A/N: I own nothing except for the character Yellow Jacket. I make no money from this writing.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Knights of Equestria part 4: Horrors and Legends
Rainbow Dash floated in darkness. It surrounded her, engulfed her, filled her. Her chest rose and fell but no breath came, and every second felt like an eternity of suffocation. In the darkness, her color and light were an affront. She was alone...except she wasn't.
"You are the embodiment of Loyalty. Willing to give up anything for those you love, even your dreams and your life."
Rainbow Dash spun around, looking for the sudden speaker. There was nothing but the darkness.
"But you have no power to stop us. Your light is weak and flickering. All you will be able to do is watch as everything you love is swept away...and corrupted. And then your loyalty will mean nothing.
"Silence, Rainbow. Silence will fall."
Flames enveloped Rainbow's body. She screamed.
She woke up. Rainbow Dash found herself lying in a hospital bed. She knew it was a hospital bed because it was stiff, and smelled of chemicals, and the ceiling she was staring up at was a mind-numbing white. She was already bored with staring at it. She turned over onto her side and found she wasn't alone in the room. At the other bed stood...
"Dit...Ditzy..." Rainbow Dash flinched at how raw and weak her voice sounded, and how much it hurt to say even that one word. How long had it been since she last spoke?
Despite the weakness of Rainbow's call, Ditzy rushed over, giving the blue Pegasus a warm neck hug. "Oh Rainbow Dash, pumpkin muffins sing the mathematics! Kaloo, kalay!"
Rainbow Dash blushed softly and returned the hug, but after a moment pulled away from her friend. "Ditzy...your speech th...th..." she coughed hard and frowned. "Water..." Ditzy nodded and trotted to the sink, quickly filling up a glass with water. When she brought it back Rainbow drank it all in one gulp, nearly coughed it all back up, and then held the glass back out. "More, please..." Ditzy nodded and took the glass.
It took three more trips before Rainbow Dash felt that she could speak properly again without feeling like her throat was tearing. She looked at the grey-coated Pegasus and smiled. "Thank you Ditzy...what happened? How long have I been in here? Is everypony okay, is Dinky okay!?"
Ditzy silenced the panicking pony with another neck hug. "Butterscotch. Free birds like diamonds, 100% on the final exam. Dinky good, just sleeping!" Ditzy directed Rainbow's attention to the other bed, where a grayish-purple Unicorn filly slept. She frowned suddenly, as if concentrating extra hard. "Rainbow...Rainbow marred by smoke...five days a week, no walking it off...I'm...I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash. I got you hurt."
"Don't worry about it, Ditzy," Rainbow waved her hoof. "As long as Dinky's okay, I'll inhale a hundred lungfuls of smoke. Now then," she said as she rolled from the bed onto her hooves. "Since I'm awake now, let's get go-nngh!" Her legs buckled beneath her, sending Rainbow face first into the floor.
"Ow..." Rainbow rolled onto her back and looked up at the ceiling. "How long did you say I was in here?"
"Ow..." Rainbow Dash fluttered her wings and started kicking her legs. "Well, how about you fill me in on what I missed out on while I just...lie here working the kinks from my muscles."
"Gramophone sundae. Not two-thirds of town burnt down. Place of rare clothing destroyed, so living with big apples. Big-top wizard working for moon came back for turn of the tide, lives in books to find evil wasp. No bad to the lightish red, but been real unbouncy while Rainbow slept. Now should be better!"
Rainbow Dash just lay there staring up at Ditzy. "So...about a third of the town was damaged by the fire, including Rarity's place, so she and Sweetie Belle are living with Big Mac over at Sweet Apple Acres. Trixie is now a student to Princess Luna and is living with Twilight over in the library while she searches for a pony called Wasp? Oh and Pinkie Pie's been really sad while I was in here, but was hiding it and should now be better because I'm awake?"
Ditzy nodded, her blond hair waving wildly. "Bingo!"
Rainbow Dash sighed and rolled back onto her legs. This time they held, though were somewhat shaky. She stomped her hooves a couple times and shook her wings. "Well, guess I'm good enough to go. Ditzy, you want to get something to eat?"
