"I'm telling you, Princess Celestia herself told me this!"

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle stared at their orange pegasus friend in disbelief. The three friends were gathered in their clubhouse on Sweet Apple Acres that afternoon. School was out for the summer, and it was a beautiful day. Scootaloo had decided that she and her friends were going to get their cutie marks before school restarted, by hook or by crook, and had been pushing them into trying new activities every day.

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom didn't mind this too much, usually the things that Scootaloo found for them to do were actually quite fun. But the last week they had noticed their friend was beginning to get a bit... unbalanced? Over exuberant? Out and out loopy? They had done their best to reign her in, but it seemed that they would have to be a bit more overt in their efforts.

"Now, I ain't gonna say that you're lying," Apple Bloom said in her southern drawl, "but I do find it hard to believe that Princess Celestia herself came all the way over from Canterlot just to talk to you."

Scootaloo blinked, and then fell over laughing. "Ha ha! No, she didn't come see me face to face. She talked to me in my dreams, silly!"

"In your... dreams?" Sweetie Belle softly asked as she started to slowly edge her way towards the door to the clubhouse.

"That's right! Last night, she appeared before me, a giant radiant beacon of awesomeness! She promised me that if I did as she asked that I, and anypony who worked with me, would be guaranteed to get a cutie mark!" She regained her footing, and looked upwards, a gleam in her eyes. "She told me, that with Princess Luna returned from the moon, now was the time to usher in a brand new Age of Friendship! That I was to gather others, and go forth, find those who were unfriendly, and make them see the error of their ways!"

"Isn't everypony already really friendly?" asked Sweetie Belle.

"Around here, sure! But there are a few who aren't! Remember when that braggart Trixie came to town? She's the type of pony that Princess Celestia wants us to go and convert!"

"So what are ya planning on doing then?" Apple Bloom asked, voice filled with doubt.

"Well, it isn't like we have anything else to do, so we'll gather up some supplies, figure out where Trixie is, and then go and do as Princess Celestia commands!" Scootaloo's voice was filled a fervor that her friends couldn't recall hearing before. It went past even the hero worship that she showed for Rainbow Dash. "I mean," she asked, giving her two friends a dangerous look, "you wouldn't want to disappoint Princess Celestia, would you?"

"Oh no, not at all!" her friends quickly replied while giving each other nervous looks.

"Okay then! Tomorrow we'll go gather some supplies and try to find out where Trixie went, and once we get that all done, we can go forth and do Celestia's will!" Humming happily to herself, Scootaloo skipped out the door. "We'll meet here tomorrow right after breakfast!" she called out as she pranced away, oblivious to the uneasy looks from her friends.

"Look," Apple Bloom said to Sweetie Belle, "we'll talk to our sisters. Once Applejack or Rarity hears what she wants us to do, they'll step up and tell her how silly she's being. At the least, they'll say we can't go, and then that will be the end of that."

Sweetie Belle nodded. "You're right! I'll go tell Rarity about this right away."

"And I'll go tell Applejack. We'll be free of this crazy idea of Scootaloo's before we even fall asleep!" Feeling better about their situation, the two fillies headed out towards their homes.

Rarity looked around her in a state of stress. She had spent all day working on the order from Canterlot, and she was barely halfway done with it! Thankfully, she still had tomorrow and the day after to finish it up, but there was still a lot of work to accomplish before she could call the task complete.

Her attention was pulled from her work as the door to her boutique opened. "Oh, hello Sweetie Belle! What brings you by today?" she said to her younger sister with only half a mind. The rest of her attention was focused on packaging the dresses she had already finished, folding each one perfectly in mid air before lowering them down into ribboned boxes.

"Hello Rarity. I just wanted to see how my big sister was doing." she said with a smile.

Rarity gave Sweetie Belle a warm smile. "That's so kind of you, darling. It's been work, work, work all day long sadly. Tomorrow will probably be the same too. Oh, but listen to me, carrying on. How are you doing?"

"Oh, pretty good." she replied nervously. "It's just that Scootaloo has this crazy idea, and it's very likely to take up a day, if not several..."

"Say no more!" Rarity cut her off, a smile on her face. "Ah, I remember summer days like these when I was your age. The whole world before us, and no worries or responsibilities. Ah, such grand times they were." Rarity seemed to be staring off, not at another place, but instead to another time.

