Patchwork Pony

by Drax99

First published

A monster pony wakes up with no memory, and is befriended by the CMC.

Who am I? Where am I? What am I? All perfectly valid questions, especially if you wake up with no memory, no voice, and being poked by a member of the CMC. Patches is a pony with a hidden past, and an ugly hide. His origins are unknown, and possibly just as scary as his looks. Three young fillies help him discover the truth behind his horrible appearance and his mysterious cutie mark.

You guys wanna see a dead body?

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Ow. Ow. Something was poking me. It felt, well what was it? Oh, pain. Pain is bad, I think. Yes, definitely bad. I can’t move but I start to hear, as high pitched voices enter my consciousness. The word drifts into my mind, and I latch onto it. Children. Yes, that's the word. Piece by piece, things fall into place, like a bucket slowly being filled with sap, one drip at a time.

“See, I told you, it’s a dead body! Now pay up, you owe me two bits.” Again, the poke, and the small jab of pain.

An image came to my mind, drifted in, and started playing. Four creatures, pale, mostly hairless, and wearing Yes, that's the word. Sitting together in a small room, “You guys wanna see a dead body?” one of them said to the others. Just as quickly the scene fades out and the blackness returned. I once again heard the voices.

A new voice, from the direction of the poking. “That’s a funny lookin’ Cutie mark. Why would a pony have a number fer a cutie mark?” The voice brought images of open fields, blue skies, and folk music. I could hear the music in her voice as if she were playing the song herself. Guitars and fiddles, stomped feet and happy voices raised in song. I tried to focus on the memory, but it fluttered away again into the void.

“I don’t think that’s a cutie mark.” A third voice, a bit squeaky, on the verge of puberty, yet with the silken tones of someone brought up to speak proper. I suddenly pictured a small girl with curly hair and rosy cheeks. Something about a temple? Lollipops? And again, it’s gone. “That looks more like a burn!”

“Oh wow, mebbe it’s a brand! I read that ancient tribes used to use hot pieces of metal to brand their flanks and tell one tribe from another, as well as tell when they had become adults.” The first voice was an image of open road and leather. Firelight and rolling waves. The image faded just as fast, and there was silence from her friends. “What? If Rainbow Dash can be cool reading, then so can I!” She was met with the sound of giggles. Yes, she. I realised that all three were female children, and quite young, although I could not remember how I knew this. “Aww, geeze, I hate you guys.”

“Where did ya git a book like that? Ah never saw no book bout tribes at school.” The bold country voice spoke again, and I swear I smelled apples. What’s an apple?

“Oh, I was lookin’ for Rainbow Dash, and stopped at the Library. She was busy reading with Twilight, so I hung out and looked at some random stuff. Twilight had some old book open about the history of cutie marks, and I started reading it for ideas on how to get ours. It was really cool!” I heard the flapping of wings and the thud of limbs as she crowed her discovery. Every word, each voice, brought memories. Sounds, smells, images of things I should know but could not remember.

“I don’t know. Having a scar as a cutie mark seems pretty extreme, even for you Scootaloo. I bet it hurts a lot, like alot a lot!” The sweet voiced girl with curls, sounding unsure.

“Well it’s better than being a blank flank forever.” Arrogance and confidence.

“Whatcha think kilt him? And what’s that brown stuff all over his fur?” Apples and rich earth.

“It’s blood. You crash as much as I do, and you never forget the smell of blood. Tastes pretty bad too.” Open skies, the smell after a storm.

“Oh no! What could be mean enough to kill an alicorn? Aren't they immortal, like the princesses?” Fresh linen, a child’s smiling face.

“He ain't no real ally-corn, see, his horn is fake. It’s all metallic-y an stuff. Not a proper horn at all!” A stolen kiss, and warm pie.

“Well the wings are real enough, although they are in pretty bad shape. It looks like somepony stitched them back on badly.” A brisk mountain breeze, and an crackling fire.

“His whole body looks stitched together, like a rag doll. He’s all patchy and different colors. And his mane! Somepony shaved off his mane!” A flower opening, birdsong in flight.

I felt a gentle touch along my head, and I longed to lean into it, but my body still would not obey me. Just as quick it was gone again, and I felt alone in the darkness.

“I don’t think all of this is his blood, although it looks like a lot of it came from that wound on his throat. It must have been a really nasty fight, either way.” A proud lion, and a cowering cub. Sunset over the desert.

“Ah’m not sure he’s really dead. I think I saw him breath just now.” A tree in bloom, and sweet lemonade. Cool shade on a sunny day. “We should go tell somepony!”

“There’s no way anypony can bleed that much and live. Besides, you promised not to tell anypony. You Pinkie promised!” Fireworks at night, and a roller coaster along the beach.

Finally I felt something give, and light started to penetrate my starving eyes. In response to my efforts to move, I felt the first tremors of movement from my body, and stranger images invaded my view. Suddenly another voice echoed flatly in my head, as if part of my skull were vibrating. The voice matched words that danced in my still darkened vision.


Meanwhile I had missed part of the conversation, as my body started to respond. Systems? What was I, a robot? No, this felt too real. I could smell the blood on my muzzle, and taste it in my mouth. My body responded with a slow inhale of breath as it began to revive from whatever had happened to it. Machines can’t feel, can they?

“Girls?” The sweet voice sounded worried. She was ignored by her friends as they argued in the manner of children.
“Is not!”
“Are too!”


“Is not!”
“Are too!”

“GIRLS!” her voice cracked and squeaked cutely as I could smell her fear rolling in waves.

“WHAT?” in unison, the argument ended and forgotten as they responded to their frightened friend’s cry.

“I think he’s waking up!” This was met with a pair of gasps.

Slowly I opened my eyes, and beheld a sight as strange as the visions and sensations I had been seeing. Three small creatures stood staring at me, as different from each other as the colors of the rainbow, but clearly crafted from a similar mold. Four legs, and a rounded body and head, with large wide eyes stared at me in a mixture of horror and fascination. The similarities ended there, as each was colored totally different from the next. Even their bodies were different. Where one had wings, and the other had a horn, the third had neither. I must have blinked, for they all gasped in unison, and took another step back. Drawing in a long ragged breath, I blinked again.

The orange one with the wings and mulberry hair recovered first. “Wow mister, you have the coolest eyes! They are different colors like the rest of you!”

The yellow one with the red hair and matching bow kicked her friend and scowled. “Scootaloo! That ain't very polite. You ain't s’posed ta talk ‘bout ponies like that. He might be sensitive ‘bout his eyes, er sumpthin!”

The white one with the horn and purple and pink curly hair, (at least I got that part right) took a step forward with worry in her eyes replacing the fear of a moment before. “Are you alright mister? You look pretty hurt. Can we help you get to a doctor or something?”

I blinked again. My thoughts were still a jumble, and I still hadn't managed to get my body to do more than breathe and blink. Slowly I felt my limbs respond, and I pushed myself upright. My neck and joints popped and protested loudly, earning some worried looks from two, and a grin from the winged pony.

Pony. Yes, that word seemed to fit. These little children were ponies. More words and memories trickled in. They were young female ponies, and I was an older male pony. Colt. Yes, that word fit. Other words flitted through my mind, Stallion, Mare, Filly, Pegasus, Unicorn, Earth Pony. I turned to face them and smiled back. The result was less than I had hoped for. One of them actually screamed. I stopped smiling, and they calmed down a bit.

“Geeze mister, that has gotta be the scariest grin I have ever seen! What the hay happened to you?” The pegasus... Scootaloo, asked with a disgusted look.

I tried to respond, but was only able to produce a strangled moan. I reached up with a hoof to my throat, and felt the stickiness of blood, and the tough scar tissue beneath. Whatever had happened had damaged my throat. I was effectively mute.

“Whassa matter, cat got yer tongue?” the yellow filly cocked one eye in a skeptical look. I felt around in my mouth with what was obviously a tongue. That was fine, but why were some of my teeth pointy? No wonder my smile had frightened them.

In response, I blew a raspberry, and got a giggle from the trio. I then pointed to my throat, and shook my head. They got the message.

“Awww, he can’t speak! That must be horrible. I once went to a singing recital, and couldn't talk for a whole day, it was terrible! My sister Rarity said it was the best day of her life though. I dunno, but I sure didn't like it!” The unicorn prattled on, and stepped closer to rub against my shoulder in sympathy. I smiled back, lips closed this time, and nuzzled her curly mane.

“So who are you? What are you?” the yellow pony lost some of her suspicious gaze, and was once again smiling. I thought for a moment, but the needed information refused to come, and I finally just shrugged.

“Ooh, I know! I read this one book by somepony named Mare Shelly. It was about some crazy doctor named Flankenstein, that took pieces of ponies and sewed them all together. Then he took a brain from another pony, and stuck it in the creature’s head. Finally he got his pegasus assistant Fly-Gor to make a storm and shock the pony until it came alive!” Scootaloo started telling a story, bouncing around pantomiming the various roles, as she warmed into her narrative. “He was real mean to the creature and it attacked him, and then the villages nearby chased after it. Finally the creature hid in an old barn where a filly found him and tried to be friends, but the villagers came and burned it down. The little filly was hurt and he went on a berserk rampage and killed everypony! It was the best monster story ever!”

During the story, small flashes of memory teased me. Somehow the story seemed right to me, but something was wrong, like it was incomplete. I saw a pony in a lab coat, with stripes like a zebra, yet a horn like a pony. I saw a room full of pony parts in jars, and saw a mirror. I turned to the mirror, and gazed into the face of a creature like my first vision. “You guys wanna see a dead body?” The words drifted back to me, but I could tell they were not my own.

The earth pony rounded on her friend, coming to my defense. “Darnit Scootaloo, you apologize! He is not a monster, he is a pony like us. We don't know what kinda stuff happened to him, an it’s not nice to say bad things bout a pony jus cuz ya dun know em! Remember mah friend Zecora?”

“Yea, you’re right, Applebloom.” Ears down, the orange filly didn't quite meet my eyes. “I’m sorry mister. I didn't mean to call you a monster.” I nodded sagely and patted her on her head, getting a smile in return.

“Well what do we call you then, mister?” the white filly piped up. In return I could only shrug. I didn't even know my own name. “Oh, I know! Since your coat looks all patched together like a quilt, we can call you Patches!”

I cocked an eyebrow, then looked back over my flank at my hide. Indeed, no two parts of me were the same color. Mismatched wings (which still refused to move), two flanks of different colors, and a black tail. Other pieces of my hide were sewed on like a badly patched blanket with thin pink scarring peeking through between the seams. On my buttock was a large ugly scar, in the shape of the number 9. I had no idea what it meant. Turning back to the eagerly nodding unicorn, I shrugged and nodded in return. I couldn't think of anything better anyway.

“Yay! Patches is our new best friend!” She turned and pointed out each of her comrades, I’m Sweetie Belle, this is Applebloom, and that’s Scootaloo.” Putting her hoof to her mouth, she whispered loudly in my ear, “Don't call her a chicken, or she gets really mad!”

“HEY!” the pegasus yelled angrily, before the three of them collapsed into a fit of laughter. I joined in, but the mirth ended in another collective gasp as I forgot to keep my mouth closed.

“Umm, yea. First things first, we need ta git you all cleaned up, an’ you gotta git that blood outta yer mouth. Every time ya smile, it looks like yer gonna eat us!” Applebloom rolled her eyes at me.

I cocked my eyebrow at them for a moment, then rolled my eyes back into my head and gave my biggest sadistic grin. This time it was met with giggles and laughter, instead of gasps and screams. A warm feeling washed over me as I started to follow them away from the ditch I had been found in. I didn't know who I was, what I was, or where I was, but I already had friends, and for now that was good enough for me.


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So, like, this new pony friend was all scary, I mean really scary, but I wasn't scared. He seemed nice enough, if I didn't look directly at his smile. It was all pointy like Spike’s teeth, and the smell of blood kept making my flight response twitch. It was really hard to keep my wings down as we trotted along toward the CMC command center. But I knew I had to fight it, just like Rainbow Dash would. Rainbow Dash wasn't afraid of anything! She beat up mean old Nightmare Moon, and then she hoof wrestled Discord until he gave up and let them turn him to stone again. Then there was the time she scared off that dragon breathing smoke by bucking him right in the snout and making him cry like a little filly...


“Huh, wha?” I snapped out of my little daydream to find my friend, Applebloom, staring at me. We were at the command center, and Sweetie Belle was leading the new pony up the ramp.

“Ah was sayin we should split up an git some supplies. We gonna need some soap an rags. Sweetie is gonna try ta git some clothes fer him ta wear, and Imma try ta git some food from mah sister.”

“Uhh, okay. My dad might have some stuff that will work. Lotsa old rags and brushes at my place. I think I still have the first aid kit Rainbow dash gave me after I fell outta the tree last month. That neck wound looks pretty bad.” I did my best to grin, and not look like I was daydreaming about my hero again. I can't help it though, Rainbow Dash is just so cool!

She just gave me this weird look, like she knew something was up, as I put on my best innocent smile. “Well, okay then. Meet back here inna hour.”

I waved and scooted off as fast as my wings could carry me. Somehow I had missed the part where we agreed to let him stay at the club- err, command center. It was kinda coming back to me, but then I forgot it all again when I came up to my house. I was always proud of our home. My dad had built it himself for my mom when they got married and moved to Ponyville, and it made me feel safe. There was a little garden of flowers out front, which I needed to weed again, and the fence needed a coat of paint, but it was home.

Bouncing through the front door, I froze, then remembered to wipe my hooves before dad could yell at me. I stashed my helmet and scooter near the door and ran through the house. “Mooom, Daaad! I’m home!” I ran into the kitchen, and they were waiting for me as always. I kissed my hoof and touched each of the frames tenderly. Their smiling faces beamed back at me proudly as I bustled about looking for supplies. Mom had went away when I was born, and dad had raised me until the day he left to look for her. He said he was going away to be with mom, and I just know that when he finds her, he will bring her home so we can be a family again. Until then, their portraits keep me company, and our family is happy.

Bucket in hoof, I collected my dad’s old toothbrush, soap, and some coat brushes. I was glad Applebloom was handling food, as my odd jobs hadn’t brought in much lately. It was nice of the Cakes to give me all the day old bread I could eat, and the few bits they started giving me after I walked in on their little private party really helped out around the house. Not that I would ever tell anypony what I saw, even if I knew what I saw... I never knew a pegasus could bend that way, or that some unicorns really do have five legs. Mr. Cake sure did look funny wearing that hood though. Yeah, some ponies are weird.

Finally I was ready to leave, and I collected mom and dad from the table, bringing them to the bedroom. “Mom, Dad, I’m gonna be staying with Applebloom and Sweetie tonight, k? So don’t stay up for me, and I promise I’ll stay safe!” I kissed them both, and tucked them into bed, as they beamed lovingly back at me. Before I left, I was sure to leave the night light on, so they wouldn't get scared at night. Whistling a little tune I had heard Sweetie singing, I grabbed my helmet and scooter, then bustled out the door, bucket in my mouth. The day was bright, and the breeze felt awesome on my wings as I scooted back to my friends.

Making it back in record time, despite a minor tree sap incident, I powerslided my scooter into it’s normal home like a boss. Up the ramp I ran and into the room to find our guest staring at the art on the walls solemnly. The smell of blood once again hit me like a wave, and I stifled my urge to run as he turned and smiled at me. I saw death in that smile, full of blood and pointiness, and I nearly wilted before he remembered to close his mouth.

From outside I could hear Sweetie and Applebloom arriving, and slowly made my exit as the monster pony followed me out. I still hadn't said a word with the bucket in my mouth, and it was the perfect excuse for my being too scared to talk. Outside, Applebloom was just pouring a last bucket of water into a large tub, and Sweetie was neatly laying out some food that had been gathered on a nearby table. I dropped the bucket and ran over to see what was for lunch, but was stopped by an angry yell from my yellow friend.

“Scootaloo! That food is for Patches, so don't go being all greedy an eatin it. Now help us git him all clean first.” Rolling my eyes, I slunk back to the tub, where the silent pony was stepping into the water. “Okay Scoots, y’all kin git his top an me an Sweetie kin wash the bottom half.”

I complained by way of groaning. I was always given the ‘Up high’ jobs, because I was a pegasus, but it was just another reminder that I couldn't fly yet. At least I could flutter, and I grabbed a brush to do just that. One of his eyes rolled back to watch me, and I almost dropped the brush when I saw it was the same color as mine. I coulda swore that eye had been green earlier...

“Uhh, just gonna scrub yer back and ma-, err, head a bit, Mister. We’ll get you all cleaned up in no time!” I spat the brush out and started to work. He just nodded silently and did his best statue impersonation as he looked ahead. Having that gaze turned away helped, and I quickly got to work. I had the easy task, as he was mostly clean on his top half, since most of the blood was on his hooves. I quickly had him brushed down and went to work on his weird horn. It was silver metal, and looked to be bolted onto his skull. A small plate and four rounded rivets held it in place. That musta hurt! After a bit of polishing, it shined brightly in the sun and looked wickedly sharp. Tapping it with a hoof made it ring like a silver bell, and got me a strange look from it’s owner, to which I grinned sheepishly.

Hopping down I saw Sweetie trying to clean the blood off his neck, while Applebloom attacked the hooves. “Oh buck me! I forgot the first aid kit!”

