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The Shattered Journey

By: Sword of Squirrels

Chapter 1: The Package

Applejack pulled the cart forward with all her might, straining hard to inch her way forward. Perhaps Big Macintosh was right, she thought, maybe she had overloaded the cart. However, the Summertime Festival didn’t happen every month, and it was the perfect time to sell rich, juicy apples to the hungry ponies of Ponyville. Everypony would be out and about today, either shopping at the various carts or setting them up for the long day ahead. The sun had barely risen over the horizon and already small groups were forming. She knew from experience these small groups would form a huge crowd soon enough.

Behind her came a voice. “You need help, sis?” called Big Macintosh.  He pulled a cart as well, but instead of apples, his cart was filled with various pastries and baked goods Applejack had made earlier that morning. The weight of his cart was far less than hers was.

“No way, big brother,” Applejack insisted. She tugged forward more, making progress toward the spot they had rented out for the festival. They picked the same spot every year, right in front of the Ponyville statue. “Almost…there,” Applejack struggled on.

Big Macintosh walked past her, carrying his own cart. “Told you it was too many apples,” he reminded her with an even face.

Applejack stopped for a moment to catch her breath. Not willing to admit defeat yet, she took a deep breath and pulled with all her might. The cart heaved forward; her hooves digging up the ground, with every muscle in her legs strained, till suddenly her head collided with hard wood. “Ow!”

She looked to see her brother’s cart inches from her face, set up right in front of the statue. “We’re here,” he reminded her again.

Applejack gave a sigh of relief as she unhooked herself from the cart and walked around it. “It’s about time. Let’s set up shop,” she said before pulling a rope hanging off of the side. The front of the cart suddenly dipped down, whilst the back rose up, a sign reading “Apple Acres Delicious Apples” rising up with it. “Told you asking Woody and Wrench to build this contraption cart was a good idea,” she noted.

Big Mac pulled the rope on his cart as well. His sign read “Apple Acres Apple Accessories.” When it had set itself up, he turned and nodded with the same even face. “Yup. Now we wait for customers.”

Applejack turned around, closing her eyes to imagine her apple cart slowly emptying as the day went on. “I bet we’ll have customers in no time flat.”

The farm pony opened her eyes, only to scream and nearly fall backwards. Inches from her face was the face of a grey colored creature with twisted yellow eyes. Only after a second to step back and look did she realize who it was. “Oh, hello Derpy Hooves,” she greeted.

Derpy Hooves, the fastest mailpony in Ponyville, floated inches above the ground in front of Applejack, smiling brightly, two mailbags hanging against her flanks. “Good morning to you, Applejack and Big Mac,” she greeted, her eyes straightening as she blinked.

Applejack smiled nervously, inching backward away from the pegasus pony. “Um…how goes the delivering this morning?”

“Oh, great so far,” the mailpony declared, “My boss, Boxie Brown, said that if we get all our deliveries done we can clock out early and enjoy the festival.” Derpy seemed very excited, but her exuberance was interrupted by a low growl from her stomach. “Unfortunately I sort of skipped breakfast to get an early start.”

Applejack’s face brightened as she heard that. “The usual then?” she asked.

Derpy nodded eagerly. “Two if you can spare them.”

Big Macintosh turned to his cart and started shuffling through the various items. Finding what he was looking for, he pulled out a plate of muffins, apple flavored of course.

Derpy’s eyes lit up, and then slipped out of synch with one another as she handed Applejack six bits. She took the muffin and immediately began to chomp down on the first one. “Mmm. They taste wonderful as always. And so fresh too,” she commented as she ate.

“Glad you like them, Derpy,” the proud farm pony said as she leaned against the cart. “If all goes well, we’ll have everypony in Ponyville saying that by day’s end.”

An all too familiar sound in the sky above made Applejack’s ears perk up and her eyes widen. She looked upward to see a streak of rainbow zip over her head. “Oh boy. Big Macintosh, guard the carts,” she called. Both ponies stood in front of their respective cargo, ready to take a hit.

“Look out below,” came a voice from up high. The rainbow flew lower still but no less fast, and from the streak of multicolored light came a blue Pegasus pony, wings stretched outward, goggles down, flying only a foot over the ground, before suddenly spreading her wings upward and laying her legs down, leaving long skid marks in the ground as she scraped up the dirt road. The other ponies at the festival darted out of her way, clearing a path.

Rainbow Dash barreled her way towards the Apple Family’s cart, her face contorted in concentration. Applejack and Big Macintosh braced themselves for impact, while Derpy continued to blissfully eat her muffin.

Rainbow Dash leaned back, digging her hooves into the dirt harder and finally started to slow down noticeably. She came to a stop inches from Applejack’s face, letting out a sigh as she let her muscles loosen up again. “Whew! Nailed it! Did you see how fast I was going? Was that trick not amazing AJ? I mean no ordinary Pegasus would be able to handle that kind of braking but I did it without trouble at all.” She began to hop around in excitement, the adrenaline still pumping through her.

The Apple Family both opened their eyes to see that she was telling the truth, and that they had not been hit by the flying blue bullet as they had expected. “Rainbow Dash, you almost crashed into us,” Applejack proclaimed with deep annoyance.

“But I didn’t,” Dash retorted, her face still marked with a huge smile. “I whooshed right out of the sky and then BAM right into the ground and slid all the way here and it was so awesome.”

Applejack sighed as she realized that there was little she could do to bring Dash down from her rush. A smile crept on her face. “Alright, I admit it was pretty cool looking.  Next time, though, maybe you shouldn’t practice it in the middle of the town.” She pointed with her leg behind Dash.

Dash looked back and blinked as she saw the huge skid marks in the earth she had left. Several ponies had returned to witness the new ditch she had dug. “Oh. Oh yea. Didn’t think about that.”

“Not surprising,” Applejack quipped under her breath. “What brings you over this way anyway? I reckon you didn’t just fly over to show off your new fancy trick and scare us half out of our skins.”

“Well not just that,” Dash chuckled. “I also came by to join in the festival. I just got all the clouds from last night’s shower cleaned up, so it’s time to relax and have some fun.”

As the two chatted, Derpy Hooves munched the last bit of her second muffin away, licking her lips. “Ahhhh. What a tasty muffin you make Applejack,” she stated. She blinked as she noticed there was a new pony amongst them. “Oh, it’s Rainbow Dash. Hi, Rainbow Dash,” she called out.

“Oh hello Derpy,” Dash said, finally acknowledging the mailpony. “Sorry I didn’t see you there, what’s up? Got some mail for me?”

Derpy nodded eagerly and finally landed next to the pair. “Give me just a second.” She stuck her nose into the mailbag at her side and began to shuffle through it. “Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Snips …here we are,” she exhaled when she pulled out a letter addressed to Rainbow Dash. “Looks important,” she said as she held the letter in her teeth.

Applejack gasped as she looked at the letter, noticing the seal marked on it. “Rainbow, look there, that’s the royal seal.”

Dash blinked and looked closer. “Oh wow you’re right. That means it’s from the princesses in Canterlot.” She leaned forward and took the note from Derpy’s mouth.

Derpy Hooves then floated into the air, her eyes straightening. “Sorry I can’t stay but I need to zoom off before the boss finds out I’m “on break,” she chuckled, and then took to the skies, disappearing over the buildings.

Dash opened the letter placed it on the ground to reading it silently. “Mmm…OHMYGOSH!” she gasped, her hair and tail frizzing up in shock.

“What?” Applejack questioned, a worried look crossing her face. “What’s wrong Rainbow? Something bad happen?”

“No time! Bye!”Rainbow Dash picked the letter up in her mouth and bolted skyward without another word. In seconds, she was gone.

“Golly,” Applejack gasped before turning toward Big Macintosh. “What do you think that was about?”

“I don’t know,” the large simple pony said, “But I think we have our own trouble.” He lifted his hoof from the ground to point.

Applejack followed his indication to see that a large line of ponies had gathered before the Apple Family’s apple carts.

Applejack blushed. “Well…I guess we should get to work then.” She turned to the crowd. “Sorry for the wait, everypony. Apples are still fresh!” The Apple Family prepaired itself for a long, but profitable, day.


The evening sun brought with it a beautiful view of the mountains in the distance. Its light fell on the dirt road just outside of Ponyville’s borders, lined with bright green trees. The warm air of summer blew gently through the leaves and sticks. Along the road came the Apple Family, hauling with them two carts now empty.

“Woo we,” exclaimed Applejack as she tugged at the much lighter cart behind her. “We sure made a haul today, didn’t be big brother?” she turned to Big Macintosh, a smile stretched across her face.

