• Published 28th Jan 2012
  • 6,809 Views, 249 Comments

No Matter How Dark - Picardy Third



Attacks and destruction in Ponyville occur on top of Twilight's recent incidents of memory loss

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Applejack

CHAPTER 3

Applejack

Dear Princess Celestia and Princess Luna -

I would like to begin my letter by saying hello to Spike and my hoping that he will return soon. I miss him already! And, as much as I'd like this to be a letter of nothing but good tidings, I'm afraid that yet another unfortunate event has befallen Ponyville lately, as I'm sure you are aware. My friend Rarity's boutique was the victim of a vicious magical attack from an unknown unicorn with purple magic, apparently the same color as my own. The attack left major structural damage, but it was not a difficult fix. The point is not the damage, however, but trying to prevent it from happening again. The attacker is still at large, as we have yet to uncover any suspects. There are no other unicorns in Ponyville with purple magic besides myself, and I most certainly did not attack Carousel Boutique! I would like to request your help in the matter, but I am afraid that the royal guard will mark me as a suspect. I know you will have a solution. I have faith.

Your most faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle

"We cannot leave the situation unattended to." Luna commented once she rolled the message back up and placed it on the table.

"I am aware." Celestia agreed. She had brought the letter to Luna for her opinion, if only just to hear her confirm what Celestia was too afraid to do herself. Also, the letter was addressed to both Celestia and Luna.

"First Sweet Apple Acres, now Carousel Boutique… we've gotten lucky that there have been no injuries, but what's next? What has to happen for us to finally take action?" Luna demanded.

"I do not know!" Celestia shouted. Her voice was shaky and she felt weak. Twilight Sparkle was… her protégée, her student, her… friend. Now her safety was becoming an issue, and all Celestia could do was sit back and hope that everything got better.

"Sister, these are innocent ponies that are in danger." Luna reminded Celestia, almost pleading, "We cannot keep Twilight in the dark forever."

"No… it is impossible." Celestia agreed. She felt the sting of tears in her eyes, but did not cry, "Please, let us give her a little more time. If things do not get better… we will intervene. For now, let us simply lay low and hope this blows over like a terrible storm."

"For the sake of young Twilight…" Luna said, her voice becoming calmer and her demeanor changing to one of sadness, "I hope you are right."

***
***

Twilight Sparkle –

I am very sorry to hear of these grim events. Please tell Rarity that I will always have her best interests at heart and the perpetrator will be caught at all costs. Luna and I will be investigating with the help of our most trusted royal guard members. Do not fret, for you will not be a suspect, Twilight Sparkle. For now, I want everypony to be on their guard and to let me know if anything else happens. Be strong, my little ponies. We will get through this.

Princess Celestia

"There you go, Rarity." Twilight said after reading aloud the letter from the princess at Carousel Boutique. "The princess is on the case."

"Oh thank you, Twilight." Rarity said genuinely. "It means so much to me that you've gone through so much trouble to help me."

"It's no trouble, Rarity!" Twilight replied, dismissing the thought with a hoof, "Really."

"Nonsense, Twilight, you have put yourself through so much to help everypony."

"A few construction spells and a letter to Princess Celestia is not too much, I'm just doing what anypony else would do for me." Twilight said. She watched as Rarity got up from her comfy chair and walked to a walk-in closet.

"Well, at any rate…" Rarity spoke as she began to rummage through the items in the closet, muffling her voice slightly, "I wanted to show you how much I appreciate your help, so I threw together a little something for you."

Rarity walked out of the closet levitating a gorgeous dress of a deep, dark blue that reminded Twilight of the dress from the Grand Galloping Gala, only this one lacked the star pattern and possessed an air of simplicity about it that Twilight was quite fond of. The dress material was of a very high quality and would normally demand a price of nearly a hundred bits.

"Oh, Rarity!" Twilight said in adoration, "It's beautiful!"

"Do you think so?" Rarity responded excitedly, "I knew you'd love it. It's just so… you!"

"You certainly learned that the last time we were in Canterlot for my birthday." Twilight joked.

