Spring Orchard discovers an untold chapter of Equestrian history, and Scootaloo contemplates her future.
Scootaloo’s room was not special. The stark yellow walls confirmed this. It was a cookie cutter remake of every other bedroom in the orphanage. Everypony else had a room just like hers. With the exception of the babies who resided in the nursery, and Administrator Button Clip.
As such, she always wanted to bring life to her sleeping quarters in any way she could. Her humble wooden dresser was covered with all sorts of knickknacks and trinkets. A snowglobe from the Crystal Empire, A hoof-carved figurine from Vanhoover, various small toys from the local toy store. Whatever she could find, she put there, so they’d stay in sight.
There was even more hanging on her wall. A dreamcatcher from Appleoosa; a poster of her favourite rock band, The Trotting Hooves; a ball cap labeled, I heart Manehatten.
Not that she’d ever been to Manehatten.
But all those were worthless in comparison to the one item that made her truly special. Hanging from two hooks, spaced a few inches apart, was a golden medal. The Equestrian Medal of Valour, the highest honour a civilian could receive. Awarded for bravery, initiative, and duty.
The young pegasus lay in bed, staring at the medal. She thought about the events that led to receiving the decoration, and a heavy pain hit her heart.
The door eased open, with a soft creak. In trotted a light purple unicorn filly, with two red bowls, in golden auras.
“Oh,” Dinky said. “You’re awake. Fantastic timing, as always. Nosh?”
Scootaloo barely moved as she responded. “You brought me breakfast?”
“Of course, couldn’t let my best mate go ‘ungry.”
The young filly’s cockney accent was still as prominent as it was when the two first met. Scootaloo often assumed Dinky talked this way intentionally, and not simply because she was used to it. She knew other foals from other regions whose dialect had faded over time. But Dinky’s accent was still as thick as it ever was.
When Scootaloo didn’t grab the bowl of oatmeal, the unicorn placed it next to her, on the bed, hoping it wouldn’t spill. She crossed to her side of the room, and bounced onto her mattress, before she started to levitate chunks of the brown substance into her mouth.
When the young pegasus remained silent, Dinky got uncomfortable. “So, those new lads will be arriving this afternoon,” she said, trying to break the silence. “Figure I’d offer to mentor, eh?”
“Pass it on… so to speak.”
She set the bowl down on her nightstand. “Are you alright, Scooters?”
“Shining Armor’s dead.”
Dinky paused for a second, lowering her gaze in thought. “Blimey.”
“Should I tell everypony?”
The unicorn, looked up and raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry?”
“Should I tell everypony what really happened?”
She paused once again. “Why!?”
Scootaloo remained silent.
After a while, the young unicorn decided to move on. “We really should go, school starts in an hour.”
“Yeah… I guess.”
Dinky ate the rest of her oatmeal, and jumped off her bed before levitating her saddlebag off the floor, and onto her back.
Scootaloo was motionless.
“Or… we could stay and talk about it. Button ‘ud understand.”
The silence continued.
“So that’s a ‘no’?”
Not a word came.
“Alright, then let’s go.”
She remained immobile.
Dinky lowered her eyelids and lifted her roommate in a golden aura.
“AH!” the pegasus screamed in shock.
“Move it, eh!” She threw her best friend to the floor.
Spring Orchard trotted across the open fields outside Ponyville. The shining sun warmed her coat. It was a feeling of pure bliss, one she missed so much after so long.
No. It wasn’t her coat. It was Rainbow Dash’s. A mare she only met a few minutes ago, and was already intimately aware of.
But ‘so long’? That thought bugged her. Fluttershy said it was twenty-two years. That was impossible. The night she died… She was in her study… It felt like yesterday. Was it?
But part of her knew otherwise. Time did pass. That dream, the dream of the afterlife. Time flowed so quickly, she barely noticed. But she also noticed every second.
The memories she shared. Some were vivid, and powerful. Others were subdued and relaxing. Little slices of life, cut out and given to her.
