Applebloom versus the Eighteenth Amendment
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
The things that stood out most on that warm, sunny evening were the smells. The strong scent of fermented apples permeated the air, complimented by the wholesome smell of aged oak, and the sharp funk of hard-worked sweat. In the midst of this aromatic nexus stood six exhausted ponies, who gazed proudly upon the great mountain of barrels piled high before them, their steel bands glinting red in the sunset.
“Whoo-iee, why didn’t we ever think to do this like a million years ago?” said Applejack, beaming beneath the brim of her battered old stetson. “All those years of cider-brewin’, and we never thought to just hire on a few extra hooves. I mean just look at that. Have y’all ever seen such a beautiful sight?”
“That depends on your definition of the word ‘beautiful’, Applejack,” said Rarity tartly. “But I will admit, I don’t think I’ve ever put in a more satisfying day’s work.”
“I’ll say,” nodded Twilight Sparkle. “I can’t wait to get home and take a nice long bubble bath.”
“Oooh, oooh, don’t forget to put in extra bubbles, Twilight!” piped Pinkie Pie. “There’s nothing better than extra bubbles... except maybe extra extra bubbles!”
“How about extra extra cider?” asked Rainbow Dash. “I mean look at all this; you could fill a swimming pool with all this booze! Heck, why don’t we do that right now?”
“Now, now, Rainbow, you know what they say about too much of a good thing...” said Fluttershy gently.
“Yeah, then it becomes an awesome thing!” said Rainbow with a grin.
“Heh, heh. Tell ya what, Rainbow,” offered Applejack. “How about y’all each get about... a half a keg’s worth of cider on the house. That sound like a fair recompense?”
The drooling slack-jawed expression plastered across the blue pegasus’ face seemed to indicate ‘yes’.
Sharing an obligatory laugh, the six friends parted from the towering mountain of cider and headed for the barn, where little Applebloom had just finished laying six wooden tankards of chilled cider on the picnic table. Lively country music from a nearby radio wafted soothingly over the barnyard and out into the orchard, where the treetops lit up with a brilliant orange as Celestia’s sun dipped ever deeper into the western hills.
“We sure got a good stock goin’ today, Sis!” chimed Applebloom as the gang took their places at the table. “We’re bound to make a whole heap o’ bits this year!”
“And we got these fine ponies to thank for it!” declared Applejack, beaming at her five friends.
“It was our pleasure, Applejack,” said Twilight. “We were just glad to help.”
“And get paid for it!” added Rainbow eagerly.
“All in due time, Rainbow,” laughed Applejack. “I can’t have you an’ Pinkie drinkin’ everything on me in one night now, can I?”
The two pranksters exchanged a conspiratorial glance, provoking a fresh wave of mirth from the rest of the gang. The giggles were finally silenced by the sound of Applejack pounding her hoof on the table.
“Now then,” announced the triumphant farmer, proudly brandishing her tankard in the air. “Here’s to another successful cider season! To hard work, to good friends, to Sweet Apple Cider!”
“To Sweet Apple Cider!” repeated the others.
The next few moments were spent in relative silence, as the six hard-working ponies drained their tankards with relish, while the music drew itself to a satisfying close.
“That was ‘Sweet Home Appleloosa’, a little present of mine for all you hard-working country ponies out there. For those of you just tuning in, I’m D.J. Pon-3, and I’m afraid we gotta break for the evening news. So let’s see what we got in here... Oh, here’s a good one. An honest-to-hay bank heist took place in Manehatten earlier today at the Equestrian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Apparently, a gang of stallions posing as a wastepaper basket repair crew was somehow able to get into the vault, load up with half a dozen bags of coin, and fight their way out the front door. Luckily, the robbers were soon forced to surrender after finding that their getaway carriage had been towed for double parking. Ha, morons. Also in the headlines, a-... wait, what?... I don’t get-... oh... really? ... really?? ... o-okay listen up ponies, we’re actually going live to Canterlot Palace right now; apparently Princess Celestia herself is about to make a big announcement...”
Twilight’s ears perked at the mention of her mentor’s name.
“Hey, turn it up, Princess Celestia’s about to say something!”
Applebloom quickly hurried over and spun the dial just as the Princess’ voice hit the airwaves. With bated breath, the seven ponies leaned in close so as not to miss a single word of what would undoubtedly be a momentous proclamation.
“...and so it is with considerable excitement that I announce the undertaking of a great and noble experiment in the administration of our fair society,” declared the serene voice of Princess Celestia, co-regent of Equestria. “From the stroke of midnight tonight, five sample towns throughout Equestria will be operating under a radical new policy of alcoholic prohibition; the production, distribution, and consumption of all alcoholic beverages will henceforth be declared illegal. The towns in question will be: Trottingham, Hoofington, Ritterberg, Ponyville, and-”
The rest of the Princess’ speech went unheard, as six frantic ponies hurried to the aid of their suddenly unconscious orange comrade.
* * *
Applejack awoke with a start, her mane slick with cold sweat.
“WHAT IN TARNATION?!”
“Shhh, easy Applejack. You gave us all a terrible fright,” soothed Fluttershy, who was sitting by the side of the earth pony’s bed.
“Yer darn right I did! What’s all this about ‘pro-hee-bition’? I mean, what kind of fancy new law is that?!”
“Actually, it’s not really a law yet, A.J.,” said Twilight, the only other pony in the room. “Not yet anyway. Right now it’s just an experiment; to see how it would hold up if it was a law.”
“What?! Now that’s a pretty weird way of doin’ things!” said Applejack hotly.
“Not really,” said Twilight. “In fact, many of our most cherished laws and policies have been brought about as the result of social experiments like this one.”
“Really? Name three.”
“Okay, well for starters there was the Unity Act of AE73, which officially ended the segregation of the three pony races. That was the result of a five year sociological trial.”
“Okay, that’s one,” conceded Applejack.
“Then there’s the Mayoral Act of 846, which imposed dramatic limits on the powers of the incompetent nobility, and led to creation of our current democratic system of municipal government.”
“And you didn’t get a word of that, did you?” muttered Twilight.
“Yeah, yeah, stuck-up rich folk got the boot, I get it. Is that all you got?”
“Well, how about the Universal Suffrage Ruling of 1917, which finally granted stallions equal voting rights with mares?” answered Twilight with a knowledgeable smirk.
“Okay, fine, whatever, point taken. But how in the hay is any good supposed to come from outlawin’ cider?” demanded Applejack.
For once, Twilight seemed at a loss for an immediate answer.
“Well... I suppose we might see a marked decrease in unemployment, domestic violence, public nudity-”
“But just takin’ away alcohol ain’t no way to solve them problems!”
“Perhaps not, but there’s nothing we can do about it, A.J. I’m sorry. I was looking forward to cider season too,” said Twilight softly.
With a defeated sigh, Applejack collapsed back into her pillow.
“Where’re the others anyway?” she asked after a while.
“Pinkie Pie’s downstairs comforting Rainbow Dash. She took the news pretty hard...” said Fluttershy. “Big Macintosh is helping Applebloom with her homework, and Rarity is doing the dishes with Granny Smith.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much, A.J.,” said Twilight. “I don’t see much logic in this prohibition thing myself. If you ask me, it’ll all blow over soon.”
“I hope you’re right, Twi,” murmured Applejack. “I hope you’re right...”
* * *
Mayor Mare was not having a good day. Not anymore. News of the Princess’ announcement had spread throughout the town like wildfire, and it wasn’t long before she found herself being accosted in the streets by hordes of panicked ponies, none of whom were particularly keen to hear the Mayor’s pleas that the matter was completely beyond her control, that she had not been actively involved in Ponyville’s selection as a sample town, and that she would very much appreciate if they were to put down those axe-hafts now, thank-you very much.
Eventually, the harangued official finally managed to escape the gibbering masses for the safety of Town Hall. With a relieved sigh, Mayor Mare strode into her office, deliberately ignored her secretary’s desperate attempts to get her attention, and slammed the door behind her.
“Good evening, Madame Mayor.”
With a surprised yelp, Mayor Mare wheeled around to face the midnight-blue pony who sat behind her desk, noting in particular her piercing teal eyes, her glittering starry mane, and her regal black lacquered vestments.
“Looking for this, perchance?” asked the Princess of the Night, magically holding up a clear bottle of murky amber-coloured liquid.
“P-princess Luna, I-I can explain, I-”
“Calm yourself, Mayor,” said Princess Luna, her voice notably bereft of the unrelenting volume that had so characterised her previous appearances. “The prohibition act does not actually take effect until midnight. I suggest we make the most of that fact.”
