• Published 13th Dec 2012
  • 1,629 Views, 47 Comments

Kickin' Flanks - Xtralife



You see them saving Equestria. You watch them learning about friendship. You might even worship one as your immortal royal sun goddess. You think they're ponies just like you. You're wrong. Dead wrong!

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2 - Too Long, Not Reading

Dash gritted her teeth, speeding across the fields and meadows between Fluttershy’s cottage and Ponyville. Her trademark rainbow streak carved a path through the dandelions, leaving them bare in her wake. Under normal circumstances she might have considered the whole scene picturesque, or possibly “straight-up awesome,” but her mind was elsewhere.

“I told myself I would stay up!” she yelled aloud. “How could I have overslept two times in a row? Am I losing it, or what?”

After her friends had pinned her to the cobblestones, Rainbow recalled that the royal guards surrounding them had split up and fanned out into Ponyville. Once they had gone, her friends warily let Dash get up again. Rainbow felt a pang of humiliation as she saw in her mind’s eye the faces of her companions change. They had been determined and ready to tackle her again to prevent Dash from lashing out and making the situation worse, but when the cyan pegasus merely sat there, even Pinkie became crestfallen.

From there the rest had been kind of blurry. Rainbow didn’t remember how her friends got her to get up and walk with them back to Fluttershy’s place or much of the conversation between them during the trek. There had been a lot of things like “I do hope Spike and Owlowiscious are alright,” and “Twilight couldn’t have actually done anything, could she?” and “We have to visit her as soon as we can,” but nothing truly concrete had been discussed. What she did remember was that by the time they reached the cabin a note had been tacked to the door, signed by Princess Celestia. It was full of apologetic comments and some complicated language to fully express her regret (at this, Dash couldn’t help but snort loudly and mutter some obscenely foul language, the least of which was something to the effect of the Princess eating horse-apples). What she did recollect was a few lines at the bottom outlining some specific regulations, stating that they could not visit Twilight before she boarded the nine o’clock train to Manehattan Correctional Facility, but instead only after she arrived at eleven. Furthermore, the library was entirely off limits. The princess ended the letter by commenting that breaking either of these rules would not only disappoint her, but be grounds for a permanent expulsion into Everfree Forest for Twilight and whoever was spotted violating these commands.

However, it was now at least seven, and Rainbow Dash had many unanswered questions.

The pegasus made a sharp curve upwards into a cloud bank and wriggled inside, snug amongst the clumps. She then dug with her hoof at the bottom of the cloud, and poked her head through. Beneath Rainbow Dash lay Ponyville, strangely devoid of most regular inhabitants, but amongst the streets Canterlot guards marched with precise timing in pre-planned patterns. Dash wriggled her wings loose and thrust the cloud in the direction of Twilight’s library, then pulled them back in to let inertia take over.

“These guards are everywhere!” she whispered to herself. “I get that the library is a crime scene, but why is all of Ponyville locked down?” Dash cursed again at her tardiness, but stopped herself as a pair of guards flew past her little cloud. She gulped and thought they surely had heard her, but neither of them noticed and continued onward. Rainbow considered that perhaps the cloud muffled the sound. After the two guards were well out of sight, Rainbow stuck her head back out to survey the scene again. The library was closer now, but the patrols seemed to be thicker there, both on the ground and in the air. She pulled herself into the cloud and continued to float onward.

After some time, bored of scratching out games of tic-tac-toe against herself on the inside of the cloud, the pegasus pushed her face down through the base and found herself a few feet above the top balcony of Twilight’s abode. Unfortunately it was also manned by a Canterlot guard, peering intently through the ornate telescope bolted to the railing. Dash noted that the telescope belonged to Twilight.

