Granny Smith had been rather cross when she heard about Apple Bloom’s adventure in the Flame Geyser Swamp. Apple Bloom had been grounded for life (or until Granny Smith decided she’d had enough punishment, but she wasn’t getting her hopes up), while Applejack had to count every apple at Sweet Apple Acres while Granny Smith watched her every move.
Apple Bloom had lost track of the years that had passed since then. Her grounding had never been lifted in all that time. She’d been confined to her room for an eternity, and only allowed to leave for school, chores and meals.
Applejack knocked on her door.
“Come in!” Apple Bloom said.
“Sis, it’s been three weeks since you were grounded, and Granny Smith thinks it’s time to lift your punishment,” Applejack said.
“All right! Wait, it’s only been three weeks?” said Apple Bloom, who had never been blessed with a keen sense of time.
“Also, tomorrow is another pie delivery, and this the route ain’t going through any dangerous swamps filled with monsters or anything, so I figure maybe you’d like to join me?”
Apple Bloom jumped up and down in excitement. “Wait, for real? that would be amazing!”
“Well, one day you’ll be expected to deliver pies, so we figured we ought to get you ready. So, are you in, li’l sis?”
“I am more than in!”
A day later, Apple Bloom was pulling along a cart of pies, accompanied by Applejack. They’d reached a fork in the road.
“You still remember this place, sis?” Applejack said. “The road to the right leads to the Flame Geyser Swamp. This time around, we’re taking the road to the left, which goes to the Fire Spring Heights.”
“That doesn’t sound like the safest place out there,” Apple Bloom said.
“If you stay on the road, everything should be fine,” Applejack said. “It doesn’t take us too close to any of the springs. Just make sure you drink enough apple juice. The place can dehydrate a pony faster than an apple can fall from a tree.”
“That’s the best analogy you can think of? Really?”
“Oh, hush you.”
The two sisters gradually made their way up to the Fire Spring Heights, a barren, brown rocky plain, occasionally broken up by patches of tall, bright red and the occasional tree with bright red leaves and yellow fruits. Further away from the winding road were large craters that occasionally produced great jets of flame.
“What’s up with the plant life around these parts?” Apple Bloom asked.
“Well, the red grass is really just like normal grass, colour aside,” Applejack said. “We could probably eat it, though it’s dry and doesn’t taste very good. The trees, on the other hoof, produce fruits that tend to blow up at the drop of a hat. You buck one of them trees, and everything under its leaves goes boom.”
“Right, guess I’ll avoid them trees. Also, is it just me, or is the horizon getting awful close?” Apple Bloom looked across the plain in front of her, which did indeed end abruptly in a vertical cliff just a stone’s throw ahead. The road took a sharp left turn mere inches before the ledge, with only a rickety wooden fence separating the trail from the drop into oblivion.
“It’s Wyrm’s Ledge. Down below it is the Flame Geyser Swamp, though you can’t see it due to all the steam rising from the swamp. The road will hug the edge of the cliff for a while to come. We’re making good progress.”
Apple Bloom retrieved a bottle of apple juice from her saddlebags and took a sip. “What’s a Wyrm?”
Applejack followed Apple Bloom’s lead and took a drink as well. “It’s what the high-falutin’ ponies back in the day called dragons. According to Twi, the great dragon migration passes by here once every generation.”
A few hours later, Apple Bloom and Applejack reached a great stone bridge connecting the Fire Spring Heights to a flat-topped rock spire rising up from the abyss in the distance, which in turn had another stone bridge leading to a place far beyond the sight of the two ponies. The only other feature of the spire was a single red-leaved tree. To the left of the bridge, the cliffside gradually inclined upwards, before changing its course to run parallel to the bridge. Several cascades of lava poured from the distant cliff.
Just before the bridge was the starting point of a long series of stairs going down into the depths, marked by two small obelisks. “What’s with those stairs over there?” Apple Bloom said.
“I reckon they lead all the way to the Flame Geyser Swamp. Don’t think anypony’s used them in hundreds of years, though. They ain’t exactly safe.”
