Braeburn shifted uncomfortably in his chair, no less unsure about this whole debacle than he was when he’d first arrived at the restaurant. Part of him wished he had just said no to the whole mess and stayed home. That part accounted for the vast majority of himself. If he had to declare it specifically, he’d have said that his heart, mind, skeleton, muscles, other internal organs, skin, head, body, mane, and legs would have all been wishing to be back at Applejack’s farm, having no part of this. Maybe a little part of his tail would have been okay with being here, but it was severely outvoted. Yet here he sat, waiting for what was sure to be a terrible experience.
He supposed, though, that he’d already been through such a terrible experience that this one might pale in comparison. It was about a month ago that he’d finally come to terms with some of his innermost feelings, some of which were so far in that even he had not been aware of them. Many ponies, both within his own family and outside of it, had always wondered why he hadn’t settled down with a mare yet. They called him lots of nice things. Handsome, charming, charismatic, funny, sweet, strong. They were all awful nice things to say, and he appreciated them at their base level, but there was something about the tone of them that he didn’t appreciate quite as much, something he couldn’t quite place his hoof on. Perhaps it was the fact that they were always said in reference to his failure to find a mare to settle down with. Something about that had always felt wrong to him, but it was a feeling that he was unable to put into words. They’d wondered why nothing came of his one or two dates with Little Strongheart. They’d ruminated, often a little too loudly, over his decisions to stay in when the other single stallions in town would go out and hit the Salty Spitoon in search of pretty young things to talk up. Sometimes he questioned them too.
“…Ya really want me ta read ya a bedtime story?” She stared at her sister, surprised, as she passed her a tissue. “Ah thought ya were a big pony.” Her sister nodded, taking the tissue and blowing her nose loudly.
Four wandering eyes envisioned the prize; a bounty full of sweets
They took their friends’ dare, the young colt and mare, to go for tricks and treats
They welcomed things scary, and yet they were wary, each quiet as a mouse
The colt and the filly both thought it was silly to visit that final house
For stories had told of young ponies more bold who entered that domain
Though warned to beware, they did not take care, and were never heard from again
“RAINBOW! Ya gotta come quick!”
Rainbow Dash woke up from her mid-afternoon nap, yawning. She hung her head groggily over the side of today’s napping cloud, staring down at the trio of Applejack, Rarity, and Fluttershy. She found it a bit odd that they would wake her up; they knew quite well how much she valued her naps. Even though they were some of her best friends, the only pony who was allowed to wake her up from any nap, let alone the mid-afternoon one (Usually her favorite), was Pinkie Pie. Then again, Pinkie Pie could do pretty much anything to her without making her mad, but that was besides the point.
“Ugh…what’s the problem, girls?” Dash asked, lazily shifting so that a little more of her was hanging off of the cloud. “You know I don’t like being woken up.”
“Pinkie Pie’s in trouble!” Rarity shouted. Dash snapped right out of her daze at the sound of these words.
“Princess Celestia! Princess Celestia!”
Celestia looked up to catch sight of Pennington, her secretary, trotting into her chambers. She had just been in the process of writing up some new Equestrian laws. This was a process that she usually did not enjoy being interrupted during, but she could sense the urgency in Pennington’s voice. From what she could tell, it wasn’t a situation of dire importance; she wasn’t nearly panicked enough. However, it was clear that it was still something important, even though the fate of Equestria likely didn’t hang on its delivery.
“What is it, Pennington?” Celestia asked, setting her quill down.
“Twilight Sparkle is here to see you, Princess,” Pennington said, stopping at the throne. Celestia smiled; it had been ages since Twilight had come to see her in person. She enjoyed her correspondence with her favorite student, but it was so much better to actually see her.