"And you will be happy to know that you can dance just as wildly in this dress too!" Rarity added happily. Twilight stood and took the dress with her magic, gently draping it over her back. "It's for any occasion, really. I wouldn't wear this one to the Grand Galloping Gala, but it is formal nonetheless."

"I'm sure I'll find a time to wear it, Rarity, it's gorgeous."

"Oh, I am ever so delighted you like it!" Rarity said excitedly, skipping in place for a few seconds before regaining her composure and clearing her throat, "Are you leaving?"

Twilight, who was beginning to turn toward the door and about to announce her leaving, simply smiled and nodded. "I need to get back to a book I was reading last night. It's… actually very important."

"Oh, well don't let me keep you, darling!" Rarity said casually, opening her door with magic and allowing Twilight to exit with the dress. "Do take care!"

"I will, Rarity. Have a good day!"

And with that, Twilight left Carousel Boutique and walked through town toward her tree home, proudly displaying the gorgeous blue dress lying on her back. Twilight was delighted to receive a few compliments on the garment before she finally made it home, wondering quickly whether it would be worth it to walk to the market in order to display the dress some more and get more compliments, but Twilight stopped herself on the grounds that it wouldn't be appropriate.

Once inside, Twilight carefully hung the dress up in her upstairs closet and trotted happily back downstairs to a desk that held the book she had been reading: Magical Illnesses and How to Treat Them. She had gone through all her tomes detailing naturally occurring illnesses that might involve short bouts of memory loss, but she could not find anything that included memory loss and nothing else.

She then figured that if not a natural illness, then perhaps she had a magical illness. She both doubted and feared the possibility because of her recent magical exploits. Shouldn't a magical illness weaken her magical powers? Yet she was able to conjure up an entire barn!

"Magical Excess." Twilight read aloud, "Symptoms include excessive magic usage, memory loss, paling of coat, and loss of horn…" She trailed off there, tentatively touching her horn out of instinct and mentally sighing with relief when she felt that it was still there, "Okay, it's not that."

Once again, she got through the entire book with absolutely no luck. There was a promising match in Scatterbrain's Syndrome, but it was absolutely insistent on the fact that Twilight's mane should have turned to a shade of putrid green by now. Frustrated, Twilight forcibly replaced the volume and began sifting through her shelves once again.

"I really hope there's nothing serious wrong with me." Twilight thought aloud, "I could ask Celestia, but she's no doctor, even if she is the princess."

Then, Twilight suddenly had a spark of inspiration and was out the door before she could have another thought.

***
***

"Zecora!" Twilight shouted while knocking on the wooden door of Zecora's forest hut. The chimney was spewing smoke and a pleasant aroma filled the air, something to be expected whenever Twilight visited the exotic zebra. She knocked a few more times before hearing a deep and booming voice from behind the door.

"I am coming, miss Twilight, your constant knocking is not so polite." Moments later, the black and white striped form of Zecora, smiling as she did whenever Twilight visited, which hadn't been for awhile. "Twilight Sparkle, you are looking well. Please, come in, settle for a spell."

"I wish I could say I was feeling well, Zecora. I need to see if you know what's wrong with me." Twilight said, "I really am quite worried."

"Why Twilight, what misfortune befalls you? You appear healthy through and through." Zecora recited, rhyming as she always did.

"Well, it's not that I feel bad, I've been suffering some memory loss lately, and none of my books were able to point me to anything that it might be." Twilight said as Zecora returned to the middle of her hut and stirred whatever was cooking in a medium-sized pot over the fire pit in the middle of the floor.

"Losing memory so you say? One would say it is the path to slow decay." Zecora said, sending a shiver of fear down Twilight's spine. Zecora kept very calm and continued, "But, many explanations can be pitched and tossed. Tell me, how exactly is your memory being lost?"

"It's short-term, mostly. Two nights ago, I apparently got up in the middle of the night and had a full conversation with two of my friends before passing out back at my home, and I don't remember the conversations at all. I remember returning to my home and passing out, but the conversations are gone."

"Losing the words of those you love… are there any other instances to be spoken of?" Zecora asked, putting a hoof to her chin in thought.