As the two ponies walked onto the bridge, Apple Bloom could swear she heard the sound of something climbing up the steps. “You sure no one would use them?”
“They’re so old and weathered by now that anyone using them would be either tired of life or a few apples short of a bushel,” Applejack said.
A loud roar sounded from the stairs. The head of a tiger emerged from below, followed by the head of a goat, followed by their shared body, followed by an unusually frightened snake.
“A few apples short of a bushel, she calls us!” the tiger head said.
“How dare she?” the goat head said.
“You two decided to climb up these impossibly dangerous ssstairs just so you could have revenge on sssome ssstupid poniesss,” the snake head said. “I hate to take their ssside, but I think they have a point here.”
“Wait, revenge?” Apple Bloom said. “What do y’all even want revenge for?”
“And how did you even know we would be here?” Applejack said.
“Your delivery ssschedule wasss printed on the ssside of your cart,” the snake head said.
“And we want revenge for getting me stuck in a tree!” the tiger head said.
“And getting me ssstuck in between some branches,” the snake head said.
“And for feeding me ricotta that gave me indigestion!” the goat head said.
“So I decided to have my revenge!” the tiger head said.
“Taking revenge was my idea, Bitey!” the goat head said.
“Wooly, why do you always have to take the credit for the ideas of others?” Bitey said.
“Why would you even want to be asssociated with such a ssstupid idea?” the snake head said.
“Shut up, Hissy!” Wooly and Bitey said in unison.
“And stop accusing me of trying to steal credit for something that was my idea in the first place!” Wooly said.
Applejack and Apple Bloom stared at the chimera as it argued with itself. “Hey, how about we make a run for it, sis?” Applejack said.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Apple Bloom said. They started running.
They were just about nearing the other side of the bridge when the chimera gave chase.
“I can’t believe you two were ssso busy arguing that you let our prey get sssuch a lead!” Hissy said.
“Well you could’ve told us they were getting away,” Bitey said.
“I did, but you were too busy arguing to lisssten!”
Apple Bloom looked back. “They’re gaining on us!”
As the two ponies passed the tree, the chimera caught up. Bitey bit down onto the back of the pie cart, and pulled it to a stop. Apple Bloom responded by reversing directing and ramming the back of the cart, chimera included, into the tree. A single fruit dropped from it, right on top of Bitey’s head. It exploded, covering her face in soot and leaving her dazed.
“Get her!” Wooly said. Hissy lunged at Apple Bloom, only to receive a flying kick to the face courtesy of Applejack.
“How about you turn around right now and leave?” Applejack said as she stared down the chimera. “And if you dare hurt my little sis, so Celestia help me I will make you wish you’d never seen an Apple in your life.”
Apple Bloom had unhitched herself, and was now staring down the chimera as well. “And if you hurt my big sis, I swear by my pretty pink bow I will end you.”
Wooly, showing an amazing lack of self-preservation instinct, tried to headbutt Apple Bloom. She ended up with two pairs of hind hooves in her face.
“Nice kick, sis,” Applejack said.
“Yours wasn’t half bad either. Seen much better headbutts, though,” Apple Bloom said.
“Good effort, though,” Applejack said. “Maybe we should show her how it’s done.”
“You know what, I think we should.”
Two headbutts later, Wooly was out cold, Bitey was too dizzy to do anything, and Hissy, being a quick learner, pretended to be asleep and hoped fervently that the ponies would buy her act and leave her alone.
Apple Bloom hitched herself up to the cart again, and the two ponies continued on their journey. Before long, they reached their destination, a small, isolated hamlet whose ponies were elated to see the two sisters. They celebrated all evening.
“Apple Bloom, you did great,” Applejack said, as the festivities were winding down. “I can’t believe I ever worried about you.”
“Thanks, sis, but if it hadn’t been for you, I’d have been a goner,” Apple Bloom said. “You’re the best sis a pony could ask for.”
They hugged one another, and didn’t let go until they woke up the next day.
 5,733,923 apples, not including those consumed during the counting process