Sunny days are common in Ponyville, especially in the middle of summer, and this day was no different. With such good weather, Applejack was happily taking a leisurely stroll around the edge of her farm. She had finished her chores at least for now and so was able to spend some time just enjoying the singing of the birds, the buzzing of the bees and the laughter of the children playing in the sun. She smiled contently at the children as she strolled by. She felt very happy and content with life at this moment. Appreciating all she had been given. But life has a way of creating surprises and she was about to get yet another gift of fate.
Her farm was quite a ways away from Ponyville and it actually just scraped past the Everfree forest. This meant it was inevitable for Applejack to wander past the Everfree forest regularly but she didn't feel any fear. The danger was well away from her deep inside the forest and nothing ever came out unless provoked from inside, meaning it was pretty safe as long as she didn't go in. Besides, she was used to it by now anyhow. However, today she heard a noise she hadn't heard before. Her ears immediately perked up. She stopped and listened closely. Applejack knew she always needed to stay alert of any danger, not just for her sake but for the sake of her family, the farm and all of Ponyville. And if something was close enough to hear at the edge of the Everfree forest, then this could mean trouble.
Applejack, knew it was unwise but she had the feeling that someone was in need of her help and so she edged a little closer to the Everfree forest. She wasn't sure, but she swore what she heard was the sound of somepony weeping. She couldn't just leave them there if it was, no matter how dangerous. She had to be sure so she walked a little closer and then a little more. The sound became clearer until she was sure it was crying. Now there was no question, she had to do something. She wondered whether to get help instead of foolishly rushing in but this ponies crying sounded distressed and young. If she went to get help she could be too late by the time she came back. No. She had to act now. But maybe there wasn't any danger. Maybe a child was just lost.
Applejack then called out to the crying pony. "Hello? Hey, is anybody there?" she paused for a response but all she heard was the crying stop and what sounded like a startled young filly. Applejack started looking around for the filly.
"Now, now. No need to be scared." Applejack said gently just before noticing a faint figure of a young female pony. She seemed a few years younger than her but not as young as she had expected at first.
"Ah, there ya are." She said trotting forwards towards the figure but, as she neared, the pony started shuffling uncomfortably and moving backwards. Applejack knew she was scared and this wasn't much of a surprise if she was inside the Everfree forest. For all she knew, she could have been wandering around the Everfree forest scared out of her wits for a while and obviously feeling very jumpy.
Applejack tried to sooth her by speaking gently and quietly to her. "Now, don't be scared. I was just wonderin' where all that there cryin' was comin' from." Applejack said cheerfully, trying to lure a response from her. However, she got no response other than nervous shuffling.
Applejack tried a different approach. "What are ya doing here, sugarcube?" she said concernedly. The mysterious pony gently dragged her hoof across the ground shyly.
Applejack wasn't sure what to do but, just when she was going to try talking again, the pony spoke in very faint, shy and quiet voice, still a little shaky from the tears. "I...I'm fine." The pony said.
At that moment they both heard a rumbling noise that startled them a little. Applejack knew well what that noise was and she smiled as the pony shuffled in embarrassment. "Why don't you common out that horrible dark forest and have a little apple pie, sugar?" she said gesturing towards her house on the farm.
"Errr-errrmm." The pony shuffled and rubbed her hoof up and down her other leg uncomfortably.
"I don't know." The pony said, looking like she wanted to curl up into a ball and hide.
This pony was clearly shy and this reminded Applejack of her friend Fluttershy who was very much that way all the time. She had the feeling that she wasn't going to get anywhere unless she was a little more pushy although she didn't like the thought that if she was too pushy she might scare her. However, Applejack was a stubborn pony and she was determined to help this pony even if it meant a few tears in the end.
Applejack tried one last thing. "I won't hurt ya, sweetheart." Applejack was a little surprised at how that came out. She was talking to her as if she were a filly but she clearly was older than that. But her behaviour seemed to speak strongly of young and innocent to her.
Saying those words seemed to help calm the pony a little and Applejack felt like this was the time to make her move. She quickly but gently came closer to the pony. The pony was startled and looked over her own shoulder behind her for a chance to escape but in the end didn't move before Applejack had come close enough to touch her. The pony froze on the spot as Applejack slowly and carefully moved her hoof over her mane and stroked it. Applejack could feel the ponies tension lowering as she stroked her mane. It was difficult to stroke it as it was tangled beyond belief and seemed to have dried mud stuck in it.
This pony had certainly been through an ordeal, Applejack thought. "A little food and rest and you will be feelin' spritely as a pig in a big muddy puddle."
The mysterious pony seemed confused by this remark but Applejack just laughed and gently coaxed her away from the forest and into the bright light of the sun near Ponyville. The young pony squinted as she was brought into the light when she was, what must have been, a very long time without it. As the pony flinched from the sun, Applejack took this moment to examine her condition. She was indeed absolutely smothered with dirt and muck as Applejack had expected. Her mane was tangled beyond belief with large sections of dried mud hung in place all over like a strange piece of modern art. But what puzzled her was just how tangled and mangled it was. It wasn't just like any old dunk in the marsh or scrape from falling over a few times. After working on the farm all her life she certainly knew what that looked like. Instead it was so bad it seemed as if she had in fact had it like that for at least a few months! There was no way it could look like that unless her hair had not been cleaned in a substantial amount of time and her hair had grown around the muck and made a giant tight ball of hair, mud and grime like a steal mesh ball. She recalled the rescue dogs photos that Fluttershy had shown her one day and how awfully unkept their fur was.
And at that moment she made a conclusion that this pony wasn't just in danger, this pony had somehow been neglected! Applejack was so overwhelmed at that moment with sympathy and shock at what had happened to this pony that she no longer spent any more time questioning it. Without realising it, that thought of neglect and this ponies childlike behaviour had affected her very strongly. Applejack suddenly became besotted with this pony and determined to help her and care for her. It was unlike her to be like this. Usually, Applejack was known as one of the most sensible mares of her group of friends or even all of Ponyville. It was more fitting of Fluttershy to suddenly bend on her knees and care for a neglected creature. But somehow this pony had hit her weak spot head on and she just couldn't control herself.
"Oh, sugar. OH!" She found herself saying then she quickly but gently took hold of her hoof and started to rush her over to the house
"First things first! You need a bath, sugarcube! You need to get those terrible knots outta your hair!"
Applejack urgently pulled at the young pony so hard she was practically dragging her across the ground. It was lucky for them both that no-one was there to notice them rushing to the bathroom. Applebloom was at school at this hour, big Mac was out collecting some groceries and doing various other farm chores and old granny smith was asleep in her rocking chair and everyone knows how Granny just doesn't wake up from her mid-day nap. And I say bathroom but really it was just a section of their large kitchen with giant wooden bucket big enough for a whole adult mare. They often filled this giant bucket with water and soap and used it as a make shift bathroom. It didn't bother them, they got dirty a heck of a lot anyways so there wasn't much use for an extra fancy bathroom.
"Just a waste a space those fancy contraptions are!" as Granny used to say and still frequently does whenever possible.
Applejack got straight to work in fixing up this ponies fur and mane. It was a long and difficult struggle and the knots were so bad Applejack even had to cut huge chunks of hair out just so she could move it about more freely. The young pony didn't say much for a while, especially since it was such an ordeal as most of what came out of her mouth was yelps of pain from the hair pulling at her skin and from a few cuts and bruises being uncovered. However, Applejack managed to get a little conversation out of her during the quiet moments in-between.
She found out the ponies name, Floppy. A rather odd name Applejack thought but perhaps not considering some names ponies gave their children. But it made her wonder. Why did this pony have this name? Usually, pony names had something to do with their appearance, their hobbies or their talents but Applejack failed to understand what could have constituted to this name in relation to this pony. However, she decided perhaps not to ask, as it wasn't all that important and it could be a touchy subject.
