Rarity always knew that her cousin, Duke Blueblood, was overly ambitious; a fact she was well familiar with ever since they were children together. Being the only nephew to none other than Rarity’s father, the king himself, Blueblood was naturally entitled to an extensive amount of influence within the kingdom of Soothsay, though to him it never seemed enough to satisfy. The young duke always strove to acquire more power, more reach than what his already considerable status could afford him. It was because of this that Rarity felt she shouldn’t have been so surprised when his latest power play resulted in a successful coup against her father.
It all happened so suddenly, and Rarity’s head would later reel as she tried to recall everything that transpired. One moment she was in her room preparing for bed, the next she was investigating a commotion in the palace’s main foyer. What she discovered there she first interpreted to be a simple squabble between guards. That proved not to be the case, however, when Blueblood then walked in through the front doors…
Flanked at both sides by members of a Soothsay battalion she wasn’t familiar with, the duke stood in the room’s center, raised a flintlock and fired it at the ceiling before announcing his intentions.
“Gentlemen! The old king’s rule is weak and a change of leadership is in order! From this moment henceforth, I, Blueblood, shall be your new ruler! Lay down your arms now or be dealt with swiftly!”
What followed next was utter chaos. More of Blueblood’s subordinates stormed the palace en masse from outside, overwhelming and subjugating those who resisted by either pointing their rifles at them, or by beating them to the ground with the butt of their weapons. Expensive cabinets and vases shattered on the marble floor during the scuffle, maids screeching in fear as they suddenly found themselves staring down the pointed end of a gun.
Those willing and able to defend the crown were becoming few and fewer by the second, and Rarity knew this. At the pace the aggressors were going, it’d only be a matter of time before they’d seized the entire palace. Fear-stricken by that knowledge, Rarity wanted nothing more than to grab her younger sister, Sweetie Belle, and run off to join her parents. She knew that was impossible though, as their chambers were in the opposite wing. Should they even attempt to cross to the other side, they’d be captured… or worse.
Her manicured nails digging into the wood of the second floor railing, Rarity bit her lip as she weighed her options. They weren’t the best options, but they were options nonetheless. Ultimately, she came to a decision, and it was one she hoped she wouldn’t later regret.
Turning her back to the fighting below, Rarity ran down the hall, past her room and towards her sister’s. Upon reaching it, she flung the door open and ran in. Her chest heaved from her short sprint as she slammed the door behind her and rested against it, the loud sound being enough to jolt a sleeping Sweetie Belle awake.
“R-Rarity?” she asked groggily, wiping her eye of sleep as she sat up in her bed. “What are you doing here so late? And what’s going on outside?”
“Search the rooms and drag out anyone you find!” Rarity heard through the door, inducing panic in her.
“Rarity?” Sweetie Belle repeated, albeit with a hint of worry in her voice.
“Shh!” shushed Rarity, a finger to her lips as she made for the window.
Grabbing the curtain, Rarity all but ran back to the door, then slipped its rod through the door’s handle, barring it. After giving it a testing pull and making sure it was secure, she approached her sister.
“Sweetie,” whispered Rarity, her knee on the bed and her hands on her sister’s shoulders. “I’ll explain to you later, but for now we have to go.”
Possibly having sensed that something was wrong via the infliction in Rarity’s voice, Sweetie’s eyes widened in the moonlight and her voice cracked as she spoke.
“Go? Go where? Rarity… you’re scaring me.”
That broke Rarity’s heart, but she saw no other choice. She stared down at Sweetie for a moment, then wrapped her arms around her before pulling her into a comforting embrace.
“Oh, I’m sorry Sweetie,” she said, rubbing and patting her sister’s back, “but it can’t wait. We have to go. Now.”
“Wh-what about mom and dad?” Sweetie asked. “Will they be coming?”
Rarity’s hand stopped mid-stroke…
“Y...yes,” she lied. “They’ll met up with us later on.”
Unlike Sweetie, Rarity was older and not oblivious to how the real world worked. Best case scenario, Blueblood would take their parents prisoner; worst case, they’d be… She didn’t want to think about it.
After reaching a hand up to her face, Rarity stealthily wiped a would-be tear with a sniffle, then looked down to Sweetie.
“Come, hurry up and get dressed. We’ll--”
The door handle pulled outward and the door shook, only to be stopped by the curtain rod.
“What the-- Hey, there’s a locked door here! Somepony get over here and help me break this down!”
“On second thought,” Rarity continued, “what you’re wearing now is fine.”
Gabbing Sweetie by the hand, Rarity hopped off the bed and immediately moved for the bookcase at the far wall. Once she stood in front of it, she started pulling books seemingly at random. This, of course, confused her younger sister.
“What are you doing?” questioned Sweetie.
“Come on, it has to be here… somewhere,” muttered Rarity to herself. The sound of two stallions ramming the door served as excellent encouragement for her to pick up the pace.
Right as Rarity feared that they would break down the door at any moment, she found it. She pulled the correct book, a mechanized click sounding off before the bookcase slowly swung outward, revealing a darkened tunnel on the other side.
Upon seeing it, Sweetie was visually flabbergasted. She blinked, looked at Rarity, then back to the tunnel before blinking again. “Wait, that… How’d you know that was there!?”