His face was equally alight as he pulled his own cart. “Yup. It was a good day,” he said.

“I still can hardly believe we sold almost everything,” Applejack nearly leaped for joy. “I bet the bellies of Ponyville will be filled tonight. All we got left were a few muffins and an apple cake slice. I’m saving those for the girls.”

“Speaking of,” Big Macintosh interrupted her thoughts, looking upward toward the sky. Floating down from above was Fluttershy, the yellow pony landing right in front of them.

“Hello, Applejack and Big Macintosh,” she spoke in her usual quiet voice.

“Hey Fluttershy, what’s up?” Applejack asked, curiosity striking her. “What are you doing all the way out here?”

“Um,” Fluttershy stumbled, “Twilight said that she had an announcement at her home in the library. And that we’re all invited. I was sent to tell you.”

“You and not Rainbow Dash?” asked the bright orange pony. Usually Rainbow Dash was the one to send messages; after all she was the fastest of them by a large margin. The events of the morning came back to her mind, and she wondered if maybe this announcement concerned it. “I’ll be there as soon as I can, but I got to haul these two empty carts back to the farm.”

“I can get it,” said Big Macintosh with a smile. “They’re pretty light all empty. You go on.”

Applejack beamed, and then nuzzled her big brother. “Thanks Big Macintosh. I’ll see you back at the farm later. I’ll cook you something big and tasty. I promise.”


Later that evening, Applejack and Fluttershy arrived at the library of Ponyville, which was also the home of its keeper, Twilight Sparkle.

“We’re here,” the farmer called as they both entered. There were all four of her other best friends, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie, all gathered around the library main floor. “What’s all the hubbub about?”

“Me!” beamed Rainbow Dash. Applejack recognized the look on her face, it was one that meant Dash was extremely pleased with herself, eyes wide and lit up and grin wide over her face.

Twilight swatted Dash’s side. “Rainbow Dash, would you calm down. You’ll ruin the announcement if you keep spouting that out.”

“Well come on then let’s get it going, everyone’s here.” Dash’s nerves were on edge, the pegasus pony floating above the ground, her wings beating strong and heavy.

“Oh, it’s not your birthday is it?” asked Pinkie Pie. “Oh no wait, your birthday’s not for a few months now. Unless you moved it. Did you move your birthday to have it sooner?”

The entire room went quiet for a few seconds to stare at Pinkie.

Rarity spoke up next. “I heard talk of a royal seal earlier. Oh such a thing must be magnificent.”

“Heard nothing,” AJ grinned. “I saw it with my own two eyes.”

“Ok everyone, settle down and I’ll tell you the announcement,” said Twilight, speaking with her authority voice. She placed a hoof on Rainbow Dash, lowering the still floating over excited pegasus to the floor. She then put a hoof to Dash’s wings to stop them from flapping, despite being on the ground. “Ladies, I would like to announce that our very own Rainbow Dash has been selected to brave the frozen north above Equestria to deliver a crate bearing a royal peace tribute to the King of Griffons himself.”

All of the ponies but Dash and Twilight gasped loudly. Rarity spoke first, stars in her eyes. “The Kingdom of Griffons. I’ve heard they mine crates of gold daily and decorate most of their decorum with it. Their statues are said to be magnificent.”

“The catch, however,” said Twilight, “is that the King is expecting the peace tribute within the next four days. That’s why she needed the fastest pony in all of Equestria to handle the job.”

“And she chose me,” Dash shouted, no longer able to contain herself. She began to bounce on the wooden floor. “She chose me she chose me she chose me she chose me.”

Rainbow Dash continued to bounce around the library, soon joined by Pinkie Pie, who bounced behind her, saying “She chose you,” in rather creepy synch.

As the four remaining ponies watched the two bounce around in jubilation, Rarity spoke her mind. “This is awfully dangerous, isn’t it,” she pointed out, “Not only are the griffons notoriously ill tempered, but the weather up north is always harsh and uncontrollable.”

“Why would they let the weather up there go rampant?” asked Applejack. “They can touch clouds just like pegasus ponies can. I bet they can control the weather just fine.”

“They can, and they do,” Twilight chimed in. “But they choose to keep the weather rough and harsh. They believe that only the bravest and strongest deserve to fly in their mountains, so the fierce weather warns all who would approach to stay back. Though I’m sure they’ll open the way for a royal diplomat.”

Fluttershy leaned closer to the group so they could hear her soft voice. “I wouldn’t be so sure, Twilight. Remember that mean Gilda? What if all griffons are like that?” she gently spoke.

“I’m sure not all griffons are so mean, Fluttershy,” Twilight exclaimed with a calm smile. “I bet Dash will be welcomed with open arms.” She thought for a moment. “Or claws.”

The conversation suddenly ended when Rainbow Dash hopped her way back to the group, Pinkie Pie right behind her. “Guys, do you know what this means?” she asked, but as usual did not wait for an answer, “It means that the Wonderbolts are sure to take notice. I mean from the middle of Equestria to the Kingdom of Griffons in only for days? For royalty? I’ll be in for sure.” Rainbow Dash was folding in on herself with excitement, her eyes sparkling with pride.

“Well I wouldn’t count your chickens yet Dash,” said Applejack. “You got to deliver the thing first and it’s quite the long trek. Where is that thing anyway?”

Twilight returned to the note from the princess. “It says that the box containing the peace offering was shipped out with this note, and that it should be waiting for her at the post office tomorrow.”

“Then it’s settled,” declared Dash, the smug grin never leaving her face. “Tomorrow morning I will get there bright and early so I can make it to the Kingdom of Griffon’s that much faster.”

Applejack grinned back at her friend. “Don’t you worry none, sugarcube. I’ll be there to support you before you go flying off.”

The ponies said their goodbyes and agreed to meet Rainbow Dash at the post office tomorrow morning. Dash flew through the open window as fast as she could, determined to get as much sleep as possible, despite being so wound up from the excitement. Everyone wished her luck.

For that night, everypony had a good warm sleep. For some, it would be the last they would have for a while.


The morning sun shone down on the village of Ponyville. Just off the main square, in front of the post office, stood Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity. Twilight paced back and forth nervously. “Where is she?” the purple pony sighed.

“Maybe her alarm clock broke?” answered Pinkie Pie with an idea.

“More likely Dash is still sawing logs,” Applejack guessed.

“Poor Fluttershy,” Rarity exhaled, “She is the only one who could reach Dash’s home to push her out of bed. She’s probably screaming at Dash in the quietest of voices. Sometimes I think she was born with wings by mistake.”


“I’m here,” came a shout in the distance. A few moments later, Rainbow Dash landed next to her friends, breathing heavily, her rainbow hair a mess.  Behind her in the distance, moving at a far slower pace was Fluttershy.

“Oh my,” Rarity remarked as Dash landed. “That bed head is just awful Rainbow Dash. Hold still while I fix it.”

Rarity reached for Rainbow Dash’s hair, but was intercepted by Dash’s own hoof blocking hers. “No time. I got to get moving. Where’s the package?”

“Right over here,” came a loud, gruff voice from behind the circle of friends. There in the door way to the post office was its head pony, Boxie Brown. The large pony was the manager of the post office in town, and though he was a Pegasus, he was known for being as large and strong as Big Macintosh. His face reflected his legendary grumpy mood. “You’re Rainbow Dash right? You’re late for the pick up.”

Next to Boxie Brown was a large wooden crate. The royal seal was stamped on all sides to showcase its important. Rainbow Dash let out a sigh when she did not see the word “fragile” anywhere on it, but then her eyes narrowed. “That’s the package? The royal gift to the griffons?”

“Yea, that’s it,” Boxie snorted, “Don’t know what the Princess is thinking though. Sending one pony for this job? Too dangerous up there.”

“Too dangerous? For me?” Rainbow Dash chuckled and trotted over to the box, seeing that it had already been hooked up to a saddle. The saddle would hold the box on top of her back, right behind her wings, keeping it out of her way while she flew. “Saddle it on me, I need to get going.”

Boxie shrugged. “If you insist.” He bent over and bit onto a handle on top of the box, off of the ground, then setting it gently on Dash’s back.

Dash immediately let out a squeak as it landed on her back. “Woah woah woah!” she shouted, struggling to keep her balance. “Off, off!”

Boxie gently picked the box up with his teeth again, setting it on the ground with a gentle thud. “Too heavy, Mrs. Dash?” he chuckled.

“Duh,” Dash exclaimed, “That thing’s way too heavy for me to carry. I mean I could get it there, but I’d have to stop to rest way too often. I’d never get there in time.”

