Petina, Carousel and I had just said goodbye to Twilight, Spike and Zecora in my Equestria dreamscape. We had finally arrived on the train from Canterlot, and had been witness to an ominous light show in the sky [link]
. Upon reaching the library Twilight wished us a good night. She needed to write several letters to the Royal Sister inquiring about recent events, and Zecora was going to spend the night at the library then press on to her home in the Everfree Forest in the morning.
Twilight was not alarmed by the fact that the front door to the library was unlocked. Ponyville is one of those places where many ponies don't feel a need to lock their doors even at night. Entering into her darkened home she briefly flared her horn to allow Spike to find the candle that always rested on a stand by the door. A tiny burst of dragon fire was more than enough to light the wick. The library was silent except for the unexpected sound of snoring. A quick search of the premises found Applejack asleep on the main lounge in the library.
Twilight quietly lit several of the gas lamps before waking her friend. Celestia's protege was somewhat alarmed to find her here. The earth pony's disheveled appearance was very disturbing. Even asleep she looked worn out. Why was she here and not at Sweet Apple Acres? On the floor near the lounge there was plate with several gnawed apple cores, a half eaten sandwich, and partial mug of tea. Several random books were scattered near the plate along with AJ's signature Stetson style hat. One was left with the impression that Applejack had been waiting for quite some time for Twilight to return. In light of recent information Twilight had a bad feeling about this.
"AJ." Twilight said in a soft voice. "AJ, wake it's Twilight. What are you doing here in the library?"
The golden orange mare bolted up at the sound of her voice.
"Ah! What! Oh Twilight! Your here! Twilight I need your help! I don't what to do anymore. Applebloom! She's, she's……."
At this point the farm pony just closed her eyes and started sobbing. Twilight looked at Zecora and Spike. The little dragon nodded his head as he understood Twilight's nonverbal order.
"Right. A fresh mug of tea. I'll get the kettle going right away. He left the luggage where it was in the front entry way and headed straight into the kitchen. Both Zecora and Twilight pulled up cushions close the crying mare and sat down. Zecora gently stroked her right front hoof through Applejack's tangled golden mane.
"Take your time Applejack." Cooed the zebra mare. "Try to relax then tell us what happened."
Spike soon returned with a tray of biscuits, three tea cups and fresh pot of tea. He then retrieved a scroll and pen and started taking notes. Over the next couple hours Applejack's tale of the last few days at Sweet Apple Acres unfolded. The strange reaction Applebloom now had to contact with her [link]
. The death of Short Curl [link] [link]
and the obvious connection to Applebloom [link]
. Winona's terrified reaction to be around the little filly. AJ's order to lock her own sister in her room, and her concern for the safety of Big Mac, Granny Smith and doctor Strong Heart who she had left at the farmhouse [link]
"I hope they are all safe. I hope they are all safe." She said over and over again. "If I was go back and find them, them, them. Oh Twilight! How can I think of my little sister like that! How! I'm scared of her. Her! I don't know what to do about her. I feel like I am falling apart and everything is crumbling around me!"
At this point Twilight and Zecora saw no better way to break the news they had learned about Applebloom's dire condition. Over more tea and shortbread they briefed Applejack about the letter from Princess Celestia and Luna [link]
. They told her of the package that had Zecora received [link]
. For her part AJ sat silently a with shell shocked look on her face as all the cards were laid on table. She looked utterly crushed by this new information but Twilight was intrigued by one part of AJ's story.
"You say when you gave Applebloom a hug she reacted as if she was in great pain in distress. That is interesting. I wonder if it was really Applebloom or the Deception possessing her that was truly effected by your embrace? Of course the two are very close so it is get hard to distinguish between the two." The young violet mare was now pacing in circles around the certain of the library. "And you felt an odd sensation to. What does this mean. Is it because you are her big sister? Is it because you care so much for her? Is it due to you being one of the party members who destroyed its master the Lord of Shadows? Is it due to you being one of the Elements of Harmony?
Twilight stomped her hooves in frustration.
"Gah! Every piece of information just generates more questions than answers! If I could only talk to Celestia! Spike! Make a copy of these notes and send them to her right away! I just hope she and Luna are okay. After what we saw tonight I'm not so certain."
Aj had been so exhausted she had slept through the whole light and sound show outside.
"This is not good." is only thing she could say as she stared into the bottom of her empty tea cup.
Spike, having finished drafting the letter rolled it up. Placed a royal seal on it, and with a short burst of green flame sent it on his way. He then shook his head slowly.