"Before that, I performed some magic on Applejack's farm and immediately afterwards I forgot that I had done it. I still don't remember actually performing the magic… I mean, some of it came back to me, but it's blurry and almost like a dream."

"Small holes left in your memory... this sounds very unusual to me." Zecora said. She walked over to Twilight and peered into her eyes as a doctor might, then walked back to her pot and dipped her hoof in, tasting the concoction. Twilight walked to the cauldron and looked inside with interest as it began to glow iridescently.

"Mm… 'tis a most unusual brew. The local fungi make such an excellent stew." Zecora commented happily before looking up at Twilight, "I do not want you to be filled with dread, but some may say there is a curse upon your head."

"A curse? B-but curses aren't real! I proved that already!" Twilight retorted at the absurd accusation. She watched Zecora smile in an almost laughing matter.

"I do not personally believe your situation is so bleak, that is why you should listen carefully to the words I speak." Zecora said calmly, "There are ponies throughout this land, in curses they do believe. For their help, large prices they demand, yet they are far more naïve."

"So… you're saying there isn't a curse on me?" Twilight asked.

"Fear not, Twilight, your soul remains bright." Zecora said, "Now, about your true condition I am unsure. I am unable to think of an answer, much less a cure."

Twilight sighed, "That's fine, Zecora. I appreciate you trying."

"Twilight, please do not feel so down, would you like my assistance when you get back to town?"

"Thank you Zecora, but I think I'll be fine. I have to send a letter to the princess soon anyway. I may as well address my concerns to her."

"Do what you wish, my friend. That very action would be something I would recommend." Zecora said with a smile. Twilight walked slowly toward the door. She felt bad just leaving after hardly even saying hello, but she was no longer in the mood for a friendly visit.

"I guess I'll head back to town then. Thanks anyway, Zecora." Twilight said with a weak smile.

"For you I am always glad to assist. Please visit again soon, I insist!" Zecora said happily.

"I will, Zecora. See you later!"

Twilight walked back through the dark cover of the Everfree Forest in worse spirits than before. If Zecora couldn't even figure out what was wrong, then how could Celestia know any better? Optimistically speaking, the princess was always full of surprises, so perhaps Twilight could get some information after all. Despite any negativity, Twilight had to try. In her next letter, she would make sure to bring up her issues with the princess.

Twilight then shook her head. Sometimes that rhyming is hard to listen to Twilight thought, then chuckled quietly and entered town with a small amount of hopefulness returning.

***
***

Twilight spent the rest of the day reading and re-reading her many medical books and volumes of medical anthologies and encyclopedias with the faint hope that she had missed something. Time and time again, she would find herself on the verge of a discovery and would later find that it was not to be. The constant worry about her health was tiresome and wearing on the spirit, but Twilight was determined.

Despite this, she had to take a break from all the medical reading at some point. She opened up a different book: one that was filed under 'Equestrian History.' It was a book on ancient war magic and offensive spells, aptly named Ancient Magical Arts: The Art of Battle. Twilight had originally wanted to learn about the offensive magic the Carousel Boutique attacker had used, and she was finally getting around to it.

"Art of Battle." Twilight remarked to herself, "As if something so brutal could be considered art."

But, as she delved into the vast knowledge of the book, she soon learned of the years of preparation a pony warrior would undergo in order to master their craft. Twilight learned about ancient weapons suited for all types of ponies: false metal horns used for charging for earth ponies, sharpened metal horn extensions for unicorns, and odd bladed wing extensions for pegasi.

The book was aimed more at the magic used by unicorns in ancient battles, and some of the spells astounded and shocked Twilight, even disturbing her from time to time. She was mortified when she began learning about spells that had no purpose other than to cause harm to another pony, some in absolutely horrible ways.

"What terrible times these must have been." Twilight commented as she read about a particular spell that placed randomly appearing gashes along the body of the victim. Twilight was very thankful that there were no illustrations for some of these more gruesome spells.

Finally, about halfway through the book, there was finally a paragraph detailing a spell that mirrored what was used against Rarity's boutique. Twilight was surprised to find out that the concept of forming a ball of pure concentrated energy wasn't exactly foreign to her. She figured that, had she wanted to, she could have probably figured out the spell on her own.

