Rainbow Dash has a secret, hidden for generations; a secret she never dared tell anyone. She can communicate with the dead. Now, things have changed, the secret's come out, so she help her best friend say goodbye. (Inspired by Through Violet Eyes)
[Currently attempting a possible revival of this story after five years. Since I think I finally have an idea of where I want it to go. I'd like to issue a personal apology for taking so bloody long.]
After a terrible crisis is repaired that brought Equestria to the brink of armageddon, Twilight experiences a terrible loss, and the only one who can help her is Rainbow Dash. But in order to do that, she'll need to reveal an ancient family secret that can change the world.
She is part of a long line of ponies called 'Rainbows,' all with multicoloured hair. And they all have a special ability: They can communicate with the dead.
Twilight Sparkle ran through the stone hallways under the Marjave Citadel. Levitating in front of her, in her magical grip, was a large obsidian stone in the shape of a cylinder. It was jet black and almost featureless, save for the gold accents at either end, each featuring a single amethyst gemstone set within.
The unicorn emerged in a small room, dominated by a spiral staircase spinning upward. She quickly ran up the stairs. At her rapid pace, she arrived at the top in no time at all, and leaped through the broken frame of the formerly hidden doorway.
The shining blue hallways glowed as Twilight galloped through. She passed paintings, doors and delicate vases, and she knew the hordes had not gotten this far. They still had time.
Reaching a pair of double doors at the end of a hallway, she burst through, arriving in the main atrium.
Sitting at the centre of the room, seven stone pedestals were arranged in a circular formation. Three of the pedestals were topped with stones identical to Twilight's, with the only difference being the different coloured gemstones set within.
"Twilight!" screamed Sweetie Belle.
Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Applejack joined the young unicorn. They all ran toward her and grabbed her in a tight group hug.
"We were so worried!" Rarity declared. "I cannot believe you went off alone!"
"It's al-AH!" Twilight screamed.
As they broke the hug, Applejack noticed a long red swipe across Twilight's midsection.
"Twilight!" she said. "Are you alright!?"
"It's just a scratch," she explained. "Don't worry about it."
Shining Armor was about to leave the side of a shivering Rainbow Dash, who had her head buried under her hooves. "Twilie," he said.
Twilight snapped, "I said, 'Don't worry about it!!!'"
The unicorn trotted forward and placed her stone on the pedestal. It stood out from the rest by the purple border that ran around the top. As the stone touched down, it glowed briefly, and a bright spark of purple energy left it, rolling down the pedestal, and across the floor, settling in the centre of the circle. She looked around the ring. "Looks like you've been busy."
"YEP!" Pinkie declared, running over to the ruby-accented stone. "It was so hard to get, but we did it! Right Rarity!? We're such a good team!"
"Yes, quite." Rarity turned to Twilight, and whispered, "Don't leave me alone with her ever again."
Sweetie Belle ran over to the diamond-accented stone. "And Applejack helped me find this one! It was so much fun!"
"If by fun you mean dangerous, I agree!" the farmer declared.
It was at this moment, Twilight noticed the sword strapped to her friend's back. "Where'd you get that?" she asked.
"Oh, we found it in the caves," Applejack explained.
The unicorn magically pulled the sword out of its sheath, and noticed the red stains that covered it. "Applejack!"
"I'm not happy about it, but we didn't have many other options!"
Twilight gave the sword back to the earth pony, deciding to focus on something else, anything else. She looked at the one remaining stone, an emerald adorning the top. "What about Rainbow Dash?" she asked.
Shining Armor explained, "She's been like this since we found it. I don't know what's wrong."
Twilight trotted up to her friend. "Rainbow Dash," she said, in the most soothing voice she could muster. "Are you okay, do you need anything?"
She could see the mare shaking her head.
"Can you get up?"
Rainbow nodded, and slowly but surely got to her hooves. Still a little shaky, she trotted toward the green stone and waited, her gaze drifting.
"Okay," Twilight said, in her most authoritative voice. "Each of us were drawn to one of these stones...why?"
"Maybe because we were closest," Sweetie Belle proposed.
Rarity rebutted, "Spike, Cadance and Scootaloo were led...out there. I doubt it's that simple Sweetie Belle."
Just then, a loud crash sounded outside the Citadel walls.
"Rainbow," Twilight said.
The pegasus pony nodded and slowly drifted upward to one of the balconies that encompassed the atrium walls. As she looked out the window, she screamed. "They got through one of the barricades."
"We're running out of time," Twilight declared, as Rainbow floated back down.
Pinkie rushed to the unicorn's side, "Who said there were no zombie-ponies!?"
"Not now Pinkie! We have to find a way to stop them."
"I wish there was more magic in this place!" Shining said. "I could buy us more time!"
"Well, you can't, and we have to work with what we got, which are the stones, that's it," Twilight responded, slightly snarkily.
"-IF YOU LISTENED TO ME FROM THE BEGINNING, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED!" she screamed. "I told you something terrible would happen if you opened that box, but you didn't listen, you didn't trust me, and now we could be looking at the end of Equestria."
Twilight ignored her brother, and turned back to the stones. "Now...why us?"
"Maybe they're like the Elements!" Pinkie suggested.
"You might be on to something there Pinks," Applejack responded.
"What?" Twilight asked.
Just then, one of the upper windows broke in a shattering of glass. Twilight reacted quickly, throwing up a weak force field that stopped the glass from hitting the ponies below.
Fluttershy zoomed across the atrium to grab a plank of wood, and zoomed back to the window, quickly nailing it in place just as two pegasus ponies impacted the plank and tried to reach through the gaps between, their teeth bloody and gnashing. The yellow pegasus returned to the ground.
"They can fly now!?" Rarity declared in shock.
"We think they were the only two," Scootaloo said as she clung tightly to Fluttershy's back with one hoof, an obsidian stone in the other. The elder pegasus flew back up the atrium, after Scootaloo jumped off and placed her stone on the pedestal. A bright spark of yellow energy ran across to the centre of the circle. "Is it supposed to do that!?"
"I hope so," Sweetie Belle replied.
"Okay, so...why us?" Twilight asked...again.
Pinkie's gaze was trained on the yellow stone.
"What?" Scootaloo asked.
"Why us!? Why were we drawn to these things!?"
"Maybe it's genetic!" the young pegasus suggested.
"Then Rarity would have gotten a stone," Twilight said, looking at Sweetie Belle.
"Why does it matter anyway?" Applejack asked.
"I don't know, it's just-."
Screams suddenly came from above the group. Their gazes turned up and they witnessed Fluttershy's wooden barricade start to shake.
"Somepony's trying to get through," Rarity exclaimed.
"NOT ON MY WATCH!" the battle-hardened pegasus declared, ready to take down anypony who broke the barricade.
The wood splintered as the figure broke through. Fluttershy attacked, taking a tumble with the creature. But it was interrupted when she was suddenly encased in a blue glow, and her opponent stabilized herself.
"You should learn patience Fluttershy," the princess explained.
"Cadance!" Shining Armor shouted.
"I'm so sorry princess," the pegasus said, cowering in her magical grip.
"Do you have the stone!?" Twilight asked.
Cadance pulled out a single obsidian stone, once again, identical to the others, but adorned with an orange gemstone. She quickly placed the stone in the pedestal and an orange spark ran across the floor, as Pinkie watched.
"We're trying to figure out why we were drawn to them," Twilight explained, as the princess released Fluttershy, and Shining Armor ran to his wife. "I don't know why, but it's been bugging me ever since the visions began."
Pinkie trotted toward the orange stone, and wiped away some dust that covered the pedestal.
"I don't know if there was a reason Twilight. Perhaps those visions were just-"
Suddenly, Pinkie released an astonished gasp! "OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH!!!" she screamed.
"What is it Pinkie?" Twilight asked.
"Writing!" she said, pointing to some odd glyphs at the top of the pedestal. "I noticed them glow when you put the stone down."
Twilight blew on the lettering, shooing more dust away. "This is ancient dragon script."
"Don't tell me..." Applejack interjected.
"I think these stones were created by the dragons."
"Twilight!" Fluttershy screamed from above, a tremor in her voice. "Something's coming this way!" She was staring out one of the upper windows.
"What is it!?" Rarity screamed.
"I...I don't know...I...I think it's a train!"
"There are no train tracks out here," Applejack whispered to her friends.
As every pony shared glances, they merely waited. A loud crash sounded.
"It broke through the last barricade!" the pegasus shouted.
A sudden impact shook the building.
"What in the hay!?" Applejack shouted.
"That door!" Shining Armor screamed, pointing to one of the double doors across the room.
Twilight swung the doors open, and everypony saw the end of the hall, a large machine sitting where there was once a wall.
Two small figures climbed from it, and started running toward the atrium.
"RUN!" Applejack screamed.
It wasn't long before Apple Bloom and Spike shot through the door frame, and Twilight closed the doors behind them, nailing a plank of wood overtop.
As everypony was sealed in, Apple Bloom hugged her sister, and Spike placed the final stone, with a blue sapphire, on the final pedestal. A blue spark ran from the stone.
"Nothing's happening!" Spike exclaimed.
"Of course it wouldn't be that simple!" Twilight declared. She trotted to the circle, and blew away some dust on the orange stone's pedestal. "Spike, can you read this?"
He focused on the text before him. "It's ancient dragon."
"So, what does it say?"
Cadance looked up.
"They've already started coming through the barricades," Fluttershy said, as she came down to ground level.
A loud clatter could be heard, closer than they wanted.
He ran to the pedestal to the left, blew off the dust, and read, "Curiosity!"
Sweetie Belle stood next to her stone. "YAY!" she screamed.
As Spike was about to move to the next pedestal, he could hear Twilight's scream behind him. A wedge-shape on the ground suddenly glowed a bright purple, and Twilight was standing in it.
The glow went away, almost as suddenly as it came. Spike ran over, and dusted off the purple stone's pedestal. "Tenacity," he read.
Twilight looked at the pink earth pony. "Looks like you were right Pinkie."
Spike ran toward the green stone across the circle. "Bravery," he said.
Rainbow looked up, still standing behind her stone.
Moving to the left, he read the yellow stone, "Integrity."
Scootaloo ran to the stone.
To the left, the red stone said, "Confidence."
Pinkie smiled. "I'm so confident!" She jumped in the circle and the floor glowed red.
Finally, Spike landed in front of his own stone, adorned with a sapphire. He blew the dust away, and read aloud, "Duty."
Just then, the floor below him glowed a bright blue.
"Everypony get in the circle!" Twilight declared.
Cadance, Sweetie Belle, Rainbow Dash, and Scootaloo all joined the others.
As the purple glow returned beneath Twilight, an orange glow appeared beneath Cadance. But Sweetie Belle, Rainbow Dash, and Scootaloo were all dormant.
"How do we do this!?" Scootaloo asked.
Loud banging sounds rang out.
"That's the door we came through!" Apple Bloom explained. "The train!"
The door started to visibly buckle.
"What did you do!?" Applejack asked.
"We got the train to work off the rails."
The door buckled again.
"Hurry!" the young pony exclaimed.
"We don't even know what this thing's gonna do!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed.
"It's our only chance!" Twilight exclaimed. "Now, think about a time you were curious Sweetie Belle! Concentrate!"
The floor beneath the three ponies began to glow. Slowly, all seven began to rise, their eyes started to glow, and a pulse of energy came from each of them, into the stones.
The door broke down, and a horde of bloodied and feral ponies fell into the room.
"Get closer!" Twilight screamed.
The five remaining ponies got as close to the circle as they could, and a bright white force field contained them.
The horde clawed at the field, but were unable to penetrate it.
"AHHH!" Apple Bloom screamed.
"You know what this thing does now!?" Applejack yelled.
"I...I think so!" Twilight screamed.
"Can you fix this!?" Shining hollered.
"Yes!" Cadance declared. "I think we can!"
The force field glowed brighter and brighter, getting more opaque in turn.
From within the field, the seven stones had energy building and building. The energy shot upward, arching over the six ponies and one dragon, meeting in the centre of the circle and shooting upward as a single column into the atrium above.
The energy beam shot up, through the top of the Citadel, and sat still. The energy built, slowly, more and more, until it released. Outward, a pulse of energy spread across the land, the infected ponies were knocked back, away from the Citadel and each and every single one started glowing with a bright white light. Squirming and writhing, they collectively screamed in agony.
The force field faded, and everypony witnessed the transformation. Slowly, the creatures' wounds healed, their thrashing calmed, and their eyes, once clouded over, a milky white, regained their colour and shine.
The light faded. All the ponies that were angry and feral, were now calmly stirring, as if they had just woken from a terrible dream.
"Ugh...what happened?" one asked as he got to his hooves.
"Nothing to worry about," Applejack explained, as she helped him stand. "Everythin's fine."
As Twilight took in the scene, she was tackled from behind by an enthusiastic pegasus.
"Woohoo!" Rainbow screamed. "We did it!"
"Rainbow!" Twilight exclaimed. "You're alright!"
"Yep!" she smiled wide. "Rainbow Dash is back!"
Twilight's bag sat by one of the pedestals, loaded down with all seven stones. The atrium had been vacated and Twilight's friends were out, helping their former attackers cope with what many of them had done.
The young unicorn was held responsible for examining the rest of the atrium. Hoping some clue would be found that would explain the stones, and what they were created for. But there was nothing.
In the entire structure, the only writing appeared to be on the pedestals themselves. But who created them? The average dragon was much too tall to fit within the Citadel, so that would have made little sense, and almost all the stones called out to ponies, not dragons.
The aspects listed might have explained why they were chosen, but to Twilight, she still could not explain why it was them specifically, and not any other pony who could have easily expressed those traits.
Could the Citadel have had something to do with it? The same force that protected them from the transformation, could it have also made them more receptive to the calling?
None of this made sense. Neither Rarity nor Shining Armor had enough magic within to cast even the most basic levitation spell. Twilight's magic was almost out as well, and Cadance was even worse off than she was.
Normally, that wouldn't have been a concern, but out here, in the Marjave Desert, magic was almost nonexistent. So where did all that power come from? And why would anypony devote so much to such a single solitary purpose?
"AHH!" the unicorn screamed, as she fell to the floor.
Looking up, the smiling face of one Rainbow Dash filled Twilight's view.
"Oh, hi Rainbow." She got to her hooves. "I thought you were-"
"Helping the zombies get back to normal?"
"They're not zombies Rainbow," Twilight explained.
"Well, they were...and they kinda freak me out. I don't like being near them."
She stared blankly at the pegasus in front of her. "I...see."
"Twilight?" said a white unicorn, stepping through the splintered double doors.
She turned away.
"Twilight, we should talk-"
"Talk about what Shining Armor!?" she yelled, spinning back around. "That you didn't trust me!? That you never trust me!? You're my brother, you should've supported me! But you didn't!"
"Twilight, I really am sorry!"
"Of course you are! You nearly ended the world!"
"Well, Twilight, you have to admit, it sounded a bit crazy! Strange visions, a cursed box, how was I supposed to know it was real!?"
Twilight stared at her brother for several seconds before she trotted towards her saddlebag, and quickly slipped it on. "You know what Shining Armor," she said. "You're an ass."
She trotted out of the room, leaving the stunned stallion behind.