Some even frightened her.
The grass collapsed beneath Rainbow’s hooves. She could feel every blade snap under the medium’s weight.
Spring Orchard was dead. Even at that moment, she did not understand fully what that meant.
She looked at her granddaughter. The yellow pegasus kept pace, her gaze locked forward.
“So… Fluttershy,” the spirit said, trying to make conversation. “What’d I miss?”
“Huh… I-I’m sorry?”
The mare’s demeanour reminded Spring of her son, Cotton. She wondered if he ever got over his demure nature, or if he was still as passive as ever. Perhaps she’d be able to find out. Perhaps she could use this opportunity to reconnect with her son.
No, the voice of her host stated calmly.
Spring Orchard stopped in her tracks. “What?” she asked, confused.
Her granddaughter stumbled over her words. “Oh, um… I just wanted you to explain but-”
“No, no, not you,” she explained, waving a hoof.
I’m sorry, but… you can’t see your son. Nopony can ever know about us.
She could hear her.
“How… how’d you…”
Sometimes thoughts can leak from spirit to conduit, Rainbow explained. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just happens.
Spring nodded slightly. She noticed her heartbeat was a bit faster than normal.
Her host’s heartbeat, actually. She kept forgetting this was not her body.
Spring continued on the topic at hoof. “Wha-what did you mean when…”
This Rainbow thing is supposed to be a secret.
“Rainbow thing?” she asked, incredulously.
We’re called ‘Rainbows.’ Talking to the dead, that kinda thing.
“I thought that was your name.”
My mom thought it was funny.
She continued the journey, but then remembered. “Wait, why is it secret?”
Look, it’s hard to-
His breath stank of rotten cheese and death.
In her heart, she felt pain, and sadness, and despair.
She slowly sneaked out from under the covers, and made her way across the large, ornately decorated room.
It appeared to be the bed chambers of some very wealthy aristocrat. A thought that made her sick to her stomach, though she wasn’t sure why.
She looked in the bathroom mirror, and a yellow unicorn looked back at her. Her eyes reflecting the pain Spring felt in her heart.
But the most stark thing about this mare, was her mane. It contained six stripes of bright red, brilliant orange, shining yellow, vivid green, pure blue, and dark purple.
It was six different colours, all the colours of the rainbow.
She looked down at the sink, and turned a tap with her magic. She rubbed her eyes with the fresh, cold water flowing from the faucet.
A hoof reached over her shoulder, and she could feel a set of teeth nibble at her ear.
She screamed, “AHHHH!!!!” and escaped her assailant’s grasp.
“Oh,” the ugly stallion responded. “She left.”
He trotted past her, to the bath, and turned a tap. As fresh water flowed forth, he stated simply. “There are matters I need advice on. I wish you to summon my father. I left his touchstone in the armoire.”
“I need to wash myself, master,” she said, bowing her head.
“You may do that in the servant’s baths, after you summon my father.”
He turned his neck to look at her, daring her to continue.
“Yes master,” she said, bowing her head.
Spring could feel anger and shame well up in her heart. Tears threatened to burst from her eyes. She held back.
“Now, stop wasting time, and summon my father.”
As the stallion turned back to his bath, she left, trembling as she slowly made her way across the room. Behind the large door of the armoire, she saw what she recognized as an antique brandy bottle.
She levitated it over to herself and whispered silently. “Three months,” she said. “Three months of this…”
She slowly trotted toward the bath once again, tightening her grip on the bottle. Halfway, she suddenly came to an abrupt stop. Tears ran down her face.
She turned and ran back, still carrying the bottle. She targeted the large bay window, next to the armoire. The bright morning sun still shining through.
A few feet from the edge, she released a final burst of speed, and jumped. Flying through the glass, it shattered instantly. As she fell, the mare saw a pegasus stallion, fly off the roof to rescue her, or the bottle.
As her last act, she sent a burst of energy from her horn, into the stallion’s gut.
A sharp pain hit the back of her head.
