• Published 12th Nov 2011
  • 13,552 Views, 320 Comments

Envy and Arrogance - Mindblower



The Elements are critical to world stability. Twilight and her friends find this out the hard way.

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Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

*******

Sweetie Belle half-stumbled and half-sleepwalked into Fluttershy’s abode. She curled up on an armchair and silently fell asleep.

She’s worked very hard, Rarity remarked, draping a quilt over her lightly snoozing sister. I hope we’ll be able to get back to our normal lives soon.

Dash stretched her wings. “What a day!” she complained.

“You know it!” Pinkie giggled. “You think this’ll become a regular thing?”

“If it does, I’m the one that’s going to play the hero next time,” Dash grumbled, glancing at Twilight. “That was some stunt she pulled.”

“Well, it saved our hides, so Ah’m not complainin’,” Applejack shrugged. “Still, if it weren’t fer Sweetie Belle’s healin’ magic, Twi’d be done in just like the rest a us.”

Fluttershy shivered and glanced at the broken windows dotted around her house. “It’s getting chilly.”

“Yeah,” Sweetie Belle agreed.

Fluttershy looked over at the now-awake teen. “But... weren’t you just asleep a moment ago?”

“It’s kind of strange,” Sweetie Belle admitted, rubbing her eyes. “But I only seem to be out for a few minutes after using my ability. I just can’t use it again for a while.”

“I’m tired,” Scootaloo yawned. “I call the couch.”

“Oh, no you don’t!” Rarity scolded. “You are getting a bath right this minute! I have let it slide all throughout the day, but the water is fine and you are getting cleaned up!”

As Rarity chased Scootaloo around the house, Fluttershy remarked at how good the condition of the town was for having been abandoned for three years. It’s almost as if it’s just been dormant.

After subduing an orange pegasus and placing her under the slightly amused Applejack’s care, Rarity removed the half-eaten bowl of soup from Apple Bloom’s room. She should have eaten more… she thought worriedly. The teen was sleeping steadily, but seemed slightly weaker than before. I hope she’ll be alright.

Sweetie Belle had decided to stay in Apple Bloom’s room, to keep an eye on her. She cuddled up in an armchair and rested her head on a pillow.

Hours passed.

Sweetie Belle woke up and blinked drowsily. She thought she heard something.

Stretching and getting up, Sweetie Belle noticed that it was still night. Why did I get up? she asked herself, annoyed. Taking the opportunity, she took a brief look at Apple Bloom.

But something was wrong.

Apple Bloom was a lot paler than the last time Sweetie Belle had seen her. She hurried over and checked her pulse, checked her breathing.

*******

Nothing.

Sweetie Belle exhaled sharply. She needed help. Rushing downstairs, she yelled for it. “Apple Bloom isn’t breathing!”

Applejack was the first awake. She looked like she had never actually been asleep; her face was tight with worry. She barreled past Sweetie Belle with Fluttershy close behind.

But when they arrived, Apple Bloom was fine. Absolutely nothing was wrong with her.

“But…” Sweetie Belle said.

“Don’t ya scare us like that!” Applejack breathed, turning angrily at Sweetie Belle.

“Come now, Applejack; the poor dear’s obviously terrified!” Rarity said.

Sweetie Belle had finally realized she was wrong, and the tension drained out of her like thick syrup. Apple Bloom actually looked better; her breathing had steadied, her color returned. Maybe I was just seeing things.

“Let’s go back to sleep,” Pinkie suggested.

She thought she was right; Sweetie Belle wouldn’t have lied to us like that, Fluttershy thought on her way back to her bed. Maybe she was just too tired to think straight. I know I am.

Thus, with the minor incident of terror over, the group settled back into a good night’s sleep.

=====================================================================

*******

“They did… What?!” Arrogance screeched at Envy.

They were back in the throne room. Trixie was standing next to Envy, but one of them looked slightly more pleased with the course of events than the other.