With a sickening crunch, the guard’s face smacked right into the wooden bar, propelled by Dash’s hooves slamming down on the back of his helmet. The stallion’s head ricocheted backwards and he fell to the deck, passed out and unaware of what just hit him. Rainbow’s multi-colored tail swept over the unconscious guard as she strode purposefully to the trapdoor into the library, hooked her hoof into the iron handle, and pulled up. To Rainbow Dash’s surprise, it actually opened.

“Ha! These idiots didn’t lock the doors! I guess all the security is for show, right?” She nodded in the direction of the stallion, who did not respond. “Oh, right, I knocked your flank out, didn’t I?”

Dash let the trapdoor fall down on its own, entering the library for the first time in weeks. Her face scrunched up as she scrutinized the situation, and she floated out into the center of the main room. Although it wasn’t completely unrecognizable, it was definitely uncharacteristic of Twilight’s home. A large portion of the books that adorned the shelves were missing, and as Rainbow glided by the remainder to read the titles, all that was left were texts with dry names like “Principa Friendshipica,” “The Key of Salerno,” and “The Biography of Marecom X.” The confused pegasus did not dare to open any of the tomes, fearing excessive boredom and un-coolness.

As she lightly moved away from the bookshelves, she turned her attention to what looked like a makeshift table. It was covered partially by a tablecloth so that a very neatly stacked rectangular pile of books was visible. Dash dropped down and lifted the sheet a bit, then recoiled in horror as she saw the cover of a Daring Do paperback.

“But—but—but Twilight takes care of her books!” she sputtered, incapable of processing what lay before her. The pegasus pulled the novel off of the stack with her mouth and turned it over and over in her hooves, scrutinizing every inch. “Why would she do something like—!” Rainbow Dash gasped loudly. Running through the entire book was a giant coffee mug stain, soaked from the top page through to the bottom. She groaned in exasperation, dropped the book, and shoved it aside. “I was going to borrow that one! Twilight has a lot to answer for!”

Rainbow took a couple of deep breaths to compose herself, and then looked at what was on the surface itself, wondering why her friend would ever sacrifice her precious books (even if she had a clear preference for non-fiction) for the sake of a temporary table. Strewn across it was a scale map of Ponyville marked with circles of various colors. Dash noted that the most circles were on buildings in the shopping district, with some structures having more than one. What the circles and their different colors meant, however, the pony was incapable of determining. Growing tired of this particular oddity, she decided instead to investigate a heap of parchment nearby. Dash pulled a random sheet from the stack.

“Spotted five in all today,” Dash slowly read aloud. “To my shock and horror, I discovered that Lyra was amongst them now. I was forced to speak with her at great length on the upcoming cider season… Luna help me, I had to look into her eyes! Those terrible, soulless—“

Dash chucked the note over her shoulder. “Too long, not reading.”

As she discarded the paper, she strode away to find something easier or shorter to investigate, and hit her snout against something hard. Falling back on her haunches and rubbing her face, she opened her eyes and looked upwards.

“Oh.”

The culprit had been one of Twilight’s chalkboards, scribbled across from corner to corner with calculations and formulas, as was typical of the unicorn. However, the center had been wiped away, and something had been written in comparably neat text in the leftover space.

"All we see and all we seem is but a dream within a dream… Edgar Allan Pony,” she whispered, and clutched the sides of her head with her hooves in frustration.

“I don’t get it! I just don’t get any of it!” growled Rainbow, squeezing her eyes shut again. “I just have to find Twilight and ask her what the deal is with all of this… this stuff myself!”

Dash got up slowly, jumped into the air and floated back towards the staircase, vastly annoyed. She passed by table, the bookshelves, and another pony. The pegasus halted mid-air, then whirled back around to see just a wooden bust of some unnamed stallion.

The pegasus stretched out her bottom eyelid and stuck out her tongue. “What’cha lookin’ at, huh? You and your, uh, your face, and your neck halfway off— wait, neck halfway off?”

Dash flicked the bust and the head folded back, revealing a giant red button underneath. Smiling gleefully, Rainbow pressed the button with her hoof.

