The Stone of Storms

by Wordy Notes

First published

A regular day at work leads Rainbow Dash into a quest to save Ponyville..and prevent her own demise.

After Rainbow Dash goes to investigate unusual weather, she encounters a pegasus with powerful weather manipulation abilities who calls himself the Storm Stallion. She then finds herself thrust into a quest to recover an ancient artifact with great power in order to save Ponyville and hopefully prevent her own death. To do so, she'll have to rely on help from her friends, some unexpected allies, and her own skills in order to triumph over evil and stop future events from becoming a reality.

Chapter 1: Like Any Other Day

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Rainbow Dash smiled and closed her eyes for a moment as she took in the warm, summer air. Summer was her favorite time of the year. The air was always soothing and fun to fly through, she didn’t have to put on a bunch of extra clothing just to go outside and best of all, it was usually cloudless so she didn’t have to do as much cloud cleaning as she usually did.

“Going to go check in, see what’s going on and hopefully find a quiet place to grab some shuteye. This is going to be one sweet day.” She said to herself with a bright grin as she touched down and walked inside Ponyville’s weather management center. As she did, another pegasus stallion with a blue coat and a yellow mane walked over to her.

“Hey, Rainbow, glad you made it here. I have an assignment for you.” He said.

“Agh, already, Cloudline? I just got here.” Rainbow groaned and rolled her eyes.

“Well, then you won’t mind going out again. You see, there’s a small farm on the outskirts of town that trades with Apple Acres and they said something about how they’ve been getting some unusual weather.” Cloudline said, showing her on the map where the farm was at.

“Sure it’s not just Derpy’s fault again?” Rainbow asked with an indignant tone.

“Well, she’s out sick today either way and it needs to get taken care of, so you’re up.” Cloudline smiled and patted her on the back.

“Right….I’m on it.” Rainbow replied as she walked out and flew back into the air, “So much for an easy day.”

*****

As Rainbow neared the area where Cloudline had showed her to go, she began to see why the ponies living there might be complaining about the weather. A nasty storm brewing up above the farm…and it was definitely no naturally occurring element as it was obviously very isolated.

“Ugh…I swear, if somepony is doing this on purpose…” Rainbow grumbled to herself as she touched down on the farm. As she did, a worker pony ran over to her.

“Ma’am, are you from weather management?” She asked, trotting to a stop near the multicolored Pegasus.

“I am, yeah,” Rainbow said, not sounding too particularly concerned before turning her attention to the brewing storm, “We don’t have a storm scheduled for today, so I can assure you that you have our deepest apologies for this inconvenience.” She said, reciting standard procedure for weather complaints while at the same time cringing internally at how robotic she must’ve sounded.

“Then what’s going on? If there wasn’t one scheduled, what is that up…” Before she could start complaining more, Rainbow looked up then a split-second later tackled her out of the way as a bolt of lightning struck the ground near where the two mares had just been standing. Rainbow whirled around and scanned the skies looking for the direction the bolt had come from.

“Get inside, it’s not safe!” She ordered, which the other farm pony quickly did.

Rainbow gritted her teeth and glanced across the blackening skies before she finally lost patience, “Hey! Whoever’s out there, the fun’s over! You’re going to hurt somepony if you keep this up, so you’d better come out and stop this!”

“HAHAHAHAHAHA!” The sounds of laughter answered Rainbow’s orders, jarring her for a second. All of the sudden, she was greeted by a tornado flowing out from the nearby trees and in the center she noticed a shrouded figure. Rainbow readied herself for a fight as the tornado dissipated, revealing the figure to be a young pegasus with a gray coat and a white mane. However, the most noticeable aspect of his appearance was the outfit he dressed in. It was a black and maroon suit that looked patched together with the letter “S” sewn into the front. Around his eyes was a small black mask that covered them up and it even appeared he had glasses on over his mask. He began approaching Rainbow, threw his head back, and caused two tornados to appear briefly behind him, “So, you must be the weather manager known as Rainbow Dash. A pleasure to meet you, miss. I am known as…the Storm Stallion!” He laughed again and struck a pose as a tornado formed around him again, “So…what do you think? Are you trembling in….” His speech was interrupted when he stopped to notice Rainbow doubled over on the ground laughing hysterically. Storm Stallion’s determined expression disappeared and he simply stared at her, obviously shocked that instead of fearing him, the person he had challenged had the exact opposite reaction.

“Oh man! Wow, that’s great, dude! You look like you just got back from a costume party or something, hahaha!” She laughed as she stood back up and shook her head, trying to regain her composure.

Storm Stallion sighed and stared at her with a blank expression,”Are you finished yet?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m good.” She said, facing him down again, giving off a small snort as she tried to stifle her laughter, “So, I missed it, why are you out here again?”

“To show off my abilities!” He said as he extended his wings and floated into the air, using the same tone he had before, “I am the representative of the highest potential of all pegasi!” He threw both his hooves out at his sides, forming tornadoes around both of his legs, “My abilities are unparalleled, no match for the paltry talents that the Weather Patrol shows off! I am the example everypony should follow as they…” He was interrupted yet again as Rainbow charged up toward him and slammed into him, causing him to lose concentration and for the tornado to vanish.

“You talk waaaaaaaay too much. Back it up if you’re gonna’ talk tough, pal!” She said, pointing a hoof at him. Storm Stallion growled before he charged straight for Rainbow, spinning around and forming wind around him. Rainbow ducked out of the way and subsequently kept slipping to the left and right, ducking past the various strikes Storm Stallion was leveling at her with his hooves, “That’s what I’m talking about! Good boy!” She chuckled.

“Insolent mare!” He snarled as he drew both hooves back, forming lightning around both of them. He threw an electrified strike at her with one hoof, which Rainbow ducked out of the way of in addition to the follow-up attack of a lightning bolt, which she dodged

“You’ve got some nifty little powers there!” Rainbow darted behind him and hit him in the back with a double strike from her own hooves, knocking Storm into a tree, “I’ve got to say, I’ve never met a pegasi with your talents before.”

“Finally you acknowledge my power!” Storm Stallion shook off his injury and turned back to Rainbow, grinning from ear to ear, only got get knocked back by having a cloud thrown at his face.

“You’re still super lame, though!” She laughed, “Now unless you want some more, you’d better take a hike,” She started spinning around and formed a tornado, “…or in this case a flight!” Rainbow tossed the tornado at him, which sucked Storm into it and sent him and the tornado flying off across the land, causing the storm forming above to vanish and the clear day to reappear. Rainbow smiled as she looked up and then yawned before flying back to the farm to let everyone know about what had happened.

"Aw yeah...I'm awesome," she said to herself, "Just wooped some crazy stallion's flank." She continued, though she couldn't help but continue to think about his powers.

"What I said before was true...I've never seen a pegasus use weather like that before. Hm, maybe Twilight might know more."

****

Further away, Storm groaned as he stood up and stumbled out of the thick bushes he had fallen into. His outfit had gotten torn up and it was clear his glasses had gotten broken as well. He gritted his teeth in anger as he walked and slammed his hoof into a tree.

“That…that mare! I can’t believe how arrogant she is! She wasn’t even taking that fight seriously; she was just toying with me!” He cursed as he continued walking through the forest in order to get his bearings.

“You have great potential, but your skills could stand to be honed better.” A voice came from the trees. Storm jumped slightly as he looked to where the sound had come from only to see a black cloaked figure within the trees, “I can help you with that.” He said. Storm Stallion stared at the figure for a short time before he nodded and smirked.

“Tell me what I have to do.” He said simply.

Chapter 2: Rainbow's Rematch

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“And right after I saved that farmer, I was all like whoosh! I flew right into him and he was all ‘Oh, I’m more powerful than you, you can’t stand against me’ or whatever and then I did some impossible maneuvers, which were easy ‘cause it’s me after all, and sent him flying on his way with a little tornado.” Rainbow exclaimed as she flew around and motioned her hooves around to try and recreate her battle with Storm Stallion for her friends as they walked through Ponyville on their way to lunch.

“Well it sure sounded like ya’ had one interesting morning.” Applejack commented as they walked.

“I’m just glad you didn’t get hurt. He sounded really dangerous.” Fluttershy chimed in.

“Yeah, yeah! From what you said he’s all like superpower-y and stuff.” Pinkie Pie added.

“Psh, no worries, guys. He’d actually have to been able to hit me in order to hurt me,” Rainbow chuckled as she floated back down and landed back in line with the rest of her friends, “And you know how hard it is to land a hit on me, especially when I’m moving at the speed of Dash. Ya’ see, it’s sorta’ like the speed of light, except at least a thousand times more awesome.”

“I for one actually want to meet this Storm Stallion fellow,” Rarity said, causing all of the others to look over at her, “What? His outfit sounded dreadfully pieced together. I’d like to give him some lessons on how to make a proper costume.”

Rainbow snickered again, “For once I’m going to agree with you on that, Rare,” she then turned to Twilight Sparkle, who had yet to say anything about the subject, “What do you think, Twilight?”

“I’m actually more interested in his abilities. I’ve never heard of any ponies outside of the Weather Ministers being able to manifest lightning or storms the way you described.” Twilight replied.

“The Weather Ministers? Oh wow, they sound really important.” Pinkie said.

“Darn tootin’ they’re important. They’re the ones in charge of weather during the seasons.” Applejack added.

“They’re probably going to end up making me one after what happened today!” Rainbow laughed.

“Rainbow, I don’t think that’s how becoming a minister works.” Twilight sighed.

“Hey, a pony can dream, right?” Rainbow said with a shrug. All of the sudden, a powerful wind came up and nearly knocked the six friends off their hooves. They looked to see the source of the wind and found a familiar pegasus descending from the air, only now he wore a much more professional looking version of his original outfit and was now wearing a helmet with a pair of goggles.

“Well, well. I thought that I’d find you here, Rainbow Dash.” He said with a sinister grin.

“Oh, you mean the town that I live and work in? Yeah, I’ll bet you had to try really hard to figure that out.” She said with a sarcastic eye roll.

“Continue to mock me all you want, but for now…our rivalry will be settled here!” Storm Stallion called out as winds formed around him.

“Hey, reality check, pal. You can’t have a rivalry with someone if you just met them,” Rainbow pointed out, “Oh, and ya’ both have to be at least a bit on the same level too, which you are totally not.”

“We shall see. Oh yes, we shall see.” Storm rose into the air.

“Bring it! You want another trip on the whirlwind express of pain, then you’re going to get one!” Rainbow said with a fiery expression as she flared her wings and moved into a fighting stance.

“Rainbow! You’re not going to fight him here in the middle of town, are you?” Twilight scolded her with a concerned look that the others shared as well.

“Don’t sweat it, Twi. This’ll be over as quick as I can clear a sky. In ten seconds fla-“Rainbow’s boast was interrupted as a lightning bolt struck the ground near them, causing everyone except the multi-colored pegasus to scatter for cover, “Hey! I wasn’t ready yet!” She angrily glared at Storm.

“Well I am!” Without warning, he flew forward and tackled her, sending them both flying across the ground.

“Oh, you look like you’re serious now!” Rainbow flipped around and threw him off of her as she managed to regain her balance and slid across the ground, coming to a quick stop next to a store that the filly Scootaloo was just leaving.

“Hey, Rainbow!” The young purple and orange pegasus said happily, “How’s it go-“ She started.

“Sorry, Squirt. I’m a little busy.” Rainbow quickly replied as she flew back into the air, “Also, stay inside!” She added, which Scootaloo quickly obeyed after seeing Storm Stallion floating in the air and crackling with electricity.

“Take this!” He roared as he fired two bolts at her. Rainbow went to dodge them, but she remembered where the fight was taking place and instead dashed forward as quickly as she could to form a wind barrier in order to absorb the lightning. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as both bolts impacted against her shield and sent her flying across the sky, smacking against a few clouds as she did. Eventually, Rainbow regained her composure and yet again attempted to go combat Storm.

“Yeesh! I guess losing last time really ticked him off. He’s sure bringing his A-game this time around.” She thought.

“You want a real fight? Fine then! Let’s do this!” Rainbow flew at him and threw a hard double kick at him, which he ducked out of the way of and threw a hard strike that caught her across the chest and knocked her away. Rainbow quickly shrugged the hit off and countered by hopping onto his back and grabbing his mane with her teeth.

“Hey! Let go!” Storm cried out as Rainbow yanked back hard and he spun around trying to get her off.

“No way! We’re going to take this somewhere safer where you can’t hurt anyone!” Rainbow said through clenched teeth as the two pegasi tumbled through the air and eventually hit the ground, the two of them bouncing across the ground and ending up a short ways away from one another. Rainbow quickly stood up and faced down Storm, who was struggling to get up having taken the brunt of the impact.

“Agh…you…are…really really…MAKING ME MAD!” He shouted as his eyes flashed with lightning and he began forming an electrically charged whirlwind above himself. Rainbow hunkered down and scrambled in her mind to figure out how to disrupt the attack and prevent him from unleashing it in the middle of town. Her idea was seemingly answered, however, when a streak of purple and black shot from nearby and knocked Storm to the ground. Rainbow looked over to see where the streak had come from. She looked up to one of the buildings and observed a mare dressed in a very familiar looking purple outfit with a full mask, a pair of goggles, and a fancy looking hat.

“Oh you’ve got to’ be kidding me.” Rainbow growled, “Look, whichever one of you it is, I’ve got this! I don’t need help!” She yelled at the mare, remembering the last time she’d played hero and how her friends had dressed up as another hero named Mare-Do-Well in order to help her stop being so boastful of her actions. Instead of replying, the mare leapt down and began running at Storm.

“Oh? You’ve got some hidden backup, huh, Dash? I knew you were egotistical, but I didn’t think you were a cheater too!” Storm rose up again.

“Hey, I’m no cheater!” Rainbow retorted.

“And look who’s talking Mr. I’m-the-example-everypony-should- follow.” Rainbow then watched as the mare ducked past lightning bolt after lightning bolt with fast, almost unnoticeable movements. As she got close to the now-panicking storm, she rushed in and pummeled him hard with numerous strikes before spinning and drilling him into the air with a hard uppercut strike from her right hoof. Storm soared up and came down on top of a cart of apples.

“Ow…” He groaned before rolling off, now covered in smashed apple bits, “Okay, Dash, I guess I’ll wait until you actually want to fight one-on-one and then I’ll come back to challenge you!” He pointed a hoof at her before stumbling off and soaring into the air, leaving Rainbow to stare dumbfounded at him as he flew off, tilting to the side as he awkwardly soared through the air. Rainbow watched and then turned as she watched the masked mare jump away across the buildings, eventually disappearing from view. She then grit her teeth and started shaking with anger, her concentration only broken as she looked back to see her friends run over to her.

“Oh, Rainbow! Are you alright?” Fluttershy asked with a very concerned tone.

“Yeah, it looked like he was givin’ ya’ a big trouncin’.” Applejack added. Rainbow looked around and noticed that one of her friends was suspiciously absent.

“I’m fine.” She quickly said as she ran off.

“Wait up, dear! Where are you going?” Rarity inquired. Rainbow ignored her as she kept running toward her destination. Scootaloo then hurried over to the others.

“What’s wrong with Dash? Is she okay?” The young filly asked with a worried look.

“Here, let’s go be sure!” Pinkie quickly put Scootaloo and ran off after Rainbow, the other three ponies following her.

****

At the town library, Twilight’s frantic dictation of a letter to Spike was interrupted when Rainbow slammed the door open and angrily announced her presence.

“Twilight! You had better start explaining!” She yelled, fury clearly pleasant in her red eyes. Twilight, however, ignored what she said and focused more on the injuries her friend had.

“Rainbow! You’ve got scratches and bruises all over you! Are you okay?“ Twilight franticly said, walking over to her friend.

“Don’t you ‘Rainbow’ me, Twilight! Explain that little stunt you pulled out there!” Rainbow stamped her hoof and pointed outside.

Twilight raised an eyebrow and looked fairly confused, “Rainbow, what are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about how you showed me up outside when I clearly told you that I had that situation handled!” Rainbow angrily yelled as she paced around the library.

“Showed you up? What? Rainbow, you’re not making any sense.” Twilight responded, remaining calm.

“Yeah, you didn’t get hit in the head or anything, did you?” Spike asked, obviously sounding nervous and not trying to provoke Rainbow.

“Quit playing dumb already! I know it was you in that Mare-Do-Well getup again since I saw everyone else except you afterward!” Rainbow quit pacing and got closer to Twilight.

“Mare-Do-Well? Rainbow, none of us have worn that outfit in months. In fact, Rarity still has all of the different ones at her boutique last I checked.” Twilight began looking rather annoyed at Rainbow’s accusations.

“Oh, so you’re telling me that it’s just a coincidence that you leave then Mare-Do-Well shows up and takes out Storm Stallion before I could? Oh, and after you berated me for fighting him in the first place?!” Rainbow snarled, adding the last sentence with a louder yell.

“Yes! Why would I lie to you, Rainbow?” Twilight said, raising her voice slightly, her waning patience evident in her tone.

“So that you wouldn’t have to take responsibility for interfering in something that I had handled!” Rainbow replied, getting in Twilight’s face.

“And I’m telling you that it wasn’t me!”, Twilight yelled, her tolerance for the accusations now completely gone, “I don’t really appreciate your attitude or tone, Rainbow, and if all you’re going to do is yell at me and accuse me of things that aren’t my fault, then I’d like you to leave!”

“Fine! Maybe I will!” Rainbow turned around and stomped toward the door as the rest of her friends with Scootaloo in tow, entered the library.

“Rainbow, are-“ Rarity started, but Rainbow yet again ignored her and flew off, “My word, she is very upset.”

“What happened, Twi?” Applejack asked.

Twilight sighed, “Apparently someone showed up dressed as Mare-Do-Well and she accused me of showing her up again.”

“Which it couldn’t have been since you ran back here to send a letter to Princess Celestia about Storm Stallion.” Spike added.

“That and I have those four outfits at my boutique in the first place,” Rarity said, “Which reminds me, I really should modify those at some point now that I have more time to work.” She said, thinking to herself for a moment before shaking her head, “But this isn’t the time to worry about that.”

“She was really angry.” Fluttershy said as her ears drooped.

“That one does have a real short fuse, ‘specially when someone shows her up.” Applejack looked back out of the door before she turned toward it.

“Where are you going, AJ?” Twilight asked.

“I know she needs some time cool down, but I wanna’ make sure she’s alright. Anypony else comin’?”

“Rainbow most likely needs time to herself. I’ll go try to talk to her later on.” Rarity said.

“I’m the one she’s most mad at…I’m going to pass too.” Twilight looked at the ground with a sad expression, met with a pat on the shoulder by Pinkie.

“I’ll go with you, Applejack.” Fluttershy said, looking over at Applejack.

“Same here!” Scootaloo hopped off Pinkie’s back and trotted over to Fluttershy and Applejack, who all left the library.

“Don’t worry, Twilight! I’ll throw a make-up party and then you and Rainbow will be friends again for sure!” Pinkie said with her usual optimistic, happy attitude.

“I don’t think we ever stopped being friends, Pinkie. We just had a fight and it needs to get worked out.” Twilight looked over at the bright pink pony.

"Well duh! Of course I know you're still friends. If you weren't, I'd be having this reaction right now." Pinkie then plopped down and began crying fountains of tears in the middle of the library floor before standing back up with her happy expression again, "You see? Like that! The party would be to get you to be super duper ultra friends again!"

"Erm...right." Twilight nodded, "Although at this point I'm more interested than ever in that strange pegasus." She said with an inquisitive look as she walked over to the bookshelves and began scanning them.

"Well, if we are no longer needed her then I shall take my leave. Goodbye for now, Twilight," Rarity said as she left the library with Pinkie, "How are you able to cry on command like that? It's rather impressive."

"Oh that? It's a long story." Pinkie giggled.

*****

“Stupid Twilight,” Rainbow grumbled as she slowly flew through the outskirts of the Everfree Forest, ducking through some trees in order to take her mind off the day’s events, “I told her that I could take that guy and not get the town damaged or anyone hurt, and I did it! I had everything under control and then she had to come step in and mess everything up! Agh!” She yelled out and landed before pacing around the forest floor in order to calm down.

“That was really impressive the way she fought him and took him down, though. I didn’t think she was that good a fighter,” Rainbow thought with a short smile, though the smile went away when she began thinking about something else, “Of course, with the way she was moving and dodging that lightning, she could’ve just teleported instead of moving that quick…yeah, Twilight definitely would’ve done that.”

“Maybe that other mare wasn’t Twilight…” Rainbow said.

“Oh, you think? I’m insulted now that you thought I might’ve been using magic for all that.” A distorted female voice came from the trees above, startling Rainbow. She looked up and again saw the mare standing atop a branch. Now that she had a clear look, Rainbow could see that the outfit, while similar, was much different than what her friends had worn before. The basic layout of the outfit was the same (even down to the ridiculously oversized hat, as Rainbow saw it) though Rainbow could now see that some type of armor also adorned the mare’s back and the cape was pure black.

“Huh, this day keeps getting weirder and weirder,” Rainbow said with an intrigued smirk, “So what’s your story? And don’t think you’re impressing anyone right now since you’re only the second costumed weirdo I’ve seen today.”

“That other one’s nothing compared to me,” the Mare-Do-Well impersonator said as she jumped down, still speaking with the same apparent voice filter, “As for my story…I don’t think you’d be able to handle it.”

“Yeah, yeah, you think you’re awesome and everything, I get it. In fact, I actually respect that kind of confidence. “ Rainbow walked over closer to the mare, “I’m still expecting an answer either way.”

“No, I mean it. You wouldn’t be able to understand what’s going on with me,” the mare said as she got up to Rainbow Dash, “And I have something else to say: back off.”

“Says the person getting up in my face, and try being a little more specific.” Rainbow narrowed her eyes.

“This whole thing with that Storm Stallion guy? I want you to go home, do something else, and forget all about it. I’ll handle it from here.” The mare said, emphasizing her stern words. Rainbow stared back at the mare and leaned in close, pushing her forehead against the mare’s.

“I don’t like getting threatened, you little punk. You talk tough and you can probably fight back to justify it, but that still doesn’t mean that I’m going to let you do it to me.” She said.

“Oh trust me, I can make you back off if I want to.” The mare replied, pushing her head against Rainbow’s.

Rainbow glared at the mare and jumped back, “You know, let’s see about that. I want you to prove you can stand up against me, especially without giving me a good reason for me to not deal with this Storm Stallion pony.”

“You’re challenging me? I hope you realize this is the biggest mistake you’re making today.” The mare also jumped back as the two ponies began circling one another, watching each others’ moves with a close eye.

“This is good. I’m in a super bad mood and maybe kicking your flank across the floor might help me blow off some steam.” Rainbow said.

“Not my fault you were dumb enough to think your egghead pal was awesome enough to fight.” The mare simply replied.

Rainbow grit her teeth at the insult, more so at the insult to Twilight than anything else, “That’s it! You can bash on me all you want, but you do not talk about my friends that way!”

“Make me stop then.” The mare replied, remaining calm in the face of Rainbow’s anger. The two stopped circling and faced down, each waiting for the other to make a move. The two mares stared intently. The air was silent for a short time, the only sounds were the natural ambience of Everfree. Then, without warning, the two charged at each other at top speed. As they got close, they each stood and threw a hard forward strike, their hooves clashing together as they sparred, trading hit after hit and having the other respond by blocking the strikes each time. Rainbow finally ducked down and rushed forward before leaping up to deliver an overhead strike only for the other mare to jump up and spin kick her, sending Rainbow flying through the air. She quickly shrugged the hit off and flew down to face down the mare only to see her opponent had vanished. Rainbow looked around the tops of the trees and through the forest trying to find where the other mare had gotten to, only to see her jump out of the tree, extending a pair of wings and allowing Rainbow to see both that this mare was a pegasus and that her armor apparently contained some sort of a small cannon as it folded out and the pegasus began shooting at her with it. Rainbow, after focusing back from her shocked expression, back flipped out of the way of the initial bursts and quickly ducked to the sides to avoid the blasts.

“I’ll have you know this is cheating somehow!” Rainbow yelled before she ducked into the bushes. The mare came down and looked around trying to find where Rainbow went. She scanned the trees, thinking Rainbow would try the same thing that had been done to her earlier. Suddenly, the mare heard a noise behind her and immediately turned to face Rainbow standing close behind her. The mare paused for a moment and laughed, retracting her cannon.

“Really? You tried to sneak up on me? How adorable,” she said, only to see Rainbow fade away suddenly, “Wait, what?!” She said with a shock.

“Gotcha’!” Rainbow suddenly leapt through the bushes and tackled her, sending the two of them rolling down a hill, through several bushes and a thorn patch before landing hard on the ground at the bottom, with Rainbow on top of the masked mare, “Oh, so what was that about sneaking up on you? I tried to do it? Well guess what, I actually did do it. In your face!” She laughed, looking down at the mare, only to see that her mask had come off and the expression of a very familiar pony was under it. Instead of one of her friends as she had originally assumed, it was the face of an orange pony with a messy purple mane tied up into a loose ponytail that had come partially undone in the fall. Staring into her light purple eyes, Rainbow came to a shocking realization about the mare’s identity.

“Sc..Scootaloo?!” She asked with a shocked tone. Before she could say anything else, she heard voices coming from the top of the hill.

“Rainbow! Are you okay?” Fluttershy called.

“Speak up, RD! Let us know where you’re at!” Applejack added in. Rainbow glanced up top in response to their calls before quickly looking back down at the mare, only for her to be knocked down to the ground with a hard punch. As she laid on the ground with her head spinning from the sneak attack, Rainbow managed to regain enough coherence to see the Scootaloo look-alike put the hat back on and duck into the trees. She then blinked a few times and managed to see AJ and Fluttershy coming down the hill to help her, but with the actual Scootaloo with them as well. Her head swam in confusion before she finally collapsed and fell unconscious.