-explain, just… Are you okay?
Her heart was beating rapidly, her coat was soaked in sweat, her breathing was rapid. Rainbow knew something was wrong.
“I… I just-” Spring stammered.
Fluttershy flew toward her.
Woah, woah, it’s alright. Just breathe. I don’t want to suffocate here.
She started taking deep, slow and meticulous breaths.
“Are you alright?” the yellow pegasus asked.
“I… I don’t know,” she replied.
What happened? Rainbow asked.
“I… I was somewhere… a… a room… and I… I jumped… I…”
Oh, that was just a memory, the medium explained calmly.
A memory, she stated. Yeah, sometimes they cross over, it’s no big deal..
“No big deal!?”
Yeah, happens to me all the time.
Memories. In the afterlife, she felt the same thing. But it was never this vivid. Never this real. The memories she saw in the void were distant, and clearly not hers. This was not that.
“No… it… it can’t be that. It was me, it felt like me-”
Yeah, that’s normal, Rainbow explained. Though… actually, it only supposed to go the other way.
As Spring attempted to control her breathing, she said simply, “What?”
Huh… must have been my fault. When you asked why it’s a secret I guess-
“So, what I saw really happened?”
Rainbow was curious. Yeah… she said, wondering where this would lead.
Fluttershy grabbed her best friend’s body, as her grandmother slowly began to relax.
She was still not sure what was going on. This was entirely new ground for the young pegasus. She was scared, mostly for her friend’s well-being.
What was going on? Was this her fault? Should she have ever given Rainbow such a selfish request?
It was selfish; Fluttershy knew that. She told herself that this plan was merely to protect Twilight from Rainbow’s well-intentioned, yet possibly misguided plan. But she really just wanted to speak to the grandmother she never knew.
She heard so much about Spring Orchard, but only though her parents. She wanted to know her, to speak to her, personally. A noble spirit, who had suddenly become panicky and nervous.
For the most part, she acted exactly like the Spring Orchard she always thought she knew. But at that moment, she did not look or sound like the strong, independent mare, who fought hoof and claw to get her work published. But somepony else entirely.
Rainbow’s eyes turned toward the young mare. “Fluttershy?” she said.
“Yes?” the yellow mare replied.
“You can’t ever tell anypony about Rainbow’s powers,” she said in earnest. “Ever. No matter what, you can never tell anypony. You understand?”
Her eyes drifted away. “It’s dangerous,” she said. “You can’t possibly think that!” She paused for a second, eyes darting just a bit. “And what if it happens again!?”
“S…Spring Orchard?” Fluttershy asked. “What’s-”
Rainbow’s forelegs broke her friend’s grasp, and her body stood up straight. “You can’t ever tell anypony. That’s all you need to know.”
She saw the fear in her friend’s eyes. Possibly a reflection of her grandmother’s outlook. The mare nodded in comprehension.
She trotted past the yellow mare. Wanting to move past the awkward moment she had created.
“So, where is this library?” Orchard asked.
“Oh, um…” Fluttershy hesitated. “It’s in the middle of town, but…”
“What is it?” she replied, approaching her granddaughter.
“Twilight runs the library, and now I’m worried she’ll notice you’re not Rainbow Dash.”
“Oh…” the mare said, taking a step back. “Uh… Really? Okay. I’m sure we’ll be fine, Fluttershy.”
She nodded proudly.
“Oh… Okay.” Fluttershy said, as she walked past her grandmother. Leading her to the local Library.
“At least I hope so.”
Spike slowly and methodically swept the wooden floor. He tried to focus his thoughts on the task at claw, clearing the dirt and cleaning the room. But his mind kept drifting to other, more futile endeavours.
Twilight had already left for Canterlot. She had to prepare for her brother’s funeral. It was not a happy prospect for the young unicorn, and Spike knew it.
He could have gone with her, for moral support. But somepony had to watch over the library. And he was almost certain she wanted to be alone.