“Oh, this is gonna be good.”

One of the bookshelves began rumbling, and slowly slid to one side. Dash’s grin grew as the opening widened more and more, until she just couldn’t help herself and she charged right in, giggling uncontrollably.

“Twilight, you crazy filly! You had a secret room all this time and you never told us about it? This is like, the coolest thing you’ve ever done! I gotta see what kind of rad stuff you have in—“

The mare stopped herself and the smile slid right off her face.

“Here…”

The room, though massive and most definitely secret (which Dash admitted to herself was awesome in its own right) was entirely empty except for a small cardboard box. It had tipped to one side and a pile of cheap sunglasses was strewn around the opening. The pony sighed in disappointment. She had thought that Twilight would do something awesome with a secret room, or at least have a clue to what was going on hidden inside it. What Rainbow Dash did not need heaped on top of her extra questions and utter dissatisfaction was a pair of low-grade shades.

“That’s it, I’m out of here. This is getting lamer by the second. Stick a fork in me, because I am SO done with this.”

She turned around to leave, strode a few steps, and paused.

“And I’m taking these stupid things with me for my trouble.”

She grabbed a pair of sunglasses with her teeth and flew back to the staircase, slamming the trapdoor behind her. The pegasus tucked the shades behind her ears and under her mane, then jumped into the air. However, something seemed off. She hung there above the balcony for a few moments until suddenly it hit her, and she fell back to the wooden terrace in surprise.

“Dude! Where’s my cloud?”

The cloud in question was nowhere to be seen. In fact, the sky was now entirely clear. The mare continued to gape for a few seconds, not capable of wrapping her brain around the situation. She had broken into and entered a crime scene (though Dash wondered whether it was “breaking in” when the entrance was unlocked), tampered with evidence, and to top it all off she had assaulted an officer of the law. She paced back and forth, thinking aloud.

“Oh pony feathers, I’m really in hot water now! There’s no way I can get out of here without being seen if I don’t have that cloud! Did the wind blow it away?” Dash licked a hoof and held it up in the air. “Okay, yes, it was the wind, but now what?” She looked across town to the clock tower, a magnificently tall structure visible from every corner of town, and subsequently squealed.

“Ohmygoshohmygoshit’seightforty!” she cried out. “There’s no way I can get to the train station without being seen! Oh, what am I going to do? I can’t just walk in there—“

Rainbow Dash spotted the unconscious guard out of the corner of her eye, and smirked.

“Or maybe I can!”

With some effort, the mare rolled the guard over onto his stomach and yanked off his helmet. A small dust cloud erupted from underneath, and Rainbow wheezed as she placed it on her own head.

“Sweet Celestia,” coughed Rainbow, “do they ever take these things off?” She waved away the lingering filth in the air and set to work on the chest armor, loosening the straps on the side. After rolling the guard over a few times to reach each set of clasps and to get him out of the breastplate itself, Dash wriggled into the armor and tightened the fastenings back up with her teeth.

“Oh, this is just too gross,” she moaned. “It’s all sweaty inside.”

Fighting the urge to retch by imagining what Rarity’s reaction would have been, Dash leaped from the top of the library tree and landed safely before the front door. Without looking back, or even acknowledging the library’s existence at all, she began to trot stiffly down a nearby street. Windows that she passed by closed immediately and any ponies out in the open ran for cover when they saw her coming. Dash nearly broke character to reassure them that it was just her, but she quickly inferred that blowing her cover would be detrimental to her goal. After a fifth filly had ducked behind a trash can to hide, Rainbow figured that perhaps they wouldn’t have believed her anyway. The populace was far too scared to listen to reason.