Chapter 3: A Sad Mare's Story

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Storm Stallion grumbled as he flew across the skies, heading for a quarry, in particular a spot that had been sealed only for special access. As he landed on a platform, he was greeted by two pegasi guards dressed in white and black uniforms.

“Halt! State your business and your intentions!” One of them said.

Storm responded by taking his helmet and goggles off, showing them a very annoyed expression from his jade colored eyes, “It’s me, guys. Chill out.” He walked past them and moved further through, passing by many worker ponies that were busy chiseling and digging away at the rocks. Eventually, he walked into an office guarded by a pair of unicorns who were dressed similarly to the pegasi that had seen him in. Inside the office was a third unicorn, a mare with a magenta mane tied back into a bun with a green coat and a cutie mark resembling a compass. This unicorn was dressed in what appeared to be a lab coat and had a pair of glasses adorning her navy-green eyes.

“You’re back early.” She said turning her attention away from reading what appeared to be survey maps. Storm simply glared at her and dropped the helmet on the ground as it rolled toward her and came to a rest at her hooves, “I take it things didn’t go well?”

“They did up until another mare showed up out of nowhere. Guess she doesn’t like playing fair in a fight she’s losing,” he said to himself, “But more importantly, I think your boss lied to me. This suit didn’t do anything to make my abilities stronger.”

“Well of course it wouldn’t. You’re a fool if you really believed that.” She replied with a blunt tone.

“He said that if I got dressed up in this new outfit then I’d be able to get abilities that I’d never had before!” Storm roared as he got closer to the unicorn.

“Keep your voice down if you would. I don’t respond well to being yelled at.” She replied with a calm tone.

“May I remind you, Storm, that I in no way stated that you would get those abilities from simply wearing that outfit. You seem to have misunderstood my intentions.” A deep voice came from the side of the room, causing both ponies to turn and look at the one speaking to them, a pegasus stallion with an ice-blue coat and a well groomed teal mane tied into a braid. He wore what appeared to be a fancy white robe adorned with gemstones of various blue hues and lined with a gold colored trim that also held the symbol of his cutie mark, a pair of icicles and a snowflake. The most striking aspect of his appearance was made clear as he turned to face the other two ponies in the room, revealing his irises were a light gray color, perfectly suited to further increase his already cold appearance, “The suit I have given you was merely a confidence booster as well as a way for me to see the potential of your abilities if lined with said confidence, and I must say that I am very impressed. I’ve never seen a pegasus not of our order exhibit your abilities.”

Storm chuckled, “Well, what can I say? I guess I’m just special.” He finished with a bright grin.

“What I am concerned with is your apparent lack of self-control and sense of judgment as well as your apparent inability to properly handle yourself in physical combat.” The pegasus walked forward, slowly approaching Storm.

“My what now?” Storm asked with an inquisitive look before he winced as the icy pegasus got close to him and looked deep into his eyes.

“I asked that you merely combat that pegasus you have an apparent unknown grudge with. While you did that, you also attacked her in a populated town, in front of many witnesses and thus endangered innocent ponies and most undoubtedly caused damage to the town itself!” The pegasus’ previously subdued expression turned to a tone disapproval, “Subtlety is apparently not a word that you seem to understand.”

“Look, Solstice, I-“Storm started.

“I am not finished!” The pegasus roared, causing everyone in the room to shudder, particularly Storm as he was the focus of the wrath, “In addition, it is apparent you have no way of defending yourself should an opponent attack you in close quarters. This shows you obviously are confident no one can touch you, but I can assure you that overconfidence will be your downfall.”

“I…I understand what you mean.” Storm took a deep swallow as he nodded and bowed to Solstice.

Solstice stepped back and turned away from him, “You may go now. I’ll call you again when either I or North Star require your services,” Solstice gestured to the unicorn and with that, Storm turned and walked solemnly out of the office, but not before glancing back with a quick glare as he left.

“Don’t you think you were a little hard on him?” Star asked him, having a small look of pity for the younger stallion that had just left.

“No, I don’t,” Solstice replied coldly as he walked over to the map she was looking at before the interruption, “The little fool could’ve cost us sorely with his actions. In fact, I believe it might be a miracle if the princesses don’t track down our operation and shut it down within the day.”

“If I may speak freely, Solstice, wouldn’t you agree it was just as foolish of an idea to let him settle his grudge with this pegasus? You essentially gave him free reign to do whatever he wanted and that could’ve been the reason for this happening.” North Star said with an air of logic.

Solstice paused for a moment and held his hoof to his chin in deep thought before turning back to his assistant, “You make a good argument, Star. Perhaps encouraging this in order to gauge his abilities was unwise…at least not without closer observation. Thankfully, this won’t have to happen again. I have seen what he can do. He is extremely powerful, shockingly so in fact.”

“There are few pegasi that have the kind of weather control abilities you and the other ministers possess , Solstice. How do you know for sure this isn’t some type of trick?” Star asked.

“Please have faith, Star. Not everything has an immediate explanation,” Solstice walked back over on the other side of the table where the map laid, “Much like the secrets of the object we seek, answers will come in all due time.”

Star scoffed, “Forgive me if I don’t share your same optimism for his innate talents, Solstice. I am a pony of science and I refuse to believe something exists as fact without an explanation.” She said with a very disapproving look.

“Ironic considering you’re a unicorn,” Solstice chuckled.

“Magic, while still relatively mysterious, still has some type of an explanation behind it, as do the power pegasi have over the weather. I find it interesting how similar the two are, but that isn’t the point of this conversation,” Star glared, fire burning in her eyes, “What I’m trying to say is that I don’t trust that pegasus and his little thunder powers as far as I can throw him.”

“Alright, alright, no need to get angry, Star,” Solstice said quickly, trying to calm her anger, “I’ll take your advice and look into it. You haven’t ever steered me wrong before and I don’t think you will now.” He said with a breath of relief as Star composed herself.

“I apologize for that outburst, Solstice. There is a lot riding on this, for the both of us.” Star said as she pushed her glasses up.

“I understand, believe me. This is also why I have to return to Canterlot soon to attend a meeting of the Ministers. I only hope that they consider the evidence I have been able to discover so far and hopefully reconsider their stance on this particular project.” Solstice said as he began leaving the office, “I bid you adieu for now, dear North Star.”

“You too, Solstice,” Star said as she went back to looking through maps, but stopped quickly and turned to Solstice, “Oh! Before you leave, I have to ask. What should we do with the prisoner? She’s been here for a day or two now at least.”

Solstice turned back to his assistant, showing a thoughtful look, “Hm…I guess that will depend upon the results of the meeting.” He said before he unfolded his wings and left.

****

Rainbow awoke about halfway during Fluttershy and Applejack carrying her back to Ponyville. The two of them, as well as Scootaloo, were relieved to see that she was alright. However, given the injuries she had received as well as them finding her unconscious in the first place, they insisted she go to Nurse Redheart’s to get herself checked out, with the cyan pegasus begrudgingly agreeing.

“Hm…” The nurse mare said as she held a light and shined it into both of Rainbow’s eyes, causing her to blink and get a sour look on her face, “Well, judging by the reaction of your eyes and the visual test I gave you, you don’t appear to have a concussion,” she said as she set the light down, “Just a nasty bump on the head.”

“That’s good. Last thing I need is getting sidelined because of a head injury.” Rainbow said, rubbing the bandage around her head.

“I have to ask, how exactly did you get hurt?” She asked. Rainbow froze for a moment and scrambled to think of something to say. She couldn’t just tell Nurse Redheart that she had fought with an older version of Scootaloo (especially with the real Scootaloo standing a few feet away from her in the first place.) Rainbow then looked back over and put on a bright smile.

“Oh, um, I was just flying through the forest and tripped and fell down that hill…and then I guess while I was tumbling, I must’ve hit myself in the head with one of my own hooves,” she blushed, “Kind of embarrassing, I know, heh heh.” Rainbow immediately glanced over at the other three ponies in the room with her. Scootaloo and Fluttershy both looked concerned while Applejack had a much different look of both deep thought and judgment on her face. It was that look that told Rainbow the farm mare knew she was lying about what had happened, but for whatever reason she didn’t say anything about it and instead piped up about something else.

“Well, I’m mighty glad you’re fine, sugar cube. I know Scoot and Fluttershy here are too.” AJ glanced over at both Fluttershy and the small filly, looking like she was on the verge of crying.

“Rainbow, I got really worried when I saw-“, Scootaloo cut herself off and looked away for a moment to wipe tears out of her eyes before turning back to Rainbow, “I mean…I knew you were alright the moment I saw you!” She said, putting on a much different tone and expression of confidence, “You’re the Dash and there’s nothing that can take you down.”

“Except some crazy violent older version of you.” Dash thought.

“Thanks, Squirt.” Rainbow stood off the examining bed and walked over to Scootaloo, rubbing the filly’s mane with her hoof and messing it up, “It’s good to know my number one fan thinks I’m invincible.” She said.

“Even though I’m totally not.”

“It looks like you’re fine, then,” Nurse Redheart closed a folder containing a record of Dash’s past medical history (which given her luck when it came to flying and crashing into things was rather extensive), “You can go now, just try to take it easy.”

“You got it.” Dash gave a small salute as she immediately left the clinic and walked outside. Before she could fly anywhere, though, she was stopped by the three ponies who had brought her there.

“Hey, Rainbow, we been meanin’ to ask ya’. When are y’all gonna’ go talk to Twilight?” Applejack asked.

“Talk to Twi?” Rainbow asked with a confused look before she suddenly remembered the events from earlier, “Oh…um…I don’t know.” She replied. Rainbow had almost forgotten about her argument with Twilight from earlier, but she wasn’t sure what she was going to say now, especially after learning who the actual mysterious mare had been in the first place.

“You should go talk to her soon. I think she’s just as upset as you are,” Fluttershy added, “Um…you are upset too, right?” She asked, her eyes widening with concern at the answer.

“Of course I am!” Rainbow sternly said, her voice cracking and her blushing because of it, “I just don’t know what to say to her right now, but I do promise I will go talk to her as soon as I do,” she sighed, “I’m just wrecked right now and it’s starting to get late”, she glanced over at the sunset that was beginning to form.

“Well, okay then. I guess it would be none too fair to ask you to go do something you ain’t in no state o’ mind to do.” Applejack said, “But you better be ready tomorrow or I swear I’ll send Pinkie Pie to come get you.”

“Hey hey, no need for extreme measures, AJ.” Rainbow waved her hooves, “I’ll show up, don’t worry.”

“I can be there too if you want.” Fluttershy said with a comforting smile.

“I’m sure we’ll all be there, Fluttershy.” Applejack replied, “But in the meantime, I guess we’ll let ya’ get some rest”, she glanced down at Scootaloo, “And we better get you home, Scootaloo, I’ll bet your mom and dad are about to wonder where you are now.”

“Probably, yeah,” Scootaloo said as she got worried, “Later, Rainbow!”

“Bye, guys.” Rainbow said with a wave as she soared up into the air and took off toward her house, finally able to drop her fake smile as she began to process the day’s events and continue to come back to one question.

“What in the hay is going on around here?”

****

Rainbow walked inside her house and shut the door behind her, “Home sweet home.” She said with a sigh as she walked in. As she stepped across the cloud floor, she was greeted by a green tortoise who gave her a bright smile when he saw her. Rainbow smiled and patted him on the back of the shell, “Hey, Tank. Nice to see you, buddy.” She said to him as she stood up. In addition to helping create the device Tank used to fly, Twilight had also done her a favor and offered to cast a more permanent version of the spell that made non-Pegasi able to walk on clouds, thus allowing the tortoise to be able to live in Ranbow’s house without having to resort to his flyer all the time. As she thought about this, Rainbow dropped her head as she thought about the way she had treated Twilight.

“Friends don’t talk to their friends like that…no matter what the situation. Twilight probably hates me now and she values friendship a lot, maybe even more than Pinkie Pie! She’s probably never going to forgive me for that.” Rainbow thought, her mind racing with all the possibilities of the conversation tomorrow.

“You’re a terrible friend, Rainbow Dash! I told you that it wasn’t me as Mare-Do-Well and you didn’t trust me enough to believe me when I was telling the truth! I never want to see you again!” She would angrily say and then Rainbow would walk out and that would be the end of it…at least in the hypothetical scenario Rainbow had created in her mind. She began to choke up as she fought back tears by tightly closing her eyes, even though no other pony would be there to see her if she did lose it and started bawling. Before she could, however, Tank had gotten over to her and nuzzled one of her back legs. She turned back to see the tortoise was trying to comfort her, almost as if he was trying to ask what was wrong. Rainbow sniffed and put on a fake smile.

“Don’t worry, Tank. I’m okay…alright, I’m not okay. Today was horrible!” She said as her voice wavered, walking over and sitting down on a cloud couch, “First off, I had a run-in with this super lame-o pegasus who calls himself Storm Stallion. I know, right?” She looked over at the tortoise, who was slowly making his way into her living room, “But I fought him off and sent him packing, which was kinda’ fun I’ll admit,” she laughed as she thought about her first battle with Storm Stallion, but quickly went back to a serious tone, “But then the jerk shows up in town while I’m about to have lunch and starts a fight and then Mare-do-Well shows up again and I think it’s Twilight, only it ended up not being her. It was Scootaloo! Well, not actually since she was taller, older, and could actually fly. I’m pretty sure it was Scoot though since, well, how many other pegasi do we know that are orange, right? But…I don’t know what to do now.” She leaned back on the couch and gave a frustrated, prolonged groan, “Agh! I don’t know what to say to Twi tomorrow or what to do about that dork or that impersonator!” She covered her face with hooves. She then took a breath and slowly exhaled as she looked down to see Tank standing next to the couch and stretching his head up to nuzzle her head. Rainbow calmed slightly and patted the tortoise’s shell yet again.

“I guess you’re right. I do just need to chill,” she said as she hopped off the couch, “You might not be able to give deep advice or anything, but you’re an awesome listener. I guess I’ll think about it while I’m asleep.” She yawned, “I’m gonna’ go get some rest. Sorry to turn in early on ya’ buddy, but I’m totally spent for the day…and that’s saying something for me!” She chuckled as she ascended the stairs to her bedroom, waving goodnight to her pet.

****

Shortly after she had fallen asleep, Rainbow awoke to sounds coming from downstairs. She opened her eyes and slowly arose from her bed, being careful not to make any noise as she did and began creeping downstairs, watching for any signs of any intruders. She wasn’t sure why anypony would want to break into her house.

“Unless they’re trying to steal stuff from my training room! Oh, if they make off with any of my trophies or my karate gear…” She thought, steeling herself as she moved down to the bottom level. She put herself up next to the wall and leaned around the corner, seeing that none other than the older Scootaloo mare from earlier come around the corner and them nearly touch noses as they came into eye contact for a short time before they both jumped back on the floor, obviously startled at running into one another. Rainbow was the first to get up to her hooves and jumped back up, getting into her combat stance in anticipation for a fight.

“Alright, you ambush me in the forest, sucker punch me, and now you break into my house?! You’re really asking for it now!” Dash angrily began approaching the mare.

“Whoa, whoa!” She responded, holding her hooves up, “I didn’t come here for a fight. I just wanted to talk.” She said as she got back up.

“Oh? Well that’s good then because I have a ton of a questions for you! Most importantly, what do you know about that Storm Stallion weirdo and why do you look like a little filly pegasus I know?” Rainbow yelled at her through clenched teeth.

“That’s because I am that same pegasus, Rainbow. I’m Scootaloo!” She said, taking her hat off and allowing Rainbow to see her fully, “Well, I’m not the same Scootaloo you know anyway.”

“Say what now? When I said I had questions it meant I wanted answers that made sense you know!” Rainbow facehoofed.

“I’m getting there already! Oh for Celestia’s sake, I forgot how impatient you could be sometimes,” Scoot rolled her eyes, “Now listen…I’m not from this time period. I came back in time in order to stop Ponyville from being destroyed. I was going to try and do it on my own, but this whole thing is bigger than me. So…I guess what I’m saying is that I need your help.” She said, looking to Rainbow with a pleading look.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down! You’re telling me Ponyville’s going to get destroyed? By what? By who? How? When? How do we stop it?” Rainbow quickly said, sounding more frustrated with the answers she had taken in.

“I guess that reaction was to be expected,” Scoot said, taking a breath, “I’ll give you some more details. A few days from now, Ponyville gets hit with a massive storm. Not just any normal storm, though, this one was unplanned. Lightning strikes everywhere, ice permeates all throughout the town, wrecking buildings, destroying the ground, and basically wiping the town off the map.” Rainbow listened in hard concentration at the mare’s story, taking in all the details and looking for any signs that she might be lying. The scary part was that it sounded like she was telling the truth.

“Uh huh,” Rainbow said, still thinking about everything, “Do you guys know what causes it?”

“Yeah. Your friend earlier? The dork in the costume? Everypony was sure it was him. He got a hold of something that juiced up his weather abilities and he went berserk. Why he went after Ponyville we have no idea, but it doesn’t matter. I need to find out what he gets a hold of and then stop him from doing it.” Scoot said, apparent anger present in her tone.

“Wow. Who knew somepony like that could turn out to be so evil?” Rainbow asked rhetorically. She then remembered something else…something she had seen on Scoot’s face when she had been unmasked during the fight in Everfree, “Hey, Scoot, one more question. You obviously didn’t want me to help earlier, and there was something on your face that made it look like you were sad, so I gotta’ ask. What happened to me after that whole Ponyville gets annihilated thing?”

“It’s…not important.” Scoot said, trying to duck the question and doing a poor job at it.

“Level with me here, Squirt. I need to know.”

Scoot closed her eyes and looked at the floor, “During the evacuation, there were some reports that sounded like there were some ponies stuck in a house somewhere. You volunteered to go look for them, but there was a fissure in the ground from some ice that caused the building to collapse and….” She looked away from Rainbow, squeezing her eyes shut but failing to prevent a tear from falling.

“...I didn’t make it out.” Rainbow said, finishing her sentence with a look of shock. She thought back to when she was in flight school. There had been one day where she’d screwed up a maneuver and ended up face-planting into the ground and ended up with a broken leg and nose among other things. The facts that Scoot had just told her was a similar feeling of anguish…only this one was purely mental. Rainbow took it in and then sighed before speaking up, “Alright. I guess this exactly how I should have expected a really horrifically awful day to end. Par for the course, right?”

“But that’s why I came back!” Scoot looked over at here with a more hopeful expression, but quickly wiped her eyes with her cape before continuing to talk, “If we stop this from happening then Ponyville won’t get wiped out and you’ll survive! That’s why I need your help, Rainbow. I might have my own skills and equipment, but what I need is help from one of the best fliers in Equestria, and that’s you.”

Rainbow grinned, “You still worship me, I see,” she said as she walked over and put a hoof on Scoot’s head before messing up her mane, “You can count me in, then. You sound confident about this so I’ll be too.”

“Even if I’m still mentally freaking out about the fact I just got told I might die in a few days.”

“Good. Anyway, I have a lead on the thing that Storm Stallion snatched that made him super powerful. We’ll head there in a few hours, okay?” Scoot said.

“You got it.” Rainbow nodded, “Uh…I guess if you want, you can crash on my bed if you want.”

“Ugh, thanks. I’m sick of sleeping outside all the time.” Scoot said happily as she darted upstairs, Rainbow smiling at her as she did.

“She can try and cover herself up with all kinds of armor and try to act super cool…but she’s still the same old Scootaloo.”

****

“Uh, hey, AJ? Could I ask ya’ something?” Caramel asked as he looked back at the covered tray he had strapped to his back.

“Go right on ahead, Caramel.” Applejack replied as the two of them walked through the early morning hours.

“Well, this is Rainbow Dash we’re talking about here. She’s probably not even going to be up until at least 11 or noon and…it’s 4 in the morning right now.” Caramel said with worry as he looked back at her.

“I’m a firm believer that anypony can be up at anytime so long they have a nice fillin’ breakfast to help ‘em out, and that’s exactly what Rainbow’s getting’,” Applejack replied with a matter-of-fact tone, “As both their friends, I’m gonna’ make darn sure Twi and Rainbow make up, no matter what hap-“ Applejack stopped as she glanced up to Rainbow’s house, seeing that the weather patrol pegasus was flying off toward the northwest and it looked like she was being followed by another pegasus as well.

“Guess I was wrong. She can get up early.” Caramel said, oblivious to both the situation and Applejack’s annoyance.

“Ohhhh! Why that no good, irresponsible filly!”, Applejack shouted, “If she thinks she’s gettin’ outta’ her chat by flyin’ off inta the sunrise then she’s got another thing comin’!” Applejack charged off after Rainbow, leaving a shocked and confused Caramel standing alone under Rainbow’s house.

Chapter 4: Reunion

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“Wow, I haven’t flown when it’s this dark out in a while. Feels pretty good, actually!” Rainbow said as she and Scoot flew across the darkened, early morning sky. She looked over at her flying partner, who was uncharacteristically silent and didn’t really seem like she was enjoying herself, “Hey, Squirt, you okay?”

“Huh?” Scoot looked over at Rainbow, “Oh…yeah. I’m fine. I’m just thinking about stuff and I wasn’t paying attention. Sorry.” Rainbow looked over at her with a look of worry and started to say something, but before she could say anything they Scoot suddenly descended, Rainbow being forced to follow her down.

“What’s the deal? Why are we going low?” Rainbow asked.

“We’re getting close to a quarry. It’s normally used for mining and stuff like that, but inside there’s a secret dig going on to find that thing I mentioned earlier.” Scoot replied with a very serious expression.

“Oh, ya’ mean that thing Storm gets his hooves on? We’ll find it there?” She flew up next to the orange and purple pegasus as they got lower to the ground and moved underneath the cover of some trees.

“I’m hoping so, anyway. I didn’t really have a whole wealth of information to go by.” Scoot sighed as they both landed and she looked at a device attached to her left-front leg.

“Oh, that looks important.” Rainbow walked up behind her with an inquisitive look.

Scoot looked back, still retaining her serous expression, before holding her leg up to look at her machine, “It’s what controls the weapons on my armor and it has a map.”

“That’s it? I thought that was your time travel thing.” Rainbow sounded disappointed.

“No. That was something Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle made: a fusion of magic and technology,” Scoot sighed, “Of course, it took a few tries before it actually worked right, not to mention a few singed manes too.”

“Ouch.” Rainbow cringed.

“Eventually it worked, even if I’ve got a time limit.” Scoot added as she put her leg down and began walking through the trees.

“Well, that’s obvious.” Rainbow said.

“I’m not talking about the time until the Day of Ice happens. There’s something else, some theory of magic or physics or whatever that only says a pony can be back in time for a period of three days before the fabric of reality, um, takes action,” Scoot looked back to a concerned Rainbow, “Oh, it’s not anything really bad. I just get kicked back to my own time period.”

“Oh, well that’s good. I thought it was going to remove you from history or something.” Rainbow laughed.

“Problem is, if I mess up, I don’t get a second chance to change the past…something about opposing energies and a metaphor of a hole in a pair of pants getting patched up, I don’t know. Like I said, the other two Crusaders would know more about it than me. I’m just the muscle of the group.” Scoot continued her way through.

“Oh? Well how are they-“

“Get down.” Scoot put a hoof on Rainbow’s back and pushed her down into a prone position with her. The two of them had come to the edge of the trees just overlooking a quarry. The two pegasi mares watched as a group of workers headed over to the entrance, apparently ready to relieve the night shift ones.

“So that thing’s here?” Rainbow asked, looking around at the area.

“I’m just hoping they haven’t gotten to it yet.” Scoot jumped out from the trees and slid down the side of the hill, Rainbow following behind her. As soon as they hit level ground, the two quickly snuck inside a tunnel labeled “Restricted Access” by some signs. As they quickly hurried down the hall, they soon ducked inside an alcove in the tunnel and caught their breath.

“You’re going to need to tell me what we’re looking for here, Scoot. I can’t just-hey! Watch it!” Rainbow cringed as Scoot put something around her ear and stuck something else inside.

“Shhhh, stay still.” Scoot sternly said, “There. It’s in.”

“What’s in?” Rainbow felt her ear and realized Scoot had given her an earpiece headset, “Oh.”

“Communication is definitely key here.” Scoot said, holding up a map of the quarry, “Alright, here’s a map. Check these areas and I’ll check the other side. If you find something that looks like this,” Scoot also gave Rainbow a sheet of paper with a picture of an odd looking stone, “Radio me, grab it, and we’ll get out of here. Got it?”

“Uh…yeah. Sure.” Rainbow nodded, still trying to take in all the information. Scoot then gave a quick nod as she ducked off and hurried down another part of the tunnel, indicating to Rainbow that she should check the other half, which she promptly started to move toward.

“Sheesh. Bossy much?”

****

“Is this it, Doctor?” A unicorn worker asked Star as the two of them stared at a stone slab lying inside a storage box. Star looked over the slab. It was about the size of a thick spell tome she’d seen many times in the Canterlot library. There appeared to be some type of writing on the front, but she didn’t recognize the language offhoof and made a mental note to look it up later.

“This appears to match the description of how the stone looks,” Star said with a disappointed look, “To be honest, I’m not impressed with the appearance, but if Solstice says this is what it looks like then I’ll trust his word. I’m just hoping it’s the right thing.” She walked back over to her maps, “You’re dismissed. Thank you.” The worker bowed before he left the room. Star took a pencil from out of a desk and began writing a note.

Solstice,

I hope this message reaches you in good time. We’ve discovered the stone, or what we believe to be the stone. I’ll begin cross-referencing materials in order to determine-

Her writing was interrupted when she heard the clanking of armor outside. Star glanced back at the entrance, seeing Scoot rush in with a heavily determined look on her face.

“I know it’s in here. Hand it over.” She said, coldly.