"Uh, yeah, Sugarcube Corner sounds good to me. Might wanna get that speech thing worked on..."
Rarity stood still, looking up at the apple-filled branches hanging above her. She had never really noticed before what a beautiful shade of red they were, like little organic rubies. She smiled at the thought and sent some power to her horn, making a spark shoot out from the tip. Immediately a glow of magic surrounded each individual apple in the tree and levitated them to the set of baskets strapped to her sides. Within seconds the tree was completely stripped of the ripened fruit, and Rarity turned to smile at Big Mac behind her.
Big Mac smiled back and nodded in approval. "Let's go get some lunch."
Rainbow Dash hadn't made it three steps past the bakery door before she was tackled by a hyperactive ball of pink.
"Oh my gosh Dashie you're awake! And here! And Ditzy brought you! Thanks Ditzy!" Rainbow's limbs were flailing, but the overjoyed Earth Pony didn't seem to notice. "I am so happy you're here, I mean you missed my big party for Trixie, who came back by the way, only nice, and then you missed my follow-up party the next night for all the hardworking ponies from Canterlot helping us rebuild town, they're making it all go faster and OOOOH! I know, I'll throw a new party to celebrate you waking up and oh my gosh I am so glad you're awake Dashie I missed YOOOUUU!"
A few ponies browsing the bakery snickered at the sight, but most just smiled. After a few more seconds Pinkie let go of Rainbow Dash's neck and stood back up, helping her to her hooves before dragging her along to the kitchen. "Come on Dashie, I bet you're wanting something good after such a long time with nothing but hospital food!"
"Pinkie, I didn't have any hospital food, I was unconscious!" But Pinkie seemed not to hear this, making the blue Pegasus role her eyes and smile. Ditzy just followed along behind them.
Once they were all in the kitchen, Pinkie Pie sat Rainbow down in the middle of the floor. "Now you sit right there, Auntie Pinkie will fix you something super extra scrumptious!"
Dash and Ditzy sat side by side, neither saying anything as they watched Pinkie get to work on some kind of sweet confection.
"All you have to do is take a cup of flour, add it to the mix
Now you just take a little something sweet not sour, a bit of salt, just a pinch!
Baking these treats is such a cinch, add a teaspoon of vanilla,
Add a little more, and you count to four, and you never get your fill of!!!!!!
Cupcakes, so sweet and tasty
Cupcakes, don't be too hasty
Cupcakes, cupcakes cupcakes CUPCAAAAAAAKES!"
Rainbow Dash swallowed the bite of cupcake she had in her mouth and chuckled. "Pinkie Pie, you are so...random!"
"Muffin!" Ditzy concurred, though she didn't wait to finish the bite of muffin in her mouth.
"Teehee, thanks you two!" Pinkie Pie bounced over with her own cupcake. "It's a good thing I already had these ready, that batch I just made is gonna take about half an hour. Catchy song though, right?"
"Oh yeah, sure!" In all honesty, Dash hadn't paid too much attention to the actual song. All she could think about was how the cupcake she was eating was the best cupcake she had ever had. The cake was so light and fluffy, the frosting rich and creamy with all the colors of the rainbow, and so sweet with just a hint of spicy. She didn't know if it was because she hadn't eaten anything while in the hospital, but Rainbow Dash had never had anything so good before.
"Oh jeez..." She gobbled up the one she held in her hoof and grabbed another from the tray. She moaned. "Pinkie, what did...what did you put in these?"
Pinkie smiled, revealing teeth colored bright shades from the frosting. "Just a little bit of rainbow, Dash!"
Everything stopped as Rainbow Dash looked at her friend in confusion. In her chest she felt something bubbling up, something heavy that made her breath quicken and her limbs tremble. Pinkie continued smiling at her, but as Dash watched the smile changed, growing wider, impossibly wider. The teeth grew longer, thinner, changing into sharp needle-like points. "What's wrong, Dashie? Don't you like the taste?"
