House Rules

by AppleJack_Wack

First published

The Cutie Map has activated. But the Mane 6 haven't seen eye to eye lately. Will they be able to save Equestria from their most dangerous adversary yet, or will they tear themselves apart before he has a chance?

[NOTE: This story has been cancelled. However a summary of planned events has been placed in the final chapter below, providing a makeshift, yet functional conclusion]
After a freak accident at Fluttershy's cottage, Rainbow Dash and Twilight become much more hostile towards each other than any friendly disagreement, and Applejack gets caught right in the middle of their feud. All the while, the Cutie Map has activated again, sending the mane six to a strange new town in the San Palomino Desert. This community ends up hiding something bigger than anypony could ever imagine. Will the Mane Six be able to save Equestria, or will they tear themselves apart from the inside?

This story is in first person, but from three different characters perspectives (Applejack, Rainbow, and Twilight's POV, switching off chapter to chapter).
Rated Teen for Mild Language, Violence, very minor gore, and an overdose of awesome.
Cover Art (By Character)
Rainbow Dash
sevenofeleven - Chapter One to Present

Her Frontier is the story that motivated me to write stories myself, with a few concepts being taken from it. Further credits are on my profile.

Chapter 1: Start the Day with a Wish (Applejack)

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Time: ???

I was walking through Ponyville with a now empty wheelbarrow meant for now sold out apples. Its splintered wood made its age show through, if the sun-bleached wood didn’t already make that obvious. I had just sold out the my last apple after a tiring day’s work, and was trotting back to Sweet Apple Acres, when I saw a familiar pink pony sprinting towards me.

“Applejack, there’s a fire at the orchard, the barn is on fire!” yelled Pinkie Pie as she ran up to me. The look of anguish in her eyes told me she was being serious, this wasn’t one of her pranks, especially not one I would find funny.

“Sweet Celestia, we better hurry, grab the others!” I didn’t wait for a response as I began sprinting, leaving the wheelbarrow behind. I ran as fast as my hooves could go, but that still wasn’t fast enough. The dirt beneath my hooves barely had time to shift before I was already feet in front of it. The farm was my life, the reason I got my cutie mark, my home.

I made it to the farm and it was worse than I had imagined. The entire barn was masked in thin black fiery bits. It was engulfed in billowing waves of red orange flames that crackled and snapped. Some sections were just glowing red embers in a fire. In the few areas that were not in direct contact with the hungry fire, the red paint singed under the intense heat, until finally falling off in heaps. I held back a tear, but didn’t waste another minute.

I ran to Big Macintosh, who was frantically shoveling buckets of water from the well. His coat, once a cherry red, was now scarred with black patches. I could see his muscles shaking from over exerting himself. I jumped to help him. I grabbed from the pile of buckets, and using all the energy I could to get water to the barn, in hopes of stopping the fire before it engulfed the entire orchard.

Right on cue, the rest of my friends showed up. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Twilight all flew down at tremendous speed, and landed around the well, then folded their wings in as they did. Rarity and Pinkie Pie were not far behind, and I could have sworn I saw a bead of sweat on Rarity’s forehead. They all seemed off however, their facial expression weren’t worried. It was as if we were just strolling through the market, not a care in the world. I didn’t dwell on it, we needed to stop this fire.

“Come on y'all, let’s get to it,” I hurried some buckets over to them, expecting them to jump at the chance to help.

“Sorry Applejack, we can't help you,” said Twilight, with eyes cold as steel, and body like one of those ponnequins at a Manehatten storefront, stiff and still.

“Yes, very sorry,” said Rainbow Dash in the same monotone way, barely moving even the tiniest muscles in her mouth to speak the words.

“But, but this is my home, my entire life is here!” I stammered out. I was confused, scared. My friends would always help each other, what was happening?

They all said in unison, “No one can help you.” Everything blurred. The world seemed to stop all around me, as if time and space itself were breaking down. Then everything in front of me sank into the ground like water. I tried to scream, but I heard nothing.

I almost jumped out of bed; I came up so fast, “Oh, thank Luna it was only a nightmare,” I sighed in relief. I never know if Luna is slacking, or these atrocities are exactly what she wants. Whatever the reason, I’ve had nightmares for the last week. I can't for the life of me figure out why. Maybe it was something that my mind knew, but I didn't. Now how does that make sense, Applejack? I shook my head at my thought babblings.

I looked at the clock, it was half past five, still half an hour from when I usually wake up to eat, and start the morning chores. I stretched one last time, to take in what was likely one of the last pleasantries of the day. I got out of bed, not bothering to make it afterwards. What’s the point, I’ll just sleep in it again tonight. I was glad I still got sleep at all, even if it is plagued with malicious nightmares.

I made my way to the restroom, where I grabbed a towel and got into the shower. Twilight told us that when she went through the portal, she arrived in a world where you had to wear clothes all the time. I couldn’t imagine it, I hated wearing clothes when I went to the fancy stuff. I smiled, happy to have at least one convenience in my life, amongst the numerous responsibilities and sacrifices. I got out of the shower, dried myself, and walked over to the sink. In the mirror there was an orange pony with beautiful freckles on her cheeks, with a long, flowing, silk mane of an almost white shade of blonde. At least those are the words Rarity used to describe me. She says I could be even more beautiful than most model ponies if I just let her style my hair a bit. But I’m not a model, nor do I ever wish to be. I’m just a simple farm pony. I tied my mane and tail at the ends with red ribbon like I usually do to keep it manageable, put on my stetson, and left the restroom.

Now that I think about it though, it did seem our little batch of friends was a little withdrawn lately. Twilight's been doing her important princess papers, boring old desk stuff. Rainbow Dash seemed to have been taking more naps than usual, but maybe that was just me. Everypony just seemed far-flung lately. Even me, I’d been doing a lot more work lately to help out the farm. I hardly ever saw Pinkie or Rarity, besides our weekly tea parties... Wait a minute, our weekly tea parties have recently seemed to be lacking a member, either Rainbow or Twilight. Maybe I was just being at bit sick in the head. It was just a happenstance, I guess. I broke out of my thoughts and walked on through the hallway and eventually downstairs.

I heard someone singing as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. The female voice was angelic, slow, and rhythmic. There was only one pony it could be, but I couldn’t believe it.

“If this is a dream, let me keep on dreaming, where have you been all my life…” I continued down into the kitchen and it was none other than Granny Smith. I was surprised at how my granny could sing so beautifully, even in her old age.

“Ah didn’t know you could sing like that, Granny,” I interrupted.

Her voice returned to its normal raspy crackle “Oh pumpkin, ah weres getting breakfast ready and everthing.”

“It's alright Granny, now ah can help ya”. I went over to the oven to finish up the pancakes she had already started. The batter crackled as I shook around the pan. “So Granny Smith, where did you learn how to sing so beautifully?”

“Oh Jackie, ye don’t learn how to sing, yer bern with the ‘bility," she said.

People say that I have a thick southern accent, but people don’t know thick until they’ve met my Granny. “But ah weres in the school Choir, ah was the lead soloist when there were a part.” She walked over to wash the few dishes still in the sink. I stopped paying attention to the pan I was holding as I listened to her and almost dropped it on the floor, but thankfully I recovered it and set it down on the stove.

Her words reminded me of my school days. School wasn’t a big deal in Equestria unless you’re learning a specific skill. You learned the basics of math and science, how to speak the right way, which someponies choose not to follow, equestrian history, and life skills. After that, there really is no need, since your cutie mark pretty much tells you what to do. I took up leadership of the farm from my granny when I was but fifteen years old. I grinned, feeling a sense of pride at my accomplishment, but that quickly turned into a frown.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t. The farm has fallen on hard times ever since I reserved the entire western orchard for those blasted fruit bats. I didn’t want to do it, I was pressured by my friends, even Rainbow Dash, who was on my side until Twilight convinced her. Friendship, it's all fine and dandy, and I love every bit of it, but it doesn’t put food on the table. We weren’t in any immediate financial danger, but the funds were definitely decreasing, slowly but steadily.

“Hey Granny, what d’ya make of this here situation with the farm?” I inquired.

“Oh, pumpkin, now don’t ya git worked up about somethin’ so fer away, you’ll come up with somethin’ right quick, if ah didn’t trust ya, ah wouldn’t o’ handed the ferm over to ya,” she reassured me. She did always make me feel better, but I wasn’t a filly searching for her cutie mark anymore, I had a duty to keep this farm going strong. I flipped the finished pancakes onto a plate, and started walking towards the kitchen table.

“You’re right granny, but this here is serious, ah need to get out there and figure somethin’ out. Ahm a hopin’ Twi might have some ideares.” What I didn't tell her though is that I didn't just want to talk on farm business. I was going to talk about the farm, of course, but I was also starting to worry about the gang. It was likely just my sleep-deprived mind rousing up my imagination, but it wouldn't be the first time a hunch of mine was on the nail.

I sat down to eat some of those delicious pancakes I helped Granny make. I complimented her, even though I did most of the work. Although I did barge in here before she was finished. I got up from my seat and put my plate into the clean sink, its sheen now ruined by the single dish. I waved Granny goodbye, and left to do the morning chores.

The sun was just barely poking up over the trees. I flared my nostrils to smell the sweet morning air. It was filled with the scent of dew that always comforts me. The birds were not yet chirping, further relaxing the mood of the outside. As I walked towards the barn to grab the necessary tools, I decided I would go see Twi, but later today. Since I bet nopony in Ponyville gets up as early as me, save Granny Smith that is. I just couldn't get the thought out of my head that something may be wrong. I just hadn't seen it yet.

Chapter 2: Wake up Call (Rainbow Dash)

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9:13 a.m.

*Knock* *Knock*

Who the hay could that could that be this early? I looked at my clock and saw it was only a little past nine. Who am I, Applejack? I have precious snoozing to do.

I sighed a long, drawn out sigh. No way outta this one, huh? I turned belly-up in my cloud bed, in my cloud room, in my cloud house in the clouds. I like clouds. They are just the most awesome thing in Equestria. You can sleep in them, you can hide in them, you can scare foals on Nightmare Night with them, good times. My room was filled with Wonderbolts posters and trophies. Even though the academy was kind of rough, the Wonderbolts are still really cool.

I grudgingly got out of bed. I practically dragged my hooves through the cloud floor. Tank was in the doorway, sleeping. I spun his rotors, and up he went, his eyes shot wide open.

“Ha ha ha, Tank, you’re the funniest,” I laughed. I felt kind of bad, but it's all in good fun. *Knock* *Knock* *Knock*. “I'm coming, hold on! Sweet Celestia, who could be so rude.” I went over to the door, one of the few parts of the house that wasn’t made of clouds, and opened it violently to show whoever was on the other side the trouble they’d just caused me. To my surprise, it was Fluttershy.

“Fluttershy, what the hay are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be taking care of bunnies or something?” I said as the rush of high altitude air swept into the room. I could hear the rustle and crash as the posters that I forgot to hang up flew around the room.

“Well, see, Rainbow, that’s just the, um…” She whimpered as her long hair blew back and forth with the winds. I could barely make out anything she said, because she had spoken it so daintily. I was already low on patience, but this was Fluttershy, so I spoke calmly as to not scare her off.

“You're gonna have to speak up a bit there, Flutters.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come here,” She said as she started to flap her wings. I decided, since I was already up, that I may as well put myself to use, and there just so happened to be a friend in need of my help.

“Oh come on Flutters, you came all the way out here, what d’ya need?”

“Well, Rainbow um… Dash, see, the uh, the bunnies got out and I can't seem to find them, but I’m afraid I won’t find them all before it's time for breakfast or one walks into the Everfree Forest or—”

I stopped her before she bored me to death going on like an old pony. “Say no more, Fluttershy, I’ll help, because I’m such a great friend,” I said with a smirk on my face. She clapped her hooves together with a wide smile.

“Oh you will, that’s great, come on.” She grabbed my hoof and started flying. I swear, when it comes to animals, this pony might be faster than me when flying, might be. I tugged my hoof out of her grip so I could fly at my own pace. I sped through clouds on my way to the cottage, each one spraying water in my face. It was exhilarating, unlike everything else, flying never got boring. I don’t know how some pegasi are content down there on the ground.

We arrived at Fluttershy’s cottage, it looked as pristine as ever. I wonder how Fluttershy has the time to take care of all these animals, and also have time to keep her cottage looking like it was built yesterday. I walked over to the backyard, and sure enough the bunny cage was empty, although it was a much more comfy looking cage than those metal bar ones. It looked comfy enough to finish my nap. With as much padding as it had, it looked comfier than a cloud, which was hard to do. There wasn’t even a lock on the door, barely a cage, more like a miniature house.

I didn’t realize it but Fluttershy had been talking to me, probably just some places to look and such.

“So you got that, Rainbow?” Fluttershy questioned. I zipped my head around to face Fluttershy.

“Oh, yeah of course, you know me, I have ears like a falcon.” I responded. I said it so confidently I almost believed it myself.

“Um, actually falcons don’t have that great of hearing, they are more known for their incredible eyesight.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever, go and find those bunnies.” I flung out my forelegs in a 'Go ahead' gesture so she would get the idea to go already.

“Ok, but just remember what I told you.” With that she flew off and left me pondering over where to search next. I kind of wished I had listened to Fluttershy. Actually, it doesn’t even matter, I'm finding bunnies. How hard could it be? I shook my head and started trotting over near some likely places I would go if I was an escaped bunny.

I started by looking near the berry bushes, and found nothing. I guess that would be too easy. I then searched the trees, the flowers, everywhere around the cottage. Then I diverted my searches to the area around the Everfree Forest. That place freaked me out, but in a good way. It was filled with adventure and mystery, my favorites. I hoped that if they were there, they wouldn’t have wandered too far into the actual forest, since it can get pretty maze like in there.

I pushed past some of the brambles, and swore when one cut me. I licked the wound, and continued searching around until I came to a briar patch. I am not going in there. I started to turn around, and was overjoyed when I saw three of them all right next to each other. Two of them were cowering from the third one. I looked at the third bunny, it did seem to look different from the other ones. His eyes were dark and shiny, and the fur was very spiky, it felt like he got a bunch of the brambles in his coat. Hopefully he wasn’t hurt by them. What the hay, it looked like a bunny. I shrugged it off, and picked him up along with the other two.

“He’s a little ugly, but that’s no reason to be mean to the little fella,” I chuckled a bit at my own joke, something I do quite often because they’re always so awesome. I made my way to a clearing and took off towards the sky. I flew in the direction I’d come from, I could barely make out the cottage from where I was. These bunnies went really far away.

When I made it back to the cottage Fluttershy was also flying back. I could see her cuddling the bunnies in her arms. I flew down and dumped the rabbits in the cage, pen, house, whatever you would call it. I expected to be waiting for Fluttershy for a while considering how ungodly slow she flies when not in a hurry. However, in mere seconds she was there with five little rabbits in her hooves.

“Wow Fluttershy, you barely needed my help,” I said. I was legitimately surprised to see she got almost twice as many bunnies as me. I remembered my wound when I felt a liquid on my foreleg. It was bleeding again, it started dripping and I was going to lick it to stop the bleeding, but Fluttershy must have noticed.

“Wait, wait, wait, let me help you with that,” she said. She grabbed a saddle bag with a red plus sign on it, and reached inside. She brought out a sheet of gauze and started wrapping my foreleg.

I was a little embarrassed,” Fluttershy, it's only a scratch, I’m sure this isn’t necessary.”

“Nonsense, you got injured helping me, it's the least I could do, plus this isn’t much, but if it gets infected, then it's a problem.” She finished wrapping it, and smiled at me.

“Yeah, sure, thanks I guess,” I responded. I put my good hoof behind my head awkwardly, hoping this moment would end soon.

“Well, you did get some, and it's better safe than sorry. Well, I’m going to feed the ones we found, and then I’ll count them up to see how many more we need to find,” she explained the plan and sincerely this time, I nodded. She went inside her cottage, closing the door so gently I wasn’t sure the lock had latched into place.

I flew up to the top of the chimney, during the day, the fire is turned off, but it still has a faint smoky smell that I love. I inhaled the sweet scent of burning pine wood, and exhaled, loosening all my muscles. I spread myself out across the very edge of the chimney, so I could get every ounce of that sweet, smoky air.

I started to doze off in my thoughts. I've been thinking lately, about Twilight. She was a great friend, and maybe still is. However, I can’t get over the fact that all six of us defeated those villains, and saved all those cities, but Twilight became the Princess of Friendship, and got her own castle, while we got jack. I was fed up, and was going to confront her about it, but could never find the right time. I didn’t want to sound like a wet blanket or like I’m just being hyper critical. I wanted something for all my efforts, even something ceremonial so I could go down in history as a hero. But no, Twilight is in all the stained glass paintings, written about in all the books, and the one who got to go into that cool portal; the rest of us sit here like the forgotten sidekicks. I don’t know how the others could deal with it, but I wouldn’t, not anymore.