“There are a lot of things in here. You’ll have to be more specific.” Star replied, cautiously watching the intruder. She looked outside the open door of the office to see both guards unconscious. It was this that told her this pegasus wasn’t the type that would be reasoned with. She was here to get something and in her mind there was nothing standing in her way.

“I want the stone. You look like you’re the one in charge so if you know where it is, fork it over.” Scoot said again, her voice even more stern than before. Out of a reaction, Star glanced over at the slab on the table for a split second but cursed herself for doing so because that indicated the object the pegasus sought after was right there. Star quickly tried to remedy the situation as best she could by opening dialogue.

“Look, I can obviously see you want this, the look in your eyes tells me that it’s important. However, my boss is going to be very upset with me if I do let it go. Maybe we can make a deal?” She asked, trying to sound as friendly as possible.

“No deals, and I’m not asking for it,” Scoot deployed the cannon on the side of her armor, “Now get out of my way.” She said through clenched teeth. Star’s expression changed to one of extreme caution as she stepped to the side but continued eye contact with Scoot.

“I’m not giving this stone up, especially not to someone who’s going to try and use force to take a very important find.” She said simply. With that, her horn lit up with magic. Scoot fired bolts from her cannon, but they were reflected back by magic barrier Star had thrown up to protect herself. Scoot tried to dash to the side only for Star to slide a table in her path, tripping the young pegasus and sending her falling to the ground.

“Okay, now I’m mad.” Scoot growled as she got to her hooves and prepared to fight again.

“You’ve got a lot of anger in you. I wonder where it comes from.” Star asked, trying to remain calm and maintain control of the situation.

“Hey, hey!” A voice came from the entrance. Star’s eyes got wide as she saw that Storm Stallion had rushed into the office, apparently having heard the commotion. She also panicked as she saw that he apparently recognized the pegasus she was fighting and began charging lightning, “Oh, it’s you! The cheap-shotter Rainbow called in! Well, see ya’ how like my cheap shots now!” He laughed as he tossed a pair of lightning bolts at Scoot, who ducked down behind another table to avoid them, one of the bolts destroying a coat rack and sending pieces of wood flying about the room.

“Gah!” Star winced as she activated her barrier to deflect the pieces of wood before turning a glare to Storm, “You imbecile! Watch where you’re slinging those!”

“Hey, you got a barrier. You’re fine.” Storm laughed as he looked over at Star, completely missing that Scoot had grabbed the stone slab from the table she hid under and had run out of the office.

“Aggggh!” Star cried in frustration before darting over to her desk and slamming a hoof down on the controls for a microphone, “Attention, all personnel! We have an intruder in the dig site that is stealing a very important artifact! She is an orange pegasus dressed in a flight suit and armor! Stop her immediately!” With that, Star threw her lab coat off and rushed out of the room.

“Whoa, wait for me!” Storm quickly said as he followed them.

****

Rainbow pushed herself up next to a wall and watched as a pair of unicorn guards stood in front of a room, having idle conversation about how boring their jobs were and how they wished they could take a shift outside. Rainbow quietly agreed with them, but continued coming up with ways to get past them.

“Just gotta’ wait for ‘em to leave…or wait for ‘em to turn around and then I sneak past. Just have to wait for that one small window of oppor-“

“Rainbow Dash!” An accented, very familiar voice came from behind her, startling Rainbow and causing her to whip around, seeing an incredibly ticked-off Applejack standing behind her.

“A..Applejack? What are you doing-“ Rainbow exclaimed, though tried to be quiet at the same time.

“I mean to ask y’all the same thing!” Applejack shouted, making no effort to conceal her voice, “I saw ya’ leave at the crack o’ dawn to head off here when ya’ shoulda’ been getting’ your flank ready to have that heart-to-heart with Twi!”

“Shhh, AJ! Keep your voice down!” Rainbow said, glancing back as she heard hoof steps coming.

“Don’t you “AJ” me, young’un! I’ll talk as darn loud as I please iffin I think it’ll get my point acro-“ Rainbow cut her off and grabbed Applejack, putting an arm around her mouth and pulling her into a shadowed spot as one of the guards rounded the corner.

“What in the hay was that?” The other asked from down the hall.

“No clue. Must’ve been some workers having an argument.” The visible guard shook his head as he returned down the hall to his post. Rainbow breathed a sigh of relief from her hiding spot and turned to her silenced friend, who was staring daggers at her through her green eyes.

“If I let you go, will you promise to be quiet?” She asked. Applejack growled internally but eventually rolled her eyes and nodded, to which Rainbow released her.

“Ya’ better have one heck of a reason why yer here and bein’ all sneaky-like.” Applejack said with a quieter, but still very mad, tone.

“It’s really complicated.” Rainbow said with a nervous look.

“That’s putting it as lightly as possible.” She thought.

“Try me.” Applejack said with an even sterner look than she had before.

“Okay, I’m here trying to find this stone-“ Rainbow started.

“Attention, all personnel! We have an intruder in the dig site that is stealing a very important artifact! She is an orange pegasus dressed in a flight suit and armor! Stop her immediately!” A voice came from over the loudspeakers and echoed throughout the tunnel. Suddenly, she saw the two guards rush past them, seemingly not seeing the two friends as they darted down to begin their search. All of the sudden, another voice came up in her ear.

“Rainbow, you there?” Scoot’s voice asked.

“Yeah. I’m here.” Rainbow replied.

“Good. I got the stone, but it didn’t go as quietly as I thought. Meet me at one of the landings outside. They’re marked on your map!” She said, Rainbow able to hear voices and what sounded like blasts of magic coming from the background.

“We’ve gotta’ go.” Rainbow rushed off, Applejack following behind her.

“Hey! I’m still itchin’ for that explanation!” Applejack rolled her eyes as they ran, only to stop and head in the opposite direction as they heard guards coming from the other side.

“In there!” Rainbow ran back toward the door the two guards from earlier had been watching and ducked inside, closing it behind them. The interior of the room looked like some kind of prison area, most likely used to house trespassers and thieves given the high security nature of the area.

“Whoa, nelly,” Applejack shook her head, “I don’t know what ya’ got yourself mixed up with, but it must be real nasty.”

“How did you even get in here?” Rainbow asked, the question finally coming out now that they were safe to talk.

“Like I said, I been followin’ you! ‘course, I didn’t know ya’ were sneakin’ around some important area that was all guarded heavily and stuff.” Applejack said with a huff.

“Hey, there is a good reason. We just need to get out of here first,” Rainbow angrily said, “Would you just trust me for once already?” Before Applejack could reply, a voice came from within one of the closed cells.

“Would you two dweebs mind keeping it down? I’m trying to get some sleep.” A deep, but still obviously female, voice asked, sounding annoyed. Rainbow froze for a moment before turning around. She recognized the voice and looked to see if her suspicions were correct. There, lying down on her side and with her back to the two ponies was a figure with the body of a lion and the head and neck of an eagle with a pair of brown wings that were folded in. The figure stirred and got up, sitting up on the cot she had been sleeping on and Rainbow could see who it was.

“G…Gilda?!” Rainbow exclaimed in shock.

The griffin’s eyes widened, obviously just as surprised as Rainbow was, before she spoke as well, “Dash? Is that you?” She asked. She then got an excited expression on her face as her yellow eyes lit up and she darted over to the bars, “Wow, Dash, it is you! You have no idea how glad I am to see you here!”

“What are you doing here, Gilda?” Rainbow asked.

“Well, I didn’t choose to stay here, that’s for sure. These guys ask me to deliver some stuff to ‘em, I come here and do my job, then they go and lock me up and not even say why!”, Gilda said, annoyance clear in her voice, “Of course, now that you’re here, that’s all good. I can get outta’ here.” Gilda smiled at Rainbow with a hopeful expression. However, that faded as she saw that Rainbow’s expression was not one of sympathy like she thought it would be, but instead was one of contempt.

“Uh…Rainbow?” Applejack asked, seeing her friend’s look. In her mind, Rainbow’s thoughts were going at a million miles an hour. With everything that had happened to her in the past day and with the anger she still felt after they had last seen each other, Gilda was the last individual Rainbow wanted to see and the griffin obviously knew this as she looked away from the pegasus.

“Look, I know you’re probably still mad.” Gilda said, worry in her voice. At that moment, all of her rage and frustration boiled over and in an instant, Rainbow lost it.

“Probably?!” She roared, unconsciously flaring her wings, “You come to town after we haven’t seen each other for so long, treat my friends and everypony else like dirt even after they tried to be nice, you blow me off and say that I’m not cool, don’t talk to me at all to try and apologize and you think I’m only ‘probably’ still mad? Well, guess what? I am definitely still mad at you, Gilda! In fact, you probably got yourself into this mess all by yourself and you can get yourself out of it on your own too!” Rainbow breathed heavily as fury still boiled in her eyes. Her voice had probably cracked at least a dozen times during her rant, but she didn’t care. Her rage was too great to be concerned about what Gilda thought of her at the point. She expected this to be the point where Gilda would respond with the same hot-headed attitude she always did, but instead she just stood there, staring at Rainbow with a forlorn look that actually looked….

“Sad?” Rainbow’s anger faded as she stared at Gilda, confused about the reaction.

“Right…I know.” Gilda sighed and looked at the ground. Silence held in the room for a short time before Applejack spoke up.

“Rainbow, you ain’t just gonna’ abandon her here like this, are ya’? It’s pretty clear she needs a helping hoof.” She asked.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. She can take care of herself.” That was the thought that first came to Rainbow’s mind. However, as she thought more, she did come to the conclusion that Gilda was indeed in trouble right now and, judging by her reactions, she was in way over her head. While the scars of Gilda’s past actions were still fresh in her mind, Rainbow couldn’t leave her there. It wouldn’t feel right.

“No, I’m not,” Rainbow finally answered with a nod as she looked to Applejack and then to Gilda, “I don’t leave anypony behind, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.” At these words, Gilda’s face lit up slightly as the pegasus moved up to the bars.

“Thanks, Dash. Hey, could we-“ Gilda started.

“Let’s get out of here first. Then we can talk.” Rainbow said sternly, showing that she was going to help the griffin, but at the same time driving home the fact she hadn’t even come close to forgiving her.

“Gotcha’.” Gilda said with an understanding look, “Now, I think there might be some keys around here or something. I saw the guards using them.”

“RD, Ms. Gilda, stand back.” Applejack said from the other side of the room. The two winged former Speedsters turned to see Applejack had trotted all the way back to the entrance and seemed prepared to charge.

“I’d get out of the way of the door.” Rainbow said as she and Gilda both quickly moved. Applejack then rushed at the door and, with a hard reverse kick of her hooves, smashed the lock holding Gilda’s cell closed.

“There ya’ go. Free to fly again.” Applejack said with a warm smile as Gilda opened up the door and exited, extending her wings and standing up to stretch out.

“Ohhhh yeah! Feels good to be outta’ that tiny hole.” She said in a grateful tone before she planted herself on all fours on the ground again, “So what now?” Gilda looked to Rainbow.

“We link up with Scoot and we get the hay outta’ here. That’s what.” Rainbow said as she quickly hurried toward the door, Gilda and an even more confused Applejack trailing her.

“Now Scootlaoo’s here too? What in tarnation?”

Chapter 5: Desperate Escape

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“…and as to the continuing problems in the north with the drought, we all agree on the plan concerning the rainy period?” A female pegasus dressed in a simple, almost business-like outfit asked as she stood in the front of a small meeting room. This was Cooling Waves the minister in charge of the Fall season and Solstice could listen to her talk for hours…even if he admittedly didn’t really pay attention to a lot of the business aspects most of the time. He absent-mindedly knocked his hoof against the table alongside the other two ministers in agreement before continuing to stare at the orange-maned, amber-coated mare.

“I’ll begin preparations immediately.” Typhoon, the minister of Spring and the oldest of the four nodded and gestured to the others. Solstice looked over at the older stallion. While he was admittedly jealous of his ability to blend outfits with a silver coat and mane AND still be able to sport a well-groomed beard and moustache, Solstice liked Typhoon and the two were close acquaintances despite not knowing much about the other. As he thought about this, another voice popped up that made Solstice almost visibly shudder.

“Just so long as it doesn’t get too cold. I do have a season to maintain, after all.” The grumpy voice of Fahrenheit, the minister of Summer piped up. Unlike the other two ministers, Solstice despised the red mare. Mostly it had to do with her constant jeering of him from being the youngest of the four ministers but it also was because he just didn’t think much of her skills and he believed the only reason she was able to become a minister was because of her father’s influence when the position was originally to go to her sister…who Solstice admittedly found much more attractive in the first place and could have gotten along with much better, in his opinion. Even her sense of fashion bothered him.

“Who seriously even wears their mane short and ruffled like that anyway? And a cape and a pointed hat? Seriously? Ugh, it definitely doesn’t go with her mane at all.” He thought.

“Yes, Fahrenheit, we are aware.” Waves quickly spoke up to calm an argument before it started, “Now, moving on, is there anything else we have to discuss?” She looked around the table.

“Actually, there is,” Solstice spoke up, “It concerns some old business we’ve never resolved about the Stone of Storms and the proposed project to both unearth and research it.” At the mention of the stone, the other ministers had varied reactions. Waves looked away nervously, Typhoon closed his eyes with a look of mild frustration, and Fahrenheit gave a predictably snippy response.

“Come on, Solstice, not this again. You’ve brought this up at the last four meetings we’ve had, you know.” She began and ended her statement with an audible groan.

“I’m aware, Fahrenheit. However, I would like to remind you that we never have resolved it.” Solstice countered.

“The reason for that is because we’ve been unable to come to an agreement on it.” Typhoon said in a matter-of-fact tone, “You are the most eager to locate the Stone, I myself see the potential within it, Waves is wary of it and-“

“And I think it’s better we keep the accursed thing buried and forget it even exists.” Fahrenheit interrupted Typhoon, slamming her hoof down on the table, “I also think it’s absurd that we let this little colt bring this topic up and we have the same discussion meeting after meeting.”

“Ministers, please,” Waves interjected, again trying moderate and prevent conflict, “Solstice, while we are appreciative of your passion to locate the Stone of Storms, we all have more pressing issues to discuss at the moment. We’ll table this for now and discuss it if we have time.”

“Very well.” Solstice nodded with a disappointed look.

****

“Urgh! Of all the ignorant, annoying, hot-headed….” Solstice snarled as he stormed through the halls of the palace meeting wing, “I only hope that we actually do find it and then I can show that blazing idiot a thing or two about the power behind that sto-“Before Solstice could finish his statement, he rounded a corner and bumped into somepony else, knocking him down and putting him in a short daze. As he came out of it, he was about to chide the pony who had run into him…at least until he saw he was staring at the face of a tall, pearl alicorn with a flowing magical mane of many colors. He of course recognized her as Princess Celestia, one of the two immortal rulers of Equestria, “Y…Your Highness! My deepest apologies! I should’ve been paying attention to where I was going!” He immediately bowed, taking on a tone of high respect.

“It’s quite alright, Minister.” Celestia replied with a friendly tone, barely phased by the collision.

“Oh, well, then I am glad you weren’t offended by my careless behavior,” Solstice said, trying to maintain a dignified posture even if he was close to sweating bullets, “I’ve…had some things on my mind. I just came from a meeting with the other ministers.”

“It didn’t go well, I assume?” The princess asked, tilting her head to the side. She actually looked interested in what he had to say, completely unlike what Solstice thought a pony of her standing would be like, especially considering this was his first time actually speaking with her one-on-one.

“Um…in a manner of speaking,” Solstice said, relaxing slightly, “There’s a project I’ve been attempting to pass off to the other ministers but I’ve unfortunately been unable to help bring the discussion to an agrreeable resolution.”

“I know what that’s like,” Celestia said with a groan and an ear flop, “But back to you: that’s the issue with the Stone of Storms, correct?” Celestia asked with a smile and a look of interest, “I’ve read the minutes of the Weather Ministers’ Meetings recently and I’ve came across that.”

“So you know about it then, I see.” Solstice nodded, “Then you know of the importance that the Stone has to we pegasi and how it could have the potential to revolutionize the way weather is controlled around Equestria.” He said, loosening up a bit from his more nervous tone.

“I have…though I have some concerns that your fellow ministers seem to share as well: specifically, the actual history behind the stone. I’m sure you know of it since this is a passionate project of yours?” Celestia said, emphasizing the wary tone in her voice as she questioned him.

“Oh of course, Your Majesty. I wouldn’t have introduced it to the others without doing proper care and research first.” Solstice said with an assured tone, “I am highly aware of its history but I believe that with our modern knowledge as well as advanced magic and technological research, the stone’s power could be used for the greater good. I’m sure somepony of your great knowledge and experience could understand that?” He asked her. However, Solstice stopped for a moment and then proceeded to jump back in shock, “Um, not that I’m saying you’re old or anything! By great experience I meant of course that you are very wise!” He said quickly, “I meant absolutely-“

“Solstice, please,” Celestia stopped his frantic apology by holding up a hoof, “You did not insult me, I assure you. If you want as well, I’ll look more into it alongside a student of mine and I may decide if I will endorse your project as a means of helping put the other ministers’ hearts at ease.”

“You…you will?” Solstice asked with a look of pure shock in his eyes.

“Yes”, Celestia nodded, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my guards. I’ve ditched them long enough but I’m afraid if I don’t find them soon they’ll think I’ve been kidnapped…again.” Celestia rolled her eyes as she turned away, “Good day to you, Minister.” She said before turning and trotting off. Solstice watched her go as a bright grin formed on his face and he turned around to make sure nopony was watching before he clapped his hooves together.

“Oh yes yes yes yes!” He said as he jumped up on his hind legs and continued clapping, “This is great! I’ve got Princess Celestia on my side! Well…at least she’d look into it anyway, but still!” He cheered to himself, “Oh, Star’s going to flip when she hears this!”

****

“So which way are we heading, Dash? I haven’t exactly had time to look around and get to know the place.” Gilda asked as the griffin and two mares hurriedly rushed down a tunnel, the rainbow pegasus in front and leading the charge.

“There’s a bunch of landings on the outside sections of the quarry. That’s where we’re meeting up.” Rainbow looked back. Now that she could see her in better light, Rainbow studied Gilda for a moment. Her head feathers looked fluffier than normal, showing she either hadn’t groomed them in a while or she was wearing them longer now and there was something else about her appearance as well that Rainbow was wondering about.

“Does she look chubbier? I swear I don’t remember her legs being that stocky or her face that full…could just be her fur and feathers, though.” Rainbow thought as she turned her attention back forward as they turned a tunnel, approaching a tunnel sealed by a closed shutter.

“Ain’t no door gonna’ slow us down!” Applejack happily said as she galloped forward and jumped up to strike the door with a hard hit. However, the shutter barely budged from her kick leaving her with a bewildered look, “Well, I guess I was wrong about that prediction.”

“Step aside.” Gilda cracked her knuckles as she stepped forward and put both of her claws at the door’s bottom. With a grunt and a hard pull, she yanked the shutter up and opened their path up, “There. Instant lock pick.” She turned back and gave a thumbs-up motion.

“Color me impressed.” Applejack nodded.

“Y…yeah.” Rainbow agreed.

“Totally forgot how strong she is.” The three of them began making their way again. They then approached a fork where they saw what looked like bolts of magic firing down the path before Scoot rushed around the corner and galloped toward them.

“Might not want to go that way! It’s a little getting shot at-y.” She motioned for them to head the other way, which they proceeded to do so.

“Well, what now? That route’s a bit of a no go.” Applejack glanced back as they ran.

“We’ll have to go up top and try to fly out from there!” Scoot said, “We’ll be a little exposed, yeah, but it’s our best option right now for a quick escape. The whole quarry’s after us right now.” The three ponies and the griffin eventually hit a stairwell and followed up, eventually coming out up on the rocky top of the quarry. As they did, however, the quartet had to duck behind rocks for cover as an electrical whirlwind came past them. Everyone looked up as Storm Stallion hovered above them.

“Dash! You have a lot of guts chasing me down here and even bringing your little back up pony!” He fired off a quick lightning bolt near them, “As for you, ya’ orange cheater, give up that stone and I might not fry you like an egg!” He started charging another bolt.

“Leave. Them. ALONE!” Dash shouted as she flew up and slammed into him, wrapping her hooves around him and holding on as the two rolled through the air. Dash glared at him with a dark expression as she held onto him. Right now she wasn’t seeing the lame pegasus who had came after her for unknown reasons. No, now she was seeing the pony that somewhere in the streams of time had killed her and destroyed Ponyville.

“Hey, if ya’ wanted a hug, all you had to do was ask.” Storm said with a smug grin that made Rainbow snap with anger at the smart flank comment. She brought her head back and slammed it into his face as hard as she could, cracking his goggles and causing him to cry out in pain as she broke her hold on him and flew away. Storm quickly recovered as he yanked his broken goggles off and glared at her, “You…you’re going to pay for that!”

“Try me!” Dash snarled at him as he flew off, “Squirt!” She said into her headset, “Give me a minute or two to drop this joker! Stay in cover until then!”

“You got it, Dash!” Scoot replied.

“Y’all be careful, Rainbow!” Applejack added. Dash turned to see Storm coming at her and she immediately took off, the stallion in close pursuit behind her. She listened for crackles of lightning in order to have enough time to dodge his shots. Luckily, he wasn’t trying to lead his shots at all, showing that hitting a moving target was something he obviously hadn’t mastered yet. She looked back to see he had thrown his helmet off as well, allowing him to see his full face for the first time. He looked…shockingly ordinary to her, and surprisingly a lot younger than she thought. If she had to guess, she’d have said that he wasn’t much more than a year or two older than Twilight.

However, his next move surprised her as he suddenly rocketed down to catch speed and get underneath her. Rainbow tracked his movement and noticed him swish his tail up and then make it go completely ridged as a trail of dark storm clouds formed behind him and continued to spawn as he flew. He quickly dove up in front of her, forcing Rainbow to make a hard left dodge as Storm kicked the cloud trail, sending a lightning current through it. Rainbow, however, grinned as she recognized the move. How could she not? The Storm Trail was a staple of every Wondebolts air show…and Soarin’s signature technique.

“So, you wanna’ throw Wonderbolt moves at me, do ya’? Well, you’re messing with the flying Wonderbolts encyclopedia, buddy. Bad move.” She thought. She folded her wings to get more speed and pull ahead of Storm, forcing him to break off trying to form another trail and fly after her.

“You a fan of the ‘Bolts too, huh?” She asked him.

“Of course! Who isn’t except the mentally insane?” He said with a boastful tone.

“You know, that gets you a few points in my book…even if I have to do this to ya’!” Rainbow spread her wings to the sides, catching the wind and flying back in a spiral, whipping past Storm. He craned his neck back to see where she had gone, only to get caught in a massive blast of air that had followed Rainbow back, disrupting his flight pattern.

“The Air Brake Jet Wash…thank you, Spitfire.” Rainbow thought with relief as she saw Storm fail to recover and crash headlong down into a pile of sand in the quarry, getting stuck up to his neck. Rainbow chuckled before she turned back down to where the other three were.

“Scoot, he’s down! Let’s hurry!” She yelled out with an urgent tone.

****

“Skies are clear!” Scoot called out to Gilda as the three ran across the top of the quarry to escape from the unicorn guards on their tail.

“Alright!” Gilda turned to Applejack, “Hop on!” she patted her back, motioning for the orange earth pony to get on.

“You got it!” Applejack galloped up next to Gilda and, with a small leap, ended up on the griffin’s back and wrapped her hooves around Gilda’s feathery neck, hard enough to hold on but light enough not to choke.

“Follow my lead, kid, ‘cause we’re getting outta’ here!” Gilda called out with a laugh as she extended her large, brown wings and leapt into the air with a single flap, sending bits of rock and sand up. Scoot did as she was told and shadowed the griffin as they ascended, Applejack holding on tight. The two of them glanced up to see Rainbow descending down to meet them, “Yo, Dash! What do ya’ say we blow this joint?”

“Right with you, Gilda!” Rainbow said with a nod. She looked back down, seeing the black and white uniformed unicorns stop at the edge of a small cliff, North Star among them.

“Worst hotel I ever stayed at! You’re getting a bad review for sure!” Gilda cackled as she stuck her tongue out, “Later, losers!” She said with a mock wave directed at Star, who stamped her hoof into the ground as they flew off.

“This is Dr. Star to any available aerial units, go after them!” She yelled into her headset as she was forced to watch the griffin and three ponies fly off into the dawn sky.

“They’re probably rarin’ to go after us. We better find a place to lay low.” Applejack suggested.

“No way we can head back to Ponyville. That’d be the first place they’ll look.” Rainbow added.

“I got a place we could go. It’s about fifteen minutes from here.” Gilda spoke up, glancing over at the other two pegasi.

“That works.” Scoot shrugged.

“Take the lead, Gilda. I’ll go trail and follow you.” Rainbow said as she flew back to get into position behind Gilda and Scoot.

“You’re goin’ trail?” Gilda asked with a raised eyebrow before she shrugged and continued flying, “Try to keep up!” She turned to the right and descended slightly as the two pegasi followed close behind her.

Chapter 6: Griffin Village Confession

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After a short flight, the group eventually landed at a small village nestled underneath a mountainous area near the forest. As they touched down, the three ponies noticed right off that the residents of this village were all griffins that all had varying reactions of three strange ponies coming into their village. Two griffins approached them, one a very large and older one with ruffled feathers and fur and bearing scars from battles long ago. The other was much smaller and appeared to be younger, also sporting a very concerned look on his surprisingly pretty face.

“Gilda!” he cried, rushing over to her and hugging her, “Oh, I’m so glad that you’re okay! You were gone for so long!” He said.

“Hey, hey, none of that, Kel. I’m fine.” She patted him on the back, “Don’t worry about me, alright? You do that too much.” She then leaned in and gave him a kiss, causing the smaller griffin to blush brightly. Rainbow watched in amazement and couldn’t help but be curious about who this other griffin was. Had Gilda finally found a mate? And if so, why such a scrawny looking one?