“Well shoot,” Applejack spoke up from behind Dash, moving toward the crate. “Whatever’s in there, I bet it isn’t heavier than a cart full of apples.” She bent down and bit into the rope, tossing it up with her neck, and letting the crate land on her back. She winched a moment, then quickly got her balance. “See, nothing to it.”

“Well that’s fine for you Applejack, but I’m the one who’s supposed to deliver that thing,” Rainbow Dash reminded her friend. “I mean, the whole reason Princess Celestia chose me is because of my speed.”

Twilight Sparkle’s eyes lit up as an idea entered her mind. “I’ve got a plan.”  She stepped toward Applejack, looking over her. “You remember that wing spell that I cast on Rarity?”

Rarity blushed and put her hoof to her forehead. “Oh must you bring that terrible day up Twilight? I still burn with embarrassment over my selfish actions.”

Twilight gave a sweetened smile. “Sorry Rarity, but I think I can help out by giving Applejack wings, and she can carry the crate.”

“What!?” Rainbow Dash shouted, “Have you lost your mind Twilight? I’m supposed to make the delivery. Me. The fastest in Equestria, remember?”

Twilight recoiled at the blue pegasus’s anger. “Please Rainbow, calm down. There’s more to it than just that. We’ll still need you and your speed, I promise.”

Dash’s breathing settled. “Ok, fine. What’s your plan then, Egghead?” she said with a much calmer voice.

Twilight thought for a moment. “Well, I have this spell that will help you both, but I’ll need one of your feathers to make it work, Dash.”

Dash sighed and stretched out her wing. “Ok, just try not to pull t-OW!” she squealed as Twilight reached up and plucked one off her outstretched wings.

“Thank you Dash, you won’t regret it. Promise. Be right back.” She shouted as she started to trot away from the group.

As the group watched their friend hurry away, Rarity cocked an eyebrow. “I wonder what she has planning. Surely she doesn’t plan to use those fragile wings to transport you all the way to the Griffon’s Kingdom.”

“Maybe she’ll build some sort of flying machine for Applejack to ride in,” Pinkie Pie offered. The other ponies took a moment to give her varying looks.

“Well I don’t have time to wait around,” said Rainbow Dash, her eyes narrowed still. She turned toward the large mailpony behind them. “Boxie, I need the map to the Griffon Kingdom now.”

“Oh that thing.” The large Pegasus thought for a moment. “I threw that out.”

“What!?” Rainbow Dash shouted again, her mouth opened wide. The rest of the ponies all gasped as well.

“Now why would you do something like that?” asked Rarity.

“Maybe he hates maps?” Pinkie thought. “Oh, did a map take something you loved? Hurt one of your parents?”

Boxie snorted at their accusations. “Thing would have just led you in circles anyway. It was way too old, probably some ancient chart or something. Trust me, you didn’t need it.”

“Well how am I supposed to fly to the kingdom if I don’t know where it is?” Dash screamed, digging her hooves into the ground in anger.

Boxie Brown snorted again. “You need a guide. Someone who’s been there before. Someone who knows the territory and can lead you through those storms. Since your friend’s helping with the speed issue, you can take her with you.”

“Someone in Ponyville has been to the Kingdom of the Griffons before?” asked Fluttershy.

“Yep. And she’s all yours,” he said almost proudly as he turned to the building behind him. “Hooves get out here,” he called loudly.

From the post office came a loud crashing noise. The ponies all looked on in confusion as more crashing noises echoed form inside, along with a chaotic clopping of hooves. From the front door emerged Derpy Hooves, wall eyed and wrapped up in ribbons, tumbling as she tried to keep her balance. “I’m here, Boxie, right here boss,” she tripped again, falling onto her face, her eyes spinning in different directions. “Ow.”

Rainbow Dash glared at Derpy, then to Boxie Brown. “This is your guide? She’s our navigator?”

“She may look…ineffective, but she’s more reliable than you think,” Boxie Brown explained. “Trust me. She’ll get you there, won’t you?” he turned to Derpy, who was just now biting her way out of the wrapping.

“Um, yea. Sure. I can help,” Derpy stuttered, finally standing up, her eyes still wandering. “How can I help again?”

“Remember that delivery to the Griffon Kingdom you did last year?” Boxie explained. “Well, we have a delivery that needs to get there and you’re the only one around who’s gone that far north.”

“What? No way. No way,” Derpy insisted as her eyes straightened. “That trip was a nightmare, are you kidding? Have you ever met a Yeti? They are grumpy and smelly and very temperamental, and they like to throw snow at you. Not a little snow either. I’m talking huge snowballs that-“

“Derpy,” interrupted Boxie Brown. “This is important. We need you on this. You’re the only one…,” Boxie looked over the ribbon lying on the ground at Derpy’s feet, “…qualified to lead this lady to the Griffon Kingdom in the name of our princesses.”

Derpy thought for a moment before she gave a sigh. “The princesses? This is a royal mission?” She looked to Rainbow Dash. “This wouldn’t be about that letter I delivered to you yesterday would it?”

Dash nodded. “That’s right, though why we need a navigator I don’t know. Can’t we just fly north till we hit it?”

Derpy shook her head. “Not that easy. The griffons create terrible snowstorms and blizzards around the mountains up there. It’s easy to get lost, and you don’t want to be lost up there. Trust me.” Derpy sat on the ground for a moment, putting a hoof to her chin to think. A moment later she gave a nod. “Ok Boxie, I’ll help. But I’ll need a babysitter for Dinky. You know I can’t leave her alone.”

Applejack’s face lit up with an idea. “I just happen to know a trio of fillies who are going to be held up in there clubhouse for the weekend. Maybe Dinky would like to join them?”

Derpy’s eyes shifted away from each other, before she stood up to clop her hooves in excitement. “That’s an excellent idea. Dinky just loves making new friends.”

“I’m sure Sweetie Belle would appreciate a new friend as well,” noted Rarity. “I will go personally pick her up from the schoolhouse later.”

Boxie Brown gave a huff and a nod. “Good, now that that’s settled, maybe we-“

Before he could finish, there was a flash of light between the ponies. Derpy Hooves squeaked and fell backwards, landing on the ribbon that had vexed her moments ago, immediately tangling herself in it once more.

Twilight Sparkle emerged from the light, shaking her head in a daze. Teleportation sickness was rather debilitating. “Ok, I’m back. Got what you need right here,” she spoke around an object in her mouth.

It appeared to be a necklace, with Rainbow Dash’s feather as the center attraction, surrounded by other small gems.

Rainbow Dash gave the object a look over. “That’s cool and all Twilight, but what does it actually do for me?”

Twilight shook off the last of the teleportation daze and then slipped the necklace around Dash’s neck, making sure it fit snuggly. “Give it a second…” she said. A moment later, there was a spark of magic form the feather, and from it came a glowing aura that seemed to shift and form into a bubble around Rainbow Dash.

“Woah,” the other ponies exhaled, even Derpy, who was still caught in the ribbon.

“What’s this for?” asked a now curious Rainbow Dash.

“Very simple,” answered Twilight, “Fluttershy, if you would help me demonstrate? Just stand next to Rainbow Dash for a moment.”

Fluttershy nodded. “Ok Twilight.” She gently trotted over to Rainbow Dash’s side, inside the strange magical bubble.

“Ok, good,” Twilight observed, “Now, when I count to three, both of you take off at the same time. Fluttershy, try your best to keep up with Rainbow Dash. Dash, don’t do anything fancy, just fly at a good solid speed, ok?”

Fluttershy gulped, and gave a small nod. “If you think I can, Twilight.”

Dash gave a snort. “Alright, let’s get this over with. We’re burning daylight here.”

“One,” Twilight counted down, “Two. Three!”

Both pegasus ponies took off at the same time, zooming into the air. All the ponies on the ground but Twilight gasped as they realized that Fluttershy was not falling behind, and was keeping even with Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash looked to her side to see Fluttershy flying next to her. “Woah. I don’t believe it.”

“Neither do I,” exhaled Fluttershy, seeing the ground under her zip by. She eked and curled her legs up. “Can we land please, if that’s ok?”

A few seconds later, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash both landed with the group again. “That was amazing, Twilight,” Dash congratulated her friend, “What kind of spell is that?”

Twilight’s smile was bright as she explained. “From what I read, the spell was used by multiple Pegasus with varying speeds when they went on extended flights, or when they needed to keep formation. It allows other Pegasus to fly at the same speed as the leader. That’s you Rainbow Dash.”

“This is so awesome,” Dash exclaimed, “We’re going to get to the Griffon Kingdom in no time. You just need to give Applejack wings.”

