Twilight Sparkle was on the verge of panicking. She'd known the risks she had taken to bring her friends back to life were extraordinarily high. The addition of Sweetie Belle, Applebloom, and Scootaloo into the equation made matters even worse. Panicking now, the lavender unicorn scampered around the library.
"Ooooooh, if only Spike were here. He'd know where that book is." Frantically, she bolted around the library using her magic to sift through piles of books. Unable to find it, she sat down a dejected look on her face. "Where is that copy of Equestrian Mages Guide to Arcane Circles and Mystic Trapezoids?"
Twilight wanted to locate that book to see if there were something about what she had done that might have caused the Princesses to shut off contact so suddenly with her. Shortly after Twilight had resurrected her friends Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, Princess Luna had visited Sweet Apple Acres to find out about a towering beam of light piercing the night sky.
According to the Princess as she had closed with the light, Luna had sensed a massive amount of magic being redirected towards a location away from the forest. From there it had been rather simple for the Princess to follow the arch of light was being channeled towards the barn. She had arrived shortly after the light disappeared, to find a bunch of very dazed and familiar ponies.
It had been after hearing the story of what happened from Twilight, with some aid in her narration from the Cutie Mark Crusaders who had finally gotten used to their newly changed bodies. Luna had excused herself saying that she would commune with her sister and they'd contact Twilight afterwards. After that all contact with the Princesses suddenly stopped.
Every single letter she sent via mail pony had been returned with the seals intact. The unicorn had even gone as far as to accost the mail pony, Ditzy Doo, about her letters. The mail pony had insisted that the letters had been personally delivered to the castle herself. Then she ended the conversation by stuffing another batch of unopened letters into Twilight's mouth and flying off. Twilight had then just consigned herself to wait.
In the mean time, five other ponies were enjoying themselves like they never had before.
One could hardly tell Pinkie Pie, the famous party pony of Ponyville, who had barely possessed the will to live a few days before from the merry mare who had practically thrown a party a day since her friend's unexpected resurrection. This had gone for almost a week until the Cakes told her to tone it down on the parties, citing party burn out for many ponies. She reluctantly agreed and before the pink pony knew it, she was whisked away by her family to undertake intensive psychiatric therapy, promising to have her back before long so she could throw a family reunion party.
Several miles away, another party amazingly enough, not headed by a certain pink pony, was well underway. This time it was the Apple family, celebrating Applejack's return from the dead. Eventually several barrels of their famous apple cider were rolled out and opened. There was plenty to go around and soon everpony had a mug of the delectable cider.
Holding a mug of cider up in the air to quiet the crowd, the orange earth pony hooked her free forehoof around her sister's neck and drew her close.
"Words can't say how happy I am to see all of my family again. However I want to propose a toast to Applebloom, my not so little sister anymore, who didn't let death itself get in the way of family."
The pale yellow filly gave an awkward smile, blushing furiously, as her entire family raised their mugs in her direction and shouted, "To Applebloom!"
Seeing her sister's discomfort at so much attention, Applejack spoke up again.
"Alright, now let the real party begin!"
With that the music started up and the festivities resumed.
Up in Cloudsdale, one group of ponies were partying for a different reason. It was the elite flying and stunt team, the Wonderbolts. They were partying to commemorate an old friend coming back to the team in their head quarters near the coliseum, the beat of the music and joyous cries bleeding out into the night air.
Many of them were happy to see Rapidfire rejoining the team after having to leave for reasons relating to family. However a pall still hung over the joyous atmosphere. Rapidfire himself couldn't help but feel a little uneasy. One pony took notice of this.
"Hey, Rapidfire, what's up?" The stallion's head jerk up. Behind him was a very familiar face. Spitfire the Captain of the Wonderbolts was watching him as she leaned against the wall near the snack tables.
"You look pretty down for a pony that just got re-accepted into the Wonderbolts. Mind telling me what's got you so down?" Spitfire could easily guess what the reason was, but the flame maned mare wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth so to speak.
The stallion looked a bit nervous, though Spitfire couldn't if it was nerves or discomfort. As part of the hazing ritual every Wonderbolt had gone through in recent years was forced to wear a Wonderbolt suit a size too small for their initiation party. The reason being they had to get used to the suit practically being a second coat. Rapidfire had already done this, but in the spirit of the mood, had donned a flight suit that the mare thought would have been tight on her much less the larger stallion.
"I guess I feel like I lucked out. Like I got in more by luck than actual skill. And-..Oh by Celestia's teats, this suit is riding up! I'm gonna need a pair of pliers just to get this thing of my balls!"