"Well," Sweetie Belle started again, hoping to get her point across, "me and Apple Bloom are worried about it, and so we were hoping..."

"That I would let you go with her? Of course!" Rarity exclaimed. "I know that you don't want to be couped up in here with me, that would be a disaster waiting to happen! My nerves are getting frayed thinner than some of the cloth I'm using, to be honest. So, you girls go and have yourselves a good time, okay?" Rarity gave her younger sister a big smile, and then returned to her work of cleaning up her shop.

Sweetie Belle stood there, mouth hanging open, and then sighed. She knew that, whenever Rarity got 'in the zone', it was hard to get through to her. Leaving the shop, she sighed again and softly said to herself, "I hope Apple Bloom has better luck!"

"Why, of course you're free to go!" Applejack said to her younger sister.

"But, but..." Apple Bloom looked around wildly, trying to think of anything to help change her sister's mind. "We could be gone for days!"

"Well, shoot," Applejack said, "I think I was right around your age when I headed off to Manehattan, all by myself! Isn't that right, Big MacIntosh?"


"And you're trying to find your cutie mark, right? Well that's how I got mine, at the end of that journey, so of course you can go! Besides, there isn't that much work to do around the farm right now, me and our brother here can handle it just fine. So, you go and have yourself an adventure, you hear?"

Apple Bloom watched as her older siblings walked out of the room, able to only stand there, softly saying, "But... but..." over and over. She tried to figure out not only what had gone wrong, but also when she had apparently become the only sane pony in the family. Finally, she hung her head in defeat, and whispered, "I sure do hope Sweetie Belle comes through."

The next morning found Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle staring sadly at each other in the clubhouse as Scootaloo gave out orders. "Okay, we're going to need some saddlebags to carry our food and water in. Apple Bloom, you should be able to get some grub for us from the farm, right?"

"Well, I think my sister might frown on me just taking stuff..." Apple Bloom said, but trailed off when Scootaloo gave her a long, hard look.

"You know what I think?" Scootaloo said in an intense voice. "I think you don't want to do this!"

"No, no, I do! I swear!"

Scootaloo suddenly smiled. "I knew I could count on you!" She then turned to face Sweetie Belle so suddenly it caused to filly unicorn to step a nervous step backwards. "Rarity should have some extra saddlebags laying around, right?"

"Y-yes, I think so." Sweetie Belle stammered out.

"Okay then! You grab those, and I'll go gather information about where Trixie was last seen at." Her intensity swiftly returned. "And then, we can go forth in Princess Celestia's name and spread the good word of friendship!" she proclaimed zealously. Putting hoof to word, she then trotted out of the clubhouse and headed towards Ponyville.

"I can't believe that Applejack actually approves of us doing this!" Apple Bloom exclaimed once Scootaloo was far enough away to not hear her.

Sweetie Belle gave her a sad smile. "And Rarity was so distracted by her work, I don't think she was even fully aware of what I trying to say. Well, our best bet now is that Scootaloo won't be able to find out where Trixie went."

Scootaloo stuck her head back into the clubhouse. "Okay, pick it up you two! And get enough supplies to get us to Hoofington and back!"

"Wha... how..." Apple Bloom stammered.

"Rainbow Dash was flying by, so I called out and asked if she knew. She said the last anypony had seen of her, she had been running down the road leading to Hoofington! C'mon Sweetie Belle, I'll go with you and help you get those saddle bags."

Apple Bloom watched as Sweetie Belle was dragged off, and resisted the urge to start crying or bang her head against the walls of the clubhouse. Instead, she settled for just another sigh in what felt like a long string of them, and slowly made her way to the farmhouse. "Knowing my luck, sis already has a whole bunch of meals already boxed up for us." she muttered resignedly.

"Hello, darlings! Sorry, but I'm awfully busy right now, I don't have any time to spare for you." Rarity called out as Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle entered the Carousel Boutique.

"That's all right, Rarity!" Scootaloo replied. "We're just here to grab a couple of saddlebags to help us carry out our sacred mission that was handed down by Princess Celestia!"

"That's nice dear, go right ahead." Rarity said, her attention tightly focused on the stitch she was working on.

