• Published 28th Sep 2012
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Repercussions - GaryOak



None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free.

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Chapter IX - Aftermath

Chapter IX
Aftermath
===============

Twilight?” cried Mrs. Cake, staring at Twilight's disheveled mane and blood-matted coat as she trudged into the bakery's kitchen, Greyhoof in tow.

Twilight only shook her head as she ambled past, bloodshot eyes firmly fixed on the floor. A moment later, Mrs. Cake let out a high-pitched scream; she had just spotted Rainbow Dash's corpse, which Twilight levitated behind them.

“She's injured!” called Mrs. Cake shrilly. “Somepony, call a doctor!”

“She's dead!” bawled Scootaloo, who rode atop Pinkie. The pair of them brought up the rear. “Dead! DEAD!”

Mrs. Cake trembled violently. “N-n-now, Scootaloo, honey –”

“SHE'S DEAD, YOU STUPID FOOL! RAINBOW DASH IS DEAD!”

Pinkie's renewed wailing almost drowned out Scootaloo's screaming. Mrs. Cake wordlessly followed Pinkie out of the deserted Sugarcube Corner, forming a sort of crude funeral procession. When Twilight stepped out into the Ponyville streets, a torrent of confused cries and gasps from passersby assailed her. Because she was still stunned by what had happened scarcely an hour before, any words spoken sounded unintelligible as she pressed on.

Twilight didn't know why, but she felt the urge to take Rainbow to Sweet Apple Acres. There was something about that place – something simple and peaceful – that made it seem like a fitting final resting place for her. It's what she would've wanted... I know it. Twilight's thoughts halted abruptly when she almost crashed face-first into a solid wall of ponies blocking her path. She looked up. Vigilance stood over her, his piercing purple eyes glaring down at her.

“That pony is injured!” he said. “We need to take her to the hospital right away!”

“She's dead,” muttered Twilight, her voice hollow. “I'm taking her to Sweet Apple Acres. Move.”

Shock surged through everypony in front of her.

“Did she say 'dead'?”

“What in the name of Celestia?”

“Who could've done such a thing?”

“In that case, I will take her body for investigation,” said Vigilance, loudly enough to be heard over the crowd.

Still not forgiving him for his mistreatment of Greyhoof – even if he was just following the Mayor's orders – Twilight scowled at him. “You won't lay a hoof on her. Get out of my way.” She would have moved him aside with magic, but was forced to hold back on account of her keeping Rainbow afloat.

“No, you will surrender the body to me; the Mayor will want a full investigation. Did you find the other bodies?”

“That will not be necessary,” said Greyhoof. “All will be revealed if you step aside and follow us. The other bodies are located deep in the cellar of Sugarcube Corner. They can be buried at the graves the Mayor had you prepare yesterday. A few pegasi should inform the rest of the town of what has happened, and tell them to rendezvous at the farm immediately.”

“Ah-ha!” shouted Vigilance. “A confession at last!”

Greyhoof's eyes narrowed into a dangerous pair of searing orange slits. “If you are suggesting I did this, then I have no problem casting you into the very tower I was falsely imprisoned in.” Blue sparks began to crackle along his horn. “Can't you see they're in pain? Get out of the way and let us grieve properly, before I make you.”

Vigilance nervously looked first at Pinkie and Scootaloo, each sobbing as hard as the other; then at Rainbow's mangled corpse; then at Twilight, who stared at him with a mixture of grief and fury; and finally at Greyhoof, whose horn glowed brighter every second. “Fine,” he said, backing away.

“You've made the right choice,” said Greyhoof, allowing the magic around his horn to dissipate.

The procession continued to grow as it drew closer to the farm. The hubbub grew until Twilight's ears felt like they were full of a loud buzzing. Constantly on the verge of tears, her bleary gaze was set firmly on the farm ahead, which had just come into view. The setting sun cast everything into a blood red glow.

Red... like all the innocent blood that's been spilled, and the haze in Pinkie's eyes... Who did this to her, and why? Whoever it was certainly had powerful magic, but I just can't accept that it could've been the Princess. Twilight felt an apple-sized lump in her throat. I've known her for so long, and she's the most kind and caring pony in all of Equestria. I refuse to believe this is her true nature... But that doesn't explain how Pinkie was controlled by the spell. She was so engrossed in her thoughts, she failed to notice Applejack's frantic approach.