Rainbow Dash dropped the half-eaten cupcake to the floor and stood up, backing away a few steps as the shifts continued. Pinkie Pie's hair was still pink and poufy, but it now seemed matted down with something, something shining and wet that dripped down onto the floor and left bright red stains. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot, frenzied like some madness had taken hold. And then she began to laugh.
"Dashie, why are you leaving? I have so many more cupcakes to make, and I WANT YOU HERE FOR THEM! YOU HEAR ME, DASHIE!?"
"N-no, stay back!" Rainbow backed up until she hit the counter. Tears began streaming from her eyes as Pinkie Pie stalked towards her, still giggling, always giggling! Why wouldn't she stop giggling, why!? Why why why why whywhywhywhywhywhywhy-
"Shut up!" Rainbow Dash grabbed a knife from the counter behind her and slashed at Pinkie Pie. She felt the blade meet resistance, and suddenly the giggling stopped. Everything was back to normal now. Rainbow Dash stared at what she had just done.
"Wh-what..." Pinkie brought a hoof up and touched at the ragged gash across her left cheek. She brought it up to eye level and saw that it was covered in fresh, warm blood. Her blood. Rainbow Dash had cut her. She looked back over at Rainbow Dash. "Why did you..."
"I don't know!" Rainbow Dash dropped the knife and kicked it away from her. She looked to the entrance and saw several ponies looking at them with shock, and some with fear. They must have been attracted by the shouting. Rainbow Dash felt the tears continue down her cheeks. "It, it was an accident! Please...please understand..."
Rarity and Big Mac forced their way to the front of the crowd and looked at their two friends. "Gracious, Rainbow, what got into you?"
"I, I don't know!"
In the confusion, no one noticed Ditzy was not there.
It took until they had reached the skies above the Everfree Forest before Ditzy Doo managed to catch up to her target. Approaching the yellow and black Pegasus from above, Ditzy suddenly tucked her wings in and dove straight into a sonic boom. He didn't even have time to open his mouth to yell before her body slam drove him straight down into the ground, a mushroom cloud of smoke and dust obscuring the site.
As the wind slowly blew the dust away, Ditzy climbed up out of the crater her sonic boom had made in the forest floor. Standing at the edge she surveyed it. It was a good six feet deep and a half a dozen yards across, and all around it for several more yards the trees had been flattened, blown back by the sudden swell of air pressure. Whatever wildlife had been in the area had been scared away by the explosion.
Hard coughing came from behind Ditzy. She looked to see the mysterious Pegasus struggle out of the hole his body had punched into the ground. He shook some dirt from his mane and looked up at her. "You...you weaponized a sonic boom!? Oh what a brilliant Pegasus you are!"
Ditzy scowled down at him and flared her wings, getting into the basic fighting stance she learned in her previous employment. "You hurt my friends," she spoke with an eerie calm, her speech impediment swept away by the adrenaline coursing through her veins. "Made them hurt each other! How, why, who are you?"
The Pegasus smirked and flared his own wings, slowly rising up into the air until he was level with her. "I'll let you be the first to know me by the name I'll go by as ruler of this country...Thunder Scream!" With a great beat of his wings he sped forward and tackled Ditzy to the ground, pinning her beneath his larger body. "Now tell me, who are you, and how were you not affected by my horror illusion?"
Ditzy didn't try to struggle out of from under Thunder Scream. Instead she smirked up at him. "The name's Ditzy Doo, Private First Class of the Equestrian Marines, and I escaped from your illusion by doing this!"
She went derp-eyed.
"Gah!" Thunder recoiled from the sight, giving Ditzy enough room to wedge her rear hooves against his chest and push him off. He stumbled back, and without a second's hesitation she launched herself into the air, bursting above the canopy within a second.
Turning at a sharp 90 degree angle she flew over the treetops, trying to put some distance between her and her opponent. As she flew she thought. Her element of surprise was gone. She'd been hoping that sonic slam into the ground would be enough, but he'd simply shrugged it off like it was an inconvenience! What was this Pegasus?