It was certainly one of the easiest spells in the book. Others, like creating magical, enchanted javelins to be thrown vast distances, were horribly complex. Twilight then knew why warrior unicorns trained for years learning their… 'art.'

Twilight blazed through that particular book and moved on to a different book. The war history books were fascinating to Twilight, so out of pure enjoyment alone, she went for another war book: this time one detailing the styles of ancient warrior pegasi. Twilight got very absorbed in the book and before she knew it, it was nighttime.

Once Twilight had sufficiently read most of the book, she closed it and levitated it back onto the shelf. Sighing contentedly, Twilight stretched out on the floor and then folded her legs back underneath her, sitting for a few seconds and allowing thoughts to fill her head.

Okay, so obviously the attacker had at least some knowledge of offensive magic. Twilight thought. It would be dangerous to try and pursue such a unicorn, especially on my own. I really should just leave tracking down the criminal to the princess. She can probably handle it.

Not much time passed and Rainbow Dash showed up for a surprise visit. The energetic pegasus was back to her normal self, not staying on her feet for more than a few minutes. Twilight loved when Rainbow Dash was like this. Rainbow Dash was fun, much a contrast to Twilight Sparkle: a fact that Twilight judged herself with all too often.

Listening to Rainbow Dash talking about her newest aerial stunt was like listening to an expert detail their latest discovery… only much more hyper .Twilight was always very impressed by Rainbow Dash's knowledge of flight. For a pony that seemed to care less about useful things like science, she knew a lot about the atmosphere, weather phenomena, and aerodynamics. It made Twilight very self-conscious, as if she should know just as much as Rainbow Dash, if not more. Twilight justified this by reasoning that Rainbow Dash had the advantage of flying her whole life.

The night slipped away quickly, and before long Twilight looked at a clock and discovered that it was ten o'clock, and Rainbow Dash was still there. By this time, however, she had calmed down slightly and now spent most of her time grounded and talking to Twilight. This was the point when the thick-headed pegasus opened up a little more and would actually talk about her feelings, albeit very sparsely and with little detail. Twilight found herself enjoying being in Rainbow Dash's company so much that she felt like she could just keep talking until Celestia brought the sun around to begin the next day.

Realizing that that wasn't the wisest of decisions, Twilight Sparkle regrettably bade Rainbow Dash goodnight and let her go. For a second, Twilight saw a look of sadness on Rainbow Dash's face when they parted, but passed it off as nothing but a misleading glance and went back into the library once Rainbow Dash had gone.

Rainbow Dash stayed on Twilight's mind even as she ascended the stairs and went to bed. She stayed on Twilight's mind even still after that, comforting her and helping her fall asleep. Twilight didn't know why she was thinking about her so much, but she didn't really care.

She's just a really good friend. Twilight thought before departing to dreamland.

***
***

Applejack pulled the covers over her little sister's small form and smiled down at her. She had gotten into the habit of putting Apple Bloom to bed after Granny Smith passed. She knew that Big Mac, being the kind-hearted spirit that he was, would be more than willing to do the same, but Applejack liked the way it made her sister happy.

"You have a good night now." Applejack whispered in her sister's ear before turning around and heading for the door.

"Applejack?" Apple Bloom asked. The older pony turned and smiled at her sister.

"Yea, sugarcube?"

"D'ya think our house is safe now?" Apple Bloom asked. Applejack would have assumed that the question was simply out of curiosity, but thick as she was, even Applejack couldn't miss the evident tone of fear in little Apple Bloom's voice.

"Now don't you worry yer head, Apple Bloom." Applejack said calmly, "That fire was nuthin' but an accident. We had it double-checked by some electric-workin' ponies, and it is completely safe."

"But what if we get attacked like Rarity?" Apple Bloom whined. "Sweetie Belle says that her mom 'n dad are worried that they might be in danger!"

"We got nuthin' ta worry about." Applejack said, "The town loves us. We've never done anythin' ta upset anypony. We'll be fine."