“Scootaloo, watch your mouth!” Sweetie belle glared at me, looking rather surreal floating a bloodied rag with her magic.

“Aww don't tell me how to talk, you dictionary!” I retorted hotly. I hate when ponies tell me what to do.

“Don’t call me a dictionary, you chicken!” oooh, hot words!

“Nopony calls me CHICKEN!” I flexed my wings, getting ready for a scrap. This little screwhead was cruisin’ for a bruisin’!

“GIRLS! What in tarnation is wrong with you two?” We both stopped to see Applebloom, face and hooves splattered with blood, looking like a freshly risen corpse as she glared at us. We’re all suppos’d ta be friends, an work together. This here pony needs our help, and you two are actin’ like foals.”

“Yea! Besides, his neck looks all healed anyway. We don't need the first aid kit, I think.” Sweetie washed away the last of the blood from the neck, revealing a nasty scar and a strange lump, but no wound. I just let all the anger flow out of me in a sigh. It was hard to stay angry at Sweetie Belle, the way she acted all cute and stuff, but I hated when she acted all like an egghead. And I REALLY hated when anypony called me a chicken!

Applebloom sighed and rolled her eyes, then used another rag to wipe the bloody mess from her face. “Yech! You weren’t kiddin, it tastes terrible!” She made sour face, the same one I made the first time I busted my nose and tasted blood. You had to takes risks though, if you ever wanted to be a daredevil like Rainbow Dash! “Hey Scoots, kin ya take a lookit his wings? Yer the only one that knows anythin’ ‘bout pegasus wings, and his look in pretty bad shape.”

I sighed, yet another reminder that I was still a failure as a pegasus. I mean, c’mon, even the Cake’s little brat could fly already! Instead of arguing, I just fluttered up to Patches’ back and started poking at the wings. They really were a mess. I tried to flex them, and they moved fine, although he didn't try to move them himself. “They don’t hurt any, do they mister?” All I got was a slow shake of his head.

Shrugging I went back to work, trying to remember the brief class on pegasus hygiene I was forced to take in school, and the lesson that Rainbow Dash had given me on wing care. I smoothed the primaries, checking for breaks, pulling out a few loose feathers. The secondaries were pretty ruffled, but mostly intact, and some brushing got them all in line. Stretching out one wing to check for any other damage, I heard a loud pop, like rocks hitting together, and suddenly the wing shot straight out. Deprived of my hoofhold, I fell immediately onto my face beside the tub with a wet squelch, as the forming mud softened my fall. Barely. “Ow.”

Getting up, I saw the wing arched over me, as Patches looked back curiously as if the appendage had just appeared there. He was slowly flexing it, and giving it a flap, and I realised that he hadn't moved it once since we found him. The wing must have been dislocated in whatever fight he was in. The other wing still lay limply along his other side, and I hopped to my hooves to get to work on it. Quickly I had the other wing working just as well, minus the faceplant, and he was slowly flexing them with ease.

“Ooh! Thems some pretty wings, mister!” Applebloom drawled. I couldn't help but notice, one was blue, and the other a bright yellow, looking for all of equestria as if he was part Fluttershy, and part Rainbow Dash. “You did a right good job there Scootaloo!”

I beamed with pride, I was a real pegasus, after all! Then I cringed as the pony grinned back at me. Yea, the teeth. “Ok, next step is we clean those teeth!”

I pulled my dad’s old toothbrush out of the bucket, and hoofed the toothpaste from the tube. I paused a moment as I realized holding the brush in my mouth meant getting my face alot closer to his mouth than I was comfortable with. I heard a giggle and felt my mouth tingle as a greenish glow tugged the brush from my mouth. I spotted Sweetie grinning at me as she went to work on our new friend’s grin. He made a face at the taste of the toothpaste, but then smiled wide to let her work, opening his jaw entirely too wide for a normal pony as she worked. Soon enough, his teeth were sparkling white and far less scary. In fact, I saw that only a few of his front teeth were pointy, and I didn't notice unless I looked hard. Lack of blood was a big improvement!

After we all splashed in the water to rinse off, and Patches gave a mighty shake like a dog to dislodge the water, we all looked like a bunch of drowned rats, but grinned all the same. If our families could see us they would chew us out for hours.

“FOOD TIME!” I whooped and made a beeline for the table. My friends were cheering right behind me and we gathered around the feast. Applebloom had outdone herself! There were apples, of course, bread, a stack of sandwiches, a whole apple pie, a jug of apple juice (bah, still no cider), and even a jar of Zapapple jam! “Wow AB, you really got a great haul. How did you get your sister to let you take all this?”

“Ah didn't.” She responded matter-of-factly, then grinned. “Ah jus asked Granny Smith, an told her we was havin a picnic! I could barely haul all this stuff she piled on me. She kept sayin we was growin’ young fillies an needed our nourish-mant.”

I nodded as I was shoving some jam covered bread in my mouth. It was amazing! “Wemind meh ta’ tank yuh.”

Sweetie Belle gave me a disgusted look and took dainty bites of her sandwich, imitating her sister, Rarity. “You’re not supposed to talk with your mouth full.” I laughed, and shoved a slice of pie in her mouth. She started to look angry, then grinned as the taste of the pie sank in, and next we were all going face first into the food. I stopped long enough to notice that Patches hadn't started eating yet, and was staring at the food strangely. I couldn't understand at first, until I recognized the look on his face as the same Sweetie used to get when she first learned to use her horn.

“Uhh, mister, I dunno if you can do magic with that metal horn of yours. Just dig in and enjoy the food.” he shrugged and rolled his eyes. His green and blue eyes. What the hay? Wasn’t the green one maroon earlier? I shook my head as he sank his face into the basket of apples, gobbling them down with gusto. I smiled and returned to my own food, and soon the sound of chomping and nomming was all you could hear.

Soon enough the feast was gone and we all sat around grinning like idiots with full bellies. For once, the ragged smile of our new friend wasn't putting my mane on edge, and we were all totally relaxed. It was of course Sweetie Belle that ruined the quiet moment.

“So Patches, where are you from anyway? And what happened to you?” In response she only received a shrug and a sad look. Whatever had been done to him must have messed him up bad.

“Well, y’all can stay here fer now, till we figger out what to do. There’s room in the clubhouse, and we kin bring ya more food tomorrow.” Applebloom showed the typical Apple family hospitality. It was probably the best idea, since Rarity would freak, and I couldn't very well bring him home to MY parents.

“Yea, I think Imma stay here and keep him company, so he won’t get lonely. I already told my parents I was gonna be sleeping over with you guys, so they won’t mind.” Applebloom gave me that weird look again, like she wanted to tell me something, but just shook her head and changed her mind.

“Yea, Scootaloo, me an Sweetie should prolly both be gettin’ home before our sisters come lookin fer us. Just drop by mah house iffin ya need anythin’.” She shot another strange glance at our new friend, who seemed busy staring at a spoon on the table, tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated.

Sweetie bell interrupted him with a hug, “Aww, poor Patches. Did you used to be a unicorn?” The strange pony just shrugged in response. “It must be horrible to not be able to use your horn! I only just started being able to use mine well, and I hated it. It took forever to learn to use it properly.” Gasping, she smiled,”I know! Maybe you just need to learn how to use it again. I can bring some of my learning books for you to read!”

“Umm, Sweetie Belle? I’m not even sure that’s a real horn he has. It looks like someone bolted on a fake one, just like they stitched on his wings. For all we know he may be an earth pony.” I tried my best not to get her hopes up.

She glared at me and stomped her hooves on the table. She was so cute when she got angry. “Nonsense! If he has a horn, then we can teach him to use it! And I bet you can teach him to fly with his wings too!”

“Sweetie Belle!” Applebloom shouted to stop her friend, but the damage had been done. Yet another reminder that I could not fly myself.

“Yea, whatever...” I muttered, and stalked off to the command center. I got enough teasing from the other kids at school, and I didn't need to hear it from my friends, even if she didn't mean it. For a smart egghead, that unicorn could be so clueless at times.

I made it as far as the door before she got a clue and tried apologising, but it was too late, I wasn't listening. I glared back at my useless wings, so small against my body. The docs had said since I was half earth pony, I might be a late bloomer and not grow into my wings till later, but that was a load of horsefeathers. Pound Cake wasn't even a year old, and BOTH of his parents are earth ponies. I think. For a big mare, Mrs. Cake looked kinda sexy in those fishnets. OK! Not the time for that kinda image, bad brain, bad! Moving on...

The others joined me inside, looking pathetic, while Patches just looked confused. I guess he wouldn't understand. Or maybe he would, since he couldn't use his horn either. Sweetie offered to brush my mane for me, but I declined. I don't need any prissy mane-cut! I compromised by letting her brush my tail instead. She is just as sweet as her name, and it’s hard to stay mad at her. We all sat around giggling as we took turns brushing each other into presentability. I managed to get most of the knots out of Patches’ tail, while Sweetie lamented his lack of a proper mane. He did show signs of stubble, so hopefully it would grow back in time.

By the end, we were all laughing and joking, except Patches, who smiled and was silent of course. A good mane-brushing always did wonders for a pony’s mood, or at least that's what Miss Fluttershy always said. Not that she had any moods other than happy or frightened. I swear, for a grown mare she sure acted like a little foal. I once saw her hiding in a bush from her own shadow! Oh, but I’m getting sidetracked again.

After the other girls had their manes all pretty, and I had beaten my own into its normal cool style, they declared that it was time to head home before it was dark. That left me alone with Patches, who was looking at the posters and stuff we had around the room. Not sure how to break the ice, I started to feel a bit nervous around the strange pony. I was suddenly quite aware of how big he was, nearly as large as Applebloom’s brother, Big Macintosh. I was also suddenly aware that I had stopped noticing his strange appearance. The patchwork hide and wild colors had seemed out of place at first, but now I only saw a really big pony. A big, sad pony.

“Uhh, so. You from around here?” I resisted the urge to facehoof at so corny a line. Of course he wasn't from around here, or we would have known who he was. In response, he just shrugged. “Y-you got any friends? Ponies who would miss you?” Again, a shake of the head, and a shrug. He looked sad and distracted, and looked back at the drawing on the wall. “Oh, uhh, sorry. I guess you don't remember much do you. You musta got your head hit pretty hard or something. One time I flipped my scooter and bounced off two trees before I stopped. Couldn't think straight for a week, but Twilight used some spell and fixed me right up. Then she gave me a lecture on wearing a helmet.” I sighed, remembering the day. She kinda made me think of what my mom would have sounded like scolding me, and I’ve worn a helmet ever since.

Suddenly inspiration hit. “Oh, I know! Maybe Twilight can use the spell to fix your memory! She’s super smart and stuff, and can figure out most anything. I bet she can find out who you are in ten seconds flat!” I beamed at the idea, and got a happy nod in return from the large pony. He seemed to cheer up a bit, but still remained a silent sentinel, slowly moving around the room.

Finally he stopped in one corner, surrounded by my many trophies and tributes to my idol, Rainbow Dash. There were was a feather I had gotten from when she competed in the Running of the Leaves, pictures from her winning the Best Young Fliers Competition, and some drawings I had made myself. There was even a crude doll I had made, with a bit of hair I had secretly swiped from the one time she got a trim at the spa. I blushed a bit at the memory of that little adventure, and trotted over to see what he was looking at. It was the poster of Dash, flying with the rainbow behind her, taken the day she had performed the Sonic Rainboom.

“That’s my favorite picture. I was there on the ground the day that Rainbow Dash did her Sonic Rainboom, because I couldn't get anypony to take me up to the Cloudaseum. I was right underneath where it went off, and the entire sky exploded in colors! I got knocked flat on my back, and it was the most amazing day of my life.” I grinned, and bounced as I began to gush about my favorite subject. “Rainbow Dash is the fastest flier in Equestria, and one day she will be captain of the Wonderbolts, then I will be her wingmare!”

He smiled and looked down at me, then back at his own multicolored hide, and bright blue wing. Slowly he flapped it, then sat down to look at the rest of my display. I giggled and poked him in the side to get his attention. “Hey, your hide is as colorful as Rainbow Dash’s mane is! I bet if you could fly as fast as her, you could make a Rainboom of your own.” He chuckled, a deep rumbling sound, almost like a growl, but I could see the laughter in his eyes. Suddenly he reached out with a wing and pulled me close for a hug, nuzzling my mane. It felt so good, that I just smiled back. It was so warm and safe that I didn't want to move, and I just sat there smiling stupidly.

After a while, a thought passed my mind, and I felt a chill. “You don't remember your parents do you, Patches?” His smile faded, and he shook his head. He must have sensed my change in mood, because he just stared at me solemnly. “I don't know what I would do if I forgot my parents. M-my mom, she went away when I was born, and sometimes I forget my dad’s voice, it’s been so long since he left.” My hooves flew to my mouth as I realized what I had just revealed. I looked up at him pleadingly, but his expression never changed. He doesn't know me, he doesn't know anypony, and he would never tell my secret. I’ve worked very hard to keep it a secret, even from my friends, and so far only two ponies know. Pinkie insists on knowing everypony in Ponyville, and she kept prying until she knew about my parents, but I made her Pinkie Promise never to tell anypony. Miss Cheerilee found out when I missed one too many parent conferences. She made me promise to stay in school, and keep my grades up, but never told anypony on me. She knows I’m smart for my age, but keeps an eye on me all the same. I wouldn't have made it without her help.

Now, suddenly I opened up to this total stranger, and I wanted to tell him everything. I needed to tell somepony, and it was eating me alive. So I did. He never judged me, never said a word (not that he could), he just sat there with that thoughtful look on his face as I told him my life story. I must have started crying at some point because it became hard to see, and he just held me under his wing as I cried myself out. The last thing I remember before drifting off was how warm and safe I felt under those feathers. And for the first time I could remember since my dad left, I didn't feel alone.Good story so far, but I couldn't read it without my clop-riddled brain thinking of where it'd be good to write some "action"


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First thang Ah... Ahem, sorry. Sometimes I forget to write proper equestrian, and my accent comes out on the page. As I was saying, the first thing I saw was my angry sister’s face, glaring at me as I woke up. First I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but she was having none of that.

“Applebloom, Ah know yer awake. Git yer tail outta bed an explain ta me why the third bow this week is laying ruined in yer trash!” She drove her point home by yanking the protective blanket off my flank.

“Aww sis, Ah’m sorry. We got ta warshin, and the water got everywhere. At least Ah got my bath, right?” I tried my best cute lil sister look. It sometimes actually works, although today she was not falling for it.

“No way young lady. Them bows cost bits we ain't got. Even bein friends wit Rarity don't get me bows fer free, and this tie yer gonna have to work ta pay fer the new one. Now git yer lil flank outta bed and down to breakfast. You got some chores to do.”

With a groan, I rolled outta bed and shambled into the bathroom. The previous day had drained most of my normal energy, and I was feeling old and tired, like my sister. I felt like, fifteen years old! How do old people even get out of bed feeling like this? Looking in the mirror I saw my coat still stained lightly with reddish-brown, and groaned at the thought of my sister seeing the mess my mane had become. I decided a proper shower was in order, and decided I was grown up enough for one today. Baths were for fillies! After cleaning most of the stains out of my coat, and only using about half of Applejack’s special mane shampoo, I felt ready to face the day. I had alot of work to do before I met up with Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, and we decided what to do about our new friend, Patches.

Trotting down to the kitchen, my sister raised an eyebrow at my sparkling clean mane, but decided not to comment, instead placing a plate of pancakes in front of me. “Eat up, little sis, it’s gonna be a busy day.”

“Thanks AJ, kin Ah have some coffee?” Again, I beamed my best smile, and again it failed to hit it’s target.

Snorting, my sister just poured a glass in front of me. “Ya git juice. Yer still too young fer coffee. Hay, some days Ah think Ah’m too young fer coffee, but it gits me goin. Gotta remember to thank Pinkie fer intraducin me to it.” She breathed deep from her own steamy mug, while I just glared jealously.

“Didn’t Pinkie have to give up coffee?” I asked innocently, trying to make her feel at least a bit guilty.

“Ahh hah...” She laughed nervously, looking at her own cup. “Ah thought we all agreed ta not talk ‘bout The Incident. Besides, that's why she gave me her special blend.”

“I hear they finally finished repairs on the town hall, but there are still three ponies in therapy.” My brother chimed in as he entered the kitchen, and poured himself a glass of cider. He never needed coffee to get going in the morning, and was always talking about clean living and natural foods. Well, as much as he ever talked. Ok, so he just says ‘nope’ when ya ask him, but we all understand. Having exhausted his vocabulary for the day, he sat down to the table and started into his morning plate of pancakes.

Granny Smith came in finally, and took her place at the head of the table. A single pancake and a bowl of prunes was her usual meal of choice. She sniffed derisively at the smell of coffee and glared at Applejack. “Nasty stuff that coffee. I hear it kin kill a pony iffin ya drink too much. Gimme my tea wit a shot ‘o apple brandy any day. That’ll put some spring in yer step, and a cutie mark on yer arse!”

“Granny! Watch yer language around Applebloom, you know how impressionable she is.” AJ snapped, but obeyed all the same.

“Arse! I wanna cuppa that for mah arse!” I giggled, knowing my sister would be fuming.