Next Applejack asked about her family. "So where are ya family sugar? Ya have any friends who can pick ya up?"
This was the main thing on her mind. Family was very important to Applejack as everyone knows so it struck her as odd that this pony had not mentioned anything of the sort, especially considering her condition. But maybe she was a little in shock and didn't know what to do or think. That would make sense as she must have been through an amazing ordeal to end up like this. However, Floppy didn't take kindly to the question she gave a slightly grimacing look of distaste and turned away as if in disgust of the thought.
Applejack waited a while for a response and just when she was going to ask another question to continue the conversation Floppy answered "No" she said with a mixture of hate and sadness in her voice.
It was a strangely vague answer so Applejack asked again. "ya have no family? No Friends at all?"
Floppy gave Applejack a very tired look like she had never seen before. It wasn't a look of being tired from hard work, she was just tired. As if she was tired of living altogether. Then she turned away again before adding "None that really matter"
This hit Applejack hard. How could family not matter?! Of course family mattered! It mattered above all else surely! Applejack was speechless with shock for a while.
Then out of the silence, Floppy's small voice whispered again. "I don't have any friends. I only know my mum and my older brother. Mum rescued me from the Everfree forest when I was baby she says. So I am forever indebted to her. I wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for her she says. But I have yet to find proof of that."
There was a pause and a faint touch of spite in every time she said 'she says'. Floppy's voice started to sound irritated and her tone raised as she went on "Then there is my older brother. He feels the need to constantly tease me and pick on me whenever possible. I am vulnerable so I am an easy target. So he tells me I am a disgrace, I do nothing right, I am a failure and yet I see no achievements of his. Maybe if he bothered to FUCKING do a days work in his life then he have something to show for it. He thinks he is the bigger one because he has me in his grasp and mum does NOTHING to stop him. He's just playing! He's just playing! Well, I have seen the other fillies play and that is NOT how they play! They think I am dumb! They think I don't know what they are doing to me. They tell me not to go to the edge of the forest so I can never see the other children and figure it out but I KNOW! I KNOW WHAT THEY DO TO ME!"
"Sugarcube, please" Applejack tried to hush her as she could see what was coming but Floppy was too far gone to stop now.
"WHAT AM I NOT A PONY TO THEM?! AM I JUST THEIR PLAY THING?!" Floppy stood up and Applejack's heart skipped a beat.
She tried again to speak to her but her words fell on deaf ears. "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!" Floppy screamed and bucked the bucket with all her might. Unfortunately, she was still in the bucket so she ended up doing nothing but forcing the bucket to violently scrape across the floor and with the loss of her balance it toppled over on its side.
Floppy froze and there was an eerie silence for a moment before Floppy broke down and started to sob on the floor. Applejack righted her up again and encouraged her to get back into the bucket. She then continued to clean her without another word. The sound of nothing but the sponge squeezing the soap and water into Floppy's fur and dripping into the bucket below and the sound of soft sobbing echoing around the room. In the end, her hair was clean, what was left of it at least. She didn't look that flattering but she was clean and Applejack knew that was what mattered. It was then that Floppy's colours and patterns became clear to the eye at long last. She was thin with a light soft brown fur all over. Her mane was a very gentle and light tone of yellow along with her tail. She had pegasus wings but they looked battered and were missing several feathers. Applejack also noticed she didn't have a cutie mark. It was unusual for a pony of her age to not have a cutie mark yet, very unusual. It was bad enough with Applebloom and her bullying. Just imagine the look on people's faces when this pony goes past.
Nevertheless, it didn't really matter. After a while of quiet, Floppy had calmed down. Applejack could see her eyes were heavy so she guided her outside again and into the barn. All the rooms in the house were spent so the barn was the only place she could stay and it would have to do, at least for the night. Applejack wanted to ask her whether it would be OK for her to stay here for a while, maybe even overnight, if she had a family as she said but thought it best not to bring it up again. It would be OK surely, just for a couple of hours. Perhaps afterwards she could take her to meet her parents again and have a good talk with them. Maybe they weren't as bad as Floppy said. After all, she did seem to act strange, maybe she was just a little confused with all the stress of what's been going on. Whatever's been going on.
Applejack gathered some hay for the livestock on the farm and laid it on the ground as nicely as she could. "There! Now ya have a place to sleep. It's not great but it'll do for now". But Applejack needn't worry. Even while she was still talking, Floppy smiled at the sight of a nice place to rest and slumped into the hay and was fast asleep at the blink of an eye.
Applejack tip hoofed out of the barn and smiled as she slowly closed the barn door as not to wake her precious stranger up. She gave a sigh of relief after closing it. She had got away with it. No-one had seen anything and now all she had to do was make sure no-one entered the barn. Easy right? Or so she thought.
"Ah, I guess you are Applejack?"
Applejack turned around quickly to see a purple unicorn standing in front of her with a list levitating just underneath her nose. She seemed a similar age to herself and stood in a more unusual way than the ponies of Ponyville, more akin to somepony of a rather important stature, letting her know that this pony had probably come from a large city like Canterlot for business purposes. She was also accompanied by a little baby dragon with a purple scaly body and some large green rounded spikes along its back. Applejack tried to straighten herself up slightly to appease this ponies high standards.
"yes, indeed I am!" Applejack said, looking nervously towards the barn and hoping that she could dispatch of this pony as soon as possible.
"Good Afternoon, my name is Twilight Sparkle" Twilight had barely finished her sentence when Applejack started to shake her hoof in a friendly hoof shake. However, it seemed the hoof shake was a little too friendly as Twilight's hoof was violently shaken up and down in a way that more than disorientated the poor unicorn
"Well howdy do miss Twilight! It's a pleasure making your acquaintance!" Applejack said in the upmost friendly way, throwing a few fancy words into the mix.
"We at Sweet Apple Acres sure do love makin' new friends!"
"friends? I e-e-e-e-e-e-er" Twilight tried to speak but it was difficult while being thrown around so much but luckily Applejack soon let go.
"So, what can I do ya for?" Applejack asked.
Twilight was a little shaken by the hoof shake event but she cleared her throat and pressed on with her business "Well I am in fact here by request of Princess Celestia to supervise the preparations of the Summer Sun Celebration aaaaand I believe you are in charge of the food?"
Ah, that explained it, Applejack thought. Applejack was thinking of what to do and just at that moment she saw big Mac on his way back with the groceries over Twilight's shoulder, along with the filly applebloom coming home from school. Yes, of course! She thought to herself. This is the perfect opportunity to see to Twilight's wishes and distract everyone from the barn at the same time.
Applejack called over to big Mac and then gestured him over. "We sure as sugar are! Would you care to sample some?" Applejack asked.
"Well, as long as it doesn't take too long" Twilight answered but half way through Applejack had already rushed away to ring the little rusty triangle hanging in the middle of the farm to call everypony's attention.
"Soup's on everypony!" Applejack yelled out loud and suddenly a large crowd of ponies galloped over like a stampede and Twilight was pushed along to a small table round the back of the Barn.
"Well, why don't I introduce ya'll to the apple family?" Applejack said with pride as she gestured her hoof to the various ponies gathered around the table eagerly staring at Twilight and Spike.
"Thanks but I really need to-" but she was interrupted by a young pony presenting her an apple fritter on a small plate.
"This here is Apple Fritter" Applejack remarked
"Apple Bumpkin" she continued as another pony presented their prized food and laid it on the table.
"Red Gala" Applejack said as yet another pony came along and laid a little cupcake with an apple shaped decoration on the top and green icing.
"Red Delicious, Golden Delicious" Applejack continued as more and more ponies brought food to the table.
"Caramel apple Apple Strudel Apple Tart" Applejack kept calling names as more and more food piled onto the same small table to make a generous mountain of food. Applejack read the names so fast it was hard to keep up.