“Whose room did you think this used to belong to, darling?” Placing her hand on Sweetie’s back, Rarity then ushered her forward, saying, “Go! Inside, inside!”
Stepping into the tunnel, Rarity turned back, the door starting to splinter due to its constant assault. Deciding not to stick around before it gave way, she closed the bookcase door, shrouding them in darkness. She seemed to have done so just in the nick of time, as she heard the door finally break down.
“What, there’s nopony here?”
“Don’t be daft; doors don’t just bar themselves. Search this room--top to bottom if you have to!”
Lighting up the tunnel with her horn, Rarity took Sweetie by the hand, then began running towards the other end with her. When she was Sweetie’s age, Rarity remembered playing in that very same tunnel after discovering it, but never would she have imagined that she’d use it for its intended purpose. Regardless, she was thankful that it existed, as it would grant them both safe and undetected passage off palace grounds.
Rarity didn’t understand. Yes, her father would be a firm ruler when he had to be, but he was always fair--a trait that often made him beloved by the people So why then, why would the citizens of Soothsay throw what appeared to be a city-wide celebration while the palace was in turmoil?
The same scene could be found nearly everywhere Rarity and Sweetie went. Ponies crowded the streets, singing, making merry, hooting and hollering while drinking from large, frothing mugs, all when they would normally be asleep at such a late hour. What was supposed to be the serene sound of crickets chirping was instead replaced with bands playing lively and jovial music.
Despite the throng of ponies, no pony bothered Rarity and Sweetie Belle, as no pony recognized them. Shortly after exiting the hidden passage, the two sisters made for the city streets, where they were immediately stuck by the cold night air. Their sleeping wear offered no protection from the elements, and the silk, highly expensive fabric they were woven from would easily give their identities away.
Seeing no other alternative, Rarity reassured Sweetie that stealing was wrong, then proceeded to rummage through the first unattended cart she found. After managing to procure two cloaks from it, Rarity draped them both over themselves, then pulled up Sweetie’s hood and her own before guiding her by the hand through the crowded streets.
“So where are we going?” Sweetie soon asked.
That was a good question Rarity had been asking herself in the tunnels. Where are they going? Where could they even go? Out of Soothsay, that was for sure. The royal family had some friends and allies in the neighboring lands, so maybe one of them would be willing to offer them sanctuary.
Blueblood’s rule, it was built off a coup and therefore shouldn’t last... at least, that’s what Rarity prayed to be the case. If that time comes--when that time comes, Rarity and her sister will be needed if they’re to pick up the pieces and restabilize Soothsay. Until then, they’d need to keep a low profile.
So far, their impromptu disguises seemed to work, as nopony showed any indication that they had discovered themselves to be in the presence of royalty. While the cloaks had that advanage in that regard, they did a terrible job hiding Rarity’s feminine figure... Every few blocks some rowdy stallion or two would call Rarity over to join them for a drink. Rather than politely refusing them, Rarity would instead scamper off with Sweetie, as she didn’t want to risk anypony recognizing her.
As Rarity then led her sister down a narrow and vacant alley, a thought occurred to her. There was an awful lot of alcohol being served--far too much from what the local taverns kept in stock. Just where were the citizens getting it? As Rarity exited the other end of the alleyway, she got her answer.
There, sitting on a stage in one of the town’s many open spaces, and surrounded at all sides by a large assembly of curious onlookers, was a neat stack of wooden kegs. Armed guards had formed a perimeter around the barrels, and one holding a frothing mug in one hand and a megaphone in the other soon projected to the crowd.
“Citizens of Soothsay, countrymen, friends! Come, come and share in the bounty that your new ruler, King Blueblood, wishes to share with you in celebration of his most glorious victory! No longer will we fear the hyneous rule of our previous tyrant king, for tonight, the good and just Blueblood has stood up and toppled him off his throne!”
Right away, ponies speaking amongst themselves in murmured tones.
“Wait, what did he say?”
“Did… did Blueblood stage a coup?”
“That would explain why the palace is in such an uproar.”
“This is madness… I don’t recall the king ever being a tyrant.”
After motioning for the mass to quiet down, the speaker continued.
“Yes, I know that the news of our previous king’s true nature may come as a shock to some of you, but rest assured that his villainous deeds will be brought to light at a later and more opportune time. For now, Lord Blueblood wishes nothing more than for you all to grab a tankard and help yourselves to his assortment!” He raised his own mug, finishing with, “Think of it as a preview to the great changes he plans to bring about!”
And with that, the speaker signaled to the guards, prompting them to fill the mugs from the kegs and start offering them to the crowd. Almost instantly, many flocked towards them while others stayed put, appearing hesitant.
“You don’t buy this, do you?”
“I… I don’t know. You hear all kinds of things about leaders doing shady practices behind closed doors. Maybe our king wasn’t so different.”
“Hey, long as the ale’s free, I don’t care who’s serving it.”
Rarity was beside herself, completely and utterly appalled by the lengths Blueblood went. Convincing officers and their men to side with him, the coup itself, the celebration afterward to sway the people… Just how long had he been planning his takeover, and how did he manage to accomplish it so swimmingly? There were so many factors, so many little things that could have helped turn the tide in her family’s favor. Something didn’t sit well with Rarity, as there was no way he could have taken them all into account.