"Okay, Applejack." Apple Bloom responded unconvincingly. Applejack smiled comfortingly down at the young filly.

"No matter what happens. Ol' Big Mac and I… we ain't gonna let anything bad happen ta you." Applejack said confidently, "Good night, Apple Bloom."

"Goodnight, Applejack."

Applejack was down in the kitchen within minutes, joining Big Mac at the table. The now small household had been shaken deeply by the recent fire, and although Twilight's magic may have repaired the damages, it will take a lot more before the wounds are finally gone. Besides, the barn and house may be back, but half of their crops were gone.

"It's gonna be a miracle if we make it through next year." Big Mac commented as Applejack sat. He was looking at some papers on the table, most likely assessing the damages in depth. He always was better at that kind of management.

"Let's just be thankful we don't have ta build a new house and a new barn." Applejack said, "If that were the case… I don't wanna think about it."

"We lost most of our crops… we still have most of the apples, but we can't survive on apples alone."

"I'm aware of the situation, Mac."

"Y'know, we wouldn't even have to worry if we asked Twilight t'fix our crops." Big Mac suggested.

"Ferget about it, Mac. Twilight's done enough around here. Wouldn't be right." Applejack said sternly.

"I know, Applejack." Big Mac replied, "It was just an idea."

There was a pause in the conversation where the only noises made were the shuffling of papers on the table. Living out of town meant that no ambient noise ever reached the farm, and it oftentimes became eerily quiet. Applejack didn't mind, though. She was a simple pony, and she liked the quiet country setting.

"Apple Bloom's worried." Applejack finally said.

"'Bout what?"

"That we might get attacked like Rarity." Applejack said. "She'll never hear me say it, but Ah honestly feel the same."

"Don't be silly now, Applejack."

"Well, there ain't never been an attack like this in Ponyville before, so who's to say this ain't some crazy killer pony on the loose?" Applejack whispered the last part, realizing that Apple Bloom hearing that Applejack was uneasy was most likely not the best thing that could happen.

"That's just crazy talk, Applejack." Big Mac assured her, "What happened with Rarity was a freak incident that'll never happen to a small farmin' family like us."

"I'm still uneasy, Mac. We can't afford to lose any more of these crops."

"Yer darn right about that." Mac mumbled.

Applejack took her eyes off Big Mac and tried to forget about the conversation. These sort of violent events just… didn't happen. Ponyville was a peaceful town. Nopony's ever had to worry about their safety before, but with Rarity's boutique getting destroyed, there was a new fear in the hearts of all the ponies. It was as if a black cloud had settled over each of their hearts, constantly reminding them that the possibility of mortal danger existed.

In her thinking, Applejack let her eyes fall on a rather small book on the counter. It was an old novel Twilight had recommended to Applejack entitled Of Mice and Ponies. It was a wonderful and short read, but Applejack had let it sit on that counter for far too long. She had had it for a week, and today was the time to return it. Applejack groaned.

"Mac, what time is it?"

"Clock's on the wall." Mac said, then saw his sister glare at him, "Uh… it's 10:14."

"Good, Twilight usually closes the library at 11. Last thing we need is a late fee." Applejack said, getting up from her chair. She walked over to some hooks on the wall and grabbed a pair of tan-colored saddlebags with embroidered apple designs decorating their exteriors.

"Ya have ta do that tonight?" Mac asked.

"If Ah don't, that's five bits. You got five bits on ya?"

"Not at the moment."

"Exactly. Ah'll be back soon."

"Why don't ya just ask Twilight ta give ya an extra day?" Big Mac suggested, "Yer friends, right?"

"Big Macintosh!" Applejack scolded, "Ah am not about to take advantage of our friend's generosity, have Ah not made that clear?"

"You have." Big Mac recoiled.

"Good. Now, Ah will be back soon. If Apple Bloom wakes up, just make sure she knows that we ain't gonna be attacked any minute."

"Even though y'don't believe that yerself."

"You hush." Applejack quieted the bigger colt.

"'Tain't smart goin' out after dark, AJ." Big Mac warned his sister. "Five bits ain't too bad, why don't ya just wait 'till tomorrow?"