“Obsidian must have told her,” Envy said, rubbing spittle off her face. “Look, aren’t you the one who said we needed them all alive?”

Arrogance turned away angrily. “Yes, I am! And you failed me!”

“Calm down!” Envy said. “They still don’t know anything about their powers, otherwise they would have tore through me like a hot knife through butter. So what I suggest is send somepony a little stealthier to deal with them. And, more importantly, to disarm them.”

“I believe Lorey is already working on getting himself inside their little group,” Arrogance said with distaste. “Meanwhile, I shall also send Lyvia and Trixie after them.”

“I do not suggest that,” Envy said.

“Why not?” Arrogance asked, annoyed.

“She is still resisting, now more than ever,” Envy said, taking a glance at the unicorn next to her, who had hung her head and refused to lift it. “If you want to play it safe, Lyvia should do fine on her own. And Lorey, needless to say, has not failed us to date. Shattering their spirits shouldn’t be very difficult.”

“Hmph,” Arrogance said. “Once you have captured them, bring them to me personally. I want to make sure that they know where they’re headed.”

“As you wish, sister,” Envy nodded, strands of her braid falling over her face. “I will send them immediately.”

“You better. I’m not allowing for second chances, Envy. We need to redeem ourselves, you especially,” Arrogance finished.

“I… I know,” Envy muttered, teleporting out of the throne room.

Arrogance glared at Trixie. “You have served us well, but you are on thin ice. If you want to retain what little control you have over yourself, you will stop resisting. Otherwise, you will be added to my collection.”

Trixie swallowed. Be added to her collection, she thought nervously. I don’t ever want to know what that feels like. “Yes, my lady.”

Trixie left the room. Arrogance turned and saw another pony with dagger-like eyes appear almost out of thin air. The pony smiled pleasantly at her.

“Deception?” Arrogance asked. “I didn’t expect you. Do you like your new body?”

The strange pony nodded. “Quite, actually. You do have a keen eye for quality, Ivy.”

“Do not call me that. My name is Arrogance,” Arrogance huffed. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“What did you have in mind?” Deception asked.

“Don’t be smart,” Arrogance glowered. “You may be the mastermind, but Vengeance put me in charge.”

“Ah, yes, at the meeting. I keep forgetting,” Deception sighed. “Well, if it’s not too much trouble, I would appreciate you locking up the Elements before you ‘do away with them,’ so to speak. I need to introduce myself, and I would prefer to do so courteously. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.”

Arrogance nodded. “I’ll pass that along. Thank you, Deception. You may go.”

=====================================================================

*******

Twilight got up and grunted as a sharp pain flashed through her chest. It’s morning, the purple mare thought as she squinted at the bright sun through cracked and dirtied windows. Ack, cramp! Twilight thought, clutching her stiff foreleg. She examined herself, pawing at her bandages. Her eyes widened. I... I almost died!

She’s awake!

Pinkie rushed into the room and gave Twilight a gentle hug. “I was so super-duper worried about you, Twilight!”

Twilight was still drowsy. She sat up and brushed the covers off of her. Cool, brisk morning air wafted onto her pelt, peeling off the layers of stifling heat she had felt under the covers.

“Twi?” Twilight heard Applejack ask. The orange earth pony walked into the room accompanied by Dash, with Fluttershy close behind.

“Ya gave us all quite a scare, there,” Applejack said.

“How did I survive?” Twilight asked. I know I almost died, but how close did I come? Her chest throbbed with a gentle pain, not unbearable but still off-putting.

“Sweetie Belle saved your life, with some help from Obsidian and Verba,” Fluttershy explained. “He told me how to calm Sweetie Belle down so that she could sing. You wouldn’t be here without either of them.”

Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Rarity were the next ones in the room.