Scootaloo perched herself on the edge of a white fluffy cloud. She looked down at the ground below and saw three small blobs of colour directly below her, silently cheering her on.
She tipped forward and plummeted to the ground. Spinning in a spiral, she recalled on all the techniques Rainbow Dash taught her.
On the grassy field, Sweetie Belle screamed, "Oh! I can't watch!" and covered her eyes. But subtly peeked out between her hooves.
"Come on Scootaloo, you can do it!" Apple Bloom exclaimed.
"Of course she can," Rainbow explained. "She had me as a teacher."
The orange blur continued to plummet, down, further and further.
"Is she gonna make it?" the unicorn exclaimed.
"I don't think so," Apple Bloom said. "Rainbow! Do something!"
"One second..." the pegasus explained, holding a hoof up.
The filly fell, further and further, until suddenly, a few feet from the ground, her wings spread out and she zoomed across the horizon. Pulling up, she made three small loops, and circled up and over the group.
Her best friends were in awe.
"GO SCOOTALOO!" Apple Bloom screamed.
"YAY!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed.
Circling around, she flew towards her audience, making several spirals along the way, before delicately landing in front of them.
The two fillies screamed in celebration before running up to hug their best friend.
"You did it! You did it!" screamed Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo squirmed out of her friends' grips. "Thanks," she said, before running up to her teacher, stopping a few inches from the mare and feigning coolness. "So...Rainbow Dash..."
"You did good kid," she explained. "Flawless."
"Well...no...but pretty close," she said with a smile. "You were kinda sloppy on those loops, and your recovery was a bit slow. There's still a lot to learn, Scoots."
"Are you gonna keep teaching me?"
Rainbow was confused. "Of course," she said.
"Oh, thank you Rainbow Dash!" she screamed, grabbing the mare in a hug.
Rainbow briefly recoiled from the filly's touch, but quickly returned the embrace before anypony noticed.
The apple tree shook as an orange hoof struck it, and several dozen apples fell into the baskets below.
It was times like these that Applejack allowed her mind to wander. Bucking apple trees wasn't intellectually stimulating, so she always tried to keep her mind active with whatever she could think of.
It had been three weeks since they got back from the Marjave after curing the millions of ponies that had been affected by Pangare's Box.
Applejack wasn't directly involved, but she did take pride in the fact that she helped and defended young Sweetie Belle. The creatures in those caves were nothing more than vicious bloodthirsty savages. They were never more than that. Which was what she had to keep convincing herself of, so the guilt would go away.
As she held that sword in her teeth, and it sliced through the soft flesh of those beasts, she felt good, she felt empowered, and because of that, she felt ashamed.
She heard tales of ponies who had taken the lives of others. That it changed them, permanently. She could only hope that wouldn't happen to her.
The earth pony cleared her head, she had to think of something else, anything else.
The repairs in the downtown area were still being worked on. Construction was delayed by the high-demand for building supplies across the nation. In their feral state, many ponies didn't just attack each other, but the structures around them. Canterlot was hit the worst, since Luna and Celestia were also affected. Half the castle was completely destroyed, as well as a quarter of the main city.
When Applejack saw the damage done, she couldn't believe her eyes. She didn't think that kind of damage was even possible.
One of the places that remained mostly untouched was the Royal Vault in Canterlot Tower. Many of the tower's stained glass windows were smashed. But in the aftermath, a new window was erected, honouring the land's seven heroes: Cadance, Twilight, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie and Spike.
She was happy her friends were honoured in such a way, but she felt a bit out of place at the dedication. Just like her sister.
Apple Bloom felt so alone that day, as her best friends were honoured without her. Things had gotten better since, but within their group, she was set apart.
Applejack was proud of her little sister in one respect: Her work on that train engine, converting it into a land vehicle, was remarkable. She was surprised Apple Bloom didn't get a cutie mark out of it.
The mare bucked the tree behind her with as much force as she could, before turning to face her older brother. "Hey Big Mac! What're you doing back here!?"
"Town's quiet, no more supplies."
"I see," she said. Something was amiss. "How're you doing? Alright?"
The stallion remained quiet.
"You're not still hung up on all that stuff that happened, are you?"
"I hurt ponies AJ."
"No you didn't, the curse did, and they're all fine now."
He remained silent, and Applejack went back to work, bucking apple trees.
Within Ponyville Library, a young unicorn had her nose buried in a book as her dragon assistant was shelving various tomes on the shelves.
She was very busy, trying to research everything she could on the Marjave Desert and the Citadel, as she had been doing for the past three weeks. It was stressful, primarily because she hadn't gotten anywhere. Her notebook was as empty as it was when she began.
So little was known about the Marjave, since it was so remote, and so barren. In fact, the Citadel's existence was a complete unknown until it was discovered, a month before they arrived.
They still didn't know who built it or why. Perhaps they would never know.
Spike filed away a few more books when suddenly, a bubbling came up in his throat. In reflex, he turned his head away from the shelves and belched up an emerald flame and a wrapped scroll materialized within.
Twilight turned to face Spike as he slid down the ladder. Once he reached the ground, he grabbed the scroll and quickly unfurled it.
The dragon cleared his throat and began reading. "My faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, it is with a heavy heart that I inform you tha..."
He trailed off, and the colour drained from his scales.
"Spike?" Twilight asked. "Are you alright?"
He finished reading the scroll silently, and quickly rolled it up. "Twilight? I..."
She could sense the apprehension. Whatever was written on the scroll was very bad news.
"Twilight, maybe you should-"
The scroll was pulled from his claws, and Twilight quickly read the letter over. Her magic cut out and the parchment dropped to the floor.
"Twilight?" Spike asked. "Are you okay?"
She stood there, for several seconds, absolutely motionless. The letter lying at her hooves.
She snapped her head at the young dragon. "I...I..." she stammered out. "I got to go." Twilight quickly bolted up the stairs to her bedroom, locking the door behind her.
Spike walked over to the letter, and gracefully picked it up. Still in shock by what he read, he could hardly believe it. He read the letter one more time, and rolled it back up.
Looking around the room, everything was about as orderly as it needed to be. But there were higher priorities. He needed to tell somepony, and he couldn't do it here.
Sugarcube Corner was sparsely populated. Since the Grand Reopening a week ago, business had gone down, and Pinkie Pie grew bored. As she lazily iced a cake at the back counter, her only customers enjoyed their pastries.
Rarity munched on a blueberry fritter, her thoughts examining the events of the past three weeks. Most of the town had to be rebuilt since the Pangare crisis, and some ponies decided to take advantage of that, to give their homes a complete redesign. Rarity certainly wasn't an expert in architecture, but it was a field she dabbled in. After all, she designed her own Carousel Boutique single-hoofedly. As one of only two ponies who knew architecture, her skills were in demand. Jester's Joke Shop and the new Aloe Vera Spa were radically redesigned and expanded, all thanks to her. She was proud of her work there, and was very glad she was given the opportunity.
At the main entrance of Sugarcube Corner, a single bell rang out. Everypony turned to see a very melancholic dragon slowly enter the bakery.
"Spike!" Rarity exclaimed. "Are you alright?"
He turned his gaze upward, focusing on the unicorn, and quickly turning his gaze to the yellow pegasus behind her.
Pinkie Pie trotted over. "Spike!" she exclaimed. "You look so sad! Here! Have a cupcake!" She pulled the pastry from behind her back. "It'll cheer you right up!"
Spike turned to the excited young mare, and said, "I don't think so, Pinkie."
"What's wrong Spike?" Fluttershy asked.
His claw was trembling, and within it, Rarity could clearly see a scroll embossed with Princess Celestia's seal, albeit broken. She pulled it from his grasp. Spike didn't resist.
As it levitated in front of her, Rarity asked, "Spike? Is it alright if I read this?"
The dragon remained silent, his lower lip trembling.
She unfurled the letter, and quickly read it over. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie joining her on either side.
Rarity had to read the letter several times, to ensure she wasn't missing anything. It had to be some practical joke! But Princess Celestia would never do anything like this! How could this be!?
"Oh my..." Fluttershy said. An apt response in the unicorn's mind.
Pinkie Pie turned to Spike. "Where's Twilight!?" she exclaimed.
"She...she locked herself in her room..." he solemnly explained.
"We have to go cheer her up!" the mare exclaimed as she bolted out the door.
But she didn't get far, just outside the main entrance, she was encased in a blue aura. Rarity was holding her back. "Pinkie Pie," the unicorn explained, trotting through the door. "I think she'd rather be alone right now."
"NO!" the earth pony exclaimed, futilely attempting to run away. "She needs to be happy!"
"But she won't be. There's nothing we can do, Pinkie. All we can do is wait."
Fluttershy walked up behind them. "Um...I think we should tell the others."
"You're right Fluttershy," Rarity continued. "Come, let's find Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Alright Pinkie?"
The pink pony ceased her running, and hung her head in dejection. "Okay," she responded, sadly.
Rarity released her, and they started their trek to Sweet Apple Acres.
Fluttershy held back, and turned to Spike, who had not moved since he arrived. She nudged him onto her back, picked up the letter Rarity had dropped, and quickly galloped out the door.
Applejack and Big Macintosh were working hard on the grounds of Sweet Apple Acres, when they heard the laughter of three little fillies.
They turned to the source of the noise. Rainbow Dash was leading Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom through the trees.
"Hey Applejack," the weathermare said. "Working hard?"
"Yep, you should try it some time," the farmer responded.
"Well, for your information, Applejack, I have. Scoots finally learned the triple loop!"
"It was awesome!" Apple Bloom exclaimed.
"AJ?" Big Macintosh said.
Applejack turned her head, and followed her brother's gaze. Two of her closest friends were trotting through the trees, Rarity and Pinkie Pie. It struck Applejack as unusual, since neither were their normally joyous selves.
As they trotted up to their friend, silently, Applejack got more and more anxious. Eventually, they came to a stop.
"Applejack, Rainbow Dash," Rarity said, greeting her friends. "I'm glad you're both here."
It was at this moment, the orange mare saw Fluttershy following behind them, with a catatonic dragon on her back, and a scroll in her mouth.
"What's up, Rarity?" Rainbow asked.
She opened her mouth, but quickly closed it before saying, "Is there somewhere we could talk?"
"What's going on Rarity?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Yeah, tell us!" shouted Scootaloo.
"Um..." the unicorn was apprehensive. She didn't want to have to explain this to such young and innocent minds. But it seemed like she had no choice. "Well, it appears that Shining Armor was recently sent to Pyrovia on a diplomatic mission...and...something happened."
"What?" Rainbow demanded.
"Princess Celestia said it was an accident."
"What was an accident?" Applejack asked.
They stood in stunned silence for several seconds. No one said a word. No one could.
"But...how?" Apple Bloom asked.
"He was caught in a rock slide at the edge of a volcano," the unicorn explained. "It seems he didn't see it coming."
"But, we saw him just a few weeks ago!" Scootaloo exclaimed. "He was so nice, he was..." she started to choke up. "He can't be dead!"
"These things can happen very quickly Scootaloo," Applejack explained. "Sometimes, without warnin'." She quickly changed direction. "How's Twilight?"
"Spike said she locked herself in her room," Rarity said.
"Right!" Pinkie quickly interjected. "Which is why we should hold a huge party to cheer her up! Who's with me!?"
"Pinkie, a party is the last thing she needs," the farmer explained succinctly.
"What!? How could she not want a party!?"
As Applejack tried to explain to her friend the basics of grieving and tact, Rarity and Fluttershy had already tuned out, as they had noticed Rainbow's catatonic state.
Fluttershy removed the scroll from her mouth. "Rainbow Dash?" she asked. "Are you alright?"
"Huh?" she said, turning to the pegasus. "Oh, um...I'm fine, I was just reminded of something."
"What is it Rainbow Dash?" Rarity asked.
"Yeah, tell us!" Scootaloo demanded.
"Uh...my mother," she exclaimed. "She, um...died when I was a little filly."
"Oh," Rarity replied. "I...see?"
"Well, one of my friends in flight school, she spent so much time trying to cheer me up back then. Pinkie kinda reminds me of her."
"You can't have parties every single day!"
Rarity, Rainbow, Fluttershy and the fillies started trotting away from the arguing earth ponies. As Big Mac nervously watched the fight.
"You think she'll be okay?" the shy pegasus asked.
"Who?" Rainbow responded.
At that moment, a single phrase echoed in Rainbow's head: "You’re an ass."
"I'm sure she'll be fine," the weathermare lied.
The front door of Ponyville library slowly creaked opened, and a multicolour-maned head peeked through. "Twilight?" she asked. "You there?"
The library was silent. She led Rarity and Fluttershy in, Spike still lying on the pegasus' back.
Following close behind was Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, who remained with the group despite Rarity's efforts to send them away.
"So, what are we planning?" The shy pegasus asked.
"I'm going to talk to Twilight," Rainbow replied. "And see if I can help her."
"Shouldn't we all talk to her?" Rarity asked.
She turned to the group. "Alright, who here has lost somepony close to them?" Rainbow raised a hoof.
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom joined her.
"...That they remember."
Scootaloo dropped her hoof.
"...Pictures don't count."
Apple Bloom did the same.
"I've been there. I've felt the same thing. I might be able to help her out of it."
"Rainbow, darling, she probably just needs time," the elder unicorn stated.
"Or she needs somepony to talk to...and time. Just...wait down here."
She trotted up the stairs to Twilight's room. Knocking on the door three times, she quickly said, "Twilight? You in there?"
Rainbow waited a few seconds for some response. When none came, she trotted back down the stairs. "Hold on," Rainbow said to her friends as she walked out the front door. Several feet away, she took in the entire library, and quickly flew up to one of the many balconies around the building.
Looking through the large bay windows, she could see her best friend, Twilight Sparkle, lying on her bed, mane messy and unkempt, face buried in her hooves.
Rainbow reached in her hair, and took out a single tiny blade. Slipping the tool through the window, she undid the latch. Sneaking inside, she said, "Twilight? Are you okay?"
She trotted up to the bed, and lowered her head to Twilight's level. "Need anything?"
Rainbow was at a loss for words. She tried to remember what she was like when she lost her mother. But the circumstances were entirely different for her, despite what she told her friends.
"We heard what happened," Rainbow explained. "Spike...told us."
"If you need somepony to talk to I-"
Rainbow was interrupted by mumbling from the sheets.
Twilight lifted her head. Her voice was somber, and mechanical. "I called him an ass, the last words I gave to my brother, were me calling him an ass...and now I can't take it back."
Rainbow paused for several seconds. "I know."
"Go away Rainbow."
She stood up straight as the unicorn buried her face in the tear-stained sheets.
Rainbow proceeded out the door, closing it behind her.
The sun set slowly below the horizon. After Rainbow talked to Twilight, everypony decided to leave her alone for the time being. Twilight guilt was just too much for them to fix.
One would assume an incident like this would be something anypony would get over with time. They would tell themselves 'they knew how I really felt,' or something along those lines. But Twilight Sparkle didn't think that way, and Rainbow knew it.
She would never forgive herself, unless...
Rainbow stared at the open refrigerator, looking for something to eat. But nothing interested her. She closed the fridge and trotted to her bedroom. After the events of the day, she just wanted to lay down and sleep, but more importantly, she needed to talk to somepony. She needed some advice.