Roughly that time a heavy thud came on the door. Still snickering at Rapidfire's discomfort, the gold mare trotted up to the door. Considering the noise level of the party, she thought it was likely a Royal Guard sent to tell them to quiet down.
Spitfire stopped with her hoof on the door. "Ok, everypony settle down for moment while I get this." Her authoritative voice cut through the clamor of the party. In an instant her co-fliers were silent, each trying to look the pinnacle of innocence for. All eyes on her, Spitfire opened the door.
"Hello, what can I do for-AHHHHHHHHH!"
The mare's knees collapsed in shock of the horrible sight in front of her. Floating in through the doorway, a severed head of a pony glared at her. The eyes were covered with goggles shaped to make it look as if the wearer was glaring at her, a sickly pale yellow light emanating from them. The head was covered in a black silky material, not unlike the Wonderbolt flight suit. A familiar rainbow mane finished off the horrid visage. Blood dripping from the severed neck, the head floated towards her.
Throwing off the paralysis, Spitfire backpedaled quickly towards her friends. The ghastly apparition followed, leaving a path of blood as it slowly floated towards them. All the ponies were too frightened to move fear rooting their hooves to the floor. The head finally came to a stop. It's mouth twisted into a frown and the lights suddenly started to darken.
"Ra-Rainbow Dash?" Spitfire gasped, finding her voice. The head rotated downward to give her a cool stare.
"You! It is your fault I died!" The head spat viciously, it's voice echoing in odd manner. "It's because of you foals, that I'm like this!"
"Wha-what do you mean?" It was Soarin who asked this time. The pale blue stallion looked dangerously faint.
"It was your moon-damned death course!" the head raged. "You moon-damned foals knew having that many ponies go at once on a course like that was dangerous and you did it anyway! Well now it's my turn!"
As it spoke the head rose to the ceiling, the pale light in it's eyes flared and increased in brilliance. The Wonderbolts couldn't bring themselves to look away from the horrid light, something compelling them to look into it.
"In a way, I guess I should be thankful." The spectre's voice had calmed a bit but an unmistaken undertone of menace remained in it's voice. "I have been…recruited to a new flight team, the Shadowbolts." The head gave it's captive audience a broad smile that revealed a mouth full of shark-like teeth. "Unfortunatly, we're a bit short, so I'm here to recruit a few of you a bit early."
The head's less than subtle meaning sank into the assemblage of ponies. Without shout, the Wonderbolts, the elite flight team of Equestria broke and tried to run and fly away.
"Ha! It won't do you any good! Darkwing! Sablewind! Begin the harvest!" With a laugh, the head flew after Spitfire who was trying to pry a window open as two shadowed forms bolted through the open door and after the other ponies.
Spitfire cursed under her breath. The window was beyond stuck. As she turned around to buck the stubborn window to pieces, a horrifically familiar sight greeted her. Floating mere inches away was the former Element of Loyalty's head, a smug grin gracing its face. "Miss me?"
Spitfire tried to back away, but ended up running into the windowsill. Behind the head she could see that the twin shadow ponies had rounded up and frozen in place the rest of her team. Spitfire's body almost seemed to fold in on itself. "Do what you want. I don't care any more."
The head laughed. "Ok, in that case I have one final question for you."
"What?" Spitfire mumbled, tears starting to form n her closed eyes.
"Can you sign this for me?"
The Captain of the Wonderbolts automatically took, signed and handed back the autograph book.
The head howled with laughter as it rolled backwards and dropped to the floor. It was only when Spitfire heard the 'whumf' of a body hitting the floor did it hit her.
As the head of Rainbow Dash lay cackling on the floor, the magic hiding her body faded. As it did the goggles reshaped themselves and the flight suit became a vibrant blue. Spitfire realized that the pegasus had been wearing the flight suit the team had posthumously awarded her underneath the illusion.
Now that the prankster was fully revealed, Spitfire's ire at such a joke surged forward only to be met with confusion. It was a cruel joke, but the pony behind it was supposed to be dead right? Decapitation isn't exactly the easiest death to fake.
Ignoring Dash's laughter, she checked on her team. They were all fine, a few like Soaren still looked lost while some of the other members frowned as they started to get the prank that had been played on them.
Still laughing, the cyan mare struggled to her hooves and walked over to the door. "Hey, Luna," She called to the darkness. "We got 'em! Come on in!"
Before Spitfire could ask what was going on, the two shadow ponies merged together in a sparkling dark blue haze, which darted towards the door. Therer it merged with a larger cloud that flowed in from the doorway. The mass of stars convulsed before flowing upward, molding itself into the shape of a pony. Once the transformation was complete, the Wonderbolts kneeled as one before Princess Luna, the Mistress of the Night.