“Gilda, looks like you brought guests. Care to introduce them?” The larger griffin asked, his voice a very deep, gruff tone.

“Oh, my mistake,” Gilda turned, “That’s Rainbow Dash, Scoot, and Applejack.” The three ponies all awkwardly waved as their names were called out, “Hey, don’t look so nervous. Old Feathers here might look tough, but he’s a big softy.” Gilda cracked a grin as she glanced up at the annoyed griffin.

“Oh yes. That little nickname again,” He growled before turning to the other ponies, “Either way, guests of Gilda are welcome in this village. If you need lodging, arrangements can be made.” He walked over to them.

“That’s mighty kind of you, mister. We sure appreciate it.” Applejack gave off a friendly, welcoming smile.

“Thanks.” Scoot said, kneeling to the griffin. Rainbow simply nodded. For some reason, all of her energy was fading quickly, though she assumed at first it was only because of the flight.

“You can stay at me and Kel’s place for right now,” Gilda put an arm around the griffin she had just kissed, “We’ve got room for three ponies to hang out for a little bit. It’s just this way.” She motioned for them to follow her. Applejack and Scoot trotted up and started following them, but Rainbow lagged behind. She blinked her eyes a couple time and found her vision was starting to blur. She took a few steps forward before she spoke up.

“Hey…” That was all she could manage before she collapsed down on all four knees. The rest of the group turned and looked on in shock. Applejack and Scoot were the first ones over to her.

“Rainbow? What’s wrong?” Applejack quickly asked.

“That head injury I had yesterday…I don’t think me head butting Storm Stallion helped it very much.” Rainbow replied with a wry grin as she slowly toppled over onto her side.

“Dash!” Scoot and Gilda yelled at the same time as all three griffins rushed over as well, looking down at her with worried expressions.

“Oh no oh no! That’s not good!” Kel stammered.

“Get a medic over here now!” Old Feathers shouted as he looked over his shoulder, the last thing Rainbow saw before he vision faded into blackness.

****

“You lost them?!” Star shouted as she paced in front of a group of pegasi.

“Y...yes, Dr. Star. We tried pursuing them but they flew beneath some trees and clouds and we were unable to locate them again.” A stallion nervously replied.

“Oh, I know how you lost them. I know that very well. What I’m curious about is why it happened in the first place! You lost a group where two of their members consisted of a griffin and a pegasus with bright, rainbow hair!” She seethed as she continued pacing.

“We’re still combing nearby areas, ma’am. We’ll find them.” Another stallion spoke up.

“Oh, I’m sure you will because if you don’t, you’ll be explaining to Solstice why you lost the most important object in the history of Equestrian research.”

“Uh…hey, Star…” Storm Stallion spoke up from the end of the row, “I just wanted to-“

“I’ll get to you in a moment! Oh, do I have things to say about your involvement in this!” Star cut him off and trotted over to him, getting her face close to his, “Until then, remain silent! Understood?!” She was unable to see him acknowledge her as she looked back to see Solstice descending down onto the platform.

“Hello, everypony!” He waved with a happy tone as he landed and folded his wings, “Come to greet me?” He asked.

“Ugh…dismissed,” Star waved off the pegasi as they all walked back into the quarry tunnel before she turned to Solstice, not realizing that Storm was still standing there, “Solstice, we need to talk.”

“Indeed we do, dear North Star! You’re not going to believe what happened!” Solstice said happily, blissfully unaware of the worried expression on Star’s face, “Come on, guess, guess!”

“Solstice...” She said, trying to get his attention.

“The meeting went great! Well, not really. Oh, that Fahrenheit,” he fumed, but then shook his head, “That’s not important, though! I had a chat with Princess Celestia herself and she’s agreed to endorse my project! Well, that’s not entirely true, either…” Solstice continued on as he walked around the platform and mimed various gestures.

“Solstice.”

“…it’s more like she’s going to look into it and then decide if she’ll endorse it, but I’m positive she will! Do you know what this means?!” He turned to Star waiting for a response, only for him to finally notice her expression, “Is there something wrong?”

“We managed to locate the Stone, but…” Star started.

Solstice gasped, “Oh my! You did?! Oh…um…well, maybe we could just have the workers bury it again and throw some dust on it so that way when we can officially unearth it, they won’t know the difference,” he tapped a hoof on the ground, “yes! That will be perfect! Have them do that immediately!” He pointed toward the tunnel only to realize Star’s worried look hadn’t gone away, “I sense there was more to your statement, Doctor.”

“Unfortunately, the Stone was stolen.” Star continued.

Solstice stared blankly at her, “Stolen?”

“Yes.”

“As in…thieves came in?”

“Yes.”

“They picked it up and ran off with it?”

“Yes, Solstice.”

“And it’s no longer anywhere in this quarry and in our possession?”

“That’s how stealing something works, Solstice.” Star said with pure deadpan. After the exchange, Solstice walked in a circle, apparently taking in the news that he had just heard before he suddenly collapsed to his knees and threw both forelegs in the air.

“Why? Why? Why? Why?! Why did this to have happen just as things were starting to work out?!” He shouted at the sky before darting over to Star and placing his hooves on her shoulders, “I’m done for, Star! I deceived the rest of the Ministers, the Princess, and I let a potentially dangerous artifact fall into even more potentially dangerous hooves! I’ll end up in a dungeon-a deep, dark, coat and mane damaging dungeon-for the rest of my life!” He then gasped and looked up toward the sky again, “No…no, I won’t end up in a dungeon. If those rumors about her are true, then Celestia might even skip the dungeon altogether and banish me to the moon!” He began shaking Star, “Oh, Star! I can’t go to the moon! I don’t want to! Just imagine what it’ll do to-” Star brought her hoof up and slapped him across the face, stopping his frantic ranting.

“Get a hold of yourself!” She shouted at him with a stern expression before she pushed him away from her and sighed, “First of all, Solstice, those rumors about Celestia banishing ponies for random crimes are completely false. Second of all, you needn’t worry. I am handling the situation so you should just calm down.”

“Really?” Solstice looked at her with tearful, puppy-dog eyes.

“Yes. You should just go back to Canterlot, relax, and wait for me to contact you. We’ll find that rainbow pony for sure and get the Stone back.” Star said with a confident nod.

“Oh, that’s such a relie-did you say a rainbow pony?” Solstice got a worried look again.

“Yes. I’m pretty sure that pony Storm had a rivalry with was among the group that stole the Stone.” Star said with a raised eyebrow, “Why?”

“No, no, no!” Solstice began panicking again, “I thought she sounded familiar from what Storm described of her, but I didn’t think it could be true! That mare…it’s Rainbow Dash! She’s one of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony!” He fell to his knees yet again in lament, “I’m going to the moon for sure now! I just let a psychotic pegasus go after one of Princess Celestia’s most trusted warriors!” Star brought him back to his senses with yet another hoof slap, “Thank you, Star. I needed that.”

“I’ve got that touch, I guess,” Star rolled her eyes, “Look, don’t worry about it. That nimrod’s actions are his own and you had nothing to do with them.”

“Um…I’m standing right here, you know.” Storm raised a hoof, obviously offended by both statements the two older ponies had made about him.

“Yes…alright. I get it,” Solstice stood back up and straightened out his outfit, “I shall take your advice, Star. I leave this operation in your very capable hooves.” He bowed as he stepped back for a moment and then took off. Star watched as he left and quickly galloped back into the quarry, leaving Storm sitting outside with an annoyed expression before he turned and hung his head.

“I’m either ignored or misjudged…it’s never different.” He thought before he extended his wings and flew off, turning toward Ponyville’s direction.

****

“Urgh!” Rainbow winced as bits of ice and snow raked across her coat. She flew up through the gale forces of the blizzard, finally breaking through the cloud barrier and coming to face Storm, the charged energy circling his body and his eyes glowing pure white. He looked at her not with the intensity of someone wanting to defeat their rival, but as a target. She barely had time to dodge the blasts of lightning that seemed like they were coming from nowhere. She banked hard to the left and tried dodging one, but didn’t make it in time as the bolt nicked her leg and sent her spiraling off course. By the time she regained her equilibrium, she turned to see Storm with a massive current of lightning charged around his left forehoof.

“Goodbye, Rainbow Dash.” He said with a sadistic grin as he sent the missile of lightning streaking at her. Rainbow’s eyes widened in shock as it got closer to her, the size of it threatening to engulf her whole.

She barely had time to scream as the projectile struck her with its full on force…

****

Rainbow’s eyes snapped open and she looked around the room. It was the inside of a small house with a thatched roof, most likely still somewhere in the griffin village. She quickly felt her body and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Great. I’m still alive…well for now anyway," she thought as she sat up in the bed, now with an annoyed expression, “Now I’m having dreams about dying? Ugh, cut me a break already.” She stood up and walked out of the bedroom, ending up in the kitchen where she saw Kel in front of a stove, making what looked like soup. He turned around from the sound of her hooves on the ground to see her.

“Oh, you’re awake,” he said with a relieved tone.

Rainbow nodded as she rubbed a hoof against her head, “What happened?”

“Our doctor thinks that you had an aggravated head injury that turned into a concussion or something. I don’t know. I don’t really know medical terms all that well. Luckily he managed to pull together some potion or whatever to help you,” Kel quickly said, “You are feeling better now, right?” He asked, concern in his tone.

“Wouldn’t be up if I wasn’t.” Rainbow said dryl as she moved over to the kitchen’s entrance and looked around the inside of the house. It was about the size of the library’s interior back in Ponyville and it even looked like it had a staircase leading up to the second floor, probably where the main bedrooms and the like were located.

“Kelwyn.”

“Huh?” Rainbow looked back at Kel, who had stepped away from the stove and was able to see he had a bowl of freshly made soup in his claws as well as the fact he was wearing an apron as well.

“My name’s Kelwyn. I never really introduced myself earlier since I was too worried about Gilda getting back. Sorry.” He said with a sad look.

Rainbow shook her head, “No worries, dude. Is that for me?” She asked, looking at the soup.

Kel nodded, “Yeah. It’s still a bit hot so be careful.” He set it down on the table, but Rainbow immediately went over and began eating, leaving him slightly shocked by her sudden spike in appetite.

“Sorry. I haven’t eaten in a while.” Rainbow apologized between bites

“Apparently.”

****

After finishing the soup, Rainbow walked outside and looked around the village. It reminded her of a smaller version of Ponyville…if Ponyville was full of griffins, anyway. It was actually kind of nice, though her feelings were unfortunately not put at ease as she remembered the dream she had as well as what was going on.

“Heya’, Rainbow,” Applejack walked over to her, “Good to see you’re up.”

“Yeah, same here,” Rainbow replied, “Where’s Scoot?”

“Doing some repair work or somethin’ on her suit. She was pretty insistent ‘bout leaving her on her own.” Applejack said, shaking her head, “Boy, she sure changes a lot apparently.”

“I’m guessing you got filled in about what’s going on?” Rainbow asked.

Applejack nodded, “Yes, ma’am. I gotta' say, Rainbow, you sure are handling the whole notion of dyin' soon pretty darn well."

“Yeah,” Rainbow sighed, barely acknowledging the comment as she looked up. She could see Gilda standing out on the balcony of the house she apparently lived in with Kel. Rainbow knew exactly what she was doing, too. She was watching the morning clouds flow by, probably trying to imagine them in various shapes.

“Y’know, you should go talk to her. She’s real worried about you.” Applejack spoke up.

Rainbow looked over at the orange earth pony, and then back at the balcony, “I know…I just don’t know what I want to say to her. I mean, it’s obvious that she wants to apologize for what she did, but at the same time…well…agh…” Rainbow groaned as she angrily pivoted and turned away from Applejack, “She really hurt me, AJ.”

“I know she did, sugarcube”, Applejack walked over and put an arm around Rainbow, “But she’s makin’ the effort to want to apologize,” she put a hoof to her chin for a moment, then looked back to Rainbow, “Here, think about it this way: would you want Twilight to forgive ya'?” The question struck Rainbow like a lightning bolt. She hadn’t thought about it that way before. The way she had treated Twilight, while nowhere near the betrayal of trust she’d felt about Gilda’s behavior, was still just as bad. She looked back up to the balcony and sighed.

“Alright. I’ll go talk to her.” Rainbow said.

“That’s the spirit.” Applejack smiled happily.

Rainbow began heading back inside, but stopped and turned back for a moment, “Hey, Applejack, I’m sorry for getting you mixed up in all this.” She said with a solemn look.

“Psh, don’t you worry none, Rainbow. I don’t mind one bit,” she then chuckled a little, “Plus, it gives me a chance to keep an eye on ya’.”

Rainbow scoffed, “What are you? My mother?”

“Well, I am older than ya’.” Applejack put a hoof on Rainbow’s mane and mussed it up, the pegasus grumbling to herself about everyone in their group being older than her as she entered the house while trying to fix her mane.

****

Sure enough, Gilda was doing exactly what Rainbow thought she had been doing, staring up and watching the clouds go by as she stood on her hind legs, leaning against the balcony’s railing. She stood in the doorway of the balcony for a short time before she finally walked over. Gilda glanced back and gave a small wave.

“Hey.” She said.

“Hi.” Rainbow replied as she got next to the griffin, “Watching the clouds?”

“Yeah. Always do every morning,” Gilda nodded, pointing up at one, “Check that one out, it looks like a dragon.” Rainbow looked at the one she had pointed at. While it was a bit of a stretch, she did admit the fluffy white shape did resemble a dragon.

“It does,” Rainbow nodded. She then looked over at Gilda, “Look, Gilda, I know you wanted to talk about, well, you know.”

“Yeah, I did,” Gilda looked at Rainbow, then back out at the clouds, “Dash…” Gilda sighed, “Ugh, I’ve never been good at this type of stuff. Sorry.” She said, putting her claw over her face in frustration.

“It’s cool. Take your time.” Rainbow said with a comforting tone.

Gilda uncovered her face, “Right, right”, she said, “I screwed up, Dash. There’s no sugarcoating it all. I was a jerk to you and your friends. Maybe it was because I was jealous of you having other friends,” Gilda shook her head, “No, that’s not it. It was all me. I know I’ve never been the easiest griffin to get along with, no matter who it is.” Rainbow considered saying something about how she wasn’t sure since Gilda was the only griffin she actually knew, but she decided against it since the crack would’ve been out of place, “You know what the messed up thing is too? I didn’t even realize that one pegasus with the ducks was Fluttershy until afterwards. I felt horrible after I realized it too.” Gilda looked over; Rainbow noticing her golden eyes looked slightly misty.

“Gilda’s crying? And she’s not trying to hide it?” Rainbow thought with bewilderment.

“But, again, that’s no excuse,” Gilda hung her head, “Not to mention I’m pretty sure karma back to bite me in the tail feathers for it too,” she shook her head, “Argh, I did it again. I’m getting off topic.”

“No, it’s fine.” Rainbow said. She wanted to let Gilda speak her mind. She knew the griffin was terrible at apologies and more and more Rainbow wanted everything to work out, “What do you mean by karma?”

“You remember my grandfather, guy who basically raised me?” She asked. Rainbow responded with a nod, “Well…about a week after I got back from Ponyville, I was visiting him and he got really sick all of the sudden,” her voice wavered slightly, “It took us all by surprise. No matter what we tried to do to help him, he just kept getting worse and worse,” Gilda looked down, “The only thing I’m thankful for was that he at least died peacefully in his own bed.”

Rainbow looked at Gilda in pure shock for a short time before she finally could speak, “G…I’m so sorry,” She said with a somber tone, referring to Gilda by her nickname for the first time in a long time. She'd never met Gilda's grandpa in person, but from what Gilda and her family had spoke of him he sounded like a very decent griffin.

Gilda looked over at Rainbow with a look of acknowledgment before looking back to the clouds, “After that, well, I guess it was a wake-up call for me. I went off on some soul searching, visited a bunch of places, met a whole ton of interesting folk,” she smiled slightly, “including Kelwyn.”

“Ah, so you two are an item?” Rainbow asked.

“Yup. Have been for a while now,” she looked over, “Don’t tell him this, by the way, but I found an emerald ring in some of the groceries he got the other day. He’s terrible at hiding stuff.” Gilda winked at Dash.

“Oh! He’s gonna’ propose to you! That’s awesome!” Dash exclaimed, “Uh, you are gonna’ say yes, right?”

“Of course I am! I love the guy, Dash. He’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me in the past year,” Gilda sighed yet again and slapped her hand on her face, “But yet again, I’m completely dodging what I’ve been trying to say,” she hopped down from the railing and looked Dash in the eyes, “What I’m trying to say is this. I’m sorry. I know I can't change the past and take back what happened, but you deserve to hear an apology at least…and, well, I guess a part of me also wants to try and be the type of friend you deserve to have.” Rainbow stared back at Gilda for a short time. She thought she’d be tuning out the apology most of the time because it was probably something Gilda was saying just to make herself feel better, but the look in Gilda’s eyes told her definitively the apology was sincere. Even stranger, Gilda’s expression wasn’t the look of the old Gilda who was cocky and smug. No, this was the look of an honest desire to make amends. Rainbow fumbled over her words in her mind for a short time before she took a breath and spoke up.

“Gilda….I’ve thought sometimes about what I’d say if I ever saw you again. It all came down to the same thing,” she sighed and looked up at Gilda, tears in her eyes as well, “But not today. I realize you’re sorry.” She stepped forward and held out a hoof to Gilda. The griffin looked at Rainbow and then at her hoof before she took the hint and held her open palm underneath Rainbow’s hoof. Rainbow slapped her hoof lightly onto Gilda’s palm before the two brought fist and hoof together, repeating the friendly gesture they’d done since they’d first met at Junior Speedsters Camp.

“So…are we cool?” Gilda asked with a hopeful look.

Rainbow nodded then took a deep breath and stepped forward, wrapping her legs around Gilda in a light hug, which the griffin returned, “Yeah. We’re cool.” She said before letting go. After that, there was a short, awkward silence as the two of them each tried to think of something to say before Rainbow eventually broke it, “Heh…if this was some sappy romance novel, this’d be the part where we’d kiss, right?” At the statement, Gilda began to stifle laughter before she eventually cracked up, Rainbow following suit.

“There we go, that’s the Dash I know and love,” she chuckled, “Good to see that. It seems like you’ve been a bit emo since we met up again.”

“Oh, about that…” Rainbow rubbed the back of her head with her hoof as she related the events leading up to their reunion at the quarry, telling about everything from Scoot’s warning to Storm Stallion.

“Yeesh, that’s some pretty heavy stuff to have dropped on ya’.” Gilda said with a wince, “Of course, now that you’ve got that stone, what’s up next?”

“I don’t know. Scoot’s the one with all the plans right now.” Rainbow shook her head.

“Hm…you got room for one more on your little operation?” Gilda asked.

“Gilda, I couldn’t ask you to put yourself in danger like that.” Rainbow protested.

“You didn’t ask, I volunteered,” she said with a grin, “Besides, that would somehow imply I'd be in any actual danger.” She followed up her boast by clicking her talons on against the railing.

“Fine, you made your case. You’re in.” Rainbow said with a snicker.

“Sweet. So, what say we go find your other pegasus and find out what’s going on?” Gilda began heading toward the stairs leading back down. As she followed, Rainbow finally decided to ask the question that had been bugging her ever since she’d run into Gilda again at the quarry.

“Um, Gilda, not to sound insensitive by asking this…but you look a little different since I last saw you…”

“Ugh,” Gilda groaned, almost as if she knew what the question was, “Before you ask, Dash, yes I know that I’ve put on some weight. It was from a bunch of things. One, you know that I comfort eat when I get depressed and I’ve had a lot to be depressed about. Two, Neighponian curry is really good. There’s a story behind that. Three, Kelwyn’s also a really good cook.” She counted out all three reasons on her claws, “So yeah. I know that I’m a little bit heavier than I used to be.”

“Hey, hey, no worries, G,” Rainbow said as she poked Gilda’s side with her hoof, prompting a glare from the griffin, “You spend some time training with me, we’ll have you back to a sleek, toned shape in no time.” She said with a confident expression.

“Sounds fun,” Gilda nodded in agreement, though she kept her miffed expression as the two of them headed down the stairs.

Chapter 7: Getting A Plan Together

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Scoot wandered around in a small shed back behind Gilda and Kel’s house with her armor set out on a small table. It had been a while since she’d actually had the chance to take it off. As lightweight as Apple Bloom had crafted it, it was still armor and she was glad to remove it.

“Ugh…there I go again. Getting all homesick again.” She thought begrudgingly as she looked at the control device on her leg, “Still, I hope those two are doing alright without me there. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll bet they haven’t left our HQ since I went through the portal.” She thought with a small grin. She then glanced back at her cutie mark for a moment. Somehow, a pair of wings with a circle of flame around them seemed appropriate for her, though she thought back to the day she’d got it and how it had seemed insignificant compared to how much she and her two other friends had done trying to get their marks. “Of course, when you lose your home and someone that you really care about, some things stop being important.” A knock at the door suddenly snapped her out of her reminiscence.

“Yeah? Who’s there?” She looked over at the door.

“It’s us, Scoot,” Rainbow’s voice came from the other side, “Could we come in?”

“Yeah, gimme’ a sec’.” Scoot said as she walked over and opened up the door, seeing Rainbow, Gilda, and Applejack standing on the other side, “What? Do you guys want a party or something?”

“That’d be fun, but I think Pinkie might be disappointed I planned a party without her.” Rainbow cracked a grin as the three walked in, “We need to talk about what’s next now.”

“Oh yeah,” Scoot walked over to her pack and began looking through it, “You doing fine now, Rainbow?”

“Yeah. Ready to fly again at anytime.” Rainbow said reassuringly.

“She’s got a hard head, thankfully.” Gilda tapped Rainbow on her forehead, making the pegasus grimace at the gesture. Scoot glanced back and shook her head at their playful banter before she found the stone and yanked it out, slapping it down on the table in the center.

“That thing is the reason behind everything. The reason why I came back, the cause of Ponyville getting destroyed, everything.”

“This hunk o’ rock?” Applejack tapped it with her hoof.

“It’s not just a hunk of rock. It’s called the Stone of Storms. It might not look like much, but this thing is packed with magic. Supposedly, it’s got the ability to amplify a pegasus’ control over weather….the only problem is, it’s incredibly unstable.” Scoot said as she paced around the table like she was presenting the stone to the others.

“Define unstable.” Gilda looked down at the stone.

“I don’t know. All I know is that this thing is super old and that trying to use its power can lead to really bad stuff,” Scoot shrugged, “That’s really all I have for right now.”

“And whoever was in charge of that quarry dig definitely wanted it protected considering all the security.” Rainbow spoke up.

“No kidding. That and they’ve gotta’ be loaded too. You know who those other ponies were? They’re a private security force that call themselves the Checkered Flags. Really skilled, really expensive.” Gilda added.

“How do you know stuff like that?” Rainbow looked over at Gilda.

“I’ve been working as a courier ever since I got back to Equestria. You hear things.” Gilda replied with a smirk while Rainbow simply shrugged and apparently just accepted her friend’s knowledge.

“Alright. So lemme get this straight. This rock here’s the thing that’s gonna’ mess up Ponyville because of how darn powerful it is and somepony wants it real bad, but we don’t know who or why?” Applejack asked while looking very confused at everything that was going on.

“If only we could find out more information about the Stone’s past. That might help shed some light on things,” Scoot sighed before she looked around, “Anypony know somepony else who might be geeky enough to want to pour a lot of time into researching this?” She asked. At the question, both Applejack and Rainbow turned and looked at one another, each of them sporting a wide smirk.

****

Rarity knocked on the front door of the library as she was greeted by Spike.

“Oh hey, Rarity.” The baby dragon said with a love-struck look in his eyes, obviously very happy to see the image of his affection.

“Good morning, Spike. Is Twilight up and around? I wanted to see her in order to discuss yesterday’s events and see how she is faring.” Rarity said as she walked in.

“Oh yeah. She’s up putting books away. I offered to help, but she had something she wanted to try out I guess.” Spike opened up the door all the way, allowing Rarity to see Twilight floating in the air via a pair of shiny wings Rarity recognized immediately. It was the pair of gossamer wings Twilight had previously created in order to allow Rarity to fly within Cloudsdale when they had all gone there to cheer on Rainbow in the Best Young Fliers competition she had been so nervous about.

“Um…Twilight?” Rarity spoke up, getting the other lavender unicorn’s attention.

Twilight looked back, “Oh! Hey, Rarity!” She descended down from floating in front of the top shelf of the bookcase, “How’s it going?”

“I’m well, Twilight. I stopped by to see how you are doing,” Rarity said with a look of concern, then raised an eyebrow, “Um…what exactly are you doing with those wings?”

“These? Oh, I was just practicing challenging myself with magic by creating the wings. They actually feel nice…oddly natural even.” Twilight looked back and smiled slightly as she flapped the wings.

“Oh my, don’t they? It felt amazing the whole time I had them!” Rarity exclaimed with a bright expression, though it quickly faded as she looked away and her ears drooped with embarrassment, “Erm…even if what happened while I had them wasn’t exactly what I’d call my proudest moment.”

Twilight chuckled, “Stop worrying so much, Rarity. We all forgave you for that, remember?” Her horn shined bright magenta for a moment before the colorful butterfly wings vanished, “Hm, they’re actually fairly handy for seeing books high up on the shelf,” she glanced back to a glaring Spike, “Oh don’t give me that look, Spike. A pair of magic wings is no replacement for a number one assistant.” She said reassuringly.

“Especially considering I’m the only one who knows where anything is in this library.” Spike grumbled as he munched on an apple.

Twilight gave him an eye roll before she walked over and began putting books together, “I’m thinking about asking Rainbow to help me with some flying lessons using both the wings and my telekinesis to help while flying.”