Rainbow reached an intersection, but instead of striding directly through, it looked around to either side. At first it seemed to be clear, but she heard the clacking of hooves against the cobblestone and flattened herself against a wall just in time to see a guard barreling down the lane. Dash compared the likelihood of being caught in her disguise by any of the jumpy townsfolk versus any calm and collected sentry, and thanked her lucky stars as the guard continued down to the next intersection without noticing the cyan pegasus. She peered around the corner and watched as the officer that nearly spotted her met up with two more guards, who then galloped away back in the direction of the library. Although she had to gulp down the fear in her throat when she saw which way they were going, Dash readjusted her helmet and proceeded through the crossroads, putting extra stiffness into her pace until she goose-stepped her way through.

“See?” said the pegasus to herself reassuringly, “This is easy! It’s a piece of cake! A… a cakewalk!” She giggled in spite of herself. “Now all I have to do is get on that train, and I’m home free!“

“Hold it!”

“What?”

“I said hold it!”

Having been lost in self-congratulatory glee, Rainbow didn’t notice that she had finally made her way to the train station. While the security there was far lower than she had expected (Rainbow surmised that the majority of the guards had instead absconded to the library tree), she had not hidden herself in time and was now being spoken to by one of the guards. This one was stationed in front of the entrance to the train itself, and he did not look pleased.

“Ma’am, you need to clear out of here. This train is set to carry a prisoner from Ponyville to Manehattan Correctional Facility in the next ten minutes, and… and are you wearing a guard’s uniform?”

“What?” asked Dash, looking side to side. “Oh, yeah, right. I’m reporting for duty, sir!”

The officer looked over her quizzically. “I haven’t received any orders for new recruits, and even if you were, you should have arrived hours ago. Furthermore, you’re clearly not adhering to our rigorous mane and coat dyeing regulations. I’m going to need you to come with me to speak with the captain.”

Dash froze. “The… the captain?”

“That’s right. If you’re lucky, he might give you a citation instead of janitorial work, if you are the pony you say you are.”

The cyan pegasus gulped. A fleeting thought occurred to her to simply knock out the stallion and whoever else might come running, but she had already done that once and didn’t want to push her luck. For reasons she couldn’t put her hoof on, she also had the strange feeling that this was not going to turn out as badly as she expected. Opposing her fight-or-flight urges, Dash found herself being escorted by the guard into the train station’s office. It was a rustic, wooden building, reminiscent of Appleloosa in some ways, like the horseshoes hung above the entryway and the iron bars meant to separate the ticket booth from the rest of the room. The guard opened a door in the back, motioning for Rainbow to enter first. This room was furnished in a similar way, but in the center was a weathered solid wooden desk, and a green executive chair turned backwards.

“Sir, this mare says she’s been assigned to protect the prisoner transport train. I’m not buying it. It’s fairly obvious that she’s lying and has some kind of ulterior motive.”

“Ah, my new recruit has arrived! Welcome aboard, miss!” said Shining Armor as he turned around in his chair and held out his hoof. “And your timing is punctual! I would expect nothing less.”

Dash shook his hoof awkwardly. “You’ve been expect—“ she started, but Shining Armor winked clandestinely, and the mare’s eyes widened. “I mean, of course! I’m a loyal soldier of Princess Celestia, and it’s an honor to serve!” She pulled her hoof away from Shining Armor and raised it in a salute.

“But she’s… she can’t… just look at her!” blurted the guard. “Her coat hasn’t been bleached and her mane and tail are every color of the rainbow! Sir, she can’t possibly be a new draft!”

“What are you talking about? She’s closely followed our dress code to the letter!” said Armor, closing in on the overwhelmed and very confused guard.

Rainbow snickered, but held her salute as best as she could. “I read the code front to back for hours until I memorized it, sir!”

“And you have done a fine job, ma’am.” Shining Armor nodded in the direction of the mare, but quickly turned his attention to the guard, whose bewilderment had been steadily growing. Armor looked into his subordinate’s eyes. “As for you…” he began, then backed up a couple of paces. “It’s clear what the problem is.”

“Sir, what is it, sir?” asked the guard, now quivering in place.