Rainbow flopped down on the bed. She began to think about her mother. The mare who taught her how to fly.
Starlight Rush flew above the cloud layer, her dark blue mane flowing in the breeze as a young filly clung to her neck.
"Ready?" she asked her daughter.
"Yeah!" Rainbow Dash smiled.
Rainbow let go, and spread her wings as far as she could. She drifted away from her mother, and flew up. The wind rushed through her bright pink mane, as she rushed through the clouds.
Rainbow stared at the ceiling in her room, and began her spectator mantra. The fire of friendship lives in our hearts, as long as it burns we cannot drift apart, though quarrels arise, their numbers are...
Her eyes began to flutter, and roll back into her head, as the memories infiltrated her subconscious.
She lied in the hospital bed, an IV line running to her neck, all strength in her body, gone.
A young filly, with messy pink hair, sat next to the bed, tears bursting from her eyes. The multi-coloured roots in her mane had already started to show from weeks of neglect. She buried her face in the hospital bedsheets.
Rainbow put a hoof on the filly's head. She brushed the mane aside, and said to her. "Rainbow, it's okay."
"Mom," the filly looked up and Rainbow saw her own eyes looking back.
"I love you, and I'll always love you, and I'll always be there for you," she said simply.
"But I'll never see you again!"
"Yes you will," she explained solemnly. "Just remember, you have a great gift, you shouldn't be afraid of it. You shouldn't be ashamed of it."
"But...but dad said..."
Rainbow opened her mouth to continue, but no sound came. She could feel pain building in her throat, and her heart monitor started to beep loudly and rapidly.
The pegasus took a deep breath, stared forward and said, "Sweetheart. It's been a while."
Sorry mom, Rainbow replied.
She laughed elegantly. "You don't need to apologize Rainbow, I understand, you're a busy mare. I don't need you to put things on hold for an old mare like me."
"So, I assume you didn't call me because you were bored."
I just needed somepony to talk to, somepony who understood what it's like to... Rainbow didn't want to continue that sentence.
Starlight hesitated, "What about your father?"
He's a little harder to contact.
As a chuckle left Rainbow's mouth, her stomach started to rumble. "You haven't eaten," she said.
Uh, yeah, I wasn't hungry.
It wasn't easy to lie to a soul that just took possession of your body. "Yes you were." Rainbow's body rolled out of bed. "I'm going to make us a sandwich, and while we eat, we can talk."
As she trotted to the kitchen, her mother knowing exactly where it was, Rainbow replied, begrudgingly, Thanks mom.
She pulled out the loaf of bread, and a head of lettuce. "So, what's troubling you?"
Rainbow knew there was no point in wasting time. Did I ever tell you about Twilight?
Rainbow sat at the dinner table. It was sparkling and smooth, much like her entire home. One would not expect Rainbow Dash to keep such a clean house, but there were times Rainbow found that cleaning would work just as well as any protective mantra.
She took a bite of her sandwich, and as the young mare masticated, her mind was quite busy.
She swallowed and frowned, saying, "I'm not sure that's a good idea, Rainbow."
Her mind buzzed. Why not!? Didn't you tell me, dad told you for the same reason? Rainbow asked her mother.
"Well, not really," her eyes drifted up. "I mean..."
Memories leaked into her consciousness.
Tears flowed from Rainbow's eyes. The cloud she sat on was already soaked with saline.
Her ears twitched as she heard a fluttering sound coming closer and closer.
She felt the cloud shake as a large mass dropped next to her.
A single purple wing wrapped around her shoulders, holding her tight.
Her father's voice came, "It's alright, Starlight."
Through quiet sobs, Rainbow spoke. "No it's not," she cried. "I never got to say goodbye to her. She was my best friend."
"I know," a hoof calmly rubbed her back. "I know."
"She was going to be my best mare."
"Why did this happen?"
"I don't know."
They sat in silence for several seconds, Rainbow's tears flowing.
The stallion embracing her spoke, once again. "Starlight," he said. "There's something I need to tell you."
Her tears ebbed. She looked up. The brown-haired stallion was avoiding eye contact.
"I was going to wait until after the wedding, but... I think you might need this now."
She lifted a hoof and wiped her eyes as he looked at her once again.
"But..." he swallowed hard. Rainbow could feel his nervousness reverberate through his hooves. "It's a bit of a family secret. You can't tell anypony, ever. Alright?"
She nodded hesitantly.
"I can talk to the dead."
She brought a hoof up and struck him in the face.
Wiping the memory from her mind, she said, I see.
"What?" Rainbow's mouth spoke. "Oh... right," she said, remembering the extent of their current bond.
You think she'll be angry, Rainbow explained.
"She might not believe you. It took me a while to accept this whole 'conduit' thing myself," the dead mare explained. "I don't think I ever believed it, at least not until you were born."
Memories leaked through once again.
The young blue foal growled before her.
"Rainbow, calm down," she said.
"You can't send me back!" the foal cried.
"What is your name?" came the voice of an elderly mare beside her.
"That's none of your fucking business!"
"This is not your realm anymore, go back to where you came from."
"Make me," she said, a sinister grin on her face. A foreign sight on the young, innocent foal.
The bright red mare stood her ground, not daring to touch the young foal. Not while she was still possessed.
Rainbow whispered to her grandmother. "How could this have happened?"
"That hair clip," she whispered. "Where did it come from?"
She could see the bright green hair clip, attached to the chromatic mane of her younger form. "My mother... she-"
"It must be an antique," she said calmly. "You have to watch out for those." Stepping forward, authoritatively, she said. "Get out, or I'll have you forced out."
"You should've taught her something a little more obscure," the young foal explained. "She can't get rid of me. She can only watch."
"Who said she'd have to do anything?"
The young foal suddenly looked frightened. "No."
Sunny's orange eyes fluttered.
The foals eyes darted around. In the kitchen, behind her, only a few feet away, several sharp knives sat on the counter. She leaped toward them.
"NO!" Rainbow screamed.
Acting quickly, the foal grabbed a knife and brought it down on her left forehoof, quickly releasing a bloodcurdling scream.
Tears burst from the foal's eyes, and Rainbow grabbed her younger self. "Rainbow, it'll be alright, you'll be fine."
The foal's eyes brightened. "I'm sorry I wasn't fast enough," she said, quietly.
The elder mare galloped to her granddaughter and dropped the first-aid kit on the ground. "Don't worry, Starlight. It'll be fine."
Rainbow looked at the pool of blood. "It won't be fine," she said through gritted teeth.
Sunny examined the wound. "It's superficial, there won't be any major damage."
"You know that?"
"Yes, I do."
"So, I guess it happens a lot to your kind."
Sunny glared at her. "Sometimes."
Rainbow looked at the foal. "Get out of my daughter."
"She's unconscious," the soul explained. "If I leave, she'll feel it again. I'm protecting her."
"I don't care."
"For Rainbow's sake I suggest he stay," the eldest explained, wrapping the hoof. "You don't want her remembering too much of this. Do you?"
Rainbow felt sadness and guilt. She turned away from the younger form.
"I know a doctor I can contact, he'll understand what happened." Sunny looked at the hair clip. "We're gonna have to take care of that. Bag it."
"Are you sure it's safe to touch?"
"For you? Yes. For me? Probably not."
"I'll teach her new mantras to protect herself," She turned to look at her daughter-in-law. "This won't happen again."
The memories hit her hard. Sometimes they were new, but often they were not. Normally she tried to block memories out. But this was her mother, not some stranger. She wanted to see them.
Mom, Rainbow said. Did I scare you?
My abilities... Did it ever scare you.
"No," she said, in shock. "Of course not. I thought it was kinda cool."
And the bad souls?
"I was scared for you, not of you."
But my friends...
"Rainbow, this stuff is secret for a reason. And it's not simply because they'd be afraid of you."
A rapping came at the front door.
"Yeah!?" Rainbow's voice screeched.
"Rainbow?" a soft voice came from the other side. "It's me."
Fluttershy, Rainbow thought.
"Little Fluttershy?" Her mother said. "I haven't seen her since..."
Can it wait 'til later, mom? Rainbow was insistent.
"Just, don't do anything rash, Rainbow," she replied.
Her eyes fluttered gently, and Rainbow regained control. "Coming!" she screamed, leaping from the table.
She flew to the door, and swung it open. "Hey, Flutters. What are you doing here this late?"
"Oh, is it a problem?" she asked. "I could come back later."
"No, no, it's fine," Rainbow said, stepping aside. "Come in."
Fluttershy trotted through the door.
"So, can I get you anything?" the host asked.
"No, um... I... ah..."
Rainbow but a hoof on her friend's shoulder. "So what's up?" she asked.
"Um... I just-"
"It's about what happened at the Citadel isn't it?"
"Um... no. I'm fine."
"You sure, I know it's been bugging you."
"Really, I... I'm fine..."
Rainbow remembered that day. It was hard on all of them. Fighting the hordes of monsters that were once normal ponies. But Fluttershy was the one who changed the most. Suddenly willing to fight as hard as any pony. Almost out of some deep-seated anger. Rainbow wanted to ask her about it. But was afraid of what she might learn, or what it might unleash.
Rainbow smiled. "So, why are you here?"
"It's um... It's about Twilight."
The smile faded. "What about her?"
"After you left, I sorta went back to talk to her."
Rainbow was taken aback. "What did she say?"
"I feel so helpless," the yellow pegasus explained, walking towards the kitchen table. "I don't even know why she's so sad, much less what to do about it."
"Her brother died." Rainbow explained, taking a seat next to her. There's not much else left to say."
"I know, but..." she flopped her head on the table. "Seeing her like this... And if we don't do something, Pinkie might try to cheer her up."
"Yeah..." Rainbow's gaze drifted.
"What's it like?"
She looked back at her pink-maned companion. "Huh?"
"Losing someone," the yellow pegasus said, straightening herself.
Rainbow was at a loss for words. "I was pretty young when it happened... I don't remember much."
Fluttershy smiled sweetly, nostalgia taking over. "I remember that's when you started dying your mane."
Rainbow nodded. She had been friends with Fluttershy for as long as she could remember. They were really close, told each other everything... Well, almost everything.
"Actually, that's when I stopped dying my mane."
"Oh... I... I didn't know."
"Yep," she declared with a smile, running a hoof through her hair. "This is all real. Didn't I tell you that?"
"So... why did you dye your mane as a foal?"
"Ah... it was my father's idea. He really didn't like his mane, so he dyed it, and he dyed mine." ...Because we needed to hide the fact that we could talk to the dead, she thought.
"Oh, I see."
"Once mom died, I sorta wanted to stop that. Dad thought it would look weird in between, so he dyed my hair back."
"He also shaved his head."
Fluttershy giggled. Suddenly remembering how Rainbow's father looked back then.
They sat in silence for several seconds. Rainbow's sandwich sat there. She still didn't feel hungry, despite the fact that her mother had no problem eating while in her body.
"They had a fight."
Fluttershy turned to look at her. "What?"
"At the Citadel. After the rest of you started cleaning up outside, I saw Twilight and Shining Armor talking. She wasn't happy. She said some... not-nice things. And she never got to say she was sorry."
"Oh..." Her eyes widened. "So..."
"She's not just upset she lost her brother. She's upset she lost her brother before she could say she was sorry."
Fluttershy looked at the mare. Her mouth agape. "Oh..."
"You're thinking the same thing I am aren't you?"
"Twilight's not gonna get over this. She may learn to pretend but..."
"There's nothing we can do." She flopped her head on the table again.
Rainbow stared forward. "Fluttershy?"
The yellow mare turned her head.
"Can you keep a secret?"
She nodded. A movement that looked odd to the conduit, as Fluttershy left her head on the table.
"I can talk to the dead."
Her eyes went wide. "What?"
Rainbow turned to the yellow pegasus, and continued. "I can talk to the dead. I might be able to call Shining Armor. Give him a chance to say goodbye. Give Twilight a chance to say goodbye."
She stood up. Locking eyes with her best friend. "Wh-wha..."
"It runs in the family. It's supposed to be a secret. It goes back generations."
"Why is it a secret?"
Rainbow shuffled her hooves. "That's hard to explain."
"Well, um... I don't know."
Fluttershy's eyes drifted.
"I just touch something, and if a dead pony touched it at some point in their life, I can call them, and they can sort of... possess me."
Fluttershy was shaking, her breathing erratic. She was still trying to absorb what she had heard. "Wh...why?"
"Uh..." Rainbow was suddenly lost.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I told you, it was a family secret."
"But I'm your friend, Rainbow. Why didn't you tell me?"
The blue mare was taken aback. "I was afraid."
"That it would scare you away. That you'd call me a freak."
Fluttershy was shocked. "Rainbow, we're friends." She grabbed the mare in a firm embrace. "That would never happen." As they separated, she smiled and asked, "So, why are you telling me now?"
"Because we're friends," she said simply. "And I think I'm gonna need your help."
Fluttershy ran the soft-bristled brush through her long, pink mane. Placing the brush on the counter, she turned on the bathroom faucet, and ran her forehooves under the cold water.
She brought her hooves to her face and rubbed the water into her eyes. Lowering her hooves, she stared at the reflection before her.
It was only the night before that she last spoke to her best friend, and was told the mare could talk to the dead.
It was still something Fluttershy was trying to process. She was surprised it was even possible. The dead were dead! How could they talk!?
Even after Rainbow Dash explained it, Fluttershy still didn't understand it. But she was willing to accept it. How could she not? There were only three possibilities she could see: It was all true, and Rainbow wanted to help. It was a lie, and part of a practical joke Rainbow wanted to play on Twilight when she was at her most vulnerable. Or Rainbow Dash had lost it.
While the last one was still a distinct possibility, she thought it would be best to withhold judgement.
But as she stood there, a fourth possibility came to mind. Rainbow was lying, and would hope Twilight would never find the truth.
Fluttershy closed the faucet and trotted into her main living room. She had already set out food for all her little critters, and still had plenty of time to make it downtown, to meet up with her best friend. But first, higher priorities needed to be dealt with.
She trotted to her closet. Opening the door, she saw, resting on the floor, a wooden chest, with a simple combination lock. She spun the tumblers to the right positions, and unlocked the chest.
Within were many knickknacks, but only one caught her eye: A book that was older than her. She picked it up and cracked it open. The pages were crisp, and hadn't been touched in decades.
Closing the book and locking the chest, she flew to her living room, and stowed the book in her saddlebag before slipping it on herself and trotting out the door.
The sun was bright, the sky was clear. And one orange earth pony cursed its betrayal. The cheery weather was counter to her own outlook. One which she thought she shared with her best friend, Rainbow Dash. It appeared that even the director of the local weather service could not alter the weather schedule at the last-minute.
Applejack trotted through downtown Ponyville. Her mind was on the events of the previous day. Her best friend had lost her brother. She was still having trouble processing it. Applejack thought for a minute: What if she lost her brother? She couldn't take it, and quickly wiped the thought from her mind.
But to Twilight it was not a hypothetical. It was real. She found it unlikely the unicorn could even get out of bed. How could she? Applejack's hooves carried her through the town, directed by some unknown force.