Applejack gave a deep breath and then slowed down to continue with the last few ponies. "Big Macintosh, Apple Bloom and Granny Smith" Applejack finished at long last.
"Up and at em Granny Smith we got guests" Applejack reminded Granny as she was awoken from her slumber by all the fuss.
"Why, I'd say you're already part of the family"
Twilight found this rather uncomfortable and laughed nervously as she stated "well, I can see the food situation is in order so we'll be on our way" Twilight said, trying to escape but the ponies all looked at her disappointed.
"Aren't ya gonna stay for brunch?" The little filly Applebloom whined and puckered her lips in the most adorable way.
"Sorry but we got an awful lot to do" Twilight said feeling rather guilty and awkward for denying the child her wishes.
Twilight couldn't stand such an awkward situation and Spike looked at her disapprovingly so she decided to stick around while sighing reluctantly "fine".
The Applejack family wasted no time in dancing and singing and presenting the food to her. Twilight left a few hours later with her belly feeling rather bloated and uncomfortable. Spike bounced around happily and with a spring in his step. It was the most exciting day he had ever had! He was fed up of all those days spent endlessly researching and researching all the time. He was happy to be doing something different and in a new place too. Applejack watched them wander away into the distance. She had done a good job holding everypony at bay from the barn. Everypony soon went straight back to work and with the Summer Sun Celebration at hand, the ponies were certainly too busy to care about the barn. Not only that, but the chores were different than usual so the barn wasn't needed for a long while. Applejack was secure in the knowledge that this strange pony would not be discovered any time soon. She decided to visit the pony inside the barn since she had been there for long enough to be awake from her nap by now. Perhaps she could now get some more answers out of her.
Applejack stepped over to the barn and no sooner had she got to the large barn doors, she heard a big bump and the sound of a lot of small objects dropping and rolling around the barn floor. Oh no. Applejack thought. She knew what that was and she wondered whether Floppy was OK. Applejack quickly opened the barn door to see Floppy slumped over a barrel like a big lump of skin and bones. The barrel was lying on its side with its apple contents spilt almost everywhere possible. It was clear that she not only fell onto the barrel but took some others with her on the way down.
"What on earth are ya doin' Floppy?!" Applejack said with a rather firm tone.
Floppy looked up at her with a rather gormless face as if clueless to what she just did.
Applejack sighed "Let me help ya up sugar" she said calmly.
Applejack gently took hold of her right hoof and proceeded to pull her up. However, Floppy was very unsteady and she almost fell over again several times when trying to step off the round barrel surface.
"Put your hooves around the barrel ya silly mare!" Applejack exclaimed, almost baffled by this ponies inability to understand what to do. Soon Floppy was back on all four hooves.
"Now what were ya tryin' to do sugar?" Applejack said, sounding like she genuinely wanted to know the answer.
"I was trying to get an apple" Floppy responded, looking rather nervous of Applejack.
"Now why would ya try and do that?" Applejack asked. Floppy's stomach spoke for her.
"Oh, of course. Ya hungry aren't ya sugar" Applejack said, feeling happy she had a solution. But when she saw Floppy's face her smile fell. She looked very uncomfortable and she could tell she wasn't feeling happy. Perhaps even ready to cry.
Applejack gently pulled her head up with her hoof to meet her eyes "You wait right here, sugar. I will get ya somethin', OK?" Floppy put her head down again and nodded. Applejack wasted no time rushing out to get some food. The other ponies were too busy to notice her rushing around and it wasn't much of a big deal anyway, considering everypony was rushing around right now with the preparations. Applejack took some of the left-over food from brunch waiting in the kitchen to be put away and was soon back in the barn.
She had brought a large apple pie. Plenty to satisfy any amount of hunger for a pony her size. Applejack presented the pie proudly to Floppy and waited for her to gobble it down. However, Floppy just stared at it.
"What is...this?" Floppy said, sounding confused.
Applejack wasn't sure how to respond for a moment. She had never heard of a pony not knowing what an apple pie was. Never! "It's an apple pie, darlin'"
Applejack was a little surprised to find herself talking to her as if she was a toddler but it was difficult to think of her any other way considering how she had behaved so far. She acted like she barely knew what anything was or had any idea how to act. It was as if she was a filly in a young mare's body. She was acting completely childish.
Floppy looked up at her like a child stares at their mother when they want something but know they can't ask directly. Her begging eyes looked up to her and she asked "I-is it food?"
"Of course it is. Did ya think I brought ya a table feature?" Applejack chuckled but Floppy didn't need to be told twice and was into the pie like a shot before she had even started her little joke. Applejack had never seen a pony eat so fast in her life! When Floppy was done she sighed a sigh of relief and almost seemed to blank out as she just stood there as if she had found true inner peace.
Applejack was about to say something when Floppy burst out screaming excitedly "That was AMAZING! OH MY GOD!"
Now here is something that may take a little explanation. Everyone knows that the gods that run and supposedly also founded Equestria are Celestia and Luna. It is common for ponies to refer to them in sayings of normal conversation and it is deemed perfectly acceptable and even seen as polite in certain circles. However, referring to them by name was important. Just using the word god to refer to them was rude and seen as a derogatory term and way of representing them. It was disrespectful to the princesses and so is often frowned upon even in the lowest classes of pony society. It is also seen in higher class circles as very rude to use their name in a negative fashion so Floppy saying this was very rude indeed.
Applejack soon scolded Floppy for her language "Floppy?!" she yelled in shock.
She presumed she had perhaps not realised and needed a quick reminder of her manners. However, Floppy flinched in surprise and then looked at her worried and confused. She bent her knees as if ready to take a beating or to run away as soon as possible. Applejack remembered the things she had said about her family and considered it best to not continue this any further. She had no idea what was going on but she didn't need this right now. There were more important things to worry about.
"Never mind" she said gently
"Now. You should be gettin' home shouldn't ya?" Applejack said.
Floppy shuffled uncomfortably. "Applejack?" Floppy said in a very begging but rather sad tone
"yes, sugarcube?" But then suddenly the conversation was interrupted as Applejack could hear a familiar bouncing noise outside the barn.
"Oh no. Pinkie!" Applejack said to herself and rushed outside.
Applejack was soon proven correct in her guess as Pinkie bounded towards her from the distance. "Applejack Applejack!" she cried while still bouncing with a surprising speed and skill
Applejack was used to Pinkies random explosions of excitement but Pinkie seemed even more excited than usual and there was no chance she could understand what she was saying with the speed of her conversation. Applejack was about to tell her to slow down but Pinkie wasn't taking no for an answer and she grabbed her hoof and started to drag Applejack away.
Twilight had talked to several ponies today to check the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration and each one had dragged the conversation on and on and distracted her from her duties, which she most certainly didn't approve of, especially since she needed to get to the library to research into this Nightmare Moon she was worried about. Nightmare Moon was due to come and wreak havoc tonight and Twilight was determined to get to the bottom of it. She knew she was right! But she had to find proof! Spike wasn't pleased with how rude Twilight was being to all the other ponies in order to get away from them, even resulting to lying about Spike being tired to get a pony off her back. Twilight knew it was a little harsh but she had to figure this out. It was important and, if it was true, the lives of everybody depended on it!
She was just about to get into her studies when suddenly the lights turned on and tons of ponies cheered "Surprise!" Oh no, Twilight thought as she sighed in anguish and frustration.
A pink earth pony with curly mane and tail, bounced around with excitement. "Surprise!" She yelled a little too close for comfort.
"Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie and I made this party just for you! Were you surprised? Huh? Were you? Huh huh huh huh huh?" The pink pony yelled while bouncing laps around Twilight.
"Very surprised. Libraries are supposed to be quiet!" Twilight said with disgust as she was quickly losing her patience.
