"Sorry, I must have misheard you there, Princess. I could have sworn you said we were fighting a 'deadly unknown force'," Lucky said, punctuating his words with nervous laughter.
"Oh no, you heard it correctly," Cadance answered.
Lucky's attempt at a smile deflated into a scowl. He waved his hooves to and fro, shouting, "Are you daft?"
Braeburn subdued the unicorn's incessant flailing, uttering, "Now now mister. Why don't ya calm down an' show some respect."
"Well pardon me, but I didn't sign up to go into deadly battle with an unknown force," spat Lucky.
"This kind princess [i]bestowed[/i] this…this honor on you. The least y'all can do is hear her out."
Princess Cadance immediately casted a calming spell on the two stallions, and they slowly released their grasp. However, the two continued to glare at each other in annoyance while the alicorn said, "I'm sorry I had to do that. But there this is no time to be fighting, so please listen."
Braeburn and Lucky opened their mouths to reply, but Redheart interrupted, saying, "We're listening, Princess Cadance."
The princess gave the nurse a benevolent smile. But the smile soon turned into a bitter grimace as Cadance began to recant her awful tale. "Two days ago, my kingdom was suddenly attacked. Not by invaders or bandits, but by something I can only explain…as dark magic."
The six gasped in unison, and Cadance shook her head grimly. With her ears drooping and her eyes shut, she continued, "All of a sudden, the skies turned black, as though a shroud had encased the kingdom. Then…it started to attack. It struck my castle first, devouring it into its deep darkness. Then it moved on, striking populated areas such as the Equestrian Embassy and Gemstone Plaza."
"It was unlike anything we had ever seen before. A huge shadow washing over the land, weaving through the streets like it had a mind of its own. We tried to fight it, but every time we struck it with magic, it grew and grew." She turned back to the Elements with a resentful glare, and finished, "So in the end, my subjects were evacuated. And my kingdom…abandoned."
Lucky raised his hoof skeptically, capturing the princess's attention. With a twinge of doubt lacing his voice, the gambler said, "And what makes you think we can stop it, huh? You said it yourself, magic doesn't work."
Cadance replied, "Like I said before, this…entity…was the work of dark magic. And after seeing the way it seemed to move around targeting key landmarks before attacking the rest of the city, I came to the conclusion that this was a planned attack. After all, magic has to come from somewhere, right? The question is: who or what is causing this dark magic?"
She waved her hoof towards the six and stated, "And that's where you six come in. You must find the source of this evil, and use your powers to destroy it."
"Okay…but how will we locate it?" Soarin asked, slouching forward on the stone altar.
"I'm glad you asked, Soarin. For that is your first destination. Rumors have it that tomes and scrolls of dark magic are stored somewhere inside a place called The Frost Star Sanctuary. It's home to the Frost Star Mages, a very…reclusive group dedicated to studying ancient magic. Not surprisingly, they've denied all claims of it. You must find out where those tomes are and bring them back here."
"I've heard of that place," Cheerilee commented. But she furrowed her brow confusedly, meekly saying, "But, um…Princess? Isn't that place off limits to everypony except the Mages?
Princess Cadance scratched the back of her head and bit her lip, and her attempt to hide that measly little detail was dashed by Cheerilee's intellect. Finally, the pink alicorn confessed, "Well…yes."
"Well [i]I[/i] most certainly cannot believe this," Lucky uttered, sitting in the castle courtyard with his head cradled in his hooves.
The six were gathered just outside of the castle awaiting further orders. They were, for the most part, speechless from the task Cadance had just given them. Each one glanced unsurely at the strangers they were to call "friends", and most kept their mouths shut. Lucky, however, was a bit more active, muttering to himself while shaking his head.
Finally, Scootaloo told the worried unicorn, "Jeez mister, take a chill pill or something."
Lucky replied in disbelief, "How is it that a little filly is saner than me right now?"
"Relax man. The princess said to take this time to rest and get ready," Soarin said. He flapped his wings and began to hover above the ground, watching the others from above. With his hooves tucked behind his head in relaxation, the pegasus told them, "Besides, I think if we're gonna be stuck together, we might as well introduce ourselves. Name's Soarin. I'm a-."
"A Wonderbolt!" Scootaloo squealed, watching the athletic pegasus in awe. The filly then gave an embarrassed smile and apologized, "Sorry, I'm just a fan and all."
"Never heard of em," Lucky muttered to nopony in particular.