“Now hold on there,” Applejack interrupted. “I’m all for the plan, but am I going to have glitzy froufrou wings like Rarity had? No offense, but they were rather flimsy.”

Twilight thought about the request, analyzing the magic of the spell. “Well I guess I could just change the materials to something more practical. It will take some serious magic to pull this off though.”

Applejack looked between Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Derpy Hooves, who had finally defeated her arch enemy, the ribbon, before giving a nod. “Ok Twi. Wing me. We got a lot of ground to cover.”

Twilight nodded, her horn glowing gently. A ribbon of magic emerged from the air around Applejack’s feet, slowly spiraling around the earth pony. Applejack gasped as the ribbon tightened around her.

“Don’t worry darling, it doesn’t hurt,” Rarity reassured her as the magical energy fully cocooned Applejack.

Twilight Sparkle concentrated as hard as she could, focusing the power into the Earth Pony’s body. With a sudden flash, the energy released. Twilight squealed and fell to the ground as she let go of the magical power, her mind reeling. Creating these wings never got easier.

The gathering of ponies awed as they saw Applejack floating a foot off of the ground, hovering lightly. Her newly created wings stretched wider from her body than Rarity’s and were bright red in color.  Instead of a butterfly, Applejack’s wings resembled a moth’s. Applejack floated farther up, her wings beating strong against the ground. “I…This is…” the Earth Pony stuttered, floating farther upward as she beat her wings faster, experiencing flight for the first time.

Rainbow Dash stared in awe. “Wow. Those look like great wings Applejack.”

Applejack, mouth still ajar, floated higher into the air, taking some time to get the feel for her new power of flight. “You’re sure these wings are tough enough Twi?”

“Oh yes, much tougher than Rarity’s were.” Twilight Sparkle assured her.

“But not as glamorous of course,” Rarity chimed.

“Surely not,” Rainbow Dash said with a slight mocking tone. “I just hope they’re strong enough to hold up against the cold up there.”

“They’re made from amber and bark this time. They’ll be much stronger than Rarity’s were. I promise.” Twilight mentioned. “But do not go near any open flames, ok? The sunlight shouldn’t be a problem, but close proximity to fire would be very bad. Very. Bad. Understand Applejack?”

Applejack’s mind was not currently on the ground, as she usually was. “Sure Twi, no problem,” she brushed off, before turning to Rainbow Dash. “Hey Dash, watch this trick.” She flew higher into the air before forming a corkscrew, then dipped down into a dive, before pulling up and floating to the ground.

“Wow Applejack, you’re a natural,” Dash complemented, “You sure you weren’t supposed to have wings?”

“Ahem,” a gruff voice behind the group rang out. “Sorry to interrupt all this magic and fun and stuff but you got daylight burning and a bunch of griffons waiting. I’d get going.”

“Oh horse apples he’s right,” Dash said in shock. “Applejack, we need to get going. You too Derpy. Let’s go, we need to be out of Equestria’s borders before nightfall.”

“Derpy?” Twilight asked. “She’s coming?”

“I’ll tell you later, Twilight,” Rarity said.

Rainbow Dash and Applejack moved to the crate. Dash strained to lift the box before loading and strapping it to Applejack’s back, making sure it was firmly in place. As she did, Derpy flew inside the post office to prepare supplies for their trip.

“You three remember to be careful up there,” Twilight warned. “Make sure to restock before leaving Equestria. Mane Town is the best place to stop.”

“If we have time,” Dash fumed. “We’ve wasted so much time already!”

“Don’t worry, Twilight,” Applejack assured, “We’ll be back in a week’s time or less. No problem.”

Soon the three ponies stood side by side, Applejack and Derpy firmly inside Rainbow Dash’s flight bubble. Applejack held the crate tightly strapped to her saddle, while Derpy carried the supplies, including food and sleeping beds for the three of them in her two mailbags. Dash turned to both ponies situated at her sides. “You both ready?”

“Ready and raring Dash,” Applejack said, giving her wings a few quick flaps.

“You’re the boss Rainbow Dash,” Derpy Hooves echoed, her eyes straightening as she focused.

Dash nodded to both of them, and then bent herself forward into take off position. “In three, two, one…go,” shouted Dash. The three kicked off at the same time, and with Dash pulling them along, all three blasted into the sky at rapid pace.

Twilight and the rest of her friends all shouted their goodbyes as the three disappeared into the distance.

As the three flew onward, Applejack looked to her right at Derpy Hooves. “Say Derpy, I got to ask. What’s the meaning behind your cutie mark?” She eyed the mailpony’s flank, decorated with seven bubbles of various sizes.

Derpy turned to Applejack, her eyes walling. “Oh, it’s a funny story actually…”

The three made conversation as they began their airborne quest.

The Shattered Journey

By Sword of Squirrels

Chapter 2: Pit Stop

The bright afternoon sun shone down on the tiny red schoolhouse of Ponyville Elementary. The school house itself was quiet, as if it was holding its breath. Summer time was here. This was the last day of school before three whole months of freedom. The children inside held their breaths, watching the last minutes tick by.

Finally, the silence was shattered by a ringing bell that echoed throughout the town. Some children hollered in joy, while others simply packed up their belongings and prepared for the summer break. Fillies flooded out of the school to meet up with their parents and friends. One of these fillies was a small purple unicorn with light blond hair.

Dinky let her eyes scan the crowd, searching for Mama’s grey coat, or perhaps her trademark eyes. Instead, she saw someone else she knew. Walking toward her was the largest pegasus she had ever met, Boxie Brown. That could only mean one thing. Dinky felt a sting of sadness. This was not the news she wanted to hear at the start of the summer.

“Hello Boxie,” she said as he approached; only now noticing another pony behind him. She was a unicorn with a brilliant white coat and a deep purple mane. Dinky had never seen her before, but she seemed to be with Boxie. She turned back to the large pegasus with a questioning look. “Momma’s away again?”

Boxie Brown saw the look on her face. It was a face he hated seeing. It always made his heart sting when he had to tell the little unicorn this news. “Hey now,” he reassured her, “none of that sad stuff. Yea Derpy needed to make a trip, probably a long one. But hey, I do have good news.” He stood to the side and raised a foreleg to introduce Rarity to the conversation. “You won’t be spending the weekend with me and the Missus this time. Meet your new babysitter.”

Rarity smiled brightly at the young unicorn, extending her own foreleg in greeting. “Hello Dinky. I’m Rarity, perhaps you’ve heard of me?” she asked, radiating her good mood.

Dinky’s glum look suddenly brightened. “Miss Rarity? Of the Carousel Boutique?” She suddenly bounced in excitement. “Mama says you’re the best fashion designer in all of Equestria. She’s always wanted to shop at your store.”

Rarity felt a sudden burst of pride, giving a coy smile. “Oh has she? Well she certainly is a pony with good taste. She could have just asked for a dress of her own.”

Dinky tilted her head for a moment. “Well, Mama doesn’t really go to places where she would wear a dress.”

“Nonsense,” Rarity spoke up. “I’ll just have to make her a dress now when she returns from her trip. It would be the least I could do for her helping a friend of mine.”

“Helping a friend?” Dinky asked.

“Hey big sis,” came a call that interrupted Dinky. The group turned to see three more fillies walking their way.

Applebloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle approached, the three looking excited for an entire three months of crusading. Sweetie Belle gave a wave of her hoof to her big sister Rarity, while Applebloom seem to be lost in thought, most likely planning for the next few days. Scootaloo seemed more interested in Dinky, and why she would be talking to Rarity. Her face was very serious.

“Hello, girls” Rarity called back. “Are you three ready for the weekend?”

Applebloom finally seem to return to earth, her eyes big and bright. “You bet we are, Rarity. We’ve got a whole list of stuff to do to earn our cutie marks.”

“If we don’t have it by Monday,” Scootaloo chimed in, “I’ll eat my hat.”

The group turned to stare at Scootaloo. Sweetie Belle spoke up first. “But you don’t own a hat?”

Scootaloo stared back. “It’s the principle of the matter.”

“Well,” Rarity interrupted, “I am happy to announce that you will all have a guest this weekend. A new fellow crusader.”

“Huh?” the three crusaders gasped. Their eyes wandered toward Dinky. The young unicorn suddenly felt very nervous.

Rarity spoke up again. “Her mother, along with Applejack and Rainbow Dash, needed to make an emergency trip northward.”

Applebloom looked up at Rarity, confused. “What? How? Applejack can’t fly.”

“It’s a long story,” Boxie interjected with a sigh.

