"Sweetie Belle! Breakfast is ready!"
The sun was shining brightly in the house, the golden rays reflecting from the walls. Sweetie Belle's mother, Cookie Crumbles, loved this time of day the most, for it was when the day was most fresh, and so much more could be done. She fixed a breakfast of oranges, toast, and eggs for Sweetie Belle - scrambled, not sunny-side up, just how she liked it. She knew that any time now, Sweetie would catch the smell of her cooking, and would trot downstairs to get food. It was when was used to hearing all kind of sounds from upstairs: Charging downwards, bouncing, a deep silence...but not for the sounds that she heard...
When she turned around, Sweetie Belle stood right behind her, but her expression was different, it was cold, and intense. Perhaps most frighteningly, she wore a strange mask on her face, one that Cookie Crumbles did not recall buying for her. Thinking about this, she decided to ask Sweetie Belle about it: "Sweetie Belle, where did you get that mask?"
Sweetie's cold, hard expression didn't change, but a muffled, masculine voice emerged from the mask: "No one cared who I was until I put on the mask."
Cookie was shocked at this: "Okay, Sweetie Belle, this isn't that funny..."
But Sweetie only stared at her, and said nothing.
"Sweetie Belle, I'm going to take that mask off," Cookie said with a deep huff.
Sweetie Bell's face finally changed: Now it meant business. "It will be very painful..."
"-you're a big girl-"
Cookie Crumbles was completely aghast at this remark! "Sweetie Belle, don't play games with me." However, try as Cookie could to sound firm, she was actually afraid. She hoped that Sweetie Belle didn't detect this.
Unfortunately, she did.
Sweetie stood on her hind legs with her forelegs spread wide: "Let the games begin!"
Cookie Crumbles was taken aback by this defiance: "Don't talk that way to me, young lady!"
Sweetie Bell's face was still the same, but her voice sounded exasperated. "You panicked."
"Damn right I did! You're scaring me!" Cookie yelled. She was genuinely surprised, for this kind of pointless defiance was rather uncharacteristic for Sweetie Belle.
Sweetie shook her head: "Now is not the time for fear...that comes later." Sweetie Belle was now picking up her backback nonchalantly.
Cookie gathered her breath and spoke calmly, but firmly: "Who do you think you are, young lady?!"
Sweetie Belle was no longer making eye contact with her mother, seemingly talking to herself now: "It doesn't matter who we are...what matters is our plan."
Cookie Crumbles huffed, gathering her courage: "Well, you are taking your mask off and speaking to me respectfully, because I am your mother, and I'm in charge!"
Sweetie stared deep into her mother's eyes: "Do you feel in charge?"
Cookie sputtered, uncertain what to do. "When you get back from school, you're grounded!"
Sweetie Belle's masked face cocked an eyebrow: "And this gives you... power ...over me?" There was a chilling silence. Sweetie Belle spoke again: "Your money, and your infrastructure have been important...until now."
Sweetie Belle then trotted away from her and then grabbed some eggs from the freezer most nonchalantly before trotting out the door without even touching the breakfast her mother made for her. Cookie was completely out of words, uncertain why this happened, and even less certain how Sweetie was going to eat without taking off her mask.
Cookie had been fretting for the past three hours, wondering what had happened to her sweet daughter. She was on her way to the schoolhouse to see how Sweetie Belle was behaving in school. She saw the red barnhouse-like school, perched upon a green, grassy school. She intentionally waited for three hours, so it would be lunchbreak by the time she arrived, and she could then check on Sweetie without making any disturbances. She peered into the door window first - nothing seemed to be wrong, most of the foals were gathered in a circle. However, Sweetie Belle was still wearing that curious mask. Cookie Crumbles opened the door, and walked in. Cheerilee turned around in surprise at Cookie: She was not used to having the parents visit. Cookie Crumbles realized this, and quickly explained. "I'm sorry, but my daughter seemed to...well, she got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I was hoping she was not making any trouble-"
"Oh no, not at all!" Cheerilee said with a smile and a shake of her head. "Let me guess...you're concerned about her change of her behavior? Well-spoken, but scarcely rational? And that growth on her face?"