As Rarity continued to ponder, Sweetie squeezed her hand, reminding her that Blueblood’s victory wasn’t a total one. They managed to make it out, and that alone was a win in itself.
“Come now, Sweetie. We’ve listened to this nonsense long enough,” whispered Rarity before leading her sister away.
Moments later, as the two entered a somewhat empty street, Sweetie spoke.
“Was daddy such a bad man? Is that why cousin Blueblood did what he did?”
Rarity stopped in her tracks. She turned and looked to Sweetie, then lowered herself on one knee.
“Sweetie… Of course he wasn’t,” she said softly, running her fingers through her sister’s mane. “Blueblood did this because…” Rarity fell silent, then sighed. “When you’re older, you’ll understand. Adults are… such needlessly complicated creatures.” After taking a moment to readjust her sister’s hood, Rarity stood back up. “There. Now we still have a long way to go, so let’s hoof it before daybreak arrives.”
Sweetie nodded. “Alright. You’ll… stay next to me the entire time, right? I’ve never really been out in the city before, especially this late.”
For the first time that night, Rarity smiled. “Why, are you getting tired, Sweetie? It is far past your bedtime, after all.”
“Tired? Well, maybe a little,” Sweetie replied, rubbing her eye.
“Mm. Well I promise, when we get to where we’re going, you can sleep for as long as you like, and I won’t get mad at you for it. Not even a little. Does that sound nice?”
Sweetie blinked, then met her sister’s gaze before smiling brightly. “Actually, yeah. It does.”
Rarity snickered quietly, then offered Sweetie her hand, to which she readily accepted.
Blueblood must have bought the entire city’s alcohol supply, that or tucked and hidden an ungodly amount for who knows how long. Rarity and Sweetie couldn’t go a few blocks without spotting guards serve drinks to the masses, all while spouting the same tripe the last speaker did. There were only so many lies and slanders about her father and the ‘righteous’ Blueblood Rarity could take, and it took tremendous amount of willpower just to keep herself from waltzing up to an announcer and forcing them to swallow their megaphone. She refrained from doing so, of course, as the life of Sweetie’s and her own took the utter most precedence at that moment.
Through bustling streets and grimy alleys the two sisters went, each step bringing them closer to the city’s edge. They went by without much hassle, though things became more difficult once they entered the slum district, as that was where the densest population was. Suddenly they had to ford through roads filled to the brim with ponies, all tightly packed together as they danced and celebrated. From the few conversations Rarity overheard along the way, many of them didn’t even know what the occasion was.
“Stick close, Sweetie,” said Rarity, reaffirming her grip on her sister’s hand before squeezing between two ponies in the middle of a chat.
Right away, Rarity learned that working her way through a crowd proved to be quite the chore. A straightforward path would reveal itself, only to then be lost by the swaying crowd. It was maddening. Rarity felt as if she were trapped in a living maze that was constantly rearranging itself around her. On top of trying to forge a path forward, Rarity would occasionally glance back to her sister, making sure that her hood was up and that no pony was bumping into her. By her estimate, they were about half way down the street, so they just had to endure for a bit longer.
Unfortunately, minutes later into their excursion, it happened. One of the partying ponies climbed up a lampost, then pointed down one of the side streets before exclaiming, “Everypony! They brought out fresh kegs and are pouring everypony a drink down there!”
That garnered an immediate response from a large majority of the ponies.
“Holy shit! And right when we just ran dry here, too!”
“Quick, we got to get over there!”
And just like that, spurred by the prospect of getting their whistles wet, the mass was buzzing with movement. Ponies shoved others aside, trying to be the first to make it down the aforementioned street. As more and more ponies shared the infectious enthusiasm, it became increasingly difficult for Rarity to maintain her hold on Sweetie Belle. They forced them to only be within arm’s reach, and although Rarity tried to bob and weave around the more excited citizens, and even swifty switched hands with Sweetie, the wave of bodies eventually won out and separated them in the end.
“R-Rarity!” called out Sweetie Belle, her outstretched hand reaching for Rarity as she was forced back further and further.
“Sweetie!” shouted Rarity, attempting to force her way through some ponies and catch her sister’s arm, to grasp it and hold on to it as if her life depended on it. Because in many ways, it did.
Ignoring the gripes and curses ponies made around her, Rarity got close, close enough for their fingertips to touch. Sadly, that was all her efforts reaped her… One particular stallion, possibly upset that he was being shoved aside by a strange mare, retaliated by elbowing Rarity in the face. She barely registered the pain, but it did send her stumbling back a few paces.
After quickly recovering from her short daze, Rarity panicked. She couldn’t see Sweetie’s arm, or Sweetie for that matter. Her sister was swallowed by the crowd, being herded to who knows where.
Rarity had to find her.
“Sweetie, call to me if you can hear me!”
She already lost too many family members, she couldn’t afford to lose another.
She was gone.
Rarity had spent all night wandering the streets, desperately looking for her sister. Although the city’s festivities eventually died down, the pre-morning fog rolling in didn’t make her search efforts any easier. Because of the reduced visibility, Rarity often made the mistake of running towards figures matching Sweetie’s stature. That only made it all the more disheartening when she’d discover them to be some other child or one of the very many stranger sleeping where they had partied.