One day there was a group of super-awesome super-nice ponies! There was Pinkie Pie who was the pink pony and she liked to run around and make all of her friends smile and that took a long time usually because everypony in town was her friend, and even a lot of ponies outside of town, though she didn’t know everypony outside of town cause that pretty much meant everypony in Equestria and beyond and she’d never really been too far outside of Equestria but if she was she’d be happy to be friends with everypony there too! Then there was Twilight Sparkle who was really really smart and really really good with magic and she came from Canterlot to come be friends with ponies in Ponyville and learn about friendship, and she became friends with us and that made me really happy even though it might have been kinda hard to tell at first cause I was all like WHAAAAAAAAAAAA?! when she came into town (is that how you spell a gasp? I’m not really sure!) and that didn’t really say very well that I was happy but I was! Then there was Rainbow Dash, who’s like the bestest flyer EVER! She knows all these tricks and just goes WHOOSH ZOOM BANG and does all these flips and there’s a rainbow trail behind her when she flies sometimes, though I’m not quite sure how she does that but it’s still really cool! And then there was Applejack who’s really really good at baking and knows a whole LOT about apples! I mean she’d have to if she was named Applejack, right? Like my name is Pinkie Pie and I know a lot about pie! And Applejack’s really friendly and dependable and stuff too! Then there was Rarity who’s really good at making dresses, and she knows a lot about jewels and stuff! Hm, if Applejack knows a lot about apples and her name is Applejack, shouldn’t Rarity’s name be something like “Jewelity” or “Fashionity?” Oh well, I still like her name anyway!
Rainbow Dash felt like she was on top of the world. Nothing was going to knock her down. Not today. She’d been practicing for what seemed like forever for this moment, and now, the moment was about to arrive. She stood outside the arena, waiting anxiously for her number to be called. She looked around at all the other pegasi who were waiting. None of them could stand up to her awesome skills. Seriously, had any of them ever performed a Sonic Rainboom? She was sure that they hadn’t, being as she was the only one to do so. This whole audition thing was a mere technicality; her getting into the group was a foregone conclusion.
“Number 124!” the secretary called out. Dash’s ears perked up. That was her number! She quickly got up and grinned, trotting confidently up to the doorway. She gave the other pegasi a smirk as she went. It sure sucked for them that she was going before them, because after the Wonderbolts saw her skills, they wouldn’t need to see anypony else.
“Rainbow Dash!” Spitfire said, smiling. “Welcome!”
All of Dash’s confidence seemed to immediately fall out of her. She stared at the table where seven of the Wonderbolts were sitting. Spitfire sat in the middle. To her left and right were Soarin’ and Streak. Joining them were Ice Wind, Tangerine, Doc, and Surprise. She knew every single member of the Wonderbolts, even the lesser-known ones. That’s how big a fan she was. And “fan” was a very important word, because that’s exactly what Dash felt like when standing in front of them; a fan.
“What do you have to show us today, Dash?” Soarin’ asked. Dash just stood there, staring. She tried to tell them what she had planned.
“Snniifc Rnamabimm,” Dash said. Her face turned beet red.
“…Right,” Spitfire said in response to the nonsense, smiling. The other Wonderbolts chuckled, and Dash felt like she was about to die. “Well, let’s see that Snniifc Rnamabimm then!” Dash gulped and slowly rose into the air. She closed her eyes for a moment, hovering there silently. She needed to gather herself; this kind of silly nervousness was not what the Dash was all about.
“Start the timer!” Spitfire called out. Dash did not know about a timer, and this only unnerved her further. She took deep breaths, trying to center herself. This was no time for hovering there like a dunce. It was time for action.
“Are you sure that this is a good idea, Spike?” Twilight asked her rider, looking back. Her face showed a bit of concern, a stark contrast from the confidence that Spike exuded.
“I’m sure of it, Twilight,” Spike said. “Trust me, I’ve got this.”
“I am not sure if I am at all comfortable with this,” Rarity huffed. “What they did to me last time was inexcusable, and if they even so much as try to touch a hair in my mane…”
“Don’t worry, Rarity,” Spike cut in. “Your Spikey-Wikey will make sure that you leave this place unharmed.” Rarity sighed. She wasn’t quite sure she believed him, but he just seemed so confident about it.
“I really hope-” Twilight started, before her sentence was cut off.