“Isn’t it obvious? You’re colorblind, soldier!” yelled out Shining Armor. “What’s the color of that chair?”

“Green!” screamed the guard. Shining Armor shook his head reproachfully and turned to Rainbow, who was biting down on her tongue to keep herself from guffawing.

“Sir, that chair is red!” responded the mare through a mile-wide grin.

“Captain, you’re—you’re messing with me, right? You have to be!” the guard stammered, digging into the floor with his hoof nervously.

“The color of this pen, private?” asked Shining Armor, grabbing a pen off his desk with his magic.

“It’s blue, right? Tell me it’s blue!” The guard was now frantic and entirely distraught.

“Tell him, ma’am,” responded Shining Armor.

“It’s yellow!” yelled out Dash ecstatically, still saluting for no reason.

“That settles it! Get yourself to the medical tent, private, on the double!” commanded Shining Armor. The guard sped off as quickly as he could, so fast that his own helmet fell off during his retreat. It rolled into the office, stopping at the hooves of Rainbow Dash, who exploded with laughter and collapsed onto the floor.

Shining Armor levitated the helmet off the floor and set it aside on a shelf. “Are you done yet?”

“I… I think so,” said Dash, getting back on her hooves. “I can’t believe that worked. But what’re you doing here? If you’re the commander, doesn’t that mean you’re the one who—”

“Yes,” said Shining Armor, “unfortunately, it does. Sort of.”

“Wait, ‘sort of’?” Dash snorted aggressively. “You just arrested your own sister and now you’re gonna backpedal like this?”

Shining Armor stepped a little closer to Rainbow. “That’s enough. Now listen to me, Rainbow. I just saved you from being dragged before Celestia by your mane, and Twilight is going to be boarding that train very soon.” Dash gulped at this, but Armor continued on. “You’re concerned and confused right now, so I understand. Regardless, I suggest you show a little respect, and you can start by giving me that uniform you clearly stole.”

Rainbow nodded, taken aback by how intimidating Shining Armor truly was. Now that she was on the receiving end of his ire, the pegasus realized just how uncomfortable that guard had felt. She found herself taking off the breastplate she had stolen, not solely out of fear but also to fulfill a sudden need she had to follow the command.

Armor smiled understandingly. “Leading and giving orders is my special talent, Rainbow. That vacant expression can be an unfortunate side effect.”

The mare became painfully aware of her blank stare, shook her head vigorously, and proceeded to remove her disguise as speedily as she could. “Sorry for yelling earlier. I’m just way too stressed out right now with what’s been going on, and I’m super worried about Twilight.”

“You’re not the only one, Rainbow.” Shining Armor slumped back down in his chair. “It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this at all, and we even knew this was coming.”

Dash pried the helmet off her head and made to set it on a shelf, but paused. “Wait, what?”

The stallion looked up at the pegasus. “I don’t have much time to explain, but essentially my sister is guilty.” Dash opened her mouth to say something, but Armor held up a hoof patiently and went on. “And Cadance and I are almost as guilty as she is. There are a lot of changes happening, not just here in Ponyville, but also back in Canterlot, and all over the rest of Equestria. We’ve been helping Twilie get to the bottom of this for weeks, but the arrest threw a wrench into our plans.”

“But she’s your sister!” cried out Dash. “Why would you do that to Twilight? And what do you mean by changes, anyway?”

“Again,” said Armor, “she was supposed to escape. We warned her ahead of time, but that was the best we could do. Twilie told us to always stay above suspicion no matter what happened, so Cadance stayed behind in the Crystal Empire, and I led the guards. If I had refused or fought back, that would have drawn suspicion to me and everything we’ve been working for could have been wiped out. As for what’s been going on, some things just have to be seen for yourself.”

The mare flexed her wings a bit, mulling over this new information. “Alright, so neither of you guys could have stopped it, but what about Luna? Was Spike in on this, and where did he go? And why can’t you just tell me what’s happening?”