As she passed through an intersection, a small yellow and pink blur entered her field of view. The farmpony stopped in her tracks and turned to see a small outdoor cafe, down one of the many side streets, and at one of the tables, a very familiar friend.
She trotted down the road, watching the butter yellow pegasus slowly sip from a small teacup.
"Hey, Fluttershy," she said, approaching the young mare. "Whatcha doin'?"
"Oh, good morning Applejack," she replied. "I was just waiting for Rainbow Dash, we were going to meet up for breakfast this morning. But I think she's running a little late."
"Oh, well, mind if I join ya?" the farmer asked. Trotting around the barricade.
"Um... well..." Fluttershy tried to explain as her friend approached the table again. "It's just... it was supposed to be just the two of us."
"Oh..." She was slightly confused, before a light came on in her eyes. "OH!" she exclaimed. "Well, um... uh..." She started to scratch the back of her neck. "I gotta say: This is a surprise."
Fluttershy tilted her head in confusion. "I'm sorry?"
"Oh, no, Fluttershy, it's your life, you can live it as you wish. I'm your friend, I'm not gonna judge."
The pegasus was completely lost.
"I mean I always had my suspicions about Rainbow, but... never took you for... um... anyway..." Applejack tried to push past the awkwardness with a nervous giggle. Swallowing hard, she continued. "Well, I can leave once she arrives, give you some alone time." She gave another nervous giggle.
"I'm just... can we talk?"
"Okay..." Fluttershy was hesitant. But was not going to object.
Applejack sat in the chair across from her friend, and sitting on the table before her, sat a small, leather-bound book. "What's this?" she asked, reaching for the tome.
"NO!" the mare screamed, grabbing her book before Applejack could lay a hoof on it.
"Um... you alright sugarcube?"
"Um... yes, I just..." Her eyes darted back and forth. "You see... I wanna... Um... Rainbow Dash! I wanted to give this to Rainbow Dash!"
"My hooves are clean Fluttershy," she said with a chuckle. "I wasn't gonna dirty it."
"I know, it's just... um." It was impossible for Fluttershy to explain. Not without revealing her best friend's secret. And she knew that could never happen. "You wanted to talk?"
Applejack went along. "Yeah, um..." she put a hoof to her chin, and slowly lowered it. "Twilight. How's she doin'?"
"Oh..." Fluttershy responded. "I haven't seen her since last night. She was still in bed."
"You know how to cheer her up?"
The pegasus released a sigh. "Not exactly."
"Well, we have to do somethin'. I don't think she's gonna come back on her own."
Fluttershy shuffled her forehooves.
"Aren't you good at this kinda stuff?"
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, you managed to talk down a fire breathin' dragon."
"That wasn't a pony, that was a dragon. And... well... I don't think yelling at Twilight and giving her The Stare is going to help."
"The only other pony I can think of is Pinkie, and she's probably a bit too direct for this situation."
"Where is Pinkie Pie?"
"I explained to her that she needs to stay away from Twilight for the next couple of days. I'm pretty sure she understood."
A rapid series of knocks came from the front door of the Ponyville Library. A drowsy young dragon slowly pattered toward it. "Okay, okay," he said. "I'm coming."
He swung the door open, revealing an empty stoop. Spike scratched his head in confusion.
"SURPRISE!!!" Came a scream from behind him. The noise propelled him forward.
He rolled around, and rubbed the pain in his head away, saying, "Pinkie, what the hell!?"
"Sorry, Spike!" the joyous pony exclaimed. "I just wanted to throw Twilight a surprise party, and wanted to practice my Surprise scream!" She pulled out a small horn from behind her back, and got ready to scream again. "SURPRI-" But was suddenly stopped by a purple claw wrapping itself around her lips.
"Pinkie," Spike explained, releasing his claw. "I'm not sure that's a good idea."
"Why not!? She needs cheering up, and nothing cheers somepony up like a Pinkie Pie party."
"This is a little different, Pinkie."
She put a hoof to her chin, and said, "Applejack said the same thing, but she didn't say 'why.'"
"You didn't ask?"
"I did, but she didn't say 'why.'"
"She didn't say anything?"
"No, she said something, she just didn't say 'why.'"
They stood in silence for a few seconds.
"So!" Pinkie said, holding up a box overflowing with streamers. "Party!?"
"Pinkie Pie?" said a voice from behind the mare.
Pinkie turned around rapidly, obliviously knocking Spike across the room with her tail. "Twilight," she screamed, running toward her best friend. She yelled "SURPRISE!!!" and put a party horn in her mouth, before Twilight levitated it away.
"What's going on?" the unicorn asked.
"I was going to throw you a huge party to cheer you up!" she said with a smile.
Twilight stared at the earth pony, blinked several times, before finally releasing a small smile and grabbing the mare in a tight embrace. "Thanks Pinkie, I'm glad to know you cared." Twilight then pushed her friend away, and held her at leg's-length. "But... um..." Pinkie saw the water accumulate in her eyes. "Not right now. It's not the best time."
"Oh... Okay," she responded.
"Perhaps when I get back," Twilight explained, placing the noisemaker in her friend's mouth.
"'Back'!?" she exclaimed through her teeth. "Where are you going!?"
Twilight wiped the moisture from her eyes and explained. "Oh, I'm heading back to Canterlot for a few days."
"OO!" Pinkie reacted, as her friend started to cross the room. "Can I come!?"
"No," she replied, not even turning to look at her friend. "Not yet. Spike, just remember to-"
"Don't worry Twilight," the dragon said, holding up both claws. "I practically run this library even when you're here. I'll be fine."
"Okay," she said with a nod. Pinkie suddenly noticed the unicorn's saddlebag, on her back, already packed and bulging. Some of the contents were peeking out the top in an uncharacteristically unorganized fashion. She sat there and continued to watch the scene play out in stunned silence.
Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then rubbed her eyes again. "Um... tell the others I'm sorry I couldn't give a proper goodbye, and that..." she rubbed an eye, and swallowed hard. "...and that I'll see them at the funeral."
"You know you can catch a later train, Twilight."
"I don't want to."
Without another word, Twilight left the library, leaving the door open as she trotted away.
"Come on, Fluttershy!" Applejack explained. "I always thought you were the insightful one."
"Um... Well... I think we just need to give her time."
"Time... waitin'... it's not somethin' I'm good with," the farmer explained. "In my experience, waitin' too long means things just get worse."
She remained silent.
"I have to do somethin'."
"Hey, Fluttershy!" A voice came from above. The two mares saw their rainbow-haired friend float down to the cafe. "Applejack!" she continued, as her hooves touched down. "What's up!?"
"Oh," the earth pony got to her hooves. "Nothing much. I have things to do, so I'll just... leave you two alone then."
Just as she was about to leave, the humble mare stopped her. "Oh, Applejack," she said. "Go see Twilight. Offer anything she might need. If she remembers how much you care, it might help."
The earth pony gave a small, pensive smile. "Yeah... it might. Thanks Fluttershy."
As she galloped off, Rainbow watched with a raised eyebrow. "You didn't... tell her... did you?"
"What?" Fluttershy was shocked. "I-I didn't! I swear!"
Rainbow raised a hoof to silence her friend. "I know! I believe you Fluttershy, I just... had to ask."
As Rainbow sat down, a purple earth pony trotted by and asked for their order.
"Just get me the usual, Silver," Rainbow said.
The mare put a hoof to her head and nodded quickly before trotting off.
"So, sorry I'm late," the blue mare explained. "Busy morning."
Rainbow looked at her friend's chest. "So, what's that?"
Fluttershy noticed she was looking at the book that was still in her hooves. "Oh... um... I thought... well that is... I figured we could try a little test."
Fluttershy nodded. "After what you told me last night, I thought... well..."
Rainbow knew exactly where this was going. She released a sigh, before continuing in a hushed tone. "You want me to channel somepony you knew. Right?"
A redness came to the yellow mare's face. "I'm sorry."
"Fluttershy, the reason we don't tell ponies about our powers, is so they don't keep asking us to use them."
"But... I thought..."
"Yeah, well... The thing is... It's not always fun."
"Oh... okay." The mare hung her head, dejected.
The two were interrupted as their server dropped off Rainbow Dash's order: A Strawberry Hayshake; and a large double-decker club sandwich, loaded with lettuce, hay, tomatoes, daffodils, cucumbers, dandelions, and garnished with rose petals, with a side of hay fries.
Fluttershy returned to her teacup, and nervously sipped it.
Rainbow quickly took her first bite. "So," she said, between chews. "Who is it?"
Her companion looked up. "Huh?"
She leaned in. "The pony you want me to summon."
"Oh, it's my... my grandmother."
"I thought you never lost anyone."
"Oh... she died before I was born." Her wings quivered. "In fact it was a few days before I was born." She showed her friend the book. "This was her journal. She wrote in it every day. You said you could use something like this..."
Rainbow dropped her sandwich. "A book eh? Hmm..." She put a hoof to her chin. "Well, Fluttershy, I'd love to.
"What!?" Her ears popped up. "Really?"
"Sure," she said, taking another bite. "Assuming I can."
Fluttershy's eyes went wide. "But I thought you said..."
"Well, she died so long ago. She might have moved on."
The yellow pegasus was confused. "Um... 'moved on'?"
"Yeah, we can't contact just any soul. Some move on to some point beyond. Somewhere even we can't get to." She took another bite before continuing. "And even if I can summon her, she might not take it well."
"Wha-what do you mean?"
"Well, she's been dead for decades. Stuck in that void. To be pulled back to life so unexpectedly, it's pretty shocking. Not to mention we'd have to explain how we did it."
Fluttershy nodded. It took the pegasus quite a while to fully understand everything. They wouldn't have that much time with her grandmother.
It felt so unusual, seeing her best friend talk about the afterlife as casually as she would talk about recent weather operations. But this was what she did. Rainbow Dash talked to the dead. It was normal for her. Just because Fluttershy found it strange, doesn't mean everypony did.
Rainbow Dash finished her sandwich, and pointed to the hay fries. "You want these? Ah, forget it." She held out a hoof. "Silver." The purple pony was only a few feet away. Her attention was caught. "Box?"
Silver waved the mare down before returning to her other customers.
"So," the weatherpony leaned back, and started sipping on her shake. "You got a place we could do this? It'd have to be quiet, and secluded. Can't have anypony asking questions."
Fluttershy was about to answer, but was quickly interrupted.
"There's your cottage, though you do have a lot of animals. They might not take it well"
"I-I know a place."
Far outside the town limits, next to a wide open field, on the edge of the Everfree Forrest, a small cabin stood. It was dark, and many windows were cracked or broken. It hadn't been properly maintained in a long time.
Rainbow raised an eyebrow.
"Why do I get the feeling this is gonna cause more problems than it's worth?" the medium asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Even buildings can be used as touchstones."
Fluttershy quickly dove into her head. Touchstones. The objects used by Rainbows to summon specific spirits. Like the book Fluttershy held in her saddlebag.
Rainbow pointed to the abode in question. "This one looks pretty old and... does anypony live here?"
"I don't think so. I've been here a few times. I even left a note to the owners but it was left untouched."
The caretaker trotted toward the cabin, her friend following close. "Sometimes I'm out here helping the animals. The Castor family has a dam not far from here, and their little yearling Bucky gets into a lot of trouble. I always tell him to be more careful, but I don't think he'll ever listen." Fluttershy smiled at the nostalgia. "But this far out, it's sorta comforting to have a home away from home like this."
They approached the front door.
"This is your 'home away from home'?" she asked.
"It's cozy," her friend joyously rebutted.
Rainbow carefully lifted a hoof. She closed her eyes, her lips started to move and she slowly lowered her hoof onto the doorknob.
Rainbow's hoof made contact, her head tilted, her ears twitched. She removed her hoof and said, "Yeah, let's not." She trotted away.
Panic rose in Fluttershy's mind. "What? What is it? Is this place haunted?" She exclaimed.
"No. Well... sorta. But it's perfectly harmless! Just... I don't think we should do this inside. Not if the floorboards are touchstones." She looked over the grassy plains before her. "We should just do it out here, this'll be fine."
"Well, she'll take over your body. Right? What if she runs off?"
"That's what the mantras are for," she said with a reassuring smile.
As Rainbow sat down, Fluttershy dug out her grandmother's journal. She threw it on the ground before her friend. "Ready?"
"Yeah, but listen, Fluttershy."
The yellow mare looked up.
"Thanks for taking me seriously."
"Oh, well, about that-"
"You actually don't believe me and you want me to prove it first by asking questions only your grandmother would know."
"How'd you know?"
"Why else would you pick a book?"
Fluttershy started to nervously rub her foreleg.
"Yeah, mom asked dad to do the same thing."
"So," Rainbow said, cracking her hooves and closing her eyes. "Let's do this." And with a smile, she placed her hoof squarely on the journal's cover.
"She's gone!?" Applejack exclaimed. "Without a word!?"
"She's gone to Canterlot to prepare for the funeral," Spike explained in a droning monotone as he swept the library floor. "She said she wanted to go alone, and she wanted to leave as soon as possible. We'll see her in a few days."
"Pinkie scared her off didn't she!?"
"What!?" the pink mare exclaimed in shock.
"NO!" The dragon threw up his claws. "Look, she planned this last night, she's going to Canterlot to help with the funeral. We'll see her there this weekend."
Applejack trotted up to him. "Did she look alright to you?"
"She looked sad," Pinkie interrupted.
Spike merely pointed at the baker, saying, "What she said." He returned to his sweeping. "I don't know if she's going to be okay, but I do know there's not much we can do about it."
Applejack dropped her rump on the library floor as her face fell.
Rainbow Dash tilted her head toward the voice. A young, dark blue, earth pony colt stood in the entrance to the wood-panelled room. Moonlight shone through the windows, as the flickering candlelight cast an eerie orange glow.
She released a deep sigh. "Yes Cotton?"
"Um... well..." he responded nervously.
"Is it important?"
"No-it's... um... nevermind." The colt started to leave.
She dropped the quill that was held in her hoof and turned around to say, "Wait!"
Cotton stopped in his tracks, and turned to face her.
"I already lost my train of thought," Rainbow said, removing her glasses.
"No-" she waved a hoof in the air to dismiss his comments. "Cotton, just come in, sit down."
Rainbow focused her eyes as the young earth pony sat down across from her. She noticed this colt was only a few years younger than her. Not as young as Scootaloo and her friends. But still very young.
"It's about Butterscotch," he explained, rubbing his foreleg. "Um... You see... well... she's... uh..."
The silence started to nibble at her. "Let me guess, she dumped you," she said bluntly.
"Cotton, I keep telling you girls don't like this-"
"-whole... oh..." Rainbow rubbed the back of her head. "Is she sick?"
He shook his head.
"Then what is it?"
The colt averted his eyes. "I... um..."
She put a hoof under Cotton's chin, and pulled his face toward her. Locking eyes.
The colt took a deep breath. "She's pregnant."
For almost a minute, no words were spoken. Rainbow stood there in stunned silence. "Pregnant," she eventually replied. "Your girlfriend... is pregnant."
He nodded. Rainbow detected a trace of fear in the young colt's eyes.
"You're gonna have a foal."
He nodded again.
"Are you sure it's yours?"