"What? That's silly!" Pinkie said chuckling merrily
"What kind of welcome surprise party would this be if it were quiet? I mean DUH booooooriiiiiiing!" Pinkie exclaimed.
As this was going on, a young brown mare snuck in through the door as everyone was distracted and watched the events quietly. Twilight tried to walk away but Pinkie didn't seem to get the message as she followed her along the room still chattering loudly
"You see I saw you when you first got here remember? You were all 'Hello?' and I was all like 'HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUR!' remember? Coz I never saw you before and if I had never saw you before then that means your new coz I know everypony and I mean EVERYPONY in Ponyville!"
Twilight sighed again more frustrated than before and continued to walk towards the punch bowl for a sobering drink.
"and if you're new then you haven't met anyone yet and if you haven't met anyone yet then that means you don't have any friends and if you don't have any friends then you must be really lonely and that means you must be really sad and I had an idea and that's why I went HUUUUUUUUUUUUUR!"
Twilight poured herself a drink from the various bottles on the table nearby as Pinkie continued to endlessly chatter. Then Twilight sipped the drink with a straw. However, she soon started to sweat profusely and her face went red as a radish.
Applejack was the first to notice and commented "are you alright sugarcube?"
Twilight quickly darted away towards her bedroom.
"awwwwwww she's so happy she's crying!" Pinkie dismissed Twilight's behaviour with a big smile and everybody continued to party.
Twilight stayed in her room and tried to calm down but she just couldn't settle. She started to pace around in frustration and rant to herself about how ridiculous this whole day had been. She was so frustrated that she didn't notice a brown pegasus quietly enter her room. After a few minutes of ranting she screamed in anger and plopped herself down on the bed with her head in her hooves. The brown pegasus just stared at her without saying a word. Then she took a step to the side and tripped over her own hooves. She fell sideways and crashed straight into the shelves full of spare pillows and blankets. The pillows and blankets fell on top of her gently in a strange contrast to the speedy fall beforehand. Twilight jumped with a start and looked upwards to where she heard the sound to find a moving pile of pillows and blankets.
"Nice try but I don't need anymore surprises thank you!" Twilight said in a still frustrated tone while wandering over and quickly lifting the blanket to reveal a thin brown pony with half its mane and tail pulled out and cut. Twilight was taken aback and stared for a while in shock at the strange sight before snapping out of it when the ponies eyes seemed to water and she curled herself back into the blankets and pillows she sat in.
"No no. It's OK." Twilight said softly. The brown pegasus looked up a little.
Twilight sighed "I'm sorry. I have had quite a day! And who might you be?"
The brown pegasus slowly looked up and said faintly "Floppy".
"Oh" Twilight said trying to seem not too surprised as to not insult her.
Twilight waited for a response but Floppy just stared in silence. Twilight thought for a moment. She could tell something wasn't right. Not just from her physical condition but also from the way she looked at her and her body language. It seemed. Off somehow. She had thought she had read about it somewhere but couldn't quite place where.
She decided to go with a gentle approach as somehow that seemed appropriate. "What are you doing here?" Twilight asked.
Floppy looked down at her hooves and shuffled uncomfortably before answering "It's a bit loud in there. I don't like it" Twilight thought that this again sounded familiar.
Floppy spoke again after a little pause "I-I'm sorry. I will go"
Floppy started to get up on her feet but Twilight pointed her hoof at her and said "No no! It's OK. Don't go" she said urgently but gently as not to scare her. Floppy sat down again without a word.
"It's nice to have a little quiet company" Twilight said and she meant it fully, with emphasis on the word quiet. Floppy smiled a small smile.
"If you don't mind me asking, what's wrong with your mane and tail?" Twilight asked, gesturing to her pale yellow hair.
"A-Applejack had to cut it. She said it was too tangled to just brush it" Twilight started to find this conversation rather fascinating. Who was this pony? Why was her mane so tangled it had to be cut off like that?
"Why was it so tangled?" Twilight asked without much thought
"It's always been like that" What a strange answer, Twilight thought and it intrigued her even more. This pony was fast becoming an interesting specimen.
Twilight decided to move on to something different. Twilight's eyes locked onto the sight of her ragged pegasus wings and she asked
"your wings are missing several feathers. Did you have an accident? Did you get it caught?"
"I have got it caught several times in trees. I don't have very good balance so I have to use my wings to help me when I climb trees."
"You climb trees?!" Twilight said in surprise.
"Yes" Floppy said with a look of confusion and said in a matter a fact way, as if it was totally normal for a pegasus to climb trees.
"My mum tells me to climb them sometimes so I can see where we are going."
"Why don't you fly?" Twilight asked eagerly
"I can't" Floppy said very sadly and hanging her head in shame.
"Is it because you are missing some of your feathers?" Twilight asked.
"Maybe...but I don't know how to fly anyway. I have tried many times." Tears welled in her eyes
"I just can't"
Twilight soon realised this was a touchy subject and perhaps realised maybe she was being a little too pushy with all the questions so she moved on, even though she had so many more to ask. "I presume you are a member of the apple family" Twilight said, trying to spur a more friendly conversation, although she had wondered why she wasn't introduced to her when given the chance earlier today.
"n-no" Floppy said with confusion,
"I live in the Everfree forest."
"WHAT?!" Twilight yelled in shock. Twilight had done some research on the area before arriving and so knew plenty how dangerous the forest was known to be so she certainly didn't know of anybody being able to go through the Everfree forest let alone LIVE there!
Floppy flinched when Twilight yelled and so Twilight took her head back and cleared her throat to calm herself. "Why would you want to live in a place like that?" Twilight asked sounding considerably worried
"especially, when Ponyville is right here?!"
"Mum won't let me come here. She says Ponyville is full of liars and crooks that will stab you in the back when they get the chance."
"What a horrible thing to say!" Twilight thought without realising she had said it aloud until Floppy responded
"My mum doesn't really like anyone. Hell! She doesn't even like me! I don't know why she even bothered to rescue me."
Twilight lost her tension at the sound of this and again grew concerned "rescued you?"
"so she says" Floppy responded
"She found me in the Everfree forest as a baby and she took me in and raised me in the Everfree forest with my older brother. He always picks on me but mum doesn't care" Floppy sighed deeply
"I am not getting into that conversation again."
"who else have you spoken to about this?" Twilight asked.
"Applejack" Floppy responded
"She helped clean me and my mane and tail up" Floppy said.
"yes, I know" Twilight said.
"oh sorry" Floppy said instantly as if expecting to be punished for saying something twice by accident.
Twilight soon realised that this was no joke. This pony wasn't in a good way. Not only was she in an unhealthy physical state but Twilight had good reason to assume her parents had neglected her. The things she said didn't make sense and the things that she should know are abnormal she spoke of as if it was normal. These 'kind' parents had certainly not tried to take care of her or teach her anything about how to be an independent and healthy individual. Twilight started to feel angry. How DARE they treat this defenceless pony like this! How could they leave her so ignorant for so long! It doesn't matter how poor they are or how difficult life might be in the Everfree forest, it was clear this pony barely even knew basic skills! Twilight was so caught in her own inner rage and thoughts of what she was going to tell her parents that she didn't notice Floppy's eyes grow heavy. Floppy lay down slowly and fell asleep. Twilight looked down at her and smiled. She curled up and cuddled the pillows just like a little filly. Twilight used her magic to gently cover the pony with one of the blankets and let her be. Twilight tried to sleep herself but wasn't able to. Floppy must have been really tired because the music was just too loud for Twilight to sleep. Before she knew it, Spike was calling her saying it was time for the Summer Sun Celebration. Twilight tried to wake Floppy but she wouldn't wake so she let her be and ran with Spike to the town hall.