With a swift flash of magic, Luna deftly produced three crystal tumblers from hammerspace, and poured a small portion of the bottle’s contents into each. She then levitated one of the glasses to the Mayor, who received it with a polite bow.
“Er, thank-you, Princess. Pardon me for asking, but what are you doing here?” asked the Mayor with a trembling sip at her glass.
“Why, I have come to inform you, of course,” responded Luna as she idly swirled her own glass. “I imagine that this ‘noble experiment’ of ours has come as something of a shock to your little community.”
“That would be putting it mildly,” said the Mayor. “Cider season opens tomorrow, you see. Or at least it was supposed to open tomorrow.”
“Yes, we heard about that,” said Luna with a frown. “Most unfortunate. We had honestly hoped to implement this new policy without incident. Regardless, I am confident that you will be able to keep the peace in this town, and ensure that our experiment yields viable results.”
“That might be difficult,” said the Mayor stiffly. “I’m not exactly the most popular pony in town right now.”
“Rest assured, that will change,” said the Princess icily. “Even as we speak, rangers are being deployed to guard the roads and to patrol the skies against potential smugglers. We will also be deploying a section of our Royal Guard to Ponyville to help enforce the new policy. As cynical as it sounds, your constituents should have scapegoats aplenty to blame for their thirsts.”
Feeling slightly relieved, Mayor Mare took another sip of her drink. A thought suddenly struck her.
“Um, who’s the other glass for?” she asked.
“Go ahead and take it, I don’t drink,” said a deep voice that was certainly not Luna’s.
With a slight start, Mayor Mare turned to face the dull grey earth-stallion who had been quietly standing in the corner. He was dressed smartly in a large brown overcoat, and his chiseled features were shaded beneath the brim of a matching fedora. With piercing blue eyes, he shot a cursory glance at the Mayor, who responded with a look of her own that, were it a spoken statement, would probably go along the lines of “Why hello, handsome...”
“Madame Mayor, allow me to introduce Inspector Flex Bannister,” said Luna proudly. “He will be in charge of enforcing the prohibition laws in Ponyville.”
“Honoured to be at your service, ma’am,” said Bannister dryly.
“My, he certainly seems... able,” noted the Mayor as she cast an idle eye towards the inspector’s backside.
“Indeed, I am told Bannister was personally responsible for foiling the E.I.B.C. robbery in Manehatten earlier today. Am I right, Inspector?” chimed Luna.
“Aye, I was the one who ticketed their ride,” answered Bannister with a proud grin that deflated Luna’s own.
“Oh... I see... But you are up to the task at hoof, right?”
“Trust me, by the time I’m done, there won’t be nip of hooch to be found from here to Manehatten. That I can guarantee.”
“Splendid! Well then, Madame Mayor, let us enjoy one final drink, to our noble experiment.”
With an air of unmistakable irony, Luna swept the glass to her lips, took a long sip, ruminated it for a moment, then turned her attention to the bottle, which had been crudely labeled ‘Berry-Shine’.
“Madame Mayor... is this a... local brand?”
“Oh yes...” muttered the Mayor. “Very local.”
With a grimace, Princess Luna swallowed what she had, then casually leaned back and poured the remainder of her glass into a nearby planter.
* * *
Two days after Celestia’s harrowing announcement, Ponyville had gradually returned to some semblance of normalcy. True to his promises, Inspector Flex Bannister had led the Royal Guards under his command on a non-stop purge of the town’s liquor cabinets. Few ponies offered any resistance, and those that did were generally too inebriated to really make much of an impact. The ranger patrols and roadblocks were equally efficient, and many a traveller entering town was quick to testify to the tenacity of the rangers’ efforts, as well as the ‘thoroughness’ of their search methods. By the end of the first day, every pub and liquor store in Ponyville had been closed down and boarded up, their precious contents hauled away never to be seen, or imbibed, ever again. It was a grim spectacle, but a ripe source of conversation for ponies of all ages.
“It just ain’t fair!” cried young Applebloom as she paced restlessly across the floor of the Cutie-Mark Crusaders’ clubhouse. “Why’d they have to ban cider right before cider season? Couldn’t they’ve waited until after it was over?”
“Gee, Applebloom, you sure are worried about all this,” noted Sweetie Belle with a concerned look.
“Yeah, what’s with that? You can’t even drink cider yet,” added Scootaloo.
“Don’t ya get it?” cried Applebloom. “We need that cider money to support the farm through the winter. If we can’t sell our cider, we could lose the whole thing! We’d have no farm, no home, Granny might lose her new hip, Big Macintosh would have to eat his collar, and Applejack would... would just be plain ol’ ‘Jack’!”
“And you’d just be plain old ‘Bloom’!” cried Sweetie Belle in horror.
“That does it! Nopony takes away my best friend’s name and gets away with it! Not on my watch!” declared Scootaloo.
“But you don’t have a watch, Scootaloo,” said Sweetie Belle.
“Well, then I’m just gonna have to buy one!”
“And where’re you gonna get the money for a new watch?” asked Applebloom. “You don’t even have an allowance.”
“I’ll just make some money, that’s how!” said Scootaloo.
A curious expression suddenly crossed the young pegasus’ face. Then, with a shout of triumph, she suddenly launched herself into the air, missed an overhanging kerosene lamp, hit her head on a rafter instead, and landed roughly on the floor with a broad grin plastered clumsily across her face.
“That’s it!” shouted Scootaloo, reeling slightly from her rather painful epiphany. “We’ll make some money! Lots of money! For you, Applebloom! Then your family won’t have to lose the farm and you won’t have to change your name!”
Applebloom’s eyes lit up in excitement.
“Hey yeah, that’s a great idea! We could be ‘Cutie-Mark Crusader Money-Makers’!”
“We’ll be the richest ponies in Ponyville!” said Sweetie Belle.
“No, all of Equestria!” said Scootaloo.
“Chew on that, Diamond Tiara!” jeered Applebloom. “Right, let’s not waste any time, girls...”
“CUTIE-MARK CRUSADER MONEY-MAKERS, YAY!!!”
Of course, the Cutie-Mark Crusaders weren’t the only ponies in town looking to make a few bits. With the new prohibition policy in full swing, many of the villagers were already resorting to shadier means of slaking their thirsts, providing a prime situation for ponies of a more opportunistic disposition...
* * *
From the cover of a narrow alley, the mare carefully surveyed the street before her, scanning for potential threats, calculating her next move. Content that the coast was clear, she sprang silently from the shadows and slipped up the side of the street. Up ahead, an ailing streetlamp struggled to provide a respite from the darkness of the cloudy moonless night. The mare patiently waited just on the edge of the pool of yellow light, watching it flicker, waiting for an opportunity to slip past. With a soft ‘pop’, the light suddenly winked out, and the mare darted forward, reaching the other side just as the light sputtered back to life.
Silently praising herself for her cat-like antics, the mare slipped around another corner towards the rear of a nearby shop, where a single white lamp shone invitingly over a lovely green door. With a final cursory glance to ensure she wasn’t being watched, the mare slid along the wall up to the door, allowing the light to illuminate her mulberry mane and bulging saddlebags. After but a moment’s further hesitation, the mare swiftly pushed the door open, slipped fluidly inside, and descended down the darkened stairway that lay behind.
Seconds later, the mare arrived at another door, this one a large, steel bound affair with a narrow slot cut at around eye-level. Behind it came the thumping beats of loud music and the dull roar of revelling conversation. Smiling, the mulberry mare raised her hoof and pounded thrice on the mighty door.
The slot opened.
“Password?” inquired the heavily accented voice of a stallion.
The mare suddenly paused. This was a new development.
“Sorry, what?” she asked.
“Password. What is the password?” repeated the stallion.
“You gotta be kidding me, what password?”
“The password so we don’t let in the heat.”
“C’mon Horte, it’s me, Berry. Berry Punch?”
“Can’t let anypony in without the password. Boss’ orders.”
“But I don’t know the password.”
“Then I guess you’re out of luck,” said Horte smugly.
“Sorry, nothing I can do. Au revoir, mon-”
“Sacremain, Horte, ouvrez la porte!!!” hissed Berry Punch.
The slot was slid shut. Then the door opened.
“Bienvenue, Madame Punch.”