Cookie was startled: "You mean...that's not a mask??"
"Nope. Your daughter has Bane Flu." Cheerilee saw the growing horror on Cookie's face, and quickly explained, "don't worry, it's very normal. Very contagious, easily spreads with skin contact, but still very normal...well, it's kinda normal now, anyway. She'll be perfectly well in a couple of days, and it's not like she's not the only one who still has it."
"Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear" cut in a deep, smothered voice much like the one Sweetie Belle spoke with this morning. Cheerilee and Cookie Crumbles turned and to their surprise, there was Pipsqueak, who had a similar mask-like growth on his face.
Cheerilee smiled and nodded. "Yes Pipsqueak, we were talking about you."
Cheerilee turned to Cookie Crumbles, who was still frightened, and now had numerous questions: "B-b-but, how come I never heard of it before??"
"I think it's a Przewalskian epidemic...well, either that or it's something Twilight accidentally made in her lab. All I know is that not long after coming home from a trip to Przewalskia, Spike got a weird growth on his face, a low-pitched voice, and a bad attitude. I mean, did you see him lately? Just last week, he was talking about 'the rising fire' or something like that."
Cookie's face was losing any last shred of reassurance: "You mean...you don't know??"
Cheerilee could see that there was a festering fear on Cookie's face, and so she continued to reassure her: "Don't worry, what we do know is that they get better after just one or two days! Though Twilight is working on a swift cure. Anyway, Sweetie Belle is actually playing really well with the other children. They're playing pretend of some kind."
Cookie Crumbles looked at the gathered foals, and saw this to be true:
Pipsqueak was already playing with the other foals, explaining something: "Well, perhaps he is wondering why somebody would shoot a man...before throwing him out of a plane."
"The fire rises!" declared Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo looked around in confusion, "but Sweetie Belle, I don't see any fire!"
"You'll just have to imagine the fire" Sweetie explained.
Cookie Crumbles was a bit curious, so she trotted over to the circle of foals. Apple Bloom turned and looked happily at her, waving her hoof enthusiastically: "Hi Mrs. Magnum! We're playing...we're playing...uh, what are we playing?"
Scootaloo shrugged. "No idea, except Sweetie Belle is some evil pony-"
"I'm necessary evil" Sweetie corrected.
Silver Spoon put all personal grudge behind Apple Bloom and Scootaloo to be helpful, and to raise a question they were all wondering: "To be honest, nobody has any idea what we are doing." She then turned to Sweetie and politely asked, "Sweetie Belle, what are we playing?"
Sweetie Belle provided their question with a rather curious answer: "This bomb-" she began, pointing at a rock "-is armed. This bomb is mobile. And the identity of the trigger man, is a mystery, for one of you-" she added, while gesturing towards the foals "-holds the detonator!"
There was a pause. All were silent, attentively listening to what she might say next. Sweetie Belle continued in an increasingly unnerving explanation:
"We'll start by storming Blackgate and free the oppressed!" she announced, gesturing to the naughty corner, currently inhabited by Rumble, "Step forward those who would serve, for an army will be raised. The powerful-" she added, gesturing to Diamond Tiara, who was looking absolutely terrified, "will be ripped from their decadent nests, and cast out into the cold world that we know, and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed! Blood will be shed! The police-" she explained, gesturing at Cheerilee, "will survive, as they learn to serve true justice! This great city..." she then paused, turning, looking long and hard at the frightened foals "...it will endure."
There was a silence in the room. Cheerilee broke it with the 'insincere polite tone': "Oh, wow! What an imagination!"
Cookie Crumbles trotted over to her daughter, and said: "Sweetie, I think you're too sick to stay in school today."
Cookie Crumbled has escorted Sweetie Belle home, with not so much as a complaint by her, which she found really unnerving. When they arrived at their house, Cookie went upstairs, and went into Sweetie's room. She shut the blinds, and then called Sweetie to her room: "Sweetie Belle, come here please."
