She looked sideways at her mother, the mare finally parted from the infernal book she had been reading for years on end, then to her other side at her father, the proud stallion having sworn off smoking the moment the spell broke.
They nodded at her and she walked forward down the stairs, still suckling on the last bit of that popsicle Pinkie Pie had given her.
It had lasted a fairly long time, but now was at the end of its life. As she was herself.
Scootaloo rushed up to meet her halfway and Pandora wrapped her arms around the other filly, sighing out as she heard her question.
"Is this really the last we'll see of you?"
Pandora nodded slowly, brushing a hoof through Scootaloo's short mane. "My parents and I were only kept here by The Gloom, Scootaloo. We don't belong in this world. We need to move on."
Scootaloo let out a soft whimper, but broke the hug first. "Just thought you could maybe join our Cutiemark Crusaders club, since you don't have yours either..."
Pandora let out a warm giggle at that and gave Scootaloo a soft kiss on her cheek. "I would have been honored to join."
Pinkie could barely contain her energy, so Pandora continued down the stairs, leaving Scootaloo standing shocked as a heavy blush crept on her cheeks.
"Pink lady, you have something that belongs to me?" Pandora offered, and Pinkie quickly bounced on over, pulling a stack of bones from her ethereal saddlebags and putting them down on the step before the ghost filly.
"You still owe me for the popsicle, though. Maybe you can come and eat some cupcakes with me sometimes?" Pinkie offered with a bright smile and a wink, and Pandora noticed the gleam in the corner of the pink one's eyes.
"We'll throw a party together, miss Pinkie. I promise."
"Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a cupcake in my eye?" Pinkie spoke through a thick throat, and Pandora felt her own tears well up.
"Celestia willing," she mumbled, and let herself be pulled into a tight hug.
The other five ponies looked on with questioning glances, and Pandora broke the hug to address them all in turn.
"Miss Twilight. You asked what The Gloom was exactly. I think that's the most important thing to set straight."
The young princess nodded slowly but understood there was more to Pandora's words and didn't interrupt.
"The Gloom was my parents' sadness at the loss of their foal. My uncle was living with us and had taken care of my mother after she had fallen ill from my childbirth. He had always hated me."
Pandora took a few steps off to the side of the staircase and pointed toward the cellar door. "He waited until I was six years old before he took me into the cellar, promising we would play a fun game. He had built a maze of small rooms and led me through them until there was no further to go."
Scootaloo joined her side and Pandora looked down. "He bricked up the wall as I was pleading for him to stop. I heard him brick up the next wall, but then the sound stopped. I died alone, in the cold damp cellar. You know yourself how close to the water well."
"That was a terrible thing to do," Twilight spoke softly, shaking her head. "I'm so sorry you had to go through that."
Pandora shook her head. "I'm glad you came to my parents' rescue. I don't know what he told them, but they fell to The Gloom within a few short years. I was there, but they could not see me. My uncle... left with all the money and goods he could find when he found my parents in a catatonic state. He had only been after the money."
All were looking in disgust at the story, and Pandora reached for Rainbow Dash's cheek with her left hoof. "He never knew loyalty. Thank you for showing me there are ponies in this world who care more about their friends than their own wellbeing. You strained yourself to your limit carrying your friends out of my parents' chamber. Thank you, miss Rainbow Dash."
Rainbow pushed herself up in a proud stance. "I could've gone faster, you... ow." and slumped back down again from the pain in her side and limbs. "Ok, maybe not."
Pandora moved on to Applejack, smiling up warmly. "You did not even blink when the question came of whether you should follow after your friend. You're the first pony I met whom I trusted from the very beginning, even if the feeling wasn't mutual at first."
Applejack looked away with a little blush. "Well, I had to make sure y'all didn't do nothin' to my friends, ya know?"
The Unicorn nodded at that. "Thank you for giving me the chance. Others may have just ran away since I am a ghost. Your honesty in everything you've done while visiting our home helped me to find the truth in my own mind. The truth behind The Gloom. If it wasn't for your help, miss Pinkie's popsicle wouldn't have done much. I wouldn't have given her the chance to give it to me. Also, I like your hat."
Applejack grinned at the latter part, taking her hat off and bowing to the filly. "Much obliged."
Fluttershy was next, and Pandora made sure not to get too close to her. She saw her still shivering from held-back fear. "Your undying devotion and love for your friends, your kindness to all living things, just your energy helped to hold back The Gloom while your friends were fighting it, miss Fluttershy. I... hope you can one day come to love those of us who are no longer alive. We're not all bad."
Fluttershy looked down and peeped "Ok", not really knowing where to look.
Pandora moved on to Rarity but, instead of saying something out loud, leaned in and whispered something in her right ear.
Rarity's eyes went wide and she shook her head. "Really?"
Pandora nodded and Rarity could hardly contain her excitement as she quickly pushed past her and raced up the stairs. "Oh my, oh my, oh my."
Pandora looked up at where Rarity disappeared off to, waited a moment, and then grinned as she heard the squeal of excitement as the fashionista found a hidden cache of high quality clothes from an era that was much loved by all in the fashion world.
"Mom's wardrobe," she told the confused ponies, and Applejack facehooved.
"We ain't never gonna get that one out of there..."
Pandora then moved back up the stairs, making sure to pause a moment to collect her bones, then moved back up to her parents at the top of the landing.
"Again, I wish to thank you for freeing not only me, but also my parents and the villagers outside. We were bound here by magic, and as the magic dissipates we will all disappear. There will be little left but rubble before the sun sets."
Twilight took a step forward. "And what will happen to the well below?"
Pandora looked down at the floor a moment, then grinned wickedly. "This house will fill it."
Twilight blinked, then looked back at Rainbow and Applejack. "Get Rarity and whatever clothes she can't part with."
The two ponies rushed up to find their friend, and Scootaloo walked up with them up until the landing, standing face-to-face with Pandora yet again.
"What's the matter, Scootaloo?" Pandora asked, and Scootaloo whispered something to her.
Pandora's ghostly cheeks darkened a little, but she nodded silently in return.
"It's time to leave, dear," Pandora's dad broke the silence, looking up as a spectral light formed above his head. It expanded to shine down on Pandora and her mother as well, and started to lift them up toward the ceiling.
Pandora raised a hoof to wave at those still gathered in the lobby, and Scootaloo rubbed at her eyes with her own hoof, watching her ghostly friend disappear to the next world.
Just as the light died out Applejack and Rainbow Dash re-emerged from the hallway, dragging a heavily protesting Rarity along with her who, in turn, was dragging several suitcases along with her mouth and both forelegs.
Scootaloo walked down the stairs in silence, then out the front doors and only stopped when she was a little distance away from the mansion, sitting down and rubbing at her eyes again.
Twilight used her magic to 'help' Rarity out the door as well, and then left the mansion and closed the doors behind her.
"Everypony accounted for? Good. Let's head home, girls," she spoke, but stopped as she reached Scootaloo.
The rest of the group set in motion down the hill, but Scootaloo was still trying to fight her tears.
"Want a piggyback ride?" Twilight suggested, and levitated Scootaloo onto her back at a nod from the filly.
"So what did you say to Pandora, Scootaloo? It looked like she really liked it," Twilight continued, expressly sticking to the rear of the group.
"I.. I told her.. I said she.. I'll make her an honorary crusader, princess Twilight," Scootaloo stammered through her tears, then broke down completely.
As the mansion caved in behind her with a mighty rumble, princess Twilight Sparkle was once again reminded of the sheer power of the magic of friendship.