With a smug grin, Berry trotted past the cream-coloured stallion, who had traded his usual high-class waiter’s garb for a plain woollen sweater and a worn beret. He afforded her a nod of new-found respect as she passed, then returned to his duties. Careful not to lose the precious contents of her saddlebags, Berry wove through the crowd of ponies who occupied the shop basement, many of whom were sipping at mugs of peculiarly fragrant coffee, until she finally reached the newly installed bar at the far end, where she was greeted by a light brown earth-stallion with flaming orange hair.
“Ah, if it isn’t our dear friend, Miss Berry Punch!” chimed Mr. Breezy though his thick Celtic accent. “Come, sit down, enjoy yourself. Everypony else is.”
“I wanna ‘nother cup o’ coffee!” slurred a particularly inebriated stallion who was swaying about nearby.
“Yes, yes, of course sir. Beanie!” he shouted to the other young mare behind the bar. “Be a good lass and get this fellow another cup of coffee. Now, Miss Berry, what can I do for you?”
With a reserved smile, Berry pulled off her saddlebags and lifted them onto the bar, revealing the cargo contained within.
“Ah, of course, ‘Berry-Shine’, Ponyville’s guilty pleasure...” mused Breezy with a thinly-veiled grimace. “Great stuff that is, works wonders on my showerhead. How much?”
“Ten bits,” said Berry flatly. “Per bottle.”
“Ten bits apiece?! That’s outrageous!”
“What can I say?” said Berry with a smirk. “Demand is high, supply is low; it’s a sellers’ market. Besides, I think you’ll find this is my best batch yet.”
“Ha! I’ll be the judge of that!” said Breezy. “Your last batch nearly struck me blind!”
“Go ahead then,” smiled Berry. “Put me to the test.”
With an amused snort, the doubtful stallion promptly seized a bottle, poured its amber contents into a glass, took a reluctant sip, and was completely floored to find that it was actually palatable.
“I say, what have you done to this drain-cleaner of yours, Berry? I can actually swallow the stuff for once!”
“Well, I cleaned the tub out for one thing,” said Berry.
“Ah, that would explain the hints of citrus I’m getting.”
“And I added a bit of blackberry, a touch of honey, a little more grape...”
“Aye, keep doing all that. Especially the part where you clean the tub out first,” said Breezy as he drained the rest of his glass. “You keep this stuff drinkable, and I’ll gladly pay ten bits a bottle!”
“Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Breezy,” smiled Berry as she extended a hoof to her partner in crime.
Before Breezy could extend his own hoof in turn, there was a loud crash from across the room, followed by the loudest shout anypony had ever heard since Princess Luna’s infamous attempt at public relations.
A record scratch brought the party sounds to a halt as the crowd hurriedly parted to reveal a soft tan earth-mare with a brilliant forest-green mane and a thistle upon her flank. She might have been considered very beautiful if she weren’t currently the living embodiment of unbridled rage. Mr. Breezy gulped.
“G-Gale, m’love, what a surprise... uh, how did you get in here?”
“I let myself in,” seethed Gale.
“You’re wife has a very strong set of legs, Breezy,” said Horte, who was silently nursing a swollen jaw. “On that note, we’re going to need a new lock.”
“Forget the lock!” snapped Gale. “Tell me, Breezy, how do you think it feels to find out that your beloved spouse has been staying out at all hours, neglecting his marital duties, and worrying you to no end, just to run some two-bit speakeasy operation out of the basement of his blasted fan shop?!”
“Er, I suppose I’d feel pretty miffed about the whole thing,” answered Breezy meekly.
Gale flared her nostrils at her husband’s answer before she suddenly leapt forward with a primal roar and clamped her teeth upon Breezy’s ear. In horror the crowd looked on helplessly as the poor stallion was dragged screaming from the room by his fiery eyed wife.
“I’ll deal with the rest of you later!” snarled Gale through a mouthful of ear.
And she was gone.
When all was silent, Horte stepped up to the door and solemnly pushed it shut, only for it to burst wide open again, this time revealing the determined face of the last pony anypony wanted to see that night.
“Freeze! This is a raid!” declared Inspector Bannister.
“Tabarnac! C’est les gendarmes!”
And everypony did so.
When the thundering of panicked hooves had died down, Bannister and his guards picked themselves off the floor, dusted the hoofprints from their backs and stepped into the room, which was now largely empty save for the flailing hindquarters of a bright purple pony who was struggling to fit through the basement window. With a derisive sigh, Bannister stepped forward, gripped the mare’s mulberry tail in his teeth, and pulled her back onto the floor.
“Aw, nuts...” swore Berry.
* * *
Meanwhile, in a farmhouse on the other side of Ponyville, a similar sentiment was being echoed by a frustrated young filly lying on her bed surrounded by discarded newspapers, specifically the ‘help wanted’ ads. Not that they were doing her any good. Over the course of the day, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo had traipsed from one end of Ponyville to the other, offering their services wherever odd jobs were to be found, and subsequently being turned down, partially because of their age, but mostly in light of past experiences with the mischievous trio.
“It just ain’t fair,” Applebloom said aloud to nopony in particular. “How’s a filly supposed to make any money in this town if nopony cooperates?”
Her question remained unanswered, so after a few more minutes of moping, Applebloom finally pulled herself out of bed and slunk downstairs to see what Applejack was doing. As it turned out, Applejack was entertaining a guest.
“...so apparently Mr. Breezy himself had nothing to do with it; it seems he was in bed with his wife at the time of the raid. Still, I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t notice a speakeasy in the cellar of his own shop,” gabbed the prim voice of Rarity.
“Huh. It’s only been three days and already ponies are gettin’ drastic,” mused Applejack. “Though I guess I can’t really blame ‘em. Cuttin’ in this prohibition thing right before cider season was a pretty low blow to all of us.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask, Applejack, but whatever did you do with all that cider we had brewed up?”
“We buried it. Out by the sheep pens. I just couldn’t stand to see all our hard work tossed away like that, so me and Big Macintosh went and got permission from the Mayor to just hide it all away instead.”
“Smart move, Applejack,” said Rarity brightly. “When this whole silly notion blows over, and I’m sure it will, you’ll be right back in business.”
“Until then, keep yer mouth shut about the cider,” hissed Applejack. “The last thing I need is some thirsty nag diggin’ up my orchards.”
“Rest assured, your secret is safe with me, darling,” piped Rarity. “Anyway, I must be going now. Goodnight, Applejack.”
With Rarity gone, Applebloom left her hiding place on the stairs and crept into the kitchen where her sister sat forlornly at the table.
“Uh, hey Big Sis,” mumbled Applebloom.
“Hey there, kiddo,” answered Applejack without looking at her.
“Applejack. Do you think we’ll be able to sell our cider again soon?”
‘I don’t know,” sighed Applejack. “I do hope so, and everypony’s always tellin’ me this whole mess’s just a fad, but... I don’t know Applebloom. Best we can do now is just try and move on.”
Applebloom couldn’t stand to see her sister in such a mood, and so began to fish about for some way to change the subject.
“Hey Sis... what is a ‘speakeasy’ anyway?” she asked, genuinely curious.
“You heard that, huh?” said Applejack flatly. “Well, a speakeasy is kinda like an illegal bar. There’s probably gonna be a lot more of ‘em poppin’ up as time goes on; not too many ponies are keen on not bein’ allowed to hit the booze no more.”
Applebloom pondered this answer for a moment.
“So... a speakeasy sells drinks just like a normal bar, right?” she asked cautiously.
“Exactly like a normal bar, only in this case, everypony inside’d be arrested if the guards ever showed up.”
“But they’d sell normal drinks right? Like cider maybe?”
Applejack cocked a narrowed eye at her little sister.
“I know what you’re thinkin’, and the answer is ‘no’!”
“C’mon Sis, we need that money! For the farm!” protested Applebloom. “And besides, we worked hard to make that cider! Why shouldn’t we get somethin’ for it?”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, Applebloom, but the law is still the law,” explained Applejack.
“But it’s a stupid law! Can’t we break the rules just this once?”
“This ain’t a game, Applebloom. Breakin’ the law is serious business; we could get into a whole heap o’ trouble if we did somethin’ like that. And even if we didn’t, I still wouldn’t do it.”
“Why not?” pleaded Applebloom
“Because it’d be dishonest, that’s why.”
That was it. Done. Once Applejack had said the ‘DH’ word, Applebloom knew the argument was a lost cause.