Despite how tired Rarity had become, sleep was the absolute last thing on her mind. Not that it would easily come to her, anyway, as she was too hopped up on a cocktail of anxiety, fear, and adrenaline. Sweetie was lost somewhere out in the city, alone and most likely afraid. She needed Rarity, and Rarity needed her.
More often than not, Rarity considered waking up one of the slumbering guards to help her find Sweetie. Nevertheless, she didn’t do it, as the risk of them recognizing her was too high. Instead, Rarity continued to scour the streets, hoping against hope that she’d find her around the next corner safe and unharmed.
Soon enough into her search, Rarity came across a bridge spanning over a riverbank, and on it she spotted multiple silhouettes huddled together in the fog. Whoever they were, they appeared to be active at such an ungodly hour, as she could see movement from them. Seconds later, the figures started speaking and Rarity realized that their voices belonged to that of foals.
“Hey, I don’t know about this…”
“What, you’re scared?”
“N-No! Just… this is so stupid. This isn't gonna work. No way it’s true.”
Just then, a thought occurred to Rarity. For whatever reason, those kids were still up and about--maybe they saw Sweetie Belle! Hoping that to be the case, Rarity walked briskly towards them, following their voices as they continued their conversation.
“Heh. If you don’t think it’s gonna work, then why are you shaking in your britches?”
“Am not! I’m just--”
“Shut it, both of you! ...There, circle’s done. Looks just like it does in the book.”
“Um… w-won’t your mom be mad when she finds out you took one of her books from her collection?”
“That ‘collection’, dingus, is the local library, and she’s not going to notice one book missing from the shelves anytime soon.”
“Ah don’t listen to him. What’s the next thing the book say to do?”
“It says… ‘To call the demon, stand in the sigil and make a plea. When it appears, strike a deal where you both agree’.”
“So, stand on it and make an offer?”
“I guess so. Pipsqueak, you’re up.”
“Me!? Why do I have to do it?”
“‘Cause Scootaloo brought the chalk and I brought the book. You gotta contribute too, buddy.”
“...I really hate you guys sometimes…”
“That’s it, step on the circle like that. ...Pfft, look at him, Rumble--I think he’s gonna soil himself!”
“No I won’t! Geez, guys… Okay, uh… h-hello mr. demon… person, I--”
“You three, I wish to speak to you!” Rarity called out, reaching her hand out through the fog for them.
Of all the ways to approach them, Rarity could have done better. The three foals immediately snapped their heads towards Rarity, their eyes widening and their faces agast with horror. For a split second, Rarity wondered why they were giving her such odd looks. That was until the colt holding a book spelled it out for her.
“Ahhh! A d-d-demon!” the gray pegasus colt holding the book screamed, pointing at Rarity as he and the others stepped back.
Rarity was baffled as to why they were labeling her a demon. Then it hit her. There she was, a cloaked and hooded figure appearing seemingly from nowhere. She could gather that they were attempting one those silly old rituals she tried during sleepovers when she was their age, so, given the circumstances, it was only natural that in their young minds they’d mistake her for a demon.
Right as Rarity opened her mouth to refute that claim, one of the colts, a small and white, brown-spotted earth pony turned tail and ran.
“Run! Get out of here before it gobbles your soul!”
“I don’t want my soul gobbled!” the orange pegasus filly sheiked. She too ran away from Rarity, her gray pegasus friend fleeing alongside her.
“W-wait, come back!” Rarity called out.
She took a few steps after them, then stopped. There was no point in pursuing; the foals had already disappeared into the fog, their shrill cries and hoofsteps getting farther and more muffled by the second. Within moments, the noise ceased altogether, and Rarity found herself alone.
“I just wanted to…” Rarity closed her eyes and sighed in defeat. “Sweetie… where are you? I’ve already lost so much, I can’t bear to lose you too.” She breathed in, then exhaled shakily. “Right now, I’d give anything just to see you again…”
Just then, an ominous wind blew past, causing Rarity’s cloak to flutter. Rarity was forced to open her eyes and keep herself covered, but as she did so, she could have sworn she saw something glow white beneath her. And just as quickly as it appeared, the wind was gone, allowing Rarity to look down and investigate. Whatever it was she thought she saw, it had to be her imagination; there was no glow, just the strange glyph the kids had drawn in chalk that she seemed to have unknowingly stepped over.
Whatever the symbol was, it was of a strange and archaic design. It was two six-pointed stars, one larger one atop a smaller one, and both encompassed by a circle. Running along the inside of the circle where strange and foreign rune-like characters, their meaning or origin far beyond Rarity's comprehension.
Moments later, Rarity’s ears stood to attention and she looked in the direction the foals had run off to. Somepony was approaching… she could hear the faint sound of hoofsteps becoming louder and more distinct. Before long, the visage of a figure formed in the mist, as if materializing from the fog itself. While Rarity couldn’t make out the pony’s features just yet, something already wasn’t sitting right with her. Once the stranger finally stepped out from the fog, she realized why that was.
It was a tall, somewhat lanky-looking fellow… a mare Rarity determined upon second glance. Having an eye for garments, one of the first things Rarity noticed about her was her attire. It was definitely an odd fashion statement; her clothes could most accurately be described as business casual, what with her buttoned up lapel jacket and tie fixed to her shirt collar. The cape was a rather strange touch, though. Stranger still, however, was the mare’s face.