Ditzy's train of thought was broken by Thunder Scream bursting from the treetops just in front of her. His right hoof smashed into her face, sending her spinning from the force of the blow. His next attack she dodged by letting herself stop flying, dropping down beneath him a foot. The next instant she rocketed back up, delivering an uppercut with both hooves to his chin. His head snapped back, his wings faltering a moment. That moment was all Ditzy needed to twist around and hammer her rear hooves into his gut.
A wild swipe got lucky and smacked Ditzy back a few feet. When she recovered and looked back she saw Thunder Scream clutching at his stomach and breathing hard. He was slowly flapping backwards, away from her. His eyes glared knives into her.
"Let's, let's call this a draw, shall we? I've hurt you with my illusions on your friends, and you've hurt me with your...your eyes, bleh. Besides, you might want to be getting back to your friends so they can know the truth. It'd be a shame, after all, if our favorite Junior Speedster was charged with attacking somepony without reason, wouldn't it?"
Ditzy Doo snarled, but knew he was right. Without sparing another glance at him she turned and rocketed back to Ponyville.
Sugarcube Corner had been closed in the time Ditzy had been gone, all the customers forced out by Mr. and Mrs. Cake and the front entrance locked. Ditzy entered through the back entrance into the kitchen, where she found everyone basically where they had been when she left. Pinkie sat near the center of the room with Rarity, who had cleaned up the cut on the pink pony's cheek and bandaged it up. Both refused to look over at Rainbow Dash in the far corner from the door, her hooves tied together and her head hanging low. Big Mac kept watch over her, making the rainbow-maned Pegasus seem even smaller.
When Ditzy took her appearance and flinched, making Ditzy flinched. She must have looked as bad as she felt. Rarity trotted forward with the first aid kit. "Ditzy my dear, what in Equestria happened to you?"
Ditzy ignored the offer of help and stumbled over towards Rainbow Dash. "I got into a fight with, ow, the pony that made Rainbow attack Miss Pie." She undid the knots, letting the ropes binding Rainbow's limbs and wings fall to the ground. "Some kind of illusion, he said."
"Illusion?" Pinkie Pie perked up, looking back and forth between the pair of Pegasi. The next moment she had tackled Rainbow Dash to the ground with a flying hug. "Oh Dashie, I just knew that you could never want to hurt me like that! But you had me so worried!"
Rainbow's limbs flailed. "Why can I...never breathe...when around you..."
Meanwhile, Rarity had finally managed to get Ditzy to stay still enough for her own cuts, scrapes, and bruises to be cleaned up. "Oh my dear, thank you so much for this news! I was simply horrified when I walked in. I had never seen such violence in my life!"
The others all nodded, but Ditzy sighed. "I haven't really done much though. Rainbow Dash could've easily hit Pinkie's neck or an eye instead of the cheek." She looked over at Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, who while not hugging was still cuddled close against her. Both had lost all color in their faces at Ditzy's morbid statement. "Oh, sorry..."
"The thing I want to know," Big Mac said, wanting to draw the conversation away from that morbid area, "is what kind of pony in their right mind could possibly want to hurt Miss Pinkie Pie. 'sides from being a mild bit grating on occasion, I can't think of a nicer pony."
"Well I-ow!" Ditzy scooted away from Rarity and her Neosporin spray. "Well, this might seem crazy to everypony, but the pony I fought...who claimed to have cast the illusion spell...he was a Pegasus."
"No, that doesn't seem crazy to me at all."
Everyone jumped and looked to the newcomer. Rarity glared and stomped at the ground. "You! I should dye your whole coat green for showing up here!"
Trixie rolled her eyes and trotted from the doorway. "I'll apologize for that later, but right now we have a serious problem, and I'm the only pony here other than Pinkie Pie who knows what is going on. So will you listen to me, or continue standing there and scowling?"
Rarity's eye twitched, but before she could charge at the other Unicorn she felt Big Mac's hoof on her shoulder. "Ain't no point in makin' trouble now. Calm down." To Trixie he turned and said "and what exactly IS going on?"