Armor raised his head, counting mentally. “Luna hasn’t been seen in a month, and we’re certain she’d just side with Celestia. Spike has been helping out, and he managed to escape successfully. As for what we were helping Twilight with, not only would you not believe me, but my sister told us to keep quiet.”

“No way! Twilight wouldn’t leave us hanging like that!

“She did want to tell you and the rest of your friends, but she thought you’d all do something rash if she was caught. You know, like galloping off to save her without a plan.”

“Oh, yeah…” Rainbow looked down at the floor and scratched it a few times with her hoof.

Shining Armor smiled. “Don’t worry about that, Dash. It’s good that you’re here now. If there’s anypony Twilie would want rescuing her, it would probably be you.”

Dash snapped her head back up. “You mean you’re totally cool with this? Seriously?”

“If there was enough time to get the rest of you girls together, I’d prefer that.” Armor got up from his chair and paced a little behind the desk. “But they’re going to load Twilie onto that train in a few minutes, and there’s not a moment to lose. So when you get into Manehattan, stay out of sight for a while. We’ll send an agent to contact you, and he’ll explain everything, from what Princess Celestia has been doing, to our plan to break Twilight out.”

Rainbow threw a sharp salute, this time earnestly. “You can count on me, Shining Armor!”

“I never doubted it, Rainbow.” Suddenly his eyebrows rose. “Wait, what’s that behind your ears?”

“Oh, these?” Dash pulled the sunglasses out. “I might have broken into the library, and I might have found these sunglasses. Hope ya don’t mind too much.”

The stallion grinned. “Twilie always said her friends were smart, but I never thought you’d find those on your own! They’re an important part of our plan, so keep them safe.”

“Gotcha!” Rainbow tucked them back behind her ears. “What do they do?”

Shining Armor frowned and turned away. “They’ll explain what I meant by ‘changes.’ You can keep them and use them, and it’ll save a lot of time our agent might have to waste to clear things up. Just promise me something, will you?” He turned back to Rainbow and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Don’t put on the sunglasses until you get to Manehattan, and don’t do anything stupid. You’re going to want to react, but I need you to keep calm.”

“Okay, Armor, I getcha. You can let go of me now, okay?”

Armor let go. “I trust you.”

With another salute, Dash turned around and was gone, through the door and out to board the train. Shining Armor exhaled slowly and dropped back into his seat. After a few moments, he pulled open a few desk drawers, grabbed a pen and parchment with his magic, and began to write.

“If my sister can trust you,” he said aloud, “so can I.”


Fluttershy winced. She had a splitting headache, and it had been pounding away at her skull for the past twenty minutes. Instead of giving in to the pain, she had decided instead to ignore it and hope that it would go away and let her sleep. The only problem was that it showed no signs of letting up, and indeed seemed to be growing stronger. Realizing that she would not be able to get any further rest, she opened her eyes in time to see a large white foot repeatedly slam down into her forehead. Fluttershy moaned in agony as Angel glared daggers, nose-to-nose with her.

“Now, Angel, we talked about this, didn’t we?”

Angel crossed his little arms and tapped one of his feet menacingly.

“We went to counseling for those violent tendencies, and you know that you won’t be getting any more carrots—oof!”

Angel thumped Fluttershy’s chest as hard as he could, then pointed a finger towards an empty sleeping bag. The pegasus looked at the bag, and then back to Angel again.

“I don’t think I follow.”

The rabbit gestured again at the bag, and then ran in place while waving his hands at the door.

“Still not getting it, sorry.”