“RAINBOW DASH,” I snapped out of my trance when I saw Fluttershy racing towards me at breakneck speeds. She slammed into me, sending me off the roof into the ground below. I recovered, and could see the tears welling up in her eyes. “How could you let this happen?!”

The gauze on my hoof held up, but my back felt like crap after that landing. Physical feelings aside, I was actually scared, I’d never seen Fluttershy act like this before, certainly not to one of her best friends.

“What do you mean, Flutters?” I questioned.

“Don’t you dare call me that name! Didn’t you listen to me when I told you NOT to bring back timber rabbits?”

“W-what!?” I was dumbfounded. Is that what she was telling me about at the beginning? I made a terrible mistake, I thought it was just tips and junk about where to look. How was I going to explain this without sounding like a complete douche? I stood myself up, even though the pain in my back. I winced at it, but it felt much better once I stood up straight.

“F-Fluttershy, I can explain, I just um… didn’t hear you right when you first explained it, you can’t blame me for a simple mistake can you?” I hoped Fluttershy was feeling extra forgiving today, because I would need every bit I could get.

“I can’t believe you right now.” She darted at me, but stopped short, and pointed at the cage, with a glare made of pure rage. I got goose bumps. She must be under some serious motherly instinct right now. How much damage did I do?

“You see what you… You see what you DID?” she exclaimed. I looked over to the rabbit pen, and the sight was horrifying. One of the rabbits was torn all the way down his midsection like he got eaten by something. I looked over and that strange rabbit I picked up was beaten by a club. As it turns out, he didn’t just have some brambles in his fur, his fur was made of brambles. Fluttershy moped over to the dead bunny, and was now full on sobbing by it.

“Come on Fluttershy, it's just a bunny.” I usually don’t think twice when I say things, but out of all the possible things that could have been said, that was the worst possible thing.

Fluttershy wiped her eye with a hoof slightly covered in blood, most likely from her checking the dead rabbit for any sign of life. She turned towards me and I could see the flames burning beneath her usual timid eyes. It felt like I was being cooked just from looking into them. I prepared myself for a stern talking to.

“Get away from my cottage, and don’t bother coming back anytime soon, I just... can't believe you right now,” she said as she went back over and sobbed. At first I just stood there, I couldn’t believe myself. Because of my inability to listen... Gah. My heart felt like it was a building on the brink of collapse, and all it needed was a breeze to knock over.

“Buck me,” I whispered to myself. I tried to flap my wings, but they were shaking so hard, I had to readjust myself. I slowly flapped them, gaining altitude and one last look at my former friend. I held back the tears, trying to act tough. But my bottled up sadness only turned to anger. I flew back to by house, thrashing everything in my way, except Tank. I was in a whole new world of rage, mostly at myself. If only I had just listened to Fluttershy tell me about the timber rabbits, or even just asked her to repeat it, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Buck. My. Life. I went outside, and started bucking the clouds, but kicking water vapor didn’t make me feel better, only more tired. For once in my life, the water from the clouds didn’t fill me with joy. It was as if someone had flipped a lever that turned all of my emotions, except anger, completely off.

I needed to channel my rage, and I knew just where to do it. There was a certain purple alicorn who I'd been meaning to have a face to face chat with for a while. What could possibly get worse anyway?

I flew up to my house, opened the front door, and proceeded to slam it closed. I gritted my teeth, before calming down. There was a letter on one of the tables cluttered with Wonderbolts statues. I opened it up and read the contents. I pursued the fancy lettering, and a grin formed across my face. Twilight invited us over to lunch at her castle. I knew where I’d be heading a few hours from now.

Chapter 3: Royal Duties (Twilight Sparkle)

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12:00 p.m.

The beam of light shining in from the one open window reflected the dust in a narrow beam. I didn't need to be reminded of how stuffy the castle was. It used to be so overwhelming I had to go outside every few hours. It certainly wasn't helping that I was opening every old tome put in front of my muzzle. Over time, however, I had grown accustomed to it, perhaps even started to take comfort in it. I closed the window and the blinds, so that it didn't distract me from my task. I sat at a long wooden desk, its drawers filled to the brim with paperwork, ledgers, and other documents. My quills and ink were all lined up nicely on the left side, while the papers I wasn't currently looking at were stacked on the right side. I created a ball of light and levitated it in the air, to compensate for the light lost by closing the window.

As I was reading some ledgers from Appleloosa's fund, my stomach convulsed like milk in a butter churn. I glanced over at the clock hanging above my desk, it was exactly noon, when Spike and I normally eat our afternoon meal. I knew he was across the hallway in his room, probably reading graphic novels or some such.

“Spike! Are you making lunch for us this time?” I yelled. I turned away from my desk, still cluttered with papers and scrolls of all sorts. I stood up from my chair to stretch my aching legs.

He yelled back, “When do I not make the meals for us?” I rolled my eyes because I knew I could come up with plenty of times.

“Hey, I make the meals sometimes too.”

“Ya, name a time in the past week,” the little purple dragon said as he walked into my room. He carried his little blanky and his Rarity doll which I’m still not sure how he obtained.

“Well, uh, there was, um…” I guess I couldn’t come up with as many times as I thought. I put my hoof behind my head, embarrassed to not have an answer to the question.

“Exactly, don’t worry, I'll get right on it.” He threw down his blanket and little Rarity doll in his room and shut the door. I started to walk back to my desk from the doorway. It felt good to get up and walk around every once in a while, even if only for a minute or two.

I always thought it was a little weird, Spike’s crush on Rarity, I mean. It seems so illogical. At the time he barely knew the pony and he just decided, he likes her? I pondered it for a moment. Putting my hoof to my chin and looked towards the ceiling of my room. Maybe I knew more than I was comprehending, with Flash Sentry and all. That boy had a nice mechanical transporter back in the human world, my human friends called it a “Camaro.”

“Anyway, better get back to work.” I turned back to my desk, looking at the mound of work ahead of me. It was actually quite exhausting being a princess. My friends think I can just sit around and have servants carry out my every whim. However, I specifically asked for my only servant to be Spike. Although I consider him more of an assistant if that makes a difference. Moreover, the important documents, like town taxes and budget, can only be handled by people of proper authority, which are mostly me and the mayor. I tapped the quill on my chin as I read some of the documents as I sat down. I wasn’t looking forward to spending a lot of time in this chair again. I sighed and instead of actually examining the Appleloosa ledger, I just felt the paper for a while.

My papers always seemed to be thinner at the corners, like I wear them down as habit when I’m thinking. I remembered when I was still Celestia’s student living in Canterlot. I would read a new book every day. Its paper stiff from being pushed together so long. Its scent of fresh parchment as I opened each book was better than a garden of roses. But those days are long past, and I had to help the mayor with these documents.

Another thing that people misinterpret is that the mayor’s job is obsolete. However, that is simply not the case, without the mayor I'd be swimming in all of Ponyville's files, but I have to deal with the whole of Equestria. Princess Celestia doesn’t just rule Canterlot, now does she?

At the moment, the princesses are asking me to find something to cut from Appleloosa’s budget and divert it to Canterlot, because Canterlot Ponies are where a large portion of our capital comes from. But that’s just not possible, growing communities need all the money they can get, and although I used to live in Canterlot, I don’t feel sorry for those snobby business ponies. I threw down the quill, then picked it back up and placed it next to the other quills just right.

I'll figure that out later. I was sure Spike had created something delicious. Everything I make turns into a black heap at some point during the process. I walked downstairs, almost tripping on the last step. I think it's because that last step is an inch or so longer than the rest. I guess even the Tree of Harmony isn't perfect. I'll have to get that fixed one of these days.

I walked into the Dining area, and slowly inhaled the sweet scent of Spike's cooking. He is so much better than I am at cooking anything. I never admit it to him of course, no need to feed his ego. The ceiling was as high as the hallways. It was about twenty feet up, with the same crystalline pattern of purple with dark blue accents. My friends had decorated the place to make it feel more like a home. Rarity did most of the kitchen and dining room, as they weren't separated by anything more than a low counter. So of course, it was filled with fancy drapes, and silk adornments. The dining room table had a heavy red tablecloth over it, with a unicorn sculpture in the middle. She must have set up white pillars, as they were not made of crystal, but a marble. She had placed plastic flowers on the top of each of them.

I then made my way to the kitchen area, where Spike was currently working on the meal. The kitchen had three counters, and one bare wall where the door to the hallway was, as well as a storage area for a plethora of cooking supplies. The door to the hallway led under the stairs, probably so the "workers" could get out unnoticed. I didn't have any hired help, so that door was almost obsolete.

On the opposite wall of the kitchen, there were the stoves and stovetops. There was one long stove in the middle, with two smaller stoves on the sides. The wall furthest from the dining room had cupboards and refrigerators filled with spices, fruits, vegetables, and whatever else you need for cooking. The wall closest to the dining area wasn't much of a wall, as it was only waste height, and only went about two-thirds across the floor. It was only a counter made of crystal, nothing special. It did, however have a panel that could be put up so that the dining area was no longer in direct view. It was another feature that was almost never used in the castle.

I continued walking and saw Spike in his Kiss the Cook apron. I giggled a bit when I saw it. He noticed me, causing him to smirk and respond in his usual humorous way.

“Well now that you’ve noticed it, why don’t you give me a little something?” he joked as he pointed to his cheek.

“No thank you, I'll save those for Rarity,” I said as I waved my hooves. He blushed a red as bright as the setting sun. He must have been finished cooking, as he was now setting the table for a meal fit for many more ponies than were present. He filled the table with salads, vegetable burgers, hay fries, and many more tasty food items.

“Now why would we possibly need this much food for the two of us?” I asked. I pointed to the food, and looked at him like he was crazy.

“I took the liberty of inviting our friends over, Fluttershy won't come obviously,” he said. The mood dropped right then. It's amazing how quickly the mood of a room can change with just one sentence. Apparently, one of Fluttershy’s animals perished in some kind of accident involving Rainbow Dash. I didn’t get a lot more information than that, because Fluttershy came in, grabbed a few books, and left. I’d hardly call it a conversation, it was so rushed.

I sighed a deep sigh, but reluctantly spoke, “Yeah, we are going to have to deal with that later,” I insisted.

“You'll have to deal with that later, you’re the Princess of Friendship after all,” he said pointing his spatula at me.

I rolled my eyes at his dry humor. “Ya, ya, work on your act.” I smirked at him, and he smirked back, shrugging it off and continuing the conversation.

“Rainbow Dash didn’t respond back. Applejack said she was coming over anyway, probably to talk about finances.”

“You know about that?” I look at him, confused, as I thought I was the only one besides Applejack herself to know about that.

“I'm your one and only assistant Twilight, of course I do. Anyway, Pinkie and Rarity should be arriving shortly.” He said that not a moment too soon.

“Well, speak of Tirek and he shall appear,” I said as Rarity came into the door with the usual bit of elegance in her step, and Pinkie came bouncing in with a cake on her back.

“Hey Twilight, guess what I brought?” asked Pinkie.

“Is it that cake, maybe?” I answered. I could never tell if Pinkie was actually being serious with her questions or just striking up conversations.

“Oh my gosh, how’d you guess,” Pinkie Pie asked. Rarity rolled her eyes and shook her head at Pinkie Pie.

“Spike, now’s your chance,” I nodded towards Rarity, and he blushed a bright pink. Rarity saw his apron and gave him a peck on the cheek. It could barely be considered a kiss, but he looked like he could die happy right that moment.

“Alright, enough chatter, let's eat,” said Pinkie. We all agreed and sat down. We had conversations about our everyday lives. Rarity had more business than ever. Pinkie had the same amount of business as usual, but was still equally as excited. Then Rarity brought up the topic I’d been dreading.

“So, it seems our lives are great, but a certain pony’s is not nearly so,” Rarity said. I had hoped this topic wouldn’t come up until later, but I guessed it was inevitable. I used the napkin to wipe off any leftovers on my cheek, wiped my hooves, and looked at Rarity as I spoke.

“You’re talking about Fluttershy... yes, I know, but I don’t want to point blame until we have heard Rainbow’s side of the story,” I said. Rainbow Dash's side didn't look to good right now, but I wanted to believe it truly wasn’t her fault. I decided not to make any assumptions until the circle was complete.

“Rainbow Dash? I bet it will be the usual, her arrogance got her ‘carried away`, and it was all a big accident, whatever happened” Rarity was much more narrow minded about this than she usually is about these types of situations. I wonder what has her all worked up about it.

“None of us are perfect Rarity. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation,” I rebutted.

Spike spoke up, “Says the Alicorn Princess.”

I was quick to defend myself, “Spike! You of all beings should know I am far from perfect.”

“Yeah, you're right, you’re not very good at cooking,” he joked. Everyone except me burst out laughing. I crossed my hooves and frowned as everyone else at the table was laughing their heads off. Although I have to admit, it was a decent burn.

Right at that moment, everyone stopped laughing, and there was just the sound of hooves walking down a long hallway, the hallway right outside the dining area in fact. My muscles tensed, my heart started racing. I didn’t know why, it could be Applejack, just a little late. I gulped as I waited for whomever it was to make it to the dining room.

As trouble always finds a way of doing, it walked right up to my doorstep. It took the form of Rainbow Dash, as she menacingly entered and stopped dead. Rarity and Spike both looked at me with a sense of worry, and looked back at Rainbow Dash.

“Glad you could join us Rainbow Dash, we were just talking,” said Pinkie Pie as Rainbow Dash walked through the doorway. I was at the furthest seat from the door, so I couldn’t see what Rarity and Spike were worried about until now.

Her eyes had a spirit behind them. I could see conviction, a conviction that couldn’t have been with good motives behind it. She walked as if she owned the castle, like a king walking down a row of military grunts. My eyes stayed on her, locked to her eyes as hers were to mine.

“Please Rainbow Dash, take a seat,” I insisted with a hoof offering any seat. She sat at the seat right across from me, the “Head” of the table so to speak, while I sat at the opposite end, closest to the wall.

She put both her elbows on the table, holding her head up with her hooves intently. She then spoke, “I’d be honored, princess. I feel we have a lot of things to talk about.”

Chapter 4: True Friends Stab You in the Front (Applejack)

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12:23 p.m.

I was on my way to Twilight’s house, castle, whatever you'd call it. I was thinking of ways to help the farm along the way. I could ask Fluttershy to find somewhere new to put the fruit bats. She thinks that it'll help my farm in the future, but what is it going to do? They’ll just help the area that I sectioned off, and if they keep growing in number, I would have to keep giving them more. I couldn’t do that. The farm was never a gold mine, but it always made profit, unlike it's doing now. I cut through the middle of town, instead of taking the path around town to the castle, hoping I would get to Twilight’s faster that way.

The town plaza was definitely more busy than usual. There were ponies lined up to buy from stalls that were usually yelling out for someone to buy their product, but were now frantically reaching for food, or whatever they were selling, to hand it to customers. I guess it was just an unusual busy hour in town. I could hear the chatter of the crowd of ponies, each pony talking louder and louder to get heard over everypony else. It was most certainly a stretch from the quiet on the farm.

I passed by some market stalls in the middle of town. Usually I’d stop by to talk about how their businesses were doing, but I was already running late. I said I'd be at Twilight’s little gathering by noon. I guess I just got caught up in my work. Farm life isn’t the life for everypony, but ever since I came back from Manehatten as a filly, I knew it was the life for me.

The castle was in sight, and I started lightly jogging. The sounds of voices and hurried hooves died down. Ponies don’t come around here too often. I wondered if it was because they were intimidated by Twi’s princess status, or just didn’t care because they already knew her.

I made my way up to Twilight’s castle and knocked on the door. When no one answered I remembered how long the hallways were, and figured she just couldn’t hear me. I let myself in and was reminded how this castle was gargantuan compared to her dinky little treehouse in the middle of town, which was little more than burnt wood at this point. I just stood at the door, even though I had been here many times before, I was still reminded at how enormous the hallways were. Every step echoed for seconds. How could anypony find their way around this place? We had decorated some of the main rooms, but not the hallway. It was crystalline purple and blue, every fifteen feet or so the design just repeated itself. It was one big round crystal column after another big round crystal column. After getting my senses back I started making my way towards the dining area, where I assumed they were still eating. I started to hear chatter.

“Well Princess, I feel like you’ve gotten all the praise for what all of us did.”

“I'm sorry you feel that way Rainbow, do you know how hard it is to be princess? I didn’t ask for it, it was thrust upon me.” As I got closer I could start to make out who said what, if the spat didn’t make it obvious already.

“Oh ya, I’m sure it's really hard having a horn, wings, and telling Spike to do all the actual work for you, while you're busy getting your hooves licked by every noblepony at Canterlot,” challenged Rainbow Dash. I wondered what could have caused such aggression from Rainbow, she’s always so happy-go-lucky, if a bit full of herself, when I'm around her.