Red tattoos adorned her face and neck, highlighting her piercing red eyes. Her fur was purple, a lighter shade of it right between her eyes in the form of a diamond. Her tail was long and serpent-like--nothing like a normal pony’s. Composed of thick dreads, her mane was of a dark purple and hot pink, all tied together into a ponytail with one dread hanging over her eye. Lastly was her horn… or rather, horns.
Two protruded from her forehead, one long and the other short, though both were curved. The others were… well they didn’t appear to be that of a unicorn’s. They were black and were situated in the most bizarre of places. Two were on top of her head and pointed back, while two more curved forward from beneath her ears.
All things considered, it was clear to Rarity that this mare went above and beyond for her costume, though nopony seemed to have given her the memo that the party was over.
The outlandish mare continued her brisk walk, reading from a small white book held in her hand as she moved. Right as she was about to pass by Rarity, she stopped. She shut the book, then stared off into the fog as she spoke.
“My, this city is much more lively than the last time I was here.”
Moving the side of the hood closer to her face, Rarity turned away slightly and gave her half hearted reply.
“Yes… Soothsay does throw the best parties, though I wish the cause for this one was under better circumstances…”
“Mm.” The mare nodded, seeming to absorb Rarity’s statement for a moment. “Suppose--and feel free to indulge me on this--but suppose you could change that? Suppose you could turn the tables on Blueblood.”
Rarity’s heart skipped a beat. Did the mare somehow recognize her? Did she know who she was? Regardless, Rarity decided that she stayed put in one spot for too long.
“I… I haven’t the foggiest of what you’re talking about, stranger. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have my sister to find.”
Rarity turned around, only to nearly jump out of her skin when she found herself face to face with the mare. In response, she looked over her shoulder, seeing only empty space where the mare was previously standing. How did she...? Rarity thought.
“Oh, you lost your sister you say?” said the mare. She stood up straighter and placed her hands on her sides. “That’s tragic, and I’m sorry to hear that. Though you know, I could be of astronomical assistance in helping you find her.”
Rarity didn’t know why, but she took a step back. Something about the mare was making her uneasy, and it wasn’t just because of her appearance.
“I’m sorry, but… but no,” answered Rarity. “This is a family matter, and I… I don’t want to drag strangers into it. I’m sorry.”
Rarited turned her back, and again the mare was inexplicably in front of her.
“I get it,” said the mare. “You don’t want just anypony getting involved. There’s no telling who could be in Blueblood’s employ, so you want to find her on your own. Lucky for you, I can make that possible with my services.”
Rarity looked away from the mare, trying to keep her face concealed behind the hood. “I… I don’t know why you keep bringing up Blueblood, but if I wanted your aid, I’d have asked for it.”
Being careful to keep the mare in her sights, Rarity turned around a third time. For once, the stranger didn’t turn up behind her. She didn’t need to. The mare grabbed Rarity by the shoulder, then forcibly turned her back to face her.
“Ah, but you did ask,” the mare jeered, her hands clutching Rarity’s shoulders none too comfortably. “After all, that is my sigil you’re standing on, is it not?”
The drawing the foals left behind? The mare had to be mad. Rarity knew there had to be nothing special about some weird shapes drawn into a circle. Still, the mare couldn't have been trying to allure to the fact that she was a…
Rarity broke into a smile, albeit a nervous one. “Ha! Surely you’re not suggesting that you’re a… a demon! That’d be a rather bold and preposterous claim! I mean, everypony knows that they don’t exist outside of fantasy.”
To Rarity’s surprise, the mare’s features soften before unhanding her. She ran a hand through her dreaded mane and readjusted her suit, then whipped out the white book from earlier. Upon opening it to a seemingly random page, the mare began to read an excerpt out loud from it.
“June fourth: Had that same dream again. The one where that young and strapping buck from father’s guard binds me in leather--”
Eyes widening, Rarity made to snatch the book away, only for the mare to deftly move it from her reach with seemingly little effort.
“That--that’s my diary!” Rarity exclaimed, her cheeks red and buzzing with warmth. “How… how did you get that!? I had to abandon everything when I fled the palace!”
Realizing what she let slip, Rarity shot her hands over her mouth. The mare, however, didn’t react in the slightest to that blunder. Instead she skimmed over the diary’s pages, her voice not having the least bit of interest in it as she continued to speak.
“Mm, yes. Normally my appearance alone is enough to convince you mortals, but for you I sensed I needed something special. ...My, there sure are a lot of depraved fantasies you’ve jotted down in this journal.”
In response, Rarity raised a finger and opened her mouth, ready to let loose your mind on this obscene woman with no clear regard for boundaries. Nothing came of it, however, as Rarity realized something. This couldn’t be real. She’d been up all night; maybe… maybe this was some hallucination brought about by her sleep-deprived state.
Yes, that had to be it. Maybe the coup never happened, maybe her family and herself were asleep safe in their beds. This entire night: one awful dream that she was sure to wake up from.
“Nope, real,” said the mare, reaching over to pinch Rarity in the arm.
“Gah! Why’d you…” Rarity stopped to rub the pain away.
Okay, that hurt… Unfortunately, this is indeed reality, Rarity thought.
The self-proclaimed demon shrugged. “You’d be surprised how often I have to do that. Enough to recognize the ‘Am I dreaming?’ face, that’s for sure.” She raised her brows and grinned a toothy smile at Rarity. “Now you believe me?”