“Don't you start little lady. Ah kin still bust your ‘arse’ iffin ya keep up that language!” I decided to choose my battles and remained silent for the rest of the meal, but my muzzle was feeling sore from the grin on my face.

Soon enough the meal was done, Granny was napping, and I was helping AJ with the dishes. Now was the perfect time to ask the favor I needed. “So Applejack, me an the Crusaders are gonna have a party at the clubhouse, and Ah was wonderin’ if we kin git some food outta the stores?”

“Uh-huh. An what exactly happened to all the food from yesterday?” She raised an eyebrow and glared at me. I did my best not to meet her gaze as I shuffled my hooves and thought fast.

“Oh, ah, you know bout that huh? Well we had a picnic, an all. It was a blast, but we kinda got all messy, which is why my bow was all ruined, an stuff.” I looked up and tried to give my best innocent filly look. I swear I even heard the ding of a halo appearing over my head.

She wasn't buying it. Never try to fool the element of Honesty. She just narrowed her eyes at me as her face clouded over. “That was enough food ta feed three grown ponies, an yer tellin me you three fillies are it all by yerself?”

With a sigh I began to explain, “Well ya see, Scootaloo...”

“Wait, Scoots? She’s stayin in the treehouse ain't she? You brought the food fer her?”

“W-well, yea, kinda. She stayed over last night.” I latched onto the story, and went with it.

“Aww Celestia, you didn't tell her didja? We all promised ta keep our noses outta it.”

“No, no! Ah didn't say nuttin bout her folks. That would crush her! I could never do that ta her.” I shook my head violently. Poor Scootaloo, everypony in Ponyville knew she was alone, but we all agreed to abide by her father’s wishes and let her find her own way, even though most of us thought it was wrong. She didn't even know he was gone, and I only knew because I had caught my sister crying after she found his note. They were good friends once.

“Ah swear, it’s just awful. That poor filly all alone, thinkin her parents are comin back fer her. It just ain't right!” AJ started to rant, “As Celestia is mah witness, iffin she was mah kin, I’d never have treated her wrong like that. Ah still hate her father fer makin me promise not to interfere.”

“Ah know, you and Dad would never leave me alone like that...” Too late I realised my mistake as the look of anger on my sister’s face turned to shock.

“Applebloom! How many time Ah gotta tell you? Big macintosh is not yer Pa, and Ah’m not yer Ma!” She shook her head, “Ah swear child, Ah dunno what is wrrrong wit that head o’ yours.”

“A-ah know sis, it’s just... sometimes Ah wish Ah had a Ma and Pa like other ponies. An then DIamond Tiara an Silver Spoon said...” I tried my best not to break down crying, but the tears were building up behind the dam.

In a flash her hooves were around me holding me close. “Ah don’t care what them two mules say bout it! They dun know nuttin an only wanna hurt you. You have a Ma and a Pa, same as me and Big Mac, an they loved you very much. But their time came as it does fer us all, and they had to move on.” The tears were flowing freely now as she took my head in her hooves and looked me straight in the eyes, our foreheads touching under the brim of her hat. “Applebloom, Ah can only hope that iffin one day Ah have a filly of mah own, that she is half as wonderful as you. But you are NOT my filly. You are my SISTER, an Ah love ya all the same. We may not be yer Ma an Pa, but we are yer kin, and we will always be there fer ya.”

I sniffed, and wiped my tears. “B-but Miss Cherilee said, when two ponies sleep togeather...”

“For the love of apples, girl! That was one time, because Big Mac dun broke his bed! And I seem to recall a certain yeller filly that come running in to share the bed with us cuz she was a’scared o’ the storm.” She sighed, rolling her eyes at me. I could feel a blush come over my face as she reminded me. We didn’ get no sleep that night, an we sure as hay didn’ do any foolin around!”

I began to giggle at the memory, now long past and alot funnier than when it happened. “I remember Big Mac fell off the bed and pulled somethin awful, an you had ta do applebuckin all by yerself.” I gave her a big hug. “Ah’m sorry sis.”

“T’wernt nuttin. Jes git that crazy idea outta yer head. We may be country, but we ain't THAT country. I sure as hay ain't like that with mah brother.” She hugged me back. “Some day yer gonna be all big an growed up, an you will understand.”

“But Ah AM all growed up!” I cried, putting on the patented Applepout™.

“Sure ya are sugercube. Now git yer supplies and go have fun wit yer friends. Just be back by sundown.”

Realizing I had just gotten out of whatever chores were planned for me, I quickly bolted out of the room.

In no time at all I had all my supplies in the crusader wagon, and was trotting off to meet my friends.

It sure was a stroke of luck that Miss Rarity made me this harness to pull the wagon. After the time Scootaloo hurt her wing and I had to haul her and Sweetie around, I found out that I shared something with my brother, I was strong! Well really, all earth ponies are strong, but for my age I’m told I am alot stronger than average. I may not be able to pull off any fancy acrobatics like Scoots, but I can run just as fast! And like my sister, I liked running.

In no time at all I had crossed the orchard and made it to the clearing where the clubhouse rose above the other trees. Unfastening myself from the wagon, I made my way up to the door to peek in. As I stuck my head inside, Patches turned to look at me, holding a hoof to his lips to keep me quiet, before returning to his silent vigil staring out the window. Beside him was the cutest site I had ever seen, as Scootaloo slept peacefully curled up like a baby kitten. It was a heart melting sight to see the normally energetic and twitchy pegasus resting so calm and relaxed. Her bravado was gone, and in it’s place was a quiet innocence that made me smile and feel so happy for my troubled friend.

I quietly lay down beside her, sharing some of the warmth that radiated off the massive pony besides us, and I just relaxed and enjoyed the feeling of calm. It felt right, like the larger pony was already one of us, even though we had only just met him. He was an outsider like us, banded together against the world, looking for our place.

The moment of introspective peace... What? I kin read! Ah go ta school like everypony else, an Ah ain't stupid. Ah may not talk all fancy all the time but mah mind is as sharp as any unicorn! Oh horseapples, Ah’m doing it again ain't Ah?

Ahem. So, soon enough we were interrupted by the rather ungraceful entrance of a certain unicorn filly. She busted in, and I got to see the pegasus flight response up close and personal, as Scootaloo simultaneously woke up, lept several feet in the air, and tried to fly out the nearest window. Unfortunately for her, the nearest window was actually a painting of the night sky tacked to the wall, and she ended with a series of rather loud thuds on the floor, hooves in the air and eyes rotating in opposite directions.

“Ohmygosh! I am so sorry! Did I wake everypony up?” The white filly looked stricken as she tried to get a grasp on what she had just caused. Patches just gently nuzzled our flier friend as I rolled my own eyes and got to my hooves. I swear sometimes, between the three of us, we would never live to get our cutie marks.

“Really, Sweetie, do ya gotta be so darn loud when ya come bustin inta a room? Ya dun scart us half ta death!” I trotted out without waiting for a reply, and made for the goodies in the wagon. Thus was life as a Cutie Mark Crusader.

Soon enough the others has regrouped and joined me in unloading the wagon. Provisions enough to last a few days were quickly pillaged and about half of it was stashed away for later. Scootaloo and patches seemed to be trying to outdo each other in cramming food away, while me and Sweetie took a more refined approach to the meal I had brought. Yea, me, refined. The idea that I was one of the dainty ones of the group almost made me spit my hay.

Afterwards the Council of Crusaders was convened and we planned our next crusade. I was all for asking our sisters for help, but was shot down by both Sweetie and Scootaloo. Sweetie was afraid of what her sister would say, and Scootaloo just wanted to keep the entire thing a secret until we could discover Patches’ story and earn our monster helper cutie marks. Patches just shrugged, seeming to go along with whatever we decided.

“It don't seem right keepin this a secret? We gotta tell somepony!” I did my best to protest. “What if the pony that hurt him is still out there, an he hurts somepony else?” The others looked worried at this. Scoots put in her brave face, while Sweetie was scared as usual, but I could read both of them well enough. They knew I was onto something.

“I don't think we need to rush into anything yet.” For a change, Scootaloo tried a reasonable approach. “As badly hurt as he was, the other pony may have been hurt just as bad or worse, and will need time to recover. That was alotta blood!” Her wings shot up like they usually did when she was worried, and she didn't bother to rein them in. I wonder how bad she would feel if she knew I could read her pegasus tells like an old gambler. My sister had taught me well after years of being friends with Rainbow Dash.

“Well either way we will most likely have to wait. We go back to school tomorrow, and I am still trying to find a way to get some of my dad’s old clothes out of my sister’s room.” Sweetie Bell chimed in, sounding like the voice of reason. It was strange how the formerly airheaded unicorn had started to become the schemer and planner of our group after a few lessons from Twilight. Maybe her egghead powers were rubbing off on our resident magic user? “If we tell anypony, i think it should be Twilight. She was the only pony that wasn't afraid of Miss Zecora, and Princess Luna. Maybe she wont be afraid of Patches here, and can help him find his memory.”

“Yea! I was thinking the same thing last night. Like when I bumped my head and my brain got all fuzzy. She can do her magic and help him remember, and stuff.” Oh great, now both of them were sounding reasonable. I was clearly doomed. Again, Patches just looked back and forth between us with his blank expression, he was truly putting himself in our hooves.

Sighing defeat, I hung my head. “Okay, fine. Tomarra after school we talk to Miss Twilight. Till then we all gotta Pinkie promise not to tell a single soul ‘bout Patches!’ I stared them down, getting a nod from all three. “So until then, we got some crusadin’ to plan, and we can use the help of our honorary crusader, Patches!” This received cheers all around, and smiles from our new friend. The teeth weren't so bad once you got used to them.

The next morning came all too soon, and I woke sore and tired. Who knew that Diamond Dogs could run so fast? It was kinda funny though when Patches bucked him through a tree, but even he had a hard time dealing with that and a manticore. Manticore tails do grow back, I hope. Despite all our adventures, not a single cutie mark was to be had, not for manticore taming, and not for diamond dog wrestling. I was pretty sure one of us would at least get a first aid cutie mark by now.

Bright and way too early I crawled down to the breakfast table, and the looks my family gave me showed no mercy. They had been up before dawn, and only the fact that I had school let me off the hook from doing chores with them. The thought of school darked my already gloomy morning, but after a good breakfast, my mood had already brightened again. Yet no matter how good I felt, the thought of school hung over me. Not that I didn't like school, mind you. Miss Cheerilee was an awesome teacher, so smart and kind, always trying to help. Learning was also fun in it’s way, as we learned new ways to expand our world, and new ideas for crusading with my friends. No, it was two fillies in particular that were the bane of my existence. Diamond Tiara, and her crony Silver Spoon, were a pair of stuck up mules that existed only to make other ponies miserable. Other ponies like me and my friends.

Arriving as agreed at the clubhouse, Sweetie Belle greeted me outside, and we entered to meet with Scootaloo, who had spent the night with Patches again. They were just finishing a meal of oats and apples, Patches looking up at our entrance looking completely silly with food all over his muzzle. You’d think he never learned to eat like a pony before. Maybe he really was a unicorn, and was used to eating with his horn all fancy-like. Celestia knows Sweetie Belle turned into a total priss about eating once she was able to use her horn. She showed off for a week straight, using her horn to move everything, until she burnt it out trying to lift three things at once. We laughed, she cried, then we all got over it, and things went back to normal. Cutie Mark Crusaders for life!

“Hey girls! I’m almost ready to go. I was just explaining to Patches that he had best stay here until we got back.” Scootaloo wiped her own messy muzzle with a hoof and grinned at us. “Last thing we need is Lily screaming about the horrors and sending everypony into a panic.”

We all giggled at the thought of Ponyville’s over-reactive mare and her screams at the slightest sign of trouble. She was as much of a drama queen as Rarity, although not nearly as fashionable. Patches merely smiled and nodded, so we all hoped he understood. I saw how spooked Scoots was at first, and she isn't afraid of anything. Or so she keeps telling us.

Soon we were off to school, waving goodbye to our new friend who waved back from the window, before stepping away into the shadows of the club house. The walk was rather uneventful as Sweetie blathered on about some new project her sister was working on, alternated with gushing and posturing from Scootaloo about whatever new stunt Rainbow Dash was working on. The promised flight lessons were of course overlooked, since they never seemed to happen. I just rolled my eyes and tried to think of the best way to introduce our friend to Ponyville. The idea of asking Twilight Sparkle seemed the best option. She was nice, smart, and didn't rush to judge everypony she met. She was the only pony that believed me about Zecora, after all.

My own thoughts were interrupted by the thing I had been dreaded the most, and all three of us came to a halt together.

“Oh look, the blank flanks made it back from spring break. It’s a shame their families couldn't stand them at home anymore.” The grating sound of Diamond Tiara’s voice erased any thoughts from my mind as I could already feel my blood beginning to boil. She always knew what to say to set me off.

“Yeah, why don't you three foals just go back home. It’s not like you’re smart enough to learn anything.” As always, a moment later Silver Spoon was there to back up her only friend.

“Or strong enough.” Diamond quipped with saccharine sweetness. “I mean what’s with those stubby little wings, anyway?”

We all looked at each other, each ready to restrain the other from going after these two parasprites, while wanting to pummel them ourselves. Exchanging glances, we all nodded in agreement, and as one, stuck our noses in the air and trotted past, pointedly ignoring the trolls as they flung more insults after us. Inside the school was hallowed ground, and we dare not start a fight, lest we be kicked out. Or even worse, they tell our families!

Once safe behind the walls of the school, the noise of our tormentors was replaces by the sweet tones of our beloved teacher, Miss Cheerilee. However, as much as we enjoyed her lessons, the boredom of academia, as well as our eagerness to return to our new friend led to a very long day. We even managed to avoid the local bullies during recess, while we discussed our plan of action. Finally, as the clock on the wall felt some small bit of mercy, the bell rang and we all bolted out of our seats. We were all halfway to the clubhouse before we were intercepted once again by the two mules that were determined to make our lives hell.

“So were you three foals hiding during recess? We missed your crying.” As usual, the torture session was led by the pink filly.

“I bet they were all crying in a corner somewhere over how pathetic they were.” The grey mare chimed in as usual.

At this point we weren’t in any mood to let the local trash ruin our mood, and started to shoulder past them, but then they mad a rather large mistake.

“What’s wrong, you three chicken? I mean, I know Scooty-poo is a chicken, but you all just run away scared.” Diamond grinned viciously.

Suddenly she had an orange muzzle in her face, as Scootaloo spun around, wings erect. “What did you just call me?”

“Chiiiikiiiin!” The pink mare drawled, while behind her crony made chicken noises behind her.

I saw where this was going and it wasn't worth it, and I caught Scootaloo’s hoof as she cocked it back for a swing. “No Scoots, she ain't worth it. Her daddy will just make you may somethin awful.”

“That’s right, you better control your little friend, before we have to go tell your parents.” She snarked.
“Oh wait, none of you have parents anymore!” Pure malice tripped from the fangs of the grey mare as they both laughed.

That was the straw, and my vision turned as red as my hair. I charged at the mule, turning expertly like my sister showed me and bucked her square in the face. I heard her glasses snap as she flew back and skidded to a stop along the road. However, I had lost the element of surprise, and the pink filly actually rose to the defense of her friend as I felt my side blossom in pain from her own bucking. Blindsided, I never saw it coming, and being a year older than me she had a bit of extra weight behind it. She may be a stuck up, prissy little mule but she was still an earth pony.

As I staggered to my hooves, my friends still stunned from the sudden confrontation, the nearby bushes exploded. With a roar, a multicolored blur rushed onto the road and charged right at the two fillies that had been tormenting us. Eyes literally glowing red, as his horn erupted in an equally sinister red glow, he stopped and lifted the two mares into the air effortlessly. Patches once again looked the part of the raging monster, teeth bared and horn aflame as he bellowed inarticulately at the two, forcing them up against a nearby tree. His sharp horn was brandished like an instrument of death as he threatened them with impalement. Needless to say, the screaming was glorious.

I shook my head of my own bloodthirsty thoughts, and actually found myself running to the rescue of my tormentors. leaping onto his back, barely missing the flaring wings, I wrapped my hooves around his broad neck. “Patches, no! We cain’t hurt em!”

Turning to glare at me with one baleful glowing eye, I shrank back in fear, my own bravery overcome by the vicious gaze. i saw my own terrified expression reflected in that massive orb, and it seemed to fill my vision with blood and death. Then just as quickly, the light went out, and the eye was orange, like my own. The horn winked out, and the two traumatized fillies were dropped to the ground in a quivering heap. I squeezed my eyes shut in fear as Patches nuzzled me gently, but opened them as I realized I was safe.

“Oh Patches, ya scart me somethin awful!” I wrapped my hooves around his head and gave him a hug.

“P-please d-don’t hurt us!” the cowed pink filly sputtered from the ground where she shared a death grip with her companion. I looked down at the pitiful mess, her perfect dress ripped by the force of the magic, and her namesake tiara now a crumpled ruin.

“We didn't know you had a monster f-for a friend. DON’T LET HIM EAT US!” Silver Spoon cried, getting an elbow from her friend. “I mean, he’s not a monster.. no he’s a nice pony, right?”

Thinking fast, I put on my most evil grin, putting a little bit of crazy into my eyes as I leaned over the neck of my new friend, looking all the world like a mad genious riding his creation into battle.