“I can't believe how ignorant you're acting. These wings don’t change who I am, and I still handle all the royal duties. Besides that, the rest of you get praise everywhere you go,” Twilight stated back. I didn’t, but I was glad, it would have made getting here even harder.

“Oh I’m sure, the only stained glass painting we’re in is the one with you smack dab in the middle, come to think of it, that’s how we look in everything.” I walked into the dining room itself, and Pinkie waved to me as if it was a normal meal, and Rarity looked at me with a look that said “What do we do?". I stopped a few feet in front of the doorway before going any further to see how the argument would play out. I tilted my head intently as I waited for the aggressive words to enter my ears.

Rainbow Dash slammed her hoof on the table, “I... We have not gotten a single bit worth of reward, a single praise for the work we have done, not even anything ceremonial! When we beat Nightmare Moon, it was you who found friendship, not us who gave it or had it in the first place, no, no,” she protested.

“Everyone else is content with their lives and happy for me, why aren’t you, the Element of loyalty?” Twilight snapped back.

“You're right Twilight, I’m loyal, loyal to my friends.” My ears perked up, with Rainbow's emphasis on that word, I knew exactly were she was heading with this. I got ready to intercede at a moment’s notice, these two obviously weren’t just having a “friendly dispute”.

“What are you implying?”

“You know exactly what I’m saying, we are no longer—”

“Now hold it a minute!” I yelled. I just about had enough, and only barely managed to interrupt before things got out of hand. I started walking up to the table and said, “Let's not do somethin’ we'll all regret, we’d been able to solve all ar problems before, why should now be any different?” I took a position at the table near the middle, to keep them both in sight.

“I agree, let's all just sit down and have a nice meal, like little Spikey Wikey had planned,” Rarity said. Spike blushed at the nickname, and Rainbow Dash contained her rage, and slouched down, for now at least.

“Okay Applejack, but you’re lucky I respect your wishes, unlike a certain pony here,” Rainbow Dash said as she shot a glare at Twilight, who returned it with equal sass. Rainbow Dash was right, my honesty puts my opinion at a pretty high regard. So it usually comes down to me to diffuse these situations. I sighed and took a seat at the middle of the table where I was standing. I was an exact distance from each of them, and a good distance away from Pinkie Pie, which was always a bonus. I never know when she's going to explode in balloons and confetti.

“Well I think now would be the peeeerrrrrfect time to bring out this!” Pinkie said as she seemed to conjure up a triple decker pink and white cake that appeared out of nowhere with a flash, and some confetti.

“Ooh, splendid, I do just love sweets from Sugar Cube Corner,” Rarity said in delight as she clapped her hooves together. The next few minutes we ate in total silence. I had hoped to break the awkwardness in the air, but I just couldn’t think of anything that would be appropriate to bring up. I could have sworn I heard a cricket or two outside.

Then Pinkie Pie spoke up,”Sooooooooo, when is Fluttershy gonna be here, is she super duper uber busy, or was she gonna bring a cake too, I knew I should have brought brownies.” Pinkie Pie can always find a way to lighten the mood with her antics.

“Well, uh, Fluttershy is in a bit of an emotional situation right now, she won't be joining us,” said Twilight. She looked down to avoid the confused look on everyone, except Spike and Rainbow’s face.

Rainbow Dash snorted, “Why beat around the bush, just say it.”

“I only have half the story right now, so—”

“Well then let me fill it in for you, I killed one of her pets,” she said matter-of-factly. Rarity and Pinkie gasped. I waited to hear the rest. Rainbow stopped slouching and adopted her aggressive stance she used during the argument, no doubt ready to finish what she started.

“Oh sugarcube, ahm sure there’s more to it than yer lettin’ on,” I reassured her.

“Mabye, but it doesn’t matter how it happened, it happened and now I’m one friend short on what I had yesterday,” she said. If she hadn’t hid it so well, I could have sworn I saw a tear starting to show.

“Rainbow Dash, darling, It matters how it happened, especially to your friends, just tell us,” Rarity took charge of the situation, and I was glad, holding the reins was getting tiring.

Rainbow Dash sighed and slouched back down in her seat, “She told me not to, but I was too busy daydreaming to listen, too busy being… me.” Rainbow also looked down, but not to hide, she was ashamed of herself, something I seldom see Rainbow being.

“You’re going to have to give us some more details, Rainbow Dash, dear,” Rarity said with genuine concern in her face.

“Fluttershy lost her bunnies, and asked me for help. Some help I was, I brought back a timber rabbit, whatever in Tartarus that is. The next thing I know, one of her bunnies was mauled on the ground.” She looked up, and started speaking with aggression in her voice, “There, I said it, you happy!” Rainbow looked at Rarity with rage filled eyes, but stopped shortly and slouched again. Even she saw Rarity was only trying to help.

“I understand, accidents happen,” Rarity said. She meant it, it wasn’t just something to cheer up Rainbow Dash. I was surprised how calm Rarity was being, for a prissy pants like her, we have a lot of things in common sometimes.

“No, no you don’t understand, if I had just listened, none of this would have happened!” I could see Rainbow was really hurting, but she was right, this was not a matter so easily remedied. I forgave her, but it wasn’t my pet, if she had done that to Winona, I don’t know what I’d feel. I put my hoof to my chin. I finally decided that there was no real solution I could give. It wasn’t my fight, wasn’t my choice. I could help, but one deciding factor stood above all others.

It was up to Fluttershy if Rainbow Dash deserved forgiveness or not. Her decision might ultimately decide the fate of the entire group.

Chapter 5: Every Coin Has Two Sides (Rainbow Dash)

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The room was really stuffy, I just about had to gasp for air. Not really, but it felt like I was. How could Twilight and Spike put up with it? I preferred my house in the clouds. The air up their was always airy and fresh. At the current moment I wished I could go there right now. I hated these awkward situations with my friends, most of them friends anyway.

I was sitting there, at the end of the table, eating my cake. The frosting on top could rival the snow on the Crystal Mountains. Which was normal for Pinkie Pie, always making food one just one step away from a heart attack. I finished and licked the plate clean. I set the plate down quietly, as I was the first one to finish., but didn't want anypony else to know.

Then, after my mind had nothing to focus on, it hit me. What if I was wrong? I was never going to become an alicorn princess, I knew it. Nor did I really want to be. I just wanted something. I didn’t want to go down in history as “that pegasus that helped Princess Twilight Sparkle”. I just wanted to be written in the books as something great. I wasn’t going to get that from arguing with Twilight. So was it worth losing a friend? I frowned and put my forehead on the table, so I could look at the tiled floor below.

But no matter what I thought, the jealousy stayed in my head. She could do something, the other princesses could too. Celestia knew the elements needed all six. She knew how important they were, but only Twilight got anything. She didn’t just get anything, she got everything. I couldn’t stand it, or how everypony else was okay with it. Maybe I’ll talk to them later, away from Twilight. I lifted my head up as I heard another plate hit the table.

Applejack started to speak, “So, uh, Twilight, ah think ya know why ah came here.”

“To eat?” Twilight said with a face full of cake. Twilight may be book smart, but she can be thick as year-old syrup sometimes.

“That ah guess, but also ‘bout the farm.” Applejack was really good at hiding her emotions for the benefit of others, but Applejack and I have been friends for a very long time. I learned you need to pay attention to every instant of emotion on her face to read her. So I could tell she was annoyed, because for a brief moment her mouth twisted into a side position creating a crease in her cheek. I cracked a smirk. Sometimes the little interactions between ponies are just entertaining.

“Oh,” Twilight swallowed the cake in her mouth, “But are you sure you want to talk about it here?” I was going to speak, slightly offended by her lack of faith in us, but decided it was better to not get involved. I put my back hooves on the table, and rested my head down.

“Among all mah friends? Ya, that’ld be the best time, i'd reckon,” she said with her usual country flair. “I'd had the idea of having Fluttershy find someplace new to put those fruit bats y'all made me provide sanctuary fer.” I nodded my head, suprising myself that I was listening to a conversation that didn’t directly involve me.

“Yes, I also had that idea, amongst others that one seemed to be the most practical,” Twilight said. I never wanted the fruit bats to stay at Applejack’s farm, but Twilight convinced me otherwise. I don’t quite remember how she did either. I was completely against the idea of less cider, but I still took Twilight's side in the end.

Rarity added, “Well that may be a bit of time, however if you need us for anything, you need but ask my dear Applejack.” I thought it was weird how Rarity sometimes acted like she was older than everypony else. We were all around the same age, maybe it was just a byproduct of that weird accent of hers.

“Another idea that came to mind was to expand your business a bit,” Twilight suggested, “Nothing extreme, but during the big seasons, like cider or zap-apple seasons, you could sell in the local settlements as well.” I didn’t know how far Twilight was reaching with that idea. The local settlements are even smaller than Ponyville, many aren’t even on maps yet.

“Ya, that could work, but ah do feel gettin’ those varm… ah mean deeeee-lightful fruit bats out o’ mah orchard would free up a lot of room fer profits,” Applejack said. Applejack quickly dismissed Twilights idea as well it seemed.

Spike interceded, “But how are we going to get Fluttershy to come out of her house to help out?” A few moments after he said that I felt a tingling around my flank. I was about to comment on it, but somebody beat me to it.

“Looks like we won't have to wait long,” Twilight said as she pointed to her thigh. It was glowing like it did when the Cutie Map activated for the first time. This caused everypony else to look at their cutie marks, and sure enough, they were all glowing as well. It felt a little tingly, like when you just lightly touch a spot your ticklish at. I smiled a little when I felt it, but hid the smile. I was still very much angry at the situation.

I put my hooves off the table and decided to speak my mind, “Well somepony’s going to have to go check on Flutters, and let me just say, that somepony won't be me.” I didn’t mean to sound rude, but I guess that’s how it came out.

“No need to be so terse, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity said, “Twilight, Pinkie Pie, and I will go see if we can't convince Fluttershy to perform her elemental duties.” Twilight and Pinkie nodded and got up from their seats along with Rarity, who then proceeded to leave the dining area. Applejack and I sat there until we could no longer hear their hoofsteps.

Applejack wasted no time to start the interrogation I could see coming from miles away. “So tell mah Rainbow,” Applejack questioned, “What the buck were you thinking back there!” I admit I was surprised at Applejack’s sudden pushy attitude, but I was still ready to defend myself. I adopted a more hostile position, leaning the front of my body over the table.

“What do you mean, what was I thinking, what are you thinking? Twilight gets all the glory, and we're just sticks in the mud.”

“Oh give me a break, Rainbow, ah’ve been friends with ya long ‘fore anypony here, ah know you'd do anything for a good Rumblin’. You used to be just dandy as a boring ol’ weather pony so what’s gotcha so worked up?” There was merit in her words, but there was more to it.

“I came to Ponyville the first day I was able, that’s why Pinkie celebrated my ‘Birthaversary’, I wanted to make a name for myself.” I started to raise my voice and leaned over the table as my next words came out, “and let me tell you Applejack, I'll be damned if I’m gonna let any egghead, or anypony get in the way of that goal!”

Applejack stayed unfazed and level-headed even as I yelled at her, “But why Rainbow? Aint the love of yer friends better than any ink on paper?” I started tearing up, until I finally couldn’t hold back the wave of emotions id been feeling since Fluttershy's Cottage, and I eventually started crying. She was right, but I didn’t want to, couldn’t let go off the terrible memories of my time in flight school. She got up from her seat and took the one closest to me. She put a hoof on my shoulder, and I rubbed my eyes as I started to spin my tale.

“I may put on a tough face, Applejack, but that’s only to cover the scarred pony inside. I was bullied in flight school. Not just picked on either, I was a punching bag. My wings developed way later than everyone else’s, and I was behind everyone my age. I refused to take lower level classes, and I struggled with the high level ones. I was told ‘She flies like she’s retarded’ or ‘just become an earth pony, Rainbow Crash’. It ruined me, I was always picked on in the bathrooms, in the hallways, everywhere.” I rubbed my eyes with already soaked hooves, and as expected, it barely helped.

Applejack handed me a handkerchief as she spoke, “Why didn’t the teachers do anythin’?”

“You’ve never been to Pegasus school, we have a very military background, the motto was ‘Learn to fly, or stay grounded’. It may be different now, but when I went, it was rigorous. I found my one and only friend, Fluttershy. She taught me to always work with your strength and not fight against your weaknesses. She single-handedly gave me the courage to learn, and after a while, I secretly became the fastest flyer there. I challenged the most popular kids, and that’s when I performed that Sonic Rainboom. I vowed from that point on, I’d show the world that I’d go down in history, that I’d be written in all the books, that I could do anything. I’d never realized there’d be so many obstacles blocking my path.” I blew one last time into the handkerchief, and set it down on the table, finally suppressing most of my sobs, but a tear would still escape here and there.

Applejack raised my chin to meet her glowing green eyes with my still glistening reddish-pink ones and spoke with a voice that flowed like a river even through her country accent, “Rainbow Dash, Ya may be arrogant and foolhardy, but if it means anything to you, yer already famous in mah book." For the first time in a long while, even if the feeling only lasted for a moment, I felt content with where I was at.

Chapter 6: An Expected Visit (Twilight Sparkle)

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1:13 p.m.

I couldn’t believe Rainbow Dash! We had been friends for years. Through thick and thin we stuck together, through Discord, Chrysalis, Sombra, Tirek, and Starlight Glimmer, she had stuck by me. I was flabbergasted at her sudden aggression, but to be honest, it was hardly unexpected. She had acted strange long before that confrontation. I noticed she always denied party invites to parties she knew I would go to, or she would be helping Applejack on the farm, and when I showed up she would have somewhere to be. She would even sometimes refuse to come to our group tea parties so she could “catch up on some Z’s.” I just never connected the dots I guess. My train of though was broken when Rarity, who had been leading us through town, spoke up.

“We should be nearing Fluttershy’s villa shortly,” she said. Obviously we knew where Fluttershy lived, but it was nice being able to look down and think, while only following Rarity’s polished white hooves. When I looked up I noticed we were a small distance outside of Ponyville. It was behind us, with town hall always in view above every building. It used to be the “beacon”, per say, of how you knew you were getting close to town. The castle now holds that honor.

The trees were beginning to look less trimmed the further we ventured out of town, until it finally just turned into an overgrowth. This main path led to the Everfree Forest, where many ponies refused to get close to. The cottage was on a deviation to the right of the main path. It seemed the grove surrounding the path to Fluttershy’s cottage always looked greener than the trees on the main path. I didn’t know for sure, but I could conclude she takes care of them personally. Even the dirt road looked raked, with no large pieces of gravel. Fluttershy figured out how to clean a dirt road.

“I never noticed how nice this path looked before,” I said.

“Yes, It does look well groomed,” Rarity answered back.

“Yes in deedily,” Pinkie Pie said as she bounced while walking. I smiled, with one side of my mouth higher than the other, creating more of a smirk.

“So, how are we going to go about this?” I asked, hoping Rarity had a plan since she took us this far.

“Fluttershy has never been a particularly unreasonable pony, I’m sure she will forgive Rainbow Dash. She just needs to know Rainbow Dash is truly sorry for her past… boo boos,” Rarity responded.

“But is Rainbow Dash sorry? She seemed very matter-of-fact about it.”

“You must have still been a bit in the fighting spirit, because it was painfully obvious she felt regret for what she did. I'm sure Applejack would agree.”

Pinkie Pie interjected,” So what do you think they're doing back at the castle? They better not be throwing parties without me!” I giggled a bit and responded.

“I doubt you'll have to worry about Rainbow Dash wanting to throw a party in her current state,” I said.

“Ooooooooh, I should have brought my party cannon to Fluttershy’s, so we could throw a party there!”

Rarity spoke, "Oh no my dear, remember what happened while we were redecorating Twilight’s castle? Perhaps just a civilized talk will do.”

“Wait, what happened while you were redecorating the castle?” I asked. I didn’t like referring to the castle as “mine”, since we all are an Element of Harmony, not just me.

“We don’t need to bring that fashion disaster back up, we have another disaster to worry about,” Rarity said. I wanted to continue my interrogation, but decided to drop it as well when I saw the cottage come into view. I could see the cage in the back, open and empty. I didn’t want to deviate from our main goal, but my curiosity got the better of me. I flared my wings and took off, if only to land back down at the foot of the cage.

“Twilight, hold up,” Pinkie Pie shouted as she sprinted towards me, while Rarity followed behind at more of a quick canter. I was looking at the cage when I saw blood in the grass and decided to follow it. The trail didn’t take long to end. A few measly feet away was what I guessed to be a “timber rabbit”. I could certainly see how Rainbow Dash made the mistake. From afar it looked almost identical to any bunny I’ve ever seen, except that its fur did look more like bark on closer inspection. I could easily tell it was a timber rabbit when I was right next to it, but I did have the power of hindsight. Rainbow Dash did not have that luxury.