Sweetie Belle whimpered at it all as Scootaloo headed into the storage area, dragging her along. In the back, Scootaloo quickly found what she was looking for, a trio of saddlebags all tucked into a corner. She was about to march on back to Sweet Apple Acres when she saw something out of the corner of her eye. In the trash pile, among the pile of discarded scraps of fabric and other refuse, she spied some seemingly decent pieces of fabric.

Her curiosity engaged, Scootaloo pulled one out. "Oh!" Sweetie Belle said, also distracted from her predicament by the sudden discovery, "I know what those are! Rarity was trying to make some tablecloths for one of the restaurants here in town, but her first attempt came out wrong. They gave her incorrect measurements for the tables, and these were way too small." The table covers were gray with red lines and crosses patterned across them.

Scootaloo stood staring at them, and then dug through the trash pile until she found two more. "These are perfect!" she cried out. "Truly, Princess Celestia is helping us, guiding us to success and cutie marks for following her decree!"

Sweetie Belle blinked. "Huh?"

""Here, put these into my saddlebags, and grab a pair of scissors. We'll take them back to the clubhouse, and I'll show you there!"

Half an hour later, with the help of her friends, Scootaloo had managed to make the tablecloths into a set of crude cloaks. "Just like our capes, but even better!" she proclaimed. "These vestments will show to all of Equestria just how serious we are in our passion to spread friendship to everypony!"

Apple Bloom looked at the one had had been draped over her. "I can't believe I'm about to say this, but it does have a certain kind of appeal to it." She looked over to Sweetie Belle, who was making a few alterations to her cloak. "What'cha doing?"

Instead of answering, Sweetie Belle made one last cut in the cloth of her cloak, and then demonstrated that she had fashioned a hood by pulling it over her head. Scootaloo's eyes widened in amazement. "That's awesome!" she gushed. "It gives you that edge that you didn't have before, no offense." Scootaloo looked around. "Okay, we have our food all packed, we have our Cutie Mark Crusader cloaks all finished, let's head off to Hoofington!"

Letting Scootaloo lead the way, Apple Bloom fell back next to Sweetie Belle and quietly asked, "A hood? Why?"

Her blush mostly hidden by her hood, the young unicorn replied, "Hopefully it will make it harder for other ponies to recognize me." She glared at Apple Bloom's chuckle, and then sighed. "Yeah, I know, it isn't like they won't know who I am just by seeing who I'm with. But still..."

"C'mon, you two!" Scootaloo called out from ahead of them. "Now is not the time to drag our hooves! Celestia is watching us! We must show her how eager we are to work in her name, so that we can get our cutie marks!"

The other two fillies picked up the pace, resigned to their fate. Sweetie Belle was relieved to see that the shortest route to the road to Hoofington involved in cutting across a couple of farms, and avoided Ponyville proper. After around ten minutes of fence hopping and walking between rows of crops, the three fillies found themselves on the route they were looking for. Scootaloo asked Sweetie Belle to sing a marching song, but the unicorn demurred, saying she wanted to save it for later.

A short while later, the trio came across a pile of broken wood, with a few bits of fabric, faded by the elements, hanging limply from it. Stars and moons decorated some pieces of the wood, although they were badly scratched. "Hey," exclaimed Apple Bloom, "I know what that is! That's where they had Big MacIntosh and a couple other stallions drag Trixie's wagon after it had gotten wrecked by that giant Ursa Minor!"

Scootaloo paused, studying the wreckage. "Of course! This must be another sign from Princess Celestia! We are to search this, and see if we can find any clues that might help us convert Trixie to the ways of friendship!" she cried out. She trotted over to the pile of wooden rubble. "Look! I bet nopony has even looked inside of here yet! It's still locked, but it looks so rusty, I bet we could pry it open if we work together... for FRIENDSHIP!"

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle trotted on over and saw that Scootaloo was correct. While latched shut with a simple lock, the once silver deterrent to theft had turned an ugly reddish brown from being forced to sit out in the weather for too long. Scootaloo grabbed a hold of the door handle, and her friends got behind her and made a chain, Sweetie Belle holding onto Scootaloo while Apple Bloom held onto the unicorn. As a unit they all pulled together, and after a brief moment of resistance, the lock gave way with a loud snap, sending them tumbling backwards into a pile as the door slowly swung open.