“What in tarnation is going on?” demanded Applejack, staring at the horde of ponies. Then she saw Rainbow Dash's body. Her jaw dropped and she rushed to Rainbow, grabbing her cheeks and looking into her lifeless face. “Rainbow! Say something!”

The procession halted as Applejack uselessly tried to coax her friend into waking up. Applejack stood there, stunned, as tears began to flow from her eyes unchecked. “Twi... what happened? Who did this to Rainbow?”

Twilight looked up at Applejack, unable to find words. Staring at Applejack, Greyhoof walked approached Twilight, his expression grim and unmoving, like that of a statue. His eyes flickered coldly. “We will explain once everypony has arrived at the farm,” he stated in a monotone.

Applejack threw her hat on the ground, raising a small dust cloud from the impact. “No! That ain't good enough, Grey! RD's been –”

Greyhoof held up a silencing hoof. “I'm sorry, but I don't think any of us want to utter the tale of what happened more than once. I have already instructed pegasi to inform the rest of the town to meet us. With any luck, they won't keep us waiting for long.” His ears drooped as he looked at her, his face lined with anguish. “I'm sorry, I really am. I promise you and everypony will know once we're gathered at the farm.”

Applejack grunted and grabbed her hat, slamming it on her head without bothering to adjust it. The column of ponies resumed their trudge toward the farm as the sun continued its slow descent in their wake. Once they arrived, Applejack set up a few empty apple crates to serve as a podium beside a large tree stump, upon which Twilight laid Rainbow's body.

Twilight stood on the crates and slumped forward, unable to look at the corpse of her friend, instead staring into space. After a few seconds, she spotted the Mayor, accompanied by Jim Beam, galloping up the road toward the crowd of ponies forming around the stump. The crowd murmured uneasily and jockeyed for a good look at the body.

Once the Mayor arrived, Jim forced a path through the crowd, and she approached the stump where the others were gathered. “What in Equestria has happened here?” demanded the Mayor. “Is she...?”

Greyhoof nodded at the Mayor, fixing his gaze upon her. “I'm afraid so. All will be explained when the rest of Ponyville gets here.”

The Mayor blanched. “And the murderer?”

“She has been dealt with,” assured Greyhoof, the fire in his eyes steadily rising.

The next few minutes felt like the longest in Twilight's life. She could see the Mayor standing over them, shaking her head as she unsuccessfully attempted to fathom what had happened. Twilight could also hear the murmuring and perturbed shuffling of many hooves as the crowd's unrest escalated. The conflict of relief and apprehension came on full-force when a small group of ponies came into view on the horizon, Fluttershy and Rarity among them. The crowd once again parted to allow them to make their way to the front. Both ponies froze when they saw Rainbow Dash laying on the stump.

“I believe that is everypony,” said the Mayor, surveying the crowd. “Now, for the love of Celestia, tell us, what has happened?”

Twilight stood up and tried several times to speak, the words catching in her throat each time. “Everypony,” said Twilight, finally able to overcome her speechlessness. “You all know why we're here. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Greyhoof and I didn't figure out who the killer was until it was too late. There was nothing we could have done.”

The crowd fell deathly quiet when Twilight finished speaking, giving Rainbow Dash a moment of silence.

“Who did it?” asked the Mayor in hushed tones. “If you know, tell us. The culprit must meet justice.”

Twilight shuddered. “You have to understand, it's not as cut and dried as that. Before I reveal her, I beg of everypony here to not hold her responsible for this. It wasn't her fault.”

“Enough!” shouted the Mayor. “Who was it?”

Twilight felt as if two powerful forces were playing tug-of-war with her insides. One was the urge to do the right thing and explain the situation to everypony. They have a right to know, no matter how much it hurts. The other was the powerful instinct to shelter her friend at all costs. Look at Pinkie now... knowing what really happened is going to kill her. Her mouth opened and closed several times, no sound escaping from it. Her lips trembled and she felt like retching.

Finally, she took a deep breath. She bit her lower lip, and prepared to say what would be perhaps the most painful two words of her life. “Pinkie Pie.”

WHAT?” screamed the multitude. Of thee screams, Pinkie's distraught shriek was by far the loudest of them all.

“No, no, no, no! It couldn't have been me!” Pinkie looked down at her hooves in horror. “I'd never –”

Scootaloo fell off Pinkie's back. “You? You? You? YOU? You did this?” She got up, her confusion quickly boiling into fury. “You'll pay for what you did to Rainbow!” She scrambled to her hooves before lunging at her.