With a pout, the frustrated farm filly slumped out of the kitchen back towards the stairs, ignoring her sister’s calls of “goodnight”, and made her way to her bed. Tomorrow she would regroup with her fellow Crusaders and continue their search anew for ways of making money. As Applebloom lay drowsily upon her pillow, half-formed ideas and fanciful schemes swirled and coalesced within her tired mind. One dream in particular stood out from the others; the image of herself standing proud beside an enormous keg of cider, with an endless line of thirsty ponies stretched out before her...
To be continued...
 AE: Anno Equestria
Applebloom versus the Eighteenth Amendment
A FiM Fic by (Insert Pen Name)
“Come on, kids, stay with the group!” called Cheerilee as she led her class down the main street of Ponyville. “You’ll all have plenty of time to rest your hooves when we get to the library.”
It had been just over a week now since prohibition had taken hold in Ponyville, and even young fillies and colts were starting to feel some of the effects. Poor Pina Colada had been in a mild state of shock ever since she had witnessed her older sister Berry being hauled away in the back of a prison wagon. Her mood had been made only worse by the incessant teasing of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, who would stage loud and ruthlessly derogatory conversations about the mulberry moonshine-mixer whenever the poor little pink filly was within earshot. Pina’s ensuing efforts to defend her sister’s honour went about as well as anypony could expect; Pina herself was of the utmost opinion that two day’s detention was well worth the privilege of doling out a couple of well-deserved nosebleeds.
Eventually, the class arrived at the hollowed out tree that was the Ponyville library, which Cheerilee couldn’t help but notice seemed busier than normal. Much busier. A large non-descript mover’s van was parked outside the front door, through which teamsters were busily carrying crates and boxes of varying sizes. Next to the van, Spike the dragon was visibly engaged in conversation with a great brown pegasus stallion with a great stubble-covered chin. Unwilling to interrupt, Cheerilee motioned for her class to remain silent until the brown stallion finally ended the discussion and headed back inside. With slight trepidation, Cheerilee trotted up to the little purple dragon.
“Hello there Spike,” called Cheerilee, provoking a jolt of surprise from the assistant librarian.
“Oh, uh, hi Cheerilee,” stammered Spike, his face betraying the tiniest hint of unease. “What brings you over?”
“Book Reports,” said Cheerilee. “I figured I’d give the class an opportunity to root through the library this afternoon. I’m sure I mentioned it to Twilight the other day.”
“Oh, right. I guess she forgot to tell me,” said Spike with a nervous chuckle.
“Speaking of which, where is Twilight?” asked Cheerilee. “I haven’t seen her in the past few days.”
“Ah, well, she’s actually visiting her folks up in Canterlot,” exposited Spike. “Hasn’t seen them in ages. She won’t be back for a couple of weeks.”
“Oh, yes that’s right, she did mention she’d be going away for a while,” pondered Cheerilee. “So, you’re in charge then?”
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” said Spike rather quickly. “And don’t mind all the other ponies. We’re just having some work done in the basement, that’s all. The library itself is totally free.”
“Oh, well in that case, head on in children!” called Cheerilee over her shoulder, albeit with some hesitation.
The class immediately began filing into the library, with the exception of Applebloom, who continue to eye the line of teamsters with growing interest. She was not alone in this regard. Cheerilee too seemed to have sensed that something was amiss, though she was not yet sure what to make of it.
“So Spike...” began Cheerilee. “What kind of work are you having done, exactly?”
“Uh, foundation work,” answered Spike. “You know, the usual.”
“Huh. I was unaware that trees even needed foundation work,” said Cheerilee, as she watched the workers carry a large slab of polished teak through the library door, followed closely by several smaller varnished wood panels.
“Ah, well, now you know, I guess,” said Spike with a nervous chuckle.
Cheerilee’s eyes narrowed as the crews continued to unload the van, this time bearing a large length of brass tubing that looked suspiciously like a bar step. The resemblance didn’t escape Applebloom either...
“Those are some very, um, expensive looking building materials. I’m noticing a lot of varnished lumber going in there,” said Cheerilee slowly.
“Oh, well, um, uh...”
“Well of course the wood’s all varnished, Miss Cheerilee,” interjected Applebloom. “How’s it supposed to hold up in the wet ground if it ain’t protected somehow?”
“Uh, yeah!” nodded Spike. “What she said!”
“Oh, well that makes sense,” said Cheerilee, shrugging off her suspicions with a smile. “You usually are the go-to filly for this sort of thing, Applebloom.”
“Anyway, shouldn’t we be headin’ inside, Miss Cheerilee?” coaxed Applebloom.
“Yes, I suppose we should,” nodded Cheerilee. “Somepony has to pry Snips and Snails away from the comic book section after all.”
Her suspicions abated for the time being, the aptly named teacher trotted cheerily into the library, leaving Applebloom alone outside with Spike.
“So tell me, Spike, whatcha really got goin’ on down there?” asked Applebloom with a devilish smirk.
“N-nothing, really,” stammered Spike. “Like I said, it’s just foundation work. Normal, average, everyday, unusually expensive foundation work.”
“Oh, so you’re not settin’ up a speakeasy downstairs while Twilight’s out of-”
“Shhh!” hissed Spike, his eyes darting about for potential witnesses. “Keep it down!”
“Aha! I knew it!”
“Alright, yeah, you got me,” grumbled Spike.
“Just you?” asked Applebloom with a smirk.
“Well no, there’s also Boxy and- wait, no, aaargh!!!”
Applebloom could only giggle as she watched the young dragon berate himself.
“Easy there fella, I ain’t gonna tell nopony,” said Applebloom as she placed a reassuring hoof on Spike’s shoulder. “In fact, I think we might be able to help each other out. You see, unless I’m much mistaken, you’re gonna need quite a bit o’ hooch for this operation, ain’t ya?”
“Yes...” answered Spike slowly.
“And from what I heard, that’s gonna be mighty hard to come by now that Miss Berry Punch is all locked up,” continued Applebloom.
“But luckily for you, I happen to have a nice little alternative...” whispered Applebloom as she drew herself closer to Spike’s ear. “Sweet. Apple. Cider.”
Spike’s jaw dropped with a loud thud.
“Are you serious?” he asked. “Like, actual Sweet Apple Cider?”
“Would I lie to you?”
“I dunno, would you?”
“Huh, maybe...” teased Applebloom. “But right now, all that matters is that you’ve got a bar, and I’ve got a load of cider. I think what we got here are the makings of a beautiful friendship...”
* * *
The atmosphere was unusually tense inside the Cutie-Mark Crusaders’ clubhouse. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle stood rooted to the centre of the floor, exchanging worried glances as Applebloom paced nervously back and forth, occasionally checking the windows as if afraid they were being watched. Eventually, she turned to face the other two fillies.
“Okay girls, listen up; I got somethin’ real big to tell you, but you have to promise me you won’t tell anypony else.”
“Don’t worry, Applebloom, we promise,” said Sweetie Belle.
“We Pinkie promise!” said Scootaloo. “Cross our hearts, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in our eyes!”
“Only one cupcake for both of us?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Focus, gals, this is important!” pleaded Applebloom. “We could get into a lot of trouble for what I’m about to tell ya!”
“Listen, I have an idea to raise money for the farm,” explained Applebloom.
“Really? That doesn’t sound so bad,” said Sweetie Belle. “How’s that supposed to get us in trouble?”
“Maybe Applebloom’s planning on robbing a bank or something,” laughed Scootaloo. “So is that our new plan, Applebloom? ‘Cutie-Mark Crusader Bank Robbers’? ‘Cause that would really be awesome!”
The farm-filly afforded her friends a nervous laugh, but the fact remained that Scootaloo wasn’t entirely off the mark. For a moment she paused as she considered how best to proceed. Like most of her previous decisions, she figured the best option was the most direct one.
“Okay listen. Spike and a bunch of other guys are settin’ up a speakeasy in the library basement while Twilight Sparkle’s away.”
The cheerful smiles on the other Crusaders’ faces suddenly vanished.
“And I know where my sister and brother buried all the cider we had made up,” continued Applebloom. “I’ve already talked it over with Spike; if we can supply the cider, he’ll sell it at the library, and we’ll split the take sixty/forty... our way!”
The two fillies stared at Applebloom in abject shock.
“So whaddaya say, Cutie-Mark Crusaders? Ya with me?”
“Are you serious?” asked Scootaloo in a harsh whisper. “Because that is without a doubt.... the most awesome idea you’ve ever had!”
“What?!” cried Sweetie Belle.
“We could be Cutie-Mark Crusader Bootleggers!” said Scootaloo, bubbling with excitement. “It’d be just like those crime comics Rainbow Dash gave me! We’d be the roughest, toughest gang this side of downtown!”