Cookie turned around, and Sweetie Belle was standing in the middle of her room rather stoically, almost as though she had stood there the whole time. Cookie Crumbles then walked to the door entrance. "I'm going to leave you in your room for a while," she explained, "I left it dark so you could nap." Sweetie Belle gave no response, except for a tilt of her head. Cookie kept on explaining. "You're really sick, and you need to rest, so you can get better. Do you understand?"
There was a long pause, and Cookie wondered if Sweetie was ever going to answer. But she did:
"Oh, you think darkness is your ally? I was born in it...molded by it...I didn't see the light until-" Cookie Crumbles shut the door hard at that point.
Cookie Crumbles was sitting in the living room, reading and listening for any activity from Sweetie Belle. She certainly didn't hear any more of those "clomp-clomps", so she guessed that Sweetie Belle napped as she was told. But then again, Sweetie could be very quiet when she wanted to be.
Outside of the house, Rarity was attending her weekly visit to her parents' place, gently rapping at the door knocker with her magic. Cookie Crumbles promptly answered, and greeted her daughter: "Hi!"
"Oh, hello!" Rarity replied, hugging her mother. However, this was quickly broken when she caught a whiff of something with her nose. Something that smelled like smoke. "Sweetie Belle...are you cooking dinner again?" Rarity called.
Cookie Crumbles realized that while she was reading, Sweetie must have gotten hungry and snuck into the kitchen. She quickly had to explain, "oh, Sweetie is sick-"
Another was also determined to answer Rarity's question: "Yes! We have started the fire! The fire rises!!" a booming voice answered.
Cookie Crumbles and Rarity then rushed to the kitchen, and saw that the entire place was on fire! "Quick Rarity!" screamed Cookie Crumbles, "I'll get the fire extinguisher, you get Sweetie Bell!" While Cookie galloped to the garage to get the fire extinguisher, Rarity dashed to the kitchen, and unthinking, did not use her magic to grab Sweetie, but grabbed her by the nape of her neck with her teeth. Sweetie, weakened by asphyxiation from the smoky kitchen, could see the fire as Rarity took her away.
...Yes, yes...the fire was rising. Fire...rising........
The next morning, a powerful light shone on Sweetie's bed. She stirred in bed, shifting from side to side, until she rose, and coughed. Cookie Crumbles was sitting right next to her, and put a gentle hoof on her shoulder. "Shh, it's okay. Mama's here." She handed Sweetie a glass of icy water, which Sweetie gleefully gulped down, and coughed again. Sweetie's father, Hondo Flanks, was also there, and leaned over to give his daughter a hug. "Poor baby! I was worried about you."
Sweetie was still drousy and confused. "W-what happened?"
Her mother put a gentle hoof on her daughter's face, and said "you were very sick yesterday."
Hondo added "don't you remember?"
Sweetie shook her head. "No, everything just feels kinda...hazy...Hey, it's the weekend right?"
"Yes it is Sweetie, yes it is," Hondo smiled warmly.
Sweetie then looked a little more sad. "Well, where is Rarity? She said she'd stay over for the weekend!"
Hondo and Cookie looked at each other, no words to say, until Cookie decided to begin explaining to her daughter. "Rarity is...not feeling well, Sweetie..."
Meanwhile, right outside of their house, Pinkie Pie was minding her own business, doing some early grocery shopping, when she saw none other, but her good friend Rarity! Pinkie happily bounced over to give her friend greetings. "Goody-good morning Rarity! What brings you here on this fine morning?"
Rarity, however, did not immediately say anything. She merely slowly turned to Pinkie Pie, revealing something dark on her face, like a mask. She stared long and meaningfully into Pinkie, crushing Pinkie's soul with her gaze alone. No words were being said for what felt like an eternity, but it was an eternity Rarity somehow managed to break with these words alone:
"You have my permission to die."