I felt bad for Rainbow Dash. It was an honest mistake; its not like she meant to do it. She wasn't an innocent bystander though, and I wouldn't take sides if it came down to it, which hopefully it won't. I frowned at the situation. How could such a small action lead to these huge complications? I was about to head back to Pinkie Pie and Rarity, but when I turned around, Pinkie Pie was right in my face.

"Hey Twilight, whatcha lookin' at?" She asked with wide bug eyes.

"Please Pinkie, I can smell the candy you ate this morning," I nudged her away from my face with my right forehoof. I couldn't help but crack a smile, and when Pinkie Noticed, she giggled a bit. Rarity was closing the distance at a leisurly pace, but started speaking as she walked up to us.

“What is it?” Rarity asked when she caught up to me and Pinkie. She stared at it with one eyebrow raised above the other.

“I believe this is the timber rabbit Rainbow was talking about” I answered back.

“Ooooooh creepy”, Pinkie Pie said as she crept closer to it. She poked it with the very tip of her hoof, and it fell apart in a heap of splinters.

“Ewewewew,” Rarity said as she ran away much faster than she had arrived. Pinkie and I both burst out laughing. There were tears in both of our eyes we were laughing so hard. Rarity stopped when she made it to the front yard and yelled back at us.

"It's not funny!" she yelled, "how crude." Pinkie Pie bounced after her. I decided after a few short seconds that there was nothing left for me here. So I sprinted after Pinkie Pie.

I found Rarity, Pinkie, and eventually myself, at the door to the cottage. Rarity was reaching for the door handle as if she had not just been running away screaming like a filly at a campfire story. At further inspection, I saw the door was not closed all the way. I didn’t say anything and Rarity gave an audible “oh dear” when she grabbed it and it practically opened without her.

Pinkie Pie giggled and Rarity shot her an angry glare. Not the serious kind, but the kind you give after someone tells a funny joke at your expense. Pinkie Pie instantly stopped, and Rarity opened it all the way. We did not see Fluttershy anywhere in the entry room, which doubled as the living room.

“We should look around, I can't imagine she would go anywhere if she had bunnies, or any animal, to care for,” I suggested.

“Good idea, Pinkie and I will check down here, you, Twilight, check the upstairs area.” She nodded, waiting for me to respond. I returned the nod. Pinkie Pie didn’t, but started looking around nonetheless.

I crept up the stairs, as for some reason, I didn’t want to alert Fluttershy without first knowing where she was. The stairs started creaking, as wood stairs seem to always do. So I unfurled my wings and leapt, gliding the rest of the short distance to the top. I continued searching through every room, and didn’t find her anywhere.

I was about to give up and return downstairs, until I heard a soft voice behind the last door I had left to check, at the end of the hall. The door leading to the room was also not closed all the way, much like the front door. I peeked through the crack and saw Fluttershy kneeling over what seemed like a small bed or basket.

“I can't believe she did this to you. I hope you don’t hate me for this, but it's for your own good,” she said very softly. I had to strain my ears to make out most of it. She put both of her hooves in the basket and lifted out a bunny, it had a lot of bandages. They all were clean bandages, mainly around the neck and chest area. Fluttershy held him and the next thing I know, she cracks his neck!

I gasped and ducked behind the corner before Fluttershy could look back to see me. I huddled up against the wall, breathing heavily, trying to process what I just saw. With what she had just done, I was terrified. This is Fluttershy; there is probably a simple explanation. I relaxed, and put my hoof to my chest and extended outward, exhaling as I did. That was how I calmed myself when I was stressed, which happened more and more often as of late.

“Who's there?” Fluttershy yelled, which was really a normal voice for anypony else. Then as if on cue, Pinkie Pie came slamming each step as she ascended them.

“Twiiiiiliiiight, find anything up here?” she said. The door next to me opened up and Fluttershy stood there on two legs, with the other two crossed. Her mouth scrunched back to show her mixture of annoyance and slight anger.

Her voice returned to her normal quiet, but not as incomprehensible as when I was eavesdropping, “What are you guys doing here? And why do you look so nervous, Twilight?” When she made enough room, I squeezed past her into the room that she had been residing. I ran over to the basket and checked the bunnies pulse. *thump* *thump*.

“Oh, thank Celestia, I thought you had… Phew,” I sighed in relief, and turned to face Fluttershy.

“What did you thi… Did you think I killed him?” Fluttershy asked in utter disbelief. Rarity walked into the room now, along with Pinkie Pie. The room was not that large, and it was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic.

“Twilight, why didn’t you come find us when you found Fluttershy?” Rarity asked.

“You guys were looking for me?” Fluttershy asked not a second after Rarity.

“SO MANY QUESTIONS!” Pinkie Pie yelled.

“Okay, okay, let's get out of this cramped room and we will explain everything to everybody.” I ordered. Everypony filed out of the room, through the narrow hallway, and into the main room. Fluttershy continued on to make us tea. I looked around the living room. It looked only slightly different than usual, as many of the storage containers, such as the desk by the couch, were rummaged through. As if Fluttershy was frantically looking for something, and made no effort to clean up when, or if she found it.

The room was mostly made of what looked like oak wood. The floor was painted a cactus green. There were bookshelves embedded in the walls, along with a fire place protruding into the room. The fireplace had pans and pots hanging from it, which made it seem like it could be used for cooking. The table, chairs, and floor were all wood, with a multitude of colorings, but mainly the same oak color. There was a couch in the middle of the room. It only had two seat cushions, but looked like it could easily fit three ponies. Next to it were two chairs on either side, each with a cushion on the seat and back. Each one faced a two-layered coffee table in the middle of the room. It had a rug underneath it, with frilly pieces of cloth tied together at certain ends. I took a seat on the couch with Pinkie Pie, while Rarity took the chair closest to the stairs, but furthest from the kitchen.

When Fluttershy returned, she placed down a platter containing a filled kettle, and four tea cups. The tea cups were each a milky white, with purple accents around the drinking edges. The kettle was designed much the same way, but with an added accent at the bottom.

After we each took a cup and she filled them, she took a seat at the last remaining chair nearest to the kitchen, but furthest from the stairs, and I explained everything. I explained Rainbow Dash and my fight, our cutie mark pagers, our planned intervention, and how i'd accidentally thought Fluttershy had hurt that bunny.

“Oh no no, I was just setting his bone. The timber rabbit was in the process of biting his arm, and it broke when I yanked it away. It was just a basic fracture that I set so it could heal faster, it only looked like I cracked his neck from your angle,” Fluttershy explained to me.

“That’s a relief, but enough about that, we came here for you” I said

“Yes darling, you must have felt your cutie mark the same time we did, a little less than an hour ago?”

“Oh no, I was too busy burying my…” she started sobbing up and to my surprise, it was Pinkie Pie who was the one to comfort her. Pinkie Pie got up from her seat on the right side of the couch and hugged Fluttershy.

“It's okay, don’t hold it in, we are all your friends here.” Fluttershy then let out a multitude of sobs, sniffles, and tears all over Pinkie Pie’s back. Pinkie Pie didn’t budge an inch. It didn’t take long for Rarity to go into the kitchen and fetch a small towel for Fluttershy to cry into and give Pinkie a break.

Pinkie Pie and Rarity comforted Fluttershy so well, I was starting to feel bad that I was the Princess of Friendship. Maybe Rainbow Dash was right after all. Did I, and I alone deserve this title? Pinkie Pie rubbed the moisture off her back and sat back down. Rarity waited until Fluttershy was finished, took the towel, and sat back down as well.

“T-thank you guys so much, it's just so hard,” Fluttershy sniffled.

“We know, honey, and Rainbow Dash is truly sorry for it, you should see how much she’s beating herself up over it back at the castle,” Rarity attempted to persuade Fluttershy.

“Oh, her, ya well, I bet if Tank was the one in a hole right now, she would know just how I feel” she stated. She said it in her normal quiet voice, but you could still feel the hint of anger and sarcasm in it. I haven’t seen Fluttershy like this since Iron Bull. It caught me off guard a bit.

“Fluttershy, darling, you know it was just an accident, remember when Rainbow Dash watched the butterfly migration with you, or when she knew you could help with that water tornado, and she never put you down for your low scores. Rainbow dash loves you. Not in that way but… um, like any friend would, she would never hurt you so badly on purpose.” Rarity explained. Rarity was definitely doing what Applejack usually does in these situations, provide the pragmatism. But since she wasn’t here, somepony needed to fill the role.

“Ya, come on Fluttershy, stop moping around here, just talk things out with Rainbow back at the castle. Then we can celebrate with a party when you two make up!” Pinkie decided, and wasn’t taking no for an answer. She got up and took Fluttershy’s hoof.

“I don’t know, maybe,” Fluttershy stuttered. She was obviously still unsure, so I gave that last figurative push that made her come.

“Well the Cutie Map has activated and it takes all of us to bring up the map, so you need to come to the castle anyway.” I said while getting up and giving Fluttershy a literal push, realistically more of a nudge to get her walking out the door.

“Um, okay, I guess so, but just for the map,” Fluttershy reluctantly agreed so I stopped nudging her, but Pinkie still held her hoof and walked her out the door.

When we had all made it out of the cottage, Rarity closed the door. I looked back and our eyes met. I could see she held the same mixed feeling I had of hope, and fear for the future.

Chapter 7: Who Needs a Map? (Applejack)

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2:03 p.m.

We were still in the dining area. Spike had cleaned up all the dishes, and was cleaning them in the kitchen. However, the table was not yet wiped down, and still had the mess of the meal on the tablecloth. Rainbow Dash was still sitting on the end of the table, she pulled up another chair and put her legs up. I was sitting in the chair I had moved to when I was comforting her.

Rainbow Dash and I haven’t stopped talking since had told me about flight school. I was very interested in what else Rainbow Dash hadn’t told anypony about her past, and she seemed more than willing to oblige. She had told me how she got in a fight with her parents, and even though they somewhat made up, Rainbow Dash still left to look for glory on her birthday. She had explained how she graduated flight school at the top of her grade, and almost got in a fight with her former bullies.

She also told me that Fluttershy never actually graduated, she dropped out, and moved to a grove on the outskirts of Ponyville. She built a cottage in the grove so she could be close to the animals. I couldn’t imagine Fluttershy building it herself, or asking for help, but I didn’t dwell on the details.

She explained in detail what happened at Fluttershy’s earlier today. I felt kind of bad for Rainbow, but she wouldn’t accept my, or likely anypony’s, sympathy.

“Thanks for listening, Applejack. It feels kinda good to finally tell somebody all that stuff. But, um, could you maybe not tell anypony else all that?” Rainbow dash asked.

“Sure sugarcube, cross mah heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in mah eye,” I said while sticking my hoof in my right eye, “But they're yer friends too, even Twi.”

“Hmmmp,” Rainbow grunted back. She still couldn’t put aside her stupid pride. I don’t know what she thought she would gain, but she wouldn’t let it go.

I heard hoofsteps outside the dining room, and I went to go investigate. All of the others were at the end of the long hallway, even Fluttershy. I met them halfway and we stopped to talk.

Twilight was the first to speak, “So how’s Rainbow?”

“She’s still takin’ it like she just lost two years harvest. How’s Fluttershy?” I asked back.

“I’m okay Applejack, but i'm still upset with Rainbow,” Fluttershy answered in her own stead. I couldn’t tell if Fluttershy was actually okay, or she was just being polite as usual.

“Rainbow Dash could really use some support right now,” I insisted. Fluttershy took instant offense, and this time, it was apparent she was angry.

She needs support? She caused this! She’s not getting anything from me, especially since she hasn’t even apologized yet. Hmmp” Fluttershy stated, cocking her head to right.

“I'm sorry Applejack, but I tend to agree, especially after Rainbow’s outburst at Twilight earlier.” Rarity said.

“Ya, have you found out why she did that?” Twilight asked. Buck, all of the sudden, I’d been pushed into a corner. I would either have to lie to Twilight, or break my promise I just made with Rainbow Dash.

“Well Ah uh, did find out, but she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing it with anypony else. Ya understand don’t ya?” I answered. Twilight was not happy with that answer. Her mouth scrunched back, and her eyebrows furled. She sighed and hung her head. I felt like I'd done something wrong, but what else was I supposed to do? She backed me into a corner. I couldn’t lie, it's against my very nature, but I didn’t want to alienate myself from Rainbow Dash when she needed a friend more than ever.

“Applejack, how are we supposed to solve this if you refuse to tell us important details like this,” Twilight argued.

“Twi, if you were in mah hooves, you'd do the same thing. Ah made a promise and Rainbow wouldn’t trust any of us anymore if ah just gave it away on a whim,” I protested. Twilight grunted and continued walking past me, followed by the others. I started walking by them, and as they continued to the throne room, I stepped aside back in to the dining room.

Rainbow Dash was sleeping in her chair. I walked over to her and shook her a bit.

“Hey, Applejack... how long was I out?” she said slowly while yawning.

“Not long, couple minutes, but the others are back. It's time to head on over to the map room.”

“I guess. So that means Fluttershy’s gonna be there? Great,” she said as she got up from her chair. She yawned and her voice fell as she did. She almost fell over, but I caught her.

“You drunk or soemthin’, come on, wake up all the way and let's get a going” I insisted. She snickered a bit and started flying. She hovered above me as we finally exited the dining room. We made our way through the long hallway, ventured up the stairs, and entered the big double doors into the map room.

The map room was just as I remember when I last left. There were some remnants of the hay and dirt I brought in while decorating. What a wonderful disaster that was. The thrones were in the middle of the room, surrounding a circular tile in the floor that I know held a detailed, magical map of Equestria.

Twilight had surrounded the thrones with bookshelves, so it was much more cramped than it was originally. But, I barely spent enough time in this room to give too many feathers. Rainbow dash returned to the ground and I decided to warn her.

“Now Dash, remember to not act so matter-o-fact ‘bout this. Ya need them to know how much ya care about this, so Fluttershy’ll forgive ya.” I said. Rainbow Dash didn’t respond. She only stared blankly in front of her, but I hoped I got through to her. I started walking towards the throne, and by the hoofsteps behind me, Rainbow must’ve started following me. Everypony else was already sitting at their seats, whispering incoherently until I got close, than they stopped and stared at me.

“Come on, slowpoke, we've been waiting for ages,” Pinkie Pie said.

“Hold on y'all, we’re coming, not like the maps a goin’ anywhere,” I stated. I climbed up on top of the throne bearing my cutie mark at the top. It didn’t take long for Rainbow to follow suit. Not a moment after Rainbow’s bottom touched the crystal seat of her own throne, our cutie marks started glowing and tingling again.

“Oohoo, it tickles, hehe,” Pinkie Pie got out while laughing her heart out. The circular tile in front of us rose out of the ground. The geography of Equestria started to show and the map colored itself as it spun up of the ground. You could see everything in Equestria in such detail. You could see the chilly snow of the Crystal Mountains to the north, the tall skyscrapers of Manehatten and Fillydelphia to the northeast, the scorching deserts of the San Palomino to the southwest, even every last colorfully poisonous flower of the Hayseed Swamps to the southeast.

“Shouldn’t we be seein’ our cutie marks on the map bah now?” I asked.

“Patience, Applejack, the map knows what it's doing,” Twilight assured me. We waited for a few sweet seconds, and then our cutie marks started to copy themselves from our bodies into thin air. Then they converged and started spinning on the map. They circled the map and stopped somewhere in the Palomino Desert.

The San Palomino Desert was a hot, desolate, and inhospitable environment located southeast of Ponyville. However, there was a mountain smack dab in the middle of the desert. This mountain, combined with the water that evaporates from Ghastly Gorge, makes the desert north of the mountain far more habitable than its southern cousin, but still far from ideal.

“Interesting, Palomino Desert, what ponies in their right mind would want to live there?” Twilight questioned.

“Palomino Desert is right on the other end of Ghastly Gorge, I fly through there all the time. I had my pet race there, remember?” Rainbow dash commented.

“Do you ever fly around the Palomino Desert? Did you see anything suspcicious?” Twilight asked.

“No, I only have so much energy. I sometimes don’t make it all the way through the Gorge, let alone Palomino Desert.”

“Hmm”, Twilight put her hoof to her chin, “We have little to no information about this place, or any settlements in the area. We should make a trip to Canterlot to find out more about the area. Some of us can go to the library, and some of us can go to the princesses to find out about the possible populace,” Twilight suggested. I could tell the room had mixed reactions. Rarity was nodding her head in agreement, but Rainbow Dash looked discontent with the option.

“I agree, who will these groups consist of?” Rarity asked.

“Now wait a minute. Why are we wasting time going the opposite direction of the problem? Ponies may be in trouble, we need to help them!” Rainbow Dash argued.