"It's not just the late fee that Ah don't want." Applejack said, "Them late fees are there fer a reason. Twilight don't want her books late, 's just rude."

"Well, be careful." Big Mac said, knowing full well that Applejack was just a bit too headstrong to argue with.

"Ah'll be back soon."

"Eeyup."

Five minutes of walking and Applejack was a hundred feet from the nearest entrance to Ponyville. Applejack cursed herself for leaving the book return to the last second, but pressed on with the knowledge that if she didn't return the book now, they would be slapped with that late fee, and the family really couldn't afford any extra expenses at this time.

Sure, Applejack could have weaseled her way out of the late fee because she was good friends with Twilight, but that would be rude. Applejack was too honest a pony to slip behind the rules like that. She just wished that she didn't have to go out at night. The more she walked the more she wished she had asked Big Mac to come along, though that would have left Applebloom alone. She had been in Ponyville at night a few times, but she almost always had another pony with her. The walk she was currently taking was quite unsettling, bordering on frightening.

"Applejack?" Came the rough female voice of Rainbow Dash from far above. Applejack, startled at first, melted in relief at the sound of a familiar pony. Applejack smiled as Rainbow Dash flew down from where she was flying above.

"Why Rainbow Dash, what brings ya out here so late?" Applejack asked happily. Rainbow Dash landed and breathed a little, flapping her wings a few times before closing them.

"I was just visiting Twilight." Rainbow Dash said with a little grin. The way Rainbow Dash spoke so genuinely was a little unsettling to Applejack. Of all things, genuine was not a word to describe her friend Rainbow Dash.

"Y'all have been spendin' a lot o' time t'gether, y'know?" Applejack said.

"Yea, I… suppose we have." Rainbow Dash said, "What's it to ya?"

"Alrigh' sugarcube, spill. What's goin' on between you an' Twi?" Applejack demanded, "Ah know somethin's fishy here."

Dash was taken aback. "What's fishy about me and Twilight spending time together?" She asked, "In case I need to remind you, we are good friends."

"RD…" Applejack started, looking at her friend seriously, "Ah've known ya ever since ya moved here from Cloudsdale, Ah know you. Y'all have never spent so much time with a pony ever! Y'can't sit still long enough."

"I take that as a compliment."

"Point is, y'all have been actin' different is all." Applejack said. Rainbow Dash had heard that enough times.

"Psh." Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes, "Like I haven't heard that one before."

"Well, it's true." Applejack said.

"Look, I've been worried about Twilight just like any of us. Just so happens that I feel like visiting her from time to time, what's wrong with that?"

Realizing that she would not get an answer anytime soon, Applejack decided that this was a conversation for another time. Applejack sighed and shook her head, "Ah'm worried about Twilight too. Y'think she knows what happened back at the farm?"

"Uh… she's not really sure. Sometimes magic just… does that." Rainbow Dash lied, trying to make her limited knowledge of magic sound as believable as possible.

"Heh, ain't that the truth."

RD mentally sighed with relief. One thing was made clear to Rainbow Dash: do not let the other ponies know about Twilight's memory loss. Twilight was concerned enough about the issue without all the other ponies being worried too. Rainbow Dash knew Twilight's concerns. She was afraid that if her friends learned about her issue, then they would want to restrict her magic and not let her help them in times of need. Twilight wasn't usually so proud, but she held her magic dear.

"Well, I think I'll head home then, AJ." Rainbow Dash said, taking wing and hovering a few feet in the air. Applejack felt like stopping Rainbow Dash and asking her to accompany her to the library, but Rainbow Dash had just come from there, and Applejack wanted to ask Twilight the same thing she asked Rainbow Dash, though if anypony were more in the dark than Applejack was, it was probably Twilight.

"Alright, sugarcube." Applejack said, "Y'all have a good night."

Rainbow Dash smiled and took off, leaving Applejack behind in a cloud of dust. Applejack looked forward and noticed how dark the town had really gotten. With an audible gulp, Applejack pressed silently onward, finally crossing under the Ponyville sign.