And so Trixie told the group, with some help from Pinkie Pie, all about what had happened to her after leaving Ponyville, about Yellow Jacket and her search for him, and about how she was staying with Twilight and being helped by her. By the end of her story all had new frowns on their faces, except Pinkie Pie, who had for the most part returned to her normal self and had left to let the rest of the town know it didn't have to worry about Rainbow Dash attacking them.
"So what you're saying is, this ruffian Yellow Jacket cast the illusion?" Trixie nodded, making Rarity frown. "But I still don't understand why he would target Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, when Twilight's just a few blocks down."
"Yes, that is troublesome," Trixie admitted. She rubbed her hoof over her chin and looked at the others around her; Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Ditzy, and Big Mac. "Anypony have any ideas?"
The room was silent, until Ditzy raised a hoof. "Sonic Rainboom?"
"You really need to get out more," Rainbow Dash mumbled, standing to her hooves and striking a pose. "It's when you go so fast, you make a sonic boom and a rainbow at the same time! And I'm the only pony who's ever done it!"
Trixie raised an eyebrow. "Well, it's good to see you've gotten your bravado back after the events earlier today" at this Rainbow flinched and wilted somewhat, "but you do realize that either of the princesses could do that easily enough, right?"
Rainbow Dash glared. "Well, uh yeah, but that's...that doesn't count! They're like, goddesses and whatever, they can do anything!"
"...they're not invincible, you know." Trixie sat down and hugged her cloak close. Her eyes had gone distant. "They can be hurt just like anypony else, physically and emotionally."
An awkward silence came after this, none quite sure what to say after something like that. Eventually Trixie cleared her throat. "Well anyways, I doubt the attack on your sanity was related to your sonic rainboom. That's an impressive feat, but it's not magic."
"In that case," Rarity said next, "it could be that the target wasn't Rainbow Dash or Pinkie Pie, but their elements."
Rainbow Dash gasped and smacked her forehead. "Of course, our Elements of Harmony! The things we used to kick Nightmare Moon's butt!"
Trixie smiled. "Now that's a theory I can get behind. Magic of that power would be irresistible to Yellow Jacket, or Thunder Scream, or whatever he's calling himself now." She turned and began trotting to the door. "I'll go to the library and see what I can find on the Elements. But be careful. If Rarity's right, then anypony with one could be attacked next. You three, Twilight, Pinkie Pie, that...yellow pony. So watch yourselves."
Trixie shut the door behind her. Big Mac sighed and looked to Rarity at his side. "Are the things y'all get into always this crazy?"
Rarity laughed and leaned against him as they too left the shop. "You get used to it, darling."
"Jack! What in Equestria happened to you?"
Yellow Jacket looked down at his body, at the bruises already forming from his brief fight with Ditzy. Snorting he shook his head. "It's not important. What have you found?"
Twilight opened her mouth to press the issue, but then just sighed and shook her head. Instead she turned back to the table she stood at. It was littered with books and scrolls, most of them open. She levitated one particularly old book, its grey covering cracked in places, and motioned Jack over. "Doctor Whoof found it actually, up in the attic. What do you know about the Knights of Equestria?"
"Not as much as I should," Jack answered, going to stand beside Twilight to look up at the book. "I remember seeing mention of it a few times in our old study sessions together. It's an old legend, dating back to before Luna's fall." Looking at the book, he frowned and squinted. "That's Old Equestrian. You're better with that than I am, could you read it for me?"
"Well sure, but," Twilight quirked an eyebrow at him. "Since when could you not read Old Equestrian?"
"The past year I've been more focused on studying other cultures. Gryphons, dragons, sphinxes. I've gotten a bit rusty with pony stuff, okay?"
Twilight giggled at the flustered look on Jack's face. "Okay, okay, don't worry about it." She smiled at him until he smiled back, before turning to the book and clearing her throat.