“We can't be brash about this, Rainbow Dash. Last time we went in blind, we ended up in a brain washing facility without our cutie marks for two days,” Twilight counter-argued.

“That wasn’t any fun," Pinkie Pie added.

“I thought they were nice, except for Starlight Glimmer,” Fluttershy said. I was getting tired of beating around the bush.

“So what are we gonna do?” I asked

“I don’t know Applejack, the room seems pretty divided, what do you think we should do. Go to Canterlot and research ahead of time, my idea, or Rainbow Dash’s idea of charging in head first and hoping for the best?”

“Hey, I tried to act civilized, but if you want to go back to arguing at a time like this, I’ll gladly continue,” Rainbow Dash threatened.

Pinkie Pie decided to speak, “Well Twilight iiiiiiis the princess, maybe we should go to Canterlot?” she said.

“Of course, she’s the princess.” Rainbow dash got up from her seat, flapped her wings, and flew out of the room in an angry fit.

“Now did ya have to go and do that Twi? I thought we were trying to stop the fighting.” I said. I didn’t try to hold back my sarcasm. I was annoyed that Twilight just yelled at me for not helping stop the fight by breaking a promise, and then she goes and agitates Rainbow like that.

“This is more serious than her petty jealously, we need to think smart here. The rest of you, we’re leaving in the morning. Be at the station in time for the nine a.m. train. Could someone tell Rainbow Dash as well?” she ordered.

Everypony started to get up, but Twilight looked at me, and I could tell she wanted me to stay. Once everypony else was out of the room, Twilight started to speak.

“You just can't decide can you?” she said.

“What do ya mean?"I asked.

“I'm trying to keep our friendship together, and Rainbow Dash keeps insisting on pulling us apart. Maybe you could have helped by telling us why Rainbow did it, but as of now, I'm left in the dark. If you don’t choose a side, the Elements of Harmony will just keep drifting further apart. As the Princess of Friendship, I want to keep our friendship together. Rainbow Dash just needs to realize this stupid jealousy is worthless. She will never figure that out if you stay indifferent. I'll tell you what I told her at Rainbow Falls. Not making a decision, isn’t really a decision.” She got up and as she was walking away, she looked back at me one last time, her eyes filled with worry, until she turned back and exited.

I sighed, my shoulders sagged, and I looked towards the floor. Why do I always have to be in the middle of these things?

Chapter 8: Ask Questions First (Twilight Sparkle)

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11:43 a.m. The Next Day

The train ride here was horrendous. I haven’t felt that awkward since my entrance exam to Celestia’s School for Talented Unicorns. The only ones who talked were Rarity and Pinkie Pie, and they talked about cake and how to make it beautiful, or something. This conflict has gone too far. I don’t want to look like the bad guy. I care about Rainbow Dash, truly, but I was completely honest with Applejack, she’s forcing my hand. As the Princess of Friendship, it's my job to fix this, and I'm just... lost. I couldn't just take away my alicornhood, but I feel like there is more to it then that. If only Applejack would have simply told me what.

I would have to figure it out later. We had just finished our meal at our favorite donut place in Canterlot. The donut place looked like any old fast food joint. It had tables in the middle of the room, each surrounded by four chairs. It had four-seater booths near the windows. There was a bar near the counter where you bought your donuts. I was pretty sure it just looked like a bar, and not actually functional. This was a family friendly establishment after all. We sat at one of the two corner booths that were a mixture of booths and tables, able to hold eight ponies. Business was slow, we were the only ones present. I got right to business when I saw everyone was finished.

“Okay, we need to split up. One group to the library, one group to the Princesses”, I said to the group at the table.

“Twilight dear, I’ve always felt the Princesses were more partial to you, perhaps you should go by yourself,” Rarity suggested.

“Ya, Princess Twilight, you have all these perks, why not use them?” Rainbow Dash said sarcastically. She returned to her soda after she said it.

“Rainbow Dash, why do you feel the need to stress my title and create conflict out of nowhere?” I asked. I was getting legitimately vexed that she had to exacerbate every situation we were in together.

“Oh really, I’m pretty you are the one who made fun of my suggestion back at the castle, ‘out of nowhere’” Rainbow dash reminded everyone. I had no way to defend myself, as she was right, maybe I got a little out of hand back there. It doesn’t matter anyway, she started it this time, and everypony knows it.

“Who agrees with Rarity?” I dropped the previous conversation without acknowledging it ending. Everyone raised their hooves, except for Rainbow Dash, who I figured did it more out of spite.

“Okay then, the rest of you head off to the library. The guard should recognize you. Look for anything about the geography, strategic positions, resources, anything about Palomino Desert, specifically the northern area the map showed. Any questions?” I asked, expecting Rainbow Dash to return it with another snarky comment that emphasized my princess status. To my surprise she didn’t, and instead shook her head like everypony else.

“Actually Twi, shouldn’t we prepare, non… mentally, for the trip as well, San Palomino aint exactly a paradise,” Applejack suggested. I had forgotten about equipment we would need to bring. I was glad she brought it up.

“Yes of course, good thinking Applejack. Rainbow Dash, you and Applejack are the most athletic, mind helping her carry the equipment and supplies?” I was afraid to ask.

“Of course not, your Majesty,” Rainbow Dash said. There it was, the remark I had expected. Applejack must’ve been worried about another potential fight, as she was jumping to leave.

“Alright then, ah wish you all luck in yer searchings” Applejack said, “Come on Rainbow Dash, Celestia knows how many stores we’ll need to go through to get everything. Rainbow Dash got up, threw out her empty soda cup, and left the restaurant with Applejack leading.

“Oh boy, what a mess,” I said out loud to nopony in particular.

“Maybe you are being a little, tiny bit harsh on her,” Fluttershy said.

“Really? So are you starting to forgive her then?” My head perked up at the thought. Fluttershy’s forgiveness was the first step to stopping this feud.

“Maybe, um, I don’t know, let's just get to the library,” she said, becoming more of a whisper as the sentence progressed.

“Sure, darling, no need to rush, you might come around later, that’s all,” Rarity said. She got up and tapped Pinkie Pie to get her attention. Fluttershy followed them out. She flapped her wings a bit while walking out, to stretch them probably. I could already see Rarity and Pinkie Pie chatting it up through the window. Those two seem to be the least affected by this needless conflict. I thanked the cashier for the food as I walked out, and started up a teleportation spell.

* * *

Being an alicorn made my powers much greater than when I was a unicorn. I could teleport almost hallway across Equestria if I really focused my energy. Once you know how to do it, it becomes very easy. The trouble is concentrating enough magic on a specific area. I need to think about every detail on where I will teleport. That is why it is so much harder to travel somewhere I haven't seen before. But once you have it down, the only thing holding you back is your own magic, which was hardly a problem for me anymore.

I had teleported to the entrance to the “Throne of the Sun Princess”, across Canterlot, which most ponies simply call “Celestia’s Throne.” Most ponies don’t even bother putting referring to her as Princess, if they aren’t in her presence that is.

Celestia was a very lenient and forgiving ruler, and many of her subjects appreciated that. The capital punishment for every known nation except for Equestria is public execution. Equestria almost never carries out the death sentence. The crime rate is so incredibly low, and the police presence is so sparse, that the worst criminals have to worry about is banishment. Under Celestia, there hasn’t been a full scale rebellion, war, or even major organized crime for over one thousand years.

I walked up the stairs to the throne room. The guards instantly crossed the spears they were holding.

“Excuse me, sirs,” I said. They looked down and their eyes went wide.

“Oh, we are terribly sorry, Princess, these helmets restrict much of our vision, you must understand,” the guard on the left pleaded as he and his buddy retracted their spears in a hurry.

“It's quite alright, don’t worry about it,” I insisted, but they kept standing stiff as trees. I walked closer to the door, and the guard on the right spoke.

“Allow me to get that for you, Princess,” he said as he pushed on the door with all his strength. He heaved and hoed, and the door swung open. He stood at the end of the opened door, so it wouldn’t close back up until I was in.

“Thank you,” I said. He barely nodded.

“What is the meaning... Oh, Twilight, how are you today? –she faced the guard who had let me in– You, you may leave now” she said as she shooed the guard back out the door by waving her hoof. She was sitting on her golden throne, but got up and started walking over to me. She walked on a red carpet with gold trim. It was exact length of her throne, continuing out the door, all the way to the front entrance. The rest of the room was mostly empty except, of course, for the stained glass windows showcasing Equestria’s history. The columns on the sides of the room were not too different from the ones in the castle at Ponyville. They had the same design, except the colorings were lighter, with golds and whites. They were also made of some rocky stone, instead of crystal, perhaps marble.

Celestia was almost to me, and I started walking to meet her quicker. When we were close enough, she was the first to speak.

“So, my protégé, I mean, my fellow princess,” she said with a smirk, “What brings you to Canterlot?

“Well, you know I would never disturb you if the matter wasn’t serious–”

“Why not? I used to love our little chats,” She grinned.

“—but the Cutie Map has activated, and it is pointing somewhere in San Palomino. Do you know of any settlements in the northern parts of the desert?” I continued.

“You mean besides Las Pegasus, or Appleloosa, or maybe Dodge Junction? I don't believe Dodge Junction is technically in Palomino Though.”

“Yes, further south, and a little east of Las Pegasus, south of Appleloosa”

“I'm sorry Twilight, but you seem to have me at a loss. I was not informed of any new towns in San Palomino. You should go check out the Land Directory here in Canterlot. They should have all latest developments in new Equestrian townships”

“Thank you Princess Celestia, I’ll go check it out now.” As I turned around, Celestia continued speaking.

“Come visit me when your not on a world shattering adventure.” I heard hoofsteps behind me and assumed that she went back to tend to whatever she was doing before I arrived.

I walked out the door as the guard opened it once again. I asked him where I could find the Land Directory Building. He said it was just down the road from the castle. Finally something easy to accomplish. As I walked out of the castle, I saw a wanted poster. I looked around , and it seemed the same poster was on many of the street lamps. I walked up to one and it read:

Wanted: Stallion in picture, name or alias unknown

Wanted for: Grand Theft on multiple accounts, Breaking and entering Government Buildings, Armed Assault, Espionage, Destruction of Government and Civilian Property, Prison Escape, other possible and likely crimes

Prize for capture: 10,000,000 bits

Warning: This criminal is highly skilled in martial arts and stealth, entire spec ops military units were found unconscious, with not one of them even seeing the stallion. Pursue at your own risk.

Under these words was a blurry picture of a black stallion with night-vision goggles on his head, and armor I did not recognize. It was very blurry, and I couldn’t make out many details beyond the dark green color, and non-metallic look of it. It looked to be some sort of layered cloth, but I couldn’t make out much at all. The background was almost black, further advancing my inability to connect the picture with anything. This stallion must be good if this is the best picture they have. I made a mental image of the poster, and continued on down the street towards my destination.

The streets were bustling. In front of the castle there was a kind of makeshift market area with mobile stalls scattered throughout the streets. It reminded me of Ponyville, except instead of Fruits and Vegetables, ponies were selling Jewelry and baubles. Their stalls were obviously commissioned by an artist. The designs were very intricate. On one stall was a very detailed picture of a red and yellow dragon. I could see the building I needed to go in the distance, over the many heads of tourist ponies. I cantered down the street and a few ponies stopped to look at me. A princess casually walking down the street might have seemed a little weird, but many of the ponies either didn't notice or weren't fazed by it. The front door were mere feet in front of me, and I took the final steps up a set of 4 stairs, until I used my magic to open the doors.

I was hit with a rush of cool air as I opened them. I closed the doors and it seemed like I shut myself off from outside. All the voices faded, and I was left in silence, with the mare at the front desk writing something down.

The room I was in was very plain. It had light wood floors, with only one dark red rug in the middle of the floors, besides the grey welcome mat at the front. There were two sets of double doors to the left and right of the main entrance, with the front desk backed up against the wall in the middle. The right door had a sign above it in plain black text Employee Offices. The left door read Directory, in the same boring black letters. That’s where I wanted to go, but I couldn’t just barge in there.

“Um, excuse me” I said when I made it to the front. The mare at the desk didn’t look up. She was wearing bifocals and a navy blue business outfit that had pants instead of the customary skirt. Her coat was a mixture of red and purple, a kind of grape, I guess. She was an earth pony with a navy blue mane matching her business outfit. Her mane was tied up in a bun, I couldn’t see her tail.

“State your business,” the mare at the desk finally responded, if a bit rudely.

“Oh, um, I need to get into the directory. I'm here to look for possible new or proposed townships in San Palomino.”

“I'm sorry ma'am, only employees with proper authorization may enter the directory.”

“Excuse me miss, could you look up for a second?”

"This is quite the inconvenience," She said then looked up at me. A look of shock crossed her face, complete with wide eyes and droopy ears. "Oh, I am so sorry, miss, I mean Princess Sparkle. Allow me to open that door for you." Her tail was put up in a bun like her mane. She placed a button on her desk that read press to call. She took out a key ring from one of her pockets, and quickly found the one she was looking for. She opened up the directory, and motioned for me to follow her as she entered the room, which was really more of a series of hallways with some tables in the middle.

The buisnessmare led me to the section Approved Townships. She walked until she unlocked and entered a small room which contained at least ten feet of small metal containers with various numbers. The containers seemed to go in numeric order, but they did not consistently increase. The first container at the top right was labeled as 123, but the one to the right of that one was 129, and the next was 367. I was confused, and it must have shown, because the mare began to talk.

“Allow me to help your highness, you said San Palomino, yes?”

“Thank you, and yes that’s correct,” I answered. She opened up the metal container 999 at the bottom right. In it contained a single scroll. She took out and opened up the scroll. It contained each of the metal files numbers on the left column. On the right column was either the name of a region of Equestria or an NYA, for “Not Yet Assigned.”

“It looks like all accepted townships for the San Palomino Desert are in cabinet 667,” she said to me. She put the scroll back in cabinet 999. Before I could respond, a short buzz sounded over the room.

“Sorry, princess, but I must get back to work”

“Thank you for your help miss.” She didn’t respond back, but it didn’t matter, I had what I came here for. I opened cabinet 667, and there were three folders in it. I lifted them out with my magic. One read Las Pegasus, another read Appleloosa. That wasn’t what I was looking for. I threw them back in the cabinet. The other one however, was much more interesting.

The other files, the Las Pegasus and Appleloosa files, were thick, overfilling with papers. They had stickers and stamps all over the front. This file, however, was blank, except for one name at the top: Sanctuary. I opened the folder, and only one page fell out. I used my magic to pick up the paper. It was a form. Most of the words weren’t anything special, but at a line on the bottom of the paper there was an official royal seal that read in bold green letters: APPROVED. How did this get past Celestia?

I thought I’d hit a dead end, I didn’t know what to do next. Why would an accepted township have so few files? Why has Celestia not heard of it? Why was the Cutie Map sending us there? I closed the cabinet and walked out the door with the Sanctuary file. I sat down at a table, and started to think. Then I noticed something on further inspection of the paper. The “d” in the Approved seal was chipping off the paper. The official seals are infused with magic that last hundreds of years. This was a cheap imitation. I kept chipping away at it, until what was left was even worse.

“Oh no,” I said out loud as I read what was left in spot I had just chipped. On the original piece of the paper, underneath the top layer, was another seal that read in big red letters:


Chapter 9: A Sale on Success (Rainbow Dash)

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12:15 p.m. (Rainbow Dash)

“It's hot as buck out here,” I said.

“Stop yer complaining,” Applejack responded, “You are always bragging of how yer stronger than any earth pony, even me.” Applejack hit me on the shoulder and smirked. She was having fun. I bet she was used to being outside in this scorching heat.

We had already gotten a bunch of cotton tunics, and straw hats for our journey into the desert. I thought they looked ridiculous, but Applejack insisted they could help us. We dropped them off at a storage area that Twilight “commandeered” for us. I'll admit, even though I was jealous of Twilight’s “princesslyness”, it sure comes in handy sometimes. We didn’t expect to need those goofy outfits, but better safe than sorry I guess.

We were walking down a less busy street, with only a few ponies on the cobblestone streets. We still needed some bottled water in case we were in the desert for a while longer than we would like.

“Know where we can find a place that sells water?” Applejack asked.

“How the hay would I know who sells water? There are literally waterfalls coming out of this place.”

“Ya ah know, but we need it bottled,” She reminded me, “Ah never like this snooty place, even if most of the ponies look normal enough.”

“They look normal, but I can tell they long to give bad food reviews” I joked. Applejack laughed and we exchanged a hoof bump.

“Yer funny when yer not arguing with Twi.”

“I know, but… tell me the truth here. Do you think i'm in the wrong, and that Twilight is right?” I asked. She kept walking with me, but she didn’t say anything.

“Fine, don’t decide now. We have work to do anyway.” I was disappointed, but not surprised by Applejack’s answer, or lack of one. She was smart, patient, and down to earth, but she can never commit to a side in anything.