Angel threw his arms up in exasperation, then hopped over to another sleeping bag and pulled it open. A mess of curly pink hair flopped out, and the rest of Pinkie Pie followed suit. Angel bounced to the next bag to reveal Rarity, whose hair had been rendered just as curly as Pinkie’s was. Fluttershy’s mouth slowly opened as Angel unzipped the bag he had originally pointed to, and an almost inaudible yelp erupted from her as she realized that Rainbow Dash was gone. She awoke her friends, and within minutes the three mares were galloping down the pathway into town, breathing heavily and pulling the straps on their saddlebags.

By the time they entered the edge of town and reached the library, the entire block was closed down by the police. Canterlot’s guard force was patrolling the perimeter, and it seemed like the library itself was wrapped in at least three layers of crime scene tape. While on any other day this would have drawn a crowd, the draconian occupation of Ponyville was clearly keeping most of the folk indoors.

“This is ridiculous! Absolutely absurd!” cried out Rarity. “First they send Twilight to jail, and now these ruffians are searching her home! What could they even be doing in there? I must know! We must know!”

“It’s unreasonable! It’s ludicrous! It’s… hang on—” Pinkie Pie reached into a hole in the side of a nearby tree, fished out a thesaurus, and opened it up. “It’s also probably outlandish, nonsensical, could be preposterous or silly, and most definitely bizarre.”

Rarity stared.

“I keep thesauruses and other language references stashed around town, in case of synonym emergencies… or disasters, tragedies, predicaments, and crises. Crisisisises. Crisisi? I have a dictionary in here somewhere.” Pinkie took the book in her mouth and enthusiastically dove headfirst into the hole of the tree, somehow making it through the opening and fully fitting inside.

“Ouch!” came a soft voice from inside the tree. “Your hoof is on my ear, Pinkie.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Fluttershy? Is that you?”

Pinkie’s voice echoed out loudly. “Oh hi there, Fluttershy! Lemme squeeze around you here.” The tree shook violently for a few seconds and then came to a standstill. “I didn’t know you had extra tree disguises!”

“Of course I do! Sometimes I just climb into one and sit very still for a while. Being a tree is very relaxing once you get the hang of it.” The mare giggled a little. “And nopony could suspect a tree of eavesdropping or spying.”

“Or snooping, overhearing, and prying!” added Pinkie.

Rarity squealed aloud and galloped over to the tree, then stuffed her head in the opening. “Make way, girls! I’m coming through!” With a mighty effort, she pushed her back hooves off the ground and disappeared into the hollowed fake tree, which shifted around even more than before as the ponies struggled to readjust themselves inside. Slowly the tree moved forward, sliding along the grass in a most un-plant-like fashion. It ground to a halt as a guard passed by, but as soon as he had taken his eyes off of the mares’ hiding place, it continued on its way. It finally stopped at the window, much closer to any other tree than a tree should be.

“Well? Do you see anything inside?” asked Rarity. “I can’t see past your hair, Pinkie.”

“Well, there’s a few guard ponies and one stallion in a trench coat and fedora.”

“Oooh! That look is coming back, I just know it! Does he pull it off nicely?”

“No, he’s still wearing them. Wait, he’s got something in his mouth. It looks like a plastic bag—“

Pinkie Pie covered her mouth with her hoof.

“What is it?” said Fluttershy. “Is there anything in the bag?”

Pinkie Pie could only watch as the stallion picked up a cyan feather and placed it inside.

Author's Note:

It's embarrassing, but I've had to go back and change a line of dialogue. The original part was from Shining Armor, where he said: "Twilie told us to always keep an eye on Chrysalis no matter what happened, so Cadance stayed behind in Canterlot, and I led the guards." Nearly six months of time had passed between this chapter and the one I wrote next (ugh), and within that frame of time some ideas changed. In Chapter 6, 'Derpy' attests that Cadance had remained in the Crystal Empire while Shining Armor went to Ponyville. Shining Armor's dialogue is now in line with this information, and he says instead: "Twilie told us to always stay above suspicion no matter what happened, so Cadance stayed behind in the Crystal Empire, and I led the guards." Just a few words, but it absolutely had to be corrected.