“Speaking of which, that’s why I’m here, Twilight,” Rarity cut in to try and put the topic back on track, “That was a rather nasty fight you had yesterday with her and I wanted to see you how you were doing.”

Twilight sighed, “Oh, I know, Rarity,” she looked down and stopped organizing her books, “I feel awful about it too. Maybe if I hadn’t put together that whole Mare-Do-Well scheme, she wouldn’t have accused me of not trusting her…” Twilight looked at the ground.

“Oh no, no, dear! You are in no way at fault,” Rarity trotted over and put a comforting hoof around Twilight, but she then looked away in thought, "Though in retrospect it was rather mean of us to trick her like that."

"That's what I'm talking about, Rarity! I know Rainbow seemed okay with it after she found out, but what if she was really angry inside and was holding a grudge this whole time? What if this whole thing made her decide she doesn't want to be my friend anymore? What if..."

"Twilight!" Rarity firmly cut in, "You're overreacting and worrying about nothing. I may not know Rainbow as well as Fluttershy or Applejack do, but I can assure you that Rainbow will come around and talk eventually."

“If you say so.” Twilight looked over at Rarity before her eyes suddenly widened, “Oh my gosh! I just remembered! I need to finish getting those books together and then go see if Rainbow wants to talk before they get here!” Twilight scrambled around and began putting books into her saddlebags.

“Until who gets here?” Rarity cocked an eyebrow.

“I got a letter from Princess Celestia this morning asking me to come to Canterlot to assist her with some research and I need to get ready to go, talk to Rainbow, meet the Princess’ chariot and grab a few books,” Twilight paused for a moment to look back at Rarity, “Well…not necessarily all in that order.” She said with a shrug before continuing with her work.

“Urk!” Spike’s cheeks puffed out and he belched up green fire that quickly materialized into a sealed letter.

“Oh? A letter from the Princess?” Twilight said with a confused look. Spike suddenly doubled over and grabbed at his stomach.

“Ohhhhh,” he moaned, “If it was she must’ve sent a sword or something with it…agh…ow ow ow…”

“Spike!” Rarity ran over to him. Twilight followed, but at the same time opened up the letter. She found that it wasn’t from Celestia but rather it turned out to be from….Rainbow Dash? The letter simply stated to “Use the thing I sent you” which brought Twilight’s attention to a small box that had come with the letter.

“Oh? What’s this?” Twilight asked, intrigued.

“Whatever it is, it really hurt!”Spike groaned. Twilight magically opened the box and took out a small purple and black gemstone shaped like a pyramid.

“Oh my, that’s beautiful.” Rarity said in amazement at the floating gem.

“It’s a Projection Jewel,” Twilight glanced over to Rarity, who had her head tilted to one side, “Oh, it’s a magic gemstone designed to act as a communication device over long distances. Why would Rainbow send me one, though?” She touched an indentation on the one of the tips with her hoof. It then opened up and the next thing she knew, an image of Rainbow Dash suddenly projected out with a flash of light.

“Hey, how will I know when this thing’s working?” Rainbow asked to somepony else Twilight wasn’t able to see.

“Trust me, you’ll know! You’ll be able to see her lit up in front of it…at least I think anyway.” A tough female voice replied.

“What do you mean ‘you think’?” Rainbow looked behind her, “G, this is your calling whatever jewel thing!”

“Well, I told you that I’ve never actually used it. I got it from the courier service to use in case of an emergency and I’ve never had to use it at all. Something about how it costs a lot to charge or whatever.” The voice replied.

“Oh lansakes, you two, she’s right there and I think she can hear y’all!” A third voice that sounded like Applejack’s chimed in from an unseen position as well.

“Um…Rainbow?” Twilight asked.

“Twi! Twi, can you hear me? Sweet! This thing is working then!” Rainbow exclaimed enthusiastically.

“Where are you, Rainbow? What’s going on?” Twilight asked concern in her voice.

“Twilight, you’re not going to believe what’s going on.” Rainbow replied.

“Try me.” With that, Rainbow proceeded to explain to the unicorn the entire situation, though making sure to leave out the detail of her death since she knew that would cause Twilight to freak out about the safety of her friend, “Oh my…that’s a pretty intense situation.”

“Right, which is why we need your help, Twilight. We need to know everything we can about the Stone of Storms since we’re basically flying in the dark here.” Rainbow said, her expression looking very worried.

“The Stone of Storms…hm…,” Twilight looked back at the letter she had received from Princess Celestia earlier in the day, “It seems odd. The Princess sent me a letter asking to come to Canterlot to help her research that very same thing.”

“Seriously?!” All of the sudden, Rainbow got shoved to the side slightly as an image of what looked like an orange pony with a purple mane appeared, “What does she know about all this?! Why does she want you there?!” The mare demanded.

“Scoot, move aside, I’m getting to that,” Rainbow growled as she pushed the other pony back and got back into the center of the projection, “So you’re heading to Canterlot? Alright. We’ll meet you there, but don’t wait for us. Start up your research as soon as you can, Twilight.”

“I will,” Twilight nodded, “Make sure you remember to bring the Stone also. I’ll need a visual aid.”

“No problem,” Rainbow saluted, “Good luck with the research, Twi…I trust you.” She said with a more withdrawn look.

Twilight saw the look and responded in kind with a determined expression, “Thank you, Rainbow. I won’t let you down.” With that, the image of Rainbow vanished and the jewel stopped glowing. Twilight put the jewel into her saddlebags and dropped them onto her back, “Rarity, would you mind keeping an eye on things here while I go ask Lyra if she can watch the library while I’m gone?”

“Of course, dear,” Rarity said, a clear look of worry in her blue eyes, “I…apologize for eavesdropping, Twilight, but did I hear correct that Ponyville may be in danger?”

Twilight nodded, “Not to worry. Neither I nor Rainbow Dash are going to let anything bad happen.” Twilight firmly said.

“I’m confident you two won’t,” Rarity’s worry faded slightly, “Good luck in Canterlot, Twilight.”

“Thanks.” Twilight said with a smile as she trotted out of the library, Spike hopping up on her back as she went, having apparently recovered from the discomfort of receiving the letter, though still sporting a very uncomfortable expression.

“I’m REALLY going to need it.” She thought.

****

“Hey, Scootaloo!” Sweetie Belle called out as both she and Apple Bloom rushed over to their friend and fellow Cutie Mark Crusader just after school had gotten out.

“Heya’, girls,” Scootaloo responded, “What’s up?”

“Sweetie and I were thinkin’ about something…we’ve never asked Granny Smith how she got her cutie mark! We ought to go do that, what do ya’ think?” Apple Bloom said, sounding very excited.

“Hey, that’s a good idea,” Scootaloo nodded with a smile, “Uh…I was gonna’ go find Rainbow Dash first, though. I can catch up with you guys at the farm. Sound good?”

“No problem. I’ve got to ask my parents if I can even go first.” Sweetie Belle responded.

“Rock on, see you girls there!” Scootaloo waved as she hopped up on her scooter, clipped on her helmet, and took off from the school yard. The young pegasus filly, however, was unaware she was being watched from a nearby tree by Storm Stallion, who had dropped his outfit, allowing his gray mane to shine visibly in the sunlight and for his cutie mark of a dark storm cloud with a lightning shooting out of it visible.

“There she is…that filly worships Rainbow and if anyone knows where she is and what she did with the Stone, it’d be that one,” he leaned forward as he looked through a pair of binoculars to try and get a better bead on Scootaloo, only for him to lose his balance and fall forward, flailing his hooves as he landed on his back in a bush at the bottom of the tree, “…ow.” He groaned as he shook his head and stood up, a glare crossing his face at his misfortune.

“Smooth move. You’re a full grown pegasus and you just fell out of a tree like a foal learning how to fly. You’re amazing, Wind.” He shook his head as he took off into the air to follow Scootaloo from above.

****

Having had no luck being able to find Rainbow in town or even at her home, Scootaloo’s next stop was off to Fluttershy’s cottage close to the edge of the Everfree Forest. She knew Fluttershy and Rainbow were good friends so if anyone knew where she’d be, it’d be the empathetic pegasus for sure. Scootaloo pulled up next to the cottage and hopped off her scooter, placing her helmet up on the handlebars as she galloped up to the door, knocking on it with her small hoof. After a short time of not getting an answer, Scootaloo raised an eyebrow in confusion.

"That's weird. I thought for sure Fluttershy would be here."

“Hello.” A quiet voice came from behind Scootaloo. Though it wasn’t loud, the sudden change of presence caused Scootaloo to jump and whirl around to confront the pony that had come up behind her, only to realize it was Fluttershy, whose warming greeting quickly changed to concern for the startled filly.

“Geez Louise, Fluttershy! You about gave me a heart attack!” Scootaloo caught her breath.

“Oh! I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to scare you.” Fluttershy said quickly as her ears drooped.

“Forget about it,” Scootaloo waved her hoof, “That’s impressive, though. You could be like a ninja or something with the way you move.”

“Oh…thank you. I’m not sure I’d be all that great, though.” Fluttershy looked back and blushed at the comment.

“Hey, have you seen Rainbow Dash anywhere? I’ve been trying to find her ever since I got out of school.” Scootaloo asked.

“Rainbow? Oh, I haven’t seen her since we were at Nurse Redheart’s yesterday. I really hope that she’s okay wherever she-“

“LIES AND SLANDER!” A voice came from above them, “Well…not really slander, but there are still lies!”

“Where’s that coming from?” Scootaloo looked around.

“Um…hello?” Fluttershy asked as she continued looking around.

“I know very well that you know where Rainbow Dash is and I intend to find out!” The voice came again.

“We still can’t see you, dude!” Scootaloo shouted up as she still continued looking around.

“What?! How can you not? I’m up in this tree as clear as day!”

“Um…we can’t really see you.” Fluttershy looked up in the tree.

“I’m right here!” Fluttershy could see a gray hoof waving from behind a leafy section of the tree.

“Move out from behind those leaves! We still can’t see you!” Scootaloo called out.

“Yes. We can’t see all of you, anyway.” Fluttershy added.

The voice groaned in frustration, “Fine! I shall do as…ah…too far…oh, horsefeathers, ahhhhhh!” The flailing form of Storm Stallion came out of the tree as he fell off the branch he had apparently been perched on, hit several other branches on the way down, and finally landed on his back at the bottom.

“Oh my gosh!” Fluttershy cried, flying over to him with Scootaloo behind her, “Are you okay?” She asked with concern.

“Yeah,” Storm replied, obviously dazed from the fall as his head swayed from side to side in confusion. He attempted to stand up, only to fall over onto his side, “…no.” His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell unconscious.

“Oh no! Scootaloo, help me get him inside!” Fluttershy darted over and attempted to help him up, the other young pegasus helping her carry Storm inside.

Chapter 8: Stormy History

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“Agh…” Storm groaned as he looked around at his surroundings. He looked like he was in a small cottage laying on a bed while covered up by a light blanket. The place had a very nature-like feel to it, which slightly helped to alleviate the pounding headache he had…from falling out a tree again.

“Twice in one day…I’ll never live this down if anyone hears about it.” He thought as he sat up, noticing that a small white rabbit had hopped up on the bed, holding a damp wash cloth in his paws. However, the rabbit’s expression was completely unlike the normal expression of a happy-go-lucky rabbit and was instead a cold glare with eyes narrowed directly toward him.

“Uh…hi.” Storm said nervously. The rabbit responded by rolling up the towel and snapping it, causing Storm to jump slightly from the sudden sound. Before anything else could happen, he glanced over to see Fluttershy and Scootaloo enter the room.

“Angel, be nice. He’s a guest.” Fluttershy said with a quiet, yet firm, tone, before she turned to Storm, “How are you feeling?”

Storm sat up to learn against the headboard, only to wince from a sudden jolt of pain in his head, “Mmmngh…like a group of carriage drivers used my head as a test track.”

“You took a pretty nasty fall, dude. You must have a pretty hard head to have survived that.” Scootaloo said as she sat some soup down on the table next to the bed.

“What’s this?” Storm looked over.

“Tomato soup. We figured you might be hungry after being out for so long.” Fluttershy replied to him with a small smile.

Storm stared at the soup bowl for a short time before he looked back to the other two pegasi, “Thank you…um, if it’s not too much trouble, could I also get something to drink?”

Fluttershy nodded, “Sure. Angel, Scootaloo, could you go get him some water?”

“You got it, Fluttershy.” Scootaloo grinned as she walked out of the room, Angel following her. However, Angel stopped at the doorway and glared at Storm, putting his small paw up to his eyes and then turning it to point at Storm before he hopped off. Storm watched him go before he turned to Fluttershy.

“Thank you for helping me. To be honest, I’m surprised you even would.” Storm said, looking down and twiddling his hooves nervously.

“Why wouldn’t I? You were hurt and needed help.” Fluttershy asked, tilting her head in confusion.

“Oh…well, it’s because of…um…” Storm stopped.

“Does she not recognize who I am? I know she’s one of Rainbow’s friends.” He thought.

“If this is about what happened yesterday, don’t worry.” Fluttershy shook her head, “I don’t think you’re a bad pony.”

“You…don’t?” Storm asked, “But I attacked one of your friends and fought with her. How could you not think I’m bad?”

“Because if you were a bad pony, you wouldn’t have tried asking us where Rainbow was and instead of lying in my bed, you’d probably be trying to break out and destroy everything in your way,” Fluttershy said with a smile, only to pause and shirk back, “Um…not that I’m saying you would do those things.”

“I didn’t think you were implying that…um…what was your name again?” Storm asked.

“Oh. It’s Fluttershy.” She replied, turning back to him, “What’s yours?”

“Storm Stal-erm…sorry. That’s not really it,” Storm shook his head, “It’s Wind Runner. My name’s Wind Runner.”

Fluttershy smiled warmly with him, “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Wind.” Just then, Scootaloo came back with a small tray and a glass of water.”

“There ya’ go,” she said through clenched teeth before setting the tray down, “One glass of water…wait.” She quickly glanced back at her flank and groaned as it she found it to still be blank, “Oh well, I guess being a waitress would be kind of a lame cutie mark anyway.” She giggled.

“You sound like you really want a cutie mark.” Storm spoke up as he looked at her.

“You have no idea,” Scootaloo sighed, “Me and my two friends have been trying for what seems like forever to get our marks.”

“I’m actually surprised I even got one in the first place,” Storm looked down, “The only special talent I have is just the same thing my father can do. I’m not special at all.”

“Whoa, dude, that’s not true,” Scootaloo quickly said, “You can shoot lightning out of your hooves. Lightning.”

“My father can do that too,” he replied, “He can create storms, whirlwinds, all sorts of things. He’s expecting me to take over his position…but I don’t really think I can do it, or if I even want to.” He grit his teeth.

“Is there anything you can do that your father can’t?” Fluttershy asked her tone very sympathetic.

“Yeah. I mean your pops can’t be all that great,” Scootaloo asked, before realizing her mistake, “Uh, no offense.”

“Well…there is this,” Storm leaned back and held up his hooves in front of himself, “You might want to step back a little in case this goes wrong.” Fluttershy and Scootaloo both looked at one another before they took a few steps away from the bed. Storm took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Sparks of electricity began crackling across his hooves before a small ball of light formed between them, shimmering and shining brightly and even appearing to reflect light and cast colors around the room.

“Whoa.” Scootaloo said as her eyes widened with amazement at the sight.

“Oh wow. I’m normally scared of lightning storms, but that’s beautiful.” Fluttershy added.

Storm smiled slightly at them before he moved his hands away, causing the ball to vanish, “It’s just something I tried doing once. Thank you, though.” He bowed his head to them.

“Hey, ya’ mind if I ask you something? What’s your problem with Rainbow Dash, anyway?” Scootaloo asked, her expression turning serious.

“I…uh…” Storm stammered, trying to think of what he wanted to say, “I…I’m jealous of her, I guess.”

“What do you mean?” Fluttershy leaned in closer.

“All my life I’ve had everything handed to me, everypony basically expects me to follow one path and not a single problem with achieving what I want to do,” Storm looked down, “Rainbow’s worked hard for everything she’s had to do and her life is great compared to mine! I want that! I want a chance to just be free and actually want to work for something for a change!” He brought his hoof up and slammed it down on the table, splashing part of his leg with the still hot soup and causing him to flail, “Ow, ow, ow! Hot!” His injury was met with Fluttershy rushing over and putting a cold washcloth on the spot where the soup had landed, her gentle touch and the soothing feel of the cloth calmed him.

“I…well, I don’t know a lot about what your life is like, but I know that you seem like you’re very intelligent and that you’re not a bad pony like I thought you were.” She said, cleaning off his leg, “I thought I’d never be able to do anything special when I was younger because I wasn’t a very strong flyer, but it just took some time to find out what I wanted to do. I’m sure you’ll find exactly how to show everyone you’re special on your own.” Fluttershy looked up and smiled at him, the calm look of her green eyes reassuring to Storm.

“I’ll keep that mind. Thank you, Miss Fluttershy,” Storm said; returning the smile she’d given him, “You as well, Miss Scootaloo.”

“Hey, hey, none o’ that formal stuff,” Scootaloo growled and looked away to hide her blush, “Just call me Scootaloo.”

“Right. Scootaloo.” Storm nodded.

****

“Woohoo! We finally made it!” Rainbow called out excitedly as they began getting close to Canterlot.

“Hope ya’ don’t mind if I don’t share your happiness, Dash. I hate coming here to deliver stuff to the upper class.” Gilda stuck her tongue out and made a gagging motion with her claw.

“I’ll just be happy if Twi managed to find anythin’ out on that there stone.” Applejack added as the three pegasus ponies touched down near outside gardens that lead up into the palace. The group started making their way up toward the royal library. The guards had apparently been told already that they were coming, though a few did take a second glance at the griffin and the armored pegasus that accompanied them. Eventually, they reached the library where they found Twilight sorting a stack of books while Spike looked through the shelves. As soon as she saw her unicorn friend, Rainbow spoke up to get her attention.

“So, this is where you were stuck until you came to Ponyville, huh?” She said with a chuckle. As soon as Twilight turned around, Rainbow dove forward and snatched up Twilight in a hug.

“Wha?!” Twilight exclaimed with surprise, “It’s good to see you too, Rainbow, but it’s only been a day since we last saw each other.” She smiled awkwardly.

“I know…I guess it’s just because I’ve had a lot to take in and I just needed…never mind. We’ve got more important things to worry about.” Rainbow shook her head and stepped back to let Twilight see the three others with her.

“Right,” Twilight responded with a nod, “Hey, Applejack. I’m glad you decided to help out Rainbow with this.”

“Yeah. ‘Decided.’” Applejack said with a grin and an eye roll.

“So, you must be the egghead, huh? Nice to meetcha’,” Gilda held out her hand, “Twilight, right? Name’s Gilda. We never got much of a chance to talk much when I showed up last.”

Twilight put out her hoof and returned the friendly gesture, “Nice to meet you as well. I’m glad you and Rainbow are talking again.”

“Same here believe me.” Gilda cracked a grin. Twilight turned her attention over to Scoot, who seemed to have a very nervous expression on her face, though Twilight didn’t seem to notice as she immediately rushed over to Scoot.

“Oh my gosh, is this her? The pony from the future? Wow, that’s so amazing!” Twilight hopped and clapped her hooves, “I’ve studied theoretical aspects of magic-based time travel, but I never thought that it was actually possible to do it. How did you manage to do it? Did you use a form of an altered teleportation spell? Or was it the theory that states a special kind of metal charged with a lightning spell can open a portal to the past,” Twilight gasped suddenly as she got another thought, “Oh, I know! It was the invention idea using a special type of capacitor and a carriage,” she looked away for a second, “Though why the inventor decided to use that type of carriage, I’m not particularly sure. I mean, seriously? A Del-“

“Twilight! Focus!” Rainbow tapped a hoof on her friend’s head, “What have you found out about the Stone of Storms so far?”

“Oh, right,” Twilight stepped back with a sheepish look and went over to the stack, “Spike is getting some other books for some supplemental material, but this is what I’ve found so far.” Twilight cracked open a book titled History of Equestrian Pegasi and began flipping pages until she came to a sticky note she’d been using as a bookmark. Rainbow, Applejack, Gilda, and Scoot all crowded up behind her as Twilight looked through it.

“What’s it say?” Applejack asked.

“According to this, the Stone was created shortly after the founding of Equestria. Magic was utilized to harness the ability of pegasi to alter and control the weather. Apparently the idea was a way of allowing the seasons to persist more naturally throughout different areas of the country, allowing for crops and development to occur within a more organized manner. Commander Hurricane brought up the idea of putting a single pegasi in charge of all the seasons. Unfortunately, the way the stone was created made this plan have complications.” Twilight said as she looked through the book.

“Considering what happened to Ponyville, I’d say that’s an understatement.” Scoot chimed in.

“What happened next?” Rainbow asked.

“Well, to abridge everything, the pegasi that was chosen by the Commander tried using the stone. However, its magic proved to be much too powerful to be handled by only one pony and they were driven insane and corrupted by its magic, causing them to go out of control and cause destruction.” Twilight looked back at everyone else, who were listening intently to her story.

“So that was a bad idea.” Gilda spoke up.

Twilight nodded before turning back to the book, “Thankfully, the pegasus was able to be saved from the Stone’s power through the help of a spell cast by Starswirl the Bearded that managed to quell the unstable magic and prevent further damage,” Twilight turned a page, “Since then, the stone was buried and sealed away to prevent its power from ever being used again and instead the task of properly maintaining the seasons would fall to four pegasi with exceptional abilities.”

“The Weather Ministers.” Rainbow said.

“Exactly,” Twilight nodded, “That’s what I’ve been able to find so far.”

“Okay, the history lesson was riveting, I guess,” Scoot sighed as she walked over to the other side of the table, “Still doesn’t explain how we stop Storm Stallion.”

“Well, we’ve got the Stone at least. That’s one good thing.” Rainbow looked over at her, examining her closely. Scoot was acting odd. She’d hardly spoken since they’d arrived and now it seemed like she was looking more agitated.

“Something’s bugging her.” Rainbow thought.

“That doesn’t stop him from finding it and taking it from us, which I’m sure he’ll be able to do if whoever hired those mercs wants the Stone back badly enough.” Scoot replied, pacing back and forth.

“Mercenaries? You all encountered mercenaries at the quarry?” Twilight asked, looking at each of them.

“Sure did. Might pricey ones accordin’ to Gilda here.” Applejack motioned to the griffin, who simply replied with a nod.

“Oh no,” Twilight said with a concerned look, “Princess Celestia told me that the reason she got an interest in the Stone was because Weather Minister Solstice has a project involving it proposed.”

“A higher-up noble like him definitely could have the bits to be able to pay for the Checkered Flags.” Gilda added, glancing down at Spike as the baby dragon walked over, took a look at her and jumped up in shock at the sight of the large griffin staring at him. Gilda simply smiled at him and waved hello.

“Did you say his name was Solstice?” Scoot suddenly turned to Twilight. Rainbow could now see that the name had triggered a response of building rage in the pegasus. Before she could say anything, Scoot pivoted around and started running out of the room. Rainbow quickly jumped up, flying over above Scoot. She landed in the doorway, barring her from leaving, and stared down Scoot as the orange pegasus skidded to a stop.

“Scootaloo, what’s wrong? What do you know about Solstice and his involvement in all this?” Rainbow said, trying to remain calm to help reach out to the flustered Scoot.

“He’s the reason! He helped Storm Stallion get the Stone! We need to go take care of him now before anything bad happens!” Scoot shouted her voice frantic.

“Take care of him? What do you mean by that?” Rainbow’s expression turned serious.

“Whoa, whoa! Ya’ don’t mean kill him, do ya’? I ain’t no assassin!” Applejack darted over.

“That’s a last resort measure, kid. We need to think this over before we settle on that.” Gilda said calmly.

“Oh, you mean get lectured and learn about the stone? No! That’s not doing anything except letting us know what happens in great detail!” Scoot looked to Rainbow with a pleading look, “Dash, come on. You get this, right? Storm Stallion killed you. You know what needs to be done, right?” She smiled slightly. However, her expression faded when she didn’t get the response she wanted and instead found herself facing a stern looking Rainbow.

“No, Scoot. They’re right. We can’t just rush off and start offing ponies left and right. We need a plan that-“

“Forget plans! I have a plan! I knew what I had to do, but everypony else…” Scoot trailed off, “I…we need to save you, Dash.” She said, stepping back slightly and looking at the ground, “

“Squirt?” Rainbow stepped forward.

“It’s the only option now,” she looked back up with an angry look in her eyes and tears welling up, “But if you want to sit here and listen to the hick, the fatty, and the nerd, then go right ahead. I’ll do this on my own.” With a swift motion, Scoot caught Rainbow off guard and tripped her, knocking the cyan pegasus into the air and fleeing the room before she even hit the ground. Rainbow landed hard on the ground, but quickly got back up and rushed into the hallway, looking left and right to see where Scoot had gone. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to see her and angrily punched the doorframe in frustration.

“Darn it! Why is she so gung-ho about this?!” She shouted as her three other friends ran up next to her.

“Rainbow, we gotta’ go find her before she goes and does somethin’ rash.” Applejack put a comforting hoof on her shoulder.

“I’ll say! I’m gonna’ pay that little punk back for that comment!” Gilda snarled as she cracked her knuckles.

“I’ll go tell Princess Celestia about what’s going on,” Twilight rushed off, “Give me a call with that jewel if you still have it!”

“Got it,” Rainbow said as she stepped back from the door and galloped off, “Come on, girls!” She called out as Gilda and Applejack immediately followed her.

“What’s wrong with you, Scootaloo? What are you hiding?”

Chapter 9: Showdown In The Rain

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(A/N: Sorry this is so late, guys. I got swamped with some homework and I didn't have time to finish it yesterday. I promise the next one will be on time!)

“You sure you don’t want to stay any longer?” Fluttershy asked Wind as he stepped outside.