“That’s right! Patches is our new friend, and he is a very nice pony, but only if you are nice to us.” i slowly stroked the place where his mane was starting to grow out. “But if you are mean, he will have to teach you both a lesson on how to be nice to ponies.”

Nodding vigorously they both replied, “We will be nice! I promise, we won’t ever say anything mean again!”

Hugging my faithful steed again I nodded back at them. “Good. But there’s one more thing.”

Eager to escape their fate, they both nodded again. “Anything!”

“You must not tell a single living pony about what happened here. I don't care what you say about your bruises, but if you mention our friend, we will be paying you a visit. Now get lost.”

They quickly scrambled to their feet and galloped off, not even bothering to retrieve the fallen tiara and glasses. Turning around to face my friends, I laughed at the shocked look on their faces. Both mouths were hanging open, and they just stared at me and Patches.

“Y’all look like a couple of hungry birds wit yer mouths open like that. I giggled, snapping them out of their daze.

Sweetie was the first to recover, only saying “What the buck just happened?”

Scootaloo was a bit more enthusiastic yelling, “THAT. WAS. AWESOME!”

“Yea, it kinda was. Guess we got us a guardian now, don't we?” I grinned hugely.

“Hells yea! Patches and Appledoom, mule slayers extraordinaire!” Hovering off the ground, Scootaloo hopped on our friend’s back to join me, as Sweetie used her magic to climb aboard. We all laughed and Patches himself strutted as we made our way home to the club house.

This was going to be the best crusade ever!

Rarity Dearest

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“Try again. Remember to clear your mind, and focus.” For the umpteenth time since returning to the crusader HQ, I was attempting to help my new friend use his magic, without success. “Just picture an invisible hoof, gripping the item, and lifting it.” Even a feather, loaned from Scootaloo, seemed beyond the ability of the pony before me. A pony that had just recently lifted two fillies effortlessly, and slammed them into a tree like rag dolls. A feat I couldn't even do.

“Auugh, this is taking forever! He was awesome earlier, like Twilight, swooping in and throwing those two mules around. Now he can’t even lift a feather. “Scootaloo grumped in a nearby corner, clearly bored with our efforts. “And why did he need MY feather? He has plenty of his own!”

“Because yours are smaller and lighter. We wanted to start small as possible, and work up, but it seems whatever made him able to use his magic isn't working anymore.” In fact there wasn't even a hint of a glow around his horn, as if the power had been cut off completely. Scootaloo also had more success with flying, although neither of them could do more than hover off the ground. I rubbed my chin with a hoof, totally unable to think of a reason this wasn't working.

“Hey, Fangface! Heads up!” Both of us turned in time to see a ball being launched at the larger pony from the corner.

“Scootaloo! That’s not very nice to throw things, and I can’t teach him if you keep distracting his concentration!” I glared my best glare, but was met with a wide grin from my friend. She slowly lifted a hoof to point over my shoulder, snickering. As I slowly turned around, I saw Patches staring puzzled at the ball, now hovering in front of his face encased in a faint reddish glow. The same glow that was coming from his horn.

“That’s it! Concentrate, feel how the magic flows around the ball. Remember that... Horseapples.” I stopped as the ball immediately fell to the floor and the glow vanished. Patches just blinked and looked confused.

“You gotta stop teaching him like an egghead, Sweetie Belle. It’s like Dash teaches me how to fly, you don't think about it, you gotta FEEL it. Then it just happens.” She smirked and fluttered her wings, hovering for emphasis.

“I am not an egghead, and you don't fly. All you do is hover.” I remarked dryly, wiping the smile off her face. It was mean, but it worked.

“Fine. But the truth is your method isn't working, so maybe we should try mine. He’s not a normal pony, so maybe his magic isn't normal either. He used it in instinct, not by thinking about it.”

I rubbed my chin again and thought. “Maybe you’re right for a change. He was angry and running to help when he attacked the two bullies, and just now you threw something at him. Something that was still not nice to do.”

“Hey, it worked better than your stupid feather!” she huffed.

“Don’t you mean YOUR stupid feather?” I smirked in reply.

“Grrr, don't remind me. I’m not your personal feather supply, you know.”

Slowly I rubbed up against her, doing my best imitation of Opalescence, as I rubbed my tail in her face, purring sweetly, “Oh, but your feathers are so soft and pretty, and nopony has that lovely shade of orange...”

Jumping back, she pushed my tail away, eyes dilated and blushing furiously as I giggled. “S-stop that! What are you, a filly fooler?” I just giggled harder in response, my sister had taught me well.

“Ah-hem. Should me and Patches leave you two alone? You seem like you might need the room to yerself.” Both of us jumped as a new voice drawled from the doorway as Applebloom leaned against the entrance.

“I wasn'tdoinanything!” yelped the orange mare, while I just fell over giggling harder.

“Y-you should see the look on your face, Scootaloo! I think you really do like fillies, don't you!” I full out laughed as tears filled my eyes. “No wonder you keep chasing Rainbow Dash! Ooooh, she’s so pretty!”

My teasing and laughter was interrupted by an orange missile slamming into me as my friend took her revenge. We started to scrap, but the fight was short lived as I felt myself being pulled away as my coat tingled. My look of shock was mirrored on Scootaloo as we both drifted apart, despite her furiously beating wings. I turned to see a determined look on the face of our large friend, as his horn glowed a soft crimson. I felt myself being lowered gently to the ground and the look became one of disappointment, which nearly broke my heart. Both of us hung our heads in shame, and muttered apologies.

“M’sorry Sweetie.”

“See, you two are getting along just great! An ya got Patches to learn magic finally, right Patches?” Applebloom beamed at the larger pony, but was met with a sad frown and a shake of his head. “What? you cain’t? But ya just did!”

“He can only do it when he’s upset or doesn't think about it. It’s a reflex.” I explained. “So far he can’t control it.”

“Well ponyfeathers! At least that’s a start. We will have ya makin spells like Twilight in no time!” The yellow filly beamed again and bounced for emphasis.

“That reminds me, when are we gonna take him to see Twilight, anyway?” Scoots pondered.

“Well, as soon as Sweetie gits him some clothes from her sister, we can sneak him through town. Till then, he just has ta hide out here.”

I blushed in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I really tried to get some, but my sis cornered me and made me help her with some dress designs she’s working on. Some rich pony from Canterlot wanted a dress for his daughter, and I got stuck playing guinea pig.” I put on my biggest smile, and nodded. “But I’ll get em this time, I promise!”

We soon parted ways to set about our various tasks, and I returned to my temporary home at the Carousel Boutique. I slipped undetected into the back room where pany of the completed projects were kept, both successes and failures. Of course, most of the failures would still gain my sister the highest of praise if anypony ever got to see them, for only a pony as fussy as her would notice a single stitch out of place and call it an abomination. She really was too hard on herself, and sometimes it made me sad to see how she drove herself to breakdowns. Granted, most of the breakdowns were just her overacting.

It was some of these failures that I was after. Not many colts commissioned clothes, outside of the snobby Canterlot elite, so there were very few that would fit my new friend. As I dug through the meticulously folded and sorted piles, I came to realize that I not only needed a better strategy, but would have to do some organizing of my own. I quickly spotted a hanging rack with a row of hangers for dresses and such, and used my magic to drag it closer. A quick burst of magic and the fancy garments sprang onto the hangers. I had watched my sister do this trick while working, and secretly practiced imitating her. Moving more than one thing at a time was very hard and I quickly broke into a sweat as I lined a stack of gauzy dresses on the rack, before collapsing with a groan.

Taking a moment to catch my breath, I gazed at the fruit of my labor, buried at the bottom of the pile, peeking out from a box. Last year my sister created special cloaks for each of her friends, but true to form, she went through several tries before they were up to her standards. One such attempt was actually meant for Big Macintosh, and featured a deep hood and enough fabric to cover even his massive frame. This would be perfect for a stealthy run into town with a strange stallion. As long as we didn't run into Pinkie Pie that is. The last thing we needed was a ‘Welcome the weird pony to Ponyville’ party.

A sudden horrified gasp froze me in the middle of repacking the large cloak to fit in my saddlebags, as an icy chill slithered down my spine. I was so busted. I slowly turned, fixing my most innocent smile on my face as I hastily constructed an excuse for borrowing the cloak. I turned to find Rarity not even looking at me, but instead at the rack of freshly sorted clothing, a look of pure horror on her face.

“Uhh, sis? I’m sorry I didn't ask first, but I kinda needed to borrow a cloak...” I stammered.

“What. Have. You. Done?” Was all the reply I received as she continued to glare at the rack of clothing.

I looked at the dresses, gowns, and other sundries, all neatly hung and in some cases folded on the rack. “Umm, organized?”

“They’re ruined! RUINED! My most expensive and fabulous creations are destroyed forever! This is the WORST! POSSIBLE! THING!” She gasped the last words, breaking down and sobbing.

I trotted over and looked at the clothing, then at her, not understanding. “What’s wrong sis? All I did was hang them up so they would be out of the way.”

“What’s wrong? WHAT’S WRONG!” Her head shot up, eyes flashing in anger as she ripped one of the garments off the rack with her magic. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong! THIS!” Waving the fabric in my face, she yanked the hanger out and then shook them at me. Small marks were left where the hanger had touched the fabric, as if somepony had used bleach and left it to sit. “This is the most rare and expensive fabric in all of Equestria! This is Zebran Sand Silk! Grown using ancient spells that only the Zebras know, and spun with moonlight only once per year. It took me thousands of bits and five years to get a single bolt of it, and you ruin it forever by letting it touch bare metal!”

Horrified, I backed away stammering as she began to shriek at the top of her lungs at me. I had never seen my sister this angry before in my life, and it scared the living pony plop out of me. As I backed away, I felt a grip on my tail, and I was dragged across the floor toward my enraged sibling.

“I am sick and tired of your meddling! I feed you, I house you, I shower you with love and affection, and THIS is how you repay me?” Tear of rage were running down her face, which was livid crimson with fury. This dress was for Princess Luna herself. She was supposed to wear it to this year’s Gala, and it would have cemented my position in Canterlot as the most prominent dress designer in all of Equestria. AND. NOW. IT’S RUINED!”

“I’msorry I’msorry I’msorry!” I squealed in terror as she slowly dragged me toward her by my tail. I felt my heart hammering in my chest as my hooves fought for purchase against the floor, and i squirmed in her telekinetic embrace.

“Oh no! Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time missy! You need to be taught a lesson, not to mess with what is not yours.” I looked back to see the hanger held overhead in her magic grip.

“Noooo! I’m sorry!”

A line of fire lanced across my rump as I felt the hanger strike home, and I cried out in pain and surprise. Rarity had never hit me before in my life, and the terror was more from the surprise at her behavior than the actual pain.

Each word was punctuated by a lance of pain as the hanger was whipped across my bare flank. “YOU.” *twak* “Will” *twak* “Learn.” *twak* “To.” *twak* “Respect.” *twak* “Other.” *twak* “Pony’s.” *twak* “Belongings.” *twak* “And.” *twak* “For.” *twak* “The.” *twak* “Last.” *twak* “Time.” *twak* “No.” *twak* “More.” *twak* “Wire.” *twak* “Hangers!”

Gasping I cried out, “I’m sorry Mommy, I won’t do it again!” and suddenly the assault stopped. I heard the hanger clatter to the floor, and the hold on my tail vanish, but I was too busy sobbing to notice at first. Slowly I turned to see the look of shock on my assailant’s face and my hooves flew to my mouth as the realization of what I had said sank in.

In a voice far too small for such a fabulous mare, she muttered, “What did you call me?” Her voice sounded more in line with Fluttershy than the glamorous Rarity.

“I-I...” I stammered, not sure what to say myself.

“H-how? Who... Who told you?” Still sounding very small and afraid, my sister... no, my Mother, wilted and crumpled in on herself, tears of shame streaming down her face. The fury of a moment ago gone in an instant and replaced by fear and sadness.

“M-mother, I-I mean, grandmother told me.” I sniffled, wiping tears and snot from my muzzle, as I looked down at the floor. I couldn't bear to look at the broken mare before me. “Last year, when she was sick. W-we thought she was gonna die. She said I had a r-right to know the truth. She told me. She asked me to keep it a secret because it would hurt you if anypony knew.” A sob wracked my small frame, and bitter tears flowed down my muzzle and pooled on the floor. “Why? Why didn't you tell me mommy? A-are you ashamed of me?”

“No Sweetie, I am ashamed of myself. I was so selfish, thinking of only my career, and reputation. I am a very bad pony. I should have never hidden anything from you. If anything, you should be ashamed of me too. I’ve been a horrible sister, and an even worse mother.” Her voice grew even smaller and quieter, and I could barely hear her whisper above my own sobs.

“B-but why? Who was my daddy? Why didn’t you want me?” I cried plaintively, all the pain and loneliness pouring out of me. A dam had been breached, and emotions I had held back since hearing the truth flowed forth. “I know I’m not as good as you, but I try so hard. I want to be just like you. All I want is for you to love me!”

A pair of hooves wrapped around me and pulled me close as we both sobbed into each other’s manes. Time seemed to stretch on and the pain flowed forth bitter and cleansing like a foul medicine for the soul. Finally the tears stopped and only a hollow pit was left as I pulled away to look into the bottomless blue eyes of my real mother. I saw there a haunted look, full of shame and regret. But I also saw what I had longed for my entire life, love.

“I do love you my little Sweetie. I have always loved you from the moment you were born, and I will love you til the end of time.” Gently she leaned forward to kiss my horn, and hugged me fiercely again, before pulling away and looking into my eyes again. “I owe you so much. I regret every day that I failed to be there for you as your mother. I did my best to be there as a sister, but it still tore at my heart. Every day since I gave you up has been a wound on my conscience and I can never be forgiven for what I did.”

“But why momma?”

“I was too young, and stupid. Too full of pride and heartbreak. Your father was a very famous actor in the Canterlot Opera, and I was a young schoolfilly enamoured with his fame. He told me he loved me and I let myself be swept up by his charm.” She sighed heavily and looked away at something only she could see. “He was so handsome, and had the voice of an angel. Herds of fillies flocked to him, but he only had eyes for me. Or so I thought. I discovered too late that he was fooling around with over a dozen fillies, and even a few colts.” A look of disgust formed on her muzzle.

“When the story broke, I was devastated, but it was too late. He was arrested for corrupting underage foals, and I was already pregnant with you. If the news had gotten out that I was one of his victims, it would have ruined my life forever. Instead of being known for my skill, I would have been known as the foolish filly that was corrupted by a horrible stallion. I ran home to mother and father, and told them of my shame. I begged them to help me, to hide me, and much to my shame, they agreed. We went off on a vacation to other lands, visiting Roam, Prance, and even Stalliongrad. When we returned, I had a new sister, and I returned to my studies at the Canterlot School of Art.”

Looking down at me I could see the years of pain and regret, and my heart began to fill again. Instead of pain and longing, it was filling with love. Love that I had longed for for, and was finally receiving. “I love you momma, and I forgive you.”

Sobbing, she embraced me fiercely and we cried together. The reservoir of tears refreshed as we held each other all over again. “I love you too Sweetie Belle. I don’t deserve you or your forgiveness, but I will always love you, my little filly.”

Several hours later found us parting ways, the cloak in my bag and smiles on our faces. My bottom felt fine, as my pride had been hurt more than my hide. Being a lady, Rarity didn't hit very hard, despite her rage. We had a very long awaited talk, and many fences were mended. A new life had begun for both of us. Some strings would be pulled and favors called to obtain new cloth to repair the dress, and a very nervous explanation was given for the cloak. Never again would there be secrets between us. She was rather apprehensive at first, not trusting a strange pony with three young fillies, but seemed to relax a bit when I told her of his rescue from the school bullies. She offered herself to arrange a meeting with Twilight, and even placed a minor enchantment on the cloak to prevent anypony from looking too closely at the wearer. I could tell this really bothered her more than anything, since her magic was usually for making ponies take notice, not look away. I was soon on my way back to my friends, humming an improvised tune. Imagine that, my father was a famous singer!

“I wonder if I should try for a singing cutie mark?” I pondered aloud as trotted along. The moment the idea was out of my mouth I shuddered. “Naa, no way I am ever gonna get back on stage. That’s just scary!”

Soon enough I was nearing the HQ, and my friends were eagerly awaiting me. As much as I wanted to tell them of my newfound parentage, we agreed that it would be best if things stayed the way they were. In private, she would be my mom, but to the rest of the world, she was still my sister. I was happy with that, and I loved her no matter what. And it was a secret that bound us together.

In the shade beneath the tree, Scootaloo and Patches were practicing hovering, while Applebloom was once again spreading out a haul of food from her farm. It always made me happy to be in time for food, and they were just as happy to see me return.

“Well its bout time you showed up. We though yer sister dun held ya captive agin.” The yellow filly beamed, and hopped off the table.

“Yea, we were gonna have to come and do a daring rescue! I was all gonna swoop in and distract Rarity while Applebloom untied you and escaped!” My energetic pegasus friend did a flip off the top of Patches’ head and landed in front of me.

“Naw I was fine guys. I just had my mo-err, sister catch me moving her stuff, and had to explain what was going on.”