After giving the inflicted area one last rub down, Rarity stared down the woman with a hard look. “Sorry, but I don’t. You could be a thief who took advantage of the palace’s disorder. The fact that you ran into me was probably just a major coincidence. It’ll take a lot more than stealing my diary and spinning some absurd yarn about you being a demon to convince me.”
Finishing that statement, Rarity crossed her arms over her chest and looked away with a harumph.
Producing an annoyed sigh, the mare ruffled her dreads. “If I knew you’d be like this, I’d have just done this from the start...”
The mare’s cape started moving, which Rarity thought was odd because there was no wind. Turning to the mare to see what she was up to, Rarity witnessed her cape unfurl, then… It… it wasn’t a cape. They were wings, and they weren’t that of a pegasus either. The mare’s leathery appendages flared in a threatening display, all while her eyes glowed an intense blood red.
The sight was enough to render Rarity paralyzed and speechless. Her heart was pounding and her chest heaved as she found herself transfixed by the mare’s almost murderous gaze. Even if Rarity did have a reasonable explanation for that, the fear she felt was genuine.
Before long, the mare’s wings folded back to their previous position, and her eyes returned to as they were.
“You believe me now?” she asked again.
Listlessly, Rarity nodded.
“Good. Now, what is it that I can do for you? If I happen to recall correctly, you mentioned something about finding your lost sister?”
Rarity blinked, then gave her head a light shake. Right, her sister. How could she have forgotten!
“I… y-yes,” Rarity began. “My sister, she’s…”
While the church, of which its values were instilled in Rarity from a young age, made mention of demons and their dealings, she always believed them to be a work of fiction. To actually encounter one was… was mind boggling. Was Rarity truly going do this? Had she fallen so low as to turn to demonic forces to find her sister? Rarity prayed that Celestia would forgive her, as she saw no other choice. Desperate times call for desperate measures, after all.
After silently resigning herself, Rarity proceeded where she left off.
“My sister’s somewhere out here in Soothsay, lost and possibly afraid. I’m terribly worried for her--worried sick, actually. Please, I don’t care for getting vengeance on Blueblood and those who conspired this coup with him, none of that. All I want is for you to bring Sweetie to me. If you could grant me that one kindness, I’d be ever most gr--”
The mare… the demon, raised a hand. “Okay, I’m gonna stop you right there, ‘cause already there’s some problems with what you’re ask from me.”
“Problems?” Rarity repeated, cocking her head to the side.
“Yes, problems,” continued the demon. “To start off with: my services don’t extend to that of delivery pony. I mean, do I look like the wall-eyed demon to you?”
From the way she phrased that, Rarity figured that had to be a joke of some kind, though she didn’t get it. Nevertheless, the demon resumed speaking.
“No, my role is more akin to that of... “ She rubbed her chin and stared off for a second. “Well I guess the closest equivalent you mortals have to it would be what you call an... information broker? I’m the demon of knowledge and forgotten secrets, and I’ve studied an unfathomable amount of time to earn that title. To put it simply: I can tell you where you sister is, but actually getting to her will be your task.”
“O-oh…” Rarity was, admittedly, a bit disheartened to hear that. Still, knowing where her sister was would be a better start than none.
“And another issue is,” said the demon, “well... you haven’t even made me an offer yet.”
“Offer?” Rarity questioned, her brows furrowed in confusion. “Wh-what could you possibly want in return?”
The demon shrugged. “Don’t rightly know. The way this normally goes is that you make a proposal and the deal goes through if the thing you put on the table catches my fancy. Every demon is different, so therefore we have different tastes. Now,” slipping her hands in her jacket pockets, she leaned forward, “what are you willing to exchange for information on your sister’s whereabouts, hmm?”
“I… b-but,” Rarity stuttered, looking for sleeves and pockets that didn’t exist. “I… I have nothing. I…” One thought came to Rarity, an idea that she immediately jumped on. “The kingdom! What do you say, demon? All of Soothsay for my sister.”
“Mm…” The demon pursed her lips and slowly rolled her eyes in thought. “A tempting offer, buuut... no. Given the current state of affairs, I’d say that Soothsay isn’t yours to give up. Now unless you can magically get it back within the next few minutes, you’ll have to bargain with something else.”
Rarity was afraid it would come to this. But if it meant having Sweetie Belle safely in her arms, then so be it.
“My eternal soul,” Rarity proposed without a moment’s hesitation, her hand placed boldy on her chest.
The demon narrowed its eyes and simply observed Rarity for a spell. It appeared to consider the offer, and Rarity was confident it’d accept. After all, that was how demons in old stories regularly operated, right? A pony sells their soul to a demon, and in exchange they get whatever they want. Rarity wasn’t asking for anything outrageous like her kingdom restored, just her sister, so it’d be a fool not to take the deal.
Rarity waited with bated breath, and after a few tension-building seconds, the demon finally parted its lips and… laughed… It guffawed obscenely, hands on its knees as it doubled over in continuous laughter. All the while, Rarity watched on, completely perplexed as to what was going on with it.
“Oh that… that is rich,” it then said, wiping a tear from its eye as it stood up straight. It breathed in, then perfectly composed itself as it breathed out. “What would I want with such a silly and intangible thing like a soul? No, if you want to take this deal more seriously, then you have to offer up something with more… substance.”