Twilight trotted to the town hall for the Summer Sun Celebration. However, the thought of Nightmare Moon was still burning in the back of her mind. Nightmare Moon was due to come again tonight. But Celestia had told her otherwise and she worried that she was fussing too much. Maybe it was just a fairy tale. What if she had been making a fool of herself this whole time? She couldn't interrupt something as important as the Summer Sun Celebration without some solid proof of the matter so she tried to forget about it, at least for now. The other ponies she had met throughout the day, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie followed Twilight into the town hall. Fluttershy was already there, preparing herself and her little birds for the opening song of the event. Rarity had been very busy with the decorations and was ready near the stage for the arrival of Celestia.
As Twilight walked in Pinkie greeted her yet again with her constant chatting about how excited she was for the celebration event. The only time she was quiet was when the music began for the announcement of the town mayor.
"Fillies and Gentlecolts!" The mayor began.
As the mayor talked Twilight couldn't settle. She looked up at the moon through the roof window and saw a shadow on the surface seem to disappear. Now she was even more nervous than ever! A brown pegasus sneaked into the town hall unbeknownst to anypony. The mayor announced the entry of Princess Celestia and Rarity opened the curtains only to find the spotlight and an empty space. Everypony gasped in surprise. Where was the princess?! Then suddenly a wisp of blue fog sprinkled with stars like the night sky seeped into the room in place of where Celestia should have stood.
Twilight winced in horror. She knew what was coming. "Oh no. Nightmare Moon" she said out loud and at that moment a dark tall alicorn appeared from the mist.
"Hello my beloved subjects" The dark pony said while glaring around the room.
"It's sooo long since I've seen your precious little sun-loving faces" she continued with disgust.
"What did you do with our princess?!" Rainbow yelled accusingly before trying to zoom towards her for a full on attack.
However, Applejack held her back "woah there nelly!" she said as she pulled Rainbow back by her tail.
"Why? I am not royal enough for you?" The dark pony chuckled patronisingly before then straightening her stance from her puckering and bent over position to talk on their level and raising her voice in anger
"Don't you know who I am?!" she said with frustration.
Pinkie Pie thought it was a guessing game and tried yelling out various names to guess who she was. Applejack shoved one of the various apple treats on the banquet table in her mouth and smiled as Pinkie failed to speak with her mouth full of apple goodness.
"Does my crown no longer count now that I have been imprisoned for 1000 years?" Nightmare Moon said teasingly as she stared at Fluttershy as she cowered away from her.
Then Nightmare Moon swifted softly over to Rarity and used her mane of night to flick her chin as she said "Did you not recall the legend? Did you not see the signs?"
Suddenly the dark alicorn flinched as a cry was heard from the crowd "I did!" Twilight yelled.
"and I know who you are" Twilight said with confidence.
"You're the mare in the moon, Nightmare Moon!" Everypony gasped with this new found truth.
"Well well well. Somebody remembers me"
Nightmare Moon said with a bit of admiration and pride but this was quickly set aside as she yelled "Then you also know why I am here."
"You're here to-to" Twilight lost her confidence and cowered in fear at the thought.
Nightmare Moon just laughed at her and continued to talk to all the ponies present "Remember this day everypony for it was your last. From this moment forth the night will last forever!"
The pony started to laugh maniacally as her mane swirled towards the sky. Celestia's guards tried to stop her but it was no use. She was much more powerful than those simple pegasus and earth ponies and even unicorn magic couldn't keep her at bay as rarity also tried to stop her with her horn. Then Nightmare Moon became a mist of night and floated out of the room. Applejack lost her grip on Rainbow Dash and she darted after her
"come back you FUCKING SWINE!" Rainbow yelled and continued to fly after her but Nightmare Moons magic was too much for her to keep up with and she got further and further away.
Rainbow didn't give up though and continued into the distance speeding faster and faster. Meanwhile Twilight ran towards the library to search for some books to help with the situation. Applejack saw her leave and gave chase and her friends, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy followed her.
Twilight put Spike to bed as he was too tired to stay awake and she lovingly tucked him in. Then she buried herself into the books in the library, searching high and low for a book on the Elements of Harmony she had heard of in relation to Nightmare Moon.
"How can I stop Nightmare Moon without the Elements of Harmony!" Twilight said aloud as she struggled to find what she was looking for.
"And just what ARE the Elements of Harmony? And how did YOU know about Nightmare Moon HUH? Are you a SPY?!" Rainbow yelled into Twilight's face. Rainbow had given up pursuit and joined the other ponies in following Twilight. Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Fluttershy were also there.
Applejack pulled at Rainbows tail "Simmer down sally. She ain't no spy but she sure knows what's going on. Don't ya Twilight?" Applejack said approaching her expectantly along with the others.
Twilight continued to explain while a brown pegasus watched through the window. "I read all about the prediction of Nightmare Moon. Some mysterious objects called the Elements of Harmony are the only things that can stop her but I don't know what they are or where to find them. I don't even know what they do!" Twilight said in a panic.
Meanwhile Pinkie was meandering the library and read out one of the book titles "The Elements of Harmony: A Reference Guide."
Twilight quickly pushed her out of the way and stared intently where she was looking "How did you find that?!"
"It was under E-eeee" Pinkie sung happily as if totally oblivious to the serious situation they were in. Twilight blushed at her foolish mistake and continued to search the books pages for information.
"There are six Elements of Harmony, though only five are known. Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Honesty and Loyalty. The sixth is a complete mystery" Twilight read aloud as a blue mist drifted nearby the roof window.
"It is said, the last known location of five Elements was in the ancient castle of the royal pony sisters"
Twilight turned to the others "that means it's in the Everfree forest!" The other ponies gasped in horror.
"I must get my hoofs on them!" were Twilight's last words to herself as she galloped out the door of the library and towards the ominous and dark Everfree forest. The other ponies followed.
They all paused for a second as they approached the forest's edge. There was an eerie silence between them until Pinkie yelled in her usual bouncy way
"yay! Let's go!" while trotting forwards
"are you crazy?!" Twilight yelled
"It's dangerous in there!" She gave a deep sigh
"Look. I appreciate the offer but I can't let any citizens be put in danger. I really got to do this on my own."
"No can do sugarcube!" Applejack retorted
"We sure ain't letting any friend of ours go into that there creepy place alone. We're sticking to you like caramel on a candy apple" Applejack said as everyone wandered around her forwards towards the forest.
"Especially if there are candy apples in there!" Pinkie said as the only one left behind with Twilight. Twilight just stared at her in disbelief. Does this pony have any idea what she is doing?! How dangerous this all is? Are ALL of them crazy!?
"What? Those things are good!" Pinkie said as she trotted merrily on her way to catch up with the others.
Twilight couldn't believe her eyes or her ears for that matter. This had to be the craziest day she has ever had. She didn't need all these crazy characters following her around. If anything it made things worse! But there was nothing she could do. It was there choice after all and it seemed it would take brute force to stop them and she just wasn't up for that. She sighed deeply for what must have been the third time that day at least and continued forward to catch up with them. A brown pegasus, peeked round the corner of the bush nearby and wandered into the forest after them. Things were silent for a while. Nobody wanted to talk. Except maybe Pinkie but even she was keeping quiet for now.
Twilight decided to start a little conversation to make the moment less awkward. "So...have none of you ever been in this forest before?" all the ponies responded in their own way but all of them said no. This didn't help things, Twilight thought to herself.
Rarity decided to continue to explain "Why just look at it. It's dreadful!" She whined
"And it doesn't even look good for the gothic look! I mean, just look at all those broken branches! Nowhere near the right pattern and not at all neat! It's neither one of the other" Rarity complained
"We don't need your fashion advice right now Rarity!" Rainbow retorted in an irritated fashion as she folded her hooves while still flying.