A gasp from both of them caught me by surprise. “You told her? How could you do that? Now she’s gonna tell everybody in town!” Scootaloo almost knocked me over jumping in my face.

“No no no! It’s all ok! I told her how he helped us after school, and she’s okay with it. She even offered to help!” I quickly backed up and tried to explain. “She is even gonna talk to Twilight for us and help us meet her.”

“Well Ah dunno. Yer sister likes to gossip an awful lot.” Skeptical Applebloom was skeptical, as usual.

“No, honest, its fine! She even put a spell on this cloak so ponies wont notice him.” I pulled the embroidered garment out of the bag, showing it to them. The cloak was originally a stunning red and orange piece, meant for Applebloom’s brother, but the spell on it made it kinda nondescript ... well I really dunno what color it was. And the more I tried to look at it, the less interested I was in finding out. Wait, why did I have this cloak in my hooves?

“Wow its... uhh. Something.” Scootaloo looked strangely at the cloth.

“Yea, an we really like, something, umm, don't we?” Applebloom started to look away.

“Wow, the spell really works!” I cried.

“What spell? What is that in your hoof?” Scootaloo looked again.

“Nevermind, lets just make sure it fits.” I trotted over to Patches, who was just standing around with a bemused look on his face the entire time. Unlike my friends, he looked directly at the cloak I was carrying, and didn't seem effected. He quickly hunkered down and let me jump onto his back to attach the cloak around his neck. A few quick adjustments, and most of him was covered, save for his hooves. Hopefully the spell would keep anypony from noticing they were different colors. And most of all, it covered both his wings, and his unusual horn.

I hopped off and he stood, and I got a good look at my hoofwork. My eyes immediately began to wander away from him, and only by staring directly at him did I really see him. Wow, my mom does awesome work!

“Wow, that’s just creepy! I need to get your sister to make me one of those for Nightmare Night. Think of all the pranking I can do with Rainbow Dash!” Of course, Scootaloo would be the one to use her gifts for evil.

“Meh, as long at it works in town. What time was we sposed ta meet Twilight?” Applebloom shook her red mane and looked at me.

“Well, right after dusk, when its a lil dark and easier to sneak around. Most of the ponies will be indoors by then.” I recited the plan that Rarity had given me.

“Werks fer me! now let’s chow down!” A cheer was had all around, and another meal was tackled.

Soon enough Celestia started to lower the sun, and the shadows were long and creepy. The four of us started towards Ponyville in high spirits, and before we knew it were approaching the library. Not a single pony paid us any mind, as we were a common sight running around at odd hours, and our companion... Well they didn't even see him. A swift knock on the door revealed a rather sleepy looking Spike, who greeted us.

“Oh, high girls. Twilight said we were getting visitors, but she didn't say it was you three. Who’’s your creepy friend?” He yawned hugely and waved us in.

“You kin see him? He’s not makin ya wanna look away?” Applebloom asked, sidling up to the purple dragon to see his point of view. Her eyes began to slide away, while Spike looked straight on, if a little bleary eyed.

“Of course I can see him. He’s not much of a looker, no offense mister, but there’s no reason not to look at him. Why do you ask?” He muttered.

“Oh, my sister made that cloak, and nopony else can seem to look straight at him.” I piped up.

“Pfft, magic illusion gems. Doesn’t work on dragons. They are tasty though!” Grinning, he wandered into the library. “Twilight! The girls are here!” Yelling upstairs, he made his way up to the bedroom. Before he disappeared, he yawned again and waved over his shoulder. “You girls have a good night, I’m gonna get some shuteye. Twi’s had me digging out old books all day...”

Trotting down the steps in the opposite direction, Twilight gave her assistant a cross look, then dismissed it with a beaming smile at us. “Hello girls! Rarity told me you had a friend that needed some help.” She paused then rolled her eyes. “Then she promptly announced she had an idea for some new stealth gear for the Canterlot military, and rushed back to her shop.” Sighing, she looked us over, blinking at the spot next to our new friend. “Oh, hello? Care to explain what’s going on?” She rubbed her eyes, then looked directly at Patches.

Patches undid the clasp on the cloak, and slid it off, handing it to me. A gasp from the purple unicorn let us know the spell was broken, and we all looked at one another, not sure where to start.

“Well, we found this colt passed out near the forest...” I started.
“And he cain’t talk none, but he’s real nice, like. He even saved us from some bullies.” Applebloom continued.
“And he can fly and do magic sometimes like a pegasus AND a unicorn!” Scootaloo chimed in.
“But something is wrong with his throat, and he can’t talk, or remember much about how it happened.”
“But he’s really nice, an friendly-like...” Applebloom took her turn.
“Even though hes all kinda monster-scary with pointy teeth and wicked scars!” Scootaloo finished.

“Wait, slow down girls! Does he have a name?” Twilight tried to stem the rapid fire barrage.

“Well, he says he cain’t remember, so we been callin him Patches. Y’know, on account of his hide an all.” the yellow filly beamed.

Twilight addressed our friend directly, looking concerned. “Patches, is it? Well if the Crusaders vouch for you, I am willing to lend a hoof. Welcome to Ponyville, I am Twilight Sparkle.” She nervously held out a hoof, which he shook with a warm smile.

“So, Rarity said something about the memory loss, and I happen to have some experience with memory spells.” Turning to gather a small pile of books, she pulled one out of the pile and flipped through it with her magic. “I have one that I had to use on my friends when Discord made them forget their true natures, and turned them all mean. It should help unlock your memories so you can remember what happened to you.”

She stopped a moment and looked him over carefully. “Are you sure you want to do this? Judging by your appearance, whatever happened to you must have been very traumatic, and you may not want to relive that.”

In response, Patches only nodded enthusiastically. He paused a moment to think, then gave one last serious nod.

Sighing, Twilight began to clear a space in the center of the room. “You girls need to stay back while I do this, and whatever you do, keep quiet! It’s not an easy spell, and I want to get it right without any distractions. okay?”

We all chimed in with a chorus of agreements, and stepped back to the sides of the room. Patches stepped into the cleared space, and Twilight stepped up in front of him.

“Okay, the last time I did this, my friends were fighting me, but I was only bringing back happy memories of friendship. This time the memories may be bad, so I will still restrain you so that you don’t accidently hurt me or yourself.” As she spoke, her horn began to glow and a rope slid around the colt’s hooves, hobbling him. He just shrugged, and closed his eyes.

With a deep breath, the unicorn’s horn began to concentrate, as her horn glowed softly. Suddenly she stopped and grinned. “You know, I will be able to see your memories too. I sure hope there isn't anything naughty in there.”

Patched just grinned, popping open an eye, and wiggled his eyebrows at her. The three of us burst into a fit of giggles, and Scootaloo even managed a wolf whistle. Twilight just blushed and chuckled, before closing her eyes and concentrating again.

Slowly she lowered her horn to touch the larger colt’s forehead, and at first nothing seemed to happen. And then she began screaming. And screaming. And screaming. It went on for over a minute, before Patches slumped to the floor, and Twilight fell over next to him, clutching her head.

“The voices! So many voices! Make them stop!” Still screaming, the lavender pony grabbed her head in her hooves and then her horn started to glow again. “Stay back! Everypony stay away from me, you all are after me!”

As we tried to step closer, there was a purple flash and she teleported across the room. Turning around, she saw us again and performed another random teleport, seeming unable to control where she went as she tried frantically to get away from us and her imagined pursuers.

“We gotta stop her an calm her down! She’s gone plumb loco, an she’s gonna hurt somepony!” Applebloom cried, and ducked as a book was telepathically thrown in her direction.

Scootaloo tried her best to tackle the possessed unicorn, but only managed to trip and fall on her face as another teleport put her out of reach. Finally I tried one of the spells that rarity had been teaching me, and I levitated one of the curtains free. Sending it after Twilight I managed to wrap it around her legs to stop her running, as well as blindfold her to prevent her from trying to teleport again.

“That won’t hold her long, we gotta do something!” I cried as I felt my magic giving way already.

Digging herself out of a pile of books, Scootaloo retorted. “But what can we do? You’re the only one that can do magic!”

Thinking back, I remembered my sister and all the panic attacks she had whenever the Worst Possible Thing happened, and how Rainbow Dash sometimes snapped her out of it. “I know, when my sister goes all nutty, slapping her usually snaps her out of it!”

I quickly ran up and smacked her gently with a hoof, but Twilight just screamed louder, and I almost lost my hold on the dumb fabric.

Shoving me aside, Scootaloo tried tried. “Let me try!” and smacked her with a wing. As small as her wings were, this had even less effect.

“Darnit, let me try!” as Applebloom shoved in and gave a mighty earth pony clop upside the poor unicorn’s head. Still the screaming went on.

“Ooh, ooh! My turn!” A pink blur bumped all three of us aside, and a loud thud rang out, ending the screaming, followed by a second as the lavender mare slumped unconscious to the floor. “Umm, I dunno girls, I may have hit her too hard. What kind of party game is this anyway?”

“Uh, Pinkie Pie? Where the hay did you come from?” Applebloom was the first to recover.

“Oh, I was bouncing past and I heard some yelling. I thought to myself, ‘Self? What in Equestria could that noise be?’ and I replied, ‘Either somepony is in trouble, or somepony is having a party without us!’ And I hate missing out on a party, so I came in to see what was the matter. Then I saw you all playing an interrogation game with Twilight, so I thought I would play too.” She paused to look around. “Oh, but this doesn't look like a party at all. Why was Twilight screaming if she was tied up? I thought she was into that sorta thing.” Noticing Patches laying on the floor nearby she pauses. “Oh no! What happened to that poor pony? He looks like he has had way too many parties already! Did Twilight do this to him? Did she mess up another spell? For the most powerful mage in Equestria, she sure does seem to mess up alotta spells. It almost seems like a cheap, overused plot device to me.”

I couldn't help it, I had to ask. “What’s a Plot Device?”

The reaction was immediate, as Pinkie’s eyes grew wide, her rear hooves crossed and her tail drooped. She started to look everywhere but at me as she stammered, “Uh, well, um, you see... I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

Me and the girls shared a confused glance and rolled our eyes in unison. That was Pinkie Pie for you.

Walking over to the unconscious mare, I poked her with a hoof, and looked over at where Applebloom was doing the same for Patches. She shook her head, and I did the same. Both were out cold, and seemed inclined to remain that way.

“Well, they are both down for the count. I guess we should make them comfortable, and get some rest. We can sort it all out in the morning.” I sighed and started pulling some pillows from the wreckage of the room.

“Oh, oops. I guess I dunno my own strength sometimes.” Pinkie grinned and started helping us find more bedding. She was a bit faster at finding things than the rest of us and we soon all had a ring of soft blankets and pillows arranged.

“Ooh! I know, lets make it a sleep over and tell ghost stories and roast marshmallows n stuff!” Piped Scootaloo. She had a huge grin on her face, that matched the one that appeared on Pinkie’s at the same moment.

“Uhh, I don't think that’s such a good idear, you guys. Twilight might not like us raidin her pantry, and Ah’m a bit tired anyway.” Ever the voice of reason, Applebloom spoke up, deflating the party pony and her new accomplice.

“Well, we can still tell stories.” I replied. If you guys can all Pinkie promise, I got one doozy of a story to tell ya.”

All eyes were on me, and in perfect sync, they all made the motions. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!”

Still a bit wary, I looked around at my closest friends and took a deep breath before beginning. “Well, this is the story of me and my Momma...”

Some Assembly Required

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Slowly I came to, for the second time, unsure of where I was. Again I heard unfamiliar voices around me, and it took me a moment to get my bearings and remember what was going on. Then It started coming back, the little fillies, the unicorn, lots of pain and screaming. The rest was a blur.

“Damn, Pinkie. Did you have to buck me so hard? I’m gonna feel that bruise for a week.”

“Sooorreee! I guess I don't know my own strength sometimes.” Pinkie apologised, her ears drooping. “I’ll make you an extra special batch of them chocolate chip bagels you love, as an apology!”

Shaking her head, the unicorn sighed, “That would be nice, but you really don't need to, Pinkie. I lost control, and you helped me get ahold of myself. I owe you one.”

“Oh, it’s ok Twilight. I’ll smack you around any time you want.” She grinned mischievously, “That is, if you really want me to...”

Twilight winced, “Uhh, Pinkie, now is definitely not the time to talk about that.” She rolled her eyes and glanced over at the three fillies, who were all watching the exchange with wide eyes. “You girls really brought me a doozy of a problem.”

“So, did you help him?” Sweetie Belle asked eagerly. “Can he remember anything?”

In response, I just shook my head. They all groaned, disappointed.

“Well he can’t remember, but I certainly do.” Twilight sighed once again. She was doing that alot lately. “Pull up a seat, because this is gonna be one crazy story.”

I asked myself, not for the first time, why I was here in the Everfree talking to this strange pony. Just like each other time, I could not come up with a better answer than having nothing else to lose.

“So, in exchange for my help, you will pay half a million bits, and if i die, you will pay one million bits?” My skepticism was understandable.

The creepy pony with the deep hood nodded eagerly in response. “Yesh, to repay your great shacrifice to the advancement of shcience, your family will be greatly rewarded.”

I didn't entirely trust this creature, who wore a pony shape, but didn't seem to move like any pony I had seen. His strange twitches and odd manner of speech made me think of stories about changelings I had heard as a foal. I shrugged indifferently and held out a hoof in agreement. I had little else in this world. “Whatever. I don't give a Diamond Dog’s ass about science. I just want to make sure my kid is taken care of.”

A strangely cloven hoof met mine, long fetlocks coming free of the robe’s sleeves. “Yesh, your family will be well cared for, I shwear it! And if you shurvive, you will shtill be a wealthy shtallion.”

Nodding, I followed the strange creature further into the forest. It wouldn't be the first horrible mistake I made in my life, but it may very well be my last. It didn't take long to find the hidden entrance lodged in a tree with a false panel granting entry. We made our way into the earth, smelling of damp and moss, until a second door of metal stopped us. Slipping back the hood I saw for the first time the creature’s full face, and understood this was no pony I was now working for. His head was almost goat-like, with a tufted chin, and striped face accented with strangely shaped eyes. Most striking of all was the oddly curved horn that came from his head. Not spiraled and stubby, with a rounded tip like a normal unicorn, but black and ridged with a wicked pronged point on the end. It looked as if it would be more at home on a dragon, or some sort of mythical deer, than the forehead of a pony.

Seeing me staring, he chuckled darkly, before plunging the horn into a hole in the door. Turning his head, I heard a click, and then the door swung open. Clearly this was a special lock that only he could use, for no unicorn possessed a horn of that shape. Again, I asked myself what I was doing here, and this time had no answer at all.

“Shtep into my parlor...” He waved me forward with one of his cloven hooves, and grinned mischievously. I could swear his teeth looked pointed.

“Said the spider to the fly.” I responded automatically. Yep, definitely pointed teeth.

“Come now, no need to worry. You are being paid well for your shervice.” Striding forward, he swept into the tunnel without a backward glance, expecting me to follow. And follow I did, the door closing shut behind me, and a series of clicks sealing my fate along with the portal.

Following him inside, I found a rather cozy living space, looking for all it was worth like a therapist’s waiting room. I was more familiar with such rooms than I cared to dwell on. Removing his robe and hanging it on a stand, I gasped at the first sight of his full body. Striped like a zebra, with cloven hooves, long fetlocks and a scaly tail ending in a tuft of fur. His mane and the tuft were stark white, while his coat was striped black and beige, and the scales along the underside of the tail glimmered the same obsidian black as the horn. My shocked look brought another malicious grin to his face, showing off the sharpened teeth to great effect.

“Sho. Welcome to my humble abode. My name ish Doctor Kirin, and thish ish where I will redefine the future of the pony race! I have my laboratory, and the testing facility hidden away from prying eyesh and meddling hoovesh. You shall be the next shtep in my work.” Pacing back and forth he gestured animatedly as he talked.

“Okay, I’ll bite. What are you, and what is your work?” I knew I was not going to like the answer, but I was doomed to my fate regardless.

“Ah, both very good questions.” His smile brightened again, losing some of its predatory feel as he launched into what was obviously a favorite subject. “Ash for the first, I am as I am named. I am a Kirin, a creature both pony and dragon, brought about by a twisting of magics long ago forbidden.” He sighed heavily, continuing in a more sedate tone. “At least that ish what my mother told me. In truth, I am an abomination in the eyesh of both racesh, cursed to be the only one of my kind.” Lifting his head to level a grim look at me, he went on with more conviction. “However, that bringsh ush to the shecond question. My great work is to use my unique giftsh to make more hybridsh, and to bring new life to Equestria.” The manic gleam now in his misshapen eyes made me take a step back. “With you, my dear earth pony, I shall shtep into the history booksh as the first pony to create an Alicorn!”

“Yep, you are completely crazy, and I’d like to leave now.” I backed against the door, remembering that it was now sealed, as was my fate.

“I’m afraid you cannot leave. The deal hash been made, and the great work must begin!” His horn began to glow a sickly reddish color, and the predatory fanged grin returned. “Shoon you shall be the first new Alicorn in Equestria in over one thousand yearsh, but for now you shleep.”

And with that, the room went black, and my consciousness faded.

