Falling asleep while dressing a mannequin was an embarrassing sight to another pony. Rarity didn’t care. She was old— and she needed sleep.
“Wake up,” Rarity heard, “C’mon, wake up.”
Rarity just dug her face deeper into her hooves and sighed. Having to open her eyes and scold Sweetie Belle about barging into her workshop was too exhausting for her. The mannequin she rested on was comfortable enough, even if she was standing on her hind legs just to stay balanced.
Sweetie Belle, if only you knew how tired I was, Rarity answered, you’d understand.
In her dream, Rarity ran. Thought world around her blurred into strokes of green and white, she felt relaxed. Ahead, she saw her horn glowed with a blue light, almost dragging her body along a dirt path. The light at the tip of her horn glowed brighter with each step.
That only happened once in Rarity’s life. As a filly, her horn swept her away from Ponyville, past forests and mountain ranges. The burst of magic led her to a rock filled with jewels— and her cutie mark. Magic cast subconsciously was powerful— unquestionable.
Over the years the citizens of Ponyville had developed a keen sense for trouble and always kept an ear on the ground and a weather eye on the horizon. Quite soon the more sensible ones noticed the unusual absence of Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash in town. They only showed up to do their jobs and disappeared into a shack on the outskirts of Ponyville.
“Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash,” Lyra whispered to Caramel. “They are bad enough apart, but together… I don’t even want to think about it. Bon Bon is just checking our insurance policies and then we’ll hightail it to Canterlot. You should too, if you know what’s good for you.” She didn’t even wait for the stallion to answer and sprinted to her mare friend when she saw her rounding the corner with two big suitcases. Both looked around the station square one last time, then they turned and left town on the next train.
Twilight Sparkle and her friends were usually at the center of the chaos that befell Ponyville more or less periodically so their instincts for trouble had been dulled to near apathy. But as the town emptied more and more, and stories about strange sounds around the old shack by the Everfree rose from rumors to the only thing ponies talked about, Applejack, Fluttershy and Rarity decided to consult with Twilight Sparkle.
“What the hay, Scootaloo? Are you sick in the brain or somethin’?”
“You chose dare, Bloom. Now pucker up and get it done already,” Scootaloo grumped, thwacking her friend lightly with a wing.
Apple Bloom gulped audibly and shook herself before rising to her feet, resolved and ready for action. “Opalescence? Could y’all come here for a moment?” The white cat deigned to give her a baleful eye before daintily grooming her forepaws, practically oozing with lazy disdain. “Alright then,” Apple Bloom muttered. “Time to bring out the big guns.” She tied a practiced knot in a curtain sash and sent the paisley lasso flying around the persian’s midriff before yanking her across the floor and picking up the now furious and spitting cat with two forelegs. Then she licked her lips, sighed, and pressed them to Opal’s yowling mouth.
With a loud bang and the overwhelming scent of ozone, the lights in the Boutique all flickered and failed, and Apple Bloom flew backwards, her entire face tingling and half-numb. An eerie, fey light emerged from where Opal had been, and with a cascading sound of chimes the lights came back on.
A svelte unicorn, hogtied by the curtain sash and looking very, very grumpy, sat in the middle of a large scorched section of the carpet. She looked down at her hooves, studying them for a minute. Then her odd, green eyes pierced Apple Bloom’s, and she sighed.
“You’ve broken my curse with a kiss,” the unicorn told Bloom, her tail lashing in an odd, lazy sweep
Apple Bloom tapped her hooves on the wooden floor of the clubhouse, and it was quiet enough she could hear the wind rustling the trees outside and every sniff of Sweetie Belle’s nose. Scootaloo wobbled as she tried to walk backwards on her hind legs and kept falling over after every two steps. Sweetie Belle just watched her.
“Ain’t there a pie eatin’ contest this week?” Apple Bloom asked.
Scootaloo landed on her back and groaned. “We tried that already.”
“Urg,” Sweetie Belle said, clutching her hooves against her stomach. “Don’t remind me. I was so sick after that.”
“Hey! How about roller derby!” Scootaloo said, lifting her head from the floor.
Apple Bloom shook her head. “Nah. We tried that too.” She stretched out her right hind leg. “Besides, my leg still hurts sometimes after that fall.”
“Maybe we could…” Sweetie Belle blushed and pressed her nose into her folded hooves. “…ask a grown-up for advice?”