“Scootaloo, this is serious!” exclaimed Sweetie Belle. “Do you have any idea how much trouble we’d be in if anypony caught us?! They’d lock us up for twenty years! We’d have to get our cutie-marks for breaking rocks or stamping license plates or who-knows-what!”
“Not if we don’t get caught,” said Applebloom. “I worked it all out with Spike. Here check this out.”
Applebloom hurried over to a nearby closet and threw open the door, revealing several towering stacks of tattered old books and at least a dozen wooden crates full of empty juice bottles.
“These here are all the old books that the library had to take off the shelves over the years,” explained Applebloom. “Nopony else wanted ‘em, and Twilight didn’t like the idea of just throwin’ ‘em out so she stuck ‘em all in the basement instead.”
“How does that help us?” asked Scootaloo.
“Easy. First we put the cider into these here bottles. Then we hollow out the books so the bottles fit inside. Then all we gotta do is deliver the books back to the library like we’re returnin’ them.”
Sweetie Belle let out a low whistle.
“That’s actually really clever, Applebloom,” she said.
“Yeah, we could drag that cider all over town in broad daylight and nopony would suspect a thing!” added Scootaloo.
“That’s the idea,” beamed Applebloom. “So are you girls in or not?”
Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo shared a final glance of uncertainty before turning back to Applebloom with broad smiles on their faces.
“You bet your bank flank we’re with you, Applebloom!” said Scootaloo. “We’d never leave a fellow Crusader hanging!”
“I still think we should be careful though,” added Sweetie Belle. “Mom and Dad would
ground me for life if they ever found out I was bootlegging.”
“Don’t worry, girls, I’ve got it all planned out,” said Applebloom with a confident grin.
“Ain’t no way we’re ever gonna get caught!”
“I sure hope not,” said Scootaloo. “So what’s our first step?”
“First thing’s first, Crusaders, we need to cover our tracks. So run home and tell your folks you’re stayin’ at the clubhouse for a sleepover. Then we’ll all meet back here tonight so we can get started.”
“Got it. Anything else?” asked Scootaloo.
“Yeah. Bring a shovel.”
* * *
The full moon shone bright and pale over Sweet Apple Acres, the innumerable rows of majestic trees casting long, stark shadows upon the silvery pallour. It was the perfect night for covert activity; the light of the moon obviated the need to risk a lamp or flashlight, yet it was still dark enough that any who happened to cast an eye out over the orchard was unlikely to notice the three fillies who darted among the shadowed tree trunks.
Eventually, the troublesome trio arrived at their destination, a large patch of earth that had clearly been dug up and subsequently replaced. With spades shouldered, the fillies waited. Waited and watched. Apart from the rustling of leaves in the breeze and the stirrings of sheep in the nearby corral, all was silent. Content that the coast was clear, the leader of the gang turned to address her companions.
“Okay, this is it, Crusaders,” whispered Applebloom. “This is where my brother and sister buried the cider. All we gotta do is dig it all up.”
“Dig it all up?” repeated Sweetie Belle. “In one night?”
“We got no choice, Sweetie Belle. It’s not like we can leave the job half-finished; somepony’s bound to notice a great big hole in the ground. We’ll just have to hustle is all.”
“Are you two finished now?” hissed Scootaloo. “C’mon, let’s get digging!”
The Crusaders quickly set about silently shovelling heaping spadefuls of dirt from the upset patch. Almost immediately they struck something solid.
“I hit something, I hit something!” said Scootaloo.
“So did I!” said Sweetie Belle.
The three fillies quickly fell to their knees and began sweeping away the loose dirt. When they saw what they had uncovered, however, their excitement quickly gave way to confusion. Instead of the tops of barrels, the Crusaders now found themselves staring at an expanse of several broad planks of solid lumber buried just below the surface. The three fillies exchanged bemused looks, before Applebloom was suddenly struck by realisation.
“Well I’ll be...” she murmured to herself. “Wait here girls, I’ll be right back.”
Before either of the other Crusaders could voice their inquiries, Applebloom had already bounded away into the darkness. Minutes later, she had returned with a saw clenched between her teeth, a length of rope hung about her neck, and a large sheet of plywood trailing behind her by her tail.
“I don’t understand,” said Sweetie Belle as Applebloom began tapping the wood with her hoof. ‘What is all this?”
“It’s the roof, you silly filly,” explained Applebloom, as though that were perfectly obvious.
Indeed, a roof it was. As it turned out, Applejack had given in to sentiment and chose to interr her prized cider in a makeshift chamber rather than see it simply swallowed by the earth. It was the work of a few moments for Applebloom to apply her talent of the divine trade and saw a neat hole in the section that they had uncovered, whereupon she peered down into the darkness and smiled as a sliver of silver moonlight lit upon the top of a barrel directly below.
“Perfect! Now let’s get it outa’ there.”
This was easier said than done. It took nearly half an hour for the three little fillies to haul the great oaken keg out the hole they had made, by which point the Crusaders were sweaty and sore to no small degree.
“Eh, wha-a-a-at are you doing here?”
The three fillies jumped at the sound of the voice. Wheeling around, they soon came face to face with its owner, a scraggly black ram who stood with his forelegs draped over the corral fence, regarding them with something in between curiosity and suspicion.
“And just what are you little ponies doing?” he asked, almost mockingly.
“Uh, nothing,” answered Sweetie Belle, with a sickly sweet smile. “We’re doing absolutely nothing.”
“Doesn’t look like ‘nothing’ to me,” noted the ram with a smirk. “Looks to me like some fillies trying to sneak a nip o’ hooch. Naughty, naughty...”
Applebloom gulped. This could be bad.
“Listen, you can’t tell anypony you saw us here tonight,” she said shakily.
The sheep raised a wooly eyebrow.
“Oh, and why not?”
“It’s real important, alright. The future of the farm depends on it.”
The ram considered this new development.
“Wha-a-a-at’s in it for me?” he asked.
“I’ll be loads more gentle when herdin’ you around from now on,” offered Applebloom
“Meh. Tha-a-a-at’ll work.”
And then he trotted off, just like that.
“Well, that was easy,” muttered Scootaloo.
“Yeah, close call,” said Applebloom. “Okay, let’s get outa’ here, we can get the rest later.”
Under Applebloom’s direction, the three fillies quickly covered their hole with the sheet of plywood Applebloom had brought, then filled the loose dirt back in to disguise their excavation. While Applebloom and Sweetie Belle then rolled the recovered barrel back to the clubhouse, Scootaloo followed behind, sweeping away their tracks with her tail as they went. As the Cutie-Mark Crusader Bootleggers disappeared into the night, a pair of beady eyes watched them from behind the fence, then turned away and went back to counting sheep.
* * *
By the light of day, the whole operation seemed perfectly innocent.
At around 3:00 in the afternoon, Applebloom would wheel a little red wagon piled high with books up to the front door of the library, singing merrily to herself in the masterful guise of an innocent little school-aged filly. Spike would then answer the door, receive her “returns” and after a few minutes more, Applebloom would depart with an entirely different wagonload of books and return to the clubhouse, the true purpose of her commute hidden deftly beneath a veil of absolute adorability.
By night, however...
“Dash, Pinkie, glad you could make it,” said Spike, doing his best to effect a smooth tone while subtly tweaking his bowtie. “Like what I’ve done to the place?”
“It’s really really cool, Spike!” chirped Pinkie Pie. “I mean, it’s not quite like a real party with cake and balloons and streamers and stuff, but you do have jazzy music and dancing and everypony seems to be having a good time, so I give it a thumbs up!”
“Thanks Pinkie, glad you’re enjoying- wait, what?”
“Moving on...” interrupted Rainbow Dash. “Word on the street is you’ve got cider in this joint, Spike. Sweet Apple Cider.”
“Would you ponies like a bottle?” asked Spike smugly.
“Just one?” asked Pinkie with visible disappointment. “I dunno, Dash, I think it’d be a way better idea if we got two! No, two each!”
“Nice! Now that’s using your head, Pinks!” beamed Dash as she clapped her friend on the back. “You heard the lady, Spike! Four bottles of Sweet Apple Cider!”
With a chuckle, Spike reached under the bar and produced two pairs of books, tattered and heavily repaired with duct tape. After paying for their reading material with more than a few gold bits, (much to the pegasus’ disdain) Dash and Pinkie gathered up the books and headed for one of the corner booths.