A strange buzzing noise wakes me from a rather peaceful dream about my family. My wife and daughter are with me at a picnic, until a swarm of wasps invade and wake me up. My eyes blink back the crust of sleep to reveal a rather oddly lit room and a barrier of iron around me. Colors of every hue slowly come into focus as I look around and start to make out scientific equipment of all sorts, none of which I understand. Finally I settle on a black shape in an adjacent cage that seems to be the source of the irritating noise.

“Finally awake are we? Welcome to the damned, enjoy the complimentary mints and massage.” What?

I blink again, focusing on the dark pony nearby, taking in his appearance. Dark color, bluish teal eyes, fangs, and holes in his legs. Stories of my childhood drift back about boogeymares lurking in closets to steal away foals that didn't eat their alfalfa and sprouts. Changelings. Creatures of nightmare that stole your soul and took over your life, only to feed on the ponies you loved.

“Oi! You see me now eh? Feelin tha chill are we?” A toothy grin accompanied the strangely accented creature across the room from me. “Aye, we be the things of noitmares an stories to ye. A roit bloody monsta in da flesh!” The creature cackled gleefully at my apparent horror. “Gaze ye ponies at me moity works and despair!” Another cackling laugh ended in a rasping cough, breaking the intimidation factor of the diminutive demon. “Oi, bloddy ‘ell. Aye ain't got much more o’ dat in meh.” Finally breaking down into a fit of coughing, the creature of nightmare lost the last of it’s menace and huddled into a fetal ball for a few moments.

“What the hell are you?” I started at the rasp in my own voice, feeling the dryness of long disuse.

“Oh, me? Ahma Changelin’, mate. Great bloddy ‘orra outta Trottin’am, I is.” The dark creature unwound into a ponylike shape, smiling a fanged visage. “Fresh outta deep cover, an ready ta rejoin da ‘ive an serve da Queen. Maker save da Queen!”

“What?” What I lacked in eloquence, I made up for with brevity. And confusion. I mean, really, have you ever tried to make sense of a Trottingham accent? Total rubbish.

“A changeling, great boogeymare o’ da wasteland? Critter gonna steal yer skin an eat yer foals?” Waving its hooves in the air, the creature sighed a very weary sigh of long sufferance. “Ringin any bells, mate?”

I shook my head and kept to my confused look. I almost understood but couldn't believe what I was seeing.

“Feed on love, an take anny shape? Stick yer lovvins inna coocoon? Oh c’mon, wot they teachin ya ponies these days? Ya don even know yer common monsters!”

Finally it all clicked in my head. Deertales of creatures that fed of love and took the shape of your closest friends and family. Changeling. Dark magic and evil deeds to unspoken gods. My eyes grew wide as I looked on my companion with a new light.

“Oi! There ya go! Ya gots it now. Fear me evilnesssss...!” The sibilant hiss of the creature’s word ended in more labored coughing as it doubled over.

I overcame my fear at the display of weakness and began to chuckle myself. “Not quite the evil monster of my bedtime stories, are you?”

“Bah, was a roit terror once, mate, afore da doc got ta me.” More coughing followed the brazen statement. Gasping he continued, “E’ took somtin outta me, an I’m dyin by degrees now. Won’ be long now. Yer next, mate. Won’ be long fer us all.”

Looking around I saw more cages, each with a prisoner, not all moving. A cage contained another pony, barely breathing from the looks of her, while a cocatrice glared blindly from another cell, it’s eye sockets oozing a black fluid. I saw another creature watching us from across the room. Pale, nearly bald and shaped like some sort of hornless minotaur, it babbled to itself in a strange tongue as it grasped at it’s bars with flesh claws while beady eyes tracked us from a sunken, flat face. It almost resembled a hairless diamond dog.

My inspection was interrupted by the sound of a door opening, and all eyes were drawn to the instrument of our torment. Wearing a toothy grin, the doctor himself entered the room, and all talk ceased as he made his way toward us.

“Yesh! It ish time to begin my little petsh. Together we shall make history, and I shall become the mashter of all Equestria!” The mad creature’s eyes glowed with an inner light as his horn started to pulse darkly with magic. I barely had time to recognize the spell before darkness claimed me once again, and the screams of multiple creatures reached my ears.

I remember pain. It’s a strange memory, only halfway between a dream and reality. Part of my brain says it should be something bad, but the rest only looks at it with detached interest. Like a stain or spot on my coat, annoying but easily ignored. Slowly I drift up through the haze of consciousness, and the pain becomes more poignant, sharpening, yet still separate from my immediate surroundings. It’s as if I have been swimming in the pulses from my body so long that they no longer hold any meaning. Like a smell that no longer makes you gag after you have breathed it’s fulminant stench for far too long and your nose becomes desensitised. Pain was nothing more than an annoyance. Pain was almost... nice. At least I was feeling something again.

Oh, wait. Pain is supposed to be bad, right? Well I sure do have alot of it. And that smell? Acrid and pungent, smells of copper and bile. Slowly my brain reboots from whatever shutdown it had undergone, and the parameters of the boot sequence... what the buck am I even thinking about? Parameters? What the fuck? Fuck... colloquial term for fornication, a derivative of...

Oh shit. I am losing my mind. I am.. I am. What am I?

My eyes slowly open, as light painfully floods in. Hurting, pain, agony. Yes, these are all bad. I flinch, trying to pull away, but I feel myself restrained. I cry out from the pain, but only a dry rasp escapes my throat. Slowly my eyes adjust to the light, and the room starts to take shape around me. I find myself in the center of a slaughterhouse, and the charnel stench nearly overwhelms me.

The cage containing the pale creature contains a corpse, its head now shaved and the top removed. Death did not come gently to the creature. The cockatrice lay headless, it’s body still twitching as a pool of blood dripped sluggishly from between the bars of it’s cage. Finally I see the changeling, gasping for breath, yet still not dead. His eyes are dull and the luminescence has died. He tries to lift his head, but falls flat as green ichor dribbled from his fanged mouth.

“Oi, mate.” the creature gasped in pain. “Tha doc got me good, ‘e did. Took me change gland.”

“What happened? Why does everything hurt?” I rasped hoarsely, as the waves of pain pulsed through my body.

“The Doc, he went mad. Kilt the lot o’ us. Says he gonna be a god.” Coughing once more, the dark form finally went still. The last glow faded from the blue orbs, and its breathing ceased.

I didn't have long for my situation to sink in before a cackling laugh interrupted my thoughts. I strained to turn my head as the figure of the mad doctor came into view, and my horror was renewed. He was covered in spatters of blood, from his white lab coat to his face, and his eyes shone with a mad gleam.

“Ah, I shee you are finally awake! Good, good!” He actually rubbed his hooves together like some comic book villain, and grinned his horrible shark-toothed grin. “Shoon you will be healed, and then the final shtages of my plan shall come to fruition. Your gifted mind shall be cleared of all obstructions, and my own shuperior intellect shall be transferred into the waiting vessel. And only then will the world shee my true power!” A cackle broke the the mad stallion’s tirade, and I could swear I even heard thunder rolling outside the lab.

“What did you do to me? My voice seemed to gain strength as the pain slowly began to subside. My strength was returning, and with it a host of new sensations unlike anything I had felt before. A strange twinge on my back heralded what felt like new limbs, and some indescribable tingle ran from my forehead to the base of my mane. Even my mouth felt strange as my tongue crossed sharp incisors much like those the doctor himself had.

“Ahh, that ish a very good question, my fine shtallion. I have improved upon the maker’s design and created a new form of life. The forbidden magic of chimeratic creation has enabled me to combine the shtrengths of many creaturesh into one. The body of an earth pony was the base for my design, combined with the wingsh of a pegasush. Shadly, I wash forced to use mismatched wingsh, as both poniesh were badly injured. A unicorn horn of my own design shall give the powersh of magic, and the gland of a changeling shall grant the ability to take whatever form you choose.”

My horror mounted as I realized the true madness of what had been done to me. Multiple ponies and other creatures had been slaughtered to grant me my new limbs, and my once healthy body had become a jigsaw of assorted parts. And yet, as bad as it seemed, the list went on to describe what a freak I had truly been transformed into.

“Yesh, you will heal fast from the hydra heart, while the dragon blood in your veinsh will grant you immunity to magic ash well ash the ability to breath fire in time. The cockatrice has granted you it’sh eyes, making a weapon of your gaze. The final gift wash a portion of brain from the shtrange creature I found wandering the forest. He called himself a human, and was gifted with an amazing mind.” A grim chuckle left the doctor’s mouth as a mirthless grin overtook his face. “You know the old shaying, a mind is a terrible thing to waste!” He laughed at his own horrible joke. “Sho I took hish mind and added it to yoursh, not that your will care shince it will be wiped clean shoon.”

“W-wiped? But my mind is all I have? My memories and my little girl. My w-wife...” I began to feel the heat of tears rolling down my face. I had thought I had nothing left to live for, and was ready to face the maker and my wife in the next life. Now the thought of losing it all filled me with a horror beyond anything I had experienced.

“Nonsense. All of that is unimportant. Your family will be taken care of, and I will rise to power as the new god of Equestria!” Another cackle shook his frame as he turned away from me to adjust some equipment.

“I don't understand. How will doing this make you a god?” Stalling for time, I tried to work on my bonds as I began to feel my strength returning while the pain receded.

“Oh! I did forget that part. The final part, culminating from nine. You shall be the ultimate chimera of nine, and I shall be that ninth part. My shuperior intellect and mind shall command your perfect body, and combined, a new god will be formed. Your body shall be mine!” This time no laughter punctuated his speech, but I clearly heard a storm raging outside. I knew once and for all I was doomed.

Despite this, the image of my wife and child were still bright in my mind. I knew finally that I had something to live for after all, and a purpose to fight. The leather bonds creaked as I strained against them, and the table I was strapped to creaked in protest. I was no Apple family pony, but I was still an earth pony, and my strength came from the earth and all living things. The mad doctor hummed to himself as he made the finishing touches to the machine, unaware of the fury about to be unleashed.

Finally as the straps began to fray and I could feel the boards start to crack, the doctor turned to behold his creation one last time. The look of shock on his face was all I needed to make the final struggle and break the bonds on my arms. As I snapped free, his look of shock turned to one of anger and his horn glowed an angry red.

“NO! You will not shtop me when I am sho close!” A red glow surrounded my body, and I felt my mind starting to flicker, as darkness clouded my vision. It did little to control my body as it’s new resistance to magic shrugged off the effects of the doctor’s spell and I continued to rise. A berserker rage overtook me as I felt my mind slipping away, and my body snapped the last of the binds holding me down. The last image my mind processed was the head of the mad doctor Kirin, lowered at me, with his jagged horn pointed at my throat.

I blinked as a pain on my neck snapped me from the memory, and the smiling face of Twilight came back into view surrounded by those of the awestruck fillies.

“And that should fix the problem with your throat, although even with your healing abilities, the wound will take time to heal.” Her words were emphasized by a gasp from the children as she levitated a jagged sliver of horn before her, still slick with blood. “Getting the piece of the Doctor’s horn out was the key to restoring your voice, although it is too bad this is all that remains of him. I saw in your memories what happened, and it wasn't pretty.”

“Umm, Twilight? What time does the library close?” Pinkie queried from a nearby window.

Wrapping the fragment in a towel, the unicorn walked over to her friend. “We close at 8 o’clock, same as every night, Pinkie. You should know, as many times as you have crashed here after your parties.”

A nervous look came over the pink mare as she turned to face is, a strange flickering reflected in her eyes. “Well somepony should tell all those ponies outside, because I don't think you have enough snacks for that kind of party!”

As we all crowded around the window, we heard the low murmur of a gathering crowd, while the flickering light of torches flooded in from outside. These ponies did not look like they were here for a party, and the angry look on the brown stallion leading them was mirrored on the faces of everypony in the crowd.

“Who are all those ponies? It looks like half of the town is here!” Twilight gasped as the tan stallion stepped forward, followed meekly by a scared pink filly.

I heard all three of the fillies gasp behind me, but it was Scootaloo that spoke up. “It’s Diamond Tiara, and her dad, Filthy Rich.” The three girls moaned in distress. “Trust me Pinkie, they are NOT here to party.”

The pink mare fell flat on her rump, and her hair seemed to deflate a little. “Oh poo! I was afraid of that. Twilight, you better get your riot gear, this isn't gonna be fun.”

Looking flustered, the purple mare stammered. “W-what makes you think I have anti-pony riot gear, with body armor and tear gas? It’s not like I prepared a checklist of things to have on hoof in case I...” The flat stare from her pink friend silenced her protests. “It’s downstairs, next to the self defence books my brother sent me.” Seeing the stares the girls gave her she just shrugged. “What? My brother is captain of the Royal Guard, and a bit protective of his baby sister.”

All three fillies shared a look before breaking out in grins, screaming, “CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS, RIOT POLICE! YAY!”

The rest of us collectively facehoofed.

Monster Bash

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Soon me and the other crusaders were outfitted in full riot armor, courtesy of a refitting spell that Sweetie had learned from her sister. It even made room for my wings as I used them to hover at the window. “Um, guys, the crowd is getting ugly. Mister Filthy is headed for the door!”

At that moment, we heard a loud thumping on the door of the library, as we all collectively jumped. Everypony looked at the others, none wanting to be the one to answer the door.

“We know you are in there, and you are hiding that- THING!” The muffled voice of the town businesspony boomed through the wooden walls. “Twilight Sparkle, just send the monster out so we can deal with it, and nopony needs to get hurt. There is no use trying to protect that thing!” Still, nopony moved, each waiting for the next to act. More pounding at the door echoed in the cavernous library, and the murmurs of the crowd were starting to leak through.

Suddenly a scratching gait was heard, as all eyes turned to the purple assistant making his way bleary eyed across the room. “Don’t anypony exert yourselves. Not like I’m sleeping or anything. I guess I’ll get the door as always...” grousing under his breath, Spike reached the door before anypony could react to stop him, and threw the portal open.

“Library is closed, please return all books in the morning during normal business hours. Thank you for visiting the Golden Oaks Library,” *yawn* “Have a nice evening.”

Before he could slam the door closed, a brown hoof shot out to hold it open.

“Hey, what gives? I said we’re closed!” Spike blinked, then rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he peered up at the angry stallion. Turning around, he yelled across the room. “Twilight! I think it’s for you.”

“Twilight Sparkle!” Barked the brown earth pony, “I do not know, nor do I care as to why you are sheltering that thing in here, but we demand you hand it over so that the citizens of Ponyville can enact justice for what it has done.” Giving an indignant nod, Filthy Rich glared at the creature in question. In response, all three of us crusaders closed ranks to defend our friend.

“You ain't gonna touch a hair on our new friend’s head, mister!” I flared my wings threateningly.

“Yea, he ain't hurt nobody, an anythin yer little tattlin’ nag of a daughter told ya is a lie!” Applebloom stomped a hoof in defiance.

“Um, yes! And she deserved to get her flank wooped!” Sweetie Bell finished. Me and ‘Bloom just facehoofed.

“Shaddap Sweetie!” I glared at her. “You are not helping.”

“Sorry.” She wilted.

With a sigh, Twilight took the lead and stepped up to the door. “Look Mr. Rich, I know he may look unusual, but I assure you this stallion is not any sort of monster. He’s been through alot of bad things, and just wants to be left alone.” She glared past the stallion at the pink filly behind him, who cringed away from the stern librarian. “I am sure that anything that happened was just a misunderstanding, and he was only trying to protect these girls who have befriended him.”

Huffing in response, the businesspony met the stern gaze with one of his own. “Nonsense. He is a menace, and a danger to the community. He attacked my daughter unprovoked, and needs to pay for his actions. Now I do not care who you are, or what authority you think you have, but this is a criminal matter and you have no right to stand in the way. Now hand him over to us, or criminal charges will be pressed against you for impeding justice!”

Twilight just raised an eyebrow and put on her best skeptic face. “Justice? From here, what I see is an angry mob. A mob that is unlawfully assembled in front of an official government building.” Clearing her throat, the librarian went into lecture mode. “Page twelve, paragraph three of the Ponyville municipal code states that ‘No organized gathering of ponies shall take place without at least forty-eight hours posted notice at the town hall’. Also the penal code states that ‘No group of ponies can enact the capture or detainment of a lawful citizen of Equestria, without first being deputised by a royally appointed sheriff or judge of the presiding municipality.’ In that case, Ponyville. And since I know for a fact that Sheriff Longarm is on a fishing trip at Rainbow Falls, that leaves only Magistrate Bigwig and myself as having the power to deputise.”

Raising an eyebrow of his own, the wealthy stallion smiled. “What do you think, Goldmane?” All eyes turned to a rather well dressed and equally well known lawyer in the employ of Filthy Rich.

“Yes, while the ‘Princess’ is technically right in the letter of the law, there is still the question of the creature’s origin, and citizenship. In addition, due to his recent behavior and proximity to the Everfree forest, he can be classified as an unknown threat, and therefore the Homestead Preservation Act of 989AN clearly states that ‘Any community may take whatever measures deemed necessary by the majority to preserve and defend itself against an unknown, magical, natural, or supernatural threat.’ So in that regard, since we do not know the true nature of the creature, the majority rule is in effect, and we are allowed to do whatever is necessary to protect Ponyville.”