“Don’t you ever do that again!” Rarity breathed. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

Heh... another letter to send to Celestia once this is all over. My friends really do care about me, a lot. But like I didn’t know that already, Twilight chuckled to herself. I would probably be dead long before now without them by my side every step of the way. I really owe this tiny group of ponies a whole lot... and I guess they owe me some, too.

“That was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen,” Dash remarked. “I don’t think I could have done it… Well, maybe. But seriously, Twilight, I thought you were a goner. How’d you push through all that pain?”

“That’s a bit of a mystery,” Twilight laughed weakly. “It took a lot of fight, but I pulled through.” She looked at Sweetie Belle. “Thank you. A lot.”

Sweetie Belle blushed. “Fluttershy helped me,” she said.

Twilight hopped out of bed, but needed to be steadied by Applejack and Pinkie Pie.

“I want to see Apple Bloom,” Twilight said.

Applejack nodded. She and Dash helped Twilight into the young girl’s room. Apple Bloom was wide awake, reading a comic book, which she threw aside when she saw Twilight.

“Twi!” she said. She had much recovered, and although she was still obviously sick, it wasn’t life-threatening anymore.

Looks like I don’t need to cast my healing spell anymore, Twilight thought. Which reminds me…

“I have something I need to show all of you. Can you set me down?” Twilight asked. Her two friends gently laid her down on the armchair Sweetie Belle was sleeping in earlier. “Rarity, can you get my saddlebags?”

After Rarity had run her small errand, Twilight used her telekinesis, which was as strong as ever, to open the pack and took out the letter that she had found in her home yesterday, the one hastily written by Luna.

Twilight read the letter and, at the end of it, said, “Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo… we need to know what happened three years ago.”

Sweetie Belle looked nervous. “A-Are you sure?”

Rarity nodded. “It might help us make better decisions moving forward.”

Scootaloo bit her lip. “It’s not something we like to talk about, but alright.”

Sweetie Belle began the story.

=====================================================================

It began three years ago, in Ponyville.

Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom were all scampering around on the schoolhouse playground. Some other fillies their age were playing as well, and adults trotted through the town, running errands and chatting with friends.

“Looking back, we really had no idea it was coming,” Scootaloo said. “There wasn’t any warning at all. It was just another day.”

Their teacher, Cheerilee, was talking to Trixie, who had stopped by on her travels to say hi.

“Nopony really paid any attention to Trixie because she wasn’t grandstanding. She was just another pony that had stopped by,” Sweetie Belle said. “But she really helped us get away.”

“Why didn’t we know she was there?” Twilight asked.

Scootaloo shrugged. “She probably just came in quietly, like any other traveler.”

Then the attack started.

*******

It started out as a bright flash of light, but soon the entirety of Ponyville was engulfed in a giant fireball. Screams echoed throughout the small town while burning and stunned ponies barreled toward the first location they thought was safe. The sun was engulfed in red light, and it cast a reddish glow over the landscape. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom leapt for cover.

Trixie was the first to leap into action. She looked toward the center of the flames, but stopped in shock, her jaw practically hitting the floor.

It was Celestia.

Nothing was different about her except the fact that her hair covered up one of her eyes, and the only eye that was showing had a daggerlike pupil. She seemed to be the perpetrator of the attack and the only antagonist present.

Trixie snapped out of it and threw a blinding ball of light at Celestia. The white alicorn merely shrugged it off and directed her attention toward Trixie.

“Pest,” Celestia sneered. She grinned fiendishly. “I’ll have fun with you.”

Celestia inhaled and then blew out a fierce gale that knocked Trixie off her hooves and buffeted those who were watching, including Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom.

“Don’t hurt my friends!” Scootaloo yelled, barreling toward Celestia and biting her outstretched wings.

Celestia threw the orange filly into the air and slashed at her when she came down. Scootaloo screamed in pain, but the delay gave Trixie enough time to stab Celestia with her horn and twist. Celestia yelped and retreated, but the immortal ichor in her body sealed up the wound in a few seconds.