“What is that?” Applejack asked.

“I said—”

“No, no, ah mean look” she put her hoof on my chin so I would look up. She pointed me towards a construction site. There was a hole in the mountain, along with wooden scaffolding around it.

“What do you think they're building?” I asked.

“Let's go find out, looks like they're diggin’ into the mountain fer something’,” She said. We walked across the cobblestone street over to the site. We walked up to the orange tape that read Hard Hat Required over and over again.

“Let's git inside,” Applejack said. She pointed to a bucket filled with yellow construction hats.

“Applejack, I never took you for an outlaw. I like it,” I said with a smirk.

“Ahm not breakin’ no laws, just gettin’ a closer look, it won't take long,” she said as she lifted the tape and grabbed a hat. I flew over the tape and grabbed a hat as well. We walked over to the hole in the mountain surrounded by scaffolding. There was a sign at the front of it all that read Funded in full by Gold Chip Casinos. Beneath the words was a picture of a golden poker chip flipping in the air.

“Ah've heard of these guys, they own the biggest casino enterprise in Equestria,” Applejack said as she walked up next to me.

“Casino enterprise? I barely see any Casinos at all, there isn’t one in Ponyville that’s for sure.” I'd never even seen a casino in Equestria. I'd barely believed they existed at all.

“Ponyville’s small time, they’re all over the rich neighborhoods in Canterlot and Manehatten and such” she explained.

“I guess that explains it. I make it a point to avoid those places.”

“Aint that the truth.” She remarked. She continued on to the tunnel, and she stopped when she saw a crimson Earth pony with a gray mane and tail walking towards us. He had a hammer over a piece of paper for a cutie mark. He wore the same yellow hard hat as all the workers.

“What in Celestia’s name are you doing here? Get up and start working on…” he stopped when he shifted his eyes from Applejack to me. “A Pegasus?”

“What’s so weird about that?” I asked, slightly offended.

“Uh, nothing, you aren’t supposed to be here. This place is for workers only, please leave,” he commanded.

“Sorry, we were just wondering, what’s going on here?” I asked.

“Gold Chip Casinos has funded a project for a new Railroad System through the mountain, as well as funding its own private construction team. Now if you are satisfied, I will ask you to leave, or else I’ll be forced to call the authorities,” he threatened.

“Alright, Alright, no need fer that, we was jus’ leaving anyways,” Applejack assured him. We walked away and threw our hats back in the bucket on the way out.

“I wonder where those train tracks will go.” I asked

“We’ll find out when they're finished, I reckon,” she said. I nodded and we kept walking along the cobblestone streets. The streets were quiet until we turned onto a different road. This road was obviously the market area. It was much more bustling than the quiet streets we came from, and there were gift shops and mobile stalls set up along the street. Applejack and I looked around, looking for a place that sold water. We both found the same thing at the same time as we both yelled, “There!”

The building we were looking at was called Sparkling Springs: Water Fresh from Canterlot Falls.

“Perfect, this couldn’t be more convenient!” I blurted.

“Ah know, let's go get us some water,” Applejack rallied. She started running towards the store and I flapped my wings and easily flew past her. I landed at the door and waited until Applejack caught up.

“No fair, if you had to use hooves, ah'd win fer sure,” she complained.

“I don’t think so, remember the Running of the Leaves?” I asked.

“You mean the one we tied for last on?” she said.

“Hehe, maybe that was a bad example.” We both chuckled a bit and opened the double doors into the shop. I was rushed with a wave of hot, moist air.

“Ugh, it’s worse than outside, not only is it hot, but its humid now too,” I complained.

“Is all ya do is complain? Come on, we shouldn’t be too long if ya git a movin’,” she reassured me. The shop had an aquarium in the middle of it, with all sorts of fish contained within. The shop only had one room, with four walls. There were shelves of bottled water all over the walls. There were categories for sparkling water, mineral water, flavored water, even chocolate water. Who would ever drink that? The desk where I assumed you bought everything was in the back, with one lone cashier. Applejack walked to the back and started talking to the mare.

“Do ya have any big jugs o’ water, plain water, not whatever chocolate water is?” she asked.

“Yes, of course we do, how many do you think you'd need,” the mare asked. Her voice was sweet, young sounding. She was eager to sell us what we wanted. I wondered if this might have been her first job. She was an earth pony with a bright lavender coat, with an even brighter, almost blinding purple mane and tail. Her cutie mark was a bouquet of flowers.

“Give us six to start, then ah’ll decide fer sure when I see how big they are,” Applejack said.

“Right away ma’am, please wait here,” The mare said as she went into the back room.

“Ma’am? Ah’m not that much older than she is.” Applejack complained to me with a cheek turned up in dissatisfaction.

“Be careful Applejack, I think I’m seeing some gray hairs.” I joked.

“Oh, ha ha, yer such a card,” Applejack said while rolling her eyes. The mare returned with three jugs of water on her back, each one fairly thick around and about two feet tall.

“Will these do ma’am?”

“Yes, but stop callin’ me ma’am now, yer not that young.”

“Oh I'm sorry, I messed up, sorry, sorry. I'll go get the other three,” she said, scurrying back to the back room.

“What a people person you are Applejack,” I chuckled. Applejack scrunched up her face trying to look for a comeback.

“Like yer any better,” she said. The mare returned with three more water jugs.

“Here you are, ma… i'm sorry, here you are.” She placed down the jugs on the counter, with six in total now. “Its six bits per jug, so thirty-six bits all together.” she said.

"Ah know how t' count," Applejack reached for her side, but stopped early.

“Celestia damn it, I forgot mah saddlebags.” Applejack cursed.

“Buck! Good job Applejack, now what are we going to do?” I was lost, I didn’t want to walk out of the shop like an idiot.

“Well, I am sorry, but... I can't give you them for free,” the cashier said.

“Ah know that. Rainbow, yer gonna have to fly as fast as you can back to storage. Ah think I left it there,” Applejack suggested.

“Okay, good thing I’m the fastest flyer in Equestria,” I bragged.

“Ya, well stop sayin’ and start showing,” she mocked. With that, I ran out the building and took off into the skies. It was exhilarating to feel the wind on my face once again. I made a few barrel rolls and loops in the air before locking onto the storage area. I dived as fast as a pegasus could, and landed a little harder than I would have liked and it felt like I sprained an ankle.

“Celestia no, don’t let it be hurt over something stupid like this.” I waited a bit, just holding my leg, and after a while the pain started to subside. I sighed in relief and walked up to the storage garage. I put in the combination, it was a series of symbols. These Canterlot locks were too fancy to just use numbers. It opened up and I looked inside. I saw the cotton tunics with the hats, along with the saddlebag. I looked inside and there were about a hundred bits inside. I closed it back up, closed the storage locker, and began to fly.

I was flying at break neck speeds back to the shop, how awkward it must be for Applejack to wait there. I almost made it, until I saw a familiar purple pony running towards the castle. I didn’t particularly want to talk with her, but I was curious. I flew down and hovered just above her as she was running.

“Hey Twilight! I thought you were supposed to be meeting with the other princesses!” I yelled down. She put on the brakes and looked up.

“Rainbow Dash? What are you doing here?” Twilight asked.

“I asked first!”

“I found something extraordinary, meet me at the library in ten minutes!”

“You’re going to have to make it twenty, me and Applejack are doing something right now!”

“Okay, but be in the library in twenty flat, it is imperative to the mission!” she yelled. I nodded and she looked back ahead and started running. I gained altitude again and raced to the shop where Applejack likely still resided. I opened the front doors and was again rushed with hot, moist air. I started making my way back to the desk where I walked into a conversation between Applejack and the mare behind the counter.

“Oh no, I could never, I make money here. How else will I make a living?”

“But ya don’t enjoy it, swindling other pony’s outta their money. Ya have that there cutie mark fer a reason, do whatch ya love. Ah can help start ya off.”

“Thanks, um…”

“Applejack, call me Applejack”

“Thanks Applejack, this really meant a lot to me.”

“Hey, Jacks, I got the money.” I interrupted as I threw her saddlebag at her. She caught it with her teeth and wrapped it around her back and stomach all in one swift motion. After she latched it in place, she opened it up and took out a pile of bits.

“Here you are,” Applejack said with a smile as she took put the money on the counter and took three of the jugs, balanced on her back.

“Well, let's go, get those jugs on yer back, and let's git a rolling,” she said. I did so and she waved the mare goodbye. The mare did the same, and smiled with a glistening in her eyes. We made it out of the store, and the air returned to a hot, but dry state.

“So what was that all about?” I asked Applejack as we walked to the storage area.

“About what, Sweet Rose? She’s a sweet girl, she wanted to start a flower shop, but she never had the money” Applejack explained.

“So what makes you think she would do any better after an inspirational talk?”

“I gave her some starting money.”

“What do you mean? There were quite a few bits in the saddlebag, but those jugs cost a lot of that.”

“Ya gotta start being more observant Rainbow. Water aint six bits, that’s how much mah cider costs. She was swindling us, water from those jugs could only be two bits, and maybe some shillings. Ah confronted her ‘bout it, and she came clean. So I talked to her about it and decided to help her out, by giving her all of the bits left in my saddlebag.”

“Oh, what a giving tree you are. Rarity would be proud.” I mocked. I was only slightly annoyed that Applejack just gave away all that money, but it was technically Applejack’s in the first place, so I let it slide.

“You wanted t’ know. Anyway why’d ya take so long? Ah thought you were the ‘fastest flyer in Equestria?”

“Oh ya, I talked with Twilight—”

“You talked with Twi!”

“Ya, but she was in a hurry. She said to meet her in the castle library in twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes! Well let's get a going, we’ll be late!” Applejack started sprinting and I sped up after her.

Chapter 10: Libraries are Like Second Homes (Applejack)

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1:35 p.m.

“Light a fire under it, Rainbow!” I yelled. We were already five minutes late to meet the rest of the group. My hooves were making a loud clonking sound each hard hit I made on the gray cobblestone path I was galloping on.

“I could beat you by hours. I just want to keep it fair,” Rainbow Dash yelled back. We were huffing and puffing, and just about played out. We had just dropped off the jugs at the storage area, and didn’t waste a minute until we started towards the castle. RD and I decided we wanted a rematch for The Running of the Leaves. Rainbow Dash was galloping just a tail's length behind me, if I slowed down just a bit she would be right next to me, but I knew I had this in the bag.

“C’mon RD, ya don’t wanna be beat by an old cowpony.” I taunted. I knew she would get angry. I was trying to get her riled up.

Rainbow Dash was breathing heavily now, almost to the brink of fainting, “Oh you are just so funny.”

The streets were bustling, and some ponies looked at us with curious expressions. Some of the more uptight ponies gave us looks of disgust. We made it to the front door of the castle. I stopped at the first step.

“I win,” I let out one last puff of air before collapsing to the ground. Rainbow Dash did the same without uttering a word. The guards noticed us and took a second to respond to two mares fainted on the front steps of the castle. They ran up to us like the outstanding gentlestallions they were. They both wore the same standard issue guard armor. One was white with blue hair. The one who started talking to us had the same blue mane and tail, but his coat was more of a light gray.

“Are, uh… are you ladies okay? Do you need help?” The gray guard stallion asked. We were completely dragged out on the ground, huffing and puffing after each small phrase.

“Ha-ha, get a… load of… this clown, Applejack.” Rainbow Dash gave off a small wheeze that I think was supposed to be a laugh.

“What a… gentlestallion. Could ya… could ya do me a favor… and help out mah friend here… Ah think she needs a doctor.” I joked.

“What!? No, no… Help out my friend here first. Can’t you… tell she used to… to be a lady,” Rainbow joked back.

“That was years ago. Ah could… beat’cha any day, anywhere,” I regained my breath and stood up. My hooves were aching something fierce, but I was able to stand.

“It's only because of that head start,” Rainbow Dash rebutted, also regaining her own breath and standing up. The guard ponies were now looking at each other, as if they had just seen a rooster lay an egg.

“Ahm sorry guys, just a bit of fun between friends,” I told them.

“What a… I mean I hope you lovely ‘ladies’ enjoy your time in Canterlot,” He ended with a smile and started walking away. His friend was already almost back at his post. I expected Rainbow Dash to take offense or respond sarcastically, but this time she put a small twist on her usual response.

“Well, actually,” she flipped her hair up and batted her eyelashes at the guards, maybe overdoing it a bit, “If you could help two lost mares out, we need to find the library.” She gave a bit of a begging face at the guard.

“Oh um, well –the guard was obviously embarrassed– hehe, I-I-I’m sorry but the castle library is not open to the public."

Rainbow Dash answered back, “Oh, but an intelligent young stallion like you should know we’re the Elements of Harmony.”

“Oh-Oh of course, right this way,” he insisted. I turned towards Rainbow Dash and we both tried our hardest not to burst out laughing. Rainbow Dash was about ready to collapse on the floor again, but this time from laughter. She found a way to keep walking.

He started to open the huge double doors to the castle, before finishing he turned towards his buddy on the left, “Hey Blue Blade, can you cover me until I get back?”

“Sure, sure, nothing happens during this shift anyway,” he said. With that, our escort opened the doors and motioned us to follow. I was kind of glad Rainbow asked him to help. I hadn’t realized I was clueless on where to find the library Twi wanted us to meet in.

We walked up the main set of stairs, then veered off to the right, and took the first hallway on the left after we made it up the stairs. The guard opened up the iron bars to the library and opened the door.

“There you are, now if you'll excuse me ladies” He walked away and when we couldn’t see him anymore, we burst out in laughter.

“Oh my, oh my gosh, that was bucking hilarious, ha-haa,” Rainbow Dash was gasping for breath she was laughing so hard.

“That was sure a bang-up job, Rainbow. I couldn’t tell you from Rarity. Didn’t know you had it in you.”

“To be honest, I didn’t either,” She let out one last chuckle and we walked into the library, thoroughly late for Twilight’s meeting. This was my second time in two days.

Rainbow Dash walked in first and paid no mind to anything except what was straight in front of her. I looked around and was admittedly amazed at the library. In the middle of the library there was a golden hourglass with black sand inside. It was taller than me but the lever to flip it was low enough for me to grab.

Around it were four tables that could hold, I’d say six ponies each. Everything else was just dark wooden bookshelves filled with books, books, and more books. This library easily had more books than a single pony could read in a lifetime.

“Beautiful isn’t it?” somepony said behind me.

“Wha–” I looked behind me and stopped when I saw a wavy tri-colored mane. “Oh Princess Celestia!” I started to bow.

“No need, Applejack. We aren’t in public, just treat me as a… a friend” She cocked her head and smirked, before letting out a small laugh. She walked past me into the middle of the room. I followed her, and after a bit, I could see past the bookshelves. All of my friends were sitting at a table hunched over what looked like a map and a folder.

When they saw Princess Celestia, they all got out of their seats and started to bow just as I did. I knew Celestia was always the laid back kind of princess, but it was even more so when not in public.

“No need for that, just continue where you left off. I would like to know about this ‘Sanctuary’.” Everyone sat back down. Rarity, Pinkie, and Rainbow sat on one side. Fluttershy and Twilight sat on the other side. I sat next to Twilight and Celestia walked up to the end of the table.

Twilight leaned over to me and whispered, “What the hay took you so long, it's been more than half an hour. You’re lucky Celestia was as late as you were.”

“Stop being such a croaker, Twi. Celestia wouldn’t a mind none,” I whispered back.

Rarity started to speak, “So who should present first?”

“I only came here to learn more about Sanctuary. I trust all of you will deal with the problem proper, but it’s my duty to know what gets put in the Directory. So I humbly suggest Twilight presents her findings first and foremost,” Celestia suggested.

“Of course,” Twilight started, “The rest of you do not know the situation, since I brought it to Celestia first, and she asked me to share it here. So I will brief you. I was in the directory and stumbled upon a file for a town called ‘Sanctuary’. It had an official royal seal, but was not magic infused. The seal is the hard thing to come by, infusing it with magic shouldn’t be too hard if you have a unicorn halfway proficient in magic.”

If they didn’t have unicorns helping them, it means we were dealing with Earth Ponies or Pegasi. I know how stubborn and foolhardy both of those could be.

“So are you suggesting that the culprit isn’t a unicorn?” Rarity asked.

“That’s what I am implying, but this alone isn’t enough to go off of. Who knows if it's even just one pony either?” Twilight answered.

“Please continue Princess Twilight,” Princess Celestia urged.

“Alright, so I chipped of the fraudulent seal, which by the way said ‘Approved’ on it, and underneath that seal was another seal that said ‘Denied’. This seal was magic infused, which means it was the original.”

“Somepony went through a lot of trouble to make their shantytown official, but what’s the point?” Rainbow Dash said.

“Let me see the file,” Princess Celestia asked.