Twilight narrowed her eyes at the overly-proper speaking stallion. She hated lawyers, and had begged Celestia to abolish them many times. Much to her disappointment, the solar diarch always had a perfectly reasonable argument as to why they were necessary. Evil, slimy, but necessary.

“He is not unknown. He is a pony who has been badly mistreated. And what’s more, he is under MY protection!” practically yelling, Twilight widened her stance, and dared the mob to cross her.

“Very well then, Twilight. Not even royalty is exempt from the law.” The businesspony managed to make the word sound like a curse as he glared back. “If you will not hand him over, then you are in violation of our rights and the safety of this community, and will be arrested and tried as well for obstruction of justice.”

Turning to the now silent crowd, Filthy smirked. “My fellow citizens of Ponyville, you know what must be done! Be careful not to hurt the children, but bring the fugitives to justice!” Raising his hoof in the air, he was greeted with a mighty cheer.

“Oh horseapples.” Twilight said dryly, before ducking back inside the library and bolting the door. A quick spell shielded the entrance from the angry mob outside, but the roar still reached them as they began pounding on the entrance.

“Girls, I don't know how long I can hold them off. You gotta sneak out the back and make a break for it! If you can reach the train station, you can get Patches to Canterlot, and tell Princess Celestia what is happening.” Peering out the window, she saw the normally peaceful ponies shouting angrily, and some were even throwing things.

“Quickly, use the cloak, and run for it! I’ll make and illusion to throw them off.” A wave of her horn caused the crowd outside to gasp as her magic created an image of Patches flying off from the balcony.

I didn't need to be told twice. Grabbing the confused Sweetie Belle, I nodded to Applebloom and shot a look to Patches as we hauled flank towards the cellar door. It was a little known fact that a certain club of crusaders had tried their hooves at tunnel digging, and managed to connect the cellars of both the Golden Oaks library and Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie Pie had been in on the excavation, although Twilight was rather surprised at having the wall of her laboratory collapse as she was in the middle of some experiment. We told her the fur would grow back, but she was so angry she made us close up the tunnel. Luckily, Pinkie talked her into adding a door instead, in case she ever needed to sneak into the bakery for a late night cookie craving.

That mare is crazy about ginger snaps. Crazy, I tells ya!

So as I grabbed the key from the hiding place that we weren't supposed to know about, the others cleared the table from in front of the hidden entrance. I deftly turned the key, and Applebloom pulled the heavy ring opening the door. With a quick look around, I make sure everypony is with us, before leading the way in. At least, I tried to, only to get a snout full of pink tail.

“Oh, sorry Scootaloo, I was just making sure the lamp was working.” Pinkie said to me over her shoulder, a glowing lantern in her mouth. I hadn't even seen her follow us down the stairs, let alone how she got in front of us. “Follow me, and we can get there without bumping into any trolls or goblins!”

Looking back at the others, I just got a confused shrug from Applebloom and Sweetie, while Patches just tilted his head. It was Pinkie Pie, so I just shrugged back and began to follow. Soon enough, we were swallowed by the tunnel, and the door was swung shut behind us with a click, as the lock fell into place. I knew from experience that the door was now covered with an illusion, and the lock would be unpickable, except by a unicorn that knew it was there. I tossed the only key to Applebloom, who tucked it into her bags with a knowing grin. CMC Locksmiths, Yay!

We all kept quiet as we followed the eerie bluish glow of the magic lantern that outlined Pinkie’s impossibly poofy tail and mane. I stifled a snicker at the memory of the time we set out to prove whether it was actually made of cotton candy. It’s not. In fact, it tastes kinda gross, and smells funny from all the things she keeps in there. I’m really glad we didn't get a cutie mark at it as well.

Soon enough the pink poofy pony paused, and we waited for the jingle of her own keys, most likely also hidden in her mane. The door cracked open, and the warmer light of electric lamps flooded in as we stepped into the storage cellar of the local bakery. We quickly filed out, among the stacks of flour and barrels of other goods. The sweet smell of sugar mingled with the mustiness of underground storage, bringing a grin to our faces. We made it out!

“Okay, now the kids are probably asleep, so try to keep it down!” Pinkie stage whispered, nearly at full volume herself. We all rolled our eyes, as she was louder than the three of us, and Patches still couldn't talk at all.

“Where are we gonna go anyway?” Bloom asked, and the rest of us all nodded in agreement, deferring to the older pony.

“Umm, I dunno. I am used to hiding things, not ponies. I’ve never had a monster pony emergency before!” Pinkie shrugged.

Oh, I know, we can hide him in the Command Center! We have been hiding him there for a while now already.” I chimed in. This got a quiet cheer from my friends, and Pinkie started darting around putting supplies into her bags.

“Okay girls, I think we have all the supplies we are gonna need to hide from the ponies in town until Twilight calms down that angry mob.” Pinkie grinned, and handed each of us saddle bags to gather supplies.

“Umm, Pinkie? What kinda party supplies are these?” Sweetie asked as she held up what looked like Nightmare Night costumes. I recognized them from that time I found the Cakes having their special party.

Shooting across the room to slam the closet shut, Pinkie put on a manic smile as she sweated bullets. “Ah, heh heh... Those are special party supplies for super special parties and... I’lltellyouwhenyou’reolder!”

“Awww...” All three of us whined, while Patches just cocked an eyebrow at the pink mare as she quickly locked the closet with a key.

“Really?” Rasped somepony, causing us to all jump. We all turned to the sound, and found Patches rubbing his throat.

“Patches! You kin talk!” Applebloom stated the obvious.

“Kinda. Hurts though...” he rasped out, before going silent.

“Yay!” All three of us Crusaders yelled out before being shushed by Pinkie.

“Here, have one of these!” Pinkie hoofed over what looked like a piece of candy. “These are my extra special, super medicated, throat healing cough drops! I used them to make my throat feel better after I wear it out from singing all day.” Her smile suddenly went serious. “Party throwing is serious business, but it takes it’s toll on a pony.”

Sucking on the candy, we saw Patches’ eyes light up, and he nodded happily, but didn't try talking yet. It looked like whatever was in the candy was working.

“Yep, they are all natural, herbal, and legal in several regions, including Los Pegasus, and Colterado.” Pinkie beamed as she nodded vigorously.

“Ooh, can we have some?” I asked, hovering in the air, while my friends chimed in as well.

“Sorry kids, but some of the ingredients are not really good for fillies. Also, they give you the wicked munchies, and we can only carry so much food.” We all groaned at this, but shared a glance, knowing what our next crusade would be. Cutie Mark Herbalists, yay!

“So, kin we go now? This place is starting to smell like Zecora’s special room now.” Applebloom asked. I was starting to get a bit antsy sitting still myself.

“Yepperooni! Lemme make sure the coast is clear, and we can make or escape!” In a flash, Pinkie was gone, up the steps, and just as fast we heard her voice drifting down again. “All clear, let’s put some hustle in our bustle!”

“What’s a bustle?” I asked, and Applebloom just shrugged back.

Sweetie looked like she was about to answer, raising her hoof and opening her mouth, then suddenly changed her mind. “You don’t wanna know.” She whispered, shaking her head, before trotting up the steps. Me and AB shared a look, and shrugged before we followed her.

Usually if Sweetie didn't want to talk about something, it was best for everypony’s sanity that it went unsaid. She was the opposite of Pinkie Pie, who said all sorta things that just plain hurt your sanity to hear.

As we made our way outside, trying not to make much noise in the riot gear we were still wearing, we couldn't help but notice that Pinkie had somehow changed into a form fitting bodysuit, inexplicably torn, with a bandanna around her head, holding her normally poofy hair in check. It reminded me of the time that Twilight had gone all crazy about Tuesday, and kept babbling about ponies from the future. Why Pinkie was wearing it brought up even more questions. But again, the less asked, the saner we all remained. ‘Because Pinkie Pie’ was sort of a mantra around Ponyville.

“Alright everypony, let's move single file, keep to the shadows, and stay quiet! Follow me.” Pinkie once again lead the way, and we followed.

Suddenly, a cat meowed from a nearby trashcan, earning a glare from the mare. “I SAID QUIET!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. We all froze, looking around for a response from the surrounding buildings. After a moment, none came, and the cat padded off with a quiet mew. “Oops, sorry!” Pinkie quietly apologised. We all just rolled our eyes and continued following.

Most of the way through town was uneventful, with most ponies caught up in the mob and out chasing us down. Thankfully, Twilight must have lead them on a wild chase away from us. Our luck held until we were just leaving town, when somepony spotted us from a nearby hill, and sent up a flare to alert the town. Stupid unicorns and their stupid magic.

“I found them! Everypony come quick!” The amplified voice of the pony echoed off the last buildings at the edge of town. We looked at each other in shock, unsure what to do at first.

“On my back!” Patches gasped out, kneeling down. Me and Applebloom jumped up, while Pinkie picked up Sweetie Belle, before we all bolted. In a flash we were off, running at speeds that would make even Rainbow Dash proud.

“Huff, huff. Gotta get to the trees!” Pinkie huffed out, keeping up with Patches, grin on her face. I heard she once outraced Dash, so it made me wonder how fast we were going if she was already out of breath. Then again, carrying half grown fillies probably didn't help.

“Wheeehooo! Ride ‘em Patches!” Applebloom cheered, and I answered with a cheer of my own. Sweetie just sorta whimpered as she held onto Pinkie’s mane for dear life. I just grinned and threw my head back, wings out, and marveled at the feel of the wind as it whipped past.

It wasn't long before the trees of Sweet Apple Acres were in sight, and we cheered at the sight. The townsfolk were left behind, although they were no doubt on their way. We had to get lost and hide before they caught up.

We almost made it too. Out of nowhere, there was a flash of blue, and I was flying through the air, Applebloom right behind me.

“I’ll save ya squirt!” I heard the voice of our savior and groaned, before landing in a tumble and having the wind knocked out of me.

As I got to my hooves, trying to see straight, I groaned again at what I saw. Facing off was Patches and my own personal hero, and unofficial sister, Rainbow Dash. Both already had bloodied muzzles, and were growling at each other, pawing the ground like enraged bulls. Pinkie was trying to help Applebloom to her hooves, while Sweetie hid behind a tree.

“Dash!” I tried to yell, but was too winded to yell loud enough. I went unnoticed, as the two powerhorses let out battle cries and charged.

Both met with flared wings and lowered heads. Dash barely missed getting impaled by the metal horn on Patches head as they collided. Dash’s speed met Patches’ size and power with a mighty crack, and both bounced back in a daze. The flier’s years of experience recovering from crashes showed as she recovered almost immediately, launching herself at her foe again. Part of me wanted to cheer her on, as she shot forward, turning at the last moment to land a vicious double-hooved buck to Patche’s still recovering form. Her inertia overcame his mass, and he was sent flying backwards into a nearby tree. Everypony watching cringed as the tree splintered, and the crown collapsed on top of the massive pony.

“Yea! That’s how we do it in Cloudsdale!” Crowed the victorious mare. My heart swelled with pride, before I remembered she had just beat the snot out of my newest friend.

“Rainbow Dash!” I yelled out, trying to get her attention. She turned to grin at me, running a hoof through her mane, and looking incredibly cool. I started to grin again, but stopped as I saw the branches of the nearby tree move. “Watch out!”

My warning came too late, as the tree launched in her direction, and she was knocked clean off her hooves, with only a few stray blue feathers marking the spot she had once stood. A massive roar brought my attention back to the rising form of patches, his horn and eyes glowing a scary red. Blood looked like it was dripping from his muzzle, until I realized that it seemed to be flowing upwards and back into his mouth and nose, while the wounds healed themselves. Again, the earth shattering roar came forth from his toothy maw, as his body seemed to ripple and change. With a flash of green fire, my friend disappeared, and in his place stood something out of a nightmare.

It was a changeling, with the head of a dragon, and the body a pony the size of Big Macintosh. His eyes were glowing green now, as his horn glowed the same with a flickering light like a living flame. The wings flexed, not insectoid like a normal changeling, but webbed and draconic like his head. This was my newest friend, and one of the few ponies I had ever been close to, and at that moment he scared the hay outta me.

Another roar was cut short as a prismatic missile slammed into him and knocked him flat, only to slide on his back until they both ran out of momentum. The sounds of hooves on chitin rang out as my personal hero rapid fired strikes against my newest friend with a loud flurry of sound. It was like the world’s biggest woodpecker was assaulting the world's most pissed off tree in a fight for supremacy. I really gotta say I was torn over who should win. Finally the fight changed venues as Dash was launched with a roar from the monster pony. Green fire erupted, and shot her smoking away from him with a sound like a roamare candle, sending the pegasus flying away in a ball of scorched feathers. I admit it, I reached over and grabbed some of the popcorn that Pinkie was munching on, as did my other two friends.

One does not question the popcorn the pink one produces, one merely learns to enjoy it as long as the spectacle lasts.

The spectacle didn't last long, as Patches regained his hooves, only to be assaulted anew by the feathery projectile. However, this time he was prepared, and my esteemed mentor was met by a wall of hoof, stopping her progress cold.

Can you tell I have been studying creative writing with Twilight? She says, if you are going to write an action journal, you need to know how to write action. And lemme tell you, I am all about action!

Ahem, anyhay... as Rainbow Dash staggered to her hooves, I saw a very pissed off Patches stomping over to finish the job. Considering the fact that both of them looked ready to scrap for several more rounds, and we had angry villager to evade, I figured the better part of something, something... Yea, I had to stop them before they killed each other. Pinkie was too busy writing up what looked like a scorecard, and my other two friends were munching popcorn. It was up to me to do that something.

“STOP!” I hovered in the space between the two combatants, clearly in both fields of view, and held out my hooves to stop them.

“Outta the way, Squirt! I need to smash this bug!” Dash yelled, her eyes never leaving her opponent.

“Down, Must protect you!” grunted my multicolored protector. Well, my formerly multicolored protector. Okay, my other, formerly multicolored protector... You know what I mean!

“No!” I yelled, slowly drifting to the ground as my wings began to tire. “You are both my friends, and I can't let you hurt each other!”

“What are you talking about, kid? I’m trying to save you from this monster!” Rainbow Dash stopped, falling to her own haunches, and tilting her head.

“What?” Patches stopped as well, although not as eloquently. He too sank to his haunches, erupting into green flames and returning to his normal ponylike state.

“You are both my friends. Patches is trying to get away, and we are helping him.” I cried out in frustration. “Rainbow Dash, you gotta help us. He’s a good pony, and hasn't hurt anypony. You gotta help us get him to safety so we can hide.”

“Yea Dashie, he’s totally a good pony. Twilight says he’s totally cool, and mistreated. We gotta help him until she can get the Princesses to step in and declare him a citizen or something.” Pinkie finally stepped in and tried to help. “Besides, I haven't had a chance to throw him a welcome to Ponyville party, and everypony deserves to at least have one party before they get violently lynched and hanged! It’s like, in the Equestrian Declaration of Rights, or something!”

I’m pretty sure all of us, even Patches and Rainbow Dash, looked at Pinkie Pie, before collectively rolling our eyes.

“P-p-p-please?” Pinkie went into weapons-grade cute mode, with quivering lip and teary eyes. Not even Rainbow Dash, as hardcore and cool as she is, can withstand such an assault.

With a bone weary sigh, Dash relented. “Fiiine! If Pinkie says you’re cool, then I guess you’re cool.” Stepping back, and resuming a more relaxed pose, the pegasus cocked a skeptical eyebrow at her opponent. “But it you make one false move, I’mma curbstomp your sorry flank!”

In response, Patches merely snorted, and nodded, still maintaining a fighting stance, before turning to look at us. At our happy smiles, the tension melted out of the big goofball, and he grinned his terrifying smile. Both Pinkie and Dash flinched back at the show of fangs, but the three of us Crusaders just cheered at our friend.

“Crusaders, and company,” Applebloom nodded to the two non-members in our midst, getting nods in return, “Saddle up, and move out!” And just as if we had practiced it, all three of us lept onto a waiting adult, and prepare to ride. I hopped onto Rainbow Dash, Applebloom mounted Patches, while Sweetie Belle resumed her position atop Pinkie Pie. As one, we cheered as our steeds reared back, before bolting off into the forest of apple trees.

“Oh ponyfeathers! They already beat us here, and it looks like they are waiting to ambush.” Dash flew back to where we were hiding in the trees, after flying ahead to scout.

“How did they know where to find the clubhouse anyway?” Sweetie pondered.

“Hate to break it to ya Sweetie, but it’s not exactly a big secret. Remember Applejack used to hang here when she was a filly, before we took over.” I explained, getting a defeated look from my friend.

“Well we can’t hide here. Where else can we go?” Pinkie chimed in, bouncing in place. Ooh, ooh, I know! We can hide out in the Library!”

“Uhh, Pinkie, that is where you just escaped from, isn't it?” Dash tilted her head at the pink mare.

“Exactly! Nopony would expect us to return to the scene of the crime!” Pinkie crowed, grinning ear to ear.

“It’s too risky. Even if it was safe, we would be spotted sneaking back into town.” Pinkie wilted at this, her smile fading a bit.

“Ah know! We kin hide out in mah family barn.” Applebloom suggested. “There’s hay, and apples, and plenty o’ room!”

“Yea, and we are already almost there, it’s perfect!” I crowed. I mean, cheered. Shut up.