Scootaloo’s eyes widened and Apple Bloom smacked her hoof on the floor as she glared at Sweetie Belle. “We ain’t that desperate!”
“Wait, girls, shut up!” Scootaloo said, rolling over and leaping up to her feet. “I’ve got it! I figured out what we’re good at!”
Sweetie’s hooves landed on hard packed earth under a thin coat of dust that billowed up around her legs with each step. She felt it play against her coat, clinging and pressing just a touch more than the naked wind. It smelled of sand and talc, and made her sneeze when it built up in her nose.
The sounds of other ponies surrounded her. They spoke lighter, easier than they had yesterday. She’d heard the first laugh again only a week ago, now she heard a few already. The sounds of hammers were fewer and farther between.
The scent of fresh bread caught Sweetie’s nose through the dust and thinning linger of creosote and char. She smelled rich oats, and Pinkie was using a honey glaze again.
Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow Dash were running some errands in town while the Cutie Mark Crusaders were off crusading, but were surprised to see the three fillies moping in the town square. Concerned, they walked up to the trio to see what was bothering them.
“It’s no use,” Sweetie Belle said as they apporached, “we’ll never get our cutie marks.”
“We’ve tried everything, and we still haven’t found what we’re good at,” said Applebloom.
“We should at least have gotten a cutie mark in looking for a cutie mark by now,” Scootaloo said, kicking at the ground.
The three mares looked at each other, and set out to give the young ones some encouragement. To tell them that it didn’t matter if they had found their special talent yet or not, that there was something more valuable than knowing what it is you were meant to do. And what better way to do that then through song.
Just one more hour, just have to wait one more hour for 12:00pm PDT, 3:00pm EDT, and 8:00pm GMT, and then school will be out forever! I’m gonna miss it a little bit – most of all Miss Cheerilee – but no more homework? No more tests? It’s like a summer vacation that lasts forever… or at least until I start at college.
Black as midnight at two in the afternoon. For a moment Rarity wondered whether she would ever get used to that, and she almost laughed at the thought that she would even have a chance to get used to anything.
She sat by a window on the western wall of her home, and she looked up at that dark sky. It was five in the evening when it happened, and that cloud of light hung at the same place in the sky where the sun had been in its last moments. The countless fragments looked so much like stars that ponies had taken to calling them stardust. In a way it was a brighter night sky than she’d ever seen. Over the four or five days, which grew ever harder to keep track of, the cloud expanded and dispersed, growing larger and sparser.
And dimmer. Every day there was a little less light.
The only warmth Rarity felt was at her back. She turned, and she saw Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Applejack huddled together in front of the fire that permanently burned in her fireplace. Applejack had arrived to bring their ration of wood for the day, having spent the day at the forest gathering it, and Rarity had invited her in to rest for a moment. Rarity made a mental check, and her next shift at the forest was in thirty seven hours. Everypony needed wood, and everypony had to do their part collecting it.
The adolescent filly named Rarity stared at the clock on the front of the schoolhouse, counting down the seconds until her plan would come into fruition.
It was a plan long in the making—Rarity had spent practically a whole week in preparation. Its cunning was matched only by its elegance. With a diabolical (yet dignified!) smirk, the white unicorn rubbed her hooves together. She’d show them. She’d show them all!
It had started the previous week, in one of her many, many verbal tussles with that ill-bred farm oaf Applejack. The two had been yelling (as usual), and Caramel had made a crude interjection (as usual). After the obnoxious colt had been removed from the conversation, Applejack had turned her fury back to Rarity.
“You may think you’re higher than the Princess, marshmallow, but you ain’t. You think you’re so much better than us ‘li’l’ ponies that you ain’t even willing to pretend you walk the same darned earth as us. That’s jest downright unclassy, that is.”
Rarity had scoffed at the insult, of course, but the words gnawed at her. Unclassy? Her? Ridiculous! Why, acknowledging your superiority over others was the height of class! And yet… The words haunted her. She couldn’t help thinking of her beloved etiquette books, which put so much emphasis on good graces toward other, on how true manners are based on respect for other ponies, no matter how undeserving. (Well, maybe the books didn’t say that, but Rarity was sure that’s what they meant.) Could Rarity truly claim to be the height of refinement and class while such an aspersion on her character lingered?