“Of course,” Twilight said as she slid the folder over to Celestia. Celestia proceeded to open the folder with her magic, and looked at its contents. I wondered what she was trying to find. I didn’t have the chance to look it over, so I could only assume that it was some fancy mumbo jumbo that I probably wouldn’t get anyway.

“Interesting, why have I not seen this until now?” Princess Celestia asked, obviously very puzzled.

“What is it?” Twilight asked. She leaned closer to Celestia, as if that would make her answer faster.

“Sanctuary was the one who requested a new Railway be installed. It says, ‘to ensure efficient access to Sanctuary products and services,” Celestia read.

“It also says here,” Princess Celestia said, “Sanctuary requested… 10,000 tons of raw metal, copper wiring, and some other things to be delivered ‘to begin construction on their side’.”

“What?” Twilight interceded, “That’s a lot of metal. What could they possibly need with all of that?”

Rarity interceded, “Wasn't that suspicious Princess?”

“Not at all, thousands of materials are moved around Equestria every day, it was nothing out of the ordinary.”

“I ordered one hundred pounds of confetti just the other day!” Pinkie announced with a wide grin that covered her entire face, and I thought I heard the sound of a rubber ducky being squeezed.

The entire room just gazed at her with confused looks on their faces. I decided this would be one of those times were I follow rule number one: don’t question Pinkie.

Princess Celestia was the first to regain herself, “Well, hmm, I think I have all that I need. I believe the ‘Saving Equestria’ part is more your area of expertise Princess Twilight. I will make sure to keep things in check here in Canterlot.” She smiled, took the file, and turned around, closing the door behind her as she walked out. Strange, I could have sworn that the guard had closed that door. I squinted my eyes at the door, then quickly shook the feeling off.

“Okay, that was all I have to say. Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy did you find anything useful?” Twilight asked. I was still trying to piece together what was going on here. This was a lot to take in all at once. Farm work is so much simpler.

“Um, yes we did find some things Twilight,” answered Fluttershy.

“Although it may not help us right this moment,” Rarity warned.

“That’s alright. What do you got?” Twilight asked. My leg started to sting like I had stepped on a pitchfork. It must have been from all that carrying heavy water jugs while running. Blast it all.

“Is something wrong Applejack?” Twilight asked.

“Not ‘til you drew attention to it,” I responded.

“Sorry, only trying to help.”

“Nah, ahm sorry, don’t mind it. Rares, what’cha got for us?”

“Well thank you for asking Applejack. We have found out that the coastal part of San Palomino is actually partially tropical,” Rarity explained.

“That’s how the ponies are able to survive down there independently,” Twilight pieced together.

“Precisely, we have also found out that—”

“That they might be escaped criminals!” Pinkie Pie interrupted with big eyes.

“Yes, we did not spend our entire time in the library, I ‘persuaded’ a guard to tell us if there was anything suspicious recently. He said that he had been moved from the prison shift because there was a mass jailbreak that the Royal Guard has kept secret as to not panic the populace,” Rarity said.

“Smart. Do Celestia and Luna know?” Twilight asked.

“I would assume so, but I didn’t ask them personally, no." Rarity answered.

“Um, Rarity, I…” Fluttershy stammered off.

“I’m sorry honey, could you repeat that?” Rarity asked.

“You’re forgetting something. Not all of the prisoners escaped. Only specific cells were opened.”

I was genuinely curious, I bet all the unicorn cells stayed closed, “Well which ones were they?”

Rarity answered, “Only the cells containing Earth Ponies were opened,” she said. Surprising, so Earth Ponies had been the cause all this trouble, for the Cutie Map’s distress. I wasn't sure to feel pride or shame.

“What?! Why only Earth Ponies?” Twilight was desperate for an answer.

“That’s all I got out of the guard. I doubt he knew any more though.”

“Well Princess, can we get going now? I've had my quota of stuck-up ponies for this week,” Rainbow asked.

“Yes, I believe it's time to head out. I'll arrange an escort for our things. Let's head for the train. Appleloosa is as close as we are going to get. We hoof it from there.”

“Yes, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie said standing on her two back hooves and saluting. Twilight rolled up the map and stuffed it her saddlebag. Everypony started walking out. First Pinkie bounced along, next Twilight, then Rarity with her strut, and finally Fluttershy. Rainbow stopped me before I started towards the door, however.

“Hey, not that mine is, but is your body aching?”

“In which ways?”

“Every way.”

“Like Tartarus.”

Chapter 11: Bound for Nowhere (Applejack)

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3:00 p.m.

The train station was larger in comparison to Ponyville’s train station, and it was always more busy whenever I visited Canterlot. It seemed there were always delegates from somewhere visiting on business. The big glass walls surrounding the train station made you feel like everypony was watching you at all times; there was no privacy within these walls. I hated it. All these pompous, highfalutin Canterlot snobs silently judging me as I walked by. They stared at my raggedy old hat, and my cracked, mud-stained hooves. I pulled my stetson down, and looked forward.

I was walking alongside my friends inside the train station. We ventured here after we went to the storage area and picked up our clothes, and after a short break, stuffed them in saddlebags. There was a big waiting floor made of blue tiles. All the ponies stood here while they waited for one of the four booths to open up. Twilight was talking with a mare at one of these booths. When she finished she turned towards us and began to speak.

“Okay, we’re all set. Applejack, do you think Braeburn would give us a place for the night? I don’t think we’ll be making it to Sanctuary by tonight,” she questioned.

“Ah’d reckon so. Braeburn’s always willin’ to lend a hoof,” I answered.

“Good, excellent, let's get on the train. No time to lose.” Twilight was the first onto the train, followed by the rest of us. We had our own private train car, without beds, but we should make it to Appleloosa before nightfall. The seats were made of polished wood with built in crimson cushions. The floor was made of light brown wooden planks with rugs covering most of the walkable area. There were crates in the far corner that I assumed was our supplies.

We made ourselves comfortable. It was a few hours to Appleloosa.

* * *

It was so peaceful outside, like nothing could disturb it. I was beginning to hope that we could make it without any sort of disturbance ourselves, but that dream was shattered about the time I saw Appleloosa come up over the ridge.

“Well, Twilight,” Rainbow started, “How useful was that trip? Now we know that the town did some shady business. So what? We already knew something was wrong. Now we've only wasted a day. The bad guy is already a day ahead of us.”

I sort of agreed with her. We didn’t really get anything that might help us. If whoever was behind this wanted to stop us, they would have just as easy a time. All we had now was some criminal activity that we could maybe blame on somepony.

“Now ahm not saying ah agree wholeheartedly with Rainbow, but ah do wonder what all this will help us with,” I said. Words and smarts won’t mean anything the moment ponies start throwing their hooves at our faces.

“Maybe it's not something we can use right now, but a few vague hints are better than nothing. I feel better knowing a bit more than having no clue. We also have a lay of the land, and a hint that escaped convicts may be involved, hardly a wasted trip.”

“But that’s all still worthless to us. We’re still gonna kick their butts just the same as if we did this yesterday. If anything, whoever’s the problem will just be stronger,” argued Rainbow Dash.

“Kick their butt?” Fluttershy repeated.

"Stop being such a pessimist Rainbow Dash. That information will no doubt come in handy. Besides, I highly doubt a day will make that much difference.” Twilight counter-argued.

“Look Twilight. Ever since you became the ‘Princess of Friendship’, you’ve turned into a high horse who can never do wrong. Your words are law in Equestria. What happened to that cool egghead I was friends with when Nightmare Moon attacked?”

“I didn’t ask for this, Rainbow Dash. Sometimes I wish I could go back, but… but I can't. I make do with what I’m given. The sooner you do the same, the happier both of us will be.

“Well said, Twilight.” Rarity encouraged.

“Fine, but you have to listen to what I have to say about this plan,” Rainbow said.

“Let's hear it,” Twilight agreed.

“We shouldn’t stop in Appleloosa. We've already wasted too much time. When we get off this train, we keep going to Sanctuary,” Rainbow suggested. It was a bold idea, even by Rainbow Dash standards. We would get there earlier for sure, but how tired was everypony else? I wondered.

“Through the night?” Fluttershy asked.

“Ooh I'll get the glow sticks!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

“No way, that is out the question. We need our rest, and the desert is deathly cold at night, not to mention the wind. It would just be better to wait till morning,” Twilight explained. The train ground to a halt. The conductor walked out of the front of the train, waved his hoof in the air, and all the doors on the train opened at once .

Rainbow was seething, “This is exactly what I mean. You think you’re the main character in a Daring Do book, but you’re not. I'm going to Sanctuary, whether you decide to follow me… or not.” Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth and flapped her wings with much intensity, and flew out the door in a huff.

Pinkie Pie looked out the window and started yelling, “RAINBOOOOOW DAAAAASH!”

“Pinkie, please hush down,” I begged.

“For Celestia’s sake Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said, “fine, she’ll have it her way. Everypony, put on your gear, we’re going to go on a little expedition tonight.”

“And miss my beauty rest?” Rarity complained while her shoulders sagged.

“Why do you need to be so difficult with each other?” I sneered. “Is it so bucking difficult t’ git somewhere without you two bickering like schoolponies?”

“I’m hearing a lot of problems, but not a lot of solutions from you lately, Applejack,” Twilight responded sternly.

“Ah don’t want to be here t’ babysit you two every hour of every wakin’ day! There’s no point ‘n arguin’. Let’s git our gear on, and look for Rainbow.” This was getting ridiculous. One time, okay. Two times, just a longer disagreement, but three times in less than two days! They needed to work this out one way or another.

“Fine, Alright, let’s hope these outfits will protect us from the desert cold as well as they do the heat,” Twilight said reluctantly. We put on our cotton tunics, each one covered our torso and the top part of both of our legs. Everypony else put on a straw hat that they customized to make it more “theirs”. Rarity’s hat looked like something she’d wear to the park, Pinkie’s was at least half confetti, Fluttershy’s had leaves, and vines stitched through it, Twilight opted not to wear her’s at all, and I of course, decided to stick with my good ol’ Stetson.

We walked out of the train, and a breeze rolled through. Our tunics and manes blew in the wind, making a whipping sound with each new gust. We blended in well with the rest of the Appleloosans, who wore similar garments as they walked to their houses to cash in for the evening. I didn’t know exactly what time it was, but the sun was almost below the horizon, close to dusk. I guessed somewhere between six and seven o’ clock.

I was unsure what to think of walking out into the desert after dark, but I knew once we started, there was no going back. We would risk losing Rainbow Dash if we quit early.

“Last chance t’ change yer mind, Twi,” I told her.

“Sometimes you have to jump to make it to the other side,” she answered.

“No more beating around the stump, let's hit that dusty trail.” I was the first to walk off the train platform, and instead of heading into town, I turned into the desert, accompanied by my four remaining friends from Ponyville.

* * *

“This is so much fun!” Pinkie said as she jumped along, still filled to the brim with energy. We had been walking for the good part of a few hours across long, barren desert. We hadn’t seen anything that told us Rainbow Dash had gone through here, but we followed the map to where Sanctuary should be. It was now almost pitch black. The sun went down, and along with it the heat we expected to find. It became very cold when the sun went down. My joints cracked every few steps, and I shivered more than a couple times. It wasn’t cold like Frozen North cold, but it was still much more chilly than you would expect for a desert. That sun sure makes a difference.

Fun!? This is dreadful. All this sand in my make-up, and my eyelashes want to peel off with every gust,” Rarity complained. There had been strong winds ever since the sun set, and we saw nothing but dunes of sand, and the occasional cactus. The winds caused our tunics to thrash about every time the winds changed direction.

“I can barely see where I'm walking,” Fluttershy added.

“Where’s the moon, shouldn’t it be, like, in the sky?” Pinkie asked.

“You see that mountain to the east?” Twilight started, pointing to a mountain far in the distance, “I believe at this time of year, this far south, the moon should be about thirty-five degrees. Which would put it right behind that mountain. Maybe this will suffice.” Twilight’s horn glowed and then a small ball of light appeared. The ball was small, but it illuminated far enough to see a few paces in front of us.

“Ah hope Rainbow made it somewhere safe. Walking in this forsaken place at night is like using a knife bah the blade,” I said.

“She can be stubborn, but she’s a tough Pegasus,” Twilight reassured. The group kept walking, and the wind kept howling. Our tunics continued to flap in the wind. Rarity wore a travel blanket and it was whipping like a cape around her neck. Twilight still didn’t put on her hat, but Rarity offered her a red scarf and Twilight decided to wear that. It was like winter without snow.

“Wow, I always thought the desert was scorching hot all the time,” Pinkie Pie said.

“Yeah, jus’ the opposite it seems,” I said. The wind slowed down, and I could now look forward without getting sand in my eyes.

“Look! Over there!” Rarity yelled. We all looked where she was pointing. There was one lone cactus in the barren wasteland in front of us. Twilight’s ball of light lit it up well enough that I could see a blue feather trapped in one of needles. I ran over to it, and I could hear sand being thrown from the ground behind me as my friends galloped to catch up.

“That’s definitely a Rainbow Dash feather,” Pinkie Pie said.

“Yes-sir-eee, That means Rainbow’s already past us. Let's keep on movin’,” I rallied. The wind almost completely died down by this point, with only a slight breeze every once in a while.

“Thank Celestia, that wind is much stronger than I thought it would be. There’s no way Rainbow could have flown straight through all that.” Twilight said, lacking the confidence she had just moments earlier. “Fluttershy, could you fly up and see if you can see anything?”

“I can barely see anything down here. What if I get lost up there?” Fluttershy worried.

“Okay, I have an idea. I can cast a spell that will illuminate the desert for… well I'm not sure, I’ve never done it before, it will be a long way though.”

“It's always a delight when you cast a new spell, this outta be good,” I teased.

“Don’t worry, I got this… I think. Ready Fluttershy? I don’t know how long I’ll be able to hold it,” Twilight asked.

“I guess. Yeah, I’m ready,” Fluttershy responded. When there weren’t any winds, Fluttershy sped straight upwards. Twilight closed her eyes as a purple glow shone from her horn. She gritted her teeth. The glow from her ball of light disappeared, and Twilight’s horn grew brighter and brighter. After a few seconds of focusing, Twilight opened her eyes and they were glowing white. Shortly after, a huge blast of light came out of Twilight’s horn. It was so bright I had to shield my eyes from it. Even with my eyes closed, I could still see a white ball in the middle of my vision where the light was when I looked at it.

The back of my eyelids stayed a bright red for many seconds. When they darkened, I braved up and opened my eyes, still slightly blind from the previous blast.

“Twilight, warn us next time you do that,” Rarity said.

“Don’t go into the light Rarity! You have so much left to live for!” Pinkie Pie yelled.

“Sorry girls, I did tell you I’d never done it before,” Twilight said sheepishly. The area was dark again without any light. I may as well have been in a black room with no lights, because I still had that white ball in the middle of my vision. I couldn’t distinguish any shapes around me. So I just sat down in the sand, and waited until I regained my vision.

“Does anyone else feel like their eyes were gouged out?” Pinkie asked.

“Yes,” Rarity said.

“Least ahm not the only one,” I responded. I heard something flapping, and it wasn't my tunic, so I assumed Fluttershy had returned.

“Twilight, Twilight!” Fluttershy yelled, if you could even call it yelling.

“What is it Fluttershy?” Twilight asked.

“I saw something. It was a… a house or something,” she said.

“A house?”

“Or something, can't forget that part,” Pinkie said. My eyes started to adjust, and I could make out the rest of the group. Rarity and Pinkie Pie were also sitting down in the sand, but Twilight and Fluttershy were standing up, looking around at us.

“What ‘r you lookin’ at?” I said as I stood up.

“Was it really that bright?” Twilight asked.

“Oh yes,” Fluttershy said, “from up there, I could hardly see where the light stopped.”

“We’re so proud Twi. Now if it's okay with the rest of y’all, ah’d like to git movin’.” I saw everypony else stand up, and I assumed that meant they were ready, “Okay Fluttershy, which way is this ‘something.’”

“This way,” Fluttershy said as she took the lead. Twilight’s horn glowed, and we all cowered, but she was just conjuring that smaller ball of light. Fluttershy began walking.

Not a second after we started moving, the wind kicked up again. Our tunics started flapping, Rarity’s blanket started whipping, and my mind started jumping, as we made our way further into nowhere.

Chapter 12-End, Summary and Notice

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So here we are, my first story. Oh, its taking me back already. All those dislikes because I deleted a few comments. I mean seriously?
Enough of that though, whatever, my stories could have 1000 dislikes and I wouldn't care at this point (it would be kinda cool actually).

If you haven't read my blog post, I will not be finishing this story, but I felt it proper to give everyone what I had planned, for closure or whatever, mostly for me really.

Now I have A LOT, but it's written down on paper so I'm just translating the important parts. I'll write this again: If you want to take anything AT ALL, you fucking do it. Don't let the moderators boss you around, because I give full permission to absolutely everybody. You can make this into a gay midget porno for all I care (although you better than that, right?)