Seeing that Celestia was about to attack Trixie, a tall colt named Snails tried to pull off what Scootaloo had done. He didn’t even come close.

Celestia swatted the young colt aside, her horn glowing. Snails felt a flash of heat before disintegrating into ashes. Trixie gaped and decided now would be a good time to retreat.

Grabbing the wounded Scootaloo onto her back, Trixie summoned her strength and ran for her life.

Suddenly, another alicorn arrived. It was Luna. She had a flowing, magical blue mane that glistened with little drops of light and a dark blue pelt. She had a black cutie mark with a white crescent moon and a matching neckerchief and crown.

“Sister, what crimes hath thou committed?” Luna, Celestia’s sister, screeched.

“I’m not your sister,” Celestia giggled fiendishly.

Sweetie Belle hid behind the schoolhouse, watching with wide eyes.

“Then what arest thee?!” Luna screeched angrily.

Celestia’s eyes glowed. Evil energy radiated from her as she inched closer to Luna, a grin plastered on her face. “I am the Daymare.”

Luna gasped. “No… i-it cannot be…”

The Daymare laughed harshly. “You should have expected my return, along with all of Discord! You were fools to ignore it, and to ignore the change that went on in your sister for one thousand years… and now you will perish for that mistake.”

Luna backed up, clearly frightened. “How… no, no, no!” The moon goddess recovered her resolve. “Thou art a fool, Arrogance, to think that We would give in so easily!” She charged at Celestia, dark magic flowing through the blue alicorn as her horn glowed with immense power. “Fie upon thee, villain!

The Daymare merely giggled. “You think you can best me? You’re so weak, even compared to my brother!” She deflected Luna’s advance and tossed her aside. “Get with the times, Princess!

The Daymare ran over to the still recovering Luna, reared up, and crushed her chest. Golden blood spit from the moon goddess’s mouth as she gasped in pain.

And again!” The Daymare laughed maniacally, hurting Luna just as fast as she could heal.

By this time, everypony in Ponyville had run away except for Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, who both were watching the scene in horror.

Luna yelled and used what little magic she could gather to push the Daymare away. She gasped for a minute as she slowly healed, knitting herself together.

The Daymare simply laughed. “You lose!” she cackled, her horn glowing with a blinding energy.

But she never got to attack.

Luna, Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and any surrounding residents vanished.

*******

=====================================================================

They reappeared in Fillydelphia, where the evacuation was commencing.

Luna panted, the event having drained her significantly. She had almost died, despite having been immortal.

“W-Where’s everypony? Where’s Scootaloo?” Sweetie Belle asked.

“We didn’t know then, but Luna is actually pretty good at teleportation. After everything was said and done, she had me in the infirmary and the others had temporary lodging. It makes me kinda wonder how long the Daymare had been rampaging without us in Ponyville noticing,” Scootaloo said.

Later…

Sweetie Belle was in the infirmary, sitting next to Scootaloo. Apple Bloom was with her. The orange pegasus was asleep, and although the bandages had stopped the bleeding, something else must have been wrong because the filly’s condition was dropping fast.

“Doc said that he can’t stop the bleedin’ without some sorta magic,” Apple Bloom sighed. “Ah guess…” her eyes watered.

Sweetie Belle was still in shock; this had all happened in about an hour. “I think… I think I should sing for her.”

“Sure,” Apple Bloom said, not really paying attention. “If it’ll make ya happy.”

“I had meant to sing the Cutie Mark Crusaders theme song,” Sweetie Belle began, “but this came out instead.”

*******

Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,” Sweetie Belle began, closing her eyes. “Go to sleep, my little baby. When you wake, you shall have all the pretty little horses. Dapples and grays, pintos and bays, all the pretty little horses.

Apple Bloom stared at Sweetie Belle, and as the magic started to have its effect, the olive earth pony started to cry.