Picking themselves up and dusting off their cloaks, they peered inside. The sunlight barely penetrated inside the mangled wagon, but it did reveal a lantern lying on the tilted floor. Scootaloo looked around fervently, and finding some promising looking rocks, tried to get a spark to light the lamp. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle patiently watched, and after a few minutes were about to try searching inside without the light source when Scootaloo hollered in triumph.

"See, see?" Scootaloo cried out, the lantern standing in front of her, dimly shining. "Yet ANOTHER sign that Princess Celestia approves of my actions! We'll earn our cutie marks for sure!" Her friends took a step back when Scootaloo started to laugh a little too loudly for their comfort. She then reached down, and grabbed the lantern's handle with her teeth and headed into the wagon. Curiosity overcoming them, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom followed in behind.

The flickering light gave the wagon interior a haunted feeling to it. While many parts had been ruined by the gigantic ursine, they were amazed by the wealth of trinkets that were still scattered everywhere. In earnest, they picked up and stuffed into their saddlebags numerous props. Crystal balls, half of a tarot deck had had been spilled onto the floor, a wand made from smooth, black wood, and other arcane implements were quickly seized. Soon, their saddlebags had been filled up, bulging from all the recovered loot.

"So," Apple Bloom said as they gave one last look around through the wagon, "what are we going to do with all of this stuff? Give it back to Trixie, see if we can't win her over that way?"

Scootaloo scoffed. "Of course not! All this magical stuff is what probably led her away from the true path of friendship to begin with. If we gave it back to her, it would only lead her farther away from the light that is Princes Celestia. Maybe we can sell it down the road, use the bits we get from that to help keep our supplies full."

"Imagine!" Scootaloo continued, using sweeping motions with her legs and hooves to accentuate her words. "We could become true missionaries of the word of friendship, going from town to town, converting the unfriendly! And then we'll get the greatest cutie marks ever! And then..." she trailed off as she accidentally knocked over the lantern, spilling oil across the floor, which then quickly caught ablaze. "Ack! Abandon wagon! Run Away!"

The three friends darted outside, still carrying their full saddlebags. They watched as the flames quickly consumed the abandoned wagon, and then started to spread to some of the plants nearby. Watching in horror, they backed away, unsure of what, if anything they could do to keep the fire from spreading.

Apple Bloom gave Scootaloo a wry look. "So, tell me, is this part of Princess Celestia's plan too?"

"I don't think Princess Celestia would be happy to hear that this fire was started in her name." Sweetie Belle chimed in.

Scootaloo, looked around in panic, hoping to find a conveniently placed bucket and lake, but none were to be had. Finally, she slumped her head in defeat. "You're right! If word gets out that I did this, I, I can't even think of what she may do to me!" She looked up in horror. "You don't think she'd make it so I never get my cutie mark, do you?"

Apple Bloom grinned. "I don't think you have to worry about that. C'mon, lets go back to the clubhouse and take a closer look at what we found. It may not be as exciting as going on a journey..." She looked at the slowly growing forest fire apprehensively. "But I reckon it will be whole lot safer too."

Scootaloo glumly nodded, and then lifted up her cloak briefly to inspect her flank. With a sigh, she let it drop back down. "Aww, and still no cutie mark! I'd even take one for accidentally setting stuff on fire right now." she grumbled.

Apple Bloom led the way back towards Sweet Apple Acres, feeling pretty good about not having to send several more days walking away from home. Sweetie Belle followed right behind, her massive smile showing through her hood. She was even happier that she wasn't going to be forced to follow Scootaloo any further down the road to Hoofington. Last in line, even Scootaloo managed a small smile. "Well, at least we didn't end up covered in tree sap and pine needles today." she said, doing her best to ignore the conflagration behind her. "Hey, maybe we'll get cutie marks for looting stuff..."

Author's Notes

This little piece of silliness was inspired by the Equestria Daily blog's friend-off challenge. Writers are encouraged to find a piece of fan art and write a story based on the image, and vice-versa for the artists. My tale was inspired by the wonderful drawing made by ponysponsz, and can be found on his deviant art page here:

ponysponsz (dot) deviantart (dot) com/art/Crusadin-209005283

Also, many thanks again go out to my pre-reader Heatwave. If you're looking for something else to read, give his story 'Treasure Trove' a try. You won't be sorry!