His eyes went wide. "Yes!" He replied, slightly incensed.
"Did you ask?"
"I didn't need to. Mom, I trust her, I love her."
"Oh boy," she said, taking a deep breath.
"Mom, what am I gonna do!?"
"I'll tell you what you're gonna do: You're gonna be a father."
"I can't be a father, I can barely take care of myself!"
"Then you'll learn," she explained with a smile.
His lower jaw started to shake. Rainbow could tell he was not convinced.
She grabbed him in a hug and continued. "Just remember, you did nothing wrong. You'll do good, Cotton Fields. You'll be a great father, I just know it. It may seem scary now, but change always does. You'll learn to adapt, I know you will, everypony does. You're gonna be a great father." Her smile widened. "And I'm gonna be a grandmother."
"That was from one of your books wasn't it?"
"Can it, Casanova."
Rainbow's eyes snapped open. "Where am I?" she asked.
"It's alright," Fluttershy said, in her most soothing voice. "You're safe."
She raised an eyebrow. "Oooo...kay?"
The mare ruffled her feathers, and widened her eyes. She turned her head, and looked at her back. Spreading her wings.
"What in Tartarus just happened?"
"How'd I get wings and why are they blue?"
"There's... there's a very good explanation for that."
Rainbow's head turned back toward the yellow mare, who had already approached her. She stared for several seconds. "I'm sorry, who are you?" she asked, hesitantly.
"My name's Fluttershy," the yellow one explained.
"And... where am I?"
"We're just outside Ponyville."
"Ponyville... alright. Now, why am I a blue pegasus?"
"Well, let's start with your name."
"Spring Orchard, your turn!"
The mare panicked. "What was that!?" She spun around, searching for the source of the mystery voice.
Sorry, sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to scare you!
Her eyes darted up. "You're in my head."
Well technically, you're in mine.
Orchard only got more confused. "What!?"
"Um..." Fluttershy held up a hoof. "Are you alright?"
She quickly replied, a tremor in her voice. "I think I'm losing my mind."
"You're not, you're... um..." She hoofed at the soil before her.
Fluttershy looked up. "You're dead."
Apple Bloom's bedroom was very small, and very modest. Furnished with antiques and a few simple knickknacks. She was never one to collect too much stuff.
The entire room was wrapped in green wallpaper. A colour she never particularly liked. She always told herself that, given the opportunity, she would love to repaint her entire room a brilliant mauve.
At one end, sat an antique four-poster bed. A hand-me-down going back generations. It was well-worn when she got it, but a bit of paint and a few nails, and some scrap wood fixed it right up.
At the other end of the room was her newest piece of furniture, a blue wardrobe. It was brand new, but that was only because of the incident with the bottle rocket. Who knew cedar would burn so quickly?
Next to the blue box sat a small yellow vanity, which held a major role in Apple Bloom's regular morning routine.
The young filly watched her reflection as she ran a brush through her mane. A few strokes later, she placed it down on the dresser. Next, she grabbed a tube of lip gloss in hoof, and applied it before pursing and rubbing her lips. Finally, draped over the side of the mirror, a large pink ribbon hung. She grabbed it, and pulled it up behind her mane. Then, in a move she practised every day for the past several years, Apple Bloom tied it up in a large bow. Her hooves moved so quickly, all anypony else would see was a yellow and pink blur.
The filly admired her work. Raising a hoof she nudged the bow, which immediately fell back into its proper shape. She smiled.
Apple Bloom always cared about her appearance more than others thought. Most ponies would guess, being such a tomcolt, that the young filly would never give her appearance a second thought. This was not true. She never truly felt comfortable with a dirty coat, or a dishevelled mane. And she never wanted to look like a foal. She always wanted to look good.
Next to her grooming supplies sat a hoofful of framed photos. Two were very recent, and stood out to her. The first was of herself, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash, Princess Cadance, and Spike. In the background, the Marjave Citadel dwarfed the group. Even from far away, it was monstrous. A large, shining, blue spike sticking out of the sand, surrounded by several concentric walls, each encasing several small buildings. All abandoned.
They never got to find out what happened. The origins and the fall of its inhabitants. Nothing was discovered before everything went to Tartarus. There were so many mysteries in that desert. Mysteries that may never be solved.
Apple Bloom pushed these thoughts away, and turned her attention to the next photo. Apple Bloom and her friends, in Canterlot, at the banquet honouring them. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo proudly wore their medals. A testament to their achievement.
She still felt a bit bitter, that her involvement was never properly recognized. But she didn't let it bug her. After all, they were the ones who saved Equestria. She merely helped. She was a sidekick, not a hero. However she was not outright ignored. Ponies knew of her involvement. She took consolation in that.
There were several other photos her eyes went across, but one caught her eye. The oldest. A photo that was taken before she was even born. It was a photo of her parents. She never knew them.
Her mother, Turnip Leaf, had died as she was born. When she was first told this, it took a long time before she learned not to blame herself.
Her father, Apple Seed, died a few months earlier, in a freak farming accident. The details of which Apple Bloom did not care to know.
Shining Armor was such a nice stallion. The time Apple Bloom and her fellow crusaders spent at the Marjave, was mostly spent with him. And he was nice; he knew how to have fun. He also never talked down to them. Which was something Apple Bloom greatly appreciated. He talked to them like they were equals, like they were friends.
Now he was gone. It didn't seem fair. It didn't seem right.
Apple Bloom never knew her parents. Their deaths did not affect her, and this was not simply because they happened before she was born. But the fact that Shining Armor was now dead, gone forever. It shook her to her very core.
She picked up another photo. It was an innocuous picture taken that one time Spike joined the crusaders as they tossed a ball around. She pulled the photo out and started digging through her top drawer. Pulling out an envelope, she quickly looked through and found the photo she wanted. It was taken in one of the buildings near the Marjave Citadel, of Shining Armor and Sweetie Belle, covered in dirt, as they pulled out some odd artifacts found in some ancient wooden boxes. It was the only photo she had of him.
She placed the photo in the frame, and positioned it elegantly on her dresser.
"Scoot your caboose, Apple Bloom!" a voice called from below. "Time's a-wastin'!"
The filly spun around, and spotted the clock sitting on her nightstand.
"Shoot!" she cried. Quickly throwing on her saddlebag, she ran out the door and down the stairs.
A green earth pony stood on the ground floor, watching her granddaughter descend. "Whatcha waitin' for Apple Bloom!?" she cried. "You're gonna be late!"
She tossed the filly a yellow lunch pail, which landed gracefully in Apple Bloom's saddlebag.
On her way out the door, she stopped in her tracks. Turning around she said, "Granny."
The Granny Smith turned to face her granddaughter.
"What were my parents like?"
Her eyes widened, and Big Mac's head peeked in from the kitchen, a slice of toast hanging from his mouth.
"Hmmm," she brought a hoof to her chin. "Come on," granny declared. "I'll tell ya on the way."
"Granny?" Big Mac responded through his teeth.
"Hold down da fort while I'm gone."
"Don' worry none, Mac," she explained. "She won't be late."
"She deserves to know."
The stallion released a sigh as he returned to the kitchen, chewing the rest of his toast.
"For starters," Granny said from the foyer. "Your mother was never good enough for your father."
"Granny!" he screamed, running back.
She laughed. "Gottcha!"
He stared at her through narrow eyes.
"It was a joke," the mare deadpanned. She turned back to Apple Bloom and continued, "she was actually very sweet."
As they left, Macintosh sighed once again.
"It was twenty-two years ago. A...a freak accident i-"
"No no no!" Spring said, waving Rainbow's hooves. "I mean, how am I here? If I'm dead... wait... twenty-two years ago?"
She nodded again.
"Your father. Cotton Fields?"
"You're my granddaughter."
The yellow mare gave a smile. "Yes."
She brought the hooves to her mouth as tears boiled in those foreign eyes. Spring Orchard flew forward, embracing her granddaughter tightly, crying in joy. "Let me look at you," she said, holding her granddaughter at leg's length. "You've grown up so much."
They separated fully. "So," Orchard said. "How's your father?"
"Um... fine," she responded. "He's working in Manehatten now, as a speechwriter for the mayor."
"Followed in his mother's hoofsteps," she said with a laugh. "Sorta... And what about Butterscotch is she...?"
"She runs the Manehatten Weather Service."
She balked at the mare's statement. "She runs it?"
"Well... that's interesting."
They stood in a few seconds of awkward silence.
"So, um... how am I here?"
"Oh, that's... um... my friend, Rainbow Dash. She can... um... summon the dead."
Orchard looked at Rainbow's hoof. "For how long?" she asked.
As long as I want, the medium replied.
"Oh." Orchard let her gaze drift around. She inhaled deeply. The fresh smell of spring wafted through her host's nose. She could hear the sound of birds chirping in the distance, the rustle of leaves in the wind. "I can't believe I ever took this for granted," she said, melancholically.
"What do you remember?" Fluttershy asked.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
She brought a hoof to a chin. "Well, it was late. I was working on my latest book. Was on the thirty-second chapter when I decided to go to sleep. I had the weirdest dream. Everything was dark, and quiet, but I could feel other ponies nearby. We shared memories and ideas. Some did horrible things, but others... That was the afterlife wasn't it?"
Yeah, Rainbow replied. Sorry.
Orchard smiled. "It wasn't your fault."
A laugh sneaked through the pegasus' mouth. Her eyes drifted around once again. "I can't believe this. There's so much more I wanted to do."
I'll bet, Rainbow replied. After all, there were a lot of stories about you.
"Oh!" She smiled. "Ya heard a me!?"
Heard of you!? I'm a huge fan! Fluttershy never told me her grandmother was the original author of the Daring Do series.
She laughed. "Thanks I- wait... 'Original'!?"
Rainbow started to hesitate. Yeah... others continued the series after you passed on.
Scootaloo's room was not special. The stark yellow walls confirmed this. It was a cookie cutter remake of every other bedroom in the orphanage. Everypony else had a room just like hers. With the exception of the babies who resided in the nursery, and Administrator Button Clip.
As such, she always wanted to bring life to her sleeping quarters in any way she could. Her humble wooden dresser was covered with all sorts of knickknacks and trinkets. A snowglobe from the Crystal Empire, A hoof-carved figurine from Vanhoover, various small toys from the local toy store. Whatever she could find, she put there, so they'd stay in sight.
There was even more hanging on her wall. A dreamcatcher from Appleoosa; a poster of her favourite rock band, The Trotting Hooves; a ball cap labeled, I heart Manehatten.
Not that she'd ever been to Manehatten.
But all those were worthless in comparison to the one item that made her truly special. Hanging from two hooks, spaced a few inches apart, was a golden medal. The Equestrian Medal of Valour, the highest honour a civilian could receive. Awarded for bravery, initiative, and duty.
The young pegasus lay in bed, staring at the medal. She thought about the events that led to receiving the decoration, and a heavy pain hit her heart.
The door eased open, with a soft creak. In trotted a light purple unicorn filly, with two red bowls, in golden auras.
"Oh," Dinky said. "You're awake. Fantastic timing, as always. Nosh?"
Scootaloo barely moved as she responded. "You brought me breakfast?"
"Of course, couldn't let my best mate go 'ungry."
The young filly's cockney accent was still as prominent as it was when the two first met. Scootaloo often assumed Dinky talked this way intentionally, and not simply because she was used to it. She knew other foals from other regions whose dialect had faded over time. But Dinky's accent was still as thick as it ever was.
When Scootaloo didn't grab the bowl of oatmeal, the unicorn placed it next to her, on the bed, hoping it wouldn't spill. She crossed to her side of the room, and bounced onto her mattress, before she started to levitate chunks of the brown substance into her mouth.
When the young pegasus remained silent, Dinky got uncomfortable. "So, those new lads will be arriving this afternoon," she said, trying to break the silence. "Figure I'd offer to mentor, eh?"
"Pass it on... so to speak."
She set the bowl down on her nightstand. "Are you alright, Scooters?"
"Shining Armor's dead."
Dinky paused for a second, lowering her gaze in thought. "Blimey."
"Should I tell everypony?"
The unicorn, looked up and raised an eyebrow. "I'm sorry?"
"Should I tell everypony what really happened?"
She paused once again. "Why!?"
Scootaloo remained silent.
After a while, the young unicorn decided to move on. "We really should go, school starts in an hour."
"Yeah... I guess."
Dinky ate the rest of her oatmeal, and jumped off her bed before levitating her saddlebag off the floor, and onto her back.
Scootaloo was motionless.
"Or... we could stay and talk about it. Button 'ud understand."
The silence continued.
"So that's a 'no'?"
Not a word came.
"Alright, then let's go."
She remained immobile.
Dinky lowered her eyelids and lifted her roommate in a golden aura.
"AH!" the pegasus screamed in shock.
"Move it, eh!" She threw her best friend to the floor.
Spring Orchard trotted across the open fields outside Ponyville. The shining sun warmed her coat. It was a feeling of pure bliss, one she missed so much after so long.
No. It wasn't her coat. It was Rainbow Dash's. A mare she only met a few minutes ago, and was already intimately aware of.
But 'so long'? That thought bugged her. Fluttershy said it was twenty-two years. That was impossible. The night she died... She was in her study... It felt like yesterday. Was it?
But part of her knew otherwise. Time did pass. That dream, the dream of the afterlife. Time flowed so quickly, she barely noticed. But she also noticed every second.
The memories she shared. Some were vivid, and powerful. Others were subdued and relaxing. Little slices of life, cut out and given to her.
Some even frightened her.
The grass collapsed beneath Rainbow's hooves. She could feel every blade snap under the medium's weight.
Spring Orchard was dead. Even at that moment, she did not understand fully what that meant.
She looked at her granddaughter. The yellow pegasus kept pace, her gaze locked forward.
"So... Fluttershy," the spirit said, trying to make conversation. "What'd I miss?"
"Huh... I-I'm sorry?"
The mare's demeanour reminded Spring of her son, Cotton. She wondered if he ever got over his demure nature, or if he was still as passive as ever. Perhaps she'd be able to find out. Perhaps she could use this opportunity to reconnect with her son.
No, the voice of her host stated calmly.
Spring Orchard stopped in her tracks. "What?" she asked, confused.
Her granddaughter stumbled over her words. "Oh, um... I just wanted you to explain but-"
"No, no, not you," she explained, waving a hoof.
I'm sorry, but... you can't see your son. Nopony can ever know about us.
She could hear her.
"How... how'd you..."
Sometimes thoughts can leak from spirit to conduit, Rainbow explained. I didn't do it on purpose, it just happens.
Spring nodded slightly. She noticed her heartbeat was a bit faster than normal.
Her host's heartbeat, actually. She kept forgetting this was not her body.
Spring continued on the topic at hoof. "Wha-what did you mean when..."
This Rainbow thing is supposed to be a secret.
"Rainbow thing?" she asked, incredulously.
We're called 'Rainbows.' Talking to the dead, that kinda thing.
"I thought that was your name."
My mom thought it was funny.
She continued the journey, but then remembered. "Wait, why is it secret?"
Look, it's hard to-
Spring Orchard found herself in a large four poster bed. Draped with red velvet. Her head turned to the left, and she saw an ugly, overweight, earth pony stallion.
His breath stank of rotten cheese and death.