A light rapping came from the front door. The dragon’s thoughts refocused and he noticed a light pink mane sneak through the slowly opening entrance.
“Fluttershy!” he declared. “Come on in!”
“Oh, Spike,” the pegasus responded, slinking into the library. “We don’t mean to bother you.”
He noticed his dear friend, Rainbow Dash, following close behind. But she seemed lost, distant. However, the dragon didn’t think much of it. Everyone was handling the latest news their own way.
“Um… How’s Twilight doing?” Fluttershy asked.
“Oh,” Spike responded. “She’s doing fine. She got out of bed this morning and… well… she left.”
“What!?” the yellow mare took a step back. “Where!? Why!?”
“Canterlot. She’s gonna see her family.”
“Oh… I… See…”
Rainbow ran straight up to the dragon and asked simply, “Where are the Daring Do books?”
Spike was slightly confused, since the section had not moved since the weathermare was last present.
Suddenly, her eyes widened, and she struck her head with a forehoof, “Oh, silly me, I just remembered. I’ll be fine, Spike.” Rainbow Dash trotted away, leaving a confused dragon behind.
He turned to the yellow mare. “Is she alright?” He asked, pointing to his cyan friend.
“Oh, no, she’s fine; She’s absolutely fine; Nothing weird is going on at all,” Fluttershy explained, slightly frantic.
As the pegasus floated across the room to meet her friend, Spike remembered how bad a liar Fluttershy was. He also remembered it was a bad idea to call her out on it.
He was rapidly knocked out of his thoughts by the sudden opening of the front door. This time, featuring the entrance of two white unicorns.
“Sweetie Belle, she’s going to be fine.”
“But I really want to do this, sis!”
The younger of the two led the way, as her older sister trailed behind.
“Hey!” the dragon said, grabbing their attention.
“Spike,” Rarity explained. “Please tell Sweetie Belle, that this is unnecessary.”
“This is unnecessary,” he told the young filly. “What’s unnecessary?” He asked the older mare.
“I brought cookies for Twilight,” Sweetie Belle screamed. “I wanted to cheer her up!” Her shining smile beamed across the room.
Spike donned a pair of shades as he explained. “Well, she’s right, it’s unnecessary, because Twilight left for Canterlot this morning.”
“Oh, of course she would,” Rarity interjected. “A state funeral is a grand event. One cannot wait until the last minute. Planning must begin immediately. Speaking of which… Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, I’m glad you are here!”
The two pegasi crossed the room, the clopping of Rainbow’s hooves echoed through the library.
“I wanted to tell everypony, I already started work on outfits for the funeral. Bit of a style change, so I don’t know how appropriate they are. But I’d love it if you could stop by…”
“Not a problem, Rarity.”
Everyone turned to look at the cyan pegasus. Her smile suddenly started to shake.
“I mean… you know, if I have to,” she continued. “Better get it over with.”
“Anyway…” Rarity continued, clearing her throat. “I’d love to get your take on them.”
“Yeah, but what am I gonna do with these cookies!?” Sweetie Belle said, a purple box rested on her back.
“Oh,” the dragon responded, reaching for the box. “I’ll take them.”
“Okay!” She proclaimed with a smile.
He popped open the box before anypony could stop him, and saw the contents were not so much cookies, but pieces of coal.
Even I have my limits, he thought.
“So,” Rarity said, turning to her pegasus friends. “What brought you two here this fine morning?”
“Oh,” Rainbow explained with a smile. “Just picking up some old Daring Do books.”
The unicorn levitated one of the titles off the mare’s back.
“Daring Do and the Lost City,” she read aloud. “Honestly, Rainbow, how often can you read the same story over and over again!?”
“Um… It’s only the third time…” the weathermare responded. “…fourth time.”
Spike grabbed a few more titles off her back. “These are all the early post-Orchard books,” he explained.
“Well, nothing, it’s just… an odd choice.”
“Thought I’d just go over them again.”