“PONIES!!” a shrill voice screeched. Rarity had no time to scream before one of the horrid beasts landed on her back and pulled a looped rope over her muzzle. Twilight turned to Rarity and made an attempt to react, before another beast attempted to do the same thing to her. It didn’t count on Spike already being on her back, though, and certainly didn’t plan on his violent reaction to its attack. Spike grabbed the beast’s leg as it came down and pulled it, slamming the beast to the ground. The one on Rarity’s back jumped off of her to react, but Twilight’s reaction was quicker, as she lit her horn up and suspended it in the air.
“Apple Bloom, I’m really sorry, but…”
“Don’t worry ‘bout it, Sweetie Belle,” Bloom said, looking down. “Tain’t yer fault or nothin’.”
“I know, but I’m still really sorry,” Sweetie said, feeling sheepish. “Rarity and I never…”
“Ya never miss the Sisterhooves Social,” Bloom said. “Ah know, Sweetie. Ah ain’t gunna be mad at ya over it.” Sweetie sighed. She could tell when her friend wasn’t being totally honest. She could also tell when it wasn’t a good idea to press the issue, though.
“…I’ll see you on Sunday then?” Sweetie asked. Bloom nodded. Sweetie offered a hug, which Bloom half-heartedly accepted. She released the hug and trotted off towards home, looking back momentarily before she vanished over the hill. Bloom kept up a smile until Sweetie couldn’t see her any longer, then let it fade and headed towards home.
“No! Wait! Come back!!”
Lyra pounded on the wall of the crystal prison that held herself, Colgate, and Twinkleshine, shouting as loud as she possibly could. She had hoped that Twilight and Cadence would realize that they had been replaced by changelings, given their encounter with said changelings just a moment ago, and go searching for them too. Unfortunately, the two were in a huge rush to stop the wedding, and the three unicorns were left in their prison.
“Come…back…” Lyra whimpered as she slumped against the wall. She looked back to Colgate and Twinkleshine. The two of them slumped to their haunches and sighed heavily.
“They left us…” Colgate sighed.
Dusk Shine yawned as he woke up. He glanced at the clock next to him. It was two minutes before the alarm that he’d set for himself. This frustrated him to no end. As a pony who liked to stick to schedules, waking up this close to the alarm was terrible. If he wanted to wake up with his alarm, he’d have to go back to sleep, but there really wasn’t enough time to fall right back asleep before the alarm went off. However, if he got out of bed now, that would make him five minutes early in his schedule, and while being early was better than being late, he greatly preferred to just be on time. He sighed and closed his eyes, trying to fall back asleep despite everything. Maybe there’d be enough time to-
“Well, that worked out,” Dusk said, pulling himself out of bed. He made his way to the bathroom for his morning cleanliness routine, finishing up with a quick fix of his mane. Once finished, he headed downstairs, giving Spike a gentle nudge with his magic to wake him up as well. He always slept through his alarm.
After fixing up and enjoying a delicious breakfast, Dusk checked his schedule. As it turned out, the next thing on his agenda was to go visit Bubble Berry and pick up a cake. He glanced over to see if Spike wanted to accompany him, but Spike had fallen back asleep at the table. Luckily, Dusk had this exact scenario on his schedule. Otherwise, it would have likely frustrated him to no end. He grabbed his saddlebags, full of books for his friends, and exited the library. Dusk thought idly about how excited he was for this cake as he trotted along. Bubble’s cakes were the best, tied only with Applejack’s. He was suddenly distracted from his thought patterns by a rainbow blur whizzing past him.
“Rainbow Blitz!” Dusk yelled, just managing to catch his balance. “You have to be more careful!”
“Whoops! Heh, sorry Dusk,” Blitz said, landing alongside him. “I was just busy practicing my awesome moves. Wonderbolts tryouts are next week, after all!” Dusk rolled his eyes, then blinkblinked.
“Oh no!” Dusk moaned.
It was a beautiful day in Ponyville. The weather ponies had really done a wonderful job on keeping the clouds out of the sky, which was all the more reason for Rarity to have donned her sun hat for her morning constitutional. Too much sunlight cast directly on her face would surely have adverse effects on her makeup, and she simply could not risk a bead of sweat ruining her delicately-applied eyeliner. She smiled warmly as she trotted through the town square, but stopped short when she heard a troubled cry.