In her heart, she felt pain, and sadness, and despair.
She slowly sneaked out from under the covers, and made her way across the large, ornately decorated room.
It appeared to be the bed chambers of some very wealthy aristocrat. A thought that made her sick to her stomach, though she wasn't sure why.
She looked in the bathroom mirror, and a yellow unicorn looked back at her. Her eyes reflecting the pain Spring felt in her heart.
But the most stark thing about this mare, was her mane. It contained six stripes of bright red, brilliant orange, shining yellow, vivid green, pure blue, and dark purple.
It was six different colours, all the colours of the rainbow.
She looked down at the sink, and turned a tap with her magic. She rubbed her eyes with the fresh, cold water flowing from the faucet.
A hoof reached over her shoulder, and she could feel a set of teeth nibble at her ear.
She screamed, "AHHHH!!!!" and escaped her assailant's grasp.
"Oh," the ugly stallion responded. "She left."
He trotted past her, to the bath, and turned a tap. As fresh water flowed forth, he stated simply. "There are matters I need advice on. I wish you to summon my father. I left his touchstone in the armoire."
"I need to wash myself, master," she said, bowing her head.
"You may do that in the servant's baths, after you summon my father."
He turned his neck to look at her, daring her to continue.
"Yes master," she said, bowing her head.
Spring could feel anger and shame well up in her heart. Tears threatened to burst from her eyes. She held back.
"Now, stop wasting time, and summon my father."
As the stallion turned back to his bath, she left, trembling as she slowly made her way across the room. Behind the large door of the armoire, she saw what she recognized as an antique brandy bottle.
She levitated it over to herself and whispered silently. "Three months," she said. "Three months of this..."
She slowly trotted toward the bath once again, tightening her grip on the bottle. Halfway, she suddenly came to an abrupt stop. Tears ran down her face.
She turned and ran back, still carrying the bottle. She targeted the large bay window, next to the armoire. The bright morning sun still shining through.
A few feet from the edge, she released a final burst of speed, and jumped. Flying through the glass, it shattered instantly. As she fell, the mare saw a pegasus stallion, fly off the roof to rescue her, or the bottle.
As her last act, she sent a burst of energy from her horn, into the stallion's gut.
A sharp pain hit the back of her head.
-explain, just... Are you okay?
Her heart was beating rapidly, her coat was soaked in sweat, her breathing was rapid. Rainbow knew something was wrong.
"I... I just-" Spring stammered.
Fluttershy flew toward her.
Woah, woah, it's alright. Just breathe. I don't want to suffocate here.
She started taking deep, slow and meticulous breaths.
"Are you alright?" the yellow pegasus asked.
"I... I don't know," she replied.
What happened? Rainbow asked.
"I... I was somewhere... a... a room... and I... I jumped... I..."
Oh, that was just a memory, the medium explained calmly.
A memory, she stated. Yeah, sometimes they cross over, it's no big deal..
"No big deal!?"
Yeah, happens to me all the time.
Memories. In the afterlife, she felt the same thing. But it was never this vivid. Never this real. The memories she saw in the void were distant, and clearly not hers. This was not that.
"No... it... it can't be that. It was me, it felt like me-"
Yeah, that's normal, Rainbow explained. Though... actually, it only supposed to go the other way.
As Spring attempted to control her breathing, she said simply, "What?"
Huh... must have been my fault. When you asked why it's a secret I guess-
"So, what I saw really happened?"
Rainbow was curious. Yeah... she said, wondering where this would lead.
Fluttershy grabbed her best friend's body, as her grandmother slowly began to relax.
She was still not sure what was going on. This was entirely new ground for the young pegasus. She was scared, mostly for her friend's well-being.
What was going on? Was this her fault? Should she have ever given Rainbow such a selfish request?
It was selfish; Fluttershy knew that. She told herself that this plan was merely to protect Twilight from Rainbow's well-intentioned, yet possibly misguided plan. But she really just wanted to speak to the grandmother she never knew.
She heard so much about Spring Orchard, but only though her parents. She wanted to know her, to speak to her, personally. A noble spirit, who had suddenly become panicky and nervous.
For the most part, she acted exactly like the Spring Orchard she always thought she knew. But at that moment, she did not look or sound like the strong, independent mare, who fought hoof and claw to get her work published. But somepony else entirely.
Rainbow's eyes turned toward the young mare. "Fluttershy?" she said.
"Yes?" the yellow mare replied.
"You can't ever tell anypony about Rainbow's powers," she said in earnest. "Ever. No matter what, you can never tell anypony. You understand?"
Her eyes drifted away. "It's dangerous," she said. "You can't possibly think that!" She paused for a second, eyes darting just a bit. "And what if it happens again!?"
"S...Spring Orchard?" Fluttershy asked. "What's-"
Rainbow's forelegs broke her friend's grasp, and her body stood up straight. "You can't ever tell anypony. That's all you need to know."
She saw the fear in her friend's eyes. Possibly a reflection of her grandmother's outlook. The mare nodded in comprehension.
She trotted past the yellow mare. Wanting to move past the awkward moment she had created.
"So, where is this library?" Orchard asked.
"Oh, um..." Fluttershy hesitated. "It's in the middle of town, but..."
"What is it?" she replied, approaching her granddaughter.
"Twilight runs the library, and now I'm worried she'll notice you're not Rainbow Dash."
"Oh..." the mare said, taking a step back. "Uh... Really? Okay. I'm sure we'll be fine, Fluttershy."
She nodded proudly.
"Oh... Okay." Fluttershy said, as she walked past her grandmother. Leading her to the local Library.
"At least I hope so."
Spike slowly and methodically swept the wooden floor. He tried to focus his thoughts on the task at claw, clearing the dirt and cleaning the room. But his mind kept drifting to other, more futile endeavours.
Twilight had already left for Canterlot. She had to prepare for her brother's funeral. It was not a happy prospect for the young unicorn, and Spike knew it.
He could have gone with her, for moral support. But somepony had to watch over the library. And he was almost certain she wanted to be alone.
A light rapping came from the front door. The dragon's thoughts refocused and he noticed a light pink mane sneak through the slowly opening entrance.
"Fluttershy!" he declared. "Come on in!"
"Oh, Spike," the pegasus responded, slinking into the library. "We don't mean to bother you."
He noticed his dear friend, Rainbow Dash, following close behind. But she seemed lost, distant. However, the dragon didn't think much of it. Everyone was handling the latest news their own way.
"Um... How's Twilight doing?" Fluttershy asked.
"Oh," Spike responded. "She's doing fine. She got out of bed this morning and... well... she left."
"What!?" the yellow mare took a step back. "Where!? Why!?"
"Canterlot. She's gonna see her family."
"Oh... I... See..."
Rainbow ran straight up to the dragon and asked simply, "Where are the Daring Do books?"
Spike was slightly confused, since the section had not moved since the weathermare was last present.
Suddenly, her eyes widened, and she struck her head with a forehoof, "Oh, silly me, I just remembered. I'll be fine, Spike." Rainbow Dash trotted away, leaving a confused dragon behind.
He turned to the yellow mare. "Is she alright?" He asked, pointing to his cyan friend.
"Oh, no, she's fine; She's absolutely fine; Nothing weird is going on at all," Fluttershy explained, slightly frantic.
As the pegasus floated across the room to meet her friend, Spike remembered how bad a liar Fluttershy was. He also remembered it was a bad idea to call her out on it.
He was rapidly knocked out of his thoughts by the sudden opening of the front door. This time, featuring the entrance of two white unicorns.
"Sweetie Belle, she's going to be fine."
"But I really want to do this, sis!"
The younger of the two led the way, as her older sister trailed behind.
"Hey!" the dragon said, grabbing their attention.
"Spike," Rarity explained. "Please tell Sweetie Belle, that this is unnecessary."
"This is unnecessary," he told the young filly. "What's unnecessary?" He asked the older mare.
"I brought cookies for Twilight," Sweetie Belle screamed. "I wanted to cheer her up!" Her shining smile beamed across the room.
Spike donned a pair of shades as he explained. "Well, she's right, it's unnecessary, because Twilight left for Canterlot this morning."
"Oh, of course she would," Rarity interjected. "A state funeral is a grand event. One cannot wait until the last minute. Planning must begin immediately. Speaking of which... Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, I'm glad you are here!"
The two pegasi crossed the room, the clopping of Rainbow's hooves echoed through the library.
"I wanted to tell everypony, I already started work on outfits for the funeral. Bit of a style change, so I don't know how appropriate they are. But I'd love it if you could stop by..."
"Not a problem, Rarity."
Everyone turned to look at the cyan pegasus. Her smile suddenly started to shake.
"I mean... you know, if I have to," she continued. "Better get it over with."
"Anyway..." Rarity continued, clearing her throat. "I'd love to get your take on them."
"Yeah, but what am I gonna do with these cookies!?" Sweetie Belle said, a purple box rested on her back.
"Oh," the dragon responded, reaching for the box. "I'll take them."
"Okay!" She proclaimed with a smile.
He popped open the box before anypony could stop him, and saw the contents were not so much cookies, but pieces of coal.
Even I have my limits, he thought.
"So," Rarity said, turning to her pegasus friends. "What brought you two here this fine morning?"
"Oh," Rainbow explained with a smile. "Just picking up some old Daring Do books."
The unicorn levitated one of the titles off the mare's back.
"Daring Do and the Lost City," she read aloud. "Honestly, Rainbow, how often can you read the same story over and over again!?"
"Um... It's only the third time..." the weathermare responded. "...fourth time."
Spike grabbed a few more titles off her back. "These are all the early post-Orchard books," he explained.
"Well, nothing, it's just... an odd choice."
"Thought I'd just go over them again."
"One other question," Rarity said, calmly. "Now, this will sound a bit cliché, but I don't know how else to phrase it... So... Who are you, and what have you done with Rainbow Dash!?"
"What!?" Fluttershy's eyes started to dart around.
"Rarity," the blue mare explained, with a slight chuckle. "I just wanted to reread some old stories. Is it that unusual?"
"Oh, no, it has nothing to do with that. But your mannerisms, your demeanor, are very much unlike the Rainbow Dash I know. Very passive, very demure. Also, you're not flying."
"You haven't left the ground this entire time. Even while trying to defend yourself, you've barely moved."
"Well... um... there's a very-"
"It's not Rainbow Dash!" Fluttershy screamed.
"I'm sorry, I panicked."
"So, Fluttershy... Who is she?" Rarity asked.
As the alabaster mare approached her butter yellow friend, the pegasus suddenly released a "Meep!" before cowering on the floor.
She turned her attention to the blue pegasus that claimed to be Rainbow Dash.
"Rarity, I can explain," she said, slowly trotting backward.
"The Rainbow Dash I know wouldn't be so passive," the unicorn explained. "After such an accusation she would fly in my face and use some very nasty words."
"AH HA! I know that's a lie because she would have told me!"
It took less than a second for the mare to realize what she said.
"Wow, I really messed up didn't I?" she said, looking up at her head. "Wait... You were what?"
Fluttershy approached the group that had huddled around Rainbow Dash. "Does this mean we can tell them now?"
With a sigh, her rump hit the floor. "You have to promise," Rainbow explained carefully. "You have to promise not to tell anypony ever."
Rarity was incensed. "I'm not promising anything until you tell me who you are."
"Please..." she said, a glisten forming in her eyes. "Rainbow's life may depend on it."
The unicorn was taken aback. "I don't understand."
Rainbow Dash's head lowered. "Please..."
Spike spoke first. "I promise," he said.
Sweetie Belle followed. "So do I."
Everyone's eyes fell on the fashion designer.
Her eyes swooped around her. Bowing her head, she replied. "Very well. Now, who are you?"
She closed her eyes, and responded. "My name is Spring Orchard."
Spike was perplexed. "What?"
Fluttershy explained. "She's my grandmother."
"What!? But... she died 20 years ago."
"That's the secret," Orchard explained. "Your friend, Rainbow Dash, can... contact the dead."
Everyone stared at her.
"Hold on," Spike said, holding up a claw. He turned to Fluttershy. "Spring Orchard's your grandmother!?"
"Spike," Rarity said. She turned back to the dead pony. "I... don't understand. How? And... why does her life depend on us keeping it a secret?
"I... I..." her eyes started to flutter. "Sorry, I... it goes back a ways."
"Rainbow?" Fluttershy asked.
"Yeah, she wanted me to explain it myself, so she left."
"Likely story," Rarity responded.
"Rarity!" the dragon snapped. He turned to his technicolour friend. "Go on..."
"Right. Well, it sorta runs in the family. My father could do it too. But it was a family secret. No pony was ever supposed to tell anypony about it."
"Just your family?"
"Well, sorta. I mean it runs in the family, but there are hundreds, across Equestria. Most dye their manes to stay hidden."
"Dye their manes?" Rarity asked, finally joining in the conversation.
"Yeah. So did my father. But once mom died, we stopped doing that."
"So," Sweetie Belle butted in. "Why is your life in danger?"
Rainbow paused for a second. "Well... she might have exaggerated just a bit," she explained with a laugh.
"Well, what did she mean?" Fluttershy asked, genuinely afraid for her friend.
She hesitated before continuing. "Well... you see... it wasn't always a secret... but... um..."
A hoof landed on her shoulder. Her eyes followed it, and she saw an apologetic look in the eyes of the mare that nearly cursed her out a few minutes ago.
"Back then," Rainbow tried to explain as carefully as she could. "We were slaves."
"I... I don't understand. You can talk to the dead, and you were a slave?"
"Well, no, not me," she responded, slightly annoyed. "I wasn't a slave, my ancestors were."
The unicorn suddenly found herself lost in confusion. She started to walk away before quickly turning around and asking a simple question. "When?"
Rainbow put a hoof to her chin. "I think it was... eight... nine hundred years ago?"
"Nine hundred years ago there were slaves? How come I never heard about this before?"
"Why were they slaves?" Spike asked.
"How do you talk to the dead?" a squeaky voice inquired.
"Does it hurt?" A softer voice questioned.
Rainbow threw up her hooves. "Maybe I should start from the beginning."
"OOO!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed. "Story!" She sat down eagerly.
The medium took a deep breath, and began. "I..." she began. "I'm hungry."
An awkward silence descended briefly.
"Very well," Rarity stated. "We shall meet at Carousel for lunch. You can explain everything then. Come Sweetie Belle."
The young unicorn was incensed. "But, I wanna hear Rainbow Dash's story!" she cried.
"You can hear it at lunch, come."
"YAY!" Sweetie Belle quickly bounded after her sister.
As the others were left alone, Spike turned to the cyan pegasus. "So, you can talk to the dead?" he asked, awkwardly gripping his broom.
"Heh, yeah," she responded, rubbing the back of her head.
Fluttershy slowly approached her friend. "I'm really sorry Rainbow Dash," she said.
"Ah, forget it, Flutters. It had to happen sooner or later. And I'm sure they'll keep it quiet. No worries."
"You can't tell anyone," Rarity explained, as the two unicorns cantered down the boulevard.
"I know, I know!" Sweetie Belle shrieked. "You don't have to keep telling me!"
"Are you sure you understand? You can't let it slip, even accidentally. Not even to your friends."