“No, it’s fine. I should be getting back to Canterlot. My family is probably very concerned about me being gone for so long,” he replied before turning to Fluttershy and Scootaloo, “I thank you both for the hospitality and for letting me vent as well.” He said nervously, “Sorry I got so angry.”

Fluttershy shook her head, “Don’t worry, and just get back to your family so that they don’t get too worried.”

“Right,” Wind turned to Scootaloo, “And you take care too, Scootaloo. Good luck with getting your cutie mark.”

“Thanks, Wind! Good to see you’re not actually completely crazy after all!” Scootaloo waved as Wind flapped into the air and subsequently flew off into the setting sky. As he went on his way, Fluttershy looked over to see Rarity trotting over alongside the other two Cutie Mark Crusaders.

“Oh, Fluttershy! There you are! Is Scootaloo with you?” She asked.

“Yup, right here!” Scootaloo hopped up next to Fluttershy and waved, “Ya’ want an autograph?” She grinned.

Rarity smirked, “Very funny, young lady.”

“Scootaloo, what’s the deal? Why didn't you tell us you were going to go see Fluttershy?” Sweetie Belle asked with a very hurt look.

“Oh no! I totally lost track o’ time,” Scootaloo walked over to the other two fillies, “Sorry, girls.” She looked down.

Apple Bloom walked over and gave her pegasus friend a pat on the back, “Don’t you worry none, Scoots. Tomorrow’s the weekend so we’ll have plenty of time to hang out.”

Sweetie Belle nodded, “Yeah, we forgive you. It’s okay.” She said with a warm smile.

“Aw…thanks, girls. You’re the best.” Scootaloo grinned as she put her hooves around both her friends as the three Crusaders all engaged in a group hug.

“We’ve still got some time if y’all wanna’ head over to the farm for a bit.” Apple Bloom spoke up.

“Race ya’ there!” Scootaloo laughed as she broke the hug and rushed off.

“I betcha’ I’ll get there first!” Apple Bloom followed.

“Hey! Wait up you two!” Sweetie Belle also gave chase.

“Girls! Hang on!” Rarity groaned and rolled her eyes, “I swear, I’ll never get the hang of this watching children thing,” she turned back to Fluttershy, “Oh! I almost forgot, Fluttershy! Do you still happen to have some of that cloth you bought a while back? If so, could I borrow some?” She asked.

“Oh yes, you can, “Fluttershy nodded, “What’s it for?”

“A project for Rainbow Dash when she gets back,” Rarity glanced back to see the three fillies still running off, “Uh…run it by my boutique later! I need to go, bye!” She waved as she galloped off after the Crusaders.

****

Solstice paced back and forth in his manor’s living room. He had come back to Canterlot like Star asked him to do, but all he had done since he’d been there was constantly worry about the situation with the Stone. While he was confident in Star’s ability to handle the situation, the more time passed the more his confidence became overridden by his concerns.

“Okay. Just stay calm, Solstice, go out and have some dinner or something and not worry about how you’re going to end up locked away for the rest of your life and for them to toss the key when they do it,” he said to himself as he was now set on another lap around his living room. All of the sudden, he heard the door open up behind him and a butler of his walked in with Star at his side.

“Minister, Dr. Star is here to speak with you.” The butler said.

“STAR!” Solstice shouted as he rushed over, placing both his hooves on her shoulders, “Please tell me you found the Stone! Please, please, please tell me you and the others found it!”

“Solstice, calm down and step back,” she shook her head as moved to the side and stepped into the living room. The butler bowed to them both before he left the room, “Now, listen, unfortunately, we weren’t able to find the stone…now before you go and flip out, that doesn’t mean we’re completely sunk. We still have time.”

“If you say so…though just to be safe, I think I need to talk to someone I can trust…someone that could help me,” Solstice trotted over to a coat rack and took a cloak off it, “I will be back in a bit.” He drew it over himself.

“Um…Solstice, are you actually going to wear that?” Star asked.

“Well, yes. There’s rain scheduled for tonight. I’d rather not catch cold.” Solstice replied as he draped the cloak on.

“I understand that it’s just…well, the cloak is jet black.” Star said with an apprehensive look.

“What are you getting at, Star?”

“Sorry to be blunt when I say this, but the cloak makes you look creepy.”

“Creepy? I’ll have you know that this cloak is a highly fashionable accessory that allows one to look presentable even in terrible weather,” Solstice pulled the cloak over his head, covering the majority of his face, “You see? I won't even get my mane wet!” He grinned.

“Solstice, you look like you should be worshipping some evil deity with a cloak that dark on,” she trotted over to him, “You. Look. Creepy.” She said, tapping him on the head.

“Hmph…fine. I’ll get a new one at some point,” Solstice grumbled, “I think gray’s actually in this season anyway,” he walked over to the door and exited the mansion. Star sighed as he left and slowly walked over to a couch, sitting down and taking a quill out.

“He’s such an idiot…but I hope he comes through this okay.” She thought as she began writing in a note.

****

“Hm, this is the place.” Solstice said to himself as he walked up to another manor in the neighboring district of Canterlot. As he walked up to the front door, he found himself having the door answered by Typhoon.

“Hello, Solstice.” He said.

“Ah…Ty-Typhoon? Hey,” he said, shocked, “Um…were you expecting me?”

“Your assistant informed me you were on the way. Apparently you forgot to tell her you were leaving…and also informed me you were coming to see me in the first place as well.” Typhoon added.

“Oh…it seems that I did. My apologies,” Solstice nodded, “May I come in?”

“Of course, please,” Typhoon stepped aside as Solstice entered, “What did you want to talk about?”

“Well, you see…” Solstice sighed and looked at the floor, “Oh dear Celestia I screwed up, Typhoon. I really messed things up this time.”

“What are you talking about?” Typhoon looked at Solstice with a look of confusion.

“I…I dug up the Stone of Storms,” Solstice turned away from Typhoon.

“You did what?” Typhoon walked in front of Solstice, “Solstice, you knew we hadn’t been able to come to an agreement on that and you went against the wishes of the rest of us?”

“It’s not just that…I talked to Princess Celestia and told her about it as well. She said she’d look into it and maybe agree to endorse it, but then someponies stole it and now it’s out there somewhere and I can’t find it and…this is a really bad situation.”

“So let me get this straight,” Typhoon rubbed the bridge of his snout in frustration while also closing his eyes, “You went ahead without ours or even the Princess’ permission and dug it up, then you lost it?” He looked over as Solstice nervously nodded. Typhoon sighed and walked up next to him, “Well, I appreciate your honesty, Solstice. I’m assuming that you’ve come here in order to ask for help in resolving this situation? If so, I need to know something first before I’ll do anything.”

“Yes?” Solstice asked.

“Did you come to me for help because you’re legitimately concerned about the stone’s power being misused or are you just afraid of getting caught?” Typhoon stared at Solstice with a piercing gaze. Solstice reeled back from the question and was about to angrily reply with the former answer…until he thought about it. Was he more worried about getting caught and punished than actually finding the stone? Star had said she’d handle it, but that was only because he’d been freaking out so badly about the stone getting stolen in the first place. Then he shook his head and faced Typhoon.

“The stone being out there unsupervised is much more of a threat than anything else.” He said with a resolute look.

Typhoon stared at him and then smiled slightly, “Hm…fine. I’ll do what I can to help you. Just make sure that you…” He turned to face Solstice, only for Wind to enter the room, “Oh, Wind Runner, there you are. How was your flight?”

“Um…fine,” Wind replied as he looked at Solstice. The Winter Minister suddenly looked as if he had seen a ghost and stepped back slightly.

“Oh, Solstice, have you met my son Wind….Solstice? Are you okay?” Typhoon asked with concern.

Solstice put on a wide, false grin as he nodded, “Yes. I’m fine. No, I haven’t met him. I just remembered I needed to take care of something else. Sorry to have troubled you. Thanks again.” He stepped back out, giving Wind a quick glare before resuming his grin and stepping out.

“That was odd. I wonder what’s wrong with him.” Typhoon asked, looking very confused. Wind simply looked at the ground and stepped away from the room.

****

“He’s Typhoon’s son?! That makes things even worse! Ugh, this couldn’t have come at a worse time!” Solstice snarled as he galloped back toward his manor, now trying to think about what he was going to do now that he had found out Storm Stallion was actually Typhoon’s son. On top of things, the rain scheduled for tonight had already begun. He finally arrived to the entrance to the district where his manor was. However, before he could go any further, a purple-maned mare came out and stepped in his way, forcing Solstice to slide to a stop.

“You look just like you did when the Royal Guard hauled you away kicking and screaming.” She said with a menacing tone.

“Hauled me away? What are you talking about? I’ve never been arrested a day in my life.” Solstice cocked an eyebrow, racking his brain to see if he knew her.

“You only needed it to happen once and it was for the worst thing you probably ever did,” she began approaching him, “Because of you, I lost my home, my childhood, and one of the best friends I ever had. It’s all your fault.”

“Miss, you must have me confused for somepony else. I don’t recall-“

“I’M NOT FINISHED YET!” The mare shouted at him, fury clearly ignited in her eyes and her sudden yell making Solstice jump back, “My name is Scootaloo and I had to betray my friends to get a chance to end this. They told me to not make it personal, but everything about this is personal. I won’t let it happen again,” she moved down into a readied position, “Not again!” She yelled as she flapped her wings and flung herself at him. Solstice barely had time to dodge as she suddenly deployed a pair of small blades from her left hoof and slashed at him, the blades clanging against the ground. He moved up and wasn’t able to move fast enough as a second strike caught him across his face. Solstice winced as the blades cut into his cheek, but he shrugged off the pain and jumped away, putting some distance between him and his attacker. Solstice instinctively touched his cheek with his hoof then pulled it away, seeing a streak of crimson splattered on his leg.

“Oh no…I really hope this doesn’t scar.” He thought. Solstice turned back to see the pegasus, apparently called Scootaloo, coming at him again. He faced her and pulled at his cloak, throwing it off of himself and at her. She ducked past it and looked at the falling cloak before turning to Solstice, who was coming down from the air above her.

“Take this!” He shouted, throwing a hard downward strike at her. Scoot quickly ducked back to avoid the attack as Solstice came down, his hoof hitting the ground. However, he wasted no time in charging at her as he folded his wings in front of him and solid ice formed around them. Surprised, she jumped back and drew her cannon, firing bolts at him, which harmlessly bounced off his iced wings. When he got close enough, Solstice ducked down and slid across the ground, throwing a hard kick at her legs. Scoot clumsily rolled to dodge the attack, firing her cannon at him. Solstice drew his wing up and blocked the shots before using his other wing to smack her away. Scoot hit the wet ground and rolled across it, splashing and sliding before finally coming to a stop a short ways away from Solstice. She struggled up to her hooves and faced him down again, a fierce glare in her eyes. Solstice looked over at her and began approaching her, a blank look on his face as ice formed on his wings yet again.

“Agh…” She groaned, shaking her head.

“Why do you hate me so much? I haven’t done anything to you!” Solstice shouted at her, his face now starting to throb and string from both the rain and the tense situation.

“You think you didn’t, but you did!” Scoot yelled at him, “You gave that monster the Stone of Storms and he used it to destroy my home and kill my best friend!”

“I told you I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about! I don’t even have the Stone right now so I certainly couldn’t have given it to someone that would’ve misused its abilities,” Solstice walked closer, “I want the stone as a means of helping others! It’s part of our history as pegasi! Why can’t anypony understand that?”

Scoot laughed, “You think you’re such a history buff, huh? You think that thing can actually help people,” she then looked up at him, her face dripping wet from both the rain and tears, “Well, I’m proof that it can’t! So if you want to know about history know much, I’ll send you to meet ponies that will tell you!” She finally leapt up and attacked again, Solstice jumping back in shock. He blocked her blades with his wings as she furiously slashed and swung at him, her attacks chipping away at the ice. Solstice continued parrying her while attempting to find an opening to strike back. His wish was seemingly answered when Scoot fell to the side from a blast of lightning, knocking her to the ground as she fell unconscious. Solstice jumped back and looked at her, the ice falling off his wings as he did, then glanced up to see the familiar figure of Storm-no, Wind Runner apparently-floating above him.

“You okay?” He asked, trying to sound confident. Solstice simply stared at the younger pegasus before looking down at the knocked out Scoot.

“Pick her up and follow me.” Solstice growled as he walked off. Wind looked over at Scoot and quickly complied, placing her on his back before following Solstice off toward his manor.

Chapter 10: Race Against Time

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“No sign of her.” Gilda came back down and landed near Applejack and Rainbow, both of whom had taken cover from the rain underneath a covered bench.

“Great…this whole thing is going from bad to worse.” Rainbow sighed.

“Ugh, my wings are soaked,” Gilda grumbled as she flicked water off her wings, “Better than maple syrup though. Right, Dash?” She nudged Rainbow’s shoulder.

“Don’t remind me.” Rainbow groaned.

“We’ll have to tell ya’ that story sometime,” Gilda looked at Applejack before stepping out, “Hey, I’m gonna’ go take another look around. Back in a flash!” She stepped out and flew up into the sky again. Applejack and Rainbow also walked out from under their cover and started walking around, looking for any signs of Scoot. The two walked silently for a short time before Applejack spoke up.

“Hey, Rainbow, mind if I ask ya’ somethin’?” She glanced over.

“Go for it.” Rainbow replied.

“Well, it’s about Scoot. Now, it might just be my own brain spinnin’ up yarns, but have ya’ noticed how it seems like she’s been shootin’ from the hip when it comes to this? Matter o’ fact, it seems like she didn’t really have much of a plan ‘til that Solstice came up.”

Rainbow glanced over to Applejack, “Yeah, I noticed that too…something happened that she’s not telling us about.”

Applejack responded with a nod, “She sure as sugar seems a lot different than the Scoot we got.”

“Guess losing me must’ve messed up her a lot more than I’d ever imagined,” Rainbow looked at the ground.

“Sugarcube, we’d all be messed up if we lost ya’. You’re a real good friend to us all” Applejack placed a foreleg around Rainbow’s shoulder, making the pegasus pony look up and at the sympathetic expression her earth pony friend had, “Even if ya’ll might be a tad hard to get along with, what with ya’ bein’ stubborn and headstrong and all that.”

“Look who’s talking,” Rainbow chuckled as she looked up at Applejack, “I seem to remember something about apple bucking and a certain somepony exhausting herself?” She asked with a smirk.

Applejack sighed and facehoofed, “Ya’ just had to bring that up again, didn’t ya’?”

“Wouldn’t be me otherwise.” Rainbow grinned before she dropped it to a warm smile, “But…thanks, AJ. It means a lot that you care that much. I know I try to get a little attention sometimes…,” she paused as Applejack tilted her head to the side and stared at her, “…okay, A LOT of attention, but knowing that I’ve got true friends who care about me really makes me feel more at ease.” She smiled.

“You’re quite welcome.” Applejack returned the expression and gave a small tilt of her hat.

****

Star continued reading in the library of Solstice’s manor. She found herself taken out of her thoughts when she heard the door open followed by angry hoofsteps. She got up from the chair she sat in and opened up the door. Walking through the hallway were Solstice, Wind, and a pair of the Checkered Flag unicorns. Star looked to see that Wind had the pegasus who had stolen the Stone of Storms on his back. However, the more immediate thing she noticed was that the side of Solstice’s face was bleeding from what looked like a deep cut.

“Solstice!” She cried, rushing over to him.

“Don’t worry, dear Star. It’s not as bad as it looks…well, actually it is,” Solstice grumbled, “Someone get me a bandage, some disinfectant, possibly someone to cast an anti-scarring spell,” he said, his voice trailing off as he thought, “Oh, and do we have any wine? I REALLY want some wine right now.” He growled.

“What happened?” She looked back as the guards and Wind before turning to Solstice, following him into the manor’s kitchen.

“An assassination attempt! That’s what happened!”

“…you’re going to need to elaborate, Solstice. I don’t speak raving noble.” Star looked at him over her glasses.

“That little filly came at me after I left Typhoon’s manor, cut my face with her blade, claw, thingy whatever, and shrieked at me about destroying her home and killing her best friend or whatever…which I didn’t do since I’m not an evil tyrant! Arrrgh!” Solstice roared as he slapped a cupboard closed with his wing, “Where is the wine?!”

“Solstice, calm down!” Star walked over to him.

Solstice grit his teeth and breathed heavily, turning back to see Wind enter the room, “Oh, by the way, Star, meet Wind Runner. Typhoon’s son.”

“Wait…that…what…huh?” Star looked back and forth at Solstice and then Wind, “Why are you dressed like that?”

“I guess he wanted to play supervillain.” Solstice growled.

“I’m…I’m sorry for deceiving you-" Wind started to speak.

“Star, go tend to that pegasus,” Solstice cut Wind off. Star glanced over at the two other pegasi with an awkward stare before nodding and walking out, “So, apparently you’re not as special as I thought.”

“What are you-“

“You’re just some brat who decided to go out and try and have fun, is it?” Solstice glared at Wind a she approached him, “You think that dressing up and hiding your identity is an enjoyable activity?”

“I...I was just trying to help.” Wind stepped back.

“You haven’t done anything to help! If anything, you just made things worse because now you’ve drawn more attention because of who you are!” Solstice stamped a hoof on the ground, “I thought you were special, a pegasus with abilities honed from your own accord, but instead you’re just out to have fun with your inherited powers!”

“Stop it…” Wind grit his teeth.

“What? Are you trying to order me around?! There’s probably a chance you ticked someone off and I got attacked for it! Not to mention the idiotic idea you had of attacking one of the Elements of Harmony! Oh, but it makes sense with how jealous you must feel about your father’s accomplish-“

“SHUT UP!” Wind snarled as he punched Solstice. The Winter Minister winced from the strike before slowly looking back to the angry Wind, “It’s just the same as always…everything always comes back to my father,” lightning started crackling around his body, “Fine then!” He shouted as he flew out of the room, smashing part of the door frame as he flew out.

****

Elsewhere, the two ponies and the griffin continued searching for Scoot. Their attention was grabbed, however, by the sudden chiming of Rainbow’s Projection Jewel. She reached into her bag and pulled it out, an image of Twilight suddenly appearing.

“Rainbow, I just got a break for you guys!” She said.

“What’s up, Twi?” Rainbow asked, looking at the image.

“The Royal Guard just received a message from Solstice’s assistant. He was apparently attacked, but he managed to overpower the attacker and has them restrained at his mansion,” she looked over, “He’s requesting the Royal Guard to come arrest them…and the description matches Scootaloo’s.”

“That ain’t good.” Applejack said.

“Well, we’ve gotta’ there! She’s still got the stone with her and I’ll bet Storm Stallion’s nearby!” Rainbow said with a worried look as she glanced back at Gilda and Applejack, and then turned to Twilight again, “Give me an address, Twi!”

“It’s in the Lilac District, the first one at the entrance!” Twilight called, “I’ll tell the Princess to have the guard hurry there to give you a hoof!” The image disappeared and Rainbow replaced the jewel before running off, her two friends close behind.

“If that dweeb gets a hold of that stone, it’s gonna’ take a heck of a lot more than just the Royal Guard to take him down.” Gilda remarked.

“Not if we hurry!” Rainbow firmly said.

“Hang on, Scoot. We’re coming.”

****

Scoot’s vision was blurry, but she was able to make out enough to see she was in a stone room, probably in a basement somewhere. Two guards stood in the room, watching her intently in preparation for her to make a move. With the way she felt, though, she knew she couldn’t do anything. She tried shaking her head to try and get her vision back, but the only thing it succeeded in doing was make her head ache even more and force her to close her eyes to try and subside the pain. In doing so, she started to drift off again as her vision blackened.

****

“Ya’ sure this is safe?” Apple Bloom asked, nervously staring at the shimmering rainbow portal before her that was held in place by a circular construct.

“Time travel’s never a safe thing,” Sweetie Belle looked over at her, also acknowledging the presence of their cloaked assistant, who appeared to be checking the status of the portal, “Well…it’s not really a thing in general, to be honest.”

“No kiddin’,” Apple Bloom adjusted her hat her sister had passed down to her, “Can’t believe I’m really goin’ back to the past. It’s kinda’ weird.”

“You’ll be fine.” Scoot came up behind her and patted her on the back, surprising the yellow earth pony.

“Wha? Hey there, Scootaloo. I thought y’all went off on a patrol.” She said.

“Yeah, just got back.” She nodded with a smile, “Good luck back there, Apple Bloom. You’re going to need-" Scoot cut herself off before she suddenly smacked Apple Bloom in the back of the head. The surprise attack instantly knocked her out and sent her falling to the ground.

“Scootaloo?! What are you do-agh!” Sweetie Belle too was felled, this time by a paralyzing shot from Scoot’s cannon. The cloaked assistant tried to run to her, but Scoot drew her cannon on them as well.

“Don’t even think about, old mare! I’m going back!” Scoot glared, her gaze stopping the assistant from moving as they simply stood and watched Scoot step toward the portal, “She was my friend and I’m going back to save her!”

“Don’t make this personal. If you do, you’ll lose control of your emotions and do something you’ll regret.” The assistant said, leaning her head up to look at Scoot with a pair of sad, purple eyes.

Scoot looked over at her two friends, who were struggling to regain their composure, “I just did something I already regret.” She growled before rushing through, disappearing through the time stream.

****

Scoot suddenly opened her eyes; her irises the size of pin pricks as she looked around the room, seeing Star enter the room, a sour expression on her face.

“So, it’s you again,” she said, circling around the table Scoot had been restrained down to, “You know, you really must have some odd priorities if you decide to take something from us, then immediately rush back and try and fight…in fact, judging by the weight of your bags here,” she nudged Scoot’s saddle bags, “I’ll bet you still have it in your pack here.”

“Oh, horseapples! I forgot to drop it off!” Scoot cursed herself for leaving so quickly.

“Well, the fact that you brought it back might help, though being around Solstice right now might be a bad idea. He’s quite upset about the fact that you cut his face,” she said as she withdrew the stone with her magic, “To be completely honest, I’m not too happy about it either and if I weren’t a better mare, I’d certainly take some revenge," sudden sound of commotion came from out in the hallway, “What in the world is that?” Star asked. Suddenly, the door blasted off, knocking Star and the two guards down. Scoot’s eyes widened as she saw Wind walk into the room, a small smile crossing his lips as he laid eyes on the stone.

“So, this is it, huh? Perfect,” he picked it up and held it in his hooves, “Finally, now I’ll show everypony my power with this!” He slapped an electrified hoof on the stone and in turn it blasted him in the chest with powerful magical energy that began wrapping itself around his chest. Wind winced in pain as the stone glowed brightly. Scoot began breathing heavily as he threw his head back and cried out, his eyes glowing pure white as the energy continued flowing through him before he extended his wings and flew straight up, smashing through the ceiling and sending pieces falling into the room.

****

“Here it is!” Rainbow slid to a halt in front of the manor’s gates, then pivoted on her hooves and rushed straight toward the door.

“Rainbow, wait!” Applejack called out, but Rainbow ignored her as she rushed up and kicked it open, running into the mansion. She looked around in shock at the various injured Checkered Flag soldiers lying around on the floor.

“There’s so much lightning damage…did Storm Stallion do all this?” Rainbow turned around as Gilda and Applejack came in.

“We’ll help these guys, you go find Scoot!” Gilda waved Rainbow off as she kneeled down to check on a nearby guard, Applejack doing the same. Rainbow wasted no time rushing off, looking around at the various rooms before settling on heading downstairs into a basement corridor. She rushed down the corridor, heading for the only room with a destroyed door nearby, looking in and seeing Scoot held down on a table by leather straps.

“Scootaloo!” She ran over to the table and looked at Scoot, “Are you okay?” She noticed that the orange pegasus had a blank, shell-shocked expression across her face.

“It’s my fault. He got the stone and it’s all my fault.” She said quietly.

“What? What are you talking about?” Rainbow asked.

“I betrayed them for nothing. I couldn’t stop it from happening.” Scoot continued, her voice trailing off as she turned her head away from Rainbow.

“Scoot, snap out of it!” Rainbow shouted. The sudden yell somehow brought Scoot back to reality as she shook her head and she glanced up at Rainbow.

“I…Rainbow, I’m so sorry,” she closed her eyes, fighting back tears, “I should’ve waited and now because of me, Storm Stallion has the stone. I saw him absorb its power into him and he flew off.”

“Well, don’t worry about it. Just because he’s got it doesn’t mean we’re toast yet. It’ll just be a lot harder to kick his flank down.” Rainbow said with her face steeled in a confidant look.

“I…you really think we can?” Scoot asked.

Rainbow began undoing the straps around Scoot, “As sure as there’s something you’re not telling me. Who’d you betray?” She looked over.

Scoot started to talk, but she quickly came close to sobbing, “Rainbow, I messed up. Apple Bloom was originally going to be the one to come back, but I couldn’t let her take that responsibility on. I…I hurt them so I could come back…so I could save you,” she closed her eyes and looked away, “They probably hate me for that.”

“They’re probably mad, but I don’t think they hate you,” Rainbow looked down at her and smiled, “Friends fight. It happens. From what I’ve learned, all you have to do is try and make an effort to reconcile and things should work out,” she rolled her eyes, “And if there’s anypony that knows about apologizing for making mistakes, it’s me.” She undid the final strap and helped Scoot up to her hooves.

“Rainbow, I…I’m sorry. I should’ve been more honest with you about me coming back. I know I’m supposed to save Ponyville, but I also really wanted to save-“

“Hey, don’t worry. You can apologize later. Meanwhile, we should…hm?” Rainbow looked over to see the unconscious Star stirring and attempt to stand, only to wince and fall, crying out, “Whoa, whoa, hang on.” She rushed over and helped Star stand up, “Your leg broken?”

“No, just sprained,” she shook her head, “Where’s Solstice? Is he okay?”

“Uh…no idea. We just got here.” Rainbow replied.