From the beginning *cracks knuckles*, it's first worth noting I got many of the ideas from Her Frontier, not only one of the best fanfictions I've read, but also one of the best novels in general I have ever read. Seriously, go check it out, even if you just visit it to give it a like, please do yourself a favor and check it out.

Onto Business, House Rules is broken down into 5 "acts", each taking place in a different geological region in Equestria (yes I used a map to map it all out, Ponies are serious business).

2. Canterlot (Peaceful)
4.Hayseed Swamp (the forest just west of it actually, it was called Misty forest or something, but we'll just stick with Hayseed Swamp)
5.Canterlot (War-torn)

These are the summaries below.

1.I already wrote this

2. I also already wrote this, but I admit it could have been better.

3.I wrote part of this, and much of it is completed, I just haven't got around to publishing it, and likely never will. What happens here is Rainbow Dash jumps out the train and flies towards Sanctuary after her and Twilight get into another scuffle. Chapter 12 was meant to be how Rainbow Dash realized maybe she didn't make such a good decision, and crashes to the ground by the strong winds. She breaks a leg. It was quite gory when I first wrote it, but I toned it down so It was more of an "of shit son", rather than an "ewwww". She finds a bunker, as well as some medical supplies inside. After wrapping herself up she finds a room full of dead ponies. Again, I didn't finalize how much gore there was going to be, but it was likely to be minimal. Twilight and Co. find Rainbow, and after some discussion, journey onward, ever cautious.

At Sanctuary I created this super funny little skit where these dumbass construction ponies try to stop the gang from entering Sanctuary, and at the gate Rarity tries to seduce them, but fails horribly. Anyway, the mayor comes out and invites them it. He obviously has something up his sleeve. He brings them to Gold Chip, the owner of Gold Chip Casinos in the previous chapters. The Mane 6 are invited in, but kicked out because they were nosing around too much, making Gold Chip angry. Meanwhile Rainbow and Flutters (who is still angry by the way), watch this happen through the window, and follow the decide to follow the mayor after him and Gold Chip split up. The mayor enters a secret door in the back of one of the many western-themed buildings around Sanctuary. Inside, there is a typical bad guy compound, bolted walls, and steel doors. R and F enter the vents, and follow the sound of screaming. The enter a small room where a bartender pony is being kept (youll find out his significance in a second). They peak through the vents and the Mayor and a pony will Einstein-like blue mane comes in, asking "one last time" what he's up to. He refused to answer, and is punched in the gut, being threatened that next time, he'll be lucky to be left alive. The door closes, Rainbow crashes through the vents, and they have a little chat with the pony.

Meanwhile, the OG group decides to split up, Rares and Twi, AJ and Pinkie. We'll be following R and T here. Rarity decides to go cleaned up (as they are very messy from their desert trek). They happen into a store where a pony is ecstatic to help them because she never gets any business. There is a bit of comedy, like with Twilight not knowing anything about fashion. After that, they exit the shop, brutish ponies are looking at them, they start to walk faster, but are cornered by a group of 5 ponies, (3 lackys, one punk mare, and one heavy set stallion with a bowler hat). They all speak in East coast accents (What are yous doin' here). (I hope no ones offended). Twilight blasts a spell and Rarity and Twi dash towards the saloon. When they get in, the bartender warns the crook to play nice, and they leave. The bartender offers the two a chance to talk. He gives them a room key and tells them hell be up in one hour. R and T talk about life and their thoughts. You know, character development and junk. Then punk mare and bowler hat guy bust down the door, saying "yous wont be seein' your pal tonight". Rarity tries to fight back, but is head-butted by the mare. Twilight also tries, but the bowler hat guy puts something on her horn, and punches her out too. The bad guys are all Earth ponies by the way, this is VERY IMPORTANT.

Now to Applejack and Pinkie. This one was going to be shorter. They both sit down at a bench. Applejack explains herself to Pinkie. How AJ doesn't know what to do between the farm and her friends fighting. Pinkie gives some sweet philosophical things to say, and AJ comments on this with something like "Your a lot smarter than you let on, Pinkie". (you can tell this is were my planning started getting weak). Then they are hit over the head from behind and the chapter ends.

Now back to Rainbow and Flutters (you see the importance of the bartender now). The Bartender dies from his wounds. Rainbow hears footsteps and hurries back into the vent. The door opens and 4 ponies are thrown inside (guess who they are!). Inside is the rest of the mane 6, Flutters and Rainbow dash (get it? I used dash as a verb... never mind) towards their friends and untie them. They discuss stuff, as well as talk about the bartender and their next move. This is likely to be its own chapter with how much can go on here. Whether you want it to be or not...

They escape in this reaaaaaallly cool action chapter (I could've pulled it off). Guards are punched, the alarm goes off, there are loud bangs (you'll see why real soon), then a voice over the intercom tells them to stop. Twilight recognizes the voice, but cant quite place it. They make it outside into the streets, but armored ponies with hoof revolvers (yes, motherfucking hoof revolvers), come out of every door, and surround the main six, weapons ready. The mane six get into fighting position, but a voice tells everybody to stand down. The stallion with blue Einstein hair comes out from behind a group of soldiers, followed by the mayor. Twilight asks what they are doing. The stallions asks something like "what don't recognize me?", and slicks back his hair and puts on a hat. It's Gold Chip! (dun dun duuuuu).

Story time: Gold Chip explains his real name is Digerati. He was born into a rich family (who owned a casino). His father was not an honest businessman, and never gave attention to Digerati, who was very smart, and very good with electricity and machinery. His father deemed these "worthless skills". Digerati got so fed up, he killed his Father, taking over the business after "an unfortunate allergical reaction." Digerati vowed to use these resources and his skills to make Equestria a better place. But even with all his smarts, he didn't know how. That is, until he saw the Hearth's Warming Eve play (the same one the mane six performed in). He realized that Earth Ponies are treated as "the lesser race". Twilight tries very hard to disclaim this, and even gets kind of aggressive. Digertai warns against this though, as he shows of his own personal hoof revolver. He shows her how its made. 6 cylinders strapped around a leather strip laced with electrical wiring. Each time you push the trigger (its like a big c shaped lever that you push "down"), it sends an electrical current that pushes a smaller hammer inside the currently active cylinder, causing a piece of metal to fly out and at speeds "faster than any pegasus". Twilight realizes that Digerati killed those stallions in the bunker. Digerati states," They were criminals. The old Equestria didn't want them, and My new Equestria doesn't want them. I only pulled a few weeds." Twilight get really angry at that, and starts babbling on. Digerati waves his hoof in the air in a circle, and the main six are all electrocuted with what pretty much amounts to a tazer, until they fall unconscious.

-Summary so far:
-All the residents of Sanctuary were the escaped Earth Pony Prisoners
-Digerati=Gold Chip
-Motive: to make Earth Ponies the new rulers of Equestria.
-Hoof revolvers are a thing

Have you seriously made it this far? Wow. If you could comment your thoughts so far, that would be awesome (as no one proceeds to comment)

4. This is where it starts to get wonky. The mane six wake up in some type of facility, very similar to the sanctuary compound. A screen comes on with Digerati waking them up. Now he is full on Joker-ing it, going power hungry, speaking like he knows exactly what he's doing, with a hint of crazy. Twilight and Rarity have some sort of bolt on their horns. They try to use magic, but Digerati warns them not to. He explains that these devices are attached to one of the leylines (lines on unicorn horns), and if too much magic goes through it, the device will overheat, and explode. Digerati then moves over so the screen shows his troops moving through Ghastly Gorge, the troops utterly wrecking any monsters that pop out. Applejack puts two and two together and realizes that's why "Gold Chip" offered to build that new railroad track. It's brings them straight into Canterlot. Digerati says something like "Good girl. I see simple life does not mean simple mind". He laughs evilly, and turns off the screen. They talk and crap. Rainbow and Twilight fight. blah blah. Then suddenly a pony dressed in Splinter Cell attire pops out, he offers to help them out. They accept the offer, and long story short, make it out of the compound (obviously there would be more to it, but you know).

Now I'm going to summarize the next several chapters right here. In the forest, they encounter monsters, personal struggles, and Rainbow and "Agent S" (the Splinter Cell dude), talk about R and T's fight. S says how he used to fight with his friends. Now he never sees them again, and every day thinks about what could have been different, all the while keeping a very important secret from Dash (this was also going to be heavily foreshadowed on the final version). Again after several chapter (obvious lack of planning is obvious), they make it out of the forest into Dodge Junction. They hitch a ride to Canterlot, but are told all trains to Canterlot are momentarily suspended. They go the next best place, Ponyville. At Ponyville, they immediately go to Spike (woah, hes here too). Spike cant figure out how to get the devices off, and the group decides it not worth it, they need to warn Canterlot. A decision that will cost them.

5.Now remember, I'm doing this extremely quickly, but this is like 70,000 words in right here, or was supposed to be. They make it to Canterlot, and when they get there, they see a giant blue bubble around Canterlot. They go inside, past an array of dead guard ponies, and extremely few Sanctuary Soldiers by comparison. They run up to one of the dying guard ponies and ask what happened. He said they didnt stand a chance. Sanctuary came right into the middle of town through the new railroad, and just started shooting anybody that got in the way. Within minutes, they had set up some sort of jammer, creating the blue bubble, not allowing any contact outside of Canterlot. It's been a fight for the Generator ever since. He dies, and the mane six keep running. Towards the center of the city, there was a lot more noise, pegasus ponies where shooting crossbows down and they got quickly sniped by Sanctuaries superior weaponry. However, there were a lot more dead Sanctuary soldiers around this area. A good sign?

At the Middle of town, they walk in on a stand off. The princesses and their army on one side, Digerati, the jammer, and his considerably smaller army on the other. One of the princesses (undecided) shouts "give up now Gold Chip, even if we keep fighting and dying, eventually you will run out of lambs to sacrifice."
Digerati goes "Don't worry princess, your little protégé here will help me out." He pointed to the mane 6, who come out of hiding. The princesses look surprised and all that. Digerati opens up a glove on his other hoof, inside is a series of buttons. "Surrender now, or Miss Princess and the White one will explode in an array of insides."
"I'm no idiot Miss Sparkle. I knew my army was far to miniscule to go up against the Royal Guard, even with our weaponry. I just needed to hold out long enough to allow Mister S here to escort you out of my compound." (plot twist) They all look over at Agent S (who has by now reveled his real name to Rainbow, as they are romantic lovers by this point, name undecided). Agent S walks over to Digerati in forlorn. Digerati congratulates him, and looks back up at the princesses, all without saying a word. Rainbow Dash yells across the way, but Celestia asks her to hush, and accepts Digerati's ransom. Digerati closes his glove, and waves his hoof in the air. The same bolts are put on all the unicorns and they are escorted away. Rainbow looks back, and S turns away. Twilight looks back, and Digerati Smiles.

In the prison, a few days later, they are talking about stuff. They argue, character development, blah blah. Then the door opens, Rainbow is ready to crack some heads. Then they see its S, who rainbow calls by his real name (Again, undecided). S apologizes, to everybody, but Rainbow especially. He says that originally his plan was to bring him here, but he realized the other races aren't so bad, and don't deserve this, because his time with Dash was the best he's ever spent in his life. Rainbow's reluctant, but he offers a plan to take back the city. The others are overjoyed to forgive him if it means taking back the city. He lets them out, and Rainbow Punches him right in the face, but then proceeds to kiss him. Its all sweet and mushy and stuff. I don't want the romance to be the central point, There's enough romance stories, but a bit of romance is always good for a story.

S explains to them a large majority of Digerati's soldiers are actually robots, or androids. They can think enough to have normal pony reflexes and cognition in combat, but can't think enough to be considered "free will". He says that although they are very High-Tec, built by Digerati himself, they run on Electricity instead of Unicorn Magic, which makes them susceptible to water. Rarity (or whoever really) mentions Canterlot Falls. They all decide they can redirect the water if they enlist the help of all the ponies in Canterlot, and flood the city, destroying all the robots, only leaving the pitiful number of convicts left.

They sneak out into the city, only to find the Pegasi and unicorns have been sentenced to slums, while the Earth Ponies got to live in the rich neighborhood. They decide to go to the slums first. They devise a plan (once you see or hear this, initiate the plan). This takes the rest of the chapter.

Then they go to the Earth Ponies, who are actually not enjoying living up there as much as you think. They are under constant surveillance and the curfews are ridiculously early. They also aren't allowed to leave the Rich District. The mane six tell them the plan, and very few have qualms about going with it.

The mane six (and S) then decide the only thing left is to get Digerati's glove. With it, according to S, they can release all the devices on Unicorns heads, including the ones on their own heads and the Princesses, who are still in the Castle somewhere else. They discuss and execute this plan. S goes in through the front door, and the others enter through a different way. S will talk with Digerati (Digerati realizes that S is having second thoughts, so he tries to convince him he's with the good guys the old villain way). S leads him on, AJ and Pinkie punch out the 2 Sanctuary Soldiers by the throne (Pinkie does it some funny way). Fluttershy tries to punch out the mayor (but we know Flutters), and the Mayor yells. Digerati turns around, and S tackles him, wrestling the gauntlet out of Digerati's hoof. He throws it to Twilight, who then pushes the button S told her to. Also, the princesses are in the throne room in some makeshift cage. They break out, but Digerati's already long gone. Twilight rushes outside and blasts a beam of light into the air, starting the counter-attack.

You can hear war cries all through out town. Rarity and Rainbow Dash are leading the Pegasi by the waterfalls and AJ is leading the Earth Ponies in defending them. There is some funny banter between AJ and RD here as they are fighting of soldiers (AJ/RD banter is my favorite). Twilight and the princesses search around for Digerati, who is making a last stand by the Jammer. They go over there, and the guard ponies are already fighting the Sanctuary Soldiers. Luna asks Twi her, plan and she simply responds "you'll see". After a bit of whatever content here, the fighting stops when he yells. He mentions that he still has plenty of soldiers left to fight, and the city will be reduced to rubble and no one will win. The princesses agree, but Twi begs for just a few more seconds. Suddenly, a waves flows through the city streets, short-circuiting all the android soldiers. After the water passes, AJ and Rainbow return, reuniting all of the mane 6 and S. Everybody slowly gets up, and the remaining Sanctuary soldiers quickly take off their hoof revolvers to surrender.

They all walk over to Digerati, who has a rebar through his heart. He opens up a panel in his body to expose a mechanical heart just barely continuing to beat. Monologue time. Digerati, "Now you know, my father didn't want me tinkering because he knew I had a heart condition. He knew I was smart enough to create an artificial heart to heal myself. But why didn't he get rid of me sooner? He could have done it easily, no one would challenge him. I ask myself this every day. (Digerati is twitching and gasping for breath this whole time) Why? Maybe he knew what I would become. He knew I would kill him, and create this... chaos. But he let it happen anyway. Hehe... Bastard..." Then Digerati dies, and his heart short-circuits in a mini explosion.

The town cheers, and celebrates. The next morning, there is medic ponies everywhere. Cloudsdale is sailing overhead, taking in any ponies that need healing, and all the PoW are being taken away, somewhere else. Celestia congratulates Twilight on a job well done. All the while, everybody is battered and scarred. Rainbow is talking to S (his real name would definitely be used here). S says he can't stay. He's committed crimes as well, and wont take no for an answer. They do the lovey dovey stuff and kisses Rainbow one last time before saying, "hey, don't forget, never take your friends for grant it, you don't know what your throwing away, until it's gone. He turns away and walks off into the PoW ship (they have airships right? Well whatever, add your own transport here if you don't like it). Rainbow tears up a bit, but wipes it off and begins to smile. She turns towards Flutters and apologizes, then over to Twilight, then over to Applejack, who says something like "Oh, don't git all mushy on me now." (you know RD/AJ banter). They all apologize and hug it out. Then a news pony comes by and asks RD for an interview. He says how everyone is talking about her because she was the one leading the waterfall group. This is her time to shine, finally an RD moment, but instead she says, "Ahh, I wasn't the only one. Just say "a group of friends"." Then the story ends on that line.

Seriously, if you got this far, congratulations. I hope it was somewhat enjoyable, or the closure you want for the story. Remember, these were supposed to be extended across 10s of thousands of words, not this I don't know, 2000 word summary. Throughout the story, I kinda downplayed the infighting, but that is a big plot element that would have been delved into more in the full version, as well as the romance between RD and S. And of course, the action scenes and foreshadowing would have been really cool, but I cant convey that properly here.

Lastly, I stand by this. If you want to use any part of this story, whether it's a chunk, or you want to try to finish it for me. Please feel free to do that. You have my full permission. You can shorten it, change parts you don't like, whatever. Although very unlikely, it would be really cool to see this story bear fruit one day.

But that my friends is the end. I learned so much writing this, even if I never finished. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Ad Victoriam, brothers.