"I won't!" she said, slowly getting more and more annoyed. "But how do you know Rainbow wasn't going to tell everypony anyway?"
"Let her tell them."
"Sweetie Belle!" A voice echoed from across the town square. Scootaloo waved her foreleg, attempting to catch her friend's attention.
"Scootaloo!" she screamed, galloping off. The filly then turned around, and while running backward, screamed, "Bye Rarity, see you at lunch!"
The designer waved farewell to her little sister.
As the young unicorn caught up with her friend, Scootaloo asked, "You're not having lunch with us?"
"Uh... no... um... no... sorry." She smiled. "Come on!" the unicorn said, leading the way toward the schoolhouse.
"Does the name, 'Silent Knight' ring a bell?" Fluttershy asked.
Rainbow's hoof went to her chin. "Nope."
She shook her head.
A soft smile appeared on her face. "Diamond Archer," she mused. "Oh, that was a year before I met your grandfather. Summer fling, you see. He had the brightest orange hair, and a brilliant blue coat. His eyes like pools of amber, and his face chiseled from marble. The most handsome stallion I've ever met."
Fluttershy smiled at the response.
"Or at least, that's what I wrote in my diary. He wasn't really a looker, but very sweet, and one hell of a kisser."
The two of them smiled and giggled.
The mares had been at this for several minutes. Fluttershy searched out a question, and Spring Orchard answered.
This was what she was summoned for, after all. So, the two of them found an isolated corner of the library, on a bench in front of a large bay window, and began their task.
But Spring Orchard wasn't about to allow the two pegasi to use her as a simple tool. She was going to get something out of it. She was going to have some fun.
"You seeing anypony, Fluttershy?" the spirit asked.
The young pegasus looked up from the book, as her face went red. "Hmm?" She asked, slightly confused.
"Any cute colts in your life?"
She remained silent.
"Oh, come on, I'm already dead, how long do I have to wait for great-grandfoals?"
Fluttershy got redder and redder.
Orchard suddenly started to laugh. "I'm only teasing, sweetheart," she said. "But, I guess that answers my question anyways."
She cowered slightly.
"Have you ever been with a colt?"
"Um... 'been with'?"
"Well..." she put a hoof to her chin. "Kissed."
"Oh... um... no."
Her eyes widened. "Really?"
"Is something wrong?"
"No, I'm just... surprised," Orchard explained. Suddenly regretting her words.
"Well," Spike said, approaching the mares. "That's all the cleaning done. What are you two doing?"
"Fluttershy was just quizzing me about my life. It's actually kinda fun," the medium's voice replied.
Spike stared at Rainbow Dash for several seconds before saying, "this is weird."
"You think it's weird? I just found out I'm dead!"
"Heh, yeah." He rubbed the back of his head, and continued. "You know, I gotta say, I'm a huge fan." A nervous smile emerged.
"Really?" She said. "Well... that's nice. You know, I didn't think my books would appeal to dragons... considering..." She trailed off, mostly due to embarrassment.
"Well, most of the dragons I've met weren't that nice either," he explained. "So, I don't really take it personally."
"Spike's not like most dragons." Fluttershy explained, grabbing him in a tight embrace. "He's such a sweetheart."
"Tanks," came his muffled reply.
"Well," Orchard replied. "Isn't that nice."
As the dragon squirmed out of Fluttershy's forelegs, he asked a simple question. "So... what's it like?"
She raised an eyebrow, curiously.
"I mean... being dead."
The writer was suddenly taken aback. "Um... well... it's... strange." She looked at the bottom of Rainbow's hoof. "Everything feels a bit different." She unfurled her host's wings, and looked at them. "Never had wings before. Kinda wanna take 'em out for a spin."
"Well," Fluttershy responded. "We could... if you want."
Orchard smiled. "Maybe later. I wanted to see what my publishers did to Daring," she said, placing a hoof on the pile of books next to her.
"Okay, well, um... I guess I'm done with these questions." She closed the book and slid it into her saddlebag.
"Aw, really?" Orchard replied with a smile.
"Well, I can't really think of any more-"
"Relax, Fluttershy," she responded, taking a book off her pile. "You know, it's incredible how much you take after your father."
As Rainbow's eyes turned to the book before her, Fluttershy trotted away, with Spike.
"So, what do you think?" the dragon asked.
"Well, she answered all the questions correctly," the mare explained. "That's definitely my grandmother."
They looked back at the medium, and noticed her frowning at the pages.
"This is really weird," he mused. "I just met Spring Orchard, found out Rainbow Dash can talk to the dead, and she's just reading like it's all normal."
"Well, it is to her," Fluttershy rebutted.
"That just makes it weirder." He looked back at the medium once again. "I wonder how Twilight's gonna react."
"But... Rainbow said it's a secret."
"Oh, but I thought... nevermind."
"What is it?"
"Well, I mean, she tells you the day after we find out Shining Armor..." He suddenly started to choke up. "The day after he died. I thought there was a connection."
"Well, there was," the pegasus explained. "I'm just not too sure it's a good idea."
Rainbow's hoof hit her face as she sighed in exasperation.
"Come on, tell us!" Scootaloo cried.
"I can't!" Sweetie Belle rebutted. "I mean, there's nothing to tell!"
The morning recess was normally a time for fun and frolic for the foals at Ponyville Elementary. Instead, on this day, two ponies were too busy with suspicions and accusations, to play their normal game of ball-toss.
"Oh, sure, you really expect us to believe that!?" the pegasus responded.
"I'm just having lunch with my sister! Can't I have lunch with my sister!?" She cried, hoping it would be enough to disperse their paranoia.
"But... we always have lunch together," Apple Bloom interjected, a tone of disappointment in her voice.
"I know, it's just... I can't today."
"Alright, fine," Scootaloo said. "We'll just have fun without you."
"Okay!" Sweetie Belle replied, with more joy than her friend expected.
"What!? No! You're supposed to be upset!"
"But I'm not."
"Alright alright," Apple Bloom said, stepping between the two. "Stop it, both of you. Let's just go back to the game. Come on!"
She tossed the ball in the air, and it came down on the head of a grumpy orange pegasus, who barely reacted.
After several awkward seconds of staring at Sweetie Belle, she very suddenly smiled, and said, "Okay!" Before trotting away to collect the ball.
She tossed it toward her unicorn friend, who bounced it toward Apple Bloom, who in turn, bounce it back to Scootaloo.
But the awkward tone hung in the air, as Scootaloo thought, it's not over yet.
Ponyville was not a well-structured town. On the surface, and to the average visitor, it would seem pretty simple. A hoofful of major streets one could use to access every point in town. But the truth was, the bulk of the hamlet consisted of a maze of back streets that not even the most experienced local would traverse.
These streets tended to be quiet and barren, which made them the perfect paths for two pegasi and one dragon, as they made their way to Carousel Boutique for lunch. Primarily because they could talk about things that weren't meant for public ears.
"So, what did she think?" Spike asked the young medium.
"She hated it," Rainbow explained. "She thought they messed Daring up, especially in the later books."
"Let me guess," he continued. "Diamond White."
"Yeah, that just pissed her off. Daring's supposed to be this independent spirit! Giving her a shoehorned love interest like that just screwed everything up!"
Spike scoffed. "Too bad she can't tell them off personally," the dragon explained. "... could she?" he asked with a smile.
"Sorry Spike, it's just not worth it."
"But... given her fame, I could pull some strings, get her writing again."
"Oh, yeah. That'd be awesome!" she mused with a smile.
Suddenly, Carousel Boutique came into view, and as they fell into a more populated area, their conversation ceased.
Sweetie Belle was bursting with excitement and anxiety as she ran across Ponyville. All morning her mind had speculated.
Rainbow could talk to the dead. Her ancestors were slaves. What did all this mean!?
Did she use the power of the stars? Did some ancient alicorn grant them abilities? Were they shunned and outcast by others out of fear and jealousy? What really happened?
Thankfully her patience was about to pay off. As approached her sister's store, where Rainbow Dash would tell them everything.
She ran at the fastest speed her legs could carry her. But unfortunately, it wasn't fast enough, and she did not notice the two ponies managing to keep pace, several metres behind, out of sight, on a scooter.
"Scootaloo," Apple Bloom shouted, over the buzzing of her friend's wings. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"She's hiding something from us," the driver explained. "We're gonna find out what it is?"
"Maybe she has a good reason," the earth pony explained.
"There is no good reason to keep secrets from friends. Rainbow Dash would never keep a secret from her friends!"
In the small kitchen at Carousel Boutique, two pots sat, heated by small gas flames, and each being stirred by giant spoons encased in magic.
Rarity loved cooking, it was one of the top three things she loved to do, next to makeovers and sewing. So she took every opportunity she could find to make food for her friends. Unfortunately, her food stores were running low that day, so she fell back to her favourite cooking technique called: whatever's left in the fridge.
She managed to find some pasta; and ingredients to make an improvised sauce, which appeared to come along quite well, if a little off-colour. She wasn't exactly sure why it was purple. But as she poured a small amount onto a spoon, and ate it; she knew it tasted good, at least.
"Rarity?" A voice came from behind her.
Turning around, the unicorn saw three of her closest friends enter the kitchen. Spike; Fluttershy; and Rainbow Dash, the mare of the hour.
"Oh," she exclaimed. "I did not hear you come in!"
"Really?" Rainbow asked. "Because that bell's pretty loud."
As if on cue, the door chime in the front room rang, and almost instantly, a young filly appeared in front of Spike and the three mares.
"Are we ready!? Are we gonna eat!? Is Rainbow gonna tell us a story!? Huh!? Huh!? Huh!?" the new arrival exclaimed, continually hopping up and down.
"Heh, yeah," the conduit responded, rubbing her neck. "I guess so."
"Well..." she explained. "I kinda am. It's not exactly a happy story."
"Well then," she continued, carrying one of the pots over to her kitchen sink, and dumping out the water. "We should eat first. You do not want to stress yourself out on an empty stomach." The unicorn then levitated the pot of pasta back to her stove, and dumped the contents in the pot of sauce, before stirring her concoction together.
Rainbow trotted over to the stove, and looked at the preparation. "Why is it purple?" she asked.
Scootaloo's infiltration was going smoothly. Upon realizing the front door would likely be booby-trapped, she searched for alternate entrances, and carried her best friend to one of the second floor windows, after opening it with a strip of metal she pried off her wagon.
"Was it really necessary to destroy the wagon, Scootaloo?" Apple Bloom asked.
The pegasus quickly hushed her accomplice, and crawled down the stairs ahead of her, silently, and covertly. She also hoped to earn a cutie mark out of this.
They approached the door leading to the main kitchen, where they could hear eating, and drinking, and one familiar voice.
"Okay, it is pretty darn good," Rainbow Dash said.
"I told you," her friend replied with a laugh.
"Rarity's a great chef!" Sweetie Belle cried. "I hope to be just like her!"
"Sweetie Belle, please," her sister replied, in an embarrassed tone.
The two fillies ducked under a large and ornate dress, displayed on one of the shop's many ponykins. So they could maintain cover and overhear the conversation.
Now more than ever, Scootaloo wanted to hear everything. Why exactly were Rainbow Dash and Sweetie Belle having lunch with Rarity? And why wasn't she invited!?
She had to know. And very soon, she would.
As the five of them enjoyed their meal, Sweetie Belle's impatience kept building. But she didn't want to be rude. So instead, she ate her lunch as quickly as she could, burying her face in the plate and licking it clean.
Everyone turned to look at her, face covered in purple sauce.
"So," Rarity said, casually wiping the mess off her sister's face. "Would you like seconds, Sweetie Belle."
"No, I'm good!" the filly replied. She turned her gaze to Rainbow Dash, who was taken aback.
The conduit looked around the table, and down at her plate. Then, with a smile, emulated the filly's technique.
A few seconds later, she wiped her face with a cloth, and released a deep sigh. "That was great Rarity, I never knew you could cook like that!"
"Um... thank you," the unicorn replied.
"So, are you gonna tell us the story?" her younger sister asked.
"Yeah, sure. It's why we're here."
As the others continued eating, Rainbow took a deep breath and began her tale.
"During the early days," she explained. "People saw us as cursed. Our connection to the other side freaked them out. They didn't want to know us, or look at us."
"Why?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"I don't know, ponies were superstitious back then. They probably thought if we were connected to death, we could cause it."
She awkwardly fiddled with the cloth in her hooves.
"Eventually, that stuff sorta faded. Then, some ponies saw us as tools. The wealthy would lose a family member, and then we would be used to channel them, so they wouldn't be lost."
"So, they tried to make good use of your talents," Rarity said. "It doesn't seem so bad."
Rainbow gave an emotionless glance to the unicorn before continuing.
"For some, they found it quite enjoyable. Reconnecting ponies with their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, siblings, allies, friends..."
A slight silence hung in the air.
Suddenly, everypony froze, and with a full mouth Rarity asked, "are you saying...?"
Rainbow nodded solemnly.
The unicorn looked down at her plate. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"One Rainbow... her name was Twilight Moon, she was... um... she worked for some duke in southern Marizona. Every night, she was tasked with summoning his dead wife and..."
"Wait," Sweetie Belle interjected. "Are you saying that she was summoned so they could..." she bumped her hooves together in a solid rhythm.
Rainbow was slightly surprised that an innocent young foal would know such innuendo. But then remembered that she was friends with Scootaloo.
The medium nodded again.
"That's horrible!!!" the filly replied.
"It was... i... it was horrible. I met her... shared some of her memories. She killed herself one morning, after... Eventually she couldn't take it."
"Maybe we shouldn't have eaten during this," Spike replied, pushing his dish away.
Fluttershy followed suit.
"Yeeeah, probably should have waited 'til you were done," Rainbow replied sheepishly.
"So, why didn't we ever hear about this before now?" the dragon asked.
"Well, Twilight's death happened about nine hundred years ago, and news of it spread like the pony pox, particularly in Rainbow circles. It's pretty easy for us to spread this kind of stuff. And thanks to that..."
Rainbow paused for a brief second, and took a sip of water.
"Sorry," she said. "Anyway, thanks to that, the story made it to Canterlot, and..."
"Princess Celestia," Rarity said, in realization.
"It was all her. She found out about Twilight Moon's story, and decided to begin a new campaign, to prevent it from happening again."
"By making everypony forget Rainbows ever existed. To make them forget what we could do."
"She magically wiped it from everyone's minds?"
"No!" Rainbow said, incensed. "I mean, not quite. It's actually kinda complicated. There were various spells, and tricks... OOO!" She raised a hoof up in the air, dramatically. "I do remember one thing. That was when the weather service started making rainbows, real rainbows. It was a distraction, to make ponies think of that instead of, 'those who could talk to the dead.'"
A sudden shuffle was heard from the main showroom, along with whispered voices and hushes.
Everyone's eyes snapped in the same direction.
"Is your story over?" Spike asked.
"Pretty much," Dash replied. "Except that there are no spells anymore, so if anypony finds out..."
The entire group started walking over to investigate.
Upon arriving, all noise had ceased. But Rainbow would not give up so easily.
"I think somepony's here," she said.
"What was your first clue?" Spike asked rhetorically.
Everyone began scanning the area, looking for anything that might be amiss.