Soarin didn't hear the unicorn's subtle remark, and he said to the orange pegasus, "Thanks. Always good to see the younger fans. What's your name?"
"My name's Scootaloo."
"That's a nice name," a white mare said benignly. "Mine is Redheart. I'm a nurse down at Ponyville hospital."
"Pleased ta meetcha ma'am. Ah've always had a lotta respect for nurses an' doctors," the cowpony said politely, giving a kind tip of the hat. "As for me, mah name's Braeburn. Ah live down in Appleloosa, working an apple orchard."
"Psh, what a surprise," Lucky scoffed, this time a bit louder than the last.
Braeburn caught this, and gave the gambler a spiteful glare. Scowling, the earth pony asked, "Excuse me?"
Not willing to let the conversation go, Braeburn spat, "An' what about you, Mr. Sasspants? What's yer name? Ah can already tell by yer fancy clothes that you're one of them rich, stuck-up fellas."
The unicorn stood up, adjusting his tie snidely. Then he stomped over to the yellow stallion and replied, "Well my name's Lucky, first of all. And second, I don't need some apple farmer to call me stuck-up."
"Someone oughta call you 'Lucky Ah Don't Get Bucked in the Face'."
The two stallion's foreheads pressed together as Braeburn got up in his opponent's face. They simultaneously gritted their teeth in anger, stamping at the ground as though they were ready to charge. Some of the static from the meeting earlier had definitely carried over, manifesting itself into rage.
But before the two could spew some more particularly venomous comments at each other, the purple mare popped up and shouted, "And I'm Cheerilee!" The stallions backed off and turned their attention to Cheerilee, who breathed a sigh of relief. She continued, "I'm a teacher down in Ponyville Elementary."
"The nicest teacher in Equestria!" Scootaloo added.
"Oh, you live in Ponyville too? Why haven't we met?" Nurse Redheart asked.
"Well actually, we have. You almost…ran me over with your ambulance…" Cheerilee's voice died down, and both mares looked away awkwardly, pretending some imaginary figure had caught their eye.
Finally, Lucky threw his hooves up, rolling his eyes apathetically. His slowly ran his hooves through his spiky mane and began to make his way toward the town, saying with mock-enthusiasm, "Well I'm [i]certainly[/i] glad we've gotten to know each other. Now if you'll excuse me, I have [i]got[/i] to find a place with some good bagels."
"What's with the bagel fetish, bro?" Soarin asked from above, slowly trailing the unicorn.
"It's [i]not[/i] a fetish. That's gross. And besides, it's my favorite snack. I can't go a day without one."
"It's a long story. Let's just say…I've been to places." And with that, the unicorn casted the pegasus away, ready to journey into the streets of Canterlot.
He didn't get very far. He was barely a few feet away, as a matter of fact, before Braebrun said, "Why doncha just get from the castle?"
"Oh please. They're the rulers of Equestria; they'd never eat peasant food like bagels," Lucky dismissed, pausing his stride to answer.
Soarin contemplated, "Come to think of it, I'd really like to finish off that pie…"
"And I haven't had my coffee this morning," Redheart commented.
"Aww shucks, fellas. Who knows when Cadance'll come back?" Braeburn scolded. He turned around to take a gander at the gorgeous striped spires that seemed to touch the sky; the literal pinnacles of the beautiful castle. He said, "An' besides, why would anypony want to leave this…"
But when Braebrun turned around again, he found himself alone in the courtyard, talking to the statues lining the walkway. "…palace." Braebrun finished glumly, exhaling a long sigh. Seeing as though he had no other choice, the hardworking stallion trotted out of the courtyard, mumbling his complaints under his breath.
As it would happen, Canterlot was a lot bigger than he had imagined. To him, the bustling village had to have been at least ten times bigger than Appleloosa. The bright sun shone down on the equine citizens, although the weather seemed to always be at the perfect temperature. The streets swarmed with elite ponies, hastily making their way to who knows where. Carriages rolled up and down the stone-paved streets, carrying cargo and passengers alike. And it was noontime; the time when everypony was trotting around, looking to grab a bite.
Braeburn spent at least thirty minutes roaming the streets, trying to find a hint of his lost comrades. And as every minute passed, the cowpony's annoyance grew. [i]Where in the hay is everypony?[/i] he thought, scanning the busy street before him.