“STAAAAAAAAR!” A loud voice came from out in the corridor as Solstice rushed into the room, “Star, there you are! Are you alright?! What did he do to you?!”

“Agh…Sir, you’re on my tail.” One of the downed guards groaned while the other one stood up and rubbed his head.

“Oh, sorry,” Solstice nervously stepped to the side, only to be knocked off his hooves again as the whole manor shook, “What in the name of Equestria is that?” He got up again as Applejack and Gilda entered the room.

“Uh…Rainbow, we got a problem.” The earth pony said with a worried look.

“A BIG problem.” Gilda added.

****

The group rushed outside to see Wind fly up and them slam down on top of the roof, lightning and bright white magical energy now consistently flowing around his body.

“Oh great,” Rainbow sighed; “Now he’s superpowered.”

“RARGH! Solstice! Where are you?!” He shouted in a booming, distorted voice. He shot out waves of lightning across the roof, only for them to be absorbed by the magical lightning rod adorning the very top, “ARGH! FINE!” He raised both hooves into the air, “If you won’t come out to face me, I’ll just create something else to draw you out! I have a rival to take care of anyway!” A massive ball of lightning formed around his hooves before he threw it down toward the courtyard. He then spread his wings and flew off.

“What in tarnation is that thing?” Applejack demanded as the ball hit the ground and, to everyone’s surprise, started to form legs and arms.

“Dash…you seein’ that?” Gilda asked with shock as she simply stared while the construct opened up a large, yellow eye in the center of its body.

“So this is the power of the Stone of Storms…yeah, this is so not gonna’ be cool at all.” Rainbow watched as Wind’s creation began inching toward them, a beam of lightning shooting out of its eye and forcing them all to take cover among the front steps.

“What kinda’ crazy magic lets a pony be able to do somethin’ like that?” Applejack shouted, peering at the creature from behind a marble potting array.

“It’s probably a variation on a spell used to bring inanimate objects to life. “ Star replied as Solstice sat near her, “I don’t think I’m strong enough o deconstruct it.”

“We have to get out of here! We’ll be outmatched if we try to fight it head on.” Solstice peeked up only to nearly get hit with the beam again.

“Solstice, keep your head down!” Star glared at him.

“Sorry.” He turned back to her with a sheepish grin, part of his mane lightly singed.

“Hey, G, ya’ think we could take that thing out if we flank it?” Rainbow looked over at Gilda.

“I have no idea, but we’re running low on options here. I’m all for it if you are.” Gilda nodded.

“Right with you too, Rainbow.” Scoot beat a hoof against her chest.

Rainbow looked over to where Applejack had bunkered down, “AJ! We’ll cover you and distract big yellow baddie over there while you help Solstice and Star get to safety!”

“You’re kiddin’ me, right? I ain’t leavin’ ya’ here to tangle with some giant lightnin’ monster by yourselves!” Applejack protested.

“We don’t have a choice. Just trust me!” Rainbow fired back.

Applejack glared at Rainbow before she shook her head, “Fine, but y’all better not get yourselves killed or ain’t nopony in Ponyville’d ever forgive me!”

“Thanks! Wait for my signal!” Rainbow turned back to her two fellow fliers, “So, go on three?”

“We could just charge it now instead of waiting and just get it over with.” Gilda shrugged.

“Fine, two and a half then,” Rainbow moved over to the other side of their cover, Gilda and Scootaloo moving into position behind her, “Alright, one…” Before Rainbow could count further, a pair of black streaks whipped past the creature in an X pattern, hitting it and causing it to falter back.

“What’s going on now?” Scoot looked around. A pair of armored pegasi suddenly appeared in the courtyard on both sides of the creature. Their armor appeared to be a dark purple and black color while coats were an ash gray color. However, the most unusual aspect of their appearance were the fact that they had webbed bat-like wings as opposed to feathered wings.

“It’s the Night Guard.” Rainbow said.

“FOUL ABHERRATION!” A loud, female voice boomed from the sky as a cloaked figure landed down in front of the construct, “Thou dare’st to cause such destruction and disrupt our beautiful night?!” The figure threw its head back as the cloak suddenly flew away into bats, revealing the dark, imposing figure of Princess Luna, the other alicorn ruler of Equestria, “Cease with thine chaotic behavior at once or suffer our wrath!”

“The Princess of the Moon? What in the world is she doing here?” Solstice asked with a look of both surprise and yet also relief.

“Well, apparently she’s savin’ our hides.” Applejack replied.

Rainbow smiled, “Thanks for bringing in the big guns, Twi.” However, the construct appeared to be unfazed by Luna’s presence and immediately attacked with its beam. Luna quickly dashed to the side and flew above it.

“Thou hast apparently refused to yield to our warning,” Luna began charging magic around her horn, causing a pair of magical chains to suddenly appear around the monster’s arms, “Then let thy fate be sealed!” She shouted as she motioned her head downward, the chains suddenly rocketing down and pulling the creature down into the ground as well, its body causing cracks to appear as it impacted. Luna descended and touched down onto the stone ground of the courtyard before lifting a leg up and then lightly stomping it against the ground. A massive burst of energy came from the chains still restraining the construct, destroying it in an instant and leaving only a few crackles of lightning arcing across the ground where it once stood.

“Ah yeah! That’s what I call backup!” Gilda cheered as the group all came out from hiding, Solstice helping Star to walk over.

“Princess Luna, thank you so much.” Rainbow bowed to Luna.

“You are quite welcome,” Luna replied with a small smile, “Are all of you alright?”

“There’s more injured inside, but they don’t look too seriously hurt.” Solstice replied.

Luna nodded and turned to her guards, “Attend to those inside while the medical team arrives.”

“Yes, your Highness.” Both guards saluted at the same time and rushed off into the manor. Luna watched them go before turning back to the group.

“I’m not entirely aware of the situation at hoof, but it sounds serious. I’m to bring all of you to the palace and to my sister in order to figure this all out.” She said.

Rainbow looked over at the rest of her group before turning back to Luna, “Lead the way.”

Chapter 11: Calm Before The Storm

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After arriving at the palace and getting Star’s injury treated, the group met up with Twilight and began heading to the throne room. As they entered, they found Celestia standing in the center along with the three other Weather Ministers. Fahrenheit was the first to see them enter and immediately aimed an angry gaze at Solstice.

“You idiot! I knew that if anything was going to go wrong this summer, it would be because of you!” She snarled as she began approaching him. However, before she could begin another venom-filled rant, Star stepped in between them with an even more raging look.

“Leave him alone! It wasn’t his fault that the one we had helping us went rogue and stole the stone,” she shouted, moving closer to Fahrenheit, who was obviously taken aback by this unexpected challenger, “Maybe if you wouldn’t be so stubborn and pigheaded, we could’ve been able to do this with help instead of having to rely on…”

“Star, stop”, Solstice quietly said as he looked down, “This is my fault. Fahrenheit, as well as everypony else, has a right to be angry with me.” Star and Fahrenheit both looked back at him, expressions matching the confusion and shock.

“Uh…hey,” Rainbow stepped over to them, tapping a hoof against her head “Can we focus here instead of getting into a screaming match over whose fault what is?”

“Rainbow Dash is correct,” Celestia walked over to them, “The matter of Solstice’s mishandling of this situation is a matter for later after this crisis is over.”

“Fine.” Fahrenheit begrudgingly stepped back, Star doing the same as well.

“Now, from what Twilight has told me, the power of the Stone of Storms can be contained with a spell.” Celestia turned to Twilight.

“Yes,” Twilight nodded, “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of history to go through and since Spike’s fallen asleep, I’ve been doing a lot of the research on my own. Plus, there’s also the fact that Storm Stallion’s target is going to be Ponyville and he’s going to be even more dangerous than before with the abilities the stone’s granted him.”

“I can help you with the research,” Star stepped over, “It would be an honor to work alongside a student of the Princess as well.” She said, bowing to Twilight.

“I’ll take any help I can get at this point.” Twilight said with a grateful tone.

“Twi, in the info you did manage to dig up about the stone, did it happen to say how long we have until the stone’s magic goes completely out of control?” Rainbow asked.

“Not long,” Twilight shook her head, “The more he utilizes its power, the more unstable it’ll become.”

“Celestia, I believe it best that we send some soldiers to Ponyville in order to help evacuate as well as prepare to defend the town if necessary. My guard is ready to go.” Luna turned to her sister and then the others.

“The mercenaries I hired are also nearby. They’ll lend you assistance as well.” Solstice said.

“Ya’ think they’ll do it?” Applejack asked with a raised eyebrow.

“They’re still getting paid to work for me. They’ll help.” Solstice replied with a nod.

“We’re going back too. Storm Stallion’s looking for a showdown and he’s gonna’ get one from me for sure.” Rainbow said determinedly, both Gilda and Scoot nodding as well. However, as she did, she glanced over to Typhoon, who looked like he had a concerned expression. Solstice noticed this as well and walked over to him.

“Typhoon, I promise you that we will help your son. I will make this right.” He said, putting a hoof on Typhoon’s shoulder.

“You needn’t apologize, Solstice. This matter was not your fault,” Typhoon sighed, “In the meantime; we should focus on preventing these ponies’ home from being destroyed.” Rainbow watched this exchange for a short moment.

“Storm Stallion’s his son? What’s the deal?” She thought.

“Hey, Rainbow, we’re getting ready to go.” Gilda tapped her on the shoulder.

“Huh? Oh, right. I’m ready.” Rainbow snapped back to reality and looked back at her friend. She then turned to Twilight and Star, “Hey, Twi, good luck with the research.” She held out a hoof to the lavender unicorn.

“Thank you, Rainbow,” Twilight nodded and, taking the hint, bumped her hoof against Rainbow’s, “I won’t let you down.”

“I know you won’t.” Rainbow grinned before darting back to join the others, leaving Luna and Celestia in the room alone. Celestia turned her attention to one of the guards in the room.

“Captain, would you please send a message asking the Wonderbolts to be on standby?” She asked him. The unicorn guard acknowledged the order before he trotted off.

“The Wonderbolts, Sister?” Luna asked with a curious expression.

“Just in case we need to make a quick transport of something.” The pearl alicorn turned to Luna and gave a wink, “Now, we should get some military arrangements together.” She walked off with a group of guards, Luna following close behind her.

****

After getting back to Ponyville, the Weather Ministers announced the situation and had the Checkered Flags begin helping with the evacuation of the town along with Luna’s Night Guard and any other volunteers. While all of this was going on, Rainbow relaxed on a cloud above Town Hall in order to rest for a short time…or at least she was trying to rest. For the first time in her life, she found herself unable to fall asleep, even while sleeping on a cloud. While she had told Scoot she was confident about being able to fight and defeat Storm Stallion, she was a bit worried. She was worried about herself obviously, but she was more concerned about everypony else. If they failed, Ponyville would get destroyed and everypony who lived there would be homeless.

“No way…I’ve gotta’ stop worrying about that. I made a promise and I refuse to let them down,” she thought, “No. Matter. What.”

“Rainbow! Rainbow Dash! Are you awake up there?” A voice came from below. Rainbow leaned over the side of the cloud, seeing Rarity standing below her with a package floating next to her surrounded by the light blue aura indicating Rarity’s magic.

“Hey, Rares,” Rainbow hopped off and hovered to the ground with a few wing flaps, “Everything okay? Did you get evacuated alright?”

“I did, yes. I sent Opal off with my parents as well as a few major and minor belongings of mine,” she sighed, “Unfortunately I’ll have to leave the majority of my supplies at my boutique.”

“Oh, geez, I’m sorry, Rarity.” Rainbow said with a comforting tone.

“No no, there’s no need for that,” Rarity shook her head, “They can be replaced…lives can’t,” she then opened her eyes wide and facehoofed, “Oh, my apologies, Rainbow,” she brought the package with her over in front of Rainbow, “This is for you. I believe you may need it.” Rainbow raised an eyebrow as she took the package and opened it up. Inside was a familiar looking purple outfit. She took it out and looked it over, noticing that it was one of the Mare-Do-Well outfits.

“Rarity, what’s this for?” She asked.

“I took the suit I made for Fluttershy and modified it slightly. If you’ll notice, I stitched the design of your cutie mark onto the side as well as making it more aerodynamic,” Rarity said with a smile, “In addition I also managed to get my hooves on some electrically resistant fabric and incorporated that into the design as well. I believe you said that type of material is used in the flight suits the Wonderbolts have?”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Rainbow nodded as she marveled at the design. It actually looked really cool. In addition, she also noticed that Rarity had created a rainbow colored head wrap in place of the large hat.

“Good move, Rares. That hat would totally screw up being able to fly properly.” She thought.

“It was actually going to be a gift for your birthday next week, but I believe having a lightning resistant flight suit against an insane pegasus with the ability to shoot lightning is a much higher priority at this moment in time,” Rarity chuckled a little, “Here, I’ll help you get it on.” Her horn lit up.

“Thanks.” Rainbow said as she allowed Rarity to help her get into the suit. As this happened, Rainbow looked up to see Cloudline and several members of the Weather Patrol, regular and reserves, fly down and land near her.

“Hey, Rainbow.” He waved with a bright smile.

“C...Cloudline? What are you guys doing here?” She asked, “I thought you’d evacuated by now.”

“Some of us did, but I asked for some volunteers to come out and help if things get bad,” Cloudline replied, “We hear you’re going out to stop that crazy pegasus from destroying the town with a bunch of storms?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, we’re going to help. It’s our job to help manage the weather and we’re not going to let some freak storms destroy our town.”

Rainbow’s eyes widened in surprise, “You guys…I couldn’t ask you to risk your lives like that.”

“You don’t have to ask. This is our choice.” Cloudline shook his head.

“This is our home and we ain’t gonna’ let some freak take it from us!” The burly Boxxy Brown proclaimed, beating his hoof against his chest.

“Yeah! If you can’t stop him, we’ll be your last line!” The blonde and grey Cloud Kicker spoke up.

“You’d do the same for any of us, so we’ll do it without even being asked.” The yellow and blue Raindrops added.

“I’m gonna’ help and do my best too!” Derpy stepped forward, a determined expression showing clearly in her crossed-eyes. Rainbow looked at each of the pegasi in front of her and smiled.

“You guys…” she said, choking back tears of joy, “You guys are awesome, you know tha-OW!” She yelped before turning back to glare at Rarity.

“Oh dear! Sorry, Rainbow, I didn’t mean to get your tail caught in the zipper.” Rarity blushed with embarrassment.

“Meh, no worries,” Rainbow shook her head, “You guys should go get set up somewhere. Go talk to the Weather Ministers and some of the Royal Guard and get some joint activities together.”

“You got it. Good luck, Rainbow.” Cloudline nodded as he and the others flew off.

“Heh, you sure got them motivated and wanting to help,” Rainbow turned to see Gilda and Scoot come over, the griffin grinning from ear to ear, “If you put half the effort you did with them into passing flight school, I bet you wouldn’t have washed out.”

Rainbow looked over at Gilda with an eye roll, “Thanks for bringing that up again, G,” she then grinned, “You two couldn’t sleep either?”

“The impending doom situation has a tendency to do that.” Gilda replied with an awkward grin.

“At least we’re getting everypony evacuated. It’s a lot more warning than what we had originally.” Scoot said, “Also, looking good, Rainbow.”

“Thanks. It’s all because Rarity’s awesome like that.” Rainbow looked back at the seamstress, who was trying to hide her blush as she finished tying the head wrap on Rainbow.

“Oh please, dears. I don’t need to be flattered, though your gratitude is appreciated.” She said.

“Yo, Dash!” A voice shouted out from nearby. The three ponies and the griffin turned to see Scootaloo hurrying over to them. Scoot immediately turned around and hid behind Gilda as the young filly ran over to them, “I heard some of the other kids talking about how Ponyville’s in danger of getting blown up or something and you’re going to go fight somepony! Is that true?” She frantically asked.

“Scootaloo! You need to go with the rest of your family this instant! It’s dangerous here!” Rarity scolded.

“Hang on a sec’, Rarity,” Rainbow walked over, putting a hoof on Scootaloo’s shoulder, “Yeah, Squirt, it’s true. I’m going to go fight somepony to save Ponyville. It’s gonna’ be hard, but I’ve got help. The soldiers are helping everypony get out of town safely and I’ve got my friends too.” She looked back at Gilda and the hiding Scoot.

“Whoa…you weren’t lying. You really did know a griffin.” Scootaloo said as she nervously stepped over to Gilda.

“You must be the little filly Dash talks about all the time. Name’s Gilda.” Gilda gave a wave.

“Nice to meet ya’,” Scootaloo then looked behind the griffin, “Uh…who’s that?”

“Oh, her? She’s this secret warrior pony that’s helping me out. She’s really brave and a pretty good fighter too so my chances are good.” Rainbow smiled and looked back, Scoot temporarily turning around to look out from behind Gilda.

“Whoa, nice, so she’s like a secret agent? That’s really cool!” Scootaloo beamed.

“Mhm,” Rainbow grinned, “Now, you should get outta’ here. If anything bad does happen, you don’t want to be in town.”

“You got it. Good luck, everypony!” Scootaloo turned around and ran off.

“Secret warrior pony?” Scoot walked out, “Well, that’s a new one.”

“Hey, it wasn’t a lie. You really are brave.” Rainbow shrugged.

“Yeah,” Gilda added, “You came back in time to help save your home and a friend, that’s a form of bravery to me.”

“Thanks, guys.” Scoot smiled lightly.

“Though next time you decide to use me as cover, could I get a warning so I won’t have to awkwardly stand with you next to my tail?”

Scoot scoffed, “It’s not like you’re that hard to hide behind anyway.”

“Hey! Was that a fat joke?” Gilda turned and glared at Scoot. Before anything else could happen, Applejack, Pinkie, and Fluttershy all came over to them.

“There ya’ are, Rainbow! We been lookin’ for ya’.” Applejack said.

“Oh for the love of Celestia, what are you guys still doing here?” Rainbow groaned.

“We had to find you before you went off and fought that meany electric pants pegasus! Fluttershy has something really, really, REALLY super important to tell you!” Pinkie ran over, “Oh…wow, lookin’ good, Rainbow!”

“Um…” Fluttershy landed near Rainbow, “Rainbow, it’s about Storm Stallion. There’s something you need to know about him,” she swallowed and cleared her throat, “His name’s not even Storm Stallion. It’s Wind Runner and he’s not a bad pony. He’s just upset and confused about what he wants to do in his life.”

“Wait, what? Fluttershy, how do you know all this?” Rainbow looked at the yellow pegasus with interest.

“He, um, kind of fell out of a tree near my cottage,” Fluttershy rubbed the back of her head, “But…please. Just remember that when you go to confront him. Whatever’s going on with him now, it can’t be his fault. I know he doesn’t want to destroy Ponyville. I saw it in his eyes.”

“Okay, okay, ‘Shy, don’t worry,” Rainbow said, cutting in to reassure the frantic pegasus, “We’ll help him. I trust you that he’s not a bad guy.” Suddenly, Pinkie’s entire body began shivering and shaking like a jackhammer.

“W-w-w-w-whoaaaaaaaa!” Her voice wavering as she shook.

“Oh, that ain’t good.” Applejack said, looking at Pinkie with a worried look.

“Uh…am I missing something?” Gilda looked around at each of the ponies with a heavily confused look. All of them looked up to see a streak of blue and grey flying across the sky.

“Is that Solstice?” Scoot asked.

“Yeah, it is!” Gilda replied, “He must be going off to fight on his own!”

“Oh, that featherbrain!” Dash angrily said as she rushed off and hopped up into the air, “Scoot, Gilda, let’s go! Fluttershy, Pinkie, AJ, Rare, you four get as far away from here as you can!” With that, the three of them left, leaving the other four ponies standing there. Applejack, huffed and stamped her hoof on the ground.

“Rarity, come with me to the farm.” She simply said.

“Whatever for?” Rarity asked.

“Just because I ain’t got wings don’t mean I can’t help out,” she turned to Rarity, “We’re gonna’ go grab them catapults we used for pumpkin chuckin’ on Nightmare Night and get ‘em armed up.”

“Anything we can do, Applejack?” Fluttershy asked as she and Pinkie looked on.

“Yeah, actually,” Applejack turned to them, “Fluttershy, get some rough and tumble birds together that’ll be willing to help us out,” Fluttershy replied to the order with a simple nod, “As for you, Pinkie Pie, ya’ still got that party cannon o’ yours lyin' around somewhere?”

“You bet I do!” Pinkie quickly nodded her head.

“Good. Get that and get it loaded up and meet us out at the farm.”

“Okie dokie loki!” Pinkie suddenly put on a serious expression and saluted before she turned and rushed off, kicking up some dust as she opted to run instead of doing her usual hop. With that, Applejack and Rarity also ran off, leaving Fluttershy standing in the middle of town. She suddenly heard a sound behind her and turned to see Tank flying behind her. The look on his face told Fluttershy all she needed to know.

“Okay, let’s go get some friends together.” She said as they both flew off.

Chapter 12: Fight For The Future

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****-A few minutes earlier…

Solstice looked around at the various residents of Ponyville as both his mercenaries and the Night Guard helped the residents leave the town. As he looked down around at them leaving, the majority of them looking either scared or confused, he hung his head and closed his eyes.

“Solstice?” Waves walked up next to him, “Is everything okay?”

“This is my fault. All of this.” He replied, not looking at her.

“You couldn’t have predicted this would happen. While your methods were, um, questionable, your intentions were at the very least noble.” She said, moving to try and look at his face.

Solstice turned away from her, “It doesn’t matter what my intentions were,” he shook his head; “Because of my arrogance and my over-ambition, these ponies that had nothing to do with this matter may lose their homes…all because of me.” He looked up at the sky.

“Solstice? What is it?” Waves asked, looking worried.

“If anything happens, tell Star I’m sorry.” With that, he spread his wings and took off flying into the sky, ignoring the pleas to stop from Waves.

****

With a massive grouping of storm clouds behind him, Wind traveled across the sky on his way toward Ponyville…and his goal of a final battle with Rainbow Dash to settle their rivalry. The Stone of Storms magically clung to his chest and had eerie, ethereal lightning crackling across it. His jade eyes were now completely hidden by the white glow of his eyes. As he flew, he suddenly found himself stopped by the sudden appearance of Solstice in front of him. The younger pegasus cracked a sadistic grin.

“How’s your girlfriend? Hope I didn’t spray her with too much shrapnel.” He laughed.

“Wind Runner, stop this. I know this can’t possibly be how you really are.” Solstice said with a stern glare.

“What if I am? What are you going to do?” Wind flipped his mane back, “Also, where’s the old man? I was hoping he’d get in the way so I could take him out…but I guess he’s too busy again to try and come deal with my problems.”

“Your father cares about you. He wouldn’t want-“

“Of course he wouldn’t want this!” Wind shouted, thunder echoing behind him, “He wouldn’t want me to do what I want to do, be my own pony! No, he just expects me to follow in his hoofsteps! Everypony does! Well, guess what? Now I am doing something on my own and I’m not going to let anypony stop me! Now get out of my way!”

Solstice narrowed his eyes and stared down the mad pegasus, “No.”

Wind looked back and seemed to give an annoyed groan, “Your funeral.” He said simply as he thrust a hoof forward, sending a trio of lightning bolts streaking toward Solstice. The winter minister dove down and flew just above a group of less intimidating looking white clouds and flew into them,

“I don’t want to do this, but if I must, I will do whatever it takes to protect the innocent,” he flew up toward Wind, the water reforming into what appeared to be a lance made of ice, “It is my duty as a soldier of Equestria.” He gripped hold of the weapon with one of his wings.

“You’re preaching about duty and honor and whatever, but none of that matters!” Wind shot down toward him, swinging at him with a punch.

“It does matter!” Solstice swung the lance and blocked the hit, before ducking away, “I did this to you and I must fix that!” He leaned in close while at the same time pushing against Wind

“Oh please,” Wind scoffed, “Don’t think that highly of yourself! The only reason this is happening is because I want this!”

“No, the overload of power you’re experiencing is what’s making you want this.” Solstice grit his teeth as he felt Wind about to overpower him.

“If I can just get the Stone away from him…” Solstice put all his force into a shove, knocking Wind away before aiming the lance in an attempt to strike the Stone of Storms on Wind’s chest.

“Oh no you don’t!” Wind recovered and shot a lightning bolt at Solstice, the projectile striking the lance and shattering it. Solstice dropped the remainder of his broken weapon and shot toward Wind, dodging bolts of lightning and giving himself enough time to form a light barrier of ice around himself, using it to slam into Wind and knock him across the sky. The two pegasi, dazed from the impact, quickly recovered and shot toward one another. Unfortunately, Wind Runner got the better of Solstice and managed to dodge out of the way at the last second and get a directed strike in toward Solstice’s face, knocking him away. Before Solstice could recover and plan his next move, he looked just in time to see Wind fire a bolt at him. Solstice cried out as the bolt struck him in the chest, the searing pain feeling ten times worse than the slash on his face. This subsided, however, when he felt Wind fly over to him and begin pummeling him, some of the punches electrified to add more bite. Solstice winced from each hit, losing his composure at the last one and coughing up a spurt of blood. The next thing he felt was Wind snaring him with some type of rope made from lightning and whipping him down through the clouds.

****

“Well, good thing we won’t have to look too hard.” Gilda pointed up toward the cloud cover.

“Yeah, just follow the lightning strikes,” Rainbow looked up as well, “Yeesh, that storm’s massive! Did Wind Runner create that?” Rainbow asked in shock.

“With how juiced up he is on the Stone, I’ll bet he did.” Scoot replied, looking over at her fellow fliers, “Wait…there!” She pointed a hoof up. The three of them saw Solstice, bruised and beaten, fall out of the sky, clutching his chest in agony with a dark red burn on his chest. He managed to stabilize himself and land on a cloud.