“One other question,” Rarity said, calmly. “Now, this will sound a bit cliché, but I don’t know how else to phrase it… So… Who are you, and what have you done with Rainbow Dash!?”
“What!?” Fluttershy’s eyes started to dart around.
“Rarity,” the blue mare explained, with a slight chuckle. “I just wanted to reread some old stories. Is it that unusual?”
“Oh, no, it has nothing to do with that. But your mannerisms, your demeanor, are very much unlike the Rainbow Dash I know. Very passive, very demure. Also, you’re not flying.”
“You haven’t left the ground this entire time. Even while trying to defend yourself, you’ve barely moved.”
“Well… um… there’s a very-”
“It’s not Rainbow Dash!” Fluttershy screamed.
“I’m sorry, I panicked.”
“So, Fluttershy… Who is she?” Rarity asked.
As the alabaster mare approached her butter yellow friend, the pegasus suddenly released a “Meep!” before cowering on the floor.
She turned her attention to the blue pegasus that claimed to be Rainbow Dash.
“Rarity, I can explain,” she said, slowly trotting backward.
“The Rainbow Dash I know wouldn’t be so passive,” the unicorn explained. “After such an accusation she would fly in my face and use some very nasty words.”
“AH HA! I know that’s a lie because she would have told me!”
It took less than a second for the mare to realize what she said.
“Wow, I really messed up didn’t I?” she said, looking up at her head. “Wait… You were what?”
Fluttershy approached the group that had huddled around Rainbow Dash. “Does this mean we can tell them now?”
With a sigh, her rump hit the floor. “You have to promise,” Rainbow explained carefully. “You have to promise not to tell anypony ever.”
Rarity was incensed. “I’m not promising anything until you tell me who you are.”
“Please…” she said, a glisten forming in her eyes. “Rainbow’s life may depend on it.”
The unicorn was taken aback. “I don’t understand.”
Rainbow Dash’s head lowered. “Please…”
Spike spoke first. “I promise,” he said.
Sweetie Belle followed. “So do I.”
Everyone’s eyes fell on the fashion designer.
Her eyes swooped around her. Bowing her head, she replied. “Very well. Now, who are you?”
She closed her eyes, and responded. “My name is Spring Orchard.”
Spike was perplexed. “What?”
Fluttershy explained. “She’s my grandmother.”
“What!? But… she died 20 years ago.”
“That’s the secret,” Orchard explained. “Your friend, Rainbow Dash, can… contact the dead.”
Everyone stared at her.
“Hold on,” Spike said, holding up a claw. He turned to Fluttershy. “Spring Orchard’s your grandmother!?”
“Spike,” Rarity said. She turned back to the dead pony. “I… don’t understand. How? And… why does her life depend on us keeping it a secret?
“I… I…” her eyes started to flutter. “Sorry, I… it goes back a ways.”
“Rainbow?” Fluttershy asked.
“Yeah, she wanted me to explain it myself, so she left.”
“Likely story,” Rarity responded.
“Rarity!” the dragon snapped. He turned to his technicolour friend. “Go on…”
“Right. Well, it sorta runs in the family. My father could do it too. But it was a family secret. No pony was ever supposed to tell anypony about it.”
“Just your family?”
“Well, sorta. I mean it runs in the family, but there are hundreds, across Equestria. Most dye their manes to stay hidden.”
“Dye their manes?” Rarity asked, finally joining in the conversation.
“Yeah. So did my father. But once mom died, we stopped doing that.”
“So,” Sweetie Belle butted in. “Why is your life in danger?”
Rainbow paused for a second. “Well… she might have exaggerated just a bit,” she explained with a laugh.
“Well, what did she mean?” Fluttershy asked, genuinely afraid for her friend.
She hesitated before continuing. “Well… you see… it wasn’t always a secret… but… um…”
A hoof landed on her shoulder. Her eyes followed it, and she saw an apologetic look in the eyes of the mare that nearly cursed her out a few minutes ago.
“Back then,” Rainbow tried to explain as carefully as she could. “We were slaves.”