Rarity felt like she hit a roadblock, and immediately started listing what very few things she had.
“You stole that. And my wings look nicer than it, anyway.”
“Th… this sleeping gown?”
“While I’d very much like to see you sprint through town in the nude, I’m gonna have to say no to that.”
“Madam, you insult me. Do you have any idea how much work I put into maintaining the style of my own?”
That was it. Rarity had nothing else to offer. She fell to her knees, defeated.
The demon looked down at Rarity, a pensive look on its face. “Mm. There must be something you can offer?”
Slowly, Rarity shook her head side to side.
“I see. Well this proved to be an utter waste of time.” With that said, the demon slipped Rarity’s diary into her coat pocket, then turned around and began to walk away. Right as it was about to step into the fog, it stopped and shivered. “Brrr! My, it sure is cold out here, isn’t it? Certainly no temperature for a child to be out in, especially if she’s in a similar state of dress as you. Oh well, the city’s only a couple hundred blocks or so; I’m sure you’ll find her in time before she contracts pneumonia or something far worse. But I think you’ve listened to me ramble long enough. Good luck with your search.”
The demon took a step forward, and Rarity, spurred by its words, stood up and did the same.
“Wait!” she yelled. “There is one thing I can offer… something I haven’t considered until now.”
The demon looked over its shoulder at Rarity, it’s grin plainly visible. “Oh? And what might that be?”
Rarity swallowed a lump in her throat, then gave her reply.
“M… myself. You can have me, but only if you tell me where Sweetie Belle is. After that you can… d-do with me as you will.”
The demon’s brow raised and its ear twitched, alluding to its interest being piqued. Suddenly, Rarity sensed a presence behind her, provoking her into turning around. There she found the demon, stroking its chin in thought as it appraised her. After a pregnant pause, it reached forward and gave one of Rarity’s breasts a few squeezes, it’s expression remaining neutral all the while.
Rarity was shocked and appalled by the demon’s audacity. So much so that she swatted its hand away, then slapped it across the face. The demon didn’t react from the blow, not even a flinch.
“You… you rube!” barked Rarity, her face burning a crimson red as she shielded her chest and turned away.
The demon didn’t initially respond. It instead continued to stand there, stroking its chin in thought. After another lengthy pause, it eventually came to a decision.
“I find your offer,” it licked its lips wantonly, revealing its fangs and abnormally long tongue to Rarity, “acceptable…”
Though put off by the display, Rarity managed to keep her abhorrence from showing. “So you’ll do it then? You’ll tell me where Sweetie is?”
“In exchange for you, yes. Though to seal the deal,” it put out its open hand between them, “we must shake on it.”
Rarity fixed her sight on the hand. She offered her soul earlier, and giving herself up didn’t seem that much different. With no further reservations, Rarity reached out and accepted the demon’s hand.
“It’s a deal,” she said.
“Splendid,” the demon added, looking Rarity dead in the eyes with a cheshire grin as it placed its other hand atop hers. “Now I probably should have mentioned this next part earlier, but… You know what, nevermind. Just try not to squirm so much.”
Rarity blinked. “Pardon? What’s the next par--” Her words died in her throat. All of a sudden, there was a stinging sensation above her left breast. It was negligible at first, but very quickly it grew into an intolerable burning. It felt as if somepony was pressing a hot iron against her fur and skin.
The pain proved to be unbearable, and subsequently Rarity fell to her knees. Were it not for the demon’s unmoving hold on her hand, she would have writhed on the ground and wailed like a babe. Determined to know what was causing her agony, Rarity grit her teeth and looked to her bosom. What she saw there shocked and confused her.
Her white, pristine fur above the inflicted area was being was being defiled by some unseen brand that may as well have been heated by the very fires of Tartarus itself. Hairs turned black and smoked, searing the skin beneath as a pattern formed. After enduring the anguish for a few more seconds, the burning thankfully stopped, though the pain still lingered. Blinking away the tears that had welled up in her eyes, Rarity dared to look at the damage.
“Wha… what is this?” she stammered through seething teeth, noticing that the same sigil she was standing on was now burned onto her chest.
Still holding her hand, the demon squat down to Rarity’s level. “What, you don’t put your name on your things? Now let’s see here...” Without warning, the demon reached towards Rarity and pressed its thumb into her freshly-made wound.
Immense pain shot through Rarity, forcing her to cry out. Her hand, still in the demon’s grip, was pulled up and away, her tears freely running down her cheeks as she tried desperately to move the offending digit away with her free one. Try as she might, she found that she lacked the strength to do so.
Much to Rarity’s relief, her suffering proved to be short-lived, as the demon then pulled its hand away. With a gleeful look in its eyes, it brought its thumb to its mouth, then closed its eyes and groaned contently.
“Mmm, sweet ambrosia~! You know, this is quite delectable--try some!” It offered it’s thumb to Rarity, though the mare wasn’t so receptive. Instead, she shot daggers back at the demon, her heaving chest slowly returning to normal breathing. Realizing that Rarity wouldn't bite, the demon rolled its eyes in a lighthearted manner.
