?"

"I promise, Mom," Fizz answered, simply.

With one last hug, Fizz parted from her mother and trotted out of the house, heading back towards the train station. She didn't feel confident enough to fly all the way back to Ponyville on her own stamina.

Fluttershy gently glided across Ponyville towards her cottage at the edge. The day had been an attempt to be productive for her and her best friends. They'd checked the Ponyville pawn shop for the materials stolen from Canterlot, but had no luck. They hadn't made any concrete plans for tomorrow, since Fizz wasn't there, but they planned to suggest to her that the group split up and check more pawn shops around Equestria. Rarity insisted she would check Manehattan, while Applejack wanted to visit Appleloosa.

She touched down in front of her home, and approached the door, gently pushing it open with one hoof.

"Angel?" Fluttershy called out. "I'm home! I know you wanted more lettuce, but I wasn't able to get it today. I promise, I'll buy it tomorrow, but until then—"

She froze in her tracks. The house itself was undisturbed, but Angel Bunny was cowering in the corner, along with several other animals. Even Beary looked terrified, and it didn't take long for Fluttershy to discover why.

Standing in the middle of the room was a unicorn mare. Her horn was sparking with loose magic, and it seemed to emit a darkness that chilled Fluttershy to the bone.

"You will do," said the mare, with a wide and horrifying grin.