"I have to admit. I wouldn't think the forest would be aesthetically pleasing and it's layout is by no means an appropriate topic for conversation" Twilight responded in hopes of this weird talk be over with soon.
"Oh, can't a girl have just a little conversation about visual appeal without being violently harassed!" Rarity responded in frustration.
"Now now everypony simmer down" Applejack said which luckily stopped the impending battle of wills between Rarity and Rainbow Dash.
"We all need to smile! Smile! Smile! Smile!" Pinkie chirped but no-one responded.
After a while of silence Applejack spoke again. "The forest ain't natural that's for sure. I heard it doesn't work the same way as the rest of Equestria."
"and what is that supposed to mean?" Twilight said with fear. Rainbow Dash took this opportunity to start teasing the other ponies. She stared at Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie with an evil glare and chose the perfect spot for the light to shine under her face.
"Noooo body knooooows. You know why?" Rainbow said in a ghostly tone.
"Rainbow! Quit it!" Applejack said but Rainbow wasn't listening
"coz everybody whose ever come in has never come out!" Rainbow yelled the last word and the ponies screamed and backed away. At that moment the cliff they were standing on came lose and Twilight being still near the edge fell sideways and started sliding straight off the cliff.
"arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhh!" she screamed as she lost her footing and tumbled towards the edge. Applejack quickly ran after her by jumping from the rocks nearby and found a safe rock to grab her from. She grabbed her with both front hooves but she couldn't pull her up as her footing was slipping. Applejack had to think fast, she saw Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy flying in the air and she turned to Twilight.
"let go" she said .
"What?!" Twilight screamed
"are you crazy?!"
"Twilight calm down" Applejack said
"Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are behind ya. Let go and you'll be safe" Twilight worried whether they could catch her in time but Applejack's face looked so honest she felt safe in the knowledge that she wouldn't let her down. Twilight let go and yelled as she fell before getting picked up by Rainbow and Fluttershy in a few seconds. Twilight watched Applejack jump down the rocks to the safe lower ground as she descended with Rainbow and Fluttershy.
"Well, that was a close one" Applejack said with relief
"You can say that again!" Rainbow Dash agreed.
So they continued on their journey. Rainbow started proudly proclaiming her rescuing skills to everyone and how exciting that event was.
"Well, it's all well and good for you, Rainbow but I didn't enjoy it so I'd appreciate it if you'd not mention it again thank you very much!" Twilight said as she was very irritated with hearing all of Rainbows boasting.
"Why? Were you scaaaared?" Rainbow teased
"That's enough, Rainbow. You've caused enough trouble today" Applejack tried to settle the situation before a fire started but Rainbow wouldn't back down easily
"Hey, I just saved your skin! Does THAT not count for anything?"
"Rainbow shush!" Applejack scolded.
Rainbow gave a mighty "humpf!" and crossed her hooves in a strop. She may pick on the other ponies but she knew better than to pick on Applejack.
As they wandered along, they came across a little passageway between two cliffs. Then suddenly a Manticore appeared right before their eyes and it looked like it was ready for a fight. Rainbow threw threats at it and started to dart towards it.
"Rainbow no!" Applejack yelled but it was too late, she couldn't hold her back this time. Rainbow flew circles around the beast and kicked it's face from many different angles. At first it seemed Rainbow was too quick for it but then the Manticore threw it's mighty paw and caught Rainbow whizzing past.
"Rainbow!" several ponies yelled in horror as she flew through the air and grinded against the ground. Rainbow stood up angry with the creature. How DARE it attack me! She thought. Rainbow went to fly at it again and again and again. There was no stopping her despite being thrown back several times. Rarity tried running in to help but with one yell from the Manticore she ran away again screaming about her beautiful mane. Meanwhile Fluttershy yelled for attention and no-one could hear amongst all the fuss. Twilight also tried to get everyone's attention to step back but to no avail. Applejack jumped in and gave a mighty buck but it had no effect and the Manticore swished her away with it's scorpion tail.
Fluttershy, yelled as loud as she could. "STOOOOOOOOOOP!" she yelled. Eventually everybody heard and they stopped to listen.
"You know about animals Fluttershy. Tell us how we can beat this thing!" Rainbow yelled while still scraping with the beast.
"Manticore's aren't usually hostile!" Fluttershy exclaimed
"let me talk to it and see what is wrong."
"Are you crazy?!" Twilight yelled with the equal agreement of everybody else.
"You'll get killed, Fluttershy!" Rainbow yelled.
"Trust me! I can do it!" Fluttershy said. The others looked at each other.
Twilight stepped forward "I say we let her."
"easy for you to say!" Rainbow screamed at her.
"We don't have any other options!" Twilight yelled
"and she is right. I read about it. Manticore's are docile creatures. There must be another way." everybody went quiet.
"OK" Rainbow finally answered
"I'm with you but you better not get yourself killed Fluttershy! As soon as he moves, we strike!" Everyone agreed this was for the best and they stepped back as Fluttershy stepped forward towards the Manticore.
Fluttershy slowly approached the creature. The Manticore seamed agitated and roared at her to stay back. Fluttershy moved slowly and carefully but kept going until she was right up to it. Fluttershy nuzzled the creature gently and smiled. The Manticore raised its paw.
"Fluttershy!" Rainbow yelled. But then the Manticore revealed it's paw to her and a giant thorn was visable.
"Oh, you poor little baby!" Fluttershy said and without further ado she yanked the thorn out of the paw. The Manticore roared an almighty roar. Rainbow couldn't take it anymore and dived at the creature only to suddenly stop when the Manticore didn't attack Fluttershy. Instead it rubbed it's head against her like a little pussy cat. Everypony was blown away. It worked!
They then moved along and fluttershy soon followed behind after saying friendly goodbyes to the Manticore and promising to see him again soon. They walked a little way until they heard a gasp.
"Rainbow, darling, your cheek!" Everyone turned to Rainbow and it was true. Rainbow's right cheek had a large deep gash from the Manticores claws.
"It's fine!" Rainbow said but it clearly hurt to speak.
"You need stitches! Hang on, darling!" Rarity quickly threw her handbag, yes she brought her handbag, down on the ground and started throwing out her possessions in urgency. After a while Rarity pulled out a medical kit and some blue thread.
"Ah! Here we are! Now, come down here Rainbow and hold still." Rainbow did as she was told and Rarity started to stitch up the claw wounds. Twilight noticed how much love and care she put into each sew and it made her smile. Perhaps she had taken these ponies the wrong way. Rainbow has risked everything to help and never gave up and Rarity gave up her precious sewing thread to heal Rainbow Dash's injury. Applejack's honesty and bravery had saved her when she almost fell off the cliff and Fluttershy's gentleness and kindness had saved them from the Manticore. These ponies were loyal, kind, honest and generous. Maybe they weren't all that bad.
"All done!" Rarity exclaimed and it was clear she had done a fantastic job. The wound was barely visible, especially since she had used blue thread to match Rainbow's skin. However, Rainbow wasn't all that happy. She brushed off the glitter and sequins off her face.
"Rarity?" she whined
"did you have to cover me with all this stuff to?"
"sorry Rainbow Dash. Old habits die hard as they say" Rarity said giggling a little. Then her face went pale
"my bag!" she turned around to see all her belongings spread all over the muddy forest floor and she promptly fainted. Twilight wondered why she hadn't fainted before from Rainbow's wound if she was that sensitive and how she hadn't noticed until now what she had done to her bag. Nevertheless, she didn't think about it too much. There were more pressing problems to worry about. Nightmare Moon.
Applejack chucked Rarity onto her back with a hefty "Gosh darn it, Rarity!" and they continued onward.