“I’ll inform them on the way, Boxie,” Rarity mentioned. “The important thing now is that Dinky needs a babysitter, and I thought it would be good for her to stay with you for the week. She doesn’t have her cutie mark yet either, and I think some new blood would be good for your organization.”

The three crusaders looked toward Dinky again. Sweetie Belle gave a nervous smile and a light wave. Scootaloo’s look was still stern and sour. Applebloom, on the other hoof, seemed excited. Remembering her sister’s words, she reached out and clapped Dinky’s hoof between her own, starting to shake the younger filly.

“Howdy Dinky,” Applebloom greeted, “I’m Applebloom, of the Apple Family. We love making new friends.”

Dinky’s eyes began to spin, giving her an idea how her Mama saw the world. “Thaaannnk youuuu Apppplebloooom,” she said as she was vibrated. When the filly finally let go and stopped shaking her, she managed to introduce herself back. “I’m Dinky.”

Rarity gave a giggle. Applebloom was so much like her big sister. “Now girls, it’s time to get going. I’ll explain the situation to you four on the way.”

“Whelp,” Boxie said, stretching his wings. “I’m going to get back to work then. I’m sure you can take it from here, Rarity.”

“Thank you again, Boxie Brown,” Rarity said.

“Not a problem,” he said, and then turned toward Dinky. “You have fun, ok kid?”

Dinky looked back to her new friends, then back at Boxie, and smiled. “You got it, sir.”

Far north of Ponyville, a rainbow stretched through the sky. By her side were two other winged ponies. Below her was Cotton Tail Forest, a long stretch of trees that reached from Hoofington all the way to the border of Equestria. Her wings were pumping furiously to keep up a speed most pegasi could not hope to achieve, or maintain.

“…and then I threw the oatmeal at her,” said Derpy Hooves, a bright smile framing her face, as usual. Her eyes were moving independently again. “Everyone burst out laughing, it was great.”

Applejack laughed. “That’s pretty funny Derpy, but I got one better. This one time, me and Big Macintosh made a bet, and…”

“Derpy,” Rainbow Dash suddenly called back to them.

“Huh? What’s up Rainbow Dash?” Derpy asked.

Dash’s face never broke. Her concentration was absolute. “How far is it until we reach Mane Town?”

“Oh,” the mailpony nodded. “Let me take a look.”  Derpy’s eyes straightened, scanning the horizon and the ground below. A moment later, she looked up. “It shouldn’t take too much time. We’re pretty far ahead of schedule actually. We’re already half way through Cotton Tail Woods.”

“How in land sakes do you know that?” asked the amazed Applejack.

“It’s easy for me,” replied Derpy. “I have a geographic memory.” She poked at her head with her hoof. “It’s sort of like a photographic memory, but you remember directions and distance and stuff instead of just what you see. It helps that Cotton Tail Is a pretty static wood, unlike Everfree.”

“Well,” Dash spoke, her voice dripping with frustration, “we better reach Mane Town soon or-“

“There it is,” called Applejack as she craned her neck up.

In the distance, just poking over the horizon, was the city of Mane Town. Although not a large city, Mane did have a beautiful river running through it, which made the surrounding land very fertile, perfect for farming. Applejack was surprised that none of her family were located this far north. She’d have to bring that up at the next reunion.

 “Oh,” Dash said, the frustration leaving her voice. “That’s good to see.”

“Let’s land in the middle of town,” Derpy thought. “They have this big fountain in the main square. It’s a real beauty.”

“Sounds good,” Applejack said. “Who’s getting what?”

“We don’t need sleeping bags,” Derpy pointed out, making a list. “We may need a tent though, so I’ll get that, along with some other camping stuff. You should handle the food, Applejack.”

“Leave it to me,” the farmer assured her. “You sound like you’ve done this before.”

“Oh yea, I do a lot of traveling,” Derpy mentioned. “I’ve been to Mane about three times now.”

Dash turned back to Derpy again. “How long did it take you to get to the Griffon Kingdom the first time?”

Derpy thought a moment. “About four or five days. At this speed we’ll be over the boarder by tomorrow morning. You’re amazing, Rainbow Dash.”

Dash’s face curled up into a very proud grin. “Well of course I am. Who else would be fast enough to get this job done?”

A few moments later, the trio streaked through the sky, Rainbow Dash letting her speed drop. They were high above even the other pegasi who were flying through the town, and could see most of what the city had to offer. Many ponies were out and about, enjoying the bright sun that Celestia had blessed them with, as well as the sparkling water of the Hayshare River. In the distance, seeable from almost anywhere in the city, was the Thundermane clock tower, named after its creator. It chimed loudly as the hands moved to the 7:00 position.

“Look,” called Derpy with her hoof outstretched, “there’s the fountain.”

The Sparkling Spring Fountain sat in the middle of the main square, what was often referred to as the center of the entire town. The water was crystal clear, and kept very cool. The fountain itself was in the shape of a pegasus reared back. The water poured from his mouth and wing tips into the fountain below. The three travelers banked downward and gently fluttered gently to the ground.

 “Woo wee,” Applejack arched her back to crack it. She reached back and hauled the crate off of her saddle, laying it gently on the ground. She sighed as the pressure on her spine finally let up, “I never knew how much flying takes it out of you.”

Derpy Hooves moved toward the fountain, and ducked her head under one of the jets of water, letting it cool her head. “Mmmm. Haven’t flown like that in a while. Ohhhh the water’s good and cold.”

“Hey hey,” Dash yelled, “let’s not dally around; we need to get moving in a half hour.”

Applejack looked her friend over with concern. “Dash, are you ok? You haven’t been acting yourself since we left.”

“Myself?” Rainbow Dash gasped, “How am I not acting like myself? Am I not all giddy and happy and ready to have fun on this great adventure?” Her voice rose higher.

Derpy removed her head from the fountain, shaking her mane dry. “Rainbow Dash, you need to calm down. You’re just excited.” She put her hoof against Dash’s shoulder. “Just relax. It’s a long journey, so you should take this time to prepare your supplies, your body, and your mind.”

“Derpy’s right, Sugar,” Applejack offered. “If you’re all wound up like this the whole way, you’ll worry yourself sick, or something.”

Rainbow Dash thought for a moment, and gave a sigh. “Maybe you’re right. I guess I do need to relax. I’m just so worried about this whole thing. This is a lot of responsibility.”

“My dad always taught me,” Derpy offered, “that when you’re on a long trip and the world seems against you, just take a deep breath, close your eyes for a moment, and let it all fall off of you. Then get right back up and start walking.” She smiled, and then thought for a moment. “Or flying. Or teleporting if you’re a unicorn.”

“How about we do the supplies?” Applejack interrupted. “We’ll get the food and tools, and you can rest up here in the square, Sugar cube.”

Rainbow Dash let herself feel better. “Thanks guys. I’ll try and unwind. Just meet me back here in a half hour, ok?”

“I’ll get the rest of the camping supplies,” Derpy called. “Applejack, you should get the food. The closest grocery store is west of here, about five blocks.”

The three parted ways soon after. Derpy headed north, and Applejack headed west.  Rainbow Dash pushed the crate toward an empty bench, sliding it underneath for safe keeping. She then slid herself onto the bench, working back and forth till she found a comfortable position to lie down.

“Wow,” Dash noted. “This is great. I could just rest my eyes here a bit.” She lay her head down between her legs and gave a yawn. She felt so tired. Her wings burned from all the flying she had done. She knew that there would be more traveling before this was done. Dash felt lucky that she had such dependable friends along for the ride.

With that thought to keep her comfortable, Dash let her thoughts wander, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

Applejack was not usually one to admire art, but she could not deny that Mane Town had some very pretty architecture. The buildings around here were all made of brick, most of them painted in bright colors. It reminded her of Ponyville, with just a bit of Manehatten thrown in.

As she walked, Applejack’s ears picked up a strange music coming from nearby. The closer she got the livelier and vibrant the music became. It was a rather catchy tune that reminded her of when she lived in Manehattan, the same upbeat and overdramatic music her Aunt and Uncle Orange use to listen to. She turned her head toward the source of the music and saw a one story building with the words “Juice Bar” stretched over the double door entrance.

“Maybe I can just slip in for a glass,” she thought, her lips feeling suddenly dry. After all, Dash had said to meet her back in a half hour. She surely had time to walk two blocks, grab some groceries, and walk back. She trotted to the front door and gently pushed it open.

The inside of the bar was chipper and colorful, with reds and blues everywhere. Behind the counter was a rather large grey coated Earth Pony cleaning a glass very thoroughly. Behind him were various jugs containing various fruit drinks, all labeled with a picture of the fruit in question. Right there, over his head, was a jug full of apple juice, nearly full.