((Prompt: Trial by fire. (Note: I will also be making this fit yesterday’s prompt, “Explorers of the sky,” since I missed that one.) ))
They had done it. They had set the sky on fire.
Rainbow Dash coughed as she flew through the roiling black pillar of smoke billowing into the atmosphere. Below her, red flames churned and flickered as they engulfed the rickety slipshod thing that those three fillies had called an airship when they had built it.
Dash pulled a heavy raincloud into place and bucked it for all the rain it would give. She wrung every drop of water out of the thing until it simply dissipated into a wisp of vapor, but the torrent scarcely seemed to even dim the flames below.
A rope somewhere snapped and the whole thing listed to the side. Rainbow heard fillies shrieking, and immediately abandoned her efforts to douse the flames. Instead she dove right into them, whirling around the conflagrated wreckage to get to the wooden basket. The ‘cabin,’ they had named it before they had launched the thing.
Inside the basket huddled three fearful fillies. Well, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were huddling. Apple Bloom lay on the floor, her chest rising only faintly with shallow breaths.
“R-Rainbow Dash!” shouted Scootaloo. “Apple Bloom hit her head, and now she isn’t talking!”
Apple Bloom would always remember the first day Scootaloo flew. The first day that Scoots really flew, that was—Apple Bloom didn’t count all those times the pegasus had jumped off Dead Mare’s Cliff, flapped her wings furiously, and dropped like a stone down into the lake below. The first day that Scootaloo really, truly flew, Apple Bloom stood there beside Sweetie Belle and cheered with all her might. And Apple Bloom kept on cheering even as Scootaloo flew farther and farther and higher and higher, disappearing into the sky, just a tiny dot of orange against blue.
It always seemed as though Scootaloo would never come back, as silly a thought though that was. Scootaloo always did, of course, and Apple Bloom knew that Scootaloo always would. Even if it kept taking her longer and longer to touch back down to earth.
Likewise, Apple Bloom knew she’d never forget the first day Sweetie Belle used her magic and managed not to set anything on fire. Shortly thereafter, one of the first spells Sweetie Belle learned was the spell to create temporary wings, like her sister had gotten that one time. For weeks Apple Bloom saw not a sign of the young unicorn, as Sweetie Belle holed up in the town library with Twilight Sparkle, studying and practicing. But when Sweetie finally emerged, with a dirty, ratty mane and bags under her eyes, Apple Bloom had never seen her friend smile quite so big.
In biology, they taught us that your genes define your destiny.
“Scootaloo, what’s wrong?”
Sweetie Belle’s voice fell dead against the still air of the clubhouse. She took a few steps forward, hooves clicking against wood the only sound audible.
“Please, Scootaloo, say something. This isn’t like you!” Sweetie Belle continued as she approached her friend. Scootaloo remained motionless, just staring into a corner of the treehouse. “W-we didn’t do anything to upset you did we?”
How many times has Scootaloo rushed through Ponyville with her scooter? Enough times, she realized, that it became part of her cutie mark.
The trees and buildings around Scootaloo blurred as she leaned forward and slammed a hoof a the ground. The wind made her eyes squint. She resisted the pull of the lazy air and straightened her body.
She was never meant to stop. Without her scooter she felt addled, chained down. With her cutie mark she was free to deliver letters like a wind slipping through the cracks of a crowded street.
But with her cutie mark, the ponies— the world around her was a blur, mere illusions that she needed to separate herself from.
Scootaloo took short glances behind her to apologize to the ponies that leapt out of her way. That happened rarely. Most of the time, she shot glares at her cutie mark. While she flew across the roads of Ponyville, her cutie mark was the only visible thing of her world— the one that she loved. The past.
How long has it been, how many races against herself did she take part in since the appearance of her cutie mark? Too many, Scootaloo realized, that a time when she had no cutie mark was difficult to remember clearly.
She wobbled on her scooter. Disappointed, she growled at herself, shook her head, and kept riding; there wasn’t much to remember about the past, even if it was an important part of her cutie mark.
The past was filled with so much of the same thing. Day after day Scootaloo, without her cutie mark, spent her idle time searching errantly for her talent. With group of other ponies like her, they spent their days catapulting themselves through the air, learning how to swim— and laughing all the while. Remaining stagnant and letting the world pass by.