“Scootaloo, no!” shouted Twilight, restraining the filly with her magic. “Please! It wasn't her fault. Pinkie was not herself.”

“Murder is murder!” spluttered the Mayor, taking a purposeful step toward Pinkie. “Pinkie Pie has the blood of five innocent ponies on her hooves!” She turned to Jim and Vigilance. “Seize her!”

Greyhoof's horn crackled with power as he placed himself directly between them and Pinkie. “Not a single step closer,” he commanded, his eyes burning like wildfire. “The situation must be made clear to all of you before judgment can be passed, something I would have thought would be obvious after the grievous error of imprisoning me.”

His eyes following the stallions as they scurried back behind the Mayor, Greyhoof cleared his throat. “Twilight, please, stop me if you wish to explain this yourself. Until then, I will in your stead.” He released his grasp on his magic, allowing the energies to dissipate. “We are dealing with something far beyond the likes of mere depraved murder. It is true Pinkie Pie did not act of her own accord; she was under the influence of another.”

“What? How? Whose influence?” asked the Mayor, her voice shaking.

“I don't know,” said Greyhoof, shaking his head. “What is known is that this was the work of potent mind control magic. Pinkie was completely ignorant of her actions, and likely has no memory of what she did whilst under its dominion. Who commands that sort of power and who would use it to such an end is another matter entirely.”

A fresh wave of tears rolled down Pinkie's cheeks as she stared at her hooves. “It can't be true! Can... it?” she sobbed. “One minute, I was going out of Sugarcube Corner for some fresh air, and then – and then. And then I was in the cellar, covered in blood, with D-D-Dashie l-l-laying on the t-table!” After barely managing to choke out those last few words, Pinkie curled up into a ball, bawling uncontrollably.

Twilight released Scootaloo, eyeing her with caution. When she felt sure the filly had herself under control, Twilight looked to the crowd, the tears in her eyes glimmering in the setting sun. “Everything Greyhoof said is true. I promise each and every one of you that I will stop at nothing to discover who was behind this.”

The Mayor's eyes narrowed. “Very well, but I still demand action. Mind control or no, she did what she did.”

“Lay a hoof on Pinkie and you'll regret it!” seethed Twilight. “Whoever did this to her would want us to infight and persecute innocents like this! I am going to report what has happened to Princess Celestia. She will see sense and won't punish Pinkie. Look at her! Hasn't she already suffered enough?”

Pinkie looked up from her hooves and stared blankly at Twilight before eventually looking at the Mayor. “I'm trying to remember who did this to me, but every time I close my eyes, all I can see is blood. I – I can't make it stop!”

Twilight bit her lip before beginning to explain at length how she and Greyhoof had begun their deduction process. She told them everything – with the exception of her dreams – and how they figured out the possibility of mind control and its potential effects. When she finished, the crowd of ponies formed a long line and took it in turns to pay their final respects for Rainbow Dash before heading home.

The Mayor paused as she turned to leave. “What about the others? Did you find –”

“We found them,” said Greyhoof. “We left them in the bakery's cellar. Seeing as you gave them a proper funeral yesterday, all that remains is for them to be laid to rest.”

She stared blankly into the distance. “Yes, yes, I suppose you're right. Vigilance, Jim, you know what to do,” she said before trudging off into the sunset.

By the time the last of the crowd had left Sweet Apple Acres, only the tip of the sun was visible above the trees, leaving just Twilight, Pinkie, Fluttershy, Rarity, Applejack, Greyhoof, and Scootaloo with the body. Scootaloo finally picked herself and walked determinedly over to Rainbow Dash, picking up one of her lifeless front legs and caressing her own cheek with it.

“Rainbow Dash,” said Scootaloo, her expression one of stony resolve, “I promise I'll make this up to you, somehow...”

A magenta glow surrounded Rainbow as Twilight picked her up and began walking toward an empty field in Sweet Apple Acres, the others following in her wake. She walked until they reached the middle of the field, with little else around them. It was here that she laid Rainbow's body solemnly on the ground.

“Here,” said Applejack, indicating a flat patch of earth. “I think this is as good a place as any.”

Twilight began digging at the ground with her hooves, electing not to use magic. Everypony else quickly joined her and formed an unspoken agreement to use nothing but their bare hooves to dig. When a sizable hole was created, Twilight lifted Rainbow with her hooves, and was joined by the others to ensure that no part of her body dragged across the ground. They gently rested her in the hole and began to bury her slowly.