Finally, his eyes lighted on a small building at the corner of the block. A large plastic donut stood above a sign that read "PONY JOE'S". Inside, Braeburn could faintly make out two figures having a heated argument, one of which wore a silk Istallian tie. With steam coming out of his nostrils, Braeburn galloped over to the shop.
"What do you mean you don't have bagels here, mate? You've got donuts! Why not bagels?" Lucky complained, tapping his hooves on the counter.
Pony Joe replied gruffly, "This ain't no coffee shop, mister! We make sweets here, not bagels! If you don't like it, you can take your tacky, prancy vest and get outta my shop!"
Needless to say, Lucky wasn't too happy with somepony insulting his clothes. His horn began to glow and donuts began to levitate off the shelves, surrounded by light green magic. "Tacky?" he cried indignantly. "Why this vest probably cost more than your entire shop, you little-."
Before he could finish his sentence, somepony suddenly pulled on his tail, and the donuts fell onto the floor. He fought against the pull, but Braeburn's strong body was able to drag him out of the donut shop. Lucky rubbed his rump and tried to defend himself, but Braeburn quickly told him, "Cadance told us to stay at the castle, what in tarnation do you think yer doing?
"Calm down Saddlesore, I was just grabbing a bite," the unicorn replied, wiping off his sleeves as he stood up.
"Really? Because it looked ta me like you were given that man a hard time!" Braeburn returned. "And also, we're a team, Lucky. You can't be wanderin' off willy-nilly. We're supposed ta stick together."
"It's not like I freakin' went anywhere, mate!" Lucky answered angrily.
Just on cue, Soarin and Redheart strolled in, the former holding a cherry pie, and the latter holding a hot coffee cup. The commotion had caught their attention, and Soarin whispered, "Who put a turd in their coffee?"
Redheart looked down at her drink distastefully. Spurred on by the other two's fighting, the nurse said irefully, "That's [i]real[/i] mature. We're in a serious position; you shouldn't be joking around!"
"Jeez, chill out nurse!"
"I'm sorry, but we can't be relaxed all the time like you!" Redheart replied, waving his coffee around. In her incessant flailing, she accidently smacked the plate Soarin was holding. To his horror, the delectable cherry-flavored treat was sent twirling to the ground, landing in a heart-wrenching splatter.
Soarin crouched down, scooping up the remains of his pie sadly. "You…monster…" he uttered, tentatively licking the sweet nectar.
At that moment, Cheerilee and Scootaloo decided to join in, having taken a short learning tour about the history of Canterlot. Scoots's face had drooped with boredom, but seeing Redheart smack the Wonderbolt veteran's pie made her leap up and shout, "Hey, don't talk to him like that!"
The filly rushed off towards the group with Cheerilee calling out, "Scootaloo!"
But the teacher was too late to stop the incoming madness that was about to ensue. Scootaloo bumped wildly into Nurse Redheart, causing her to lose her grip on the cup. The lid flipped open, and the hot liquid flew through the air before deciding to land directly on Soarin's exposed face.
Unsurprisingly, the pegasus didn't enjoy having scalding hot coffee poured on his skin, and he instinctively shot into the air, grasping his face in pain. The pegasus, covering his eyes with his hoof, barreled blindly into Lucky, and the two stallions tumbled along the ground. Braeburn attempted to back away from the utter wreck, but he slipped on the remains of Soarin's pie, and crashed straight into Miss Cheerilee. At that precise moment, Pony Joe stormed into the battlefield, yelling at the six about how they had "splattered an entire supply of éclairs across the damn floor". Then the volatile scene erupted into a flurry of arguments that certainly had nothing to do with love or harmony.
And surrounding the six Elements were Canterlot's elite, unable to take their eyes off the "absolutely hilarious" fight.
Meanwhile, from the safety of Canterlot Castle, another elite group of spectators were viewing the antics of the Elements of Love. Cadance had opened a magical portal to keep surveillance on how the six were doing. And…frankly…they could have been doing better.
"Well they look like they are having fun," Luna commented, slightly amused.
"Perhaps this isn't going to be as smooth as I thought…" Cadance uttered as she watched her newly crowned Elements of Love act extremely…uncompassionate.
"Are you sure they can handle infiltrating the Razor Stars?" Celestia asked. "By the looks of it, they can't even handle finding something to eat."
"Maybe I will have to guide them, but I know they can pull it off," Cadance replied, although she was unable to hide the anxiety in her voice. She added, "Besides, I [i]have[/i] to trust them. If we wait any longer…there won't be any Crystal Kingdom left to save."