Way down yonder, in the meadow, poor little baby cryin’ mama. Birds and the butterflies flutter ‘round his eyes, poor little baby cryin’ mama.

The others in the infirmary started to take notice. Scootaloo’s condition was improving.

Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry. Go to sleep, my little baby. When you wake, you shall have all the pretty little horses. Dapples and grays, pintos and bays, all the pretty little horses.

Sweetie Belle finished, never noticing the fact that she had been singing that song.

The nurse rushed over and checked Scootaloo’s status. Slowly, she removed the bandages.

Scootaloo was completely healed. Only a thin white line remained where the fatal injury once had been.

Sweetie Belle’s flank glowed. A mark appeared on it; a roll of bandages.

=====================================================================

*******

Twilight had unwrapped her bandages. All that was left of her wound was a small, vertical white mark, about an inch long.

“So that’s how it happened,” Sweetie Belle finished. The effort of having to relive such a terrifying event had exhausted her, and she felt tired even though it was only midmorning.

“I don’t understand. How were we not there?” Twilight asked.

“Beats me,” Scootaloo shrugged, similarly tired from narrating the tale. “Maybe it has something to do with that letter. I dunno.”

That would make sense, Rarity thought, rubbing her chin. Luna could have been hiding us when the attack started. It would explain why the letter was so hastily written. But…

“Why don’t we remember any a this?” Applejack asked, taking the words right out of Rarity’s mouth. “Ya think we would have a pretty distinct memory a that kinda thing.”

“Well, if Luna was trying to cast the spell under pressure, it could explain the memory loss and the fact that we were captive for three years,” Twilight explained. “Hasty magic can have any number of side effects. We should be glad we don’t think we’re cheese graters, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Well, what now?” Apple Bloom asked. “Should we try ta get back ta Fillydelphia and find out?”

“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea,” Dash said. “It’s better than being sitting ducks for the enemy.”

They all agreed on that point, and started their preparations.

=====================================================================

After a couple of hours, they were ready to set out. There wasn’t much trouble on the horizon, and Apple Bloom recovered fairly quickly as far as the others were concerned. Twilight packed some spells and learned a few more just in case.

They stood at the edge of Ponyville.

“Cutie Mark Crusaders, reporting for duty!” Scootaloo chirped, having gained height but little maturity in her time in the ruins of Ponyville. “Scootaloo!”

“Sweetie Belle!” the white unicorn said.

“Apple Bloom!” the olive earth pony said, with equal enthusiasm.

To think that she was on death’s doorstep just a few days ago, Fluttershy remarked. I’m glad we could save her.

Dash laughed. “Great, we have our own special forces!” she said, giving each of them a high hoof.

Twilight was smiling as well, until something occurred to her. “We don’t even have a map; how are we supposed to find our way?”

Applebloom fished around in her bags. “Here ya go, Twilight!” she chirped, offering her a map.

Twilight examined the map. “Perfect. Thank you, Apple Bloom.”

“S’the least Ah could do,” Apple Bloom said humbly.

“Hey, Apple Bloom, where did you get that map?” Scootaloo asked.

“Jus’, uh, well,” Apple Bloom turned slightly red. “Fishin’ ‘round in Twi’s library.”

“I was wondering where this went,” Twilight chuckled.

Scootaloo raised an eyebrow. I don’t remember her ever pointing out a map before. “When’d you find it?”

Apple Bloom shrugged. “Not sure. Probably just before Ah got sick.”

“Wish you had told us sooner,” Scootaloo grumbled. We could have used that map to get back to Fillydelphia for food long before we ran out.

Pinkie Pie and Applejack had packed supplies for the trip. There was enough to last them a week or so; more than enough time to reach Fillydelphia if they kept up pace and weren’t wasteful.

“Okay, let’s go!” Pinkie exclaimed, leading the way. They had set off on another great journey, as far as she was concerned. Another adventure!

Applejack was far more practical about the situation, but the feeling of high adventure was contagious. Even Fluttershy was feeling a little courageous.

Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom were practically walking on air; they had found the Elements of Harmony and were completing the mission entrusted to them by a goddess. What an honor!

Apple Bloom didn’t talk much, however, which was strange because she was usually the main spokespony. However, Scootaloo more than made up for that with her constant banter.

Twilight and Rarity were cautious as always, but they were happy to be out of the ruins of their hometown. We’ll fix it up later, Twilight thought as she followed the others out of the ruins. First we have to fix Equestria.

Soon they were in the Indeciduous Forest. It was a wide expanse of tall oaks and taller evergreens. Fillydelphia was located near the top of Equestria, and that fact was prevalent as the temperature dropped the further they journeyed.

“Hmm...” Twilight mumbled, intently concentrated on her map.

“Ain’t this the right way, Twi?” Applejack asked.

*******

“Well...” Twilight trailed off. “It says that this is the right way, but none of the landmarks are corresponding to the landmarks on the map.”

“It’s the right way,” Apple Bloom said confidently. “Ya’ve never led us astray before, Twi. Ah’m sure this’s the right path.”

“Lost?” a voice asked.

Twilight turned to see a blood-red pegasus mare. She absently adjusted her dark red mane with a metal-tipped hoof, leaning against a nearby tree. Her cutie mark was of a knife so sharp it appeared to gleam as the sun hit it.

“Pardon?” Applejack asked.

“Need directions?” the mare asked, smiling. “Name’s Lyvia.”

Lyvia’s eerie smile put Twilight on edge. She hesitantly asked, “What’s the nearest path to Fillydelphia?”

“That way,” Lyvia said, pointing to the right.

Instinctively, Twilight looked in the direction the mare pointed, and was promptly smacked in the side of the face. She gasped, tumbling onto the ground.

“Wh-What’d you do that for?” Dash asked, fuming.

“Hmph,” Lyvia grinned. “Same reason I’m about to do this.”

Lyvia leapt up into the air. Her hoof only appeared to brush Dash and Applejack’s necks for just a moment, but they both fell unconscious immediately. Without any loss of blood, their now-limp bodies crumpled to the forest floor.

“...Orders,” Lyvia finished.

Fluttershy trembled, backing up behind Pinkie. Scootaloo stepped in front of Sweetie Belle and Applebloom.

“Just tell us what you want!” Scootaloo barked.

“Well, here’s a start. Try and make this fun,” Lyvia grumbled, wiping off her ankle on her chest. “S’not every day I get to assassinate the Elements of Harmony themselves.”

Lyvia felt all her muscles seize up, and she grunted in pain. The others looked in shock at Twilight. Blood dripped slightly from her nostrils. She was still on the ground, her horn glowing, holding out her hoof and channelling her magic into Lyvia’s body.

“N-... Now would be a good time, Lorey,” Lyvia grunted, frustratedly trying to move her limbs.

“You said that you were following orders,” Twilight began. “Who do you work for?”

A great magical burst flew through the forest with so much force it almost set the trees ablaze. Twilight lost control of her magic, and her vision faded to black.

=====================================================================

*******

When Twilight came to, she found her hooves bound together. She was lying on her side, and through her blurry vision she recognized that she was still in the Indeciduous Forest. She craned her neck and saw a blue-green unicorn sitting patiently on a mat, paging through a novel.

He noticed that Twilight was stirring. “The Element of Magic wakes,” he said. “You were quite a dear to me back in Ponyville; it makes me sad that I have to capture you and put you down.”

“You say it... You say it as if I’m an animal,” Twilight growled, disoriented. She rested her head on the ground.

“Well, you’ll have that much sympathy once the Daymare has you, so you might as well get used to being treated like a useless dog,” the stallion said simply.

“Who are you?” Twilight asked. She wearily looked around, trying to count all of her friends, but she couldn’t see all of them. “And where... Where are my friends?”