“Right, couple of things,” it continued, finally releasing her hand. “That sigil now etched onto your chest, not only is it my name, but it also ensures that you’re unable to perform pacts with other demons. We’re not fond of competition, so that brand prevents others from snatching away our clientele. Think of it as a… honored badge of exclusivity. So, any questions?”
“Sweetie,” Rarity muttered, flinching as she covered her wound with the palm of her hand. “Where’s Sweetie. You promised.”
The demon gave a single nod. “I did, didn’t I? Well, you’ve performed your end of the bargain, so I’m obliged to fulfill mine. Forty two.”
If that was some demon sense of humor, Rarity wasn’t having any of it.
“What?” she questioned, mentally preparing to let her hand fly loose again. She already established that slapping it did nothing, but boy would it make her feel better.
“Forty two,” the demon repeated. “Yards. That way, to be precise... “
The demon pointed in a direction and Rarity got up and immediately bolted towards it.
“You’ll know where when you see it!” the demon yelled out as it was left behind.
With a set direction, Rarity dashed through the fog, the pain on her chest reduced to nothing more than an afterthought. Crates, bushes, and the occasional drunken pedestrian emerged in her path, through Rarity didn’t allow them to deter her. Soon Rarity came across a muddy slope leading down to the river, and she didn’t hesitate to skid down it. Mud on her hooves be damned.
Realizing that there was nothing more ahead than water, Rarity began scanning the area, fearing the worst. Upon seeing a large drain pipe, Rarity darted towards that and prayed.
“Please, please, please,” she pleaded.
Slamming her hand onto the rusted metal’s lip, Rarity braved a look inside. There she found, much to her releif, was Sweetie Belle, curled in the fetal position against the inner wall. Her sleepwear was splotched with mud, and her cloak was torn in several different places. Her eyes were closed in slumber and she was shivering, but she was alive nonetheless.
After thanking her lucky stars, Rarity took great lengths not to wake her sister as she scooped her up. The moment she brought her out of the pipe, however, Rarity heard a familiar voice that stirred up a sense of dread and loathing in her.
“While I do love happy reunions, bear in mind that this wouldn’t have been possible were it not for me.”
Knitting her brows, Rarity looked above the pipe. There she found the demon, lying on its side atop it.
“Hi~” it greated, waving its fingers.
Rarity darted her eyes back and forth between Sweetie and the demon, then turned her back and shielded her unconscious sister from its sight.
“You’re… you’re horrible!” Rarity croaked, tears building in the corners of her eyes. “I just found her. You can’t take me away from her for… for whatever wicked purpose you have in mind!”
The demon stood up, and with its hands in its pockets, began leaning back and forth on its hooves. “Ah, I’m pleased that I don’t have to remind you about that part of our deal. You are mine, Rarity, and nothing will ever change that, but I have no plans of whisking you away. At least not now, anyway.”
Well, that was one bit of good fortune, Rarity figured. Still, she was none too pleased that she was now the property of a demon. Regardless, Sweetie was safe in her arms, so whichever way she looked a it, the price to make that happen was still worth it.
“So, what?” Rarity asked. “You plan to torment me until then? Make every day a living hell?”
The demon scratched its chin. “Mm, no. Not quite. A lot of interesting things are happening in this city, many forces at play, and I plan to be here in person, to bear witness for when the powder keg explodes. That said, I sense that I’ll get a front row seat to most of these developments if I stick close to you.”
“Oh, goody. Company,” Rarity said sarcastically. “Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m planning to leave Soothsay the moment my sister wakes up.”
The demon crossed its arms, and its mouth grew into a knowing smile. “You’ve been a good sport so far, so I’m going to give you this piece of information for free. Word of you and your sister’s escape has already reached Blueblood, and in response he’s stationed guards at every exit to the city. There’s no getting out for you two.”
“That’s… going to complicate things then,” said Rarity.
“Oh most definitely,” the demon added.
Clutching Sweetie, Rarity’s ears drooped and she sighed. “I guess we have no choice but to lie low for the time being. Maybe the gates won’t be as guarded later on.” With that said, Rarity looked up to the demon. “Well, seeing as you and I are going to be properly acquainted for the foreseeable future, it’s only fair that I ask for your name. I’d like to know whose name I will be later cursing.”
“Hmm.” The demon rubbed it’s chin. “That’s a little complicated, as I have many names. The Twilight Star, The Twilight Epiphany, The Insight of Twilight--just one of the many titles I’ve acquired throughout the ages. Though if I were to chose one word to go by, it may as well be the one theme these names all seem to share. Mm, yes. For simplicity’s sake, you may refer to me as… Twilight.”
“Twilight, huh?” said Rarity. “Sounds ill-fitting for you and your nature, but I suppose it will do. So, you know a set of stairs or something I can take to get out of this bank? I’m carrying Sweetie, and I don’t want to slipping from the mud.”
Smiling lightly, the demon… Twilight put her arms behind her back. “As a matter of fact, I do. Though what do you have left to give up for that information?”
That succeeded in getting a rise out of Rarity. “Why-- You--- I-- Ugggh! You know what, nevermind. I’ll find my own way out.”
Choosing a direction, Rarity stormed off, leaving Twilight behind.
“Best of luck,” shouted Twilight. “Oh, and good morning!”
As Rarity walked further and further away, the fog finally receded, and the sun poked out over the horizon to greet the two sisters.