“Ooh, ooh, can we go dancing afterwards, Dashie?” asked Pinkie as they went. “Can we, can we, can we?”
“We’ll see.” muttered Dash. “Right now, I got a lot of reading to catch up on...”
After watching the two mares take their seats, Spike decided to take a look around and admire the success of his endeavor.
“Watch the bar for a bit, Caramel, I’m gonna go mingle.”
It was certainly an unusual sight. There were more ponies crammed into the basement now than had ever visited the library over the course of a year. Those who weren’t flailing around on the dance floor were seated in the booths tucked against the wall, the hollowed out books kept close by while the patrons reveled in the intoxicated joys of their contents.
Spike made his rounds about the basement, stopping in at each booth to make light conversation, and generally making sure that everypony was having a good time, that the band was keeping the dance floor occupied, and that nopony was messing with Twilight’s computer equipment (which had been amply wrapped in plastic as a necessary precaution against those who might have imbibed too much and were in need of evacuation). Eventually, Spike returned to the bar, just as a small two-way radio sitting on the counter crackled suddenly to life:
“... ‘Smokey’, repeat; come in ‘Smokey’, this is ‘Goldeneye’, does anypony copy, over?”
“I copy, Derp-I mean, ‘Goldeneye’,” answered Spike into the radio’s microphone. “What have you got for me?”
The lookout’s response was loud and frantic, and rightfully so.
“Alert: ‘Papa Bear’ is on his way to the den! Repeat, ‘Papa Bear’ is on his way! Going dark as planned! Good luck down there!”
No sooner had the radio died than Spike had lept frantically atop the bar, ringing a great brass bell and shouting at the top of his lungs.
“Code-Red, Code-Red, the heat’s about to show up! Everypony hit the books!!!”
Near-panic gripped the basement as the speakeasy patrons hurriedly stuffed their bottles back into their books and tried to look sober. The dance floor was swiftly evacuated and subsequently covered in cushions and chairs, which were in turn occupied by the former dancers. The music was promptly cut and the soundstage cleared, while Caramel hastily piled the bar high with stacks of books and pamphlets. Confident in their camouflage efforts, Spike sprinted to the basement door, reaching it just as a series of booming knocks rattled the frame.
“Canterlot Royal Guard!” shouted the officious voice of Inspector Flex Bannister. “This is a raid! Open up in the name of the law!”
Spike gulped, fighting back a tremble as he reached for the lockbolt.
“O-okay, but I don’t know what you honestly expect to find in a friendly, neighborhood book club,” he said as he slowly opened the door.
With the zeal of a pony possessed, Bannister pushed past Spike and strode into the room, followed closely by a pair of gilt-armoured guards. With cold steel-blue eyes he surveyed the scene before him, before finally turning to the young dragon who stood fidgeting by his side.
“Book club, eh? Well I’ve only got one question!” barked the inspector. “What sort of book club convenes at three in the morning, plays catchy dance music at full volume, and is full of bleary-eyed party-animals?!”
The room fell dead silent as Spike prepared his answer.
“Um... uh... the... the best dang book club in Equestria!”
There was a flourish of cheers to the affirmative. Seemingly satisfied by this answer, Bannister turned and motioned for his guards to depart.
“Alright then, carry on,” he said gruffly.
Everypony watched with bated breath as Bannister strode resolutely back up the stairs.
“But remember...” he added suddenly. “You ponies better take good care of your library books; they’re part of your community!”
* * *
And so it went on. Every night for the next week, the Cutie-Mark Crusaders would make some excuse to spend the night at their clubhouse, then sneak out to the sheep pens after dark, reopen their hole, and liberate another barrel or two of the treasured cider. Their after-school crusading sessions were spent siphoning the cider into bottles, and ended with yet another covert delivery by Applebloom. By the week’s end, the Ponyville library had become the hidden jewel of the local nightlife, as more and more ponies started popping in for an illicit taste of the Apple family’s prestigious product. And while the authorities remained thankfully oblivious to Spike’s little operation, it wasn’t long before the local media began to pick up on the action.
“Disgraceful! That’s what it is, absolutely disgraceful!” shouted Inspector Flex Bannister as he slammed the newspaper upon the table, drawing a number of nervous looks from the rest of the cafe patrons.
The two guards seated opposite him glanced uneasily at the headline:
“Local ‘Cider Baroness’ Keeps the Taps Flowing”
Beneath the headline was the stylised silhouette of a mare in profile, with a trilby atop her head and a large white question mark over top.
“The ‘Cider Baroness’! That’s what they’re calling her! Can you believe these press-jockeys?” cried Bannister with clear disdain.
“Uh, how do they know it’s a ‘she’, sir?” asked one of the guards.
“Don’t waste my time with stupid questions, boy!” snapped Bannister. “All that matters is that this ‘Cider Baroness’ is a menace to everything we stand for, and it’s up to us to put her back behind bars where she belongs!”
“Back behind bars? What makes you think-”
“What did I tell you about stupid questions?”
“Now get off your flanks and get to work!” barked Bannister. “We’ve got a Cider Baroness to catch!”
“Pardon me, sir, but where are we even supposed to start?” asked the other guard. “We don’t even have any idea who she is.”
“A minor detail, corporal. The only reason we don’t know who he is is because we haven’t found her yet!” declared Bannister.
Nopony was quite sure what to say to that.
“Now move out!” ordered Bannister. “And keep your eyes open; the Cider Baroness could be anypony, young or old. Heck, she could be passing on the street right now. We can’t rule anypony out!”
“Hi there, Mr. Bannister,” came the sweet twang of a young filly who was passing on the street. “How are you today?”
“I’m very well, little lady, thanks for asking,” answered Bannister with a rare smile. “How about you, staying out of trouble?”
“Sure am, Mr. Bannister,” said Applebloom sweetly as she continued down the street with a large wagonload of books in tow. “You have a good day now.”
“You too, little lady,” said Bannister with a courteous bow. “Cute kid,” he said to himself.
* * *
And so it continued. The headlines continued to roll out, subtly praising the antics of the mysterious Cider Baroness, while openly mocking the efforts of Inspector Bannister and his Royal Guard section as they struggled to uncover the identity of the bootlegging baroness. Meanwhile, after a week of I.O.U.s, Spike had finally gained enough overhead to start paying Applebloom for her family’s excellent product. The friendly farm filly’s trips to the library now saw her returning to the clubhouse with her books stuffed full of bags of coin, which she then hid beneath the floorboards of the clubhouse. By the end of the second week, Applebloom had amassed a truly impressive nest egg, hardly surprising since Spike had apparently been selling the cider for more than three times what the Apple family usually charged. For the most part, Applebloom resolved to leave her hoard of bits alone for now; the money was intended for the family after all, and the last thing she needed was the threat of temptation. Still, given that she was making more than enough to compensate for the lost cider season, what harm was there in a little indulgence for her and the girls...
“Wow, Applebloom, this is really cool!” said Scootaloo as she admired her new wristwatch.
“Glad ya like it,” said Applebloom with a smile. “You girls have done a lot for me these past two weeks, so I figured I’d treat y’all a bit.”
“What about you, Applebloom?” asked Sweetie Belle, idly flicking at her new charm bracelet. “Did you get yourself anything?”
“Well, maybe just a little somethin’,” laughed Applebloom. “After all, I am the infamous Cider Baroness!”
The girls all giggled mischievously at Applebloom’s comment.
“Alright, enough foolin’ around, Cutie-Mark Crusaders. We got work to do.”
* * *
Meanwhile, just outside of Sweet Apple Acres, a certain violet-maned unicorn was trotting primly up the lane to the farmhouse, her impeccable posture dictated largely by the need to balance the plain round box that she carried upon her back. As she approached the veranda, the front door suddenly burst open, and out shot a bright orange earth-pony, shouting for joy. The elated farmer cleared the veranda in a single bound, landed neatly upon the front lawn, and proceeded to do what could only be described by the amused onlooker as a ‘darling little victory dance’. Rarity watched this display for a moment, before finally catching Applejack’s attention with a polite ‘ahem’. Applejack stopped dead, reconstituted herself with a blush, then moved to greet her visitor.
“Howdy, Rarity, nice to see ya,” said Applejack awkwardly. “What brings you over to my little neck o’ the woods?”
“Simply business, Applejack,” answered Rarity, fighting back a giggle. “I have a delivery to make for little Applebloom.”
“A delivery? For Applebloom???”
“Yes, is she around?”
“Er, I think so. She’s probably out at the clubhouse with the other gals,” answered Applejack. “C’mon, I’ll show you the way.”