"Long ago, when the reign of Princesses Celestia and Princess Luna was fresh and before treaties of peace between ponykind and the other races of the world were settled, the land of Equestria was a realm of safety for Unicorns and Pegasi. There few had to fear the predatory claws of gryphons, dragons, drakes, serpents, chimeras, and harpies. King Cronus had just begun his multi-millennia slumber."
Twilight flipped the page and continued.
On the eve of the 10th Winter Moon Celebration, a being that was neither pony nor any other known race came from the Void beyond the stars of Luna's night, falling somewhere beyond the borders of Equestria. It was not until the following Summer Sun Celebration when the gryphons came, the last refugees from their fallen kingdom."
"I always knew the gryphons had had their own kingdom once!" Jack grinned. "It was what my graduation thesis was on."
Twilight gave an absent nod and continued on. "The gryphons told tales of the being of metal and shadow that had spread over their realm like a plague. It was not until messages from the realm of dragons pleading for assistance in war came that a name was given: Tirek, terror to all free peoples." Twilight hoped it was simply her imagination when the lights flickered. "Assured of the threat this Tirek posed, Princess Celestia gathered together her Pegasi, Unicorns, and the few gryphons that volunteered, and marched to join the dragons in war against the interloper's metal armies. Princess Luna..."
Twilight turned the page. "Princess Luna took a different path. Gathering six Unicorn knights of renown to her Midnight Castle, the princess...the princess took the magic from a third of the ponies of Equestria, and thus Earth ponies were created."
"Using the six knights as conduits for the gathered magic, Luna destroyed Tirek's armies, banishing the darkness back to the Void. And so the six Knights of Equestria passed into legend."
Twilight closed the book and gently set it back down on the table. She stared off into nothing, silent as she digested all that she'd read. "I don't know what to think. Taking the magic from so many ponies..."
"That's if the legend is true," Jack added, walking to Twilight and nuzzling her comfortingly. "But considering the tale of the Mare in the Moon was true..."
"I know, I know..." Twilight returned the nuzzle, but then turned away and began to pace. "It's just hard to imagine, Princess Luna being the creator of Earth ponies." She shook her head. "But regardless, this at least puts us on the right track. If magic can be taken, it can be given back. All we have to do is find this...palace the story mentions, and we may find clues there. Perhaps I should ask Princess Luna herself."
"No!" Twilight looked back at Jack. "We can't go to Luna for help; she's the one who sent Trixie to find me! This has to be why exactly she doesn't want to risk an Earth pony uprising, she remembers when she robbed them of their magic!"
Twilight didn't want to admit it, but that made too much sense for her liking.
Turning back to the book-laden table she sighed and began going through the books. "In that case I suppose we will just have to do our best with these-" Her eyes suddenly flashed red, and Twilight gasped. "Jack, cloak, now!"
Jack didn't wait for an explanation. Grabbing his cloak from the floor he wrapped it around himself, and without even a flash disappeared. A moment later the library door swung open and Trixie trotted in. "Twilight, help me find that books on the Elements of-what are you reading?"
Twilight shut the legends book before Trixie could get a good look inside and levitated it back to its spot in the shelves. "Oh, nothing, hehe, just brushing up on my Old Equestrian say Trixie what were you asking for a moment ago?"
Trixie regarded Twilight with a quirked eyebrow for what felt to the purple pony like forever, before finally huffing and rolling her eyes. "Princess Luna made me learn that stuff. Seemed like a waste of time to me, but whatever." She turned away and began looking over the bookshelves. "Now where is your book on the Elements of Harmony? It is gravely important."
"It's under E, oh Great and Impatient Trixie," responded Twilight with a giggle, suddenly having a flashback to when Pinkie Pie had given a similar answer. "Why do you need it?"
Trixie levitated the book from its place and walked over to a table to begin reading it. "Your friend, Rainbow Dash, had a horror illusion placed on her earlier today. She attacked the pink one with a knife."
"What!?" Twilight galloped over to the door, not bothering to slow down and open it normally, instead throwing it off its hinges with her magic. "Who could've done that!?"
"My guess is whoever started those fires, Yel-" Trixie looked up. Twilight Sparkle was already gone. "...always on the move."