When their task was done, Fluttershy found a hefty stone and began pushing it. It proved difficult, but the ponies' combined strength was enough to move it into position. Twilight then began using her horn to carve something into the rock. After she finished, she stepped to allow the others to see what she had written.

Here lies Rainbow Dash. Legendary flier and the most brave, loyal friend a pony could ask for.

Scootaloo knelt down atop the grave. “Why – couldn't – she – die – a Wonderbolt...” she sobbed.

The grieving ponies went their separate ways, with Fluttershy accompanying Scootaloo in an attempt to console her. Greyhoof and Twilight began heading back to the library as the last glimmers of light gave way to nightfall.

“You realize what this means,” said Greyhoof grimly.

“No, I can't accept that,” replied Twilight, avoiding Greyhoof's piercing gaze. “I'm going to write the Princess tonight. She'll surely be able to shed some light on all of this.”

“I hope you're right,” said Greyhoof. “You remember how I told you of stories similar to what we went through centuries past? Don't forget this is the first time in recorded history it has been stopped. Who knows what will happen next?”

Twilight's head snapped to the right as her eyes locked on Greyhoof's troubled face. “What do you mean?”

He met her stare for a second before he resumed looking ahead. “Isn't it obvious? Whatever the task that was laid out for Pinkie is likely incomplete, as we freed her from the spell prematurely. What will the puppeteer's next move be?”

Twilight gasped. “You mean – they might come after us?”

“Possibly,” mused Greyhoof as they neared the end of their journey. “As I have said, only time will tell. If he or she deems that we know too much, then all of us could be the next targets. Regardless, the best we can do for now is to try and get some sleep.”

Swallowing nervously, Twilight tried to relax as she opened the library door. “Easier said than done, at least in my case.”

After locating a blank scroll from amidst the clutter on the floor, Twilight began to write.

Dear Princess Celestia,

I have the most terrible news to report. The nightmares I'd been having warned of death to come. It was true. All of it was true. Today, one of my greatest friends, Rainbow Dash, was murdered by another of my closest friends, Pinkie Pie. Pinkie was clearly under the influence of potent mind control magic. If not for the efforts of another unicorn and myself, she would have likely continued her murder spree until she herself was killed. Furthermore, when I broke the spell, she had no idea where she was or what she was doing. She did not realize until hours after the fact when I told her Rainbow Dash died by her hoof, and she was more appalled than anypony else.

The Mayor of Ponyville wants to exact punishment on Pinkie for what she has done, but I argue that the one who charmed Pinkie should be brought to justice. I fervently hope that you can shed some light on this situation, as there have been other situations similar to this one centuries ago. It is only now that mind control has been uncovered as the reason behind them. Rainbow was not the only innocent life claimed by this atrocity; four other ponies were killed before she was. Can you please help us?

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle

Twilight nodded as she rolled up the scroll and laid it beside her. “I hate to disturb Spike at such an hour, but I'm going to get him to send this and I will tell him everything.”

“You don't mean to relive such pain again so soon?” exclaimed Greyhoof. “Surely the dragon can wa–”

“No, he deserves to know,” said Twilight, purposefully walking up the stairs, the scroll floating beside her.

After gently waking the sleeping Spike, Twilight began to explain everything at length, starting from the beginning and leaving nothing out. When she at long last finished her recount, Spike sent the letter and she trudged back down the stairs.

Twilight collapsed next to Greyhoof, and absent-mindedly retrieved Ancient Equestria from its shelf, and opened it. Perhaps out of a desire to remove themselves from reality, or in hopes of gleaning some hidden truth about the Princess, both began to read through the book. They read of the rise and fall of alliances between the pony tribes, the Great Griffon Invasion, and even the Dragon Wars.

“It sure has changed. Equestria, I mean,” said Twilight, reflecting on a particular story involving the pegasi warring against the unicorns, which was believed to be fought because of a month-long downpour.

“Indeed,” said Greyhoof.

They continued reading until they got to the section of the book with the missing pages.

“Do you think...?” said Greyhoof, arching an eyebrow.

“Maybe one of these missing stories has a clue,” said Twilight. She began remembering the stories that she had read. First, the broken story of The Scourge that involved some unknown evil attempting to wipe out all the zebras. Then she remembered the story of Cosmo, a great and wise King – struck down by Celestia and Luna – all for control of Equestria. “You don't think King Cosmo has anything to do with this?”