“Splendid. Thank-you Applejack. So tell me,” she asked as the two mares started down the path through the orchard, “what do you make of this so-called ‘Cider Baroness’?”
“It don’t matter to me much, really,” said Applejack. “If some crazy filly wants to run around sellin’ dirty hooch, than that’s her business, not mine.”
“Ah, but rumour has it that it’s not just any old cider she’s selling,” said Rarity. “They say she’s selling Sweet Apple Cider!”
“Pah, what a load o’ hooey!” laughed Applejack. “I’ve been checkin’ on the stock every day since that pony started makin’ the headlines. Ain’t no sign that anypony’s been at my cider. If you ask me, I say these ponies are just so plum glad to get any cider at all that they just think it’s our stuff.”
“Hmmm. I suppose that’s true,” conceded Rarity.
“Anyway, enough about that,” said Applejack. “So what are you deliverin’ to my sister anyhow?”
“Just a hat,” said Rarity. “Applebloom came by this morning and ordered the most stylish little trilby. She even paid full price in advance!”
“Applebloom buyin’ herself a hat...” muttered Applejack, clearly ill at odds with such a radical new concept.
“Probably trying to take after her big sister,” said Rarity with a slight nudge. “Though I am intrigued by her choice of style; I would have thought she’d have gone for a stetson like yours.”
“I’m more curious how she got the money,” said Applejack. “We cut out her allowance last month after that whole ‘Cutie-Mark Crusader Loan Shark’ mess.”
“Oh, I’m sure she has her ways,” said Rarity with a reassuring brush of her hoof. “She is a rather... resourceful little filly after all.”
“That’s for sure.”
“In any event, I myself am even more curious about that cheery little display of yours back there, Applejack,” remarked Rarity with a sly look. “Care to share the good news?”
Applejack let out a nervous chuckle. Then she told her.
* * *
“Hey Scootaloo, can you give me a hoof down here?” called Applebloom.
The atmosphere inside the Cutie-Mark Crusaders clubhouse was one of hushed urgency. In the centre of the floor stood the great oaken keg that had been liberated the night before. Sweetie Belle was busily siphoning the cider contained within into bottles, which Applebloom would then cork and place into the hollowed-out books. Even though they had been running this operation for two weeks now, their workplace organisation still left much to be desired, and Applebloom was finding herself increasingly swamped with stacks of books and bottles.
“I really need ya to move some o’ this stuff for me,” explained Applebloom. “I can barely move anymore.”
“But if I’m down there, who’ll be on lookout?” asked Scootaloo from her post in the clubhouse watch tower. “What if somepony shows up while I’m not looking?”
“D’ya see anypony now?” asked Applebloom.
“Then hurry up and get down here, it’ll only take a couple seconds.”
With a resigned shrug, Scootaloo descended the ladder and began clearing the space around Applebloom.
“So how much longer are we gonna do this, anyway?” asked the young pegasus.
“Actually, this is our last one for now,” explained Applebloom. “Twilight’s supposed to be back tomorrow night, so Spike’s gonna be closing things up after tonight. He says he’ll talk to us when they’ve found someplace new to set up again.”
“Why are you only telling us this now?” asked Sweetie Belle, somewhat annoyed.
“Who cares,” said Scootaloo. “I needed a break. Being lookout sucks; you start getting all paranoid and everything. Like somepony could just bust in the front door at any moment.
At that moment the front door suddenly burst open, and two ponies hurried into the room.
“Applebloom, good news!” declared Applejack. “I just got a letter from Princess Celestia and WHAT IN TARNATION?!”
Dead silence descended upon the room. Applejack seemed at a loss for words as her eyes darted disbelievingly between the three fillies, then to the open cider keg, then to the mess of bottles and books on the floor, and finally back to Applebloom.
“Is that... your cider, Applejack?” asked Rarity with a cursory sniff at the air.
Applejack didn’t answer. Her mouth simply hung open as she continued to stare at her sister and half-filled bottle between her hooves. Her green eyes started to twitch as the gears in her head began to shift rapidly in erratic rhythms.
“Rarity,” she said suddenly, with an unsettling calm. “Pass me that box o’ yours.”
Rarity did so.
With collected coolness, Applejack deftly undid the string on the box, flicked open the lid, pulled out the crisp, cream-coloured trilby nestled within, placed it neatly on her sister’s head, adjusted it slightly, then let out a horrified gasp of recognition.
“Applebloom! You’re the Cider Baroness!”
That was it. The gig was up. There was no lying to the Element of Honesty. The crushing weight of guilt suddenly descended upon Applebloom like a sack of bricks.
“It’s true!” sobbed the cornered filly. “I am the CIder Baroness!”
Applejack was at a loss for words, so great was her shock and disappointment. She wasn’t the only one.
“You as well, Sweetie Belle?” asked Rarity in a near whisper.
Sweetie Belle could only hang her head in response.
“Hey, isn’t anypony worried that I’m involved in this?” asked Scootaloo.
Her query went unnoticed as Applejack stepped up to her teary-eyed sister.
“I don’t understand,” said Applejack shakily. “Why?”
“I just wanted to help the farm,” said Applebloom with a sniff. “I knew we needed the money from cider season, and I knew where the cider was buried, so I... I guess I just took matters into my own hooves.”
“But how’ve you been gettin’ the cider in and out without anypony noticin’?” asked Applejack.
“Well, you did put a roof over the cider,” explained Applebloom. “We just made a little hole and covered it up afterwards. And we’ve been hidin’ the bottles we fill in these here books, so I can carry them around town and nopony’ll notice.”
Rarity let out a low whistle.
“And look, Sis, look at all the money we made!”
Applebloom quickly tore up a loose floorboard, revealing a number of bulging money bags tucked between the beams. Choosing one at random, she tossed the heavy purse to her sister, who opened it with trembling hooves to reveal its glittering contents.
“And it’s all for the farm,” declared Applebloom proudly.
“But Applebloom, we don’t need this money. Not anymore,” groaned Applejack. “That’s what I wanted to tell you when we came in.”
“Your family has just been compensated, Applebloom,” said Rarity with a budding smile.
“We got a nice fat cheque from Princess Celestia herself!” explained Applejack. “Royal seal an’ everythin’! More than enough bits to make up for cider season!”
“In hindsight, I suppose it would only make sense for the Princess to make some provision for those whose livelihoods were adversely affected,” murmured Rarity in a knowing fashion.
“So we don’t have to bootleg anymore cider?” asked Applebloom excitedly.
“Not a nip,” said Applejack with a relieved smile. “So I guess we’ll just have to put all that dirty booze money into your college fund, little missy.”
“Yay! Thanks, Big Sis!” squealed Applebloom as she dove into her sister’s hooves. “You’re the best sister ever!”
And so the Cutie-Mark Crusaders ceased their criminal cider campaign, and life for the Apple family once again returned to normal...
But first this happened:
“CANTERLOT ROYAL GUARD! WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED! COME OUT WITH YOUR HOOVES UP!”
The booming, magnified voice of Inspector Flex Bannister reverberated through the clubhouse, causing everypony inside to jump. Immediately, Applejack and Applebloom dashed to the front window and peered out through a gap in the curtains. At the foot of the front ramp stood Bannister, megaphone in hoof, flanked by the guards of his section on both sides, poised and ready to charge the door at a moment’s notice.
“WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE, CIDER BARONESS!”
“Oh-no, they found us!” cried Applebloom.
“Don’t panic sugarcube, it’s just the few of ‘em,” said Applejack shakily. “Maybe we can make a break for it.”
“Er, Applejack, perhaps you should come over here and take a look outside,” said Rarity gingerly from the back window.
Applejack quickly joined Rarity at her window and peeked out into the orchard. For a brief moment, all she saw was apple trees. Then she saw them; ponies all around the clubhouse, partially concealed by the trees. Their hooves were shod with steel shoes, and they were uniformly dressed in camouflage smocks with hoods drawn.
“Land sakes, they called in the rangers on us!” cried Applejack.
“REPEAT, WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED! GIVE YOURSELF UP NOW, AND NOPONY GETS HURT!”
“What do we do now, Applejack?” asked Sweetie Belle.
Applejack said nothing, but turned resolutely toward the front door.
“Applejack, what are you doing?!” shrieked Rarity.
“The only thing I can do,” answered Applejack solemnly. “You girls stay behind me and keep quiet. It’ll be alright, trust me.”