They all strolled along on their way. Pinkie seemed to be feeling happy as she bounced ahead but everypony else was feeling rather worn out, especially Rarity. She was barely even conscious! Rarity although awake was still a little faint but she played it out like she was suffering with a few mighty whines and "ooooooh" and "aaaaaah"s. Everypony knew she just wanted the attention and didn't wish to walk on her own four hooves and they were getting pretty fed up of it.
Pinkie looked back and frowned for a second before then perking up again "let's sing a song! That'll make everybody happy! Sing along everybody!"
"no sugar, please" Applejack sighed. Just at that moment Fluttershy yelped. They all turned to see what was wrong and soon they noticed she was staring at a tree.
"woah creepy" Rainbow said as she looked at it
"It looks like a face" Twilight remarked curiously.
"Err...girls" Applejack said as she looked around and it soon became clear not just this tree had a face but every one around them. There was a scream and Twilight ran away as a tree tried to grab her.
"These tree's aren't just expressive. They are alive!" Twilight yelled and everybody gasped in horror. Everybody that is except Pinkie who was laughing uncontrollably at one of the faces.
"This isn't funny Pinkie!" Rainbow exclaimed with more surprise than anger.
"Oh, Rainbow" Pinkie said patronisingly like she were talking to a little filly who was scared of their own shadow
"Don't you see?"
Then everypony could swear they could hear music as Pinkie began to shake her flank in a joyful dance. "When I was a little filly and the sun was going dooooooo-oo-oo-oown" she started to sing
"tell me she's not" Twilight said in half shock and half anguish.
"The darkness and the shadows. They would always make me frow-oo-ow-own" Pinkie sang
"she is" Rarity said.
"I'd hid under my pillow from what I thought I saw" Pinkie danced around bouncing circles around the ponies
"but Granny Pie said that wasn't the way to deal with fears at aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall. She said 'Pinkie you gotta stand up tall. Learn to face your fears. You'll see that they can't hurt you. You just laugh and you'll make them all disappear'"
Then Pinkie calmly stood in front of one of the trees and laughed in its face. The tree's face then promptly faded away to everybodies surprise. Pinkie then continued to sing while pushing the ponies towards the trees to laugh at them. Every pony tried to laugh and with their combined efforts all the trees remained trees as they once were. Twilight was unsure whether anything had been wrong with the trees in the first place as it was clear they were under a lot of stress. However, after a bunch of laughing they all lay there for a while and they all calmed down. It was strange. Twilight would never have thought Pinkie of all ponies would have been of any use in their situation but apparently she was and Twilight wasn't even sure how she did it! Twilight wondered whether maybe Pinkie wasn't as foolish as she first seemed.
Nevertheless, they had to press onward. However, it seemed the castle was just on the horizon. They were all happy to see the end of their long and perilous journey ahead of them so they all ran with excitement towards the large castle doors. When they entered, they all looked around in amazement.
Twilight looked up at the structure in front of her "The Elements of Harmony. We found them!" she announced happily. Twilight looked carefully at the book about the Elements she had brought with her and instructed the flying ponies to take the circular stones of the structure down in front of her. Twilight reminded Rainbow several times to be careful.
"yes, yes, I know!" Rainbow retorted with slight irritation.
"There is only five. Where is the sixth?" Applejack asked.
Twilight responded while kneeling down to get a closer look at the Elements "The book says, when the five are present, a spark will cause the sixth Element to be revealed."
"I thought you said the sixth element was a complete mystery" Rainbow said in confusion and accusation.
"I didn't have time to read it properly. I made assumptions, OK!" Twilight responded with more than a little irritation.
"A spark will cause the sixth Element to appear? What in the hay is that supposed to mean?" Applejack asked.
"I'm not sure but I have an idea" Twilight said in earnest.
"Stand back. I don't know what will happen" Twilight said as she closed her eyes. Twilight sat there quietly with clear concentration on her face and a light glowed around her horn.
"C'mon now ya'll. She needs to concentrate" said Applejack, leading everybody out of the room.
But before they could get far a blue mist snuck by and grabbed the elements in a whirling tornado right under Twilight's nose. She yelped in surprise and the others quickly came in to see what was going on. They tried to grab the elements but the magic mist made the Elements and Twilight disappear in a flash. The pony friends rushed around in horror.
"Twilight? Where are you?" Applejack yelled with fear.
"Look!" Rarity had spotted a light emitting from another room in the castle. It was on the top of a castle tower next door to the room they were in. They all rushed as fast as they could to catch up to her.
Twilight coughed from the mist and as it cleared Nightmare Moon became visible laughing with pride in front of her. Twilight tried her best to stop her and stampeded towards her with her horn lit with magic.
"you're kidding, right?" Nightmare Moon said insultingly.
Twilight continued to run at her so Nightmare Moon decided to meet her head on. However, Twilight had a trick up her sleeve. Instead of using her magic to attack Nightmare Moon, she used it to teleport away from her and to the Elements which were waiting behind Nightmare Moon. Nightmare Moon quickly used her magic mist to dash straight into Twilight but it was too late. Twilight had already just managed the spark spell.
Nightmare Moon yelled in horror "no, NO!" but then the light and the spark disappeared. Nothing happened.
Twilight shouted in despair "NO! But where is the sixth Element?!" Nightmare Moon crushed the Elements with her magic to Twilight's horror.
"You stupid little fool! Thinking you could defeat ME! Now you will never see your precious princess or sun. The night will last forever!" The room was filled with maniacal laughter that echoed around the old stone walls of the castle as Nightmare Moon gathered her magic mist and sent it swirling towards the sky.
Twilight heard her friends shouting and galloping up the stone stairs towards her. She remembered what they had done for her. And then. She realised. "Of course! How could I not see it!?" She yelled to herself.
Twilight turned towards Nightmare Moon triumphantly "You think you can destroy the Elements of Harmony just like that?! Well you're wrong! Because the spirits of the Elements of Harmony are right here!" Twilight yelled with pride. She felt such power unlike never before and it felt great. To finally know the solution. To finally understand. She felt enlightened. As she said these words the broken pieces of the stone Elements of Harmony statue raised in the air with a powerful magic.
Twilight began to explain "Applejack. When you reassured me of my safety at the cliff. I knew you weren't in any way lying to me. Although, there was no way of me really knowing Rainbow and Fluttershy were behind me and ready to catch me. But I trusted you and I was right to do so. You represent the Element of Honesty!" At that moment Applejack levitated in the air and a necklace of pure gold appeared around her neck. It had an orange crystal in the shape of an apple in the middle as the centre piece to its grand design.
Twilight turned to Fluttershy "Fluttershy. When you showed understanding to that Manticore even despite it's vicious attacks, you showed just how much you cared for all living things. You represent the Element of Kindness!" Fluttershy began to levitate off the ground without the use of her wings as a powerful magic enveloped her. A golden necklace of royal design appeared around her neck with a pink butterfly crystal as its defining feature.
Twilight turned to Pinkie "Pinkie Pie. Who banished fear with her love for joy and happiness. Represents the Element of Laughter!" Pinkie was lifted up into the air and was slightly disappointed by the fact she couldn't jump anymore. A golden crest appeared on her neck with a crystal balloon as its main feature.
Twilight turned to Rarity "Rarity, who showed her compassion and love for her friends when she gave up her precious thread and dropped her inhibitions to help Rainbow in her time of need. Represents the Element of Generosity!" Rarity was pleased her own crest was fabulous enough for her taste as it appeared on her neck with a blue diamond shaped crystal as its defining feature.
Twilight turned to her final friend "and Rainbow Dash. Who could not give up and abandon her friends even for her own safety. Represents the Element of Loyalty!" Rainbow let the magical power envelop her with pride as she heard of her heroic deeds. Another golden crest appeared on Rainbows neck and it showed a yellow crystal of a lightning bolt as it's defining centre piece.
"These five ponies have helped me get through every challenge you threw at us!" Twilight said with confidence and pride.