Greyhoof's eyes widened. “What?”

“Well, according to that story, the Princesses murdered the King, who was innocent, right? Maybe there's some sort of connection...” said Twilight more to herself than Greyhoof.

“I see,” said Greyhoof. “I thought you were steadfastly adverse to such theories.”

Twilight glared at him. “Do you think I want to believe it? I can't just sit here and be ignorant to that possibility. The type of magic that we dealt with down in that cellar... I don't think I know anypony powerful enough to wield it.”

“Except Princess Celestia,” finished Greyhoof.

“There has to be a better explanation than that – but I can't think of one.” Twilight slumped forward.

Further speculation was interrupted by a loud belch and a plume of green flame from upstairs. A scroll drifted down to the floor below. It was scarcely floating in the air for more than a second before Twilight yanked it down to her and began to read.

My faithful student Twilight,

I think somepony has been reading too many mystery novels! Please, inform the Mayor to carry out the appropriate justice on the offending earth pony in question. Had it not occurred to you that the pony was merely putting on an act to avoid justice? Everypony knows the old laws. Ensure that this is carried out immediately. Furthermore, please refrain from bothering me about your bad dreams; I am quite busy preparing for the Summer Sun Celebration in Canterlot.

Your teacher, Princess Celestia

“I – I don't understand...” said Twilight, her eyes filling with tears. “I've never seen her act this way before...”

“What did it say?” asked a paling Greyhoof.

She wordlessly passed Greyhoof the letter. She watched as his eyes widened while he read the scroll, before finally letting it flutter to the floor in front of them. “It's not good,” she said softly.

“I think we should sleep on this,” said Greyhoof, beginning to climb the stairs.

“But –”

“Look, I can only begin to understand what you're going through, but worrying about this now gets us nowhere,” he said, reaching the top of the stairs. “We're both exhausted, and we've been through a rough week to say the least. We can get a better grasp of what we're truly dealing with tomorrow.”

Twilight sighed and slouched up the stairs after him. “You're right. Tomorrow, then. After we pay Pinkie a visit. I'm sure that what we've been through is nothing compared to what she's going through now.”

Greyhoof climbed into bed and customarily curled up into a ball without bothering to tuck himself in. “Tomorrow.”

When Twilight climbed into bed, she stared at the ceiling, and images of Pinkie and Rainbow's time together began to run through her mind. They'd bonded over their love of pranking, and Rainbow had always gotten a gleam in her eye when Pinkie started her antics, even when she was acting too “cool” to laugh at them. Now, Pinkie would never be able to talk to Rainbow about her new pranks, would never again see her face light up with the laughter she cherished so much. Twilight closed her eyes to try to stop the painful memories, but it did her no good; all she could see was Rainbow's smiling face shining brightly in her mind's eye.

Twilight's thoughts then turned to the times she herself had had with Rainbow – all the way back from the bridge in the Everfree Forest when they had set out to stop Nightmare Moon so long ago, to the climb up Smokey Mountain to ask the sleeping dragon to relocate, to their battles with Discord and Queen Chrysalis. Her loyalty and friendship helped see Twilight and her friends through those ordeals, but now all that remained of Rainbow was a memory.

She reminisced about Cloudsdale, and when Rainbow had bravely saved Rarity's life by performing the Sonic Rainboom for only the second time. Twilight then remembered the first occurrence of it was what had helped her discover her true talent for magic. It was how Spike had hatched, and how she had earned her cutie mark. Twilight looked at her flank. She couldn't believe Rainbow was gone.

If I'd been smarter and figured this out sooner, she'd still be alive. The thought hit her with the force of a locomotive. I could have prevented this... How can I face everypony after today? How can I forgive myself? She curled into a fetal position as the guilty thoughts pelted her like a hailstorm. She felt as if they somehow cut into her, rending her flesh like the blades used to kill Rainbow. Suddenly, she sat up. No, not like this. She wouldn't want it.

Rainbow Dash was brave and strong, always ready for the next daring adventure or physics-defying aerial stunt. Her fierce devotion to her friends and her competitive spirit had become a positive influence on Twilight. It had showed her the values of being loyal to her friends and sticking by them, through thick and through thin. I'll never forget you, as long as long as I live, she thought, staring at her mark once again. This cutie mark, no, all of our marks, are a permanent reminder of you and your bravery. Thank you for everything, Rainbow Dash.