Now that Rainbow Dash had gone, Applejack now felt very alone. Normally a strong earth pony such as Applejack would have no problem walking through Ponyville by herself, but something about the dark tonight felt… eerie and spooky. Things that had anything to do with the supernatural bothered Applejack and scared her, which is a reason why she was slightly hesitant letting Twilight fix up her farm.

Applejack's pace quickened when she heard a rustling noise from somewhere in the distance. She was quickly approaching the library, but still had a good five minutes of walking because it was on the other side of town. A short time passed and Applejack found herself in front of the large, circular town hall. In the daytime it was the crown jewel of Ponyville: a monument of great grandeur and poise, but in the night it looked like a great haunted house.

"Whuzzat? Who's there?" Applejack demanded after a particularly loud shuffling sound from behind her. Applejack whipped her head around when she swore she saw a shape rustling in the distance.

"Ah ain't messin' around here. Y'all best show yer face." Applejack spoke, wavering slightly.

A cold, demonic voice answered Applejack. "Why, Applejack. It's a bit late for a walk, don't you think?" The voice chilled Applejack to the very core and caused her eyes to open wide with fear. Applejack couldn't move; she was paralyzed with fright.

"Wh-whoever that is… jus' let me go, alright?" Applejack said, turning away from where she thought the voice had come from. No sooner had she turned did she find herself staring right at a dark figure surrounded by a consuming black aura. Applejack yelped and jumped backwards a few feet.

"Going so soon?" The figure asked in that same horrid voice, feigning innocence. "But I just wanted to play."

"Ah ain't in no mood ta play, now if ya excuse me, Ah need ta be somewhere." Applejack spoke, this time more confidently, though it didn't exactly show in her complexion.

"Hm…" The figure said, bringing a hoof to its chin. Applejack tried to get an identifying look at the pony in front of her to try to identify its coat color, mane, anything! But, the dark of night combined with the black aura obscured all but its outline. In fact, AJ believed that the figure itself was as black as the night they were both currently in. The only illumination coming from the pony was its two glowing white eyes.

"Nah." The pony said, then chuckled a little, "I think I'd like you to stick around." Then, the pony illuminated its horn with glowing, light purple magic. Applejack didn't need an explanation to know that the mysterious pony was a unicorn about ready to use some of its magic. Purple magic, though… this was the same pony that attacked Rarity's boutique!

AJ didn't think twice before turning and high-tailing it away from the dark pony, desperately trying to reach the library. Applejack got about ten feet before something horribly hot hit her flank, knocking her skidding to a halt on her side. Applejack howled in pain and looked down at her right side that was not firmly planted in the grass, the one that was hit by the magical attack. A burn was evident, and was searing in pain.

"What in the hay!" Applejack screamed, her voice cracking and a few tears falling from her eyes from the pain. The dark figure simply stared at Applejack with its glowing eyes. Applejack's vision was cloudy, but it did not stop her from getting up and trying to run again. Applejack winced as she tried to move her legs and run, the burn making the effort nearly impossible. Applejack cried out in agony, the pain from the magical burn too much to bear. The dark pony then suddenly appeared in front of Applejack's path, causing Applejack to stop suddenly, digging her hooves into the ground.

"Please! Ah didn't do nuthin!" Applejack pleaded, but was suddenly lifted up by a magical constraint around her neck. The attacking pony was holding tight to Applejack's neck, not letting her go. Applejack struggled for breath, but found that her throat was very firmly closed. She sputtered and coughed, but nothing helped her regain airflow. Applejack grasped at her throat to attempt to pry off whatever magical force bound her, but all she felt was the tightening power around her own neck.

"You're right, you didn't do anything." The dark unicorn said evilly, then threw Applejack back right as her vision began to fade. Applejack landed hard on the ground behind, her right flank skidding across the ground, agitating the fresh burn. Applejack screamed from the pain. The unicorn walked toward Applejack's crumpled form slowly, "I'm just doing this for fun."

Applejack could hardly think; the last attack had left her too weak. She tried to muster up the energy to get up and run, but even the idea made her feel like fainting. What resulted from her attempts to escape was a poor, injured earth pony pitifully crawling across the grass, trying to get away from the assaulting unicorn.