Applejack turned her attention to the music that had caught her ear. To the left of the bar was a green colored pony playing the piano rapidly, her hooves dancing across the keys. Applejack was not a musical guru, but she knew that the tune was a good one, and very catchy.

What caught her attention next was what seem to have the entire bar’s attention. A large crowd had formed around the center table, all of them watching something. Curious, Applejack craned her neck to see.

Two ponies were sitting across from one another at the table. One was a younger boy with a dark grey coat. He seemed to be nervous, his breath heavy and quick. Across from him was a unicorn, with a bright sandy coat and long raven black hair. Perched on her head was a hat that covered up most of her horn, all but the base was hidden under it. She, unlike her guest, was wearing an extremely confident smile. It was a smile Applejack recognized.

The grey pony gulped, and then raised his head. “Cherry juice,” he said. No sooner had he said that, but a waitress with a tray on her back walked up to the table, carrying two glasses of cherry juice on a tray.

The sandy brown unicorn laughed and took the drink in her magical grip. “Bad idea, junior. This stuff’s too light to knock me out.” She pulled back and drank the entire glass in a single gulp. “Ahhh. Refreshing. You’re not going light cause your stomach’s heavy, are you?” The earthly pony turned to the waitress. “Cranberry juice.”

The entire group around them gave a gasp. Applejack rolled her eyes. A Juice Off, a childish game she’d played a few times. It was a contest to see who had the bigger stomach, with each participant taking a turn to choose what both ponies would drink. The first to concede, collapse, or toss their cookies, would be the looser, and the looser had to pay for all the drinks used in the contest.

Applejack gave another look at the confident unicorn. That grin reminded her too much of another unicorn, though that one had a deep blue coat. This unicorn also had an unusual cutie mark, which looked like a large boulder floating in front of the sun while five smaller boulders orbited it.

The waitress put both glasses of cranberry juice before both contestants. The sand colored unicorn guzzled hers down in three gulps, still looking no worse for wear. The grey pony looked at his glass and moaned. He reached out a hoof and pushed the glass away.  A concede. The bar erupted into cheering.

The winning pony chuckled at her beaten opponent. “Hey don’t worry too much kid. You only got six rounds in, so you only got to pay a few bits,” she snickered, obviously pleased with herself. “Ok, who’s next? I got room for more. Any takers?”

The entire crowd seemed to, as one, back away from her, a few guys trying to make up terrible excuses. Applejack figured she’d seen enough and walked toward the bar, intent on her own drinks.

“How about you, Fake Wings?” came the unicorn’s voice from behind her. “You up for some competition?”

Applejack turned back to see the entire group, and most of the rest of the bar, looking her way. Even the pony behind the counter had stopped pouring drinks to watch. The farm pony gave a glare back to her. “Thanks, but no thanks.” She turned back and began her trek to the bar.

“Oh, I see,” said the unicorn. “You’re too good for the ground, and too good to hang with the riff raff huh?”

Applejack strengthened her resolve as she approached a bench “Just ignore her and she’ll leave you alone,” she told herself.

“Not surprising,” said the unicorn, “especially with those hack job wings.”

Applejack stopped in mid stride and turned around, her face in a deep scowl. “Now wait just a carrot picking minute,” she spat. “My friend made these wings, and you don’t have the right to insult her handy work.”

The unicorn laughed hardily. “It seems I touched a nerve there. Well, Ms. Apple hide,” she snickered, noticing Applejack’s cutie mark, “why don’t you put up?”

Applejack studied the other pony for a few moments, then gave a snort and turned to the door. “Suddenly I don’t feel like drinking nothing.”

The unicorn laughed wildly, hitting her hoof against the table. “Now that is rich,” she guffawed as Applejack headed for the exit. “Especially coming from a pony with such poor taste in hats.”

Applejack’s hoof stopped in midair, inches from the door. She turned again, her scowl deepening as she walked back. She passed the crowd, not taking her eyes off the unicorn’s own deep green eyes. She sat in the chair across from her opponent, and spat on her hoof, holding it out.

The unicorn’s grin persisted. “Now that’s more like it.” She spat on her hoof as well, and extended her forearm till both hooves locked.  “Since you’re the newcomer,” she offered, “you get to go first. Choose your poison.”

It was Applejack’s turn to grin. “Apple juice.”

Trotting northward along the sidewalk was a very excited mailpony. After all the flying she had done today, she decided to let her poor wings rest. After all, there would be plenty more flying not too long from now. Derpy hummed a tune to herself as she mentally went over an item checklist she made.

“Let’s see,” she thought. “We need some wood, and some fire stones. Or fire sticks. Either could work. Maybe we could grab a compass too, just in case.” So entranced was she with her own thoughts, that she did not see the large tree planted in the sidewalk. She did, however, discover it. “Ouch!”

Derpy’s eyes rolled in her head more than normal as she recovered. “Own. I need to look where I’m going when I’m talking to myself. Or something,” she said. Her ears propped up when she heard a quiet sound nearby. “Huh?” She looked around to see what had made the sound, but at first she could not identify the source. There were plenty of other ponies walking down the road and on the sidewalk, but the sound did not seem to come from any of them. Finally, she got the idea to look upwards at the tree.

There, clinging to a branch for its life was a small cat, possibly a kitten, judging by its size. It had apparently been knocked off balance by her running into the trunk. Its coat was a mix of black and brown and orange in strange splotches, and its wide eyes were brilliant emerald green. It was a shorthair calico, she thought.

“Oh no,” Derpy said. “I’ll get you kitty.” She flapped her wings and ascended, stretching out her forelegs so she could catch the kitten incase it fell. The cat seemed to have other ideas, however, and let go of the branch, pushing off of it, before landing in the middle of Derpy’s back. It’s tiny but sharp claws dug into her skin. “YOW!”

Derpy quickly landed again, winching as the cat hopped off of her back and settled itself on the ground next to her. “You ok?” she asked.

The kitten gave another low meow, starting to clean itself. “Oh by Celestia you are so cute,” Derpy squealed.  The cat began to roll back and forth in the sunlight, trying to warm itself. As it did, Derpy noticed something shining around its neck. It was a shiny silver collar, with no tag... “Oh, you have an owner? I wonder where they are.”  She scanned the crowd, but none of them seem to be interested in the kitten.

“Well,” she thought, “maybe I should help you look for them?” She reached down and lifted the kitten gently with her hooves, before plopping it onto her head. The cat seemed to enjoy this idea, curling itself into her mane and purring warmly.

 Derpy felt a surge of heroic pride. “Ok then, off we go!” she leaped forward, and squealed as she almost collided with another pony.

The male managed to jump back in time, avoiding the pegasus’ heroic collision with the ground. Her eyes spun in her head, before coming to rest in their goofy position.

“Excuse me,” the stallion looked down at her, his voice thick with exasperation, “but you nearly collided with me.”

 “Oh, sorry,” she apologized, blushing under her grey coat as she stood back up. As she did, a light bulb in her mind turned on, and she smiled. “Another moment of your time, but have you seen this kitty before?” She raised her head so he could get a good look at the kitten, who was staring back at the bigger pony.

With a heavy sigh, the bright blue pony looked the cat over, before shaking his head. “Sorry to say, but I don’t know this one. He’s none that I have ever seen around this town.” He thought for a moment. “But if you need help, I think you should ask the pet shop owner. Her shop is north of here. Ask for Moon Shower.” He pointed a hoof down the road northward. “Just go that way, about three blocks down and on the left. It’s called ‘Pet Paradise’, I think.”

Derpy’s smile brightened as her eyes straightened. “That’s a great Idea. Thank you, mister, I appreciate the help.” The cat on her head clung tightly as his ride suddenly fast trotted northward.

She was dreaming. Rainbow Dash knew when she was dreaming. The wind rustled through her feathers as she kept flying. The sky was a perfect blue, with only a few clouds for her to use for stunts and acts, more spawning from the sky itself when she needed them. Below here there was no ground, just more endless sky. It was a beautiful dream.

Background noise from beyond broke through into her perfect sky. She heard coaches rolling on the stone, passing her by. Pony hooves clopping gently against the ground, and others talking around her. The noise poked her dream bubble, and her eyes slowly slid open. She looked around her, scanning the crowd. She did not see Derpy or Applejack anywhere. A bit concerned, she looked upward at the clock tower. Its hands clicked as they moved into position, reading 7:20.

Rainbow Dash lay her head down again and sighed. Applejack and Derpy were big ponies. They could handle themselves.  She trusted them to return on time. Besides, she could hear the sky calling her again. She settled herself into the bench and gave a yawn, before reaching her hoof to tap the crate under her. When she felt the wood, she sighed in relief, before rolling over to return to her endless sky.