“Solstice!” Rainbow shouted as the three of them flew over to him, “Hey, man, you okay?” Rainbow’s question seemed to answer itself as she could see blood trickling from his mouth. He was definitely not okay.

“I…he’s too powerful,” Solstice repaired, breathing heavily, “I couldn’t stop him…I…I couldn’t stop him.”

“Hey, hey, relax.” Rainbow said to him.

“Rainbow Dash!” They all turned to see Wind descend down from the clouds as well, “So, you came here with allies to fight your battles for you again, huh? I thought you were supposed to be cool!” He laughed.

“We can take you on anytime, any day, you psychopath!” Gilda snarled at him, “In fact, we’re probably gonna’ win too because there’s three of us and only one of you! How do ya’ like those odds, huh?” She grinned. Suddenly, Wind rose his hooves up and shot sparks throughout the clouds. Emerging from some of the clouds were large, featureless birds made of electricity. More and more of them formed and all congregated around Wind, who was smiling brighter with each one that came near him.

“Uh oh.” Scoot simply said.

“Oh, me and my big beak!” Gilda groaned. Suddenly, the birds all came at them, descending in a massive swarm.

“Scatter!” Rainbow yelled out, the other two obeying with haste, Gilda snatching up the injured Solstice as she flew off. Rainbow glanced back, seeing a crowd of five birds were pursuing her. She banked to the right and began flying in a circle, making small adjustments to make it tight enough to allow for a tornado to form. The birds were sucked into it and all smashed it into one another, disappearing into harmless sparks. Rainbow stopped and escaped the tornado which thankfully took out a few more as it too vanished, only for several more birds to fly at her, attempting to peck her with their sharp, crackling beaks. Rainbow dodged out of their way and swung a hard roundhouse at one, catching in the head and destroying it. The rest of the birds flew in an erratic pattern to attempt to confuse her, but Rainbow didn’t give them a chance, laying into them with precision strikes and quick evasive maneuvers.

“At least they’re not as tough as that giant thing.” She thought as she ducked back and struck the last bird of that group with an uppercut. After finishing them off, she turned and scanned the skies for her allies. Scoot had a trail of them on her tail, but was thankfully making quick work of them with her cannon and angling herself to dodge them. Rainbow also wasn’t sure, but she was positive she saw the Buccaneer Blaze in there somewhere as well. Gilda, however, was having a slightly harder time because of Solstice on her back, but was managing to fight them off easily with her claws. Rainbow flew over to her and wrecked several of the birds before turning to them.

“How ya’ doin’, G?” She asked.

“Definitely having second thoughts about this whole thing being fun,” Gilda said with an eye roll before turning back to Solstice, “Dash, he’s not doing so great.”

“I’m…fine.” Solstice said, grimacing as he spoke.

“You’re not fine.” Gilda retorted.

“G, get him out of here. Scoot and I can handle this.” Rainbow said.

“Miss Dash, I don’t take orders from you,” Solstice glared at her, “I will continue fighting until I rectify this mistake.” He coughed.

“You might not take orders from me, but you don’t have a griffin,” Rainbow stared him down.

“Alright, I’ll take him back…and then I’m coming right back.” Gilda said, looking at Rainbow with a serious expression.

“Knew you would.” Rainbow smiled as she flew back to meet up with Scoot, “Hey, Squirt!”

“Yeah?” Scoot glanced back as she fired a volley of shots into a few of the birds.

“Come on, let’s take down the source!” Rainbow pointed up at Wind. Scoot nodded and joined Rainbow in flying at Wind, ignoring the rest of the birds.

“Hm…two down it seems!” Wind started firing bolts at them. The two pegasi mares worked in tandem, dodging and using feints in order to avoid being hit.

“Eat this!” Scoot started firing at him as she soon as she could draw a bead on Wind.

Wind held up a hoof and deflected the shots with an electrical barrier, “Pathetic.” He then turned and prepared to fire another bolt at Rainbow. Scoot looked over at her.

“Dash, move!” She suddenly moved over, shoved Rainbow away and causing the bolt to strike her cannon, going straight into the barrel and start sparking. Scoot immediately flew up at Wind in a mad charge, making only minor moves to dodge his shots.

“Scoot, what are you doing?” Rainbow franticly tried following her.

“My cannon’s gonna’ explode!” She shouted back, undoing the straps on her armor and whipping it at Wind. The sparks suddenly got worse just before the cannon overloaded and exploded in a shower of sparks and fire, knocking both Wind and Scoot away. Wind, obviously knocked disoriented, flew around and attempted to regain his composure while Scoot simply dropped.

“Scootaloo!” Rainbow looked over in horror as the orange pegasus disappeared amongst the clouds.

“Urgh…I’m fine, don’t worry,” a groan came over the earpiece still in Rainbow’s ear, “You’ve got a clear shot, Dash…”, Rainbow looked back up at Wind, “…take him out!”

Rainbow took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes, “You got it.” She said as she charged at Wind. He shook his head and recovered just as Rainbow slammed him and spiraled through the air with him, mirroring their fight at the quarry, only this time Rainbow was pounding on him with punch after punch. Eventually, the two of them slammed down on top some of the clouds, Rainbow leaping back away to get into a better position while Wind struggled up and faced her down. Rainbow wasted no time in charging at him while he fired at her with numerous lightning bolts.

“Gotta’ get in close…he can’t take me if I get up in his grill.” She thought. Wind began to get desperate and stamped a hoof onto the cloud in front of him, sending a chain of lightning bolts coming up from the clouds at her. Rainbow jumped up and rolled to dodge before landing on her hooves a few feet away from Wind. She jumped up again on her hind legs and aimed a hard punch square at his face, connecting and staggering him back. He attempted to try and anticipate her next hit, but found himself only with a hard kick to his chest.

“Nopony…hurts…my…FRIENDS!” Rainbow roared with pure rage. She pushed down on his shoulder with her hoof and hopped up before coming down on his head with the side of her face. She finished up her attack by flipping around and bucking him with both her rear legs, knocking Wind up into the air. Wind shook his head and tried to get his balance back while in the meantime wildly firing lightning bolts in every direction, some of them coming close to Rainbow while others missed the mark. He finally managed to get it back and charged at Rainbow, the two of them each rearing back to strike one another as they got close and slammed their hooves together, the force from the impact creating a pair of shockwaves, one made of lightning and the other one projecting rainbow light.

****

“Dr. Star, I’m actually really impressed you know your way around this library as well as you do. I didn’t even know that some of these books were even kept here.” Twilight said as she looked through a book.

“I spent some time in here working on my thesis paper when I was still in school.” Star replied.

“It must be exciting to be working on such archaeological artifacts and dig sties.”

“Yes…it does get a bit lonely at times, however. My work sometimes has a tendency to take up a lot of my free time and…”

“…you’d like to have other ponies with you sometimes?” Twilight glanced over with a smile.

“Wha…how did you know what I was going to say?” Star looked up at Twilight.

“I know a thing or two about that.” Twilight winked.

“Well, it seems that you did manage to make some friends despite that,” Star chuckled, “That Rainbow Dash girl seem very tenacious. If there’s anypony that wouldn’t let your town be destroyed, I’d like to think it’d be her.”

“Rainbow is a dear, loyal friend. I know she won’t let us down,” Twilight nodded with determination, “I know it.” She turned back to her book and suddenly slapped a hoof down on the page, “Aha!”

“What? What is it?” Star stopped what she was doing and hobbled over to Twilight.

“I found the sealing spell that Starswirl the Bearded used to help stop the Stone’s power the last time this happened…right here!” She pointed toward the page.

“I see,” Star looked at the page, “It seems rather powerful, though, and it even looks like it might need a purification spell as well to rid the corruption from the pony afterwards.”

“Right, and that’s the problem I’m thinking…wait…I know what to do!” Twilight closed the book, “The Elements of Harmony! My friends and I used them to get rid of the dark magic from Nightmare Moon and purify Princess Luna, so maybe we could use them again to help Wind Runner!”

“Hm…” Star thought, “That just might work, actually.” Before either of them could say anything else, a bright flash of rainbow light came from the window.

“What in the world was that?!” Twilight exclaimed as she trotted over and opened dup the window. Through the dawning sky, Twilight could see what looked like a massive group of storm clouds near Ponyville and within she could see flashes of lightning and rainbow colored light, “Oh no…” She then rushed over to the table and put the book into her bags before running toward the door, “Dr. Star, please go tell Princess Celestia to get the Elements of Harmony to my friends and I! Tell her exactly what I just told you!”

“Uh…alright,” Star raised an eyebrow, “What are you going to do?”

“Me?” Twilight looked back out the window toward the clouds before turning back to Star, “I’m…going to do something that might be really, really dumb.” She shrugged before galloping off down the hallway, hurrying toward a balcony. She stopped in the center and closed her eyes, the magenta aura of her magic shining around her horn. Twilight stayed calm as a large cocoon of magic started to form and wrap around her. After a short time and a bright flash, Twilight opened her eyes, seeing the purple and magenta butterfly wings that had appeared on her back. She then took a deep breath and stepped up onto the edge of the balcony.

“Okay…just gotta’ hop off, flap, use my telekinesis to help stabilize myself and prevent from falling to a horrific death…okay, scratch that last thought and just think about stabilizing.” Twilight then hopped off the balcony and flapped her wings, descending quick at first but eventually finding her drift and soared into the air while flying off toward Ponyville.

“Hang on, Rainbow. I’m coming.” She said.

****

“Urgh!” Rainbow winced as cold winds raked across her body. She flew up through the gale forces striking her before finally breaking through the cloud barrier and coming to face Wind, the charged energy circling his body and his eyes glowing white hot. He looked at her not with the intensity of someone wanting to defeat their rival, but as a target.

“You…you won’t give up, will you?” He groaned.

“Not…really…in my nature.” She breathed heavily before cracking a grin. Wind angrily grit his teeth and started attacking again. She barely had time to dodge the blasts of lightning that seemed like they were coming from nowhere. She banked hard to the left and tried dodging one, but didn’t make it in time as the bolt nicked her leg and sent her spiraling off course. By the time she regained her equilibrium, she turned to see Storm with a massive current of lightning charged around his left forehoof.

“Take this!” He shouted with a seething look of hatred as he sent the missile of lightning streaking at her. Rainbow’s eyes widened in shock as it got closer to her, the size of it threatening to engulf her whole. She looked up at it and she scrambled to think of a way to react…at least up until a shape flew in from the side and dove in front of her. Despite it only being for a split second, Rainbow was able to recognize the figure as Twilight, who had a pair of the wings she’d created for Rarity on and with a magic bubble around her. The blast struck the bubble and exploded, knocking Rainbow away from the area from the force. As she recovered, she franticly looked around for where Twilight had gone after the flash subsided.

Thankfully, she looked down to see that Twilight had landed harmlessly on some clouds below. While her wings had been destroyed in the attack, she appeared to be unharmed and appeared to be more dazed than hurt; the only damage on her was her mane being slightly messy.

“Hang on, Twi-ahhh!” Rainbow found herself being tied up by an electrical rope and whipped into a cloud from Wind, who now appeared even angrier than before.

“You! A flightless pony like yourself dares to try and battle me in my own element?” He shouted at Twilight.

“You’re threatening my home and my friends!” Twilight fired back at him, a defiant look in her eyes, “Of course I’m going to do whatever I can to fight back!” Rainbow managed to see the look and it surprised her to see how fierce the unicorn looked.

“Twi…wow.”

“Hmph, whatever! You’re not going anywhere without help! You might as well just be target practice!” Wind shot at Twilight with a blast of lightning only for it to deflect against a yellow barrier that had appeared around the lavender unicorn, who had a look of approval on her face. Wind tried again with numerous other shots, all of which having the same result.

“This barrier’s designed to absorb electricity and dissipate it harmlessly,” Twilight grinned, “There’s no way you’re going to be able to penetrate it…especially if you’re gonna’ keep being a one-trick pony like that!” She laughed a little, making Rainbow proud of the witty trash talk she was laying against Wind.

Wind snarled in frustration and looked over at some of his birds, “Go! Get rid of those clouds and make her drop like a rock!” He shouted at them as the mindless constructs obeyed their master and flew down near Twilight.

“Oh no…” Twilight’s grin vanished and she started looking around for escape plans.

“Twilight!” Rainbow tried to fly down near Twilight, only to be snared yet again by Wind’s lightning rope as he drug her down above the cloud cover Twilight was and where Wind’s birds were trying to cause Twilight to fall through the clouds.

“I’m going to make you watch your friend fall before I take care of you, Dash.” He glared at her before snickering, only for a watermelon to strike him in the face, “Ahh! What in the hay?!” He cursed and tried to get it off of his face before a pumpkin splattered against him as well and making the rope around Rainbow disappear, allowing her to freely look down, seeing Applejack and Rarity manning a pair of catapults.

“Yeehaw! Nice shot, Rarity!” Applejack cheered.

“You as well, darling!” Rarity chimed back before looking over at Pinkie, “Your turn, Pinkie Pie!” The pink earth pony, decked out in a soldier’s hat and with a deadly serious expression, aimed her party cannon up at Wind.

“You…you always bring your friends to a fight, don’t you, Rainbow-ack!” A purple tablecloth coupled together with glitter, party hats, and some plastic glasses and plates all wrapped around Wind as he struggled to break free, only for several large birds to begin pecking at him. Rainbow recognized two of them as the falcon and the eagle that had competed in her contest to find a pet. Wind finally managed to pull the cloth off of him only for another even more familiar animal to fly over at him. Rainbow couldn’t help but grin as Tank tucked his arms and head into his shell before hammering Wind in the chest with his shell. The tortoise quickly flew away as Wind struggled to catch his breath, “Agh…now…even a flying turtle is in this?!” He groaned as he watched all the animals disperse away from him.

“Tortoise!” Fluttershy popped her head out from behind a nearby cloud before ducking back down.

“Whatev-“ Wind turned around to get a hard sock in the jaw from Scoot, who had an angry look only added to by a singed mane and some cuts and scrapes on her body.

“That armor was a gift from my friend, jerkface!” She then spun around and kicked him away before turning to Rainbow, “Go grab Twilight, we’ve got this!” She then flew at Wind. Rainbow nodded and pulled into a hard drive, streaking down toward Twilight. As she did, several of the birds flew at her, only to be bowled over by a mid-air tackle from Gilda.

“Outta’ the way!” The griffin roared, diving off to fight the rest of them while allowing Dash to continue heading down. As she got close, show slowed her descent and angled into a more horizontal path and slowed down further, getting ready to grab Twilight, who was now backed into a corner as the birds continued pecking the clouds away.

“Twi, drop your shield!” Rainbow called out. The unicorn quickly did so, allowing herself to be scooped up by the pegasus, “Gotcha’!” She said, keeping a tight grip on Twilight as she circled around and flew back up.

“Oh…Rainbow…thank you…very much.” Twilight said between breaths and with a highly grateful tone.

“Don’t start thankin’ me yet, we’ve still got a job to do,” Rainbow turned and allowed Twilight to climb onto her back, “There ya’ go…oof! You’re a lot heavier than you look!” Rainbow grunted.

“Hey! What’s what supposed to mean?” Twilight glared at her friend before shaking her head, “Forget it. Look, I found the sealing spell we can use, but I need to get closer to him to use it!”

“You got it,” Rainbow nodded as she flew over to Gilda, “G, form up!”

“Right with ya’, Dash,” Gilda called out as she followed Rainbow back up toward Wind, “Just like back in flight school, right?” She grinned.

“I hope not! I failed that, remember?” Rainbow laughed. As they flew at him, Wind turned and wildly fired at them, only for a large snowball to strike him and knock him off course. Rainbow looked over to see Solstice being shouldered by Fluttershy as he tossed large snowballs with his wings at Wind. He looked at Rainbow and gave an approving nod which she returned before glancing back to Gilda, “Ready?”

“Spiral Crossover?” Gilda asked.

“Spiral Crossover!” Rainbow replied, “You might wanna’ hang on, Twi.”

“I don’t think it’s possible to hang on any further.” Twilight nervously replied, holding an iron grip around Dash.

“Here we go! Now!” Rainbow banked to the right as Gilda passed in front of her, the two switching places as they flew up at Wind. Gilda rushed by him, causing him to focus his attention on her, unaware Rainbow and Twilight were behind him, “Blast him, Twi!” Rainbow leveled out as Twilight began charging her spell. Wind stopped firing at Gilda for a short time, turned, and was then struck in the chest by a beam from Twilight’s horn. The energy focusing around his body was sucked back into the Stone of Storms as his body glowed with a bright light that eventually engulfed him. He screamed and struggled against the spell’s effects, losing control and plummeting down toward the ground, slamming into the ground and creating a large plume of clouds near the impact area.

“Whoa…remind me not to tick you off anytime.” Gilda said with surprise as she floated over and looked at Twilight.

“Did that do it?” Rainbow looked back.

“No,” Twilight shook her head, “There’s still some corrupted energy in him we need to purify,” Twilight then looked over, seeing that three blue-clad pegasi were on their way over to her, carrying what looked like a fancy box, “Right on time.” She smiled.

“Hey! You’re Twilight Sparkle, right?” One of the pegasi with a yellow mane asked, “The Princess told us to take box to you…wouldn’t say what it was or what’s in it.”

“Guess we should go finish this, huh?” Rainbow asked with a grin. Twilight looked at Rainbow and gave a nod.

****

“Urgh….” Wind struggled to his hooves as he looked around the cloud filled area he had crashed into. The Stone of Storms detached itself from his chest and dropped to the ground, instantly crumbling into a dust pile. He looked down at it with a shocked expression in his eyes that still shone brightly, but just barely covered his jade irises at this point. Suddenly, he saw a silhouette appear in the clouds before Rainbow emerged before him, “Y…you.”

“Not lookin’ so good there, pal.” Rainbow remarked.

“Urgh...you’re making a mistake coming here like this, Rainbow,” he grumbled, “You can’t hope to ever stand against me without help.”

“Well, good thing I’m not alone.” Rainbow smirked as everypony else came into view as well. Pinkie, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy and Twilight all had their elements on while Gilda, Scoot, and Solstice came in at their sides, the griffin helping the pegasus to walk.

“Wha…” Wind’s eyes darted left and right. Twilight gave Rainbow her element which the pegasus quickly put on and stared down Wind as she did so.

“Wind Runner, it’s like this. You see, you’re apparently jealous of how you get everything handed to you and yet I’ve done a whole lot of stuff on my own…well, I actually haven’t done everything on my own. Everything I’ve done in my life has been because I’ve had support from my friends in some form or another. Getting a job out here, kicking Nightmare Moon and Discord’s tails, winning the Best Young Fliers competition…all of that’s been because I’ve had ponies with me, past, present, heck even future,” she glanced over at Gilda, Twilight, and Scoot, who all returned her acknowledgements with a smile, “And…”, she turned back to Wind, “That’s why you’re not going to beat me today.”

“We’ll see...” Wind floated up and formed lightning around him, preparing for the final fight.

“G, Scoot, Solstice, you might wanna’ step back.” Rainbow said.

“We’ll be ready in case something goes wrong.” Gilda moved away from the six ponies while Scoot did the same. Rainbow chuckled. While the offer was good, Rainbow knew they wouldn’t need it. The six of them had beaten an entity of darkness and the spirit of chaos with the Elements of Harmony no problem. Corrupted magic from an ancient stone? That was nothing.

“Ready, girls?” Twilight asked, stepping forward.

“Mhm!” Pinkie nodded.

“You betcha’.” Applejack said.

“I’m ready.” Fluttershy added.

“Right with you.” Rarity chimed in.

“Let’s do this!” Rainbow chuckled. With that, Twilight closed her eyes and began concentrating. Magic swirled around them as the six elements all glowed brightly. Rainbow loved the feeling of the elements’ magic flowing through her, equating it to the same rush she got whenever she pulled off a perfect Sonic Rainboom. As the magic hit its charge limit, a rainbow streaked out and wrapped itself around Wind. It wasn’t as big as the one it normally was, but still impressive nonetheless. As they all concentrated, Twilight suddenly opened her eyes and unleashed the spell on Wind with a bright flash that engulfed the entire area. After a short time, the light went away and the six Elements floated back down to the ground.

“Did it work?” Fluttershy asked with a concerned look as they all slowly walked over to the unconscious Wind. Rainbow stepped forward a little further than the others and looked down at him. Wind groaned and slowly opened his eyes.

“Nnngh…where am I?” He asked, his eyes having returned to normal.

Rainbow smiled and offered a hoof to him, “Hopefully checked out of crazy town by now.” Wind looked at Rainbow with a surprised expression before he took her hoof and struggled up to his hooves.

“I…oh Celestia, I remember all of that…everything I did.” Wind looked down and closed his eyes.

“Hey, hey, we’ll worry about that later,” Rainbow patted him on the back, “In the meantime, let’s get you back to your dad and have you checked out.”

****

“Wind Runner!” Typhoon rushed over as they all came back to Ponyville, father and son hugging each other in a tearful embrace.

“I’m so sorry, dad…” Wind Runner sobbed.

“Hey, what say we give ‘em some room?” Applejack looked over at the others as they walked off.

“What’s going to happen to him?” Fluttershy asked Solstice.

“I doubt he’ll be too heavily punished…especially since I will be pushing that this was my fault. He shouldn’t be punished for my indiscretions.” He said as Nurse Redheart helped with treating him.

“Solstice!” Star hurried over to them, “I heard you went off to fight on your own and…well, I can obviously see that you got yourself hurt! I can’t believe you would’ve done something like that! Do you know how worried I was about you! I was about to have a heart atta-“

“Star, calm down.” Solstice leaned over and planted a kiss on her lips, instantly making her stop her rant and causing her to blush brightly. Everypony else simply stared with surprise as Solstice pulled away from her, “I’m fine…at least now I am anyway.”

“I…uh…well…” Star looked away, her face still bright red as she fumbled for words.

“Guess we should give them some room too, huh?” Rainbow grinned. She stepped away and walked off toward the center of town, noticing that Scoot was hiding out behind Main Hall. She moved over to her, “Hey.”

Scoot turned around, “Hey.”

Rainbow smiled as she looked at the town, “Well, looks like Ponyville’s still here…I’m not dead…I guess that means mission accomplished, huh?”

“Yeah…” Scoot nodded.

“So, what’s with the down expression?” Rainbow asked, “I thought you’d be more happy.”

“Well…I am…it’s just that…well…” Scoot sighed.

“Your time’s almost up, huh?” Rainbow asked.

“I don’t know if I want to go back…but I know that I have to. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I go back.” Scoot looked at the ground. Rainbow came up and put a comforting hoof on her back, causing her to look up, “Thanks.”

“Just because you’re heading out doesn’t mean I’m going to forget you or the good you did,” Rainbow said, “True friends don’t forget each other…no matter what.”

“I’ll remember that,” Scoot looked at her hoof as white light suddenly started flowing around her, “Hey, Dash, do me a favor…make sure I learn to fly, okay?” She smiled.

Dash nodded, “You got it.” She held out a hoof to Scoot, who returned the gesture by slapping her hoof against Dash’s just before she faded away into the light. Dash smiled a little and wiped her eyes.

“Hey! There you are!” Gilda came around the corner, “Took me long enough to find you, Dash.”

“Oh…hey, G. What’s up?” Rainbow turned back to her.

“I’m heading back to the village…gotta’ go let Kelwyn know that I’m, y’know, not dead and all.” She grinned, “I’m wondering if ya’ wanted to tag along.”

Rainbow nodded, “You bet.”

“Mind if I join you?” A voice came from behind them. Gilda and Rainbow turned to see Twilight with her wings spawned and a hopeful look on her face. The two fliers looked at each other and then back to Twilight.

“Sure. More the merrier…just try and keep up.” Gilda chuckled.

“I’ll try.” Twilight nodded as the three of them took off at a gallop and then leapt up into the air, taking off into the sunrise.

****

“Well, according to the Weather Ministers, the situation worked out.” Luna said to Celestia as the two alicorns stood in the throne room.

“That’s good to hear. I knew that Twilight Sparkle and her friends would’ve been able to handle all of that without issues.” Celsetia smiled. She then turned to Luna, who was staring at her, “Luna, I know that look. Do you have something to say?”

“You seemed to have a lot of faith in them…and made preparations for things that you weren’t entirely sure would be needed.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being prepared, isn’t that correct?” Celestia looked at Luna with yet another smile, but noticed that Luna was waiting for more, “Well, there was this as well.” Celestia chuckled as she showed a letter to the moon princess.

Dear Princess Celestia,

I’m sending you this message from the future. Something terrible has happened with Ponyville and my friend Rainbow Dash and a friend of hers is coming back in time to try and stop this bad event from happening, but I think she may need help. If there is anything that happens involving an object called the Stone of Storms or Rainbow, please do whatever you can to help them. Please trust me with this.

Your always faithful student,
Twilight Sparkle

Luna looked at the letter, then back up at Celestia with a slightly annoyed expression, “And when exactly were you planning on telling me about this?”

“I figured you would ask, and I’m expecting a friendship letter to be sent soon as well since I’m sure all of them learned a valuable lesson.” Celestia grinned.

“And what would that lesson be?” Luna walked over to her.

“That the bonds of friendship are something that not even the flow of time itself can restrict. Those that care about one another truly will never stop caring, no matter how much time passes.” Celestia replied, looking at Luna with a more serious expression.

Luna stared back at her sister and gave an understanding nod, “I understand what you mean, Celestia…I apologize if I sounded like I didn’t trust your judgment.”

Celestia smiled again, “No need to apologize, Luna,” she turned to look out at the dawn, “You’ve been up for a lot longer than normal today, I should probably let you sleep.”

“That would be appreciated,” Luna said with a happy sigh as she started leaving the throne room, “Have a good day, Tia.”

“Thank you, Luna. Rest well.” Celestia watched as Luna left the throne room before turning back out toward the sky, closing her eyes and taking in the warmth of the rising sun.