While the others watched with bated breath, Applejack slowly reached out and pushed open the door. Without a word, she descended the ramp to the ground, her every move carefully watched by both the gilt-armoured guards, and the hooded rangers alike. Finally she came to a stop in front of Inspector Bannister, who regarded her with an almost bemused expression.
“Well, you got me,” said Applejack. “You got your pesky Cider Baroness.”
“Applejack, No!” sobbed Rarity.
Applebloom couldn’t watch. For her beloved sister to betray her own values, just for her sake... It was almost too much to bear.
“These ponies are all innocent,” continued Applejack with tears in her eyes. “I’m the one you want. Take me in and let the others go.”
Applejack stoically bowed her head and held out her hooves, waiting to be cuffed. The moment never came.
“What are you going on about?” snorted Bannister. “You’re not the Cider Baroness.”
“Er... come again?”
“That’s the CIder Baroness!”
Everypony gasped as Bannister leveled an outstretched hoof at Applebloom, still dressed in her newly acquired trilby.
“It’s no use trying to hide it, filly,” said Bannister, his eyes burning with zeal. “We know all about your little moonlight escapades, and I’ve got a whole flock of witnesses willing to testify against you!”
“Flock my flank, it was only the one sheep who saw us!” shouted Applebloom, before she suddenly realised her mistake and threw her hooves over her mouth.
“Smooth, Applebloom, real smooth.”
* * *
When Twilight Sparkle had left for Canterlot two weeks previous, she had assured herself that Ponyville would be perfectly fine without her, and that her friends would be perfectly able to handle any unforeseen occurrences that arose in her absence. Now, sitting beside Applebloom in a courtroom packed with whispering ponies, Twilight resolved not to make that mistake again.
It seemed that nearly every pony in Ponyville had managed to squeeze themselves into the courthouse, and the air inside was ripe and stuffy as a result. The fact that an entire flock of sheep was there to stand witness only made matters worse. For her part, Twilight had agreed to act in Applebloom’s defence, though personally she felt there was little she could do given the overwhelming number of witnesses against her, and the determination of Inspector Flex Bannister. The unicorn hazarded a sideways glance at Bannister himself, who sat behind the prosecutor’s table, staring straight ahead with a near inequine intensity to his gaze.
Eventually, the judge arrived, a bright green mare with a shiny orange mane. With an airy expression she took her seat behind the bench, toyed with her gavel for a moment, quickly leafed through a sheet of papers, then suddenly adopted a stern look as she called for Applebloom to approach the bench.
“Applebloom! You stand accused of illegal distribution of alcoholic beverages in direct violation of the Equestrian Experimental Prohibition Act. How do you plead?”
Applebloom gulped as she stared into the piercing purple eyes of the judge. Behind her, Applejack bit her lip in tension, Big Macintosh wrung his hooves, Granny Smith had fallen asleep, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo leaned forward in anticipation of their friend’s answer.
“G-guilty, your honour.”
The loud gasp that emanated from the crowd very nearly sucked the air from the courtroom.
“I confess, I did it all,” continued Applebloom, fighting back tears. “Everypony else is innocent. All they’re guilty of is bein’ at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Well okay then,” said the judge brightly. “In that case, I sentence you to ten years in prison. Case dismissed.”
“Wait, WHAT?!” cried Twilight. “Thats it?! What about the jury?”
“No need; she already said she was guilty,” answered the judge with a shrug.
“I’m a thousand percent sure that’s not how it works!” snapped Twilight.
“Hey, who’s the one with the gavel cutie-mark, me or you?” retorted the judge.
Twilight said nothing, but merely seethed in response.
“That’s what I thought,” said the judge smugly. “Right, guilty with ten years in jail. Does any pony want to raise that to fifteen? No? Right, going once, going twice-”
The courtroom door suddenly burst wide open. All eyes widened in shock as none other than Princess Luna herself stepped through the doorway.
“I OBJECT!!!” she shouted, the unrelenting force of the Royal Canterlot Voice reverberating violently through the room.
The judge brought her gavel down with a loud crash.
“Sold! To the Princess of the Night!”
“I’ll handle this, Luna,” said the serene voice of Princess Celestia, as the Princess of the Sun strode majestically into the courtroom, magically brandishing a scroll with the royal seal. “Your honour, by royal edict, all charges against the defendant are to be dropped!”
Yet another gasp rippled through the crowd. With a smile, Princess Celestia strode down the aisle toward the bench, nodding politely to the bailiff as she passed. She paid no notice whatsoever to Twilight or Applebloom, nor to Inspector Bannister, who was clearly trying his best to take this sitting down. Upon reaching the bench, Celestia passed her scroll to the bewildered judge.
“This letter of pardon should clear things up for you,” said Celestia with an indulgent grin.
“Uh, okay then,” said the judge, who suddenly seemed very much out of her element at the moment. “All charges dropped, I guess. Case dismissed!”
Applebloom couldn’t believe it. Without thinking, she launched herself from her seat and wrapped her adorable little legs around Celestia’s own in the cutest little attempt at a bone-crushing hug anypony had ever seen.
“Thank-you, Princess!” cried Applebloom, her heart leaping for joy. “Thank-you so much!”
“It was my pleasure, my little pony,” said Celestia with a smile. “Though I think you would do well to stay within the law from now on.”
“Oh I will, Princess, I’ll be real good from now on.”
“At the very least, try not to get caught again,” said the Princess with a mischievous grin. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to make an announcement, Applebloom.”
With a sheepish grin, Applebloom released the Princess’ leg and allowed Celestia to face the audience.
“I would like to take this opportunity to officially announce that our ‘noble experiment’ has finally concluded,” declared Celestia, her voice loud and clear. “All prohibition laws in Equestria are hereby repealed!”
The great chorus of cheers that erupted from the crowd put Luna’s mightiest shouts to shame. Not that the younger Princess really seemed to mind of course; indeed, Luna was positively beaming as she stood next to a very confused Twilight Sparkle.
“Wait, repealed? Just like that?” exclaimed Twilight.
“And not a moment too soon,” said Luna.
“But it’s only been three weeks!”
“Yes, well, my sister and I figured it was best to quit while we were ahead,” chuckled Luna. “I’ll be honest with you Twilight Sparkle; this whole ‘prohibition’ ordeal was just a little front to distract the nobility while we reaffirmed the same-sex marriage law.”
To describe Twilight’s reaction to this revelation as ‘dumbfounded’ would be a gross understatement. Luna could only giggle in response.
Meanwhile, Applebloom had now found herself surrounded by adulating friends and family. As she weathered their relentless barrage of hugs and nuzzles, she spotted one pony in the corner of the room who could probably use some cheering up of his own. So after freeing herself from Granny Smith’s iron grip, Applebloom quickly wove through the crowd to put her hoof on the poor stallion’s shoulder.
“Mr, Bannister? I’m sorry that things didn’t work out for you,” she said to the humbled inspector.
“That’s alright,” said Bannister. “You win some, you lose some. I’m just glad to do my duty.”
“Well, if you’re ever in the neighborhood, maybe you could stop by for a mug o’ cider,” offered Applebloom. “On the house.”
“You’re a good kid, you know that?” he said as he rose to his feet and started for the door. “Reminds me of myself at your age.”
“No, actually, but you’re still alright,” said the inspector. “You stay out of trouble now, little lady.”
And then he was gone. Before Applebloom could reflect on Bannister’s words (if indeed there was even anything to reflect upon), she was suddenly swept up by yet another asphyxiating hug from Applejack.
“Well hot darn, little missy, looks like everythin’ worked out alright in the end after all, eh Big Mac?”
“And that’s not all, Applebloom,” exclaimed Sweetie Belle. “The mayor wants to talk to you!”
“The mayor?” repeated Applebloom.
“That’s right, my dear,” said Mayor Mare in her usual officious tone. “Now that the Princess has put an end to all that prohibition nonsense, I am assigning you and your family the task of flooding our town with cider once more! Think you’re up to it?”
“Yer’ darn tootin’ we are!” creaked Granny Smith. “C’mon Apples, there’s a’ cider to be brewin’!”
As the Apple family trotted triumphantly out of the courtroom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo hurried up alongside their friend.
“Hey, y’know what would be awesome?” asked Scootaloo with a nudge. “If we all got something else out of all this...”
With this realisation, the three fillies suddenly stopped and turned their eyes excitedly to their flanks.
“Aw nuts,” said Applebloom
“Inspired by the Simpsons episode ‘Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment’ (obviously). Thank-you all for reading, hope you enjoyed it.” -the author