“I am so sick of apple juice,” the unicorn spat, her head waving back and forth. Her stomach gurgled with protest as the last of the drink flooded into it.

It was round twelve, and neither pony had backed down from the game. The crowd had only grown since the challenge had begun, newcomers entering the bar to see what the fuss was about. The entire bar had their eyes on the match now. The only pony not watching it was the musician, who continued to play her piano, diligent in her work, even adding more intense notes to her song to match the drama. She knew how to work atmosphere.

The unicorn burped and shook her head to straighten it. She was losing it. The Earth Pony with the Amber Wings had done nothing but order Apple Juice. It was a heavier drink than other juices, but not the heaviest. Her selection had been more varied, at first, but now had become limited to grape and strawberry in order to counteract the constant stinging taste of apples on her tongue.

“Are you ready to concede yet and say you’re sorry?” asked Applejack, trying to sound as tough as she could despite the heavy protest her body was putting up.  Her stomach roared at her to cease filling it. Every gulp she took was forced, but her pride as an Apple Clan member, and as a friend, refused to let this blabbermouth unicorn win. She had let Trixie win over her once, and that wasn’t about to happen a second time.

“Not,” the unicorn belched, “not in the slightest. I’ve got plenty of room left.” She was lying, and she knew it, but she was still sure she could last longer. She straightened herself and looked at the waitress. “Cranberry Juice.”

The crowd went silent. Only the music played in the background, now at a low chorus. The waitress brought the drinks out and placed both in front of their recipients. Both ponies glared at one another, neither willing to admit defeat.

Applejack bit her lip as she turned away, and took a deep breath, before putting her lip to the glass and drinking it down, her stomach screaming at her and her throat aching with every gulp. When the smoke cleared, she set the empty glass on the table and swallowed the last of it, trying to smother a loud groan.

Across from her, the unicorn lifted her glass, and reached out to drink. She inched her lips to the edge and pulled her head back, watching in slow motion the juice flow toward her mouth. Her breath was short and quick, but when the juice finally hit her lips, she took it all in several large gulps. Although the crowd cheered, she was too busy shoving the liquid down her esophagus to hear them, forcing her body to take it all in.

The waitress looked to Applejack, waiting for her response. There was no hesitation. “Apple juice.”

“No more!” the unicorn screamed suddenly. “You win. Just…no more apple juice,” she groaned, her head landing against the table.

The entire bar was suddenly filled with noise, the waiting silence broken by cheers and clopping hooves. The pianist began to play a cheery tune of victory and conquest.  The bartender smiled as he turned to another waiter. “Give our great adventurer the bill.” Twenty six glasses of juice did not come cheap. Though he admitted, his supply of apple juice would require immediate replenishing.

Applejack smiled ear to ear, despite the pain in her stomach. She knew it was well worth it to defend the honor of her friends. “Are you ready to say you’re sorry now?” she asked.

“Yes,” the raven haired pony chirped, as she saw the crowd around her finally disperse. “Yes, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I insulted your friends.”

“And?” Applejack glared.

“And I’m sorry I insulted your hat,” she groaned, lying through her teeth. She still thought it was an ugly hat. “How did you learn to drink like that? Who are you?”

“That was nothing,” Applejack fibbed, “I use to challenge my big brother Big Macintosh to drinking games like that back when we were fillies. As for me, the name’s Applejack, of the Apple Clan.”

The brim hated adventurer chuckled as she steadied her legs. “Well color me impressed, Applejack. I again humbly apologize for insulting you, your friend’s talents, and your taste in headwear.” She stood up taller, extending a hoof in greeting. “I’m Terra Fault, Traveling Adventurer, though some ponies call me The Earthshaker.” Terra grinned wide, as if expecting Applejack to have heard of her.

“Never heard of you,” Applejack noted.

“Oh,” the Earth-Shaker said, looking sad for a second, “Well that’s fine. My exploits have not reached all corners of Equestria yet.” Her confidence bounced back instantly. “Where are you from, then?”

“Me and my friends are from Ponyville,” Applejack bragged. “I run the Apple Acres apple farm.”

“Wait,” Terra interrupted, her eyes focusing. “If you’re from Ponyville, then you live near the Everfree Forest, right?”

“Yea, I do,” Applejack answered, confused with the sudden question. “I’ve been in it, too.”

Terra Fault suddenly had a large grin on her face. “That’s excellent. As I said, I’m a traveling adventurer. I search for hidden areas that most ponies are too scared to go into. I search high and low for hidden treasures and ancient legends. I-“

“I think I get the idea,” Applejack interrupted.

“Sorry,” Terra blushed. “The point is, I travel around and look for unique places. This is my second trip through this town. I came this far north to see the Elephant Wood, the long stretch of forest north of Equestria, just short of the Kingdom of Griffons. Honestly, it’s got some neat creatures and some big monsters, but there’s not a whole lot interesting about it.”

Applejack leaned back, letting her stomach settle. “So you want to go exploring the Everfree?”

“Yes!” Terra squealed. “It’s the strangest and most brilliant place in all of Equestria. The old Castle of the Princesses, the strange magical beasts, the bizarre alien weather and growth cycles.”

“Well,” Applejack grinned, “I can’t say you’ll be too disappointed. It’s certainly an interesting place.” She grinned at the thought of the scary old forest, and all the times she’d been forced to enter it. That thought brought up the idea of time, and Applejack’s eyes opened wide. “Oh horse apples, I forgot! What time is it?” she asked in a rush.

Terra Fault was taken aback by Applejack’s sudden outburst, but pointed her hoof toward the clock above the entrance. Applejack looked that way, before moaning. It was 7:30. She was already late. “Oh no, Rainbow’s going to be really sore about this.”

“Late?” Terra asked with a new grin on her face.

“I’m traveling north to the border with two pegasus. That’s why I have these wings. I was supposed to pick up food but now I’m late and we’re going to fall behind and it’s all my fault.”

Pishaw,” Terra scoffed. “It’s my fault you’re late, so I’ll help you out. I know the way to the grocery store, and I can get you there faster than walking or flying.”

“You can?” Applejack asked. “How?”

Terra grinned. She took time to quickly pay her bill to the bartender, and bid her farewell to him. She then led Applejack outside. “Oh, this is real simple. Touch my flank.”

“What?” Applejack asked as they both stood on the road.

“Touch my flank. Trust me,” the adventurer assured her.

“Ok, fine, but this better…” No sooner had Applejack placed her hoof against the other pony’s flank then the two of them disappeared, sinking in an instant into the ground. A huge cloud of dust was all the evidence they were ever there.

The Pet Paradise was a large building set gently into the back of the outlet mall on the northern side of town. The large glass doorway let anypony that walked by see the adorable faces of cute kittens, fluffy bunnies, and faithful dogs. The isles were filled with toys and food made for every pet of every size, as well as medicines and cat litter, and even clothes and furniture. The store was run by Moon Shower, a unicorn with a brilliant pink coat and long copper red hair. She was busy dusting the shelves above the kibble, when she heard a loud thump outside the front door.

“Oh my, what on earth was that?” she asked, as she turned toward her doorway, laying the duster down on a shelf to go investigate.

There, plastered against the front of her store, was the face of a wall eyed pegasus pony. On top of this pony’s head was a kitten. The pegasus’ struggle against the glass indicated to Moon Shower that she had run into the door by mistake, and then caught a flock of her hair in the door crack.

“Oh hold on there,” the owner called. “Just a moment, dear. These automatic magic doors are so fussy.” Her horn glowed as she tried to fix whatever was wrong with the new fangled magic that her brother had insisted on.

Finally, she hears a click and the magic worked again. The doors opened, only to send the pegasus, who was still pulling at her hair, tumbling backwards. “AHHH,” she screamed as she landed on her back. The kitten on her head was lucky enough to jump off and land safely next to her.

“Oh no, are you ok?” Moon Shower asked as she saw the tumbling pegasus.

Derpy Hooves, ever unabated, rose from her new position, eyes still twisted, and laughed. “I’m fine. It was just a little trip.”

“If you say so, dear,” the other pony said, lending a hoof to help her up. “What can Pet Paradise do for you and your pet?”

“Oh, he’s not mine,” said the mailpony. “That’s why I came here actually. I found this little guy a few blocks down, sitting in a tree. Someone said you may know who the owner is?”

Moon Shower leaned forward and looked the kitten over. It gave out a soft mew and nuzzled against her foreleg. “Well, he’s certainly friendly. And he definitely belongs to someone. However, I don’t remember selling him to anypony.”