"But you still don't have the sixth Element! The spark didn't work!" Nightmare Moon tried to reassure herself but Twilight wasn't done.
"But it did! A different kind of spark! I felt it the moment I saw my friends coming to my rescue and how happy I was to hear you coming for me. To know how much you cared to come all this way for me and still chase me when I disappeared from sight. And to know how I cared about you too. The spark was inside me! When I realised you all are my friends!" Twilight said with tears in her eyes.
And at that moment, a light appeared above them and the sixth Element emerged from the light. It floated towards Twilight in expectance of what was to come. "You see Nightmare Moon. When those Elements are ignited by the spark that resides in the heart of us all, it creates the sixth Element of Harmony. The Element of MAGIC!"
However, Twilight's crest didn't appear and for a minute Twilight stood, confident something was going to happen but nothing did. Nightmare Moon was about to laugh again when somebody's hoof steps were heard from behind. Everybody turned to see who it was. Who could it possibly be? Lots of huffing and panting could be heard as a thin figure of a brown pegasus pony appeared on top of the stairs.
"wait a minute!" she said out of breath and then fell down on the stone floor.
"Floppy?! What are you doing here?!" Applejack and Twilight yelled simultaneously.
Applejack looked at Twilight "you know her?" she said in confusion.
"YOU know her?" yelled Rainbow Dash to Applejack.
Applejack blushed and hung her head in shame, trying not to look at anybody. "yes, I do" Applejack admitted.
"We warned you about letting in stray animals Applejack but we never thought you would hide an entire pony!" Rarity said in surprise.
"I know. I'm sorry. I'm the Element of Honesty but I was dishonest to ya'll. I wanted to protect her. She looked so...so..."
"needy? Young?" Twilight finished her sentence.
"I know what you mean. I had a talk with her at the welcome party after she came into my room. I felt it too. She is defenceless but has a lot of character."
"That is exactly my point!" Floppy yelled now she had finally caught her breath.
"There is something you are missing here!" Floppy yelled to them as she slowly came closer.
"what?" Twilight said in confusion, completely baffled as to what this strange pony who had no involvement in all of this could even mean or know about all this.
"Friendship isn't just about all the honesty and kindness and all that jargon. That's what annoys me about everybody. Nobody thinks about anything other than those things but there is more to it!"
"then what is it?" Rarity said.
"hurry up and spit it out!" Rainbow yelled in earnest.
Floppy took a deep breath. "Personality!"
"Personality?" everyone seemed to remark at the same time.
"What does that have to do with anything?" Rainbow yelled impatiently.
"let the girl speak Rainbow" Applejack said and Rainbow sighed with frustration.
Floppy continued "Personality is a defining part of everybody. It is what makes us unique! And...not everybody makes friends with everybody else. Why? Because we are all different. We have different personalities! Personalities make us who we are and who we are makes us who we are friends with and determines whether we have honesty and kindness and generosity and even magic. So...what I am saying is...isn't personality also important for friendship? Even more than everything else?" With that a spark ignited in Floppy's chest and another golden necklace appeared around her neck with a symbol of a heart of crystal with all the colours of the rainbow. The colour seemed to change depending on the angle you looked at it.
"Floppy! Your flank!" Applejack pointed at her thigh and sure enough a heart of all the colours of the rainbow faded into place. Her cutie mark. It seemed she had found her purpose.
Floppy was so flabbergasted her lips quivered as her mouth gaped in surprise. She had no idea what to say so she just froze on the spot and stared. But before Floppy could fully take in what had happened, Twilight saw Nightmare Moon move and quickly remembered their task.
"Everybody gather round. It's time to put an end to Nightmare Moon's reign!" Twilight said with pride and confidence.
Everybody slowly walked closer to her and Twilight delved deep into her soul with a deep breath. The crystal on the necklaces shone and glowed paths between each other, linking them like a daisy chain. Then, as if her soul came to speak out and vanquish the evil, a bright light flew with an overwhelming force out of her horn with all the colours of the rainbow. The light overwhelmed Nightmare Moon as she screamed in terror. Then to everybody's surprise, a rather young mare with a deep blue body and a mane as beautiful as the night sky became clear in her place as the light cleared the scene.
"Luna!" they all turned around to where the voice had come from. It was none other than Celestia herself, running towards the little filly with a sense of urgency and her eyes were moist with tears. When Celestia neared, the young mare also ran towards her. When they collided they tightly embraced each other in the most desperate and loving way.
"Oh my sister! Oh how I missed you!" Luna said, her voice shaky as tears streamed down her face. Celestia's eyes were wet but they didn't drop a tear and she gently pulled herself away. Celestia turned to Twilight and her friends and a rather sweet smile spread across her face. Twilight smiled in response as well as several other ponies. Celestia slowly stepped towards them and held herself gracefully as she spoke.
"Well done Twilight. I knew I could trust my most loyal student. Thank you to all of you for bringing my younger sister back unto me." Twilight just beamed with joy at being praised from her most admired idol and bowed.
"It is my duty to serve you my Princess" Twilight said while trying to sound as respectful as possible. She was in the presence of a god after all.
However, Rainbow Dash wasn't so good at understanding when not to speak and so she said what was on her mind. "Nightmare Moon is your SISTER?!" she cried in shock.
"Rainbow!" Several ponies shouted simultaneously.
"Don't worry Twilight, Applejack, Rarity. It is quite alright. It is a reasonable question after all" Celestia said with a smile.
Celestia went on to explain what happened all those years ago. Of how she had imprisoned her sister after grief had encompassed her and she had become Nightmare Moon. Locking her within the moon until 1000 years later where she would rise again as she did. Twilight soon realised that maybe she had planned this all along and that was why she was sent to Ponyville and why she had ignored her letter when it was so unusually out of character to disregard her knowledge so quickly. A brown pegasus now dawned with a new cutie mark, ushered away on her own down the stone stairs back to the barn. No-one noticed her slip away quietly as she had done several times today. She didn't feel like she should be needed and didn't want a lot of fuss so she just left them to it. She wanted a good night's sleep anyway. Today had been way too much excitement than she was used to.
The other ponies talked with Celestia for a while and continued to talk and ask questions while walking down the stairs a while later. When they left the castle they were a little startled by the bright sunlight above them and they shielded their eyes from its light. Celestia chuckled slightly and continued to call her chariot. The ponies all left through the forest together. It was a lot less scary in the bright day light and they easily made it home without any problems. They all said their goodbyes and split up from each other after coming out the other end of the forest near Ponyville.
Twilight wandered off to her new house in the library. She gave a deep breath and wandered in as Spike leaped to her aid asking many questions about where she had been. Pinkie Pie bounced away to her little gingerbread shop and her home Sugarcube Corner. Rainbow zoomed into the sky towards her house in Cloudsdale for a good chillax session on her bed. Rarity remembered a bunch of dresses and designs she needed to sort out before the day was done and rushed off to her Boutique with a light elegant but quick trot.
All of the ponies, with all the fuss, had all but forgotten about Floppy. Applejack made her way towards her home at Sweet Apple Acres before the sight of the barn made her remember she was missing something. However, Applejack had enough sense to check the barn in front of her first. Applejack had needn't worry as Floppy was fast asleep on a pile of hay in the barn, safe and sound.
Applejack closed the barn door and whispered "Goodnight my little miracle" before closing the barn door.
Applejack was about to enter the house through the door when she suddenly stopped in her tracks. She stood for a moment in thought and then turned and trotted around the back of the house. There sitting under the shade of a large oak tree was a grey headstone. Etched onto the spotted pattern of the stone and moss was the message 'Winona. A beloved friend and the best companion a pony could ever have'. Applejack sat in front of the grave quietly for a while before then gently laying her hat on the soil in front of her. She then stood up and waited a few more minutes before then wandering off home to talk with her family about the amazing day she had