"Okay Twilight, I've sent it. But I don't know if we'll hear anything back. The Two Sisters haven't responded to any of the last five letters I've sent." He stopped and stared off into space. "I hope they are alright. If anything was to happen to them it would….." He trailed off into silence.
Over the next half hour various strategies for trying to eliminate the Deception while still saving Applebloom were discussed. Zecora was in the middle of a sentence when suddenly Spike belched green flame and scroll with the royal seal thunked to the floor. It sounded heavier than usual. Spike picked it up and quickly popped the seal. As he unrolled it a small silver and gold metallic sigil with a deep green silk sash tied to it and a second document fell to the floor. He ignored them and quickly started scanning the contents of letter. He stopped and reread it as if uncertain he had understood the contents of the letter. A look of alarm and fear slowly spread across his face. He rolled it up and handed it reluctantly to Twilight.
"I think you should read it…..not me" He said softly.
With her horn Twilight snatched the scroll out of Spike's hand and frantically unrolled it. Her eyes began rapidly tracking back and forth as she read the letter in silence.
The letter was definitely written in Celestia's horn style, but it possessed none of her usual graceful pen strokes and the vocabulary was more blunt than anything Twilight had ever received.
"Twilight. Luna and I are safe. We are hoping to return to Canterlot in the next few days. There are matters up here that still need, cleaning up. I have found your letters to be more and more alarming, and this most recent has caused me to make the following decisions."
Twilight felt a cold sinking feeling in her stomach as she read the next part to herself.
"The filly called Applebloom is to be taken into custody and transported to Canterlot. A special holding cell at the palace is being constructed for her right now. Tomorrow at 5am three sky chariots from the palace bearing six unicorns mages from the Royal Guard along with a dozen Royal Guard pegasi will arrive at the library. They will then transport you, Zecora, Spike and Applejack to Sweet Apple Acres, Once there you will take Applebloom into custody along with all members of the Apple Family and the doctor named Strong Heart until we can determine that they to have not been "compromised". Along with this letter you will find a sigil and a full commission of office for the duration of this operation. As of now you are acting in proxy for myself and Luna as the representative of the crown.
The Royal Guard in Canterlot will be under your command and your instructions and orders will carry the full weight of both Luna and my own authority. Any assistance you need from the Mayor of Ponyville will also be provided to you without question. If additional forces are required you may request them from the Canterlot barracks. Since neither Luna or I can be physically present in Canterlot I have recoded the Crypt of the Royal Archive to open to your horn if you need to access the Elements of Harmony for this operation. However I must warn you that due potential conflicts of interest by one or more of the wielders the effectiveness of the Elements against Applebloom maybe diminished, and if successfully used it may prove fatal to the filly. Therefore extreme care must exercised in using them. Until Luna and I return I will leave that to your discretion. No matter what do not let Applebloom touch or gain access to any of the Elements of Harmony.
If you feel that transport of those in custody to the palace via sky chariot is unwise you may commandeer any available train in the immediate area for your transportation needs. Any officer, soldier, member of the court, palace staff or subject of Equestria who attempts to directly interfere with this operation will be subject to arrest at your discretion for obstruction of a Royal investigation."
Twilight up from the letter for a second and looked at her friends who staring at her intently except for Spike whose face had grim look to it. She nodded once at him and read the last part of the letter.
"If Applebloom or the being residing in her resists being taken into custody, the use of force is pre-approved. If there is no way to capture it you are ordered to attempt and kill the filly named Applebloom and the being possessing her. Under no circumstance can it be permitted to remain free. If Applejack or any member of the Apple family attempts to interfere they are to be restrained by any means necessary. No matter what all members of Apple family are to be quarantined until they are determined to not be a danger to the Kingdom of Equestria. Twilight, I am sorry to place this burden upon you but time may be of the utmost importance now. If this blasted bit of completely unneeded political drama had not involved both myself and Luna I would have personally taken command of this situation a long time ago! Up to this point you've conducted yourself in an excellent fashion and I am proud of how you've handle this crisis in such a mature fashion. I ask you to once again rise to the challenge for Equestria's sake. Luna and I will strive to make ourselves available to your assistance as soon as possible. Take care.
Twilight set the letter down and levitated the sigil from the floor. On one side was engraved Celestia's sun symbol on the reverse was Luna's . It felt far heavier than she imagined it would. She turned it slowly around in front herself. It was so beautiful. It was so terrible. She swallowed and look at her friends.
"We've got several things to discuss."
To be continued.