In moments we were on the run again, headed to safety, warmth, and some yummy food. I gotta tell you, there is nothing like ending your day with a belly full of apples from Applebloom’s farm. Spending the night with friends is nice too.

“Everypony inside, I think the coast is clear. I’m gonna go tell AJ what’s going on while you guys get comfy.” Dash waved us in, before flitting off toward the farm house.

Inside, we quickly found comfortable hiding spots among the hay, and a barrel of apples was hoofed out. Pinkie even managed to find a small keg of cider, although we were all disappointed to find out it was non-alcoholic.

“Sorry girls, but I think I cleaned out all the good cider last month. Gotta have the good stuff for my extra special grown up parties!” Pinkie smiled, as she handed out mugs. “But to make up for it, I brought cupcakes!” and as promised, the treats appeared from her mane by way of the special magic that is Pinkie Pie.

Trust me, if it was anypony else, I would never eat anything pulled out of somepony’s mane, but residents of Ponyville quickly learn to take whatever the party pony gives you, and enjoy it with a smile. Those that don’t, regret it. One does not question the pink mare, one only accepts and is thankful that her insanity is not contagious.

“Girls, we have a problem.” Dash called out from the rafters as she flew in the hayloft. “Applejack and Big Mac are not home. Granny says they went to join the lynching, and are looking for us with the rest of the mob.”

“Yeah, those Apples do love a good lynching!” Pinkie piped up.

“Hey! That mah family yer talkin bout!” Applebloom spoke up, indignantly.

“Well it’s true! All that singing about her racist barn, and those white robes she was sewing up...” Pinkie shot back.

“The song was “Raise This Barn!” Applebloom yelled back, getting rather riled. “And them were ghost costumes for nightmare night!”

“I dunno, she really didn't like zebras. And there was this one time, I swear she called Twilight the H-word!” Pinkie and Dash both shared a serious look, before both broke out in laughter.

“That's not funny!” AB huffed, and stomped her hoof.

“What’s the H-word?” Sweetie Belle asked, looking lost as usual.

Both adults stifled their laughs and tried to give a straight face. “We will tell you when you are older!” they both chimed in together.

“Seriously, squirt. We are just joking.” Rainbow Dash suddenly became serious. “We know your family would never be the kind of ponies to hate somepony without reason.”

“Yeah! Your sister is probably just worried that some bad pony is gonna be mean to you. I’m sure they just mean well.” Pinkie finished, before snickering. “Racist Barn...” Laughing, she trotted away, rolling her eyes.

Through all this, I couldn't help but notice Patches looking confused, right up until his eyes went wide, and his ears went flat against his head. I’ve spent enough time watching marks, err, other ponies, to know he was sensing something bad about to happen. Maybe he had some sorta super hearing, with all the other stuff he could do, but it made me pay attention.

“Guys, I think Patches wants to say something!” All chatter stopped, as we turned to the only stallion in the room.

Looking worried, he swallowed, and nodded his head. “Ponies. Many ponies, outside. Angry. Smell fire. Fire bad.” Slowly he rasped out the words, clearly costing him dearly to speak, but his voice growing stronger with each word.

And then we could all hear it, the roar of an angry mob.

“Oh no! The not-party ponies are back!” Pinkie stated the obvious.

“We gotta distract them. Pinkie, you take Sweetie and Applebloom, I’ll take Scootaloo. We split up, and lead them off so Patches can sneak out when it’s safe.” Dash took charge, as the crowd outside got louder.

“Wait, I wanna stay with Patches. AB and Sweetie have family out there, but nopony is waiting for me in the crowd, and you can both go faster with only one of us each.” I cried, stepping away from my idol. The momentary look of confusion hurt, but I knew it was the right thing to do. “Besides, Patches doesn't know the town, and won’t know where to hide.”

“What? No! There is no way I am leaving you behind, squirt. Now hop on my back and hold on tight. We gotta fly!” The pegasus looked serious, and crouched down like a coiled timberwolf.

“Nuh-uh! You guys go. I’m staying with patches. He’s my newest friend, and I won't leave him hanging. You understand, don't you Dash?” I pulled out the puppy eyes of doom, and cranked it to full blast. I could see her heart breaking, as she was torn between leaving me or forcing me to leave someone. I knew she would understand.

“Oh ponyfeathers! Fine. Meet up at the train station. There won’t be anypony there this late, and we can maybe sneak aboard the next train to Canterlot.” Turning to Patches, she glared at the stallion. “You take care of this filly. If anything happens to her, what that mob wants to do to you is nothing compared to what I will do.” Patches sternly nodded in reply, getting a return nod from Dash.

“Wheee! C’mon cousin, let’s run!” Pinkie tossed AB onto her back, while Sweetie Belle jumped on Dash. Just as they were about to take off, there came a banging on the barn door.

“We know you’re in there! Come out, and let the children go!” Filthy Rich’s voice came from outside, joined by shouts from the crowd.

“What in tarnation? What are you ponied doin on mah property? An what the hay are you doin with mah barn?” Applejack’s voice rang out, quieting the mob a bit.

“Now’s our chance, you go out the back door, Pinkie, I’ll take the loft!” And in a gust of wind and hay, she was aloft, and out the hayloft doorway.

“Hang onto your mane bow!” And in another impossibly fast blur, Pinkie was out the back door, letting it slam loudly behind her.

Then it was just me and Patches, as we heard the commotion get louder outside.

“There they go! After em!” Somepony shouted, and I heard the thunder of hooves charging off.

“Wait! It’s a trick, like last time.” We realized that not everypony had left, as Mr. Rich’s voice rang out. “You, and you, go around back and check where the pink one came from. You, gimme that torch!”

I quickly ran over to bar the door that Pinkie had used, just in time to hear something land in the loft above. Patches reared back, letting out a whinny, before stomping the ground loudly.

“See, I told ya the rat was still in the barn! Now we just stand back and wait for them to escape.”” The businesspony cackled.

“Mah barn! What the hay is wrong wit you?” Applejack yelled, before a loud crack and a thud sounded.

“Ow! You crazy mare! I’d say that you would pay for that, but it seems I already owe you for one barn. Maybe we will call it even and I won’t have to sue you for assault!” There was the sound of a scuffle, and the sound of the stallion’s voice came back. “What is wrong with you? Yougo through at least one new barn a year, so what do you care if we have to burn one down to stop that thing? It could have hurt somepony. It could have hurt your sister!” The sound of spitting could be heard as the crackle of flames grew louder above us.

“Hey, woman, you even used to sing a Luna damned song about razing your barn every year!”

“The song is Raise This Barn, as is to raise up and build, but a greedy pony like you wouldn't understand anything like that.” The deep voice of Big Macintosh rang out, causing the group to gasp. He was a pony of few words, so everypony listened.

“Thanks Mac, but we gotta do something bout the fire, it kin spread to the rest of the farm if we don't control it.” Applejack spoke up again.

“Ah think it’s too late to save the barn, sis. Everypony grab a bucket in case it spreads.” Mac replied.

Meanwhile, it was getting harder to breathe, as the fire had fully covered the upper loft, and was starting to trickle down like water, starting smaller fires on the ground floor. I looked at Patches, and he was looking at the flames as if in a trance.

“C’mon big guy, snap outta it! We gotta get outta here before we get cooked alive.” I butted my head against his flank, to get his attention, but he remained still, staring ahead at nothing.

“Oh geeze, what do we do?” I ran towards the front door, but the heat from the fires kept me back. “Help! Somepony, help!” I finally yelled.

“There’s somepony in there!” I heard somepony yell. “Everypony, I think I heard a foal in there!”

“There cain’t be! Ah saw Applebloom and Sweetie Belle run off wit Dash an Pinkie. Who else kin it be?” AJ yelled back. It was getting harder to hear everypony over the roar of the fire, and the smoke was making me head swim. “Aw no! Scootaloo! Has anypony seen Scootaloo?”

Suddenly, there was a mighty roar, as the ground shook, and the sound of something large headed toward the barn made me jump back. A moment later, the front doors shattered, sending burning wood everywhere, as Big Mac burst through them. However, the barn door must have been holding up the loft, as it came crashing down. I saw the fear in Big Mac’s eyes a moment before he was covered in a purple glow and pulled free, just as the fire crashed on the spot he had been standing. Now the front of the barn was a blazing inferno, as the fallen loft fed on the incoming air. Turning around, I was the rear of the barn wasn't faring much better, and it was getting increasingly hard to breathe. And in the middle of it all, was Patches, seemingly unphased by the death all around us.

Tears streaming down my face, I fluttered up to look the massive stallion in the eye. In a burst of strength, I screwed up my muzzle and slapped him as hard as I could, before my strength gave out and I dropped to the floor.

“Wake up, ya big dummy!” I coughed out, as the room began to swim and darken. It felt like somepony was sitting on my chest, and I could barely keep my head up.

“Pumpkin?” I heard him gasp out. I looked up through bleary eyes and felt my jaw drop.

“What you call me?” I muttered.

“I remember now. Oh, Celestia, what have I done?” He dropped to his knees and picked me up, holding me tight. “You, me. We were a family. You were my little pumpkin, and your mother was my angel. Then I lost her, and I thought I lost everything. But I was stupid. I forgot I still had you.” Tears ran down his face, and I felt a different pain in my chest, as I looked up into eyes the same color as mine.

“Daddy?” I croaked out.

“Yes, Pumpkin. I’m your daddy. And I missed you so much. Can you ever forgive me for leaving?” he begged.

“Save us. I’ll think about it.” I gasped, barely able to stay awake as the crushing pain in my chest and throat got worse.

Finally, he looked around at the inferno, and the heat that was slowly cooking us. “I-I don’t know how!”

“Yer a big monster pony. Turn into a bigger monster and save us!” I smiled as the room faded out.

A moment later I was shocked awake by a roar, and opened my eyes to see a masive black and green dragon holding me in his arms. My head spun as he turned to smash one wall, before charging through the flames with his head down and me clutched to his chest. I squeezed my eyes shut, but still felt my fur singe as we busted through and out into the cool night air. I heard the creak and thump of the barn collapsing behind is, followed by screams from the ponies gathered outside. He let out another roar, before I was blinded by green flames, and squeezed my eyes shut again. Strangely these flames didn't hurt or burn, and the next thing I knew, I was falling to the ground, only to be caught in the tingling glow of magic.

As I touched down, I lurched to my hooves, and saw my savior collapsed nearby. He had turned back into his normal pony form, and was laying on his side, breathing heavily. I tried to crawl towards him, before being stopped by the telekinetic glow of a unicorn again.

“Scootaloo, wait. You’re hurt!” I heard her cry, but I still fought to reach the stallion.

“There it is! Kill it before it can get away!” I heard somepony else cry out.

“NO!” Yelling as loud as my sore lungs could, I was let free of the magic bonds. I stumbled over to the prone form of my friend, my father, and collapsed across his neck. “Nobody is gonna hurt him!”

“Move kid, that thing is dangerous! You see what he did to the barn? It’s a monster!” Somepony else yelled.

“S’not a monster! He-he’s my dad!” I managed to choke out, before the world went black again.

I awoke to the feeling of tingly magic. It made my fur itch, and my feathers tingle. And then I sneezed. And sneezed. And coughed up great black globs of nasty stuff, as I leaned over the edge of the cot I was on.

“That’s it, cough it all up. You inhaled alot of smoke, and it all needs to come out so I can heal you properly.” “The calm, motherly voice of Twilight Sparkle came to me as I proceeded to cough up a lung.

In moments, it was over, and my eyes stopped watering. I blinked and looked around. I saw Twilight, and my friends, as well as Patches, sitting on another cot, which creaked under his weight.

“Daddy!” I launched myself off the cot, and into his waiting arms, as my friends giggled at us.

“Pumpkin!” His voice was still gravelly, but clear now, as he held me close.

“Wow, so Patches is yer dad? That’s so cool!” Sweetie gasped out.

“Yea, yer so lucky. I cain’t even remember my pa. An now you got yers back. Ah’m so happy fer ya!” Applebloom jumped up to hug us.

“His name is Rocky Road, and he is my dad, and he was originally an earth pony. My mom, is Dawn Glow, a pegasus.

“Your momma would be proud of you too. She retired from the Wonderbolts to have you, but and earth pony like me could never keep her hooves on the ground. She joined the reserves, and flew patrols once a month, until the day she didn't come home. I thought I lost everything when I lost her.” Great tears welled up in my dad’s eyes, and ran down his muzzle in a river as he hugged me tighter. “I was a dang fool, and forgot I had an angel every bit as dear to my heart as your mother. I had you, my little Pumpkin.”

“So, the mad Kirin experimented on you, and made you into this?” Twilight came over, sitting down and pulling out a notepad. “I saw in your memories that he promised alot of money for your ‘service’.”

“Yes, he was gonna take care of my little pumpkin, at least financially. But he betrayed me. I was a fool for trusting that crazy... thing.” Sighing, he stood, and looked down at the purple pony.

“So what now? Are the townsfolk still gonna come after me?” He asked, looking resigned.

“Oh no. As it is, we have managed to establish your identity as a citizen of Ponyville, and Equestria. As it is, there will be some deliberation as to your racial classification, what with your changeling abilities and all, but you will find Equestrian law is rather lenient on what it considers a citizen, so long as you are not a troublemaker.” She grinned, and pulled out a letter bearing the royal seal. “I have it all here, signed by Princess Celestia and Luna. As for Mr. Rich and his cronies, they are now under investigation in the matters of inciting a riot, unlawful accusation, public endangerment, and destruction of property. Sadly, his lawyer is a slimy little snake, and we weren't able to get the attempted murder charges to stick, but I have a friend in the ERS that assures me that the ongoing audit on his financial dealings will be more than enough to keep him out of out hair for the foreseeable future.”

We all cheered at that, my dad just grinning and nuzzling me, while my friends jumped up and down.

“I dunno how to thank ya, Miss. I have my family back, and hopefully I will have my life back.” He bowed, making Twilight blush and stammer.

“It was nothing, really. The least I could do, considering what you have been through. I just wish there was something we could do about what was done to you, but the science used on you is forbidden for a reason.” She sighed, looking defeated.

“Wait a minute! Isn't he like, part changeling? He turned into that big bug, and then into a big old dragon! Why can’t he turn into an earth pony?” Sweetie Belle spoke up, getting surprised looks from all of us.

“That’s it! We may not be able to change you back to normal, but there’s nothing to keep you from making yourself look normal.” Twilight bounced back, looking triumphant again.

With a nod, Rocky closed his eyes, and concentrated. Without the emotions fueling him, it seemed to take longer.

“You can do it, dad!” I crowed, as the others cheered him on.

Suddenly there was a burst of green flames, tinged with red, and his entire firm seemed to burn, turning black for a moment, before another wave of flames flared up, leaving behind orange fur and a black mane. All scars were gone, along with his wings, although his horn seemed to remain, being made from metal. On his flank was the mark of a dirt path in brown. As he opened his eyes, saw they were once again the same color as mine, just as his coat matched my own. Looking up at the metal horn, he looked confused, and then annoyed.

“Oops. I guess the changeling ability has some drawbacks. That is good information to know!” Twilight once again chimed in, making more notes on her pad. “Why don’t you just try an illusion spell?”

Nodding again, he stuck his tongue out in concentration, before lighting up his horn with a red glow. Squinting harder, the horn started to fade out, along with the glow, until a white star patch was all that remained on his head.

“Woohoo! Way to go Dad!” I cheered, and he pulled me into another hug.

Suddenly there was a gust of wind, announcing the high speed arrival of Rainbow Dash. “Hey Twilight! Is Scoots alright?” Looking over at me, she waved, and I waved back. “Heya Squirt!” She leaned over to her friend and whispered, but I clearly heard what she was saying. “Hey Twi, who’s the hunky stallion hugging my little sister?”

Laughing, Twilight whispered back, “That hunky stallion is her father, Rocky Road. I believe you know him as Patches.”

“That’s Patches? No way!” She cried out, popping into the air in surprise.

letting me go, Rocky made his way over to the flustered mare. “So I hear I have you to thank for seeing after my little Pumpkin. It was mighty kind of you to take her under your wing. With her mother passed, she needs a pegasus role model to look up to.”

“It was the least I could do for my biggest fan. So, umm.. does that mean you’re single?” Blushing, Rainbow Dash dropped to the ground, kicking the grass with an uncharacteristic display of nervousness.

“Indeed I am, Ms Dash. It seems I will once again be raising my daughter alone. I do appreciate a pony as awesome as you being her big sister, however.” With mounting horror, I saw where this was leading, and I was paralyzed to do anything but watch.

“Well even ponies as awesome as me need to take care of their fans.” I saw them start to wander away, as they continued to banter.

“Well, just how awesome is that, Ms. Dash? You do know I was once married to a Wonderbolt Captain.” My dad shot back.

“Awesome enough to kick your sorry flank, if you recall!” Dash shot back, once again becoming airborne.

“Ahh yes, I hear tell old Rocky had a thing fer wings. Looks like he ain't changed much.” Applejack sauntered up, another witness to my embarrassment. “Well there Scootaloo, looks like your big sister may be gettin a promotion iffin this keeps up.” She drawled.

“Just kill me now...” Was all I could think to say as I covered my face in shame. Around me my friends all laughed at my pain. I hated them all so much.