The unicorn then lifted Applejack with her magic again and, laughing, threw her a few feet in the air. Applejack crashed down again, landing hard on her left side, thankfully not disturbing the debilitating burn further. Applejack coughed and turned, trying even harder to get away, knowing full well that her efforts would prove fruitless.

Once again, the unicorn lifted Applejack and threw her even higher in the air, at least 20 feet. Applejack was now facing with her belly to the ground. She was too weak to move her body, so when she fell it was right on her left hind leg. A sickening crack sounded as she landed, signaling the terrible reality that Applejack's leg was now broken.

Applejack shouted once again, this time tears freely streaming down her face. She gritted her teeth and knew that soon her leg would be hurting even more than it currently did. She slowly turned her head and looked down and was horrified to see the bone protruding from her orange leg. She curled up and tried her best to comfort the broken appendage, but the attack was not over.

"Aww… pity. You're going to need that when you work." The voice spoke in that terrible, cold way. "Not like you'll ever be applebucking again." Applejack disregarded wondering why this pony even knew what Applejack did for a living. Applejack just shivered and waited for the pony to just finish the job. Applejack was broken, beaten, and at the end of her strength. The attacker would need to do very little more before Applejack was dead, and she knew that.

"Well, I'm glad we were able to have fun, Applejack." The evil pony said, "But it seems like you won't be able to resist much longer, and what fun is that?" The figure prepared another magical attack, this time Applejack knew it would be the end.

"Wh-who are you?" Applejack asked weakly with what little strength she had. The figure released the energy and paused for a second, as if contemplating telling her.

"Now why would I tell you that?" The dark pony asked, then laughed evilly, letting magic fill her horn once again. Applejack closed her eyes and waited for the sweet embrace of death…

"Goodbye, Applej-HUH!"

Applejack heard a loud thud and the unicorn's magic fizzled out. She opened her eye and noticed that the unicorn was no longer in front of her, but was off to the side. And, on top of it was Rainbow Dash!

"What do you think you're doing?" Rainbow Dash hollered, pinning the mysterious pony to the ground intensely, its black aura flowing around Rainbow Dash's body and partly obscuring her figure as well.

The mysterious pony laughed and threw Rainbow Dash off of her with a quick magical attack. The unicorn rose and appeared to dust itself off. Rainbow Dash snapped back up and began to charge at the attacking unicorn, but was stopped with the unicorn's lavender magic.

"Sorry, but I'm in no mood for ponies that are actually going to fight back." The unicorn said, uninterested. She threw Rainbow Dash down again, this time the pegasus getting up a little more slowly. Rainbow Dash coughed a few times, then snarled at the attacker, getting ready to charge again.

"I must apologize, dear Applejack." The pony said with a false sincerity, "But our fun seems to have been interrupted by this rude pegasus… Rainbow Dash." The unicorn said with a bite.

"How do you know my name?"

"Looks like we'll just have to do this again sometime." The unicorn said, ignoring Rainbow Dash. Then, without another word, the unicorn vanished in a cloud of black smoke.

"Applejack!" Rainbow Dash screamed, running over to Applejack with panic in her heart. Applejack now lay only partially conscious with her eyelids only open a centimeter.

"Dash…" Applejack choked out weakly. Rainbow Dash took note of her injuries in what little light they had. The most obvious was the gruesome broken leg that had punctured the skin. Dash also took notice of a grizzly burn on the side of Applejack's body facing up, on her flank.

"I'm taking you to the hospital, AJ." Dash said, scooping up Applejack gently and flying off, toward Ponyville's hospital.

"D-dash…" Applejack muttered again while in Rainbow Dash's arms, then she passed into unconsciousness.

"Stay with me, Applejack!" Rainbow Dash shouted, but Applejack was out. Panicked and terrified, Rainbow Dash doubled her speed, making record time to the hospital where she only hoped Applejack's injuries were not severe enough to cause permanent damage or… death. Rainbow Dash shook the thought out of her head and focused on the task at hand: saving her friend.

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