“My hat!!” a young filly cried. Rarity turned to look just as she saw the poor filly’s hat carried away by an errant gust of wind. Neither she nor the filly could react fast enough, and the hat landed in a pile of dirt. Rarity just barely restrained the urge to faint at the sight of such a nice hat being ruined. Her despondence was nothing, however, compared to that of the filly, who had begun to cry.
“My favorite hat…” the little filly whimpered. Rarity frowned, and glanced up at the chapeau she was wearing. It was one of her favorites; elegant, yet not too gaudy. She had purchased a basic hat and spruced it up to her liking, and there were few hats in existence that matched its panache. She glanced back at the sad filly whose hat had been ruined. Sure, it could be cleaned, but just the knowledge that it had been sullied was enough to mar it forever. Rarity herself had disposed of many a hat instead of washing them for this exact reason. She sighed lightly, then trotted over to the filly.
“Here, darling,” Rarity said. The filly glanced up at Rarity. Rarity bit her lip and silently wished a fond farewell to her beautiful chapeau as she levitated it off of her head and placed it on that of the filly.
“So…what’s the plan for the next attack?”
The attitude in the cluster was, to say the very least, grim. Granted, these meetings were never really joyous occasions. Changelings didn’t really deal much in joy and merriment. This particular meeting, however, was a bit more of a downer than the usual meetings. It was to be expected; they were reeling from a last-minute ruining of their queen’s perfect plan and a brutal defeat at the hooves of a bunch of ponies. Their morale could stand to be higher.
“Simple,” Chrysalis said, walking back and forth in front of her minions. “We take time to regroup and rebuild. We shall find a small, unsuspecting town and prey upon its citizens. The strongest of them will be put in conversion pods, and once our army has grown stronger than ever, we find a new mark to take the place of.” The other changelings nodded. Their queen was wise and powerful and everything she said was absolutey correct and perfect. This was no different.
“…But…” one changeling muttered. In an instant, every single head turned to look at him. No one ever brought the queen’s orders into question. Chrysalis strode across the room until she came face-to-face with the dissenter.
(I’m gonna guess that this won’t be the only story with this title :P )
“Oooh, I can’t wait!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, bouncing up and down in place. “This is gonna be like the coolest, most awesomest thing EVER!” The others all nodded. They might not have been matching Pinkie’s exuberance, but the fact remained that they were quite excited for the day’s events.
“Sure is excitin’, Pinkie,” Applejack concurred, looking around. “But don’tcha reckon Rainbow Dash shoulda been here by now? S’almost 1 PM, an’ this here gatherin’s mostly fer her anyhow.”
“I’m sure she’ll be here very soon,” Twilight said. “I can’t see why she’d possibly want to miss this!”
“Rainbow Dash does tend to be late for her appointments,” Rarity said, looking at her hoof. “You would think that Equestria’s fastest pegasus would be able to arrive for plans on time, especially plans like this.”
“Um…I’m sure she’ll be along any moment,” Fluttershy said quietly. Suddenly, all eyes turned to Fluttershy.
“Fluttershy!” Pinkie said, gasping. “You must know something about this!”
It was quite possibly the single most awkward situation that Applejack had ever been a part of. She wasn’t at all used to this kind of thing; as a filly, she’d never really put too much thought into the whole dating thing, so this situation had never come up for her. Big Macintosh had talked about it in the past, and she’d seen it first-hoof when he would bring a marefriend by the farm, but just hearing stories about it couldn’t prepare her for what it actually felt like to experience it. She was normally a somewhat-talkative pony, but she found herself at a loss for the proper words to get a good conversation going.
“So how is this working?” Mach Speed asked in a gruff voice.
“Uh…pardon me, sir?” Applejack asked, tilting her head. Mach Speed pointed down at Applejack’s hooves. AJ looked down, then realized. “Oh! Uh…friend’f ours knows a cloud-walkin’ spell.”