“My name is Lorey,” the unicorn began. “As for your friends, they are all here, safe and sound. My cohort is sending for Envy, and as soon as she is here, you will be escorted to our base.”

“...Huh...? What?” the hoarse voice of Applejack asked. “Where am Ah?”

“Ask Twilight,” Lorey said. “I dislike repeating myself.”

“Applejack, can you see who all is here?” Twilight asked. Most of the group was similarly tied up; she heard their breathing, but since she was lying on her side at the front of the group, she couldn’t be sure just how many were actually present.

“Ah see... Ah see Rarity, Dash, Pinkie, Fluttershy, Sweetie, Scootaloo...” Applejack paused to take a breath. “But where’s Apple Bloom?”

“You don’t see her?” Twilight asked. Not waiting for an answer, she looked up angrily at Lorey. “You said all my friends were here!”

“I was assuming you aren’t friends with a cadaver,” Lorey said indifferently.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Twilight barked. She coughed, her throat dry.

“Don’t strain yourself,” Lorey warned, though he didn’t particularly seem to care for the group’s well-being. “Apple Bloom is dead.”

“...What?” Applejack asked. “What’d you just say?”

“Apple Bloom perished to late-stage pneumonia, if you want to be precise,” Lorey stated, as if he were discussing the weather. “It’s quite a shame, too; a young life going to waste in such a tortuous way.”

“B-But Apple Bloom recovered!” Twilight exclaimed. “How could she be dead? She was right with us before... before you showed up! Where did you take her?” Twilight struggled against her bonds.

Lorey’s horn glowed, and Twilight yelped as magic surged through her veins and overloaded her system. She once again fell limply onto the dirt.

“Perhaps it’s better to show you,” Lorey said. His form wavered for a second or two, morphing into something else. He shrank significantly, his pelt changing from its typical blue-green to a pale yellow. A new color washed over his mane, turning it rose-colored instead of its former greenish hue. His horn vanished, and his brow and chin crackled as they rounded out, becoming feminine. Layers of youth draped themselves over Lorey as his eyes finally turned a bright amber. To complete the transformation, Lorey pulled a red bow out of some unattended saddlebags and fixed it to his mane.

Lorey was now an exact replica of Apple Bloom.

“That’s not possible...” Twilight breathed, too weak to do anything but stare.

Applejack was horrified. “It can’t be!”

Apple Bloom smiled with some degree of pride as she reverted back to her original form. Her voice was high at first, but gradually returned to a deeper, masculine tone. “Sweetie Belle was correct in stating that Apple Bloom had died after Trixie attacked. Rather impressive for her first examination, if I do say so myself. Her outburst notified me of a possible opening without having to take a life on my own, and I inserted myself into your group without you noticing.”

“It can’t be... Oh, Apple Bloom,” Applejack murmured. Fury quickly overtook her, and she wrestled with her bonds. “Murderer! Ya yella-bellied traitor!

Lorey raised an eyebrow. “‘Traitor?’ That’s something I haven’t been called in a very long time,” he remarked. He tossed the bow to Applejack. “If it’s any consolation.”

Lorey’s face was expressionless, but to Applejack it might as well have been the smuggest grin he ever could have worn in his life. She threw a fit, but Lorey had restrained her effectively, completely preventing any actions she could have taken.

Twilight would have been in shock, had Lorey’s magic not drained her strength. As it continued to weaken her, she could only think, We were outwitted... I should have seen it coming.

“You’ll pay for this!” Applejack screamed.

Some of the others, startled, began to wake up, as well. Twilight heard the grunts and groans of her drowsy friends, but she couldn’t pay much attention. She was rapidly losing consciousness.

The last thing she heard was Lorey grumbling, “I hope I don’t have to repeat myself.”

=====================================================================

[Note]: I do not own anything in this story that already belongs to someone else.
This entire storyline takes place BEFORE season two, but AFTER season one.