"You may rise." She intoned.
"Princess, may I ask what is going on?" Spitfire had wanted to accost Rainbow Dash on this, but now that Dash's co-conspirator had shown herself, the mare saw it was more than a simple prank.
The Princess gave a mischievous smile before answering. "We came to tell show you that your most recent addition to the team is alive and well again."
"We noticed." Soaren muttered from the rear of the room, followed a soft 'thump' indicating one of his fellow wonderbolts had kicked him.
Spitfire cast a nervous glance at Rapidfire, who looked even more uncomfortable now. "Um, about that. We only have limited spaces on our team."
"I see." Luna answered, her tone neutral. "As I recall Ms. Dash here came in first at the tryouts in every event you threw at her. Does that not mean should be joining your illustrious team?"
Spitfire was practically sweating bullets now. She knew what the princess was playing at. She like Rainbow Dash enough and the pegasus's flying was second only to some of the more experienced members of the Wonderbolts. She wanted to let Rainbow Dash in despite the joke. However the team had already announced Rapidfire's return. Many fans had been ecstatic at his return to the team.
"Perhaps Rainbow Dash can tryout again next year?" She offered weakly.
"Next year." Princess Luna rolled the words around. She looked at Rainbow Dash, who sat by the door, her face unreadable thanks to the flight suit covering her. Turning back around, Luna locked eyes with Spitfire.
"If my sister has anything to say about this in the light of recent events regarding your testing methods, there won't be a next year. Despite the bad press it will undoubtedly get her, Celestia is serious considering disbanding the Wonderbolts. You will be out of a job."
The Wonderbolts were stunned. Spitfire felt as if she'd been belted in the face by a certain white unicorn again.
"What about Rainbow Dash?" She asked. It was a shot in the ark, but Spitfire felt she had to take it.
Rainbow Dash spoke up this time. "Well a few years back, Nightmare moon offered me a position as captain. At the time, I said no, but tonight Princess Luna renewed the offer to bring back her flight team, the Shadowbolts, in the position of captain. The Princess isn't in any extreme hurry to do so, but if I were to say, have nothing else to do thanks to the Wonderbolts being disbanded, I'd probably take her up on that."
Spitfire's mind felt like it was going to fry. She lived for the Wonderbolts, she'd worked her flank off to keep them number one in Equestria for years. She knew their testing methods were a bit dangerous but too disband them because of that? She envied Rainbow Dash's fallback plan. That pony was set either way things went. Rainbow would either be a Wondebolt flier or a Shadowbolt captain.
Then aid came from the oddest sources. Shedding the tiny flight suit, with aid from Fleetfoot, Rapidfire spoke up.
"Spitfire, I'm sorry but something came up. I believe my grandmother's cousin's uncle's daughter's nephew's roommate just spontaneously exploded. Third time this week. I must go see to them."
With that, the stallion bolted out the door. Spitfire could only look on in astonishment as he disappeared into the night. With a grin she looked back at the hopeful looking pony.
"Well it seems we have a vacant spot on the team roster. Rainbow Dash would you care to join the Wonderbolts?"
The rainbow-haired pegasus made a show of thinking about the offer before soaring into the air shouting "Heck yes!"
With that the party started again, nopony seeing the sense in starting a new party. Princess Luna walked over to the cd-player and removed the previous cd and summoned a cd of her own. Soon heavy beats mixed with electronic tones started up. Some ponies may have normally complained, but when the DJ is an immortal
Night goddess, many ponies found themselves more receptive to different kinds of music that night.
Spitfire and Rainbow Dash found their way to a corner to talk.
"So Dash," Spitfire started. "Why did you wear the Wonderbolt suit under the illusion?"
Rainbow Dash didn't answer immediately. Instead she pushed the goggles up to her forehead and pulled her head and neck free from the suit. "It's mostly because I wanted too, but it was also to get ponies to stop staring at my neck all the time."
With that she pointed a hoof at her neck. Sure enough a thin line of fur was missing. What shocked Spitfire more was in the tiny expanse of exposed skin, she could see holes through the skin. Spitfire's intense scrutiny was rewarded by a small glimpse of Rainbow Dash's throat through one such hole. Covering her mouth with a hoof she looked away.
"Pretty nasty huh? Twilight said the magic healed everypony from the inside out. She says these holes should close up in a few days time."
Rainbow Dash seemed pretty relaxed for a pony with a line of holes in her neck.
Spitfire shook her head.
"Dash, do you ever have a normal day?"
"I did once. It was horrible."