Eventually, one pair of dragon eyes, saw a pair of extra hooves beneath a large ponykin. He cleared his throat, and pointed in the direction of the anomaly.
All five approached the ponykin, and quickly surrounded it, before Rarity quickly and violently pulled the dress off, likely tearing it in the process.
But that was a minor concern. Because suddenly they could all see, huddled beneath the now-bare structure, two familiar young foals, crouched one atop another, with sheepish and apologetic grins directed at Rainbow Dash.
Rainbow's eyes suddenly and drastically widened. Fluttershy could see the panic and fear in her face. She was genuinely scared, but the pegasus did not know why. The medium did not react like this when Rarity and Sweetie Belle found out. Why was this different?
"Hi," Scootaloo said, staring up at her mentor.
"Hey, Scootaloo," she said, failing to cover up her internal panic. "What're ya doin'?"
"Oh, we're just spyin'!" the filly replied casually.
"I can see that," Rainbow responded. "How much did you hear?"
Her eyes briefly darted around, as if the answer would be written on a wall. "Very little?" she eventually replied.
"Oh, really? Okay."
It was then that the smile on Scootaloo's face turned to panic, as she looked down, as if she suddenly noticed her companion.
Apple Bloom's breathing was erratic and she was trembling. Eventually, words came out, and she asked a simple question. "R-R-Rainbow Dash? C-can you rrrrreally talk to the dead?"
Apple Bloom just stared at Rainbow Dash, her eyes slightly hopeful; which only filled the pegasus with dread.
"No. No, no, tha-that's ridiculous. Ha ha ha ha ha," she replied nervously. "That was just a joke. I can't believe you all fell for it."
Rainbow Dash was a terrible liar.
"What?" Spike asked.
"But, Rainbow Dash, I thought-"
The conduit shoved her hoof in Fluttershy's mouth. "Yep, none of it was true," she replied.
Apple Bloom was quite observant. "You're lyin'. Why are you lyin'?"
"I'm not lying," she said, through a plastered smile.
The young filly stared in disbelief, before suddenly, and without warning, she bolted past everypony, and out the door.
"Apple Bloom!" Rainbow screamed.
"Wait!" Spike exclaimed, holding up a claw. "I'll go after her."
"You're not fast enough, Spike," Fluttershy explained. "Hop on."
Apple Bloom wasn't sure what she was doing, as her hooves moved through the streets of Ponyville, dodging anything that lay in her path.
Her mind was focused on other things. It focused on the words of Rainbow Dash, "those who could talk to the dead."
Talk to the dead...
Talk to the dead?
What did it mean?
Could Rainbow Dash really talk to the dead?
Part of Apple Bloom was in disbelief. The very idea that somepony could talk to the dead was ludicrous. But Rainbow's reaction made everything clear.
She wasn't going to let this opportunity slip past.
She ran past the storefronts, searching for a familiar face. Somepony she could trust. Somepony that would believe her.
Her eyes caught a glimpse. In the distance, she could see an orange pony, entering a building. Her legs sped up.
Rainbow Dash was panicking on the inside.
"Are you alright?" Rarity asked. "You seem flustered."
"I... I'm just... I... I'll be alright."
"I'll get you something to drink," the unicorn continued, trotting toward the kitchen.
Being left alone with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo only scared Rainbow more.
"So..." the young pegasus began. "This was the big secret?"
"Um... yep?" her friend explained.
Scootaloo grumbled slightly, before turning to her mentor. "So, Rainbow Dash. You can talk to the dead?"
"Um... kinda?" she responded sheepishly.
"Oh..." the filly replied, scratching her neck. "How?"
Rainbow froze. "I'm not sure... it... runs in the family."
"Oh... So your parents did it too?"
She suddenly got a lot more nervous. "Just my dad."
Scootaloo paused for a second, before responding, "That's pretty cool."
"Um... yeah, I guess it is."
"I mean... it's really cool," she continued, her enthusiasm slowly building. "Talking to the dead! It must be so much fun!"
"Well, I wouldn't say that."
"Scootaloo, please," Rarity said, trotting in with a glass of water. "You're making Rainbow Dash uncomfortable."
"No, no, it's alright," the medium responded.
"So, this is supposed to be a secret?" asked Scootaloo.
Rainbow responded with a simple, "yeah."
"Well, don't worry Rainbow Dash," she replied, saluting. "Your secret's safe with me."
Apple Bloom busted through the front door of Sugarcube Corner.
"Applejack!" she screamed.
An orange stallion turned to face her. It wasn't Applejack.
"Oh, hi, Apple Bloom," Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "What's up!?"
"Oh, um... uh..." Apple Bloom's fear was palpable. "I was just over at Carousel, with Scootaloo, we were spying, and... um... Rainbow said... She started talking about-"
"-Okay, you have your cupcake, Morning Dew!" she said to the bakery's sole customer, pushing him out the door. "You can leave now."
"But I haven't paid yet!" he declared.
"It's on the house, get out!" she screamed, slamming the door behind him, and sealing the lock.
The panic on Pinkie's face reverted to a smile, and she scooted up to the young filly.
"So," she began, coyly. "You were saying?"
"Uh, yeah," Apple Bloom replied nervously. "Rainbow, she... she said she could talk to the dead!"
Shock brushed across her face, to be quickly replaced by exasperation. "What?" she asked.
"She... she said she could talk to the dead! But when she found out me and Scootaloo overheard, she started to lie!" Tears started to brew in the earth pony's eyes. "Why would she do that?"
Pinkie leaned down. "Because it's a secret, Apple Bloom. Nopony's supposed to know. Did she mention that?"
"Then why in the name of Celestia were you gonna tell Applejack!?"
Apple Bloom was thrown back by the force. "What?"
"Nopony's supposed to know! Nopony! Do you understand!?"
She nodded, partly out of fear.
"Now, Pinkie Promise you'll never tell anypony about the Rainbows."
"Rainbow Dash and her powers. Promise you'll never tell anypony about any of it!"
"I... I promise!" she stammered.
Pinkie continued to stare her down.
Apple Bloom lifted her hoof, and traced an 'X' on her chest before touching her eyelid. Sealing the pact.
Finally satisfied, Pinkie helped the young filly get back to her hooves. "Now, since that's taken care of. Who exactly did she tell?"
Suddenly, a knock came from one particular window, and a nervous pegasus, and the dragon standing on her back, peered through.
Water shot across a porcelain surface, taking with it small amounts of foodstuffs.
Rarity stared at the plate, as she contemplated Rainbow’s story.
Her best friend could talk to the dead, and it was a state secret.
Hoofsteps resonated behind the mare, breaking her out of her reverie.
She quickly glanced at the approaching pony, before turning back to her cleaning.
"Oh. Hello, Rainbow Dash," she said.
"... Heeeeeeeeeey... Rarity..." she replied nervously.
"Are you alright?" the unicorn asked aptly.
She opened her mouth to reply, but froze, unsure of herself. "No," she finally responded.
Rarity turned off the water, and turned toward her friend. "What?" she asked, in genuine confusion. "What's wrong?"
She started to rub her left foreleg. "It's Scootaloo. I didn't want her to know."
She looked past the medium, into the showroom beyond. "They left?"
"Yeah, they're on their way back to school."
She nodded. "Alright. So, why don't you trust Scootaloo?"
"It's not that, it's just... I didn't want her to know, I thought..." Rainbow found herself unsure. "I thought she might ask for a favour."
Rarity was confused. "What kind of favour?"
She leaned in close. "A 'summoning the dead' favour."
"But she's not."
"Maybe she's just waiting to ask."
Awkward silence descended.
"Rainbow," the unicorn eventually asked. "Can I ask a question?"
"Back at the citadel. You were... um... you were in bad shape."
She bit her lower lip. "Yeah?"
"I... just thought..." she was unsure of how to continue. But thankfully, she didn't need to.
"It was," she replied. "It was related."
Rarity was slightly shocked at the revelation, but continued. "How?"
Rainbow Dash shuffled her hooves, then looked her best friend in the eye, and said, "They really were dead. Every last one of them really was dead."
Knocking, knocking, more knocking.
A dragon's soul is fierce and strong;
It became unbearable.
With valiant pride, we'll right the wrongs;
The knocking wouldn't end. Wouldn't cease.
Blood will spill, as love will reign;
How far did it spread? Was she the last? Was that why they were knocking on her?
And all our foes will feel our pain;
When would it end?
A dragon's heart burns strong with will;
She wanted it to end.
A passion which no colt could kill;
She could feel their pain... their fear... their sorrow... their confusion... as they brushed against her mind.
The fields of sorrow, stained with red;
Did they know what was happening? Did they know what they were?
A land which all will fear to tread;
Did they know they died?
"Rainbow Dash," a voice came, miles away. "Are you okay, do you need anything?"
She needed nothing. She needed less than nothing. She needed them to go away.
"Can you get up?"
Rainbow nodded, and complied, still holding back the tide as she approached the stone she tried so hard to collect.
All she could do was recite her protective mantra, but it was merely a sandbag levee against a hurricane. Eventually, it would break.
A loud crash. She ignored it.
The fields of sorrow, stained with red; A land which all will fear to tread;
She looked up, and realized she was the only one with wings. The mare floated toward one of the upper windows.
As she got higher, she felt more and more disoriented, the spirits continuing to bombard her mind.
She leaned against the pane, and peered outside. Using what little mental power she had, she tried to analyse what she saw: Zombies flooding through a hole in the outer wall. "They got through one of the barricades," she said.
Just then, her wings failed her. It was only a brief second, but it was enough to break her concentration as she tried to right herself.
It was enough to let one in.
Somepony started looking through her eyes. Lost and confused.
A dragon's soul is fierce and strong; With valiant pride, we'll right the wrongs; Blood will spill, as love will reign; and all our foes will feel our pain;
It was gone, as quickly as it came.
Rainbow slowly drifted back down to her stone.
Hopefully, it would forget.
Rarity stared at her friend, amazed at what she had learned.
"They attacked you?" she asked.
"Well, I wouldn't put it that way," Rainbow explained. "They didn't know, they were scared."
She was still slightly confused. "But if they were really dead... how did they get better?"
"Yeeeah..." she replied, scratching the back of her neck. "I was afraid you'd ask that."
"RAINBOW DASH!!!" a voice cried from Rarity's showroom.
The duo trotted through the door frame, to find a very angry Pinkie Pie.
"Hey, Pinkie!" the conduit responded. "What's up!? Planning another party?"
"Yeah, it's called the Rainbow-Dash-is-an-Idiot Party!!!"
She found herself taken aback. "What!?"
"What the hay are you thinking!? This is a major national secret! How would your cousins feel if they knew you were telling everypony about the Rainbows!" she continued. "I mean, it's bad enough you refuse to dye your mane, now this!?"
Rainbow was in shock. She'd never seen this side of Pinkie before. One of anger, righteous anger!
"And I assume you told Rarity as well; since apparently, you can't keep your snout shut!"
"I... I'm sorry, I had to-"
"No you didn't! There's never a reason! You're just lucky I stopped Apple Bloom from letting it leak! She was planning to tell Applejack! Applejack!!!"
"Hey," Rainbow replied, starting to enrage, herself. "I trust Applejack."
"That's not the point!"
"Then what is!?"
"It doesn't matter who you trust, this is bigger than that!"
"Wait," Rarity interjected. "How do you know?" she asked, pointing at Pinkie Pie.
"What?" the earth pony replied.
"The way you speak, you seem to have learned of this long ago."
She suddenly got nervous, but it just as quickly went away. "He had a very good reason to tell me," she explained confidently, before turning back to the medium. "What's your reason?"
Rainbow leaned in close. "I'm gonna help Twilight say goodbye to her brother, so her last words to him aren't, 'you're an ass.'"
Pinkie paused to process the information. "Okay... but... is that a reason to tell all our friends?"
She paused briefly. "I had to tell Fluttershy so she could help me convince Twilight. The others... okay it got a bit out-of-hoof, and I probably didn't have to, but I wanted to!"
"Including Apple Bloom?"
They stared at each other... until Pinkie blinked. "No one else will know," she said with a smile. "Everything's good. I'm sure of it."
"So, you're not mad?"
The earth pony shook her head. "In fact, I'm gonna help you! I'll plan the Summoning-Shining-Armor party! I'll even bring those silverbread cupcakes he loved so much."
"Yeah, I really didn't like those."
"Too bad, you're gonna eat them anyway!"
The schoolyard at Ponyville Elementary was always well-populated by foals at this time of day, as they neared the end of their lunch break. Most were playing and socializing, their last chance before it was time to return to their studies.
But this day, far away from most others, huddling against a secluded edge of the school building, two young foals took advantage of the time remaining, by discussing something they weren't even supposed to know about.
"So, you saw it happen!?" Scootaloo whispered enthusiastically.
Sweetie Belle nodded. "Mmmhm. She summoned Fluttershy's grandmother. Spike said she died 20 years ago."
"How would Spike know?"
"Apparently she's famous. She wrote Daring Do."
She nodded again.
"Cool!" she looked around the area, watching for spies, before continuing. "So, what was it like?"
"It was a bit weird. She didn't act like Rainbow Dash. But it was pretty cool. I met a dead pony."
The pegasus smiled.
Suddenly, their attention was caught by a moping earth pony entering their field of view.
"Hey, Apple Bloom," Scootaloo said. "What was with the panic mode back there?"
"I... I just..." she replied.
"Hey, don't worry, she had a very good reason to keep it a secret. It's fine. I'm not worried."
Apple Bloom looked up. And without missing a beat said, "Why didn't she ever tell us?"
Scoolaloo was confused. "Because it was a secret? And it was made a secret because ponies exploited them?"
"Yeah, but... why didn't she trust us?"
"Well... I don't know. I mean, I won't tell anypony, so there's no worry. And... wait... did you...?"
"Well, I told Pinkie Pie, but she already knew."
"I... I don't know, but she made me promise not to tell anypony."
"And you'd better not!" Scootaloo replied, pointing an accusatory hoof at her friend.
"I... I won't, but... I just." Apple Bloom bowed her head, as her legs slowly began to collapse beneath her. "I never met my parents."
She raised an eyebrow. "Neither have I, so?"
"Well, I want to!" she cried. Suddenly realizing how loud she was, the earth pony lowered her voice. "I want to meet my parents."
"But, Apple Bloom, they're dead," Sweetie Belle explained. "Oh, wait..."
Scootaloo approached her friend. "How's about this: after school, we'll meet up with Rainbow Dash, and ask her to summon your parents. She'd never say 'no' to a friend, or a friend of a friend."
"OOO! We can go together!" the unicorn cried. "See it all happen, live! This is gonna be so much fun!"
The two ponies trotted away from Carousel Boutique. An awkward silence had descended between them.
"So..." Rainbow Dash said, in an attempt to break it. "Do you really think I'm an idiot?" ... and failing.
Pinkie turned to look at her. "No, I... I guess I overreacted. You're not an idiot, you just care too much," she explained, rubbing the mare's head.
As Rainbow straightened her mane, another thought hit her. "Hey, about Apple Bloom..."
Pinkie turned her head again.
"You know, don't you?"
She hesitated for just a second. "Yeah... You know, you'll probably have to tell her."
Rainbow looked up at the sky above. "I hope not," she replied.