Derpy’s heart sank and she let out a moan of disappointment. The cat just mewed and began to nuzzle her foreleg instead. “That’s so sad. Now I don’t know where to go.” She lay on her belly and put her head between her hooves. “Come on, think.”

Both ponies sat and began to think, when Moon Shower looked up to see three more ponies walking toward her store, a large male earth pony, a female unicorn, and a female earth filly. “Hello and greetings. Can I help you three?” she asked as she stepped past Derpy, letting the pegasus take time to think.

“Yes, Ms. Moon Shower,” said the steed. “Our daughter has lost her pet.”

Moon Shower’s ears perked up. “Oh? Did you?” she smiled.

The little filly sniffled. “We left him in the tree, like we do every day. Because I can’t bring him to school, and daddy can’t bring him to work, and momma can’t bring him to work, and our landlord said he doesn’t like pets being home alone, so we leave him in the tree and he stays there all day, and he’s always there when we go to get him. But today he didn’t stay there, and we don’t know where he went.” The little girl began to sob into her mother’s side.

“Please, Ms Moon Shower,” the mother begged, “won’t you help us? Everyone knows you are the expert in pets in this part of town. Has anyone seen him?

Moon Shower smiled. “This tree hat you spoke about. Is it a few blocks south of here?” she asked.

“Why, yes it is,” the father said, hope crossing his face.

“Then I think I know where your kitten is,” the owner said as she stepped aside.

Derpy groaned and rubbed her fore head, unable to think of any solution short of taking the kitten to the authorities. “Ohhh, I’m so sorry kitty. I guess I’m not a good owner finder.”

“Sebastian,” came a small voice behind the mailpony. She turned to see the kitten jump up and meow loudly, before running toward a young filly that in turn was running toward him.

Derpy slid to her feet. “Huh? Who are they?” she asked, finally noticing the family. The little filly laughed as she hugged her kitten close to her chest and face.

“The owners, I’d imagine,” Moon Shadow said. “And I think they are very glad to see that their kitten was in such good hooves.”

“You’re the one who found him?” the mother asked. “Thank you Miss. Thank you so much.”

“We certainly hope he wasn’t a lot of trouble,” said the father.

“Not a problem,” Derpy Hooves said, saluting. “I was more than glad to help. It took no time at allllahhhhhh!” she shrieked as realization hit her. “What time? What time is it?”

The mother lifted her foreleg to look at her watch. “It’s 7:35, dear. Why? Sebastian didn’t keep you from something, did he?”

“Oh no oh no,” Derpy Hooves moaned. “Rainbow Dash is going to be so mad at me. I should have been back with those camping supplies five minutes ago, and I don’t even know where the store is. Oh, I’m such a failure.”

The family and Moon Shower all looked at one another. The father gave a laugh. “Dear, you’re right next door to the camping supplies store.”

Derpy looked up, her eyes turning in opposite directions. “What?” she asked, before looking to the left of Pet Paradise. There, right next door, was a shop with a sign that read “Jack’s Camping Ground.”

“You must have missed it,” Moon Shower said.

“But…but they’re closed,” said Derpy, who notice the large CLOSED sign on the front window.

“Oh, I think I can make an acceptation for our young hero here,” the father said, giving a knowing grin.

Derpy looked at the pony and his family, then at the camping store. She turned back to the father, her eyes straightening and her smile return. “Hooray!”

The endless sky finally began to fade. The noise of reality returned to her, as well as the feeling of the sun beating down on her skin. She opened her eyes, finally, to see the brilliant orange of the evening sun hanging over her head.

“Uhhh,” Rainbow Dash moaned as she slid up, feeling stiff, but refreshed. “Nothing like a good nap,” she said to herself. Her leg kicked, and she felt the hard wood collide with her hoof. “Still there.”

Dash slid gently off of the bench and stretched her limbs to get the stiff out of them. With a yawn, she looked up at the Thundermane clock tower to check the time. When she did, her mouth fell open. “What?!” The clock tower read 7:50. “Where are they?” she asked in a huff

As if to answer her, a low rumble filled square. Ponies backed away from the fountain as the rumbles quaked harder, before there was a sudden explosion of dirt, creating a sizeable crowd around the fountain. “What the hay was that?” asked Dash, who hovered over the cloud.

 A pony shaped figure, wearing a familiar looking hat, stumbled out of the cloud. “Oh, my stars,” Applejack moaned. “Next time, I think I’ll just take a carriage.” Across the farmer’s back was a new saddlebag filled to the brim with food.

“Now that wouldn’t be any fun at all,” called another voice from the settling cloud of dirt. The next pony to arrive from the crowd, Dash did not recognize. “Besides, Dirt Travel is the fastest travel from Point A to Point B there is. No question.”

“Applejack,” yelled Dash from above as the dust cloud finally dissipated. “Where have you been? And who’s this?” she gestured toward Terra.

“Sorry Dash,” Applejack shrugged as she saw her friend descending. “I didn’t mean to be this late. I got caught up in something…” she hesitated,”…stupid.”

“No,” Terra insisted. “The whole thing was my fault. I distracted her.” She approached Rainbow Dash, who had finally landed. “I apologize. I’m Terra Fault, but other ponies call me the Earth Shaker,” she introduced herself.” And you, if I’m not mistaken, are Rainbow Dash, the pony that performed the Sonic Rainboom at Cloudsdale. Oh, but how I wish I could have seen it personally,” Terra swooned.

“Oh,” Dash said, her thoughts derailed by the flattery. Her ego inflated despite her anger. “Well yes, I am that Rainbow Dash. The one and only,” she boasted. “Glad to see my name is getting around.”

“Oh, no doubt,” Applejack rolled her eyes.

Dash’s glory moment as shattered when she heard a bell, and looked toward the clock tower. Its bell rang again, the hands position at 8:00. “Oh no, we’re a whole half an hour late,” she squeaked. “Where’s Derpy? We need to go?”

No sooner had she said that the group heard a voice from above. “I’m up here,” the mailpony called, descending into the square with her saddlebags heavier as well, though not as heavy as Applejack’s. “You wouldn’t believe the luck I had.”

“Yea yea,” Rainbow Dash interrupted. “You got delayed but now it’s ok, you got the stuff, I got it. Can we go?”

“Rainbow,” Applejack scoffed, “would you calm down for a sec? We’re only a half hour off. If we just fly a bit faster-“

“Who do you think flies that fast?” Dash yelled, pushing her face inches from Applejack’s, floating in the air and beating her wings madly. “I’m the one who has to pump my wings to keep up my speed.  Yes the crate is heavy, I know, but it’s my reputation on the line AJ. I can’t afford to be late half an hour?!”

Terra blinked as she stepped away from the trio. “I’ll just leave you guys to this.”

“Sorry about it,” Applejack apologized for her friend. “She’s just high strung right now.” She turned her focus back to her multicolored companion. “Rainbow Dash, calm down, please. We made excellent time getting here, and we’ll make up for it tomorrow. Just relax, Sugar cube.”

Rainbow Dash groaned, her hooves grinding on the side of her head, before slumping in mid air and floating to the ground. “You’re right. I’m sorry girls.”

“It’s ok,” Derpy said, rushing to her side, landing with a small clop. “I’ve been chewed out by Boxie before. He can get pretty angry if he doesn’t get his coffee in the morning,” she shuddered. “There was this one time, we were transferring this piano across town, and then-”

Applejack pushed her hoof into Derpy Hoove’s chest. “Let’s just get our stuff together and get ready to go.”

Terra Fault watched as the trio exchanged packages. Applejack was soon fitted with the royal parcel again, whilst Derpy carried the food and camping supplies in her twin saddlebags.

“You sure you can carry all of that?” asked Terra.

“Not a problem,” the mailpony laughed. “You should see how much I have to carry during Christmas.”

“Ready girls?” called Rainbow Dash. Her eyes were alight and she was in much higher spirits.

Applejack nodded. “Ready, sugar. Give the word and we’re off.”

“Well it’s been fun,” Terra called, waving to the group. “You three fly safe now.”

“Oh, Terra,” said Applejack. “When you get to Ponyville, ask for a unicorn named Rarity. Tell her that I sent you, and to give you her special. She’ll know what it means.”

“I’ll keep that in mind Applejack,” the adventurer said. “Fly well.”

Rainbow Dash extended her glowing aura of speed, till all three were enveloped in her speed. “Ready girls? Three. Two. One. Go!”

Terra Fault watched as the trio kicked off from the ground in a massive blur of speed. In moments, they disappeared from her sight, sailing over the horizon, leaving Mane Town behind.